Thursday, July 30, 2009

To be or not to be: Form 16

I am sure this entry adds to the zillion other blog entries on ‘taxing’ worries!
I fail to fathom the complexities of the Indian Income Tax Department (actually, of all the Government departments, but then this one currently happens to be no.1 on my s**t list).

Though most financial terms are Greek and Latin to me, and do not interest me a wee bit, I made the horrendous blunder of reading a news snippet about Form 16s no longer mandated for filing of returns. This was sometime in May 2007. Read the news piece here.
Being the extra chilled out (read lazy) bum that I am, I coolly stopped keeping a record of my Form 16s.

So, when last week my FIL called the CA to get all our tax records cleared, I announced that I did not have any of my Form 16s. (Having been in the US for the last two financial years, I have the mammoth task of filing IT return for three years this time.)
Obviously, everybody was livid, but I dutifully quoted the news item and succeeded in dissipating some heat, whew!

However, the CA told us that the new forms require detailed information, which is provided in the Form 16. If we do not have that, all calculations need to be done manually based on the salary slips received each month. I wonder what gave him the impression that I look the kind to store my salary slips for 36 months in some locker, dimwit!
I tried arguing, explaining – nothing helped…I actually realized Form 16 makes everybody’s lives easier as it gives you line by line information that the tax return form asks for.

Fine, will somebody tell me then what is the use of shouting from the roof top that we are moving towards more user-friendly government machineries and mechanisms and are eliminating the need for useless paper work, when in reality we are just moving on to just another arduous way of doing things?

As if not having the Form 16s was not bad enough, I had meanwhile quit my organization a week before this crazy CA landed up at our place. Being in an organization and getting the Finance Department to listen to you sounds quite impossible, imagine trying to get them to reply to your mails after you are no longer an employee!

But, never say die, I did try mailing the corporate finance team and was thrilled to bits when they sent all my Form 16s within a week.
There is mercy and hope for salvation, always!

Lessons Learnt:

  1. Avoid reading news bulletins concerning the Indian Government way of functioning. If you happen to come across any such information, ignore it.
  2. Form 16 is mandatory; forget what everybody else tells you.
  3. You can file your current financial returns only if all your previous returns have been filed, else you have the option of filing them altogether.
  4. Save all your salary slips and bank statements for easy retrieval.
  5. Actually, forget point 4.
  6. On second thoughts, points 1 to 5 are not required, if you just remember this simple cardinal rule – Let your dad/ hubby/ FIL take charge of your tax details, empower them completely and just sign where they ask you to!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Behave like a woman – will ya!

A recent comment of one of the umpteen reality shows on MTV India - Teen Diva, left me flabbergasted. One of the judges told a girl, and I quote here, “You did not dance like a woman. Your dance moves could give a complex to a man.”

Now, will a man tell me how it is to behave like a woman? What the judge really meant was conform to what the society and culture, put in place for years by men for their own advantage, define and dictate how a woman should behave like. You know the kind of declarations your great grandma’s generation made – “Girls should only be seen and not heard”. Well dear, if you wish to see the pretty sight I make, you jolly well learn to hear me!

So what is really expected out of you when you are asked to be feminine?
Using a small flowery handkerchief in the worst of your colds instead of the more practical and convenient “gent’s” white one; Delicately eating small quantities at a candlelight dinner even if you are famished while your date takes the bigger morsels; Smiling ever so softly, barely hinting at your dimple at the funniest of jokes when you would rather laugh out loud showing all your teeth; Screaming at the slightest of cuts in public, forgetting the fact that the waxing last night was more painful than the worst of hurts you have ever had; And of course, feigning ignorance on subjects of science and economics and business and sports if the group of male species that you are in has only superficial knowledge ... aah I could go on...

Fortunately (:)) or unfortunately, men also have “Be a man” statements hurled at them, which I am sure must be suffocating for them as well. They need to foot the bill at a date, they cannot be scared of lizards and cockroaches, and they must know not only how to drive but also how to get around every city they take their girl to.

Many women, and men, are proactively trying to break this kind of gender stereotyping because it limits both sexes. If the minute a baby is born, he or she is compartmentalized into pink and blue, how is the baby supposed to develop its own unique identity? If the society has already cast the mould the personality of the new born must assume, we run the risk of endangering new thought and creative innovation. We have to empower our kids early on to make their own choices – real choices, because we lose the power of distinguishing our own choice and our conditioned choice as we grow up.

My mom always tells me how some relatives used to raise their eyebrows when as a kid I preferred playing with building blocks and cars rather than dolls – she had to shield me from being called a tomboy. I wasn’t. I loved frilly frocks and all colors pastel, but I did not love dolls. That’s my next point, just for the sake of going against what the society pronounces as normal, we need not consciously change ourselves to define an identity unique to the social construct. I need to choose and select what I genuinely like, and I should be allowed to do so.

Many people mistake this kind of an attempt to break free as gender war. The latter is completely different. Even though certain female stereotypes originate from a male-centric psychology, at this point, I only wish to focus on the confining aspect of the typecasting of genders for both males and females.

So, ladies and gentlemen, here’s my take on the age-old rhyme:

Sugar and spice and everything nice,
That's not really what all little girls are made of.
Snips and snails and puppy dog tails,
That's hardly what all little boys are made of.
There’s more to your little boy and little girl,
If only you could let their true selves unfurl.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Just to put on record...

Till almost 10 years back, I remember spending a lot of time drawing, sketching and dabbling with colors - term break, summer vacations, dussehra hols, winter vacation - all were spent in doing a little more than just doodling.

No great artist myself, I am blessed with a super artist mom. Her oil renditions on canvas occupy prominent spaces in our home and leave every guest awestruck.
I have frankly never showed inclination for this (or for that matter any) form of art, however, have some affinity for the art of pencil sketching - maybe one-millionth of my mom's artist gene did find it's way in my DNA ;).

During a recent trip to a wonderful book store in Chennai, Landmark, I spotted some amazing Walter Foster books in the Arts section, and suddenly experienced a strong urge to revive the skill.
So I bought a sketch book, pencils et al and through this blog entry want to put on record, that I finally did my first sketch after a hiatus of a decade. I realize I have become quite scratchy, the pencil strokes took a lot of effort and the final result was much more amateurish than I would have liked it to be.

Nevertheless, never say die, posting a pic of the sketch here to remind me not only that I have miles to go but also that a start has been made. Here's sincerely praying that I am able to keep myself motivated and hoping to be able to post a better sketch sooner than later, and with greater pride.


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