Sunday, April 25, 2010

Why vampires might make better “better” halves ;)

Just finished watching the sequel to Twilight - New Moon – I know, I know I am like a coupla months late, but sure you guys know, it’s better late than never.

The celluloid rendition of Stephenie Meyer’s lovable Cullens, and may I especially mention the sinisterly handsome Edward Cullen, makes me forget the light years I am away from teenage!
While most cute lovey-dovey romances still do find a way to flutter my heart (*blush* *blush*), the Bella-Edward melodramatic extravaganza brings to life the dreamy childhood visions of fairy tales, princes on horses, et al…

Okay, now is the point I get incredibly sissy, so cutting myself short and getting to the point of the post, which is definitely not a review of any of the movies. (There’s nothing to critique, it’s a luscious momentary fantasy trip, best enjoyed without the application of the annoying grey matter in your head.)

What struck me – partly because of my innate skill at being the devil’s advocate and partly cos of my much cultivated and practiced talent of irritating Vish – was that vampires might just qualify as better marriage material than, you know, human beings.

So, ladies (and gentlemen), presenting 5 solid reasons why a vampire would make an awesome boy friend, partner, husband…
  • First and foremost, you don’t have to cook for him. Imagine, never would you be subjected to comments like “My mom makes better sambhar”, “The food’s yumm, but you could go easy on the salt”, or questions like “What’s for dinner tonight?”, “Why are we always eating out, it’s been ages since I got home-cooked food?”.
  • The second important reason is that he will be hyper sensitive – to your feelings, needs. So he will know exactly when the washing machine needs repair, the TV’s not working, the phone needs to be recharged and the credit card bill to be paid – All you have to do is close your eyes and wish, and boom he will be there to fix all that you want :). (The flip side is that if you are not Bella and he can read your mind, you might not be able to lie about the parlor expenses and the shopping bills, but let’s not ruin our fun with the cons.)
  • Point 3; he can fly, and at what speed, wow! Imagine the continents you can visit without having to deal with air sickness, bumpy loos, and freakin visa issues – all on his back – oh, so romantic ;)!
  • Point 4; he is eternal, indefatigable and incredibly powerful – he’ll fight the werewolves, the rowdies at the street corner, villain vampires, and the entire might of Voltaire for you because you would be the best thing that happened to him in about 100 years (*flutter* *flutter*). What an ego bolster is that kind of a yardstick :p?!?!
  • Last but not the least, you can be a vampire too (he can convert you) – ageless, ever young, the master (mistress, rather) of your destiny, and then you can proudly answer when somebody asks your age, “I am 21. I have been 21 for a while now”. Yippie ;)!!!

Alas, if you thought good men were rare to find, such vampires are sure non-existent in this big bad world; so all that am doing is (sigh) waiting for 30 June 2010. That’s when the third movie in the Twilight Saga, Eclipse, releases.

P.S. Vish, I love you, and I know you are going to take me for the movie, and prove for a fact that there remain a few good men who can match upto the impeccable Cullens :D!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Escape from the city madness: only momentarily!

Work took us to Munnar (Suryanelli, actually) in Kerela for an out bound training camp.
You wouldn’t think of office colleagues much for company on a weekend out, but believe me it was great fun – much more than I had expected.

The huge and largely the only negative was of course the journey – we traveled 19 hours one way to be at a camp for just about 24 hours!

The one more regret that I have is that I was drugged (only on avomin :p, given my tendency to mountain sickness) for most of the scenic part of the journey uphill and downhill. This really meant I missed the beautiful view of the western ghats, the luscious curve of the meandering road, and the umpteen picturesque country side clicks that my colleagues captured (which of course were readily shared :)).

Here are some highlights of the trip:
  • The train travel – Was traveling by train after a long long time, so the sight of the compartments and bogies did thrill me! No, I didn’t really expect to meet Shahid Kapoor and do a la Jab We Met at some random station. But, it was fun to occupy the top most berth, play antakshari in 3 languages (tamil, telugu and hindi), bluff around (with playing cards), play the ‘I spy” game, stand at the entry door, and be at our rowdiest best as the train chugged away!
  • The mist – The mist enveloping the hills, rising and settling as the day progressed was an absolute delight to watch. The only morning we spent there was one of the most magnificent and serene dawns I have ever woken up to.
  • The tea plantations - How can one mention Munnar without talking about the rich green tea leaves that cover most of the terrain. A visual fiesta!
  • The tents – My first time in a real tent! I never thought a sleeping bag accompanied with an air pillow could provide sound sleep. A large ugly bug just outside the main sleeping area and the huge spider in the tent in the morning provided some entertainment to the neighbors much to my plight :).
  • The trek - Not much of a fitness freak (read a lazy unfit city slicker), I surprised myself by completing the entire trekking trail – uphill got too arduous by the end, but I swear downhill was a breeze!
  • The raft building exercise – A first again! And the most enjoyable activity. We had to build a raft using logs of wood, tubes and ropes, and then set sail on it. To be honest my contribution to the team was not much – but I was so thoroughly kicked about the whole idea – Would love to do this again!
Hot, noisy and polluted Chennai welcomed us back with open arms. Though still recuperating from the minor aches and exhaustion, I am glad I made the trip!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Dressed to kill!

So what’s instigated me this time around?

An innocent early morning walk in the vain attempt to renew my New Year resolution of shedding some pounds off myself!

Okay, the details now. So once in a blue moon I usually end up at this park near our place in T Nagar, usually after days and days of gastronomic indulgences. It was around 6:45 in the morning and I was slogging it out on my 10th round of the small enclosure, when I hear this dismissive reproach, obviously aimed at me, “These girls wear just anything! What is happening these days?”

Imagine the gall of the guy!
As if getting up early morning was not irritating enough, I was totally riled up and turned around to give the man a befitting reply to shut him up.

As I looked back to zero down on my prey, my anger vanished.
Haa! Here is this oldie (and need I add baldie) in a veshti/dhoti (the muslin/cotton cloth men in India tie waist down) folded half, reaching inches above his knees, and that could give tennis skirts a complex (okay, a slight exaggeration) – with his wife who’s draped in a synthetic sari that clings to her body as she walks in the Chennai heat, her entire midrib and almost half the back exposed (as is for any woman wearing a sari, and apologies for the way I describe a sari, but am sure you agree) – commenting on a girl who’s wearing Bermudas that reach below the knees, a T shirt that covers her entirely and sock and shoes!!! (the girl is me, just in case you didn’t figure it out – I like being referred to as a “girl” still, but that’s besides the point).

So, I repeat, imagine the gall of the guy or rather, uncle!

This brings me to the larger debate around the societal coercions on a woman’s dressing, specifically in the Indian context. Though, I understand India is better off compared to countries like Iran where you could be whipped for wearing a mini skirt. Read about it here.

But we are no better. Even though our law does not allow corporal punishment for women not adhering to social norms, we, as a society, leave no stone unturned to ostracize a “modern” girl (who, in the Indian context, is any girl who decides to take her own decisions when it comes to her life and being: dressing, working, marriage etc.).

What I have heard so many times myself, and only on the basis of how a girl has dressed, are the following comments ranging from subtle disapprovals to grotesque character assassinations; “She is too modern, too forward (read characterless)”, “I am sure she has lots of boy friends”, “She seems a little loose”, “Her parents have not taught her our Indian culture”, “She will never get a good house (meaning after marriage, of course!)”.

The worst demeaning assault is when provocative dressing is used as a justification for sexual harassment. So many educated people, parents, teachers, politicians are guilty of this.
Back in college, we once had Kiran Bedi talk to us about Women and Safety, and she made a statement that we girls (I was in an all girls college – LSR, DU) should dress up “like men” – hide our femininity in the garb of loose male clothing. Obviously, this did not go down well with us and a major argument ensued.

While I advocate complete freedom of dressing for women, I also admit there are some of us who dress appropriately and some others who don’t.
Wearing hot pants for a puja may not be such a great idea after all, just like I don’t understand why models should parade in bikinis in a ballroom full of tuxedo-clad men during the Miss Universe contest, have the bikini round at a beach or at the pool side instead and ensure all present are dressed in a similar fashion.
I think I digress.

However, stating that a woman asked to be eve teased given what she was wearing is preposterous to say the least.
Are men beasts who cannot control their carnal lust the minute some flesh is exposed to them?
If I wear sleeveless I am available, and if I wrap myself in a burqa I am the epitome of chastity?
Who are we trying to fool here?
I can wear 6 yards of saris all my life and be morally corrupt and I can wear shorts all my life and still retain my integrity. Is it so difficult to believe this?

While eve teasing and other such forms of sexual harassment is a much greater subject than I attempt to talk about here, one thing that I can vouch for is that the way a girl dresses has nothing to do with whether she is eve teased or not. Girls are eve teased in saris, salwar kameezes, jeans, skirts, shorts, school uniforms and even in diapers!

What is so sexually enticing about babies in nappies and girls in frocks?

There is no rationalization for the perversion of harassers and rapists. They cannot be defended. Every woman and every sane man needs to raise their voices against such miscreants.
I have heard many “sympathetic” law makers say you cannot change mindsets over night. Yes, you cannot magically wish away the social structure that still treats women as objects of possession rather than active architects of the present and the future, but you can bloody well put them behind bars, hang them, castrate them in public for all that I care – Just one or two cases of rigorous and torturous punishment is all that India needs today. One or two examples set for all the bastards will instill the fear of death and legal wrath in each one.
Maybe this is not the only solution, but it sure is one of the most efficient and impacting, especially when it comes to at least controlling such cases.

I am dressed to kill … kill barriers, kill hearts, kill social bondages - not your morals, not the human soul in you.

(Addendum: And if I am not dressed as well as you would want me to, the least you can do is not pounce on me)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Building women-friendly nations…

There’s so much talk about importance of eco-friendliness in anything and everything – from decreasing carbon footprints to reduced use of plastic, controlling fuel emission to switching off all lights to mark the Earth Hour – that I sometimes feel optimistic, maybe we still can be salvaged – environmentally, that is.

However, and I regret the awful comparison, I strongly believe we are not doing enough to make this world a better place for women.

Hang on, no, I am not campaigning for the Women’s Reservation Bill – I do not trust the ideology behind reservations – Equal Opportunities - YES. Quota reservations – NO.
Reserving seats does not ensure deserving candidates; more women candidates in governing bodies does not necessarily translate into empowerment for all women. But, that is a whole new debate outside of what I have in mind today.

This article on Iceland’s highly successful endeavors in almost eliminating the sex industry in the Nordic country provides a heartening ray of hope. Ignore the dig at the probability of the prime minister being a lesbian. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with feminism, and we can discuss that later.

Unlike in a hypocritical country like ours, where women drinking in bars out of their own free will attract more protesters than young girls forced into prostitution, Iceland, as a nation, unites to stand up against commodification of women. Men finally get the first most important lesson in humanity: You buy your drink at the pub, not a woman.

It is outrageous, when the politicians in various countries try to argue on the benefits of legalizing the sex trade – This is sheer regression. Instead of working towards upliftment of women we are trying to justify institutionalization of derogation of women, making it a systemic part of the legal function. Why?
Retarded men and women defend it by making tall claims such as legalization would help reducing crimes such as rapes against women, many women treat this as a serious occupation and feed their families from it. Some even go the extent of stating that such a measure would help freeing men from their repressed frustrations. WTF!
Other WTF defenses include that prostitution has been a part of Indian culture – yeah right, so has bride burning, killing of the female infant, and other such atrocities against the so called “fairer and weaker” sex. So what do we do, legalize these as well?

Strip clubs, lap dance bars and red light areas make a lot of business sense – for the pimps and the middlemen – not for the “objects” that are put up on sale at such places.
Majority women are forced into prostitution by poverty-stricken families or heinous captors; they do not join the flesh trade for want of glamour, as many claim. These women are abused, physically and mentally tortured, not paid adequately, deprived of medical assistance – basically forced to live in the inferno of hell.
There is no hope of escape for generations together. These women are not the entrepreneurs they are made out to be in some countries – they are exploited to a degree that should put our entire civilization to shame.

Moreover, statistics claim that there is no correlation between legalizing prostitution and decrease in the crimes against women. In fact, most of these countries, such as The Netherlands, have seen a sharp spike in child prostitution post legalization of this form of “male violence”.

I really wonder when the world will awaken to the need to collectively and proactively work towards building women-friendly nations.
Why can’t we have Copenhagen summits like we did for the environment?
Why can’t world leaders come together and act together like they did for the economic crisis of 2008?
Why can’t more countries follow the Iceland example?

We have miles to go, and it pains me that try as much, I can’t even list the various forms of sexual exploitation alone that a woman is subjected to – child molestation, eve teasing, gang rapes, marital rapes, human trafficking, prostitution, sexual slavery, the list goes on.

Where is feminism, an often misunderstood and misquoted term, in asking for an end to all this – isn’t it Humanism instead?

Right to equality, Right to freedom from exploitation – Our fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian constitution, remember anyone?


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