Tuesday, November 23, 2010


While browsing through some news article on my Google Reader, the following ad caught my eye:

A quick Google search, and I bumped into so many matrimonial sites that cater to divorcees or widowed persons who seek another chance at the altar – SecondShaadi.com, Thesecondmarriage.com, doosravivaah.com, indiaremarry.com, and so many more!

So, is India ready for “I do”, a second time?

I will park aside the age-old debate for and against matrimonial advertisements – It makes for a separate blog entry, if at all. I am a fence-sitter as far as this issue goes – At an obvious level, ads seeking “grooms from respectable families with over 5-digit salary” and “fair, homely and convent-educated girls”, seem to commodify and commercialize the institution of marriage. But then, how is it different from going out to a singles’ club, blind dates or dates fixed by friends etc.?
Society makes marriage a complicated affair – So I will move past this discussion.

Does this spurt in such sites that are tailor-made for second marriages indicate that finally our hypocritical, closed society is trying to open up? Or is it simply a case of market dynamics – websites giving second marriages a fillip?

Whatever be the reason, I see this as a welcome dimension in our society. Inspite of increased awareness and education levels in our society, divorcees, widows and widowers largely remain outcast! If we, as a people, accept that we cannot snatch away the choice of a second innings from someone, I view the growing popularity of these sites as a mark of a more mature social structure that is moving away from the rigid beliefs and traditions and paving way for a much more inclusive community living!

Another interesting article that I came across mentioned that even though the second marriage market appears more skewed to men, there is also a considerable number of single/divorced/ widowed Indian women of the age of 50 and above registered at this site. This is a very heartening fact. Traditionally, re-marriage of women has always been a taboo. But, guess no longer so.

In this age of skepticism, it seems like the value of the institution of marriage, which is nothing but a socially acceptable form of mutual companionship, is here to stay - so what if a little handholding from the marriage portals is required! :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Of new feats…

Last weekend was spent in an out-bound training camp at Coorg (Madikeri) in Karnataka and need I say what awesome fun we had!

After a 6-hr train journey (from Chennai), followed by a 6-hr overnight bus journey (from Bangalore), the luscious green of this beautiful hilly district on the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats is a rejuvenating sight.
Here’s a picture of our camp site, taken at around 6AM on the day we reached.

Apart from the regular group activities and games, we really enjoyed jumping endlessly on the trampoline and lazing around on the hammocks.

However, the highlight of the trip was waterfall rappelling (from a height of 120 ft)! I think this is easily the most adventurous thing I have ever done. It was thrilling, a wee-bit unnerving, and physically taxing – I got slightly wounded on the elbows and legs when I lost balance somewhere in the beginning, but then what is a winning warrior without the victory scars :D!
I have been basking in the glory of the achievement ever since, and, yes, it is going to take a while for me to “deflate”:p.

So this is yours truly on the walk to fame….

And, here’s the full view of the very picturesque waterfall…

This was my first visit to a coffee plantation, and I realize coffee plants don’t make as wonderful and grand a sight as tea estates! We tried looking for ripe coffee berries, but apparently this was not the season – most were green or barely turning red (much to J’s disappointment)…

Apart from the rappelling, our constant engagement with the blood sucking monsters during the treks was the defining element of the trip. These bloody leeches were everywhere – their vicious fangs on so many of us. Thank god for A who got salt (the uncrowned hero of the trip) that saved us all!

The splashing in the waterfall in the middle of the trek, and dancing in the bus by every single person, during the return journey, made for some amazing Kodak moments and great memories!

Oh, by the way, there was another (mean) feat accomplished too…climbed onto the roof of our bus at a gas station and was super kicked!!!

Back in Chennai, still reeling from the “hangover” – creaking bones, aching muscles, drooping eyes, all need rest to come back to normal functioning!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My Feudal Lord

My Feudal Lord is an autobiography of a woman that transcends the geographical, religious, political and societal context it is based in. Though it is the story of Tehmina Durrani, a member of the Pakistani elite society, set in the highly volatile political milieu of the 1970s, 80s, against the backdrop of a highly radical Islamic community – it is first and foremost the tale of a woman caught in a predominantly patriarchal world that is unfair to her because of her gender and makes her pay dearly for actions that she chooses of her free will.

Though being a Muslim does not help Tehmina’s inherent rebellious streak, her situation is exponentially compounded by her specific background – her rather complicated childhood and problematical relationship with her mother, her latent inferiority complexes, her need to prove her self as a lady befitting the highest echelons of the social pyramid, the tug of war between her hopeful heart and her strong mind, and the final straw – her abusive and traumatic marriage to Ghulam Mustafa Khar, the then Chief Minster and later Governor of Punjab, Pakistan.

Tehmina goes back and forth in time as she constructs the very painful narrative of the 13 years of her marriage in a feudal, woman-baiting society to none other than the Feudal Lord himself. Her silence breaking indictment of the curse that a woman’s life was in the post-colonial era in Pakistan is gruesome, bloody and highly graphical. A victim of domestic abuse – physical, financial, and emotional abuse, a victim of a repressive and racial social structure, a victim of the family need to “keep up” appearances for the sake of social stature, a victim of her own super ego that forces her to mould into the vile of the predominant social ethos, it is rather admiring that Tehmina finally gathers the courage to expose to the world the frailties of the veiled homes.

The book makes you shudder in disbelief at the schizophrenic Mustafa Khar – who is irrationally possessive, insanely aggressive and sick in his highly convenient interpretation of Islam to suit his whims and fancies. Your heart goes out to Tehmina as she tries time and again to break the shackles of marriage only to be each time placated for another chance, by Khar who would resort to every trick the male-dominated and oppressive community bestows him with – subtle manipulation, playing on her insecurities, blackmailing to kidnap her children and open threats of violence.

What is most endearing about Tehmina is that here is a woman against whom the worst profanities have been committed mostly in the name of Islam, yet she is not bitter against the religion. She embraces Islam understanding its true spirit and teachings. The subverted interpretation of the religion by fanatics for their own selfish interests has not disillusioned her. She has picked up the pieces of her life, learnt her lessons, and strives to work for the betterment of Muslim women. Now married to Shahbaz Sharif, brother of Nawaz Sharif, she has been reunited with her children whose custody she lost because of the divorce with Mustafa Khar.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The potency of the human mind…

…Is frightening to say the least. Leave it unleashed and it obliterates your very existence, but what can tame it – social conditioning, aligning to what others define as “normal” and “acceptable”?

What happens when the chemical concoctions brewing in your brain refuse to assimilate in the proportion they need to for you to be deemed fit for community living?

How do you disassociate with what your psyche perceives as real and ally with what the people around you see?

We as a society are intolerant to any behavior that we recognize “different” from what has been understood as the norm. We are so insecure about our fragile social constructs of “normalcy” that the minute a person behaves even slightly tangential to what we are “used to”, we go on the defensive – our first reaction is to protect ourselves, and the second to “judge” - brandish the person as “mentally challenged” or “flawed in personality or character”.
The more sympathetic among us try to derive logical reasons, try to “sort” thing out, try to find a “cure”.
But, none of us “accept” and “include”.

Our rigid set-ups do not make allowances for an overactive imagination, for a passionately fiery spirit, for an individual who might have a different arrangement of molecules in the grey matter in their system.

Each one of us is unique - yet only to a limited extent, after which we all “conform”. The price for non-conformance is too huge to pay – alienation from society – friends and family.

Like everything else in life, there are no easy solutions to the exclusivity we all practice as part of community living. Acceptance must begin at home, at the level of the family unit. That is our only hope.

(I have not been able to coherently string together the many thoughts that a close association with one such powerfully distinctive mind evoked in me a while back – But, I finally decided to publish this long pending draft to share with you the frustration at our inability to assimilate variations into mainstream – forget assimilation, we refuse to acknowledge the rights of “differently” constructed individuals to lead a normal life – we just give up on them, we subject them to indifference or anger – pushing them into greater depths of estrangement – we make them pay for what is out of their control – the mind – the omnipotent mind that is above the individual.)


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