Feminine v/s Feminist

Let me confess… this post has been on my mind for past many months. But what in the world could I say that hadn’t already been said about the atrocious thoughts that women in India are subjected to? I say thoughts because most of the times the insult is a mental one, blatantly visible if you happen to notice the eyes. Now that I am in a new city, the difference in the two behaviours towards women is too conspicuous to be brushed away as a slight annoying itch at the back of the mind. So, finally I am putting to words the emotions I have been harbouring for so long.

I have been accused of being a feminist many times in my not-so-long life. I used to take it as a compliment but the intent was mostly always contempt. Hell, I wasn’t even aware of the meaning of the term until one day I googled it. Google defines a feminist as someone who “supports feminism”. “Feminism” in turn yields “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes”. What is so wrong about that? Why has the word acquired such a negative connotation over a period of time? Why is it that if you say a girl can drive as well as a man, perhaps better, you get labelled a hard core feminist? If you perform better than a boy at some exam, you are called a ‘ghissu’ or a ‘nerd’ but never ‘smarter’ than the guy? If a guy cooks well, he is an artist, but if a girl does that, well… that is her duty, ain’t it! If a girl is a better athlete than a boy, then she is a masculine specimen, not really feminine you know.

Feminine! Now that’s a word to reckon with! I went through the works again to understand what feminine really means… Google defines ‘feminine’ as “having qualities or an appearance traditionally associated with women, especially delicacy and prettiness”. So try and imagine a ‘puraane time ki heroine’, and you will know exactly what feminine means. The petite frame, the shy, come-hitherto lifting of the eyes, the coy smile, the trembling-like-a-leaf on being addressed in a harsh tone… that and more constitutes a true feminine figure. Well, that is what people and old books and old movies tell us anyway. SHE is the perfect woman – docile, sweet-tempered, quiet, respectful, un-opinionated, does what she is told and most importantly, knows her place! So while it is okay for a guy to be loud and disrespectful, it is considered downright unacceptable coming for a girl (“her parents haven’t taught her anything”, “haath se nikal gayi hai”, “who would marry her” – really?!).

Considering all that, I am incredibly glad that people have called me a feminist time and again. I would rather be thought of as a tough, un-womanly person than a sweet girl who doesn’t have two thoughts to her credit. Initially, I was too timid to do anything about the inappropriate behaviour that I faced. I stayed quiet while I was groped indecently repeatedly… I turned a blind eye to the cat-calls that came my way… I ignored when those cat calls turned from ‘hey fatty’ to wolf whistles as my size reduced… I pretended not to notice when men’s eyes never met mine and stayed down (and no, that was not out of respect or deference)… I cringed when women were condensed to a set of figures to dissect and fantasize about… But now, I would rather be a feminist if it gives me the liberty to defend myself, my body, my dignity. I would rather look the person in the eye and tell him to fuck off than look away pointedly. I would rather that people thought of me as a crude and unladylike person than hide behind glazed, averted eyes.

The people of my land are not going to forgive me for being a woman, but that is an apology I am no longer willing to make. I am a feminist to the core and am proud of it.. Perhaps there will come a time in the near future when there will no longer be a need to append a v/s between ‘feminist’ and ‘feminine’!

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Age is all that matters…

It is generally believed that with age comes maturity – as you grow up, you experience more of the world, you learn to discern between wrong and right, you start appreciating the grey areas of morality, you acquire a heightened awareness of your surroundings and start grasping the true motivations behind people’s actions, and most importantly, you learn to give others a second chance. But if I ask you, would you be able to say, with complete honesty, that you have met a single adult who has blown you away with his subtle wisdom and profound thoughts? Who complies with the above mentioned adage? Haven’t you felt that as people grow old, they become so obstinate about the world they have experienced that they fail to see the wonders of the new age – consequently, losing out on the learning and the maturity bit?

What really constitutes growing up? Just the physical process of it? When you reach a certain height and a certain number of years, voila! You are all grown up! A fifty-six year old professor, who “accidentally” brushes against his female students is grown up, right? A senior member of the family who derides your failed attempt at a business venture is so much more mature than the fourteen-year-old cousin who encourages you to give it one more shot! A manager who needs the crutches of flattery and sycophancy to feel any semblance of self-worth is a deep, wise man, isn’t he? A sixteen-year-old is forced into marriage and motherhood, and the parents who impel her – because it is the tradition – are grown-up! A thirty five year old man who stops his car in the middle of the road to fight over a scratch, using the choicest and ugliest of profanities in front of his eight year old kid, while that kid tries to convince him to move on, deserves respect more than that child does – of course because he is GROWN up!

Hell No!

Amir Khan got it right when he declared on his show that a person should “respect behaviour and not age”. Age has got absolutely nothing to do with a person’s wisdom. Anybody can grow old. In fact, everybody does. But not all utilize the time that they have been granted to mould themselves into better human beings.

So what makes me feel that I have achieved a certain threshold of maturity? That I can now avail the privilege of calling myself a grown up? Am I even close?

I grew up when I started questioning myself, questioning all the long-held beliefs and their validity… When I stopped being judgemental of others… When I allowed them some breathing space and tolerated their beliefs when they were different from mine..! I grew up when I stopped imposing my preferences on others and when I gave them the choice to decide who and what they wanted to be in life… I grew up when I made that same choice, even if forcibly, for myself… I grew up when I dug deeper and unearthed the real motivations behind my actions – all the ugly emotions, be those hatred, envy, irrational dislike, laid out threadbare for me to see… I grew up when I formed a quiet resolve to work on those emotions…

I will grow up when I finally learn to let go..

Perhaps we can add one more quote to Peter Pan’s inexhaustible list of awesomeness – “To grow up would be such an adventure” !

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Finally, my irritatingly quirky (believe me when I say that it had a mind of its own), weighty, unpredictable Nokia C6 (oh crap… it was me!) has been replaced by state-of-the-art Google Nexus 4 (Snigxus as I call it.. :P). While being truly remarkable in almost every way (particularly the unique, sparkly, edgy back which, although a little shiny, isn’t garish or ostentatious at all), Nexus comes with its own share of faults… Faults which make it all the more real and believable and this-worldly… and mine! Nobody likes perfection when it belongs to anyone other than herself. Perhaps it is true that you experience an intimacy with imperfection that is unimaginable with perfection. There is a sense of solidarity, comfort and familiarity as you realize that you are not so mediocre after all.

While I was on  the look-out for the perfect companion for the next at least two years, I was struck by the endless possibilities… the futuristic desires that boggle the mind with their limitlessness and scope of imagination..! So, I tried to venture into the realm of lunacy (not that it is foreign to me… :P) and compile a list of items that might very well be must-haves few decades down the line!

  • Foldable cars: Being a chronic patient of the ‘no-parking’ problem, having to crawl through the crowded, bustling Delhi streets at 10 km/hr (“awww… just an inch more there and my car would have gone in”) I desperately want this dream to become a reality. It has become such an acute problem that I now prefer to spend 1 hr 15 mins on a metro compared to 20 minutes by car! Just ponder upon the fringe benefits of having a briefcase-car.. Stuck in a traffic jam, just get out and walk away with your briefcase! Feeling a little flabby and in need of a brisk walk but afraid that you might not be able to make it the whole way? Just take your briefcase along with you! (God, I sound like those tele-ads… Jackie Shroff in a hideous muffler promoting Sandhi Sudha!) Koi to research shuru karo yaar..!
  • Foldable screens: Going with the similar strain as above, wouldn’t it be great to have a smartphone that is, well, HUGE and which fits into your pocket as well? Personally I would like one which could be shrunk down to fit in my fist (now don’t go about suggesting Samsung Guru :P).
  • Instant fly-overs: The daily commute between Delhi and Gurgaon, although not so annoying now, can be really frustrating when you are pushing along long winding roads. How cool would it be to have one damn straight route – as the airplane flies – from the office to the home! How cool would it be to literally carry your road with you! Just press a button and witness a flyover being created right before your eyes… and as you look back, you will see it disintegrating behind you! We will not rely on anybody else to decide our paths for us.. We will follow our own! *waah waah smiley* (or *what-bullshit smiley*)!
  • Invisibility button: Okay, this should have been on the top of the list! Sometimes, don’t you just wanna disappear completely..? When the world gets too much to bear what with its rules, wrongs and rights, traditions, expectations and disappointments..? And if invisibility is such a long shot, can’t we have a mechanism to change our appearance at will? (Being a metamorphmagus like Tonks in Harry Potter… I know I know.. I am too geeky!). Always wondered what 6 feet would feel like? Well then, just set in the new parameters in the system and get a new height!!
  • Ability to fly: Oh wait… Iron Man’s already done that! So maybe we can focus on building an Iron Suit instead.. 😛
  • Replication Mechanism: Basically I mean an ability to create replicas of everything you see.. Or better yet, ability to tangify (yeah, there is no such word.. :P) your thoughts.. See it in your mind’s eye, then see it with your actual eyes! You wouldn’t have to go shopping ever again in your life.. *dreamy eyed smiley*.. You could be the owner of a Lamborghini without having to shell out anything…
  • Automated skill acquiring tool: (Feels like some tool management shoves down your throat as a part of your personal development, doesn’t it? :P) I meant that we should have chips fitted into our brains such that we only have to look at something being done (fencing, for instance) and we are able to replicate that perfectly… Kind of like loading a program and automatically learning the skill (Yep, lifted from Matrix shamelessly :P) How convenient and time-saving would that be..!
  • A time machine to take you to the past where these things didn’t matter at all… when there was harmony… peace.. joy. (We would go back and corrupt those people as well.. Make them the money-minded freaks that we are.. *devilish laugh*).
  • A time machine to take you to the future where these things wouldn’t matter at all… when there would be harmony… peace.. joy.
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It is said that we pine for the guileless days of childhood more than anything else when the world turns grey and gloomy and responsible and practical – when we no longer have the excuse of immaturity and age to explain away our idiotic actions. I beg to differ… My childhood was, for the lack of a better-suited word, crap! I never had those sweet experiences that one associates with growing up: those first true bonds of honest, innocent, motive-free, unbiased friendships; those first introductions to the various ways of “tp” (ahem, time pass as it was called in its shortened form); that minuscule amount of time it would take to known someone inside out; that first faint, irregular beating of the heart on seeing your like of the month; that innocent, undisguised wooing of the girl…

And perhaps, it wasn’t just me. Perhaps most of us struggled to get through to the other end. The prejudices that kids are capable of harbouring, the grudges that they can carry, are far more vicious and hurtful than the ones we hold as adults. Kids can suck up to people, and how!! Remember how there used to be classifications for every person… There was a Ms./Mr. Popular (the one lesser mortals aspired to be friends with), Ms./Mr. Padhaku (the one whose usefulness was realized in exam times… the college equivalent of the same being “ghissu”), Ms./Mr. Sports (the ones who spent their free times with PT teachers discussing the rules of various games), Ms./Mr. All Rounder (the teachers’ pet, the envy of the class)… Life was tough then, what with all the insecurities and jealousies. Perhaps it is true that only happy dispositions coupled with less thought can ever really be content.

So, when people start talking about the joys of childhood and the amazing time they had, I am usually left floundering about – searching for some rays of sunshine in my days of yore. I am able to come up with just two reasons, in spite of all the greatness that childhood is supposed to be: the “non-moneyness” and the endless time that I used to have for myself (anti-social loner from the start, I guess). But these days being what they are, filled with doubts and worries about the future, the “what next”, the introspection of mind and soul, I unearthed another reason to go back – the reason which is perhaps the finest of all aspects of life: the limitless, measureless hope! As a kid, I knew  that life was going to be perfect later. No matter how ugly a corner I would stumble upon, there was the knowledge that another turn would come as suddenly as this one, and that it will introduce me to a tremendous level of gratification that I hadn’t experienced at all.

Now, on the other side of the fence, life doesn’t seem as rosy. I am almost completely ignorant of the ways of working of the world; I have no insight into the random, unpredictable entity that my mind is. There is dissatisfaction, uncertainty, uncalled-for and inexplicable angst, confused self-inflicted miserableness, forced responsibilities and utter mess of the mind.

In this chaos, I have to believe that there is some meaning to my life; that tomorrow would be better; tomorrow I would know what and who am I made for; tomorrow I would at least know what is the purpose behind it all. Even if that entails letting go of some measure of sanity and practicality. Even if that means having blind faith. Even if that includes having to use the crutches of destiny and “it was/ wasn’t meant to be”.

Perhaps, kids are more sensible than we give them credit for…

P.S. : Perhaps, my new favourite word is perhaps! (The randomness of the mind at play again!)

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Aspiring artists…

Oh, look look… what is that? Is that a bird? Is that a UFO? No, No! That is a wannabe writer!

Take a hard look around yourself. Do you find it difficult to recognize and spot dreamy-eyed people who walk with their heads in the clouds; people who convey the impression of seeing something beyond the ordinary; people who annoy and disgust you by staring at you for hours on end only to exclaim later that they didn’t notice you were there (thus impelling your ego to take a big hit :P); people who say cheesy things like “life is a constant journey of exploration and mystery and wonderment” and say them sincerely! If you have encountered species like that (oh I do pity you :P) then do not be offended at all (I am sure you are more than noticeable). The weird thing that you just bumped into is most probably a hopeful and delusional free, yet captivated, soul (I ain’t that bad either at the cheesy stuff :D) who aims to take the world by a storm through the power of her words someday.

So, I tried to compile a list of unique characteristics that generally apply to the members of this species (Oooh, I am on a roll today). As always, am welcome to any additions that you might have.

The first and foremost necessity for any wannabe artist is that he should be a tea-lover, nay, a tea-guzzler! That sweetly addictive brown nectar which illuminates your mind, lightens your soul, gives wings to your imagination and makes the world seem brighter… (Ummm… Mommm! how about a cup of tea?). And then there is that trademark jhola of khadi which carries a varied assortment of pens, pencils, erasers and notebooks (and laptops and Samsung Galaxy Note IIs aajkal). For what kind of a writer is one who doesn’t have khadi? A false one!

Writers are eccentric! Unapologetically so! They take tremendous pride in being whimsical, unpredictable, dramatic, impractical and narcissistic. Being sane is so ordinary and boring after all! Possibly the most heart-wrenching and cruel thing you could do to a writer, which would plummet him to the depths of despair, is to call him logical and coherent. They are the kind of people who try to find hidden layers and covert meanings where none exist. So much so that they can give a psychiatrist a run for his money! They are the kind of people who get up in the middle of the night (on a freezing cold Delhi winter night! Out of their toasty warm razaais!!) to pen down a thought that has to be written down then and there in order to be captured perfectly. Else, it will get buried for ever in the echoes of lost dreams…

In conclusion, do not be afraid of ’em writers (sic). They don’t bite, they only write… (aur yeh bahut hi lame tareeke se end karte hue… :P)

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Fat..?! Who, me..?!

So, have you, like me, suffered through the throes of childhood obesity? Those dark, depressing, dismaying, demoralizing, dispiriting, dreary, draining, distressing and disheartening days where , ironically, your only friend seemed like dark chocolate? When you avoided contact with other humans like you would avoid a rabid dog? When you built your own dream world around you and preferred that over reality? When confidence and self-esteem were foreign, unheard-of terms for you?

Thinking back to all those ‘Ds’, I decided I had had enough of this gloomy nonsense. (Meri sehat se kisi ke baap ka kya jaata hai! :P) So, I set about to find out the positives in that arid desert of negatives. Thence, renaming this post to – “5 positive ways of looking at childhood obesity”. A fair warning though… I am gonna use a fair sprinkling of Hindi in this post. Because let’s face it, cheesy dialogues ki feel to hindi mein hi aati hai!! 😛

1.) We belong to prosperous, flourishing houses… Khaate peete ghar ke hain bhai..! 😛

2.) Yeh to Ma-Baap ka pyaar hai.. We are just blessed enough to have an over-dose of it! And there is more of us around to love… 😀 (superb news for the prospective partners too! :P).

3.) After few years, even if you have lost just about 5 grams of weight (nakhoon ka wazan aur kya), you always (like really, without fail… tried and tested too, I might add) get to hear “Oh My God, you have become so thin!!!”. Even though you know that is completely untrue and said just for politeness’ sake, you still end up feeling loads better (and start planning on your next round of binge. After all, now you are totally thin.. :P).

4.) Nobody stuffs food, that you don’t really like, down your throat (especially bade log) on the various festivals and gharwaalon ke get-togethers (because they probably figure that you are better off without the extra calories).

5.) And the best one… everyone is extra-sensitive and mindful of their words around you. For who knows what thoughtlessly stringed-together sentences might end up hurting you!! 😛

P.S.: My childhood wasn’t that bad. 😛

P.P.S.: Zyada mehnat ho gayi, ek chocolate to banti hai… cheerios!!

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