Monday, October 18, 2010

Two women

I looked at myself in my new Lauren by Ralph Lauren dress in the mirror and was suddenly and most anticlimactically reminded of a news piece I read about a few weeks back. A dalit woman being paraded naked in Punjab (more states would follow or had already done so).

What she had done to deserve this is probably immaterial and to ask why too frivolous. It was enough that she was a dalit and that she was a woman.

Like me.

We are the same women. I could have been her. She could have been me.

In flashes of atavistic imagination, I saw myself stripped of that dress with numerous Rajput male eyes on me. On her behalf, I tried to experience a fraction the helplessness, insecurity and shame and found myself vaguely incapable. In dense irony, technology would come to the service of misplaced archaism, and cellphone cameras would go into overdrive.

The country we live in is a study of contradictions. People become animals, animals become Gods, Gods become people. Then people become Gods and cultivate with indulgence an obssession with heirarchy that is evident not just in religion but everywhere else. It is what makes us ignore the many convoluted, mystical, theatrical layers of hinduism and take back only the classification that can help us discriminate. Dalit womanhood spread so thin as to incorporate me and her within and still have no evidence of indigestion, no revolts, no talks of abnormality.

Of course I would keep my dress. I would like to wear it to that pind in Punjab. I would like to manifest the contradiction, and the abormality.

Status - Of all the things I feel right now, the strongest is gratitude. My father crossed several worlds on his own with no one to hold his hand. The many, many things I take for granted (like being clothed) would not have been possible were it not for his simple self-belief.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


A recent random conversation caused me to ruminate over and consolidate what makes 'Khalnayak' my favourite movie. My fondness for bullet points contributed tremendously.

1) The reversal of points of view. The introduction of the concept of 'anti hero'. The brilliant casting of Sanjay Dutt. I do believe that no one else could have done as much justice to that role.

2) Ditto Madhuri. By then she had carefully honed the talent of making even the most casual expressions and movements simultaneously explosive and graceful. The non size zero buxomness and that million dollar smile did not hurt either. Present day actresses who believe that achieving that allure is as easy as shedding clothing should get out their notepads.

3) Which brings us to the next point. Her clothes. The saris, but especially the ghagras, cholis and odhnis. She does not once wear western wear through the movie, and thank God for that.

4) The amazing songs. A mere listing is enough.
-Nayak nahin khalnayak hoon main
-Der se aana jaldi jaana (my personal favourite of all times - killer wink)
-Aaja sajan aaja
-Choli ke peechhe kya hai
-Palki mein hoke sawaar chali re

5) Three of these songs display a concentrated view of the mood and in fact the central idea of the female character in this movie while retaining her many dimensions - The Virah (Birha), brought to life skilfully by Madhuri.

6) The exquisite portrayal of a particular brand of femininity, and by extension feminism, I personally subscribe to.

7) The strong undertone of the 'Ramayana', itself one of my favourite stories. In this version, Ravana testifies for Seeta during her agni pareeksha, and does his own sanhaar.

8) This is a Subhash Ghai movie! It is bollywood not trying to be anything its not, yet not succumbing to the formula. I am partial to this fact because 90s bollywood and its kitsch and masala are my most favourite viewing pleasures.

9) The era itself. A time when english words were not used in the movies, things were not set in foreign locations and packaging was not of much importance.

10) Finally, several times through the movie, there is specific reference to jewellery as gift. I think all women will agree with me when I say that there is no better gift than that, and as shown in the movie, timing is crucial. If a man is serious about you, he gifts you jewellery. Its simple.

status - Filmy!
The runner up is 'Devdas' because I love the story in all its versions (a heart wrenching tale of unrequited love and existentialism), for its grandeur and splendour,but above all, for Prakash Kapadia's prowess in the dialogue department. It lent the grand story the framework it demanded. Again, Madhuri gets full points for the portrayal of the beautiful,multilayered Chandramukhi and her complex low self-respect. She falls in love with a man because he is in love with another woman.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pathjhar ki
Ek khushk subah
chinaar ka
Ek peela patta
downtown subway
ke farsh par
aa jata hai

Ek tarteeb chehron ki
nazar aati hai
Ek Deeksha ka
pata milta hai

status-New Yorker

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A rubaiyat for my mother

I inch away
From her
As quietly as I may

Not long ago
Lying low
The woman inside
Not yet a woe

The world
Still not unfurled
For one mother
And one little girl

Unspoken laws
Time and its claws
find their way in
Just because

Not knowing whether
Strangers for one another
Not knowing how to
Not know each other

A fear I cannot begin to know
to free my hand to let me go
And I thank you
For letting me borrow
Myself from you

Status-Thankfully,one does not have to relate to people in order to love them.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

American beauty

When former ordinary Michigan girl Rima Fakih, who just happens to be an Arab-Muslim, was crowned Miss USA,she thought this was as famous as she could get. Little did she know that someone mischievous had other plans to make her more so. Pictures of her performing a strip tease act and groping a pole in skimpy shorts were released soon after her victory,much to the delight of tabloids and gossipmongers all over the country. Typical.

What is not typical is the horror and disgrace flung at this case by the media in particular. It was said in very clear terms that she may not be a suitable representative of the United States of America. It was conveniently sidetracked that what she has,in fact,displayed in those pictures (although she vehemently denies any dark secrets and claims that she did it 'for charity') is an embodiment of modern American femininity that every woman in that country is at least aware of and at most celebrated for.

If you are a pretty,rich,popular woman who is an expert at home-made cellphone-based self-porn,you are on your way to fame and glory. One is hard pressed for clues about why a Paris Hilton or a Kim Kardashian are worthy of the A list fame and consequent wealth that they enjoy day after day. All the more disturbing is that they did not even particularly enjoy this deviant behaviour-I believe Ariel Levy, author of 'female chauvinist pigs', when she says that in the said clipping,at one point,Paris' phone rings and she picks it up and talks non-chalantly mid act. Contrary to what they claim,it is neither the act of heinous criminals,petulant spoilt brats,nor plain feminine sexual liberation. It is unfortunately true that drama and sleaze sell when it comes to media. What is even more unfortunate is to watch these women manipulate it to their benefit.

If that is too much sass for you,consider the other option. Become the mistress of an important,famous man who finally comes in the public eye amongst much public speculation and general mass idiocy. Then you can hire a high profile lawyer,conduct press conferences where you declare 'yes,I fell in love,is that a crime?',spontaneously burst into tears,show racy text conversations between the two of you,and finally,pose for the cameras fully bedecked before asking for a nice cheque both from the news channel/magazine and the man in question. In an embarrassing low even for tabloids,all the women in Tiger Woods' secret life had a photo session for a leading magazine,in which one of them chose a dress of a white shirt and a blazer along with lace panties and garters and humped a golf stick on a fake grass carpet while a giant white ball rolled around tellingly nearby.

Of course,all of these affairs were the result of a moral collapse of both parties,more of the man in this case,because he was the one who was committed in marriage and because of the sheer frequency of his indiscretions. However,when this news became public,he did pay for his mistake,perhaps aptly enough. He lost his wife,his kids,his family,his money,his credibility at his job and also his general reputation. The women on the other hand stood only to gain from this staged ignorance of the mechanics of shame. As more and more unnamed women begin blackmailing (admittedly deserving) horny hollywood honchos,one is left disillusioned by the unfortunate congruencies of the terms 'inspite of' and 'because of'.

This glorification and glamourization is a personal tragedy for impressionable young female minds,made more dangerous by the fact that they are not even aware of it being a tragedy. Women depend on role models more than men do,especially in these post-modern times. To present them with such an ideal to feel and become worthwhile seems extremely sinister. It is a kind of anti-feminism in reverse,where the role of the woman is once again,shrunken down to the carnal. What makes it worse this time is that she is made to feel good about it.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Home is each other

"You will NOT tell me what to do. I will do what I want." He was loud and meant every word he said. "So will I." She was still calm and composed,a habit which aggravated him to no end. Then she added, "Except you know we are supposed to stay away from security cameras. You know it." "It is the Basilica,for heaven's sake. A million people go there!" He shouted. "And pick a fight with the personnel?! Do you understand the meaning of having our passports examined again? Will you ever LISTEN to me?" She was outraged-simultaneously wildly afraid and angry. The monster inside him had already awoken,and he thumped towards her and caught hold of both her forearms with one hand and twisted them behind her in a wicked pinch. With the other hand he squeezed her cheeks in a hilarious fish face. For a moment,they stayed in apoplectic equilibrium. She looked at his face,red with fury and breathing hard and hot upon her,and with all the strength she could muster,stomped her right leg on his foot. He lost his grip with a wince,and she used this opportunity to dig her unchristian nails in his flesh,weakening him further. She pushed him back with all her might and in the process let off a feminine version of a grunt.

Unloved,unwanted,unprecious from the beginning-they could only live inside the constraints of a systeme. Instead of granting each other what people in love ordinarily do,they did the opposite. Pushed each other's limits. Set new records. They wanted to know exactly how far they can go and how much does it take. Will you still love me when I do this?

She walked away furiously to the window.

He stared and stared at her back as she stood at the window,glowing with defiance and anger and uncompromise. Suddenly,he walked up to her and held her softly at the waist with both hands,as if on a sudden recall of her fragility. A turquoise bottle of tenderness,uncapped and unused since a long time,overflowed,let free by the upheaval that preceded. Comforted by the familiarity of known terrain,his fingers met just below her navel,as if more concerned with functionality. The tips of her toes,painted scarlet,singlehandedly took charge of his blood circulation.

She turned around urgently and gazed at the puzzle laid upon his face. He looked back in her face. And saw several things. Woman. Lover. Mother. Whore. Goddess. His Life. Doomed to be unconveyed. Through the corner of her eye, she almost came close to this thought and tried exasperatedly to read her worth, her meaning, in his mad,gigantic,magical,ridiculous world. Almost solved the puzzle. Almost.

She gave up and looked down instead,like she always did. That is when she smelt it in the hollow of his throat. Rising above the scent of the sea,the mountains,the road and everything else that he usually smelled of,the unmistakable sharp fragrance of wanderlust. Immediately,she looked up at his face with a surprised smile and anticipatory wide eyes and a certain relief. He smiled back and saw her eyebrows knotted in a question. The familiar,private language of lovers. They talk with smells,grimaces,shrugs and twinkles,as if words are redundant.

"Budapest" He whispered in her ear.

Status-So you Run-'Amazing' by Seal

Monday, April 26, 2010

A woman's life is a function of time

The enemy lies within. Specifically,Premenstrual Syndrome. You are content and almost victorious about the three weeks of rational,lucrative behaviour,and then comes week 4,vociferously demanding an entire chinese all-you-can-eat just so that the world adds up to some kind of meaning. You know exactly where to tell your dietetic holiness to go. You can see,feel,the tips of your toes and everything above it bloat with the kind of fluid that inhabits the stomachs of chicken carcasses,making it impossible to feel like you are movable. It is a fretful time when endocrinology conspires with biology and borrows shamelessly from history-both personal and evolutionary. Sometimes,if you are careful enough,you can almost see the droplets of progesterone clouding your eyesight and general judgement. The only salvation,indeed the goal,appears to be stability,in all probability to keep the chicken fluid from bursting out.

You are certain that all emotions can be suitably expressed with feral noises rather than words. You want to breastfeed a Kwashiorkered child from Tanzania ,then an even more deprived fully grown man from not that far away. You swear off hair removal for the rest of your life based on metaphysical reasonings,and take cathartic pleasure in revenge and organize related monologues. You crave large chunks of any dessert mushed with lemon juice and topped with dead,raw fish,and later fantasize about violent mutilation of several women. When you set out and get up to perform these acts,you burst into tears from the weight of the effort. Small children cower and wobble away stealthily upon your sight. Personal hygiene takes a backseat.

The rest of the three weeks are spent in recuperation and repair,and most of all,dread,because you are aware of the method of its unbureaucratic regularity,and because you cannot run away.

status-dramatic,pessimistic hyperbolic animal.