Friday, September 4, 2009

Pink ka dumm

(Picture courtesy: Guardian.co.uk )
"Pink on the lips of your lover,
cause Pink is the love you discover
Pink as the bing on your cherry
Pink cause you are so very
Pink it's the color of passion
Cause today it just goes with the fashion
Pink it was love at first sight
yea Pink when I turn out the light
and Pink gets me high as a kite..."

Suddenly, every one's scared of pink.


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times and judging by the ready abundance of dyed rolls of cool cotton dress material, I never ran out of pink frocks as I was growing up.



Like eggs, my mother made an amazing cornucopia with various shades and textures of pink. Polka dotted, frilled, sleeved, a light pink setting off a darker rim, a dark body fading into lighter edges, shocking pink, icicle pink, the famous 80's ABBA pink...name it. I had it.



Like a martyr I learnt to only silently obey a higher call (that of my mother) and never questioned the wisdom of investing in candyfloss clothing.



Of course those days the whole gay, transsexual and lesbian movement was unheard of and pink was still the colour of cherubic innocence, unlinked to anything more controversial than a bubblegum.



Thus it unnerves me how all of a sudden the colour pink has started to invite sniggers and meaningful looks from people around. Don't believe me? Wear a pink shirt to work tomorrow and see for yourself.



I encountered this recently when I bought an iPod. Now here's a thing about me. I am severely challenged technologically. Meaning, I need a written manual to operate anything more complicated than an electric iron. So most of the times I choose my gadgets and gizmos based on their colour (what would match the colour of the walls and sheets).


So naturally, I wanted a purple iPod. I refuse to sour my temper debating about meaningless things such as memory, Gigabytes and such. Since the store just had the standard grey and shocking pink, after much self doubt I selected the pink one.



And ever since I'm putting up with well meaning jibes from friends about finally "coming out".



I mean, what's this sudden corruption of the colour of pink? Its the sky at 5 pm on a cloudy day, its candyfloss at zoo, cheeks of a Punjabi lass after a climb uphill.



My men friends have all stashed away their pink T-shirts and formal shirts leaving their mums bewildered. Its 2009 and yet straight men are phobic about anyone doubting their sexuality. Silly, I think.



Where have all the obedient mama's boys gone? The ones who used to wear neat pink and white striped formals and a dash of curd on their forehead before going to an interview.



I am ashamed to admit, I have no qualms when it comes to wearing/eating/smearing/dabbling/rolling in pink.
My sexuality has been questioned for so long that it has steeled against normal wear and tear.



So join me in testing Pink ka dumm.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What can you throw away from past?

There's an old Chinese saying. If you try to get rid of junk, be careful of what you encounter. Or something to that effect. The Chinese had so many of these useful sayings.
I have this cardboard box full of junk stored under my bed for the last 5 years. Each time I moved house I carried it along with me. I'm one of those collectors of garbage. I hate to even throw away post-its marked "October 2004: have to fix leak in cistern. CALL PLUMBER TODAY."

Well, today I decided enough is enough. I just have to sort out the stuff in that box. The lid was taped shut from the last house change...three years back. As I cut it open the first thing that looked up at me with accusing mismatched eyes was a cream coloured teddy bear gifted to me by my mother on my 21st birthday.

Guiltily, I took it out and looked it over. The stuffing was coming out at places and it badly needed a wash. But the best quality in stuffed animals that humans sadly lack is their inability to talk back or point accusing fingers at their owners on neglect.

A polythene bag bulging at the seams peaked from under stacks of journalistic note pads. I decided to deal with it later. I riffled through some of the note pads on the top of the stack. Notes on stories I have done, phone numbers of government officials scribbled in haste who have long since been either transferred to some other department or retired having completed their terms.

As usual, I was in two minds about throwing these away...vaguely remembering some official rule about preserving notes for five years after having done a story. I decided to deal with the dilemma later. On to the polythene bag then.

A whole bunch of cassettes. Not DVDs or CDs or such modern riff-raff mind you. Audio cassettes of Bryan Adams, mushy romantic song collection by Archie's, Jagjit Singh, Feroza Begum, Bhoomi...and mixed tapes either gifted by friends or ones that I recorded off the radio.

As I looked them over I suddenly realised that each and every single song has some memory attached to it. Take for example "purani jeans" - a song that was almost an anthem for me during college. One I hummed through sleepless nights in my college hostel and one we sang on our last day there.

Or "Dil hi toh hai" - during days and nights at heartbreak hotel, to be more precise - my house, crying in to the pillow because the neighbour's son didn't fancy me in my Harry Potter glasses, crazy curly cropped hair and baggy jeans.

"18 till i die" - at 18 I was wonderfully convinced that Bryan Adams took the pain to write a song about me. Hours spent in front of the mirror fine tuning my air guitar and head banging. For some reason, I always thought the secret to perfecting rock music is perfecting the head bang.

What do I throw away from these wonderful, wonderful songs that saw me through days of tears, meaningless chirpiness, coy acceptance of imaginary Grammies and sobbing singing-alongs of heart wrenching filmy pop songs? I'll just have to deal with them later, won't I?

What's the blue cloth bag stuffed with papers behind the sketchbook?

Postcards! Cream coloured 25 paise each post cards from parents back in Kolkata waiting for me to return home.

"12th September 2004: Darling, you are always on our mind. Your father and me count each day as we wait for you to come home," mum writes. "Are you having proper food? Delhi isn't a very warm place from what you write. We were thinking that it's time you get one of those mobile phones as it's risky for you to always go out to the street corner payphone to make emergency calls..."

Those days I was a trainee in Statesman newspaper, earning a staggering 5000 bucks a month. I could on most days not afford to take an auto back home after work let alone own a mobile phone. The post cards took me back to days spent running around abusive bosses, evasive officials and eager NGO workers.

My parents knew I would probably never come back to Kolkata but never stopped hoping. Pot card after post card of heartbreaking pleas to eat well, give my laundry to cleaners and not spend precious off days doing all of it by hand to save 10 bucks. Damn. If just reading the neat scrawl of my mother's hand is bringing a funny tingling sensation in my throat, how in hell will I be able to casually toss these in the waste bin?

I know what I'll do. I'll put these aside for the moment and sort out a bunch of old bills tied with a rubber band first. Surely I don't need these any more? I mean, what the hell is this slip...looks like a stub of...oh right. My first trip to a PVR movie hall in Delhi with my ex-boyfriend. Jesus! Did I actually sit through two hours of 'Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham'!

Yeah, that was a fun day. We shared a plate of over priced chowmein later, happily abusing the film and the cast, promising never to indulge in such frivolities ever again. Yet there's a second stub in the pile. Clearly we never meant to keep that promise.

Restaurant bills, paper bills, bills from the chemists, more restaurant bills, by the looks of it I ate my way through my salary. Some of this can go. Not this one though. Bill for my first Nokia handset. 2023 rupees. A huge sum, transferred to my account by Messrs. Dad who finally got tired of waiting for my weekly calls home.

Yowza! is that my old sketch book? Yes it is. It still has the drawing of India Gate and the ice cream man. Ive improved my pastel technique since but will you just look at this! I've even pompously signed it R.B. Like all artists convinced that their worth will be realised posthumously.

Well this I'm most definitely saving. Looks like I'm through with most of this junk. After a hard hour's work..off to the fridge then. A cold glass of water and a wash later from all the grime from the box. Well, you can't say that I didn't try. But what can you throw away from past?
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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Gay is as gay does

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal... I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

-- Martin Luther King



(Picture courtesy: Reuters)

I have been meaning to write on the decriminalisation of homosexuality by the Delhi high court but never got the time to collect my thoughts. Lets see if I have this time round.


I have always thought that I have lucked it out having born in India at the time I did. I missed the stifling restrictions of a Hindu household guarding its women during British colonialism.



At the same time I managed to capitalize on a Bengali society slowly adjusting to women in loose baggy jeans, 'jeebonmukhi gaan' and the Back Street Boys.



I have always felt that in a strange way, we are a nation of extremely tolerant people, quick to slights yet ready to forgive and forget.

Perhaps I'm not doing a good job explaining the people I have grown up with and known all my life. Let me try.

I always found it hard to fathom the many dos and don'ts that are so drilled into our collective psyche from a very young age. These self-imposed perceptions of rights and wrongs remain with us for the rest of our lives and while we sometime struggle to unbend confronted with a crisis in our own homes, we nevertheless try to pass it on to our next generation without giving them a chance to make their own mistakes.

Take the example of marrying outside community, caste or status. A Bengali lass marrying a Punjabi or Gujarati in the 70s was unacceptable if not impossible. A girl in a family I knew ran away with the driver of the auto rickshaw that ferried her to her college. It was the scandal of the year. The broken parents put up a fierce resistance, tried to bring her back and in the end disowned her. Yet when she became pregnant with her first child they brought her home, cared for her and treated her uneducated husband quite decently.

Nothing has changed in society. Religion is still the great divider. Hindus and Muslims still wage wars and a sharply divided society wait and fume and do their part in spreading communal disharmony. Yet when children from the two religions get into a scuffle over a game of marbles on the streets, I have seen their respective parents dismiss it with "they're just kids" and chuckle about the scrapes they themselves would get into at that age.

I don't know how the theory of tolerance and acceptance works. But to me glossing over issues that have no bearing on our immediate lives or are not disruptive of our individual choices - is tolerance. Or maturity as I see it.



So why is homosexuality suddenly an issue?
We have always known of women in 'ladies hostel' who do "unspeakable stuff" with each other or of the weird elderly Mr. Das living down the road who never married having lost his heart to a young Sepoy in the 50s (as rumour goes, and "you are NEVER EVER to visit his home alone or talk to him unaccompanied by an elder. Do I make myself clear?")

Yet when the aged, friendless man one day on his way back from the market suffered a mild cardiac arrest and collapsed on the road, local boys from the 'Evergreen Club' who did nothing but lech at girls all day, raised money for his treatment, admitted him to a hospital and visited him with tiffin carriers packed with bland home-cooked food as advised by the doctor. The gesture of an unknown, prejudiced, but kindly mother or aunt.



This is our people. Don't let them tell you any different.


If we are repulsed and embarrassed by hijras clapping their hands and harassing us for money at street lights, we also invite them over and seek their blessing when a son is born. In no other country in the world are transgenders revered such.

Is all this debate about gay sex really necessary? We are a country where newly married couples sneak out to rented hotel rooms to consummate their marriage, driven to frustration by their extended family spread over two rooms.

We might take a while to get adjusted to seeing doting same sex parents at their child's birthday parties or women dropping off their kid at the bus stand, but it will happen.


A time will come when same sex couples will easily discuss their inflated electricity bills or their partners' annoying sexual habits during evening group walks and we would not bat an eyelid.



After all everything is mundane after a while. And we are a nation of causal easy-going people, subconsciously tolerant without making much of it. Aren't we?


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Friday, March 27, 2009

This is your captain speaking: you may now say your prayers

A Tunisian pilot who paused to say his prayers instead of taking emergency landing measures has been sentenced to 10 years in jail. 

His split second of mortal weakness cost 16 passengers their lives. Read the story here.

I have always felt that moment of queasy uneasiness when a plane takes off and gravity does its trick. In situations when my life is in the pilot's hand I try not to piss off the air hostesses by asking for peanuts and free mini bottles of water.

Lay off people, it's enough that they are stressed and taking orders from the man in the cockpit who, for all you know, may have had a quarrel with his wife before gearing up. At 30,000 feet, I do not want to be messing with their minds.

But this Tunisia incident does bring to my mind a certain flight to Colombo when I had the express bad luck of sitting beside a Nigerian who hated flying. 

In addition, I also met with an air hostess who despite years of training still believed that nature and God are bigger forces than man's engineering and aerodynamics progress.

The Nigerian kept mumbling "I don't like this maan...no, I don't like this one bit." 

In such situation I choose to bury myself in a paperback because 9 out of 10 times the maan is likely to make a dash for the washroom to throw up and I do not want to be the git to catch a stream of projectile vomit. I have outgrown such childish competitions with siblings.

But in this case the poor man's misery was compounded by the most violent turbulence I ever encountered.

I did the next best thing, to look around for one of those dusky, chubby air hostesses who are trained for this kind of emergencies.

Only, the one nearest to my seat was sitting board stiff in her chair, head bowed, hands clasped on her lap, muttering a prayer in Sinhalese.

Now, I don't know about others, but a praying air hostess tends to fill my weak heart with terror. They are trained for air pockets and turbulence and emergencies such, right? As an ignorant passenger you seek them out like a child seeks its mother and want to be reassured that you are not going to die.

But its a bother when they shrug their shoulder and tell you casually "you never know." 

Her candid submission did nothing for the pale and clammy Nigerian and I wanted to know what the hell did she do at training school - file her nails?

But such is life. You've got to pray when you've got to pray. Science sometimes gets its ass kicked by faith. You can jail a man for giving in to a moment's terror and faith in the supernatural but you can't mess with faith.      

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Indian reality TV - a series of 'beeps'

I have been watching MTV Hero Honda Roadies on and off for the last two years. When the Roadies started out it promised to be the mother of all biking shows on Indian television. 

A brat pack on bikes, hitting the road, fighting to survive challenges and internal politics while a camera crew clocked their every single waking moment. 

I tried following the show just for the pleasure of watching the biking across barren terrain and the challenges that must be overcome if a Roadie wants to show the stuff he/she is made of.
Sadly, it hasn't happened. 

What HAS happened is a desperate attempt to mix mature content with the sensational spice that Indian audiences really want. Grit, physical fitness, tolerance and endurance are ultimately not necessary qualities to tough it out. 

You will survive just fine if you are loud mouthed, bitchy and a bully. Why did I hope to see action on reality TV when sensational content merely means a series of "beeps" to mask cursing. 

What drives our TRP is calculated juvenile swear words, a bikini scene or two, a very suitable and a tad forced love element between contestants and bingo! You have your reality television.

For those following MTV Roadies like one possessed, the cat fights and fist fights between women contestants were the beginning of the ultimate downhill journey. 

I was beginning to sit up when the show went to the Australian outback thinking at last I will get to see some real action instead of hours and hours of inane conversation between contestants. 

That brings me to another MTV show - Splitsvilla. Last season a bunch of girls who look like they have all the time in the world to kill, fight out for the "affection" of two guys through a series of tasks.    

If I had been a feminist I would immediately write to the National Commission for Women at the sexist nature of the show. But I'm lazy by nature so that did not happen. But the protests did happen and this season it's an even number of men vs women.

I sometimes wonder if auditioning for reality TV can be etched out as a career. The CV for candidates would read - 

Former Experience: Reached the interview stage of Roadies and got rejected. Have reached the penultimate round of Nach Baliye. 

Strengths: Great at plotting. Can swear in eight languages. Can dare to lift women's skirts to seek the land of no return. Have the right amount of clueless look to reassure fellow contestants but also the right amount of cunning to back stab them at vote-outs.   

Weaknesses: Can't spell long words. No general knowledge. Continuous exposure can be hazardous.

I wonder if straight out performance based shows like Nach Baliye or Laughter Challenge are better. There's really no way to cheat on jokes or two-steps, is there? You can come in a two-piece bikini to LC, but it won't get you laughs. 

Which brings me to the end of this tome - who are we kidding with our reality TV? Unless we get meaner, spicier and more intelligent content I'm not buying this reality nonsense.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sins of the flesh - being fat in an anorexic city

Looking at thin women I have often felt what the starved might feel at a banquet they were not invited to. In short mortally hungry, dissatisfied, depressed and neglected.

It is very hard being fat in a city of plateau chested, thin waisted women, where fancy under wear is for the under sized.

Years of attempted diets have made me a crack philosopher - if you have it, flaunt it, but do keep a friend handy to set up bail. Having said that, I also admit that nothing sharpens your sarcasm like sour grapes. 

There are thousands of us out there doing the same thing every day. Cutting out on dinner, having two meager meals for six days and gorging on pizza and biriyani on the seventh. 

Most say it's a battle of the bulge, shadow boxing with an expanding hip and paunch. What it mostly is, is an ongoing fight with insecurity and demons imposed by curvaceous women who look at you with such overt sympathy in their eyes that you want to crawl into a hole and pull it in after you.

So what is it like living in an anorexic city? I have woken up every single morning for the last two years promising to go slow on the rice and egg curry. And yet, with the first hunger pang my genetic make-up modifies, the nervous system sort of gets re-wired and all well meaning signals to my brain shuts down, until it's too late.

There have been stretches of two or three weeks when I have steeled my nerves to bolt down salads, have miraculously fitted into my old pair of pants and then like seasoned dope pushers have relapsed with the first biriyani. 

I have friends and acquaintances with slim body types who wear anything they want to and eat portions of food that would shame a bird. We the bulky, heavy and neglected gape at them like love struck adolescents, secretly envy them and hope they get pregnant soon so that they can become 'One of Us'.

After much deliberation I have come to realize that I am going to probably stay this way for ever and nothing I do will make much difference. So I have secretly developed an immunity to counter sarcasm and pity from size zeros. 

Humour always helps, I pepper it with a liberal dose of laughing at myself. I still cringe every time an old friend or colleague says "wow, you look...er...different." But I never fail to add "I know!! I LOVE it that my assets are now bigger!!" 

I hate it when the best clothes come in dainty small sizes. And the ones that come in my size are like circus tents. I am uncomfortable at weddings where women wear chiffon that hug their bodies. Men almost always open a conversation with me with "Who's that friend of yours? Can you introduce us?"          

They never said it's going to be a laugh. And it isn't. But its really not that bad, this flab. It makes me freakishly strong too. I can twist open a cap of a bottle like a breeze. Men are more comfortable once they know they really do not need to waste their energy on me by preening up.

We look older than our age, which always daunts bouncers at pubs. 
It's not a bad deal. Really.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Things Not To Say To Your Shrink When He Thinks You're Cured

1. All of us here think you did a great job, don't we Tanya, Natasha, Roan?
2. I will go now. They are coming for me.
3. Why don't you come home sometime? My wife will love it. She gets lonely in her attic.
4. Mmmmm...zzzzz....what? hummmmm...zzzzzzz...yes, you were saying? This buzzing is really annoying.
5. What buzzing?
6. That's what I said. What zzzz....buzzing....zzzzz?
7. Tha' medicine was really GRRREAT. Except after the 8th spoon, really.
8. So you think you have cured me. I have cured you. I could cure you.
9. Really? I can go home now? Great! The zoo was getting a bit crowded really. I barely had tail space.
10. Grrrr....rrrr...woof!

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