Jab Celsius and Fahrenheit met!

fahrenheit_celsiusI had heard about Chicago’s cold winters. I had survived a couple of them. But nothing could have made me imagine the kind of cold that would come in, jab Celsius and Fahrenheit met!

Yes, that’s right. For those of you who did not know (and that includes me, until recently) at -40 degrees Celsius,  the Fahrenheit scale of measurement catches up (or down, whichever way you like it).  I guess the world is so damned frozen by the time the scale hits -40, that Mr. Celsius and Mr. Fahrenheit no longer have the energy to diverge! Hahaha, just kidding! It is all purely mathematical, actually.

This historical event (well, in all of my 30 years of near-cognizance) happened on the 6th of January, a day when by the grace of Murphy, I had an unavoidable appointment outside my house. I have spent months and months sitting at home, and on the one day when I could have been glad for doing that, I had to drag myself out, wearing no less than 7 layers of warm clothing. Needless to say, I looked like a frozen elephant! :P

To add to the woes, the extreme drop in temperature led to low air pressure in the car tires, forcing husband dearest to queue up at the air filling station and drag the air pipe (or whatever it is called) to all the tires while shivering bitterly.

Thankfully, none of our body parts fell off by the time we got back home. I wonder what the homeless people were doing, though… Poor them! Now the temperatures are slowly but steadily rising, thankfully again.

Here are some pictures of the terrible ‘polar vortex’ed city of Chicago and a few other places. See and enjoy the fact that you weren’t here, then. Those of you who were here, rue the same fact. :-)

http://galleries.apps.chicagotribune.com/chi-ugc-weather-photos/

Happy New Year 2014!

Hi friends,

Before anything else, let me wish you a very happy new year! May the year bring plenty of health, happiness, success, fun, and laughter in your lives! :)Image

I know that a new year is just a statistical tool to help us keep track of time, and the Gregorian calendar (by which the 1st of January becomes the first day of the year) does not even mark the change in a season, but mere mortals (and procrastinating ones at that) like me do like to have landmarks and deadlines in life, to keep us on track. A new year serves that exact purpose. :)

So how was the last year for me? Well, bitter-sweet, like most other years. The year started in Orlando (ahh, the lovely, sunny land of Florida) and ended in Chicago (ohh the wretched land of snow). – which actually is poetic justice! :)

This time around, the new year celebration was rather subdued, although very comfy and cozy, with just me and my husband sipping sparkling pomegranate juice (yes, seriously) and munching on yummy, home-made Malai Kofta and naan. And thus, we also managed to wake up early in the morning the next day, which has been one of my new year targets and resolutions for many years now.

As for resolutions, this year too, I made the same old ones – lead a healthier lifestyle, read more, write more, obsess less, be less emotional and more practical, and so on. What remains to be seen is how soon and how often I break them! :D

I am majorly concerned about writing, though. It is after all, my bread and butter. At least it used to be, and after this “break”, it will be so again. Just don’t want to lose my shine (if I had any in the first place; and if I did, then if any of it is left) by the time this break ends. Let us see. Only time will tell! Coincidentally, and on a totally unrelated note, that was the last book I read last year [Only Time Will Tell - John Grisham], and did not like it at all. Why I am writing this here? I don’t know – just want to write something. That’s a good sign, I guess… hehehe.

Anyways, here’s to more good signs, and good omens, and good deeds, and good news; and hopefully see you again soon.

Cheers! :)

Racism? How beneath our own race!!!

Here’s a transcript of an interview between a journalist and a typical young, educated, white-collared Indian.

Q: Do you think Indians, especially those of the younger generation, are racist?racism pic
A: No way, man! It is well-known all over the world – We don’t indulge in racism! We are all-embracing…
In fact, the only race we do believe in is the race for betterment, for success – financial, social, traditional, emotional, and cultural! (They don’t call us the Gen-Next for nothing!) Plus, our culture is the greatest of all, re! Look at all those stupid Americans and Australians… harassing not only Indians, but their own country men living there! We are not like them at all. We believe in “Live and Let Live”!

QWhat is racism, according to you?
A: Racism is being biased towards some races and discrimination and stuff.

QSo, you are saying that none of us treat people of other races differently?
A: Yeah, yeah, I know that those roadside boys keep whistling at foreign tourists and trying to pick them up. But they are just appreciating beauty – of what value is beauty if no one appreciates it?
And plus, most of these boys are outsiders – from the neighboring states and all, you know! They don’t stay in their limits sometimes; but they are like that only! We can’t teach them these things, right… yeh cheezein to khandaani hain! They speak their own strange languages, and don’t understand ours. But, however useless they are, they don’t do any real harm at all, so it is okay. And don’t even get me started on those originally from neighboring countries! Unka bhi to kuchh nahi ho sakta!

QSo it is only they who are inclined towards racism?
A: Well I can’t say that directly and be politically incorrect, right? I can tell you for sure that OUR community and state is awesome! We are all modern now! We even write “sub-caste no bar” in our matrimonial ads, for god’s sake!
Also, when my North Indian boss’s daughter wanted to marry a Southie, her family didn’t agree at first. Neither did her boyfriend’s. Different culture, different state, different lifestyle – how to adjust with all that, they both asked? Their point of view was correct in a way. Apne apne samaaj ke sab ladke-ladkiyan mar gaye the kya? But look at both their parents’ generosity and open-mindedness… after she ran away with her boyfriend and got married in court, they graciously welcomed the two of them back. Spent like a crore of rupees on the reception. Totally awesome, right!

Racism pic 2QWhat about our internal problems related to casteism?
A: Oh my God… what world are you living in? I am telling you everything’s changed now… Earlier people used to talk about untouchability and stuff. Now we don’t even get to see it anywhere! Well, may be in remote villages and all, but who lives in those anyways – not even a handful of people, I guess. We in the cities are much more modern now… what’s the harm in interacting with those other caste people, I say? It’s not as though they are going to come and live with us now!


Q
And what about discrimination against the “so-called” upper castes and lower castes, both? 
A: No, no, what upper castes and what lower castes? Everyone is just basically proud of their own caste and want the best for it – doesn’t mean we discriminate right? Sometimes things just happen… It’s India yaar!

QRecently there has been news of certain politicians being violent towards out-of-state vendors and businessmen. Do you approve of such tactics?
A: See, tell me this – India is such a huge country, and a highly developing one at that! Even if we don’t allow people from other states to work in ours, they will surely get jobs in their own. Then why do they want to force the people in our state to seek employment elsewhere by filling up all our jobs? As for violence, it is unfortunate; but again, kya karein, it is inevitable sometimes.

QBut don’t you think India is a free country and we can all live and work wherever we want in India?
A: Yeah, we are a free country; but that’s why we all need to stay happy in our own zones, na! If no one is happy how will our country be united? And we are so liberal now…even the different castes are not constricted about employment and work. Our society allows Brahmins to run a business, Kshatriyas to become professors, Vaishyas to do blue-collared jobs and even Kshudras to enroll in armed forces… all these people are allowed to do things they aren’t supposed to – how much more liberal can we be, man! To maintain a balance, we need to have some boundaries, right. Without those, we will be like those Americans and Hippies and stuff.

Q: Okay, and what do you have to say about name-calling? Like in USA, calling African-American people Negros is considered politically incorrect as well as outright offensive. But here, people often use racially offensive nicknames. You just used the word ‘Southie’ in a previous answer.
AArrey, those Americans create an issue out of everything. We just do the name-calling as a joke, man. Plus, it is the easiest way of referring to them. And don’t victimize them okay, they also have nicknames for our state and community. It’s just tit for tat. Now take the software analogy only… in our own company, we call those who test testers, those who code developers, and so on. Similarly, we have names for those from different states and with small eyes, dark skin, dim wits, tendency to show off, miserly traits, oily hair, gauche accents, country of origin, and so on. What’s racist about that!

QOkay then, any parting thoughts on this whole issue of racism?
A: Well, I just want to say that we are not racists at all. No, no, indulging in racism is far, far beneath our glorious race, dude!

[Also published on TheFrustratedIndian blog]]

Soothed by Thrills…

Have you ever felt thrilled and soothed at the same time? Well, I tried sky-diving a few days ago. Although the whole experience merits a separate descriptive post, there is one point I want to distinctively mention here.  The diving experience was by far the most thrilling and the most soothing experience that I have ever had, both at the same time.

IMG_6787 - CopyWhy thrilling? That is easy to explain – the adrenaline rush that I stood at the door of the plane, how I got goosebumps the size of actual bumps on geese when I saw people jumping before me hurling spirally downwards, the anticipation I  felt as I was about to jump off a plane, the jolt of excitement during the jump itself, and the whole idea of being 14,000 feet above the ground with a parachute and an instructor –  thrilling to the core!

Why soothing? Well, for three reasons… One, after I jumped and hurled downwards and posed for photos mid-air, I felt the parachute opening – that is an extremely soothing feeling, you all shall agree! :P Two, after the parachute jerked open, and I adjusted my body and my safety straps, I got to experience about 5-10 minutes of serene silence and beautiful panoramicIMG_6818 - Copy views until I landed. Viewing the beautiful landscape while slowing descending felt surreal, and very soothing. And last but not the least, when I took off the parachute straps, harness, and the jumping gear and sat down (yeah, sky-diving is exhausting!), the success – the feeling that finally I had done what I always dreamed of doing, made me feel so content, so happy! It was like a perfectly soothing balm on all my aches and worries! :) And all this while, the thrill of the whole experience didn’t leave me for a single moment!

Truly, sometimes soothing and thrills are the two sides of the same coin. Like someone said,

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

I open my window, drops of rain fall on my face

I am soothed by their touch,  and thrilled by the freshness…

When a  cold gush of wind blows into my hair,

I am thrilled by its suddenness and soothed by the cool air…

Like a girl in a ballroom,

Waiting long to be asked to dance…

Arrives the nicest guy and chooses her,

She is both thrilled and soothed by the chance!

Jumping in the pool on a hot day in summer…

Climbing a tall mountain and looking down from it,

Winning a prize you have been missing out on for long

Oh, how thrills and soothing together belong!

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Have you experienced anything like this? Do let me know! :)

Kai Po Che? – The decline of traditional sports and games in India

[This is my first post featured on the TheFrustratedIndian website]

So, what is your favourite game, I asked my neighbourhood children at a party in India. “Angry Birds”, said a 7 years old boy. “I love cricket”, said another 14-years old girl. “To watch, I mean, you know… IPL and stuff… it’s so exciting”, she added. With a lot of exclamation marks in my mind, I decided that they are just children and don’t really think before answering.

But then I thought, even if they were adults, would their answers have been any different? Do we ourselves have had any experience playing sports other than cricket, badminton, and table tennis?

Sure, most of us recently watched and lauded the recently released film Kai Po Che. A few years ago, we also went gaga over the Dheel de de re Bhaiyya song from the movie Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.

But how many of us have ever actually said Kai Po Che the way it is supposed to be said, that is, while flying kites? I say with major exceptions of some population of Gujarat, none. For that matter, how many of us have recently uttered the words “Kabaddi kabaddi” or “lagori“?

Well, yes, I am being a little too optimistic in expecting all readers to even have heard about these sports; so let me start by listing some of the most ‘used-to-be-popular’ traditional sports of India.

 

Kabaddi

 Played in India from mythical times and given a national status as early as 1918, Kabaddi has fetched us every possible gold medal at all Asian Games and world championships ever held. Yet, I last remember to have played it only in school, more than a decade ago. And none of the “urban” now-in-school people I know seem to have ever played it. Now, Kabaddi is as athletic and technical a sport as any of the modern ones, sans the need for a big ground or any equipment. What it lacks, I guess, is the glamour.

Kho kho

 This game has been known in India since the beginning of the Mahabharata era. It used to be a rather popular game in schools and during evening play-sessions. Not any longer, it seems. Again, this game is as athletic and tactical as games can get.

Gilli danda

 This game is believed to be the origin of games such as cricket and baseball, although this hasn’t been ever proven, or for the matter, contested. In this game, a player bounces a gilli (a small cylindrical wooden object with pointed edges), of the ground by hitting it once with a danda (a wooden stick), and then hits the air-borne gilli to send it as far as they can.

Lagori/pitthu/lingorcha

 This game of breaking a mound of seven stones with a ball, and rearranging the mound before the opposing team finds the ball, was played by girls and boys alike, all over India. I haven’t seen any kids playing this game of late, though I have seen its version being played as a team building activity in a couple of corporate team building sessions, which is quite heartening.

Kanche/gotya/marbles

 Though this one doesn’t really qualify as a sport, it used to be widely played in India. It is said to improve players’ aim and their ability to concentrate. Also, collecting the marbles won from other players was considered a bonus (or the main attraction? :P )

Kite-flying

And finally, Kite-flying! Although this sport is believed to have originated in the Indian subcontinent, it is much more popular in other countries now. There are a handful of professional kite-flying tournaments in India, too (with lots of foreign participants), but at the local level, there’s hardly any soaring high!

 

If outdoor sports aren’t your favourite, there are several other indoor games too (that are going in to oblivion these days, of course): Spinning top (lattu), Indian Ludo (Pachisi/Dyut/Saripaat), Sagargote/ Gajge, Hide-n-seek (Lukka Chhipi), and so on.

All these games are extremely interesting, and it’s a pity hardly anybody plays them anymore. (Although I am glad that certain traditional sports such as Bull-fighting, Cock-fighting and Hunting have diminished!)

So, what made us turn a blind eye towards these sports/games? I suppose the advent of the originally colonial game of Cricket would be a common answer. But no, it is not just that – internet addiction, increased homework, and above all, unavailability of empty grounds to play are also important factors contributing towards the decline.

But think about this: none of these reasons are unavoidable, we can work around them. Especially as we always complain about how sedentary our lifestyles are; how addicted the younger generation is to the likes of Xbox, iPad, and the internet; and how even the snazziest of the gyms are always full, playing all or some of these games to alert our bodies and our minds can ease a lot of our complaints. And we will be happy for keeping our culture alive. :-)

 

What do you readers think about this? Are you ready to say the real Kai Po Che sometime soon? Do let us know. :)

[All images courtesy: Wikipedia (1,2,3,4,5,6)]

My first snowy accident!

Yeah, so I have never before driven in snow.

Yeah, so I should not be over-smart and offer to drive my husband to places…

Yeah, so I should not try to swerve the car as soon as I see the turn for the destination.

Yeah, so I should not brake hard when there is significant snow accumulation on the road…

Yeah, so I should not panic and start screaming and crying when the car hits the curb and climbs on to the walkway.

Yeah, so I should not be over-smart (again) and insist to walk back home, while the poor husband parks the car safely…

Yeah, so I also shouldn’t start walking quickly in order to escape the heavy snow shower…

Yeah, so…. <thuddd>

Snoooowwww

Yeah, so after all this I should know whether to laugh or to cry, and I don’t because it was all pretty funny and sad! :|

My first blogging award! :-) :-) :-)

versatileblogger_thumb

Thank you so much Alyssa @ castlesineurope for nominating me.  :)   It means so much to receive an award from someone you have never met, based only on what they read on your blog! Thanks, thanks, thanks, again! :-) The rules are that I must post the award on my blog, share seven random things about me, and nominate seven people for the award.

So here are 7 random things about me:

1. I am a big, big, big Harry Potter fan; I also am a huge Paulo Coelho fan! :-)

2. I love exploring places on foot, and I am very bad at directions. However, I am very good at remembering signs and landmarks, so I get by.

3. My husband is indeed my best’est’ friend :-)

4. I am a very emotional person; however, I rarely put my emotions on display – most people think I am very cool and calm :P

5. I love writing, and I am trying to be more frank and fearless at it. ( trying to go beyond – oh my Mom is going to read this – let’s dial it down a notch :P)

6. I am a foodie and a once-reluctant cooking enthusiast.

7.  When I was a kid, I always was scared that the tumbler would drown in the bucket! :P

 

Now, here are my nominees for The Versatile Blogger award:

1. Shweta @ scribblingpad (she has a very casual but extremely effective style of conveying her inner thoughts)

2. Priyaranjan @ my two cents (churns out quality and quantity in equal amounts)

3. Rajesh @ destinationinfinity ( his insights on myriad topics are a good food for thought)

4. Ninad @ this is ninad dighe’s world  (his takes on philosophy, art, and culture provide for some good reading)

5. Anwar @ everymomentmatters ( he hasn’t blogged in a long while – hope this award charges him up to start writing his uncannily funny blog again!)

6. Chandni @ Bohemian Rhapsody (truly versatile!)

7. and last, but not the least, Alyssa @ castlesineurope ( her blog posts have some of the best illustrations that I have ever seen)

Do go through their blogs; I’m sure you’ll love them!

 

My favorite romantic songs of all times – Happy Valentine’s Day :)

Ahem… it is that time of the year again – Valentine’s Day, when love is supposed to be in the air! :P And when it comes to love and romance, how can we forget Bollywood music?? So, here’s a list of my favorite romantic Bollywood songs, in no particular order! Listen, view, and enjoy the YouTube songs! ( But know that I don’t own the links :D)

1. Abhi na jao chhodkar (Playful romance)

This is one of the oldest romantic and really sweet songs! Jo khatm ho kisi jagah, ye aisa silsila nahin… so true! Beautiful lyrics and a refreshing tune!

2. Kabhi phool dena (Wishful romance)

Aur kabhi kabhi khamosh baithen, baahon ke sahare

Sooraj bujhana, saagar kinaare; aur raaton ko chaand ugaana….

Waise pyar ke naam ye to yaaron sab hua hai

This song symbolizes the dreams  and hopes of an ideal romance. Beautiful lyrics and the innocent romance, coupled with a peppy tune make this song really special. The video is cool, too – it features Milind Soman, of course!

Other songs in this movie (Rules… Pyar ka Superhit Formula) are also really romantic… Chhodo na mujhe yun bekaraar saa and Uljhanon ko de diya hai are exceptional!    

3. Heer ( Larger than Life romance)

How can a list of romantic songs be complete without a Yash Chopra number? He has given us several beautiful lovey-dovey songs, from Dekha ek khwab to and Chaand ne kuchh kaha , to Tere liye and Bol na halke halke ; but I chose this one purely for its music..it is so melodiously romantic! I can’t quite understand the Punjabi lyrics, though :)

4. Humko sirf tumse pyar hai (Melodious romance)

I consider this song as the most romantic song ever! Some tunes are so romantic by themselves, right?  In fact, the violin piece at the beginning of this song, in itself is enough to make the distinction.  The video can be skipped, or played in the background. :-) :P

5. Ishq ki Daastan (Philosophical  romance)

This world is forever torn between the hardcore romantics and the straightforward practical thinkers. There have been several songs that argue whether love is good or bad, for example, Jaane kyon log pyar karte hain ,  Kay Sera Sera, and so on. But no song explains the contrasting viewpoints of people who feel the need to express their love, and those who think that some things are best left unsaid. And the romantic side wins, and how! Beautiful lyrics,brilliantly sung!

6. Saawan Barse Tarse Dil (Atmospheric romance)

Romance reaches a new height when the sky starts pouring – ’cause the rains make everything so beautiful and worthwhile! This song is beautifully shot, and sung. Of course, it is very hard to miss the romance in most rain songs… and the best part is, a rain song can portray several moods of romance – playfulness in Dekho jara dekho barkha ki jhadi, seduction in Jo haal dil ka  , flirtation in Ek ladki bheegi bhagi si… you name it and the rains do it for you! :-)

7. Accha ji mai haari (roothna-manana type romance)

Sometimes, a relationship is not romantic unless you fight and then make up. Watch the beautiful but feisty Madhubala try to make up with  Dev Anand, by first apologizing, then wooing, then threatening, and finally giving in – sweet!

8. Tujh me rab dikhta hai (Reverent romance)

This song symbolizes the whole movie… how ShahRukh Khan does anything and everything possible and impossible to keep his dear wife smiling… very, very sweet!

9. Aye Udi Udi (Newly-weds’ romance)

A combination of A R Rehman’s tune, Gulzaar ji’s lyrics, the choreography,  Adnan Sami’s husky voice, Rani Mukerji and Vivek Oberoi’s performance – simply means full-on romance… beautiful! Watch Rani and Vivek go through the drills of married life while the romance continues to blossom!

10. Pehla Nasha Pehla Khumar ( The first and the best romance)

This list, of course, wouldn’t have been complete without this mother of all romantic songs – need I say more? :-)

**************************************************************************************

So which is your most favorite romantic song ( from this list or otherwise)? Do take this poll and let me know! :-)

Until next time, take care and wish you a very happy Valentine’s day! :-)

Their feelings, too!

Here is the loose translation of a Marathi poem I wrote a couple of years ago (You can find the original poem on my Marathi blog, here). It is based on the concept of irony, and me having to tell you this explicitly, is an ode to irony itself!

****************************************

He was a little boy

Innocent, and care-free

I always want to be like this,

Dreamily thought he.

But alas, his teachers said

You must learn the world’s ways…

Can’t even educate their own children,

About your parents, the world says!

–                   —                  –

It was a piece of rich brown land

Just-plowed, soft, and moist

It wanted to stay that way,

And play with the blowing breeze, it voiced.

But the farmer said,

If I didn’t want to sow,

Why would I ever

Take all the trouble to plow?

–                   —                  –

It was a sheet of plain paper,

Very crisp  and very white

It didn’t want to be written on,

Lest get dirty it might!

Oh, but the writer had other plans

I paid money for it, he thundered!

Why would I do that, if I didn’t want to use it?

Wouldn’t it be a waste, he wondered!

–                   —                  –

The little boy did not imagine then,

That he would grow up to be very successful and rich, indeed…

The piece of land, too, didn’t fathom,

That on its crops would so many people feed…

And nor did the paper know that the words written on it,

would help thousands of people in their lives, to succeed…

Had they known, it would have been so much better!

They would have endured the present happily,

And would have been delighted, later!

–                   —                  –

The teachers, the farmer, and the poet were elated,

In the glory of their achievements they basked…

But how were they to know, that while improving the future,

The pleasantness of the present they masked?

Had they known, though, would it have been better?

Would they have been a little sad,

Then, or later?

My Bucket List :-)

Well, well, whether life’s short or long, and ambitions and dreams are high or low;  everyone, at some point or the other in their lives, thinks of a bucket list, and has one – on pen-and-paper or in their minds; said out aloud, or mused upon while solitary…

I, too, have a list, and it is quite long, of course. Some items on the list are trivial and easy-to-achieve, while some are very important to me and hardly-achievable.Nevertheless, I do HOPE to achieve them sooner or later, before I kick the bucket! :P :D

[To those uninitiated, the term 'bucket list', which means a list of things you want to do before you die, comes from the phrase 'kicking the bucket', which is slang for dying. :) ]

Here it goes:

1. Dip my feet in the water of all 5 oceans (2 oceans remain – Arctic and Southern)
2. Step on all 7 continents (Asia, Europe, and North America – done… 4 more remain)
3. Own a big library ( More information on this, on my other blog)
4. Participate in a flash-mob dance ( I love the whole idea! Does anyone of you know how to participate in one?)
5. Act in a street play ( Preferably in India, to address an important cause in a fun way)
6. Write a book (I’m yet to write a short short story, but still :D :P )
7. Learn a ballroom dance style to perfection ( I only know Salsa basics so far – a long way to go!)
8. Travel to all states of India ( Only 12 done, so far)
9. Sky-dive (Done :D  )
10. Teach at least one adult to read and write ( It will be a big challenge, but I really want to do it)
11. Bungee-jump (Without destroying my vocal cords :P )
12. Make a mini-movie or direct a dance-drama ( you will not believe this, just as I wrote this point, I got a comment on another post,  saying I should consider directing a movie – freaky or what!)
13. Work in an impoverished African nation, or an extremely rural Adivasi area in India (preferably in education or administration areas)
14. Learn to speak at least one foreign language and one regional Indian language fluently ( I used to understand day-to-day French, but not any longer)

I’m very sure this list will always keep expanding, as one of my main traits is this: I am interested in way too many things! But as of now, that was my list.

So what’s on your bucket lists? I would love to hear about it!

Crazy Dreams!

Got a really, really crazy dream last night!

A boy says to Stewie (from Family Guy): “main tumhe markar tumhare tukde tukde kar dunga” (I will kill u and scramble u into pieces).

Stewie replies:  “You can’t… I am already in millions of pieces! In fact you are actually UNscrambling me right now…  That’s how you can see me on your TV.  Bwahahahahahahaha (Stewie’s evil laugh)

And then the camera panned out and showed the boy watching TV.

Crazy, huh! :D

Women empowerment begins with women’s efforts first! (And we can do it!)

For the past few days, the media has been abuzz with protests from various different groups about the increasing violence against women.  While the vote is split between those who want capital punishment and those who don’t; while people argue about whether or not death meant the end of woes for the brave girl; while the guy-bashing is at its prime; a thought still hounds me…

What are we, as women, doing to fight against this violence and this terror? Is it enough to light candles? Is it enough to discuss furiously among ourselves? Is it enough to teach our male relatives to behave themselves? No, it isn’t, (although the last one is very, very important)! Is it also not our own responsibility to work towards preventing such things? And NO, by this I don’t mean that we should urge women to quit stepping out in the night or wearing what they like. That is not even the last thing I would ever dream of telling women to do. I am talking about how we need to change our mind-set. Because the fact of the matter is, we may scream our lungs out about how men should change their mentality, or how they should be punished if they don’t; but nothing is going to change until we change ourselves! Just like charity begins at home, women empowerment MUST begin with women.  Here are a few pointers that I think will help us to begin with:

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1. Treat other women with respect

Unless and until we start respecting our own clan, nobody else is going to respect us. There goes a saying in Hindi “ek aurat hi doosri aurat ki sabse badi dushman hoti hai:” (A woman herself is another woman’s biggest enemy), and I think it is very true. How many cases have we heard wherein a woman tortures her daughter-in-law, or vice versa? How many times does a woman favour her sons over her daughters? Are there girls who think they can disobey their mothers all they like, but not their fathers?  Oh plenty! We need to stop taking our own clan for granted.

Stop being jealous of women, just because they are women! We are all human beings; we all can co-exist peacefully and happily. We don’t fret as much if a male co-worker out-performs us, but let a female co-worker do so, and we immediately start pointing fingers, if you know what I mean. Why?

Some people, women included, believe that there are only 2 kinds of women – the good ones or the seedhi saadhi bharatiya naaris and the bad ones or the westernized sluts. And I want to tell all such people that they are disillusioned. We are on our way to becoming one global village, and whether eastern or western, whether seedhi-saadhi or tedhi-medhi, all women deserve to be respected. For that matter, even if the woman is a prostitute or a porn actress or whoever else, she does not deserve to be raped. No one does!

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2. Stop joking about crimes against women

I have actually fought with several of my friends about this: I strongly object to rape jokes in movies or in print. According to me, such jokes are not only not-funny, but are also extremely insulting to all women. One cannot make fun of another woman’s agony, and certainly not if it is as damaging as a rape. In fact, any joke that disrespects a woman only plants a seed of overall disrespect towards women. Some of my friends argue that such jokes are only meant for innocent laughs. But I’m sorry, I think there is neither anything innocent about them, nor can their negative impact be ignored!

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3. Learn a self-defence technique or two

We HAVE to learn to defend ourselves when there is any sort of a physical attack.

Apart from several self-defense moves, there is Karate, kickboxing, and several other fun-to-learn sports that can help you defend yourselves. If physical resistance  isn’t your thing, try keeping a pepper spray handy. And in case you don’t have any of these things, try verbal self-defense. Be ready to firmly tell the man to stop or to alert the people around you.  Be prepared to do anything to not resign to what you are being subjected to.

One of the biggest excuses I have heard women give for tolerating crimes against them is “How much can we resist?  Men are by nature physically stronger than us.” Although I know that is technically true, and I don’t advocate violence; this doesn’t mean that we should not put up a fight. I believe that if an attacker has the slightest doubt that the victim will resist, a large part of his resolve will evaporate. In fact even if you are never subjected to any attack (and I sincerely hope you never are), knowing that you will be able to defend yourself in case you are, will give you a lot of self-confidence.

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4. Do not depend on men for day-to-day things

My best friend Maya and I, even when we were young teenagers, always wondered why we make a taboo of certain areas that are “dangerous for women”, and don’t go there alone, for example on the streets of Gurgaon or Noida, after dark.  We always take a male “protector” with us.

Now, it is not that I have never asked my male friends or colleagues to drop me home or elsewhere at night. I have done it several times, and I admit my weakness. But just think about this: if I knew there would be 20 other girls travelling alone at that time on that route, I wouldn’t have been scared to go alone; in fact, I wouldn’t have been alone at all!

Similarly, if 100s of girls can travel on Gurgaon streets with their respective male companions, they can travel there without them too… because face the facts – there are 10 perverts out there, and 100s of us! If we are all united and stand up for each other, there isn’t much we need to be afraid of.

Learn to drive. Carry only as much baggage as you can lift yourselves. Stop unnecessarily boosting male egos – it is one thing to do it because a person cares for you and another thing because that person is a ‘man’!

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5. Do not blame yourself for any crime against you, blame yourself for tolerating such crimes

Always remember that no matter what, a man has no right to touch you without your permission. So do not ever feel that this happened to you because “I used to smile at my company cab driver” or “I went alone to a discotheque” or “I wore shorts in a lonely neighborhood  or  “I fought with an auto-rickshaw driver for change” or anything else.

Rape is not the only crime against women; there are several others of lesser heinousness… crimes that I’m sure all of us have faced, and most of us have tolerated without a word. Eve teasing, pinching and groping at public places, vulgar actions and display of obscenities, name-calling, dowry-torture, etc. etc. Remember, no one has any right to even verbally abuse you, or pass lewd comments on you or harass you any other way. We are not to be blamed for these misdeeds.

If we have anything to be blamed for, it is for taking these crimes in our stride. It is for our overall lack of empathy towards other women who face such crimes. It is for hiding the crimes of male relatives or friends. So please, fight against these crimes without fear.

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6. STOP giving excuses such as practicality or tradition for your support to male chauvinism

Many men, some of them my own friends, justify dowries by saying things like “It’s our tradition”, “ it is a return of investment – of dowries we paid in our sisters’ weddings”, and even audacious things like “ghar aayi laxmi ko kabhi na nahin bolte “(an old Indian saying – never refuse the wealth that approaches you – it’s bad luck). The worst part is many of my female friends think it is fine to give a dowry as long as your family can afford it. I feel nothing but pity towards these friends.

Even today, when I hear a woman saying she is “extra-happy” because she gave birth to a boy, I am scandalized. If I ask her whether she would have had an abortion in case of a girl, she furiously denies; says it’s only because her family will be happy that she wished for a boy. She insists that she or her family are not killers. What she does not realize is that there is hardly any difference. As it is said, it all starts with a thought. If she is willing to wish for a baby boy due to a little societal pressure, goodness knows what she will do if she is subjected to too much of it.

Stop belittling yourself, whether you earn money, or not. When you are in a family, it is your emotional support that counts. And if you still don’t believe me, ask women who earn much more than their husbands about whether they face domination.

Stand up for yourself! You are yourself before being someone’s daughter, wife, or mother. Fulfill your responsibility towards yourself first. Say no to anything that is insulting to you as a woman – gender bias at home, eve teasing, rape, sexual harassment, kanyadaan (yes, it is high time we recognize that we are not anybody’s property to be given away, not even our fathers’!), dowry, female foeticide, overall male domination, and so on… the list is really very long!

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7. Help and empathize with those who face sexual crime

If a woman is raped, it is not her fault. Welcome her back into her own world, respect her and her experiences, and ease her back into her normal life. Yes, the trial for justice will take some time, but don’t do injustice to her by secluding her or even pitying her. She is still as much a woman as you are. Always remember that!

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There is a lot more that I could write on this topic; the above list is not at all comprehensive; but that would make this post too long for its own good. Hence, let me stop here, for now. I am sure that if we start with these little things; we can do our part in changing this world.

I know many people, both men and women alike, are not going to like this post. Nevertheless, I believe that if we want to see change, we are going to have to be bold and change ourselves.

Before ending my post, I would like to remind all women, that men are not our enemies. I am sure there are as many great men out there as there are bad or weak ones. So while being a feminist, do not be a chauvinist. The idea is to fight oppression, not to oppress in return.

Please do let me know what you think about this post – and let me know any other ideas that you have.

Remember:

We are NOT a weak or an inferior sex!

We are not ‘property’!

We never ‘ask for it’!

We cannot wait for others to fight our battle!

We must treat every woman’s battle as our own – because it could happen to us someday!

Happy New Year 2013!

Hey all readers, (again, if there are any left, that is! )

Wish you all a very, very happy new year! May you have a wonderful year, full of joy and prosperity and wisdom and laughter and fulfillment.

The last year ended on a mixed note for me. It was a year of major changes, some good, many bad. I am hoping that this new year is one of major changes, too; and mainly good ones! Amen to that. :)

Now, a new year is a time for making resolutions! I love making resolutions, and although I don’t love breaking them, I’m quite used to doing just that. :P So here’s a list of my resolutions for the year 2013.

1) :D This has been my new year’s resolution for the last 4 years now – so it doesn’t really feel new; and yet, as it has never been fulfilled, it seems so so new! :P Lose weight, of course! I aim to lose at least 1 kilo a month, so going by that target, I should be considerably fitter and healthier by the end of this year.

2) Write more and write better! There was a time when I frequently blogged, and then that time just flew past. It could be because I had so much free time and nothing much to do, so procrastination killed it, or it could be any other reason. The bottom line is that I need to get back in gear, and do something that I really enjoy doing – write.

3) Read more! GoodReads, this wonderful social networking website I am registered to, offers a self-challenge for the number of books you want to read in this year. I have challenged myself to 50! So, assuming I read at least 10 books I have already read ( yup, I love re-reading my favorite books – I feel I can get something new out of them every time), I aim to explore 40 new books this year. I have been wasting way too much time surfing the net and watching movies, and series, and videos – it is reading time, now onward! :)

4) Be more positive about life! Yeah, although I appear quite positive, the last year has been quite disappointing for me, bringing out my pessimistic side really strongly. Hell, I even hoped for the Mayan prediction to be true and prayed for the world to end in 2012! But as I then found out, pessimism doesn’t do much except spoil your mood even more. So this year, I again want to give optimism a shot.

That is all about my new year resolutions.

As for my new year wishes, I wish for a healthy and happy year for all my friends and family members! I wish for India to become a safer country for women, and I wish for every single person to understand their responsibility towards making it one. I wish for H1 visa rules to favor me and I wish I get a nice job. I wish for my husband to be really happy and successful in his professional and personal life. 

Oh there are several other wishes, and I hope to discuss them with you somewhere down the year, as I express myself more to you guys, through a regularly written blog. Three cheers to that, and see you soon!

Happy new year, once again!

The Sense of Smell, Part 1 – My Favorites

The smell of mud as it starts raining…ahhh…It enhances the wonderful pleasure that is called the rains.  I wish they could bottle it so that we could enjoy it year-long! This post about my favorite smells in the world couldn’t have begun with anything else. :)

The smells of new books and new raincoats…woww…they cannot be described in words and yet, are so irresistible. I used to love them as a child, and I love them as an adult!

Coffee, well not the typical Indian mix-it-in-milk type, but actual freshly brewed coffee! The bitter-sweet aroma gives you a feel of the rich brown color and the comforting warmth, even without tasting the coffee. (Which, by the way, works to my advantage, as I don’t particularly like the taste of coffee, I just love its smell!) Just holding a cup of aromatic hot coffee on a cold winter morning/afternoon is so soul-soothing, or should I say, olfactory nerve-soothing… :P

The smell of sizzling Goan rava-fried prawns… that is one of the very few things that have almost made me give up my vegetarianism!

Creams, lotions and scrubs used during a facial… what wonderful fragrances they have as they are applied on your face one after another! Lavender, orange, Multani Mitti…Who cares about the chemicals , or even the actual facial (its ‘glow’ starts fading in a couple of days… ) but that hour with the wonderful smells refreshes me altogether.

The salty smell of the sea, the sweet smell of jasmines, the slightly pungent smell of acetone or spirit… they are smells, yet they are tastes, and I love them!

This article is the first in a series of Senses: The Gateway to Our Minds

Missing the Monsoon Masti – My Favorite Rain Songs

Just read the news about pre-monsoon showers that occurred in some parts of Maharashtra yesterday. And somehow, I began missing the monsoons so much – especially because I am not going to experience them this year in US! So, to make  up for their absence a little bit, I began thinking about, and listening to, my favorite rain songs. Here’s a list of some unforgettable ones, in no particular order.

Disclaimer:  The links of  YouTube videos are not owned by me; I just found them on YouTube…

1.Rimjhim Ke Taraane Leke Aayi Barsaat from the movie Kaala Baazaar

Whenever I think of rains, this is undoubtedly the first song that comes to my mind. The shots of  Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman walking in the rains and reminiscing their moments together, along with glimpses of  a rain-drenched old Bombay are a total treat for the eyes and ears. And as with most old songs, the lyrics rock!

2. Saawan Barse Tarse Dil from the movie Dahek

I don’t think anyone has ever watched this movie, but I have watched this song umpteen times for it simple  innocence! Two lovers (Akshaye Khanna and Sonali Bendre) enjoying the rains and going to meet each other while battling it out with the various difficulties created by it is the essence of this beautifully shot song.

3. Barso Re Megha from Guru

The amazing visuals of a raindrop creating ripples in water, dark clouds in the background of lush green fields and a washed look of several picturesque locations are what I like the best about this song; although the music and the stunning voice of  Shreya Ghoshal are also individually sufficient to make this song appear in my list of favorites.

4. Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhaagi Si from Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi

Oh yeah… after all, rains are not just about romance – they are about fun, masti and thodi si shararat too, as depicted aptly in this legendary garage song featuring Kishore Kumar and Madhubala.

5. Le Ja Le Ja Re from the music album Ustaad & the Divas

This is by far the cutest song with a rainy background. And the rain here is not just outdoors from the sky, but is also indoors on the dance floor, inside the heroine’s eyes, and in the hero’s and the heroine’s hearts. There is a part in this song where the sad heroine draws herself drenched in rain, while the hero adds an umbrella to the picture, and another one where she draws herself getting drenched by a bus splashing water on her – only to find that the hero draws himself between her and the bus – ahh.. it is totally cute!

6. Dum Dum Digaa Digaa from the movie Chhaliya

Rains in the studio have never looked as refreshing as they do in this song! And Raj Kapoor serenading pretty girls while the clouds pour is an endearing sight!

7. Bhaage re Mann Kahin from the movie Chameli

A shady lane in a shady area in South Bombay, Kareena Kapoor dressed up in a tacky red-and-blue Sari, and a car as a prop – not to mention a lot of rain… does not seem like an interesting scenario, right? Negative! It is a beautiful scenario! The way the rain-wind combination is shot in this song is mind-blowing! And the music is blissful.

8. Rimjhim Rimjhim from the movie 1942 A Love Story

Beautiful, dusky, and lush green setting of the Ooty botanical garden, a beautiful and very expressive Manisha Koirala, a handsome and sentimental Anil Kapoor, R D Burman’s music, and Javed Akhtar’s soulful lyrics – add all of these to lots of rain and baadal and bijli! Can a rain song get better than that? Naah! Totally mesmerizing song!

9. Bheegi Bheegi Raatonme from the movie Ajnabee

I don’t care about the video of this song much, but just the song in itself is such a work of genius! You can imagine  the rain and the atmosphere created by it just by listening to this song. Kishore Kumar at his best! And yeah, the remix album of this song is great too!

10. Ab Ke Saawan Aise Barase from the music album Ab Ke Saawan

This awesome amalgamation of classical, folk, and pop music is not just pleasing to the ear, but the lavishly shot rain in a small-town setup refreshes the visual sense.This song shows the perfect combination of romance, fun, confusion, peace, and overall joy created by the rains!

11. Koi Ladki Hai from the movie Dil To Pagal Hai

The dreamy voices of Lata Mangeshkar and Udit Narayan, and the innocent, yet romantic portrayal by Shahrukh Khan and Madhuri Dixit add a lot of zing to this melodious rain song.

Yeah, so that’s my list of favorites, people! It’s refreshing to even remember all these songs, isn’t it! Which songs figure in your list of favorite rain songs?

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