Thursday, August 25, 2016

Thoughts on Raksha Bandhan and this time of year

Last week, I wrote about my true feelings about Raksha Bandhan for the Ladies Finger. I envy those of you with siblings you are close to, and ooh-ed and aah-ed over the fun subversive rituals some people celebrated with. But the original festival makes me want to run (as do most religious rites for that matter).

Janmashthami today, Ganesh Chathurthi around the corner, Durga Puja and Navratri and Dussehra and Diwali not far behind. This is not my favourite time of year. In some ways. Especially the noise.

But in other ways this is a great season. Bombay is awfully hot and humid, but it'll be my birthday next month, and even though I'll be officially middle-aged this year I have plenty to celebrate. Two weeks after is our wedding anniversary, and we'll have made it a full decade.  I've got plenty of fun stuff planned with the Guy and friends, so the next two months should be fun!

You have fun too, however you choose to celebrate.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Books I read in July

Can you believe it's August already?

I got more reading done this month, in spite of two short trips (Goa again, yay!) and near my new-normal level of socialising.

The Madwoman in the Attic by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar
I've read about this book for years, and finally got around to reading it. It's a seminal work in feminist literary criticism, and examines how classic women writers - Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Dickinson -- subverted and shaped literary conventions. If you're interested in literature and feminism, it's fascinating, even though some chapters are somewhat dry and academic.

The Professor by Charlotte Bronte
I had read this years ago (as I had Villette) but I was tempted to revisit it based on some paragraphs in The Madwoman in the Attic which shed a new light on my recollections. It's interesting and fun, and not quite as subversive as anything written by Jane Eyre's author should be, being a more straightforward hero+makes+his+way+in+the+world+and+wins+the+love+of+a+good+woman, but it has its moments (and The Madwoman in the Attic had some fascinating suggestions on how to read it as more subversive than it is).

Thursday, July 28, 2016

More thoughts on having been married for nearly ten years

Click through to read the thread.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A love story, in tweets

I shared this long true story on Twitter a few days ago.

And here's more love stories from other people:

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Monday, July 18, 2016

Salaam Bombay

The Guy took me to a screening of Salaam Bombay yesterday afternoon. It was a really good movie, yet left me feeling vaguely dissatisfied. As I confessed to the Guy when we were two-thirds of the way into the movie, I was even a little bored.

I haven't seen many of Mira Nair's movies, though I think I've seen the most famous ones. I was blown away by Monsoon Wedding and Missisippi Masala, and quite enjoyed Vanity Fair; I was less enthralled by The Namesake and Kamasutra (though I think I only saw a part of this last and can't make a fair judgement).

I loved the first few scenes of the movie. They were so spare in dialog, so rich in visual storytelling and the use of sound (but not exposition). It took so little for us to sympathize with little Krishna, our protagonist and point of view character, who's been abandoned by the circus he worked at and finds his way to Bombay.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Doors don't just keep others out -- they shut us in too

There was some discussion on Twitter a few days ago about a Flipkart courier sexually assaulting the woman he was delivering the package to. The conclusion was: latch your door. Don't let the courier guy in.

I am not embedding the tweet because I don't want to call out anyone specific for this. It's conventional wisdom, after all. Our mothers and sisters and friends have always told us what to do to avoid getting raped. But there are several reasons why this didn't sit well with me, and I want to share them with you.

It's not the victim's responsibility to prevent rape. This is not a new thought, it's one of the things feminists have been saying forever. Yet I see women who identify as feminist also giving other women "safety tips". Often, it seems like a fine line. We want our sisters to be safe. But opening the door to a courier guy is a very normal act that we should be allowed to perform without getting assaulted. Chains on doors are often flimsy and ineffective - and what if you have to take in a big parcel?

Rape isn't committed only by outsiders, or by lower class men. I'll be honest, I see a whiff of classism here. Middle class men rape. Upper class men rape. Relatives rape. If a courier person asks me for water on a hot day - and he otherwise doesn't seem skeevy - I don't want to say no. They have hard jobs and don't need unnecessary suspicion.

We don't need more advice on what to fear. Indian women are taught from birth to fear men they are not related to. I spent much of the last few years trying to unlearn fear. The Gift of Fear was an eye-opener for me. De Becker points out that our constant fear dulls our instincts (and also makes our lives less joyful). We need to learn to trust our instincts, and to learn to say no when something feels wrong. If the courier guy acts creepy, if something seems off, definitely don't let him in. But being suspicious of every courier guy is not the answer.

When I was barely a teenager and used to take public buses to school, I'd get molested and harassed every day. It was traumatic for a naïve kid who was already low on self esteem. But I never told my parents, because I was afraid their answer would be to not let me go out alone.

Remember your Atwood. There are two kinds of freedom: freedom from and freedom to. I want freedom from harassment and assault, but I've fought hard for my freedom to live as I want, and I'm damned if I'm letting that go.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Books I read in April, May, and June

Damn, I'm almost two months late with this 'monthly' post. I haven't been reading as much lately, so this is more like one or max two months' worth of books. But there's more non-fiction here than I usually read.

A Passage to India by EM Forster
This was a rereading, and a surprisingly enjoyable one. I like Foster's Howard's End also, and in both novels I am impressed by his empathy toward people who are so different - women, Indian men - and whom other male white writers of the time had so much trouble treating as human.

The question I'm finding it difficult to answer is, is the novel misogynistic? It tries hard not to be, but I'm not sure it succeeds, just as it doesn't quite succeed at being anti-racist. But I give it points for trying very sincerely, and it's definitely a thought provoking read.

Hatred in the Belly by the Ambedkar Age Collective
I wrote about this here, but skip my review if you like and read Tejas'.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

In defense of "adulting"



I am in my mid thirties. I moved out of my parents' home for good thirteen years ago. I've lived in hostels, with roommates, and alone, though for most of the last ten years I've lived with the Guy.

I followed the approved script for becoming an adult, toeing the line to meet with both liberal and patriarchal approval. I got married two weeks after I turned 25, and it's always been just the Guy and me - though it helps that we live far from our parents.

So, in a way, adulting came easy to me, and I've been guilty in the past of mocking friends who seem to have a harder time figuring it out. But the older I grow, the more I realize that it's not easy, and I have respect and compassion for all of us who are making it, to some extent or the other.

Because at least for urban India right now, we seem to have torn up the script. And that's pretty fucking amazing. We're not living our parents' lives, we're living our own.