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.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Thoughts on Udta Punjab

Wow, I've been away a long time. How have you all been?

I watched Udta Punjab and wrote about it for Feminism in India. Some spoilers there, so read only if you have watched the movie (or aren't planning to). But do watch: I thought it was brilliant.

I was especially amazed by all the class and gender commentary (made without preaching, unlike the preaching about drugs). And obviously, we need it -- though apparently those of us watching in a multiplex in a posh mall in south Bombay don't need it any less than residents of small town Punjab.

Towards the end of the movie, one of the obvious villains makes an obviously misogynistic joke about Mexican and Punjabi women's bodies, a joke obviously intended to rub in how vile these people are: they have already been established as violent drug mafia who imprison and repeatedly sexually violate a young woman -- of course they make misogynistic jokes. It's a powerful comment on rape culture.

And the grey haired, respectable looking man on the seat next to me laughs.

I squirmed, trying to get away from him. That laugh seemed to mark him as the enemy. How clueless, how callous, do you have to be to laugh with the reprehensible criminals after sitting through a movie that's almost a treatise on male violence and rape culture?

I cried and shook while Alia Bhatt's character was repeatedly -- and realistically -- violated. Isn't this most women's worst nightmare, to be at the power of such me and have no power, no agency whatever?

But for Mr Respectable Man, I suppose this was entertainment.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Pictures of My Travels: Qutub Minar, Delhi

I visited the Qutub Minar for the first time since I was a child, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Pictures of My Travels: Goa

This will be cliched. Just lots of beach shots.

Okay the first one is of the resort where we stayed, and the next three are from our bike rides.

Monday, May 02, 2016

A bulleted list of stuff that happened on my travels

Some of the things that happened to me while I was traveling (all from the last few weeks, except one old story), in no specific order:

  • A Rottweiler puppy bit me (no blood, but she got hold of my leg and it was difficult to get her to let go. She was so cute, too.)
  • A woman sitting near me on the flight walked off with my bag. I had to walk out of the plane and across the airport and find the airline desk and then see her walking past and very politely ask her to check her bag.
  • (She barely apologised, but I got my bag back on my own and felt like a fucking hero.)
  • A beer bottle fell on the dance floor and cut my toe.
  • I went back to my seat and my friend asked me to put my foot up on a chair and I hailed our waiter -- who had been extremely friendly all night and politely laughed when I knocked over glasses and my friends asked him to get me a disposable glass next time -- and the waiter promptly removed the cushion from another chair, placed the chair by me, and asked me to move my foot.
  • (Yes, I was bleeding.)
  • (My other friend got the hostess and she bound me up and I was fine.)
  • (It didn't hurt much, but it was an experience to be bleeding all over a restaurant.)
  • (It was better than the time my elbows were stinging and bleeding a bit on a flight because my then-boyfriend, who was dropping me off at the airport, and I had a minor bike accident but I was late for my flight and didn't have time to do anything to my wounds. The flight attendant - this was Indian Airlines, back when - got me one. single. Bandaid.)
  • I met an old bschool friend one night and we reminisced about old times. I brought up one of my best friends from those days and mentioned that he seemed busy and hadn't responded to my message; I'd have liked to have met him on this trip.
  • Next day, I ran into him at the airport.
  • I visited a friend who had just moved into a new house and I locked myself into the bathroom and couldn't get out until her little boy shouted instructions at me.
  • I had a weird, unpleasant experience when I took a Uber to go from Gurgaon to Delhi. The cab driver drove badly and illegally to avoid the toll, asked me to lie for him, and when we were caught and I sat in the sweltering heat in the car because one of the intimidating-looking men threatening the driver had taken the keys, I finally pressed Uber's emergency button and walked out. He then followed me and tried to get me to come back, threatened me, and then called me on my phone. Thankfully, the Uber customer service person who called in a few minutes (that's emergency response for you!) was polite and apologetic, and it was the middle of the day, but I was still stranded on the highway on a very hot morning till I finally managed to hail a passing cab. Oh and the Guy was informed that I was in an emergency and understandably freaked out until he could finally reach me. Fun times. (Everyone move to Mumbai, we have lovely black-and-yellow cabs with polite drivers.)
  • My colleague and I were at the Qutub Minar exclaiming over the architecture and eagerly taking pictures. Two different security guards came up to us to give us photography advice. My old Delhi lessons in being rude and snotty came in handy. (I said "thank you" to one with my hand up, signalling "stay away". He got it.)
  • I got on the Shatabdi Express at 6 - in the morning! - after being up partying all night and was clumsier than usual, so I spilled tea on the man sitting next to me dressed in white collar work clothes. Then I said "Fuck" loudly. Among all the vacationing families with young children.
  • My friend and I were at a pub in Delhi and he was encouraging me to talk to strangers and then decided to teach me how and we played dumb charades with these young women for half an hour and it was lots of fun.
  • Basically I have cool friends and I need to travel more.