Thursday, August 28, 2008

Police Raid Party in Khandala

If they didn't know whether the women were employed by an escort agency, why are they being called bar girls or dance girls? Why is it against the law to have nude dancing or any kind of obscenity at a private party? I get it that they were playing a porn CD, and porn is illegal in India. Oh wait, distributing and publishing pornography is illegal, not accessing it.

What crime exactly was committed? How can the police barge into our houses and arrest us for daring to be sexual?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

On Cooking

One habit I have fallen into at work is having lunch with a bunch of colleagues. And its most important benefit is it works as a motivator to cook lunch. Lunch isn't available in office, so if I don't take mine I can eat something at the Café Coffee Day next door or go out with a colleague and eat some of the unwholesome unappetising food at one of the eateries nearby. I probably would eat out more often or just take something like a sandwich or instant noodles if I didn't have this nagging almost-subconscious feeling that my lunch has to reasonably conform with other people's standards. It's an indication of how shallow I am, but on the other hand, I am eating healthy, home-cooked food.

Over the last few months, the Guy had evolved into the default cook in the household. This is my cue to say I taught him to cook - all he could make before we got together were tea, banana milkshakes and upma. Not to say he didn't make all of these very well, but his repertoire was limited.

I couldn't cook much either, till I moved to Pune and had a flat all to myself. For the first month or so, I didn't have a gas connection. At the end of it I got so tired of eating out (especially as restaurant food in Pune - especially at the kind of restaurant you can afford if you're eating out daily - was unfamiliar and unappealing after Delhi's Punjabi dhabas) that we got a gas connection and I was determined to learn to cook.

The Guy was very helpful throughout: not only did he uncomplainingly (and often with generous praise) eat everything I turned out, but he also helped with the cleaning, the cutting, and whatever else I asked him to do. (Even now, when I am cooking, he often does much of the actual work.)

So in a few months I could pretty much turn out regular meals: rice, dal, sabji, pasta, soup. I never did learn how to make roti, though. But I don't miss it: the occasional tandoori roti at a restaurant does it for me.

But even after assisting me all these months, the Guy didn’t learn how to cook. Sometime, when I wasn’t well, he would try to cook khichdi, or rice, but he would inevitably come to me (often, pressure cooker in hand) to make sure he was adding the right amount of water, or salt.

Then his US trip came up last year. We had time to prepare, and I nagged him till he learned to successfully cook khichdi, dal and rice by himself. And in his one month there, he cooked. He experimented on himself and colleagues, and was encouraged by the praise. He discovered the excitement of cooking – that I guess you inevitably feel when you’re learning and that wears off when it becomes a routine chore rather than an adventure.

His period of enjoying cooking coincided with my getting tired of it, so little by little he began to take over. And I discovered that at this too, like in so much else, he’s better than me.

Then I was going through a difficult time professionally, and I changed jobs and found the change a little overwhelming, and then I was ill for a couple of weeks. So the Guy supported me in every way: apart from talking to me and hugging me and taking me out, he also cooked my lunch for me nearly every day.

He had begun to get tired of it, and I had been promising to take over. It didn’t materialise, though. You see, when I cook, I like him in the kitchen, and I make him help. But when he does, I seem to get under his toes, so I take myself off. So we would start off together and then I would find myself in the way and leave, and we would be back to him being the de facto cook again.

But now he’s gone, and I am trying to reclaim the kitchen. It doesn’t give him a break though, because he has to cook his own dinners – or eat out.

Usually when he’s away I’m too lazy to cook and live on Maggi or Ramen noodles or toast and eggs. But it’s too long this time to risk that kind of assault on my health. I’m hoping this period will rekindle my love for cooking.

Women Shouldn't Step Outside the Colony

Is this guy for real?

Link via the Mad Momma

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dialogue - II

I know who cooks in your house.
You do? Who does? I didn’t know it was a deep dark secret!
Your husband cooks.
Yeah, sometimes he does. And sometimes…
I know he does.
And nothing.
So who cooks in your house?
I do, of course.
Always? All of it?

Oh. That must be so hard on you.
Oh, but it must be horrible doing something you hate that much!

No… I don’t hate cooking…
You don’t? You like it?
Sometimes. Though it’s a pain to cook every day. And I don’t trust my husband to cook.
You don’t feel mean depriving your husband of the pleasure?
Oh, men don’t cook. Normally…
(drawing away from the food on the table) Oh… I cook with my… hands.

Note: this is fiction, though I wish it wasn't. The first Dialogue is here. I tried to do it without any description/explanation, but I felt the words in parentheses in the last line were necessary.

What I'm Enjoying about Living Alone

  1. Hogging the modem (the Guy has a work laptop, but we share the modem)
  2. Having so much time to myself. This morning, I got up at eight, blogged, surfed the net, made and ate toast and tea, read the newspaper, cooked lunch and got ready for work: all in a very leisurely manner.
  3. Not having to synchronize bathroom and toilet visits
  4. Having a whole bed to myself and my blankets and pillows (though I had thought this was what I'd hate - it's not so bad)
  5. Cooking what I want to eat (like egg curry, which he detests)
  6. Having the tv off unless I want to watch it. No cricket playing on mute (lest it should annoy me even further)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Guilty Secret

I bought and devoured eM's book. For the record, I liked it. It is what they call "chick-lit"(what a detestable term! And books by men with male protagonists are... cock-lit?), with a young woman falling in and out of love and dealing with other relationships - friendships, her parents.

But it disappointed me, in a weird, guilty way. Here's my guilty secret: I am (was) writing what I hoped would be (eventually) a book. And why am I disappointed? Because, oh, there are so many things similar between eM's book and the one I was (am?) writing!
  1. The protagonist is a young (twentyish), single working woman living in Delhi (though mine might be living in Gurgaon - I haven't quite figured that out) with a roommate.
  2. There is a great male friend, with some more-than-friends moments.
  3. The heroine has a single mother.
  4. The heroine figures out one relationship better after having a physically intimate moment (though I don't think mine would have gone as far as sex - I guess both my heroine and me are too squeamish).
  5. The novel ends on an optimistic note at a friend's wedding.

Yeah, I'd figured out the end, even though I'm not halfway through the book and haven't figured out all of the twists yet. But that is too much of a coincidence, is it now? I'm depressed now, and wondering if it's any point going through it at all. (Though I probably will, if only for my own satisfaction.)

But then, eM probably did it much better than I could.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Guy Has Left...

Well, not quite in that way. He's gone on a two month visit to the US. Two whole months. Maybe more. I saw him off downstairs in the cab that's taking him to Mumbai airport right now.

It happened rather suddenly. He was told about a week ago that such an opportunity might come up, and we thought we'd have a couple of weeks to prepare. On Tuesday night, we learned that he was to leave this weekend. Between laundering and packing and planning and the usual office grind, we have rarely had a quiet moment to sit and talk - about anything other than work or planning for the trip. (Which, by the way, also explains the lack of posts here.) That wasn't altogether a bad thing, I guess. Anticipating the misery wouldn't elevate it any.

The last time he went to the US, over a year ago, he was there a month. And it was a slow, depressing, frustrating month. Back then, we worked in the same office, and were used to being available on IM, walking over to meet each other, having lunch and tea together, and leaving together at the end of the day. Now, with us being used to spend most of the day without each other, things should be easier. (That's one way of saying I have more of a life now than I did then.) Besides, we went and splurged on the Crossword sale last weekend, and it will be some time before those books run out. And I'm planning to join the gym. And I'm planning to spend more time with Friends of Children: in fact I'm going on a weekend trip with them next week. And my mom has promised to make a visit. So hopefully I won't spend all my time moping.

I didn't even cry when he left.

Two months seems like such a long time. The last time he went, the most difficult time was the 20 odd hours when he was in transit, because we couldn't communicate at all. I was so used to talking to him ever so often. This time, though, it's the thought of the two months that intimidates me. We have never been apart so long since we got together: even in the first couple of months of our relationship, when we lived in different cities, he visited me twice in as many months.

But in a way, I'm almost looking forward to it. Looking forward to being on my own again, to stop being such a sissy and recover my independence and strength. And I'm putting this down here so that I can't back off: so that if I spend the time the Guy's away like a pathetic loveworn loser - at least I will have to accept that I've failed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Movie Suggestions, Please!

What would be a suitable movie to show a bunch of college kids? An English movie, because they'll have relatively more access to Bollywood (plus we want them to work on their English communication skills), preferably shorter than two hours. Something that's educational or informative or just makes them think. Something that we can discuss later. And obviously, not something that's boring.

The only suggestion I have as of now is Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, and I'm concerned that might be boring (though I've watched only about a minute of it so can't say). I thought of A Mighty Heart, though it's not strictly speaking, educational. But I want something that will hold their attention as well as prompt them to think about (and discuss) particular issues.

What do you suggest? Please help, readers! I need it for Sunday and the clock is ticking away.

Edited to add: Thanks, people. Due to a combination of circumstances (the group that had been planning to take a workshop but then tentatively cancelled have now confirmed, and I will be busy with something else that came up suddenly), we won't be having the movie screening this Sunday. But I'll keep these in mind for later, and do keep coming back and putting in suggestions (or send me an email).

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I Read Newspapers

Specifically, I have taken to reading the Pune Mirror, which supplies immense education and entertainment. Sample these two items I read today that I found entertaining and educational, respectively. (I'm paraphrasing them because I can't find them online and I don't have a copy with me.)

Question asked to several young women: "If you were on a date with Abhinav Bindra, what would you ask him?" My favourite was the smart young woman who said, "I'd ask him who he is and why he would want to go on a date with me."

Question asked in the sex agony uncle column (I think it's called "Ask the Sexpert"): "I have wrinkles caused due to masturbating. What should I do?" Answer: "Wrinkles cannot be caused by masturbation." (There, I bet you never knew that! You did? It's only me?)

Look What I Got the Guy

A t-shirt with this on it:

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Guy as Lyricist

When I left my last job, I decided to withdraw my provident fund. We were planning to buy a house and we needed all the money we could get. The money was deposited in my bank account a few days ago, making us feel very rich at the moment.

But the other evening, I suddenly whined that we're using up my pension, and in true Bollywood style, the Guy sang, "Tera pension bhi main hoon, tera tension bhi main hoon, teri body ka har ek dimension bhi main hoon..." ("I'm your pension as well as your tension, I'm your body's every dimension...") It went on, and I remember "connection" figured in it somehow, but by then I was laughing too hard to listen.

Maybe the Guy can become a corny-lyrics writer for Bollywood and make us a load of money?

Empowering TV-Watching

So those saas-bahu soaps are actually empowering for women? Who would have known? Maybe I should watch some myself.

But seriously, if this is true, it's a sad comment on our society that what I - and most young urban women - would find retrogade is actually inspiring women to take more control over their lives.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Being Abusive

I really want to learn some new choice words of abuse.

I find myself much at a loss when I’m sitting with the Guy and he’s driving, and someone overtakes from the wrong side or is talking on the phone while driving or doing some heinous act like that.

I usually end up saying “bastard” (unfortunately, as I don’t shout loud enough, usually the only person who hears it is the Guy), which makes me sound like an embarrassing anachronism from the 19th century. Besides, I don’t think “bastard” is an insult, really. The only alternative I have is something like “idiot”, which seems much too tame.

I never did learn the right expletives in Hindi, but even if I had, I doubt they would serve the purpose. There are words like sisterfucker or motherfucker (or their equivalents in Hindi) that seem to roll off the tongue very impressively, but then, I don’t really care what you do in your personal life; I’m only furious that you just spat out of the car window. Speculations on someone’s sexual life don’t seem, well, insulting enough.

On a related note, why are most expletives related to women in some way? There’s the ubiquitous – and innocent-sounding – “saala”, which, of course is a crude way of expressing my desire of sleeping with your sister. And of course the ones I mentioned above. Wouldn’t saying “fatherfucker” to a man produce more of the desired effect?

So unless you can suggest some creative non-sexual ones, I think I’ll stick to that for now.

Friday, August 01, 2008

More Feminist Reading

After sticking to fiction and light reading for the last few weeks because I was too unwell to want to read anything serious, I have now picked up “The Second Sex” by Simone de Beauvior. I have been trying to fill gaps in my education by reading feminist writing, and after having enjoyed and admired “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” intensely, I was looking forward to this.

I have decided to put in my impressions as I read, when they are fresh in my mind. I’ve read the first chapter and liked it immensely. Some favourite bits in black font below, with my comments in blue:

‘A man would never get the notion of writing a book on the peculiar situation of the human male. But if I wish to define myself, I must first of all say, “I am a woman”; on this truth must be based all further discussion. A man never begins by presenting himself as an individual of a certain sex; it goes without saying that he is a man. The terms masculine and feminine are used symmetrically only as a matter of form, as on legal papers. In actuality the relation of the two sexes is not quite like that of two electrical poles, for man represents both the positive and the neutral, as is indicated by the common use of man to designate hum beings in general; whereas woman represents only the negative, defined by limiting criteria, without reciprocity. In the mist of an abstract discussion it is vexing to hear a man say: “You think thus and so because you are a woman”; but I know that my only defense is to reply: “I think thus and so because it is true,” thereby removing my subjective self from the argument. It would be out of the question to reply: “And you think the contrary because you are a man,” for it is understood that the fact of being a man is no peculiarity.’

Having the male gender as the default is extremely pervasive in culture and language. We have had attempts to correct it, though it is nowhere near complete success. But I suspect the reform must come in from situations before it creeps into language. It is only when you have a woman taking the chair that you think of saying “chairperson”, so when it becomes extremely common for women to be in that position the gendered word “chairman” should die a natural death.

And, without comment – except that I believe she hit the nail right on the head – I present her reason for why women haven’t been able to gain equality.

“The reason for this is that women lack concrete means for organizing themselves into a unit which can stand face to face with the correlative unit. They have no past, no history, no religion of their own; and they have no such solidarity of work and interests as that of the proletariat. They are not even promiscuously herded together in the way that creates community feeling among the American Negroes, the ghetto Jews, the workers of Saint-Denis, or the factory hands of Renault. They live dispersed among the males, attached through residence, housework, economic condition, and social standing to certain men – fathers or husbands – more firmly than they are to other women. If they belong to the bourgeoisie, they feel solidarity with men of that class, not with proletarian women; if they are white, their allegiance is to white men, not to Negro women. The proletariat can propose to massacre the ruling class, and a sufficiently fanatical Jew or Negro might dream of getting sole possession of the atomic bomb and making humanity wholly Jewish or black; but woman cannot even dream of exterminating the males. The bond that unites her to her oppressors is not comparable to any other… the couple is a fundamental unity with its two halves riveted together, and the cleavage of society along the line of sex is impossible.”

This post is getting too long, and I'm tired, so I'll stop here for today. This is likely to be a long series, because I'm mid-way through the Introduction. But I'm hoping this will enduce me to keep at the book.