Tuesday, August 23, 2011

More Things To Like About the Harry Potter Series

One of the reasons I can't stop blogging is because of the wonderfully smart people who read and comment (not often enough, do y'all hear me?). And because I'm lazy, and I'm sick again, I'm going to cheat on today's post and just share two lovely comments on the last post.

Starry eyed says:
The humour! Though I must've re-read the books thrice by now, I'm now reading them aloud to my daughter, and am dissolving into fits of laughter so often! It's that way JKR creates the picture in your mind, of spells and charms hitting classmates, of the half-transfiguring mistakes going on during conversations b/w Harry and his friends during lessons...it's LOL all thru during the drama, adventure, tragedies and friendship. Makes it endearing!
Thank you, Starry. Now please go back to your blog and write us a post or two. Do you know how long it's been?

Mad Hatter says:
oh i enjoyed some of the word play. cant remember too many examples now, but i liked the little inversions of word-order that she did, or the slight tweak in a familiar word or concept to come up with a new fun idea. i remember being taken up with 'put-outers' :)

I love everything @lankr1ta writes, especially on feminism, and wish she would write far more often!
All her female characters are really strong. look at Bellatrix Lestrange- she is the most powerful Death Eater. Or Rita Skeeter who makes Harry's life living hell through her pieces.
And then there is Molly Weasely, the one who finishes Bellatrix off. And Ginny- who is a strong brave person. And Fleur who should be a dumb blonde but is not. Or the fact that what saves Harry is his mother Lily's sacrifice. Or McGonagall, and Professior Sprout or Madam Pomfrey or even Tonks who are such strong women of their own type. And did I forget Madam Hooch who teaches the kids to fly. There is such a strong undercurrent of people being good or bad regardless of gender.
Besides what I really like is how her stories work hard against prejudice and stereotyping.
Oh and did I mention the very unconventional idea that Dumbledore is gay and has shades of weakness and strength- life being about "choices" not innate qualities.

A few thoughts of my own to add on to @lankr1ta's comment:
  1. First: I totally agree about the women characters. They are well-rounded, three-dimensional, even when they feature for about twenty seconds (like Tonks' mother and her story, told in a few sparse lines, of how she rebelled against her snobbish rich and presumably evil parents and avoided the fate of her sisters Bellatrix and Narcissa).
  2. Also agree about the female characters on the other side being well-rounded and actually evil, not just sultry temptresses. Bellatrix is kind of the stereotypical evil person (there's no explanation for why she is the way she is, little about her background, but we know she's bad all the way), but she's a woman. Umbridge (funny how her name just came to me right now, when I couldn't remember it yesterday) is so evil and manipulative, yet her motivation is easy to understand if not empathize with, and I think she makes a worthy rival to Voldemort in villainy (though Voldemort isn't the most well-etched of villains). 
  3. As to prejudice and stereotyping, I only partly agree. Fleur isn't a dumb blonde, as Ally points out, though she should have been in a typical book. And Dumbledore is gay. However, Dumbledore isn't gay in the book (or at least he's in the closet): we only know it because Rowling said so later. I would have liked Sirius to be in love with James too, but that might be just me. I wish Rowling had been a little braver and had openly queer characters. (Don't even try saying "that would harm our children." Reading giant spiders and abuse by foster parents doesn't hurt kids, but that all love isn't between a man and a woman does?)
And now, because I'm home sick and that's the best time to reread one of these books, let me get to that. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

More Thoughts on the Harry Potter Series

I've pointed out other people's opinions on what's wrong with the Harry Potter books (opinions I mostly agree with). But the reason why we're even talking about these books is that there's so much that's right about them. So let me point out a few of those (though they're quite obvious anyway).
  1. They're such a good read. There are so many naysayers who deplore Rowling's writing, and I kind of see where they're coming from. Literary, she's not, but she tells a good story and she entertains us and moves us and keeps us engaged till the end. That's pretty good in itself. For a work of popular fiction, I think the characters are pretty well-developed and interesting (let me not compare with other popular writers, in case some of you are fans!). 
  2. And the books got a whole generation of kids interested in reading, and created a phenomenon that was mostly reserved for expensive toys (Apple or otherwise), not books! She makes us nerds look hip. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Motorcycle Rides

I had forgotten how it feels to be on a bike. There is no shutting out the noise and dust and smoke: it's all around you. I'd forgotten how vulnerable it feels when another vehicle comes within inches of you, and there's nothing between it and your skin. It gives me a new appreciation for my car, where I can feel safe and listen to music or talk to myself or the Guy, or sing aloud.

What almost makes up for it though, are the times when we turn into a quiet leafy lane and pass through with no sound but that of the breeze brushing against us. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Books I Have Been Reading: Wilbur Smith's "River God"

As I've said here, kind friends have been keeping me so supplied with books I haven't bought any in months. I seem to remember reading one of his Zimbabwe books when I was a kid, but it's a vague memory.

I picked up River God with some hesitation, but it was the perfect escapist novel and a very good follow-up to the Bartimeaus books. I had expected it to be more serious reading that would help me learn more about Egyptian history, but really, it's just a fantasy novel set in ancient Egypt.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Being Thankful

As I wrote here, I could go on and on telling you about the great things in my life I'm grateful for. It's not that I don't have anything to gripe about. But there are two reasons why I'd rather talk about the good things.

First, it makes me feel better. I could complain how my job doesn't earn me enough money instead of telling you how much I love working at it and how wonderful my boss is. I could talk about the things I wish I had better: more money, better health, more success at my work.

But that would make me focus more on the negative. Cribbing about my job would make me wonder why I do something I hate. It would make me feel like a loser, for wanting something better but not getting it. It would make me question whether I deserved better. And it would make me a worse worker because I would have less confidence in my abilities. It would make me a less fun spouse, because I'd be unhappy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Coincidences are funny things.

Effe and I went to the same school. For ten and a half years. We knew each other, our moms made friends waiting to take us home when school was over. But we were always in different sections and we never made friends.

Then my dad took a job in a small town and we moved away from Guwahati. I came back in a couple of years to go to college. Effe was there too, and we had the same group of friends. We spent a lot of time together, in a group (of around a dozen people). I thought she was way too conformist and un-independent (she refused to bunk classes because her brother might see her). She thought I had a bad, selfish friend (she was right).

Friday, August 12, 2011

How A Great Job Is Like A Great Relationship

Because I have a cold that kept me up half the night and I have lots of work and very little energy, here's something I wrote over a year ago, three weeks into my current job.

I feel like I'm in love.

There's that same feeling of learning more and more about the other party and being mostly impressed with everything.It's that feeling of being insanely lucky to have found them, at last. It's of wondering each day how things got so good they could barely be better. It's of eying minor idiosyncrasies (like my weird hours)* and the obstacles (the long commute).**

I even willingly offer to put in work from home. For someone who just spent nine months at home doing barely anything, that's huge.

I had begun to question my drive, like you question your ability to fall in love when you're all grown up and looking but no one seems good enough. But it just needs the right partner for everything to fall in place.

* Not anymore, but seriously, they were odd. Veeru had taken to calling me Batwoman because I only came out at night (and missed a lot of parties!).
** Not anymore! My office moved near my home! If that isn't true love, what is?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Quick Thoughts on Identifying People by Relationship Status

I have written before that I don't believe in marriage: I don't see the value it brings, apart from the legal (and thereby, financial) status it conveys. But in the short term, I'd be happy if we could abolish terms that describe a person solely in terms of their current, or past, marital status.

I could live with adjectives. Saying you're single or married or in a relationship is useful information, usually (at least for the purposes of small talk). Though it seems more natural to have it come up in casual conversation ("My husband made this amazing pasta yesterday . . ." or "My girlfriend got into this MBA program . . .") than to state it as a fact, especially an introductory one.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mid-Week Reads: Bosses, Interviews and Gender

Through Corporette, here are the best interview questions you should ask as an interviewer and questions you should ask when you're being interviewed.

A rant about street harassment.

The legitimacy of fashion interest and the gendering of kids' stuff are best read together. Also read this on gender-neutral parenting.

Here are ten ways to make your boss love you and things great bosses never do. (A funny tidbit: I sent my boss the first and she sent me the second, and we each asked the other how we do on these. I'd say, if you ask--or can ask--that's a pretty good sign.)

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

What's New Today?

Check out this new page on the blog. This is something I've been planning to do for the longest time and finally got around to. Now you know what I've been doing when I haven't been talking to you.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Books I Have Been Reading: the Bartimeaus Series

The four Bartimeaus books (two that I bought, one after the other, and the other two lent me by a kind friend) entertained me for some long hours, especially when I wasn't feeling very well, so I am feeling very affectionate towards them. I was surprised to find each book better than the last.

The Amulet of Samarkand is good, if somewhat predictable. What actually holds your interest is the character of young Nathaniel, who starts out being an extremely sympathetic protagonist--a young lonely orphan--but turns out more complex and less likeable as the book progresses. The book is narrated alternately by the djinn, Bartimeaus, and by a third-person narrator who focuses on Nathaniel. In this first book, I found the passages by the djinn a little uninteresting and frivolous, a break in the story of Nathaniel.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

More on Women and Equality

Yesterday's post elicited these wonderful comments from mad hatter. So I'm putting it out here for all to see.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

An Old Draft on Feminism

. . . that had been lying in an unused email folder. It was written nearly two years ago


To put it cheesily, feminism isn't a separate compartment in my mind, but a solvent that colours my view of life. I wanted to figure out the ways in which feminism makes my life better, but it's difficult to isolate its influence from all other influences. This is an imperfect attempt. (When I say feminism here, I don't mean the efforts of feminists before me. Obviously I owe them a lot - women in India mostly have equal rights in law, and I can work outside of the home and own property and things like that. What I am trying to pin down is how my subscription to the feminist view of equality of the sexes and refusing to stereotype people based on their gender affects my life.)

  1. I am not apologetic about my choices. I do not think it is MY responsibility alone, as a wife, to ensure that my home is clean, that the kitchen is well-stocked, that my husband gets hot healthy meals. I do not often beat myself up for getting lost in a book when there's laundry waiting to be done or the kitchen is messy. I do not force myself to cook when my father-in-law is visiting and I am tired: we merely order in. Or the husband cooks, and I set the table without trying to pretend I am helping in the kitchen. (I have noticed myself getting less apologetic over time, as my feminism evolved and my conviction that I am not answerable to anyone grew.) I cook or do laundry when I want to, as does my husband. I nag him for leaving used socks all over the house, but I appreciate him when he cleans up after me. We are both adults and responsible for ourselves, and when either of us does some mundane chore for the other, it is a loving gesture, not the living out of a role.
  2. It makes me angry, not scared or guilty or self-conscious, when a strange man - or an acquaintance - ogles me. I know it is their perversion, not my "fault" of wearing a tight top, that makes them behave this way. I am free to ignore them or to stare back in turn. It makes me angry that I should be facing this, but they can't affect me enough to make me stay home or shed tears over my helplessness.
  3. I can recognize sexism more clearly.
  4. Perhaps most importantly, I have a happier marriage - and probably healthier relationships overall. We don't depend on each other because of a certain traditional role the other fulfills. If I am away, my husband would miss my conversation, not my cooking. My husband doesn't feel pressurised to be the 'provider'. If he wants to take a few months break from work, he can count on me to support him - and I can do the same. Parents on either side do not expect me to cook and him to pay the bills, and that probably helps them look past the 'role' of a son or daughter-in-law and grow to know and love us for the persons we are.

Friday, August 05, 2011

The Monsoons in Pune

One way to write a post every day for the month would be to tell you about something in my life that I’m glad of—but no, that would be lazy and I won’t do that. Not every day.

But one thing I’m thankful for lately is the weather. My loathing of hot weather is well-documented, so right now is when I’m happiest in Pune: it’s cool and breezy and often drizzles. There’s a heavier rain too, at times, but this season at least, it’s never lasted very long.

This morning, the sun was out and it was almost warm. I stood out on the balcony and thought, “it doesn’t look like it will rain anytime soon.” I went in to shower and get dressed for office and came back out to the balcony to hang out my towel. It was drizzling. By the time I gathered my bag, the rain was pouring down.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Hello, There

Anyone still here? No? I know, why should you be? I haven't been giving you much lately. So you've all gone away and my blog is like a schoolyard after the bell for class has rung, quiet and lonely.

So how about this? I'll write you a post every day. For the rest of the month. Every single day.

Some of them will be sorry-excuses-of-posts, like this one. Some will be just a picture, maybe. Some days I'll find something I've written long ago and put that up. Some days I'll link to stuff I've written elsewhere or stuff other people have. But maybe some days I'll have something substantial to say. Maybe if I make myself talk to you everyday I'll find out I have something to say after all.

So, will you listen?

What? I'll start tomorrow.