Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Watching the Hunger Games Catching Fire Movie

This post has spoilers for the Catching Fire book and movie.

I watched the movie last weekend, my first movie of 2013 (that I watched in a theater). (My last movie was in November last year – Talaash, so you could say it traumatized me so much I haven’t been back since. (It was just a really bad movie. I can’t even find anything good to say about Aamir Khan.))

Anyway.  I’m glad that this was the one movie I watched this year. It was definitely way better than the previous movie. It started out great and kind of petered out in the second half.

I loved the first half hour: Katniss’s PTSD and the victory tour. Without Katniss’ internal monologue which is really most of the books, they did a great job of conveying what she was thinking and feeling. Her shock and trauma after the last games, especially when she goes on the victory tour and is reminded more vividly of her dead friends and victims. When they go to District 9 and see the families of Rue and Tresh, and Peeta offers a generous gift and then Katniss finally gathers the courage to speak and weeps as she remembers Rue. Katniss in the movie cries in public where book-Katniss never would, but book-Katniss talked to us directly and told us what she was feeling, and movie-Katniss only has her expressions and her voice, and can’t communicate her thoughts to us directly.s

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Mumbai Protests Against Section #377

So, I've meant to tell you for a while that I've moved to Bombay. I've been writing the post in my head but haven't gone down to actually writing it here, and this is an awkward time to tell you, because how can I tell you that I was at the Mumbai protests without telling you I live here now?

Anyway. It was my first time at any kind of protest, and I'm glad I got off my butt and went. Because it's awful, what happened. Because I need to show my support, even though I went by myself and didn't know anyone there, I showed up, and I feel slightly less ashamed of myself. 377 doesn't criminalize me, but that doesn't mean I support it.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Don't let the comments get you down

I wrote this some months ago and thought it was too banal and obvious to put up. But well, here it is anyway.
I experienced a moment of personal growth a few days ago. I saw a comment on one of my marketing posts that had been picked up on a site other than the one it had been originally posted on, a comment that lamented how useless my post was.
Funnily enough, it's the first time that's happened to me (for a business post).
In itself, this isn't a big deal. Lots of derogatory comments on the Internet, right?
What was different to me was my reaction. I was able to shrug it off with a mild feeling of amusement.
For someone who used to lie awake at night with a weight in my stomach over disagreements with other bloggers or commenters, this feels like a big deal.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

In Response to Someone Calling a Tree Majestic

Majestic? No.
How can you be so
When you are so fragile.
When puny man can kill you
Mutilate you, annihilate you
Because he needs space, or light, or timber.

Not a shade of cool shade, not a whisper of breeze
To show where you lived and died.
Where your broad trunk rose above the ground
Bearing boughs and leaves stretching into the sky.
Just a slab of concrete
Covering where your roots once dipped in deep.

The same as all the rest of the concrete all around.
Not a seed, not a memory

Monday, November 18, 2013

Class and Equality in the Bartimaeus Series

I'm shocked that I've never told you about the Bartimaeus series.* I've read them three times, I think, and am selectively reading through book 2 (The Golem's Eye) again. Here's a short list of things I love about this young adult fantasy series. Things that I have rarely found in any other book, especially in fantasy (though I'm not a heavy reader of fantasy).

SPOILER WARNING: don't read on if you plan to read these books and don't want to know details. I've avoided spoilers for how the series ends though. Also, a tip, if you're buying these books, buy the paper version. I suspect all the footnotes will make the Kindle version difficult to read.

LONG POST WARNING. I haven't been writing long posts for a while, so brace yourselves.

What is probably my favorite thing about these books (1 through 3, not counting the prequel, which was hilarious but isn't really part of the story) is that they explore and subvert the existing order of things. The world is very like ours, with some crucial differences: magicians are the ruling class, the rich and powerful, and they use "demons" -- beings like imps and djinns -- as "servants" (actually, slaves, since such a being, properly summoned, has to obey its "master").

So broadly, there are three classes (though I suppose one is a race/species, not a class):

Monday, November 11, 2013

Review: The Four Fountains Spa (Koregaon Park, Pune)

I got a free massage, and you get to read all about it!

The Four Fountains Spa offered me a free massage and asked me to write a review on the blog. So here you are.
This was my first massage. I admit that with a tiny bit of embarrassment. But I have two good reasons for this. First, I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of getting naked (or nearly so) in front of a stranger. Second, I don’t much like being touched, especially by people I don’t know. I like being hugged by friends and being kissed by the Guy, but sometimes when the Guy touches me without warning, I grunt or shake his hand away.

So while I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a massage many times, I’d never actually got one. Pay strangers to touch me all over while I lie naked and powerless with my face down? The situation sets off all my panic buttons.
But I did this, reader. And I’m grateful to Four Fountains spa for helping me get over it and I’m proud of myself for going through with it. You’re witnessing personal growth here, people.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The Guy's Food Blog and Other News

Sorry for neglecting you all so long. The last few weeks have been busy and full of happenings. Among other things, I conducted my first webinar and was very nervous about it, but it went off quite smoothly. I had my first spa visit -- sponsored by the spa, courtesy of this blog, so thank you all! I'll post a review soon. We also had a nice Diwali day, brightened by visits from friends and candlesticks gifted by other friends.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Jane the Pup

On my birthday, we did something I've been wanting to do for a long time: brought home a pup to foster. Jane only stayed with us for a week, but she was adorable and I had an amazing time.
See how cute she is. She'll look at you with those big brown eyes and whine.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Mid-Week Reads: Fantasy Fiction Edition -- Hufflepuff House and Narnia

I'm "smart but lazy" myself (okay, the "smart" part is debatable, but bear with me here), so I really liked this blog post about Hufflepuff House.
I’m going to try to catch myself if I start admiring someone’s talent, and remind myself that their real achievement was putting in the work that it took to fulfill the potential their talent gave them. 
Brains aren’t much without the patience to fill them with knowledge.  Ambition without dedication is daydreams and an overblown sense of entitlement. 
The more I think about where I am and where I want to be, the more I compare myself with more successful people, I feel the biggest difference is that I don't put in enough work. (Of course, I might fail even if I put in the work, but if I don't, I don't even have a chance.)

But well, comparing yourself with others too much isn't a good idea either. (Lovely comic at the link.)

In other news, I have another new favorite blog. I have been trawling through Ana Mardoll's Ramblings, especially her deconstructions. I read her entire series on Narnia, even though it's been many years since I read the books. (I think I re-read one or two a few years ago, but adulthood made them sadly disappointing.) I'm now reading through her Twilight series, even though I haven't read the books. But Mardoll's writing teaches me so much about lit criticism, writing, and life.

Monday, October 07, 2013

What I Miss About Having a Job

I wrote this for the Markitty team blog, but thought you might like it, so I'm reblogging it here. (Besides, no one reads that blog -- not even my team, and I think about two people still read this one.)

The mundane
This will sound silly, and it surprised me when I first realized it, but I miss mundane, mindless data entry kind of work. Copying a list into a different format, or manually sorting through an Excel file… that kind of task was anathema to me, or so I thought. Now I miss what seems like the therapeutic mindlessness of it on days when I’d rather not make decisions.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Mid-Week Reads: Advice Columns and Relationships

I found this about Geek Social Fallacies, and it describes the behavior of quite a few people I've known, especially when I was younger. And they weren't necessarily geeks too, so I think a lot of people feel like this about friendship when they're younger. You might find it interesting.

I'm an obsessive reader of advice columns, and while I'm hooked on Carolyn Hax and Captain Awkward and That Bad Advice right now, this makes me think I should be trawling through the archives of Dear Sugar:
You are not a terrible person for wanting to break up with someone you love. You don’t need a reason to leave. Wanting to leave is enough. Leaving doesn’t mean you’re incapable of real love or that you’ll never love anyone else again. It doesn’t mean you’re morally bankrupt or psychologically demented or a nymphomaniac. It means you wish to change the terms of one particular relationship. That’s all. Be brave enough to break your own heart.

Monday, September 30, 2013


Maybe I'm feeling especially emotional this morning, because of various things -- it was my birthday recently and the Guy and I had a wonderful weekend, including dinner at home with a few great friends (a wonderful cozy little dinner where the Guy cooked almost everything), our wedding anniversary is coming up -- seven years! -- and we've been talking over our relationship and how it all happened and how lucky we were for the last few weeks. But anyway, I read this post on proposals and weddings by Melissa McEwan (who is probably my favorite blogger ever) and when I got to this line, I wanted to cry:
To love someone is an infinite action, not any single gesture. No matter how grand.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mid-Week Reads: Heat, Noise, and Dying

If you have been reading this blog for some time, you know I hate hot weather. This Slate article tells me I'm not (just) being self-indulgent.
Our capacity to endure the heat has an upper limit, and one that isn't very high... After you've stripped naked and dipped your feet in ice water, there aren't many other options. Winter chill, on the other hand, leaves more room for maneuvering: If it's too cold, you can always don another sweater, drape another blanket, or huddle with a friend.

Monday, September 23, 2013

All My Notebooks

Guess how many notebooks I'm using right now. As in not right now, and not all at the same time, but how many notebooks do I have to make lists and notes and stuff?
Yep, these are eight of my notebooks
Ten. That's right. I know because I counted them for this post. I wrote there about why I need ten notebooks and why I prefer paper lists to digital productivity tools. If you read it, tell me what you think.

How many notebooks do you use? (Zero is a perfectly valid answer.)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mid-Week Reads: Inspiration from Bill Waterston and Other Book/Graphic Stuff

This lovely comic uses a quote by Bill Waterston and imitates his famous Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. Bill Waterston is one of my heroes, both for creating the delightful, beautiful, and thought-provoking treasure of Calvin and Hobbes, and for the way he lived his life. Reading this was very inspirational for me, given what I'm doing with my life right now.

And then read more of his words. How can you not admire the man? This is my favorite part:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Short Fiction: The Easy Way Out

I found this just now and wanted to share it with you. It was written a few years ago, and it seems to have gone lost and I don't even remember writing it.

My dear friend,

I hope I can always call you that, if nothing more. I hope this email will not offend you. Sorry, I know I’m wronging you by saying that. But things have changed so much between us lately that I’m not quite sure how to behave any more.

You have always been so good to me. When I first came to the city and rang you up for advice,
you didn’t just stop at giving me advice. You helped me find a flat to rent, you showed me around
the city, you even came with me to run my errands, at first. I was overwhelmed then: it was way
more than I could have expected a casual acquaintance to do. I suppose you would have done it for
anyone: I was then, just a clueless young girl from your hometown. But I was so grateful you did it
for me. Because of you, what would have been a scary and lonely time was actually exciting and a
whole lot of fun.

You showed me the ropes of the city. You gave me tips on haggling with vendors and precautions to
take when I was coming home alone at night. You taught me to drive. You even helped pick out my
first car.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Mid-Week Reads: Journalism and Crime

How two newspaper reporters helped free an innocent man after he was in prison for 20 years: this moving story illustrates just how flawed justice systems can be, and how confessions are often not an indicator of guilt.

I also read this thrilling true crime story of a 50-year-old kidnapping case. I was very dissatisfied though with both the ending and the way the writers insinuate that the case isn't yet solved, that the kidnapper/murderer isn't found. Based on the evidence offered, I don't agree. The convicted murderer seems the most likely person to have done it.

And these two heroes -- one of them just 12 years old -- helped the police find the rapists in the recent Mumbai case.

The first two are long reads, so I'll leave you to it!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mid-Week Read: Strong Female Character

Read this lovely, long article on the Strong Female Character.
The Strong Female Character has something to prove. She’s on the defensive before she even starts. She’s George from The Famous Five all grown up and still bleating with the same desperate lack of conviction that she’s “Every Bit As Good as a Boy”.

Nowadays the princesses all know kung fu, and yet they’re still the same princesses. They're still love interests, still the one girl in a team of five boys, and they’re all kind of the same. They march on screen, punch someone to show how they don’t take no shit, throw around a couple of one-liners or forcibly kiss someone because getting consent is for wimps, and then with ladylike discretion they back out of the narrative’s way.
This is partly why I rarely watch movies any more. I haven't gone out to a cinema since November last year. I'm tired of watching Men Doing Things.

Anyway, go read the whole article, and tell me what you think.

And while you're at it, read this profile of a famous and powerful woman: Marissa Mayer. I found it fascinating: it's long but I couldn't look away. The article does a wonderful job of showing her personality, as someone who's difficult but brilliant.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Conversations Tire Me

Conversations tire me.

There are the interesting, intense work conversations: where I talk to a business-owner about their marketing and exchange ideas. The ones where I explain to someone about what we’re doing with Markitty (and maybe they offer ideas.) Nice, exhilarating even, when they happen, but once I've disconnected the phone or walked away from the meeting I want to take a nap because I’m drained.

There are the fun conversations I have with a friend, opening up our thoughts, our worries, our histories. The kind that forge a deeper connection. So life-affirming. But still tiring.

There are the necessary conversations I have with people who care for me and want to hear from me, even when I suspect we have little in common otherwise. People who have been there for me consistently, who love me even if they don't understand me. Like my mom, a cousin, a sister-in-law. Difficult conversations, sometimes when I'm busy but not in the mood... But these are people I don't want to hurt, because they try to be there for me. So though I call far less often than I should, I call. And try to call more often when they might need it. It's not their fault that I’m such an introvert that every conversation drains me.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mid Week Reads: Children and Reading

Happy Independence Day (tomorrow)! Here are a few quick links.

I liked both this posts: this mother who doesn't want her daughter to be "nice", and this response to it on Jezebel.

These fan illustrations of what happened after the Harry Potter books ended (i.e., who married whom and how many children they had) are beautiful. Poor Hermione, though, stuck with Ron. (Actually, now I think about it, Ron reminds me of Ross: whiny and self-entitled.)

And this isn't on topic (and I've probably linked to it before), but as someone who loves reading advice columns, I love The Bad Advisor. All the drama, and none of the politeness. Enjoy!

By the way, what RSS reader do you use now that Google Reader has passed away? I'm using Feedly and The Old Reader, but I'm not really happy with either. Feedly's okay, but it doesn't let you search (!) and it's a little difficult to skip posts (unless I'm doing something wrong). The Old Reader is sadly slow and buggy (or maybe just slow -- I seem to have to wait for minutes to be able to scroll down). Anything that's better?

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Thoughts on "Friends," and Disliking Ross

I have probably watched every episode of Friends at least four times, and I really, really like this post about how Ross Geller is the worst. Unfortunately, when I first started watching -- and in my defense, I was a teenager then -- he was my favorite character, but he didn't stay that way long. Monica then became my favorite character, and I've continued to like her (and often identify with her neurotic behavior). My favorite character now is probably Phoebe, though for a while I liked Chandler best (and still like him very much, in the later seasons when he's a nice partner to Monica and less of a selfish jerk). Joey was too much of a selfish womanizer for me to really like him... until the last season or two, where he seems to be really sweet.

Of the supporting characters though, I really, really like Susan. The way she deliberately, carefully rubs Ross up the wrong way every time they meet is hilarious.

I envy the friendships: all three women have such great relationships with each other, Joey and Chandler are so loyal to each other (though more Joey than Chandler, who can closely imitate Ross in being whiny and self-entitled). It also seems to me that no one really likes Ross very much (except perhaps Rachel) but they tolerate him because of their shared history. One of the more egregious examples of Ross's self-absorbedness is when Monica tells him she hated him when they were kids because he was so mean to her, and he's all, "Really? I thought we were having fun!" (Typical bully, isn't he?)

So who's your favorite character, and your least favorite? Or have you never watched the series -- or liked it enough to watch more than a little bit?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Reading Courtney Milan: The "Brothers Sinister" Series

I have been ill lately, and for some of the time I was ill, the Guy was away. Never a happy situation, and the incessant rain and gloomy weather seemed to make it worse (not that I was planning to go out, anyway).

What keeps me going through something like this is reading something indulgent and absorbing enough to keep me from too much self-pity. This time, among other things, I read a few of Courtney Milan's historical romances.

I really, really liked Unraveled.* A working-class heroine, a hero who's a magistrate and has a keen interest in justice, and a seedy side of England that you rarely see in historical romances.

But what I've enjoyed even more thoroughly is the Brothers Sinister series. I started with A Kiss for Midwinter, which I read last year and loved, but didn't realize how tightly bound it is to the rest of the series. The hero, John Grantham, is one of my favorite romance heroes ever, with his sardonic wit and his dedication to his job (he's a doctor). The heroine too is amazing: cheerful and pretty like most romance heroines, but with so much strength and depth to her character.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mid-Week Reads: Movies and Videos

Dustin Hoffman wanted to be a beautiful woman, and that made him realize the unreasonable societal expectations of women's appearance.
There are too many interesting women I haven't had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed.
Now I have to look up the movie Tootsie. Any of you watched it?

This fun Indian blog runs the Bechdel test on movies.

This ad for toys is the cutest thing ever.

Monday, July 15, 2013

When You Left...

When you left I wasn't sure
who I was. Did I really like
rom-coms, or was it your head
rolling against my shoulder
when you laughed
and your hand clasping mine,
at the end, that I loved?

When I eagerly ate bag after bag
of chips, was it because I liked
the salty fried discs, or just staying up with you?

When you left I wasn't sure
who I was. Do I really like
rom-coms, dark chocolate and eggs?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Mid-Week Reads: Fat, Female Politicians, and Fatherhood

Read this beautiful, poignant personal essay on body image and fat hatred.
‘‘You’re not fat,’’ I said earnestly and innocently, and you replied, ‘‘Yes I am, darling. I’ve always been fat; even as a child.’’

In the days that followed I had some painful revelations that have shaped my whole life. I learned that:

1. You must be fat because mothers don’t lie.
2. Fat is ugly and horrible.
3. When I grow up I’ll look like you and therefore I will be fat, ugly, and horrible too.
A powerful account of the misogyny targeted against Julia Gillard, and a tribute to the legacy she leaves behind. A 4-year-old girl, told that Australia had a new prime minister, said: “Really? What’s her name?” (via Aneela)

Also read this moving account of a father's parental leave.

Monday, July 08, 2013

A Saturday Morning in the Hills

Last Saturday, we went with the Pallus to Purandar, a fort in the hills just some 50 km from Pune. We didn't see much of the fort, but the drive, the quiet, the mist, the rain, the birdsong... it was magical. The nicest experience I've had in a long time.

Some pictures taken on my trusty old phone.


Tuesday, July 02, 2013

How I Love Blogging

So we just started another blog: a place where we write about what we're doing as a team.

When Virendra suggested it, I sighed inwardly. One more blog? I'm already being almost absent here, I have a business blog to manage, and I'm trying to increase my guest posting on other sites. I can't seem to manage all of this well enough. One more blog?

Okay, I said. But no deadlines. And you manage it.

But you know what? I wrote three posts. In a couple of hours. And it didn't feel like work at all.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mid-Week Reads: "Homemaker of Tomorrow" And Other Cool Women

This is such a lovely interview: Interview with a One-Time "Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow". The author interviews her mother, who got her high school’s "Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow" Award... but who had no interest in ever actually being a homemaker.

I've never seen Mindy Kaling act, but I loved this piece by her in the New Yorker, about kissing and monogamous relationships.

And from the mad hatter (Blogger messed up the link, but she'd commented in a recent Mid-Week Reads), this lovely review of a book about desire by a feminist.

Monday, June 24, 2013


He's my second cousin.

He took me to my first movie, because my parents couldn't be bothered. (I'm not sure whether this was a good thing for him to do, seeing that the movie was Raja Babu.)

He's my mother's relative, the son of her cousin.

When my father was ill, he was there. He traveled with him all the way to Chennai, stayed there for two whole months, spending every night in the hospital, shielding my mother from some of the stress and bad news. He was a rock we could all depend on. He traveled with him on subsequent visits, accompanied him for follow-up treatment, visited often when he was ill at home. In spite of the fact that the two of them had a somewhat contentious relationship. In spite of the fact that we had no claim on him, and there was no reason why he would do so much for us.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mid-Week Reads... and Views: Disney Movie Posters and Other Fun Movie/Literary Stuff

Love these "honest Disney movie" posters. Especially Beauty and the Beast (but then that and Aladin are the only ones I've watched). Here are a few more, though arguably less funny.

If you didn't like Judi Dench before, here's another reason: she uses her free time on set to work on her embroidery... of swear words.

Loved this compilation of beloved literary kids and their deadbeat or absent dads, though I've only read four of these books.

Why aren't you doing what really makes you happy? This is shaming me for my procrastination, the times I play games on the iPad or read a novel because I'm too lazy (or think I'm too tired) to work.

I found this silly story strangely intriguing and funny: My Boss's Wife Asked Me to Spy on Him.

Um, sorry. That's all I have today. Have you been reading anything fun?

Monday, June 17, 2013

(Brief, IM) Conversation with the Guy

So we're working in our separate rooms and Nilesh IMs me about something work-related.

him: wanna meet now?

me:  ten mins?
trying to get that blog post done

him ok

me:  it's a block post right now.

him:  :-)
me:  B-)
so much i've progressed under your guidance, o guru.
Because he's the original punster.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Two (Very Different) Books I've Been Reading

I've been reading a lot of books since the last time, but these two I heartily recommend.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

I found the first chapter boring (and weirdly fatphobic, with Sandberg repeatedly referring to her pregnant self as a whale), but the book seemed to change dramatically a little way in. I loved it and finished it over two days, and it read as easy as good fiction.

What I was surprised at is how feminist the book is. Sandberg has received flak for not being feminist enough, for implying women have only to work harder and be ambitious to break the glass ceiling. But in this book, she quotes study after study about how women are consistently short-changed.

Whether you're a woman or a man, read it to feel angry at the patriarchy, and for some motivation to bring to work.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Home is Here

All the recent travel has given me a new-found appreciation for home. I'd always liked this house: it's filled with things we want, and it's comfortable for me in a way nowhere else can be.

But I hadn't appreciated, so much, the area we live in, our colony. I had cribbed about being on the outskirts of town, about living in a gaon with bad traffic and no good restaurants.

It's partly being away and partly the weather, which is much less sunny and hot than it was before our trip.

I appreciate living in a nice gated colony but just a few hundred meters from a main road, and with well-built (though narrow in parts) roads leading up to it.

I like how our colony looks: mostly cream with some green and yellow. Looks lovely on a cloudy afternoon.

Friday, May 31, 2013

To Bangalore and Chennai, and Back Again

Bangalore is one of my favorite cities, so when Women's Web asked me to do a workshop with them there, I jumped at the offer. And not only is Bangalore lovely, it's also India's startup hub, and Nilesh and I decided this was a good excuse to go there and meet a few entrepreneurs we wanted to talk to.

Chennai, too? Women's Web asked. I agreed, and only later realized that Chennai in May was probably a bad idea for a heat-averse person.

Anyway. Bangalore was just as lovely as I expected.  We stayed with a friend I hadn't seen for thirteen years, and her boyfriend and brother, and they graciously made room for us and cooked for us and included us in their days. They even cleaned after us -- and used as I am to us and all our friends having household help, this feels like a big deal. We felt so much at home I wasn't homesick (and I'm usually homesick the third day I'm away from home, and this was five days).

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mid-Week Reads: Racism in "Heart of Darkness" and Vacuity in the "Great Gatsby"

I read Heart of Darkness a long time ago. I'm not sure if I recognized the racism: I do remember being very bored. Eh, okay, white man angst, move on. Why is nothing happening? I remember feeling glad I wasn't studying English literature and didn't have to read this. (I'd borrowed it from a friend who did.)

@jayaprakash_s shared this essay by Chinua Achebe (whose novels I haven't read yet but plan to start soon) criticizing Heart of Darkness for its racism. Consider these paragraphs from the book:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mid-Week Read: Angelina Jolie's Masectomy

If you haven't read Angelina Jolie's op-ed in the New York Times, read it now. How can one woman be so beautiful, talented, strong, and all-around amazing?

Sorry for being almost absent from this blog lately: there's been a lot going on. We're off to Bangalore on Thursday (and then Chennai), but I'll be more regular once I'm back. Really.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Mid-Week Reads: Stop Picking on Childless Women

I loved this piece titled It's Very Condescending to Tell a Childless Woman She'd Be a Great Mom.
It's like telling a friend who you know has a paralyzing fear of wild animals that she would make a great game warden. Seriously, she should just shake off her deep-seated anxiety about being around rhinos and lions and just go out there and guide some poor innocent family on a safari. I'm sure you'll do fine!
Did you know Shakuntala Devi wrote a book advocating gay rights?

Why is the feminist movement in an identity crisis? Just look at the back of your jeans.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Bangalore and Chennai in May

Hello, there.

I'll be in Bangalore and Chennai later this month to conduct online marketing workshops for Women's Web. If any of you are in either city, I'd love to meet you.

I'm excited about these workshops for a number of reasons. For one, it will be great to meet some of the members of Women's Web's vibrant community.

Two, I've been planning a visit to Bangalore for a while, because the startup scene there is so active and we want to check it out.

Third, I've visited both cities several times before, and it will be wonderful to go back. I wish we weren't going in the peak of summer, and that my foot had healed enough to let me be more active, but that can't be helped.

And also, it's been a while since I went anywhere. There was Guwahati last May, and nothing after that. I usually hate long train or bus journeys, but it's been a couple of years since the last one, so I'm hoping the novelty will help. (Rather, trains hate me. The most punctual of trains will run late if I'm to travel in them.)

Anyway, if you're in Bangalore or Chennai and would like to meet up, send me an email at unmanaswords at gmail.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Mid-Week Reads: Love and Aging in Hollywood

I loved these two articles about leading men of Hollywood and their usually much younger leading women. I was surprised at some of these -- partly because I don't watch many movies -- but also, I realized my perceptions of many male stars' ages were off by a decade or so. I had thought that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were roughly the same age, for instance.

Anyway. Read:
While on Hollywood, do you have any fun movies to recommend? My movie-watching has gone down even further, just because I'm so sick of bad movies. I did watch Kahani finally and wished I had watched it in a theatre -- it was pretty damn good. What new movies should I go to the theatre for?

Also, did you hear of Hilary Clinton's speech about women's rights being a security issue?
Speaking of the young woman raped and disemboweled on a bus in New Delhi, Clinton said, "If her life embodied the aspirations of a rising nation, her death and her murder, pointed to the many challenges still holding it back. The culture of rape is tied up with a broader set of problems: official corruption, illiteracy, inadequate education, laws and traditions, customs, culture, that prevent women from being seen as equal human beings." Clinton continued, "India will rise or fall with its women. It's had a tradition of strong women leaders, but those women leaders like women leaders around the world like those who become presidents or prime ministers or foreign ministers or heads of corporations cannot be seen as tokens that give everyone else in society the chance to say we've taken care of our women." 

Friday, April 26, 2013

"Seeing Like a Feminist" and Other Books I've Been Reading

If you haven't read Seeing Like a Feminist yet, you totally should. Here's what I say on Women's Web:
Does this qualify as a review: read this, read this, read this? 
Seriously, Nivedita Menon’s Seeing Like a Feminist is an excellent book that we all ought to read. I’d read much praise of this book and was hoping it would live up to the hype, and it totally did. I’m a hardcore feminist; it had me nodding along and gave me something to think about. If you aren’t one, but are perturbed at the recent spate of violence against women, this book has answers to questions like...
Read the rest of my review here, and then go buy the book!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

On Women and Unconventional Careers

I was thinking of all the amazing women I know who do interesting things: my friends who are freelance writers, a few who work for non-profit organizations, some of the entrepreneurs I've met since I started my own business... And so I wrote this.
By opting out of the system, are you eliminating the chance of changing it? If women allow themselves to be pushed off the conventional career path, are we making change less likely, making it more difficult for other women?
Or are we changing the system anyway, by building alternatives to traditional, sexist work environments? Successful women entrepreneurs and freelancers demonstrate that there are other ways. Women business heads can set up more fair practices and have better workplaces. These would be bigger, better changes, in my opinion, than trying to change sexist policies or habits ingrained in conservative workplaces (and changes on the outside will then influence these as well). 
The traditional workplace – large organizations, usually with men at leading positions – is aligned with the patriarchal system. We need change both from within and without. New ways of working and new career avenues can help shift the balance of power.
I struggled a lot with this. I wanted to highlight how wonderful this is that so many women are seeking out work they love or building something new, without being condescending or sexist about it ("women don't need money, so they work for love"). I'm not sure I achieved it, but at least my support of doing work you love comes through, I think.

(And I think this is true for men as well as women: you should find something you really want to do, even if it makes you less money.)

Here's the link again: tell me what you think.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mid-Week Reads: Stories of Motherhood

Would you believe me if I said I was sorry? I didn't mean to neglect you, it's just that I was so busy I didn't realize it had been two weeks. I know, you don't care. I'm sorry.

(But if you do want to know what I've been doing, there's this. And Nilesh wrote here about what we've been doing for the past eight months or so.)

On to the stories I promised in the title. Blankets in the Sky was my favorite story in the excellent book, Of Mothers and Others. I wrote this in my review:
[It is] a heart-rending account by a mother of her two little adopted daughters, sisters by biology as well as relationship, who cling to each other as they eye the world around them, including their adoptive parents, with mistrust. Bag packed so that they could run away, they presented a united front against the world. The story of how they slowly somewhat loosened their ties to each other as they dug in their roots in their new home made me tear up.
Read the story here for free.

Also read this beautiful, beautiful account of Maya Angelou's relationship with her mother.

Maybe you'll also like Scarlet's letter to her daughter.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Mid-Week Reads: On Women Changing Their Names After Marriage

I read this, and found myself nodding along.
Your name is your identity. The term for you is what situates you in the world. The cultural assumption that women will change their names upon marriage – the assumption that we'll even think about it, and be in a position where we make a "choice" of whether to keep our names or take our husbands' – cannot be without consequence. Part of how our brains function and make sense of a vast and confusing universe is by naming and categorizing. When women see our names as temporary or not really ours, and when we understand that part of being a woman is subsuming your own identity into our husband's, that impacts our perception of ourselves and our role in the world. It lessens the belief that our existence is valuable unto itself, and that as individuals we are already whole. It disassociates us from ourselves, and feeds into a female understanding of self as relational – we are not simply who we are, we are defined by our role as someone's wife or mother or daughter or sister.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mid-Week Read: on Rape in Fiction

I'll leave you just one thing to read today, and it's a long one. Sophia McDougall writes about sexual assault in popular culture, referencing A Song of Fire and Ice (which I haven't read, and don't intend to, given all I've read about it), Batman, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and James Bond.

She asks this interesting question:
So where are they, all the raped male characters? People say, it would be unrealistic if she wasn’t raped, but take it for granted that of course he wasn’t.
My go-to example for this used to be James Bond. “Is it realistic that James Bond has never been raped?” I would say. How many times has he found himself utterly at the mercy of men who want to hurt, degrade and humiliate him before killing him?

 My first point is not that I am arguing for all this rape; it’s that if you are going to argue in favour of the current level of fictional rape of women and girls, you should be. You, if you care so much about realism, must demand the rape of Batman and James Bond. In fact, given not only that so many male fictional characters find themselves in such high-risk environments but that male fictional characters outnumber female ones about 2 to 1,   we should be seeing nearly as many raped men in fiction as raped women.
Read the whole thing: it's great food for thought. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Books I've Loved Lately: "The Wildings," "Was," and More

The Wildings was beautiful. Lovely story, engrossing characters -- I hadn't thought a novel populated with just animal characters could be so interesting! -- and beautiful illustrations. Buy it, for yourself or a lucky child. If you're not convinced yet, read Jai Arjun Singh's lovely detailed review.

If you liked the Oz books as a child (or even as an adult -- I would like to reread them soon, and discover the ones I haven't read), you might like Was by Geoff Ryman. It's not a children's book, and the defining mood throughout is sadness, but it's hauntingly beautiful. (I found it through here.)

I'm really enjoying Steven Havill's Posadas County series. They are police procedurals set in a tiny town in New Mexico. In the earlier books, the hero/narrator is an elderly man, who has heart problems, eats too much, and isn't very fit. But he's sharp and funny. In later books, it's his younger protégé, a female undersheriff who's almost an adopted daughter to him.

The paper books on Flipkart are expensive, but the first of the series is free on the Kindle, so maybe start with that and see if you like it. I started with Red, Green, or Murder, also free on the Kindle. I especially enjoyed Scavengers, though.

Since I've been spending a lot of time in bed lately (first the ankle, then food poisoning that left me so weak I barely got out of bed for four days), and haven't even had the energy to read anything new and interesting. So I've been re-reading old Agatha Christies on my Kindle. I can see all the flaws in them now (racism, misogyny, lazy writing, stock stereotypes in place of actual characters), but they're still such comfortable reading.

What have you been reading lately?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mid-Week Reads: Work, Flexibility, and Gender

I haven't got around to writing an actual post here, so let me fob you off with other stuff. I wrote on Women's Web about working from home: the recent ban by Yahoo sparked off some thoughts. I write about how working from home can be a good thing for both employers and employees. (At least, partly working from home. I do think it's good to go into office and meet your coworkers, and if you have a small collaborative team, being in the same room can make a lot of difference. But a blanket ban is just... weird.)

Anyway, here are some tweets (most of them mine) about work and gender and such, and they include a couple of articles you might want to read. (The first few tweets are also in the Women's Web article.)


Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Story of the Foot

So, my feet seem particularly accident-prone. Last week, I sprained my ankle and am now in bed recovering.

Here's the story.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Mini and Me - 2

I made my way to my office, the headquarters of a software company with offices in many countries. I wasn’t sure how I landed up here. I had taken computer courses along with my graduation, while Mini was attending music workshops and debate competitions. After college, while Mini attended her teacher’s training, I enrolled in an advanced computers course while I looked around at what I wanted to do next. In a year, before I had decided what exactly I wanted to do with my life, I got a job. The salary was twice what Mini could have hoped to get in her first job. I would have been insane to refuse. Besides, I was in a hurry to get married.

We got married within a few months, as soon as Mini had completed her exams. Then she found herself this job. The only hitch was that it took her an hour to get there every morning. My delicate, anaemic Mini changed two trains every morning and then walked a kilometre to her school. For the first few days, I was anxious, even driving her there and picking her up a couple of times. But she got into the rhythm, and never complained. While I was away, she enrolled in a driving class, got her license, and started driving to school. It took even longer, but she told me she enjoyed being by herself in the car with her thoughts, sheltered from the bustle and the crowds. I felt slightly guilty about driving to work while she must be struggling to find a seat in a crowded, filthy train.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Mini and Me - 1

(Something I wrote a long time ago. Reading it now makes me cringe!)

It was a long flight. Much longer than the flight I’d taken six months ago, coming out. I hadn’t been able to sleep much last night. The excitement had kept me awake. But even though I was tired and my back and legs ached, when I closed my eyes I didn’t see nothingness. I saw my home again; I saw Mumbai – chaotic, noisy, familiar; I saw the laburnum from the balcony of my flat; and I saw Mini – smiling because I had come back to her.

The stewardess placed dinner – or was it now breakfast? – before me. But one bite nauseated me and I lay back and closed my eyes. Maybe my next meal would be with Mini, I thought and smiled.

My back hurt, and I shifted. I would go to the doctor when in a few days. Vinay would tell me what to do, or refer me to a specialist. Anyway, now that I was out of the freezing cold and back to my old familiar life, I might get better. I should start walking every morning, or join the gym. We could do it together. I’m sure Mini would like that. It would be a nice way to start the day.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Appreciating Friendships

(This was written as a journal entry some time ago and is somewhat rambling and convoluted.)

Where do you draw the line between being there for someone and letting them take advantage of you?

I have been getting better over the years at doing this. Getting away from the people who knew the older (actually, younger!) me helped; and new relationships I forge are based more on mutual respect. This means usually that intimacy develops far more slowly. That there's less dependence, less exposing one's vulnerabilities. But I have the Guy for all that.

And really, apart from with the Guy, when did I have that anyway?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mid-Week Reads: Mostly About "Of Mothers and Others"

Feel better about your caffeine addiction: seven reasons why coffee is good for you.

And now for self-promotion! I interviewed the amazing Ann Handley of Marketing Profs
I reviewed Of Mothers and Others on Women's Web: it's a collection of writing -- essays, stories, poems -- about motherhood. I quite liked it, though of course as in any collection, I liked some pieces better than others.

I especially enjoyed the pieces by Jai Arjun Singh (even though he didn't bribe me this time!), Smriti Lamech (though she's also a friend), Anita Roy, and Sarita Mandanna. But most of all, I liked Andromeda Nebula’s ‘Blankets in the Sky’: the writing, the story... it just blew me away.

(If you're in Pune and want the book, I can send it to you.)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Seven Year Anniversary

This blog has now run for seven years.

Seven. I'll pause for a minute to let long-time readers feel old.

And here are seven posts I liked from the last year, in case you haven't read them yet:
In this post written two years ago, I described how blogging has enriched my life. I am especially conscious of this right now because Chicu was here recently and I find myself, as always, thrilled to meet her and bereft when we part.

Take a minute to leave a comment and tell us why you like coming here, won't you?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Making A Friend Is Like Falling in Love

Making a friend is like falling in love
The same heady feeling of enjoying the other's company
Finding time fly by when you talk
Looking forward to meeting again.

The tentative overtures
The anxious watching for signs
And the relief, the joy, when you realize
She feels the same way.

The realization of how lucky you are
To have found her.
That no other relationship you have
is quite like this.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Co-founding a Business with Your Partner: A Survivor's Guide

Conversation in our home/office on a Wednesday morning:
Me: I need some time off. I wish we could take today off.
My husband: But there’s the client meeting.
I know! And tomorrow is our Office Hours. Maybe Friday?
Don’t we have that deliverable for a client?
Oh right. And Saturday we have that start-up event to attend. But at least we have Sunday.
No, our developer is working on Sunday, so we have to work with him.
Me, with palpable desperation: Oh my god, we’re never getting a day off!
Over on Women's Web, I write about what it is like to work with the Guy. Go read.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Youth and Hope

I am supposed to talk to this young woman -- a girl, really, she's still in her teens, I think -- once a week. but I'm a bad volunteer and a lazy person, and only managed to call her today after a long gap.

She's studying for a diploma in mechanical engineering, and she told me about her project with three other young women in her class. they built a refrigeration unit that uses LPG (cooking gas) and can be connected to your kitchen cylinder. She was understandably proud, and told me theirs was the only physical product developed by anyone in the class. And the lecturer announced it was top of the class.

I know nothing about mechanical engineering, but I think that's pretty cool.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

The Sound of A Torn Friendship

What do you do when your illusions shatter?
When someone who you thought was your dearest
closest friend, the one who could rely on...
Shows again and again that she doesn't care?
That she isn't who you thought she was
Or maybe she's grown up, grown apart, grown different?

What do you do if you still care?
If you reach out your arms to eyes that don't see them?
Plead to ears that don't want to hear?
How long do you stay in place, arms open?
Wait and wait for your turn to talk?
How do you believe that it's over?

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Mid-Week Reads: History Edition

Check out these gorgeous covers of Pride and Prejudice. My favorite is the Harvard University Press edition. But #8 had me crying out, "This makes no sense! She doesn't ride! That's the whole point in the chapter where she walks over to Bingley's house!" The Guy nodded tersely at me and continued working. It's clear who the Jane Austen fan in this household is.

I was fascinated by this article about the origins of curry. Apparently, people of the Indus Valley civilization used garlic, ginger, and turmeric in cooking!

Agatha Christie was investigated by British intelligence because of the name of a character in one of her books! But they didn't dare question her directly.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mid-Week Reads: Events and Stuff

Should I apologize again for not writing here or just pretend you haven't noticed?

I do have a couple of things written out by hand, and will type them out here once my back lets up enough that I feel up to doing more than the most urgent work.

Now that I've got you to sympathize with me, maybe I can get away without a real post for a few more days. Let's see what I've liked reading lately.

This is the best piece written on any tech event ever.
A man in charge of something important just made a SEX PISS JOKE at the Panasonic Press Conference and that’s all fine. I don’t understand. I don’t understand. Is that fine? Is this just what happens at tech events? I want to have a lie down.
This is an old post on sexism in the SEO industry, but it sent shivers down my spine.

I loved Ask A Manager's post on signs that you're the problem.

Which reminds me, I interviewed Ask A Manager! She told us a little about what happens behind the scenes.

And I wrote this on Search Engine People about little design changes to make your blog more readable.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Books I've Read (and Loved) Lately -- Mostly Romances and Mysteries

I much enjoyed The Fabulous Feminist, which I reviewed for Women's Web. It was extremely fun, especially for this tiny story, which leaves me smiling and wincing each time I read it:
The Incredible Woman raged through the skies, lassoed a planet, set it in orbit, rescued a starship, flattened a mountain, straightened a building, smiled at a child, caught a few thieves, all in one morning, and then, took a long time off to visit her psychiatrist, since she is at heart a really womanly woman and all she wants is a normal life.
I downloaded In Search of a Love Story* because the Kindle book was free (isn't anymore -- sorry!) and I wanted something light to read that I didn't have to pay for. But this is one of those rare romance books that work really well. The heroine is a believable, likeable person, and while romance is a big part of the story, it wasn't the only part. There are several friendships, especially one best friend that made me wish I had someone like that, a father-daughter relationship that's beautiful but not perfect, and many well-etched peripheral characters, including the heroine's clients and her boss. Read it if you like romances.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Women Work More, and Why That's A Problem

Did you see the recent research reports about women working longer hours than men? The research took both paid and unpaid work into account, which doesn't make the findings surprising, but this is the starting point for my most recent article in my monthly column at Women's Web.
A study recently found that women on average work 94 minutes longer than men every day. That’s one and a half hours each day that your male colleague is watching TV or sleeping or getting a beer with friends, and you are at your desk or doing housework. Look at unpaid work, which presumably refers to housework and other chores: men do 51 minutes a day, and women do 352. That’s less than an hour compared to nearly six hours.

Paid work? Women do 185 minutes of it and men do 391 minutes: why is the difference so much lower here? Even if we were to account for fulltime homemakers doing more housework, the lower difference in paid work tells us something about women’s double burden.

What this comes down to is that you’re working eleven more hours than your husband (or brother or boyfriend?) is every week, and much, if not all, of that work is unpaid.

This isn’t all: women’s right to paid work isn’t even recognized. Look at this recent study, where India turns out to be the country with the most regressive values with regard to women in the workplace. A staggering 84% of Indians surveyed agreed that when jobs are scarce, men “should have more right to a job than women.”
In the rest of the article, I delve into why this is a problem. Go read.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Talking About Rape Culture

Over at Women's Web, I write about putting an end to rape culture.
So, let’s talk rape. Not the details of this rape or the other rape or the other rape, but the culture that allows this to happen. The society that allows rapes so brutal as to kill victims, rapes so horrifying even our cynical self-absorbed selves shudder when we hear the details.

Let’s talk rape culture. Because that’s what allows rapists to feel they can get away with rape. 
I’m glad we’re talking about this, and sad that it took so much for this to happen. I’m so inspired that people are coming out of their homes and saying, “No. We want an end to this.”
I am hoping that now that we’ve all agreed that
  1. The rape of a young woman (who’s kind of like the rest of us – she’s in college and was going home from a movie) – her brutal, horrific rape, so brutal that it later killed her
is not acceptable, we might move on to agreeing none of these are acceptable:
  1. The rape of a woman who lives in a smaller town or even in a village: someone who’s more removed from our comfortable lives
  2. The rape of a woman who maybe isn’t middle-class but poor, who is maybe “lower caste” or tribal or someone who doesn’t look like us
  3. The rape of a woman who doesn’t, perhaps, fit our ideas of how an Indian woman is supposed to behave – she might drink, for example, or be sexually experienced, or even take drugs, or even be gay. Do you think, by then, we will stop caring about the victim’s “character” or implying that by living her life she was inviting rape?
  4. The rape of a woman by her husband (oh wait, that’s not rape!) or boyfriend
  5. The rape of a sex worker – even though we don’t usually think of them when we think of Indian women
  6. The rape of a trans woman or a man or an older woman or anyone who doesn’t fit our ideas of how a rape victim should look
How do we get there? How do we, as a society, get as outraged by every kind of rape as we are by the rape of someone who might, but for the grace of god or the luck of the draw, have been me (or my daughter/partner/sister)?
Click here to read the rest.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Mid-Week Reads: Can't Think of A Snappy Title

I'm coming late to this story, but it's an incredibly touching one: a father supports his little gender non-conforming son by wearing a skirt. I wish every little kid had parents like that.

Being fat might actually be good for you.

Go read Jai Arjun Singh's post about an old woman in Delhi and her dogs.

And going to Jai's blog again made me reread this old post about new year SMSes, which is always good for a laugh (and kind of timely).

Okay, that's all I got. Get back to work!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Mid-Week Reads: Rape Culture in India

This space is for recreation, for a lunch break of reading while you go about your lives. But not this time. After what's been happening in India, and what's on all of our minds, I couldn't just go put together a bunch of light reads. But here are the pieces and rants I liked best about the horrific rape of the young woman and her subsequent death, and about the society that enables it.

Notes from Raisina Hill:
Many say it is their first protest, but “this time was too much”. The women spill over with articulate indignation about how tired they are of being targets of violence—not free in the streets, not free at home, says one. The men talk about how they don’t want to be seen in the same light as rapists; one young student talks about how helpless he feels when his women friends/ relatives are targeted.
The third tear-gassing is equally unwarranted: the police open up the barricades, leaving a tempting gap, and when protestors start to move in (and therefore technically towards Rashtrapati Bhavan), out come the cannons again and the teargas shells. But though the crowds disperse, they keep coming back... “Stones are being thrown at the police,” one over-excited reporter says, and he has it wrong. What some of the protestors were throwing were coins, taunting the police: you don’t do your job well enough to keep us safe, perhaps you will if we bribe you.