Monday, December 28, 2015

Experiences I loved this year

This year was probably my best year ever. I recovered from depression, became happy again, and started things I had loved and lost in the last decade. So I've been taking music classes and a course in literature.

I also attended a ton of live performances of music and theatre: never before had I had the time, money, and most importantly, access. Here's what I loved most, in no particular order:
  • We heard Parikrama twice this year. The first time, at Hard Rock Cafe, was disappointing, and I had looked forward to it so much. But I suspected the sound quality had something to do with it, and wanted to try again. So we went to another gig later in the year at Blue Frog, which also had Shilpa Rao (and they sang one of my absolute favorite songs, 'I Believe' from the Dewarist collaboration (which now that I looked it up, I realize might be plagiarized! oh well)). 
  • Anyway, they also had Soulmate, who I quite liked, and then even more when I caught their performance at NH7 Weekender in Pune.
  • So, NH7 Weekender. It was amazing to hear AR Rahman live, and Mark Ronson. Both were great and I hadn't expected to ever have the experience. Other performances I really liked were Madboy/Mink (surprisingly, amazingly political), Swarathma, Gabriella and Rodrigo, and Lagori.
  • Also attended a Lucky Ali concert, and while I've always only been a half-hearted fan, I was surprised to find myself knowing most of the songs (most words of most songs), which is due to the Guy being an unabashed fan.
  • I am a fan of Indian Ocean, and was glad to be able to attend a concert this year, after first hearing them live a few years ago.
  • The Symphony Orchestra of India was also a wonderful experience.
  • We watched the play, A Walk in the Woods, performed by Naseeruddin Shah and Rajit Kapoor.
  • Of course, I saw A Twelfth Night - a performance that blended rock and physical comedy with the play.
  • But my favorite theatrical performance of the year was Deepti Naval as Amrita Pritam in 'Ek Mulaqat.
What fun things did you see/do in the last year?



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Happy holidays, folks!


And if you want the lyrics (just promise me you'll sing it out loud):

Tis the season to be jolly
Fa la la la la la la la la
Thand mein qyo uthna hai jaldi
Fa la la la la la la la la

New year ki nehi hai chutti

Monday, December 21, 2015

One day last week

I have a busy but productive day at work. I spend some time sitting quietly at my desk and editing, which always relaxes me. I have lunch with office friends, and we eagerly polish off the chicken the Guy had cooked. I go for a walk after lunch with a colleague, and it is a lovely sunny, breezy day, and I almost skip down the footpath. 

I work with colleagues who have become friends, and we discuss and take on work and even argue good-naturedly. I leave work at a reasonable time -- though it would have seemed unreasonably early to me just a couple of years ago to stop working before 7. 

I had RSVP'ed to a free event. I take a taxi  one of Bombay's ubiquitous kaali peelis  and face less traffic than usual. I get to the mall where the event is to be, get my pass, then walk around, shop a bit, buy myself a bit of food and walk into the enclosure for the open-air event. There are very few people there yet, so I seat myself on the second row and eat and drank as I read on my phone. 

The performance starts nearly half hour late, but we are served free wine! I chat briefly with the woman who sits next to me. 

It's a production of Twelfth Night with music and dance and even a sort of juggling act. The cast members run through the audience and interact with us; in fact, at the beginning of the play, Viola asks audience members to lend her a jacket and cap which she then wears through the performance.

It's fun, though I don't quite enjoy every moment. Afterwards, I walk out and wait on the street till I can get a taxi to take me home. It's nearly 11 when I get home, just a ten minute ride.

But all of these pleasures are due to Bombay: the weather, the ease of getting a taxi with an usually very polite driver, the colleague-friends at work, the opportunity to go to world-class events (some of them free!) without inconveniencing myself, and most of all... Most of all, being able to easily go out alone! at night! for fun! 

The last time I was alone in public much was when I was in college, and then I used to get home before 6 every evening (or my parents would be thinking of a search party). I've never had this freedom, these choices, this life. I know a lot of it is due to my privilege, but I can't imagine having this in any other city in India. (If I'm wrong, do correct me — I'd love to know.)

It's been over two years in this city, and I've been harassed on the street just once (after I crossed the two year mark). It was in an area I rarely frequent, and I am pretty sure my part of town is much nicer, in all the ways I've documented above, than much of Mumbai. (I say this not to gloat but again acknowledge my luck and privilege.)

But thank you, Bombay, for finally pulling me in and letting me call you home.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

December Tweets

Happy winter, unless you live in Bombay, in which case enjoy the less humid but sunny weather!

Some more tweets, while I'm being too lazy to put up an actual post.

I love this pun from the Delhi Pride.

Some interesting reads.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Fun reads

Sharing some thoughts and reads that I had already shared on Twitter, in lieu of an actual post.

First, the most important thing: laughs.
On a more sombre note, check out this thread on abuse and not blaming the victim.

Also, wow. People are awful.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Disjointed thoughts on music and literature and childhood

I have been thinking often lately of how important childhood homes and families are, and how much they can affect your interests, your education, your vocation. I am interested in literature and music but always had to learn on my own, with little encouragement from my parents who weren’t very interested in either (though my sister was a voracious reader herself and I often borrowed (sometimes stealthily) the books she brought home.

Well, a bit unfair to say my mother wasn’t encouraging — she determinedly carted me or accompanied me to dance lessons and music lessons. But there was little music in our home. My father used to yell at us when we put on the tape recorder. Apparently, use would ‘spoil’ it. For a few years, I practised my singing regularly but somewhat half-heartedly. My parents seemed to tolerate this rather than derive any pleasure from this. Not because they thought I was a bad singer, because they did encourage me to perform in public. It was the societal reward that encouraged them, the idea that someone might praise their daughter (and them for being cool parents), not any love of music or even pleasure in seeing their child working on something.  

Monday, November 09, 2015

Vacation Pictures: Assam and Arunachal Pradesh

Hello, people. Hope you're enjoying a short Diwali week (if you are in India).

The Guy and I visited my mother in Assam last month, and drove down to Bhalukpong on the Arunachal Pradesh border. It was amazing (and quite cheap).

Here have some photos.

The drive itself was lovely. We left late because I wasn't well in the morning, and were afraid we wouldn't reach by sundown. We made it just at dusk, after driving for a while under orange clouds in a blue sky.



We were pleasantly surprised at how pretty the place was.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Karz = Hamlet

I have been rereading Hamlet and reading some criticism of it, and I am planning to watch a screening of the new performance starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

And this made me realize that the movie Karz (this Wikipedia entry is hilarious, btw) is a sort of retelling of Hamlet, or at least draws on the play.

Hear me out. It has a murdered 'king' (he didn't seem to rule anything but his widow styles herself Rani Sahiba) -- whose partner betrays and murders him because she is working for his father's old business partner (so sort of his uncle? not brother, but definitely usurper of his estate?). (Fine, Gertrude doesn't murder Hamlet Senior, but bear with me here.) She and erstwhile biz pard then usurp the estate.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A rainbow after rain

One easy thing my brain (what's known as a 'jerkbrain' in Awkward Army circles) reverts to is telling me when I am depressed is that no one loves or likes me. (After ten years of being with him, even my depressed brain can't tell me that the Guy doesn't love me, so he's usually excluded from this and it becomes no one else loves me.)

It's my birthday next week, and the Guy told me a couple of weeks ago that he wanted to celebrate on Saturday evening (which was yesterday). Sure, I said, and asked him what we would do. He said he had planned something and I was to be dressed and ready to go out at six p.m.

So I was. I assumed we would go out somewhere for drinks and dinner. The doorbell rang as I was getting ready, and I heard voices - a woman talking to the Guy. I waited for a while (I am notoriously introverted and anti-social and had no wish to meet who I assumed was our landlady or a nosy neighbor, though I felt slight qualms at leaving the Guy to face her alone).

When the Guy finally opened the door... it was two of my friends, one whom I hadn't seen in years and another a new friend. I was getting a surprise party.

Even then I had no idea of the extent of the surprise. But as we sat and talked inside, and enjoyed the lovely weather with the breeze flowing in through the open window, the doorbell rang several more times. The Guy, in the meanwhile, brought in dish after dish of food, all of which he had made himself. Apart from the cake -- which was ordered specially: gluten free, dairy free cake is so rare that I now have cake only a couple of times a year.

And even apart from all the effort the Guy went to -- I was so pleased that friends, and friends I don't see often! -- participated in this conspiracy to make me happy. And somehow, our friends, who were all strangers to each other, got along famously and there was lots of laughter and inappropriate jokes.

And just now, I read this: on the 'weaponization of positivity' in Harry Potter:
As a profoundly depressed person, i often feel myself scrounging for happy memories and clutching them close; i find myself grasping for laughter in the dark.
And the next time I'm depressed, these are memories I will turn to. 

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Depression

Funny thing about depression -- it's difficult to recognize it until you are out of it. (Or rather, until I'm out of it. It goes without saying that everything I describe here is about how I felt, and others may have very different experiences.)

I have been depressed for the last couple of years. Shutting down my startup and letting go of the dreams. Moving to Bombay -- I love Bombay, but this meant leaving the flat we'd lived in for five years, which had been home to me unlike any other place I'd ever lived in. It meant leaving behind most of the few friends I had, and moving to a place where I had none, and as an introvert, making new friends, especially new friends outside of work, is a difficult, terrifying thing. And since both the Guy and I were in grief, mourning what we had lost, we couldn't lean on each other for help.

Several times in the last few years, I thought, oh I'm not depressed anymore. But I still didn't feel quite normal, quite happy, for extended periods. It wasn't until last week that I finally felt, for the first time in weeks, genuinely optimistic.
And I know I'll still have difficult days, and the sinking feeling in my stomach will return, but I'm hoping it will be only occasional, and not something I have to live with all the time.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Fun Reads

Hello, people. Sharing a few tweets with interesting stuff I've read recently. If you're having a slow day at work, you can catch up ;)

This was beautiful and speaks right to my love yet disapproval of friends.

WHAT

Best joke ever. Wait, is that a joke?

Till a few years ago, I thought casteism had all but died. I'm ashamed of my privilege.

I can never get tired of reading about Harry Potter, though I begin to think I'll have to write my own thing on how awful Ron is.


I don't have ADHD, but...

On the whole Amazon employee abuse controversy:

And because I can't let you go feeling happier, read something sad (and that made me feel like that might have been me if I hadn't ditched my abuser in time):

Monday, August 24, 2015

I'm Alive!

Hello, people. I've missed you.

So here's a few things that happened in the last couple of months:

  • I lost my phone and find myself still, after more than a month, a bit lost without it. I loved that phone! (It was the original Moto G, for those who are interested.) I'm using the Guy's old phone now and it's mostly okay. The Guy's been offering to buy me another and I've been resisting (I'm due for a birthday present next month!) but I'm sure I'll cave in in a couple of months. 
  • Which is why I've been a bit cut off from friends too. Message me on Facebook or comment here if you've tried getting in touch with me, will you?
  • On the other hand, I started music classes, which is amazing. It is in fact all the things! I had forgotten how much I enjoy music. I'm learning to play the keyboard, and the school is awesome and my teacher is really sweet and I'm even making friends in class, which makes me feel young again. 
  • And then I got the flu. I was ill for nearly two weeks, and had a bit of a swine flu scare -- one terrible weekend while I waited for my test results. I'm well again now. 
  • One indirect result of losing my phone is I can't use my credit card online (because it would send the OTP to the old number) and so the Guy and I are a bit cash strapped this month. (Some of our wild shopping when we visited his parents may have something to do with it too.)
  • Oh yeah, we visited the Guy's parents in Gujarat. I hadn't been for years, partly because my relationship with my in-laws can get a little tense sometimes, but more because the Guy or I seemed to be unwell every time we planned a trip there and we (or I) had to cancel, and also because with my food issues (did I tell you guys I can't have gluten or dairy? Try finding Gujarati food without either!) I was afraid it would be difficult. But I'm so glad I went. My mom-in-law was amazingly kind, carefully cooking at least one rice dish separately for me and making sure most of the regular food didn't have anything I couldn't eat. And we went shopping together and the sister-in-laws took us to dinner at a palace and we all had a lovely time.
How have you been?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Why I Love Mumbai's Taxis

So there was a taxi strike last Monday -- taxis were protesting the presence of Uber and other such 'aggregators'. I was surprised at the vitriol I saw on Twitter (hah), and threw in some tweets of my own, on why I'm firmly on the side of the taxis. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

How to tell you are in a PD James novel

Part 2 of this. 

You are a priest or a man in authority over children, and you have been convicted for abusing children. Everyone in the novel sympathizes with you (except, of course, the cold unfeeling person whom everyone dislikes).

You are not racist (so you think, and the author believes you) but you think anti-racism goes too far.  You are willing to stand up against political correctness, and everyone in the novel admires your bravery.

You are a woman who is good at her job. You are, of course, in love with your boss — or you are not, but want to marry him anyway.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

How to tell when you are in an Alexander McCall Smith novel


  1. Nothing very much happens, and it happens very slowly.
  2. You have long discussions (with yourself or with others) about intricate ethical dilemmas. You resolve the ones about simple matters, like colonialism and racism, fairly quickly and to your satisfaction. But it is much more difficult to decide on matters like whether you should spy on your boyfriend to make sure he’s not cheating on you, even though you have no reason to believe that he is.
  3. You are the most ethical person you know. Everyone is always telling you how ethical you are — after all, you spy on your boyfriend and sometimes complete strangers, all for their own good.
  4. If you don’t live in Scotland, you live in Botswana. Nothing very much happens here either.
  5. You are rich, but not one of the vulgar rich. You live comfortably but not luxuriously (by your standards) and you donate generously to charity and to people around you. You do not expect your generous “gifts” to be met with anything but grateful acceptance, even if they have to change their plans to accommodate them. 
  6. Everyone is lovely and polite, except for upwardly mobile, pushy women and men. They are the worst. (And pushy mothers are the absolute worst.)
  7. You are very interested in classical music, poetry, literature, and art, and of course (see #5), you have the money and time to indulge your tastes. 
  8. You are an intellectual person and not shallow at all — but the biggest reason you like your boyfriend is because he is so pretty.
  9. You are a very open-minded person. You are just a little concerned about other people’s promiscuous ways and frivolous pastimes. You are also perfectly okay with lower class people, you’re just surprised when someone in your circle wants to marry one.
  10. Even though your mother died when you were a child and you live in the twenty-first century, you are surprised at the idea that she may have had sex, and maybe even with someone other than your father.
  11. Everything always ends well. Anything unpleasant only happens to other people.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

So what happened is...

Hello, people. Did anyone miss me?

I was busy with work and travel and I sprained my ankle and I couldn't keep up the daily posts, so thought I'd take a total break from posting for a while. I'm back now, but won't be back to a daily schedule.

But I wrote my story of spraining my ankle to a friend and she liked what I wrote so I thought you might like it too.

So, I sprained my ankle while I was in Delhi. It's a funny story -- my colleague She and I were rushing from a lunch meeting to an agency's office, where I was going to train them. We were late and had to park on the opposite side of the street, so She had this bright idea of climbing over the divider (you can guess how this ends). It's a massive divider too, with iron railings on both sides and big plants -- trees, even, planted in the middle. I say no at first but she's already climbing over, so I'm like, what the hell? I climb over the railing and take a step right into the depression where a big plant is. And I twist my ankle.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Day 101 of Feminist Joys: Reading Havisham

Havisham is the second book by a man that I've read finished recently (the first, of course, was Funny Girl). It is a retelling -- a prequel -- of Great Expectations, focusing on (of course) Miss Havisham. Ronald Frame takes a character that was always somewhat of a caricature and gives her a backstory. He gives her a lonely childhood, and an adult life that's one disappointment after another, making her the bitter old woman in Dickens' novel. Yet she's never as bitter as Dickens portrayed her -- if she is abusive to Estella, keeping her isolated and teaching her to take revenge on men -- it's because the tragedy of her life has deranged her. She is still capable of compassion, even for her best friend who betrayed her, and of love for Estella.

But I found Havisham most satisfying when I wasn't reading it like a prequel to Great Expectations -- as a story of a young woman who has a difficult childhood and grows up to manage her father's alcohol business.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Day 100 of Feminist Joys: Being Undeterred

I'm quoted in this book--Undeterred, by Rania Anderson--on my experience on starting and failing at a business.



The book and Rania's website, the Way Women Work,  are filled with stories of women entrepreneurs and professionals, and explores how they find success.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Day 98 of Feminist Joys: Funny Girl

After trying valiantly to read an excruciatingly boring Murakami (which has long passages about the protagonist getting laid) and then finally putting it away and removing it from my Kindle because of some overt misogyny, I resolved (again) to stick to women's writing. But then I picked up two books by men, both with women protagonists, which made me realize that men can write too. (/sarcasm, for anti-feminists who just can't take a joke (looks like it wasn't / after all))

Anyway. One of those books is Nick Hornby's Funny Girl, about a comedy actress in England who makes it big in the 1960s. Unlike so many women characters created by men, Sophie Straw is a real person, with motivations and feelings I can relate to. She is too pretty to be taken seriously (by misogynists) but is intelligent, ethical, and most importantly, funny, running rings around her more established co-star and earning the respect of the show's creators. The book sags a little around the halfway point, though it picks up again towards the end -- but it's worth reading for its portrayal of Sophie's early days alone.

Day 99 of Feminist Joys: Walk Like a Woman

Check out these cool photos of men taking to the street wearing "women's" clothes, in my very own Mumbai. (This is a Facebook album, and it doesn't show up if you're not logged in, but you don't have to be friends with the poster to see it.)


Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Day 94 of Feminist Joys: Rewriting History

Read this amazing story of how inmates at America's oldest prison are researching and rewriting its history, and uncovering cruelties that had long been hidden.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Day 92 of Feminist Joys: Reading Terry Pratchett's Witches Books

I had tried out Terry Pratchett a couple of times, but the books were full of men and I found them very boring. And then, influenced by this, I read Wyrd Sisters and Witches Abroad and they were every bit as good as I'd hoped.

Here are some great things about these books. Caution: spoilers!

  • The heroes are two elderly women and one young woman
  • There are lots of other important women - in both books, (one of) the powerful villains are women
  • There is just one romantic relationship in one of the two books for one of these three main characters
  • Even so, she decides not to live with or marry the guy (the king!) because she prefers her single life
  • None of the women are pretty -- though one had apparently been when she was younger
Read them for more. I'm off to Lords and Ladies.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Day 90 of Feminist Joys: Passing on Gifts

A few years ago, the Guy had gifted me an iPod for my birthday. He even had it inscribed, "The Voices in My Head." I loved it and used it a lot for a year or so.

And then I... stopped. Too difficult to add songs; I don't much like headphones; we got a little Bose speaker at home and that's so much better. I felt sorry it was lying unused, but I couldn't think of anyone who liked it as much as I had.

Until a couple of months ago, when Sabbah Haji sent out a tweet asking for MP3 players for her school.

And now this:
If any of you have used MP3 players and would like to tell them, tweet @imsabbah!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Day 89 of Feminist Joys: Pride

Here are some things I'm proud of.

I did it all on my own: every job, every decision. No birth-family network or mentoring or support - except a bit of financial support.
I got the only job I wanted that was available at campus placements.
I later moved to a marketing job - referred to it by a friend who worked there.

Every job - that one and since, I've got because of  my writing and editing skills.

I have a blog I made friends through. That has been the best thing about keeping this blog going -- and not a benefit I had expected when I started it.

I volunteered regularly for years. Even if I don't have the energy or drive to do it anymore.

I have written extensively, especially on marketing.

I started and ran a startup. Even though it went badly, even though I made so many mistakes, I got it a good deal of visibility too.

I work in marketing at one of the biggest companies in the world.

I haven't given up writing.

I was ill and doctors couldn't figure out what it was. It took a few years, but I figured it out, I healed myself. With a lot of help from the Guy.

I have a relationship that's amazing, that's always a source of strength, and seems to grow better every year.

What are you proud of?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Day 88 of Feminist Joys: This Cool Video about Women's Choices

If you haven't watched this video starring Deepika Padukone yet, check it out. It goes further than I had expected. (I don't much like the last line, but apart from that it's pretty cool.)

Via Starry

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Day 87 of Feminist Joys: More Nursery Rhymes

This time it's Samit Basu on India.
C is for Cow. Cow is our mummy.
May it roam everywhere except your tummy. 
F is for Family. Key to our lives.
Lock up your daughters and find your sons wives. 
M is for Modi, may his name be blessed!
Fighter of crocodiles, always best dressed.

W is for West, the despoiler of values
And also for Women, the cookers of aloos.
Sigh.

Edited to add: Here's Part 2, and it might be even more awesome.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Day 86 of Feminist Joys: Cheering on Women Who Fight for Our Rights

I'm sure you have heard of Shreya Singhal already, but if you haven't, you should.

Thank you for fighting for our rights, Ms. Singhal, and congratulations on your victory and ours.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Day 84 of Feminist Joys: Reforging a Family

They hadn't been much of a family. You'd think a mother and two sisters would be close. That the sister would be a loving aunt to her nieces.

But there were too many bad memories; too much history; too little trust.

There had been abuse: some physical but mostly emotional. Harsh words spoken too often: almost all the time. Tearing each other down, tearing themselves apart.

But it's now been some years since the man left their lives: the man who controlled them, who exercised his little power by being a petty tyrant.

And they've all slowly gained control over their lives. Made their choices and slowly drifted towards the lives they wanted. The years that were lost will never be regained. But there's always today, and tomorrow.

And today, somehow, they've come together again. And learned to be friendly, if not friends. Polite, if not intimate. Happy in each other's company. More forgiving of each other's faults.

They're learning to be a family again.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Day 83 of Feminist Joys: Meeting More Feminists at Work

It happened again.

I was at a meeting with one of the agencies I work with. We were crowded around a small table at a coffee shop, three women and a man. They told me about some interesting work they had done lately, including a webinar one of the woman (the co-founder) had participated in. Where she ended up using the words "From a feminist perspective..."

I don't know if it's my job or Bombay or what. But this is so incredibly affirming, so amazing that I get to meet and work with women like this.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Day 82 of Feminist Joys: Misandrist Puns

I'm lactose intolerant.

.
.
.

I have a dude allergy.

(In Hindi, doodh = milk)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Day 81 of Feminist Joys: Interrupting Men

Reading the Shakesville post I linked to yesterday reminded me again of how often men seem to interrupt and talk over women.

And how finally, after ten years in the workforce, I have got to the point where I interrupt and talk over a man right back when I have something to say.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Day 80 of Feminist Joys: Calling out Powerful Men

This is so cool.
On Monday, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and acclaimed Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson were wrapping up a SXSW Interactive panel that had focused on diversity, when an audience member called out the two men for repeatedly interrupting their fellow panelist, the United States' Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith. 
Even more awkward? The audience member who posed the question was apparently Judith Williams, who heads up Google's unconscious bias program.
Here's how it went down: Schmidt, Isaacson and Smith were onstage together for a panel called "How Innovation Happens." One of the recurring themes of their hourlong talk was diversity in tech, and how the U.S. government and companies like Google can get more women and minorities involved. 
Both men interrupted Smith several times — not unusual for moderated panels — but Williams felt it was particularly poignant given the day's topic of diversity. During a session with the audience, Williams, who is Google's Global Diversity and Talent Programs manager, asked both men if they thought their interruptions were a sign of the unconscious bias they themselves had been talking about.
"Given that unconscious bias research tells us that women are interrupted a lot more than men, I'm wondering if you are aware that you have interrupted Megan many more times," she asked, which immediately prompted a round of cheers and applause from the packed room.
Via Shakesville.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Day 79 of Feminist Joys: Building Great Schools

There are so many great things about this story: a wonderfully dedicated principal, a smart young student, the person who spearheaded the campaign to help them, and the community who chipped in to help.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Day 78 of Feminist Joys: Building Diverse Workplaces

I've always been a fan of the startup Buffer. In spite of being founded by two young men, it never seemed like the bro-friendly kind of place most startups are. And this is awesome. That's true inclusiveness -- don't just say you want diversity but show it. Do something about it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Day 76 of Feminist Joys: Finding Feminists Unexpectedly

So we've successfully completed three quarters of a century and are soldering on.

Some months ago, I had a date to meet a couple of women who I mostly knew on Twitter. I was both nervous and excited: since I have so few friends in Bombay, I was keen to make more, but I haven't always had great luck in the past meeting people I don't know very well.

But as we sat and sipped our coffee, one of them chatted about a friend of hers, and said to the other, "You'd like her. She's feminist too."

And I sat back with a pleased smile on my face.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Day 75 of Feminist Joys: Working with Women (2)

Last Friday, I was in Kolkata for work. I'd traveled with my boss, and we spent the day in various meetings. At one, where we met a couple of women we work with, one of them commented favorably on how our team is all women. (We get that pointed out a lot. I wonder how often people point out an all-men team (though I certainly notice)).

"[Boss] doesn't like men," I joked.

One of our colleagues immediately quipped, "Oh, who's the lucky person?"

And we laughed and went to lunch. (Fabulous, by the way. I have to go back to Kolkata again just to eat my heart's fill.) After lunch, one of them told my boss how she looks up to her, and it's nice to see a woman in a higher position. And I grinned, because I'm proud to work with her, and she's a terrific boss and I feel lucky.

Part 1 here.

Edited to add: I had left the most massive typo in this post -- the second paragraph said "[Boss] doesn't like women," which wasn't funny at all. And I'm seeing this after months, so I guess no one is still reading. But still. If you come back, I'm sorry, that was stupid of me.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Day 74 of Feminist Joys: Reading Rainbow Lowell's 'Eleanor and Park'

Eleanor and Park is the most wonderful romance I've ever read. As a romance, it's better than Romeo and Juliet (hahahaha) (though it offers the best deconstruction of Romeo and Juliet that I've ever read, through 16-year-old protagonist Eleanor), better than Pride and Prejudice, better than anything I've ever read or seen.

This is a young adult book. I wish someone would write a story like this for adults but I've never found one (and I've just read Rainbow Lowell's Landline, which was good, but not the same at all.)

16 year old is brilliant and weird and feminist. She's the new girl at school, and is either ignored or picked on. She has a very difficult home life, four younger siblings, red hair, and no friends. She is fat and very smart.

But many romance heroines have smart, interesting heroines. The heroes, on the other hand, are rarely nice. (Minor spoilers below.)

But Park is probably the nicest 16 year old ever. He is somewhat geeky, even though he's sort-of friends with the most popular kids. He's always polite to his parents -- the only way he defies them is when he starts wearing eyeliner and continue to see Eleanor, which makes me like him even more.

They are the cutest adorablest couple, but other people aren't so nice, and there is plenty of angst and conflict too.

Read it, read it, read it. Tell me what you think.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Day 73 of Feminist Joys: Loving while Transgender

Read this beautiful story of how a trans woman found love. Both Andy and Drew seem amazing people and I hope they continue to be very happy.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Day 72 of Feminist Joys: Badass Women in History

Women are gentle and feminine, eh? Especially before feminism made them forget their womanly virtues? Let's read about some women in history.

This blog "celebrates the women history forgot" and introduces you to amazing women in history.

Back in the fourth century BC, Timoclea cleverly and violently killed her rapist.

Sayyida al-Hurra and Cheng I Sao were terribly fierce pirates.


Who did I miss?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Day 71 of Feminist Joys: Growing Forests

You've probably heard of Jadhav Payeng, the man who grows forests. If not, go read now. Everything about this story is awesome, but I just wanted to highlight this:
“When the forest grew big, wild animals started living in the forest and they used to venture out sometimes for food, and the elephants used to destroy agricultural cultivation, while tigers used to take away domesticated animals from the villagers,” said Payeng. 
This angered the villagers and many of them wanted to destroy the forest, but Payeng managed to convince them to hold on...
He “soon came up with an idea- to plant more trees, including a lot of banana trees,” he said.
The banana trees ensured food for the animals, while the forest cover took care of the food for the deer, and once the deer population increased, the food for tigers would be available inside the forest itself.
Edited on 28 May to add: I only discovered recently that this story was earlier (and perhaps originally?) covered by Manimugdha Sharma, who's an old college friend I recently reconnected with. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Day 70 of Feminist Joys: Jabong's Juice Magazine

A fashion magazine? How is that feminist?

Hold on a minute.

First, I love Jabong. It's where I've spent most of my clothes-shopping money in the last few years. The most important reason is their amazing returns policy: they actually pick up items you want to return, and they've several times refunded me before an order's been picked up. I have had problems with their delivery a few times, but the customer service has usually been great. And of course, they have a great selection of clothes, with a wide range of sizes, and I have found a couple of brands that work for me.

So when I ordered from Jabong last month, they sent me a copy of their magazine. I don't know when I'd last looked at any kind of 'women's magazine' (probably at the hairdresser's a few times over the last few years). I casually flipped through it. And stopped. 

This was the 'love' issue (being February), so they featured a bunch of couples and profiled their relationships. And quite a few of the couples are not heterosexual.

I don't follow mainstream media much, but I don't think this is common. At all. (Which is one reason why I don't follow mainstream media much.)

Two out of the five couples are gay. (And they look incredibly cute and I loved reading their stories too.) (All photos link to the magazine.)

Monday, March 09, 2015

Day 68 of Feminist Joys: Stay at Home Dads

Sadly, I don't know any in real life. However, this will do for now.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Day 67 of Feminist Joys: Happy Women's Day

Women's Day has become something of a Hallmark holiday, but it's actually meant to highlight inequality. So here are some things you may want to look at today. If you have something great I missed, have at it in the comments.

This (very US-centric) article highlights some reasons for optimism.

The Google doodle is cool. And here, have a nice tweet.

And even then, if you read the tweets (don't), many men don't want to give women this one day in the spotlight either.

Anyway. Focusing on joys. Here are 15 women who are changing the world.

And I leave you with:

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Day 66 of Feminist Joys: Reading Shakesville

Much of my feminist education has come from blog: Shakesville has contributed tremendously to this. Melissa McOwen and the other bloggers on Shakesville have made me look at the world with new perspectives and examine my own privilege.

Here are just some of the amazing posts at Shakesville; if you haven't happened on that blog before, you may want to enter through one of these. (I'm sticking to the less painful ones, since the theme of this series, is after all, joy. 

On being friends with men:
This, then, is the terrible bargain we have regretfully struck: Men are allowed the easy comfort of their unexamined privilege, but my regard will always be shot through with a steely, anxious bolt of caution.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Day 65 of Feminist Joys: Reading the Bell Jar

Sylvia Plath was a name I came across again and again on feminist blogs. Her poetry. Her tragic life. And perhaps more often, the ‘bell jar’. I finally read this novel. 


I was a little surprised at first, both at how trivial it was and at a very racist passage. But the strength of the book is in how true the protagonist’s voice rings, and how even the daily business of living can be too much for a young woman in a misogynistic society.
It wouldn't have made one scrap of difference to me, because wherever I sat -- on the deck of a ship or at a street cafe in Paris or Bangkok -- I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.... 
The air of the bell jar wadded round me and I couldn't stir.
Once, when describing how I feel when I'm battling food my body refuses to accept (I'm sensitive to gluten and lactose), I said to the Guy, "It's like I'm behind these glass walls." I guess there's more than one reason for feeling this way.

It's only Rs 94 on the Kindle right now if you want to read it. Also check out this comic based on a quote from the book.

Edited to add: This post had been messed up for some reason -- the first two paragraphs had got deleted. Added them back now. Sorry.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Day 64 of Feminist Joys: Reading Dianne Wynne Jones's Howl's Castle

I’ve been reading some awesome books lately, but this one is special. It’s a fantasy romance novel that uses many established tropes — a wicked wizard (who isn’t really wicked), a wicked witch, three sisters, a moving castle, a wicked (not really) stepmother. The heroine spends too much time  believing in tropes herself, and this book is all about doing what you want to do rather than what’s expected of you — a lesson her sisters figure out much faster than she does. It also comments on how it might be a relief, in a way, to grow old: young pretty girls get a lot of attention, while old women are often either invisible or feared. Old women can act as they like and not be reviled as a young girl would be.

There’s a quite satisfying mystery too, and a very melodramatic climax complete with a Bollywood style family reunion. If you like fantasies and/or mysteries, try this out. I didn’t like everything about it, but it was a very fun read with no nasty misogyny to turn me off.

(Don't read Castle in the Air though, which is the next in the series. It's full of vile fatphobia and is also quite boring.)

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Day 63 of Feminist Joys: The Joys of Running (or Swimming or Playing)

My mother’s always been very healthy and active. She used to do all the housework on her own — we very rarely had house help, and she would also do some gardening, lots of embroidery and knitting, and walk us to school and the swimming pool and all that. She also enjoyed playing badminton, though she only got the opportunity rarely. She spoke rarely of her childhood, but incidents she told me involved climbing trees and wading in a lake (and nearly drowning, but that’s another story) and learning to shoot rifles at NCC camp.

And now that she’s older and lives alone and her time is finally her own, she goes on walks and does yoga. Probably too late now, to take up running or swimming or badminton — and I’m not sure she’d want to.

So it feels great that things have changed enough that so many of the young women I know are athletic. (I’m extremely physically lazy myself, and the only form of exercise that I don’t despise is walking, and I don’t do a lot of that. So this post is about other people.) 

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Day 62 of Feminist Joys: Reading Gloria Steinem’s Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions

I’m trying to catch up a bit on my feminist education this year. I recently read Steinem’s celebrated book, and was amazed at her energy and ambition. I wished I had such feminist talks and meetings to go to, as the ones she describes. (Anyone know of anything like that happening in Mumbai — any feminist groups or meetings?)

I was appalled at the trans- and homophobia. I was relieved to read that she has since apologised for her vile comments in the book, but the apology itself left much to be desired.

One of the essays I had read before, and is probably her most celebrated piece, but I enjoyed reading it again. Her piece on menstruation, especially this bit:
But listening recently to a woman describe the unexpected arrival of her menstrual period (a red stain had spread on her dress as she argued heatedly on the public stage) still made me cringe with embarrassment. That is, until she explained that, when finally informed in whispers of the obvious event, she said to the all-male audience, "and you should be proud to have a menstruating woman on your stage. It's probably the first real thing that's happened to this group in years."
Yes, let’s celebrate menstruation, instead of hiding it. Or treat it like a normal though often somewhat painful event. I’m down with that.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Day 61 of Feminist Joys: Mocking Chivalry

Chivalry used to make me angry. Now it only invites mild mockery and amusement. Not just because I'm older and have gained perspective, but more because none of these chivalrous men have much power over me.

And that's the definition of privilege: not being in the oppressed group.

But I worked to get here does that count? I moved myself away from those power structures. I live with a man, true, and a man who sometimes seems to act chivalrous -- but he's not, he's just kind and thoughtful. And I've lived with him for years and years and slowly I've stopped flinching. 

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Day 60 of Feminist Joys: Demanding Diversity

Silicon Valley lawyer Ed Zimmerman refuses to attend all-male tech events, and even dinner parties.
Zimmerman knows that zero women at any professional table is wrong. “Zero out of two I can understand. Zero out of six or 10 I’m not sure I understand why. Zero out of 20 just seems silly,” he says.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Day 59 of Feminist Joys: Blogging

It's been nine years since I started this blog. I've written several times, on the anniversary (or around, since I usually forget until it's past) about what blogging has meant to me.

Some other day, I'll write about the friendships I've made with other bloggers, which is probably the most important, useful, wonderful thing about being a blogger.

Some day, I'll write about the bloggers I've read and learned from, which has been such an important part of my education.

But today, I just want to take a moment and acknowledge how this blog has helped me feel less powerless. How it's been a way of taking stock of what's good in my life (because I rarely wrote about the bad stuff). How it's helped me think through things by writing. How it's been an outlet for my fiction and poetry, made me feel like someone's reading.

Thank you for being here.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Day 58 of Feminist Joys: Quoting the Fall

I first started watching the Fall after reading this, because I wanted to watch the show where the protagonist said such feminist things.

But my favorite quote from the Fall's Stella Gibson -- because it's so absurdly misandrist it makes me laugh -- is "The basic human form is female. Maleness is a kind of birth defect."

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Day 56 of Feminist Joys: Misandrist Poetry

Hannah Jewell of Buzzfeed takes some classic poems and makes them awesome.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have men I must make weep,
And tears to drink before I sleep,
And tears to drink before I sleep.
If you're religious, the Toast has misandrist prayers (actually, these are more useful if you're not religious).
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want him.
I require no shepherd.
The keeping of female animals for male profit is a practice that has no place in the new world order.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Day 54 of Feminist Joys: Wear What the Fuck You Want

Too many women I know -- even feminist, liberal women -- think you shouldn't wear short or revealing clothes if you don't have the right features for it (which of course, means if you're not skinny).

It makes me sad. Wear what you want. You'll look wonderful and if someone doesn't agree, it's their problem.

Me? I don't think I look wonderful, exactly, but I wear what I want to and I don't care if you don't agree. I wear short skirts even though my legs aren't shaved, and I wear dresses even though I'm fat, and I'll wear sneakers with a lace skirt and a sword in my ear if I want to.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Day 53 of Feminist Joys: Stop Wearing That!

Now that you've got the body you always wanted (or haven't bothered, and decided that loving your own is better), here's what you shouldn't wear to go with it. Not when you're 50, not at any age.

(Hat tip: Banno, as well as other friends who shared this on Facebook -- sorry, I'm too lazy to go look up who it was.)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Friday, February 20, 2015

Day 51 of Feminist Joys: Loving Your Body

From Already Pretty:
When I begin a consult, I start by asking what my client loves about her body and would like to highlight, but I also ask if there are any features she’d like to downplay. And these amazing women responded to the latter by saying, “Nothing, really. I like it all.”

I'm not there yet, but I hope I am soon.  

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Day 50 of Feminist Joys: Be Sinful

This post of mine from a couple of years ago has got a bit of attention:

Be disobedient. Be loud. Be outspoken. Be selfish. Be unconventional. Be immodest. Be persistent.

Let go of the years of conditioning that tell you not to be any of these things. I'm still trying -- some things are more difficult than others.

Do all of this not just to get ahead at work, but to be a person who more actively participates in the world. Let's stop hiding.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Day 49 of Feminist Joys: Grace under Fire


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Day 48 of Feminist Joys: Mocking Homophobia

I'm feeling a bit out of sorts this week, so I'm going to be mostly pointing to stuff others have said till I can muster up the energy to say something myself.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Day 46 of Feminist Joys: Celebrating Love

Well, it's still Valentine's Day weekend.

Some months ago, I met an old friend. As we chatted, she casually revealed that she and her live-in boyfriend had gone to the registrar's office earlier that week and got married. Her brother and a friend were witnesses.

That's the coolest, most low-key wedding ever. I offered a wedding present, she refused, and while I thought at the time I'd send something later I haven't been able to find anything cool enough for this couple.

They did go back to Assam later (where both of them are from) and have a more traditional wedding. So I can still maintain that I have had the coolest wedding of all my friends: little planning, low fuss, and only the people we really loved to witness our partnership.

I have a young colleague though who got married in an even more low-key manner. Her now-husband's parents did not approve, so she told her parents they were going to get married, and they went off to Goa to do so.

Mind, none of these were inter-racial or inter-religion marriages, which would arguably have been more fraught (though the Guy and I are both atheists who were brought up Hindu).

My point? It's great to see people, especially women, decide who they want to marry and not care about parental approval. Go for it, live your life.

(And if you have a cool wedding or relationship story, come on, tell us.)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Day 45 of Feminist Joys: Celebrating Valentine's Day

I always thought Valentine's Day was kind of pointless. But when the right-wing fanatics go around threatening people who might be celebrating or even merely out in the streets not doing anything special (which is what holding hands is for most of us), I feel less annoyed about those ugly pink and red heart shaped decorations.

I wish I was in Delhi to celebrate the weddings:
All struggling lovers of the world and otherwise! Lets gather in heartfelt gratitude outside the Hindu Mahasabha's head office on Mandir Marg (how apt!) (Closest Metro: Ramakrishna Ashram Marg) this Valentine's Day for the most EPIC mass marriage ceremony Delhi will ever see!Come along in your most colourful red wedding sarees, white dresses, suits, sherwanis and such things! Bring wacky wedding vows, bright flowers, loud dholaks, dark mehendi, band bajaas, poems, songs, dance routines..... Let's make this SERIOUS! 
The organizer of this protest, Lakshmi Bai, seems mad awesome:
 To add to the festivities, everyone will be carrying heart shaped balloons and ghar wapsi tickets will be sold for Rs 11. Also, to show their support to RSS, girls have been asked to wear khaki shorts.
On a more serious note, Lakshmi Bai added that this gathering will be a symbol of "loud protest against this intensified attack on democratic rights by right wing forces."
"This is not about defending the right to celebrate Valentine's Day, but about creatively fighting against forces that seek to undermine our rights to love, to choose, to move and to occupy public spaces," she said. "We register our protest against this politics of hate, oppression and violence -- that constructs notions of 'love-jihad', conducts forced conversions and shudikarans, threatens to force people into the patriarchal institution of marriage, launches aggressive attempts to control women and queer lives and bodies."
Anyway. The Guy and I celebrated by resting after our vacation (we got back yesterday) and wishing each other and not getting any gifts.

And if you have someone you are thinking of getting a Valentine for but haven't yet (which obviously means you're not sure), printing out one of these indifferent or not-interested cartoons might help (best results from a color printer, but of course it's already evening and you don't have the luxury of being picky).

But seriously, look at these. They're awesome.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Day 44 of Feminist Joys: Mending Stories We Love -- the Lord of the Rings

More of Inky's fabulous writing: this amazing piece about Eowyn.
You are seven when you watch your mother wither away with grief.
You run out into the fields the day she dies. They let you go, knowing you will not go far, not good Eowyn, not the obedient second child of Eomund and Theodwyn. They think you are crying, and maybe you are, but mostly you are smiting the ground with your feet and slashing your hands at the gently waving stalks of grass.
You smite the ground. You must wonder, with the memories of your father’s war stories still ringing in your tiny ears. You must wonder, with the adrenaline still high in your veins from a pretend sword fight with your brother in the stables that morning, the adrenaline now warring with grief. You must wonder how a woman of a house so very brave could wither like an ailing flower.
You swear you will never make such useless choices.
And inspired by her, I wrote my own fan fiction. When I watched the movies again last year, I smelled a strong whiff of class prejudice in the way Boromir was treated.

It is so easy for them to sit and talk about taking the ring into Mordor. They have no idea, none, of how powerful the enemy is. Our men and women have dealt with him and his armies for long years. The unprovoked raids onto our territory. The cruel bloodthirsty orcs tearing our comrades apart limb from limb, or digging teeth into their flesh. The sudden appearance of an nazgul in the sky, with harsh screams that strike fear into the hearts of the bravest among us. And afterward, afterward... Having to tell a mother that her son wasn't coming home, though you did. Having another soldier step up to fill the place of the one who was lost. Making strategies for how we could hold our ground in the next battle, knowing full well that it is only a matter of time, as the enemy grows stronger and we grow weaker. Wishing we had the strength to storm their fortress, to stop them once and for all. 
Do they think we wouldn't have gone into Mordor if we could? 
It doesn't matter that I know more about this than anyone else. I am too strong, and I am not one of them. I am not an Elf, or a King. I am but a leader of soldiers, a general who can fight. I am but the son of a Steward. 

And I wrote this for Faramir, living in the shadow of an abusive father:

Your greatest fault, he told me one day, is that you try too hard to please others. Especially our father. Do what you would, Faramir, and he will come around. Don't circumscribe your life for him.

But Boromir is gone now, and there is no one to comfort me, no one to praise me. No one to intercede between me and my father. I think of living in that long hall for the rest of my father's years, in uncompanionable silence punctuated by muttered reproofs, with resentment hanging over the walls. It's not just my father who wishes I had gone in my brother's stead, that he had lived and I had died. I do too.