Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Books I read in April, May, and June

Damn, I'm almost two months late with this 'monthly' post. I haven't been reading as much lately, so this is more like one or max two months' worth of books. But there's more non-fiction here than I usually read.

A Passage to India by EM Forster
This was a rereading, and a surprisingly enjoyable one. I like Foster's Howard's End also, and in both novels I am impressed by his empathy toward people who are so different - women, Indian men - and whom other male white writers of the time had so much trouble treating as human.

The question I'm finding it difficult to answer is, is the novel misogynistic? It tries hard not to be, but I'm not sure it succeeds, just as it doesn't quite succeed at being anti-racist. But I give it points for trying very sincerely, and it's definitely a thought provoking read.

Hatred in the Belly by the Ambedkar Age Collective
I wrote about this here, but skip my review if you like and read Tejas'.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

In defense of "adulting"

I am in my mid thirties. I moved out of my parents' home for good thirteen years ago. I've lived in hostels, with roommates, and alone, though for most of the last ten years I've lived with the Guy.

I followed the approved script for becoming an adult, toeing the line to meet with both liberal and patriarchal approval. I got married two weeks after I turned 25, and it's always been just the Guy and me - though it helps that we live far from our parents.

So, in a way, adulting came easy to me, and I've been guilty in the past of mocking friends who seem to have a harder time figuring it out. But the older I grow, the more I realize that it's not easy, and I have respect and compassion for all of us who are making it, to some extent or the other.

Because at least for urban India right now, we seem to have torn up the script. And that's pretty fucking amazing. We're not living our parents' lives, we're living our own.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Thoughts on Udta Punjab

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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