Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

The unfortunate shelving of the movie ‘Heroine’ by Madhur Bhandarkar and the subsequent drama that has ensued has cemented my view that Bollywood is as misogynistic as I thought it was.

A pregnant woman is kicked out of a movie, the reason cited for that is the movie is heavily dependent on the lead actress, and she is required to be shown smoking, drinking etc, and the schedule is hectic. While it is true that pregnancy tires a woman out, it is not a disease or a condition. A pregnant woman gets as much work done as a non-pregnant one does. Also, the actress in question was not going to really smoke or drink anyway, shew as only going to act like she was, on-screen. And it is only the Indian directors that are doing this, Penelope Cruz was working on Prates of the Caribbean – 3 throughout her pregnancy, and no one kicked her out or blamed her for being pregnant. The worst part is that the said director of the movie actually blamed this actress and said he is shelving this movie for her own good and that this whole process has caused him a lot of anguish. Wah, talk about being dishonest.

Not only is it unfair to Aishwarya Rai that she is being discriminated on, she is also being blamed for the movie being canceled and the subsequent loss of jobs for hundreds of technicians, artists etc. When she signed on the movie she was given a schedule that stated that filming would be over by the end of July, which meant that she would be done with it by the time she was 5 months pregnant, and let’s face it, most women don’t even show the first 5-6  months. And while the first trimester brings with it glorious nausea and fatigue, surely there are ways to get to work in spite of that. We all have worked 8 hour days through out first trimesters, we weren’t kicked out of our jobs for being pregnant. And if Bhandarkar was so worried about Aishwarya’s health he would have made the movie but would have been extra careful about her, not just gone to the press saying she caused him anguish. Way to treat an expectant woman. If he was more worried that she would start putting on weight, and would not look the part, he should have come out and given that reason, rather than hide behind the “oh this is all for her good” wall like a coward.

While some might call her unprofessional, and I agree to an extent, it is not fair to expect a woman in her first trimester to go announcing to the whole world that she is having a baby, when most gynecologists and everyone else keeps warning her about an early miscarriage, throwing the high first trimester, first pregnancy miscarriage statistics in her face.

Finally, I feel like if the woman in question has no complaints about her working when pregnant, and when she is physically able to perform her duties, and look the part, in this case, there is no valid reason for kicking her out except that there is this huge reservation in the Indian psyche about the lack of desirability of a mother. While men can get married, have children, grow a paunch and still get roles as teenagers, women, God forbid so much as have a baby(while still looking smoking hot) are relegated to bit parts or bhabhi, ma roles. Way to kick her while she is down, Bollywood.


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Being a woman in India is hard. Being a woman who wears whatever she wants is harder. God forbid you are a woman who wears what she wants AND goes where she wants all by herself. You are surely a SLUT! Yes, that is what most modern women who speak their mind and wear what they want are called. And that is why I get the motivation behind slutwalk. But I have a problem with it.

If the idea of slutwalk is a march where women will ” dress in everyday wear (to symbolize ordinary women that are sexually assaulted during everyday activities”, then all I have to do is to walk down to the grocer or to the bus stop dressed in my regular clothes. Irrespective of whether I am wearing a salwar kameez, a sari, jeans, mini skirt or a burkha, I know there will be hoots and catcalls as I walk. I know there will be people winking suggestively, and trying to say things to me. So what I wear does not really protect me from being assaulted, and my talking about the assault is only going to make men term me a slut for having invited the assault.

But why should the woman call herself a slut? I am no prude but that word bothers me. Even if sarcastically, I don’t want to call myself a slut, because sarcasm is lost out on a lot of people, and they take it literally and my calling myself one will only encourage such people to behave worse with women. And that is the problem I have with Slutwalk. Nuances and sarcasm are not well understood by most men of the ogling and sexual harassment variety, and if they take the Slutwalk literally, it gives them more opportunity to do more of the same, i.e., continue to degrade women in public. Would that not defeat the purpose of the walk?

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After hordes of actors, big and small, endorsing skin lightening products, here’s some hope. Ranbir apparently turned down a lucrative offer to endorse a fairness product. The reason reported is “Ranbir knows that there may be many who would end up blindly following what he does. He does not want to misguide anyone by saying that fairness creams ‘improve your skin”. While it may be delusions of grandeur on his part to assume that people would blindly follow what he says, his stand is admirable to say the least.

As far as white skin is concerned, it would be an understatement to say we Indians are obsessed. The lighter the better is the motto. Anywhere you see, hoardings, matrimonial ads, advertisements on the television, tv serials, soaps, news anchors, white stares back at you. White skin, white white white blah!

There is not one magazine cover out today that does not lighten the skin of the cover model, and no one escapes the white out. Why even a dusky Kajol who used to be proud of her color and her unibrow has started endorsing one of them whitening products, and was majorly whitewashed for the advertisement. That was when I lost all hope for Indian advertisers. They know white sells, and will go to any lengths to keep it so. Hence it is heartening to know that even though it is but one drop in the ocean, there is hope for other colors.

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My husband says I thrive on nostalgia. And that seems to be true. Today I was reading Smitha’s latest post on textures and I was pulled back into nostalgia yet again. Any South Indian worth their salt would attest to the fact that a collection of silk sarees is what a South Indian woman is most proud of, after her kids, that is! So was my ammamma, my mom’s mom.

She had a huge collection of Kanchi, Kota, Patolla, Pochampally, Venkatagiri, Gadwal and many more(these are the ones I know) and kept them all wrapped up in an old, soft cotton saree in her almirah. I remember when she thought she was done with wearing pattu sarees(this was after my grandfather died, she was a very traditional woman), she gave them away to her five daughters. Among the sarees my mom got was one maroon with yellow border. This one also had huge yellow polka dots on the body, and a green and yellow cheques Kanchi saree. Both were gorgeous but they were too treasured to be ever worn again by my mom. She kept them wrapped up, in a soft cotton saree, of course.

Ammamma only wore traditional silk sarees, ones with a large border and a solid body, my mom’s silk/pattu saree collection on the other hand spanned the whole gamut from traditional ones to modern takes on silks like turning/temple border, non-south Indian types like Paithani, Kora, Ikat, Narayanpet, to what I call ‘light’ silks like Mysore silk and raw silk. And the way my mom takes care of her sarees is amazing. She must have like a 100 different ones, that she wraps up in bundles, each bundle having a specific type of sarees. So she would not mix her traditional silk with her everyday wear Mysore silk, she separates her silk sarees by type. Cottons are also separated by Bengal Cotton or other cotton, another bundle holds all her garden sarees, and finally there is a bundle with all ‘special’ sarees, like her wedding saree, the sarees she wore for our namakaran etc. Now she doesn’t just let her sarees sit in bundles statically until she has a chance to wear them. No! She takes a bundle out every other week, airs the sarees for a couple of hours, then changes the saree folds so the inside becomes the outside, and puts them back.

Oh but we were talking about pattu saree memories here, not about how to organize sarees. For as long as I can remember, there is a whole process for selecting what saree to wear to a family event. Of course at a family event one HAS to wear a silk saree, and given that my mom has 4 sisters and a brother and a HUGE extended family, there are always weddings, engagements, namakarans, major birthdays, gruhapraveshams, shashtipurthis and the like. A few days before an event there is a whole saree selection ritual that takes place. My mom’s sisters call one by one, and they talk about what they are wearing and what she is wearing, so as to ensure that there are no color clashes at the said event. Also, sometimes the sisters have similar sarees in different colors, so they also need to ensure that no 2 sisters are wearing the same type of saree, then the discussion drifts to what jewelry goes with which saree. My mother is the youngest and she is influenced a lot by what my sister and I tell her about accessorizing, but her older sisters believe in showing off ALL THEIR JEWELRY at big events like weddings. So there is a whole discussion about how my mother should add maybe one more gold necklace to the already heavy gold necklace she plans on wearing. Then there would be another discussion about how her daughters don’t want her to overload on gold blah blah! Well, after such similar discussions with the remaining sisters, my mom would proceed to air out the chosen one(saree) and keep the blouse and underskirt ready…phew! On the day of the event there would be detailed appraisals of the sarees and jewelry and the styling etc. All this was very amusing to me, but participating in this tedious affair was never my forte. While my mom took to all this like a fish in water, I was always flailing my limbs at the prospect of having to dress up!

In spite of my reluctance to dress up, if there is ever one thing I would love is to have a collection of beautiful silks. A collection that would make the South Indian woman in me proud. Not a huge one, but a modest one, with maybe a Kanchi, a Kota, a Pochampally, a couple of Mysore silks, a Gadwal, and oh! a paithani too! Then I would air them out every few weeks, just like my mom does, and look at them lovingly. That would be my treasure, to be passed on to my children, if they are interested, that is!

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You know how women are always told to ‘adjust’, especially after marriage? While it is true that both the husband and wife need to adjust, because the relationship is so new and evolving, putting the onus on the woman is just wrong. Today, I have two adjustment stories, one that led to a fantastically happy family, and another that led to a miserable relationship. The inspiration for this post is this post called 3 Adjustment Stories from Women’s Web.

The first story is of my parents. They fell in love when they were colleagues at their respective first jobs, and informed their parents about their intention to marry. As expected there was much opposition but seeing as the two were steadfast in their commitment to each other, both sets of parents relented. But trouble for my mom had only begun. Since she was not the one to choose the bride, my dad’s mother did not take very kindly to my mom from the beginning. My mom was routinely asked to wash the clothes of the whole family, chided for being not so conversant with work around the house(she was the youngest of 6 kids and was not used to so much house work, but then so was my dad), taunted for being an outsider etc. All this was in the absence of my father, who, in those days, used to go to work, then go to university in the evenings to get his MTech degree. Not wanting to trouble him with all this, my mom never spoke up. One fine Sunday my dad saw how my mom was being treated and felt very bad. He talked with my mom and told her that he will be by her side through all this and will make sure that his mother changes his ways. My mom, being the generous spirit that she is, said all she wanted was his support and she did not want his family to break apart and that ‘they will adjust’ as a couple. And they did. Whenever my mom was in a situation where my grandmother would have things to say to her, my dad would take all the brunt of the criticism. My mom left for work at 7:00am, but she was still expected to get up and cook breakfast and lunch before she left, all this after cleaning the house and taking a shower. My dad would get up with her every single day and help her in the kitchen, and took over the responsibility of most tasks around the house. He then would also take 100% responsibility of getting me and my sister ready for school and pack our lunches. Slowly my grandmother realized that she could not be a third wheel in the relationship, and all her efforts to ‘show’ my dad that this girl was not right for him were futile. In time she learnt her lesson and mellowed down. This is how they managed for 25 years and we learnt the importance of having a relationship that goes both ways in terms of trust and support. This, in my opinion, is an adjustment story that was a success, because our family was happy and there were good vibes all around. We love our grandmother, but her not treating my mom well will always tar our memories of her.

The second story is of one of my cousins. His parents arranged his marriage to his beautiful MBA girl, who used to work. After marriage she was asked to quit and stay home, and look after her in-laws. She agreed. She was made to do all the work around the house, taunted for being tardy(if she really was or not, I have no idea) all in the presence of her husband, who merely nodded along with his mamma. Then they had a baby girl and of course the inlaws and the husband ‘wanted’ a boy and she was forced to get pregnant again. All this while she kept complaining to her parents who always asked her to ‘adjust’ as did the husband, who said she is lucky to be married to him and she should stop whining and produce a male heir and it would make everyone happy. Another girl and all hell broke loose. We heard stories of her being beaten and abused. My father tried to intervene but was brushed off and chided for interfering in their internal matters. The poor girl kept adjusting to all this, thinking it was all a part and parcel of being married. The want to a son made her conceive again, and it was another girl. The last time I heard of her, she was telling my mom that she was in that relationship only because of the 3 little girls, and that separating at the first signs of a bad marriage would have done her a world of good. ‘Adjustment’ did not work for her, she says, because she is the unhappy one in the relationship, and she is afraid the daughters are also going to face the same fate.

So there you have it. Adjustment with a pinch of salt.

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Please adjust.

This post got me thinking. Why is asking for divorce such a big deal that women are asked to stay in unhappy marriages than have a happy divorce?

A good friend was working in an MNC, a very smart girl, very independent and her family loved in a cosmopolitan city, not in the city where most of the people of her community live. When it came time for marriage, since she was ok with it, the parents started to look for a suitable partner from the community. Since she was well-educated and working, it was hard to find a match, and this is where she made her first mistake. In order to appease her parents, she agreed to marry this guy who she barely interacted with.

The wedding happened amidst all fanfare (and dowry/gifts) and the married couple moved to Bangalore where she had a job(he was apparently working too) and that is when her troubles began. Seemingly there was no problem. Like people reminded her time and again, he did not beat her, or verbally abuse her, well, he just did not talk. About anything at all. His mom would show up every few months and shout commands at the DIL while the son sat on his fat ass, watching TV, or sometimes just staring into space. She was frustrated, and did not know what he thought about her, whether he liked her, or did not like her, cared about her or not. Because there was NO TALKING AT ALL. Needless to say, their marriage was not consummated even after 6 months after the wedding. She talked to her mom. Her mom asked her to ‘have patience’ because according to her most arranged marriages are like that. She waited, for another 6 months, until the point that she could not take it anymore. She had dreams of a happy marriage, of a loving partner. She talked to her parents, this time about separation. They were livid. They thought they had given their daughter ‘too much freedom’ and that she was finding it hard to adjust to married life because she had too many expectations. Does he abuse you? Does he have a mistress? Does he drink or do drugs? The answers to all these questions was a NO. She could not tell them that she was still a virgin, after a year of being married, that her husband never looked at her with love or even so much as smiled at her. There was something wrong with him, is what she believed, and so, against her parents’ wishes she started the separation proceedings. The first lawyer she went to(a woman) asked her to ‘adjust’. She dumped her and went to another, who heard her story, this time she also told him that the marriage wasn’t consummated as yet, and those were the grounds for a separation. Today she is single, happy and much more relaxed. The demons of her past still haunt her when she visits her parents and they cry about her being divorced, but she does not care. She says she has been happier in the last few months of her being separated, than she had even been married. Whenever someone asks her why her husband left her, she says I left him. And lives with her head high. She does not know what would have happened had she adjusted, but the one year that she did she was not happy. And that is what matters.

The reason for narrating this story is that a lot of people say if there are no red flags in a marriage you should always try to make it work, and in my friend’s story there were NO RED FLAGS, the kind that most people care about, anyway, and still she was unhappy and miserable.

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Oh, how they get you!

I hate going to a parlor or a salon. If you are getting a haircut, they try to get you to color your hair, or perm it, or buy one of their ridiculously expensive care products. So I decided I shall grow my hair out and see how long I can go without a cut. I have long stopped getting facials at a parlor and do them at home instead. Waxing is something I shall never ever get used to, so going to a parlor for that was out too. Eyebrows however are another story. Since I was going for my BIL’s wedding, I had gotten my eyebrows done, and at that visit I acted like I was in so much of a hurry that the girl at the parlor did not have time to ask me if I wanted anything else. Today when I went back to get my eyebrows done again, I forgot about my in a hurry trick. This is what happened:

Eyebrow Girl(EG): Ma’am have you been here before?

Me: yeah I came about a month back to get my eyebrows done.

EG: Do you want to get your upper lip threaded as well?

Me: No, only the eyebrows please.

EG: Oh, OK (gives my upper lip a hard, long look)

After some time, when she is almost done with eyebrows

EG: Do you want to get a facial cleanup done? You seem to have a lot of black heads…….

Me: Umm…..no thanks.

EG: we are offering a discount on your gold facial too, your skin won’t look so dead anymore…..

Me: No, it’s ok. I am fine.

EG: Ok ma’am, as you wish. What about a haircut? You have too many split ends…

Me: No, it’s ok.

I was done and was at the front desk paying.

Front desk girl(FDG): Ma’am do you want to buy some of our skincare products? This serum here ma’am, it will clean up your dead skin cells and make it glow.

Me: No no, I just want to pay for the eyebrows and leave. Actually I am in a hurry, I have a meeting in 10 minutes!

FDG: Ok ma’am…..(stares at my skin and hair)!

Why didn’t I remember to say that I was in a hurry? It almost always works!

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