Archive | December, 2012

Let Us Be Silent No More!

30 Dec

The nameless, faceless girl who India has been fighting for since December 16th died today. I woke up to the news that she had breathed her last early this morning, at a hospital minutes away from the hotel we are staying in at Singapore. Two weeks ago, this girl who the media has named ‘Amanat’ or ‘Nirbhaya’, a student of medicine, was living the life of a carefree girl in Delhi. Two weeks later, with her intestines and other organs compromised, she was battling with death at Mount Elisabeth Hospital in Singapore. Most of us hoped that she would survive, against all odds because she wanted to live. Because somewhere, somehow, it would assuage our collective guilt as a nation. Last night’s news had, however, prepared everyone for the worst. India prayed fervently for ‘India’s daughter’ to make it. Her broken father however, had left the matter in ‘God’s hands’ according to the local papers and even as God’s hands delivered her to a better world, hopefully, India wept bitterly.

This wasn’t the first gang rape that a woman in India had been subjected to, but this was the first gang rape that Indians had reacted to at such a mass scale. This was also the first gang rape that had not moved from page 1 to page 11 of our dailies as days rolled by. As a nation, we were emotionally invested, for once. The gruesome details of the girl’s mutilation (for rape is a mild word) were shared courtesy the media and little was left to imagination. There was no way we could insulate ourselves from ‘the girl’s’ suffering or the trauma of her family this time. We have all gone about our lives, attending to work, Christmas get-togethers, weddings the past few weeks, but the sadness lingered somewhere in the background, like a dark shadow.

As a mother of two girls, I began to wonder if I wanted to raise my daughters in India at all. I have always felt privileged to be a mother of two adorable girls, even in a society that still cherishes a male heir. But after ‘the girl’s’ tragic story, I am filled with fear and I cannot help but wish I had sons instead. Sons who could not get raped by four men on a bus. Sons who I would not have to worry about and chaperone around even in their 20s and 30s. Sons who would not get stabbed for rejecting a girl at college or have acid thrown all over their faces and bodies.  As a mother of girls, living in my own country means I shall have to live with my heart in my mouth forever. Just like my mother has, just like her mother did.

I have spent the last three days in Singapore watching children play with abandon in this ‘safe’ city and wondered when I last let my children play around a park or a cafe without watching over them like a hawk. Today I let my four-year-old queue up at a cafe for a piece of red velvet cake while I sat sipping my coffee in another corner of the cafe from where I could not even see her. Yesterday I let my nine-year-old use the toilet while I sat inside the theatre watching a musical. This feeling is unusual to me. I do not know of one parent in India who would dare to let their kids out of their sight in Bombay, Delhi or any other city of India. Everyone in Singapore is talking about the gang-raped girl’s death at the moment. The taxi driver tells me “This would never have happened here because we are a small country and the punishment for such a crime is too severe.”

My maid seems less disturbed by this tragedy. She tells me she has seen this happen to a girl from her village. She was raped by three men and left to die among the fields, naked. The families of the accused were of good means and influential, after serving a minimal term in custody, they were set free among the fields of the same village, unencumbered. “Why are you so disturbed, do you think this has happened for the first time in our country?” the maid asks me. I search for words, too ashamed to be part of a society that breeds rapists. I feel a shame shared by many Indians like me, but a shame that does not reach the politicians who run my country. The police, the Khap panchayats, the politicians have almost always blamed the raped woman for inviting the act upon herself. Even if she were to survive the rape, she knows a blighted existence awaits her and so she prefers to commit suicide instead. India is a God-fearing country but sadly, women in India are treated like children of a lesser God.

The 23-year-old girl, this child of a lesser God, who lost her life this morning is being called a ‘Braveheart’ by the media? Did she want to be called brave? Is it brave to be raped, have your organs torn apart and then be thrown out of a moving bus? Is it brave to be left to die naked alongside a road? The girl did not want to be brave, she just wanted to live. And let’s us not call her Nirbhaya (fearless) or Braveheart and glorify her death, let us learn from it. We have been silent observers for far too long. Let us not forget about the girl’s sad end with the next tragedy. Let us keep the rage in our hearts going till the law is changed, let us not expend it all at once. We all feel wounded right now, let this wound fester till something substantial is achieved.

21st December 2012: Remains of the day (the Mayans got it wrong)

22 Dec

December 21st, 2012: So how did you celebrate the supposed last day of the world? I celebrated mine listening to a resplendent Nita Ambani talk, watching mellifluous AR Rahman sing and wonderful little children act out the history of India.

Today, Dhirubhai Ambani International School, the brainchild of Mrs. Nita Ambani and Mumbai’s premier educational institution, celebrated its 10 Anniversary. You might wonder, why at all, I feel the need to blog about a school celebrating its 10th Anniversary. I do that, because, this school is proof that when one dreams a dream that stretches beyond one’s personal gains, fame or fortune to include value creation for future generations, then it is time to acknowledge when that dream turns into reality.

Mrs. Ambani, who is a qualified teacher herself, says she always dreamt of giving the city of Mumbai a quality school that would pursue holistic education and set standards across the sub continent. The last ten years have already seen DAIS give world toppers in various subjects as also their entry into Ivy League universities.

Today the school celebrated 10 years of striving for excellence, 10 years of raising forward-looking kids in an environment that consistently exposed them to the rich Indian culture and strived to instill Indian values. Many of us who were educated in Convents, know just how insular we were from Indian culture. During our annual days, there was a token song or dance that threw in bits about India, if at all. I cannot speak for others, but some of my peers and I grew up to believe that all things Indian were ‘uncool’. This obviously did not go down too well with my military father who was and is a proud Indian. His insistence that I be acquainted thoroughly with Indian history, that existed outside of textbooks, came in the form of a not-so-subtle recommendation called ‘Discovery of India’ when I was barely 12. That book, without any great pictures, and fine print became my worst enemy in the house as my father insisted I read it every weekend. I wanted to read Archie comics and Asterix, Nancy Drew and Little Women over the weekends and not labour over this dreary tome.

You can fool most people some of the time and some people most of the time but you cannot fool someone who has made soldiers out of ordinary men. And so it was, that one day, he called my bluff and put me on jankers. My punishment was that I would have to sit and hear him read one chapter of Discovery of India, every weekend, for an infinite number of weekends.

I pictured myself on my wedding day where my father would be reading out the last chapter of DOI to me just before I took my final wedding vows around the agni (fire). My weekends began to appear dismal and all the stories of Bahadur Shah Zafar and Aurangzeb seemed like an endless austerity to me. One day, I would look back at those days, as a heartwarming memory, of parent child bonding in the backdrop of ancient and modern history. But I did not know this then.

Today, as the school took us through the history of India via a spectacular show that met Broadway standards, I revisited those weekends spent with my erudite dad, soaking in history. Arjun, Krishna, Chandragupta Maurya, Chanakya, Ashoka, Aurangzeb, Shivaji, General Dwyer, Bhagat Singh, Mahatama Gandhi, Dr Ambedkar…all made an appearance to a brilliant narration and much visual extravaganza. The story was simple: the world took advantage of us and divided us, but leaders with a vision and a lot of selfless love for the nation staked th

Nita Ambani & AR Rahman

Nita Ambani & AR Rahman

eir lives to put us together as one unified India. Today our country is again under siege, but from the enemy within. Scams, rapes, murders, corruption….there is bad news all around. In a way, we have lost our independence yet again although not to the East India Company. We have lost our independence to a bunch of avaricious, self-serving Indians themselves. I must apologise for my rather lengthy digression for the point I was trying to make was about the significance of a school that is firmly rooted in Indian culture and values and a school that isn’t a mere ‘profitable project’ but a joyful place that inspires our children.

The piece de resistance of the evening was the unveiling of AR Rahman’s first solo single in over 15 years to exemplify how love can dissolve boundaries and bring people together. The singer-composer has joined hands with Nita Ambani, chairperson of the Reliance foundation, to promote his message of love. As the tunes of this hypnotic song Infinite Love, filled the arena in the dark of the night we were treated to images of hope and love of global brotherhood.

The finale of the evening saw 1200 children come on stage, a fine way of acknowledging each child’s contribution to DAIS.

As we drove back home, I wondered if I could slip in a gift-wrapped copy of Discovery of India under my Christmas tree for my nine-year-old

 

 

Hello, will u be my Frand – Some gems from Facebook to lighten up your day

18 Dec

I was clearing out a some old messages from Facebook last week when I stumbled upon these gems. Published here are just some of the messages I have received from strangers on Facebook. My reason for reproducing them isn’t to prove my desirability quotient to an assortment of incorrect-English speaking men, lurking around on the internet, but to bring a little cheer to the lives of my readers, when so much bad news about rape and murder abounds around us.
Without doubt, all women on FB get such requests, but only some of them are jobless enough to catalogue them and blog about them.
I have withheld the names of the message senders so as not to embarrass them or discourage them from sending similar messages to other girls. We all do need a good laugh sometimes.

The comments in italics are from the Message Senders and the one in plain font are my comments about them.

FB message sender: u look soo cute ,u got to be really sweet GIRL …U teddy * .:.
I never thought of myself as a teddy. I also don’t know if this gentleman of fine taste is implying if I resemble a teddy, in which case he needs to be shot.

FB Message sender: having damn awesome looking gal
Is this guy saying that my daughters are awesome looking? They are really small, you pedophile.

Fb Message sender: Aap mujse dosti karoge kya??
I’m not u r Frend each other but start new frendship with u….
Can I send u req pls tell.

I am happy to be his Frend if he promises to run a spell check before he sends out such requests. Messages with incorrect spellings are known to be a common cause for inducing epileptic fits in people who receive them.

FB Message sender: shunali aunty can u add me as a friend, thanks

Aunty? Who is an aunty? Your mother must be an aunty. He calls me aunty and wants to become my friend? I don’t even give alms to a beggar boy who calls me “Aunty”. You need to grow up hun and find someone your own age.

FB Message sender: Hi Dear, how are you today? I have interest in you. 
I wish we can start by been good friends.
My regards,

I am fine today. We can start by being friends and end up as? Very tempting, but no thanks. Oh, and a small detail you might have missed seeing on my profile page – I am married.

FB Message sender: Hi! Hows u? Having damn awesome luks dear! U luk stylish mam.
I am also having damn awesome temper to match my luks and get yourself an education before you send out messages in sms lingo.

FB Message sender: Hi u look so nice r u into modeling?
what do u do?
can i have ur bbm pin?
I am into modeling in a huge way. I am a model for a lot of ‘Before and After’ ads, I usually land myself the ‘Before’ part. If you drive down Linking road, Bandra, you will find my BBM pin written with a neon sign right in front of the Khar telephone exchange. So hurry up and add me to your Blackberry messenger, asap.

FB Message sender: Hi,
I was surfing my friend’ profile and saw you there; want to add you as friend but seems there is some technical issue. Could you send me friend request.

Sure I will, in a bit, as soon as I am finished doing my head stand. Can’t wait actually.

FB Message sender: I lead a very busy life and i am choosy when it comes to making friends and interacting with people..If i make friends, i make them for life and i do anything for them..
You have the most beautiful eyes and the most seductively killing smile i have ever seen adorned by any lady!! 
Are you from/in Bombay?
I feel BB an be a better place to chat initially 
Give me your pin sweets!!

Most flattered that you want to be my friend in spite of being so busy and choosy about your friendships. Where have you been all my life? Since you mention you would do anything for your friends, have you considered contractual killing yet? If the answer is yes, then I am happy to be your friend and share a list of names, of people who have ticked me off recently. I am confident, you will oblige. Even I feel BB is a better place to chat INITIALLY, sweetie. Regarding my BB pin, kindly head to Linking Road, Bandra. It is written on a hoarding, in a neon sign opposite Khar telephone exchange building. You cannot miss it.

FB message sender: hey..hw u doin…well dnt knw frm whre v’l i start…bt ya wish2 knw & chat wid u smeday wid ur prior permission..i knw vr strangers..bt cn chnge ur perception dat d guy u met’s cute & trustworthy…& m sure..u cn judge ppl well..even william shakespere says:when u find angel whoz sweet & having a cute tedhi nose..just jump on her & feel d depth & fragnance of frndship..so lets c..whts on ma destiny…a ray of hope still waiting.

I get that tingling feeling in my nerves when I read messages from people who quote Shakespeare. This time however, it is the nerves of my hand that are tingling the most. A ray of hope is waiting for that one day ma hand will encounter ur cheek with great momentum.

FB Message sender: hi my self XYZ (name witheld) i from ludhiana married and doing business. can we talk about business if u ndont mind i wait ur reply plz

And what is the nature of business you wish to engage in when you send FB requests to unemployed housewives on FB?

A Downton Abbey of my own

8 Dec

Just as I was beginning to miss Downton Abbey having bewailed the end of Season 3, unbeknownst to me, a love affair involving my own cook was reaching its predictable conclusion in the precincts of my building. For the uninitiated, Downton Abbey is the saga of an earl, his family and their domestics. Little did I know that I had my own little version of Downton Abbey playing out in my house, without the grandiose backdrop of Downton, of course.

It was brought to my notice that my cook had fallen hopelessly in love with a maid from my aunt’s house on the ground floor of my building. And while his heart had long departed from his body and found permanent residency behind the maiden’s ribcage, the hands of this love-sick man were left behind in my kitchen to toss-up meals that even the discerning family dog was walking away from.

I noticed that he was walking the geriatric dog a lot more frequently than before and was told by the fellow that a daily diet of garden fresh grass was the antidote for his flatulence problem (the dog’s not his). In my naiveté I believed that he had fallen in love with the dog and put up with the war he had waged on our taste buds on account of his concern for the four-legged creature. The frequent dog walks, were for the cook’s benefit and not the dog’s, I was to find out later.

“He is a good person, and loves our Olly,” I defended him to the husband every time he asked me to let the fellow go. “Have you hired him for cooking or for his general congeniality?” the husband would ask. But I am terrible at sacking people, especially if they are inherently good-natured. To my mind, someone’s goodness naturally makes up for any lack of real talent in them and so it is, that we went on consuming his meals that tasted like spiced thermacol on good days and like herbed papier-mache on bad days.

The only visible benefit of keeping him around was that his presence in the kitchen was aiding my weight loss. Having borne the brunt of his turbulent love life, my taste buds were in a state of stupor, thereby quenching any desire in me to eat.

But it came to pass, that the Madre of his love, found out and threatened him with dire consequences that involved breaking of bones among other things. The girl put up a fight and told her mother that she would die for this young man. She had no idea that after she ate food cooked by her object de amor, she would long for death, at any rate.

The fellow, decided to confess to me before this complicated situation was brought to my notice by my aunt. I cannot say I was entirely displeased about it. If anything, I was happy for the man and hoped marriage would make an honest cook out of him. I advised him to elope with her and marry her. He was baffled at my suggestion, since he was expecting to be yelled at and fired by me. But I am nothing if not a bleeding heart and surprised him with my benevolence in this matter.

If he eloped with her and went away for good, I would be rid of a good man but a bad cook, I thought. If she decided not to elope with him, he said he will be unable to continue in the same precincts. “Everything here will remind me of her madame, I will not be able to forget her,” he told me forlornly. In any event, I stood to gain, for I hadn’t the heart to sack him.

I feel sorry for the man as I have just received news that the girl has told him in no uncertain terms to forget her.

Even as the prospects of me being served good food by a brand new cook get better,I feel terrible for the fellow, for a broken heart, is a broken heart, regardless of whom it belongs to.

When I watched Downton Abbey, I could not understand why the Earl and his family were always so concerned about the lives and loves of their domestics. But today I know better.

We are all humans, just born in different stations of life, but we all suffer the same.

 

 

 

An evening with The Mentalist (with pictures)

2 Dec
With Lior Suchard, The Mentalist & I

With Lior Suchard, The Mentalist & I

 

Mind over matter:Bending the glass

Mind over matter:Bending the glass

I witnessed the power of the human mind earlier this week at a performance by Lior Suchard, the well-known Mentalist from Israel. He likes to call it supernatural entertainment and as he reads people’s minds, guesses the names of their first loves and their favourite holiday destination, he constantly reminds you that it is not magic.

The most impressive act was when he invited a couple on stage and asked only the woman to shut her eyes. Suchard then pinched and tickled the man’s cheek, nose, waist etc and all the while he did this, the woman felt she was being tickled and pinched and appeared shocked when she was told later that Suchard hadn’t even touched her. All this while, my friend Bonita and I were sitting in the front row, hoping to be invited on stage to have our minds read. The great Mentalist invited people after people, but our turn never came. Maybe he had not read our minds. I told Bonita it was because he had probably guessed that we had strong minds and he did not want to make a fool of himself by calling us on stage and then failing to tell us what we were thinking.

Lior called many guests on stage and within seconds told them whatever it was he had asked them to think about.  By the end of his scintillating performance, some of the skeptics among us concurred that there was indeed something about this man.

He says he discovered this gift accidentally at the age of six when he moved a spoon by just gazing at it. Life is not fair. I should have liked to be gifted thus, I am inherently lazy and could do well with moving things by merely looking at them.

Suchard met my sister Kaveri at another gathering last month and flipped her glasses over without touching them. He also asked her to remove a hundred Rupees note and put it aside in her bag. He then made her do a mathematical calculation on a calculator, the result of which tallied to the last digit with the serial number on her note. He also asked Kaveri to guess a friend’s name who was not present in the room at that time. As he began to slowly spell her friend’s name out, Kaveri tried to confuse him by changing the name in her head and Suchard stopped mid-sentence, scolding her for changing the name in order to trick him.

At the performance that I attended, Lior was asked by one of the guests  if he had ever used his skills at a casino. “I do, I do. Two things happen when I play at a casino. Either I win or the casino loses,” was his answer. If I owned a casino, I wouldn’t allow this man within 50 miles from my joint.

Though mind reading sounds like a huge gift, I am sure it has its disadvantages. I would like to know how Suchard fares in his relationships. I wouldn’t want to date, marry or work for anyone who can read my mind when they choose to. However, mind reading can be a fantastic tool during, especially during negotiations and job interviews.

When Lior ran out of enthusiastic people to call on stage, his eyes finally fell on Bonita. He did not read her mind but mirrored her body language instead. The importance of mirroring another person’s body language, he said, was to form a deeper connection with them and to help him read their mind. “While mirroring, subtlety is key,” he emphasised. I tried doing this at home the following day, in order to read the husband’s mind, but I suppose I wasn’t very subtle because he looked amused and asked me why I was being childish and aping him. So much for forming a deeper connect!

Going back to Suchard, at one point, I felt he was planting thoughts into people’s heads and then reading them out aloud. I asked him later, what he thought of the movie Inception. Lior said the director was constantly in touch with him while he was making the film.

Before he wound up the show, he took pity on me and finally invited me on stage, not to read my mind, sadly, but to teach me ‘the look’. ‘The look’ is a technique wherein you look into someone’s eyes in a certain way to make them surrender to you. It is an imposing look to establish superiority or dominance over an opponent, an adversary (or a spouse), as the case might be. I am not about to share that technique with you here for various reasons, one of them being that the husband follows and reads my blogs regularly.

An evening with The Mentalist

2 Dec

I witnessed the power of the human mind earlier this week at a performance by Lior Suchard, the well-known Mentalist from Israel. He likes to call it supernatural entertainment and as he reads people’s minds, guesses the names of their first loves and their favourite holiday destination, he constantly reminds you that it is not magic.

The most impressive act was when he invited a couple on stage and asked only the woman to shut her eyes. Suchard then pinched and tickled the man’s cheek, nose, waist etc and all the while he did this, the woman felt she was being tickled and pinched and appeared shocked when she was told later that Suchard hadn’t even touched her. All this while, my friend Bonita and I were sitting in the front row, hoping to be invited on stage to have our minds read. The great Mentalist invited people after people, but our turn never came. Maybe he had not read our minds. I told Bonita it was because he had probably guessed that we had strong minds and he did not want to make a fool of himself by calling us on stage and then failing to tell us what we were thinking.

Lior called many guests on stage and within seconds told them whatever it was he had asked them to think about.  By the end of his scintillating performance, some of the skeptics among us concurred that there was indeed something about this man.

He says he discovered this gift accidentally at the age of six when he moved a spoon by just gazing at it. Life is not fair. I should have liked to be gifted thus, I am inherently lazy and could do well with moving things by merely looking at them.

Suchard met my sister Kaveri at another gathering last month and flipped her glasses over without touching them. He also asked her to remove a hundred Rupees note and put it aside in her bag. He then made her do a mathematical calculation on a calculator, the result of which tallied to the last digit with the serial number on her note. He also asked Kaveri to guess a friend’s name who was not present in the room at that time. As he began to slowly spell her friend’s name out, Kaveri tried to confuse him by changing the name in her head and Suchard stopped mid-sentence, scolding her for changing the name in order to trick him.

At the performance that I attended, Lior was asked by one of the guests  if he had ever used his skills at a casino. “I do, I do. Two things happen when I play at a casino. Either I win or the casino loses,” was his answer. If I owned a casino, I wouldn’t allow this man within 50 miles from my joint.

Though mind reading sounds like a huge gift, I am sure it has its disadvantages. I would like to know how Suchard fares in his relationships. I wouldn’t want to date, marry or work for anyone who can read my mind when they choose to. However, mind reading can be a fantastic tool during, especially during negotiations and job interviews.

When Lior ran out of enthusiastic people to call on stage, his eyes finally fell on Bonita. He did not read her mind but mirrored her body language instead. The importance of mirroring another person’s body language, he said, was to form a deeper connection with them and to help him read their mind. “While mirroring, subtlety is key,” he emphasised. I tried doing this at home the following day, in order to read the husband’s mind, but I suppose I wasn’t very subtle because he looked amused and asked me why I was being childish and aping him. So much for forming a deeper connect!

Going back to Suchard, at one point, I felt he was planting thoughts into people’s heads and then reading them out aloud. I asked him later, what he thought of the movie Inception. Lior said the director was constantly in touch with him while he was making the film.

Before he wound up the show, he took pity on me and finally invited me on stage, not to read my mind, sadly, but to teach me ‘the look’. ‘The look’ is a technique wherein you look into someone’s eyes in a certain way to make them surrender to you. It is an imposing look to establish superiority or dominance over an opponent, an adversary (or a spouse), as the case might be. I am not about to share that technique with you here for various reasons, one of them being that the husband follows and reads my blogs regularly.

 

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