Happy…

I woke up at 4 am today with a jumble of thoughts in my head. Couldn’t go to sleep despite of focusing on breathing and trying to clear my head.

So woke up and sat in the balcony smoking.

And there was a chant going at the back of my mind. I want to be happy. I am happy. I want to be happy. I am happy.

More than anything else in the world, this morning I truly feel like jumping up the next step in my life. No rational and mature understanding this. Just plain simple realisation that I am over self-pity, sadness and worries.

And although I hope it sustains for long-term and doesn’t fizzle out within a few days that I am prone to, I don’t remember myself so upbeat and gung-ho in a long long time.

So hurrah!!

Salmania..

I outright want to say that this is a highly irrational and contradictory post dedicated to the irrational guilty pleasure of loving Salman Khan.

I watched KICK last week and oh boy, does Bhai look boiling hot in the goatee and tight spandex.

I absolutely hate goatees. And gelled hair. And buffy muscles. And tight t-shirts. and crotch-hugging jeans. But on Salman it all looks like.. mmmmm…magic.

As expected, he sleepwalks through yet another ridiculous film, struts around like a lost bull and every now and then, oozes the easygoing sweet vulnerable charm which is his trademark.

My ongoing lusty affair with Salman Khan is filled with guilt and contradictions. But I have been thinking about it this week and I think there are a few reasons why he remains the most consistent beefcake in my life, despite of being the ultimate feminist nightmare.

1. Looks. I am extremely partial to men who continue to look this good. And there are very very few THIS good.
2. The disarming boyish charm and vulnerability, which makes me look beyond the macho chest thumping and ridiculous muscles and sexism in virtually all his movies.
3. The eyes. Simply the best eyes ever to grace Hindi cinema and ones who manage to convey several emotions at once. Yes, I do believe he is a fine actor when he chooses to, and every film of his has these priceless moments of baring the soul, which have never ever been recognised. There I said it.
4. Andaz Apna Apna- my all time favourite Hindi film.
5. Nostalgia.

I suspect the last one is the biggest reason. Nostalgia.

Salman Khan was the reigning star of my pre-pubescent hormones. I still remember watching Maine Pyar Kiya and the sultry vision of Salman in white ganjee playing saxophone and riding his bi-cycle down the stairs.

I had never seen something like this. Ever. How could I not fall for this strange-sweet-cute-sexy-gorgeous- clumsy boy?

And don’t forget. The small-town, non-glam girls like me and my friends were reassured, that if the doe-eyed sexpot like Salman could fall for someone ‘simply Suman’ and not the suave big city counterparts- then we had hope. Provided that we were sweet and innocent, which we believed we were. Since there was no other option really!!

As I grew into puberty and realised that being a Bollywood version of sweet and innocent woman meant sacrificing virtually every enjoyable thing- I sacrificed my ultimate dreamboat instead. I grew out of imagining Salman as the star of all my romantic fantasies!!

But, and it is a very important but- there was no harm in lusting after him, I was smart enough to realise. The perfect body. The melting eyes. The charm. The weird sense of humour. The floppy hair. The looks. The way clothes hug his body- as if they were invented for him. And the special way in which he bared it all with a child like simplicity.

Basically it has always been LUST.

But then over the years, there was also the surprising lovability and sincerity in performance which is lacking in virtually every major actor.

And above all- The absolutely stunning screen presence. Something inexplicable, only feel-able and totally adorable.

Over a period of time everything which I hated in a person came to be associated with him. Male Chauvinist- check. Sexist- check. Animal rights destroyer- check. Stalker- check. Criminal- check.

But human beings are filled with contradictions. Aren’t they? Despite of the overtly macho and sexist and conservative and criminal and outright dumb nature of most his films and his image- maybe it was my memories of sexual awakening, which still drew me in as a consistent fan.

I decided, perhaps hypocritically so, that enjoying a hunky man can be done by dissociating from his troubling image. I would always ignore the movies and news, and instead focused on select screen presence. Which was easy because the films he acted in were so obviously non-story-oriented.

I prefer watching selected clips. And songs. I have some silly favourites which make me feel absolutely charmed and refreshed.

And for a humongously judgemental person like me, it is a very very big thing!!

I seriously think that there has been something in him, which despite of his machoness, transcends the celluloid, and appeals to your very basic nature as a human being. You hope for him and chuckle when he bashes your hopes film after film. Most of the things he does on-off screen are highly offensive and downright criminal. But you want to forgive him. And you forgive him some more. And you hope that maybe he will see the right way and improve.

My friends call this ‘double-standards combined with delusion’ and I agree. Maybe I am a dupe of the magic of image and am willingly ignoring the very important reality. Maybe I am still as starstruck as I was as a 10 year old girl watching my first on-screen crush. Maybe I am a hypocrite to turn a blind eye to the obvious transgressions of this guy.

I know it and I have rationally tried to totally banish him as a non-fan. But then he comes wearing spandex and smiling that smile and blushing that blush and opening those doe eyes and phoooosshhh… all my resolutions to be politically correct with my fandom disappear and I am tempted to ogle at him some more.

And that is not all. You will laugh at this, but I hope he cleans his act so that I can be a fan without this guilt.

I wish he confesses to his crimes and does the rightful time in jail and comes out cleansed of his sins. Like a 1970s BW Blockbuster. I know.

I wish he lets go of his sexism- on and off screen .

I wish he chooses at least a few decent movies to prove that he indeed can act. ( And he can).

I wish he still retains his charm and sex appeal, but temper it with less drama in life.

There. I said it.

Now if that doesn’t sound like a true deluded Bhaitard, I don’t know what does!!

Work – Family Balance

If you are a woman, it doesn’t matter what you do for a living. You could be a commissioner of police or a CEO of a Billion Dollar corporate a la Indra Nooyi. There is only one question the humanity has for you.

How do you manage your family with high pressure job?

Needless to say, a man in power is never asked the same question, because it is assumed, and correctly so, that there would be a supportive woman who would take care of his family. Sorry, ‘her’ family. Because while the family might carry a man’s name, it is the responsibility of a woman to look after it and take a step back when it comes to her career/ individual growth.

What is surprising is that many people would like to believe that in todays ‘post-feminist’ world, (a.k.a where equality is totally achieved and we don’t need feminism ya all), it is a ‘choice’ that women make.

Right.

It is hardly a choice when opted for by overwhelming majority of one gender. It is hardly a choice when that same gender has been conditioned for centuries to focus on her role as a mother/ wife/ nurturer. And when the same conditioning continues even today in mainstream cultural dialogue.

Choice requires multiple options. Economic, structural, social, cultural, medical.. the list goes on. And in our society, majority of women just don’t have them.

Even women who have some structural advantages, find it difficult to act on them due to cultural pressure to be the primary nurturer and Gajar Ka Halwa maker of the family.

If you state this fairly obvious fact, you would be bombarded with angry responses, even from women. About how ‘it is her choice’ to stay home and look after her kids. Or that they happen to ‘ like’ to be there when their kids grow. Or that they are against the crass materialism and inhuman work-pressure. Or that their husbands just happen to earn more than they do and it makes sense for them to quit the job rather than their husbands. And how dare you challenge their legitimate ‘choice’?

Majority of these responses refuse to take into account the overwhelming cultural conditioning, economic factors and inherent sexism in our notions of parenting.

While feminism is about wide range of choices for women, no individual choice can exist in vacuum.

The decision to stay at home with kids or reject the pressure to be ‘powerful’ would be actually be a true choice when a significant number of men also ‘have’ to take that option, thus rendering it gender-neutral. It would be a true choice when women and men have similar options and similar parenting roles. It would be a true choice when there are no ‘mommy-tracks’ or gender wage gap. It would be a true choice when women choosing not to have kids are not looked down upon as aliens. It would be a true choice when rather than phony lip-service, mothers are actually compensated for the tremendous work they do by birthing the child.

Until then, whether we like to admit it or not, it is hardly a ‘choice’ women make in a ‘blissful post-patriachal vacuum.’

So this comes as a fresh breath when a powerful man decides to make the ‘choice’ to stay home to spend more quality time with his kids and blogs about the unfair expectation of women to worry about ‘family-work’ balance, while men never get asked about the same. Powerful men making this choice and recognising that this choice doesn’t exist in ideological vacuum, gives it legitimacy in our world full of dated notions of masculine identity and power.

It also reemphasises that kids have ‘parents’ and not just ‘mothers’.

It acknowledges that fathers also care about their kids and can sacrifice their careers for their kids.

Millions of women have to take this option every day. We definitely need more dads making this choice and being aware of the gendering of this concept. It would not only ease the pressure on women but also bring a healthier and balanced notions of parenting in our society.

Definitely not Zen..

All my Zen-ness has disappeared today.

Same old enemies. Perfectionism. Worrying about worst possible scenarios. Stressing about things rather than getting to do them.

In general a weighty feeling of thorough dissatisfaction coursing through my body. Heaviness in heart. Irritability. Breaths held in and exhaled loudly. A desire to just go and smash something.

Anyway. Maybe it is PMS- if it is, great. Or maybe it is delayed homesickness. Or maybe it is the old habit of stressing for perfect finish to the project, rearing its ugly head. Maybe it is the thorough unprofessionalism rampant here.

Whatever it is, it has to go by tomorrow morning. Because it is just not worth it. And I don’t want to spend even 2 days sucked into same old shitty anxiety.

Boss….

Oh I am sure you have already seen and ranted on this ad. It is actually so bad ( one who got what product is being advertised will get a gift of Manchurian Masala), that it is surprising for it to have hit so many nerves.

Perhaps its pseudo-realstic- pretentious progressivism-gone-horribly- wrong is the reason for the mass rants against it. And perhaps the fact that we are smarter in spotting sexism these days.

This is why I am going to link it and proceed to rant about it myself:):)

After years of ‘woman is the CEO/boss of the house’ useless-pat-on-the back trope, we get a ridiculously sexist ad that shows a female boss telling her subordinate-at-workplace husband to stay back to do extra work at office, and then proceeding to go home and cook him a delicious meal and seductively asking him to come back to enjoy the said food.

Lest you think this lady is somewhat cuckoo in her head- because didn’t she ask him to stay back herself? Short term memory a. la. Aamir Khan in Ghajini? Or someone with a split personality like Aparichit? ( Hey, these popular Indian movies are totally accurate in depiction of any mental disorder, OK? Don’t be so snooty).

Noo… you realise she is a good Indian wife, who makes it up to her subordinate-at -work husband by cooking for him. After all, aren’t we all Indian women supposed to do that? Get good grades, earn well, look pretty in short hair and go on to cook perfect meals for our husbands?

Note ladies, that she softly says ‘sorry guys, you will have to just do it’ when her team complains about the timelines. Those of you whose boss said sorry to you, before asking you to stay back after-hours, please stop reading the post now.

OK, now for the rest of the 99% of the mortals who have continued reading this post- note that she looks slightly abashed- especially when she sees the disappointment on her team’s face and even asks her teammate ‘how is it going’, with a kind and considerate tone( we don’t know he is her husband yet.) Because if you want people to like a woman, especially a woman in power, you have to show her ‘soft’ side,lest people call her a bitch.

She looks tranquil in the car. Soft. Pondering. Soft. Sensitive. Soft.

And then she launches into WIFE MODE by asking her husband ‘Rohit’ ( the 21st century default Indian male name that replaced the erstwhile ‘Rahul’ of the 1990s) about what would he like to eat tonight. Because the moment a woman gets a free moment after a gruelling day at work, she likes to think about her husband’s dinner. It is totally natural. All of you, who after a long workday DON’T sprawl on sofa watching your favourite TV show over food cooked by someone else, or at least fantasize about it, please stop reading this post now.

OK, I see 99% of my readers are still reading.

Voila, she twists her hair in a pony at home, ponders about the contents of the fridge philosophically and rustles up a decidedly Udupi looking Chinese meal.

Then Rohit – the same team mate forced to stay back for work gets a call from ‘Wife.’ He sardonically replies ‘ Aaj late hoga. Boss ne bahut jam diya hai.’ ( Biiiiitch!!!)

Wife, who turns out to the said boss( Creative minds!! fantastic idea!!! whatta genius conceptualisation), sends him the video of the meal she lovingly prepared for him.

NOW, NOW, NOW WE GET THE PRODUCT which paid for this ad.

Those who DIDN’T think that the ad was for electrical kitchen appliance or a new brand of Indo-Chinese sauce, please stop reading this post.

OK, now for the rest of the 99% mortals still reading this post. The wife whispers seductively on the phone, ‘Boss ko bolo wife ne ghar bulaya hai’.

Then, the airtel tune starts and you realise that this piece of shit was actually an ad for 3 G connection. You sit quietly contemplating thousands of years of human evolution and how you always hated that Airtel tune and how right you were to pick up Vodafone. (Because how can this brain-dead ‘modern couple’ even compete with a cute pug?)

For all of you who DIDN’T think this woman is quite scary with her short-term memory loss and split personality and Udupi meal, a round of applause. Maybe you haven’t been watching instructive movies like Ghajini and Aparichit.

And a moral of the story for the remaining 99% of mere mortals. Here goes. Quite unintentionally , the ad makers have hit on the exact disorder that our society suffers from. That women are expected to have two distinct personalities: Modern professional woman outside and traditional wife/ mother/ daughter at home. They need to have a short term memory. Wipe out the BOSS identity as soon as you leave office and slip into WIFE identity.

You can be a boss with a corner office, have short hair, wear Sonia Gandhiesque sarees, ride in a chauffeur driven car, earn more money than your husband. But you have to slip into the ideal Indian wife mode as soon as you are in private sphere.

Otherwise, the balance of power just might tilt and patriarchy will shake. SCARY THOUGHT!!!

The ad stupidly celebrates the schizophrenia of our patriarchal society and I won’t even link the garden variety dumb excuses of ‘ WOMEN LIKE TO COOK FOR THEIR HUSBANDS SO WHAT IS WRONG IN SHOWING THE REALITY WHAAAAAA WHAAAA’ thrown by the ad makers and supporters of this ad alike.

But the good news is, that the ad has ruffled many feathers. And people are debating the ad, which has opened up a dialogue about the double shift many Indian women are ‘forced to do’ ( unlike ‘choose to do’ according to defenders of this ad). This is good news that ads like these don’t get a free pass for being covertly sexist. A debate on this ad is especially welcome because,

Because it pretends to be realistic unlike hundreds of ads that show sparkling women talking about detergent or their kids schoolbag as if it was some life-or-death issue.

Because it pretends to be progressive by showing a lady boss and goes on to justify the prevalent sexism in the society by perpetuating the worst and most dangerous stereotypes about women.

Because showing short-haired-lady-boss doesn’t make you a progressive.

Because it refuses to show a powerful woman who doesn’t look guilty in front of her subordinates for doing her job.

Because it reflects the pseudo-equal modern Indian marriage that women are calling out for what it is- a pseudo equal relationship built on age old stereotypes.

Because it champions the ultimate status of modern Indian man as ‘ boss in marriage’ and brushes his insecurities about the rising power of women.

And ALSO because it comes across as advertising CHINGS UDUPI SCHEZWAN CHAUPATI SAUCE and not a 3G CONNECTION.

There.

Creche in the office

Please help this excellent initiative by signing the petition by going to the following link.

http://www.greenpeacex.in/petitions/make-creches-at-workplaces-a-rule-not-an-exception?bucket=email3&source=facebook-share-button&time=1406290078

Most of the women in our society suffer serious professional downturn post childbirth. Many have to ‘choose’ between working outside home and caring for their children at home. It is hardly a choice when there is no other valid and sustainable option.

When women are put on ‘mommy- track’, we are effectively discriminating against women in general.

While my first question to humanity in general would be ‘why is it almost always a woman’s problem?’ , I am not going to ask it here. Because no matter what I believe about father’s and society’s responsibility towards childcare- I am realistic enough to know it is a tough battle. Which needs to be fought simultaneously.

As quite a senior employee in corporate sector, I have come across several examples of bright and productive women who would have continued and successfully so, had they got support from home and workplace. Many end up quitting. Many end up accepting projects and jobs that are never going to give them robust professional growth.

And the saddest part is that many women choose careers that are not demanding so that they don’t get into this conflict in the first place. Which means our girls are effectively being told to excel academically but choose careers with one eye on the baby.

Having childcare support at office is one step towards giving women more options. If we can make it happen at policy level, it is telling our girls that they don’t have to sacrifice their professional life for a baby. I know it won’t be so hunky dory, but it is definitely a step towards equality.

Please sign the petition.

Change: 7

I would be lying if everything about THE BIG CHANGE in my life was negative.

Yes, I miss husband and dog like anything every morning and evening and night. And I miss the life there. The comfort and warmth. Company of few good people. Language, food, general chitchat. Parents and brother. Sense of belonging which one hardly gets in a foreign place. At least I don’t and this was the precise reason why I came back from US more than a decade ago.

But slowly and steadily, in my ‘ BE optimistic and positive’ mood, I have realised a few things that are actually nice about this change.

1. 5 mins walk and I am in office. This is really the first time in my life that I have no commute to speak of and the relief!! After years of the draining minute- by- minute and hour- by- hour traffic horror on Mumbai streets, this is a seriously positive thing.

2. Money, the main reason behind the change. I am a very frugal person and don’t need much money to live happily. But I also need the stability in my life which money brings. So that I can go on living my life frugally!! Bit like Shylock actually!!

3. No Bombay style pressure. The work is tough, but it is decidedly slow-paced than Bombay. People are not as aggressive or out to kill each other either. Plus there is a refreshing change from ‘work is worship’ Bombay attitude. Here people are quite laid back and though the boss is super aggro, he knows that he can’t change the entire work culture like magic.

4. Hostelhood. Because in our relationship I have always been an unruly teenager , while the husband is the nagging mother. I am enjoying an almost hostel- life here. Only way more comfy than any hostel I have lived in. No responsibilities. Having a domestic god for a husband demands some attention to daily chores, out of shame if not anything. Here, I have my own, guilt free routine. I am avoiding Gruhasthashram and happily living on bread-cheese- veggies- milk routine. My culinary adventure today was spreading newly-bought jam on my store-bought sesame bread!! I almost feel like a CIA Agent in an American TV show- eating sandwiches and drinking coffee out of cardboard cups sitting in front of a laptop.

5. Newness: I was actually dreading having to work in Bombay again, because, well, same everything. And wasn’t it the very sameness which bored me to death and almost forced me break out in hives? This city is pretty much like Bombay in many respects, but is still a totally different place. The new language and new faces and new food means there is at least some newness to the whole thing. It has also jolted me out of many comfort zones which is a good thing.

6. Sleep: And while it breaks my heart to admit it, I am sleeping better here. No snores and the 3- am doggie cuddles which actually never gave an insomniac like me an opportunity to sleep deeply. Here I sleep like a log sans my 2 sleep-killing boys besides me.

7. Test and pass: The reason I took a break was to kill boredom and it slowly gave me perspective on working and living which is being tested every day here. I am not a control freak any more. Or worry about future of the project. Or take things personally. ( OK, I do a little, but it is decidedly low compared to earlier times.) Overall, I have realised I am a much calmer person at work.

8. Travel: I don’t feel like exploring the city as much I generally do when in Europe or US. Because honestly I find this city quite boring with its emphasis on shopping malls and glittery glass everywhere. And I am in no mood to ‘explore the inner culture’ either because it has not interested me yet- and in general I am a super curious culture- vulture. But, I am going to travel outside the city as soon as I get a chance. I especially want to go to national parks and diving places. Maybe even learn diving seriously. Let us see.

OK, I wanted to make this a round figure – but so far I can figure out 8 things. Good enough.