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.

What is in the name?

I have always wondered why women who don’t take their husband’s last name after marriage, end up giving it to their kids?

The woman is not a ‘property’ of her husband anymore ( progress!! 21st century!!) and thus is not bound by law to take his name.

Many would still take their husband’s name. For the sake of convenience as well as social customs.

Several, if not many women don’t choose their husband’s name these days. But 99% of those I know, will give the husband’s name to their child.

I don’t mean to sound judgemental, but I am genuinely intrigued again by this choice.

Now even Supreme Court is considering option of using the mother’s name in official documents.

Women invest far more in their children than men do. Be it the actual physical part: periods, pregnancy, birth, care of babies and adolescents. Or socio-cultural expectations and losses due to motherhood.

But when it comes to naming their kids- they invariably opt for the father’s name.

Why? Is it just a convention? Social pressure? Identity crisis? Proof of ownership? Ease of procedures?

This article sums up all my thoughts nicely.

Supreme Court asks why are mothers ignored?

Thank you Supreme Court!! And thank you Madhav Kant Mishra for stating the obvious:

Mothers hardly match the authority a father commands in official documents necessary to prove a person’s identity. While the father’s name prominently figures in government documents, the mother is usually given the go-by.

And you know what? This bias ties back to my favourite rant. Why do kids, even in today’s day and age always take their father’s last name? Especially, when their mother hasn’t taken her husband’s last name after marriage? 99.99% cases of women I know who haven’t changed their last names after marriage, have given their husband’s last name to kids. Why? why? why? They are usually the ones who take most of the burden of childcare, their lives- physical as well as social- change more dramatically than those of their husbands.

Then why do husbands get to be umbrella identity markers? And please don’t tell me about exceptional cases like Sanjay Leela Bhansali, we are talking of the norm here. Also none of the ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter because last names are just formality/ relics of bygone era’. When majority of children carry their father’s name and not mother’s – it is clearly institutionalised sexism.

Motherhood is all about sacrifice a la Gajar ka halwa!! However, when it comes to real power- mothers can go take a hike. Because from religious rituals to government documents to last names for kids to Bollywood movies to corporate policies, it is the fathers who rule the roost. After all, the word Patriarchy is derived from the all mighty ‘father’.

The petition, filed by journalist Madhav Kant Mishra from Allahabad, says ignoring the parenthood of the mother in government documents is in gross violation of the Fundamental Right to Equality under Article 14 of the Constitution. It sought an ordinance making the mother’s name compulsory in documents.

Why are we asked to name FATHER OR HUSBAND in every frikkin document: from passport to nursery leaving certificates to bank accounts to medical tests to pan card to voter’s card?

Because father ( or husband) is used as a marker of identity.

‘ Whose daughter/ son? ‘
‘This man’s.’

Sort of like when in ancient times a person would be first a part of the community/ caste/ village/ family and then an individual.

It would have seemed quaint has it not been 21st century. And had mother was also used as a marker of a person’s identity.

But it is done rarely. It is not ironical but outright fucked up that while a woman’s femininity is validated the most when she is a mother, her identity as a mother is not good enough to be acknowledged as a marker for her own kid.

She is not good enough to preside over any traditional ceremony, the kids almost always take father’s last name, and she isn’t considered parent enough to be mentioned in any official document concerning her child.

So hope that social, legal, official and cultural norms change to acknowledge mothers’ rights in meaningful manner rather than melodramatic lip service.

The Monkey on the Gravy Train…

So you always know that people, well, most of them, are ‘KURSI KO SALAM’ types. They will be nice to you as long as they think you ‘are’ useful to them or ‘will’ be useful to them.

As soon as you drift away from the conventions of silly power play- they just delete you from their self-important lives. And hope that you’ll struggle like crazy to come back on track and hope that you can’t no matter what, and prove them right that disembarking the gravy train is leaving it ‘forever’.
They hope that you will call them ten times in sheer desperation, and they will not take the call and pretend to be in the meeting.
And they will laugh at you over drinks and claim how you were never right in the head anyway and hope that you are able to get some low-end opportunity which will bring you to their thick corner office door once in a while to get humiliated.

After all, you have seen them doing it a billion times to the best of the people and have seen these best people getting demoralised till they doubt their own capabilities.

They hope that you be the example they can quote till they are 80 years old. Example of how the worldly wisdom they live by is the ONLY way to live happily.

You have always known that since these people are almost always the most boring, and mediocre of the lot anyway, you are glad to be rid of them. After all, in today’s highly networked world, being away from ‘everything’ essentially means being away from people in that particular ‘thing.’

Some people surprise you because you naively thought they were your real friends. But the fact that you don’t miss them eventually, and they make you feel like a lost cause, makes you realise that they were just your bunkmates and all they ever wanted was to crib pointlessly as they licked as much gravy as they could.

You jump off the Gravy train a la Harrison Ford and relish the walk. And see the train from afar and see that it is, after all, just 2 tracks and a stupid train. And that it is just going round and round and round. And you realise that you are not missing the pace and you can see that the train is just there to take you forward and that it is not your life but just a stupid locomotive.

And you realise your own power firsthand as you walk, you drift, you bend down to pick up an interesting pebble, you sleep under starry sky, you make love to your dear ones, you drink crystal clear water, you play , you jump, you dive, you fly.

You look in the clear waters and you see your grinning expression and you realise- voila!!! You are a monkey. Not a human. You look around and notice, for the first time, that your loved ones are monkeys as well. The artists you admired- ditto. The people you adored- ditto.

You are a pack of monkeys. Why and how did you ever think you were a ugly,naked, no-fur, no tail human being? Were you suffering from some sort of identity crisis that made you believe you were a totally different species altogether?

And all the negativity, all the boredom, all the expectations, all the disappointments shed from your body as you run in fresh air with your pack, glad to be alive. Shivering happily to have discovered that you are a monkey- free from the burdens of so-called evolution to the hoity toity humanity.

A monkey life. A monkey joy. You are a monkey who likes to jump and clap and eat the juiciest of fruits with the juice running down your wrist just for the fun of it.

You just enjoy being on your feet again and feeling the ground beneath. You sit tight with your loved ones and take deep breaths of pure, fresh, natural air.

You know you might need to ride the train again for a while,and spent some time with the humans- but now you know it is just a stupid locomotive and are cool about it.

And then one day you decide you are ready get back on tracks for a few more years. Maybe, hopefully, so that you can say goodbye to the train forever at the end of the said few years. And gather all the fruits and come back to the tree.

You strut back on the track like a drunken monkey Jackie Chan style, and jump on it fairly easily because you are not ashamed of falling down. You know if you fall, you will just brush the sand off your palms, laugh at yourself and jump again. You are now a monkey- relishing the jumping and not bothering about where you land.

And you land your springy feet on the train and swing on the bars and pick up the banana from your back pocket and sit on the roof munching on it, oh you do.

And then all those humans who wanted you to be the example of deviant failure notice you again. ‘Hey- look at her. How is she back on the train? She didn’t call us. We didn’t get to humiliate her. We didn’t even get that banana.’

When they see you back on track, back on the train, munching your banana- their ugly noses quiver with surprise that is soon replaced by envy which is soon replaced by opportunism.

They shamelessly extend the hand of friendship again. Precisely because you don’t need their freaking hand. And they want a piece of that banana too.

And then you laugh when they clamber all over themselves to get re-connected with you. ‘Hey,’ they think, ‘ she wasn’t lying when she said she wants a break from the gravy train and walk on her feet. She meant it. And now she got a better place on the train. I want to be her friend again. So what if I didn’t give a shit about her during one year when she was doing great interesting things which I have no interest in or comprehension about. So what if I don’t give a shit about her even now. She might be my ticket to the first class bogey of foren country and tax free salary’.

You are surprised that you are not bitter and disappointed in humanity. You are a fully developed monkey now. Willing to take most fellow humans as they are. A dumb species full of useless emotions and goals.

And they wiggle and they joke and smile their fake smiles and try to connect and make plans.

And you.. you just wave at them, bare your teeth in merry monkey smile stained with yummy banana pulp and go back to your compartment.

Knowing fully well that you will be jumping off it again very soon once you have enough gravy in your monkey tummy.

Singing Songing

My most favourite professor during my MS, when teaching a class on Musical Genre said, that the most romantic cinematic expression EVER is when two people sing to each other.

He would often grill me on the language of Bollywood cinema in connection with the songs. He loved the fact that we, were not ashamed to sing to each other in Indian movies. ( Though many Indians are and they thinking singing it vaaary vaarry backward and something to be ashamed of, especially when talking about Christopher Nolan movies.) He said there is nothing more emotionally pure cinematic ecstasy than a person singing to another or to him/herself. (He also once described a 1950s movie as so beautifully shot, that he wanted to lick the cinema screen. No wonder he was my favourite.)

So back to the songs. I have always imagined my life with a background score of a few dozen violins and songs for every occasion, emotion, feeling. What is life without songs? And songs in which you usually play a role of anguished/lustful/ loveful/ melancholic heroine? It is like a perfectly coordinated playlist. You listen and sing to it and your face is behaving like Madhuri Dixit and you are imagining Hugh Jackman and Stephen Chow and Shahrukh making sensuous songstery love to you at the same time – and the lift opens and you are faced with a group of people staring at you as if you are Uday Chopra.

I have been too embarrassed to sing songs to husband. A. Because he is not the song-dance-muaahh muaah kind of guy. B. It is embarrassing!!

I am 100% sure there are couples who do it, but I will get super self-conscious.

But in the shower I always address my loud singing to him ( along with Jackman- Chow- Khan trio)

Anyway. So I found the ultimate release of my inner Lata when the dog arrived.

In the last 2 years, I have composed several songs to him. They range from hip-hop, to dhinchak Bollywood, to Rehmanesque peppy numbers to Beatlesque LSD classics. There are also specific dance steps accompanying them, mostly inspired by street dance during Ganapati festival.

And he loves to run around happily and bark at me when I start the song-dance routine for him.

The lyrics are usually in the same family, although the placement varies and so does the tempo, repetition and other tricks in the trade. They all’Praise the dog’.

Oh ( insert one of the dozens of pet names he has) you are so cute.
(Sound effects.)
You are the most beautiful puppy.
You are my dog and I am your human.
We will play CATCH, GETIT, SQUASH, STAY and hundreds of other games
(Sound effects and rapid acceleration of dance moves.)
You are the best swimmer in the world oh smart one
You are the most brave of all the creatures in the world
You are the purest and you are the most ( insert nonsensical words meaning superdupertripperbestest)
Cutest, bravest, sweetest, beautifullest, softest, powerfulest doggie, you are my love.
( Drums, trampolines, violins, Nashik Dhol all creating a wild cacophony)

The dog usually gets a toy and shakes his head profusely as he runs round and round proudly agreeing that he is indeed all that and maybe a little more. He jumps on me and walks on hind legs and tries to tear my pants in pure joy.

The routine usually ends with tugging game with the said toy.

Sometimes, after the song I ask him to come for a bath or clean his ears- two of the most loathsome activities for him. He looks very disappointed like a hero breaking up with his lady-love seconds after a chartbuster song. What? You praise me so much and now you want to clean my ears with that stinky solution?

When I am bathing him, the lyrics change. On the lines of:

yes, yes, brave dog, sweetest dog, we are almost done.. ah let’s wash the stinky asshole once more… there, now the chest… ooh.. look at the dirt in your paws… yes the ears…cutest dog will not smell like rotten vegetables any more…. aahh…shampoo in the eyes.. but bravest dog is so brave in bravery… wow… what a great dog… what a greatest of all dogs… almost done now…aaahh.. what a great dog… he is the bestestest…

He looks at me with his soulful eyes, hiding from the water spray and looking like an orphan in war zone who hasn’t eaten for months and has worked 18 hours a day in a coal mine.

Husband baby talks with him all the time and dog looks content. After all, it was the husband who trained him and so is a natural hero in his eyes!! ( Unlike me, who is destined to be his manager- cum- number 1 fan in the world.) Once when husband started singing to him though, the dog looked so alarmed and puzzled and gulpingly bewildered, that I started laughing hysterically. Because husband is the world’s worst singer. Husband humphed and grumped and told the dog that he will never sing to him if this was the response he would get.

I am sure husband sings to him when I am not around.

I for one, am very happy of having found a perfectly appreciative object of my Bollywood songstery.