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.

A dog arrives

There was one night when the husband came and said, I know what we are going to do. We are going to get a dog. And we are going to manage it.

We had always been talking about how we will get a dog, or several, once we retire in an idyllic place . It was a major part of our dream of future. Every day, yes EVERY DAY I would watch those dog videos on YouTube and those ten mins or so were the purest pleasure in my corporate bullshittized life. Husband always wanted a dog but it was not the crazy, bone aching desire like mine. Like everything else with him, it was a calm and more mature wish.

But getting a dog to live in a tiny apartment in suburban Mumbai- we had always hesitated. It was not fair on him/ her. Who will look after the dog when we are in office with love and reliable care? Apartments are not the right environments for dogs. and even though there was plenty of space to walk and run in the gated community we stay in, we had our large childhood homes with plenty of open space to run around as the ideal for dogs.

But as we started talking, within half hour, we had figured out who will look after him during office hours, his daily requirements, how will the exercise work out. Yes, it is not ideal for him/her, husband said. But our love will make up for it. He/she will be world’s most loved dog. And since getting a dog was in top three of my big wish list for life, it is worth it, he said. NOW.

It made sense.

I dreamt of a small puppy snoring between us all that night.

We wrote emails to friends the next day when we woke up happier than we had been in ages. To see if they knew of any puppies that required homes. We had no requirements- gender or breed. As long as it was a puppy.

Within one week, a friend emailed me saying her bitch had had a litter and would we like to see them?

Yes yes.

We went to see them when they were ten days old.

We found out they were born exactly on the day we decided to get the dog.

And I am not making this up, but when we set eyes on the litter, I knew the dog.

I panicked with thought that he might have been already taken. I trembled when she said he was not. She held out two puppies to us, including the dog, who were not taken. Any of these are fine, husband said, looking sentimental. The other puppy licked my fingers but.. but…. I kept on looking at the dog and said ,’ We will take him. Is that ok?’

Of course, she said. Husband smiled at ball of fur in his hands. The dog looked at him seriously with one eye open. His rather large head lolled a bit. My friend tied a green ribbon around his neck as id. Husband put him back gently with his sleeping brothers and sisters. The dog promptly went back to sleep.

I kept on looking at him all the time. I know he is our dog. I said as soon as we got back in the car. Yes, I could see you just locked your eyes with him. Husband said.

It would be exactly one month and twenty days before we got the dog home. We visited him twice interim, and my eyes always went to him whenever I entered the riotous courtyard. He looked more serious than others. He would often start playing on his own and randomly stop to look at the flying pigeons or something in the corner. His head was slightly larger than others. His colour was fuzzier. His eyes had that opaque puppy sheen that dominated my dreams. I had picked a Russian name- name of my all time favourite character. And he looked like a canine avatar of the character with his slightly spiritual face.

The day arrived. We had already puppy proofed the house thoroughly, bought dozens of books, had managed the holiday of our extremely lovely driver who would also be the puppy sitter and now only the arrival of the dog was remaining to complete our family.

We drove there. The dog had got his first bath and was sitting seriously on a table. I felt a bit of twang for the mother, but from experience of 4 litters in my childhood home, I knew she would be soon glad to be rid of the suck monsters. Husband picked the dog up in arms gingerly and we carried him out. Stick to drive dogs away in my hand, just in case. I sat with him in my lap. He would look up every time the car passed under the bridge with his eyes that are still capable of melting a murderer’s heart.

He came home and went to a carpet and hid his face under. We tiptoed around him. He didn’t look scared but we knew he would be nervous for a couple of days in new surroundings and people. We put some milk, some dog food, water next to him. He opened his eyes and surveyed his surroundings. Then he sat up and looked at one corner with concentration. ( He still does that and it spooks me sometimes). We called him to come inside. He peered as much as he could from his position but seemed afraid to leave that spot. I picked him up and showed him the house. Then we sat him down again and showed him his toys.

It was maybe 20 mins since the dog entered the house. He saw the toys and all the serious Russianish look disappeared and was replaced with the silly joy only puppies are capable of. An hour later when my brother and my nephew arrived to visit him, he was flying in the air with his large ears and his springy legs. He ran everywhere, slipping now and then. Trying to jump on the couch. Trying and getting scared of jumping in the balcony. Scratching my legs with his razor-sharp nails. Trying to kill all his toys. Trying to outrun all of us. Peeing profusely all over to mark this as his home.

It took 20 minutes for him to know that this is his house. That this is his pack.

It has been 2 years and 3 months since that day.

And the dog has not only marked his territory but us, his pack for life.

Change : 6

I bought some lovely food today and made myself a sandwich: sesame bread with feta cheese, tomato and french dressing. it was deadly. I also ate Magnum Black which I haven’t seen in Mumbai. It is espresso flavoured and is quite nice. You get Guiness here, albeit not cheap, but you do. So that is great news for me and sad news for the belly.

I am al ready to carry food with me tomorrow, cling wrap and all. enough of the pizzas and burgers. i also bought cereal, yogurt, musters, other cheeses, lunch box. but the best was a giant piece of watermelon which was so sweet that i had to check if it was stewed or something. it wasn’t. i ate it with some fresh salty feta and mmmmmm…

Overall, I have realised i like food shopping more than anything else. It has that instant satisfaction factor that is utterly self centred.

The party was quite nice and I am beginning to get into soccer, albeit too late for FIFA. There were all the blow dried and diamond decked socialites. I was glad I wore a nice sequined top I bought yesterday. Although their sequins were probably Swarosky and mine came from a small village in China!!

The big boss is extraordinarily hospitable and sweet. A great sense of humour. I like him already and hope he gets very involved in the project. I am quite keen to work directly with him. What an energy- they all were there till 6 am, till the end of the second match. I wilted by 1 am and left at 2. I am trying to be maha social but it has its limits.

A creepy guy tried to hit on me and kept on mentioning how the society here is ‘very open’. I thought he meant from social or political pov. It became clear what he meant and why he meant that when he said, ‘you have to be careful with your husband’. My mouth would have felt open had I not been eating at that time. I promptly smiled politely and went to my colleagues’ group. Later the sweet Australian who works with me told me how the creep was asking after me and all. This is quite a new experience for me and we laughed it off. In general, the expat community here is a huge topic from feminist POV and I am going to dig deep in this whole ‘ wife and kids at home and the virtuous Indian husband/ father looks for cheap thrills’ scenario, which seems to be quite common here.

There was a bit of crying involved in the morning Skype session but I have noticed I am beginning to toughen up. I am rediscovering the smugness I feel every time I think about the husband and how utterly marvellous he is and how utterly smart/ lucky I am to get him. Pat on the back.

The Dog is eating 8 rotis a day since my mother-in-law feeds him by hand!! Either my departure has sent him into food addiction, or he is simply enjoying the pampering unlike my ‘You will eat all food groups because just eating Mutton is not good for the dogs’ regimen. I am happy happy.

So far so good. Today’s self-help mantra is:

East good food for the ultimate internal happiness.

Change : 5

Ms. Despair visited today, but only for five minutes.

I was in a taxi and realised that with all my optimism and goal to like all humanity, it is rather ambitious. And that I should take it slowly.

Because I found myself really not liking the city. Or the people travelling in the taxi and chattering non-stop about new Apple phone, shopping, Indian food. I suddenly had an urge to jump out of the taxi and go home. Like the real home.

But it passed after a few deep breaths. I told myself I have to stick around and I can’t be unhappy. I don’t have to love everything around me, but I need to be patient.

And it really passed. I ate a vegetarian dish which I liked. Then there was sale at Zara and I bought a sequined top for myself. And then I came back and washed clothes and hung them and ate a fruit and washed my hair and all through I didn’t feel unhappy.

So I guess I just have to watch Ms. Despair and ignore her rather than confronting her head-on or trying to kill her. Just turning my head away might help.

Now off to the big soccer party where apparently the big shots of the city are coming to mingle with each other. If not anything,I hope to get good wine. There.