Happy Deepavali!!

My calendar on the laptop says it 32 minutes until Diwali/Deepavali and my FB feed is filled with wishes for a safe and prosperous new Diwali. It’s one of my most favourite festivals and once again, I find myself far from home. This is a pretty big festival in our household and one for which preparations begin much earlier.

The weeks preceding Deepavali is filled with cleaning the house. At least for my mum it is. I get too distracted discovering half forgotten things found during these cleaning sessions. It means moving the showcase on which our TV stands and finding the million pens my mum loses, or the rubber bands and hair clips that my sister and I do. Climbing the attic to bring down the giant mandap and in the process finding some old books or photos.

Cleaning the mandap and fitting the pieces back to actually make it resemble one is another one of the very fond memories that I have of this festival. Its pretty hilarious trying to fit the columns into their holes on the roof as my mum and sister hold the base and the columns together. And it never works on the first try. Several failed attempts and many nearly crushed fingers later we manage to put it all together.

The market near our house is always abuzz during festival time but Deepavali adds a certain charm to it. The overcrowded streets, vendors trying to get you to buy their wares, people bargaining, the autos and other vehicles trying to make their way through the cacophony of it all, just add to the festivities. I find it incredibly amusing and fascinating as my mum manages to bargain four stalks of the banana plant, a dozen banana leaves and mango leaves all for the price of one. Let’s not even discuss her skills when it come to flower and vegetable vendors.

After finally managing to get home the chores are set aside for the next morning. Of course, it all falls to Ma the next day but she likes to think she’s incharge and we let her. Waking up to the house in Deepavali mode is one of the best experiences. It’s never before nine, you didn’t think I’d rise earlier did you? it’s a holiday after all, the house is filled with music (devotional songs of course, I actually like these and can sing along to most of them but I resist the urge) and delicious smells. After brushing my teeth and washing my face a good part of the next half an hour is spent trying to annoy Ma by trying to touch her (You see, she’s been up for probably 3 hours now, had a shower, cleaned the front yard, drawn a rangoli and got started with the cooking for the day. Since everything she cooks is first kept in front of God, we’re not allowed to touch her without taking a bath because we’re still dirty.) It’s more exciting than it sounds trust me.

When I see that she’s not amused anymore and her face is starting to get that annoyed look, I escape into the bathroom to take a shower. After I’ve had a shower I’m immediately put to work. Decorating the front door with the mango leaves (it’s called making a toran), cleaning all the portraits and decorating them with flowers is all my work. It’s actually harder than it sounds and takes me a good hour to be done with it all. Then there are small chores and errands like cutting some vegetables or running to the store to buy some last minute things we forgot. By one in the afternoon we’re free to do whatever we want and this time, of course, is spent sprawled on the sofa watching some mindless Diwali flick playing on TV while waiting for lunch.

Lunch is always a late affair on these days, what with all the cleaning and decorating, and usually happens after the pooja. Even though it is late, it lasts quite long. Ma then retires to her room to read something and the sister and I follow suit. We lounge around on the bed and read until Ma falls asleep and we make fun of her snoring noises. After a quick ten minute nap Ma is up and refreshed (I don’t know how that woman does it but I hope that gene was passed on to me). She then starts preparing stuff for the evening pooja. I find most of this stuff irrelevant to this post except for one – kajjaya. Kajjaya is the sweet Ma makes every Deepavali. This means the gas stove comes down on the floor, Ma sits in the centre and is surrounded by banana leaves with kajjaya batter on them. It’s quite difficult to make and takes longer than any other sweet she makes but it’s all worth it!! It’s crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Easily the best sweet around during this time.

Promptly at five in the evening when the noise of crackers starts to increase and the sister and I realise it will all go faster if we help, we offer our services to the mother. She begs to get ready and a round of arguments ensue over what to wear. After wasting an hour on it she makes us visit all the neighbours’ houses with sweets. By the time we’re back she has everything ready, I’m beginning to think she sends us out just to get the work done. I can’t believe I always thought we were being helpful!!

Now this is the best part of the day, there is normally a pooja again after which we can go light the diyas. Ma reads a story from a very old book. This book belonged to my grandfather and is so old that it’s yellow in colour and so brittle that it’s falling to pieces and don’t even get me started on that handwriting! Its all written in old Kannada and yet Ma reads it flawlessly! She thinks about writing it all out again before the book actually falls apart but so far every year has been a false alarm. I’m actually going to miss it when she gets around to doing it. The story she reads is about the rituals we follow during Deepavali and why its important. It’s one of the most beautiful stories I’ve heard and even though I’ve heard it year after year I never tire of it. Once she’s read it she ties the nopi thread around each of our wrists.

Now these nopi threads are different from the normal threads you get outside every temple. They are only available in a handful of colours and they bleed on contact with water. So of course, we are picky about the colours we want. The threads also have a gold cylinder threaded into them, these are reused every year and we all have one which is ours and insist on just that one being threaded on. These nopi threads stay on all through Deepavali and my hand actually feels quite weird once its removed.

After the thread drama there is the lighting the diyas drama. You see, there are two parts to lighting the diyas. Step one: Fill diyas with oil and put the wick in. Step two: light the diya. Step one is boring and not to forget quite messy and hence, neither the sister nor I want to do it. Cue fight. Until Ma intervenes and manages a compromise. Diya lighting is my most favourite part of Deepavali. There’s nothing quite as beautiful as watching your house all lit up and beautiful. Year on year, its the same house, more or less the same pattern but ever beautiful.

As kids we used to play with crackers but not anymore. I gave up on crackers twice. As a kid I was very fond of the sparklers, flower-pots and chakras. I always had a love hate relationship with those gun cracker things. Every year I’d see other kids playing with it and be tempted into playing with one myself, sometimes it went okay, other times I ended up hurting my hand and swearing off it until the next year. Anyway, as I said I was very fond of flower-pots. When I was about eight, and lighting a flower-pot, it suddenly burst like a bomb. Fortunately, I wasn’t hurt but needless to say I was traumatised and couldn’t stop crying. Even watching my little sister have fun while playing with crackers was not enough to change my mind. Taking a pledge to not burst crackers the next year at school ensured my abstinence from fireworks but pretty soon I was back to bursting crackers. It was only when we got a dog and I watched the poor thing shake in fright that I swore off crackers for good. The pleasure I derive from bursting a cracker is no where close to the pain that these poor animals go through. It’s just not worth it.

One of the best parts of Deepavali is the oil bath. Traditionally, on the first day of Deepavali, you massage your entire body with oil and take a hot water bath. In my house, we have an additional tradition of drawing on the bathroom walls after massaging the oil and waiting for the water to heat up. We had a traditional fireplace and the water used to get heated up from the fire we made from the coconut husks in our front yard. Both the sister and I got half of the bathroom walls to draw on and it made us feel like artists. We drew diyas, flower-pots, rockets, chakras and everything else associated with the festival. Poor Ma who had to clean it all up later. This is all part of the Ganga pooja where you worship water.

It’s been three years since I’ve celebrated Deepavali at home and while I miss the noise and the general exuberance during the festival, I miss the little things more. Of course, I try to celebrate a tiny part of Deepavali by lighting candles in my room but I still miss the general brilliance of my house. I guess it is one of those festivals which you have to be home to really celebrate.

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My tiny Deepavali

Happy Deepavali to you all!! May the festival of lights bring new light into your life and fill it with brilliance.

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A big thank you and a small update

Sorry I’ve been MIA for a while. I’ve been keeping pretty busy with my job applications and with my Masters almost coming to an end (can’t wait for October 31st). First of all I want to say a BIG THANK YOU to all the lovely people at WordPress who thought that my previous blog post was good enough to be on Freshly Pressed. I read a lot of the posts on Freshly Pressed and am always in awe of the people who make it there. I can’t thank you enough! Being on Freshly Pressed has been one of my life’s biggest and most rewarding experience.

Another BIG THANK YOU to all those who liked, commented, shared and followed my blog. You have no idea how happy you made this girl. I couldn’t have imagined, even in my wildest dreams, the response I received. Each comment and like just made my day. I don’t think I’ve had a bad day all of last month thanks to your comments and likes. I really appreciate each and everyone of your comments and suggestions. Thank you so much for taking the time out to read  my blog.

Dear Prospective Employer,

As I go through the process of looking for and applying to jobs, I feel the need to compose this letter to you. I’m writing to you because I don’t think two pdf documents and all my grade cards and certificates are enough reasons to consider me for a position let alone know me. I’m also writing to you because I want you to know how much effort goes into an application and how hard it is for all of us. Finding a job is hard in itself. Add to that the fact that you have to apply in a foreign language, know exactly what you want to do but can’t find an opening in it and you have a recipe for frustration.

I’m going through this process as a fresher while simultaneously working on my master thesis. This is how it is for most of us. We are more than aware of how important both our thesis and job applications are, but most of us can’t afford the luxury of applying once we are done with our studies. We have to because we can’t continue to rely on our families for financial assistance, because for a few of us we are the ones who support our families, because we have a huge loan in the bank whose interest is just waiting to drown us. For most of us it is at least one of these reasons and for some of us it’s all these reasons. Now while these are pressing reasons, we also can’t wait. We can’t wait to start working. We’re excited to see what we have to offer, we’re a little naive that way. And to be honest, you are better off hiring us at this time, bursting with enthusiasm and excited about our careers rather than when we have waited and faced rejection and are applying to anything and everything because we’re so desperately in need of a job.

Source: http://playgrounddad.nextimpulsemedia.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/76806713.jpg

I am sure I will be one of the hundreds or thousands of resumes stacked on your desk. On some days I may be the best of the lot, and the worst on some, but for the most part I will figure somewhere in the middle. I know this because most of us have the same grades, have done the same number of internships/student jobs and won the same number of awards. Competition, today, has grown so much that it’s hard to find people who have a below average grade or who have absolutely no practical experience. So I can only imagine how hard that makes it for you. At first glance we all seem the same to you and yet, we’re not.

Our grades, internships, awards, they don’t define us. These are things meant for us to do. What matters is the effort we put into our grades, the factors that led us to decide on an internship. It’s these behind the scenes decisions and work that define us as professionals and as individuals. Yet, these are inappropriate in a résumé and the space in the cover/motivation letter just isn’t enough to do justice to it all. We could try, but we’re not great writers. I guess that’s why we chose engineering as a profession.

For me, a glance at my grade card wouldn’t necessarily tell you what I like or find interesting, and while I would love to say I cherry picked my student jobs, projects and internships, you know I would be lying through my teeth. Some of them happened out of circumstance and some out of luck. That’s not to say that there was no effort though. They took a lot of effort and I’m really happy I did them because I learnt so much. I’m not saying it because it’s expected of me but because I really did. I tried to make the most of every situation. I dabbled in many things and while you would dismiss me calling me fickle, I would like to clarify that I was curious. After all, I was only a bachelor or master student still finding my footing. To say the least, I was curious. I was looking for that elusive love for work. What I’ve seen in my mother when she talks about her job even though she’s been doing that for 30 odd years. Thanks to all my fickleness, I have finally found it.

I’ve always liked cars and I thought knowing what I liked was enough. Apparently not. Why, I was asked. Frankly, I still don’t have an answer. I’ve loved cars for years just like I love chocolate. I’d like to see you try to tell me why you like your favourite colour or your favourite shirt. Sometimes there is no answer. I could bore you with conventional lies like I used to open up radios and toasters to see how they worked, so I knew I’d be an engineer but I didn’t, I would have gotten a nice spanking if I had tried. The best I can offer is that it was love at first sight. I know it may seem a frivolous reason to choose a profession, but what is the ‘correct’ reason?

I come from a country where education, especially higher education, is a luxury few can afford. Even in the case of those who can afford, only a few professions are considered lucrative and hence feasible to study. Throughout my academic career, I’ve met more people who were, disinterested at best and hated at worst, what they were studying. Is the fact that the profession earns you money the correct reason to choose it? It is a reason none the less. Most résumé on that list are there because of the above reason. Me, I’m not immune to it either but I’m in it because I love it. Passion and curiosity are my reason and that, I believe is my selling point.

Being a girl in the mechanical field can be hard. Not from the technical point of view. Thermodynamics and heat and mass transfer will seem like a cake walk compared to the bigotry you face in this field. It’s a male dominated world and they don’t like trespassers. Most people, even outside India, eye you with suspicion and distaste when you say you are studying mechanical engineering. I’ve had people in very high positions ask me ‘By choice or by chance’. It’s something my male counterparts have rarely faced. It’s very insulting. My gender is not my limitation. I’m here, always, by choice. It’s my passion that keeps me ticking.

I could tell you a lot about the subjects I’ve studied and the projects I’ve worked on but I’ll leave that to my résumé because I don’t think that is the reason you should recruit me. In my short experience I’ve realised that grades are just numbers and certificates are just pieces of paper that have no value once you step into the office. Whether at the top or bottom of the class, at work, we all start from zero. There have been days where I’ve not understood something, my grades didn’t help me then, my curiosity and stubbornness did. There have been days when my models or codes have not worked, my projects didn’t help me then, my perseverance and creativity did. On days that I didn’t get the results that I needed and my boss was not too pleased, my certificates didn’t come to my rescue, my fortitude did. I’ve worked with people from different countries and backgrounds, the seminars only gave me a background but my outgoing and social nature helped me get started.

I was not the smartest kid in my class and I may not be the best résumé on your desk but I hope you will give me a little more than the customary one or two minutes before tossing me away. I know this is asking a lot, but while to you it is just a résumé, to me, it’s a gateway to my future. My résumé can’t tell you that I’m sincere in my work, that I’m a loyal friend, that I’m stubborn (in a good way, I promise), I’m curious, friendly and punctual. It won’t tell you how I discovered my love for chassis and suspension or why I want to work in the research and development department. It won’t tell you how much I love cars and how I think they are pieces of art that most people can own unlike ‘actual art’ which only the rich can. It won’t tell you how much I respect and admire the amount of work that goes into making each and every one of them. It won’t tell you how I still squeal like an awed two-year old every time I see a car I love (I’ve been in Germany for 3 years now and I still can’t look the other way when I see a car I like). It can’t tell you that thanks to my curiosity I read about many different things and hence, make for pretty good lunch company. It can’t tell you that I believe excitement and passion are big motivators in a job, and that is why I am writing this to you. I want to be a part of the future of the auto industry and I can’t wait for the day I am. I hope you will be the one to give me my big break.

Yours sincerely,

Manasa Manjunath

2014 Independence day address 101

I’m a big advocate of celebrating national holidays. One of the motivating factors, of course, is that it is a holiday, but despite having moved to a country where it is just another day, national holidays are still something I really look forward too. I love seeing the tri-colour everywhere, the parades, flag hoisting and of course, the customary patriotic movie on TV. I think I’ve watched Border more than a dozen times but I will still sit down to watch it and sing along loudly to all the songs this friday (My poor flatmates). One of my absolute favourite things to do is watch the independence day parade and listen to the Prime Minister’s address to the nation. It fills me with a deep sense of pride and belonging. the national anthem at the end just gives me goosebumps! For a few years now the Prime Ministers speech has put a dapper on my Independence day spirits but going by Mr. Modi’s pre-election speeches, my expectations of the address this year are at an all time high. No pressure Mr. Modi! Just to give him an edge, here are some points that I’d like to see him address and some I would prefer avoided. You’re welcome!

1. Our economy has been the talked to death for some years now what with the fall in the rupee value(From Rs.63 to one Euro when I left in October 2011 to Rs.80 now! Think of poor students like me on an education loan!), the price rise, inflation, etc. since the budget was just announced, outlining your plans for the next five years will give a much-needed rest to all the speculation. Please, none of the vague the rupee value will go up and the prices will come down. We know that. What we want to know is how will that happen? What are you planning on doing to stabilise and improve the economy? Also, please don’t bring up the fact that the state of the economy is due to the previous government. We know that and it is because we know this that you are where you are today (Just reminding). Let’s rise above petty politics for the day.

2. The recent spotlight on the crimes against women have earned us the nickname rape country. We know you would prefer not commenting on every single crime but it is a matter of national importance that half of the population feels unsafe in their own country. We’d like to feel like full-fledged citizens of the country with rights rather than third class citizens going by the treatment meted out to us. The need of the hour is to stress on the safety and rights of women and children. Shed light on measures to be undertaken to make the country safer for women and children.

3. The  last few days have seen repeated violations of the ceasefire from across the border. You have been very vocal about the importance od protecting our country and reprimanding our neighbours for breach of previous agreements. Implications of repeated infractions need to be stressed upon. A limit has to be set and adhered to. We are all for friendly relations with our neighbours but we will not tolerate any breach of our trust and any harm to our country and its citizens. Long have we waited and watched and our silence has been construed to be our weakness. Stringent measures need to be announced and adhered to or this game of cat and mouse will escalate.

4. There has been a spike in communal violence across the country over the last couple of months. India is a secular country and people of different faiths and beliefs have long-lived here in harmony. People still do live in harmony. It is in recent years that communal differences has reared its ugly head. What was earlier used by foreigners to divide us is now being used by some of our own countrymen to their benefit. It is mainly a few anti-national elements who provoke tensions in the otherwise peaceful and harmonious people. India has seen the arrival and birth of different cultures in her long history and she has imbibed in her these different cultures and evolved. Were she to turn hostile, we can be sure she would not exist as she does today. It is our tolerance and evolution that makes us who we are. Serious consequences for anyone who tries to disrupt the peace and harmony of our country needs to be announced.

5. Nationbuilding is not just the job of a government but of a country as a whole. Your initiative to involve people in the administration through mygov.in is an inspired idea. People want to be involved in the development and progress of the country and this is the first step in that directions. Giving importance to this topic and speaking of your plans to make governance and administration more inclusive would be a great boost to people’s confidence and raise their faith in the government.

There are, of course Mr. Prime Minister, many other issues, however, considering today’s climate, these topics need to be dealt with immediately. What better forum than the Independence day address? Show the path that you intend to take and place your faith in the people. Your of all must know and appreciate what it means to have the favour of the people. You have also just witnessed what happens when you fall out of their favour. You seem to have recognised that the spirit of India is not broken but it stands stronger than ever. This spirit when harnessed the right way can reap rich rewards. The people have chosen you to guide this spirit. It is not a right but a privilege granted to you. The independence day address is a platform for you to acknowledge this privilege and show how you plan to live up to it. We wait with great expectations. Good luck!

All play and no work makes Jack an Indian MLA/MP

Ever since the new government took charge, they’ve been stressing on efficiency, punctuality and decorum. So much so that a workshop was conducted for first time MPs. There have been at least two headlines about ministers visiting their respective departments and taking to task late comers and insisting on cleanliness in the workplace. It seems like the new government wants to bring about a change in the attitude that we Indians have towards our work but anyone who has ever seen a parliamentary session will call these people hypocrites.

Watch any house session and you will realise what a farce our so-called democracy is. You will find people sleeping, nodding off, watching porn, shouting and making a ruckus. There is rarely an issue that the majority agrees on. Every issue irks the sentiment or interest of some section of our society, according to at least one minister who will berate the person who brought up the issue. They will yell and scream, all while another person is speaking and trying to make their point. Eventually storming the well saying that the government is biased and does not think of XYZ section of society. The ensuing chaos will prompt the speaker to raise their voice and request for silence and decorum. These feeble remonstrations will of course go unheard by the ministers who believe this is their chance at a dharna and continue to shout eventually leading to an adjournment for 10minutes. The break just allows these unruly people to organise better and attack with renewed force leading to an adjournment for the rest of the day. What an amazing use of the people’s tax money. Bravo!

Ministers are elected representatives of the people. They are paid with tax payer money to voice the tax payer’s grievance and solve their issues. Moreover, every single house session also involves a high expenditure which again comes from the public pocket. It’s bad enough that our grievances are never addressed, add to that the fact that even the sessions end up being adjourned and hence no work is done. The problem is that our ministers enjoy a little too much freedom. They are paid whether or not they attend a house session, whether or not they participate in a discussion, whether or not they raise an issue concerning their constituency, whether or not they are awake, whether or not they disrupt a proceeding. You get the picture. From the moment they are elected, its smooth sailing until the next election because they are not answerable to anyone. They face no consequences whatsoever. More often than not, the same person will get reelected the next time round. Zero accountability and consequences and here in lies the problem.

Lets be real, if anyone of us did any of this at school/college/work we’d be expelled or fired. We wouldn’t even dream of attempting something like this for fear of losing our grades/admission/pay. Because we would have to face the consequences of our actions. Why is it then that MPs and MLAs, whose job it is to ensure the smooth running of the country and state, something so much bigger and difficult, face no consequences?

We talk about a change in the country, about progress, but nothing can happen if we don’t eradicate the root cause of our failure. If we really expect a change then we need to have rules and set standards for our MPs and MLAs to abide by. Codes of conduct and penalties for any breach. Let them learn how to earn their pay. It is rather unfair that while the rest of the population breaks their backs to earn their money and adhere to rules these people behave like they are above it all. It is only fair that as our representative, they are held to the same yardstick as us.

Start with a basic set of rules:

1. Fixed number of holidays/leaves

We all get only some sick, casual and permission leave. Let the same be true for them. Categorically specific the number of days available for each leave and the rules attached to availing them. I’d like to see a doctor’s note for that sick leave.

2..  Minimum 80% attendance in parliament

If you miss a day of parliament and you are not in your constituency attending to some important work and none of your leaves hold good, you can forfeit a day’s salary. If your attendance is less than 80% you lose your salary for all the days you were absent.

3. Raise at least one issue of relevance to your constitution or speak in a discussion during your tenure

The people elected you to have their voice heard. Go out there and be their voice. Do it in a dignified manner. Failure to talk or get involved in the house will lead to automatic disqualification from contesting the next election. You can try the year after that. How is that for a performance review?

4. Violating decorum/bringing a halt to the proceedings

Speaking out of turn or shouting when someone else has the floor will result in a warning. Exceeding 3 warnings will lead to suspension and fine. Storming the well and causing adjournment will mean immediate suspension and a hefty fine. More than 3 suspensions and automatic disqualification from the next election. That is your bonus.

If the government does indeed intend to bring about a change in the country, they should start with themselves. First start with all the ministers and set an example for the rest of the country. Just increasing the efficiency of people and different ministries is not enough. The Parliament needs to be efficient too. Are you listening Mr. Naidu?

PS: Some of these rules may seem harsh but anyone who goes to school or work knows that these are rules will comply to in our work/study places. This is just a draft of course and any revisions and suggestions are welcome.

PPS: I know Lok Sabha efficiency has gone up 103% this term. That just means that they shouted and screamed and did nothing more often in the past.

#StopCondemningStartConvicting

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

Congratulations on your first successful address to the Parliament. I must say I was impressed. When I initially saw that the clip was 50 odd minutes long, I’ll admit I was hesitant. The plan was to forward through the rhetoric and be done in 10 to 15 minutes, but you managed to hold my attention and imagination (though I can’t say the same for your colleague sitting two rows behind yourself) for most of those 50 minutes, which is more than most of my Professors could ever manage, as you waxed eloquent about your plans for our country. And what a picture you painted!

I’m used to seeing a chaotic and disruptive Lok Sabha. It was a pleasant surprise to watch our representatives listen. I congratulate you on having managed to capture their attention as well. It is indeed a feat worthy of praise. I liked that you focused on your plans for the country rather complain about the mess that you have to clean up. I was greatly impressed with the humour and wit you showed as you rebutted your opposition. Frankly, your conduct as Prime Minister was a subject that was on my mind having watched your rallies during the elections, in fact, there was even a Blogpost in the works, but a big thank you from lazy me for having carried yourself with so much composure and grace, very much befitting a Prime Minister, yesterday and ever since you assumed office.

Your critics have been many ever since you announced your contention for the coveted post of Prime Minister and it seems that there are even more now that you have assumed office. I can only imagine what a daunting task you face of running the country. Critics only add to the existing pressure but indeed as you said, keep us from becoming complacent and arrogant. While you endeavour to revitalise our country, as much as I wish you all success in your endeavours, since your successes will mean success for the country, I shall endeavour to praise you for your successes and criticise your weaknesses.

While many have criticised your direct and hands-on approach as dictatorial, I find it a refreshing change. Time and tide wait for no man and you seem to have adopted this policy. Immediacy and alacrity are the need of the hour in today’s rapidly changing world. Just keeping abreast of the information is no longer enough and you seem to recognise that. In a country such as ours, where people wear their hearts on their sleeves and their tempers on the tips of their noses, things escalate quickly and easily. In most cases, just the smell of smoke is enough to start a fire. Fuel arrives much later only to help in spreading the fire and water, well, there are so many disputes on who can take how much that it seems a foreign concept.

One such wild fire which seems to engulf the entire country is right now is violence against women. In your 50 minute speech in Parliament and other speeches and public forums, you spoke maybe four sentences about this issue. The content of which was limited to requesting the MPs to refrain from commenting on the psychology behind rapes and saying that the harshest of punishments should be given to those who violate the dignity of our mothers and sisters. Your lack of response to this issue begs the question, if this issue and our safety is at all a priority for the new government?

I agree a 100% with you that making comments about the psychology of rapists brings nothing. But only discussion and debate will create awareness about the situation. Also, saying the harshest punishment will be doled out to the prepetrators is not enough, nor is it new. We have had enough people “talk” about it. A person of your stature and position and especially with the influence you wield could be critical in stemming this violence.

Since Mahabharat seems to be the trending epic of the moment, let me put it this way, are we going to sit, heads bowed in shame, like the Pandavas while our women are assaulted like Draupadi? Are we going to just let our women pray to the gods like Draupadi was left to pray to Krishna while their bodies, rights and dignities are violated? Should they await justice in the form of their violators’ blood after we avenge them in a bloody battle?

It is a pity that even our Prime Minister identifies us as just mothers, sisters and daughters. There are among us, Mr. Prime Minister, those without fathers, brothers and husbands. And what of those who are violated by these very people? Do they require no protection and consideration? Are women only defined in relation to men? Do they not exist beyond these relationships? Are we the same as furniture or utensils? Objects meant to be used or possessed and then thrown aside? Are they not individuals?

Your party’s policy of empowering women is indeed a great one. Now that you form the government, you have the power to implement it across the country. You, with your influence, your way with words and the ability to paint a picture have more influence than most of your opponents dare or want to admit. Even the simplest of your statements could go a long way in ensuring the safety of our women. There is a need for awareness and education at the basest of levels. A need to stress on the equality of men and women, on the individuality of women, on the rights of women and the consequences of violating these rights. Your voice could lend the strength that the women in our country require. The question is will you remain silent too?

Yours sincerely,

Not just a daughter

Down with Patriarchy!

Last weekend I started looking for jobs. By tonight I’d have made my first application. By the end of this week I’d have lived 25 years on this planet. You would think this is a time for celebration, Look at me, all grown up and independent. But no, there’s no celebration. Unfortunately for my mum, it’s a cause for worry. 25 and still unmarried. 25 and still not serious about marriage. She tries not to think about it. Tries to heel the worry out of her voice during our daily phone calls, as we both try to keep the conversation light. She tries to hide the tinge of impatience when she tells me about yet another proposal that came and the fear that colours her voices as she talks about the relative who asked about me (read when I’m getting married) at the latest family do.

I feel sad for my mum. Sometimes I get a little angry and impatient with her and abruptly end the conversation saying I have to go, but mostly  I feel sad and call her back. From the look of things you would think my mother is uneducated but she’s not. She’s an educated and working woman. She works at the bank, runs the house, pays the bills and follows up on her kids. And yet she’s like any one of those millions of uneducated women who worry similarly about their twenty something daughters. These are the same women who have a harried look on their face at every family event, the same whose throats close up when asked about their unmarried twenty something daughters. These are the same women who face the barrage of “When is the wedding?”, “Have you started looking?”, “My <Insert-some-relative/friend’s-name>’s son would be perfect for her, shall I give you their number?” at every event.

It never ends, until of course, the unmarried twenty something becomes a married twenty something. Then, it’s onto the next. These busybodies who have nothing else to do prey like vultures on hapless mothers one after the next. Unfortunately, there is no getting away from it. This is our society. Our evolved, modern, open society which is surprisingly still as patriarchal and backward as 50 years ago which still looks on an unmarried twenty something as damaged goods. Must be something wrong with her, why else would she be single? From the moment you graduate, or sometimes as you even approach graduation, unmarried becomes affixed to your name. From that omen forth that is how people view you, it becomes your identity, your profession, your goal irrespective of your wishes.

Yes, that was the purpose of my birth. To marry someone, bear his children and devote the rest of my life to him and the children in question. The fact that I have ambition is, let alone a matter for discussion, not ever a consideration. Blasphemy in fact! How dare I? Woman that I am, think for  myself, think about myself? Mine is a life that must be devoted to others and the fulfilment of their dreams and aspirations. That is my dream, a dream that was chosen for me even before my birth. But it’s not! that is patriarchy’s dream for me. The same patriarchy that puts women in veils, that kills infant girls, that doesn’t recognise women’s rights, that doesn’t recognise marital rape, that blames the victim for the rape, that slutshames. It’s the same patriarchy functioning in a subtle way. This patriarchy uses words such as duty and responsibility to chain us. The end goal, of suppressing women, remains the same. This kind of patriarchy of course is much milder, nothing in fact compared to the crimes other women all over the world suffer but it’s patriarchy none the less. But if we, educated and privileged as we are, can’t cast the yoke of patriarchy off, then what can we expect of our powerless sisters?

Patriarchy has different faces and rears it’s head up everyday in different situations. Expecting a girl to give up a career she’s built and move to a different place just because her husband to be has a job, that’s patriarchy. Do you expect a man to do the same? Of course not! It’s the girls duty! Expecting the bride’s family to pay for the wedding, patriarchy! Girl should change her last name after marriage, patriarchy! Telling a girl she can’t work once she’s married, patriarchy! Each of these acts is called a girl/wife/daughter’s “duty/responsibility”. Somehow, all the “duties and responsibilities” fall on the shoulders of women. A man’s only “duty” is to “fend for and protect” his wife and family. Women are always someone‘s something(mother/sister/daughter). An object. To be closeted and used. They are never someone. Someone with feelings, emotions and aspirations. A living, breathing and bleeding person.

Women have a profound impact on their children. It is my mother’s strength and efforts that enable me to dream today. Unfortunately, she’s unable to find the same strength in her to fight off this society. But it’s her efforts and fight, and the efforts and fights of so many women all around the world which have allowed us, even the small number that we are, to dream and aspire. It’s easy to say we need change. Bringing about the change is harder. This system of objectifying and dehumanising women has existed since the dawn of humanity. It is not something that can or will change in a day, The change has to be gradual and start at the most basic and smallest of levels. Me telling that my career is as important as any man’s, that is my small way of denouncing patriarchy and fighting for my rights. How are you fighting patriarchy today?

Aam Aadmi Party pooper

Rarely has a political party been so closely followed as the Aam Aadmi Party is today. In fact, rarely has a person become so large as to overshadow and tower over everything else that is around him as has Mr. Kejriwal. We’ve all watched AAP start from just one man to become what it is today. It started as an idea, nay, a desire. A desire to do something good to work for the country and it’s people and deliver them their hope that they’ve continued to cherish through the worst of time. That desire is something I recognise, understand and respect. That desire in someone compels me to respect them just because they have that desire which so few of us do. We all have the hope of something good happening to the country but the desire to make it happen is rather rare and that’s exactly why it deserves respect. Because with that desire is intertwined dedication and a love for the country, the idea that the happiness of 1.3 billion people is important and each voice in that 1.3 billion counts. That desire is not something that people of a faint heart or weak mind can possess because it requires a conviction as no other. It requires the understanding that the task before you is daunting and not something you can  accomplish alone. It requires you to acknowledge that you are tiny, a tiny tiny speck when compared to the nation of India and that is what truly matters.

When Mr. Kerjiwal and his party first came to the fore, they were underdogs. And as underdogs often are they were dismissed, but they also had a strong following, as the underdog always does. They created quite a stir on the Indian political scene with their unconventional ways. And somehow, the underdog won. You’re used to it in the movies and stories but you’ve hardly ever seen it happen in reality and there it was, history being created as the AAP formed the government in Delhi. It was the fairytale ending everyone had imagined (okay, maybe not the BJP and the Congress).

Yet, it wasn’t. It was just the beginning. The beginning of what was going to be a nightmare of epic proportions. From the very beginning Mr. Kejriwal was in a hurry and it seemed like he wanted to change everything that had been in place since the birth of India as we know it. He seemed to be on a roll giving subsidies, carrying out raids, lodging FIRs, setting up commissions, holding a dharna, tabling bills,. There was no day that the AAP didn’t make the headlines. Good or bad it didn’t matter, they were there and they had the publicity. But suddenly the media which played a big part in making them famous had turned against them. Or so they said. Everyone seemed to have nothing but criticism. The beloved underdog was turning into a villain.

While the AAP and Mr. Kejriwal need to be applauded for their ideals and goals, they need a reality check when it comes to their actions. For a party which is made of such educated people, they seemed to constantly be in the news for breaking some rule or the other. I understand the need to make something happen and the urgency of it but I also understand that there is a system in place and rules which needs to be followed. We have seen scores of politicians, uneducated, illiterate and unethical, behave in the most undignified ways. And it is something that we have come to expect of them. But the AAP, we all had higher standards for them. We expected better than dharnas and raids and now resigning because they don’t get what they need.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t an AAP supporter but I wasn’t a critic either. I was very intrigued by the party as most of us were and very frankly wanted them to do well when they came into power. It’s important to try your best to put your candidate into the seat but once the elections are done you just hope and pray that the guy in the seat does his job well, whether he’s the guy you voted for or not doesn’t matter. For us to lead a good life, a better life, we need to pray for whoever it is who sits in that chair. and that’s how it is for the AAP too. They’re in the seat so you want them to do well.

I wasn’t quick to write off the AAP as the others were. Even through the dharna and the raid I kept my silence. They have 5 years I thought, we’ve given the others close to 70 years so I think we can give these guys at least 5. So I was silent and I still hoped. But today, I can’t restrain myself. I feel the need to critise the AAP. And do it belligerently. Because of all the parties and all the people out there, AAP really gave us hope, the hope that something was different and something would change. They took that hope and the faith the people had it in them and became arrogant. Bullies who thought that they can do anything they please, since against all expectations they were where they were. I understand a lot of people still support them and feel sad for them. They see them as the nice guys, the underdogs, who tried everything but the others wouldn’t let them. To you I sincerely say, please open your eyes. The AAP and Mr. Kejriwal are not the martyrs they make themselves out to be.

The AAP made a lot of promises before coming into power, just like the other parties do, but they set themselves deadlines, unlike the other parties. And while it is a sign of conviction, looking a little deeper into how the deadlines were set will show you how little thought went into it. When you propose a change and say you can deliver it, you need to be prepared to deliver it, we’re not talking about an assignment deadline but something to do with running an entire city. It requires thinking, planning and deliberation. It requires understanding the past and having thinking about the future. And if you can’t do either, you’re not fit to govern!

The AAP were very unconventional. Saying no to the official bungalows, coming to work using public transport, just like the aam aadmi. But they continued to be unconventional in their working too – holding dharnas, conducting raids, tabling bills without permission,…. You are in a seat of power, you have some control to do a lot of things, then why still stick to these obstructive ways of functioning. There is a system in place, learning about it and how to navigate it would save you time, money and effort when you have to accomplish your goals, instead it is wasted on fighting the system. What good came of any of it? What did they do that couldn’t be done by the rest of us? Anyone can organise a dharna, lodge an FIR, you don’t have to be a CM for it. The whole point of being in the government  was to make sure the case is investigated, instead they resigned. How was the power they were given ever used?

The AAP was always in the media glare. Everywhere they went, they took the media with them. It was like a reality television show watching the AAP politicians behave like crusaders. And yet when they were critised they immediately turned on the media accusing them of receiving renumeration from other parties to show them in bad light. What is the requirement to have the media everywhere you go? Do you need to boast and publicise every single you do? The saying, when you do charity, let the left hand not know what the right does comes to mind.

One thing is clear from AAP’s governance of Delhi, they are bullies. They had the power and instead of using it constructively and to do some good as promised they choose to show their power. They were disruptive and destructive. They were sensational in every way right up to the resignation speech from the window. There are Bollywood movies less dramatic than the AAP. India doesn’t need drama, we have more than enough of it. There’s Bollywood for one and the evergreen pepper spraying wielding MPs when we get bored of conventional drama. We don’t need more people who will clog our televisions.

People say that Mr. Kejriwal brought up the most controversial of topics because he knew both the Congress and BJP would disagree and withdraw support causing the government to fall and in light of his unending battle against the system the AAP would get a majority in the re-election. This is of course a conspiracy theory but that doesn’t mean it might not be true. India’s political scenario is more dangerous to navigate than a mine field, you never know what could blow up in your face. But assuming this is indeed true, there’s nothing more shameful for the now ex-Delhi CM. His city disrupting antics were bad enough but to throw so much tax payer money down the drain, think about the subsidies given out and the impending re-election costs with no economic plan in place,  shows that Mr. Kejriwal is no better than the rest of the lot. AAP didn’t really have a majority to do everything they wanted to do but they had enough to do SOMETHING. That something would have been enough to get re-elected in the face of what the other parties have done and gotten re-elected into power. That he put his party ideas and ideals above the good of the people is reason enough to criticise him. And even more so considering his unending speech about how he is just an aam aadmi and he is here to serve India.

You may wonder why I have so much ire for such a young party and one which has hardly done anything compared to the rest of the lot. To this I say, of course, I have contempt for the others. I have a lot more than contempt for the things they’ve done and continue to do and it’s not something that would fit in just one blog post. The reason I’m critising the AAP today is because they claimed to be different, they claimed to be the hope of the people. And for once, just once, I wanted it to be true. I really wanted them to do well and show the others that you can govern the country and do good for the people. The other parties have  played with a lot of things – our money, education, resources, future,… but they never claimed our hope. If you look at how the country is today, an outsider may wonder how we still work with the problems we have. We work because we have hope, a hope for change and a better tomorrow. As long as we have this hope, there’s nothing that anyone or anything can do to stop us from moving ahead. But today AAP played with that hope and that is something I cannot and will not tolerate.

We’ll never be royals

Last week Hollywood was rocked by 2 “shocks”. The first in the form of Dylan Farrow’s open letter accusing Woody Allen of sexually abusing her as a child and the second as the death of Philip Hoffman. Hollywood came out in drones to defend both celebrities praising their talent while grieving the unfortunate occurrence.

Every actor worth their buck and a lot of wannabes released a press statement or tweeted (really, whats the difference these days?) expressing their grief and extending the victims families support during this difficult time in their lives. The media too had a field day singing the praises of the amazing contributions made by both Allen and Hoffmann to the silver screen.

In all the chaos, the real story is lost and the real victims forgotten. While the media painted the two men as gods in their own right and as victims, the real victims – Dylan Farrow and Hoffmann’s family lay forgotten. Are you really telling me, we should be celebrating a paedophile and a known substance abuser? What have we come to?

They say art imitates life and vice versa. So who exactly is to blame for the glorification of these two disturbed individuals? People talk about what they brought to screen like it negates anything else they do. What kind of message is that sending out? If you’re famous you get away with anything?

I’m not comparing Allen and Hoffmann. They are 2 very different individuals. A child molester is much much worse than a substance abuser anyway! One enjoys himself at the cost of damaging the society while the other is busy destroying himself and indirectly to a certain extent those around him. But both share the fact that they hide behind their fame and evade justice.

Does fame really cancel out everything else? Well, it seems so these days, doesn’t it? If we “regular people” are known substance/child abusers, we are promptly put behind bars. When you’re a celebrity, everyone looks the other way. Caught with drugs? No problemo, hello! fancy rehab and thank you all for your support during this difficult time.

Celebrities continue to bask in the glory of their fame, untouched and unaffected by the ugliness of their actions. It’s as if their actions have no consequences. They behave as if they are innocent of the crime they’re accused of or even worse, that they didn’t know any better! It’s bad enough that they get away with what they do, what’s worse is that they have hordes of people who believe and defend them!

More closer to home we have Mr. Sanjay Dutt and Mr. Salman Khan. Both big names in Bollywood(no, I’m not calling it the Hindi film industry! deal with it!) and both accused of heinous crimes! But both living luxurious lives, releasing new movies and walking away with loads of money that WE provided! (Please don’t bring up the fact that Sanjay Dutt was in fact in jail and paid for what he did. He is still extended privileges others in jail are not provided, his sentence also not as severe and he doesn’t seem worse off from his stay in prison)

Celebrities are always in the limelight. Everything from what they wear to what they eat and what they do is news. they are trend setters and very influential people. They have immense clout over the millions wo idolise and ape them. Every time a celebrity gets away with something, actually, every time WE let a celebrity get away with something, it;s another reason for a “regular person” to follow suit. Unfortunately for them, they don’t have the money or the fame to safely carry them across the event. It’s like Lorde sings, In a torn up town, no postcode envy, but every song’s like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin’ in the bathroom,….

Now before you point out that celebrities are human too and they make mistakes too, let me say that I completely agree. So when you say they are human and they make mistakes. So doesn’t it also mean that since they are human they have to face the consequences? The problem lies largely with us “regular folk”. We treat the people on the silver screen as gods who can do no wrong.

How else would you explain the temples dedicated to actors or the 100 foot cardboard cutouts covered in garlands an showered with milk on opening days? How else would you explain the riots that occurred in Bangalore when Dr. Rajkumar was kidnapped?

We need to remember that actors are people too and that they deserve the same treatment meted out to them as to any other person. They need to face the consequences and suffer the repercussions of their actions.

Earlier you had Britney, then Lindsey, Ledger and today you have Miley and Bieber who are being spoken about for going out of control and wrecking their lives. We know about them because they’re celebrities. We don’t hear about the hundreds and thousands of other girls who worship these celebrities and imitate them because they may be lying in a body bag somewhere with the name Jane/John Doe on it. If we really want to rid ourselves of the plague that these people unleash on our society we need to show them that, no! bad publicity is NOT publicity!

We could all do with a little Bollywood in our lives

All the places of interest in your travel list are likely to have been built or have come into existence about half a century ago. If you think about that time, whether you talk about their architecture, lifestyle, fashion or cinema, everything was over the top. Larger than life, if you would. From something as small as tea to something as big as a party was one elaborate affair. Where you came from or what you did didn’t feature into how you lead your life. Everyone indulged themselves in every little activity.

You want proof, let’s start small, head down to the older parts of your city and compare the buildings there to those that have come up in the last couple of years. The old ones may be dirty and starting to fall apart but you’ll definitely notice something different in each and every one of them unlike the columns of grey we call home today. Think about the clothes and make up of the 1950s or 1920s and compare them today. Maybe those people put more time and effort into how they looked than we do now but the elegance and glamour in their hair and clothing, even in something as simple and common as the milkmaid’s dress, is lost on the dresses of today.  There’s a reason vintage is in, you know? Let’s leave the buildings and clothes behind and talk about tea, shall we? Whether the typical English tea or a traditional Japanese tea ceremony were such elaborate affairs in themselves. The people didn’t just savour tea but the time and work that went into making it. I could continue but I think you get the point.

When I think of the Taj Mahal or the Cologne cathedral or the Sacré Coeur, the sheer size of these buildings blow me away. In fact, even calling them buildings feels sacriligious, like I’m diminishing their standard putting them at the same league as something so common. Each of these structures carry in them so much detail and thought that you feel nothing but awe in their presence. You don’t have to be an expert in architecture, art or engineering to marvel at these majestic structures. Compare them to the “marvels” of today, the Burj Dubai, the Sears towers or the Taipei 101. All groundbreaking pieces of engineering but to the untrained eye, they are nothing but a pillar made of concrete, steel and glass.  Sure the way they tower over you and stand with their heads in the clouds ís somehting to marvel at, but in a day and age where you either live or work in the 10th or 20th floor, the feeling fades in a couple of hours if not a couple of minutes.

I understand and appreciate the technology and science that went into making each of these skyscrapers, but once you’ve had a tour of the building where they tell you why the building was built the way it is, the most you can do is drink a cup of coffee in a fancy restaurant that is bound to be there in the last or penultimate floor of the building, and that is assuming that you can afford to(more often than not you can’t). But then with something like the Taj, you could spend all day staring at just one wall and come back the next day to stare at the same wall and still have enough to see and be mesmerised by it.

Whenever I visit a new city and come back, the old and new stand out to me. For the next couple of weeks I’m constantly comparing and contrasting them and asking myself two things. The first being, have we lost our eye for beauty? That can’t be true. We live in a society that prizes beauty. You could even venture on to say that we have an unhealthy obsession with it. But as it stands, no, that is definitely not the problem?

That brings forth a second more pressing question, The question of have we stopped taking pleasure in the smaller details of life. This question is deeper and much darker than the previous. It doesn’t scrape at the surface but takes a more intensive look into our pysche and could perhaps answer the bigger question of why we are on an average such an unhappy lot. We need to take a better look to understand why we’ve become this plain, bland and grossly unhappy generation despite having technology and luxuries, previously unheard of, at our disposal.

While the market is flooded with newer and better versions have we forgone the enduring pleasure of enjoying our purchases in favour of being consumed by the fleeting the pleasure of ownership? We are caught up with the surface and have no chance to venture beyond to even give ourselves the chance to explore and experience true happiness. AS the adage goes, “Money can’t buy you happiness”, we maybe richer and be able to live longer lives but we’re by no means happier. What is the point of a long life where you can afford what you want but you can’t enjoy any of it?

In our fast changing and consumer driven world, we’ve stopped looking at the smaller details and forgotten just how much beauty lies in those tiny little details. And for those who go on about how unreal bollywood movies are, mabye what we need is a bit of song and dance to put colour back into our grey world. It may be a bit over the top but I’ll take drama and living in the moment over the insipidness and race of today that we call life anyday! I’d gladly trade my jeans for a 1920s dress if it meant happiness and satisfaction. Sure I may die earlier but at least I’ll be doing it happy and in style. If not, at least I’m in vogue ;).