Archive by Author | abohemiansrhapsody

Who Has The Power In The Information Age?

Who Has The Power In The Information Age?.

 

A piece I wrote whilst at the LSE, post a talk by Alec J Ross, former security adviser to Hilary Rodham Clinton. An analysis of data, snooping, internet espionage and the USA.

(And We Could Have It All) Our Empire of Dirt

My beef is not with Airtel, but with the recent advertisement they have out, promoting their mobile internet facilities.

 

For an introduction, watch here:

 

The new advert has people divided, apparently, over whether it is anti-feminist or not. While I think it is, several Twitter users have messaged me with names like ‘sad feminist bitch’ and some sexually suggestive comments. Itself an interesting insight into the perception of feminism in this country.

 

Advertisements need not necessarily be realistic, and so the obvious markers in this specific ad: the fact that spouses don’t generally report to each other in any sort of management structure, and *most* employees in India do not address bosses by their first names.

 

Bosslady (dressed, funnily enough, exactly like Priya Tendulkar in Hum Paanch)  is at her desk, looking very stern, or whatever she perceives as stern.  Employee complains about the workload. So far, so good-ish. Bosslady.

Cut to diligent employee at his desk, still complaining.

That  cuts to a yummy set of dishes filled with steaming, delicious looking food, being prepared by a disembodied phantom hand. (You won’t believe what happens next!)

 

The husband receives a video call, happening (presumably) in HD thanks to the superfast internet connection on dearest husband’s mobile phone, disembodied hand and yummy food in frame.

 

And it’s at this point you realise nobody but M. Night Shyamalan could have directed this ad…

“Wifey boss people.”  (to be said in a Haley Joel Osment-like fashion)

Frazzled husband is still at work, working on the work bosslady has left him. Plaintively, like every dutiful desi biwi should, she begs him to come home to eat.  He capitulates, they grin, and the ad ends.

 

Realism issue: What management structure allows spouses to be in direct managerial hierarchy? If there are some that do, this is the first I’m hearing of it.

 

I’ve read several arguments saying the wife ‘wanted’ to cook for her husband, so sweet, and that I was just a ‘rabid, unhappy, sexually dissatisfied feminist.’

 

Tackling the first of those statements first: I enjoy cooking, funnily enough. Mostly for myself, occasionally for family and friends. I do it of my own volition and own free will, entirely unencumbered by the expectation of having to have a hot meal ready for somebody. I was brought up independently by parents who cooked for themselves, me and each other (incidentally, my father is quite a magician with chicken) and if any of us was hungry, we cooked.

 

It would be utter folly to deny the expectations of an extremely patriarchal Indian society with regard to these bahus, however. Hindi films and Bollywood portray wives and daughters-in-law as such as well. Tea and food aren’t things you make. They’re things you are supposed to not only make, but have ready, and keep hot as you wait for your hubby dearest to finish whatever he’s doing/wants to do/following which he can sit and fart around.

And it is to these expectations that I take the utmost exception. I’m sure the agency that handled the ad thought they were being extremely ‘progressive’ and ‘feminist’ by showing a female boss.

When it’s ‘progressive’ and ‘feminist’ to show a female boss, and not just a normal thing, your society is VERY patriarchal.

As the daughter of an incredibly accomplished woman who has been on the boards of several multinationals, and a very accomplished businessman who also changed my diapers and does a mean grilled veg casserole, I was never brought up to believe that women belonged to certain roles, and men to certain others. I have unfortunately, while interacting with certain people, seen just how ingrained these retrograde expectations are.  Other women  have come up to my mother and asked her why she worked, ‘does your husband not earn enough money?’ ‘Do you have financial issues?’  as opposed to that wondrous, all too impossible possibility that my mum is very intelligent and good at what she does and wants to work. Fuck that, right?

To those who deny flat out that these expectations do not exist, have some empirical proof. Crunchy and nutritious.

Examine the press coverage of any intellectual, accomplished woman in the public eye in this day and age. 2014.

 

Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook.

Indra Nooyi, CEO, PepsiCo.

Hilary Rodham Clinton, Senator, former U.S. Secretary of State. Potential candidate for 2016 Presidential elections.

 

All of them repeatedly asked how they ‘balanced home and work.’ How they managed motherhood and their high-profile jobs.

 

Has anybody asked Bill Clinton how he managed home and work whilst he brought up Chelsea? Has anybody asked Sheryl Sandberg’s husband if and how he managed to be a good father while still going to work?

 

Has any man ever felt guilty, as Indra Nooyi recently said she did, because of societal expectations to be a good parent and successful at work?

 

Why, in India, is  ‘housewife’ an extremely normal term and part of the daily parlance of the majority of the population, but nobody has ever heard of a househusband? And men who even live with their wives’ families are called derogatory slurs like ‘Joru ka Ghulam’ (the slave of the wife)?  Are the women who are forced to be glorified cooks and cleaners then not slaves of their husbands?

Trick question – yes they are. They’re cooking, cleaning, sexual-pleasure-providing, childbearing slaves.

The day women are free of the expectation that they have to have ‘chai’ ready, or lunch, or dinner, or any damn meal whatsoever, is when people can point fingers and say the ad ‘portrays sweet relationships where people cook of their own free will.’

 

Now to address some Twitter trolls:

Exhibit 1 – “Its a way of women balancing home and work”

I’d like to see a man balance home and work and THAT be portrayed on an ad. I’ll even write the ad if any agency wants to take me up.

Exhibit 2 – “Take it in a good way the woman does the cooking work which requires more finesse”

Sanjeev Kapoor. Marco Pierre White. Heston Blumenthal. If they’re not men, that’s news to me.

 

Exhibit 3 “You dirty feminist you must be sexually unsatisfied no man wants u and so u hate men”

And that is why we need feminism. When idiots measure a woman’s idea of self-worth by how desirable she is (or perceives herself to be) to the opposite sex. That is, of course, all that should matter in her life, right?

 

[P.S - Dear person who DM-ed me that on twitter, please explain why my sexual satisfaction is any of your business.]

Until the expectations go away, until feminism stops being a dirty word, until women stop feeling guilty for pursuing their dreams, we need feminism. Until we can break out of gender roles and stop following or believing in established gender tropes, we need feminism.  Until the day the media and the public either stop asking women about the work-home balance, or ask it of men too, we need feminism. And for every day after that.

To the anti-feminists I had the absolute pleasure of interacting with, with their ‘men’s rights’ persecution complexes, I leave you with Trent Reznor’s lines:

 

I wear this crown of thorns,

Upon my liar’s chair”

 

 

 

Ab ki baar….bas karo yaar.

abkibaar

An homage, a tribute to the Indian Elections of 2014. A set that I was physically apart from, and from this geographically distant vantage point I was able to finally be an observer, or as Derek Zoolander would put it, a eugooglizer.

This set of elections was rather different from any I’ve seen so far as long as I’ve understood what elections were. In a move that I’m certain was meant to capitalise on the youth vote bank, campaigns this year were massively focussed on social media. This increased online participation meant that everyone and their mother was now on Twitter, Facebook and whatever other social network is there, looking to participate. This, as a standalone fact, is an excellent thing in the world’s biggest democracy.  The wave of politicians (and therefore, more and more users) on social media meant a massive online democracy had been mobilised to opine, to rehash, to ruminate and philosophise.

 

Or so it would seem.

 

While there have been voices from and about every part of the Indian political spectrum, this past election has seemed overshadowed by a very specific section, whether in the press or on the internet. A little digging and some investigative articles suggested that a lot of this publicity was paid for. The entire idea of the press not being neutral is absolutely infuriating, but in a largely capitalist world where money talks, and talks louder and more forcefully than anything ever has, it’s going to happen. Should there ideally be rules against this, irrespective of the type of economy? I believe so. Are there? I’m not so sure. But it is absolutely a worldwide phenomenon, spurred on not by the beliefs of news disseminators, but investors.

Various media outlets nationwide, barring fewer than a handful, have taken rather specific political stances – interviews, analyses and  ‘debates’ have all been biased, slanted rather obviously in favour of one candidate or the other. That has happened since public media has existed, and will continue to do so for a while, or at least until some extremely advanced technology, some form of Artificial Intelligence kicks it into obsolescence.

Unfortunately, while the ‘world’s largest democracy’ has now begun to be online, it is unclear whether this media is deliberating on issues to the extent that a democracy does, a la the  idea of agonistic pluralism theorised by Chantal Mouffe.  It hasn’t just been the victory that has been a landslide, the campaign has seemed that way too. There has been pluralism, there have been campaigners, there have been voices of dissent against what can only be described as predicated on the subject’s apparent success in his home state, the facts and numbers of which seem to indicate thus.

However, it is neither sensible nor fair to pick a candidate entirely on the basis of success in his home state, the data behind which may or may not be true, but was, and is bandied about repeatedly on social media by said supporters.

It is to be noted, however, that the same people refuse to mention, or even entertain any discussion regarding the 2002 Godhra riots, largely seen to have been a form of communalist violence, which happened in the exact same state. If one were to go by the oft-repeated statement that the Supreme Court of India granted the candidate a ‘clean chit’ in the matter, the fact still remains that not nearly enough was done to stem the violence, which seemed to become, to the perpetrators, some form of pogrom, an ethnic cleanse in their minds. The attacks were seemingly allowed to continue well beyond what they should have, the violence unimaginably gruesome and gory. Even if they were, according to the Supreme Court, not premeditated, and no political influence was involved, the fact remains that the same political power permitted the violence to continue. It must also be noted that said party (honestly, much like any other political party/politician in India) is communalist and plays on religious sentiment (sadly all too strong and polarising in India) in order to garner votes.

 

This is not exclusive to India, however, these communal, divisive politics, this ‘othering’, with a small section of political parties in the UK using this sort of tactic to pull in votes.

Temporarily, however, there was a glimmer of hope in the form of the Aam Aadmi Party. The name literally translates to the ‘Common Man’s Party’, and although they started small, they seemed to want to move in the right direction, their goals for once truly in line with what the country needed. They did not play at looking for votes from a specific sect, religion, section of the economy, but society as a whole. Unfortunately, their campaign petered out early, with their candidate withdrawing 49 days in. In the end, a real pity, as they were the only party that seemed to treat the people of India as people, as an actual society, instead of bits and bobs of an economy, or a market to be sold a product entirely. They cared about the aspects of social change that other parties either claimed to care about or in the case of the currently ruling party, are vehemently against. Regretfully, while their ideals were wonderful, it seems their ultimate execution was not.

 

Back to the politics of the specific state in question. Numbers were marketed, nay, hard-sold to the public, epic tales were told of wondrous development, of progress and the sort of magic one might seemingly only find at Hogwarts. But ask questions and you may as well be entering the Forbidden Forest.

Statistics show that despite the grand claims of development, education, nutrition and clean drinking water are all but accessible to significant sections of the population, and in some cases a majority of the state.

Child nutrition is at an all-time low – 47 per cent of children below the age of three in the State were underweight. That figure was 45 per cent in NFHS-2. That’s about twice the average for sub-Saharan Africa.

 

When a state claims as significant development, or at least a party does, surely nutrition is part of this ‘development’? Or is their idea of ‘development’ only the sort that is measured in money the rich can bring in? The metrics for the analysis that caused state, masses and media alike to arrive at the wonderful rosy scenario known as ‘development never seem to be revealed. When your nutrition rates are abysmally lower than those in sub-Saharan Africa, can you really claim development?

 

“According to Census 2011, 43 per cent of the rural households in Gujarat get water supply on their premises and 16.7 per cent get treated water from a common tap”

That leaves a staggering 57% of households that do  not have access to water, having instead to travel several kilometres, very likely on foot, through arid, harsh conditions, often to bring back enough water for entire families. This water, too, is often not fit for any form of consumption, as “67 per cent of rural households in the State have no access to toilets and members of more than 65 per cent of the households defecate in the open, very often polluting common water sources.

Well, shit.

It seems from this that the purported economic gain did not reflect within the state itself.

While the religious fundamentalism that has historically characterised the party has seemed to be absent from this round of elections, with a significant non-Hindu vote going towards the party, a fair number of significant members of the party hold rabidly religious and social views that seem to be stuck somewhere, perhaps a century ago. With several social movements in India in the last few decades geared towards eradicating exactly this sort of thought process, one worries that this might be a step backwards for India as a functioning society.

 

The Indian LGBT movement has gathered steam in the past few years, and a general awareness of what many, sadly, across generations, believed to be a ‘curable disease’, rather than an innate biological characteristic, spread. More and more of the Indian public began appearing in public, at movements and rallies protesting the criminalisation (and re-criminalisation!) of homosexuality. It was no longer the taboo it had been in the past, and pride movements became a thing. It was absolutely wonderful.

 

And now, a party that has stayed apart from the religious fundamentalism it has marked itself by in the past has come to power. But while the party may have stayed away from communalist marketing tactics, its leaders, and the men at its helm still believe in archaic ideals, such as these -

 

BJP President, Rajnath Singh: “We will state (at an all-party meeting if it is called) that we support Section 377 because we believe that homosexuality is an unnatural act and cannot be supported.”

Senior member of the party, Subramanian Swamy, an erstwhile intellectual and former Harvard lecturer, described homosexuality as a ‘mental disorder’ in a series of tweets.

 

Sadly, the Congress party was not much better, with the Health Minister in 2011, Ghulam Nabi Azad, describing homosexual sex, or ‘MSM’ as a ‘disease’.  While these archaic ideals may not be party-specific or community specific (in fact, some of the major religions practised in India sadly all view homosexuality as some sort of ‘disease’ or ‘disorder’), it is a massive blow to the movement that the newly forming cabinet is against progress and change in the social fabric of the country.

 

As I publish this, a woman has just been appointed the Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat, which is a wonderful thing. Anandiben Patel is, by all means, an accomplished person and politician, and her history seems to bode well for reform.

However, it now remains to be seen whether this is merely lip service or the sign of better things.

It is unfair to treat the country entirely as a market and focus merely on economic development, which, while important, needs to occur concurrently with social change. However, the focus on this seems to have been lost, buried somewhere beneath the cries of ‘development’.  Statistics can be bandied about that prove said development – but this is something everybody needs to keep in mind.

 

“So at the state and city level, things are far more complex than a simple copy-paste Guj-India job.”  (Shared courtesy Anupam Gupta ‏,

 

Change is never instant, and it is wrong to expect it to be.  However, I sincerely hope checks and balances, from within both public and establishment, can keep India as democratic as it has been. Perhaps this election was about development. Perhaps it was also predicated on a strong anti-incumbent sentiment that is fairly justified, all things considered.

Ab ki baar, the change that occurs remains to be seen. The latest developments, however, do not seem to be very promising, with AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal arrested today for expressing an unsavoury opinion of a prominent BJP leader. Genuine worries for the freedom of expression have now grown – will all public opinion be hereafter, er,  modified?

One can only hope that in this race, this mad quest for ‘development’, this live-action form of  Temple Run, India is still, in the eyes of the powers that be, not a corporate entity that needs to maximise profit, but a country. Made of living, breathing people who retain wholly the right to express themselves, personally and publicly, people who need more than just progress for progress’ sake, and not just the economic kind, .

 

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Here Comes the Quiet One

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abohemiansrhapsody:

On George Harrison’s birthday, to a genius gone too soon.

Originally posted on abohemiansrhapsody:

Let me tell you how it will be.

George ‘the Quiet One’ Harrison is one of those people in the world that means more to me than any real person I’ve ever known, even myself. He’s like family to me, even though I never knew the man personally.

But when I listen to him play and sing and speak, it really feels like I do. I’ve ‘known’ George since I was a little baby, so 21 years and counting now.  Back then, of course, I had no idea which Beatle was which on the record, so I just enjoyed listening to them rather indifferently.

George songs always sounded ‘different’, though. They had a very otherworldly feel to them, while still being about the human condition (and sometimes very, very scary indeed).

One of the first Beatles songs I ever heard, one that was on the 1967-1970 album (the first Beatles…

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The Next Da(y)vid. Happy Birthday, Mr. Bowie.

The Next Day

Last year (2013 is ‘last year’ now), this genius released his latest album.

Musician. Singer, songwriter, guitarist, saxophonist, a brilliant, brilliant actor, sex object, teen-and-adult idol and Goblin King extraordinaire, David Bowie, is 67 today. Fifty years since the man has been making music and it only gets better.

Although most non-Bowie listeners will know him by ‘Ground Control to Major Tom‘ (which is actually Space Oddity, thank you very much!) his debut album was the eponymous David Bowie, released in 1967. For those who have heard a lot of Bowie’s later stuff – Space Oddity, Ziggy Stardust, Life on Mars (the usual suspects), David Bowie will sound rather unfamiliar. Less surrealist and folksy than the more mature Bowie-image that has come to be legend, a number of songs on the album are very 60s and represent London [London Boy, Maid of Bond Street (one of my personal favourites on the album)]. Love You Till Tuesday is wonderfully candyflossy, youthful, and in all honesty, downright adorable. A simple melody from a lover to the one he loves, about how smitten he is. The simplicity of the melody and the lyrics make you fall in love with them.

While David Bowie might seem unlike Ziggy, Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke, or even the David Bowie of today, it was not as detached as it seems. A special Bowie skill, one that one sees in very few musicians today, is the ability to  paint extremely vivid, almost tangible pictures with palpable emotions,  telling entire stories in song (or in Bowie’s case, extend characters through them, even).

This is evident in Come and Buy my Toyswhich has simple lyrics, some beautiful folksy fingerpicking in the background. Seemingly innocuous, innocent lyrics paint deeper, darker, sadder pictures than those that are apparent. Maid of Bond Street paints a picture of glitzy London, of an actress on the train from Paddington to Oxford Circus (while on that journey myself, I hummed the tune and grinned to myself. The man looking at me must have assumed I was a lunatic. Oh well), but in a few lines shows the emptiness of her life, of life itself.

Macabre images that one would see in later Bowie work (certain songs on Hunky Dory, a fair number on Aladdin Sane) began cropping up early on – a prime example is Please Mr. Gravedigger, just pure vocals and sound effects – the rain in the background. While nothing like it melodically, the lyrics are reminiscent of a beautiful song by a certain Paul McCartney, released only a year prior.

We Are Hungry Men steps into extremely dark realms, all the while beneath a melodic exterior that seems quick, rhythmic, and perhaps incongruous  with its lyrics that allude to cannibalism and explicitly refer to infanticide and slaughter.  He talks of a messiah, a persona that will crop up in his later music as well, along with the idea and nature of being detached from humanity, an observer from up above – whether an alien or an astronaut, an otherwoldly being, or just a starman.

The world, humanity, otherworldly beings talking about humanity: this album had pretty much everything you could ask for. Some amazing work on Five Years and Rock n’ Roll Suicide, which are by far the most acoustic tracks on the album.
Bowie had always been very androgynous (and the subject of various rumours that seemed to indicate that he rolled with some Stones), and his Ziggy persona served to magnify this. He was a pioneer of androgyny in the public eye, even – and Lady Stardust, on the album, illustrates exactly that.
A year later, 1973, came Aladdin Sane, Bowie’s next persona and album. The boy/man with the lightning scar, about 20 years before J.K Rowling and Harry Potter.The piano on the title track is exquisite – the entire album, though it encompasses several different genres, has an absolutely beautiful flow. Something to whet every genre-related appetite. John, I’m Only Dancing and Panic in Detroit are quicker rock, as is Bowie’s cover of the stones’ Let’s Spend the Night Together. Cracked Actor is hard rock, drug-fuelled, sex-crazed and the epitome of what the older generation considered ‘rock n’ roll’, perhaps. In sort of what may be a descending-order arrangement of the album, you have those faster, more traditionally ‘rock’ tracks, then Cracked Actor, followed by The Prettiest Star (the most romantic waltz in my head, coupled with Bowie’s breathy, romantic rock voice).
Drive-In Saturday is sex. Sex in a song. Genuinely. Please, go listen to it because no other description will do it justice.
Lady Grinning Soul is rather James Bond ballad-esque. If it were to be compared to one specific one, possibly Shirley Bassey’s rendition of Goldfinger, in the vibe that it gives off. The piano work on Lady Grinning Soul (and the title track of this album) is pristine. [both of those Mick Ronson.]
Aladdin Sane: who’ll love him? That is the only question I ask.
Post Aladdin Sane came Diamond Dogs, Young Americans, and then Station to Station, which brought out Bowie’s newest persona: the Thin White Duke (throwing darts in lovers’ eyes).
Dressed as a harlequin straight out of Pagliacci, he would appear on Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), which would yield the bouncing (yet rather dark), space-like, surreal Ashes to Ashes, which carried on the persona of Major Tom that had been created with Space Oddity; he was now strung out in heavens high, hitting an all time low. (Major Tom, that is.)
The era post this was largely experimental. Ashes to Ashes- and really ,a lot of Scary Monsters, had been heading a more electronic route, which he pursued, solo and with his band, Tin Machine, from whom he eventually separated.
Bowie then went on hiatus for a while. A long, long while, until it was announced, a year ago to the day, that he would be releasing new material (and the mice in their million hordes cried out in joy).
The Next Day is another one of those albums that you simply cannot pick a favourite track off. Genius, all around. It is a thing of beauty, of awe and wonder, that for 50 years (and counting),  David Bowie has managed to keep the essence of what keeps him going bottled up, untouched, and puts out beautiful, original music each time. Prodigious intelligence doesn’t hurt, either.
The title track and The Stars (Are Out Tonight) are two of the most iconic videos off the album- the former featuring Gary Oldman and Marion Cotillard alongside Bowie, and the latter his friend and another androgynous powerhouse of talent, Ms. Tilda Swinton.
My personal favourite is Love Is Lost, featuring a whole lot of David Bowie puppets. Very surrealist, and I would definitely recommend it. Honestly, just go buy the album. It’s wonderful.
I’d like to go into detail about how brilliant an actor the man is, but no words would do him justice and I have perhaps written too much anyway. All I will say is this: Go watch The Prestige if you have not already seen it. David Bowie aside, it is an incredible film (as it should be, it is a Nolan production). The cast is absolutely stellar and still, somehow, none outperforms the other. You will also never see a more convincing Tesla on screen.
Another recommendation is The Man who Fell to Earth. Now a cult classic, it was panned when it first came out. Something about the storyline fits its lead perfectly. If you like science fiction, this film is definitely for you.
Last but not the least, a film I love, one that 80s and 90s children have grown up with, and one one of my best friends and I have bonded over, something you can watch with your children, even: Labyrinth.
I’d like to ask what Jareth the Goblin King says: “What kind of magic spell do you use?”
Not only has the man been brilliant all this while, he’s married to an absolutely inspirational woman as well (she also just happens to be one of the most beautiful, successful women in the world)- the supermodel, philanthropist, activist and all-round driven career woman, Iman.
Happy Birthday, David Bowie. Here’s to 67 years of absolute brilliance. Thank you for making my life more livable, better, more special even.
To feeling like I could beat them, just for one day.
Play on, Ziggy.
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Nothing’s Gonna Change My World

abohemiansrhapsody:

8th December, 1980, we lost this beautiful man. A commemorative I wrote a while ago – have a read.

Originally posted on abohemiansrhapsody:

9th October,1940. A genius was born, in Liverpool.

I wasn’t even sure how I should begin this post- how in the world do you write something to a person who died before you were born, but one who’s been part of your life ever since you were a little child?

And by a ‘part’ of my life, I mean most of it. I still remember coming home to empty rooms after school as a little girl, both my parents at work, and I’d do the one thing I’d been asked to avoid – tinker around with the music system. I’d seen my mother press a button, and three CDs would come spinning out, which I found infinitely fascinating.

My first memory was of this boxed set of discs with four cute men in pajamas staring down a balcony, and I decided to investigate.

I wondered why the CDs had apples…

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Tips for Chetan Bhagat… (Just for fun.)

The crème de la crème of Indian authors, the cat’s meow, the cream of the crop, the bee’s knees, that literary genius, that proselytising Twitter guru, that magician with his words, Chetan Bhagat, has recently made a wonderful video for Shaadi.com (possibly the world’s most well known matrimonial website [ugh]), where he lists tips for the site’s founder, who recently got married himself.

For a little bit of a background, watch this

The guru of gurus, the unrecognised (but clearly deserving) head of MENSA, is now dishing out tips for a successful marriage.

Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber 1

“Just Say What She Wants to Hear”

In this tip, he talks about how choices, with women, are not really choices. you just have to guess which ones they like. WOW, Chetan Bhagat. I speak for all women when I say you are really, truly the most amazingly perceptive man in the entire universe. How did you know all women were not really human, just completely irrational, two-faced vagina-toting humanoids incapable of normal thought processes like men are? Poor ol’ us.  ‘North Indian, South Indian’, we’re all the same.  He talks about choices between A and B as being like computer programs, which  solve problems ‘based on applying criteria’. What are those, Mr. Bhagat? Programming? Criteria??? You’ve lost us poor stupid women already!

It’s not about finding A or B, Chetan. It’s about finding, to quote a certain Red Forman, my foot in your ass.

P.S – You know what *I* really want to hear? That Chetan Bhagat has given up writing and/or a public existence for good. I will wait for that day and I will celebrate it.

Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber2

Remember Anniversaries, She Will Forget Your Sins”

Here he talks about remembering anniversaries, something I am not a fan of. You celebrate if you feel the need to celebrate, and don’t if you don’t. If the day means something to you then let it.  I fail completely to understand why ‘forgetting’ a day makes you a bad spouse/partner, and if that is one of your criteria in deciding whether you should be nice to your partner or not, you are a horrible partner yourself.

He instructs all men to ‘remember their in-laws’ birthdays. But he doesn’t stop there, taking it a step further instead.  He asks that most wondrous of all beings, men, to ‘be the first one to call your mother-in-law’ on her birthday, and then ask your spouse/partner why they haven’t wished their parent yet. Of course, these birthday wishes are not birthday wishes, but leverage that you can use when you’re ‘in the doghouse’, so to speak.

If you happen to be friendly with your spouse’s parent/s, then you wish them because you know them and you want to fucking wish them happy birthday. Not as ‘OMG I WISHED HIM HAPPY BIRTHDAY NOW I’M OFF THE HOOK’. Dear Chetan Bhagat, as much as your writing and behaviour make it seem like it, you are not five years old.

P.S – As far as being ‘woken up at midnight by Chetan Bhagat’ goes, I’d probably just tell myself I’m having an incredibly horrible nightmare and go back to sleep.

Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber3

“Do not give an opinion, merely endorse”

According to Mr. Bhagat, if one of us ‘lil ol’ ladies asks a man for an opinion on an item of clothing, we’re not asking for an opinion at all. We are obviously too weak to handle honesty and truthful viewpoints, so all we want and need is positive reinforcement from men (of course we do, how in heaven’s name would we live without it?).

It is absolutely telling that the whole ‘Do I look Fat’ scenario is limited to women. That, dear Chetan (or do you prefer Chetanji?) is a product of our stupid, patriarchal society where men can look whatever they look like and be successful in a field that focuses exclusively on appearance (the movies, for example) but women, in day-to-day-life, need to be suspended in a bubble of self-doubt, in a constant state of worry as to whether they look fat or not. Health matters whether you are male or female – how you look should not matter at all, but unfortunately for the world, and consequently to women themselves, a bulge here, a fold there, is absolutely unsightly and should be banished immediately, by whatever means possible. Women are meant to be pretty little fairies with no opinion, no cranial ability, and no life beyond men and serving them, aren’t they, Mr. Bhagat? And their lives invalidated without said ‘endorsement’ from men? Poor us. Also, we look at other women who are prettier than us and begin to hate them immediately. How did YOU know, Chetan Bhagat, that women cannot look at other human beings the way men do, rationally, and consider their abilities and strengths as independent aspects of their personalities? I’m so glad you’re around to teach me the ways of my kind.

P.S – Chetan Bhagat likes to make jokes about women’s insecurities with their appearances. I’d make a joke about Chetan Bhagat’s appearance but that video speaks for itself.

Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber4

“Warning – she follows you on Twitter”

This takes off from Shitty Tip Number 3, which is all about female insecurities. While body image issues are, unfortunately, a reality, Chetan Bhagat brings us his own version of female insecurities, which have to do with men calling other women attractive. According to him, the moment a man compliments a woman, it is grounds for the wife to ‘put her husband in the doghouse’. In Chetan-land (or Bhagat-world, if you prefer), not only are women completely devoid of self-confidence or self-belief, but men are not supposed to have opinions either, unless they want to regret them all their lives.

For SHAME. How dare any being have an opinion on another human being right? And of course, said opinion necessarily means you like that human better, no? Like a little child’s mother complimenting another child, which necessarily means she loves that child more than her own.

P.S – Gentle reminder, Mr. Bhagat. YOU ARE NOT FIVE YEARS OLD.

P.P.S – Sexism works both ways, and you’ve just illustrated that extremely succinctly. Thank you.

Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber5

“Show your support. Like all her Facebook updates”

He says this is a ‘tip for a modern marriage’. ‘You must like all the pictures, silly rants, stupid things’ your spouse posts on Facebook.

I’m all for social media. I’m doing a degree in media. I do NOT, like most other people, believe it has a damn thing to with somebody’s feelings towards me.  If your love, or the security of that love, is predicated on a ‘like’ or a retweet,  you’re in an incredibly shitty, insecure relationship. I do think every one of the last few points is predicated on Chetan Bhagat’s assumption that women are insecure, and that is the most important aspect of their existence. Women are insecure beings that cannot survive without male validation – it is THIS male validation, of course, that validates not only their looks and figures but their very existence. Yes. That’s all the vagina-ovary bearers of the world need, Mr. Bhagat, to ‘keep us happy’, because we need to be ‘kept’ happy. Facebook likes. This man has all the answers, people!!

P.S – When you say the rants are ‘never stupid, always profound’, you’re obviously not talking about yourself, you fucking moron.

P.P.S – your ideas are anything but ‘modern’.

Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber6

“You might be the boss in the office.. She is the boss at home!!”

So according to Satan…oops, Chetan, the days of performance reviews are over. You are now not the reviewer, but the reviewed. This review will not be an annual one like the rugged menfolk are used to, but a daily one, nay, an hourly one, nay, a minute-to-minute review, based on the clothes you wear, how you sit and stand, your appearance, things that the rest of us would find trivial but Saint Bhagat tells us are the criteria for judgement.

Who ever thought a marriage/relationship was a partnership between two equals, right? It’s supposed to be about one dominating the other, browbeating them into submission and having them follow their every word. It’s not like it’s supposed to be a symbiotic thing, with both people contributing to conversations, discussions, finances, the relationship itself. It isn’t supposed to be an environment where two people feel comfortable enough to air their opinions and are able to discuss their problems and lay them bare as they are. It is about submission, complete submission. Men and women are not MADE to be equal, right, Mr. Bhagat? Relationships and marriages only ever work when one partner dominates.

I think we should all just listen to Chetan Bhagat when he says ‘Seriously, you’re not supposed to be listening to this. Bye bye, take care.’ If you truly DO care about yourself and your sanity, do not watch that video.

My condolences to Chetan Bhagat’s readers and fans (male, female or otherwise) for being utterly brainless, and commiserations to his wife for being married to a sexist, male chauvinist pig, paperback-writing hack with no visible redeeming qualities whatsoever.

Keep A Friend Serene

abohemiansrhapsody:

My latest short story. A labour of love and darkness.

Originally posted on anuthebeatlegirl:

I still remember the day I met her. My hair was in tangles all about my face, just like hers was. We were both soaked to the bone from the pouring rain, and looking for refuge from the downpour, anything to guard us from the ominous clouds overhead.

She drew me in – I had been following her from two streets away, captivated by her bright, beautiful smile, a smile full of love, that drew me in when I looked at her and she crinkled her nose at me.

“Hi!” she beamed.

“Hi,” I smiled back, following her. “Where are you headed to?”

“I have nowhere to go, either”, she told me. “Come, come with me. We can be best friends.”

Happily, I walked behind her, following her to wherever she was headed, which, as it turns out, was the next road.

We heard a loud clap of thunder and…

View original 2,226 more words

The Dutt-y Face of Indian Politics

munnabhai edited 2

Certainly, people the world over are obsessed with the world of the rich and the famous, with its glitz and glamour. It seems incredibly alluring, and that is understandable to some extent  – it is but human to covet what you cannot have, or what seems out of reach. But sometimes, it takes on ridiculous proportions, like it has in India, where Bollywood is the be-all and end-all of everything.  And it’s not just about the celebrities themselves. It’s about Madhuri Dixit’s secretary, Salman Khan’s bodyguard, Yash Chopra’s makeup artist, somebody’s housekeeper, somebody else’s toilet cleaner, you get the picture. The sordid tales of the daily life of a domestic helper to the stars is tabloid fodder, too. And it only gets worse.

Apart from celebrities feeding our public consciousness all the livelong day, they also make public nuisances of themselves.  They then join forces with this wonderful species I call Indicus Politicianus (and the words ‘anus’ and ‘politician’ go together perfectly) to form some sort of awful, corrupt, money-leeching, authority-flouting, make-your-own-rules because there-ARE-no-RULES superentity, kind of like the evil version of Captain Planet that liked to dump sewage and pollute the world.

Counterintuitively, this sort of behaviour will get you treated like royalty, waited on on hand and foot, and you will be the Jack Dawson of the Indian Streets.

Criminal convictions? What on earth are those? If you are a member of parliament or the Legislative Assembly, you don’t have to follow the letter of the law, you are judge, jury and executioner. Whatever remaining ‘work’ needs to be done ‘legally’ will manage to slant itself to support you.

Take these two, for instance:

“…………Kshitij Thakur, an MLA from the Bahujan Vikas Party..”  “…Ram Kadam of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena” assaulted a policeman last week. Why? The man pulled their car over because they were speeding. How dare he, no?

A line I have heard uttered frequently is ‘pata hai main kaun hoon?’ . Alternatively, ‘pata hai mera baap kaun hai?’  – Do you know who I am? Do you know who my father is?

The functioning rule here is if you or your father are rich and/or famous, connected to Bollywood, politics, cricket and or the murky filth surrounding them, you can do whatever you damn well please. Sadly, it is one that is all too true. Calling them bedfellows would be an understatement, because they might as well have been having a long, full-blown orgy. (Maybe they were right when they said pigs have the longest orgasms.)

Back to the story of the policeman. Said politicians were driving down the Bandra-Worli Sea Link in Mumbai, above the speed limit. A policeman does his duty and pulls them over. He gets beaten up, fifteen people to one, for his trouble.

After a hue and cry is raised, an investigation ensued. The investigation helped bring the guilty party to book!

Except it didn’t.

“Home Minister RR Patil said early inquiries suggest Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Suryavanshi used inappropriate language against..” the two MLAs mentioned earlier. What ‘inappropriate language’ may be is anybody’s guess, of course. Obviously, any form of ‘inappropriate language’ condones physical violence, where a person is outnumbered by fourteen to one.

State legislators rallied behind the lovely set of bullies, and called for ACTION against the COP. While the two assaulters were arrested, they were immediately released on bail.

In what seems a truly completely logical conclusion to all of this, the policeman in question, Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Suryawanshi, was  suspended from duty until further notice, while the assaulters were made to pay Rs. 15,000 apiece (pocket change in the world of politics) and were ‘not required to be present for court proceedings.’

Wonderful.

But that case is absolutely minuscule compared to what is currently gripping the nation: the trials and tribulations of Sanjay Dutt.

First, a little background for the uninitiated – it was twenty years (and two weeks) ago today.

Black Friday – Friday, 12th March, 1993.

Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.

13 coordinated bomb explosions ripped through Mumbai all day, killing upwards of 250 people and injuring 700. (Those are only the official figures, the actual number of fatalities must certainly have been even higher.) You can read more about the blasts here.

NDTV have an interactive timeline of the blasts here.

Now in the midst of the hullaballoo, Mr. Dutt here was found to be in possession of firearms. Illegally so. And we’re not just talking a pistol, which could have been for self-defense, or perhaps a revolver, or some such thing (while I do not at all condone keeping illegal firearms, or really, any firearms at all,  it is perhaps a little less ludicrous for someone to have a small Beretta in their personal possession than it is an AK-56.)

That batch of firearms was found to be from the same consignment as those used in the attacks. In April, 1993, Dutt was convicted under TADA, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act and sentenced to ‘six years’ rigorous imprisonment’, of which he served a massive, massive 25%. He was out of prison in 18 months.

Extensive campaigning by his father,  eminent actor and later politician (see how often those two things come up together?), Sunil Dutt, who by all accounts was a gem of a person with an exemplary record, led, in 2006, to Dutt Jnr being let off under TADA, but being charged under the Arms act alone.  Only coincidentally, of course, his father was a Member of Parliament at the time.

A few short one-month stints in prison later, he was out and intending to contest elections.  However, this was not to be – the Supreme Court refused to suspend his 2007 conviction under the Arms Act.

Cut to the present day. 26th March, 2013. Sanjay Dutt’s sentence was upheld.  He has 4 weeks to surrender (which I’m quite sure is 4 weeks longer than any other accused does).

Incidentally, a woman named Zaibunissa Qazi, who did exactly the same thing Dutt did – that is, store firearms for suspicious parties, was convicted under TADA. That sentence, unlike Dutt’s, was not rescinded, withdrawn or appealed, which is truly the way it should be!  Considering everybody else who stored arms was convicted under TADA, why was Sanjay Dutt let off with only a conviction under the arms act?

In spite of handcuffs transforming themselves into a slap on the wrist, our lovely film fraternity, Bollywood, has ‘come out in support of Sanju’. He is ‘not a criminal, was in the wrong place at the wrong time’. ‘This will shatter him’. ‘Poor man’.

Yeah, poor criminal, committing a crime. My heart bleeds for the fact that he was caught. Truly.

“Director Kunal Kohli too batted for Sanjay Dutt, saying, “The ’93 blast case should not be made about Sanjay Dutt. The Real planners are sitting safely in Pakistan” – Does that mean, Mr. Kohli, that those who have aided and abetted said ‘real planners’ must not be subject to the course of the law?

Others have discussed him being a ‘broken man’ and not knowing if he ‘will ever be able to recover from this’. Recover from committing a crime?! Are we being absolutely serious here? And if we are going to go the emotional appeal route, can not the mother, father, brother, sister, wife, girlfriend, husband, boyfriend, what have you, simply shed a few tears on a television screen and be done with it?

Dutt’s latest support has come in the form of a certain Justice Markandey Katju, who has outlined these incredibly  astute reasons as to why he believes Dutt should be granted a pardon. Among them : Dutt’s difficulty at securing a bank loan (much like a majority of our population, who, unlike Dutt, were not born with a silver spoon in their mouths), his ‘difficulty with regard to foreign travel for film shoots’ (??!) and the ‘length of the trial’.

The length of the trial has to do with the fact that our legal system is just that slow, something you would think that Justice Katju, of all people, would be well aware of. Evidently not.

He also says Dutt has ‘two small children’.   Surely a lot of victims of the blasts, which, let’s face it, was a crime Dutt was involved in, directly or indirectly, had children themselves? What about the children who grew up without their fathers and mothers?

Katju also mentions that Dutt’s parents, famous actors Sunil Dutt and Nargis, were exemplary citizens who did much for India and Indians.  What on earth do their good deeds have to do with their son’s criminal activity, and should said good deeds preclude punishment for Dutt, and why? I now have a burning curiosity as to what Jack the Ripper’s parents did. Maybe he deserved a pardon, too?

Others describe Dutt as a ‘victim of circumstance’, a man who lost his mother,  his wife, and then, a decade ago, his father. While losing a loved one, nay, several loved ones, must certainly be incredibly painful, he was a) an adult, and b) it is absolutely not something that can be used to explain away voluntary criminal activity.

Another famous man lost his mum, a woman he was very close to, at the tender age of 14. But instead of turning into a wreck, the man became a superstar on his own merit at the tender age of 16. He then lost his best friend and songwriting partner, and later the love of his life. He still remains a genius, and a grounded, conscientious, contributing member of civilised society, who has not once been involved in anything remotely criminal.  A man who wrote about love, war, peace, loneliness, life, everything under the sun. A man who wrote songs like this for the woman he loved.

So why the public outcry, the pity, the sadness, the appeal for somebody who was born privileged and chose to fritter away their opportunities and good fortune on drugs and crime? Because he played a character who interacted with, incidentally, a true politician, one who actually cared about the country, back in the days when we had those – Gandhi?

While I agree one is innocent until proven guilty, in a country where, if you are or know the right people,  you cannot even be proven guilty in the first place, what water does that even hold?

Why should he have two famous politicians now travelling the country, going from pillar to post, campaigning for ‘mercy’ for him, and on what grounds does he deserve any mercy whatsoever? Sympathy for the Devil?

Politics and Bollywood are strange bedfellows indeed, but in the end, while it may be their orgy, it’s the country that’s getting fucked.

Lage Raho indeed.

One Down: First Woman.

cw3

If only it were just a crossword clue anymore.

‘Eve-teasing’. An all-too-popular pastime in this wonderful country we call home. It isn’t even English, really, but an Indianism, ifyou will, much like ‘prepone’, ‘reply back’, ‘do the needful’ and our Indian version of ‘propose’, which doesn’t mean what it means everywhere else.

It is commonly defined as men ogling at women on the street, whistling, singing songs, basically boorish men behaving like they own a woman they see. Or at least that is how it starts off, with men at street corners singing the cheapest Bollywood songs they can think of, with the most crass lyrics imaginable (and my goodness me, our lyric writers give them so much to choose from it’s like listening to an even less melodious version of the radio).  There are catcalls, whistles, remarks like ‘item’ and ‘wah’, and then there’s outright groping.

I have been fortunate enough not to ever have been groped or had anyone attempt to do so, but for your average Indian woman, tapori ‘seeti’ and catcalls have become a way of life, something that’s in the background, like annoying white noise you cannot get rid of.

As we all are FULLY aware, rape has nothing to do with sex, or titillation, or whether my clothes are too tight or too short or too something-or-the-other.  It’s to do with a moron (or an entirely stupid, backwards society) SO steeped in patriarchy that he is convinced he absolutely must show his masculinity, or as they like to say here, ‘mardaangi’. What better way to show you are a MAN than by subjugating a woman, no? Of course! What better way to subjugate a woman than to violate her?

Of course, with this comes the wonderful label of a woman’s ‘modesty’. My sexuality. My ‘modesty’. Her modesty was violated. The farmer committed suicide because his daughter’s modesty was outraged. Modesty in India is a wonderful umbrella term that covers virginity (only for a woman, though, let it be remembered), female sexuality, anything that could possibly even indicate that the woman has her own independent thought processes, makes, nay, even wants to make her own decisions – and god forbid they are sex-related – or just wants to be considered a human being like any other, and the way to show what I shall subsequently call ‘penis-power’, you grab this ‘modesty’.

Recently, an acquaintance of mine I met through mutual friends when I studied abroad, and a Facebook friend, did this, and it was amazing.

He was crossing the street in Bangalore with two female friends, when two uncouth hooligans on a bike began to ‘eve-tease’ them. Akshay Kingar, instead of bowing his head and walking on like most of us (myself included) do, he took a photograph of them and posted it to the internet.  Our two lovely idiots may not have been aware of the power of social media when they so wonderfully flipped Akshay the bird. They’re likely more than aware now.

In addition to garnering immense Internet traffic, the post was brought to the attention of the Bengaluru Police. Members of Parliament, news channels, publicists and even average Joes working in the field of the media latched onto the story and brought it to the attention of the entire country.
Those two upstanding pillars of modern society have, I hear, since been arrested by the Bengaluru police.

Unfortunately, there are many like them that roam the streets unfettered, feckless pieces of filth that live with no fear of the law (which, of course, inspires no fear in anybody because it might as well not exist), and only two days ago, in spite of ALL the lip-service the public received post Nirbhaya, THIS was a headline: “Woman gang-raped on bus in Indore”.

Clearly a LOT has changed since Nirbhaya, then.

Lip service, lip service, and more lip service. Changing the law may be one thing, but changing people’s mindsets is another.
A wonderful guy left this nugget of wisdom on the photo Akshay shared on Facebook [and I've left his name in because he deserves to be shamed publicly in every way possible].

Venu Krish Reddy first over girls must wre the proper dress’s den y the hell da guys ll teas them, so guys plz think of t also k..,”

That comment was ‘liked’ by 3 different people, one of them, sadly, a woman.

In our country, it doesn’t really take much for something to escalate into violence. It could start off as vile jeering and creepy leers, but with no legal regulation, anybody can pick up a bottleful of acid at a corner store for a nominal amount, and, should his lecherous advances be spurned, use this to prove his might. (I am penis, hear me roar?)

Everybody now, Delhi police included, seems to be telling women how to ‘take precautions’ so that they are not attacked. That in itself is ridiculous, in that the police is obligated to make people abide by the law, the same law that should punish them if they do NOT. Unfortunately, that is not the way it works here.

No, instead of that, let’s tell women what ‘modesty’ is. Modesty is not showing your shoulders/arms/legs/cleavage/neck/ANY skin whatsoever, because otherwise you’re just asking to be raped. How DARE you show skin? And if you do, how do you expect the man to control his sexual urges?? Poor diddums!

Then, we shall make ‘historical’ reference points to outline what exactly we define as modesty. Draupadi, Sita, Parvati, Sati, whatever mythological woman was the most subservient is automatically the most modest.

Indian men (and again, I do not mean educated Indian men – I mean the ones who lean on their bicycles/motorcycles by the side of the street, wearing their ‘Dabang’ glasses, thinking they have all the swagger in the world) seem to consider ogling a birthright, something that they just do. Then you have this man proving it’s not just your average cheapo who does it. And he’s wonderfully shameless about it, too.

Tie this in with our leftover white supremacist ideals and our obsession with whiteness in general, which have seeped so far into the cracks of our broken society that they have become part of its very foundation (and are proved, time and time again, by the staggering sales of fairness creams and bleach, or even the sheer volume of advertisements you see about them on the television), and you get an increasing spate of crimes against foreign tourists, who from what I gather are looked upon as ‘itummm’. While I was writing the article, this happened and it is terrifying. I think I might have done much the same.

Victim-blaming is a lovely, lovely pastime of (in increasing order of the gravity of how stupid this is) the people, the law and the upholders of the law.  First you have idiots like Mr. Venu on Facebook, blaming the girls and asking them to ‘look at what dress ur wearin’, an idiot I saw on the Times of India comment board implying Nirbhaya deserved to be raped because ‘what did she expect travelling so late wid boyfrnd’, the Swiss tourists who were told by Madhya Pradesh police ‘not to be wandering around so late’, and the Suryanelli rape case, where her tormentors, among them Rajya Sabha MP P.J Kurien, said she was ‘of age’ and the sex was consensual. In addition, THIS:

The Court order described the alleged rapes as a “willing journey of a misguided girl”, and claimed that the male accused were “guilty only of the immorality of going to a woman, who they thought was a prostitute.

Of course, this is entirely logical, because if she’s a prostitute, it’s totally okay to rape her, right? It’s not like she is providing business that SHE should conduct at her OWN discretion, right? (However, considering the level to which trafficking goes on in this country, this is an article I would like to save for later.)

The JUDGE in that case, a man named Mr. R. Basant had  said “The girl is not normal, she is deviant. All these are there in the judgment”.

First off – even if she was a prostitute (which I sincerely doubt), that gives nobody the right to rape.

Second, considering legalese is supposed to be extremely accurate, with no room for any ambiguity whatsoever, I wonder if there is any way for Judge Basant to explain the word ‘deviant’. Perhaps he means what the collective Indian male I mentioned earlier believes. ‘Immodest’.

There can be all sorts of banter about laws being changed, anti-rape law this, anti-rape law that, anti-rape anything. But at the end of the day, it all boils down to this. We have to, as a society, bring up men that do not think of themselves as a superior being or species, but just a homo sapien that happens to have a penis. It is a fleshy, vascular appendage. Not a Golden Excalibur between your legs that you draw out to proclaim your kingship.

We need to stop calling the cheap morons by the street Roadside Romeos, although I quite approve of the name if it involves them ingesting poison of some sort.

Dear 19-year-old guy at my gym, this means that when you ask my friend “Why do you cook your own dinner, aren’t you married? Doesn’t your wife cook for you?”, or “You change your daughter’s diapers??”,  you are part of the problem. The very, very big problem. The law may precipitate the problem, but the problem is your mindset, and that of a billion others, not all of them men.  The problem is that these people need to be taught something that most of the civilised world has been aware of for a long, long, long time.

Gender equality.

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