Friday, February 24, 2006

Hindustan Times, Sunday, March 3, 1946

Wanted: Very handsome, white-complexioned, non-Goel Bisa Agarwala bachelor boy, highly placed and well-settled, for very beautiful Matriculate, highly accomplished girl of 18 of U.P. family, very rich, educated and cultured. Marriage first class with cash dowry of rupees twenty thousand. No objection for poor persons of high education and special talent, but none without beauty and charming personality need correspond. Apply with full particulars and recent photo at the first instance.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Do not fear death so much, rather the inadequate life

How do you feel when you hear that someone whom you've known since toddlerhood, who was once upon a long time ago your best friend, who studied the hardest at school because for her it was a way of silent rebellion, has 'agreed' to get married- to a man she has met only a few times? This, at age 22, when the world is at your feet begging for you to explore it, play with it, taste it, conquer it?

I could only respond with a silent 'congratulations'.


While the above occurred on Sunday, on Monday I learnt about the death of a forty-year old 'friend'. We were friends who never knew each other's names, whose only interaction was a 'hi' and a smile as we passed by in hallways or met in the library. Everyone at Alliance Francaise de Delhi knew him. Everyone. He was that kind of a guy. The one everyone loved. The kind who loved everyone. A theatre activist. I will miss you, Umesh. May you rest in peace.

Strength to you, Anna.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Faded pictures in my scrapbook/ just thought i'd take one more look

In my last post, I had mentioned that I'd follow up with my thoughts on Gloria Steinem's parody...well, right now, I don't wanna.

Nope. Pas du tout.

Today is (drumroll)..... Valentine's Eve. And I'm feeling all lovey-dovey and warm and smiley and lonely and grumpy mixed. Of course, it doesn't help that I've downed 2 glasses of nice Chateau Indage wine. And have watched an advertisement-free hour-long V Day special on VH1....all '80's and early '90's love songs (after a loooooooong time have switched on the idiot box). Had forgotten half of these numbers- 'Two steps behind' by Def Leppard, 'That's the way love goes' by Janet Jackson, and ohhhhh, that song which brought back memories of Class 10 n 11, of cool summer days spent inside a semi-dark room at home, singing along with cousin C to 'You're the Inspiration' by Chicago. ahhh....

So then, I'm feeling nostalgic on top of everything else too. (To those among you who are saying 'eww' as your read the names of the songs, back off right now...grrrr....i stand by them till death us do part)

But no, hold on girl, I am telling myself. Nostalgia can be a dangerous route to slide down, especially when you have spent the last few years looking strongly ahead, trying to forget some painful memories of the past, scared that looking back might hold you back.
But for once, today, I have decided to indulge myself with my memories- not with fear of what the remembering might bring, but with a strong urge to dip into the smells of yesterday- for the only reason that they made me happy when they did happen, and shall always be a part of me.

These are then strands from my past, in no linear order.


When I was little, about 8 or 9, my dream destination was London. A cold n grey 1970's London no less, with red brick houses warming the landscape and green fields with horses spread about in the background. I would picture myself sitting inside the open doorway of my own little house, sipping coffee and looking smart in brown woollen trousers, sexy knee-length leather boots and a beautiful cream-coloured top... The more I flipped through Mum's old St. Michael's' 'New Winter Collection' manuals, the more my dream I dreamt :)

When I was even littler, 6 to be exact, I decided I wanted to be a writer when I grew up and that was THAT.
At 10, I wanted to be a writer, a doctor, a veterinarian and a tennis player.

In Class 3, there was in our english textbook a story about a wise old man to whom everyone in the village would come to for advice. The wise man knew everything. I thought that my grandfather must have been a wise old man. I decided I would be a wise old woman when I grew old.

'Another Day in Paradise' by Phil Collins was the first English song I really really loved and tried to learn the lyrics to. I was 8 years old then, and I remember it was summertime and I was having lunch when I first heard that song. I still hold a special place in my heart for the song and the singer. Thank you daddy for introducing me to him and other great artists.

I remember dad teaching me how to climb trees at age 4, swim at age 3, to be strong and brave and not cry at even the most painful cuts.

I remember my first crush at age 10 on a cute classmate- S. Liked him for 6 more years. He had beautiful artistic hands. He's studying to be an artist now and is still rather cute.

I remember crying when, at D's tenth (or was it eleventh?) birthday party, above-mentioned classmate remarked off-handedly to my brother after a game of cricket - 'Your sister's such a tomboy' (I'd batted and fielded too). Not something you want to hear from someone you're trying to impress.

I remember summer holidays in classes 5-9, hot sunny days spent with cousins inside water-cooler'd cool rooms. Of playing endless games of scrabble and pictionary and cards with C. Of sporadic games of chess with Uncle A. Of ice-creams and aam panna and watermelons and mangoes. Of making beautiful school projects with help from C. Of feeling young and free and wild and happy in a timeless time that those 3 months were.

I remember middle-school days spent swimming at the Talkatora Stadium after school hours. Trained by Mr. Gogia- my mentor, guide, friend and father-figure. The one who believed as much in his girls as in his boys, if not more. The one who pushed us all to excruciating limits in swimming, athletics and basketball. The one who made me stretch myself to the max and shouted at me whenever I slowed down. Who made me jump from the 10-metre dive board, run the 400-m in an athletic meet even though I hadn't qualified, taught me how to shoot hoops, dribble, kick the football. Who would put his arm around my shoulder while talking as he did with the 'guys'. Sometimes, with all bones in my body aching and my breath gone, I kept going only to make him proud. I looked up to him. He taught me how to live with dignity, courage, self-confidence, self-respect and pride. Thank you so much, sir!

Ages 13-16 were happy times. Happy happy happy times. They shall forever be slotted in my heart under the sunny/springtime/fresh/cool/happening categories.
In those 3 years, I grew much. I learnt lots. I made new friends. Was part of a cool 'gang' of 4 at school, which included me, my bro, N and A.
Had my first sleepovers. Trekking trips from school.
Started 'hanging out' at the coolest place of the time- Priya Complex in Vasant Vihar.
Heard my first 'non-veg' jokes and grew red at hearing them. Heard my first non-veg jokes and had to have my brother or N explain them to me!
Went alongwith girl friend alone to have sundae at Nirula's. Went bowling with her too. Proudly learnt to assert my independence. Even if that meant major fights and silent rebellions.
Discovered great music. The Beatles, Boney M, Abba, Demis Rousseau, George Michael, Celine Dion, Trisha Yearwood...stuff that still brings back good memories each time I hear it.
Went for school dance parties.
Got scolded for talking for hourrrrrrs together on the phone.
Learnt to drive the scooter and the car. Drove a bike once too.
Had my first major crush, on a handsome fella whom I'll call GK. He had just joined school in class 8 after living in london for a long while, had an amazingly throaty bri-iish accent, played the guitar and even shaved regularly for god's sake! This when the rest of the boys in the class were still developing toad-voices.
Walked straight into a huge pillar when one day, walking in opposite directions down the school hallway, and when I thought he wasn't even aware of my presence, GK said Heii Girrrija, just like that, to me. Bam! went my head against the black pillar.
Got woozy in the knees when he called up once (the only time he did!), so what if only to know about next day's history homework.
Got my first pair of Nikes.
Lived a lifetime. that's that. Nostalgia-time's a-over...for a while atleast. So is feeling low and lonely and grumpy. I feel good, no wait, i feel great already! yeeaaa

Happy Valentine's Day to me. To me, me, ME! So there. and there. AND there!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

If men could menstruate...

....history would be a lot less bloody.

I chanced upon this wonderful wonderful parody by Gloria Steinem.
(merci the umbrella topic 'When Religion Seeds Guilt' by
Shubhosree Pal here).

Enjoy this piece. I shall let my thoughts on it remain the subject of another post.


A white minority of the world has spent centuries conning us into thinking that a white skin makes people superior - even though the only thing it really does is make them more subject to ultraviolet rays and to wrinkles. Male human beings have built whole cultures around the idea that penis envy is "natural" to women - though having such an unprotected organ might be said to make men vulnerable, and the power to give birth makes womb envy at least as logical.
In short, the characteristics of the powerful, whatever they may be, are thought to be better than the characteristics of the powerless - and logic has nothing to do with it.

What would happen, for instance, if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not?

The answer is clear - menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event:
Men would brag about how long and how much.
Boys would mark the onset of menses, that longed-for proof of manhood, with religious ritual and stag parties.
Congress would fund a National Institute of Dysmenorrhea to help stamp out monthly discomforts.
Sanitary supplies would be federally funded and free. (Of course, some men would still pay for the prestige of commercial brands such as John Wayne Tampons, Muhammad Ali's Rope-a-dope Pads, Joe Namath Jock Shields - "For Those Light Bachelor Days," and Robert "Baretta" Blake Maxi-Pads.)
Military men, right-wing politicians, and religious fundamentalists would cite menstruation ("men-struation") as proof that only men could serve in the Army ("you have to give blood to take blood"), occupy political office ("can women be aggressive without that steadfast cycle governed by the planet Mars?"), be priest and ministers ("how could a woman give her blood for our sins?") or rabbis ("without the monthly loss of impurities, women remain unclean").
Male radicals, left-wing politicians, mystics, however, would insist that women are equal, just different, and that any woman could enter their ranks if she were willing to self-inflict a major wound every month ("you MUST give blood for the revolution"), recognize the preeminence of menstrual issues, or subordinate her selfness to all men in their Cycle of Enlightenment. Street guys would brag ("I'm a three pad man") or answer praise from a buddy ("Man, you lookin' good!") by giving fives and saying, "Yeah, man, I'm on the rag!" TV shows would treat the subject at length. ("Happy Days": Richie and Potsie try to convince Fonzie that he is still "The Fonz," though he has missed two periods in a row.) So would newspapers. (SHARK SCARE THREATENS MENSTRUATING MEN. JUDGE CITES MONTHLY STRESS IN PARDONING RAPIST.) And movies. (Newman and Redford in "Blood Brothers"!)
Men would convince women that intercourse was more pleasurable at "that time of the month." Lesbians would be said to fear blood and therefore life itself - though probably only because they needed a good menstruating man.
Of course, male intellectuals would offer the most moral and logical arguments. How could a woman master any discipline that demanded a sense of time, space, mathematics, or measurement, for instance, without that in-built gift for measuring the cycles of the moon and planets - and thus for measuring anything at all? In the rarefied fields of philosophy and religion, could women compensate for missing the rhythm of the universe? Or for their lack of symbolic death-and-resurrection every month?
Liberal males in every field would try to be kind: the fact that "these people" have no gift for measuring life or connecting to the universe, the liberals would explain, should be punishment enough.

And how would women be trained to react? One can imagine traditional women agreeing to all arguments with a staunch and smiling masochism. ("The ERA would force housewives to wound themselves every month": Phyllis Schlafly. "Your husband's blood is as sacred as that of Jesus - and so sexy, too!": Marabel Morgan.) Reformers and Queen Bees would try to imitate men, and pretend to have a monthly cycle. All feminists would explain endlessly that men, too, needed to be liberated from the false idea of Martian aggressiveness, just as women needed to escape the bonds of menses envy. Radical feminist would add that the oppression of the nonmenstrual was the pattern for all other oppressions ("Vampires were our first freedom fighters!") Cultural feminists would develop a bloodless imagery in art and literature. Socialist feminists would insist that only under capitalism would men be able to monopolize menstrual blood . . . .

In fact, if men could menstruate, the power justifications could probably go on forever.
If we let them.