Saturday, January 26, 2008


That's rape. For those who dunno.

So it's a lovely lazy Saturday evening and I chance upon the Lead India show (funnily I never realised it was a televised program, though I've seen the exquisite ad, and am aware of India's obsession with TV). It appears that the modus operandi is that contestants are given a subject, upon which they speak extempore for a certain amount of time, after which they take audience questions and are awarded points by the judges. The only woman among the finalists is, predictably, asked whether rape should be made punishable by hanging. Her response, containing an impressive array of statistics on current law, was essentially that yes, it should.

A year ago I would have delightedly nodded my vehement assent. Now, however, I have changed my mind a bit. First off, I'm not too happy with the way that question is asked. I feel like it forces the issue down to "Is killing a person worse than violating someone sexually?" which completely distracts from the very brutal reality of rape itself, taking it off to some metaphysical debate on assigning value to intangible things*. Secondly, since the entire movement of the lawmaking and enforcing process has been away from exhibition [remember the goode olde dayes of heads on spikes and going to see a nice hanging for some entertainment?] and towards concealment, it would seem to be a regression. This actually ties into my first objection, since it draws away from the real issue of sexual violation and focuses more on the ethics of the taking of life. The whole point of secluded prisons and life sentences was the result of someone, somewhere asking, "Wait a minute, he killed a man so he's bad/evil/wrong. So when you kill him, doesn't that make you bad/evil/wrong too?"** Thirdly, while the death penalty definitely is a deterrent to committing a crime, that is tied into the ability to convict said suspect of the crime (which is no small issue in India where cases take about 3 years to reach trial), and can be abused by people willing to try. The stakes are simply too high.

My biggest objection to the question is that it assumes that some grandiose reform can alter the deeper and terrifying insidious problems in society, especially Indian society, that subvert all the legal structures one tries to put in place. Well, the legal structures can DEFINITELY use some work; to the best of my knowledge the maximum sentence for rape is 10 years in India, no matter how much of a repeat offender one is, the sentence for custody rape, gang rape, rape of a minor is 5 years according to the lady in the show today, and some time ago, if the accused in a case could find two witnesses (i.e. fairly established men) to testify that the woman in question is of a 'bad character', the charges would be dropped. But the biggest problem with rape in India, according to me, is not so much the legal blind-eye or facilitation as the social ethos where the first reactions is "Look at how she was dressed, she was asking for it!" This of course makes it prohibitively difficult to prove rape has even taken place, since the stigma that attaches to being a victim means that most rapes are never reported, and when they are it's usually too late for forensics.

One of the most unnerving aspects of Indian society is the way it is kinda neatly tipped to favour men. I'm a big follower of the dress-to-suit-the-shadiest-place-you-could-find-yourself-in path myself: even if I'm driving myself to an exclusive club in a corner of town, just because of the faint possibility that I might need to get out, or open a window while at a standstill, I will NOT dress like I would to go clubbing in the US. And I do not see this as a violation of some fundamental right. Yes it is extremely annoying to be ogled, and that's definitely why I don't wear some sorts of clothes, but I still wander all over without a dupatta. And here's the rub (no pun intended): it doesn't matter WHAT you wear, on a DTC bus, you will be groped. Sometimes it's so crowded I think the guy is just randomly grabbing and hoping he gets a girl. And if you make a fuss, it's fairly unlikely that someone will come to your aid.

So what, one might ask, is my thesis? Do I hold that Indian men are some sort of specially evil perverted breed, and non-Indian men are shining knights? No. Definitely not. I get ogled PLENTY in NY. But over there, I like it. This is mainly because the guy who's checking me out, whistling or yelling "Hello gorgeous!" does not think that noticing something about me that makes him a little *ahem* happy entitles him to the right to co-opt me into his preferred way of dealing with said happiness. I certainly have had many lecherous thoughts about many men I have glimpsed in public places, but this does not mean that I have the right to fondle. Them or myself in public. One does not have to turn to stone and never notice an attractive person - it is merely that noticing them does not give one the right to partake of them.

Socially, the reaction to an account of harassment or eve-teasing is an admonition to dress more demurely, not attract attention, and so on. Marital rape and date rape are barely acknowledged, since the very presence of a rishta (relationship, the Hindi word is better) whisks the woman away into the man-centric world where he calls the shots. Agreeing to enter into interaction with him on a romantic/sexual field implies constant and immutable consent. A delightful illustration of this is the hostel rules at my institute: men were not allowed to enter the women's hostel after 11pm, enforced by a patrol by a stout lady with a stout stick, and women were not allowed to enter the men's hostel after 11, not enforced at all. In fact, considering the overcrowding of the women's hostel, most girls who were seeing someone who lived in the men's hostel practically spent most of their time in the men's hostel. The logic underlying this is simply that the institution undertakes to protect the women as long as they stay in their enclosure, once they cross over into male territory they're on their own.

Which is pretty much how Indian society sees the interaction of the sexes. As long as women stay within the confines of socially-approved clothing, movement patterns, hairstyles, behaviour, volume, etc. it is a violation of social mores to harass them. Once they stray outside this assigned space they are inviting the attentions of the men who are kept out by the rules, and thus society cannot really intervene; or, at the very least, the male reactions are justifiable.

This is what needs to change. We need to make people understand that no means no, that, as adults, having an impulse does not mean acting on it. But, as long as Bollywood portrays harassment as blockbuster-hit courtship songs and rituals, as long as cops can harass people for holding hands in public, citing it as indecent behaviour***, as long as it is OK for someone to hassle a woman secure in the knowledge that he will never be held to account, all the legal reform in the world will not make India a safe place for women.

*Rape and death are both very real, tangible things, once taken down the personal level. It is very tangible to have lost a provider in a household, or to be overcome by terror at the approach of any man, or be viewed as contaminated for an act you did not even consent to.

**For a more...articulated version of this, see Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish

***Apparently, in Bangalore, a couple was arrested and ill-treated for some such thing, and it turned out they were married. Which apparently made the incident all the more shocking. In Hyderabad, a guy was fined for kissing his girlfriend, and he insisted that the cop write out the ticket to say so, and proceeded to fax it to the papers the next day. For more stories on the bad position India's women are in, go here and here, though you'll have to scroll to the fourth bit.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Marriage and the Indian*

(This baby's been a loooooooooooooooooooo-ho-ho-hong time coming...)

The views expressed here are the result of recent events and the fermentation of feeling evoked by previous ones. The examples used here are all people personally known to the author, but with names and identities altered. I know I'm not feminist, except in this way, so spare me the anti-rabid-feminist rants. In this post I am referring to certain specific aspects of the attitudes and behaviour of a certain socio-economic-cultural context of Indian society, and in no way do I accept the extension of these views to other contexts or aspects of said society. I reserve the right to recall, expand on or just generally change my mind about the things I say here. In short, don't fight with me. Or take this personally.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman, of Indian origin and aged twenty-five, is desperately in want of a husband.** Well, at least her parents are. The other day, while visiting the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, I went to the screening of a documentary made by an ex-denizen of Bangalore, whose parents accepted a marriage proposal on her behalf somewhere in the 1970s. So what you ask? Well, she was twelve. Yes, you read that right, TWELVE. As in not-even-a-teenager twelve. The documentary***, which must have taken immense courage to film, let alone screen, just blew my mind. One of the questions she repeatedly asks her parents is how they thought that she, as a twelve-year old, could have been expected to understand the significance of the question she was being asked, when asked if she wanted to marry this man. Juxtapose this with the average Indian child's punishment for daring to indicate the possibility of disagreement with a parent****, especially a father, and one can see how she acquiesced, if in fact a twelve-year-old's acquiescence to anything other than "Shall I serve the ice-cream?" can be taken as a considered decision. Heck, in the average Indian family it's easy to see how any person [usually a girl, alas such is our life] would go along with what has been chosen for him/her by the all-powerful, awe-inspiring [in the good old testament sense], how-dare-you-speak-in-my-presence father.

Of course, as her father blustered, she wasn't married till she was sixteen (one month and bit short actually) which was the legal age back then, and it was a very good proposal from a good boy, who would let her study and grow under his aegis. It would have been a shame to pass it by. These are the same parents who married when he was 30 (acceptable, just about) and she was 20 (practically an old maid in that generation), and sent their daughter to school and bought her books when she wanted to read. Some sort of madness gripped them when the uncle who came with the proposal approached them, perhaps the fear that she might marry 'some unsuitable boy, from some other *gasp* caste or even worse, *faint* religion'. (Patience, coming to that.) Chandra had a daughter when she was still sixteen, and lived in her desperately unhappy marriage to a not-horrible, not-evil man, until she decided to escape on the pretext of going to the US to graduate school, after divorcing her husband and leaving it to him to tell the world. To his credit he did sign the paperwork required to permit her, his wife and naturally chattel, to travel abroad without his protective presence, knowing full well that it could be the end of their marriage.#

The usual reaction to these situations once narrated in India is to say that well in those times people were not educated; the girl herself was economically dependent on her family and thus had no choice; the mother was dependent and indoctrinated in rural values and couldn't stand up for her child; other people, including the university professor husband's friends, could not intervene in a family matter; the parents were doing what they thought was best for their child according to all they knew. That some of these qualifications are true and others are questionable, to say the least, must be mentioned. That said, my purpose isn't to explore the problems raised by that situation, however tragic it was. My concern is with the very immediate present, and the things that still happen and, even worse, are still accepted in Indian society today.

We have come a long way since the 1970s. Many women are encouraged to study, even the marriage market will sneer at a girl without a Bachelor's degree. Many more are encouraged to work, even after marriage. People today are urban children of urban parents, and fairly distanced from the complex web of rural conventions that create the mindsets/conditions for a situation like Chandra's to arise. Even so, the strange phenomenon is the startling rise of this very rural mindset among the very liberal/liberated, educated upper middle class. The consequences of this phenomenon for India's women are deeply disturbing.

This documentary comes hard on the heels of a series of deeply disturbing experiences that have affected the lives of many women I know, of my age and my milieu. To begin, let me state that these women are all from what I call twice-educated backgrounds, in that their parents are highly-educated, usually in medicine, engineering or the sciences, conventionally seen as more 'rational' disciplines for whatever reason, and proudly part of the liberal middle-class, and they themselves, these women I know, are educated and independent. They have all been raised in metros, and while they probably were not encouraged to go and meet boys, they were certainly not kept confined away from the society of males, just as they were not indoctrinated into the rural belief system that ensures the continued power of the caste-system in this day and age.

This girl, I shall call her Carla, comes from a fairly wealthy family from a certain corner of the country. Carla's father is a neurosurgeon, a rather successful one at that. They live in a very nice part of a bustling metro, and despite the mandatory visits to the rural motherlands, are very much an urban family. Her mother is also educated, though to be honest I'm not entirely sure of what she does. Carla was sent to boarding school, a famously liberal co-educational school, and then went on to study in one of the most prestigious colleges in said metro. She moved to another city to study further, with the full support of her family. There she met Karim, possibly the nicest male to ever evolve. Seriously. The kind of guy that, if your daughter brought home you'd rush to the temple with tears in your eyes to break coconuts, if you did that sort of thing. Tentatively, the two started to go out, and at some point it came to the attention of Carla's loving, liberal parents that their daughter was seeing someone who did not belong either to their community, let alone the subcommunity, or to their religion.

All hell broke loose. The parents demanded that Carla never see or speak to That Boy again, even though they were studying mostly the same classes on the same small campus, and had most of their friends in common. "You're too young!" the parents avowed, "You don't know how to judge character! How can you know he is right for you?"## The parents had never really met the boy, or tried to get to know him, or seen what his relationship with their daughter was like. Carla and Karim, for their part, had made no declarations of eternal love, marriage and babies in a baby carriage. Just a statement of interest, in the present. The mother, whose health was never too stable, began to have attacks and spells of various kinds, and in the interests of peace, Carla gave in and told her parents she had ended it with Karim.

Of course, no such thing had happened, something the parents could not or did not want to see. Carla continued to live in the Second City, she continued to have her relationship grow and thrive, and she decided to just wait few years and prove to her parents that she had made an informed decision, and that the community differences between her and Karim did not sabotage their relationship, which would show them that they had no need to be concerned for her and could give their consent (yes I'm simplifying). She stayed on to work in Second City, landing a good job at a prestigious firm, with great benefits and complete independence.

One day her parents called to tell her it was time she was married, and that 'people' were asking about her single status. She replied saying that she was very happy with her life as it was, thank you, and felt no compulsion to get married. Her mother began to ail again, entreating her to have a care for the family status in the community, and that of her own parents' in the family. They were receiving proposals for her from VERY eligible partis, and there she was, educated and worthy of a good match, at just the right age. Carla, under immense pressure from her parents, who held that studying was the only acceptable reason not to get married, nearly had a nervous breakdown and decided her only hope was to leave the country to study further. Far away in a VERY cold place she soldiered her way through her degree only to find that it really wasn't much defence, since the expectation was that as soon as it was done she would be back in India, to get married.

Her degree over, she decides that the time has come to break the news to her parents that she is still and very seriously involved with Karim, and that they plan to be married, sometime in the future. She begins by telling her father, who takes it quietly, expressing a little worry over how her mother will take it. A collective sigh of relief is heaved. Three days later, everything goes haywire. Her mother says it is impossible. There is no way that this union can be countenanced. None at all. Carla would have to choose, in 24 hours, whether she wanted her parents or Karim. If they accepted such an unholy alliance they would never be able to show their face in public again! They would have to relocate! Carla's sister's chances of a good marriage and a non-bleak future would be forever destroyed! No, Carla was just going to have to decide. They would back off and let her remain single for ever if she chose, letting her move to a different city, far away, and never speak of this again. But allow her to be with Karim they would not.

Carla is devastated and distraught. She cannot make such a choice. Karim is shattered. His presence is what is causing her such pain and trauma. And the hamster goes on. Around the wheel, over and over. There is no argument that can defeat "He is not one of us", and there is no choice that will leave Carla happy. This, then, is the cost of parental love. For if you were to ask them, they will say, as they do believe, that this is the best for Carla, and there is nothing that motivates them save her own best interests, and they are doing this because they KNOW it is the only way she can be happy.

Case #2
Pinky is from a particular community. She went to a coeducational school, and her parents are both intelligent, articulate people. She is an only child. Pinky gets an MSc in a very contemporarily relevant scientific discipline, and secures a place in a HIGHLY prestigious PhD program abroad. She has been seeing Rahul for a long time now, they started going out in high school. Rahul is perfect, in that he is from the same community, EXACTLY so. He's an engineer, one of the most lauded professions in India, and heads off the the Land of the Free and the Brave for further studies. While both Pinky and Rahul are abroad, their parents get together and certify their relationship with a nice religious engagement ceremony. All the family is told, as are all the friends. There is much rejoicing over how nicely it has turned out.

Except it hasn't. Pinky realises she doesn't really love Rahul. They did have a lot in common, once, but this is not true anymore. She realises that she wants to end the relationship. Naturally, Rahul is upset by this. Convinced that it is merely the distance, he asks her to reconsider. Her parents are shocked. They also think that this is a phase, that she will get over. She tries. But nothing changes. She still does not want to spend the rest of her life with Rahul. She tells her parents that she is convinced of this, it's not that she wants to marry someone else, it's just that she doesn't want to marry Rahul.

Pinky's parents lose it. They are incredulous. They cannot believe that their daughter is doing this to them, after they have publicly announced the engagement! They tell her there is no way they can accept her decision, especially after the whole family has been appraised of it. She will just have to marry him and deal with it. Pinky protests that to do so would end in a divorce, which is far worse than a broken engagement! Her parents refuse to accept the argument, saying that once she is married and has a few kids she will not want to leave him. The battle rages over years, and Pinky finally has her way, but not without acquiring a deep aversion to India and the society she comes from.

Case #3&4
These two I'm clubbing because they are essentially the same story. Girl studies, girl gets good steady job. Girls turns 25. Parents acquire match for girl. Girl says she doesn't want to get married, she's happy as she is. Parents are oblivious. Girl repeats. Over and over and over. Parents tell her to shush, its just nerves, once she's settled she'll be fine. Exhausted, girl gives in. Girl marries guy she doesn't really want to marry, girl moves to foreign country, and the rest is yet to be seen.

Case #5
Very similar to 3&4, in 5 we have a boy, who happily marries a girl he has known a long time, because they are both at the 'right' age, and they know each other, they get along, they are friends, they fit in all the other socially required ways. One day, six months into the marriage, she walks out. It's not personal, she just never wanted to get married in the first place. She's made it out, on the strength of her choice, but the boy is left devastated - whether he 'loved' her or not, he is suddenly deserted in a very public way and will carry the stigma, and yes it IS stigma, of divorce with him all his life. All of which could have been avoided.

Here are the things that disturb me so much about all this. In the first two cases, the girls fought. They are still fighting. One of them might have to make a life-shattering decision. It is the parents I cannot understand. How can a parent, when seeing a child visibly ailing, getting thinner, unable to sleep, deeply disturbed, how can a parent insist that they are in the right? Not that there is a moral right or wrong about this, except to promote the happiness of the person you love, articulate your concerns about the path they choose, and then support their choice. Is it an overflow from the Always-Right-Indian-Parent issue? Or of the What-Will-People-Say issue? Probably a(n un)healthy mix of the two.

A common assumption that underlies society is that children are the future. The entire purpose of procreation is to follow the shining road into the future. The reason we bust our butts and earn money is to ensure our children have a better future than they would have had if he had not, and better than the past we ourselves had. And, the one aspect that is most unpleasant, one day we will die and our children will live on beyond us. So why is it that a parent wishes to force a child along a path that, while it starts in keeping a parent happy, a noble aim, will in all probability end in a bitter, lonely life for the child, once the parent who is happy is no longer there?

Ah but is it to ensure that they do not end up alone and in pain that parents do this, one might argue. Agreed, a parent knows a lot more about life and its travails than a child, at least in this context. Granted, parents have access to life-experience that we don't. They know about the realities of marriage and the differences which seem small in a world-for-two, but can become terrible in larger contexts. But it is also the job of parents to equip their children to think for themselves and trust their own judgement. Parents cannot protect children forever, and at some point must have faith in their own abilities as parents, and believe that they have taught their children well, allowing them to make their own mistakes. To insist on one's 'superior judgement' in a situation where the child is obviously deeply distressed is crossing the line between the desire for the best for the child and needing obsessive control of the child's life. Of course, much of this has its roots in the traditional unquestionability of the parental decree, whereby no child dare hold an idea or opinion that differs, even if slightly, from that of the parent, let alone be opposite to it.

Thirdly, and what worries me the most, is what 3, 4 and 5 show. These women are capable of independent lives, they HAVE independent lives. They ARE educated and economically independent. Yet they give in. Don't get me wrong I am in no way criticising these people for taking the path they felt they could best handle, and I do not believe that it is easy, not a whit. The worrisome aspect is the fact that they cannot seem to fight the imposition of parental will, even with the advantages of education and independent income, even with the backing of middle-class liberalism^. What does this say about the situation of women in India today? There is definite empowerment of the women who DON'T come from these backgrounds; ironically the inheritors of progressive Nehru's legacy are the people who seem to be slipping into this grotesque social regression. It's like the oft-cited phenomenon of expatriate communities being far more conservative and rigid than the societies they came from in the home country, except it's happening inside the country.

* I was going to go with Indian Woman, or Indian Parent, when I realised it's kinda more widespread than that!

** What you thought I wouldn't use the Great-Grandmomma of marriage traditions?

***Sorry I can't for the LIFE of me remember the name of the distributors of the film, hopefully the acrostic one will leave it for us in the comments...

****You got it, another post.

#Chandra then partied wildly in the US for a few years, went to Germany to study, where she met her current husband, and finally decided to settle in Canada, with the hope of having her daughter join her there. Twelve years after she left India, she decided to return and find out what had happened in the thought process that set in motion those terrible years she had lived. I hope she finds her peace, however hard the path. If you'd like to acquire a copy/find out about a screening, contact Pedestrian Pictures.

##These are not actual words, just convenient stereotypes to summarise the gist of the arguments and the degree of drama involved.

^Not much backing I agree, but in theory...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Forgive Me

Gentle reader, sometime ago I took a decision to stop personal blogging. Course being me even my delightful (*ahem*) rants start from the particular that is me and then zoom out. Or vice versa. A recent post violated that resolution, and I fear I am about to do so once again. I apologise. Blame it on the recent life-altering event that was executed on me, blame it on the rash of weddings among my deerly beloved, blame it on finding myself *gasp* uninterested in TV and without a lot to do. The end result is much pontification, and for all the chat conversations I have, sometimes I need to talk to me, out loud. So if you don't really want to hear my angst, come back another day, normal service WILL be resumed.

On Saturday I was informed that I had been graduated. Why phrase it thus? Due to the legal complications that ensued from my advisor not approving my thesis, I was talking to the assistant director of my Centre to find out if there were a way to legally return to the USA to re-write my thesis and have a source of income, since my fellowship ran out once I finished taking class. Apparently the ensuing chaos was so great that the director took over the advisorship and, demanding that I write him an email requesting him to be my advisor, proceeded to summarily approve my thesis. So yes, the saga of the New York life is over.

Initially, when I thought I was done for good in December, my heart was breaking, I would dream of my life there and wake up with a smile, which would change to tears when I realised it was a dream. I would read emails from my friends and cry, because I had finally found a city I loved, a life I loved and friends who loved me. I would fidget because I've gotten used to living in my own place and I didn't think I would feel that happy again. Before I left I cried an entire day because I was leaving my beautiful beautiful apartment to my flatmate, who is not... er... housetrained.

I was India for a very stressful month, my sister got married and we were all running around like headless chickens. My advisor had rejected my thesis and I suddenly had to deal with this HUGE tangle of USAmerican red tape, while figuring out how to redress his issues and put job talks on hold without blowing my shot at them entirely. But in the back of my head I was suddenly happy because I could go back. I had to answer the following questions about seven hundred times, without losing my cool or getting sarcastic. "So when are YOU getting married eh? *nudge nudge wink wink* Seeing someone?" "What are your plans in life?"

Today I find myself delighted with this news about my degree. The past six months have shown me that I am virtually unemployable in the USA, because, I assume, my qualifications are all so much icing but not a lot of cake, and even the icing isn't worth it when it comes with visa complications. And of course there's "the recession". I am highly employable in India, because lets face it there are not THAT many fluent speakers of Spanish floating about. I've spent the past two weeks lounging about the house, running errands, freaking my mum out by rearranging things and throwing things out so much that she's a bit lost as to where anything is anymore. I've barely finished one book. I've watched 4 episodes of General Hospital. I've been out with ghosts from my past, and I've enjoyed it thoroughly. I even think that they could be *gasp* friends of my very own someday, not just appendages that come out with Oldest Friend and corner me for hours badgering me to jump him. I find myself at peace.

It's very disconcerting, because suddenly I find myself defiantly asserting my current state of non-gloominess when friends commiserate with me about leaving NY. The last time I felt this same peace was when I was in Spain this summer, when everything made sense, it was all orderly and I knew where I was going and what I was going to be doing and this imbued me with a sense of extreme joy - I was literally overflowing with tranquil excitement [oxymorons are the best kinds of morons!], because I knew I had ALL these possibilities ahead of me in NY. There were friends and favourite hangouts, there were daily phone calls from the Sister and general family bonding on a scale unseen before, there was a thesis subject that interested me greatly, there was a whole year of milongas and salsa clubs and people who "got" me - ergo all the more likely a boy would turn up. And then it all came crashing down with the discovery, in August, that I would not be permitted to take a whole extra semester to do my thesis, because of visa rules [information that was, eventually, wrong]. So began my semester of frantic jobhunting, thesis buliding, advisor finding and heaven knows what else, leaving me with no time to even enjoy my last semester. Juxtapose this with my emotional state in December and I cannot understand WHERE all this peace is coming from!

It's not the same kind of peace. Sometimes I think its fear, I'm clinging to my mommy and all she stands for - security, haven, conversation, familiarity - that cache of backups I've been squirrelling away for years. I know the city, I love my house, I have OF - twenty years is a lot of buffer between me and reality. A recent blog fad is the write a letter to Me-of-2007, and I was thinking, what do I tell her?

Dear Me-of-2007

You will finish your degree, because it's very painful for the department to keep you on. You will find incredible new friendships, and seriously consolidate old ones. You will grow up and lose a LOT of your baggage. Your life will be the richer for it. You will not travel to Latin America, and pretty much give up on the idea for now. You will learn Portuguese and the Bachata, and get MUCH better at both the Tango and the Salsa. You will find a lot of confidence. You will discover you flirt MUCH better in Spanish than English.

You will buy a suit in anticipation of all the corporate interviews you will have. You will wear it to a meeting with an Indian in Edison and FREEZE, because you don't want to have never worn it. You will not find a job in New York. Or Latin America. Or anywhere in the USA. You will not become sylph-like and suddenly attractive to the Indian male. You will not meet a boy who sees you as a potential relationship. You will not get a cat. You will reach a degree of tranquility that spills out so much that OF will tell you you have changed, you seem settled. And then you will lose it so fast you won't be able to catch your breath till next year.

You will survive all of this. And I will take over and wish I could receive a letter from Me-of-2009.


I am a bit of an anachronism. While all around me 25-year-old Indian women are fighting tooth-and-nail against social/familial pressure to get married, and clinging desperately to any job they can get, I'm gloomily surveying my life and thinking, time is running out. I don't really want a job. It's taken me YEARS to not feel guilty for saying that. I'm happy to work, but the only career I want is a husband, five kids and cat [or twelve]. I don't care that I would be a great lawyer/manager/CEO whatever, it's not the way I want to spend my life. I don't care that people get married later and later, I want to SHARE my youth, all of it, all the things I want to do. I don't care that plenty of people have kids at 35 now, I don't want to be three generations removed from my children.

But I also want it all. I'll be friends with anyone but I will only entertain serious relationship thoughts about people who conform to VERY STRICT standards. And I will NOT compromise. No, I'm not talking about tall, dark and handsome. I'm not event talking about reading. I will not accept someone who is not curious about things beyond his ken and I will not accept someone who is not tolerant of Others, whatever they might be about. Funnily, it seems impossible to find these two things in a male. Especially an Indian one. I've only ever met one, and he's Cuban-American.

In the end I don't know what this post is about or what I'm trying to articulate here. I feel as if there is some deeply buried scream that needs to be acknowledged and I'm trying to dig it out. And that is all. Even the littlest plan I made for 2007 - get a cat - I didn't achieve. But I achieved so much I didn't plan for. Luck of the draw. As monsoonbread is so fond of saying, just keep swimming.


Good News!

She's back! Apparently the [insert relevant superhuman force here] of the blogosphere heard me rant!

Friday, January 18, 2008


of random things MinCat has noticed/had epiphanies about over the past few days and can't be arsed to post about properly.


So many people in the gym abuse themselves! Seriously! Especially the Gents, or people generally wanting to give the impression of studliness. There is this man who runs on the treadmill. well, what's wrong with that you might ask. What's wrong is that he holds onto the bars and leans his weight backwards while frantically pedalling his legs. Does the same on the elliptical. Bye-bye knees! There's an overweight lady, not as bad as MinCat, but no sylph, who faithfully stomps her way through 40 minutes on the elliptical every day. But she stomps. I can SEE her knees hyperextending forcefully with every step. STOP I want to scream sometimes! STOP and have a care for your future! Of course the coach can't really interrupt and correct things like posture, because these are Important People Who Have Been Exercising For Years, what does the coach know that they don't?


This Growing Up thing isn't half bad. I might even go so far as to say it rocks. This past weekend, MinCat has had occasion to spend considerable amounts of time with an Old Friend's Posse, from high school. Now, in high school, MinCat was about the same size, definitely as smart, and well, a teenager. She also did NOT fit. The Posse in question belonged the grade above MinCat, and though OF was nice to her in that our-parents-know-each-other kinda way, but the Posse terrified her. These confident boys, so sure that they knew everything, that they were right, that they could poke fun at anyone and remain untouched by anyone else. Oooooo the horror. It's not that they said anything that MinCat's family wouldn't have said while pulling her leg, it's not that she was incapable of laughing at herself [welllll ok maybe a little bit]. It's just that they stood for all the confidence and assurance that she, as the person she was, was denied in that high school, or denied herself in that high school, depending on how you look at it. These were the cool boys who could DESTROY whatever confidence she had built up by one mocking look, and she was the smart fat girl who no-one ever wanted to go out with.

Cut to present. MinCat is still fat, she's still smart, the boys are still the Posse, they still make the same jokes, those mocking looks are very much around, and there ain't no line of people asking MinCat out or telling her how amazing she is. But somehow, MinCat grew up and now the jokes are jokes, not personally directed barbs, and she can give back as good as she gets. Which means she can now have fun around the Posse instead of fidget nervously in a corner and go home to cry. [Man I was a drip!] Of course all the confidence in the world can't see her clear to a way to actually GET in the pants on the hot one of the Posse.... *sigh* Maybe someday!


I don't like clubs. No really! In fact I love sitting about home so much it takes a LOT of enthu to get me to actually go out. Actually I'm beginning to think that, despite my deep and lasting adoration of NY, maybe sleepy town in\s the place for me after all. Especially if I manage to acquire Posse of me own....


I had more things but I've forgotten cos I just got an email and had to go read it. Sorry.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Jim, Jim, Who Could Say It Better?

How I love them, the man and the cat.

Monday, January 14, 2008


with the blogosphere. Why is it that people can't leave bloggers alone? I was at home last night and the TV was on to some idiotic Barkha Dutt We The People show on blogs and some of the things people said were SO Stupid. "Blogs are dangerous and should be controlled by the government." "Blogs encourage lies." All nonsense. But ok, perhaps these are people who have never felt that feeling of being so alone, so bereft of kindred spirits that you could scream in a room full of people and it would echo dismally back to you because not one of them would hear it. Maybe these people have never known how it felt to know that somewhere, because someone like you read your blog, somewhere you were NOT a freak, somewhere you were just a normal person, somewhere, SOMEBODY NOTICED that you missed a day.

Bloggers, however, do have access to this feeling, even if they have not, personally, felt it. I agree that there are a lot of very irritating, bigoted, obnoxious, self-absorbed, just plain offensive blogs out there. But no one is making me read them. When someone makes me sick, I go to Google reader, feed settings and hit unsubscribe. When someone bores me, when someone annoys me, when someone offends me, I just stop reading. So why do people feel this need to obtrude themselves onto bloggers they don't "approve" of, harassing them so much that the bloggers are forced to retreat into shells, make their blogs private and deprive a decent reading public of some fabulous writing?

I agree, that when one puts one's thoughts etc into an internationally public forum like a blog, one cannot complain that people read one and don't like one. But this is always bound to cause a problem. Just like some people in the colony park their cars on the street and jam it up. Or how people need to follow some conventions of etiquette while driving, imagine the chaos if everyone acted like they could drive anywhere, anyhow and do what they liked (er...or come and look at the traffic in Hyderabad!) What I mean is, in any largely and easily (or equitably) populated public forum, one can, theoretically, claim that one has the choice of not entering, and once one enters one has to deal with what one encounters. But, to ensure that the forum maintains some level of population without loss of life (metaphorical as well as literal), it is important to establish a code of conduct, leaving some leeway for indulging in obnoxious behaviour, but not to such an extent that there are casualties.

I admit, controlling commenters is very hard, the most you can do is block someone and all they have to do is get a new ID. Making a blog private or restricted is the only option. And, just as people consider themselves indignantly in the right when I yell at them for U-turning on a flyover, it's a bit much to expect the commenters to change, or restrain themselves. The upshot is that I write this little post that probably 10 people will read, and they will all be like me anyway, and one of my favourite bloggers, Broom, will remain closed to me.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Reccomended Reading

Posts coming up ladies and germs, but, until then, for those who still come by (thank you Dave), here's a lil entertainment.

Friday, January 11, 2008


*blythely resuming as if her last post was yesterday*

This morning I finally got off my ample arse and made it to the gym. I use the phrase made it because I literally tumbled out of bed, dressed, and fell into the car. Who would have thought, knowing the history of the MinCat, that she would become such gym-junkie? Seriously, until a few years ago nothing produced more loathing than the idea of waking up early to go and get sweaty inside a room somewhere. *ahem* pipe down in the back there! But now, the minute I'm on that elliptical trainer and I break the first sweat, I'm riding high! It's ridiculous. Not ridiculous enough to ensure I actually DO it EVERY day, but still. Anyway, 40 minutes later, I was striding out, smugly noting that my posture had straightened out, my back was loose and flexible and every muscle in my body was tingling. Tingling enough to make me giggle.

I'm always delighted by the tingling, because I always forget it for some reason. Whatever kind of tingling, once I repeat the action and it returns I'm always going "urrrrrh? wheeeeeeeee!" much like my dogs do when let off the leash early in the morning. Another example from this morning. We had dosai for breakfast. Now, in my childhood and older there was no breakfast more special, more eagerly awaited, more ecstatically consumed than dosai. Only I hated chutney and always ate em with sambar, sugar and ghee. Lately, since I moved to oosaland, I find myself craving idlis instead. With chutney. This morning I got to pick the kind of chutney [I think my mum is impressed by how good I've been being, for otherwise she would NEVER have let me] and it was coriander coconut chutney. The minute I took that first bite, of warm, crisp and gooey dosai with that chutney, I took off in a paroxysm of tingling again, this time centred on my digestive tract*. I'm tingling again in recollection. It's not as if I had never eaten the combination before, and it's not as if it hadn't produced the same result before. But it was, indeed, as if it were the first time!

I wonder, then, if it is built into the concept of tingling, that it should always be a surprise?

*I am firmly convinced that as the human race evolves either a previous or a future form will have or had tastebuds in its stomach, just as I am firmly convinced that I am a throwback or a prototype of this. I SWEAR. If food is really good, I can taste it in my stomach. For hours after I've eaten.