Friday, January 23, 2009

Winter mornings

I have lived in Bombay for the better part of my life. Bombay, where the weather is the same throughout the year except for the downpour of the monsoons that lasts for 4 months - June to September. I had only heard of the winters of North India, and most of it was dreadfull. As luck would have it i got married to someone living in the north and the new married me landed in Delhi during the peak winter of 1988. Unequipped to face the winters and unaware of how to protect myself from the cold i had a terrible time with chillblains ravaging my fingers and toes. I have had a hate-hate relationship with winters ever since. Not even the promise of winter goodies like til laddoos, gajak, gajar halwa could make me utter a word or 2 in favour of the winters. Bringing up 2 kids who happened to be at the crawling stage during their first winters, dressing them and packing them off to school in our non-geyser days on foggy winter mornings, finding the determination to forego the warmth of the rajai and get into the freezing kitchen to cook the family a warm meal- all these tests of my endurance only intensified my dislike for the weather.
It has taken the weather 20 years to finally count me as a convert. I no longer dread the winters but kind of look forward to the warmth that they bring- cozy breakfasts in the kitchen, early dinners- mostly steaming soups, the variety of winter vegetables with which to juggle up a meal, the lazy afternoons in the sun, the smartness that scarfs and jackets and coats lend to the winter wardrobe. The promise of warmth generated after physical exercise woos you into keeping yourself active when feeling cold, in fact even going to the extent of taking up a sport.
Winter mornings were still spent indoors specially foggy mornings which were considered nothing short of the devil's veil ( not surprising since most murders in Bollywood mystery movies occur on a foggy or rainy night). It took a walk in the park on one such foggy morning for me to see the beauty that the fog embraces in its folds. Every sight had a mystery to it, clouded with a vagueness. People on the other side appeared as if they were there and yet not there, as if they were part of a painting, part of a photograph that had not developed clearly, had developed hazily. Like if you wanted to touch them you would have to move a lot of distance into nothingness to do that and even then they may not be for real. And it was humbling to realise that you may be appearing in the same manner to them. Trees enveloped by the fog with a flock of flying birds in the foreground. That was the sight that truly had me change the way i looked at foggy mornings, i could see them in a completely different light. I could see their beauty, something i had never seen because up untill then i had resisted being outdoors on foggy mornings. And it's a fact, anything you resist you can never grow to love.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Indian Working Woman

I have discovered in my 42years of interaction with men that there are basically 2 types of married men- the first kind will give permission to their wives to work outside the house and feel generous about it. The second kind will not give permission to their wives to work outside the house and make their wives feel that they are being generous about it. The bottom line is that the wife has to take permission from her pati-parmeshwar and deal with her husband's generosity all her life. In the case of the women working outside the house they first have to make sure they are bringing back home a respectable amount of money i.e. respectable by the husband's point of view.She then has to pamper her husband's ego at every moment by making him feel magnanimous for letting her work.She then has to make sure that she gives him no reason to complain on account of her stepping out of the house- meals to be ready on time, menus to pamper the pati's taste buds, standards of the house maintenance to be perfect, larder+ fridge to be stocked at all times, children to be taken care of, homeworks and projects to be tackled on time, relatives and in-laws to be visited and corresponded with regularly etc.. The list is endless. Slip on any one of those and she may have to give up her "time-pass" job. She has to be superwoman to pack in all that into a day and still be smiling at the end of the day with energy for a session in bed if the need arises.If she finds the load too much and asks for help with the household chores, the permission for that would again depend on a million factors like how much is she bringing home, would the standards of the house drop or would the cooking be the same etc etc..

Well if she belongs to the category who has not been given permission to work outside the house she still has to do all those things but she has to do something more. She has to forget the hard work she put in to get that Master's degree and that that degree was the reason her husband married her. A wife with a Master's degree would be able to teach his children in a better way!

Does this sound like an analysis of men of the dark ages? Just look around you into the eyes of the women around. What hurts do u think are hidden behind those lashes? What secrets are those lashes covering up? Sorry if i sound cynical but if you come across a husband who does not fall into these two categories, who seems genuinely happy with a working wife and is in fact very encouraging of her to progress in her job- well that couple is doing a huge cover-up job. And if that is not the case and no skeletons come tumbling out of the cupboard then i think that particular husband is a rare specimen. He should in fact do something for the larger cause of humanity- donate his sperm samples to a sperm bank so that we can have more of his kind in the coming generations. The womenfolk of the future would definitely be grateful for that. A collective "JAI HO" for that.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Welcome to my blog

Hi fellow bloggers, This is my first day at blogging. Emboldened my people's comments that i write well i have decided to try my hand at it, officially. More like make a ceremony of it. I am going to be writing on the times we live in, the way i see things. A lot that happens around me influences me, my opinions and i feel the need to air my views, make myself heard. Pretty hedonistic ( i looked in the dic'ary for that word and am not sure if i am using it correctly. It refers to behaviour that is motivated by the desire for pleasure). Since i will be writing with the sole aim of deriving pleasure from it without giving a thought to the hapless souls who will be reading it, i guess it does become a hedonistic activity on my part. Sorry folks.

Slumdog Millionaire has been all over the papers lately. The debate of India's underbelly being in full Oscar glare has come up again. First it were Indian directors doing it and now the foreign directors are also happy exposing , or can we say "espousing" it also. So much so that the author of the book on which the movie is based, Vikas Swarup's Q&A has had to defend his book saying that it is not " Poverty Porn". The Sunday Times of 18th Jan has an entire page devoted to writeups connected to the movie- "There's something about Mumbai", "From Bambai to Mumbai". There's even an article on Anil Kapoor donating the entire money he got for the movie to a social cause. What i found distressing was a writeup by a britisher Chris Way who regularly organises slum tours to Dharavi, Mumbai for his privileged friends back home. "Poverty Tourism"? It raises many q's in my mind. Are our lives up for show just coz we live differently? Taking it a little further then are the visits going to be reciprocated with invitations to come see how they live? If the tourists are taking back "admiration for the spirit of the people that live there" are they not commenting on the squalid living conditions? Is'nt their opinion of India being a dirty, filthy third world country only getting reiterated? What is it with we indians, we get all touchy about our underbellies being in full view? Is it the same as standing outside the Buckingham Palace and commenting on how the british royalty lives? Does "Poverty tourism" become okay if it brings in tourists and consequently cash which i believe is being used for community development projects? So in that sense then the movie becomes a huge ad for Mr. Chris Way's tourism venture. Does the tourist go back with a feeling of having been magnaminous?

In a country that has so much to offer a tourist culturally, architecturally and spiritually i am loathe if a westerner just sees its ugly sides and departs, charity or no charity!