Tag Archives: India

Open Up The Spaces.

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There I was, sitting on the topmost stair of the spectators’ gallery of a playground, writing, when a soccer ball landed with a thud right on my foot. I was taken by surprise and flooded with a flurry of apologies. I wasn’t hurt, no. But I roused concern among the boys. But why only the boys? Because there were no other girls around.

Why do men have a monopoly over open spaces? Why, if you look at the massive green stretches of open spaces in our cities and possibly even towns, do you find scores and scores of men playing all sorts of sports but no women? Why are we women still found standing by the entrance watching them play from afar, waiting for the men to return to us? Why can’t we swing the bat hard? Why can’t we kick a soccer ball away? Why can’t we dribble in sweat and exhilarate with ten others at a game played well? Why can’t we grab and hold in kabaddi? Why are we at the edges? Why are we scared of injuring ourselves?

Why do I see girls play badminton? Or cycle? Or skip? Or just choose to go for a walk? Why not put them together in teams too? Why not teach them to be a leader, a team player, bond with each other over match strategies and get that competitive spirit going? Why not teach our women to pull up other women and not push them down? Why not familiarize them with the touch of men so that they know the difference between the touch of love and lust? Why don’t our brothers teach us to toughen up? Why are our cuts and bruises scolded for and theirs disregarded? Well, that actually shows women are more careful about first aid, but you get the point, right?

What are we so scared of?

That our women will get hurt? Or they might disagree to sit inside homes any longer?

That our women will bring the team down? Or that they’ll become strong enough to form their own teams?

That they might overexert? Or that they will learn to embrace their bodies as they are?

What in the world are we afraid of?
Are we more fearful of our insecure men?
Or are we fearful of making our women secure?

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The author is well aware of the countless women who have made a superlative mark in the world of professional sports and is in no way trying to belittle the spectacular magnitude of their efforts. The author is well aware of women who are pushing all limits exceedingly well and breaking glass barriers every day. This post is not intended for those women. Instead, it is intended to bring out the other ladies, young and old, strong and weak, into the open so that they find out for themselves what wonders their graceful, lithe bodies can do, if only they allowed it to!

Graciously Yours!

Moo Points?

My week started on a bad note – regular household issues – oh yes, we bachelors have those too. No maid, cook screwed up the food quantities, delayed to work, no transport, traffic and oh, the heat! So coming up, are a lot of moo points. Take it or leave it, but do read it!

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As I strode purposefully towards the main road, following my Mom’s advice to calm down, cars and bikes zipping past me, a cab honking at me for taking up road space (well, the footpath could give me a sprain, they’re that bad), I saw a cow ambling at 10 am in the morning, barely moving enough to place one foot ahead of the other, ten seconds at a time.

Cars conveniently circled around her and went their way, not even bothering to honk. Why me then? Why was I expected to be on the footpath when this cow could do whatever she liked? Why did I have to chide myself for being late for office at 10 in the morning when this cow could just loiter around, literally doing nothing!

“Eat more meat.” “Focus on your calcium intake.” “What about carbs?” “And when will you take those multivitamins?” So much talk about food and food preparation. If she’s hungry, she doesn’t even have to go to the kitchen to whip up something or Swiggy food! She can just regurgitate food ingested earlier and chew it again! Not that I want my ingested food back in my mouth, urgh, but just sayin’!

She can be white. She can be black. She can be brown. Or even a mix of all three. And she’ll still be loved for who she is. Why? Why do I have to then worry about being tanned? Why can’t I just be I loved for who I am?

Oh and here in a country where Hinduism is largely significant, she even gets protection for just being who she is – a female. Talk about harming a cow and behold the furore that will persist. While we two-legged women carry around pepper sprays even in broad daylight – for the exact same reason – because we’re females.

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And that’s how I ended up with an existential crisis conferred upon me by a lone cow, walking at her own pace in the middle of a road, refusing to make way for the world rushing around.

The heat fried my brains, I guess.

Still,

Graciously Yours!

Pakistan vs Terrorism.

For the longest time in my living memory, people around me, including me, have referred to Pakistan as the terrorist state, the country which perpetrates terror. But in my heart, call me naive, foolish or whatever you may, all Pakistanis weren’t terrorists, all elements related to Pakistan did not get synced with terrorism. Yes, Atif Aslam has a beautiful voice! Sana Munir is a budding author. Shahid Afridi never grows old. Fawad Khan is a looker. Oh, that blue-eyed tea seller! And so many others who have tried to establish a name for themselves but happened to have been born in Pakistan.

My heart says there are countless Pakistani citizens who condemn what the Army and Government are choosing to ignore. They condemn the nefarious terrorist activities being conducted in their country but are as helpless as we are in the face of uncontrolled elements in our own country of living. There is absolutely no excuse for all of those people who, irrespective of their caste, religion, country, gender, and colour, encourage activities which will consume lives and spread unprecedented, uncontrolled fear in the hearts of innocents. Be it a Hindu or a Muslim, an Indian or a Pakistani – if you support terrorism, you ought to be wiped out. No God has allowed us to take lives, you say. But no God allowed you either, we say. There isn’t much difference between the angel and the devil, wars have no rules – it’s the side that matters.

News of the threats to Karachi Bakery, a name that I have associated with the city of Hyderabad since I was old enough to pronounce it, really scared me. The elements of extremism are prevalent in India too and they’ve only just started showing up their painful rear. For a bakery that has for years been feeding people, has thrived on popularity and their ability to churn out the sweetest of biscuits shouldn’t have to prove their patriotism or their citizenship just because their founders happened to hail from a country in Pakistan. Similarly, no other person should be singled out to prove their loyalty to India, based on their religion, place of birth or pre-1947 place of living.

Pakistan and India have a shared history which either of us cannot deny or erase. People who’ve been to the other side of the border have professed of the hospitality and love they’ve received by the common man. There are common man counterparts there too who are sick of false promises, inflation, job insecurity, the daily drudgery of life. If a war broke out, it would not only cripple them, as already seen by the Karachi Stock Exchange crash, it would also hit India hard. In the bleak global economy, India is optimistic. Let us try and remain that way. Our war, as iterated numerous times by the Government and the Defence Forces is not against Pakistan. Our war is against terror, which happens to be an unwelcome guest in the neighbourhood.

 

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A proud moment at the Wagah-Attari border ‘Beating the Retreat’ ceremony.

Graciously Yours!

 

 

Cooking up a storm!

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I am 26. I am single. I am a female. In India, that’s enough to set people rattling off about marriage and family planning. In my case, more advice follows about learning to do tasks that suit a woman in the house than one in office. To name a few – cooking, stitching, birthing, being graceful, looking pretty, being an ideal daughter-in-law, the ideal wife, the presentable new addition to the family. These were my bones of contention with a man who would have almost cut me off at the knees, stopping just in time as he rightly realised the bloodbath that would follow. Needless to say, I didn’t take it well. Oh yes, I didn’t take his abstaining well! And I console myself thinking many others wouldn’t have either. Love has mysterious ways of revealing the real you. What do I do to ward off the very things we parted ways over? Do those exact things to prove myself capable, to perfect myself, to console myself that he didn’t fight hard enough for me.

So I cooked the other evening. There were reasons, of course, which had nothing to do with proving to myself that I could cook. Or so I tell myself. I was procrastinating working on my manuscript, at some level of my subconscious. The mood to write just wasn’t right! So cooking. Also because the cook hadn’t turned up. And my flatmate couldn’t be fed take-away with a running body temperature of 102 degrees! So you ask what is the big deal about cooking? Well, there isn’t. At least in my mind. Except, people around me (read: relatives, the ones who call me twice a year – on my birthday and on their birthday to remind me that I’d forgotten about them. Well, I didn’t forget you. I chose not to remember you.) think it is a vital sign of being a good wife. And here I thought I should prepare to commit myself to a partner, whole and soul. I don’t particularly enjoy cooking. Maybe because most of my favourite dishes are best eaten raw! Salads, sprouts, fruits, milkshakes, sandwiches! But like everything else, I like to do it well, whenever I do cook. And lo behold! I cooked the main course for three people with stunning ease and a record time of 40 minutes. Of course, I’m only talking about rice, lentils and a curry, but hello? It was stomach filling, soul-fulfilling and lip-smacking – with a serving of ghee added to it. To all those skeptics and cynics, why do you keep cooking up a storm?

When the time comes, life teaches you everything. Or it perishes you. Why do you have to keep pushing people into a box, trying to fit them into standards, forcing them to keep up with how the world was fifty years ago when you were our age? Why is it still expected of women to be the ones running the house and holding together the fort, while encashing cheques at the month end? What is the man bringing to the table except for the money? Pray, tell me, if it was just about the money, then as a woman with financial stability and an understanding of financial management, why do I really need you men? Maybe a little consideration? Maybe join me as I flunk ‘Cooking 102’? Maybe let’s have a good laugh over how easy calculating ROI is compared to roasting the wheat flour just brown enough to not burn it for the halwa? Maybe let me sit around and watch you churn a chocolate banana milkshake for me? It’s about wanting to run the house with my partner, rather than for him. And if he isn’t ready for it? Well, then he needs to haul his ass from the couch and come stand by my side like a man.

Oh also. I can stitch a button on as good as I can your lips!

Graciously Yours!

What’s in a name after all?

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The SpaceX BFR (Big Falcon Rocket) is now called the Starship! Musk has been known to be creative even when it comes to naming his ventures. At least, the latest ones. Boring Company. Why? Because they bore through the ground to make tunnels! Brick Store. Why? Well, duh. Because they’re selling bricks! Bricks from the tunnels bored! And my favourite? ‘Not a Flamethrower’ because anything named Flamethrower could not have been shipped through US Customs! But would you call him creative? Or just plain? The names are generic, after all. After all, people who came up with the names Dunzo and Dependo – aren’t they the creative ones?

But why are we discussing names?

Of late, news reports doing the rounds involve Uttar Pradesh and the changes in city names by the current Chief Minister of state, Yogi Adityanath. Yogi Adityanath was born Ajay Mohan Bisht, Guess he didn’t like it much and renamed himself. In a political career spanning over two decades, he’s been known to change names of markets, lanes, roads, railway station platforms and cities. Think of the number of platform displays, milestones, letterheads, postcards, envelopes, shop displays and road signs this man has single-handedly changed. Do the agreements and tenders also require to be changed? I hope not! It isn’t as simple as a Microsoft Word Find and Replace function, after all. Think of the amount of trade he has generated just by the stroke of his pen!

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This isn’t the first time India is witnessing such a drive. Our politicians prefer changing working names rather than doing the actual work of bringing about a change. Their claim to name is religion, history, patriotism and God (of no particular faith, of course) knows what not! From Calcutta to Bangalore, Allahabad to Madras, no place has been spared. Be it the Congress or BJP, Trinamool Congress, or even DMK – they all make name changes when in power and cry their lungs out hoarse when in Opposition! If an act is considered unnecessary and expensive, hold the same standards for everyone – whether in power or in opposition.

The plea that the names were given by the British or the Mughals or whosoever is bollocks! They, even if they were atrocious to us, were a part of our past and they have helped shape our present. If not for the British would the union of the states of India have been possible? Or would we still be ruled by kingdoms and factions, warring for more land? Would we have been another Middle East or the world’s second largest economy? If not for the Mughals, the Persians or the other Muslim rulers, would we have the Qutub Minar, Red Fort and the Taj Mahal? We cannot pick and choose our history. Even if we do not accept it, it’ll still exist. Changing the name of a place will not alter the course of history of the places.

Yogi Adityanath is at the helm of a state which has almost 10 times the population of Australia at 20.4 crores but a purchasing power parity of Tajikistan. With 828 persons per sq. km, against a country average of 382, the state has only 2 working international airports and a crime rate that exceeds all other states of the country, when it comes to communal violence, custodial deaths and police clashes. With over a year into the CM role, there’s so much more for him to focus on. But if only he and his troop of sycophants could focus on the atrocities and deprivations that our people are facing today rather than the ones hurled at us by rulers long dead! If we could only focus on paving the way for the future than trying to alter history. Does no one want to build a legacy these days?

Oh but if we are going to continue with this, then can the psuedo-Gandhis drop their borrowed surname as well and come clean? Now that will be altering the path of history, won’t it?

Graciously Yours!

India Amidst Trade Wars.

An opinion piece I penned recently was published on YourStory.com! Yayy! It details the history of trade, the milestones we’ve achieved, USA at the eye of the trade war storm and how India features in it. Feedback is most welcome.


Over the last year, the United States of America under the leadership of President Trump renegotiated trade relations with the European countries, its’ North American neighbours, Asian economies and has now brought India under its’ lens. Post an apolitical stance in the Cold War era, India opened up its’ trade borders extensively to the U.S but no bilateral trade agreement was signed between both countries. Now that we seem to be on the brink of one, here’s what to expect…

Read more at YourStory.com: https://yourstory.com/mystory/india-amidst-trade-wars-jifc8k86l8

Graciously Yours!

 

Rains and roads (3)

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Contd from…

  • Though we did find women who were wearing the most insensible footwear, involving heels, chances of twisting your foot, skidding on the water and of course, breaking them! We went flip flops all the way! And maybe a couple of us also chose to show our bathroom slippers the light of the world. After all, it is in water that they show their true colours and strength.
  • Though it was incorrect on our part to once suggest our driver drive at more than 80 kmph on an open highway, because speed limits, he retorted with an explanation about how that would break the rules set for safety. Fair point, right? Not so much. Because at his own will he had been driving rashly even at 40 kmph, overtaking vehicles dangerously, sometimes while on not one but two calls!

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  • Let’s talk about how phone calls. He was incessantly on calls, so much so that listening to music on the car speakers was almost a slam dunk attempt at trying to get him to shut up. But then he would be louder than the music then we’d tune up the volume, he’d tune up his and then we’d switch off the music while he still did some more talking. While he held one phone to his ear, the other in his hand which also controlled the steering, we held our heart in our mouth. Don’t ask me how he changed gears. I was too afraid to watch.
  • He’d rather we call him uncle or chachaji than Sir. Because he has grandkids our age. And he’d rather we sit in our hotel room, visit one place a day and let him be free for most of the time because hello, why should we have all the fun! He went to the extent of commenting when we directed him with Google maps to a temple off the main Mahabaleshwar Panchgani road, that we must be careful of the places we’re going to. After all, we are five single women traveling alone. So much for being five. And so much for calling him uncle.

Graciously Yours!

Rains and roads (2)

Contd from…

  • Raincoats, contrary to popular belief, can serve dual purposes – it shields you from the rains when you’re outside the car, and from the air conditioner or the winds from the rolled down windows when you are inside the car. Maybe that is what led to the invention of the windcheater. And here I thought I’d just come up with a startling idea! So disappointing that by the time you’re in the 21st century, all ideas seem to have been implemented already.

“Race! Race! Race!”

“Yayyy!”

“Who do you think is going to win?”

Wait, what do you think I am talking about? Raindrop races! Roll up your windows, let the raindrops whip against You get to race raindrops and make clouds on breath steamed mirrors.

  • Umbrellas were shown their true position. Because the two exact times we brought it out to protect us from the water and winds, it got possessed! The canopy was thrown backward by the wind, the rims got entangled and the handle had to be held on to by three pairs of hands so that the umbrella didn’t fly away. We then decided to let it stay in the boot of the car.

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  • One of the main reasons waking up early on group trips is a mandate because people end up taking lots of time to get ready – after all, you should look fresh and Insta ready! How else will you have your throwback moments to show? But for us, getting ready was the least of your worries, no accessories, no touch of lip colour or kohl, because how does it all even matter? It would all run amok, any which ways.

To be contd…

Graciously Yours!

 

Rains and roads (1)

Henry Miller once said,

“One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.”

Every trip I go on, firms this belief for me. And here’s a new way of looking at roads and rains!

  • I recently went to Pune and surrounding areas – Google weather forecasts and the news channels had informed us well in advance of rains during my travel days. But when you say rains to a Calcuttan who’s staying in Bangalore, we think half an hour of rain. Who knew we would have to expect twenty-three and a half hours of rain and downpour?!

 

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  • Thanks to the incessant rain and wind speeds high enough to make your teeth rattle, all five of us are now proud owners of a raincoat! The last time we had one was when we were toddlers rushing to montessories and jumping into every puddle we found with our mothers or fathers or both running behind us to make sure we don’t create a splash we can’t save ourselves from! Sigh. If only they still ran after us. At least some of our mistakes could have been eliminated. If only.

 

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  • Talking about puddles, we are used to seeing them in the potholes on our roads but it’s a rare sight to wake up to a puddle in your hotel room! Our clothes and bags were so wet, despite the raincoats, that the process of drying them under the fan resulted in more of a watery mess than an evaporation exercise.

To be contd…

Graciously Yours!

Let’s Post!

The only times I stepped into Post Offices was to buy postcards and stamps for keepsakes – be it the dusty but spacious one in Port Blair where on the wall was put up the expected days to deliver posts all across the mainland of India or the small house up a steep flight of wooden stairs in Landour, marked as a Post Office where a family of three resided and all things post office were neatly stuffed in a bag. But I have not been to a Post Office to post a letter in more than two decades of my existence in India. And how many of my generation have really? In all likelihood, the only letters we’ve written were in school as part of the curriculum or to relationship managers in banks and cover letters as part of our search for jobs.

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I want to frequent my trips to the Post Office because I am craving to write letters and find myself some penpals! I’m sending an open invitation to everyone reading this – come let’s write letters to each other. I’d love to know how you spend your day, what you read, what holds your interest, what irks you, how cold is the ice in your country, what your culture finds appropriate. I’m looking for inspiration, more than glad to provide motivation and excited to ignite my creative spirits! Also, use my wrist a little more to write – the handwriting to going to dogs! So are you ready to write a few letters? Because I surely am!

For international contributors, I understand if you’d rather send emails, taking into account the cost impact – but you have to, you just have to, attach a handwritten note or a sketch or doodle as part of the email.

Reshare post! And leave a comment if you’re interested. ❤

Much love,

Graciously Yours!