Do you revere your shackles?

This article sums it up brilliantly!

“Women are the biggest enforcers of patriarchy” – I read this quote somewhere and this pops up in my head rather frequently when I read such articles. How true! This post has been in my mind for a long time and catalyzed by the article linked above, I finally decided to pen it down.

Marriage brought me into contact with a completely new set of people, people who were completely out of my world-view. I was brought up very liberally, encouraged to do, speak, dress and behave as I want. I was the lucky one in the sense that I never walked the tightrope between tradition and modernity – my mother and grandmother did that for me. The worldviews that women are equal to men intellectually, as-capable and in fact mentally stronger was not just an opinion but my reality. My idols reached the top of their games and my friends and close-colleagues seem very bright, smart and women of the 21st century. My mother excelled in her chosen profession and despite having different responsibilities at home, I never felt that she didn’t have an equal say or equal decision making powers. To me, power was balanced at home. So when I got married, what I observed outside this familiar progressive circle of extremely independent, smart women, came as a literal shock to me.

I saw women who worshipped patriarchy for no other reason than the comfort of familiarity. What the author observes in the column is the ground reality for many women who have been raised ( religious and traditionalist propaganda, in my opinion) to be subservient to men for their “benefit”. I saw women who were happy to act as mere helps and maids, while the man made all the critical decisions. This balance of power was for no other reason other than gender – she was female after all. It was astonishing to see how the women basked in this second-grade role and even justified their reasons to be delegated to the wifely duties alone. The so-called protection was seen as a mark of their pedigree – the inability to venture out as wished, wear clothes as desired, step out at odd hours was seen as being from a “good” household where women were to be protected, treated like breakable china until shipped off to a husband’s home where a new “protector” was established. I saw parents worry incessantly about a grown-up daughter who ventured out to buy some milk in a shop that was less than a minute away. You might argue that there are safety issues prevalent which justify many of these actions. There might be some element of truth to that, but stunting the ability of an individual to protect herself, make her own decisions in the name of “safety” or “culture” is mere a tool to weaken the female gender and render them shackled to the “safety” of patriarchy.

What astonished me even further was this –  women are so mired in the system, they don’t realize how rotten it has become. Small freedoms – the ability to maybe spend an afternoon shopping or make a decision to watch a movie with their girlfriends satisfies them. They argue back that they are in fact independent when to me it looks like they win these small battles, but lose the war big time. They compare themselves to their mothers or grandmothers who lacked that basic right, and feel blessed that their condition is better just because they could venture out or decide not to make dinner. (It is all with the husband’s blessings, mind you.) Women are very much the caretaker of the children – ensuring the household is running smoothly with a spotless house and a hot meal waiting for the husband returning from his job.

I saw women with jobs  – jobs, not careers feel the rush of freedom and turn a blind eye to the obvious walls around them. It is true that much of the female workforce was unemployed a generation ago, but mere jobs don’t qualify as true progress. The funniest part was how the husbands where the ones credited with “allowing” the wives to work and the women never flinched when such statements were made to their faces. They are indeed “allowed” to work, but pursuing careers, moving cities, chasing promotions that disrupt schedules are options for which sadly “permissions” are still required. Worse, if they dare try to break these glass cases, it is the other women (aunts, mothers, relatives, friends) who will shoot down the idea instantly. It is then natural to accept patriarchy, the mundane responsibilities as enough because fighting so many battles and breaking so many shackles is discouraged, portrayed as unwanted, scary and often character-slandering. These extremely capable women then satisfy themselves with a job that adds a significant amount to the family’s earnings, but still consider themselves second-grade.

The real scary part is that there is a part of society that is not recognizing that it is actually being segregated against – atleast earlier the women were marginalized and they knew it. It just seems like they have broken the prison walls only to find themselves in the yard of an even bigger prison – and they don’t know it yet! I have heard conversations where they find flaws or shortcomings in the lives of successful women who have climbed to the top of their fields and compare it to their own healthy home-lives. “Oh, her daughter stays with the maid all the time” or “Look at her, she never makes food for her family” are so commonly used to judge other women and paint their achievements in a negative light while turning  a blind-eye to their obvious positives. This kind of back-biting attitude is human, but also a reinforcer of the old-school patriarchy where women were judged on the quality of their cooking, the cleanliness of her home and the satisfaction of her husband.

I felt many times that I had indeed gone back in time. It was eye-opening for me to see the reality of  so many women and their blatant disregard for the bigger picture of their rights and life. With so many conversations happening now about women’s rights and empowerment, I hope these women don’t dismiss this as just news but use the moment to take a look at their own lives and their rights. An equal society would be a wonderful place and changes do happen slowly, but I hope the change is concrete and tangible and from within – not just a larger prison yard with glass ceilings.



Sexualization of the female

I am aware of being one of the umpteen people who are blogging over the controversial images of a 10 year old vogue model!This whole incident has redefined monstrosity!. But my perspective has a good mix of coming from a society that is slowly morphing into this, to living in a place where freshmen girls flaunt the bodies previously possessed by lingerie models. But getting a 10 year old to act like a 20 something is not just outrageous, it is something our generation should slow down and feel ashamed about. Why are girls being looked as sexual objects right from when they are kids? What plans does a society have today for the little girls?
In India, being born in the pre-Miss World/Miss Universe era, I remember being part of a society totally ignorant to this version of beauty and glamour. Our heroines sported extremely wearable trends and bodies and some beautifully draped sarees. Women were sexy in their own right, downtrodden but had an air of old-fashioned beauty powered by natural recipes. It was okay to have wrinkles at 40. It was perfectly fine not to have a bikini body at 50 and it was okay to have breasts that looked normal. The big cosmetic brands noticed the huge potential market that India was with half a billion women and instantly crowned two girls Miss Universe and Miss World in 1994. The era of looking good had begun. While I do appreciate the glamour quotient’s contribution to independence and confidence in the modern woman, I am appalled that today’s 8th graders are well versed in Dukan diets and pilates.
Thanks to the new-found access to the western world, this pressure has just increased. Today’s bollywood (from where our style quotients are usually based) is no different from hollywood in terms of beauty and dressing. Big brands and labels, gowns on the red-carpet (something that was so rare before now is normal, infact people are surprised if someone wears sarees these days!), botox (Pooja Bedi the perpetual ambassador who wants to look 20 at 40), revealing clothes, brazen scenes are all just so hollywoodish. It is okay for a society to mature and come to terms with the openly sexual and foul-mouthed youth, but is it okay to keep increasing pressure on the girls to look good at all times?
The girls are under pressure to look more mature than they really are; wax their arms and legs at an age when you would be afraid that their skin is still supple from all that baby fat. The girls need to be slim and trim, perfectly figured, well turned out at every occasion and should be worth hitting on in a bar or restaurant. Its not the boys alone but the girls themselves feel so inadequate and continue hating their bodies for want of being perfect and call the result “confidence”. I know people who openly “hate” girls who carry a few extra kilos on their bodies. Honestly, I havent been to any restaurant with a bunch of girls who haven’t starved themselves and sworn themselves off sweets, cakes or anything fatty. Infact they jeer anyone who even wants to eat one. Birthday cakes became only for smearing on each other’s faces and dinners were just meant to meet people up with a “my stomach isnt too well” excuse. When they sell bras named “barely there” for 13-14 year olds, you know we have gone too far!
Now, its another thing to be perfectly healthy. Health consciousness is the upshot of this trend. It is important to eat right, work out and lead a healthier lifestyle. This information is needed for the late teenagers who are set to live a life on their own. You cannot expect a 12 year old to want to diet! Their body hasn’t even developed fully yet. I know 12 year olds who started dieting to maintain their 24 inch waist. Now that, is what I call crazy. Being aware of the need to eat right is another thing but crash dieting is another. Also, I dont understand when these celebrities boast about their “healthy” living to flaunt those bodies. Shilpa Shetty has bulimia and sells yoga DVD’s. People buy them in hordes imagining her body at the end of it. While yoga is healthy, people get jilted when they dont end up looking like her at the end of it! Most of the “hot” girls live on a diet of black coffee and cigarettes. But since men drool after them, the girl next door wants to ape them. Little do they realize that the men worth changing yourself for dont really want you to change. Peer pressure kills, more than even alcoholism.
Its wrong to sexualize girls from a tender age. As glamour enters the family living rooms with the news these days, it is important to save the girls and instill healthy facts into them before they aspire to resemble one of the Pussycat dolls. When Playmates, Pussycat dolls, Beyonce, Demi Moore or the Victoria Secret Models become the wallpaper of society, you know we have gone wrong somewhere.

Room-mate woes

Disclaimer 1: All of this may seem to be greek and latin to most boys.

Disclaimer 2: This is not for those who have found their perfect, dream room-mate and can’t imagine living without them.

Perhaps one of the most common topics of discussion between any two graduate students over a cup of coffee or lunch is the always-hated, never-forgiven, repeatedly-cursed entity – the room-mate. I am one of the unfortunate ones who didnt quite hit it off with her, right from the word go. The issues seem endless and the irritability is always on the rise. For someone who claimed to have no issues living in with anybody, this experience definitely changed all that.

Maybe it is because I was spoilt rotten with a single room all through college life or maybe now that I’m a little more grown up and responsible, the idea of finding half of your room in a complete mess doesnt go down well at all. Right from finding half cut lemons in your coffee mug when you have less than 3 minutes to leave or finding all your spoons stuck up vertically down the sink drain when you want to eat something, irritating room-mates can give you an experience of a lifetime and test your patience no end and I’ve had my share of trouble for a lifetime. Seriously.

I can say with confidence that I had the ill-luck of living with the dirtiest possible girl you could find on planet earth. This statement again might contradict the assumption that all girls are clean. Though my hostel experience did teach me that, the fact that this dirt now existed in my room became unbearable. Clothes strewn all over, earrings lying all over the carpet, hair covering the sink, all dirty pots and pans lying on the kitchen table, masala stains everywhere! EWW!! Everyday after happily tripping over her collection of shoes all over the living room floor, I was always welcomed by this beautiful sight. More I told her to clean up, the more mom-like I began to feel. Maybe she even thinks that I’m a nag of the highest order but that’s besides the point. We barely tolerate each other’s presence, forget cooking or eating together. So you might ask, why am I still with her? The answer my friend, lies in one single document – the lease.

So as my parallel hunt for subleasing continues and I battle with the woes of living in inhospitable conditions, I secretly long for my CH-3 369 which was my second home away from home for 3 best years of my life. Though I’m confident that I will find my dream apartment in the coming months and settle down to blissful and clean evenings, this one experience is enough to tarnish my confidence about sharing my living space with anybody.

All those who’ve found happiness and a great friend in your room-mate, consider yourself to be in the league of the extraordinarily lucky and I’m very envious of all of you.

PS: I did finally pass those exams I wrote about earlier. Praise God!

Girl Talk: A girl’s computer and a boy’s computer

Faced with the dilemma of buying a new computer (its a tough decision for me given that 1. My old comp is working fine, though battery-less and wifi-less, its perennially on life support and keeps having these multiple organ failures everynow and then which it recovers from after giving some shocks and defragmenting. 2. Mac is actually within reach now.)
So I asked my friends for some help. Invariably I realized some startling cases of gender discrimination crept up even while buying a computer! So here goes:

Person 1: You are a girl, a pink Vaio should be your choice.
Me: Duh! ( I do love the colour :P). I am not impressed by the Vaio hardware. It has always conked off for all the people I know.
Person 1: You are a girl, basically any computer should do. Why are you worried about the hardware?
Me: What does that mean? I am a girl so any computer…
Person 1: I dont think girls need computers for anything other than checking mail and playing songs or updating facebook statuses. Anything else you’d invest is plain waste of money.
Me: Blah!

Person 2: Buy a Mac, buy a mac.
Me: The config of the 1000$ one isnt that fab, its just 2GB ram with a 160 GB harddrive and virtually no upgrades.Is it worth it?
Person 2: Oooh, so you know technical stuff eh? But for a girl, 2 GB ram is good enough for the solitaire games and the songs.
Also, I know my friend who is a girl and she is very happy with her 2 GB mac. Though my other guy-friends have a problem.
Me: **Very Sour Expression.**

I wondered what has gender got to do with a computer’s configuration. In many cases, it is true I think. The sexes use their respective computers for totally different things. It surprises me a great deal when I discover how technologically incompetent so many girls around me are, who are more than happy to give their “screwed” up computers to the guys who after a night-out of driver downloads, forum searches and formatting, fix the bugs. Why don’t they do it themselves? It is sad to think that in this era, girls are still not at ease with computers. When I complain of a low RAM or processor speed or how maybe Linux will help me solve issues, people go like “ you actually use the computer for all this coding work.” My computer (being a girl’s) is expected to be all clean and devoid of anything except music, photographs and Microsoft Office. But not all girls have pink computers with frilly covers and desktop wallpapers of some bollywood hero.

I dont blame the perception entirely because I know at some level it is true. But hey there are girls who do live stream games on ESPN, watch football matches and tennis matches, use their comps for simulations and photoshop work and even play heavy duty games (apart from attaching external woofers and jamming loud metal music), who can maintain their computers and who can handle computers without “external” support.

And next time one such girl asks/tells you about some computer’s configuration or the lack of it, all you guys, dont let your eyebrows disappear into your hair.

Tan Recovery

My weekend trek gave me an amazing tan. I began asking for tan-recovery methods and found quite a few of them. I’ve listed them out. They might be pretty useful for people who return from summer adventures.

1. Rub tomatoes on the tanned skin.

2. Use rose water regularly.

3. Malai with Turmeric will work wonders.

4. Curd and honey go a long way in bleaching the skin.

5. Apply malai on the tanned skin and then use atta (wheat flour) and rub over those parts.

6.(This’ll work for girls): Best time to get your arms and legs waxed. 😀

These are the exclusive tan recovery techniques. If anyone has more, do tell me. 😀

Girl Talk: The Female Brain

Disclaimer: The views in this piece are my very own and I am not generalizing myself anywhere. People who disagree may rightfully do so.

If ever there was an Idiot’s Guide to a Woman’s Brain, it would be no doubt, the World’s no.1 bestseller. It would be the biggest hit of all publishing time, a guidebook to unravel the complicated thought process of the feminine mind. But alas! It is one of the biggest natural mysteries I would say. (Being a girl myself, I have to admit sometimes my own brain does things I cannot fathom.).I am mostly clueless to the question “Where in the world did that come into your head from?” I cannot simply understand more often than not my own girl-friends, my mom or even my sister. The least I can do is pick up feeble indications of a storm approaching and hide myself and the others from the wrath.

A male brain on the other hand, I find fairly simple to unravel. Nothing is very unpredictable (unless of course insanity prevails which is a different domain altogether) or uncertain. I haven’t done those numerous researches on male and female brains and seen what they think of or respond (though Sandeep did show me a very interesting piece on sex and the male brain) but from my own experiences here is what I can discover for myself.

A male brain works somewhat digitally. It is 0 or 1, black or white, yes or no, this or that (to the absolute dismay of all the females in the world). The answers are monosyllabic most of the time and conversations are minimal. Women on the other hand believe not in black or white but all the shades of grey in between. (True masters of Fuzzy logic) I truly believe that of the two, women are more sociable and of course the more ferocious too. There is always that pinch of compassion, that slight concern for their image or self-respect, the prevailing memory of the last of such a situation and say five other parallel-ly operating thought processes which make the female brain not only capable of multi-tasking, but also analyzing the situation from every aspect, past, present or future.

I believe that the male brain is the easier one to de-code. Their brain might be closer to a computer than we think. I mean positively too. They are quick at numerical analysis, thinking in terms of numbers or codes or even programming algorithms (Of course girls are there too who are better than them…but again I’m talking in terms of the majority). But give them an abstract situation, a blam! They’ll fall flat on their faces. No wonder all the studies might show that women make better managers or decision makers which needs abstract imaginations, human emotional decoding and person to person connection. Of course, fuzzy logic is something that comes naturally to us women. 😀

I somehow though never understand the concept of the male-female relationship guide books. Though they make good reads on long journeys and their memory lasts long enough for just a chuckle, I wonder how many can actually remember the points and rules they make. But this is what I learnt from my relationships, successful ones and even the ones that went sour, never try to decode the other person’s head. Let it be a woman, let it be a man. Of course, we all rely on some degree of prediction in behavior (again I’m bordering between the sane and insane kind of predictivity). But to a larger extent, I believe the world is a much better place with all the surprises it can spring on you.

Predictivity in behaviour leads to expectations which in turn leads to the ultimate doom in any relationship, between friends, lovers, couples and what not. I never understand the point of boys asking the friends of the girl they are interested in, about the girl and her hobbies and ways to impress her ( trust me, I have been in this situation countless number of times and weirdly I haven’t found too many girls enquiring about the boys but maybe that is because of the skewed sex-ratio), not willing to listen to me that perhaps she should like you for what you are and the way you think of doing anything for her instead of a taught and rehearsed routine which would be too obviously pre-planned and detected. Undeniably, the co-existence of males and females so far owes its success to this guessing-game and thrill of surprises that each spring on each other.

I find it really easy to pick up a fight with boys. I have done that since childhood. I was the ultimate male-basher who started off with physical fights and later moved on to annoying them verbally or intellectually. They called me different names over the years (they became really interesting and colorful in college). But I simply love the disparity in our thinking. The way I chuckle at how simply they can look at things or look at them gawking at the layers we can add to a situation to make it so complicated they simply nod their heads in disbelief. Like how a top or a shirt in a shop would make a girl think all the way to the shades, the closest color she has, if the color exists in her wardrobe, if the people would like it, how many compliments she might receive, which jean she can wear it with, till where will it come, will it make her look fat or thin, if she needed jeans to go with it now, who wore a similar clothing, if the color will wear off, if the color would suit her skin, if she can wear it to college and so on and on…all this in a space of two seconds or less while looking at it. (I don’t know how guys shop honestly and find their clothes very boring to shop for: P) But I am sure their heads don’t travel all around the globe to decide. It is fantastic isn’t it? I love it when everyone I meet tells me “Don’t think so much”, but I actually want to tell them this is natural, I haven’t even started thinking! Some times complicating things helps (like shopping) and sometimes it doesn’t.

So here is a handy tip to all the boys, don’t even TRY decoding the female brain. Just enjoy it while it is cool and run for your lives when it is not! You should be able to survive.
Find ways to cool her down instead! 😀 (Never mind the reasons for the flare up)

PS: All this might seem too abstract or obvious or a waste of blog space to many, but it definitely is not the answer to the ultimate question of the universe: What we are, what is life all about and why do we exist?
The answer to that by the way is the number: 42 *

PPS: Give me work somebody!!!!

* Courtesy: Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams.

Girl Talk: Geek Quotient

Warning : Guys again, can choose to skip. ( Though I know everyone reads it…still its more of a disclaimer)

Every girl knows that geeky girls are not considered dating material. Deny it all you want, the truth and the vast majority prefer the so-called “girly-girls”. C’mon! Who likes to date a bespectacled girl, clad in a jean and loose-tee (just like any guy)with worn-out sneaker speaking of genetic algorithms, planetorial movements or the latest open-source software? It is not as if geeky girls are not pretty. Pretty they might be, but the presence of techo or geeky topics in conversations does turn men/boys off and they suddenly shift in perspective from dating material to friend material.

So I thought maybe there should be a geek quotient or something which would accurately define us girls so as to know where we stand on the geek-o-meter. Sheldon ( The Big Bang Theory does top the list!) but I sometimes wonder if the serial would have been a hit had it been a girl who was geeky and the guy hot. ( Hang on! Its a nice plot for a story na!..hmm..I’ll work on it!). But some amount of geekiness has definitely slipped into all of us girls in premier engineering colleges. Hasn’t it happened that you describe sari colours in percentages? I have. It is very common for me to say ” It has 75% grey and 20% yellow and the rest is semi creamy shade” or described yourself as “My x and y axes are not that tiny but my z axis definitely is”. What about ” I had this awesome dream which felt like a real-life simulation of a aeroplane cock-pit?” or sometimes “The soup was semi-solid, almost like molten metal” or “The probability of that happening is between 0 and 0.005″ or even sworn at people saying ” You are an as***** raised to power n where n tends to infinity”.Have you estimated the length of a floor-tile standing in a teacher’s chamber when he is yelling at you and then googling it to excitedly tell that tessellations is indeed an art and marvel at the way they tile the curves or bends in a corridor in front of an amused audience? I have.
Get my point?

So rating myself, I’d call myself a decent 7 on a scale of 10. I guess the worst I have done is remembering all the rice,chess board and probability questions sitting on the dining table at a restaurant using the table cloth as the chess board. Needless to say, I am without a date! 😛