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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

I recently saw a close friend, after some four months, I couldn’t see her last week because she was undergoing a laser eye surgery. But why? you don’t have cataract! and, and glasses are actually sexy! Next she is telling me about Dr. Batra’s hair clinic where she has spent a bomb on hair treatments in vain, she confesses she bought extensions(as if it were a sin), and that she is going bald. I look up, and I see that she has exactly the same amount of hair as she had in high school. I actually find her more beautiful than she ever was, her eyes are big and clear, they shine with intelligence and confidence, hardly any acne, and a flair for great grooming habits that she’s always had and that lady like demeanor, since our puberty days.

She complains she is so frail, doing countless hours of yoga and dieting, and now my eyes linger to her thighs as she gets up to tell the barista that she wants a refill for the table, she wants to get this round, her thigh is maybe the size of a muscular guy’s neck. But I am not going to point that out, instead I will present it as a compliment, “OMG but you are sooo skinny, I am sooo jelly” I smile at her, when in reality, I have been trying to fill up my own thighs and butt a bit more. Even when I know every guy-best friend I have had, confesses he dislikes rags and bones. But that wouldn’t have been a point. Because I dislike the idea of a woman tweeking herself, to fit a man’s taste. But we are only if anything, tweeking here. 

She will be the second of us three to get married, there is no race ofcourse, but I can just see it. The first is already gone, damaged, and now estranged and in shackles. And still the wedding dream is alive. Aaahhh. But I still believe, this one is definitely the more mature one, and when she will say yes, she will be mostly making a good decision.

K, the close friend insists, she doesn’t want to meet in the sun, I climb into her car with tinted windows, she would rather risk a fine worth some grands than un-tint the windows or worse get darker. But but we live in an age where Lupita Nyong’o has not only won an oscar, but she is also a standard of beauty. And and our own Frida Pinto is considered attractive on both the national and international front. I present this childhood friend-stranger of mine my argument. 

Yes, well Lupita Nyong’o does not live in our society, and Frida Pinto may have been in Slumdog Millionaire and might be loved internationally, but she looks from the slums. She looks like a kam-waali bai (a maid). K laughs and retorts back. She goes on to critique some other-now mainstream actresses, calling some fat, and simply dismissing others as ugly, by calling them bihari looking. For a lack of a better subject, and not to risk telling her off, she is afterall my friend, and good at heart. I open politics. She ofcourse shares the same political alignment as that of her parents.  

Alrite next, and next and next, movies, books, plays. We closely examine them. We talk about salons and spas. She complains about her maid some more. Then the driver. Then how lousy her brother is at the family business. 

Yeah, I think she is ready for an arranged marriage. Me? I am working on those abs so I can wear a sexy sari, a luscious lehenga, an elegante sharara, and a cocktail dress for all her ceremonies. And whisper in her ear, sitting close by about her awaited suhgaat raat– where she will be devirginiated by a man, who probably didn’t save himself for her, but hey.. she did right? and that is all that matters. What else can I do?

 

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This 1961, Audery Hepburn film has been reviewed and viewed more than the total breaths I might have taken in my life. Yet, last night I saw it for the very first time. You’d think in my 24 years of existence, how could I have missed this classic, but what do I say, except, such little time and too much art to consume. Breakfast at Tiffany's 1

This movie is a classic. And if you have ever studied even elementary cinema at college or such, you will know when a movie is called a classic it means, it belongs to a genre where, in the end it will all make sense. The lady finally accepts and sees the true love she’s offered, finds the cat she had let go off, and all is well with the world (aaah, just the type of movies I would gladly remove from my future children’s cinema curriculum). Classics answer all questions posed in the movie, they reassure us. Hence, they are also well and universally most liked.

Although I have never given myself a chance to watch other Blake Edwards works, except for the marvelous Victor Victoria (1982) a quick search on the internet tells me he was one of the most prolific comedy hollywood directors. Surprisingly he was also very suicidal. But these are posts for another day.

I love the craft, uhh, well no doubts there, this movie has won countless awards. But I do have a problem with the storyline. Audery Hepburn is Holly, and Holly is a phony, she lives a very convoluted lifestyle, she refuses to name her cat (what?) okay okay, she is a dreamer, a self proclaimed wild thing, oh no no, that’s just her excuse to gold-dig, she is going from one seemingly rich man to another. She just wants to climb up the social ladder, and girlfriend, I have no problems with that! She is wearing all the beautiful hats and great suits. She is ignoring the man who is so much in love with her, that he is there every step of the way, and even in the end, it looks like she is settling for him. Oh no, wait, she does “settle” for him! Holly is a jerk. She is shown helpless and fragile, but she is actually just, how do I put it nicely, but cray cray. She is the jerk who has successfully propagandized the idea to young women, who now long for a man to save the day. Wait, she doesn’t even have a job!

I do love how older movies don’t actually show any racy scenes that adorn our silver screens today. I like how tons is left upto our sweet imagination. I also do realize that Audery Hepburn is an icon unparalleled (yes, I do happen to know books being written about her style and such).

I see a lot(not all) of young girls dotting over this movie, yes, a social class per say, a wannabe social class, will admit to “OMG I love Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, without really knowing that just because the title has Tiffany’s in it does not indicate wealth and abundance. Breakfast at Tiffany’s does not make my favorite movie list in terms of a storyline.

It is a hollywood classic. But will I watch it again? I don’t think so. Will I watch other Audery Hepburn movies, yes. Other Blake Edwards films? ofcourse yes.

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Darling I can buy you a hermes, but what I can’t buy you is a husband to keep. No not even with a lavish wedding, not even with an arranged setup. As my friend’s one year old marriage falls apart bit by bit-a marriage that includes-a recent miscarriage, abuse and a kid who was just not ready for a commitment like this, she complains and plays the age old blame game. 

V should be standing up for me, she shouts in my ear from the other end of the phone, she claims she is suicidal, she sounds suicidal, suicidal because of a guy? been reasonably close to that place, okay, I empathize. We are on a three-way call. Ten years back we were discussing our new-found boobs, now we are discussing the asses we employ to suckle on them. Truly. But P has always made it about herself, K was and is the reserved one, and I would rather talk about P’s boobs than bring up mine. When I have had enough of it. Then I have to politely remind her that we too have boobs, and it hurts just as much to transition from trainees to real bras, so she agrees to go to marks and spencers near our school to shop. Ten years hence, I have to again remind this woman that we too have sailed her boat, that if she suffers from a broken marriage or a marriage that is breaking apart, we too have had our respective share of heartbreaks, so she agrees on a yoga retreat. K is on the sideline, with on-point advice and letting us heal each other as always. 

“But my dad spent 10 cr on the wedding”, she is complaining, “and my cousin’s dad? he spent 1cr (1cr=166,667USD) on her wedding, but look, she is happier”. Firstly, comparison is the thief of joy, and secondly, I am telling her how can she say that, how can she straight up put a price tag on it all? I could have a mere 10 rupee wedding tomorrow and heck it could be as much as of a fail as her’s or as much of a success as her cousin’s. Point is a wedding is not an investment, its an expense, from an accounting perspective. And even with the expense you dispense, you just can’t buy love and your place in someone’s heart. For that you need to put in some damn effort, and hey sometimes it works, and not so much the other times. 

India’s upper class and upper-middle class has a well kept secret, they have brought up a generation of kids who don’t work. Who don’t know housework, who have never cleaned a dish in their life or even fetched a glass of water for themselves! the rich dont let their kids work a “job” they have comforted them thus that it is hard for these kids to go off and sustain themselves on an entry-level salary. When girls are married, and married with dowry they expect to be treated exceptionally, you are tackling two evils here, the evil greedy in-laws(the frankenstein monsters you create) and your own damn attitude towards one of the most important relationships of your life, your marriage. You can’t expect money to fix it.

P also complains that V, the husband, doesn’t stand up for her. That when her estranged sister-in-law two years her junior, physically abused her, he should have stood up for her. How can you expect another human being to stand up for you, when you don’t even expect yourself  to stand up for yourself? A supposed MBA, from one of the wealthiest familes P is struggling in her marriage, and where all else fails she puts in our age old “kundali”(birth chart) argument, thats where my logic is truly raped and murdered with this woman when she says something on the lines of how her guru has recommended this and that. 

While I do commend her parents for standing up for her, I cannot help but foresee the problems with the system. A lot of cultures around the world have dowry system, but dowry is and shall remain evilly tabooed, because one cannot phantom how much evil it creates on both sides. The girl side, creates a frankenstein monster of the boy side, by first feeding into their whims and demands and then later falling victim to their increasing greed, the girl expects to be treated well, sometimes without putting in any effort because her family has given a lot at her wedding, on the other spectrum she also feels obliged to work on a sometimes failing and dead-end marriage because of the “capital investment” already deployed by her parents. In India a daughter’s wedding is something of a liability, if one reads enough paper female foeticide (killing the baby girl in a mother’s womb) is common for this same reason. They not only want sons, they also don’t want daughters, since daughters mean dowry in the future.   

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I learn belly dancing, but shimmy is where I stop. I am okay with the hip movements, I am even okay with the fact that it is infact nothing but a dance of seduction. But ask me to shimmy in public? I cannot shake what my mama gave me, its not that I cannot, I just don’t want to.

And Twerking? moving your back muscles to “pop it” to the latest club music in the club, and dropping “it” while travelling from one leg to another? uhh but no thank you.  I may come across as a prude, and you may say that I do not have “game”. But in the world where we have salsa and samba, why do we need to grind or twerk. To save my face in the face of the curent times, I do love “dirty dancing” as it is sensual, it is still okay with two people involved in it. And I would still want to reserve it for the bedroom or a private moment.

But Grinding? When I was in college, it became an absolute norm to grind, I am not saying I am not guilty, but it is so dirty. Sometimes I would stand in sidelines and watch all these people, and as the music played, without any sense of the song or whatever all they continued to do was “grind” “motorboot” on each other. I had guy friends and girlfriends wink at me and smile from the back of someone who was, yes, grinding on them. All you have to do is stand behind them, and ocassionally touch or squeeze some parts of them. It is just really demeaning. I will never say, I have never done it. But it is wholly disgusting. It is like you are in the bedrooms of people and watching them have sex with clothes on. And I have had that feeling one too many times while watching people. No, I don’t judge them for doing it, as it is really group think. It has really made it hard for some of us, who are actual ambiverts and even sometimes extroverts to fully participate in a club, because you can’t really salsa in the middle of the dance floor where everyone else is grinding on top of each other.  Well, actually you can. Nobody really stops anyone. But it is annoying to find a guy you are initially attracted to, grab you by your hips, turn you around and basically peg you from behind. At any point in a dance, it is still unacceptable and disgusting. 

Clubbing puts this pressure to not only talk to unwanted people, but actually be grabbed and turned around-and this is considered okay?!?, or even worse get grinded on by a complete stranger. Somebody who thinks its just..uh Idk okay to cup your breasts and press a hard on to your butt. What if I just liked loud music and drinks? I sound as if I am new to all this, but no, I am no wallflower. But it is not cray until someone else points it out. Or you take a step back and go like, hold on what am I doing, what is everyone else doing. How am I allowing men to put their faces in my cleavage and squeezing a butt check, and instead of pushing them and saying “wtf man, whats wrong with you” I am standing their giggling but saying “no” in a shrilly loud voice. How can I be alrite with seeing them next day around on campus and waving at them like they did not do anything inappropriate the weekend before? Why? Just because it is “party culture” and I am at the party. So it automatically makes me an extrovert wild girl who loves to party? I do love to party, take me anywhere around the globe, I can have a chill time with any group of people, but I have my respect when I do that, and I am unwilling to have what they have deemed okay in the party scene.

Women laying down on the ping pong table letting men take body shots, and being asked to do the same? I am a human, you bitch! I am not some subpar animal that will do as you please. How is it even okay for educated men to make comments like “flash me” sometimes even to their own friends, how about I get your life fracked up and call up your girlfriend and momma? 

We have made women a prop at the parties, we have sold our boys the dream, that study hard, work hard, make money and women will come. Women(and plural) have become the end result, the reward you get yourself. The jock culture promotes it, and then we wonder why do athletes rape. Uhh huh because they feel entitled, because its been embedded in them that women is their reward. That zar zoru and zameen are all man’s properties. The 21st century man would argue against it, but is he not going thru facebook picture after facebook picture comparing one girl to the other. Was he not previously trying to live up to the dream of a white woman with blonde hair, because he was absolutely sold to the idea that if he has that, he is “winning”. Ofcourse I am not talking about everyone. There are some great good men out there too, and I know a lot of them. But right now I am trying to understand this. And I am also not saying women won’t and don’t throw themselves on “eligible bachelors”, yes it is what it is. But it is just scary when your best friend just had a baby girl, and you think of the world she will grow up in.

I don’t disdain the club culture, it is fun, but as they say it takes two to tango. So it should take two to dance to any beat. 

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Mad Men, lead me to this song by The Crystals. Obviously at the time too this song received much criticism-as a lot of people said it promoted domestic violence. But idk how, but I just get it. Then we have the EL James who wrote a whole series, might I add bestselling series, centered around an intern, a businessman and BDSM. And there is more, our literature is full of it, books have a dark sexuality to them. Sydney Sheldon was doing it to us back in middle school. Enhancing and affecting our sexuality, by the rape scenes on television and the tabooed, the literature. All of it. 

So what is it about us humans wanting to be punished/smacked/chocked/scratched and countless verbs from our significant others? It all boils down to the “heat” I want you so much that I would want to risk raping you, if I had to get you on my bed and in my clutches. Or like in the song, I will smack you because you were untrue, but it felt like a kiss to the one who is untrue because in a morbid way, the one who is smacking is hurt, and vulnerable at their hands and their love. He takes her in his arms. 

If it affects you, react damnit.

I refrained from sexual activity as a high school student because the sweet guy I was somewhat seeing would have been horrified had I asked him to force himself on me. Had I manipulated him into somehow forcing himself on me, the guy would have probably shot himself the next day. The whole point became resisting and teasing to the point where someone looses their control, but you can’t just do that on anyone. Chick flicks are promoting love with daisies all over the place, and I do not say it is not great to make love like that. But it is also nice to switch things. My first real boyfriend was also a good feminist guy, who got sadism and masochism but not domination and submission. To him, it was something he just couldn’t do. I felt like a complete freak around someone like that. Walking around, I would feel like an outcast, because I wasn’t having the kind of fun I wanted. The average college hookups weren’t meant for me, because a college boy’s idea of a hookup is drunk sex. He wastes his energy too much at the party and little does he save it for the after-party. It was high school all over again. Sexually, I have always felt like an outsider. I have had friends wonder out loud at me, as why I do not regularly date. I cannot confess to my girlfriends who are just happy ticking of kamasutra positions that, this is how I like my sex. I cannot turn a guy down, and tell him it is because I know he cannot match my sexual prowess. Like gay people have a so called gaydar, wherein they can scan out gay men in a crowd, I can too scan out the sissies and ask them to stop trying. But while it is okay for a guy to come out and say, hey I am gay, it is still inappropriate to bring up D&S and S&M as your sexual identifiers. 

Yet, back to the crystal’s He hit me, and it felt like a kiss. Although morbid in that Amy Winehouse kind of a way, it is a prevalent subculture that you just cannot ignore. As most days, I feel like a queer, which I am not. This is actually perfectly normal, and a rape fantasy (WITH CONSENT) is infact the most common fantasy. 

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When Gogol’s(Kal Penn) father Ashok(Irrfan Khan) dies in The Namesake, the boy not so unceremoniously lets a tapping-on-some-music barber shave off his head. Shaving off one’s head is customary to a son whose father passes by. But I won’t talk about that. It’s an image I have seen one to many times. Someone carrying off something so ignorant about what it really means to you, and it is not their fault.

Being an Indian who has seen some crucial moments of her life unfold abroad, as a kid, a teenager and someone who went away for college. Nothing got to me more. Than being this foreigner, in this foreign land, where your rituals are nothing but either a source of delightful inquiry or an inconvenience to everyone else. And I am sure it is true of other subcultures living in countries with diverse populations. Because in those moments, I cannot be someone who is an informative brochure.

While I was a college student, away, mostly in a dorm on a diwali evening, unceremoniously going about a day, that is the bigest day on the hindu calendar, I felt a ting, a pinch. I would organize dinners over at the Indian restaurant, but it still never felt festive enough. Yes, I could wear my heals under my ethnic wear, pertaining to the weather, but sometimes I was forced to wear snow boots, because well it was snowing. The clothing I wore, in no way was graceful enough for me. Neither did they seem graceful to me. I truly felt like an impostor wearing those clothes. But I wore them, because that was the only thing I could do on a diwali evening away from home. I couldn’t get my hands or my feet heenaed neither could I draw a rangoli on a floor. 

The exact things I used to be not that excited about, when I was back home. A rangoli, yes but a heena? hah! I was always too cool for that. I still am, go figure. But as a kid, when I was back home, these mindless rituals seemed rudimentary, and unnecessary. Now, they seem like a connection to my roots. 

When a hindu man dies, as tradition pertains, his son gets his head shaved, his wife removes the vermillion from the parting of her head (usually a signifier that a hindu woman is married, and her husband is living), removes or breaks her bangles, gains white clothing, basically removing all colors from her face and body, to signify her loss. We mourn our dead in white. The only difference is, when in a foreign land we are so caught off-guard with it, that we are usually left with an option of getting our heads shaved by a man who has not the first idea about why we are doing this, and hell he might even compliment us afterwards. It’s not his fault ofcourse. It’s just in those moments when you feel truly away.

I come from a family of the new India, but these are still the sentiments we share with our ancestors, perhaps. Its is thru these rituals that we materialize and register our loss. While I lived in America, happily so I never went to a funeral, but I did attend a handful weddings, and a few of them were Indian. When I peeked into an American wedding, I was always an outsider peeking in, it was always amazing, it didn’t matter to me if they were doing enough or if they were doing less. As whatever was, was new and enticing. Similar to the reason, why I have always preferred interracial relationships over intra-racial. Yet, when I attended Indian weddings, I terribly missed home. To the point that I stopped rsvping to those. And even when I attended them, they felt so incomplete. 

It felt as if these people do not dully understand the meaning and ethos of it all. They will never get why our weddings have so many ceremonies, and how perhaps that is the reason our marriages, the majority being the arranged ones, last. It is not just celebration, and an elaborate show of wealth, it is also ritualizing yourself into the next chapter of your life. 

It is like this, it is like joining a fraternity/sorority, the rushing, getting to know the brothers/sisters, getting to know the letters, the hazing, and other rituals specific to different organizations. It becomes a life long bond hence. 

Similarly Indian weddings, which are annoyingly so long, yes. Are also ritualizing yourself into the next chapter of your life. A step spread over so many days. Earlier thought of as an inconvenience, now, I commend it. What is to life, but birth, death and marriage? If these are the things we let pass so unceremoniously or without any deeper meaning to the people involved, what is there to anything, if at all. 

You see I am The Vow kind of girl, my pinterest does not have a single wedding dress, a wedding cake or decor. I never grew up thinking about my wedding, as most girls did. Frankly, I thought I was too cool for that. I am or I was The Vow kind of girl, who atleast till this point thought, weddings are a huge waste of time and money, that I would rather elope, or idk drive thru vegas and get married. That maybe one sunny afternoon, I would call and say to my future fiance, “hey it looks beautiful outside, want to go to the City Hall on Broad and Chambers, and get married?” No frills, no show, and focus on the marriage and not so much on the wedding. 

I mean, I thought who is a wedding for? for the guests? for your parents, if you are Indian. 

Yet, now my predicament on the whole thing, might have changed. In the next seven days my childhood friend gets married, my first friend. And I can go there, with my ever poker face, and not feel a thing, but I know why I avoid these weddings. To avoid life. And now I think, I am done with that. There is a sweetness to these rituals that only leaving home could have taught me. That only someone else’s ignorance could have taught me, how much I hold some things so dearly. 

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Just when you thought, it couldn’t get shallower, it gets to this. A chinese man sues his wife for “ugly kids”, and wins.

Lawsuits are getting crazier by the day.

Rumor has it that she had plastic surgery. Okay, volla to measure up to the mainstream beauty standards. But beauty is not just skin deep, who we are, and what we look like is encoded in our DNA. 

But, really, a father sues his wife, the mother of his kids for ugly children? how ugly is this man’s heart? Shouldn’t a father be digging more deeper to love his children? 

What we are skipping here is, oh huh, I don’t know that these kids are also half his! So if he is so goddamn good looking that he can’t stand the idea of his “horrifyingly ugly” kids, he should also learn biology 101, and understand that it takes two to tango. Let’s hope these kids didn’t get his douchebag genes.

Alrite, one side of the story is, that the woman indeed frauded him with cosmetic surgery. By natural selection we do seek mates that would produce us our desirable offsprings. But whatever in the world happened to “love” being the pillars on which your marriage sustains and grows? 

A part of me is angry, because we objectify women so much, we airbrush them. On magazine cover’s their photoshopped images sometimes even have a leg or idk ribs missing.

And that part of me wants to scream “screw you, bitch” to this woman as well, because instead of living with who she is and not crumbling down to the pressures of the beauty standards inflicted on her by the outside world-and not realizing her own inner beauty, she went ahead, and literally got her whole face changed.

Yet I know one thing for sure, her life must have severely improved after that. As sad as it sounds, the world is kinder to good looking people. It’s a fact. There is an endless stream of benefits that is directly correlated to your good looks, but I won’t be wrong when I say inner-beauty is also rewarded. 

Yes, right here in this world. Image

 

The man is a douchebag too. Yes, he has been frauded into thinking that the woman is pretty, which she is after her surgery, but what if she was originally a stunner who, I don’t know, got burnt in an accident, lost a limb or gotten a severe skin disease? Would this man have left her then too. Should that happen to him? It’d only be fair. And what about the little things she maybe does for him? his lawsuit is absolutely ridiculous, because we constantly change, it can be aging or plastic surgery, but we all do change.

My other self argues, then why get crooked teeth fixed at all? Why wear makeup? If you really don’t want to objectify people and want people living well in their skin, why don’t you drop that kohl pencil and those countless brushes you sweep on your face every morning. To which I will counter-argue that taking care of one ownself is different than maybe changing who we are. 
I think it all comes down to maybe, how much is too much?

Plastic surgery is common. But it doesn’t make it alrite. Going under the knife is a huge deal, but its also really not. It’s a personal preference. If people can get ahead while after a plastic surgery, it is a dog eat dog world. In a way. 

Yet, in a way, a father is still a father. And suing over ugly children? Really.

PS: Dear Dude, your kids hate your gut already.

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