September 21, 2015

F for 'Flawed Fairy tales'

Honestly, narrowing down to one sole topic for the letter 'F' was one hell of a struggle. My mind was choc-blocked with ideas, and the creative needle swung from one extreme end of the spectrum to the other. To add to the horror, the family was also coming up with ridiculous suggestions and getting all hostile when I refused them. (I now know why Ch for 'Chunni Babu' had a drinking problem...sigh!).

A friend suggested I write about fairy tales.

"What's to write about them?" I snorted.

"Oh c'mon, don't be such a prude. Who doesn't love a good fairy tale?" she cooed.

"Err...ME!!" I wanted to say, but decided against it.
After all, it was just a matter of choice. The dreamer in her preferred to see the beauty. The skeptic in me was bound to spot the flaws.

Yes, you read it. I don't like fairy tales. I find them creepy.
Well, don't get me wrong. I grew up on my fair share of stories that started with Once-upon-a-time's and ended with happily-ever-after's, and like every other gullible brat believed in the Easter bunny, Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and all the glitter that wishing wells and magic far-away trees are made of.
I was in love with that ethereal world, the world of glass slippers, and fairy godmothers, of beautiful princesses and their charming princes. But then something changed. It's almost magical how life transforms you into a skeptic. There is no one moment or incident that you can point at and say 'Yeah, that's it. That was the point of no return. That's where I got disillusioned." It just happens slowly and gradually, and before you know it, Bam! You are there! Somewhat like a bar of Snickers a day and the end-of-the-month surprise on the weight scale. (You get the drift? Good! Let us not digress, please.)

So like I was saying, fairy tales are creepy. I can assure you almost every freaking fairy tale we have heard during our childhood has a twisted element to it, something that we failed to notice and which is subtly responsible for our distorted perceptions (on an individual and societal psyche basis.) Allow me to explain with examples.

Case 1---Imagine you are comfortably seated, hair tied neatly in a top knot pony tail, flipping through a magazine when some stranger comes behind you and tugs at your hair. What would you do? If you are a modern day woman and say anything short of  'turn around and smack him hard in his face' then, you either have a serious mental problem or are wearing a wig. I mean, do you know how much it hurts to have your hair tugged at; leave aside the effort to braid it, the fear of hair fall, the bad-hair days etc. Now imagine you standing on the terrace of a tower, and a stranger asking you to let down your tresses so that he can tug at them while you pull him up. So what if he is a Goddamn prince? He didn't care about Rapunzel (who might have died of a cervical fracture in the process--unless of course he was as light as a wisp) when he tugged at her golden braid. The poor princess (with the super strong neck) was meant to endure in silence. I an literally imagine her going 'Ow, Ow, Ow' as he convenienty used her hair as a rope-ladder to climb his way up.

Case 2---Who doesn't know Cinderella? How I hate this fairy tale. We seriously need to consider banning this one from story-hour time slots all over the world, kick it out of syllabus, thrash it, fling it out of the window, and make sure no child reads the traditional version ever. Every girl needs to know the meaning of self worth, and the sooner she realizes this the better, so that when she grows up to be a woman, she, like her favorite 'Disney' princess, can walk away with the guy who loves and respects her for who she is.
Every girl should hope for a love that does not need her to be decked up in a shimmering gown, diamond tiara and glass slippers, to fall in love. 
Sooner or later, we are bound to grow old and fat anyway--age, however, is a number that can change only appearances but not the heart. So if someone manages to fall for us in just a few hours of silent ballroom dancing---then we have something to worry about, don't we? Every kid reading 'Cinderella' should be told that compatibility is not judged on the basis of a few hours nor on good looks or financial status. So ideally, we ought to go out there in our rags, our dusty slippers...our simple yet clean pair of jeans and a tee thrown on top---sans makeup and jewellery and see who we can relate to in mental wavelength, kind spirit and honest attitude, instead of letting a rich dude (who has the audacity to call for a beauty pagent to select a partner for life) choose us like a piece of china in an antique showroom.
As for the original tale, it's unbelievable how the twit of a prince needs a glass slipper to recognize the love of his life. Yea, like no one else could have the same shoe size. Oh, and in case you going to fight me saying she produced the other slipper as evidence, then all I can say is that she's lucky there were no Christian Louboutin's around to emulate those custom made beauties (I'm talking of the glass slippers here, you perverts) back then. See, I told you. Flawed at so many levels.

One more creepy point worthy of mention is how almost every fairy tale has the female protagonist playing damsel in distress. She is either tortured, humiliated, put to sleep for a hundred years, abandoned into the forests, made to kiss a frog, or sent with a basket of fruit to her grandmother's house. Nobody asks her whether she is okay with being kissed (Remember, that was totally non consensual. What if sleeping beauty wanted to sleep longer? What if the prince suffered from halitosis and forgot to carry mints? What if she just didn't feel like it? But hey, wait a minute...we'd never know because she was never asked. We as kids were supposed to believe she woke up to the power of love from that kiss, and all was well once again. Happys endings, right? Wrong!!

That is not how it works in real life. A strange man you don't even know kissing you in your sleep is plain creepy. They just never told us.

On a somewhat related note, a girl kissing a frog and expecting him to be a prince is equally creepy. But let's stick to the point.
Notice how the female is always chosen to be portrayed as the hapless victim in most fairy tales. The prince got to kiss a sleeping princess who would be forever indebted him for saving her life. On the flip side, if the princess wanted to be the hero and restore a handsome prince to his original state, she was made to kiss a (*hold your breath---pun unintentional* ) FROG!
I am sure a lot of frogs got lucky thanks to this one.

That brings me smoothly to Case 3---Poor little Snow white, for instance, is another example. The seven little dwarfs she lived with had cute names but selfish hearts. (But see how cleverly their names proved to be a distraction.) Snow White didn't pay them any rent, but how can we overlook the fact that the dwarfs welcomed her in their house only after they learned that she could cook and clean beautifully? Apparently, the rule, 'In life, there are no free lunches' applies even in fairy tales.
Snow White stayed at home looking after the house, cooking meals, making beds, while the dwarfs mined for jewels all day. So what do you find wrong in this picture?
No? Can't you see it? Unfair distribution of work. Not once did the dwarves exchange responsibilities. Not once did anyone mention or ask Snow if she wanted to go mining while they cooked, cleaned and made the beds. She was given no choice, No! It must have been a 'cook or leave' scenario. She didn't have any option. She had to scrub the dishes till they shone.
Thinking back, perhaps it was a male chauvinistic attitude that people in the West possessed back then (Heck! The story was written somewhere in the 1930's, long before women's liberation.).
But if you are an Indian kid, you'd be still listening to the version of 'Snow White and the seven dwarfs' which has Snow White cooking 'Butter chicken & Round rotis' or 'Thayeer Sadham' (depending on whether she is North or South Indian) for those tired little gold diggers. Why? Because we in India like to keep our 'fairy tales' as close to reality as possible (not the other way around, mind ya).

But that aside, do not call this a feminist rant (or call it one, what-ever!) I feel for the poor dwarfs too. You all know how the story goes. Just when they begin to think they have found themselves a friend, the wicked step mother intervenes again. This is followed by the same old drill; apple, poison, slumber, prince and finally, the non-consensual (not again!) kiss. This is where I feel bad for the dwarves. Snow White, upon finding the prince, conveniently forgets these little friends, never as much to look at them again. Oh well, I know the animation shows a teary farewell with polite nods and friendly waves. But seriously, I think the reason people (especially women) in relationships hardly stay in touch with friends stems loosely from these fairy tales. I think I should cut Snow White some slack. They didn't have Facebook back then. Or else you would have seen her liking status messages Grumpy, Bashful, or Sleepy posted.

Case 4---Goldilocks. What about 'Goldilocks and the three bears'. This story takes 'creepy' to a whole new level. In times where we keep warning our kids against strangers, here is a pretty little girl entering an unknown house, eating porridge and sleeping in their bed. I mean how misleading would that be to a kid? Entering unfamiliar territory is no adventure, in fact far from it. What if the house belonged to Ted Bundy or Jack the Ripper? What if that steaming hot porridge was bait? What if there was a serial killer waiting to saw Goldilocks in half as she dozed off comfortably in that bed after having consumed the spiked porridge? No, nobody tells your kid all this. As she listens attentively to how Goldilocks sneaked in and had an adventure of her life, there is a part of her that wants to have such an adventure too. I know because I have been there. Luckily, mine was a boring neighborhood. Nobody ate porridge.

Maybe I am over reacting. Perhaps you will call me a kill joy. Kids should grow up on a fair dose of magic and fairy dust. But times are unsafe, my friend. Besides, what good did these fairy tales do us anyway?
You keep chiding your kids from receiving gifts and sweets from strangers.  I read somewhere that a child was kidnapped from a department store. Cc tv footage showed a big bearded man in a Santa suit handing him candy which the child readily accepted. The weeping mother confessed that she had never suspected 'Santa'. Honestly, I find Easter egg hunts creepy for exactly the same reason. We keep instructing our children to stay away from objects lying around carelessly, and then we go ahead and organize treasure hunts in random parks where they are expected to look over, under, across and through all sorts of things to discover the carefully concealed goodies. I mean how strange is that, really. I was okay with the idea of a tooth fairy until 'Sharp objects' by Gillian Flynn happened. Now I think she (the tooth fairy) is creepy too.

Too much of a skeptic, you say?
Well, what to do, we are like that only...


F for 'Flawed Fairy tales' is the sixth post in the 'A-Z Series' of posts, a chain of articles written by me on topics starting with each alphabet of the English language. Read back and forth for the other posts, and please feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject :)

September 17, 2015

Dear Vignaharta

What does one say to someone who already knows everything one wants to tell him?
Today, I will just bow my head before you and say 'Ganpati Bappa Moryaaaa!!!!':)

Your ever-demanding devotee,

September 11, 2015

E for 'Exercise and Excuses'

I met up with a friend the other day and noticed that she was looking positively happy and radiant. When I complimented her, she laughed and said that a lot of people were telling her that these days. She winked and said she had discovered a secret formula to stay fit. Before I could run off to the nearby chemist store to inquire whether such a wonder-drug had hit the market, she gushed that the formula involves *brace yourself for the surprise of all surprises* an early morning exercise session that spreads over 90 minutes after which she gulps down an odd orangish-green vegetable juice that helps her kick start her day. Such a let-down it was, I tell you. Why can't these pharmaceutical companies come up with something to replace exercise, I grumbled.

A little insight about the person you think you already know so much about, yours truly aka moi, I, like most people in the right frame of mind, hate early morning workouts. Truth be told, I just cannot relate to those creatures who disrupt their beauty sleep for a grilling session at the gym returning all stinky-sweaty and yet supposedly feeling 'as fresh as a daisy'. I mean c'mon, how can something as rigorous as that in the wee hours of the morning make you feel any better or happy(er)?
So when you tell me that you wake up at 5.00 am for an whole hour doing cardio, sit-ups and weights followed by a pilates class or some other calorie-burning, muscle-spraining torture that I find it inhuman to even mention, it's obvious that I will stare at you like you have bitten  by a rabid dog.

Yes, I know. I must practice what I preach. Like every good doctor, I too advice my patients to walk for half an hour at least five times a week. But hey, there is a difference. I never and I mean NEVER tell them to hit the gym at dawn. It's a free world though. So don't you dare go blaming me, no.
Besides I think every person is allowed to be a schmuck sometimes, and I have to admit I quite fit the bill when it comes to this. Nobody's perfect, eh?

So without further ado, let me make a list of all the excuses I have come up with to avoid exercising (be it early morning jogs, cardio, cycling, even yoga) in the past. Read at your own discretion.
  1. Psychosomatic: Pretend it is killing you softly but surely. Arms hurting, legs aching, eyes burning, muscle spraining, torticollis, vertigo. I once complained I felt a radiating pain in my right arm and managed to create quite a stir, especially when I said it had reached the jaw within seconds. Nobody spoke about gymming for a whole week after that. 
  2. This is more of a fooling-your-conscience trick. Become an illusionist and create an illusion of being perfectly healthy and don't need any exercise. Pro of the situation: Like a successful illusionist, you are able to bamboozle your audience. Con of the situation: You are your own audience. However, this trick only works if you can manage to drive away visions of pastries, butter chicken, aloo parathas and caramel custard that you consumed for dinner last night. It has worked wonders with me. I make a good audience who falls for this 'trick' every time. However, like every magic show, the magic is only temporary....until you realize that you got to 'die with a T' as an alternative to burning those calories off. I still can't decide which is worse. 
  3. Show everyone the unintelligent forward you just received from one of your talli friend, that says "Vodka is made from potatoes. Potatoes are vegetables. Vegetables are good for you." So join the dots and have another shot.
  4. Keep saying you feel lethargic all throughout the day. Combine it with psychosomatic complaints. But never mention you think it could be because of exercise. You don't want people to suspect you trying to ward it off. Been there done that, and it rolls out so beautifully you could cry (tears of pride at the discovery of a full proof plan).
  5. Walk around like a wraith all day. Maybe you can do a little zombie act. If someone asks you (which someone is bound to), smile wistfully and tell them it's probably because you not been sleeping well. Again, do not even  mention the torture they have foisted on you. Let them guess. It adds to their guilt.
  6. Google information about people who died of cardiac arrests from over-exertion. Then sigh and say 'Different people...different thresholds.' Proceed to act all weary and lie down for a while.
  7. If you are a woman, you can always pose to be a non-liberated doormat complaining how men just have it easy. Make up something to avoid the tread mill. Say it's 'that' time of the month. I know it sounds a bit old school. But so does menstrual exclusion. However, it still goes on doesn't it?
  8. If you are a man, you can take advantage of old-school logic as well (just to keep par with us women) and preen that you being the essential bread-winner of the family can't afford to waste time over your fitness. Let the woman of the house take care of that for you. (Psst! Make sure you don't mention the 'Happy hours' you indulge in while spouting this excuse.)  P.S: this one works best if you have always been a chauvinistic pig. 
  9. Complain that you cannot work out in a social set up like a gym because there are just too many people around. Say it makes you anxious. Joggers parks and walking tracks have the same effect. Isolated areas, however, pose an entirely different threat. This excuse manages to create a win-win situation for you either way. Yenjaay!!!
  10. This one is bound to guarantee 100% success. Form a 'no-exercise' club. Allow entry to only those gym-haters who are fatter and unhealthier than you. Then become the chairperson. Distribute pamphlets, lead rallies, call meetings. Scheme, plot, plan. Do not associate with those who exercise. Gossip (feel-good therapy) about how they manage to keep fit. Bitch that they just have too much time to engage in self care. Whatever you do, never encourage. Never get inspired by them. If you detect the faintest sign of motivation amongst any of the club members, throw them out. Clearly demarcate the fitness freaks from the lazy lumps. Make sure neither team crosses enemy lines. The fitness freaks are a minority anyway. Exclusion will coerce them into joining the other side...your side. If you can't join them, change them. That should be the mantra of your war strategy.
Needless to mention, one of these above excuses are bound to work for you. If however, they don't, then worry not. Contact me for other ideas. There is more where those gems are coming from.

Until then, amigos,
sleep and let sleep! *yawn*

 Writers note:  (Disclaimer: The above piece is written in jest and should be taken with a pinch of salt. The writer should not be held responsible for any human, animal, or feelings that might have been hurt in the process.)
E for 'Exercise and Excuses' is the fifth post in the 'A-Z Series' of posts, a chain of articles written by me on topics starting with each alphabet of the English language. Read back and forth for the other posts, and please feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject :)

September 03, 2015

D for 'Dilemma'

Who do we listen to, the head or the heart?
is the colossal confusion that has been confounding mankind from even before 'What came first, the hen or the egg?'

The heart and the mind being constantly at war is a topic that has been exploited by all and sundry, so much that it does feel a tad bit juvenile (at the risk of it seeming common knowledge and overrated) to elaborate any further. Besides, it is a predicament that has no permanent solutions, at least none without the possibility of a regret some time in the future. However, what is surprising is that every time we are made to stand at similar crossroads, we are washed away by a pain anew. No amount of experience can ever ease the wretchedness of the damned Hobson's choice.
It can be assumed that it is our helplessness that makes us lament over this classical dilemma between the head and the heart. If we choose our mind, we fear it might lose our love to practicality. If we listen to our heart, we fear the risk of being a sentimental fool. Either way, we are constantly harrowed by the dread of making a wrong decision. We worry about consequences instead of celebrating our preferences. It's a constantly changing world, we sulk. How then can we trust our choice to remain constant?
Ohh, the dilemma! My head is hurting, my heart is aching...
Perhaps it's only human nature to keep complaining.
Perhaps it's only human nature to run away from confronting things we cannot change.

But how long really does one need to keep running when there is nowhere to hide?

 Writers note:  D for 'Dilemma' is the fourth post in the 'A-Z Series' of posts, a chain of articles written by me on topics starting with each alphabet of the English language. Read back and forth for the other posts, and please feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject :)

August 30, 2015

Hunger in the times of TinyOwl

If thre is one trouble maker member in my whole extended family, it has to be my aunt Kanchan who we fondly call 'K Maasi'. I would not be exaggerating if I had to say she possessed the ‘Bambiligan’ gene .For those who haven’t got the gist of that concocted gene, it is a term that I have coined for K Maasi who possesses the innocence of doe-eyed Bambi and the notoriety of a bunch of hooligans, put together.
It is tough to say whether the havoc K Maasi wreaks is intentional or not. But trouble does follow her like a domesticated animal follows its master, rarely causing any distress to him/her but always managing to unnerve a poor unsuspecting victim in the process….in this case, mostly ME!

I can enumerate a million incidents (ranging from her bringing up unexpected matrimonial alliances to her talking nineteen-to-a-dozen which always leads her into saying what is not needed) when good old ‘Bambiligan’ K Maasi has pulled the carpet below my feet springing up the weirdest of surprises that I can never be prepared for. It is this trait of hers that has earned her the status of ‘Aunt Agatha’ (of Wooster fame) in the family thereby invariably making me head for the hills on announcement of her arrival. But like K Maasi light-heartedly says, “You can run but you cannot hide.” As for me, I can hardly ever run far enough.

The most recent incident that left a stamp ink memory happened around three months ago when  K Maasi decided to pay us a visit. My dad’s colleague along with his family had been invited over for a formal dinner at my home that evening. My mother and me were busy putting together a small spread when Maasi waltzed in and insisted on helping with it.
Knowing K Maasi's kitchen prowess, I stifled a tiny scream of protest. However, not wanting to offend her in any way, my mother reluctantly agreed.

“You go ahead and freshen up. I will take care of everything,” she instructed my mom with a gentle dismissal. Somehow the latter half of that statement caused more dread than relief in my heart which had suddenly turned tachycardic.

“Err...Are you sure, Ma?” I asked.
“Don’t worry beta. Kanchan will manage fine.”
My mother was showing a lot of faith in her sister’s culinary abilities today.  Later she told me the secret behind the sudden confidence---Almost everything was ready. The table just had to be laid. There was no scope for any kind of confusion. K Maasi was only too pleased to help and my mom had allowed her to feel important.

I was alone with Maasi in the kitchen now. She began to draw the lids from the various preparations and inhale the aroma wafting in the air above them with an air of urgency I couldn't really fathom.. I was all ready to accept a few compliments for the wonderful culinary extravaganza I had contributed to help making, when POOF! My bubble burst. K Maasi was wiggling her nose in distaste, her forehead showing vertical creases of disappointment.

“Err…is anything wrong, Maasi?” I asked.

“Shhh…” she silenced me. “Let me concentrate." 
Then biting the right corner of her lower lip, she exclaimed with a toss of her head, ”Salt! A little more salt in this!”

“But Maasi, shouldn’t we be tasting it first?” I suggested.

“I have been cooking for 25 years, darling. I’d know these dishes to perfection by their very aroma from miles away.” Then as if to appease me, she dipped in a spoon and tasted the ever so delectable Palak Paneer that my mom had cooked to perfection.
“There!! Didn’t I tell you? Go get the salt now,” she announced. I suspected the hot gravy had not even reached her taste buds yet.

Reluctantly I handed her the salt dispenser. I knew there was no hope now. K Maasi  was on an ego trip. She wanted to contribute and contribute she would. She proceeded to alter each and every dish with what she thought just a dash of pepper, a tinge of extra salt, a spoonful of sugar, a squeeze of a lemon and so on. I watched in horror but her confidence and enthusiasm could make a sous chef doubt his abilities. 

“Lets flambĂ© the caramel custard,” she rubbed her hands with scary enthusiasm..

“Noooooo,” I almost screamed.

It was just then that the door bell rang. K Maasi gave me a dejected look and went to answer it.

When mom entered the kitchen, there was hardly any time to tell her what had happened and explaining would have unsettled her. Besides I knew the trouble maker had only meant well. She always did. The guests would arrive any minute now.

I prayed to God for some miraculous intervention…something that would prove K Maasi to be a far better cook than we thought she was. Perhaps she had finally improved after all those culinary misfortunes we had been privy to in her past. Perhaps her husband was only joking when he had once narrated how even their neighbor’s hungry dog had refused to eat the food K Maasi cooked. Perhaps the guests would not notice the extra salt, pepper, sugar and whatever else she had kept adding.
Just then my dad entered the kitchen. He was looking rather glum. K Maasi scurried in right behind him.

“I’m sorry dear,” he said to my mom. “The Kumar’s had to cancel. Something unexpected came up and they had to leave for their hometown.”

I could not believe my ears. I almost jumped with joy. God had answered my prayers after all. That had been a narrow escape.

“Ohh. I was so looking forward to their visit,” said my mom dejectedly. Then glancing towards the kitchen, she continued with a crest fallen face, "Now all this food will go waste.”

I was still grinning ear to ear. The trouble maker was observing me beam with joy.

“What’s making you so happy?” she frowned. “We put in so much effort.”
Bambi's innocent face flashed before my eyes again. I went up to K Maasi and gave her a huge hug.
“Nobody’s effort has gone wasted. I am going to eat….eat it all,” I said with a mix of relief and regret in my voice...the former because we were saved from the humiliation in front of the Kumar's and the latter because I had impulsively promised to eat K Maasi's kitchen disaster.

“Too bad that the Kumars won't get to eat such scrumptious food,” chimed in Maasi only too happy to receive the hug from me. It was easy to tell that she had mistaken my relief for appreciation..

The trouble maker was clueless this time, clueless of what a mess she had whipped up…………..well, at least until dinner was served, and even though none of us could swallow even a bite of the food she had improvised, the memory of this incident leaves us in splits even today. We call it the 'luck by chance' event much to K Maasi's red face. The guests hadn't turned up and we had been saved the embarrassment. However, it was rather late and we were too tired to step out for dinner. As we scourged through the menu's of various restaurants for home delivery, we realized how frustrating it can get to get a simple meal delivered to your doorstep. After an endless call waiting and a couple of disconnections we finally managed to get our call through only to be told that the delivery could take some time due to lack of staff. The dinner finally landed up on our table an hour late by which time we were starving, half asleep, and ready to eat anything...all except K Aunty who on sniffing the food placed before her insisted that it required a dash of salt, a tinge of pepper, and a little modification that her 25 years of experience could take care of.

As I now recall the food fix that day, I wonder what a humiliating scene it would have created had the Kumars landed up for dinner. I did not have any plan B then, what was I thinking? But I believe in working on my flaws. I have now worked out a plan B for such 'kitchen crisis' management and sticky situations in the future---a pantry stocked with snacks and #TinyOwlApp on my phone.
From dosas to donuts, from pastas to parathas, from biryani to baingan bharta, Installing the TinyOwl App on your phone will make sure your choice of meal arrives at your door step. It makes the entire process of ordering food time conserving,  convenient and fun. All you need to do is tap (the App) and choose (from the options it provides). It is as easy as ordering a butler around, and guess what? This butler comes for free.
So the next time K Maasi experiments in the kitchen, I am going to sit back and just tap on an expert app with a minimal interface and order in from the city's best restaurants in and around the city.

In addition, TinyOwl allows both cash and card payments and also saves all your previous orders and addresses so that you don't have to type it every single time. It takes the entire responsibility of confirming your order with the restaurant and notifying you of the estimated delivery time. To sum up, this handy app reduces a lot of stress from your shoulders, especially in times of emergencies like K Maasi's cooking escapades or an unexpected visit from your friends on days you are just too bored to enter the kitchen or just too tired to step out. No more panic attacks. No more having to wait until you get connected to the restaurant, no more address mix-up's because the manager on the other end of the call is stone deaf, no more dialing numbers in the hope of getting through a busy line---now who wouldn't want a simple, easy to use, and most importantly, free-of-charge food ordering app that does all the irritating work for you?

So download now. Here are the Android and IOS links.You are now just a tap away from a scrumptious feast from your favorite restaurant.

Bring it on, K Maasi. I am fully armed for your next visit!

This post has been written for the 'Food tales with TinyOwl' contest conducted by TinyOwl and Indiblogger
If you are an Indivine user and like what you read, you can vote for me here 

C for 'Chimera'

Those who knew her claimed it was the uncertainty that she was in love with...

She could not single out any trait she adored him for. She was impressed with his versatility; her endless pursuit of the perfect amalgamation of attributes she so desired had almost come to an end...or so she believed.

The blend of contrasting qualities was as perplexing as was alluring. He was the perfect representation of power. Self-righteousness, determination, grit were some of his best qualities. A deep sense of pride for being a self made man, a majestic fervor, blue-blooded aggressiveness and a fierce unbridled passion only managed to increase his appeal.
However, the world has always been witness to varied hues of human nature. His fluctuating temperament was perhaps just one mixed-up shade. It was as if he possessed different sets of DNA inside him, exhibiting a splay of multiple conflicting personalities on the outside---a fine combination of malevolence and benevolence.
The diametrically opposite sensitive side proved just that. He could be quite the emotional fool at times. Mild mannered, passive and completely vulnerable to emotions, this subservient side stood entirely juxtaposed to the brazen king she otherwise saw him for.

However, the paradox would not end there. She would be stunned by the shrewdness of his conniving mind. They said nobody could survive his bite; it was akin to that of a serpent. She had witnessed the spewing of venom, the scheming mind at work. Apprentice to the devil himself, he knew exactly how to maneuver victory in his favor. That was the side she feared most; nobody could read his mind then. Nobody, no matter how close, was privy to his serpentine intentions.

He was a parody of errors, a prodigal being. He was a chest of secrets, a contradiction of sorts. Simba, Billy and Viper all rolled in one.

She could not comprehend her own emotions when it came to him. What was it that she felt for him really---admiration, empathy, fear? Was he a hero she had grown to worship or a monster she had started to feel afraid of? Was he the truth that reigned supreme or an incredulous lie she was trying to believe in?

The secret continued forever. Nobody could ever see him the way she did.  Who can confirm the stories behind the mystic, the occult, and the unseen anyway?

Some guess he was a muse she had fallen in love with.
Others call him her inspiration, the reason behind her philosophy, the lyrics to her song, the color of her soul, the fruit of a blessing, the power of a curse.
Some call him a sin she could not resist. Others say he was a dream she never woke up from, a phantom who broke her heart, a husband she had once idolized, an over-familiar friend. .
Those who knew her claimed it must have been the uncertainty that she was in love with---the ambiguity of her fantasy...the enigma of a chimera called 'love'. 


Writers note: 
For those who think this piece was a bit cryptic, I'd take this opportunity to explain the thought that triggered it.
A 'Chimera' (as per Greek mythology) is supposed to a fire breathing monster composed of parts of more than one animal (usually a lion, a goat and a snake). The term is used in literature to describe something widely imaginative.
The above piece speaks mainly of a lover 'She' is totally enamored by, insanely passionate about, completely overwhelmed with the idea of.
Slowly but surely, the lines open up and you realize that perhaps 'He' is someone she has made up in her mind. His attributes (even the unattractive ones) are the characteristics she has always wanted in her dream man. a fantasy that she harbours. Perhaps he is just a normal man, a flawed mortal. But she places him on a pedestal, elevates him to a celestial level. No matter how absurd it might seem to others, to her, he is perfect, flawless, supreme. Come to think of it, isn't that what we often imagine our love to be---an amalgamation of all the qualities we secretly and not so secretly desire? So she dreams of him being powerful yet equally gentle, sinister yet mysteriously attractive.
The lines in italic font are deliberately directed towards the chimerical quality of the lover that she has made up largely from her imagination.
The secret continues because nobody else can ever view him in the way she does, something that every one in love will be able to relate to or realize in retrospect. After all, isn't love exactly exaggerated day dream, a wild imagining, an unforgettable chimera?

C for 'Chimera' is the third post in the 'A-Z Series' of posts, a chain of articles written by me on topics starting with each alphabet of the English language. Read back and forth for the other posts, and please feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject :)

August 28, 2015

B for 'Bias'

When was the last time you formed a prejudice about something or someone--created an impression without knowing the facts right, formed an opinion a tad bit too early? 

Is the above question making you squirm uncomfortably in your seat?
Well, alright. Answer this one then.

When was the last time you felt someone having a biased opinion against you?  
Yes, I am sure you remember that.
Bias or prejudice is one of the most common characteristic of human nature, and our society is especially cursed in this regard. We often have all the time in the world to indulge in worthless and senseless gossip which is slowly but surely bound to create a prejudiced opinion over time. Sometimes we are not even sure about the reason for our prejudice. But once set in, we are simply unable to wipe it out. Ever seen the carriage bound horses who are made to wear blinkers on either side of their eyes to prevent them from seeing sideways or rear? We become victims to bias in pretty much the same way.

I have had the unfortunate opportunity of encountering a few such prejudiced opinions. Just like a butterfly fluttering its wings in a distant Amazonian jungle is capable of causing a typhoon across half the world, a prejudice is capable of ruining a nation.
I am pretty sure that a lot of people out there will differ and vouch for an improving world (at least I'm hoping they will), but I am taking the liberty to generalize.
I hereby elaborate on the various types of bias we commonly encounter in our day to day lives:

  • Beauty bias: I can safely say that this is perhaps the earliest bias to be ingrained in our minds from a very impressionable age. Little girls dressed up in ribbons and lace grow up watching their mothers lathering their face with beauty creams and makeup. Television commercials endorse lipsticks and chapsticks for smooth and shiny 'baby' lips, talcum powders and fairness creams promise to make one as white as snow, and varied shampoos and hair products guarantee silky smooth and lustrous hair. The problem is that these commercials and endorsements are creating a false definition of beauty in the hearts of the average teenage girl watching. Her favorite 'Barbie doll' with its unrealistic body proportions is not helping either. It has only managed to further mar her self esteem. As she touches her limp hair, her chapped lips and dusky cheeks, a deep inferiority complex begins to set in making her wonder why these products are not able to rectify her looks like it did to the girl in the ad. Is she so irreparably damaged?
The outside world is not that kind either. Thanks to the bias society has created against dark skin, she is humiliated time and again. "Hot chocolate", "Gobar queen", "Black currant", "Oreo cookie" and other jabs by boys in her locality further lower her self-esteem. Matrimonial pictures are toned down a few shades. Social network pics are in B&W. She has started skipping meals to attain a perfect size zero---the current Bollywood inspired craze amongst all young girls these days. She is instructed against wearing certain colors that will make her look 'darker than she already is'....
Every time her fair(er) cousin comes over, she feels a pang of jealousy. She goes to bed praying she turns a shade fairer in the morning, and yet every morning she wakes up and feels 'ugly' all over again.

Who decides the definition of beauty really, I ask. Each and every one of us is beautiful in our own way. You don't need to be a size zero or Snow White for someone to love you. You will always be perfect to those for whom you matter. Instead, focus on being healthy. Eat right. Stay happy. As for people who still judge you on external appearances, you can always give them a standing ovation with your tallest finger. 

Yet, I still see a small trickle of level-headed people trying their best to clear this bias. Campaigns like 'Black is beautiful' are being conducted. We have dusky celebrities setting an example and carving the way towards a better change. However, it is only when matrimonial ads stop demanding slim, fair girls and television commercials no longer show dusky women needing a fairness cream to become an air hostess that I will be convinced we are making progress.

On the flip side, all is not hunky dory for the pretty face either. There is a bias against her too.(I told you, we are a prejudiced lot.) I have heard people smirk and claim that beauty with brains is a myth. A beautiful woman is generally considered an unintelligent form of life. That is where terms like 'Arm candy','baby doll', 'tota', 'maal', 'bimbette' come in the picture..
Seriously, what is the problem with society? Why can't you stop this preposterous objectification  of women? And no, a fairness cream for men is not going to make us feel all liberated and equal.

  • Bias against the rich:  I have heard people comment that money and emotions can never go hand in hand. Somewhere deep inside, we all like to believe that those who are rich have traded their soul with the devil. Even Bollywood has been feeding off this bias in the 80s and 90s. Remember the exceptionally arrogant and beautiful heroine (with the gang of giggling girls) who discovers the meaning of love and life only after she gives her heart to the poor, jobless but self-righteous hero? Remember the scheming villain (yes, the one who owned the yacht) got women pregnant, eyed the hero's innocent sister, and splurged endlessly on extravagant parties (and at times even chambers filled with liquid nitrogen)? Remember how the hero always won in the end? The rich 'bad' guy either ended up dead, or in prison while the poor 'good' guy walked with the girl into the sunset. The film makers had discovered the formula for a box-office hit---feed on the sadistic side of the audience that took comfort in believing that nobody gets it all--until Karan Johar came along...(and changed the formula altogether. But that is a story for another day...sigh!)

But even today, there are people waiting to bring down those who are up there. What they conveniently forget is the effort and perseverance it takes to reach that height, the sacrifices made, the bridges crossed and burnt. It is a commonly known fact that in an accident involving a car and a bicycle, everybody would blame the car. The pedestrians walking by would pick a fight with the car owner and sympathize with the cyclist (irrespective of whose mistake it was). That is just the way our society functions. Pelt the rich with stones. The poor can be forgiven for their mistakes. Is it fair, I ask.
Yes, I agree its not a perfect world. Our minds have been clouded by corrupt officers, power play, bad examples set by rich brats who drink and drive etc. But somewhere in that commotion, there could be a honest man who is trapped due to bias despite having strived his way to the of you perhaps, one from the honest hardworking lot.  Everybody deserves a chance to fair judgement. Don't give a dog a bad name and hang him.

  • Bias of class, title, caste: This one is common mostly in India, and is tough to explain in just a few lines. What we see is only the tip of the iceberg. There has always existed a regressive school of thought in Indian society that believed in an unjust and baseless hierarchical system. They declared and propagated the theory that the son of a king deserved to be king (no matter how inefficient) while the son of a bard no matter how talented was meant to be nothing more than a bard.
In an otherwise progressive world, it is indeed shameful that there are still people gloating on titles that are entrusted upon them, not by merit but only by genetics.
Social class, caste, titles , just like skin color and beauty are intangibles that we have no control over. So what kind of a retarded mind set makes you believe that you are made to belong to a so-called 'higher' place because you actually 'deserve' it?
Discrimination against these intangibles gets me wondering if it's only those that do not have anything better to gloat about that take solace by fooling themselves into believing they are superior.---harboring such a bias is akin to adopting a pet piranha; It will eventually feed on the entire society but also eat you out of your home.

  • Bias of language: I see a lot of people in Goa raising a huge hue and cry over the medium of instruction in Government schools. Personally, I believe learning a new language is always a good thing. However, what I do not agree is restricting yourself to just one particular language. Be it English, Konkani, Marathi, or Hindi, I strongly oppose the bias held against any of them. 
While I see some people consider English to be their language of choice, others think it is too anglophilic and that we should resort to a local language.
I have been to Chennai where people refrain from talking in Hindi.Despite knowing the language there is a certain hostility towards anyone talking in Hindi. Well, people in Delhi show a similar aversion to English. So I guess that makes it even. NOT!

  • Bias of company: They say a person is judged by the friends he has around him. I disagree. This is again a bias---a prejudice you would hold against or in favor of someone. In my experience, I have known people to have been completely different from the friends they hang around with. I believe it is possible for one to be completely independent of the company he is in. You might not always like everything about your friends. I've seen people as different as chalk and cheese hang out together. Judging someone on the basis of his friends wouldn't be totally fair in that respect. It's a bias I would try to avoid.

I guess that's all for now. If you have encountered any more such bias, do feel free to add. Awareness is the first step towards making a change.
You might think I am too much of an idealist. But it's only when you aim for the moon that you fall amidst the stars. Clearing bias is no big feat. In fact, it is of utmost importance not just at the level of society but also at an individual level. I promise myself to stay away from all kinds of prejudice, starting today. I want to view the world in a totally unbiased fashion.

Call me an hopeful optimist. I hope to live in a world where nobody will judge me on the basis of the language I speak, the company I am in, on the clothes I wear, on the color of my skin, on the company of my friends, on the caste I belong to, on the profession I have chosen, on my financial status. I want the world to know me for me. I want the world to see the clarity of my thoughts, the smile on my face, the optimism in my heart, the enthusiasm in my soul, the freedom in my expression, the content of my character.

I want you to know me, the me I am, the me I want to be...

Writers note:  B for 'Bias' is the second post in the 'A-Z Series' of posts, a chain of articles written by me on topics starting with each alphabet of the English language. Read back and forth for the other posts, and please feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject :)

August 26, 2015

A for 'Armour'

Wikipedia defines 'Armours' as a protective covering used to prevent damage from being inflicted to an object, individual, or vehicle by direct contact weapons or projectiles, usually during combat, or from damage caused by a potentially dangerous environment or action.

Come to think of it, each one of us dons an invisible 'armour' for precisely the same reason----protection, albeit at a slightly deeper level.
Somewhere deep within us lies a fragile soul that has been shaken way too many times. The invisible  armour we build around us is meant to be a strong exterior to ward off all encroaching manipulations of a malevolent world, a safety suit to safeguard us against heartbreak, expectations, pain and the emotional vulnerability that comes along with it, a defense mechanism to keep our spirit armed and guarded from getting crushed.

Most of us (including me) often prefer to pretend to be tougher than we really are. We choose to act  within pre-set limits even though our souls crave to cross them. We hate to reveal our weaknesses, our softer side to people...mainly because we are afraid they might take advantage of our liabilities (remember Achilles), hit us where it hurts most. Hence the need to maintain a tough spiritual 'armour' that allows no one to look into our soul.

Invisible or not, armours however are never impenetrable. Slowly but surely, the chinks would start showing up. The real question would then be  how many chinks can an armour handle before it eventually crumbles?
I sometimes wonder if there would be less risk involved in revealing our vulnerabilities...wearing them like proud medals on our sleeves. At least that way we would not need to be constantly bogged down by the harrowing responsibility of maintaining a make-believe world. At least that way we can throw caution to the wind and live life carefree...guilt-free. After all, who are we kidding? At the end of the day when we look into the mirror and try to meet eyes with the person peeping back at us, we would need to have that iron 'helmet' off, wouldn't we? So why not live sans the 'masks' we otherwise seem to don? Why not shed that 'armour' we constantly hide behind?

However, ambivalence colors my mood, and yet another niggling thought argues with me.
"Too much of an unfettered life would make you succumb unabashedly to insult and injury. A care free life seems all good until your vulnerabilities stand out and join hands with the enemy," an inner voice rebukes.

"But an armour is not making me any stronger. It just fools the enemy," I mutter under my breath. "...and sometimes me as well," I sigh holding up my armour to see some amount of light penetrating through the chinks.

The voice in my head is silent. After a moment's pause it says, "Sometimes that is the best way to win the war."

It is my turn to stay silent. On the one hand is this voice in my head asking me to hold on tight to my armour, recall the mistakes of my past and tread slowly and carefully (for it is better to be safe than sorry). On the other hand is my heart telling me to throw away all my defenses, show off past experiences like battle scars and walk into the future with uninhibited passion---chin up, shoulders back, head held high. 

Human as I am, my thoughts are forever covered by the nebulous sheath of confusion. As strangers I  meet continue to delude me with their ever-changing perspectives, I see myself clamoring for some clarity. Introspection is the key to self-discovery, I tell myself. But then I wonder if that would be just another armour I am trying to slip into.

The mind is weary,
the soul is tired,
and I am just trying to breathe...

Writers note: A for 'Armour' is the first post in the 'A-Z Series' of posts, a chain of articles written by me on topics starting with each alphabet of the English language. Read on for more and please feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject :)