Thursday, 28 May 2015

‘Half a Billion Rising’ says Anirudha Dutta

Twenty per cent of the world’s young women live in India and changes in their lives, both socially and economically, are thus of import to the world at large. Yet, we continue a nation of many paradoxes. Anirudha Dutta, before he conceptualized the book ‘Half a Billion Rising; The Emergence of the Indian Woman’, knew that. He also knew that ‘Society it seems is horribly schizophrenic with double standards and this is not a recent development.

But Anirudha was intrigued, because through global statistics and empirical data, first-hand interviews and ensuing inferences, he was sensing a change. Collecting within the folds of his study examples from the underprivileged to the affluent, Anirudha decided to ‘chronicle the changes, the change drivers and their implications’ for the position of women in India. He wrote this book to make us travel into the lanes of Forbesgunge, Munger, Dimapur, Bhavnagar, Nashik and even cosmopolitan Mumbai and New Delhi, in order to make us meet those girls across strata of society who are collectively a part of this mini-revolution. What also comes through is how different generations are experiencing changing times – first-hand or through their daughters boldly deciding ‘Hum dukaan ja rahey hein’ or aspiring ‘Sirf Harvard hi Jana Hai.’ 

His aim was one - to understand ‘were women feeling more empowered?’ He answers in bold letters, YES. This gives the book its intent and the underlying note of promise, because while ‘numbers never tell the full story’ people’s voices do. The rise of woman power in India is a work in progress. And ‘Half a Billion Rising’ attempts to show that it is indeed ‘in progress.

See how much of this change and churn is all-pervasive’ – Visibly positive trends

According to Anirudha Dutta the best places to observe how much things are changing – within women and around them - are small towns.

Once a woman in Himachal angrily shooed a camera-wielding him away, but now girls in villages are un-selfconsciously posing for snaps, with many in jeans! ‘They are breaching the mores and boundaries of femininity’, in the most conservative of environments. We are now meeting fathers, like Muskan’s, who will sacrifice anything to educate daughters because ‘Hum Tughlaqi nahin hain’; or husbands like Mehul, who is going to marry not just a woman outside his caste but one who is more educated than him too! 

Reluctance to send girls to study in centres run by NGOs is fast vanishing, and private school enrollment in rural India is also increasing. Supriya from 'Vidya and Child' in Noida confirms how almost half the students in their centre are girls. Clearly, schooling is no longer a boys-only privilege. 

You will meet Daksha, daughter of a chowkidar, who tells us how her ‘life has changed so much that even when I come back very late, anyone can drop me back and my father doesn’t say anything.’ Candid conversations reveal how most of them will insist on working after marriage, and end marriages if they go sour. They are unchaining not just themselves from prejudice but promising to rear their daughters ‘without any shades of being a prisoner of circumstances.’ Deepika, ‘a modern peripatetic Indian’ working in Bengaluru avows ‘I will give her freedom. I will be a friend to her’. This idea of equality translates into another socially important one. Says Priya, a product of NGO Kumari Vikash Prakalp,

I get a scholarship because of my caste. This I think is not fair. In my college I have a friend, she deserves a scholarship because of her financial condition. But … she is from the open category.

Significant odds are being fought and level playing fields sought. Whole communities are feeling the impact. Girls are picking their battles and are ‘mindful that anything she does should not be used as an argument in favour of not educating girls.’ They are expressing, declaring and discussing their desires, and that their numbers – in schools and colleges, workplaces and media – are increasing is helping with the confidence.

Talking about media, notice how condom brands are targeting women as consumers seeking pleasure, and not just birth control? Sanitary napkin companies are asking us to ‘live life’ and gradually is noticeable the ‘emergence of a new kind of woman’ in the movies. I like how Anirudha says ‘the strict silos of good and bad are no longer applicable’ except in Ekta Kapoor’s soaps, which seem bent to feed those diametrically opposed to the liberated, thinking woman’s choices.

And who or what are the change drivers?

The book features many!

Aspirations, in girls who want to succeed despite their circumstances. They are looking ahead with a new-found desire to ‘make it’. Mothers, themselves illiterate and sufferers of patriarchy, are putting a high premium on their daughter’s freedom, supporting them. They realize if the lives of their daughters are going to be any different from their own, it will be because of education, economic independence and the resultant empowerment. Thus, they are becoming the right role models! 

But mothers belong to castes and communities. What role does an over-powering society play on liberally inclined minds? Saira, daughter of an auto driver, reveals – ‘I get worried by women sitting in a circle and gossiping. It scares me because I don’t want to end up like that.’ Parents are looking beyond honouring family councils and communal ideas. Nuclearization of families is helping women question traditional social norms. 

Who would have thought. but urbanization, in many ways, is acting the great equalizer. Proximity to urbanized localities is giving girls the opportunity to go to neighborhood centres of learning, for one. This in turn is making them find role models in the form of teachers and NGO karyakartas who are intervening with their parents to promote education and open-mindedness. Interestingly, education has a direct impact on marriages. The ‘law of unintended consequences’ is at work when the girl is educated, because it simply means less dowry!

Ambedkar believed villages are cesspools of communalism, casteism, gender injustice and the resultant cruelty. Agrees Anirudha in his book – ‘India lives in its villages but it doesn’t need to continue living there with all the ills as well as deleterious social practices.’ Manisha, a working woman in Delhi, knows – ‘Maybe the spark of rebellion was inside me (in Allahabad) but the release the canvas and the ground for it was provided by the city.’ Shafiq, an auto-driver from Mumbai, is very happy in the city too. Why? Because availability of good quality condoms ensures he has fewer kids and thus he affords his daughter’s education. Amusing, yet so telling!

Infrastructure development in villages, like good roads, is leading to diversified income options. Vidya, from Nanded, a mere 300 km from Hyderabad, did the unimaginable and went to search for a job in that city, alone. Would it have been possible without connectivity? Mobile phones and the internet need to be thanked too 

And NGOs building ‘a trust quotient within their ecosystem that is of paramount importance,’ prodding the government to be more responsible.

And what role are men playing? An area of concern.

Questions abound. Is it true that violence against women is increasing because men see their turfs being encroached upon and rather have the women under-educated and disempowered? The power dynamics of gender roles find prominent space in ‘Half a Billion Rising’, because if we look around we realize how ‘the bar of what is acceptable keeps getting lowered.’ While Muskan’s father, Mehul and Shafiq (mentioned above) represent the changing face of patriarchy, there are many more who want to maintain status quo. 

Imagine this! A High Court lawyer in Mumbai has reached the conclusion that ‘girls should not be educated. Why? Because today after getting educated girls are coming to the court and asking for a share of paternal property, and divorce.’ Education cannot dent upbringing in some cases, the book will show you. Neither do positions of power, as is evident by statements our ministers regularly make against women’s clothes and habits. Says Farzana, a middle-aged portly lady, for her community – ‘Muslims need a jihad for education. And then another jihad to make sure that the girls start working and stay working.

In domestic urban settings, the number of stay-at-home-dads is minuscule and attrition of women in work forces remarkably high post kids. The idea of role-reversal frightens men! Tanvi, in her plush flat, tells us how ‘my mother thought that even if my brother did not study much it would be fine since we had a lot of property.’ What was Tanvi told by her father? ‘Do well in studies and we will let you study further. We will give you a certain time frame, otherwise we will get you married off early.’ Tanvi found her drive! 

Ours is a ‘country where the exact opposite of any statement is often true’. Anirudha balances his narrative to portray the flip side of the success graph. Statistics reveal how affluent families, thanks to resources, are secretly indulging in female foeticide. The most educated are differentiating between boys and girls. And dowry has only found different names. This brings the discussion back to mindsets, and if they are changing. Over a few pages at this juncture, the author re-examines his whole study in the light of questions - Is education really liberating? Is economic success a step towards gender equality? Or is it universally true that:

Lack of money is not the main barrier to adoption (of new ideas), people’s attitudes are.

However, Anirudha is confident that there is reason to celebrate. The pace of change is accelerating and he has collected first-hand evidence of it to bring it to us. This happy note dominates the book. Why not!

The present continuous tense of the ‘Rising’ women

The more I travelled and the more I interviewed girls across the country, the more convinced I was that a monumental change is underway. The change did not start yesterday and it will not end tomorrow.

Half a billion of us are rising, even as we speak. Stories of courage and progressive rebellion form the soul of this book. Anirudha wonders ‘what at the end of the day is the impact of one small revolution inside one household? Does it change the lives of other girls?’ More importantly, are boys and men changing fast enough to handle the ‘new age Indian woman’? These questions invite us to think. 

As I transcribed the interviews and thought through my conversations, it was very evident that in the coming decade we will see greater participation of women in the labour force, we will see a more educated work force especially amongst women and these will have far-reaching socio-economic implications … Boys and men will have to respect the changes, accept the changes and adapt to live with the changes. It will be a new normal and will leave many maladjusted and bewildered.

Half a Billion Rising’ is a book which shows a new Indian woman emerging from centuries of patriarchy, whether in tiny lanes or as CEOs of multinational companies. It is time that change is acknowledged and Anirudha Dutta does well to keenly observe, study, understand and document it in this inspiring narrative. 

A good read for women, and an important one for men.  

'Half a Billion Rising' by Anirudha Dutta is published by Rainlight, Rupa Publications,2015 

[This review was commissioned by the publisher. Views are my own.]

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Dare2Stare Challenge

Watch this video first, a part of Dr. Agarwal’s Eye Hospital Dare2Stare Challenge.

With this beautiful video which playfully disturbs us out of our comfort zones and shakes our conscience, Dr. Agarwal’s Eye Hospital is doing something new; something important. It is asking us to see the world in general and eye donation in particular with new eyes and a fresh perspective. Making us play the game from our childhoods ‘Who blinks first’ with the woman in the video, and then stirring us “awake” to a reality we did not realize, hits the nail where it is supposed to – in our hearts.  But then, what next?

There is a sea of unawareness to be crossed first. Did you know?  More than 2.5 lakh blind people could benefit from corneal transplants from donated eyes. Data from the Union Health Ministry revealed that more than 50 per cent of eyes donated in 2014 had gone to waste due to infections or delay of collection. It’s time for change, not just to wake up to the ‘challenge’ of becoming an eye donor but also to know more about it. Go Dare2Stare.

There are three things I would do to change the way I see the world:

1. I am looking within, to keep in touch with what I believe in and what I think I stand for. With times such as ours, it is so difficult to lose one’s sense of being … oneself. If the world is real, so must I be. It is only in relation to my true self that I can view the world in its truest colours. Every evening I spend some time with myself, introspecting and looking back at the day’s happenings – the hits and misses, the joys and clouds of gloom. To understand what could be different. Need not be different. Must be done different. I look within to understand the world without, and its people, and hence to feel kinship and empathy. 

2. I am paying all the attention I can to what my child thinks of the world that surrounds him. His sight is my sight, his ear my sound beats. Whether it is to use my imagination as an escape from the mundane in the children’s park or to take his perspective on ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in a KG class and revise my moral bearings which may be ancient, already. We need to grow up as we grow old, and I want to with what my child has to see and say about the world. To keep my world view updated is to keep myself a relevant guide in my child’s eyes.

3. I am doing so myself, and I am requesting everyone reading this to take the Dare2Stare challenge. Take a pledge! It is important to share what is no longer of any use to us, but which may not just mean the world to another but even help them see the world. Your eyes. 

Register as a donor today. It takes nothing!

[This is a sponsored campaign review.]

Friday, 22 May 2015

When Mister got Mandarin Ducks; A Dialogue

Pavlov was right.

When a human being opens a present her mouth salivates. When she so much as sees the gift-wrapping a second time, she begins salivating. By the time she gets used to the husband’s foreign trips all you have to do is ring a bell to signify the plane is about to land at IGI, and she will salivate and salivate so much that by the time the doorbell rings, with his baggage in tow, he’ll walk in only to slip on a pool of it and be floored by her, for the nth time. She will flutter her lashes and ask in honey-sweet voice – ‘How was your trip, darling? What did you get for your lovely?

Oo, you’ve got me curious. It’s not precious jewelry, unless it’s a lot of it. And that would not make it very precious.   

It’s not.

It’s not what? Not jewelry or not precious or not both?

Open it. Something typically Seoul.

How would I know? Like I’ve been there before, even though my husband has many times now!

Just open it. 



Pretty duckies. For the kid’s bubble bath?

They’re Mandarin ducks, silly. It’s a couple. The red is the female the blue the male. Also called Wedding Ducks.


So? What do you think?

Um, do they open, like, you know, a piggy bank? Or, do they quack when we twist the beak. That sounds like a wedding there. They must have some … use, if you paid your Zen's worth, right? 

They are just decorative pieces. Symbolically given to new couples, and traditionally carved by best friends. Actually, I read this later, the mother-in-law tosses the female duck to the daughter-in-law. If she catches it, the first child will be a boy and ...

Oh dear, you don’t know what my friends will carve to symbolize marriage. As for the rest, how Indian-y crazy! But we’re anyway past the catchum-catch. One boy is here too. 

No but there’s more. You see, they are symbolic …

Don’t say symbolic. The last I heard symbolism is a malaise of hi-funda writers who like to complexify language to befuddle budding writers. 


Oh whatever. Back to the duckies …

Ducks! Mandarin Ducks!

Yes. Calm down. I never said they are not. See how you are feeding into those ‘singles’ who love to stereotype marriage? That we have to scream to be heard, bend backwards to please, compromise daily and boy, we can’t even know what travel truly means!

Huh? How would they know?

Exactly! Exactly what I think and on top of that ... 

Right. So, about the ducks, I do feel you don’t like them.

I certainly do, darling. As much as I liked the pink organic cotton Imambari Muffler you got from Japan, with cotton from our own Andhra Pradesh, exported, I’m sure. About the ducks. I’m just somewhere between like and love. I do love the colours though ... 

Love reminds me. These ducks signify ever-lasting marriage and life-long love. Mandarin duck is the only duck which mates for life, with one partner.

Ha ha ha ha!


Nothing. I like the significance. I would kill for it if it were otherwise. Heh heh!

Hm. So, these ducks stand for fidelity, peace and plentiful offspring.

Great. Shall we go to bed with them and plan a second?

You don’t like them, say so!

I do! I do! Oh come on! And I’m quite happy to see this romantic side in a man after all these years of marital bliss and one foreign family vacation and so many fridge magnets you have got for the fridge after all your official trips and …

You don’t like them.

I most definitely do. So, where do we keep them, these, um, prettily coloured duckies. Ducks, ducks I meant!

Now here comes the interesting part …


When the couple is in harmony with each other, the ducks are kept bill-to-bill..

Aww. Like kissy-kissy.

 … and when they have a fight they are turned looking in opposite directions. So everyone in the house can see …

Who do you mean?

Traditionally, like in big houses. Big families. Lots of people staying together.

Why? In Seoul couples never scream at each other enough to announce their disharmony across the wooden walls?

Er, those are in Japan.

Whatever. Same thing for me. Like I have seen either!

Fine. How do you want me to keep them right now? 

Bill-to-bill. I don’t want the ‘single’ marriage “stereotypers” to see the bills looking away. I like being married. It’s fun, enriching and makes you grow up as you grow old.

Great! Top shelf of the book rack. What say?


You have never agreed so quickly before. You just don’t like them!

Stop saying that. I absolutely adore them. How can you force such assumptions into our relationship, using the ducks as scapegoats? Look at the intricate carving and the lush colours, the neatness and all the symbolism attached. Go now. Do the deed. Wait! What is this thread around the girly duck’s beak? 

Oh, that. It’s just a sign that silence is a virtue and the wife should be quiet and support the husband…

Pavlov knew only half the story. What may have ensued you all know. 'Singles' even more than 'doubles'. The duckies Mandarin Ducks are up for sale. They signify peace. Wait, why would you not believe me?

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Ruskin Bond and ‘A Gathering of Friends’

(This is going to be a long one, for who can stop talking about Rusty?) 

When I first read Ruskin Bond as a young girl in Doon, I hated him. He made me believe that if I yawned under a peepul tree at night without covering my mouth, a spirit would enter my being. My nani’s house had a peepul as old as the house itself; a century. Without looking up I would hurry my steps and even stop breathing lest a truant yawn escaped my lips. I used this modus operandi while passing under all trees post dusk. Who wanted to risk it? That I was the leader among four inseparable cousins, obliged to instill confidence in the young ones, made me practice much deceit. I wished them away, longing for Rusty instead! Then, as academic fate would have it, my convent school in Dehradun included ‘The Blue Umbrella’ in the syllabus. With every reading I realized what deprivation meant. I lusted to be Binya of the prettiest blue umbrella, minding cows down jealous slopes of Mussoorie, and not just gazing dreamily at them from my concrete balcony on Rajpur Road, a full 30.5 kilometers away. 

How dare he, this Ruskin Bond, write about my hometown as if it were his own, and trouble me so? This sentiment combined with burgeoning inquisitiveness and I asked for and read all of him on my eighth birthday. And I am still reading him. (Don’t tell him this, but that hate turned to adoration and then admiration somewhere before Miss Mackenzie slept for the night and just after time stopped at Shamli.) 

Today, on his 81st birthday, I am attempting to write about his recently published collection ‘A Gathering of Friends’ – 21 of his short stories cherry-picked by Bond himself. I ask anew - Why have Ruskin’s works unfailingly held their charm over the reader and sit challenging the seed of the writer I carry within? How does he continue to make me feel, like Kiran did to a man in Shamli, ‘a nostalgic longing for childhood – emotions that had been beautiful because they were never completely understood’? 

When Ruskin wrote he ‘had to make up some stories to meet the demand’; of fiction, not the market. His characters, as real to him as alive to us, are set in stories which leisurely proceed at the speed of drinking hot tea and then, like the fog blinks and clears on a hill top, that suddenly they end. And yet, we never feel cheated. The characters are very young or very old, or middle-aged men in love with settings as stark as ‘a town consisting of one station, one pony and one man.’ And yet, they are sensually and visually complete. Like ‘the atmosphere of Fosterganj that discouraged any kind of serious work or effort’ are his books, written to be read in similar environs. 

But my love for them wants to tease them into threads. Not a review, but more like unwrapping a present knowing whatever it holds within will forever please me. But then again, what makes it so flawlessly timeless? 

Characters we put our own faces to

My characters were the story. I began with a character, and ended with that character, and the story belonged to him or her.

The narrator in ‘Love is a Sad Song’ tells us how ‘adults are much slower than children at sensing the truth.’ Ruskin’s fiction is teeming with the laughter of many children . We remember Rusty, and we also remember Ranbir and his friends who ‘forgot ... the problem of the next meal’ while playing Holi with him. There is the ambitious Bisnu who walks five miles to school because he wants to see the world beyond and there’s Suresh, the most beautiful ‘crooked and bent … boy in the world,’ tugging at our heart’s strings.

There are adults of course; some like the ‘Diabolical Sushila!’ or the ‘amoral scamp’ Sudheer of ‘Friends from My Youth’, while others like Roberts are invented by invented characters themselves (meta-characterisation?) as ‘a dream of myself'. Miss Mackenzie of ‘The Prospect of Flowers’ is ‘far from being the typical frustrated spinster of fiction’ and Susanna of the seven husbands fame was in a movie! Ram Bharosa is the shop keeper who covets an umbrella’s ‘beauty to be mine!’ and a few pages later you meet the beauteous Gracie, ‘a terrific combination of genes and hereditary traits.’ 

So human, in thought, deed, desire and variety.

And how does Ruskin give them breath and shape before our eyes? 

She was not young. And she was not old. She must have been over thirty, but had she been over fifty, I think she would have looked much the same.

Through the slightest of whispers and details, habits and confessions, they reach us. Like the narrator in ‘Time Stops at Shamli’ who ‘never had the patience to wait for second thoughts’ or Kiran, the talkative girl in the same story, who ‘seemed to be in a hurry to grow up’; unlike Sita of ‘Angry River’, who ‘put herself last … only with great difficulty.’ Much is left to our mind’s eye too, like the passer-by in ‘Hassan, The Baker’ who ‘was less than beautiful but more than pretty. A face to remember!’ And we would remember all of them. After all, we were made to paint their faces with our own imaginations. 

Some characters are also drawn from real-life figures – met by happenstance or connected through genes. But mostly, Ruskin turns the lens on those dwellers of villages and bustling cities who remain invisible to our naked eyes. Including, actually, the elusive writer from the cottage himself! 

Have you noticed how even objects are characters in some stories?

Like the ‘lonely little platform’ the narrator feels sorry for in ‘The Night Train at Deoli’ or the moaning river in ‘Angry River’, which ‘was a good river, deep and strong, beginning in the mountains and ending in the sea.’ The charming blue umbrella ‘casts a spell’ over a whole village, becomes a “character” revealing humans to us. The tunnel, the cherry tree and even ‘Foster’s home-made brew’ are nothing short of central figures. With Nature being the grandfather of them all!

But what are all these concocted characters doing in his stories?

Those wildly invented situations, in villages and in cities

Give Ruskin an empty dining room and he will fill it up with the most unimaginably delightful characters. Give him an empty platform and he can show you how love looks through two pairs of eyes, or how motherhood is born, one of a different kind. Give him a running bogey and he’ll make parallel lives meet, in the darkness of sight or of tunnels. And make him climb a hill to show you what wrinkled loneliness lives among the flowers. Or, just give him a tiny flower-bed and see a cherry tree bloom in your mind’s garden, ‘taller than Grandfather, who was older than some of the oak trees.

There’s humour, for two lovers of the same Sushila are wondering aloud together – ‘Do we both wait and let her make a choice?’ and there’s ‘untrammelled cruelty’ because there’s a boy somewhere who ‘likes to be teased and beaten.’ Oh! There’s uninhibited laughter too, when you encounter the grandfather hanging on to the wing of an enraged ostrich or sit with Her Highness pit drunk at an empty bar in the Savoy, Mussoorie, with a hungry birthday party in tow.

Those who have read him as much as I have will visualize each story above. Those who will read now will realize how pregnant with emotion simple imagined acts, like of willfully forgetting an umbrella at another’s table can be, or how joyous to read that a brother finally got bangles for his sister.

Wacky or wild, somber or serene, the situations around the characters involve you till you get transported right where the action is. It could be the city, or it could be a forgotten village with a still smaller hamlet in the hill and a jungle beyond. The watchman in ‘The Tunnel’ knows ‘it is safer in the jungle than in the town. Nothing happens to me out here. But last month, when I went into town, I was almost run over by a bus.’ And what is Ruskin’s choice?

In Delhi, you grow old. In Deoli you are trapped in a time warp and stay young forever.

Ruskin’s heart is where his hearth is, and it shows beautifully in all his works and through his characters’ situations. What also makes his stories unforgettable are relationships, a theme that strings these 21 into a garland of winter lilies. 

Love, friendship, and a bit of loneliness 

Remembered passion grows sweeter with the passing of time.

I have looked at Ruskin Bond’s stories with a little girl’s eyes and now as a woman’s. What makes his fiction ‘rust-free’, as David Davidar calls it, is more than just delightful characters in delicious situations. There are emotions involved, and how. Love is not ringing bells, but tip-toeing towards carriage doors to peep at a girl or telling us its sad tale in the calmest of voices, like still pond waters, disturbed now and then by a falling leaf. Friendship is giving a ‘wrestler’s hug’ to the fair-skinned boy and a moment later, the gentlest pat.  More often than not, the reader is left to label on his own the nameless feeling of simple ‘tenderness and responsibility that I never felt before,’ which so many of his characters, across ages, feel. And this, dear readers, surpassing it all …

Have you been in love before?
Many times. But this is the first time.

When characters are central, their relationships become important portrayals. But in times of solitude, the poignancy of loneliness creeps in. Why did Anil come to see Miss Mackenzie so often? ‘Sometimes a boy of twelve can sense loneliness better than an adult.’ But was Miss M lonely? ‘It was lonely, but at her age it would be lonely anywhere.’ But Sita, floating on a tree in the flood waters thinks it ‘better to have a crow for company than no one at all.

Bond’s stories have made the young meet the old, white meet brown, city meet town and love meet solitude in variously touching ways. Imaginative ways. Involving ways. And evergreen ways. Who can escape unmoved, then, visualizing …

And then the old English lady and the small Indian boy sat side by side over cups of hot sweet tea, absorbed in a book on wild flowers.

From an 8-year-old girl to four times that today … 

Where was I once? Yes. How dare he, this Ruskin Bond, write stories about my hometown as if it were his own? Maturely rephrased, I wonder what makes his voice the voice of an Indian writer? Simply put, because he belongs where he sits and writes, and it shows. When he writes he is ‘leading me by the hand along old familiar roads’, like his father led him, in Dehra or elsewhere. We follow in kinship because we see in him a loving understanding of what it means to feel one as you become old; with the milk-sellers and shop keepers, pretty little girls and rugged men, gardeners and panthers, trees and streams, birds, cottages and writing desks. 

Just like my gang of cousins, Rusty has been family. He found his "gathering of friends" in us, and he found his home amongst ours. 

His fair hair was tousled and streaked with colour, and his eyes were wide with wonder. He was exhausted now, but he was happy. He wanted this to go on forever, this day of feverish emotion, this life in another world. He did not want to leave the forest; it was safe, its earth soothed him, gathered him in so that the pain of the his body became a pleasure …

He did not want to go home.

A collector’s item, this book, for those who want to relish the eternal freshness of the favourite stories of their favourite author. I did. And I know I will continue to. 

'A Gathering of Friends' by Ruskin Bond is an Aleph Book Company publication, 2015.

[This review was commissioned by the publisher. Views are my own.]

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Ballantine’s got Gabriel Macht!

Watch the video film first.

Unflinchingly, unapologetically you. Doesn’t that have such a cool ring to it?

Ballantine’s has been celebrating individuality and originality since 1827. Through this video this brand raises a toast to the ‘real ones’ in a world full of fakes. 

This video is one day in the life of the corporate world, wrought with robotic charades, insincere smiles, mechanical applause and a ‘yes man-ship’ playing out like a norm. The protagonist walks past confidently, as if freezing frames to make us take in the extent of the superficiality our working lives come filled with. In 30 effective seconds it highlights the parody of power-play, something that Ballantine’s as a brand disapproves of.

Look at how this well-made video juxtaposes two worlds: One, which stands on the foundation of self-belief, of staying true to your essence. And two, a world which nods and claps with sycophancy but ever-changing loyalties. In such a world then, how does one leave a mark? What does it take, really? 

Being yourself! And making it to the top on your own terms. It is for those who hold true that success lasts. This idea becomes the crux of ‘Stay True, Leave an Impression’ campaign.

What is ‘Stay True’ campaign?

Ballantine's, world’s No 2 Scotch whisky in the world, has associated with Gabriel Macht, our favourite from the TV series ‘Suits’, for its new advertising campaign - ‘Stay True, Leave an Impression’. Conceptualised by Ballantine’s, this campaign serves as an invitation to the Indian consumers to be themselves; to express authentically and be genuine. Conviction and trust-in-self are at the heart of this new campaign. The campaign is targeted exclusively at the Indian market. 

‘Stay True’ is rooted in the DNA of Ballantine’s, thanks to its founder George Ballantine. A true innovator and entrepreneur, he was always original and acted with genuine conviction and flair. That’s what gives Ballantine’s the unique taste profile and its iconic look!

Say the biggies …

Gabriel Macht is happy, 'It is an honour for me to shoot for Ballantine’s well-crafted campaign in line with its philosophy of ‘Stay True’. This association is a perfect match as I truly relate to the brand’s attribute of staying true to one’s character and maintaining one’s integrity.'

Kartik Mohindra, Head - International Brands at Pernod Ricard India hopes to inspire people to have conviction by 'creating a platform that celebrates Ballantine’s and its founder’s intrinsic values.

Ajay Gahlaut, Executive Creative Director, Ogilvy & Mather, New Delhi puts it succinctly when he says, 'There are the movers and the shakers who are here today and gone tomorrow. Their allegiances are based on self-gain and change with changing winds. And then there are those few who quietly go about doing what they believe in, undeflected in purpose and unswayed by criticism. These are the ones who are remembered. They are the ones who leave an indelible mark on time. They are the ones who lead by example. This film is about them.'

I agree. Who doesn’t find individuals who live by their beliefs inspiring? They may be a rarity, but they are there. Aren’t they?

[This is a sponsored campaign review.]

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

About my mother-in-law

And please don’t scream during labour. It is embarrassing. Women should not scream out loud’, had said her mother to my mother-in-law, as a part of the list of pre-wedding directives.

My mother-in-law came from Nakodar, a small town in Punjab, from a huge joint family, the ruins of whose house sit whispering alone now. Despite all the educational degrees she earned, whatever all girls from many decades ago were taught was a part and parcel of her upbringing too.  One would assume, then, that she carried in her make-up - as a daughter, a wife, a mother and a mother-in-law – seeds of what the younger generation, our generation, views as “old-fashioned” and regressive. Including, not screaming in the face of deadly pain! One would also assume, thanks to the massive stereotyping on silver screens and easy banter part of ladies’ parties, that all mothers-in-law are monsters-in-law – overtly possessive about their sons and equally about their hold over household systems. 

One would assume. Or maybe, I got lucky? 

Some of the most cherished lessons and moments in life came to me from her, my husband’s mother and a woman who grew, in no time, to really be to me what I never thought I could call another – ‘Mummy’. 

While most parents cannot help but consider their children kids forever, perpetually to be guided, mummy respected your age, no matter how many times that number lower than hers. She welcomed advice, encouraged maturity. Just a couple of days into my wedding she made me choke on aloo-puri at the dining table, when she asked me to decide for her on a matter I never thought my turf. It made me feel confident, a participant in a house she had nurtured for 40 years entirely her way. She was an expert at regarding every individual as a person first, and every mind with an opinion which mattered. No ‘I am older so I know better’ for her. (Of course, what that did to my husband’s sense of ‘I know’ is another happy story, altogether.)

Because she never wallowed in the differences that old age usually starts spotting in us new-age youngsters, she was something of an expert at moving with the times and rejecting nonsense as exactly that, nonsense. Once, I had to go to the neighbour’s house to extricate her from her party (for she loved them so!) and meet the ladies of the locality in turn; usually not top on my radar and certainly not on my husband’s. Expectantly, questions about baby expectancy flew over left-over samosas. When asked when her daughter-in-law will bear her a grandson and they will get laddoos, said she to a lady she knew since decades, ‘Laddoos you will get even if it’s a granddaughter. Baaki, let’s leave it to the kids. Really not our age to think of childbirth, don’t you think?’ and gave her classic half-blush, naughty smile. I had clutched the house-keys tighter in sheer happiness. And pride.  

She belonged to her children’s times, moving aside and making way. All the time. She pushed me to begin my PhD, called up a list of people to share the joy of my proud decision. Not faith but ritualistic religiosity was considered a waste of time in her house. Most satsang invites for three hours of chatting-chanting were refused with ‘You know my knees!’ She would scan the newspapers instead. Or we would go for shopping and chaat-party. Often, for much longer than three hours. Thanks to her expertise in slipping while shopping with unbound generosity …

… for who would buy, after serving water to the door salesman, 12 boxes of incense sticks, get 12 boxes free with it and all that when she didn’t even use it? ‘It was so hot this afternoon and he was selling them for a good price, poor thing’ was her defense on seeing her children’s incredulous expressions on coming into the sudden, good-smelling riches on their dressing table. (This was five years back, and I still have those cones!) 

But the one motto that she had engraved on her soul was to keep the family together. Not just because she loved to cook for an army and even more, the fun and good times that would ensue, but also because she realized at the end of the day how important it was. Much more to her than to anyone else I know. What we saw as insane levels of ‘being accommodating to silly relatives’ was to her a way of life. She wanted to move forward with everyone around. Not because she did not see through pretense, but because she knew of no other way to bring estranged hearts back to love. Except, by giving it. She wanted to live life to the lees, with everyone, not without them.

But life often doesn’t want to be lived to the lees. It protests. 

While my mother-in-law went about her expert routine of keeping us all happy, fed, together, and herself pleased with the love-of-her-life, tea, a battalion of medical problems followed close on her heels. Doctors used to say for her that whatever can go wrong, is wrong with her physical condition. Ever since she was my age. 

In my few years of marriage she went through major surgeries every six months. (She tricked all but one of them.) Her expertise? That will to get wheeled out of the OT feeling better and looking for a hot cup of chai even before the anesthesia wore away. Her right knee was made metal because she wanted to wear saris again, wanted to travel again, would you believe that? When I made her leg exercise in the recovery period, she would rent the air with her screams. But on being asked if I should stop she would expertly say ‘Why? Let me scream. This is important. Push. Let’s make the heel touch the hip this time. Has it happened, yet?’ and other patients in Ganga Ram Hospital would look her way admiringly. (Oh yes, she was screaming, in case you didn’t notice. Her mother’s lesson regarding screaming women long forgotten!) 

With a strange sadness I realize we hark back thus often after the person is no more. So late. But then not too late, either, because as life goes on so do its little lessons lodged in our minds and memories, habits and hearts. She’s not going to read this, and probably never realized what I thought while I was her daughter-in-law. A stabbing regret, but what can one do except pick up the fallen flowers off and on and make a garland to decorate the house with?

My son, all of 4 months when she passed away, never got to experience the woman that she was and the grandmother that she would have been, spoiling him to bits with panjeeri and mango pickle, jams and cakes, pakoras and hot paranthas and her specialty – a bottomless martbaan of love and laughter to give, like pure homemade desi ghee; which, like fresh green chillis, she enjoyed thoroughly!

Lalita Nanda. That was her name. 

And I was so fortunate to have her as my first expert in so many ways. 

[Written for #MyFirstExpert Story, sponsored by Godrej Expert and hosted by IndiBlogger.]

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Furniture is Personal

When we moved into our first flat together on the eve of our first anniversary, it was bare. There was not a single piece of furniture we could use to offload our bags or rest our backs on. Thankfully, the furniture-shop uncle kept his promise after three insistent phone calls and sent a bed our way at around 9 pm. We slept like logs, knowing there were miles to run before we could sleep peacefully in a furnished home, and not among mere 2BHK walls. It was only after many weekends many months later that we reached a point of satisfaction; of feeling that our shared space was acquiring the character we wanted it to. 

We had physically mapped furniture markets in a big city like Delhi, bargained right down to the cartage and heaved and hauled the furniture, arranging it according to our needs and taste. The process was long drawn, and though it was fun and romantic to make our minds meet in everything from upholstery to linen, tapestry to designs, we heaved a sigh of relief when our home was finally “complete”. 

It feels good to enjoy, to this day, our space elegantly and tastefully done, in earthy hues of browns, beige, rust and pastel green with classic ivory walls. You can’t keep old-school out when two Capricorns get married!  

Now, every house asks for the right furniture. ‘Right’ to us meant– 
1. Right size according to floor-area available.
2. Specifically selected wood and its colour.
3. Functionality according to context. 
4. Aesthetics and design which please the owners, at least. 
5. Prices tailor-made for our pockets, of course.

We wanted to preserve open-space, use vintage designed furniture, invest the most in essentials like beds and dining table and overall, choose usability over mere ornamentation. 

This was nearly seven years back, when buying furniture involved time, travel and cherry-picking from far-off stores. Now, the rigmarole of furniture shopping has been done away with. 

The advent of online markets like Durian have taken the sweat and toil away from doing up spaces, and brought a variety of exclusive and good quality furniture right to our doorsteps to help create a better lifestyle in the interior space.

Furniture #JustAClickAway, on Durian 

Durian is an International furniture brand, since 1981. They are pioneers in veneer business and a leading infrastructure company and a lifestyle brand. In keeping with the popular mantra, over 90 percent of Durian products are ‘Made in India’. They offer: 

- Furnishing queries helplines to guide or assist you.
- Multiple payment options like Cash on Delivery, Card on Delivery, easy finance and EMI.
- You can visit their outlets across 29 cities to experience furniture physically before ordering.  
- Free delivery right to your door step.
- 5 year warranty.
- Free assembly right in front of you.
- A Durian Lab – they prototype, innovate and test every product before it is ready for delivery.

We know now how much easier our experience will be when we do some furniture shopping for our next house. No waiting for weekends, no driving 25 kilometers, no wasting breath on bargaining and no sweat. What will remain though? The romance of making our minds meet, yet again!

[This is a sponsored website review.]

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

I’m getting my toes insured!

I have reached that certain bespectacled age and stage in life when television is no longer about F.R.I.E.N.D.S but friendly men and women selling me insurances on screen. From scene one of soft-jingle and pastels to the last bit where the ‘Please read the offer documents carefully’ mach-speeds past, I remain all ears. My body may not be saying it as much, but my mind tells me having a good insurance cover in my locker is the key to a happy life. And if it’s health insurance, I get to see my happy face while alive!

But then we are nothing if we are not creative. While I have decided that a company like Religare Health Insurance will deal with the serious, more important side of life, ensuring medical bills are no burden and my health insurance stays by my side like a loyal friend, what about feeding my wacky soul? Surely it may insure the things I cherish enough to suffer successive births, can’t I?

I don’t think you get me. See, celebrities are known to insure for great sums what they think are their assets. From smiles, hair and voices to tongues, fingers and legs; pretty much anything that gets them a movie or an album deal, or a kick of vanity, seeks insurance. Why, an insurer is even offering coverage for “a potential zombie apocalypse and the resulting cleaning costs.

It becomes important then, in a world where everyone needs to keep up with everyone else, that we too realize our assets and immediately get them covered. I have realized mine. Because to insure them would mean ensuring my happiness, which in turn would give me good health. It’s all very symbiotic. Here’s a small list:

1. My last haircut, combined with how the three stuck chewing gums in the movie hall were removed, has given me a mane which is oh-so-original that no stylist – human or otherwise – can ever replicate it. I love it. And it needs proper coverage.

2. The keloid near my neck, my butterfly, gets me more attention than the one of my shoulder. Thus, this baby will be insured for a sum that will put all the prying eyes and gawking mouths to shame.

3. My hands, never still or even manicured, will be covered under talent. Why? How else do you think such a masterpiece is being typed? In fact, it is my firm belief that I have tiny brains lodged in my fingertips. That is why a post gets written even when I’m asleep!

4. My stomach, because it can stomach anything without it running down on me. Roadside chowmein to three-week old leftover dal, bad jokes to my worst own jokes, I have an impermeable stainless steel coating in my alimentary canal that you possibly cannot fathom.

5. My big toes. Both of them. Such gargantuan proportions they enjoy that they have always made their presence felt right through my PT shoes, and don’t seem to be losing their bite with age. What a solid gene from daddy’s side! See them in flip-flops to believe them, as they are forever reaching out to the path ahead.

So there you have it. My health insurance will be sealed with the best name, as I mentioned above. But on a separate note, all my personal happiness-ensurers (c.f. 1-5) are going to find the right coverage out there, too. I’m sure an insurer is mailing me even as I type this. 

It’s time for my toes, because the biggest assets are noticed first, to be covered and revealed to the world!

What about you? Have you decided who you trust with your health and happiness, yet?

Friday, 8 May 2015

A tempo, a normal truck and Flipkart

Just 4 days back, in my house …

My husband was to leave his loving family behind for a week in hot and simmering Delhi, because work demanded that he enjoy the cool winds of Brussels instead. This was going to be the longest time ever that my 4-year-old was going to stay without his father around. With lots of promises of phone calls and pictures, and regular updates on “foreign winds”, the bags were packed and he was ready to go.

Now, we had assumed that my child’s love for chocolates will be amply met, since it was Brussels, and the prospect of looking forward to something Belgian would keep him happily expectant for seven days. Except, at the 11th hour before departure, the kid proved himself his daddy’s dad. 

I want a Tempo and a Normal Truck from Brussels.

Silence. What was to be done now? We would need a genie to make his wishes come true, because Brussels, as of now, had not warmed up to the idea of running tempos, so tempo souvenirs was expecting a bit much! That’s when that 11th hour was put to good use. How?


The kid was made busy with locking and unlocking the baggage with a key, while his daddy searched the site, placed the orders and paid the sum, all before the cab-on-call started charging extra-time. 

And guess what? The tempo and the “normal truck” arrived a day later. Of course, I’ve only given him the tempo as of now. The truck will come out soon. Helps with biding away time without dear daddy much better. 

The video above is so close to the story that unfolded in my house. How kids can be so particular about their choices, how parents can be caught off-guard, how creatively and sensitively they need to handle the situation and how sites like Flipkart act ‘wishmasters’. A lovely video which makes the real and the virtual world seamlessly combine to reflect how the world of shopping is not just working but even changing by-the-clock!

If I was to list the six wishes that Flipkart catered to in the tempo-truck situation, they would be:

1. It had not just the fanciest, most popular of toys but those which cater to unconventional tastes too. How many kids want a tempo and how many parents find it online?
2. Time was of the essence. Since the idea was that his father is sending the parcels, they had to reach our doorstep well-in-time. Speedy delivery = faster smiles!
3. But smiles also depend on price. You will not believe how little I paid for the two deliveries combined! 
4. The products were exactly as the site promised – yellow, same size and good quality. These picky kids!
5. Ahem. A love note and gift-wrapping was included to add that special touch. Verbatim, it came pasted on the box.
6. And finally, my peace of mind.  



[This is a sponsored website review.]

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Book Review – Metro Diaries by Namrata

For a large part, my decision to read and review Namrata’s ‘Metro Diaries’ was a "shape-shifting" one. I have never read a collection of love stories before but not because I do not believe in fairy dust. The block was something to do with the genre. While love stories involve their kind of readers instantly I have felt they cannot challenge the readers’ minds like so many other genres can. Because, if you do not believe in love, you would not pick up a love story at all. And if you do, where’s the challenge the book is holding to your sensibility? I wanted to read love stories to understand, beyond such arm-chair presumptions, what they are about. A scholarly curiosity in general, and an honest attempt to enjoy Namrata’s book, in particular.

The twenty ‘Love Classics’ seem to be Namrata’s way to prove that love does exist, usually coming with a train of associated ideas like want, desire, lust, longing, dejection, despair and admiration. Some are diary entries while others are written like stories, though none of them conforming to the traditional form of short story. There is an earnestness in Namrata’s purpose and a loyalty to a genre that so many of us like to brush-off as ‘mush’, which shines through. Each piece in the book seems to be an affirmation that even though love is ‘that very thing that could break you completely, from inside’, it is also ‘that one thing that holds you together’. Her stories are written around this positive essence.

The stories are like snapshots into people’s love lives, with some as short as a page-and-a-half. Namrata has not spent time on characterization, thick plots or even surprising closures – either because the length is too short or because they are first person narrations in the form of diary entries revolving more around introspection than externals. What she has attempted, and which gives the book a depth and intensity in keeping with the genre, is to know the “lovers” minds; to read their thoughts and to give them expression through her writings. Like the psychology behind love. She has single-mindedly tried to gather all the streams that combine to form the powerful current of love, in order to define to herself and to us what love is all about. 

There are two stories which I particularly liked, but neither can I talk about in length here. The ‘secret’ in ‘A Secret Revealed’ needs to be read to be revealed and felt. And talking about ‘The Wait’, with its introspective narrator and conflict in the end will be unfair. But I will acquaint you with the different “kinds” of love the book brings into your hands. While some may hold Namrata at fault for featuring the younger generation more prominently in ‘Metro Diaries’, they will have to acknowledge the varied forms of this emotion that she includes. 

Some stories …

Some stories portray the changing dynamics and meanings of young, urban relationships in times when marriage certificates are being seen as less important than compatibility. Say, that story about a man and a woman where after eight long years ‘she wanted a name (to their relationship) and he liked it nameless. And that’s how they became ‘were’ from ‘are’. There is love resting unrequited, a written proposal coming back ‘undelivered. The recipient refused to accept the cover. Please sign this’ because not everyone can break the set ceilings of man-loves-woman, only. The obsession for observing couples in love makes a first person narrator their ‘official photographer … I loved capturing them’ in a sweet story peppered with musings and poignant with a quiet desire to ‘steal some of their magic and charisma into my own life!’ In another piece about a sister’s homecoming to her brother she ‘secretly hoped he had not outgrown his love for me just like he had outgrown his shorts.’ There is also that love which wants to defy definition, or the reasons behind its existence, by calling itself a ‘need’ – of another’s presence, voice, strength. Anything, but not ‘love’.

And then there are the usual tales too. Love that likes denial like ‘you love the rains and when it rains, you open your umbrella or stay indoors’. There is real love which does not promise the stars but support through thick-and-thin, instead, and the one which flows between two souls. There is love among school kids and college friends, widows for their husbands long gone and letters dearer than oxygen. And the pain of it all, ‘the pain of being no one to someone who became her everything.’ 

When I began … 

When I began the book, I scribbled two pointers which I thought would make this reading for me a spectacular experience. 

One, I wanted to see how each narrator sounds different from the other; unique in voice as much as in his or her idea and experience of love. Most sound like each other, and you cannot tell one from the other. Is that because the book is written heavily tilting towards character’s streams of consciousness rather than over incidents and plot? The ‘characters’ do not flesh out. And while I know Namrata’s intention was looking inwards than outwards, some visualization was needed to attribute those thoughts to flesh-and-blood.

Two, I wanted to experience the context of the lovers. A book on love from India - a place thick with neighbours and rituals, social norms and mores, family obligations and codes of conduct – could have had those colours. The smell of roses overpowers the sense of real, and while taboo-love, abusive marriages and break-ups are mentioned, they are not enough to root each story in a solid context. Perhaps, this was meant to universalize the idea of love. In that sense, it works.

I must also tell you …

I must also tell you some things the readers may possibly see as shortcomings of the writing itself. I did. 

Some ideas may seem a tad typical. A clichéd setting we have either witnessed, seen in a movie or read about. While this may also be evidence of how Namrata conceived these stories out of patient observation of real people around her, it needed to rise about the typical in execution. Small town-big town, once burnt in love hence wary of a second chance, college heartthrobs and love-at-first-sight for a bright girl are four which I noted instantly.

Then, repetitions. They say all writers have some favourite expressions which find an outlet in a subconscious manner. Say for instance a phrase like ‘I cannot promise you a happily ever after but I can promise you together forever’ need not have appeared more than once. Then, too many characters cannot have the problem that ‘he did not know what he felt for her.’ Also, the wavering between ‘wants you’ and ‘needs you’ is an oft repeated sentiment. In a book which is all of 150 pages, these become glaring. 

The book could have been better edited. Incorrect prepositions, incorrect words like ‘nondescreet’, in correct usage of words like ‘elude’ are slips of tongue which authors can ill-afford.

Namrata has called these stories ‘LOVE Classics.’ They are classic in that they are free from any trappings of youthful slang and fashionable language stunts. These young adults are speaking to the readers with Namrata’s maturity shining through, and Namrata’s ideas of love. By the time you reach the last page, you seem to know the author so much though not her characters apart from each other. This book then is like Namrata’s own diary. The author is herself the "central character" of her own book. 

Is this what keeps the book from being as spectacular as the emotion it spins around? Saahil in ‘The Sole Soul Mate’ wonders ‘Where has all the love vanished?’ It is all there in ‘Metro Diaries’, but not as perfectly as it could have been. 

Have I warmed up to the genre? 

I have, to this mood-food. I have because I realize love stories are wont to carry an intensity that many other kinds of stories cannot. Their success does not lie in challenging the reader, like I mentioned before, but in tugging at the reader's emotional strings in ways never imagined before. Never seen before. 

'Metro Diaries' did that to some extent, but it stopped short just when I was getting fully "involved". 

'Metro Diaries' by Namrata is a Revelation House publication, 2015

[This review was commissioned by the author. Views are my own.]

Sunday, 3 May 2015


Have the balls?

Okay, here, have the balls!

There’s this rickshaw puller I know because he is usually standing outside our society’s B-Gate (the one near the Mother Dairy with the seller who never, ever parts with his change). I know him as much as you know yours. Which is to say, I recognize him, I am sure he never charges a penny extra and also he’s usually standing free. No, I don’t know his name but I know he’s missing a thumb. Guilt at wrinkled hands clutching the rubber handles of a rickety rickshaw keeps riders at bay. Guilt. Or maybe they are in a hurry and those battery autos are faster, cooler and cheaper than yellow-green ones. Today afternoon, he was taking me to the other, farther Mother Dairy because the guy at this one (you know who never gives change) also never kept packet-wala-dahi – cheaper and better for raita. The rickshaw had just squeaked alive and started moving when hot, hot winds slapped my face. Looked down to escape the burn to see two pairs of burnt, dark, toned, hairless legs pushing pedals with the might of sweat. And blood. I don’t know what made me but I asked him something which meant ‘Till when will you do this?’ as I asked him to wait. His wide smile told me two things – 1. It was a silly question, a naïve one, coming from someone who has a family back home. 2. He has only three teeth on the top and one below. He said – ‘Till I fall asleep in this rickshaw, madam. Akele akele savari kaengey phir.

And we still think Fortitude comes from a brown, crinkled, ultra-sensitive sac of the male organ. 

A 60-year-old woman, mother to my maid, had a uterus she should be proud of. It took so much battering and pounding! Oh, you know, the B/W movie reel of three girls, then equal number of miscarriages, then one boy and by then a simple fever of the boy being attributed to the weakness of the womb and all that by a husband who drank, and drank, till he had sex with her, peed and slept. Wanted another kid, a stronger idea of a boy who suckled less. You must have heard that a zillion times over. Same story, different setting, different husbands, same weak-wombs. You know what she did? ‘Enough!’ she must have silently screamed one day when she stole his drink money to go get a Copper T inserted. ‘This is it, you swine!’ I imagined her screaming, when I heard this story over left-over aloo-kachori my maid was enjoying on a stool, under the fan. Then, what happened when he learnt? ‘Phir kya thaa. Bachha-daani bhi bach gayi, aur aurton mein izzat bhi badh gayi.’ She lived like a Queen. He slapped her, of course. But rumour has it that at the commons that night he cried like a baby. Like a baby boy.    

And we still think Courage is born in a brown, crinkled, ultra-sensitive sac of the male organ.


Neither got away from the drudgery, really. So clapping at this point and assuming a “happily ever after” would be silly. Like the hands of a clock they were stuck to a point, forever damned to go round-and-round, keeping time mostly for others, that too. Hm. 

You know the Myth of Sisyphus? The holy Gods decided to punish him, one day. (Let’s not go into details. Just know that mostly punishments are unfair!) So, this Sisyphus, he was doomed for eternity to push a rock up a mountain. On reaching the top, the rock would roll down again, leaving Sisyphus to start over. Sisyphus knew this would happen and yet he would begin all over again. Silly, sissy, stuck man. Oh, the absurdity of life! But what was he really doing by beginning all over again? One, acknowledging that a better life, truth, comfort, respect would come in one day because it does exist. Two, accepting what is, but with the strength and hope to push the rock back up again, despite knowing his own and the rock's fate. What must it have taken, imagine. Imagine!

Nah. Even this philosophical, fate-surpassing, looking-Gods-in-the-eye, I’m-fine-really idea did not emerge from the sac under question. 

It all really comes from some place else. And we’re still at ‘Have the balls!’ to show your might. 

Thankfully, I have none! 


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