May 30, 2008
“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different, you know your name is safe in their mouth,” is what Sam deBrito writes in one of his posts and goes on to say that’s one of the best definitions of love he has come across. Very sincerely, if THAT really is the definition of love, I am TRULY fucked.
My name is by far the most phonetically challenging names even I have EVER heard in my life. Given the mail that comes to office and is addressed to ‘MR Jhoomur’, I was shocked to realize that perhaps to some my name sounds masculine… Or married since the other envelopes are all addressed as “Mrs”. And to think that I used to be upset about the fact that people usually laughed when they first heard my name. Like in school…
In each and every of the 12 schools I studied in, each new-student-introduction got more or less the same reaction… ‘More or less the same’ as the reactions changed in degrees of cruelty with each class. In the junior classes it was “Goodmorning my name is Jhoomur Bose,” followed by “BWAHAHAHAHA” from other three-feet tall kids. With the growing years, the kids would not hesitate in asking, “WHAT the hell is THAT name?” Even in schools where people had distinctly different names – like the Sikkim school where kids had names like ‘Tsering’ and ‘Dolma’ but no one found those funny – it was my name that was laughed at.
At the age where friends start calling each other by cool names, my name was severely deficient in the ‘cool quotient’. Y’know how Deepti becomes ‘Dee’, Rupali becomes ‘Pali’ and Jhoomur becomes… ‘Jhoo’? Jhoom? ‘Ur’? And if you call it ‘Joo’, that means lice in Hindi. You can well imagine the common joke when I was 12… Sigh. Worse still was the adolescent “falling in love”. You know how young girls would add their name and take on the second name of their object of affection? Well my name sure as hell did not gel with ANY of the surnames, even the ones I ‘tried on’ just to see if there was anything other than ‘Bose’ that it would rhyme with. :(
Then there were the regional distortions of my name. In the Hindi speaking belts it was always ‘JhoomER’ and the Punjabis, Sikhs and Delhiites would especially find it difficult to get that my name ended with a soft, sweet emphasis on the ‘u’ and not like someone was trying to say something more after they’d said my name. “Have you met Jhoom-er…Er, what? No, no, Jhoom-er” And then everyone would want to know the meaning of my name and no matter what I said, since ‘jhoomar’ in Hindi means a chandelier, people would wonder why my parents had called me a chandelier.
In fact my name has conjured many weird images in peoples’ heads. I remember going to interview this stick-thin model – who has subsequently moved to Mumbai after dumping her restaurant-owner boyfriend in Delhi – and as I walked in, she says, “Oh you are so small. On hearing your name I was expecting some huge, bindi wearing Bengali woman.” Given that I WAS fat those days, that didn’t go down well. I really wanted to tell her that since I was still young and quite naïve, her accent had suggested I was going to meet someone more sophisticated and since she was a “model” and all, how come she was dating the ugliest man I had seen on earth? Anyway, I didn’t say all that since my journalistic ethics were strong. Bitch.
Then there were the Anglo-Indians who pronounced the name in such a long, drawn out way that it ended up sounding like some long lost ape species, “The jhooomooor that is found in the jungles of…” In parts of Punjab, they could not pronounce the ‘jh’ and with their love for adding a double-emphasis (Hunny, Happy, Luckky, Tinna) and inability to say the double OO, my name became, “Chummer”. Yea…THAT. Now with me going global and meeting people from different parts of the world, it’s just getting better… French call me “Zoomurrr”, the Britons think the ‘r’ at the end is silent (it’s not), most people stare weirdly at my mouth when am saying my name to see how it’s said (and still get it wrong), some Australians call me “Jhoo” (cringes) and yet others will not call me anything but ‘JB’. :(
I am emotionally distressed, ok? Like when people name their babies and use a bit of both parents names… I can’t use either part of my name so naming my kids after me is out of the question. Even if I were to try, the kids would probably end up sounding like a brand of jam or something. And then if all this wasn’t enough, I realized that my name is the least romantic (read, sex-friendly) name. You really cannot say it during sex you know. “Oh baby, Jhoomur, oh” and that’s it. Orgasm delayed by the next 20 minutes.
PS: And THEN Barkha Datt asks me, “Why didn’t you put your real name on the blog?”
May 28, 2008
For long feminists have screamed hoarse about men’s double standards when it comes to sex: How men have a different set of rules for themselves and another book for women, how a man who’s had many women is a ‘stud’ while a girl who gives up her hymen before she marries the Right One is a ‘slut’ and how a man will gladly sleep with a woman with prior sexual experience but will look at a virgin when it comes to marriage. If latest surveys are to be believed, it seems the feminists have still much longer to cry: Sexually experienced women might be seen as liberated and ‘sexier’ but they are also seen as scarier!
The latest Kinsey Institute study (published April issue of Archives of Sexual Behaviour) suggests that while younger men feel threatened by sexually experienced women the older men find them desirable and arousing. But that was the result when the men were asked about the kind of women/woman they like to have sex with, would the results be any different if the research was on the kind of wife a man looked for? Given pre-marital sex is still frowned upon in India and arranged marriages are the norm for the majority, one wondered about the results in an Indian context…
In a survey of 25 people – 13 women, 12 men, single, all working in industries that demand close man-woman interaction and all of whom have equal opportunities when it comes to meeting and mating with the opposite sex – the answers one received were startling. For one, most of the women polled DEMANDED their men have prior sexual experience…
The orgasm is my birthright
The first question was common to both men and women: Would you like your partner to be sexually experienced?
Of the women polled, 69 % want their men with prior sexual experience, 23 % didn’t mind someone without experience and only 8 % insisted on their man being a virgin. For all the newfound sexual forthrightness of women, men are still supposed to take the lead when it comes to bedroom antics. Women, irrespective of their having prior experience or not, would rather have a man who is not a virgin. Why? “I am looking for a boyfriend/ husband and not a child who needs to know stories about bees and birds,” says one 25-year-old feisty woman. For another it does not matter if he has any experience “as long as he is attentive”. Someone who knows the moves and someone who is attentive: From holding on to their ‘virtue’ for the Right One, the focus for the girls seems to have shifted to ‘what’ the Right One does for them. In other words, the pressure is on the man to keep the woman happy.
The pressure’s showing on the men as well and it’s perhaps no surprise that the younger lot is ‘scared’ of demanding, sexually experienced women. If on one hand there is performance anxiety about being compared to past lovers, there is now the added pressure of even inexperienced women having high magazine-propagated expectations of a man’s bedroom prowess. Despite men being considered sexually hypocritical when it comes to the marriage market – and wanting to marry virgins – the men polled were quite open-minded towards women with prior sexual experience. While 54 % men were happy with their partner whether a virgin or not, 46 % insisted on preferring women with prior experience: A case of the stereotype of what men consider ‘ideal wife material’ changing or simply a case of the men giving politically correct answers? Further probing revealed it could well be the latter, but with both men and women being equally hypocritical…
Heard about too much experience?
The second question, though fundamentally the same, was tweaked a bit for the guys and girls keeping in mind the assumption that men are considered more sexually active than women. The men were asked if they were okay with their partner having slept with three men (or more) while the women were asked the same but with their partners having slept with eight or more women.
Despite majority of the men and women saying they were okay with the idea of a sexually experienced partner, the limit to what each group considered ‘experienced’ differed. A whopping 76 % of the men polled said while they were okay with their partner’s prior experience though they’d rather not know details or numbers. Only 14 % said they would be bothered if their girlfriend/partner had had sex with more than three men.
Compared to the men, only 23 % of the women polled were comfortable with their husband/partner having had multiple sexual encounters while 73 % said they would be decidedly uncomfortable if their man had “slept with the whole world”. Even the women who said they were okay with their man having had multiple partners were comfortable “only if he was in relationships with those women and not just one night stands.” Some women however felt “More than six or eight intimate relationship in case of a man mostly suggests he treats women as play things, has no integrity and is absolutely unstable”. Can the same then be said about women who have had relationships with three or more men? Not so, declare the girls and insist women cannot be ‘judged’ on the same terms because women would have multiple partners only when “forced to” or when past relationships didn’t work out. Somehow that does not quite gel and sounds like women resorting to the same double standards they have hitherto accused the men of…
Let sleeping dogs ‘lie’…
Finally both men and women were asked if they would be forthcoming in talking about their past relationships with their partners. The answers were far from comfortable…
For long magazines and feminists alike have demanded that when it comes to sex, men and women should be judged equally. ‘If a man can sleep around so can a girl’ be the cry for equality. Women today seem to be doing exactly what the men were earlier accused of and getting away with it in the name of bridging the gender divide. For instance, in a scene from Devil Wears Prada, Anne Hathaway’s character has a one-night stand with a colleague when she is on a break-up-to-think-things-over with her boyfriend. Had it been a man in a similar situation he would have been labeled a slime ball and an opportunist who didn’t waste time in sleeping with another woman. Since it was a girl though the situation was deemed as her “finding her own footing” and giving men a taste of their own medicine. Equality or reversed hypocrisy again?
When asked about discussing past relationships, 76 % of the men polled said they would be completely honest with their partner, though a majority said, “only when she asked for it”. Only 15 % said they would “downplay” the number of partners but mostly only if their partner was inexperienced. Again for the men, they did not have many hang ups about their partner’s past life as long as they were told about it and did not “find out after marriage” according to one and as long as “she did not keep bringing up her past”. For the women though, they were more curious about their partner’s past life and more forthcoming in volunteering information about their own… with a clandestine twist.
Of the women polled, 31 % said they will be happy to talk about their past relationships while 69 % said, “Only after editing bits here and there”. While most women seemed okay with discussing heartbreaks, almost all – barring those who have had no sexual experience – were hesitant about discussing numbers with their partners. If relationships are built on trust, does it not tantamount to lying? The girls don’t think so, as one 25-year-old put it, “Never about past experiences. I did it once and it was always brought up every time something went wrong. The number of men should not matter, everyone has a past and it’s not something you can change.” However, it’s not about the unchangeable past that has women “editing” details. As one woman put it, “In my experience guys don't usually want to hear about it.”
So while women seem to be marching towards more sexual freedom and demanding their men come with a “has done it” certificate, they would withhold information about their own experience. If earlier a man with multiple sexual partners was considered a ‘player’ and someone to be “scared of”, the Kinsey Institute study suggests that men are equally scared of “player” women. One wonders then, are we really breaking stereotypes and making ‘progress’ or is it a case of the entire sexual double standard and gender divide reversing, with women now becoming the new men?
PS: Would love to know your views on the above, do write in!
May 23, 2008
It was an overnight flight on Malaysia Airlines and early morning on May 9th, we reached the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). The flight was pretty uneventful except that my hair was irritatingly FULL of static and standing at all ends. Also, while I have not flown other international airlines – but have seen and met enough hostesses – I found the hostesses on Malaysian airlines to be very rude and have a peculiar ‘we know better’ attitude. Initially I thought it was my “black armband” as Partner calls it, but over the trip it proved to be more a case with Malaysian Airlines. More on that later…
<--- Kuala Lumpur International Airport
Since we were flying into KL in the morning I could have a birds’ eye view (or plane’s window view) at Malaysia. My first impression was of the country being very, very green. Actually manicured green since all the trees seemed to have the same height. Before it could register, Partner helpfully pointed out that the trees were palm tree plantations for palm oil, one of the biggest sources of income for Malaysia with India being one of the major importer’s. As we got off at KLIA, I was a bit surprised to realize that there were no ‘buses’ waiting to herd-in the passengers, instead you walk out to the terminal, get into a swanky train that then takes you into the main terminal. That was just the beginning; Kuala Lumpur is ALL about efficiency.
The in-flight ad for KLIA says, “It’s impossible to lose your way at the airport,” and they were right. That’s something that super impressed me about both KL and Melbourne – the signage on the streets and the detailing in the road maps – as long as you can read English, even a first-timer to the cities will manage her way around. The same cannot be said about Delhi though: Imagine asking a new-in-town person to find Jhandu Singh Marg*, or locate the right house number in Greater Kailash 1. Once out of immigration, I was further pleasantly surprised that there was no rushing, stomping or fighting over taxis. It’s smooth and was smoother still for us since we had the hotel limousine service waiting for us.
<--- Renaissance Hotel that stands in the KL Golden Triangle
During the ride from the airport to the hotel, we got a complete lowdown about Malaysian economy, politics and a rush-through of places to visit from our cab driver, Malay with origins in Tamil Nadu. Both Partner and I were super impressed with his knowledge of the situation in Malaysia and his individual perspective. Also, unlike Delhi, cabbies in KL don’t keep looking into their rearview to see what’s happening in the back seat. Education, awareness and an opinion were something in common to all the south-Indian-Malay cabbies we rode with in KL. We stayed at Renaissance hotel that was neighbour to the Petronas Twin Towers and Partner took the piss out of me since for a first international holiday, I was having a shamelessly luxurious one. And he should know, his first visit to India was way back in 2000, as a backpacker and here I was staying at a posh five star and then moving to an exclusive, manicured resort for the next four. Funnier still is how fast a human being can adjust to luxury… like showers.
Pic courtesy: http://anneromano.com/images/india_bucket.gif
Some of you might laugh at this – and I do sound like a yokel, but not going to lie – but after having lived in rented accommodations for the last 10 years (17 house shifts) and before that in Army accommodations that aren’t really examples of architecture or amenities – what REALLY struck me were, er, the showers in the bathrooms. Haha, it’s so funny, our perception of how things should be and the kind of things we take for granted. Like in our first winter together, Partner was shocked to find me washing dishes in cold water. “Don’t you have hot water for the dishes?” he had asked incredulously. I had looked at him even more incredulously and pointed out that we didn’t even have a geyser in the bathroom and used an emersion rod for heating water and it was a bit too much to expect hot water for bloody dishes.
ALL my experiences with showers in India have included either houses not having showers at all, or the shower not working, or the shower head skewed at a weird angle where it spews water everywhere but on you, or the knobs rusted with disuse, or the water pressure being too low for the shower to work at all. Or if at all the shower works, most of the holes in the showerhead would be blocked and of course, the faucet head will ALWAYS leak, as a rule. I don’t think we realize, but the balti (bucket) has become SUCH an integral part of the Indian way of life ( also because we are not as toilet-paper friendly). If once I had laughed at Partner because he had been perplexed at the entire procedure of heating-water-bathing-from-bucket, he got his chance when he sweetly laughed at my excitement over “such nice showers”. Ha, ha, no amount of reading or watching movies can prepare you for some things, even if they are just showers. (It’s nice to have a comfort with another to not feel like an ignorant dunce all the time)
<--- KL monorail service makes travel far easier but there is debate on whether it conserves fuel or not
A little rest later we headed out for our first taste of Kuala Lumpur. My first impression of the traffic in Kuala Lumpur can be summarized in two sentences: “I want one of those bikes!” and “What are such young kids doing driving around in such posh cars?” Cabs, few buses for intercity travel, 135 cc bikes, cars, local trains and the ‘monorail’ constitute the transport in KL. Since Renaissance was located bang next to one of the monorail stations, moving around KL was a lark. As I wrote earlier, the maps make things pretty simple and the cab drivers are knowledgeable. From Renaissance we got off at Bukit Bintang, which would be the main shopping area in KL. From small stores with good bargains – we caught 50 per cent clearance sales in almost all stores – to showrooms for the biggest retail chains, KL is like any other major city the world. However, Partner said that the city lacked in “soul,” it was much later that I would be able to make my own judgment of that… For the first few shops, after a long while I was DELIGHTED to find clothes my size. We roamed around for an hour or two in the market and headed back to the hotel since we were to catch up with the family there. Post lunch it was pool time and the beginning of my love affair with the pina colada.
After lunch and burning that lunch in the pool -- constitutes me flapping around -- we all headed to the main market area for some dinner. That’s when I realized that KL comes to life at night. While in the morning people had been out on the streets, it seemed as if the entire city had descended on the roads at night. With lights all around, shops and young people dressed to their heels, it was with surprise that I realized it was 12 am. While the nighttime crowd was mainly young people or families out for a meal, it took only a glance to know that the girls dressed well. If the Chinese girls wore designer outfits, the girls in hijab did up their eyes in the most beautiful way. However, I hardly saw any Indians out…
We were a group of 12 and our dinner was an assortment of fish, bullfrog legs and Malaysian curries. Since I had been practicing using a chopstick in India – simply because Partner could use choppies and I of course was insulted that I didn’t know and therefore HAD to learn, heh – I insisted on having all my meals with chopsticks. For first time chopstick users I would suggest keeping a spoon (even if you have to hide one in your purse) as things slithering off your plate and landing on the floor is not very graceful. Oh yes, bullfrog legs are kinda crispy-chewy... and not something that I would be trying again, no matter what the French say. After dinner some of us headed towards China Town (open 6-11 pm and supposedly has awesome bargains but everything is fake) and four of us – Partner, me and his aunt P and uncle M – went out to check out some nightspots.
Our first stop was this restaurant/bar called ‘Lecka Lecka’, which thanks to my being blind – I am shortsighted and had sat on my specs the night before the trip – I read the sign as “Lecka Cocka” (the logo, look at the bloody logo!). Amused, I also pointed it out to Partner’s aunt, like five seconds before I bit my tongue and realized that that’s NOT something you point out to someone’s relative five hours into meeting them. (scowl) Next time I shall learn to keep my amusing observations to myself. After my initial reluctance at stepping into the place, which was alleviated once I read the sign properly, it turned out to be quite nice. In both Melbourne and KL, I realized that street side cafes are huge business and special care is taken to make the outdoor seating as attractive as the indoor. I couldn’t help but think how a little paint job, some lights and inviting outdoor seating could change the face of Connaught Place in Delhi. For instance, United Coffee House has such a forgotten British charm to it, clean out the exterior, put some umbrellas and chairs and we might just have a truly international shopping experience in CP.
As we smoked our hookah/sheesha at Lecka-Lecka, which was playing some Latino tracks, we all got into the mood to salsa. The fact that neither of us knew how to salsa was not considered and we thought it wasn’t important… We were to be proven wrong. The first salsa place was ‘Q Ba’ where there was a rocking live band belting out tunes with such gusto that we all were dancing even as we approached the bar… However, before we could order a drink we were asked to leave the place as M was in shorts and the place only allowed formal clothes. The seriousness of salsa! While I appreciate keeping the ‘integrity’ of a dance alive, snobbery because some others might know the moves and yet want to revel in it, is not so right… For me dance is about letting go and having fun. Anyway, disappointed we decided to find another joint and after some enquiries, headed off to the Federal Hotel and its bar called ‘Havana’. It was no match for ‘Q Ba’, which was quite obviously a happening place, but it had its share of salsa followers shaking it on the dance floor.
Again, I noticed the lack of Indians both at Q Ba and Havana. KL is supposed to be a multicultural city with many Indian immigrants and locals and yet all day, I had hardly seen any Indians. Senior people I could understand, but didn’t the young Indians go partying? I HAD to ask and cornered the salsa instructor at Havana; he turned out to be Punjabi! My suspicions were right, according to the dude (unfortunately have forgotten his name), most Indians in KL are VERY conservative and do not approve of their kids learning salsa or such. If at all the Indians there party, they apparently usually head for ‘Bollywood’ bars!
Indians abroad being more conservative than those back home is something many people who travel have told me. To me, it seems that it’s either a case of wanting to hold on tight to what you have left behind or a fear of learning new things. Like going to a new restaurant and ending up ordering Indian food all the time. Or it could also be a case of not valuing what we have till we step out of our comfort zones. Hmm… I think I need to travel more to figure that one out. Ha, ha.
After the sojourn on KL streets, it was back to the hotel and sinking into a very tired but happy sleep. My holiday had just started…
PS: Jhandu Singh Marg is the left turn (if you’re coming from South Extension side) before the Hyatt Regency left turn.
PS2: While there weren’t any salsa-ing Indians that I met, it made me very proud that our very own Kaytee Namgyal is VERY well known in the salsa circuits. And to think that I had written about him in the obscure Around Town (published by Ogaan that also publishes Elle, the magazine is now dead) makes me feel real nice. Shows how people with true talent will always prosper…as long as they pursue it with all their energy.
PS3: The other posts wont be this long!!!!
May 22, 2008
<--- first look at the Himalayas from the plane
Till as such time as I get the Delhi-Malaysia-Melbourne-St Arnaud posts ready, you guys have a look at the rest of the pics from Leh. For those who didn't know or missed, was in Leh-Ladakh for the weekend of April 18-21, 2008. For those who look at the picture and think they want to get to Leh, PLEASE DO SO. The tickets are bloody cheap as we paid Rs 12,000 return for two people and without any prior booking. We flew Jet Airways and came back on Deccan.
And yes, please carry extra camera battery, an extra storage card (or laptop), don't forget the camera transfer cable, lenses AND the camera charger. It would be absolutely criminal to go there and NOT take pictures or forget some vital camera part at home.
May 16, 2008
I swear to Jesus or Sai Baba or whomever you may please that this bloody blog is allergic to happy posts. Even as I sat down to convert the notes I have been taking over the days into ‘Episode 1: Virgin Affairs’ – after the mandatory email checking, friend request ignoring and birthday walling – the calmness of my early morning was fucked by ‘a person’ sitting on the computer next to me. I am at a cyber café on Elizabeth Street, Melbourne and was quite happy with the holiday I’ve had so far and with the people of this city TILL ‘a person’ walked into the café, sat on the comp next to me and upon realizing he is sitting next to an Indian, has crossed himself at least six times since.
It’s funny because firstly, it has never happened to me before. Of course people have remembered God when around me or because of me --- bwahahaha – but that’s not usually because of my skin colour. (er, it's called putting the fear of God) Secondly, because I thought one is supposed to cleanse oneself after meeting an Indian, remembering God really doesn’t help, you know. Anyway, so the guy walks in --- (oh wow, he just left, perhaps typing in font size 18 WHILE he was staring into my monitor worked, maybe he will knife me or punch me in the face when I step out, maybe I should kick him in the groin first, NOT going down without a fight unless am shot in the head or something) – takes one look at me and goes, “E gad” and crosses himself. I am surprised at my reaction, since I simply looked away, stared into my monitor, smiled and started typing. Maybe I will hang a laptop around my neck and walk around.
That apart, I really have not felt much of any racist vibes… Maybe two days is not enough to feel it! (Am SUCH a cynic) People are friendly or at least helpful when you ask them for directions or some such thing. In both Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Melbourne, if I have caught another’s eye and smiled, people have smiled back… except for the Indians. In both cities, the Indians or those of Indian origin are the last people to smile at a stranger and first to look uncomfortable when spoken to. At least three people were horrified when I spoke to them in Hindi and pulled a really twangy Australian accent on me with an, “Excuse mai?” All three were women, who had been speaking Hindi (two of them had) just before I spoke to them and were in Indian outfits, one was also wearing chooda (red and white bangles that recently married Punjabi women wear). The first two times I apologized and switched back to English but the third time – the chooda chick – I couldn’t help but go, “Anywhooooo”, wink and walk away.
Both yesterday and today (Friday), I’ve come into the city with Partner at about 9 am. He leaves for work – he’s here on an official thing – and I roam around the city, checking cafes, looking at buildings, drinking loads of coffee (8 cups yesterday, determined to not have as many today), wondering why Melbourne women don’t wear more colours (maybe on the beach? But it’s cold…) and REALLY enjoying the fact that am getting a fair bit of nice-male-attention. No men stared/ checked out/ looked in Kuala Lumpur but a fair bit – both ‘white’ and non-white – have been doing so in Melbourne. It could be because I DO look the smallest creature walking on the roads – I mean there are other 5 feet tall/small women, but WHY do I look such a runt?! – or because I seem to be strolling while everyone else is pacing about. THAT’s one instant way of knowing who is NOT from Melbourne… People here pretty much run instead of walking. Maybe it’s a big city thing, or maybe it’s a city-with-train-network-thing. But even in Delhi (doesn’t have local trains) or Mumbai (has local trains), I’ve never seen people walk this fast. Or purposefully…
When I say nice-male-attention, it means that the blokes check you out but it’s not like in Delhi (or Indian cities) where they seem to strip you with their eyes (and sometimes you can even feel their disgusting paws on you). Here it’s more like a top-to-toe and quick look away if you catch them looking at you, or a longer thorough glance if they don’t know you know they are looking at you or a shy or cheeky smile if you catch them looking and look back. Hmm, however, majority of those who looked were tall boys. Perhaps they thought I was a midget… or perhaps because I look ‘man-handle-able’? (Tsks at self for being SUCH a cynic)
However – and I can’t say it enough – it is SUCH a relief, a huge, huge, relief to just walk around the roads of an unknown city without anyone whistling, without eyes boring into your back, your butt, your breasts, without walking through a throng of people crossing red lights wondering if someone is going to grab your tits. I don’t know the city, I don’t know streets and yet I feel very comfortable just walking or getting on a tram, asking people for directions or sitting alone outside cafeterias with a coffee and a cigarette and watching as the city wakes up. It is such a relief that even when a man looks at you or checks you out, he does not threaten. Of course there are some jackasses, but unlike India (or the Indian subcontinent) where we seem to produce them in masses, not everyone is a jackass. In fact the ONLY dudes who offend with their staring seem to be the Indian/ Pakistani boys here… (Sri Lankans don’t, they are way too cool)
Perhaps some will give the argument that since boys and girls here grow up watching each other on beaches and wearing short skirts or cleavage showing outfits, they are more used to such stuff and therefore don’t stare. (Between, the sari shows much more than jeans and a tee shirt does or with stockings on, you don’t see skin at all while there are no skin outfits worn under saris when our women show off their midriffs) But you know what, in Kuala Lumpur, MOST Malay women wear the hijab (almost like a burqa except that the face is not covered but the rest of the body is) and YET the Malay men do NOT stare. In fact girls in KL – Chinese majority that is –wore MUCH shorter dresses (and higher heels) than the girls in Melbourne (also since its winter here and was bloody warm in KL).
IF hooker heels and hijab can coexist in a country WITHOUT men molesting women on New Year’s and without staring or eve teasing, I say WE need to do something. HOW are the mothers bringing up the boys in these countries that makes them NOT stare? What are we doing wrong that makes generations of men in India into such personal space invading, boob-staring, butt-grabbing monsters? Please don’t give me rape and how it happens in other countries – it does and there’s no denying – but EVE TEASING is what am talking about. It’s different and it’s really rampant.
Anyway, this is getting longer and there is much to write but those will come in subsequent posts. It’s 11.20 am now and I wonder what I can do today till Partner gets free… I checked out the Melbourne aquarium yesterday and I don’t think many will be impressed when I say that I found the jellyfish more impressive than the sharks. But that’s me. Heading out for more coffee, more notes and trying to understand what makes this city tick and why it’s so difficult for Delhi to pick up tips from truly international, truly multicultural cities… And what might it take if at all we were to change our men.
PS: Of all things about India and home, I miss Golu Dawg, he is at a dog resort. IF I move to this city… I will have to find a home for him in Delhi. NOT going to think about it, makes me cry.
May 14, 2008
Apologies for the silence, have been travelling and while I've taken copious notes, haven't really had the opportunity to sit down and put out a post. This is being written from Melbourne, Australia while Partner has gone down to meet his new office people. It was a better idea sitting out here and typing than entering every second store with a sale on and blowing money. Sigh, I can be SUCH a woman at times.
For those who know and those who don't, this is my virgin foray outside India and while I am superstitious about discussing plans before there is a finality to them, I can perhaps say that this won't definitely be the only one. Unless I cop it or something. It's like I've tasted blood. It's like I am craving for more. It's like suddenly, literally, 'clichedly', the entire world is open to me. Of course THAT would require shit loads of money and I don't have any... BUT. I will have money. I need to have money. Money makes the world go round. It can't buy you love - perhaps - but it can bloody well ensure you get to travel a lot.
My first trip outside India included a 4-day stay in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and then another 5 days in Australia. Am gonna be here in Melbourne till May 13th and then drive down to a farm in this village called St. Arnaud (Partner's home town). We were in KL for Partner's cousin's wedding -- an Aussie bloke marrying a very beautiful Malaysian-Indian girl -- and it was super. I have been bloody lucky and both God and Partner have been kind. While perhaps a non-moneyed person's first trip usually involves back-packing and the lot, I'm getting to holiday in luxury. We stayed at a five-star in KL - called Renaissance, faces the Two Towers -- then moved to this resort (called Cyberview) in KL's cyber city (called Cyberjaya), which was opulence all the way. In Melbourne we are staying at Partner's aunt's place and will move to his parents' place in the weekend.
I've never been one to run after money and have been happy earning just about enough that keeps me going. HOWEVER, I am beginning to realise that wanting money does not always have to equate with greed. Money opens doors, money provides a comfortable holiday, hell money makes a holiday possible, money lets you take a break and money lets you buy gifts for your family back home. I've neither been greedy nor materialistic... But my perspective on money is changing. For one, I am beginning to admire it more. I don't necessarily believe in getting it by whatever means, but yes, I am going to lose my hitherto live-on-what-you-have attitude and strive to earn it, earnestly. I've always wanted to do and achieve a whole lot of things -- both for me and those around -- and perhaps money will be the way to get those done.... Hmm, interesting development the way I see it. Let's see where it takes me.
As I said earlier in the post, have taken copious notes and will write those down as posts. Till then, let me get out of here -- my sense of dollar conversion to rupee sucks and I NEED to understand that 5 AUD and Rs 5 DON'T mean the same thing since am still earning in Rupees -- so before I blow the change in my pocket here.... More later!!!
PS: I LOVE Melbourne. No one stares, NO one.
May 7, 2008
I have grown up watching Papa be an “honest” Army officer who returned birthday cakes and tore envelopes if he thought they were anything more than “mere gestures”. He is a man who didn’t inherit anything because my grandpa didn’t leave behind anything; he was disowned by my great-grandpa for working for the British government in pre-independence India and believed in spending what he earned. Papa never bought a thing for himself (not even a pair of socks) since the day he got married, the man who planned his first child (I was there on their first wedding anniversary) because he wanted his first-born to be “settled” before he retired… He started at a salary of Rs 800 and yet on my third birthday, my gift was a doll worth Rs 180, a big chunk from his salary. I named her Tuk-Tuk.
Ma tells me I was smitten the moment I laid eyes on the doll. It was a “baby doll” with blue eyes, blonde hair and a pacifier in her mouth. If you pulled out the pacifier, Tuk-Tuk would bawl and if you put it back, she would sigh and gurgle happily. I first saw that doll in the hands of another girl at the airport – on our way to Silchur (Mizoram), where Papa was posted, my first flight – and being a friendly child, had approached the girl with my arms stretched. The girl had clutched her doll to her bosom and refused, I was apparently mildly surprised, looked at the doll and simply walked back to my parents. My mother tells me that as a child I’ve never been demanding and have never thrown a tantrum asking for anything. My father though had not liked it and come my birthday, I had my very own Tuk-Tuk.
He’s done the same umpteen times since. We had a casio in two days after my then-7-year-old brother wanted to bang some keys on a cousin’s casio and the cousin didn’t share… When we went shopping for Durga pujo and he would catch me looking at an outfit and lying that I didn’t like it because I had seen the price tag… When he drove us all around Sikkim in our battered little Maruti 800 despite a chronic lower back issue and a painful knee just because he wanted us to have “classic” holidays and not suffer bus journeys… Dad has never asked anyone for money, never taken a favour, never “split the bill” as long as he had cash in his pocket. I’ve seen him take on seniors when they were wrong, seen him call a spade a fucking spade and threaten to expose officers and I’ve heard junior officers talking about him as someone “who never takes a bribe”. I have also heard Dad question his own ideals because after 32 years in the Army a vindictive senior finally jacked Dad’s chance at a higher rank.
Subconsciously I had imbibed my father’s ideals as a child. Despite my mother taunting him by calling him “Gandhiji”, I was proud of who he was: A self-made man. I was – or have been – exactly the same in my profession. Walked out of an early job because an editor promised to make me a star as long as I became “his pupil”. Resigned on spot from another because the editor questioned my ethics on false allegations (vindicated since then) and have never been shy of saying exactly what I think as long as I BELIEVE I am right… It was a shock when in the summer of 2006, Dad called me out as he paced on the lawn and said, “You are my daughter, you are like me. But I am telling you now I was wrong. It never helps taking on authority, even when you are right. I am not asking you to lick arse, I am just asking you to keep your opinions to yourself. You don’t have to do wrong, but know that you cannot always stop a wrong. Don’t spoil your career like me.”
I didn’t agree with him then, I don’t agree with him now. And we have been at loggerheads since.
Today, my Dad perhaps regrets teaching me the “wrong” things. I CANNOT take monetary help and feel extremely uncomfortable asking for favours; even from Dad, he hates it, I cannot change it. He feels guilty that he could never earn big bucks and has “not done enough” for us. I earn more than Dad has ever earned in life and feel I have not done enough for them. He wants to buy me things, I cannot let him pay for me any longer (not since 19). He thinks I am too arrogant to take things from him and says, “Don’t forget I am still your father”; I reply with “I can look after myself” and can’t explain enough that I would rather Ma-Pa enjoyed their money now. He is heartbroken because he realizes we would never stay in the house he has built; I don’t have the words to tell him that my horizons lie beyond… He spoke of us selling the house once “he is gone”; I was offended and asked to be disowned, I DON’T want any inheritance. He was offended thinking I thought it wasn’t good enough for me.
I don’t know about middle-class parents elsewhere in the world – or even if that class exists elsewhere – but at least in India it seems your life is over the moment you become parents. Everything revolves around your child. You have to constantly keep giving, save up for their future, forget your own interests and constantly promote theirs, think of school and then college and then his/her marriage, then giving things to the grandchild… WHY? Oprah Winfrey celebrated her 50th birthday in style. My mother spent her 50th worrying and wondering if it was her daughter’s destiny to be alone for life. Another friend’s parents went on a China tour and when I suggested a holiday for my parents, Ma responded with, “No, no, right now we want to save for your brother’s education and we’ve not given you anything for so long…” I feel sick and guilty: Did I take their life away? Now when they perhaps need me around, am I running away?
My brother is getting ready to step out of college and embark on a career and a new life. My mother is alone in our hometown, in the house Dad built for his family. She calls everyday or every other day even if it is to ask, “Are you okay?” We both forget at times, at times we are too busy or too tired or have not paid our phone bills on time. My Dad is in another city, depressed and has had two anxiety attacks in the last two days. And one day into my 29th year, I am sitting poised to take off into that horizon that I know has been calling me since I read my first book. Am I wrong?
PS: A reader pointed out that Shobhaa De mentioned me in her column in The Week. She calls me an “attractive blogger” with an “edgy defiance”. Haha, does it matter? Wonder what Dad has to say… Here’s the link.
PS2: FOR THE RECORD: This blog's name was, is and will always be 'Emancipation of Eve'. Shobhaa misunderstood. What I told her -- and am typing it out now -- is that I changed MY name on this blog, NOT the blog's. My monicker when I started out was CLIT CHATTING and the email on the right hand corner STILL reads "Foxy Tanya". Why 'foxy tanya' and not my real name? Firstly, because with a name like clit-chatting most of the comments I was getting were from cocks talking (literally). I wanted to discuss things, they wanted to have sex chats. That's not my thing y'know. Also, 'Jhoomur' isn't exactly a people-friendly name (there, this is the first time I've written my own name on this blog). While even early on most people who read this blog knew it was me writing it, I wasn't ready yet for random strangers to know my identity. Abusive comments irritated me then; now to a large extent I can handle them. Also, while I was very comfortable writing what I was writing back when I started, people were NOT comfortable saying they read someone called Clit Chatting. So I waited for the right time... As more and more people read this blog and grew comfortable with it, 'Clit Chatting' changed to 'Eve* aka JB'. My friends call me JB even off-cyberspace. The blog name remains Eve Emancipation. As for me having the 'guts' to revert to the original name, JB took on the Clit Chatting avatar to grab those eye balls. Now JB still clit chats, just that she is comfortable being herself. With her own name. Please say hello to JB.
May 5, 2008
Looking back at pictures of yore, I think my mother played around with my hairstyle a lot… Sometimes I wonder if that should be allowed. Y’know how some mothers make baby boys look like girls and other mothers make that fountain-choti on top of their little girls heads? (Choti means ponytail and ‘fountain-choti’ is the one where you have a ponytail on top of your head and the hair spouts out) My hair has changed so tremendously in texture over the years that I still have doubts if my parents have told me the truth about my parentage. Three things make me highly suspicious I could be a case of a baby-mix-up:
1. I was born on a train. Almost.: My grandparents stayed in this small town called Nepanagar – was known for newspaper mills – and my 9-month pregnant mom was on a train to her parents’ place. An hour or so from Nepanagar, mom’s contractions began and they had to pull the chain, stop the train, get off at this town called Khandwa – also the birthplace of Kishore Kumar, but I can’t sing to save my life – and there I was born in a local hospital. My mother says the doctor who delivered me looked like Kadar Khan. I am supposed to have absolutely, straight, jet black hair and looked Chinese. HOW could I have changed THAT much over the years? What if Kadar Khan switched babies?
2. Mother also says that I cried instantly (LOOK at Kadar Khan, who wouldn’t?) and started talking at 8 months, had perfectly clear speech – it was Tamil that I learnt to speak first – and was a natural bully. Apparently when other babies were busy pooing in their diapers, I was walking around reading fairy tales and telling people how to change the décor of their house. Both my parents are not overbearing and as kids were bullied by others. Where did I pick up bullying then? Again both my parents are not very keen on reading – though Dad did pile me with books straight away – so why was I showing interest?
3. I apparently also had this strange habit of leaving my shoes at peoples’ houses and have allegedly run away on two occasions – all BEFORE the age of 3 – once with a milkman and another time with a vegetable vendor, on his bicycle handle, sitting in his vegetable basket. Apparently both times it was because they were telling me stories. Again, both my parents are very respectable (Ma is painfully shy) and themselves were known to be very obedient and harmless as kids: So whatever happened to me? My suspicions grew manifold when in one of her helpless fits at my antics – this is when I am about 22 – Ma screamed in frustration and asked, “I am simple woman. Your father is a simple man. How the hell are you such a WILDCAT?” I responded saying it was perhaps because they had picked up someone else’s baby because they’d known I would be much smarter. Haha, she was sooooo pissed at that.
To get back to the original point, my changing hairstyles – whether self-chosen or instigated by Mother – have also reflected my changing state of mind.
<-- 8 months old: Straight and black, which was cut short and made me look like a boy. It is also alleged that I had a fondness for walking around bare-chested. I looked Chinese and didn’t have a nose. (It's not a racist comment as being Chinese and not having a nose are NOT related)
3-years-old: Local tomboy, loved hot pants, had eyebrows that defied shape. I had two cases of boy-beating against me and also had the stance of a boy. I laughed loudly that was encouraged but created problems later when my father had to warn me before army parties, “Be a lady. Don’t laugh like a rickshawallah” Whatever. Even now I have to watch it so that I stand and sit “gracefully”; have given up on the laugh.
4-years-old: Head completely shaved off. You don’t have to see that. WHY do parents do that? Can you imagine going from silky smooth hair to nothing…The only thing I remember about going bald is that the scalp feels like a Velcro strip when the hair’s growing back. That was also when we were in Calcutta and perhaps why I don’t remember ANYTHING of my school years: Repressed memories.
5-years-old: Hair is now growing back and is all wavy… very suspicious. Also marks the sudden emergence of nose and the only other time that I have been skinny in life. Apparently my parents went and prayed that I would eat. And then I didn’t stop till 25!
7-years-old: Had these stupid fringe on my forehead that somehow always made me look guilty of having done something wrong. In this picture, I have done nothing to my brother except hold him down and refuse to let him move till the pic is taken. --->
9-11-years-old: Various stages of hair growing out where they went from two ponytails on the side of the head, to two pigtails that stuck out at 180 degrees and finally...
<--- 12-years-old: bushy eyebrows and thunder thighs. Also looking pissed off because I wanted to take one of those posing with finger-on-Taj Mahal’s-spiral pictures and the fucking photographer said, “Baby aap thodi nati ho.” (You are a little short)
13-20: Various stages of long hair along with various exams like 10th & 12th board exams thrown in. Also sat for the pre-medical exams to get into some medical school to become a doctor. Obviously, I didn't and then we came to Delhi and I took up a course in journalism... And started working in first year of college.
21-years-old---> Glory hair days, in this I’m posing for a shoot for India Today. We had launched thenewspapertoday.com (its now defunct) and the advert idea was to have our reporters and editors pose with the tagline being, “How new is your news?” It was a cool idea though my picture was never used in the magazine.
<--- 22-years-old: The website closed due to lack of advertisers -- also one of the first news sites to try charging people for news -- and we launched the afternoon paper Today where along with reporting, I – and other youngsters – were made to model as well. We weren’t even paid. This was posing for a story on how beer was getting popular in the summers. I don’t drink beer and though not visible, I am lying flat on the table because all the boys were tall!
23, 24: Pictures from here and there, hair similar to the above picture except that I look stoned in all pictures (I wonder why, haha) so am not putting those up.
25-years-old: The longest my hair has ever been I had taken to wearing sarees and big bindis to minimize the weight elsewhere. It’s called optical illusion. This was posing for photographer Anay Mann’s exhibition called, A Generation in Transition (has also been used in Tehelka). ---->
26-years-old: The worst hair-disaster ever when I chopped off my hair – went from reaching-butt to reaching-shoulder-blades AND had blonde highlights. Black and blonde don’t go together. Please don’t do it. Such a drastic change was the direct result of me not thinking straight at various levels…
27-years-old: Further disasters when I go in for a hair makeover thing -- which was also suggested by me, groan – for our new Friday pullout. Was working with Times of India then and had launched, What’s Hot. The first pic is before the haircut – and no, he isn’t a God-man, he was stylist and was French – and had promised that from "looking beautiful" he would make me "look stunning."
All I can say is I was stunned that's HOW short my hair was cut and apparently the whole “look” was to look disheveled.
28-years-old: This was taken on the first day of joining ibnlive.com. Had decided that the only way to survive the makeover disaster was to wait for the hair to grow out. As my Dad politely described that stage: “If you sit on the pavement with a bowl, you will look extremely convincing.”
I am the happiest I have been with my hair in a lifetime. It could also be because I have been the happiest that I have ever been in my living-alone adult life. I don’t want a new hairstyle because I am happy with the way I look. I am confident about who I am – largely that is! – I am enjoying the few people I want in my life and I am looking forward to the changes that are perhaps in the offing.
For the last two years, whenever anyone has asked, I have said I am 30. I think I am going to stick to saying ‘29’ for another year. (smiles) The best part about being 29 though is that I can look back at myself and laugh at who I was, what I tried to be and not feel bad anymore about who I can never be. Some of you have written in – others say it on my face – that my blog sounds unhappy and angry. Well, I have been both unhappy and progressively angrier for quite a while; things are slowly and surely changing. For those who have stuck around; stick around and perhaps finally, I might learn to write a happy post. I am going to be older and wiser after all!
May 3, 2008
Glamour Bazaar India
Early reactions from friends and family:
1. Gigo (in chatbox): You weren't as fidgety!
2. Friend on g-talk: Your eyebrows didn't squiggle as much.
3. another friend: Why do you look as if you're scolding everyone?
4. Mom: You looked 'fairer' in the NDTV show, kaalo lagche (looking darker). You did not tell me you have put on weight? (WHAT?!!!)
5. Partner: No baby, you have not put on weight, you look healthy. (THAT means I've put on weight) No, no baby, you have not put on weight and your arm does NOT look thick.
And now... Meat is neat!
From ibnlive.com story Kareena size zero: Hot or not?
Each time I think of Kareena's new look in Tashan, am reminded of what my thamma (paternal grandma) said about skinny women: "Na agaa, na paachha" (agaa = front, meaning boobs; paachha = backside, butt!!!) And must say, she's kinda right!
A white shirt with jeans and boots (or any other footwear) is one of the never-fail, anytime, anywhere outfit that any woman, irrespective of her body size can safely wear. From cocktail parties, the beach, a college reunion or out clubbing, jeans and a white shirt will never let a woman down. The outfit perhaps is also the saving grace of Kareena Kapoor's super-thin avatar in her latest dud, Tashan.
May 2, 2008
It's nice to see online communities hotting up on both the platforms. The recent Eve Emancipation group on Facebook has 88 members and though hardly anyone interacts there, a big thank-you to all those who've joined the group.
I logged in to my Orkut account after quite a while today and was hugely surprised to see that one of my communities there (before I started writing here on Eve*) called The Mind Of A Woman had a large number of membership requests. On the last count as I type this, MOAW has 226 members. A very good show and thanks again for the enthusiastic response. NOW to get the community back and running and everyone responding.
I have been getting many 'friend requests', both on Orkut as well as Facebook: Without offending anyone -- and if you get offended it's your problem not mine -- I am not adding strangers onto the list. While I do appreciate you reading my blog, we don't have to be friends for you to read/ like/ hate this blog.
HOWEVER, I immensely enjoy interacting with you and locking horns on issues and what I write here. The more you tell me what you think, the better it is for me to write on different things. Er, it does not always have to be locking horns, we can of course mutually agree to disagree with each other and do things politely and all that. (Politeness can get a bit boring though!) Please feel free to leave your comments here on the blog or to join either the Facebook group or the Orkut community -- I look forward to interacting with you there.
A bit about comments: You are free to write what you think of a certain post or an idea presented. Valid points will never be deleted. Actually invalid points will never be deleted either; we shall just have a laugh and move on. Comments that are abusive in nature will NOT be deleted either; but depending on how abusive your comment is and how much you piss me off, I might decide to take action etc. While the stats counter says many of you are reading Eve*, there aren't as many interacting. Please note that I say "interacting" and not just writing in saying "Oh I loved your post." Those are welcome too. :) However, it would be REALLY nice if we all could share what we THINK. For those worried about saying the wrong thing, disagreeing with the author or sounding stupid -- Have you read this blog?! It says a whole lot of stupid and wrong things and despite that they invite me on shows. *Wink*
Do interact, particularly if you DON'T agree with what I have to say. As I've said earlier, I love a good debate and will try my best not to let you win. :)
For those on Orkut, participate in the SREESANTH THAPPAD poll and have your say: Is it okay for men to cry in public?
(thappad = slap)
May 1, 2008
Even before I read the book -- though I've got two reviews on it from people and they suggest one should read it -- I am a little skeptical if it will indeed be any different from the other books on India; books that usually get stuck trying to define our country. If I was to ask you, WHAT does India stand for (and by extension, Indians), what would be your answer?
Australia means aggression, America means attempts at world domination, China means doing better at world domination than America, Japan means economic progress and bad housing, Sri Lanka means good sportsmen and Tamil Tigers... and India? Don't say illegal immigrants because we get our fair share of people coming into India too. And no, it’s not just Bangladeshis or Nepalese. We have enough people coming in from so-called developed countries, entering India on tourist visas and working and earning more than your Bangladeshi housemaid or Nepalese driver does. Why? Because our visa laws are far softer on people and what they do once they are IN India. Perhaps it’s high time India got a bit selective about who she lets inside her borders as well?
One of my earliest memories of understanding what India meant to those “abroad” was the Peter Sellers movie, The Party. He plays a “klutzy Indian movie star” who doesn’t even know how to flush. Funny that Amitabh Bachchan should be voted the Star of the Millennium by none other than BBC. Talk to anyone about anything related to marriage and the first thing almost everyone asks is, “Why do people agree to arranged marriages?” Hell why not, at least we won’t be like Japan where single people are committing suicide out of loneliness and depression. And why is it SO hard to see arranged marriages as a way of creating an opportunity for like-minded people to meet, who otherwise perhaps wouldn’t have met? Yes, it has become a way of forcing alliances too, but it’s about people misusing the format rather than there being anything wrong with arranged marriage per se.
“I haven’t seen many Indian girls hanging out with their male friends,” said a French lady I met recently. She lives in Vrindavan and I am not surprised. But then, do girls in rural France go boogieing at discotheques? Aren’t they supposed to be drinking pastis and managing roadside motels? “How do Indian girls have fun, I have not seen many drinking,” said another. Maybe that’s the reason why the stats for alcoholic (depressive and suicidal) women are less in India? “All Indian girls older than 24 get married and constantly talk about babies. Their lives revolve around babies,” says a non-Indian friend.
What’s wrong with a mother’s life revolving around her babies? I can say for sure that I am REALLY glad my mother lived for us (else I would be more of an attention-seeking freak than I already am). Partner’s mother too focused her life on her babies and damn, I am bloody glad of the man she made her son into. They are not Indians. I also know of other Indian mothers who manage to focus on their babies and think about and do a whole lot of things as well. Mothers focus on their children and it’s irrespective of being Indian or otherwise. And why the hell does a mother’s interest and her children have to be a conflict of interest anyway?
Anyway. I could go on and on, but if I had to find one word – before I find a better one – that explains India and Indians, it would have to be ADAPTABLE. We change, we modify, we adopt, we adapt and we are fucking good at making things work for us.
PS: Here is the promo for the show, have a look. If the video does not work, click on THIS. (Working on embedding video here, till then check the link)
Glamour Bazaar India