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August 31, 2008

Talking doggy style again

When I am asked here if I miss India, it's a tough one to answer. Weeks are just flying by and with so much going on here, it's tough finding time to "miss" something that's not there. I guess you just get on with it. Yes, there are facets, things and people I think of, but I am not too sure if "missing" is the right term. Friday night I tagged along with my new girlfriend to check out hiphop artiste Flo Rida performing live at the Queensbridge Hotel, here in Melbourne. While the deejays were good and the people had turned out in the best of the right gear for R&B, I MISSED my Delhi clubs and just standing before the deejay console and dancing. I think also miss 'Indian' music, the deejays I liked watching, listening and dancing too. I am yet to find a place here that I can call my hang-out joint.

The weekend -- and the last one -- has been a family-filled one. Partner's family but the warmth sent my way has been one of the most positive aspects of my first trip outside my country. A lot of things run through my head as I sit amongst people who have warmly and open-heartedly welcomed me within their circle. Those thoughts need sorting out... Except perhaps for the recognition of the fact that I would love a pet. However, perhaps it's not a good idea right now. Partner's parents have 16 cats (yes, 16) and his cousins have a (mad) dog. My favourite cat is a complete slut (very lovingly said) called Molly and lord! Does she make me want to have a kitty of my own or what. After leaving Golu behind, I am not ready for another dog in my life.

Let's see. The coming week there's no uni as it's the spring break here. But there's work. Sigh.

The Hindustan Times (published, August 28, 2008)

Time for some dogumentaries
If you're depressed with
the despondency that’s
dished out in the name
of news, you’re barking
up the wrong tree.
Perhaps it’s time to check
out the dogosphere.

Between Google and Wikipedia (wikipedia.com), you can find answers to almost anything on the Internet. Or news about any part of the world. However, even as technology shrinks the globe onto our palm(tops), ignorance can prove to be bliss as searching for 'happy' news on the Internet ends up being quite depressing.

Surfing through morning news the other day, two adjacent headlines on ninemsn.com stuck out. One was a child-abuse story off Fox news (foxnews.com) about how five-year-olds were being slipped 'silly pills' and made to perform sexually provocative dances at a Texan swingers club. The other story, originally reported on Daily Express (express.co.uk), was of a dog in Argentina, who saved a new born baby that had been abandoned and dumped in a dustbin. The dog, China, picked up the baby and kept it warm through the night, along with her own pups. Gives the phrase ‘animal instinct’ a whole new spin.

When most news on and off the Internet -- the blogosphere included -- is either about makeup you need to buy, break-ups you couldn't avoid, environmental policies that no politician wants to sign and elections involving those very politicians, animals come to the rescue. Blogs on pets often provide much-needed relief when human affairs turn despondent. For those who don’t touch wood at the idea of cats, check out Lol Cats. From eating ‘cheezburgers’ to doing things that only cats can do, the site is a cat-lovers paradise.

For those who believe it’s a dogs world, there’s Dogs With Blogs that chronicles the adventures of Biggie Z (he‘s a one-year-old kuvasz). With a Pawlimpics 2008 award under his belt, Biggie Z ‘writes’, “No Nobel Peace Prize for me any time soon. Maybe if they gave a Nobel for Wreaking Havoc When Confined to a Condo in Brrr Mont in the Pouring Rain with 2 Little Shih-Tzu-Poos Who Bark at Me (and Won't Play) and 9 people I Want to Wrestle With, I might win.”

Three Woofs and a Woo documents the stories of three border collies, a photographer and a mysterious ‘Woo’. If you understand French, check out Faya’s blog, which thankfully has English translations as well. With photographs of the dogs’ antics and contributions from readers about their dogs, the blog is one amongst many that suggests that perhaps a dog’s life is a happier life.

August 22, 2008

Blah, blah black sheep...

Top questions on my mind, in no particular order:
1. If I come back my to India, what will I do? Will those I've worked for/with, hire me back? What if there are no vacancies?
2. Will I come back to Delhi, elsewhere... will it mean the same headaches with landlords?
3. Will my friends be happy to see me back... or not care?
4. Do I even want to write a book? And if I do, why should I write fiction first? And why can't the blog be a book if at all it's the blog that is making people say, "You should write a book." Why do we need yet-another author? What's so new that I have to say or that someone else will not say if I banish the book from my Scheme of Things?
5. Will my parents be happy to have me back... or will they think I am a 'problem' never to be resolved? The child who never settles down, who can't get a thing right? They've never called me a 'problem'... so why do I think like that?
6. Will I be able to complete the first assingment and hand it on Wednesday, which is supposed to include at least 15 research books and I haven't even started on one...?! Eeesh.
7. Will gol-gappas sell in Melbourne? How about paapri-chaat? It can be called puffed bread with cumin-flavoured yoghurt (add fat-free!) and salad. Why not?

I hate college. I mean, why can't I be the judge of whether I've learnt anything or not? Why should someone else judge it? Shouldn't they be happy taking the fee and shutting up? I HATE assignments. I hate them more than I hated deadlines.

I HATE being MADE to write things.

I hate reading books that are not fiction and that I cannot throw if I don't like the first few chapters or even paragraphs. I HATE Umberto Eco. All these years I did so well avoiding him completely. Now he has come back. The professors call him a "gap in the literature". Not him, but the fact that I haven't read him. For that matter, no one in class has read him, THAT's how popular he is. And I have a suspicion that if it weren't for research students, no one would read him either. Except for my best friend who was reading him when she was 17.

Why doesn't Ma ask me more than "how are you, do you need anything, is everything ok?" Why does she always add, "Don't spoil this, keep him happy." What if I can't? What if I don't want to? What if I want to fight? Why do I have to keep him happy and how/why is she sure that it will be ME who will spoil "it"? I wonder if she understands (? empathises? comprehends?) what motivates me. Or if I understand what motivates her...

I think there was a time when the 'welfare of the kids' motivated her. Now, I am not too sure... and guilty. If that was her motivation, now it's not there and neither is the assurance that this 'kid' is well-fared. I don't know my mother anymore... and perhaps it's the same for her. Isn't growing up supposed to bring one closer to parents? Mother-daughter? Or is it because of me...? Has it happened with any of you? Or is it JUST me? Disfunctional? Black sheep? (brown?)

When in Delhi, Dad used to send me cuttings of interesting newspaper and magazine articles. He highly recommended Bismillah from Nayee Duniyan. Please read him, in Hindi, but brilliant humour. I don't think he can send my writing to anyone. Ma dutifully (lovingly?) maintains the cuttings of my HT columns and says, "I keep them beta, I don't understand them. I never understand anything that you write."

What's the fucking point of writing then?

PS: I want mangsho-bhaat with aloo in it. Or I want shorsher-maach with nebu and begun bhaaja. I don't want to cook it. I want mutton -- GOAT mutton -- lamb is a fraud. (black sheep?) Stupid, fluffy things. I was delighted to find Maggi in the stores and then despondent to realise there's no Masala Maggi. :(
Did I mention I HATE sandwiches?
Can't upload a pic, the Explorer is PMS-ing.

August 21, 2008

Digest this!

I am so tired. Yet it's after a while that it feels that I've literally'earned' this fatigue. I'm studying and working now. Today, I woke up at 5 am, reported for work at 7 am and stood and made sandwiches -- and other assorted kitchen jobs till 1.30 pm.

After being a mainstream journalist for the last 9 years, now I am a sandwich hand. I make sandwiches and I learned as of today that cranberry sauce and turkey -- though an unusual combination -- make a damn interesting sandwich. I also realised that choice of sandwich pretty much describes the kind of person you might be. Like the lady who refuses to have anything but cheese-toast every single day of her 5-day workweek. She does not smile when requesting her order, she doesn't smile when you give her the toast and since it's a pretty basic toast, of course there is no question of her ever saying that it's nice. Markedly different is the guy who likes to try a different sandwich everyday, the more bizarre the better. He leans on the counter, chats with the girls working and takes a lot of interest in what's going into his bread. Despite working in a hardcore corporate environment, he is usually unshaved, has spiked hair and an ear-ring. Also, Indians standing in line stare at you the hardest; perhaps because it's not a Subway and they are not used to an Indian making sandwiches.

My entire culinary experience and taste bud exploration is going through a 360 degrees change here in Melbourne. Some things are hard to digest.

Like the fact that bread -- I don't mean roti, naan or parantha -- has always been paav-roti (quarter-bread literally) in Hindi and Bangla and something you eat for breakfast. However, here it's the staple diet. I had a hard time not saying "But there's no butter on it" when during one of the women's association meeting, girls happily chewed on some 'dry' bread. Initially, I revolted against eating 'bread' for every meal and sorely missed my rice. Even when I do eat rice here -- mostly when we eat out at a Chinese/Thai/Malaysian restaurant -- I am supposed to eat my rice in a bowl and with like a tablespoon of oyster sauce on it. Where is my jhol (curry/gravy) I say?! AND with chopsticks. It's also criminal how much of chicken and meat is wasted on bones because you are eating with a bloody fork.

Daal (which is pronounced and written 'dhaal' here!) is 'lentil soup' and not a main course. And not eaten on top of rice. Or with ghee. In fact ghee would become clarified fat and while people load their sandwiches with cheese -- and slug beer for breakfast -- ghee apparently would give them clogged arteries. Subzi or vegetables are usually eaten raw -- salads you see -- and don't go through the preparation we have in India. However, I must say, thanks to sandwiches, I am eating more 'green' than I've ever had. Also perhaps because in India the green usually becomes yellow or red, depending on haldi and mirchi in it.

It was ironic that bhindi (okra, ladyfinger) is one of the easiest veggies to cook -- chop finely, saute some onions, throw in the bhindi, DON'T add water, salt, half teaspoon turmeric or none, salt to taste and cook will it dries out, delicious! -- is not on the favoured veggie list for celebrated chef Gordon Ramsay. "I find okra extremely difficult to cook, it is gelatinous." Idiot. The range of bread though is quite astounding. I wonder why no one tries to sell Indian food with a health twist to it. 'Roti' is whole-meal bread, unlevened, has no oil or yeast in it. Paranthas can be rolled. Puri will blow their mind and can be an indulgence. Ghugni (a green pea Bengali dish) will blow their minds, here's salad you.... But. ALL that Indian restaurants sell here is tandoori.

Anywhoo. Sorry. ANYHOW. Brrr... The per force language transformation that's happening to my English here is frightening. All those hours spent debating about the correct pronounciation with Dad are being anywho-ed. That's another post.

Below is today's column for The Hindustan Times. The reference to Usha's much-loved Ageless Bonding blog is neither to take her on nor to ridicule her point of view. However, she touched a raw never and since I was working on a sport post, it fit in. It pisses me off. The fact that while every other major nation BUT India is winning golds in the Olympics, our newspapers shamelessly declare that we have 'managed' a gold after 28 years. The last was when I was born.

While I am proud of Abhinav Bindra's feat, perhaps we should ALSO be asking as to why we don't manage to win any golds at all. We are a billion-plus nation, we have enough money to HIRE other cricketers for an IPL and yet, ONE gold?! Unlike China, which is hosting the Olympics and winning gold, I am bloody nervous about the Commonwealth Games in 2010. We will perhaps be the only nation in the history of hosting games where we will foot the bill, other players, write columns about their wins and NOT win anything. We are already creating a scam around the games. What shit is this. Other than cricket, why the fuck do we suck in every other sport?!!!

The Hindustan Times, published August 21, 2008
It's only about winning, stupid!
With blogs on sporting
scandals outnumbering
those on sports, is
'the game' still about
patriotism and the
sporting spirit? Or is it
about something else?

Even as sport has become one of the most lucrative professions, with sporting events promising high TRP ratings, some sporting debates refuse to die down. With the Beijing Olympics dominating headlines -- and the Google search bar -- it's no surprise that the Games are the theme for a post or two in the blogosphere. But it's getting a bit boring.

For one, winning is still a dirty word as bloggers write about the spirit of participation and other such glorious philosophies. Do you think Shah Rukh Khan was interested in 'just participating' when he bought the Kolkata Indian Premier League team? For those missed the point, he was interested in winning. It's all fine to say that Olympics should be a showcase of sporting excellence. But take away the medals and the four-yearly games wouldn't create as much buzz (even with the 'China factor' this year).

A second favourite topic for bloggers seems to be the entire sport-means-national-pride equation. Questioning why the Olympics should be "about representing one's nation", blogger Usha Vaidyanathan of Ageless Bonding asks, "Is it right to criticize her for putting her passion to play before considerations of patriotism?" The 'her' Vaidyanathan mentions is American basketball player Becky Hammond who opted for a Russian citizelnship to be able to 'participate' in the Olympics. To answer the blogger's question, yes, it is reprehensible. Would her blog read the same if in the next World Cup, Sachin Tendulkar was to play as part of the Australian cricket team?

Quoting George Orwell's Sporting Spirit article made perfect sense at one time. In 1945. Not anymore when there are more blogs - not including news websites and sports channels -- on sporting scandals than sport itself.

If Bob Reno's Badjocks has a scoreboard that lists sportsmen (and women) 'tasered' by cops, high school coach sex scandals and golf carts in water, Buddy Maguire on F&*%$d sports comments on the daily dose of sport scandal. Then there's Off Wing Opinion's Eric McErlain who takes a dig on anything and everything sporty. Those are just three of the few blogs on sport and all point to the fact that the spirit of sport has perhaps changed.

And in the spirit of times, perhaps it's high time for Indians to stop lauding participation. Think nationalism and put more merit on winning -- lest we have to wait another 28 years to see some gold.

August 14, 2008

Make love, not war. Bwahaha.

We were meeting after 20 years, the last we had seen each other was when we both were three feet tall, 8-years-old and lived in the same colony. Both our fathers were army officers and we both studied in catholic schools, he was a Sikh and me a Hindu. But such things didn't matter that time. Back then I was somewhat shy while he had been a regular 'naughty' boy. I clearly remember how one afternoon -- when parents were out for a gymkhana (army event) -- he showed us (a group of five kids) this music video with a big, round-buttocked woman walking around. He had sung along staring at her bum -- at age 8! -- singing, "Baby bloochi, baby bloochi!" and had watched our faces eagerly.

Now when we met, he wore no turban, had cut his hair and while I had stopped growing after reaching 5 feet, he stood at 6 feet 3 inches, towered over me and blushed when I reminded him of the baby bloochi episode. We sipped coffee and spoke about what had transpired in the intermittent years. We were 'childhood friends' in the way the army allows: You spend some years together and then move on when your parents are posted out, perhaps to meet again on another common posting or just to hear news about what the-kids-you-played-with. Now I was a journalist and he was an Army officer and the best way to acquaint each other with the new people we had become was to show our respective work files. Mine was thick with newspaper cuttings and his was a thin file with the trainings he had completed.

He was constantly amazed as he flipped through my cuttings. "Wow, you wanted to be a doctor back then...instead you met and interviewed all these celebrities," he said and asked about how I lived and how much I earned. He balked at the figure of Rs 50,000 that I threw at him and said modestly, "Arre yaar, you have achieved so much. After the DSOP and other tax is cut and since the army gives us accommodation and a batman, I get about 10,000 bucks as take home." Even as I tried to tell him -- without really believing it myself -- that nothing compares to the respect of being an Army officer I had flipped a page on his file and stopped. The page said that Captain Ahlowalia had been awarded the President's Recommendation for not allowing his boys to move forward and facing militants alone.

He was shot at for 10,000 bucks. I refused free gifts thinking I was being very ethical. And here I was offering to pay his coffee bill since I earned more. Terrorists, insurgency, bombs, shells... Thanks to TV, internet and newspapers (and war), these words are part of each of our lexicon's. But how many of us really appreciate their meaning?

Despite my father predicting dire consequences for our relationship if we continued playing Empire Earth (er, it's a strategy game on world domination), Partner and I have recently purchased the latest version of the game, Empire Earth III. Our evenings, when not meeting friends and not watching TV, are spent with him being the General and me, the Prime Minister. He is good at war mongering, I am good at developing a civilisation. Basically it means he controls the mouse while I "rabbit on" about strategy, how to increase research, which tank is better and why he needs to attack Scandinavia before taking on the Indian Ocean to advance to the next level of technical superiority. Till the evening where even as we planned to attack Eastern Seaboard, I looked at the on-mute TV and said, "Look, those tanks look like the ARV we have here. Told you ARVs are best at complete annih ilation."

Partner stopped, lunged at the remote and when he turned up the volume, the TV presentor declared, "Even as Russian tanks continue to roll in, Georgia has declared a state of war." It was bizarre. Where did the game end and where was reality? World domination? Nostradamus' prediction that would lead to World War 3? The truth is still enfolding and it's chilling.

In an interview with director Kim Peirce (Boys Don't Cry) on her latest movie Stop-Loss, Peirce said she wanted to make the war movie because "you don't realise what happens in war till it hits home". Her brother had chosen to join the war in Iraq and her family was distraught. What would we/you do if we wake up to our neighbourehood being bombed and tanks patrolling our streets? Will we stock up on food or will we take backups of our hard drives?

PS: For tomorrow, August 15, Happy Independence Day fellow Indians!

The Hindustan Times, published August 14, 2008
The vanity of being stupid
If you have the stupidest
idea or opinion on
anlmost anything, then
take heart, you have
company in the
wilderness of the
world wide web
Do you hate soup? Or think that dressing like a cat will get you everything? Or that Batman might be gay? If it's a yes to the last one, you are joining those who've questioned the sexuality of Batman's alter-ego – the billionnaire Bruce Wayne – as far back as 1954. Much before Christian Bale rasped some respectability into the Dark Knight and before the late Heath Ledger changed how the viewer/reader perceived The Joker. As for hating soup, there's a 10-second rap song by that name and a yet-to-start website that promises to be up soon. Then there's the TypePad blog, Lux Lotu that talks how dressing like a cat might be the best way for you to get whatever you want. Point being, whatever it is you dig, dish, hate or sublimate, there's a blog or website that caters to it. No matter how bizarre, there's someone out there who's doing it and someone else blogging about it.
The blogosphere is a good way to validate yourself, to know that no matter how silly a thought, you have company in the world wide web. If nothing else, finding others with your interests or even different ones from yours can lead to good laughs. Like finding that there is an entire blog dedicated to icing mistakes on cakes. While Russia and Georgia tank each other out in a real-life simulation (oxymoron, eh?) of Empire Earth III, there are cakes being baked and decorated the world over and those who are botching it up too.
When real life goes horribly wrong, you read about it and when professional cakes go horribly wrong, you blog about it. Or at least so does Cake Wrecks that comes up daily with pictures of professional cakes that have something horrible, hilariously wrong with them. Like a cake with naked babies riding carrots (why indeed?) or a cake that says 'Happy November & December Birthday's – abbreviate Nov & Dec if you have to'. As the blogger says on Cake Wrecks, "sometimes stupidity takes so much effort." Look at the history of war for instance (globally please, not just the USA).
Sometimes life is just worth a laugh, before the bombs get us all. As Jenn Thorson says on the header of her blog, Of Cabbages and Kings, "Life's funny. Embrace the nonsense." As part of her embracing nature, Jen blogs on topics as varied as summer jobs, to Ouija boards and how every other blog on earth has some sort of voting/rating system on it. Oh, and every post of hers is followed by a 'vote for this post at Humor blogs'. Life's funny, bloggers funnier still.

August 8, 2008

Happiness is a state of breast

Or who’s afraid of gravity?
Pre-Script: I will come back to the abortion ‘topic’ another day. For now I know that Life is the tenure we complete on this planet. Things often happen in a way, which force you to make choices -- if forced, can it still be called choice? -- that you had never considered in your This Will Be My Life plan. So letting sleeping dogs lie (or dead babies, dead?) we shall speak of...Boobs! (click on the pic on left and read the article on pin-up girls.)

If a woman talks about penises and men, it’s called penis envy; what when she talks – like I do – of breasts, incessantly? Boobonic plague?

The under-wired bra is the single, most evil invention meant to constantly denigrate the female body. It is a constant reminder of that which you don’t have, those that were once pert and those which look better on other women. Whether it was God or chemical reactions that lead to the evolution of the human body, Breasts were supposed to hang. Think about it. If breasts were meant to stand on their own or face a different direction (than down south), breasts would come with a set of bones in them. There are 24 ribs to hold the lungs in place (the rib cage); there could easily have been 16 more to mold the breasts and keep them on constant perkiness.

Now women are made to wear their insecurities on their chest. Irrespective of your cup size, you’re always doing something wrong and the bra-tzkreig will get you.

No cleavage? Try the bra with a ‘wow’ effect. HUGE boobs? Try the minimising bra. Saggy boobs? Try the push-up bra. Perfectly normal boobs? Try getting a “fitting” done to make them look even better because Pamela Anderson’s are the most admired boobs, Eva Longoria was the flavour of the season and Lara Croft can tomb raid without jiggling hers. OR, try a lace bra that ‘showcases’ them. Do it for yourself gurl!

Even though I have been generally happy with my breasts I realised that no matter what your boob size, there is always scope for improvement.

Realisation came as I modelled a backless outfit before Partner. Now Partner is usually considerate and particularly smart when it comes to ‘things you say/don’t to a woman’. Perhaps the slip-of-tongue was because he was fiddling with the remote... As I shimmied before him and demanded to know what he thought of the dress – which is usually a cue for any/every man to say he likes the dress – Partner took one look and said, “The dress is nice but if you had smaller boobs, you could have pulled off the bra-less look.”
And THAT pretty much is the truth. Happiness is not a state of mind, it’s a state of breast.
PS: I started thinking boobs (again) after reading ‘Go Fug Yourself’. Reasons hereunder.

The Hindustan Times, published, august 7, 2008
Fab, fad or fugly?
Jhoomur Bose
There are some things in life that are great equalisers and show how despite colour, caste and creed, human beings are pretty much the same the world over. Having a television camera shoved in your face is one such equaliser. It makes people say stupid things.

Like the Los Angeles police commissioner who was on a roll – happens when you put both your feet in your mouth – when speaking to KNBC-TV recently. When asked if the paparazzi was a problem in LA, police chief William Bratton helpfully added, "...since Britney started wearing clothes and behaving; Paris is out of town not bothering anybody anymore, thank God, and evidently, Lindsay Lohan has gone gay, we don't seem to have much of an issue." Er, right, except that Miss Lohan has an issue with the police making comments on people's personal lives and all that.

Unfortunately for Miss Lohan and Like (read, celebrities and celeb wannabes), life only gets more complicated. If the press, paparazzi and Mr Blackwell (of People magazine's Worst Dressed list fame) were not enough, the blogosphere has now unleashed the glamournazi on them. The bloggers who follow celebrity fashion and are adept at deconstructing celeb attires – even those who write on them – thread by thread.

Mrs Tom Cruise, aka actress Katie Holmes – lovingly referred to as 'Tommy Girl' – and fashion columnist/presenter Steve 'Cojo' Cojoruco (E! Entertainment) are the leading slam-icons with Dark Knight actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, making a close second. Pop Hangover declare themselves to be 'pop culture satire with a vengeance' and often list things and people in their 'Suck Files'. Despite questionable satire and too-evident vengeance, at least Pop Hangover is honest: "...the straw man in the Wizard of Oz had nicer hair than Cojo." Truth hurts.

Despite the subtlety-overkill, the glamournazi have a knack for coining new terms. Like D Listed that labels the Angelina Jolie-Brad-Pitt twin-hype as 'Brangeloonism'. The site garners its hit-counts from stating the obvious: "They look like babies. Seriously, just babies. I ran home from the bar for this?" But then, if People (allegedly) paid $ 15 million for the twin-shots, why blame the bloggers?

The cake for mastering anonymous bitchiness though goes to the writer(s) at Go Fug Yourself , who are found on the blogrolls (list of blogs you read) of many a reader and have declared ' fugly is the new pretty'. Fugly by the way, means very ugly.

Take them as authorities on what celebs should be wearing or see them as jealous, disgruntled writers, the glamournazi are sure 'gruntling' many even as they point to the efficacy of underwired bras to Gyllenhaal, "Fear gravity girl, for it does not fear you."

August 1, 2008

C for church. C for choice.

A for abortion.
Cocaine is illegal in umpteen nations of the world but the coca plant grows in the wild in other South America. Much like marijuana (Cannabis sativa subspecies, indica), which is regularly burnt off in big cities but grows wildly (it’s weed!) in the picturesque, small hillstation Manali. And why just Manali, I was pleasantly surprised (er, shocked that is) to find it growing in happy bushels in a very respectable colony in Ludhiana. Meanwhile Amsterdam has cafes selling ‘joints’. As you change nations and boundaries, you realise that facets taken for granted in one country/place are alien to another. Even illegal. And then some facets don’t change.

Like abortion. Or the presumption that brave women have babies and bitches kill theirs. Or sluts.

For one, whether it’s India where abortions are legal and dont have religious connotations attached or whether it’s Australia where it’s almost semi-illegal and would displease the Church (for Catholics), there is no sympathy/ empathy for a girl who chooses not to have a baby.

If a woman is pregnant and lord forbid, she has a miscarriage or loses the baby, her support system will be around her. It was a mother who lost her baby. She is allowed to mourn the loss. But if a girl chooses to terminate the pregnancy, the reactions change. No one considers that she could perhaps mourn the loss too. After all, she chose to kill her baby, didn’t she? She is the bitch who could “lie back and enjoy being fucked” (said by someone close when debating the abortion-issue) but did not have the moral strength to give birth to the product of her carnal sins.

She is the woman who for her selfish reasons did not have the baby. She should either not have had sex or should have ensured she did not get pregnant. What if she does get pregnant despite all precautions? What if she is raped?

“Unborn babies have finger nails,” said the girl holding a banner with the picture of a foetus still in the womb. It’s a scene from the movie Juno (2007). Despite the theme of teenage pregnancy, the movie is funny. Juno is funny. Was the joke on the audience though?

On instant recall, of the three Hindi (popularly known as Bollywood) movies that touch upon the subject of pre-marriage pregnancy, the formula has been more or less the same.

In 1969, there was Aradhana (literally means prayer, Sharmila Tagore, Rajesh Khanna), where the heroine gets pregnant with her lover’s baby and he dies in a plane crash. The result? She is ostracised, thrown out of her house. BUT she sacrifices her life, chooses to become a housemaid and have the baby. The audience empathised and the movie was a major hit.

In 2000, we had Kya Kehna (what’s there to say, not literal), where actress Preity Zinta’s character gets pregnant and the boyfriend backs out. She too chooses to have the baby even though her father stops talking to her and all that. The movie was lauded for taking a step towards the coming-of-age of the Indian screen woman. She does not cry, she roars! She was seen as a positive step for single mothers and the movie ends with the character’s best friend marrying her. La di dah!

Circa 2005, there was Salaam Namaste (Preity Zinta, Saif Ali) shot entirely in Australia. It was supposedly avant-garde in talking about live-in relationships and pre-marital pregnancy. The girl gets pregnant, the boy gets cold feet about having the baby, the girl bravely goes ahead with the pregnancy, boys realises mistake and comes back and they live happily ever after.

In the 30 years or so between the three movies, the message has been the same. If you are not married and you get pregnant, a brave, morally couragious woman WILL have the baby. Even if she becomes a house maid, even if her family ostracises her and even if she has to do it alone. A woman is always a mother. All portrayals of women who dont want children is negative. Whether it’s Eva Longoria’s character in Desperate Housewives or Priyanka Chopra’s in Aitraaz (a 2004, Hindi remake of Fatal Attraction).

Brave has baby, bitch kills baby. Or doesn’t want it.

Why is the emphasis always on s/he who is not born? If the pregnant woman is 16, why should she not think of herself? Or even if she is 26 and does not have the means to give that unborn child all s/he deserves – good food, a proper home, an education, adequate time, a father perhaps – is it more prudent to make something out of herself first or to have a baby in penury? Or even NOT have the baby because she is not ready?
I DON’T know the answers. I want to know.