*NEW* Recent blog entries

December 16, 2009

Same story,...

The rape of a woman who walks with strangers should be treated differently.

Moral of the story: If you were stupid enough to trust, you were asking to be raped.

The rape of girls who wear short skirts should be seen differently.

Moral: If you were wearing a skirt, showing your skin, enticing men, you were asking to be raped.

In the case of 15-year-old Scarlett Keeling, fingers are alternately pointed at the mother who left her daughter alone and the Indian state (Goa, Delhi, which do you want it to be?) where security is failing. Politicians of course are only too happy to point out that the late Ms Keeling was a drug addict, sexually active, etc etc.

Recently a 25-year-old Russian woman has been raped. And this moron, who is a Member of Parliament (Indian) is also saying the same thing.

That's not to say that it's just "foreign" girls and that Indian girls/women are not raped. Oh they are. Daily, every minute. Going by Indian (double) standards, Indian girls should not be vicitms of rape. They don't wear mini skirts, don't walk around with strangers, don't drink or do any of the things deemed "deserving of rape"...WHY are they raped?

Doesn't it make you sick?

December 15, 2009

Oh God.

Just wondering. Do you pray because you believe or do you pray because you're scared that if you don't, something/someone will punish you (sort of just to prove a point)?

Something like, God: "Haha, so you don't believe I exist? How about this and this and this..."

(Like those movies/books where he-who-didn't-believe finally had god proven to him in really nasty ways? Like being struck by lightening on a bright summer day?)

December 14, 2009

'I'm ready to blow'

This particular ad is causing quite a stir... do you think it's sexist and degrading?

October 30, 2009

Why I want to be a pussy


1. ... because I get to stay here in a suite where people are paid to cuddle me. ---->

2. I have no curfew hours and can go out whenever and wherever I want to.

3. Someone else prepares/bothers about my food.

4. Someone else also cleans my poo.

5. The fatter I get, the cuter I look.

6. I have no morals when destroying fresh garden beds or digging up newly planted saplings.

7. I can crawl on to strangers crotches and sleep there (umm).

8. I always choose good-looking strangers with (good-looking) crotches.

9. I will have videos on youtube dedicated to me. Like this one. Badly made, but it's not my fault, is it now? I'm a bloody pussy cat.

October 22, 2009


Groan. Moan. Gah.

I have had two job rejections in the last two days. One from a bookstore saying they don't have any vacancies and if I'd like to be in their looking-for-opening list for the next 3 months. I am back on the list. Again.

The second was from a media house saying they couldn't hire me because I need to be a permanent resident. Sigh.

If that wasn't bad enough, the latest -- book 37 -- in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series is out. And it's bloody AUD 49.50!!!! :(

And I've just spent AUD 400 -- again -- on bras and such. I need a job. I can cook. I need that book. Please.

October 7, 2009

Is this news?!

'Beheaded cop's son vows revenge on Maoists', screams this headline. The said boy is a mere 7-years-old. There is a link to the video where the boy is crying on camera.

What did the reporter(s) think when the boy said those words? Did they feel they had to protect the child because he has lost his father? Or did they think it was a brilliant sound byte? Given it's making headlines and should possibly garner hit counts... I don't think there was any thought for the child involved.

The brilliant reporter is further heard prompting the child, "Papa ka naam bolo." (Say your father's name) Was there any thought before airing that video? WAS IT NECESSARY?

And I wonder how the reporter got that byte. Did she perhaps ask, "Aap ko kaisa lag raha hai?" (How are you feeling?)


October 6, 2009

Got Art?


For a radical exhibition. You send in 1-2 of your nicer works. These guys curate it, print it, publicize it and show it at the only venue of its kind in New Delhi

Pop-Up-Art-House is a realtime, curated global art exhibit completed in 5 days, and showcased at the Arthouse Gallery in New Delhi, India for 2 weeks from Oct 9 2009. For more details download the PDF file.

What you need to do:

1. Tweet it/Digg it/Share it: Share the link for www.popuparthouse.com on your social networks
2. The medium of work can be any visual material, including moving image
3 The showing is NOT COMMERCIAL, so artists need not worry about sales. They will be credited with their artworks and bios etc. All info available here.
4. Share this mail / attachment with your artist friends, creative/professional networks. We are definitely looking at getting in good work and not just random stuff from all over. Anyone whose work you like personally is awesome for us.
5. A personal email /phone call to your selected artist will help a lot!
6. Remember we have only 2-3 days to get everything and then its about curating all that and figuring out the exhibit itself..so HURRY! :-)

Who's organising it?

Quicksand | CoDESIGN | BlindBoys | BLOT

October 5, 2009

I was there!

I did make it to the Durga pujo finale yesterday, held in Oakleigh. While I understand that comparisons to Delhi's Chit Park are stupid and there weren't as many people here, it was quite awesome to see so many Bengalis in Melbourne. :)

It was a perfect Sunday, the sun was out, the wind under control (can get quite mad here) and families milling about with kids, parents, pets and everyone wanting a bit of the sunshine. So there on Drummond street you had Melburnians wearing their typical uniform -- assorted clothing in greys and blacks -- and jogging or walking or doing their thing. And then a couple of cars stop outside the Oakleigh (Mechanical) Hall and out step women wearing bright saris (one was bright-bordering-on-fluoro orange with silver sequins all over), HUGE bindis, lovely gold bangles, shanka-pola and kids wearing the tiniest of dhuti-panjabis.

I was expecting cars to screech to a halt and everyone to stare: Here were Indians being 'flashy', speaking in their native tongue and clearly not integrating. Since Oakleigh is a Greek-majority area and the pujo venue was right next to an Egyptian church, I was pleasantly surprised when Drummond street happily carried on with its business and no Indian was beaten. :) So much for Australia being a racist country... I wish the media would look at the positives as well when it goes on harping about the nasty things.

The first question I was asked? "Tumi Kolkatar mei?" (Are you a Kolkata girl?) My response was of course that I'm not and I'm a probasi* Bangali, to which I was instantly introduced to a couple of other girls who were probasis. Now probasi means expatriat and I found it quite amusing that even though we were all sitting in Melbourne, there was the usual
Kolkata-or-probasi introductions.

My internet search had led to two pujo links: one by the Bengali Association of Victoria (BAV) and another by the Bengali Puja and Cultural Society of Victoria (BPCSV); I ended up going to the second one. The ladies I met there were very curious and very friendly and despite not knowing me at all, were quite ready to 'refer' me to their association. They were also very sweet to Partner, who was the only white person in the pujo hall. And no, he wasn't stared at either. Who says all Indians stare? ;)

And after five years, I finally participated in the pushpanjali ceremony. Strange that it should happen so far away from home... All in all, a very happy event and a rather long, eventful day after that. Satisfied.

September 26, 2009

Go Saints!

I'm off to a friend's house for an all-girl's Saturday. Nibbles, wine, cute apartment, warm hostess and watching my second Footy Grand Final this year. Last year's finalist, Geelong Cats are up for the cup this year too. Standing against them are the St Kilda Angels.

I barrack for the Essendon Bombers, however, given that they aren't in the finals -- we'll be there soon -- I'm hoping the Saints take the cup home. I do enjoy footy. A lot. Have a fun weekend y'all.
PS: Did I ever mention that initially -- and sometimes even now -- I find footy similar to Quidditch?! Partner thinks it's a blasphemy and I'm nuts. Shrug.

September 25, 2009

Dead children? Ha, ha.

I really don't understand 'political correctness'. An immediate example is the whole Shashi Tharoor and the cattle-class non-issue. Now apparently the minister has apologised (for being witty?). Since much has already been said -- both the politically correct and incorrect -- I'll desist from adding more. However, I want to know: Who decides the correctness of things?

Who decided that 'slumdog' is appropriate description/definition of the slum dwellers in India? If there is a logic to that nomenclature, can we refer to the moneyed, jet-set as Billionaire Bitches?
Perhaps Mr Boyle's 'slumdog' reference was merely for the protagonist of his film and was not a description of the 61.8 million (2001 census figures) Indians who live in slums.

However, for all purposes, 'slumdogs' is now being used to describe all slum dwellers. Television Channel 7, for instance has been advertising this episode of it's series, The World's Strictest Parents with the words, "...when they see how the slumdogs live..." When did Channel 7 decide that people who live in slums are slumdogs? Are they being politically correct? Chic even?

One of my father's favourite Dad-always-says-this lines comes up whenever we are watching Sholay. It's the scene where dacoit Gabbar Singh kills the Thakur's family. If you see the movie (or remember it), while the directors show Gabbar killing all adults, he does not show the child being shot. The camera gives us a close-up of the gun, the boy's perplexed face and moves away. Each time that scene comes up, my Dad says, "See, that's sensitive. You NEVER show a child dying, it's in bad taste." At least my Dad seems to have his ideas clear, not so with everyone.

Recently a popular Aussie TV series, ABC's satirical programme, The Chasers War on Everything got into trouble for making jokes about terminally-ill children. In an episode that's a spoof on the Make-A-Wish-Foundation, one of the Chasers host visits a childrens' cancer ward and concludes the episode with, "Why go to any trouble, when they're only gonna die anyway".

I realise that Chasers is satirical, much like South Park is deliberately blasphemous about everything. But do we draw the line somewhere? As I wrote earlier, who decides what's politically (in)correct?

Often when discussing this issue, people roll their eyes and say, "Oh we get sensitive about everything. It's a joke, we should stop taking ourselves so seriously." To be honest, I do agree with them that at times we get unnecessarily sensitive about stupid things. Like Tharoor and the cattle class. (While slumdogs goes unchallenged) At other times though, I have serious doubts and do think that this particular sense of humour -- more thoughtless than insensitive -- is rather overrated.

Like last evening, when watching an episode of animated series American Dad -- described as "...satirical, usually directed at the United States Government, the media or current affairs" -- the alien character Roger says, "...we will make your Dad cry like an African woman who cries when all are her children are blown up with a scatter/cluster bomb." (not exact quote)

Was that funny or did I miss the point? And if it's funny, can someone please explain the joke and let me know who's it aimed at?

Photo credits: Stanford uni (Tharoor), Sydney Morning Herald (Chasers) & TV Shows on DVD (American Dad)

September 24, 2009

Happy Pujo!!!

And on this Durga pujo I realise that Mohammad was always meant to go to the mountain. Always, even if it meant on youtube.com. Almost three years after an emotionally distraught denouncement of Durga, this Mohammad came crawling back... or trawling back. It was a friend's status update on Facebook, "That time of the year, waiting for the sound of the dhak," that got me by the gut and twisted so hard, I had to hear the dhak for myself.

I've never had the padha (colony/street) experience when growing up. Never been part of a 'cultural committee' that puts together the Durga pujo, of kids who participate in the evenings' entertainment, of young girls who help their mothers prepare stuff. I've always been the 'only visiting' variety. I've pandal-hopped with my parents, bowed and prayed before various idols and gone home. I've also never been in Calcutta/Kolkata for a pujo.

The most spectacular pujo and Ma-er mukh* I remember is from a pandal in west Delhi's Nivedita Colony. I was perhaps 12 years old and she was beautiful. We also had the most amazing kosha mangsho. What had captivated me though was the dhunuchi dancers and the trance inducing beats of the dhak they danced to. The girls were older, perhaps 18, amazingly graceful in their wide-padh sarees and they danced with so much rhythm, so much beauty... I wanted to join them. We didn't watch to see the whole thing because... for various reasons.

Ever since -- at different ages -- I've had a favourite dream sequence of doing a kickass dhunuchi dance, in a lost temple by myself with the most-beautiful Durga idol, huge torches on the walls and the biggest, loudest dhaks ever. I am in a white-sari-with-lal-border, a huge bindi, lots of kajal, hair open, sheathed in perspiration and I don't have a care in the world or awareness of anyone or anything else. And no one can stop me, laugh at me, ask me to go back home and I have no inhibitions about how I look or how my body moves. I'm aware only of the dhak that leads me. And I dance and jump and twirl and leap and collapse in a heap. I'm forgiven. Very filmi but I am very filmi and I love it and I love the dream and each time I hear the dhak, I know I'm going to dream again. (grin)
(Click for details about pujo in Melbourne --->)
The Nivedita Colony pujo is the last 'proper' pujo I remember. The next was in Kalimpong, me 14 in 'love' with a Bengali boy of the same age. And we all met at the pandal, he met my parents too and I hoped in my heart that he would be the man I marry. Ha ha, so silly, so innocent. Of course soon after I found out he was chasing a girl two years older, very beautiful, very fair etc. I don't recollect being heartbroken, I was definitely furious.

The subsequent Durga pujos are fuzzy, the ones in Amritsar involved going to the Army-arranged pujo, nothing spectacular, but the bhog as usual was delicious. Then I was in Delhi, the first year without my parents, in 'love' again, 21-years-old, standing before Ma's idol in Chittaranjan Park with much-older boyfriend, me a two-year-old journalist, dreaming of making a difference and happy I had a man and a career. The boyfriend had his wallet pickpocketed. And of course the relationship ended with much learning and serious heartbreak.

Repeat that story -- without the pickpocketing -- over five more years till 2006. The earth moved, I had many experiences I'd never intended having and my personal resume read of things that had earlier been on the list of bad things that could happen to me. Strangely -- and almost scripted -- the culmination was around Pujo time. So I told myself (and Durga), I wouldn't see her face again. Ever. I didn't go for pushpanjali. Didn't return phonecalls or 'happy pujo' wishes and avoided Durga. I tried sneaking a peek at her in newspapers yet eerily enough and despite the usual coverage in the media, I couldn't see her face that year. Not even a picture.

2007, due to stranger circumstances I was back at the Chit Park pandal. And I ran away. And life changed drastically and put me in Melbourne before the next year's pujo. I cried a lot last year. Didn't do anything on pujo, sat at home, blogged (of course) and cursed my stupidity at various levels. It was same with every other Indian festival in 2008. But I did promise not to repeat it in 2009. I might have left India but I don't want to leave India behind me.

I am not ashamed of my country. I am not confused about who I am and I know what I want. If those experiences will not just 'happen' to me, I shall seek them out. So this year, I should be at Oakleigh Street on October 4th. And maybe, I'll have a little dance with the dhak.

Happy Pujo all of you, particularly the ones outside India. Warm hugs and good wishes. And see this video, it is so, so beautiful. Many thanks to the creators.
*Ma-er mukh: Mother's face, reference to the face of Durga
PS: For the over-enlightened, non-Indians who'd wonder why Indians pray to gods with many arms, it's the same reason why say, Catholics pray to someone who turned water into wine.

September 23, 2009

An Indian in Melbourne

They all sit and discuss what they're working on.

The big man with his big voice and bigger smile was right there outside Melbourne Central, selling The Big Issue. He is standing before a poster of a model in a pair of slimming jeans. The model looks expectant, hoping someone would rip the jeans off. "Too skinny, not that pretty and has no tits," agreed two boys with so many pimples you couldn't make out the rest of their face.

The young couple passes them. The Japanese girl huddled into herself, shielding her chest from the biting wind. Her super legs erupted into pointed goose-bumps as her tiny denim shorts rode up her butt curve. She led her cute boyfriend who couldn't see clearly. His super-shiny, super-straight hair in that shaggy cut kept getting into his eyes. They run and cross the road, laughing, oblivious to the tram driver who looks furious. Love gives a fuck.

The Chinese woman nearly knocked over the magazine stand. It's a slope there and her little trolley was so heavy. Full of groceries for her daughter-in-law who allows her to live with them. She has the garage and she loves it. It's much better than the old age home.

The Indian girl walks by, sashaying in her dark green knee-high boots. She takes the perfect steps, toe before the heel and her butt moves seductively. There's so much make-up, it's almost like camouflage. Some Indian boys distributing pamphlets stop her, extending their hands to hand her one. She refuses and the vigorous shake of her head spoils her choreography. Her heel gets stuck in a pavement crack, she stumbles. "I am from Maldives, not interested," she says as they ask her if she needs help.

The Pakistani girl, all beautiful skin and lovely eyes and lovelier hair rages about the inequity of the legal system. Of how she needs to go back. On how she needs to change things. Her partner, chain smoking the fifth cigarette, advises her not to get killed. She declares she is not stupid.

The other Indian girl watches, realising that if she breathes she won't be able to pull her tummy in. Cursing that the wind will make her hair look all dry. Wondering if any story, particularly her story, matters to anyone. Then she spots a sign that smiles, "Hot hash browns", it says. She thanks god that food loves her and tries a chocolate she's never eaten before.

They all sit and discuss what they're working on. She says she wants to write about women's issues and equality. Another rolls her eyes and says, "We have voting rights and can wear what we want to. Feminism is so boring."

September 21, 2009

Roti and Roast- Update

Today's recipe if the very healthy and very tasty palak paneer, cottage cheese (can use ricotta or tofu as well) in a wholesome spinach gravy. The recipe uses only 1 TBS oil, no cream and with some garlic thrown in, it's good for just about anyone. Even if you hate spinach... Read story or Try the recipe

September 17, 2009

"Things I have to do"

Recently we saw Pixar's latest animated feature, Up. It was the second time I was watching a movie in 3D, the first being Spy Kids-Game Over. As a 3D and movie-watching experience, Up beat Game Over hands down.

Better effects, much better storyline, absolutely adorable characters and complete involvement for me as the audience. I really loved Up. It's a bit strange since when I had first seen the trailer -- before the screening of Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds -- my reaction had been "Duh, who wants to see a movie about a 70-year-old widower?" I am really glad that I was proven absolutely wrong.

I've always had a soft-spot for animated movies and those that are dubbed kiddie-flicks. What I enjoy about these movies is the lack of pretense. They all want to entertain you... Yes, there are messages in the movie, but I appreciate it that the messages are woven into the stories much better than those in 'adult' movies. Up is a total entertainer, whether you watch it alone, with your partner or with the entire family. It had me bawling -- but I bawl easily in movies -- in the first 10 minutes and then completely took me along for a laugh ride soon after. Even Partner, who is not always up for 'kiddie' movies (he refused go for Coraline), was smiling through Up and came out of the theatre happy as well. Other than the antics of the characters, the sheer brilliance of the 3D effects and the all the action in the movie, I related to some bits of Up in a really, personal way.

A week or so back I wrote a post on how I'm feeling that there's something big about to happen but I have no idea what... I've been stewing over it for a fair while now. When I stew, I get grumpy with people, feel unmotivated and I'm generally unpleasant. In other words, I'm not the best of company. Browsing through websites yesterday, I came across Up again. The message hit home.
Up talks about having a big adventure in life. Rather how we all wait for that something big to strike, to exhilirate and thrill us and to change our lives. I know I'm waiting. Waiting for a number of things to happen before I can say, "Yes, I'm happy now." And while I wait... I stew and I ignore all the little things around me.

Will I be truly happy only if I get a book published? I think I do a good job of keeping my house beautiful, I'm good with plants, getting better with cooking... But I often forget to be happy about those things because I am waiting for THE break. Will I be truly happy if I get married? And yet, I often forget to appreciate that I have a truly loving relationship, in fact, almost what I'd visusalised a "happy" relationship to be.

Will I be truly happy if I get a job? Of course that would mean earning money of my own... but to do what? Rather, what is it that I can't do now? A job would perhaps mean a sense of personal ratification, of putting a 'value' to my self worth in dollars. But am I not worth anything if I don't have a job or can't get one? Hmm. Ok, honestly, before making a big statement on that one, perhaps I need to sort out issues of self-worth within my head. :)

The point being -- and the message in Up -- is that we get so caught up in defining the big things that define happiness that we completely overlook the smaller things. We don't even notice them. I don't want to do that. I want to be constantly happy. Whether it means a sense of satisfaction when I sow the seeds and the first portulaca saplings burst out of my pots. Or swimming in the heavenly aroma of baked muffins that have turned out well. Or basking in the peace that spreads on Partner's face when he comes back to a comfortable, clean home. Or even enjoying the few, but treasured comments/conversation that I have on this blog.

I don't want to die regretting the things that I didn't do or didn't happen. I want to remember and cherish and enjoy the things -- however small -- that I have.

There are days I will forget and bemoan the lack of the big stuff, there are days I'm sure you will too. But here's hoping we both remember. That while we wait for the big stuff, we remember to look at the small ones and be happy about them. It will be emancipation in a way...

PS: Please do watch Up. You will not be disappointed.

September 16, 2009


So Patrick Swayze passes away, aged 57, after two years of combating pancreatic cancer.

One of the Aussie TV channels here showed a clip from his last interview (by Barbara Walters, ABC) where the interviewer asks his wife Lisa, "Have you thought of life without him?" Lisa tried to answer but choked up.

That question disturbed me a little. Scared me. Has any of us thought of life without the ones we love? There are those who lose people to sudden death. Then there are those like Lisa, who know someone they love is dying. Is it easier when you know?

Australia is big on talking about cancer. I never heard the word as often in India as I hear it here. It gives the feeling cancer is all around. It's scary. But I'm not sure of what scares me more: Being diagnosed with the disease or being the one who has to think of a life after someone I love is gone...

Till I came to Melbourne, I hadn't known anyone who had cancer, ie. not known them personally. Now I know at least one person who has survived testicular cancer.

How many of you know a cancer patient or a survivor?

PS: For all who cook, please check out LiveSTRONG With A Taste Of Yellow and contribute your recipe. It's a cancer survivor's way of spreading awareness... For those who don't cook, pass on the link to someone who does and spread the word.

September 14, 2009

This might not be that big, but it feels good nonetheless. Emancipation of Eve finds a teensy mention -- along with a host of other blogs -- on the Melbourne Writers Festival blog. :) Check it out and check out the other blogs/bloggers as well here.

Thanks to the organisers for giving us a mention.

September 9, 2009

I'm feeling it

Ever get the feeling something BIG is about to happen...but you have no bloody idea what?

That sense of suspense is running so thick through my blood, it's coagulating now. What? When? Good, bad or brilliant? Bad but manageable? Argh.

Good things that could happen:
1. Land a job in my line of work
2. Land a book deal, with heaps of advance, maybe two because they love me so much
3. Get sponsorship to open a cafe/restaurant/take-away
4. Get a baby... like without doing anything, like gift wrapped (er)
5. Get a puppy as a gift...and someone to walk it
6. Wake up tomorrow and suddenly know how to drive
7. Look 10 years younger, like that, without makeup
8. Get hired by Lonely Planet...along with advance and book deal, it will be called 'If Julia can, Jhoomur Bloody Well Can'
9. Partner proposes, while we are toasting the great new job and the advance on the book deal and we are standing before the Pyramids...tomorrow! And there's a dog at the foot of the Pyramid...with a gift wrapped baby on its back! With proper adoption papers! And the deal with adopting the baby involves having to run this restaurant. !!
10. All of the above

Bad thing that can happen:
None of the above. Sigh.
Pic = scrapetv

September 8, 2009

Killer sardar and Delhi roundup

First up, there's an excellent photo exhibition starting in Delhi. The exhibition is titled 'Juvinilia Juxtaposed' and features some really good photographers like Udit Kulshrestha, Sephi Bergerson and Bandeep Singh. For details about the exhibition, mail galleryragini@gmail.com or for those in Delhi, call 011-29522077.

For all those who have not heard of the revolution... here goes to this song and to mera Bharat mahaan. Pass on to all those who would appreciate it.

September 7, 2009

Opium in your food?

The first time I made this dish in Australia, many wondered if, "Poppy seeds! Oh my god, opium...does this make you high?" The answer...? There have been news reports on people getting addicted to poppy seed tea.... Read story Try recipe

September 3, 2009


As far as I can remember, Amul chocolates were perhaps the first ones to cash in on the whole "gift for someone you love" idea in India, much before Archies and Hallmark came about and created a thousand reasons to buy cards, pendants, cassettes and a whole plethora of gift items.

I was considered one of the uncool ones in school, I didn't believe in Valentine's Day. According to the Valentine's Day myth, if you 'proposed' someone, they had to say yes. The idea had terrified me, more so because a) I didn't have that many suitors and b) I was rather shy then (!). After much resistance I decided it was worth the effort of making a Valentine's Day card... Only to learn I was still uncool because who wanted a hand-made card? Archies had much better options. So I scraped money to buy one only to be told there was a Rose Day and a Chocolate Day card -- and a rose and chocolate respectively -- to be bought as well...

Then suddenly there was Friendship Day, quickly followed by Teachers Day (strangely, Independence Day cards never really sold...) I didn't get a whole lot of pocket money and therefore the most prudent thing to do was not participate in any of it. It didn't do much to my popularity and till date, the record stands that I've never received a Valentine's Day card. In fact, for some unusual reason -- there's a research on that somewhere -- come 14 Feb, I've usually ended relationships/associations.

Somewhere in my late teen years, there started the whole thing about Mother's Day, quickly followed by Father's Day and Save the Dolphin Day or the belated versions of all these cards and days or a Sorry card to well, say sorry if you missed any of the days...

The cards I've treasured and went to some lengths to make were the birthday and anniversary cards, mostly hand-made. I was one of those kids who are very good at copying stuff. I was a pro at 'making' Garfield, Donald Duck and other cartoon figures and had quite a flair with water colours... For at least 8-10 years, my parents have received various versions of cartoon couples for their anniversary, which changed to various water colour flowers as I grew up.

My family knew I liked funny cards and those were the ones I got for my birthday. The most treasured cards though -- I still have them -- were the ones made by my little brother (who's now a foot taller than me and in his first job! Yay!) Like this particular one that said 'The World's Greatest Sister' -- made from an A4 'register' sheet, folded into a card, a mug cut out from one side of the sheet, coloured with crayons and stuck on the other side with a cotton ball under it. The card was magical, the spellings were perfect (heh, he was 6/7 years old) and it had a 3D effect... Now I don't make cards, neither does my brother and in fact after many years we managed to be together for his birthday this year when I was visiting India.

In Australia, it's a big thing to celebrate the 18th, followed by the 21st, then 25th and then 30th and so on... Maybe because we shifted cities so much, or because our father was strict or whatever, we never really had any memorable teenage birthdays. Rather they involved only the four of us. This year, in June, we went out, Partner, Brother, me, Dee and another Aussie-friend-in-India... and had a blast. Later in the hotel room, my now-grown-up brother said, "Dibhai, this was my best birthday ever." He turned 25, oh I love him. I am also digressing...

Increasingly today I find that wedding couples, engagement couples, expectant mothers, birthday candidates... Everyone prefers cash instead of a gift. Those who have to give gifts are relieved they don't have to think much, those receiving are relieved because at least they can use the cash instead of getting something they don't want or already have.

In fact in Australia, there is a list of gift items to select from at weddings. So as an invited guest, you see the list and pick what you want to 'gift'. Some weddings even tell you the store the couple would like the gift from. I find it quite amusing and somewhat depressing. Aren't gifts supposed to be thought out? Something that shows you know the person you're giving it to and have put some effort thinking about it? Is it still a 'gift' if you're asking for it? If there is a demand list? Or is all just a scam?

Now there are advertisements everywhere for what to buy your Mom or Dad for Mothers and Fathers day respectively. It's all the same stuff. While I've never had trouble buying mom something, buying gifts for Dad was always a challenge. It seems it's the same thing the world over...I wonder if they too would prefer cash.

What's the best gift you've received or gave that the other side really liked?
Pic courtesy: edupics

August 31, 2009

Really good for chucking

Once upon a time in 2006, I needed the money -- and friends said they loved the food -- so I decided to cater for friends' parties. Except the first party I catered to, I ended up throwing this egg-sausage dish on the host's face....
Read the story / Try the easy recipe

August 30, 2009

I don't love you anymore.

It's a regular day. You two have been together for years, have built a house, a future, dreams together. You have your arguments and times you get irritated with each other, but overall, you'd say you are happy.

And then one fine day your partner -- husband, fiance, long-time girlfriend -- turns around says, "I don't love you anymore."
What will you do?
Pic = zazzy.com

UPDATE on 31/8/2009

Of the 10 early responses on this post, the common reactions to the questions above are:

1. Shock
2. Refusal to beg or self-pity
3. Hurt
4. Alimony, court, divorce
5. Be brave, move on

One response takes it as a sense of freedom; another is very cynical of the whole mushy-mushy thing says the declaration should not come as a shock. Waiting for more responses.

August 29, 2009

Of (book)slut and searching rape

Other than the date mix-up where I missed the Fables and Fantasy reading, I've attended two sessions at the Melbourne Writers Festival. One was a sham-of-a-discussion about marketing in the digital age and another was a really good workshop about independent publishers (small press publishing), Amazon's arm-wrestling tactics and integrating online-offline ventures.

The digital marketing talk/discussion was too short and involved the rep from publishing giant RandomHouse shamelessly selling his products/projects and blog-to-website case study, Jessa Crispin of Bookslut being so irritatingly laconic, it was a joke she was there at all. The only person who added some sort of value was Adam Noonan from Lonely Planet. Details about both events in another post.

One of the topics that came up in the digital marketing talk was Search Engine Optimisation (SEO); it got me looking into the statistics for this blog... Where are people coming from, what are they reading, how much are they reading etc. And the results worry me.

Yesterday, I put up that silly 'sex post'. It had nothing in it. The headline was "hot sex positions". The blog got 234 total readers and 437 page loads. Sex sells (shrug). Even on days this blog is not updated -- or the months it isn't! -- or has posts on books or other non-sex-things, there are still about 100-150 readers who come in.... It should make me happy. It does not.

According to my blog's stats, the three most popular posts -- that people search for and come here -- involve child abuse, rape and women's undergarments. And none of those people were/are looking to read a lecture.

1. Rape post: Rape and how to get away with it in India (click to read)
Written in Feb 2008 as a reaction to the increasing number of rape cases being reported in the media and the increasing number of rapes in New Delhi. However, my question is: Are those searching for "rape" or clicking on the Digg.com link to that post (thankyou whoever) coming in to read about why NOT to rape a woman or for some other reason?

2. Child abuse: I am busty teen writing about my first time
This was one of the earlier posts on the blog, written in 2006 after a particularly harrowing conversation with someone close, someone who had been abused. She still remains confused about it, was she abused? Or did she invite it?

What disturbs me now is that people/men/women come in to read that article expecting something salacious about teenage girls. Usual searches that point to that piece include keywords "busty", "15 year old busty teen" or "teen girl naked".

3. Morality and double standards: Bra, brazen and bolti bandh
Written in June 2008 in response to certain Indian right-wing political parties declaring that Indian women wearing jeans was "anti-Indian". The post questioned the Indian moral police and was one of the episodes in the Mishraji stories. However, people click on that link because it has "bra" in it; and some are searching for naked pictures of the actress Rambha.

I am not complaining about search engines pointing to my blog, some people perhaps stay on, read, perhaps come back. What scares me is that people are searching for rape and abuse. That.

August 28, 2009

Hot sex positions!

Sex. sex. SEX. sex. Sex. sex. SEX. sex.

Haan. That should do it. Ok, comments please.
Pic: Stefan.blog; xkcd

August 27, 2009

To f**k or not to...

"Everything sounds funnier with the word F**K in it."

That's the little badge my classmate gifted me a couple of days ago. Do you:

1. Agree, f**k yeah.
2. Disagree, what is happening to the purity of language.
3. WTF?!

Now some facts -- powered by Wikipedia of course:

1. F**k can be used as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, or interjection and can logically be used as virtually any word in a sentence.
2. Study of the attitudes of the British public found that f**k was considered the third most severe profanity and its derivative motherf**ker second. C**nt was considered the most severe.
3. Some have argued that the prolific usage of the word f**k has de-vulgarized it.
4. F**k... may be common in informal and domestic situations. (!)
5. The Canadian Press now considers f**k to be commonplace and has added usage advice to the Canadian Press Caps and Spelling guide.

And you can get more such nuggets here.
Pic courtesy: WebHamster, Wikimedia

August 26, 2009

Who wants to kiss the frog?


The following picture might not be suitable for everyone; viewer discretion is advised. Since you've been warned, heart attacks and spewing cannot be blamed on this website.

Also, copyrights exist. If this photograph is found on your website -- without a link to my website -- you're gonna be in trouble. :)

Will you eat that? That's just one of the things I tried and nearly tried on our trip to Laos- Vietnam-Cambodia. Click on album link to see more.

For the record, those frogs ie. once alive frogs, were headless and skinless but were STILL JUMPING in the bowl. They were alive... Does it enhance their taste?

Also if any of you -- especially the meat-eaters -- go "Oh how cruel" when you see/saw the frog picture, please remember that goat, sheep, fish, cows, pigs etc ALL must feel the pain.

For those who eat lamb/goat/beef but frown at others who eat dogs, cats and horses, I have a question: Do you think it's hypocritical that we choose to pet some animals while we eat the others? Or look down upon those who might eat everything?

Stuffing my face from Laos-Vietnam-Cambodia

August 24, 2009

Not quite...

I am constantly aware I am in a different land. It's not fair to either 'home', to compare it to the other.

Delhi doesn't look half as beautiful as Melbourne does at sunset.

And Melbourne does not smell as delicious as Delhi when it rains.

Like today. But shouldn't the earth smell the same?

I miss that earthiness. Sometimes.

Pic: Lemon drop, flickr

August 22, 2009


This is turning out to be an idiot week for me. I am SO furious and I'm more furious because there's no one else to be furious at but me. I am... gaaaaaaaaaaah.

So I have this stupid white board on which I supposedly write down important dates, things to do and such like. And so I marked, in bold, with a circle around it, 22nd August, ie, today to go to the Australian Centre for Moving Images (ACMI). The Melbourne Writers Festival kicked off yesterday and I was booked in for three events. Two are next week and this one I paid for and really wanted to attend.

Pics (l-r): Authors Tom Cho, Antoni Jach
and Cyril Wong (Courtesy MWF)

It was called 'Fable, Fantasy and the New Short Story' with authors Tom Cho and Cyril Wong, and chaired by author Antoni Jach. So I rush to ACMI today, reach on time am very excited. Only for the guard to look at the ticket and tell me it was yesterday. He was right. I was stumped.

I am SO stupid. For the last two days I have been discussing and reading up on author Alice Pung -- for other reasons and who's event was today -- and while thinking of Pung and wanting to for Fantasy managed to write the wrong f*****g date on the white board.

I am SO upset. :(

August 21, 2009

Day 6: Gay bar, still in Luang Prabang drunk.

Found this post hiding in the written-but-not-published section. Brought back (weird) memories so publishing it now... Written on 22nd May, 2009, Luang Prabang, Laos. Also, I'm not editing it to retain the flavour. ;)

Hello hello
the one thing i love about this blog is that i can be myself. phhhhrst to those who think that blogs are self-indulgent. Even if they are, so bloody what?

Today can be labelled as Rip Off Day...went to Tadse waterfall which had no water and no fall and we payed USD $ 3 for it. Yes, its meagre but someone is earning it and being ripped off is not a good feeling.

Back from a foot-leg and head-shoulder massage. OOOOOH they are bloody good. PArtner makes faces that i have never seen before. Bought a Terry Pratchet book. Itbasu should like it, though i wouldna said so if i weren't drunk. As i have mentioned before, it takes very little to get me drunk. Today --- after massage -- it was but one Long Island Ice tea. bloody good drink i say. its my first in 3 days. The Laos beer is called 'Beerlao' and i cannot have it because i just dont like beer. Pardon typos and weird English because right now i am thinking in English, Hindi and a smattering of Laos...

So bloody waterfall was dry and got bitten by 14 mosquitoes...i know because I counted. Then we slept off because I awoke at 5 am to shoot monks. Shoot as in camera. :D The monks are given little handfuls of sticky rice. Most menus here write it as "Stricky rice", much like Indian menus that have "stop parantha", which means stuffed paranthas. Phonetics is a funny business.

So i shot monks and spoke to a 1-year-old Canadian journalist. As in she's been a reporter for a year. She's taking a break from her work and her boyfriend. They've broken off for the period she's travelling. I felt jaded. She called me jaded. Whatever.

BY the way, the massage girls said Indian girls are beautiful, while asking me if I wanted a pedicure. So i don't think it was for me. It was for the dollars. Blah, whatever, I am 52 kgs. :( I just shouted because a huge ugly moth went down my cleavage. Everyone else gave me a look. To check out Partner, we are in a gay bar. It's the only one that's open. And it's right on the street so. Thankgod Partner is a boobs-man and not a butts' man...

August 19, 2009

Ask, you idiot.

Oh well. So much for being smart and all that, some days just aren't meant for you.

(Phone ringing waiting for Partner to pick up)
Hello. (Partner sounding busy)
Hi, you've got a minute? Can I talk to you?

Yeah sure... (Partner's voice changing now, expecting Something Serious)
No, no, nothing serious. Just wanted to tell you to mark 12th September on your calendar. It's a Saturday and X friend's birthday. He's invited us...

Yeah sure. Where is it? (Partner sounding relieved and back to sounding busy now)
Oh it's some place called TBA. Y'know like Q'Bar? Do you know where it is?

(Partner v.e.r.y. silent)
Hello? You there? No worries if you don't know, I can always ask him later...

(Partner choking)
Hello? Are you all right? Are you choking? You don't have to worry about TBA right away you...

(Me, shocked) (Partner still laughing)
Baby... TBA is not a place. It's To Be Announced.
OH. (Scowl)
(Me, hang up the phone)

So that's the story and no matter how many of you would have known instantly what TBA was, I declare a war on abbreviations. I've had it with them. If RSVP wasn't enough -- and I still can't remember the damn thing -- now we've got a whole plethora of them.

There are the email ones, from cc, bcc, fyi, tc etc. To food-related, BYO, F&B etc. To the various gradings in movies, PG, UG, M, R... To the various emoticons. :P And of course, the one that I really cannot stand but am being forced to use... "xx" at the end of letters/mails/sms-es. It's not even an abbreviation, it's an alphabeticon (sic). Initially, and I dare you to laugh, I thought it meant 'over-and-out'... Till I received an email with 'xxxxx' and there was a sudden ping! in my brain and I realised an 'x' meant a kiss. (So 'xxxxx' means the other is slobbering over you?)

Sigh. I've learned HTML to a degree, can understand CSS and even RSS (not Rashtriya Seva Sangh)... but I really cannot keep up with all this anymore. I can't. I am 30. Please no. :(

PS: While looking for an appropriate picture to depict 'idiot' (should've used my own), came across Fyodor Doestoevsky's The Idiot and this quote from the book,
"...nothing offends a man of our day and our race more than to tell him he is not original, that he is weak-willed, has no particular talents and is an ordinary person." (Part One, Chapter Ten)
And to think that was first published in 1868. It holds true today as well, or so I think. No?

August 18, 2009

Useless Khan-troversy!

So 'superstar' Shah Rukh Khan is allegedly detained for two hours at the Newark airport. Allegedly because US customs officials say the delay/checks were only "a little more than hour" and the rest of the delay was because SRK's luggage was lost. The Indian media -- not surprisingly at all -- raised a furore about it. The Times of India cried that SRK had been detained for being a Khan. IBNLive.com quotes Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram saying, "US overdid it with SRK". (Et tu Chidu?)

Quick flashback here: On 21st April 2009, former Indian president APJ Kalam was frisked at the Indira Gandhi International airport prior to boarding a Continental Airlines flight. The airlines was subsequently pulled up and made to apologise. Interestingly though, the frisking happened despite the Indian government having a list of VIPs who do not require security checks. This list was ignored by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the US governing body responsible for security of US transportation systems.

Given that certain Indian VIPs have some dubious -- if yet unproven -- distinctions on their resumes, why should there be a list at all? Some examples: Narenda Modi was allegedly involved in the Godhra burnings (cleared of charges in 2008). Former home minister LK Advani was the alleged mastermind of the Babri mosque demolition. and Bollywood filmstar Sanjay Dutt was allegedly involved in the 1993 Mumbai blasts (since cleared of terrorism charges but to serve six years in prison for possession of illegal arms, ie, an AK-47 gun). Stepping outside Indian borders, US President Richard Nixon was involved in the Watergate scandal and Bill Clinton was impeached (and acquitted a year later). WHY should VIPs -- anywhere in the world -- be exempt from any rules and regulations?

If former president APJ Abdul Kalam was frisked at New Delhi airport, why not Khan in the US? As for SRK's detention, it's apparently because 'Khan' is a most-common name in the US names database. Why should that shock anyone? For instance, according to Wikipedia, if you check in the United Kingdom, Khan is the surname of "over 80,000 Britons and is of only a handful of non-British or Irish originating surnames to be in the 100 most common surnames list." (Full list here)

So the US is stopping and questioning all Khans. Racism? Minority profiling? Preventing another terrorist attack? Maybe all, maybe not. What I'd like to know is whether we are crying out because a Muslim was detained for too long or because it is a Bollywood star who was stopped?

I have a feeling it's the latter. Midday quotes actors Irrfan Khan and Zayed Khan as being "humiliated" because they were detained for questioning. Were they abused? Were they called names? If regular, non-VIP people are being stopped and need to follow procedures, why should there be a furore when filmstars are involved?!

If a Rashid Khan or Bashir Khan or some other Khan is stopped, it is okay because they could be terrorists? Actor Irrfan Khan -- who I interviewed in 2000 and seemed quite intelligent back then at least -- has been quoted saying, "...Surely they can tell the difference between a terrorist and an innocent traveler." Arre miyan, terrorism is not coded in the DNA you know.

To cut a long story short, why are we getting our underwear in knots over SRK's detention? If it is human rights violation, sure take it up but NOT because it's some VIP-rights violation. If we find the US security checks too stringent, perhaps we should stop whining and do something with our security issues as well. Lest we forget that in the recent Mumbai attacks of 2008, Kasab and others simply got off a bloody boat...

PS: As for SRK insisting the US needs to offer warmth, please shutup.
Pic courtesy: Beyondasiaphilia

August 17, 2009

"Unacceptable Size 6..."

According to Devil Wears Prada, size 6 is the new size 8. But I don't care.

While shopping for a new pair of jeans -- to go with the new pair of boots -- I fit into a size 6 jeans! And that when size 8 has been getting tighter! And my bum bigger, or I think it looks it! But I fit into a size 6 jeans. Yippee yea! I will always buy Country Road.

And the joys of discovering you fit into a size 6 jeans?
A can of Coca Cola
A packet of extra fried, extra salty potato chips... with gravy
Chocolate icecream
2 Oreole cookies...and a whole lot of guilt-free staring at Timtams and Snickers bars.

PS... and ignoring the muffin top.
Pic courtesy: G Images

August 10, 2009

Things Mom did NOT tell me...

... on how to make a relationship work. Over the years, Ma has told me a number of things on how to have a lasting, successful and happy relationship - in that order - with special emphasis on the 'lasting'. Most of those things have involved me -- always -- doing those things. However, and I say this with a heavy heart, an aching back and at the absolute end of my short-lived, rarely seen patience... I think Ma either missed out a whole lot of stuff or intentionally didn't tell me.

Like having to watch sport all the time. Like ALL the time. I could perhaps understand footy (Australian League Football), I can even understand tennis. If it's the Ashes, I can even understand cricket. What I DON'T understand is sudden interest in rugby, followed by golf (so s-l-o-w), the Tour de France because there's-nothing-else-on-TV and worse, "watching" stupid blokes in weird clothes playing poker. Poker!?

Or that a lasting relationship means having to put the lid back on everything. Like EVERYTHING. Bathroom, toothpaste lid is missing. Breakfast table, from the milk, jam, butter, vegemite; nothing has the lid back on. Re-warmed something, the microwave door is wide open. Cutlery drawer, of course it's too much to push it back. I've heard women have to pick up strewn clothes... but shutting doors and putting the lids back on everything?!

Or wet towels off the floor. It's been used, it will need to be used again and it is not pleasant using it when it's wet. So why not put it out? Nope, doesn't work that way. And strangely, it is always followed by a surprised, "How come there are no towels in the bathroom?" Because maybe they are all on the bed?

Or man sickness. LORD how I can't understand man sickness. I used to think it was only my Dad who was, well, weird. Whenever Dad was ill -- includes cough and cold -- he had/has this habit of groaning loudly. Like lying in bed, sniffling and groaning. Not because it was hurting him but because Dad truly believed -- even argued about it -- that groaning loudly made him feel better.

So period pain is something that can be fixed with a tablet and comes with a "But you should be used to it, it's monthly, right?" But common cold, muscle ache due to sudden over-zealous exercise, cough, post-all-night-drinking-headache. are all matters of urgency. They need to be dealt with chicken soup, constant fussing, a massage in appropriate places, favourite food being cooked and of course, total control of the TV remote control.

And of course, total control of the TV remote control. What's so wrong with watching a soap opera or some reality TV show? One is make-believe and the other is watching other people make an ass of themselves. At least unlike poker, it does not involve some loser competing with other losers on who loses the most money. I don't understand "watching" poker at all.

Ma did mention compromise though. And honestly, it's never been a favourite word. Hrmph. Gotta go, there's a wet towel to be picked up.

PS: All hints, tips and arguments are welcome.
Pic courtesy: 4tnz

PS: Wearing the shoe on the other foot, the Partner's list would perhaps read something like:
1. Constant praising of everything cooked; re-warmed dishes previously praised included.
2. Too much money spent on buying plants; I've heard of women buying clothes and jewellery but $ 200 on saplings?
3. A sudden interest in sickening soap operas just because there's a very important poker tournament on.
4. Absolutely imperative things to discuss just when the third English wicket has fallen...
5. Constant debates on anything remotely related to India, women, liberation, porn...
6. Intense discussions on Harry Potter... everytime she re-watches the movies 1-5...
7. (I'm sure there are more) ;)

August 8, 2009

Now and then....

Found this picture -- a forward -- lurking in the archives of my inbox.

Did they know their lives would change so drastically?

Richard Bach writes in Illusions, "Don't turn away from possible futures before you're certain you don't have anything to learn from them. You're always free to change your mind and choose a different future, or a different past."

Really? Can we choose a different past?

PS: That's the former Prime Minister of India, the late Rajiv Gandhi (assassinated) and wife Sonia Gandhi, who's now the president of theNational Congress Party in India. She is also the chairperson of the currently ruling coalition government. A pretty girl, a pretty dress, a still-clean city. Today, the most powerful woman in India. Can she change her past...or her future?

August 5, 2009

Happy Rakhi.

So well, Rakhi is happy. And happy Rakhi as well everyone. It's been ages since I've been with my brother on the festival. Most times I've forgotten to send him a rakhi, most times he has been upset; and yet this year, I miss him the most.

Over the years, the ethos of rakhsha bandhan (literally, the tie that protects) has been changing. And that Rakhi's not the only one. From a festival that celebrates the brother-sister relationship, it's morphed into something bizarre.

Rakhi is celebrated by a sister tying a holy thread around her brother's(s) wrist and the latter vowing to 'protect' her. If the sister is older, it is she who 'protects' the brother. Personally, I think it's one of the few Indian festivals that actually treats women as empowered beings. In what other festival/celebration/ritual in India do you have the man looking for protection from the woman? (For the origins of the festival, click here)

When we were children, the festival meant a really gaudy, the biggest possible, the most showy rakhi -- I don't mean Sawant -- for him and my favourite cassette for me. To avoid any fights on who got the better gift, Ma would buy us both a Cadbury Dairy Milk; it was a great equaliser. As I grew older -- I'm five years older to him -- I wanted cash instead of the 'gifts'. Ma wouldn't have any of it since that would have meant giving my bro cash as well, he was too young for it.

In school -- around 11-12 years-old-- boys used to dread this festival. No one wanted his crush to tie a rakhi on his wrist and over a single woven thread, change his status from possible suitor to adopted brother. While I've witnessed boys running away when a rather pretty girl approached them with a rakhi; I unfortunately, seemed to be everyone's favourite choice for an adopted 'sister'. Perhaps it was because I was good at academics, perhaps the wanting-to-be-adopted brothers thought I'd do their homework. Hah.

Yet, I didn't have as many 'rakhi brothers' in school as the other girls did. The reason was my dad. Pa firmly believed and firmly forbade me from adopting any new brothers because, "I know how these boys think; they try to get closer by 'becoming' brothers. You don't need anymore brothers." As I grew older I realised Pa was bloody right.

became a convenient way of getting closer to the girl you liked. So boys and the object(s) of their desire would 'become' brother-sister, tied by a flimsy thread; she would expect a 'gift' from him and he would have wet dreams at night. Despite Pa's dire warnings, nothing much changed for me though. Boys still wanted to be my 'brother' -- now at 17 -- though this time it wasn't for academics alone. My chest size had changed.

I moved out of home at 19 and since then, Bhai and me have been together on rakhi only once or twice. I'm not too sure. While my cousin sister remembered to post him a rakhi, I forgot. Always. I stopped believing in rakhi...along with a lot of things. It all came down to either "It's all mythology" or "Hah, I know what s/he is thinking."

I've just sent a rakhi e-card to Bhai. Perhaps distance makes the heart grow fonder towards 'Indian culture' and ties that bind. It was a shocking experience. While I was expecting rakhi designs... I was definitely not expecting 'smileys' wearing rakhis...and even a chimpanzee on one card. As I said, rakhi has changed. (Please see this picture--->!)

I sent a rakhi to my brother as I wanted him to know I remembered. (Also because he emailed me two days back saying "Mom says rakhi is on 5th, don't forget). More than that, after a huge amount of struggle, my little brother is finally, slowly, on the path to a happier life. I just wanted him to know I love him and miss him; no matter how much the festival itself has been bastardised and commercialised. Or maybe they are both the same thing. Much like Rakhi Sawant's televised 'engagement' and forthcoming marriage.

PS: For the few fortunates who might not know, the chick in the pic (hah!) is a Bollywood dancer called Rakhi Sawant. Some in the media call her a "sex symbol"; they never specify for whom. Rakhi's been on an Indian reality TV show where she "selects" her husband from a number of aspirants. Apparently there was no cash involved and Rakhi was/is the prize. She got "engaged" on the show a couple of days back and apparently will get married on TV. In Australia, you have Farmer Wants A Wife, where 5-6 Aussie farmers are the catch -- and a million-dollar, all-expenses paid wedding -- and girls compete for their attention, and perhaps their hand. Without being judgemental about either Rakhi or the girls on Farmer, I just wonder... Are we all that lonely and desperate that we're willing to go on air with our courtship(s)?

July 28, 2009

The visa-rd of Oz

I've had two productive days now. Days where I've maniacally cleaned the house, ticked off stuff from my to-do list and written some. Yesterday was class-day and after some workshopping and one-on-one with the professor, I was at the coffee shop for a much-needed sugar-hit. As I collected my cappuccino, joked about my sugar intake -- two-and-a-half teaspoons -- and extended my arm to pay, a girl barged in.

She was Indian, perhaps 17-18 years old, looking scared and tired. She pushed the others lining up for coffee and demanded in broken English, "Iwanjoeb." The cafe girl couldn't understand her. The Indian girl clutched her bag closer to her chest and repeated, "Iwanjoeb." Her accent was... unintelligible. The others around were staring at her, some confused, some amused, some irritated. I was still holding out the change for my coffee. The cafe girl looked at me.

I asked the Indian girl, "Naukri chahiye?" (You want a job?) She looked at me, scared, nodded. There was a boy standing behind her, barely older than her, looking angry... I took them outside, made them sit. They obeyed... they were so trusting, it was scary and was making me very uncomfortable.

"Do you have a CV?" I asked.
She looked confused.
She still looked confused.
"Do you have a bio-data?"
Light finally dawned.
"Nahin. No, I don't have," was her response.
"You will need a bio-data to get a job."
"I did not know that... I don't know where to get one," she replied.
"You don't 'get' one, you have to write one."
"What do I have to write in it? I don't know."
I was stunned.
"When did you come here?"
"Three months back."
"India... Punjab...(city name)*."
"Student visa?"
"What college?"
"XXXX* university."
"What are you studying there?"
"Who told you to come to this cafe and ask for a job?"
She hesitated now, looked at the boy, who so far had not said a word.
"They said I should walk into places and ask..."
"Have you worked before?"
She shook her head. No.

I knew it was a stupid question. She came from a small town in Punjab, right out of school. From what I know about similar backgrounds, she probably ever only stepped out of the house to go to school, perhaps accompanied by her father or brother. I asked her about the "they", she looked uncomfortable and began fidgeting with the strap of her bag. On further questioning she mentioned she had cleared her 10+2 (grade 12) last year with "non-medical" and a 60 per cent. 'Non-medical' for those outside India means she studied physics, chemistry and mathematics. I asked her if she had cleared it under the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), which is the national education board. She had done her schooling under the Punjab state board. Firstly, she studied under a state board; secondly, with her marks, she would not get into a 'good' college in India. And she is here in Australia, doing a multimedia course...

In my conversation with her, she could barely manage to speak basic English. Even her Hindi was laced with a thick Punjabi accent. The boy didn't speak at all and looked around at everyone suspiciously. I didn't know what to do... I pulled out my resume and showed it to her. She asked if it was okay for her to simply mention her school degree and the college she was studying in... I said yes. We parted ways. She perhaps went away hopeful, I remained shaken up.

I came back home and checked the website for the college the girl mentioned. It provides courses in multimedia, hairdressing and community welfare amongst others. All vocational courses. It has a student services section that apparently provides help on accommodation service, airport pickup and also has a job club. According to the 'job club' website, students are provided help in the form of, "... students are shown how to write their resume in English and are given individual advice on how and where to look for a job during the session... . students assistance with finding a job."

If those are the services provided by the job club, why was that girl walking around without a resume? Without any clue on how to go about things? Did she not approach the job club? Or did she not understand what the job club said? When speaking to her, it was apparent her English was far inferior to the minimum needed to continue any life here.

On checking the college website, the basic requirement of English for a multimedia course is a score of 5.5 on the IELTS course. Now the IELTS exam has four sections, one of them is spoken English. If she couldn't say "I want a job" clearly and could not even string two sentences... How did she clear the IELTS? How did she get a seat in the college?

Every week here, there have been stories in the media about the entire Indian-student-visa-scam. The Australian media is going a darned good job of looking deeper. Quite unlike the Indian media, which created a furore about students being beaten up in Australia, labelled the country 'racist' and has since not bothered to delve into the subject any further. On Monday night, TV channel ABC1's investigative programme, 4 Corners, had a very good investigation on the issue. This episode was called Holy Cash Cows.

Reporter Wendy Carlisle looked at the reasons behind the rise in the number of Indian students in vocational courses over the last five years, the scams operating in Australia and India that allow unqualified students to come into the country -- forging IELTS scores, work qualifications etc -- and further migration scams that provide similar fraudulent documents to enable such students (and others) to apply for permanent residency in Australia.

Who is to blame for this?

Is it the Australian govt that needs to have some sort of checking system in place, but does not seem to be doing it? Is it the education and migration agents who are providing wrong information and fraudulent documents? Is it the private universities here that are taking in students and then turning a blind eye towards helping them? Is it the Indian govt, which is happy blaming the Australian govt but doesn't want to take any responsibility for its citizens?

Or is it the students who are looking for a better life at any cost and by any means? It is implicit there is a section of students who come to Australia to eventually seek permanent residency (PR). However, not all students do so. There are those who merely seek an education and go back. What needs to be understood here is that just BECAUSE a student is applying for an Australian permanent residency does NOT mean the Australian government will grant them one.

Even if a student completes his/her 'points' -- points define eligibility for PR, you get points for the education you've had, work experience, etc -- the prerogative to GRANT a permanent residency lies with the Australian government. You do not automatically get permanent residency. Those Australians whose major problem/fear seems to be that Indians/other immigrants will "come here and not go back" need to understand that no one can forcibly stay in this country. The Australian government can refuse.

According to figures quoted in news reports, there are 90,000 Indian students. All of them are NOT staying on in Australia. In fact it is ridiculous to think so. How many out of those 90,000 students are being given PR? If, according to reports, "so many" Indian and other international students are getting in and staying on... Who is allowing them? Why?

*Names withheld back to avoid identification.
Pic courtesy: AFP