LOL: LAUGH OUT LOUD!

What is it about women laughing that makes men angry?

This was the headline of one of the many rubbish articles that propaganda driven publications could not refrain from publishing. This is what I understood:

A woman mocking, disrespecting someone with a loud, non-stop laughter, almost interrupting his speech, making him inaudible on an honourable platform is okay.

But God forbid, if a man asks her to behave, or makes a sarcastic comment in response he is a misogynist!

This was not about gender. This was about basic respect.

Every day I read articles on how feminism has gone too far. I always jump in defense. Feminism is needed.  Women do not get basic respect, I say.  Our society is chauvinistic, and misogynist,  I believe.

Some feminist writers have used this opportunity to write about how women are taught not to laugh and how the country in general is intolerant to women laughing! I found it quite ridiculous.  It reminded me of a comedy scene from the movie, ‘Tanu weds Manu returns’. Tanu says something like “500 saalon se auraton pe atyachar ho raha hai.” Manu says “To mujh akele se badla logi kya?”

I do not know on what planet that kind of a laughter was acceptable in the context. I am not supporting the remark made. I just don’t like it when the “woman card” is used in a way where it completely defeats the purpose of equality. A woman can be disrespectful because for centuries, we have been suppressed?? But a man should not because she is a woman!!

Yes, women have been taught that laughing out loud is unfeminine. Our laughter should be a little sweet, a little soft, a little cute.  A slight giggle probably.  Pleasing to the ears.  I agree it is sexist. It is unfair. However, this was not like that!!

If we cannot distinguish between laughing and laughing at someone with the intention of mocking and insulting, then I don’t think we should be talking about feminism. Maybe step 1 would be to talk about basic human behavior and interactions, and respect.

Yes. I know. Freedom of speech. Freedom of expression. Unfortunately, it is a double-edged sword.

 

 

 

Hey Darling! Hey Gorgeous! Why not replying?

Okay.

All women probably received messages from unknown men on Facebook.  I usually block the ones who send inappropriate messages.  But off late I have noticed young boys sending messages.  When I click on their pictures, they look so innocent. They look like they are easily 10 years younger than me! Maybe even more. Some of them are probably in school or college. Minors!  They send the following kind of messages:

Hey darling!

Hey gorgeous!

Why you are not replying!

I really like you!

What happened?

Reply please!

Did I do something wrong!

One young man had sent a poem also. It was accompanied by a picture of a man literally taking out his heart on his hand. Jaan hatheli par le aaye? Please note that it was not a cute red heart shaped emoticon that we send on whatsapp. It was a picture of a heart – the organ oozing out of a body with blood!! The poem had rhymes. I thought at least I should give him credit for that. Until one of my friends who read it said it was copied from a regional movie.

Had they been older, I would have ignored and blocked.  It is too late to educate the older ones! But I don’t think it is right to give up on the younger boys.  Boys who probably do not even have the guts to talk to me in person, look me in the eye, or would probably call me Didi if at all they did talk to me in person, think it is okay to address me as darling!

I had a discussion with few male friends on this. They said that these boys are trying their luck. They probably send these messages to so many women every day and they may get a response too. They also said that these boys are perfectly aware that they should not be behaving this way. But they don’t care. They do it anyway.

One of the thoughts that stayed with me was ‘Did I do something wrong? Tell me please.’

The 17-18 year old probably does not know that it is NOT okay to address an unknown woman on the internet as ‘gorgeous’. He thinks it is a compliment. Something I would like. I would appreciate. Be flattered. He has not chosen a term like ‘sexy’ or ‘hot’. He has gone far in his vocabulary  to choose a respectful term.

Can we blame him for asking me if he has done anything wrong?

I want to ask him had I approached me in person? Would he come to me in a public place or on the street and tried to talk to me with an opening line of ‘Hi beautiful’. I want to tell him that he should not speak to women on the internet in a way any different from how he would speak to them in person. But we all know that does not happen. Every one has a voice on the internet. Every one hides behind anonymity. And what do we teach this boy about approaching women in person anyway? It is not like he would be used to ‘asking women’ out. Dating is not part of our culture. His only benchmark would be Bollywood which would have taught him:

Hasi to phasi

Ladki ki naa mein haa hai

Lover boy will always win. As long as he keeps trying. The means do not matter. The end does. Whether he stalks. Or threatens. Or tries to commit suicide. At the end the woman will realize his ‘true love’.

I remember talking to a man who from the US. He must be around 55. His son who was about 15 had started dating. He was telling me that the son is very much ‘in love’ with his girlfriend. He used to invite her over to his place along with other school friends. He said he talks to his son about how to treat his girlfriend. That he should respect her. He said his son had written a poem for the girl. This man never knew his son was interested in writing. He was proud of his son.  Father would tell his son about his girlfriend when he was that age and how he used to ask women out by inviting them to events that they were interested in so that they could not resist!

‘I have taught my boy right!’ he said proudly.

We have not taught our boys right. We have to accept it. Rather, this is something we have not taught at all!. No mature adult – teacher, parents, etc will talk to them about dating, approaching women etc. It is not because people don’t date in our country. They are on their own. At the mercy of Bollywoord and other immature friends. We don’t think it is appropriate to talk about it. We think if we talk about it we would encourage it. We don’t realize that they would do it anyway.  As much as we would like to deny.

Coming back to the boy who sent me the message this one is for you:

A woman who you don’t know may choose not to speak to you. It does not mean she is arrogant. It does not mean you are ugly. She doesn’t even know you.  You messaged. She ignored. Move on.

Even though it is a compliment addressing unknown women as ‘gorgeous’ may not be the best way to start a conversation.  If you know her, and you are already friends with her you can probably compliment her. ‘Darling’ again should not be used for unknown women. Ever!

What you say, how much you say, depends on the response you receive. It is not rocket science to figure it out.  No response. Stop. She responds in a friendly way. Continue. She doesn’t like something you say. Stop. Apologize.

There are women who have public profiles on social media. But it is mainly for their work to have a connect with their target audience. It does not necessarily mean that she has put her pictures for attention, and then when you give her that attention, she is being all arrogant!

Lastly, most importantly. Don’t keep trying. If someone is not responding to your messages, it means they are not interested. Respect the choice. She does not even owe you an explanation. It does not mean that you should feel insulted. Women have brains too. And thinking and decision-making capabilities.  They have their own likes. It does not make you a loser.  Please do not associate your self-worth with the responses you get from women – in the virtual world or in the real world! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Truth About Grief And Tragedy

A woman I know through blogging had lost her daughter who must be about 20. People were commenting on her post:

It is all destiny.

She is in a better place.

It is karma.

It is karma?? Whose karma? The young girl got hit by a speeding car who did not care to stop. He is roaming free. She is dead. She or her family has not done anything to deserve this. I guess the lady who commented meant that this had something to do with past life sins…

I hear some funny things about divorce too. A friend of mine is 28. She is in a relationship. She is not some child who cannot understand that sometimes things don’t work out. Whenever she hears about anyone’s divorce, she says:

Why did they get married if they wanted a divorce.

No, but what was the main reason?

Reason. Logic. Meaning. As humans we find it very difficult to comprehend tragedy and even more difficult to understand grief. We would like to think that there should be some reason. Haven’t we heard, Everything happens for a reason. We have also heard , Shit happens. But we do not like to believe it (for others). Because it defies our faith in the universe.

Another friend of mine and her boyfriend who is from another religion want to get married. They are facing objections from the boy’s family. She had asked the boy in the initial dating days if he intends to marry her. He had said yes. If some other woman gets dumped by a guy, she likes to say, ‘Told you so. You never asked him if he was serious.’ But when she is told that ‘You knew this was coming’, she says that since she had asked the man in the beginning, she was totally right about her choice.

Yes. Everybody’s grief is unique. It is therefore a painful and lonely journey. We refuse to accept that bad things simply happen… To people who did not deserve it!

A perfect couple who was together since college split.

We refuse to believe that one person outgrew the other. We put on our detective hats and try to analyze. Something else must have happened…. We do not want to lose our faith in ‘true love’

A nice caring girlfriend gets dumped without a warning.

We become therapists. She knew the signs coming. She should have known his intentions. She ignored. She was too foolish.

A young woman loses her life on the road.

We would like to think that there was some hidden meaning in it. We do not like to believe that something so cruel could happen just life that.  If it could happen to them, it could happen to us.

And that is scary.

I’ve Done My Time…No Thank You, I Don’t Want My Grandchild To Live With Me

I’ve Done My Time…No Thank You, I Don’t Want My Grandchild To Live With Me

She Could Have Been So Much More

At seven

She was hardly seven years old. The audition for the school play was on. She wanted to be the princess. She rehearsed the lines again and again. She practiced. She spoke well. She was waiting for the results, praying hard to God.

A fair, slim, tall, girl with chiseled features who forgot the lines got selected.

“The princess should be beautiful. We will make her work hard and learn the lines.” Said the teacher. “That short girl, who recited the lines well , she could be the maid. In fact, another girl from section C also looks like her. Short and chubby. Those two could be the maids. Where did she go?”

The short girl had left….. She did not want to be the maid. She wanted to be the princess.

If only she knew, that it did not matter. She could have still participated and showed her talent…..

At ten

“What happened? This time seems you have played too much in the sun!! You have become so dark! Now stay indoors till you gain back some colour! Otherwise no one will marry you!”

It was a random comment by a random stranger. It should not have mattered. But that is the day she stopped playing volleyball.

If only she knew, it did not matter. She could have played.

At thirteen

“Eww! Your face looks so messed-up” said the class bully.

Everybody smiled for the year-book picture. She did not. She had braces. People had started saying she had an attitude. She was not able to make friends. She was arrogant! But she was not!  She was just a girl very conscious of her smile!

If only she knew, it did not matter. She could have smiled…

At sixteen

She was a big girl now! She could now wear a proper suit with a dupatta. Short kurtas were in. She had selected her own style and got her suit stitched. She was all dressed up to visit the puja pandal.

“How do I look Maa!”

“Short! In Jeans, you don’t look so short. Wear heels!”

Few minutes later, the mother came back to check on her. The suit was wrapped and thrown in one corner. She was lying with her head down.

“What happened. We have to leave in 10 minutes!”

“I am having a stomach ache!”

If only she knew, it did not matter. She could have gone…

At nineteen

Rohit really likes you. Yesterday also he was trying to invite you to his party after class.”

“Why would the most good-looking guy in college be interested in ME!!”

The next day she saw Rohit talking to the prettiest girl in college.

He is probably not interested in me. He just invited me because my friends are invited. She convinced herself and skipped the party.

If only she knew, it did not matter. She could have gone….

At twenty-five

The team was planning a trip to Europe. She wanted to go. But she hardly had any friends. She would feel lonely. She would not fit in. There were all shopping. She did not want to buy so many clothes. Nothing would fit her well anyway. She would not look good in the pictures which they upload every few minutes. She decided to stay.

If only she knew, it did not matter. She could have gone.

She is 33 now. She has finally become comfortable with herself. She does not care how she looks. She does not care what people say. She does not care who wants to be with her who does not. She does what SHE wants to do. She is living her life…But can she go back in time? She could have been so much more, in school, in college, at work, in her relationships, in her social circles!

Had she taken part in the play, her performance would have impressed so many. She would have participated in so many more…

Had she smiled more in the pictures, she could have probably appeared friendlier. She would have made so many friends…

She could have gone to the pandal. You don’t have to be tall to go to places…

She could have attended Rohit’s party. If only she had given him a chance, maybe he would have got to know what a caring, sensible person she was…

She could have travelled the world. And she could have conquered it!

The little things we say to people about their looks in their childhood and teenage years, scars them. It affects their self-esteem, and confidence. It weakens their growth. It prevents them from attaining their full potential. It stops them from becoming someone.

Before we tell someone, they are dark, short, fat, thin, tall, remember it is not kind, it is not necessary and it may not even be true. Even if it is true, we have no business making a shallow remark. Nobody’s appearance is our business. And if someone is growing fat, we are not doing them a favour by letting them know so they can reduce weight! We can keep the concern to ourselves!

I have a nine-year-old niece. My sister recently told me that she along with other parents from school take their kids to a pediatrician who counsels them on the kids’ diet and nutrition. This Delhi based doctor addresses the 9-13 year old girls who put on weight as “Auntyji” so that they lose weight.

I also remember a time,  when I was in school and I was leaving my house with my dad. I met a neighbor who greeted me as “Are badi kali ho gayi hai tu!” No hi, no hello, no how are you, what are you doing, simply kali ho gayi hai tu!!

We have such moronic people in our country. We may ignore them. But it will still hurt the child. Let us ask them to not make such remarks. Tell them it does not matter and that you would not like your child to hear such things. It is okay to say that. It is okay to react for the sake of your child.

If they are so keen to tell the “truth” you could too!

 

 

 

 

Shashikala – The Unknown Feminist

For the past few minutes the doorbell was incorporated as part of my dream. Finally, after it rang for some time, I realized it is not a dream and I need to get up and open the door.

Shashikala walked in.

“Goodmorning Didi.” She said in her usual chirpy voice.

“Hmm.” I replied coldly. She had not come to work the day before. I was giving her the silence treatment.

“Didi, I will make chicken for you today,” she said trying to lure me with my favourite food.

“No need! There is a lot of leftover from yesterday!” I gave a cold reply again.

“Ok Didi!”

The silent treatment did not seem to be working. She either did not understand I was mad or she did not care. I broke my cold war and blurted out:

“Look at all those dirty dishes! I had guests over yesterday! And you just ditched me! I had told you not to take an off for these two days! Your work is the last priority for you. You took an off to look after your friend!! She does not have anyone? You have to disrupt your work to attend to her?”

“No Didi.  She is not my friend.”

“Oh so what neighbor? Stranger! Even better! You come to work only after you have solved all of humanity’s problems.”

“She is his first wife….”

Shashikala was married off when she was about 18. Her husband was abusive. He used to take all her money for alcohol and beat her up.  In the next five years, she had two sons until one fine day he just left.  After a couple of years he showed up again, asking for his children.  Shashikala refused to give them up. He told her he is doing well in life and would be in a better position to support the kids. She said she does not want to live with him.  A compromise was made. The husband took her elder son. She kept the younger one.

A kind aunt of hers thought that it is time she remarried.  The prospective groom was okay with having her son around. So Shashikala agreed. Once the marriage was solemnized, she was in for another shock. This man was already married, something she had no idea about.  The first wife was still living there.  Shashikala left him and came back with her son.

Now, she lives with her younger son. The elder son (who is with his father) is in a hostel and he visits her sometimes. Both the husbands show up at her house once in a while to create some drama!

Her story came flashing back in my mind.

What happened to her!” I asked her. The anger was now replaced with curiosity.

“He came the night before to eat. He said that she has not been keeping well so there is no one to cook for him. You know he is very selfish Didi. He did not even take her to the doctor. She was in pain. So I went there. Took her to the hospital. Got her the medicines. Cleaned her house. And cooked some food.”

“Why do you care so much about her?”

“Unknowingly I did her wrong Didi! I married her husband and hurt her! This is the least I can do.”

I read a lot of articles online. The latest trend is romanticizing cheating. I have seen a lot of reputed publications publish articles on cheating and how it is all about “being in the moment”, “living your life”,  “love and sex are different things”, “it just happens” and other such excuses. When I express my disgust in the comments some cool people respond,“Why are being so judgmental”, “To each to his own”. It seems we have no idea how to be progressive.

Here is a woman who did not exactly have a smooth life. One bad marriage is enough to break a person. She had two! It could have been convenient for her to bitter. But she chose not to. She had self-respect. She did not take back her first husband when he came back. She left the second husband the moment she found out he is already married.

But these things did not change who she is as a person. It did not change the kindness within her. The kindness that made her feel the physical and emotional pain of another woman.

Yes, good women uplift other women. They hold their head high in times of turmoil. They do not let the unhappiness in their lives change their judgment, and conscience.

Shashikala, you are a feminist to me.  You may not get any recognition.  But you have taught me one thing:

We are who we are. No matter what happens in life, there is no excuse to cause someone pain. There is no reason to not live by our principles.

 

You Don’t Make Money!!Chalo, Dil Behel Jata Hai!

“So, you get paid for writing blogs?”

“No,” I tried to respond with a polite smile.

“But bloggers get ads, no.”

“I don’t have advertisements on my blog. In fact, I have to pay for the hosting space and domain name.”

“Oh! So, it is just a hobby!”

“I have a full-time job. So yes. But not really. It is more of a passion.”

“Oh! Even I have a full-time job. But I am also into real estate broking. I make as much money through it as my job. Thankfully, my hobby pays! Some people have useless hobbies. My wife, she likes to apply mehendi designs for her friends during karwachauth, weddings etc. She does it for free!! I choose my hobbies wisely.” He said with a wink.

This arrogant gentleman undermined my work in seconds by referring to it as a “useless hobby”. I don’t blame him because for some people everything is measured in terms of money.

It reminds me of another conversation I had online with two of my blogger friends . One is a brilliant dancer and writer, who conducts dancing classes for children. A gentleman told her that she does “good time-pass”.  Another blogger friend writes wonderful articles on diverse topics. Someone told her, “Good, now that the kids are off from home, at least you have something to do!”

I am not angry. I know it is not a big deal. I just feel sorry for people who do not understand that something non-materialistic can also give happiness.

If money could give happiness, so many rich people would not be depressed.  I know a lot of creative people who do not make much money out of their pursuits be it – writing, dancing, painting, singing, acting, photography or even gardening, baking, nail art, mehendi design, make-up, cooking etc. But they still do it. With their heart. Because it feeds their soul. It provides meaning to their lives – something beyond jobs, money, things, and relationships.

So, Mr. Materialistic Moron, before you disregard my hobby or your wife’s hobby as “useless”, please  get out and meet more people. Learn more about human behavior, psychology and spirituality. Understand why people do the things they do. Maybe it gives them happiness, something money cannot buy.

My writing is what keeps me sane on days when I feel I will fall into pieces.

The little interactions that I have with my readers through likes, comments and shares is sometimes so much more comforting that my conversations with people I meet.

My writing has made me a better human being, because I try  to put myself in the characters I write about.

You my ignorant friend, have not even learnt to respect people.

 

 Image source

 

The Arranged Love Marriage

“Madam, I have draped the sari like mermaid! It is giving you very young and slim look!” The beautician bent down to fix Bittu Kumari’s sari pleats, pleased with her work.

“I am young! I am 26!” Bittu Kumari frowned.

“Oh! I thought you must be in 30’s! Was wondering why you are still bachelor!”

“I am not! A bachelor is a man who is not…”

“Bittu, you are still not ready! The boy’s family has arrived!” Bittu Kumari’s mother stormed into the room. She looked at her daughter from head to toe. “Shabnam, I had asked you to make her look thin!” she said disappointed.

“Aunty Ji, I have given her slim look only! This is mermaid style sari! My world-famous style in Saharanpur! She is little healthy no, what can I do!”

“Leave it! No time now!”

Bittu Kumari was dragged to the living room.  A lean, dark, young man, his mother, father and possibly his brother who looked like a rounder replica of him were seated on the three-seater sofa.  Opposite to them, were Bittu Kumari’s father – Mr. Mishra, and his teenaged son, Sonuraj. Mrs. Mishra’s sister and husband had also been invited for moral support. Bittu Kumari sat next to her brother.

“Mr. Pandey, this is my daughter, Bittu Kumari! She has completed M.A. in English literature.  She teaches English in St. Mary’s high school! Convent! And herself educated in English medium convent! Throughout topper!” added the proud father.

“That is great!” said Mr. Pandey with an approving nod. “Lallan also wanted to do B.Com. But after Matric he joined my business. He completed PUC through correspondence.”

Sonuraj giggled. Bittu Kumari was horrified. She looked up to confirm if she had heard correctly. Her eyes met Lallan’s. Lallan smiled at her, beaming.

“All that is okay! Doesn’t matter!” Mrs. Pandey seemed to have read Bittu Kumari’s thoughts. “For a boy, what matters is how well he is earning. Our business is flourishing. Lallan is handling it single-handedly now! And what matters for a girl is how she looks!” She paused, giving a sharp stare at Bittu Kumari’s bulging stomach which Shabnam’s Rs 1500 mermaid style draping could not hide. “My elder daughter-in-law Chhaya is so pretty! Even after having two daughters, she has maintained herself like a stick!”

Bittu Kumari raised her head again to look at Lallan’s brother’s paunch, trying to imagine him with his stick-like wife.

What does Chaaya do?” asked Mr. Mishra, visibly annoyed.

She is a housewife!” Mr. Pandey stepped in. “We wanted a working girl for Lallan. Actually, we wanted a housewife. But Lallan wanted a working girl.”

Lallan blushed.

“Working, not working is not main criteria! We want a fair, slim, beautiful girl.” Mrs. Pandey clarified. “Your daughter is very healthy. At this age, she is healthy! After a child, she will bloat even more!”

Mrs. Mishra shifted in her chair uncomfortably. Her fear came true. This was the fifth time the boy’ side had rejected her daughter for being “healthy”.  This time, Bittu Kumari did not look up. The words seemed to have pierced through her heart and created a hole. How is it possible that for all these years, she had heard it all – healthy, fat, moti, bhais, elephant, yet it hurt her each time? Shouldn’t she be immuned by now?

“Mrs. Pandey, I think you should let Lallan and Bittu Kumari talk once. They are the ones who have to get married! Let them decide.”

“We would have let them talk, Mr. Mishra. We are very modern. That is why we got Lallan. He was keen on your daughter’s profile. But… sorry to say your daughter looks nothing like her pictures. You must have edited them and sent to us. She seems 20 kg more than we had expected!”

Mr. Mishra looked at his wife accusingly. She had gone to the biggest studio in town to get her daughter’s pictures photoshopped. What was she supposed to do?  Those who saw Bittu Kumari’s real pictures rejected her even before meeting her. She had to give her daughter a fair chance!

“If she was slightly healthy also, we would have tried to adjust. But she is obese! Young girls exercise! She is probably lazy too! Or maybe she has some illness. And moreover, daughter-in-law’s beauty determines the looks of the children also. If we get an obese daughter-in-law, she will give birth to obese daughters, and then we will have to worry about their marriage also!”

“Ek minute Aunty, you have gone too far!” Bittu Kumari finally spoke up.  “Who said I wanted to marry your son!”

“What! Then why did you all call us!” Mrs. Pandey frowned.

“We were deceived too! We thought your son had completed B-Com. But now we know he never went to college. I did not know I was signing up for a college dropout! Just like you did not know you were signing up for a fat daughter-in-law. But you know what Aunty, fat women make completely decent homemakers. Look at you!”

“Such a shameless girl! Doesn’t know how to talk to elders! And I am fat now! When I was your age, I looked just like Hema Malini! Come Lallan, let us go.” Mrs. Pandey got up, grabbing her son’s hand. Her elder son and husband also got up almost in a reflex. “We don’t need a fat and proudy girl.”

“It is proud Aunty, not proudy!”

Lallan looked at Bittu Kumari. He paused. He wanted to say something. But his mother pulled him away.

And just like that, the entire Pandey family was gone. Mr. Mishra put his hand on her daughter’s head and smiled. “Bittu beta, we don’t need them! You are a diamond. These people don’t know your worth.” Mrs. Mishra went back to the bedroom to pay Shabnam who was locked up in the bedroom, waiting for the boy’s side to leave. Mrs. Mishra’s sister and brother-in-law left rather unceremoniously. Everything went back to normal.

Two days later, Bittu Kumari received a text message.

‘Hi Bittu Ji. I am sorry for finding your number. Got it from the school.  I am sorry for the way my mother talked to you. I know how you must have felt. Four girls have rejected me because I am dark! One was educated and English-speaking, and did not want someone like me. I know my profile says that I have done B.com. If talks would have progressed, I would have told you the truth. My brother had edited my profile so that people at least express interest. I may not be that educated, but I do manage to run my business well. I may not be good-looking, but if you give me a chance I will take care of you. I know what it is like when people judge you without getting to know you. I really liked you. Would like to be friends with you, if it is okay with you.”

Bittu Kumari was shocked. No man had ever showed such interest in her. Without telling their parents, Bittu Kumari and Lallan started chatting. Bittu Kumari realized that Lallan was no different from her. He was also looking for a decent partner, while struggling with his own insecurities, and cruel judgment of random people. He was running a growing business, with hard-work and sincerity. He was not as stupid as she had expected. Rather, he was quite intuitive and witty. He was also very sensitive and mature. She grew quite fond of him.

Bittu Rani and Lallan have decided to get married. Mr. Mishra is insisting that Lallan completes B.Com from distant learning. Mrs. Pandey has agreed provided Bittu Kumari loses 10 kgs. Mr. Pandey is happy for the children. Sonuraj is preparing a solo dance performance for the wedding.

Mrs. Mishra is grateful. To Shabnam. And to the photographer.

Image source