Thursday, October 26, 2006

Rated R for content

One of the biggest worries I had about watching TV as a child was the sudden, unexpected, never-discussed, so-called taboo things that would pop up and be the cause of much embarrassment to myself as well as my parents. You know what I'm talking about. Those ubiquitous ads on condoms and birth control pills and sanitary napkins that we all knew existed but would refrain from making it a topic of discussion at the dinner table. The things that would make me turn red in the face and wish I could be in another room instantly. And may be my parents felt the same way but we'd all sit there staring at the TV screen and pretending it was just another ad for light bulbs or Titan watches. And then once it was over everyone would start talking about something totally irrelevant.

And the way we would react was partly determined by the stage in our life when we were exposed to these things. For example there is the not-knowing-anything-innocent-kid stage. Like my cousin who at the age of 7 took a particular fancy to the jingle of a Mala-D advertisement, that required exercising a totalitarian sisterly rule to keep him from constantly breaking out into Zara si sabdhani zindagi bhar aasani. That was followed by the not-so-sure-but-bet-it's-naughty stage, where one had the strongest desire to probe and ask questions but knew better than ask the parents. Which meant a lot of speculations and discussions in school about certain ads that one wasn't really sure of. And that of course provided the basis for a whole bunch of secrets that we were willing to carry to our graves than ask the parents for a clearer picture. And then just like that we knew. About puberty, boys and yes, sex. And suddenly everything made sense. And thus provided new room for embarrassment. Because now not only did you know what the ads were trying to tell you, everyone in the room knew that you knew. And that led to a lot of delicate moments while watching the Saturday night movie on Doordarshan.

And the same went for movies. Well when we were kids it was restricted to the ones from Hollywood. I would dread the moment when the hero would start kissing the heroine. Because we all knew what would happen next. The couple would end up in bed. So first there was the stage when even a kiss could cause mild discomfiture. And that also included the old classic kiss, the hard and long smack on the lips, no groping or tongue action kind. But those were the really old movies and the hero and heroine would continue their activities someplace other than in front of the camera and would not cause too much of a problem for me. But then the stars started getting bolder. And the kisses started getting more explorative. And they'd always show the couple between the sheets the next morning. And sometimes also show a little skin. Now that is what we started calling the "love scene" or "bed scene". And boy did that cause problems. For the kids, as well as the parents. As we all pretended that we did not notice or realize what was happening. So I tried my utmost to stay away from watching a Hollywood movie with the family. Just to be on the safe side. Hindi movies were fine. Because the most anyone would do was run around trees and sing and dance and maybe hold hands. Until that changed too. The heroines started getting bolder, the hero did not think twice about grabbing and kissing the heroine in full view of the camera and then horror of horrors they even put in "bed scenes". So it was curtains for watching movies with the family. Any movie!

So was I glad when I moved out of parental control. I can watch anything I want. Any movie. As much TV as I want. Without the squirming and discomfort and the fear of being embarrassed. And that feels great. However I still have to be a little careful about picking movies when the folks come visiting. Because although the ratings on the movie are for people to decide whether their kids can watch a particular movie, for me it is the decision of whether my parents are allowed to watch the movie with me.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

For the ones

It is Bhai Phonta today. I went back and read this and ended up feeling nostalgic. Because that is what Bhai phonta is all about. Family.

So to all my brothers: the ones that are far away and the ones that are close by, the ones that I grew up with and the ones that I found, the ones that I love and miss and the ones who miss me, the ones I fight with and the ones who still love me, the ones who stand by me and the ones I can lean on, the ones who make me feel special and important and ones who I can depend on.
Here's wishing you a lifetime of happiness, good health and fulfilment.

Thank you for making my life so complete!


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The trauma of shoe shopping

Someone once said shoes are like comfort food to a woman. Shoe shopping can be emotionally satisfying, psychologically therapeutic, self uplifting, mood elevating and can even improve your sex-life. Or so I have been told. And although I could never hold a candle to Claire or Carrie, needless to mention Imelda Marcos, there was a time, back in India, when I would go shopping just to find the perfect pair of shoes. And yes, it was everything shoe shopping is made out to be.

That is.....until I came to the US. Yeah I know you noticed it too. In fact I put that last sentence in there on purpose. Just to grab your attention. We try every trick to get our readers to keep reading till the end of the post. But I digress.

The truth is I have stopped looking at shoe shopping as emotional therapy and psychological healing. Instead shoe shopping has been extremely traumatic everytime I have gone to buy a pair of shoes in the US. Did you ask why? Well try buying shoes for a size 5 when the only women's sizes available are between sizes 6-11. And if you check that link for international shoe size conversions you'll see US shoe size 5 is probably the smallest women's size available. And assuming that most American women have feet that are comparable to their physical proportion, there doesn't seem to be a demand for small shoe sizes and therefore most stores don't even bother to carry a size 5! Which can lead to a great deal of frustration and aching legs when you have to go from store to store only to realize that there isn't anything available. That is, if you are considering a pair that can be distinguished from one of those horrendous contraptions that Miss Marple would find "sensible". So with my limited options when it comes to a "selection" while buying shoes, it is quite apparent why shoe shopping has taken on such traumatic proportions in my life. For the most part I am asked to try the girl's section which of course has it's range of Mary Jane's and sugar pink sneakers. But what if you have outgrown them and need something with a wee bit more sophistication than a Mad Tea Party? What is a girl to do?

Which is why I can never be a Carrie Bradshaw. Which is why I hate shoe shopping. Which is why shoes can never be my best friend anymore. Atleast diamonds don't need sizes. Or do they? Come to think of it I've never been able to find a ring that fits me either! But then, that's another post.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Even Cowboys cry, sometimes

Does being romantic come in the way of being macho? I've always wondered how a guy knows where to draw the line.

When I go to buy a card and read all the mushy things that Hallmark has to say it touches a chord within. Like all the things I want to say, wish I could say being handed to me on a a card. And yes, I totally love receiving those wordy-feely-drippy cards myself. And I can't for my life understand why it is embarrasing for guys to buy cards like that. Don't they realize that buying a card like that will earn you points, no matter what?

And all those things that guys dismiss as being cheesy, soppy, schmaltzy, and mushy, like flowers and chocolates and candle-lit dinners and gondola rides and kissing under the mistletoe, seem like reasonably romantic gestures to me. And I'm not saying that guys don't do all of that. Some of them actually do. But they make it out to be such a task, like it was something they wouldn't have done under normal circumstances. Or so they brag to their "men" friends. Because it is not considered "macho"?

I love watching hopeless romantic movies and I will sit and cry my eyes out when Cary Grant finds out why Deborah Kerr did not meet him on top of the Empire State Building in An Affair to Remember, or when Clark Gable kisses Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind or when Richard Gere comes riding the limosine waving a bouquet for Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman or that scene from A Walk in the Clouds or When Harry met Sally or that last scene in Ghost. I cry because I am happy that there is so much love around. Love makes me cry. Yeah, I am kind of crazy that way. And I just cannot picture a guy sitting around and watching those movies with me. And wiping tears of joy. Or even appreciating the fact that it is all so beautiful. Guys just laugh, smirk, call it a "chick-flick" and walk away. Leaving you with a box of tissues and a runny nose.

Okay so guys draw the line when it comes to being soppy and emotional. But when that translates into being romantic what is a guy to do? How would a guy know why the arrogance and pride of Mr. Darcy appeals to so many women if he has dismissed Austen's Pride and Prejudice as chick lit? Or why Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) of Pretty Woman appealed to millions of females across the globe in spite of his character's infidelity and sleeping with a 'hooker'. And why Bryan Adam's (Everything I do) I DoIt For You broke all pop chart records. Guys will never get it, will they?

A pity. Because I would find a guy macho even if he shed a few tears and held my hand during a movie. Okay may be not tears, but handing me a tissue would be nice. And then decided to buy me a present for no reason at all. And no, an oil change gift certificate from Jiffy Lube does not count. Perfume, lingerie or chocolate would be nice, thank you. Perfumed candles, bath oils, a dozen roses....bring 'em on. And I think a guy going down on one knee with a ring in his hand is mighty sexy. But that's just me. And I'm a woman. And that doesn't count, does it?

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On blogging

Why do you blog? What does blogging mean to you? These are questions that have been posed a number of times over the past year that I have been treading the world of blogs or the blogosphere, as it has been termed. And before you misunderstand I would like to emphasize that these are not red carpet questions and that I am not a celebrity by any accounts. Just that as more and more people are being introduced to blogging and are displaying mild curiosity and even interest in some cases as to the purpose of maintaining a web-log (blog), I feel bloggers owe it to their readers to explain why week after week, post after post, they inflict such torture upon the poor souls who come visit their blogs.

Why do I blog? Well at the onset it seemed like a novel thing to do. Something to keep up with the times. Something that everyone was doing. To be trendy. To be hip. To be heard. It was the desire to say something meaningful, support a cause, protest against something else, and establish kinship among like-minded individuals. Where else would I find total strangers quote Yeats in response to my blogger name? Where would I find support, advice and goodwill from strangers across the globe willing to spend a few minutes of their day reading what I have to say? It is an amazing potpourri of thoughts, words, feelings, expression, opinions all coming together on the web. And to be a part of that movement feels quite uplifting.

With time blogging has started taking on newer meanings for me. It is like having an extended family of readers who keep coming back to read, to comment and to make themselves heard. Every post is like a conversation, a discussion, a time frame that I can revisit over and over again. Before I started blogging I secretly harbored the desire to be a writer. I guess there’s a little voice inside all of us that wants to be heard. And like most people that little voice thought the world needed to know what it had to say. And so I started blogging. When I blog it is like entering a world of my own, a world that I can paint in any hue, write about things that I believe in, and hope somewhere someone finds a reason to read it. The very same reason that I am searching for when I browse the internet to read other blogs. To find a kindred spirit. A connection. A reason to rejoice in someone’s joy, or share the pain, even if it is someone whom you will likely never meet. I blog to deal with my own frustrations, get over my bouts of depression, and stand up for what I believe in. I can share my thoughts with ease because it is easier to be open to strangers than it is with people who know you. Blogging brings us together. From far away places. A melting pot of myriad cultures, beliefs, expression. A place to connect and to learn and find a niche for that little voice within.

I blog because I enjoy blogging.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Bong men can't cook (unless they get married)

Okay the title of this post is an invitation for trouble. But before any of you fly off your handle and start protesting violently do read through this post and give me a fair hearing.

I was talking to someone the other day who was trying to tell me about his culinary prowess. Now the fact that this person was male, unmarried and a bongoshontan* made it a little hard for me to believe that he could and would be able to rustle up a meal. The truth of the matter is almost every single unmarried Bong** guy I have come across seems unwilling to spend time in the kitchen unless there is a dire emergency. And by that I mean either severe gastric pangs. Or a girl-pataoing, impression creating, show-off involved. Outside of those circumstances I refuse to believe a Bong guy will toil for hours in the kitchen preparing ras malai and palak paneer.

I know you will toss statistics around about how most of the famous chefs are male and how men are passionate about their skill and do it out of the sheer love of cooking, unlike women who do it because historically speaking they have always been expected to prepare the food. And then we have people like Gordon Ramsay who go around spreading stories like this. And I am not denying any of that. It could very well be true. I am talking about a completely different genre here. And that is Bong men. And yes, I am stereotyping. And generalizing. Because every single Bong guy I have seen has never willingly tread the culinary path. And I think I even the know the reason for such apathy. It's the Bong women!

You see right from the beginning the little Bong guy is taught that cooking is a woman's forte and the kitchen is Mom's domain. A haven where men do not trespass. So the Bong Mom cooks and cleans and spends hours inside the kitchen while the menfolk get fed and coddled and protected from any sort of culinary exposure. Take for example my Dad. A typical Bong male who went from the pampered preserve of my Grandmother's sanctuary straight into the one prepared by my Mom. I have never seen my Dad fetch a glass of water for himself, let alone getting his own food. Yes, that is how mollycoddled he has been. And the strange thing is no one in my family finds it unusual. And we have a long line of culinary-dysfunctional males in the family. Every uncle, every cousin, every single male member has never had to cook or work in the kitchen. Ever.

So I know what you are saying at this point. That it is a problem in my family. A strange familial malfunction. But the fact is I have seen this same problem in almost all Bong male friends. Take P for example. All his life P has never had to fend for himself because Momma always took care of him. And then P decided to step out of his known territory. He came to the US for higher education. And P learnt that Momma wasn't around to prepare food anymore. So what would any normal person do in this case? They'd learn to cook and feed himself, right? But not P. He found a place where they sold Indian food and started having lunch and dinner over there. And P was quite proud of his ability to prepare the occasional Ramen noodles (if you can call that preparing). And it was exactly the same for A and S and D and AD. Eat out every day and have instant noodles when they were in a "cooking" sort of mood. That is until they got married. A-ha! You did notice that this entire generalization was against the unmarried kind (save the exceptions from another generation like my Dad).

Once these malfunctioning men get married things start changing. A little. They start learning new things. That the kitchen is not meant for the woman alone. And that a little help goes a long way (and I will refrain from elaborating here). And that cooking isn't all that difficult to begin with. And may be once in a while it can even be fun. So they start with cutting and slicing and doing the dishes to watching the milk so that it doesn't boil over and move on to more technically challenging things like following a recipe and preparing food. I have seen a newly wed Bong guy trying to impress the missus with an "apple" curry where he chopped up potatoes and apples (for the lack of any other available vegetable) and got dinner together before his wife came home from work. Needless to say the wife was very specific about the kind of help she desired the next time she asked him to cook anything. But Bong men learn fast. And one guy who tried to substitute cooking oil with cream cheese, cooked chicken in it and ended up with a charred, half-cooked mess that no one would eat, can now boast of making the best chinese food this side of the Atlantic.

So what is it about marriage that makes the guy want to wear the apron? Is it the desire to help the wife with household chores? Is it a new-found interest that they inherit along with the wedding band? Is it the fact that they have a person who will endure all culinary experiments and appreciate every effort? Or is the desire to survive the "unable to cook" reputation that is almost as unpalatable as the one with Bong nicknames.

So please bear with me while I wipe away tears of laughter when I hear an unmarried Bong guy say he makes the best Biriyani and Chicken chaap.

* bongoshontan son of Bengal
** Bong Bengali

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Happiness comes in small packages

They say music unites.

And it does. Across age and generation gaps, across religion, across continents and great divides. You gave me more than one reason to be proud of you.
Cactus rocks!

Shubho Bijoya......

Two reasons for happiness this Monday morning:

This mention, that would have gone unnoticed unless pointed out by him and him.

And, this (tip: Bongopondit). I always knew it would happen. But never realized how good it would feel.

Update: Continued from the last link, more can be found here.