Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My Choice: Too Facile

Before you proceed to read my rant here, let me reiterate that I don't intend to hurt your sentiments.

Since the time I started to blog, I always drew immense pleasure from writing about animals, and gender equality. I have almost stopped exploring the latter these days, for the theme is quite misunderstood, carelessly discussed, and I have also become a bit ambivalent about some views. But, I chose to write a quick blog because I watched the video - Vogue's My Choice, starring Deepika Padukone and 98 more women.

Okay, the video seems stylish. 99 women appear in less than three minutes. But, I only remember how Padukone looks, because she keeps appearing often, with her hair that has a life of its own. There are a couple of old ladies and tribal women, whose inclusion looks evidently staged. And, like Chandrima Pal mentioned in her piece, the video can very well pass as an advert for shampoo or sanitary napkins. Not that the adverts are well- thought-out lately, but the video appears facile.

So, why was Padukone chosen to lead? I understand that a Bollywood celebrity has volunteered for what is billed as a cause. Quite welcoming. But, what is the significance really? Why should I feel motivated when she tells me that I am empowered, and that I can make my own choices? What is her story? If she has one, is that inspiring? Why is she removing her clothes? Sorry, if I am getting too cynical here, but there seems to be a spike in the number of mediocre videos going viral on social media, and I really don't understand why most of it are widely shared.

I don't know who wrote that monologue which Padukone renders, but I have too many problems with the writing. A video funded by Vogue tells me that it's okay to be size 15. How many fashion magazines carry photos of obese women as cover pictures? And, don't they give tips to achieve hour-glass figure? How hypocritical is that!

The writing sounds superficial, and self-important at several junctures, and Padukone's tone is accusatory, making her sound misandrist. Sample these lines:

To have sex before marriage... and sex outside marriage 
To love temporarily... or to lust forever
I mean, marriage involves two people right? But, is it okay to act all for myself and not think of my significant other, just because it's my choice? Doesn't the understanding emerge through dialogues? Just because I choose to have sex outside marriage, I certainly don't become free-spirited and strong-willed.

Remember, you are my choice... I am not your privilege
The second part makes sense. I agree. But what does the first part mean? I am my partner's choice too right, if that's the case? What does one try to imply with such confounding writing that seems extraordinary to so many?

Remember the bindi on my forehead, the ring on my finger, adding your surname to my name, they are all ornaments. They can be replaced, my love for you cannot. So treasure that.
In the beginning, she says it's her choice to love temporarily. And in a little while, she says her love cannot be replaced. So contradicting! It sounds like an inebriated, confused person, purging out negative emotions that are bottled up.

It even seems superfluous to mention that gender equality issues have to be addressed at micro-levels, and not just by releasing some sloppily made videos. More than the pseudo-feminist videos and stories that are shared these days, a few films of K Balachander and Visu explored gender equality quite impressively. They didn't need a pretty-looking Padukone, a fancy camera, and some flawed philosophy (I'm the universe...) to narrate stories from women's perspectives. A naive housewife, a confused lover, a battered nurse... they all could tell us what women needed. More precisely, their stories championed individualism. The women in such stories didn't really go tom-tomming about their lame choices all right. Please!

End of rant. It's time to watch a cat video. Thank you. :)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Friend Named K

K. I met her last year, during an insane phase of my life. I was sulking like Winky from Harry Potter, and that's when she started to walk along, offering the much-needed companionship. Without realising that I was building the foundation to a beautiful relationship, I began befriending her - K, my Winnie-The-Pooh, my McGonagall, my Hermione, my Charlotte, and sometimes, my Hagrid.

Usually, I don't blog about my friends, and gush about how much I love them. But it's K's birthday today. So, I am breaking my own rules. And, K is really special to me all right! Hence, I am listing everything that I love about her. (K, I have been OD'ing on Buzzfeed. So, forgive me for this list. A personal note about a lot of nicer things would reach you soon.)

Here are five reasons why everybody (at least, weirdos like me) needs a friend like K:

1. If I were marooned in an island, and had a cell phone that has enough signal strength, I would still send a text - save me - to my rescuers. I can't make/answer calls to save my life. Like literally. So, why would I not fall in love with a girl, who doesn't phone me at all, but still gives me great company through messages? Why would I not fall in love with a girl, who makes an effort to use proper English even in text messages? (Her 'you' is not 'u'.) At times, she would never think twice before typing a long essay on Viber. I had waited for that kind of a friend all my life; a friend who wouldn't expect me to answer calls. Phew! If there's a God, that guy heard my prayers!

2. Till I met K, I was listening to songs like I am a little star... Aaven naan super star. (No offence to STR fans okay?) Then she sends a couple of songs on WhatsApp, and starts discussing different genres of music. In a few months, I go to a pub and yell at the DJ to play Above & Beyond's Sun and Moon, set my ringtone to Coldplay's 42, and arm-twist another friend into listening to Tom Odell's Another Love. A good friend and good music can change the way one looks at life. Really!

3. While reading, have you ever felt like reading some passages over and over again, and sharing it with best friends, only to invite different views and discuss more? I suffer from that illness. I spam K's inbox with myriad of random quotes and stories. She would patiently read, initiate a healthy conversation, and also read all the books that I want to marry. The trade takes place, when we stumble upon animals's pictures too. Because she knows I love seeing dogs being dogs, and pandas doing interpretive dance. (I know. I am lucky. Thank you.) Also, I am aware that, photos of poonsies fill her eyes with hearts. (A quick advice: Never lose a friend, who loves animals and books.)

4. I have been blogging since 2008, and the number of followers here is less than my nephew's age. (He is 9. If you were wondering...) I promote my articles on social media, but they don't meet a lot of readers. And then, K discovered my blog, read all my stories, and wrote some encouraging comments. That day, I knew I could die peacefully. Since the time she found my blog, she has read all that I have written. (Well, almost.) Most importantly, she gives me honest feedback - shitty stories are shitty. A sincere reader means a great deal to an aspiring writer like me.  

5. I laugh with her heartily, cracking jokes at our expense. I talk to her about my dark secrets, nightmares, struggles, fears, mistakes, desires... She listens, offers, debates, questions, and she makes a genuine effort to know me more. But she never judges. Never. (Sorry about these long lists. I am a sucker for listeners and people who care to question.) And, I know my secrets would die with her. You may make Snape read her mind. He would, maybe, just see two cats being Zennish there.  

Quite often, I wonder if I deserve all that love from her. Like always, EB White's Charlotte's Web had an answer. Knowing her, she wouldn't have it any other way.

"Why did you do all this for me?" he asked. "I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you."

"You have been my friend," replied Charlotte. "That in itself is a tremendous thing."

(Happy birthday, K. There are more reasons and I am saving it for next year. Okay. Bye.)