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Friday, August 10, 2018

What should a woman wear?

Women in Denmark who are found wearing niqab and burqa can now expect to be penalized for the ‘illegal act’ - more than £100 for the first offense and up to £1,200 with a potential jail sentence of up to six months. At the other extreme of the spectrum was what I read in ’I am Malala’ where the Taliban could choose to shoot a woman in the face if she refused to wear a hijab.

Fashion has changed over the years, from corsets that constrained the respiratory system so much that women needed fainting couches to bullets bras with circular stitches that made your boobs a weapon for your defense to the realization that women can wear pants to work too.

The western world appears very modern from a distance because it allows its women to wear whatever they want. But modernity is not a function of what you wear. You can wear a pair of jeans, but you might have Paleolithic ideas about gender roles. You might cover yourself from head to toe and still be championing for women’s right to education. Also, a deep cut blouse or a short skirt doesn’t make you sexually promiscuous.

For years, men thought that women dress up to get their attention. And women think it is for competition. That is a very antediluvian way of thinking. They didn’t get the memo that women (and men and pangender people) can wear whatever they want as long as the occasion is appropriate. You won’t wear shorts to a board meeting or a burqa to a beach (if your belief system is not strictly Islamic). In fact, what you wear should be no one’s business but yours.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Lessons from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

I started watching an Amazon original series (that received 14 Emmy nominations this year) about the life of a 26-year old woman who had a husband, two kids, a posh apartment- everything a woman living in Upper West Side of New York in the 1950s could want for her life to be perfect. Everything.

The pressure of having to look perfect every day
However, I was amused by the fact that she wanted to look so impeccable for her husband that she woke up every day before him, did her makeup- lipstick, fake lashes- the whole shebang and went back to bed to pretend that she had woken up looking flawless. The idea is ridiculous. I am my most vulnerable with my husband. He has seen me cry- bloated and red-nosed and has loved me. I can put up my game face for the world, but at home, I can be myself- whatever I choose to be. And not necessarily perfect. This is exactly when I sensed that things were not going to be kosher for Mrs. Maisley.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge fan of make-up. Done in the right amount, it can enhance your natural features. You can also opt to look like the Tin Man of Wizard with over the top highlighting- your choice. I don’t judge because I believe in the freedom of choice. However, the constraint of having to look perfect every day and even on your bed, while you sleep with the person who should accept you as you are- genuinely scares me. This is an unnecessary pressure that no woman should be subjected to.

Earn enough
Living the life of an upper-middle-class housewife with nannies to take care of the babies, a German cook at one’s beck and call, exercise classes, continually obsessing over body measurements and a seemingly infinite disposable income for shopping can appear like living in a dream- with rainbows in the sky every day. But it has no glory. Because you are dependent on the charity of another person to give you affection and financial security. What if someday he decides that he wants something else? Where will you be then?

Every woman should earn enough to be able to afford a place of her own. And if you are not making it, you are not there yet. And it is not just for the extreme case of a marital separation. You might get alimony that can afford you to get a place of your own. Even if you are in a healthy relationship, and you have the talent for anything- use it to build a nest egg and the rent for your nest if you need it. This will give you the confidence you need to waddle through a lot of feculence people throw at you.

Have real friends, instead of many friends
A woman should always have friends of her own. If the mutual friends decide to take sides, which they often have to, in case of a separation, at least, you won’t be left friendless. Mrs. Maisley may have found better friends through her ordeal- people who have similar interests and want to see her succeed, instead of vacuous, superficial people who she was obligated to socialize with because they were the wives of her husband’s friends.

Every woman should have at least one reliable person to lean on. Someone who will take you in on a rainy day and not worry about you messing up the carpet. This might be the hardest asset to find because even if you are a friend to everybody, not everybody is going to be a friend to you. You are only valuable to them as long as you serve a particular purpose. When it ends, your relevance in their life ends too. I have seen it happen often. Women who thought other women were their best friends, moved on with their lives when they didn’t need a free nanny, a friend who cooks and entertains or lends you money.

Ask yourself- if I had nothing- no money, no house, no husband- would they still be friends with me? If not, maybe it is time to make some new friends.

Monday, July 02, 2018

The 4th Annual Poetry festival, San Jose

Please feel free to share with your friends and consider supporting local artists by attending the 4th Annual Poetry festival, San Jose

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Wild child

During one of our family vacations, I saw a huge, gorgeous tree bent at an angle. I wanted to climb it so my father gave me a hand. I was fifteen and it still is one of my fondest memories. An aunty traveling with us said,’ Amitabha da, your daughter is so wild. Who will marry her?’ I think she used the term ‘গেছো’, literally meaning arboreal. He muttered,’ Doesn’t matter.’ For him, climbing trees was more important than learning how to be more marriageable.

I also liked to climb and walk on walls like cats. An elderly neighbor voiced his concern to my mother,’ What if she falls and breaks her legs? Who will marry her then?’ I had to convince Ma that I would be careful and I avoided the front end of the wall so the neighbor could not see me again enjoying my walks on the walls.

They let me grow unpruned.
I might have some disagreeable parts, but I am completely, authentically me. And somewhere, that wild child still lives on and I am grateful for that.

On Father's Day

Most of my life I have seen him in his police uniform. When the front gate cranked and we hear his boots on the concrete passage to our house, we would settle in and become quiet if we were whiling away or chatting with mother. A strict disciplinarian and with very little patience for weakness- that is how we knew him. Now, I get to see the human behind the uniform, who is equally vulnerable like any other. His eyes light up upon receiving the tiniest of gifts. Even though he is not very verbal about his emotions, he emotes through poetry. I get why he wanted us to be strong. The mother nurtures, the father hopes that we can survive on our own. And somehow feels proud to see us do it. Happy Father's Day. This day and every day. My happiness today is a function of everything you did for us. 

Friday, June 08, 2018

Find someone to talk to

We choose our friends. And if from all the people I chose you, I will make sure you feel pampered. I want you to feel good about yourself. Because I hope to be the kind of friend I needed in my hard times. That is why I have the irritating habit of texting my friends to ask how they are doing when I don’t hear from them for too long. Just to make sure they are doing okay.

Sometimes, it won’t be enough, I know. But the world won’t end that day. Don’t give up on life. And if you ever need someone to talk to, I will make sure that I am available for you. I will stand by you. Vent out, crib, have a good cry on my shoulders. Doesn’t matter how long you need to recover, hold my hand. Too much? Okay, let’s dial it down a bit. I can also give you a glass of wine instead of my hand. In extreme cases, seek professional help. Whatever you need. But, please, oh please! Don’t give up on life. There is always someone willing to listen. Someone who cares. Even if you feel alone, you are not.

National Suicide Prevention Lifelines
Canada : 1-800-668-6868
India: +91-22-27546669

Friday, May 11, 2018

Where is my home?

I was discussing with my friend if adapting to the country you live in is bad. Why should it be?

If you are enamored with a place so much that you will accept poor quality of living just to be in it, then you are making a mistake in my humble opinion. But you can be successful in any part of the world. Boundaries are man-made constraints. Even race is a social construct, a weak proxy for genetic diversity.

Then where is my home? Who are my people?
Home is where you feel welcomed and valued. Sometimes, it can be thousands of miles away from the place you were born in. And my people are those who cheer for me, who motivate me to do better, who help me evolve. My home is right here, in my present.