Be Gentle

13 Sep

a beautiful visual with a beautiful thought

begentleEveryone I know (myself included) is always beating themselves up: over where they are in their careers, what they could have done differently about lost loves, how they could have been there more for a parent, how they could be eating healthier, lost a little weight, been more hardworking, bought a house, been wiser with their money.

So sometimes, it’s important to remind yourself that you are only human and you’re doing the best you can. Be gentle with yourself. You are all you’ve got in this world.

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For women who are ashamed to be feminists

8 May

For women who are ashamed to be called feminists

First it was Boko Haram in Nigeria kidnapping 270 girls because they sinned by getting a Western education, and then the Sultan of Brunei introduced Sharia, including the death by stoning law, for the first time in South Asia.

But then what chance do we have, when women of privilege and education don’t have the courage to recognize and to call out sexism in their everyday lives – from their brothers and fathers and indeed, from their husbands.
How can we not move backwards in time, when women of independent means and merit will not speak about feminism for fear of being called sour pusses. When they deliberately abstain from airing their opinions, or even having opinions, on the psychological torture devices used in the modern world to hold women back — for fear of being perceived as cantankerous.

For women who will not participate in what is a sisterhood…

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Marriages in India- a social obligation?

11 Sep

A Mind Like My Own

Japleen Pasricha

arranged_marriage-resized-600

Why does young India get married? Or to be more precise, why does young educated urban/sub-urban India get married? The ideal answer(s) to this question would be:

  • Because they have found the love of their lives,
  • that person is the one for them,
  • they want to wake up every morning next to them,
  • they cannot imagine their lives without them,
  • they want to spend the rest of their lives with them,
  • they want to grow old with them.

(Okay, sorry! Too much mushiness happening here!)

But hey, we are talking about India, aren’t we? So who is this young India? Let’s define them first:

we are the young Indians, we go to collge, we complete university, we have fancy degrees like B.tech/M.tech and MBAs from even fancier institutes like the IITs and IIMs. Some of us even have foreign degress, you see imported maal is always good. We work in big multinationals…

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You’re looking happy

9 Jun

These are not words I am accustomed to. Compliments that come my way usually fall into ‘you’re looking pretty’ and ‘you write very well’ categories. ‘Looking happy’ is something I never heard.

Now I seem to be getting it from anyone and everyone who meet me after a 6 month/1 year gap.

The first time, I was skeptical. Really?

“Yeah, you’re just looking less stressed. More relaxed, little more calm, more … happy.”

Oh.

That first time I dismissed as a fluke, but the second time rolled around, then snowballed into a third and a fourth and a fifth.

In the blank sanctuary of my bathroom, I examined my face. My hairline was not as high-strung as before, even though age has not been kind to it. Looking myself in the eye was easier than it had been for years, and they looked bigger… or perhaps they simply weren’t narrowing away thanks to this newfound comfort.

The corners of my mouth weren’t slumping.

Hmm. Those people were right. I do look less stressed, more relaxed and therefore, happier.

Does that mean I am happier?

I definitely react less to people.

I have had someone I gave my heart and soul to lie repeatedly to me, and worse, say there was something wrong with me for thinking anything negative. This, after I saw and heard all that I had. That person is no longer in my life.

I have had close friends suddenly act like I wasn’t in the room. No explanations, no attempt to reconcile whatever problem lurked in their minds, and more lies what? I’m not avoiding you or ignoring you when I asked what was wrong. I have let go of them.

I have had someone cause immeasurable pain to a friend I am so close to, the attack might as well have been made on me. Instead of trying to punish that someone, I focus on loving my friend better and sharing joy with her.

I spend less time with people whom I have to ‘try’ with. Sooner than I imagined, most of them fell away as naturally as a scab that hasn’t been picked on. Only the ones who accept me or are willing to work towards accepting me, remain.

Anger comes and anger goes. Sometimes it stays with me for an hour, sometimes for a whole day, but it goes. Same with hurt. Other people’s behaviour is a reflection of who they are, not who I am. When someone behaves badly with me or with someone I love, I stay quiet and let the moment pass. I stop myself from being nasty, even in a playful way, to the person. My days are better than they have been in a long, long time and for no reason that would cut muster with a Why. When someone asks me how I’m doing and I say good, I mean it.

The only thing that still stays with me day and night is sadness. It is ironic that I look more relaxed, and people say I appear happy, when sadness is always a part of me. Perhaps because I have come to accept it. It doesn’t impose on my daily movements. In fact, I laugh better when I find something funny, I smile more and I practice paying attention to what is right in front of me, instead of what is going on in my head. I don’t succeed most of the time, but it is an effort that keeps me more grounded than not trying at all.

I have lost so much of late and funnily enough, the only regret I have now is how long I took to lose them.

One day, that too shall pass.

Reiki

30 Oct

One of my favourite things and currently my primary activity is Reiki. I have always believed in a higher power, a Universal Energy that we all come from, that resides within us, that we give various forms and anoint with different names, the most common one being God. At the age of 19 I first came to know about Reiki through two friends. I did my First Degree shortly after but lost touch until last year. Today, I hold the Third Degree, and my next step would be the Master’s Degree, though that’s a long way off.

Considering that I am the first amongst my current group of friends to be a Reiki practitioner, I get a lot of questions. It seems that nobody I know understands Reiki. Some understand it so little they cannot even formulate their questions … and I have to grapple with a series of ‘what’s. Often, I find it difficult to answer questions that come my way, firstly because it’s been only a year since I started practising Reiki regularly, and also because so much of Reiki is about experiencing it, not asking about it.

But there are two kinds of people whom I find are most resistant to the very idea of Reiki. Type One is the sort whose skepticism – and I find this amusing – stems from a ‘that’s it?’ attitude, a belief that something so simple can never really help. Type Two is the person whose belief system is completely different – either she’s an atheist (there’s nothing beyond the linear physical plane) or an agnostic (completely neutral to the question of an existence beyond the linear physical plane).

I am gnostic, humanist, feminist. Here’s my understanding of Reiki.

Rei – Universal.

Ki – Energy.

Japanese.

You can draw it in with symbols and direct it wherever you want it to go. ‘Wherever’ includes a physical body part, an emotion, a present situation, a future situation, a past condition, another person, global situations, a city far, far away, an apartment, an office, and even your mind is no limit, as I have discovered having done Reiki almost every day for over a year. You can ask for a result, but I have learned it is best not to; there might be a better result than what I ask for. This is the Universal Energy, the source, the cosmic womb, and it has its own intelligence. It knows the grand design that we as mortals are not privy to. The best thing you can do is understand that it knows better than you, and accept whatever it chooses for you. I have gained unimaginable peace in situations by not asking, simply accepting.

As humans, we each have a physical body, which is clear enough, but we also have an energy body. Just like our physical bodies have nodes along our various systems (skeletal, nervous, etc.), our energy bodies have Chakras. We have a chakra to match every physical ‘joint’ that we have, and I’m not just talking knees and elbows. At every point that two nerves or veins meet, there is a chakra. But just to make life easier, we have eight main Chakras, located along the length of our spines, going up to our heads and the last is in our auric space. For those who do not believe that we have auras, spare me your skepticism and google bioplasma science.

While yoga speaks of eight Chakras, Reiki speaks of seven. From lowest to highest, indigenous name to global —

Mooladhara/Basic Chakra

Swadishthana/Hara Chakra

Manipura/Solar Plexus Chakra

Anahata/Heart Chakra

Vishuddhi/Throat Chakra

Agya/Ajna/Third Eye Chakra

Sahasrarara/Crown Chakra

These seven Chakras together nurture every vital organ and emotion of our bodies. The idea is that curing a skin problem is a surface-only way of looking at the problem. The skin problem has come from somewhere. Healing the concerned Chakra is the deeper solution.

Most people turn to Reiki to heal physical problems, but I have found Reiki to be the easiest method for self-growth, self-development, for the technique of Reiki is as easy as growing up is painful, leaving you to deal with the pain while you keep your hands busy. Oh, hands. They’re the Reiki practitioner’s best friends. Keep ‘em happy, ‘cause they’ll be doing all the work especially when you’re doing your back.

Even though we have seven Chakras, Reiki differentiates between the front and the back. Any diagram of our Chakras will show that they’re open at both ends. Reiki teaches that the front and back deal with different aspects of the same issue.

There is very little theory in Reiki. Other than the absolute basics – which Chakra is for which problem, symbols – everything is about experience. Because everything is about experience, learning will vary from teacher to teacher. Which teacher you end up going to and how you learn is all based on you attracting what you need most at that given point in life.

For instance, the teacher I went to at age 19 taught me the First Degree. In that, you have no symbols to fall back on and need to concentrate. I didn’t last the mandatory 21 days. My second teacher at age 28 understands that nobody likes to concentrate, so she teaches the First and Second Degrees together and voila, you have the symbols to fall back on while you watch TV. Even if I had met her at age 19, I don’t suppose I would have done the 21 days because at the time, my life had no space for conscientious self-growth or self-healing. I was too busy partying and bitching and mooning over the wrong guys. So all in good time.

Most teachers love to use the word ‘easy’, and it does make Reiki incredibly accessible to people, especially since we’re all so very busy these days. I prefer ‘generous’. You ask, Reiki gives. You can heal a stomachache, and you can heal your anger. You can remove the distance between your sister and her estranged parent, you can ensure your travel to a destination is comfy and safe. You can protect your apartment from thieves just as you can protect your mind from negative energy.

Before you start thinking this is a miracle cure, and while I agree it is miraculous, there’s nothing hunky-dory about self-healing. Discovering traits in you that you dislike is repellent. Realising you’re nothing what you told yourself for 20 years that you were, can make you wish you were dead. Sitting in front of the TV and making a couple of symbols beneath your hands sounds pretty darn easy, but that’s where easy ends. But you still let it in, for Reiki thrums on a positive frequency, and even the difficult is good.

The Dark Knight Rises

27 Jul

Of all the actors who have turned me on, I never expected Anne Hathaway to join the list. For me she’s always been the boring one. The girl every boy wants as his girlfriend because she looks the yessir-yessir type. The one who’s always smile-ready. A smile that’s all teeth. And when she isn’t smiling she’s puzzling over why the world is being so mean to her. After all, she’s so nice to everyone right?

Wrong.

Yay.

In a movie where Tom Hardy’s delectable accent is decimated by a mask and Christian Bale spends more time in polyester blends than batman rubber, she was the one who perked me up every time she came onscreen, and by every time I mean every time.

Given how bored I was, she was vital to my survival of those 2hrs:40mins.

First day, second show, and predictably, the seats were writhing with teenage hormones. At 29, I was easily the eldest there. There were claps and encouraging shouts whenever heroes arrived, villains crushed and punchlines staccatoed the proceedings. I think the children had already made up their minds to love it.

And why not? The Dark Knight Rises is tedious in ways that don’t concern the movie-watching public anymore. It has eye-popping action sequences, a plot driven by testosterone, the obligatory smattering of estrogen, and an iconic movie like The Dark Knight to rise from. So who cares about anything else. Not so long ago, the entire world was fidgeting itself crazy trying to understand things about Inception that were already explained in the movie. Not understanding it didn’t stop everyone from gasping out they love love love it and that it’s the best best best, because it’s no longer content that makes the movie, it’s style.

I am of course, in the minority. I can be swept away by thumping music and smashed bridges if the characters are sexy, and only Catwoman obliged me there.

DKR is almost an exact rendition of every superhero movie made. The thing is, it didn’t need to be, and I can only think perhaps Nolan got lazy. I find it strange how having the world at your feet can cut the balls off many filmmakers when logically, it should have the opposite effect (what exactly is Imtiaz Ali making/writing these days??). Chris Nolan was the most original filmmaker I had seen, successfully selling intelligent content all over the world. His Memento was excruciating, The Prestige was flawless, even The Dark Knight was flawless. Liking these films is not the point – each was made perfectly, not a single structural flaw despite complex layers. Inception was the first where I saw his attention-to-detail slip, and now DKR might as well have been made by someone else. Anybody else.

 

With the rise of the Dark Knight, Nolan falls. I cross my fingers for his next.

Shanghai: IInd Impression

15 Jun

What Went Right —

Pithy dialogues

Casting coup: Abhay Deol & Emraan Hashmi

Prosenjit

Opening scene

Dibakar Banerjee

What Went Wrong —

Songs that went missing like Jogi

Songs that were there: clumsy with no impact

No twists, no surprises, no mystery

Projecting the movie as a thriller during promotions

I hope the review has been as subtle

but pointed in its style in keeping with

that of the movie.

Shanghai: Ist Impression

12 Jun

SPOILER ALERT :  SPOILERS AHEAD

This last month I realized how the enjoyment (or not) of a movie is fraught with dangers. Before you even buy a ticket you’re bombarded with opinions all and sundry, and to go against the tide on a social networking site is akin to poking a beehive.

Take Hugo. I expected to like it so much that I avoided reviews and reports like the plague (though now that I think about it, psychotherapists would tell me I had been quite certain I would dislike it). I was laughably disappointed because for me, the movie never began.

Ironically, the polar opposite happened with Shanghai. I was so confident of loving it that I sought out every bit of available information from talk shows, reviews and making-of segments (psychotherapists world over nod knowingly). Here’s what I got – fast-paced political thriller, brilliant performances across board (some barred Kalki from this praise), average rating 4/5.

I caught the movie much earlier than I usually do – on its first Sunday – but it so happens that I also gave it the worst reception any creative maker can get: bored.

                                      Yes I was bored. Shanghai is an exceptionally well-made film but unfortunately, the story is so straightforward I was shifting about in my seat waiting for it to go somewhere. There’s no mystery. I knew the good doctor was murdered by politicians not because of any brilliant deduction on my part but because the promos had made it crystal clear. It’s no fast-paced thriller either. The interval was the most startling event in the first 40-odd minutes since only ho-hum motivations and dead bodies had been stacked up so far. If you ask me, the interval should be bumped off as succinctly as these characters.

Political activist Dr. Ahmedi (Prosenjit) is an inconvenience to the dominative political party in a small town, and is duly killed. His lover and student Shalini (Kalki) is compelled, more by personal loss than ideals, to prove the accident was no accident. A pornographer who moonlights as a journalist Jogi (Emraan), excited by a sudden proximity to pale skin, offers her taped evidence. IAS officer Krishnan (Abhay) is pressurized to put a quick and clean end to the investigation. Jogi’s partner is bumped off, giving him a stronger motivation than love for white leather to locate lost evidence. He locates it. Krishnan uses it fittingly. The end.

LSD has more tension than this one.

If there’s any reason for me to love Shanghai, even now in my disappointment, it is its maker.

While I was serving time in film journalism, Dibakar Banerjee had told me that he wanted to gradually say more while showing less. He has done that exquisitely with Shanghai. With him, God is in the details, and it is these details that delight me. He is a relentless, even ruthless, watcher of life. Where Dibakar the director is concerned, Shanghai is leaps beyond his previous work. If I hadn’t walked into it expecting to be on the edge of my seat, I might have warmed to it.

And yes, performances are pitch-perfect, though not across board. This has probably become a cliché by now but Emraan Hashmi made me go all warm and fuzzy inside (less sexual, more maternal) (yes I have to clarify). Abhay Deol is fantastic and I would have bowed if he had worked on his accent better. Proshenjit has made Ahmedi memorable with just 15-odd minutes of screen-time. The weakest link is Kalki. According to Dibakar (in a TV interview), Shalini is the character who drives all the plot points but she is the character I remember the least. I suspect the half-baked impact is not Shalini’s doing but Kalki’s; she’s good, but somewhere out there is an actor overlooked who would have done full and total justice to the character.

                                         What I regret most is that Dibakar’s sense of humour has fallen prey to the law of diminishing returns. His anger – the one common factor in all his films as different as they are from each other – has steadily sloughed off the skippy humor of Khosla ka Ghosla until it’s now reduced to the cynic’s chafing. This is undoubtedly Dibakar’s darkest film.

 But …his punchline is on me. I found myself royally cheesed off as I exited the theatre and the reason was none of the above. It’s because I was cheated of Emraan’s lover-boy act. The two songs in the movie were clumsy appendages, and the two others were entirely missing. 

Truth is, every time Khudaaya and Duaa played on TV and I saw a helpless Emraan mooning over the unattainable white girl, a part of me willfully melted. Ironic that I should choose to admit this first on a public forum.

So congratulations, Dibakar. With Shanghai, you led me up the garden path in ways I hadn’t imagined. I will remember this.

the Woman who Tried

7 Jun

There was once a young woman. It was her nature to try hard. She tried hard at everything, work, relationships, family. She fretted over the tiniest of things. Her friends frequently forgot to invite her out. Her boyfriend lied. Her family pushed her efforts away and work… work never even looked up from its desk.

There is a straw in the universe for every camel.

One night, the straw with her name on it landed lightly on the young woman’s back. So lightly did it land, the woman didn’t notice its presence at first. She only knew that she couldn’t get up from bed the next day. Her body felt like a slab of dead meat. The rank stench of her life hovered over her, and the stench was as thick as a wall of chilled London smog.

How long she lay there she didn’t know, but lay she did, by herself, on her back, so long that her heavy limbs lost sensation against the anonymous contours of the bed, and she hovered into the stench of her life, that stench that was as much of her making as it was of her friends, family or lover, perhaps … (dare she say it?) more. The remnants of a deep, aching sadness flowed out through her eyes, nose, beat her chest into a hollow, thrummed against her head till her head wished it could explode.

She lay there her every waking hour; every hour turned to minutes, turned to seconds, turned to heartbeats. Slow, slow heartbeats that made an oddly comforting, full ‘dhumph’ inside, and every dhumph held a promise of redemption. Her whole universe shrank, contracted into her, into this dhumph, the only thing within that was alive and whole inside, until it filled her entire being, and was the only thing she felt.

Day passed into night, and night passed her by, this young woman lying in a pool of her own making, with a stench she could slip a leash on and call Bobo. The night passed her by, and with it her needs, evaporating in the first light of dawn, high up in a blue scudded sky. The need to make a difference in her family, the need to be employed, the need to turn the table on an ailing relationship, and the need to go out of her way to meet people who never even called.

She was leached clean.

When she rose next, she was ordinary. A shrunken social circle, the blessedness of singlehood, a family left to its own unique follies, and yes, some form of employment. There was a remarkable ordinariness to all these things, these things that were supposed to feel new but didn’t, perhaps because they were meant to be. Perhaps they were already there, waiting and watching in the wings, waiting for excesses to be shucked off.

Bombay Blues it is!

11 May

I’d had enough of Bombay after eight years of breathless partying, cold friendships and an even colder bed. In those eight years I moved five addresses, three of which had heaped themselves up on me in the span of 16 months.

Life happened, elsewhere, unforeseen (read: Reiki, yoga, Spanish, not writing); after a gap of two years, I’m back in Bombay trying to rent out my bite-sized apartment. I expected it to be easier than looking for a place. After all, I get to sit in one place while the others run around, right?

Turns out, sitting in one place is harder than I thought.

I  ->  met my broker through a friend  ->  through a colleague  ->  through family. Of all the brokers I have met in my eight years, and I have met many, many many, he is the only one I would give my keys to, except that he doesn’t want them.

Unfortunately, not everyone seems to be in as much of a hurry to rent my flat as I am in renting it out and getting back to Calcutta. I met three clients the day after I confirmed my broker, and one on each subsequent day for the next two days; each praised the place only to never return. Who can explain that? No, it’s not the rate for the rate is negotiable and none of them even tried.

The only couple (siblings) who got back to me turned out to have given false references. I agreed to the second meeting because they were the only ones who returned and loneliness engulfs me every night. The girl came first, and I felt her pleasantly straightforward, except when she started talking about her late latif brother. When he did arrive, my first impression of him was a complete no-no (he hadn’t scoped out the flat the previous evening). He spoke very little, very quietly, and I can understand someone being embarrassed about bad English. What struck me as being odd is that neither of them could agree on his age. They work for the same company but yet, the agreement was being drawn up in her name. She started out by saying she would pay by cash “for IT reasons”, and when I insisted on a full upfront payment, she switched unblinkingly to cheque.

My broker dismissed my misgivings.

I accepted their token, even had pictures taken for the police NOC, informed my friend and parents about my decision, but my disquiet didn’t die. So off I went to Leaping Windows to use their wi-fi. Inexplicably, my mini took a strong dislike to it and refused to function, but Bidisha (yes, that’s right) and Utsa generously let me use their desktop. I got the numbers, made my calls, and was I surprised to learn that the brother did not work there? Or that the girl had worked there for just 2 days against her claim of 40? Nope. For no matter how right things were on paper, or how to the left-brained mind everything appeared kosher, my right-brained mind had been restless and frantic about it. By now, it’s no surprise to me that in a face-off between the two, life always vindicates the latter.

So here I am, alone and friendless, counting paper plates in my kitchen and buying squeezee tubes of ketchup, waiting for the right person to walk through my door, very close to scratching out days on my canary yellow walls.

 

😛

 

Japleen Pasricha

Feminist. Activist. Founder of Feminism In India.com. Writer. Educator. Traveler. Not particularly in that order.

jerry-mahoney.com

Author, ranter, dad

All Quiet On The Wench Front

Herstory at its fucking finest.

Ashish Shakya

Writer. Stand-up comic. General idiot for hire.