The State Of This World

Disclaimer: This blog post is purely my opinion piece rather than any kind of an indictment on any individuals, societies, or beliefs of any kind. While it is backed by inputs I have come across over social media, it is not being cited as any kind of conclusive empirical data.

I usually refrain from writing opinion pieces about matters which polarize a community on the whole. It’s not merely a thought about any potential backlash but also because the numerous viewpoints floating about often muddy the waters more than show a clear path.

The Gauri Lankesh murder is one of those issues which stayed with me. Not merely because of the act by itself but also because of the tidal wave of opinions that have almost succeeded in drowning out the matter at hand- a journalist was killed.

Whether she poked the sleeping lion once too many times, whether she was too outspoken for her own good or whether it was one of those unfortunate drive-bys that we tend to witness more in other nations; the prevailing opinion seems to be that who she was, what she stood for is what most likely got her killed.

This is what I feel about death: I am pro-choice; which often results in the death of a fetus. I am pro-capital punishment which inevitably leads to a painful death. Whether it’s deserved or not; someone must have once cared for even the most hated rapist, pedophile or even sadistic murderer. And if that’s the case, surely the death of an erudite, opinionated, socially-conscious individual is likely to generate a stronger wave of impact on society overall? There must be a larger mass of people mourning her, her ideals?

A lot of her detractors have painted her as anti-establishment, anti-national, antis galore. But very few have backed up their responses with any kind of evidence to support their stance.

Twitter, the dumping ground of the masses, literatti and the cognoscenti overall, has a huge number of people lauding her death while an equally large number of people seem genuinely distressed that a voice has been silenced for good.

Some tweets (and retweets) of hers do have a rather juvenile (IMHO) facet of her showing up; with irrelevant and unwarranted potshots at the government at power and also groups associated with them.

Case in point: taking a picture of a latrine which has the word “Modi” on it and plastering it on a world-wide social media platform and captioning it as a pun on the Prime Minister’s name surely wasn’t in good taste? But if the rebuttal is “neither was Godhra and its subsequent fallout” then we’re par for course because the locking of horns will begin well and truly!

I am for Freedom of Speech and Expression but never was that freedom given to be absolute! Likening the head of state’s photo with a visiting dignitary as that resembling a “gay marriage” again didn’t seem dignified let alone respectful or even relevant in any way whatsoever! What was the provocation? And ultimately, what it did it prove?

Don’t we have enough valid instances to call out the PM on without resorting to commenting on his married state, his having served tea or having been in the ranks of a society which is a cult only if one chooses to look at it as such.

Is every one who pledges allegiance to the tenets of RSS a bigot? Waiting to put an end to all races to proclaim the glory of Hinduism? Do the members of the Sangh Parivar deserve to have their mothers dragged into a discussion on a public forum, along with the circumstances of their conception? What is the value add?

But I digress. Gauri Lankesh did not deserve to die this kind of a death. She ought to have stuck around, done her bit to shape the consciousness of those she came in contact with and spread knowledge in the most purest form; inflaming minds in the most effective and meaningful manner.

Her written word, her personality would have been a better legacy to leave behind than a cold corpse on the autopsy table.

Those who knew her or her work will probably say that her detractors won’t be able to diminish her aura or her worth. But I feel compelled to ask…wouldn’t it have been better if she had picked her battles more appropriately? Apart from not having to pay such a heavy price, she could have definitively contributed to the kind of society she sought out for herself and everyone in it.

Ode To A Shopping Mall

Today I have seen misery. I have seen faces full of despair, hopelessness and utter exhaustion. I have also seen people look defeated and rundown and resigned to the vagaries of life.

I refer to the crowds outside the waiting rooms of the shopping malls. And specifically to the male of the species who have girlf(r)iends and wives (hopefully both not in attendance at the same time) who have disappeared into the black hole that a changing room turns into on weekends.

These females, usually arms laden with clothes a size smaller than needed, march into the fray that gets them rooms the earliest and park their better and increasingly embittered halves outside with another heap of outfits that would clothe a small county.

These hapless men have handed over their lives, their wallets and most importantly their weekends to these sirens who will ask them two of the most difficult questions a man has to face in his life:

  1. How Do I Look?
  2. Does This Make Me Look Fat?

Both answers must be accompanied by starry-eyed gormless looks of admiration towards the questioner. And in case there was any doubt of any kind, the answers for question #1 can range from – great, awesome, amazing, woohoo hot!! and others of its ilk but must never be- OK or have a shrug or non-verbal that conveys indecision or anything less than adulation. And that ready reckoner was for the b.fs. Husbands already know there is no correct answer. Usually.

Answer #2 is a bit dicey but the rule book (yes, there is a rule book) says that this noncommittal answer is usually good to go-” I don’t think so/or I don’t see it; what do you think?”

Turning the question over to the woman in question may save your hide but in 20% of the cases it may rebound on the victim with accusations of never saying anything nice/complimentary or never taking a decision. Ever!!

Like the time she asked what did you feel like eating for lunch and you said (good naturedly), “Nothing specific. Anything works for me. Choose what you want.” She said, ” Cool, let’s have Chinese” and you said, “Gawd…Chinese again?!!” and kept thinking all through your Sichuan fried rice why you were feeling a distinctly arctic chill in the restaurant. Oh well.

Back to our hapless menfolk…they stand shoulder to shoulder, united in agony; waiting for the love of their life to say the magic words, “Ok..am done.” But they don’t know something more insidious is waiting for them…the serpentine queue where they’ll have to stand for another multitude of mind-numbing minutes till the clothes get paid for and if someone really has bad karma, the significant other will suddenly remember (after the bill has been paid) that the loyalty points have not been added to their card. Because 9 out of 10 times, the check-out person will direct them to yet another understaffed, overcrowded desk to get things done!

Alea Iacta Est (the die is cast).

P.S: If I didn’t have to swat away mosquitoes while I type this out, I’d have written a few lines about the young hotstuff chica whose morale I destroyed by picking up the same culottes she was reaching for. I guess I looked old and hausfrauish enough for her to rethink her wardrobe choices in toto!

Ah! Sweet Youth.

Frankenstein and Kettle bells

Disclaimer: I have no verifiable knowledge that Frankenstein’s Monster ever used kettle bells on those brawny arms of his. However, if he had, it would totally explain why he walked like he had an atomic wedgie going on 24/7!

*  For the uninitiated am going to add a link here about what an atomic wedgie is. If you need to refer to the link then you’re one of the good ones who doesn’t believe in noogies and spitballs either. I’m not posting a picture of the horrors of an atomic wedgie because it may very well fall under cruelty to animals.

Let’s continue shall we? Well…I’ve been quite wishy-washy about going to the gym and I paid for it. Oh boy, did I pay for it! My gym instructor thought I should try out the latest instrument of torture aka the kettle bell.  I tried it and by the end of the routine this was me; praying for deliverance!

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Anyhoo, all that praying didn’t get me much. Then. Once I got back home and over the rest of the day it seemed like someone had applied the brakes to my thigh muscles. I’ve heard of lockjaw. And now imagine lockthigh instead. Or rather imagine a short round woman walking like this for 2 days! But much S-L-O-W-E-R!!

Everything about growing older, not eating right, not taking care of your body comes with huge epiphanies. Mine was all the couch potatoness I’ve displayed all these years. I could have read while using the treadmill or just taken out 20 minutes out of my day even every alternate day and done *something*. I didn’t. And fell prey to an innocuous-looking cute, round thing which now I equate with being on the rack!

Jokes aside…don’t go to the gym if you don’t want too much structure and routine. But take care of yourself else it comes back and bites you on the rather sizable glutes you’ll end up having.

People don’t know what lifting weights is till you’re pulling your body up from a slanted plane or holding it up on your elbows while trying to stay steady and not belly flop on the gym mats. Or when your arm muscles jiggle like Jello and you find yourself wanting to melt into a puddle because then you wouldn’t be in any kind of shape and hurt.

But stick with it and the endorphins kick in and it actually does ease the aches and pain. It also makes you want to try out latest bane of your existence, if only to conquer it once and for all!

Till then you put up with your mind saying stuff like this to egg you on-

After A Hiatus…

It has been 22 days since I last blogged or even created a draft.

I wish there was a reason for this kind of a gap but there isn’t anything except for me being unable to gather my thoughts. And now that the thoughts are gathering, it’s akin to a storm brewing.

So I had a long-ish summer holiday with the offspring. We traveled a bit and had new experiences. Defining experiences for me as a parent. Am more confident of being able to chalk out holiday plans for the family without necessarily opting for safe options like a place with access to a pool or a beach. That’ll always be the fallback option but I am happy to say that slightly longer journeys, altitudes are no longer off the table.

On the personal front, I was sluggish to say the least. Didn’t get much done. Took a fraction of pictures that I’d normally have taken on earlier trips and pretty much retreated into the Kindle while still looking for something fun to give me a little impetus.

Speaking of the Kindle, it’s become an extension of my hand and I’m eyeballs deep into authors who primarily write about the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest. To say that their books include the wilderness and dense forests and more than average snowfall would be to undersell it. But their tones are quite similar because these geographical areas of United States are very diverse from the sunny parts of the South or the West Coast. They are also quite different in the tone and nature of the people who are depicted in the novels based in the East Coast.

It’s bucolic but the climate, the geography is as much a character in the novels as the actual people themselves. Maybe it’s the weather that calls to me (crazy I know) or my mild yearning for Seattle based on years of binging on Grey’s Anatomy but I’ve had the words Puget Sound and names of small counties of Washington State and Minnesota tumbling through my head.

I’ve also discovered that I need to learn how to scuba dive because taking pictures of the husband and offspring underwater gave me a sense of peace and joy unlike anything in the last few years.

As basic the images were and while nowhere in the neighborhood of work such as this gent, it was still a lovely experience nonetheless and made me want to explore it further. In fact my list of places of hit (eventually) already includes this. Of course if we end up doing this, my main concern will be the offspring wanting to move undersea permanently or not coming back up till he spots all his favorite behemoths.

All said and done, long summer or not, it’s been an experience. Of growth, some backslides and lot of plans for the months ahead. Not a total washout in my book.

 

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Retroblog

7 years ago I published this bit of rant (scroll down) on Facebook notes. I was more than halfway into my first year as a mother and the mini muffin was an adorable individual who was just getting into his groove as a tiny human hurricane.

The text is all in caps to express my overwhelmed state of mind back in the day. Suffice to say writing etiquette was the furthest thing on my mind at that time!

AVE DIAPER! THOSE WHO ARE ABOUT TO PLUNGE HEADFIRST INTO DOODOO SALUTE YOU!
NOTE: THOSE WHO ARE ABOUT TO OR WOULD LIKE TO CONCEIVE/GIVE BIRTH KINDLY BEAR IN MIND PRODUCT COMES WITH A NO RETURN&NO EXCHANGE POLICY!!
1) YOUR CHILD HAS THAT ANGELIC-CHERUBIC FACE SO YOU DON’T SLAP THOSE CHEEKS INTO PERMANENT RUDDINESS.
2) YOUR CHILD WILL TIME THE EXPULSION OF FECES&URINE AT THE EXACT MOMENT WHEN YOU CANNOT GET THE DIAPER ON.
3) THE CRYING WILL BEGIN JUST WHEN YOUR BRAIN SIGNALS IT’S TIME TO REST.
4) WILL SPIT UP FOOD ON THE DAY YOU ARE FEELING MOST CONFIDENT ABOUT DINNERTIME BEING A NON-WWF MATCH.
5) YOUR CHILD WILL PRESENT THE AFOREMENTIONED ANGELIC SIDE TO OTHERS, LEAVING THEM TO THINK YOU’RE A LOON FOR CRIBBING ABOUT SUCH A CUTIE-WUTIE IZZUMS!
6) WILL MANAGE TO MAKE YOUR ANGER GO OUT IN A POOF! BY GOING TO SLEEP ON YOUR SHOULDER, MOUTH OPEN, TEETH SHOWING&CHUBBY HANDS HOLDING YOU TIGHTER THAN THEY’D HOLD ANYONE ELSE.
BOTTOM LINE: ADOPT A TEEN INSTEAD. THEY’RE LIKELY TO BE HOUSEBROKEN.
LIKELY.
ADIEU!

The Shackles of Empowerment

After publishing my post last evening, I was thinking about how things are in the world around me these days and I can’t help but think of women and how some lives are changing every day and others might be stuck in a different era for all the changes they have been exposed to.

While I was growing up, emancipation was a huge buzzword. We read about it in regarding to the freeing of the slaves, the changes in South Africa and now these days it’s all about being “empowered”; even more so if you’re of the female gender.

Webster’s Diction defines empowerment as-

  • authority or power given to someone to do something.”individuals are given empowerment to create their own dwellings”
  • the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights. “political steps for the empowerment of women”

I, for one, would like the second definition of the word to be more prevalent with the first definition coming in to facilitate and enable the latter as and when necessary.

It seems very claustrophobic at times  when a woman in this day and age *has* to subscribe to be empowered or supporting empowerment for the rest. I’m all for free will and all the other requisite freedoms being the norm for an individual, rather than as an exception but having to get on the bandwagon for a “Cause” whether I feel like it or not, seems rather forced and not much of an empowerment.

The household help that I have; I view them as rather empowered. They earn for their families, they raise their kids, they participate in all social functions, festivities and still manage to get more done than people like myself who hire them to make our lives easier. They may still have to defer to the men in their families but then again, I do too. I defered to my father while I was growing up and often defer to my husband in decisions pertaining to our family. And yet I can very confidently state that I am rather empowered to “do my own thing” and live life on my own terms.

The moms who work 12-14 hours in a day are fantastic management experts without necessarily being in that role. They see to their career progression, have a semblance of a social life, take care of their health, raise their kids and still remain productive people for the most part. I would call them empowered too.

The SAHMs, me included, who manage things on the home front; either out of a need or a want and have supporting families who enable them to choose whether they want to work 10-hour days outside the home or work throughout the day in a systematic manner inside; I view us an lot empowered as well.

So why do we have these labels of Feminazi coming up when a women talks more stringently of other women being stronger? For that matter, why do we *have* to show support for things which are personal choices for most urbane women?

I know a family where the mom of 2 young girls lives in an South East Asian country while the rest of her family live in India. Her kids are raised jointly by her parents and her husband and everyone, right from her parents to her spouse, is terribly hands on and the girls are happy and well-adjusted. The mom flies down to India for almost every single festival, occasion and event and am sure is proving to be a strong role model for her girls. As is the grandmother. Are these 2 women empowered by our definitions?

Isn’t our time better spent in spreading messages of hygiene, safety for women and children at large? Do we really need a high-level CEO alone talking about Work-Life-Balance? Can we spend time lifting up each and everyone who tries to do something new, different or just tries to chalk out a separate place for themselves to shine? Do the ones bringing in a paycheck have to champion the cause of those who don’t?

So where does the source of our empowerment lie? Who gets to take a call about my self-worth and the thoughts that I “ought” to think? Maybe sisterhood isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be if we all need to be on the same page and forget to respect, however grudgingly, our individual differences.

Something to think about.

Gym Diaries: Jelly Arms & Pokey Things

This Thursday my trainer started me out on a slightly ramped up routine. Either that means that YAY! my stamina is increasing or that I really need as much help as I can! Am sure it’s a good blend of both because I do find it easier to get back into a groove without getting into what I call my “soggy-sweaty-mess” state and also because there is extensive help required in getting to desirable levels of good health.

Anyhoo…for the most part this particular regime has me moving my whole body more than the previous ones did and the way that’s happening is partly comical and outright ouch-inducing.

One of the exercises consists of me jumping onto a set of mats from a bent-knee position with arms swinging to give me momentum. But there’s a catch- I MUST NOT THUMP! My trainer lands like a cat. Barely any sound. But I THUMP. Quite thumpingly. He asked me not be terribly consciously of myself while jumping and to do it the way I used to as a child. I took him at his word and he said in his I-want-to-praise-you-but you-aren’t-there-yet tone, “That’s better. Now do it without the sound”. And therein lies the rub. Chunky people create sounds. We haven’t been light on our feet in a while so our movements overall including treads, gaits are fairly heavy. So I have many jumps to go before the thumping stops.

Now comes the more painful part of my story. The dreaded nemesis of the gym, the foam roller with the pokey thingies poking out all over it, has made a return in a vile form. And my thighs are begging for mercy. I’m supposed to lie down in a plank position and keep the instrument of torture under my thighs and just roll back and forth. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Yeah, so were the circles in Dante’s Inferno!

But all drama aside, going to the gym has shaken loose one of my biggest fallacies: that my lard is going to protect me, dull some sensation of pain etc because there are layers of it just under my skin. But nooo…pokey things are designed to cut through fat and poke away to glory and make you cry for mommy. I really, really, really don’t think I’ll ever like that thing and am pretty sure that my thighs are getting permanent grooves in them from all the back and forth rolling.

Onto the jelly arms. No guesses here. I started on weights. And after the first 8 reps there was mini earthquake measuring around 5.7 or so in the Richter scale in my arms. And then there were aftershocks. I couldn’t fathom how wobbly my arms got. And this was with just a 3-kg weight.

The reason going to the gym often ends up being a slap in the face for many and leads to drop-outs is due to the image of yourself that you see emerging. Stamina, endurance seem to be words in a dictionary and you really don’t know how to summon any up and want to just lie down on the mat, have the world leave you alone to curl up and sleep away the hurt from the pokey things.

But those who can endeavor. Sometimes by getting their angst out via blog posts. Those who can’t, take a step back to less intense activities or attack the bag of chips with a new-found love or vengeance. But I decided that very day; the only jelly I wanted to see was on my plate and not in my limbs.

PS: The next post may need to be posted with Google Docs Voice typing because the era of jelly arms isn’t over yet.

Image courtesy- media.giphy.com