New Year, New Beginnings

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Each year, in the first week of January, we are joyful and hopeful. We hope that the New Year brings us bucket-loads of happiness; we hope that everything that had disappointed us in the previous year will straighten up and present itself in a better way. We hope for many such little things that might make our lives better.  It has been two years since the horrifying news of Delhi gang rape splashed across newspapers, and the protest it had generated has mellowed out.

Recently, I read a post that said- “This incident happened two weeks ago. I had an exam and my exam centre was at Nangloi, near Kashmiri gate Metro station, Delhi. As I reached the metro station, I took the escalator. On the escalator, I had a guy standing in front of me, who had a girl in front of him. The girl was wearing high-heeled footwear and was carrying a big trolley bag. The girl lost her balance for a moment and was about to fall down. This guy in front of me noticed this and out of reflex and courtesy opened his hand facing out to support her. His hand happened to touch her back. Her balance was restored. As we reached up the platform, to my surprise she slapped the guy and yelled at him “How dare you touch me?!”

You probably think that the girl is ungrateful, and arrogant to first accept the help from a stranger and then turn all the fury on him as if he had molested her rather than helped her. In india, even though women trot in high heels and short skirts, they cower in fear. To them, every man walking on the road is a rapist. Women are suspicious of any benevolent act. If a guy offers you a ride- he could be a rapist, if an auto-wallah is willing to drop you to your destination at night- he could be a rapist, if some men are standing beside you at a bus stop- they could be rapists, if a male friend asks you to come alone- no matter how much you trust him, he could be a rapist. A woman feels unsafe even in the protection of her own family, because who knows if her own father or uncle could force her into doing things she never wanted to do.

In a time when people ask to be treated equally, women in India silently pray with hands clasped and quivering lips to keep them safe from any attention that might lead to her “shame”. This year, I hope that we take a few steps towards making women feel like they have their own space to breathe in, and that they do not need to feel defenceless against those who disrespect them and do not care about their wishes.

Television Needs A Vision

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People say that watching television is a bad thing to do. They will put before you a list, listing the bad effects of watching television. I am aware of them. The researchers tell you that it is bad for your health. They might tell you that it makes your functioning slow and that it makes you dumb. But to be honest, I love watching television. It takes me to another world; a world of happiness, of innumerable possibilities. For me, it is a very pleasurable activity. I have recently switched to Indian television. I have been watching snippets of soap operas, mythological drama, even comedy shows. i was left horrified. And I kept asking myself if airing all of this was the right thing to do.

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Ever since I have had a sense of understanding of things that go around, I have watched TV. serials with my mother or my cousins. And all I have noticed is that Indian programmes cover one topic, the relationship in joint families. I particularly remember two serials of that time. One was all about a righteous daughter-in-law who is shown overcoming obstacles that stand in the way of her family’s happiness; and the other one was about two lovers who were never together and their love kept changing and they had many children out of marriage. The characteristic thing about them was that there were many plotting women who were devious and wanted the worst for everyone but themselves. Their characters were as hideous as they looked with their make up on. Each episode had lesser dialogues than the dramatic music in between, and the story went at a snail slow speed. If one program was popular, the other channels would follow and give way to a hundred more serials of the same type. The serials which I mentioned above went on for eight or seven years and there was planning and plotting right till the end. It became so ridiculous, watching the number of villainous women increasing one by one. Fourteen years later, I saw some change in Indian television when the SONY channel introduced a series of new ideas, one involving an estranged princess, one with two people who had grown out of the usual age of marriage, and one with a wife handling six childish men of the family. It was like a fresh air wafting through Indian television. But yesterday, I saw that nothing had changed. There lacks creativity. It is the same planning and plotting by devious women, trying to break their own happy family. In 2008, a serial started off involving two children victim of child marriage, and it goes on to show how the child daughter-in-law copes up with everything. The show was set in Rajasthan. The concept of filming each serial in Rajasthan thus emerged. And now, whichever channel one switches to, the same is found. And now, to get even more attention, there are people happy and getting away with rape or having extra marital affairs and people are still stuck on mothers-in-law or sisters-in-law planning to oust their daughters-in-law.

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I do not understand why the creative directors would not think of anything new. If nothing, they could at least copy the other shows. The cooking show that was copied was so dramatized, it became unbearable to watch. I think the TV industry must move on and rather than stretching one concept to unbearable levels, for many many years, they could end the idea before it stales. The dramatization must be curbed a nit too. No one needs loud music at every intense moment; a shot of expressive eyes could work as much magic. And the male dominance that is depicted in about every serial these days is gut wrenching. I hate the way a man is allowed to bully his wife into eating or accepting his extra-marital affair or his decisions which are stupid. The objectification and the cheap levels a comedy show went to, just to grasp at more TRPs is even more saddening. Creativity must be revived in the most affecting industry. So many young minds who sit with their mothers to accompany them during television watching are affected. So are these young mothers, or old mothers-in-law who when have nothing to do, are suspicious of motives behind their sisters-in-law or adopted daughters. The stale ideas are just poisoning the minds of roots of the family, because it is these women who keep a family together.

Chivalrous Men?

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It is funny how your concepts and beliefs clash with what the society expects of you, and you in turn expect the world to go two different ways. Recently, I was at crossroads, waiting for the traffic to move, when I saw a lady police officer directing the traffic and a fat male officer lounging in a chair nearby at the booth. I was outraged as I thought, “what a shameless guy, making a lady work on roads when he can do the work himself”. But at the same time I was reminded of how I keep talking about providing equality to both the genders.

When you see a woman walking somewhere lugging the luggage while her man walks ahead of her like he has no care in the world and every right in the world to walk like that, you feel nothing but outrage because you expect the man to carry the bags. It is of course a chivalrous act to do so. But when one talks of being as same as the opposite sex, is it right to expect men to be the gallant ones? Is it right to ask them to pay for your bills or repair your cars or carry your bags? The question causes serious dilemma in one’s mind because it clashes with their beliefs.

When we talk of a human’s physique, it is quite obvious that women have a slender frame, softer skin and a womb. They were, like every other female animal, built for birthing. But, a woman holds the same mind a man does. And the thoughts formulated go different ways just as a man’s do. They understand the difference between right and wrong, they decide to trust people, they are inquisitive, they are creative and they are strong and independent. But there always remains a need of feeling loved and cherished. There remains a yearning to be respected for who they are, and what their thoughts are just like men would like to be understood.

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So when people throw their hands in the air in exasperation blabbing on and on about how women cannot be feminists and still demand chivalry from men, they must understand and realize that although she demanded the right to vote and the right to earn as much as a man does in a society, there shall always remain a need in her to be loved and cherished and there shall always remain a need in him to love and cherish.

Men when you give your opinion on the shoes your girlfriend or wife is planning to buy, you must realize that if you think of that as your right, you should also consider it your duty to carry that box of gaudy pair of shoes you made her buy. You must not leave her at the station platform with the heavy bag which holds your clothes and certainly not at the vegetable market full of vegetables you are going to gulp down. You must be considerate enough to offer your help and insist on doing it because a woman makes many many sacrifices to make your life comfortable. You must pay for the date the first couple of times if you have asked her out because you want to be with her, not the opposite. And you certainly must step up and defend the honor of your wife or girlfriend or date when she is harassed even if she dragged you into the bar because that is what men are to do. They are supposed to love, cherish and protect BUT only when needed. And when I say that they need to do all the previously mentioned things, I do not expect you to interpret their meaning as handicap her by taking all the decisions by yourself or disregard her thoughts because a woman is supposed to sit quietly and adore her partner. Although the crappy romantic novels romanticize Neanderthalism it is nothing but portraying women and men in stereotyped roles which will do no good in the twenty first century.

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The Necklace…And Some More

 

 

 

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Whenever I read The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant (if you have not read the story, here is the link- http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/Neck.shtml) , I am left with disappointment. He leaves us at the point where the reader craves for more, wants to know what Madame Loisel did. Here is something I conjured from my imagination.

Mme. Lionel’s eyes widened as Mme. Forrestier revealed the truth about the necklace. Her movements halted. Every thought she had in mind flew away. She stepped back, turned and fled away from Mme. Forrestier, who was left confused and pitying. She ran till she was near her house. Her steps were hasty, her fingers fiddling with the lock for a while till she entered her small house. She looked around as if she saw the room for the first time. As the realization of everything she had lost for nothing finally dawned upon her, she burst crying and crumpled right there on the floor.

“Matilda? Is that you? How are you home already? Oh dear what happened? Why are you crying? Did something happen to you in the market? Tell me love.” Loisel said as he sat down near her and tried to soothe her. It seemed that it was a day of realizations for Mme. Loisel because for the first time she realized how hard her husband had to work to fulfill her whims and fancies and then to suffer and pay for her faults. She started crying harder thinking of how she had never really reciprocated the love her husband had for her, only because she was too vain to think of everything she did not have.

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“Oh my love, I am grieving!” she said as she buried herself in his arms and sniffled.

“Grieving? What happened dear? Tell me. I will help you if I can. Tell me! What is that matter, love?”

“Oh nothing much dear. Did you know I love you? I love everything you have done for me. And I am terribly sorry for I have never appreciated everything around me. Please forgive me love! Please do!” as she sobbed and sobbed.

Loisel let out a relieved chuckle. “My love, I love you too. It was high time you said it to me, for I have waited for you to say it for too long. Come on. Stand up. I will help you set the table. Come love.”

It was as if what Mme. Forrestier had said had become irrelevant and the burden she had felt, of being wrongly married in a wrong house had lessened. Although she still believed that they deserved a better life, she decided that she was content and happy.

It had been many days since that eventful Sunday. Mme. Loisel smiled as she thought of the promise her husband had made the previous night. He had promised to accompany her to the nearby park for a small picnic. there was a slight bounce in her step as she went to open the door since someone had knocked. Her smile faltered as she saw Mme. Forrestier standing at her doorstep. Courtesy made her allow Mme. Forrestier to enter her house.

“Why are you here Jeanne?” Mme. Loisel said, wringing her wrists nervously. She thought of the cobweb that dominated one obscure corner, and the worn carpet and the barely there furniture. Mme. Forrestier’s step faltered, and she nervously smiled at Mme. Loisel. “Matilda I have come to apologize for everything that life has punished you with because of a necklace that meant nothing more than a flippant piece of jewelry. I cannot repay you the years that have gone wasted, I cannot repay with the necklace because it is now dear to me for it is something that you almost gifted me. But I have a lot of money. Since M. Forrestier died, I have been alone and I have not had a dear friend like you. I want to give you back everything you had to pay for the necklace, and I want my dear friend back. So, I have ordered seventy thousand pounds to be deposited into your husband’s account. I sincerely am sorry, but I am selfish. And I want my friend back.”

Mme. Loisel stood silent for a minute. “I am sorry for not being there for you, and for your loss. I will always be there for you.”

Dreams

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I had been pulling my hair a while ago. I was thinking about how I was letting my life go down the drain. I do not feel like I have done anything in a year. And it frustrates me. It makes me feel useless and unworthy of anything. It makes me feel selfish and ugly and everything that could make me pull my hair. My father had just dismissed the idea of journalism. I know he will come around to accepting the idea, but he believes I can do better than that. So I was reassessing the ideas I have built in my head. And I questioned everything I have been doing for the past year.

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I know that I am not the person who wants to do “hard-hitting” journalism, nor am I a person who believes in spending half of her life buried under files or computers or wasting away coped in a cabin where I have to sit all the time. I think of travelling all around the world. I want to feel the warmth of the sun in Greece, with water as blue as sky, and sky bluer than itself. I want to walk in the streets of Paris; I want to see the snow fall in the busy city of new York; I want to watch buildings go by as I lie in the boats in Italy; I want to fall in love with a beautiful man- inside out, tall, with a sharp nose, high cheekbones, beautiful deep soulful blue eyes, ruffled black hair, and an accent that could make my insides melt, just like Gone With The Wind promises Rhett Butler to every woman; I want to help poor children, bring them to my home, teach them all good things so that they never stray from the path of good, so that they can become as successful as the privileged ones and be happy; I want to feel the fine sand slipping away from under my feet when waves retreat to the vast sea as I watch the sun setting in . I want myself to remain happy forever, so that I see no pain and feel no pain.

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And then my thoughts come back from my private paradise, letting me know that I study in college, that I never bother trying to earn so my account remains to a shameful balance of Rs.900, that I will have to work really hard and remain grounded to be able to do all of the above things. But then again, I cannot stop myself from picturing those beautiful bright small white houses built alongside the blue sea, dull lights spilling onto the silent gray streets, white snow covering everything but the barren brown trees of the playground, the beautiful sculpted image of a man, the happy faces of the children, because as much as it hurts to come back to reality and fill me with longing, it makes me aware of the fact that all of these things could happen to me if I worked hard enough. All of it makes me happy and protects me from the harsh biting reality that yawns before me, baring its ugly sharp teeth. So I dream, dream, and dream, and a smile plays on my lips as I think of it all over again until sleep lulls me and takes me into her arms.

 

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Friends?

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For a person who believes that she is perceptive, I am a dunce. My friends and I were hanging around at some random place in the college. Suddenly a friend of mine became all offensive and pinching to stop me from taking something and to share it with her. So I snapped and told her to mind her own business. Although that did shut her up, my other friends admonished for being so defensive. It still rings in my head. “Canne! That is not the right thing to do. There is no need to be so defensive. Friends can say stuff to you. And you have to accept it. Just like friends accept friends. It is just a joke. No big deal.” That is when I realized that I was actually blind to the unsaid obvious things around me.

People say friendship is the best thing that happens to a person. And it is said to be even better than falling in love. After all, a person still remains in love with a person after the initial three months only when they manage to be great friends along with lovers. But I have never felt that closeness to anybody. Actually, none but two people. But I believe I was too optimistic then. And we still are the best of friends. Although I do consider them my best friends, I still scoff at friendship. I look at it as just a bunch of people who like each other’s company who get together to spend some time. But I don’t see them forming a close relationship where they share insecurities, real feelings and thoughts with each other. For example I have no idea about what my friend really thinks of things and I know I have never bothered telling her about it.

Although my college is uninteresting and crappy, I realize that here I see emotions flowing in abundance. People fiercely love their friends here. The first time my college friend was ready to come to my rescue although she was miles away from me, I was dumbstruck. I have never had anybody like that. Like they are ready to help you whenever you need help. It is overwhelming to know that someone is there for you. I am starting to realize that friendship is not just about hanging out together or having someone to gush about a crush, it has so many aspects to it. It involves about everything. It has friends knowing the dirtiest secrets you have, and guarding them with their life. It has friends forgiving friends for their silly mistakes. It has friends holding grudges for a while and then dropping them because they cannot live without each other’s company and because it gets sorted out. Friends are the people you go to when you have a falling out with your parents or your partner. Friends are the one you ask the most intimate and uncomfortable questions. They are the ones you goad into doing something and irritate them till they are ready to pull their hair.

Friendship is a very beautiful relationship and is meant to be cherished and maintained forever. I am on my way to appreciate it.

The City

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New York City. I have only heard about it in movies or read about it in books. But when I watch big and small buildings huddled together, with lights from some windows and roads jam packed with vehicles and people bustling about with no care in the world, I am filled with a longing to be there. Most of you would make a face and grimace and wonder how a place so full of people could make someone happy, but it makes me just that. Well at least thinking about it does.

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When I am alone in a place full of people, when I can look at them and perceive their looks and their actions, when I feel so small and insignificant that I strive to become something more, that is when I feel happy. Sure it is not a very rosy looking perspective, but that is what makes me happy. To be alone and independent. When I think of living somewhere else, it doesn’t warm me on the inside. When I think of France, it feels like it will snob me away and I will wither away in some dingy corner. Although London is a beautiful city, and cozy to live in, I think it would intimidate me with its people’s icy glares. Sure there might be people who would freeze me with their glares in New York too, or the cold might  burst the veins in my fingers, or there might be dark scary valleys, but nothing calls to me more than that city that promises to fulfill your hopes and aspirations. It is this city that promises to help you find someone you could love forever. It is this city that smiles at you and promises every type of candy and clothes.

What would I not give to live there and live there forever!

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