Archive for August, 2010

Who said to whom?

Posted on August 31, 2010. Filed under: Essay | Tags: , , , |

Below, we have excerpts from three conversations, each between two individuals. Let us call the first pair A and B, the second C and D and the last E and F. (Yes, highly imaginative names!).  Anyways, here goes!

A saying to B:

“You know the way he cooks potatoes. He does not peel them. Just dices them as is and puts them in the pan. At home, we don’t make them that way. We peel them carefully first ..” (What A meant: The potato peeler and thus his family are so stingy that to save a few slivers of potatoes, they don’t peel them and A’s family does not worry about such trivial details.)

C saying to D (D was soon to be married):

“So, (in your wedding) wearing a pure silk madisar and all huh?” (madisar a traditional nine yard saree worn by the bride in a Tamil wedding.) (What C meant: Apparently a pure silk madisar is the sign of great affluence. So, C wanted to find out if D’s in-laws/parents are rich enough to buy her one.)

E saying to F:

“Oh this t-shirt that you are wearing, is it new? I’ve never seen you wear it before. Did you buy it from Bebe?” (E asked me this, because the t-shirt that I was wearing had the graphic of sparkly stuff on its front, common to many Bebe t-shirts)

Now comes the question. What are the genders of A, C and E?

I am sure if you had to guess,

  • A would be a lady in her 20s-30s, probably dishing out the typical invective against in-laws.
  • C would be probably be in her 20s again, jealous of the ‘alleged’ affluence of D.
  • E would be one of F’s girl friends keenly observing F’s daily attire and drawing surmises.

What would you say, if I were to tell you all the above guesses are WRONG! Yes indeed they are all wrong.

B, D and F are one and the same person, and that person is me. That was easy enough. A, C and E also refer to the same person, but it is not a She. It is a He!  He is my age (late 20s). He is educated, works for a highly respectable software firm in the USA. He is not a figment of my imagination but is someone I know personally. The potato peeler in the first conversation was his roommate. All these are true conversations between the two of us.

So why were none of us able to hazard the right answer? It is because of the society we live in and because we are so tightly wound up in prejudices. A woman only talks about fashion, petty gossip and always is jealous. A man only talks about his accomplishments at work, trekking, gadgets and cars.  A person’s being spiteful, hysterical, gossipy, competent is not related to his or her gender or race or sexual orientation!

None of these stereotypes hold true today. Alas, we the people, are still wound up in them as before!

PS: So since I blogged this, many of my friends (needless to say male) are asking me if I have decided to take up activism to build a political career.  1 post about gender equality is enough to qualify me as a pot throwing, belan toting, man eating activist. Jeez!

PPS: Inspired by this post from IHM.

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My ‘Classical’ Love Affair

Posted on August 3, 2010. Filed under: Essay | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Summer vacations were going on. I must have been 9 or 10 years old. That one glorious year, we were living on the 5th floor in a building just beside a comparatively secluded part of Juhu beach. Everybody at home was asleep. Somehow I was awake. I still remember the day quite vividly. I was listlessly moving around from one room to another looking for something to do. For some unbeknownst reason, I opened one of the rusting Godrej cupboards and began rummaging through it. And there it was – a veritable treasure trove. No it was not a gateway to Narnia, but to another world that I discovered.  Abridged versions of English classics! They had been textbooks of my dad and aunt and had been stowed away for so many years.  At that instant, I was unaware that my love affair with classics had begun.

I took the Count of Monte Cristo and began reading. I read with horror as Dantes was wrongly accused of treason and carted off to Chateau D’If.  The book took me to France and Italy, amidst rocky seas and grim prison islands, to beautiful women and treacherous men. I devoured it all up in one sitting. Probably since it was a kiddie book it ended as a happy ending. Edmond escapes from the prison, gets his treasure and is reunited with Mercedez. I lived in this ignorance caused bliss. I did not read the revenge saga until I became an adult.

Of course, this post would be incomplete without the mention of Pride and Prejudice. There is something about Mr. Darcy.  All my friends who have read this book are still in love with him. Something about his haughty demeanor yet kind heart. Maybe psychologists and psychoanalysts may have something to say about women’s fixation for Mr. Darcy. A must read for all girls of all ages.

Many years have now passed after that summer. My fervor in books has lessened because of the pressures of making a living. I am less adventurous now, when I choose authors. But with most classics I have never gone wrong.

I dove into To Kill a Mocking bird with a clean frame of mind. I did not know its story, but I knew that it was a Pulitzer winning book. I was not disappointed. Every page I turned, I found myself being enthralled more and more.  The escapades of Scout and Jem, reminded me of my own misadventures with my sisters. The unfortunate events by which they ‘come of age’ filled me with sorrow, but at the end I felt optimistic about the inherent goodness of human beings.  I would definitely recommend it to someone who wants to begin reading, because it is a great story written in a lucid way. (I tried it on #win, but he has not yet read it to my dismay.)

Another delightful classic is Catch 22. I remember clutching my sides and laughing while I was reading it. But the next instant I would realize the grief that the comedy tries to veil, albeit thinly. An example is this guy who strives to make his life boring because being bored gives you an illusion of time having slowed down, and time slowing down makes your impending death seem farther (it is a story of disillusioned aircraft pilots, fighting a futile war). A long-ish book, but each and every page is a delight.

Another classic with a ‘catch’ is A Catcher in the Rye. I had a hard time reading it because of its strange prose style. Probably because of this staccato style, the effect on the reader is so great. I remember being disturbed for days on end after reading it.  This story of an angst ridden teenager struck a chord really close to my heart.  I would not want to read it again, but I am sure everyone will find a piece of themselves in that book.

So, what is on my reading list now? Ulysses, Lolita, The Grapes of Wrath, 1984, A Brave New World, Howard’s End… If you have read any or all of these, do let me know your opinions. Happy reading!

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