Archive for June 2009

The 15 book tag

The rules are: "Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Tag up to 15 friends, including me because I'm interested in seeing what books my friends choose."

1. Swami and Friends (R.K.Narayan) - Warm childhood memories...lazy sunday afternoons..and Appa reading about Swami's exploits from the book....
2. Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier) - Eerie and mysterious. The imagery was very powerful. Red rhododendrons?
3. The Hungry Tide (Amitav Ghosh)- The first (and probably) the only book I have read set in the Sundarbans. It was a great experience.
4. The Glass Palace (Amitav Ghosh)- I learnt a great deal about Burma
5. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)- My first 'romantic' novel. Fell in love with Mr. Darcy
6. The Lord of the Flies (William Golding)- Literature text in +2. Analysed it to death! But it was great.
7. Sybil (can't recall author) - Wonderful story about a girl with multiple personality disorder. 16 split personalities. Nothing can beat that!
8. To Sir with Love (E.R.Braithwaite)- am a sucker for emotions.
9. Srikantha (Sarat Chandra)- totally deconstructed the structure of a novel. No intro, no body and no climax. Story went in a straight line. Interesting!
10. David Copperfield (Charles Dickens) - Again - middle school literature. Loved the story.
11. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseni) - My first exposure to Afghan society. I found it is very similar to Indian society - same class/caste system and many words are similar to Urdu.
12. A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseni) - Wonder at how a man could capture the lives and feelings of women so beautifully.
13. Memoirs of a Geisha (can't recall author) - loved the exposure to Japanese culture
14. The Thorn Birds (Colleen Maccullough) - I just love stories of forbidden love
15. Riot (Shashi Tharoor) - See point no. 14

Completed in 7 minutes!

I must admit that these books arent all the ones that will 'stick with me' - I was just racing against time!

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Not 'Rakhi' but a 'Swayamvar'

The name Rakhi Sawant usually evokes a grimace and shudder of revulsion from me. I try not to make uncharitable statements about other members of my sex. But Rakhi makes it very difficult not to do so. For starters, its her face - hard and coarse. Then its her voice - loud and coarse. The whole image is one of coarseness. And it has little to do with her bare and dare act.

The latest among her exploits is that apparently, she's tying the knot. And being the attention seeker that she is, it is going to happen on national (possibly international) television. Teasers are doing the rounds on TV with Rakhi trying to act coy, barely managing to tame her silicon implanted twins in a low neck choli and asking viewers for their 'ashirwad'(blessings). An almost-obese Ram Kapoor looks fondly on (perhaps at the twins), talking about his 'friend' Rakhi's marriage. Its so sweet I could just barf!

It was interesting to note the profile of Rakhi's suitors. If the media is to be believed there were 12,500 suitors who have now come down to a more manageable 16. The average age of these guys is 25 years - when guys are known to be wet behind the ears. The youngest is 21 and runs a poultry business. See the 'chick connection'?! (Sorry, couldn't resist that one). There is one who is in law enforcement in J&K. It would be safe to assume that he has a pronounced death wish (remember how Rakhi walloped her then flame Abhishek on Valentine's Day in front of the whole world?) 50% of these suitors are from small towns like Saharanpur, Raipur and Kanpur. Their professions range from fitness trainer, stuntman to vastu consultant. And of course, the romantic 'NRI'.

Two things are obvious from this. These young men see marriage to Rakhi as a means to an end. The end being a foot in the door to the glamour world. Second, it seems that the producers of this reality show have picked suitors who are mavericks - the type who could be the hero of a Hindi movie. Figures, since Rakhi has been quoted as saying that she wants a husband who is: " as smart as SRK, with Salman’s build and Aamir’s attitude"-Think of the roles these gentlemen have essayed in their films. SRK-quintessential NRI. Salman Khan evergreen tapori (stuntman, fitness trainer et al), Aamir Khan - a bit of everything.

Rakhi Sawant is actually a great choice for a reality show. She loves being the center of attention, doesn't mind compromising her dignity to gain fame and loves giving madcap quotes like: "I have full faith in Jesus. Duniya bhar se heere aayenge auditions ke liye... (‘gems’ from across the world will come for the auditions). God will help me choose the right person"! Add to it her penchant for getting into controversies (Mika you listening?) and you've topped the TRP rating. If in the process you have further commodified women - who cares about them anyway? They are an essential commodity in marketing. The means and the end. Its the moolah that matters right?

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Sex Ed 1-on-1

My niece is 11 years old. She's growing up, an intelligent, observant and articulate girl. I like to think I'm a doting aunt. I am very protective of her and can do serious bodily harm to anybody who tries to hurt her.

One Saturday, my sister dropped her off at my place. I was to help her with her latest project - research for an essay on a nearby animal shelter. So we set off, aunt and niece, to the Blue Cross close by.

We had a great time at Blue Cross. She loves cats and cooed over the orphaned kittens. I'm a dog lover and played with the adorable puppies. Together we wondered if we could take one (or 10) home. She interviewed the caretakers and they answered her questions patiently. An afternoon well spent.

As we walked back home, I noticed a car with tinted windows parked on the left. A man, who appeared to be the owner,was standing near the bonnet. I sensed something was wrong and immediately moved my niece over to my right and away from the guy. As we neared, I realised that the jerk had stopped to flash us! There he stood, with his fly undone and his thing exposed. I turned my head away in disgust and quickened our pace.

A while later, still shuddering with distaste over the incident, I wondered if my niece had also been 'exposed' to the view. I looked at her as she walked by my side, quiet for the moment. She seemed ok, but I realised I should say something. I had gone through a similar experience as a child. I remember the fear and confusion I had felt. I did not want history to repeat itself.

" Were you afraid?" I asked, opening the discussion.

"Of what?" she queried

"That guy"

"Oh you mean the guy near the car? I forgot." She tried to gloss over the incident obviously uncomfortable at having to discuss this with her aunt. But I did not intend to give up.

"Its not your fault ok? He's sick" I said, hoping I was helping.

"What?" she asked

"Next time somebody tries this with you, I want to you pick up the biggest stone lying on the ground. Look around for an escape route. Then throw the stone at him. Make sure you hit his pee-pee (that's what she called it)" I told her, hoping I was equipping her with essential survival skills.

"Ok." She said and dissolved into giggles. Equilibrium restored, we walked on home.

As we turned into our lane, we saw a little guy, about 3 years old, pee-ing onto the road.

"Look Chitti! He's showing his pee-pee! Shall we throw a stone at it?" exclaimed my niece.

Ah well. At least she got the message.

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All That Glitter - And It's Not Even Gold!

Last week we were invited for dinner to a distant relative's home. So, armed with a bouquet for the lady of the house, the four of us arrived at the posh M.R.C.Nagar residence of said distant relative. Since I cannot keep saying 'distant relative' all the time, let us name the poor man. Let us call him....Raja.

Raja stood at the gate to welcome us. We exchanged greetings and warm smiles before proceeding inside the house. Being a shy and retiring sort (you're laughing?), I hung back and entered the house last. Only to have my senses (mostly that of sight) assaulted by blinding light. Once my eyes had adjusted to the light, I realised that it was not any supernatural phenomenon. It was the living room. It looked like something out of a crazy Arabian Nights movie.Let me explain.

The largish, living room, had two double sofas and a small divan type with two single seats. All these items of furniture were made of black leather. Sexy you say? There's more! Upon them were thrown, rugs in black and gold. The double sofas had shell shaped cushions, again in-you guessed it-golden colour. Strangely, the cushions did not nestle in the corners of the sofas, but sat perched precariously on the sofa backs, threatening to topple over, but defying gravity by some miracle. The divan, on the other hand, was adorned with heart shaped cushions which were embroidered with red sequins. To achieve a 'cute' effect I suppose. The whole seating arrangement was pulled together by a massive glass center table set over a tiger skin carpet. I have no idea if it was real.

One corner of the room was done up in a jungle theme. It had this large tree trunk with 3 branches. Upon the branches sat a variety of stuffed toys, including a stuffed tiger. Over the "tree" hung a chandelier, only the second in the room. The first and more prominent one hung over the massive glass center table mentioned previously.

Another corner attempted an Oriental theme. There was a huge golden (need you ask!) laughing Buddha. Above it was a marble shelf of sorts, upon which were arranged several more laughing Buddhas in various sizes. All golden of course. Oh! But I stand corrected. There was one which was not golden - not entirely anyway. An Indonesian Buddha made of green glass and wearing golden ornaments. All other spaces which were not covered in gold, leather or sequins had mirrors. You were faced with an image of your bedazzled self every which way you turned.

Polite conversation, in this setting, was a challenge. The room and its adornments were really the only options available, in terms of conversation pieces. So sitting under a large fur lined Japanese fan that hung on the wall, we tried our best. "Where did you buy this trinket" and "It must be a full time job to take care of this house" and the most insincere one " How lovely. You have an artists eye"

My sister-in-law and I were eventually overpowered into silence by this vista. My husband was bewildered by it and kept looking around in slack-jawed wonder. Only my brother-in-law seemed in control - but then he had Dutch courage to fortify him. We also forgot the real reason why we had come. To get fodder for the family gossip mill-on forbidden tales of love, money and live-in relationships.

Disclaimer: All persons, places and shiny objects in this narrative are fictitious. Resemblance to any living person, place or shiny object is for me to know and you to guess!!

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Assaulted - Provoked?

Ever since I've started blogging, I've developed an interest in reading what other bloggers write. Particularly on subjects which are of interest to me. So I wander from link to link, eagerly perusing what others have to offer. If the post moves me, I even leave a comment.

So yesterday, I chanced upon a blog written by a Mumbai based gentleman. He seems to be quite a prolific writer, poet, and what-have-you, having 7300 blog views to his credit. He's interactive and responds to each and every comment that readers leave behind. His responses are positive and respectful. Needless to say the blog is very popular.

A post by this blogger titled 'Indian Male Libido Going Haywire?' caught my eye. The blogger refers to an article in the Times of India about the rape of minor girls from affluent families. He then goes on to wonder why these crimes occur. Is it because the Indian male is frustrated?.

The post seemed harmless enough. Even socially relevant. Rape is after all a very serious crime that affects the lives of women. But the comments were another issue altogether. One comment in particular concerned me. I paste an extract here: "...girls are equally accountable by being so sexually arousal..they are found arrayed with so meagre outfits..that u can;t help shunting ur eyes from her...". (Pardon the poor english!)

I just had to retort to this. Here is what I said and also the response it elicited:


Hi John. You have raised a very important issue about violence against women. However, I am a little concerned about the last comment that Prasun made - that girls are equally accountable by dressing sexily. It is like saying that one should blame a woman for not taking sufficient precautions to prevent her rape. Ours is a democracy. Society and the State have a RESPONSIBILITY to ensure safety of women especially from violent crimes. Safety and protection are a RIGHT of women. Besides, as most feminists will tell you, rape is not about sexual arousal at all. If it was, how does one account for children being raped? Old women past 60 being raped? Young boys getting raped? Rape is about wielding power over the powerless.

Blogger John said...


Thanks for your comment, I respect your view that rape is about power, but disagree with that contention.

Rape may be about power, that I don't know, but rape is also about arousal. I read somewhere that a man can get aroused once every eight minutes. Unlike in the middle ages (with more women working and all) he lives in a society where women have right to work and earn a living he is surrounded by women everywhere he goes. Imagine a man being aroused every 8 minutes in the office and on the street by a sexy figure, a revealing dress, a show of undergarment (all of which openly happens in today's society), etc. and a man would become something of a sex fiend if he doesn't have a wife or cannot restrain himself.

In cities like Bombay around half the population consists of men living alone. That's all the more reason for women to exercise caution while dress, and not following the trend of wearing sexy clothes advertised to sell products. Because if a man is aroused he will exercise his libido over an innocent minor or someone who is not in a position to fight back.

I guess this fact of men's sexuality has not been understood (rather has been misunderstood) by women's libbers. Hope to put this aspect in the right perspective.


I am really at a loss how to deal with this mindset! This is from a man who, going by his writing, seems to be highly educated, erudite and well informed. He probably represents the mainstream thinking on this issue. That it is not the responsibility of the state to provide a protective environment for women. A man will do nothing to 'control his libido' but a woman must give up her freedom of choice and wear conservative clothing to prevent getting raped.

This opinion is just a polite and polished version of what girls at a Mangalore pub were subjected to at the hands of the Shri Ram Sene not long ago.

Oh! How will women ever throw off the shackles that enslave them if men do not partner with them in the endeavor?

I was so distressed by this exchange, that I just had to write a post about it. I would really like to know what my readers think about this. Or better still, please visit the blog:, read and leave a comment for the author.

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