Archive for July 2011

Age No Bar

Hi all! Yes, Yes, I've beem MIA for a few weeks. Usual story - no. Just could not find the motivation to write. :((

Discovered a channel called 'Love CBS' on my Reliance Big TV connection and came upon an interesting tidbit of information on a show called 'The Insider'. Basically it gives the low down and dirt on the lives of Hollywood celebs. 'Timepass' as my friends would say. Now I came across this bit of news which made me sit up and take notice.

An actor by the name of Doug Hutchison - aged 51 - recently tied the knot with a girl named Courtney Stodden - aged.....hold your breath...16!!! Child marriage is alive and well people! And seems to be vacationing in America by the looks of this piece of info.

So who are these people? What is their claim to fame?

Dough Hutchison is a character actor seen in movies like The Green Mile and television shows like Lost and The X Files. I seem to recollect seeing him in this last one. I was a big fan of the X Files. Do any of you remember the episode about a guy who ate human livers? If you do, you know who this guy is.

The sweet sixteen lady, Courtney claims to be a 'country' singer and was an erstwhile Miss Teen USA contestant. Now if you ask me, the girl does not look 16. She looks at least 25. And a typical bleached blonde with a great bod (and probably an empty head). I do not like saying uncharitable things about my sex, but I'm going to go out on a limb here. She looks like a sluttified version of Paris Hilton - who in my not-so-important-opinion is already scraping rock  bottom.

So how did they meet? At some theatre workshop organised by Hutchison and thats when love bloomed. The man apparently called up the girl's mother to ask permission to court / date / see her underage daughter. So it would appear that this whole thing happened with the blessing of the mother. In fact, news reports say that the marriage took place with 'parental consent'.

Jokes apart, the news made me feel rather nauseated. I know its a cliche - but the guy is old enough to be her father! And in some cultures, her grandfather!!! One wonders naturally, what brought them together? Lets try a few theories on for size:

1. They love each other (Yawn!): Well if you watch their TV interviews, they keep nuzzling each other, holding hands and saying things like 'She was a virgin. I only wish I was also a virgin'.

2. Its about sex and machismo (Now you're talking!): He's 51. Probably viagra dependent. She's young and nubile and er...a virgin. In some cultures, it is believed that sex with a virgin can cure all manner of sexual disorders.Then there's pedophilia of course.

2.1 Take your supposed star crossed lovers story to the media, get people (and bored bloggers like me) to sit up and take notice. Next thing you know, you got a reality show with top ratings (who doesn't like a bit of voyeurism) and rake in the moolah!

My money's on Theory no. 2.1 people.

While these two wax eloquent on various channels about how their media appearances can be "a forum to hopefully help people change their perspective and expand their minds about love", I can't help thinking about my own country. Marriage at 16 is not something that is unusual here, particularly in states like Rajasthan and Bihar. In fact, girls get married younger than that. It is universally recognised to be one of the stumbling blocks in women's development and emancipation. But then again, India has a long way to go before we can be really a 'developed society'.

But how does one explain the same thing happening in western - and supposedly more 'developed' societies? Are 16 year olds really that different? Are they not the same hormone affected teens, searching for their identities and sense of self within their respective cultural contexts? Is 16 really a permissable age of marriage?

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Epilogue: Notes From Agra

After the tour of the Agra Fort, we opted for an early lunch. By 1pm we were done and not sure what to do next. The Taj Mahal was our final destination before we headed back to the railway station to board our return train at 6.30pm. Even if we pored over every nook and cranny at the Taj, we were sure it would not take 5 hours. How to kill time?

Enter Babloo, our taxi driver.

'Would you like to see the Mini Taj?' he asked us.

That piqued our interest. First Baby Taj, now Mini Taj? How many Tajs were there?

'Well actually madam, the real Taj is open only from 6am to 6pm. The Mini Taj can be viewed at anytime. Especially at night, during rainy season etc'. Made sense. Where was this midget doppelganger?

'Over at the Meena Bazar' said Babloo. That sounded very romantic. I immediately had visions of quaint shops and cobbled streets selling lovely trinkets....all the Mughal stereotypes I had seen in Bollywood films rushed into my mind.

'Ok. Lets go'

A while later, Babloo brought the taxi to a halt in a small, dirty quadrangle with dotted with small shops and spare parts of vehicles strewn about.

'What are we doing here?' we asked.

'Madam, this is Meena Bazar. You go there, you can see the Mini Taj. I don't take any commission or anything. If you like anything, you can also buy it.' The sign above the shop over yonder read 'Gangotri: U.P.Handloom'. A gentleman emerged and beckoned us in.

With the dawning realisation that we stood at the precipice of a con job, we moved cautiously towards the shop. There was really very little else we could do. The gentleman beamed at us and ushered us in.

'We came to see the Mini Taj' we said feeling more idiotic by the minute. Nodding, the man proceeded to shut the shop door. He pointed at the glass cupboard that stood behind us. As we turned, he turned off all the lights and then turned on the cupboard lights.

As we stood transfixed, red, blue, green lights started dancing from inside the belly of a four feet high white marble replica of the Taj Mahal.

'People from all over the world come to see the Taj Mahal. This Taj Mahal is made of 10kgs of marble (I don't remember. It could have been more), was made by 20 sculptors (again, I could be wrong), took 7 months to make and costs 6 lakhs. It is made of pure white marble. See the light coming from inside? Fake white marble is opaque. Real white marble is translucent and glows when light from inside. This is the Mini Taj'.

As the shop lights came back on, we picked our jaws off the floor and looked apprehensively at the shop guy. What next?

'Please come over here sister' he said, leading us to the merchandise displayed at the opposite side. 'What would you like to see? Saris? Bedsheets, footwear? We have saris made of jute, banana fibre and crush proof silk'

As if under a spell, we moved towards to the other side where the man proceeded to show us sari after sari despite our entreaties that we were not interested in seeing or buying anything. But he was determined. 'How about seeing some bedsheets then? We have some very good ones. We have a unique product which is made right here in Agra by the inmates of the Agra Jail -the 'Mosquito Repellent Bedsheets'.

Here is where we made a grave error. S, whose home had a mosquito problem, showed a faint interest. Determined salesman that he was, the shop guy latched on to this smidgen of interest. Out came the sheets in bright yellow and red/brown floral patterns. And I don't know how it came about, but S ended up purchasing two bedsheets.

I wandered away from that counter towards the footwear section. Having witnessed the sale of the bedsheets, the salesman here pounced on me hoping to sell me footwear. He showed me some chappals and said that the leather was so good that it repelled insects, bugs and lizards. I suppose he thought that if mosquitoes worked on one sucker, insects and bugs might work on another. But he went too far with the lizards. Even I didn't buy that.

S had buyer's regret written all over her as we stepped out of the shop. 'I don't like these sheets! They're so loud and ugly!'. I simply collapsed in shrieks of laughter. Were there ever two bigger idiots than us this side of the Vindhyas?(considering we lived on one side and were visiting the other, I think we had the subcontinent pretty much covered)

I have since recounted this episode to several people. It gets funnier with each telling. Its been three months since our trip. Time enough to test the world famous, cost effective and eco friendly mosquito repelling sheets. S says that they work. But then she would wouldn't she?!

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