Monday, December 31, 2012

My New Year Resolution: to speak out against misogyny, everytime.

To the Delhi Braveheart. To the girl who was the sunshine of her family, who lived, laughed, cried, dreamt, hoped just like any of us, to the girl who dreamt about her upcoming wedding, to the girl who wanted to live – I am sorry we did this to you.

Note: When I say misogyny here I mean everything from objectification of women to sexual crimes to general androcentrism. 

This New Year, I resolve

to speak out against misogyny

to encourage men, like my husband, who are not misogynistic to speak out

to speak out about my experiences of sexual harassment including the common incidents in public spaces and about incidents of being molested as a kid. I think it is time to speak out. I know every woman out there reading this has been a victim too. I vow to speak out about how misogynistic our society is and what it means to be a girl in India.

And the most important, to discuss and fight for a strictly gender equal family environment with all close friends and relatives.
To encourage people like my sister, my friends and even my maid, who subscribe to that.
To discourage those who believe otherwise: I have a set of relatives who sent their daughters to government schools and son to a CBSE English medium school – not because he was the brighter kid – because he was a boy. I vow to speak out against such inequality.
And to discuss and fight even when I might not be heard.

to raise a son like a daughter and not the other way around. I vow to raise the son that I might sometime have to empathise, to care, to cry, to cook, to clean, to speak his feelings - just like I will raise the daughter I might have. And that son(and ofcourse the daughter) will also learn right from his childhood that sex is a mutually enjoyable consensual experience,and not something that is taken by force from somebody (thx Vandy for this line).
to like and comment on posts against misogyny
There are so many men out there who are starting to speak. So many guys I would have thought to be misogynistic coming out in support of the Delhi Braveheart and seeing things the right way – and without blaming the victim. There are cousins, friends, uncles, aunts and even workplace acquaintances surprising me here. There is hope after-all. Then there are those guys that I always knew cared. I vow to fight the cause you believe in - atleast with my words.

to speak out against trolls – When a socially aware person posts a genuine status on FB, like for example expressing anger or concern for the Delhi Braveheart – then some trolls come and post “There are other problems in our country”, “Tony Grieg died too”, “Why don’t you talk about the XYZ rape victim also”, “it is because of short skirts”, “how can a teenage go to pub, what were her parents thinking”, “Indian culture is good and respects women so this is because of western influence”. I take a pledge to speak out against it – ALWAYS.

I know, speaking out is one thing, and actual lasting change is yet another thing. Maybe my new year resolution will change nothing. It doesn't matter. I just know I have to do this. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Sometimes some of us go through a phase where change is looming large but the wait is extended. Some of you can probably identify with it - I am feeling slightly lost with certain aspects of life (no its not sadness, its more like confusion), a phase where I am always sensing some impending change, probably I desire it or it is some lurking fear of stagnancy. So I constantly have this urge to go crazy. And believe me, I have mostly been Ms goody two shoes so it is surprising that doing crazy stuff is actually so satisfying. And now don't imagine really crazy stuff, its just crazy for my standards.

So the other day I was thinking I wanted to get a tattoo. A big colorful eagle or something like that. Then I got scared of the pain so decided maybe something small to start with. I wanted something I really believed in, to be tattooed in Devanagiri script. And I ended up with one of my favorite phrases that always gave me the goosebumps: Satyameva Jayate. But after the TV program of the same name I decided it would be too clich├ęd a tattoo. By then my poor hubby was freaking out and I was also worried if the tattoo would mess up with the xrays/MRIs/CT for my back problem. So I decided I do something less crazy and got my hair cut really short. So far so good and my hubby was happy. Then I declared I wanted to get my nose pierced. My MIL was thrilled (she probably thought I was finally becoming traditional ;-) ) and my parents brushed it off as though I getting a new pair of jeans.
So here is the result:

And did I tell you my poor hubby was against this but had to take me to the Achari anyway? And he was furious after seeing me turn pink at the piercing. He said, "thats it, no more needles on you". But I am sure he knows I will come home with the tattoo someday :-D

And I almost forgot, so inspired was my niece by my mookuthi that she started going around with a sticker bindi stuck to her nose ;-)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tell your son..

Guwahati Express used to be the only thing I associated with the city.  Maybe I will learn a lot more about the city in future but I am sure the recent molestation incident is something that will make me cringe and shudder for a long time to come.

The first time I caught some news item on it I just left the room in a hurry - it was too much to bear. Maybe I was in denial. Then some of my friends started to discuss the incident at lunch break and this time I heard it out. Since then I have read blogs, articles and new items on this and it still creeps me out. I feel so angry in a helpless way. I can't just imagining how crushed and defeated the victim would have felt when she underwent the ordeal. Think about it, after being stripped, she ran to different people all over the place begging for help. I can't just get the incident out of my head and each time I remember it, I want to just hug my knees and crawl to a corner and shut my eyes to the world. Injustice to women happens all the time in this wretched country but this one has left me quite traumatized. I keep thinking over and over again, this could have been me. As painful as it seems, like lot of similar issues, this news would become stale in a few days and the girl and her family would be left to fend for themselves.

We always seem to say great things about "Indian culture" and how bad "western influence" is.  I don't think there is a dumber thing than this one that unites Indian thinking. Next time I hear someone say this, I am surely going to pounce on them - verbally of course.

All those of you reading this, please please please teach your little boy that he has no right to touch a woman without her permission. I wonder what it is about this country that makes us teach our girls to be cautious but we cannot teach our little boys to not rape/molest. And all you mommies and daddies of little boys, please read this:

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Death of The Last Vowel

When I first moved to Bangalore I loved everything about the place. The cosmopolitan/ progressive outlook and the abundance of fresh minds. It was a huge relief to be able to wear anything and not be judged professionally or personally based on that. And thanks to the sudden exposure to myriad cultures, living in Bangalore also involved being treated to particularly entertaining wondrous accents of India.. Where school could be "ischool", one could be "wohne", college was "kholl-age", sit was "shit" and "bhaiyya" , "machan" and "maadi" (as in enjoy maadi) became part of the vocabulary of a northie and a southie. I am wondering if Kolaveri and Saddah Haq have joined the youth lingo yet..

But one small thing did irritate me to no extent: the loss of the vowel.. Where Mahabharata became Mahabharat (sometimes mah-bhart), where a guy named Shiva automatically became Shiv, and Rama - Ram, the meaning of  meaning itself- artha is now arth and the most annoying – in conversations and mails I suddenly became Keerthna. Bullshit!

Thinking back, in 80s/90sNorth India had still not lost that vowel. Mahabharata still had that last 'a'.. And arjuna and duryodhana had not yet lost it too.. Well my only proof is ofcourse the Doordarshan, but Gopi grew up in the north and he does say those vowels were surely alive in the 80s.

My theory is that the death of the vowel is due to de-sanskritization of Hindi with the onset of heavy Urdu influence in Bollywood music. Hema Malini and Sridevi uttering Urdu words was nothing short of an "ouch" but then, beloved effeminate Bollywood heroes crooning those popular with Zindagi, Mehbooba, Intzaar was also an integral part of growing up in urban India. And I did dig 'ashiqui' and 'mohabbat' (compared to simpleton 'prem' and 'pyar') growning up. And pain, if not other emotions, is best expressed with abundant use of Urdu words..
But why kill that last vowel???!!!. Killing the beauty of Sanskrit vowels in a Sanskrit word is as sacrilegious (to art) as emasculating those statues in St Peter's Cathedral (yeah I saw Angels and Demons yesterday).

Would be interesting to research and find out the story behind the dead vowels.. What do you think?
I am also wondering if the onset of UP and Bihari lingo in Bollywood will see the revival of the lost vowels..

And I still like to be called Keerthana, with all the vowels intact. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

How to be the office jerk? (Fool's Guide I)

1. Ridicule any colleague who speaks in English in an informal setting. English speaking is a disease.

2. If a guy is very passionate and enthusiastic, call him Peter. If the passionate guy volunteers for stuff, behave even nastier and run miles away. Passion is infectious you see, you shouldn’t catch it.

3. Cover your social deficiencies by quoting one of the gross jokes from a Tamil movie. And then bask in the laughter it evokes – that’s as far you go in socializing.

4. If a guy is popular with women, it is because he was over-flowing (read in Tamil). Speak cheaply about him when you’re actually desperately jealous about him. Don't ever misunderstand that women like him because he respects them and treats them with courtesy. Extra points for posting nasty stuff about him on FB - especially when he 'likes' a gal's pic or the vice versa.

5. Missed promotion? Bad hike? Cha, not your fault. Romp around claiming that the girl was promoted because the manager had a thing for her. And the other guy got a promotion coz he did *** ****ing or because of his Peter. Peter is not his boyfriend - refer point 2.

6. Notice how the girls at work do not look like Aishwarya Rai or Trisha? Wonder why Murphy always favours you - all girls but the ones at your workplace are beautiful? By the way, it doesn't matter that you are badly dressed/pot bellied/below average/ less-than-guy-next-door personality. You are doing a favour to the girls when you ridicule them for being fat or short or being well endowed/not. Better still rate/rank the girls and nick name them after a vulgar porn star. And top it by claiming ' women cannot take jokes' when she takes offense at this.

7. When a pretty gal pays you some attention finally (she probably thinks its charity), despite all your cheap antics, call her a "slut" for wanting to talk to you.

8. If a girl stands up for herself when troubled/teased/harassed at workplace (check Remember sister..), tell her 'why this kolaveri?'. Tease her for all the fuss about something 'normal'.

So what else makes a person the office jerk?

Write in ladies!

Apologies to non-Chennaites. Seems like these are unique traits of Tamil men. Hence you may not be able to comprehend some of these..

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Remember sister..

To all my female colleagues - past and present.

We work/have worked with a company that values women as equal to men.
Still, those occasional weird things happen and some rotten idiots ruin our happiness at work.
A few words from me to each of you beautiful women..

Remember sister..

If a colleague stares at you all day,
Or if he cannot look at your face when he talks to you,
if he thinks your chest is your face,
Remember sister, it is not normal, and you did not invite it.

If he pings you on chat for no reason,
and if he refuses to speak to you in person,
and always insists on talking on the sly,
Remember sister, it is not normal, and you did not invite it.

if he insists that he just wants to be your friend,
or if he cannot take your rejection gracefully,
If he demands you like him back,
Remember sister, it is not normal, and you did not invite it.

Or if your boss criticizes your work for no reason,
If he gives you the work that everyone rejects,
if he claims girls are good only at documenting,
Remember sister, it is not normal, and you did not invite it.

If you are smart, be openly so,
You don’t have to be nice to jerks, just to be accepted,
Hold your head high and be yourself
because sister, those who expect otherwise are not worth your time.

It is not because you very outgoing, warm and smiley,
it is not because of your fashionable clothes,
that those jerks think you are 'loose',
It is not your fault sister, it is his perverted mind.

Don't feel bad, don’t feel sad,
Don't think you could have dressed or spoken differently,
Don't think you were too nice or not nice enough,
It wasn't you sister, you did not ask for it.

Don’t bend sister, and don’t ever break,
Don’t run away, don’t just ignore it,
Stand up and say your NO out loud,
For your silence only empowers him.

Remember sister, it is NOT NORMAL, and you did not invite it.


(Its not meant to be a poem exactly.. just my angry ramblings.. written spontaneously.)

And to my friends and cousins, who panic with each post of mine and call me to check if I am ok: relax. None of this happened to me! Guess i don't seem so vulnerable or because Gopi and I have always worked in the same company :-D

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Weighty Issues!

Always a chubby little kid, I ended up getting cheek-pinched a lot by well meaning aunts and uncles. But that also meant not-well-meaning uncles on the bus wanted to pinch me too and not on my cheek. Yet, these incidents were only of nuisance value and I was always a happy kid with great self image. You see, being the adamantly positive idiot that I was, too busy dreaming of winning Oscars, Nobels and even marrying British Princes, besides becoming Prime Minister etc.

I was mostly aloof to all the teasing and when I heard those cat calling songs in pre-teen/teen years, I actually giggled and embarrassed the offender (guess they expected a blush not full blown laughter). My favorite instance was when I was walking to school with a friend and someone cooed "Yendha Kadai-la nee arisi vangare.." and I started giggling and the guy just ran away! :-D.

(For the uninitiated, the line is from the song "Kathirikka, gundu kathirikka", translated as "Brinjal, plump brinjal". You see, in Tamil, we get pet-named after veggies(Poosinikka, pumpkin, is my fav!) ;-) And the particular line from the song: "Yendha Kadai-la nee arisi vangare.." is effectively translated as "where do you shop for such fattening rice"!)

So until I hit late teens, I was blissfully plump. Later while in college I still wasnt depressed (I was too busy dreaming up a grand future and I went to a girls college so got a good chance to develop a lot of individuality) yeah but did miss wearing those bootcut jeans with fitted shirts (My first jean, since I was 15, came way too late at 24!).

So what made me loose weight finally? To answer that question, another one stared in front of me. Why was I fat in the first place? I wasn't exactly a couch potato and had a very healthy diet at home. One thing led to another and it was soon discovered that I had an hormonal imbalance that was causing an insulin resistance in my body. I was told it was a vicious circle because the hormone imbalance was causing insulin resistance and that in turn was worsening the imbalance besides continously reducing my metabolic rate. And I was told its very difficult for me to loose weight because of this, but, not loosing weight wasnt an option anymore. Insulin resistance is a good indicator of middle age diabetes. So I set out to loose weight. This was in May/June 2006. And I weighed a startling 81 Kgs!

1 years and 2 months later, I had shed 24 Kgs! How? I did a lot of things right, some knowingly, some inadvertantly. I exercised vigorously (walked along Marina for 1 hour every morn - 7 Kms), adjusted diet (all home food allowed, no outside food) and sustained my weight by a super healthy diet while in Europe on a business trip.

Thinking back I am pretty sure that this is one of my biggest achievements and the very first one that I set out doing with so much drive. And I succeeded.

Along the way I also shed my spectacles, opting for contacts and it startled me to know that I had admirers! It wasnt easy! It shocked me, because you see I had grown up being the happy ugly duckling! People cannot believe the "happy and fat" part, but what better proof than the fact that Gopi and I got together just as I hit the roof at 81 Kg? The weight loss came more than 3 years later. I still am fat in my head and still shocks me when I catch people staring (different from fat days stare) and I even more shocked when someone tells me I am not fat anymore - In my head I always react with 'really?'

Years later, my weight does fluctuate often along with the hormone fluctuations, but I have managed to retain an average BMI. I still always plan to loose weight, and one might think that its so much easier since I have done it once.. But no.. the scale seems frozen in time, because the last 5 years taught me something beautiful. To love myself, unapologetically.

The much awaited before and after pics:

Sometime in 2005

And in 2010