FaceBook made me think

My school friend got married a month or so back. She had invited me. I had congratulated her and regretted my inability to make it (to another city). The usual. The other day while browsing FaceBook, I came across some post-wedding holiday pictures she had shared featuring her new husband and (his) daughter. She looked really happy. She said she was really happy. I felt super happy for her. She said she finally felt like a complete woman, now that she was a wife and mother. I felt like I had walked into a wall.

This woman has lived independently and successfully for so many years. She is a teacher. She has friends, family, students. Of course love and human ties make us better and happier people. But do those ties complete us? Especially, as women? This is not a feminist rant but biology has dealt women this complicated hand.

Besides, she is a teacher. How many times have I seen her students’ posts on her FB wall, thanking her and calling her an inspiration. Also, she is now a mother. What if her daughter does not want to marry? What if she does not want to have children. Will her mother’s feelings of inadequacy at this life-gap affect her self esteem?

Goodness, how many centuries since Jane Austen died?!

Then I looked at her pictures once again. She looked so happy! Who are the students anyway to burden her to live some sort of perfect and inspirational life. Why should she? And her daughter? She needs to figure out her own principles. Her own priorities. And I? I think I just needed to be a friend.

“Lovely to read and see this. Wish you loads of happiness!” is what I wrote finally. And I meant it.

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Thrilling Thekkady

We’ve started the new year but there’s so much I left out of the last. I never wrote about Thekkady, did I? How we drove from hot and bright Kovalam and it suddenly began to rain. Like this –

And as the temperature sank, so did my heart. Because a friend had laughed dismissively at my packing queries about Thekkady with a ‘Relax! It’s Kerala. There is no such thing as cold!’ and my bags were full of shorts and tees and winterwear was conspicuous by its absence.

But here’s the thing – we don’t feel about rain like people in really cold places do. We love rain! In our hot and relatively dry country, we need rain! We react like this –

So anyhow. We loved Thekkady. The verdant green. The tiger reserve. The elephants!

The spice gardens I have written about in detail. But we also loved the little hill villages and cardamom plantations we walked through just weeks before they were ravaged by floods.

Also the warm and cosy Niraamaya resort. I loved this place and must put in a word for how homely it was. The food was always freshly cooked, light and very satisfying. And once at lunch when we had leftovers, I asked them if they could put it in the fridge and add it to our dinner and they did. Just like that! Most nice hotels in India are so stuffy about that sort of thing! Oh and did I mention that they practise waste segregation and put thought into little environment friendly details?

Finally, the relaxed place and clean air, not to mention the well stocked library (containing among others an illustrated Jim Corbett), led to me producing the following work of art!

So all in all, a most satisfying holiday!

Catchin’ up

Hello there! Has it really been a whole year since I woke up to 2018 in the Hoysala village? Well Happy New Year to you too.

There’s a reason I’m here today. My younger one has been super interested of late in the whole baby origins question. My older one was never very curious about this and from his studied indifference to the little fellow’s persistent questioning, I suspect he knows by now. I suspect because we never actually had the birds and bees talk. Naturally we did the good touch bad touch discussion and at twelve I sort of felt that was that. Clearly, I need to move with the times. However. How do people handle that question? I know I am failing miserably.

Although I must say I’m doing better than the parent who is responsible for my present predicament and I know there is one because my younger one thinks that kids are born once people get married because of the magic wedding ring. Yes – sort of a One ring to conjure them and in the nursery bind them sort of thing. Now I get where the parent of whichever friend told my son this was coming from. This question can catch you off guard but surely they could have done better than that? I mean, magic rings? And see how confusing it can be for a child. I am Hindu. I ain’t got no rings! In fact, I’m not really into jewelry and my husband’s atheist so I have no mangalsutra or bichhiya or any potential magical artifact at all!

So I fell back for the time being on – it’s a natural phenomenon and calmly explained reproduction in plants which ploy has bought me time till the next time. So parents of the world (except for the one who thought of the ring idea and just you wait till I figure out who you are!) how do you handle this one??


PS. It’s late and I am tired but I’m not being flippant about this. How do you handle this discussion? How much information is enough? Any books you can recommend?

Different Strokes

My younger one bounced up to me today to ask – what is bucks? Is it dollars or rupees?

Now everyone who knows me knows I love story telling (plus the sound of my own voice) and also trivia, so I immediately launched off into a long and complicated narrative on how human beings started as hunter gatherers like monkeys or lions. But at some point we realized that if we didn’t like chikoo, we didn’t have to eat chikoo just because it was there. We could plant a mango seed and choose to have a mango instead. So humans became farmers. And then, if I a farmer wanted to eat a chicken, I could trade some of my grain for a chicken killed by dad who was a hunter. So there began the barter system. Eventually humans created complex civilizations where tailors could trade clothes for food and pottery and so on. But then it got a bit difficult. One dress was how many bags of grain or how many claypots? Everyone got super confused. So they decided to make dead deer, with their skin and meat, a standard for exchanging things. And deer are also called buck. So a dress would be 2 bucks but a shirt only 1 buck. Like that, I concluded triumphantly.

Now my older one loves stories and has always hung onto my every word (including this time). The younger one is a critic. I had lost him somewhere along the way and he was unconvinced on the whole. My older one touched his arm and said, so basically, a buck is currency. Any currency. Yes, that. I agreed somewhat lamely as the younger one loped off.

Kids! Actually, little kid and surprising young pre-teen!


PS. On a side note, I am still at home and loving it! I have used this time very constructively to study and work on my garden, not to mention attend a natural farming workshop and begin my balcony kitchen garden project. Do check out my other blog at The Healing Mud to know what I am up to.

Ms Brittany’s Leopard

Have you seen this picture?

sci-member-pride-brittany-l-leopard

I saw it on a friend’s Facebook timeline. It spoke about how this woman, Brittany Longoria, had hunted a leopard that was the ninth largest leopard ever hunted, inviting everyone to name and shame. Being trigger happy about this sort of thing, I quickly clicked ‘Share’. Having thought about it a bit, I wonder if it is fair to target just her and not the infrastructure that supports this sort of thing.

So I clicked on the original link and did some quick internet research of my own to try and see both sides of the thing.

Here’e the pro hunting argument as I understand it:

  • It was a legal hunt
  • Hunting money aids conservation. Countries that permit hunting have managed to preserve wildlife better than the ones that don’t. By putting a monetary value to wildlife, you encourage people to preserve it. Even if it is only for the eventual purpose of hunting.
  • The animals that are killed are sick and old that are taking up space better left to the young.

Despite the blatant lies of the radical animal rights crowd, HUNTING IS CONSERVATION.

In fact, right now the AR extremists are lying about a legal leopard hunt to try and crucify a hunter that has contributed millions over the years to wildlife conservation, the African economy, philanthropy, and to habitat preservation. Another FACT that is being intentionally left out is that the leopard was elderly with a mouthful of cracked and missing teeth.

The hunter, Brittany L., did everything right and everything with her hunt was conducted legally and responsibly. Don’t let the extremists win by slandering a good person. #StandWithBrittany #LetAfricaLive

The anti hunting argument is:

  • Other animals kill for food. There is something inherently repugnant in killing for a trophy.
  • If all hunters want to do is help conservation, why don’t they just give the money?
  • There is a natural selection at work in the wild. The young will drive out or kill the old without our assistance.
  • At the end of the day, the philanthropy, conservation support, everything is only about the fun you have when you kill. Think about what that says about you.

Have I revealed a bias here? I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Meanwhile, I will do what I like doing best and talk about stories.

I have always been a huge admirer of Jim Corbett and he was a trophy hunter (till he realized the impact his actions had on the environment and took to photography instead). He continued to kill man eating leopards and tigers though. In his account of the killing of the Mohan Man-eater, he describes how while wandering through the jungle, he realizes that the man eating tiger is crouched on a rock preparing to spring down to where he  is. He decides to make a round detour and approach the tiger from behind. As he approaches the tiger, he realizes that the tiger is in fact asleep! Even as he proceeds to shoot the animal, because he has no way of defending his action if he doesn’t – the very story begins with a description of the tiger’s killing of a brave child, in his heart of hearts he does not excuse himself. By his own standards, his behaviour has been despicable and cowardly. Killing a sleeping animal with all the advantage on one side? Not sporting.

On the other hand is a different hunting story – Saki’s wickedly funny Mrs. Packletide’s Tiger. You should really just click on the link and read it, but if you must, it’s a story about the wealthy Mrs. Packletide and her lifelong quest to socially upstage her rival – one Loona Bimberton. This she proceeds to do by arranging to shoot an elderly tiger in an Indian jungle. There is of course absolutely no question of any risk to her from the tiger itself – all that has been sorted out. But as she discovers, the incidental expenses are rather high!

The life goals plan

interview
Is this drawing too Women’s Era ish? Life goals+=draw better!

I mentioned before that I quit my job (of 14 years) after my knee surgery(defective since birth) in order to figure out my life goals without any safety net (note to self: take a deep breath. Now!) Some might describe the whole (mis?) adventure as a mid life crisis. I won’t. At least definitely not yet.

So here’s the thing. Life goals are not as simple as they seem with the salary in place. At the time all you can see is static job, long commute and little time to do what really interests you. When you chuck it, all you see is no salary. And this is really weird to me because I got a gratuity that will last me a while. But I need the monthly top up like an addict needs his fix.

I also have another problem here. As long as I went out to work, I employed four people in various capacities. They are part of my household and it would be terribly unfair to kaato their pet just because I quit. So I have no work to do at home.

And this is driving me just a little crazy. There are voices in my head arguing like a courtroom or fish market or something.

Postive Me: Go write something. That’s what you wanted to do. Take piano lessons with the boys.

Negative Me: But everyone else is sweeping and swabbing and dusting!

Positive Me: Well you were overseeing renovations till like yesterday. And sweeping, swabbing dusting too! Besides, do you know Vikram Seth spent ten years writing A Suitable Boy? And all the time his driver and gardener were gossiping to the neighbours about him.

Negative Me: (Spotting the flaw at once) You are not Vikram Seth. And though he spent ten years at it, if you were to think in terms of his readers’ man hours of pleasure…

Self: Negative Me, shut up! Go get a PMP certification.

Negative Me: No, you go get a job!

A quick search on LinkedIn revealed that Amazon was hiring. Any IT people gulping in fear? Not me! With Negative Me breathing down my neck, I just dived off into the deep end. A few days before the interview they told I would be talking to a woman, let’s call her Wunderkind, who was their youngest Principle Engineer.

So Wunderkind has been working at Microsoft/Google type companies and doing research projects re-architecting the internet (you read that right), while filing patents for wrapping up expert-certified-impossible tasks on the side. Her hobbies include Quantum Field Theory and advanced mathematics. A quick search on quora and wunderkind was revealed as super-active respondent on Math and Physics questions of all kinds. There was one complicated algebra/calculus type thingie that she responded to thus (paraphrasing) I am ashamed to admit how much time I spent on this when I was fifteen…

Fifteen? What was I doing when I was fifteen? Practising swear words for shock value I think, and getting to hear such gems from my mother – Do you know when you call your brother that, who you are really insulting?

So anyway, that was when I gulped. What had I let myself in for? Clearly, I needed to work on my strategy. I spent the next two days trying to figure that out and finally came up with this. Walk in. Take Aashirwad. Ring imaginary bell. Walk out. I can think outside the box too, ok?

Anyhow, I went for the interview and before I knew what was happening, found myself babbling seamlessly about, for some reason, the architecture of WhatsApp. Which I know nothing about! And she didn’t even talk me into it. I just sort of started the conversation on my own. Negative me, who’d finally got her act together, was hissing, ‘Stop! Stop now!’ while Positive, no, Crazy Weirded-out Me suggested, ‘Next stop Facebook?’ Which at least, I do know something about.

thinking2

Moving on quickly..

Here is my next takeaway. Go for job interviews. Like, as a hobby. On the side. Don’t worry about actually taking the job. You know, a friend of mine used to do that. She moved every five years or so. Mostly because her company had shut down – not because of her of course. She swore! The weirdest one was when she was with AOL and she quit and then found out they were shutting down anyway and she had lost all the layoff benefits! She was so upset she went and fought with her manager. Kinda like this I think ↓

And she got a used laptop out of it.

Meanwhile, life goals. The only way forward is with organization so here goes. Imaginary interview with therapist.

  • Why life goals? I know two families that had early brushes with mortality. Life’s short and I need to do my thing now.
  • And what you were doing before was not your thing? No! I want to do so much more. I want to spend more time with my kids. I want to turn my green ideas into a business. I want to spend time writing and do it better. I want to paint, I want to sing. What? Ok. No singing.
  • Why can’t you do all this along with your job? No time.
  • So you left the job. What’s the pluses? So many!
    • The kids are happy to have me home! I am more relaxed and patient with them. I can supervise their homework and music practice and projects. On the flip side, they are less independent than they used to be.
    • The home improvement could never have happened without me and while it was a paint pain,  the house looks nice now.
    • The house runs more smoothly. There is less wastage. The kitchen garden is in good shape. We eat only freshly cooked food, nothing goes in or comes out of the refrigerator. Things are good.
    • I get time to read the newspaper.
    • I have been able to study. I know more about current tech than I used to. Even if I were to go back to my old job, I’d do it better.
  • What’s going wrong with the plan now that you’ve quit? Go to Start and don’t collect any money ->
  • What’s your plan B? Find a job, any job, close to home and cut out the commute. Salary is less important than time.
  • Any risks with this plan? Any job won’t look good on my CV. And a compromised salary is a risk. Besides, will I be learning new things? I have Rip Van Winkled my way through one job for fourteen years and I don’t want to repeat that mistake. At the same time, an exciting job with lots of learning will take up all my time and I would be back to square one.
  • What’s the solution then? I thought you would tell me!

Uh oh!

Sairat and a forwarded message

I was cleaning up old drafts and found this. I wonder why I never posted it. Maybe I wanted to clear my thoughts a bit and then post and never got around to doing it. I think I do that quite a bit! Anyway, this is years old and I have forgotten what the whatsapp post I mention below was exactly but I get the drift. Posting it finally then!


**SPOILERS PRESENT

My boys go to a christian missionary school and I love the emphasis on values and prayer. But the side effect I don’t like is that the mommies’ whatsapp group is occasionally hijacked for sermonising owing to the skewed demographics. A few days back there was a post about harlots and the contrast between good women and bed women (not a typo) and how good women should take care to distance themselves very visibly from prostitutes in how they choose to dress. I hit delete almost instantly and can therefore not quote verbatim but these key words were used.

I chose to ignore it then but I thought of it on my way home from watching the movie Sairat yesterday. I was thinking about a lot of things and not all my thoughts have been distilled yet, but here are a few.

A woman’s body is not the receptacle of a family’s honour. It does not stand for the respect or dignity of her community or caste or anything. Not even herself. Her body is just a person’s body. The gender is immaterial. And this is so important to underline in a country where we understand such a phrase as honour killing. These are words that do not belong together and have no business being in a phrase. Much less one with such instant identification.

Sairat is about such a killing. It’s a lovely movie by the way. It starts off all dreamy with a swashbuckling schoolboy-sports-icon hero, our heroine on a Bullet putting everyone in their place and the sort of love story most commercial movie makers need to sit down and take notes to. When the family finds out, all hell breaks loose of course, but we are still in movie zone. Post interval, reality bites. Our lovers must learn a bit about themselves. The school hero is not so much in real life. Generations of oppression show in his unquestioning servility. He will never fight back. He simply cannot. So she must. He knows how to live in a slum, share a dirty bathroom and cook food. This is his life. But she must evaluate her love and face the repercussions of chasing this new life she is so unprepared for. The actors especially the young girl playing Archie do this beautifully. And then when they have matured and grown and settled down and found peace and made peace with the past we find that their past has not made peace with them.

But how could it? The rules that have been broken are not trivial ones. Our urban minds could hardly comprehend the gravity of what has happened. Parshya’s sister may never be able to marry. His family will certainly never see him again. Who knows what his supportive friends had to go through? They all would have paid for his crime in daring to marry a girl from a higher caste. And Archie’s family? You can see their financial setbacks in their newly bare house. Her father loses face and then power in the political party he belongs to. A man who cannot control a mere daughter is no longer a force to reckon with. He can hardly raise his eyes and look people in the face – such is his shame. And of course, these are violent people who find their redemption only through violence. It is not enough for them that their daughter is gone. They must destroy her completely to get back their honour. Save some face. Because this girl stands for the family’s, the community’s respect, honour and dignity, she must comply or die.

What a terrible burden to carry! And how easily we increase the load every time we forward those harlot type messages.