Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Darn you Feminism

I read a wonderful article the other day in (where else?) the Guardian, about the ways in which Feminism can make your life difficult. Actually, there's just one way - IT RIPS THE CAULK OF INDIFFERENCE FROM YOUR EYES and forever makes you a soldier (problematic) / rebel (somewhat better) who is looking to stop men taking away your power and help other women keep their power even if it means you give up a little agency (AGENCY) and the rights to join a burlesque performance and shake your boobies out at someone for money. Or not. You've got to figure it out.
Also, its not just about women, is it?

My life - well, I can't recall when, but I've always had this uneasy feeling that things are just a _teeny_ weeny_ bit more difficult for me, as a woman. I'm not even going to go down the caste-privilege rabbithole because that's just .. no, I can't. True-feminist identification - well that happened somewhere in law school, when I finally acquired the language to articulate the silent oppression that hits you everyday like a thousand paper cuts. PATRIARCHY. AGENCY (love the word). POWER DYNAMICS. SYSTEMIC EXCLUSION.

I can never say what I want to say as well as Emer in the G, but some specific things that really make me feminist-weary in a sad, oh there goes my childhood sort of way.

1) I can't swear without feeling guilty.

2) I can't watch 99% of India movies without immediately having an annoying voice in my head go "Male gaze, male gaze, male gaze", "sexist, sexist", "ok, I can't even watch this anymore, I'm going to stew and snap at DF in just a moment".

3) I get very annoyed when porn sites have a specific "For women" category! But I can't explain why - I have limited power-language-awareness.

4) When I encounter the pronoun 'he' that deigns to speak for all humans in legal language, I have a strong urge to scream.

5) I am forever asking myself if GoT is feminist or not. Four hours yesterday and an hour this morning spent on this probing question, to somehow validate my choices, and nowhere close to an answer.

6) My maid has just come, and she has brought her daughter to work. I give up - its much too complicated now to address the problematics in this situation, I on my laptop, my maid in the kitchen, and her daughter waiting in our living room (who should BE in school and usually is). I've tried to tell her sternly I will let my maid go if she doesn't send her daughter to school - forbidden the child from working in our house, and instead handing her the tv remote, but who am I to act as saviour? Argh.

Ok, this is an uninspiring list for a blog that claims to love lists, but I am rebuilding my DO EVERYTHING personality that has been in a LAZY IS AWESOME phase for over a year now. Forgive.


In other news - I think I may finally be leaving Delhi - praise the lord.

In other news - I think this summer is going to be brutal - it hit 40 C yesterday - argh.

In other news, I'm going to do sit-ups and crunches today, I have an app even. Yay?

In other news - I think I'm done with all the work I have but more comes along in large piles disguised as responsibility and effort. I don't get it. This world sucks.

Friday, February 27, 2015


Today I had a client sign an engagement letter, officially hiring me to be their lawyer/advisor.


<3 you world!

If this isn't a gold star kind of day, I don't know what is!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Being a friend to myself

I had to take out a Demand Draft today, and predictably, I asked DF "So what's the procedure to take out a DD? Have you ever taken one out?" "Nope, I don't know, but I guess you go to the bank and figure it out?", he said, rather unhelpfully. I guess the last time I used a DD was to pay for my NALSAR entrance exam application form, and mommy dearest took care of that!

Anyway, I went to my bank in Bhogal, and figured it out. #win

ALSO, I went to the dentist PREEMPTIVELY which is a big big big step for me, - I feel like I'm ready to be an adult - especially because I will have to work like an adult to pay for all the miseries my earlier dentist caused me. :X
(Pro-tip - ALWAYS go to the best dentist you can, and ALWAYS get second opinions!)

I also made a banofee pie - the dulce le leche came from a Nestle condensed milk tin and a pressure cooker. 

I feel like something has changed. Like there's something in the air (literally, and figuratively, if you live in Delhi, but whatev), something changing.

Could it be as simple as a winter blues thingy clearing up? Because I haven't been as excited in a long time - and more importantly...


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Complete it or Kill it

I've designated one day out of every fifteen in a month to be a 'Complete it or Kill it' day.

A couple of weeks ago, while researching efficiency and optimality, I came across this article which had a central premise.

Complete a task, or kill it - don't shelter it in the warmth of your todo list.

The premise sounds deceptively stupid and simple, but its so liberating to know that there's an option to completing a task, a helpful prioritization meter so to speak, that I've adopted this wholeheartedly.

Practcially thought, I realize it isn't possible, even for someone like me, to get to the bottom of my list everyday, so every fifteen days, I have resolved to complete or kill.

Its 5 06 pm now and I have around 24 entries to complete or kill. I've done three.

#crie #completekill

One of the todo list tasks is 'write about the crafts museum that smells of cuticura and makes you curl up and want to sleep inside it'.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

INDHA VAARAM - Valentine's Day VAARAM**

Ugh this post mentions DF fourtimes. No more mentions till next month or next fight, whichever is sooner.
I'm not really sure how I feel about Valentine's Day, but to the extent it encourages a rather laboured and gendered view of love and fresh air, I'm going to truthfully admit to hating the pinkification, rose-fication, and chocolate-fication of it all, but I'm also going to admit that I'm so immersed in pop-culture that I'm also very conflicted about hating it all.

This year, I'm cancelling reservations for lunch at a nice posh restaurant from an earlier plan, and instead planning a trip to Old-Delhi with a bunch of friends to eat GOOD FOOD and spesal kulfi and Daulat ki chaat and buy some khus(flavoured?) ittar!

(P.s. I just re-confirmed Old-Delhi plans with DF, and I said "Look we should really eat Daulat ki chaat when we have the chance, though I'm not sure it'll even be available even more. Who wants to go to a nice restaurant anyway?". DF cautiously agreed, and was all like "Is this a test? Do you want me to say no-no, we should definitely celebrate it? Please, I can't take mind-games."

SO you see - EVERYONE's CONFLICTED, and I wonder how I make up my mind one way or another, when mostly there isn't time to figure out what I really think about so much stuff! Who should I take cues from, in the absence of internalisation? Damn you pop-culture, for not making up my mind for me properly.


In honour of this conflict, I want to repost this, which I wrote on another blog, on December 3, 2013.
#flashback #blastfromthepast

You know sometimes its exhausting being a feminist who is going to have a somwhat largescale hoopla wedding, especially because you have to explain your feminism angle on EVERYTHING to people who are rooted in an americanised/indianised, dairy queen/thehindu, romcom defined view of relationships and often ask if DF went down on one knee or if I was surprised by his question, or how much trouble he went to, to buy me an engagement ring, and tell me how lucky I am (eugh) and all you want to do is scream: DO YOU NOT KNOW ME AT ALL  - I HATE SHOWBIZ FOR MAKING ME FEEL GUILTY FOR NOT HAVING A STORY AND YOU KEEP ASKING ME FOR ONE AAAAAAAAA.

But, in all fairness, to take back the game, you've got to change the rules, and so here is a story, my story, and since I have a splitting headache, a growing buzz of anxiety and all signs of a total meltdown, I have a vague feeling I'm going to rant, but I'll try not to.a

Begin story.

Our story goes back about a decade (give or take) but early this year, one January night, DF and I talked about getting married, mainly so our parents would get off our backs and we could cohabit in peace without fear of maid-antagonisation and also because we had regularly fought about chores, shared cupboard space, cleaned up each other's puke, and liked the idea of owning a dog, and drinking lots of tea, and the West Wing, and puzzles, and had a bizzare affinity for playing tetris or other nintendo games all evening - so it felt totally like a normal next-step decision. We slept on the decision, woke up the next day, and while we were eating breakfast and watching TV we were all like, ok, let's do this! How soon can we get a puppy?! WE CAN CALL THE PUPPY DONKEYKONG OMGZOIKS and WE WILL LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER BECAUSE OUR DONKEYKONG PUPPY WILL DO TRICKS. And that was that.

End of story.

And though in my lousy moments of self-aggrandisement, I sometimes try to make DF feel bad for not conforming to a one-knee paradigm of commitment, DF knows me well enough to calmly (as with everything) deflect my anger with tea and truth. I hate that combination. And if loopy self-rationalisation leads me to a point where I try to juxtapose my primary socialisation with political correctness, then I concede that DF could have said:

And nearly two years down the line, that's still how it works around here, though we still don't have a puppy :(

**So around ten years ago, or maybe a little before then, Sun TV hit upon the brilliant idea of categorising its afternoon-evening movie into weekly themes.

This meant that instead of watching a tear-jerker from the 60's, a mid-90's kitschy masala and an hindu devotional movie (that is for all practical purposes  - timeless) - ALL IN THE SAME WEEK, they could generate more buzz (i.e. TRP, i.e. ad revenue, i.e. kitty for spectrum and private exchange haha - sorry bad joke) by playing a theme-based selection of movies every week.

More than the themes themselves, the voice-over used to introduce the movies became a popularly imitated. discussed, urban-life phenomenon - what we young kids now call a 'meme'.

The voice-over always began thusly:

1) INDHA VAARAM  (deep throaty male voice announcing with such fanfare you'd think some political party won all but three of the seats or something)
(this week)

2) rajini / mohanlal / deivigam / deesco/ porattam/ kudharai/kappal/mannagatti  VAARAM
('rajini / mohanlal/ devotional / disco / revolution/ horses / ships/ other theme' week)

3) UNGAL Sun-TV il, INDHA VAARAM, and then a list of the movies.

(phew - don't forget to watch).

Here's a helpful parody from the interwebs, all that survives of the golden-age of Sun-tv memes, on the theme of 'dubbed movies'.

Monday, February 09, 2015


I have this obsessive need to work towards a Zero-Inbox*. This need materialised sometime late last year, and since then I have spent hours (HOURS NO REALLY HOURS) every week trying to label, and archive every single email in my primary email account (15000 +emails).

This is the stuff that filing nightmares are made off!

In the process, I often come across cryptic one-two line, no subject emails that trigger my curiosity, I stop to read, and before you know it, I'm reading everything I wrote to people in November 2012 and I am filled with eye-rolling + happiness at my stupid poetry-sending, guardian-discovering and mildly panicking self.

For example, this gem I sent to DF:


am I going to die? What if it had mycotoxins (wiki says they are poisonous). My throat feels realy dry and sore, honestly. DRY and SORE.

(I feel like weeping a little).


As if you didn't guess already, DF sent back a "you're not going to die. I eat mouldy bread all the time' type terse response from a _blackberry_.

As you can see, I indeed did not die from (wtf are these?) mycotoxins. Hurrah.

I would laugh and poke fun at myself even more if only I hadn't had a similar outburst in Goa recently. Also, I'm not certain why I spelt it 'mold'. Also, I must have had a pretty sad day to eat mouldy bread for dinner - definitely one of the crazy deal-closing weeks.

Karya-hunting and thoughts around Apollo-11

Once my mother told me that her house in one little corner of Shivaji Nagar, Bangalore was the first to get a television. When Rakesh Sharma went up to Salyut 7 in the Soyuz T-11 from Baikonur, she said the entire neighbourhood trooped in to watch. We all had tears in our eyes when Indira asked him " Rakesh, bharat kaise dikhta hai?" and he responded "Saare jahan se acccha Hindustan hamara", she said. 

I went back to look for that DD video today, and in the crucial moments when the PM seems to be speaking, the audio is cut-off, so I'm not really sure how much my mother remembers and how much of it was embellishment from the next day's news. Be that as it may, its a good story, I heard it during summer vacations, and like all good stories from summer vacations, it pushed me to read more about space and space-travel and dream really cool space dreams in the hot, sweaty, mud-tree-dog-games-Tinkle-mangomangomango-routine that characterised summer in Madras in the 90's. I remember being especially fascinated by the showy Apollo-11 mission (and JFK's CLASSIC SPEECH*), and one day, talking about it with my dad after I had read the encyclopedia entry three times over. 

Dad said he was filled with a deep and profound feeling of astonishment when he heard that the astronauts had landed on the moon. He said to me that day, as we sat on the swing with mosquitoes buzzing all around us and my dopa trying desperately to ward them away by burning dry coconut husks in our outdoor 'kumti', and Tommy the unimaginatively named dog trying to chew our feet, with much passion in his voice, "That was the day I lost my belief in god and astrology". 

This may all have been my imagination, since the kumti-husks gave out lots of smoke, and we inhaled it copiously, merrily, turning it into a game as we skipped around the frontyard of our house in Peggy-oor, but something about that statement that dad made(?), stuck. Since those days, I'd always thought of my parents as rational yet religious. They managed to be ritualistic without really letting the rituals affect much of our lives, and without forcing me to  adhere to the unbelievably orthodox and archaic purity norms that our sect endorses**.

Lately however, and fast-forwarding through a very up-and-down relationship with god and ritual, and death and purity, I've found that dad, much like other retired older people I know, has become deeply fascinated with ritual, accepting it as routine, and as a means to spirituality.

One manifestation of this rituality that makes me *especially* furious, is the insistence on death-rituals at various points in time - the aftermath of death, the anniversary, and the get-out-of-jail-card, the ceremony in Gaya/Benaras.

In case you aren't aware, performing a ceremony for the dead at Gaya/Benaras (by the person who has the spiritual obligation to perform yearly death-aniversary rituals) is a one-shot pass at getting out of the obligation once and for all. I.e. its like a lifetime-membership into the club of the spiritually-complete without the hassle of the yearly renewal. The emphasis is NOT on the welfare of the dead person as much as it is on the ritual-performer ensuring his (not her, only his) fulfillment of the obligation.

All of this would remain wonderful, interesting theory if only I didn't have to be in the unfortunate and angry-fying position of arranging for these ceremonies this coming summer. I haven't the energy to be mad at my father, but I can't help but be frustrated at the complete wrongness of the ritual and associated purity-exclusion manifestations that the rituals play into. 

To be honest, the arrangements have been surprisingly easy to make (hail to the internet and the tech-savvy priests of the Uttaradhi Math), and I can't help but be excited about a trip to Benaras, whatever the circumstances. I should also confess that I'm relieved that dad is playing the get-out-of-jail card, since it spares me the worry of thinking about the yearly ritual-arrangement drama, but I can't help but feel that something BIG has changed between that moment on the swing in late summer, and this itinerary building in early spring, now.

Where is the person inspired by Apollo - 11? And who is this person now asking me to arrange for karya-priests in Gaya, Allahabad and Benaras, each specifically qualified to perform the rituals required, between the Ekadasi and Dwadasi in April? 

I can't tell if its living by himself, the close-knit cliquey brahmin family social circle, or his innate stubbornness that is an inherited trait, or the power that death holds in the framework of Hindu spirituality, but whatever it is, something is pushing my dad deeper into the grasp of ritual-as-routine, and I'm especially annoyed at my powerlessness to stop the regression.

*end rant*

* That speech is incredible - and if you haven't heard it, and are even in need of some uplifting soaring inspiration, I'd highly recommend it! As as an aside, JFK's speechwriter was of Danish-American heritage on his father's side (Ted Sorenson) and if you've seen Borgen, you'll recognise Kasper Juul listening to JFK and thinking of Sorenson, and paying particular attention to the principle-of-3 (as I call it) in speech-delivery. Simply put, say it thrice with increasing passion, and deliver the punchline as the fourth line. It works, and you can see the effect in most of JFK's speeches.

** See here, from which I pulled out this paragraph, as a quick example, though I'm certain more detailed studies exist: "Madi and mailigi were temporary states of being that applied as much to individuals as to objects. They conferred a certain status, which again was a temporary one, implying a purified state in the case of the former (madi) and a defiled one in relation to the latter (mailigi). The distinction between them therefore was fundamental.   Some aspects of madi and mailigi were obvious and required only a one-time introduction to the concept. Others were much more complex. As with most processes of socialization, we were just provided with a series of dos and don’ts. The implication of many of these injunctions had to be figured out over a period of time. In some cases, even the bare details of the process unfolded but gradually. For instance, the details of who could or could not move into the state of madi. All men who had gone through the thread ceremony, married women (when not menstruating) and widows with shaved heads could enter into madi. Today when I recognize signs of madi being practiced in some households, it brings back several memories. The moment of recognition is one in which nostalgia for the old world of my childhood is tinged with a horror that derives from a latter day comprehension of the disciplining and discriminatory effects of those organizational modes."

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Hindsight is love the second time around (aka I'm back bitches!)

STATUTORY WARNING*: I'm sorry if you have me on a feed of somekind - you probably woke up to 614 posts jostling for space and assaulting your attention, much like the armpits assault of the ladies compartment of the purple (violet) metro line at 6 pm to Badarpur on a warm spring day.
As you probably figured out, I didn't write them all in one night - duh, but instead painstakingly rewinded the procedure I performed three years ago (drafted all my posts then, undrafted them all now). ALL 614 of them. If that's not bravely crazy, I don't know what is. Welcome to the boudoir of my truest, deepest, showiest self. I'm scared you'll like me too much, and judge me too sweetly - I'm confident like that ya.

*Not really, you know, because there isn't a statute that says so. Still, in Spaaxland we like our legaljargons wink wink.

Hey hi ho - I missed you gentle reader(s), and I missed you bloggy.

It's been a mega mega rollercoaster these these three years here in India, and really, if  bloggy is to be believed, I was the sanest and clearest when I left *STABILITY* in 2012 to find meaning, purpose and to fulfill a long-standing desire to i) wear orange clothes to work, and ii) find and work on something truly 'useful' (neither, you understand gentle reader, are things that a magic-circle law firm encourages wholeheartedly).

Pah - how manicpixiedreamgirl ish of me na?

In the years since, I've thought of my time in India as a comma, changed it to a semi-colon, and this year I fervently hope that it isn't to become an ellipsis (you will be happy to note my penchant for cheap dramatism in sentence structuring is still the same).

I've been more thoughtful in this time than in any other before (less of the zara, more of the zen), and the last eight months especially have been the hardest, both in terms of forcing me to dissect my life-choices, and in not making what I want fall into my lap like its always done before.

Wounds unaware have blossomed and left scars and fears some of which I find when I'm looking for something else - a scrap of wrapping paper, or a red petticoat, or an unexpected email search result, while some I've become friends with, proudly, secretly, reveling in the story of the how-scar and the old-scar. Scar-friends, you could say (Say hello to my little fear).

And with all of the little-fears, and the ele-beles, and the brave-new-casting away of sloth and embracing of change, my life is in such lovely joyous shambles and order equally both, and I'm exasperated and delighted by its sine-wave-ness in a way that's oddly reminiscent of the times in VIII semester. Its all I can do not to snort, wipe away tears and roll up my fullsleeves (not really, it's still a bit cold) and get back to typing. Really there's nothing like the orange-white blogspot interface and a cranberries playlist to make me want to hug each of my posts, and eat some cake and do a little bit of laundry for old time's sake


So - what's this about being back? Let's get some things straight:

  1. It's a new year and I didn't do a 'what I want this year' post (spectacular success, back to writing and lots of travel) - for which I am sad/sorry.
  2. It was bloggy's 9th birthday last August (my bloggy is the best and I love love love it) and I didn't do a post to commemorate - for which I am sad/sorry. 
  3. I went to Goa and I celebrated my anniversary of being married to DF (which I am secretly overjoyed about and which gentle reader way back in 2008 - 2009 - 2010 - 2011 - 2012 etc etc would have thought we'd end up married haha) and didn't do a post about the unhealthily tremulous relationship that this bloggy, I and DF have - the public/private tightrope we walk everytime I post such a post, and how it was all so much easier when I was heartbroken and secretly writing lame-weepy-love-letters to DF on this blog - for which I am sad/sorry.
  4. I had a BIRTHDAY for which I did not do a post - and really, for this, I am sad/sorry/angry a little (note to self: do not watch a dystopic movie on birthday and take it all out on DF).
  5. I took some mega-mega life decisons (or atleast I decided to print some business cards for myself - which are kind of funky in a professional sort of way) and I didn't do a post about it (god figuring out how to host a website argrgrhrhrhrhhrhrhrhrrhhrhrhrhhrr) - for which I am sad/sorry, though I am certain you are relieved. 
  6. I had house-guests over for TEN DAYS (DF's parents,and no-one cried or fought or disowned anyone, and no plates were broken and much mimicking of downstair's aunty was done and much amazing food was consumed), and I didn't do a post about it, for which I am sad/sorry. 
  7. (FYI some were broken later, but that is another post which also I did not do - but given the circumstances, not really sad/sorry). 
  8. I went to see the tanks and the missiles at the Republic Day Parade, 2015 and I didn't do a post about it (or the filthiness, or the crowds, or the rain and cold, or the twitter-miracle that helped me get the passes - really the middle part of this story is like the desi version of Home Alone 2, but the ending is a little flop), and for this I am now getting exasperated at myself.
  9. I've fallen off the bloggy bandwagon - and I can't for the life of me remember why! (No, of course I do - the denouement is a couple of paras below).

So many good stories, in little crevices, in the quiet moments, when you know, I wore orange clothes, made tea at 2 pm, and sat in my balcony and *tried* to be purposeful (tick, tick, tick) - all of these and more, and the times I did laundry, and the times I've gone driving down Motilal Nehru Marg at 11 pm, and the singing along to Mukesh, and the second dinners at Sundar Nagar chomping down bhelpuri, and walking 8000 steps a day, and actively meeting more new people, and licking my hurts well, and the ASOIAF forum fascination, and the getting of a new sheesham desk to inaugurate my work-space at home, learning to host a website (failing at it), using Google AppsScript to install a functionality, besting myself at spider solitaire, learning co-ordinate geometry and behavioural econ and thinking about AI, and crypto-tech, and biases in judicial thinking, and and altruism studies, and getting mildly scared at Black Mirror, and getting very impressed with the Good Wife, and getting mildly annoyed with the Big Bang Theory, and everyday trying to become a brave, kind and successful person and failing sometimes and breaking down while DF makes tea badly :), and twitter conversations, and remembering not to flirt much with online strangers, and making creative excuses for buying things I *want* and not *need*, in these times of austerity, and more, would, in hindsight, have been just the thing - just the thing to make my future self feel warm the way I've been feeling the last two hours.

But no, I've gone and been mean to my future self, and now I feel bad. Let me make amends?

They don't tell you a lot about life you know? The ones who understand it better. Someone told me this today, and it felt like a big significant truthy truth. Really I am glad I stopped subscribing to Vogue and switched to Jezebel, though a small part of me misses my shallow happy-cute self.  All of this sophisticated angst about the city-polity and the egalitarian-consciousness, just echoes around you, and builds up, and you're not even sure what the solution is, and really who's to sit you down, make you tea and talk truth to confusion?

This, this bit of becoming an adult is tough, and its what I've been struggling with. A blank canvas is scary, but liberating, and I've had to work much harder at letting go of the former, and embracing the latter. I've learnt some things though I wish I didn't have to learn it through such hard lessons - I've decided to write it down for you-gentle reader, and for my future self, as a manual say, and because its more organic, homegrown and artisanal than anything you'll see on Buzzfeed.

1) Life is short. Young people die all the time. Don't feel guilty about pushing work to the next day and going for a walk. Unless you're a doctor or something, it's fine. The world will learn to survive without you. It already knows how to.

2) Life is very hard in small ways and in big ways. Finding good ways to deal with the hard stuff is worth spending time on.

3) Working hard is non-optional. Genius, passion and brilliance are really no substitutes. Even for me.

4) To thine own-self be true. I didn't have to make tough choices when young, but I've had to make them more often recently, and it isn't easy. There is a banality to unhealthy compromise, and it slowly kills idealism and passion. Stick to your guns, and your positions, albeit politely. The comfort of doing the right thing is nice, though I can't say for sure that its always better than the ease of compromise.

5)  Being someone else is hard, but being yourself is easy. The tough part is figuring out where oneself ends, and someone else begins. It can be hard trying to figure out if you have a 'voice' even or if all you think and say is manufactured and reworked brilliance from the previous evening's bunch. I don't know how to tell - but something surges in me sometimes when I blog and the words seem to spill out of me because I know what I want to say quickly quickly before I forget, and it seems to fit, it seems true. Some other times, its more contrived - and I can tell it isn't right just by looking - so I guess your internal radar will ping too? It's worth trying to find.

6) Love yourself. Change is scary, and breaking new ground is scary. People are casually dismissive and actively cruel sometimes (why!?)  - you need to believe and love yourself enough to disregard the filth. I don't think this is nearly as easy, and the older we get, it can be hand to be anything but easy on yourself.  Try not to and have faith instead.


I hope this makes up for the silence - it took a while to learn some new things to talk about.
A spell of hindsight is a joyforever - said nobody but me.


You'll recognize this reference if you've been here before, but I had to do some laundry, and its done now. Time for some tea, and bed, and brunch tomorrow. Excuse the label, but we're pretty relaxed about that sort of thing around here. It *felt* right.