One ‘Sunny’ day; And puppies are nothing like babies.

Let’s just say we were pet sitting for someone this weekend. A nine weeks old yellow labrador puppy. Named Sunny. The most adorable long ears, a lovely shinny yellowish brown coat. And the biggest paws you’ve ever seen on a puppy. Bright twinkling eyes. And trust me when I say this, he snored like an 80 year old man.

In the day and a half that I spent with this little yellow ball of droopy eyes and snuggly paws, I have absolute new found respect for pet owners. For people who bring home an animal and give him/her the love, affection and the time. For human beings who devote their lives and share their space with a non-humans. I didn’t realize until recently, the efforts that go in to bringing home an animal and loving him to be like one of your own.

Because puppies are nothing like human babies. Yes, they are cute and adorable. And they sleep a lot. Not to mention they have small frequent accidents. But, the truth is that they demand your love. And not just the affection, but the kind of attention that makes you wanna drop everything and pick him up. And the minute you pull him out of that crate, where he kept racing up and down, all whiny and teary, he drops his head on your shoulder and blends in. He might as well be a part of your t-shirt, he’s that quite now. Complete camouflage.

I’ve always questioned unconditional love between parents and their children. And to a large extent, I believe that there is no such thing as unconditional love among human beings. How can it be unconditional love, when something is expected out of children at every step. Something that includes trophies, medal, degrees, a fat salary package, a spouse, children. Not all parents expect their children to be prodigies. I guess there are exceptions to every rule. But nobody wants their children to grow to be street musicians or a painter.

But I realized over the weekend with a puppy running haywire in the house that the love between a pet and his owner is as close as it gets to being unconditional. Well, the fact is that your dog is never going to get home anything except the occasional dead bird or a dirty rag from the road, but his owner will love him the same amount. Without any accolades or achievements, a dog will still wait for you everyday. With that long drawn face and a wagging tail, he will still wait for you to command him to eat. No matter how hungry he is, he will fetch the ball you’ve just thrown. Without any temper tantrums, he will wait patiently for you to unlock the front door and take him for a walk. And trust me, I haven’t even experienced half of this. But somewhere I know, that if I do ever get over my fear of dogs, it will be picture perfect.

One fine day, Sunny, changed the way I looked at dogs. As we dropped him back, I wondered if I’d ever be able to explain to people that somewhere beyond my irrational fear of dogs is the sheer concern that I wouldn’t be able to appropriately reciprocate his love and that I would fail this little puppy.

He’s in a happier place now. Chewing on a bone all day long.

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Jiah Khan… who?

Let me begin by saying that my thoughts and prayers are with Jiah Khan’s family and I hope and pray for her soul to rest in peace. Where ever she be, her family is going to be haunted by the huge void she’s left behind. But eventually, they’ll make peace with it and her memories will fade away. If, the Indian media let them.

Because, long after she’s gone and her loved ones have moved on, the Indian media will continue to dig out horrendous details about her personal life and flash it across the morning newspapers and news bulletins. Similar to the events that have quickly unfolded after the news of her suicide was made public.

I’m pretty sure, some newspaper publication somewhere in India, immediately called for a ‘stop press’ action after this news broke. Well, now that would be an exaggeration, but this wouldn’t be as unhealthy as the media coverage Jiah’s suicide is receiving over the last two – three days.

News reports regarding the suicide case have explored different angles of this story. Note, I am no longer calling it ‘news’, because honestly, after Jiah was found dead the news element kinda faded away. What was then left of the story was the reasons behind her suicide and the routine procedure there in. But, two days after the suicide, Jiah’s sister found a six pages long suicide note, which was analyzed to pieces by the media. Parts of the very personal letter were even printed in publications such as the Times of India, which is not only violation of personal space, but an extremely unethical thing for a publication to do.

In the publication’s defense, they claimed that the family granted them permission to publish the excerpts from the letter. As a consequence of which, another publication went ahead and blamed the mother and Jiah’s upbringing for failing to manage her personal life, washing dirty laundry in public and on top of all succumbing to pressure.

The easiest thing to do in India is to blame the parents for any misdeeds done by their children. Drugs, rape, pregnancies, betrayal, divorces, cheating, lying, murder or suicide are all blamed on the upbringing. As if to say that the external world had absolutely no role to play in a person’s development and his parents have in some form failed him/her by messing up his/her childhood nurturing. No guesses there, right!

I have just one question to the media, the opinion leaders and the people who think they can pass random judgements about just anyone: Who is Jiah Khan?

Why is her life so important to the media and hence to us? She is no Prime Minister of India, No Sachin Tendulkar or even Shah Rukh Khan. Then why is her suicide making headlines?

Honestly, she was an upcoming Bollywood starlet, with not more than three movies to her credit. None of which were anything close to a hit. Secondly, all her roles were extremely sleazy, without any hint of an acting career except for that she was sizzling hot.

That’s it. Beyond this point, nobody knows and nobody really cares about her life.

But the stories on her suicide sell. Human interest stories about people’s misery and plight sell like hot cakes and the media cashes on this. The media doesn’t care what they are inflicting on the common man, because the media believes that he likes to read about a woman who had a volatile sexual relationship with her younger man, who not only abused her, but also forced her to undergo an abortion. I’m not entirely sure how a woman of her ‘caliber’ and ‘talent’ can let a man, a younger man, walk over her like he did. But that’s not for us to discuss, because sure enough in a couple of days, you’ll read about it in the Times of India. Needless to say on the front page.

Coffee and its associations

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Right at this moment, I am sipping a hot Latte, which surprisingly is Cappuccino with very little foam and more milk. Ha! Who knew! While coffee is my poison, I never really knew the difference between a Latte and a Cappuccino.

Interestingly, yesterday, while sipping on his Cappuccino my husband did ask me what the difference was between the two. Now, I’m not proud of this, but I do have tremendous faith in the gift of gab that I am blessed with and I also do remember making up some pretty convincing stuff to answer his question. There was no follow up question.

It isn’t surprising then that the grey matter in my brain feeds on coffee and that right from when I was a little girl, coffee has been my vice. Yeah, I sneaked coffee in my mug, when mom wasn’t watching. But there’s more to the caffein than just the kick it gives you. There are all these associations that make coffee more glamours than Wine. Of course, wine is more intoxicating, but nothing replaces a coffee kick.

Here are some associations that make coffee more important than the air we breathe:

  1. FRIENDS: Anyone who has ever seen Rachel and Ross kiss in Central Perk know what this coffee house means to us. And not just that, I think of that group of friends, the couch, the mundaneness and the coffee house every time I sip my coffee. Well, every time would be an exaggeration, but i’m pretty sure everyone who has been a fan of this show has at least once thought about it.
  2. Fraiser: Well, not as popular as FRIENDS, but Fraiser is one of the pioneers in popularizing the coffee culture amongst the people who watched the show. Cafe Nevrosa was Fraiser and Nile’s favorite hangout. A place where they’d fret and celebrate together. A different kind of coffee shop, which did not have a couch, but instead had a bar like seating and a huge bookshelf. An absolutely cozy ambience located in rainy Seattle.
  3. At a personal level, coffee was like the forbidden fruit as a kid. The elders always had a cup, while I just sat there waiting to grow up. I got my hands on it the first chance I got and then never looked back.
  4. Movies: So many films have their leads sitting at a coffee shop, sipping her coffee, watching the world go by. I think that imagery kinda made a deep impression here.. I’ve always wanted an oil painting of a coffee shop on a balmy summer afternoon, set in paris. That’s the dream.
  5. The Barista at the corner of Shivaji Park in Bombay. Enough said. No explanation needed there.
  6. The fanciness attached to the names that once meant nothing. Who knew what a Latte was till a Starbucks popularized it? Expresso, Cappuccino, Americano. People who survived on cutting chai, today brag about not being able to function without an americano.
  7. The cost. Admit it, walking about with a Starbucks or Barista coffee cup in your hand says a lot about your standard of living. And honestly, who doesn’t like showing off their pay checks.
  8. A coffee conversation is better than the one you have over a few drinks or over dinner. Coffee is casual, coffee is pleasant, coffee doesn’t make you throw up on a stranger’s shoe. Coffee is safe.
  9. The invention of a coffee sleve. It’s just the best thing ever!
  10. Finally, just taking a break. Get up, get a coffee!

Kim vs Aish!

Honestly, I’m not a fan of either and I’m not a feminist too. But aren’t there some similarities in the controversies regarding their pregnancies and more differences over the way people are dealing with it. 

I mean, yes their pictures pre and post pregnancy (in Aish’s case) are not their usual fabulous selves but seriously give them a break. There is a whole person growing inside of them. 

This post might sound a little confused, because while I am all for letting them grow bigger and taking their time to slim down, I am also surprised by the overwhelming support Kim is receiving from her ‘peers’ in Hollywood. Reports of new Hollywood moms asking the media to let her grow fat, are pouring in from all sides. While, this is very evidently well placed on front pages of glossy magazines and newspapers, thanks to Kim Kardashian’s hardworking Public Relations agency, there are also rumors about her actually being paid to get fat.

Now isn’t that more shocking than the fact that she is actually that big! I mean, what’s real anymore? Is she really getting paid to grow bigger? And does she have any control over her body whatsoever?

On one hand, no one, absolutely no one came forward to lend Aish a helping hand. Note: not even her in-laws. In fact, a random google search on Aishwarya Rai Bachchan only pulls up images of her in beautiful Indian dresses (that nobody notices, now that she is fat), with some baby weight. 

Again, no, I’m not a fan. But I think she is unfairly targeted sometimes. For instance, a few years back she was highly criticized for her wardrobe at Cannes, designed by Neeta Lulla.  Lulla was an upcoming fashion designer then and wasn’t much of a name in the industry. While I didn’t find anything wrong with her intricately designed dresses and saris, the fashion police went bezerk over a pin that was apparently sticking out of her outfit. Honestly, she looked gorgeous. And since there wasn’t anything to criticize, might as well blame the designer for the disaster. Who is to say that these media opps were not planted by the older more experienced and jilted designers? It’s all about appropriate media placement after all. Where you get seen and who sees you.

So back to Kim vs Aish, the only difference here is that Kim apparently is making money out of her pregnancy. She is getting paid to put on all that weight (which I highly doubt) and she will be paid millions of dollars to shed it. Aish on the other hand was the laughing stock of Bollywood for the past few months. Unfair, isn’t it.

But wait, I don’t think this is the problem either. The problem is how these controversies are confusing young women about their body images. The issue here is much deep rooted than you can imagine. Earlier, all we heard the Kardashian sisters do were criticize anyone who was a size more than them. Now we see them defend their fat sister.

Isn’t that a little to complex for a woman who is not too sure of herself to begin with? A young woman who is blindly following trends to keep up rather than be herself.

I’m pretty sure Kim and Aish will take care of themselves, but who is going to stop women from spend thousands of dollars or rupees on beauty treatments and slim clinics. We’ve got to watch better television!

 

The long lost Indian holidays

I’ve just managed to come out of a fabulously amazing American long weekend. The recovery has been rather slow this time, since it was the first long weekend of the year. When you’ve lived in this country longer than the number of years you’ve owned that little black dress, you know that a long weekend is a big deal. 

Even though a long weekend is just an additional day to your usual weekend, it demands months of planning. You just cannot afford to do the things you do on a usual weekend on this pious occasion. This means that you’ve got to go somewhere, meet someone, have a good time and most importantly flash it across Facebook. While this routine has sort of sunk in well now, my mind often wanders to memories of old Indian vacations taken with parents years ago.

There are absolutely no similarities between the two types of holidays: American and Indian. In fact nobody calls them holidays in India. It’s a vacation. It’s time you take off work to be with your family. Your family is almost always a part of your vacations. Except when you’re on your honeymoon, the only time people are willing to go on a vacation on their own.

 Moving along, unlike American holidays, Indian vacations are most inconveniently placed in the calendar year. Almost as if somebody decided to scatter pigeon food all over the year. A holiday rarely comes along with a weekend. It’s almost always a Tuesday or a Thursday, with exceptions of Wednesday. They tell me nobody plans this on purpose, but I have my doubts. 

And if this wasn’t messing with your vacation plans, organizations in India most definitely have holiday calendars of their own. In short, as a school going girl, if I had a whole week off for Diwali, my dad would most certainly have to work four days that week. Which would mean that we would have to apply for a four day leave, which would not be sanctioned till the day before we were set to leave. Honestly, this would only ensure that our trip was filled with uncertainty and mystery. What fun!! Not only did this teach me to keep my expectations under check, but it also helped me to appropriately deal with disappointments. Not bad for a seven year old.

And that was probably the only planning part, because this trip involved hardly any. With no maps, GPS systems, rental cars and online databases of hotels, we were pretty much on our own for most part of the trip.

If we were to rent a car and travel to the destination by road, we would most certainly have a driver with us. A concept unknown to most non-Indians, a driver is the owner of the vehicle who would drive you along the whole trip to places far and wide. Honestly, having been on innumerable such road trips as a child, my character sketch of a driver is quite muddy. He is a rather creepy looking big man, who only speak when spoken to. He slyly peaks at you through the rear-view mirror at regular intervals. Whatever your name, he calls you baby. His mere presence makes you uncomfortable. The stack of cassettes he has in his car drawer are not your type of music. But he insists on playing them. Loudly. To keep himself alert on the road. He drives rashly, takes steep turns, chuckles when you complain of your stomach churning and turns a deaf ear to your dad’s advise on slowing down the vehicle. But trust me, he’s not the worst part of the trip. The roads, the public bathrooms, the food, the sanitation and the mosquitoes are. 

But, its still the best trip you’ll ever be part of, because you’re with your parents. Mom hands you a goody ever time you look at her with droopy tired eyes. Dad buys you a crate of Frooti and a few copies of Champak before you begin the trip. And every time you’re about to throw up, they give you the attention you’ll crave for when you grow up. 

Then there are annoying cousins. But not all of them are bad. The little ones are a pleasure to travel with. They look at you with awe. They lean on your shoulders when they are sleepy. You can hold them tight when the car takes a sharp turn. They sleep like angels on your lap. 

Now you’re sipping on your hot pack of Frooti. It’s sweeter than soda can ever be. Sometimes mom holds it for you. And then you can just roll down the window and look at the mango trees as you pass them by. Pure nostalgia. 

If I could Instagram this day

I’m sitting in a Library in a suburb of Oregon and all I can think of is Instagraming the heck out of this day. If I could, I’d Instagram the entire week and the week before that. I’m debating using either the Rise or the Kelvin filter, which will bring out the solid colors and brighten this dull grey day.

There are people around me, who seem the least bit bothered about what it looks like outside. Yet, I haven’t been able to get over the million shades of grey I’ve seen over the last two weeks. It’s always grey, on the grey scale it’s either more grey or less grey, but it’s always grey.

It always goes like this, the beginning of a long rainny week, I’m all pumped up. I’m going to take over the greys, concentrate on the green and make it work. This time, maybe this time, I’ll succeed. But, No. It’s the same story every time.

So yeah, I want to Instagram this day. I want to make this day look better. I want the grey to turn in to soft shades of pastel yellow and blue. The green to be green but Instagrammed green. The kinda green that makes life look beautiful. The kind that you want to run your hand through and the kind that feels like soft velvety fur.

I want to be able to think. I want to be able to write. I want to be able to get out of bed feeling happy and excited about the day. And if only I could add some filters to this day, that would be true.

Now it’s raining. Rain doesn’t capture well with my phone. But I know that if I did take a picture and instagram it, it would look like little crystal beads. The ones that will send tiny light rays in all directions, making the day look so colorful. The prism. Just like the prism.

I’ve realized now that this is not possible. That I’m going to have to get through the day without a beautiful rainbow across the horizon. That I probably have a higher chance of winning the lottery ticket than turning this raining day around.

 

Monday blues for the unemployed

When you have a job, whatever it might be, whether you like it or not, your monday blues begin and end on the same day of the week.

But, when you’re as awesome as you are, with no job and not because you don’t want one, but because you can’t have one, the whole week is a big blue ocean. The depth of which is unimaginable and every sunday evening you see yourself falling deep in the abyss. 

See, the thing is that from the outside, my unemployed life looks like a real vacation to most people. And why wouldn’t it, right? People imagine me sitting on my couch all day watching television, occasionally snacking on stuff that I didn’t have to pay for, Facebooking all day (I know i’m the center of envy for this one), voluntarily switch activities when I want to: from watching television, to taking long walks, to drinking coffee or wine.

What they fail to notice is the frustration that rarely peeks through all of my social media activities. What they simply overlook are the innumerable activities I force myself in to (sometimes even paying for it myself) to keep me motivated. Why is motivation important you ask? Well, because without that all that you think I do, would be true. And honestly, I don’t do 20% of what you think I do. I have more to myself than that. 

Because without the bare minimum motivation I manage to gather by keeping my mind occupied, I can’t get out of bed everyday without feeling worthless and incomplete. And, because even though I don’t have to be somewhere at a particular time or meet deadlines like the rest of you, I set them for myself so that I have a reason to get through the day like all of you.

Often, at social gatherings, I don’t get asked what I do for a living. It is conveniently assumed that I don’t do anything. Well, I don’t totally blame my unemployment for that because it is also very cultural. A woman, let alone an unemployed girl rarely gets asked about her career, because she is assumed to not have one.

When I’m with people I’ve known for a few minutes, I make an effort to understand what their lives looks like on the outside. Sometimes I do that simply to get asked back about what is it that I do. But it’s disappointing when that doesn’t happen. Most people love engaging in inane conversations about their favorite superheroes than talk about interesting human beings physically present around them. 

I’ve been at dinners where the host, a man, has barely looked at me while making conversations with the other male members present there. I do not think that was about me though, and completely brushed it off feeling complete pity for his wife. 

And honestly, it’s not all that bad. Except for sunday evenings that make me think, what having a job was like. And it sort of spills over to the Monday morning, where for most people with jobs, unless you absolutely hate yours, it kinda ends once you dive in to work. But for me, it’s a long day ahead and an aimless blue week that will probably never end. I long for Fridays as much as the next person with a job. I love Friday as much as you do.

 

Three separate stories; Repressive state of women in India.

This morning, the Supreme Court in India ruled in favor of a dead woman by sentencing her husband to a seven-years-jail term for torturing and driving her to suicide.

In an article titled, “Daughter-in-law be treated as family member, not housemaid: Supreme Court”, published in the Times of India, the judge urged family members, including the husband to treat daughters-in-law as human beings with the love and respect they deserve, and not as personal slaves.

While this comes as a ray of hope for many tormented women/daughters-in-law in India, there are two facts in this case/article that are highly disturbing:

a) A seven years jail sentence does not do any justice to a woman who suffered physical and mental torture for years and had to take her own life to get out of it. Nor does a small sentence like this one make for a good lesson for the families out there who still do not believe that their daughters and daughters-in-law are worthy of decent living conditions.

b) What kind of Indian culture are we boasting about, if in this day and age, a Supreme Court judge has to order people to treat their daughters-in-law with love and respect? What does the much preserved and celebrated cultural heritage teach us, if for starters we cannot even treat our own family members as human beings?

If this case wasn’t enough, skim through a Times of India. I obviously read the poorly designed app, which I think aptly fits as an example of the way media is trying to restrict our worldview by cutting off our access to real news. But, moving on, there were two other rather overwhelming reports that caught my attention. I don’t consider myself a feminist. Neither am I an expert on woman’s social conditions in India. But I do fear for my country’s extreme backwardness and absolute stubbornness towards change.

In two separate incidences, in different parts of India, village elders made decisions for two young brides, without so much as asking for their consent or giving them a choice. And as outrageous as this may sound, this is perfectly fine in India (even in major cities), where a woman’s opinion is barely heard. Hardly matters.

So what were their stories?

Well, bride A would not have in her entire young life imagined that she would be divorced the same day as her marriage on the whims and fancies of the village panchayat. A fight that broke out during the wedding ceremony between distant relatives of both the wedding parties, cost this young girl her marriage. An issue that did not concern the bride or the groom, was considered so important as to separate them even before they began their lives together. And honestly, this isn’t the worst thing to happen to her, because this her real misery begins now. Barely married, divorced and unwanted. She has quite a life ahead.

Bride B’s wedding had a ‘happy non-consensual’ ending. Because, nobody really knows if she is happy with the choice that was made for her. A wedding that went haywire after her would-be husband turned out to be married, this young bride was married off to the first person her father found amongst the guest present at the venue. Fearing societal humiliation, the brides family did not even consider asking her consent, but made a choice on her behalf. Because after what is she? Just a woman, unfortunate enough to be married to a man who she barely knows of.

Is it just a coincidence that these three cases however different in nature speak of the same suppressed state of women in India? We might not have definite answers to a lot of questions here, but one thing we most obviously know is that this demands immediate attention.

The thing about procrastination..

Honestly, the real deal with putting off things for later is that you do it, because you can actually afford to do.

Why else would I have spent the last 30 minutes of my life just sitting on the couch, scrolling through my Facebook page, mentally composing this post instead of actually writing it. 

And that’s exactly the case when you spend those ten extra minutes watching a series of youtube videos before you do the dishes. Or load the washing machine or begin preparing for an interview, or a test.

What really needs to be understood is that none of the activities that follow a long productive period of procrastination are of the urgent nature. Very obviously, the key words here being productive and urgent. 

Let’s review these one at a time. Productive. History and your mother has time and again reminded you that procrastination is a bad thing. But, is it really?

There are people, I know of who have this compulsive need to be engaged in an activity or two at all times. Except, when they are asleep, which is usually not for very long. They are often referred to as being ‘hyperactive’, a term that is very loosely defined and can be easily misinterpreted. The point here being, that these are among the few people, along with your mother who think procrastination is a criminal waste of time. 

I disagree, and here’s why:

I’ve noticed that my productivity almost exceeds my expectation after productively putting off things for a while. The outcome of a highly fruitful procrastination session is directly measured with the mental satisfaction you get after completing the activity you weren’t able to get to for so long. 

Why isn’t procrastination considered an activity in itself? I’ve had multiple eureka moments while on awesome prolonged breaks. When you’re waiting to be struck with ideas, such moments are god sent.

Culturally, not doing something or sitting ideally is often looked down upon. Unless you are doing this for an obscene amount of time, I don’t see why this is so offensive to people. Also, I think this is one of the most important reasons why people spend a lot of time in their restroom. 

Procrastination is like a strong stimulating shot of caffeine. Minus the side effects, shaky hands and addictiveness. 

Finally, contrary to the idea that lazing around is a bad bad thing, relaxing your eyes, mind and body can lead to a kick ass dishwashing session. Ever heard of sparkling clean dishes? Not all detergent, I tell you. 

Urgency. umm.

Well, up until six months ago, I believed that I worked better under pressure. Well, considering I’ve been on my toes since I was 18: bachelors, two masters, three jobs, four internships. Phew. This complete state of joblessness came down pretty hard on me. What I did realize over this period is that I do work better under pressure, but some of my best work is a product of taking it easy. 

It’s important to understand that stress keeps your mind busy, which works for most people. But peace makes your mind run in directions you’ve not explored before. So while, you’re on the fast track mode to becoming the youngest CEO of Yahoo!, take a deep breath and stare at a blank wall for a while. Experience joy. 

Similarly, procrastination is often possible only when you know that you’ve got those few minutes to spare browsing through your twitter messages. 

This means that urgency is not a factor and you can actually spend a few more minutes with your coffee mug and watch the leaves rustle through your window pane.