Gay Marriage- Is India Ready?

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Recently, I watched Hansal Mehta’s much acclaimed movie ‘Aligarh’ starring Manoj Bajpayee. Based on real life events, it is the story of a 60-year-old homosexual man Dr. Siras, who makes you feel the sense of isolation and alienation, one would feel working and living in a hostile, judgmental and suspicious society. While watching, you understand his struggle when every window he opens, gives him nothing but disappointment, when people are ready to label him, all because of his sexual orientation. Indeed, congratulations are due for Manjo Bajpayee: he made us feel Dr. Siras- the victim of society, we were him, we were in his mind; which got me thinking is India, like US and Ireland ready to accept homosexuality? Probably not.

In his much anticipated memoir ‘Unsuitable Boy’, Karan Johar, the famous Bollywood director, producer openly talks about his sexual orientation and the struggles he has faced because of it. How the society, especially because he is a celebrity repeatedly thrashes, mocks and questions him because of his sexual orientation. He speaks about his first sexual encounter at age 26 in New York where he had to pay for sex. He says, “I came out feeling guilty and miserable because the encounter felt artificial.” He further writes that he is not in love with anyone, rather not capable of loving anyone. Why? Because the Indian society taught us that love can only happen between people of different genders. It also taught us how a girl or a boy need to behave. We are constrained by societal ideologies about how we are supposed to act and whom we are supposed to love.

In October 2015, ‘The Caravan’ published an article, ‘An indefinite sentence,’ a part of Siddharth Dube’s memoir who faced the challenges of being a homosexual in 1988 India and does so even now. He was questioned, ridicules and treated as a criminal all because of his sexual orientation. He repeatedly asks the question, “why are my bedroom affairs anyone’s business?”

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US and Ireland last year made a historic change by legalising gay marriage and respecting the right of ‘equal dignity’ of its citizen. However, in India, coming across stories of people hiding their sexual orientation, because it is a criminal offense is disappointing.

The issue of LGBT in our country is more moral than legal. Despite the fact that we boast ourselves of being the world’s largest democracy, our society of 1.2 billion is not yet ready to accept homosexuality. We fail to give our citizen the rights our forefathers fought for: equality, privacy and liberty.

Our judiciary is not conservative but our mindsets are. Even in the 21st century rather than believing in what our religion prescribes we believe in religious adornment, which a few conservative people choose to tell us. They claim that homosexuality is not a part of our religion and history. Whereas, homosexuality was accepted in the entire Indian continents until the British introduced Sec 377 in 1861.

It is saddening to see that India that accepted homosexuality much before the world today is under the authority of ‘liberal’ men, who term anyone who supports LGBT rights as “anti-nationals.” People like Baba Ramdev claim they can ‘cure’ homosexuality with yoga, terming it as a disease, disregarding that fact that it is an individual’s right to choose who he/she wants as a partner. We fail to give basic fundamental rights to our citizens if we make their private bedroom affairs state and judiciary’s business.

Considering all this, stories such as ‘I am gay. I am married to a woman,’ confessed in an article by a journalist in ‘Firstpost’ should not shock us. He professes, “I am gay. I am married to a woman. It has been a remorse-filled 12 years, traversing two entirely different worlds – one fake and the other original but secret.” He further writes about his guilt and pain that he suffers from after coming out to his wife, “we spent many nights talking, trying to find answers to the whys of life. There are no clear answers. Why did I propose to my wife? Why did I marry a woman? Why didn’t I have the guts to face myself and realise that I am gay in time? That would have saved two lives, mine and her.” He feels more than the lack of sex it is the betrayal and her pain that hurts him. He is not the only one, there are many such hidden stories in India, all because we are a long way from accepting homosexuality as natural, let alone legalizing gay marriage. Before, fighting for it in the court we as a society need to liberalise our mind-set. If not then we are just a democracy for namesake, that fails to give its citizen basic fundamental rights.

PINK : ABOUT PATRIARCHY, CONSENT, AND FREEDOM TO BE

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This article is long pending but I wanted to take out time and make sure I get this one right. Pink is an important film and deserves words that do it justice.

After sitting through huge disappointments such as Rustom, Baar Baar Dekho and Madaari, I almost leaped out of my seat in utter joy when the end credits of Pink rolled. Pink is a brave and gutsy film that deserves all the praise it can get; for having the courage to speak up against misogyny, injustice, verbal, physical and mental abuse that women have to face because to the sense of superiority that is bred into men due to the patriarchal nature of our society. The film, in the midst of a time when rape is a casual word flung around in every newspaper and news report, dares to say that irrespective of who the woman is, what the situation is, whatever her choice of profession, lifestyle or clothes is, No means No. Anyone, be it a man or a woman, always has and should have the right of consent.

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The issue of consent as a topic, raises a lot of red flags in Indian dialogue. It is deeply ironical that in a country which is seemingly obsessed with marriage and producing grandkids, the very words ‘sexual consent’ or heck even just ‘sex’ is taboo. Why is it wrong for women to  partake in sexual activity before marriage even if it is consensual? Is consent only considered valid when the consenting parties are locked in holy matrimony? If a women is known (shudder) not to be a virgin, she is labelled undesirable, impure and even sometimes a slut. But if a man ( a man’s man at that by the way) sleeps around, well that’s what boys do. We are called a democracy and yet we don’t give this right of consent to everybody. Women are raped against their wishes, domestic violence and marital rape is commonplace and of course homosexuality is still considered a criminal offense.

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This brings me to another reason why I think Pink is such an important film. This is not a great time for our country in terms of the principles of freedom to be, equality and inclusiveness. Instead of becoming more open-minded and fair, we are regressing and becoming more and more conservative. A landmark judgement of the Delhi HC against Section 377 was upturned by the Supreme Court, beef is being banned, rape is being blamed on western culture and even chow-mein, moral policing is becoming routine and couples are being forcefully married off on valentines day. Any movie that calls for shedding such a conservative mind set and campaigns for a state of mind, where everybody is seen as a self-thinking individual; who has a right to live his or her own way and not be looked down upon, judged or treated differently, is a step in the right direction.

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This film also talks about unearned entitlement – stemming from one’s gender, wealth, social status or family pedigree. A sense of entitlement earned from such sources, often leads to a state of mind that is at best unhealthy and disparaging towards people who you consider beneath you. Pink rightly points out that men in this country feel that they have a right over women due to this grossly misplaced sense of entitlement. As a boy born and raised in Delhi, I have myself seen and experienced how damaging this can be. The feeling that I am untouchable and ‘no wrong that I do can be considered wrong’ is deeply unsettling and rampant among urban youth.

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At the end of the day , it is not about treating women or men equally, it is about having a sense of responsibility towards your own actions and removing yourself from your bubble of self righteous isolation. It’s about being a decent human being.

Kudos to the team behind this movie. Any movie that attempts to bring about topics that are topical and urgent but ignored and considered taboo into social dialogue is a testimony to the power of cinema and the effect it has on people.

Pink is a win for meaningful cinema that attempts to make a change in the right direction. It reaffirms my faith in the medium.

For Ram was an honourable man, so are we all, all honourable men?

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I would like to start this blog with a question: honestly how many of you especially those living in North India have attended ramlila before Dusshera? And this question is not addressed to those gluttonous people who go out there to hog on food. Just to remind you, you guys are not foodies, yeah its true (don’t burn me with Ravan please.)

I am neither a foodie, nor a fan, so when my mother forced me and promised an experience of a lifetime I agreed to go.(yeah all parents threaten with the same blackmail, chup chap chalo, apne doston ke sath toh chale jate ho, humara sath chattis (36) bahane hain! ) This is a rant, analysis and observation of a person who belongs to the Netflix, television and Kamani auditorium plays generation.

When we reached the ground, my first reaction was bafflement considering the size of the stage, the machines involved and my brother who was excited not for the show but the food. You see he is a “foodie,” as expected he was not seen until the end of the show and was later found in a corner eating ‘jalebi and rabdi’, which I accept was worth it. As far as the show was concerned, as expected it started one and a half hours late, firstly because its India and our dearly beloved politicians who are the chief guests generally get late, after all VIP’s come late, as if you didn’t know that, dummy.

Since I was amongst the lucky “ones” who saw ramlila on the day of Dushhera, Ram was finally going to kill Ravan and bring Sita back. The show was filled with theatrics with the armies on both the sides flying and killing each other, blood spilling all around and Ram’s side winning. Finally, Ram won. He marked his victory by shooting a fire arrow at the 15ft tall Ravan while someone from behind lit the fire in the Meghnath and Kumbhkaran effigies starting the thunderous fire works show.

Watching the burning effigies, it got me thinking what had Ravan done and why are we still burning him after centuries? Is it because he abducted Ram’s wife Sita in order to seek revenge for the insult he and his sister were subjected to? Agreed it was wrong but in his defence he gave her the due respect a woman deserves. He did not compromise her modesty, instead offered her food and shelter in Ashok Vatika so that Ram’s ‘vanvas’ is not disturbed with women guards at all times.

He definitely did not have ten heads, though I am really keen to see how a man with ten heads would look like; but the knowledge of ten people put together, he was a master of different sciences. He abducted Sita in his own personal plane while we still are fighting for cheap economy tickets. How many of you got those cheap Spice jet tickets? You did not? Go run you might still find them. All the best!

Finally, on his deathbed Ravan was not an egoist and seeked Ram’s forgiveness, after which Ram sent Laxman to gain knowledge from Ravan acquiescent, how knowledgeable he was.

So ultimately what right do we have to burn him? Are we as a society better than him? Are we as intelligent, well read, smart and knowledgeable as him or do we bore even half the qualities he did? Has our society stopped treating women like commodities and trophies that are to be lost and won? Well keeping the recent rape, murder, dowry and domestic violence cases in mind, definitely not. However, we are not evil, and we surely don’t mind adding pollution to the air, making it difficult for many to breathe. So, until some prophecy happens from heaven or Ram comes back to burn some real Ravans of today, such as those who were killed in the recent surgical strike and especially he who demanded proof of that strike; we will continue to burn poor Ravan every year ‘because Ram was an honourable man, and we are all, all honourable men.’

Why I don’t understand Indian TV shows

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Before there was a Saas to make the lives of TV bahus difficult, there was ‘Saans’ a show about extra-marital affair and the wife’s courage to fight against her infidel husband. Indian television took a regressive u-turn after TV queen Ekta Kapoor entered the game with her much popular K series, we have definitely not forgotten our beloved Tulsi (we love our HRD minister ooppss.. ex-HRD minister) and the theme song, ‘Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu thi’ (it’s okay, I sang it too.) While shows like ‘Shanti and Dekh Bhai Dekh’ became old story, regressive ‘saas-bahu’ sagas took over post 2000, Indian TV industry became cliché, barbaric and completely illogical.

Here is a list of reasons why I fail to understand Indian TV shows:

  1. Death and Immortality

IRL if you die, you die, there is no scope of coming back. However, in our Indian TV shows, this logic does not apply. It seems no one dies in the show, until the time the actor starts irritating the director, then he kills the actor in an accident or some other mishap, only to return later with plastic surgery, memory loss etc. It’s as simple as that, no mess at all. Further, I guess they also have an immortality potion of some sorts, for those who should die(ba) stay alive for more than a century and those who should live, die and come back (all male characters of K series..!! ergo Mihir Virani.) As if they had gone on a short vacation to hell and are now back.

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  1. Supernatural

It seems that the latest trend in the Indian TV industry is supernatural. While one show has a werewolf as the lead actor, romancing the damsel in distress; the lead actress of ‘Sasural Simar ka’ went to hell, fought with demons, came back, then became a fly and has recently given birth to Satan’s child. Well, we can imagine how they must have conceptualised that storyline:

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P.S. The show has been onscreen for almost six years now. Enough said.

  1. Time Leap

It’s understandable that the concept of time leap is introduced to take the story forward and give viewers something new. However, I fail to understand, why does the lead actress who is a mother, bahu, mami, chachi etc., look younger than her 21- year-old son or daughter.  Further, sometimes the parents are killed of and the children look like an exact carbon copy of their parents. With same eyes, voice, face, as if they are clones.

  1. Endless Storyline

Now in India there is no concept of seasons. Indian Television shows have no climax and they keep going on and on. For instance a show called ‘Yeh Rishta Kya kehlata hai’ started seven years ago, and was the story of a young couple who enters into an arrange marriage. However, they now have 25-year-old children who are getting themselves married and they are still asking each other- BC yeh rishta kya kehlata hai. Well, it’s high time you know, it’s called marriage dude.

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  1. Women as patriarchal stereotypes

Indian TV shows have type casted ‘bahus’ and ‘betis’ of the house. Their life goal is to grow up, get married, have children and most importantly act like Jesus Christ, becoming the savior, safeguarding their husband and family from all evil vamps and enemies.

Well, mom you never did all this and did not teach me either. What if tomorrow someone tries to hurt my husband by making him intoxicated and getting his signature on the power attorney. How will I seek revenge and bring my family’s honour back. And after that how will my husband throw me out of the house due to misunderstanding?

WTF my life is destroyed now. Please everyone, let’s maintain 2 minutes’ silence for my destroyed life. As for you mom, I will never be able to forgive you for this, never ever.

  1. Plastic surgery

So this is how the storyline works. The lead actress wants to quit due to some misunderstanding with the production house- she gets into an accident-her face is destroyed-comes back with new face, voice, height a complete new person. What did the doctor have a resurrection stone that can even change your height? Wow! Who is this amazing doctor? Please leave his contact details below in the comment, I need some height. Please.

  1. The always decked up “beautiful” women

Women in TV serials are expected to look prim and proper all the time: decked in heavy make-up, jewelry and saree as if they are about to go on a marriage-while they are working, waking up or sleeping. What is the secret, tell me please at least I will stop looking like a beggar who hasn’t bathed in days when I wake-up. I wanna be pretty too, you know.

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  1. No time for love-making

Point no.1, sex before marriage is a taboo. (thali falls down)

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Yeah all you girls out there, yes I am talking to you, now don’t hide and scroll down, especially you, tumhe paap chadega..

Forget about before marriage, in Indian TV serials you cannot even have sex even after marriage. A couple gets married, then just does not get the time to do it. Whether its bhabhi, mami or bua someone or the other comes to intervene. Then finally, in the 300th episode there comes rain, the actress gets scared, holds her husband and finally it happens in a span of two episodes. Yeah, two episodes are devoted to this. Just give them the desired space and time dude, jealous people. Huh.!

  1. Reaction

Indian TV serials are not about actions, but they rely on reaction that leave an impact only when they happen thrice. So when the ‘thali or sindoor’ falls as a bad omen it happens thrice, when some bad news comes the face turns thrice. WTF I am not slow, once is more than enough, just move ahead already.

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  1. Lavish houses and 500 crore business

So every family in TV serials are multi-millionaires, where they have an import-export business and are worried that the consignment will not be right. The men are either shown having drinks with fellow colleagues, who look more like sweeper and watchmen than businessmen or they are romancing their secretaries. Interestingly, one single wrong deal or a notorious and jealous family member, makes the family bankrupt and they have to leave their multi-storey mansions and shift in a small house. Just one small tiny question, how can you lose everything with just one wrong deal, is that the reason I do not have a mansion? Was my father rich as well? what happened? Daddy I love you, I have no complaints we will get back everything. Don’t worry I am with you.

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Rustom: How did it go so wrong?

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Warning : This is an emotion filled rant filled with mild spoilers.

I will be the first to admit that when I first saw the trailer of Rustom on the big screen, I was hooked like a dim-witted fish on a fishing hook. The ingredients were all there for an arresting thriller that also provided some food for thought. Firstly, the story is inspired by the real life case of K.M. Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra that made national headlines all the way back in 1959. It was a case of passion, loyalty and possibly cold-blooded revenge which greatly challenged the judicial system that prevailed at that time. Secondly, the name of Neeraj Pandey, which brings to mind solid works of cinema like BABY, Special 26 and A Wednesday, was attached to this film. So how did the final product turn out to be so insipid, dull, amateurish and ideologically flawed?

We know what happened in real life – Nanavati, who was a decorated naval commander, returned home from one of his assignments and found about his wife’s ongoing affair with one of his friends – Prem Ahuja. This led to him confronting Prem at his residence about his intention to marry his wife, Cynthia. When Prem said no,3 shots were fired leading to his death. This was a seemingly open and shut case and Nanavati even turned himself in to the police. But, what followed was a much talked about trial where cold hard facts got clouded by media propaganda, communal support and also public perceptions of right and wrong leading to a historic jury verdict of not guilty. This case caused the abolishment of the jury system in India and remains a perfect example of how, even before the age of public television, internet and social networking, the media and the common man could influence law and public opinion.

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In Rustom, Nanavati becomes Rustom Pavri (played by Akshay Kumar) , Sylvia becomes Cynthia (Ileana D’Cruz) and Prem becomes Vikram Makhija (Arjan Bajwa). Also in the play is Vikram’s sister – Priti Makhija (Esha Gupta) who wants to get justice for her brother’s death. Rustom takes the basic premise of the case and adds a healthy dose of Bollywood masala which is frankly unneeded as the real life story is interesting in itself. These liberal bollywoodish twists just dilute the impact of the film.

The actual story is awash with people occupying a decidedly gray moral ground. The patriot who has to leave his wife for long periods to serve his country – surely he deserves better than to come home to a cheating wife? Does that justify the killing of the guy who stole the officer’s wife?  A seemingly devoted wife who loves her husband but gets lonely during his long leaves of absence. Does that justify her seeking some one else’s company? And a sister who just wants a fair trial and justice to be served. But is she herself biased in her outlook?

Alas, Rustom throws all of this down the window. The film paints that kind of a story where the white is pure white and black is pitch black. Rustom is depicted as a holier than thou character, who being the naval  commander that serves his nation with loyalty and pride, has to be the morally good guy and the guy who steals the wife has to be a sleazy, morally corrupt playboy. The sister of this playboy obviously then has to be a ciggarette puffing, inappropriate dress wearing evil vamp. This kind of childish backing of right vs wrong and lazy stereotypical characterization drains all the complexity from the story. Even the wife falls into the trap of the affair because she is a pawn in some hair brained revenge tactic being planned by Vikram against Rustom. Of course, because a women cannot think or act for herself, right? Sigh. Also,this revenge tactic is a part of a conspiracy theory that the makers have tacked onto the film to justify Rustom’s murder of Vikram as necessary for the good of the country and thus he deserved to walk. Such a message, that  a murderer can be acquitted because he is a patriot is frightening, especially in today’s time when nationalistic jingoism is at an all time high.

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The film also reduces very important role of the media, which in real life was front footed by the weekly tabloid Blitz – that was run by a Parsi who openly supported Nanavati (Rustom in the movie) as a fellow Parsi, to more of a fodder for comic relief. Kumud Mishra plays the owner of the tabloid as a bumbling, clumsy, stereotypical Parsi which is again an example of the film dumbing down its characters and pandering to the masses. The communal friction between the Parsi and Sindhi community (as Vikram Makhija belonged to an influential Sindhi family) is also just mentioned briefly and then forgotten about entirely as the totally unneeded twists and conspiracies take over the entire plot.

Ill placed messages and moral whitewashing aside, basically everything here is half-baked and amateurish. The dialogues are cheesy at a Sooraj barjatya and Ekta Kapoor level which often leads to serious scenes coming off as unintentionally hilarious. This is especially true in the courtroom scenes, where the film just seems to be making blatant fun of the legal system. Everything happens in a state of heightened melodrama. The actors don’t speak – they deliver dialogues, the background score screeches and roars at even mundane scenes and basically instructs you when to feel sad or happy. It’s all really an assault to the senses. The set design and costumes are just trying way too hard and screaming for attention. ‘See the cars, the transistors, the art deco buildings, the glued on hairpieces, the layers and layers of makeup’. It’s okay, we get the movie is set in the 1950s. This basically makes you appreciate at the level of attention and detail in Bombay Velvet, a criminally under appreciated movie, in recreating Bombay  of the 50s. The chroma effect which makes every scene looked soaked in sepia is also highly distracting.  The acting is also cringe worthy with Akshay Kumar basically sleep-walking through the movie, Ileana D’Cruz just sobbing continuously and Esha Gupta and Arjan Bajwa hamming it up like they ate a whole pig. Even dependable actors like Pavan Malhotra, Kumud Mishra and Sachin Khedekar are either criminally wasted and they seem to be not even trying.

This film didn’t just disappoint me and make me regret wasting my time and energy. It angered me as a discerning and intelligent member of the society at the sheer banality and  stupidity of it all.

Side Note – It’s 2016 – high time that film makers understand that drumming up unearned nationalistic fervor is a very lazy way to make the audience invested in a film.

Why I don’t understand beauty products

I am a 23-year-old girl, living in the 21st century, amidst the internet sea full of beauty bloggers and youtubers, and I confess, I fail to understand beauty products, regimes or ways to do them.

Yesterday, I was surfing the internet, and came across blogs such as ‘4 ways how your beauty regime is a fail, 10 ways how you could improve your beauty regime, 20 beauty tips every 20 something should follow.’ These blogs are very fascinating, I actually opened a few and tried to read them, especially the 20 tips for 20 something. However, all I ended up doing was getting horribly confused.

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Every article seems to suggest you to exfoliate, okay now what I had to figure out first was WTF is exfoliation? Once I managed to do that, I failed to reason with myself, why I need to use a cactus like scrubber and paste on my skin, (which please accept-hurts) to open my pores and remove the dead skin? Am I a snake? How much dead skin do I have on me?

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Then comes the tip to use a toner, giving rise to mystery no.2 WITW is a toner and how does a water like thing, infused with chemicals open my pores and makes my skin healthy? Giving rise to mystery no3 why do I need pore opening in the first place? Why is everyone so obsessed with pore opening? Didn’t people in earlier times have open pores and fresh skin. As far as I am concerned, a face wash is enough to wash your face and I even know how to use one. (Yippee..!!) 😀

No, I am not an alien, just a regular girl who is requesting all the beauty bloggers and enthusiast out there. Kindly explain me what a beauty regime means. When I read all these articles, I start suffering from FOMO. But still, nothing changes. I sleep at night without putting five products and various chemicals on my face, I put my hair down straight everyday (hairstyles are tough), my lipstick moves out of my lips and well who needs a foundation, moisturiser works just fine.

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Cheat-sheet on surviving job hunt

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Let me start by saying that finding a job is depressing. Especially when its taking time (which it does) and everyone is telling you, don’t worry something great is coming your way. What is that great thing? Because at that moment all one can see is a deep hole one is falling into. But, you have to keep going.

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So here is a cheat sheet of things that I feel have helped me stay sane so far.

Imagining you are ‘Alice,’ from Alice in wonderland    

Imagine you are Alice, from ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and you are falling deep down the rabbit hole, where will find the ‘mad –hatter’ and magic potions that will help you land your dream job.

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Netflix and chill

Indeed, Netflix is a life saver. So when everyone you know is busy working on weekdays, your best pal Netflix is right there to help you pass your time. Your friends might ditch, but “Netflix is always there. Ooh how much I love you Netflix.

Go on a trip

I am sure there are many places you have longed to visit while you were stuck in your job or college. So now that you are free, pack your bags and go on a solo trip to find yourself.

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Start a hobby, or continue with one you have

Do you remember how much you longed to do take up a certain hobby or continue with the one you already have but you were stuck in life’s daily grind . Well now, other than giving interviews (you are lucky if you are getting calls) you have all the time in the world to do it. Be it cooking, dancing or singing, go ahead and hop on the hobby wagon.

Stop over-thinking

Trust me, overthinking helped no one. Because ultimately all you will end up doing is hating yourself and your life.

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Become the group planner

Now that you are free and all your friends are working, wear the planner hat and plan your weekends. Everyone should be glad that you are free and can utilize your precious time to find out what’s happening in your city.

Last but not the least smile, because being unemployed is not the end of the world. Things get better eventually and you get used to wailing away your time. So just smile away your sorrows and prepare for the next day.