Hey there, Beautiful!

What is your notion of a beautiful woman? Take a second, close your eyes and visualise a woman that you would consider beautiful. Okay, open your eyes now. Did you see a thin, tall, fair complexioned woman with long, wavy hair in a short black dress that accentuated her curves? Or did you imagine her in a sari because you like your women with short clothes only on screens and not in real life? Whatever the image that popped into your mind, don’t you think it is unfair to women to make them conform to rigid standards? Why is it so difficult for everybody to accept the fact that women come in different complexions, shapes and sizes? This inability to accept ourselves the way we are gave rise to an entire industry: the beauty industry.

Sorry to break it to all makeup lovers but the entire cosmetics industry is a scam. Take any of your favourite cosmetic products for instance. Do you think you can survive without that product? I mean, how hard can life be without mascara or lipstick? But it seems like the end of the world to some people. The cosmetics industry changes our ‘wants’ (something you desire) into our ‘needs’ (something that is absolutely required for survival). This industry makes us feel insecure about acne, dark skin, wrinkles, etc and manipulates us cleverly into buying their products. The advertisements show ‘models’ who have a few spots of acne being dull and not confident, but once they use their fairness cream they feel ready to take on the world. Why would a few spots on my face make me feel less worthy and become obstacles to achieving my goals? If you are making ads to sell your products, at least make them believable!

The industry alone is not at blame. I never was a big fan of makeup because I believed that my looks would not matter over my education, talent or my individual self. Nobody forced me to wear makeup, directly at least. But I could hear stray voices suggesting how I would be prettier if I applied some foundation and compact powder or how my eyes would pop out if I wore some eyeliner and mascara and got my eyebrows done. I took those voices to my head and started believing that I was not perfect until I looked like the women in magazines and advertisements. To be honest, I am still having troubles accepting some of my quirks thanks to ‘stray aunts’ (no offence, I am just quoting my favourite professor!) who could not stop commenting on my hair, skin, nails and what not! After starting college, most of our mothers start showing more concern in our appearances and start providing us with homemade face packs and scrubs to make our skin ‘light’ and ‘blemish free’. That is step one in preparing us for the shark tank (read, marriage) because prospective grooms and mother-in-laws want ‘fair and lovely’ brides not smart, well-educated women who can earn for themselves.

I know how makeup serves as a security blanket for some women and if that makes you more confident, put on that gloss and mascara, girl! But there are some of us who can manage pretty well without applying layers on our face. Honestly, makeup is the last thing on our minds because we have other things to worry about. Since you are able to read my blog, I assume that you are smart and well educated. Do you think you can let people dictate how you feel when they comment on your looks? Do you think you need people to tell you that you are beautiful? Shouldn’t you know that yourself? Yes, you. You are beautiful and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Spread the positive vibes and call somebody beautiful today because a compliment can save a life and is there anything more beautiful than that?

What is the Obsession with Gold?

I have been trying to answer that question for almost half a decade and finally found some answers which make sense, at least to me. Am I the only girl here who is not obsessed with gold and wishes that her family would rather spend money on other investments? I absolutely do not understand why a girl’s family would rather save up and buy gold rather than giving her things that she really wants like good education, a DSLR camera or permission for a road trip to Goa with her gang. Here are some reasons that I thought that might make you rethink before you decide to adorn your daughter with gold whether she likes it or not.

‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friends’ is a popular saying. Well whoever framed that saying sadly did not have many friends. Do you think a girl or a lady would choose shiny metal and sparkling stones over her fierce tribe of friends who have got her back at all times? Let alone friends, I would not even trade my least favourite book for a gold necklace or any piece of jewellery! Bibliophiles would agree with me when I say that the best investment a person can make is in books because they are a powerhouse of knowledge and help escaping the monotony of this world. Yes, gold has monetary value but reading can take you to places that gold and diamonds and silver and platinum cannot.

    I read an article online which said that Indian home makers owned more gold than the Swiss Bank and that is not something to be very proud of. India imports a lot of gold from foreign countries due to its high domestic demand and this causes a negative trade balance, leaving our country in debt. I have seen my mom saving up money and buying gold with it despite knowing that I am not a big fan. When I ask her why, she says that it is an investment and secures my future. Well, your investment just adds on to the debt of the country so why not invest in shares, debentures or other financial instruments so that capital flows into the market and boosts economic development thereby creating jobs and increasing the standard of living of the people? Funny that I still remember twelfth grade Economics lessons!

One of the most common reasons why people buy gold is for their daughters’ wedding. Again, people like me do not prefer wearing gold or any jewellery, for that matter so why spend money on what I am not going to use? My parents look at the gold saved up for my wedding as a ‘security’ for my future because my jewellery is going to be my knight in shining armour if my marriage comes crashing down. (That is a hypothetical statement so believers of ‘traditional marriages’ and marriage counsellors can calm down!) There is a common belief among Indian parents that the amount of gold given to their daughters is directly proportional to the respect they receive at their in-laws’ place. Can we just take a moment to realise how nonsensical that is? Why would my education, job and my individual self matter lesser than the only metal that has not been used in any scientific experiment so far? Parents of daughters work really hard and sacrifice the simplest things in life just so that their can daughter can look like the brand ambassador of GRT Jewellers on her wedding day. Is it really worth it? I do not think so.

    I have nothing against buying gold and wearing them. This is just my opinion and we can all agree to disagree. I personally find wearing jewellery the most troublesome thing on earth because I simply do not like it and so do many other women. I feel like it restricts me from complete freedom (literally and figuratively). If you like gold and want to save up to buy it, nobody is stopping you from doing so. But never force anyone to wear gold or any jewellery just because ‘girls are not supposed to be seen with empty hands, neck or fingers’. All I am against is hoarding up of gold and treating it as the ultimate treasure that will possibly save lives. There are other things to life apart from this shiny, polished metal found in cold, grimy and dark mines.

The Last Words of a Goat

Bound by tight ropes,
I say good bye to all my hopes
Of making it through the night.
But I am not going down without a fight!
My time on earth,
Is drawing to a close
And there is no time for farewell or tears.

Shaken awake from my sleep
I am dragged by two strong hands,
Away from my family
And into the stands
Where my murder will unfold,
As people watch without any pity.

I scream and shout
And kick and struggle
But nobody seemed to care.
Except for a girl who stood out
From the rest of the crowd.
She could not bear
The thought of me being killed
Before her eyes.

I give one final try
And shake my head
To say no.
But the executioner did not care and
Raised his sharpened weapon.
Before it landed on my neck
And blood spattered everywhere
I saw the human
Amongst the other ‘humans’.
Fighting back her tears
And whispering a soft apology
For the crimes of her species.

These silly humans
Pray to their gods and offer my flesh
Before devouring it.
I do not know if god
Accepted my flesh in offering
Or answered the prayers
Of these flawed beings
But he certainly did not answer mine.

NOTE:
I was on the verge of witnessing an animal sacrifice some time back but luckily I managed to slip out of it. Though I did not see it happening, it created some disturbing images in my mind. I gave up meat four years back after seeing the final moments of a fish on the road. Coming from a family where meat is considered essential for survival, I was subjected to ridicule for being such a big softie! But there is not one day I have regretted my decision to stop eating meat. Being an animal lover, I believe that all animal lives matter and not just the lives of the ‘jallikattu kaalai’ or the tiger or the stray puppies. So if you know a person who has given up meat for the same reason as this, do not try persuading them or play the ‘plants are living beings too’ card. Instead, sit with them and hear them out because it takes a big heart to give up something someone loves just to save a few five sensed animals or birds.

Why I am a Feminist

    Most people I know are aware that I am a feminist. I have encountered questions from many of my friends, particularly girls as to why I am a feminist. This article will hopefully answer your question. Before I start, let me clarify a few things. Feminism does not equate with hating men or trying to oppress them. In fact, it does the opposite by breaking stereotypes that affect men as well. For instance, a feminist will be against the notion that men should not be sensitive or like pink. If a feminist tells you to hate men, then he or she is not one. Secondly, men can be feminists too. Yes, men like Barack Obama, Justin Trudeau, etc have called themselves feminists. Anybody who believes that men and women are equal is a feminist. It is as simple as that.

    I am a feminist because I do not think it is fair for people to make sexist jokes about women and ask me to ‘learn to take a joke’ when I retort. I am a feminist because when I try to defend myself against sexism I am asked to ‘shut up’ and ‘behave like a girl’. I am a feminist because I am judged for not conforming to unfair and unrealistic beauty standards. I am a feminist because when my friend spends money on make-up and clothes, I do not want her to be called ‘dumb and shallow’. I am a feminist because I believe that men who are sensitive or afraid of bugs or call themselves feminists do not deserve to be treated any less of a man. I am a feminist because I do not want my fellow sisters to be victims of name calling if they choose to drink or smoke or party at night.

    I am a feminist because I do not want my ability to cook, clean or raise children to matter more than my college degree or how much I earn. I am a feminist because I do not want people to assume things about me just because I am a woman. I am a feminist because I do not want to hear phrases like ‘you run like a girl’ or ‘you are a girl because you are afraid to fight’, etc. I am a feminist because most people do not consider domestic violence, dowry, gender discrimination, etc as a crime. I am a feminist because I do not want my fellow women to be paid less than their male counterparts for the same job despite having similar qualifications. I am a feminist because I do not want to be asked what I was wearing when I complain about being catcalled on the roads. I am a feminist because I do not want women to be forced into bearing children and giving up careers for their family’s sake.

    I am a feminist because I do not want little girls to hear that ‘good women’ endure suffering and do not walk out of unhappy marriages. I am a feminist because I believe that Bharathiyar was right when he told that virginity is a common virtue for both men and women. I am a feminist because if I get married, I do not want to be ‘passed on’ from my father to my husband like a piece of land or cattle. I am a feminist because if I get married, I want my husband and his family to respect my ideas and beliefs and treat me like a person. I am a feminist because I do not want to see any more people worrying about not having a male heir. I am a feminist because I do not want my female friends to be afraid of walking alone in the night. And I am a feminist because I do not want our daughters and grand daughters to fight for the same things that we fought for.

    These are just a few reasons why I am a feminist. Trust me this is just the tip of the ice-berg! I guess I have answered your question. If you agree with my reasons then congratulations, you are a feminist too. Do not be afraid to embrace something that got you the right to vote, the right to study, the right to equal property and what not. There were times where I did not want to call myself a feminist too because of what some people (who I held in high esteem) told about feminism and feminists but I realised that they were wrong. Whatever misconceptions people have about feminism needs to change and we are in need of more people who can do that. So next time if someone asks whether you are a feminist say a big yes and give them some of your own reasons.

Work

“You don’t have to work.
Your dad is rich
And your husband will earn enough too.”
You say.

Trying to control my seething anger
I gently remind you
Of my ninety percent in twelfth grade
And my degrees from the best universities.
I neither earned them
To be a fancy addition
Behind my name on a wedding invitation;
Nor did I study hard
To just slave away in your kitchen
And produce your family heirs.
I did not ace interviews
To be shown off
As the ‘obedient wife’
Or the ‘well-settled daughter’.

Shocked at my brazenness,
You feel ‘sorry’ for the man
I will have to marry.
But I do not pay heed to your words
Because they are shaped
On ego and insecurities,
While mine are products
Of an open mind and
A battle for an identity.

A Letter to all Parents

Dear parents,

I hope you are doing fine. I have been meaning to write this letter for quite some time but put it off for some reason or the other. This is an open letter to all the parents who read my blog and if you are not a parent then do me a favour and show it to yours. This letter contains things that your son or daughter might want to tell you but does not. Raising kids is not an easy job because there is no course in college that teaches you ‘Teenagers: 101’ or ‘How to Pacify Crying Kids’ and we understand that you have sacrificed a lot of things just to make us happy and see us shine. But there are a few things you need to hear from our side. So take your time and read this long but sincere letter.

    First of all, we are different from you and that is not a bad thing. Yes, our take on a lot of things can be very different from yours. For instance, some of us support gay rights, are atheists or agnostic, choose to be vegans, believe that gender is fluid and so on. We are exposed to a lot of different information that shapes our thoughts and opinions which might be of concern to you because they are not similar to yours. Well, let me tell you something. Your parents might have found your views to be ‘too progressive’ and ‘not in lieu with our culture’ but you turned out just fine. The same thing is happening to us and do not worry, we will be fine too.

Secondly, please do not compare us with other kids. I know you want us to be the best at everything we do but it hurts when you tell us that another person is better than us. All of us have something unique that makes us stand out and to quote Dr. Seuss ‘Why fit in when you were born to stand out?’ Sorry to break your bubble but the cherubic faced, well mannered and studious prodigy who is the ‘ideal child’ is sometimes the craziest one. How do I know? Well, that would mean spilling secrets and putting some people I know in trouble and – someone just take this laptop away from me before I reveal anything else! Well, the thing is we love to make you proud by doing something that we are good at and it does not always have to be studies or sports.

    Lastly, be our friends. I know you have been trying to do that for the past five or six years but hear me out here. Try talking to us about something that we could relate to. For instance, talk to us about the pranks you played in school or the time you were suspended from college (we all know that happened!) so that we can open up about some silly stuff we have done without being afraid of being punished. Talk to us about the ‘forbidden stuff’ like sex, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, etc because if you don’t we might end up getting information from the wrong source and that can go wrong in a lot of ways. We are not little kids anymore so instead of threatening or scolding, why don’t you try being a cool friend?

Being a teenager nowadays is harder than you imagine. There is so much of peer pressure and though you tell us to ignore it, it is not that simple. I have to admit, that we have crazy fights and might not get along sometimes due to ‘generation gap’ but we love you know that you want the best for us. I hope I have not offended you with anything that I have said. If so, please accept my apologies. So these were some of the things that I felt my generation would want to tell the previous generation. I sincerely wish we would find great companions in each other for a lifetime.

Love
Your teen on the verge of adulthood.

My Greatest Pet Peeve

This blog post is about one of my greatest pet peeves – double standards. Those who have read my previous posts would have noticed the serious manner in which topics like suicide and freedom have been dealt with. Unlike them, this one is going to be light hearted and satirical. Google defines double standards as a rule or which is unfairly applied in different ways to different people or groups. In layman’s terms, it is basically having different rules for our sons and daughters. Growing up Indian that is something we have all been exposed to.
Before getting started, I considered meditating for a while to calm my nerves in case I pass out due to excessive anger and or high blood pressure because double standards for men and women infuriate me. But the idea was dropped because when I tried closing my eyes for some time all I could hear was the ‘Clubla Mubla’ song in my head by the Jallikattu hero, Mr.Adhi a.k.a Hip-hop Tamizha and that was enough inspiration. Men and women are two different but equal beings, so why different rules? ‘A good woman does not drink or smoke.’ We have all heard this statement at different points of our lives, haven’t we? People usually justify this statement by playing either the culture or the health card. Apparently our ‘progressive’ culture says that men are permitted to drink and smoke while women are not and it seems pretty funny that only women have lungs and livers that would be damaged by drinking and smoking and not men. Alcohol and cigarettes are bad for health, not just for women but also for men.
Take the instance of marriage. While the woman is expected to choose between her career and family, the man is not put in any such situation. Both of them have studied and worked hard to reach to get where they are but why is the woman’s career at jeopardy? Is it because women are nurturers and caregivers while men are providers and breadwinners? If I have read your mind correctly, then congratulations! You have just won yourself a free time travel to the Stone Age because that’s where this kind of thought belongs. In this age and era, it has become a necessity that men and women work together to run the family. I could give millions of examples for double standards like curfews, dress codes, etc for men and women but this is not the only group we are focussing here. All that I am trying to say is let us not set standards and be quick to judge.
India is a country of millions of languages, religions, castes, gods and what not. Despite being such a diverse country, we have double standards when it comes to racism. We have seen Indians being prone to racist attacks in various countries like USA, Australia, Sri Lanka, etc. When I read about these attacks, I was very angry and felt that Indians are humans too and deserve to be treated like one until I heard my neighbours, relatives and every Tom, Dick and Harry use slurs against a particular caste or race. No matter how progressive we claim to be, we have all been racist at some point in our lives. Be it making jokes about a particular community or stereotyping people of a caste or religion, racism is so inbuilt that it does not seem wrong until one of us becomes a victim. I am against racism but we cannot expect others to treat us as equals when we ourselves are yelling casteist and racist slurs at our fellow citizens.
I know how it feels when an educated head of the school tells you that girls have to wear longer skirts not to ‘attract’ boys or when your teacher jokes about a particular community in class like it is not offensive. What is the point of spending huge sums of money on education if it does not teach you to treat all humans equally or question unfair rules and practices? The world is already chaotic with clowns for world leaders and climate change and clowns who think climate change is a hoax. Do we have to make it worse by being judgemental and treating people differently because they are different from us? Let us treat everybody the way we would like to be treated because it is not only right to do so but also what makes us humans.

Change

You plaster a fake smile
Across your lips
Pretending to be happy.
While the entire world
Believes your pretension,
I know differently.

How would I know?
You wonder.
I see your eyes
Tired from sobbing into the quiet of the night.
I hear your muffled cries
Dying behind locked doors.

The cuts on your wrists
And the rope marks on your neck
Are invisible to this world.
But I can see
The number of times you have died
Or been killed, rather.

You cannot take it any longer
So you decide to tighten the noose
For real this time.
But something stops you.
You wonder how I know you this well
So I share my secret,
“You are not the only one
Battling against this ghastly world”.

Unconvinced, the noose is still around your neck.
So I try one last time
And show you
The cuts and marks
That are invisible to this world,
Not on your wrists or neck
But on mine.
And whisper,
“I was here too but I chose to live
And change what drove me to the noose.
You should live to do the same.”

NOTE:
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death amongst teenagers in India and depression is one of the main reasons why many are driven to commit suicide.
Sadly,depression is not even considered as a mental disease by many. Some think of it as a phase or something that would go away eventually but it will not. In advanced stages, only proper medication and counselling can cure this deadly illness. If you feel depressed, talk to somebody who is willing to listen. Suicide is not the answer to everything because life is beautiful despite that fact that it can punch you in your face or knock you down continuously. If you ever feel like giving up on life, think of all the people you love and remember that you deserve all the happiness in this world and do not let anybody tell you otherwise.

The Answer

“You never seem satisfied
With the abundance
I have given you.
What more do you want?”
You seek an answer.

The red lipstick
That cost you a fortune
Feels heavy on my lips,
Blocking my words.
A thin strand of shiny metal
Studded with sparkling stones
Embellishes my neck.
Feels like a feather to you
But I know its weight.

You drape me in rich silk.
Beautiful yet heavy;
So heavy, that it nearly chokes me.
But I brave a smile and
Appreciate its finesse.
You put me in a mansion and
Fill it with the air
That you were made to breathe.
But you and I both know
That we breathe different air.
So I suffocate
And struggle to breathe
In my own nest.

You watch me like a hawk
As I try to answer.
Yes. What more could I possibly want?
The answer demands to be
Loud and clear
But it comes out as a pathetic whisper
That sounded something like:
“Freedom”.

MASKS

Afraid of ridicule,
Taught not to stand out;
Silenced when different from the rest.
We conceal our souls with a petty mask.
But you deny being a part of this mad game.
Well, let me show you
How we are all victims.

Where is the spirited little child?
That got muddy in the rain,
Chased butterflies, bathed in streams
And didn’t care about what the world said?
Or, where is that rebellious teenager?
Who wanted to make a difference
And swore that she wouldn’t rest
Until she changed the world?
Where is the adult?
That wanted to wanderlust
And let her spirit run naked
On paper and ink.

You look at me, puzzled.
Trying hard to speak
From underneath that heavy mask.
And I simply say:
Take it off, darling
Because this unreal world needs some real people.