India, Life

Who would give a law to lovers? Love is unto itself a higher law

I find myself rooting for the LGBT community and hoping that section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (somewhere in Berkshire a Khan giggles at the P in the IPC as he tucks into his kebabs and Pepsi on the rocks) is repealed. I do not know any gay people and I like facial hair too much to make the switch myself. My only celebrity crush was gay. I discovered Westlife (they who regularly massacred cover songs and couldn’t hold a note live) in Class 8 and fancied the shamrock off Mark Feehily. Years later I discovered he was gay. He’s the reason I have trust issues. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to hide one’s true self from the world. To live in a society where is it criminal to be yourself when being yourself is beyond one’s control. I know of a bunch of people who think homosexuality is unnatural. And say it out loud. Hateful, homophobic comments are spewed out on social media because and I quote verbatim ‘if God wanted homosexuals to thrive he would’ve created Adam and Steve and not Adam and Eve’. I am not the biggest fan of the Old Testament and I think most of us can agree that maybe it isn’t 100% factually correct. If its contents are a possibility, I will be shopping for chastity belts for when my mother turns 90 because I will be close to retirement myself and I just cannot deal with a baby brother at that age (you know like Sarah and Isaac). I digress. The Government at the Centre has magnanimously left the decision to the Supreme Court. Now if only they showed such largesse when letting people decide what they’d like to eat and allowed the same court to do its job and make lynching on suspicion of possessing beef a crime, we’d be the country that the PM proclaims we are- democratic, secular, constitution uploading. Certain yoga gurus also claim to have the cure for homosexuality. Surprising why he hasn’t tested it on himself. OK maybe he isn’t gay. But he’s got to be at least bi. Because no straight man will ever be that flexible. The phobia surrounding homosexuality is the reason so many people get married hoping that marriage will miraculously set them straight. Pun intended. Take for instance Keith Vaz, the British Asian connoisseur of teenage Polish boys.

Being gay is not a choice. Being camp is. That’s the only bit I don’t get about the more flamboyant gays, the OTT flamboyance. Yes, you’re gay. We get it. You’re here and you’re queer. You finger snap, you twerk, you judge the fashion challenged and you’re just overall catty because it seems that is the only way to grab eye balls. This just defeats the whole movement to drive home the point that being gay is perfectly normal. Which it is. As normal as preferring coffee over tea or mint chocolate chip over butterscotch. It’s just that a natural preference. Who one chooses to fall in love with or do the unmentionable with is no one else’s business if said people are consenting adults. There cannot be a law to determine who I choose to spend my life with. Love in any form between 2 consenting adults should be celebrated. If there is no law to stop marriages like Priyanka Gandhi’s and Robert Vadra’s (who from the display of male cleavage plays for both sides) then there should be no law against homosexuality either.

PS: I get why men are gay, us women can be nightmares so I’m not surprised that they’ve found comfort with their own kind. But I cannot imagine lesbians living together peacefully. The hormone levels in that house must be off the charts and the PMS will probably result in Section 144 being regularly imposed.

India, Life

If your flirting strategy is indistinguishable from harassment, it’s not everyone else that’s the problem

I was not as worked up by the MeToo and the Times Up movement as much as most women my age. Mainly because of my disdain for all things celebrity and this just seemed like another publicity gimmick. And I highly doubt either of these movements will dissuade perverts from being perverts as long as these remains hashtags on social media. Unless there are stricter laws and the certainty of the guillotine. Most Indian women are not strangers to sexual harassment. You know your country has it bad when it even has a name coined by one’s countrymen- Eve teasing. I’m assuming an Indian male politician came up with the phrase because only an Indian man can trivialize something as horrific as harassment and call it ‘teasing’.

Growing up I never understood why I was molly coddled and over protected to the point that it was stifling but I now realize that I was protected from all things (and people) unsavory. My mother ferried me around which is why I never got touched inappropriately or got whistled at or had sickening pickup lines hurled at (optimistically I assume that it was the omnipresence of my mother and not that I had a radio face). Which is most of the reason why I used to be so surprised when people said that Indian men are the worst variety there is. My only exposure to men were my father, uncles and cousins all of whom I’m starting to think are more exceptions than the norm. So when I started working it came as surprise that not all men are as saintly as the father is. To be fair and to give them credit, I have worked with some fantastic men but then there is also the odd office creep- the much married, fully revolting specimen who practically dribbles at the sight of anything in a skirt, better still if her legs are exposed.

A lot of married men seem to think that the object of their affection will assume that because he is married he won’t put words into action and ergo any and all overtures can be excused. So innuendos, most of which aren’t even cleverly disguised will be thrown one’s way. If my resting word-that-rhymes-with-witch face does nothing to turn this type away I can only imagine what the giggly lot of women have to put up with because in lecher speak, any response which is not hostile is an invitation. Subtlety is not their strong suit and I get asked if I think their shirt is nice or if they’ve gotten extra muscle-y therefore forcing me to look at their unshapely selves that has been stuffed into the most ill-fitting, God awful clothes. I want to gag. Sometimes my standard response of ‘Is there anything about the project that you’d like to discuss?’ works like a charm and they waddle away but there are others who are a bit more persistent with compliments about my clothes or the ‘if I wasn’t’ married you’d be my fan’ followed by a smirk that can make one’s skin crawl. Fan? For poop’s sake. I would gather get with one of the girlfriends (calm down, ladies!) than be this man’s “fan”. Puke. In this regard the foreigners are better, they may have the attention span of an onion but while they have that ring on their finger they tend to be very focused and devoted to their wives back home.

Maybe this is what us Indians are not taught- that fidelity is not just physical. Cheating is not always running off to a shady hotel with the concubine with a DND outside the room door- it is flirting with the PYT in the office, it is every innuendo made, it is making every effort to get someone’s attention and it is harboring all those fantasies about anyone who is not your spouse. A lot of us, even us women dismiss this behavior- ‘men will be men’ we say ‘and in any case it’s all hot air, they haven’t gotten physical’. That’s what amazes me. This nonchalant attitude that harassment is only ever harassment if it involves getting physical with someone. Some men dismiss this as locker room behavior and even believe if a woman is all giddy by the attention of someone she’s attracted to then she’d be OK with any man behaving like that with her. The whole concept of mutual attraction and a relationship being consensual is lost on many an Indian man.

One thing that runs common across most men of every nationality is their inability to pick up on she’s just not that into you cues. I once saw a car with a bumper sticker that read ‘Fallen in love yet? Or should I drive by again?’ cheeky and what a ton of them believe to the core of their being- that a woman isn’t in love with them yet because she hasn’t seen them in the right light. I speak for every woman when I say that if we’ve ignored you in the office or in church or on the road, we really just really don’t want any piece of you. That is not playing hard to get, that is pure, simple, unadulterated disinterest. It is an entirely different matter that I behave the exact same way even when I find someone incredibly attractive (much to the mother’s and best friends’ annoyance) but that’s a whole different blog post that will never be published.

The Indian man has to realize that No means exactly that. Women do not function the way Indian films expect them to where No means yes, maybe, let’s see or give it a few years. I would think that nothing is more humiliating for a man than to coerce a woman to be with him. A real man would hear the No, write off the time invested in the woman as a sunk cost, get over it and find someone who will say yes to him- freely and gladly.

PS: Not all Indian men are pigs- there are some Indian men who are marvelous in every way, incredible human beings and are extremely easy on eyes. Limited edition but they exist nevertheless.

India, Religion

Once you label me you negate me

Someone at the office mentioned that her father did not want her studying in a Christian institution for fear that his children would get influenced by the western way of life. Not only is that the daftest thing I’ve heard this year, it is this very typecasting that I’ve always had a problem with. All my life I’ve had to answer obnoxious questions about why I don’t conform to the stereotype people have in their minds about my religion or community or even gender. I happen to be a non-meat eating Catholic who also has never had an alcoholic drink in her life. There has not been a single instance when this has not shocked the recipient of this information. How are you Christian? They ask. Turns out the Lord makes us in all combinations. I did not choose this particular lifestyle for effect nor was this done to land a Brahmin cutie, I genuinely cannot stand the taste of meat. As far as alcohol is concerned, I just never felt the desire to have that sip.

Food and drink aside, my biggest pet peeve is the assumption that Christian women are fast and loose. Bollywood also did its bit to drive home this popular misconception- every woman with a child out of wedlock had a Christian name. Julie? Bollywood’s ladies of the evening are invariably Christian. They wear dresses, drink beer, and 9 months later they’re knocked up all the while wearing a larger than life crucifix around their neck whilst kneeling down in a church, hands folded and sign of the cross made. So the fact that I’m not as easy as Sunday morning also comes as a surprise.

The hypocrisy that is India really gets to me. We’re so against the western culture but we will sell our souls and our Indian passports to move to the US or the UK. The very same parents that reprimand their kids for becoming westernized love telling people that the kids are in the abroad. Not every jasmine headed, salwaar wearing woman is as pure as driven snow. Tons of tyre marks on the snow sometimes. Kissing in the movies is taboo but pelvic thrusts and simulated procreation in the form of dance sequences are perfectly ok. Wearing dresses is provocative but sarees with pallus that have thrown caution to air, leaving very little to the imagination is what makes an adarsh Bharatiya naari. We pride ourselves in our low divorce rate but if we had a tax for all the miserable marriages in this country, we’d make up the fiscal deficit nicely. I’d much rather a divorce than be stuck in a marriage where one hopes to exercise the only exit option available (death and preferably the spouse’s) sooner than later. We frown at hugging as a form of a greeting but we’re also the land of the Kamasutra and the Khajuraho temples. Both of which I’m told can make 50 shades of grey blush. (I studied at Christian institutions and haven’t cracked open a page from the book. Shocker). We’re also a nation of 1.2 billion and growing, it is safe to say that our favourite past time is not trying to outsmart Ramanujan so we might need to retire the coy Indian charade. We love to think we are cerebrally endowed. We are not. We learn by rote, comprehending and assimilating very little along the way, leaving school none the wiser than when we joined it. Out of 1.2 billion people, if there are 5 million people with an above average IQ, arithmetically speaking we did not win at the brains lottery vs. let’s say the US with 300 million and maybe 1 million people with an above average IQ. We have our merits, we work harder than most people for one. But we need to chill out with this false sense of superiority about our culture and this paranoia about the supposed western influence.

India, Politics

Power is not a means; it is an end

This has been quite an entertaining week. There was the royal wedding and then there were the shenanigans that we’ve come to call the Karnataka elections. The BJP is making it increasingly difficult to follow through on my previous self-righteous post about having a balanced view of Indian politics. I do not think that I am being melodramatic when I say that if the BJP’s antics in this legislative assembly election is anything to go by then we’ve got to be very worried for 2019. The campaign itself was below the belt on every account- they did not campaign for better infrastructure or health care or education. They had a one line manifesto- a Congress mukht Bharat. Which would’ve been perfectly okay if the BJP could put their money where their mouth is. They even brought in what they think is their trump card (pun intended), the PM. Our PM is multi-faceted. How many people can bend facts out of shape or get embarrassingly hugsy with every world leader or be unabashedly, obsessively, and passionately in love with oneself (a monogrammed suit with one’s own name, now that right there is some serious commitment). Also, knowing the correct spellings of words is too mainstream and so passé. Spellings are what our PM makes it. Who needs grammar and diction when you have a 56” chest? That is India’s biggest streanh. Mental note to self-must Google the Hindi translation of Lang lebe unser ruhmvoller Führer…sorry I meant Modi (excuse the typo) because I am no aunty national.

Granted Siddaramaiah with his lethargy was never a solution for Bangalore. Or any city. But when a post poll alliance, regardless of how hurried it is, is the majority needed then one would assume that they would be the Government formed. That’s generally how democracies and elections work. Clearly our Governor thinks otherwise. I think if the Governor was going to invite the BJP to form the Government despite their lack of numbers then why have elections in the first place. Maybe the Governor is a forward thinking individual- being a republic is overrated anyway. I feel we aren’t giving his loyalty enough credit. After all he put loyalty above the Constitution, now that takes guts and obscene levels of dumb.  If your very job is to uphold the Constitution, then find ways to abandon the law (and one’s principles) in a less blatant manner. 15 days when the BJP themselves asked for 7 to prove their majority? Such a delightfully simple man.

Then yesterday between switching from the BBC to see what Meghan Markle wore to NDTV to get an update on the Karnataka floor test I found out that B.S Yeddyurappa resigned. Never has a human being been more aptly named. BSY seems to have learned a thing or two from the PM. He put on a magnificent show. The voice breaking, the getting choked up while talking about fate of Karnataka’s poor farmers to culminate with his resignation. He went on for a bit though. You know you’re rambling when Siddaramaiah is awake and alert enough to tell you to get on with it. Of course if he had to be CM, the farmers could’ve cried themselves hoarse and their said fates would be buried deep in the Reddy brother’s mines.

Jokes apart, I do not exaggerate when I say that this country is getting progressively more frightening. We’re more intolerant of anyone different than us, of an opinion different from ours, of a lifestyle alien to us. We’re more divided than we’ve ever been. It is us vs. them.  It is Hindi vs. Tamil; Hindu vs. Muslim; Brahmin vs. Dalit. We are also sadly more ruthless. First we react, we condemn, we take out rallies to protest the injustice but then we slowly begin to accept it and it becomes our normal because it does not directly impact us. Our voices die down, we stop getting shocked when someone is lynched on the assumption that they’re carrying beef because it wasn’t our brother that was killed. For some reason, the ruling party seems to fuel this hatred and distrust that each of us seem to have for one another. It was probably dormant but now we spew venom in every direction, we wear our inner Mr. Hyde with pride, our opinions are coloured by prejudice but unfortunately so are our facts.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

India, Politics

Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost

The 12th of May is the Karnataka election. We’ve had nonstop coverage on the ‘Fight for Karnataka’ in every form of media. It’s been the messiest political campaigning I’ve seen in a while. We have a ton of rubbish people nominated to office because they belong to a particular community and said community is a huge vote bank. How ridiculous is this in 2018? It’s like me voting for Hitler if he contested because he is Catholic. Political parties promising goodies I get, I even get the distribution of rewards- it’s not ethical but I get it. What I cannot understand is voting for an arthropod because he/she belongs to the same caste. Most people once elected don’t actually do much for their community, yet people for some unfathomable reason still vote for an individual because they share a caste. Only in India. We need to marry into the same caste. We prefer having friends of the same caste. We vote for the same caste. No other country has this ludicrous fixation with caste and community. If an entire community is made up of boneheads, it is not doing the gene pool any favours by not breaking away.

In the run up to this election there has been more focus on what the other party is doing wrong than what one’s party can do right. Case in point the Times of India advertisements by the BJP- one ad referenced the increased number of rapes in Karnataka during Congress rule. Pot calling the kettle black anyone? Maybe that’s the kind of world we live in. Where it is easier to point out flaws in a damaged system, blame it on someone else and when our turn comes up turn around and say that it was beyond repair in the first place. No one is offering a solution to cleaning up our filthy lakes or a solution to our traffic problems. Each political rally tells Karnataka’s citizens that they shouldn’t vote for the Congress because their being in power caused these issues but there is no mention of how/if they will right these problems should they be elected instead.

That said, I take my right to vote very seriously. Maybe I am the reincarnation of a Saudi woman because I don’t know of anyone else that enjoys voting as much as I do. It’s almost like I’ve been suffrage deprived. I cannot understand people who don’t exercise their franchise. Sure choosing between most candidates is like picking between the devil and the deep blue sea but do it nonetheless. Choose between the lesser of the two evils if you must but do it anyway. It is not just one vote. The biggest mistake we make is by discounting our ‘one vote’ assuming it won’t matter (EVM tampering is a whole different case where no one’s vote matters but that’s no excuse) because it all adds up. And last but absolutely the most important  criteria to keep in mind before you cast your vote- choose a party whose leader knows that it is not ‘Karnatak’ or ‘Kannad’ and that there is a glorious, magnificent “a” at the end of both nouns that must be enunciated at all times.