Friday, 29 August 2014

When Angelina Jolie (finally) married Brad Pitt

The Occident always amazes and amuses me. When I read the news of the celebrity couple getting married, the first question that arose in my mind was - "Why did they have to wait for so long and come on they already have six children to boot?" In fact, I was speaking out aloud in my mind the existing cultural differences between the Occident and the Orient. In terms of love, marriage and legalities, the Western world always confounds me. Take for example my friend Christine. She has been seeing her boyfriend Bill for over ten years and naturally I had assumed that the question of getting married is an obvious. But no. When I asked Christine about their wedding, she injected aloud before exclaiming, "Well, he hasn't even asked me yet!" Now it was my turn to let out an interjection. Whaat on earth? Well, in India (atleast the one I know), if someone was going around for quite some time, it was a given that they would be married. After all those years of courtship, the question of a formal asking is out of the question. The only question is, "When can we possibly marry?" But Christine's answer stressed that inspite of love and marriage being the common denominator the way it happens is quite different in both these cultures. I therefore assume that people can be together for quite some time and choose not to get married or they would prefer to wait until the time is right (which is after getting a brood of six!) But then, this is not the case with every Western couple. Christians mostly are in a committed relationship and marry once the guy in question has asked the girl. Now, whether the asking is just a formality or something that is done to confirm the relationship is unknown to me.

When I was discussing this with R, he opined that in the Western world, the legalities come first than issues of trust and comfort. If not, why did Pitt and Jolie take so long to formalise their bond. Didn't they trust each other or did they second guess that something might go wrong and hence it is not wise to enter a formal and legal bond? Now, after being together with a person for an extended period of time and sharing almost everything - emotions, days and nights, children, bed, bodies and so on, how can one just go on thinking that if something goes wrong, one can leave. Is it trust versus legalities or something else?

In India at least, the moment one falls in love, it is not amusing or naive to think that one will get married to that person. In fact, most of us were like that. We thought that naturally love would lead to wedding; Of course, life taught us that it is not always so. Even then the idea of going out and waiting for the guy to ask for the hand is a bit ridiculous. What if the guy never asks? What if the guy thinks that his position is not quite sound and takes his own sweet time? Will the girl in question wait endlessly inspite of living together with the guy. These and many more questions amuse me when I think of the Western world and their systems. But sadly, the urban population in India is tilting towards these systems and I fear the day when the whole world resembles America.

Dear reader, what are your thoughts on this?

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Lover of books but undecided about THE book!

Many times I  have been tagged to list the first ten books that come to my mind when I think of the books that have affected me. I am always at a loss. I panic. I feel strange because it is quite difficult for me to list books like that. I know one always remembers and treasures the memory of books that have had profound influence on us but I fail miserably in that exercise. I do accept the tag and list down the books but I have to try hard to recollect the books that 1. I have read and 2. The ones that have affected me. I just can't do that and I admire those who can just list books like swatting a fly off their face or something. I adore books. I can't have enough of them. I hoard them and I can beat any miser to it. I hate lending books though I always want to borrow! I would rather buy a book for someone than lend one of my own. When someone discusses a book I like, I willingly join in but if someone asks me just like that, 'Who is your favourite writer?' I go blank. I always weigh endlessly - trying to somehow mask my great confusion and I almost always end up blurting the first name that comes to my mind. And the first name is the name that has crossed my weighing and has been sieved out - but still the name is not THE name or the book THE book. I hope you get the drift.

The world of books and writers is something that I cannot fathom. It is like a sea where one swims and it is quite difficult to say which part of the sea fascinated me. I mean every single part belongs to the bigger whole and every single book/writer contributes to the whole experience of reading and enjoying the world of books.

Every time I take up the tag, I end up thinking extra hours about the books I enjoyed reading and how each one has affected me. I coerce my thick memory to squeeze out atleast three or four titles. No. My mind has a mind of its own and it refuses to relent. I give up and forget the incident until another tag by my book-loving friends comes up. My rigmarole begins afresh leaving me wondering about the different titles that haunted me since the time I had signed up for the pleasures of reading and escaping into untraversed lands and diverse people. And, each time I escape and return, I am a new person. I allow myself to be reborn in a metaphorical way. In the journeys of Che, in the passions of Marquez, in the dreams of Coelho, in the ramblings of Bach and many many others, I have lost and gained myself. I was moved beyond my limits and I returned renewed to the present. At times my present coagulated with the book's present!

I cannot list books off my head for every book works in me in a unique manner. I allow myself to be!

Reader, do you share this predicament with me?

Monday, 18 August 2014

(Un)Changing gender roles and general perceptions

Since the time I have started working, my husband and I have made some adjustments to our roles and responsibilities. One of them is cooking - while I prepare the breakfasts and dinners, my husband takes care of the lunches. These changes are made to suit our timings and availabilities. Since he remains at home during mid-morning and early afternoon, it is easier for him to prepare lunches.

But alas, these changes are almost attributed to the man being considerate and extra loving towards the wife, which I won't deny but the vital point is being narrowly missed. The point that cooking and cleaning is the sole domain of the woman and anything that is beyond those parameters is seen as a stroke of luck. WHY? Generations of cooking and cleaning has rendered the act of cooking and cleaning as the woman's work. And if the man assists in the kitchen or doing the laundry, the message sent is that he is being thoughtful and considerate.

Everyday at my workplace, my husband gets admiring phrases and loving vibes when I mention that he prepares the lunch. Women who are fiercely independent with their own salaries and strong opinions also tend to believe that cooking and cleaning is a woman's work and if she gets any help from her husband, then the wife is a lucky person.

Nothing has changed. It will take atleast a 100 years to change the mindset. The actions, roles and responsibilities might have changed but the fact that certain jobs are for certain genders has not changed. And, this is not something in India alone. When I read some posts/articles/essays, the author who is a woman credits her husband for being a darling, sweetheart and understanding husband/boyfriend simply because he takes care of the laundry and does the dishes.

I know that I am writing about something that has been done and dusted atleast a few million times and inspite of that I am confounded by the fact that nothing has changed. Feminism exists and most urban women are aware of it - either through first-hand or second-hand experience AND all these theories of women empowerment has not stopped women from thanking and praising the men to the skies when it comes to doing household work. Women still think that cooking and cleaning is their job and if anyone offers to relieve them from that, then it is an act which deserves praise and glorification.

And only men (some, atleast) can say that cleaning vessels is therapeutic. Ask that to a woman and she would show how actions speak (and cause immense pain) louder than words.

A long way to go . . .

Saturday, 9 August 2014

The temperamental biometric

In the College where I teach, teachers have to do a biometric identification when they come in and again do it while leaving. A teacher has to stay for five hours in College and the only witness of this five-hour stay is the biometric machine. The records are then submitted to the University at the end of each month.

For the past three days or so, the biometric machine is not working. Yay! It seems that the machine is protesting and has violent mood swings and as a result it is celebration time for most of us. It is not everyday that we break the five-hour mandatory stay but the lack of the biometric identification seems to give a strange feeling of freedom.

I can imagine students getting happy and jumpy when they are freed from the shackles of attendance and all that jazz but teachers! Well, sometimes when there are rules which one is forced to bow down to, even if the tyrant is the biometric machine, it is a forced sort of discipline.

The childlike aspects of teachers come to the fore when there is a break in the regular routine - I don't see them hurrying to record their identification and fulfill the five hour jail stay! Of course, we don't rush earlier than before but still the chains of mandatory five hours stay is temporarily suspended.

I wonder about the different shackles of forced discipline that exists in my life and unless they are suspended, we will never know their bearing in our lives.

Inspite of everything, life goes on

What are your shackles (read discipline enforcement) dear reader?

Image: Internet

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Confusing kindness for tolerance

When one is a teacher, there are several nuggets of experience to chew and internalise and one such nugget is the act of being kind and free with the students. When it comes to interacting with students inside and outside the classroom, I make it a point not to be very strict or reprimand them for every single act of theirs. Even while teaching, my examples are drawn from everyday aspects of life that the students can relate and sympathise. And the smile - I almost always have a smile pasted on my face which tends to make the student comfortable while in the class and also during our different interactions.

BUT all the aforementioned attributes of mine are almost always mistaken to be signs of an informal person who has great tolerance towards anything including malpractice. Well, I have now started to wonder about the signals that I am sending across to the naive students.

The smile is always mistaken as a sign of extreme tolerance on my part and also the green signal to flout certain disciplinary boundaries. I understand that I cannot expect my students to observe every single thing that is normally expected of them like sitting quiet in class, fidgeting with mobiles and trying to do their homework when I am teaching. But my friendly behaviour and pleasant demeanour makes them think that they can get away with whatever they are doing.

My angst and dilemma is how I should conduct myself as a teacher. Should I be kind and compassionate and understand that they are after all children who pretend to be adults or should I be rigid and firm and never smile thus forcing them to be like captives of Femme Fatale Susan or should I learn to balance my thoughts and learn to ignore certain aspects of student behaviour.

I have taught before and on many occasions I undergo this sudden rush of meandering thoughts where I question my conduct and role as a teacher. After all these years of teaching, I still struggle to resist finding a middle path and stop myself from complaining as to how how my kindness is mistaken for tolerance by the students.

Friday, 1 August 2014

One aspect of Chennai that I would like to change

This post is part of the blog tag titled, The CBC Tablog - 2, where CBC stands for Chennai Bloggers Club. About 30 bloggers from Chennai are participating in this blog tag where everyone will write about their favourite city Chennai and what aspect of the city that they would like to change. So here's my post for the CBC tablog - 2 titled, 'What Aspect of Chennai that I Would Like to Change.'

Every city has its own charms and challenges and Chennai (Madras) is not an exception. As much as I like the city, there are many aspects of it that I would like to change. One unchangeable aspect is the weather, of course but in this post, I wouldn't waste me time discussing the unchangeable.

I would like to change the lack of green lungs in the city. As the city is expanding and accommodating a diverse range of people from various states and countries, it is losing out on green spaces which provide a certain calm to the eyes and also a healthier environment to the residents. Summer along with perspiration and fatigue, which is a constant in this part of the world is at its peak between April and August and if the city has parks and garden spread out in different strategic places, the residents will be able to cool off and socialise in the shade of the trees and the space of a park. Chennai does have some parks dotted in some places but that alone isn't enough for the ever-growing population.

The Municipal Corporation should identify many such places where people can gather together and find some fresh air to breathe and space to spend time without having to think of power failures and aircons. People who like reading books should be able to pack some food and park themselves on a bench and enjoy their book along with occasional sights and sounds of the surroundings.

The parks could also have small kiosks selling juices, icecreams. coffee and sandwiches. I'm sure people would flock to buy themselves a small snack while they socialise and enjoy their books or solitude.

The garden/park culture should catch up in the city and become a vital aspect of the city's map. I hope this dream of mine comes to pass in the near future.

This post will be succeeded by Kaushik Govindaswamy's post. Kaushik blogs at Words & Lines and is quite a sensitive and creative young man. The logo for this Tablog was designed by him and one look at his sketches and designs will sure leave you interjecting in appreciation. He recently successfully completed the A-Z challenge in Blogging with a wide range of interesting posts. I wish Kaushik all the best for his blog and his drawing.


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