Sunday, 19 March 2017

Familiarity

At the shack:

First time: Smile
Second time: More smiles
Third time: How are you?
Fourth time: The usual?
Fifth time: How many children?
Sixth time: _______________


At the grocer's:

First time: Smile
Second time: Prices are going up
Third time: How many children?
Fourth time: Smiles


At the Staff-room:

First year: Hellos and how are yous
Second half year: What about children? Hurry up before the bus leaves the stop
Second second half: No children, more time no?

Familiarity definitely breeds contempt!


Saturday, 25 February 2017

Coming of age with the Lipstick

My Facebook newsfeed is punctuated with different articles and posts condemning the recent censorship of the film with an intriguing title, Lipstick Under My Burkha. Right from the time this film was announced, I was awaiting the release of this one and much to my and my fellow cine-goers' dismay, the news of CFBC hit us hard. It stars some of my favourite actors and of course lipstick as a metaphor for desires, secret dreams and oodles of passion.



I could immediately connect to the title of the film especially the lipstick because lipstick is not just another cosmetic application which makes one feel good and sexy (if you please. Pardon the indulgence). I remember that while growing up, lipstick was something which was used during the annual day programmes. We needed to look our best and a bright pink lipstick which of course, only one used for all, became our most awaited part of dressing up. I used to like those lipsticks and often times annual day became important because of the whole make-up. That time lipstick was reserved for that one special day. Lipsticks were also laced with a quality of the forbidden -- I have heard my relatives mention, "Only women of lose moral character wear lipstick and walk around;" "Lipstick calls for attention when you walk down the road;" "Lipstick makes you stand out in the crowd and hence you become an easy target for men." And of course, lipstick was a forbidden fruit which will ruin me if I apply it on my lips!



Then came College where lipstick was seen as a class-specific item. Rich kids wore lipsticks whereas we middle-class 'simple' students pretended that wearing lipsticks means that the girls were rich, spoilt and usually dumb. Lipstick was never seen a tool for enhancing one's beauty which in turn will make one feel 'good.' My friend who belonged to an upper middle-class family regularly wore lipsticks and as it is usual with friends of that age, I started applying lipsticks whenever I went over to her place. I started experimenting with maroons, browns and the so-called earthy colours and also found my kind of lipstick - Matte and Earthy. I never wore them to College, except when we had some special function but then I did wear them whenever we hung out together. It felt special - the whole application and how it changed the way I looked and how it made me feel within. I admit it was a bit vain keeping in mind the beauty quotient. But mind you, I did not yet own any lipsticks. Once my friend gifted me a bright red lipstick for my birthday and man, was I thrilled. When I look back, it seems so funny to think that owning a lipstick was something that gave me happiness. Since the pocket-money I received was just about sufficient for my basic needs, a lipstick was a luxury.

Switch to my post-graduation days: I wore lipstick regularly and now I had a reasonable collection of browns and maroons. It was a co-education college and all of us in the M. A. class were seen as mature and independent-thinking men and women and the lipstick became an important part of my identity. I wore it every single day until . . . One of my friends with whom I had started spending a lot of time, asked me out of the blue, "Why do you wear lipstick? Why are you so much given to being artificial?" Man, I was stumped. I did not know what to say because no one had asked something like this to me. I was ashamed and apologetic for being vain and costemised instead of being 'natural and beautiful.' Those were the days of heady idealism and questioning everything and my friend was someone who challenged every norm of the society which was taken for granted. Why was I given to artificiality? Why was I engrossed in decking myself up? My friend also remarked, "My sisters don't wear lipstick. They still look beautiful. Why do you need something extra to make you look beautiful?" That was the last straw. I gave up wearing lipstick and threw away all the lipsticks I had owned at that time. My lips were free of artificiality. Oh! My friend also mentioned how lipsticks were made of lead and fish scales and that it poisoned the human body. I was afraid of dying. The lipsticks were now history.  My friend was happy and I assumed even I was . . . I further started criticising people for applying lipstick and being artificial.

I don't remember exactly when but gradually realised that one dresses up not for anyone else or for the love of showing off but to please one's own self. I guess it was then that I embraced the love of doing something because it gives a smile when I look into the mirror. It was then that I had again started applying lipstick. It made me fee beautiful and confident - ready to take on the day. And this time I had the resources and confidence to buy lipsticks and wear the same everyday. I stopped being bothered by the poison quotient, being artificial or even being called a bourgeois. I guess age and financial independence matters when decisions such as wearing lipsticks should be made. I still get 'those' looks from people who think that wearing lipstick is an undertone for a certain independence, a brashness, a symbol of arrogance and many others. And that is precisely why the film appeals to me because I think the film uses the metaphor of the lipstick to talk about the issues which women face just because they chose to dress up in a certain way -- read as 'going against the fixed and rigid norms of the majority of the patriarchal society.' It is quite startling to think that in spite of living in the 21 C, the lipstick can be seen as a symbol of arrogance and waywardness (only prostitutes wear bright lipsticks and walk around).

The film, I gauge, will also raise questions about the whole notion of dressing up to appeal to our own selves and take control of how and what women would like to portray themselves (dressing, sexuality and others) breaking the delicate shell of the so-called notions of the society. And like many others, I await the film and Konkona Sen Sharma.

What's your lipstick story?

Image courtesy:

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet



Sunday, 19 February 2017

When time and priorities come between passion and love

Many a time in our lives, we find something that we absolutely love doing and engage in the new-found love most arduously. It keeps us going for a while but after a point, the love is sustained but the efforts aren't. This post is about one such blogger who loved what he was doing but abandoned his love as other life dependent loves kept him 'busy.' The blogger is Sankar Narayanan, who works as a consultant. In his own words, "I started off as a food blogger, but stopped that due to health reasons. So I am diversifying to generic topics." Isn't it strange and worthwhile to wonder about something that was (still is) loved by us, is now being neglected by us. It happens all the time - in relationships, with books, with writing and sometimes we tend to neglect our own selves and in turn start flings with less interesting but other time-consuming affairs. Take my blog for example - There was a time when I used to check my blog notifications for comments and posts from other like-minded bloggers. I cannot say that my time is filled with less interesting affairs. I teach and it is my profession which takes up my time, energy and attention. Perhaps, even Mr. Narayanan has fallen into the same pressure trap - the trap of the overpowering of the routine and career.

We both (Narayanan and I) strive to work towards writing more regularly and meaningfully. He is thinking of diversifying his posts instead of niche food blogging, which he has been doing thus far and that too quite well. You could view his blog here: <www.greengastronomyst.com>. I find myself in awe of food bloggers. Ask me why? They get the opportunity to visit different eateries, sample the food and write about the same in the warmth of their rooms. I don't know how one becomes a food reviewer because I tend to believe that those who write about food should have some background experience on the authenticity and taste of food. If one is reviewing a dish from Kerala, I suppose that the food blogger should have had a prior experience of either living in Kerala, tasting their dishes made locally or should have done a course in food history. Well, I guess that is stretching the whole business of a food blogger too far. Let me stop my pedantic rigmarole and turn towards the existing scenario of showing my blog some love and also cajoling Mr. Narayanan's blog to be showed some love by him.

As years role by, we take everything for granted - relationships, health and even our blogs. In the initial years of courtship/marriage and blogging, we try our best to charm the significant other/blogger by spending time and energy but as the years go by, we are good at giving paltry excuses - Oh! we have been married for so long, Ah! My old posts are there without realising that some gas has already escaped and the whole affair is falling miserably due to neglect. I think that there is no better time to revive anything we have taken for granted by showing some care and promising that in the future we will try nurturing what we once found fascinating and engaging.

Cheers to care! Cheers to love!

P. S.: This post is written for the 'Love Theme' contest by The Chennai Bloggers Club (CBC), in association with Woodoz (http://www.woodooz.com/) and Indian Superheroes (http://indiansuperheroes.com/).



Monday, 6 February 2017

When the elections in Goa rattled a peaceful/peace-loving citizen







Securing a government job is a dream come true for many. The reasons cited are often 'job security,' 'pension,' and 'easy life.' I aspired for a teaching job, not a government job. It so happened that I landed in a quasi-government job. Well, sometimes what happens accidentally, often leads to many unwilling accidents as well, as it recently happened. What happened, you may wonder - Unwittingly I was chosen to be a Presiding officer (on account of being an Assistant Professor in a quasi-government set-up) in the recently concluded Goa Legislative Assembly Elections 2017. Well, for many it was a cushy position - masquerading as an important person known as Presiding Officer. Well, when the order came, I was absolutely clueless as to what the position entailed and as always I sought the assistance of Google. I did get a fairly sketchy picture of what I was supposed to be doing. This sketchy knowledge was supplemented by three training sessions. As the trainings were completed, I was being jolted beyond my comfort zone but nothing was more rattling than what was going on within me as the day was fast approaching. The intensity of the entire profile hit home like a panic-attack on the 3rd when I went to the collection centre to procure the materials required for the actual poll on the 4th. But imagine my chagrin when I realised that I was kept in reserve. Well, I was relieved that now that I am a reserve staff, I do not have to bear the load of responsibility. But then we had to wait in the collection centre because we never know when we will be called to replace some one. But I didn't have to wait for long because I was assigned a Pink Booth - a polling station "manned" by only women. And lo behold, when the women saw me, they were rattled - Why? All of us were first timers and their levels of blood pressure shot up and eyebrows creased. The first jolt - I was an intruder into the team that had already been there from the first training. I think team cooperation and familiarity is IMPORTANT when it comes to doing something of this sort. When the vibes from the team are hostile, it does hit hard and is an impediment to the completion of formalities.

On the 3rd, I along with the polling peon and a lady police slept with the machines - The Control Unit, The Ballot Unit and the VVPAT machine. On one side it is rather fascinating to be a part of this side of the elections after being on the other side as a voter. Well, I prefer being a voter! One should see the number of forms and envelops - these are enough to upset the food digested and question your calm sanity levels, that is if you have managed thus far. And then, I also had to manage with the 'team' that was never mine. They were quite efficient you see - They did everything that was expected of them except for making me feel welcome and part of 'their' team. No problem. The Poll has to go on nevertheless.

The Presiding Officer is reduced to the level of a form-filling agent who has to fill mundane columns about the weather, no of voters and don't ask me more or else I will collapse with the thought of the stress levels of the polling day, which I am yet to get out of. I was in a deep existential crisis about an assortment of things which will haunt me for many days now till the results are announced. I had thought that it was only I who had these thoughts and experience but my better half had a similar experience. He tells me that his constituency had a woman staff who was nearly full term pregnant while it is clearly stated in the rules that pregnant women are exempt from Election duty. I think the EC has to consider humanitarian grounds and select people with care.

Now, comes the best part - Individuals are chosen for the post of a Presiding Officer based on their scale of pay and position, which means that there might be seniors in terms of age and experience who are placed as subordinates. Whoa! The Election Commission does not think of 'ego-clashes.' Well, why should it, anyway. But I being an Assistant Professor does not mean that I am adept at filling forms - I detest forms of any kind, leave along filling them but EC takes the cake in providing so many forms that the forms are enough to make you pee and shit in your pants for about the period till the results are announced. Why - if there are any errors or mistakes then you get called. Argh! It's an honour to be chosen for this "responsible" position and yes, be virtue of being an Assistant Professor in a quasi-government set-up, I am an expert in filling up forms of varied colours, white being the most common and putting these forms into colourfully annoying envelops of blue, yellow and green (further relegated as 'sealed' and 'unsealed'). I wonder why the EC cannot provide laptops for each Presiding Officers with the forms pre-loaded in the device and also having the digital signature of the Presiding Officer. Some forms which require to have the Polling agents' signature, could be given while other forms could be done away with.

The returning of the materials after the polls are another saga of woe and angst. One has to wait eternally till the local officials arrive at your table to collect the forms which are then verified by he Returning Officer and the Observer! Jeez. Now this activity goes on till the wee hours of the night and no provision is made for either food or water. There were many Diabetics, who were in dire need of something to eat - not just tea and batata wada which was provided. And some women, in my husband's constituency were waiting till about 01. 00 am without having any means to return home. When Election officials are having food while the menial Presiding officers and their teams are hungry and fatigued, it is quite sad on the part of EC. 

I had to down several cocktails, lot of comfort beef food and a movie to forget the dreary and depressing task of 'being a responsible' Presiding Officer. But still I'm not done with the haunting thoughts because my back and backside is sore with the all day sitting and I had to take leave today (Monday) to nurse the aching back which is a grim reminder of the aching task of filling up of forms and remembering a whole lot of clauses which have to be dug out of the deep crevices of the mind at the appropriate time.


Points to be considered by the Election Commission
It is high time the EC becomes reduces paper-work by collaborating with efficient institutions to develop a software for enabling filling of forms. It should also try and see that the staff are well fed with working meals to ensure good work and pleasant spirits. It would also be wonderful if teams could be decided in advance to ensure familiarity, good team work and efficiency. Furthermore, there should be sufficient time between sending the orders and conducting the training programmes. The training sessions right from the first should be given a mock poll conduction right from the scratch which will enable first-timers to gain confidence and expertise and the sense of responsibility should be owned by the entire team and NOT only the Presiding Officer.

Let peace prevail within and outside of me. 

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Towards a cleaner, healthier and organic 2017

For quite some time, my family and I have embarked on the journey towards eliminating chemicals from our everyday life. Slowly yet steadily we are trying, exploring - one product at a time. Most of my time is spent checking out various sites which deal with selling chemical-free and natural products. I have come to realise that a drastic change as this requires a lot of groundwork and research. In spite of our interest and research, there are many products which I cannot rid of - lipsticks, perfumes and other such. I did find cosmetics which claim to be 'natural' but I am not quite satisfied with the results. Someone suggested that I stop wearing lipsticks and I have also been contemplating on this but still to arrive at a decision - So far, I'm happy to let my lips soak the chemicals.

In my early stages of research the website Mindbodygreen was helpful to me in many ways to simplify things, eat mindfully and practice some lovely affirmations. Though these days, I only visit MBG occasionally, I remember the wonderful lessons I had learnt from there. I guess I had taken all that I have needed and moved on.

One big step which we as a family decided to take was in the section of food - trying to consume foodstuff that were local and nutritious. I must admit that Broccoli, Strawberries and the like are also consumed by us and they are definitely not local but healthy. Another product which I have added to my daily cooking is using Virgin coconut oil. Earlier I was under the impression that using coconut oil for cooking would increase the cholesterol levels but discussing with nutritionists and reading literature on this topic helped me abate my doubts. But I had to look hard to procure pure coconut oil. It was then that my blogger pal, Vishnu Vardhan started his venture named Indian Super Heroes, based in Coimbatore, committed to providing authentic Indian organic stuff to people in search of the same. The concept of ISH is something that is simple and revolutionary - working with local people to source, grow and provide organic products to people, markets and society. Small scale ventures have always caught my interest and attention because they deal directly with the farmers without the interference of middle-men and commissions. And, the products are made with utmost care and love unlike the large-scale machines which are quite impersonal and stiff. And another reason for us to go organic is trying to support local and native products.

My first purchase with ISH 500 ml of coconut oil and a peppermint soap and I am excited now as I write this because many more products have been introduced by Vishnu Vardhan and his efficient women team. The soap does not dry the skin like the other famous soaps like Lux, Dove, Santoor and so on. It has a mild fragrance and a soothing effect on the skin. I have also previously used only handmade soaps procured from different sources and glad to now find it in ISH.

I am also looking to procure traditional and local items like millets, organic turmeric, wild honey and a wide range of products. There was a time I used to order items from ten different places and await their arrival but now after ISH, I guess I could order items from the same place. The website is still in its nascent stage but Vishnu tells me that it will soon be fortified.

If interested, you could procure products from Indian Super Heroes here:

Website: http://indiansuperheroes.com/ & http://indianorganic.store/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/SuperHeroesIndia/?fref=ts

The Focus Areas of ISH


I would like to know if you have been going organic and chemical-free too. If yes, what are some simple changes that you have made in your home and life-style?


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