Sunday, June 19, 2011

Saying au revoir

I spent all of today visiting relatives in Calcutta, with more to be met tomorrow, all to say adieu before I head off for my MBA in a month's time. Of all the people I met, no one else made me as emotional as Doctor Dadu and Didu.

I'm not related to them. They were my Mam's neighbours all my life, in her old home that she moved out of some years back. Dadu was a homeopathic doctor, so if any of us ever fell ill while visiting Calcutta, he'd be the one we went to. There is also some story of him saving my life when I fell seriously ill as a kid I think, but those details are too hazy for me to be clear on.

Every visit to Cal, no matter who else we met or didn't meet, Doctor Dadu and Didu had to be met. No matter how rushed or hectic the trip, that half hour to walk next door and sit with them had to be taken out. And it was never a duty; theirs was a house we unanimously all wanted to visit. And very few people make me feel as loved as they do.

Maybe it's because we're not related. Maybe it's because there's no baggage, you know. With everyone else, there's a history. What he said about us, what we said about her, what he shouldn't get to know, how they behaved with them, and so on and so forth.

With Doctor Dadu-Didu, there's no such history, just a very genuine affection. Every time I go, they exclaim over how I've grown up and become such a lady. They start about how they hear such good things about me from the grandmother. They feed me mishti and give me a chocolate to carry back with me. And they tell me how good it is to see me again.

They're childless, Dadu and Didu. Both in their 80s at least, they live alone, and a niece comes to see them once in a while. They're both very well read, and their memory is still amazingly sharp. Dadu can't hear, so every time I answer a question Didu asked me, she'll scream and repeat what I said to him, and he'll nod and pretend he understood, then turn and ask me the same question again. Didu fell and hurt herself a couple of years back, and is almost completely bed ridden now. But the two of them are chugging along, living and laughing together.

Ever since it's been known that I'm going off for two years, all my great aunts and other elderly relatives have been telling me wistfully, "who knows if we'll still be here when you come back." Mam said it today, and I lost my temper with her and stormed off.

But then Doctor Dadu said it too this evening. And I broke down and started bawling. And it struck me that after the grandmother and the princess, if there's anyone else I'm going to be praying to keep alive for me to come back and see, it'll be Doctor Dadu and Didu.

But then Didu saw me crying, and laughed. She patted my hand, and told me, "don't be silly. You come back in two years, and you'll see I'll be walking again."

God I hope so. How I hope so.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Of diets and allergies

There are nice mirrors and mean mirrors, you know? The mirror in my Mam's old house, for instance, had a knack of making me feel pretty. The reflection in the glass doors that were the entrance to my grad school on the other hand made me feel fat every time I saw them.

Some clothes do that too. Unpacking four years of clutter, the brother found my favourite pair of jeans that had travelled back to Boston with him in March. I've been wearing them as often as possible since I got them back, and I feel good in them. Of course, it helps that I've lost a teeny-weeny bit of weight lately.

If this holiday has taught me anything though, it's that I am wayyyyy more unfit than I thought I was. The brother wanted to climb up to the top of a cliff, and I agreed to accompany him. We took the easiest and shortest trail there was, but I was huffing and puffing for most of it. So since coming back, I've been put straight back on the "diet" I've been following since March, when my doc looked at my test results, and told me to go off sugar, go on a low carb diet, have absolutely no carbs after 7 in the evening, and basically be half my size when I went to see her again in three months (which is about two weeks and I am nowhere close to being half of what I was).

You don't really realise how much carbs your diet has till you start avoiding them. Roti, bread, rice, potatoes - ALL of these are to be avoided now. And since I am made to have dinner by 6.30 these days, I start feeling hungry by 11ish again. And then there's NOTHING I can even have.

What I did realise was that my biggest enemy was sugar. I used to go through 7-8 cups of tea a day in office, y'know? Each with almost 2 spoons of sugar. Once I reduced that, and replaced sugar with Sugar Free, you could literally see the weight falling off me. Which is very depressing, because I am addicted to sugar. There are times when I actually crave the taste of sugar.

To add insult to injury, I went last week to the doc who'd diagnosed me with asthma last year, and got a full allergy test done. Apart from random airborne allergies which can't be helped, we discovered two food families that I am allergic to - lady fingers and lemon. Anyone who says there is no universal conspiracy out to get me is either blind, or lying. I mean, seriously?! The one vegetable I like is bhindi, and now I can't have it. And do you know what a comfort food nimboo-pani is for me? And how is one supposed to have maachher-jhol-bhaat is I can't put nimboo on it?

I have a cold and a dash of fever right now, so yes, I'm a bit cranky, and meandering more than usual. And I have an appointment with the dentist in exactly two hours. Who knows what he's going to ban for me.


Thursday, June 09, 2011

My Tuppence on the Delhi Slutwalk

My twitter timeline and GReader feeds have been flooded by one issue over the last day or so, and I'm not talking about a certain baba's antics. Delhi's gearing up for a Slutwalk it seems, and the reactions are varied.

There's cynicism, there's support, there's wisecracks. There's a number of women who have blogged about their experiences in the streets of Delhi in an attempt to explain why, even though they may not necessarily agree with the entire concept of a Slutwalk, it is needed. And there are those, mostly from other parts of the country, who are wondering how "Dilliwallas" will react to this walk. You know, because Delhi's the only city in the country where men are scum. My own friends are questioning the name of this walk.

It's not that these kind of events haven't happened before in India. Blank Noise has been organizing activities that emphasize the concept of "I never ask for it" for years now. But this Slutwalk seems to have caught everyone's attention in a way they never did.

Is it the name? Why? Because people, most people, think a slut is a prostitute? The original meaning of the word, when I had looked it up in the Oxford Dictionary at the age of 14, was "a dirty, slovenly woman". Over time, it's come to be used to describe women who are sexually promiscuous. And that, as we all know, is to be severely frowned upon. Because it's fine for Ranbir Kapoor to have as many flings as he wants - it's after all material to be used for jokes at the Filmfare awards - but if Deepika Padukone goes on to another boyfriend, she's labelled a gold digger and all sorts of other things. And not just by men, dear Lord no. It's the women who can be cattiest about such labels.

Even if the word slut did mean prostitute, so? Does that justify sexual harassment? I worked as an HR consultant; if we chose to say no to working with a particular organization, they couldn't force us, right? So if a woman, who makes a living by having sex with men - for whatever reasons - says no to a man, and he forces himself on her, why should that be justifiable in any way?

Why is a Slutwalk needed in Delhi, of all cities in India? Do I need to chronicle incidents, the way this woman did? The groping at age 12, being stopped by a car two lanes away from my house, the numerous incidents in DTC buses? The comments on my own blog five years ago, by two men I consider friends, that a woman wearing a mini-skirt gives the impression that she is inviting men to try their luck. This post on Desicritics, some years ago, that outraged me and prompted me to write this post in response. And for the menfolk who express their concern that men in Delhi won't understand this event, look at your own cities. A friend was flashed on Pali Hill in Bandra. Those cops who started this entire movement, by using the word slut in the context of the women who were raped, were in Vancouver. Isn't that supposed to be a first world country or some such thing?

Don't tell me this mentality is about city or state or region or country. It exists all over the world. And I can guarantee that this Slutwalk will do absolutely nothing to even change this mentality. As someone tweeted yesterday, "When slutwalk happens, no one will think of the real victims. Just like no one thinks of animals during naked PETA campaigns." The last thing on any bystander's mind as they see a mass of women parading on a road is our right to tell them to keep their hands to themselves.

But there is the faint hope that maybe some men will be affected, maybe some women will change the way they view other women, maybe some folks will stop blaming the survivors of sexual abuse/harassment. And if this Slutwalk achieves even this much, I'm all for it. Oh yes I am.

I realised, while discussing this post with the BFF on gtalk, that I never actually articulated what the Slutwalk is about, really. And why I'm not completely enamoured with the idea, even though I do want it to have some positive impact. So in her furious but very articulate words:
who even fucking says slut in india
no one even knows what it's about
so after this will rape stats go down?
will all the sex-starved indians suddenly start respecting women and do all nahi nahi ma-beti jai-jai
and will indian women now start catching buses from DK in fishnets?
There you go then.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

A Brief History of Time: A Meme

So I'm bored, I have writer's (or blogger's) block, and I really want to blog. So I'm doing a meme.

20 years ago I . . .
1. lost my paternal grandfather to leukemia. To the day, actually.
2. asked my bachelor great-uncle why he couldn't marry my just-widowed grandmother since they were both now unmarried (I was SIX, okay?)
3. still lived in Chandigarh.

10 years ago I . . .
1. gave my Class X Board exams.
2. bid goodbye to any paper to do with Science. WOOHOO.
3. thought becoming a House Appointee was SUCH a big deal.

5 years ago I . . .
1. finished college and started my Master's
2. started this blog, after a year of keeping a private blog.
3. went for the long-dreamed-of trip around Europe with the family.

3 years ago I . . .
1. finished my Master's and started my first job.
2. travelled to Kolkata and Mumbai, and realised that Delhi is, after all, home.
3. joined twitter, and well, got addicted.

1 year ago I . . .
1. took the plunge of applying to B-school.
2. had a miserable time at work.
3. got diagnosed with asthma, grew fatter and fatter till I pretty much doubled in size, and altogether just let my health go completely.

So far this year I . . .
1. got into B-school.
2. quit my job.
3. watched the kid brother graduate from college.

Yesterday I . . .
1. went for an eye check-up.
2. applied for an apartment to live in for the next year.
3. booked my flight tickets to the US.

Today I . . .
1. woke up crying with the worst migraine in a long, long time.
2. took an appointment for my visa interview.
3. met my future classmates for dinner.

Tomorrow I will . . .
1. go get an allergy test done.
2. watch Kung Fu Panda 2.
3. hopefully have lunch with one of the gal pals.

In the next year I will . . .
1. start B-school.
2. learn to live away from home, the parents, and the princess.
3. hopefully figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life - or at least for the first few years after I finish my MBA.

Hmmm. Okay, I tag The Zig and Puneet, because they should blog more often, crimsonshadows and Runjoo, because they read my blog (which I know because they leave comments) and have blogs, and anyone else who feels like it. Only, tell me if you do this too, yeah?