Because nothing breaks the silence like controversy does

5 Mar

So, I just watched the much talked about, controversial India’s Daughter. It’s available online, not sure for how long, but you must watch it too before it gets taken down. It’s gruesome, will make your stomach turn, your heart break and maybe like me spend 75% of the run time wiping away helpless, uncontrollable tears so you can actually watch the rest of the film clearly. The moment the debate around the film broke out, and I read about it, I have wondered just how thin the line between 1) documenting the psychology and culture of violence against women, with a view to understand the socio economic factors that feed into it and the minds of criminals who perpetrate these crimes and 2) a western filmmaker using an isolated event in a global issue that somehow makes it look like rape is endemic to what is viewed as “barbaric, uncivilised” segments of society. (Have we already forgotten Tejpal? Pachauri? And the tons of cases of violence against women in the west? Also while we’re nitpicking, can a woman not be just that without having to be someone’s daughter, wife, sister etc?!)

It actually began with the outrage over the rapists views that were published in a Telegraph article a day before the news about the film broke out. People were shocked at his brazen, unrepentant, misogynistic views. But I was shocked at the outrage. Shocked that people were shocked. Because really, is it such a surprise given the entire incident he was a part of? To me, the shock and outrage was actually telling of how naiive we are as a people, about the general attitude of men around us. Especially people like me outraging on facebook and twitter, the privileged lot who haven’t faced an iota of the kind of daily violence that more than 50% of India does. Sometimes at the hands of their own family. By their husbands — and that’s not even up for legal action.

It speaks of our collective naivete about the lives, times and backgrounds of more than half this nation. We, in our polarised existence in our bubbles of privilege, find it much easier to feel emboldened by the most current topic of outrage, to spew superficial psychobabble, reducing big issues to things as solutions as simplistic and uni-dimensional as bringing up our sons better etc, which while valid, is really not so much as making a miniscule dent in the issue.

It is for this reason alone that the documentary needs to be watched. Because it brings to the fore the connections between socio-economic conditions, politics of power, the deep-rooted sexism and misogyny that our culture (the one we are so proud of, the one we rush to protect and uphold every chance we get) perpetuates, leading to violence of this sort. It is important that these are brought out because our awareness of these is shameful. The shock and outrage over the rapists views, and the alacrity with which our government clamped down on the film is telling of just how apathetic our attitudes and understanding of the causes for a culture of rape are.

If we need to begin to fix it, the first thing we need to do is understand the mind of men like Mukesh and his friends. Interviews, documentaries, studies are a way to do this. It is critical that we understand what makes a criminal, what pushes him to the point of raping a woman and brutally attacking her in the way that Jyoti was. If we don’t have the courage to look at a crime, see what caused it, how on earth are going to make sure it doesn’t happen again?

Yesterday, I found my discomfort about the nature of the film it could have been, articulated in two pieces. I hadn’t watched it yet and given that, these pieces were in my opinion sensible views amidst all the noise online. Kavita Krishnan’s piece hits the nail on the head, and Nilanjana Roy asks some very important questions. Dipta put it succinctly this morning: “Reasons to watch it: Many. Reasons not to watch it: Many. Reasons to ban it: None.”

So this morning, I watched the film. Just three minutes in I was reduced to helpless tears. Helpless not just because I suddenly relived the shock and awe of December 2012, but it brought the whole episode alive in a gruesome, raw manner. The tears were of grief, helplessness and most crippling of all — of guilt. Of being the privileged. Born to a family with liberal views, educated, always given equal opportunity, always thought to be fearless, never allowing situation or circumstance to stop us from furthering our education, career, life path. Our daily issues, the ones I crib about on a weekly basis, do not hold a candle to the daily abuse and suffering so many women in our country go through. Beginning right in the comfort of their homes, at the hands of their husbands. Which incidentally, isn’t even against the law as yet.

The film shook me up completely. Mukesh’s views didn’t shock me as much as those of the defence lawyers. They’re representative of the very thought process and the reason we are this juncture — banning a film that seeks to look inside the mind of a rapist, while there’s a woman getting raped every 20 minutes in our country.

I’m mixed up about my issues about the tone and nature of the film itself, but I am aghast at the ban because we cannot begin to fix this with tokenism and lipservice in the form of slogans like Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao. We have to teach respect, enforce it. We have to make a habit of equality. We have to unlearn our culture of divisiveness, of privilege and patriarchy. And for that we have find out what causes men like Mukesh to think the way they do.And if you watch the film, you’ll see the many answers to that question. The answers lie in the immense and fast-widening economic disparity. In the lack of jobs and direction. In our culture of favouring boys over girls. In the fact that our government harbours criminals yet to be tried. In the minds of the Asaram Bapus and Mulayam Singhs of our country. In the minds of the defense lawyers of the criminals spewing their vile, misogynistic views in the film. In a faulty criminal and judicial system that delays FIRs, still questions victims first, and has no proper redressal. If we’re willing to bravely explore that, we can make a beginning with the process that will frankly take a few decades to get moving before any change is seen.

So tell me. How many of you were actually surprised that the documentary was banned to protect our national image. Because Mukesh’s views make India look bad. Because we are so used to brushing the crap that happens within our homes into the closet and putting up a brave, clean front of perfection. Aren’t we already experts at shutting up about rape to protect family dignity and save face? Wasn’t this just the same thing on a national level?So watch it people. I began this morning by saying what’s the use, those who are truly apathetic and need to watch this probably won’t even have access to it. But by the end I was convinced that those of us who hve the privilege, who have access, who understand are the ones who must make the beginning. Blur the lines, close the gaps, spread the word.  And fast, because the speed at which we’re regressing into a nation of hypocrisy, lies and worst of all, censorship, is trying to outpace us.

If you’ve ever wondered about the pride and glory of India shining know that there’s a good lot of Indian who like Mukesh’s lawyer believe, “India has the best culture. There is no place for women in our culture.”

Because silence is never a good thing

4 Feb

I’m admitting today, I don’t get how social media/networks works. When I read yesterday that facebook has killed their organic reach algorithms completely, my immediate thought was “oh great, no reason to stick around here anymore.” Many folks stated how it made business sense for facebook, but I can’t wrap my head around how a social network goes from being 50% networking and 50% business opportunity enhancer to 100% marketplace, making you pay for everything you need to do to use it to your advantage. Perhaps this has been a long time coming, and is the general direction in which the internet itself is going to move, but I still don’t get it.

Many years ago, when I was still undecided about my stance on fb, I remember saying out loud that I don’t get how its possible to be fb friends with someone who has openly expressed a dislike for you in real life. I got told off my a “friend” then, that I didn’t get how facebook worked and that I should probably stay off it for good. And so, I did. For almost three years.

I’ve since figured out what fb can do for me, made peace with its inherent hypocrisy and realised where it can work for me. In the bargain, I have enjoyed that I have control over what I see, who I engage with and how much I want to indulge in any given engagement. I’ve said this before, amongst the things that made the return to fb fun was the increased interaction over issues. In the years I was away fb seemed to have moved from a space for sharing moments in our lives to discussing, debating, cross questioning everyday issues of personal, national and global interest. I have truly enjoyed some of the discussions I have witnessed, participated in and even watched from the fringes. But I have also not enjoyed some parts of it. Last year, around the time of the election my fb list got self-weeded out a bit. By May 16, I wished so many of my friends hadn’t aired their political views so openly because I couldn’t help but alter my perceptions about them, once I had read all that they have written, shared and openly liked. It manifested in limited interactions with some, surprise bonhomie with others, and in some unfortunate cases a complete severing of ties. Things I hadn’t noticed as problematic about these friends, their actions, lives and thoughts, I suddenly began to notice with hyper-sensitivity. I began to question things a lot more deeply and slowly but surely I have realised that what manifests as a shrill political view is seldom restricted to just a political view. Whether far right or left, it creeps into the general ethic of your life itself. How you view basic relationships, approach situations, your attitudes, your stance on various global and sociological issues, your style of communication, your speech, dialogue, and even just the way you conduct yourself, is dictated by your ethic and belief system.

The knowledge of it (about most people I know) has made me pointedly aware and almost self-conscious in my interactions with them.

It’s no wonder then that the only true conversation that remains on my feed today is mainly of a bunch of friends who relentlessly question the Good Days we have been blessed with, dialogue it, air their beliefs no matter how minor they may be. Apart from that there’s a good load of discussions on kitchen gardening, home schooling, baking, writing and other creative pursuits. All the things I can vibe with, basically. It’s happened rather organically, by process of natural selection, only the posts and people I have open communication with, stay on top of my feed. A look at my feed on any given day is so telling of which of my friends I have how much commonality with. It’s also telling of a certain discomfort with sharing opinions with those who might or might not always feel the same way. It tells a tale of how raising questions that certain segments of people feel shouldn’t be asked can only be done amongst those who are on the same side as you. I have the fb algorithm to thank for this.

Quite unconsciously all of social media gets divided into us and them, no matter which side of the fence you are on. Fragmenting people on the basis of their opinions, forming extreme factions, leaving little room for those in the gray. People in the gray, as well as issues that lie in the grey. This new pattern of so called communication may inherently also be killing all essential dialogue.

Increasingly I see this happening on twitter too. Until recently, I had a private account and I used twitter mostly as a means to share links, read posts and links that interest me, that reach me via someone I have chosen to connect with based on a mutual interest or connection. But ever since I made my account public, my tl has been flooded by a shitload of new followers, and my feed on any given day is populated with things I wasn’t previously used to seeing. It leaves me equal parts amused, curious, surprised. Sometimes pleasantly, and sometimes in the rudest way possible.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to air an opinion, just voice it. It takes absolutely no time for a mere statement of opinion, to be taken as a personal attack to someone’s belief system and your reaction is met with a defensive, angry counter-argument. What happened yesterday has fortunately or unfortunately altered my stance towards twitter too. It’s the beginning of training myself to do on twitter, what I do on fb — watch and be amused, but whatever you do, do not engage.

It helped that about half a dozen people (most unknown followers on twitter) messaged in to say I was right to back off from “the spat” (I seriously didn’t think it was spat until it was pointed out to me — seriously, twitter spat is a thing?) because the person I was arguing with had no real point to make. One of them went so far as to say you can’t fight an idiot (this is not the word the person used, though. Im being polite :)) with logic because they drag you down and beat you with experience.

And I realised that’s just it. Shrill views, I can tolerate. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but when did it become wrong to share an opposing view? When did that become such a cause for threat? Combine that insecurity with obstinacy and belligerence and you have a perfect recipe for zero communication. Zero dialogue. Zero understanding, sharing and exchange of views. And correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t that kind of the point of social media, at some point in the past?

Twitter and fb have shown me a lot of things I didn’t know. When I have the time and patience for it, I’m always up for a different point of view. When I see someone knows something I know nothing about, Im quick to virtually drag a chair and join in the discussion. I’m naturally curious and have a huge appetite for debate. So far I’ve been very lucky with having come across enough people online who are of the same wavelength, and indulge this side of me.

But I do not know what to make when a mere statement that could lead to an intelligent discussion, unravels very quickly into an unnecessarily defensive and borderline ugly “spat” with everybody getting so personal and dragging it down to the language of “BS” and “shit.”

So I’ll admit again, I don’t get how this form of social networking works. Especially after yesterday, which was possibly the most active day I’ve ever had on twitter. I spend most of my time on twitter passively looking at what people have to say, but every now and then something pops up that makes me want to react. More importantly, I’m prompted to react when the tweet comes from someone I assume to be open to discussion and debate/sharing, even if we never agree, or openly choose to disagree. I’ve done this a lot on twitter and fb, and some of the best interactions online have been such discussions where I’ve been able to see a point of view I didn’t know existed, or made to see another opinion, see it, acknowledge it, accept it, even if I don’t agree with it. I think that is so critical to communication itself, online or otherwise.

The ability to agree to disagree, in a civil well-mannered way has always been my scale to judge a healthy level of communication. By that parameter, my relationship and communication with the hugsband is probably the healthiest. We rant and rave, fight tooth and nail, take each other down over many things. Sometimes we agree humbly, many times we storm off in a rage, only to return to say okay, we can agree to disagree. But no matter what the outcome, we don’t reach those conclusions without seeing the other person’s point of view, at the very least. But its only possible where there is room for logic, some kind of rational, and humble debate. You can only communicate when the channel for communication is open and willing. Increasingly I feel there is so little space for this online. We only want to huddle around with people who will mutely agree with us, or openly disagree with us. We don’t want to share our views and enlighten each other, we’d much rather sit atop our sky-high ivory towers and pontificate endlessly, never once bothering to look at what’s happening outside and around us. Online or otherwise.

*****

Oh and btw, in case you care to know the discussion yesterday was about Freedom of Expression, in relation to the FIR filed and probe ordered into the AIBRoast. After a point it wasn’t about the video anymore, it wasn’t even about comedy, but essentially about just allowing for someone to share an opinion, regardless of whether it’s something you like, can bring yourself to see, or agree with.

This response by the guys at AIB pretty much sums up what I feel and what I was trying to get across, but failed wholeheartedly, because it’s kind of hard to get across to anything that is blinkered, yet opinionated. Lethal combination, that.

Essentially it was about how the larger debate about freedom of expression, no matter how cool it may be to offer your two-bit about, cannot be linked to the issue of the AIBRoast through wide swathes of misinformed illogical statements. You cannot talk of FoE without an understanding of context and consent. And as for the Roast, the context is Insult Comedy, the very basis of which is crass, vulgar, offensive attacks on celebrities who consented to participate in wholeheartedly. If you’re the kind who is easily offended, look away. If you’re the kind who cannot be bothered and isn’t very opinionated, watch and enjoy. But you cannot watch it, claim it is crass and offensive, and then say its no different from Kumar Vishwas’ kali-peeli comment, or that the people who enjoy insult comedy can’t call out instances of fat-shaming, racist, misogynistic “comedy.” If you have an opinion, pick a side and stick by it. I just wish people cared to think a little before they flapped their gums on twitter. Or if that’s too much to ask, I wish they’d at least google it before they tweet about it!

These lines sum it up for me:
We respect arguments that are critical, and as for the arguments we don’t, we respect your right to make them without impediment. It is a courtesy we wish worked both ways.

And that really was the point at which I stepped away from the argument.

*****

The other day, a vehement AAP supporter on my fb posted a status message that made me reach out and send across a PM, because I was touched by it. Not because of the person’s political leanings or what the status message said, but because in a world where increasingly those without these shrill views (on anything!) are being silenced because they’re not easily offended, or don’t indulge in online slugfests big and small, it’s very refreshing to have an honest opinion being openly shared. I commended the lighthearted status message and expressed how I’ve censored myself on fb a lot in recent time, because of the reactions it causes. From friendships being broken to being rapped on twitter to being unnecessarly entangled in an idiotic argument, I’ve seen it all.

“They’ve only won when we say they have. Until then, game on!” came the response.

Pune calling

22 Jan

January feels like it’s gone by in a flash. But then what’s new? I should just stop reiterating the fact that time is flying. We’re just a week short of closing month 1 of the new year and I still haven’t finished the year-end post that I began writing in December. Bangalore came and went, and I smack back into my routine which has been very full. There were friends travelling to Goa that had to be met, the sister is living with me and that’s always exciting and busy, I’ve squeezed in a few more sessions of training at the gym per week, and work picking up a little steam, there’s been a heap of events to attend around just Panjim, and before I know it I’m off to Pune for the weekend for a family do!

I haven’t been to the city in about 7 years, and haven’t met some of my family from there in about as long. So I’m headed there with equal parts anticipation and trepidation. There’s a few folks I’m looking forward to meeting, and many others I wouldn’t mind missing altogether — isn’t that how family always is? There is the added sense of estrangement that comes form being physically dislodged from the fabric of extended family, purely because I’m in Goa — off the grid. I miss routine get-togethers that happen in Bangalore and Bombay, and am far too removed from other such avenues that are usually places to catch up with everybody. Nieces and nephews are all grown up, cousins all have spouses (not all of whom I have hung out or bonded with), uncles and aunties are all hitting their 50s and the older generation is creeping well into their 70s and some 80s too. Honestly, ‘m only making the effort to go to meet some of the oldies I haven’t seen in forever. With some other younger folks, the gap (caused by passage of time as well as by moving on in life itself) is so wide, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be either in shock, or have a severe lack of things to talk about. Or both.

My memories of the city are spotty, and when people tell me its a slightly more chaotic version of Bangalore, I want to panic a bit more. But I think about the sprawling family home that’s usually the centre of all the action, I think about some of my relatives who are really fun to hang out with, I think about the bonus opportunity to meet my parents and my grandmother, I think of the music concert that is going to happen, I think about Either/Or and Malacca Spice, I think about the shrewsberry biscuits and the bakarwadi, and most of all I remind myself that it is just a matter of two days. The troubles subside a bit.

What’s the weather like, Pune folk? I know Bangalore and Pune have similar weather, so if its Bangalore-style cool, my heart might settle a little bit more.

*****

Have you checked out my Goa stories for Mint Lounge yet? There’s a story on some of my newest favourite restaurants in town. And a fish-thali trail for all you seafood lovers. Then there’s my blogs for The Huffington Post too. A repeat of an old post on harassment. And a version of my post on weight-training, because it spurred much conversation here.

Go, see?

A little bit of patience

19 Jan

I’m an innately restless person. I hate waiting. I like it when things happen quickly, when results follow very soon after action. I’d really like it if I could get the happy buzz that usually takes three beers to hit me after the very first one. I fantasize about the day when I’m really craving something yummy and all I’ll had to do is think about it, for it to materialise before me. I have a hard time waiting for cakes and loaves of bread to cool before cutting them. Despite knowing fully well that there’s a 100% chance of ruining a cake with that kind of haste. For someone that gets a special kick in every kitchen short-cut ever discovered, or every cheat’s recipe figured out, every tedious, long-drawn method circumvented, I have waited 45 painfully long days to get to today. To this. 04full Today, I looked at my pot of palak, the same pot I have patiently glanced at every morning, inspecting the leaves, checking how much they’ve grown by pressing a single leaf against my index finger, watching the trails bugs leave behind, worrying over shriveled leaves. The same pot I managed not to wreck in a hurry to eat the palak, I looked at it and thought, “now it’s ready for harvest.” There’s been a little bit of magic that happened between the moment I tore up the 10-rupee packet and wondered if I’d been conned with bits of dry-poop being passed off as spinach seeds, and this morning when I realised the tallest stalks of spinach leaves are now almost as big as my palm. Magic is the only way to explain it, because growing this stuff didn’t take any doing on my part. I’ve been getting comments complimenting my green thumb and questions about how I did this and that, every time I post a picture along with my very own surprise and amazement at how these things just grow while I wait and watch. And all I can sheepishly offer is the truth. Essentially, all I really did was wait. I waited. Patiently. Which brings me to the title of the post. I don’t think growing a bunch of basic stuff in a few pots in my balcony, or a corner of my garden has anything at all to do with a green thumb, black, blue or yellow thumb. I know close to nothing about doing this thing they fancily call “kitchen gardening” or “balcony gardening” or whatchamacallit. With a little advice from friends who do it bigger and better, and just that sudden burst of inspiration I had one find day to dive in, I began. 01mint Here’s what I did: – Found some good quality potting mix: after a lot of hunting I found a good nursery that sells a potting mix of healthy black earth that is abundantly available in Goa, which they mix with their homemade compost. It sells at Rs. 70 a bag. I bought 4 bags of it. – Small pots: I bought an assortment of pots. Medium sized round ones for mint and garlic, long trays for the leafy stuff, and a big oblong one, just for fun. – Some seeds: I started with what’s easily available in my kitchen — methi, dhaniya, garlic. And then bought spinach and cucumber seeds (for no apparent reason) on a visit to the Mapusa market. I rooted some mint bought from the market, by sticking a bunch of stalks in a bottle of water, till tiny white roots began to appear. This took about two days, I then stuck those stalks into a pot. More recently, I experimented with ginger — again, always available in my kitchen. – Regular watering: this took some trial and error. My tendency to over-water caused my onion plant to rot and die, and killed two batches of methi. But I’ve found my rhythm now, which I gauge based on how wet the inside of the soil (and not just the top soil) of the pot is. – My ability to wait and watch, that has been tested to the max. Technicalities aside, there is something to be said about the waiting and the patience the process forces into you. I think it is the key to cultivating anything. Whether it’s plants, a habit, or even patience itself. That elusive trait, so fleeting, impossible to catch and imbibe — it’s come to me in snatches, most recently thanks to the plants in the pots on my balcony. 02babies With every wee leaf that sprouts from a shoot, every tendril that reaches out ever so tenderly, only to make contact with the balcony railing at that exact moment it is meant to, not sooner, not later. I realise more and more I have so little to do with the way the plants are growing. I can’t hasten it, I can’t help them along. Virtually nothing apart from watering them adequately, is in my hands. No green thumb is responsible for their growth. They’re doing it all on their own. On their own time. 06cucumber Things happen when they’re meant to. Shoots will appear only when they’re ready to. Where there was methi, hyper productive and sprouting like it was on steroids, there was also dhaniya refusing to grow. No matter how many combinations I tried — changing the soil, changing the pot, altering the watering. Nothing could coax it on its way. And then there was ginger, the little stub I carelessly pushed into the soil some twenty days ago, completely not expecting anything to happen. And suddenly two days ago I saw the tiny beginnings of ginger shoots poking out of the soil. Everyday, I am made to see everything has it’s own rhythm, it’s time to come out into the sun. Some seeds take up to three weeks of hiding beneath the stony surface of the soil, drinking up every bit of water, getting fat in hiding, while I am slowly giving up. And just when I’m washing my hands off altogether like I did with the ginger, wondering what could possibly come out of a shabby wasted piece, it showed me exactly what. A perfectly respectable, fresh green plant, is what. New beginnings from junk. Three weeks of nurturing in hiding, before it was ready to peek out of the soil to see the light of day. Growth takes patience. It takes time. And in the bargain, it makes you give up too. But most of all, it takes constant nurturing. Unflinching action, no questions asked, no doubts aired. Constant giving, the habit and tedium of keeping at it, a little everyday. Whether it’s sprinkling water, writing a few lines every day, reading those 50 pages — whatever you’re making a habit of, whatever you’re trying to cultivate. Do it every single day. With the plants its been that daily sprinkling of water, those few words whispered shyly in the dark, the silent prayers, the not-so-silent excitement and wonder, and finally that surprise and amazement at a new shoot discovered. I am innately restless, and this morning when I looked at the pot of palak so full and verdant, I counted back to the day I had planted the tiny seeds. Forty five whole days. I can’t believe I waited this long to go from this: 1 To this: 07palak There’s the thing about growing anything you want to grow. It really doesn’t take much. Definitely not a green thumb. Just patience and regularity will do. And even if you feel you don’t have it in you, give it a try and chances are you’ll end up cultivating it. 03mint And the fresh harvest of mint in last week’s biryani. And the palak in my dal tonight. That is just the bonus.

Bangalore bytes

12 Jan

So, I haven’t done my usual recap-the-year post as yet, and considering it’s half-written and in draft-mode for the last 10 days, I should try and finish it while I still have some retrospective steam left in me. BUT, I have to interject to tell you the new year has started off well! Because week 1 of 2015 had me dashing off to Bangalore, rather suddenly. I know, I know, I didn’t think I’d ever say anything has started well in the same sentence that I tell you about a trip to Bangalore, but OMG you gaiiiz, I had a tiny window of opportunity to rub noses with a little bit of winter goodness. And I grabbed it.

It’s entirely possible that all the good weather has clouded my judgement. I had Bangalore peeps pipe in to tell me it really wasn’t the best of the winter they’ve had because it apparently got hot the few days I was there. Pshaw! I really can’t complain about temperatures rising from the low twenties to mid-twenties and causing a mild sweat. The skies were mostly blue-grey, cloudless, and that crisp, cool air hung around, even though the sun shone pretty bright during the day. The temperatures stayed in the pleasant low 20s and dropped even lower at night. Which means I needed a jacket post sundown, and needed a thick razai in bed. Winter WIN! as far as I’m concerned.

Such fabulous weather, I wanted to bottle it and bring it back. Evidently I’ve sung praises of this kind before, and lamented many-a-missed winter. But apart from the weather, last week featured all the usual suspects that make any trip back home memorable for me.

Family — because I went home to see my folks and help my father out with a little project. And the sister happened to be around. Of course there were cuddles and giggles and instances of unnecessary bed-sharing.

06family

This time around, thanks to the project I went to Bangalore for, I had the privilege to watch my dad walk within the spaces he helped birth, tell me stories of how ideas germinate in his mind, tales of all the trials and tribulations in fighting for them, and finally seeing it all take form in brick and mortar.

08home2

Walking around what I think is one of his best projects thus far, was illuminating in a way that revealed another dimension and face to the father I have known all my life. It was quite a trip to have my dad talk shop because despite being slightly in awe of his skill and talent, I’ve never really taken the trouble to get to know the whys and hows of he works.

07home1

Music — going home is like getting a tiny shot of the music I don’t give myself enough of when I’m in Goa. I’m always grateful for the music that seems to buzz at home, even when it’s not playing.

01home-music

My mother breathes and lives music, with her daily routine being dictated and sufficiently punctuated by her own riaz and teaching schedules. I am always amazed by how she manages everything like clockwork, juggling teaching students of all ages, varying proficiency, even across continents on Skype (!!) and she does it all without the home falling apart. This time around, she’s reclaimed the kitchen after fifteen+ years of having full-time kitchen help and dished out the best, simple, homemade meals for ensuring some of my favourites like anna-saaru-palya and avalakki-dosa were definitely covered.

Idlies — I MISS IDLIES. I MISS DARSHINIS. I MISS IT ALL. There, I said it. Apart from filter coffee and winter, I MISS IDLIES.

04idli2

Idlies are an institution in Malleswaram. Nothing can wake you up quite like a visit to your favourite darshini in the morning, jostling around enthusiastic breakfasting people from the neighbourhood, all crowded around a tiny hole in the wall, dishing out steaming hot pillowy idlies, minty coriander chutney and hot coffee.

03idli1

If you’re lucky, like I was, there will be some khara bhaath too. You’ll wake up and smell it. And your day will be made. Like mine was.

Friends — Bangalore always gives me the chance to play catch up with a select few old friends, and in this case, make new ones by putting faces to twitter and instagram handles. This trip I was incredibly lucky to meet Shilpa, TRQ and Monika over keylime pie, filter coffee, more coffee, way too much coffee that kept me up all night, and freshly brewed beer. Not all at once, but over a few outings, which is also nice because I rediscovered an old haunt in the Ambara Cafe which had these beautiful eye-popping cacti on sale. I spent some time trying to figure a safe way to transport a few back home to Goa. I decided I couldn’t because they’re essentially sharp, pointy objects that might be a threat as per airport security guidelines, no?

05friends

Meeting Shilpa and TRQ was the kind of outing where new friends meet, some for the first time ever, but conversation flows like its between people who you have known forever. I spent way too much time either nodding my head vigorously in agreement with them and playing an OMG-me-too! loop in my head. Early evening coffee turned to late evening coffee and the evening threatened to never end, much like the conversation did. How do people who meet for the first time have so much to talk about? And so much to agree about? How? It was a wonderfully happy evening and I came away with a happy vibe, yet again affirming the fact that I have met some of the nicest, most genuine human beings thanks to the Internet.

Meeting Monika helped me tick off another must-do from my Bangalore list — freshly brewed beer. Okay, that’s another thing I miss in Goa. Microbreweries. I am quite over bottled beer and much prefer the fresher, crisper variant straight off the tap. Toit didn’t have my usual favourite — Basmati Blonde — so I settled for a something-I-can’t-remember which was deeper, more golden and full-bodied. Win, win — I got to try a new beer I might not have tried otherwise, as we shoveled in this gigantic plate of really good nachos topped with sour cream and bacon bits.

02beer

Of course we talked food, food blogging, baking business and what lies ahead for all of us bumbling bloggers. Of course conversation veered around to the state of Bangalore and how my heart bleeds every time I’m back home. This, I realise is inevitable when you meet people who have lived and experienced the good old Bangalore. There was also a lot of loud guffawing and of course a selfie to call it a day.

10selfie

I’m glad we could make the time to catch up, because there’s nothing like finding a tiny hint of a kindred spirit in someone you’ve only known from behind the facade of a weblog.

Other highlights from the trip:
– Almost completely evading troublesome auto drivers and haggling with them, because I used the spanking new OLA cab app that lets you pick a cab almost instantly, wherever-whenever
– Vashi’s Jean Shack — my old, old, old and only source of all things pants that had shut down briefly, braking my heart and making me wonder where I’ll ever buy pants again (it’s the only place I’ve ever bought pants in, since I was 15), has reopened! And since I haven’t bought me a good pair of jeans since 2008, and since I am now back to feeling fit enough to deserve a new pair, I paid them a visit.
– Corner House may have got its mojo back. After being deeply disappointed with the Hot Chocolate Fudge there the last two times I visited, I really enjoyed the cake fudge I had there the last night before I left. It was warm, gooey, sweet enough to kick the sleep out of my eyes and it totally hit the spot. Bundled in my jacket and muffler in the outdoor section of Airlines digging into the hot fudge gave me that much-needed comfort of nostalgia I needed.
– I decided before I landed in Bangalore, that I was going to avoid focusing on the monstrous traffic and the complete breakdown of all systems that I feel has engulfed the city. This is usually a cause for much angst and potentially ruins large parts of my visit, so I decided it was a reality I had to just face head-on and find a way around. Funnily, it worked. I ditched the autos, took cabs where I could, drove where I could, spent the rest of my time at home.

I came back with a full mind and heart. Full of ideas for work I should do and must get cracking with, renewed optimism of the kind only family-time and group hugs can give, happiness from meeting new people and everything else that made the trip memorable for me.

By Saturday I was ready to go home. Because I had these monkeys, newly grow-ed up plants and a fairly well-maintained home (props to VC!) waiting up for me.

09goa

Bangalore, you were good to me. Thanks macha!

Weighing in on the weights thing

5 Jan

One of the biggest pluses of 2014 has been that it was the year I discovered and enjoyed weight training. The obvious benefits of higher strength and increased muscle mass aside, it has totally changed my body. And possibly changed me considerably too. Outside and inside.

For a hardcore lover of all things cardio, my previous experience with weight training has been in the weights room of a gym, where the routine was interspersed with cardio on any given day, dividing the upper and lower body, and frankly that was insufferable. The sheer drudgery of lifting weights all alone, while my beefed up trainer would painfully spot me, dragging the suffering along, didn’t get me very far. It did help me tone up (which was the goal back then) but with it I also lost interest in weights itself. I was never made to see the benefits of it, anatomically.

It is only last year that I discovered the biological working of how fat turns to muscle mass and what it does for my body, learned to appreciate strength over thinness, and have completely stopped getting on the weighing scale. I used to be the sort that would jump around and get my heart racing for 35-40 minutes, lift a few weights for 15-20 minutes and call it a day. And that probably works for some people. But the thing about fitness is to find your sweep spot, what works for you, and I found mine in a combination of high intensity cardio three times a week, supplemented by two hours a week spent just lifting weights, focusing on muscle groups across the entire body.

What it’s done for me on the outside is this:
Shred flab faster than I ever have. The results are visible, and they came quicker than I’ve ever experienced in my life.
Toned those areas that I’ve always thought were prone to fat deposits that refuse to budge. For me, its been my arms, hips and thighs and the remarkable changes I’ve seen have been accelerated only due to the weight training.
Boosted my metabolism back to where it used to be. I wake up hungry, yet energetic and my hunger cycles are regulated with my stomach ringing like an alarm clock every 4-5 hours.
Upped my resistance by leaps and bounds, to the point where I can proudly say I only fell prey to the flu twice this year (as opposed to at least once every 2-3 months), and I sailed through 2014 without a single tummy issue.

But those are the obvious things to look out for. If you’re weight training and you don’t feel like your metabolism is soaring, your immunity isn’t as solid as it used to be and you’re not feeling toned even after 6 months to a year of pumping iron, you’re probably not doing it right.

The beauty of weight training, and why I got so addicted to it though, is what it has done for me on the inside.

1) I feel super strong. Sometimes even stronger than I actually am. And that feels really fabulous. When you stop fearing the possibility of turning into a bodybuilder with disproportionately bulky muscles popping up in unwieldy places (because that won’t happen even if you try! Here’s why.), you realise what weight training actually does is make you stronger. For real.

You’ll suddenly realise it when you have silently gone up from lifting 20 pounds to 25 pounds one day, without feeling a thing.

I realised it one fine day when I no longer called the hugsband down to help me carry my month’s worth of groceries up the stairs.

I realised it when my gas cylinder needed to be carried home and I happily and very easily lifted the heavier side.

I realised it when VC comes home after a cycle ride, calls for help to assist carrying the cycle up the staircase and after weeks of sharing the load, I pulled it off all alone.

I realised it when I take down boxes from the loft, when I open impossible-to-open jars, when I lift suitcases that others rush to help me with.

I realised I stopped asking for help, because in most situations you realise you’re damn well capable of taking care of yourself.

(and you read stuff like this and actually relate to it and chuckle like someone in-the-know)

2) When you feel stronger, you begin to believe you are stronger. And it shows on the outside. Lifting weights has boosted my confidence as much as it has my metabolism. That in turn has made me more positive, to an extent more social and outgoing too. I feel that extra puff of confidence in carrying myself of in situations I’d previously have been awkward about.

3) Weight training has turned my idea of fitness up on its head, pulled it out of the box where most of us aspire to be a perfect size, dedicated by a number. The number of times I’ve looked at my hips and wished they were narrower, or at my tummy and wished it was flatter have been far fewer this year. And yet, I’ve voluntarily pulled out clothes I had tucked away inside my cupboard, pretty sure I’d never wear them again. Sure, I feel fabulous when I find that a forgotten, old skirt now fits me, or when a much-loved pair of pants is suddenly slipping off my hips; but those moments are pleasant surprises that I come upon rather than go after and seek obsessively. The number on the scale no longer dictates my work outs. I’m more motivated by doing an extra set of push ups or upping the weight on my dumbells every few weeks. And when I go in to check my body fat percentage, to see that it has plummeted, I go out and eat an extra cupcake.

4) Weight training has given me small bursts of winning every so often. It’s a win when I lift a higher weight. It’s a win every time I do an extra set. It’s a win when I can do the tricep hover. It’s a win when I can do spider-man-push-ups. I’ve also realised that winning in the gym so often has a tremendous effect on the intensity of the endorphin release. It gives me the surge of energy that I can harness and slowly release through the day. It’s given me happier times, the courage to take on challenges and basically not say no to almost anything.

5) This has put the focus of fitness back where it should be — on building endurance and strength, rather than getting slim. This has had an enormous consequence on my food habits. Whether it is unconsciously cutting down eating out, barely reaching out for packaged/processed foods in the supermarket, or eating freely knowing that there is going to be a workout in 24 hours that will bust a lot of those calories out of my system — I’ve come a long, long way from where I was last year.

6) Every time I look in the mirror and the beginnings of the thought “oh, still some way to go” begin to creep into my head, I’m quicker to remind myself that I can do many things in the gym today, that I absolutely couldn’t even imagine doing 12 months ago. I’ve learned to see the things about my body that make me, me and I have accepted that that no matter how lean and toned I get, they will remain.

I think I’ve put some of of the healthy in my body image. And this has extended out to my attitude to women around me too. I’ve consciously cut down commenting on the way people look and how they carry themselves off physically. I’m trying everyday to respect my body for what it does for me on a daily basis.

It’s ironic that women often fear that lifting weights will make them look less feminine and probably turn them bulky and manly, because personally, lifting weights has in many ways shaped the very idea of femininity for me.  Whether its a new found confidence, the ability to slowly wear clothes I was afraid to, made me talk freely, to do more, grab opportunities, stretch myself.

Loved

I don’t see “problems areas” or “flaws” anymore, just reasons to push out another set of squats or perfect that chest-press. More importantly, I’ve begun to look at my body lovingly, rather than constantly being harsh and criticising it.

I’ve learned to love myself the way I am, because my body has cooperated with me, stood by me and done so much more than I imagined was possible. Isn’t that a gorgeous discovery to make?

I’ve learned that weights don’t make you bulky. They make you beautiful.

55fiction: Anew

3 Jan

So it’s handed to me again, wrapped in crinkly paper, tied with twine. A brand new twelve months. Supposedly full of excitement, possibilities, renewed hope and energy, waiting to pop like a bottle of champagne. Waiting on that little nudge, so it can bubble over effervescently. But will it really be a happy year anew?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 968 other followers