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Friday, November 4, 2011

Road To Leh-Part I

  I should have posted this blog a year back but better late than never. Last year July , we finally had the opportunity to travel to Ladakh, which was our dream destination. I'd say it was the best vacation I ever had in my life and it would be a shame if I couldn't share it. Our journey started from blr to delhi via flight .Delhi was scorching hot and we were mostly in a friends' A/c room the entire day and got out briefly to visit Lal Kila, which looked quite ordinary. At night, we took a bus from Delhi to Manali(the bus depot was terribly dirty that I really didn't mind cleaning it up before we left - reminds me of Monica in the Friends sitcom) .We reached Manali by 10 in the morning .The route was absolutely picturesque!

Delhi-Manali route

We were scheduled to take the bus to Leh from Manali the next morning.We had booked our room at the Himachal Pradesh tourism hotel. The room had the bare necessities satisfied but gave a fabulous view of the over lying mountains .It was more than enough to satisfy the fatigued eyes of an over-worked software engineer who spends approx 9 hrs in front of the computer daily and another 2 in front of the TV.After a quick breakfast , we did some walking around and found that entire Delhi crowd had rushed to Manali to get some relief from the heat. So we headed to a place called Naggar.We took a bus ,which took us less than an hr. The Naggar attraction was some quietness and an old palace (which can be easily skipped)

Naggar Palace

The next day early morning , we trekked a little through the woods, which was fabulous.The trees were wet and green from the early morning drizzle ; they stood there free, fat and tall with all its grandeur.the region was covered with apple trees ready to ripe.The mountains looked foggy and the streams giggled like young girls walking to school.

An early morning trek through the woods

After breakfast, we headed to the HP tourism office from where we were scheduled to catch our bus to Leh, which was supposedly a 2 day journey with night halt at Keylong. The journey from Manali to Keylong was scenic and gave me a feeling that I was finally alleviating myself from the clutches of  the concrete jungle I was staying in, gradually slipping away into a dream world .We could start seeing snow in small chunks slowly trickling into mini-lanes of water and sliding through the mountains.

The roads started getting more and more narrow and tortuous and the views breathtaking. The snow-clad mountains started to be seen but like far away destinations and by nightfall we had reached Keylong. At Keylong, we were supposed to stay in tents overnite . The tent provided a cot with a bed and blankets and the toilets and food were provided by an adjacent hotel.

Things got chill by night fall.If I am not wrong, the temperatures dropped to like -4C or probably lower and  the tents got colder.Anticipating this and considering my extra sensitivity to cold , I had wrapped myself with everything from tights , thermals, T-shirts, with 2 further layers of sweaters and a heavy woolen jacket with 3 layers of socks and a pair of snow boots and 2 layers of gloves.I removed only the boots during the bed time and wrapped myself against with another layer of blanket. I think it rained at night but I had kept myself pretty warm. The only trouble wearing all these clothes is its difficult to walk and to use the toilet.

Inside the Tent
The next morning at 4 am, we headed to Leh after a cup of hot tea and a box of carry-away breakfast, in the hope of reaching Leh by nightfall. I manged to clear my intestine but my guess is many others didn't .We were finally about to see the great Himalayas!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Why are men scared of diapers ?

Recently , a relative of mine - a family of four with 2 adults and 2 kids (one kid just 6 months)- visited us and were staying with us for a few days.The wife seemed to be predominantly taking care of the kids and all other work inclusive of ironing shirt for the husband in the morning.One evening , the wife went out to buy some groceries leaving the 6 month old baby with his father and it was time for a diaper change and there he didn't waste any time to call me to change the diaper and for a poop clean-up. You can imagine my surprise ..well..honestly i wasn't surprised..I was shocked.!!I was shocked because my dad or my husband or my cousin brothers who were staying at my home at that time din't hesitate to clean up this infant when he needed a change.I genuinely hadn't imagined that an 'educated' man of today's generation could be so narrow to be doing this to his own son..I spoke to his wife and few other female friends about it and they seemed to be perfectly fine with it.One told me that' 98% of the men are like that .I don't expect anything better.'Another told me that whether to take care of one's kid of not is a personal choice for a man that cannot be questioned..Wait a sec..!! Hello..Am I dreaming here?

Well, my take is this - a man who is reluctance to clean up his own baby has lost all rights to be called a father.I have never been able to understand why wives of such men put up with such crap. By putting up with such crap, their sons grow up to be their fathers. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


The cultural conditioning of a family tends to treat its girl and boy offspring differently. It is easy for anyone to notice.It is the norm. If you visit a family with boy and girl offsprings, the girl child is mostly always asked to do household chores . There might be progressive families that , in an effort to bring up independent sons , encourage them to do household chores but the default responsibility falls upon the girl. As a young girl, whenever we visited my dad's paternal home, my sister used to spend most of her time helping my mother in the Kitchen even when the house used to be filled with boys of her age who spent time vacationing or playing.This was the expectation. Even though women spent all day cooking and cleaning, they got the opportunity to have food only after all the men royally finished their lunch/dinner. In some houses ,I have seen a grand dinner table in the dinning hall for the men and a small table inside the kitchen for the women.

As girls reach their teenage years, parents esp. mothers start publicizing their culinary skills. As kids and adolescents, even though girls are asked to focus on studies and be competent , as they get out of school and finish their graduation, they are often asked to improve their cleaning /culinary and arts&crafts skills so that they turn as favorites in the marriage market.It is that phase of life ,when she gets confused about everything she was taught and made to believe.The focus starts to change abruptly and from a competent career/academic focused person , she is moulded into a women who is forgiving, ready to sacrifice and let go.These , obviously leads to family conflicts.On one hand you are brought up to be an independent decision maker and on the other hand you are asked to compromise and give up on your the choices you value and the identity you have earned. So you now have a daughter brought up in liberal circumstances, whom you want to behave conservatively so that she fits in . This idea has been beautifully discussed in as well.

Whether most parents like to admit it or not, equality starts at home.The world has progressed further from hunter men and berry gathering women. The ship of conservative ideas has started to sink. If you are not sailing in the ship of liberal ideas, high chances are that you are left back.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Role Reversal

A friend of my husband's decided that, once his wife completed her maternity leave period, he would take a break from work and take care of their new borne . This , he felt, would help his wife catch up with her career and let him spend more time with his baby (such a beautiful thought I say). As he had planned , he took break from work and started baby sitting but unsurprisingly his noble intentions didn't get too far. Pressure started building. A man who doesn't work is no man at all. Parents started getting worried. In-laws got paranoid. Well, finally he succumbed to pressure and got back to work.

I am sure there are more men out there than who would want to openly admit, who would have more of such noble intentions . but society doesn't show discrimination on that front. Men are still expected to go hunting and bring back food like during Iron Age.

During my childhood years , while I was at Kochi, our next door neighbors were a family of 4 with a couple and two kids. The aunty was a Doctor and did private practice and the Uncle decided not to work. Both of them were quite learned and knowledgeable people who had traveled at lot and had a perspective much different from the people of that generation. The Uncle used to cook, do household chores, take care of the dogs and kids and do gardening and he always sounded like he was a satisfied man and much happier than all the men who stayed around him. As a kid, due to my social conditioning at the time , I used to wonder what kind of a person he was , maybe a person without any shame .Today, I admire him for the strength and determination he showed at the time when most others were too afraid of losing their manhood if they helped out their wives in doing household chores.

A salute to that man who lived (and died )a life on his own rules!

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Five days into writing blogs , people have started asking me why I feel downtrodden.Some asked me if I had my PMS. Well, I do feel downtrodden and I think each one of us should. I felt downtrodden when I read the census report that came in the paper the whole of last week that had multiple articles that talked about the deteriorating sex ratio of India. Even if we go with the best figures, its a mere 950 women out of every 1000 men. So in a country with more than a billion people, that would be 50 million women missing and where did all of them go ? They all were seen as foetus in trash bins across the country.

When Warren Buffet visited India last week, he made a statement that, sadly half of the population of India ( i e women) do not have freedom of expression. Ever wondered why he said so ? I feel downtrodden every time I use a public transport and fear the plight of getting molested by pervert men (this happens to even young school girls) and whenever this happens I am too shocked to even respond or to even tell it somebody.I feel downtrodden when I have to work extra hard in personal and professional life to demonstrate that my skills and capability are at par with men. I feel downtrodden when people ask me what was I to gain in life reading books and increasing knowledge (at the end of the day I just have to compromise and settle to the requirements of a family life). I felt downtrodden when my maid came home one day all soaked in kerosene , when her drunkard husband attempted to put her on fire (this is very common among domestic helps) and there was nothing I could do about it. So the question I have to ask the person who asked me this is "Inspite of all these don't you feel downtrodden? "

So when you get treated like this for 29 long years, one day you just wake up to hit the wall and say "That's it". It is high time people knew that there is an urgent need for change , for improvements, for contemplating on practices that are obnoxious for social growth.

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Bridging Gap..

I clearly remember the day when I was in the second year of college and the boys of my batch were eagerly waiting to pounce upon some of the innocent fresher girls.Couple of my classmates flocked around a NRI girl and engaged her in some embarrassing conversation.The guys wanted to know the brand of sanitary napkin the girl was using..not that they wanted to use it themselves..just a rather immature and sadist way to humiliate someone and exhibit their power and influence.Interestingly the girl was my roomie. The very next day, I met the boy and informed him that I was sure that his younger sister might be using the same brand and that he should consider posing the same query to her. Now, that resulted in a wild debate and all the boys at the Men's hostel in my batch, decided to boycott me . As I entered my classroom at the start my third semester , the whole class had probably decided to stop conversing with me. Overnight, I had become a feminist , who would rather be avoided . Couple of days later , I stood for the class rep election and got 3 out of 60 votes. I, for sure had become infamous.Well, did I ask anything wrong , still remains my question.

Most women spend many days of every month suffering from PMS and subsequently, from terrible stomach cramps ; some suffer from vomiting, weakness , back pain and a range of other symptoms. At the end of all of these , all they get is intentional humiliation just because some literate but uneducated guy , probably brought up in a socially conservative setup but clearly not imparted with the knowledge and primary education that I believe every human being should have , chooses to ask a simple but disrespectful question . This incident clearly shows that most of us (irrespective of men or women)are not raised with knowledge of the opposite sex .They are often not informed about the emotional ,physical and psychological aspects that the other members of the society might be going through.

I strongly feel that the education system should consider including , right from primary school, a subject that caters to imparting social/sexual/civic education to students.It is very important to appreciate and respect men or women the way they are and to be conscious of malignant social customs/practices like dowry , eve teasing , harassment etc.

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Freedom Of Expression

It is interesting to know and to digest that as an Indian citizen my fundamental rights include right to equality,freedom of speech and expression,right against exploitation,right to freedom of religion,cultural and educational rights. It is interesting because even though these fall under the fundamental rights , a huge population never get to practice it.

Recently I ran into a marriage profile (created at some of a relative of mine.The profile was created by his parents. It talked about the candidate more in terms of his BMI (Body Mass Index)- 5 feet 10 inches , 68kg weight , medium complexioned , 29 year old (working is implicit) from a reputed family (wonder if Indian constitution has any specification for reputed family), father gazetted officer ..Looking for a good looking girl , age 22-23, any qualification from a good to do family. Interestingly, in the same .com I ran into the profile of a classmate of mine whose profile, also created by his parents, looked exactly the same. (Wonder how a prospective bride would figure out the difference). Well, I spoke to few of my and figured out that they just don't have the freedom to choose the girl/boy they want to get married to because it is a family decision, which they have to merely adhere to.

Right from the time I can remember, everytime I select a dress to wear , I am asked to revisit my decision and wear something that would be apt from a social perspective. Recently , my husband and I went to my mother's home town where a few relatives nagged us both for our poor dressing sense. Everyone asked me if my husband has nothing better to wear than a track pant and if I didn't have anything better than an old kurta apart from the other things like where is all the jewelery?

There have been numerous occasions when I have not been able to express my religious beliefs . I'd rather call them my non-religious and agnostic beliefs. I can put forth thousands of messy incidents where I have been advised , admonished, emotionally blackmailed and subsequently cursed for not practicing rituals , not visiting places of religious importance or for even expressing in public that I don't particularly believe in adhering to a religion or that I don't believe in God. It is a choice that the Constitution allows me to decide and practice but often the community or society doesn't.

I agree that certain inquiries act as directions . However people hardly ever realize the importance of accepting people as adults who have independent thought process and decision making capabilities.Every individual has the right to express their identity whether it is in the way they dress or causes they wish to support.

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Anna Hazare - Spreading the Message

1. Who is Anna Hazare?
An ex-army man. Fought 1965 Indo-Pak War

2. What's so special about him?
He built a village Ralegaon Siddhi in Ahamad Nagar district, Maharashtra

3. So what?
This village is a self-sustained model village. Energy is produced in the village itself from solar power, biofuel and wind mills.
In 1975, it used to be a poverty clad village. Now it is one of the richest village in India. It has become a model for self-sustained, eco-friendly & harmonic village.

4. Ok,...?
This guy, Anna Hazare was awarded Padma Bhushan and is a known figure for his social activities.

5. Really, what is he fighting for?
He is supporting a cause, the amendment of a law to curb corruption in India.

6. How that can be possible?
He is advocating for a Bil, The Lok Pal Bill (The Citizen Ombudsman Bill), that will form an autonomous authority who will make politicians (ministers), beurocrats (IAS/IPS) accountable for their deeds.

8. It's an entirely new thing right..?
In 1972, the bill was proposed by then Law minister Mr. Shanti Bhushan. Since then it has been neglected by the politicians and some are trying to change the bill to suit thier theft (corruption).

7. Oh.. He is going on a hunger strike for that whole thing of passing a Bill ! How can that be possible in such a short span of time?
The first thing he is asking for is: the government should come forward and announce that the bill is going to be passed.
Next, they make a joint committee to DRAFT the LOK PAL BILL. 50% goverment participation and 50% public participation. Because you cant trust the government entirely for making such a bill which does not suit them.

8. Fine, What will happen when this bill is passed?
A LokPal will be appointed at the centre. He will have an autonomous charge, say like the Election Commission of India. In each and every state, Lokayukta will be appointed. The job is to bring all alleged party to trial in case of corruptions within 1 year. Within 2 years, the guilty will be punished. Not like, Bofors scam or Bhopal Gas Tragedy case, that has been going for last 25 years without any result.

9. Is he alone? Whoelse is there in the fight with Anna Hazare?
Baba Ramdev, Ex. IPS Kiran Bedi, Social Activist Swami Agnivesh, RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal and many more.
Prominent personalities like Aamir Khan are supporting his cause.

10. Ok, got it. What can I do?
At least we can spread the message. How?
Putting status message, links, video, changing profile pics.

At least we can support Anna Hazare and the cause for uprooting corruption from India.
At least we can hope that his Hunger Strike does not go in vain.
At least we can pray for his good health.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Untouchable Women

The social fabric of India has in the past few decades undergone remarkable changes and is becoming more progressive and inclusive. However, many of the rules and norms that restrict the freedom of women in contemporary society have largely remained unchanged . The ambassadors of obsolete social rules are often oblivious of the origin and context of these . As society shaped itself to enter the new era, it shed some of them, the ones that remained were reflective of the position women enjoyed in the patriarchal setup. One such set of rules, which still resides secretly within the walls of all Indian households is that which treats all menstruating women as untouchables.

From time immemorial, women during their menses were untouchables. Even today , most households follow it , without any guiding reason other than fear. Daughters are locked up in rooms; Daughter-in-laws sent back to their parent’s homes. Like outcastes they neither have entry to places of worship nor can they touch anything considered holy. As a young girl , I was told that it was a sin to break any of these rules. Apparently, the rules were integral to God and religion and going against them meant bringing God’s curse upon the entire family. I was often perplexed at how could I be an untouchable to God if he himself created me ? The questions were many and were always responded by contempt followed by advice.

A little research brings out the truth and the truth is women were not “made” untouchable . It was a choice they exercised at a time when they had limited access to sanitation and hygiene. Menstruation was considered to be equivalent to being ill as it involved bleeding and release of toxins from the body. This made women both susceptible to infections and being able to infect others. As temples used to be the place where social gatherings were conducted in the past, women restrained from socializing for the fear of spreading infections. This is no longer applicable today considering the access we have to sanitation and good health.

Secondly, women till recently were primarily responsible for taking care of the household, family and children. During their menses they needed rest-both physical and mental. This is one of the reasons they were asked not to enter the kitchen, in the assumption that they would be spend the time taking rest. The other family members were expected to take up the house hold responsibilities at that time and support the women. Most house holds might be following these rules today but are they followed to preserve the true intend ?

A significant aspect to be considered is that the rules made in this context were merely social norms that were relevant at the point of time when they were put in place .They were incorporated in civilizations to control the spread of infection within a society and to provide support to the needy, unlike the commonly sold theory that these are rules made by the Gods and written in some scriptures. It is clear with some introspection that there is no need to feel guilty if a menstruating woman touches a piece of cloth kept in the wardrobe or accidentally entered the kitchen. All rules are made by humans. God merely gives us the intelligence to make the best rules. It is a matter of grave irony that women go through hard times every month to propagate life and it is the same capability that makes them untouchable. They are treated with contempt and isolation exactly at the same time they suffer from depression and loneliness and need family around.

As the challenges facing a society changes, new social reforms need to be put in place for the benefit of the people, rather than still clinging on to the old-world rules that is irrelevant in today’s circumstances. Considering the fact that a number of women work today, they could easily succumb to stress and depression. What they need today is support and understanding than domestic mental harassment in the name of obsolete and misguided rules.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Customs That Maketh a Married Woman

Quite contrary to my upbringing , I am now forced upon me the burden of the social customs that make a married woman. Marriage from a social perspective is apparently more of a series of customary proceedings rather than the union of hearts. Whether the couple involved in a marriage are satisfied or happy has become immaterial. All that matters is whether the protocol is followed. The conservative Hindu Indian society expects a married woman to adorn herself with Sindoor , bindi and mangal sutra . And if she doesn't , she is admonished and harassed for dressing like a widow. I have met many women who follow protocol and in parallel engage in adultery. But it looks like irrespective of whether a woman indulges in adultery or not , she should follow the "How Married Women Should Look" protocol. I think all those conservative sadists out there should come up with a conglomerated rule book on how women should behave and give handouts to all prospective daughter-in-laws to set expectations. There are of course other rules like

1. the lesser the education , the better for a least she wouldn't use her brain
2. irrespective of how ill/disinterested she is , a wife should always cook and feed her husband.
3. a women who is unable to conceive within few months of marriage is assumed to be infertile and should be immediately checked with a doctor. (Irrespective of whether that women is in birth control or has an infertile partner).
4. when to have children is a family decision which a woman has to merely implement.
5. a married woman who doesn't wear jewelery is a family disgrace, who should be kept hidden from public .She should never attend festivals or family get-together( maybe she brought fake gold with her.)
6. a married woman should never wear modern dress .That shows she has loose character.
7. she shouldn't have any right to expression or decision making in her personal or public life - that is purely the right of the in laws.
8. she should ,without advice, adopt the husband's family name.
9. if she has a job that could give a successful career, she should leave it irrespective of her skill/position/salary and take care of her family.
10. Trying to stand her ground implies she is inflexible and disobedient.

If the above is true, then I am sure I am not a married woman :)

There are wonderful blogs I ran into. Don't miss reading them

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