Why I’m Not a Grammar Nazi

Here’s the thing: I’m not a Grammar Nazi.

Notice how I didn’t say “I ain’t a Grammar Nazi.” to sort of emphasize my blatant disregard for English grammar and its rules. That’s because I know the difference ‘its’ and ‘it’s’, between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ and between ‘they’re’, ‘their’ and ‘there’. I know where apostrophes belong and I know where they don’t.

But imagine being greeted by a stupid question that requires an answer ten times its worth, both in quality and quantity at the end of a long, tiring day. And somewhere, in the midst of those characters, sticky keyboard keys, lethargic fingers and the looming threat of AutoCorrect that works only when one doesn’t need it, I might have neglected to put an apostrophe where it should’ve been, thus rendering my ‘it’s’ a mere ‘its’. Go ahead, sue me.

Unforgivable, isn’t it? Of course, apologising and correcting my mistake hardly makes up for anything, at least, in the opinion of the person I was chatting with. He was a good friend, but a cold blooded Grammar Nazi. And he embraced that fact like a medal, which frankly, brought out the worst in him.

I paid the price for my mistake, though. That little niggle triggered an entire conversation, more of a soliloquy, actually about the difference between ‘it’s’ and ‘its’, something that a) I had heard since preschool and knew very well and b) was apparently infinitely more important than my fatigue.

I’m going to say it. Grammar Nazis are, to put it politely, annoying.

Not that I’d ever want to be associated with Nazis of any kind, but I realised I’m often on the giving end of English grammar gyaan. Whether I like it or not, I find myself involuntarily proofreading things on the Internet, often paying more attention to trivial, pedantic details than to the point of substance being conveyed without looking into whether it was a typo or  negligence or worse, intentional. What’s worse is that I actually assume I’m doing the world a favour with these services no one asked for.

I consciously try to avoid being pedantic and singling minor errors out, especially if I understand what the person intends to convey. It’s hard because poor grammar irks me no end and that saturation point is just a misplaced comma away. It takes every inch of me to fight the urge to point out mistakes, but I’m proud to say, I’ve come a long way in suppressing that Grammar Nazi in me, even if it is just a little.

This battle started a long time ago, when I was in Year Two actually. My parents would correct me every time I used poor grammar, misspelt a word or got my diction wrong. My grandmother speaks English very well, considering it isn’t her first language. So back then, she made a minor diction error and I corrected without a hint of hesitation, quite scornfully, actually. Although she took it well, my father immediately took me aside and gave me a lecture on how correcting people at every faux pas was hurtful and annoying. I retorted immediately by saying, “But I was just teaching her, like you teach me”. Dad then explained to me that this pedantic tendency came off as a bid to establish one’s superiority as best he could to a kid in Year Two. He ended with, “If you absolutely must correct someone, do it with utmost courtesy. You may not know it yet, but it matters.”

I don’t know if he remembers this today, but I certainly do. I apologised to my grandma, half heartedly, not fully understanding the truth that lay interspersed with the message I had just been taught until much later.

In my view, when someone who has been speaking a language their entire life AND has had the opportunity  of an education AND the possibility of a typo or a mistake is ruled out, then it is not only acceptable, but desirable to be a Grammar Nazi. Learning a language is never easy, especially to someone who hasn’t been given a shot at as good an education as they would’ve liked. And when people like that have the courage to try their hand at communication in a world where scrutiny, scorn and criticism is just a less than perfectly prounounced vowel away, it’s pretty remarkable. Shooting them down by disparagingly ‘correcting’ them will eventually discourage them from learning.

Another reason I avoid being a pedant is because I speak some Indian languages and I’m no expert. I can communicate well enough to get by, but my spelling, grammar and vocabulary are way below par. I’ve also been learning French for two years, which hasn’t been easy. My diction passes muster, but I need to work on my spelling and my writing. I end up performing unwanted sex change operations on all nouns when it comes to these languages like French and most Indian languages where every noun has a gender. I admit, I find my teachers a little pedantic when my test scores plummet for minor errors. English is quite a difficult language to learn, more so when it isn’t one’s first language. A point to be noted is that poor grammar does not mean low intelligence and vice versa. This is why I’ve learnt to respect anyone making an attempt to learn new languages. Grammar Nazism is not cool here.

I know ”lete speak’ or ‘chat’ language seems like the least classy way to go about it, but inventing new words and abbreviation is how language evolves. Shakespeare himself invented words; ‘awesome’ and ‘madcap’ are a couple of them. The Bard also made verbs out of nouns to adapt to his rhyme and meter without hesitation, something that is looked down upon by today’s Grammar Nazis. I cringe at the idea of #hashtags being synonymous with 21st Century literature, but “We’ve always done it this way,” is the worst excuse for sticking to your roots. One thing I can say with absolute conviction is that petty details and punctilios takes away from the fun, the beauty and the pleasure we seek in language.

I think Stephen Fry perfectly encapsulates what I intend to convey through this video.

 

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My Holiday in Lessons

I spent the first two weeks of April holidaying in my hometown, as I do every summer. The wave of inertia and frustration that governed the ten days of my life after my last board exam left behind stubborn negativity that lingered on way after its perpetrators departed. Everything vexed me, but I didn’t want to do anything about it. I tried my best to find the energy to go for my morning runs, get stuck in a book, write or just do something productive, but couldn’t.

Safe to say, I may have been mildly unenthusiastic about my annual Goa trip. All my cousins and friends were busy prepping for Uni entrances and higher education and I had internship commitments. My world was growing up as I chose to sleep in. It wouldn’t be the same anymore. If there’s anything worse than a dull, monotonous life, it’s a dull, monotonous holiday.

Here’s where I say that it wasn’t, and it was great fun, and we made time for each other and all you need is a little break sometimes and other mushy gooey clichés that make you want to run away and seek solace in the latest online cat video. Two weeks on vacation taught me more than two years of a less than mediocre HSC syllabus did. It wasn’t the hardcore party, late night gain-three-pounds-before-you-leave trip it usually had been, but it did teach me some of those bookish life lessons that quite frankly, you can’t learn from a book.

1.  Home is everything

Home is the place you can take your bra off at the end of a long day even if people do that just about anywhere. To me, home isn’t just about being yourself, or feeling safe, or feeling loved or even just people you care about. Home is frustration. Home is fights. Home is tears. But home is laughter. Home is good food. Home is where you don’t need an alarm clock to wake you up every morning. As much as you want to leave it right now, someday you’ll yearn to return.

2.  Get out

Yes, I said it. A bed, air conditioning and a laptop with WiFi connectivity is the closest I’ll ever get to heaven; however, the outdoors surprisingly comes a close second. In Goa, the better part of my day was spent at the beach. I tried to walk to everywhere I had to be in the dead of the Indian summer because it was so beautiful. Even if you prefer to hit the gym or if you’re not one for any sort of exercise (like me), spending even an hour a day outdoors taking a leisurely stroll will do a world of good for your mind.

3. Feed yourself

If you’re eating clean and healthy, keep at it. I know being sad is no excuse to give in. But if you’re having a bad day and you know nothing will make you happier than a three tiered chocolate cake with a melted chocolate centre and chocolate ice cream, eat it. You can run it off the next day. Or not.

4.  And your soul

There are things in this world far greater and more powerful than yourself or the individual human being. Respect and embrace the fact that you’re part of something huge. There is always something to be thankful for. Meditate to let the bad out.

5. Don’t be afraid to have fun

If something makes you so happy that you actually don’t want to shoot everyone around you, don’t ever feel guilty for doing it.

6. Don’t be afraid to take a break sometimes

It’s hard to ignore the competition sometimes when you want to get ahead. But it’s okay to slow down and watch the world move ahead. Spend a little time discovering yourself in corners of the world you’ve never seen. Else, you’ll be stuck playing catch up for a prize you later realise you never wanted. This is exactly why I love the idea of a gap year. Hopefully I’ll have the courage to take one in a couple of years.

7.  Salt water is the cure for everything

If tears, sweat and the sea don’t help you get over something, you’re going about it the wrong way. Don’t restrict your lacrimal glands. Feel those endorphins. Embrace those negative ions.

Persepolis and Apathy

The life of the average student on vacation, I assume is governed largely by the aims of rest and relaxation peppered with socialising and other fun activities. You might have gathered that I choose to exclude myself from that category. My life on vacation and otherwise is governed by the almighty we choose to call WiFi.

This powerful tool we call WiFi is a medium through which one can access hoards of valuable information about current affairs and the like, but its wide availability often results in it being misused for more trivial pursuits. I often find myself guilty of indulgence in the latter which, although deceptively named, is of paramount importance to me, such as the song played in the 19th minute of my favourite show.

So as I was trying my best to read further than the front page of the main newspaper (you know, the one with news about everything but films and lifestyle) when the Download Complete  ping beckoned my attention to the computer. And I began reading my latest eBook download, Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi instead. It was an interesting but fairly pointless read, in my opinion. However, that’s not the point.

About a month and a half ago I read Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. It was one of the most insightful reads I’d come across in a while. A poignant yet funny memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution and the Iraq-Iran wars, Satrapi’s graphic novel made me think, and think a lot. I read the English version and I hope to get around to reading the original French version someday, though at this rate I doubt my level of French proficiency will ever get there.

Persepolis

 

The first section deals with Satrapi’s life as a child in Iran. The second part deals with her high school years in Vienna and her return to Iran. Both stories are set against a backdrop of war and oppression in a wounded country. The account begins with a brief history of Iran to set the stage and opens with ten year old Satrapi struggling to come to terms with the post Islamic Revolution policies, be it her donning a veil to cover her head, the music she listens to or her concept of God. The girl is intelligent and initially, highly driven by revolutionary fanaticism, so much so that her dead uncle is a hero in her eyes, while her own father, who is alive, falls in status. A born, blunt rebel, she questions the school education policies, the government policies and everything she didn’t believe in. Her parents, being modern and avant garde participated in various anti establishment demonstrations. And this little girl started looking for answers in the works of Trotsky, Descartes, Marx and the like.

As living in Iran becomes dangerous, Satrapi is sent to Vienna for high school where she is exposed to a different culture, a new lifestyle. She is soon seen as a fascinating personality for knowing war while on the other hand she balances the shame of being a third worlder. The teenage struggle for cultural identity is shown here in a most unique way with the typical teen life themes of dreams and boys being spun around in a refreshing way. Her return to Iran and her adult life revolve around her fighting and rebelling for the one thing she knew she wanted: Change.

If you’re treating this as a book review, I rate Persepolis five stars.

What really struck me about this book was the political awareness of Satrapi, her participation inclination and her will to change. At the ages of 10 and 12, Satrapi was already participating in anti establishment demonstrations, where there was the risk of dying, while 17 year old me barely has the will to read the second page of the newspaper. Young Satrapi read political ideologies to frame her own, while most people I know (me included) are unable to think beyond fiction and what Fandom they belong to. Not that there’s anything wrong with fangirling, but a read like this opens your mind to what you can be doing instead.

I guess living in war and the fear of death instills that sense of vigilance and patriotism in a person. But Satrapi’s courage and strength is nothing short of inspirational.

India isn’t at war today, but that fails to account for the innumerable problems the country faces politically, economically and socially. Most of my generation is unaware of these problems. Illiteracy is a rampant problem in India which can arguably be linked to every problem we face today. The illiterate elect the wrong people, the illiterate indulge in crime, the illiterate are what’s wrong with this country. That’s true, but not entirely.

In my opinion, political and economic apathy is a bigger issue. It’s the literate who don’t care that are more at fault. The literate who steady the umbrella of corruption enveloping our country. The literate who prioritise their own selfish means ahead of national welfare. The literate who don’t care.

Bright students with access to a good education will more often than not choose to study abroad and settle there, seeking better opportunities for themselves. And who can blame them? It seems a more feasible option than trying their hand at initiating change, considering the sheer magnitude of problems we face.

I think current affairs should be incorporated into education in more exciting a way than the standard “Read the papers!” In my opinion, seminars, talks, workshops and activities like Mock Parliaments, debates, and Model UNs actually help creating awareness about current issues.

Satrapi fought against autocratic law.  I don’t think I have the will to do that. I will be 18 next year (in a couple of months, infact), old enough to vote and I haven’t the faintest idea of who is a decent candidate for election. We preach about voting right when right or wrong is nothing we know about. And that is scary. To see that we’ve grown older, without really growing up at all.

I’d much rather live in fantasy than face the real world. I’d much rather escape from it all. I’d much rather eat my favourite cupcakes than think of those starving slum children outside my window. I’d much rather read fiction than open my mind to the realities of the world. I’d much rather watch my favourite TV show or movie than the news. I’d much rather write this blog than participate in a rally. It’s sad, but its true.

And that’s what’s wrong with people like me.

The Dimple Diaries

 So, I haven’t really been able to write lately. I’ve been working on some stuff and haven’t seemed to progress further than the start. Well, here is an article that I wrote for Raga, our college fest Malhar’s official publication. Rahul Gandhi’s dimple tells it’s story.

 

Have you ever wondered what it is like to be an indentation on the right cheek of Raul Màino (better known as Rahul Baba, Vice President of the Congress)? Well, now you don’t have to. Yes, I am said indentation.

And if you’re wondering why I get to speak to you and not my left cheek twin, it is because I am deeper, more prominent and if you look closely, I am almost visible through that beard he donned for a while.

Being a dimple on Raul Màino’s (as he is referred to by his mother’s side of the family) face is awesome. I get to enhance the smile of the youngest forty-something part Italian to be India’s (almost) PM. While Indian girls swoon at this baby-faced bloke dressed in white (skin), little does he know that all of it is down to me, a hole on his face.

It was me that helped him get away with not eating that spinach ravioli, much to the disappointment of his mother and resident Italian chef, Ramu Kaka. It was me he used to charm not much of India into voting for his party, with no help from my left cheek twin. It was me who mesmerised the mango people into accepting this rather unwelcome guest to their sleepovers. And I was flashed when a certain Afghan princess lifted up her burqa, showing her naked ankles.

Many Indians don’t like Raul. They complain too much. Spend your time working, not complaining. Make India live up to its beehive image. My left cheek twin and I come out of hiding every time Raul sees some firang digging into Chicken Tikka Masala or hears some Hollywood starlet admit to a Yoga workout to Bollywood music. We like to see how far India has come, its power reflecting off the Oscars that adorn the careers and closets of eminent stars. Every time Raul bears witness to these symbols of Indian prowess, he smiles with a humble sense of achievement, and I show myself to the world.

A Bird’s Eye View

Today, I was witness to a murder in my own backyard.

At around eight am this morning, after getting home from my morning run, I was picking flowers from my apartment block garden. A murder of crows  had circled the area and were crowing almost violently, as though at a demonstration or protest. When I was younger, my Dad used to tell me they did that when one of their kind died. That was how they approached death. Naivety and sheer lack of  further interest rendered that a satisfying explanation. Until today.

I nearly dropped the basket of flowers I had picked when I saw a gruesome sight that made my stomach churn. A feathered wing of a pigeon lay  brutally mangled in a pool of blood and viscera, while a murder of crows (pun unintended) encircled the carcass making their presence felt with their disturbingly loud caws.

That, however wasn’t the murder I was talking about. I didn’t see the crows kill the pigeon. Although circumstantial evidence may declare this a no brainer, my immense trust in mystery novels steered me off the path of jumping to conclusions. Then again, that may have also spurred from my strongly apathetic, almost relieved perspective to the event.

Well, in my apartment building, it’s always been crows versus pigeons. And although they are both excruciatingly annoying, I’ve always rooted for the former.

In an apartment with more windows than walls (and a summer where not opening the windows is considered a suicide attempt), the birds need no real invitation to feel at home.

The crows, devious, swift and cunning swoop in through tiny gaps where the wind parts the drawn curtains and stealthily make their way towards the kitchen, grabbing whatever little treats they can lay their hands on, careful not to cover their tracks only to rub salt in the wounds of the robbed (i.e. me), often leaving a little “thank you” gift of excrement or carcasses. They’re smart, they know what they want, and know how to make an escape when caught. Plus, they’re pretty useful scavengers, feeding on mortal remains and cleaning up the environment, even if cleaning up often means dumping them in my house.

The pigeons, at those rare moments when they’re pea sized brain permits them, enter any damn corner of the house for no good reason and start getting clucky, collecting twigs and other nest making paraphernalia. When they’re caught, which is pretty quickly, courtesy their flapping wings and nettlesome noises, they can’t get out! Why? Because they’re too stupid to remember how they got in and flutter about exasperatingly until they’re somehow out. And trust me, they’ll be back. As for significance, I’m sure the air conditioning service guy would worship them after his business boomed when they stuffed my air con with nest twigs…more than twice.

While these two species of aves were succeeding at constantly blowing my head off, they were at war with each other. The crows used to eat pigeon eggs. I saw that happen a lot of times and genuinely felt sorry for the pigeons. And today, it had turned brutal.

So, I went upstairs and sat by the window, which is what I always do when I need to think. That’s when I saw it happen.

The crows were still crowing and began to encircle a corner near the bushes with the yellow flowers. There were two crows in the centre of the ring. One, a common Indian crow, black with a greyish neck. The other completely black like a raven with an odd caw and a bright red mouth. They had become more common around the area in the last two months, although it was the only one of its type in the entire murder of crows. It was hurt and couldn’t fly. No prizes for guessing what came next.

The first crow clawed the second one. Wings were flapped, feathers were lost, beaks connected and a whole lot of cawing ensued. The weak crow crowed unusually, it was somewhat like a baby’s wail, a baby down with a cough. It was in pain. And it didn’t take long for the weak to become the vanquished and the vanquished to be ripped apart by the victor as a symbol of physical prowess.

It was a grotesque sight to watch, but something kept me going. I’m not one who’s turned on by blood and violence. What kept me watching was the predictability of the outcome.

The “different” are always picked on, the weak are always kicked when they’re down, majority always wins. The black crow was the cat amongst the pigeons or the pigeon amongst the crows, in this case.

History doesn’t lack in examples where swimming against the tide often caused the a man to drown.

Then there’s the crowd, too afraid to challenge authority, their private views finding no voice or expression.  It also appeals to their sadistic side, deriving pleasure from the misfortunes of another. The Germans have a word for it, “Schadenfreude”.

I’m not going to be preachy about this, because it’s an issue that has been written about to death (admittedly, a couple of times by me too).

It was just one of those wondrous moments when nature steps in to rewrite what you already know, and show you the same thing, in a different light.

Using thinly veiled symbolism, nature unearths the new by recasting the known. I think that’s what’s beautiful about nature, overlooking the macabre quality of the scene it chose to portray this time.  Discovery, I think they call it, or just plain insight. The difference between knowing and understanding. You don’t just look, you see.

I don’t know if the philosophical touch to this post has stemmed from my witnessing a morbid incident, but the cracked pigeon egg I saw outside my window later compelled me to pen this down.

Imagine A World Without Mirrors

Imagine a world without mirrors. Just imagine it.

For that matter, the world is lacking in photographs, portraits, the phenomenon of reflection and anything that is of aid in you “physically” seeing yourself.

So, you can’t see yourself at all. What would that be like?

Well, for one it might suck, not knowing what you look like on the outside. Not knowing whether your hair is in place or your makeup has smudged. Now that would kill you if you had used a mirror all your life and were told to do without one for a day.

But imagine there were no mirrors ever-since the beginning of time. You really don’t know how you look. If you cut out all those stolen glances in any reflective surface to see if you look good enough for society from your twenty four hours, for one, you’d have a lot more time on your hands to impress society with your work. You could see how different each human is without comparing them to yourself.

You wouldn’t worry about how you look. And you won’t let it stop you from achieving your dreams.

You’d imagine your face as a reflection of your inner values. And you’d endeavour to make sure they’re seen. I know I’m thinking a long way ahead, but it could eventually be a farceless, shamless world.

The world’s obsessed with outer beauty. We spend a lot more time perfecting the outside than we should- cue all those beauty product adverts that compel us to believe we’re ugly, and we’ll remain ugly until we buy that ridiculously expensive lipstick. We know it’s not true. But the mirror makes us believe it is. The mirror is brutally honest. It shows us all our shortcomings, our imperfections-as defined by society.  There’s a predefined template of perfection which we strive to follow. We strive to fit into that template. And judging by how much and in what way you deviate from that blueprint, you’re labelled. You can be fat, thin, short, tall, black, Asian, yellow, white, old, geeky, blonde, differently abled, emo; you’re reduced to a stereotype. And that stereotype is often defined by how you look rather than what you do.

So, what have you got to do to fit in? You’ve got to follow that norm. Mould yourself according to the blueprint.

But, answer this. Who makes the norms? How can everyone strive towards the same thing, when we’re an individualistic race? We’re humans. We all strive towards achieving individual needs and goals. No two humans are exactly alike. And that’s the beauty of it. Everyone is wonderfully unique and special in their own way.

Take a look at it this way. Stereotypes are fashioned by divergence from a norm i.e. how different you are from what you are expected to be. So, if you’re smarter than the norm, you’re a geek. And that’s put in such a negative, discouraging way. The truth is, you’re smarter than average. That’s a great thing! So, if stereotypes define us, aren’t we defined by our imperfections? Our “faults” (what they’re called according to society) actually make us who we are. So we shouldn’t really be ashamed of them. They shouldn’t affect us that much. But they do. One of the reasons is the mirror. It’s constant presence reminds us that they exist. And they stop us from living.

On the other hand, they’re a constant reminder of how “beautiful” you may look according to society. Thus, the worm of pride is born. Let’s face it, the world would be a better place if people didn’t know how beautiful they were.

I imagine a world without mirrors. It is beautiful. I don’t know how I look. I can only see the beauty in others. Different types of beauty. No one is the same. I wonder how I look, how people see me. But I don’t worry about it. I will show them my heart. My heart filled with all the books I have read, the smiles I have seen, the people that I’ve loved, the life that I’ve lived. That is me. That is who I am. Wishing, but not begging for acceptance. A world so flawed and fabulous. Imperfectly Perfect.

Sigh. I imagine too much.

xoxo

-CP

Where Is My India?

The day a woman can walk freely on the roads at night, that day we can say that India has achieved independence” – Mahatma Gandhi

Another sunrise in the capital city of India-New Delhi.

Another girl robbed of her dignity. A five-year old was reported missing from her home in East Delhi, last Monday. She was brutally raped. She was found on Wednesday when neighbours heard muffled cries from a room in the same building where the girl lived. They found her bleeding and assaulted. The doctors found pieces of a 200 ml glass oil bottle and a candle shoved into her genitals. There were cuts, wounds and injuries on her arms, legs, genitals, cheeks and neck. An attempt was made to strangle her. Her parents were offered Rs 2000 by the police to hush the case up. Two protesters were blatantly slapped by the police themselves. The girl is now in hospital, battling for dear life. She is five years old.

Just another day in Delhi.

This is not the first case of child abuse in the country. It won’t be the last one. But it is a wake up call for the entire nation. As if we were short of any. Haven’t we learnt anything from Nirbhaya’s story? How many more innocent girls will have to be sacrificed before we wake up to the harsh reality of the world?

If you haven’t heard of Nirbhaya’s story, I’ve just given a brief narration:

A 23 year old was out with her male friend at night and entered the wrong bus. The six men already aboard gagged the friend and knocked him unconscious with an iron rod. They gang-raped the girl and violated her with the iron rod. She and her friend were then thrown out of the moving bus, lying naked on the road. Help only came the next day. She battled severe injuries to her abdomen and genitals with only five percent of her intestines remaining in her abdomen. She passed away on 29 December, 2012. This case sparked massive outrage in the nation.

Why rape? Where in the world did consent disappear? Research shows that rape gives the rapist a source if entitlement, of power over the victim. Well, this girl was five years old. Five. And the rapist wants to prove that he has power over her. How will this little child even understand what she is going through? And she will still be traumatised for life. All because she made the mistake of being born a girl in Delhi: India’s capital city.

It is widely said that rape is provoked by girls-by the clothes they wear. If you ask me, that is an absolutely sexist justification. A girl should have the freedom of dressing the way she wants. If her clothes are seen as “provocative” or “provoking”, her consent is not implied. And what about this five-year old? Were her clothes too revealing? Was her dress too short?  She is a young innocent child, for heaven’s sake. Men should NOT look at women as objects to satisfy their sexual needs. When men can look at women and be around them without viewing them as sexual objects, that’s when women will be free. Free to do whatever they like without the fear of being sexually violated.

I do not agree with the view that sex segregation is the solution to rape. Was this five-year old raped because she was playing with little boys? That’s the answer? In my view, men should be able to view women as friends and equals rather than tools for their sexual needs. Segregation will not allow the needed bonds of friendship and respect to develop. After all, the forbidden fruit seems sweeter.

The biggest problem with rape cases is that they go widely unreported. These are personal and sensitive crimes and are not brought out in the open. One of the reasons is shame. The news gets out and tongues will wag. Again, the victim has to bear the looks of pity and even the taunts. Even the police are no big help. They actually tried to buy off the girl’s parents. This apathetic attitude makes the police even more unapproachable. Hopefully, if the number of women police is increased in the force, these crimes will come out more. If you know of a rape, contact the police immediately. The police have to be more sensitive towards these crimes. It is this attitude that makes the rapists believe they can get away with the crime. There were nation-wide protests for Nirbhaya’s case and protests in Delhi for five-year old Gudiya. The protesters were doused with water by the police; they wasted so much water in a country wounded by drought. They were beaten up, slapped, dragged into buses, but no great action was taken by the Government.

This is absolutely shameful. Even if the rapists are given a death sentence, lives have been ruined. Innocence is shattered. Screams are silenced. We are trapped in a “free” country by it’s own citizens. These are two among the many souls victim to such horrendous abuse. We need an India where we know the Government cares, where we can feel safe, especially in our capital city. This is not the India our leaders envisioned. This is not the India I want to belong to.

Is India truly independent? It may have been, in 1947. It may be, in the future. But it sure as hell isn’t today.

Fairy Tale Women

“For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.”
― Virginia Woolf

The inspiration for today’s post had me revisiting a talk on gender bias almost a year ago. You know, those kind of “been to one, been to all” kind of talks, only this was not like that at all. It was actually quite interesting.

Let me start by clearing the air with the fact that ‘gender’, contrary to popular belief, is not synonymous with ‘sex’. ‘Sex’ is the biological constitution of an individual’s reproductive anatomy. ‘Gender’ on the other hand, is a social construct, meaning sexual identity, especially in relation to society or culture. So all those old wives’ tales (pun unintended) about the weaker sex, and arbitrary distinctions between sexes are gender inequalities, created by man.

Women have been oppressed, demeaned and silenced for the greater part of history in dominant cultures. Today, women are said to be empowered. Yeah, sure. But we all know it’s the men who have the edge, the upperhand. However great or insignificant the margin between the two may be, it always exists.

Take a look at the following instance:

A man and his son are in a car accident. The father dies. The son is rushed to hospital. The surgeon arrives, but says “I cannot operate on this boy as he is my son.” Who is the surgeon?

If you said “The Mother”, you are one of the few people who got this right. Somehow, our minds cannot immediately associate “surgeon” with “female” or “nurse” with “male”, although the latter has been done to death in the movies. That’s all down to gender, how the two sexes of male and female are viewed at in society. There are a number of instances where these tiny mind tricks come into play. They go right from dressing little girls in pink and little boys in blue to denying either sex basic rights. While they may start out tiny and harmless, they could go further than you would imagine, sometimes, with disastrous consequences. Once planted in our mind, these gender myths are difficult to shake off. They become fossils. Why do we still think it’s weird for women to ask men out? Reducing the incomes of women and discouraging women’s employment has led to the fall in economic growth and standard of living of women in many countries. Gender stereotypes cause men to think that they wield greater power over women often leading to violence and abuse. In Indian culture, it’s really disheartening to see the condition of women today. Men can get away with rape, the woman has to bear the brunt of it. A man can rape a thousand women, nobody will say a word, even if they know. A woman gets pregnant, tongues will wag, fingers will point and a life is destroyed. I really hope the rape victims all over the world get due justice, definitely, if not immediately.

So, how can we clear the mental blocks? Education. We can’t change history, but we can change our perspective. Instead of looking at history as male dominated, look at the women who fought against all odds, swam against the tide and made it into those text-books. Yes, they may barely be given a paragraph, a page at most, in those books, but in a chauvinistic world, that’s an achievement. They should serve as inspirations for men and women alike. Contemporary history isn’t short of examples of women who reached the pinnacle of distinction in their respective fields. Neither is the modern world. We are moving towards an egalitarian society. But how fast are those mental blocks gonna erode? Where do they start?

Roll down memory lane to your childhood. No, before that, when you listened to fairy tales. Yup, the whole “damsel in distress” fad.

Cinderella. Cinderella was the damsel in distress. Who was the villain?  The Evil Stepmother (and Ugly Stepsisters). Who was the hero? Prince Charming.

Snow White. The villain: The Evil Stepmother. The Hero? Prince Charming, again.

Sleeping Beauty. The villain: The Evil Fairy. The Hero? PC!

Pattern here? Yup. What is with the whole “damsel in distress” thing? Why do men want to save her? To wield obligatory power over her? Is she so stupid? ” He saved me, now I am forever indebted to him.” This is the real world girl. You’re your own prince. Secondly, look at the villains. They’re all…surprise…women! Evil women. Wicked witches. What about the Dads? They married them for God’s sake. If they were completely blind and oblivious to their daughter’s pain, they weren’t very good Dads anyway. And who saves the girl? Enter PC-the guy always ready to kiss an unconscious girl. Did he save Cinderella? He just searched the town for a girl because he had her shoe. Did he save Snow White and Sleeping Beauty then? Well, if kissing an unconscious girl counts as saving her. The point is, he didn’t do much.

If this is the stuff children absorb at the “sponge age”, the blocks are inevitable. Actually, I’m not sure if our classic fairytales are in fact suitable for children. Snow White’s stepmother wanting to eat her heart? Old Blue Beard with skeletons in his closet, literally!

So who did save our DIDs? Let’s look a little deeper. Who gave Snow White shelter and food when she had nowhere to go in the forest? Even after she ate their food and slept in their beds? Those cute little dwarfs did. They hardly get the credit, do they. What about the other two? Who made Cinderella pretty enough to actually go to the ball? The dress, the carriage and those glass slippers? That’s right! Her fairy godmother! Who sort of lessened the impact of Sleeping Beauty’s from death to a deep slumber? Her fairy godmother-the good fairy!

Wake up to who your real heroes or, in this case heroines are. See those girls like Cinderella? Those girls you always wanted to be? Well, what would they be without their fairy godmothers? Wallowing in self pity. Be your own fairy godmother. Stand up for yourself. You don’t need a man. Be the person you want to meet. These fairy godmothers are the strong, confident women we should idolise. These are the heroines. Not those silly victims. They stand for empowerment of women. They are the true fairy tale heroines.

Gender equality is choice. It doesn’t mean that women cannot be unemployed or cannot raise a family if they choose to. It doen’t mean men have to work. They can stay at home. They can do whatever the hell they like, without being judged.

But for the feminist in me and the women out there, women can do everything men can…wearing heels. 😉

Let me conclude by quoting the late Iron Lady herself,  “If you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.”

Confession Pages: Spreading Hatred?

Confession pages are the new “whatever was in vogue before them” on Facebook. I mean, they’re all the rage…especially with students. Almost every institution has it’s own confession page.

When my school and college started their own pages, I thought it was a great idea. Every one had so much to say, that they couldn’t do so otherwise, be it a consequential social suicide, shyness or any other fears. And this was a great way to blurt it all out. Owing to the anonymity of these pages, you can say what you like without anybody knowing who you are.

These pages got so popular that the admins of all pages faced the great superhero dilemma: to reveal or not to reveal? I mean, you wanna tell people that you’re the mastermind behind this epic trend, but that would just like…kill it, you know? You might not wanna confess if you know who’s reading the confessions.

So, it all started out with real confessions like cheating on tests, being somewhere you shouldn’t have been, crushes and compliments, which was all really fun.

I especially liked the compliments part. It feels great to get one. Once, my friend was down in the dumps, and her ego had plummeted. I posted her a compliment and I could tell that it cheered her up. I felt good, and so did she. It was a win-win.

But there was bound to be a point when cutesy compliments would get boring. And it happened soon enough. Confessions turned into personal digs. With bitchy remarks and, worse, ‘likes’ (public approval of a dig at you) ruling the scene, things got ugly.

It was a war out there. “He is a poof who sucks posterior.” “She/he is the most irritating person I have ever met.” “She is promiscuous, and dresses to seek attention.” You get my drift, right? (I have toned down the crudeness considerably here.) Just imagine those comments, laced with crude swear words and names replacing the pronouns. Some people I knew, some I didn’t. Although I didn’t know them, I already got a first impression. What’s worse, these were the most ‘liked’ posts on the page!

One post in particular caught my attention. It was about this girl, about what a slut she was, how provocative her clothes were, the number of guys she’d dated, how ugly and bitchy she was and a lot more. I didn’t know the girl, but this was downright mean! Even if the confession was true, it’s below the belt to take a dig at someone like that in public and hide in the shadows of anonymity.

My friends didn’t know the girl either, but they were already making presumptuous judgments about her. “She must be a whore.” “I bet she’s dated XYZ.” I was shocked. I said, “You guys don’t even know her.” I was told to chill. But I wouldn’t be surprised if many more people who don’t know the girl would make such assumptions. Because that’s the kind of impression it gives.

That poor girl will be on the minds and lips of many she doesn’t know and will be judged disapprovingly. It could jeopardize future friendships. What’s worse is, she’ll never know who did it. It could even be someone she deemed a ‘best friend’.  She’ll have trust issues forever.

This is definitely a form of cyber bullying. And bullies are found everywhere. I guess, every social system falls into some sort of hierarchy. In high schools and colleges, it’s the bullies and the bullied. Any form of bullying is condemnable. For those who think it’s cool, you couldn’t be more wrong. It’s a reflection of cowardice and insecurity, especially cyber bullying. Hiding behind obscurity to taunt someone? That’s low, really.

If you have issues with someone, talk it out with them, a trusted friend or an adult. Don’t blatantly resort to negativity.

Confession pages are supposed to be forums where you confess. Confessing differs from bullying or bitching. These pages have made Facebook fun again. Keep them fun and clean. It may create inflated egos, but that’s better than damaged lives. Don’t get personal and spread negativity.

I’m really glad the admins of both, my school and college pages have agreed to treat personal digs as spam. I don’t know how well this will go down with the gossipmongers. I think it won’t be too bad.

Hoping for the best,

CP