Friday, March 22, 2013

To Granny, With Love! ~ Dove

After a long tiring hot day in the campus, I hurried into an auto agreeing to pay the driver twenty rupees more than the fare. What! It was a hot evening in Delhi and I hadn’t got an auto for about an hour. Today I had a BIG reason to return back home soon. Dadijee had come home this morning from Kolkata. I wait for this time all year, when she comes to Delhi and spends a few days with us. She pampers me with Bengali food, sweets and loads and loads of love.

Of all the things I missed, I miss her head massages. So the moment I reached home, I quickly freshened up and made some tea while she was enjoying her evening siesta. I woke her up and hugged her tightly. We spoke of endlessly for hours, and by the end of it I pressed my head, it had been a very tiring day. Plus, it was a sign for her to do the needful
Yes! I am a naughty kid!
But I have more feathers in my hat, you see!

She raised her eyebrow and asked me to sit in front of her. I did what was told to me, like an obedient kid. She started pressing her fingers on my head, and started off “ You girls nowadays don’t understand how to maintain yourselves. Aamader somoy( During our times), we paid much attention to all this. You may be modern and you all roam through the dirt of this city. Ah! Those lovely tresses and how we took so much care! But you, you brats think you know everything kintu (but)even we are literate and modern, kicchu bujhli (do you understand)? She started moving her fingers into my hair and stopped speaking. She kept meandering her fingers and exclaimed- Baah! Ki norom chool Mamoni! (Wow! What soft hair, Mamoni!)
I smiled and showed her the Dove Hair-split test. I took my hair ends into a bunch and brushed them onto her soft cheeks. I adore her skin! She has such glowing skin and she never tells me her secret. Anyway, I asked her if the ends felt rough on her skin. She nodded in denial. In fact, she let out a laugh and exclaimed, “Aaahhaa! Shushshuri Laage( it tickles)!

They say films are inspired from real-life stories. But then there are these little moments, that fill up your heart with so much happiness that you wonder if this is for real or are you fantasizing about a story you’ve seen in the idiot box!  Dadijee nudged me again and I heard a ‘dhoom tananana..dhooomm tananananaa…. ‘ tune and I could not believe this was happening for real!

She nudged me again, placing her palms on the either sides of my head and pressing it a little harder. She said, “Bol na, ki kore raakhish chul guli eto shundor, ki secret aamye o bol?” (Tell me how you manage to keep your hair so healthy?) I smiled, her innocence at this age, was a beautiful expression to witness. I told her that I’d tell her the secret only after she’d start braiding my hair, just the way she does for Mum. She smiled back and divided my hair into three equal parts with two easy strokes of my hair-brush. Then she got carried off in the process of making a braid- separating every division and turning them one over the other into serpentine curves, thus forming a rope-like series and she tied a rubber-band at the end of it, tightly. I loved it. No, not just having grandma tie my hair every night, but also to see my sister, Pari look at me enviously… she has a mushroom cut, you see!

Dadijee, like an excited little kid asked me to reveal the secret. I ran to my room and showed her my secret. A milk-white colored purse, zipped shut. I told her to open the purse afterwards. Soon, it was time to sleep and we went to our respective rooms- all lights were switched off; except hers. She opened the purse to find a bottle of Dove Shampoo and a conditioner with a little colorful piece of paper. She plucked it out of the purse and read what was scribbled into it-

Dove is what my Dadijee had used for my hair and body ever since I was a little baby. Twenty years and several inches later, I don’t think much has changed. The 1/4th moisturizing milk in the shampoo is a blessing, considering I live in a city like Delhi-polluted, populated and tiring. With so much stress in my head, Dove saves my hair like a protective wear. I wish someday soon, the researchers produce something for what lies inside the head too.

Anyway, the next morning   Dadijee woke me up and I lazily brushed my teeth and hung my head on the dining table, rest of the body swaying along its weight. She had a tin pack in her hands and a big smile on her face. “Here”, she said “this is the secret of my glowing skin.” I jumped out of my chair and took the tin pack from her. Nothing was written on the green-colored tin box. I gave her a puzzled look and she told me to open the box. “Maida and Oil!!”, I shrieked. “Yes, every day before going to bathe, apply the paste all over your body and rinse till dry. What comes off, are the dead cells, and body hair. Keeps the skin hydrated and leaves a glow. Now hurry, go apply it and off to bathe! You’ll be late for your college  Shonamuni! She grins like a naughty kid and goes inside the temple and coyly sings, “Shona Gopal, Chaa Khaao! Chaa Khaao, shona!” (She began calling out Lord Gopal's name, pampering him and cajoling him, asking him to drink tea!). I with a grimacing face, walk into the bathroom.

This was my "Beautiful Ends to your Braids" Story! What's Yours? 

Participate in Indiblogger's latest contest, BEAUTIFUL ENDS TO YOUR BRAIDS  by Dove. Hurry! Contest ends on 25th March,2013!
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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Bell Bajao: A We Men Initiative for Women

Under the latest initiative aptly titled, INDICHANGE, Indiblogger in association with BREAKTHROUGH organised the Ring The Bell Campaign on a wonderful evening of the 8th of March, internationally marked as Woman's Day at the British Council in New Delhi amongst an august gathering of bloggers, entrepreneurs, activists and media persons. Their slogan being- When Men Gather, It's Not Always Trouble.

The idea behind this is that starting from March 8th 2013 to March 8th of 2014, they are motivated to make one million pledge their solidarity to end violence against women.


The best part about getting a list of the agenda for a meet, is that it helps you decide whether attending it would be worth it or not. And this event, hit the right spot when it came to both- the Cause and the Celebration.

This IndiChange initiative looks at men pledging to fight in their own ways to end violence against women. So, in the course of the evening we saw men from an array of fields, investors, industrialists, service men, farmers, doctors, pilots and more pledge their solidarity for the cause.

After the general introduction about the projects and initiatives taken hitherto, the sessions moved on to the first theme wherein we heard from female entrepreneurs such as Indira Jaisingh and Priya Kaul who discussed how economics and gender roles work hand-in-hand and how making women economically independent can empower them to a great extent. One particular woman entrepreneur who runs a school in her village on her own, spoke in a recorded video clip- " Pankh se kuch nahi hota, Hauslon se Udaan hoti hai" ( It isn't wings that make you fly, it is the courage that does.) After this followed the Tea break, during which Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal performed. And true to her name, she is a charmer. Her grace and posture, made me skip my coffee( Yes, it is a BIG deal!) and kept me glued to my seat. The best name that I can give to her performance would be to call it.. The Vaginal Monologues. She in her poetic eloquence, portrayed the insensitivity with which female sexuality is looked at and the manner in which people draw imageries out of it. For instance, the vagina is in some cultures of India, called Talwar ka Mayaan( Mayaan meaning the sword-cover). It was a pleasure to listen to her poem "Imagine" in particular where she talks about a white porcelain statue, draped with a black cloth and how the black cloth is representative of  the cloak that the society has draped on to the woman- it is torn and people like dogs are snatching at it.

This was followed by a wonderfully energizing performance by Swarathma. The band had been marking an edge in the music circuits of India and I had been excited about their performance and they failed to disappoint me! It was exhilarating to see the lead singer, flail his "larger than life" hair zip-zap-zoo and I fluttered my head too, in a failed attempt to enact him. I shouted out to my blogger friend, Akanksha- I want a Wig like that!! To which she stared at him for a while and then innocently  nodded in denial- His hair is for real. He isn't wearing a wig!

They played some amazing pieces and their lyrics addressed social stigmas related to gender, sexual harassment and human rights. The emotions that swarmed over us with the blend of words and music, took us to a different world altogether as we swayed and clapped furiously as if our lives depended on it!
Such was the effect!

The second series of discussions were on the question of "objectification" of women in the film industry, which was discussed by a panel consisting of Rahul Bose, Ryan Mendonca, Advaita Kala and Anoop Johnson. It was quite disappointing to see how Rahul Bose made sugary comments and quotes to please the audience and when asked about the online exploitation that women face, he said, he isn't much of an online person and thus isn't aware of the same. But thankfully, due to my work area, I know for certain that Rahul Bose is active on Twitter and he interacts through mails and is very much "aware" of the world wide web scenario. Also, he asserted how men should now "give rights to women" as if it were a piece of land that needed to be transferred!

Nevertheless, he made a few interesting points on how the industry must quit genderification of roles that eventually get on to define and re-instate power relations in the society at large. Advaita Kala made interesting points too, regarding her female protagonists such as that of a pregnant woman searching for her husband in the film, Kahaani and also implicitly reflecting her sexuality with the tinge of romance she added between the lady and the inspector who was helping her find her husband.

After a discussion that seemed to reach to no other conclusion than to the basics such as respect women, they are as deserving as men, and the subtlety of power-relations in society; it was now time for the best part about the evening- Anoushka Shankar!

My mum loves listening to Late Pdt. Ravi Shankar and I thus, grew up listening to ragas, without learning much about them but nonetheless, whenever I listen to them, I find peace and serenity like nothing else. So when I got to know that Anoushka Shankar would be performing at the event, I knew I was attending it. She mesmerized me- with her grace, her poise- She resembled Goddess Saraswati for me that evening- I am an agnostic and thus, whatever I have heard of Goddess Saraswati till date, I saw in her. Beauty, Talent , Grace and Brilliance oozed out of her. I sat dazzled by her and though all my friends started to leave (it was getting really late and Delhi is infamous for its night life especially for women) I could not even bade goodbye to them- she had such a soothing effect on me- I felt powerless and yet, good- in fact much better than I have in a long long time!

I was so struck by her that on my way back home, I typed these words from my mobile on Facebook and within a few minutes, so many people Liked the status, which speaks for itself.

Want to know what other bloggers thought of it? Follow the comments via this link--

Thus, when a Chetan Bhagat in the name of Celebrating Woman's day ends up celebrating stereotypes of women in his article in Times of India-
and writes "What’s the point of collectively harping on equality, when as individuals, you are happy to lapse into being clueless eye flutterers, just to keep men happy?"
With this point made,he gives advice and suggestions to women to harbour in "Equality" in our lives.

Oh yes, of course, we are all eye flutterers here. Whether we are doctors, typists, radio jockeys, dieticians,
 economists, mathematicians, directors, engineers, actors, scientists and a thousand other things. But for men like you, we'll be eye flutterers to you. Always!

But one thing for sure, the last thing We women need, is advice from a man who stereotypes women in the first place. Earlier,I despised your writing, Mr.Bhagat. Now I despise you and men who think like you do.

Ever since the wave of feminism swept across the globe in the 1970's and 80's, theorists, researchers and of course, feminists have strived to find the roots of exploitation of women in the society over time, and have come up with patriarchy to be a source of assertion of male scrutiny over a woman's role in the public (society) as well as the private (household) sphere. Over these years, the basis has always been to identify the causes of the exploitation. However, I believe that time has come to move over to more consequential matters, such as, What Is The Way Out? How Do We Now Ensure That Women Are Not Subjected to Any Form of Atrocity Or Exploitation?

The easiest method of solving it, proved to be blaming the ones who seemed to spear-heading the patriarchal hold- Men. Thus, arose an unnatural instinct in women to undo, de-construct whatever men have done and achieved till now and re-do them on their own. Some began hating men, and thus the institutions such as marriage, relationships, families etc. Not wearing a bra, to wearing trousers that only men wore, using razors for hair removal to not shaving hair at all- every possible treatment was tried and tested.

Everything except actually looking for a solution.

As much as we blame the men for being so dominating, it holds equally true that a woman herself at times, in the name of culture, family prestige and continuance of heritage and morals, reinstates patriarchy. The social conditioning is such that none of us have ever questioned it.  So every time a mother asks the daughter to learn to cook and cajoles his son to go out and play, every time that you see a girl wearing short skirts and twitch your lips judging her background, her family, her intentions and ambitions; while either you compliment the handsome guy coming out of the pub or don't even look at him passing by, but never judge him- These are all Symptoms of Gender-fication or Stereotyping. Please Stop right there and turn around.

Time for blaming or even giving advices to each other has gone. It is high time that we start acting. Both of us- men and women alike! "Be the Change you Wish to See in the World" is probably one of the few Gandhian techniques that are still in vogue and that still works... So why not make use of it? Women- respect each other and be proud of yourselves- never give in to compromise your dignity and Men- learn to treat women equally. She is a mother, a daughter a sister , a wife to someone, if not yours. Break away from the stereotyping and re-visit society with a fresh outlook. Be The Change- IndiChange! Proud to be a part of it.

Here are some pictures from the event- They have not been clicked by me but by my blogger friends. They also have covered the event in their own styles and words. Do have a look at their posts too! Cheers!

Indian Home-maker-

Ritu Lalit-

Aabha Vatsa