Sunday, August 31, 2014

Penny wise pound a foolish

Are you an independent girl living in the city, earning and trying to make it big? Or just trying to live in the city? What really defines an independent girl? The power to make your own decisions? The freedom to eat anywhere and do anything? Or the sheer joy of being able to shop without long discussions and arguments with your parents?
Monetary freedom means that now I can buy whatever I want and from wherever I want. But limited monetary freedom means that “wherever” is restricted to discounts, online websites, coupons and freebies. Not that I am complaining. With a whole wide array of items available everywhere and amazing websites with discount coupons I can manage to upgrade my shopping list to a level 2 of the shoppers’ arena with Steve Maddens, NYX and Fendi on discount, level 1 being LV, GUCCI, Prada et all.
And this is where a man comes in and messes up the whole game. He wants to shop for you and the shopper in you, the girl who loves labels she can’t afford feels ecstatic and on cloud nine until the cloud rudely bursts. Should you kick your self-respect and the whole independent theme in the butt and let him buy expensive items for you or should you take the high road and politely refuse?
Arguments galore, the man in question and well, many men, try to talk “sense” into you by claiming that this is the way they can show their “affection” for you plus you are his “girl” so they want to shop for you. But then again, are you a commodity? And when you try and apply the same logic to men, he is your “guy” and you should shop for him. Why doesn’t this work? Why does feminism take a back seat in this conversation?
Looking around one can see so many girls sporting Louboutins and Louis Vuittons that you wonder where exactly are they working and how do I get a job there? When you see their better halves trudging behind them straddling bags of more louboutins. Can a girl have enough shoes?
Personally, I am embattled with this, my writing pays me to go splurge on me and then Mr. I-will-shop-for-you decides to buy me something I might like. Well, he decides and the actual buying rarely happens (if he is determined and consumed in a passion for me and an even higher passion for showing his potency as a money minting alpha male). What happened to alpha females I may ask?
So over a large bottle of water and a determined eye, I go around scrounging a store (usually The Body Shop or Steve Madden) to find my bit of heaven and he may surprise me occasionally with a gift card or a nice watch from a nice store (Swarovski?) But then again, he does earn more than me (right now) and once I hit it off as a filmmaker then it will be me buying expensive Rolex watches and luxury Yacht cruises. When it comes to men, it really is difficult to buy him a gift.

Or maybe he likes to buy me an occasional something because it is a nice gesture and I do the same (or I try too). 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The marriage conundrum

Marriages are made in heaven and with the advent of the marriage season in Delhi, the city is snowballed with traffic jams, loud music, blocked roads and processions made up of heavily dressed people. Not criticising the wedding ceremony per se, all weddings are crazy, its a licence for people to showoff as much as they can, from dresses and food to the loudest music and fattest aunty.
Somehow the traditions involved in a typical Hindu wedding are what irk me the most (I don't know about other weddings so pardon me, but I am pretty sure that almost all types of weddings come with their own package of ancient redundant activities garbed in veil of 'tradition'). Coming back to a Hindu wedding, the "wedding" starts when a local priest is called on to determine the best possible moment and day to get married, so instead of choosing a day that will be convenient to everyone and the bride and groom (say a weekend or some holiday maybe?), an outlandish day right smack in the middle of the most important season of exams or audits or some tournament is chosen. Then with a flourish the priest will decide that at exactly 4: 47 in the morning the wedding ceremony should commence, the pheras in the case of most Hindus. So the swollen eyed people, crappy children and pitiful bride groom gather around a pyre while the priest recites mantras and gives his stamp of approval. Well, it makes perfect sense, why should the bride and the groom have a say in their wedding? The priest is the most important entity apparently and he will decide. Maybe he should decide the timing of the bowel movements as well, makes for better digestion that just going and shitting at any random moment. Doesn't it?
Then there is the roka or the engagement ceremony. Its a party with the exchange of rings and its fine. No nonsense (usually), the couple exchanges rings and you are done. Go dance, have a ball, be happy, you are getting married!
One thing that stabs a knife right into my feminist heart is the tradition (for a lack of a better word) where after the wedding ceremony, the poor girl has to leave her parent's house and go to the groom's house. Ermmm Shouldn't the couple go to their own house? Why should the poor girl be treated like an object that should be exchanged while the smug groom looks on? Why cant this be a marriage between two people rather than a complicated handing over ceremony of the daughter? This beats me.
And the various other things that keep happening, from summoning distant relatives who feel obliged to give some sort of token for their presence, it doesn't matter that the couple hasn't really heard of this aunty who is the maasi of the bride's father's sister husband, they have to come and perform some elaborate act in front of the pyre for the mere fact that they are related.
Why cant a wedding ceremony be without all this fuss? It is a beautiful day to be celebrated by the couple and their family, leave it at that. Get married at a convenient time, do away with the things that waste time. Sign a contract and be legally married and party for two days or seven, its your wish.
Two people are getting married. Get over it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Jules et Jim (Jules and Jim) 1962

Director: Francois Truffaut
Jules et Jim is considered one of the best works of the French New Wave cinema. Giving a great importance to cinematography, the importance of the camera in films is highlighted. Due to monetary and ideological reasons, the departure from elaborate sets and costumes is very much evident as in every other new wave film; real locations and outdoors are of great importance.
Jules et Jim employs many innovative techniques in the film which still now inspire and affect many filmmakers and their styles. With the use of jump cuts, panning shots and dolly Truffaut makes the narration fast paced and exhilarating as the story speeds along 25 years of the friendship. He employs the use of freeze frames which are almost indecipherable and any cinephile would notice this influence in a Scorsese or a Tarantino film.
Another interesting aspect is the use of archival footage and snapshots that deliberately move the art of filmmaking away from the classical Hollywood technique of classified shots and direction. Camera movement in the film is also very obvious in many scenes where the viewer can actually make out the camera moving as the frame changes on screen.
As the story is set in the time from the beginning of World War 1 to the rise of Hitler, feminism is a strong motif in the film throughout, with the character of Catherine defying all traditional “values” of being a woman with her free spirit and her beliefs. There is a scene in the film where Jules talks about how a woman is always second to a man and is always a ‘slut’ and Catherine retaliates by jumping into the river before asking Jim to protest against Jules’ views.
Hers is the most interesting character and the catalyst of all events. She knows she can control men around her and does that to her enjoyment. Sometimes she is emotionally drawn to someone while other times declares herself ‘heartless’. Had she existed today, she would challenged every woman around her, a dynamic and excitable woman, Catherine with her shades of grey and a flawed moral judgement still doesn’t let the audience hate her.
Jules on the other hand is the image of an ideal lover, ever faithful, as a friend and as a husband, he understand the needs of his wife and his best friend and even the people around him that he is ready to sacrifice his happiness for them. An adjusting character that finds happiness in every situation and doesn’t really question much around him.
Jim is a stronger version of Jules who values his friendship with Jules a lot. He shares his interests with Jules and together they are formidable partnership which cannot be destroyed by anything or anyone. They share their thoughts, secrets and lives. Jim is one person who develops the most in the film, challenging what everyone does and his role in things, finally changing himself.
The real World and the film:
As the world around them changes, Europe is declining into a state of war with World War 1 and the rise of Hitler, the film looks at it from the point of view of the three characters and their relationship which stands the test of the Great War despite them being from enemy countries.
The lives around them change, people mature, the way of living is changing following this, their dynamics also change as their personality adapts to everything around them.

A scene in the film has them discuss how women are now wearing shorter skirts and cut their hair short much to the disdain of married soldiers and how French wine is better than German beer. Theirs is a strong influence of French culture and a foreigner’s view is also employed with Jules being an Austrian in the film. France is looked upon as an open society with a great stress upon leisure and how the war and circumstances change that for people who start looking upon the life seriously and as the rise of Hitler is a tragic turn for the world, the film also takes a tragic turn in the end.

Friday, June 7, 2013

MBA entrances: Do they actually test you or your rote learning skills?

A year and a half ago I tried preparing for an MBA entrance exam mostly because I was bored and was looking for avenues other than engineering and partially because I found the tests intriguing, the test of your English ability, the analytical and logical ones and all. So I joined an institute with some of my classmates and soon enough I was completely disillusioned and left it after a month.

I have always had a romantic view of examinations. They test you on what you know, what you have learnt and liked. I never liked rote learning and the obtuse importance placed on them by every institution of learning. I have always read my books with great joy and loved learning from them, from genetics and particle physics in school to reading Shakespeare and renaissance history, maybe because I had such teachers who placed more importance on what I have learnt and grasped rather than what I could vomit, it had always been a pleasurable experience.

So when I sat for my first MBA coaching class, the teacher gave us an English ability test, asking us to fill in the blanks and choose synonyms for certain words. Good enough and a very good test at that. The test will check how much you have learnt in all your years of education, if you are a good reader, do you read good publications and do you use those words in your daily vocabulary. A very good test of your abilities and if you lack in something, you will go and read some more or engage in debates and conversations that improve your vocabulary. I was one of the top scorers of the class and was very happy; I knew I was on the right track being a book-whore (for a want of a better word). Then the teacher started discussing the answers and techniques and it didn’t really sound all that right, he wanted us to start mugging up words? What happened to learning words the good old way? What happened to using them in your day to day life? And why were obscure difficult sounding words a part of the book? And if that wasn’t strange enough, a week later all the vomiting types started scoring really well. They had to. They had the stuff they could vomit out; learn the words and their meaning forget about usage or anything else. That is not important, right? And so this person who couldn’t even pronounce “comb” and “Las Vegas” and whose grammar was something right out of class 5 was getting really good marks. I am not against her knowing the answers but she should have known them the right way and not by rote learning. The whole process of learning just gets lost in it.

Take a math or logical reasoning class. Ideally such questions test your ability to “logically reason”. The word is simple enough but here we were given set formulae and patterns. If this kind of question comes, do this or if this comes apply this formula. What happened to us actually thinking? Why were we made to think in a robotic fashion?

I am pretty sure when the MBA entrance tests were conceived this wasn’t on their minds, they actually
wanted to test a student for what he is. Is he really a manager material? You can get parrots anywhere but a manager is someone who has this quality in built or a talent enough to build it in himself and stand out. I know a person who is amazing in all of these. She has what it takes, an ideal MBA candidate if there ever were. She has a great abundance of knowledge and a sharp brain to learn. Wouldn’t you want someone like that for your company?

I decided to go for a GRE exam and in the language skills section I found my peace. They actually tested my usage and not my mugging up abilities. I loved it. I screamed out for joy and it was bliss. THAT is an exam. And then I found my calling in mass communication. Heaven.

As the MBA entrance results came out, I was less than surprised that many rote learners got great scores but happy for some of my friends who cracked those exams because I know they deserved it, they are made for the program and maybe in an ideal world, a world where your actual knowledge is tested and not your mugging up skills, they would be in better IIMs but wherever they are, they should know that they deserve it hundred percent if not more.

Oh and the ones who rote-learned their way to B schools, All the best. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I LOVE this song!!!!

Because I absolutely LOVE this song and have been playing it on a loop and I just HAD to post it!!! <3 nbsp="">

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Consumerism: How suddenly we need a lot of things to survive

John Berger, in his documentary, “Ways of seeing” talks about the publicity image. How an advertisement and the items and models depicted in it create a sense of envy in us that tugs at us and makes us feel incomplete without that particular item. How owning that one piece of item will make life so much better and every problem will be solved.

I am a victim of this.

As I sit around making a shopping list for myself, I suddenly realised how many unnecessary items I have on the list and how each one has its own reason for being that one infallible object that I absolutely NEED to buy. I am plagued by a need that all of us can identify with; I want to buy that perfect shade of gloss and get a facial done because I feel that is the only think to looking absolutely gorgeous. A new season means I want to buy new shoes and clothes because they will make me happy and feel better. If I don’t feel like going to work or to exercise, buy new accessories and you are good to go. For me, new things and items and shopping in general is associated with a whole change in life. I feel new, I might look the same to the other person yet I love it. I am motivated to work more and somehow, these materialistic things make much more sense than anything else.

I don’t know if this is right or wrong. Am I complete victim of a consumer society or the things that I buy are actually what I need. I try to think of the million beauty products that are marketed every day and then of the home remedies that my mother lists for me. In an ideal environment home remedies would work wonders, but now we live in a world where you have an uncontrolled amount of pollution, you are stressed, hardly have time for anything and hardly anything is pure and unpolluted. You can try using a neem leaf to clear your skin but as I have been hopping from one city to another in India, you won’t really find neem leaves in abundance and even if you do, they are so badly damaged with pesticides and pollution that their natural essence has already been ruined. Imagine rubbing neem leaf on your skin and suffering from a bad rash. Been there, done that. As with Aloe Vera, a plant every herbal skin expert swears by and yet when I applied it to my skin, I was itchy all over. And natural haldi and natural sandal paste, tried all and been hurt very badly. BB cream and bit of highlighter and bronzer and I have the perfect skin to go.

I am not propagating the use of chemicals on the face but on a personal level and with really horrible experiences somehow, I feel that with the damage that has been done to the environment and as work increases and one person is forced to do the work of ten, we are suddenly in need of many things that in the past would have been a luxury or a sheer stupidity.
There are many people who say that a phone is just to make calls and yet imagine yourself without your smart phones; they are your own personal computers within your reach. I have access to the internet all the time, I can troubleshoot work problems or a make changes on my project, indulge my hobby of photography, read a book, stay in touch with my overseas friends, check and reply to email, make a shopping list shop online, be within deadlines and in general be a lot more useful to everyone around me. So, yes, I feel they are pretty useful, we travel a lot and there are times when we have an emergency to attend to or a sudden submission has to be made and to be honest these emergencies and sudden submissions happen a lot with everyone, we are after all juggling work which was done by ten people in the past.

I am not passing a judgment on consumerism. There are many items which I feel are not really useful, packaged fruit juices for instance or fried chips. But then again, these are all our personal choices and here a conundrum lies, where exactly do our personal choices come in? Are we capable enough of thinking for ourselves or do we have our peer group, our parents and now advertisements telling us what to buy? This is an aspect of consumerism which I detest. If a person makes an informed decision to buy something on their own, there is no harm to it, he might actually be in need of the thing but with the world being as manipulative as it is, we hardly have anyone thinking for himself. Music is sold because the popular person in the college likes it and I need to buy it to seem cool enough, that dress looked good on her and it will on me too, I absolutely NEED to have that GUCCI bag, well because it is GUCCI and so on and so forth.

We are in this constant battle between our actual mind and the thoughts that are put in us. We might not even know it and we are controlled. Consumerism on its own is not dangerous but consumerism of our thoughts is. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My parent's love story: Celebrating 25 years

He was 21 when he joined the Indian Army. After four years slogging in an engineering college, he was now an officer of the Indian Army. Young, enthusiastic and free from all academic pressure. The army training at Dehradun was intense, from learning modern warfare to fitness, learning how to be an officer, surviving and keeping the morale high, he did it all.
It was after two years of serving in the army when his friend, a fellow officer was to get married and the two best friends came to Ghaziabad, a small town near Delhi for the celebrations.
It was here that he first saw her, she was the bride's best friend, standing next to her at the engagement ceremony. At that time his parents were already looking for a match for him, he was now 23, a Captain in the Indian Army, tall, rugged and strangely handsome.
She was 21, a lecturer in a university, from an academic background. Fair with thick wavy hair and large almond eyes, she caught and managed to keep his attention throughout the wedding ceremony and a day later he tentatively approached his best friend's wife. Those were the times when asking a girl out would have raised many eyebrows and he didn't want to lose this one girl.
The new bride caught hold of her friend and told her of this young officer's interest in her, she was shell shocked. Her father was the terror of the locality and she kept rethinking scenarios in her head and replaying the whole wedding thinking she had not made and gesture to catch his attention, she was scared that her father would bury her alive. She told her friend the same thing and asked her to tell the young man to not try to contact her again.
A week went by with no contact and she was relieved. They were hosting a dinner for the newly weds and here, the bride told her parents about this young man. He didn't want to approach her in any way that would seem indecent and she gave them his home address and number. Soon, her father went to meet the officer's parents and was back within a day. He was enamoured. They were a large family of 7 kids with him being the second youngest. He was impressed by the young man's way of approaching his daughter and decided to   talk to them about marriage.
The young man was pretty smart, hitting right at the elders. He just had to impress the girl.
The first day he went for evening tea to her house, this was the first time he was to meet her. Her two younger sister's were eagerly waiting at the gates when this tall and thin man zoomed in on his motorcycle. They were mildly impressed but they wanted to see him. She was more scared than impressed and when he sat down on the sofa and she came out to talk , she was surprised to see just how thin he actually was. Coming from a Punjabi family she had never seen any man who wasn't fair and fairly heavy with a pot belly and here was this officer who had turned dark from training outdoor and well, he was very thin and tall with a very bad dressing sense. But she decided to give him a try. He was very intelligent, the way he spoke about things, his knowledge on everything and his ideas, they were so ahead of their time that she could not just ignore him and now even her parents were on his side, sly.
They decided to go out on dates and he would come to pick her up on his bike and her two younger sister's would sit behind him, leaving her alone and go for rides. He was forming a bind with her family and was catching her attention. On their first date she realised how little he actually ate, the whole morning they travelled around Delhi, watching movies and driving when during late afternoon he finally asked her if she wanted to eat something, finally! she thought. At the restaurant, suddenly it occurred to her that he was an army officer and well, they are supposed to be highly mannered and smart and she could not embarrass him while eating so she thought hard about what to order for lunch and then finally decided to go for cutlets, the only food she was sure she could eat with a fork and knife.He never really ate much and she could not ask him for more food and when she returned home by late evening, she had strong hunger pangs and was cursing him.
The next few dates were a climb uphill and as much as she liked him, it seemed that her sister's and parents liked him even more. That was until she met his mother, an old Punjabi mother ship who rejected her saying her eyes were too big and it looked like she had a squint.
Furious, she stormed out when she heard of it and refused to contact him ever again. She had never encountered any person like his mother and his over bearing sisters and it was a first for her. Once again he tried to contact her and found a connection.. His senior in the army was her cousin brother and he asked him to intervene. Seeing how strong family ties were here, he was being pretty smart here. They decided to meet at her cousin's house and he called his mother too. This was day her older cousin told her that he was very serious about her if he was trying to break his mother from the typical Punjabi mother in law mode and trying to get them to talk again. Soon enough, all was well and their wedding was on.
Their courtship lasted 2 years while he was posted in the treacherous north easter region of the country, an occasional latter every week from him and a number of rejected suitors from her side, they went on strong and finally were married a day after Valentine's day in 1989.
I guess, this would seem way more interesting to me as I know all the characters and as a kid I was fascinated by various tales my parents told me, their own version and then my grandparents would tell me their own version.
The stories of "after-marriage" are even more fascinating as is the fact that at my age, my mother was about to get married. And as they complete 25 years in February, I wish for many more and hilarious tales from both sides.