Friday, December 17, 2010

Lessons learnt from the first job

Just got this video yesterday on Facebook So You Want to Be a Journalist. Was absolute hilarious fun watching the exchange between a wannabe journalist and a seasoned journalist and any journalist worth his or her salt would say that they did behave like the kid in the video at one time or the other. Then another FB contact started a thread on the silly mistakes everyone made in their first few months. This finally prompted me to write on something I have been thinking of writing, that of my learnings from my first experience as a working professional. The idea had come to me after I was called by my alma mater SIMC for a lecture, but somehow I never got down to writing it down. So here goes :

Lesson 1 : Your boss is not your teacher/mentor

All throughout our school and college life, we have guides, we have encouraging people around us (yes even in the worst places there is atleast one teacher who inspires you). But that doesnt extend to the workplace. I am not saying that your bosses will be mean, discouraging people; all I am saying is that they won't take decisions for your 'higher' good or give you opportunities so that you would 'learn'. The basis of their decisions would be based on other factors like company policy, equations with others in the organisation, their perceptions/prejudices and if you are lucky you will have a purely objective boss, but even then he/she won't be there to coax you into learning the ways of the trade and make it easier for you to adapt. That is totally upto you. So please don't get discouraged that they don't seem to be acting as nice, fatherly figures. Not happening.

Lesson 2 : Nothing is personal
This is a tough cookie and stumps most of us. Say someone is cutting you at work, someone is being mean to you, realise that this is not about you. It says more about them than about you, so don't take anyone else's bad behaviour personally. Its not about you, its about them. They are behaving badly because they think that is the easiest or best way for them to succeed. Let's face it, at the core of it, all of us think only about the best for our own selves. So take that as a given and if there is a difficult situation try to work around it in a different way rather than feel bad about this person who is out to get you.

Lesson 3 : A litte self promotion is needed

This is where I struggle myself a lot, but I have seen that it always helps. Don't make a hue and cry about how much work you do, but make a few subtle suggestions for sure. You need to make yourself heard, don't be a wallflower.

Lesson 4 : The praise in the first few months doesn't mean much

At this time you are new, the company yet doesn't know what you are worth or how much you can deliver. This is the honeymoon phase for both you and the company. Whatever you bring to the table might seem great and there might be mails flying about what a great job you are doing. But then after a few months it will cool down and people might start finding holes in your work. Don't panic, it just means that whatever you did till now, was being treated like your first outing. The criticism coming now will only help you grow and only means they expect more from you.

Lesson 5 : Think long term
Whatever you do, whether you stick around, switch jobs, work harder, don't work at all, whatever you do, try to keep the long term in mind. Its especially tough in jobs like journalism, where every day is a new day but still look at the bigger picture of how what you do today will help you later on. Don't just stitch the sails to keep the boat from rocking today, get money to buy new ones.

Lesson 6 : Remember this job is your dream not that of the company

It helps to remember why you are here in the first place. In most cases, we are the ones who decided we want to take this career path. So it is our dream and not someone else's. The responsibility for its trajectory therefore lies with us. There will be people who will try to put you down, there will be people trying to mislead you, there will be people who will think that you are not worth making it. Forget all that, what is important is what you think. Remember these people were not the ones who made you decide to study hard and choose this particular job. You did it on your own, so when you decided where you are right now on your own, you are the one who will decide where you will go from here. Yes, there are people who are more powerful in the hierarchical system and it can seem that you are but a pawn, yes there will be things that you might have to do that you don't particularly fancy, but the final choice in everything lies with you.

But going after your dream doesn't mean that you just do what you like without considering the larger mission of the organisation. You do have to align yourself with the company's mission and culture, your progress should not be at the cost of the overall good of everyone on your team. All I mean is that you can't be sitting and blaming the company or its policies for why you didn't succeed. Either you work around it or find another path that fulfills your goals. Buddhism says there are only three choices in life 1. Change the situation by talking it out, 2. Accept the situation or 3. Leave.

Lesson 7 : There will be people who compare you to others to get a rise out of you

Hopefully this is not your boss :-) Many people try to compare you to someone else of the same league, my only suggestion to this is, adopt what most successful people I have seen in my short career span have done. If there is some area which you acknowledge you need to work more on it, try a course correction there, but don't take the comparison personally. Try what you can, but don't change who you are. You are unique, as cliched as it sounds and despite how much other people might try to convince you otherwise, there is something of YOU, something no one else has, that you will bring to your work. Don't get reactionary to the comparison.

Lesson 8 : Your GK scores don't make you automatically eligible for special consideration at work
This has happened to some very close friends. They are good writers, they read voraciously, they know all that is happening and make intelligent conversation. They can write wonderful essays on just about anything. But that doesn't impress their companies enough to give all the important work to them. Some of them become disgruntled idealists, blaming the system and mediocre seniors (they might actually be, but that's not the point) for their lack of progress. Please don't fall into this trap of blame, it only harms you. You have to realise that people want to see that vast reserve of GK being applied somehow to your job and once you start doing that, the work will pour in. Unless you show it in your work, your seniors aren't going to appreciate it. The workplace is not someplace where you will get a certificate for your general knowledge or witty reparties. Doesn't mean you kill that part of you, just try to apply it to your work or keep that separate from work.

Lesson 9 : You are more than your work
As we spend a lot of time at work, we sometimes come to associate all of our existence, its success and failures with our work. Work is of course important, as it pays the bills, but remember you were a person before the work came along, you are still a person after it. Sometimes competition has a way of making one feel inadequate, inefficient and these feelings spill on to other parts of your life. Sometimes the people around you maybe myopic enough not to see what a brilliant person you are, but that means nothing. All of us have instrinsic value that shines through at the most unexpected times and others can live in denial of it, but the truth is it exists. Don't let anyone convince you that you are nothing if you have not conformed to a particular idea of success. Who knows, you are probably the one who is going to set new standards? So stick to what you know of yourself, don't let anyone tell you what you are or how much you are worth because frankly only you know that best. You need not seek complete approval from the clique at work, you are only answerable to yourself and your near and dear one sometimes.

Ok, so now the sermon is over. And yes, I wrote this not just to answer some questions people asked me, but also to reiterate to myself what I have learnt. Anyone else who has any other suggestions to add, especially the ones who already have spent many more years than I have, please add to the list.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Chinese attack

We keep reading about Chinese policies that could be a threat to India, how the Chinese are competing with us on outsourcing, how they are taking away our trade and various other ways in which they undermine us or attack us. But all these discussions leave out the one single thing that has probably affected the normalcy of India the most - the Chinese mobile. You know the ones with flashy flip open technology available in the most garish shades?

The fact that they are so affordable, makes it easy for every Bunty and Babli to own one. Now, I dont have much against affordable access to technology, but just look at what a nuisance they are sometimes. If you are in Mumbai, you would get what I am saying. No train/bus ride of yours is free of the screeching loud sound of Himesh, Altaf Raja and whoever you find irritating playing from three different mobiles of some tapori or the other (yes, they are mostly owned by the taporis, sorry for being classist here).

Ok, maybe this is just my personal problem. So let me give you another example. Whenever there is any tragedy in Mumbai, be it 26/11 or a riot or a fire, you have all the rescue operations in place. A lot of localites also help the rescue authorities and the media with getting access to these unreachable spots. But there is another section of localites who are busy clicking away or capturing videos of towers going into flames. These wannabe photographers compete with rescue workers for the best vantage point, so that they can click this sensational picture and brag about it at the bar or nukkad ka paanwala the next day. I do understand if there is no media present and you become a citizen journalist and really want to expose some problem during the relief and rescue or any wishy washyness of the authorities that only you are witness to. But what is this madness about clicking a picture of a raging inferno just because you happen to see it while you are walking on a skywalk close to it. Why create problems for the security agencies by crowding a disaster site clicking pictures for your personal collection?

Is there some way to ban Chinese mobiles in India? Can Jairam Ramesh find some reason to do so?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Is sexual abuse gender specific?

The wonderful IHM has again written about a topic I have been thinking a lot about in the last few years. This is her take on male sexual abuse. And while I was going through the comments, I found another gem where a male adult talks about what happened to him.

Over the years, the stories I have heard about male sexual abuse have amazed me for their lack of clarity and ease with which those who have been 'lucky' or 'male enough' to escape it deride those who could not. There are also the myths. One of them is that its the sexually frustrated auntie who might have done it. The other bigger one is that it is someone who is part of the LGBT community who did it. Well truth is, more often than not, it is just someone who is a sexual bully who does it to the boy who probably didnt even know such a thing existed. Most easy victims are the ones who havent yet explored their sexuality arent they? Also it ensures that the victim wont talk about it out of fear. A sexual predator is a sexual predator, period, regardless of his/her orientation.

The problem with the male victim is he cant say it happened to him, not that it is easier for the girl to say, but just that society has a mentality that such things dont happen to men. If it was part of the hostel ragging, then admitting to it is facing ridicule from the rest of the gang. And oh, the 'man enough' crowd would always wonder why you couldnt fight your way out of it. The sad part is that the male victim might get a similar reaction even from close family. It is similar to how the 'girl must have invited it', in case of a guy, it is 'why didn't he fight it'. Rarely do victims of either gender find someone compassionate and understanding enough to help them soothe the pain.

The 'man enough' or 'woman enough' crowd has another allegation too. After the victim talks, suddenly they start viewing him differently, looking for signs of homosexuality. This I have found particularly revolting. I have heard quite a few comments about 'you know that incident has altered him', 'you see how he is more feminine' etc etc. For God's sake, sexual orientation is not infectious. The trouble is it is very difficult for men and some women to digest that a man can do this to another man. As I read somewhere this is because you cant blame the boy for inviting it. Suddenly you stare at the stark reality that a sexual abuser is just a vicious bully, that it is not about sex but about domination. That is a harder pill to swallow, the basic evil of anyone's mind. So we choose the easy way out as always, blame the victim. We wonder why he couldnt fight, we wonder if he has turned gay.

Truth is we dont want him saying all these things, we dont want him exposing the evil and our silence towards it, so we have to make it about the victim. Truth is that some of you know it could have been you, but dont want that reminder and so shun him. Truth also probably is that you might have your own reasons to side with the perpetrator. And truth also is that you know that the victim is so scarred already, ashamed of what happened to him already, that he wont challenge your gossip. Makes you feel powerful doesnt it? Wonder who really is 'man enough' there.

P.S. Yes, it is an angry post and I dont care what prejudice you want to form about me for saying this.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Rajni is so cool, he makes ice jealous!

Originally written for

The number of Rajni forwards, SMSes, jokes doing the rounds is simply unbelievable. The popularity of Rajnikanth seems to have just grown year after year. If you were an 80’s child in South India, you would have practically grown up with bloated legends. If you lived elsewhere, then you would have teased your South Indian friends about the kind of over-the-top sunglass flips and cigarette throws that the ‘Madrasi’ films have. Whether you were a fan or no, you sure knew Rajni. The man is simply hard to ignore.

Most of the elite, even in Tamil Nadu, would initially dismiss the rising star as the poor man’s hero. What is all that nonsense, they would say, all those gimmicks. They would rather watch the ‘thinking’ actor Kamal Haasan. For most of the 80’s Tamil Nadu movie buffs were strongly divided into Kamal and Rajni camps. You could very well have a terse sibling battle, not just mild rivalry, if you and your brother disagreed on who was the best. There were fashion wars amongst stars to ape the hairstyle of both the stars. While Kamal over the years maintained the ‘thinking’ cap, what has ensured Rajni’s continued success and growing appeal is the self deprecatory attitude. Rajni doesn’t take himself seriously, on screen or off screen.

But his fans do take him quite seriously. The Rajni Rasikar manthrams (fan clubs) across Tamil Nadu, take it upon themselves to propagate the Thalaivar’s name by engaging in philanthropic activities. It also helps that ‘Thalaivar’ himself does a lot of charity and in his public appearances gives an impression of the man next door. Only with Rajni, it is not just a put on, but who he is.

80’s North Indian audiences were familiar with Rajni, thanks to the handful of Hindi films he did with big names of the time like Amitabh Bachhan, Hema Malini and Sridevi. But most of the 90’s and early 2000’s Rajni stuck to the South. He was the hero of jokes, you had a Santa, Banta from the North and you had Rajni rip offs from the South. So much so that for the North Indian, the definition of South Indian cinema was raunchy numbers by fat women and some crazy gimmicks by a dark guy wearing sunglasses.

One doesn’t know when, but sometime in the early 2000’s Rajni might have decided to play on this perception. Could have struck him after the immense success of his films like Baasha in countries like Japan (yeah the Robot land loves the Dancing Maharaja). The Rajni one saw after that was more and more about the style, the superstar persona. Perhaps the best example of this was Sivaji-the boss. It was the movie that was sort of Rajni’s comeback in North Indian popular perception. Delhi theaters were fully booked for the first several weeks. Non-tamilian were raving after watching the Tamil version of the movie. Compared to some of Rajni’s work, Sivaji was average at best, it had the same one man against the system theme, that Indian cinema has done since time immemorial. But what stood apart in the movie was that the script was secondary, most of it was about gimmicks and more gimmicks, with a few punch dialogues thrown in and Rajni in a modern young man look dancing to some slickly shot numbers. Understanding the language was not necessary to understand the movie and that ensured Sivaji’s success.

Sivaji was also highly self-deprecatory. Rajni almost smiles indulgently at his fans for their continued support to what he seems to know is some tomfoolery passed off with some cool effects and 70’s style larger than life acting. That perhaps arouses the most respect for him, that he accepts who he is perceived to be. He doesn’t pretend to be this intellectual guy who does idiotic things on screen and then gives interviews about how commercial constraints force him to do such stuff. He just does what he knows best and works for his fans and by doing that he proves to be more intelligent than the average image-conscious star. The self deprecation is evident in most of his latest flicks. Enthiran is a step further in the I-know-you-like-me-this-crazy series. And this has just endeared him even more to audiences that traditionally do not watch his movies. The jokes on him are told in an almost ‘oh he is so cool’ fashion.

Infact there was almost equal excitement in Mumbai about Enthiran, as in Chennai. So maybe finally we have one star who is a universal hit in this diverse country.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gossip Girls

Well this is not about the series which I have never watched. This is more about garden variety grapevine. This post was in the drafts for quite sometime now and I had almost forgotten about it, but I met one of them recently, so decided to post it. This about those whines (pun intended) in the grapevine that attempt to strangle you. Here are the various types of gossip girls (and boys too). Enjoy!

1. The relationship expert : This person knows all about who is seeing whom, who is sleeping with whom and at exactly what level of dating someone is. They find great pleasure in letting others know about the latest IT couple. Breakups, makeups, make outs real and imagined, you can get all the information in typical soap opera full with dialogues when you ask them. Said person is generally married or in a stable relationship so a lot of first timers actually believe every word that comes from their mouth. Said person actually never speaks about their life much, maybe their own relationship life isnt really crackling.

2. The empathiser/guide : This individual generally comes across as an angel when you are going through some personal shit. He/she will be very nice to you, listen to you always, even encourage you by telling you how you are right and others are wrong. You are almost taken in by the goodness and you would end up spilling the beans about your miseries. Next thing you know, your most personal anguish is all known to everyone, sometimes they don’t name you, sometimes they do, but the details are all there and infact travel back to you in the form of questions about your well being.

3. The Q & A expert : This one I met recently. This person would meet you after ages and ask with some level of curiosity in a manner of catching up with you all sorts of pokey questions like ‘so did you get a raise?’ ‘are you getting married soon?’ ‘is your boss treating you well?’ Mind you these are people who can fake idle curiosity, they might seem like people who are sort of trying to get back in touch after a long time, but also remember that these people arent really interested, if they were they would keep in touch with you regularly.

4. The why of it : This is the kind of person who tries to find links to everything everyone does. Oohh he went to the boss’ cabin, surely he has gone to lick ass about that new project, hmm so she is going to lunch with him, surely it is because romance is brewing, ohhhh these two are meeting for coffee surely they are ganging up against someone else and so on they cook up stories and spread it around.

5. The shameless : These are the ones who will come up to you or your friends and ask you pointblank about the latest thing they have heard about you. These are the kinds who don’t realise that personal things would be shared only with friends, not with random passersby. They want to know and they will persist, if not from you, from your friends or someone else, they have to get their dose of the addiction or life loses all meaning.

6. The office spy : This is the person who finds professional linkages and is also up to date on who was hired/fired/reprimanded etc etc. This person talks with much authority about who is efficient, who is inefficient, who is going to go far and who is trash professionally. This person at times also infuses the characteristics of the relationship expert and guide to extract maximum information and provide maximum fodder.

7. The carriers : These are those people who have always heard from so and so, or just heard what happened. No first person account or interpretation, these are the Chinese whisperers and some of the most judgemental ones at that.

Its all about appearances anyways, who cares what you really are. If they start caring then they wont be able to pass time because well nothing interesting is happening to them anyways and everyone’s got to do something to make their own lives feel better right? Yes pulling you down makes them feel socially/morally/financially/whateverly better. And in case you are wondering, I did write this to feel good (wink).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Walking with the quake

(Another submission for the Soch lo contest on Indiblogger. This is about past conditioning and a reimagining of my memories of the earthquake in 2001)

Every once in a while someone comes along in life who mocks your illusions and brings you to the reality of being human. For me that was you. Before you I never thought anything was impossible. I never felt there was a thing that good intentions and persistence couldn’t set right. But you proved me wrong. I don’t know it if made you happy. But maybe nothing makes you happy, you never seemed to be. Somehow your negativity seems to have rubbed off on me. Shouldn’t it have been my positivity rubbing on to you?

It still is difficult for me to comprehend how little the quake affected you. It devastated my home. The little cracks in the old home, they burst open. There are times I still wonder if I had repaired the cracks would the home have been saved. But how was I to know a quake was due? And even if I did, some destruction was inevitable.

You walked with the quake. That was the way it always was, wasn’t it? Your coming was the signal for the coming of the quake. Someone long ago had told you that. Someone whose words were the truth for you. You ran from the quake always, but the times that it was late, you worried and almost wished it would strike soon. After all, how could the self fulfilling prophecy be wrong? Someone long ago had told me of the havoc you could wreak. But I was given no tools to recognise you, no plan to protect the house from you. So when you came, I just let you in, just like I have always let everyone in.

You seemed to admire the house. The cracks were strategic, even pretty you said. They gave the home a character. You talked of strengthening the house, painting over the cracks. No traveller had talked that way. For them, it was just an Inn. You seemed to call it home, but I could somehow feel that you didn’t mean it. You feared the quake and at that time, I didn’t know.

The rumbling had begun. I could feel it but for sometime I thought my ears were playing tricks on me. It registered somewhere that it was a quake coming, but I told myself it couldn’t be. I asked you if you heard anything. Didn’t you smile and say no? Didn’t you hold me tighter saying you feared it too but you didn’t see it coming and that I must have imagined it? You had told me of your quake nightmares so I trusted you knew better. That night we hugged each other close as we slept, I still felt the rumbling, but I let it be.

At dawn I could no longer ignore it. Then the first slab fell and I woke up. I felt for you beside me but you had already woken up. You were at the door, all ready to run. But you said it wasn’t coming I cried. And you replied, well I walk with the quake so it had to happen. So matter-of-fact your voice was. You never wanted to stop it, I understood. You had wished it away for a while, but you believed that was your destiny. And even before I could cry out in anger, I could see you had a counter to every question if mine. You were going to walk away, maybe laughing at the illusion you created or cry that you couldn’t control the quake. Either way, my house was going down and you walked away because you never had any.

When the sun rose I stood by the road, in front of the heap that was the house. It was all a-rubble and it was all I had and it was still mine. I still had a place. The neighbours wept silently with me. But we couldn’t wait beyond afternoon, we had to get to work. Each of us started piecing things back. We gathered what was intact, we fixed what was fixable. We chased away the robbers too. This was the first time I felt that good intentions might not be enough. And yet, aren’t they always the foundation of beautiful edifices?

I could see the path you walked on. I could be the quake harbinger too. But I still had my land and I could still build an edifice here. I didn’t have to wander away from what I had built. Yes, it was now a rubble. But then it was old and wearing away. Now I could build something new. I am not alone, the neighbours help with the logs, the fresh mortar. There is that boy who loves the way I lay the bricks. There is the old woman who thinks my paint is good. There are some old cracks still there in the remaining part. But there is more mortar we have all got.

I had waited for you till evening, but from the next day, I have only built my house. I had one before you and now I am building one after you. Its already taking shape. I can see the neighbourhood growing too. And I hear there are some settlers on the way to this town. I didn’t need the quake, but now that I have a new home that I am building, maybe it will only get better. And this home would stand all the quakes in the future.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The ex-files - Soch lo

(Submission for the Soch lo contest on indiblogger)

What if your partner’s ex wants them back? Well, shoot the ex, as in who cares what the ex wants? I would be more concerned about what my partner wants. I would ask my partner what do they have to say about the Return of the Big EX. If there is any amount of hesitation in deciding who they want to be with, I would just say dude, I am leaving, good times to you and ex. If your partner cannot for whatever reason decide, that is not your problem, its his (using the male pronoun as I am a female). Just like taking a decision is a choice, sitting on the fence is also a choice and every choice has its consequences. You are not obliged to sit on the fence wall with Humpty Dumpty just because he is scared to climb down or hates or is confused about the ground on either side. You are entitled to your walk in the garden without a bumpy ride.

That said it also depends on how the ex and your partner broke up. In most cases, there never is a justification to return. If say your partner had been the bad person, maybe the ex needs to get their head examined as to why they want to return. If the ex was a bad person, then your partner of course, has no reason to return. But if the ex was the bad person and your partner seems to waver at the offer, you really need to rethink your relationship. Why is your partner behaving this way, are they alright?

A lot of times people use exes like some back up plan, even unconsciously, running to them for consolation when something else fails in life, if not for a new relationship but atleast to get some support for old times’ sake. There are very few exes who can be good friends, lets say 1% of the population. The rest of the 99% keeps in touch because of unfinished business and by this I refer to the numerous couples who do not have kids together. If you have kids, it’s a totally different story.

Someone wants the ex to one day finally realise that they made a mistake in leaving. Some others keep in touch because they don’t want to face the fact that they had been the jerk or jerkette. Some genuinely believe that they are trying to be friends and are really not aware of the fact that they are actually trying to avoid being seen as the bad or uncool person who wont talk. Its an evasion of either guilt or the reality of the end of the relationship. Some others are keeping in touch waiting for that one moment or moments of vindication, when they can tell the ex what you sow, so shall you reap. The cycle of emotional manipulation that the two started during the relationship continues much after it ends. What’s amazing is that for practical purposes, these two people have moved on, they now have new partners, but even then they keep in touch for some ego validation, forgetting that in the process they are disrespecting their current partner.

In very rare circumstances, both the parties have matured to such an extent that they can put the past aside and start afresh, but most people still have trust issues after getting back. So it is very important for both parties to actually know their own real motive in getting back. Is it to get validation, vindication, make the past alright or to actually have a better future together? Are they trying to numb out the past rejection by trying to get back?

And if you are the new partner caught in the ex drama, all I have to say is, if your partner hesitates, then they have dug their own grave. You are fully justified in leaving them to their fate. If they go back to their ex and find that they want you after all, then that is their problem. You surely deserve someone who wants you all the time and not as an afterthought. So if they waver, please walk out. Don’t be party to a drama that two people want to create. You deserve a drama free life, especially when the drama is not of your own creation at all. But if your partner comes to you and says that the ex wants to come back but they don’t want to go, hold on to dear life. You have a keeper on hand.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I am what I am - part 2

Thanks to IHM for tagging my previous post I am what I am and also encouraging me to post something for emotional atyachar contest. Taking on from the previous post, here are some more statements used to victimise people

I have seen worse/ You should understand I am having a bad time/ If only things were different/ Now is not the ‘right’ time

Perhaps the first time we heard this was when we asked our parents for more pocket money. They were unable or not ready to give it to us and then they started on this whole talk about how when they were your age, they didn’t have chappals, or had to walk miles etc etc, you get the picture. While I would still support it when it comes to flimsy (oops hope I am not stepping on someone’s toes) things like pocket money, there is a limit to how much this argument can be used. But because we are lulled by this usage early on, we stop asking, we stop asserting, we stop everything once someone says ‘I have seen worse’.

A lot of times I have been involved in friendships and relationships with people who truly have seen some bad times. And I would assume the responsibility that knowingly I remained in their lives. The moment of clarity always came when suddenly ‘I have seen worse’ became an excuse to treat you as they wish. The first few times a person says this, you being the empathetic you, think that ‘Oh poor he/she, has had it rough’ and also something like ‘If I were in his/her place, I would want someone else to understand’ and all your decisions taken henceforth are to avoid any discomfort to that person, so what if it adds to your own discomfort. ‘Ok I will obey him, I wont call him before 12 pm, he hates being disturbed the first hours of work.’ Little voice in the head says but you are sick and you need someone to help you out but you silence it saying no no, how can I be selfish enough to think about me when he has told me it ruins his concentration, I should understand his problems because we love each other.

Your abuser/coward (any control freak is one and abusers are control freaks) has had a bad day in office, because she/he couldn’t stand up to their boss (its funny how abusers always have some person they don’t have the guts to stand up to) and then they come back home and are all dull and morose. This also happens to be the day when you have made the gajar ka halwa or done whatever it is that pleases them. But the only thing the abuser notices is that you havent folded the napkin just the way you have always been asked to. A fight ensues, you cry, the abuser hurls his/her choicest abuses and walks away in the end satisfied that the pent up anger has been expended. But what about you? You regret not folding the napkin well, what a dunce I am. And then the classic case, seeing you crying for so long the abuser comes and gives a half hearted apology, ‘Listen I am sorry, but baby you know how I have a tough time most of the days, don’t you see how much I have struggled and is it too much to ask that you do what I say?’ And you hear some great professions of love after that. Most of us get taken in again, please, please don’t be so naïve.

The abuser is not really sorry, he/she is doing this because they have to keep you confused and holding on to the promise of a good time, the time which is supposed to come once their ‘current crisis’ is over. But if you have been in a long term abusive relationship, you would know the good times never come, its an empty promise, so that you don’t leave. The time is never right. And if you ask, you will always get a variant of ‘I am in so much pain’ or ‘I have seen worse’ and the ultimate ‘You don’t understand don’t you, you are only thinking of your benefit.’ Their bad times are no excuse to treat you bad. That is sadism, not love.

X, Y and Z arent complaining, so why are you?

Well because X, Y and Z probably love being the jellyfish without a backbone or maybe because X, Y and Z’s reality is different from mine or maybe because X, Y and Z find it to their benefit to agree. This argument is generally used by schools, organisations and communities. You don’t like the new dress code, you find it uncomfortable and say so, the boss says well whats your problem no one else is complaining. The worse forms of this is when you are demanding something that you deserve and you are told something to the effect of well its really not so bad, look at A, he/she has worked harder/longer and is still waiting for that which you are asking. Or the missionary type arguments of why you shouldn’t be unhappy with your lot because there are hungry children in Somalia. (I love this analogy I read in a book :-) ) Fact is you are living your life, not someone else’s, so you have every right to ask for what makes you comfortable and it is not mean to want something for yourself.

They do this because they love you

This is a statement that the bystanders use. Bystanders are those people who while you are suffering abuse, are somewhere in the background, aware of what is going on and sometimes complicit with the abuser. The bystander is either dumb/scared or stands to gain himself/herself by your abuse and so wouldn’t do anything. Sometimes even an abuser says this. Children in abusive families are told this a lot. Say the father is highly verbally abusive and sometimes even hits the child. This time the child got a beating for asking for a new bicycle. Mom stands by as the child is being beaten, probably even crying helplessly. But once father has gone and the child has also spent some time crying alone, suddenly mom bursts into action. She comes and tells the child, see dad is having a bad time etc etc and you should understand that, see he loves you or else would he have paid for your new watch. But mom conveniently forgets to talk about all the times when dad has done everything that shows contempt, tells the child he/she is a burden, bane of their existence. The child should feel grateful and know that the parents love him/her because, well, because the child isnt wearing torn clothes, is not beaten up to an inch like some others and that the parents have put him/her in a school. This brings me to another excuse that we hear a lot…

That is how the world is, you should just accept your lot

Say you are having a bad time with some friends, they are being unsupportive and basically malicious. You walk up to this best buddy of yours and you say that those people are unsupportive and you feel lost and betrayed. What does your supposed best buddy say ‘Well that’s how the world is, you should know that you cant trust anyone’. Darn, there your bubble is burst again. You thought that someone would understand and validate your experience, instead you are re-victimised, you are told that you were stupid enough to trust and well what were you expecting. Technically, you are being told that you are the one with the flaw. Now many times, people say this thinking their intentions are good, that they are only making you aware of the reality. Well maybe they are right, but do they really have to tell you so heartlessly, wouldn’t it be of better help if they shared their similar experience and the two of you find a common way to deal with all this?

Most forms of emotionally abusive statements are some form of invalidation. Invalidation in fact is at the core of abuse of all types. Invalidation seeks to deny the importance of your existence by denying you your feelings, your rights and your dreams and expectations. So whenever you come across any of these statements, dig deeper before you decide to act on their suggestions. Like my favourite writer on this topic Susan Elliot repeats, “Love is an action” and so mere words wont and shouldn’t suffice.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Life lessons in ambition : Revolutionary Road and Marley and Me

A little late in the day, but managed to catch both Revolutionary Road and Marley and Me the last week. Both are realistic movies about life. While one deals with ambition and the discontent it causes, the other talks of readjusting goals according to the reality.

The couple in Revolutionary Road, Frank and April Wheeler would remind you of how you were in your teens and early twenties. Its about having this feeling that life suddenly happened to you and that you are not living to your full potential. True as that may be, Revolutionary Road talks about the incendiary nature of unfulfilled dreams and delusions of potential. At one point in the movie April says : “If being crazy means living life as if it matters, then I don’t care if I am completely insane.” But the same April, when confronted with the reality of life, says, “For years I thought we've shared this secret that we would be wonderful in the world. I don't know exactly how, but just the possibility kept me hoping. How pathetic is that? So stupid. To put all your hopes in a promise that was never made. Frank knows what he wants, he found his place, he's just fine. Married, two kids, it should be enough. It is for him. And he's right; we were never special or destined for anything at all.” Perhaps the premise of the movie is best explained by the dialogue by a certified insane neighbour of the Wheelers who says about their view of suburban life “Plenty of people are on to the emptiness, but it takes real guts to see the hopelessness...”

The Wheelers are torn by their own ambitions and April especially finds it difficult that life is generally not what its cooked up to be. It is not all about achieving your potential and the dreams, but about drab details like bills, cooking and kids. She sums up the general angst faced by young couples best when she says that they have been punishing each other for their unfulfilled dreams that they believe were interrupted by the kids – an attitude that leads her to try the tragic try-at-home abortion of their child. Frank on the other hand, wants to make it big, but it is not for the sake of ambition, its more because he equates big with the good life, more respect, better standing in the society.

The Wheelers are not liked in the neighbourhood much, they are admired for their odd ball thoughts, but not liked, because looking at the Wheelers reminds the neighbours of the drabness of their existence. It is like the Wheelers show them a mirror and mock them with their plans of quitting it all and moving to Paris. The neighbours want to be like the Wheelers, but at the same time think the Wheelers are delusional. The Wheelers however are just you and me, with an exaggerated sense of dissatisfaction, people who believe life should matter and that there should be a reason for everything. But perhaps life isnt that logical. At one point, April screams in frustration, “Who made these rules anyways?” But it is more about their inability to make their own rules, rather than about following the herd. Reviewer Mick LaSalle talks about the brilliant use of extra marital sex in the movie. To quote him, “As is so often the case in life, it's the only creative outlet left to people who have given up hope. It's an expression of deep despair.” With the Wheelers this is true.

While the Wheelers end up as a dysfunctional, confused couple who feel betrayed by life, the Grogans in Marley and Me come across as the few who have made peace with life. Like the Wheelers there is a time in the life of the Grogans when the stress of handling daily family details, takes its toll on the marriage. Jenny hates the fact that she has had to quit her job and play suburban wife while her equally talented husband is still earning. She is edgy, depressed and picks up fights and John Grogan doesn’t quite know how to salvage the situation. But the Grogans are more real, they have no illusions of being ‘special’. The mature way in which the Grogans talk their problems out and the way they discuss everything together in the movie, is in complete contrast to the Wheelers, who heap their own inefficiencies on to the other. While Jenny slowly comes to accept her new responsibilities, April openly loathes the constraints of family and kids and Frank claims to be special but has no clue in what. The mutual frustration of the couple and the way they punish each other for their problems leads a neighbour to say that he is glad he wont be the Wheelers’ child.

John Grogan too has had to let go of his dream of being an investigative reporter and has to instead be a columnist to run the house, but he makes peace with this change in life. John is shown to sometimes yearn for and maybe even secretly grudge the life of his single friend, a fellow journalist, who can travel to exotic locations, write great stories, flirt around to his heart’s content. John however does get a chance to see for himself if the grass is greener on the other side. Like it often happens in life, much after he has forgotten about his reporting career he gets an opportunity at a different city. The Grogans make the big move but John discovers that he truly is a better columnist than a reporter and all the angst is suddenly gone, however by now, John is also around 40 and has learnt to make peace with life as it is. A significant moment that shows his change of attitude is when he meets the same high flying friend again after years and sees that while his friend is still the single flirt, still asking out girls on the road, looking for the One girl who would be right, Grogan himself has a fulfilled life. Like they say, in the end, it all works out and Grogan’s is a true story. Frank on the other hand, remains clueless about what he wants till the end. His desire for something more is born more out of the need to appear special, than really be special, whereas April wants to achieve being special at any cost. It is this fundamental difference that plays itself out leading April to view Frank as man of all fluff and no substance while he views her as unrealistic.

While both these movies might never be mentioned in the same breath by cinema purists, what I find to be a learning experience in both of them is how your attitude to ambition can make or break your own life. The Wheelers are forever looking for that extra something and in the process hating every minute of the present. The Grogans on the other hand make adjustments based on the circumstances and because they make those adjustments, life gives them an opportunity later on to even try what they perceived as great once.

A lot of people in their twenties like me are still struggling with that fine balance of what is ambition and what could end up as delusion. Just out of college, we have our ideas of what the world should be like, how we would contribute to it and what we want to do in it. But life is hardly perfect and probably even life, if it were an entity, doesn’t know what the next moment is going to be like. When our ideas of what life ought to be like, clash with reality, most of us have those ‘Is there any point?’ moments. But what I am slowly learning to accept is that perhaps life wasn’t meant to be this star studded event of cosmic brilliance, life was meant to be about days that turned into months and years. If life really were supposed to be one adrenaline rush, maybe there wouldn’t be so much routine in nature. Maybe because life is also about routine and ordinary stability just like the mighty sun rises everyday in the same way. If it were meant to be different each day, maybe the sun would rise differently each day too, maybe it would end up shuttling between Mercury and Pluto whenever it pleases. I do not mean to say that one shouldn’t aspire to be more, do more, but one should also accept that sometimes life is not all its cracked up to be. Maybe there really isn’t much beyond the horizon, or maybe there is and like John Grogan found out, you are better off with what you have.
Its ok to go slow in life, its ok to be ordinary, because like someone said any idiot can handle a crisis, it’s handling the daily living that is tough. Or like Frank Wheeler himself puts it. “Knowing what you've got, knowing what you need, knowing what you can do without - That's inventory control.” Knowing it all surely isn’t life. Maybe its wise to stop asking, “Is there a point?” when the question has remained unanswered throughout recorded history Life really isn’t perfect and not all of it is in our control, the key is to change what we own and leave the rest to sort itself out, a lesson that I hope to fully assimilate someday.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I am what I am

Here are some common statements people make, specially on those days when you feel down and out, statements that do nothing to change/help you, but instead are designed to keep you hostage in the land of confusion, hurt and stagnation. These are some pretty harmless statements actually, that might even seem like an assessment of your character and a way of helping you out, but beware, unless you know the correct intentions of the person, take these statements. And one final word, the interpretations are based on my experience and understanding, could vary for you.

1. Its for your own good – means that this is what I think is right or this is what I can concede to you. It has got nothing to do with either your good or your bad, its all about the other person.

2. You think too much – unless you are a person who has some sort of an OCD, this just means one thing, you have probably put the other person in a spot, where he/she might have to take some action. This is a techinique of abuse known as minimising or even denying your feelings. By saying you think too much, your abuser is trying to again point out that the problem is with you and that he/she is on the right track and has done everything possible. But has he/she really done everything possible? At the end of this talk you will probably question yourself and the validity of your feelings/reactions, well its their mission accomplished.

3. You are too sensitive – means that you are asking for something the other person is not ready to give. If you are asking your boyfriend to give you more time, he says he has a lot of work (while you find him on facebook or out with friends) and when you confront him, he stays adamant. You break down and he says, you are too sensitive, in that patronising, come-on-calm-down-girl voice, you have to understand that this is not about your sensitivity, but about his lack of it. If you ask your boss why you didn’t get a particular assignment and he/she runs you down similarly, even then realise that you are sane here. Its human to get upset, its human to feel bad if something doesn’t go well, its human to cry over unfairness, so don’t think you are wrong.

4. You are too small/large/brown/pink/blue – any statement that starts with you are too…is 90% of the time patented untruth or a statement of uncontrollable truths. You cant help it if you are tall, you cant help it if your color is brown, you cant help it if you have a muscular figure, its what God gave you. So if you have learnt to live with 6.7 feet of height or 300 pounds of mass, its time the ones who told you this start living with it too. If they don’t, then they always have other options, just like you have others who wont mind these attributes of yours. Never let anyone victimise you about the body God gave you. While its nice to be fit and try to achieve some of that too, its certainly not worth it to get anorexic or bulimic or even fat just to please someone.

5. You are the only person who can do this for me – this is a statement a manipulator uses so that he can get his work done, so what if its your first PTA meeting, so what if its your mom’s birthday, the manipulator will make you do the work with this backhanded praise. Don’t fall for it.

6. I cant because – like I said in a previous post, there is NO cant. There is only WILL NOT because of such and such.

7. Don’t you trust me – classic case of throwing you off by confusing you. And yes, they are probably cheating on you.

8. Do we have to talk about this now – and they sound hurt, stressed out even though you are the one who is hurt, suddenly you are apologising for your lack of consideration. This is just a way of guilt tripping you and avoiding the conversation. The fault is all yours after all, you just are not adept to know that they don’t ever want to talk/change/take responsibility. Normal people, sensitive people believe in solutions, unempathetic people or those who live in denial avoid talking about it.

9. Why cant you just forget/get over it – everyone takes their own time to get over things, and your feelings are your own, there is no fixed time limit or no specific way in which your feelings should be. As someone I admire says, feelings are not right or wrong, they are just there. If you hear this statement, it only means one thing, the person who told you this, doesn’t have the time or sensitivity for your feelings. If they are really caught up in something, you can be understanding, if not, then just learn that this is not the person who can offer you empathy, so look to others for that.

10. You have a victim syndrome – of all the examples, this takes the cake. It puts all the responsibility of all that’s wrong squarely on YOU. While it is true that thinking like a victim makes you powerless and wont help you change, its also important that when someone says you have a victim syndrome, you don’t minimise what the other person has done and look only at whats wrong with you. Own only what is yours, don’t make this about how you need to try more and more, try what you know is reasonable, anything else is unnecessary. I agree with those people who say that victims syndromes were invented by intelligent psychiatrists because they figured that manipulators/abusers don’t come to shrinks to get cured, its always the victims who come and well what better way to keep them and the fees coming rather than say that it’s the victim who is the problem.

Finally one word, everyone owns their perceptions and you can only own your own actions and the perceptions that caused those actions. You cannot and will not succeed in changing anyone else, so quit trying hard. You need to know what is within your control and what is outside yours and once you know that, quit worrying about what is not in your control. Let whoever is in control of that deal with it. You are what you are and if others demand you to be something else, you have an equal right to demand them to be something else. Acceptance is mutual, if you want to be accepted unconditionally, you should accept unconditionally too. Be what you are, no one is perfect and in the end we all do die, so it doesn’t really matter (wink).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Why didn't you understand?

'You were supposed to understand. Didn't I tell you how much I needed someone to understand me? No one ever understood. My family had their own problems, I was supposed to understand them and behave accordingly. At work they would not give me what I deserve and I was supposed to understand because I needed the money. You were the only one who got me. Didn't I tell you how much I cared for you because you understood?'

'I tried, I really tried you know. I tried being nice to you. I know you had your own problems, wasn't I sweet and romantic when necessary? But you weren't satisfied. You wanted more of my time and attention. WTF? How was I supposed to give you more, when you knew that I had so many problems. You should have understood dammit. Now look what you have done to yourself?'

Right in front of him, she lay motionless. The baseball bat was just nearby and the blood was still oozing out of her head.

'I didnt want to do this. Its you, you made me do this. Why didn't you just understand? If you had just stayed quiet, not questioned me, we would have been happy. But you really had to do this didn't you? You were also like the rest of them, just not ready to understand me, accept me. Why, why didn't you understand?'

(P.S. my little attempt at explaining the reverse thinking of psychos and a major trait of theirs called psychological projection)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Crazy love explained in Mahesh Bhatt movies - 2

Part 1 of this post can be found here

Another thing Voh Lamhe explores is the period when Bhatt and Babi had been ardent Osho followers. Though this part has only been touched upon. But Bhatt’s interviews to publications over the years, confirmed a belief that I had held for long. Following a cult is another form of escapism. When you don’t know who you are or what you want, that is the perfect time when a Narcissistic Godman can enter your life. I for one believe that God is not so insecure that he has to declare to the world he is almighty, whereas most Godmen do declare that time and again don’t they? In all religious texts if you read closely, it is said that your God and peace reside in you, but in our dysfunctional relationships with ourselves and the world, we tend to seek God in others and become fresh meat for cult Gods.

A similar escapist way of dealing with the chaos in life is shown very briefly in one of Bhatt’s most brilliant movies – Zakhm. Pooja Bhatt’s character is shown to shut the door to her room and excommunicate herself from her sons whenever she is in great mental distress. It is later revealed in the movie that at such times she would fervently say her prayers to get over her distress. Another passive and escapist way of dealing with the issue of the illegitimate relationship. The less spiritually inclined might go for the numbing addiction provides. No wonder Marx equated religion with addictions.

Movies tend to make us believe that love just happens, that no one can control it. Actually it’s the animal instinct of attraction that is uncontrollable. Love is a set of choices you make everyday. Love they say is an action, and no amount of praying/drinking is going to change anything unless you make the decision to act. And being in an illicit relationship is a choice, one that I have seen some people walk away from, once they realise how crazy it is to be in those shoes. Granted you don’t always know what are the consequences of your actions, but once you know, you can always make the effort to change, rather than chanting “I cant”. Cannot I believe is an unnecessary word in English, there is no cannot, there is only wont, because each of us makes our own choices.

Arth, the first in the Bhatt-Babi trilogy was a story more suited to the moralistic landscape of the time. The characters were black and white, good Shabana and Raj, weak/bad Kulbhushan and Smita Patil. Even Aashiqui which was semi biographical, had the evil hostel warden and good orphan. It was in the later movies that Bhatt experimented with the world and its craziness as it was, without offering justifications for why his characters did whatever they did. They were weak/twisted/evil and though he did give the psychological background of the troubled childhood, he stopped justifying why they were who they were. And Zakhm is perhaps the best example of this. Ajay Devgan’s character doesn’t judge his parents or blame them for his problems, its an acceptance that only age and maturity can give you.

Jism and Murder on the other hand explore the fragility of purely hormonal love as opposed to love based on genuine understanding. Bhatt’s characters in these movies show the darker side of the passion in illicit relationships – the basic uncertainty of them. Mujhko dil se yahi shikayat hai, jo usko mil nahin sakta kyun uski chahat hai goes the song in Jism. Nothing is more draining for the human soul than getting attached to something that rests on a shaky ground. Again separation and starting life afresh requires a lot of courage too, something depicted very well in Arth, but many extra marital affairs are escapism, and if that is what it is, both the parties tend to stay stuck with their partners while playing victims constantly crying if only things were different. Of course since it’s a movie, there is murder, mayhem and lots of drama. Paap on the other hand depicts the flip side of morality and impulse control. A day to day example of this could be how children from extremely conservative families tend to turn out to be the most experimental when it comes to relationships and addictions, the moment they start living in a different city because of work or studies. This movie also explores parental influence in our life choices and also expresses that needless denial of impulses to gain salvation in an after/future life is just pointless.

According to my own understanding most of us make only two mistakes that create all the madness in life. One is refusing to take responsibility for our own actions and the other is denial of reality. Bhatt’s semi autobiographical movies frequently have such characters and Bhatt also reiterates the fundamental truth that no one is good or bad, it’s the choices people make that make them good or bad. Though a lot of the reality gets watered down because of the over dramatisation, characteristic of Bollywood movies, Bhatt still manages to get in some honesty and anyone who has gone through the pangs of growing up to a reasonable level of maturity can see the patterns of thinking that guide his confused/weak/crazy characters.

Many of his central characters have a victim mentality and keep rolling in the muck of self created disasters, something Bhatt depicts taking a leaf out of his own mistakes. On the screen its all a rosy picture, but for Bhatt and the people he touched, living it might not have been easy. And though he probably took a long time to himself own up to the responsibility of his life, in the process, he learnt how to serve up the psychological struggles within his mind with a generous sprinkling of song and dance.

Any successful author would tell you that the best stories ever told are the ones that you lived and Bhatt used this formula film after film. It takes great courage to put up your life under scrutiny for the whole world to see. It may not be the whole truth, but the movies do talk of a life of making mistakes and learning, of being human and fallible.

Crazy love explained in Mahesh Bhatt movies - 1

Since I can remember, my favourite song of all time has been Tere dar par sanam from Phir Teri Kahaani Yaad Aayi. This was Mahesh Bhatt’s second cinematic exploration of his relationship with Parveen Babi. While the first movie Arth focussed on the dynamic of the other woman, Phir Teri was about Parveen’s mental illness and the push-pull of their relationship. As a teenager, Tere dar par seemed to me like the ultimate declaration of love. Its only recently have I realised what a self defeating song it actually is. Many songs of the 90’s had a pining away quality to them, but Tere dar par was probably one of the best/worst examples. Tu na aaya toh ham chale aaye it goes, perpetuating the myth that one doesn’t have any self respect when one is in love. The trouble was that for a lot of people like me who grew up then, this song did not mean a lack of self respect, but a sacrifice of pride, because after all there is no place for pride in love is there?

But if you look at the song in the actual context, you realise it is apt, Pooja Bhatt who plays Parveen’s character, in the movie, is mentally ill and for her Rahul Roy is her only confidante, she is shown as needing him. And Rahul Roy’s character keeps running around in circles with the relationship, knowing fully well that he cant ‘save’ her and yet trying to save her. It’s the classic dysfunctional relationship dynamic. The person who ‘saves’ the lost soul feels good about himself being noble and the person who needs ‘saving’ controls by being helpless and angry alternately. The psychological dynamic is called Karpman’s drama triangle and a lesser known phenomena called codependence.

As I was listening to this song last evening, I was suddenly struck by the number of Bhatt movies that have supposedly star struck lovers. Another movie the songs of which I liked a lot at that time was Gunaah. It had Bipasha Basu as a cop with a troubled past falling in love with, you guessed it, a criminal with a troubled past. Both have a lot of unresolved issues that they hope their love can resolve, an idea which is at best a delusion because like they say even God helps only those who help themselves. The song goes Hamne tumko dil ye de diya ye bhi na socha kaun ho tum. Typical hormonal reaction, jumping into a relationship – the hallmark of the beginning of any dysfunctional romantic relationship. And true enough, Bipasha who is sent to arrest him, is mesmerised by him because of a sudden hormonal reaction. Dino hardly speaks a word in the movie and yet you are led to believe that both of them have fallen in true, undying love.

In fact a lot of our ideas of love as teenagers are fed by these Mills Boonesque ideas (plead guilty of reading many of them) of how love is all you need to ‘save’ the other person. But what happens when the person you are trying to save, doesn’t want to be saved. A lot of people are more comfortable in identifying with the victim mentality, because when you are a victim, nothing you do is your fault, you are not responsible, its circumstances/destiny/God that made you like this. (Remember Bruce Almighty?) Its an easy way out, you don’t have to responsible or go through the actual pain of growing up and taking responsibility. But in real life, if your hurts decide your life, you push away the very people who are closest to you, a self fulfilling prophecy, where you end up exactly at the place you wanted to avoid.
Perhaps a more honest take on Bhatt’s relationship with Babi, was Voh Lamhe, though it still was highly romanticised. It has Bhatt almost admitting to the fact that he in some ways did ‘use’ Babi’s emotional turbulence to further his career (the financial aspect of this was dealt with in Arth) and in turn got entangled in a tangled, haunting relationship. Kangana is trying to run away from the cloud of darkness that her illness is casting on her thinking and anyone who offers her a little attention is instantly her soulmate, so Shiney Ahuja’s character just has to appear to be nice. Shiney on the other hand is trying to run away from his failure and Kangana provides him the reflected glory. Most emotionally disturbed relationships are an escapism, one or more of the person’s is actually running away from other realities in life and trying to find ‘solace’ in the ‘sanctuary’ of a relationship. Perfect recipe for disaster. The songs in this movie however did not have the intensity of relationship dynamics that Phir Teri had.
Continued in part 2 here

Friday, May 21, 2010

They say he's gone!

It’s the kind of phone call you don’t want to receive in the morning. ‘Listen there’s a bad news. A is gone, killed in a road accident.’ And for the next 20 minutes I thought it was just the kind of prank A would play, of course you are joking. And the caller says no Kajal, he really is dead. Dead and gone. His bike tire burst because of the heat and he lost control.

Sometimes you just meet people randomly and you become such good friends with them. A was one such friend. I had met him while on assignment 3 years ago, while I was getting vox pops for a cricket show. He was one of those college boys hanging around Shivaji Park with his circle of friends and they all even did a celebratory dance for the camera when India won. Of all the guys, A was the only one who requested for my phone number and a journalist never lets go of an opportunity to make a new source. So I had given him my number. In the next one year, A would call me randomly just to say hi and then the phone calls stopped. I didn’t bother much because the phone calls were completely random.

Then about a year ago, I got a call from a new number. It was A. He had graduated and had started working. He was talking almost normally but there was an undercurrent. I asked him and he almost broke down as he narrated the story of how he had just recently broken up with his girlfriend of 4 years and how his obsession to just speak to her once had almost sent him to prison for harassment. This surely was not like the carefree college boy I knew. Here was the maturity and perspective that only pain gives you. It was all done and over, but A just couldn’t fathom how something that started out so beautifully could have ended so horribly. Over the next few months he would call sometimes just to chat and we became fast friends. Along with some other friends of his, I would take turns to scold him, tease him and coax him out of his ‘undying’ love. And he would take it all in stride, keep smiling and in a mock imitation of a Bollywood hero would say ‘this is A’s love story, its gotta be different.’

Never once had I thought that this seemingly immature boy, whom we used to all advice about his heartaches, would ultimately be one of those few people who would help me out when I went through a bad phase recently. I could call him at any time of the day or night and he would patiently listen, divert my attention, give me surprise visits just to cheer me up. And he never expected anything but friendship from me. I didn’t feel that I was burdening him with my emotions, I didn’t have to be careful, I could be the emotional girl I am with him. I didn’t have to carry a rep with him or wonder that he would demand a price for his show of affection. All that he expected was a smiling friend in return for his troubles.

Then around 3 months ago, he moved back to Delhi, his hometown. Most of us friends were sad but we felt that after all that he had gone through the last year, going back home would do him good. And true to his style, just last month he came down on a surprise visit to Mumbai just a week prior to my birthday. All of us went out to Gorai to celebrate the engagement of another friend and we were again ribbing him about how he should now get married. His parents were pressurising him and he was dodging it off because he was still in love with his girl and we had again started scolding him.
And now I am left with so much unsaid, so much anger that he is dead. Since morning, I have only been repeating to myself, he is dead, he is dead, as if my repetition would somehow change the reality. I still half expect him to call and say it was all a prank. Listening to ‘kaise batayein kyun tumko chahein’ would be a painful reminder as that was his ringtone. There are so many little things about this friendship, this boy I have only met half a dozen times, things that might live on for quite some time even though he didn’t. Heck he wasn’t even 25. Why this boy who may have only hurt people in ignorance, why not those who make a living out of hurting people? Anger, confusion and just pain at a life that was lost. But A you had a full life, you had friends, you loved like never before and you touched the lives of many. Yes, the few years you lived, you probably lived more than many a lifetime. RIP. Miss you ever.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Maar diya jaaye ki chod diya jaaye

Originally published for the company website

When it comes to Kasab, this is a no brainer you would say. Maar diya jaaye. One of the few terrorists in the world who was caught alive, Ajmal Amir Kasab has now been in jail for around 18 months. And in this period he has been a living, breathing, unscathed reminder of the horrors of the most dramatic terror attack in the history of the world. As I write this, the Mumbai police is in deep discussion with journalists of the city to provide for unhitched and secure media coverage. Security has been increased near the Arthur Road Jail complex and by Monday there will be many more road diversions and restrictions around the area. Newsrooms are abuzz with discussions on how to carry the story, who would follow it and who are the talking heads to consult about this trial.

Everything about Kasab has till now generated a lot of curiosity. He was the one man the nation could punish for not just his acts but for the failure of important security agencies. He was the embodiment of the nation’s frustration, the living proof of why we no longer felt safe in this country. And so the brash behaviour of this 21 year old became the topic of great discussion. ‘Look at how fearlessly and remorselessly he was shooting those people at CST’, ‘He is the one who killed our brave officers’, ‘Look at how he mocks the judges at court’, these were oft repeated sentences showing our collective hatred of one man who reminded us time and again of what we lost and how we failed on 26/11. We burnt effigies, staged plays, made Ganpati pandals and did whatever we could to act out our anger towards him and the ideology he represented.

Since day one every report has been about what is going on in Kasab’s mind, what did he eat, what was he wearing, was he laughing, was he frowning, did he understand the question, has he picked up Marathi, any and every information about the kind of person the aam aadmi is never going to become. We even had people commenting on how well kept he looked, how he was ‘handsome’ (yeah right) and there was also the youngster who declared live on FM radio how she found Kasab cute and would like to meet him (Stockholm syndrome or its variant?). Notoriety after all is not exactly the opposite of popularity, its just the other side of the same coin.

The trial itself went through a lot of twists and turns. First there was no lawyer and the late Shahid Azmi had said that Kasab should be hanged without trial after declaring him a state enemy. Then a little known Anjali Waghmare came in, was spooked out by the Sena and enter Abbas Kazmi, who was later sacked for inconsistencies. And all through this time there was the push and pull between India and Pakistan about who was Kasab. There were the various confessions and retractions and allegations and counter allegations. And despite the heinous crimes, it seemed that Ajmal Kasab had also become a prime time entertainer for our voyeuristic pleasures. Every story about him fed the curiosity of a public trying to decode the mind of a terrorist. The only ones who hated every bit of it were understandably, the victims. Many of those from the lower strata of the society wondered why 31 crores were spent on him, when some of them are still waiting for the lakh or two of compensation sanctioned by government authorities.

On Monday, though it might seem to be the beginning of the end. A verdict shall be pronounced and the question Maar diya jaaye ki nahin would hopefully be answered. But the saga seems to be far from over. In a country where there is a huge gap between the sentencing and the actual punishment, this could just be the beginning of another long drawn process. The questions might shift from whether to hang him to when to hang him, where to hang him and even is there an executioner available? If there is another appeal, then the process could even get longer.

But these questions seem irrelevant to many Mumbaikars. The bigger question as always is whether this would be an exemplary verdict, which would discourage any such attacks in future. Doubtful. Or maybe the mundane question of the layman is more important, ‘Madam Kasab ko phaansi hone ke baad Arthur road ko jo one way banaya tha voh wapas se two way hoga ki nahin?’

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cricket and all that jazz

I should start this post with a disclaimer. The last world cup I followed religiously was more than 10 years ago. The 99 World Cup. And this post is more about memories. 99 World cup was a refreshing break after the 10th board exams for most of us. Those were the days I used to know the names of Kenyan players too. For a person who took pride in the fact of being born in the year the country won the world cup, cricket was a natural obsession. But then the match fixing scandal broke. The idealistic teenager in me was frustrated with the scandals in the game especially heartbroken to know that the fiery team led by Azhar was not all that fiery really. And hence ended the cricket craze for me.

Subsequent World cups were a blur. And especially after players like Jhonty Rhodes quit, I didn’t have the incentive to watch even my favourite underdogs South Africa. With Sachin, it was love, hate, awe, disgust all the usual feelings that the average viewer has for him. And after that the only places I saw cricketers was in ad films. I knew the top brand ambassadors, but didn’t bother again for the one match/series wonders or the team fixtures. Gone were the school friends who would gush about how cool Shahid Afridi was. Even Shoaib Akhtar’s histrionics only held my attention very briefly. Gone was the craze for having a batsman’s average and a bowler’s previous best on my fingertips, today I have almost become the typical girl who doesn’t like cricket much. Not even aapdo Amdavadno chokro Parthiv Patel got me interested.

The only T20 memory I have is of Dhoni’s team passing by my Mumbai home and watching all the frenzy standing at the gate. The team under Dhoni seemed to be getting the same fiery edge that it had long ago. Suddenly my interest was revived, but never did it reach the extent of sitting down to watch even a fast paced T20 match.
But for the first time this year, I thought I would catch up on the IPL action. Felt like watching atleast all the Mumbai Indians matches, 3 years in the city makes you a devotee. The mongoose and its shenanigans seemed interesting. Plus the large screen set up at Press club, friends and the newly acquired habit of gulping cocktails proved to be some incentives. And just one tweet ended it all. This time there was no disappointment, just a quiet acceptance, a ‘this is the way it is’ attitude. But this scandal turned out to be much bigger, murkier. Match fixing seems almost tame now. Anyone who was anybody and their sons and daughters were part of this scandal. Older and hopefully wiser, there wasn’t much idealism left in me and hence not disappointed at all. Just waiting to see whether it would be Mahesh Bhatt, Madhur Bhandarkar or Ram Gopal Varma who would make the biopic on Lalit Modi. More importantly, who will play Sunanda?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The walk

She walked by the beach. Her feet feeling the soft sand, some sort of soothing effect that had on her constantly churning brain. The sand was slipping through her toes, kissing them and then just going by. It was like the eternal dance of time. There was some strange comfort in feeling something not so solid beneath you, in feeling something that moulded itself to you. Sand at the sea is like a lover’s embrace, one that fits your body perfectly. As she walked into the sunset, it felt as if every tension was leaving her through her toes. The sand was absorbing it all. She had long believed that is how love should be. Something that absorbed all your worries, consumed them and replaced them with loving care. But what she had overlooked all this while was that while she was busy getting the loving caress of the sand, the sand itself was getting depressed by her footprints. While she got her love, the sand was losing some parts of itself, being pushed down. Some parts of it was still sticking to her, but most of it was just going down, deep down into some unknown darkness. Was this truly love then?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Here's looking at you kid!

Though I wasn’t born then, I think this line was written for me, or those who share a similar deceptively ‘little girl’ look like me. So as my 27th birthday comes closer, I wonder how many years more will I have to listen to this line or some variation of it. For all practical purposes, I look the same as I did around 10 years ago, which though one would say is a great thing for a girl, has also had its own negative aspects for me.

The first time I heard I don’t look my age was when my long lost cousin met me around 10 years ago. He said you look so young, a naïve me then replied, good na, when I will be 30 no one will guess I am thirty, that will be so cool. Of course back then I thought that I would look somewhat grown up by the time I cross 23-24. Alas, that was not to be and it has caused me endless embarrassment at times.

Like when in my PG course we visited the sets of Kaun Banega Crorepati and the guy at the security wouldn’t initially let me in, because he wanted to ensure I was above 18. Thankfully there was another classmate who looked as small as me so I atleast had a fellow sufferer of the ‘Who’s that kid syndrome’. Then once again in college there was this sweet boy lets call him V, who I had become good friends with. V was in first year college and so was I, only I was in PG first year. We enjoyed joking around and my room mate used to always say he has a crush on you, to which I would say gosh he is a kid, come on and he knows I am older. Wrong. I had said first year mass communication course and he thought it was a graduation course. I still remember the day he actually got to know that I was 4 years older. I shall call upon you to use your vivid imagination to picture how his face must have looked, because the mixture of confusion and slight disappointment at losing a potential girlfriend is something I cant describe too well. Some years down the line, a boyfriend too happened to tell me that the first time he saw me he thought I was ‘just an intern.’

‘Just an intern’ is another thing I have had to face a lot. TV is a game of perception more than anything. And there have been times when I have not been taken seriously despite giving enough and accurate information because apparently the so called viewers think I am a kid so well I couldn’t be saying anything worthwhile. What could the kid possibly know? Then I have had comments on my blog page that are some form of veiled disbelief of my credentials, something to the effect of ‘despite being so young, you seem to have a deep understanding of the issue’ Or take the I-know-it-all-and-hate-it-all gentleman from Shivaji Park, who very ungraciously aired his grievance on how news channels hire these ‘young college’ girls to do stories and that is why the content is going down the drains. WTF? Haven’t they heard that age (in this case perceived age) is just a number? Then there is also the problem of having to either shop at the kids’ section, skipping branded readymade stuff altogether or the hunt for the perfect alteration tailor.

But the kid look has its own advantages. People tend to act sweet around you because they don’t want to trouble the little child. Policemen that I meet on the field always are very sweet and polite, mostly out of disbelief that such a little thing is working all alone in Mumbai. Neighbours become your guardian angels when they see that the poor young thing is managing it all alone and is such a quiet and ‘mature’ child. And when some person is acting difficult on field, you can always make a cry baby face and say please sir, bite de do, mere boss varna bahut naaraz honge. Fleet drivers always offer to carry the tripod for you because main hoon na madam, aap thak jaoge. And one of the compliments I cherish the most, given by a man whom I consider to be my best teacher was, ‘Good things come in small packets.’ That should be enough to shut all you morons who crack jokes at the expense of my ‘littleness’.
So as April draws near, I am starting to feel the first signs of denial about aging. 27? Really am I getting that old? Nah, m just the little kid, aint I?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


It had been a year since he had held her. Memories of serenading her flooded his vision, how he would hold her neck close to his face and drink in her scent. He looked at his phone and wondered if he should call for her. Would she be available now? He had even deleted the number. He ran a frustrated hand through his hair.

She had been his refuge from the chaos in his world. He remembered how he would drown himself in her, burying his sorrows in her. She was the only high in his life, the best thing after every tiring day. She had never failed him. Soon it was difficult for him to imagine life without her company. She was the crutch that helped him face the cruel world and kill his demons.

The relationship was perfect until one day he realised just how much he depended on her. He could not see her that day and it drove him mad. He could feel the shivers, the fear, the frustration and there was no one to take away his pain that day, no one to make the day good again. And when he realised he needed her so, he started hating her. Yes, hatred and a lot of anger. How could he become such a slave to her? He was a man bound by nothing, so there was no way he could be bound by her. His independence was everything to him, he held on to it with all his pride. So he decided he would abandon her, nothing should have so much power over him. His relationship with her was because everyone else had ruled his life, she was the only one who gave unquestioningly. So if now she was gaining power, he had to run. He had to.

He ran. Many times, but each time he would return with a new found intense thirst for her. He would bury himself even deeper into her, he wanted to forget, forget not just the chaos, but also the time he had spent apart. But each time after he returned, he felt worse because it meant she had won. She still had that f*ing hold on him. And that’s how the cycle of abuse started functioning. He would pretend he didn’t need her, that it was she who seduced him everytime. He would play hide and seek with her. But he knew it was not her, it was him, he knew it every moment he spent with and away from her. He hated himself, no he hated her for being so powerful. And what was worse everytime he would reject her and then return feeling helpless, she would still be where he had left her. Loyal and as sweetly seductive as ever. What was it about her that he couldn’t let go?

Then one day he returned after his self imposed exile, burying himself deep into her, so deep he couldn’t feel much, so deep he was almost numb. But the chaos wouldn’t go, now the chaos included her too, voices shouting in his head, accusing him of being a weakling when it came to her. He decided enough was enough, there was no point in trying to leave her, because she would still be there if he returned. So what should he do? He had to survive this and he had to win this. He needed to destroy her for his own sanity. Yes he needed to end her, that was the only option. He worked up the courage and he crushed her, that was the only way to take away her power. Hearing the commotion, his servant came running. The servant was aghast at what he saw. But wordlessly he picked up the pieces of broken glass of his favourite wine brand. She was now just a piece of trash. That was a year ago.
As he glanced at the still empty cabinet, he let out a sigh full of yearning. But he knew he couldn’t go back. As he walked towards his bedroom he remembered the doctor’s wise words – Sometimes what you want and love, is not good for you.

Friday, February 26, 2010


It was the 31st and we had planned to go to Lonavala to welcome the new year. We were supposed to start at 9 pm from Bandra court. At 8 30 the friend who organised it gets a call from our hired driver, "Saab mereko police ne BKC ke paas pakad liya hai." We go like what, why? "Saab woh main apni girlfriend ke saath gaadi mein baitha tha toh police aake hamko pakad liya." Talk about PDA. Amidst confusion over whether we would go for the trip or not our group that had quite a few crime reporters in it called up the policemen apologising profusely for our 'jawaan hai galti ho gaya' driver. Finally thanks to the goodwill of the crime reporters they let him off with a small fine and we could set out, albeit late to our trip. I remember ribbing him all through the trip about the incident, and quite unabashedly he said, "madam aadha ghanta tha aap logon ke aane mein to maine socha ki usko bula loon waise bhi driving ki wajah se time nahin milta." But that was not the end of the excitement. He was a 20 something driving at top speed on the express highway, so naturally we had to have a tire burst at the speed of 140 kms/hour, during which his hands went wobbly as he screeched in a I-am-here-to-control-the-situation-but-dont-know-how-to voice "Kuch nahin hoga, kuch nahin hoga." This incident probably takes the cake when it comes to my experiences with fleet drivers.

In my two and a half years of TV reporting, every day is filled with experiences with fleet drivers, some witty, some cocky, some funny and some sorely lacking. Breaking news and Khabar har keemat par demand that you get a driver who knows the basic layout of the city and yet more than once I have had drivers who have asked in crucially important times, "Madam CST kidhar padta hai?" WTF? These episodes have always resulted in me breaking off the thin barriers of my patience and yelling at the fleet operators back in office.

Then there are those drivers who love flouting rules. They cant keep lanes, they dont understand traffic signals and they love to speed in cars with faulty brakes. So naturally the neighbourhood Pandu gets hold of them. Sometimes when breaking news demands a hassle free movement, we flash our press cards and tell the cops that we are in a hurry, some cops understand and others get even more wild on seeing the press cards, "Media ke ho to kuch bhi kar loge?" The corrupt ones however steal a glance to see if this interaction is being recorded on camera or not. Then at some other times we let the driver face the music. In such scenarios either of the two things happen, the driver proves to be adept at handling the situation or we and the cop come to know that the dude has more offences listed against him than we could have imagined. "Saab license kal doosra saab ne jabti kar liya, chudane ka hai", "Saab license nahin hai", "Woh saab paper aaj hamara malik ne nahin diya", "Kya Saab aap mereko pakda aur usko jaane diya, woh pehle signal toda to main bhi peeche peeche aaya", "Saab aap Jadhav saheb ko jaante hain, mere maama hai", are some of the common answers but I have even had a young driver who cried in front of the traffic cop pleading to be let off. And when he finally was we thought he would be grateful, instead he took to the gear and started smiling mischievously.

Then there are those who have just learnt to drive or are too old to drive. The effect is that they are so scared of everything, applying brakes, changing gears, absolutely everything, so much so that you fear for your life. But one common characteristic with all of them is that despite not knowing a thing they speed, which scares the passengers even more. Once in fact, the driver was so bad that my cameraperson who thankfully knew how to drive had to take over. Or else we would have surely ended up in hospital that day. Another driver was understandably scared on the night of 27th November and dropped me off somewhere in Colaba at midnight rather than taking me all the way to Nariman house. It took me half an hour to find Nariman house on that scary night with no one around me. I thanked my stars I wasnt a girl roaming the streets in Delhi that night, strange how roaming the streets on the night of a terror attack seemed safer than Delhi to me then.

But there are also drivers who are a great help. Some of the drivers double up as camera assistants, carrying your tripods, helping you around. Some of them are more informed about what is going on in the city than the news channels. Other older drivers give you insights into the city's history and psyche that no one else would give you. And some others are an asset just because they know all the routes and take you to the right place even in the dead of the night. Some of them help you with the local language and some of them know the best and cheapest roadside eateries to take you to. Well enough said now, I gotta go and ask the fleet for a cab to take me to a shoot to far off Mulund, hope I have a good driver today. Oh, did I mention my last driver had the loudest and awfullest ringtone ever or about the one who plays 90's loser songs all the time??

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Can you let go?

Has it been raining break ups or what? Suddenly in the last few months so many of my friends have ‘broken up’ that I seem to have heard about all sorts of reasons for break ups and seen all sorts of ways people deal with them. For a person with limited actual experience, I think its great I got to hear of these things, I atleast know what not to do now. So one of those usual coffee discussions about the big R word and my friend says, ‘So you don’t believe that there are people who cant let go of their love?’

Honestly, I think we can do whatever we want, if we put our mind to it. So yes, we can let go of love too. But with the numerous second hand break up experiences and my limited experiences, this is what I have learnt of people who don’t let go. Prime reasons are as follows.

  1. Fear : What if I don’t get anyone else, what if its not the same as this? Frankly these are tricks your mind is playing on you. There are 6 billion people in this world, surely you can get someone else.
  2. My pain is my badge of honor : You wear your pain on your sleeve. You tell the world how much you have suffered and how despite all that you are still surviving. You don’t let go coz it satisfies this need of yours to tell others that you have gone through shit and still you are surviving bravely (?). Now unless you can write poems like Ghalib (a famous Urdu poet) out of that hurt or you can build a Taj Mahal out of that pain, its not worth holding on.
  3. Guilt trap : For some others it is a matter of revenge and reverse control. They want to make the other person feel bad about what they did. So they act all hurt and hold on to that hurt and bitterness all their life. Even if they get someone else who is actually better they wont allow themselves to be loved, because then they would lose that righteous anger of theirs.
  4. My love is the purest : I happen to know some of these people. They don’t let go coz they think that they are the ones who are responsible to prove it to the world that true love still exists. You ask them why are they torturing themselves, they tell you how can they let go of true love? They are proving just to themselves that their love is pure and divine. By no means am I saying that true, honest love doesn’t exist. Thing is you don’t have to prove its existence. And if you have to prove it to someone, seriously are they worth your time?

And all of these people are uncomfortable with their status. You can forever hear them saying that they want to move on, that they want to get out of it or that they want to let that person stop affecting them, but honestly they don’t want to do any of it. They want to hold on for all the above mentioned reasons. So to all of them, people decide what you really want and then just stick to it and more importantly, take responsibility for what you decided. If you want to keep crying, then realise that you made that choice. If you want to get out of it, decide that and don’t look back. In the end, life works itself out.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My 160 sq. ft. on Mumbai

Two cents are not of much use in Mumbai. What is really worthwhile is a having a small 160 sq ft apartment for yourself. I happen to be lucky enough to have one on rent, happily given to me by a Marathi Manoos and hence here is my 160 sq ft on this city.

2009 has been a tough year for the city. Living in the shadow of 26/11, recession and parochial violence, the city once again endured a lot. Add to this, poor rains in a city that always makes headlines for its torrential rains.

So 2010 started on a bleak note for the city. As the days progressed things went from bad to worse. The city’s water crisis has become a major cause of concern for the ‘aam aadmi’. Every day most of us wake up with or even before the sun to fill up our buckets and tubs so that we have enough water to last through the day. The state irrigation minister has for the time being diverted some water from the irrigation department for drinking water purposes, to keep the water cut from increasing to more than the current 15%. Then there are the reports that two hydel power plants will have to be shut during the summer due to water shortage. Which means some more power cuts in areas that already have many hours of load shedding daily. The prices of vegetables are already high. For singles like me who live mostly on take away food, these hikes have resulted in more than 2k rise in our spending, not something we can afford in times of recession. Summer would mean irrigation problems and further shortage in vegetables raising the prices even more. It is going to be one tough summer this year for Mumbaikars.

So every day while I scan the newspapers I think that there would be some good news to tell me that the summer would be better. That there is some policy change, some statement, some tussle in political circles over these issues that touch me everyday. But everyday I hear of andolans for North Indians, Marathis and every other thing but no word on how the city is to survive this summer. And in the midst of this all, the leases of many occupants of my building too will expire, which could mean some more money to be shelled out. So this summer I wonder, along with my Marathi neighbours, if there would even be a 160 sq ft of borrowed ownership that we could claim in Mumbai, while politicians and socialites debate on who the whole city belongs to.