My voice on #MyChoice

My voice on #MyChoice.


My voice on #MyChoice

Late last year, when I first saw the then viral video “Ladke rote nahi/Boys dont cry”, I gasped out loud. Though I had initially assumed the film spoke of “tough” men having to suppress their emotions and cater to societal stereotypes (in this case, a boy is repeatedly told to leave crying to the opposite sex, because “ladke rote nahi”), at the end of it all, the message cut across sharper than the non plussed gaze of the man in the last segment who had evidently beaten up a woman and had the audacity to look smug about it. Violence against women speaks a universal language, no matter if hidden behind the strong sound proof doors of a swank condo in an uptown metro city  or behind the ragged curtains of a dilapidated slum. Some moments after the video had run its course, I could still feel my goose-flesh crawling at the powerful message. And the message is simple – real men don’t make others cry instead of not crying themselves, and the change begins with you. An effective reminder that men and women are equal stakeholders in the battle to empower women. You cannot hope to change one without changing the other. Brilliant,Vinil Mathew.

Hence it was with barely contained enthusiasm that I clicked on the next film of the campaign by Homi Adajania. The hype, the track record, the immense popularity the video had already gained online by the time I got my hands on it, not to mention the beautiful Deepika Padukone gracing its cover, I was certain this would be metaphorical gold. And I was deeply disappointed.

First, I was more distracted than dazzled by the myriad images of women flashing across the screen.Some faces were popular (which obviously got more screen time), others vaguely familiar. Then there was the occasional tribal woman or smiling villager, interlaced with women miming screams and argument in blink and you’d miss it instances.Shots with Deepika in them gave the distinct feeling of having been stolen from a hair care ad, complete with shining flying hair.If this was a diamond jewelry ad in classic black and white, sure. But for a social cause, its less social and more glamorous.It may be just I, but a slide show which consisted of impeccably styled, good-looking and well-known women for most part, with a running commentary that more or less translated to “thank me for tolerating you” didn’t really stir up the emotions that the makers were gunning for.And that’s not even taking into account Deepika’s depressingly deadpan delivery. Really, what happened to the actress that never fails to impress with the depth she brings into the characters she portrays? (Remember nerdy Naina and vociferous Veronica? It’s hard to believe the unquestionably phenomenal actress who brought those characters to life is the same person.)

Reviewing the transcript after watching the video, my feelings (which were basically – “huh?”) didn’t abate. What was the message here, even if it was crammed between all those ideas? Issues women suffer – Negative body image, okay. Curfew hours, alright. (Being judged for wearing) Revealing clothes, of course. “My pleasure may be your pain”(basically, hurting you is “my choice” – I don’t care), or adultery.. no. A truly free woman would walk away from a relationship that she did not want instead of cheating. A strong, intelligent woman would empathize with another’s feelings, male or female.

Then there was something about the size of spirit, tree & forest, “I am not a snowflake, you are the snowflake” or something like that. And being the universe (?) infinite in every direction(doesn’t infinite mean there is no direction involved?). I may be dense when it comes to philosophy, but we trying too hard to sound cool?

Backpedaling a bit, “even as my spirit roams naked” As opposed to a fully clothed spirit? Wait, (sic.) “To use cotton and silk to hide my soul is to believe you can halt the expansion of the universe,or capture sunlight in the palm of your hand.” Huh? Last I heard, clothing is for the body, not the soul. Malala Yousafzai was shot at in her battle for female education, and it had nothing to do with her clothing and everything to do with her spirit.Among countless things, Indira Gandhi played a pivotal role in the intricate tapestry that was Indian politics in her heyday, she was one of India’s most successful PMs and she did it clad in a cotton saree. Doesn’t she define indomitable spirit to you as she does to me? Did these women, and countless others who have made their mark in history, need anyone at all to validate the fact that they are free spirits? What are we expecting, men vehemently agreeing when a woman says “its my choice to sleep outside marriage” and that being our free pass to liberation? And if a man were to say exactly the same thing, feminists all over the world would have been down on the unfortunate loudmouth’s head like a veritable ton of bricks. Is it suddenly appropriate just because a pretty woman  with flying hair claims its her right?

A beautiful, successful, rich actress talking about how her choices are her own doesn’t help the acid attack victim who faces ostracism through no fault of hers. It doesn’t help the rape attack victim who was mauled in a way that she shuns masculine contact for a large part of her life, if not all – again, through no fault of hers. Choices? Give me the mother who starves herself to save for a child’s education at a construction site. Give me the little girl who saves up to open a new bank account instead of spending money on candy. Give me the girl who became India’s first IPS officer despite having a granddad who cut the family allowance because her elder sister was enrolled in a convent school. These are women of character, and I’ll be damned if they ever need to ask for their station in life.

Choice is powerful. But the fact remains that some are born to its privilege, others spend their lives fighting for it, while still more succumb to a life without it. Or worse, succumb their lives in the fight for it. Think honor killing. Is it fair? No. Did this video cause a pause? I sincerely doubt it. Do we need to change societal mindset? Maybe. Question is, why would an empowered woman even care about society?

Artist in doubt, your art is priceless….

DateCreated 11/29/2011 8:15:00 PM
PostedDate 11/29/2011 8:15:00 PM
  A few weeks ago, I was walking with her around the little museum we’d always meant to visit on the other side of town. We slipped in right before it closed and it was like stepping into a vault of solemn beauty. We spoke in our best library voices and talked about which paintings we liked the best, which sculptures we’d smuggle home, which artists communicated well.

“I love being here”, she said.”It’s so peaceful. It makes me think that this”,she said, gesturing to the art all around the room,”is what I want to do with my life. I wish it mattered, though. I wish art did something for people.”

“But it does!”I exclaimed. “It does so much. Without art.. well.. people wouldn’t…”

I trailed off. I couldn’t find the right words for what I was trying to tell her. I believed wholly that art mattered and that it matters, but I hadn’t the slightest way to convince her of this. I was sad, scared that she believed that her painting, her photography, her fashion were meaningless and frustrated by my inability to communicate otherwise. We kept walking around the gallery and the conversation faded, but her question has been ringing in my mind ever since.

I’d like to attempt a better explanation for what I was trying persuade her of. I’m fully aware that I’m not saying anything new or refreshing, but I can’t shake the sense that I need to say it. For my benefit, as well as for hers.


Dear Artist,

As you well know, we lived in the realm of imagination when we were children. The boundaries between the creativity of the mind and the reality of everyday life were fuzzy for us. Your old trunk of dress-up clothes was a seemingly bottomless repository of new identities, new stories. We made up for our lack of real pets by inventing invisible ones, spirit animals, whose appearances were ripped from the animal encyclopedia. We built miniature communities from toy train tracks and played for hours in these tiny worlds. I think we lived more in our colorful minds than anywhere else.

As we grew up, we gradually shed these imaginary retreats. Some of us started playing sports; some withdrew into books, to worlds that had already been created for us; but you didn’t relinquish your creativity so easily. In many ways, you’ve maintained it much more carefully than the rest of us have. This is why you are still an artist today.

You asked me in the museum if art mattered and you seemed to have already reached the conclusion that it didn’t. I didn’t have a good answer for you then, but I wanted to let you know that I profoundly disagree with your conclusion.

This is why I think art and your art, especially; matters. You asked if art really did anything for people. You’re right that it doesn’t put a roof over people’s heads or give them clean drinking water. Art doesn’t reform women’s rights in the third world or end famines. But it matters because it reaches the soul, a place that no amount of foreign aid or number of peacekeeping troops can reach. Great paintings, songs, poems, films, and novels accomplish a work in the heart and mind that nothing else can accomplish, which is also why art has existed for as long as people have existed.

Most importantly, I believe art communicates the divine. As a believer, all forms of great art, even if they are not explicitly religious, point me back to God. I am reminded of the goodness of the created world, the beauty that we have learned to find and express, and the strange mercy of the Almighty. Even those who do not believe in a supernatural force find something uniquely spiritual and enduring about the communion between the self and a great work of art. The next question, then, is what is a great work of art, but that’s another pompous, rambling letter for another time.

I just wanted to tell you to keep doing what you’re doing. It matters. 

Love always

Calf love.. oh those days :)

PostedDate    9/16/2011 4:42:00 PM

Forever was always taking every day at one time until.. I saw him smile, then forever seemed to be really never-ending. Yet it seemed to have started so suddenly. There dawns upon me a sentiment change, for there was a song in my lips and an unbearable, almost vertiginous lightness in my being. There I know, I am in love.

At first, I don’t think much of it though. The first time I met him; its been forever now.. we were never friends, never enemies, never clear what we both wanted.(Though we did try sorting it out and muddled up even more.. lol) I just wondered why I always feel something different every time I saw him. Time flew like a whirlwind every instance I ever wanted it not to. It was quite weird and I tried to shrug it off.

It was pure pleasure to see him, to be with him, to merely watch him. I have kept my feelings for him for I don’t want to lose him or worse be rejected. But deep in my heart there was that faint glimmer of hope that someday somehow he would fall in love with me. I knew it was foolishness to hope and wish that he’ll feel the same way that I do, it was like wishing for the moon.

Slowly, as I saw more of him he grew in my heart and in my thoughts. It appeared unmoving during the lonely midnight hours when I couldn’t sleep and I longed to hear his voice and yearned for his company. In the darkness created by the void, I groped for him. I felt alone and fear crept inside me because I know no matter how great my love is, it wouldn’t mean a thing, for there is no one will nurture that love.

For a long time I asked myself over and over if I had really loved him enough. Yes. I loved him, sufficiently in the ways I knew how. But I know, no matter what I do, he wouldn’t fall in love with me. I wanted so much to be with him but I know it wouldn’t be right. I realized, I have let him go and I have to move on, but it was hard.. really, really hard. Maybe they were right, we shall remain friends, and I know I will only be his friend. A friend to lean on, a friend he can cry on, and a friend who will always stay beside him.

His smile is still there, I will always see it coming, and I will always cherish his smile, and that face of the person who never knew what I really felt.

Maybe nothing was lost, no friendship to mourn for, only a battle that was sacrificed.I forgot what forever was when I wanted him so much in it. I have to say good-bye.

Loved, lost, and lived :) … a tribute to a friend

So much has happened since I’ve been myself, I’m quite at a loss for a place to begin, The last few months were hazy but bright, and made me see things in a perspective I hadn’t before.

The sabbatical from my infatuation land has lasted almost forever & now, finally, I think I’m settled. It has been a long, tiring and pretentious journey, which in some ways continues; has seen me through; on one hand, really dark hours, lonely nights, agonizing over nothingness with no belief, faith, purpose no one to share it with & on the other hand I’ve witnessed a glimpse of myself, bliss, joy of being able to read my own mind & channel my thoughts, the pure ecstasy of being able to implement them at the right time & experience an unimaginable flourish of emotions & thoughts & belonging with others. I emerge much stronger, calmer, happier & with unshakable faith in myself than ever before.

Many people have had many opinions & judgments on how I handled myself and a lot of circumstances. Close friends were quick in drawing their own conclusions, and unfortunately were close enough to realize just how miserable I was despite the pretense. After my brush with losing me,which taught me to see things in a whole new perspective, I cut off from a lot of people because I could not continue to be miserable any longer.It was a wake up call, I am glad that I did for once, listen. I was sick & tired of feeling lonely, I was exhausted of hoping against hope, waiting in my heart of hearts (to some not quite so unobtrusively) for something to change.

I could not deal with a lot that was thrown my way, and I see that now. I didn’t have the courage.. or sensitivity.. I don’t quite know which – to know and admit how I felt. And what I couldn’t admit to myself I couldn’t admit to anyone else. I couldn’t explain why I was morose and sullen and only pretended to enjoy what I used to. I had lost touch with my reality. It just seemed dripping off hypocrisy. And because I do things from the heart, if something does not appear right to me, to my values -I can’t do it.That’s probably why I’m also one of the most politically incorrect people one can hope to come across. It was a courageous choice, if I ever wanted a chance at being happy. It meant letting go of lots of baggage, turning to myself, facing my own demons, going through nightmares & sometimes avoiding sleep as much as humanly possible to avoid them, being so restless, being brutally honest with myself & still be positive & hopefully in the near future -loving.

And I had to do it, to forget, to move on, as if it meant nothing. It probably did mean nothing to anyone but I. To me however, there was a whole lot of moving on to do, and I’m getting there.

“Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet.”

I have found that every smile doesn’t carry happiness behind it; there are some smiles which are just to veil the pain one is going through. How people who are the most verbal have the least sense of propriety or commitment. How people can say anything, as long as that makes them look intelligent or part of a herd. How people have forgotten the reasons why they chose something if they ever had one. I have found people who have topped academically can be the most silly things one can find. I have found people become friends to pass the time.I’ve found that if you are in love with a person you will always be a little in love with them, no matter how much water passes under the bridge since they proved to you how unworthy they are. If what you feel is true, they will always be the one person with who every significant other you are with, will be compared.

When I took my head out of my chest to look at those who were around me, I grew to see how beautiful people really are. There is so much joy in the world, and so much sadness. Happiness is light; to the misery of darkness. Light is everywhere, darkness is not a substance – just the absence of light. People get into relationships for sex, to end their loneliness, just to ‘go out’, to pump their ego instead of growing, sharing, to help each other let go of their problems & become innocent.. childlike again, to relate to one another, to find oneself through another. Love does conquer all, it does move the world.

By and by I have learnt that I don’t have to hide my pain; dawn never arrives before the darkest hour when it all flips and turn into bliss. Life is a process of creation not a process of discovery. One has to create one’s own reality. Anything is possible. Learning is largely unnecessary, awareness is of absolute essence. All one really has to do is align their heart and mind and remember what we already know. One can be happy, regardless of the situation. Happiness is really a state of mind. In what I have seen, pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. I have learnt it’s necessary to forgive, and not always for others.

I’ve found that you know you are in love with someone when he makes you want to be a better person everyday and when their name becomes a part of your prayer. Not a prayer asking them for yourself but asking that they be happy come what may, even though you hate the hurt. Yet when I love, I can only be at peace when I accept that I do. Love is the most beautiful experience one can ever have, and that doesn’t change because one is destined to love alone.

I believe… (plagiarized.. but so true!)

I believe-
that we don’t have to change friends
if we understand that friends change.

I believe-
that no matter how good a friend is,
they’re going to hurt you every
once in a while and you must forgive
them for that.

I believe-
that true friendship continues to grow,
even over the longest distance.
Same goes for true love.

I believe-
that you can do something in an instant
that will give you heartache for life.

I believe-
that it’s taking me a long time
to become the person I want to be.

I believe-
that you should always leave loved ones
with loving words. It may be the last
time you see them.

I believe-
that you can keep going
long after you can’t.

I believe-
that we are responsible for what we do,
no matter how we feel.

I believe-
that either you control your attitude
or it controls you.

I believe-
that regardless of how hot and
steamy a relationship is at first,
the passion fades and there had
better be something else to take
its place.

I believe-
that heroes are the people
who do what has to be done
when it needs to be done,
regardless of the consequences.

I believe-
that money is a lousy way of keeping score.

I believe-
that my best friend and I can do anything
or nothing and have the best time.

I believe-
that sometimes the people you expect
to kick you when you’re down,
will be the ones to help you get back up.

I believe-
that sometimes when I’m angry
I have the right to be angry,
but that doesn’t give me
the right to be cruel.

I believe-
that just because someone doesn’t love
you the way you want them to doesn’t
mean they don’t love you with all they have.

I believe-
that maturity has more to do with
what types of experiences you’ve had
and what you’ve learned from them
and less to do with how many
birthdays you’ve celebrated.

I believe-
that it isn’t always enough to be
forgiven by others. Sometimes you
have to learn to forgive yourself.

I believe-
that no matter how bad your heart is broken
the world doesn’t stop for your grief.

I believe-
that our background and circumstances
may have influenced who we are,
but we are responsible for who we become.

I believe-
that just because two people argue,
it doesn’t mean they don’t love each other
And just because they don’t argue,
it doesn’t mean they do.

I believe-
that you shouldn’t be so eager to find out a
secret. It could change your life forever.

I believe-
that two people can look at the exact
same thing and see something totally.

I believe-
that your life can be changed in a matter of
hours by people who don’t even know you.

I believe-
that even when you think you have no more
to give, when a friend cries out to you
you will find the strength to help.

I believe-
that credentials on the wall
do not make you a decent human being.

I believe-
that the people you care about most in life
are taken from you too soon.

by Unknown

DateCreated 7/6/2011 11:26:00 AM

PostedDate 7/5/2011 10:59:00 PM

Love is a funny thing. You expect it to be easy. You expect it to be a world of roses and laughter and perfect moments that you find only in good books and bad movies. You expect them to always say the right thing and always know exactly how you feel, or exactly how to react. You expect them to calm you down when you’re yelling or to chase you when you run way. You expect so much that you feel entirely and utterly defeated when something doesn’t exactly match up with all your plans. But that’s the fun part. Love isn’t a plan. It doesn’t have a certain beginning and it certainly has no end or visible finish line to those deeply in it.

Love doesn’t happen all the time; and when it does, its so incredibly messy, its unbelievable. People around you can’t comprehend why you do the things you do, or why you fight so hard for something that seems to cause you so much pain, because simply, they can’t see it. They can’t see the invisible ring of insanity that surrounds you when you’re in love, which somehow seems the most sane thing in the world. Its inconvenient and painful and devastating at times, a lot of times, but we can’t live without it. What you don’t learn is how hard love is. How much work it takes. How much of ourselves we have to put into it. How it isn’t worth it until we are complete and utter idiots about it.

Love isn’t someone calming you down when you yell. Its they yelling, just as loud, just as hard, right back at you, right in your face to wake you up and to keep you grounded. It isn’t them bring you roses everyday or cute things that make your relationship appear more presentable. No. Its after a long fight that drains the life and bones right out of you both, them showing up at your door the next morning anyway. It not them saying all the right things or knowing exactly how to handle you. Its not them caressing your hair and telling you everything will be alright. It someone standing there, admitting they are just as scared as you are. You have to remember that with love, your not the only one involved. You’ve unknowingly put your life, your heart into the palms of another person’s hands and said, “Here – Do what you will. Mash it into mince meat. Or forget I ever handed it to you. As long as you have it.” Its being able to say I love you regardless and meaning it.

Love makes us crazy. It makes reality invisible and it erases all the lines that we shouldn’t cross. Because love is not about fencing ourselves in; feeling safe, feeling sure about the future. It’s about scaring the shit out of every nerve in our body, and pushing forward anyway. Because all the fighting and all the tears and all the uncertainly is worth it. And it’s a hell of a lot better, than being 100% happy without someone to show us that there is a world of difference between feeling happy and feeling whole.