25.3.07

Hind sight

One more time I hear someone say, “Hips don’t lie” or pun on that phrase, I will scream.

Okay, so Shakira has arrived. We know what her suite looks like, what fruits will be placed in her room, what flowers she fancies, and the rest of the blah. But will we please just stop this nonsense about the measurements of her rear? What is the big deal? It could be 38 or 40. So?

This is cheap, disgusting and very déclassé. And these are the supposedly elite sorts who are going to shell out big bucks to watch her perform. And then someone has the gall to assume that she invented belly dancing. Wait a minute. Have you seen those women from Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan?

There are articles in the papers on ‘How to do a Shakira’. Serious. When our item girls contort their bodies, it is called tacky; when our film actresses shake their booties, it is dismissed as jhatkas. Some Spanish woman with big hair thrusts her behind and they go ballistic about her “sinuous movements”.

Here is a piece of advice for these star-struck fools: Next time you want to watch sinuous, just watch the snakes perform with amazing grace. And they don’t even have hips.

Licking 'em

Given the current ‘heat’ generated by a Spanish singer, let me reproduce something I wrote about the Rolling Stones tour of 2003. There are region-specific words, phrases...and of course the spellings follow the pronunciation!
- - -
Yeh Rolling Stones kya hai?” asked Qadri saab.

Tauba!” exclaimed his begum, “All your madrassa training is going waste waise hi…don’t you know it means ludakte patthar? Palestine mein children are throwing to protect themselves. You have no idea about worldly affairs…”

Harminder Kaur snapped, “Ai lo ji, we are discussing our building’s plaster and you are going on about world-shorld. But lat me tell you my puttar vaint for show at Brabbun Stadium and this Rolling Stone is not some anaap-shnaap thing. They are big band. I think so that Kran Jowar maast ask them to give tuning in his naxt film. I rad that they are urban boys, not gaon ka laundas like Bittles.”

Hai rabba, meri sohni,” said Kushal Singh. “Your knowing pooree duniya da band-baaja. Parande di kasam, tusee vadee mast cheez ho. But I am also coming from behind you, so I know one more andar di baat. That Mick Jaggery is called sexy rubber lips.”

Dakshaben, looking aghast, nudged in, “Ok, ok, Sardarji. Shu motee vaat chhe? If he goat rubber lip then our Sharukhbhai now has titan neck, samajh ma aavyo?”

“Titanium,” declared Sohrab Mistry. “Why dismiss the West? Look at aapro Zubin, he does us proud.”

“What you are saying? He only takes that laakdi and moves it up and down. Our Narendrabhai did it and whole Gujarat was like daandiya-raas,” said Karsanbhai.

“Enough!” Sohrab was agitated.

Mare-re, evan ne knowledge nathi, tu javaa de,” pacified his wife, Dinu. “Do you know the Rolling Stones listen to Bach and were on the Licks tour?”

Hailaa! Iph they needed stray barking dogs they should have only just fingered me, like this, chutkee, and I wood contact my Bhau in mooncipalitee to arrange all licking. I wood satisfy them, aai shapath.” O.J.Tambe looked pleased.

But his better half, Shantatai, told him clearly, “Whyphor you want to put your foot in mooncipaltee truck?”

Anando Chattopahdyaya just shook his head. “Naathing like Robindro shongeet to give phool shatishfacsun.”

Ooree baba, and what I am doing all this time for you, hain? Your not pheeling good phrom my machher jhol? From shondesh? I am bringing phrom all gullies in Kolkata all phor you. And in phool public adda you saying your happinesh ish phrom old gramaphone?” The building’s favourite boudi was very upset.

The quiet Mervin D’cruz mumbled, “And to think we used to jam to the Stones, those were the days.”

Haan, kya zamaana tha, Ghalib, Mir…” trailed off Qadrisaab, till he realised he had goofed. Watching his sad face, the Begum said, “Fik’r mat karo. These big akhbaar log have told the band people about the state of the persecuted minorities in our country. Sab theek ho jaayega ab.”

Faaltu, the corner shop boy, who was listening, finally asked the group, “Thandaa mangta kya?” They all nodded happily. “Nimbu-paani chalega? Apun ab yeh firangi maal nahin rakhta. Saala log ko bumb bhi seedha maarne aata nahin, tau mooh faad ke gaane se kya faayda?

12.3.07

Not Muslim enough?

I thought I had mellowed down in the past few days. But as I read the papers today, the bile rose again. An editorial in the Times of India titled We're Not Understood discussed how the film Black Friday had been unfair in its portrayal of the Muslim problem. As some of you may know, I have already written this in the Counter Currents issue dated Feb 19 reproduced in my blog post here.

Is it possessiveness that is riling me? No. This is a subject that needs to be exposed, and I did not see anyone else do it. I did stick my neck out, and although the publication where it was published is a niche website I might like to state here that all my articles there have been on several mailing lists and been quoted. So, it isn’t a ‘hidden fact’.

The writer of the current lead editorial has been described as a political commentator. And political commentators are supposed to be serious as hell, which is why my piece had an “emotional content”, although the ideas expressed are virtually the same.

What bothers me is this façade of seriousness. I can see all those little Muslim organisations getting very excited because a member of the majority community has been so sensitive in voicing how they are “not understood”. Does anyone here know that some people have even said that I have no right to discuss Muslim issues because I am not Muslim enough? So someone who is not Muslim at all is kind of okay-dokey? It makes them feel so wanted. I am waiting for some of the email forwards to come my way.

I was accused of taking the film “personally”. What will they say about this writer? Words like social consciousness will be thrown around.

It is getting so tiresome. I got a letter from a reader saying that someone found my column in the Asian Age, A Feminist Manifesto, had a Muslim bias! I wrote back: “If the person has detected a Muslim bias in this particular piece, then it is unfortunate and reveals a counter bias of insisting on seeing things where none exist.”

When I do have a bias I flaunt it on my sleeve, not under my armpit like a meethi chhuree (a sweet knife).

8.3.07

Here's looking at you, woman!


This picture is courtesy an anonymous graphic artist. Found it in my old files. It conveys beautifully what I believe in - no one is too small. If you close your fist on someone, then you are the loser. If you open up your palm then the other can create beauty in you and with you.

"Haath chhoote magar phir bhi
Rishte nahin toota karte
Waqt ki shakh se
Lamhe nahin toda karte"

6.3.07

A Feminist Manifesto

Maverick: A Feminist Manifesto
by Farzana Versey
The Asian Age, Op-Ed, March 6, 2007

Her eyes pierced mine, the embers of her anger lined in ashen kohl. “For goddess’s sake, it is wimmin, not women!” she said.

I felt pity for her. Her career depended on seeing everything – cookery to clitoris – from a feminist perspective. She floundered when she sought political correctness in nomenclature, but forgot to include the gods in it. You want a goddess, then you darn well get a poetess.

Cut out the piffle. After all the trouble it is silly to call one another ‘sistahs’ like it is some Harlem kitty party.

It is unfortunate that feminism hasn’t grown up as a movement. It is still about the proprietorial “Woman with a body and mind of her own”, as though someone is going to take these away. Trust me, no one is planning to borrow your G-spot.

What? This is not important? Feminists who write learned theses on sexuality silently accept the falsity dished out by male sexologists. What puts me off is when a guy whimpers that his is small and wonders if he will be able to satisfy a woman, the ‘expert’ tells him, “A woman experiences pleasure within two inches of her vagina. Size has nothing to do with it.”

Why are all women being herded into this two-inch space? Why don’t they take out protest morchas against such denial of individual needs and reductionism?

They have become territorial about certain issues that ought to be the concern of men who are responsible for these, anyway – rape, domestic violence, dowry deaths, female foeticide.

Feminist breakthroughs have in fact trapped women and freed men.

Live-in relationships: Here you fake a whole marriage, including paisley curtains, instead of orgasms.

The Pill: Women pop it to avoid pregnancy, not to empower themselves. That is exactly what men want – a woman who is not seeking posterity for her egg.

The Dildo: Guess who has the biggest smile? No performance anxiety, no worries. Woman going whirr and man going zzzz.

Lingerie liberty: In the beginning they burned bras. It was a symbolic gesture but there have been naïve women who took it quite literally. The Victoria’s Secret we shared was sacrificed at St. Michael’s altar. Why? No more fumbling with straps for men. As a bonus they also got wet T-shirt contests.

A fledgling artist who spends her time in society pages has decided to paint male nudes because she is tired of the ‘women as sex objects’ logic. “I decided to reverse the roles and asked how men would feel if I made them sex kittens?”

The male ego would feel gratified; they are aching to be sex kittens. It is like this: After unleashing the beast in them in bed men, unlike women, don’t go into moral spasms and ask, “I hope you don’t think I am like that”.

Like what? Is the dreaded word ‘whore’? Women writers complain they are called whores when they write about sex. Should they mind it? Yes, as much as they ought to when they are called scientists, simply because it is unfair to the categories of women who are qualified in those fields.

Why did the committed actress take umbrage when the moon-sighting imam called her a “naachne-gaanewaali”? No one would assume that the man has much sense, but what made the feminist in her protest? Has she not used this very section of women to ‘get into the character’ for certain roles? Does she too look down upon them?

Objectification of women at the level of mass marketing is disconcerting. However, the idea of demand and supply is there in all human endeavours, including spirituality. A naked sadhu could be a sexual object when seen outside the context of his particular form of spiritualism.

Every ideology is based on countering an established premise. But an ‘ism’ should work as a prism and show us varied colours. I wouldn’t even read a book called Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus because gender differences are obvious to the naked eye and an open mind.

Much as I admire Gloria Steinem for her fishnet stockings, I think she could do with better similes than “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle” to underscore the dispensability of men. The other sharp-shooter, Maureen Dowd, asked in her eponymous book: “Are men necessary?”

I find this poser insulting to women. Why do we have to view the world in a male-centric way? Even lesbians who claim to be feminists are playing roles. There is the typically dominant partner, who looks and acts like a man.

The new wave has spawned a series of supposedly sensitive men. Watch the ladies who lunch. Mrs. Khanna will tell Mrs. Gaitonde, “Haan ji, mere has-bend bohat isportive hain.” Fortunately, this supportive husband is not like the urban rake who apes the woman aping the man to call himself a feminist. This creature has depilated his whole body, put little pouches of pot-pourri in his closet, wears net shirts and tells his women ‘buddies’, “I understand where you are coming from”, as though they don’t know.

I still call myself a feminist just as I call myself a woman. I do believe as much in International Women’s Day as I do in ‘Share a smile’ day. Every occasion is a celebration. Will I take to the streets? Sure. Just send me the limo.




3.3.07

Nishabd: A soundless love

People are protesting against the film Nishabd. Most of them have not seen it; I have not seen it. Therefore, I can only comment about the idea behind it. A young 18-year-old falls in love with a 60-year-old man. Hers is an impulsive attraction; his appears many-layered and in a rare move he confesses this truth about his feelings to his wife. As I said, how it has been dealt with I will know later, but for now I applaud the honesty.

The criticism, as always, is that these sort of things go against our culture. I am not aware which hothouse plant Indian culture is that it is cocooned from what the rest of the world is likely to experience. Our history is full of kings and harems, and no royal male would bother to get an older woman, or even his contemporary, into this wonderful little world of his.

Those were exploitative times when the woman did not have a say. Besides, look at the contemporary cases of old men groping in the public transport, of 'naughty uncles', of paedophilia. Here, the character makes the first move and lets herself flow with the tide of her feelings. She is not a victim.

It isn’t the first film in this genre. More recently we had Jogger’s Park. Even more importantly, if the protestors have a problem they should have made a noise about the character of Sexy Sam in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna. He was a bit sick, trying hard to behave young and hip, and flaunting his machismo before his son and daughter-in-law. He was an emotionless, crass man.

I think I know what people have against Nishabd. It deals with emotions. We are scared of them. We cannot face our own feelings so we look into other people’s eyes and pretend to tell a truth even we do not believe in.

Nishabd could well be a wordless tribute to these silent moments.