Posts Tagged With: India

What culture are we talking about??

The use of the word ‘culture’ to sustain social standards really amazes me, because culture is what’s happening in the now.

What happened 500 years ago is culturally different from what happened 5000 years ago and you can’t really pin any of it as a benchmark.

What culture are we choosing to enforce? Only fair then that all men discard western clothing and work in fields for cultural preservation.

Why should only women practice culture in their clothing and profession? We should all race backwards to the medieval age to follow culture.

By this argument, Indian men have destroyed culture more than anyone, by wearing trousers, shirts and doing 21st century jobs.

So even if you factor conservative thinking, it is the Indian man who led us all into a “ruined” western module of life, women only adapted.

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Arranged Marriage – A Misunderstood Union!!

Ahh! Now that you have watched the video which closely showed how arranged meetings leading to marriage go…like a casual interview. In modern India, this is a date arranged by families in India…or simply put, a pre-date before an ‘arranged marriage‘. Indians live under the delusion that arranged marriages are obsolete, but they are not. Dating is a non-existent world here and considered a casual thingy.

Matrimonial ads in Indian newspapers read something like “Match for 25, Never Married, fair, slim, Homely girl”. The famous Indian misnomer “homely” means domestically inclined. Add “caste no bar” which meant a person can belong to any caste…even in this century. It’s too rigidly caste-based and religion-based. Whoaa!! Thats not all. A couple’s star signs are matched to see if they will be compatible in the relationship. Wonder, can we sue the priests if marriage ends in divorce??!! How stupid it is to base one’s entire life on some stars? Now that we are more evolved, I think that horoscopes should be ditched instead medical history should be matched.

I was always intrigued, a decade or so ago, by a wave of arranged marriages within my family and circle of ex-classmates/friends – urban women who enter arranged marriages. I assumed, well-educated and independent as they were, that they would find their partners without help or pressure from their families. When they went in for arranged marriages, I recognized the strong pull of tradition…or probably fatigued from unsuccessful attempts in the dating world.

With all the matchmaking in the air – the explosion of online dating, the resurgence of traditional matchmaking, I think revival of arranged marriage is not that far behind? FOX News interviewed a trend expert who believes that the new way to find a partner could be by returning to the old way. Decades ago, the boy and girl about to be married off the arranged way didn’t have much say in the matter. If the family decided, that was it. My parents got married after ‘seeing’ each other amidst a family meeting. Gives me goose-bumps thinking of it. Although being brought up in India, I am lucky to be a part of the family which I have come to realize is way modern in their thoughts and opinions. Parents might know dealbreaking details that are often overlooked until too late in the dating game but Thank god, I have the veto power.

It’s more like a blind date now, you are set up by your parents and meet before for a coffee and decide whether you like each other. As strange as it may sound, conversations about stability in terms of job, finances, debts and wanting kids come up way earlier even before the first kiss. Sounds like a business deal that have little to do with love. No one worries about chemistry. Of course, if one is lucky enough to have a long courtship which is often than not with consent from family and have spent time getting to know each other, it may be different. But if you haven’t, you should relax and take it slow.

I believe its a happy family because of the qualities of your partner. And it does not depend on whether the marriage is arranged or not. After all it is all respect, caring, understanding, adjustments & some sacrifices that makes a happy married life. Its not about finding your soulmate, or having Mr. Right conveniently stumble into your life. Instead, arranged marriages are about taking a practical approach to finding a life partner based on shared values and goals.

Approach towards Arranged Marriages has changed dramatically in recent generations. Traditionalists may frown upon change, while pragmatists would argue that one must adapt to it. Sociologists reflect on and write about it, while the entrepreneurs among us capitalize on it.

Categories: Muddled Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s time to be Socially Responsible!

*Opinion expressed in this post are solely mine and has been influenced by my observations and surroundings only. I do not belong or support any political party but strongly support ‘doing your bit’ philosophy.*

India is a beautiful country which offers astounding diversity of religions, languages and cultures…and negative mindsets in the society. I am embarassed to admit but majority of Indians still live with religion-imposed fears and beliefs, which are induced since birth and used as bait by politicians. I am not writing this to support any particular political party as they promise “will do” but fail to deliver at the end of their tenure. And surprisingly, they have inductive reasoning too!!

India enjoyed the election season (and ofcourse cricket!) and India kicks off world’s biggest election. Its fun during the election campaigns. No, literally!! Everyone is nit-picking about their opponent party and trying to win the blame-game “Sonia slams Modi; says opposition shedding ‘crocodile tears'” – Really?!!

Condition in India is brought to light during election campaigns when one party highlights the faults of existing Political Party and how it impacted the citizens. Why were they so quiet and not running such ‘awareness’ campaigns when they actually saw that the ruling party is faltering or not paying attention? Waiting for the crimes to rise so that they can pin-point it in next election campaigns to win brownie points. Their speeches are mostly about “I will do so and so for what happened”. How about “I did such and such despite not being elected”?

How can they blame economic conditions as they used our tax money is being spent in rallies in cities which they visited during droughts or during election campaigns? Street advertising, TV promotions, texts, automated calls, etc – Phew! They can be so creative to seek attention. What about Action speaks Louder than words? Suddenly there are TV advertisements informing the availability of free supplements (for iron deficiency and such) for children in government hospitals/free clinics. Why so much of concern for health for the poors? How about going in each houses in each villages in distributing it or handing it along with each free meal in government/municipal schools? World celebrated Earth Hour but many parts of India celebrates it every day while getting electricity only for few hours.

As of 2012, India has an estimated population of 1.2 billion (which I believe are the reported numbers only), is it logical for one PM to ensure the social, economic, environmental and well-being of such a huge population?

Since the Delhi Rape case, suddenly everyone is holding up the flag for women empowerment and blaming the running political party for the mishap. They are actually talking about preventive measures after a year:
Rahul Gandhi in Odisha: “We will be bringing many women police stations which will be run only by women.” What stopped him so long? Elected or not elected, why can’t he take an action?
Sonia Gandhi in Mewat: I urge people not to be influenced by what opposition parties are saying.
Narendra Modi in Assam: Children sleep hungry and families cannot afford meals twice a day due to high prices.
Narendra Modi in Assam: Children from Northeast are not safe in Delhi. Is Congress doing anything to protect them?

@jmmanchanda on Twitter rightly says “Do women police stations really help? Extend healthcare, education & jobs to women & promptly punish those offending them.”

And best of all, Finance Minister stating: “I am not contesting this election because I want to do certain other things in my life.” Wow, what took him so long to realize?

Dear politicians, its time to be socially responsible!

What I loved about elections:  Petrol price cut by 75 paise a litre, diesel hike put off, no major crimes reported across country, deals to lure candidates to vote.

Can’t even say “Let the best party win” as we will come to know until next elections. And…I will not tell whom I will vote but I will be a socially responsible.

 

 

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Which direction is weighing scale pointing to…?

I always was a thin girl…not underweight or skinny. And I still am quite slender. During my growing years, I was called a stick and thus I wore either loose clothes or layer them to look ‘normal’. It was disgustingly saddening – hell yes! I tried everything which anyone told me – increased meal portions with spoonful of butter, exercise, banana-shakes, etc. You name it and I might have done it. I was so desperate that if someone would have told me to do a hand-stand, I would have done that too. However, somewhere during my college days, MTV and Fashion TV became a rave and I started loving the way I was. Gawd, the infuence they had on me!! When someone told me I was thin, I slyly told them to watch Fashion TV. With time, I realized that no matter what I tried to gain weight, I will stay the same as my mother’s side of the family is thin. Eureka! Now, when someone compliments me on my thin waist, I confidently say ‘I am genetically blessed’ (fluttering my eyes). Yes, I am as I never have to diet or count calories. I learnt that I would achieve more with a change of attitude that I can with a change of my physical appearance. I accepted myself!! Woohoo…

In India, a curvaceous figure is a sign of a healthy woman (read: child-bearing) and when I see body shaming coming from the adults, especially under the guise of a body image crusade for looking pretty or beautiful, it really rubs me the wrong way. I was under the same myth but oddly, when my ‘thin’ friends got married and had babies…that last myth broke too.

Underweight people are often trying to find ways to gain weight. Similar is the case for overweight people. Presumptuous statements like ‘You obviously don’t eat that much’ or ‘You must work out all the time’ are so ignorant. I have met people simply struggling to change what they eat due to their body structure – overweight or underweight. I have heard overweight people say, “but I don’t eat that much,” and I used to say, “but I eat a lot”. It’s because it’s biologically difficult for me to eat more, and it’s biologically difficult for them to eat less. We (from ANY size spectrum) may not have eating disorders, but how our nature dictates our appetite varies – and that sometimes makes us bigger or smaller than some defined ideal weight.

Today teenage girls are influenced with fashion, entertainment industry and peer pressure, I feel sad to see them struggle with their body-type and suffer from self-esteem issues (I went through it too!!). The women that we see walking down the ramps or advertisements promoting weight-loss in 2 weeks by having a bowl of cereal in the morning and one at dinner to look curvy in a wedding – truly are not “real women” They are photo-shopped women or who belong to an industry which pays them to look a certain way. The Dove Ad promotes ‘all-size’ women are beautiful earns an applaud. I was totally hooked!

Dove-real-beauty-campaign

I definitely think models of diverse body types would be a good step in helping to send that message to younger girls. I must say that I feel like too much emphasis is put on fat, skinny, etc. Instead we should be focusing on body acceptance. Wouldn’t it be a whole lot better? Media is trying to define what a “real woman” is. The term is “real women have curves”. I don’t have “curves” but I am definitely real.

This is what people need to understand. I don’t know where the judgment of other people’s bodies comes from…but we can try to diffuse it when and where we can. We shouldn’t promote a weight category or body shape by saying the other is ‘not worth it‘. Because this means we are doing the exact same thing as the people we are trying to fight.

So to the girls with their sizes – who have curves and to those who don’t – YOU are beautiful and nobody should tell you otherwise. Don’t disparage someone because of media or industry defines as “real”.

Why, though, is such body talk targeted at women?

I imagine that for a man the opposite is true because society says they are “supposed to be” bigger. Suppose to be SO!! In actuality we are “supposed to be” how we are made. Objective beauty is related thing like symmetry and proportionality. The rest is personal preference and social construction.

Dear friends – No matter the direction in which the scale is pointing to, be happy in your own skin and celebrate difference until it becomes normal.

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Truth of Womanhood!!

An intense monologue act (in English) about Truth of Womanhood which had a solo performance by a reputed actress Kalki Koechlin.

Intense,meaningful,powerful yet feminine. And no, I would not call this Feminism!! You also should not…

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Who is this fat, deformed woman in the mirror?

Who is this fat, deformed woman in the mirror? She can’t be me. I hate her! In my head I was still the long limbed, statuesque woman I’ve always been.

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Age 20: winning pageants, walking the ramp, toast of the town. Age 35: cancer. The destruction of my body.

Stop the ‘fat talk’. Quit being hard on yourself and on others. Tell your inner critic to shut up and get lost. Strive to be fit and healthy. Eat right. Exercise. Don’t smoke. Above all be accepting of who you are. If you can achieve all of the above, you will automatically exude confidence, contentment and well being. There is nothing more attractive than being happy in the skin you are in.

Read the complete story here.

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What was I thinking on a Sunday night?

What was I thinking on a Sunday night? How I wish I could do something else for a living. Guess what?? Quite a few thought the same! It’s surprising how universal many of the feelings we have about our jobs truly are. Work is still work; dreams are still dreams; hope remains unfulfilled for many.

Few months back too, I tried contemplating why I do what I do, what it is like to toil away at a job I do not enjoy, all the while pining for a job that I wished I could do. Everyone has a secret dream job, what they imagine they would rather be doing, where things would be better somehow, right??

021---300What strike me is that most people are busy doing work they don’t really care for or enjoy less. They are unhappy and feel trapped, but they stick at it. There are few who in contrast are doing work that they *love* and are having a magical time at it. And then there are few who are far between. I wonder why people choose to not “follow their bliss” and find what gives them joy. Simple – because they have bills to pay.

Most jobs have become de-humanizing. Robotizing. How and why it is done, what one likes and dislikes about their job, the little dramas and boredom that fills the working hours and the toll it takes on one’s private life. In many families, people devote 10+ hours or more to power games at work at the expense of family time and personal health. In a social gathering, most of ask each other, “what do you do?” and usually the answer is just a job title, and maybe a description of a current project at the office. There is simultaneous pride and shame in our work and a nagging need to justify or defend. And underneath it all, there is an eternal conflict between plans, dreams, and realities that never seems to be reconciled.

Few years ago, there were the days of company loyalty, the idea that you could work for one firm for a lifetime and be rewarded or valued were a thing of the past. Well, the good-old-days always look greener, no matter what era you grew up in. Nostalgia for a better past is universal. There’s nothing new under the sun.

While we are in college, we are following a certain norm which is ingrained by our surroundings. For most of us, after we have spent few years in our career, our calling comes when we know what we actually would want to do. But it’s not easy to start all over again. It is definitely not easy for me when I think of a career shift at 35. Uncertain economic climate and wider fears about the effects of the long term trend “globalization” make me reluctant to a certain extent but feeling of failure and “what-if-I-am-wrong” actually stops me from reaching out in trying what I want to do. There are few people I closely know who have taken a plunge after a 33 year career in IT. I admire them for listening to their calling.

Job hunting in India is a different ball-game altogether. It’s not an easy market with billions of people. You apply to a job-opening based on the requirement while you are grilled on pre-set interview questions by someone who is looking for your fitment in a particular project. If you pass that hurdle, you have to battle with the designation and salary. No, I am not scaring you but sometimes it’s good to look in the mirror to easily understand the situation. Every time I have appeared for an interview, I have asked to link my area of expertise with my majored subject in college. As I strategically respond to it, I still want to ask “does it matter…now?” I believe instead of just work experience, a candidate aspiring for something new should also be evaluated on his vision, wisdom and capability to learn.

Let’s face it – corporate life is empty and corporate success an illusion. Ladder-climbing is an empty pursuit. There is a feeling of a moral hollowness about it. With throat-cutting competition, people in the hierarchy are petrified of the people nipping at their heels, eyeing for their job. They worry about their age and their disposability after their shelf-life.

I need to feel challenged in order to be fulfilled. A job which is secure and pays adequately may mean complete misery if there’s no challenge or sense of meaningful contribution. We learn that in order to be happy in life we must follow our dream and not do something based on status or salary. It causes one to pause and reflect. Can we do that? Can we really do that? It is easier said than done but certainly do-able.

We meander through life holding on to our dreams without taking actions. We hold onto our work so tightly and look at our life through the lens of our work and experience, placing all things into perspective. The day I build enough courage to listen to my calling, I will be free to pursue my heart’s desire, or something that makes me feel like I am truly contributing to the world in a meaningful way, in a way beyond.

One day, I want to honestly say “I made it“.

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I read before its released: “The Hundred Foot Journey”

Sometimes you happen to find that book which keeps it’s hold to the very end, and still make you longing for more – a hundred_footquality which is very rare but in The Hundred Foot Journey. Brace yourself with seat belt and a bib because not only will you be taken for a ride but also tempted to cook. Hell yes!! There are delicious recipes in the back of the book.

From roadside outdoor cooking in India to the tawny upscale bistros of Paris, this is the story of one chef’s personal and gastronomical growth. His mentor comes from a most unexpected place, initially in an adversarial role and ultimately as the orchestrator of his huge success. The story covers many miles and many years – a culinary journey in which I was transported around the world with the Haji family – from India, to London, to Paris and France.

The first half of the story centers on Hassan and his life experiences that taught him about trust, relationships, loyalty and of course, cooking. The second half of the story (which sort-a drags a little at times) introduce the character Madame Mallory and discloses the process by which Hassan finds himself on the cusp of attaining his lifelong dreams. Their ambition to rise above one’s circumstances, an expression through fine cuisine, and a warmth and humor in the telling.

“A lot of emotion went into that hundred-foot journey, cardboard suitcase in hand, from one side of Lumière’s boulevard to the other.”

Yes, there area few situations where things happen out of the blue, thus making you wonder of its possibility. For example, having ended up (somehow) in a mansion in the French Jura, which the family has converted into a restaurant, the young hero of the story, having no experience as a chef, is pressed into service as head chef for the Grand Opening lunch for a hundred people (Really??). His father tells him that because he was always hanging around the kitchen in India as a boy, he will be able to handle it. And, no guesses there – he was able to.

“But even in hell there are moments when the light reaches you.”

The author, Richard C. Morais, allows the reader to know the characters, and seamlessly weaves their life stories into one. The richness of cultures speaks volumes and it makes you believe that it indeed is possible to both devour and savor something you love. Morais’ ability to capture the essence of places and peoples is absolutely transfixing with such visual and descriptions that I was able to picture it more of a movie than a book. Well, this book was destined to be a movie!!

I have never read cook books but Morais’ description of aromas, textures and tastes of the many ingredients and dishes was more than convincing – it was like I-was-there kinda moment. Its preparation, its subtleties and nuances, will make a foodie long to taste a few of the dishes that are prepared.

My Two Cents: If you love to travel, cook, and explore new cuisines then you would loved every page and every minute of it while I chose to skip ahead to the descriptions of food. Morais’ writing is so colorful, alive and beautifully crafted that I was able to both characterize the differences between the two cultures. The description of a small village in France made to want to buy a  plane ticket right away. I can’t wait to watch how the director will develop it into a movie and weave us through the narrative experiences, rich and deeply drawn characters.

Movie releases on August 8, 2014, which is produced by Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, and Juliet Blake.

**Spoiler Alert** if you happen to read:

  • NYTimes Book Review who calls it a Slumdog Cuisinier by clicking here.
  • The synopsis as told by Richard by clicking here.
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Space in Mumbai

Yay, yay!!! I made it today – a year in Mumbai. If you wonder what’s so happy to be about…well, the old-age never-ending debate on Mumbai vs Delhi is something which can happen over a cup of coffee which concludes. One is India’s financial capital, the other it’s political capital and both are greek to me ;). I was told that if I can make it a year, I should toast. Cheers to me!!

Movies, Camera and Action is how I would describe the Bollywood City. Hustle-bustle of people, street-snacks, the famous Dabbawalas (ingenious team who deliver 200,000 meals every day from homes to offices within three hours) and local train network which has the highest passenger density in the world is what Mumbai stands out for. People including myself compare it to Manhattan of New York having being stayed there as well which I equally enjoyed.

Thus, the first thing that defines Mumbai is its immense density due to which the housing prices are as high as the towers themselves. It is the city with the eighteenth highest number of skyscrapers in the world, most of which are residential. No matter where you choose to stay in this city of dreams, you will see washed clothes hanging on a rope out of the window on the twenty-fifth floor as the apartments do not have enough room to hang your clothes to dry. Nonetheless, it adds tons of character to the buildings!!

I stay in a 1BHK apartment in a well-architectured and guarded residential society. When I am inside my apartment, I often forgot that I am surrounded by buildings and people and all the noise. I really enjoy to live with only the things I need, no waste space and it feels spacious because it’s layout is efficient. Over the years as my affordability increased so did my living space gradually expanded. I have added few craftwork furniture to add a character to my apartment but I consume to fit my space. Being minimalistic is my mantra! I know it is bound to happen, but I try to keep the number of items to a minimum.

But this is me staying by myself. The space one need might expand beyond living quarters. India doesn’t have any leasing regulation which restricts or legalize the number of people staying in an apartment. So, there are families (parents + 2 kids) staying in a 1 BHK or 1 RK (similar to a studio apartment). Living space is hard to come by and they often have little or no choice, the one that not only limits your wallet but also your living space. I think a lot of people just live with it – what else can they do. And that way of living permeates beyond their homes and out on the streets. Personal space is not in their dictionary. The sidewalks are often full with people, as are the buses, local trains and streets with cars. From bird’s eye-view, I can only imagine how suffocating it must be to be around people so often, to have so little room for yourself.

Source: Mantra Ray Comics

So, how much space do we need? Does space affect our feelings for one another both inside and outside our personal spaces? Well, with each person sharing that space, the need changes or one’s concept of solitude changes. Attitudes about needs and space probably depend on how much roaming space we have inside our mind vs how much external stimulation we need – a place to breathe, to dwell or to enjoy. No matter how cramped and claustrophobic an apartment may be, the moment one is by the seaside it’s bliss!!

Now obviously – thee’s “need” and need. The question is how long it will take before we have to escape the city as well, if don’t already.

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Malala…

Although the book ‘I am Malala’ was published nearly an year back but I happen to read it now. It is an encouraging memoir of Malala Yousufzai, a product of a mother and a father‘s love inspite of the backwards, barbaric, ignorant, deceitful culture of Pakistan. Her book shows different facets of a girl since her childhood days which captivates, inspires entices you in a story of true events that can only be imagined. The book describes public floggings by the Taliban, their ban on television, dancing and music and shopping. There are numerous situations which gave me goose-bumps and often led me to imagine it. You might want to listen to her CNN interview to appreciate her brilliance, her tolerance and love for her country, despite being stalked by poverty and hardships.

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Malala: Person of the Year

Fearless Malala anonymously blogged Diary of a Pakistani school girl under a pseudonym for BBC, writing about her daily battle with extremist militants who used fear and intimidation to force girls to stay at home thus drawing the Islamist militants’ rage. She never lost hopes nor gave up on her dreams of education. She refused to cower in the face of threats and fought for education (not just for girls but particularly for girls) that she stared death in the face in 2012 when a Taliban gunman shot point-blank in the head on her way home from school in Pakistan. Not the sacrifice of rights, but the sacrifice of life. Her “crime”: advocating girls’ right to education.

But Malala survived!! This young fearless Pakistani girl escaped from the jaws of death – nothing short of a miracle.

Like father-like daughter, she embodies the very values that the civilized world craves for. She stood up to terror and showed a reasoned mind seldom seen at her age. She is a symbol of freedom, bravery, outspokenness and beacon of light for all girls/women in this world.

Excerpt from Malala’s heartening U.N. speech:

Even if there was a gun in my hand and he was standing in front of me, 
I would not shoot him. This is the compassion I have learned from Mohamed, 
the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha. This the legacy of 
change I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and 
Mohammed Ali Jinnah. This is the philosophy of nonviolence that I have 
learned from Gandhi, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa. And this is the 
forgiveness that I have learned from my father and from my mother. 
This is what my soul is telling me: be peaceful and love everyone.

The book follows her journey from near-death to global fame. She is one of seven people featured on the cover of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people edition. She has been honored with Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, XXV International Prize of Catalonia award, International Children’s Peace Prize, Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award (The award is Amnesty International’s highest honor, recognizing individuals who have promoted and enhanced the cause of human rights), Leadership in Civil Society award, Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award and Person of the Year.

This young girl, stood against a powerful foe for the education of the next generation. She stands for all the young people in lands where oppression puts them and all young people down.  This young girl stands for peace, freedom and education for all. She is passing her courage on to others. Her courage has awoken Pakistan’s government who says to be adopting new measures to get every child into school by end 2015.

After reading her book, my attention turned towards my country India. Quite a few million girls in India have gone missing in 3 generations through practices like infanticide, feticide, dowry, bride trafficking and honor killings. It is immoral, illegal, against all civilized norms, against the principles of most religions. I strongly urge people to spread awareness of a girl’s right to be born, to let live, to be educated and a lead a life that she dreams of.

It’s time for the parents and the children themselves to demand their right to school. Education should no longer be a slogan but a reality.

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