Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My response to 'My choice' Deepika Padukone's video

 Transcript: My body, my mind, my choice To wear the clothes I like; even if my spirit roams naked My choice; to be a size 0 or a size 15 They don’t have a size for my spirit, and never will To use cotton and silk to trap my soul is to believe that you can halt the expansion of the universe Or capture sunlight in the palm of your hand Your mind is caged, let it free My body is not Let it be My choice To marry, or not to marry To have sex before marriage, to have sex out of marriage, or to not have sex My choice To love temporarily, or to lust forever. My choice To love a man, or a woman, or both Remember; you are my choice, I’m not your privilege The bindi on my forehead, the ring on my finger, adding your surname to mine, they’re all ornaments and can be replaced-- My love for you cannot, so treasure that My choice; to come home when I want. Don’t be upset if I come home at 4am . Don’t be fooled if I come home at 6pm, My choice; to have your baby or not To pick you from 7 billion choices or not. So don’t get cocky My pleasure might be your pain My songs, your noise My order, your anarchy Your sins, my virtues. My choices are like my fingerprints They make me unique. I am the tree of the forest I am the snowflake not the snowfall You are the snowflake. Wake up Get out of the shit storm. I choose to empathise. Or to be indifferent I choose to be different I am the universe Infinite in every direction. This is my choice.

The above video has not only gone viral, it has stirred up a hornet's nest and created a tsunami of opinions. My Facebook feed is still reeling under the assault and my Twitter feed is full of questions asking what I think of it. So I thought I would blog about it. (It's my choice :) )

Most people seem to be outraged because they have a problem with three things
1. The sex outside marriage bit. (Sex outside marriage isn't empowering women.)
2. The fact that a magazine like Vogue has taken an initiative
3.It addresses only Elite women

There is even a guy who has gone ahead and made a video which is the  male response to it.
And another guy who has quoted a comment from a woman  that says if he wants to ask for a dowry, it is his choice. He goes on to diss Deepika's movie Cocktail and also says that it was TOI's choice to click snaps of her cleavage. (Please!!)

Here is what I think.

I totally support the video and the statement it makes. And no--it isn't just for 'elite'--it is speaking up for every Indian woman, especially the ones who have the least freedom.
Whether a woman has sex outside her marriage or not,  is between her and her husband. It is not for the world to judge and point fingers. Nowhere does the video say that in order to be liberated you have to have sex outside marriage nor does it endorse adultery.

The fact that most men seemed to have picked just that point to respond to, says a lot. The male response to the video ends with 'We do not support cheating or adultery'. The male response was fine and had me nodding in agreement, till it showed a woman shouting and raving, holding her guy by the collar for supposedly having an affair. Again stereotypical humour and gender typecasting.

It missed the point completely. For most married Indian women, what they wear depends a lot on what their husbands say and what their in-laws want. I know so many women who dress in a certain way to please their in-laws and husbands. After a woman gets married, there is a sense of 'ownership' that creeps in---like she 'belongs' to her husband. And the husband has a say in what she chooses to wear, where she goes and the male friends she meets. You might argue that it is the same for a Indian married male. But it isn't. He somehow isn't as accountable as a  married woman is. (Think about it.)

Nowhere does the video shame all men. It is merely asserting that a woman has a right to make choices. As much as a man does.

The thing is in our country, a girl definitely has lesser choices compared to a guy. And after marriage, the choices that a Indian woman has, definitely reduces further. She has to live 'within the lines'.
 My book 'The Secret Wishlist' deals with just this. The life of an Indian woman, after her marriage, and the choices that she makes. Yes, it deals with adultery/extra-marital affair. I got mails from thousands of Indian women who wrote to me after reading the novel, telling me that it felt as though I had got inside their heads and written out their stories. Many many  men wrote to me saying that my book was a wake-up call for them to not take their wives for granted.

This is what I had said in one of my newspaper columns

"In a country where the female infanticide rate is amongst the highest in the world, where we lose 3 million girls in infanticide in a span of a decade, the need of the hour is to stop treating a woman as a mere sex object. Our society needs to recognise that a woman is far more than her body. Our bawdy song lyrics objectify women, comparing them to a ‘tandoori chicken’ among other things. At family weddings lyrics that celebrate the posterior of a woman are played loudly, stating that ‘all the boys go crazy when I shake my ……’.  Our country sees nothing wrong in that and anyone protesting is told to lighten up---it is only a joke and to take it in the lighter vein.
But as long as the attitude of hypocrisy prevails, and as long as women are still expected to be ‘good girls’ suppressing their sexual needs, putting everyone else before them, this treatment of women will continue. If we need to truly progress, we need to look at women differently, and respect their needs. A truly liberated woman is one who is comfortable enough with her sexuality and who doesn’t have to shake any body part to prove that she is sexy. "

All that the above video does is assert the right of women to choose whatever makes them happy.

 The very fact that it makes so many men uncomfortable (and so many women too) is something to think about.

Make your choices wisely. (And of course there are consequences to the choices you make.) You need to think about what you want and how it will affect the people who you truly care about. You need to take care of yourself first. Because only if you are happy can you make others happy.
You need to choose.
You need to live in a manner that suits you.
And in the end, a truly empowered person--whether a man or a woman--is one who is at peace with the choices that he/she makes.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Birthdays are as special as the people who have them! Guest post by Purvi.

 My daughter (who is 13)  came across something today and she wanted to share it. So here is a guest post by her.
Do read and leave her your comments! :)


Hi I am Purvi, and well I wanted to share something with everybody that moved me deeply.  So I am writing a guest post from my mom's blog.

A little while ago I was generally scrolling through my newsfeed  and I came across this particular post, About a 13 year old boy named Odin Camus who has a condition called Asperger's syndrome. He had his birthday today. He had called 15 fellow classmates for his birthday party but none of them bothered to take the time or effort to respond to this invite. Odin used to get bullied all the time in school. He often  had trouble making friends. His mom, Melissa, worried a great deal about giving her child an amazing birthday. She had got him a few gifts, showered him with balloons and got a nice cheesecake for him but he was  feeling down in the dumps about it.

  Melissa then posted in a few groups on Facebook, asking people if they could just wish him a simple happy birthday or call him on his phone (she also posted his phone number) , just to make him feel happy. The post quickly spread and in a matter of hours, Odin got over 5000 texts! Odin told his mom that he would enjoy going bowling and his story quickly spread around all social media. People from all over the world drew pictures, posted videos and wished him. They even organized a stretch limousine to pick him up and as he arrived at the bowling alley. Thousands of people were waiting for him there; Reporters, photographers, police men . And hundreds of children waiting to greet him with a happy birthday. Not only that, they baked cakes, made cards and all showered him with presents. Everybody wanted a picture with this boy.

What touches me is that thousands of people, strangers, all across the world took the time to wish him or show up at the bowling ally but none of the people he knew/called turned up.

I hope the people who bullied him just because he was a little different from the rest of them feel ashamed of themselves. I strongly object to how people can make someone feel worthless just for the fun of it, or to look 'cool' in front of friends and I dont think that anyone should be treated the way he was.

i am so glad he had a wonderful birthday. Since i am 13 too, I can relate to how important a single birthday wish or card is. Imagine his joy, receiving thousands--- including wishes from celebrities and NBA stars! :) 

Here is a link to the story, that has pictures and short descriptions.. http://www.buzzfeed.com/rossalynwarren/happy-birthday-odin#.iilqRpry9

 Its amazing how many kind people are out there and this was one thing that really hit me hard. Sometimes  strangers  turn into angels, creating memories that last a lifetime. And a little act of kindness makes a big difference in a person's life.


photo credit: Rafting the Arkansas Cake via photopin (license)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

How 100 days of love helps me write

There are two things I look forward to on Saturday mornings. One is the Hindustan Times newspaper and the second is Financial Chronicle.
 Hindustan Times, because every Saturday it publishes the HT-Nielsen list. Everyone knows that Nielsen is absolutely the authentic thing when it comes to sales and market comparisons. (Nielsen is a global information company that provides data and insights into what people watch, listen and buy). The Nielsen book scan data is like the Bible in the publishing industry.

So imagine my pleasant surprise when I found this morning that my latest book  It happens for a Reason had finally beaten Life is what you make it, which is always a constant on the Nielsen top ten.

(Here is the clip from today's paper. Click on it to enlarge. My book is at no.5)

Financial Chronicle because my column Sex and the city gets published every Saturday . It always gives me joy to see my words in print. And no matter how many times it has happened before, the thrill is just the same.

I watched a lovely Malayalam movie the other day which is currently running in the multiplexes . It was called 100 days of love and it starred Dulquer. I really liked the movie and enjoyed it immensely. Loved the way the movie has been treated (very Hollywoodish. Nothing like a usual Indian movie), though I thought it could have been about 45 minutes shorter in order for it to be 'perfect'. (Just cut out the silly songs and few other unnecessary fillers)

SPOILERS AHEAD--so do not read if you want to watch it.

In the movie, the protagonist Balan, played by Dulquer, is a features writer working in Times. And not once in the entire length of 154 minutes, is he shown writing an article, meeting a deadline, turning in his piece,  researching for it or even reading up :) All he seems to be doing is getting drunk and either trolling his ex or making declarations to his current or quitting his job or getting fired or driving around Bangalore city! I can assure you with utmost sincerity that a writer's life isn't at all like what is portrayed in the movie. Not even if you are Dulquer Salmaan :)

One of the key things I find as a writer is my need for solitude. I need to be alone in order to be able to think. The best ideas come to you, only when you travel inside your head. How will you do it if you are constantly surrounded by external stimuli like a phone buzzing or a TV blaring or people constantly talking to you because those things direct your attention outside? I need to look inside.
I need to ruminate, ponder, wonder. I need to ask myself questions, I need to seek answers, I need to research and I need to read. And I read a lot.

And for me, movies are what I use to 'switch off' my brain. Ideas are constantly buzzing. Sometimes they fight for my attention. It's a chaos inside my head. All the time. Non-stop. Mostly it is manageable and under-control.

And sometimes Dulquer helps. :)

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A few pictures from two speaking assignments.

I had two speaking assignments last week. One was at KPMG Bangalore where I spoke on Innovation and Diversity---and  the other was the MMA women managers convention for which  I was the Guest of Honour, along with Shruti Haasan.

Here are a few pictures from both the events.
 I was mentioning my work at the start of the talk and that is a portrait I made of Jim Morrison.

 Was talking about how important it is to embrace your rejections and was telling why it is so.

 My fellow speakers--Malathi Holla and Will Muir. Malathi is a paraplegic Olympian. Will Muir works with Equal community foundation that sensitizes Indian men on gender discrimination and works with them to end violence against women.

 Delivering the keynote address at MMA

  With Shruti Haasan

Got mobbed for autographs after the event.

All in all---two great events. Both attended by various corporates from the industry.

I had a really great time and so did they!
Now you know the reason for my long silence on the blog.
Shall be back again soon!

Until then, keep smiling.


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Monday, March 02, 2015

Finding that perfect moment.

Just a little while ago, I was walking my dog. There were two teenage girls walking in front of me and I couldn't help overhearing their conversation.

'What if you are in love and you share with them that perfect moment, but it was not the perfect moment for them? How awful would that be?' said one
'Exactly! It would be so embarrassing!' the other exclaimed, mortified at the very thought.

I guess, with age you realise that it does not matter if it wasn't the perfect moment for him. If he loves you, he is going to cherish the time he spends with you. If you say that this was the perfect moment for you, it would probably be for him too. If he is in love with you, chances are he was too busy looking into your eyes to even think about the perfect moment.

And here is the thing-- Later, when he is alone, he too wonders about what you thought. He too wonders if  you misinterpreted something he said.

So it really is not about the perfect moment, but a whole lot of imperfect moments that make up cherished memories.

Enjoy the time you spend together. You might not get these exact moments back again/.

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photo credit: Sarah & Warren - Kissing in the shadows via photopin (license)