Saturday, October 22, 2016

Solo Trip To Chokhi Dhani

When a post on a trip made earlier this year takes so long to appear on the blog, it has clearly been a bad year for blogging. The bigger challenge in writing this post was the photos. I'm not exactly a photo friendly person and find it quite daunting to transfer, organise and upload photos to make a decent post out of it. I have been working on this post - one step at a time - to put this together. 

I have been out traveling by myself on work. But this trip is special since it was planned solely for fun/leisure with no work involved. I was in Delhi earlier this year for a coaching conference and decided to give Chokhi Dhani a try since it is close by and was unexplored. After almost missing my flight, thanks to the Delhi traffic, I made it. Since it was off season, I was bumped to some royal suite. And as you can see, I was the queen of the space for a night. It's soaked in tradition in every element around - not just the room but read on to see where else. 

The suite at Chokhi Dhani - traditional with modern amenities

The view from the room

The attraction is the village built around the concept of local, traditional life in Rajasthan. Low mud houses and figurines of local people doing different tasks are made around the resort. 

Life size figurines depicting everyday life at Chokhi Dhani

The actual village that opens at about 6pm and goes on till 11pm. There are traditional dancers and musicians, puppet show, games, acrobatics, shopping arcade (called Kalagram), restaurants among other things. 

Feeble attempts with my iPhone in the dim light 
The paintings strewn across the campus only serve to keep the art form alive. I am told that all of them are hand painted. 

In one of the huts in the village, an old lady was actually cooking bajre ka roti on an old style chulha and giving in leaf bowls with garlic chutney and a little jaggery with the roti literally dipped in ghee! It felt like a mother feeding her kids with the same love that probably families shared before they went nuclear. A couple of people just sat there and asked for more! The taste was truly divine! Fresh and hot!

There are so many pictures from the trip that brings back lovely memories!

Paintings on the walls
Mud huts that double as guest rooms
I think such places are really great and should be patronised. In the ever changing world where western influences and modern conveniences are taking over our live rapidly, Chokhi Dhani preserves the world of tradition. It is a must visit at least once. Going around the village, watching so many traditional dance forms, listening to traditional music and the man made mud huts felt like living a slice of life the way local people live. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Are there perfect gym clothes?

Although this is how popular culture portrays women look in a gym, the reality is quite different. (Photo credit)
My first experience buying gym clothes was around 2008 when I moved to Mumbai. I learnt that working out is a common thing in the city. Delhi, where I lived before this, does not have a gym at every corner and I had never imagined I'd ever be going to one in my life. But when I started gaining weight a few months into my marriage - well! everyone does! - I decided I should join a gym. And since my spouse worked out for a decade since college and still has the evidence of it, he was my best guide. (Although by the time we got married, he had started traveling quite a bit and his gym membership was more of a donation to the facility without actually using it)

I remember going to Shoppers Stop near my place and buying clothes, shoes etc. While working out in the gym - and a couple others after the first one - turned out to be one of the most boring things I have done in my life. I also went through more rounds of shopping for gym clothes. I gave up typical gyms a few years ago and now I workout at this awesome fitness place that has a new workout every day to keep the challenge going.

And no, no one on our class looks remotely like the people you see on Yoga CDs or even Monica Geller who worked out in her stylish training bra and a jacket! The place I workout in isn't exactly for spandex covered, tank topped chicks. It's a normal people, unisex studio and where butt covering modesty is preferred. We are all seen in long, boring T shirts and on most days half of us are in grey. And that's exactly what set me thinking. And also the fact that despite multiple rounds of shopping and trying to learn from previous mistakes, I still don't think I have the perfect clothes, let alone remotely stylish.

I've had all kinds of gym clothes. From loose T shirts to the right size. And in all kinds of fabrics. And during my last trip for gym shopping, I realised there is so much of technology out there now in terms of fabrics that promise to be soak up sweat in an intense workout. (sorry if 'soak' reminds you something else. Couldn't make this sound any better). Not wanting to waste a lot of time window shopping, I went to the website of the mall to find out where all the gym stores are. Thankfully, they happened to be on the same floor. Armed with my list of places, I stepped out.

To cut the long story short, the bigger the brand name, the more expensive their stuff. I did end up buying a super expensive T shirt which is meant to be great for workouts. When I actually wore it to fitness class, it was shorter than I'd like it to be. I'm not happy when I raise my hands up or do side bends - so much for big brands! Another brand had the most funky looking but equally uncomfortable range of training bras - no, the price tag did not seem to factor in the discomfort. I strongly recommend that these big brands run a survey and actually ask women what we find comfortable and actually want in out work out clothes.

I finally went to a quite popular brand and brought all my stuff for the price of that one T shirt! I am good to go till my next round of experimenting to get it comfort and maybe style too. Do you think gym wear for women can be comfortable and fashionable? Going through all the brands that promise both hasn't been encouraging for me. I'd love to hear what you think about this.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

As A Man, I Am Pissed!

Women seem to be at war with men! (Photo credit)
As a man, I am quite pissed. A lot pissed actually. The world seems to be all about women, suddenly. No matter where I look - online or offline - I see this movement of support groups for women to emerge out of their traditional roles and become independent. I know Feminism is about breaking the shackles that bound women and not attack men. But in the popular culture that's what's happening. The support for women is turning out to be just male bashing. From #NoMoreManels to #ShareTheLoad, every campaign seems to be against men, rather than pro women! Let me explain what I mean.  

The first thing that gets my goat is this whole new revolution around talking about periods. As a man, I don't see what the big deal is. It's just that time of the month as far as I am concerned and I stay away from cranky women. But if women want to go ahead and discuss the gory details, I don't mind. But why drag men into it, I say. Every other online chat religiously brings up, "But do men know about periods?" or "Do they bother to find out about what we go through every month?". Excuse me! Women are the ones who hide it like it's a nuclear weapon. It's like the first rule for a girl who gets her periods - Don't tell anyone. Especially men! So how the hell are men supposed to know! And if we read up online and try to support women, they themselves are scandalised by it. How many of you actually tell us that you have cramps or PMS instead of hiding behind the generic - I am unwell - excuse? And if women have just started talking about it all, how the hell will men know about it already? Or have a conversation around something that's so personal to women?

Women want to win any which way! (Photo credit)
Look at the ad campaigns on TV! Every one wants women on their side! #ShareTheLoad! Sure! We never said no! But after being taken care of for 3 decades of my life, do you expect men to change overnight? No one expected me to work around the house and now men are evil because their wives take care of household chores. Trust me! We have tried helping out. But more often than not the women folk at home are afraid we wouldn't be as perfect as them and don't let us do stuff. We don't mind helping around. Give us a chance to get used to it. We may not easily glide into the role of a care taker as women have as bread winners. 

And coming to working women - Fathers or spouses have never had any issues with them working! Has anyone asked us how we feel about it? My job is to earn for the family. And if women have to go through the whole getting back to second careers, it is because men don't have the apparatus to have babies or mammary glands to feed them! Maybe, we would have loved to take a 6 month break and nurture for the young ones! But God knows nature never gave us that chance. Instead we have to leave pieces of our heart at home because we aren't granted leave. And come back to a mess after a hard day at work and help out through the night as best as we can. Because we also love and care. We can't go through it for women, but we do feel the pain! 

Another example of pro-women movement gone anti-men is #NoMoreManels! Doesn't that sound more like banning men than making space for women? We have no problem sharing space with lovely ladies. And it's not our fault that there aren't many around! Similarly the whole debate around changing surnames after marriage. We have never forced you to change your name. It's either been societal norms or your own wish. And if you ask me, I'd happily take the name of my spouse since I love her! And I don't understand how could you claim to love your spouse but hate taking his name! That would endanger your identity as if it's just so fluid! You women are indeed strange beings! 

Have you considered how hard it is for men like me! Some of our travails have thankfully been documented earlier. But it's only becoming harder for us to survive in what's rapidly becoming a pro-women world. Just yesterday I was at the McDonald's with my boy. And this lady ahead of me who was with her daughter took offence because the staff told her that they have only one toy for girls. And she blew her top as if it was a crime! I agree that denying a kid a toy on the basis of gender is very wrong, but the quizzical expression on her little girl's face only showed me the future my boy is going to grow up in. I can see her growing up scoffing at men and demanding her rights even at food counters! 

And for all the trauma inflicted on men through the disruption in women's life, I think women create more problems for women. They judge like men never do! Why don't you work? Why do you sit at home? When will you have kids? Why isn't you're house clean? From cleanliness of the house to the kind of mother/wife you are, women judge everything! Men never do that! We try our best to keep you happy. And we are also trying hard to change ourselves and match up to the surge of women power that's turning our world upside down! 

I have poured my heart out about the few things that came to my mind. Patience, ladies! We are with you! Make us partners instead of opponents! We can conquer the world together! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Thank You For The Platitudes, Mr. Bachchan!

I want to begin by saying how much I have admired Amitabh Bachchan as an actor and is probably the only hero I want to meet in real life. Apart from his acting prowess, another thing that has always drawn me to him is his command over languages and the power of enunciation in his narration. 

But this adulation for him suffered a sizeable dent when I read his letter to his grand daughters - which he says is a must read for all girls. I've started writing this post in auto pilot once I saw the video version of since I have to get this out here. 

First of all, thank you sir, for the platitudes you have offered as advice to your children with the belief that it is going to be helpful to them. And then going ahead with so many contradictions that I am sure confused about what to follow in the letter. Although Mr. Bachchan says that his girls should make their own decisions and be people in their own right, he starts by drooping their shoulders with the load family honour! He tells them not to be bound by boundaries others set for them but begins by setting quite a decisive one himself! How is it liberating for any woman to be burdened by family honour? Why isn't the same letter written to the sons of the family recommending responsible behaviour to them? Isn't every woman in this country already burdened enough with family, societal, marital (among others) pressures to behave in a certain way? He does the same with his grand daughters by telling them outright that their behaviour reflects on the rich legacy they inherit. 

The rest of his advice seems like a list from a bad gender rule book that women threw out decades ago. Women have already fought the barriers of hierarchy and shattered them in a lot of ways. We know and no longer accept that the length of our skirts is a measure of our characters. (This could be the most cliche anyone can get!) Although he says it's a "difficult" world for a woman, rest assured that the family name his girls carry will indeed protect them from a lot of atrocities that common women struggle through.  

Everyone knows that the Bachchan family is a repository of traditional values even in today's times. It's the Bachchan legacy at play here too. How about starting women's liberation movement right from his house! How about letting his own daughter in law choose and decide if she'd like to have a home of her own that isn't run by others' rule? She is someone's daughter and she also must have been taught to speak her mind and not give in to others' boundaries. How about that? And he completely left out the mothers of these daughters and the legacy and brought up that they bring to the table. This just reflects on how hard the women in his own household will have to struggle to be considered people worthy of mention. 

I highly doubt that his advice will be relevant when Aradhya is old enough to understand all this. She will be a woman in a much better world. A world where women have paid to achieve unprecedented levels of equality. Not that Navya or Aradhya will ever ever have to fight for their place in society or the world at large. The very legacy that binds them is also liberating is a strange way. 

And in the end I want to say that women have had enough of people telling us what to to, how to behave, what to wear and what is at stake if we don't follow those rules. It is saddening and disappointing when such advice comes from a popular figure like Mr. Bachchan who has a fan following across the world and is held in high regard. 

Here is the text of the letter as published in The Times of India:

My very dearest Navya & Aaradhya
You both carry a very valuable legacy on your tender shoulders – Aaradhya, the legacy of your pardadaji , Dr Harivansh Rai Bachchan…and Navya, the legacy of your pardadaji , Shri H P Nanda….
Both your pardadaji ‘ s gave your present surnames celebrated fame, dignity and recognition !
Both of you may be a Nanda or a Bachchan, but you are also girls…women !
And because you are women people will force their thinking, their boundaries on you.
They will tell you how to dress, how to behave, who you can meet and where you can go.
Don’t live in the shadows of people’s judgement. Make your own choices in the light of your own wisdom.
Don’t let anyone make you believe that the length of your skirt is a measure of your character.
Don’t let anyone’s opinion of who you should be friends with, dictate who you will be friends with.
Don’t get married for any other reason other than you want to get married.
People will talk. They shall say some terrible things. But that doesn’t mean you have to listen to everyone. Never ever worry about – log kya kahenge.
At the end of the day, you are the only one who will face the consequences of your actions, so don’t let other people make your decisions for you.
Navya – the privilege your name, your surname offers you, will not protect you from the difficulties you will face because you’re a woman.
Aaradhya – by the time you see and understand this, I may well not be around. But I think what I am saying today shall still be relevant.
This may be a difficult, difficult world to be a woman. But I believe that it is women like you that will change that.
It may not be easy, setting your own boundaries, making your own choices, rising above people ‘s
judgement. But YOU !…you can set an example for women everywhere.
Do this and you would have done more than I have ever done, and it will be my honor to be known not as Amitabh Bachchan, but as your grandfather !!
With all my love
Your ….Dadaji ….your Nana.

Monday, August 15, 2016

How Have You Made Your Country Proud?

We want her to make us proud but what have we done to enable her profession? (photo credit)
My Twitter timeline has been full of Dipti Karmakar. Tweets about her feats at the Olympics. The joy of her making it to the finals and the anticipation of her performance in it. And then comments about how she did and not winning a medal. While most of them have lauded her for her determination and attempt at the death vault, some of them are still unhappy about India not having won any medals in the Olympics.

As someone who has no interest in sports, I have a very objective view of things. I feel that expecting India to win medals once in 4 years is so unfair when we give zero encouragement to sports as a profession the rest of the time. We do have sports in schools and some parents also send their children to hobby classes. But that is more from a fitness or an extra curricular activity point of view. No one really tells their kids that they can be a Sachin or a Dipti when they grow up. Sports is fine as long as it remains a hobby. But serious careers are the ones that come from studies and degrees. And that is the attitude we have for sports in general.

But the irony is that while this is what we do to do our country proud, we expect our athletes to bring us that sense of pride through medals! We need to introspect and ask ourselves what we have done to make our country proud. What have been our efforts in encouraging even people who wish to have the best sporting facilities in the country to enable to bring back medals and make us proud?

What do you think about this?

This post has been written for #CreativeCurves under #BlogOEmotion week and this is the final day prompt, pride. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Your Level Of Disgust Decides If You Are Tolerant

Disgust affects a lot of your preferences (Photo credit)
Disgust - a very strange emotion to write on! Who wants to think about disgusting things! And write a  post recalling them. So I thought, like yesterday, can talk about a less known aspect about disgust.

Did you know that disgust is not just an emotion, it also has a strong connection with our opinions of a lot of unconnected things. There are people who are tolerant of a lot of things. But some others are more accepting of others choices. Studies have shown that all this has to do,with the tolerance levels to disgust. In one of the experiments done to test this, a gas that smelled like fart was released in one room before the participants had to answer a questionnaire about their views on things like political views, homosexual etc. The other room had participants who weren't subjected to is obnoxious smell. The result: the participants who were disgusted by the fart smell were more conservative in their views.

In general, people who are easily disgusted are more conservative and less tolerant of others views. And reverse is also true. Disgust is responsible for your views on morality and politics.

Are you someone who is easily disgusted? Take this disgust sensitivity test. The results might surprise you.

This post is written for the blogging challenge, #BlogOEmotion by #CreativeCurves and this day 7 with the prompt, disgust.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Love Is Just Chemical Locha In Your Brain

Love makes the world go round!
Remember that rush of feelings when you first begin to like someone. All of us have been silly teenagers smiling secretly to ourselves and humming romantic Bollywood numbers. The blush of first love stays in our memories forever and the nostalgia brings back the same smile. Or a crush you have on someone new you meet. Wonderful feelings that makes the world a more beautiful place. It's all pink and full of balloons! You think about that person all the time. You want to be together all the time. It's just the most amazing feeling in the world.

But what if I burst your bubble and said that all it isn't really love at all. And that's the reason why it fades a few years into marriage. Or that crushes don't last forever. You don't have that heady feeling of love after you've been with people for a duration of time. And you have Oxytocin, the love hormone to blame for all this. Not just people, it's the same feeling of well being when you shop for new things. And this is the stuff that shopaholics feed on. The rush recedes and then they go and shop some more.

So the next time you feel silly in love, remember it's just some hormones acting up. It will wear off and that will be the true test of whether you really love someone or not.

This post has been written for #CreativeCurves under #BlogOEmotion week and this is Day 6 on the prompt, Love 

Friday, August 12, 2016

A Woman Is A Woman's Worst Enemy

It's sad that a woman is a woman's worst enemy

I recently met an old, close friend who works in a school. She was talking about how some of her colleagues weren't allowed to go on school picnics because their husbands did not permit them. She said one of the teachers sometimes came to school with bruises on her face and arms. It was evident that she was a victim of domestic violence. A woman with a job and financial independence! When I asked my friend if she did anything to help her colleague out, she just shrugged and said that the girl's parents who lived in another city nearby also did know anything about her plight.

This set me thinking. A woman who evidently is going through something so bad and her colleagues just shrug it off. The woman herself doesn't want to confide in her parents - even her mother! And for what? To keep the 'married' tag intact? How would it affect her kids - she has 2 - to see their mother being treated like this? Isn't she setting the wrong example for them?

In this case, the colleagues who work together could form a bastion she could fall back on and confide. Their backing her up could mean the world to her. And maybe the only encouragement she needs to make that life altering decision, to choose to not put up with humiliation anymore, to take a step towards a better future for her children. But instead we just choose to ignore it like it's not none of our business.

Another friend had an arranged marriage at 24 and found that her husband spent nights out and refused to explain where he went. She confided in her mother hoping to find some support. But her mother told her to ignore it since men did what they wished and asked her to focus on bringing up the kids. By the time she was 30, she had 3 kids and husband who was least interested in her. If her mother supported her, I think her life would have been very different today.

Some of you might wonder why am I finding fault women who are already so helpless! For ages, we have held responsible for the oppression of women. Yes, the man who treats his wife like this deserves to be punished - severely. And I am not supporting him. But I am drawing attention to the fact that women themselves do not support each other. Women, who go through the same grind in our lives and should have the highest level of empathy and support.

Take another situation - the classic tussle between the mother and the daughter-in-law. History is full of instances about how they just cant get along. And the drama is played out in pretty much every household in the country that has them. A woman leaves her house hoping to find the same love and understanding from another woman who also left her family behind at some time. But it doesn't work that way. It isn't empathy that works out here. One unwilling to relinquish control to the new comer and the other hoping to score in other ways. 'Support' is not a part of this relationship dynamic.

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth is a mammoth 1000 page book. But one of the things that stands out in my memory is about how a character comments that men can divide kingdoms but the women of the house will never be able to decide who gets the pots and pans in the house. And this is so true.

I can go on and on. But the sad fact will remain that a woman is a woman's worst enemy. It is us who keep patriarchy alive. It is us who keep whatever this hatred for each other is called, brewing.
Men just bond over simple things. But women judge! We do! Be honest to yourself and accept it. We bitch about other women, size each other up when we meet and are the first ones to condemn them when we are in trouble. A qualified mom who gave up her career for her children is judged as much as a mother who has a full time job leaving her kids behind. A mother teaches her daughter to keep her periods a secret. She passes on the legacy of being a good daughter in law. Which then goes on to the next generation. And the cycle continues. Haven't you sometimes found an empathetic hearing from a man and felt more comfortable sharing things with a male friend? And it felt better to do it since you knew your women friends would judge and in all probability blame you for your situation?

I don't think we should blame men for any injustice perpetrated on us unless women folk have solidarity amongst us. What do you think? Have you come across experiences that have made you feel the same way?

This post has been written for #CreativeCurves under #BlogOEmotion week and today is day Day 5 with the prompt, Sadness.