Saturday, April 23, 2011 15 comments


Have you ever bothered to look at the posters adorning walls in dark corridors of commercial buildings? I usually don’t as I have about a minute before I run past these corners that reek of urine before I can let out my breath and breathe normally. Once however, on my way back from a photocopying shop which is located in once such spot, I happened to drop the contents of the file that I was holding and had to spend about 2-3 minutes collecting them. It turned out that it was more than 3-4 minutes that I spent there as I tried to retrieve the documents with one hand while holding my nose with the other.  As I finished the task I looked up and saw them- the posters!

There were these comical pictures of men with enlarged privates and strange expressions on their faces and written in bold “ Are you suffering from VD,  hydrosil, erection problems, herpes or fistula?  For uninterrupted and enjoyable sex life contact Dr XYZ – phone no xxxxxxxxx” . To say that I was amused would be an understatement. I had to control myself from laughing aloud ( it would have attracted a lot of attention considering that I was the only woman there …).  I went back home and shared this information with my husband asking him if he had ever noticed them.  He said that he had but the interesting thing was that most of these posters were located in dark smelly buildings or around walls where men usually urinated.

We wondered what kind of  people these were – both the men who sought help from these so called docs and these quacks who put up posters about the cures that they could offer? “ May be I should go to one of them and see what happens’ teased my husband.  He tried to imitate a man with one of the problems mentioned in the ad “ Sir, I saw an advertisement when I was pissing on the wall of the hospital on 2nd cross street… and I was wondering if I could see you” ?  His tone was conspiratorial with lots of pauses and I was hugely entertained.

But jokes apart- I wonder what ails men so much that they cannot go to a qualified doctor and openly state that they have some sexual problem? Besides, as I found from the advertisement, the problems like fistula or hydrosil were not even of sexual nature though I guess, they were located around the privates. I guess it is something to do with this thing called    “ MOJO”.

I remember watching this film,  where the hero - Mike Meyers ( who is supposed to a be spoof on James Bond )starts yelling suddenly “ I have lost of my mojo”!  Those days I was not so computer savvy and therefore, had to wait for about two years before one bored afternoon, I googled this word “MOJO”. It threw a wide range of possibilities by way of meaning but the one that seemed to fit best with the context in the movie was  “a slang word for self-confidence, self-esteem or sex appeal.”

  So folks, when a man’s self esteem and sex appeal are all so closely interlinked, it is a complicated issue. Unlike us women who acknowledge openly our problems of middle age around the reproductive organs – ovarian cysts, fibroids in our ovaries etc , men I guess find it difficult to talk about these things and much less seek help. As a result they have to contact these quacks and probably whisper out their problems and then shell out a lot of money while hoping for the best.

From the way our society is constructed there is very little openness to talk about problems that relate to sexual dysfunction. Women take it more easily in their stride because upbringing has taught them that their job is not to enjoy sex but to produce children. Men on the other hand have been brought up to believe that it is their right to enjoy sex and part of being a man involves being a “ star performer” on this domain.

Ultimately, I guess it is not about the physical nature of the problem that requires attention, it is the mental state that makes these issues out to be big ones. The guys who are benefitting most from this are ofcourse these quacks who must be laughing all the way to the bank!
Tuesday, April 19, 2011 9 comments

Being myself - some honest confessions

I  always fancied myself to be writer- right from my childhood. I used to have these dreams of winning a prize and people applauding…!!! Though I have obviously not reached anywhere near that but being nominated for an award by none other than my “super smart” younger sister Deepa  certainly brings a warm glow to my heart. I don’t know how much of this is family loyalty but I would like to think that it is a serious feedback from her. Thanks a lot little sis!

 As the recipient of this aware I am supposed to write 7 honest things about myself. Well let me begin..

  1. If there was a song that best described me it would be “I have a dream, a song to sing,” ( though I am not sure I believe in “something good in everything I see”). I guess the operative word here is dreamer. Ever since I can remember I have spent a large part of my life in a dream world. I am sometimes accused of losing touch with reality- so engrossed I get in this world (“absent minded” is a kinder word to describe this) . So accepting the reality of a situation often comes to me with difficulty.  

  1. The genes I inherited from my paternal side of the family make me a very articulate person. My mother tells me that I could speak when I was ten months old! I like to think that I speak sense. My parents encouraged me to speak my mind and so I do it all the time- often being used as a spokesperson by others who find it difficult to “speak up”. Over the years I have learnt to temper the words that come out of my mouth or my pen/ keyboard so that I don’t hurt anyone or put myself or others in trouble.

  1. I have a very hot temper and am also “gifted” with a very sarcastic tongue – a deadly combination that can finish off people I dislike. I tend to dislike spineless people who have no guts or who have no position on any issue. My temper also scorches people who grovel before authority and expect others to follow suit when they are in positions of power.

  1. I trust easily- very easily!  Obviously this has put me in situations where I have been badly hurt. Today I am wiser and probably exercise more caution in my relationships.

  1. I love cultural, religious and ethnic diversity and cannot exist in a society that is parochial or not diverse enough. I don’t believe in national, regional, religious, caste or class stereotypes. I take each person as they are- liking or disliking them for what they are and not because of their nationalities, religion, caste or class.

  1. I am crazy about travelling. I have often wondered whether I was Fahien, Avvaiyar or Hieun Tsang in one of my previous births. I have a mole on the sole of one of my feet which according to an astrologer is a sign that the person would have the desire to travel across the world and seven seas. These feet are always busy though .. walking ever since I can remember- not always travelling the seven seas – often pacing a room when deep in thought!

  1. I am extremely emotional and am easily given to tears – a beautiful poem, a sad story or a mushy scene in a film is all that it takes for the eyes to fill up. I used to be very embarrassed about this when I was younger but now….. I frankly don’t care!

I have tried my best to be as honest I can – those who know me may agree ( you’d  better!). As required by the conditions of this award I have to pass it on to three other fellow bloggers

Nivedita Louis Cloud Nine  I  can relate to her  ideas and her style of writing. She has a great sense of humour and writes about simple everyday things and also about social issues with the same passion.

Ibhade- Housewife Tales ( the nitty gritty)   Sometimes I think we are twins separated at birth- she writes the way I think. I like her straightforward “no nonsense” way of putting ideas into words. She has given me an insight into life in Nigeria- a country that I did not know much about. I think she has the potential to be another Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Just as I got hooked on to this writer after reading “Half of a yellow sun” similarly have been hooked on to the housewifely tales.

Anindita -Ai Zindagi  Ani writes with such feeling! I had tears in my eyes when I read her blog post about the old lady who serves breakfast to street children! Her post on the unborn child was equally emotional. Ani is a person I have not met yet  but who I know so well now through this virtual world. She is married to one of my close friends and between the two of them they are a very creative and artistic couple. I think she should publish her blog posts as a book which her husband should illustrate
Thursday, April 14, 2011 7 comments

When a chronicler turns actor -television media in India today

We have often heard this saying "News does not happen, it is made". One can only realize how true it is when we see the various television news channels in India today. The recent "crusade" for the Lok Pal bill to combat corruption using an aging Gandhian as a "puppet" is a prime example of how these channels are trying to shape public opinion. We had this old gentleman , Anna Hazare announcing a fast unto death until the Lok Pal became a reality ( Lok Pal is an Ombudsman body which would consist of Judges and other nomiated persons to which a citizen can complain about corruption related issues). All television channels carried long footage about this with good sound "bytes". This was followed up with announcements of candlelight marches to show solidarity for this cause.

I dont watch too much television and am mostly informed by the print media, however I found that the print media was more subdued in its reporting on this. Reflecting on this, I can only say that it is probably because the print media is "burdened" with the responsibility of providing facts and figures to satisfy readers like me who want to know more about an issue. Television on the other hand is simpler - you get a few moments on this and with cleverly drafted words and a smart looking anchor can "brainwash" a viewer into beleiving facts as you want to present it.

I am not critical about television viewers but I find that catering as it does to people with limited attention spans, it can influence its target audience much more easily than the print media. Television also has the advantage of introducing "drama" into any news item with shrieking and screaming anchors and provides the common man/woman to participate in the drama by sticking microphones in front of just any one.

But the television media is more than a group of dramatist personae- they have of late tried to meddle in policy issues through lobbyists have tried to be part of a number of larger corrupt deals ( the 2G spectrum scam/ the Radia tapes and Barkha Dutt and Veer Sanghvi's role in that...just some examples). So it is surprising that they should try to suddenly be so "holier than thou" on this..! Somewhere along the way their own ends are being met under the cloak of "news' that is manufactured.

I was just discussing this with a friend of mine and she had this interesting point about how the middle class today are often so confused about the complexities of certain news items. We dont have the time to read up something in a newspaper that would probably explain this in greater detail-we just have that few minutes during breakfast or dinner to catch some points , hear a celebrity's views on it and then we decide "yes certainly that is a cause"!

I remember a journalist friend once telling me that people who report on news items certainly do colour it with thier own perspectives but there is a difference between being a reporter and an actor. When a reporter tries to be an actor then obviously the script backs the actor. If we recall the 26/11 scene outside the Taj in Mumbai, we will remember how the satellite connection suddenly blacked out some channels because it was suddenly realized by our security forces that the terrorists were also watching these channels and planning their strategies accordingly - in essence we were providing them information through our channels!! And ofcourse no one reported about the carnage in VT station where common peple like us -commuters had died. There just wasnt enough drama there!

Today there seems to be an aggression with which the televsion media is growing and beginning to meddle in issues that ideally is none of their business. They also think that they can "conscientise" the public into taking action ... they would like to decide who we should vote for and who we should not- they also decide who is corrupt and who is not through the time they give on the coverage of corruption issues.

A free press is a sign of a vibrant democracy-certainly! Our democracy has given rise today to this genie who unfortunately will not longer be contained in a bottle!
Sunday, April 10, 2011 8 comments

In the virtual world

I saw a comment that someone had posted on face book which said that FB should have options like "dislike", "disgusting" etc for certain kind of status messages and comments- I couldn't agree more! The few months that I have been on this social networking site have been an eye opener- last week particularly when we in India were on an all time high after winning the world cup and some days before that hoping to win it. I saw messages that said " Let our men in blue beat the lives out of the green pyjama wearing guys"- this is the message prior to the Mohali match between India and Pakistan. I was told by a friend that someone she knew had posted another message during the India - Sri Lanka match that said " The last chapter of Ramayan gets played out today" !! Absolutely insensitive and chauvinistic!

A couple of months ago I had an unpleasant experience when a former colleague who has been in touch with me on FB started posting some highly right wing comments to my status messages. Messages of mine that were nothing more controversial than praising Al Pacino's acting in the "Merchant of Venice" invited some really  harsh comments about Jewish people, the Catholic faith etc etc.. He had done this on earlier occasions too on FB so I was not really suprised. But what really shocked me was that  I had no inkling about these values of his while we were colleagues. He used to be a quiet chap and was considered very well informed on his portfolio. His reports used to be good and he was easy to work with. So where was this side to him? Did it suddenly develop after two months of leaving our organization? I dont think so- I think it was probably always there only it never showed itself in our face to face interactions!

This brings us to an interesting question- does the virtual world make us shed our inhibitions and show us in our true colours? I had read sometime ago, an article in a magazine that said that relationships  between men and women that begin through social networking sites often progress much  quicker than relationships that began the usual way ( that is couples meet, strike up a conversation, go on a date etc ).  I was discussing this with my husband yesterday and he seemed to think otherwise. He said that people who communicated through a virtual medium were often devoid of emotions.

However, I beg to differ. I think the virtual medium makes us shed our inhibitions very quickly because relationships within it are negotiated through a keyboard and therefore emotions are easier to express. A  man or a woman may feel more confident to flirt with someone virtually than face to face. It is probably easier to type things out that you cannot hear yourself speak. We therefore behave more sponteneously while on line than when on ground. But having said that I must also mention that the virtual world gives us the chance to think carefully about what we want to say - atleast we are not confronted by a person who has asked us something and is waiting for an answer across the room! This is particularly so in the case of Face book where people get enough time to think of suitablly witty answers to someone's comment.

I think the virtual world gives us the option to present ourselves the way we want the world to see us while also putting us in danger of revealing ourselves in our true colours. So it is a double edged sword..! We confirm as our friends on face book people we may know vaguely and then have to put up with the embarrassment of having them post disgusting messages. I have had school friends ask me " Hey who is that bigot?" ( this is my old "friend" I had mentioned earlier who I have now "unfriended"). Ofcourse some comments are not so obnoxious and people actually get by thinking it is quite witty and suddenly I find that what passes for humour is nothing but intolerence of another culture. 

Sometimes it is alarming, the rate at which these virtual interactions are increasing in our lives. A friend of mine met and married a man who she met online ( in India we have these matrimonial sites ). Today she is trying to get out of this relationship which was nothing but a sham- the man in question had not even completed school and after marriage started abusing her. She did not have the advantage of a real social network in the sense that she had lost both her parents and was on her own!

But I am not saying that social networking is bad- far from it! Sites like facebook have reunited me with my school friends and helped me stay with friends who have moved out of my town. It is just that like all good things- there is a dark and unknown side to it which  I am trying to reflect on it.. !

Saturday, April 9, 2011 8 comments

We are all going on a summer holiday...

Well, here it is that time of the year once again... April and we are getting ready to make plans on what to do for the summer. The summer classes have to be fixed for a month atleast as also the vacation travel to some place.

I think back to those uncomplicated days of my childhood when summer holidays did not involve that much of planning. We knew pretty much what we were going to do. We would be going to our grandparents' place - Madras and then Trichy ( Srirangam to be precise) visiting both the maternal and the paternal side of the family. Despite the complete predictability of this exercise we used to be so excited!

Those days travel from Calcutta to Chennai was not a simple affair - we used to take the Madras mail which left Howrah at about 10 PM, travelling through West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and then finally Tamil Nadu. Getting to Howrah station was not that easy either. Until I was about ten years old we used to live in a place called Kanchrapara which was about an hour by suburban train from Sealdah and Howrah a few kilometers away from Sealdah. Taking into account the huge amount of luggage that we travelled with, going by local trains usually was ruled out and so we used to make this journey at about 10 AM by my father's office jeep and reach Howrah station some time by 5PM. We would have ofcourse packed the lunch to eat enroute and also carried enough water. Carrying water again was not that simple. We had an earthern "Surahi" in which we carried water. My father had designed for it an interesting contraption called a stand into which it fitted itself. Ofcourse, the Surahi water was to be filled in before we reached Howrah station as the Howrah station water was very salty and therefore not fit for drinking.

Once we boarded the train we would make a bee line for the first class compartment ( there were no AC compartment those days) and start arranging our various little items of luggage. There used to be a trunk, a suitcase, a "holdall" and various plastic baskets- the largest one carrying the tiffen carrier as high as the Eiffel Tower. Once settled in, my mother would take out her plastic plates and serve out dinner for about 6 people ( the four of us travelling and the driver and peon who would have come to see us off). After stuffing ourselves with puri and potatoes, my father would pull the shutters down and we would doze off.

Come morning and we would find that we had reached Orissa. I remember morning tea being brought in a white china tea set ( complete with tea pot and milk jug) on a steel tray at the Berhampore railway station. We would be eying the tea with great interest but ofcourse were forbidden from drinking it. Then would beging the ritual of breakfast- idlis with podi ( for the podi my mother had a little box into which she would have pre mixed it with the oil) and then Appa would walk down the platform to fill in water into the Surahi.

Then the train would again move on getting to Waltair ( Vizag) station by lunch time where Amma would serve lunch- curd rice, potatoes and sometimes left over puris from the previous night's dinner. We would be eyeing the "kondapalli" toys that the vendors sold on the hand carts. We would also get some of the local banana varieties.

The train would chug on and then would begin the troublesome afternoon time when both my sister and myself would start our fights - I would have run out of Amar Chitra Kathas and Enid Blytons and she would have decided that she no longer fancied looking at the passing landscape. After some dire threats from Amma the fights would subside and we would try to go out into the corridor to peek into the other compartments to see if there was anyone else we could trouble.

Come night and we would have reached Vijaywada. Often, our food supplies would have been over by then and then we would have what my sister called "Train Sapad" ( train food). A tiny tot she was hardly 6 years old but would want an entire tray for herself, often wasting most of the food ( those days food on trains would be served on trays with  steel bowls and cutlery).

Vijaywada station to me represents a lot of drama besides the kid's tantrums. I remember on one of our journeys south, Appa had gone to fill water into the Surahi and had in the crowd dropped this earthern ware pot shattering it to pieces. Since there was no other container to hold water, he bought another earthern pot which ofcourse did not fit into his carefully designed wooden stand. So, we had this situation where there was a pot and a stand to carry when we got off the train at Madras, making Amma really mad! Besides, the pot that Appa had hurriedly bought was round with an unstable base and kept rolling whenever the train picked up speed , sprinkling the floor of the compartment with water...!

And finally when we arrived at Madras, we would be tiered and happy. After a week or so we would be ready to make another journey- this time by Rockfort express to Trichy -getting off at Srirangam. Not such an eventful one as this one but certainly one that held a lot of promise of uninterrupted fun for a month long vacation in this little island town..

I often think about how simple life was those days despite all the planning to be done for the travel. We drank water off taps on wayside stations but never fell ill. Infact neither me nor my sister have ever had any water brone diseases. We never missed the AC -infact travelling first class was the height of luxury. We did not have much by way of options on snack items to buy enroute but that did not bother us. No chips, coke, nothing ! I also miss those landscapes that we travelled through. I have done the same journey a few years ago but the number farms seem to be coming down and the number of  houses seem to be on the increase.

I never ever went for any summer classes that had to be paid for ( though while at my grandparents' place there were number of music and sholka classes that we used to be sent for - none of which required us to pay a fee). But these days the summer classes are so many - handwriting, maths, drawinng and painting, dance etc etc. As working parents, I guess it is a necessary evil- we need to find something for our children to do. Neither are these kids happy with just visitng grandparents. We do that too but it is just for a few days after that holiday to some exotic destination.

Well that was about three decades ago.  I need to now come back to the present and start logging inot "" or  " Make my trp" to look for the best possible flight fares to whatever location that we plan to go to and in the meanwhile look for the best deals in terms of summer camps for this precocious thirteen year old that we have produced..