Misogyny and Daily Life

There is a man in my hostel who, when unchecked by a female presence often goes on a tangent and talks of sexually defiling women as if it is his birth right. There is a student in my class who thinks that being fucked in the ass would be a good punishment for an particularly inquisitive female student. There is a boy who feels that women do not belong in the entire establishment, another who compares women with their breast size. There are people who talk of strangers in the same way.
And that is just my hostel…
I find it scary that it does not unnerve me anymore. Earlier the entire concept of stalking women as a way to tell them you love them, the prospect of making lewd gestures and boasting that you’d sexually assault them made me angry. Now, it seems everyday. I guess as the times have passed I have softened to it, just like most of the Indian population seems to have. In fact, I am sure that is how the entire Indian population has changed over time. When you first confront the idea, you’re scared, you’re angry and you wish to nip it in the bud but, over time seeing that it is normal everyday life, you just accept it. After all, we’re Indians, misogyny must be in our blood.
But, why does something so horrific seem so easily acceptable with time? I don’t think people accept murders, or even violence against children easily, but, when it comes to misogyny? I think at some point of time, it became about the blaming. You cannot change the men you live with so you blame the women for inciting them. There cannot be any smoke without the fire and they wear the tight clothes, they look at us, they stare, they….
The list of complaints become longer and you start firmly believing that at the end of the day they are the ones responsible for everything in the world, and anyway those threats are not materialising into real life things at the very moment anyway. So, you live with it. One day you become one of them too.
You threaten one of the women you know with your genitalia.
You don’t feel scared by it.
It’s only commonplace anyway.

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Of Cruelty

Sometimes I wonder why the concepts of alternative sexuality isn’t easily accepted by people. Is it because we have been associated with evil for so long that to think us as normal would make them especially vulnerable? Or is it because we are at fault and we’re really wrong? Or maybe we’re not relatable enough for people, to consider the tortures upon us as cruelty.
But, then we are human, inexplicably so. And even if we challenge what has been the norm for human interaction in the society, we’re not the first one. The human civilization has evolved and accommodated so many new additions after struggles that right now nothing seems impossible. But, then this is the question of alternate sexualities. To deny the entire existence of such personalities in our history would be a falsification of epic proportions. We’ve had our shares of sadness-es. And we’ve been persecuted and sent to concentration camps.
Then, again we’re not the victims. We’re the tormentors of faith, people who live off challenging the mainstream, persecuting religions. We wish to change the definitions of marriage. But, then if humans refuse to change, then we’re resigning ourselves to a fate of lesser animals. Yet, even they know to move on from a pasture when the greenery has begun to fade with use.
Faith is comforting, religion is comforting and anything that comforts like that, cannot be fully wrong. But, the revision of laws and decrees and the protests against them create a large part of the human history. If we hadn’t had revolutions before today, we wouldn’t be standing here. Yet, this is not an article preaching strife.
Some days, I wish we could end up with happiness without trying much harder. If we could hold hands and walk into forever without worries. However, we do not have that luxury. And a held hand, a kiss is beautifully sealed in photo clicks but, the following jeers and the fears are not to be documented. It is fun to make fun of th gay man, to portray him as feminine, to make fun of people is the business of the majority. Today when I would switch on the television a man in a woman’s dress would make fun of us, and we’d take it.
It’s the norm.
We’re the part of this society.

Sans barriers

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Undo.”

If I had to undo one thing that technology as a whole has brought us, I would undo the mobile. Yes, I would get rid of the mobile as a whole. The entire deal with smartphones, with the entire bunch of new features and all, I would undo it all. And call me a Hippy if you like, but, we would all be happier for the same. Except perhaps in the cases of emergencies.

Phones are essential to our daily lives right now, we adore them. We stay connected with so many people at once, that we often forget the whole deal… In fact, let me retract my statement a but, I would love for the basic phones to stay there, all in place, but, the smart ones, they need to go. They need to go because instead of letting us progress, they pull us back, they make us vegetables. A month or so ago, I was talking about the power of the screen, how it makes us feel hidden and thus, makes us indulge in cruelty that we would never even dream of while we’re in a face to face conversation.

The smartphone brings us closer but, it also creates a distance. We become demons who do not enjoy the day to day life at all. We take pictures instead of listening to the music at the music festivals and getting a perfect profile picture becomes so much more important than getting something of value. We are not keeping memories, we’re indulging in taking more pictures. So much so, that even when we have the best book before us, we would rather still go for the whole effect of a short game in the smartphone, an experience which is far less romantic and personal compared to something that we played on tele with our old NES players. But, then that’s nostalgia and this gaming is also gaming in its own way, except it does not appeal.

However, my largest problem is with the romance. I need romance, I crave the letters delivered by a man in uniform and with the smart phones we lose that effect. We find that talking over Facebook is that much easier and soon we’re doing that every time, and when we even start on a better, everything has been written between one and the other already. Except the love has been lost with the bunches of code.

When we have time to think about what we write, we’d write of love

And then we would be better off again

As a species

But, till then the lure of the smart phone is too much, and as I close up my laptop, I would use my own to say goodnight to my friends. I would conveniently forget the wish to read something extraordinary an go about my way.

Do Books Change Too?

Last year, while I read “The Lover’s Dictionary” by David Leviathan, I cried. It was spontaneous, it was acceptable. Somewhere, the heartbreak that he had described had seemed very very personal tome. So, when I read it smack in the middle of a city that seemed to me as increasingly alien, and with the rain falling all over the ground, I had fallen in love. In a fit of love, I had claimed that it was beautiful, the greatest novel out of the modern writers.

But, then impulse wears out. Today, as I sat down for the re-read I found that the magic was missing. In a year, the love showed in large words and complicated vocabulary had been replaced. And it made me think that I was not reading something profound but, something pretentious. The same feeling I had had while I read a John Green novel during a late late night that seemed to consume everything around us. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get past the initial pages. It was breaking me, but, the words seemed distant, unromantic.

But, “Lover’s Dictionary” is a harder blow overall. This is a book that I wholly loved, this is a book that defined me. Somewhere everything about the break up seemed to have been written in this smallish novel. But, then perhaps I grew up, and the cold anger, the sudden grief seems to have subsided. And when the emotional drunkenness is gone, this novel does seem so so empty as a whole. As if it had been written to serve only the drunk. What is the value of such a novel then? When you cannot get anything out of it except the emptiness of the all consuming soul?

This book in particular is filled with intricate words, excerpts that would be in place even in the cheesiest movies. Yet, that part that makes it click is missing. It seems like Bollywood without that trademark humour, or even rom-coms without their cheesy moments. The book lacks the soul that makes romances tick. A soul that even I haven’t found till date.

But, then I hope someday I will.

Till then as I grow up, I will see more and more love stories become stale and irrelevant. And perhaps, someday even Rumi shall seem to be trash. But, that’s part of growing up I guess. Then again that scares me, that everything will become irrelevant one particular day. That, the world would end in a disaster for me. Do you ever wonder what would happen if romance itself ceased to exist?

If all the copies of Neruda and Keats burned in the distance and anyone who read Austen was exiled because the romance was gone, what remains? If books change too, then what is constant?

“Birdman” and “Nayak” : The Fault in our Stars

“Birdman” and “Nayak” both deal with actors, stars, and about the things that haunt their lives. It was only co-incidental that I watched both in a period of two days and was left awed by them. “Nayak” or “The Hero” is of course a part of Ray’s oeuvre and has won the Berlin film festival critics choice award previously, and “Birdman” has been gaining accolades all through this year. However, the awards matter much less than the subject matter they deal with.

However similar the subjects seem at the first glance they are vastly different. Though both stars are haunted by their past, Ray’s protagonist is at the height of his stardom while, Inarritu’s (pardon the misspelling, I am clueless about how to pull off the symbols) protagonist has fallen from it. This leaves the subject matter of what haunts them, for Arindam, he is haunted by his past failures, and things he did as he came into stardom, while Riggan is haunted by his own past stardom and the character that he played. Both movies though bring forward a star, a star who embraces his stardom as a necessity and not as something they enjoy. To Arindam, it comes easily, to Riggan, the need for stardom, the need for feeling important is so much that he would go to any length for it.

The fatality of stars seems to be always brought into the forefront, they are only human and once they start failing it is an easy downward spiral which ends up in rock bottom. The dealings of when they reach there is something we all remember. Their friends leave, the studios they knew so closely become strangers, and slowly but, steadily they disappear. The headlines read “The star has disappeared” but, no one makes an effort to actually find him. And the simple stereotypes, the thoughts about how every star finally turns out to be a scoundrel at least in part, it is quite prominent when one portrays them on film.

Does stardom really mean leaving our ideals behind? Riggan is haunted by his most famous character, as Keaton would be by the images of Batman that people still relate with him. This haunting by their famous roles, in perhaps what starts the downward spiral. And when Sharmila Tagore in “Nayak” says that the roles Arindam plays are “too perfect” you nod is agreement because somehow being a star has come to mean these cliched version of roles which are always superhuman under the facade of being human. A man can fight and sing, and do a hundred other things. In Bollywood and Tollywood that hardly raises a frown, In Hollywood, the genre of popular movies, the romances and action flicks exhaust their brand of stars with the similar roles under different names.

Riggan’s case is also easily seen, When Daniel Radcliffe is still named as Harry Potter and Emma Watson still called Hermoine even though they have had successful movie careers after the Harry Potter series ended. As Riggan seats in an office with some people, the subject of another sequel of “Birdman” comes out, the people, fans and producers, scream out in glee over it. “You release Birdman 4?” Riggan is dumbfounded, as much as Daniel must be when he is still questioned about Harry and his chances of reprising the role.

So, what does being a star finally mean? The loss of ideals or the dreamy state of things that the stars themselves would have us believe? Perhaps like every job, a famous personality himself faces the occupational hazards linked with it. These movies portray them. The falls, the small slips from the ideal, these are perhaps nt rare. The roles they reprise before the camera are not mirrors, and often being hounded by people all the time would give rise to a cryptic, angry mindset, something that is wrong and angry and all the way out there. The silver screen is only silver to hide the darkness inside? But, then there is fun too. You just have to wonder as you go on…

Seoul-Mates – A Review

Before I begin let me lament a bit about how short a novella really is. Being a person who has tried to put his thoughts into a novella before, I know of the limits. Specially when you’re trying to get through the entire story. So, even if I complained with all my heart and wished to know more, I could understand why it was the way it was. And this book, “Seoul-Mates” was glorious in it’s own way.

seoul-matesFirst of all, congratulations to Neha Raza for preparing this beautiful cover. The visual effect woos you the moment you see it and it welcomes you in. Also, the entire naming part and the publicity of the book was tip top. Indireads is a relatively new publisher in the market and the work they are doing has been splendid. I have read some of their titles in the past and would definitely recommend them to you. Specially, “Loves Labor” by Andy Paula. You can check out their books at this site.

Coming down to the review, I do admit that my experience with the romance genre has been severely limited. But, then I started reading. What hit me first was the pace, even and polished, it moved on with comfort. That aided in reading a genre pretty low on my to read lists. Also, what helped were the characters.
While, the length of the novella, and the nature of the genre, didn’t allow for much back story  The little things were all there. Katia’s helplessness abroad, the attachment with the only friend are common enough feelings and thus, make the story very relatable. Also, while the author wrote carefully, the passion didn’t weather as is often the risk with these things.

This book is an accomplishment in its own way. It runs beautifully across it’s length and breadth, and only falls short in some moments in between.

My grievances were not many. Only thing I really wished for was a better epilogue. it was too short for the story itself. Also, I would have appreciated if the author had fleshed out the side characters more.

Overall though, it did work. And even if the resolution is not to my liking, it is well and good.
I want to read more from this author. Also, kudos to Indireads.

I hope the writer keeps writing ahead and works harder and harder, and with that hope…

Rating – 5/5

It’s going to be alright

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Teacher’s Pet.”

It was easy enough to choose the person, Mrs. S was always going to be the most memorable teacher of my life ever since, she walked into that class room. She made me stand up and cover up my copy and make the index, contrary to all my belief of greatness that I had cherished in my mind.
Over the three-four years she taught us, the scenes would become common enough and even if English was not something I would use for the rest of my life, it became huge for me. I read and read and read till I could not read more. I developed a taste for eclectic reading and then for writing my own stuff.

She made us make creative copies where we’d put our thoughts and stuff we wrote down, and even though my best poems did not come from that copy, it helped to sit down and write. It helped when I wrote about the things that was going on around me, and about the books.

But, most of all, it helped a lot, when she asked me to go up on the stage and I did. All this public speaking I do now, all the debates stemmed out from one brilliant woman.

One brilliant woman…

She helped me when the days were not looking good and I was just an average student.

She made me dream.

And that alone is beautiful

Rediscovering Fossils

A Bengali boy dealing with the horns of dilemma that is adolescence and education, I had not been much into music when I was in class 8. I was really the person who brought these huge books home and read and read and read. More of a person who sketched and painted rather than a person who sang and danced around. At that juncture of my life, my cousin gave me some Bengali songs to play on our Home Theater. It was this odd album collection including a medley of bands including “Fossils”. “Fossils” is a Bengali band set out of Kolkata that set out to bring rock music to Bengal and well, what it brought was simply, the popular rock that Bengal needed out of the bands at that very moment.

Bengal, has forever been the hub of revolutions and angst. It belts out intellectualisms that might not appeal to the larger community but, exclusively in Bengal it becomes part of a larger being. it becomes an ever growing organism and it encompasses everything in its path and that is beautiful. “Fossils” was different though. This was a movement that did not stem from the anger or with political motivation like the hundreds of poets and singers of that age. It was a straight up need to express adolescent angst and the need for rock and roll in our society that was delving into these old songs which though not exactly politically correct, were not something that the kids could relate to.
“Fossils” capitalized on the market and became huge, and then it captured the fantasies of everyone around.

But, I grew up, and so did our generation that listened to the music of the band. The etilists moved on to Blues while, the stable Bengal fan base remained. The band was on it’s way to becoming a juggernaut when I moved onto Metal myself.

That started a few years of metal worship. Of the longer hair and the affection for the wholly black wardrobe. Of putting together a hefty collection of death metal from around the globe. Through this, I got the idea of returning to the very roots and I still have the huge collection of Blues and instrumentals that influenced the artists I liked at that time. I still listen to “The Velvet Underground” and “Silver Apples”, but, then I somehow forgot my own roots. My own humble beginning with a home theater and the music CDs burned by some anonymous guys at some mobile store to make that much amount of extra profit.

But, last year I heard them live…

I was there in the front row, singing along to the songs that I had heard about a hundred times or more during my teenage years and it struck. Throughout the rest of the year I have been singing the same songs and this morning I rediscovered the CDs.
It is strange indeed, the chords were still simple, it was not really brutal or even great. but, there, among all those fans, and in a sea of choruses, I felt like I belonged, and that is a feeling that is quite common in rock concerts, even with bands you don’t know jack about.

But, now here I am, I have listened to almost all of their songs today.

But, that emptiness remains.

Fossils, their music has the anthem-like quality, but, it lacks the sincerity, the beauty of truth. it lacks the beauty that lies in truthful angst and anger and expression. It lacks that thing that makes music worth listening to. Listening to them is like listening to the later albums of “Bon jovi”, that conviction of romance is missing.

I remember the concert vividly though, and I still sing along to the songs in my computer. I just don’t like them that much anymore, and the studio works do not match up to the performance they put up, or maybe having someone to enjoy the whole thing with changes the entire atmosphere.