Thursday, November 25, 2010

These are a few of my favourite books...rum tum tum rum tum tum

Here’s a list of some of my most loved books. I’ll keep adding to it as I remember more. This is just the novels, will need a separate list for short stories, poetry and drama. :D The numbers are just for itemization, and NOT a grading. I love all these books. Cannot rate them.

1. Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Emma – Jane Austen

Love all of Austen, but these three are undoubtedly my favourites. Keen observation of human idiosyncrasies, great humour.

2. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

Old fashioned romance. Amazing language, very visual. There’s just something about it that makes me keep rereading it.

3. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

Dark, disturbing, irresistible. Again very visual, strong, can see the wild moors and hear the wuthering winds.

4. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Beautiful examination of loss of innocence, effects of conditioning, racism

5. Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel – Daphne Du Maurier

Dark, eerie, psychological, and very interesting women characters.

6. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

An examination of the slow decent into madness. Always leaves me with goose pimples.

7. The Lord Of The Rings trilogy – J R R Tolkien

The sheer scope of the work gets to me. A whole different world, a language, history, geography. And I do like my monsters :D

8. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

What if the utopia was not such a great place after all? Also love Antic Hay and Chrome Yellow. All of these books are so simple on the surface. Just a straightforward narrative, but how disturbing when you think about them.

9. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

Usually read this back to back with Brave New World similar in subject, but how different in handling. But equally disturbing, although this one is a lot more overtly disturbing.

10. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

Love the character, the picture of the time, the fashionable world, and the “bheed me akele” feel that runs through it.

11. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Five Parts – Douglas Adams

What can I say?…I’m a blind Adams fan. Anyone who can make heavy science this much fun has my vote. Not to mention a twisted sense of humour and some exquisite nonsense. Love Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Salmon of Doubt, and The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul as well.

12. Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, To a God Unknown – John Steinbeck

Very real, very –not nice, vey “non lecturing” examination of human mind and behavior. And what language “the sun cut itself on a jagged peak and bled into the valley”….wah!

13. The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

Revenge, love, prison break, pirates, disguises, what’s not to like? Have read the 1300 page unabridged book something like 30 times. Much more complicated than most people think. But he holds the attention. The only Dumas I like actually.

14. Midnight’s Children, Shame, Haroun and the Sea of Stories – Salman Rushdie

Another author I adore. Love everything except Fury which sucked. Magic realism is definitely one of my things.

15. Around the World in 80 Days, The Mysterious Island – Jules Verne

Old fashioned Sci-fi, but very interesting. Lovely language.

16. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

Children’s fiction. Sweet, nice, but good writing, and very visual.

17. Such a Long Journey – Rohinton Mistry

Although I do like his other work, I think this is his best. One of the very few examples of “Indian/Indian origin writing in English” that I like unqualifiedly.

18. A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

The Only Dickens that I really like at all. Dark, disturbing, and I cannot get the image of a “black Madame Defarge” knitting calmly as heads roll under the guillotine.

19. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Amazing, fantastic, totally awesome mind f@#k. magic realism at its best. Can be heavy going for people not used to the genre, I guess, but I love it.

20. Lord of the Flies – William Golding

Very very dark, very disturbing, examination of what happens to so-called human beings when there are no social checks and balances on behavior. are not as INNOCENT as we like to think. Scares the SH#T out of me every time I read it.

21. A Ghost at Noon – Alberto Moravia

The not so slow disintegration of a marriage, through misunderstandings, not-understanding, and towering obsessions. Fantastic. I also like his other books, especially Conjugal Love. Something quite lyrical about the language as well, maybe an effect of the original Italian?

22. The Scarlet Pimpernel – Baroness Orczy

Swashbuckling heroes, daring rescues, historical background of the French revolution, fashion, beautiful women in distress, blackmail, betrayal, and love… the complete entertainer :D

23. Silk – Alessandro Baricco

Surreal romance where nothing is as it seems and everything is magic. Tiny little book, but I usually need about a day after putting it down, to finish reabsorbing it. Some lovely images too.

24. Beloved – Toni Morrison

Amazing. Strong, deep, visual, real, donno what to say. Love it unconditionally though. Also really really like her other work.

25. The Fifth Child – Doris Lessing

Creepy, eerie, but what impact. Like her other work as well, including “The Grass is Singing”.

26. Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf

Love most of Woolf’s work, but this is my favourite. Love Clarissa Dalloway, and the whole fragmented, stream of thought, exploration of all the characters.

27. The Hours – Michael Cunningham

Brilliant. Preferably to be read just after Mrs Dalloway. A sort of retelling and reinvention. Like a book becoming real. Fascinating. The women are well written too…which helps :D

28. The Mote in God’s Eye – Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

My absolute favourite Sci-Fi book of all time! Fantastic science (not surprising as the guys are astrophysicists and ex NASA and whatnot), great characters, nice twists, fascinating imagination of what the future might be.

29. Inferno – Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

A retelling of Dante’s Inferno by a couple of astrophysicists. Lots of fun, especially if you have read the original. Good stand alone book too. On the ever blurring borderline between science and magic, technology and mythology.

30. Foe – J M Coetzee

Retelling of Robinson Crusoe from a whole new angle. Love most of Coetzee’s work. Very interesting, very subversive.

31. Saint Jack – Paul Theroux

Raw, fairly dark, bit of an “adventures of so and so” kind of book. I like the vigour of the language, and love the central character, even though he is a bit of a bastard.

32. The Crucible – Arthur Miller

Study in mass hysteria, adolescent peer mechanisms, and vested interests. The historical background of the Salem witch trials just adds to the effect, for me.

33. Monsignor Quixote – Graham Greene

Interesting modern twist on the classic tale of Don Quixote. Fun. And, of course, there’s Greene’s writing style and language. Also love his “the Quiet American, and The Power and the Glory.

34. The Plague – Albert Camus

My favourite Camus, although I do love his other work. Another dark book, but what imagery, and what impact. And history is one of my pet hobby horses after all J

35. The Green Man – Kingsley Amis

Horror and satire in equal measure. Surreal in bits and all too real in others, how perfect!

36. Time’s Arrow – Martin Amis

Must thank Soma for originally lending me this one. Everything happens backwards. Fantastic book.

37. Love Story – Erich Segal

The ONLY Segal I like. Hooked from the fist line .. its my favourite tearjerker. Nice in being non maudlin, and for the dry humour even in some of the darkest bits.

38. The Black Cloud – Fred Hoyle

Another Sci-Fi masterpiece by another astrophysicist. Loved both the concept and the telling. One of the best I have ever read.

39. King Solomon’s Mines, She – H Rider Haggard

Obviously, I have a thing for adventure novels :P These two are among my favourites. Loads of history, lots of travel through hostile lands, and many many miraculous saves. Good fun on a rainy Sunday afternoon with garam chai and pakoras. Little tough on the women though…when there are any.

40. Wide Sargasso Sea –Jean Rhys

The disintegration of a marriage, the descent into madness, and how the OTHER can affect the basic…self, relationship, whatever. Loved it.

41. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey

The shenanigans in a ward full of mental patients. Amazing characters, a feeling almost like a riot, and some deep truths. Great book.

42. Heidi – Johanna Spyri

Just a nice sweet kid’s story that I love to revisit every so often.

43. How Green Was My Valley – Richard Llewellyn

Welsh miners, life, times, troubles. Very beautiful in a darkish way. Language is beautiful, and visual.

44. Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott

More adventure. History, psychology, crusades, Knights Templars, damsels in distress, Norman Saxon enmity, Robin Hood, King Richard…gooood fun.

45. The Dark Tower series – Stephen King

Seven books, unlike most of King’s work. Fantasy/western/ adventure rather than straight forward horror, although it does have elements of that too. A classic.

46. Phantoms – Dean Koontz

I am a horror addict…whether in books or movies…and this is the only thing that’s ever spooked me! I was decidedly uncomfortable stepping out of my room after finishing this one. That’s high praise for any horror, coming from a jaded “I laugh at the scary movies” addict like me.

47. The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco

Historical murder mystery….what fun! Its has everything kahani me twist hai drama hai emotion hai :D

48. The Father Brown Stories and other works of G K Chesterton.

Nice whodunits, and a totally unexpected kind of detective, but the language and the imagery attract me more than the mysteries.

49. Jurassic Park, The Lost World, and The Andromeda Strain – Michael Crichton

I like most of his work,(except Congo I guess) but these are the best. Love the ease with which I can imbibe good science while reading a nice tight story.

50. Anything by Dick Francis

A blind fan. These are by far the best thrillers I have ever read…..and consistently so (although some I like a little bit better than others). I love thrillers that can make me laugh out loud even when the hero is hanging off a cliff with one hand with fingers being stepped on by a meanie.

51. Where Eagles Dare, The Guns Of Navarone, Floodgate, and Fear is the Key – Alistair Maclean

Laugh out loud funny at the moments of highest tension, and otherwise. Good thrillers. Not all of his work matches up to these though, probably ghostwritten or something.

52. WODEHOUSE!!! – anything and everything. Have been told by people that his stories are ordinary, juvenile even. Well…they’re not…they are the most sublime nonsense. And who the hell reads Wodehouse for the stories anyways? It’s about the LANGUAGE. The sheer artistry of the man with the English language that makes you roll around on the floor clutching your tummy and “gurgling like a turkey with laryngitis” a la Pongo Twistleton. Man is a genius.

53. Terry Pratchett – again..anything by him. Does the most amazing things. Puts science, mythology, nonsense and a wicked sense of satire into a blender and pours out the perfect laugh. Brilliant!

54. Gerald Durrell – anything. Right up there with Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett…..a dedicated conservationist writing about animals (and his family). Funny as hell.

55. Dorothy L Sayers – especially the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. Unexpected sort of sleuth…funny quips, intelligent language, and interesting whodunits.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Blasting gender stereotypes

TheIndianhomemaker, someone whose blog I read fairly regularly, recently asked what things I do -- that are against the social gender stereotype. Things that would normally not be considered feminine, in my case. The discussion, obviously, was about gender stereotypes of the “men don’t talk and women can’t read maps” variety. Much as I would like to think that the 21st century urban Indian does not subscribe to these ‘too convenient’ labels, the reality is unfortunately not as rosy. Perfectly intelligent, educated, MODERN, and “with it” people I know believe or perpetuate these stereotypes – overtly or subconsciously.
It could be the person who picked a fight with me over my analysis of Hindi film songs because he claimed “so many songs are depicting the goddess and mother. Why do you always look only at the negative?” (apart from the fact that he had OBVIOUSLY failed to grasp what that discussion was about, he has betrayed his ideology of the age old Madonna/whore stereotyping of women which became a lot more evident on hearing about my lifestyle, smoking, drinking, and what not—at which point he went on my ignore list) or the family that does not allow its highly educated daughter in law to get a job because “the home is a woman’s first priority”.
If you just look, it is everywhere. The constructs of what is, or is not, feminine or masculine behavior colours many of our actions and perceptions. While some of us seek to resist this conditioning, most are unaware of, and comfortable with, these pigeon holes.
Luckily for me, I grew up in a family where the roles were not so deeply felt or adhered to. My mom did a lot of the financial analysis, bill paying, and bank work, and dad was perfectly happy to help out at home or to take care of us kids. However, it is undeniable that I was exposed to a lot of the same messages that most people face…in general society, and the ones that my parents subconsciously might have retained. The great thing was that there was never a “you must do this because you are a girl” or “you must do this because you are a boy” where my bro and I were concerned.
So, a lot of things we are comfortable doing are what would be considered contrary to our gender roles. Here are some of mine.
  • I definitely CAN read a map. In fact, in my family’s obsessive-compulsively constant road-trips, I am usually the one in charge of the navigation, especially since uddie left for far pavilions.
  • I definitely don't depend on a man to change light bulbs or fix things like the TV antenna, cable, telephone, and so on. I have always been mechanically inclined, and can happily do a lot of unfeminine things – from assembling do-it-yourself furniture to changing fuses, taking VCD players apart and putting them back together, changing gas cylinders (really simple thing, but people seem to get attacks of helpless female over it) and so on.
  • I do all the banking, bill paying, form filling, fee giving “outside” duties.
  • I am a lot more practical and rational in a crisis, and do not dissolve into the expected waves of tears or screaming hysterics (a trait I inherited from my mom whose dry eyes and calm head saved my brother’s finger when it was almost severed in an accident in infancy, but earned her the epithet of dayan or witch for being so heartless as to not faint dead away. Fainting or getting hysterical would have been a lot more feminine, and of course more maternal, even if it cost my brother his arm….go figure!)
  • I can tell one brand and model of car from another on the road. (Very unfeminine…apparently women are supposed to proudly say things like “oh they all look the same to me, four wheels and a bonnet”)
  • I can change a tyre, and fix a few other minor car problems, and I know what “could be the problem” even if I can’t fix it sometimes. I definitely do not belong to the “oh! I don’t know anything about these machines!” brigade.
  • I do not like to shop. I believe in targeted shopping where I walk into one store knowing exactly what I want/need. Find it fast. And walk out. Total time spent….probably 15 minutes. I HATE going shopping with women who don’t know what they want or want to dawdle endlessly from shop to shop looking through hundreds of items, haggling, arguing, and then walking out… for hours and hours before (if) they actually buy anything.
  • I buy clothes once or twice a year, and throw out 2 or 3 older dresses for every set I buy. I don’t own 40 pairs of shoes/slippers or 25 bags.
  • I wear clothes for comfort, not fashion, and refuse to consider uncomfortable clothes or ‘look’ just to fit some category of what is IN. as a result, as most of my friends know, my hair is always pulled back in a tight bun high on the back of my head. I catch a lot of flack for not letting my long hair down….but I hate hair on my face or neck especially in summer. The only time I wear it down is in winter, especially when visiting cold places.
  • I prefer flats, comfortable shoes and sneakers/floaters to stilettos.
  • I don’t spend chunks of money and time in a beauty salon. Have had my eyebrows ‘done’ only about twice in my entire life, and never had a manicure. Clean clipped nails, no varnish, and looked after hands and feet does it for me just fine.
  • I don’t have a beauty regime. Never use moisturizer/night cream blah blah. Have never even picked up and looked at an anti-wrinkle cream or fairness cream. I like my skin just the way it is, and the people who matter love my complexion (they better!). Cold water and soap is all the skin care I need, and a basic shampoo and conditioner all the hair care necessary. Haven’t OILED my hair in about 20 years and cannot imagine all that mehendi/ritha and whatnot hassle.
  • I HATE keeping house and DO NOT obsess about how the house looks every minute of every day. The décor is eclectic Jia-brand do-it-yourself, and it is often a mess with washed clothes lying in piles, soft toys everywhere, the little monkey’s things all over the floor, etc. My housekeeping abilities DO NOT appear to me to be a reflection of how much WOMAN I am. If it piles up…it piles up…until one of us has the time to get to it. No biggie.
  • I Do Not like Shah Rukh Khan. I hate all saas bahu serials, and usually don’t enjoy any of the so-called chick flix. I have even chosen not to have cable at home, and obsessive serial watching is totally out of the question. No addiction to TV at all.
  • I don’t inhale romance novels. I own about 12 of them (out of some 400 books), which I read about once a year, in one go, as a break from the heavier reading I enjoy. When the brain starts to seize up from an overdose of Derrida, Kafka and Hesse, 12 straight M&Bs can do a lot for unclogging it! I don’t buy, exchange, or rent more. Never needed to.
  • Cannot tolerate PNPC, and backbiting gossip. Hate segregated parties where the LADIES always end up talking about clothes, kids, kids’ studies, kids, kids’ latest behavior, ad nauseum. 98-99% of my friends are men and I like mixed crowds where there are a lot of different topics going around, from politics to world peace, global economics to philosophy, and everything else one can imagine.
So….these were some of the stereotype blasting things I do. What’s yours? Come on people….

Monday, July 26, 2010

The unknown unknown

As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.

-Donald Rumsfeld

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The final chapter

Unless someone else comes up with something…

Well, this is amazing! Even Dips, the chalta firta dictionary of Hindi films, including B and C grade ones, has failed to come up with any new input into the quality based songs. The only track he could add Was something I’ve never even heard –

TERI PYARI PYARI BAATEN MUJHE ACCHI LAGTI HAIN – apparently from the Madhuri Dixit and Anil Kapoor Starrer JAMAI RAJA.

As for me, much wracking of the brains has produced nothing at all. The only songs I can think of, describing a woman’s qualities rather than looks, are horrible background tracks in tear jerkers. Stuff that goes on and on about how a woman is weak/goddess of purity/personification of sacrifice. Movies like “Jeevan Dhara” and “Sansaar” had such numbers, which I find frankly disgusting.

The only positive background WOMAN song I can think of, offhand, is “Hasti Teri Vishaal, Kudrat Ka Tu Kamaaal” from “hum dil de chuke sanam.” An almost unknown part of this great soundtrack, the number has amazing lyrics, and just the kind of talk I like to hear.

As for the other challenge, the description of a Man’s looks in Hindi film songs, it’s not faring much better either. The dictionary man has suggested

SASURAL GENDA PHOOL from Delhi 6. A good choice, especially with the “bush-shirt pahinke khaike beeda paan, poore Raipur se alag hai saiyan ji ki shaan”

So… good one!

And another…

BACK MARTA HAI Front Marta Hai– from POLICE OFFICER starring Jackie Shroff and Karishma Kapoor.

This one I don’t know at all, hence cannot comment.

Well, that’s about it for these two threads for now. If anything new comes up, we’ll see.

Friday, May 28, 2010

praising male looks --- another SEARCH!

The other point made in the original blog that sparked off this line of thought was that this trend of obsession with looks does not work both ways. (Rita also brought up this point in her comment to the results blog. Yes Rita, I have considered it). While the hero is constantly seen to ogle and laud the woman’s looks, the woman doesn’t turn around and say “the same to you” or “you are pretty hot yourself you beefcake”. Very few songs are about the body of the man. Apparently, the “good girls don’t think about sex” rule applies here as much as it does anywhere else. Also…men are “heere ki anguthi” priceless by virtue of the fact that they are male. Who cares what they look like right?

Although, after a little thought, I did come up with a few songs from Hindi films praising or teasing a man based on body parts/looks.

"ude jab jab zulfen teri kawariyon ka dil machle" young yummy Dilip Kumar being Adam teased by an equally scintillating Vaijayanthi Mala. Naya Daur

"uncha lamba kad hai, chauda bhi to had hai... dekhne me tagda hai, jungle se pakda hai" from "sapne me milti hai" Satya

"paan khaye saiyan humaro...sanwari hai sooratiya hoonth laal laal" Teesri Kasam

"chikni soorat tu kahan tha ab talak ye bata" Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke (major Adam teasing scene with Aamir Khan being teased by a factory full of women)

“bade hain dil ke kaale haan yahi neeli si ankhon wale” Asha Parekh singing to Shammi Kapoor to which he replies “soorat buri ho bura nahi dil mera” Dil Deke Dekho

“hansta hua noorani chehera, kaali zulfein rang sunehra, teri jawaani tauba tauba re dilruba” Parasmani. Two court dancers addressing the princess’s lover.

That’s all I could remember offhand though, which frankly isn’t much when you are talking about some 50 years of film songs. So what say we have a parallel competition? Think of songs praising/teasing MEN …. Based on looks.

And the SEARCH continues ...

Some more entries have come in. this time, I’ll do a running commentary/analysis.

Bhai suggests:

Samne ye kaun aya – nice number, and not overtly about looks. Although not about any other qualities either. Just impact.

Lets say …. MAYBE

Tum a gaye ho noor a gaya hai – about the feelings “you” inspire, rather than who or what you are. Celebration of finding a soul-mate. Conceivably, the soulmate has a lot of qualities.


Tumse milke – again…more about the effect of love on one’s life than about the beloved.


O ri chori – really lovely romantic song. Definitely no mention of looks. But is it about qualities either? Its more of an “I love you, will you be mine” duet.

Chhoo kar mere man ko – lovely number. Beautiful lyrics, Rabindranath Tagore’s tune. Definitely about the EFFECT the beloved has, rather than what she looks like. No mention of any particular qualities either though.

So…definitely a MAYBE

O mere dil ke chayn – again, amazing number. Lovely lyrics. The only mention of qualities is “tum jo pakad lo haath mera duniya badal sakta hun main”. However, this could be construed as either HER strength, or the strength HE derives from love.

So… another definite MAYBE

Jeevan se bhari teri ankhen – hmmm…. On the surface…”what was crazyuddie thinking????” it’s ALL about looks right? “rangon chhandon me samayegi kis tarah se itni sundarta”; “madhuban ki sugandh hai saanson me” (is lack of bad breath a look or quality do u think? :D putting it down to PHYSICAL though) and “baahon me kamal ki komalta”. However, in my mind at least, “kirnon ka tej hai chehre par, hirnon ki hai tujhme chanchalta” are about WHO she is… strong, playful, rather than what she looks like. Also, “jeevan se bhari” eyes that make you want to live, seems like a definite positive quality.

So…. Another definite MAYBE

Dard e dil – flirting with an Unknown. Hardly about any qualities. Impact yes. What happens when the thunderbolt hits you for the first time. But, by definition, love at first “sight” is about appearance…right?

So…. I guess that’s a NO, unless anyone can suggest reasons to the contrary.

Phoolon ke rang se – now this one’s weird. A love song for one’s land. However, uddie suggests that imagining it addressed at a beloved, it might work in this category. Hmmm yes it would.

Rita went with

Kaun aaya mere man ke dwaare, paayal ki jhankaar liye – don’t have the lyrics to that one, so cannot coment….anyone?

a tum hume jaano, na hum tumhe jaanen – nice number. Beautifully sung in Hemant Kumar’s honeyed voice. However, is it about the beloved at all? More about the beginning of love, the thunderbolt, the effect of meeting this person, and what’s happening after that.

That’s a NO in my book.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Results are in...

Well, I sent the challenge out to the four winds, and about 40 people, and man the harvest was meager! After much brain wracking and play list surfing, among all the great Hindi music buffs in my ken, only three people have come up with any possibilities. And that...not many. Here’s the list.

Hits came up with two.

Aap ki aankhon me kuchh

Humen tumse pyaar kitna

Papai suggested

Tumse accha kaun hai

Pal pal dil ke paas

Sam thought of

Ek ladki ko dekha to aisa laga

However, I think it would be wise to examine the numbers one at a time to see how far they match the criteria.

First off, there is “aap ki aankhon me kucch”. (Not a bad candidate. Gulzar, of course….probably the only true shayar left in Bollywood today.) Definitely a love song, and definitely not about his or her looks. On the contrary the shayar very clearly states “aap se bhi khubsoorat aap ke andaaz hain”. Andaz does not translate well, but could be rendered as personality/ mannerisms/ behaviour. So, clearly, something OTHER than looks is important here. It’s all the more obvious from lovely, super romantic phrases like “aapki khamoshiyan bhi aap ki awaaz hain”, “lab hilen to mogre ke phool khilte hain kahin”, and so on, that looks are the last thing on the poet’s mind.

So that’s a definite YES!

“Humen tumse pyaar kitna”. Not really a part of the category that I had in mind….but since it wasn’t possible to make myself clear, in detail, over the limited canvas of text messages. So, it’s a valid entry, and worth considering. Overall, it’s definitely not about looks at all, and except for “tumhe koi aur dekhe to jalta hai dil” there is not hiccup in the entire song. Although it is more about the intensity of feelings, rather than the person those feelings are for, it’ll do. As for the hiccup line, it smacks of unwarranted possessiveness, a sense of ownership, and jealousy. However, these are qualities most people seem to appreciate and expect in a lover, and Bollywood certainly makes a virtue of them, so I shall let it pass in spite of my personal dislike for them at any level and in any measure.

So, another YES!

“Tumse accha kaun hai”---- hmmm don’t know much about it except the first two lines. So I cannot comment… inputs anyone?

“Pal pal dil ke paas” is another of those songs about FEELINGS rather than about the PERSON. But yes, it is DEFINITELY not about looks at all. More about the feeling the beloved inspires in the lover, rather than her physical appearance, the song is a fine example of what poets were able to achieve a few decades ago that poets today have forgotten. Lovely song, lovely lyrics, beautiful filming.


As for “Ek ladki ko dekha to aisa laga” – although Sam was the first to suggest it, many others have text-ed me about it, as an answer to my challenge. Lovely number, without a doubt, and on the surface at least it seems like it’s not about physical appearance. However, does closer examination bear this out? Although it has amazing imagery and beautiful lyrics, the first line is an indication of what it is about. When I saw her, she seemed like…. Although they can be interpreted as impressions of her personality/ purity/ whatever, one cannot deny that the entire flight of fancy is based on having seen the girl for something like 20 seconds. Hardly enough time to get BEYOND looks one would think.

In my opinion….that’s a NO

Monday, May 17, 2010

The politics of “roop tera mastana”

I was reading a blog post on one of the blogs that I kind of follow, and the subject was popular Bollywood songs. She was talking about how every single popular (and most not-so-popular) Hindi film song, addressed to a female beloved is always in praise of looks. Whether it is “roop tera mastana” or “ye kalikali aankhen”; whether it is “chandan sa badan” or “jadoo teri nazar”; it is all about the body, beauty, youth, of the woman.

Is there nothing to a woman, noticeable or praise worthy, apart from her looks? No qualities, capabilities, talents, that one can see and appreciate? Is LOVE based only on how black my hair is or how teekhi my glances are? And if so, do women with average or below average looks have no right to expect love? (Oh, by the way, the woman is always “gori” or fair. “gore gore gaal, gora chehera, gora mukhda”. Darker skinned women are not beautiful apparently)

Thinking about it, I couldn’t come up with any love songs either, where anything other than a woman’s body/looks were praised. Its amazing! Not a one! Am thinking of throwing this challenge to all my friends now… find one! I hope someone can tell me some, because the more I think about it the worse it makes me feel. We CAN’T be that shallow…..can we?

And even if one can eventually come up with one or two, what does the dismal dearth of them say about how we see women as a culture? What messages are we sending, subliminally and otherwise, to generations of Indian youth about women, and love? Is it any wonder then that “beauty parlour” is the hottest and fastest growing business sector? That fairness products are the biggest market segment? Or that LOVE disintegrates so fast here? Maybe this also connects to my observations about the “love marriage” in India. Not surprising that most don’t work, if looks and “ada” are the only things love is based on!

So…. A woman is only worth anything if she is beautiful and fair. A man can fall in love with her for that and find his MAD LOVE uncontrollable. A woman has no right to think about the man’s looks or of sex. Less than beautiful or less than startlingly fair women have no right to expect love. (Thank god for that one actually, wouldn’t want the kind of love that is looks based).

Friday, May 7, 2010

Marriages are made in heaven II

After my blogpost titled marriages are made in heaven, I got some comments, and a lot of flack from friends who assumed I was very prejudiced and anti-arranged-marriage. Now, while it is true that I think arranged marriages are a supremely inefficient way of finding someone you can love and live with for the long term, I am not thrilled with what passes for a love match in most Indian couples either. So, in deference to fans and readers and well wishers…’s chapter 2 (the LOVE MARRIAGE).

One very dear friend, in his comment to the previous post, mentioned the fact that, in India at least, love marriages seem to fare equally badly, if not far worse than arranged marriages. I’ve had this thrown in my face before as well, every time I have committed the grave sin of bad mouthing the great Indian marriage. Usually, it is people who have chosen to go the good old way, or are planning to, and usually it is a knee-jerk “us and them” kind of reaction rather than a considered one. And, what’s worse, it comes from a place that assumes that I mean to applaud “love matches” uncritically.

Anyway, whining aside :D, one needs to examine what these people mean by failure of a marriage. The concept of a mismatch, of absence of sharing, of not finding your soul mate, of an irretrievable breakdown of a marriage has no place in our combined mental ethos. After all, culturally, we expect none of those things from a marriage. Marriage, to us, is a huge ritualistic tying of the knot between two families of comparable worth/social standing. The principal characters expect little from it other than a few years of regular sex tapering off as the kids arrive and take over the entire focus of life.

Since we expect estrangement and a lack of true communion, since we expect the “fires” to cool after a while, and to be two people co-existing, we don’t see it as a FAILURE of the marriage. So, for these detractors of mine….a failed marriage is ONLY one that ends in a divorce. And yes, love marriages do end in divorce more easily, if only because there are fewer social pressures involved that would force the charade to continue, and because there is a greater degree of expectation of true communion. As someone pointed out recently, arranged marriages seem to be something you go into with the mentality of “que sera sera” and a complete absence of any thought of ANY POSSIBLE OUT. No matter what, unless the excrement REALLY comes in contact with the ceiling air agitator, it is a ‘saat janmon ka bandhan’ to be borne with or without fighting, whining and making each other completely miserable, “till death do us part”.

Does that mean I think love marriages are better? NO I do not think the common Indian love marriage is much better than the great Indian arranged marriage, at least in the way that I see it practiced around me. Couples who have been boyfriend and girlfriend for decades finally get married and, as likely as not, split within the year. Couples, who couldn’t wait to tie the knot, suddenly find the ties tighter than they would like and lose no time in untying themselves. Even if they do manage to survive the first few years, I am seeing increasing incidences of estrangement and dissatisfaction later in life, leading to more and more cases of infidelity and abandonment.

So what do I think is the problem here? Not very hard to see if you just think of what passes for love, relationship, or “affair” (I have a problem with the usage of this word in Indian English… but that’s another blog post in the making) here. First of all, there isn’t usually a concept of getting to really know the person or of love growing out of acquaintance, even friendship. On the contrary, once someone is in the “friend zone’ they tend to get automatically disqualified as a prospective spouse or partner. So, essentially, one just sees someone one likes, mistakes a liking or attraction for the physical aspects of that person for love, and goes up to them to say ‘I love you’ or some such.

With a beginning like that, are the next weeks, months, years any better? Does the couple somehow redeem itself and reach a depth of understanding and adjustment that is necessary for a combined life? In most cases…. NO. The time between the creation of the couple and the solemnisation of the pact is usually spent in ROMANCE. This is a BAD word for me, because it smacks so much of shallow pretence and has so little potential for real communication. Playing the ILU ILU game for years and years is, in no way, a method of forming or advancing the steel strong bonds they will need to weather a life together. Presents, valentine cards, candlelit dinners and moonlit walks are great, provided one works on the important things too – like communication, and adjustment, and what I think versus what you think, and how I was raised versus how you were raised.

In the absence of such negotiation, married or cohabiting life comes as a huge shock! No matter how many years of two hours a day you have spent together, you NEVER know the issues that will crop up….until you are actually living under the same roof. That’s when the daily aggravations of slob versus neatnik, MCP versus open mind, toilet seat up/down, snoring, and hell alone knows what else, raise their ugly head. Having not built up the bedrock of strength and mutual respect that will anchor the relationship despite all possible irritants, things get blown out of proportion when the scales finally fall from the eyes and the true colors of the beloved, the real person behind the rose tinted boyfriend/girlfriend, is finally revealed.

Of course, there are exceptions. I know many couples who took their time, REALLY looked long and hard at the other, and at the relationship, saw all the problems and faults, and then decided they could deal with it. Those are the strongest couples… you guys know who you are, who I am talking about, so take a bow guys….KUDOS! And YES YES YES, in this sense, love marriages are better, if only for the simple reason that an arranged marriage hardly gives you the time or the choice to make that examination. Other than that, unless one grows a brain and shows some maturity, it’s a “lose-lose” scenario -- neither system works.