Singing Songing

My most favourite professor during my MS, when teaching a class on Musical Genre said, that the most romantic cinematic expression EVER is when two people sing to each other.

He would often grill me on the language of Bollywood cinema in connection with the songs. He loved the fact that we, were not ashamed to sing to each other in Indian movies. ( Though many Indians are and they thinking singing it vaaary vaarry backward and something to be ashamed of, especially when talking about Christopher Nolan movies.) He said there is nothing more emotionally pure cinematic ecstasy than a person singing to another or to him/herself. (He also once described a 1950s movie as so beautifully shot, that he wanted to lick the cinema screen. No wonder he was my favourite.)

So back to the songs. I have always imagined my life with a background score of a few dozen violins and songs for every occasion, emotion, feeling. What is life without songs? And songs in which you usually play a role of anguished/lustful/ loveful/ melancholic heroine? It is like a perfectly coordinated playlist. You listen and sing to it and your face is behaving like Madhuri Dixit and you are imagining Hugh Jackman and Stephen Chow and Shahrukh making sensuous songstery love to you at the same time – and the lift opens and you are faced with a group of people staring at you as if you are Uday Chopra.

I have been too embarrassed to sing songs to husband. A. Because he is not the song-dance-muaahh muaah kind of guy. B. It is embarrassing!!

I am 100% sure there are couples who do it, but I will get super self-conscious.

But in the shower I always address my loud singing to him ( along with Jackman- Chow- Khan trio)

Anyway. So I found the ultimate release of my inner Lata when the dog arrived.

In the last 2 years, I have composed several songs to him. They range from hip-hop, to dhinchak Bollywood, to Rehmanesque peppy numbers to Beatlesque LSD classics. There are also specific dance steps accompanying them, mostly inspired by street dance during Ganapati festival.

And he loves to run around happily and bark at me when I start the song-dance routine for him.

The lyrics are usually in the same family, although the placement varies and so does the tempo, repetition and other tricks in the trade. They all’Praise the dog’.

Oh ( insert one of the dozens of pet names he has) you are so cute.
(Sound effects.)
You are the most beautiful puppy.
You are my dog and I am your human.
We will play CATCH, GETIT, SQUASH, STAY and hundreds of other games
(Sound effects and rapid acceleration of dance moves.)
You are the best swimmer in the world oh smart one
You are the most brave of all the creatures in the world
You are the purest and you are the most ( insert nonsensical words meaning superdupertripperbestest)
Cutest, bravest, sweetest, beautifullest, softest, powerfulest doggie, you are my love.
( Drums, trampolines, violins, Nashik Dhol all creating a wild cacophony)

The dog usually gets a toy and shakes his head profusely as he runs round and round proudly agreeing that he is indeed all that and maybe a little more. He jumps on me and walks on hind legs and tries to tear my pants in pure joy.

The routine usually ends with tugging game with the said toy.

Sometimes, after the song I ask him to come for a bath or clean his ears- two of the most loathsome activities for him. He looks very disappointed like a hero breaking up with his lady-love seconds after a chartbuster song. What? You praise me so much and now you want to clean my ears with that stinky solution?

When I am bathing him, the lyrics change. On the lines of:

yes, yes, brave dog, sweetest dog, we are almost done.. ah let’s wash the stinky asshole once more… there, now the chest… ooh.. look at the dirt in your paws… yes the ears…cutest dog will not smell like rotten vegetables any more…. aahh…shampoo in the eyes.. but bravest dog is so brave in bravery… wow… what a great dog… what a greatest of all dogs… almost done now…aaahh.. what a great dog… he is the bestestest…

He looks at me with his soulful eyes, hiding from the water spray and looking like an orphan in war zone who hasn’t eaten for months and has worked 18 hours a day in a coal mine.

Husband baby talks with him all the time and dog looks content. After all, it was the husband who trained him and so is a natural hero in his eyes!! ( Unlike me, who is destined to be his manager- cum- number 1 fan in the world.) Once when husband started singing to him though, the dog looked so alarmed and puzzled and gulpingly bewildered, that I started laughing hysterically. Because husband is the world’s worst singer. Husband humphed and grumped and told the dog that he will never sing to him if this was the response he would get.

I am sure husband sings to him when I am not around.

I for one, am very happy of having found a perfectly appreciative object of my Bollywood songstery.

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A dog arrives

There was one night when the husband came and said, I know what we are going to do. We are going to get a dog. And we are going to manage it.

We had always been talking about how we will get a dog, or several, once we retire in an idyllic place . It was a major part of our dream of future. Every day, yes EVERY DAY I would watch those dog videos on YouTube and those ten mins or so were the purest pleasure in my corporate bullshittized life. Husband always wanted a dog but it was not the crazy, bone aching desire like mine. Like everything else with him, it was a calm and more mature wish.

But getting a dog to live in a tiny apartment in suburban Mumbai- we had always hesitated. It was not fair on him/ her. Who will look after the dog when we are in office with love and reliable care? Apartments are not the right environments for dogs. and even though there was plenty of space to walk and run in the gated community we stay in, we had our large childhood homes with plenty of open space to run around as the ideal for dogs.

But as we started talking, within half hour, we had figured out who will look after him during office hours, his daily requirements, how will the exercise work out. Yes, it is not ideal for him/her, husband said. But our love will make up for it. He/she will be world’s most loved dog. And since getting a dog was in top three of my big wish list for life, it is worth it, he said. NOW.

It made sense.

I dreamt of a small puppy snoring between us all that night.

We wrote emails to friends the next day when we woke up happier than we had been in ages. To see if they knew of any puppies that required homes. We had no requirements- gender or breed. As long as it was a puppy.

Within one week, a friend emailed me saying her bitch had had a litter and would we like to see them?

Yes yes.

We went to see them when they were ten days old.

We found out they were born exactly on the day we decided to get the dog.

And I am not making this up, but when we set eyes on the litter, I knew the dog.

I panicked with thought that he might have been already taken. I trembled when she said he was not. She held out two puppies to us, including the dog, who were not taken. Any of these are fine, husband said, looking sentimental. The other puppy licked my fingers but.. but…. I kept on looking at the dog and said ,’ We will take him. Is that ok?’

Of course, she said. Husband smiled at ball of fur in his hands. The dog looked at him seriously with one eye open. His rather large head lolled a bit. My friend tied a green ribbon around his neck as id. Husband put him back gently with his sleeping brothers and sisters. The dog promptly went back to sleep.

I kept on looking at him all the time. I know he is our dog. I said as soon as we got back in the car. Yes, I could see you just locked your eyes with him. Husband said.

It would be exactly one month and twenty days before we got the dog home. We visited him twice interim, and my eyes always went to him whenever I entered the riotous courtyard. He looked more serious than others. He would often start playing on his own and randomly stop to look at the flying pigeons or something in the corner. His head was slightly larger than others. His colour was fuzzier. His eyes had that opaque puppy sheen that dominated my dreams. I had picked a Russian name- name of my all time favourite character. And he looked like a canine avatar of the character with his slightly spiritual face.

The day arrived. We had already puppy proofed the house thoroughly, bought dozens of books, had managed the holiday of our extremely lovely driver who would also be the puppy sitter and now only the arrival of the dog was remaining to complete our family.

We drove there. The dog had got his first bath and was sitting seriously on a table. I felt a bit of twang for the mother, but from experience of 4 litters in my childhood home, I knew she would be soon glad to be rid of the suck monsters. Husband picked the dog up in arms gingerly and we carried him out. Stick to drive dogs away in my hand, just in case. I sat with him in my lap. He would look up every time the car passed under the bridge with his eyes that are still capable of melting a murderer’s heart.

He came home and went to a carpet and hid his face under. We tiptoed around him. He didn’t look scared but we knew he would be nervous for a couple of days in new surroundings and people. We put some milk, some dog food, water next to him. He opened his eyes and surveyed his surroundings. Then he sat up and looked at one corner with concentration. ( He still does that and it spooks me sometimes). We called him to come inside. He peered as much as he could from his position but seemed afraid to leave that spot. I picked him up and showed him the house. Then we sat him down again and showed him his toys.

It was maybe 20 mins since the dog entered the house. He saw the toys and all the serious Russianish look disappeared and was replaced with the silly joy only puppies are capable of. An hour later when my brother and my nephew arrived to visit him, he was flying in the air with his large ears and his springy legs. He ran everywhere, slipping now and then. Trying to jump on the couch. Trying and getting scared of jumping in the balcony. Scratching my legs with his razor-sharp nails. Trying to kill all his toys. Trying to outrun all of us. Peeing profusely all over to mark this as his home.

It took 20 minutes for him to know that this is his house. That this is his pack.

It has been 2 years and 3 months since that day.

And the dog has not only marked his territory but us, his pack for life.

Father’s Day

Today is Father’s day. Hurrah. Get that electric shaver for your dad pronto if you love him TRULY DEEPLY REALLY.

Father’s day simply doesn’t pack the punch reserved for Mother’s Day. It is to be expected of patriarchal cultures where motherhood is put on pedestal, but very little real powers are vested in mothers. It is not very different from having a WOMAN’s DAY in a male chauvinistic society. After all, patriarchy is defined as ‘system of society or government by fathers or elder males of the community’.

This research report is not a highly insightful, but an interesting read about Asian Fatherhood. Nothing in it will surprise an average, middle class Indian.

Indian middle class fathers in their thirties and late twenties are different from their own fathers. They want to be part of their kids’ lives in more intimate manner. The heavily gendered parenting roles are still firmly in place though, majority of fathers believe that women are naturally more suitable for childcare. The parenting duties might not be as strictly drawn as for earlier generations- but in essence they are the same. Father is an authority figure while mother has a more nurturing and administrative role.

I had read a paper about how having a kid increases and sometimes introduces traditional gender roles in American couple, who might not have had a very gendered relationship before the arrival of child. There was a comparison with the Swedish parenthood and as usual, the Swedes came out with flying, gender-neutral colours. It would be interesting to probe the gender dynamics in modern Indian parenting further. I suspect marriages turn more gendered after the arrival of the child in India.

Notions of middle class fatherhood have changed since Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan simmered at each other with angsty father-son conflict. Or since Simran was whisked off to India by her baritone India loving dad as soon as he learns that she is in love with someone. These days we see fairly diverse popular representations of fathers in media-signalling the change. We do see pally, intimate and gender bending fathers, be it in ads or in movies. Though there is still a huge gap in what is expected from a mother and a father. On screen fathers are more likely to worry about buying an insurance and mothers about their child’s nutrition.

I live in an area hugely popular with young parents- thanks to five top-notch schools and gated communities. In my housing society, I have seen one father who regularly walks the child, feeds her dinner as she pounces around after dogs and cheers her during evening skating sessions. He works from home. Other than him, be it picking up kids from school bus, skating sessions, stroller walks or other public events are managed by young mothers. My friends with kids tell me that it is mothers who are active parents even at upmarket schools. In my extended family, there is no doubt who is the primarily responsible for the child. It is almost always the mother.

Does this mean that fathers love their children less than mothers do?

It would be stupid and erroneous and sexist to say that. Having a child changes the life for a man and the love he feels for his child can not be underestimated just because he lives in and is shaped by a patriarchal society. Gender roles do define parenthood, just like they do virtually every aspect of society. That doesn’t mean that fathers’ love for the child is in any way inferior or less important for the child.

Not that it was in earlier generations. Expressions and social norms aside, a father, almost always loves his child more than anything else in the world.

My father is batty about kids and used to dance and sing as he fed us. Even today he is a master entertainer for small kids with his fantastic stories. Because my mother is an inhumanly efficient workaholic- she almost always has done what traditionally fathers were expected to do. From repairs to finance to driving to taking major decisions in family. My father, a hopelessly inefficient academic took a backseat. My mother always bended stereotype of a small town, middle-class woman. And my father is remarkable that he was never jealous, insecure or worried about his wife. It is not that he has no fault- but whatever gripe we have with him as as a ‘person’, not for his gender. We have always idolised our mother, but as far as love and commitment goes- my father was/is no way less than her.

One doesn’t need a day to celebrate love between kids and parents. It is one of the strongest bonds one would ever have. No electric shaver needed. Love, care, understanding and joy of being with family is all it takes for father to feel loved and honoured.

Marriage, islands and ships.. a totally Marine post. AHOY!!

Why is it that women spend inordinate time discussing and thinking about marriage?
( It is a rhetorical question aimed to kickstart a kickass post. Yes yes , the answer is social conditioning and Pride and Prejudice.)

I am into 10th year of my marriage. I need a pause and an applause here. The sentence sounds just so.. awesomely auntish… The reader would immediately know what to expect: a bittersweet description of the decade of togetherness… how it has not been easy, but how it is all worth it….. how it is fulfilling, but how you need to work on it…. how you have evolved in it, but how you have also lost that ‘little free bird’ in you in the process…..and blah da ding tong ta.

Because, people who spend ten years living with one man sort of become ding tongish. And ( soft music playing in the background) there comes a time.. when ding tonging seems like.. ( music picks ups) a natural and comfortable way of existence ( drumbeat). So naturally they want to ding tongify everyone else- sort of like spreading the gospel of the lord. Or spreading germs by refusing to take sick leave from overcrowded office.

I realised, contrary to my claims and self-image, I am dingy tongy for marriage when my brother decided to get married a few months ago. And how I hid my glee and how I would have high-fived him when he told me the good news, had we been siblings who high-fived at important moments, and not the ones who crack vulgar jokes and/ or stare in tea cups intensely. As I stared in my cup intensely, I was bubbling from inside with thoughts like:

Companionship!! Love!! Unlimited sex!!! Someone to hold his hand through life’s ups and downs!!

Translation: Someone else is responsible for him now!! HE HAS HIS OWN ISLAND!!

This Island this is a big thing for me. I need an island badly to exist. And by island I mean a small world of my own in the middle of big world. I step in, wipe myself off the sea surrounding my island and I am free to exist.

My books,my obsessions, my relationships, my angst are all on my island- kept dry and safe from that jaded mediocrity of the world.

I visit and hop onto other islands I love, but in the end, I want my own island to sleep in and to breathe in.

Most of the people I am close enough to give advice ( doesn’t matter if they take it or not) or a comforting shoulder to cry on to, are commitment phobic in a weird way. They are all very sincere, oddly simple and little childish. But none of them are really easy to live with. Unless we live in a commune with separate rooms with doors and large acres of land to get lost in.

These are fairly intense people. And laid-back in their lives. If you have read Secret History of The Likeness, we are a bit like that, me and the people I love. Except we don’t live in the same house and we haven’t killed anyone. But the tone is the same.

So I have advocated marriage or a live-in to virtually all of them, or a live-in because I believe it is not possible to have a commune like the aforementioned Secret History or The Likeness YET. So, we need our own ‘couple a.k.a plan B’ meanwhile.

Translation: We need someone on our little island in this sea of humanity.

This is the perhaps the most loveable and beguiling aspect of Marriage/ Live-in. It gives you, in a socially acceptable way, a little island in this heaving sea of world.

And if you are like me and my people- then you want to create your island.

And when you are on your own, then you are not an island, but essentially a floating ship or something. Which is great a post on the great floating ship a.k.a single life.

But virtually everyone I love are more like a canoe material/ Because of their intensity and weirdness, their canoe can sail literally anywhere, I would rather they have an island and at least be a bit stable.

I am sure this makes absolutely no sense but this is what I feel about marriage OR live-in.

Gone Girl..marriage, misogyny and madness

gone girl

I had this New York Times bestseller and the new literary sensation on my kindle for a few months now. Maybe because everyone said how brilliant it is, maybe because it was called the New 50 Shades of Grey ( it absolutely ISN’T) and because of the whole bruhahah…I decided not to read it then. Like I haven’t watched Gangs of Wasseypur simply because a lot of people have told me it is very good.

Yeah yeah,an old woman is allowed to be snobbish now and then.

So, back to the literary suspense phenomenon of the year, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I finally read it over this weekend. Especially after my entry for the Marriage Project, I was curious to know what this thriller about marriage going sour was all about.

It left me with a weird bad taste in my mouth.

I really really loved the first half and was heartbroken by the end of it. Sort of like friendships which start out to be this change-your-worldview type and fizzle out by end of the month as nothing but just smartass- jokes- over- a- cup -of -tea types. Disappointment, thy name is life!!

The novel is about a married couple Amy and Nick. Amy disappears one day and Nick doesn’t come across as a killer, but neither as a bereaved husband . All izz not well in their seemingly sweet marriage. First person narration and diary entries tell a story of a marriage that has unraveled to the point where nobody is safe.

Writing is absolutely phenomenal. Like Thomas Harris good. Like Henning Mankell good. Like Natsuo Kirino good. I almost thought I found one of these suspense writers I am going to love till they die or I die. Gillian Flynn chews words and spits them out all new. She has a deadly dark sense of humour. Her characters become alive like a hologram. Atmosphere is pulsating. She loves teasing you and is actually good at it, most of the times. Reading her is intense, like eating something really hot and continue eating it till your tongue is numb with overload of spice. She is never fluffy, never wastes a sentence and readers who love psychological thrillers will be surprised by her almost genre breaking style.

She really excels in exploration of a deterioration of marriage, which is the most marketed USP of the book. It is like she peels off the layers of our notions, expectations, conventions, petty beliefs about marriage one by one. And then throws it on the wall, several times, till it looks like an ugly, loaded compromise. Ahem, I confess I identified a couple of times with both Nick and Amy. Marriage is not very easy, I guess. And reading an absorbing novel which is a brutal autopsy of it, does make you look at your spouse sideways, guiltily and cherish the book’s snarky bashing of married-hood.

SPOILERS…

The most hateworthy aspect of the second half is the misogyny. Flynn’s female protagonist comes across as a bit naggy at first and I thought, here goes another nagging wife ( absolving the poor husband of any moral guilt if he is a killer.) Then she turns into this slightly insecure woman intent on rebuilding her marriage and I felt a little bad for her. Then she turned into this super smart, wicked schemer and I was like wow girl!! At this point in the book, Amy is intensely critical of the cultural expectations from women to be fantasy figures for men. And she is sarky, and smart and vengeful and someone you really root for.

And then she turns into a big fat STEREOTYPE!!! A manipulative woman who fakes rape, exploits and kills a man who helps her, forces pregnancy on husband, clings to him as a parasite … WTF??

Gillian Flynn , you killed a totally kickass female character by falling in the trap of making smart women in books either suffer or be monstrous. Amy could have been Lisbeth Salander good, now she is just another passive-aggressive mommy holding her husband by his balls. Badly done.

Plot sucks, like big time, in the second half. She gives the big twist in the middle, which is quite good btw, and instead of focusing on the things that made the first half such a stunner, like relationships, mean behaviour, scattered clues etc., she jumps into silly justifications, uncharacteristic behaviour, unbelievable reactions. Amy’s future plans were completely unbelievable for a woman who has planned framing her husband for over a year. Random characters stealing money from Amy was a lazy excuse to get her back. Her killing a friend was just throwing murder for the heck of it. Frozen semen track left me laughing aloud. And why does she want Nick back? It totally ruined it for me and then on I flipped through the pages for the heck of it.

Anyway, you have to give it to Flynn that she has written a book that is impossible to ignore. And she does deserve her bestseller status and a fat Hollywood advance just for that. Reese Witherspoon has acquired movie rights already.

Now I hear David Fincher is going to be directing it. The most over-rated director in Hollywood who butchered the Hollywood version of The Girl with Dragon Tattoo. Don’t believe me?

swedish dragon tattoo

The Swedish version with the absolutely incomparable Noomi Rapace.

HW Dragon tattoo

The pile of shit from Hollywood with Daniel ‘Mr. Bond’ Craig and a waifish, mystical looking Rooni Mara who is as far away from Salander as I am from Meena Kumari. Fans all over the world were outraged by the in your face sexualization of a beloved character, Salander, who hates sexism and objectification of women.

I am number 100 in The Marriage Project!!

Bluuuhdyy superbbbb , even if I say so myself!!!

Here is my contribution to the amazing ‘The Marriage Project, Interviews from Women about marriage in imagination and reality.’

Ninety nine women before me have been published in this brilliant blog,a brainchild of Chanel Dubofsky. A deceptively simple,unique and democratic investigation into one of the oldest human institutions. These reflections from women are extremely addictive, I warn you. I especially loved this, this , this , this , this

OK, enough. Go and check the whole thing out .

Chanel succinctly puts forward how she thought of this amazing idea. I quote,

“The Marriage Project is my investigation into a decision that is deeply personal and deeply political.”

and

“I want to interrogate the “sacred cow” of marriage, to ask questions that women tell me they are seldom asked”

and so the Marriage Project is, in her words,

” Ultimately, it’s a tool for women to connect with one another, and to talk about how marriage and other choices impact how we understand the notion of feminism, femininity and what it means to be a woman.”

I wish people in India asked questions like WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO GET MARRIED?. You get plenty of ‘why you don’t you get married?’, ‘why you don’t have kids?’, ‘why you don’t touch in-laws feet?’ kinda questions. But one rarely asks ‘WHY DO YOU DO ALL THESE THINGS?’.

We need to ask these questions more often and we need people like Chanel to go to the basics .. to unearth our assumptions, our prejudices and our very own sacred cows.

Congratulations Chanel on completing your first hundred interviews!

Ya ya Sisterhood…

I spent the last weekend at a get together of cousin sisters. While I do meet some of them on and off, it was the first time since I was a kid that we all were together.

We met at one of my mausi’s home – a place filled with amazing childhood memories for all of us sisters. And the weather was gorgeous. So was the setting. Clouds floating in the windows, bright green trees, waterfalls, jutting hills, winding roads, fluorescent green grass that makes me want to graze like a cow on hilltop…

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We trekked, ate Bhajiyas, drank copious amount of tea, told dirty jokes, shared stories of husbands, ruminated on emotional upheavals and spent the night chatting about this and that.

I was surprised at myself when I told them about a bout of depression I had had two years ago.

They asked me why I don’t want kids or quit my great job. They listened patiently, asked questions and supported my choices. I never thought that support from people I don’t see for decades would make me so happy.

It was like the Sex and The City Indian version produced by Yash Chopra!!!

All of them are mothers of young kids and their lives revolve around their kids. Apart from one cousin, all others are homemakers, stay in small towns, need to adjust with big families. About 90% of our lives are dramatically different.

If we were not related and shared a very happy childhood I can not imagine I would have ever spent a weekend with them that didn’t bore me even for a second.

In fact the one and half day filled me with such happiness and eagerness to meet them again, that I started wondering if it was all just nostalgia?? Or was there something else?

I do think that lack of malice, openness, a gay happiness at small things, shared fondness for each other do matter. Maybe the fact that we all love nature and roaming around helped.

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But I am sure what mattered the most was the feeling of SISTERHOOD…

What struck me with force, yet again , is that women mostly get along extremely well together. They try to understand each other. They are more open towards new trends. They are less judgmental. They are more accepting of different opinions and people.They are also more positive about future.

It could be the result of social conditioning, in fact I am damn sure it is.

I have seen the same conclusions in dozens of market researches we had commissioned over a period of years, but this time, it resonated with me forcefully.

Whatever the cause, the fact of the matter is that sisterhood rocks.

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This is the nest of killedar ( Harverster) ants I spotted during our climb. Myth is that even if the nest is demolished, the ants would build it in a couple of hours from scratch. Thus the name Killedar Mungya.

These smart, hardworking ants and the beautiful nest is a reminder of us cousins together.