Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Thoughts: My way of judging a person's looks

Today, I realised a very disturbing thing.

I was looking at some pictures of friends and what hit me really hard was that I found ALL the girls good-looking but the guys? I thought their looks were ordinary to plain ugly.

I immediately felt disgusted and mortified by my obnoxiously judgmental vision. And then it hit me that somewhere, my standards of beauty had been warped so much that I was not permitting the men to be, well, even 'homely', leave alone handsome. Why and how did my vision get shaped so, that I had an opinion on every girl's look, but couldn't give a toss about the men's?

This is my hypothesis:

Women, and particularly their looks, have been splashed hugely across all possible discourses, especially visual. As someone subjected to those discourses, I now find myself accepting a very, very large range of female looks as 'attractive'. Perhaps it's because I see mostly women in the visual discourse, and/or I keep on hearing/reading/learning about multiple standards of women's looks and beauty (because looks they are SO central to representations of women -- hello, reductiveness!), and how every woman is beautiful.

On the other hand, I feel that men aren't represented in visual discourse as much, and when they are, their looks are made secondary, and/or discussed almost never. Their caring natures, their love for their women and children, their successes in their businesses/professions are shown and celebrated. Further, the men that are shown in visual medium are all attractive, blandly so, but yes, attractive. I think somewhere that is raising the bar for men's beauty insanely much. By not permitting men in the visual media to have a variety of looks, and labelling all those looks 'attractive', visual media has made sure that we find few of those guys good looking. At the same time, even if plain women are shown in visual media, we are taught to view them, or at least something about them, as attractive.

Somewhere, I think these skewed representations and even more skewed ways of opinion-forming have made it so that now, in this day and age, I don't find a single man on the planet handsome. Not one. Except... those that embody certain kind of looks, such as Lord Byron's (from his portraits). Or the beauty of young Rishi Kapoor, the adorable youthful Paul McCartney. Or delicate-featured Bradley Cooper. Or James Dean with his pouting face. Johnny Depp. Clean-shaven nice-guy Brandon Routh. Enrique Iglesias and Julio Iglesias Junior. Those are the men I have considered good-looking.

Do you see what I'm getting at? To me, the Men whom I find good-looking? Are those whose looks have a touch (just a touch) of what we would call 'feminine' (delicate features, high cheekbones, soft-looking skin, long-lashed eyes, dimpled cheeks, winsome smiles). Nothing, and I mean, there's nothing rugged, or manly, or too-masculine about their looks.

And this is how I have internalised decades of visual representations of men and women, that my measuring cup's markers are all calibrated towards cis-women's looks

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Rant: Quotes on Faecesbook

Another thing that irks me about Faecesbook is this cancerous spread of bullshit quotes by people you've never even heard of! Who the hell are these people, and why are their words so important that they need to be shared? And they are not even funny! (Everyone who is not Dorothy Parker, I am looking at you!) They are so-called motivational bits of doodie, because of course motivational quotes are what motivate you to be better and do better. That's the power of quotes -- they totally change lives! Totally! So they actually fucking work, adon't they? Don't they?

And if they are not motivational rectal pastries, they're far, far worse: priggish and trite faffery on relationships, so priggish and so trite that it's like the collected works of Nicholas Sparks marrying the ladylike titters of Emily Post and setting up house in in Queen Victoria's bustle.

Do you, living, thinking human with a wealth of experiences unique to you, do you need to rely on witless quotations to make yourself feel better about the fact that you don't have anyone in your life, or nobody wants to date you, or you're still a virgin, or that guy you like isn't moving fast enough for your liking and that's why you're questioning everything about your situation, or your partner has a life beyond you, or you're just one clingy idiot who needs a reality check? Or something?

Do people in general really use these messages in their lives? Do people even remember the quotes they share? Or live by them? Because that would be the only justification for sharing, wouldn't it?

Until then? Waste of freaking bandwidth!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Chitaah ko agni dena.. ladki ka kaam hua

Gopinath Munde's daughter performs last rites

Dear Pankaja Munde,

I am so, SO sorry for your loss. You don't know me, nor I you, but I want to offer my condolences. No child should ever have to see their parent dead. At least not without being prepared for the death, and all that comes with  death.

Such as the cacophony - of family and well-wishers each throwing out opinions on things to do, and things that are taboo, and how many days of mourning to be observed, and who will insert the notice in the paper, and approving the text for the notice, and assigning someone to enlarge a recent photo of the deceased, and ALL THOSE THINGS. Such as rituals and their logistics - is it too late for cremation today? Do we put the body on ice or in a morgue? Such as grief - do I give in to mine, or do I remain strong for my surviving parent, or sibling, or even a grandparent? All those things, Pankaja, must have and probably still take their toll on you. You must be bravely taking all of it in your stride, perhaps waiting to weep in private much later.

But Pankaja, I want to also thank you for doing this one thing, which perhaps must have come so naturally to you. I want you to know how indebted I am to you for doing the last rites for your father. I want you to know how awesome you are for having the courage to go into the crematorium, for having the courage to defy thousands and thousands of years of belief and ritual, and for having the god-awesome courage to personally give your father a send-off, for setting alight his funeral pyre.

What you did, Pankaja, is what I would want my children to do for me, irrespective of their sex. It is what I would like to do for my parents - subject to their wishes, of course. And everything permitting, what I would like to do for my husband, should he pre-decease me. Because what you did? Is what everyone should become comfortable doing and permitting to be done.

I want to appropriate your action for the cause of equal rights (equal rites?), for the cause of, oh, let's just call it feminism. But I will desist because that would also be politicising the tragedy that befell you and your family.

But I still want to thank you for doing what you did. Thank you, Pankaja. And Gods bless you and your family with strength, fortitude and patience.

Yours, in humble awe,

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Day Everyone Became Boring On Social Media

These are the world's most unusual statements, so unusual that most people trot them out only once a year on social media:

- I love my mother
- My mother made me who I am
- Thank you, Mom, for everything
- You taught me this and that, also about them, and those, and everything, and you held my hand and got me walking and wiped my snot and cleaned by bottom and fed me (maybe not with the same hand) and so I love you and thank you and miss you Mom

... and variations on the same, ad nauseam

Everyone is committing that most cardinal of all possible sins on social media: Being absolutely uninteresting. How annoying it is to have your social media feeds become reduced to a mere template on endless loop! Sometimes it has pictures and yay for alleviating the monotony. I always "Like" those posts.

But a thing like Mother's Day? At one time, it used to be restricted to only a certain demographic, usually of a certain kind of country. Now everyone is doing it because we are all unique sheeple and we have to tell everyone that we are so unique we really do love our mummies.

Fair enough.

Of course, everything on Faecesbook becomes worse because advertisers lay siege to your timeline, never mind how often you uncheck all possible options, but there is fabfurnish and zansaar and jabong all wanting you to buy their stuff for your mummy. Because what mummy needs is a juicer or blender of course . Or an apron. Or table-linen. Obviously she wants something functional because being a mummy means she has to be house-proud and a home-maker, and use your pressies for the good of Everyone Else.

My advice: Don't gift her sharp cutlery. She might end up cutting off your internet cable as punishment for using it to buy her utilitarian shite.

In case I know you, my reader, personally, here's my request: If you ever get to know my spawn -- whenever they appear -- inform them that Mummy hates the concept of keeping a day aside to celebrate relationship roles. And Mummy likes alcohol and books and Nutella and exciting/adventurous experiences. Just in case, you know, they are stumped for gift ideas.

So... Happy Tell-Faecesbook-How-Much-You-Love-Your-Mommy-PS-Pics-Attached Day!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Done in by the dermis: Left out, left behind, Ignorably wheatish

In this day of controversial development indices, why am I, an educated middle-class Indian, left out of one of the most important discourses pervading my country? Why have I no space in India's Pantonepidermis discourse?

First it was Kajol/ Priyanka Chopra/ Yami Gautam/ SRK/ John Abraham/random actors shouting about how important, nay, imperative it is to en-fair yourself, because with 'fair' comes 'lovely'/'handsome'.

Then the en-fairing campaign attacked secret spaces. Like the vulva.

Then the attack came from the other end of the Pantone spectrum: Nandita Das went on to show how being dark is beautiful. (It would help the campaign if there were more faces besides Nandita Das showing how dark equals beautiful.)

And now I and people like me are cornered, hemmed in between fair-is-lovely and dark-is-beautiful.

We wheatish-complexioned folks are left out of India's epithelial discourse. Who is to speak for us? Who is to speak to us? Should we now form our own political party? Our own advertising campaign? Where do we go who are neither fair, nor dark?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Toughest Task Ever

Here's an unpleasant epiphany:

The toughest of all arts/sciences/skills/talents? Is communication.

You may know all the languages in the world, even idiomatically, and all the nuances of tone, expression and words in all of them. You may know all the gestures and actions in the world that you can use to make yourself understood fully. Your body language may be perfection itself. You could, in potentia, have the power to convince even dust that it's God.

But communication will forever, forever  be the toughest task to because it is entirely dependent on the dust paying heed to you.

Communication? Will forever depend on your audience.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The trouble with Slumdog Millionnaire: The wank and some explanations

If one considers the wank generated by the multi-award-winning film Slumdog Millionnaire, most Indians are upset at some of the portrayals of India.

- I personally find it strange because, well, whatever the film showed of the seedy, horrendous, filthy underside of India - the religious riots, kids being maimed and forced to become beggars, kids fending for themselves (Children do live this way in India, whether they are born to it, or whether they are made to live thusly. It's how life is here **), Indians conning (white) tourists everywhere possible, kids taking to a life of crime, teenagers being sold into sexual slavery, a thriving underworld where might is right, the fact that no one cares that a girl is obviously being abducted in broad daylight at a busy train-station - all that is quite true.

- It was gross that ickle Jamal leapt into the cesspool? But you know, I can totally believe that can happen. You see, the kind of hysteria Amitabh Bachchan has created in my country is legend. Till date one hears of true incidents that happened when Bachchan had nearly died of a stomach injury - the kind of things people did to pray for his alive - rigorous penances, arduous pilgrimmages, fasts, and so on! So for a VERY impressionable kid to leap into a cesspool to get out of the outhouse and meet OMFGAmitabh BachchanOMFGOMFG? I can see that happening. Queerer things have been attempted by Amitabh Bachchan's fans.

What I cannot see is Amitabh Bachchan (or, for that matter, anyone at all!) being able to stand next to the crap-covered kid and give him an autograph. Just. No. And where was Amitabh Bachchan's security service, eh? Right.

- I don't understand the use of the word "Slumdog" - I believe it was a term coined by one of the crew - but I guess "slum-dweller" (or slumbucket, slumpig, slummongrel) just does not sound as catchy. I don't find it offensive, personally, that the film was called Slumdog Millionnaire.

What I did find offensive was how the show host used that word, so easily and casually on a national channel. It's a word with definite discriminatory connotations, and if the film-makers had done their work and studied Indian laws as much as they clearly studied India's seamy underbelly, they would have known that a remark like that would have the host instantly arrested. Or, at least, denounced loudly and roundly by the talking heads on all the TV channels that the film took such great care to show.

- I also don't think that the religious riots shown were simplistic or biased, or that the Hindus were portrayed in a bad light. True, there was tunnel-vision at work, but the director made sure that the vision was that of the children - the children who saw their mother become a casualty of religious rioting. I think the world is pretty much aware of what happened in Bombay in 1993, so I don't think there is a need to be angry over the portrayal of Hindus. If it makes angry Hindus feel better, the Muslims were just as bad. Many are the scenes my family in Bombay witness of Muslims running with swords after Hindus and of Hindus running with swords after Muslims. So.. yeah. Hardly a thing to whine about. I think greater damage was done to Hindus after the coverage of the Godhra riots and the Sabarmati Train burning of 2002.

- I find it disturbing that the director's vision of India is confined to my country's seamy underbelly. While I understand that it is, of course, unavoidable given the nature of the story, that does not make me like it. It is terribly reductive.

You see, we Indians have been trying very hard to shine and make our mark as a force to be reckoned with in the global scene, in geo-politics (how many times have we have bid for a place on the UN Security Council!) and among the players of the world's leading economies. In every way possible, it has been the constant endeavour of my country to be outstanding, leaving behind its imperial-dominated past and trying to emerge as strong and blazing as Germany did after both the world wars, or like America - the biggest example of a nation throwing off its imperial shackles and becoming a global superpower.

Films like Slumdog are, then, naturally viewed as regressive to we Indians, who have been trying to carve a name for our country for so long. We find it upsetting when anyone, in particular, a FOREIGNER, reduces us - AS USUAL - to a land of poverty, cows, snake-charmers, yoga and now, Bollywood. We are so much more than this. But the thing is, when a film is made, it has a great impact because is presented to not one but several audiences. And in the case of Slumdog, it has been presented to the audiences of the entire world. For Indians, it's upsetting that the entire world is seeing Just One Facet of the country and a very bad one at that, a facet, which - to be fair - every country in the world possesses, whether it is First World or Third World, or anything in between. But no one remembers their own backyards when they are seeing India's shame.

And the movie had its impact. I found it annoying when well-meaning but credulous people asked - Is this REALLY true that such things happen in India? Because I am truthful, I say, yes, these things do happen in India. But then again, they happen in any other country of the world, too - yes, yes, but is the hysteria over an actor that great? Yes, it is, and Amitabh Bachchan is actually an icon and has been called a living legend... and you know, there was as much hysteria generated by Beatlemania and - Oh, so people are STILL that poor in India? Oh my God! Yes, they are as poor here as they are anywhere else. The thing is that we have such a large population that we do not have social security - That's so sad! I feel so sorry for India. I... never mind.

THIS is what we Indians come up against. Not the stupid questions, heck, I have stupid questions about every country not my own (my wonderful friends have suffered mine about America and Ireland). No, it's not the questions but the attitude.. the reductive attitude that sees India in only those terms that people from the West want to see it in.

I do understand that had Dinesh Bhalla Danny Boyle made a film about India's economic prosperity and growing global clout, it would have been a disaster (with Rahman's rubbishy score as its only saving grace, perhaps). I acknowledge and accept the director's vision. However, that vision has tainted many people's attitudes towards my country, and THAT is what I don't like and what we Indians are upset about. That a firang showed off our shame to the world and won acclaim and accolades for it.

** I am remembering a discussion I once had with on children. This is where my thoughts come from - this India, where I was born and nurtured and where I live, where children less fortunate than I get as rough a deal as most adults do in this country. Where no concessions or protection are given to children on account of their age, because it's a dog-eat-dog world out there on the streets. (There are laws to protect everyone but as is obvious, they are not adhered to.)

ETA: I found that the Wikipedia entry has a good account of all the reactions to the film.

Cross-posted from my original blog on February 24, 2009