Tuesday, May 21, 2013
This appeared in Financial Chronicle...
Off with the boobs…!
Surely, there were better options, Ms. Jolie? Did you really have to?
Agreed , the wicked world has always been unnaturally fixated on Angelina’s scrumptious body parts – all of them. But come on. We are talking about the most famous breasts in the world! Angelina has dominated the beauty space longer than any other living female celebrity. Often referred to as ‘The Most Beautiful Woman in the World,’ Jolie is recognized as the ultimate sex goddess. Desirable. Awesome. Perfect. Which is why the news about her double mastectomy last week left us open mouthed and puzzled. Why, Angie, why? Fans moaned.Angie claims to have now brought down her breast cancer risk from 50% to less than 5%.Good for her.The faulty BRCA2 gene she says she inherited may have been tamed by her drastic preventive method. But what about us? We ,who have happily, hungrily feasted on her body beautiful for years? Envied it? No matter how ‘brave’ this mastectomy makes Jolie, there will be millions of fans world wide who will see her through a new filter and feel devastated. Jolie is less Jolie. Cruel as this sounds, it’s true. Such is the immense power of beauty. And our own pathetic need to seek perfection in those lucky enough to possess it.
It is to Jolie’s credit that she has used this very power and special position to put her slender self behind key global initiatives, that have helped countless people. Despite all these wonderful public deeds… despite all the accolades accumulated as a formidable actor,alas, in Jolie’s case, it was always about The Body. And the fascination for The Body was unambiguously driven by our fascination for her perfectly sculpted breasts. Jolie’s shapely right leg, of course, enjoyed a life of its own after she stuck it out provocatively during a photo call at Cannes. But the leg’s reign has been abruptly cut short now. From this moment on, the leg will take a back seat to Jolie’s new, reconstructed breasts. This is serious. We are talking about breasts. Anjelina Jolie’s breasts . And yes, now that we know the originals are gone… as in, we know she had them surgically removed, we are intensely disturbed and disoriented by the act. This incredibly gorgeous woman has made what is perhaps the toughest decision a woman can ever make – she hacked off a part of herself . Hacking off breasts, for any ordinary woman is akin to hacking off her female identity. Sorry, that’s pretty much the deal, no matter how unpalatable it sounds to feminists.
A woman’s relationship with her breasts is hard to decode.Let’s just say it is extremely precious and powerful. A woman will part with her kidney or a lung if she had to, but ask her to sacrifice her mammary glands, and see the reaction. We can safely call it an irrational attachment to a mass of tissue topped with a nipple ( both have their uses). Sounds crazy, but we like our tissue and nipples. A lot! Regardless of shape or size. Breasts are comforting. Breasts are sensual. Breasts provide reassurance and pleasure. Which is why millions of women are asking - was it a must? I mean, surely there were other, less radical medical options?
Jolie says she did it for her children.Even if one buys into the rationality of her argument, and hails her for taking such a bold decision, another part of the brain says, “ Is she nuts? Not every woman who has breast cancer dies of it. There are so many breakthroughs today… there will be many more in the future. Here’s someone who has the means to get the best possible treatment if she ever gets affected. And she goes and opts for a double mastectomy? Really!
There are other basic , personal and touchy questions, too.What happens to Jolie’s sex life? Will Brad and she continue to enjoy conjugal bliss? No change? What about the odd timing for her surgery – weren’t the two of them planning a big wedding soon? And what of her Hollywood career ? Come on! Of course, there are countless leading ladies with reconstructed breasts. And silicon does rule in showbiz. Phir bhi. Now that we all know those boobs aren’t the real things (Jolie has gone into graphic details), will we feel a little squeamish the next time we see her famous cleavage on screen? Nasty, nasty.
I so wish she had hung on to her lovely breasts. And taken her chances. Like millions of other women . Somehow, I find that the braver option.
Monday, May 20, 2013
This appeared in the Asian Age...
Young, restless, ambitious and murderous…
Aditya Rankha, aged 13, was assaulted with a kitchen knife, stabbed several times and finally burnt to death a little outside Mumbai , after a ransom plan didn’t pan out the way his assailants had planned it. The two men who kidnapped and killed Aditya this week were not strangers, but people he had grown up with, trusted and perhaps, loved. Especially , Himanshu, the 28 year-old-cousin Aditya called ‘Bhaiyya’. Himanshu’s accomplice Vijesh Sanghvi (26), lived in the locality and had hatched the clumsy conspiracy to pick up Aditya from his home and demand 30 lakhs from his father for the teen’s safe return. Nothing all that unusual about the story, right? Absolutely. We are getting so used to urban crimes of this kind that they don’t really register any longer. But here’s the sub- text : This Mumbai teenager was killed by two desperados who had lost 10 lakhs in illegal IPL bets. Obviously, the bookies involved in the 500 crores IPL betting racket had turned up the heat.The 10 lakhs debt had to be settled, and fast. That two married, middle class men living in Central Mumbai, who claimed they were management graduates running small businesses, could hatch such a bloody plot and kill an innocent relative in cold blood, provides its own chilling narrative of what is shredding our society - greed . Both killers have mentioned splurging wildly at nightclubs and ‘enjoying’ themselves. This idea of ‘enjoyment’ has become a social disease that recognizes no bounds. Faced with a staggering debt, these men thought nothing of kidnapping a kid, and subsequently butchering him when the kid’s father didn’t follow their script and meekly pay up. He went to the cops instead. Meanwhile, the terrified teenager was begging his ‘Bhaiyaa’ for forgiveness and calling out to his own mother in anguish, when the knife was plunged into him over and over again.
Did such grisly crimes take place ten years ago in our cities? A few… perhaps. But today, there is a virtual murder epidemic raging in our cities,with horrific reports emerging on a daily basis.These are lifestyle crimes. Committed by people who want to move up the social ladder, at whatever cost.Men like Himanshu and Vijesh can be spotted at any upmarket lounge bar, drinking like beasts, eyeing pretty girls, getting rowdier with each refill, speeding down Marine Drive, often in borrowed or stolen cars, shopping at fancy malls with credit cards that are dished out like free chana. Soon they start to believe they belong to a class that stubbornly refuses to accept them despite their throwing names and money around. Frustration follows, leading to further flashy acquisitions and higher borrowings. Scaling up socially replaces hard work and genuine success. The only markers are those the world recognizes - fancy cars, expensive watches, designer clothes, the latest gizmos, foreign holidays and upgraded homes in the city’s better areas. Some of these stories are worthy of epic novels and movies. From a slum in Central Mumbai to a penthouse on Pali Hill - it is no longer a distant dream or fantasy. It is happening. It is achievable. It is worth murdering a cousin for.
This is the point at which a hard luck story turns macabre. It is the casualness on display that is both baffling and sinister. Aditya’s life was taken to settle a 10 lakhs IPL bet. The additional 20 lakhs demanded from Jitendra, Aditya’s father, would have financed a few more hedonistic indulgences, had the ransom been paid. The two idiots had not thought beyond getting their hands on the much needed money. The murder itself was so foolishly executed, they’d left the dead teenager’s colourful sandals in the car, as they drove to the cop station with Jitendra. It was an alert Jitendra who spotted them and told the cops. The accused are neither hard core criminals, nor professional killers. They represent the aam aadmi on every level. So what is the malaise in our society that is leading such people to commit dastardly crimes? Do they really think they’ll get away with murder?Do they think at all? Or is the glitter and glamour of instant gratification far more compelling than the risk involved? What about the reactions of their young wives and children? Other family members? The shame and ignominy of it all? The scary truth is the lure of a luxurious lifestyle has completely blinded young urban India to consequences – moral or otherwise. There seems to be nothing at stake anymore. Everybody is chasing some impossible dream that promises paradise. Sometimes, one looks at tv commercials (especially the ones that are telecast during the ongoing IPL) and wonders. They are so clever, so subversive they startle and shock the unwary! Most tap into middle class frustrations, with wives and children demanding more and more and more from harried husbands and fathers (exotic summer vacations, bigger tv sets, pricy air conditioners). Banks offer attractive 0% interest on loans ( come on, guys! Who are you kidding?) urging the gullible to splurge on the latest smart phone or even a beach villa. Irresistible and heady as such offers are, there is always a catch. That’s where the Himanshus and Vijeshs get phasaoed. Unwilling to wait for goodies that require some effort to acquire, they start gambling , first with currency, then with life itself.
Young Aditya’s murder is emblematic of this rotten syndrome.As of now, one can only see a further escalation of similar crimes.The stakes may get higher. But lives will definitely get cheaper . Soon a time will come when a similar story will be reduced to a mere footnote in the dailies.We’ll read it wearily,get bored… and turn the page. Yes, we will passively accept it as another day in the life of a metro. Be warned.
Handshake,mwuah, aadab or namastey…?
Here’s the basic ground rule, ladies : when in doubt, opt for a namastey. It’s the safest, most hygienic and indisputably the best greeting in the world. Women and handshakes? Naaah. Of course, this is a sexist remark. So, kill me folks. But why would I want to extend my hand and make physical contact with strangers of either sex? Traditional social greetings have gone for a big toss in urban India ever since we discovered the dubious and decidedly dodgy ‘joys’ of mwah-mwahing. Let’s face it, we get our version of air kissing all wrong to begin with. There is enormous awkwardness on display as we clumsily attempt to make lip contact with assorted proferred cheeks ,often of randoms we aren’t likely to ever meet again (strictly speaking, no lip contact is required, it’s more a cheek-to-cheek deal). Consider the downside: noses get in the way, for starters, followed by the whole confusion over left cheek first or right? This dilemma leads to nervous giggles and apologies, with squashed faces and snout- like pouts making for a far from attractive public performance. Take a look at paparazzi shots of our Bolllywood Divas greeting friends, lovers and rivals on the red carpet. Oooof! Such self - consciousness and discomfort on display. The fact of the matter is that social kissing a la Europe does not come naturally to us. It is a comparatively new phenomenon, and we have yet to get the hang of the drill. But does that stop desis ? Bilkul nahi!
The traditional ‘aadab’ ( SRK sticks to it) is respectful and visually attractive. But will the younger lot adopt this form of greeting ? No chance. Like the namastey, the aadab is also considered ‘uncool’ by those who prefer an idiotic ‘Yo’! accompanied by a high five. Try telling college kids to switch, even when they meet friends of their parents in formal settings. They will laugh derisively at the suggestion. Even for people of my vintage,the simple act of folding ones hands when introduced, has all but disappeared. Instead, one has to deal with aggressive chaps refusing to accept a namastey and boldly leaning forward to plant that entirely unwelcome peck on the cheek. I loathe the practice – think of the yucky side effects – beer and biryani breath, the roughness of stubble,slobbering sound effects… who needs that? It is so much more civilized to allow the woman to decide just what level of proximity suits her. Does she want to be hugged by a boor? Make contact with a paunch? Have some desperate chap ‘accidentally’ brush past her chest? No,no,no! Which is why, I admire contemporary parents who have trained even toddlers to greet everybody with a sweet ‘Jai Shree Krishna’.
The right salutations leave a strong and lasting impact. Hats off to the anonymous female Indian delegate who ignored Chinese President Li’s extended hand and stuck to a namastey recently. Do I prefer a super casual ‘Hi Aunty!” to a ‘Namastey Aunty?” You know the answer. I have zero problems with ‘Aunty’. But several with ‘Hi!”And when was the last time you saw today’s super cool bachchas touch the feet of their grandparents, parents and elders to seek their blessings on birthdays, before leaving for a trip, rushing off to an important exam or job interview? I grew up doing just that. And trust me, the emotions generated via that simple gesture were worth the extra few seconds invested in it. Folding hands, bowing ones head in the presence of those who have lived longer years on this earth, instills a sense of humility and respect. It works both ways. You show respect, you get respect. The thing is if you want to catch them young, you also have to teach them young.
Handshakes, I learned from my cousin Usha Bhende, who helpfully forwarded an article on the subject recently, were invented by warriors, for warriors (“ Look! I am unarmed!”). The mwah- mwah as we practice it, must have been a Paris Hilton/ Kim Kardashian brainwave, designed for the cameras. So many of our lovely Bollywood ladies are in Cannes this weekend. I’m betting Vidya Balan will sensibly stick to a namastey, Aishwarya to the royal wave and the others will giddily kiss away. If chumma chumma we must, let’s at least get the protocol in place first. Once? Twice? Or thrice… like the French do it?
Ab sabko kaun sikhayega? Forget it… and stick to a salaam-namastey .
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Thanks to our Blogdost Aparna, I have been getting a steady supply of the best Goda Masala, since my Aji and mother used to painstakingly grind it in our old kitchen using fresh spices, roasted on a tawa.. Heaven knows what goes into the amazing Goda Masala mix, but once you acquire a taste for its fiery contents, you stay hooked for life! Aparna's sister Deepa is the enterprising lady behind this venture. I can vouch for it - this is the real stuff. As Maharashtrian as ussal. By the way, I also sprinkle a little on my mid-morning ussal.
Too handsome for his own good!
Here’s a small test : Who is Omar Borkan Al Gala? If that name rings a bell, chances are you are a twenty-something, net-savvy female. I stumbled across the name and image of this person when I noticed my youngest daughter’s status. It read ‘Yummy!” This single word was positioned under a photograph of a staggeringly good looking young Arab with a rakish half-smile and fussily trimmed beard. I confess I was a little startled by her open admission of…. shall we say, unadulterated lust? I decided to conduct my own ‘research’ and discovered more about this international headline grabber . Omar shot to fame after he was anointed the most desired poster boy du jour by females across the globe. This was right after being thrown out of the annual Jenadrivah Heritage & Cultural Festival in Riyadh. His ‘crime’? His incredible good looks! Authorities feared this young guy (and two other men) were a bit too attractive, too hot to handle, for the delicate local ladies at the Festival! That is just so hilarious!What did the organizers imagine?That women in droves would attack these hunks? Molest them? Rob them of their virtue? Oooooh! The terrible weakness of out-of-control, lustful women. Ha! Surely this incident marks an international first? I cannot recall another occasion when a man was penalized for his amazing looks! It’s another matter that Omar Borkan has shot to global fame overnight and become an obsession across continents! He has been promptly grabbed by international showbiz agents ready to flog his recent super celebrity status and make big bucks out of it. A movie role and more….
Years ago, I had a really fun night in London at what was then considered a pretty risqué men’s striptease club in Soho. It was a riot! There were at least six bachelorette parties in full swing that evening, which meant it was a crowd of exaggeratedly rowdy ( read: inebriated) women, whistling and hooting each time a new act opened on the small stage. The ‘act’ didn’t go beyond a bunch of musclemen stripping off their clothes to throbbing music. As each item of clothing was peeled off, there were prolonged shrieks from the ladies. Since there were six brides in the audience, the strippers made sure to come up and give each one a special treat (let’s leave out details!). Some of those men were seriously well endowed and good looking ( think John Abraham and Akshay Kumar playing male escorts in Desi Boyz). High spirited ladies were placing bids and wondering how much it would cost to take a couple of these fellows home. It was taken in the right spirit – no offence meant, none taken. At the end of the show, most women staggered off to the nearest bar to giggle some more… and prolong the innocent madness of the evening.
Saudi Arabia is a different destination. And this is not to compare cultures or judge them. It is just amusing to note the high levels of male suspicion and fear in Riyadh. While pretending to ‘protect’ local women from swooning at the feet of these men and surrendering to Adonis-like predators from across the border, the organizers were in fact displaying their own paranoia and insecurity. One wonders to what extent they’ll go in future to ensure good looking guys stay away from Riyadh? Will they scan submitted pictures before issuing passes? Will there be an all male screening committee at the venue scrutinizing visitors and sifting Greek Gods from ornery hoi polloi?? Will they come up with a tax on good looks? What about the women? Nobody knows their views . Have they admitted their weakness and confessed they were unable to concentrate on a thing with Omar and his pals prowling the grounds? Poor , deprived women. Can something similar happen in India? Heaven forbid!
My eyes are peeled. I am looking out for Omar sightings. Where will this dishy guy in a dish dash pop up next? My curiosity has peaked. I have noticed my daughter’s fresh updates featuring a whole new set of Omar images. With each new photo session, he changes his fashionable head gear. From blood red to dune brown. His kohl- lined eyes smoulder and smoke at the lens . He is looking like a million bucks – and probably charging as much. We have countless Omars in India. Fortunately, nobody dares stop us from drooling – yes - even in public. Arjun Rampal has just topped the polls as 2012’s Most Desirable Man. Arjun’s gorgeous. But Omar is better. He should definitely come to India. He’ll we welcomed with open arms. Most of them female. But, why leave out equally besotted men?
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Sunday, May 12, 2013
This appeared in Sunday Times today...
Attn: Neelam, Saira Politically Incorrect 10th May 2013
How much thicker can our skin get….?
Two rhinos down! More to go! Forget the Bengal tiger,the great Indian Rhino ( rhinoceros unicornis) ought to be declared our national animal. And we needn’t go into the swampy basin of the Brahmaputra to look for these lumbering, ungainly creatures. We have the world’s most impressive collection of human rhinos in Delhi. Most of them make their clumsy way through the corridors of power pretty effortlessly. And both houses of parliament are overflowing with their kind. It’s come to a point when from being declared an endangered species, ruthlessly hunted for the phallic horn, the asli rhino is now much in demand for its thick skin. The rhino hide has gained in value during the past few years.The slimiest muck slides off without leaving a trace.We have so many of them… bureaucrats, cops,clerks, fixers, wheelers and dealers, middlemen - we are in the fortunate position to offer our hardy, tough , sasta and tikao political rhinos for export to the rest of the world.India breeds human rhinos faster than any other country. And with each new generation, the hide gets thicker. Nothing penetrates that tagda layer. Nothing sticks. Everything bounces off. Our rhinos are unique and priceless.
Last week’s Railgate / Coalgate developments threw up some more members of this extraordinary species. This was an interesting development as some of these bulky creatures had effectively disguised themselves as lions and other noble animals in the past. Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar emerged as the most impressive rhino. Along with the Railways Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal ( so what if both were compelled to resign – rhinos they remain). Ranjit Sinha, CBI Director is another jabardast rhino. The slightly dodgier rhino in this mess is the Indian government’s top law officer, Attorney General G.E. Vahanvaty, who emphatically distanced himself from everything by cleverly stating, “People have lost sight of the fact that I am not a political executive.” (In that case, Sir, kindly refrain from conducting yourself as one.) But the rhino of rhinos is undoubtedly our Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, who left it to poor Renuka Choudhary to field questions about the imminent sacking of Ashwani Kumar ( “… you have to wait before you jump the gun.”) and to provide a weak alibis for her leader (“ The P.M. has said he is aware of full facts of the case and that he will find a solution.”).Like he has to a myriad other blights plaguing the country, Ms. Choudhary?
There must be several shadowy human rhino spirits in heaven looking out for the Congress party, or else it would have been khel khatam after what the learned bench of the Supreme Court had to say to the CBI in the Coalgate case ( “ You should make yourself solid as the rock, but you are like the sand…”). Unfortunately, this pointed indictment got diluted before the message could sink in. The Congress win in Karnataka temporarily took care of the heat generated by the burning coals in the country’s furnace. Many fortuitous factors kicked in all at once… and those hides got thicker. This suited all the rhinos just fine. While the Indian people were fed parables and fables involving goats and parrots. Even after the two high profile resignations, the big question remains unanswered : Where is the looted money? Who is going to get it back?
Our Delhi rhinos need not worry. They are a protected species. Nothing and no one can touch them. Their population is growing steadily and rather than being considered an endangered lot, their burgeoning numbers are actually posing a danger to other animals and life forms. Survival of the fittest being the rule of the jungle, chances are these formidable beasts will continue to roam unhindered throughout India, secure in the knowledge there is zero challenge or adversary in sight. This is what happens when there is no Lion King in a jungle. Hyenas, jackals, even vultures and similar scavengers assume control. Anarchy prevails. Unprovoked attacks occur. Bloodshed takes place. Smaller critters scamper for cover.The abject helplessness of the weak is taken advantage of by stronger animals, who think nothing of trampling over those who stand in their path. For now, the rhino is calling the shots in India. The worm has still to turn. But watch out when it does. Rhinos are gigantic… but slow.Their size is both an advantage and a liability.Where and how can a humungous rhino hide? When the time comes to run, rhinos falter. And they fall.
The CBI will do well to pay attention to Justice R.M. Lodha. The Bench has asked a pertinent question : “Is the job of the CBI to interact or interrogate? Is this a collaborative action going on?”
The Chief Rhino must answer. Or go.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
This appeared in Mumbai Mirror.... on the eve of Mother's Day, it's time to give Fathers a break... what say??
It needed a seriously gutsy guy to break this particular bhanda. And has he broken it! Journalist Toby Young has triggered off a world- wide debate on men and babies, with his brutally honest views on parenting and the entire work-life balance jhanjat that plagues career people these days.Young has four kids under the age of ten. His wife expects him to switch gears at 6 p.m every evening and take over baby duties from her. These duties involve bathing the kids and getting them ready for bed. Young admits candidly he hates doing this! It’s tedious and boring, besides, he’d rather spend the same time working late at the office or hanging out with friends. He says it’s the same for women (his wife is a full time home maker) and most mums find childcare equally tiresome and difficult. But can never admit it. Which is why he goes along with his wife’s wishes even though he finds the whole thing ‘horrendous’! In addition to these delightfully blunt opinions he also points out that most men would rather spend time pushing personal career goals than changing nappies. What’s more, they really wouldn’t suffer from the slightest guilt! In his book, men really don’t worry about not getting enough time with their kids. On the contrary, they resent not having enough time for their careers. “ I don’t think it’s just me,” he states flatly, adding most men he knows don’t enjoy hanging with children. Young adds, “Call me a bad father…” Ummmm. Okay. You’re a bad father,Young!
I am sure countless Daddy Cools reading Young’s piece will agree with him and roar ‘Rah! Rah!’ I frequently observe young dads playing caring-sharing New Age fathers in parks and around swimming pools. They dress for the part, act the part, but their pained expressions give the game away. They really and truly look abysmally bored, as they try and soothe/amuse a bawling brat , or feed an obstinate toddler who spits out every mouthful. Yet, the pressure on this hip, studiedly trendy young dad is such that he dares not step back from daddy duties, even when all he probably want to do is bond with guy friends and swig chilled beer. Give these oppressed chaps a break, girls! See how sheepish they look with infants strapped across their manly chests ( only Hritik Roshan can carry off this look) . Agreed hunks with chunks ( babies) look pretty hot. And kiddos often make great arm candy/ fashion accessories ( better by far than the mini iPad). Even so, I notice there is a great deal of pressure on aak kal ke daddies to attend kiddie parties, organize play dates, get involved with pre-school activities, supervise homework, play football in the building garden, befriend parents of other brats, work on the kid’s extra-curricular interests, doodle, play games on the ubiquitous iPad , watch annoying cartoons with the kid for the umpteenth time, keep an eye on the fancy stroller, manage the myriad moods of temperamental toddlers and fussy nannies on holidays…. Oh God, a thousand other equally irritating responsibilities that didn’t exist a decade ago.
An older generation of dads had it much easier. They produced kids. And forgot all about them till the sons/daughters were adults. It was the mother’s sole responsibility to raise children. And uss zamaney ke moms didn’t have the guts to demand more participation from their husbands. Not even when kids were sick! I have heard fathers exclaim, “ God knows when these children grew up!” Today’s scene is straight out of a Woody Allen film. Not only are young dads expected to share bachcha responsibilities 50-50, the poor fellows also have to fake loving it. Wives insist on hubbies waking up for night feeds or jumping out of bed when the baby cries , quite forgetting the established fact that most men are stone deaf when it comes to hearing an infant’s ear shattering screams at 3 a.m. They aren’t pretending to be deaf, dear mums – there is a genuine medical problem! Accept it.
Mommies, let’s give Daddies a break. At least during the long hot summer. Let’s offer them a chhuti from bachcha duty. Instead, make them work hard in other areas which need their expertise much more. Like shifting heavy furniture around… going off to Lohar Chawl to look for electrical fixtures and bathroom fittings. Leave babies to experts – bais, ammis, daadis, aunties, naanis, nannies, nurses . Relax.It’s official now – hubbies and babies don’t make the best combo. Unless , of course, yours is the exception. Yawwwwn!
Friday, May 10, 2013
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Sunday, May 5, 2013
This appeared in Mumbai Mirror....
Why jeans matter more than genes to women…
Let’s face it… most Indian women ( I instantly include myself) are hip heavy. We prefer to call our body type by slightly more flattering names, insisting we are blessed with ‘child bearing’ pelvic girdles. This is utter rubbish, of course. I mean just look at Victoria Beckham’s unreal proportions (damn her genes and jeans). Here’s a woman who has produced four gorgeous babies phataphat.And is a size minus zero. Closer to home, there’s our very own desi Posh, the luscious, lissome Shilpa Shetty ( for proof, check her out on the cover of the latest Hello! with toddler Viaan on her hip). Look at those dangerous curves. So… out goes that silly child bearing hips theory. Popping out multiple babies is not connected to the dimensions of ones girth, especially that annoying ‘hippy’ statistic. And since we are at that time of the year ( summer vacations), when women across the world want their bods to be bikini-perfect, let’s not get too ambitious for now and just stick to the jeans crisis. Bikinis can wait. Last year’s favourite denims no longer fit, right? But they are still there in your closet, teasing and taunting you to try them on. You don’t dare, because you know the awful truth. Deep within your heart, you have accepted defeat. But you refuse to admit it.Finally,you resign yourself to what the mirror is shouting out at you, and shame- facedly settle for track pants ( how I hate them!), telling yourself, it’s fine to travel in tracks….if Katrina Kaif can, you can. Idiotic reasoning. I mean… have you seen Katrina’s toned butt? It gets worse. You start digging for still older pairs that are hidden inside the deep recesses of your closet.Surely, you’ll find something that fits? No?? Then why are all those discarded jeans still there? Aha… ha ha ha … because you live in hope! You are convinced ‘one day’ you will be back in shape and able to squeeze into them! Those perfect denims are a symbol of desperation and aspiration. You hang on to them. You cling! Because you are a true believer in your own will power. Besides, you hate throwing away a “perfectly good pair of hardly worn jeans!” Obviously, you have never paid close attention to Shakira’s mega hit ‘Hips don’t lie.” Please…. take a good look at her booty…. and go die! Huge, yes. But worth a million bucks – literally!
Giving up on your hips is the worst thing a woman can do. Give up on other body parts if you must, but not those hips. Remember, not even the best constructed gown or clingy saree can effectively camouflage love handles. If you have them, you have them. That’s the time to blame it all on genes. Stare at old, faded photographs, fondly remember your granny (‘naani ki yaad’ gets a new spin), reconstruct the family tree … and console yourself. What can you do if you are unlucky enough to be born into a family of women with generous hips? I made my uneasy peace with this particular problem a long time ago. Someone smart advised, “Sit on your base and look after your face.’’ I was forty at the time. Sensible advice, I like to think. There are some unflattering home truths that need to be accepted with grace. What’s the big deal? Yes, you should continue with your daily work out, eat sensibly, drink lots of water, sleep well…. blah ,blah,blah. But should a couple of inches ( okay… more than a couple) ruin a much needed summer break? Never! Should you chuck those old jeans? Never! They are motivational and needed. They tell you what even best friends don’t. You hate them for it. Fine. But it’s key to pay attention. And lose weight. Oh… not rightaway! After the vacations will do. And while you are out there, shopping cheek-by-jowl with ladies who could be Posh… or Shilpa, don’t despair . Move as far away from them as possible and search for jeans that really, really s-t-r-e-t-c-h from Milan to Mumbai. Or stick to caftans. About those bitchy beach babes staring pointedly at your derriere…. Honey, hasn’t anybody told you about the ultimate izzat savers also known as sarongs???
Saturday, May 4, 2013
But she also loves delicate tea served in beautiful cups... like this one.
This appeared in Sunday Times....
Yet another ( C )Hit-and-Run case….
India is suffering from a serious case of Outrage Overdose.There is just so much outrage floating around, we don’t know where to take it, nor what to do with it. Night after night we strain our vocal chords and express anger/anguish/sorrow/contempt/disillusionment/revulsion/horror/desperation/impatience/cynicism…. Oh, a whole bunch of emotions, as if on cue. We switch on an invisible internal button… and go for it! Mercifully,the cast of characters and racy script have been changing at an alarming speed, but essentially, we now have a nightly, high adrenalin show featuring an official list of Seriously Outraged People. Sometimes, I join this gang myself. I guess letting it all hang out occasionally is therapeutic, even cathartic. Whether or not it is useful … does it matter? Last week was an outstanding one for mass outrage.So much awful stuff happened, it was almost impossible not to go totally ballistic.That’s the problem. It’s now reached a stage where one wonders how outrage on such a mega scale can possibly be topped? What would it take to really, really shock us? A nuclear war?Till then,what we can comfortably take in our stride has been established clearly. Let’s see… we can aaram se handle an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with China, our beloved neighbours , in Ladakh. We can look them in the eye and say ‘Boo’! Niccee! Never mind that they refuse to budge.We can say ‘Boo!’ till the cows come home and they’ll still be there. And Salman Khurshid will still be there, too. Perhaps he can’t resist a trip to China because he loves Peking Duck.
Topping the latest outrage charts was the Chor Bizarre episode involving crores and crores of ‘poor people’s money’, even as Mamata Bannerjee ‘made red,red eyes’ and ticked off those who dared to criticize her.For our part,we dutifully expressed outrage. On her part, Mamatadi sensibly ignored it. And it was business as usual in West Bengal (which is really a joke, since no legit business seems to be happening in that state). The Commies went ballistic over ‘poor people’s money’ (is it different from rich people’s money?) getting looted. And we stepped up our outrage to the next level.Nothing happened. Nothing is likely to. The poor will continue to be looted and get poorer, not just in West Bengal, but across this great and good land of ours. And high profile lawyers like Nalini Chidambaram won’t blink before charging a one crore legal fee in the same ‘poor people’s money’ context. In this particular case, our outrage was naturally more subdued.
Saradha Reality Ltd . has shut shop. And the smart folks at SEBI have woken up. India now knows that there are more than half a dozen Cheat Funds juggling more than 7,000 crores of ‘poor people’s money’ (awwww! Bad boys).Of course the country remains seriously outraged. Sudito Sen, the naughty man who masterminded the Ponzi (we love the sound of that word!) scheme before squealing on co-conspirators, is currently cooling his heels in the clink. In the recent past,Sen, a true patron of the arts, had spent millions on acquiring masterpieces painted by his Chief Minister, the multi talented Mamata Banerjee. Several gifts were also generously given to the lady’s party, and the level-headed Didi refused to look this particular gift horse in the mouth. If only that Sen guy had not decided to go public with all those revelations, we could have conserved our rapidly depleting reserves of outrage.
After all, there is a limit to how much outrage can be expressed by an exhausted nation. Just a few days ago, we were in outrage overdrive because of a 5- year-old girl called Gudiya and the unspeakable sexual assaults on her tiny being. There were just too many uncomfortable truths to deal with in a compacted period of time. The ugliest four letter word ever (R-A-P-E) refused to go away, even as those brave and dashing Delhi cops decided to express their own outrage by slapping a female protestor or two. Naturally their hugely popular and greatly admired boss, Neeraj Kumar, hung around stubbornly, while we did what we do best – you’ve guessed it – demanded his head and expressed outrage. Now that we are over our eyeballs in outrage, we are a little stumped what to do the next time something terrible happens. It’s getting a little boring, not to say tiresome, to keep cranking the levers of that ghasa peeta outrage machine. The nation wants to know which emotional button one should press next. India wants an answer – should moral outrage be replaced? If so, what should replace it? How about… err… sincerity? The time to take a position on this burning issue is NOW!
This appeared in Asian Age today...
What do we do with our neighbours and netas???
Now that the Punjab Government has declared Sarabjit Singh a martyr and given him a state funeral, tension levels on both sides of the border are bound to escalate, till one or the other blinks. India has been blinking a lot of late. The official Pakistani version is that Sarabjit Singh, who was brutally attacked by co-prisoners inside the Jinnah jail in Lahore , died during a ‘scuffle’. He was referred to as a ‘terrorist’ on several panel discussions and we were casually told that such things ‘happen’. This, at a time when he was in a coma with no hope of recovery ( murderous head injuries had made sure of that). Despite this blatant display of inhumanity , Pakistani spokespersons tried to make light of the matter . Fact remains Sarabjit was killed in cold blood . Pakistani authorities compounded the tragedy by failing to extend plain decency to Sarabjit’s mother, wife and young daughters, when they went across the border to plead with them to allow a seriously injured man to return to his own country, his own people. Today,while we are aghast at the heartlessness of it all, are we,on our part ready to ask ourselves a few tough questions? Could Sarabjit Singh’s life have been saved had our government handled the case better? The answer is obvious: as usual we screwed up on every level and on all fronts.Yes, we should have stepped in much earlier. Yes, we should have taken more interest in the case, especially after Azmal Kasab and Afzal Guru were hanged. Yes, we could have saved him. But we were indifferent and did nothing. In a way, the Indian Government is also responsible for Sarabjit Singh’s murder. Sarabjit Singh was killed twice over – by Pakistan and India.
While we are dealing with details of this tragedy, another one has been playing out simultaneously on the streets of Delhi.The brazen and shocking acquittal of Sajjan Kumar ( accused of having been one of the key perpetrators of violence during the 1984 riots that killed over 3000 Sikhs) rocked the Capital the day the judgment was announced. Considering this acquittal came at the end of 29 long years of bungling, lies and waffling, there was not just outrage and anger displayed by Sikh protestors, but something deeper and graver. If we choose to keep our blinkers on and exonerate this bekaar sarkar, then we are inviting trouble. Big trouble. Today, we are soft peddling an aggressive Chinese intrusion into Indian territory in Ladakh. We are ignoring the seething rage expressed by a deeply distressed and disillusioned Sikh community which can lead to further alienation in Punjab . Add to that the growing problem of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, simmering resentment in Sri Lanka ( will the prickly Tamil issue ever be solved?), and we have an India that is effectively gheraoed on all sides by neighbours who loathe us and distrust our every move. This is an awful situation to be in. And to think we have brought it upon ourselves.
The thing is, even if Manmohan ( Fevicol) Singh finally listens to the raucous chorus of critics who want him to resign forthwith, and quits, will that solve a thing? Day after day, we demand resignations from our leaders. By doing that, we are in fact, letting them off the hook a bit too easily. There is nothing heroic about resigning. If anything, it’s a cop out. A resignation that culminates in a fair trial has some matlab. But just a token throwing in of papers is meaningless. When leaders are accused of misdemeanours and crimes, they are obliged to explain. Same as everyone else. The problem in India is nobody dares to nail netas . Who has the guts to nab even one of the Big Boys? An Arvind Kejriwal can name names and get members of his team to bring up issues and personalities on television. But Arvind has zero clout. And no resources to fight the powerful. He may have public support. But that’s never enough. Going after even a chhota mota player, forget the prime minister , requires enormous will and more importantly, pots of serious money. Today, there is really no difference between our various political parties or leaders. They are all terrible.There is no ideology. No commitment. No vision. And worst of all, there is no ‘sharam’. When levels of shamelessness are this high, every crook and scoundrel in and out of government is protected. That being a given, nobody is scared. The culprits know that after a few weeks of protests and demands for resignations, it will be back to dirty business as usual. Every neta has dope on every other neta. They also have dope on journalists and media owners. Whether it is the self righteous BJP persons or the complacent Congresswallas, both operate on the same principle – you open your mouth and I’ll open mine. The interests of the country be damned.
But despite widespread cynicism, mercifully there are still a few untainted, independent voices left in the country. Occasionally, one gets lucky and hears them. Those voices are pretty confident there will be a genuine and major parivartan (not the Mamata variety!) soon. The abominable and high handed handling of both the Sajjan Kumar and Sarabjit Singh cases may prove to be the tipping point. With the Sikhs on the boil and Punjab once again on the brink of revolt, some instant and convincing damage control is desperately needed. If that requires Manmohan Singh to show the way and step down with what’s left of his tattered dignity , it would be worth doing. Before it’s too late for him. And too late for India.