Dark is lovely too

I opened the pack and took out the tube. I thought a lot before doing this to myself.
 
I had given in. I applied the Fair & Lovely fairness cream. As an impressionable teen, I was quite influenced by some female relatives of mine who applied the cream regularly. I was quite influenced by the advertisements I saw on the TV. I was quite influenced by the way the society treated dark-skinned people. When I played the WWE game on my PC, I selected the fair players because those with darker skin were clearly ‘inferior’ in my eyes. They were like second-class citizens who just played supporting roles in the movie called life where fair-skinned people were the “stars.” A lot has changed since then. I ultimately got back to my authentic self and threw the fairness cream in the trash.
 
Few weeks back, a colleague opened her heart to me and told me about the discrimination that she faced within her own family because of her dark skin and it transported me back to my teenage when I got my hands on Fair & Lovely.
 
If you are someone who is in a similar situation then here’s something that you should remember: You don’t need to be “repaired.” You won’t become more “presentable” if you are a few shades fairer. Fair skin is not the default condition for being beautiful. If someone tells you otherwise, then it is better to stay away from that person.
 
All this is not going to be easy but fortunately, we are in an age where people have started accepting their authentic selves. Find those role models and don’t give a damn about society’s beauty standards.
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I’m also responsible for rape culture

As I read about the horrific rape incidents and the politics being played around it, I somehow feel ashamed of myself. Every time I keep mum when someone blames the victim for rape/sexual assault, I’m propagating rape culture. Every time I say, “Why is she speaking about the abuse/rape now? Why didn’t she speak up earlier?”, I’m propagating rape culture. Every time I say, “Boys will be boys”, I’m propagating rape culture. Every time I keep mum when rape jokes are cracked, I’m propagating rape culture. Every time I come under family pressure and watch movies that objectify women and normalize sexual assault, I’m propagating rape culture. The outrage against the rapists is important. But it is also important to ask tough questions to yourself. The easiest thing to do would be to say that the rapists are different from me and that I’m morally superior. But the toughest part is to pay attention to the small things that we do everyday. When your boss cracks a sexist joke, the easiest thing would be to laugh along with him. When your male colleague jokes about sexual harassment seminar at workplace, it’s easy to just laugh along with him.The toughest thing is to speak up. I hope these horrific incidents will be a wake-up call to all of us: it’s time we look at everyday sexism and rape culture. Yes, in my own way, I have contributed to the rape culture in this country and I don’t want to wash my hands by saying “Sorry”. I hope I remember the face of the innocent victims every time I choose to laugh at a sexist joke or every time I watch a movie that is being made by a domestic abuser.

Human Library Mumbai

Prejudices are everywhere…they are within and around us. What will you think about a man who was born in a Kotha? How will treat a lesbian who had a crush on her class teacher? How will you perceive a 23-year-old woman who tried to kill herself multiple times and failed? Yesterday,I listened to these amazing stories at The Human Library’s event at Barrel and Co. The concept is that of a library where humans are books who tell their life stories to people who want to hear them. These are ordinary people…we don’t know their names. But like each one of us, they have a story of fighting against the odds stacked against them. I walked out blessing the person who thought of this amazing concept, the wonderful organising team and the people who have the courage to share their stories with strangers. Thank you for challenging our prejudices. Thank you for embracing the weird and the unconventional. Thank you for the openness.

Children and reality shows

My father always wants me to sit with him and watch a dance reality show where children compete against each other. He is awe-struck by the brilliant dancing that is on display on the show. I have never understood why I am repulsed by shows where children are pitted against other. But today, I kind of understood the reason (do correct me if I’m wrong here).
What we learn in childhood shapes our adult lives. A major problem that we as adults face today is that we base our self-worth on external things. That’s because since childhood, most of our parents have rewarded us when we are better than others, not when we are better than our previous selves.
Childhood is a time when parents need to communicate (verbally and non-verbally) that they love us…even if we are not popular, pretty, famous, talented, intelligent, etc. Parents who fail to do so end up raising kids who go through life searching for validation. A lot of them become people-pleasers.
Childhood is a time when we learn to indulge in joyful activities.Childhood is also a time when children get the time to explore their curiosity.With competition, joy and curiosity are lost and children start looking at things they love as a means to an end.
Healthy competition is a good thing and it can certainly bring out the best in us. One may even argue that competing at an early stage of life will “prepare” children for the big bad world. But I am not convinced that this is the case. Unless the parents of the contestants are enlightened souls, the competition will do more harm than good.
P.S. Maybe this is the reason why Finland doesn’t have exams till the age of 16.

Kya kare kya na kare yeh kaisi mushkil hai!

If a girl wears a short dress.

Society: Where are your sanskaars?
If a boy harasses the girl wearing the short dress.
Society: She was asking for it.
If a girl who was harassed complains immediately.
Society: You look like a slut (as if “slut” is an insult), you were asking for it.
If a girl who was harassed gathers courage and speaks up after a long time.
Society: Why didn’t you speak up earlier?
If a girl who was harassed doesn’t complain
Society: See, it is your fault!
If the girl who was harassed is “attractive” and was wearing Western attire
Society: You are a slut. You were asking for it.
If the girl who was harassed is “ugly” and was wearing traditional clothes.
Society: You are a behenji. Who would harass YOU?
If a girl leaves the office early
Colleagues: I wish I were a girl! I would have left early too.
If a girl stays at office for work till late night
Society: If something happens to you, it’s your fault!
If a girl talks too much
Society: We can’t stand girls because they talk too much
If a girl doesn’t talk much
Society: Hey, why are you so quiet? Women are supposed to talk a lot! Be feminine!
If a girl wants to become a homemaker
Society: Tu toh pati ke paiso pe jeeti hai.
If a girl wants to be financially independent.
Society: You are selfish.
If girls demand separate ladies compartment
Society: You want equality and yet you want special privileges
If girls share the compartment with guys and if a guy harasses a girl
Society: It’s her fault! Girls should sit at home.
If a girl dresses up to impress boys
Society: If something happens to you, it’s your fault!
If a girl doesn’t dress up
Society: Girls MUST impress boys. That is the reason why you are alive!
If a girl dresses up for herself
Society: You are so selfish!
If a girl obsesses about her looks
Society: Girls are so self-obsessed!
If a girl doesn’t obsess about her looks
Society: Be feminine! Act like a girl! You have to impress guys.
If girls are against girls
Society: Girls can’t stand together!
If girls support girls
Society: Feminazis!
P.S. Girls, no matter what you do/what you wear, there is absolutely NO ESCAPE. As you can see, society gives contradictory messages to us, so that we are forever stressed about some IDEAL, which cannot exist (as it is full of contradictions). Doing what you love is difficult and stressful but listening to these endless contradictory messages is injurious to health!

Who are the people whose opinions matter so much to us?

We always worry about what people will think about us but we hardly think about who these “people” actually are. If we analyze deeply, we will find that we are mostly, subconsciously/unconsciously trying to impress white, heterosexual men. We might say that we want to impress our neighborhood aunty but let’s analyze: What if this aunty has a dark skin color and what if she is fat? What if she  is “unattractive”? What if she had body hair? What if she is a lesbian? Will her opinion matter so much to us? Now notice how the beauty standards are constructed. A conventionally beautiful woman is thin, fair-skinned, has no body hair, etc. So we are not looking at the neighborhood aunty for who she is…we are actually looking at her from the beauty constructs of white, heterosexual men.

F.O.M.O

His Holiness The Dalai Lama will be giving a speech at KJ Somaiya College tomorrow. When I heard about it, my first reaction was, “I cannot miss this at any cost!” But my second reaction was: I’m just too tired to change two trains and travel. My third reaction was, “Come on! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity!” but my fourth reaction was, ” I am just too stressed out! I just want to curl up in my blanket and read a book.” So I finally decided that I will not go. My first reaction after this decision was, “Shit I am missing out something really awesome” but I will stand by my decision despite all the F.O.M.O.

As human beings with limited life span, we want to have as many experiences as we can. But at some point we have to understand our personality and make choices accordingly. As an introvert, I find it extremely taxing to be in a social setting (which I do everyday at workplace). Adding to that, the traveling makes things worse. Weekend is the time when I want to be in my little world, read and write. This might seem like a bad decision but doing this re-energizes me and keeps me sane. So for my mental health’s sake, I have decided to let go of some opportunities.At the end of the day, doing something out of fear is not enjoyable and the sooner we understand this, the better!

Why child sexual abuse is rampant in India

1. Children are expected to worship adults. Questioning/ calling adults out for inappropriate behavior is considered a sin.

2. Children are forced to hug/ come into physical contact with adults even if they don’t want to. We don’t feel the necessity to teach/respect the idea of consent.
3. Indians are so obsessed with blood relations and relatives that they cannot imagine a possibility of an uncle, sibling sexually abusing a child.
4. The whole concept of ‘Karma’ is used against the victim. E.g He/She has faced this because he/she did something wrong in past life.
5. Lack of sex education and Indians’ problem with discussing sex.
6. Maintaining family stability is considered more important than preventing sexual abuse. So if a grandfather or an aunt is a perpetrator, the parents will not take any action.
7.  General lack of respect for children. Many Indian parents treat children like property.
8. Many Indian adults were victims of sexual abuse themselves and were silent about it.
9. The victim is shamed and not the perpetrator. If it’s a male victim, we will tell him to toughen up while the female victim is treated like damaged goods
10. Lack of mental health awareness. Most Indians don’t have knowledge about the kind of impact child sexual abuse has on a person.

Interesting patterns in the top grossing movies of Bollywood/Hollywood

 
1. The protagonist is a little different from everybody around him/her or he/she does something that is unusual/out of the ordinary. But But But…he/she cannot be TOO different. If you make the audiences TOO uncomfortable then it’s parallel cinema. For example: Harry Potter or Bajrangi are different from the rest of the crowd but they are limits to how much risk you can take in mainstream cinema. So Bajrangi is not an atheist, he is a Hanuman bhakt. Harry Potter is a misfit but he can do cool stuff like magic. Kanji Lal Ji is an atheist and is different from everybody else but at the end of the movie, he starts believing in God.
2. Odds are stacked against him/her. He/She finally overcomes these odds at the end of the movie/series. The ending has to be happy.
3. Most of the top-grossing movies contain ideas that were introduced by alternative cinema, long ago.The ones who respect new ideas are the ones who succeed in the long run. For example, Yash Raj Films quickly changed its gears and started backing off-beat content like ‘Mahi Way’ or ‘Powder’.
But a lot of alternative filmmakers made content-driven cinema much before YRF.
P.S. This is not to say that mainstream cinema is ‘shitty’. Both mainstream and alternative cinema are important in a society.
P.P.S. To those who mock alternative cinema for lack of popularity: Watch out! Today’s alternative can be tomorrow’s mainstream!

Language

Telugu-speaking people often use the words ‘Amma’ (which means Mother) and ‘Nanna’ (which means father) in daily conversations, even when parents are not involved (Like you may say to your friend, “What happened to you, amma?”).  In Hindi, we often use the word ‘yaar’ in daily conversations. I’m wondering if the way we use these words describe the kind of culture we live in.

Parents are considered ‘Gods’ in our country and questioning them is almost a sin. The use of ‘amma’ and ‘nanna’ could be a result of a culture which is dominated by the older generation. The use of the word ‘yaar’ could be a result of a culture that is slowly seeing rebellion/a culture that changes with time. Parents are people whom we don’t get to choose. Friends are people we choose. Am I reading too much into this?
If you look at the mainstream Telugu films, they are still pretty conventional. The Hindi film industry, on the other hand, is offering different kind of mainstream content (there is still a place for conventional content, though). In the last few years, the Hindi film industry has offered mainstream content that deals with issues like mental health, homosexuality, dysfunctional families and live-in relationships. I’m not sure if Telugu films have done the same (Dear Telugu friends, do correct me if I’m wrong).