Thursday, 31 January 2013

What's your look?

"Short plump girl"
"That short, dark girl with specs"
"That short girl with messy curls"
These are some of the ways I have been referred to as. These are what forms my external appearance. 

We have specific physical characteristics that makes us look the way we do. It could be long hair, broad face, tall/short in height, our build - petite, slim or curvy, and other accessories like specs or jewelery. It could even be our birth marks - a big mole under lip, birth mark on cheeks and so on. These are what makes our external appearance. What if these external traits become our unique identity, like our personal postal code?

We are not happy with all of our physical characteristics. No one is happy with the way they look, it is just that one learns to accept it. We always wish for that physical trait of ours to change. We wish for a generous couple of inches of height, a more curvier shape or thinner structure, beautiful hair, fairer or darker skin color or something else. What if that aspect of yours, that you hate much, becomes your identity? Like you are always referred to as "the short, fat girl", "the girl with long messy hair", "the guy with a mark on his chin", "that old lady who limps" and so on.

This reference creates negativity in your mind subconsciously. Even though you have come to accept the trait, you will remember the person who made that remark. The person might have involuntarily made that casual remark based on the impression he has formed of you. But that person becomes 'the one who called you short'. Your mind forms hostility towards that person and chances of any friendlier relationship becomes remote. 

There are many positive physical attributes of a person that is not hurtful or derogatory. These physical traits can be an alternative to a compliment. Like "the girl who has a smiling face", "the one who has luscious hair", "the guy who looks like Brad Pitt" and so on. Another way to identify a person is by indicating something that he is good at. "The one who sings well", "the one who dances well", "the one who paints well".

If you do not personally know someone, you can still identify/refer to him by his positive physical traits. If its an office setting, you could identify someone based on what and with whom he works. If its a family setting, it could be based on the relationship.

It takes very little effort to be a bit more sensitive towards others. It takes you a long way by not being mean or hurtful, even unintentionally. By making a mental note of a positive physical trait or achievement of every person you meet or interact, even subconsciously, you will not be making rude remarks about the person.

"If you cant speak good about someone, don't speak at all!!"
- Anonymous wise person

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Spine Poetry - 2

The God of small things, The lord of the rings,
Deliver us from Evil!

Looking in the modern century,
A princess remembers the great Indian novel - The tragic story for partition.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Chocolate Souffle

My first attempt at fiction ... I welcome feedback .

Slowly, she moved to the dark kitchen and stood aimlessly thinking what she wanted to do. Her mind was preoccupied. She searched her busy mind for the purpose. She moved her hands on the cool kitchen top which had been wiped clean. She reached for the light switch at the end of the kitchen counter. There was abundant natural sunlight inside the house. All the rooms of the house had big windows, so the house didn't need electric lights in the morning. But it was the opposite in the kitchen, the lone dark spot of the house. Once her eyes adjusted to yellowish light, it fell on the butter at the corner of the stove. Yes! She had wanted to bake a cake.

She scooped four tablespoons of butter into microwave bowl. She added 3/4th cup of semi sweet chocolate with butter. She put this into the microwave to melt and set 40 seconds on timer. They both had not been talking since yesterday. In-spite of this, he had bought all the ingredients for cake. He knew she couldn't bake cake alone. She needed help to crack open the egg. Besides, they had always baked cakes together. The microwave beep brought her back into action. He was roaming outside in the living room as if he was waiting for an invitation to come in to join her. And she needed him. "Would you crack these eggs for me?". He quickly washed his hands and joined her in the kitchen. He wiped his hands using the towel on his shoulders. A towel on his shoulder was something that she found very cute about him.

He separated 4 egg whites from egg yolks. He set on the electric mixer to whisk egg whites. They spoke nothing else, still holding onto their silence. She added 2/3rd cup caster sugar and a spoon of vanilla essence to the egg yolks. She whisked it for a couple of minutes until sugar is well blended with eggs. To this she added chocolate and butter mixture.

They had always baked cakes together. He would eagerly sit in front of oven and watch how the cake raises and browns on the top. She set the oven temperature to 220c and switched it on to preheat. He stood by and watched her delicately fold the egg white into the chocolate mixture. Using a large spatula she cut a path down the middle of the mixture with the edge of the spatula. She then gently turned half of the mixture over to the other half. She continued folding this way without stirring so as to retain the air that is in the beaten whites.

She drifted off again, to yesterday's incident. Something he did irked her very much that she had snapped at him. In retrospect it had been for a very silly reason, but she was not yet ready to talk for the fear that she might say something rude to him. During a fight he always fell silent, he never spoke rudely. But she always spoke her mind even when she was angry. That made matters worse and she had learned over years to hold back when angry. She didn't want it to turn into an ugly war of words. Its better to be silent and sleep over it for a couple of days. 

"I think its done" he said. He was right. The egg white meringue was thoroughly folded into chocolate batter. Together they scooped the batter into muffin molds. He slid the muffin mold into hot oven and stood watching in front of the oven, like he always does. He watched as the souffle raised. They both were comfortable with the silence. She got busy cleaning up the kitchen top, putting away dishes to wash. The smell of chocolate baking in the oven filled the kitchen. It was nostalgic. He began washing up the dishes. Both were lost in the noise - of buzzing oven, of clanking dishes, of running tap water and of their own thoughts.

They let souffle bake for 10-12 minutes till the top settled and browned a bit. Once out, they both dug in while souffle was still hot. He commented on how each souffle has turned out and she commented on what could be better next time. Together they ate their favourite dessert in the same cup. The fight was all forgotten, at-least, till there was chocolate in the cup.

Friday, 18 January 2013

What is feminism?

"Feminism encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."
- Pat Robertson
(Marion Gordon "Pat" Robertson is an American media mogul, executive chairman, and a former Southern Baptist minister, who generally supports conservative Christian ideals).

The word feminism evokes strong, and often, negative reactions. Some women pride themselves in saying they are feminists while some shy away from doing so. Some call themselves feminists but clarify that they do not hate men! Some say they believe in gender equality but they are not feminists.

What exactly is feminism?

Feminist theory aims at achieving gender equality in areas that creates gender imbalance. Feminism believes in equal rights in social, political and economic verticals. Any situation that raises gender or sexuality-based injustice, it becomes a feminist issue. In simple terms, telling a boy ‘not to play with dolls’ or ‘don’t cry like a girl’ is against feminist ideologies. The basic notion of feminism is that men and women are equal. Making any bias based purely on gender, not considering individual capability is termed gender bias.

Feminism is anti-patriarchy. In patriarchy, a male figure is at the authority of social, political or economic vertical. A woman is a man’s (father, brother and son) responsibility. Patriarchy is when women cannot inherit the title and property of family. This makes women lesser than men just because of her gender. Feminism opposes everything that patriarchy preaches. And this is the reason why conservative men and women are anti-feminists.

Only men are not responsible in making a patriarchal family/society. Women are equally responsible. Bringing up daughters to only cook and clean is patriarchy. Providing lesser educational opportunities to daughters is patriarchy. Bringing up daughters to share equal responsibility and sons to respect women is feminism. If a man fights for equal rights, he too is a feminist. If a man brings up his daughter considering her equal to his son, he is following feminist ideologies. 

Feminist movements fight for rights of women and empowering women to help them make informed decisions about their life. They fight for equal rights of women to education, marriage, employment and their own body. Feminists fight for championing causes like gender discrimination, equal pay in workplaces, prevention of marital rape, sexual violence against women, reproductive rights, commodification of women and many such.

Feminism is asking for equality, not hating men! Blame it on media to have maligned the notion of feminism. There is nothing negative about being a feminist. A feminist loves his/her spouse, probably, much more because of the freedom and respect in their marriage. A feminist loves his/her children equally without being partial to sons or daughters.

Where do I stand?
“If women want rights more than they got, why don't they just take them, and not be talking about it.”
Sojourner Truth (A women’s right activist)
I was brought up with feminist ideologies. While growing up, I was told I could reach and achieve whatever I want. My husband and I both have a say in everything that happens in our family. Our daughter is being brought up the same way too. We are all flexible because of the security and freedom that we provide each other. 
I am not a feminism activist; I don’t go out to demand and champion feminist issues. But I know my rights. I try to seek and create gender equality in whatever way I can within my limits.

I found good answers to two most commonly asked questions for any feminism related topics. I leave you with the below.

“Inequality happens to men too.. Patriarchy affects men too..” What wrong with this statement?

Why are you concentrating on topic X when topic Y is so much more important?

Monday, 14 January 2013

Book Spine Poetry

Came across Spine poetry on Shilpa's blog.
Spine poetry is books arranged in clusters so the spines(read book title) could be read like a sentence\poem.
Apparently, there is even a facebook page dedicated to spine poetry.

I was hooked on immediately!!
This is one of the poems I came up with using my library.

 Indira, What to expect when you are expecting?
A thousand splendid suns!! Trust me.

This is one more way to stretch your mind to boost brain power. I am sure all book lovers will love this one!
I have it in my to-do list to go to public library to make some more poems.
Coming up soon..

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Indira - The life of Indira Nehru Gandhi

I had expressed interest in knowing about the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty of India here.
I read the book Indira - The life of Indira Nehru Gandhi.
The book was not as explosive as I had thought, but gave me a very good introduction to Indira Gandhi and quite a bit about Nehru too. Indira was a very dynamic prime minister of India.

My thoughts about the book here.

What's up in India ..

There is already a lot said about the recent Delhi gang-rape case. The brutality left me too horrified to say anything. The people of India are venting out their pain, their agony, their frustration and helplessness. For a change, this time, a majority of Indians didn't put the blame on what the men ate or what the girl wore (or they saved it for another day, because for now, majority of India is boiling with rage).

When the girl landed in Singapore for treatment, Singaporeans learnt about the case and were very curious to know what the issue was all about and why there are protests of this magnitude in India. I work in singapore and at my office lunch table were 5 girls of different nationalities of south east Asia and they wanted to know what was it all about.

I am the kind who always speaks good about India with my other nationality friends. I am proud of my country and always portray good side of it. But this episode had to be answered frankly, I had nowhere to hide, there was no way of escaping or getting defensive about my country.

They asked me why there is so much protest because criminals were already caught and arrested? I only told them that the public wants chemical castration and/or capital punishment for the victims. (I was still hoping that they forget the topic and move on to something else.) They wanted to know if rape and molestation are very common in India and is India not really safe for women? According to them taking a public bus has to be the safest way of traveling within city.

One of them had learnt about molestations in public transport. She wanted to know more about it. Her mouth fell open when I told that it happens even in daytime, even in fully crowded bus/train and the general public doesn't do anything to thrash the offender. She wanted to know why girls like me(who come from respectable and educated families) doesn’t do anything to confront the offender. I had to explain the mentality of society to such crimes, the shame that is associated with it and the fear of blame that falls on victim and not on offender. This was such a shameful moment to me, to lay India, my motherland, bare in front of others :-( One of them quipped "Why don’t the girls go to the police to complain?” She got the biggest shock of her life when I replied that any girl from respectable family doesn't go to police station in India. I remembered the time when I was called to police station for my passport address verification. I was accompanied by my dad and a bunch of my male friends. I didn’t tell this to her.

The girls wanted to know how it is in MNCs? Our office has subdivisions in Bangalore, we work with teams in Bangalore. "Are all Indian men the same? They all think ill about girls?" We have a few Indian men working in our Singapore office. I had to explain that not all men are same. I explained to them that well educated men(which MNC men are supposed to be) doesn’t think this way. I had to explain about gender difference, cultural upbringing and role of education to convince them that not all Indian men are evil. I didn’t want them to have an impression that all Indian men are vultures who are waiting to pounce on women. The protests in India and its coverage in Singapore media is not helping the image of Indian men, in general.

What if women have to work late in office? Its common in many professions to work late in office. I told them that most offices have cabs with security personnel appointed for drop off. By this time they were already skeptical. What if the security person's mind is corrupted?

Girls in Singapore can roam out alone even in the death of night. They can wear clothes that they want without any hesitation. They can go out on dates and return home at any time. They don’t need their brothers, friends, boyfriends or husbands to escort them wherever they go. For any petty issue they can walk into police station at any time and rest assured that their case gets attention. These lucky girls just don’t understand the situation in India. One of the girls innocently asked me "With all these, how do you manage to go out to celebrate something like a New Year countdown in the night?" This was my turn to laugh out loud (and silently shudder inside thinking about Guwahati case). "What celebrations at night outside, I haven’t stayed outdoor for any such celebration, it has to be indoor". She exclaimed "You girls don’t have a life!!".

There were so many questions from them - Is India safe for traveling girls? How can the government let all these happen? One of them was actually planning a trip to India, I don’t think she will be doing that anytime soon! However there is one thing that they all agreed “You don’t go back to India, stay in Singapore. You have a girl child”!! :-(

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Mind Mapping

Some time back my sister wrote about few tips to increase your brain power. You can find it here.

I was immediately hooked on to mind mapping.

A mind map is a graphical way to represent ideas and concepts.
In a mind map, as opposed to traditional note taking or a linear text, information is structured in a way that resembles much more closely how your brain actually works. Since it is an activity that is both analytical and artistic, it engages your brain in a much, much richer way, helping in all its cognitive functions. And, best of all, it is fun!

One of the other tip to boost your brain power is to create a list of 100 things of something, anything.

I combined these 2 techniques and doodled a mind map of about 100 topics to blog about in Potpourri.

Say I am clever now, pretty please :-)