Sunday, March 22, 2009

Constrained Liberation

The definition of personal liberty is subject to societal constraints. The boundaries of that definition are narrower for a woman.I wish I could say,with unwavering conviction, that my sisters and I are free; free to do as we wish within the confines of the legal system and free to indulge in things that our male counterparts take for granted. I don't think that the efforts of feminism are misplaced; but they still have a long way to go in making such freedom apparent, instead of letting it remain superficially glued to the edicts of constitutions.

One might argue that women today are far more liberated than their counterparts in the previous century.Women,in most countries,are allowed to vote,earn a living,own property and reap benefits that were once unimaginable.So does this mean that liberty isn't an absolute and that women ought to be 'thankful' that they are relatively better off now than women were before? It is like saying, 'the citizens of our city are relatively safe,if not completely safe,compared to people in other cities'. As far as I'm concerned there is not much difference between 'relatively safe' and 'unsafe', just as there isn't much difference between 'more liberated than before' and 'still not liberated'.

India was one of the first democracies that gave women the right to vote immediately after its independence.Still,given that it's been more than sixty years since that right was granted,women in India add societal constraints to define their sense of liberty.A 'free-thinking' woman in India must think twice before she refuses to marry young.She alone doesn't bear the brunt of the repercussions of such a decision, her parents bear it even before she does.A woman cannot be too intelligent,too opinionated or too 'talkative' for it is to her detriment. If she doesn't know how to cook she isn't adequately feminine.It also doesn't help if women cast aspersions on each other whenever convenient.How often are women expected to be domestically,politically and fashionably correct by their peers?

The dictates of traditional roles deal blows of death to the empowerment of women; and so does the self inflicted harm that outdoes the harm done by the opposite sex.The cause of feminism is misplaced in a world where women hurt each other and themselves as a rule of thumb.Feminine liberty is still a far cry away from where it should have been.It hurts to admit that womankind may have been partly to blame for this mishap.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Diva Writes Chick-Lit

I swear that if the recession strips away my income,source of nutrition and sense of dignity;I shall start to write chick-lit.

This isn't your run off the mill feel-good chick flick.It is probably the shortest one you will ever read and the first one to make you curse your designer accesories if you're a girl.Our heroine Shiela (incidentally 'Shiela' is Australian slang for woman) is your run off the mill chick lit heroine.Read further for her misadventures.

Shiela wants to skip along the sidewalk. She wants to step into the gurgling puddles that line the street,but she can't.She isn't sure if her present circumstances make such behavior seem appropriate.There is a slight drizzle after a thorough shower of rain;her patent leather Gucci boots, worth a quarter of her bonus, are dripping wet.The Louis Vuitton handbag,purchased after months of deliberation,is disintegrating from manhandling;the income tax department owes her a tax refund and there is a text message on her phone that says 'It's over'. The autorickshaws will not stop,there are no buses and definitely no good samaritans who will offer her a ride without taking undue advantage of her vulnerability.

The sudden change in relationship status is accepted without a sense of defeat.She will not tell her family about the juvenile split from a seemingly amiable boyfriend. Not when such news will grant them the incentive to introduce her to someone they have in mind.The cracks in a broken heart tend to heal with time, unlike the irrevocable damage done to designer goods made of patent leather. She calls her best friend.She realizes that it is a sign of propriety to wail over the loss of a presumably 'good catch', but she prefers to whine about the soaking boots. A home made remedy is suggested. The suggestion is taken with a tonne of gratitude sprinkled with a pinch of salt. The Guccis were gone for good. Was the sudden concern over the Guccis just a defense mechanism to avoid confronting the real issue? She didn't want to answer the question, she just wanted to skip!

Prudence can be a source of great discomfiture to those who want to burn the remains of a love affair gone sour. Shiela dourly wrapped her fingers around the bracelet he had given her on her birthday.She tugged gently at the beads without pulling the links apart.She treaded carefully into a cafe. She wanted to change the way she looked. At least she wanted to make it look like she was taking it well, and ghoulish eyes with smudged mascara weren't necessarily helpful.The door was opened even before she could grab the handle. Such a vision of perfection! A rare specimen of the opposite sex holding the door open for the benefit of a damsel with a diminishing morale. He tilted his head and smiled politely. She stared as he walked with his back towards the cafe,his demeanor reminiscent of Cary Grant.

She would stop him the next time. She would stop him and thank him for resurrecting chivalry. Yes! The next time! She would wear waterproof gum boots instead of designer disposables.

P.S. I now know why great writers prefer to starve!

Tweet Tweet

I am tweeting! Pop culture and the realm of social networking gives a different interpretation to my statement,albeit not very different from the meaning when taken in the ornithological context.Little birds 'tweet' for attention and so do 'Tweeters' who 'tweet' on 'Twitter'. While our avian counterparts are simply saying 'feed me mama,I'm hungry' with every tweet; we,as the most 'evolved' species, say different things like 'I am single! Date me!' or 'I'm sending updates to Twitter from my phone,I am like so connected!' or something as simple as 'Everyone's on Twitter and I am not socially irreverent enough to stay off it'. 'Tweeting' is on the road to outdoing it's predecessors 'Facebooking','Orkutting' and 'Blogging'.It takes a Web 2.0 junkie like yours truly to do the incorrigible; writing a Facebook status message that points to a Twitter update that says something about how I'm posting something new on my blog.

If the use of 'Twitter' is called 'tweeting' and if the use of 'Facebook' is called 'Facebooking' does it logically follow that programming in 'Lisp' (my latest fetish) called 'lisping'? I guess not. Such is the paradox of technologically inspired lingo.I admit that lisp has been around longer and is sometimes perceived as a tad archaic or just a tad 'geeky'; but apart from the reason that lisp coders may not want to use the adjective 'lisping' to describe what they do, I see no reason why a 'geeky' term should suffer such discrimination. There are several Lisp users with pages on Twitter, but they only 'tweet' they don't 'lisp'.One might argue that it is not the business of pop culture to embrace the idiosyncrasies of 'geekdom' but there wouldn't be any Web 2.0 if it hadn't been for the geeks in the first place.

The cruelty of pop culture aside,everyone seems to tweet for their fair share of attention. I've seen Twitter pages for 'The New York Times','BBC click' and about five pages for 'Lisp'.I too have my own Twitter page and I intend to add a 'Twitter' widget to my blog! I have no intention of rewriting the etymology of 'lisping' but I might spearhead the 'Give geeky terms their fair share of pop cultural exposure' movement.'Tweet tweet!'

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


As a blogger, one is often given warranted and unwarranted advice on how to have an overflowing blog ticker.I've heard things from 'Why do your posts have so much text?' to 'Why don't you write about the people in your life?' to 'Why don't you make your blog more personal?'. The last one is the most tempting and the most vile. I am terrified at the prospect of turning this blog into one of those where the lines between reality and fiction become blurred to culminate into one maudlin memoir. There are less maudlin memoirs that end up on bookshelves but the last thing I want to do is turn myself into a memory logger.

When I started the blog as a whiny,self obsessed 'loner', I wanted attention and I got it.My friends confessed that they were seeing a side of me that they never had anticipated.It may come as a surprise to the proponents of the personal blog that the blog hardly had any followers till I rechristened and reinvented it to represent the chronicles of a diva who swirls around in half done endeavors.Even if life isn't a joke, I still want to cultivate the humor to laugh at it.A truly laudable personal blog takes integrity and conviction.A lamentable personal blog is one where the author finds her own anecdotes boring(I'm not trying to be sexist by saying 'her'. I suppose my male readers know better).

It took me a year to realize that the aegis of speculative fiction lets you run for cover when you need it.In the end I just happen to be a diva who loves speculation and wants to have nothing to do with the word 'lamentable' or its etymology.The blog stays the way it is!

P.S. I think I'm expected to say 'sorry' at the end of all this.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Tepid Sunset

Impatience in watercolor;something that comes effortlessly,something not hard to create. As a young girl, I offered myself comfort by assuming that Van Gogh wasn't a pacifist.At least he didn't leave traces of tranquility in his thick and vivid brush strokes.I invoke the same words of comfort now as I leave you a legacy of imperfection and restiveness.If you zoom in you might feel lost in the mesh of colors.Of course,I could give myself airs and call it post modernist impressionism.

P.S. - I still wonder if I should delete this.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

All in a Name

What lies in a name? A lot if you're human. Reading 'The Namesake' brought back memories of the many issues I had with my own name.I could see a bit of myself in the protagonist Gogol who has to struggle to come to terms with being a second generation immigrant with a peculiar sounding name.While I am not a second generation immigrant,I come close to being one in the Bengali sense.I am what Bengalis refer to as 'probashi', or a Bengali who lives in India but outside Bengal(the generic term N.R.I. is used for Bengalis living outside India).'Probashis', like immigrants,can never feel a sense of kinship towards their resident counterparts. They rarely fit snugly into the grind of their adopted homes and they end up creating an impenetrable microcosm that rarely offers escape routes to those already entrapped.'Probashis' are sometimes afflicted by the burden of bearing a Bengali name.

Bengali words are pronounced with rounded tones.There is a delicate line that distinguishes Bengali from Sanskrit and other Indian languages that are derived from Sanskrit.This disparity is as conspicuous to someone who doesn't know Bengali as it is negligible to someone who does.A Bengali name thus sounds quite different from its counterpart in almost any other Indian language.For instance my name is Anusree(often misspelled as Anushree). In Bengali it is pronounced 'o-nus-ree' which explains the absence of the 'h' in its English spelling.In other parts of India the name is spelled with the 'h' following the 's' and it is pronounced 'uh-nush-ree'.It thus follows that linguistic minorities are unintentionally subject to the erroneous rendition of their names,either in spelling or pronunciation.

Growing up I had to watch my teachers cringe every time they arrived at my name during roll call.I didn't bother to correct fellow Bangaloreans who happily called me 'uh-nush-ree' and spelled my name as 'Anushree'.I remember being unsure if my name was being called when my kindergarten teacher called my 'uh-nush-ree' on my first day at school.I felt embarrassed when people called me 'uh-nus-ree' in an effort to sound phonetic.There are numerous occasions on which I have been called 'Anusha','Anushka' and 'Anuri'; while close friends and other diplomatic folks call me 'Anu'. In a country where one can almost never get any work done at a government office, a name like 'Anusree' is a clear disadvantage.It isn't enough to spell my name twice in most cases.

I have given my mother endless grief over my dissatisfaction in this regard.She usually lists the alternatives and the rationale behind each one so as to drive home the fact that 'Anusree' was indeed the best option.Unlike Gogol, I don't intend to change my name (maturity aside,it is a bureaucratic nightmare). Over the years I have encountered names that are more than a mouthful and I am now content that my name pales in complication when compared to some of them.

p.s. - I was really flattered to find that 'Anushree' is listed in Namespedia