Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Lazy Blogger

I promised myself I'll work on my blog today. But all I wanna actually do is veg out in front of the TV. As the subsequent battle of wills that raged on within me proved inconclusive, a compromise has been arrived at - I'll simply put up some of my favorite posts from my lost blog! That ought to shut up the persistent creature within me with the rod up her behind. So here it is.

I AM BACK!!! (posted on July 10th 2010)

Wow!!! Its been soooo long since I blogged. But I have been busy (kinda an understatement :) ) Got pregnant with baby number two and I must admit I freaked out a lil bit. Found myself in a constant state of panic as I wondered how exactly I was going to raise two kids and simultaneously do all the other stuff I had planned for myself (Write the best novel ever, win the Booker Prize, write a script that will have the hollywood bigwigs queing outside my home in Sivadump, win the Academy award for best screenplay, see the world, dive with the sharks, and finally get that perfect body) . Unfortunately, none of this is compatible with childbirth.

Anyways, I handled myself very well all things considering. I snapped at hubby and everyone who had the ill judgment to come within a foot of me, lost my mind temporarily when Doc informed me that she was not even going to attempt a normal delivery, spent the next few months raving about quacks who wanted to butcher you, cried at the drop of a hat, and generally drove everyone nuts with my bad behaviour. Finally, I found a way to get a grip ... STAR WORLD and Veda's PEDIASURE. The former helped me veg out and put my life on hold temporarily while the latter became my pet poison to drive the panic demons away.

I started writing in earnest as well but decided to put blogging on the back burner. By the time Varna was born I had successfully tackled my panic attacks. After the delivery, I was buried under an avalanche of mommy duties that included feeding, changing diapers, looking after the elder one,staying up nights, and keeping my act together. Star world reliable as always is still my bastion of strength and Ensure which has replaced Pediasure is the magic potion that keeps me going. And here is a tip for mommies who stay up nights - pop a DVD into the player and watch a movie. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale once kept me company while Varna struggled with sleep issues.

Anyways, Varna is almost 5 months old and Veda is going to play school. As for me, I am writing again. Women's Era ( God bless em) publishes some of my articles. Also doing some research work. And I have made my peace with the fact that it will be a while before I do the other stuff, I wanted to but I have promised myself that I'll do it eventually.

Cut to January 10, 2013
I had started work on Arjuna a few months after I got pregnant with Varna. Could not talk about it to anyone at the time because it was terrifying initially. Ted explains it best on How I Met Your Mother (Love the show!) when he talks to Robin explaining why he was procrastinating having decided to strike out on his own. He talks about his great dream of becoming an architect and the hidden fear that if he actually does something about it and fails then it would no longer be a dream but merely yet another thing he failed at. Sums up what I felt exactly. Nearly two and a half years later, I am relieved because I managed to take a teeny step in the right direction but I am still terrified because I am yet to realize my dream. 

On a less profound note, I am still far from getting the perfect body. 2012 was a great year because it was the year when I successfully lost 12 kilos. Triumph ought to be the predominant emotion right now but sheepish is how I feel at present. The damned end of the year festivities are to blame. There were too many yummy things to eat and the fat demons caught up with me adding 3 kilos to my 5'1 frame which can ill accommodate the excess baggage. Damn it!!

I wrote my first script for a director but more on that tragic story later! Good night!!

First Look of Arjuna!!!

Ain't he handsome? I think so...
The cover design is by Fravashi Aga who has done an absolutely phenomenal job!
Thanks to my publishers at Platinum Press (an imprint of Leadstart publishing) for the awesome job they did on the cover :)

Friday, January 04, 2013

A spate of hate!

     I love being a columnist but unfortunately, I have a horrible tendency to procrastinate. And then when an email turns up from by my BW editor saying it is my turn to submit a column, it becomes a mad rush to make the deadline. Behindwoods is an entertainment website and columns are on movies so while I was wracking my brains trying to come up with a column idea inspiration hit me! The papers were full of the Guwahati molestation case. A video on YouTube showing a girl being publicly molested by a mob outside a bar had gone viral and I thought a column on the same would be just the thing. And I incorporated some disturbing elements of Tamil cinema into the piece as this was to be published by Behindwoods.
     You will find the fruit of my labors below...
     News nowadays is the equivalent of a horror show as people seem to be forever trying to outdo each other when it comes to acts of sheer evil. Even so the nation finds itself reeling as one of the most gruesome incidents in the history of our country unfolded on the streets of Guwahati when a young girl was molested by a 50 – strong mob. As if this were not disgusting enough, nobody helped this girl – not the police and not the respectable citizens who happened to be passing through. Some in the crowd recorded this abysmal scene for posterity and though questions have been asked about their intentions the fact is they managed to secure evidence. But despite said evidence, the police seem to be having the hardest time bringing the miscreants to justice and only a handful of arrests have been made thus far.
People are still trying to come to terms with how such things can possibly happen in a supposedly civilized nation. But it is not at all surprising given that India is a very unsafe country for women and has proven itself to be so on far too many occasions. Even after a crime of such daunting proportions, as a nation we are not unanimous in condemning that mob from hell and bringing them to justice immediately. The moral police, those self – appointed guardians of spiteful convention have been quick to point out that girls who frequent nightclubs and get into physical altercations with members of the opposite sex deserve what they have coming from mobs gone nuts. Words fail me when it comes to responding to people who spout more crap from their mouths than their behinds. Sure, it is not the height of good behavior to fight in public with your guy friend but surely even the most hardened moralists will have to admit that the punishment was far too harsh for a tiny lapse in judgment? Besides peeing on the road is worse in terms of acceptable behavior but men do it anyways and so far nobody has had their privates chopped off by a mob of disgusted women have they?
It is precisely this kind of thinking that is the root cause for crimes against women and why sympathetic cops who belong to the good old boys network won’t knock themselves out trying to put offenders behind bars. Girls are taught to behave or else… and boys are taught to be nice to nice girls. So women are forever being subjected to snap judgments as to whether they are ladies or tramps and are treated accordingly mostly by those whose judgment is severely impaired. The girl who was molested by the mob was dressed decently enough before she had her clothes forcibly ripped off but many would argue the point saying that skirts and tops are the heights of indecency. And as for the thousands of women who get raped despite being covered from top to toe, the crime is justified with morons arguing that the ethnic outfit (western clothes are deemed vulgar by default even it if it is a baggy pair of jeans and a tee) in question was provocatively worn or at a come – hitherish angle.
Movies have played a powerful role in shaping this kind of prehistoric thinking. A particularly memorable scene comes to mind from the movie, Sivakasi. Asin’s character gets manhandled by a creepy individual and instead of bashing him up and giving him his just desserts, the hero (Vijay) gives her a tongue lashing on the inappropriateness of her shorts and cropped top as apparently they are the equivalent of lingerie and incite lust in men. This writer was amazed not just by this scene but the fact that she was the only one (seemingly) in the entire theatre who wanted to hurl a brick at the screen. The rest were on their feet screaming their approbation of the hero’s anachronistic lecture. Even the women were shaking their heads in agreement. It is totally possible to envision their sons growing up to become rapists or molesters or wife – beaters. 
Yet another famous scene is from Shankar’s Gentleman. The heroine (Madhubala) is a nice, sari – clad homely girl but the same cannot be said about her city – bred cousin, Suganthi who favors skimpy clothes and is into touching games (Ye Gads!). Needless to say a bunch of thugs try to rape her and she is rescued by the gentlemanly hero (Arjun) who points out to the deeply upset girl that such a thing would have never happened to her modest cousin and she should stop her ‘nonsense’. Nobody points out to the hero that Suganthi is just a na├»ve kid with a vibrant personality and a fashion sense to go with it. She certainly did not deserve to be almost raped. But again most people in this part of the world would agree with the hero’s misguided notions of right and wrong. And the worst part is that even so – called nice guys in the real world would feel the same way. And while they will give their lives to protect their mothers, sisters, wives, friends et al, they will choose to look away when a skinny girl is molested by a mob outside a night club.
It has to be accepted that movies never directly endorse violence against women but when violence against women is shown it is almost always justified. In Dhool, Vikram takes his belt to Swarna akka because when he tells her that he won’t hit her on account of her being a woman she scornfully says that she is the equivalent of ten men. And then our hero delivers his punch diapogue, “Appo unna adikurathula thappae illa!” Perhaps Swarna ka pushed him too far. But Richa’s Yamini in Mayakkam Enna certainly did not push Karthik (Dhanush) but wound up getting beaten up anyways by her “genius” husband who tends to fly into psychotic fits of rage when things don’t go his way. Yamini puts up with this treatment and is the patient, suffering wife to the fag end. Let us not forget the implied message – this is how a dutiful wife ought to behave even when her husband almost kills her and succeeds in killing her unborn child. After all, the rewards are great for those who suffer in silence (and it is too bad if an early grave is the happiest ending women can hope for under these circumstances)
Many such examples of this covert propaganda against women may be cited. But the simple fact is that we need to change our collective attitude as a nation and stop being sexist. The double standards that arise from the skewered notion that men can get away with murder because they are men and women have to cower in their homes in their chastity belts in order to be treated with the respect they deserve has to be done away with once and for all. Otherwise, India will go on being populated by pigs that don’t have the sagacity to be decent human beings but can revel in a puffed up sense of masculinity by converging on a defenseless girl and brazenly attacking her.
     This piece was duly published. A couple of days later I was nearly engulfed by a tidal wave of hate. A lot of the readers thought I was taking potshots at Vijay and Vikram though I had only mentioned a couple of scenes I had found offensive in their movies. Here are some of the more charming comments...
     Either stop watching movies or stop writing!
     gentleman 1993, dhool 2003, sivakasi 2005. gosh just because you are given an opportunity it doesn't mean you can write up anything. and mayakkam enna hero was mentally unstable. ok I give that to you. but please when you are starting your column with "nowadays" it means 2011 and onwards. please step into this decade.
     Vikram , Vijay movie promotes Prehistoric thinking? Nonsence with some baseless examples!
     Anuja.. please don't think you are too smart and don't think you are writing a great patriotic article.. first of all there is no connection b/w guwahati incident and tamil cinema scenes. The title given by you is ridiculous.. how can you compare a group of rapist with the great talents of tamil cinema ( Shankar, Vikram, Vijay ) Cant you take the good thoughts provided by Shankar in the films Gentleman, Indian, Anniyan.. ore oru Dialogue sollitaangalam,, athe pathi pesae vanthutaange. Vikram is a great legend who came from scratch and inspiration of many youths, Vijay is a great entertainer of tamil cinema, shankar ofcourse is the best thinker of kollywood who takes it to next level.. your article is biased and no strong relations to the issues wat u mentioned in it.. Ask sorry to Vikram and Vijay fans and better don continue writing anymore. (This comment got 28 likes!)

       Initially, the comments freaked me out a little bit though I said that such comments were beneath me and would not dignify them with a response. Some sweet friends put up comments in my defense though. But now I am strangely fond of this piece and even the comments. Because as a writer I want my readers to respond with passion to my pieces. And may be when I have honed my craft further my readers will continue to respond strongly but love me to pieces as well :) But love or hate as long as I have readers I am happy. 
     The original version appeared here

In Retrospect...

     I wrote an article for on fighting rape. While reading it lately, I could not help but think that there was so much more that could have been added. Read it for yourself reader and then we shall discuss it some more.
     The rash of rape cases that have rocked Haryana has resulted in a media blitzkrieg with the state government being torn apart for failing to provide enough security for women and attention getting focused on the shockingly negligent attitude of the cops. 19 cases have been reported in the past 34 days and a majority of the victims have been Dalits or underage. Naturally, far from taking steps to stop this contagion of carnal crimes a bunch of people have been taking it in turns to spout off nonsensical garbage that appears to be unrivalled in terms of sheer inanity.
The Khap Panchayat raised hackles by saying that rape could be prevented if the legally permissible age for marriage was to be lowered. By suggesting that we ought to encourage men to become statutory rapists they have earned the wrath and scorn of an entire nation. But there are others who have outdone even these geniuses. A Congress minister said that the whole situation in Haryana was a conspiracy against the ruling party and yet another Congress minister asserted that in his opinion, 90 percent of the rape victims consent to “go” with their assailants. Given the attitude that seems to be prevalent among those in positions of power, it is small wonder that women are not safe not only in Haryana but in the rest of the country as well. Apparently, in India, a rape is committed ever hour! (It is equally likely that this statistic, I pulled off a Google search is a gross underestimation!)
Women need to wake up to the fact that unfortunately, we do not live in a Utopian society where new age  Knights in shiny designer apparel exist and live by a code of chivalrous conduct whereby they are expected to be courteous and considerate towards women, display courage, honor and valor, and most importantly zoom to the rescue of damsels in distress in flashy sports cars. A woman dare not risk feeling safe even in terrain she has traversed since she was out of diapers or even in the comfort of her own home. And despite what the Khap Panchayat wants you to believe, married women are certainly not safe. And despite what believers in the tooth fairy and world peace have to say, children are not safe either. Once, a woman can force herself to accept this scary truth, she has to take steps to do whatever is necessary to empower herself.
It is important for women to stop being sitting ducks. They should adopt Kannagi as their role model – not the mousy woman who wept while her husband was seduced by a comely courtesan and then wept some more when he sold off almost all her jewelry to keep his lover in style, I am talking about the woman who burnt down a city with the potency of her rage. Goddess Kali is an even better role model with her garland of skulls, protruding tongue and the alarming fierceness of her countenance not to mention, the cool sword she carries and the decapitated human head. It is time for women to embrace their inner Goddess. Surely it is the only way to even the odds against them in the fight against rape and the prevention of similar perversities?
A few simple precautions can go a long way towards making a difference. Carrying a can of pepper spray in the handbag while stepping out is a potential weapon against assailants. Deo – spray is less deadly but it is still effective. Money shelled out towards self – defense classes is money well spent. Few things in the world are likely to be more satisfying that driving a trained knee into the groin of a would – be rapist or landing a well placed kick to the kidneys. And one does not have to have the skills of a Bruce Lee to fight back. Fingernails are invaluable when it come to clawing out the eyeballs of a sex offender. The teeth can also be employed to good measure. And anyone can throw a decent punch under supreme provocation.
Do not be careless where safety is concerned. Keep your doors locked and barred even if you are living in what you perceive to be the safest neighborhood in the universe. It suits a lot of people to believe that horrible things happen to other people far removed from the minutiae of their own lives and they themselves are wrapped in an impenetrable armor of invincibility. That kind of thinking may be likened to that of the Ostrich which believes the smartest thing to do when confronted by an enemy to stick its stupid head into the sand. It sucks to live life with so much precaution, but it must be remembered that no woman is safe in this world.
The few decent men out there can chip in as well to keep women safe. The next time, they witness any kind of atrocity being perpetrated against any member of the female sex, instead of whipping out their cameras even if it is for the ostensible reason of gathering evidence (remember the intrepid reporter who captured the appalling sight of a young woman being public molested outside a bar on camera?), they ought to help out even if outnumbered. They ought to stop judging women or their attire and simply see them as human beings. Because no human being deserves to be raped. And it is time to take the fight to the rapists and bring them down once and for all. Enough is enough!
Do you see what I meant? In light of the Delhi bus gang - rape case, all the stuff I mentioned did little good. A 23 - year old physiotherapy student was gang - raped by six men on a moving bus. She had fought back with the paltry weapons at her disposal. Cops discovered bite marks on three of the accused and DNA results reportedly show a match to the victim. And no doubt she tried to kick or scratch but the sad thing was the fact that she fought back provoked the animals into giving her a brutal beating with a rusted iron rod that caused what turned out to be mortal organ damage. Her male companion who also fought in her defense was taken out with the same rod and he also suffered severe head injury. The two victims had been lured into the bus and the savages had reportedly taunted the girl asking her what she was doing at that time of the night with a man. 
In retrospect, it would appear that preventive measures would do more good as well as constant vigilance. But all that would come to naught as long as idiot males persist in justifying rape. As long as men consider themselves as self - appointed judges of a woman's virtue or lack of it, this menace will continue to plague the nation. And Mother India will be royally buggered. 
The original version of this article appeared here.

A Muted Beginning

      New year celebrations in India have been muted this year. The Delhi bus gang - rape victim succumbed to her injuries and died on December 29th. She had been gang - raped by six men who also viciously assaulted her with an iron rod on a moving bus. The extent of her injuries, going by newspaper reports were grievous indeed and I was scared for her from the beginning. Doctors had performed five major surgeries on her and according to their statement, her intestines were so badly damaged that they were inoperable. Later medical bulletions revealed that she had developed infection in the lungs and abdomen, had suffered a cardiac arrest and her brain had also been injured. She was air - lifted to Singapore where a team of specialists stated that her condition was critical and deteriorating rapidly as she had multiple organ failure. Doctors had repeatedly expressed their amazement that she had survived given how badly her body had been battered and marveled at her amazing fighting spirit. But her fight was nearly done and just like that she was gone leaving a nation shattered by grief.

     The trial is currently underway and 5 of the accused are being tried for rape and murder, the 6th is few months shy of 18 so he has been remanded in a juvenile home (more on than later). I had written an article on this case for BI last year. You can check out the original version here. I have produced parts of it below with some more thoughts on the incident that has galvanized a nation.

     Since rape is commonplace in India, we have traditionally given it the attention we normally accord to performing our morning ablutions and have proceeded on our merry way. But the sheer brutality of the attack has galvanized a nation out of its turpitude and tentacles of outrage have spread out leaving in its wake a churning and heaving mass of killing passion. Protestors gathered at India Gate in their thousands to head towards Rashtrapati Bhavan demanding justice but somehow lofty principles vanished in a heartbeat leaving nothing but chaos as the demonstration turned violent and the cops had to resort to water – cannons and tear gas to restore order. And at the end of it all, one more innocent became a victim when a police constable, Suresh Tomar was attacked by hooligans and left unconscious. He succumbed to his injuries in the hospital. There were also disturbing reports about female protesters being manhandled by the cops.

      This kind of savage knee – jerk reaction is so characteristic of India and Indians. We spend entire lifetimes closing our eyes to injustice. We plod on with our jobs and lives believing that if we refuse to see evil, hear evil or speak of evil then we can escape its embrace in our lives and avoid becoming victims. As long as terrible things don’t happen to us and anybody we give two hoots about, we are content. So we pay our bribes, refuse to take a stand and we certainly cannot be bothered with helping those in need or fixing our country even if it is falling apart sick as it is with the rot of corruption. And then every once in a while something tragic happens on such a large scale that we are forced to open our eyes and acknowledge that nobody is safe. 

         Becoming aware of the truth is one thing but handling its consequences is far trickier. In the United States of America, Adam Lanza killed his mother before walking into Sandy Hook Elementary School and killing 20 children and 6 adults and turning the gun far too late on himself. Fighting past the bottomless grief and despair, America has been wrestling with its conscience and trying to decide whether an American’s constitutional right to own a gun is worth so many lives. 

       In Ireland, Savita Halappanavar lost her life because of the Catholic nation’s strict anti – abortion laws. Her death saw them grapple with their faith while reconciling its demands to the needs of its people even as passion boiled over on the lava of grief Savita’s death engendered. But finally, good sense prevailed and laws legalizing abortion when the mother’s life is at risk came into being.

       In India, the Delhi – bus gang rape has resulted in a torrential outpouring of grief and anger but little else. There have been calls for rapists to be hanged or castrated or castrated and hanged. Demands have been made on the government as well. The populace will not be put off with our leaders clucking over the incident with sympathy or empty promises, they want action and they want it fast with new laws regarding rape, fast – track courts to prevent such cases from languishing in courts for all eternity and more protection for women. In a commendable move, citizens took to the streets to demand justice for the victim. In a not so commendable move, some of the protestors took to violence with the cops responding in kind. At the end of it all, only anarchy seems to reign supreme having beaten good sense into oblivion.
       Now like a drunkard or a dieter after a night of unrestricted bingeing on booze and forbidden goodies, we are all going to wake up feeling sick to the stomach and in need of a healthy dose of denial to forget the irrefutable fact that we are idiots who deserve the country we live in, the government which rules us, and the monsters we have raised ourselves to give us endless grief. Worse, nameless horror lurks around every corner and the next headline is likely to have our name on it. What does one do when confronted with the unpalatable truth? Why we do what we always have… Get on with our ablutions, skip the boring news section served up by overenthusiastic journalists and go straight to the entertainment or sports section. Then we can obsess about a celeb’s dieting woes or sex life and howl for Sachin’s retirement (and bemoan his loss when we have successfully pressured him into doing just that) and Dhoni’s blood. As for rapists and murderers they will lie low for a while remembering full well that their time will come soon when the nation has gone back to sleep the way it usually does. 
        Or dare we hope for change? Knowing our country that seems almost foolishly optimistic. But even so one can hope can't one? 

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

The Hopeless Blogger

      I started blogging on January 29th, 2009. It was the fulfillment of my New Year's resolution. I had promised to do something about my writing career which seemed to be floundering even before it had taken off. So I figured that blogging would help me get over myself. Every time, I opened my laptop I would become paralyzed by fear. A fear that perhaps I was not really a good writer leave alone a great one. What if I started writing and nobody would want to read my stuff not even me? I had spent about a year and a half doing term papers online and I knew it was time to move on. It was time to simply get out there, start writing and hope that the newspapers, magazines and netizens will love me and I will have a billion adoring readers worldwide. And so after only 29 days of procrastination, I put up my first post. Reading it now, makes me cringe  (you can check it out at )  but in retrospect it was definitely a step in the right direction, even if I only managed 57 followers J

 It has been over a year since my last blog post and Google and Blogger are entirely to blame. The former bought out the latter and I received an email with a set of complicated instructions about how I needed a gmail id for Blogger. Long boring story short, due to reasons beyond my limited comprehension, I can no longer access my original blog though I do have gmail.
Anyways it had served its purpose. I had put up a few reviews of Tamil movies on my blog and was hired by as a content writer and columnist for their entertainment and news websites. More importantly, I was writing even though I was as freaked out as before with the result that nearly four years after my first blog post my first book – Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior Prince is all set to hit the stores on January 20th.
Now that is a happy ending for a hopeless blogger, I suppose. But the nameless, constant dread is back and I have a terrible case of the prerelease jitters. What if nobody wants to read my book? What if only 57 people read it? What if those who read it hate it? What if those who read it and hate it slam my book in reviews that go viral?

Fortunately better sense has kicked in and I have decided to start blogging again before I torture and mentally f**k myself into a loony bin. Besides I needed a forum to shamelessly plug my new book. So unless Google and Blogger decide otherwise, I am back to my hopeless blogging.