Badhai Ho! Bollywood Is Finally Celebrating Real People

Posted: October 23, 2018

Badhaai Ho with a love story of a couple in their early fifties is an entertainer with brains and soul. Its humour makes you laugh rather than cringe, unlike the double entrende that usually passes for humour.

A decade and a half ago, a movie named Baghban was released, it went on to become one of the biggest hits of the year. Don’t worry I am not going to talk about the rightful sanskars and the vilification campaign it launched against the present generation, for the lack of the same. But this is about that aspect of the movie over which a good lot of people had chosen to laugh at, during the time of its release – the romance between a couple in their fifties. To me, that is the only beautiful aspect of the movie, after watching it n number of times over the years.

Though the romance was presented in albeit filmy Bollywood style, it was still refreshing to see a couple even after all these years believing in keeping the spark alive in their marriage. It’s an essential and vital element of any marriage. But like many other strange anomalies that our society processes, scorning upon romance in a marriage especially among elderly couples is one of them. The standard response to the beautiful romantic moments on screen between the lead pair in the movie was “Budha-buddhi  ka romance, what nonsense.”

Sadly, the perspective hasn’t changed even after all these years, but this lovely movie I watched over the weekend, did instill a ray of hope that there are filmmakers in mainstream Bollywood, ready to question societal perceptions. And at the same time leave you with characters and a narrative which bring a smile on your face.

Being real and relatable

The movie I am talking about is Badhai Ho. The most refreshing aspect about the movie is its presentation. It’s among those rare Bollywood movies, which doesn’t boast about stars but features actors who are a delight to watch. Be it the actors or the locations featured, they are real and relatable. The story is based in Delhi but those characters could be just anybody, your next-door neighbors or the family’s favorite relative, yet they are unique.

For a change you have the actors looking relatable as well (read like real people). The mother who is in her early fifties looks her age, the true Bollywood style – she has not been made to look prim and perfect. The technical aspects aside, it’s the story which is the actual attraction of this movie. Not a very revolutionary or radical tale, but albeit definitely inducing you to think and calling out society’s hypocrisy. To sum it up in a line, it is a simple tale, with a strong message delivered in its own unique way.

The story is of a middle-aged couple, who are parents to a son in his twenties and another in his teens. They live normal middle-class lives. Everything in their world is usual, till one day they learn of their accidental pregnancy. Their children refuse to accept this news and scorn them, while the matriarch of the family is aghast. They become a laughing stock among their relatives and neighbors. All this because this isn’t the acceptable behavior from an aged couple.

The ‘acceptable’ behaviour

Our society believes after a certain age couples should maintain a distance and just focus on their children and families. But coming to think of it, is our society acceptable of romance in the stage of a marriage? Nothing better can be expected of a society which scorns at couples holding hands in a public place. As the story progresses, it addresses the weird notion of society’s standard of acceptable behaviour in its own quirky way. In a society where still for large sections marriage is just a social obligation, where factors like compatibility and love are frivolous aspects, to accept that intimacy and romance are essential ingredients of a marriage is extremely difficult. In a situation like this humour is aptly used to get the message across.

Renee tells her boyfriend Nakul, who is just not ready to accept that his parents still share a romantic bond “So in case we get married, once we turn 40, will we only be discussing our children’s academics. Ghar main Floyd nahi, sirf Anu Jalota bajega?” This witty sarcasm sums it all up. When a couple gets middle-aged, they are just expected to distance themselves from each other, behave like two individuals living under the same roof. Be the perfect parents, but forget the essential root of their relationship, embrace celibacy and snap of all emotional bonding whether they like it or not. That explains the reason, why we have so many couples who feel lonely and bitter in their retired lives. Because at that age, they just have each other for company and by that time they have successfully managed to distance themselves from each other to abide by societal standards.

The same lady goes on to say, “don’t put your mom on a pedestal and later vilify her for falling below your expected standards, she is a human with her own needs and desires.” So true, in our quest for worshipping women have we not already strangulated the dreams and desires of generations of women. Let’s just treat them as normal humans and let them live. The best part of the movie was the dadi. For all those of us who believed outspoken women where a creation of the modern times, this character comes across as a shocking revelation. She does not care a hoot about expressing her mind. Though in the initial parts of the movie, she comes across as typical mother-in-law who always has a fault to find with her daughter in law, its in the climax that she shocks, with her no words minced retort to support her daughter in law. The one line in her speech stands out “ek saath, ek thaali main khane se bache nahi hote.” We have the dubious distinction of being the second most populous nation in the World, but when it comes to intimacy in a marriage, its either scorned upon or talked about in hushed whispers.

Brilliance with performance

The movie boasts of commendable performances by some brilliant actors including Neena Gupta, Gajraj Rao, Surekha Sikri, and Ayushman Khurrana. Saanya Malhotra is a refreshing performer and is definitely a newcomer to watch out for. The songs in this film are not forced in, rather they gel with the narrative. The music is soothing on the ears and not mere noise.

A serious issue, interspersed with everyday humour, keeps you entertained and drives its intended message home effectively. You have a love story of a couple in their early fifties, which looks adorable and relatable sans any filmy clichés. But there was just one aspect of the movie which bothered me. In this age of awareness, would a couple be negligent enough to not consider precautionary measures? Pregnancy at an advanced age has its perils, which by no means is an advisable move. But I guess, this has been addressed by the director in his own unique way, when the mother-in-law tells her son in the last scene “ab tub hi operation karva le.”

A Big Badhai Ho to Amit Ravindranath Sharma, the director, and his whole team for coming up with an entertainer with brains and a soul. A movie which makes you laugh and also introspect. For a change, you have humour which actually makes you laugh and not cringe with double meaning. So, if you are seeking a dose of entertainment which is fun and not insane, then this movie is definitely for you. If you are an Ayushman Khurrana fan, this is definitely not to be missed.

Image Source – Still from the movie Badhaai Ho

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When Standing Up For Self Is Hard For Men, So It Is For Women As Well

The movement #metoo is more than just a social media campaign. It is enlightening people about the gravity of the issue, the concept of concent and much more.

The minute I start scrolling through my social media account, I start seeing #metoo. And as if seeing stories of women who went through all the horrible things was not enough, people are creating jokes regarding the hashtag, sharing posts against the campaign, it is full of lewd comments from equally insensitive people with sick mentality.

Isn’t it all, in the end, justifying women’s decision to stay silent? They knew they wouldn’t be believed, that they would be seen as gold-diggers and characterless!

The first thing that all people are asking is, “Why did they stay silent for so long?”

I ask, how do YOU know that they stayed silent?

Maybe they spoke but no one wanted to support them and they alone didn’t have courage and resources to go against their predators.

Maybe they spoke but their families hushed them.

Maybe they spoke but they had no platform to make their voice audible.

Maybe they spoke but they were threatened.

Maybe… Just maybe they had their reasons and we are justifying all these reasons with the kind of response these women are getting with fingers pointing at their character.

When men don’t, why expect it from women?

Secondly, even if they didn’t speak then, why should they not speak now? What kind of logic is that?

Many times, men listen to all the nonsense their bosses say to them, are ridiculed publicly, the credit for their work would be taken by others; they ignore it and suffer in silence. They don’t raise voice, share stories or protest. Maybe just because they have a family to provide.

Now think, when men can’t stand against such trivial issues, how can one expect women to do differently? That too when chances of being believed are almost nill, when working and earning is the only way to have a voice, and when our entire life we are conditioned to adjust and compromise.

Some alien people are asking, “Why did these women not take any legal action?”

Sir, tell me just one thing. Do you go to the police station once you lose a wallet or your phone?

Probably no because you know that this would be fruitless. And if you are one of those who would actually go and report, how would you feel if you are blamed for your own misery?

When a woman reports any such instances of harassment, she will be harassed more because that is how the ‘system’ works. And if by some miracle the case reaches the premise of a court, getting justice would then need – means, money, reach to influential people and a lifetime!

The question of consent

Some other ‘sanskari’ people are saying that women encouraged these men. One gentleman was wondering how can a pornstar be raped? she is already selling her body!

Manyavar, I pity your innocence but rape means going against one’s consent. A pornstar, a prostitute can also be raped when a man forcefully imposes himself against the wishes of the women. Every single woman and man has the right to say no. And no person’s ego should be too fragile to honor someone’s consent.

Then there are people saying that these actresses have no career or family to take care of. Now they are obese and ugly so this is their way to get some limelight again. Only if you knew, they still have nothing to gain and everything to lose. Because they are the ones being mocked, humiliated and made fun of. The irony of ironies is that people now feel the ‘need’ to protect their sons because any woman can come from left, right, center and blame the innocent men!

Men make mistakes

People who never felt the need to protect their daughters, who never encouraged them to learn self-defense, who always asked women to dress properly, sit properly and walk properly lest any man be seduced; who had a timetable to go-out and come-back for women, who justified men’s horrendous acts saying “लड़कों से गलती हो जाती है।”… These very same people have no advice for their sons. Now they will protect every man by making lewd comments against victims and with an even more attacking attitude towards women in general.

According to a report more than a crore women have ‘reported’ sexual abuse since 1998… Only since 1998. And if those are the reported cases, just imagine the number of ones that never found a voice to say their #metoo stories.

If this doesn’t make you sick in the stomach, if this doesn’t make you sad and angry… then maybe the human part of you have died long back. I am not even saying that every woman’s story is true but even if half of these are true, even if half of these women have finally summoned the courage to stand against all the odds, shouldn’t they be heard? Isn’t right to speak freely equal for all woman an man?

Can’t we even hear without judging? Maybe this is the time to think and do some introspection.

Published earlier here.

Image Source – Unsplash

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At Their Hilarious Best! Deepika And Alia Dazzled In Koffee With Karan Season 6

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From their men’s loo stories to the legendary burp, the first episode of Koffee With Karan season 6 was a laugh riot with Deepika and Alia as its guests. 

Ahhh… so it finally happened! The first episode of the most happening show ‘Koffee with Karan’ season 6 with Deepika Padukone and Alia Bhatt was premiered recently. As expected there were lots of revelations and gossips. Here is my view of the episode #spoileralert.

The first episode this season was all about ‘Girl Power’ as both the actresses – Deepika and Alia have had a very successful year at the box office. The ladies discussed their movies ‘Padmavat’ and ‘Raazi’. they talked about how much of a struggle it was and how happy they were with the success of both the movies. The episode was also very special because of the Elephant in the room aka their current relationships that was addressed a lot of times in the episode.

Blessed with ‘Nepospasm’

Karan Johar (KJo) started the show by coining up with a new term called ‘Nepospasm’ and explained that it’s the neck spasms he gets every time someone says nepotism. He then invited the lovely Deepika and Alia and started talking about the auspicious ‘Mangalam Bhagwan Vishnu’. Although Deepika tried very hard to evade questions about her wedding, in the end, she accepted that she will be getting married first. Also, Ranveer and Deepika have announced that they will be getting married on 14th and 15th of November 2018. Some true couple goals these two often give us, isn’t it?

Cuteness Overloaded

Alia spoke about her current relationship with Ranbir Kapoor which is going to complete a year pretty soon. The awkward and the funny moment here was how KJo pointed out that Alia uses Ayan Mukherji to share photos of her boyfriend Ranbir Kapoor on Instagram. Deepika, on the other hand, spoke about her 6-year long relationship with Ranveer Singh, she discussed their cute unique display of love through Instagram. We also got to know about “Tutu, Lulu and Zozo” which are the pet names of Ranveer, Alia and Zoya Akhtar given to them by each other respectively.

No Bad blood

The three of them – Karan, Deepika and Alia spent the first 15-20 minutes of the episode talking about relationships and how they are completely fine being around their exes. Deepika and Alia spoke about how they are quite comfortable hanging out with each other despite Deepika having dated Ranbir Kapoor in the past and Alia dating him now. As exciting as it was, it felt like there was some sort of an urge and need for them to clarify that there is no ‘bad blood’.

The episode, as usual, had the ‘Rapid Fire’ round which was hilarious apart from that the ladies spoke about what they liked about each other, their love interests and spilled the beans on how they once went to the Men’s loo. So, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the first episode was more than just them gossiping about other celebs in the industry. It was light and breezy; it was something that would bring up a smile on your face. Starting from the Nepotism jokes, relationship talks, rapid fires, and with the legendary ‘burp’ the episode was indeed a blast.

To conclude the first episode of Koffee with Karan Season 6 has set up the benchmark and raised
our excitement for upcoming episodes.

Image Source – Twitter

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Despite A Women-Unfriendly Culture, Why Is Rajasthan A Popular Destination For Women?

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Rajasthan is a hot state, is severely discriminatory towards its women, yet it is a very popular tourist destination, especially for its women tourists. What is the secret of this?

Disclaimer: This is not to provide information about what to see, where to go and what to eat in Udaipur. It is a first-hand account of trying to understand the reasons behind the popularity of a not so large city, with a not so blessed climatic conditions amongst tourists, both Indian and foreigners.

Rajasthan is the largest state of India regarding area. It is famous for its traditional handicraft, handloom, dupattas, jutis, Rajputana architecture, and food. It is also infamous for its extreme hot weather and the prevalence of illegal social practices like child marriage and human trafficking. It is also seen as a state that is hostile towards women.

However, this does not deter tourists from all over the world (including India) from visiting various cities and towns of this historically significant state. Apart from its capital city of Jaipur, other places like Ajmer, Alwar, Bharatpur, Chittor, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Mount Abu, Neemrana, Pushkar, and Udaipur are popular tourist destinations. And that is a lot of places in a single state! While each of these cities has attributes like easy availability of Rajasthani handicraft and handloom goods, mouth-watering food and historical sites to explore that make them a traveller/tourist’s heaven, for a long time, I had been wondering what makes Rajasthan special? Why is that the state that has this ‘travelling unfriendly weather’ such a popular tourist destination?

A personal visit that made me think

This question was more or less answered when I visited Udaipur with my mother in late February of 2016. The purpose of my visit was two-fold – academic and touristy. After presenting my paper in the 5th Northern Regional Social Science Conference that was organized by the Indian Council of Social Science Research in Mohan Lal Sukhadia University, my mother joined me for a short trip from Guwahati (our hometown) in this beautiful city. Now, the reader must keep in mind that my mother is often tough to please, who expects nothing but the best in most situations. And that is why the city of Udaipur becomes so central to this narrative as by the end of the four-day trip, even my often hard to please mother was utterly bowled over by the beauty and charisma of this small city.

While natural beauty and historical reputation are vital in making a place significant and popular, it is the place’s people who hold the key. Udaipur delivers regarding its people, who are extremely helpful and very welcoming of tourists. As we were two women on the prowl, and it my mother’s first trip without my father, she was a little worried about our security. But to our utter surprise and delight, we found the city pleasantly safe with a good and well-connected transport system (buses, autos, taxis).

Why Rajasthan?

It was then when I started thinking about the question that I initially raised – why Rajasthan? The presence of infrastructural facilities like street lights and a good and well-networked local transport system makes it much easier for tourists to navigate within the city. This is not just true of Udaipur, but most cities in Rajasthan that I have been to. And of course, with the rise and flourishing of taxi services like Uber and Ola, things have only become better. It is, however, also worth mentioning that we did not see many local women accessing these public facilities. The reasons for that are deep-rooted in Rajasthan’s societal structure that restricts the access of women to public places. But one can see the foreigners and tourists (especially women) strolling around till late in the night.

Therefore, when we are looking at making places more tourist friendly, it is also necessary to think about accessibility. And it is not just Udaipur, but also other cities like Jaipur, Jaisalmer, and Jodhpur in Rajasthan that is very popular with both foreigners and locals. It also helps Rajasthan’s cause that it is geographically close to India’s capital city New Delhi and there are frequent flights, trains, and buses that connect the western state with Delhi.

Well promoted, good infrastructure

But this is not to say that this is the only reason why tourism is flourishing as an industry in Rajasthan. A lot is also determined by the kind of marketing and promotion that the state has done to encourage tourism. To give a small instance, the beautiful Bagore ki Haweli complex is the site of a ‘cultural performance’ every evening, and the tickets are sold like hot cakes. There is a queue to buy these tickets that start one or two hours before the performance begins! This evening of cultural performance gives the region’s folk performers a boost, and a chance to showcase their talent in front of so many enthusiastic people as they are in the limelight. This is particularly impressive when we think of the challenges that many folk arts are facing with increasing use of modern technology.

The overall program is very well-managed, and to facilitate the interests of the artists, one can only take photographs by paying an extra amount (Rs. 150 for Indians) apart from the ticket rate of Rs. 120 (for Indians). In my opinion, it is an excellent marketing and promotional strategy that helps these folk artists earn a little more money. However, one can also argue that this would invite the danger of exoticizing local cultural practices. But to be fair, to advance their cause, it is possibly worth taking that risk.

This four-day trip made me realize that tourism is an experience that goes beyond beauty and history. It is also a lot about feeling safe and enjoying mundane activities like walking, shopping, sitting by the lake and so on in a new place. And Udaipur does just that.

Image source: By Geri from Biel/Bienne, Schweiz (Paläste von UdaipurUploaded by Ekabhishek) [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

Rituparna Patgiri

(The writer is a Ph.D. research scholar, a sociologist by training and writer by habit.)

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From Padmavati To Parthavi… Just Different Eras But The Same Issues?

The 3 movies I watched that day depicted different versions of womanhood, but there was one thing common to them – the way patriarchy looked at all three with the same lens of objectification.

It was Sunday. Usually, Sundays are lazy afternoons and lively evenings spent with husband and son. However, this Sunday husband had to leave for a tour, and I was left with a weekend full of time at hand, with my munchkin. And other than this, one more thing was that the whole television was at my disposal.

When I checked into the Tata Sky channel list, it was kind of a movie marathon for me. The three movies listed, which I had missed watching at the theatre were at different time slots. I hurriedly finished my chores, supplied my boy with toys, books, dough clay, and racing cars after satisfying his appetite with a sumptuous lunch, and plopped myself before the screen.

The afternoon I spent watching the royal magnum opus by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Padmavat. In the evening it was time for a regional Marathi movie Gulabjam, and at night after dinner and with my son’s head on my lap till he fell asleep, I was glued to the TV watching Karan Johar’s Dhadak.

Warning: some spoilers ahead.

Padmavat

This movie needs no introduction. The story of Rani Padmavati of Chittorgarh and her Jauhar, and the ‘valour and gallantry’ of Rajput women of the medieval era. Film Padmavat is based on the epic Padmavat, composed by the medieval age Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi from the days of the Bhakti Movement, which produced Tulsidas, Surdas and Kabir among hundreds of others.

The movie revolves around the dream of Allaudin Khilji to capture Padmavati. The romance between Rana Ratan Sen and queen Padmavati is overshadowed by the obsession of Khilji to own Padmavati. The story is set in the period of the 13th – 14th century. Women as privileged as the queen herself couldn’t be spared from objectification.

The emperor of Delhi wanted to ‘see’ the magnificent beauty of the queen. The queen acts against Rajput tradition and agrees to show her face to a stranger so that lives of citizens could be saved from the warlike situation. The brave queen rescues her husband from the captivity of the whimsical emperor and brings him back to Chittorgarh. However, as the emperor retaliates by attacking Chittorgarh, she was practical enough to accept that the result of war can adverse. To protect her ‘honour’ and save women from humiliation at the hands of enemies, the Rajputanis performed Jauhar by jumping into the huge fire pyre.

It was the medieval era and death was the only way out for these women. The strong, intelligent and beautiful queen chose to embrace death rather than live as an object of sexual desire and lust in the hands of the emperor.

Gulabjam

Aditya works as a banker in London, but he dreams of recreating the food of his childhood. When he tracks down Radha, who is famed for her culinary touch, he encounters a living example of the notorious Puneri brand of hospitality. Radha (Sonali Kulkarni) is standoffish to the point of being rude and deeply disinterested in mentoring Aditya. She makes him do menial tasks, dismisses his early efforts at the stove, and warms to him only after he accepts the rules of engagement: whenever there is an argument, she will always be right.

As Aditya gradually peels back the layers that surround Radha, he discovers a woman who is as stuck in time as the analog gadgets scattered across her Shaniwar Peth home. The other main characters of the movies are food, nostalgia, and past.

The woman protagonist Radha, brilliantly portrayed by the talented Sonali Kulkarni, is trying to hold the strings of her life after spending eleven years in a coma. She has forgotten many of the memories of her previous years and also how to count numbers. Her fear of daylight and facing crowds makes you feel the helplessness of the single, lost and lonely woman. She earns by providing tiffins to various people, but never connects with anybody. Gradually Aditya wins her confidence and makes way for her to reach out to people through her food. The bond and dependability she develops for Aditya make it difficult for him to leave to complete his dream of opening an authentic Maharashtrian restaurant in the west. But again here Radha overcomes her weakness for him, and teaches him how to let go and accept change. The beauty of a unique relationship of trust, respect, and sensitivity touches the core of your heart and leaves you with a sense of positivity. The difficult conditions that Radha faces due to her memory loss, and emerging out as a strong and balanced person make you feel the strength of femininity.

Dhadak

The glamorous remake by Karan Johar of the original Marathi movie Sairat is a tragic romance, the caste and class differences set up in the city of Udaipur, where the love blossoms between Madhu (Ishan Khattar)and Parthavi (Jahnavi Kapoor). However, the remake drastically trips up on keeping the essence and message of the original Sairat. The stark rawness and reality of caste differences are missing in Dhadak.

The couple who elopes to Kolkata to save their lives, once the affair is discovered by Parthavi’s erstwhile politically strong family, face the challenges of the life of poverty and struggle. However, they rise through it and a stability is achieved in their relationship and life. In the climax of the movie, the honour killing by the brother of the girl is replaced by the murder of Madhukar and their only son. Parthavi has depicted shell-shocked and utterly helpless while her whole world is ruthlessly shattered before her own eyes.

Parthavi, the female protagonist, appears to be very strong headed, intelligent and brave. She makes way for the safe exit of Madhu and faces every adversity with firmness. The despair, pain, and struggle faced by the couple bring out the maturity of Parthavi. It again makes you realize how a woman with her firmness and strength can weave her own world.

3 versions of womanhood, same treatment

At the end of the day, I felt as if I watched three different versions of womenkind, but subjected to the same kind of social outlook, even if the settings, era and time period of all three movies were different. Rani Padmavati, Radha of Gulabjam and Parthavi of Dhadak, all three of them were very intelligent, capable and mentally strong. However, the perception of society towards them remained the same in all the three different settings.

Patriarchy, objectifying and dominance towards their womanhood are common in all three movies. The day society starts accepting women as persons with equal capabilities, rising above all class, caste and economic difference, maybe then stories around women will be weaved with different plots. The plots of their success, their ability to take their own decisions and be proud of them, making their own choices and living life on their own terms. I hope someday these become realistic stories of cinemas and motivate women to carve their niche without fear and oppression.

I am a law graduate, but right now enjoying being home maker and a doting

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What The Goddesses Dreamt Up, Let No Women Cast Asunder!

“We can only give them the inspiration and the ideas. Whether to act or not is up to the free will of the humans. So many times I have given people the urge to act, and they have overruled me.”

Our Muse of the Month series this year focus on stories that pass the Bechdel test, and are written on inspiration from a new prompt every month. This month, the prompt was “Where Your Dreams Take You”. The story should pass the Bechdel Test, that is, it should have at least two well crafted, named women characters (we differ here slightly from the classic Bechdel test, in that we require these characters to be named),

  • who talk to each other
  • on topics other than men or boys.

The third winner of our October 2018 Muse of the Month contest is Vijayalakshmi Harish.

What The Goddesses Dreamt Up, Let No Women Cast Asunder!

“Lakshmiii…Lakshmi, where are you?” Nithya’s voice rang out, even as the Goddess Lakshmi stepped into her house. She gave her sister Saraswati a smile and looked at her quizzically.

“Nithya akka, kitchen la irukken. Coming,” the namesake called back as she hurried from the kitchen, wiping her wet hands on the pallu of her ragged, old saree.

“Thank you for staying back later to help me with the vetthala-paaku function. Come, take yours,” said Nithya as she held out a tray filled with haldi, kumkum, a ten rupee note and a rupee coin, a blouse piece, a few paan leaves, betel nuts, a coconut, a banana and an expensive looking pair of rolled gold bangles.

Lakshmi hesitated. “Akkaa…”

“What happened, Lakshmi?”

“Akka, don’t feel bad. I will take the paan and the haldi kumkum, but instead of the other items, can you just give me a little more cash. Doesn’t have to be a big amount,” Lakshmi blurted out.

Nithya didn’t know how to respond. Nonplussed, she looked at her maid. Before she could speak, Lakshmi spoke again.

“And akka, instead of giving me sweets and a saree for Diwali, as you usually do, please give me cash then too.”

“Okay…Lakshmi. Slow down. I will give you the cash, but tell me what you need it for so urgently,” Nithya questioned, as she found her voice.

Lakshmi looked embarrassed. “Akka, my daughter Janani, she is in the tenth standard now. She studies really well. She wants to be a doctor. But that will be costly, no? So I’m trying to save as much cash as possible from now on, so that she can study what she wants.”

Nithya didn’t have the heart to tell Lakshmi, that even if she saved every rupee of her earnings, it probably still wouldn’t be enough. She gave her a few hundred rupees, but Lakshmi’s words kept haunting her even after she left.

She wanted to help her. But how?


“Now this is interesting,” the Goddess Lakshmi chuckled. “So this is why you wanted me to come along, Saraswati. This truly is a great opportunity to help the humans learn that the divine works through them.”

“Yes, I thought you would enjoy this,” Goddess Saraswati smiled serenely. “When I first saw Janani, she was a toddler enamored with the alphabet blocks at one of the homes that Lakshmi worked in. I put the idea in Lakshmi’s head that Janani must go to school, and so far she has done her best to ensure that she studies. But now she needs your help, sister.”

“Then that is what I shall do.”


Nithya continued to ponder how she could help Lakshmi and Janani. Just then her laptop rang out with the Skype ringtone. Her cousin, Anjani, was calling from the US.

“Hi Anju! How are you?”

“I’m great! Just saw your Navarathri golu and vetthala-paaku pics on Facebook. Super da! Semmaiyya irukku!”

“Thank you! How is your Navarathri going?”

“Good, good. Have called my neighbours and colleagues for vetthala paaku tomorrow. Have to go get the things for that from the Indian store. Haven’t kept a golu though.”

“That’s nice! Do you remember our childhood Navarathri? Going to all the neighbourhood maamis’ houses, eating sundal, collecting the money and gifts that we got for vetthala-paaku. Good times!”

“So true! I really miss those days! Celebrations here in the US are so tame in comparison. I do get to attend the dandiya-raas organized by the Gujarati Association here though.”

“That’s great! Actually, now that you mentioned the Gujarati association, I remembered, weren’t you telling me about an Indian association that sponsors education for girls in India? I have an excellent candidate for them to sponsor this year.”

“Really? Tell me more.”


“Well done, Lakshmi!” Saraswati exclaimed.

“Many a slip between the cup and the lip, sister. Let’s wait and watch. We can only give them the inspiration and the ideas. Whether to act or not is up to the free will of the humans. So many times I have given people the urge to act, and they have overruled me.”

“I know what you mean. But this time, I’m hopeful.”

“Tathaastu!”


A few days had passed. It was the last day of Navarathri. Saraswati pooja. Day before yesterday, before going to bed, Nithya had covered some of the books in the house, especially her children’s school books, in a piece of cloth and kept them in the pooja room. They had been worshipped all of yesterday, and today after one more aarti, they would be uncovered and read. Nithya had also made it a practice to gift notebooks and writing instruments to children on this day.

She was eagerly waiting for Janani today. She had great news for her. Which is why, she almost ran to the door when she heard the bell ring.

“Come in, Lakshmi. Vaa, Janani,” she welcomed them. “Come sit here.”

She handed the notebooks and pens to a beaming Janani.

“Thank you Nithya maami,” Janani said.

“This is nothing, Janani. All my pleasure. But listen, I have big news for you.”

“What?”

“Your amma told me that you want to become a doctor. So I was wondering how to help you, when I got a call from my cousin in the USA. I told her about you. There is an Indian Association in the place she lives and they sponsor the education of one girl for a year. So she has spoken to them, and they will take care of your fees and other educational expenses for next year.”

“Oh! That is wonderfull! Thank you so much!” Janani exclaimed, her eyes brimming with happy tears. Lakshmi too was wiping her eyes.

“That’s not all. The association will only sponsor for the next year. But to become a doctor, it will take many years of study and a lot of money. So my cousin has put together a fund for you with help from some of her friends. I will be adding to the fund too. We will make sure you become a doctor, Janani!”

“Thank you so much, maami! I truly have no idea how to thank you, your cousin and all these strangers who want to help me. I feel so blessed!”

“No, no. See, this is not charity. You have earned this for yourself. We are giving you this money because we see that you have intelligence, talent and passion. We do not want your potential to be wasted.”

“It won’t be! I will do my best!” Janani exclaimed.

“Good. May the blessings of Maa Saraswati always shine upon you.”


“Oh, they will!” said Saraswati joyfully. “It worked, Lakshmi!”

“Yes, sister. It did. It is always so satisfying when humans use the gifts and blessings we have given them to help each other. I really didn’t expect Anjani to do so much! The humans sure do surprise me sometimes!”


“So, how did Janani react?” Anjani asked, excitedly.

“She was so overjoyed! Couldn’t stop grinning! I wish you could have seen it!”

“I know! I wish I could have! Do plan a skype call with her soon. I would love to talk to the brilliant Janani!”

“I will, Anju. But I must say you surprised me. Sponsoring her entire education—that’s amazing!”

“This is all because of your father, my mama.”

“My father?”

“Yes. You are too young to remember, but the entire reason I’m so successful today is because of him. As you know, my appa passed away when I was really young. Amma brought me up with a lot of difficulty. When I wanted to come to the US for further studies, she refused to let me go because she couldn’t afford it. When your father found out, he wouldn’t have any of it. He sold some of his mother’s jewellery which had been kept aside for your wedding, and funded my education with that. His logic was that his sister has as much right over this jewellery as he did, and as her daughter, it should be of use to me when I need it. Much better to spend it on a girl’s education than for another girl’s wedding. He told me that day to chase my dreams and to go after them, wherever they may take me. I promised myself that day that I would pass this forward. That I would help a girl achieve her dreams too. And look at the coincidence –you were the one to bring that opportunity to me! I am in debt to both of you!”

“Oh! I really didn’t know this! And what debt-shebt, Anju? I’m just glad we were able to do something for Janani. It feels like the Universe conspired to make this happen.”


“No, No! The Universe did nothing! You did it all!” pouted Lakshmi. “Ugh! When will the humans learn that they have everything they need to make good things happen?”

“I don’t care if they credit us or the Universe as long as they use our gifts to them for good,” laughed Saraswati.

“Tathaastu!” said Kali, appearing on the scene.

“Hey! Where have you been? We’ve been looking for you. What gifts did you give the humans this year?” asked Lakshmi.

“I’ve been focusing on the human women this time, and have given them the gifts of rage and anger. Already, they’ve been using it. I sense a huge battle coming –between justice and injustice. They will need this anger to fuel them and to emerge victorious.”

“Well said, sister. So be it.”

And the Goddesses walked towards the emerging day, in preparation of Vijayadashami.

Vijayalakshmi Harish wins a Rs 250 Amazon voucher, as well as a chance to be picked one among the top winners at the end of 2018. Congratulations! 

Image source: a still from the movie Nil Battey Sannata

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‘Boys Will Be Boys!’ – When Will Defending Harassment Ever Stop?

In the wake of #MeToo there are other trending hashtags like #NotAllMen to take away the focus from what women face everyday. In such a case, how can harassment ever stop?   

With #MeToo, it’s an opportunity to take cognisance of something fundamentally decadent in our sociocultural idea of “normal”, that one fine day strikes us in our face as abhorrent. I penned down my thoughts as best as I could, after conversing with a lot of friends, family, colleagues and some introspection:

Last week, my friend and I were taking a stroll after dinner at a well-lit, very wide, public area of Jaipur. It was around 9 pm. Four young men on two bikes were riding on the same road. As they approached us from a distance, their shrill high pitched laugh increased. They began to swerve their motorbikes all across the road. They eventually passed us and went ahead. That’s an objective report of a seemingly normal event. For a man, yes.

Following is how a woman perceives and responds to such social situations. This is how most of us feel throughout the day – in homes, offices, streets, in public transport, private cabs, you name it. And if you think this is something new, you’re not talking to women in your lives. This is neither exaggeration, nor victimisation and this has to stop. It is not normal. It is not healthy. Not for your girls, not for your boys and not for a trans-person.

When I heard the roar of bikes with the raucous, carefree laughter, the sides of my ears burnt bright red with anxiety. The muscles in my stomach tensed up and my sweaty palms curled into fists. My jaws clenched and within seconds my blood was full of cortisol and adrenaline, ready to trigger a triple F response (fright, fight, flight). I was no longer listening to what my friend was saying, he probably didn’t even notice the bikes or my tensing up. Normally a human body does this when faced with grave- mind you, grave- danger. For instance, facing a predator, like a lion. Or when in a fatal accident. Imagine what a female mind and body must go through several times a day when we walk into a room, a coach, a street full of men. That’s us trying to be safe. That’s us putting our guards on.

I relaxed slowly when the voices of the bikers had died down and they were a “safe” distance away.

Not the only one

You would suggest that I visit a psychiatrist for what they call GAD- General Anxiety Disorder. You may even be well-meaning to suggest controlled releases of SSRI, just to “relax”. You may suggest me some yoga, some therapy, some breathing techniques or throw some new age Zen koan to my face. Trust me, none of that is the answer. I am not the only one. As women, we are trained to be safe. With our training day in and day out, this is how we show up in your world.

We still manage to outperform you with our menstrual woes, with unequal pay, with lewd remarks, clever emotional manipulations, with omnipresent molestation and of course the trending word these days- misogyny. Just for a minute, imagine what exactly it is to be a woman, and that too a cis-gendered, able-bodied, mentally healthy, heterosexual, upper caste, Hindu woman – in your world. I cannot even begin to deconstruct the marginalized, the minorities or those of us who are “weirdos”.

We have more people on our ‘Blocked list’ than in our contact list. We have to think a lot many things when we get a text or a call before responding. Hell, we have to deliberate exactly how responsive to be. We have to carefully choose the amount of skin we show, the pitch of our voice, the intensity of anger, the level of ambition, the weight of modesty, the burden of values, the sitting, the standing, the laughing… it is exhausting. We have to account for the fact that if anything triggered a man’s ire, lust, rage or ego, there is a battle ahead of us. Clearly, your world doesn’t make it your responsibility to manage yourself. And we’re getting tired of it. Just tired.

This is not just women’s issue. It is your issue too. You’re too far from the human inside of you. You have been bullied and desensitised long enough. Come home to yourselves now. Stop deifying or demeaning women, stop being entitled, stop defending harassment with your hashtags of Boys will be Boys and your #NotAllMen, just stop it all.

Boys will be Boys! Really?

#MeToo is also an opportunity to talk to men in your lives – friends, family, and colleagues. Many of them want to stand up to shitty behavior but simply can’t, because of an overreaction of lewd bullying that denigrates their conscience as being “impotent”, “effeminate” or “smitten”. Whether or not criminals are booked, whether the skeletons falling out of the closet is ephemeral or long-standing, with #MeToo, India has an opportunity to reflect on just how normalized harassment and misogyny is in all spheres of our society.

A chance to understand that patriarchy damages all genders equally – by either victimising or desensitising them into lecherous masochists. A culture which equals being anything remotely “like a woman” as something demeaning, is flawed to the core. It is also why straight men hate and bully gay men, lesbian women and trans people. It is also why men find it impossible to claim that they were harassed without being psychologically traumatized by manly men around them. It is also why the bullied turn into bullies, it is also why our boys grow up to be emotionally unintelligent violent men and it is also why men can’t stand up to the insane pressure of always being in charge, performing and protecting in order to be socially valuable.

It doesn’t have to be an actual rape in order to classify someone as an accomplice or in order to ascertain what went wrong. We are all accomplices- even women. As far-fetched and radical it sounds, unless we start calling out misogyny and sexism for what it is in our movies, songs, daily conversations, in raising children, in “chalta hai” memes jokes and puns. We will forever be stuck in a vicious circle of “boys will be boys” and candle marches when another naked bloodied female body surfaces on our newsfeed.

Image Source – Still from the movie Judwaa

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Konmari Method – The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up

If you also want a more organized and tidy life then Konmari method is all that you need. Read how the author explains this magical method.

After leaving my corporate career for child care, I am constantly looking for and applying all tidy and organizing methods. Then through one Facebook group, I came across the Konmari method.

Konmari is nothing but tidying up and organizing in a method. This method is introduced by Marie Kondo. She wrote three books, and I picked one among those – Life Changing magic of tidying up. In this book, she guides how to organised and now we will see those steps.

Declutter

First and foremost one is de-cluttering your house. How to decide which one to declutter? If you haven’t used any item in the past 6 months (exception for seasonal items), you don’t need that. If it doesn’t spark joy in you anymore, you can purge.

Tidying by category

In general, we tidy our room. But she advised not to do like that, instead tidy by category. She also gives categories’ order.

Start tidying with the easiest category and its clothes. After that lounge-wear, socks, seasonal clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous items and end with the hardest category to decide – sentimental items.

Each item should have a designated place and after every use, it should be in that designated area only. She also advises on how to fold clothes, vertically and it can be placed in shoe boxes. She advises emptying your bag every day so that you won’t be shocked to know what all things are kept in the bag in the long run. You can take only what is required. There are so many groups that follow konmari method countrywide and you can find a required checklist in the konmari website, Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram.

P.S: Organised home invites calmer mind. Happy organising

P. P. S: I should confess that konmari method may not fully apply for our Indian lifestyle. Marie Kondo herself always do trial and error. In the same way, we can find what suits our home after beginning.

Image source – Pixabay

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Recipe To The Perfect Dish For All Occasion – Spicy Chole In Rice Pot

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Spicy Chole is a dish to make your lunch or dinner perfect. You can cook it on any occasion, at any time when you want and savour it. Here is the recipe to make Spicy Chhole in Rice Pot.

We all love food like it is a genuine and same feeling that we all have. When it comes to food for some people the famous dish Chole is not food it is a feeling filled with happiness, so here I present to you the recipe to make Spicy Chhole with Rice Pot easily.

Ingredients required

-2 Bowl chickpeas
-5 cloves
-5 black peppers
-1 cinnamon stick
-1 nutmeg
-2 black cardamoms
-4 green cardamoms
-2 pinch baking soda
-1 spoon tea leaves
-2 tomatoes
-5 Green chilies
-1 spoon coriander leaves
-2 tablespoon oil
-1 spoon cumin seed
-1/4 spoon asafoetida powder
-1 spoon salt
-2 Pinch red chill powder
-1 bowl rice

A Perfect Recipe to Cook Spicy Chhole with Rice Pot:

  • Wash chickpeas and soak them overnight in 4 bowl water.
  • Take a small muslin cloth and make potli. Add Cloves, Cardamon, Bay leaves, tea leaves, Nutmeg, and cinnamon. Put it cooker with soaked chickpeas. You can also use a strainer. Cook them till 1 or two whistles on medium flame.
  • Make a paste with tomato and green chilies.
  • Add oil in a pan and heat up. After heating oil add cumin seeds and Asafoetida. After roasting spices add tomato paste.
  • After roasting paste add salt and boiled chickpeas. Make a boil. Off the gas and garnish with coriander.
  • Wash the rice and soak them for 30 minutes in 2.5 bowl water.
  • After 30 minutes add them to a cooker and take 1 whistle on high flame.
  • Now take a big bowl and grease it. Put a glass in center cover sides with cooked rice and press the rice lightly.
  • Keep it for 30 minutes under the fan so that it can be set.
  • After 30 minutes take out in a plate-like we did with cake and dhokla. There will be a space in the center due to the glass we put.
  • Fill the space with cooked chickpeas.
  • Now heat 1-2 spoon oil and add 2 pinches red chili powder. Now drop this on rice pot.

My Personal Tip:

  • Boil chickpeas without salt. It will help to keep them soft.

So now when you know how to cook this mouth-watering dish, use the recipe and satisfy your taste buds.

Image Courtesy- pexels

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Badhaai Ho Makes Us Think Of What We Teach Men And Does It With Humour Too

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The new movie Badhaai Ho wins hearts with its humorous approach towards important issues. It is critical and equally fun at the same time.  

We have heard several times, why must all serious things be said with all seriousness? ‘Badhaai Ho,’ twists this on its head, and lets you laugh, cry and think through some many pertinent questions. That is where it wins, albeit with a few slips here and there, that is well, easy enough to ignore.

Amit Sharma’s film is all Delhi. He gets the simplicity, innocence still alive, tucked in corners of this city, with the last generation it will probably end with. Little joys, eccentricities and a whole lot of madness, the film keeps you engaged, with its palpable energy, incredible command over language and the bravado that men here are accustomed to, born with and guard with utmost ferocity. Delhi itself is a character, that is unmissable.

Critical questions like the idea of desire after years of marriage, at an age where we expect to pedestalize our parents just because that’s what they are, the need to look beyond that identity, toxic masculinity, and the possessiveness we feel for them are beautiful key tenets of the film. Ayushmaan Khurana again picks a film where the film itself is bigger than him. The ensemble never misses a note, and you live through a family’s predicament of parents having a baby, while already being parents to young sons, one of them a working adult.

The heroes of the film

Before I go further, the heroes of the film, are Neena Gupta, Surekha Sikri, Gajraj Rao and the subject itself. Every time they come on screen you realise how grossly under-utilised they are as actors. Surekha Sikri is fantastic as the honest, sharp and no-nonsense dadi, the proverbial authority of the home. Neena Gupta’s balming, soothing, understated turn as an ageing woman who is pregnant is just a plain delight to watch. Her body, mannerisms, walk, eyes, gaze, voice all speak volumes of her grip on the character, and massively under-utilised talent. Never a false note, never a missed emotion. After Mulk, and now Badhaai Ho, I can’t wait to see what she does next, and so grateful to Amit Sharma for casting her.

Gajraj Rao, as the father, is sublime. His affection for his wife, love for his mother and children, a softness that keeps the family together, restraint when he is hurt, and the soft underplay of masculinity are moments that elevate this film like no other. Sheebha Chaddha, the formidable actress that she is, aces this with the right silences, just the right caress in her voice, and the perfect enunciations. Sanya Malhotra is a find. After Dangal, Pataakha and now this, she is proving her mettle again and again. You can imagine no one else in these roles.

Back to the writing. Akshat Ghildial gets the nuances near perfect. Marrying a plot like this to the idiosyncrasies of a typical middle-class household in India, could not have been easy. He gets the travails of each character, their reactions, their own journey with the reality almost perfect. The film doesn’t apologize or seek shortcuts for its choice of subject. The sub-narratives has been woven into the larger storyline with veritable ease and makes the viewer go through the journeys. Mostly to introspect on own set patterns and ideologies, of how we see our own lives and lives of those surrounding us. The film raises these questions without taking itself too seriously. A special shout out for the language in the film. The lehza is perfect, and you do feel you are sitting in the home of this family, with just the right tones of delivery and enunciation.

A film that truly matters

The film reveals the affection with which it has been made. The set designs, cinematography, car, costumes, casting – each collaborates to set the right mood, and the right context.

As a feminist writer, I can easily say, that it is films like these that matter. They insist on re-examining definitions we live with and normalize the conversation on desire and gender. The humour is disarming, and that’s how it makes it more palatable for the audience to ask these pertinent questions for themselves. I do wish toxic masculinity would’ve seen its closure, and I will refrain from giving away the scene I mean this in the context of. But you’ll see it when you watch the film. The film could’ve well done without this referencing, and nothing would’ve taken from it.

Watch Badhaai Ho, then return and think. Think about how we box people in relationships, stifling them to live. Think about what we teach our men. Think about the last time you had a conversation with your mother, and how healing it felt. And then alter how we behave, one little smile, hug at a time.

Image Source – Stills from the movie

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Saumya Baijal, is a writer in both English and Hindi. Her stories, poems and articles

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