Show some respect.

My grandparents live 70 km to the right and my in-laws live 60 km to the left from where my parents’ stay when we’re in India. Which means long drives have become such a mainstay in my life that I have my favourite sights and pit stops bookmarked. Like the shops with heavily plagiarised names of social media networks and barbershops that Brad Pitt and Cindy Crawford unwittingly endorse. Certain traditions have continued over the years, like staying up for the bridge that reminds me of incessant backseat singing, or the strip of road flanked by trees and mountains that remind me of waking up groggy with my face buried in my grandmother’s lap. When I wasn’t travelling with my grandparents or parents, it was with my husband and child. Sometimes it was the sweet solitary drive with a driver, free of conversation, and free to daydream about the day ahead and reminisce about the days past.

On one such road this past month, a girl no older than I am, was travelling with her driver. I imagine she looked at the landmarks that had become her bookmarks on a road often travelled. At a pit stop she perhaps didn’t remember, her driver took it upon himself to let in four other men, who then horrifically molested and abused her for more than an hour while the car drove on.

The fact that she is a movie star doesn’t make this sick, sick, sick act any more or any less deserving of attention. The fact that this happens regularly does.

This news isn’t new, just another version. From the brutal rape, murder and assault of innumerable girls and women from 2 years of age to 60, we are not numb – we are seething with an unfathomable rage that threatens to destroy everything in our sight.

Every time I looked at the Hindu Goddess Kali, I felt a sense of disconnect with the all-consuming angry eyes, the chain of skulls and the trident piercing through a demon’s throat.

Not any more.

That is every woman today, even if she is smiling or crying outwardly.

This Women’s Day, I urge the men in my life to give the Hallmark holiday more meaning. While our sisters in the US go on the Day Without A Woman Strike, I’m asking every man I know to #ShowSomeRespect. Fuck the breakfast in bed and spa vouchers. Fuck the red roses and decorative mugs. Show the women in your life some respect.

Reach out to 10, 5, heck even 1 woman and tell her why you respect her. Because no matter how softly she giggles, she is made of a metal you haven’t even heard of yet. Because no matter how quickly she breaks into tears, she wipes them away and gets shit done.

Because she has to work twice as hard as you do to get the same recognition, while fighting off gropers and patriarchy with her elbows.

Because it isn’t about how hard she toils in the kitchen or how well she takes care of you – it’s why she does what she does, and you may never understand it.

So tell her. Tell her that you see it and respect it. She doesn’t need your protection or approval; she needs you to accept that she is equal and should be treated as such.

Then seek out 10 of your male friends and tell them to #ShowSomeRespect. Call your friends out on their sexist jokes and tell them you don’t appreciate it. Prove to the world that there’s more to locker room talk than vulgarity. Talk about your female classmates, workmates and friends. Talk about their achievements, strength and resilience.

Enough is enough is enough. No more women getting raped. No more putting women “in their place”. No more nagging wife jokes. No more talking over women. No means no.

No, Indian cinema, if her skin is exposed, it is NOT completely acceptable or even hilarious to grab it.

No, Hollywood, the damsels are not in distress.

No, music industry, her arse is not yours to smack.

And no, society, she is not yours to take.

Start now. Whether you make your pledge public or private, make it count. Get out there and #ShowSomeRespect.

Womens-March-on-Washington

This is the year I lose friends.

Crabs have been crawling out from under my son’s blanket and pillow at approximately 2 am every night, pinching him with their “pinchers’. He wakes up screaming.

We assure O that there are no crabs, and tell him that maybe they’re lost and looking for their friends? We calm him down saying we will never let anything hurt him, and that we’re right there with him.

Did little Aya’s parents tell her that moments before she lost sight of them in Aleppo? Is that why she was being so incredibly brave?

Almost as an echo in my head, I can hear parents all around the world promising their little ones the same thing. In Aleppo, Mosul, Sudan, Peshawar, Sandy Hook.

I started writing this post around the fourth anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre. I was sitting in the back of a cab, reading an article written by a father who lost his child on that day. My vision blurred and cheeks burned with something more than rage.

It wasn’t a blinding sense of helplessness like I’ve felt these past few years when living beings have been reduced to dispensable numbers, through power struggles, cowardly terrorism and blatant intolerance towards a different race, gender and opinion. It wasn’t helplessness or rage or sadness I was feeling.

It was failure.

Absolute, crushing, suffocating failure.

I failed. As a thinking, breathing person of the world, I failed. Because I didn’t act when I had the chance. I researched all the perspectives to make an “informed decision”, but these children and people didn’t have time to spare to educate me.

But now I see it. There are no good guys or bad guys. There are no oil pipelines or terror groups. There are no ifs and buts.

There are dead bodies, orphans, rape victims. Parents who will never kiss their child’s toes again. Dreamers who will struggle to close their eyes again.

And then there are heroes. Women, men and children who rise above fear and differences, every day. Who stand – at frontlines, rallies, shelters. Who stand – for equality, compassion, peace.

This is the year to take a stand. From world peace to workplace sexism, we cannot take this shit lying down any longer. We cannot wait for someone braver, smarter, richer to come sort it out. It’s up to us. You and me.

I understand keyboard warriors make more noise than action, but if the biggest election upset of our generation was stirred and spurred on by social media, then I’m sure as hell not going to stop spewing strength, support and positivity.

Nothing major has changed in my life to suddenly make room for activism, but there has been a big shift in my mind. So from here on out, I will be loud; I will be outspoken; I will be relentless. I will continue to feel the pain and weep openly, but I will not give in to hate. I will be optimistic and see the best in everyone. I will be happy and spread cheer when I feel it. I promise to be an insufferable feminist and opinionated pain-in-the-arse. And I take courage in knowing I’m not alone. (Even if it means I will be left alone because I’m being a Debbie Downer and taking the “fun” out of casual racism and sexism. Sorrynotsorry future former friends.)

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If support seems biased to you (there’s more #prayforparis than #prayforsyria), then please shout louder to balance the scales without tearing the other one down. Shout until we silence the very idea of hate and intolerance.

Here’s to a future where pinching-crab-nightmares are the only things that keep adults and children up at night.

Let’s do this, 2017.

“The whole world wants to save Tibet. Don’t worry about saving Tibet, don’t get caught up in trying to save the world or trying to affect what is not in our direct control. You will grow old and the world may not be saved. Dream big, but instead change yourself and affect people directly in your realm of influence, and soon it will have a rippling effect.”

                                      His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Who you gonna call? Drumpf Busters!

These days, every national celebration comes with a warning label. High Threat Alert. High Security Area.

But we don’t want to give into the fear mongering, so we go out and celebrate anyway.

But fear has never looked as real as it does right now.

In the name of Donald J. Drumpf.

There is a part of me that keeps waiting for him to turn around and shout “Punk’d!” But after the past few weeks of elections, the chance of Ol’ Drumpf pulling a prank on us is looking very bleak, and the fear is getting very real.

Not the fear of him winning. I’m still holding on to my faith in humanity.

It’s the fear that one of the leading nations of the world is encouraging bigots and racists to come out of the woodworks. Fear that people, who up until recently were considered an embarrassing little speck, are casting the leading vote.

I meet racists, sexists, bigots and/ or homophobes more often than I’d like to. But, even when they firmly stand by their opinions, they know they’re up against it. I’d like to believe that a little time and a little life will help them see the light.

But, there it is. The premonition. The two steps backwards. A bullshitting orange that’s giving their darkest thoughts a very annoying drawl.

He wants to build a wall to keep out certain people.

He wants to register and track a specific group of people.

He wants to repeal marriage equality.

He thinks rape in the military is expected.

He thinks climate change is a hoax.

Are you fucking kidding me?

I’m not even.

Whatever, man.

Drumpf’s supporters are not idiots, they’re just over it – like we all are – and they see him as the harsh change we all believe we need. All they need is a little tender loving nudge. A little hope. A little beacon of light. Or a couple of big ones (beacons of light, that is).

Like from these guys. Listen to these Drumpf Busters for a minute and share the post, please. They’re not political analysts, they’re comedians. They’re like you and me, but with quicker wit and funnier bones.

The very perceptive John Oliver.

The inimitable Louis C.K.

Thank you, and IDK NOT TRUMP THO 2016.

 

If you’re happy and you know it, click the link!

I’m still figuring out how to use WordPress and it’s awesome features. Like, tagging. It’s like hashtagging, but for people who are just not cool enough. So you list the key words along the side panel like a good little child.

Yesterday, I also discovered that you could see the most highly searched-for tag.

And there it was: Happy.

How cool is that?

We’re all looking for happy. We’re trying to find it, keep it, create it, spread it, share it and reinstate it.

 

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“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

                                                                                                                          John Lennon

In books and movies, it’s all so clear to us. If only the heroine would pick the life that makes her happy. If only the hero could see the woman who truly makes him happy.

Isn’t it obvious? In the mad rush to get to work, pick up after the kids and catch up with friends, we see ourselves as extras who provide comic relief or a side story to someone else’s life.

We need to be the protagonist. The one who turns heads. The one for whom all the stars align. The one who gets the guy or the girl or the job or the throne or freedom.

Make today the day that you, the hero/heroine, have that “A-ha!” moment and go for life. Catch that flight, call that person, quit your job, get that other job (because bills), sign up, sign out, let go, give it a go, start thinking about it, stop thinking about it.

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Back in the day, I was one of those annoying optimist with an I-just-found-God smile plastered across my face. What was there to be unhappy about?

Loving crazy family, check.

Coolest friends ever, check.

Good food, check.

Safe home, check.

Healthy body, check.

Active mind, check.

Sometimes, out of nowhere, none of this is good enough. Not loving enough, not friendly enough, not healthy enough. And that’s ok. Contrary to what I thought when I was younger, you can’t just snap out of it. It takes time and thought, and that’s what makes your joy last longer.

When it’s not good enough, re-check your list and find happy.

 

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I’m guilty of internally fighting happiness.

It’s not the same, we say. Same as what? When we were young, carefree and sans responsibilities?

School days would come with asking for permission to step out of the house, asking for pocket money, having a curfew, explaining ourselves, and exams.

Pre-baby years would mean, firstly, no cuddles and kisses from the little person you created. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, the way looks pretty empty. As much as I loved my life before my son, I don’t feel like erasing him just right now. Let’s chat when he’s giving me a migraine. Besides, back then we wanted to go back to being children and being loved unconditionally.

Nothing is ever going to be perfect forever, and that’s just perfect. Learn to love the low lows as you do the high highs. Happiness may come under the guise of a lacklustre old relationship or a predictable lifestyle.

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We’re so consumed by this globe-trotting, sky-diving image of Carpe Diem, that we think anything less means we’re not nearly as happy as we should be. I enjoy travelling and seeing new places, but it’s not my calling like it is for many others. And that doesn’t make me any less happy than they are.

Yet, no matter how level-headed some of us claim to be, there’s a pang of jealously when we see stupidly happy photos on Facebook. Of people living it up, travelling the world, having the perfect relationship and eating the best food across the world.

We tell ourselves that it’s just a photo and we don’t know anything about their troubles and worries. (I do hope the people in them are really stupidly happy.)

My loves, choices and dreams brought me to where I am right now, as yours did for you. I wouldn’t change any of them, which makes this life pretty damn special.

There are a lot of people who lose sight of their loves or are given no choice or have their dreams shattered by war, illness, disasters and cruelty. I’m not saying count your blessings. But make your blessings count.

If all we have today is rushing to work, crawling in traffic, picking up after the kids and paying bills, it’s where we really, really wanted to be. And it’s ok to change your mind, but while you think about it, try to enjoy the ride. Smile.

If you’re happy and you know it, dwell on it!

To Chennai, with respect.

Many years ago, I moved to India with Bollywood stars in my eyes and a loud, strumming beat in my heart. For someone who was born and raised overseas, this was going to be my big Indian adventure.

But like in most Indian movies, first you’ve got to hate each other before you find true love.

I fell in love with my country reluctantly at first, and then in a mad rush.

The closeness in my grandparents’ small town of Nagercoil. The freshly washed sun in Kerala, every morning. The smoke and independence in Bangalore’s air. The feeling that someone hit the fast-forward button and lost the remote control a very long time ago, in Mumbai. The indomitable, infectious positivity of Chennai, through heat or rain.

About the time when I was crushing hard on India, I stumbled upon this ad.

 

 

I watched it every single day. Later, when I moved away from India, I watched it every time I missed her. It reminded me of an India we all dreamt we could be part of. One that was film-y enough to be us. One that seemed impossible and yet, something that could only happen in India.

One that we’ve been seeing over and over again for the last few weeks during the Chennai floods.

No vigils, protests or petitions. No time for controversy or negativity. No blogs, logos or inspirational quotes.

It has been action, action, action. Go, go, go.

Food, clothes and medicines are being handed out to the drowned by the drowning. Phone numbers and home addresses are being shared openly and urgently. You need a car, they have a car. You need a doctor, they’ll bring you a doctor. You need to charge your phone, they’ll take you to a clean, dry power source.

If power blackouts and dead phone & mobile lines weren’t going to stop Chennai-ites from helping one another, then what was a little waist-high rain and drain water. No one waited to see what the government would do; they were out long before red-tapism permitted it and will be there long after the media circus ends.

The Chennai floods have wrecked havoc upon her people, but her people have given themselves the gift of time and faith.

Through ruined homes, lost belongings and threatened health, the Chennai-ites have inspired the world with their unwavering and unstoppable fortitude.

It’s far from over and far from perfect, but this is humanity at it’s best. If there was ever a starting point for a better world, this is it.

It didn’t take a calamity for the people of Chennai to band together, they’ve always been that way – it’s part of the whole Tamil charm. But it did show the rest of the world how to move forward.

By getting shit done.

To pray or not to pray

Pray for Paris. Don’t pray for Paris. Pray for Beirut. No, pray for Iraq. Pray for Syria. Don’t pray for Paris, Beirut, Iraq or Syria. Pray for the families. Pray for the victims. Pray for the misguided. Don’t just pray for the white man. Pray for the end of racism. Pray for the world. Don’t pray, do. Don’t talk, pray.

How about we let each other grieve the way we want to?

We mustn’t stop voicing our opinions, no; we’re the ones who can make any change in this world. But let’s choose to be supportive, not destructive. Let’s allow ourselves the time and space to mourn for lives lost in vain, parents who’ve lost their children, children who’ve lost their parents and strangers across the globe who are reluctantly crippled with fear.

I get it. We’re dealing with the frustration of our absolute helplessness in the face of these atrocities. We’re shouting at the world leaders to do something, but we don’t trust them to get it right. We know that these monsters only want to propagate fear, so we put on a brave face. We’re already guilty about when this angst is replaced with one for the next big tragedy. We hate ourselves for having the premonition of the next big tragedy.

It’s not your fault and it’s not mine.

We’re all in the same boat, and that’s where we need to stay – together. So far, terrorist wanted to hurt you for a reason. Religion, nationality, history. We couldn’t change that. Now they hurt us for fear, and we have a choice – we don’t have to give in to them. We need to be united against them, show them they can’t scare us.

Nobody can hurt me without my permission.

                                               – Mahatma Gandhi

While the country heads sharpen their weapons and stare menacingly in no particular direction, the survivors of these appalling acts of hatred profess love and kindness and a contagious hope in mankind. If they were there and yet they refuse to cave, why can’t we?

Pray if you will, don’t if you won’t – but please don’t give up on humanity.

This is our world and we will not let them break us.