Thursday, February 28, 2013

How Men are from Mars and Women From Venus: A regular conversation between a married couple

Woman: I got cramps
Man: Well there's nothing I can do abt it
Woman: I know.
Man: Well then why r u telling me?
Woman: U know. Its just information
Man: That's useless information.
Woman: Well then its just a way of communicating.
Man: This is not communication.
Woman: Apparently
Man: Well what's that supposed to mean?
Woman: Its a fuckin argument.
Man: You started it.
Woman: You're a 5 year old.
Man: Does that mean I'm not getting it tonight?
Man: So now u don’t want to communicate? Jesus. I just can’t understand women!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Asian Age Love Guru Column: Best Friend & I love the same man

Dear Love Guru,
My best friend and I both like the same man. How do we resolve this?
Dear Cleo,
Have you asked the man whom he likes? Suppose he picks your friend over you, will you be okay with meeting them as a couple? Who is more important to you? If you think that your heart is correct and you love the man, you must tell him. Do not wait for him to decide. Be honest with your best friend about how you feel about him. If she still doesn’t want to back down and has the same level of feelings, you have to decide whether your friendship is more important or the feelings in your heart. Also, be patient with yourself. Be friends with the man for a while. Get to know him a little. More often than not, you find that feelings of infatuation fade away. Give your friend leeway to meet him as a friend and get to know him too. If after a month or two, you both decide you still like him and he can’t make up his mind, sit down and talk about the future. You might enjoy the dating part but if it leads to something more serious, then you should be on the same page about what your goals and needs are. Don’t make it abstract. Be certain. Then make up your mind. If nothing goes in your favour, please know that there are many more men for you and patience pays.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Violence Against Women: "She deserved it."

“She deserved it,” the man said with venom and took a sip of his drink. His friend looked at him and asked, “How?”
The man replied, “She’s been doing everything to rile me up, man. She doesn’t manage a house, she barely looks after the kids, she spends all my money. Then when I ask her anything, she shrugs her shoulders and doesn’t reply. She even denies me sex. Me! Her husband. How can she do that? I married the bitch so I could get sex whenever I wanted. And she says no to me!”
“Dude, that’s no way to talk about your wife,” said the friend, “She’s not a toy. She has feelings. If you don’t respect her, love her or pamper her, why would she want to have sex with you? Women are different. They need someone who will talk to them about their day. Not someone who will tell them to drop their clothes when he walks through the door.”
The man at the bar began to shout, “I’m an IIT and an IIM graduate. I can get sex anywhere! But I’m not unfaithful. She should respect me! Could she have done better than me? I’m the bloody crème de la crème. She was lucky I fell in love with her. She got away easy. Otherwise anyone in her place would have at least given me a car at the wedding.”
The friend looked around to see if anyone else had heard, “You just talked about dowry! That’s evil. It’s illegal.”
The man shook his head. He knew that. It’s just that he felt he should have got something from this marriage. It could be material if it wasn’t sexual.
The friend probed further, “Have you tried talking to her?”
The man looked at him incredulously, “I’ve been working and trying to make a living for us. The fat lout sits at home and looks after the two kids that she insisted on having even though I didn’t want more than one. Now she has no time for us. She is always tired, she doesn’t want to go out, and on top of that she wants me to help around the house, do homework, go for family functions and call up damn friends I’ve not spoken to for years. I’m tired. I earn to give my family a great life. I want to be left alone. Give me my food, leave me to my gym, my TV and give me sex every night. What’s to talk about?”
“Is it only about sex?” The friend asked politely unable to understand.
“No man, she’s not only frigid, she’s mental. I’ve told her time and again she needs therapy. She has to go to a psychiatrist to talk about how she has issues with everything. Her dad has enough money to pay for it. She needs to go to the gym too. I’ve told her she’s become so fat after two kids. I keep telling her everyday to push her to go. She’s so unattractive. Not the woman I fell in love with.”
The friend nods, “I understand. But don’t you think by constantly telling her to go to a shrink, or to the gym, it’s killing her self esteem? I mean you loved her for what was inside. By calling her unattractive, you lower her confidence. And she may not want to bond with you emotionally or physically.”
The man shrugs his shoulders. He doesn’t care. He’s been told by his parents that he’s the best thing that has happened to them and her. He knows that whatever he’s doing is right.
Suddenly he says, “Oh by the way, her aunt came over the other day. Even she was saying that wifey should try harder in this marriage to please me. She could see that I needed to travel for months for my projects. She tried to explain to her niece to be more patient and understanding. So see, it’s not only I who keeps telling her. Her family also reiterates it.”
The friend is even more shocked. He’s heard enough. “Why don’t you just get a divorce if you hate her so much?”
“Divorce? Why? She just needs to adjust to me. I don’t want to tell everyone in the office or my family that we’re divorced. It affects your career growth. I have to answer to my mother. Then again, she’ll try to get me married. Useless cycle of weddings again.” The man asked the bartender to pour him another shot of whiskey, as he got further drunk. “I can easily have an affair and she won’t even come to know. I delete all my messages. I don’t keep any pictures. I’m a smooth operator. In fact two evenings ago, I kissed the marketing trainee who wanted to learn from me. She is super hot.”
The friend refused another drink. He knew his limits. He had to go home to his live in girlfriend. Not once did he think that he had been “providing” for her by paying the rent. She had her own account and paid for the household expenses whenever she chose to. There was no compulsion. It was a respectful relationship where they had conversations daily, vacations occasionally and arguments hardly. Nevertheless, he was worried that he may turn into his best friend who was quite drunk and had exposed a side that was quite violent. He may never have hit his wife, but he had been cruel to her by thinking extremely repressive and regressive thoughts. If her aunt had reiterated the “Sita syndrome” where a wife has to go through everything her husband tells her to, then her family was also enforcing the violence against her.
He needed to break the pattern. The woman couldn’t do it alone. She needed support.
So he tried talking one last time to his friend, “Sam, you’re an ass. You’re throwing away a great marriage, wonderful kids and the opportunity to grow old with someone for a hot intern who cares less about you than she does about her lunch. Just because your parents told you that you’re God’s gift to women doesn’t mean it’s true. They lied. You need to stop travelling, stop treating your wife as a piece of meat and talk to her. Switch off from your world and focus on hers. She needs support in the house. Just because she isn’t working doesn’t mean you get to treat her with disrespect. She is managing a house and your kids. And even if your didn’t want them, they’re yours. She gave that gift to you. And when you’re old, they will look after you, not your colleagues. Her aunt, is a dumb ass. She probably has watched too many soaps to think differently. Give more Sam. Give your time. Give your money. Worship your wife. She’s not unattractive. She’s loving, graceful, smart, funny, and intelligent. Make her feel beautiful and the sex will improve. Don’t give because you might get something back. Give because it makes you happy, because you need to and because you will die a lonely death if you don’t right now. Work goes away. Friends leave you. Your parents will die. And your cousins will have families of their own. The only person who you can turn to is your partner, your soul mate. Don’t try to improve her. She’s not mental. Everyone has issues. A spouse hears your issues. She may be suffering from post partum depression. She needs love. Stop being selfish. And even if you get married again, if you don’t change yourself, who you are as of right now, you will have the same problems with the new woman as well!”
The friend completed his speech, got up, and walked out of the bar. He realized that maybe nothing of what he said would get through to his friend but at least he had tried. However, the violence was so deep seated that it would take more than a pep talk; it would take a shift in mindset.
We can probably see and recover from physical violence. Mental violence scars us for life. Women do not know if they should stay in a marriage where they’re forced to have sex, where they feel undermined, belittled, tossed aside. Society, parents, offices do not encourage a woman who chooses to walk out of a violent marriage. People don’t like talking about domestic issues.
A Few facts:
·         In 2011 over 12 lakh people committed suicide.
·         22,172 cases of rape were recorded in 2010.
·          8.9% of the total victims of Rape were girls under 14 years of age, while 16.1% were teenage girls (14-18 years) and 57.4% were women in the age-group 18-30 years.
·         There are more than 1000 “honour killings” in India every year.
·         1 in 5 women are suffering from depression in India right now.
·         Forced bonded labour/ human trafficking affect 65 million Indians.

Our society needs to help each other. We need to start talking about it. Otherwise the violence will never end.

Men's Guide to What Women Say:

1.      What did you say? – If a woman is within hearing distance from you, she has actually heard what you’ve said but she’s given a chance to either change your tone, or change your words. So do think about what you just said and how it could have pissed her off. The safest bet is to reply, “I have no idea honey. I love you!”

2.      Fine – When she’s used that word it is the opposite of fine. It means that you’re really in the dog house for being adamant on a particular subject while arguing with her. When she’s used it with the prefix “I” it means you had better take her out for dinner to figure out what is troubling her since she’s not fine.

3.      Where is this relationship going? – It actually means she wants to get married or get a commitment from you. You need to have a conversation with her about what you both want. If there’s no future with her, now is the time to tell her. If you keep her hanging on for more time, she will soon turn into King Kong and devour your happiness.

4.      I don’t want to talk about it – Hahaha. Fooled you. They rarely say this. Women will always want to talk. Give her a drink and ask her what’s wrong. And then do not give any advice. Just sit and listen to her talk.

5.      We need to talk – What she means is - I need to talk and you need to listen to what I’m about to say and absorb it because I shall question you later. So do not watch TV while she speaks. Do not say- can we talk after the game? What you can say is, “Ok. Why don’t you give me an hour and we can talk at night when my head is a little clear.”

6.      I’m not ready for a relationship right now – What she means is – “Dude seriously? Have you looked in the mirror? Why would I date you?” So you need to spruce up a bit. Figure out your clothes, hygiene, and what she likes. A little reading could help your personality sparkle. Do go up to her again when you’re ready but let her know you’ve moved on. She’ll be after you in a heartbeat!

7.      Your mother… – Anything that begins with those two words means it’s not going to be pleasant. Otherwise, she would have said, “Ma said…” Be prepared to hear the ugly truth about your mother. Do not reply by saying, “You both should figure it out for yourselves. Leave me out of it.” Instead say, “I agree with you honey. Can we discuss this in the morning so I can mull it over tonight?” This buys you time to get out of the tricky situation and her to cool down. By the morning pretend you’ve completely forgotten and say that you mom is batty and she should ignore her. Of course you don’t believe it. But it will give you peace!

8.      I don’t feel like having sex – Oh boy, it’s going to be a very long night my dear. Either be prepared to give her tremendous amount of foreplay or just sit and cuddle with her in front of the TV. But do have some physical contact otherwise the next few nights are going to continue with the same statement. Moreover, once a woman can do without something, she doesn’t need it anymore. That’s very dangerous for you.

9.      Do what you want/ Go Ahead – If you really do, you will pay for it. Instead, when she throws this at you ask her, “Well what would you do in my situation?” This makes her feel like she’s in control. After she finishes say, “That’s a good idea. Let me think about it.” Even then, if you do what you want, at least she’ll feel you’re doing it her way.

10.  I’m on a diet – If you’ve taken a woman out to a restaurant and she says this it means you let her order what is less calorific for her. And you order something that has medium calories. Example- she’ll order a grilled plate of something but still crave better food. You can order a burger with baked potato. So she can share the potatoes while you still eat your heavy burger. You must order a dessert and split it.

11.   There’s no magic left – I’m bored. You need to take the initiative and plan a vacation with her or sweep her off to a hotel for one night to get her away from daily domesticity. If she has mentioned this post coitus you better read 50 Shades of Grey and see if she wants to do anything from there!

12.  Do you really want me to go? – She doesn’t want to go but will do so if it’s important to you. If it comes before you introduce her to your friends then she doesn’t like them and you should schedule a separate boy’s night where your woman and your friends don’t need to interact.

13.  Never Mind/ Forget it – That should now be the last thing on your mind. Do not forget what has just happened. Ever. It will come back to haunt you. As soon as this is said, make it up to her immediately. Put on her favourite song and remind her of some old memory of hers when she was thin and pretty. It will distract her from her current crappy mood and take you out of the trouble zone.

14.  NO – The end. Nope. You cannot argue further. It’s final. You should seriously shut up now.

15.  I love you – This comes from the heart. There are no games. She’s opened up her soul to you. Also she could be asking for jewelery. So check your calendar if it’s Valentine’s Day yet.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Love in Delhi: A True Story

2003. 7:30pm. LSR.
“Shit!” says Zoya as Ram smiles. “I’m going to miss the curfew time and I haven’t even taken a night out slip.”
Ram rushes through the traffic and reaches outside the LSR gates that are about to shut. “What kind of an institution wants the girls to come back at 7:30? It’s cruel.” Zoya doesn’t care. If she doesn’t get in, she will have a lot of explaining to do to her strict aunt who has heard rumours of Zoya dating a Hindu boy but hasn’t confronted Zoya yet. If she got to know, Zoya wouldn’t hear the end of it. “One last kiss,” Ram pleads. Zoya pecks him on the cheek and rushes towards the doors. The guard has been bribed well by Ram, an industrialist’s son and lets Zoya in even though the clock says she’s ten minutes late. Zoya flips her hair and looks back at the Honda City across the road. She smiles. Ram’s heart melts.
They had been dating since first year college. They met through some common friends and had been keeping their relationship a secret from the parents for the last three years. Ram’s orthodox Marwari parents would have a heart attack if they knew he was in love with a Muslim. As usual fifteen minutes later his mobile beeps. It’s an sms from Zoya. They chat through the night. He can’t wait to meet her again the next day.
2013. 7:30pm. LSR.
Ram sits in his BMW looking at the gates. The parents and aunt did find out. The very next day. She was sent that same day to USA to get married. Didn’t even let her graduate. She has two children now. From her Facebook status she looks happy. Ram looks at his wedding finger. It’s empty. Like his heart. He whispers, “I’ll always love you Zoya.”

(based on a true story)

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Hindu: “I am not writing to be different, I write books because I am different.”

The bold and the brazen


Madhuri Banerjee in Bangalore. Photo : K . Bhagya Prakash
Madhuri Banerjee in Bangalore. Photo : K . Bhagya Prakash
Madhuri Banerjee on how a woman’s sexuality is inextricably linked to her identity
Her amber eyes sparkle, her curly hair bounces, there is a charming lilt in her voice as she speaks. She certainly is one of the most effervescent people I’ve ever met so I’m rather bemused when she lowers her voice and confesses, “I’m actually a recluse, you know. I don’t party at all — in fact I get intimidated by large gatherings of people.”
Yet the shyness doesn’t stop Madhuri Banerjee from writing books that explore female sexuality and offer descriptions of the act, in no uncertain terms. “In a society in which sex is taboo, I want to emphasize that every woman has needs and desires and enjoys making love and there is nothing wrong with it,” says Madhuri who was recently in Bangalore to promote her second book. And both Losing My Virginity and Mistakes like Love and Sex, the first two books of her trilogy offer vivid glimpses into the protagonist Kaveri’s sex life — “I take the reader into her bedroom, the bathroom of a coffee shop, even a hot air balloon,” she remarks.
A bachelor in literature from the Lady Shri Ram college and a Master’s in Mass Communication from Jamia Millia Islamia, Madhuri has worked in the visual media industry since the age of 21. She has worked as a senior producer with Zoom TV, with White Light Motion Pictures, in her own production house, as a freelance documentary film-maker and even in commercial Bollywood films. “I wanted to write about the things I couldn’t show on television,” she laughs.
She began writing her first book, soon after the birth of her child. “I wrote while my baby slept,” she says. Though not strictly autobiographical, her characters are often based on people she knows. Kaveri is loosely based on the author herself and she admits as much, saying, “I was pretty intimidated by sex when I first started and went through a phase where I was uncertain about myself. I think everyone goes through it.” Likewise, the men that Kaveri goes out with are an amalgamation of the men in her own life. “Siddharth is the guy I would have wanted, Ray was based on a guy a friend of mine dated. And every woman has an Arjun,” she says, a trifle wistfully.
Her books do all the elements of what we call a typical chick-lit. Set mainly in big cities, it traces the life of a single working girl, Kaveri as she tries to find love, deals with her body-image issues, grapples with her career and most importantly, attempts to discover herself and figure out where she fits in the world. Madhuri however doesn’t quite like the term chick-lit. “It is very easy to label a book as chick-lit because it has a female protagonist. I really wish there was a better classification of books. I’m just telling a story,” she says.
But aren’t her books, with their rather daring narrative and risqué descriptions, a little ahead of the times? “Yes it is,” she says. “But does that mean that I need to wait till society can deal with it? I write what I want and hope that people will be able to accept my situations, characters, and me as an author,” she adds. “I am not writing to be different, I write books because I am different.”

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Men's Health Magazine: Stop Judging Women!

I was asked by Men's Health magazine to write a short article about things that men should know about women. So I gave it a new twist.
Here's what the fine print says:

Indian patriarchy runs deep. It’s difficult to fight it. In fact I don’t blame the men. It’s not their fault. They don’t know better. They have seen Bollywood films where wooing means a man pursues until she gives in. They’ve seen their fathers not lift a finger in the kitchen. They’ve seen their sisters married off early so they wouldn’t be a burden. So when a woman comes along who doesn’t want to get married, or wants the husband to manage housework equally, or a woman who knows what she wants in bed and a woman who isn’t afraid of screaming back at a man who whistles, men don’t know what to say!

Dear Men, please don’t judge women when we want to work and not sit at home to raise your children. Don’t assume we are not as ambitious as you. Give us a chance to do something more and respect our choice to sit at home as well. Don’t presume that you should earn respect and order us around just because you provide for us. You will get respect only if you nurture us as well.

Please don’t think we’re “fast”, “loose” or “aggressive” and need to be tamed if we know what we want in bed, life and from you. You are free to admire us and pay us a compliment but not ogle, whistle or pass a comment from the side of the road. Do not think that just because we have an opinion on matters, we need to be taught a lesson and told to keep quiet at parties. Do not think that just because we are wearing something that might entice you, we really want to. Don’t judge us if we like to drink. Getting tipsy on alcohol doesn’t mean we are inviting you to take advantage of us. Just because we love dancing doesn’t mean we are nautch girls. You don’t need to grind with us.

As partners, we expect a little compassion and help in daily domesticity. We’re not asking you to take the role of a maid, but helping out in the house, as a parent and giving us our time alone helps in a relationship. Work hard for us, as we work hard for you. Let us live in a mutual admiration society from now on!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Asian Age Column: Love Guru - Husband travels & my work suffers.

Dear Love Guru,
My husband travels frequently and it’s difficult for me to find a job wherever we go. I don’t know if I should stay in one place with a job or move with him. Pl advise.

Dear Kiara
It’s difficult to find a balance between a career and a marriage for every woman but it’s far more difficult if you’re constantly on the move. If it’s the early stages of your marriage and you’ve taken a sabbatical from your job, then do travel with your husband to set a good foundation with him. If you’re in a fabulous job with a great support system at a particular place, stay in your job and figure out how to manage visits frequently. Ask for more flexi timings to work from your husband’s place as well. If you do decide to stay with your husband and give up your job, find an alternate career that doesn’t require regular office hours – writing, painting, cooking, interior design, teaching, architecture, law, etc that you can easily find people willing to pay for your services anywhere in the world. Also the internet has opened up many job opportunities for people anywhere in the world. You can be paid to blog, write reviews about books/ movies or be a personal shopper. Joining classes, getting a degree or forming clubs also helps expand your horizon. A career is not just about bonuses and paychecks. It’s also about expanding your horizons and growing as an individual. If you have the love and support of your husband, the sky is the limit!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

DNA Bangalore: Mistakes Like Love And Sex & why the chick lit label should die!

How do you respond to the implication from literary snobs that chick-lit label must be poorly written as your books aren't so?
It’s actually very sad that people classify books and then they dismiss them. When I wrote my book I didn’t think it would be a chick lit. But people immediately presumed it would be so because it had a female protagonist. Then they said “oh it will be like any other book” without even reading it. But Losing My Virginity And Other Dumb Ideas went on to sell 50,000 copies and Mistakes Like Love And Sex has already sold 20,000 copies. Still people won’t invite me to Literature festivals as my books are not “literary.” I’m trying to bring about different layers in my books – a sexually repressed society, a search for identity, a need for economic independence, empowering women about their bodies, strife in domestic households between an old era and a new age. If I put all that on the back cover, change the cover to an abstract painting and use a title like “whispering wind” maybe I might be taken seriously. The content will never change. But we live in a world where people still judge you for all those factors rather than the content.

Though there are several nicely written, warm, funny and insightful examples of chick-lit, the quality of the work mostly gets ignored. Does that trouble you?
Yes. Also my work cannot be just labeled as chick lit. It’s edgy and serious and insightful. No other contemporary author has written about bedroom scenes that are raw, sensuous, and real. I don’t make them erotic but it has a passionate touch to it. I explore women’s desires and men’s needs. In a society where everything is closed doors, I am trying to write about what is natural and beautiful. I would not like to be labeled as just another chick lit author and be ignored.

What is the social significance of chick lit?
Any piece of good writing is important. We must not all strive to be a Salman Rushdie. We need to have different voices in society and a nation that accepts those voices as well. Women’s stories are essential to give identification and empowerment to other women.

Is chicklit a fitting genre to approach issues of sexuality, feminism and self-identity?
No it is not. It is a horrible classification. We NEED another category for writers who want to write about sexuality, feminism and self-identity that I do with my novels. I sincerely hope the PUBLISHING world finds a new classification so I can be slotted into that rather than a chick lit writer.

Do you think that books aimed at women are becoming increasingly homogenised or girly?
Partly. But it’s a vicious cycle. If one book does well then publishers want authors to write the same genre to sell more copies. For example, with the success of 50 Shades series, all Indian publishers want to venture into the erotica genre. So then, the market is flooded with the same type of books. It has happened the same way with the “girly” books because one book sold well many years ago. That is why I’ve tried to stay clear of stale writing and usual topics. I may have a female protagonist but it doesn’t mean she needs to behave the same way as others.

Love is fine for a classic like Madame Bovary or Anna Karenina but if the heroine is a modern girl juggling a job and a love life, many turn contemptuous. Why? Are we squeamish about love as a topic?
The bookstores are flooded with stories on love. Hence the overdose has created an over discerning, jaded buyer. As soon as they see “love” on the cover, they think that one book is as good as the next. I didn’t realize this till my book Mistakes Like Love And Sex came out. I thought it was a quirky title and it was apt with the book that had betrayals, bad boyfriends, and bedroom antics. However, since it has “love” the reader doesn’t know if it’s the same ol’ story seen on the shelf time after time. But when you go to read my book you will realize that it’s NOT A CHICK LIT. It will be a story you’ve never read before.

How did working on commercial Bollywood films influence your fiction?
Working as an Assistant Director to Subhash Ghai and Kaizad Gustad gave me access to a few Bollywood stars and behind the scenes news. I was even an Executive Producer at Zoom TV working on a reality show for Miss India. All this was churning in my head when I was writing both my books. Losing My Virginity And Other Dumb Ideas has Kaveri as a participant on a reality show. Mistakes Like Love And Sex has Kaveri becoming a tutor-assistant to a new actress Bela Bandhan who is an amalgamation of the actresses I’ve worked with. My fiction has to come from a real place otherwise it won’t be believable. I have actually visited Milan, Barcelona and New York that I write about in my books. Hence I can describe it well enough for readers to visualize it.

Who is the reader you have in mind while writing?
No one. I do not have a reader in mind. I only have a story and characters that go through scenes that I see clearly in my mind.

Is literature elitist?
Any writing beyond the last 30 years is elitist. Old is presumed gold.

Tell us a myth about Indian women.
It’s a myth that Indian women do not enjoy sex. With the right man, and enough foreplay they will always love it! 

Reserved for One: A poem

We don't trust enough We don't pour out our hearts  Telling all our secrets, our fears and surrendering to each other. Comple...