Monthly Archives: July 2009

>Hum aur Tum…

>…is the way I say me and you. You can say main here but tu would be considered rude.

I’m a Lucknow girl and if there’s anything you need to know about Lucknow, then it’s the language. The city has given birth to many poets and they owe in large measures their success to this city where the confluence of Hindi and Urdu lends a lyrical lilt to the language. So it’s only natural that as a Lucknow person and a literature student, I’m quite intrigued by the use and function of language.

In India, a person can be identified by the language he speaks and the way he speaks it. As you travel across UP, the dialect of Hindi changes through the cities and towns – refined in one place, rustic in another. A samosa from Kanpur would become a samausa in Meerut, if you know the difference!

I remember travelling to Haryana for my cousin’s wedding a few years ago with my family and being immediately identified as a Lucknowite there because of our aap and hum! Some say this language of thou and thine is too formal, that there’s a camaraderie that grows when you let this stiff upper lip-ness (I just made that up. So?) pass and come down to more comfortable tu and tera. Ask Mumbaikars, they’ll answer the how and why of it better.

A few months ago, The Guy was in Chandigarh to attend a business meeting. He came back extremely flustered because he didn’t understand why the man on the other end of the table was being so offensive. That man did not understand why The Guy minded what he said. Turned out, it was a simple case of lingual misunderstanding. The Punjabi fellow spoke a corrupted Punjabi that didn’t go down well with The Guy from the town of Nawabs!

Not that our language hasn’t corrupted and we can’t say anymore that if you find two people quarrelling in Lucknow, they will not be resorting to tu or tera (oh yes, they used to say that about the language here) but it’s still different from what you’re likely to hear in, say, Delhi.

And no, I’m not insinuating that the language we speak is the best but because I’m familiar with its nuances, I can appreciate it better. There are some languages though that you cannot understand but which still come across as incredibly sweet. Like Bengali. It has a tone that’s melodious even if you don’t know what the words mean.

When you transfer the tone of one language to another, it sounds unsettlingly fake. Like how they speak Hindi on Discovery (or some such) channel. Even though the pronunciations are right, the tone is still of English, lending the Hindi commentary a strange quality. When people speak a language that is not their mother tongue, they often bring the inflection of their mother tongue to that language. The result may be amusing or offensive!

But it’s the prowess to manipulate a language to make it say what you want it to, that impresses me. How you can say “kaminey” and get away with it.

Gulzar does it so well. Hear this and decide for yourself.


>Art for art’s sake or blog for blogging’s sake?

>How important is the audience for an artist?

Or for that matter, the reader for a writer? I’ve always debated in my mind about whether art for art’s sake and not commercial success can exist and whether an artist for his sake alone can flourish.

We do measure the success of any creative work by the response it elicits from an audience/readership. But are all successful works produced to win applause from the public? Is it possible for a creative artist to immerse himself in his work without worrying about the reaction of an audience?

Imagine what it would be like for a trained dancer to perform to an empty auditorium. Would you care to perform or paint if no one was ever there to appreciate what you were doing? Can there be any satisfaction in that at all?

On the other hand, can an artist compromise his art to find favour with an audience? Can an artist, if he were not worrying about his survival, be happy to take his audience as his master, pander to its taste and alter his own accordingly?


Let’s make this more topical. Who do you blog for – yourself or your readers? Even if you try to strike a balance between the two, you are still thinking about what your readers enjoy. I do. I think what I’d like to write about that my readers would like to read. Sometimes my guess is totally off the mark; sometimes it hits bull’s eye.

Admittedly, I love to keep a count of comments on blog posts. I write for the reader even while I write for myself. While I never, with a capital N, write what I don’t want to, I do often write what I think others might like to read. And since I’m easily bored, I like variety to spice up my blog. Which is why:

#I do photo posts and since I love photography, those posts are after my heart.
#I try to keep posts a readable length because I’m not too good at reading unwieldy word counts and because I’m used to writing within given word limits as a journo.
#I do tags – because they break the monotony of things.
#I try to intersperse the posts on feminist issues with posts on non-feminist issues so that there isn’t too much of the same thing on my blog.

These things come naturally to me and I never feel like I’m trying to please an audience. And I can never be sure whether any of those things does please my audience. I’m also aware that a lot of bloggers who do not take into consideration any of this have huge readerships as well. So, at the end of the day, it may really be about me and not about my readers at all!

I know of a blogger who uses Google Trends to choose the topic for his posts so that he can attract as many readers as Google will send to his blog. And while I think it’s a great idea to shoot up the BRPs (if TRPs = Television Rating Points, BRPs = Blogger Rating Points!), I could never bring myself to do the something like that.

Coming to BRPs, is that something you care for? Does it matter where your blog stands vis-à-vis others’? If I know anything about blogging, I know for sure that almost all bloggers subscribe to some or the other service to keep a track of visitors on their blog – the number and the names. So I presume BRPs do matter to almost all of us. But how far are you willing to go to shoot up your blog’s viewership? And where will you stop?

There’s the extreme example of this blogger who had a very popular blog going for her by just cooking up a really dramatic story about her fake pregnancy. And of course, we all know of bloggers who exaggerate things on their blogs to make things sound interesting. The latter may be overlooked, but I’ll still use that to make my point about how the reader is oh-so-important that the blogger manipulates facts to keep the reader interested.

And I ask again, who do you blog for – the reader or yourself? How do you choose the topic for a blog post? When you try to strike a balance between the reader and you, which side is the balance more likely to tilt?

>Money makes the world go round…

>…And round and round and round, till your head is spinning with either too much or too little of it. Or maybe not, if you can look at money as merely the means to an end and not the end itself.

I’m not there yet. I still dream of wads of notes. I wish I had so much of it that I could live without thinking of how I can get more of it. And yet, I’m thankful that I don’t have so much of it that I wouldn’t value it for what it can get me. And because at the end of the day, money can’t really buy happiness!

I’ve seen people marry for money, I’ve seen people sell their dirty little souls for money and I have seen days with very little money. And I still prefer the latter because despite not having the money to buy expensive toys or going on fancy holidays, we, as a family, had enough money to keep us happy when I was a kid. I didn’t buy too many books but borrowed them from the library because books were expensive. I didn’t buy too many clothes because there were enough hand-me-downs. I didn’t shop till I needed to. We gifted our friends posters, cassettes, mugs and such and were happy to receive those on our birthdays as well. We ate out once a week but at the fancy places only on a special occasion. We never flew to another city because we had enough time to take the train. We lived respectfully, we had enough and we had our wish-lists. I wanted things I didn’t have but never so much so as not to love what I had.

When I was in college, I valued every single penny that came from home to the hosteler. And it wasn’t just me – it was all of us – the collective college-going “we”. We walked any distance so that we could save the ten rupees we’d be spending on the auto. We thought coffees at Barista were precious – eighty rupees for a cup! We split the bills whenever we ate out, so that no one was burning a hole in their pockets. And we had a ball! We still had freedom, still had fun and we still had our dreams!

I started working for a very paltry amount of money. My dad tried to buy me out – promised me much more than the salary I was going to get so that I’d work for him. I didn’t care for the money because I was high on having gotten a job. I think I was a little unlucky with money then – never made as much as I should’ve but never needed more.

Today, I have so much more than I ever had. I live extravagantly compared to a lot of other people. We’ve been on holidays abroad, we can afford to believe in retail therapy, we eat out at fancy five star places whenever we fancy the idea, we have more clothes, shoes and everything else we require. We gift each other expensive gifts. We drive luxury cars, we indulge in designer stuff once in a while, even if it’s low-end designer stuff. We never worry about making ends meet. And yet we’re not as happy as we thought we’d be with so much money! It still seems less, a whole lot lesser than what we thought it would be. There’s always another car, another piece of jewellery, another piece of land we covet and can’t have. How much more to buy the happiness we want, I wonder!

And then I think back to the times I waited to be here and I’m so thankful for not having been born with a silver spoon in my mouth, for not wanting the sky without knowing how much it’ll come for. And then I also remember, money can’t really buy happiness.

What’s your relationship with money?

>Traveller’s Check

>Of late, I have become besotted by the idea of discovering new places, new journeys. I love the idea of being a traveller – of tasting new foods, of revelling in new cultures, of sites that must be seen and sights that one sees enroute, of soaking in a place for what it is and not for what it wants to be seen. And I’m in love with the idea of discovering my own country, not through television shows or travel books but through my own experiences.

In the last year or so, I’ve explored the valleys of Kashmir and the beaches of Goa, the ghats of Benaras and the Marine Drive in Bombay. And I loved the snow-capped mountains of Gulmarg in Kashmir as much as I loved the sand and sea of Goa. But if given a choice, I’d choose those mountains any day to those beaches. And yet, I think I’m a beach person – I love the humid warm air that hangs heavily on sea-side cities and the cool breezes that replaces it in the evening.

And I like them better than the hills because they’re easier to pack for – the weather is predictable and you know that no matter how cool it gets, it will never be cold enough for woollens. On the contrary, the mountains require a lot of packing for all kinds of weathers – hot afternoons, cool evenings and cold nights in case there’s a sudden downpour! But I can’t resist the charm of walking in the clouds in the hills, of breathing in the fresh air at high altitudes, of being fascinated by a flora and fauna that my part of the world cannot grow.

I have learnt also to enjoy my journey as much as the destination. In the meandering lanes of Benaras where I found my very own silk route (did I tell you I’m a shopaholic of a kind and couldn’t get enough of the hand woven silks when in Benaras?), I saw what made this city so unique: the havan kunds in the middle of the roads, the jalebis and kachauris being deep fried in the huge blackened woks and the cows – so many of them everywhere.

Some cities know what visitors want of them, others need more prying. The same is true of travellers too. Some travellers know what they want from a holiday – they know exactly what pleasures they seek; others will not open up so easily to the experience of travelling. But once you do, you will not know a trip that’s dull. I’ve learnt to do that.

I come home from my travels now enriched by experiences that I couldn’t have gained by staying where I was. I look for stories and I look for story-tellers. The Kashmiri shikara wala who will tell his love story, the immigrant child who sells trinkets on Goan beaches and speaks of her family back home, the cab guy who makes the distance shorter than it is with his tales… And I like to bring home a little feel of the place – a Chinese trinket from Hong Kong, a boomerang from Australia, a little batik from Malaysia, lots of photographs!

But every traveller is different. Some people look for luxury on their vacations, some for adventure. Some seek solitude, others company. Some want to discover off-beat locations, others want to stick with the tried and tested.

What kind of a traveller are you?

And while you make up your mind, I’m putting here some of my favourite travel quotes and a few pictures from my weekend trip to Nainital in June. And no, that’s not us in the boat!

>"Was this the face that launched a thousand ships…"*

>Discrimination works both ways – there’s the ugly duckling and then there’s the pretty chick, and if it’s unfair to judge the ugly duckling for the way it looks, it’s also unfair to judge a pretty face for the same reason.

Because there’s more to a pretty face than the pretty face alone. Why is it so difficult to stomach that a pretty girl and a handsome boy can get ahead in life on the strength of more than his or her looks? And why is it so easy to dismiss their success as a by-product of their good looks?

It would be foolish to think that anyone who is even a tad bit good looking doesn’t know it. And while beauty does lie in the eye of the beholder, there is no such thing as living in ignorance of your own beauty. You do know if you’re average-looking, then why expect a good looking person to not know the same about him or herself?

And here are some questions I’d like you to think about:
1. Once you know you’re beautiful or any synonym of that, what do you do with it?

2. I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t enjoy a little bit of attention and if it comes for the way one looks, no harm in it. But do you use your looks to get attention? And if you do that, is it wrong?

3. Do you get attention for your looks in the way you like it or is it a whole lot of unwanted attention as well?

4. Is it okay to say you’re intelligent, but not okay to say you’re pretty because the latter may be construed as being vain?

Thanks to my genes, I’m born with the kind of complexion fairness creams are advertised for. I’m slim and I think I dress well. I’m very happy and very thankful for the way I look. I get a lot of attention for all those reasons. But not always does it come the way I can enjoy it.

I have been called khadia, chalk, tube light and more such things by complete strangers on the road. ‘Milk’ is a common refrain among comments from eve teasers. None of it is flattering.

I studied in an all-girls school and girls weren’t very forthcoming with compliments. I never got any attention for the way I looked except critical comments. I was told my face would soon merge with the colour of the walls and because I was plump-ish, that I looked like a cow! I was labelled “arrogant” and “proud” for no apparent reason.

I remember working like a slave in my first year at work. I did not have a slave-driver for a boss, but I was extremely driven to prove myself. I thoroughly enjoyed it! Just before the appraisals though, a rumour was floated in the office saying that the responsibilities I got, the praise, the attention was not for my work but because of the way I looked. I hated to think that because I looked the way I did, I needed to prove my competence twice over! It bothered me when a colleague (whom I considered my friend) said that there was something about my looks that gave credence to those kinds of rumours. That it was easy to associate me with frills and fluff because I wasn’t dowdy, took care of my skin and feet and bothered to think about how I looked in the clothes I wore.

To revel in the fact that you’re nice looking is not the equivalent of negating the prowess of your mental faculties. When I started this blog over two years ago, I had a picture of me put up here. Yes, me, who now blogs anonymously (for most people at least) started out with a real face and a real name! But anything I wrote invariably invited comments linking my thoughts to my looks. I wanted to be read for what I was writing and not for how I looked, which is why I removed my pic. A certain male blogger forced me to turn on comments moderation on my blog because his comments focussed so much on his assumptions of what I must think because of how I look. It was irritating, to say the least, that I had to justify my stance as being independent of how I look.
After reading this post, there will be people who may think, “So she thinks she’s pretty, huh!” and will think that as if it’s a bad thing.

But the point of the post is not whether I think I look this or that. The point is that while it feels great to look good, it also feels horrible when people assume you must be a certain type of person if you’re good looking.

*From Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe.
This is a reference to the beauty of Helen of Troy. Her abduction by Paris was said to be the reason for the Trojan Wars.