Monthly Archives: April 2011

>Is there enough leg room on the court?

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By now, all of you must’ve heard about the Badminton World Federation’s new rule for women players making skirts compulsory on the court to popularise the sport. Now, in India there’ve been reactions from the badminton players supporting and showing dissent against the new rule. While Saina Nehwal doesn’t think her wearing shorts or skirts on court will affect the number of people watching her, Aparna Bopanna and Jwala Gutta have no problem with the new directive. The latest is that due to stiff resistance from Indian players, the BWF has pushed back the date of implementing the rule.

But the resistance is not so much to the spirit of the rule as to wearing skirts, and I think that’s just missing the point. Why is no one questioning the BWF’s rationale that a woman’s sport must be glamorous in order for it to be popular? Why is no one asking how the Federation plans to popularise men’s badminton? Surely, not by having them play shirtless! So why then should a woman’s sport be subjected to such a ridiculous assumption?

At the end of the day, what we’re doing is objectifying women who’re in a sport because they can play the sport, not because they can look a certain way. If more people watch badminton because there’s more skin at display on the court, what’s being popularised is not the sport but the notion that women are objects on display.

I’m ready to convert to another point of view – one that convinces me that there is nothing sexist about this move and that if they had to make a men’s sport also popular they would glam it up. I agree, glamour attracts a lot of eyeballs, a lot. But that’s no justification for us to ask women with a certain skill set to pander to such demands. What happens next? Do we ask women wrestlers to look more feminine because that would attract more fans, and do we ask women basketball players to wear body-hugging racer-back tees? And the men can continue to be sloppy, muscular and just good at their game?

If a sport has to be popularised, there must be other ways to do it. If cricket is so hugely popular in countries like India, it’s because we’ve had players who can win us matches. There’s glamour in the game, but that’s come because of the sport’s popularity. And even then, Sachin is by no stretch of imagination what you call glamorous. Neither was Kapil Dev. So what’s the connection?

>A boy is more desirable than a child?

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There are some people who still do the things people used to do 15-20 years ago. Like visit a relative during a vacation. So, a bunch of five distant relatives from Punjab landed up at our place in the middle of April, to spend a week ‘holidaying’ in Lucknow (which, if you ask me, is an oxymoron, but they obviously didn’t think that). And honestly, they were quite a fun-loving group of people, very Punjabi in spirit, if you know what I mean, and not much of a bother.
One of the days, as was expected, the topic veered to kids and having some of your own. I understand the elders’ urgency to see us with a child, but when the child they want to see is a ‘son’, I get really irritated. Bless us with a child, if that’s the most important thing for you, but don’t wish at the same time for that child  to be a boy. But I was given the gyan that sons are must-haves, that life with daughters isn’t bad, that we bring up our daughters better than our sons and all of that, but that sons are what everyone looks forward to. That when you get old, your sons and their wives and their children make up your world. That daughters go away and are never to their parents what sons can be.
I tried telling them that my parents – parents of two girls – lived alone, but were not lonely. I tried to tell them that sons also go away – to study, to work. That often, sons turn their parents out of the house, and daughters take care of them. That girls were just as good. But how could the 50-year-olds believe that when a girl half their age refused to believe me. And that’s what appals me the most.
This girl, all of 25, mother to a 2-year-old girl, said emphatically that while some accept it openly, others don’t, the truth is everyone wants a son. And she’s not too wrong. In her worldview, that’s how people would be. But I could just stare at her. How will this world change if the mothers of a generation that’s in the making believe in something so totally redundant? These are educated people we are talking about – people who travel, who watch the news, who read, who are ostensibly aware. If they set so much store by a boy, what will our world turn out to be? Will our daughters grow up and fight the same mindsets we have to? I’m already impatient with a world that doesn’t understand that my gender does not make me less of a person; and to think we will go through all of this 25 years hence too, makes me livid!
It’s appalling also because in all my life I never heard my parents say anything like this. In fact, my grandmother, who belonged to a time when it wasn’t considered improper to wish for a boy, never let us feel that boys were more desirable as children than girls. I think she’s didn’t believe that either. My mom never forgets to tell us that while relatives would take upon themselves the duty to counsel my mother about perhaps trying for a third child, in the hope of a boy, my grandmother never expressed such a wish. How then can a 25-year-old living in this day and age think that sons are indispensable? Like me, she’s also one of two daughters. But probably, she was conditioned to believe that her parents would have been better off had they a son to support them in old age.
I sometimes try and think as objectively as the matter lets me, whether there is any justification for such a thought process. And I find none that’s convincing enough. Things like carrying the family name forward, or inheriting the family business – things that will happen once you’re dead – how can that be of concern to you when you’re alive? I mean, you want a son because you want the world to be what you’ve imagined it to be after you’re dead? How pathetic!
I don’t think men are unimportant. I’m not a man-hater by any chance. But I don’t think sons are important. Or more important than daughters.

>I don’t want a build up to this post – it’s such a sad Happy Birthday!

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So I’ll just go ahead and tell you that I fell sick on my birthday, which was on this Monday gone by. I hated it! A day before, which I had reserved to polish myself at a spa like you do brass before a party, I was lying in bed, trying to whisper to myself ‘All izz well, all is well’. Alas, it wasn’t. And by Sunday evening, I was running 102 degree Fahrenheit temperature. So instead of getting my eyebrows in shape, I was ensuring there were nice dark circles under my eyes to go with ’em bushy brows! And lest you think I can pop a Crocin and get on with life, let me remind you, dear reader, about my wonderful world of allergies that forbid me to enjoy the simple pleasures of life – like how you feel better after gulping a Crocin.

So to make the picture prettier, I was treated to cold sponging. Mum came over with medicine from her favourite homeopath. And it worked! It worked well enough for me to sit up in bed by midnight and cut my awesome cake, which actually I should have been cutting with all my family, over dinner at a fancy dinner place where we had booked a table for 15! But that plan had to be called off in the evening, when the fever showed no sign of letting up.

And D-day came with no pleasant surprises. The fever was gone, the phone was engaged the whole day long receiving birthday wishes, but that’s not the birthday you want to have! I told the Twitterati about my birthday and save for a few nice souls, no one noticed.I’d planned a lunch with my colleagues at a South Indian place nearby that I love, because Monday is a light day work-wise and we can step out for an hour or so without a problem. But that was not to be. I spent the afternoon recuperating in bed, bathed at 5pm because it was my birthday(!) and things began to look better after that. Family turned up (sisters, mothers, nieces and nephews), but would you believe it, no one got me a gift!

The problem with being such a stickler for your kind of stuff is that people totally skip the effort of even buying you anything and just hand you cash instead. Which is so, so boring! But Sis No 1 made up for it by gifting me a Radha-Krishan she’d painted herself, a huge-ish canvas that will find pride of place on a wall in my house soon. We topped off the day by stepping out for dinner with friends, where I could not eat anything because my stomach decided to give up on me just then! Oh yes, it was a fantastic birthday indeed!

But seriously, not as bad as I’m making it out to be. It could have been worse had the temp not gone down (god bless mom’s reliable homeopath!). But it could have been better too. Well, well, next time maybe.

>Zero se Hero

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What’s the similarity between Anna Hazare’s fast and the Indian cricket team’s victory? The obvious apart – the victory, that is – what connects one man’s resolve to fight the rot that’s seeped into our system and the India XI’s win in a game of cricket is the public response both evoked. Thousands out on the streets, dancing, shouting, chanting. An utter disregard for age and sex. An emotion felt with some ardour by everyone. So what’s the big revelation here? To me, it’s the Indian peoples’ overwhelming desire to embrace heroes, wherever they find them.

The response to Anna Hazare or the Indian team can’t merely be dismissed as the excesses of an over-emotional nation, even if you think cricket is just a game and even if you think support for Hazare’s cause is just lip service. If you read between the lines, I’d say it’s about finding heroes we can look up to, emulate and put on a pedestal. Not since our pre-Independence years have we found the people who could move us to tears, who could hold sway over the collective emotions of an entire country and when we find anyone who promises to lead from the front, we grasp on to him, and cling to him like the last straw. Or perhaps, it would be more appropriate to say that the generation that sprung up in the 1970s and after that, had never before found the heroes they read of in school books, around them. Of course, there’ve been the lone rangers – one inventor here, another writer there, the ’83 World Cup, the war heroes – who’ve brought us glory, and have had newspaper editors wax eloquent about their feats. But nothing I’ve witnessed that could get a million hearts beating together.

I don’t know if we latch on to any semblance of heroism because we’ve never witnessed any first hand, or because we are just made like that. But it’s a pattern you can see through the years. The moment we know that an Indian called Sabeer Bhatia made that revolutionary tool of the internet of the late 90s called Hotmail, we quickly lay our claim on him. We zealously forward messages about how Microsoft, Google and other leaders in geekdom have people of Indian origin at the helm of their affairs. We still don’t miss a chance to gloat on how the ‘zero’ was invented by an Indian. And I think we often talk about Gandhi, or give the status that he enjoys in our country, because to the world, he is the face of the India that could achieve anything on its own merit. When a 26/11 happens in Mumbai, we are quick to go looking for the men who saved us and to make them heroes, even if temporarily. We are quick to glorify and probably quicker to pull down people who don’t live up to our expectations. But as a nation, we’ve never stopped looking for our heroes wherever we can find them – religious gurus who promise miracles, scientists who do pioneering researches in their field, men on the Forbes 100 list who can boast of money and power, NRIs who get invited to the US President’s dinners… If you’ve noticed, sporting feats have been regularly making headlines in our country and mostly for the right reasons. Because for long spells, there’s nothing positive to put on the front pages of our newspaper, except a record broken, a medal won, history created.

But this time looks different. Despite the cynicism of so many, this stepping out of homes to support a cause, it’s heartening. It’s proof we can still find our heroes in this world.