Sunday, September 28, 2014

Stereotyping Much?

Stereotyping is a part of human nature. Period. Except for maybe Dalai Lama and other noble souls. We all have an uncontrollable urge in ourselves to observe people around us and make unrequired/unwanted/unauthorized pieces of judgement about them. Sitting in a food court with my friends, many a times we have passed comments on anything walking on two legs. A cute baby, the overtly romantic couple totally unaware of surroundings, the cola drinking dude, chicken leg enjoying fatty, the solitary eater and salad eating dressed to nines divas. With a single glance it somehow feels that we can predict and calculate some characteristic traits of these people. This is a universal activity which irrespective of the place is omnipresent. And while we are busy judging others there is a very positive chance that at the same time we are the topic of discussion/ridicule/judgement amongst a different group of people. This activity is pretty harmless and a popular topic of gossip amongst all.

The harm comes when we start to stereotype. Some are just etched into our minds from childhood, so even if our adult mind understands or recognizes the correct information our first instinct will always be to go with what’s been imprinted on our minds. Coming from religiously disturbed land of Jammu and Kashmir, the first emotion the word Pakistan derives from me is of strong hate, irrespective of the situation or circumstance. I can’t be in a same room with a person who praises a Pakistani cricketer. My mind knows and understands that its silly but I just can’t help it. For me its brings about haunting memories of migration, loot, gruesome murders, rapes and awkward years growing up in a place away from homeland. Like this we all have some or the other stereotypes that have been passed into our minds through our own experiences, portrayal on television/films, hearsay's, old grandmother tales or some due to sheer stupidity. But trust me, the list is huge.

I will try and venture into it slowly taking one popular stereotype at a time. Since time immemorial women have been the most popular victims of various sexist and stupid stereotypes. Blondes are naturally perceived to be dumb. A lady driving a car becomes a butt of jokes and ridicule. Smoking and drinking will put demeaning labels on you. Having a lot of male friends or ex-boyfriends will make you a slut. Being reserved, talking less to people will make you a snob and being friendly will make you a tease who is just out there to attract all people and attention to her. A well-dressed shoe accessory nail paint coordinating girl is termed as a wannabe. A tattooed girl is considered to be wild and one with wayward ways. Agreeing to a male friend or a colleague for a simple coffee or a movie labels you as easy catch. Strong career women is always considered to be unemotional, ruthless and the one wearing pants at home. And if you are over the ripe age of 26 and unmarried, well then god save you from all the allegations and inquisitive personal questions about your life. What’s all the more hurtful about all this is that it’s not just men but even women who turn up against each other. Which reminds me of another popular stereotype that two women can never be close friends without a fair amount of jealously involved. This is something I totally disagree with, I know we are a little bitchy by nature but there is no way that affects the bonds we have with our girlies. Well, whoever said that girls have it all easy was definitely drunk off his ass.

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Moving on to other stereotypes (most of which even I believe in):

1. Models don’t eat.
2. All south Indians are extremely intelligent and eat food cooked in coconut oil.
3. And put coconut oil in their hair always.
4. People from Delhi are over smart.
5. Punjabi’s drink and eat tandoori chicken every day.
6. Haryana is full of farmers and women abusers.
7. Goa is the great Indian party hub.
8. African Americans are all sportsmen.
9. French are Italians are great lovers.
10. Americans are obese
11. Arabs are freakily rich with all the oil money.
12. All Muslims are terrorists.
13. People from J&K have apples trees in their backyards
14. Vanity caring women are only fit for glamorous jobs
15. And don’t get me started on what we have about people from North East

Stereotypes have always existed and I am guessing will continue to stay for a long time. Old ones may die but new ones are sure to sprout. While their existence it pretty harmless to general public it really is a slap on the face when you are a direct victim of it. Over the years I have been stereotyped on numerous occasions. Sometimes it was funny, other times flattering. But mostly irritating and on more than one occasions downright hurtful. Since I am from a state that has been a source of constant trouble and various pre conceived notions, the stereotypes (or myths) are many. We will take them one at a time:

1. Stereotype: Militants and terrorists just roam out and about the city and I must have seen about two dozen of them.  
Reality: If they would have be so easily accessible to general public, there wouldn’t be lakhs of moolah riding on them. In the almost 22 years spent there I haven’t seen even a single terrorist (and boy am I happy for that or what!). Life goes on pretty normal out there, in spite of the unfortunate incidents.

2. Stereotype: Since it’s a small town, education possibilities must be pretty limited.
Reality: Surprise Surprise. J&K boasts of many elite schools and colleges. Ok not as per standards with IIT but we do have our share of recognition. In fact very recently my Alma-Mater, Presentation Convent Senior Secondary has been ranked 10th in a survey conducted by Education World India School Rankings 2014. #so proud#.

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3. Stereotype: Jammu main Beauty parlous hai?  
Reality: The two things you will find in every nook and corner of the city are ~ beauty parlous and tuition centers. You would be surprised to see how decked up Auntyji’s are in my part of the world even if out to buy just vegetables or throw garbage. If you are spotted in a night gown outside the premises of your home, well it will be the catalyst for a mini scandal in the city.

4. Stereotype: You have a good dressing sense, why don’t you try modelling?  
Reality: I have a good dressing sense. Thanks! But why does that make me fit for just glamorous jobs and give me a very party going snobbish image. Even a simple girl in any profession of any background with any kind of hobby or something can be fond of dressing up. And has every right to be dressed elegantly and stylishly if she wants to. As long as it’s not vulgar, it’s all good. Even then it’s the girl decision and hence her problem rather than everybody else’s.

5. Stereotype: Girls like you don’t have such knowledge. {Such in this case being mythological knowledge}.  
Reality: This by far has to be the one that hurt the most because it was made by someone I consider a friend. What hurt the most was like people out there may speak trash, call names or categorize me into some type of woman that they feel I am. But when that same thing is done by someone close to you, a person you consider friend, the feeling of betrayal is unmatched. That’s when I feel that is always better to be a private person and not just sit and discuss every tiny detail of your life with all. You never know who is going to change sides and use that information to hurt you where is hurts the most.

Coming back to the topic of mythology, well girls like me (if you may say so) do know the basic things but if you go on about asking me details of it, I wouldn’t know Bhim’s son’s name from Mahabharata, not because I love fashion but simply because it’s something that doesn’t not interest me. Like chess. Or sports. Or cartoons. Or Sci-fi action films. That does not make me an alien or a different type of girl all together.

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I for one feel that it’s really irrelevant to put labels on people. Lovers, show-off, wannabe, greedy, stingy, especially when you have no idea about them, the life they really lead. And the actually person behind that designer wear, those pointy peep toes, that stylish tattoo, those low riding jeans and that big long pricy car. But if you do know the real person behind all that junk, then my friends do keep the name calling in progress.

On a totally different note, have you seen this picture of ISRO scientists, after the Mangaalyan's bon voyage. Its speaks a thousand words, saree and gajra wearing scientists breaking stereotypes without uttering a word. And here I had to ramble on and on before getting to the point ;)

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Nostalgia - 6 Things To Miss About The Good 'Old Days

Some days after a particularly shitty day, sitting with a cup of instant noodles in my hand, I sit back and reminisce about good old childhood days. The days of no deadlines and bosses, no fast food and cellulite, no fake friends who smile with you at one moment and bitch about you the very next. Someone rightly said, you die twice – once being when your childhood dies. When I look back at the golden era of my juvenile days, there are a special set of things and stuff that come to my mind. I fondly remember and miss some of these, have tried to go back in time on one particularly lonely night (with instant noodles) and listed the below thoughts and things that have been long forgotten and almost obsolete. But still manage to be close to my heart and clearly etched into my memory. Hero goes:

1. Audio Cassettes 

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 In the 90s cassettes held an important place in our hearts and homes. There was a huge drawer in my house which was entirely devoted for cassettes and strangely it still is. Any home party was incomplete without the latest cassettes of hit movies and pop songs. If you liked one particular song in an album to listen to it again and again you had to rewind the cassette, unlike today when the same is done via a click or touch. But there was something really special about that rewind thing, I feel. It felt like you really have to work to get something you desired. Rewind. Check. More Rewind. Ohh no. Too much Rewind. Forward a little. Yea, that’s right. Perfect.

There were too many options out there for but sadly money was pretty limited. On an average each cassette cost was around Rs 40 back then. My first ever buy was Sonu Nigaams very popular album with the hit song “Tu”. I was madly in love with Sonu . The cassette is still at my home, holding a special place with Sneha loves Sonu scribbled on it…Buying cassettes was a very big deal back then. Since we (me and my sister) received no regular pocket money it got difficult for us to manage buying all the latest ones. We had a very clear strategy though. Cassettes were bought only if all the songs (or majority) were good or else we spent our afternoons writing popular songs on papers and sharing it with our local bhaiya who recorded them in a fresh cassette. We named these cassettes with very cheesy names like “Superhits-Vol1”, “Ehsaas”, “Dil ki Baat”.

When we got bored of listening to same songs we recorded new songs onto it from the ever running radio. Vividh Bharti was the only radio station with Chitralok, Pitara, Meri Saheli and other awesome programs. Gosh, it was the best time ever!! It is so astonishing that how suddenly cassettes were wiped off from our lives. One day I was buying cassettes and then suddenly I switched onto CDs and then everything was online. Agreed that what we have today is good and very convenient but sometimes I do yearn of cassettes. I totally understand some people’ fascination with old gramophone records. When I visit my hometown I go through our old collection of cassettes. Each one has a memory associated with it, they make my heart swelled with emotions of nostalgia and longing.

2. Summer vacations at granny’s place 

I am the little one in white dress :) cute no?
 For me a major part of the excitement about the summer vacations was attributed to the time which was to be spent with cousins @ nani-ka-ghar. We would pack our bags with pretty frocks and colorful shorts and scoot off. After waking up to a breakfast of butter smeared paranthas, we sat glued in front of TV for Chutti Chutti on DoorDarshan. Heavy lunch mandated a quintessential afternoon nap. We woke up to suck into juicy cold mangoes and run off to play cricket where all my cousins would bat/bowl and make me the fielder. My cries would force them to let me bat for few bowls but that was it. We also indulged in some healthy rivalry by making groups and teasing/irritating the hell outta each other. Studying and doing the holidays homework was the best part ever. Fighting, tearing each other notebooks, breaking noses and digging hairpins into thighs which caused hospital visits. We have done it all….

These days’ summer vacations of even toddlers are pre booked in form of dance classes, swimming classes, art sessions and loads of holiday’s homework. While all this is definitely important but then so is the trip to nani’s house. This practice needs to be kept alive as it forms an important memory growing up. I am sending off my kids to nani, come what may. Summer classes can wait!

3. Bring back Gold spot and Canada dry

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 Long before taste the thunder and Oh Yes Abhi Gold Spot used to rule the roost. It came in hefty glass bottles which you were supposed to return after consuming. I seriously don’t remember the taste but it was definitely not like Fanta or Miranda. It had awesome ads as well. I still wonder why they stopped making those. Another fab drink from those times was Canada Dry. It was a very controversial drink because of its objectionable colour which made it look like an alcoholic drink. But its taste was mind blowing and its ad was oh-so-sexy with a white tiger in snow and stuff. Canada dry was a favorite of me and my sisters, we were shattered once it was banned or something. There were others as well which came and went just as quickly. I particularly remember Crush because of its interesting pony neck bottle design.

I just saw gold spot and Canada dry ads on you tube and it was wow. So amazing how we forget something that happened yesterday but remember stuff that happened ages ago. I would just do anything for re-introduction of gold spot or Canada dry.

4. Old TV shows 

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This is a huge list. Songs related - Rangoli, Chitrahaar, Superhit Muqabala. Mythological -Chandrakanta, Shri Krishna, Mahabharat, Ramayana. Comedy/Fiction – Ek se bhadkar ek, Shreeman Shreemati Samay, Tehkikaat, Shaktiman, Captain Vyom, Sea Hawks, Hip Hip Hurray, Just Mohabbat, Surbhi, Malgudi Days, Disney Hour. This and those old English shows like Small wonder, I dream of Jennie, Full house with Uncle Joey and cute little Mischelle.

5. Portable video games/Comics

I am taking about those adorable little devices which looked like mobile phones. Few buttons, some car racing, block breaking games together with lot of shouting in background from Mom. These are my memories of the portable video game. That and when ours got broken and my sister took it to her lab for getting it soldered. Needless to say, that was the last I saw of it.

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Comics were a clear favourite. Being youngest for a long time amongst my cousins, I had an easy access to a myriad of comics ranging from Archies to Chacha Chowdhary. Tinkle and Pinki. Billu and Nagaraj. I loved all but I had and still have a super soft corner of Archies. It was just so fancy to me. Veronica with her awesome fashion sense. Betty with the perfect girl next door features. The cute freckled Archie, Jughead the foodie, mean Reggie and other characters at Riverdale. I was so psyched when I came to Mumbai and visited Pop Tate’s for the first time, in the comics it was a popular eatery where the Riverdale gang hanged. I still sneak in copies of Archie’s from crosswords, well some guilty pleasure.

6. Neighbourly Culture 

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Back in my childhood, neighbors were like extended families. My family is still in touch with neighbors we had in all our previous homes we lived it. I particularly remember Verma Aunty. Sometimes when I came home and my mother was not there, she used to leave the keys with Verma Aunty and I would go collect it from her. Verma aunty gave the keys but not before she fed me dry fruits and a chilled glass of roohafza. And neighbors kids were usually the ones you developed crushes on. Peeking from windows, behind curtains, eye contacts on the terrace, getting all shy and blushing in their presence. It was all so filmy and cute.
These days’ people are totally unaware of next door people, having any kind of relationship with them is totally out of question.

So many other things come to my mind that were an integral part of growing up, but yes a lot of work is involved in providing a description to them. Being an engineer I am not really a fan of one liners. I only wanted to include stuff for which I have big fat lines of description readily available in the Random Access Memory of my brain. So now over to you guys, please leave behind nice description of your childhood memories.