Beauty Pageant or Racism Platform?

A new Miss America for 2013. Should have been another headline to skim through. But the abolutely ludicrous reaction of some people stopped me in my track. I learnt a few new things today according to a few Americans’ perspective;

1. All American citizens aren’t considered Americans even if you are born and raised there, pay taxes, contribute to society etc etc. There is apparently a clause not mentioned in the Constitution, in any of their laws etc about how you must have tatoos, love to hunt and have a drawl to be considered a true American.

2. All brown people are Arabs or Egyptian and are responsible for the 9/11.

3. It is because Obama is African American that such attrocities, like a woman of Indian origin winning Miss America, could dare happen.

I am not even sure how to respond to the stupidity of some of the comments of some people that I have come across. In an age where global unity seems to be the need of the hour, it astounds me how some people go out of their way to create divide and think that it is completely justified. Black, white, brown….why is the colour of our skins the deciding factor of where we belong? Why is religion a deciding factor? Is that all I am? An Indian and a Hindu? What about the rest of me that truly make me the person I am? Is that all unimportant?

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My Experiences with Pick -up Lines

Being a 28 year old girl with fairly decent looks, I have had my share of being harassed by guys. Wolf whistles, being followed by off-keyed Hindi and Tamil song renditions, being stared at are all part of most girls’ days in India. But you do start feeling sorry for the guys when they finally turn to pathetic and insanely stupid pick up lines. Some of them have been so bad, but so funny, that I thought it was about time to share them with the world. So here’s to all those poor blokes who have had the misfortune of coming up to me with hopes and getting chewed up in the process.

The Worst One of’em all: Let us share the sweet milk of friendship.

Me: Blank

  • No Bling? What about if I give you a ring?

Me: What about a fat lip?

  • Your eyes are the colour of shimmering asphalt in the summer.

Me: Well yours look like your doped, which you must be. Shimmering asphalt??

  • Single? Or taken but wants to mingle?

Me:  Kill me. Kill me. Kill me.

  • Tea? Coffee? Juice? Water?

Me: A gun maybe?

  • Can I have your number?  Me: No

Can I have your address? Me: No

Do you want my num? Me: No

Can I buy you a drink? Me: No

Do you want to buy me a drink? Me: No

Can I have 10 bucks change for cigarettes? Me: WTF!

  • If you want to slack off, I can take you for a ride.

Me: To the police station would be nice.

  • Wanna feel my biceps?

Me: Wanna feel my fists?

  • What an ass you have.

Me: What an asshole you are.

  • Babes like you dig me big time.

Me: Yeah, would love to dig you into the earth.

  • A cool girl needs a hot guy like me.

Me: Also an axe to chop your penis off.

  • You know what they say about big feet. (And thrusts his pelvis at me)
    • Me: Pea sized brain??
  • Oh you are so beautiful; you must be an air hostess with Kingfisher.

Me: Oh you must be that escaped lunatic from the asylum.

  • Movie and dinner or shall we skip to after?

Me: How about we skip to before where we haven’t met and keep it that way?

  • You have very pretty toe nails. Can I have them when you cut them?

Me: O….K….Someone call for help.

  • Praise the lord who created you.

Me: Yeah and curse him for creating you.

  • How about you facebook me and we can hook up?

Me: How about you jump off a bridge?

  • Why’s a beautiful girl like you walking alone on the road?

Me: Avoiding creeps like you.

  • Hi, My favourite fruit is jackfruit.

Me: Hmm, must be coz you are a jack ass.

  • I am from a very good family.

Me: Really??Honest? Unbelievable.

  • You have pretty eyebrows. Do you wax them or thread them? Do you use Maybelline charcoal tipped pencil to define them?

Me: Have you considered a sex change?

  • You are my queen.

Me: Off with your head.

The Best of’em all: Hello, My name is Bart. Is this seat taken?

Me: Sigh, I think I’m in love…

And they go on and on and on..But they sure do keep me entertained.

The Hergaarden-Nair Family

I was watching Mr and Mrs Iyer the other day with Bart and was really struck by Rahul Bose’s line where he says how Konkana Sen Sharma saved him by just giving him a name, something a husband normally gives a wife. Two sets of discussion sprang in my mind when I heard this and I wanted to put them down in words.

  1. What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet.” – Juliet from
    Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

Apparently these days a name can save you. With religious maniacs running astray in the world, it actually boils down to what your name represents. Are you a Hindu? A Muslim? A Jew? A Christian? No longer does it seem to matter with these pockets of people who you really are. What you stand for, your contribution to the world. That you are a human being. Isn’t it supposed to be all about a personal belief which no one else actually has the right to interfere with?

The world stands witness to this belief of fanaticism gaining new heights in terms of terrorizing people. The recent attacks in Mumbai for example. What has it really gained? Did it make any strong statements? Did it bring out the cries of people who feel injustice has been done to them and they retaliate to violence to make their voices heard? All it did was steal lives of innocent people who had dreams and hopes of living their lives in their own terms; a basic right to freedom guaranteed to all by our constitution. But this right was stolen from every single Indian victimized in a series of heedless fights and fear. It has become all about your name. It seems a rose by any other name smells like rotten cabbage these days!

  1. 2.      “The Nair title is taken from the Mother’s side . as per Matrilineal system . That is, a person can take the title Nair only if his mother’s side has the name and not from his father’s side.”

Coming from a matrilineal family, it really bothers me that the world thinks everyone is born with patriarchal sensibilities. I remember the huge reaction Bart and I faced when we decided to use both our last names, hyphenated together,  after our first names. The thinking ran along the lines that I come from a community that’s matriarchal and he comes from one that is patriarchal. We love each other and respect each other and also each other’s family. Is one family more important than the other? Does one family contribute less than the other? Of course not! And we do not live in the days where according to his customs women go and live with the husband’s family and are dependent on them and so they take up the husband’s family name, nor do we live with the Nair customs of the husbands moving into the wife’s household and integrating with her family traditions completely. We are an equal union and we thought it was a gesture of love and respect to each other if we combined our surnames. This way, when we have children later on, everyone has a common last name. And here we met with resistance similar to the kind the religious fanatics seem to have a problem with; people who don’t know where to draw in their line of interference. Everyone had an opinion. “Oh how could you do it?”, “You are not manly”, “But you are a Nair, why take his name”. It was absolutely ridiculous. I can understand why some people have a problem, it is because it scares them to see other people move out of a herd mentality and live their lives according to their own terms. They still want to hide in the comfort of their herd and pretend to be cool and in control, that they are following a custom which they have no real idea about. Well, I ask you people, what makes you different from the other fanatics out there? They are just one step ahead.

I am glad to be married to a man who is his own person. Who is caring and understanding and open minded. Who loves and respects me and my family completely. Who has taught me that though a name might stand for my roots and culture, it doesn’t define the person that I am. So here’s to a name that has come to mean a lot to me; the Hergaarden-Nair family.

Bart Hergaarden, Thank You

Thank you for making my days special.

Thank you for smiling whenever you see me across the room.

Thank you for including me in all your conversations.

Thank you for talking about me to everyone else.

Thank you for worrying every time I am unwell.

Thank you for sending me surprise food packages so I don’t have to cook.

Thank you for bringing chocolates just because I love them.

Thank you for bringing me flowers on occasions.

Thank you for calling up my family just to chat.

Thank you for making my family yours.

Thank you for giving me a new family.

Thank you for playing with Nemo every day.

Thank you for stroking Memoll whenever you see her.

Thank you for cleaning up after them without a change in expression.

Thank you for fixing all the broken stuff at home.

Thank you for serving me food always before you serve yourself.

Thank you for filling my glass always so that I never have to do it myself.

Thank you for impromptu messages that make me smile.

Thank you for always listening to anything I have to tell you with an open mind.

Thank you for being so sweet tempered.

Thank you for being patient and understanding even when I’m in a complete rage.

Thank you for pulling me out of my bad moments and never giving up on me.

Thank you for never saying one hurtful thing to me even if I do to you.

Thank you for never screaming or swearing or making me feel less important about myself.

Thank you for always being on my side.

Thank you for putting me on your lap and hugging me close when I’m sad.

Thank you for laughing at all my silliness.

Thank you for eating everything I make and never complaining if I don’t.

Thank you for being so nice to my friends and accepting them as yours.

Thank you for letting me be a part of all your decision making and control.

Thank you for working so hard to keep us comfortable.

Thank you for being protective and looking out for me.

Thank you for all the lazy movie nights.

Thank you for always holding my hand when we go out.

Thank you for putting me on the safe side of traffic every time we have to walk on the street.

Thank you for explaining things I cant see.

Thank you for switching off the lights when I’m too comfortable to get up.

Thank you heating hot towels when I’m in pain.

Thank you for calling me beautiful when I feel most ugly.

Thank you for never resenting me.

Thank you for all the great holidays and getaways.

Thank you for taking so much of an interest in my work.

Thank you for great weekends.

Thank you for forcing me to slow down when I’m trying to tear through life.

Thank you for picking me up from the hospital when I was with apoopa everyday.

Thank you for spending so much time with them in the hospital even when you were exhausted.

Thank you for enjoying spending all your weekend in the hospital with them.

Thank you for being so genuinely interested and in love with my family.

Thank you for translating even the tiniest sentences when I’m with yours so that I’m always included.

Thank you for noticing every single expression in my face and reading me exactly.

Thank you for giving me reasons to celebrate.

Thank you for loving me.

Thank you for marrying me.

Thank you for sharing the rest of your life with me.

Thank you for being you.

Bart Hergaarden, I love you.

A Small Prayer

I have always had the luxury of being able to write down my thoughts on subjects close to my heart to share what is running amidst the chaos of my mind. It silences the noises, clears the mayhem and offers me a sort of peace that I bank on during such times. That momentary stillness, that silence that follows after being spent is a true blessing. For the last week, I have been battling trying to write down my feelings of loss at swami’s passing. But I am quite unable to express any form of grief. My mind closes and refuses to deal with the truth. And in those gaps where the truth seeps in, I am overwhelmed by my human feelings; angry, selfish, sad, confused. I am not even going into the spiritual aspects of Baba. That is for every person to decide for themselves. I have always maintained that god is no table-top discussion and one’s relationship with a higher power is one’s personal business. It isn’t anything that someone else can have an opinion on and deem right or wrong. I miss the person I have been shown to turn to as a child, the person I came to accept after my adult judgments on him, the person I had trouble turning to for a phase of my life, the person whom I whole heartedly accepted after my turmoil settled. I am not ritualistic; I don’t care for institutionalized religion that passes judgments on a ‘one-way moralistic road to salvation’. But I cannot deny anything that offers me peace, hope and strength. And Baba did all that. Many people have asked me if god could walk on earth. Ofcourse god can. Every one of us walking is carrying god within us. After all god is just the supreme universal power that we all tap into. An energy that rests in every visible object and being. The many forms, avatars, acts of god are just ways adopted in this human world by the supreme force to make our selective eyes forced to see what is maybe too hard for us to comprehend. So today I don’t think of swami as gone. I know he is still around, I feel his presence; I can continue to talk, fight, ask him questions and look for all my strength, hope and support from him. But I miss that comfort of knowing I can go to Puttaparthi and see him. I am human, so I am selfish. I feel bad for me. For my personal loss. And I think I am entitled to. So I close my eyes and thank him for all that he has shown and given me. For all the blessings. For making his last year amongst us my best year. I pray that he will give the strength to be less selfish and celebrate his life and not focus on his passing. I love you Baba. And hope you will always keep my eyes open to what I might miss otherwise. Sairam.

The Story of Genocide in India

Genocide Ignored

We all know the facts and figures; 6 million Jews killed at the Holocaust, 800,000 people during the Rwanda genocide, 8000 people at the Srebrenica massacre, the ‘ethnic cleansing’ campaign in Bosnia that killed more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims…The list can go on and on for violence is a trait amongst human beings that rears its ugly head from time to time. Coined in 1944 by Raphael Lemkin, the definition of Genocide can be stated as “the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group”. Everyone flinches, cringes, retorts with unbridled anger at the mention of any of these issues. So what happens to a genocide that has claimed the lives of 50 MILLION people? How has it been not addressed, dealt with and has silently been ignored and passed over for all these years? I am talking about the 50 million women who have disappeared from the population count of India since Independence.

India fought long and hard for her independence. Nowhere can it be claimed that women took a back seat. We fought alongside the men. Fought long and hard for independence, for liberty, for the right to live our lives with freedom, justice and peace. But the story unfolded very differently for us as the world silently watched on.

Since Independence, the census count has proved the ugly stories of female feticide, female infanticide, bride burning and many other horror stories. This year in 2011, India shows the disturbingly shameful figures of a sex ratio that is the lowest for women since Independence. Not a pretty picture that so-called ‘progress and development’ of India has been slapped with.

So let’s take a few moments to analyze this. Why have we not been able to help the conditions of women? We are so proud to claim that women are now found in all professions, have some of the highest marks in schools and universities, are versatile and can balance perfectly her position as a homemaker and a career person, are actively participating in politics; in short are found in all walks of life taking leading roles in our economy and society. So we are counted as a ‘progressing nation’. How can we then have not a few million, but 50 million missing people since 1947? Is it because of religious influences? The patriarchal society that is in dominance that deems family status according to the number of male children a family has? Ignorance and lack of education? Having beaten down the system of sati where widows were burnt on the pyre with their husbands, women still have to face abuse from their husbands and in-laws regarding dowry, marital rape and sometimes abuse simply because they are expected to endure it. Can you really blame these women for not wanting to bring in a girl child and subject them to this suffering? Female babies are poisoned, suffocated, made to swallow husk so that it cuts their throat and intestines, abandoned, drowned; the list of brutalities form a collection of the most terrifying forms of cruelties. Women are considered a burden and ill omen from the moment they are conceived. India seems to have no place for this special section of human beings.

The only state where we seem to be favored is in Kerala. The dominant matriarchal society has always protected, cherished and looked after its women. Education, health, position, power of women in Kerala has always been higher than men and the sex ratio proves how this works in the benefit of the society. Families function better and prosper well with a woman heading the household. We are not considered ‘Another household’s girl’ since our birth in this society.

Is asking for the basics of life; the right to have one meal given to us, the right to develop our minds through education, the right to have a voice, the right to be seen, so much so the right to live and breathe asking for too much? When will this genocide finally end? When will we have a savior? When will we have our tryst with destiny?


The Myth of Globalization

 

In a world which is said to have disappearing boundaries, ‘globalization’ is the new vogue of the day.  Treaties between countries, global organizations and welfare, the magic of the ‘one currency’ system; the world is fast becoming a place that is more of a ‘unit’ than that of a multi-layered system. At least this is what is promoted to people. But the question is, is this the whole truth? Do I sound cynical? If so, blame it on the last two months and let me explain why.

To celebrate the trend of multiculturalism and global integration, (and also of course the fact that I fell in love) I had entered a relationship that tied my family to a Dutch family. We assumed that from the sentence ‘Of course I’ll marry you’, things would be utter bliss and all about rainbows and floating on clouds with the universe conspiring to make our happiness its top priority. Sadly I was in for a rude awakening of the most unpleasant nature.

We had decided to make a trip to the Netherlands so that I could have an opportunity to meet his whole family as he had done mine. So I applied for a Schengen visa. Having travelled quite a bit in my 28 years, I didn’t expect any hurdle in my path. After all I wasn’t asking for diplomatic refuge, I was asking for a 3 week holiday to get to know my new family. The difficulty of being a single woman applying for a visa alone hit me for the first time as I learned the sad truth; globalization apparently didn’t include the reality of common people wanting to do common ‘global’ things.

The paperwork was stupendous. Being a freelancer didn’t sit well with ‘them’ (as all government officials will be referred to hereforth). So my poor dad had to run around and show property, figures is bank balance that I suspect even the Queen of England does not have, tax returns, birth certificates, passport copies and a whole hoard of every imaginable document. And then there were unhappy about the length of my stay stating that three weeks seems quite unnecessary and there didn’t seem to be much to do. The whole circus act went on and on and I couldn’t make it to the Netherlands with my fiancé Bart as planned and had to go much later when they finally conceded that I wasn’t  a gold-digging schemer who planned to silently creep into the country under false pretense and stay on indefinitely.  The next question we started asking each other was how much paperwork would be involved to get registered? The Indian marriage certificate has to go through a whole process to get legalized in the Netherlands. And to get married in the Netherlands paperwork that could make a paper stairway to the moon is needed which carried signatures of all different officials so that everyone’s ego and self importance may be satisfied. Then we have to get him a PIO card, see how my travelling can be made easier, see how his visa extension can be made less hellish; basically we were easily looking at a few years of being harassed. Sort of kills the buzz and happiness of finally having found your soul mate.

At this time, I am finally sitting here in the Netherlands, happy to have met his family, (missing my cats) and all I can still keep wondering is ‘what else do we need to do till everything is OK’. I understand the logic behind the paperwork, how people misuse the system, how it is to protect a certain group of people, I get all that. But a part of me still is annoyed with the fact that in a world that is all about being global, countries still hang on so fiercely to their own boundaries. People don’t really want others from outside, they still want their own language and identity; it is difficult to let go and become part of a unit instead of a small familiar clan. SO where does globalization fit in exactly? Only with ‘news worthy’ affairs? When will it creep into all the small details that actually form lives? When will we be truly global?