Titty Woman: Five Rants For The Big Boobed

20 April 2015

UGH. Being large chested is hard and not in the smug-hard way when you look at your lesser-chested friends and you think, "Oho, look at how stacked I am." I'm fully aware that in my thirties, the road is only downhill from here for my ladies. I envy people who can walk around without a bra, and in this summer, I have constant sweat marks on my tops for the section between the bottom of your breast and your chest. Not to mention whenever I gain weight I gain it right up there on my chesticles, and this means all my clothes are straining at the top but don't ever fit right around my waist. Seriously you guys. It's a CURSE.

Anyhow, here's a rant I did for PopXO a while ago, annotated with notes.


I learnt how to put on a bra the right way as late as two years ago. I developed early, and developed a bad habit of hunching forward to hide new growths, and ever since then, my bra become My Enemy Number One.
In school, I put my bra on front to back, so it was around my stomach, and hooked it that way so I could get it over my back. Later, I perfected the agile hands-behind-back movement that looked so easy when done in the movies. But it was only at 28 that I learned to lean forward, breasts in cups, so that the bra properly fit. 

***
  It is a truth universally acknowledged that a person in ownership of breasts must endure loads of chatter about said breasts. It doesn’t matter if they’re big or small, your breasts are the elephant (or the mouse) in the room, and the sooner people bring it up, the sooner you hope (fingers crossed) they’ll stop. 

 ***

 
The ever popular androgyne look just doesn’t work for anyone with more than an A cup. Hard as it is to find clothes that make you look nice, but not slutty, it’s even harder to find a button up shirt that won’t gape sadly around the second or third button. Further problems? The buttons snap in the middle of a meeting and you’re left flashing the whole office. This literally just happened to me the other day, wearing a shirt dress. I had to tell my friends to look away while I put the ladies back where they belonged. Gah. Also, I bought the most beautiful dress in a sale, and it doesn't zip up the side, no matter how many times I envisage a small chest and breathe out and wiggle, so now I have to have the tailor put a panel in it made out of the belt of the dress, and it won't be the same. {sad face}

***

Ever had that awkward moment when you go to hug someone and don’t want your breasts to touch them? You’re not sure how much gap to leave, so you put your arms up with an elbow shield and wind up elbowing them in the stomach instead. That. 

*** 


I’ve realized that I can walk around in short-shorts all I like, but the minute I throw in even a little bit of cleavage, I have a crowd following me. Your average Indian man is a boob guy. It’s true. The answer? A modesty scarf. I have several. Also it kinda sucks being constantly sexualised (from the time I was only a kid), just because your t-shirt tugs a bit more in the front than other people's.

***

Like the full moon, your breasts too will undergo considerable changes each month. There’s right before your period, where everything hurts, there’s right after your period, when you feel you could run a marathon without a sports bra, and there’s weight gain, which sometimes makes even a modest B cup turn into a double D. How do you keep your ladies from changing? You can’t, but that’s just the way with ladies.  Pro tip: buy a few looser bras with no underwire just for that time of the month. Hey, if you can have period chaddis, you can have a period bra.



 
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Nizamuddin: a meditation

12 April 2015

I've lived in Nizamuddin West for four years now. Four? Maybe a little longer.

My first house had an outside bathroom, but it's where I fell in love. It was a great house. I remember it still with fondness. There were so many rooms! And a false fireplace. And crazy retro tiles and switches. I loved that house. I'd be there still if they hadn't broken down the house next to it and the cupboards which were joined to it fell apart. (A 'bhai behen' house as the construction people called it.) Oh, also the outside bathroom got old in the winter and when I was drunk.
From the back terrace. Look how many trees!

[Speaking of, I've been drinking an inordinate amount lately. Not inordinate if you consider the archives of this blog, but if you think of my last few years, coupled and with someone who doesn't drink that much, then rather a lot. Tonight I am returning from Le (La? French something) Bistro Du Parc, in Def Col, which is very nice for wine and french fries, just what I was in the mood for anyway.]

[My friend I was out with and I have this thing where we dress *very nicely* for each other and tonight it kinda backfired as the two of us were all nice dress-lipstick-heels and everyone else was traipsing in with gym clothes. Delhi! Please dress nicer when you're going out for dinner. No one wants to see your hairy legs, boys, unless it's under a pair of linen shorts.]

Anyway, Nizamuddin. The posh people are in the East. It's like I'm in Bandra East in 2007, and everyone's in Bandra West and I was trying to sing the virtues of my side. Except there are many things I love about Niz East too, but primarily the parking. I don't care so much about the tomb (it's right across the road if I want to look at it) or the green (I'm surrounded by several trees) but I do envy them their parking sitch. The Nizamuddin Basti has grown over the last few years and now everyone there has a car with nowhere to park it so they park it within the colony.

Which, I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry for sounding elitist or whatever, but I strongly believe if you don't have a space to park your car RIGHT OUTSIDE YOUR HOUSE you shouldn't park it anywhere else. Orrr, I wish every neighbourhood had one large central carpark and it was safe to walk from there to your home.

I also like that I've been here so long that when I go to the market, everyone says hi to me. Fruit guy. Both the  veggie guys. The electrician. The tailor. The guy I once had cleaning my car and now I have another guy. They all say, "Hello madam" and I say, "Hello!" and we belong for one second to the same place.

The other day we had a party where we called people from the "Greater Niz" area. Which turned out in the end to not only include Niz East but also Jangpura and Def Col. My friends from Greater Niz introduced us to Kabul House for kebabs and biryani, very Persian, so Persian in fact that the Good Thing said we would order from there every time we wondered where else to get food from. 

"Nizamuddin isn't South Delhi!" said a friend's date one night. He turned out to be a total tool, so we can ignore whatever he said, but another friend called my address "Central Delhi." I'm not sure. I'm spitting distance from Khan Market, yes, but also Ashram. I'm twenty minutes away from everything and still the cab drivers ask me where I am. "Nizamuddin station?" "No, West!" "But.. the station?"

Let me tell you: that station isn't as close as it appears. Too close for an auto, too far to walk with a heavy bag. I try and take all my trains from New Delhi Railway Station.

Let me tell you: we have a posh grocery store and Cafe Turtle and we also have beef tikka and the best biryani you'll eat in Delhi.

Let me tell you: we're in one of Delhi's oldest neighbourhoods. I love it. I'm so glad we stumbled upon it.
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Not just a silly love song

7 April 2015

I think I can trace it all back to 1992.

Like a lot of you, I think my first glimpse of real TRU LUV was the romance between Aamir Khan and Ayesha Jhulka in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander. We didn’t speak Hindi at home being a weirdly all-over-the-place Indian family whose only common language was English, and I didn’t have very much in common with any of the characters, but Pehla Nasha (which I am playing again right now as I’m writing the story) still elicits in me this feeling of great, growing excitement, butterflies in my tummy, and the innocence of first love. How adorable is Aamir Khan flinging his 90s pattern sweater around? I was 11 when the movie released, and for me it promised a glittering shining adulthood: love would conquer all, a man would skip through tea plantations because I loved him, and all would come right in the end. 


This was also the same year that I became fully cognizant of The Sound Of Music. I loved that movie for the middle bits—the bits between the nunnery and the Nazi shadowed romance—the bits where she makes clothes out of curtains and they all sing Do A Deer. 1992 or thereabouts, was when I began to stop drumming my heels waiting for High On A Hill Was A Lonely Goatherd and pay attention to the romance between Maria and Captain Von Trapp. Sure, even my young mind could fathom the romance between Liesl and Rolfe, but Liesl was the silly character, a side-note to make the film’s interludes more entertaining. I took her sixteen-year-old love affair as seriously then as I would at any other age but when I was sixteen, rolled my eyes, and enjoyed the song. However, Maria and Captain Von Trapp, now there was a romance. The beautiful Baronness sent packing, the children who finally had a mother to “manage” them, all that sounds very prosaic, but they too got one song, set in the same gazebo as the younger lovers, but this love was true and mature, and he cups her face as they sing to each other. Love will conquer all, even the Nazis. 


Maybe I’d be a different person today if I had grown up on a diet of cartoons or Star Wars or something. But these were the 80s and the 90s, even our Disney movies had romance in them: deep, lasting romance, romance that was the reason for people doing things. We tended to watch movies with songs in them—blame Bollywood—and all the songs featured pyaar in some sort or the other. In 1995, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge released, and with it, that other song of yearning: Mere Khwabo Mein Jo Aaye. The man who comes into my dreams. I was 14 by then, and that movie was all it took to urge me closer to wanting the kind of love I had been watching. I dreamed about various floppy haired boys in my class, doodled their names up and down the pads we kept next to the phone for taking down numbers, and hoped that every blank call was them declaring their love in a sort of silent love song. 


And even as I grew, and became more aware of the different kind of love songs—both in movies and outside them—a little part of me stayed faithful to the Pehla Nasha school of thought. The first intoxication of love. Is that bad? No. I like that life still has the ability to give me butterflies just by the first chords of a movie soundtrack I was crazy about when I was young. I like that the butterflies represent romance, and even though I know that real movie-style romance doesn’t happen unless it’s scripted, my delight when my partner’s romantic move IRL pans out perfectly is totally dedicated to that preteen I used to be, all awkward angles and buck teeth.

I’m still thirty three going on sixteen.
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Yes, as a matter of fact I AM menstruating as I write this

6 April 2015

A photo flashed around my social media last week, showing a fully dressed girl lying on a bed, with her back to us. The caption underneath said Instagram had removed the photo, and for a moment, I couldn’t think why: it looked perfectly appropriate to me. And then I saw the spot of blood on the girl’s bottom and the other smudge of blood on the bedsheet behind her. The photo had been removed because it showed menstruation—something that is as natural as having a cold, except it’s not a disease, it’s just this quirk of biology, it’s what prepares women to keep propogating the human race, it’s what reminds me when I’m healthy, it keeps me going month after month, my body’s messy, sometimes painful calendar. Because yes, I get my period, and this is not a secret. One day I won’t get my period anymore—that’s not a secret either. So why do we act like it’s this shameful, horrible thing? Is it the blood? Is it the association with sex? It’s not even that dirty compared to some of the things we touch on a daily basis (a bus handle, a public toilet flush, stroking your pet’s fur).


Also see: ink on school skirt
The photograph was by Rupi Kaur, a Sikh poet living in Canada and she responded to the take-down by saying on her website: ““I will not apologise for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be ok with a small leak when your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women (so many who are underage) are objectified, pornified, and treated less than human.” Eventually, after much media furor, Instagram apologised and put the photo back up claiming it had been removed “accidentally” but the message was still sent. We do not want to see the biology of what makes you a woman. In the past, the social media platform has removed pictures of women breastfeeding claiming that it “violates community guidelines.”

Out of curiousity, I do a search for “body” on Instagram to see what they allow you to keep. I see a woman yanking down her tank top to show off her nipples. I see a man displaying his penis. Breasts, stomachs, women in bikinis, women mostly naked except for a strategic hand placed over their privates,  men unbuttoning their pants, all of this is acceptable to Instagram but a fully clothed woman with blood on her sweatpants is not. Part of this is because we as a society fetishize the body, we like to think that it exists separate of the things we make it do, unless the thing you make it do is “beautiful” and can be shared. For example: photos of a growing baby bump will meet with lots of likes and acceptance, but photos of a generally fat stomach will earn you abuse.

Closer to home, students at Jamia Milia University in Delhi have taken to using sanitary towels to spread a message similar to Kaur’s—i.e. that menstruation is nothing to be ashamed of. It all began with 19-year-old Elona Kastrati sticking pads to poles in her German university with messages on them, saying things like, “Imagine if men were as disgusted by rape as they were by periods.” #PadsAgainstSexism was born, and the students of Jamia Milia took it up on their own campus as well.

Would you be shocked to see a sanitary napkin on a pole? I might still be and I’m a card-carrying feminist. In fact, until only a few years ago, I was a bit embarrassed by having to buy my monthly supplies at the chemist. Much like condoms, pads and tampons take on a whisper quality—and it’s no coincidence that the most popular sanitary towel company in the country is called Whisper, because that’s how you ask for it.

People’s reactions to menstruation, much like breast feeding, should emerge from the dark ages. I’m not saying advertise it on your social media—or hey, do it if you want to, proclaim on your Facebook status: “I’ve got my period today” and then it will be as common as any other body function. These are the bodies we’re born into, imperfect, bleeding, snotting, places to make babies, homes to viruses and germs, and home to us. Let’s get rid of the way we use a million different euphemisms to describe our state: “down” or “chums”. You’re a woman. You have your period. That’s the way life is.  

(A version of this post appeared as my weekly column in mydigitalfc.com)

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Television freak show cops and robbers everywhere

1 April 2015

We need to talk about zoos. That’s right, the big compound in your city that you probably don’t pay attention to unless it’s wedding season and a huge hoard of relatives have descended upon you and you need to figure out how to entertain their squalling brats. Zoos. Short for zoological parks, places that should be full of awe and wonder and summon up images of the Sahara or the Australian outback or the deepest Antartica, and instead only remind you of depressed animals.

Most of India’s zoos are pretty pathetic. The Delhi zoo actually is housed in an absolutely gorgeous piece of land right inside the Old Fort, and is really good for a long winter walk, if you just stick to the trail by the migratory bird area, which isn’t caged in, and which most people find very boring. The further on you walk, the more your nose will tell you that you’re hitting the big animals—that and the sound of a hundred schoolchildren ruffling chips packets, and that one adult who is about to make a bad decision. Sometimes, these adults will poke at an apathetic bear or monkey with a stick. Other times, they’ll try to shout as loudly as they can, so the depressed big cat who is taking a break from pacing back and forth and back and forth will look up and roar back. The chimpanzee will stop poking the ground with its stick and look up briefly. There is a stench of animal and that animal’s toilet and that animal’s food all mixed up. You hold your breath, you gaze for a bit and you move on. But the lion is still there, his patchy mane speaking of malnutrition, his nose forever filled with the stink of his own scat, his whole life—a life meant to be lived wandered thorn forests, with a harem of his own—narrowed down to this enclosure, which has a few trees. With my three cats—panthers made miniature—I can guess that the lion, the tiger, the jaguar all have their own favourite tree worn low by scratching, but my cats have been bred to domesticity for their entire species and so don’t worry about favourites. They have no desire to go on, beating on through the forest, establishing new favourites, sniffing the wind for their next safe destination, they have no essential tiger-ness, which you’ll note the minute you see one in the wild, which makes them hold their heads high and tell you with one uplifted whisker: Lo, look it is I, it is Tiger.
L'oreal. Because I'm worth it

I mean, it is sort of our fault as well. The only reason we’re all talking about the zoo now is because some poorunfortunate leaped over a low boundary wall and was subsequently cornered and killed by the white tiger. The papers and TV showed the man cowering in the corner while the tiger examined him, “What is this? A diversion?” the tiger asked himself, before he was distracted by security guards throwing stones at him, and then it was “Predator! Kill!” and before anyone could do anything—like, as an article in Quartz India suggests, remove the tranquilizingequipment placed only 350 feet away for just times such as there--a tragedy unfolded and the man was dead. The papers didn’t say that the tiger ate him, only that the man’s neck was snapped in two, to disable him from the stones, from the roaring outside, from the cries.

The same article mentions that in the year 2013 to 2014, 80 animals that were placed in the care of Delhi zoo have died. These include—so you can feel even worse, five Bengal tigers. The zoo is killing the tigers, whether by negligence or by design, the tigers are killing themselves, perhaps, just to be free of it.

Not all zoos are bad zoos. Conservationist Gerald Durrell spoke of his plans for his own private zoo on the Jersey island in England at great length in several of his books. Zoos for him were a place to help animals—to breed species that were dying out, to help people observe these species, and at the very last, to allow people to watch the animals in their natural habitat. He begged for land and funds to be able to ensure his animals were in places they considered safe and home—and fed them special treats. Gerald Durrell was involved in his zoo, and like a chef-run restaurant, a naturalist-run zoo is the best kind.
 
So don’t kill the Delhi zoo. What is going to happen to the animals if it is gone? What is going to happen to all the humans who don’t feed the animals chips packets or tease them or jump over ledges? Those humans exist. I was one of those humans. I watched the deer, I watched the tiger and I watched the bears, almost every week. It gave me great joy, mixed with great depression at how unhappy some of them were. Instead, hand over the zoo to new management, a naturalist or a private board interested in conservation and let them run the zoo like the place it is supposed to be: a private haven for lovers of animals. A safe home for animals in danger in the wild.

(Wrote this when the Delhi zoo incident happened for my column in mydigitalfc.com)
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What I'm Reading: Link List #6

31 March 2015

Trying to clear this backlog of links PLUS trying to put off doing some real writing. The blog is a writer's frenemy! I'm awfully sleepy this morning, but I've already come up with a great name and concept for a YouTube channel: eMdorse, like when I endorse stuff? Recommendations and things. Now that I've named it, I feel like my work is done. Yay for ideas!

Onward!


Free + amazing short stories and essays in Out Of Print magazine. This time's issue is all about violence against women, and the editors are Samhita Arni and Meena Kandasamy and the whole thing is just SO GOOD, I urge you to put aside a great chunk of your evening, settle down with your tea and just have a read.


Oh Joy Sex Toy is a weekly comic at Bitch Magazine exploring sex and sexuality, and last week's one was about abortion. I haven't had an abortion, but I know the statistics in India are particularly high, and there's nothing to be ashamed/afraid of, and here is some information about what's going to happen in case you need it.




Via Ladies Finger (which you should subscribe to and like on Facebook, I want to link to all their links!) here is an important article called 10 Words Every Girl Should Learn about how often we use apology/apologetic notes in our conversations, and let's stop. We don't owe the world niceness. We don't owe the world anything (Except being kind to the enviroment.)

It's not hard to fathom why so many men tend to assume they are great and that what they have to say is more legitimate. It starts in childhood and never ends. Parents interrupt girls twice as often and hold them to stricter politeness norms. Teachers engage boys, who correctly see disruptive speech as a marker of dominant masculinity, more often and more dynamically than girls.

And my FAVOURITE story this week, how an Indian farmer adopted a little kitten and wound up with a BIG surprise.

Another day, he chased a little Black Bengal goat while its mother pitifully bleated her agony. However, this time he was seen by people in broad daylight. Golu had been caught red-handed. The neighbours decided to pay his owner a visit to ask him to contain this leopard cub or tiger cub or whatever it was... because it certainly wasn’t a house cat! But the moment they stepped into the compound of the house, Golu expressed his disapproval. He arched his back, his fur stood on end and his teeth gleamed as he surveyed the intruders to his territory.

Wrapping up with a lovely feeling essay. I hate cricket, always have, it's just so mind numbingly boring, and I'm actually kind of sneakily glad we lost this last world cup because that's a few fewer weeks I have to hear about it. Here's a story by Samir Chopra in Cric Info called Acknowledging The Indian Who Doesn't Care For Cricket. (Link via Nilanjana Roy, a fellow cricket hater.)

Yes, it's true. There are many Indians - millions! - who cannot bring themselves to care about bat and ball, willow and leather, stump and bail, and all of the rest. They are resolute in their indifference, and sometimes pungent in their hostility. This anti-cricket sentiment in India has a long and venerable history, going all the way back to cricket's earliest days, when passionate nationalists railed against the importation of this latest colonial imposition, this all-too transparent attempt to impose English culture on the Indian landscape, this latest way for insecure, grasping Indians to ape the manners and mores of their colonial masters, this inflamer of "communal" passions in pitting Hindu against Parsee and Muslim.




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This is not chick lit: five Indian women authors who are better than the white male ones you're reading now

27 March 2015


I'm not actually into reading challenges. I think they're a good idea in theory, but I read so much anyway, and across the board, and my TBR pile is growing so high, that I don't want to add any more confusion to the list. The only thing I do ask myself is to read more non-fiction, because that stuff is hard to swallow in one swoop (and I mean investigate/researched non-fic, not memoirs). But I realised I was reading fewer Indian authors, and I made it a point to start this year with more of those. If you're looking for a starter kit, though, here are some of my SUPER FAB ALL TIME eM APPROVED FAVOURITES. This list is abbreviated though obviously there are a lot more than five (my books are really good, here buy them if you want.) so leave a comment or tweet me or something with more and we'll get a hard core list up together. Crowd sourcing FTW!



The Village By The Sea by Anita Desai

I read and devoured this book as a child, and as an adult I re-read it and saw so many themes that I had missed my first time round. It’s the story of a poor family: mother ill, father drunk, and two children, Hari and Lila who try to change their family fortunes. Set in a little village close to Alibaug, this gorgeous book is a melancholy summer read, and also a really good gift for a young adult in your life.  

Village by the Sea




A Life Less Ordinary by Baby Halder

An Indian version of The Help, written by the actual help herself. Baby Halder’s autobiography speaks of her rough childhood and her adult years as a domestic worker. She worked for Premchand’s grandson, who noted her interest when she was dusting his bookshelves and encouraged her to read and write down her own life story. This book is a must read as it sheds so much light on to the lives of people who remain mostly voiceless.  

A Life Less Ordinary



Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni 

Okay, so Divakaruni’s work is a little bit of exotic porn. Regardless, Palace of Illusions is a fine piece of work. It retells the Mahabharata from the point of view of Draupadi, a woman I have always been fascinated with, and does not disappoint. I didn’t want it to end, and you won’t be able to put it down once you begin.  

The Palace of Illusions




Difficult Daughters by Manju Kapur

Kapur’s books are generally slow burners (which doesn't mean I don't love them), lots of family, lots of narrative, but this one, her first, is a gorgeous tale of a girl living next door to a married professor who she eventually falls in love with. It’s set in India in the 1940s, and speaks of family ties and how much you’d give up to be independent. 

Difficult Daughters



The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sunderesan

Another historical fiction author for this list, Sunderesan writes about the life of the Mughals. This particular book is about Mehrunissa, the girl who caught Jehangir’s eye and went on to marry him much later, and ruled the kingdom in his stead. It’s sort of brilliant, and you’ll never look at Indian history—or in this case, herstory—the same way again. My friend Charu Shankar is starring in the TV version of this called Siyasat, which I hear is terrific too.  

The Twentieth Wife




(A version of this story was originally published on POPxo.com)



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What I'm Reading: Link List #5

25 March 2015

Hello gentle readers. I'm back after a long vacay, and besides having to give up smoking again from scratch (smoked like a fiend on holiday, like a convict going to the gallows or something), I'm not sinking into that deep depression also known as the post-vacay blues. Trees are in full bloom, summer is very nearly here and my cats are still douchebags, but lovable ones.

Reading! I didn't get many links done on holiday, so here is a slightly more abbreviated list than usual:

This story in Indian Express about a missing girl and a cop whose mission it is to find her is awesome, and I saw it (deservedly) linked in a zillion places, but just ICYMI, here it is again: Girl No. 166

The case eventually moved to a special team, but everyone in the police station knew he was the man who continues to look for Pooja. “We are afraid he will have his breakfast and walk into the police station some day, just to check on her case. He has forgotten himself in these two years,” says constable Manoj Desai, 38.
In a green diary — he calls it his personal “missing detection granth” — he has neatly noted down all the cases in blue and black ink. Once a person is found, that entry is struck off in red. There is probably no smear of red on the page which has Pooja’s case history. “I cannot show you that page. I am superstitious. I haven’t shown it to anyone,” he says.

Reddit is always good for a time-sink, and this thread on the "glitch in the Matrix" is worth several hours of your workday. Read at your own risk! 

My dad had this little toy monkey that he used to call his "favorite child" and tease me and my siblings with it. Not in a bad way, but it was really frustrating to us and we spent hours trying to steal it from him.
Well anyways, one day we finally got it and threw it into the garbage after drawing on it and mangling it for a bit. We My dad laughed and searched for it a bit but basically figured we had thrown it out and gave up after a week or so.
Anyways, a few years later (when I was about 17), I'm walking down the street in Toronto (I don't live in TO, was just visiting friends) and see this little orange object on the side of the road. When I walk over to it, I pick it up and see that it was the EXACT SAME FUCKING MONKEY. It even had the black sharpie lines on it from when we drew all over it. I honestly cannot even come up with the chances of that happening, especially considering our garbage is sent to a local dump and is nowhere near Toronto.
EDIT: I actually took it with me and killed it with fire just so I knew it wouldn't come back again.
Salman Khan, Mumbai's favourite murderer, has a restaurant dedicated to him now. Missing memorabilia: one sidewalk with dead people on it.

A lot of thought has gone into the planning of the restaurant, nevertheless (check out the pictures below), including a special comic book food menu that has a breakfast section named 'Anda Apna Apna' and a beverages section called 'Ek Garam Chai Ki Pyaali Ho'. They have three delivery bikes, all of whose numbers end with '2712' — alluding to the superstar's birth date. "We paid double the money to get those particular registration numbers," says Kanal. "But it was worth it." Also in the works — a life-size Salman figurine that will greet visitors at the entrance.

Doordarshan has a really cool books show called Kitabnaama. I've been on it a few times, and here I am in conversation with Ananya Banerjee, author of Kitty Party Sanyasins. Totally want to be on TV now. Who wants to give me a books show?



And finally, since Goa is very much on my mind (WE'RE DOING IT WE'RE DOING IT), here's an amazing story in Rural India Online (which is an amazing resource) on the Bhadel, female porters of Goa:


The introduction of the Konkan railway in the late 1990s brought in migrant workers from neighboring states, affecting the women’s earnings – cheap labour, sturdy young men were tough to compete with, leaving the women without work, resting their feet. But local merchants swear by the trustworthiness of the Bhadels. They leave their shops open in their care and do not hesitate to send them to the bank to deposit large amounts of money.
 The Bhadels earn anything between 50 to 200 rupees a day. As things stand in 2015, carrying a medium sized shopping bag will fetch three rupees, hauling a steel cupboard will bring in 50 rupees to be divided by the number of women involved and carrying 50 kg goods will earn them 20 rupees. 

And that's my week's wrap up! As always, if you're reading anything fun, top me up in the comments. 
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These Are The Best Facebook Groups For Indian Foodies

24 March 2015

Foodies and Facebook seem made for each other in this digital age, as much as bread and butter and coffee and two sugars. I’m a grazer—I like to lurk on food groups seeing what’s hot and what’s not (actually, the “what’s not” reviews are always more fun to read), but there are loads of people who take the art of food writing—and by extension, food commenting and food sharing—super seriously on their various Facebook communities.

Do you love to eat? Do you love to talk about what you eat? Do you love to ask food related questions? Most importantly: do you love to lurk and enjoy a little schadenfreude? HAVE I GOT GOOD NEWS FOR YOU!


SNARF.


Name: EatTreat
Vital Stats:
--> 21, 483 45,381 membersStatus: Open group
Good for: A bit of a smorgasbord. Recipes. Asking for recommendations (eg: “What should I eat in Bangkok?”) And also for making a complaint about a restaurant—the restaurant owners monitor it, so it’s a good place to get something redressed. Plus, a good group to just lurk for reviews of new places.
MAN I COULD EAT BRIE ALL DAY TOO, ALICE


Name: Sikandalous Cuisine
Vital Stats: 17,460 23, 105 members
Status: Open Closed group
Good for: A dedicated recipe focused food group, where members post pictures of what they’ve cooked along with how they cooked it. Plus super convenient because all the recipes are searchable. And you can ask the author of the recipe for clarifications if you’re trying to make something they did. Pretty cool.

Basically Bruno at every meal

Name: Good Vegetarian Food of Calcutta 
Vital Stats: 10,822 members 
Status: Open group 
Good for: Super specific about Kolkata’s vegetarian food and sweets. If you’re a resident of that city, or simply a Bongophile, this is a great place to lurk. Especially for excellent vegetarian Bengali recipes—not something catered to a lot on the world wide web.  THIS GROUP NO LONGER EXISTS, SO IN EXCHANGE, HERE ARE MY FOUR FAVOURITE FOOD GROUPS (right now. I'm a woman of evolving tastes) WITH WHERE TO GET THEM IN DELHI

1) Burgers: Monkey Bar, Ploof, Hungry Monkey
2) Pizza: NYC.Pie, Diva (all Italian), although NYC.Pie SUCKS because they used to deliver to Nizamuddin and we were super happy and they just randomly stopped, and now we'll never be able to eat there again. Boo. I hate these geographic-ist places, so just Diva then.
3) Indian: Indian Accent, Nasir Iqbal, Beliram Degchiwala, Ghalib's, Toddy Shop, Carnatic Cafe.
4) Asian: Fuji, Guppy by Ai.



Have you tried Fuji in Connaught Place? This is my face there. IT'S AMAZE.


 Name: Gourmet Planet
Vital Stats: 15,794,  19,772 members
Status: Closed group: send a membership request
Good for: Events. If you join, you’ll be notified of all of Gourmet Planet’s dinners—usually meals at amazing new restaurants at a discount. Much like Eat Treat, there are reviews and feedback of new restaurants, but slightly kinder.

No one is judging you


Name: Indian Restaurant Spy
Vital Stats: 853  2638 members
Status: Closed group: send a membership request
Good for: The group to be when you want the down and dirty on a new restaurant. Full of “insider knowledge”, you should also read the blog by group founder Sourish Bhattacharyya.

Chee so much jhoota


Name: Indian Food Freak 
Vital Stats: 13,918  22778 members
Status: Closed group: send a membership request
Good for: Reviews again. A companion Facebook group to the website, this group aims to collect recipes and share “candid and trustworthy” information. Plus they have a volunteer group called IFF Cares, which works to create opportunities for chefs specializing in regional Indian cuisine.

This is me as a little girl with my mum


Name: My Continental Kitchen 
Vital Stats: 3,419 12834 members
Status: Open group
Good for: I actually just stumbled upon this group recently, but they’re doing good work. From the about section: “Hands on basic and advanced Continental food, prepared with ingredients available in Indian Metros.” I know a lack of ingredients is a huge problem when you’re trying to whip up something fancy, and this group helps.

Oh, ALSO, if this is a problem when you're baking, I love, love, love Pooja Dhingra's The Big Book Of Treats and have baked my way through it. Seriously worth it.


                                                 

Literally never been so neat eating bhutta
(a version of this post appeared on popxo.com)
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Balcony cats

23 March 2015

Sniffing the flowers back when we first got her
Back in Delhi for a bit now after a few months of being in and out and there is so much spring cleaning to be done! I sneeze every morning, which sucks, but we haven't been opening any windows or the balcony door because our three cats, unlike TC The Great And Glorious, are not super trustworthy when it comes to the outdoors. Or so we thought.

This morning, Olga da Polga got out in the five seconds the Good Thing had stepped into the balcony for, and as is her practice, clambered into the huge neem tree adjoining it. We called and cajoled (bribed her with bangles, see below) but she'd keep making eye contact and dashing off. Finally, after she did a good explore of the tree, she coolly jumped off the branch and back on the balcony ledge, walking past us as if to say, "Guys, chill, I can totally handle this." In this time, Bruno got out too and was sunning himself by the wall  and Pablo Squishy stepped out, his eyes full of wonder, and it was so nice to have sun, and they were so happy, Olga was rolling around in the dust, her eyes closed, her tail spelling out paroxyms of pleasure. We also thought of our friends' Goa cats, in and out of the house, happy healthy cats, and while living in the city means we can't let them out (dogs, cars, unfriendly people), we could at least let them get some fresh air.

So, cautiously, we left a balcony door open, and Olga The Explora only went out to sniff about, before retreating to her cool spot on the living room floor. Pablo Squishy is hiding out under a chair outside, having ousted Bruno from that spot, and Bruno has found himself a place to nap and to dream.

Indoor cats are often bored and look for trouble (scratch marks on my legs from Pablo Squishy trying to amuse himself by jumping on me) or eat a lot. If I give them enough credit for being smart animals who still have their hunting instinct, I have three happy occupied cats. And apart from Olga, the other two are too cautious to take any flying leaps.

Meanwhile, our windows are wide open and my sniffles are subsiding.

UPDATE: Maybe I spoke too soon. Leaving the windows open led to Olga leaping down onto a ledge, and performing acrobatics from there, giving me heart attacks. We tempted her back, and she scornfully walked in, only to leap out again, taking Copycat Bruno with her. Urgh. They're now ignoring me completely and gazing at the trees. Douchebags.

As far as indoor/outdoor cat spaces go, it could be worse. We're on the second floor, completely surrounded by tall strong trees, and the neighbouring plot is a temple, so the cats aren't going to get stuck in someone's house or something. 

I still wish they'd come in though. So hard to let go!








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You're either on my side or in my way

22 March 2015

Indian men had a rough week recently. Of course, as a card-carrying feminist, it is also my duty to add here that Indian women have been having rough weeks since weeks began, more or less, but since that is par for the course, and we so seldom talk about the downtrodden Indian men (insert sarcasm font) this has been a week we outrage for the Indian man.

Jokes apart, two fairly serious things occurred to make us rethink our rape narratives. One, in Dimapur, Nagaland, an angry mob stormed a prison and pulled out a prisoner, suspected of raping a local woman. Images of the violence inflicted upon this man were then liberally shared all over the internet: in one, you can see him hung up, as if crucified, his head hanging low, his body already limp. News reports have taken to calling him the ‘rapist’ in inverted commas, tsk-ing over how violent we are.

The crucifixion image is especially powerful, because it rewrites his crimes, makes him a man who dies for us instead of by us. It makes him an innocent man, and the media took this one step further by interviewing his mother and telling us all how “devastated” she was. To top it all of, the victim/perpetuater was also suspected to be an illegal refugee from Bangladesh, which apparently made the crowd even more angry. A chance to point fingers and call stranger danger is always welcome.

Of course, hanging up a man and killing him is no better than what the man’s actual crime was, and no one is denying that. Violence should never be met by violence, says the Indian government sagely, before ordering up a whole round of death penalties for various people. Of course, also people who ordered a ban on The Documentary, the British Here-Is-The-Rape-Problem-In-India docu-mentary, are nodding their heads. “This is what happens when we don’t ban things,” they think, conveniently forgetting that the ban led to more rage and more covert watching of the film than letting it air would. In many ways, a country is like a teenage daughter en masse. The more you tell it not to do something, the more it wants to.

But back to rape narratives. One of the reasons the people in charge didn’t want to air the documentary was because they thought it would tarnish the image of glorious India or some such rubbish. And you know what? They were kind of proven right when a German professor refused an internship to an Indian man because of “India's rape problem.”

That is an excuse I have never heard of to turn someone down for a job, and it is right up there on the creativity scale, perhaps even better than that old standby to turn down a perfectly qualified woman: “But what if you meet someone, get married and have babies and, therefore, become a potentially bad employee?” Yes, it’s not a great reason to turn someone down for a job, and the professor has since apologised, but I couldn’t help have a little shot of glee pass through me when I heard it. People are being turned down for jobs because of India’s rape problems, which means the rape problem is bigger than the woman who will just not shut up talking about it at parties ruining the taste of your whisky-soda with her outrage.

This means that it’s a problem that potentially men will also have to deal with. Like the people who ignore the garbage mounting up in the alley next to their house until they have fancy guests coming over and then they think, “Oh dear, I should clean up that alley.” Maybe this will be the wake-up call India’s men need to clean up their alley, so to speak.

Because men, we want to be on your side and fight for you. Because, cities, we need you to keep your anger in check so that we can argue for proper justice for your victims. Because we need to clean up our messes, but it’s best if we can all see the mess instead of sweeping it under the carpet.


(A version of this appeared in mydigitalfc last week.)
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Life's a beach

17 March 2015

We're in Goa, the Good Thing and I, and as always wondering why we don't just move here. The same arguments hold: neither of us has an office, Goa is beautiful and cheap, and we have good friends who have already forged the way.
So why not, we ask ourselves. Can we afford to hang on to our Delhi flat for emergencies? Will our cats adjust to travel and the move? Why not why not why not.
It's in the air. Just putting it out there as our goal for the year. Four to six months in Goa starting October? Why not?
Have any of you given up big city life for a chance at the slow? Have you moved with pets? Tell me all about it. Give me some motivation!
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