September 21, 2015

F for 'Flawed Fairy tales'

Honestly, narrowing down to one sole topic for the letter 'F' was one hell of a struggle. My mind was choc-blocked with ideas, and the creative needle swung from one extreme end of the spectrum to the other. To add to the horror, the family was also coming up with ridiculous suggestions and getting all hostile when I refused them. (I now know why Ch for 'Chunni Babu' had a drinking problem...sigh!).

A friend suggested I write about fairy tales.

"What's to write about them?" I snorted.

"Oh c'mon, don't be such a prude. Who doesn't love a good fairy tale?" she cooed.

"Err...ME!!" I wanted to say, but decided against it.
After all, it was just a matter of choice. The dreamer in her preferred to see the beauty. The skeptic in me was bound to spot the flaws.

Yes, you read it. I don't like fairy tales. I find them creepy.
Well, don't get me wrong. I grew up on my fair share of stories that started with Once-upon-a-time's and ended with happily-ever-after's, and like every other gullible brat believed in the Easter bunny, Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and all the glitter that wishing wells and magic far-away trees are made of.
I was in love with that ethereal world, the world of glass slippers, and fairy godmothers, of beautiful princesses and their charming princes. But then something changed. It's almost magical how life transforms you into a skeptic. There is no one moment or incident that you can point at and say 'Yeah, that's it. That was the point of no return. That's where I got disillusioned." It just happens slowly and gradually, and before you know it, Bam! You are there! Somewhat like a bar of Snickers a day and the end-of-the-month surprise on the weight scale. (You get the drift? Good! Let us not digress, please.)

So like I was saying, fairy tales are creepy. I can assure you almost every freaking fairy tale we have heard during our childhood has a twisted element to it, something that we failed to notice and which is subtly responsible for our distorted perceptions (on an individual and societal psyche basis.) Allow me to explain with examples.

Case 1---Imagine you are comfortably seated, hair tied neatly in a top knot pony tail, flipping through a magazine when some stranger comes behind you and tugs at your hair. What would you do? If you are a modern day woman and say anything short of  'turn around and smack him hard in his face' then, you either have a serious mental problem or are wearing a wig. I mean, do you know how much it hurts to have your hair tugged at; leave aside the effort to braid it, the fear of hair fall, the bad-hair days etc. Now imagine you standing on the terrace of a tower, and a stranger asking you to let down your tresses so that he can tug at them while you pull him up. So what if he is a Goddamn prince? He didn't care about Rapunzel (who might have died of a cervical fracture in the process--unless of course he was as light as a wisp) when he tugged at her golden braid. The poor princess (with the super strong neck) was meant to endure in silence. I an literally imagine her going 'Ow, Ow, Ow' as he convenienty used her hair as a rope-ladder to climb his way up.

Case 2---Who doesn't know Cinderella? How I hate this fairy tale. We seriously need to consider banning this one from story-hour time slots all over the world, kick it out of syllabus, thrash it, fling it out of the window, and make sure no child reads the traditional version ever. Every girl needs to know the meaning of self worth, and the sooner she realizes this the better, so that when she grows up to be a woman, she, like her favorite 'Disney' princess, can walk away with the guy who loves and respects her for who she is.
Every girl should hope for a love that does not need her to be decked up in a shimmering gown, diamond tiara and glass slippers, to fall in love. 
Sooner or later, we are bound to grow old and fat anyway--age, however, is a number that can change only appearances but not the heart. So if someone manages to fall for us in just a few hours of silent ballroom dancing---then we have something to worry about, don't we? Every kid reading 'Cinderella' should be told that compatibility is not judged on the basis of a few hours nor on good looks or financial status. So ideally, we ought to go out there in our rags, our dusty slippers...our simple yet clean pair of jeans and a tee thrown on top---sans makeup and jewellery and see who we can relate to in mental wavelength, kind spirit and honest attitude, instead of letting a rich dude (who has the audacity to call for a beauty pagent to select a partner for life) choose us like a piece of china in an antique showroom.
As for the original tale, it's unbelievable how the twit of a prince needs a glass slipper to recognize the love of his life. Yea, like no one else could have the same shoe size. Oh, and in case you going to fight me saying she produced the other slipper as evidence, then all I can say is that she's lucky there were no Christian Louboutin's around to emulate those custom made beauties (I'm talking of the glass slippers here, you perverts) back then. See, I told you. Flawed at so many levels.

One more creepy point worthy of mention is how almost every fairy tale has the female protagonist playing damsel in distress. She is either tortured, humiliated, put to sleep for a hundred years, abandoned into the forests, made to kiss a frog, or sent with a basket of fruit to her grandmother's house. Nobody asks her whether she is okay with being kissed (Remember, that was totally non consensual. What if sleeping beauty wanted to sleep longer? What if the prince suffered from halitosis and forgot to carry mints? What if she just didn't feel like it? But hey, wait a minute...we'd never know because she was never asked. We as kids were supposed to believe she woke up to the power of love from that kiss, and all was well once again. Happys endings, right? Wrong!!

That is not how it works in real life. A strange man you don't even know kissing you in your sleep is plain creepy. They just never told us.

On a somewhat related note, a girl kissing a frog and expecting him to be a prince is equally creepy. But let's stick to the point.
Notice how the female is always chosen to be portrayed as the hapless victim in most fairy tales. The prince got to kiss a sleeping princess who would be forever indebted him for saving her life. On the flip side, if the princess wanted to be the hero and restore a handsome prince to his original state, she was made to kiss a (*hold your breath---pun unintentional* ) FROG!
I am sure a lot of frogs got lucky thanks to this one.

That brings me smoothly to Case 3---Poor little Snow white, for instance, is another example. The seven little dwarfs she lived with had cute names but selfish hearts. (But see how cleverly their names proved to be a distraction.) Snow White didn't pay them any rent, but how can we overlook the fact that the dwarfs welcomed her in their house only after they learned that she could cook and clean beautifully? Apparently, the rule, 'In life, there are no free lunches' applies even in fairy tales.
Snow White stayed at home looking after the house, cooking meals, making beds, while the dwarfs mined for jewels all day. So what do you find wrong in this picture?
No? Can't you see it? Unfair distribution of work. Not once did the dwarves exchange responsibilities. Not once did anyone mention or ask Snow if she wanted to go mining while they cooked, cleaned and made the beds. She was given no choice, No! It must have been a 'cook or leave' scenario. She didn't have any option. She had to scrub the dishes till they shone.
Thinking back, perhaps it was a male chauvinistic attitude that people in the West possessed back then (Heck! The story was written somewhere in the 1930's, long before women's liberation.).
But if you are an Indian kid, you'd be still listening to the version of 'Snow White and the seven dwarfs' which has Snow White cooking 'Butter chicken & Round rotis' or 'Thayeer Sadham' (depending on whether she is North or South Indian) for those tired little gold diggers. Why? Because we in India like to keep our 'fairy tales' as close to reality as possible (not the other way around, mind ya).

But that aside, do not call this a feminist rant (or call it one, what-ever!) I feel for the poor dwarfs too. You all know how the story goes. Just when they begin to think they have found themselves a friend, the wicked step mother intervenes again. This is followed by the same old drill; apple, poison, slumber, prince and finally, the non-consensual (not again!) kiss. This is where I feel bad for the dwarves. Snow White, upon finding the prince, conveniently forgets these little friends, never as much to look at them again. Oh well, I know the animation shows a teary farewell with polite nods and friendly waves. But seriously, I think the reason people (especially women) in relationships hardly stay in touch with friends stems loosely from these fairy tales. I think I should cut Snow White some slack. They didn't have Facebook back then. Or else you would have seen her liking status messages Grumpy, Bashful, or Sleepy posted.

Case 4---Goldilocks. What about 'Goldilocks and the three bears'. This story takes 'creepy' to a whole new level. In times where we keep warning our kids against strangers, here is a pretty little girl entering an unknown house, eating porridge and sleeping in their bed. I mean how misleading would that be to a kid? Entering unfamiliar territory is no adventure, in fact far from it. What if the house belonged to Ted Bundy or Jack the Ripper? What if that steaming hot porridge was bait? What if there was a serial killer waiting to saw Goldilocks in half as she dozed off comfortably in that bed after having consumed the spiked porridge? No, nobody tells your kid all this. As she listens attentively to how Goldilocks sneaked in and had an adventure of her life, there is a part of her that wants to have such an adventure too. I know because I have been there. Luckily, mine was a boring neighborhood. Nobody ate porridge.

Maybe I am over reacting. Perhaps you will call me a kill joy. Kids should grow up on a fair dose of magic and fairy dust. But times are unsafe, my friend. Besides, what good did these fairy tales do us anyway?
You keep chiding your kids from receiving gifts and sweets from strangers.  I read somewhere that a child was kidnapped from a department store. Cc tv footage showed a big bearded man in a Santa suit handing him candy which the child readily accepted. The weeping mother confessed that she had never suspected 'Santa'. Honestly, I find Easter egg hunts creepy for exactly the same reason. We keep instructing our children to stay away from objects lying around carelessly, and then we go ahead and organize treasure hunts in random parks where they are expected to look over, under, across and through all sorts of things to discover the carefully concealed goodies. I mean how strange is that, really. I was okay with the idea of a tooth fairy until 'Sharp objects' by Gillian Flynn happened. Now I think she (the tooth fairy) is creepy too.

Too much of a skeptic, you say?
Well, what to do, we are like that only...


F for 'Flawed Fairy tales' is the sixth post in the 'A-Z Series' of posts, a chain of articles written by me on topics starting with each alphabet of the English language. Read back and forth for the other posts, and please feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject :)

September 17, 2015

Dear Vignaharta

What does one say to someone who already knows everything one wants to tell him?
Today, I will just bow my head before you and say 'Ganpati Bappa Moryaaaa!!!!':)

Your ever-demanding devotee,

September 11, 2015

E for 'Exercise and Excuses'

I met up with a friend the other day and noticed that she was looking positively happy and radiant. When I complimented her, she laughed and said that a lot of people were telling her that these days. She winked and said she had discovered a secret formula to stay fit. Before I could run off to the nearby chemist store to inquire whether such a wonder-drug had hit the market, she gushed that the formula involves *brace yourself for the surprise of all surprises* an early morning exercise session that spreads over 90 minutes after which she gulps down an odd orangish-green vegetable juice that helps her kick start her day. Such a let-down it was, I tell you. Why can't these pharmaceutical companies come up with something to replace exercise, I grumbled.

A little insight about the person you think you already know so much about, yours truly aka moi, I, like most people in the right frame of mind, hate early morning workouts. Truth be told, I just cannot relate to those creatures who disrupt their beauty sleep for a grilling session at the gym returning all stinky-sweaty and yet supposedly feeling 'as fresh as a daisy'. I mean c'mon, how can something as rigorous as that in the wee hours of the morning make you feel any better or happy(er)?
So when you tell me that you wake up at 5.00 am for an whole hour doing cardio, sit-ups and weights followed by a pilates class or some other calorie-burning, muscle-spraining torture that I find it inhuman to even mention, it's obvious that I will stare at you like you have bitten  by a rabid dog.

Yes, I know. I must practice what I preach. Like every good doctor, I too advice my patients to walk for half an hour at least five times a week. But hey, there is a difference. I never and I mean NEVER tell them to hit the gym at dawn. It's a free world though. So don't you dare go blaming me, no.
Besides I think every person is allowed to be a schmuck sometimes, and I have to admit I quite fit the bill when it comes to this. Nobody's perfect, eh?

So without further ado, let me make a list of all the excuses I have come up with to avoid exercising (be it early morning jogs, cardio, cycling, even yoga) in the past. Read at your own discretion.
  1. Psychosomatic: Pretend it is killing you softly but surely. Arms hurting, legs aching, eyes burning, muscle spraining, torticollis, vertigo. I once complained I felt a radiating pain in my right arm and managed to create quite a stir, especially when I said it had reached the jaw within seconds. Nobody spoke about gymming for a whole week after that. 
  2. This is more of a fooling-your-conscience trick. Become an illusionist and create an illusion of being perfectly healthy and don't need any exercise. Pro of the situation: Like a successful illusionist, you are able to bamboozle your audience. Con of the situation: You are your own audience. However, this trick only works if you can manage to drive away visions of pastries, butter chicken, aloo parathas and caramel custard that you consumed for dinner last night. It has worked wonders with me. I make a good audience who falls for this 'trick' every time. However, like every magic show, the magic is only temporary....until you realize that you got to 'die with a T' as an alternative to burning those calories off. I still can't decide which is worse. 
  3. Show everyone the unintelligent forward you just received from one of your talli friend, that says "Vodka is made from potatoes. Potatoes are vegetables. Vegetables are good for you." So join the dots and have another shot.
  4. Keep saying you feel lethargic all throughout the day. Combine it with psychosomatic complaints. But never mention you think it could be because of exercise. You don't want people to suspect you trying to ward it off. Been there done that, and it rolls out so beautifully you could cry (tears of pride at the discovery of a full proof plan).
  5. Walk around like a wraith all day. Maybe you can do a little zombie act. If someone asks you (which someone is bound to), smile wistfully and tell them it's probably because you not been sleeping well. Again, do not even  mention the torture they have foisted on you. Let them guess. It adds to their guilt.
  6. Google information about people who died of cardiac arrests from over-exertion. Then sigh and say 'Different people...different thresholds.' Proceed to act all weary and lie down for a while.
  7. If you are a woman, you can always pose to be a non-liberated doormat complaining how men just have it easy. Make up something to avoid the tread mill. Say it's 'that' time of the month. I know it sounds a bit old school. But so does menstrual exclusion. However, it still goes on doesn't it?
  8. If you are a man, you can take advantage of old-school logic as well (just to keep par with us women) and preen that you being the essential bread-winner of the family can't afford to waste time over your fitness. Let the woman of the house take care of that for you. (Psst! Make sure you don't mention the 'Happy hours' you indulge in while spouting this excuse.)  P.S: this one works best if you have always been a chauvinistic pig. 
  9. Complain that you cannot work out in a social set up like a gym because there are just too many people around. Say it makes you anxious. Joggers parks and walking tracks have the same effect. Isolated areas, however, pose an entirely different threat. This excuse manages to create a win-win situation for you either way. Yenjaay!!!
  10. This one is bound to guarantee 100% success. Form a 'no-exercise' club. Allow entry to only those gym-haters who are fatter and unhealthier than you. Then become the chairperson. Distribute pamphlets, lead rallies, call meetings. Scheme, plot, plan. Do not associate with those who exercise. Gossip (feel-good therapy) about how they manage to keep fit. Bitch that they just have too much time to engage in self care. Whatever you do, never encourage. Never get inspired by them. If you detect the faintest sign of motivation amongst any of the club members, throw them out. Clearly demarcate the fitness freaks from the lazy lumps. Make sure neither team crosses enemy lines. The fitness freaks are a minority anyway. Exclusion will coerce them into joining the other side...your side. If you can't join them, change them. That should be the mantra of your war strategy.
Needless to mention, one of these above excuses are bound to work for you. If however, they don't, then worry not. Contact me for other ideas. There is more where those gems are coming from.

Until then, amigos,
sleep and let sleep! *yawn*

 Writers note:  (Disclaimer: The above piece is written in jest and should be taken with a pinch of salt. The writer should not be held responsible for any human, animal, or feelings that might have been hurt in the process.)
E for 'Exercise and Excuses' is the fifth post in the 'A-Z Series' of posts, a chain of articles written by me on topics starting with each alphabet of the English language. Read back and forth for the other posts, and please feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject :)

September 03, 2015

D for 'Dilemma'

Who do we listen to, the head or the heart?
is the colossal confusion that has been confounding mankind from even before 'What came first, the hen or the egg?'

The heart and the mind being constantly at war is a topic that has been exploited by all and sundry, so much that it does feel a tad bit juvenile (at the risk of it seeming common knowledge and overrated) to elaborate any further. Besides, it is a predicament that has no permanent solutions, at least none without the possibility of a regret some time in the future. However, what is surprising is that every time we are made to stand at similar crossroads, we are washed away by a pain anew. No amount of experience can ever ease the wretchedness of the damned Hobson's choice.
It can be assumed that it is our helplessness that makes us lament over this classical dilemma between the head and the heart. If we choose our mind, we fear it might lose our love to practicality. If we listen to our heart, we fear the risk of being a sentimental fool. Either way, we are constantly harrowed by the dread of making a wrong decision. We worry about consequences instead of celebrating our preferences. It's a constantly changing world, we sulk. How then can we trust our choice to remain constant?
Ohh, the dilemma! My head is hurting, my heart is aching...
Perhaps it's only human nature to keep complaining.
Perhaps it's only human nature to run away from confronting things we cannot change.

But how long really does one need to keep running when there is nowhere to hide?

 Writers note:  D for 'Dilemma' is the fourth post in the 'A-Z Series' of posts, a chain of articles written by me on topics starting with each alphabet of the English language. Read back and forth for the other posts, and please feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject :)