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Study life, study literature. Eat food. Lots of it.
Also, I use a lot of adjectives- working on that, so bear with me.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Same Difference?

Imagine this:
You wake up every morning, brush your teeth with Colgate Total. Then you spend fifteen minutes in the toilet doing your business while singing Hookah Bar to yourself. All of you. After that, you get ready and put on the same pair of pants and a standard black shirt and eat an omelet for breakfast. All of you. Then you drive to work at exactly 9:30 am driving evenly past every one else also driving to work in the same manner.Spend the day at work doing the exact same thing. All of you. Come back in the evening, watch the same India vs. Australia match on the TV, cheering for the Indian team, swearing at a 'gora cheater' at the 3rd ball of the 15th over every time. All of you. A dinner of aloo ki sabji, dal and rice, some more of the match, and sleep by 12. All of you. Every single one. Imagine, if this was our life- all of ours.

My insistence on including everyone in the above description isn't to focus on the banality of life. What I'm trying to point out is what the world would be like if all of us were the same, if all of us behaved in the same way, if all of us thought in the same way. Life would, I believe, be reduced to something like that of a daily soap opening sequence. Clearly, we don't all do the same things all the time. If we did, where would progress be? Where would relationships be? Where would we be?

Since we've established that our life wouldn't get too far if we were all the same, then why do we raise such a hue and cry over our differences? Be it a difference in race, religion, caste, colour, gender, occupation, financial status, language, education, clothes- anything; we don't accept differences. At the most, we tolerate them. If you really think about it, it is these very differences that enrich our lives, make them more meaningful and help us learn more. Without them, we become stagnant. So why create fights over the fact that you and I may be different?

Take this simple, but the most common, example. Parents from one religion sometimes become wary when their young child develops a closeness with a child from another religion. They go so far as to say "Aeni saatha bau na rehje"( Dont' stay with him too much) or "Aena ghare na jato" (Don't go to his house). Are they afraid that the two children will corrupt each other, fill each others' heads with communal nonsense? Are they? From personal experience I can say that that isn't true. My group of friends has a large amount of cultural and religious 'variety', and not once has that gotten in the way of our friendship. In fact, we've only learnt more from one another.

Similarly, diversity in other aspects of our life also leads to making every experience richer. If five tourists from Gujarat were to visit Karnataka, they will see it a certain way. However, if two Gujaratis, two Punjabis and one tourist from Assam were to go to the same place together, their entire perspective and learning from each other will change. Why can't we apply this to everyday life?

I'm not a preacher, nor am I a saint. All I'm trying to say here is that, as a society, we need to stop struggling against things that will make us better people. Stop looking for similarities, in stead, embrace the differences!

Image Credit: Embrace the Difference, universal symbol of acceptance.
P.S: Colgate Total has nothing to do with this post, neither does Hookah Bar. I don't own either of them.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Summer Simplicity

I'm not always such a nostalgic person, but what can I say? This heat is making my head go into a reverse overdrive. For the last week, I've been waking up early every morning to go for driving lessons. Today morning, as I waited for my instructor to bring the car around, I couldn't help but think back to all the summer vacations I used to spend going to one 'class' or the other. Yes, I was that kid. The one whose parents always found a class to send me to every break, and the one who enjoyed it as well, most of the time at least.

So after every academic year ended, and before the heat got a chance to mess with everyone's head, I was packed off to something that could utilize my endless energy (which, suspiciously enough, has disappeared now). I've spent hours every summer on supposedly learning skills like the compulsory Indian summer task- Drawing classes, Glass painting and "Dancing Classes" (sic). For those who know me, you've probably realised that that was a lot of time and money down the drain. Then I learnt the more interesting stuff like skating,theater and music. Well at least that is something that's stayed with me. 

My point through this entire tripe is that summer was the time of the year where we made our own routine. Be it going to any number of hobby classes or just waking up late and playing around the garden or yard. As children, summer had it very own charm. I'm not usually the person who says that childhood is the best part of your life and all that bull, but when it comes to the summer, the way we enjoy it as kids changes significantly as we grow up. An entire two months of waking up late, eating mangoes and running around with other kids in the society all day long cannot really be topped by anything that we do now. Certainly not with driving classes (insert sulky face here).

As difficult as people might find it to believe this, the nostalgia of summer had a distinct texture for me- the smell of mangoes, the taste of endless amounts of ice-cream, the feel of the sun on my skin and dust in my nose, and the lack of the sound of an alarm clock in the mornings. Surprisingly, if you ask me to describe how I see summer now, the texture's changed quite a bit. It now includes the blast of air from the air-conditioner, the sound of the ringtone on my cell-phone, the taste of Subway and the feel of the computer keyboard under my fingers. How did it change so much? And does it feel half as great as the earlier one? Not really. Sure, its easier, but not quite as memorable. 

Have your experiences of summer changed as you grew older? Ponder away!

Friday, 17 May 2013

Ring the Bell, Start the Talk.

The last few months have seen a sudden onslaught in the media coverage of violence inflicted on women  in the country.  It took tragedies like Nirbhaya and the five year old girl in Delhi to get our attention, so what does that say about us?

In these very months, almost everyone I know had taken to some medium or the other to express their anger and fears, and initially I refused to add to the litany of posts that actually used a lot of words, but didn't say anything new. I've always tried my best to bring about small changes at  the grassroot level in stead of leading 'morchas' to change the world in a day. This, I realised, would need to happen in my own life first, not in anyone else's. I gave it a lot of thought and realised, that living where I do, and in the time that I do, fear is going to be a given. My neighbourhood is safe, my city is safer than most others and my college is safe- however, that does not mean that I am not going to be scared. That does not mean that if I'm in a lift alone with a unknown man, I will not be wary of him. That does not mean that I can stand in a government office line without worrying about the strange men who are leching at me. In all probability, they won't do anything to me. Yet, I worry.

When we curse our parents and overprotective brothers, friends and boyfriends about not letting us go out alone, we don't really think about it. Honestly, as paranoid as they seem, aren't they just a little justified in their fear of our safety? The fear of an attack on us (not just an actual physical assault) isn't just our fear. It is the fear of our companions as well. It is ingrained in us all, and at this point in time, it isn't going to be wiped out in a day or two. The fear of legal punishment isn't the solution either.

A couple of months ago, one of my closest male friends had a query- "As a male, what can I do to help my female friends and family members in a situation like this?" As much as I love the guy, it made me want to slap him. Because in my head, this question seemed to fuel the stereotype that us 'ablaa narees' need these men to protect us. Once I came down from my own ego trip though, I realised that that is not really how he intended it. He's just as worried about my safety as I am. Like I said, the fear is quite deeply seeded. I may not want a knight in shining armour to protect me, but drawing strength and  assistance from another person isn't a bad idea!

This, I believe, is where our answer lies. Not in demanding capital punishment or castration for rapists, not in candle light marches on roads, not in radical divides between the sexes. The answer lies in understanding the other genders. To Ring the Bell of change, we need to initiate and encourage honest conversation among families, friends, educational institutes and organisations. Gender sensitization, seeing the other genders as equal humans, individuals and not just by their reproductive organs is a fair start- this doesn't just mean that men have to change the way they look at women, but we need to change the way we look at men as well. Generalizations need to end. The process should begin at home and at school.

My contribution to this? I am beginning the conversation- in my living room, in my classroom. What will you do?

Sunday, 12 May 2013

What day is it today?

Since I woke up today, I've been bombarded- through newspapers, Twitter, Facebook. Everything is so completely focused on Mother's Day today. As a child, I used to always make an effort to celebrate each and every one of these so-called special occasions and 'days'. As I grew, I've become much more lax about them. Call it the jadedness of teenage, call it laziness, call it whatever, but now whenever I think of doing something special for one of these days, a hundred different questions creep up into my head. 

Whoever decided that a specific Sunday of a month should be dedicated to one section of the human population? I mean, no calender naturally came marked with a day made only for mothers or siblings or fathers. So then who are we to decide? Again, many believe that these are nothing but consumerist scams promoted by greeting card, flower and gift companies to boost their sales. I can see the sense in that. Imagine, its the 2nd week of May, you are walking past a Feelings or an Archies, blissfully oblivious of the date. Then you suddenly see the showcase of the shop overflowing with sentimental Mother's Day greeting cards and counters filled with people buying gifts that no one really uses. Feel the guilt trip coming already? You do, so you rush into the store, pick up a large-ish looking card, and a photo frame, filtering through all your photographs in your head hoping to find one with your mum that you can put into the frame, and buy it. Then you take the sparkle pens at the shop counter and write something nice for your mother on the card. Does this really do anything to show exactly how much your mother matters to you?

One Sunday morning we spend wishing our mother a happy Mother's day, and then proceed to spend the rest of the day on various websites, BBM, Whatsapp, Instragram telling strangers how much we love our mother. The hours we spend doing that are hours that we're spending away from our mum. Does that hurt her? Not really, no because every mother herself knows that no matter how special her family makes her feel on Sunday, she will still have to wake up earlier than everyone else the following Monday and make sure everyone's day runs smoothly. It is what she is expected to do. So, on one Sunday in the year, we do what we are expected to do. Some of you may think that I'm being very cynical, but I genuinely think that when we play out each one of these days, we do so more out of social expectation than out of genuine feeling. Otherwise, our behaviour towards our mothers, our fathers, our friends, siblings would not suddenly show a spike in goodwill on just one day in the year.

If I may say so, this means that we are actually faking a little bit of the love and enthusiasm for our loved ones, because not many of us usually go ahead and do something special for said person on any random day just because you actually feel like it. How about we take a moment and think about that, before we upload our next status for our mother?

Friday, 10 May 2013

Poetry Day- #Rebirth

Poetry and I have always had a strange relationship, one of symbiosis, but rather harsh. We give and take from each other all the time, yet somehow I've never really felt free after writing poetry the way I do with prose. Maybe its me, maybe its the poetry. Its definitely not Maybelline.

Either way, this is a poem I'd written a couple of months ago, that is unlike anything I've written before. Before anyone else accuses me of this, yes the first line is inspired from Wilfred Owen's 'Strange Meeting', but the rest of the poem is all mine. I'm not going into what was in my head when I wrote this, you are free to speculate, comment, tear apart or appreciate. Any criticism is good.

P.S: if you haven't read 'Strange Meeting', do go read it. It is quite beautiful.


It seemed out of darkness I escaped,
Cut a corner to the Light.
Quenched His thirst for blood:
And woke into His Might.

The screeching tire could not contain me,
The scornful screams yet denied.
Let everyone else be compelled; but
The deafening dark I left behind.

Now apparent is His mercy.
A quiet rhythm is at play.
He is His own shadow; to see
For all those who under six feet lay.

Harsh as the Dark may be,
His task for it is in place.
For without the squelching darkness,
The Light is just a blinding haze.

The dark end was my beginning,
From the gossamer threads of ashes,
I rose out of the black;
Rest my flesh in slashes. 

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Idle Nostalgia

This specific vacation seems like the most boring one I've had as yet. I don't know if this is the case with everyone or if its just me, but having a lot of free time on my hands makes me think too much and often become nostalgic about the silliest of things. Be it people, be it memories, be it incidents, old books, movies or music- everything gets its sepia-tinted moment of glory in my sleep-addled brain.

A couple of days ago, my internet connection decided to break up with me. So I spent the afternoon watching TV shows that I had downloaded and saved on the computer. While watching, I realised that there is a certain pleasantness to watching old TV shows that the new shiny ones just don't have. Seriously. Compare a single episode of Full House to any new Disney show and you'll know what I mean. Forget Disney, watch an episode of The X-Files and then watch anything from today's line-up on AXN; the difference is palpable. I'm in no way saying that one is more superior to the other in terms of content or style, but the new shows do lack a certain charm. Maybe its the grainy video quality, the flower-power inspired clothing or the somewhat more 'conventional' story lines but the feeling in you is decidedly different as you watch them.

So what is the point that I am making here? Am I propagating how older TV programming was better? Am I writing a post on television at all? Well no, not really. The television shows are just a catalyst to get this post written. The point I'm trying to create is that the things that aren't in the present, that have gone by us, seem somehow more appealing to us- most of the time. Let me elaborate. One fine day, when you are bored and have nothing specific to do, and you suddenly come across the first book you ever read. Doesn't it make you smile? Or if your i-pod, through Shuffle, plays a song that used to be one of your favourites a couple of years back and which you haven't heard in a while. Or the world's most favourite example, thinking of the times when you were a kid who could spend all his time outside playing under the sun. The experience of these things is gone, but the memory remains- unfailingly beautiful.

Are we creatures that like rehashing things that are gone? We keep talking about how "they just don't make music like old hindi film music anymore" or how "nothing can come close to black and white cinema" or even how "my grandmum used to make the best food, no one else can make that now". If we get the same things today, just without the time-tag added to it, we probably don't value them in the same scale. Maybe, just maybe, if we look at everything we have today ten years from now, we'll probably feel nostalgic about it as well, but not today. The irony lies in the fact all of us seem, to me, incapable of enjoying today for today.

While this logic has definitely applied to things and incidents, I'm not quite sure if it applies to the people who were in our lives as well. Do we treasure them more when they're not around? Do we, unconsciously, wait for them to be gone so that we can appreciate them?
That does round up my list of irrelevant questions for the day. If you have answers, rants or scoldings for me, hit the comment box!

Monday, 6 May 2013

Six Degrees of Separation, Really?

When it comes to social interaction, I'm one of the more stupid pieces that the Big Guy upstairs created. I can make acquaintances easily, friends: not so much. Having survived high school, two years of college and a variety of classes along with countless other opportunities to socialize, I still find it difficult to walk up to a complete stranger and start a conversation. The idea of being alone at a party without a lot of friends, with relatively unknown strangers, scares the unmentionable out of me.

So when I see all these suave people who seem to be born with the innate skill to initiate conversations, acquaintances and even relationships, I feel confused? jealous? Out of place? Lets just settle on confused for now. At every occasion, I inevitably come across at least one or two of these characters, and I have to admit that I have often observed them, hoping to pick up a trick or two. Did I learn anything useful that I'm now going to share with you? NO. If I had learnt something, I probably wouldn't be writing this post whining about it. In fact, most of my time observing them went into marveling at how easy these folks made it seem and how much of a fool I'd make of myself if I tried their words, their actions. I cannot, for the life of me, understand how its done. Do you just go up to a group of people, says "What's up?" and expect to be pulled into a conversation? Or do you go and politely introduce yourself and wait for everyone else to respond in kind? Or just listen to an ongoing conversation and pop in at the right time with an opinion of your own? Try each one of them, and still, that won't make you a master at it.

Sadly, most of the people that I'm fortunate enough to call my best friends are of the above-mentioned smooth-talker variety. This is why our opinions often differ when it comes to the best ways to spend a weekend. Their idea of fun is a night out on the town, or dressing up and letting their hair down at a party. To them, this is an opportunity to spend time with people, dance, become unnaturally happy and generally have a good time. To me, the exact same activities mean an evening full of awkward introductions, shuffling my feet pretending to dance and studying the corners of the room. Do I like this? Nope. Have I tried to change it? Tried yes, successfully no.

Then, I turned to TV and films and books to help me with my particular problem. Before you get any ideas from here, let me tell you, doesn't always work. Turns out, chemistry jokes are ice-breakers only on The Big Bang Theory, and taking inspiration from the characters on Grey's Anatomy, while entertaining, only makes you more of a lunatic. Don't get me wrong, okay? I adore both these shows, but trying to emulate socialization lessons from them in reality isn't that wise. Although, I have to admit that watching fictional characters like Raj, Leonard, Christina and April does make you feel a little better about yourself, makes your head go "God bless them, I'm not alone." Hmm, I may be beginning to see why people don't talk to me enough. Moving on, conversations about books and music do help, to an extent, but only when the person you're trying to talk to gets the reference or is familiar with the work that you mention.

So then, how have I managed to socialize at all in all this time? The best friends have all happened by pure magic, that's my only explanation for it (I love you guys, don't beat me up for this). But the others, people whom I've grown to know and love, people who I've met recently and people who I'm still in the process of meeting; I have three reasons. One- Humour (as a defence mechanism, to curb the nervousness of new meetings) works pretty well. If I'm standing with someone I don't really know well, I tend to crack some monstrosity about anything around me. More often that not, that has become a starting point for me to work with. Good jokes impress, bad jokes, for some strange reason, find even more followers. Either way, win-win! Two- Bitching (Yes, I said it and yes, it still isn't a good thing to do) is an instant mode of connection. Apparently, nothing makes two people bond better than a mutual dislike of a third person or thing. The Third reason is something that I have mentioned before: Common Interests. Especially in college, most of my friendships have grown on the shared love of a TV show, a book, food, music or the religion that we call Harry Potter. So if any of you guys who I share these loves with are reading this, Hello!

Conversations aren't entirely as difficult once you figure out how to begin them and what to base them on. As is with a lot of things, the first one is the toughest (obligatory winks) . So go out there, and say Hi to someone. In case that doesn't work, there is a comment box below. Come say Hi to me, I love shameless publicity.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

In a Film Reel! - #BombayTalkies

Have you ever hummed along with a song that you normally wouldn't have liked but did so just because it sounds so much better in a theatre, so much grander?
Have you ever heard a kid mouth an extremely melodramatic dialogue in an everyday, ordinary situation, and smiled at it?
Have you ever looked at a piece of clothing and thought back to how a specific actor was wearing something similar?
Have you ever been in a situation where you suddenly thought, "yaar meri life pe toh film banani chahiye?"

If yes, then whether you like it or not, you have been affected by the mammoth giant that is the hindi film industry. Last year, I was participating in a debate where I had to defend the effect on films on our society. That, coupled with my own experiences of film-making (decidedly few and amateur) have led me to think about our lives and films. Combine that with the fact that I just saw Bombay Talkies makes for this rather lengthy rant/ review/ post.

Bombay Talkies is a rather impressive collection of four short films, each subtle, layered and nuanced in its own special way. Be it Karan Johar's tale of lies and urban relationships and the fear of homosexuality, Dibarkar Banerjee's story about an ordinary father who finds his passion in one scene in a film, Zoya Akhtar's deeply textured idea of a young boy whose dream is to become 'Sheila- a dancer', or Anurag Kashyap's engaging story of a man who carries near-immortality in a jar of Murabba, each one of them leaves you feeling happy on the inside.

The best part about the film is that it almost completely refuses to indulge in any bollywood cliche. The storytelling is mature, honest and fleetingly brutal in a way that is far more engaging than any emotionally dialogued song and dance routine could have been. The use of music, sharp cinematography and amazingly constructed frames, along with controlled script-writing and brilliant performances all create something quite beyond the everyday film. The fact that neither one of the four stories is directly connected to the film industry just goes on to show how much of it affects our daily lives.

I have to specially mention Karan Johar, though. I've always been a fan of his early sugar-romances, but with Student of the Year, I'd lost a bit of my faith. When I saw Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, I knew that he had the ability to create these beautifully imperfect characters and their stories, and that belief comes to fruition in his story here. The three lead characters in his segment of Bombay Talkies are so easy to relate to, yet so new. This is the kind of cinema that needs to be encouraged. The use of 'Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh' as a narrative device is also oddly compelling. Respect, Sir!

Though I do have a couple of complaints with the film. The fact that they are shorts films means that naturally, the end comes all too soon, however, sometimes it is abrupt. Such as in Zoya Akhtar's segment, *SPOILERS* when 'Sheila' performs for the crowd, it contains a lot of parents. So it is safe to assume that one of them will go and tell his father. What follows then, we'll never know- it is left to the audiences to speculate. Even with the other films, the characters grow on you so easily that the part where you're supposed to think of what happens after, leaves you a little dissatisfied that you don't get to see it. Also, the last film could have cut down on one of the songs, and added some more of the sharp dialogues.Something more along the lines of "Hum Bachchan sir ka daant pehchante hai, unki filmo mein dekhe hai" would have made it even more interesting!

Throughout each of the four segments, I was sitting cross-legged in my seat in the air-conditioned multiplex, grinning like a child.  I've realised that whether you're in a multiplex or a single screen cinema or watching a film projected on a giant cloth, the allure of this medium doesn't change a lot. The idea of something larger than you and me appeals to all of us.

If you've ever enjoyed, I mean genuinely passionately enjoyed even a single hindi film, you'll relate to Bombay Talkies, especially the end credits. The whiff of the popcorn, the light from the usher's torch and sound of the projector won't leave you for a very long time, if you are anything like me. Each of the four segments made me want to weep, smile even wider then and get back to watching the films that make my day, not to mention, get back to film-making- in the hopes that something that I've created will one day make a ripple in the minds of audiences just like me!

Saturday, 4 May 2013

The First One

I could say a thousand senseless things, or a couple of meaningful ones. Either way, in the first read you are probably going to wonder whether one more blog by an average, almost-out-of-her-teens female is worth the time or the effort. That, while it may be my interest, it isn't my prerogative. As is the case with most bloggers, I'm writing for the purpose of writing, to put down the words that tend to float on endlessly in my head.

Alright, enough of sounding somewhat pretentious. First blog post, so a bit of an introduction seems mandatory, right? I'm Farheen, from Gujarat, India. As of today, I'm 19 and about to start my final year to get my BA degree in English Literature. Clearly then, I have an intense love for language and literature, to an extent, even for academics. The idea of sitting in a classroom debating theories with a skilled professor really appeals to me, strange as that may sound.

Other than academics, I volunteer with a couple of NGOs involved with classical music and youth development. Turns out, I just really like talking and debating a lot, and I care about social issues (if that was lost somewhere), so this becomes a good outlet. It is also a good channel for my film-making interests.

At a personal level, I am a socially awkward, unusually skinny kid who loves music and TV and books and Twitter and FOOD. Food, did I mention, is often the driving force behind most of my activities. I tend to stick to my friends more than my family, and I'm a lost cause when it comes to relationships. More on that later!

What do I plan to do with this blog? I don't have a particular plan or agenda fixed in my mind on how this will progress, but I do know that this should be an interesting place to read and write at.

Adios for now, see you soon!