The Day I Became a Woman

But how will I know when it’s noon?

Take this stick. When its shadow is getting shorter, it means that it is almost noon. When there is no shadow, it means the sun is fully up and you must be back home.

Via czaradox.blogspot.com

Via czaradox.blogspot.com

All three stories in The Day I Became a Woman begin in the middle. It feels like being caught in a conversation between lovers.

In the first one, little Hava cannot play with her friend Hassan anymore because, on her ninth birthday, she is believed to have become a woman. Her mother and granny fret over her for a long time before finally permitting her to play with Hassan. She is told that she must be back by noon.

They stitch a chador for her, and she runs to meet Hassan. But his mother has locked him inside the house. He is told that he cannot come out until he finishes his homework.

Hava has to scream his name many times before he comes to the window and the more he delays, the more she worries that her stick’s shadow will be gone. And then through the window, Hava and the boy hang out.

She buys sweets and puts her tiny hands through the window to give him a lollipop. Behind her, the stick is buried in a small mound of mud. She keeps looking back to check on the shadow.

***

If you don’t stop right now, I will divorce you

Ahoo is running away from everyone. She is one among the cyclists in a marathon but there is something sharp about her eyes that never lose focus as she peddles fiercely. In the beginning, we can only see her back. She is in one corner of the never-ending road. It is not too long before we see who she is running away from. Her husband chases her in his horse, galloping away. For miles along, it seems like the only people in the world are the girls, their cycles, the horse and its man.

Toka toka toka.

She knows he is here and peddles faster. Kitchi kitchi kitchi kitchi

Ahooooooooo, stop!

She barely looks at him. Sometimes she covers her face, annoyed clearly by this rude intrusion. His screams continue– I will leave you, I will divorce you.

Ahoo keeps cycling.

She doesn’t stop, she never stops – not even to acknowledge her own anger. And this is the most surprising and the least surprising thing about the film. Most surprising because – of what use is anger if you can’t show it? Especially to the person you’re angry with? But Ahoo doesn’t care about him enough to show him anything; she cares about herself which is why all that energy is going into peddling – so she can run away from him. It is least surprising because it’s what we have all heard many times over – let them do what they want – you just do your work. And in that moment Ahoo showed me how to be.

Asia Society

Via Asia Society

For many more miles, the only people in the world are Ahoo, her cycle, and her focus.

Earlier this year Faye D’Souza shut Maulana Yasoob Abbas up on her show.

“He (Maulana) hopes that he will rile me up. He hopes that I will throw a fit, and I will lose control of my panel and forget how to do my job. Let me tell you Maulana ji, I have seen the likes of you. I am not afraid of you, I am not threatened by you, I am not rattled by you. All you men think that if you rattle Sana Fatima when she is doing her job, if you rattle Sania Mirza while she is doing her job, if you rattle women when they are doing their job, then they will run back into their kitchens and leave the world for you again to conquer, I have news for you, we are not going anywhere.”

I am reminded of this when I watch Ahoo cycle as if nothing else in the world matters.

They are both vastly different moments but filled with such similar, deep urgency.

Ahoo’s husband throws a tantrum and leaves, and along with her, we sigh.

The women cycle – Ahoo is going fast and slow and fast and slow. Often, she rides slowly.

In Persian, Ahoo means Deer. And she moves like the deer when he comes. He goes and comes and when he does, he returns with more people. The only thing you need to know about the intruders is that each time they come, there are more and more men.

First the father, then – hold your breath – the mullah who is so thin and weak – he might just fall from his horse and die – and then, finally, ultimately – a troop of her brothers on their horses.

When they surround her, the camera zooms out and we never find out if they carried her home or killed her or took away her cycle. She may even have borrowed a cycle from one of the women. We’ll never know.

***

I have a feeling I’ll never remember what this ribbon is for.

Via firouzanfilms.com

Via firouzanfilms.com

In the third one – a very old woman has suddenly become very rich. She has ribbons in varied colors tied to her fingers – each ribbon reminding her of all the things she needs to buy – things that she could never buy before – a refrigerator, a bath tub, a dining table, teapot, crockery, AC, oven, gas, sofa. She finds a boy and pays him to cart her around the city. Every time she comes out of a building, a trail of carts with packaged goods follow her and so do little boys pushing these carts around.

All the goods are unpacked by the shore of a beach because she cannot remember what the last ribbon is for. She hopes that unpacking and organizing everything might remind her. The boys build the inside of a make-believe home for her as she lounges on the sofa and demands some tea.

All you need to know about the ending is that when the old woman sails off on a boat (all her things with her) – to catch a ship, so she can leave forever and find a home for herself; Hava, her mother and a couple of girls from the cycle marathon all step out of their stories to watch her leave.

***

All these stories, all these women – teaching me how to live, how to survive, how to breathe, how to ignore, and how to continue doing work as if nothing else in the world matters.

And again, I find that I’m grateful for stories like I’ve never been and always been.

***

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Lipstick Under My Burkha

So I wanted to watch this film in at least 6 different theatres and write about the audience reactions – because there were so many and so varied. I couldn’t afford it but I wrote something. Tell me what you think.

It is odd that people lay claims to specific ways of being feminist as if there are clear–cut designs to patriarchy that make us open the manual and go, ‘this is right way to respond to that’, ‘we must go to Town Hall and protest this; otherwise we are not being political enough.’

Aren’t there little pockets of silent, clichéd rebellion that our mothers and sometimes even we wage every day? The quieter yet steady rebellion that made my mother go to her favourite tailor to get measurements done – even after my father had made a big fuss about a man making such measurements. She even went ahead and got him a suit stitched from the same tailor.

Read more at The Open Dosa

Credits - The Financial Express

Credits – The Financial Express

Must Must Must

Bubbly and the troop left for Mangalore at 5:00 this morning. Can’t believe she’s getting married already. Can’t believe the pressure that’s going to mount on me now to get married. Must must must think of abandoning the peeps and running off to a little place of my own. I have been dreaming of moving out since I was 16. I’ve been saying that longer than I have been saying I want to move out. FML.

Holiday today and yesterday 🙂 I cannot stop smiling! Yesterday I watched two horror movies back to back on Netflix and read a bit of Kundera. The Unbearable Lightness of Being is the new Reading Room book. I’m slowly acquiring a taste for reading books at leisure and for watching horror movies obsessively. On Saturday, T and I watched Lights Out. Bastard is always fun to watch horror with. He’s just as jumpy as I am and starts panicking after returning home, which is always fun to make fun of. He called me an hour after we left to say that the lights at his home suddenly went out and that he’s freaking out to bits.

Kabali fever is getting to me. Must must must watch it soon. And with the right peeps in the right place. Only Lavanya or Poornima, that is.

In other news, I’m rediscovering the hots for Shah Rukh Khan. Have been listening only to Shah Rukh songs on YouTube since morning. Boli si surat is playing now and I’m remembering fondly how 19 years ago, mom and dad sneaked out of the house to watch Dil To Pagal Hai. Of course, I caught them red-handed and rolled on the floor and wailed until they decided to take me with them. They were like that then. They were convinced that if we watched Shah Rukh’s movies, we’d fall in love with boys and run away from home. Which is what my cousin M did.

Needless to say, every time DTPH played on Sony Max after that, dad would turn the TV off in a rage and yell at us to go study. Mother would purse her lips together if we ever talked dreamily about hero – heroines. Once she found my secret stash of pictures of all film stars – ones that I had painstakingly cut out from Star Dust and Film Fare. Shah Rukh, Madhuri, Kajol, Rani, Preity, Saif, Akshay, Urmila, Tabu, Sush, and Ash all had to be burnt in the choola because mother refused to speak to me until I got rid of all of them.

I wept and wept like only a girl who has been denied a secret life could weep. My cousins, N and R stood behind me and offered moral support while I threw all the pictures into the fire. I watched morosely even as Urmila’s red lipstick turned into a miserable, ugly grey and then ash.

N and R clicked their tongues every time I fished out a new picture. Didn’t matter who I was throwing , they all had glistening bodies and lovely hair. They each deserved the severest of tongue-clicking. Today, I have unlimited access to pictures from filmistan and whatnot. Still, there is neither the urge nor inspiration. Pah.

In Arts & Culture Class One Saturday Morning

In Arts & Culture last Saturday, I tried something I haven’t had the courage to try as a teacher all these years. I let students run the class.

We had just finished watching Zizek’s The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema. While some of them were taken by surprise, some others were purely disgusted by him. One found his accent revolting, another found his energy irritating. What made the discussion livelier was that people were willing to admit these things and just as willing to listen to me when I admitted to liking the man. There was conversation after that about real and unreal in the world of cinema. We decided to take home our conversation and ponder over it.

In class the next day, D who was made to talk about his interest in films, set a mad story-telling vibe which later, the rest of the class followed. His stories were crazy. I would’ve never guessed how much of a fillum-crazy streak the boy had. From watching films in secret, to egging on friends to bunk class and go with him to watch movies and then getting caught – he’s done it all. We were thrilled to hear him narrate his escapades into the normal world – one we all thought was forbidden to him.

L told us that her destiny was to be a nun apparently. She was sent for training but she kept stuffing her face with food and this made her very unpopular with all the other nuns. When she went home for vacation, she decided never to go back because she liked to eat more than she wanted to become a nun.

Sometimes, I wasn’t able to decide who was more crazy – they or their families.

Like V for instance, whose dad took her to watch The Lion King when she was 4. He waited for the scene where Mufasa picks up Simba in his arms and shows him to the world. And then when the scene came, he took her in his arms and showed her around to all the people in the theatre.

A confessed deep and pure love for Dhanush because he looks just like her boyfriend. L went a step ahead and declared that Dhanush is the realest man because in her life so far, she has never met anybody who looks like Hrithik Roshan or Surya or Vijay but she has seen many a Dhanush. If it weren’t for the fact that I was holding my stomach and howling with laughter, I would’ve hugged her at this point.

S.M, who looked like I’d asked her to give me her kidney when I told her to take off her bag, said that she believes that the Bermuda triangle is a getaway to other worlds and we all agreed. She is also very attached to her bag. Maybe she sleeps with that thing around her neck.

K confessed to crying twice in his life. Once when his school made them all watch Taare Zameen Par and all the boys sniffed through the second-half of the movie and refused to show each other that they were crying. Another time was when the Late Paul Walker was paid tribute to in that recent Fast and Furious movie. L cracked up at this. She burst out laughing, her face turning shades of red, eyes all watery, saying over and over again, ‘you cried for fast and furious’

A.N said that S.S has ruined movies for her because he’s so much into film making, he’s always telling her to pay attention to the camera angle and such. S.S said he hates it when people aren’t paying attention to the movie and keep shifting around or checking their phones. Like me, even S.S believed for a long time that the hero and the heroine of any movie are married to each other and it freaked him out when he saw the same hero romance other heroines in other films.

They all told us something that none of us knew about them. From stories that surprised us to stories that made us see them differently to stories that had us giggling and howling. Enjoying films appeared to be the common most thing in all our lives. I’m beginning to think that we aren’t all that different from each other. And I am taking an odd comfort in knowing this. I’m happy 🙂

Saturday Morning Musings

My day began well yesterday. I got to college quite early and worked on the women in loos piece all morning. I found a variety of stories that just kept coming. I have often felt lighter and happier when I talk to strange women in the loos. When I started writing this piece, I wondered if it’s only a good idea and nothing more because I couldn’t go beyond the first two paragraphs. With every piece that I struggle with, I learn more about writing than much else. Turns out, a good idea is just enough to write. I got impatient with the piece and was almost going to give up when I decided to stop fussing and give it another shot.

In class yesterday, we did Adichie on fashion. I find that I’m learning more from the pieces that I have read long ago. I’m seeing them newly, as if for the first time again. I liked doing this piece very much. The class was more like a confession. I told them how much I like dressing up and how long it took me to admit it. Sometimes I wonder if all classes are actually confessions for teachers.

Somewhere in the middle of last month, I got a mild anxiety attack about my career. Perhaps because I had spent much of my vacation writing, watching movies and reading; I felt a little irritated when I had to abandon all of it to prepare for classes, to teach, and to do college work. I felt selfish one morning when I wondered what it’d be like to have a whole day for myself – writing and reading. A whole day without the hourly bells at college. For a moment, I considered giving up my job to sit at home and write. And then along with the bell, came my father’s approving and smiling face. He’d be thrilled to show me all the men he’s been accumulating for my marriage since I was 17.

It pained me to see his bright face in the middle of all that. That’s when I shook my head like a goat and went to class. That day in class, we talked about writing and I realized that I like talking about writing just as much as I like writing. And which bakra can I catch and talk about writing to if I quit teaching?

When I came back to the department, I felt guilty. I like teaching. I like writing more. But I’m not insane enough to sustain writing on an everyday basis. I feel the itch to write more when I don’t have the time. And teaching offers me the luxury of feeling that itch now and then. The joy of finding free time in the middle of a busy day and to think of writing in this free time is better than having a free day and not being able to write.

In other news, I have discovered a secret. It’s to wake up at an ungodly hour to write. I have been waking up at 5 every morning to write. And it’s silly but I’m surprised that my day is longer, that I’m able to write freely and that I have time to do Yoga. Some mornings are given up rather easily to bouts of self-pity and such but then I think of that maha bastard, Unni Chacko and I feel guilty being sad. Unni Chacko has done something to me.

Every time I feel compelled to be sad these days, I think of Unni Chacko and feel something heavy lifting off of my shoulders. I must, I must write about The Illicit Happiness of other People. Such a strange, lovely book.

I’m excited about S’s ‘cute dinner party’ tonight. She sent me an invitation and everything. Yesterday, in Arts and Culture, we were doing Zizek! We talked about cinema and the conversation went off to what is real and what is unreal and other such heavy questions. Too good. Today we will continue talking about film, real and unreal and then Sylvester Stallone is going to talk to us about why he’s interested in making films.

It’s only 8:20 am on a Saturday morning and I have the whole day. This better be a good weekend. Unni Chacko, please don’t leave me.

Silver Linings

Holiday today. Life played its most evil trick on me yesterday. When one wraps oneself in a nice, warm, blue rug and calls it a day and hops to bed smilingly because one believes the next day is a holiday; the world must learn to respect that and leave one alone and not cruelly take it all away the next morning by undeclaring a holiday.

Only my damaged teeth knows how I peeled myself off of the bed last morning — all that angry teeth gritting. I survived yesterday anyway but not without ranting endlessly about having absolutely no time. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said some four weeks ago that that would be my last free Sunday for a long time.

When I slept last night, I was smiling. And it had nothing to do with the two glasses of Pina Colada I’d knocked down before. It had everything to do with today and all the time I’m going to have on my hands to do absolutely nothing.

In the morning, I woke up to major Sairat feels. I watched it again last week with my Arts and Culture students and was glad to find in the class, a like-minded attentiveness to the movie. It was liberating to not have to beg them to be quiet and pay attention — they were all glued to the screen and scribbling away in their notebooks. It’s finally happening the way it was always supposed to. I’m very excited about drama-free classes this year. Silver lining number 1.

I downloaded the songs on my phone this morning and listened to every single one of them on repeat – while cleaning, brushing and blushing. Only Sairat songs can make me blush like a 16 year old. The entire morning was a long romance with Sairat and then strangely at breakfast, I watched Curse of Chucky as some kind of punishment I think. I’ve never watched a single Chucky movie and decided that this would be the best way to spend my holiday. I watched the first of the series and am now going to watch the second.

My new coffee mug arrived a couple of days ago in a box that could’ve easily carried a printer. They sent me two mugs of the same color. One’s in the department and the other one’s at home. On some mad impulse I also ordered a bottle of Davidoff’s coffee powder from Nature’s Basket. When it arrived, it almost broke my heart to peel the silver covering.

When I dug for smell, it was there – all dark and lurking in its own aroma. Each particle of the powder was thick enough to make a tin-tin noise when it fell in my brand new mug. I didn’t feel like drinking the coffee though – I was too satisfied with its smell. I’m not abandoning my tea. I just need something powerful to keep me through the day. Tea is too relaxing. When I drink tea, it’s like telling the universe, ‘Hello there. Thank you for this moment. I feel absolutely relaxed to be having this tea right now. How I wish I had work to do so I could do it and have tea at the same time’

Having coffee is like saying, ‘Hi Boss. Thanks a lot. Like it wasn’t enough that I have unfinished work from yesterday- now I’m going to have to finish today’s work tomorrow. Thanks man. Where’s that coffee’

But I’m beginning to like this Davidoff guy. Silver lining number 2.

And then this happened in the afternoon and I fell about laughing on the bathroom floor:

Screenshot_2016-07-07-11-14-22-1

Fuck winter. Zebra says period’s comin. Gospel truth happened off. Solidarity sister. It’s an app that lets women track their period and other ovulation dates. I think my PCOD has become powerless under GodZebra’s reign. Silver lining number 3.

I picked up Ferrante with great enthusiasm last month only to discover that it’s a pity how much I suck with time this year. Haven’t gotten past the 3rd chapter. My writing has pretty much died. I was working on a piece but it has stopped and is now shooting me bitch looks from the draft folder. The only thing I’m happy about right now is the weekend which is only a day away 🙂 Silver lining number 4.

Silver lining number 5 is The Open Dosa which is off to a great start this year. There’s decent work happening. Do check it out! Usually there are two tabs that open when I hit google – Facebook and Rumlolarum. These days, there’s Open Dosa too. I have five silver linings. I should be making a dress, not complaining.

Dose. Overdose.

May began in the last week of April, when my vacations did. I am now in a bit of a rewind mode because I watched a whole lot of shit before I left to holiday happily in other lands and now that I am back, I have no memory of which play/ movie happened when. And I need to have chronology more than anything in my life right now. I find that I am aging, and aging quite badly.

So the string of doing things started on the last day of valuation when I hopped into TBC with the girls and discovered that beer can do the same thing that rum can. Possibly worse. A week before this, I wrote a longish piece on my experience with caste for a journal. While it is always easier to write personal essays than academic ones, this one took quite a lot from me. When I reread it now, I don’t understand what it took from me.

The next day, I watched Yashogathe which left me in love with the house it was shot in. Later N and I met to write. She wrote her first piece of memoir, which I drooled all over, and I tried writing and rewriting the review for Yashogathe. In the evening, I was at Rangashankara watching Avaru bittu ivaru bittu ivaru yaaru and Sanchayana. I remembered Kalagangotri Kitti from Beechi House and throughout Sanchayana, I looked only at him and waited for him to speak.

Watching Kannada plays has come to mean something more lately. It reminds me of the time I was first brought to the city. I go back to all the mosaic floored houses in Bangalore that we rented when we first arrived. The one in Kathriguppe with its cement terrace and the backyard washing stone. The packet of yummies and sticks of tamarind paste that we ate while walking back home from school everyday.

The language brings back faint memories of watching Parvati, Mayamruga and Muktha with my grandmother. In effect, Rangashankara and Kala Soudha have become spaces where I am forced to focus – on watching and on writing.

The next couple of days were insane — It occurred to me on the eighth day of NSD’s Dakshina Bharatha Rangotsava that I had missed 8 days. So I went to Gurunanak Bhavan to catch the 500th show of Mukhyamantri Chandru. I had to leave in the middle because my head was all fuzzy and I started to hyperventilate.

Next morning, I rode to Forum where I watched Mother’s day and then after a serious round of Old Monk in the evening, I floated to Gurunanak Bhavan again to catch the last of the NSD festival – a Malayalam play called Charithra pusthakathil ekkuoredu (The Abandoned)

Chakravyuha happened the next morning. And as surprised as I was by how much I liked Puneet Rajkumar, I was swayed by how much I missed watching Kannada films. Writing the review for Chakravyuha was more learning and less writing. I was so taken with my own response to the film that I didn’t quite think of anybody’s interest in it.

After bouts of eating, sleeping and daydreaming, I watched two Malayalam films-Leela and Kali. While I didn’t quite care for Kali, Leela made me think of Marquez and the thin copy of No One Writes to the Colonel that I haven’t gone back to. A prime BIFFES catch this year was Gabo – the documentary by Justin Webster. Marquez says here that more than One Hundred Years of Solitude, it was No One Writes to the Colonel that was difficult to write and one he considers his best work. Although there was nothing particularly Marquez-like in Leela, I giggled when the hero says Sulquer Dalman and Marcia Garquez.

Vikram Kumar’s 24 was refreshing. Not only was I seeing a Suriya film after ages, I was also watching a Tamizh sci-fi after a really long time. I should have quietly gone back home and written about the film, instead I went to Rangashankara to catch Shylock. Anish Victor playing Shylock gave me goosebumps. So many adaptations of The Merchant of Venice but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one with an OCD prone Shylock. 

Anish Victor takes Shylock’s language and puts it in every little thing he does on stage. It’s in the way he shuffles papers until they are kept in the perfect square position, in the way he handles objects with attention – pen, knife, paper, phone, and in the way he says ‘moneys’ instead of ‘money’

That should have been all. Shylock would have been the best way to end my theatre spree before I took off to Manali. But I had to go watch 1920 London. I don’t know why. Ask my brother.

Thankfully after I returned, Sairat was waiting. Last evening, I waded through the rain from Chinlung’s to Garuda and sat in Inox’ plush red seat, fully drenched.

I forgot the rain, I forgot the wet undergarments, I forgot how cold I was. Because in its first 15 minutes, Sairat had me by my freezing cold balls. If there’s anything that has made me want to write in a long time – especially after spending a week with my madcap family, it is Sairat.

Here is a song from Sairat that has been giving me a 16 year old girl’s hormones –