Her Skin is Not Who She Is

Before you judge a woman for her colour or her scars, maybe you must remember the skin of your own mother, her love, her smile, her wounds, her cries, her sacrifices, her surrendering moments were all so vast that probably for most of us, she’s the first woman who was perfect in her flaws.
The girl you judge might be for you a moment, a passage of time, a life that doesn’t matter but the same girl, the same girl cried several nights trying to find her own soul and check whether it has a light or it too is a lie.
The same girl let the tap in the basin make louder noise than the cries of her heart just because she was scared of being judged a little more.
The same girl might have fought unknown battles against something she deserved to fall in love with.
Before you judge a girl for her skin or her face, would you not like to fall in love with the thought that her face had galaxies resting upon it, maybe she knows it and maybe she doesn’t.
Would you not like to fall in love with the thought that she too might break every nerve visible through her skin into laughter one day when serenity touches her and sets her a little more free.
Would you not like to fall in love with the thought that despite her flaws, she too is a journey through her own valleys and rivers, she too is a map to somewhere inside her soul.
Would you not like to fall in love with a thought that when each one of us stop looking at just a face, we would start reading the wholeness of a soul beneath it.

~ There’s a lot more than you can see on the surface

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Humour on Indian Television: Full of Racism and Sexism

One of the most critically acclaimed films released last week in India, Parched stars a bunch of artistically and intellectually competent actors. Tannishtha Chatterje being one of them along with her team went to promote their film on Comedy Nights Bachao where the actress was bullied in the name of roasting. She was told before the show began that their show is based on popular comedy style that’s called roasting but the anchors crossed the line hardly understanding the difference between bullying and roasting. Tannishtha writes:

Something has shocked me out of my wits yesterday. I was invited as a guest to a popular comedy show called Comedy Nights Bachao to promote my latest release Parched with my director, Leena Yadav and my co-actor Radhika Apte. I was told that the flavor of the show is COMEDY and the purpose is to roast, humor, and offend. My perception of roast was formed by all the SNLs I watched over the years, and the commonly held perception that a roast is a celebratory humour at someone’s expense . It is a mock counter to a toast.
I was actually looking forward to be roasted.
And then this show began. And this was an entirely novel understanding of roast that equates itself with bullying. And to my utmost horror, I soon realized that the only quality they found worth roasting about in me was my skin tone.

Skin colour has been a taboo in our country since time immemorial. We have slammed, ignored, disgusted at the look of dark women. Patriarchy finds its place here as well because a dark, tall and handsome man is a perfect fit whereas a dark woman is a disgrace.
Our own ethics are so hypocrite that we can’t confront the double standards the society abides by. We worship dark skinned goddesses but we fail to embrace a trait as natural as someone’s skin colour.
Comedy nights bachao and the hosts of the show have always taken support of highly offensive material to not only bully Tanishtha but any star that has appeared on the show.
It is essential to question who gives these people the authority to disgrace someone’s individuality in the name of low level humour. But unfortunately millions of people laugh everyday sitting comfortably in their living rooms without questioning the dearth of their nonsense jokes.

Tanishtha Chatterjee tried taking a second chance at a point in the show and thought it might get better but when things worsened she left the show in between. The show producers told her that’s how the content of the show is. She writes further about the incident:

I could not believe I was sitting in a nationally televised comedy show in 2016 in Mumbai amid such regressive( I cant call it humor), and blatantly racist content. Though I was feeling suffocated, I decided to give it another chance, and sat through another equally offensive segment. Nothing changed. I could not sit there anymore. I had to leave. When I told the organisers what I felt, they said , “But we told you it is a roast!”I explained to them the common perception of roast and how it is different from bully. That there is no humor value in a joke about some ones physical attributes especially one that stems from deep prejudices. I don’t think they got it. Some friends also told me don’t take it so seriously, it’s just a comedy. I think that’s what the show also thinks. It’s all fun and games! Except there is nothing funny about this. Precisely because -In a country where we still sell fair n lovely/handsome and show adverts, where people don’t get jobs because of their complexion, where every matrimonial advert demands a fair bride or groom and the color bias is so strong, in a society which has a deep-seated problem with dark skin, which also has deep roots in our caste system , in a country where dark skin is marginalized, making fun of it is not roast. Even considering that dark skin is a joke comes from that very deep prejudice. And I tried to explain why this is not personal and it is a larger issue about what our mindset is. And why cracking jokes about deep biases in our society is irresponsible. And that it is not a question about apologizing to me, but propagating this idea and continuing with this mindset in the name of comedy is what is hugely problematic, specially because it is a popular show on a nationalized channel.
Poorly scripted television shows with no authenticity of their content have ruptured the consciousness of this country almost incurably. We laugh on jokes that make fun of our own people and values, believe in anything and everything these shows have to offer without reflecting on the genuineness of its image of the society.

Tanishtha questions the white skin hangover with utmost brutality.
Why are dark skinned women treated as burdens and untouchable?
Why is fair skin such a taboo when most of our women have dark complexion?
Why does it become a label for a woman’s individuality in the first place?
Why do families fight the prejudices of the society to get their dark skinned daughter married?
Why have we maintained an unneeded silence on something that shouldn’t be an issue at all?

Her experience questions the intricate prejudices we have unconsciously accepted. Our image of beauty is blotted but no we can’t stop bragging about white skin. The level to which these comedy shows fall to and people find it entertaining is a grave issue.

Tanishtha Chatterjee shares another incident where someone was surprised that even when her parents are Brahmins how could she be dark skinned. She writes:

Once I was asked “ Your surname is Chatterjee? Oh you are Brahmin.. What is your mothers surname? Maitra! Oh…. She is Brahmin too…” And then indirectly he hinted how is my skin tone still dark… ? This is so deep rooted and linked to our perceptions of caste, class and skin tone. Upper caste =Fair skin =touchable. Lower caste=dark skin=untouchable. Yes I have pronounced it. Probably most of us will not admit to our hatred for the dark skin also comes from our caste bias.

It’s so unfortunate, these artists who are making films to fight these hidden prejudices of our society have to face the same during the promotional events of the film. It’s even more unfortunate that not many people might watch Parched but they won’t forget to watch the same comedy show next weekend. She writes:

I made a film called Parched. Why I am saying “I made” is because all of us who are a part of this film feel that this was not just a film for us. That its MY FILM. We wanted to express a lot of things about gender, body, skin , sexuality , caste etc through our stories. It has been a revelation that the journey just begins here as we realise through our promotional process that we are constantly subjected to exactly those issues from which this film was engendered. The list is long long and the biases are deep deep….The privilege that allows these are what we had hoped to challenge.
No denying the fact that these biases are deep rooted and mediums to challenge them are limited. Choices we make as people, the kinds of films we watch, the content we accept, the music we listen to talks a lot about our personalities. The kind of TRPs these shows collect every weekend is a reflection of our belief system. Whose responsibility is it anyway to understand and propagate that it’s not funny to laugh at the cost of someone’s individuality?

Though, after her Facebook post Colors channel apologised for offending the actress on the show. Colors channel tweeted:

Dear @TannishthaC
It is rather unfortunate that what you had expected to be a fun and novel experience turned out to be traumatic for you.
— COLORS (@ColorsTV) September 28, 2016

Sylvia Plath On Freedom, Complexity Of A Creative Mind And Self Love

Us humans are such schizophrenic beings wanting all our lives, a love that heals and a despair that wounds. Our dreams lead us to skies, blue and black and our roots call us back to the smell of the ground. We are all full of wholehearted lightening and a never ending sadness, simultaneously.

My own self, a contrive of extremities and unknown cravings of being nothing, to be found and fixed but someday vanish to never return made me question a lot about life.
Can we exist as dual beings without a centre to hold, roaming from one home to the other? Or do we have to stick to the ground like a crop that someday is disowned, to be sold for a mere price? Years back when these questions started conquering my head, I read Letters Home by Sylvia Plath. Her life felt like a path to me, as if I’m an extension of her emotions and desires.

Sylvia Plath was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 27, 1932. Plath met and married British poet Ted Hughes, although the two later split. The depressive Plath committed suicide in 1963, garnering accolades after her death, for her novel The Bell Jar and poetry collections The Colossus and Ariel. In 1982, Plath became the first person to win a posthumous Pulitzer Prize.

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In 1975, Aurelia Plath, the poet’s mother, edited a selection of Sylvia’s letters to her family which were published as Letters Home: Correspondence 1950-1963. These letters have grave emotions sewed in each line that describe the free spirit of Plath. Here are a few excerpts from her letter and her journal that her mother had put together:

“At the present moment I am very happy, sitting at
my desk, looking out at the bare trees around the house across the street…
Always I want to be an observer. I want to be affected by life deeply, but
never so blinded that I cannot see my share of existence in a wry, humorous
light and mock myself as I mock others.
[…]
I am afraid of getting older. I am
afraid of getting married. Spare me from cooking three meals a day — spare me
from the relentless cage of routine and rote.”

“Somehow I have to keep and hold the rapture of being seventeen. Every day is so precious I feel infinitely sad at the thought of all this time melting farther and farther away from me as I grow older.
Now, now is the perfect time of my life.
In reflecting back upon these last sixteen years, I can see tragedies and happiness, all relative — all unimportant now — fit only to smile upon a bit mistily.
I still do not know myself. Perhaps I never will. But I feel free — unbound by
responsibility.”

After Plath got married and she had kids, she felt alienated from her own body and mind and could not draw a line that could separate her love for her own self, her creativity and Ted. Many people blame Ted Hughes and their marriage for her depressed self but that eliminates the idea of understanding the complexities of a dreamer, a creative mind, and an inevitable quest for self-love.

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Plath was fighting to attain a sense of freedom that flees her soul away from the cage of her own body and mind. She writes:

“I want to be free — free to know people and their backgrounds — free to move to different parts of the world so I may learn that there are other morals and standards besides my own. I want, I think, to be omniscient… I think I would like to call myself “The girl who wanted to be God.”
Yet if I were not in this body, where would I be — perhaps I am destined to be classified and qualified. But, oh, I cry out against it. I am I — I am powerful — but to what extent? I am I.
Sometimes I try to put myself in another’s place, and I am frightened when I find I am almost succeeding. How awful to be anyone but I. I have a terrible egotism.
I love my flesh, my face, and my limbs with overwhelming devotion. I know that I am “too tall” and have a fat nose, and yet I pose and prink before the mirror, seeing more and more how lovely I am… I have erected in my mind an image of myself — idealistic and beautiful. Is not that image, free from
blemish, the true self — the true perfection?
Am I wrong when this image insinuates itself between me and the merciless mirror?
(Oh, even now I glance back on what I have just written — how foolish it
sounds, how over dramatic.)”

Her inner conflict led her to write beautifully about the crossroads of her life well reflected in her early poems.

“There will come a time when I must face myself at last. Even now I dread the big choices which loom up in my life —what college? What career? I am afraid. I feel uncertain. What is best for me?
What do I want? I do not know. I love freedom. I deplore constrictions and limitations… I am not as wise as I have thought. I can now see, as from a valley, the roads lying open for me, but I cannot see the end — the consequences…
Oh, I love now, with all my fears and forebodings, for now I still am not completely molded. My
life is still just beginning. I am strong. I long for a cause to devote my energies to…”

At 23, Plath wrote to her mother about her another calling after she came back from a trip to Paris with Ted:

Dearest Mother,… Both of us are just slowly coming out of our great fatigue from the whirlwind plans and events of last month; and after meandering about Paris, sitting, writing and reading in the Tuileries, have produced a good poem apiece, which is a necessity to our personal self-esteem — not so much a good poem or story, but at least several hours work of solid writing a day. Something in both of us needs to write for a large period daily, or we get cold on paper, cross, or down… We are really happiest keeping to ourselves, and writing, writing, writing. I never thought I should grow so fast so far in my life; the whole secret for both of us, I think, is being utterly in love with each other, which frees our writing from being a merely egoistic mirror, but rather a powerful canvas on which other people live and move…

Her mother included a poem in the introduction of the book, Letters home which dwells into the luminous spirit that Sylvia was:

You ask me
why I spend my life writing?
Do I find entertainment?
Is it worthwhile?
Above all, does it pay?
If not, then, is there a reason? …
I write only because
There is a voice within me
That will not be still.

PINK: The Message Compensates for its Dramatic Filming

Recently released PINK did break a leg at the box office with its compelling message about consent. I believe it is the power of the most ordinary questions that can shake the world. In the times which are probably not the best of times for we see movies endorsing women shaming, satisfying fragile male egos doing immensely well, PINK breaks the cliched box office business and has managed to garner a great audience for a noble message.

While it won many accolades and majority of the women stood in solidarity with the film, there are people who dug out innumerable examples to scrutinize the film in the name of criticism. In a country like India where there are issues such as this, people do not know what does it mean when a woman says NO, I fail to understand what makes people not approach films like this with a sense of optimism. Tons of arguments came across on social media where people called the film an example of bad film making.

There’s no denying that the film portrays the message in a stereotypical manner making it too dramatic and losing on the aesthetics of a courtroom. Probably, a lawyer with a mental disorder fighting a legal case was also an exaggerated attempt. I cannot say this is an excellent film with artistic values but may be it wasn’t ever supposed to be. It’s a film that projects a message that this country needed and if these flaws do not harm the message of the film on a larger level, why can we not approach it as the need of the times we live in. I agree, there are more realistic courtroom drama films made in Hollywood and they are far more achievable and realistic than this but this is not Hollywood and we have to deal with it.

In my understanding, a film maker has the responsibility to think about its target audience. How may people in my country will walk to the cinema hall to watch a film that does not have star power, drama and glam. It is unfortunate that a message as important as this had to be sold but I’m glad people did buy it. But before we blame the film makers for using these tactics to garner audience we need to reflect and introspect on the values that we have instilled in our society.

Another argument that people have been putting across is that a male fighting for women in the film makes it anti feminist in the first place. A female lawyer could have been a better choice and we didn’t have to see a man fighting for women. I have repeatedly stated in my own life that half knowledge is more harmful than no knowledge at all and Feminism is one such ideology that people do not understand but love to gush about.

Deepak Sehgal’s character in the film is build from a space where he is shown to be one among us. Later we discover in the film his stand on the issue of consent and morality through the legal case. Throughout the film his character is seen to be exposing rhetorically, sarcastically and bluntly the hypocrite idea of morale of women that we have been subjected to. His approach, his ideas and values are shown to be that of a feminist and that ends the story.

I know a lot about feminism, there are lectures happening across the country, there are documentaries made, a lot is written over it but does it reach the people it should reach?

Feminism is an ideology that is instilled in men and women alike. It does not matter if it’s a man fighting for these women or a woman. What matters is the idea, the values and the arguments that truly were the highlight of the film. No matter what, we end up making the whole feminist ideology revolve around men at the end of the day and this whole comparison zeroes down the authenticity of this ideology.

Moreover, Meenal’s (Tapsee Panu’s character) rape incident is never brought in the court, the house owner is never dragged in the case and many more such occurring in the film that do make us question the genuineness of the legal process are noteworthy. But at the same time the whole argument that the female characters were shown to be completely unaware and weak and woman are not so dumb in reality, it’s really subjective. May be, a woman is not that aware or fierce or liberal. It is important to drop all our self constructed images of characters and give space to the vision of a film maker while we watch any film.

Amitabh Bachchan’s star power being used and highlighted is a problem in one manner but there’s a need of that kind of compromise. It’s exactly like an icon been put in the limelight so that people go and watch him out and if that made people listen to Mr. Amitabh bachchan telling NO means NO and you stop, it works. I know a lot about feminism, there are lectures happening across the country, there are documentaries made, a lot is written over it but does it reach the people it should reach? Probably, because a star icon is not doing all of that. and we are accustomed to listening up to celebrities more than intellects. I do not say this is the perfect way but if this is the first step, it is the right step.

Sometimes, optimism leads to hope, to a sense of light and change but criticism leads to multiple battles with no conclusion for such noble efforts. I know it’s a flawed film but I am as flawed as this film, we are all as flawed as this film as a society and we need to introspect before we start blaming anymore.

The Joy of Being the Old School Ordinary Girl

It was in grade 6 when someone talked to me for an hour and said, “you’re really old school, I like it!’. I smirked like a clueless girl – immediately went back home and checked what did ‘old school’ mean. There I was, the most appropriate phrase of the universe was found and every time I had to describe myself I loved saying, I’m an old school person.

Only when I grew up did I realize the true meaning and an invincible joy of being this old-fashioned plain girl. All the fun was in the ordinariness I believed in. While everyone’s hashtags looked like this – #potd, #clubnight, #beachparty, #iphone, #hookingup; mine looked like these – #vintage, #virginiawoolf, #mandalas, #peace, #selflove, #soulmate.

I don’t believe in categorizations, so I won’t say a person who parties won’t read books or someone who hooks up can’t ever fall in love; it’s all possible in a single lifetime but being an old school person I did realize that no matter what, I can’t ever make sense of loud music, some bottles of beers and random people calling it the most fun night of their life. I can’t make sense of people who meet someone for four days – fall in love – there are promises of forever made – for the 100th time in their lives. I can’t make sense of people dressing up all jazzy just to be able to match up the environment you’re going to spend your time in. I can’t make sense of photographs that are clicked not for memories but for hashtags and social media banter. I can’t make sense of reading only terribly tiny tales if you’ve never lived a long story for a few months and then cried like a baby that it’s over.

Old school is not just a tag, it’s a way of life. I did struggle a lot – fitting in, making sense of the new glittery stuff I was introduced to each year, the feeling – that may be I’m just a boring person and each one of them are so cool, but to only end up with the realization – there’s an undeniable hollowness within each of us that could only be filled in with things which are more permanent, promising and real.

~ After all the music in the world, you can’t call it a day without listening to Mohd. Rafi, Farida Khanum or John Lennon, Led Zeppelin

Those funky moves, the bass, hipster lyrics, all the loudness is all fine but where is the solace in music if not in the melodious voice of Rafi or Lata Mangeshkar. Taylor Swift, Adele, Beyonce, Madonna – it’s all good but nothing can match what Pink Floyd or Rolling Stones ever did in the name of music.

True, your playlist is often useless when everyone gathers in a room to have ‘fun’, sorry but not sorry, it’s rather good to fail to call today’s most of Bollywood music – music in real terms. Most of the songs composed and written by classic bands used to be poems sung out loud that meant a whole different world in their heads, today, there’s a single line sung through the whole verse of a song.

May be, their music is trending but your playlist is not less than a friend in solace who shares the little dance you have in your head while listening to songs and feeling a thunderstorm of emotions.
“There’s a lot you can tell about a person from their playlist”

~ A diary and a pen to let your heart out can never be replaced by small iPhone notes.

You love to take out your diary every time a though buzzes in your head and penning it down is such a relief, like you just saved a holy life. As much you love using those diaries, the more you love collecting them – a few with quotes, some with floral designs, a couple of them with plain pages and some small pocket diaries. There’s no end to the stationary you can collect, an ink pen, one pen for each colour that exists, gem studded pen and sometimes a barbie pen is lovely too!

Well, how is it going to be equivalent to a small note typed on an iPhone, even the universe can’t conspire to make a diary lover fall in love with the touch of a phone to let out all the bubbles of poems, stories and journals ensnared within you.

~ You’ll choose one out of hundred thousands and stick to them for a lifetime.

Out of 100 people in a room, you’ll be able to befriend just one or two but the ones who’re your chosen friends, they are the ones you’ll stick by in every situation. They will be the ones who’ll see you crying for food and laughing on the worst jokes – for the life to come.

It’s difficult for you to call someone your friend until you don’t have each other’s updates of personal, professional, emotional, sexual life till date – irrespective of the break in between.

You may or may not have time to hangout or chill but there has to be time to listen to the rants, frustrations and emotional outbreaks of your friend. Worst and best, you cling like a true friend in need because may be you know as an old school person, heart can love just a few, too dearly and truly.

Though, I do not intend to say people who’re not old school, aren’t loyal friends but old school is a lot about – ‘one woman man/one man woman.’

~ Before you choose your kind of people, it might take days, months and years – just to be sure.

You are like the most innocent breathing, almost invisible, mammal on earth who’s nothing to do with the human species all around and is so sufficient within oneself that friendship and relationships are just an added bonus that happen by chance – naturally and effortlessly.

You believe in serendipity instead of making things happen just because there should be a social circle. You’ll take days before you can believe in the friendships that happen to cross your way and you need to feel the most comfortable and accepted – including your flaws.

~ There’s a perennial flow of philosophical thoughts in all situations in life.

You can’t stop being a philosophy freak. Food, drives, films, music, games, books, outings, furniture everything has a philosophy and you feel a little more elated when you can share it with people and even more elated if people can make sense of all of your philosophies.

Everything needs to be sensible and reasonable, jokes included. They make you the person you are, the lessons that you learn in life, you start echoing them each day to make your life and the life of your near and dear ones better.

~ You’re a die heard fan of vintage stuff, be it typewriter, fountain pens, kanjeevarams, phulkari dupattas or a polka dot skirt.

Trends are the most useless things to follow for you. There are things which are universal and evergreen and picking them up is your unconscious choice. No matter how much you try to experiment and add colours and versatility to your closet or collections, you can’t stop running back to the vintage for all the glory and glamour in life.

Those Pinterest and Tumblr images with antique stationery, silk threads and picturesque golden black combinations are your weaknesses and you dream of spaces in a single theme, that is vintage.

~ You love writing letters, journals and making handmade cards to show affection and love.

There’s nothing that can suffice enough your emotions as much as a letter. Though mostly you might end up writing these letters to your own self because you adamantly believe no one knows the worth of them as much as you do.

Gifts are gifts but a handmade card does all the heart melting for you. Someone’s emotions penned down in pictures, words is a golden effort to win your heart.

You also collect all these letters carefully to make sure you can one day open your box of treasure and relive many memories in a single moment.

There’s a lot more that can be added to the world of an old school soul. They feel years older than the rest of the people around them and proudly so.

They grow up with a sense of mystic and it’s harder for them to fit in and make way for the things they want to do and the lives they want to lead but they hardly give up and become who they believe they really are, by heart and soul.

This article was featured on Filtercopy first.

At the centre of the storm

I spent a few hours standing at the centre of my rooftop, observing the thunderstorm that hit me from right and left, sometimes with an unprecedented anguish and sometimes how desperate love touches; childlike. I stood there letting my skin soak whatever it could- of the rain that has made my heart half sentimental, as it is.

Nobody ever taught me that when it rains, I would feel good, I would feel nostalgic. Some of my bruises would come alive and some would be washed off. I just fell in love with the rain in the most conventional manner. I gazed at it, I felt it and I couldn’t make sense of the blooming earth without a few drops of rain dancing around it.

Maybe, I am trying to say that in that thunderstorm, observing it, soaking it and believing in it- I realised it was a lot of my life. A lull and a song, paralleled, flowing in various directions​ but just for the same purpose: to be a life, a love, a freedom.

You’re the light: light of all lights

You’re a quintessential summer song
bittersweet, mixed with a soft humming.
How my heart beats, almost lonely,
without your hand in mine.

You’re that red wall with the window
from where the glitter seeps in
and turns me into a labyrinth of lights.
Forever the favourite one.

You’re that melodic old radio
that sometimes sings and
Sometimes makes noises like a hullabaloo
How do I love the noises and songs alike.

You’re an album of photographs.
If I open too much, I drown too much.
If I let it closed, my heart is closed.
When I speak to them, they sing back,
same way as you.

You’re like a secret box full of old books
that makes me a child
always running for you,
for the graves of your naive little poems
you saved from the world, dearly for me.

You’re like an evening walk.
I can blabber everything and not know
I spoke to another soul.
You wear my thoughts on your heart,
same way grass covers our harsh feet.

You’re like that swing I miss.
Every touch of you that I remember
swirls everything in my stomach,
like a pool full of fishes
embracing every drop of me.

You’re not you anymore
How joyously do I see us
A you and a me
running into the wild
with sky above us, infinite.
~P

"….all artists, regardless of degree of talent, are a painful, paradoxical combination of certainty and humility, constantly in need of reassurance, and yet with a stubborn streak of faith in their own validity no matter what."