What Puts Happy In Diwali?

Diwali is here. I know this because “save the environment” talks are on an all-time high. Though not to mention everyone who says this owns at least three diesel fuming cars, and fourth is probably a Dhanteras gift. Touché.

Every time I breathe during Diwali, I know why Paranayam in this festive season is not the best idea! Smog also is the not the best idea if you want Laxmi to navigate till your house, you know! While I am at it, having an idea network definitely is the epitome of not-the-best-idea. In the meanwhile, people in Mumbai and likes consider this as fog, and enjoy it with pictures on Instagram – winters. <3. Touché.

happy-diwali-may-you-take-this-opportunity-to-unnecessarily-overuse-the-words-auspicious-prosperous-and-joyous-3b73cI think it’s just me, because everyone otherwise seems so happy! By everyone, I mean people starring in 27590 advertisements on every possible media platform, selling everything from a Beetle to a beetle. Though when Diwali falls on a month-end, it still is about one week away for it to become happy. Touché.

It’s not all bad though. Diwali is that once-a-year chance to catch up with neighbours and relatives, so that you can remind yourself why you only meet these people once a year. But I love some of these traditions, especially the fun ones wherein everyone gets together on festival to gamble! I mean why not? One of the drawbacks of meeting people is that they may ask you to tell which movie you’re watching, Shivaay or Aye Dil Hai Mushkil. While “Aye Dil Hai Mushkil” was really how KJo has been feeling for the past couple of weeks, I am not commenting on Shivaay, because – Haw!!! It’s a God’s name. If you are unable to decide your pick, then I suggest you flip a coin and gamble it away before it lands.

Well, if you are seriously thinking about avoiding watching ADHM because of Fawaad Khan, think twice! One, because he is so hot (blushes), and two, because you might as well support the “Say no to Chinese lanterns” campaign. While you are at it, don’t forget to not keep it only till the lanterns, and you will be surprised at the number of items that we use daily are actually from China. The real “agnipariksha” is always post Diwali festivities. Touché.

#Sandesh2soldiers is the flavour of the season. And it should be too. Never have so many, owed so much, to so few. But are we only paying lip service to them through #Sandesh2soldiers? Why is it that apart from battling Pakistani shelling and terrorists at the Line of Control, the army is also being forced to battle the bureaucracy in South Block in the “war for status”?

Well anyway, with all the “responsible” actions this Diwali, don’t forget to smile, enjoy and celebrate this festival! Its’ a festival of lights, crackers, dressing up and posting the false “this is INDIA from space” photo everywhere. Try not to spam other people’s WhatsApp with 1 km long messages. And girls, eat that chakli! After all, that’s what makes it a happy Diwali!

 

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E For Explore

Vietnam is probably on every travel-addict’s Dream Destination wish list, and I’m no exception. Well, you could replace Vietnam with almost any place in the world, and the statement would still hold true for me, but I was in Vietnam this month, and so Vietnam it is!

It was that kind of a trip where the destination doesn’t matter, because of the people you travel with! Well, actually it does. It needs to be inexpensive, because even after four years of practicing architecture, we are all still broke. And Vietnam was a wonderful place, “international” enough and did not burn a hole in our pocket! (Umm?)

So, after immense planning, adjusting, discussing, pushing, scheduling and re-scheduling, we finally landed in Ho Chi Mihn City to realize that we could have very well gone to Pune. Oh my! The number of bikes this city has is obnoxious, even by Indian standards!

If you know even a little about the Vietnam War history, I recommend you take a tour of the Củ Chi tunnels on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City and experience the underground guerrilla network for yourself. Crawling through the hot and narrow tunnels will give you a momentary sense of what conditions must have been like during conflict. What an experience!

We left the city setting to explore central Vietnam. From beaches, to lakes and rivers, from the very romantic Hoi An to the Imperial City of Hue, from a day full of water-sports at Nha Trang to a quick excursion through Hindu temples at Myson, the Vietnam vibe is contagious, and everywhere you look, it feels festive, almost like a celebration is on its way. What’s not to love?

Generally, when people travel to a place with an unknown language, they tend to learn how to say “Thank You” (at least) locally. But when you are a vegetarian travelling anywhere outside India, you learn to say ‘No meat, No egg, No fish’ as well. In a country famous for its street food, local beer, coffee and “Pho”, Vietnam did not disappoint us vegetarians also. Though their local delicacy – Hot Pot – pretty much gave us an idea as to why Vietnamese people are so tiny!  It was even more evident when we went to their well-stocked night market, just to realize their largest size will fit only an Indian ant.

At first, when you enter this country, it pretty much feels like India. But only when you live and experience the place, you realize it is rather more developed, much more cleanly and with a better general civic sense. Post war, actual economic liberalization in Vietnam came in the mid-1990s and really got moving in the early 2000s. And India with its almost 70 years of independence still has a long way to go. I understand it is reasonably unfair to compare India to Vietnam- given the size, population and scale of everything, but we definitely have a benchmark to accomplish even before we look at the developed nations!

Well, when you are on a vacation with long-time friends, few of whom are planning to get married in the coming “wedding season”, there is a lot that happens, which cannot, should not and would not be told, and definitely not announced in the newspaper! Until next time Vietnam, cảm ơn!

War On Women

We live in a country where female feticide exists- and in a much larger way than we can even imagine. We live in a country where one half of the population lives in fear. We live in a country where “boys will be boys” is a justified excuse for rape. And then they say feminism is bullshit.

Feminism: (n) A radical belief that women are people.

In a jiffy, feminism is exactly just that. But now this word has various connotations, various reactions, various perspectives, and largely a very mocked about implication. If you believe women are as human as human beings can get, you are a feminist! If you say you aren’t a feminist, then the only explanation to that is that you don’t believe women are people – which includes Kim Kardashian. And there is something majorly wrong with that – not Kardashian, but the belief!

But clearly, feminism has a clear PR problem. There is a whole lot of confusion in the way this movement has been executed, and understood – and that according to me is responsible for its downfall. There are two kinds of feminists:

  • Anti-man: You don’t have to be anti-man to be a pro-woman!
  • Anti-woman: You don’t have to be an anti-traditional-woman to be a pro-feminist (only modern haan.)

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As women you are not supposed to do everything that men do – that just validates the fact that what they do is what people must do (men people) – and then the movement is against the people who are a part of that movement. Do you see how much confusion that creates – like, even in that sentence? So, stop! Stop doing everything that they do – just to prove a point. Do it if you like it. I mean why not, go ahead and make the whole world double meaning in your head. But because you want to, and not because they do and so I would too!

I think only women can make this entire world women-friendly, while they are also the most important section that is not letting this happen. I mean I know women who would say – “I am a feminist. I earn my own money. I am not a housewife”. You have got it all wrong, woman! Feminism is about respecting individual woman’s choices – that ranges from occupation to clothing. It’s not dictating it. That’s what the movement is against, remember?

It is we women as mothers and/or grandmothers who have enforced time restrictions on our daughters and not on our sons. It is we women as mothers-in-law who do not wish to seek happiness in the choices that our daughters-in-law makes, just because we didn’t have the liberty in our time (college raging mentality). It is we women as a friend, a confidante, an acquaintance or a stranger judging other women’s choice of fashion, choice of lifestyle, and choice of occupation.

People do not realize you can be a feminist and pro-life. You can be a feminist and a stay-at-home mom. You can be a feminist and choose to adorn a burkini. You can be a feminist and be calm and peace-loving.

A Guide To The Colours Of Navratri

Navratri was essentially known for amazingly elaborate Durga Puja in Bengal, the official avenue for guys to pick up girls by showing their best “moves” in Gujarat, and of course the country’s official ‘Eid ka Chaand’ – Falguni Pathak. But recently it has become more of a festival of hue.

(Oh, hue reminds me that I am writing this article from Hue in Vietnam, and it is so effing beautiful here! How is whacking dandiya sticks to remove the days’ frustration on your end coming along, y’all?) Muhaha.

Even from here I can imagine the country being so colour co-ordinated that it would make everyone doubt their eyesight! But have you ever wondered what the nine colours really signify? Let me help you there.

Day 1  – Grey

To mark the beginning of Navratri, Shailputri, an incarnation of Goddess Parvati is worshipped. Grey stands for purity. And considering all the pollution, we all know the colour of purity in India is Grey. Enough said.

Day 2 – Orange

The colour orange stands for Nature. I think this is from where ‘Orange is the new black’ came into being.

Day 3 – White

Dwitiya, the second day of Navratri, celebrates Brahmacharini – the virgin phase of Parvati and signifies her “purity”. If we go by all the sanitary napkin ads on television, then white definitely seems legit here.

Day 4 – Red

This day celebrates married incarnation of Parvati. This form generally rides a tigress, and represents bravery and courage. Of course! Marrying definitely fits the representation. And going by the reasoning for white, what other colour to signify impurity but red, eh?

Day 5 – Blue

On this day the goddess is worshipped as all the energy in the universe. With the percentage of people feeling blue being so considerable, the colour proves apt here.

Day 6 – Yellow

Look at the stars, look how they shine for you. Everything you do. They were all yellow! Cold play just suns it for us beautifully!

Day 7 – Green

On this day the warrior form of the goddess is worshipped. And according to me no other colour signifies ‘make peace, not war’ better than green. White is the universal colour of peace, but the idea of a war-free world is full of lush green on every inch of this planet! Oh so beautiful!

Day 8 – Peacock Green

Now I am sure some woman somewhere has designed this list. Only a woman cannot be satisfied with a blue and a green, and still demand for a particular shade of those colours! And what other colour to represent Kalaratri- the forecast form of the goddess. I mean we definitely can be fierce with our perfect shade, you know. *Plops her tangerine bag on olive green couch*

Day 9 – Purple

All I am thinking right now is how will it look if an entire city wears this colour. It really is not one of my favourites, and I am dreading tomorrow. Oh wait!

Well, personally I don’t care about these colours or what they signify, but if I have to see then every year, can we please change them to a few shades in fashion, and specify CMYK for more uniformity and effectiveness?!

What if…?

From all kinds of questions that can be asked, ‘what if’ questions are the most interesting. It does not need a practical base, a backbone of reality as-we-know-it, and is generally free from the social, political, administration-al, religious, national, anti-national, survival, and all different kinds of norms or bans that have become an integral part of our lingo, thinking, or rather, being – all thanks to touch-me-not attitude that we have all developed. Cough. Cough. Intolerance. Cough.

One such interesting question is – What if Gandhiji were alive today? (Yes, nerd level – GandhiTopian).

My first instinct is that he would take a pillow, shield himself with a comforter, and pray that this is just a bad dream! I am sure Gandhiji’s worst nightmare is our reality – harsh or not – today!

And then of course, he would be thrilled to know that we have put him to such good use! I mean with his picture on our currency notes, which are daily used for wonderful acts of “kind”ness, and violating one of his most important principles – Honesty. Corruption and politics have grown to become the two sides of the same coin- more inseparable than ‘Saamna’ and controversies.

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This reminds me of something that Kumaraswamy had said during the Anna Hazare’s India against corruption movement –

“Today, politics and corruption are synonymous. If someone in politics says he is not corrupt, he must be lying. If Mahatma Gandhi was alive today, he would have had only two options: either stay in politics by becoming corrupt or to get out of politics and remain clean. It would take a greater movement than the country’s Independence movement to stamp out corruption…”

I was baffled when I read this. It had wiped out all the left-over faith that a girl in young 20’s had with the system or this country! (Not that I am any older today, but yeah, the faith – umm – completely wiped out).

It’s just ironical that India plans the surgical attacks in the birthday week of the one person who preached non-violence till his death-bed! I am not saying whether it’s wrong, or right, but it definitely is incongruous. I mean we certainly have come a long way from Swachch Bharat to Swachch Pakistan!

Having said that, I believe we wouldn’t have been so religiously intolerant in the first place, had he been alive today, and all through these years! Considering his intent to dissolve the congress (oh, how I love the sound of this!), or his opposition to bifurcate the states based on languages, may be the scenario today would have been a tad-bit different!

But alas, we can only think, and day-dream – because who dreams of a corruption-free India at night. Come on!

To sum it up, had Gandhiji been alive today, this is the meme that would do the rounds –

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. Can’t you all see? Oops!” – Mahatma Gandhi, 2016.