Monday, May 27, 2013

Celebrities - big fish in a big pond!

This appeared in The Financial World today

Picture Courtesy: The Financial World

Would you like to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond? A group of teenagers were asked in one of their life skills classes and the unanimous answer, rather a chorus, was ‘A big fish in a big pond’.
Add another 20 years and ask 40-somethings the same question. They would want to be a big fish in a small pond. Add another 20 years and you’ll have 60-somethings who couldn’t be bothered being a small fish in a big pond. You can bet your last penny on this. The definition of success shifts along with one’s receding hairline or a widening waist line.
I posed the same query to my daughter and sought her idea on what ‘a big fish in a big pond’ meant to her. After a long brain-racking session, she concluded, “Like being a celebrity.”
If youngsters consider being a celebrity as a symbol of success, then we really have some fodder to regurgitate. Two, are all celebrities successful?
You become a celebrity when you are famous and easily recognized in public. You are successful when you achieve your aim or purpose. Politicians, philanthropists, social workers, artists, sports personalities are all celebrities by the above definition. And their success can also be measured by their respective activities and performances. So can we call them successful celebrities? Perhaps.
But moving on to showbiz, the artists have their success defined by others. Unlike other public figures, their success depends on the number of eyeballs between the public and their figures. Crass, but the truth, nonetheless. So what’s the yardstick for their success.

Consider the just-wound up Cannes episode. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was analysed to shreds. The lady stunned the breath out of the so-called fashion police, yet they took her by her hair, neck and waist. Some even by that peep of her flab from beneath her underarms! But then, Ash is much more than just a celebrity. She is angelic, jaw-dropping, spittle dribbling bewitching. My journo friends tell me, “I dislike her…but man! she’s so divine looking. She oozes glamour, my my!” Can you term that ‘my’ her success?
Now, consider Vidya Balan. She’s not a celebrity as Ash despite her body of work speaking louder than Ms World’s. So isn’t she successful? There was another ‘little known’ celebrity Nandita Das at the Cannes who got a fleeting mention. Or did she even? Talent personified, but not big a fish as the other two, only because she falls far behind in the socially-accepted beauty quotient. She plays in her own league. Does that make her less successful?
So can we take the terms celebrity and success in the same breath? Perhaps not. But then, why not? Success is what YOU make of it!
And, please scrap the pond and fish. There are oceans and sharks.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

I am great! Thank You!

My acquaintances have been eager to access if I am a success ever since my book was published. How many copies sold? Did you make any money? Are you planning to write another? Is it worth the effort…
The other day as I sat ploughing through my column, one of my dear friends came online. “So how’s the book going?” When I gave the person a statuesque, instantly came the reply, “Shakespeare was not known in his lifetime,” along with a smiley.
A while later, a thought for the day was forwarded to me by another friend. ‘Shakespeare didn’t do MA. But today you study him for MA. Success is what you make of it.”
I’m moved by people’s interest in me, though two is too much of a coincidence.
So this picture comes out to all those who are conjuring up ideas about my mental and emotional well-being…
I am doing great! Thank You!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bollywood or cricket... we are like this only!

Hope, awe, shock and sighs! This is what two mastermind religions of Indians put us through in the last few days. Mastermind as in that which restricts the mind by ruling our heart!

Graphic Courtesy: The Financial World
Bollywood stars are using the French Riviera and our cricketers the IPL banner to connect with their devotees, while their ardent followers who can kill one another for a drop of a hoot or catch were left wanting for less. Literally!

Bowled over by new fixes, brows and eyes and even heels were raised at the TV screens when the three cricketers were walked into custody in black hoods. Couldn’t we have done with less of those shots? Again, with all and sundry voicing their opinion on any platform, [even kids in the park asked to react] it certainly is an overdose of information. But then we are Indians. We are like this only!

Within minutes after the news was out, people were calling for life bans and jail terms for the accused players. Once again questioning the BCCI, connecting the dots to the underworld and zeroing in on the players’ families. “So how do you feel at this moment?” asked reporters pressing mikes into their mouths as the cameras zoomed in on their faces. How does it help anyone to know how they feel?
At least let the first 24 hours tide over, if we cannot wait for the investigations to be complete. Let’s hear the accused. If found guilty, allow the law to take its course. But no! We are like this only! If we are sad, we howl; if we are happy, we scream and if we are hurt, we will not nurse our bruises in silence.

But silent we do fall like the Mexican wave that dies out to rise again. Match-fixing ritual has been an integral part of this sport since long. BCCI has been cozying at the helm all through. The underworld was also very much under the same world. Only that everything was brushed aside as the wave passed on and those involved preened themselves up and emotional followers wowed.
Consider this. A month back cameras were focused on Sanjay Dutt and his conviction. The actor’s every gesture including the twitch of his facial muscle that held his tear drop was recorded and re-played by the hour. Media and anyone who was reminded of the blast aftermath commented on his past, present and future. And then, when the time arrived - when he actually did walk into jail - we let him be. The cameras were busy chasing cricketers and other Bollywood stars at the Cannes.

And what are we interested in at the Cannes? Fashion! One of our men Anurag Kashyap will receive the Knight of The Order of Arts and Letters for his efforts in promoting Indian cinema globally, but he is buried amid the fashionistas.

Image courtesy: Emirates24|7
Apparently carried away by the spirit of the centennial of Indian cinema, our stars that went abroad crossed boundaries, literally. Vidya Balan’s anarkali with a veil, or the saree with multi-coloured accessories; Sonam Kapoor’s humongous diamond nose ring or the voluminous floral gown; Big B’s shimmering suit and that bath-robe of an outfit…isn’t that stretching the fashion sense a 100 yards too long to make statements at a global event?
No. Not one bit, because we Indians love bling. When we celebrate we go all out. We are like this only!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Of dates and bonds

This appeared in The Financial World

March 3, 8, 21, 25; May 12, 15, 26, 27, 30; August 12; October 14; December 8, 16, 22… Do these dates ring a bell?

Here comes more clues - the fourth Sunday of Lent; last Sunday of November; second Sunday of June; last Sunday of June; last Sunday in May; third Sunday in October; second Monday in October...
I was reminded of a school diary comprising a list of holidays, activity days and exam schedules that I’m asked to diligently sign at the beginning of the academic year.
Well, if you haven’t got it yet, then look hard. May 12 is on the list. I wouldn’t blame you, if you haven’t heard the tinkle in your head yet. Days and dates remain mere digits when they are dictated by consumerism than warmth of bonds.
On the second Sunday in the month of May, Indians along with several other nationalities chose to honour mothers.
So how did one do that? The countdown to the day saw websites galore with deals and steals to celebrate the occasion. Social media was inundated with posters and words that could have easily replaced the use of glycerine to trigger one’s tear glands.
Newspapers and magazines had their articles peppered with tips for a happy motherhood. Yes, philosophy also sells on special occasions.
I even caught a survey that urged women to follow their hearts. Apparently, 77 per cent of Indian mothers in cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow and Hyderabad, stopped pursuing their dreams after their first child was born, according to a P&G Thank You survey.
The same study revealed 90 per cent of children motivated their mothers to pursue their dreams, and 95 per cent of them said they would like their mothers to take better care of themselves.
I’m curious to know how many among this whopping percentage of youngsters actually conveyed their wish to their moms this Sunday.
I did a quick phone survey of moms in town – both those who nurture a career and those who never felt the need to do so – to check how ‘honoured’ they felt. I discovered majority of the pre-teens gave a hand-made card to their mothers; most of the teenagers bought a card; a dismal percentage of adults rang up their moms specifically for this reason and even more miserable few gave gifts.
Then I asked my contemporaries if they ‘honoured’ their mothers, in turn. Hardly, a few! One of them quipped, “My mother’s generation does not believe in such things.”
“I called her up,” said another. “My calls make her day”.
Guys and girls, men and women, young and old! This is all that matters. No cards, gifts, dinners or exotic locales can replace those three magical words – I love You!
No time span can erase that bond. No modern-day consumerism can replace that warmth. What use are specific days and dates if the heart doesn’t stir at your voice!
Motherhood needs to be honoured and celebrated every waking moment. If you are near, give your mother a hug; if you are afar ring her up; and if she is not here, pray for her soul and say aloud. Now. ‘I love you, mom!’

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Hello! Are you Miss, Ms or Mrs?

Interestingly, it is one of my male friends whom I have to thank for this column. A cartoon he shared on this page was titled - 'Oh she's not working. She's a housewife'.

We have mortals who believe women who do not earn a living do no work. Changing their rusted mindset would be a herculean task. So how about a change in addressing women instead?

If a married woman who stays at home is called a housewife, then one who goes out to work should have the name of the organisation prefixed to her name. Fair enough?

A married woman employee should be called AppleTech wife, Vidya Bhavan wife, Munu’s Auto Garage wife, Hotel Chin Chu wife…

It has more than one advantage. If you do not like your spouse’s name or are tired of your family name, voila! you get a new name. You can change it each time you switch your job. What more, you would come up on internet search engines more often. Easier way to virtual fame, too.

Now, if you aren’t comfortable with numerous others sharing your nomenclature, then you may zero it down to the unit of work in the organisation and vet it down further for more specific names. For instance, if a married woman employee of, say, AppleTech finds it too general, she can opt for Software Development wife and if she finds that widely used as well, then settle for Boss wife! Mr Stephan wife! Dr Shinde wife… or Ms Savitha wife, Ms Meera wife…

How ludicrous! Hello, I am married to Sachin and am Mr Stephan wife! Or Hello, I’m married to John and am Ms Rachael wife!” I'd love this one the best..."Hello, She is my wife and Mr D'Souza wife."

Ewww! Let me stop lest your imagination runs wild.

Least of all, revising a woman's title will certainly cause cultural shocks, as we are used to boys being called Master and when they grow up addressed as Mr, while a female starts off being a Miss then a Mrs followed by being a Ms.

If a man can be called Mr irrespective of his marital status, why should a woman be Mrs?

Now, think of this, a woman in a relationship with a married man is called his 'mistress', while that male will still be a Mr. The suggestion I got when I bounced the thought off was to call such men her 'mattress'.

Blame it on women for the addresses. Why feel insecure about your marital status after you've taken the plunge? If its age-related perks that you fear, sorry women folks, our hands and eyes do give us away, however, we wish to think otherwise. Botox and tucks and lifts cannot hold them in place for long. Give that money to charity and hold your self-esteem high instead.

May I suggest, in the best interest of all souls born females, that you be a Miss as long as you are a girl and revise that to Ms when you are sure you are grown up to be called a woman. So even if you feel 16 at 60, no worries, you are still a 'Miss' with a zzz. And those who do not know your marital status and age, would anyway address you Ms.

Now for those who love being Mrs, by all means call yourself thus. But don't be offended if your neighbourhood aunty asks, ' Where's your Misterrr'.

I mean no offence to any aunty. Oops! aunts. Who? Women, man!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

When will Indian women learn to respect their husbands?

This appeared in Financial World on May 6, 2013.

Graphic Courtesy: Financial World

One of my friends - a gym-going, club-hopping woman in her mid-thirties - has the audacity to change the houseboy's name. Reason: Her husband is his namesake. "Every time I call him I would be taking the name of my husband. How can I do that?" reasoned the pativrata.
That guy should have thrust the broom into madam's face and asked her to get her 'woh' to clean up. But that's the sorry state of the less fortunates - both househelps and househeads alike.
What a pity most Indian men get shooed and cooed by the wives in the name of being respected! It's worst in public places, for respect is at most times only demonstrated.
Consider this - A wife calling her husband aji, oji, loji, sunoji...and if her man refuses to answer, she will continue to wax lyrical and add all the remaining matras in Hindi language to the 'ji', but for his name.
When push comes to shove, they will take his genetic title...Raju ke papa; Munu ke papa and Guddi ke papa in the name of bestowing respect.
But the dominating Bengali mamas will leave children aside and check on their mens hearing abilities instead. Most Bengali married men are respectfully addressed 'ei je shuncho...' (meaning aiji sunte ho [are you listening]) before being spoken to.
Similarly, Assamese women first test their mens sense organ. The common pronoun they use is Hoonisha (again the word means are you listening).
These women should be given tympanometres as dowry.
The South Indian ammas are equally funny...Malayalis, for instance, are the dramatic lot. They call their older brothers and hubbies the same - 'chetta'. Now the cats on the wall will pronounce it a bit different to say they aren't the aunty-types. Try this chetta: Tch - i -tteh. First lift your tongue to the palate, whirl your lips and thrust it out so that the 'Tch' is forced out as 'tsh' out of your mouth. Isn't it a lot easier to pronounce the man's name than this exercise? Then there's the achaya and ichaya lot. I guess brothers are the former. A or i, I can only hear chayas!
Andhraiite women are a more somber lot, at least initially. They begin their sentences - be it conversations or requests - with 'Ente' (the word actually means 'what'). Something similar to the virtual lingo of today - 'what say'. And the 'e' in the ente will be pulled harder, the longer the husbands take to acknowledge them. Entee, enteee - Why the hell can't you answer sort of eeeeeehh! No, it's not frustration, that's their way of respecting their devtas!
Gods on earth, saviour, purushottams, et al, are the various statuses bestowed on husbands by respect-howling females, who insult men folk in the name of following tradition.
I know of one such husband worshipper who crosses all limits of sanity. Another invariable fact is all such pativratas feel they are the epitome of beauty and graciousness - Ma Sita's modern avtars. As if those who pronounce the names in full come running from the wild!
This aunty-of-a-woman who claims Aishwarya Rai is lucky to have been born 20 years later than her, begins the day by touching her snoring husband's feet at 7am. Then she heads to the washroom to check the colour of her bindi. During her 'days off' she sports a huge roundish black colour between her brows and not the everyday reddish-brown stickers. This is followed by MS Subhalaxmi's 'Kausalya Suprabatham' after which she proceeds to fix a cup of coffee before waking him up. All that's left of the ritual is for her to garland him and burn an incense stick between his ears!
Even as I storm for a suitable word to define such mockeries in the name of respect, am reminded of the 'silent generation'. Have heard stories of several old grandmas of traditional Kerala homes who never appeared before the male members, not even their husbands. Can't fathom how they produced so many offsprings though! And considering that the norm then was hum-do-humare-dus, am curious about the modus operandi. At least it would help clear the numerous rape cases languishing in Indian courts today.
Well, until some sportive grandpas come forward that will remain a mystery, but at present I'm puzzled why today's men are tolerating such disrespect. All the wohs and jis and sunos must sit on a hunger strike to rewrite tradition that lets married women use all permutations of syllables to rename them at their whim.