Facebook thinks “How to grab a booty! Tutorial” doesn’t violate their Community Standards

This video showed up on my Facebook wall yesterday, titled “Men will be Men”. Like I always do, I retaliated by telling the person how irresponsible it is to share and promote such videos that advocate groping and touching without consent. You may argue that it’s a joke, but nevertheless, it’s an extremely tone deaf joke when safety of women on the streets is a very vivid and real struggle for many of us today.

I was so perturbed by the fact that this person had shared this video; I wanted to know that people who had commented on the actual video post itself, were aggravated, at the very least, by such atrocity. Instead, what I found broke my heart and chipped some major chunks off the image of the new-age man I had created in my head.

Obviously, this brought out the “she’s asking for it” argument. This person uses legal terms to describe his emotions:

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This other (obviously witty, duh) guy, takes a shot at playing with the title of this video, and comments on how all women just need an excuse to have their “booties” be grabbed by strange men:

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It enrages me that all the media around this issue, all the rapes, molestations, all the outcries against these crimes, haven’t driven home the fact that how a person dresses is invitation to NOTHING. It’s not just these two men that feel this way, a majority of them think the woman was asking for it – and honestly, that’s how the director of the video has made the woman out to be – her reactions suggest nothing but fake annoyance, and inward happiness at the attention she’s getting. I don’t know what kind of women exist in his fantasy land, but if that were any other woman in real life, she would’ve cut his balls off. I also don’t know about submissive, infinitely tolerant women being sexually stimulating for some people, but I sure don’t think it should be appearing on the news stream of a major social networking platform. It’s no short of porn or something equally unacceptable in a public forum.

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How do men like this survive in a society? What kind of people must he know? What is the assurance that he wouldn’t attack a woman on the streets, assuming that her wearing a short dress is an invitation for him to pull his penis out? Obviously this video is doing nothing to discourage behavior like that! Clothing or the lack of it is not an excuse to touch, makeup is not an excuse to touch, high heels is not an excuse to touch, exposed skin is not an excuse to touch, NOTHING is an excuse to touch. Such men will find an excuse to abuse either ways. If it’s not clothes, it’ll be words, culture, or simply his libido, the most reasonable of them all, of course.

And yet, there are other men, that simply feel enlightened by this video, like it’s a revelation:

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The video should be titled “How to create sexual predators”, seriously.

And then, there are those that think it’s an absolute riot to watch a man acting blind to grab a random woman’s ass.

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To their defense, there were many people that talked down the video and its content. They reprimanded the owner of the video for advocating sexual predation and abuse of women. But the only one with any power here is the social media platform it was shared on. Facebook has the power to do something about it. So I reported the video.

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I chose the options “Harassment” towards “a gender or orientation” when Facebook prompted me. I also thought the options were well thought out and it was exactly what I wanted to report.

Then came the dismay. In about an hour, I get an email from them saying:

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They conveniently forgot to mention “Harassment”.

Wow, so basically, promoting sexual violence, non-consensual touching, and trivializing the very important struggle of safety of women on the streets did NOT violate the Community Standards of the largest social network in the world. So I opened up their “Standards” and read through them:

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Obviously they think encouraging men to act disabled to grope random women is not a threat to public safety, and obviously they think it’s extremely respectful behavior. So yeah, I can see why it doesn’t violate “THEIR” community standards. But it does violate mine, and the community I have built for myself. It violates my gender, my identity and my belief. It violates my husband and the his daily fight to prove that all men are not shitheads. It violates my co-workers who battle everyday with stereotypes and help make the workplace a better environment. It violates my neighbors and my friends who believe our boys are brought up in a safe environment with the right values passed on to them.

So there Facebook, quite a bit of re-vamping you need to do to your “Community Standards” to make them compliant with the modern world and its struggles.

All the messages I quoted are public. Open up the link in incognito and you’ll still be able to see all the posts that are quoted here. So don’t tell me to black out their names or faces, because quite honestly, they evidently want to be known for their opinions. 

Date whoever you want!

There’s been an article doing the rounds, a humongous backhanded compliment to the girl with the wanderlust, and the likes of it following up.

I have to be honest and say, it felt great when I read it. It was actually sent to me by some other women, since they all drew similarities between me and the girl in the article. I did relate to it on every level. By the time I got to the end, I was feeling buoyant, almost as if the author secretly knew me and that made me feel really special. Then, wanting to share this article as a post, I went on facebook (technically, this sentence should stop here) and I realized that the article was having a similar effect on hundreds of other women!

And why not?! Times have changed, and so has the ideal woman. The delicate, beautiful, unblemished, housekeeper Cinderella of yesteryears is the boisterous, loud, unkempt, rebel, Merida, of today. While Cinderella’s destiny was to lose her glass shoe only to find royal greatness, Merida challenges her suitors in archery only to prove to her mother that she is much more than the fabled “princess”.

Barbies were great toys for girls born in the 80s and 90s. Today, toys are being designed to promote engineering among girl children.

What was considered chivalry once, is now seen as an insult to a woman’s ability to take care of herself.

The skinny of yesterday is the strong of today.

Idealisms change every generation – and they make no difference whether or not they are about beauty or brains – they are still gross generalizations.

The ideal woman has always been the fad. Everyone wants to be the girl that the world thinks is perfect. A decade back, a girl who goes to work and earns for her living was being written about. Today, a girl who thinks a “boring, day job” is a waste of time, is the real deal. A few years back, songs were being written about women weighing a 120 lbs. Today, movies are being made on women who run marathons.

Here’s my take on all of this and the point to this post, you and I don’t have to be the girl who can be fit inside an idealistic article. We are all survivors in our own way. It may not be “cool” today, according the world, to not have the time to travel. But if a day job is what is going to help you stand on your two feet and feed your family, keep at it girl! We may not always be in a position to pay for our meals, but a sensible girl will not base her independence on money. She knows it’s ok to take help from her loved ones, men inclusive, without feeling a loss of dignity, because she’ll do the same for them, when they’re in need. And we may not always come from a society that is open to individualistic appearances. Or maybe, we simply just want to look good. So what? Take the time to do so. It doesn’t make you any more “shallow” than the girl who is unkempt for idealism’s sake.

As much as it is wonderful to be the girl in the article, it is equally important to be an honest one. One that understands her place, her responsibilities and her duties. I know for a fact that I would respect someone way more for being true to themselves, than try to comply to what the world thinks a woman should be.

However exhilarating the article was to women who had the luxury of choice in life, it must have been equally disheartening to women who have not had the choice of taking that path. Just like how articles about women being beautiful because they were skinny must have been terribly discouraging to women who did not have that time to spend on their bodies.

The world will throw many, many idealisms our way. It will change the way it thinks whenever it pleases. And it will tempt us to change who we are to comply to these ideals. And then when you strive hard and do change, it will dump you for newer and different ideals. But the most desirable woman, according to me, is one who is true to herself and who she is. A woman confident enough to ask for help when she needs it. A woman who’s identity is not threatened by such generalizations. She’s the woman you want to date. And you never need to let her go, because she’ll never let you feel like you can’t keep up. You’ll know that you are the center of her world.

That’s the one you want to be with.

It’s a baby girl!

And we still haven’t gotten justice for Jyoti Singh. What a damned bloody country we live in.

The Espresso Addict

She was 27, and at home.

She stood in front of the mirror, naked. She looked at her breasts. This was the biggest they had ever been. But she knew that they were going to get bigger. She stared at herself for a long while before she ran her right hand across the entire area of her belly, from just above her abdomen, all the way down to its lower end. It looked bloated and the bump had begun to show through her clothes now. She was five months pregnant, and had just received her scans from her gynecologist. She had dreaded this moment would come right from when she turned into a teenager. And 15 years later, she still wasn’t prepared for it.

“You are going to have a healthy and beautiful baby girl. You just have to keep eating healthy, and get good sleep and sufficient exercise, just like…

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Abled Differently (?)

My recent knee injury has got me thinking a lot about losing a limb. The injury is no biggie, just a muscle tear and some liquid retention. Plenty of rest and it’ll be fine (it’s way better already). One of my biggest fears, alongside circus jokers and happy-face masks, is the fear of losing a limb. In my world, capital punishment would be to cut off a leg or an arm. So for the last 2-3 weeks, I haven’t been able to walk fast or run or work out or play. I couldn’t even sit cross legged. I felt handicapped – which brings me to the topic of my post today. The much debated, revised, re-revised, “(politically) correct term” for a person with physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional or developmental disabilities / handicaps.

Before I start, I would like to state that there is absolutely no necessity for a “term”. Given my way, I would say “people” sums it up, since everyone’s messed up one way or the other. But since our oh-so-inclusive-society is hell-bent on labeling the obvious (and right there they send Inclusive marching out the door), let’s go over the options.

Disabled / Handicapped / Impaired : That’s saying it as it is. And let me be clear here about what I mean about a handicap. I’m fat and agility – impaired. I cannot jump as high as a normal human being nor can I run as fast. That is as much of a handicap as is the lack of sight. You can argue about which takes priority / precedence, in order of importance, over the other, but my case rests.  Now, as much as we are referring to a condition here, it is also very much a state of mind. Going by the connotations in which they are used these days, the words “disabled”, “handicapped” and “impaired” ring with negativity in every one of their damned syllables.  As a believer of “seeing the glass half full”, I’d say it’s hardly fair to impose on a person such words of utter depression while addressing him / her when he / she is already experiencing a “lack” of something in being or mind. This option has always been ruled out in my mind, purely because I’m not a fan of nasty, depressing words. Also, people call me fat and not handicapped, but that’s a story for another time.

Differently abled: I will not deny, I was a huge fan of this term. Used to go around correcting all my friends when they used the “H” word. Differently abled – what a nice sounding, rosy, positive, rainbow-colored word for something so troubling and sad. I’ll tell you what – we’re selfish hypocrites, the bunch of us. We see a one legged man on a wheelchair and think to ourselves “how sad! he must be miserable. poor man”. A part of us feels bad that we have a beautiful, functioning pair of legs and then there’s this other part that feels glad that we’re not him. That’s fine, only human to feel such things. But then, we do something that is downright stupid. We call him “differently abled”. Why? Not to make him feel “included”, as they say. But to make ourselves feel better, the martyrs that we are. We make an absolute mockery of the man’s life by glorifying him as someone with abilities different than us, “normal” ones. And thereby, ladies and gentlemen, we deny him the very right of inclusion.

Let me ask ourselves a question. Has anyone, till date pointed out what their “different” abilities are? There are some people with extraordinary capabilities – they’re said to be genius, talented, intelligent, brainiacs, “artsy-fartsy” even! (though personally I find that term ridiculous). In my opinion, these are the ones differently abled. But why would we give them such an ambiguous term when we know exactly what their capabilities are? That would be stupid. I’m pretty sure my point has gotten across because I don’t feel like explaining the obvious. It disgusts me, the level to which we can go to make ourselves feel better about the misery, albeit perceived, around us.

I loathe this term because it is the epitome of false hope, “political” brain wash, and absolute hypocrisy. It was coined to glorify something that we do not want to deal with – and hence it was dealt with. I’m not saying people with disabilities cannot do great things. All I’m saying is, call them genuis / talented / intelligent / artsy – fartsy when they DO achieve. Don’t demean them by calling them “differently abled”. Trust me, you’re not handing out lollipops here. There is nothing more repulsive than exaggerated optimism. As much as I believe that the “glass is half full”, I do not believe in “the glass is half full of deep, rich hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows that melt in your mouth”. If this is an inclusive society, our minds should be open to the probability that EVERY person is ABLE.

Challenged: If I’m a blind person and you’re going to tell me that I’m differently abled, I’m not going to believe you. In a world full of people who can see and hence differentiate between the beautiful and ugly, I’m not a differently abled person. I’m disabled. If you question my point of view (pun intended) and say my heightened sense of hearing and my keen sense of intuition is a gift to make up for my lack of vision, I’d say that’s a load of balderdash, because you and I both know that you don’t buy it yourself. Maybe in some alternate universe, I may be gifted, but we live in a world where sight is a primary sense. I’m not differently abled. What I am, is challenged.

I’m challenged to live my life knowing that I will always have to deal with the “evident lack” of something. I’m also challenged to live in a world where I’m not considered “normal” and have to accept the fact that I may be subject to a whole range of emotions starting from repulsion, sadness and sympathy to glorification and exaggerated empathy. I’m challenged to be accepted and make something of my life despite my shortcomings. It’s whether or not I accept the challenge that decides if I’m disabled or not.

The world is always up for labeling. We need a name for everything, we need to define everything. We fail to function in a space of “just is”. People, we all have our disabilities and we are all challenged in some way. Some people don’t have an arm, some people are wired differently in their heads, other people can’t sing while some more people, like me, have issues with body fat. We see the lack of talent, issues like obesity and short sightedness, and others of the kind, as “trivial” and figure out ways to deal with them. Our conception of certain “essential” senses and abilities leads us to believe that people in lack of them are to be pitied / glorified – because in essence, we do not know how to deal with it.

Then again, my opinion must not be misconstrued for being insensitive. We can be sensitive, by all means, we HAVE to be sensitive. I have a friend who can’t sing to save her life, but loves singing. I would gladly help create situations conducive for her to sing – be it punching someone who makes fun of her or just merely putting up with her tone deaf humming. I also have a friend with no arms and I would just as gladly make sure living conditions are such that he can operate with his legs (which he can do very well). Just like why we need ramps in multi-storey buildings and footpaths and hell dance floors in pubs for us poor two-left-feeters! But that’s not called being “inclusive” because they (us) need not be included. That’s just called being a damn fellow human being.

I’ll sum it up in one line – I would love to live to see the day we start accepting that a deaf athlete and an obese cello player are at par in their abilities and challenges.

Stop labeling. Start Accepting.

Itching the Itch

There are a few things I really, absolutely must rant about and what better way other than to blog about it?

1. I don’t understand how my dad would be proud of me because I failed my 12th grade BUT I’m earning a few tens of thousands as an air hostess. No offense to the lovely ladies who take care of us when we are suspended at 30,000 feet, but come on! That’s how you advertise your “Institute of Air Hostess Training”? How did you fail to see that by focusing on a child who has failed her/his 12th grade exams, you are degrading the profession by itself. No, I’m not a believer of exams or marks or any verdict of pass or fail, but the world is. Today’s world is driven by competitive, young people and there is a system in place to evaluate them (us), albeit how much it sucks. And by saying that, for every student who does not graduate high school, there is hope in the profession of an air hostess, you are driving away every other high school graduate who’s passion it is to be one. It has become a profession for “12th fail” (as children who are not cut out for the current education system are more popularly known in our country). Not to mention the epic failure dad portrait that you have created. NO dad would be proud that you made a few bucks. EVERY dad would be proud that you picked yourself up and made something out of your life even though The System failed you. And that’s what you need to be focusing on, big shot. Talk about responsible ad film making.

2. Kareena Kapoor, in Ra One, pulls off her sari (or the excuse of one) and in her (really) short blouse and (really) low skirt, gyrates to “Chammak Challo” in front of her neighbours, friends, her husband (who is a living, talking software code that stepped off a gaming console) and… wait for it… her 10-year old SON!! How appropriate is that?! Yes, they do justify it later by saying that it was actually the villainous bad guy (who is also a piece of software code – but this guy’s made up of cubes of glowing orangish red code) who took Kareena’s form and danced at the party. But oh! Her son’s enjoying the scene with his silly hair flopping around? W T H.

3. My Videocon refrigerator conked last week. It’s just a year old and the compressor died; expected in a place where voltage fluctuations are so high. So I dialed the service center number that I was provided with. What ensued:-

CC guy: “Aaa” (he was having a bad day, I presumed)

Me: “Is this the Videocon service center?”

CC guy: “Tell Madam”

Me: “I bought a Videocon single door fridge on Novembe…”

Prick: “This washing machine madam” Beep… Beep… Beep…

It took me another 5 calls before I could find the Refrigerator service center’s number.

Makes you wonder eh? How this country functions? But hey, on the brighter side, TNEB’s site is way better than it used to be. They have a flashy blue theme and even though it’s extremely slow, it’s way more organized. You can book you gas cylinders by SMS now and it actually works! Airtel finally listened to my hundreds of pleas and stopped sending me hard copies of my bills.So yeah, it’s not all bad. But sometimes, you just need to kick something, hit someone, or blog.

Shah Rukh Khan : As your ardent fan, I beg you, for heaven’s sake do not endorse men’s fairness creams. Did you not get the memo “Tall, DARK and handsome”? We like them brown!

To the Unborn Child

Dear child,

Little angel, you adorable bundle of joy,

If you can hear me, pay heed to my word,

Don’t matter if you’re girl or boy.

You will be brought into this world, protected,

By all those who love and adore you.

Eventually you will have to comprehend for yourself,

That there are rules you have to conform to.

Some of these rules don’t make sense, my love,

For this is a big, bad world.

But you have to be strong, dear one,

As the truth around you unfurls.

It is confusing, troubling and disturbing,

The wickedness of people’s ways.

You will be helpless, angry and tearful,

Many nights and days.

Dear child you may say,

‘Young and fresh, if I’m being born,

Why cannot I bring with me some good,

That will undo what’s been and gone.’

Little one, it is very well,

That so young, this you ask,

But from your very first breath in this world,

Goodness you have to mask.

There is evil of every kind out there,

Thievery, murder and rape.

Every kind of evil you need to bear,

Drowning in helplessness, till your nape.

Fear will be your constant companion,

Riding with you wherever you go.

Letting go of fear is an option,

But you will be without friend or foe.

But, love, somewhere buried under all this evil,

Is our hope that you will be different.

That you will be able to find happiness,

Strong and brave, no sign of diffidence.

A strapping young man,

or a confident young woman.

Who will treat your fears as friends,

And accept the world, it’s rhyme and reason.

Now I ask you, Child,

Are we selfish, for wanting you to have your chance?

In this world, wicked and blemished,

Everyone’s and no man’s.

For I believe, my precious one,

That I bore the evil, wicked and vile,

Just so I could see that day,

The day you look at me and smile.

I will strive to keep you safe, sound and secure,

But I cannot promise you any more.

For you will fly someday on your own,

You will reach for the skies and soar.

Am I selfish, dear one,

To believe you will survive,

In this big, bad, evil, wicked world,

And live your own life?

Inspired by a conversation with Divya Mahalingam on the  drive back home and a sleepless night.

Rickshaw-musings

Edit: This post was previously titled “10 ways to tell if you are in love” – An experimental title which proved to be successful judging by the 93 hits within 2 hours of posting.

I was sitting in the auto-rickshaw today, staring at the all the worldly things around me, and I suddenly realised I knew how Prince Siddhartha must have felt when he decided to renounce this world in search of enlightenment. Smart move there. I’m almost scared to write about the things I saw and how we should be changing our ways, because that will only elicit most of you closing the tab on me. And since that’s not desired reaction, I’ll try a different route. Stay with me on this one.

Aunty in red saree with black dots and Aunty in white saree with pink flowers were walking in the beach the day before yesterday. Aunty in red saree was talking about how her co-sister’s house was a pile of dump and Aunty in white saree was empathising.  Aunty R rummaged through her bag for her one last orange flavoured mentos, found it, ripped open the cover and popped it into her mouth. Her narration was starting to make her co-sister look like a human with ugly green fumes emanating.

<FLING>

My eyes perceive it in slow mo, one neat flick of the hand, one lopsided smile at aunty W, and the mentos wrapper was on with the beach sand, much to the disappointment of the hungry dog nearby who came sniffing for food. The action was so smooth and practiced to perfection, untrained eyes would’ve missed it. The adventures of the smelly co-sister continued.

At the theatre next to the beach, a group of college kids were watching a film called Vasool Raja MBBS an adapted versions of Patch Adams, some people would know it better as Munnabhai MBBS (just so everyone knows what I’m talking about). The scene where the hero hugs the janitor who cleans the hospital floors and thanks him has just gotten over. People are applauding and whistling, everyone has a warm fuzzy feeling in their heart and everyone loves the hero.  The film continues and at the very crucial moment, the much hyped scene-before-interval finds everyone looking happy and with bursting bladders. So our group of college students get up to go to the restroom and one among them is telling his friends how much the aforesaid scene affected him, how much he loved the hero for doing what he did…

…and walks right over the just-mopped floor of the theatre restroom, leaving the janitor staring daggers at his back.

Just outside the movie theatre, a woman in her early twenties was talking on the phone to her friend about how she should put her foot down and not let “that guy” walk all over her. About how she has the same dignity and pride as “that guy” and how she should stand up for herself. At that moment, a man with low waist jeans, a tight t-shirt, gelled hair, some cheap looking chains around his neck, and an ear stud walks up behind her. Ah, I can see recognition on all your faces girlfriends 🙂 The whole rigmarole of the overrated “eve-teasing” starts. I say overrated because it’s not that big a deal. They’re boys, they will be boys. All you need to do is knee them in the balls and they’ll be fine… for a while.  But our girl shuts up, she puts up with it, everyone around her puts up with it, and later, she goes home and cries about it to the same friend she was talking to a while ago, about standing up to “that guy”.

If SocialInterview asked these people the following questions…

To Aunty R: Why did you throw the mentos wrapper on the beach?

Aunty R: What do you want me to do? Waste time trying to find a dustbin? Besides, who cares about the beach, it’s dirty anyway. So what’re you going to do about it huh? Huh? HUH? <gets aggressive and red in the face>

To excited boy in the movie theatre: Why did you walk over the just-mopped floor?

(I’m assuming everyone knows that walking on wet floor before it dries, gets it really dirty… besides the fact that it’s dangerous)

Excited Boy: Oh, I didn’t notice. Besides, if I wait around for it to dry, I would’ve missed the movie! What do you care anyway?

To the girl at the bus stop: Why didn’t you react to that guy?

Girl: Oh, I’m just a girl. It’s better that I put up with whatever he does, rather than try and pick a fight. No one would’ve helped me anyway, if things had gotten ugly. I was just thinking ahead. Please stop asking me such questions, I don’t want such things to be made public.

Typical answers. All this time, I used to think maybe exposure is the problem, maybe education is the key. But hey, you and I are educated. If we were in those situations, we’d be giving the exact same answers.

The problem with us is that we’re indifferent, selfish, lazy, pretentious,  pre-occupied, skeptical and plain scared. In other words, humans of the 21st century. It’s almost funny 🙂 That’s our definition. If the fat pilot in the Axiom spaceship (Wall-E) asked the computer “What are humans?”, these are the words that would describe us. When people say, “but we’re just being humans”, it only strikes me as sad, because it’s true on one level, but very convenient on the other. If something is wrong, blame it on the genus.

I don’t want to talk about what we should do or what we could do. I’m just here to pose to you a proposition. We watch movies, we read books and blogs, we follow the news, we are constantly exposed to revolutionary ideas and we are all the time taking resolutions to take back something from them to apply it in our daily lives. If any of you are keeping up even one of those resolutions on a daily basis, write to me. I would love to hear about it and I would applaud your courage and determination.

Many will not have gotten so far just because this post is “too long”, but for those of you have, I hope you hear from you sometime. Soon, preferably.

The ironical part is that I wanted to experiment with the fake title of this post just to see how many hits it would get. It’s almost bribery! JaagoRe.com is going to be on my case 😛

And, for those of you who’re still waiting for me to tell you about the 10 signs of love, check for pimples on your nose.

Of, By and For (our people)

So everytime I get to the Washington DC airport to board a flight back to India, I’m really happy – I’m going back home, to my mother land, Vande Mataram (the Rahman version) is the background score in my head, you get it – intense proud-to-be-Indian stuff.

Then, I see them. Not native American Indians, don’t get me wrong, but some of my own kind, Indians from India.

And that’s a problem.

Need I say more? Don’t shake your head like that.Yup, I know what’s running in your head, “She spends five months in America and now she has the nerve to insult her own people. Outrageous! What has she seen of the world?!” And you’re not only muttering to yourself that you know-already-know how arrogant “these youngsters” are nowadays, but you’re also coming up with excuses to defend our people. “We’re much more in number! We’ve so little space! We’re such a poor country! We’re just 60 years old! We have corrupted politicians! You can’t expect us to be bothered about decorum and sensitivity!” and following all of that is the infamous “And yet, India has come a long way”. It’s like I can read your mind, eh?

Honestly, I’m on your side. India HAS come a long way in a short while, that’s a given. But next time someone slams the door on your face instead of holding it open for you, even though you’re right behind them, convince yourself that it happened because we have corrupt politicians. Oh I have a better one. Next time you go through a whole day without receiving so much as a greeting, a word of gratitude, or even a smile, convince yourself that it’s because we’re just 60 years old and we need more generations on earth to strengthen our skills at being human.

What’re we doing, people? Being a poor country did not stop us from picking up on the “dating culture”. Having so little space did not stop us from looping in McDonalds, Pizza Huts and Victoria’s Secret into our communities. It definitely looks like we got all the memos on the latest fashion. And all of that’s cool, heck I love Victoria’s Secret. But all I’m saying is, why do we ignore the things that really could make a difference in the way we live?

My intention is not to preach or advice. I know, many times, I don’t fulfill my own intentions of being sensitive, when I’m in India. One of the reasons for that, very sadly, is the fact that we Indians are used to second hand treatment. We don’t expect “thank you”s or “goodbye”s or “how’re you doing”s and neither do we expect other people to expect it out of us. We’re ok with being treated like we don’t exist or worse, like scum. And we tolerate it extremely well. It’s when someone is nice to us that we think something’s fishy. “Hmmm, I wonder why that guy just smiled at me. I wonder what he wants”.

I met a very interesting person this time when I went to Virginia. His name is Robert Swap and we got into a conversation about how people don’t respond to crimes and victims of crimes; how they’re forgotten by everyone else except the family of the ones affected. He said to me “Every single day I walk past someone and I don’t acknowledge them, I’m contributing to the community that doesn’t care”. I thought it was a revelation. It’s something I had never thought about.

I’m posing a question to all of you and to myself. Why don’t we try? You know, I myself think about how it is humanly possible to say hello and smile at all the people we walk across on the street everyday. Well then don’t. But say hello to the sales girl when you walk in to a store. Ask her how her day is going. Smile at the waiter when he takes your order and tell him that he did a good job. Hold the door open for an old couple when they’re a few feet behind you, leaving a restaurant. Smile at the customer when you’re delivering flowers for his/her birthday. Oh it’s not always easy. When I saw the tired, cranky, immigration officer at the airport, I almost didn’t want to wish him good morning. But guess what, when I did, he actually smiled. Though at first he looked at me as if to say “Are you on crack child?”. But he did smile.

We need to wear some new attitude around here. Shake things up a bit. I’m going to start today. I’m going to start acknowledging people around me, being sensitive to them, even if they think I’m nuts beyond the line of no return. There will be some people who *ISS me off (like the sales girl at the grocery store who lets people break the line if they have one item to bill), but heck, I’ll try and be nice to them too. P.S: DON’T BREAK LINES, LINE-BREAKERS!

It’s really simple actually. We’re actually pretty cool people – poor, young, corrupted politicians and all. We just need a little bit of heart. I’m still proud to be Indian.

Most of the time. 🙂

A warm eulogy for the beloved Road Romeo

Hello Road Romeo,

Quite a fancy title you have there. This will probably be the closest I will get to a “civilized” interaction with you, so here goes. Jumping straight to the point,  do you know how many women are out there in the world who would love to wring your neck, multiple times, just to see you struggle for one single gasp of breath? Every single day, we step out of our doors, wrestling with the universe for a whiff of fresh air, devoid of your existence.

Who gives you the right to look at a woman, visually stripping her in your mind with your repulsive looks? Who gives you the right to put your filthy, vile hands on her? Your gender, you say, you’re a man, you say. Now hear me correctly. You are filth. Your morally repugnant behavior, why,  your sheer existence, puts every other respectable man to shame.

Do you know what you do to the psyche of a woman just by being what you are? Do you realize that you build in her a loathing so deep, enough to annihilate any ability of trust? No you don’t. You don’t see the worried mothers, sisters and girlfriends, all the time praying that their beloved girls should not encounter one of your kind. That even if they do, they should have the strength to ignore you, to bear the damage that you unleash. Sometimes it makes me wonder, do you have no mother and sisters, fool? Did your mother not teach you to respect her and the women around you? Did she not say that a true man always protects and upholds the dignity of a woman?

One would think that you would learn, that you would realize that your cat calling, visual raping and random groping is the lowest level you can sink for the sake of cheap pleasure. One would think that someday, it would dawn on you, the price that so many women paid, because you took it upon yourself to be such a low-life. But then again, one would think wrong. You, whoever you are, have sold your soul to the devil. You are cursed, your existence is abhorred by millions, your self esteem is spat upon. You were never worth the pain your family went through to bring you into this world. You are nothing but a leech, a sadistic, unwanted leech.

Hey, on a final note, you may strut around in your fancy pants and act the fallen Romeo all you want, we don’t give a flying duck any more. If loathing looks, abusive words, and slippers don’t work on you (they don’t seem to), we’ll find a way. All the pent up anger, frustration, wrath and resentment will not stay pent up for too long. Just keep your hands and eyes to yourself unless you want to walk to your grave without them.

Stay away.

Dear John and Chris

That's Chris with his girlfriend Christine

16th March 2010
Charlottesville, Virginia

Dear John and Chris

I’m going to address this blog post to both of you whether you read it or not because that’s how I can best put down what I shared with both of you this past month. I haven’t posted in over a month so this may be a long one! Honestly speaking, when we heard that both of you were coming down for your internship, the first thing that struck me was, “Damn, we’re not the new kids anymore!”. And in no time, WE were the ones putting together welcome baskets and designing welcome posters. WE! The Indian interns! Ah, how fast we grow out of fashion. But let me tell you before I say anything else, I am pretty darn glad that Dave and Colleen decided to have you both down here.

Chris, here’s a secret: When we came down to the airport to pick you up, Sneha and I found you really cute. Ha ha, but that was until we discovered you’re insane and live in la-la land with Christine .

The welcome poster

It was immense fun to put together the welcome poster. (Sorry Johnny, we squeezed your name in later ) You should’ve seen Sneha colouring with those crayons (she had trouble keeping within the lines), it was like her life depended on it! And even though Ms. Katie Martin decided to snort at our creation (she actually laughed and asked “who made this?? ha ha!”), it was pretty cool. I especially like the M-CAM Inc. symbol – that was way cool.

Monster drinks, Fruity pebbles, snow mobiles, 90s rap, dumb old funny movies. What do all these things have in common? John! a.k.a Josep. Our dear old Josep :-). I have said this before and I will say it again, John, you are one of the most well mannered, well brought up, honest and loving kids I’ve ever met in my life.

Josep with his cake!

Right from the day you came from Wisconsin, you made it a point to be one of the family and guess what? You are. It’s just so wonderful to see you helping to set the table, helping to get the groceries in, pitching in wherever you can with the cooking, always volunteering to shovel the yard, and doing all this with all your heart and not because someone told you to. That’s a heart winner right there John. Not very many people have the ability to do that.

Chris, dude, did I ever tell you that I kept trying to get you to talk just so that I could hear your accent? Jokes apart, I definitely think we broke the ice the day I saw you with that gorgeous camera. The day we went sledding down the hill, I remember you had your camera and you seemed quite content just holding on to it, catching shots when you can. All of us hulligans rampaging up and down that hill, screaming and shouting and falling over, and you were happy in your own world, very glad, I’m sure, with an opportunity to click.                                                                     

You see, I relate to that. I’m positively excited if there’s a chance for me to click and the rest of the world doesn’t matter at that time. All I want to do is look at it from another angle, another perspective, capture something no one else would’ve seen or noticed. I guess that’s how every photographer is. And by the way (this is for the people who weren’t there that day), Dave, Zach, John and Akash bulit ramps on the sled path down the hill, and when I went down, I went up so high in the air and landed so hard on my behind it wasn’t even funny.

Dave and Collen - the crashed versions 🙂

It was an amazing experience for me, personally, to see you guys go through training in office. One, it felt so awesome to actually know what Dave and Mr. Pratt were talking about. Just to shake that head in response to what they were saying felt so cool! But two, when you guys asked certain questions, the only thing I could think is “Oh my God, why didn’t I think of that!”, and I cannot tell you how  enlightening it is to sit in on a discussion and have other people look at things you think you know from a different angle. It’s like zooming in on a picture you think is clear just to find out that it was fuzzy all along and now you can see birds on all of those trees! I admired how you, John, kept asking questions that would help you figure out why you had to know this, why this training was important to you, how it would help you in the future. And I think that’s awesome because you never really learn something unless you know what to do with it. And I posistivel loved how Chris would find ways to better things, whether it was a suggestion for the system, or for an analysis, or for sentences in a paragraph (eh, Chris? ;-P), he would stick it out there.

I made this cake! Ha! (with Colleen's help :-|)

It was quite a party on Sneha’s birthday with the Martins, Adam, John, Chris, Sneha, Akash and me. Colleen helped me bake a cake for her and it was absolutely gorgeous. By now you’d have figured out I fall in love with things I create with my hands and what anybody else says after that doesn’t matter. Chris, I think on of my favourite moments with you was when we were playing Dutch Blitz. Ok, rest of the world, imagine a game where four-five people are standing around the table, cards flying all around, people banging them on the table, shouting and yelling at each others’ partners to be faster, flushed, excited and yelling Blitz! Well, Chris happened to be in on one those scenes and he was playing. Now, all of us were excited. Chris was doped. He was jumping up and down, laughing like a maniac AND throwing stuff around. It was so intoxicating seeing you so happy Chris! You should come out of your room some more and jump around a lot more!

A marked moment in history would be the day I gave John the name “Josep”. It fits him perfectly and if I ever get to meet Mr. Bob Kendel, John’s dad, I would suggest a name change. For those of you who’re wondering what I’m going on about, it was just a name that stuck to my head after watching this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxXemG19Eu4 (it’s a Jo Koy show)
and I realised that in my head, John had always been a Josep
Oh how much we used to rag the boy about his accent (it’s supposedly how people in Wisconsin talk and it has a marked difference to the accent we’re used to in Charlottesville), which is really wierd, because we were INDIANS teasing an AMERICAN about his own accent . It was so nice of you to be so sportive about all the teasing John. Oh, wait. Didn’t you shoot me with that silly nerve gun for all of it? Then I guess it serves you right mister.

At the end of their one month internship, these two kids went for a trade show where they faced real clients (huge ones at that) and were actual representatives of M-CAM Inc. With all their learnings of one month! John, we heard you did really well at the pumper cleaner show. Dave told us all about how you never gave up and how you kept going out there, even if you messed up. Good job buddy. I bet your parents would’ve been proud. And Chris, even though I met you after the show, I want you to know that we’re really proud of you for being brave and giving it your best shot.

John and Chris are two boys I had never known in my life, spent time with for a month and probably will never meet again in my life. But the fact that I miss them so much right now shows what broadened minds, expanded horizons and a good healthy environment can do for human relationships. There was no necessity for John and Chris to open their hearts to all of us, give us a place in their lives, neither did we. But we did. We did because it wasn’t a necessity, rather it was a pleasure to accept each other with all our differences, culturally and individually. In the period of one month, we spun out beautiful relationships that will live forever. You know what the beauty of all this is? If I meet John or Chris ten years from now, even twenty, we can pick it up from where we left it, and it will not be marred by anything else in the world. Thank you David and Colleen and everybody else, for making M-CAM a platform for growth, because that’s what it is. Well, maybe we have hope after all, maybe we’ve found the ark that could save us when 2012 is upon us. I’m not talking about M-CAM, rather I’m talking again, about a society that accepts and embraces. Peace.