Umbrella wars

The messy monsoons are here in Mumbai (yeah I know we need rains, but it would be nice if they didn’t mess the city). Fred Astaire made singing in the rain with an umbrella famous, but you surely can’t try that in Mumbai. Walking with your umbrella held aloft would take the skill required by the Crazy Taxi in dodging other cars.

Your feet are sinking in muddy, messy water, you are trying to avoid puddles and there comes the competitive auntie with the huge umbrella. The competitive umbrella aunties are ones who think only they are in a hurry. They try to overtake you with as much vengeance as a motorbike rider who snakes his way through bumper to bumper traffic, unmindful of what happens to the rest of the world. This auntie will hit you with her elbow, her umbrella will get into your hair, she will jump into the puddle in her haste splashing water all over you.

The complete opposite of the competitive auntie is of course the I-am-out-for-a-stroll-in-the-rain aunty. This auntie will be walking to a tune of her own and most of these aunties are so bulky that they make it almost impossible to overtake them without stepping into some open gutter or some messy puddle. And while you try to do that, again your umbrella gets hit.

Then there is the corporate guy who has made getting his way a habit. So hitting your umbrella to retard your progress is something he enjoys. Pulling people down gives him a high. And one fails to understand why poking umbrellas in another’s hair is such a fun pastime!

Then there are the kids who jump around and splash water everywhere. Even if you are wearing three fourth pants, they will get wet thanks to these I-so-love-the-muddy-water kids. And their partners in crime are motorists with expensive cars who love to speed over puddles and make your white office wear brown. Aargh!

I know you will all tell me that I should stop using umbrellas and try wind cheaters or raincoats. But what the hell, my head is so small that none of the hoods stay on it. I hate rains.

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Total recall

There was a problem with the HTML in the previous post…so posting it again…

[tRIAd] recently referred to an article a cartoon who I know very indirectly wrote.(You could read [tRIAd]’s piece here) Managed to get hold of the original article and found that it really had no new information. It set me thinking about what my boss, whenever he descends on us from his ivory tower, says about our lack of story ideas. ‘News is all about rehashing’ he says. Find a different angle, find a different quote, a different perspective that’s all there is, because apart from crime, fickle politics and current events, everything has already been done before.

I totally agree with him because this is the third year in a row when I am doing stories on the Mumbai monsoons. I have done countless stories on vegetable price rises, the ‘urbane’ issue of Mumbai’s stray dogs and how could I forget the ever visible and ‘attractive’ potholes. These are the issues our target audience wants to know about, I am told whenever a flicker of doubt creases my journalist’s brow. This is what the SEC A and B want to watch. And since I know there is only one rule in this world, I agree and have so far been successful in getting something new everytime to a perfectly same story. (But then I have been around for only a short while now I guess).

Rehashing is a diktat every media organisation follows. But there are some media persons who do take the term quite literally. I happened to pick up one of those women’s magazines after almost half a decade. And surprise, surprise, there was still the same advice about haldi-chandan ubtan, how to fool/snare a man with your non-existent original beauty and other random advice that wouldn’t make any sense to the male readers of this blog. I was shocked and actually picked up some more back issues to check if things ever changed. Well they never did.

Another breed that believes in complete rehashing is the Talk show crew and those that write the so-called socio-psychologically relevant articles (I have written those too at one point of time, but more on that later). A typical talk show has the typical faces. One starched sari figure, one flamboyancy incarnate personality, one moderate type and an arm flailing, screeching moderator. And the topics? (Think SEC A and B please) Should girls wear jeans? How much pocket money should children be given? Are the rich really criminals or are they being wrongly targetted? Are our values (huh?) crumbling? The current news trigger might be different each time, but the topics, the debate, the opinions they never change (and to think we used to be advised in school to watch this crap to broaden our thinking). According to me talk shows are quite a waste of air time, what has ever been achieved by them anyway?

The socio-psychological articles are also the same. Throw in some management jargon, some self help jargon and connect everything however obtusely to Freudian theories and voila, an ‘insightful’ article is at your service. Something similar to what [tRIAD]’s cartoon wrote. And the best part about these rehashed things is that they are damn easy to do. There are always the ‘Dial-a-bite/quote’ social commentators, psychiatrists and socialites. You can dream of a story idea during your so called ‘power nap’, call up these people and get your story ready for the next day. How simple is that! Of course, some journos just love these philanthropic bite/quote machines. The man in the ivory tower parties with them so he has to keep them included in what his media house does. Of course, he tells the staff at times that he is tired of the same faces (after losing a game of poker to them, I guess). So the staff does try for fresh faces at times only to be then told that the fresh face did not match the expectations of SEC A and B. So its back to the we-scratch-each-other’s-back brigade. Aah the ease of redoing a done to death story!

Total Recall

[tRIAd] recently referred to an article a cartoon who I know very indirectly wrote.(You could read [tRIAd]’s piece here) Managed to get hold of the original article and found that it really had no new information. It set me thinking about what my boss, whenever he descends on us from his ivory tower, says about our lack of story ideas. ‘News is all about rehashing’ he says. Find a different angle, find a different quote, a different perspective that’s all there is, because apart from crime, fickle politics and current events, everything has already been done before.

I totally agree with him because this is the third year in a row when I am doing stories on the Mumbai monsoons. I have done countless stories on vegetable price rises, the ‘urbane’ issue of Mumbai’s stray dogs and how could I forget the ever visible and ‘attractive’ potholes. These are the issues our target audience wants to know about, I am told whenever a flicker of doubt creases my journalist’s brow. This is what the SEC A and B want to watch. And since I know there is only one rule in this world, I agree and have so far been successful in getting something new everytime to a perfectly same story. (But then I have been around for only a short while now I guess).

Rehashing is a diktat every media organisation follows. But there are some media persons who do take the term quite literally. I happened to pick up one of those women’s magazines after almost half a decade. And surprise, surprise, there was still the same advice about haldi-chandan ubtan, how to fool/snare a man with your non-existent original beauty and other random advice that wouldn’t make any sense to the male readers of this blog. I was shocked and actually picked up some more back issues to check if things ever changed. Well they never did.

Another breed that believes in complete rehashing is the Talk show crew and those that write the so-called socio-psychologically relevant articles (I have written those too at one point of time, but more on that later). A typical talk show has the typical faces. One starched sari figure, one flamboyancy incarnate personality, one moderate type and an arm flailing, screeching moderator. And the topics? (Think SEC A and B please) Should girls wear jeans? How much pocket money should children be given? Are the rich really criminals or are they being wrongly targetted? Are our values (huh?) crumbling? The current news trigger might be different each time, but the topics, the debate, the opinions they never change (and to think we used to be advised in school to watch this crap to broaden our thinking). According to me talk shows are quite a waste of air time, what has ever been achieved by them anyway?

The socio-psychological articles are also the same. Throw in some management jargon, some self help jargon and connect everything however obtusely to Freudian theories and voila, an ‘insightful’ article is at your service. Something similar to what [tRIAD]’s cartoon wrote. And the best part about these rehashed things is that they are damn easy to do. There are always the ‘Dial-a-bite/quote’ social commentators, psychiatrists and socialites. You can dream of a story idea during your so called ‘power nap’, call up these people and get your story ready for the next day. How simple is that! Of course, some journos just love these philanthropic bite/quote machines. The man in the ivory tower parties with them so he has to keep them included in what his media house does. Of course, he tells the staff at times that he is tired of the same faces (after losing a game of poker to them, I guess). So the staff does try for fresh faces at times only to be then told that the fresh face did not match the expectations of SEC A and B. So its back to the we-scratch-each-other’s-back brigade. Aah the ease of redoing a done to death story!

Of families and marriages

IHM has written recently about domestic violence and how there is widespread acceptance of it even among the educated class. A lot of interesting comments have appeared on that. I remember this particular comment which talked about the widespread belief that men do lose control at times. A few years ago, I had thought that about a friend’s father, because I knew the mother to be a highly unrealistic person, someone who had married early and thought that life would only be a romantic dream. Things had soured when she couldn’t accept the fact that her husband, whom she had herself chosen, wasn’t the romantic type. And both husband and wife wouldn’t budge from their list of expectations and duties. Things kept piling up, the relationship deteriorated further after my friend was born. And in the belief that the wife was like an errant child, in the next 20 odd years the husband beat her around half a dozen times (maybe sounds little compared to what some women go through). She too had her own emotional blackmail tantrums. It was just a doomed relationship I guess. And though I didn’t justify the beating, the very fact that I tried to rationalise it shows how deep rooted this philosophy is in us. Auntie has now finally moved out, something she should have done long ago, to spare the herself and my friend all that mental agony. My friend still hopes that the parents would reunite. Yes, divorce is traumatic but living in an abusive or incompatible relationship is even worse.

But while domestic violence is something more tangible, most women in India suffer from something more subtle. Mental abuse. The judgemental attitude that is based on the whole she is an ‘outsider’ theory. Most families want a custom made bahu who is modern and yet not too modern, educated but not too educated and so on. And she has to be a super woman who should never complain or get angry. The Tulsis of the world can cry in private and moan their fate, but they shouldn’t air an opinion. Just voicing an opinion amounts to disobedience. There is very little scope for honesty in Indian relationships. Pretenses have to be maintained at all costs. And most women are taught that right from childhood, however educated the parents might be.

So even if your MIL constantly harps on how lowly your family is, you are supposed to put up with it. If you answer back you are the bitchy DIL, the potential home breaker. Your husband might have a tendency to treat you like a dimwit and make fun of you in public, but hey atleast he provides for you and doesn’t beat you. He might be a complete loser, never managing to hold on to a job and yet you are supposed to hold on to the hope that with time he will get better. In no circumstances are you to lose the hope that things will work out in the end, because of the doli-arthi theory. And hey aren’t women supposed to be more tolerant by nature, more patient, more everything that tends towards doormat.

How many times do we hear things like the women in the family didn’t get along and that is why the family split? Is binding a family together just a woman’s duty? If the men wanted, couldn’t they have stayed together and tried to build a consensus? Are men really kids that they can be ‘seduced’ and ‘swayed’ by what is called pillow talk? Don’t they have a mind of their own? Well apparently, though women are supposed to be chastised because they are not mature enough, when it comes to such things men are the impressionable ones.

In India, we are supposed to marry families and not individuals. And when I see all these things happening, I feel disturbed and somewhat scared by the prospect of marriage. Is there anything like a balanced family or is it a myth? Will I be able to hold on to my identity once I get married? Is marriage really worth it? There are ‘good’ families out there I guess, but they are extremely rare.