Monday, 25 November 2013

Here's to the Happie Hippie


Puppy-sitting has taken its toll on me, and I've succumbed to the idiot box. Yes, I've been watching a lot of TV. And yes, I hate it. Regardless, I find myself glued to the TV on a regular basis, watching with fascinated horror all the ridiculously bejeweled women cribbing and indulging in complex plans of vengeance. As their husbands cavort with the caked-with-make-up ‘vamps’. That reminds me, I loathe how women feel the need to thwack on make-up at social dos while men get away with appearing in clean, ironed clothes! Bah! Anyway, getting back to TV…I blame my University degree in gender & culture, and my liberal parents who refused to indulge in gender biases because I am no longer able to enjoy even a dance ‘reality show’ without cringing at the ridiculous stereotypes being played out on a weekly basis. While TV has definitely matured since the days of ‘Dostana’, where homosexuality was openly depicted in mainstream, (though not celebrated, dammit!), uptight Bollywood,  the on screen pretend kisses between the male anchors of this show causes the female judge to squawk in protest. Yes, she’s the same person who wept & won sympathy votes on a British reality show because she was subjected to racism. Obviously she never learnt a lesson on that show, because she is discriminating against an entire community by showing obvious disgust to affection between two individuals, just because it isn't ‘normal’ by our society’s hypocritical standards.

                       

TV is shocking because all it has to offer is an over-reaction to sex, sexuality & complete non-reaction to sexual assault. Every advertisement is a stereotype of the sexes, and those attempting to ‘break’ these stereotypes go overboard & get entangled in even more stereotypes. Poor Anurag Kashyap & the Abused Goddesses campaigns had no clue what a large grave they were digging for themselves with their pseudo-feminism. But enough said about them. In the meantime however, I find that being a watch-dog, especially on social media, has been giving people a new kinda high. And rightly so. So while JW Marriot in Bangalore got slammed for portraying women as arm candy, they had the grace to apologize & change the billboard. What is unfortunate is the constant need for watchdogs though. Why is Mr. Besharam Ranbir Kapoor still doing ‘the boy thing’? Or super-empowered Priyanka Chopra the brand ambassador for the NDTV –Vedanta “Our Girls, Our Pride” campaign? Vedanta is a well known corporate now famous for being rejected by India’s very own ‘Avatar’ tribe. (I'm not even gonna start about the mainstream media's utter & complete lack of brains, ethics & morals here!) Given the Indian penchant for deifying celebrities, I don’t see any reason why these very same celebrities don’t spare a moment to think about what they are endorsing. Sonakshi Sinha proclaims ‘I believe in being natural’ before going on to endorse hair colour, Rekha & Urmila Matondkar featured in an awful sexist Snickers ad…the list of stupid celebrities is endless.


One celebrity who recently got my attention though is Sanjay Leela Bhansali. While Mr. Bhansali’s films are, as described by my beloved resident flasher, misogynist & celebrate violence & suicide, I mention him here because he paid ALL the medical bills for an injured puppy rescued from the sets of Ram Leela. No, I won’t watch the film. But yes, I will respect him a tiny bit more for his compassion. I know he doesn’t know me, and he probably doesn’t care whether I respect him or not. But, as they say, good vibes find their way to the right people, and Mr. Bhansali, I hope you will repeat this act of compassion & be responsible for saving many more canine lives. Of course, there’s Cyrus Broacha, for his endorsement of Welfare for Stray Dogs, (and his lovely INDie mutt Rowdy Ranga. No, I don’t stalk celebrities. I only remember those who show compassion. Especially to canines. Latest in my list of asli heroes is Imran Khan. Yes Chotu, I know you hate him for your own warped reasons, but… he’s endorses PETA, advocates adoption of dogs from shelters, has featured in a video for the same, & has recently acquired land to build an animal shelter. AND – as if all this doesn’t make him cool enough, he also acted in a commercial for Bru coffee, which in my muddled mind, is fabulous. First of all, the girl, Anushka Sharma, is a bit like yours truly, as she goes through her phone, looking for someone who can drape a sari for her. And the delightful Imran, initially teases her inability to drape a sari, but like the quintessential friend in need, emerges in a sari, declaring he played Sita in a college play. I like that the advert is so much closer to my reality that most other coffee advertisements which endorse warped theories of ‘come fall in love over a cup of coffee’. This ad doesn’t indulge in gender stereotypes, refrains from pelvic thrusts or breast jiggles to sell something entirely unrelated, and also says it’s ok for a woman not to know to drape a sari, & it’s fine for a man to have played Sita in a college play.


Perhaps I’m over-celebrating this advertisement & before you bunch of feminists, misogynists, sexists & I-too-am-a-something-ists jump on me, let me tell you why I love it. It’s simple. Subtle. Doesn’t ‘celebrate’ “love”. Doesn’t stereotype. It connected with my constant childish, clumsy attempts at mimicking my mum. Like the time I was three, and wept because I wanted to wear a crepe bandage on my wrist, just like she wore. And the time when I was 27. And twirling stupidly & getting more & more entangled in nine yards of silk, trying to drape a sari like she was showing me.

You see, we’re always looking for role models. Like my dad. The great rescuer of all hurt souls. He’s the kinda guy who carried that emaciated dog that couldn’t walk so it could poop in its ‘spot’. And never gave up looking for the lost, friendless, starving puppy (now curled up on my lap chewing my shorts as I type this). He waded through a filthy pond to rescue a half eaten kite, and spent money on 3 cylinders of oxygen attempting to give it a chance to live. He dug through piles of half-burnt rubbish in the poshest residential area of Calcutta (much to the shock & horror of local residents) to gently pull out a terrified baby barbet. He nursed it back to health. He’s the guy that stranger on facebook calls ‘papaji’ because the stanger’s dad didn’t ever give a damn. He’s the one who told me stories of Orion’s belt & about ferrugineum peltophorum. And taught us enough to stand over a pigeon’s nest with badminton rackets guarding its babies from the evil Coucal. We’ve hopped in the garage hunting mosquitoes live to provide only the freshest of food for another bird he rescued. He stole from my plate all my favourite bits of food I’d save for the end. & taught me I gotta be faster! And my mum. Where do I begin – she never complained about the endless stream of animals we brought home, not even the mouse which we dug out of one of the dogs’ mouth. She even gave us a small shoe-box to bury it in. She didn’t freak when I accidently released a box full of caterpillars into her prized garden. Instead, she found the chrysalis for me & all four of us watched it become a beautiful butterfly & witnessed it sunning its wings before it flew off forever. She knew I ate up my science project of sprouts, and helped me grow another cotton filled box of it for submissions. She saved up strips of shiny paper & taught me to cut out 5 pointed stars. I had the best science project that summer. Because I learnt every single thing I drew or wrote about. She let us dance in the rain, eat up hail stones, and kept my “Salman Khan Scrapbook” that I’d adoringly compiled in my teenage years. There have been iconic grandparents, who made time for us, sat us in their laps & allowed us to watch late night Westerns on TNT. They taught us Algebra or played ‘ghoda ghoda’(horsie horsie?!). Sari pallus were strung together to make railway compartments, probably fuelling our fascination for travel. They introduced us to our first canine friends, real & toy. I remember being rewarded with a book every semester I did well in my exams – I still can’t stop reading. Long letters came in the mail every month, when I was a homesick child in boarding school, telling me of mundane, everyday occurrences, reassuring me that someone missed me every day. There were others of course, who have impacted me in a million ways. Whose love & honesty have taught me much.


Life & times are such that young people don’t have enough icons to idolize. It’s the day & age when bum jiggling is dignified with a name ‘twerking’ & teen sensations are either Justin Bieber (who still isn’t smart enough know that fur is uncool) or Lady Gaga. (She’s really scary. I overheard Aunty Acid’s lil girl tell baby Zo, “If you don’t get ready for a bath, Lady Gaga’ll come & get ya!”). This month, yet another sex scandal caused Arnab Goswami to break sound barriers & our ear drums in his attempt to demand answers for ‘this nation’, and more importantly, I became an auntie. I’m probably not the best kinda auntie a child could be saddled with. You've come into a world which disrespects women & endorses misogyny, violence & sexism. But it’s also a world where strangers have opened their hearts & homes to me. I'm looking forward to introducing you to the wonders of wild green nature in the Himalayas & gorgeous Goa, to listen for birds, to feel compassion for animals, sense the surprise when your nose gets licked by a cat’s rough tongue…I hope my home will always be a safe haven for you, and you will always come to me to swim & play and roll in the mud with many dogs. I hope I can always protect you from the two-legged animals infesting this planet. I’m looking forward to discovering hidden streams & little forested coves & dancing on the moonlit beach & travel tripping with you little one...I know I won’t know the answers to all your questions, but I know I’ll be the one to gift you books, (not that techo-geeky kindle thingy!) and help you find worlds in your own imagination. To find new horizons. To star-gaze. Stand up for what you believe in. I hope you will never know anger or jealousy, greed or pain…and will forever be blessed with freedom, love & light, coz even though I’m always confused, I sure know that you'll be a happie hippie.

                                



















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