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Archive for September, 2008

I had the most glorious weekend going boating. Me and my colleagues decided to go boating off the Marina Beach. Ravi, who used to stay near Fore Shore Estate earlier, got his friends to lend their boat to us; complete with life jackets.

It was fantastic! I never thought so much fun awaited me just a few kms from home. We went on a motorised boat (a small one, only about 25 feet in length) on a tangent off the coast. Setting out was fun, because the boat would hit the waves rise and fall again with a thump; the spray, the wind; it was glorious. Ravi’s friends, who were manning the boat, jumped into the ocean, once we anchored. I wanted to follow them by jumping into the sea as the swimmers were reassuring me it was perfectly safe. But my colleagues were dead against me jumping into the water, so i sadly had to postpone the adventuring.

The lovely, blue, turquoise sea looked so inviting. I felt it was such a shame not being able to jump in. We soon had to turn back as someone had to go to office and another person had started puking.

Coming back with the tide, was an anti-climax as it was not as exciting as pitching the little boat against the waves.

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I am always surprised about how religious fanatics are extremely concerned about the morality of women. The menfolk’s morality or immorality is not their concern and neither do you find it preached about in our churches’ pulpits.

Every culture has its own customs and traditions to protect and guard the womb. The dress restrictions for young girls and old women in India, is not as much as it is for young and middle-aged women. More than age, I feel the criteria here is fertility and the womb.

Have you noticed that purdhas or traditional dresses like sarees and salwars are imposed only on fertile women rather than infertile (pre and post-menopause) women? Even the imposition of dress codes in colleges can be related to this. College managements in India have traditionally disapproved of dating, love marriages (problems with police or the registrar office), and fashionable clothes; because in India educationists also act as moralists and don’t want the womenfolk in their college to be attracting attention from the menfolk. To ensure this we have the dress codes in a few of the ultra-strict city colleges in Chennai.

Young girls in India can happily play with boys on the streets wearing only their undergarments or nothing more. But the minute they reach puberty, they will be cautioned by their mothers not to “speak to boys.” In India, people also have the disgusting habit of holding a grand function in which all friends & relatives attend, when the girl attains puberty. I don’t see anyone celebrating a boy’s attainment of puberty in India.

In this protectionist environment that Indian girls grow up in, sex education becomes a bad word. One of my classmates, who attained puberty in standard VII, didn’t know anything about her body’s changes and thought she had got blood cancer. The only sex education, she got was from us – her classmates, who were also an ignorant lot. We reassured her that she didn’t have blood cancer, it was just her “chums.”

No one teaches our girls the need for hygiene during one’s periods. I know of many Indian families, who for cost-cutting measures still make girls wear cloth pads for their periods. Cloth sanitary pads are Ugh! Spotting, wet, dirty, clumsy, leaking; in short torturous for a 11 or 14-year-old. When parents can buy beautiful, sequined clothes and gold jewellery for the child’s birthday, why can’t they buy whisper or tampons?

When I was in my standard VIII, in the “sex education” class, we were taught by our teachers, if you get “too close to boys, you get pregnant.” Lucky for me, my mother told me all about the birds and bees. She didn’t want me to know about sex from my ill-informed peers, dirty magazines or from the net. My friends were very surprised that my knowledge of sex came from my mother and they were soon besieging her with all their questions. Some of my Christian friends, even wanted to know if it was okay to touch the Bible during your periods from my mother.

In India, a girl who loses her virginity before marriage is immediately labelled a “slut” and a “prostitute”. But if a boy does so, his parents and relatives will gloss over the event, his friends will dismiss it as “boys will be boys” and he will become a hero among his peers. If its bad for a girl to lose her virginity before marriage, why is not bad for a boy also?

In many countries, girls have become out castes if there is no blood found on the nuptial bed, in proof of her virginity, even if her hymen had been broken due to sports activities or her hymen was absent or elastic. I remember recently, reading an article in the newspaper that girls were going in for hymen reconstruction surgery, as they felt it (virginity) would become a major problem with the boy, their parents had fixed for them.

Also, it’s the woman who gets pregnant in a pre-martial or extramarital affair; No one knows the father, but everyone knows the mother and can ostracize her. So to protect property, money and the family, a woman’s sexual activities have been greatly controlled.

That is why, even though economics state that women also go to work in India, women are supposed to return home at a particular time, not have any men friends, not go for social activities unless accompanied by the husband or some other member of the family and never ever flirt with any man other than the husband (even her fiance).

That is why traditional households prefer a girl, who’ll stay at home. Women are encouraged to be teachers, because the job ensures that they are chaste, the children looked after (timings) and the housework doesn’t suffer.

Earlier, all the Mills & Boon heroines would be virgins, while the men would have had “casual affairs” with other women, but never experienced love + carnal lust in one woman before this.

Now, with liberalisation Mills & Boon heroines are girls, who have had sex with one guy, with whom it was boring & uninteresting (they are never, ever promiscuous). Then comes the hero with whom they have the perfect, passionate love affair (and even here they are passive, never aggressive or making the first move in the bed).

So, ultimately everything in the marriage market comes down to fertility and the woman’s womb doesn’t it?

Rachel Chitra

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Being an atheist from a Christian background, people automatically assume I’m angry with God and dead against the church. For me, I’m indifferent to the whole “God exists or not” debate. While I don’t think Christ was God, I do like him for being a radical in his times. I like him because

a)he didn’t act holier-than-thou & goody-goody like the Pharesees & Sadducees

Remember, the prostitute (or in these politically correct times, I must call them commercial sex workers (CSW))? Jesus didn’t judge her. He didn’t want her stoned to death like the patriarchs of those days & today (name change: In the Middle-East countries & Pakistan they now call it “honour killings”). Of course, whether she was a CSW or an adulteress is debatable, because different versions of the Bible seem to give different accounts. Anyway, when she was brought up before him, Jesus said, “Let he, who is without sin cast the first stone.” A direct reference to men and their own state of sinfulness and also a veiled reference to the fact that all of those present had lusted after her and might have also slept with her. That means, he held the men responsible for adultery also, not just the women, who in most cases are only victims of the system.

b)He wanted women to participate in theological debates & not be mired down by the traditional responsibilities of women like housework.

Jesus says, “Mary has chosen the better part and it shall not be taken away from her.” Mary’s sister Martha is busy cooking dishes in the kitchen for all the men present, while Mary sits with Jesus and talks about spiritual things. When Martha overburdened with the housework wants Mary to help, Jesus gives this reply.

I don’t know if any of my readers have attended Christian religious meetings. But the prayer meetings always used to end with the serving of tea and refreshments. So my grandmother and myself (our house used to be the centre for such church-oriented activities) always had to miss out on what the pastor said and start heating the tea and laying out the refreshments like homemade sandwiches & vada. And the womenfolk also had a lot of cleaning up to do afterwords. If only a few menfolk in my family had pitched in, the women needn’t miss out on the meeting. But then the men had more important things to do like debate about theology. Even in church functions it was the same story.

I feel a lot of blame for this state of affairs, should be laid at Apostle Paul’s feet, who said, “Women should be silent in church, they should not cover their head, etc, etc…”

c) He was a radical. Though by birth a Jew, he made friends with Roman tax collectors, fishermen, Samaritans, prostitutes & lepers

Samaritans in those days were discriminated against and did not occupy the upper elechons of power. In his parable, “The Good Samaritan” Jesus tried to criticise the inhumaneness of the religion some religious heads practise and set a Samaritan’s actions in good light. Roman tax collectors like the tax collectors of today did not win any awards for popularity. But Jesus befriends Romans too. And not being class-conscious, he befriends fisher-folk & lepers.

I remember my English lecturer in MCC, who was a Gandhian, drew a diagram in class to explain Christ’s exemplary behaviour in embracing all communities & people from all religious backgrounds. He asked what was the centre of power in those days. We replied “Ceasar and his Roman empire.” What comes next? “The Roman Senate & powerful noblemen.” Next in the circle? “Roman citizens, tradesmen.” Next? “Jews (the occupied race)” And finally at the bottom of the social structure, you have all of Jesus’s friends: “Fishermen, Samaritans, prostitutes & lepers.”

d) He didn’t like churches minting money in God’s name

How about if someone came to your church, broke all the stalls selling CDs, self-improvement Godly books, drove out all the salesmen manning the stalls and declared that “pastors must not turn God’s house into a money-making enterprise.” Would you not be angry with him? Yet, this is what Jesus did 2,000 years ago, when he saw that the Jews had converted the synagogue into a market. He overturned all the pigeons cages, drove out all the vendors and sellers and declared “Don’t turn my father’s house into a den of thieves.”

e) “Forgive them father for they know not what they do.”

People are nailing him to the cross, after stripping him naked, mocking at him and whipping him mercilessly. And he instead of railing at them angrily, asks for their forgiveness. Truly, a great man! That’s why I guess, people started worshipping him as God. He is the one person, who truly followed his teaching of “Turning the other cheek.”

As Friedrich Nietzsche said and quoted often by Karl Marx, the last Christian died on the cross”

Rachel Chitra

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Well, I guess I have to face facts. I have become overweight and my doctor has told me to join the gym. There must be something so fattening about marriage. Before marriage, I was a svelte and extremely skinny 54 kg at 5.7′. Then I became a 66 kg (for my height I should be weighing only Rs 64 kg) in the first year of our happy married life. And now! Shocking! Don’t tell anyone. I’m a 70 kgs at the age of 23. Almost 15 kgs extra! That sounds so much!

So I have to make my way (or 😦 waddle my way) to the gym. I used to go walking before, when there was a park near my old flat.

Walking has suddenly become the panacea of all ills. My doctor, my colleagues and my friends – all give the same advice – “Go Walking.” Now I do walk a lot (because of the lack of transport near my office), but I can apparently lose weight only if I do some brisk walking.

Now try to do brisk walking – when there are no pedestrian paths in many roads, when you have to keep a careful lookout for speeding bikes trying to cut ahead of traffic, when you have to avoid vendors & their wares occupying maximum space on the dirty & broken relic of a pavement, when you have to placate over-friendly or unfriendly neighbourhood dogs & when you have to avoid overflowing garbage and potholes – it is just not possible.

If you wanted to excerise in the park, you are taking a huge risk. For one thing, you’d be feeling a bit happier when you see someone plumper than you, only to feel down in the dumps again when some thin & hep person overtakes you.

Then there are those enticing food stalls near the park. Vendors selling steaming hot, delicious vadas, bondas, bajis & everyother fried item early in the morning to make you gain all the calories, you just lost exercising. After that do you think you’d bother about the guy, who sells soups and health beverages like Arugam pul juice, mushroom juice, etc.

And also its hard to concentrate and run, when there are so many distracting things going in the park. You can find instructors teaching yoga to well-rounded people, forcing them to contort their bodies in absurd geometrical figures.

You can also find the laughter therapy groups, infesting parks. I find it highly unamusing and am unable to believe that these people don’t get locked up immediately in padded cells for laughing like hyenas at 5.00 am. Look at it like this. If you find an adult laughing for no reason at all for 15 minutes non-stop, would you not think he had gone bonkers & badly needed a cell at Kilpauk (For non-Chennaiites: Kilpauk is associated with the Institute of Mental Health, located there)? I feel the least they can do is tell a joke, even a bad one, and laugh. Laughing at the sound of a whistle is…is inexplicable!

Anyway, coming back to poor me. Ive have to face the fact that I’m not thin anymore. And also get myself a full-length mirror to stop the self-deception that I’m just medium…And saddest of all go to the gym. Wish me luck!

Rachel Chitra

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(Photo courtesy: Frames&Angles. I am sorry if the pics & the post content are like “Match the Following” in school test papers)

If you are a fan of Tamil cinema (I hate saying the word Kollywood as much as I hate the other proteges of Hollywood like Tollywood, Bollywood & worst of all Mollywood), you would have noticed that most Tamil films have some auspicious angle to them.

The first shot in most films was a God’s picture or the hero doing pooja in front of a God’s picture. For younger heroes, the opening dialogue would be “Amma na passa ayitane” or “Vetri, Vetri (Victory)” with the background music of a roaring trumpet.

After “Santosh Subramaniam” became a hit, Jayam Ravi’s every other film will have the name Subramaniam, predict market analysts (me & my office staff). The first example being “Dam Dhoom,” the next appearance of Santosh Subramanim as Gautham Subramaniam.

The superstition of the heroine bathing in a waterfall for an item number was also considered a necessary appendage to the film: auspicious or not. The Tamil film connection is also seen in politics. For instance former film scriptwriter and current Tamil Nadu CM M Karunanidhi does not stir out without his yellow shawl or his opponent AIADMK gen sec Ms J Jayalalithaa without her green mantle. Her name was initially Jayalalitha, but she changed it to Jayalalithaa for numerology‘s sake and lost the subsequent election.

MDMK leader Vaiko doesn’t stir outside without a black shawl due to superstition, say many people. A shame considering that respected leader Periyar used to wear only black to break all the superstitions associated with that colour. Vaiko was also earlier V Gopalasamy, but for the sake of style, appeal & numerology, he started calling himself Vaiko; And Vaiko he remains. It must have also been for the sake of votes & banners. “Vote for Vaiko” sounds so much shorter & sweeter than “Vote for V.Gopalasamy.”

There also others in the bandwagon, Uma Bharti wears only orange or saffron. She also has her faithful Alsation Goolu tagging along with her to every press meet & political meets, because the loyal canine brings with it luck and security.

Coming back to superstitions, one of my friends always fights for the last mouthful of any plate of food offered; because tradition says, if you eat the last mouthful you will get a beautiful husband.

There was a friend of mine, who used to use only one hero pen to write all her exams. The day she accidentally broke the hero pen nib, “was the day,” she says, “she lost interest in studies.”

If that was bad. How about this? My in-laws neighbours’ family member died. Because there was a death in their family, a common friend of ours didn’t give her daughter’s wedding invitation card directly to them. She gave it to our cousin to give it to the bereaved family. My cousin forgot to give the invitation and got lots of scoldings for it. Later, when the bereaved family was invited orally, they declined as it was inauspicious to venture out after a death.

I have unwittingly caused grief to a lot of people, because I folded the plantain leaf the wrong side, after I finished eating at a feast. Apparently only at a funeral, can you fold the used plantain leaf away from you. For a happy occasion like a marriage or an engagement, if you fold the leaf the wrong side, the hosts are going to get offended with you, because you have indicated that you don’t want to have anything to do with them. Confusing, isn’t it? So, I always confirm the plantain-leaf-folding procedure with my nearest neighbour before doing so.

And for most youngsters black is the coolest colour to wear. And poor me didn’t know that the colour is inauspicious. So when I recently went to a wedding in sequin-studded black outfit, I got a half-hour lecture from my aunt on my indelicate behaviour.

The worst was, my hyper-superstitious friend asking if I wore my wedding ring because it was auspicious.

Rachel Chitra

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Actually I’m yet to figure out a lot of things like

1) Why some kind readers on this blog, insist on “God blessing” me, despite the fact that I have mentioned quite often that I’m an atheist?

2) Why do alarm clocks have the most irritating sound on earth and yet fail to sufficiently wake me?

3) Why do I keep getting mails every month on the relationship between T R Rajendran and bears? (More hirsute fans of his can mail me and I’ll forward u all the forwards I have received so far 🙂

4) Why do trains come in late when u are punctual and come on time, when u are late?

5) Why is there always chewing gum stuck under office phones?

6) Why does my dog refuse to relieve itself when taken out for a walk, but does so the minute we reach our tiled-floor home?

7)Why does the conductor in buses not have any change only when I have a Rs 500 note and no change?

8) Why does my maid servant demand Rs 1,500 a month, when she’s only going to be cooking Rs 500 worth groceries for two journalists, who eat only one meal at home?

9) What does free talk-time mean, when I’m anyway paying for it. Is it supposed to be a misnomer?

10) Why does my unhinged office door hit me in the face when I enter office, and hit me in the rear when I leave?

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I have been charged with official “blog neglect”. I am “Guilty, as charged, your honour.” In my defense, I can only state that there are too many lovely things going on in the world. I have suddenly developed an interest in financial reporting I am keenly watching how the AIG issue develops.

On the personal front, I have been having the time of my life, meeting friends, attending parties and getting gifts. Yes, I got two lovely surprises yesterday. From my athai (mother-in-law) I got a lovely sea shell mirror and some carved-shell hair-grips; From My Little Friend I got a miniature ceramic pug dog that closely resembles the Hutch or Vodafone puppy.

I also managed to read the Children’s Classics – The Society of WouldbeGoods, Wind in the Willows & Mary Poppins. I managed to watch movies like – Pride and Prejudice (1995), Dance Like a Man, Cinema Paradiso, Malina, Life is Beautiful, Castaway, The Green Mile, Kung Fu Panda, Gone with the Wind, La Strada, Devil wears Prada & Notting Hill, within the space of one week. The movie marathon was a result of raiding the floors of Parson’s Manor on Gemini Flyover. I’m planning to write reviews of all the movies. Though this is not the first time, I have watched the movies, this will be the first time I will be getting to blog my opinions on them.

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