I blog for internet

Internet is a life-savior for me. I cannot imagine not checking out my emails, blogs and videos that have refreshingly non-censored language and sometimes when I have time (and inclination), even porn. So I write to support the Black Out Day today. I write to support the action against a supposed ‘democracy’ trying to stuff of the biggest democracy in the world – the INTERNET! Stand together people, because we have to do this soon in our country as well if Kapil Sibal has his way. Here’s something to keep you smiling in grim times. I am embedding more because soon I might not be able to do it at all.

 

 

Protest against what’s happening in USA now by visiting www.internetcensorship.org and signing a petition meant to come from international users.

 

PS: Is that how activists happen? You are just sitting around doing your things and then something comes along that doesn’t let you do them. So you have no choice but to protest against it, no?

Word Breakup: Poppy Shame and Eve teasing

I have been toying with the idea of doing a blog on the phrase ‘Shame, shame Poppy shame’ something that is used quite freely around me, though no one knows where and how it originated. I heard it recently spoken by my mother, who rarely uses English words when in family, use this phrase for my 2-year-old nephew when he was happily running around in the buff. The term is usually used for 2-5 year olds and sung in a nursery rhyme format.

The complete rhyme is: Shame Shame Poppy (or Puppy) shame, all the donkey’s know your name.

I have rarely heard the latter, just the first four words. The phrase is a part of a list of ‘If you Grew up in India is the 90s’ you use this phrase.

According to  samosapedia it is “a light hearted remonstration for some, usually minor, social transgression or faux pas, a taboo flouted, a line of decency crossed…”

I am not completely sure about this definition. It’s more than light-hearted remonstration for one. The rhyme itself seems to have come from the British rule, but the Indians have associated it more with the idea of nakedness.

The phrase is happily used in Pakistan as well as shown by this blog by an American woman married to a Pakistani guy. She mentions how her in-laws say ‘Shame, shame’ everytime they see her child naked. It’s the same as Indian households.

Author Salman Rushdie uses this phrase in Shame based in Pakistan where he talks about the idea of ‘sharam’ which includes an element of society with the English word shame.  It has been interpreted as showcasing an example of an hangover of the idea of shame in post-colonial discourses.

So I have a feeling that the phrase is not as ‘light-hearted’ but rather associated with our culture’s idea of nakedness as being something shameful and which should be hidden. Of course it comes disguised in a sing-song, smiling sort of a way.

Since I am obsessed with graphs in recent weeks, I searched for the word ‘shame’ in Google Trends  which tracks the ‘average traffic of shame from India in all years’. I was surprised!

 

 

 

What’s so shameful about 2007 and 2011 that Indians used or searched for this word so much?? Makes one’s mind wonder. Check out the whole analysis of the word here which will also give you region wise search, etc.

Hiding deep-rooted hang-ups about sexuality and ‘sharam’ behind sing-song phrases reminds me of yet another phrase for today:

 

Eve teasing

The word which has become popular to casually talk about the pinching, winking, breast-staring that happens in this country, has its own Wikipedia page. Quoting the rather nicely done definition there:

“Considered a problem related to delinquency in youth,[3] it is a form of sexual aggression that ranges in severity from sexually suggestive remarks, brushing in public places and catcalls to outright groping.[4][5][6] Sometimes it is referred to with a coy suggestion of innocent fun, making it appear innocuous with no resulting liability on the part of the perpetrator.[7] Many feminists and volunteer organizations have suggested that the expression be replaced by a more appropriate term. According to them, considering the semantic roots of the term in Indian English, Eve teasing refers to the temptress nature of Eve, placing responsibility on the woman as a tease.[8][9]

Apparently the word is very strong in Bangladesh as well if Google trends (I am obsessed!) has anything to go by.

“Eve teasing is a euphemism used in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan for public sexual harassment, street harassment or molestation of women by men.” – thedailystar.net

 

In India-only search, the phrase seems to have gained popularity in middle 2011 when there was a protest against the very idea.

 

The phrase seems to have its origins in India in the 1960s. I found a very interesting citation of 1960s on the website Double Tongued.

1960 Times (London, England) (Apr. 22) “Protection For Indian Girl Students” (in Delhi, India) p. 9: One aspect of the problem of student indiscipline which is plaguing university authorities in India has been the bullying and harassment of girl students in the few coeducational institutions—a pastime so common that it has been given the name of “Eve-teasing.”…“Eve-teasing” is not, apparently, just the oafish high spirits or ill-will of a handful of male students but is rather a symptom of the strong resentment which many students feel against women in the universities.

1963 Selig S. Harrison Washington Post, Times Herald (D.C.) (Oct. 26) “The Sad State Of India’s Youth” p. A8: Police officials have been discovering that the collegiate enthusiasts who prowl streets in Indian cities are not content to watch the girls go by. Indian newspapers have carried accounts of police roundups in Srinagar, Dehra Dun and other centers for indecent advances at bus stands and traffic intersections.…Happy headline writers have dubbed the new offense “Eve-teasing.”

The quotes above are from international media. I couldn’t find references to the same in 1960s Indian media. It had to be a journalist to coin a catchy, casual phrase. I place my bets on it being a male journalist. The phrase emerges from the authorities/media/patriarchal society talking jokingly about male students jeering at their fellow female students.

Eve and Tease are two words created by a patriarchal society which has been in the habit of leading and objectifying their women. It’s the same society which feels that the woman’s body is impure, full of things they don’t understand and so women are not allowed in temples during periods. Their bodies are objects which when covered should be venerated and when uncovered is a source of shame.

The phrase manages to have a relaxed attitude about things like rape and at the same time squarely puts the blame for teasing/distracting serious, studious university boys on their fellow female students. It also places the blame squarely on women for having the tempting bodies and temperaments (again patriarchal perspective). The problem which Indian women are facing even today with a Karnataka minister blaming women for being raped because they wear tight jeans.

It’s interesting to see how new words take on the same old meanings. Only more insidious.

I would like to close this with a link to one of my favourite blogs, http://blog.blanknoise.org/. Read it, if you are any gender, to understand what the other side, the non-patriarchal, the women, feel about the word.

Clothes and rape

The policeman said, don’t blame us if women get raped if they are dressed provocatively. Karnataka Women and Child Welfare Minister C C Patil said women should know how to dress or presumably face the consequences.

And here’s what the media said. I have used about 20 articles generated in the media (in English press) to see the words we use when faced with such a blatantly provocative statement from those in authority.

 

women war

 

Interesting. I wonder if these words alone express even an iota of the rage I feel inside me.

My toothbrush travels

 

2011-12-Toothbrush-@maf1967

 

My toothbrush,

It travels

 

When no one has their eyes open

Or are listlessly staring

At the slow moving

Ceiling fan.

 

When all are lost

In their own private

Heavens or sometimes hells.

 

That is when my toothbrush

Slings its bag

On its bristly shoulder

And sneaks away

Mutedly

Into the dark lanes

Of unknown names.

 

It never speaks of it

Where it went

Or what it did.

It never lies too,

It just smells.

 

Of beds slept in by strangers

And roses dipped in honey

Sweat dripping from armpits

Or a nose that is runny.

 

That is how I know.

That it sometimes goes

For when we touch

And make love

When its bristles tickle my teeth

Sometimes I smell

The dampness of the beach.

 

 

© 2011, Shweta Taneja

Pic credit: @Maf1967

Muses are like opportunities

Muses are like opportunities. They come knocking on your door at unexpected times. Sometimes you have been waiting impatiently, looking at your cellphone screen’s right hand side corner for that precise moment to strike, tapping your fingers on the side board. At times like those, you open the door without waiting or wondering who it might be in the middle of the night.

Sometimes you go out looking for muses, your hair spread wide, like a cuckoo’s nest (BTW, has anyone wondered why cuckoos keep their nests so haphazard? Maybe it’s avant garde style yet to be recognised as such). You ask stray cats, sleepy dogs and curious ravens if they have seen any muses (or opportunities can also do, please). They all shrug, look back at you like you have lost a bolt or two.

Then there are times when muses fall into your email box. There they lie, along with emails from the banks you don’t have accounts with, enthusiastic group emails of astronomy you don’t remember subscribing to and emails from sellers who are convinced you cannot do without such-and-such baby oil or book. But even when the said muses have been served to you in a platter (or in this case, your inbox), there are chances you might miss them.

You might just delete that email without opening, like you have done to other emails from this website you had subscribed to long back ago, but don’t remember why. You might open it, with cynical curiosity, scanning the email because you don’t want to go back to that synopsis you have to prepare. Even if you open it, you might fail to click the link of a short translated story of a Spanish author whose name you cannot pronounce. After all, writers and writings are out there on the internet paisa a pandrah. Then you might open the link but forget to read it as it lies waiting amongst the other tabs opened for later reads.

So that’s why if you do end up reading that story at all and realise with surprise that it was at all this time a muse, waiting to spring up and surprise you, to fire your rockers into writing,  like a virus hidden in an attachment, it’s nothing short of a miracle. The muse is an unexpected best friend that landed at your doorstep, just when you were standing in the balcony, wondering what it will feel like to jump.

All this while, all you had to do is click one email link. A simple click which would have saved you from those empty days when you look in the space and no thought welcomes you. Just a simple click. Was it meant to be? Is this how destiny works? Or is it just a web, an intricate spider web of unexpected choices you constantly make every moment of your existence? Is it free will or do you have no choice in the matter? How can you ever be sure of either?

All you can do is bow to it. Smile, thank the skies, or if you believe in chaos, thank chaos. Write a blog, write a poem and scribble down the thoughts that strike you for your novel. After all, you have been granted the gift of a muse today. It doesn’t happen every day.

This post is dedicated to a muse who came unexpectedly and resulted in this blog. Thank you Juan Villoro and Word Without Borders for the unexpected muse called Holding Pattern.

Time to pitch is now!

 

Finally the day has come. And what can be better than the start of the new year to do something that you have cringed from all of last year? I am going to close Mystery of the Iyer Bungalow (yes, dear readers, it’s still not published. The reason is that it’s still being edited and has not been even shown to a publisher yet). I have begun the process of pitching its manuscript to publishers starting January. I was afraid all of end of last months of 2011. I cringed, stalled, questioned, panicked, and analysed. Basically did everything in the WHAT IFS category and didn’t pitch the book.

Now I am geared myself for rejections, criticisms, rotten tomatoes and jeers. Basically anything and everything that anyone who wants to throw can throw at me.

Maybe it’s the new year. But I am determined. I am determined that I will follow my dream and write and write some more.

 

MY NEW YEAR NO-RESOLUTIONS

Here are things I am NOT going to do this new year:

  • I will not be afraid of reactions to my writing.
  • I will not think on writing and not write.
  • I will not compare.
  • I will not worry about what my life would have been with different choices
  • I will not be afraid out trying new things.
  • I will not worry about how bad I write
  • I will not equate success with the money I could have been earning.
  • I will not feel lonely and boring.
  • I will not feel envious of books I enjoy reading.
  • I will not stick to my comfort zone.

With so many things I had been doing, it’s a wonder I still write. Stubborn I think 🙂

 

A sentimental note for Mystery of the Iyer bungalow: As I put in the finishing touches to the my first manuscript of the Mystery of the Iyer Bungalow, I feel a sense of anti-climax. While editing the book, I realised that it could have become so many other books with the same characters, with the same settings.  I would like to change it a bit, tweak it from here, add things to that side, but I cannot. Not anymore. I know it’s not perfect still, I don’t think it ever will become perfect. Like a mother, I feel I am over-fretting on my child rather than setting it free. So many emotions. When did I become so attached to just words? I hope someone else becomes attached to this imperfect book, reads it and enjoys it. That’s after all, the most important thing.

Plug in, and tune out everything else

 

Looking for headphones? Don’t make do with the free pair you get with your gadgets. Get a pair that suits your needs

Earphones are being used with every gadget today: a tablet, a smartphone, an MP3 player or even a wireless set with the TV if it is in a bedroom. “Most of us don’t hesitate to invest in a good gadget, but forget about the earphones,” says Bangalore-based Sridhar Reddy, 38, an audiophile and independent consultant on custom-made audio systems.

“The earphones that come as a package deal with most gadgets are basic. They don’t fit our ears well and if they do, they don’t do a good job of blocking out external noise,” says Reddy.

These generic earphones also fail to adapt to your lifestyle needs—answering calls on the go or running while listening to music. “A good pair of headphones is necessary to enjoy your gadget to its full capacity. Serious audiophiles, for example, will never go for in-the-ear earphones. They like them big and round so that music can breathe,” explains Reddy. In the same way, if you answer a lot of calls while on the move, the last thing you want is static in your Bluetooth headset. We list headphones to match your every need.

• Music on the move

Want headphones that stay with you and give you good quality music while you run, sweat and work out in the gym? The Sennheiser Sports series has three different designs, PMX 680i, OMX 680i and MX 680i, for medium-to-heavy workouts. They are highly flexible, so you can run faster or work out harder without worrying about dislodging the headphones. All of them come with a powerful stereo sound, an integrated remote, built-in volume control and a microphone to track and take calls in the middle of a workout. The kit includes many accessories and sleeves, to make sure you find the perfect fit for your ears and the earplugs stay firmly in place. The earphones are sweat- and water-resistant.

Money Matters: Rs. 3,990 for PMX 680i and OMX 680i and Rs. 3,290 for MX 680i, available at select stores. Check for discounted prices on www.gadgets.in

TV watching

Don’t want to disturb your partner with your idiot-box viewing? Help is at hand with Sennheiser RS120 Wireless Headphones, which come with a charge station. Though they are older than the more recently launched Sennheiser RS180, they are still our favourites for the amount of listen-time they give in one charge (20 hours, rather than 6 hours in the newer model), so you can use them for longer without having to get up and charge them. These wireless headphones have a range of up to 100m, come with volume control, and give a detailed sound reproduction with strong stereo bass. The reception works through walls and ceilings. They are lightweight and very comfortable to wear.

Money Matters: Rs. 6,190, available on www.letsbuy.com

• Cut off sound

Your work requires you to make transcripts from audio recordings or your office is just too noisy and you need music to help you concentrate. Or perhaps you want to listen to music while on your way to work, but the noise from the road makes it impossible to enjoy yourself. Noise-cancelling headsets help here and the Bose QuietComfort 15 is the best option. Each headphone earcup comes with an inbuilt microphone both inside and outside. The microphone senses and cancels the sounds that are filtering in from outside, keeping your ears noise-free. You can use its microphone for a hands-free phone conversation too, though that works only with an iPhone. An average AAA battery makes the headphones last about 35 hours. The QuietComfort 15 is comfortable, with ear cushions, lightweight and collapsible, and can be packed compactly in case you want to use them while you travel.

Money Matters: Rs. 17,550, available on www.boseindia.com

Also try:Sony MDR-NC200D Digital Noise-Cancelling Headphones, $179.99 (around Rs. 9,750), plus shipping, available on www.ebay.com. Its noise-cancelling technology drains battery faster but the headset is quite good at blocking external noise. It is also lightweight, cushioned, and can be folded compactly.

• Pure audio

If all you want to do is listen to music as if it was being performed right in front of you, opt for Audeze LCD-2, manufactured by the Las Vegas-based niche company Audeze. The headset prioritizes quality over portability or affordability. The technology used is rather different from most headphones—each pair comes with tiny dynamic drivers that are mini versions of the drivers used in box speakers. The Audeze uses thin-film planar magnetic drivers and larger diaphragms that project sounds around your ear rather than straight into it, creating more depth in the notes. The thick lambskin earpads sit softly on your ears and are comfortable to wear for long hours.

Money Matters: On special order for $995, with $115.58 in shipping, available on www.audeze.com

Also try: The Audio Technica ATH-M50 for Rs. 13,913, available onwww.ebay.in, offers performance on a budget. Meant for professional studio monitoring and mixing, its over-the-ear cups create a seal for maximum isolation

 

Continue reading “Plug in, and tune out everything else”

Me and Fart: On IITians and making a movie

Fart, my imaginary dumb friend, and me were drinking beers and sitting at my home surfing on my telly when we saw a movie trailer of the film With Love, Delhi on one of the channels. A low-budget thriller with a rather dark Tom Alter in the role of a villain. The trailer ended with these bylines:

‘When the best brains of the country, meet the Bollywood veterans, you get Wild.’

‘An intelligent thriller by IITians’.

 

 

 

 

This film has been made by an IITian! In my excitement, I started to jump up and down on the couch. Fart, who is rather slow in catching up, looked at me confused. I told Fart that the IITians are really smart people. If they have made a thriller movie, it would be really, really smart! After all, they have written smart books, smart songs, say really smart things, get married with a huge dowry, get plush jobs reserved for smart people and do other rather very, very smart things.  So Fart, who you can guessed by now is not very smart since he comes from another country (or another planet, it’s not polite to ask) looked at me with his forehead puckered with fifteen wrinkle lines and asked:

FART (his forehead puckered): Who are these IITians?

ME (with a snicker, forgetting that it’s impolite to ask): You don’t know who IITians are? Which planet do you belong to?

FART (still puckered): Not this one.

ME (continuing my tirade): IIT stands for Indian Institute of Technology. It is one of the more premier institutes in India that teaches engineering courses. IITians are people who graduate from these premier institutes. They are like really, really, really smart, Fart!

FART (empty expression): Oh. So this institute teaches them how to become actors or movie directors?

ME (haughty expression): Of course not!

FART: So it has nothing to do with making movies or writing books whatsoever?

ME (angry at this dumb ass): You think an IITian would have time to learn how to make a movie or write a book? He (or she) is too busy studying for exams! Do you know how many people apply for IITs in India? A few lakh every year and only a few thousand get selected. That’s how smart IITians are. They are the most intelligent people in India. Hell, they are the smartest on the planet!

FART (confused): If they are so smart, why do they learn engineering instead of learning how to make a movie?

ME (haughty expression): You are so silly, Fart! That’s because if they learn how to make a movie, they won’t be respected for their intellectual prowess. But if they become an IITian, they automatically become really smart. Because you see as soon as one clears the entrance exam of IIT, one’s genes are rewired and one gets to know everything that is there to know in this universe. IITians are so smart that they don’t need to learn how to make a movie or write a book. From reading, mugging, working, getting married, having sex, writing a book, earning money, drinking the right wine, dancing, singing, they know everything. 

FART (realisation dawning, glugging a beer): Oh! So they are Indian sadhus right? Those enlightened beings who can fly in the sky or walk on water or stand on thorns or something.

ME (laughing out loud): Fart you are such a tart! They are better than sadhus! They are engineers! You see, in India we value engineers because we have such bad roads and bad internet connections and dicey buildings. These engineers are our saviors. You would understand their value if you know how much dowry an engineer can get in marriage. It’s in crores of rupees. That’s because they get really cool jobs in Amreeka and other countries and come back with oodles of dollars and then can buy plush houses in fancy gated communities with smooth roads. They are the dollar earners of this country.

FART (condescending): So it has nothing to do with making roads or making movies? They are smart because they earn lots of money?

ME (angry): You know, you foreigners are so condescending to us Indians. If we serve you, you are fine. When we become your equals, you think we are all after money. Forget it, you just won’t get it. We are who we are in this world because of IITians. They will save us from all your smirks! They are our superheroes! Every child of this country aims to become an IITian and earn in crores of rupees and marry a virgin with a huge dowry. Every parent wants their child to become an IITian. They are our new gods! You will understand when you meet some of them. They are intellectual and smart. Did I tell you how smart they are? They —

 

(The conversation fell through midway due to excessive intoxication.)

Stream home the cinema

 

Better Internet connections and increased video content are making it easier than ever to order or watch Indian and Hollywood movies online, legally

It was a weekend and instead of going to a mall to watch an expensive movie, Uttara Narayanan, 29, a social activist, decided to rent the latest Bollywood flick and watch it at home. She was surprised to see that she couldn’t find any movie rental shops in her Bangalore neighbourhood. “I didn’t want to buy a pirated cheap DVD or download a pirated version of the movie, so I went online to search for a video rental around my home,” she says. Her search led her to YouTube. “I couldn’t believe that YouTube is streaming some of the latest Bollywood movies which I wanted to see online for free!”

In October, actor Shah Rukh Khan partnered with Google India to promote his film Ra.One on YouTube. The site celebrated a month-long festival of his movies, which included superhits like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Chak De! India, Kal Ho Na Ho, Om Shanti Om and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, through October.

Free and easy: In several cases, there are no charges for movies online.

Free and easy: In several cases, there are no charges for movies online.

The model of streaming movies online seems to be working quite well with the Indian audience. Since the launch of YouTube Box Office in June, the website has already garnered over 18 million views and has about 1,500 movie titles.

Yahoo India launched Movieplex, its online free movie streaming platform, in August, but has uploaded only 30 movies. The company is in talks with both film and television studios for large distribution deals though, and is expected to increase that number greatly.

People who would rather not see pirated movies, and don’t want to shell out huge amounts at cinema halls, now have a number of options. Some of the best ones are:

YouTube’s Box Office

YouTube has created a microsite with ad-supported free movies. There are around 1,500 titles on the site as of now, and most of the collection is made up of older movies from the black and white era onwards. There are many regional language films on the site, along with Hindi movies. If you want to watch Hollywood or world cinema, check the complete listing of the movies on www.youtube.com/movies. Depending on the rights YouTube has, some of them might not play in India.

Upside: There are no delivery delays either.

Downside: Buffering happens fairly often. The films are also being streamed at a lower resolution, and don’t look great on full screen.

Cost: Free

Where: Youtube.com/boxoffice for the latest Indian movies. For the complete list of movies on YouTube, go to Youtube.com/movies

Yahoo Movieplex

Launched at the same time as YouTube’s Box Office, Yahoo’s Movieplex is also a free streaming site for legal movies.

 

Continue reading “Stream home the cinema”

Of writing, language and search for muses

I have just finished the fourth story of The Skull Rosary, a graphic novel which if all goes well, would be out in mid 2013 in the market. This particular story was about a blind demon , but ironically it was I who was blind to him. I couldn’t see what he wanted to tell me, what he wanted me to discover, who he really was. For days I wandered alone in deserts (that’s what I name my panicked mind). Nothing came out on the paper. This was a particularly difficult one to exorcise out of me. I hope I have done you some justice, my blind demon. I know I haven’t completely written down what you could have become and what you are, but this was all I could do. I am after all a mortal and have my limits.

Now I have moved on to the fifth and final story of the graphic novel. This is about a mad woman. I think I know her but I don’t know how to write of her. How does madness speak in a logical human language? So I search for answers in various muses I know will tell me which path to start. I read the lines that Neil Gaiman scribed in The Sandman series. I scrounge the delicate, heart wrenching poetry of Kahlil Gibran who wrote The Madman which I downloaded from Gutenberg. And I reread my two favourites which talk about this particular madness: Shakespeare’s Macbeth and The Eumenides by Aeschylus. Shakespeare was inspired by Aeschylus’s lines to create his crazy three weird witches. I hope I can recreate the mad witches in some form.

I knew I wanted to read these to remember what I would have liked to write for the final story. Did the muse in me speak or did she show the way? I don’t know.

Some days writing comes to me like my neighbour’s Labrador. It laps it’s salivating tongue and wags its furry tail, desperate to be touched and loved and hugged. That day I write straight for an hour or many hours, without a break. That day I continue to write in my head, even when I am walking, drinking a coffee with my husband or watching the sky. Those are the happy days. The days when the sun shines brightly on me and my smile is for all to see.

Most of the days though, writing is a demon I need to exorcise from my mind and heart. It haunts spaces in my head I didn’t know existed. But I cannot see it or touch it, at least through logic and human language. It shows itself to me in smoky silhouettes, in corners just out of my eye’s view. It plays hide and seek with me but not to make me smile. I don’t know why it plays and why I constantly search for it. I keep looking and looking and looking and never really see it. At the end what I write, is a part of the demon that in me resides.

Not the whole, never the whole.

For the whole is but a myth, much like a rainbow’s end. You can stare at the ocean for millions of years, but at the end, you will but see just the part your eyes can.