What´s in a name?

 "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" 

So wisely quoted, the great Shakespeare eons ago

The news channels and social media have been buzzing with outrage over Saif and Kareena´s newborn baby. Instead of congratulating the parents and praying for the good health and long life of the baby, all one got to witness were angry curses and abuses hurled at the family. 

All for a name that has nothing to do with any of their individual families. Yet, they felt somehow entitled to the responsibility and ownership of the name of someone else´s baby. 

I see it this way - Let´s take the very common name of Michael or a Srinivas. I´m pretty sure you can name a long list of some famous as well infamous Michaels and Srinivas´. Taimur is a very rare name and the only well-known personality is Taimur or Timur, the Lame King who went killing and destroying all infidels and their nations, including Indian cities. But, like any other name, I´m sure there are many other lesser known ´Taimurs´ in the world who are good human beings, some also being exceptional doctors, humanists, teachers, ordinary nice folks´like you and me. 

A similar kind of outrage broke out when Sania Mirza decided to marry Shoaib Akthar. Not only was this the dreaded Hindu-Muslim marriage but also an Indo-Pakistan one. Suddenly, Sania Mirza´s marriage was a matter of national honour and pride. Like the typical ´Log kya kahenge´ mentality that is deeply ingrained in the Indian psyche. So much so, it pushed Rajesh Khanna to croon wisely ´Kuch toh log kahenge, logon ka kaam hai kehna´! In other words, ´unko aur koi kaam dhanda nahi hain´! 

Back to Saifeena, the birth of any child is a moment of joy for any parent. Do we really have any right to abuse or question their liking of any name or their particular choice for their own baby? 

So, the real question, my friend is ´Would the baby, by any other name be any less adorable?´ Let´s see the baby like any other, with our eyes filled with love and hearts with miraculous wonder and make this world a kinder, nicer place for the generations to come! 

A true blue feminist in the deep, dark patriarchal woods of Indian Politics!

India is fortunate to have borne testimony to some of the finest women politicians in the world. Recently, according to US based Pew Research Centre, India tops the list of countries, beating countries like US which stands at 33, when it came to having women at the helm of political affairs.

That is a testimony in itself that India´s daughter´ is not just a rape victim but also a powerful political leader, in the form of a Prime Minister, President, Vice President, Speaker, Chief Minister and holding other plum portfolios.

Even today in the world, a woman in power is more the exception rather than the norm.  India has also had the longest stretches in history that saw women in powerful positions, with late PM, Smt. Indira Gandhi and Pratibha Patil both serving a combined 21 of the past 50 years. This is the longest serving record of women in powerful political positions. This is followed closely by Ireland, Bangladesh, Austria, Ecuador and Madagascar. Also, female leadership is more commonly found in some regions of the world such as the Nordic countries, with the exception of Sweden which has not seen a female leader, much like its counterparts US and Mexico.

Anyway, if the image of Indira Gandhi or Mamata Banerjee quickly flashed in your mind after reading the title, I am sorry to break your bubble. They did not identify or agree with the concept of Feminism and preferred not to be branded as one. Even though, they tirelessly worked for the upliftment and welfare of women! Anyway, more about them in another post.

I am talking about the Lady who has left Tamil Nadu inconsolable with her sad demise.
Fondly called Amma (‘Mother’) and Puratchi Thalaivi (‘Revolutionary Leader’) by her followers, Jayalalitha has come a long way from being the first actress to don a skirt in Tamil movies to a larger than life, much-loved, admired, and feared Chief Minister. 

Naysayers may argue that she was corrupt to the core and a dogmatic Feminazi. But, they will have to agree that women like her are a rarity, even in the international political scene.  

She is the ‘Wonder Woman’ for Tamil women in particular, who vote for her solely, because she makes men fall at her feet. Literally! This is no laughing matter and by no means, a small feat either. Jayalalitha has convincingly made the women voters think she is their proxy. And true to her word, Tamil Nadu is one of the safest states for women under her vigilant leadership.

The story of Jayalalitha would actually make a great case study on the rebuttal of Patriarchy in Indian politics. The horror stories of exploitation, abuse and betrayal still casts a dark shadow upon her and she refuses to forget that part of her life – that of a helpless victim of ugly sexism. This led her into severe depression and even suicide attempt. It was MGR who saw her through her personal crisis and became her mentor. She quickly learned from her failings and re-emerged stronger and mightier than ever before.

She was known to be a very independent woman who always acted on her own volitions. In an orthodox, traditional society, she made a definite choice to steer clear of marriage, placing far greater value on her own freedom and independence. She had absolutely no regrets about her decision and having no children of her own. She always found her satisfaction in working for the common man, calling the people of Tamil Nadu, her children and she, their mother. Always guiding and showing them the right path!

In the words of Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze, “Tamil Nadu is less known but no less significant.” 

Under her stellar leadership, The Tamil Nadu model of government has proven to be stable, consistent and sustainable. Her welfare schemes such as the 20 kg rice for ration-card holders, mixers, grinders, etc, creation of more than 1.5 crore new job opportunities, setting up of many small scale industries, giving unmatched attention to the education and many more have earned her the love, trust and faith amongst the people.

Very recently, the former Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju threw a bombshell after Jayalalitha´s hospitalisation, confessing his √Čk tarfa pyaar´ on social media. He said, "All these Cassandras of doom will be disillusioned. Jayalalitha is a sherni, and her opponents are langoors. She will recover and be back to work. When I was a young man, and she too was young, I thought her extremely attractive and had fallen in love with her, though of course she did not know about it, and it was unrequited love. I still find her attractive (which unfortunately I am not now), and am still in love with her, and wish her speedy recovery. Hari Om,"

Sadly, the sherni is no more...

Darling of the masses! 

Classic beauty with brains! 

´Leader of all leaders´! 

An unforgettable legend! 

RIP, the bold and beautiful Jayalalitha! 

Seedling of Creativity

.......................   are curious, flexible, persistent and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play´ 

Fill in the blanks, folks!

I don´t know about you. But, the word that popped up in my head was ´Children´or ´Kids´. But, the true answer is ´Creative people´. Isn't it almost whimsical how synonymous the two answers are! You could perfectly swap ´Creative people´with ´Children´and BOOM! it would still make perfect sense and not alter the meaning one single bit.

So there you go, the complete quote below!

´Creative people  are curious, flexible, persistent and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play´ 

And this was actually quoted by revolutionary French artist, Henri Matisse, who wasn't afraid to be as pure and free spirited as a child when it came to self-expression through the powerful medium of art. He used vivid colours and complex forms with gay abandon.

In his own words again, he sought to create an art that would be "a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair." While his ultimate intent and objective was pleasure and contentment, his use of color and pattern was often deliberately disorientating and unsettling.

Isn't that again, what children usually do! If you have children of your own or have studied other´s children, you would be amazed at how similarly the minds of the worlds greatest artists of all time and children function. Much like say Matisse´s style of functioning, children deceptively appear to be scatterbrained and inadept with their tiny fingers, making a ´mess´ (according to our limited adult minds). But, the truth is amidst all this wild curiosity, chaos, unsettling frenzy is the ultimate objective to attain pleasure and contentment. Simply genius!

We owe a lot to our children and artists alike! For reminding us that being adults doesn't necessarily have to mean the end of being curious, flexible, persistent, independent, adventurous and playful.

In short, becoming an adult doesn't mean the death of the child within us, but the birth of many children within our being. One seedling that offshoots into many fruits and seedlings of curiosity, flexibility, persistence, independence, adventure and play.

Here´s a picture of my big inspiration and reminder with a creation of her own handmade hair accessory clip.

What colour are you going to paint the town today? Hmmmmm! I´m thinking on the lines of green, magenta and ash! 

Aren´t we talking and thinking like children already? Better still, like world famous artists! (Wink)

Doing The Honors

The term Honor killing is such a paradox. It implies that the killing is an act of honor. If that isn't ironical, what is! Not to forget, it's an insensitive phrase that puts the blame directly onto the female victim and lends power and credibility to the murderer, completely justifying his motive behind the heinous act. Like a badge of bravery!

What is even more unbelievable is the fact that it is still so rampant in our supposedly modern age. Not much has changed since the biblical times, when the Jewish people wanted to stone Mary Magdalene, the town's prostitute to her death. Jesus Christ stopped them and asked the one who has never sinned to come forward to do the honors. No one in the crowd came forward because everyone is a sinner. And truly speaking, who hasn't made mistakes and continues to do so? That is when, Jesus spoke the iconic words to the angry mob - "Hate the sin and not the sinner".

Are these acts of murder supposed to restore honor to the family, society or the Almighty God? Whose honor is it exactly that the murderers are trying to restore? Why is that only women are the unfortunate victims of such honor killings and not the men? Who gives these men the authority to decide what's honorable and what's not? Why is 'Honor' solely the woman's ownership and responsibility while men can go scotfree doing the most unimaginable of dishonorable acts and still be left alive?

Honor killing needs to stop and be addressed through education and stricter laws. Whatever be the reason, no one has the right to kill and take a life just because one's personal choice doesn't fit into your belief systems or liking. A brother taking his own sister's life is simply unimaginable. Just reflects badly on the society they were brought up in. Such intolerance and hatred towards any human being is shameful. Let God alone be the judge and trust Him to do the honors. Till then, live and let live!

RIP Qandeel Baloch!

Of snarky sharks and jackpot of rainbows

It's an extremely thrilling and tempting ride out there for some. Encountering gigantic waves and overcoming them with elan'. Swinging around there like a superstar, strutting around all you got with the mighty ocean itself as the audience. And if you hit the magic spot, you might just receive a thunderous applause as well. If riding along waves and dancing through the accolades were'nt seductive enough, encountering glisteny inanimate and animate fantastic beings takes the current experience to a higher and deeper level of personal bonding and spiritual connection with the universe at large itself. How grand, noble and magnanimous!

But for some others, it's an incredibly frightening, eery and preposterous idea to put yourself out there so callously and foolishly amidst those mercurial waves and lethal sharks. There is that constant danger of a giant rush of waves that will blow you out of your mind and wipe away all of your senses, reducing you to a meaningless, purposeless and soulless entity. An enticing rush of waves that will take you surely down,  drifting away into a shallowness ever-so-deep, in the big, bad ocean. An ocean that has a dark side much like life and it's people itself and one that is best dealt with caution and discretion. 

I have to admit, I am no surfer. And, it's not about me or surfing either per se´. I am talking about the internet and it's accompanying surfing thrills and chills! 

I, for one, have treaded the middle path. Not exactly fearful or shy or dismissive of the whole social media phenomenon! In fact, I genuinely do have a good time out there. Nonetheless, I am cautious of the possible dangers and aware of my boundaries and real priorities. Here's sharing what I've learnt from my virtual experiences so far! 

1. People can judge and love or hate you based on your belief systems and opinions (religious, political, social stances, pop culture whatever) 

I remember posting what I thought at that time, was innocent in intention, about my personal God and hero, Jesus Christ. And soon enough, I get a mail from one person in my friend list, taking offence to my posts and citing the unfair discrimination that her kids and she had to face because of their non-Christian belief. And seeing my Christian posts only made her sadder of her plight. I wrote back assuring her that I genuinely respected other people's religious belief systems and that my intention wasn't to hurt anyone. And how I definitely was not like anyone of those Christians who persecuted her kids in school or her because they led a non-Christian lifestyle. In fact, my best friends came from non-Christian backgrounds. Thankfully, she understood. And we have taken our relation further from there and have a mutual genuine respect for one another despite our very diverse religious belief systems. But that incident made me stop in my tracks and ponder how a seemingly innocent post could be misinterpreted in so many ways based on the audience. 

The same goes with political posts. I have some strong political views. Unfortunately, not the views held by the majority in most cases. For some reason, I naturally veer towards the under-dog in the political arena. It isn't an uncommon situation for me to be reminded, time and again, by my father and brother to not post any political posts however much sense it made. And I do try to oblige most of the time. Occasionally, I do slip up. But, I do make a conscious effort to veer away from political posts however much I itch to do so. If you can find a group of similar minded people like you, you can most definitely go ahead and post with gay abandon. But in a secular pool, it pays to be respectful of other´s views and mindful of one's boundaries.

2. The more you post, the more naked you become 

A lot can be deciphered about your personality and it's veering from the type and quality of posts and pictures you share. Your intelligence levels, your personality type, your interests, your levels of narcissism, nature of your relationships etc. Even if you fake or project a different picture from reality, even that will be starkly evident contradictory to the image you are trying to rosily paint for the virtual world. A LOT can be read, people, between the lines and the pictures. 

So, post intelligently and wisely. Unless, of course you genuinely give a damn about what people think in the first place. Then, more power to you, Super-hero! A la Super-man, flashing his gaudy under-wear with pride or a corset bra-flashing Wonder Woman if not an entirely naked superhero. Ha-ha! 

3. There is a time for everything 

A time to switch on and a time to switch off. For the sake of your own sanity and your family's, you need to draw a line between the real and virtual worlds. Else, it will be one messy and ugly blurred line making your life nothing less of a circus show. You definitely want to steer away from the craziness,noise, frenziness and the overall disorder in your life. Draw a line, people. Know when to switch on to the virtual world for a bit of chutzpah and spice and when to press the OFF button for peace of mind.

You don't need some spiritual Baba or New Age guru or some scientific expert list out the ill effects of the virtual reality. Truly, I tell you, there is nothing more annoying, sad and disrespectful than a loved one glued to the phone than relishing in the moment and time spent with you. 

Another aspect of time is the actual chronological age. Like a minimum age to drive or drink legally, I think there should be a legal age for joining social media. This is not the place for kids. As it is, they learn too much too fast, given the current world we live in. And this is the reason, I wouldn't encourage my child to go on it till she is mentally mature to know how to use social media responsibly. And also the reason, why I generally shy away accepting friend requests from underage family members. This is not the age and time to be out here, Kiddos! 

Yet another aspect of time is the stage of life you are in. There are times in your life where you will generally be busier than ever on social media and when you will just not have the time to even log in. When you are young, single and ready to mingle, it's a great time to be online. But when you have a new-born baby or many kids to look into or you have long work hours or you have a super important exam or course to crack, it's but a natural course to steer away from the distractions and superficiality of social media. Unless, that what you want in the first place, for albeit, a little while. 

4. Set realistic expectations

I have around roughly 200 friends on Facebook. And I know for sure, if I were to go to the next world tomorrow, hardly few from that list, would actually be there for my funeral. And even if I were to live a long life, God willing, I can barely go to a few in the list, when I really need a shoulder to lean on or cry my heart out to and who would actually genuinely understand me back in return. 

So, the fundamental question now is why even bother trying to impress a large pool of friends/acquaintances who simply don't care but will still like endlessly all your posts and pictures. The fact is it's two way street. The same can be said about you and your genuine feelings or lack of it towards your friends circle of Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and the likes. 

Social connections on any platform be it Facebook or twitter (however celebrity status like your followers' list reads) are ultimately low-commitment if not entirely non-committal. Yes, as long as you understand that you are in a non-committal or low-commitment relationship with your social friends, that makes it a whole lot easier for everybody around, most importantly yourself. You are no longer delusional about your virtual super-stardom. You know those 'likes' or 'followers' really don't mean or translate to anything genuine and deep. Everybody including yourself, is out there for a free time of fun with no strings of commitment and attachment. All the highs and generous likes and doses of compliments, the flirty frivolousness, and gay abandon of fun are much like a one night stand figuratively. Or its like this virtual cool college cafeteria where people hang out, talk, gossip and have lots of fun together with no strings attached again.

Once you set or keep your expectations from virtual connections realistic, you will understand where your true priorities lie and what genuine relationships are, where you can seek it from and what it actually takes to build one.  

Another dimension to realistic expectations apart from commitment levels is the grand expectation to transform the world. However much, I might like to believe that my own posts are transforming and changing people's minds, they genuinely aren't. Some might think that Modi is just as good or bad as the earlier leaders were but for others, Modi is a 'God-sent´ leader who is the answer to all of India's prayers and woes. Some might think that Subramanian Swamy is akin to  'Kim Kardashian of Indian politics' but for some he's a true Indian patriot, a shining beacon of truth, light, courage and hope. So, whatever I post, however true or convincing, I might sound, you are still going to believe what you choose to. Your choice may resonate with mine or simply boomerang.

I am not insinuating the pen has no power and you shouldn't post or write articles. Hell, I do the same via my opinions on this blog. All I am saying, there is no point in having heated debates over the social media and trolling people who don´t share your point of view. 

5. A platform for learning and sharing information

This is by far, my most favorite, reason for being in the real virtual world and maintaining those connections and subscriptions online. I cannot thank Google enough for all those times when it came to my rescue. Times when I had to make a quick or an elaborate dish or find a home-made natural remedy that could be whipped right in your kitchen. Of course, when it comes to cooking ,nothing comes close to the experience of learning from the guru herself, your Mom. But when Mom isn't readily accessible, Google will do.

The same goes for pretty much anything you want to learn - be it an MOOC, language, music, personality development, fashion tutorial, etc. The list is pretty much endless. Its all out there. So much information to scoot from that it can be overwhelming, confusing and intimidating at times. But it's all out there. And really, the onus is really on you - your interest, your motivation drive and your commitment to learning something new each day.

And as I said earlier about learning to cook from your Mum, the hands-on expert, it goes for everything else. While nothing comes close to the actual face-to-face learning and live two-way interaction experience, the virtual learning platform is still a decent, accessible alternative compared to having no alternative at all.

But there is a shark, sorry catch to this unfortunately. With the amount of misinformation and insidious propaganda around, the one thing to be cautious of course, is the authenticity of the information floated on the internet and touted as knowledge and facts. You have to make sure anything you are learning, any opinion that is being shaped and formed, is from a trusted, unbiased and authentic source. Beware!

6. The trappings of over-communication

While I genuinely admire some people who can multi-task various social media platforms so smoothly, I get entrapped and bowled over royally by over-communication. I  remember when my husband gifted me the iphone, he told me to go and have all the fun - on twitter, instagram, watsapp, facebook etc. And I tried it for a while and failed horribly. I just couldn't keep up with all the social frenzy.

I quickly realized Twitter wasn't meant for me. I genuinely didn't have anything different to say on Twitter or Instagram that I already had on Facebook. And calling for cut-copy-paste or share the same matter on all social platforms seemed very daunting and boring in task. Not to forget, meaningless too.

7. My de-taali to the Social Media thaali 

I am sure everyone has their own preference to the kind of social media platform they prefer and is suited to their personality type. I have my own preferences and experiences as well.

....and so, I joined and quickly left Twitter. And I am contemplating the same move for Instagram. Though I like it better than Twitter. Maybe its the pictures or the celebrity instapics or videos. But, I'm still on it for some reason despite the merciless onslaught of selfies. I found it pointless to be on Linkedin when I am stay at home Mom for now. But will eventually join as and when I would be seeking a job opportunity. I love writing so blogger fits in well with my interests. I'm slowly warming up to Pinterest and actually liking it too. Surprise there! My most favorite of all the thaali offerings would have to be Watsapp. I find it most effective to be able to connect with loved ones living overseas. It is super convenient to form a group and have a hearty conversation. The same with like-minded friends settled in different places. Fellow moms discussing how well our babies have been playing, jumping, sleeping, eating and pooping all quite well. It's truly a blessing in disguise.

Having said that, if I could still further downsize my current virtual thaali, I would go ahead and most definitely do it.

8. Have a real, healthy and thriving life outside the digital world

We were at the Mall of America in Minnesota this New Year. There was this group of Indian bachelors, around 6-7 of them. After taking a whole couple of solo and group shots around the mall, they 'rested' a while on the bench. And all of them, every single one of them, was glued to their mobile phones. And my husband cheekily whispered in my ear - 'Look! they find each other's company so boring that they prefer checking out the phone rather than talking to one another.'

There was another similar incident. It was the birthday party of our daughter's classmate at a gaming centre. And I cannot tell you how weird it was to see every single adult in there, including the hosts themselves, glued to their phones while the kids were busy playing. It was bizarre and I told my husband this really is a first. Typically, in an ideal situation, the hosts would go out of their way to introduce themselves and one another in the group.

The same with anywhere you go. Very often, people are on social media to kill their time and boredom. Bad move if that is your only idea of fun and 'hangout'. Make a real connection with the people who live within the four walls of your home, take it a bit further from there and build connections with like-minded people in the neighborhood and community. Keep it real, fun, alive and thriving. And then come on social media to share interesting stories and useful information. That would make more sense than being a bored, virtual slave your entire life.

9. Universal connections and stories 

While online connections are definitely both low-commitment and low-maintenance, there are still some benefits in maintaining them. For me, most of my Facebook friends are merely acquaintances or at best contacts. Its like an online directory of just that - friends, acquaintances and contacts. Which works out great, practical and handy because I can contact or choose to meet up anyone in there for whatsoever reasons in future. Some of my dearest and most loved ones are not even there on my Facebook list. Like my husband, my Mum and brother etc.

But still, it's an active community of real people, having an idea, story, recipe, picture, video or song to share. So, just as yet we do not have robotic humans on board online, let's continue connecting, bonding and striking a chord with our fellow, real human beings around the world.

Just be wary of those sharks swimming underneath in there and please do let me know when you strike a pot of rainbow at the end of the horizon. And who knows, it may be raining jackpots of rainbows on a good, good day.

So, on that note, Happy Surfing!