Monday, December 30, 2013

The year that was 2013

Picture from the net

The BIGGEST success of 2013 was the whooping growth of Social Media, which increasingly is being accessed on handset, Tabs, or dear old, laptop.

For me, starting with my declaration (which was highly edited by partner!) Up Close: Another colour of the rainbow, did excellent and brought forth what I love most – lots of laughter and admiration. I received calls from friends saying how much they enjoyed the piece.

Soon , followed my first meeting and interview with my all time favourite, Sanjna Kapoor. Along with the photographers we stood below her house in Delhi on one wintry morning late December 2012, to do the interview. She was her classy best and the interview was warm and full of memories of the past, her father, mother, grandfather and her new baby, Junoon. Of course like all mothers, she did stop  by to talk only for a bit though, about her biggest joy, her son.

March 2013 was a winner!

My partner’s book, Transgressing Boundaries was released by Zubaan book.

The interview with one of the greatest writers of our times, Madhulika Liddle followed.

Then, what I would love the world to remember him for – the last interview Rituparno Ghosh did was with me at his residence in Kolkata where he spoke on many things which are close to him and most of all, about himself. Talking to him was easy, as we shared something(s) in common, Advertising & Media being one. I am sad he is no more with us, because, at least the world would have seen a film surely on what he thought of the Nirbhaya issue and the way Media handled it. His question was: had she not been a girl in her early twenties, and hence, within quotes, at the marriageable age, fertile with the ready mix of stats that collate with how patriarchy looks at women, would Media be interested in the case? Hence, is Media not patriarchal at core? We may say that again, in the recent Tarun Tejpal case as well. If the woman was past her 50s, would Media, care too hoot?

In September, my publishers Xynobooks LLC, released my second Book, Laughing Stock Productions. A bag of laughter, it is what I call my Govinda Film – paise wasul – Get your money’s worth!

Closely followed the death of our friend Betu Singh.

October brought with it, the publishing article on one of my most favourite academic person, who can laugh and be joyous as well. Uma Chakravarti, whose work on the 1984 riots in Delhi, was path breaking. As a feminist and a historian, she has many books to her credit, but what she is doing now, is going to leave a stamp on Visual Art and Film making.

In November, I completed the first draft of my third book. In a nutshell the how to, lies is a magic formula – become single for a month, if you are partnered, write, outsource everything else, dramatise and play out your book in front of the mirror, take short breaks, drive yourself with your deadline of 30 days to write the full novel. You might do it in 21 even with the breaks, as I did!

To take a break from the mundane, I did my first translation/transcreation of a Tamil song I so, love.

Come December, I have been partying and rejoicing! I am truly grateful to 2013, for all that it brought to me and I know in my heart as surely as one good day, gives birth to an excellent one the next, or what the sages have said: The future is what you make of the present, 2014 will bring to pass all I want in my heart and carry my passion of writing to another level.  And so, I sit with my arms open to what will be, will be!

Happy New Year 2014! May it bring all the goodness of life, joy and happiness!



Friday, December 20, 2013

Fake or feminist?

Amrita Dasgupta & Anjanava Maitra
Long absences make the heart grow fonder. Sometimes they provide the much needed respite from the monotony of things around you and thrust you to a world where, everything is different. For me, this time, both were true.

Whenever I am asked, where I am from, I find it difficult to answer the question. How do you explain to people you feel you belong to the world, when actually all they mean to ask is, where do you come from, now. To answer their question, a reluctant Delhi slips through my mouth. How do you explain where you feel closest to your heart to live in?  

On most days, I live in cyberspace and not in any terrestrial space, although I occupy one. My world consists of people, I may have never met in my life and yet, I am deeply connected with them. Also most of them are now in two distinct categories – writers and activists apart from clients on my list of Facebook friends and LinkedIn connects. Sadly, of these, there are a few I have given more of my heart to, than I have received in return. Yet, I know, that they are instrumental to keeping me in my heart space, one which we take for granted at most times. The heart sutra for me is distilled in a few words, loving, forgiving, accepting the other for what they are and expanding my horizon and inner space to receive. In that sense, they give and I take.

Taking a break from the mundane and leaving the cyber world for the territorial, is a welcome change, when one connects with the real.

Marriages, they say are made in heaven, but they happen in the world of matter. An elaborate Bengali marriage, running into days, of fun, food, laughter and joy of two persons and families coming together, can be a burst of many wonderful colours and hopes and blessings. It is in order – patriarchal, heterosexual and the union is expected to bring forth one or two off springs which will then bring forth more happiness and joy around the couple and their families.

We did not grow up together, her mother and I, although we were cousin sisters. We lived in two different places, she in Kolkata and I in Shillong. It was after almost sixteen years of not seeing each other, that I in 1996, took a break to visit Kolkata. It was truly like meeting my extended family for the first time. There I met my niece, the one who just got married, sitting between two of her cousin brothers, the now very tall and handsome, boys, Shiba and Trishul. They were huddled together watching TV, although I suspect they were watching me, the alien animal from some other planet, supposed to be their mothers’ sister!

It all began then! The childhood memories of playing house, hiding under the bed, all three of us, Didibhai, Dadabhai and I, came back to memory, like a fresh water bath under the spring. I remember spending long stretches of time at their home, playing doll, going to the pattshala (informal school) where Dadabhai and I always sat on the floor at the back and talked, and talked, and talked! It has never been the same after that visit, 17 years ago.

Kolkata dawned to me, when these emotions returned. I suspect my love for Kolkata has nothing to do with returning to my roots, for mine are really in Shillong, but the pure love of connecting to my beloveds, my brothers and sisters, my mamas (maternal uncles) and mashis (maternal aunts) and their progeny.

Isn't it strange that I may hold out against patriarchy, the institution of marriage and uphold the rights of an autonomous human being, but when it comes to those my emotions are invested in, I am rarely ever militant about it?

So am I a fake or a feminist? These lovely pictures of the marriage, should tell.


Sunday, December 01, 2013

From ‘We Exist’ to “Just Married”

Photo credit: Bally Rai, Delhi Pride March
The Delhi Pride March has come and gone. Much fanfare and happiness followed the event on the 24th November, 2013 and it took a day or two for all the photos to be up on Facebook. The reception on FB was however, lukewarm, for right at that moment, the Tehelka, Tarun Tejpal issue took centre-stage high jacking the otherwise, expected much hype on FB.

Correct me if I am wrong, but this time media was chasing another story, with all its much overused masala of rape, abuse and sexual harassment, of which the Tejpal story is rife. Thus, LGBTQ rights took back stage, in the list of priority. Given that media brings discussions to the forefront but only those that they think need to come into limelight, so that the TRP and burgeoning sales of news papers and magazines are ensured, a subject as Gay Rights certainly is of little importance now. LGBTQ issues may be outside normative rules laid out by society, and therefore problematic to patriarchal structure of society, but it is at least consensual sex between two/more individuals. Sadly, even on Social Media, the expected LIKE/SHARE from other Groups in the same category also failed to show support in the face of the Tejpal mega story burst over days and instead of sharing and liking the photos, they too did their rounds with Tejpal.

The Tejpal story had in it what it takes the media and those who consume it, like you, me, of whatever gender, the ‘dope’ that humans all over hunger for - ‘negative’ stories like harassment, rape, abuse and such stuff. In Social Media, the pattern is the same. Negative stories receive many LIKE and SHARE, retweet etc, creating viral/trend effect across. All and everyone, world over are engaged in consuming, sharing, retweeting and putting across their views.

If you are not aware of, though, it would do well to know it now, the stories on Social Media which do their maximum rounds, showing anger and opinion, causing the much desired viral effect are from people below the age of 18 and therefore not adult. Indeed, their opinion is important but cannot change the environment, and the politics that affect our lives. If you are seeing viral effect and LIKE and SHARE in your profile updates, it is only among your friends. And how does that affect us? Wah! Wah! Back scratching. LIKE and SHARE again among friends of friends!

Who is then bothered about your love story, your consensual sex, even if it be among same sex partners, lovers? No wonder then, to make matters worse the photos of the Gay Pride March in Delhi, shared by one Group on Facebook did not even get enough LIKE and SHARE from rival groups, thus bringing forth another factor, which has been swept under the carpet for too long, the old ill at ease rivalry that maligns the Gay Movement in India, the disease called in-fighting. Indeed, it is not too different from the political environment in the country, where five states going to polls are screaming and shouting about themselves. Of course, we know those who scream the loudest, hear their own selves first. Others choose to put their hands over their ears and block out the sound.

Can we then urge the soon to follow, Mumbai Pride March, to muster opinion, by being on that side of News, which the world loves – negative news which feed the negative minds, and evolve a sound strategy to get attention, given that in times where any incident in India, like even a sexual harassment one, is taking on the colours of the political parties, fighting tooth and nail, over each other, the movement may just be another colourful walk through the by lanes of Mumbai. Unless, one masters the media trends which have remained the same, because humans consuming the information are the same, one generation replacing another, a call for being noticed will go up in thin air, no matter which media you consume, the print, electronic or the new kid in town, called social media.

To remind ourselves once again, when Zee TV started its channel in Delhi, way back in the late 90s, we were told that hour after hour was devoted to rape stories; women faced the camera boldly relating how this one or that had ‘baladkar kiya’, raped them. The TRP said it all! It was so high that no other publicity was even needed to make Zee TV one of the most watched channels in the state of Delhi.

If truth be told, come December, the Nirbhaya story will highjack all other stories and Tejpal, Arushi, will recede to the dark deep crevices of the Newsroom and again rape, harassment, honour killing will take centre stage.

To impact and create a buzz, one needs to peg one’s cause to a theme.  Why not use politics itself and ask why the erstwhile Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, living with a woman for the last few decades has not worked towards rights of gay marriages so far?  In the event of her death, will her partner over decades be left high and dry or would she naturally inherit the entire property, movable and immovable left behind?

In the absence of proactive laws towards same sex partnerships, the Movement is toothless. For the vast majority of people who are part of heterosexual community, the key to acceptance is not whether one is gay or not, but whether the laws of the country accept the partnership/marriage between same sex persons as legitimate. A shift from ‘We Exist’ to “Just Married” would drive in the point harder and cause much flurry in media, than one more Gay Pride March across the country. A Movement pegged on marriage among same sex partnerships, would thrust the whole debate of acceptance of persons inclined towards same sex partnerships/friendships, redundant. If the law accepts the marriage, it accepts who you are.


More photos of Delhi Pride March, 24, November, 2013