Parker& Bishop

 On Being A Woman
Why is it, when I am in Rome,
I’d give an eye to be at home,
But when on native earth I be,
My soul is sick for Italy?

And why with you, my love, my lord,
Am I spectacularly bored,
Yet do you up and leave me- then
I scream to have you back again?

~Dorothy Parker

One Art

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

– Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like a disaster.

~Elizabeth Bishop

Smorgasbord: Dating Readers, Ephron’s Neck, Calvino and Me, Being Jane Morris, Birthday Blues, Wedding Whiff

via urban sketchers

I spend a considerable amount of time trying to understand how my words and actions get interpreted, because more often than not people read between the lines for non-existent revelations. I lack the social graces and the ability for small talk; I get nervous when the onus of conversing with strangers or more than one person befalls me. I can’t talk about the weather, the people in front of me might not be readers and that eliminates books as conversation starters, I stare with my eyebrows raised to show interest, my mouth freezes in a half-smile and to heighten the creepiness I check the time every fifteen seconds. My tongue utters sentences that seem alien to my mind, I curse the unbearable length of a minute, I feign nonchalance and tip my head back but tip it further than I intended to and my chin hangs in an awkward thrust towards the ceiling, and heaven forbid if I have food in front of me, my lap is littered with crumbs. The  funny sentences, the smart one-liners, the queries about the pet and the travels, the sympathies about dental work and humidity-assaulted hair, and interesting trivia about Einstein or Madonna come to my mind usually a day after the end of such disastrous conversations. Despite the utmost caution with which I tread in making my point across, I often send innumerable wrong signals. My list of faux pas when it comes to interactions with people other than those in the inner circle of friends and family is longer than Sheldon Cooper‘s failures in detecting sarcasm.

Today I re-read this article about dating ‘a girl who reads‘ that I had read a year earlier. I present an excerpt from the article; it’s a lovely message that only lovers of book lovers will understand thoroughly.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

via Cyril Rolando

Sundays find me awake at a frighteningly early hour and staring bleary eyed at textbooks ranging from medicine to orthopaedics, and later reading the fat weekend newspaper while I eat my breakfast at the pace slower than of a snail finishing a marathon. Then I struggle for a frustrating ten minutes to hide my scalp, the graveyard of my beloved and recently deceased clumps of hair. I drive out of home a few minutes to nine am and on the way I rewind and keep listening to the songs that the iPod throws my way. I appear for a mock test every Sunday morning which I hope will equip me well in preparation for the important exam in January. I get bored of attempting questions after just twenty five minutes and start tapping my foot till the students around me glare disapprovingly. I dash home for the half a day in the week when I have declared a self-imposed ban on my MCQ books; from Sunday noon to midnight this bird is free from its cage. I sweat in anticipation and my hands grow cold as if I’m off for a secret rendezvous with a panting lover hidden in the dark bushes outside my window. I got that from Madame Bovary. I open the novels that had titillated me in stolen pockets of time throughout the week and watch a movie later at night. Twelve hours of pure, unadulterated pleasure and none of it involves a lover or dark chocolate or Disneyland.

I read two books last week Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart‘ and Nora Ephron’s ‘I Feel Bad About My Neck‘, and they were as diverse as they can get. One is set in a Nigerian village towards the end of the nineteenth century and the other is set in  1960s-1990s New York City. One is fiction based on stories the author heard, the other is an essay of womanhood. One is written by a legend of African literature and the other wrote few emotionally-manipulative Hollywood movies that I love so much. One is about drinking palm wine in the first hunted human head and the despise towards a lazy, flute-playing father, the other is about the joy of Julia Child’s cookbook and hiding wrinkled necks in mandarin collars. I loved both the books; but since my week had started on a sad note, Achebe’s grim novel was slightly upstaged by Ephron’s breezy essays about living in the most vibrant city in the world, the woes of ‘maintenance‘ by manicures and blow drys in case one runs into an ex-lover, the stages of parenting etc made me smile more and she won my heart with the sentence ‘Sometimes I think that not having to worry about your hair anymore is the secret upside of death.

This weekend I bought three books from Flipkart: Italo Calvino’s ‘If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller‘, Dorothy Parker’s ‘Complete Stories‘ and Julio Cortazar’s ‘Blow Up: And Other Stories‘. I also got Gillian Flynn’s ‘Gone Girl‘ and David Mitchell’s ‘Cloud Atlas‘ on by e-book reader. I am reading Calvino this week because his imaginative novel makes me, the reader, the protagonist!

I make sure to indulge in something sinfully good every week; sometimes it’s poetry by Whitman or Cummings, sometimes it’s a dark chocolate ice-cream, last week it was browsing online for  Pre-Raphealite art by my favorites Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, Edward Burne-Jones and John William Waterhouse. I devoured these paintings for hours till I fantasized being Jane Morris with the long honey-coloured curtain of hair and that proud nose and those sensual lips. I was mesmerized by the warm greens and mellow golds in their paintings.

 One of my favorite paintings is by an associate of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, Sir Frederick Leighton; I had an acute case of Stendhal Syndrome when I first saw his ‘Flaming June‘.

Birthdays make me delirious with joy, they are highly over-rated in my world. I become excited on New Year’s Day for my birthday in November! I expect the world to stop spinning for a moment on my birthday to acknowledge its significance in my life. I blame it on my parents. Growing up, birthdays were the most coveted and lavishly celebrated events in an otherwise commonplace childhood in a small town. There were more than five hundred guests, I repeat, five bloody hundred guests on each of my birthdays till I decided I was too grown up to wear a party hat and cut a cake while standing under a tuft of balloons. I missed the mountain of gifts though. I continued celebrating birthdays that ranged from a rowdy get-together of friends with mock stripteases and dangerous truths to quiet dinners with family and a temple visit in the morning. Birthdays rule my life and birthday cynics turn me off. I make sure I don’t let the birthdays of my loved ones be just an ordinary day; I am worse than Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreations determined to celebrate Ron Swanson’s birthday. That’s why the news that this years AIIMS post graduate entrance exam is scheduled for the day after my birthday has caused such an emotional upheaval in my life! I don’t want to study on my birthday, but that’s what I’d probably wind up doing instead of all the good stuff I’d imagined, one of which included a leisurely lunch with my girlfriends who would coincidentally all be in town this November.

But God is kind, and he soothed my bruised heart with a news that made my heart do joyful somersaults. My oldest and ‘best-est’ (yes, I use this word) friend is planning to tie the knot next year and I feel so happy for her and the ‘best-est’ (again!) guy in the world that she has chosen to spend her life with (I told her just now that I am officially in love with him too after hearing about his romantic gestures and old-world, Victorian era gentlemanly concern for her which is so hard to come by nowadays. He is Mr.Darcy or ‘non blind’ Mr.Rochester!).

I will watch a movie now, In The Mood For Love.

Sita Sings The Blues

I watched the movie online a couple of days back. And absolutely loved it. You can catch Nina Paley’s “Sita sings the blueshere. It’s a brilliant animated version of the Indian epic Ramayana which runs parallel to a modern love story. It has been described as the “greatest break-up story every told”! It uses the jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw to chronicle the events of Ramayana, keeping in focus the relationship of Ram and Sita. It uses three shadow narrators (my favorite characters in the movie) to depict the tale and their hilarious narration wil surely delight you. The animation varies from frame to frame in three completely different settings of art. It’s one of the best works I’ve ever seen. Witty and pithy narrative, fantastic animation, good songs and above all a awesome depiction of the Grand epic Ramayana and the plight of Sita is sure to delight many a movie buff.

Why did I choose to mention this movie? March 8th. Women’s Day. MTV India ran a poll on whether there should  be a special day to celebrate the achievements of women. 55% said “yes”, 45% said “there shouldn’t be a specific day to celebrate the achievements of women, every day is Women’s Day” That’s all very good, but honestly do you really think women have got the respect and recognition they deserve in society? And should we even strive for acknowledgement from men for every achievement of ours? We all know the answer in our hearts. I’ve written earlier about the significance of being a girl. In the movie, issues such as Ram asking Sita to prove her purity, despite her unwavering devotion and love for him and the sorrows she suffers silently because of his decision to abandon her when she was pregnant. Through all the turmoils in her life, she unquestioningly obeyed him, loved him, worshiped him. But she didn’t get the respect and love she deserved in the end. Sounds familiar? The film-maker draws parallel to her own love story in the movie. And think about it, don’t you know someone with a similar predicament? The story of Sita is still relevant in today’s world and many women can relate to her at some point or the other. Watch the movie. Highly recommended.

The tagline of the Cosmopolitan female is “fun, fearless female“. May I just add “Fantabulous” to it! If I wait and think about the wonderful women I’ve known in my entire life, I feel so proud to be a woman. Words won’t be enough to describe their full importance in my life, and I won’t even attempt to do so. I just want to tell these fabulous females that I feel blessed to have known them.

1.Ma– for being the epitome of selfless love, for bringing me to this world, for every tear you shed when I was hurt, for being my biggest fan in everything I do, for always making me feel so secure and loved, for bearing my stupid tantrums and never judging me, for loving me just the way I am, for giving a wonderful childhood…for everything. For my existence in this world. I’m eternally indebted to you. And not just a wonderful mother, but the most wonderful woman I’ve ever known.

2.My sister– Few words to describe you; “You’re my life

3.My wacky aunt “Kuni” and even wackier cousins- Priyanka, Sangeeta, Ankita, Bonani, Pompee, Dimpee, Manali, Juku ba, Bu ba, Piya and my baby, Pooja. Juku Ba, I’m so so proud of you the way you’ve battled with the unexpected setback in your life. I pray that you get well soon.

4.The other females in our family- my aunts, my grandmother, my bhabhis. Each one, an uniquely extraordinary great woman. Especially you Pepe!

5.My daily dose of vitamins, my soul sisters- Angana and Aparoopa, my best friends. Two amazing women- the perfect examples of fun, fearless and freaking fabulous females!I love you.

6.Other close friends, with whom I have at some point or the other in my life have shared some wonderful times together. I cherish your friendship. Devi, Bandana, Jyotilekha, Kaveri, Chandamita, Pallabi T, Pallabi P, Supanta, Mousumi, Ruma, Amrita, Daisy Ba.

7. My teachers- Anita Ma’am, Deepti Ma’am, Srivastava Ma’am, Gayatri Ma’am, Manjula Ma’am. Thanks for guiding me at each step.

8. And how can I forget my fellow bloggers. Each one of you so awesomely talented, so wonderfully witty…I eagerly wait every day to read your blogs; I’ve smiled with you, cried with you, laughed till it hurt with you, and even fretted over your work problems with you. I could relate to your experiences. I’m inspired by your thoughts, your lives. I think you are oh-so-amazing! And even though most of the bloggers haven’t met each other, I can surely say each one of us are bound together by shared emotions, shared experiences and it is such an wonderful feeling. Keep writing those brilliant blogs, you’ve one big fan here. I would specially like to mention my favorite blogs: Anita, Lost on the street, Crowscious, Prerna, ShahanaIndi, Anuja, Aoife, E, Ashley and Corinne.

Happy Women’s Day!Cartloads of love and hugs.

Being A Girl

I’m no hardcore, bra burning feminist. All I want is never to be discriminated just because I’m a girl. Women have made gradual but tremendous progress in all walks of life. They are on equal footing with men. And might I say that’s setting the standards a little low! Still got a long way to go. Especially in my country, where female feticide is an open secret. Women are yet to find their rightful place by breaking the barrier of domesticity, embracing education and following their dreams. And not just in the rural areas. Even in the urban society, uber modern lifestyles notwithstanding, women have to make compromises in their careers, education or family life at some point or the other. A woman breaking into the top of the male dominated corporate world is still so rare that it makes news headlines for a week. Even in the field of medicine, that I’d opted for as a career, women faces discrimination on the basis of their sex. The ratio of male to female surgeons is still high. There are still a section of patients who prefer a “capable, responsible male” doctor to a female doctor any day. Even during clinical rotations I’ve noticed patients calling the female medical students or doctors as “sister” (think “nurse”). The thought of a female doctor still doesn’t cross their minds. I’ve felt irritation, discomfort and finally resignation at these comments.

While growing up, I never gave much thought to where a girl child stands in today’s Indian society. My sister and I were unduly pampered and loved by the whole extended family and girls predominated among the huge number of cousins. All the neighborhood kids of my age were boys and I was the pampered one amongst them too. We were spoilt rotten while growing up. But even in this protected environment, few recent incidents made me take a hard, unbiased look at my own family. The significance of being a girl in my family. There had never been any objection to any woman from our family in terms of career; except in case of my mother. My mother used to keep very frail health in her youth and suffered from a lot of ailments. So my father made her discontinue her job and stay in the comforts of home. I find it unfair that she wasn’t allowed to voice her opinion in this aspect. And I’ve seen that in the marriages in my family, the men always had the final word. There weren’t any conflicts or quarrels as such, but little decisions like the choice of holiday destination, whether to get a pet or not, what to watch on television etc.

I was born seven years after my parents’ marriage and at that time being childless for more than five years into a marriage was a troubling issue. Neighbors had the audacity to suggest to my grandmother about my father’s remarriage. And I was aghast to know later that few of my relatives even considered it as a sensible idea. But my father put his foot down and wisely the others shut up. But it made me think how inconsiderate they were towards my mother; her feelings weren’t given any thought. There had also been one specific instance of an uncle of mine feeling very disappointed at the birth of a girl child for the second time. But now the same person goes out of his way to ensure that his daughters get the best of everything. Makes me wonder about that latent feeling of discontent in him that surfaced once during the birth of his second daughter. It was very brief and didn’t occur ever again, but why did that feeling had to arise in the first place?

I wondered at times whether my father too felt so. He had always been so proud of my sister and me. There was this one instance when his boss had commented that he felt sorry for my father because he had no sons and he’s up for a lonely time once he’s retired from work, and his daughters are married. That insensitive comment that was completely unjustified and totally uncalled for angered my father so much that he lashed out at his boss. Things had turned out that bad. Our family had gone to Delhi a couple of months ago and during the train journey, the person sitting next to my father asked him whether he had any sons. When my father answered no, the man (who by the way was a top official at a bank in Kolkata) actually sighed and looked sympathetically at my father. He went on to say that he had been blessed with two sons, who were currently unemployed but thinking of starting a business venture soon. But for him it was no big deal; they are boys and they will always find out a way to survive and take care of their parents. He again re-formed his face to evoke sympathy for my father. My father replied his eldest daughter is a doctor and the next daughter is a college topper; and he’s quite proud of both his daughters. That comment was worth saying just to see the look on that man’s face.

Why do educated people still think it’s a loss when a girl child is born? Why do parents feel that they wouldn’t have anyone to fall back on once their daughters are married off? I was proud of the way my father has tackled the insensitive comments he had heard over the years just because he doesn’t have a son. I don’t know what miracle a son would have achieved that his daughters couldn’t.

All the children of my father’s colleagues and friends are in their late twenties or early thirties, well-settled in life and providing for their parents post retirement. His friends proudly boast of the security and comfort they enjoy in this late phase of life because of their sons. I’m still a student working towards a post-graduate degree; studying medicine takes awfully long and the returns aren’t good till the specializations are over. Moreover I’m the youngest among all the children of my father’s friends, owing to my parents’ late marriage and my birth seven years into their marriage. I wonder at times whether my father too has regrets deep down about not having a son. I know he loves my sister and me an amount that lacks words to describe, but I feel very disturbed at times that I’m not yet able to do the things for him that sons of his colleagues had done. I know I can do them after few years, once my studies are over. But because of a certain section of the society, there is this indirect pressure to prove that his daughter can do the same things that a son might have done.

Has anyone out there have ever felt the same?