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Grappling With Bonnets And Fairy Tales

'Get your Easter bonnets in by Friday, as we will be having the Easter Bonnet Parade later on in the day', stated the missive from the school. Easter bonnet? What the hell! I had visions of P walking up and down his school, looking like Peter Rabbit. Why in God's name would these boys wear bonnets in the first place anyway? After all, this is the land where the tiniest smudge of pink isn’t allowed anywhere near a boy (lest he become traumatised or gay in the future?) and here we are talking about decking them out in bonnets. That was when I was firmly steered in the direction of caps, hats and other manly accessories. No easy way out, then.

Giving in, I asked around work for ideas. 'Make a top hat - make it green so it looks like grass and then put Easter eggs and chickens on it' suggested one colleague. 'Or, you could dress up a baseball cap to make it look like a nest and place the eggs, chicks and things on it', quipped another. Whazisthis? Top hats? Nests with chicks and eggs? When did I die and come back as a Blue Peter presenter?

By now, I was panicking big time and decided to take refuge in that temple of modern materialistic society, Tesco's. And whoop-dee-doo, right at the entrance there was a massive aisle full of Easter-y things. The firang know how to make money, I tell you. Crepe paper, cardboard, balls of cottons, paints, all in a variety of colours, were stockpiled to the ceiling and harried parents were digging into them like they were manna from heaven. I did not have a clue what materials to procure and ended up getting two of everything. Which turned out to be the one smart thing I did.

Once home, the real battle began. I sat with the bag of goodies spread around me, along with other necessities like scissors, sticky tape and baseball cap and realised I did not have any glue. After a long trek for the same, I was now ready to tackle this thing - or so I thought. That was when I realised having ideas is one thing, execution is something else entirely. I sat looking at the pieces of cardboard, felt and the baseball cap alternatively, hoping the spirit of Martha Stewart would come and join me for a while and make the whole thing a doddle. As that did not transpire, I set about trying to tap into hitherto undiscovered, and possibly non-existent, wells of creativity.

As concocting a top hat from pieces of card were beyond my capabilities, especially without a compass to keep me on the curve and narrow, I decided to plump for the baseball cap / nest idea. My thought process ran somewhat as follows: cover the cap with green felt, send some brown felt through the shredder, glue the resultant strips in artistic disarray all over the now-green cap, plonk assorted bits and pieces of junk all over it and hey, bob's your uncle.

Remember what I said about thought and execution? Well, read it once again 'cos, as always, reality and my thoughts had nothing in common. For starters, the green felt refused to stick to the cloth cap, even after I slathered half a gallon of glue on it. I now had an extremely sticky ex-cap and some sodden pieces of green felt. Then, I shoved some brown felt through the shredder, hoping for some lengthy pieces of felt which I could twist to look like twigs. But the shredder decided to make a meal of it and I ended up with some brown felt mince. Pulling my hair out at the roots did not help. Not one bit. So I decided to stop fiddling with technology and cut the darned things into strips using old-fashioned scissors.

That complete, next on the menu was the lawn on which I had to lay my nest. Sticking it didn't work; stitching it proved lot more difficult. I binned the lot and watched 'House' for an hour. Contemplated committing blasphemy during one of the breaks by modelling the nest along the lines of Christ's crown of thorns. Finally, at 11:00 PM, S hit upon the idea of just laying the (spare piece of) green felt on top of the rudimentary circular cardboard crown base I had made, a la a green lawn and just plonking the nest and its assorted bits on top of it. Typically, I wasn't sure any idea of his would actually work. But as I sat plaiting the brown strips and strategically placing coloured feather and balls of cotton all over it, it seemed like a neat one after all. After grappling with it for a long and sleepy half an hour, I finally finished my creation. And boy was I one chuffed mummy or what?

P adored it when he saw it the next morning, thereby making it every bit worthwhile. I also got lots of 'ooh's and 'aah's at work so I think I may have pulled this thing off. I realise now that I got off lucky with the Dressing Up as a Fairy Tale character lark the school sprung on me last month. It was by sheer chance that I realised how seriously the other mums took this when I eavesdropped on a coven of them discussing what their children were going to show up as, the next day. Peter Pan! Tinkerbell!! Dick Whittington!!! Jack (not the Ripper, the other one - him with the Beanstalk)!!!! I would never hear the end of it if I sent my little man to school as his own adorable self. I had a major brainwave when I spotted a white sherwani of his hanging in the cupboard, unused and unloved, and made a golden crown to go with it and sent him off as Prince Charming, armed with a red rose, no less!

When I saw the other mums rolling in with huge bonnets, their girlies fighting their way in through swathes of tissue paper or trying to balance a tray of eggs on their heads, I felt rather proud of myself. I had come through this, hopefully without scarring P for life! And now, I am ready for the next challenge. Produce your own mega serial type saga? Come dressed as an eco-warrier? Discover the cure for AIDS for school science project? Easy peasy!

I am now Super Mummy, P says. I can do anything.
Bring it on!

Posted by DesiGirl 9:10 am 0 comments Links to this post  

When Bloggers Get Death Threats...

(This post is in response to Amrita Rajan's post "I Am A Feminist (Blogger Gets Death Threats)"

Last year, when my dad learnt of my latest love, blogging, the first question he asked me was: are you a feminist? This seemed rather strange, coming from pater and I went 'I dunno, maybe' shrug shrug. To which, he replied 'well, you either are or you're not.'

I spent a lot of time thinking about it. Rather like Ams, my initial image of a feminist was a bra burning, unshaved armpitted woman and (even though I did not frequent beauty salons frequently!) I did not think I was one. Typically, I Googled 'feminism' and felt I agreed with most of what Wikipedia states a feminist ought to be. I was rather surprised to note that I am a feminist. But since that day when the bulb burned brightly inside my head, I have felt rather comfortable and even proud of being one. Like the Mad Momma stated in one of her posts, feminism has made it easy for me to live my life my way. Though I am forever haranguing S about a lot of his and his family's beliefs, it is the concept of feminism that has made it possible for me to even think so.

Though to a lot of my fellow Desicritics, feminism is an ugly word and a feminist is generally considered on par with the seven plagues of Egypt, to most of us women (and to the rational men out there), feminism is a genuinely fantastic concept.

Which is why, in this day and age, I was shocked to learn of Kathy Sierra. Once again, it was thanks to Am's post on the topic that brought this to my attention. Like her, I didn't think of myself as a feminist but once I realised I was, it was a good feeling. I am sure Kathy did not set out to be an X-Woman type of feminist, burning bridges hither and wrecking havoc thither. Nor was she planning on doing a Lady Godiva, to bring the idea home to the masses. She is just a blogger like most of us, blogging away about things she felt strongly about. For her troubles, she has been receiving death threats.

Death threats! The whole phrase sounds absolutely crazy to me. Which regular person gets death threats? They are for the likes of Saddam Hussein, Dubya or other assorted loons. They are not for average Jo Bloggers like us! And who gets off sending bloggers crappy stuff like these anyway?

Lord knows I've moaned long and hard about the pain the Von SIFfers of DC are, with their irritating habit of blaming everything from war, famine and pestilence on this scrounge of feminism but even they don't stoop to such levels. I think it takes a special sort of wacko to launch this sort of attacks on another person. Worse if the criteria behind the choice of victim is that they should have boobs.

I blog about the most inane things in my life - what I made for lunch, what movies I saw, even about the time I took a toss coming fast down the stairs. I also blog about the most important aspect of my life - my son. I am now horrified at what sort of world I have thrust him into. I am sure he is going on blithely, betting on mummy to keep him safe and sound, whilst I am putting his pictures and stories of his antics on the blogosphere. The same joint that now is inhabited by these sick people. What the hell have I done?

Poor Kathy is now reported to be too petrified to even leave her home. How awful! What is her crime here? Her blog is about stuff like mind mapping and crash course in learning theory, for fuck's sake! What is so threatening about that? Why the hell should that prompt the enterprising netizens to drop in some death threats?

What sort of twisted world are we barrelling into? Whatever next? My mind boggles!

(To answer your question, Ams - yes, I am a feminist and am proud to be one.)

Posted by DesiGirl 11:00 pm 2 comments Links to this post  

Modalle saapadu, apparam nee!

This unforgettable line was uttered by the memorable Quick-Gun Murugan. This was the name of a rather naff TV character, somewhat along the lines of the Wild West turns East-ish flavour and we used to see itty blurbs of his clips at random points during your movie or mega serial. He used to utter some majorly inane dialogues and cracked me up big time.
After many a year, I thought of him suddenly and had a yen to see some clips. In true-blue 21st C style, I You Tubed it and here are my results. Watch and enjoy!

Posted by DesiGirl 6:33 pm 4 comments Links to this post  

Doggone It!

As a child growing up in Madras, I remember my granny telling me every summer during the baking 'kathiri veyyil' days (when the sun is reputed to be at its peak) that if I went out of the house, I might come across the dogs that were driven mad by the heat. Of course, I made sure I stayed put inside the house, all the while looking out of the window for any stray mad dogs, rather like Scout.

Why am I thinking of mad dogs now, you wonder. Well, in the past few months, the news reports I have been reading / watching about the doggie antics, makes me wonder if it is the mad dog season world over.

Things took a decided turn for the worse in England on New Year's Day when five-year old Ellie Lawrenson was mauled to death by her uncle's American pit bulls. Young Caydee-Lee suffered a similar, horrible fate - her parents were pub-sitting and whilst they were away, couple of dogs dragged her out of bed and killed her. As a mum, I cannot even imagine what those poor parents must have gone through and what they have to live with for the rest of their lives.

Last week on TV, there was a special news programme about the dogs suddenly running amok and turning on the people. One lady who was a victim of such attacks, talked about how her whole life is in ruins now. Apparently, as she was walking down a park near where she lived, two American pit bulls latched on to her and tried their best to drag her away. She held on to the railings for dear life and it was a good twenty minutes before a passer-by braved the dogs and helped her out. She's in excruciating pain now and is unable to use her left arm. She needs a full-time carer to help her and it was real pitiful to see this once confident and beautiful woman broken up in pieces.

There has been a widespread dog amnesty in Merseyside as well as in other areas of the country. Police have had owners of Rottweilers, pit-bulls and other ‘danger’ breeds come in and leave their dogs with the authorities, without fear of punishment. A lot of dogs have been culled, much to the RSPCA and animal activists' disgust. But even the police admit that the ones that really breed these dogs to become nasty killers are still at large and the public, still at danger from these dangerous beasts.

Around the same time this is happening in the UK, similar events have been taking place in India as well. By now, you might know the story of the children these stray dogs attacked and the resultant culling. Whilst the act has upset animal lovers, the sadness over what happened to the poor children reigns supreme. After all, we have all looked at these mangy curs askance at one time or another, wondering if they are going to take a chunk off you that day.

What has happened to these dogs to make them go on a rampage? Why are these random dogs across UK and India turning on the people? More importantly, what is the solution to this problem?

In the UK, the general belief is that these dogs, that have been especially bred to be aggressive killing machines, possibly for ‘entertainment’, must be culled and their owners, severely punished. Though it is no fault of the dogs that they are so, they still cannot go against their nature and it is in our best interests to protect ourselves and if the only way out is to put them down, then measures must be taken to do so. The ones that must be punished are those short-sighted people that bred these dogs in the first place, thereby putting the unsuspecting public in danger and causing untold grief to the sufferers. At the same time, proper legislation must be put in place to protect the innocent dogs , so that they aren’t mindlessly killed.

In India, the situation is completely different. As the dogs involved are not all domestic pets, one might think the prospect of putting these dogs down might not be such a wrench but these are still animals, and we need to think how we ended up with so many strays littering the countryside in the first place. We need to get some more dog shelters and find ways of funding them so these dogs are rescued from the streets. We must find it in our hearts to set up organisations like the Battersea Dogs Home, where these neglected and discarded animals are given a new lease of life.

Who knows, by doing so, we might make sure that these sort of horrific events do not take place ever again.

Posted by DesiGirl 6:17 pm 2 comments Links to this post  

Happy Mother's Day!

March 18 is Mothering Sunday. The day that is dedicated to British mums. After Valentine’s Day, this is the next big day in the calendar of the card shops, florists, cake shops and restaurants.

There is a never-ending supply of such 'special' days - Mother's day, Father's day, Grandparents' day, Mother-in-law's day (I am not making this up!), Sister's day, Best friend's day - the list goes on. I am sure there's a person in Hallmark who is paid a huge amount of money just to come up with these special days.

At first, the whole concept of having a specific day to think of members of your family or friends and visit them, etc. seemed ludicrous to me. I could not understand the need for such days. As I got to know the British way of life more and more, however, I could see that, in a weird way, it makes sense - for them. After all, they live miles away from their family, literally and figuratively and need special days to spend time with them.

Why this concept is taking root in India is a question I cannot answer. I live a continent and thousands of miles away from my family but am up-to-date with what's happening in each of their lives and vice versa. I certainly do not need a Mother's day to ring and talk to my mum, send her flowers and chocolates. She'd probably collapse in disbelief whilst my grandfather would shout down the phone at the strange Western notions I was picking up. I am sure this is a familiar situation for many of us.

Which is why I am not joining the mad throng to the florists to make a beautiful bunch of mum's favourite flowers or booking a table at her favourite restaurant. What I am doing, at the same time, is saluting all those desi mums around the globe.

Whether in India or elsewhere in the world, they are bringing up their children the best way they know how. Take a look at some of these mommy bloggers' websites and you will see them chock full of love. The love for their children, their wonder at their little miracle's antics, their joy in their little ones, their fears, their tears, their feelings - it will be real hard for one to glance at these pages and turn away from them without delving deeper.

I chanced across one such blog from a link on one of Sujatha's posts and was hooked real soon. From there, the crazy world of mommy bloggers was just a click away and pretty soon, I had bookmarked more than a handful of them and was visiting them regularly to find out the latest installment of Winkie's world or the Brat's antics or Tara's shenanigans.

That was how I discovered that little Anirud likes to stand on his mum's pots and pans and take a peek at the World of Dining Table. It was how I learnt what a great experience having a baby brother was, to Winkie. That was also how I discovered how helpless the Mad Momma felt, even as she awaited her second C-section so she could see her Baby Bean for the very first time.

With or without the helpful advice of the older generation, us mums (and some daddy bloggers too!) are grappling with this furiously changing world, trying to do the best for their children. Some, like Yours Truly, work full-time; we leave our children with strangers for most of the day. Others choose to stay at home to bring up their children.

Some of us are lucky to have a choice in the matter, whilst others are unlucky enough to have to go with the flow. But whatever we might be doing, we are all mums, who love our children no matter what and who expect nothing but their love in turn.

Thanks to the wonder of the blogosphere, us mummy bloggers now write about our children, our lives and ourselves and share our fears, pain and joy with the rest of the world. Our readers become a part of our lives, so much so that the readers are quite eager to know what happened to the mommy blogger's second scan or if the child has thrown off its tummy bug.

MIL fears, relocation, child's first day of school, school exams, second baby, sibling rivalry, you name it, we blog about it. By doing so, we manage to weave a wonderful web across the globe, a lovely network that helps us in our times of need, thanks to which we are never alone.

So, on this Mother's Day, let us stop for a minute to pat ourselves on our backs for what we do all day, every day. Here's to all of us mums out there -


and to everybody else, cheers!

Posted by DesiGirl 6:08 pm 7 comments Links to this post  

Race for Life: Lend Me Your Support

Every June, the Race for Life event is held in various locations all over the UK. Sponsored chiefly by Tesco, the races are run in aid of Cancer Research UK, thereby helping collect valuable pounds that go towards helping a cure for this dreadful disease.

This race was first run in 1994 and since then have grown exponentially to become one of the biggest of its kind in the country. Women of all ages, shapes and sizes run, walk or do a combination of both, to complete the 5 mile course. This year, Cancer Research UK hopes to interest a staggering 800,000 women in taking part in the event to raise a record-breaking £60 million.

The event kicks off this year on 2 May 2007 at Battersea Park at 19:30 hrs and continues till the last one on 29 July at Colchester and Exeter. I, along with a few mates from work, am going to be running in one of these. I still cannot believe that I am actually going to do this. I, who am thoroughly unfit, who has been grossly overweight for the past five years, am actually going to walk/run 5 freaking miles! I sincerely hope I do not do a Jade Goody and embarass myself thoroughly!

Oh, I hope to set up a fund-raising page. Please sponsor me/us!

Posted by DesiGirl 9:45 pm 3 comments Links to this post  

Holi Aayee Re!

Holi. The festival that heralds spring. Living in Chennai, it didn't mean much to me. Life went on pretty much the same as always.

But whenever I think of Holi, I remember the gulmohar trees that dotted the grounds of the apartment block I grew up in. Red, yellow and orange coloured blossoms used to cover the green foliage and from the terraces, it used to look like the trees were on fire! Every spring, the trees would be full of the riotous colours and so will the ground around them. The fallen petals would deck the brown ground so that it looked like a beautiful carpet has been spread all around the area.

But, of course, growing up in India, you do hear and see images of how the rest of the country celebrated this rather rowdy-ish festival. Holi also brought to my mind, images of Amitabh Bachchan singing 'Rang barse', multi-coloured kurtas and general all-round mayhem. I remember wondering why the North Indians always wore white on Holi when they knew well that there would be folks chucking colour at them from all directions.

There were pockets of Madras that used to celebrate the festival. The streets of the Hindi areas of Sowcarpet, Vepery and the surrounding, would be chock-a-bloc with girls and boys of all ages running amok, covered from top to toe in the most lurid colours imaginable. If the day fell on a Sunday, Monday morning these girls would wander into college, still multi-coloured - partly because the colours were real fast and partly because they wanted to show-off.

Those were the times when I wished I lived in one of those 'cool'er cities, where Holi was a definate day in the festival calender, where folks drank bhaang and sang drunken songs and danced in the streets. Alas! That never happened. I was stuck in staid Madras all my life. Now, sitting a gazillion miles away in staid-er England, I am wishing with all my heart that I can play Holi. I could toss colours at folks, folks would toss colour back at me, I would get gloriously drunk on bhaang and sing silly songs and dance in the streets. Oh, clad in whiter than white salwar-kameez, too! I want to wake up the next day with the colour still sticking to my skin.

Maybe I should sign up as an extra for the next Bollywood Holi number!

Posted by DesiGirl 1:42 pm 4 comments Links to this post  

A Mature Mum's Love

A mother's response when her son's wedding preparations ends up in a spirited tug-of-war:

"It doesn't matter, sweetheart. If I who have given birth to, raised and loved my son for almost 30 years will not be ready to adjust for his sake, how can I expect some girl who has known him a few months to make things easy for him? Can she love him more than I do? It's up to me to ensure that he doesn't get torn between wife and mother. Let him do what she wants. After all any plans we make thinking that we are giving him a grand wedding are actually uncle and my dreams and plans... they give us happiness - not necessarily him - and that is selfish. The truth is that his happiness lies in seeing her happy and not having to fight her out to keep his parents happy. Love flows downwards .. do you love your parents as much as you love your son? So let the girl's people do what they want. We will go along with anything to see him happy. Whoever loves more, gives more."

Courtesy, The Mad Momma's blog.
I have copied this part from her post so I will have it with me always and can recite it to my DIL in the distant future.

Posted by DesiGirl 5:53 pm 0 comments Links to this post  

Desi bloggers take on Yahoo India

Image courtesy SandeepaMarch 5 was a big day in desi blogosphere; on that day, a hoarde of desi bloggers took on that giant named Yahoo! (India) and toppled it. Three cheers for these strong women!

What had happened was this: these enterprising yummy ladies have set up some fantastic food blogs, replete with great pictures of some mouth-watering creations. One of them, Mahanandi even won the IndiBloggers award for the Best Food Blog! If you see her blog, you'd know why - fantastic pictures, simplistic instructions the most inept cook can follow and some great recipes are what this food blog comprises of. The blogger, Indira, obviously takes great pains with her content and its authenticity.

But one of the foodie bloggers, Surya Gayathri, got a rude shock one day when she discovered that Yahoo! had pilfered the images and content from her blog and posted it on the Yahoo! website - with no permission and certainly no acknowledgement. This tale of woe was narrated by fellow foodie bloggers Indira and Inji Pennu. What this plucky bunch did next is super: they got round all their friends and used the power of blogosphere to gun down the mighty Yahoo! They started a 'Start Plagiarism' campaign, which quickly gathered momentum and on March 5th, staged this online protest.

One has to just click the links above to see how many people joined them in this protest. The blogs also put up some nifty cartoons to drive the message home. It is no wonder that Yahoo! quickly capitualted when they ended with egg on their faces. They retracted their filched recipes and sent an apology to Surya Gayathri.

Of course, they used the time-tested defence of pointing the finger at some other partner website.

"The reproduction of the recipes, which were taken from a blog in Malayalam run by a housewife in Kerala, in Southern India, sparked an online protest among bloggers.

A Yahoo spokeswoman said the reproduction of the content was inadvertent and blamed the incident on a company it hired to develop content for its Web site, (India) Pvt. Ltd."

Yahoo! is not the only site to go down the filching route to beef up its content. According to these bloggers, sites like Sify, Bawarchi and other food websites are not above lifting the images and using the content to suit their purposes.

This win hasn't come easy for these bloggers. When first notified of this content theft, Yahoo! reacted by deleting the offending content and hoping that no one would notice. When that didn't work, the tactics took a turn for the worse, when

"they send their trolls, insulting many bloggers out there who supported us, very well knowing, we are ‘Indian girls’, we cannot stomach insults and we would cow down! I haven’t read so much filth which were put as ‘comments’ in my entire life. It caused me a lot of pain and anger and tears, especially when I saw the same type of filthy comments on couple of my friends blogs too! I, one time even thought of just disappearing from it all. It was that bad. "

When that failed, and news of the March 5th protest reached Yahoo!, apparently they tried to have a mini discussion with a select few. Bloggers like Inji Pennu stayed away from this and went on with their mega protest - and won!

This is definitely a big win for these spunky ladies and for us bloggers as well, who have been victims of plagiarism before. The precedent has been set and I can safely say, with due apologies to Neil Armstrong, that 'this is one small step for a woman but a giant leap for the bloggers'.

But the reality is, these bloggers may have won the battle but the war is far from over. Combing through the Yahoo! content, many more instances of such pilfered content are apparently found dotted across the website. It seems that we have barely scratched the surface of this copyright issue. How are we bloggers to protect our content? Can anyone tell?

Edited to add: According to the latest blurb from Mahanandi, Indira's blog, Surya Gayathri hasn't received a personal apology from Yahoo! Furthermore, there are more instances of content and image theft by several Yahoo portals. So, these bloggers have decided to up the ante. Visit their discussion board at Dining Hall to join them in their protest.

Posted by DesiGirl 8:54 pm 7 comments Links to this post  

I support the Blank Noise Project

I heard about the Blank Noise Project last year and was real impressed with the idea. The concept of the world's bloggers getting together to say NO to bullying, eve teasing and other assorted perils that affects an average Indian woman on a regular basis struck a chord deep within me. Which is why, I decided to voice my support of the project this year.

This year's topic is "When did you become an Action Hero?" My answer is Right now, this very minute, when I chose to voice my views on this out loud. Too often, we tend to hide these things in the innermost recesses of our mind and never let them see the light of day, for fear of ridicule or the 'shame' that might befall us. But the blogosphere has given me the courage and the space to air my old grievances out, so that I can move on. And by speaking out, inspire others like me, who have lived through experiences far worse but haven't yet achieved any closure as they are yet to open that Pandora's box.

So I say, on this day, let us speak out. Let out all those inner feelings of shame and anger that have lived within us all these years, while we silently sat through the jeers, the taunts and the teasings of the bullys that abound. Voice out our feelings and let us recognise that we are all heroes for, having suffered the ignominy of the eve teasings and the like, we did not let it get to us and are talking it out this day, thereby helping others who have suffered a similar fate.

We are the Action Heroes - every single one of us. And this March 8, let us take action by talking it out and saying out loud 'you will not bully me anymore; you will not scare me rigid with your taunts.'

Read my post on my experiences here.

Posted by DesiGirl 8:38 pm 0 comments Links to this post  

The Brits Are Not Racists!

We gave P a big bday bash yesterday. We'd been telling him for quite sometime that for his 5th birthday, we'll throw him a big party and we did. We invited every one of his classmates plus a few of his nursery friends as well as some desi friends whose kids fall in the 4-6 category. The pains started fairly from the word go. I did not have a complete list of his classmates and made do with an incomplete birthday list compiled by a mom and random inputs by P. Still, I managed to leave two children and when his teacher pointed that out, I furnished extra invitations for the two.

Then there was the RSVP. I thought it was the desis who could not fathom the whole RSVP concept. Turned out, the Brits were too. Or maybe they just decided to ignore the invitation. When there were two full days to the party, I had heard back from 30% of his classmates. But text messages kept coming in till 3 hours to the party from mums of supposedly eager children. We never said 'oh no we can't take them as we've finalised numbers' as in typical desi style, we had ordered extra places.

Then there was the actual event. We arrived at the venue to find some parents already there. Though none of them had deigned to say more than the occasional 'hello' to me till that day, I still knew them all by face and welcomed everyone and tried to get the party started. None of them had a clue who I was. I am sure they must have walked past me most mornings. But none chose to retain an Indian woman's face in their posh brains.

When the kids were busy bowling, S and I went around asking if the parents would like drinks etc, generally trying to play our roles of hosts to our best efforts. The firang had all gathered together, like nails to a magnet and S and I and our desi friends were stood a distance away from them, as always. Every now and again, the two of us would bridge the gap to ask them if they were comfy, to which we normally got curt nods. Though I smiled till my teeth ached, all I got from the other mums was random stern glances but no answering smiles. After a while, I got tired of being sidelined in my own son's party, gave up the Brits as a lost cause, sat down with couple of friends and cousins and watched my son enjoy his party.

Then came the time to say goodbye. Other than P's best mate, whose mum is the only one who treats me like I am human, NONE of the others remembered who the birthday child's mum was. They ALL went to S's cousin and said 'thank you for inviting us to the party', to which she said 'thank you and there's P's mum, why don't you say that to her?'. I ask you! Is it that hard to be nice? I am no alien, I assure you but I swear, last night, any alien would have been welcome in that gathering, not me!

To everyone thinking of the Brits as racist or discriminatory, I say this: they are not racist. I am no Shilpa Shetty but I tell you they are not. Why? Because they can't be arsed. Intense feelings of any sort requires an effort and these lovely folks cannot be bothered to waste half that effort on the likes of me even to discriminate against me; so they just go on like I am invisible. Of course, our paths might literally cross again from Monday morning but they don't give a shit. Even if they collide headlong into me, I would never cause a blip in their radars.

Sod you!

Posted by DesiGirl 2:54 pm 2 comments Links to this post  

Despicable Dowry

Dowry - the very word conjures up some real ugly images in my mind. In this day and age, when we are advancing technologically in every which way possible, I cannot fathom why this despicable practice of dowry still exists in our country.

Every day, many fathers of the bride are put through the wringer, trying to amass enough wealth to buy 'suitable' grooms for their daughters. And many men happily sell themselves for a few lakhs of cash, jewels, vehicles and even property. That may sound real harsh but that is what dowry means to me. One can justify it any which way they want, but in my eyes, if you are going to marry a woman, then it should be for who she is and the last thing you should be accepting is her father's hard earned money.

The father of the bride thus pays for the wedding and all its accompanying expenses, reception and a hefty dowry whilst the groom's family give a sambhandhi virundhu or the in-laws feast. How fair is that? Why should marrying a girl off break her father's back? Of course, the giving doesn't stop then, does it? There's the first Deepavali, karthigai, Pongal, New Year, Kaaradaiyan Nombu and the other gazillion deities' birthdays, for which the poor father has to shell out new clothes and jewels and other appropriate gifts. Once the grandchildren start coming, they add another dimension to the spending spree. No wonder some dads let out a huge groan on the arrival of a daughter, if the arrival means a monstrous, life-long bill!

How does it all work out?

The dowry generally gets decided post-horoscope matching, when the families get together to 'talk'. Most shareef families do go through the rigmarole of 'Oh no, no we don't want any dowry', 'But you must!' etc. After a few minutes of arguing along similar lines, the groom's family generally finishes with a classic, 'well we do not want any dowry but we will not stop you from doing whatever you want for your daughter.' How brilliant is that! In one stroke, the Rs 15 lakhs cash, jewellery for Rs 10 lakhs, couple of plots of land and a car are all labelled as 'gifts for the girl from her loving parents' rather than 'dowry' and the so-called bitter pill goes down easy. Masterful!

It is not just the lower income groups that get mired in this practice. Dowry is rampant in the mid-level and higher income groups than the lower ones. One of the most shocking things I found out after my own wedding was the concept of dowry for the sister-in-law. That really takes the cake. Apparently, the girl's poor father generally gives the groom's sister a chunk of money, apart from the requisite clothes for the wedding for herself and her family. WTF? Now we actually pay them to bully us? Or is it to make sure the girl doesn't have to go through the 'traditional' bullying that the SIL is paid off?

What I don’t understand is, how do these ‘manly’ men justify this to themselves? Our men, who consider most things like a wife addressing the husband by his name as a slight, how the hell do they square it to their conscience so they are more than fine with the wife bringing in so much of money, jewels and property? Correct me if I am wrong, but wouldn’t you want to buy your wife what she wants and thus show her what a man are?!

In these days of feminism and equal rights, practices such as dowry and the other hideousness of sati etc, have no place in society. A woman should be able to become someone's wife and daughter-in-law purely for who she is; she shouldn't need anything else to oil the wheels. Think about it: if the only way you can ‘get’ a ‘decent’ son-in-law is by paying hefty sums, then he’s probably not worth it!

Posted by DesiGirl 2:51 pm 7 comments Links to this post  

Desi Get-togethers: Why They Get My Goat

Last Sunday, the three of us went to a fourth birthday lunch party. Typical desi get-together, with six kids and sixty adults gathered around a cake for a child's party. Invitation said '12 - 4pm', so we timed it so we reached the venue by 12.30pm. Host was there but there was no sign of the wife or the birthday child, for that matter. They were home, getting ready. Right.

S tells me this is quite common in their circles. He has rarely gone for a party in his Telugu community where the host was at hand to welcome folks. They generally join the party at least an hour after the time specified in the invite, dressed up to the nines. My roof-top 21st birthday, with the whole family in the thick of things, threw him off, apparently. Why? Because we were all there - at the specified time.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought it was generally part of the host's job description to welcome the guests and introduce one guest to another, get the conversation going and generally circulate so no one feels odd or left out. Wrong! If I go to a party, I am to entertain myself, make sure I introduce self to others if I didn't want to be a social pariah. Whilst I am not saying that I will stand there like a pillar of salt till someone is presented to me like I am the Queen or something, I rather thought the hostess would do her bit too.

Now S and I are from different communities; he's Telugu and I, Tamil. This poses no problem when we meet Tamilians as having grown up in Chennai, S speaks fluent Tamil but faced with traditional Telugus, we run into sticky wicket fairly straight off the bat. They cannot wrap their minds around our mixed-background concept - they start rattling in rapid Telugu to me and when I blink and say 'no Telugu, only Tamil, pliss', they give me a blank look and escape before I can say boo. Or if S is around, they stick to talking to him along, while I hang around like the handy fifth wheel.

What's with the habit of talking to just the 'head' of the family and leaving the 'tail' to fend for itself? That pisses me off so much! I am generally a non-person, hanging back with a silly smile on my face while folks talk 'matters'. Oh let's not forget, they turn to me every half hour to ask if I have eaten. What? Am I there only to stuff my face? (Is it that obvious?)

Then there's the whole segregation thing. As soon as we enter the party venue, S has to go and be with the guys whilst I have to do my sickly-smiley bit with strange womenfolk, who all, of course, know one another. Why should every desi party feel like a Muslim wedding*+, where the men and women are kept in different zones? Why can't we mingle as couples? I have noticed this just amongst the South Indians; North Indian men don't seem to have the need to leave their womenfolk around the same time they remove their footwear.

And the cliques! I tell you - women in cliques are vicious. Avoid them at all costs. I do. At every gathering, there is at least one coven of women, sitting with plates piled high with food and sharpening their claws on some poor socially inept souls like me. None would even dream of trying to take someone who doesn't know everyone there like they do and taking them under the wing. Why bother when you can have much better fun cackling about them instead? They might leave their pointy hats at home to confuse the likes of me, but I can't spot them nonetheless.

But what takes the cake about the whole shindig is, when I’d finally bid adieu to the host, hostess and the few who deigned to drop a few words in my direction, they would normally turn around and tell me ‘oh, you must visit us at home sometime real soon.’ That always makes me open my eyes wide in shock and I have to bite down on my tongue real hard to stop me from blurting: ‘For what? Another dose of this?!’

But, being the typical bharatiya naari, I grin inanely and say ‘of course you must visit us too!’ and run for the hills.

*No offence meant to any Muslims and their customs - just using the phrase as a way of explaining things.

Posted by DesiGirl 9:27 pm 8 comments Links to this post