Fountainhead

This is an era of entrepreneurship. How can our ‘army’ be far behind? Recently a new art form has been reinvented that goes by the name of ink attack. It is the latest art form trending in our beautiful country. For those of the computer generation, ink is a dark-colored liquid which when filled in a contraption called a pen, can be used to write via a human hand on a sheet of papyrus achieving a purpose similar to typing, except that it is a lot cheaper, it eliminates the need of a computer. A couple of decades back, that is what the traditional use of ink was. These days, it is only used in schools and colleges and government institutions. Since the use of the ink is deprecating at an alarming rate, our very own ‘army’ revived a potential use for it,  painting the human face black.

It is such a simple and brilliant idea. The uses of this art form are immense and innumerable. Some of the notable ones being –

1) It will give a boost to the fledgling ink industry.

2) it will also help the acid attack victims as predators catch on to this art form and start using ink instead of acid.

3) it can be used to tag children. The perennial problem of parents is to locate their offsprings in the school or mall. Different colored inks can be used to paint the faces of children and they can be found from far. A different approach may be to have your car and children the same color and each can then find the other.

4) it can be used to re-live ‘Wagle ki duniya’. A family can not only wear the same clothes, they can also look the same color. The Ambanis in the Red and the Tata’s in Blue.

5) The set of Avatar can be reproduced at a minimal cost.

6) Girls can paint themselves black when they go out in the night, even though it may not be in our culture to do so, and hence not fall prey to rapists.

7) It can be used in place of fairness creams, just paint your face white before you go, every girl can be potentially fair.

I really hope they patented the idea. It has such a far-reaching potential. At least a few billion dollars worth.

Choosing which face to paint is not at all a daunting task. The model proposed with the art form is to choose the foreign hand- oops, head. I mean a head to which the foreign hand is connected, sorry, but you get the idea. Anybody who wants a game of cricket with the foreign hand, anyone who wants to launch a book written by the foreign hand, anybody who wants to sing or dance or have a concert, or act in Bollywood movies and has a foreign hand, can be chosen. And the foreign implies the land from which little cute girls get lost and reach India, only to be dropped back safely by the Indian superhero.

The idea can generally be extended to anyone, who you can somehow prove, has an affiliation with a foreign hand, and will give you your desired 15 minutes of fame and recognition. And for the people who dare to celebrate valentine’s day, it should probably be a full body ink attack. I can foresee a long-term future for this strategy, you can use it on the opposition leaders, on the beef eaters, on your insufferable relatives, on people who want to spoil our 5000 yr old culture, on your unsuspecting husband when he turns up late and so many more.

I am thinking this would be such a great idea for my own startup. Its website will offer “dignified image tarnishing services” and people can choose the color, the victim, and time and the place. And my beefy employees can charge based on the amount of ink needed and the ease of application. For a thin person, maybe a discount of up to 50% can be offered. You should be able to choose the kind of ink, a temporary, semi-permanent, luster, metallic, and the color and shade – magenta! cyan! Crimson or mauve and… I can go on and on. And our mission statement will be “I have an ink-ling, do you?”. 

I will also have my own product roll-out in this space. I think we can recycle the perfume canisters for spraying children and women with light colors, and the huge car coloring sprayers can be used for the men. You can choose the product according to your usage requirement. This will be a product that can be used by individuals, families, and countries. A byproduct offering will be ink-removers, and a canister of remover can be offered in the promotional discount along with a canister of ink.

Can you imagine a country full of black people. Everyone will look the same, why am I suddenly thinking of China? We will get rid of apartheid! Is there a better way of creating uniformity in the country and the world! This product can achieve what no government in any country has ever been able to achieve. Equality. And just for Rs 999. A small price to pay. And guess what will my company be called- of course, Fountainhead.

The empowered martyr

When watching the character portrayed by Priyanka Chopra in दिल धड़कने दो, I felt a sense of familiarity. I have met this personality before. She is smart but confused. She is too sensitive, is hurt by the insensitive remarks made by the feudal males around. Forever overshadowed by a dominating father and later a passive aggressive husband, a mother who does not think much beyond her social circle and a mother-in law who has I-have-this-ailment-dialogues for every occasion, where can she express herself, where can she let her hair down? Her only outlet is her brother who understands without the need for words. She has everything, a husband who can provide for her, a job, she goes out of way to be supportive to all, but she is still the “daughter” and the wife who has to bow to everyone’s wishes.

No, this is not a film review. This is about this character, this person who a lot of us can relate to and maybe find within us and around us. And whether she is really empowered. The famous dialogue “I allow her to work so she is empowered” is so clichéd yet a fact we encounter daily. I kept on thinking about it long after I came back home. We made fun of it. “I allow you to make tea”. But the reality remains that you and I have heard this before. The world is changing. But the old world, with its own charm, had its own nasty viewpoints some of which still linger. I have heard my MIL remark “हम नहीं allow करते तो तुम कुछ नहीं कर सकती थी”, many years back. No, I actually respect her a lot, she comes from a generation where she was a pioneer in many respects having worked most of her life while most of her peers just cooked, slaved around at home and expected the same from all  बहू’s  around. I get the feeling that she says it more to herself, convincing herself that is the case and therefore holding her head high in front of the-esteemed-mom-in law-circle.

One of my friends from school days, I still remember, stayed right next door, when I would go to her home in the evening, she would be making chapatis for the family. – we were maybe in class VI at that time. Her mom would sit around not doing a thing. This girl, barely in her teens, had to make 40-50 chapatis before she was allowed to play with me. And if she resisted, her mom would give her a tight slap in front of everyone with dialogues like “चूल्हे में झोक दूंगी”. I have no idea where she is now and did she carry the same baggage in her next phase of life or she has changed. Would she be able to say No to her husband or she would remember that slap and comply.

My dad was a dominating husband, at times he would treat my mother pretty shabbily. She was a working woman, but had no say in any kind of decision-making in the family. She hardly ever had money to call her own and at times had to hide money from her husband in order to meet her social responsibilities. There were times when she would devalue herself so much, and declare she was dumb that is why her husband would treat her so. She could not even buy a saree without seeking permission. A generation earlier but I can see the similarities between her and this character portrayed by Priyanka. She would do great in her job, everyone would admire her, except her own family, who would treat her like dirt.

This is not about being a woman, it is about treating human beings with respect, not changing the level of respect because the person is a female.  My maid in Delhi would come to work beaten black and blue by her drunk husband and I would be more upset than her. Tell her, Let us go to the police and she would refuse. She said she had nowhere to go. I told her I’ll give her shelter, she still refused. She would laugh with a black eye and a broken tooth but still go and give all her earnings to him. Many educated ladies I know are in the similar boat- don’t have anywhere to go. So they deal with the sufferings- not silently any more- nobody does a Nirupa Rai, they fight, they suffer and they comply. I feel so strongly that females must be financially independent as far as possible, so when you have a strong need, you can step up for yourself and call it quits and move on. Priyanka needed an anchor before she could take the step. But are we so weak? A person I am very close to, is unhappy in her marriage, but she has a sick child and is not qualified enough to earn. So she survives in a loveless relationship with a husband who only comes home to eat and sleep, 7 days a week and gives her money to run the house and feed the family. Yes, he does provide for her. Maybe she should be happy in her silent suffering.

In Maharashtra, a lot of women work. And support their husbands. My maids earn more than their husbands and sons but still undergo the torture of being beaten at times and when they fall ill, there is nobody to look after them. But the social stigma still remains, the सिन्दूर  has to be there, the husband must be fed, even if they go hungry. Remember the character played by Sridevi in English Vinglish. Wasn’t that a classic example of a similar case. Someone who is gently smothered, unintentionally, who wants to break free, but within her social bounds. You need a will of steel and a heart of gold to be that and do that.

The biggest problem with us women is that we do not give ourselves the respect we deserve, we do not speak up for ourselves. In our mind we are still the commoners or slaves and our husbands and sons’ the Kings and the Princes’. The day we realize we are all equal, the world will be different. By treating your male counterparts as superior beings, we are not doing a favour to them. We are sending them the wrong signals and just when they get used to it, we will blame them for not supporting us in household work or other needs. But then kings don’t do that. Is sacrifice the way of expressing our love or our gratitude in being provided for?

Recently a woman employee in my office resigned. In a strange manner. Her husband called up to say she is not coming to work any more. When she was called, her husband picked up. She would not even come to the phone. After a number of discussions, she just came and said I can’t work for personal reasons and refused to elaborate. I can’t even begin to imagine the circumstances that compelled her to take such a step.

And how we love to make sacrifices and tell it out loud. We will eat after feeding everyone else (I do that too). We will not say No even if we have a headache. we will leave our jobs to accommodate the family. Someone I know has been cribbing her ever since I know her- All my life I am sacrificing for my husband and my children and I have done nothing for myself. Why didn’t you? If you had the will power and strong desire to do something for yourself, nobody would have stopped you. Being a martyr and blaming others is the easy way. India is a free nation, we don’t need martyrs any more, voluntary or involuntary, even empowered ones.

Letter to the lost prince

Dear Son,

These two months without you have been horrendous. The kingdom has missed you so much that they put up “We miss you” posters all over (or maybe they missed the laughs, sic). Do you have any idea at all what I went through in your absence! I wish I had taken the long overdue break in the Swiss Alps too. People have been speculating where you were and why you are not here with your people. What am I supposed to tell them?

I can’t tell them you are relaxing at Bangkok. (BTW, why did you go there, you are not even married?). You should have told me you need a change and I would have found you a beautiful Italian princess.  I could not tell them you were doing all the dangerous stunts in Uruguay. Their repartee would have been- A person who is unable to play the political  game in his kingdom has run away to play children’s games elsewhere. So, just for your records- I told them you were meditating about the future of the empire. But what is funny is that even after seeing you for so many years, people still believe you are capable of deep thinking. Your चिंतन break had given me so much of चिन्ता and I had to colour my hair every week to hide the greys.

During your absence the kingdom has been modified a lot. People are only talking about “अच्छे दिन” and “स्वच्छ भारत” and more such slogans in unpronounceable Hindi. Now we have to counter them with our anglicized accent (remember the people in this land worship the गोरी चमड़ी, and I seriously can’t think of any alternate reason why they would want you back, anyone sane would wish you Good Riddance). I was thinking of countering them with some innovative alternate slogans. Do you think “Good day” and “Save the Environment” can sell? Only we can think of such a radically different idea and we can distribute the biscuits along with it too. I know that the children in class V have to learn essays on environment I will get you the essay that got the first prize and you can memorize and recite it next time you are talking to Ornob.  I think even he will be impressed.

I don’t understand all this nonsense about “Make in India”. The only thing that it reminds me of is the ancient song by Alisha. Thinking aloud, if you get you an Indian bride, can we market the idea as a “Made in India bride”?  But these days bachelorhood is more in- so maybe frequent Bangkok trips is all you need. But then I digress.

I was also planning an image makeover for you now that you are back. The latest look in the vogue is one with 56 inch chest, white hair and beard and a suit with your name all over it. So start gymming now and make sure your lean look is gone and you develop at least a 50 inch chest to match. Stop shaving, go dye your hair and beard white, throw away your lenses and start wearing the latest branded rim-less specs. And I’ll get you a Gold embroidered Armani with “नाम तो सुना ही होगा” written all over it, I’ll sell one of your jiju’s lands to fund it. People will get confused and that suits us very well.

And what did you do about the essays I gave you to rote on “Land Bill” and “Indian Economy”? Have you revised them by heart? I don’t want you to falter when you are talking about these. I know you are coming back from sabbatical, but people still expect to see you fully conversant with the latest hot topics. And I want you to erase the words “women empowerment” from your vocabulary. It is a big no-no. The only entertainment it gave to the audience was similar to Kapil’s show. ( And you know I was seriously thinking about that alternate career for you, if this game does not work well, the jokes you can crack with a straight face will have people in splits).

Now I do understand you want to sit on my throne. Right now you are allowed to sit on my lap only. I am still going to be your babysitter and make sure you don’t fall off the chair. You can’t always run to me crying, Mommy, they are laughing at me, every time a media person says something you don’t understand. Look at my example, have I broken at all over these past decades. I learnt to wear this 6 yard ensemble, which is so tough to walk in, and learnt to say a few words in the tongue-twister language. You have to make some sacrifices to get the throne. Anyway, right now it is time to go to the rally and talk intelligently on the land bill. (Sometimes I feel your looks are so intelligent, till you open your mouth, sigh, जब अपना ही सिक्का खोटा..) Don’t botch it up else I am going to put you on my knees (on the same throne) and spank you hard.

Love you

Your overprotective worried hen-momma

P.S. I am glad the dog brought you back. This tail wagging sucker species also lighted crackers and danced. Can’t beat their loyalty.