The Leftover Pizza

Daily life Pizzazz, some nuggets, some fun

Queen – as real as it gets

At one point in the film, in a drunken stupor, Kangna Ranaut captures the life of the average Indian girl – Tum jiska bhi naam lo, maine sabki baat maani hai. To me that was the defining moment of the film. Indian girls are taught to be ‘good’ rather than ‘authentic’. Lisa Haydon’s Vijaylakshmi, tries to bring Kangna out of her inhibitions. But where Queen becomes superlative is that it neither judges Vijaylakshmi (unlike Deepika’s character being judged in Cocktail) nor does it judge Kangna’s Rani for being what college bullies term as being ‘behenji’. Its a rare script where the heroine comes into her own but doesn’t necessarily become the opposite of what she was to prove her worth. Even at the end of the Queen, Kangna’s character remains the girl from Rajouri, albeit with better confidence. 

A lot has been written about Kangna’s performance and she has done full justice to a strong author backed role. Perhaps she personally related to Rani, as she has been criticised by Bollywood and some viewers for her small town looks and her style of talking. Succeeding for Kangna also must have been similar to Rani’s self discovery. 
What is also remarkable about Queen, is that for the first time you have a heroine’s family, that is understably upset about their daughter’s marriage being cancelled at the last minute, but doesn’t go into theatrics or forcing her to forget the guy or marry someone else soon. At no point do we see the family telling her that her life is ruined. They are just quietly supportive, so much so that her father is surprised but doesn’t ask her anything about the sex toy shop bills. One of the endearing portrayals of family interactions for me, was how whenever Kangna would want to hang up the phone or disconnect Skype, her mother would talk atleast 5 more minutes and she would have to cut her mother off mid-way. That so reminded me of how all our mothers are. We love them, but sometimes we have to cut the call and though they feel hurt about it, they love us too. 
The writing also follows cinematic grammar. For me, the greatest evidence of that was when Kangna sees the Eiffel tower and memories of her ex fiance (Rajkumar Rao, in an advanced version of his role from Love, Sex aur Dhokha) flood her. For the next 5 minutes wherever she goes she ends up seeing the Eiffel tower, its like she can’t escape it. That to me was a brilliant cinematic way of showing how when we most want to suppress unpleasant thoughts, especially those of personal loss, they keep showing up. The mind keeps bringing up the same images and thoughts. 
Rajkumar Rao’s role is very brilliantly written. He is just a garden variety Indian MCP, wanting to emotionally and physically control his fiance. The kind who puts up profiles of ‘wanted traditional yet modern girl’ (really what’s up with that?). So he when he returns from phoren, he wants a better status wali wife so plain Jane Rani won’t do and yet he can’t take even the better status wife if she has a mind of her own. Very telling are the flashbacks that explore what might seem to many Indian families normal expectations of a fiance but are really steeped in patriarchy. The need for control is strongly established when he disregards the pain she may have gone through on being dumped suddenly and insists she feel guilty that he had been looking for her for 5 days. The portrayal of nosy ‘log’ is also very real with how more than Kangna’s parents, her overseas relatives who’ve never seen her for years, seem to be more concerned about her barbaad life. Isn’t that true even in real life? 
As a small town girl myself, Queen felt very personal to me. Kangna’s journey in the film was so close to my own reality. I had warned my friends before watching the movie, that I might relate too strongly to the movie and might get emotional. But to my surprise the movie makes a point without tying the viewers into emotions. Its just reality with a sense of humour. As four of us girls walked out of the theater after the movie, we saw all the ladies discussing it animatedly and in good cheer, but the men in the audience were walking out with sombre expressions. Were they wondering if their significant others also would secretly want to post ‘Kutta’ on a facebook wall? 😛 
Go watch the movie if you haven’t already. Its rare such a real and fun movie comes out of Bollywood. 

Open letter to all Gynaecologists

Dear gynaecologists,

I write this letter on behalf of all women who have or are touching the dreaded age of 30. Some of us come to you as part of our annual check ups, some of us come for minor irritations and questions while some of us come for questions related to our fertility and choices of motherhood.

Invariably if we are anywhere above 27 and there is no sign of a ring, mangalsutra or if we just have a boyfriend/fiance whom we intend to marry someday, we have had to face intense scrutiny from your creed about it. We thought our grandmothers and those pesky aunties scared us the most about marriage and the impending deadline for it. However, the fear one visit to you puts in us is far worse.

Whether we come with a husband/boyfriend regarding family planning or come with some other questions to you with no man in the picture, the first thing we are told is that our fertility is running out. The implication always is that most of us have given preference to career goals or some new age ideas and are delaying motherhood. These assumptions are made regardless of your knowledge of what is going on in our life, whether we have been coming to you for years or even if it is the first time we ever came to your clinic.

This assumption is just the starting point, after which many from your creed remind us of the dreaded figure of 30, as if friends, relatives and media do not scare us about it already. In a country where sometimes even a well educated 20 something woman sometimes does not know fully well about sex, sometimes a woman just comes to you to get a clearer idea. And a friend who came to one of you regarding clarity, so that she could proceed with caution with her fiancé was given a morality lecture on the pre-marital sex and basically told her fiancé was probably only after one thing. Another friend who married post the magic figure of 30 and is trying for a child, is frequently being made guilty for having waited so long and told during every visit about how she will probably face all the worst scenarios of having a baby late. Those of us who have yet to ‘settle down’ are given quizzical looks and told we better hurry along with predictions of a gloomy future.

You might say that all of this is well meaning advice, because medically late pregnancies do have their own complications. That is a fair enough point, but what flummoxes most of us is, why the morality lectures and why the judgements on our life choices? We already have too many people in our lives who judge us daily about that, how is having a qualified professional doing that too helping us? Could we expect from you an understanding that for some of us, life doesn’t follow the Bollywood/societal script, whether we have tried hard or not? And aren’t you reinforcing a societal mindset that a woman’s only usefulness to the society is her reproductive capability by scaring her about it every time? Could we expect that the next time one of us comes to you, instead of telling us what could possibly go wrong and how our lives could be ruined, we get advice on what could still be done, given our age, our financial conditions and whether or not there is or will be a man in our lives? Because if you show the way, there is a likelihood, the society might also consider a woman’s utility beyond her reproductive abilities. 

Heartbreak, abuse and suicide

So I have been following/covering this case of a young Bollywood actress with a not-so-promising career, Jiah Khan, who committed pizzaheadersuicide, after what has now been widely reported as ‘heartbreak’ over her relationship with actor Aditya Pancholi’s son Suraj Pancholi. Strangely, the opinions I hear on this case are so divided that it seems like Moses and the Israelites could walk through the gap.

Everyone agrees, Jiah was young, beautiful and she shouldn’t have chosen to end her life so. That part is easy. But the sea parted after Suraj Pancholi was arrested for abetment. Suddenly, even the most vehement of feminists were heard saying how can you blame him for what she did? I partly agree with the theory that suicide is your personal choice, but there are sometimes circumstances of abuse where the victim is driven to suicide. Suicide is all about the feeling of having no options and has little to do with weakness or foolishness. The alleged suicide letter, if taken into account as the original sequence of how things had gone down, does support the talk of abuse. But that is still for the courts to decide, all I wish is to debunk some random theories spouted by misogynists and feminists about why Suraj can’t be responsible, all of this, of course, is on the basis of the recovered suicide note being true and on other commonsense things.

Argument No. 1 : Suraj Pancholi is young, only 21, how could Jiah expect him to marry her?

Umm, that still doesn’t take away the responsibility of having a healthy relationship away from Suraj does it? And I don’t think our society is as forgiving of an 18 year old girl who made the ‘mistake’ of dating some guy. We expect her to take full responsibility of her choices, so why not ask the guy to shoulder those too, irrespective of his age. The most irrational arguments I have heard when I said this – well its not like he raped her, she agreed to it too and the best I’ve heard yet, well you women are born with it (vagina and uterus) so you have to deal with it.

Argument No. 2 : Why didn’t she walk away?

She had it all, beauty, what seem to be like somewhat concerned family. Why didn’t she just walk away, if she had started to know that Suraj was a loser? People who say that have clearly never been in an abusive atmosphere before. Yes, the abused can walk away, but it is not always easy. There is what is called a cycle of abuse in every abusive relationship. The first time the abuse happens is mostly when the victim has slowly shed all inhibitions and trusted the abuser totally. It shocks the victim, logic kicks in and they try to distance themselves. When the abuser realises that he/she may lose control over the victim, they return with more promises of change, of special love, all honey suckle and dew. The reconciliation is followed by a honeymoon period until the abuse happens again. It being human nature, the first few times, we tend to forgive, because we are so in love and all of us have at some point or the other given in to irrational rage of some kind (not physical always). Now say when it first happens, the victim confides in friend A who offers support and advice to immediately move out. But victim is still in love so when abuser returns, victims takes them back and feels ashamed at judging abuser and speaking ill about them to A. It happens again, now victim might be too ashamed to confide in A, could maybe go to B, or say even if A is the only person the victim has, it will be only so many times before A throws hands up in air in disgust at the victim’s inability to just walk away. So what happens? Victim gets isolated. The only source of validation remaining is the abuser, who is the most unreliable source and also the source of the misery in the first place. Left with no one, where does the victim go?

I also feel that it is a classist argument to say that unlike common housewives, Jiah had access to better services and finances. That is totally discounting the impact abuse has on self esteem and the person’s belief in a better, safer tomorrow. That doesn’t come from money or resources, you generally get it from the people around you and when you have atleast one primary relationship other than the abusive one that is fairly unconditional.

Argument No. 3 : Jiah’s mother was divorced, that childhood trauma made Jiah unstable

Yes, parents’ divorce does affect children, no doubt about that. What I objected to were the not-so-subtle jibes at the way Rabiya Khan, Jiah’s mother, must have brought her up, for her to be so weak. Whoa! Why doesn’t anyone question the atmosphere that Suraj grew up in? Suraj’s father, Aditya, has been known to get into brawls frequently, he has had multiple very public affairs all throughout his marriage and has publicly beaten up some of the women he was allegedly going out with. When questioned about his alleged public affair and fallout with Kangna Ranaut by Telegraph, Pancholi’s wife, Zarina Wahab is quoted as saying if you marry a younger man who is good looking also, then you have to be prepared for such things happening. One can excuse this even, saying that maybe they had an open marriage. But as far as my understanding goes, in the Indian context, an open marriage, is generally open only for the man. But of course, no one asks whether Zarina Wahab taught her son by staying that abuse is ok and the woman just puts up with it when you do it. No one questions what values of stability did this teach Suraj, but I forget, the over arching argument in this case is that the marriage is still intact, unlike Rabiya’s. Our society’s emphasis on marital status over its quality is amazing.

Argument No. 4 : Dying over heartbreak is irrational, breaking up is not abetment

Agreed. Wholeheartedly. But let the investigation and the courts prove that this was just heartbreak and that the alleged suicide note and its contents were false and had no bearing on Jiah’s suicide. Till then, let us not say categorically that it was mere heartbreak and not abuse. But what about an innocent man’s life, you may ask? Well, our society is very forgiving of men anyways, I am sure, Suraj, if innocent, will come out stronger, do some great Bollywood movies (which he may end up doing even if he is not innocent) and get married and live happily ever after some day. After all, jaan hai toh jahaan hai.

Shall write some other day about suicide, the various emotions and circumstances behind it and responsibility for it. This post is only about how abuse could lead to hopelessness which could translate into suicidal tendencies.

P. S. Male rights activists, I eagerly await your comments about how I am just a bitter ole feminist who is rather lonely too 😛

Hello homies

It has been quite a long time since I updated this page, so much so I had to go through an entire password recovery process to post again. In the time that I was away, a lot of stuff happened, that I could have written about, but was too caught up in my own personal Greek tragedy to write about. But I was pleasantly surprised at all the online love all you have shown me by constantly visiting this page. Thank you all a lot 🙂 So a separate new post coming up for you, on what else, but the usual topics about women and emotions and men and emotions and the complex webs of society that I write on always 🙂

If women should be like Sita, men should be like Ram (i.e. when he met Surpanakha)

So I get back to my desk after the field work and the TV is blaring about Mallya Jr.’s comments on the woman who was molested. The first headline to scream out at me was that she was drunk. Oooh wow, so it seems even Page 3 foreign educated personalities also defy liberalism, despite their so called exposure.

Women are generally blamed for asking for it. The woman of course threw herself at someone else, so this means she is cheap. So women are taught how to avoid attention, how to be coy, how to attract only the right type of men, the list goes on. And of course, she has to be like Sita.

But I wonder why no one ever asks the guys to be like Ram. No, not the Ram who sacrificed his wife to appease some tattlers, but the Ram who rejected the advances of Surpanakha, who transformed herself into a beautiful damsel. Legend has it that Surpanakha fell in love/lust with Ram’s good looks. So she tries to entice him by transforming herself into a beautiful young damsel. And what does Ram do? He finds it funny but at the same time seriously tells her he is taken and not interested. And just in good humor asks her to try her hand at his brother. Laxman gets way too angry and cuts her nose off. That’s the legend.

So how come, no one teaches young boys to deal with women throwing themselves at them like Ram did in this case? Why aren’t boys taught to make it clear that they are taken (or are waiting for the right one)?

Waity Katy and other relationships where women are blamed

Commemorating the 1st anniversary of the grand Royal wedding, CNN had a special show on Kate Middleton aka the Duchess of Cambridge. The royal wedding was the biggest wedding spectacle since William’s parents got married ages ago. And a lot was written about Kate and how she got her prince.

Kate has been held up as an example of a modern woman who would hold out for the man she loves and almost every one of these reports mentions that all this waiting earned her the infamousmonicker ‘Waity Katy’. Basically the fact that she waited 8 years for the man she liked seemed too much of a stretch for a modern woman. She was dubbed as someone who didn’t have any other aim than marriage. And whatever work she did was automatically called meaningless. Damned if she did, damned if she didn’t.

Now I don’t know the couple nor do I think all the report writers knew them. But even so, I have a huge problem with the whole description of Waity Katy. Apart from a brief interview with the couple, where Kate herself said their much publicised break up was because of William’s immaturity, no one seems to have ever questioned William much. Of course, he is the prince and he could obviously string a commoner along.

No one seems to talk of the fact that even if he was a normal man, the attitude towards the woman would have been the same. She would be questioned for waiting too long. She would be questioned about why she can’t just move on if marriage is so important to her. She would be asked todevelop other interests and have a life. If she moves on, she would be called impatient and someone who didn’t have the emotional understanding to hold on to a man. If she doesn’t she would be seen as a weak woman whose life revolves around this guy. If after spending years with her unlike William, he dumps her and promptly gets engaged/married to someone else, then the first woman would be jeered at. People will show fake sympathy towards her while at the same time saying that she should have known he would never marry her after so long. There would also be the typical statements like why would be buy the cow if he got the milk for free (yep, please cringe some more).

No one seems to talk of the fact that the guy is equally responsible for the relationship. If a guy can’t commit, the girls are asked to exhibit behaviour that encourages him to commit. No one tells the guy to just man up and be genuine. Some people I know are going through similar things and all of us being around the same age, we keep hearing of something or the other. But rarely does anyone talk of how the guy needs to step up too. Then there are movies like He’s is just not that into you that teach women the right balance between desperation and going for what their hearts want. Yes, gag me already.

The business of deconstructing romance and writing self help books on it is very lucrative. Almost every celeb marriage is analysed in great detail and nuggets of wisdom are given out to women (and some men) on how to conduct themselves to get a mate. But most of these books are targetted at women. Very few if ever talk of men doing their bit to change their expectations and roles as per the changing times. For all their empowerment, in the dating and marriage game, women are still considered at the mercy of the timelines and convenience of their men. If she asserts too much, she will pressure/scare/nag the man away. Its like men are the helpless, dimwit damsels whom women have to rescue all the time with patience/understanding/maturity. Left to themselves, the men are incapable of making any decisions because they can’t/don’t want to talk about it/are overwhelmed with work or whatever other tower that they are lodged in. But they also love this tower of bacherlorhood and do not want to leave apparently. So the woman is also seen as this evil creature who shall take them away from the comfortable familiar into an unknown land, one where they will have to deal with themselves. And oh my, they are overwhelmed.

A lot of the above is just rant, I shall admit. And I know some of those who will read will have some of the same questions to me and may even suggest that I should just stay single (such a convenient defense against so called feminists no?). Some others will probably try to draw inferences to my personal life and wonder if I have such strong opinions because of my own experiences. To them, well, you have the liberty to think what you want.

I have some questions to everyone though:

Is it bad if a woman wants to get married and she follows through on that with consistency? Why is that termed as pressurising, being a gold digger etc etc.

If a career woman also values marriage does that make her weak? And what’s with asking her if she wanted to get married, why did she end up doing some fancy course?

Conversely, if a woman is dragging her feet on marriage and wants to wait, why is she unnatural, but if her boyfriend does it, he is just being sure she is the One?

Why doesn’t anyone ask the guy any questions about when he will get married or get any pointed questions at some random acquaintance’s engagement?

Why does marital status have such a halo, that it makes you suddenly the ‘chosen’ one, the ‘complete’ one?

Lastly if Kate Middleton was called Waity Katy, why didn’t the tabloids call the prince Waffly William?

A relationship is about two people, so the success or demise of it should not always be blamed on the woman. And at the same time, each relationship is different, so judging anyone’s choices of whatthey endure for that relationship should be seen as a personal choice. There cannot be an ‘If I were in her place I would’ because, lets face it, you are NOT in her place.

How couples fight (and make up) :-D

There’s a friend of mine, married for close to 10 years, who tells the most entertaining stories of her fights with her husband. What is entertaining about the whole conversation is that she laughs at the absurdity of the whole fight. Sample this :

Being the girls we are, we were on one of those trips of ‘these men na.’ Any girlfriend/wife worth her salt will have atleast one story of how she found certain things about her boyfriend/husband only after a full commitment or living together. So her husband is a baldie, which she of course knew, but what she found out in the first week of their marriage was that his two front teeth were false! They had been knocked off during his playground days. She recalled between peels of laughter how she ended up calling her father in law jokingly asking him for the husband’s birth certificate. No hair, no teeth, will he now end up saying he is 60, she had asked. She had dated him for almost 3 years before marrying him and the love has survived.

My mother when she was married was told dad had a transferable job. Mother, who had never set foot out of her home state in South India, did not want to stay far away in Naarth India forever. So a transferable government job seemed like an ok option. Till I was about 15, I remember mom bringing up sometimes jokingly, sometimes in a fit of disappointment, during my parents numerous fights, the point that dad had hidden the fact that his job was with the state government and hence non transferable (actually dad’s family had hidden this, dad had no clue of the promises made). She would sometimes affectionately joke about how had she known she would have never married him (now how many wives have made this statement since Eve?)

And then I was talking to another guy friend this morning as part of research (won’t hilarious instances of silly marriage fights make a good book?). I was asking him how they solved their fights. Sometimes he said the silences would go on, the maximum it went on was a week and his wife was the one who would just not talk. So who breaks the ice, I asked. And he says, well, sometimes I get some favourite thing of hers home, sometimes she cooks something for me and the reconciliation is slow and steady. So by the time we are fully reconciled, we don’t remember who made the first move, he concluded. Aah to reach that kind of zen feeling.

Then there is the sleeping on the couch fallout, made famous by various American sit-coms. The Indian version of it, says my colleague, is when the wife doesn’t cook food and he is forced to go hungry. The show where I loved the way conflicts were handled (yes I know it is fiction, not real life) was Home Improvement. Just loved the way the couple would use the neighbour as a sounding board but eventually come to their own conclusions based on their love for each other.



However this is one couple (I vote for gay marriage) whose fights have entertained us always :



I have always been curious about why people behave the way they do, including yours truly. So help me people with funny/not so funny stories of your fights with your significant other, I gotta book to write 😀

Salary chronicles

Ever struck up a conversation with some random person on the bus/road (or any place where you could meet random people) only to cringe when the 3rd question they ask after your name and job is the salary?

Beyond a point, salary replaces the ‘Kitne marks aaye beta?’ It is the new weapon with which people can put you down. And unless you are the richest person on Earth, duly recognised by Forbes magazine, you are bound to be poorer to someone the questioner knows. The most extreme reactions happen when you are asked this question by people who you know you will have to bump into again some day – distant relatives or the aunty you always see in the lift etc.

The question is followed by an awkward pause on your side, you take a good look at the person in front of you and wonder how much of the truth is to be revealed. There are many ways respondents react. Method one is the impress the shit out of him/her. So a ‘cool’ figure is quoted and some fancy terms of the perks available are thrown in. The designation is hyped up and never affordable vacations and company sponsored trips are thrown in. Of course you do this only when you have an inkling the person in front of you has absolutely no idea of your industry or the person is an impressionable starry eyed kid.

Method two is downplaying what you earn. This you do when you know the person in front of you is the jealous kinds or you fear this person will request financial favour. In this case you complain about high rents/EMI, the inflation and generally how you never have enough left after the 20th of the month. You also do this in front of nosy relatives/aunties who have no business asking you any thing in the first place. Especially after you caught them bitching about you.

Method three is when you say the truth. This is when you know you have nothing to lose or when you know the other person is too knowledgeable to lie to. Here you will have to face all the judgement said person is capable of. You have no choice.

But whatever you do, you will be judged by your salary. Immediate questions after this answer reveal how said person will always remember you. If God forbid your salary is a little less than the advertised average of your industry, you shall be branded an under achiever. Probing questions on why you are not like so and so will be asked. It will be worse if your actual job is something that is not considered quite ‘cool’, then you are a certified loser and the blackest sheep.

If on the other hand your salary is more than the person expected (the expectation could have been low because of various reasons like the person attributing your simple tastes to a lack of money or them not knowing your job could pay so well) then suddenly they could start respecting you. Conversely, they could even start getting jealous of you. Be prepared for snide comments and weird laughter or a bending over backwards kindness from now on.

God forbid you don’t reveal your salary and the other person may not even ask, but still based on popular perception of the kind of job you do, they will judge you for the salary they do not know you earn. Its a judgement you cannot escape. Perhaps the reason why people are forced to take personal loans.

This happened to me…

A lot of blogs are doing commendable work in bringing out various issues about the traditional oppression of women and the ills of our patriarchial society. While I see the point in talking about these things and the awareness that is necessary, what I fail to grasp is the increasingly complaining attitude that characterises some of these blogs.

Some parts of our society are far more backward than others. I understand the need to educate women/men who didn’t even know that they had such rights. That is something that needs to be done. Many in our society don’t even know they are being manipulated because they are conditioned this is the right thing to do. However, a regular reading of a select few sites, presents a different problem in my humble opinion. That of painting everything with the same brush.

A few of the sites I read had examples of women, who were educated and capable enough to make their own decisions, holding back for whatever reasons. In these cases, the women themselves knew that they are bowing down to tradition, they hate it, but for whatever reason they are doing it for now. There are also sites which talk about men suffering for whatever societal or other constraint, men who are perfectly capable of making decisions, even have the freedom to do it, but not doing so. The underlying theme in most of these cases is ‘this happened to me’ so I cannot do anything now to improve my situation. I feel this is the worst attitude someone can have.

Most of the times when presented with a problem, we all go through a cycle of denying it, minimising it and then a period of despair where we feel we are stuck. In this phase we become whiners, complaining, raving and giving away all our power to our circumstances. The truth is the power is always with us and if we choose to not use it, we should be conscious that we made that choice. I would understand if a sense of helplessness is conveyed by a woman or a man who did not have the kind of exposure and knowledge to even know what their rights are. A significant part of the public lives believing fate and external circumstances are the determinants of our life quality.

But what about the rest of us, who are supposed to know better? Do we just blog about what all is wrong in the society and how that has bound us from doing anything constructive? Or do we talk of how this feeling of being stuck needs to be transcended? What is the point of all that studying and all that exposure if when faced with the same problem, we present the same fatalistic view as those who did not have such opportunities as us? The woe is me attitude needs to change. Also we should be very conscious that we are not enabling someone. It is necessary to acknowledge that one was treated unfairly, but it is much more important to stop making that the only reality of our lives.

What I mean to say is, where do we draw the line between acknowledging the problem, educating others about it and enabling someone to stay stuck in the same pattern? How does one decide that, if at all it is possible?

Drum rolllllllll

End of this month, it will be a year to your favourite blog. (Do I sound like that 9 pm anchor Lol?) Anyways, its been a year of self exploration, some fun posts and yes, some not so fun ones. But trust me, its been more fun 🙂 So happy anniversary to the Pizzeria 🙂

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