Madhubala -The Queen of Hearts

Those of you who have been following this blog regularly will recognize this post from last year 🙂 But honestly, if Valentine’s Day is the birthday anniversary of the most beautiful and lovely woman from Bollywood, then why not celebrate it by remembering her? 

Last year everyone’s favourite RSS has suddenly declared themselves in favour of Valentine’s Day, stating that if young men and women don’t fall in love then how will they marry and then how will society progress. Right.

Society has been progressing based on a legal and social institution created by patriarchy within the confines of heteronormativity and where monogamy is compulsory mostly only for the women involved.  * slow clapping*


Let me clarify that we are not against love. We have a problem with the obscene display happening in the name of love during days like Valentine’s Day… have you seen the cards that youth exchange during Valentine’s Day? They show couples kissing. Is that our culture? Is it how we should be celebrating love?” Jwalit Mehta, Bajrang Dal Ahmedabad president told DNA

I think he is right. Maybe we should celebrate Kamasutra Day instead. Maybe they can block Rajpath with the same dhurries they use for Yoga Day and we should do an internationally televised display of Kamasutra positions in order to reclaim our culture from the evil Western influence.

I can see the TRP rating for this going stratospheric.

Of course not all romantic relationships are sexual and vice versa. Sexuality is a vast spectrum and there is increasing recognition for the asexual minority who do feel love but have no sexual desires.

Of course there are the aromantic, the pansexual, the demisexual and the sapiosexual.

Labels and definitions and concepts aside, even the most aromantic would surely hum along to these  impossibley romantic and fun songs from Madhubala’s films. Enjoy !

  1. With Dev Anand

2. With Guru Dutt

3. With Kishore Kumar

4. With Ashok Kumar

5. With Dilip Kumar

And the last one to keep you humming all day


Absorbing books

It was one of those rare, almost ethereal, quiet and slow afternoons on a weekend and I was reading something which made me completely forget where I was (definitely not in Mumbai or even India or even this planet maybe).

I had lost all sense of the time too till the Earth made one of those magical turns and it suddenly became too dark to read.

I shook my head and swam out of the book, reluctantly re-entering the real world and thought to myself ‘Oh this book was just so absorbing!’

And as I said those words, it occurred to me that this would go both ways! I want to be absorbed into a book of course but more than that I think I want to absorb books.

I want them to enter through my skin by osmosis and swim in my blood. I want them to find their way into my lungs and percolate through my alveoli and attach themselves to the oxygen molecules. I want them to become a part of every cell, holding my atoms together with words, with strings of words, with thoughts of words, with the feelings brought on by words.

By these crazy made up symbols that move across pages made of dead trees, and magically say things like ‘epiphany’ or ‘ethereal’ or ‘petrichor’ or ‘cinnamon’ and some synapse goes off in my brain and I see the word –not only as letters but also as a thought and a concept and even a smell.

alice in wonderland book vignette

It is that sense of knowing and being that makes reading so addictive.

I want to drink my books through my eyes but I also want to swallow them so that I can digest them slowly over days, moths, years and decades. Bringing back a verse from a poem, rolling my tongue around a beautiful phrase or a poignant line…….letting my mind’s eye gaze upon the first sighting of Kim on the zamzamah in Lahore while also seeing him walking up the Himalayas with his Lama.

I want to listen to the books as they sigh against me when I turn the page, releasing a few motes of dust mixed with ink molecules, maybe the aroma of a few dead trees but mostly the spell of words, which weaves itself into my very fabric.

That sigh is from Jo in Little Women as she struggles over her writing in the attic, it is from the freckled face of Anne with an E as she looks at her new home under the green gables, it comes forth from the lips of every exasperated young woman in Georgette Heyer’s books. It also comes from the languorous chapters in the Camel Bookmobile, or the entire book Everyone Loves a Good Drought, or what Arthur Dent does when faced once again with the destruction of the Earth by Vogons.

All those sighs are catalogued somewhere in my synapses and each one brings forth the shadows and memories of the others. Holding hands, all the sighs sit in a circle around a crackling bonfire of darkness.

The written word leaps up and creates a small diorama in my head.

Stage directions: Place furniture there. Ok. Lights here, this way. Hmm. This curtain is drawn, that cushion is just so, glass of water besides her and altogether now…..sigh….

Anything and everything from poetry, to science fiction to romance to murder mysteries. Everything written in English under the Sun is all an alchemy of a mere 26 letters.

Does your brain not reel under the impact of that fact??

The entire works (in English of course) of Jules Verne, HG Wells, Isaac Asimov, Arundhati Roy, Thomas Hardy, Devdutt Pattnaik, Enid Blyton, Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Bingham, Douglas Adams, George Orwell, whatever you have ever read about– including your geography and history textbooks, even the explanation of the discovery of DNA and the theory of evolution, they are ALL just a mix and match playlist of 26 letters only!

Undoubtedly the loss is ours if we do not read other languages but my goodness the richness of it all! The oceans and oceans of words and thoughts and plots and ideas and facts and concepts and ideologies and politics and hegemony and subversion and everything really….and we can barely hold a few drops in our palm and drink from them.

How many in a lifetime? Too less, too less.

Holding the pages, turning, reading with eyes, too slow, too little.

What a joy it would be to sink in a lake of words, absorb it all through my skin and have it all inside me! Maybe I would glow with words. Maybe I would be rendered speechless. Maybe I would not be able to function at all from having to digest it all—synapse flashes to Antoine de Saint Exupery’s Little Prince and his drawing of the boa constrictor digesting an elephant. That drawing gets mistaken for a hat. The man who mistook his wife for a hat is a famous book about how we think and understand languages….and there we go down a stream of consciousness.

Swim back!

A string of words goes over one limb, one more unfortunate weary of breath, rashly importunate gone to her death, while a small wave of words come over another ‘twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gymble in the wabe……and when you turn your head a bit to the right you can hear/see/feel Arundhati Roy tell us in The God of Small Things that “the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again.  They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won’t. That is their mystery and their magic.”

And it makes you hum, but then you turn to your left and something else swishes against you and makes you smile. Isaac Asimov says in a snark that “people who think they know everything are so annoying to those of us who do.”

Yes, words are all we have.

Whether they are chanted as Vedas, distributed on pamphlets for the Revolution, written on notes passed in class, sent by sign language, or read through Braille.

This is what finally truly distinguishes us from the animals and allows us to express imagination and fear, memories and dreams, sorrow and happiness.

Even the most enlightened men and women eventually needed to use words to share their insights, their wisdom their suggestions and guidance.

But when words leave you as spoken or written they no longer remain yours. They shape –shift and undergo oxidation, denaturation, fusion and fission. Their molecules shift and their bonds may loosen or twist altogether.

They are then absorbed by the readers and listeners in small digested pieces that they can manage and assimilate and end up forming completely different word molecules and chains inside those people.

This is why the so called ‘word of God’ has led to so many conflicts and mis- interpretations and re –interpretations.

Because that is all the listener/ reader can do.

Just manage an approximation of what was inside the speaker or writer’s head, as seen from the perspective and the lens of their own completely different context and DNA and lives and atoms.

Perhaps if we could sink into a lake of words and absorb them we would know better…

Maybe this is why music has such a universal appeal because something inside us resonates to the vibrations, without words to confuse the meaning, without words coming in the way.

We can listen to a flute and feel the breeze by the river banks without being told, we can listen to the violin or an orchestra and understand the birth of galaxies and the death of a supernova and the mystery of life without any words at all.

When I saw the scene in Avatar where the scientist (Sigourney Weaver) finally gets uploaded into the tree matrix or when the girl in the Silence in the Library in Doctor Who has her consciousness transferred into an almost infinite library….wow !

Waves of water wind and light lap around me as I am absorbed into all the books.

Every story ever told, every story still to be told.

Isn’t that what heaven would feel like??

book hug

The Game is On! (Re-visiting Sherlock Holmes)

the game is on

( Re-posting this because an event has been planned around Sherlock Holmes –the cases, the magic, the fandom !! It will be held on 9th Feb in Bandra, Mumbai. If any of you is interested–Come, if convenient. If inconvenient, come anyway :))


The joy of relishing a cracking good series or movie or book and becoming a super fan is exceeded only by having a friend or family member join the fandom with as much enthusiasm!

We saw the latest Sherlock TV series again this month after some years. #sherlock But seeing it with my daughter was like a journey of re- discovery as we saw the old tropes and jokes and plot twists from her eyes and we remembered why we had loved it so much. Every note of the tune that plays when the ‘games afoot’, every time Watson gets befuddled and annoyed, ever time Hudson comes in with tea and a yoo-hoo and every single time Sherlock calls Greg by some other name was something to look out for and delight in once again.

Not in sir Arthur Conan Doyle wildest dreams could he have imagined that the stories he wrote in the late 1880s would be not only alive in 2018 but in this awesome updated avatar full of smartphones and blogs and jokes about ‘no we are not together.’


As every Sherlock fan knows, the original stories of the incredibly clever detective were inspired by a Scottish surgeon Joseph Bell.  In his childhood, his mother would always entertain him with fabulous stories which seemed to him more vivid and enchanting than his actual life– which included an alcoholic father and much bullying in school.

As a medical student he was chosen by Joseph Bell to be his assistant and thus had the opportunity to observe his methods of deduction and diagnosis very closely. He was thus the real life Watson to his Sherlock inspiration (who he initially wanted to name Sherringford but fortunately did not!!) (Fans –I am sure you get the reference to that name in the new series! )


Doyle was also a spiritualist and despite having been raised Catholic he broke away from it soon after becoming a doctor. In fact it was in order to concentrate on spiritualism that he decided to kill  Sherlock after 6 years of writing about him.

Even in the days of the original writing 150 years ago without any Twitter and shippers and fan clubs, the readers had protested so vehemently at the death of Sherlock at the Reichenbach falls that they wrote a deluge of letters to the newspapers. The publishers then put tremendous pressure on Doyle thus forcing him to write a sequel where Sherlock is seen to have miraculously survived the fall.

In fact the fictional address 221B, Baker Street receives so much post from fans that the post office has actually designated a separate service for it and there is a blue plaque although the specific flat does not even exist!


In the 1980s we saw the first televised version on Indian TV with the inimitable Jeremy Brett, which stayed true to the original with hansom cabs, tall hats, London fog and all. In those days before any way of recording and re- seeing shows, we waited with anticipation every week while it was being aired and delighted in the details from the books come alive. Jeremy played him to perfection with the disdain, the pipe, the drugs, the expression of a man with way beyond average intelligence barely tolerating the dumb masses and the unbearable dull routine of daily existence.

We thought then that he was the world’s best Sherlock possible.

Until of course Benedict Cumberbatch came along some years ago and swept us off our feet with a pitch perfect balance between detached brilliance yet the capacity for showing glimpses of a man capable of a deep (though imperfect but eventually redeeming) friendship. Of course Steven Moffatt and Mike Gatiss get as much credit for the character development and for the perfect casting of Watson and some brilliant ( though flawed) episodes and scenes.( spoilers ahead).

Not just ordinary people but literary giants like Oscar Wilde, Agatha Christie and PG Wodehouse were fans (with some people suggesting that Bertie and Jeeves were themselves a spin off)

And for those of you who are Douglas Adams/ Dirk gently fans, everything IS connected.

Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry did a brilliant turn as Wooster and Jeeves in a TV series.

Actors,  Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry in TV Programme,  "Jeeves a

Stephen Fry later played Mycroft in a Sherlock film and Hugh Laurie went on to play House. For those who notice. (Obviously! Keep up will you?) #obviously House and Wilson are a thinly veiled Holmes and Watson.  (Holmes-Homes-House). And although House M.D. is a US TV series, Hugh Laurie is as British as they come.

House Use it

Is it any wonder that House was spectacularly popular? It is basically a hospital based spin off of Sherlock. With Cuddy possibly as Mycroft and the three ducklings being Lestrade, Hudson and Molly Hooper.

Perhaps Doctor Who with Peter Capaldi has similar shades, given his brilliance and erratic behaviour, inevitable boredom, Clara as Watson and Missy as Moriarty. Maybe its a formula that just works across universes.

The latest Dirk Gently season has a Sheriff Sherlock Hobbes, who is bored in the dull ‘Bergsberg’ and instantly delights in the concept that everything is connected and proceeds to join them on the search for the boy. The games afoot.

Since then may spinoffs have been written and some have done really well. The Beekeepers Apprentice by Laurie B King is a cracking good beginning of a series which starts off after Sherlock has retired to the countryside. It has an amazing character of a young girl who is the apprentice and who eventually gets Sherlock out of retirement. For inexplicably idiotic reasons, Hollywood took that story and made it into a film with a young boy and older Sherlock, thereby missing the entire ethos of the story by a few galaxies and also reminding us that Hollywood is no place for women !

Some of the other spin offs I have enjoyed are the Mandala of Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock goes to Japan. Giles Brandeth has also written a series that I haven’t read so far, but hopefully will not disappoint.

Then there were the Sherlock films with everyone’s favourite bad boy Robert Downey Jr plying the great detective with a touch of flamboyance and a wild sense of humour. Casting Jude Law as Watson also gave much potential for on screen bromance/ gay sexual tensions between and of course Stephen Fry as Mycroft was a brilliant touch.

sherlock movie

The only grouse I have against the re-boot is that it is still so white. Sally Donovan is coloured but literally no one else is! There was ample potential for Mrs Hudson or Molly to be of Indian origin (A landlady and a doctor in UK—I mean come on!) and Watson or Lestrade or even Mary to be Caribbean or Asian. The US TV series does have a female Watson, so maybe there is hope.

After my renewed interest in Sherlock I was browsing a few fan sites recently. Although I knew of the ‘Superwholock’ fandom from my daughters, I had no idea of the sheer passion, wild imagination, madness, obsession and the range of involvement of the fandom and the ‘shippers’. They have Pinterest pages, wiki sites, fanfiction, deathfic, Johnlock fic, paintings, podcasts, YouTube readings, YouTube videos…it’s all a bit overwhelming! And this is without counting the transgender JohnLock fiction.#johnlockfic

The obsession of the fans even leads to situations where they want leading psychiatrists to diagnose whether Sherlock had Asperger’s and if he really is a high functioning sociopath. Only to be told ( to their utter horror!) by the bewildered specialist that “well….who knows? I mean Sherlock isn’t real is he??”

As I got sucked into a veritable hurricane of words on the fan site, I eventually ended up reading this fanfic story that every site said was a rite of passage if you were a true fan.So I thought ok, cool let me check it out in my lunch break, should be fun. Well, I was weeping within 2 minutes into it and eventually so traumatized by the end that I had to go back and read it twice to get it out of my system. (Ok, ok I confess….maybe it was 12 times…. but that was a week ago and it’s still there I my head).

“He’s slyly inserted himself into all my memories as if he had been there all along. He’s at school with me, at home, in the park….”

The rest of the day and all the problems seemed ridiculously trivial in comparison. Sigh…So you have been warned but if you think you are brave enough or crazy enough to be a true fan, you don’t have a choice. Here it is.

And if that doesn’t destroy you, here is a video

Have a nice life.

Colour me red

Welcome to 2019! What a wonderful time it is to be alive!

Scientific progress is almost in the realms of sci-fi with mission to Mars, Sophia the robot being granted citizenship of UAE, gene edited three parent CRISPR babies and such exciting progress!

Unless of course you are a woman.

In which case you are still living in the 15th century or even further back, perhaps in a cave.

You are chained to the domestic sphere by your uncontrolled fertility, you are at constant risk of predators and all you are allowed is to entertain yourself with the shadows on your wall. And maybe some cave art drawn using your menstrual blood.

Plato’s cave is an allegory in which he imagines a cave with prisoners in it who can only see shadows projected on the wall and think that it is the reality. One day one of them escapes, goes out and sees the multi- colour, 3 D reality and is shocked. She comes back to tell the others but they don’t believe her and would rather stay in their comfort zone of the shadows on the wall.

So coming back to the issue at hand ( and let us gloss over the obvious absurdity of organized religion –a matter for discussion on another day!) and see what happened with the Sabrimala Temple.

Hinduism apparently regards menstruating women as unclean and bars them from participating in religious rituals. But while most Hindu temples allow women to enter as long as they are not menstruating, the Sabarimala temple is unusual in that it was one of the few that did not allow women in a broad age group to enter at all.

Hindu devotees say that the ban on women entering Sabarimala is not about menstruation alone – it is also in keeping with the wish of the deity who is believed to have laid down clear rules about the pilgrimage to seek his blessings.

Every year, millions of male devotees trek up a steep hill, often barefoot, to visit the shrine. They also undertake a rigorous 41-day fast, abstaining from smoking, alcohol, meat, sex and contact with menstruating women before they begin the journey.

So what is the legend of Lord Ayappa?

Apparently he was born out of a union between two male gods which gave him the ability to defeat a she-demon who had been unstoppable until then. Upon defeating her, it was revealed that she was really a young woman who had been cursed to live the life of a demon.

She fell in love with him and asked him to marry her, but he refused, saying he was destined to go into the forest and answer the prayers of his devotees. She persisted, so he said he would marry her the day new devotees stopped coming to seek his blessings.

That never happened.

The legend says that she waits for him at a second temple, which lies on the way to the main Sabarimala shrine. Women do not visit either temple – the belief is that to do so would insult both the deity and the sacrifice of the woman who loved him.

So in all this chaos and commotion, no one has focussed on the fact that Lord Ayyappan was born of the union of Vishnu in the form of the beautiful woman Mohini and Shiva. This can been read as an epic moment for fluid gender identity and homosexual union.

Also women have apparently stayed out voluntarily since everyone who has faith in such things believes that it would affect both their own energies and interfere with the sexual energies of the male devotees.

Who would want to do that after all?! For all we know there is some Viagra vibe in that temple that makes the devotees so worried about letting women in.

Or maybe they worship homosexual unions.

Who really knows?!

More importantly, why do we care??

The Supreme Court recently struck down a rule that disallowed girls and women in the 10-50 age group from entering the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. The bench in a 4-1 verdict said the temple rule violated their right to equality and right to worship.

Justice DY Chandrachud termed the custom as a form of “untouchability” which cannot be allowed under the Constitution. “Article 17 certainly applies to untouchability practices in relation to lower castes, but it will also apply to the systemic humiliation, exclusion and subjugation faced by women. Prejudice against women based on notions of impurity and pollution associated with menstruation is a symbol of exclusion. The social exclusion of women based on menstrual status is a form of untouchability which is an anathema to constitutional values.”

So far so good.

As a result of this, menstruation is currently front page news in a country where the topic is usually considered so shameful that women who use cloth rarely dry it out in the sun and suffer from fungal infection while those who buy sanitary napkins are given black or brown bags so that, heaven forbid, some man on the street should not recognize the packet of that and have their sexual energy fly away.


Why just India? Even globally the stigma around menstruation is amplified. When Instagram took down a photo posted by Rupi Kaur showing period stains on her clothes, this was her response:

“I will not apologise for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be ok with a small leak when your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women (so many who are underage) are objectified, pornified, and treated less than human.”

Abortion stigma is not just some attitudes we can shrug off. It can actually kill you as Tulasi Shahi from Nepal found out when she died after being bitten by a poisonous snake while staying in a shed where she was required to sleep during her period.

My daughter’s biology textbook said that ‘menstrual blood was the tears of a non- pregnant uterus.’


Poetic perhaps but utterly ridiculous in a science text book. Not to mention the implication that women are only child bearing machines and any failure to do leads to tears.

Then there is the entire mythology created around PMS. Yes it is real. Yes some women have it bad. Yes, they can continue to function like responsible highly skilled professionals through it all, thank you very much.


Because sometimes it is easier to blame PMS than accept the reality 🙂


There is finally the blessed menopause which frees women from more than just periods 😛


Historians tell us that even in the western cultures, menstruating women were associated with magic and sorcery. Apparently the Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder wrote that menstruating women could stop hail storms and lightning, as well as kill bees, dim mirrors and rust weapons just by looking at them.


Isn’t it amazing that none of these quotes and words of wisdom are ever from women? You know. The humans who actually menstruate??

So here is a funny video where some more mansplaining is being done but in a wicked takedown way. Enjoy!


Looking back on my 2018

In 2017 I decided to try and see if I could keep to a schedule of posting one blog per week. I actually managed!! Encouraged by that I decided to continue the same pace in 2018….and I managed!! Till Dec when I dropped the ball rather completely……but, I must explain here that I hopped to no less than 11 cities in 6 weeks between November and mid December….so….

Here is a make- up post with the highlights of my 2018 🙂

My sister’s first solo art exhibition in Phoenix, Arizona.


And then we took part in an anti-gun rally in the city.

anti gun rally

Shopping for party props with my nephew who wanted me to buy gangsta outfits cos he thinks they suit me 😛


A lovely gift for my birthday from some lovely young ladies I know.

bday present

This was the year I discovered Sherlock fanfics and got Sherlocked!!




But I also managed to read a lot of other books! And gathered more than I could possibly read….The tottering bedside pile is testimony….

ALice JD Robb

Travels took me to Asia, Africa and Europe.

black mehndi



A short trip to Chennai to meet a soul sister…..this bookcase photo is specially for you gobblefunkist !!


As we grow older, many more girls-only trips are being planned and undertaken.  Paris was amazing as ever and the best part was spending time with my awesome cousin and seeing Dali’s exhibition of his surreal sculpture and knowing that he was a fan of Alice too!



Street Art


surreal blue body

Yum food was eaten, festivals were celebrated.

mango sticky rice


Sugar cafe Colombo



Sunsets were enjoyed and rain and rainbows too.


sunset at Hai Ali

Had a picnic fit for a queen with a school friend in Dar-es-Salaam ! It is amazing that although we met after 30 years, not just her but her entire family felt like family too.


Conferences and workshops attended and organized. We discussed safe abortion rights, unpacked the patriarchy and understood bioethics and the politics behind health issues.

abortion rights


unpacking patriarchy


Lisbon conference

Prayed to the internet and feminism on the occasion of Dussehra.


Of course it wasn’t all fun and roses but seeing other people’s problems puts one’s own in perspective!

other people's problems

Tried on temporary tattoos as prep for a permanent one….maybe.

temp tattoo

And finally as Forrest Gump’s mum told him—life is a box of chocolates—you never know what you are going to get!

life is a box of chocolates

On that philosophical note, I bid goodbye to 2018 and get ready for 2019.

waiter at Pink

Wishing all of you a fulfilling and healthy year ahead !!!





Blogs I follow

Since it is sort of traditional when December starts, to look back on the year that has been and make lists for the best of, the worst of and what have you ( while silently panicking that the year has swept by so ridiculously fast….)

So I thought I would share with you a list of some of the blogs that I have been following. I don’t always get to reads every single post that they share but I enjoy them all enough to seek them out when I have down time or save or share something I really like once in a while.

If you like the sound of any of them, do subscribe!

More readers are the oxygen in the writer’s bloodstream !


  1. The last word on nothing: This has topics ranging from Humboldt penguins to why Mary Poppins is a leftist anarchist ! What’s not to love?!
  2. The Blogess : Reading Jennifer Lawson is a roller coaster ride! She discusses mental health issues, her childhood with a taxidermist father, the general insanity of her conversations with her cat, her beleaguered husband, it’s a free for all fun ride!

Also read her hilarious book “Let’s Pretend this never Happened.”

  1. Brainpickings: This is the most remarkable and magnificent blog I have ever come across. Thank you Maria Popova for this labour of love and thanks to my sister for introducing me to it. Simply awesome trbute to wirds, readering, writing and everything in between.

Maya Angelou’s poem that flew into space

Tragic life of a poet who died too young

Susan Sontag on storytelling

I could go on and on with the posts I loved, but really, every single one of them is fabulous!

  1. The Ladies Finger is a badass feminist blog which also has this tongue-in-cheek and cool horoscope readings every week !
  2. Feminism in India is another bold ad radical blog with a phenomenal range of issues and perspectives.
  3. Gobbelfunkist is how I made my first cyber friend! Never seen each other but we are soul sisters! I like her very direct, frank and genuine posts/ rants/ thoughts. There is no sugar coating. There is a lot of vulnerability. It is very real and a breath of fresh air. I like it!
  4. Jabberwock : of course the name attracted me right away and then this by-line:”It seems very pretty,” she said, “but it’s rather hard to understand.”

    This blog is on film related musings. Observations of films like Chupke chupke, Sholay of course but also off beat topics like Movie Servants then and now, Satanic shirts and lasting values.

    All enjoyable and thought provoking!


    I found this when I was researching for one of my posts on some hindi film songs. He has a great collection of curated songs based on raagas.

  6. Poem a Day This lovely site send me a poem everyday in my email. Some of them linger on in my mind for a very long time. One I still think of once in a while is Whales in Manhattan. It has that rare task that falls to poetry, of giving you more to think between the lines and to hear the unspoken bits, but it also connects with the very real tragedy of our times when we have polluted the seas to such an extent that the beautiful whales have been left with few places they can live in peace.
    1. Gretchen Rubin wrote a book called the Happiness Project. I enjoyed it although of course most such books are really re-wordings of similar insights into the few great truths of life. But she does good book recs also and in general it is different and enjoyable while also very well researched.
    2. Agents of Ishq is a radically different and fabulous blog about love and se and all such tins but from a very very desi angle! Check it out and you won’t regret it !
    3. Discover is a beautiful blog whose name says it all.

Go forth and enjoy !!

Why does no one love the villages of India?


Dear Mohanlal,

Hope that all is well with you, Lakshmi, Parvati and Aai Baba.

I have got a job with a very nice family in Mumbai. Their daughter is older than me and is studying Political Science in college. She did not have to drop out in the 8th like I did because there are many toilets in her school and also she can go safely on public transport. We have electricity and running water here for 24 hours.

We have many long chats in the evening after she gets back from college (all alone even after dark, imagine that!).You will not believe how many new things I have learnt in the last three months. She has also agreed to help me learn how to use a laptop computer!

She says Gandhi-ji believed that India lives in her villages. She thinks that if he were here today, as with many other things he believed in- such as truth and non- violence, he may have to re- think this too.

According to her, urbanization is the reality, not just for India, but for the entire planet. It is estimated that by 2050 close to 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities.

She says that we claim to be an agricultural country where the country depends on the farmer for food but the farmer cannot depend on the government for water!


As you know so well, in our villages there continue to be huge and often violent clashes between castes and genders, along with insecurity over regular income, lack of sanitation, electricity and other basic infrastructure.

Didi’s fiance is studying to be a doctor. Isn’t that wonderful? I wish some doctors like him were available when our Tai died in childbirth and Ganya from the farm died after his wound got infected and the local nurses also would not touch him because of our caste.

Adarsh Dada says that there is a huge gap in rural healthcare needs caused more by poor infrastructure and lack of accountability issues than just a lack of doctors and nurses.

He says that to assume that throwing more doctors at it is the solution is as absurd as trying to throw gold coins at a starving child.


He asks why aren’t IIT and IIM graduates also sent to the villages? The government subsidizes so many streams of education. Why don’t we have a rural bond for lawyers? Architects? Journalists? FTII graduates? Surely our rural population can benefit from all their inputs also.

If the government calculates the cost per head of medical training to include the running of the public hospitals then it’s kind of like including the cost of running India when you train an IAS officer. Or the cost of defending the country when you train an armed forces officer.

If you can afford to spend upto 1 crore or beyond then sure, become a doctor through a private medical college, bond free and then go abroad for your PG.

But if you cannot afford that and want/ need to get admission on merit, prepare to pay for expensive prep classes, give up your entire life for upwards of 2 years and then see what fate has in store for you.

Despite all this, there are still students from poor families entering medical colleges. He said there were some from our Kokan villages also! But many of them have to earn money by doing milk runs and newspaper rounds to be able to buy food in the canteen. Dada’s mother’s friends raised funds to set up a corpus so that they can help these students.

Basically this is like the jhuming we do in our farms, where you burn it all down so you can create a new crop. Remember how Baba talks of the time we had to incinerate all our hens 15 years ago due to the Ranikhet virus scare? And then people stopped buying ‘gavthi’ chicken and only the big companies selling packed meat from fridges stayed in the market.

Adarsh Dada says that this new scheme to force medical students to go villages is going to result in even less students opting for medicine in public colleges. It is a road to privatization, so brazen and yet so twisted, that eventually not just healthcare education but healthcare itself could become privatized and no one left accountable for it to the people any more.

We saw a really scary movie last week called Summer 2007, starring Gul Panag. It’s about five medical students who visit a village in Maharashtra and witness the misfortune of villagers. I think our Minister for Medical Education should also watch it!

Didi’s mother also saw the movie with us and said that says that when she did her rural internship, the doctor who was supposed to supervise them performed all surgeries— including caesareans and post mortems, since he was the only doctor around. One day a body was brought in by the cops. They said he was found dead behind a bush. She asked the Doctor what he died of. He gave her a strange look and said, “Whatever the cops said he died of. If I write something different then tomorrow you will find my body behind the bush.”

She said that after that chilling episode, she simply could not wait to leave the village and get back to urban safety!

Even now, women doctors and women health workers have no assured safety in the villages when they have to make house visits at odd hours in emergencies with no vehicles, no public transport, no street lights, no electricity. Why would anyone choose that life?

As a surprise to no one, when doctors are asked to settle in villages they also want the same things that anyone else wants—safety, sanitation, schools, social life and successful career. What of these can the government ensure??

On top of all that Didi says that the government reduces healthcare budget to almost less than 1 % of the GDP. Imagine, Mohan, if we had 100 Rs to spend at home and I give you only 1 Re for managing the entire month’s medical costs?

It is so absurd that I started laughing when she explained it!

I was remembering when we had to sell 2 guntha of our land to pay for medical care after you had broken your leg because our bullock Dhavalya ran into you. I cannot imagine why the government would keep such a ridiculously small budget for a country of 1.2 billion people!

Meanwhile it seems that India’s medical tourism is projected to grow to $7–8 billion in the next few years!


Didi’s mother says that the key to ensuring good healthcare in villages and even well managed villages is that every MP and MLA goes to his or her own constituency for healthcare.

No dashing off to AIIMS in Delhi or Beth Israel in America and certainly no using private care anywhere.

Every time the politicians say “India lives in the villages! Send doctors there to improve healthcare!”

Adarsh Dada wants to reply: “India lives in the villages! Let all MPs and MLAs seek complete healthcare only in their own village!”

Looking forward to seeing all of you when I come down for Lakshmi’s wedding.

Warm regards,

Your sister,


Who would be the 160 on your ARC?

(ARC= Artificial Re-population Colony) ( I just made that up :P)

maxresdefaultApparently that is the magic number one needs to repopulate this planet in case of global devastation. Or the number needed to send out to space colonies in order to populate a new planet.


And if you think it’s one of my usual flights of fancy, consider the amount of thought that has been put into this by experts for years already !!

“For a space trip of 200 years, perhaps eight to 10 generations, his calculations suggest a minimum number of 160 people are needed to maintain a stable population.

Moore suggests two strategies. The first is to begin with young childless couples, echoing the practice of Polynesian seafaring colonists. The second is to ask the space crew to postpone reproduction to later in woman’s fertile period, perhaps age 35 to 40, creating longer time gaps between the generations.”

Or as one article put it “How many colonists does it take to screw in a society?”


It is fascinating to me that this number matches so closely what anthropologists have noted from traditional tribal behaviour—when a tribe village population grows beyond 150, young people are encouraged to move out and create their own tribes!

(This number is known as the Dunbar number and if you want to read more check here)

We were watching a sci-fi apocalyptic thriller on Netflix, called Salvation, where an asteroid is hurtling towards Earth and if they can’t stop it, there will be planetary destruction on impact. They need to now find the 160 needed to re-populate in the event that this does happen. (Check out the trailer here)

That got me thinking about who would be my 160?

One thought is that there should always be a back-up team so one would probably arrange for at least 5 sets of 160 to be located in different places, or sent out on different spaceships etc.

Considering our global diversity and skill sets I ask myself these following questions.

Not sure I have all the answers and would love to hear what you think!

Which countries? Obviously with 195 countries all cannot be represented.

My suggestion would be that each chosen country gets only one person in, irrespective of the population of that country. So Fiji and China both get one each.

(Mars One has whittled down the 2,00,000 applications they received and has finalized 100. The round three survivors consist of 50 men and 50 women, ranging in age from 19 to 60. Thirty nine come from the Americas, 31 from Europe, 16 from Asia, seven from Africa and seven from Australia. So…..)

What age range? Would be all adults? Or not? Between age 10-50? 20-40?

But if we need skills they need to be at least 25 and if we need experts they would be closer to 40?

Would there be a role for children to be sent? Who would consent for them to go? Would they need to go only if one or two parents are already going?

Would there be a role for at least 2 elderly people as in close to 70? Just so that the new society knows what that feels like?

Which languages would one choose to rescue? The Indo-European family is the most widely spoken and includes languages as diverse as English, Russian and Hindi; the Sino-Tibetan family includes Mandarin, Bodo and the other Chinese languages, and Tibetan; the Afro-Asiatic family includes Arabic, Somali, and Hebrew; the Bantu languages include Swahili, and Zulu.


So would one choose a linguist even if they had no other skills? Or would one depend on the chosen people to study their language and become the experts?

Which professions/ skill sets would one need to ensure the new team has?

First of course would be medicine and obstetrics!

Then veterinary? Assuming we will be saving animals also. Probably utilitarian domesticated like cows, dogs, horses, sheep, hens rather than flamingos, iguanas, zebras and peacocks I assume…

Sad but practical.

'How long until MY gravity boots arrive?'

Also the plants would be all food value like spinach and rice and stuff. (Though the Indian on the team will surely sneak in some Alphonso Mango seeds!)

Perhaps one could get genetic extracts and hope that someday the new civilization can re-create some of them?

Other important experts needed would be civil engineers, electric engineers.

Someone who understand agriculture, food production, storage, cooking.

Will they need to manufacture their own clothes? I imagine they will go around dressed like the folks from the Matrix trilogy in their underground city. Unbleached, grey coloured woven cloth….

We will certainly need the artists, singers, dancers, storytellers to make everything less bleak and more meaningful!

From the humanities, how will we decide who is valuable and meaningful and who isn’t ? Who is essential and who isn’t?

History, geography, sociology,

Psychologists we would probably need a pair and perhaps some counsellors also ! Strife and depression are likely to be a serious issue especially if the confinement period before being able to go forth and multiply is too long.


We may take the humans out of Earth but the essential nature won’t change, so it may come to pass on some horrible day that this apparition will arise….


How many medicines and what kinds would they need to keep? The W.H.O has an essential drug list that may make a handy reference. As long as the teams don’t forget contraception…

I do hope they will carry some hard copy books. Especially those written by Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan because how super cool would that be!!


And of course the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy and all the seasons and movies of Star Trek   🙂


How much technology can be saved/ transported without a skilled person to use and maintain? Cars, aircrafts, ships?

Would we need a metallurgist or an ironmonger? And architects?

We would certainly need experts in mathematics and astronomy? But civics? Political science? Finance and accounts?

'Guess who was just named Marketing Director for THE ENTIRE DARK SIDE OF THE PLANET?!'

How would we decide the male female ratio?

Logically more women would be needed since women are the ones who get pregnant and give birth.

So maybe 100 women and 40 men?

Of course with frozen sperm and embryos maybe even less men could be ok. After all mouse sperm stored in the space station produced healthy young when brought back to Earth.


Would you specifically choose some who are not heterosexual or would one assume than in this number one would automatically get some?

What if someone if the only expert possible in such a group but is not fertile? How would one choose then?

I suppose everyone chosen would have to undergo a DISC profile to make sure everyone isn’t domineering or submissive…..

And I guess a mandatory psych profile?

Maybe I should get one first haha, cos this is how I spend my free Friday evening!

I have crossed 40 a while ago and unless feminism and activism is a skill set they are looking for I am totally going to be left behind, so maybe I shall just Netflix and chill as the world comes to an end.

In fact why wait for the apocalypse?! Laterz….

I could have had another life but now I am having this one

So this is radically different in style from my usual writing and may be more slam poetry than prose. It also sounds almost trippy 🙂 but I have had some intense weeks of doing gender and rights trainings, debates and discussions around Me Too, able-ism, sexism and some intense periods of introspection in between as well. I guess all that churning resulted in this ! Hope you enjoy it….



We are just animals you and I, we live, we breed we die.

We need others from our tribe to help survive.

To gather food and raise kids and fight the monsters.

But we want to be humans so we grow flowers and sing songs of love and dance in the light of the moon.

We paint our dreams and write poetry of lilacs and blood on the pavement.

We attempt to fight a lonely and probably losing battle against entropy but fight we must

We have souls. Trapped inside these bodies. Just moments away from rotting temporary containers.

And then foolishly we mistake them for ourselves. We forget our souls or are too scared to see them.

Because to do so would force us to forget the drama and the matching clothes and the need for approval and the desperation for food and the starkness of poverty.

So we think that we are the bodies alone and so we become.

Man woman.

Black white brown

Tall short

fat thin

sexy plain

beautiful ugly

able bodied disabled

normal abnormal


We have bodies which contain a soul.

The soul has no gender, the soul is always beautiful.

The soul has no shape, no colour, no taste and no anything.

But the body comes with different parts. Not better or worse. Just different.

But we make labels out of them and then we make rules.

Men and women should marry and have babies.

Which is fine, shrug. Whatever works. But then we make more rules

Men and women MUST marry and after they marry they MUST have babies.

Men cannot marry men.

Women cannot marry women.

Women cannot have babies if they are not married.

Women cannot even have sex if they are not married.

More and more rules.

Men and women should have sex only with those they marry. Because sex is sacred. Fidelity is vital.

Morality is a squiggly line drawn in the sand.

Except when it isn’t.



Ashley Madison/Tinder/Sexting/Tiger woods

Why is it called being unfaithful? Not having faith in whom? And for what?

Is being exclusive so important?

Or is it because most often it is not mutual?

And if the marriage is open then both may as well fall out of that opening.

And maybe forget to come back inside….

Does this matter?

Well apparently children can be seriously affected by broken homes.

What about those which are not physically broken but the loneliness screams at them as they sit side by side in the living room watching TV because they have nothing to say to each other ?

What do we as a society do to stop this breaking of homes?

We deny marital rape. We force gay and lesbians to marry someone of the opposite sex.

We look the other way when men beat their wives and girlfriends,

We condone it when men cheat on their wives.

Boys will be boys. Men will be men

And who will girls be? Obedient. Moral, pure, honourable, kind, faithful, quiet, loving, mothering, adjusting, understanding.

Except one day they wake up and realize that they are not.

They rampage and drink blood and dance on the bodies of demons.

They float like butterflies above this hypocritical world.

They flap their gorgeous wings. Black and white and blinding yellow.

They are the Ark and the Flood and Mrs. Noah.

They will decide who will drown and who will be saved.

Mrs. Noah just tipped Mr. Noah into the churning ocean for being an idiot and allowing the mosquitoes on board while forgetting the unicorns.



Who do you keep the faith with? Yourself? Creation? The being- ness of it all?

Bruno saw the vision of the immense infinity of the universe. He was flogged and imprisoned and eventually burned at the stake.

By the religious leaders who insisted on faith. In their word. Not in the real truth after all.

The women were there, watching.

Two hundred years later the women were burned at the stake. The villagers were there, watching.

A few hundred years later the Nazis burnt the Jews and the homosexuals and the disabled.

The world was there, watching.

Now the poor and the whistle blowers and the indigenous tribes and peace and sisterhood are in line of fire.

Who is still watching?



They will all rise.

The poor, the gays and lesbians and queer and questioning and all the women.

All the children forced into rebel armies, all the girls kidnapped and raped by them.

The smoke of their dreams on fire will swirl around like the apocalypse.

And it will destroy.

It will destroy the military complex.

It will destroy patriarchy and capitalism and every unequal and unjust thing in the known universe.


Women will again stand up and dance.

The god of destruction is half female and the dance is for real.

The dance will be danced on burning coals.

Flames, ashes, hot star white red orange.

Smoke spiralling towards all galaxies at once.

And then will come the rain.

Moonlight swans singing.

And from all that will come love, courage, kindness, faith, power.



I did not choose this life I was given but now this is the life I am having.

I have taken hold of it with both hands.

Twisted it and woven it and crafted it into my own.

I wear it like a skin. I own it. I know it. I know where the seams are. I know where the worn out patches have been darned over and over again.

I know where the dreams have been tucked away. I know exactly where to put in my fingers and rip it all open.

I know that this is garment which I can shed and will have to shed.

But before this cloak falls off my shoulders I am going to give this old life a good good ride!




Maiden aunts, Missionaries and Mad women

This is also a re-post, from ages ago, but it is in keeping with the relationships series, so I hope you enjoy it! I have updated it to include hyperlinks and image which were not there in the original post!


The work I do involves issues related to maternal deaths. Girls married off at a young age, pregnant, dying in childbirth. Older women being pregnant over and over again, finally bleeding to death. Girls and women pregnant when they do not want to be and dying in the attempt to rid their body of it. So many stories, so many reports, so many tragically avoidable deaths.

So many many girls and women for whom having sex is basically the beginning of a death sentence one way or another. I remember reading of an African tribal ritual where they would dig a grave when the woman was 9 months pregnant and fill it up every week bit by bit till she was 3 months post- delivery. This is mind numbing in so many ways. This was a ritual created out of the knowledge that this was the reality of what a childbirth could end in. Imagine being a 16 year old pregnant girl, watching that grave being dug, waiting with its open mouth for you to go into labour and bleed out your way into its jaws.  Surely modern urban women would go in for a lifetime of counselling and therapy for much less.

There used to many women who escaped this fate simply by refusing to be married or avoiding being married or maybe not managing to get married. The famous maiden aunts who dot the landscape of the life of Bertie Wooster (one of PG Wodehouse’s book is in fact titled ‘Aunts aren’t Gentlemen’), or the wonderful acid tongued aunts from Oscar Wilde plays such as the terrifying Aunt Augusta from the Importance of being Ernest. These women were not sweet, simpering, pale, fluttering creatures meant only to decorate the living room and play the piano after dinner. These are women with a booming voice, a hearty appetite and a strong will that can (and does!) make grown men cry.

aunt agatha

Tim Burton’s wonderful new interpretation of Alice in Wonderland had Aunt Imogen who wasn’t so much “single” as “engaged to a prince who doesn’t exist”. We must not forget Miss Havisham from Great Expectations, who is in a twilight zone, forever waiting to be married but not quite there yet.


These women either chose to not marry or were not eligible to marry, being either too tall, too ‘ugly’, too eccentric or too well educated or then too poor to find a suitable match. And so they would either sit in a corner and spin like a hermit spider or they would trot off to far away lands and civilize the heathens or shoot tigers, ride elephants and come back to England after a jolly good time (which never involved any men or sex of course).

Aunt travels

The real life single women like Nellie Blye go around the world with one black bag and come back to tell the tale !

nelli bly

Over a 100 such stories are to be found in whose most endearing quote is “There is nothing quite like parrot pie for breakfast. First one must catch one’s parrot, of course, and build the hearth to bake it, but that is all in a day’s work”. What a wonderful life !

parrot pie

There are the women who are labelled ‘mad’ because they simply will not conform. They will leave their hair open, laugh loudly, run around, dance and sing and not be cowed down. ( like RangBiBi from Sohaila’s lovely books with some of my sister’s best illustrations!)


If they display intelligence superior to the others especially the men, if they know how to use herbs and medicines and control fertility, make ill people get well or seem to reverse the course of nature in a disease, they were ( and still are– branded as witches and burnt at the stake.

One of the stories I read about the witch-hunts spoke of the ‘test’. Tie her up and throw her in the village pond. If she drowns she was not a witch. Wow. If she doesn’t drown, pull her out and burn her. Anyone see the flaw in this methodology ??

Coming back to aunts, one of the aunts my girls and I loved reading about is Aunt Fidget Wonkham-Strong who thinks her nephew’s activities are ‘too much like having fun’ and calls upon the fearsome Captain Najork and his hired sportsmen to ‘teach him a lesson.’

aunt fidget

Another one is Conradin’s aunt who gets her justice at the ‘hands’ of Sredni Vashtar the beautiful.

Harry Potter’s aunt is of course famously unloving but most often maiden aunts are shown to step in to love and care for the children when mothers are not around as in What Katy Did ( and What Shachi Did for my 2 year old daughter when I was away studying and she was still a maiden 🙂 ).

There are also the single women, who may not be aunts and may be more angles and sharpness than the plump kindly aunts but have their heart in the right place—such as Marilla from the Anne of Green Gables.

And of course Miss Marple from Agatha Christie. Her knitting is the only fluffy and woolly thing about her and her spinsterhood only seems to sharpen her acute observations of human life and minds.

I think Mary Poppins also fits in here since she does not seem the marrying kind and cares for the Banks children with a very firm hand indeed.

mary poppins

It is no surprise either that newspaper and magazine columns where people bare their souls and ask to have their personal problems resolved, write to the agony ‘aunts’ ( would you dare ask these questions of your mother ??? But with an Aunt your secret can be in safe hands !)

As Tish Durkin says in her blog is nice, but aunting is divine”.

I know I can play at hungry cat and tell my nephew that my contact lenses are the magic eyeballs I put in so I can see him through walls and that at night I switch on my personal rocket and go for a few jaunts. After all, his mother is the one who has to be responsible. My job is just to be fun !!

I must end with a toast to my favourite pair of maiden aunts from among them all –Aunt Abby and Aunt Martha Brewster from Arsenic and Old Lace, with their kind hearts and deadly cordial as well as a basement filled with corpses , hooray for all those aunts who make the world a better place to be in !