Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In a lighter vein

Or not! I wanted to take a break from "solving the world's problems" and switch to thinking/ talking about something lighter. But those have invaded me and mine!

Do you see them? And that is after I zoomed the camera to its utmost. I could not bring myself to get any closer.

What I love about my house is that we have a lot of greenery around. But these greeneries are perfect breeding places for those...those things.

I don't know where they came from. Probably the fruit-less mango tree that we forbade our parents from cutting down because we wanted to do our bit for the environment. And the ungrateful thing goes and does this to us!

And the profusion. Maybe they just hatched, and decided to attack with full force. This morning mom went up to the roof and killed eight- yes, eight of the buggers. And then this afternoon two of its brothers (they can only be male- they invaded my room after all) found their way into my room.

I'm not scared of them. I just don't like them. Okay, okay, they creep me out totally. And I swept those two and threw them out my window where they'll probably crawl back. Thing is, I can't kill them. And no, its not because I'm good or kind or PETA-ish. Its that I can't shake the fear that their blood (?) and entrails would get stuck under my slippers and somehow find their way onto my skin...

Then a few minutes later, my sister came out screaming from the bathroom because she too had just seen one of its brothers. And only after pouring two bucket-fuls of precious water over it, it sluggishly went down the drain. I went back to my room and found yet another one. That makes twelve of those worms that I've seen today.

I'm so spooked, every time my hair tickles me, I think its them and I get mild heart attacks. And I glance at every nook and cranny, and at the ceilings and under cushions and..everywhere.

Rainy season's coming up, and there will be more. And I especially hate the ones that give you itches-the "lungphur" kind. Because I'm so susceptible to the power of suggestive thinking that if I even see one, I break into itchy rashes.

And it doesn't help when people tell me they're probably more scared of me than I am of them.

They say you always pay a price for loving. And I love trees and rain, and the price I have to pay for loving them are those crawling menaces.

Love hurts.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Of Half-breeds and Aliens

So, a 13 year old Mizo girl was raped by a 'Vai' guy, and once again, other Vais are advised to stay at home for their own protection. While I wish that rapists should be castrated with a blunt knife, I can't help but feel sorry for the many innocent Vais here. Many of them have lived almost all their lives here, and yet, they are always the outsiders, the ones who have to suffer quietly when the natives are on their rampage.

One of my bestest friends is a 'half-breed'. Her Facebook status reads: "Vai chhuah loh tur ania, chhuah chi bawk si lo, Mizo chhuah loh tur ti ve ta se, engtin nge ka awm ang le?" She has lived here all her life, she considers herself a Mizo, but in situations such as these, she can't go outside her house with the same assurance as we 'pure' Mizos.

We have been socially conditioned to hate Vais. Even small kids learn to chant "Vai chhia, vai chhia". We automatically distrust them, and why? Because it was a Vai autocrat who sent a Vai army to ravage our land and rape our women in 1966. I will not go into the political and social ramifications of that event. Much has been said by far better speakers and more knowledgeable people than I.

Yes, the wound has not healed. We will not forget what was done to us. A lot of innocent people suffered, but does that give us the right to inflict suffering on innocent people too?

I have seen a lot of Mizo 'Christian' guys infused with the spirit of 'Vai velh chakna'. The most recent one was when a camera followed a group of Mizo men chasing a Vai who had done nothing wrong except being born the same race as an a-hole who raped a Mizo child. The Vai guy raced up to the roof of a building, looked down at the sheer drop, glanced back at the Mizo men after him... and the camera panned out. I don't know what happened next.

My guy and I went out once when a old Vai man bumped into us. He apologized so profusely and with such a distressed look on his face. It was just an accidental bump, for Heaven's sake! But then again, we could have been radical Vai-haters, ready to hit them just for a small bump, just for a small glance, just for being.

One of my friends used to have a boyfriend who was in the MZP. He boasted about extorting money from Vai shop-owners, and we got into a heated argument where by the end, he called me a "Vai-lover". My half-breed friend's dad also owns a shop, and he too had to 'donate' money to the MZP a few times. Had he refused, there was the probablity that the MZP would have issued a statement saying that the shop owner had been very rude to his Mizo customers and they would have trashed the place. When long socks were in fashion, my friend's dad sold them for 25 rupees, at the same price for which he bought them. And Mizo 'Christian' shop owners sold those same socks for Rs. 150.

We say we are afraid of being over-run by Vais. But its a fact that we cannot do without them. The last time trouble of this sort happened, the government granary in Tanhril almost became empty because there was no one to unload the goods. Where then are all those strong, Mizo youths who cry that there are no jobs? And where are they when Vais build the pandals for their YMA and KTP/TKP conferences?

I'm not saying that I'm completely unbiased towards Vais. Getting rid of so many years worth of social conditioning is not easy. But I think it's time to move on. Forgiveness does not mean condoning what the other person did. Its more about letting go of the bitterness that is holding you back from moving forward.

I can't help thinking of the Japanese in this context. Despite what they suffered during WWII, they have moved on. They never forgot what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but instead of letting it hold them back, they used the tragedy as an impetus to move forward. Why can't we Mizos do the same?

Things are getting better. I remember as a child, when a Mizo girl was raped and murdered by a Vai, Vai-owned shops were trashed and looted and demolished by an angry mob. Incidents of that kind are mercifully absent now, but if a Vai were to venture out, or open their shops right now, there would be a heavy backlash.

I have digressed so far from what I originally intended to write about. Maybe I'll get back to my original topic some other time. For now, I have to call my 'half-breed' friend. Here's hoping that no men in white robes would come to plant a burning cross in our yard for being a "vai-lover".

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hindi malum nahi hai!

And that pretty much exhausts the very rudimentary, broken Hindi I know.
Nothing to be proud of, considering that it is our national language after all, and I have the audacity to call myself 'educated'.

We had Hindi subject in school only from classes 4 to 8. We had to learn everything by-heart, and I sucked at by-hearting things. And its worse when you don't even know the meanings of what your'e memorising. Our teachers gave quick, brief translations of what the lines meant, and I'd always get lost somewhere in the middle.

During exams, I'd stay up all night when we had a Hindi paper the next day, chanting, "Mera naam Lalchati hai", "Vunga bahut achcha larka hai", and all those stuffs. And then when the question paper arrives, I would have forgotten everything, and I'd inevitably fail the paper. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when we no longer had Hindi in our syllabus by class 9, only to be confronted with Quantum Physics and Trigo maths, urghhh!! But thats another story. I digress.
, dos
I had not foreseen how my Hindi impairment would come back to haunt me. If I had, maybe I'd have tried harder, I don't know. I was bad at it right from the very beginning.

I rarely venture out of Mizoram. I spent 3 years in Shillong, where practically everyone can speak English... except the alu muri man. And he understood our broken Hindi perfectly, "Bhaiyya, khale alu, zyada pyaas, zyada tel, zyada mirchi, uff, zyada everything.. 10 rupees, 5-5 Rs. packing". Then a three month stay in Kolkata, where I hardly ventured out, and few trips down south, where we'd travel in groups, and there would be at least one person with good Hindi to speak for us. So my lack of Hindi did not impair me that much.

Then last year, I went to Delhi and Kolkata with a friend who knew even less Hindi than I do. The Delhiites were very helpful. We stayed at blogger Chawngtinleri aka Mapuii's place, and she gave us detailed info on how to deal with auto drivers. We even memorised her address, I remember that we had to say "Burra Gurudwara ke pas", besides the name of the locality and stuff.

Now couple our lack of Hindi and a completely awful sense of direction. My friend Mami took us DU, JNU and lots of other places and we managed to get back fine. Then Nunpuii took us to Sarojini, and my travel mate and I told her that we can get back on our own, so she left us. Mapuii had told us that an auto fare from Saro to her place costs no more than 25, and told us to be wary of crooked drivers. The first driver we spoke to said that the fare would be 'Bis' and my friend got really pissed. "Nahi, pacchis!", she screamed (is the spelling correct?). The auto driver tried to tell us that he could get us there for 'bis' rupees, but my friend insisted on pacchis. By this time I had finally counted through my Hindi numbers, and found out that pacchis was twenty five, and bis was twenty. I told my friend, and we sat squirming and giggling all the way home.

Then disaster struck. The driver took a completely different route. We were lost. He let us off somewhere, and I summoned all the Hindi I knew to ask him where the burra Gurudwara was, and he gave me some directions which I did not understand. There we were, laden with sooo many shopping bags, completely lost, and Hindi-less. A few days previously, a North-east couple had been assaulted and robbed, so we did not want to appear vulnerable. So we walked, and walked briskly, confidently, with absolutely no clue where we were supposed to be going. After about an hour, we managed to somehow locate Mapuii's place. Bliss.

We stayed for two days in Kolkata, at my cousins' place. They still talk about the time big sis came over and stayed for two days and got lost five times. It was actually seven times, but I didn't tell them. Somehow we always managed to find our way back, though after about an hour of going round in circles and asking for directions, and getting back indecipherable answers. We were fleeced three times by cab drivers, had to give an extra 5 rupees above the normal fare to an auto driver for his breakfast, cos he just wont stop asking, and we didn't know how to tell him to get lost.

And everytime someone asked where we were from we said "Korea" or "China" because we were ashamed to admit that we were Indians with zero clue about Hindi. I'm not surprised that we got fleeced because we were so clueless.

See thats the thing about a majority of us Mizos. We barely know Hindi, and we complain when we are fleeced. The thing is, we are sitting ducks for them- vulnerable, lost and clueless. We are notoriously anti-Vai, and a lot of us think that we do not even have to know the language because we rarely venture out. But unforeseen events can occur. You or a family member might need medical treatment outside Mizoram, and unless you have a guide who can be there 24-7, you need to know the language. Chuvang lo pawn thiam hrim hrim a trul. Unless we are comfortable interacting with them, there is absolutely no chance for development.

I'm thinking that I should make more of an effort to learn the language. I want to travel, and monetary factors not withstanding, I prefer radside food and fashion and auto rides to Malls and restaurants and prepaid cabs. So I really, really need to learn the language. Have gone to Hindi classes but I didn't benefit from them. I know a few words, but not how to frame them into sentences. Maybe if I watched a lot of Bollywood movies....???

Saturday, April 10, 2010

When I'm Old

I just know I'm going to be unable to handle the new-fangled technology.

There I'll be, yearning for the good old days of sale hunting, and second-hand lane browsing. And my grandkids will show me a 'clothes synthesizer', and they'll say, "Grandma, put this on and think of any clothes you want to wear. And this will rearrange the molecules around you to form whatever clothes your'e thinking of".

And I'll think of the most outlandish clothes just yank their chains. And they'll give me their patronizing and tolerant smiles and totally spoil my joke. And then often, my mind will go blank, and they'll scream, "Mom!! Grandma's naked again! Ewww!!"

And I'll try to go for a walk, and they'll say, "Grandma, don't you know you can die breathing the air out there? We have the 'location simulator', its so convenient. Why would anyone want to go out?" And they'll force me to put on yet another appliance while I glumly jetset virtually all over Paris, Rome, the Bahamas, bleh.

And I'll forage for my old CDs of the bands of yesteryear, and they'll say, "Grandma, why do you want to listen to other people's records? Put this on, and you can simulate any music you want. You can create your own music, crafted to your taste." And I'll say I want to go to a live concert, and they'll say, "But you can have your own audience, instead of being one of the audience". They'll give me an 'audience simulator' who will scream and sing along and do the mosh pit to whatever music I churn out. Hmmm.. I kinda like this last invention.

And I'll say I want to go visiting friends, and they'll take me to another appliance which will teleport me to wherever I want to go. And if I make calls, a holographic image of me will be projected to whoever I want to speak to. And I'll mumble that when visiting friends, the journey to their place and the anticipation of meeting them is part of the pleasure. And they'll look at me as if I've come from another planet. Or maybe not, because my family will be spread around the moon, Mars and Venus, and they don't treat them any differently.

I'll reminisce about how their granddad would come over from Luangmual to my place to visit, and how we used to talk for hours on the phone. And they'll say, "Grandma, your'e joking right? There is no Luangmual. There once was, but that was centuries ago. And how can you talk for hours without seeing each other's faces?" And I'll say that it was easier to say some things when you can't see their faces, and that it was wonderful to hear the smile in someone's voice over the phone. But they would never buy it.

And I'll talk about how, after a date, we would sometimes ditch the ride and walk home. They'll say, "No wonder your'e both so frail! Can you imagine all the bacteria and virus floating in the air?" And I'll tell them how I sometimes dieted to maintain a youthful figure, and they'll stare in bemusement because all their foods are synthetic and are fat-free and everyone has fabulous figures.

And they'll love me and care for me. But the generation gap would be too large, and if my old man conks out before I do, I would be oh-so-lonely.

Which is why, by the time I'm old, I wish there would be a really good old people's home, where we old women would gossip and play 'in dawl chuh', and the old men would sit around talking about yesteryear's football and music and play 'in dawl chuh'. And we would have old-fashioned phones, where we won't see each other's faces, and old music players where we would listen to bands like Nirvana, the Stones, Pink Floyd, John Mayer.... And no new-fangled inventions here!

But I know my old man is soo gonna love the music simulator and the audience thing, so he'll probably sneak in one. But his love for the old masters will remain, and he'll burn me a mixed CD, and I'll accept it as if it were still 2005, and we would feel as young as ever..... :)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Lil' Tough Love Please

I sincerely hope this Jesse James- Tiger Woods sex addiction thing never catches on. In my very humble opinion, I think we all seriously need to practice some tough love. When you attribute every behavioral lapse to a psychological hiccup, its like your'e denying responsibility for your actions.

I'm no psychologist but couching their cheating womanising ways in psychobabble and then going to rehab for it sounds so lame to me. Maybe they do have psychological issues, related to thrill-seeking, lack of guilt, lack of remorse over hurting someone who loves them, blah blah, and they should work on those problems. But the message these cheating Hollywood a-holes are sending out is, "Don't blame me, pity me instead because my Id forced me".

Okay, I might sound unsympathetic. I'm not. I just take exception to the fact that so many issues are boiled down to psychological problems.

They say obesity is a disease. And I agree that certain types of sickness do cause huge weight gain. But for a majority of obese people, if they would just shift their asses from in front of the TV, and walk even a few miles everyday, and cut down on the junk food, then they would not become so fat. And for the people who eat out of depression or stress, their depression is the psychological issue here. The eating, I believe, is just a symptom of a deeper problem, and not the problem itself.

They say addiction is a disease. But when they treat the addict as a sick person, I fear that he/ she would think that rehabilitation is possible only with outside help. Addicts need to contribute to their own recovery, and by being too sympathetic, you stand the chance of making them lose their belief in their own capabilities of self-control and discipline. I agree we should be supportive, but its more important not to mollycoddle them.

Now the latest disease is sex addiction. Maybe I'm an unimaginative ignoramus, but, it sounds like so much bull to me. If you really crave sex that much, jump your wife every chance you get. Spike her drinks and food with aphrodisiacs, create weird, exciting scenarios if that turns you on, and stay away from temptation. But if sex with a variety of partners is your pleasure, you are not a sex addict. You are promiscuous. Accept that, and work on that.

Now, I believe that pedophiles, rapists, and the like do have sexually-related psychological problems. But I also believe that unless you are certifiably insane, you do have self-control and the ability to judge whether what you are doing is harmful or not. And to willfully disregard that and abuse a CHILD, or any unwilling person for that matter, is unpardonable.

In U.S and British prisons, child rapists and pedophiles are segregated. Prisoners, no matter how hardened, retain their belief that innocent children should be protected. Which is why pedophiles are often beaten up, raped or even murdered in prisons, thus the need to keep them segregated for their own protection. Call me cruel and Unchristian, but I sometimes wish a pedophile would be gang-raped by a group of brutal, diseased men, if only to feel some of the trauma that they themselves have inflicted on innocent children. So sue me.

I agree that there is still a lot to learn about the human psyche. But reducing every lapse of behavior to a nice set of psychological terminology makes you deny accountability for your actions. Life is hard, yes, and trials and tribulations are many. Some people seem to have more than their fair share of hardships. But ultimately, we are responsible for our own actions, despite whatever baggage we carry.

Which is why, easy as it is to attribute my angsty behavior to my "quarter life crisis", I decided to be responsible for my actions. I am a victim only if I choose to be.

Love yourself. But make sure that tough love is included in the equation. Accept responsibility for your own actions. If you choose to let your Id and Superego and your desires dictate all of your behavior and let go of your control over your own actions, then prepare to be labelled a psychological basket case. For what differentiates humans from animals is not just our intelligence, but our ability to control and modify our own behavior, and to differentiate between right and wrong.

So if you want to call your self a sex-addict, do so. Just dont expect me or most people to vouch for your credibility.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Superwoman I ain't

Brace yourself. This is gonna be long.

So... My best friend and I were in bed together, talking up a storm again... And get the x-rated images out of your head. She was sick, and I had gone to visit her.

We talked about a recent article we had read in Marie Claire, about quarter life crisis. Anyway, the gist of the article was that, women today have so much more freedom and so many choices that we expect ourselves to do more. We tend to have this great self-expectations, and when we are unable to meet those expectations, say by age 26-30, then quarter life crisis comes in.

We are bombarded with movies about women who zip up the professional ladder, have enviable wardrobes, enjoy a rocking social life, and have great love lives. TCALSS, they have made it, all within the 26-30 age mark. Fashion mags exhort us to be "fun, fearless, female" and "sexy, stylish, spirited".

So..here we are, at the age when we are supposed to have made it. And we are still struggling to discover who we are, what we want out of life, still not making it. And I never realised I too had this quarter life crisis thing going on. But the more we talked about it, the more I realised that I am going through a very bad version of it.

Thing is, when we realise that we are still such a long way from making it, our self-confidence erodes. Every other woman seems to be like superwoman, effortlessly juggling personal,social and professional lives. I feel like a non-achiever, a failure, and that feeling is so crippling that it paralyzes me to the point where I dont even want to focus on my work. I stay at home all day, logging in a lot of net time to escape reality, kind of.

And from what I gather from my closest girlfriends, personal relationships seem to be a major casualty of this crisis. 90% of my friends claim to be scared of marriage. This fear stems from the fact that if we get married, we would not have as much time to devote to our professional and social lives; that we would become drudges, tied to the kitchen, while our friends zip up the corporate ladder in their designer clothes, and dancing away at the most happening social events.

And this quarter life crisis hit me hard, to the extent that I all but damaged my academic and my love life. I demanded that I HAVE to be "me". I hated working on my paper, because I thought that working within a theory would stifle my creative juices. So I didnt write anything at all, even though my paper is due.

I also suddenly feared that a committed relationship would stifle "me", that I would lose my identity within the relationship. I know its illogical, given the fact that I have been in a relationship for 5 years, and have discovered parts of me that I didnt know existed before.

Basically, the realisation that I was not superwoman freaked me out to such an extent that I behaved like a first-class jerk. I was so freaked out by my fear of failure that I allowed it to take control of me. And I ended up hurting the most important person in my life.

I used to laugh at the phrase "mid-life crisis". Now that I am experiencing my quarter life crisis, I realize that its no laughing matter.

Today... I decided to get a hair cut. It didnt look right, so I told them to cut more and more, and now my hair is soooo short I can't even tie it up. My friend told me it looks good. I feel defenceless. And less of a woman.

I know, I know. All these is illogical. No one expects me to be superwoman with the long hair... except, maybe, me. ***sigh***

And the worst part is, my body craves Nicotine like hell. A few more days of this and I see myself foaming at the mouth, staring blankly into space and rolling around on the floor like Homer Simpson.

I had my 27th birthday on the 30th of March. I share a bday with Eric Clapton, Tracy Chapman, Norah Jones and Van Gogh. That cheered me up a little. Silly, I know, but one of my little quirks.

Anyway, I reflected long and hard. Decided to get over my crisis. So...last night, I forced myself to work on my dissertation. And it wasn't that bad. I was able to incorporate my own ideas, while letting theory guide me. Decided to prioritise:

So what if I don't have a career now? There's still time, and besides, I don't intend to let my career consume all of me.

So what if Cosmo says my clothes are" sooo last year"? If they make me feel good, then screw Cosmo.

So what if they say I am dependent on my man? He's my refuge when I'm sad, my air when I'm happy, and our relationship is the truest mirror of who I really am. Yes, I need him.

So what if I am not that social? I prefer quiet moments with my closest friends than being stuffed in a tight room with lots of strange sweaty bodies.

So...crisis over?? No, not exactly. I know I will still occasionally feel insecure when I see other superwomen. But now I refuse to let my insecurity paralyse me.

We women have to realise that our good enough IS good enough. And that it doesn't mean that we are being complacent or settling for a second-rate life.

So here I am, Kukui with the short hair, the neuroses, a 27 year old angst-ridden researcher and lover. Still haven't made it. And refuses to care too much about it.

And feeling liberated and relieved that I do not have to be superwoman to be a woman.