Tag Archives: Sex and the City

Good Indian Girls Do Not Waste Time Writing Books

An edited version was published by Helter Skelter Magazine on 24th May 2011.

*FYI: Beti = daughter, Samajdar = sensible, Thik hai = Alright, Jaldi = Hurry

“You want to do whaaat???!!”

Write a novel. Now calm the eff down.

Ever wonder how it would be to take a hiatus from life to follow that one niggling dream that dances on the edge of your consciousness day-in and day-out? I do. All the time. And, being an Indian girl let me tell you, it isn’t easy. An Indian girl is a ticking time bomb.

“Do you want to be the only thirty-something to marry the leftovers? Life isn’t Sex and the City.”

Jeez. Leftovers. That’s what my dad calls the baldies and the divorcees, since that’s who you will get if you decide to get married post-thirty. Why, thank you. That does mean I have a neat little bracket of five years left, right? Right?

Wrong. If you are a brown girl baby, you will know that we have two very neat choices (no, infanticide is not one of them): academics or marriage. Ever since I started my stint at grad school with my Master’s in English, daddy dearest laid off with all the “beti*, don’t you want to get married?” Now that my year is winding down, and I have to decide for either the PhD route, or the working girl route, there it is again. I am reminded of my expiry date, my limited shelf life, my doomed future as a single brown girl. See, Indian parents do not hand you a Kit Kat when you decide to take a break from life. A break from life is a luxury that does not exist in the Indian dictionary.

I don’t ask for much. Just want to be a Mistry or a Roy. Maybe, a Lahiri at least. Just not a contrived cow. “A contrived what?” you ask. A contrived c-o-w. Now what is a contrived cow? The market of fiction is filled with contrived cows. In other words, books that pass for literature but are instead filled with superficial plots driven by clichés and contrived platitudes. Books that are great for mass market sellouts, but won’t be remembered twenty years down the line.

There is nothing wrong with being a mass market writer. To each his own. The books sell. You make millions and then you are forgotten. If you like money and fifteen minutes of fame, you might consider the route of mass market. But some mass market writers know how to write and make money, while some are just contrived cows who end up making money by chance. Jeffery Archer and John Grisham belong to the former category. Harold Robbins and Sidney Sheldon also belong to the former category but to a lesser degree, while Twilight series writer Stephanie Meyer is a contrived cow who just got lucky.

I don’t want to become a non-contrived-cow mass market writer either. That is taking the easy way out. I want to create literature. Get short listed for a Booker, if not win one. I want people saying my name with a hushed reverence within literary circles. (Small dreams, sigh.) Or, atleast give it a try. See if I can. How on earth can I concentrate on creating history if I have small versions of myself crawling around me, tugging on my t-shirt and competing for my attention? So, here I am. Dreaming of taking off for a few months and writing my first novel. Yes, you read that right. I am still at the dreaming stage. But even that comes with restrictions.

“No, no. You can’t write on that… it’s too controversial!”

Err, dad. Are you a realist fiction expert? No? Didn’t think so. Back down, maybe?

“But, but, BUT! Can’t you write on something else?”

Hmm. Can I? Sure. Do I want to? Nope.

Now if I had said instead, “Daddy dearest, I want to get married. Here are some high resolution photos of me in an Indian and a Western outfit (you know, to show the purrrfect blend of Eastern and Western values. As if it can be discerned from some lousy pictures the high blends that I am made of!) that you can put on Shaadi.com. Jaldi!* I am so ready to give up my freedom and make babies,” I would have been rewarded with the aren’t-I-lucky-to-have-such-a-samajdar-beti* look. Now, who doesn’t want to be one of those samajdar betis? Do I see hands? No? Shy, are we?

Instead, this not-so-samajdar-beti decides to take a year off from academia, fly off to the city of her birth and start working on her first novel. Yes, he says finally. Thik hai, go. I am sure you will meet someone in India.

Indian parents, I tell you. Will never change.

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Mindlessness Over Reality: Saas-Bahu* Telly Soaps

This article was published on the CurryBear website on August 17 2010. *For reference: saas= mother-in-law; bahu = daughter-in-law.

Not being brought up in India, I violently reject old fashioned ideas of the stereotypical mother-in-law as projected by the many Indian television shows. Where the daughter-in-law is always obedient, subservient and a total slave to the domestic politics of an almost-always huge mansion-like house. Where the saas and bahu cannot happily co-exist because there is always a tug-of-war over the son. Where there is always an evil, conniving vamp (another bahu, or the unmarried sister, or the widowed aunt; take your pick) in cahoots with one of the servants hell bent on destroying the peace and quiet of their heavenly (and ultra over the top) abode. Where the women are always dressed in their best sarees and jewelery, even if they are only going to bed. To sleep.

I mean, come on! In a world where even Bollywood is changing (no, I am not talking about the increasing number of make out scenes) to imitate real life, why is the audience stuck on watching shows whose storyline hold no close resemblance to reality?

Starting this year, Yashraj films did attempt to come up with something haatke. Something other than the daily drama soaps. However, despite being a hit with the younger generation (ahem, like me), Rishta.Com, Seven, Powder and Mahi Way did not go down well with the saas-bahu shows addicts. After only a run of six months, due to low TRPs, these revolutionary shows died a sudden death.

My grandmother in India didn’t even know what I was talking about when I mentioned the new shows to her. “What? Rishta dot what?” she screeched from the buzzing telephone line. “I am happy watching Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi”. Because mother-in-law was once a daughter-in-law. She went onto regale me with the last episode where the husband’s first wife shows up but she is pregnant with his child. (Don’t ask).

What makes me mad though is not how insidiously integrated these saas-bahu shows are in the Indian telly watching culture, but how often we forget that these are unrealistic “made-up” worlds manufactured to distract us from our utterly normal (and perhaps, boring, for some) daily lives. For example, I cannot imagine my granny calling me shameless if I didn’t wear the traditional salwar kameez while in India. In fact, my liberal granny (who ironically enjoys these aforementioned vile shows) didn’t even bat an eyelid when I told her of my former boyfriend belonging to a different religion. She nodded wisely and said, “As long as he is a good guy”.

The point is, just as I cannot understand and stand the Twilight hype that has taken over the minds of every single girl/woman from as young as eleven to as old as forty and over, I fail to grasp the ever increasing and continued popularity of these shows that barely come close to reality.

As my former high school psychology teacher would say, “Arey, it’s pure entertainment!” I guess, for now, I can satisfy my curiosity with that, except the mindlessness of it all is immensely frustrating. I think I need to go watch my Sex and the City collection all over again.

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