Happy Independence Day, India

She’s too skinny, she’s too fat, she’s too flat.

She’s too curvy, have you seen her clothes?

Have you seen her hang out with boys she barely even knows?

This one is a gold digger. That one only works. She can never get married unless she wipes of that smirk.

Doesn’t she know she’s a girl? She can’t behave like this.

Yes, she knows. She knows who she is.

She is she. She is herself. She owns who she is and she loves herself. You cannot change that with your tiny mind and small self-esteem. Let her be, let her breathe. Live your own life and respect her individuality; because she is she.

Watch the video below. 

In a country that claims to have gained independence 70 years ago, when will it’s women finally feel free?

Knock, Knock – Can I Be Let Out Of Jail?

On 16th December 2012, a 23-year-old girl was gang raped on a moving bus in New Delhi, the proud capital city of India. Not long after this happened, the streets of Delhi erupted with protests and the perpetrators of this heinous crime were arrested. This case though was not the first of its kind, and unfortunately, it wasn’t the last. Yet, when the news of this horrible crime broke out, women and men alike came onto the streets, and perhaps for the first time, there was a feeling amongst the masses that this girl, this young girl who could have been so many things in a life that was taken away from her, could have been their own daughter, sister, friend. There seemed to be a consensus for the first time in a long time, that this sickening crime was not the woman’s fault. That she didn’t “ask” for it. 

Or so some of us thought.

This atmosphere of grief, protest, anger and staunch disapproval that was created by something so vile soon seemed to be dampened as the focus shifted from fighting the crime to fighting people who seemed to think it wasn’t a crime at all. Politicians, men who claim to be men of God, religious leaders with their followers in millions, lawyers, some of whom practised in the supreme court, men you’d think were educated and progressive and here to drive change – all came together to once again remind us that this place that we live in and think of as home, it isn’t a place for women at all.

What impels me to bring this up today, 5 years after many of us thought that change was just around the corner? 5 years after parents of daughters had finally begun to hope that the system was on their side, that their trepidation could perhaps, at last, be put to rest. It’s the disconsolate fact that nothing has changed; at least not for the better.

5 years, 60 months, 1825 days and hundreds of protests and marches later, we’re still where we were. A case in example is that of a girl called Varnika Kundu, a resident of Chandigarh, which I must stress at this point is known to be one of the safer cities in northern India. Only a few days ago, chased by goons in a car while Varnika herself was driving home shortly past midnight; she’s been at the end of slander and criticism because she was out by herself past midnight! What an atrocious crime for a woman to commit, right? To think that she could be safe all by herself after the sun has gone down? To think she has the right to freely move around in a country she was born and raised in without having to think what time it is? To think she could have the same rights and freedom as the men in this country. 

The reality of this world in front of her, Varnika has still fought hard and refuses to give up and let these perpetrators get away. While she’s extremely courageous, strong and has made some amazingly valid points at a time that one can only imagine being distressing – and while some nincompoops insist on trying to shame her for simply living her own life on her own terms – Varnika is also extremely lucky. Yes, she’s lucky because she had the sensibility and awareness to get away and save herself, but she’s also lucky that she can voice her opinion and stand strongly behind it with the support of her family. Most women in our country cannot and do not. 

While it’s sad that being able to say what you think, be who you are and do what you want as a woman is considered lucky and not just a basic right even today, it is the harsh reality. A reality that just does not seem to dim away.

There are thousands of barbaric criminals in our country that commit unthinkable crimes against women – and yet, they get to walk freely and live their lives by virtue of being a politicians son, a rich businessman’s brother or just because so many women are suppressed enough to forget that they have a voice too. If you ask me truthfully, I’ve almost given up on the idea of these hooligans rotting in jail for the rest of their lives. I ask only, that I am let out of it.

 

What Women Want

A few days ago as I sat in bed flipping channels, holding a jar of Nutella in one hand and my TV remote in the other, I came across a movie I suddenly remembered I loved watching as a child; What Women Want. The movie stars my all-time crush, Mel Gibson (and Helen Hunt) and of course as the name suggests, it’s all about how his character in the film, a typical male chauvinist (obviously), finally discovers what women really want.

This movie got me thinking, as do most things in life nowadays. What do women really want? Is there a specific set of requirements that we as a gender actually have? Is it so easy to pen down what men want? Is that why that’s never a question? Or is it just that what men really want is never given that much of a thought? Are they just so easy to interpret or are they so complicated that no one even wants to try figuring their brains out? Either way, the hullabaloo over the question of what women want really amuses me. We’re not that complicated.

After a little bit of effort to shake off these random thoughts, I actually sat and tried to think of what I as a woman want. I came up with a list of things that when I read out loud to myself, seemed too petty. See, I realised soon enough, though, why that was. My list entirely consisted of what I as a woman would want in a partner. I felt ashamed because I think of myself as a strong independent woman who, yes, just like everyone else wants a happy relationship with someone who they can love and cherish; but at the same time, I have never wanted my life to be about just that relationship. I couldn’t have been too hard on myself, though, because that is what us women are conditioned to think like. That is what we are taught to want. A good man, a beautiful home, so on and so forth. So yes, that was my instinctive thought process, and then there’s the thought process that I have inculcated in my life.

So take two; what do women really want? Yes, I mean other than loyalty and flowers. It didn’t take me long to pen this down either. Actually, it was easier than the first list.

Number 1 – To Feel Safe

That sounds simple enough, right? Unfortunately in the world that we live in, it only sounds simple. It is a far away dream that keeps my mother awake every single night.

Should a girl, just 13, really have to worry that a strap of the bra that society deems so important to wear might actually attract unwanted attention and be the potential cause of sexual harassment?

Should a young woman, of merely 25, really have to think twice every single time she wants to step out of her house after dark? Should her life depend on the grace of the sun?

Should a mother to a newborn girl really have to worry about leaving her alone with a distant relative for just 5 minutes?

Is that really the kind of world we want to live in?

Number 2 – To Not Be Judged

For every single move that she makes.

It can’t be that hard, can it?

Why does my stomach, bare in a sari not give rise to the demon in you when just the nape of my neck in a plain white T-shirt might? Who are you? Why is your mind so impure?

Why does the thought of a woman staying on with a man that abuses her give you more comfort than the thought of her moving on to another man that loves and cherishes her? Is it because you thought that the holy fire was somehow more sacred than her self-respect?

Why do you think that the successful woman spending hours working hard to give her family a better life is a bad mother? Why do you think she slept her way to the top? Does she scare you? Does her power intimidate you?

Number 3 – To Feel Free

Here’s a harsh reality of being a woman; most people you meet don’t respect you. In fact, they analyse the daylights out of how you speak, eat, sit, stand, what you look and smell like, all while you’re probably talking to them about a potential business idea.

How can I feel free if I don’t feel respected?

How can a girl walking to school feel free when men her father’s age look at her like she’s meant to be devoured?

How can a girl who just learnt how to drive feel free when she’s told women aren’t good drivers anyway?

How can a girl who wants to study or pursue a career feel free when she’s told that she can’t because this is her age to get married?

How can a woman who was made to get married at that “right” age feel free when she wants to walk out of that marriage and can’t; because she wasn’t allowed to lead a life of financial independence?

It’s this simple. Really. The answer to this question. What women want is so so simple, and yet it seems so unachievable. Like they say though, life is nothing without hope and a little bit of hard work. So I suppose that’s where the answer lies. 

Love, peace and the freedom of choice. Here’s my wish for you until my next post.

 

 

Enns Closet Review: Finding A Balance In Your Skin Care Routine

My grandmothers are both beautiful women. The kind of women people look at and say “aapko toh apne zamaane main actor hona chahiye tha”. So growing up, when anyone told me that I looked like them, I would be overjoyed.

My nani and dadi both have always had flawless skin. The kind that would make skincare commercial models look dull. My dadi’s secret was to only and only use face packs made by her right in our kitchen, and use a honey and lemon mixture on her face every single time before she washed her hair. Her face pack would usually involve blending a mixture of daals and then adding some malaai and honey to it before applying. My nani’s solution to good skin on the other hand, was much simpler – Boroline – just use Boroline.

Both their methods, no matter how unique and different, practised and preached just one thing – keep your skin free of synthetic cosmetic products. And I did. Through my teenage years, while my friends experimented with different skincare or makeup products, I kept my skin clear of it all and stuck to using products that were more organic. I could just have been blessed with good genes as far as the skin was concerned, but through my adolescence, while my peers burst into bouts of acne and pimples, my skin remained flawless. I don’t remember ever getting even a single zit through my entire school life.

Then of course, as I proceeded from boarding school in India to college in England, my idea of what looked good changed. I began to see and live around girls who loved makeup and would spend hours just trying to get the perfect winged liner. I was amused at first, then fascinated and then engulfed entirely by the sheen of the highlighter. More than anything else, I think it was the pretty pink packaging that led me to splurge on all those products I really did not know how to use. Darn you, pink.

Naturally, as a byproduct of using all that makeup, my skin soon became dependent on it. It’s a vicious cycle really. You use makeup, it to a certain degree damages your skin and then you have no choice but to use it to make your skin look the way you want it to look. So for the first time, as I embarked on my 20th year on this planet, I was greeted by a very unwanted spot on my face.

The pimple phase eventually faded, but it left behind marks and dulled skin. As the years passed, makeup only became a more essential part of life. Talking about different makeup products, the best makeup brands, discussing different shades of lipstick, just became a Saturday girls-night-in ritual.

It was only about six months ago when I walked into work one day without makeup and everyone asked me if I was unwell that I had to tell myself “Okay, enough.” It wasn’t the lack of makeup but the overuse of it that had made my skin look so worn out. So I started to research some good organic skincare brands and decided to go the natural way once again.

You know how they say things happen when they’re meant to happen? Well, this might be a slightly callous use of the phrase, but right when I was looking for a reliable brand that is actually chemical-free, Enn’s closet got in touch to tell me they wanted to send over some products for me to try out.

Now I’m really particular about what I use on my face (off late, as I mentioned), so, to begin with, I’ve only tried their body butter and foot scrub. I had to try products on the not-so-sensitive parts of my skin before using the products meant for my face! I have to say, I’m rather impressed.

The body butter smells delicious, yes – but it also made my skin feel as soft as butter till hours after I used it. I used the Cherry Blossom body butter with an SPF-25. The SPF is an added bonus for me considering most types of body butter don’t have that and I make it a point to use creams with a certain amount of sun protection factor. The fact that it’s organic and made with ingredients like aloe vera, sweet almond oil, coconut oil and shea butter only makes it that much better.

The foot scrub, called mint-e-fresh, is made out of ingredients like salt and peppermint. To be honest, I’m not such a fan of things that smell ultra pepperminty. I find that the smell of peppermint if overused in quantity, can be overwhelming. I have to say though, that the way it made my feet feel after just a 30-second scrub was pretty incredible. I couldn’t smell the peppermint because thankfully my feet are a few feet away from my nose! So the fresh and cool feeling that you actually get as a result of the peppermint turned out to be a major plus.

While in an ideal world I’d actually like to be able to make my own products right in my kitchen like my dadi, time constraints in the busy lives most of us lead don’t always allow it. So one’s got to find a balance and try and find ready products that serve your purpose and suit your skin!

Have a fabulous week and find your balance!

For those of you who are interested, you can buy Enns Closet products here.

#LoneGirlTravels: Keep It Simple, Silly

As I sit here in possibly one of the nicest cafes that I’ve ever been to, on my last day in Amsterdam, I can’t help but think about the summer that’s gone by. Little things that made it special; and some other things that made me tougher.

At the beginning of this year, I announced to my friends that this was going to be my year. I could feel it. I was determined to make something of myself, spend more time with those I loved, let go of certain inhibitions I had held on to for so long, stop whining and just make the most of everything life throws at me. I didn’t realise then what life really was going to throw at me. I thought I was invincible. That no one and nothing could ever hurt me.

So when I fell flat on my face, because of some mistakes made by me and some by others close to me, I thought it was the end of the world. I thought I’d forgotten how to be happy. I knew I’d learn again, but I also knew it was going to take a long time. I walked around with a smile plastered on my face so as not to worry those who cared about me, and also because showing emotions (particularly sad emotions) does not come easily to me; but in truth, I could almost hear the million different broken pieces of my heart, mind and soul clinking inside me.

I know, it sounds dramatic, but I am a bit of a drama queen as you’ll also learn if you continue to read my posts. However, I digress, as always.

Again, I didn’t know what life was going to throw at me when I felt all of these sad things. Life is funny, no? I have to say, that in the last couple of months since my mini breakdown, I’ve only been grateful for everything that has come my way. The good, the bad and the ugly; and there’s been plenty of them all. I’m learning, though, to only concentrate on the good. There’s so much of it.

I’m going to share a little bit of what each city taught me in my next post. I actually intended to do that in this post, but as a result of letting my thoughts run too far, I’ve ended up writing a much larger “introduction” than I intended.

I am going to share with you what I’ve learnt in the city that I currently am in, though – Amsterdam.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve heard one too many people tell me how great this city is. It’s what people had told me about Barcelona. No offence to those who love Barcelona, but I found it rather overrated. I thought Amsterdam would be a similar experience. Too many tourists, just walking over each other to get to all the popular spots in the city. I was so, so wrong.

Too many tourists? Yes. Bad experience? Absolutely not. The complete opposite, in fact.

Within minutes of arriving in this city and lugging my 25 kgs of nothing across the airport floor to the taxi, and then from the taxi to my rather fancy hostel, I was in love. It’s not something that happens too often, right? Love at first sight? So I knew when I felt it that this experience was going to be special. And it was. Still currently is.

There’s something so exciting yet so calming about this city. It’s been a while since just sitting and watching people go by, or sitting on a pavement and singing made me feel so good. No, no, it wasn’t marijuana. I promise. It was a combination of things.

First and foremost it was perhaps the fact that it was the last stop on my adventure with my closest friend and soulmate. If there’s one thing that’s helped me get through a rough phase in my life, it’s been having some of the best people by my side. So honestly, I think that I realised more than anything else in the world, that you cannot do life without people that you love and in return love you.

Everyday to get across to where all the action is at in Amsterdam, we would have to take a ferry across the river. My friend, Vera, and I would run amongst all the other people to catch the ferry that was leaving for the other side. The funny part was that there was a ferry every 3 minutes and it was exactly a 2-minute ride to the other side. Yet, day after day, no matter how far we were and how tired, if we spotted a ferry leaving for the other side when we wanted to get back, we’d run to catch it. We didn’t have the patience to wait for the next one. It just showed me such a basic characteristic of most human beings – the need and want for everything to happen, now, now, now. I decided today to wait for the next ferry instead of running for the one that was almost leaving. Nothing great happened, but I did get to listen to my favourite song one more time before reaching my final destination. That made my day. So this exiguous experience didn’t teach me much, but it definitely reiterated something I already know – good things come to those who wait.

It’s my last day on a trip that’s been my longest away from home, so far. I’ve been nervous about it ending because I don’t know what lies ahead. I’m also excited because there’s so much I’m looking forward to. I’m just so glad I ended it in a city like Amsterdam, which I can say in all honesty is now my favourite city in the world.

I’ve been sitting at a cafe which I stated at the beginning of this post is one of the nicest I’ve ever been to. I look up from my computer screen only to realise now that that’s not true. I’ve been to cuter, quainter, prettier cafes all over the world. What’s special about this one has nothing to do with the place, it has everything to do with the frame of mind I’m in. I realised over this summer, but especially here in my last stop, that life is only what you make it. People are not always going to get you, they’re not going to get what you’re going through. They will not understand your actions and many of the things you decide to do. And that’s okay. When you decide to be happy, surround yourself with people that are good for you and realise your own worth, there is nothing that can hold you back. I’m happy because I can be. Because I can choose it over every other emotion I might feel.

So, in the very wise words of someone whose name I cannot find on the internet – Keep it simple, silly! Life is beautiful. 🙂

 

#LoneGirlTravels: Travel Is My Therapy

I associate summer with travelling. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that every summer as a child, my parents would take my brother and I for a nice long holiday – and always to a different place. While other kids my age wanted to do the stuff that any child would like to do – going to amusement parks, eating ice cream, buying cute things, and such – I only longed to explore the place I was in. I remember wanting to get out of the mall on my first visit to England, and going back to stare at the Big Ben. Mostly because I had read about it. Malls were a rarity in India in those days and I was fascinated – but somehow the rarer things the city entailed, what made the city the actual place that it was, fascinated me much more.

This fascination towards different cities of the world continued and only grew further as I grew up. So much so that as a child I was determined that I would be a travel journalist when I was older. I don’t think I even knew the meaning of it back then – but it had the word travel, so I was sure I’d love it. It is now what one could propitiously call wanderlust. It is a passion, a greed almost. I long to see different places; and in my head I’m constantly planning the next place I’d like to tick off the extensively long list of places I want to see.

“What’s this obsession with travelling?” my mom often asks me. I never have a definite answer to give her. What I can say, though, is that each place I visit allows me to discover a little bit more about myself. I don’t just discover cute cafes or shops and explore different streets, I also discover a part of myself I didn’t know existed. Every place I visit leaves a little bit of itself with me. Through the people that I meet, through the food that I eat, through every book I read sitting at the airport waiting for my next flight, through every movie I watch on the plane – I grow and I learn.

Travel is my therapy. I wouldn’t say it’s an escape, because not that I’m a psych major, but if there’s anything I’ve learnt in my not so long life yet, it’s that there is no escaping your emotions. You’ve just got to deal with whatever it is you’re dealing with. Travelling, however, helps me wash away my stresses and pains more than any meds ever can. This I know.

The reason I’m giving everyone an insight into how travel makes me feel is because I intend on sharing my travel experiences with everyone this summer. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do every year since I was 14 – so albeit 11 years too late, I’m finally going to do it.

I intend on posting my experiences in different cities over the next month, here and on Instagram (simarrana is my handle if you’re interested), under the hashtag #LoneGirlTravels (to make search easier – and because, why not).

So here we go. I hope you enjoy my journey just as much as I hopefully will! 🙂

An Ode To Nature In Flowing Pastels

Buying a ready made Indian outfit without spending a bomb can be hard. Mahima Mahajan’s Spring/Summer collection might just change your mind!

When it comes to picking Indian clothes, I tend to be fastidious. Somehow, with ready made garments, I’m never really able to find something that matches the picture in my head perfectly. Either the colour isn’t exactly what I want, or the silhouette doesn’t quite fit the bill; more often than not, the work or embroidery on the garment is either too much or just not enough. It’s hard to find the perfect ready made Indian outfit without spending a bomb if you’re really that picky. This is one of the reasons that I so often like to get my Indian garments tailored exactly to my wants and needs; and of course based on the occasion.

I think the reason it’s so hard for me to find the perfect garment in the perfect colour is because I prefer lighter or pastel shades to darker ones. I tend to go for pretty pinks and soft blues rather than dark reds or maroon. These pastel shades are much harder to find in the exact shade you’re looking for. When it comes to the work on the garment, of course, nothing ever seems suitable enough! Too much work is a major no-no for me, lest I be left looking like the bride while simply being a guest at a wedding. Too little or no work on the other hand can leave you looking bland or as though something is amiss.

I got lucky though, and one fine day discovered Mahima Mahajan’s Spring/Summer collection!

For me, it worked just right. The colours and the work both matched what I was looking to wear to weddings this summer. The intricate jaal work with delicately hand-made birds in gold, make the first three outfits stand out for me. It’s fresh, it’s fun and incorporates nature in the most beautiful way. I’ve seen many people go wrong when trying to include aspects of nature into embroidery – even something as simple as flowers – but Mahima Mahajan gets it just right in my eyes.

The fourth outfit, I have to admit, is my favourite. The blouse stands out for me with it’s delicate sequence work. It’s not hard to look over the top while wearing something with that much sequence, but this particular blouse manages to look nothing but majestic. The sheer nude net on the blouse has been structured to look as though it doesn’t exist, creating an illusion that the sequence has somehow managed to fall perfectly on your body. The skirt has been tailored with as much perfection, making net, which isn’t exactly my favourite fabric, seem like a good idea too!

Scroll down to have a look at all the outfits I got to try out!

To shop the looks contact Mahima Mahajan. You can also shop for her collection here.

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Thank you for reading! See you soon. 🙂