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.

 

 

#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. 🙂

 

“You’re So Pretty” And 5 Other Things To Stop Taking SO Seriously

By the time you reach your 10th year on this planet, there is one thing you know for sure; the world is fascinated by things that look pretty. A couple more years and you begin to realise that the objectification of women as “pretty things” isn’t that rare. A few more years down the line and you’re accustomed to the vastly broad line dividing and deciding gender roles. Roles that tend to place women and men in two extreme ends of the same world. Now as a woman, some of these pre decided roles enrage me. I don’t just say this because women are still, in the 21st century, fighting for nothing more than equal rights. I also say this because the pressure these roles bring for men are pretty unfair. Whoever decided that the sole burden of running a house should fall upon a man? However, I digress.

The point I intend to come on and make by having this little debate with myself is that as women, there are certain things we just need to close our ears to and stop taking seriously. Gender division and inequality are not always blatant. Sometimes, they come wrapped in a beautifully shiny box. A box you need to break. 

So here are a few things I think us women need to stop taking so damn seriously!

1. “You’re so pretty”

I have to start with this one. Now I know that it’s a compliment; and us women are taught to take those graciously. You want to know the truth though? There’s more to you. I know women who take this as the ultimate compliment, and I’m not here to judge, but that makes me sad. When was the last time you heard “he’s so handsome” be the ultimate compliment for a man? You look for a man to be intelligent, to be successful, to be ambitious – but when it comes to yourself, why do you stop at the word pretty, good looking, hot? I’m sure it makes you happy; it made me feel good too. But then the realisation that that’s the only thing that mattered to anyone dawned on me. “She’s pretty” isn’t the only thing that should come to one’s mind when they think of you, should it?

So if you want to be something, be talented, be smart, be funny, be passionate, be kind, be ambitious. There are millions of things you can be other than pretty.

2. “There’s a right age to get married”

Some give the whole “biological clock is ticking” saga. Some say the older you get, the lesser the chance of you finding a suitable boy. Others just think older brides don’t make pretty brides. Then there are those who give no explanation at all, except that they think a girl just must be “settled” by a certain age; this certain age usually doesn’t go beyond your mid twenties. I’d like to issue a big fat apology to all of the above – because I vehemently disagree.

Sure, there’s a right time to get married; that time would be when you find the right person. It has nothing to do with age. I know people who fell in love and got married at 23 and I know people who got married at 40 because that’s when they found the right person. Getting married can’t just be a box you need to tick off in order to live the life everyone thinks you ought to live.

3. “Wow, you’ve lost so much weight”

If you’re someone who has genuinely had weight issues (and by that I mean if you’ve been unhealthily overweight) and you just lost it all in a healthy fashion, well done! If you’re on a crazy diet which makes you faint because you want to be “skinny”, think again. “You’ve lost weight” seems to be the only thing everyone is vying to hear. I see girls who are beautiful and in great shape trying all sorts of fad diets and driving themselves nuts only because they want to look like some model they saw on Instagram; or because their best friend just lost a tonne of weight. It’s great to want to be fit and healthy, but don’t make “body goals” your only goal.

4. “All guys are dicks”

Stop taking social media and every meme you read on the internet about “fuckboys” so seriously. If this isn’t gender stereotyping, I don’t know what is. It’s not a gender stereotype attacking women, but it is a generalisation based on gender nonetheless. Gender issues aren’t something you can do away with by attacking the opposite sex. Whatever happened to “Be the change you want to see”?

5. “You’re so much better than her”

Whether it’s your boyfriend’s ex, a co-worker, or even your frenemy (everyone has one of those) – the comparison just isn’t worth it. At the risk of sounding overtly preachy, everyone is where they need to be in life. Everyone has a different journey and a different path. You’re going to get your fair share if you work hard and concentrate on yourself. Comparison only causes insecurities. Perhaps it’s time we stopped worrying so much about who we can be better than and started focusing on what we can be better at.

6. “He/she is not good enough for you”

Because he’s not rich enough, or tall enough, or smart enough. Because he doesn’t live in a palatial house and could always drive a better car. Because your family backgrounds are so different. Because, hello, you’re better looking.

Screw that. This is when you shut your ears and walk away.

Stop listening to people who aren’t you when it comes to picking the person you might end up spending the rest of your life with. They will never know the person like you do. It’s easy to judge a person for what you see on the outside; but what’s on the outside is ever changing. It’s what’s on the inside that’s going to last forever. So fall for someone you can be yourself with. Someone who betters you and encourages you to chase your dreams. Someone with a good heart. That house, car and those ultimate good looks aren’t going to give you half the happiness.

Dear Women Of The World, Lift Each Other Up!

Dear women of the world, empower each other and help each other grow. You’ll only be making the world a better place for yourself.

“She’s my boyfriend’s ex. Such a bitch.” 

“She’s always sucking up to the boss. I bet she’d sleep with him for that promotion.”

“Have you seen the way she dresses up? All she wants is men giving her attention.”

“She’s not pretty. She’s fat.”

“She is such a demanding girlfriend. How does he deal with her?”

“She’s only with him for the money. Gold digger.”

“How can anyone be that sweet? She’s just so fake.”

Dear women,

Have you ever spoken to your boyfriend’s ex? Do you know her beyond the realm of social media stalking? If you do, and you have a genuine problem with her as a person, that’s your right. But if you hate her because she happened to meet and date your boyfriend before you did, don’t you think it’s a little unfair?

That girl who gets along with your boss… Maybe they genuinely click? Think about it. The boss is a person too, right? He/she can have friends. Don’t hate her because she happens to be that friend.

That girl who loves wearing her short dresses and hot pants, and showing her cleavage off a little – what’s wrong with her? She isn’t harming you, is she? She’s living her life the way she wants to and minding her own business. Shouldn’t you?

That girl you just called fat… Look at her face, say hello to her, have a conversation. You might discover that she’s not just pretty, but she’s actually beautiful – inside and out.

That girl you call a demanding girlfriend… Who gave you that information? Was it your time you wasted observing their relationship, or did her boyfriend tell you that? Ask him why he’s still with her then, will you?

That girl you call a gold digger… She might be madly in love. Maybe they’ve never even discussed their bank balances. Maybe she’s the one picking the cheque up after dinner. Maybe you’re wrong about her.

That girl you call fake… Maybe she was just brought up well. Maybe she was taught to treat people with love, respect and kindness. Are you really going to hate on her for that?

Women. Sweet, lovely, women of the world, lift each other up. Help each other out. 

Think about it – that ex of his you hate? The two of you might actually have a lot in common. Maybe in a different world, you could have been great friends. Maybe she’s a lot like you.

The girl who wants attention according to you – let her have it! Maybe she works hard to look the way she does. Give her her time in the limelight – and while you’re at it, appreciate her too!

 

How often do we hear women say any of these things about a man? If he’s not fit, he’s cute. If he’s dating a rich girl, he probably loves her. If he’s friends with the boss, it’s because they get along. 

Why do us women only find each other to attack? Are we really the weaker, easier targets? Even for each other?

We live in changing times. Times that are proving to the world just how incredible and strong we women are. But how about we prove it to each other and ourselves first?

Empower each other and help each other grow. You’ll only be making the world a better place for yourself to live in.