Friday, October 30, 2015

Book Review: The House that BJ Built (Anuja Chauhan)

After the eminently enjoyable 'Those Pricey Thakur Girls', Anuja Chauhan is back with another sparkler. The setting remains the same but now the action has now moved on to next generation. The hell raising Thakur sisters have settled down and one of them is no longer alive. It is the romance between her orphaned daughter and the stepson of another sister that form the crux of this novel.

The fiesty young Thakur girl Bonu who now inhabits the old house turns out to a real enterprising type and has actully set up a full blown fabrication unit ( she rips off the latest designer outfits and sells/exports the fakes at a much lower price) within the four walls of the ancestral property. But one fine day the hero Samar (or rather her childhood crush who is now a hotshot director) turns up at the doorstep unexpectedly after a Bollywood scandal forces him to take a sabbatical. Things are beginning to stir up but then everything turns upside down with the elderly Thakur passing away.

The family gets embroiled in a property dispute with the old tenants from the North East adding to the problems at hand. Greedy relatives, a property shark and raking up an inhouse agreement that is supposed to have been forgotten a long time back, further complicates the matter. The Bollywood angle just serves to add to the drama that ensues. Anuja has explored the way in which Bollywood functions, the petty ego clashes and the tantrums that are part and parcel of this madness. Samar's Bollywood designer girlfriend whose designs are favorite with Bonu adds another interesting angle.

Anuja attempts to take a dig at the people who blindly join various cults and try to show off their spiritual trappings to the world. One of the Thakur sisters has morphed into such an individual who keeps lamenting that 'Money is Mael'. But does not lose any opportunity when it comes to grabbing handfuls of this dirt.

The romance is all feel good and mushy mushy. And the humor is spot on. Readers are rewarded with a Bollywood style climax where the hero and heroine finally come together despite everything.  Hardly any wonder given that Anuja Chauhan is the pioneer when it comes to 'chick-lit' on the Indian literary scene. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Women, Thou Belong to Venus !!

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There can be no other plausible explanation for the fact that so little is known or understood about us. Whether it be menstruation or PMS or even postpartum depression, these topics remain an unsolved (and even feared) mystery for the general public which is much more accepting of men and their perversions. Never mind that women themselves constitute almost half of the group.

Nobody seems to mind it when men do not think twice before flaunting the family jewels right in the middle of a busy road. Or pass lewd comments on girls as young as five. Or even try to molest a women. If perchance a motley crowd dares to raise their voices in protest, then there will always be another group or individual willing to take up the cudgels for the 'poor man'. "Boys will be boys", a smiling MSY would be ever ready to shrug it off.

Recently when a maid's affair with another neighbor came to light, she was duly bundled off to her hometown while the guy continues to live right there unashamed and unrepentant of whatever happened. Most people have stopped discussing about the topic and have moved on to fresher pastures but none of them seem to be in a mood to judge the guy too harshly. After all, he is married with kids. Nice bit of explanation, rite.

But the same benevolence is never extended to a woman. The recent incident in Bangalore where a mother suffering from postpartum depression killed her 7 month old baby girl brings this to fore. She was suffering from the clinical depression, which is commonly known as 'baby blues', right after the birth of her second child. While the report suggests that her husband abandoned her because of her 'mental condition', it will not come as a surprise to many if the actual reason turns out to be the fact that she had given birth to two daughters. In the sorry state of the Indian society, women are still blamed for begetting daughters. All the knowledge and understanding about the X and Y chromosomes and the conception being a matter of probability has come to naught where it actually matters.

Now postpartum depression affects one in seven women and in still rarer cases it turns in postpartum psychosis, as in this case. And postpartum depression is on the rise among urban women. Doctors blame it on stress, late motherhood, and lack of a support system. While the symptoms are lack of sleep, inability to connect with the baby, worry about not being a good mother or even wanting to hurt the baby, they usually go away on their own in a few days/weeks time. But if they linger, such symptoms require treatment and counselling. But at the same time, there is no substitute for family support .

Forget these more complicated matters for the time being and just take the topic of menstruation for example. A monthly occurrence, it is the discharge of  blood and mucosal tissue from the inner lining of the uterus through the vagina in women of child producing age. Nothing exemplary about it but it is still considered to be an 'impure' phenomenon. Can you recollect the taboos regarding those days of the month ? I bet you can count atleast half a dozen without much effort. If by a stroke of bad luck, you happen to step on a discarded napkin lying along the roadside ( another testimony to govt inefficiency in garbage disposal and not reflecting someone's standards of personal hygiene), you are supposed to head back home and take a purifying head bath lest the bad blood put a blot on your life. I am not kidding but lot of folks (mostly women) do believe in this sort of crap.

If something as normal as menstruation happens to be shrouded in so much secrecy, it is hardly surprising that any awareness about a woman's mental state is practically non-existent in India. If a women behaves in a crabby manner or refuses to socialize on certain days, hardly anyone realizes that she might be experiencing PMS and it is the crazy hormones which make her behave in a peculiar manner. Severe PMS can be very damaging and it can force one to retreat into a shell. I have personally experienced the ravages of PMS and realize that it can sometimes force us to say or do things that we never meant to. But sadly, such omissions are attributed to a woman's character. No wonder there is no separate provision in the Indian Penal Code to address women who commit crimes under the influence of depression. Unfortunate but very true.

It is high time for a change and that change can only be achieved by each one of us speaking up for ourselves. Ladies stop being ashamed of what you are and what you experience for there are no real taboos, only the ones that exist in our minds.