Monday, August 22, 2016

Breaking the stigma around menstruation

We are a country full of ironies. While we unfailingly worship the goddesses for nine days every year during navratri, we shun women and their bodies forcing them to hide and feel ashamed of their existence. Menstruation is a normal biological function that is definitely messy and painful but not at all shameful. Period shaming is widespread and in a country like India where being a woman is a dangerous disadvantage because of traditional misogyny and patriarchal structures ruling the roost, being on your period spells trouble. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Johanna

The curtains had been pulled over and the large orange sun was struggling to enter her room as though he was a trespasser. She had decided to sleep over all day. She occupied the left side of the bed, as though Johann was snoring to glory. His sounds and smell had become her drug. She never knew that a man she had met at a friend's party five years ago would give her a reason to live, after her parent's untimely demise. 




She always used to have her breakfast from the tiny coffee shop located at the curved end of the street. It was a clean place, a tiny patisserie that made the city's best pastries and breads. A cup of delicately brewed cappuccino and a corn spinach sandwich was her breakfast for the day. She had been asked by her doctor to cut down on flab, because of which she had given the mud pie a skip, which was a tempting obligation every morning. The owner of the shop, a middle aged man in his fifties with a balding head and a pot-belly, always gave her discounts. For the past five years, except for weekends she had not missed out having breakfast from his pastry shop. She was his favourite customer.
Today he was trying his best to lure her into buying a mud pie or brownie, which were her favourites by incessantly smiling at her and pointing to the dessert counter. Since the past one month she had learnt the trick of looking away in the other direction while she paid the bill to not get enchanted into buying a portion of her favourite dessert. As she hurriedly walked out of the bakery, to not get smitten by the aroma of the delicacies being dished out there, she was greeted by a husky male voice.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Story of a Suicide- A novel by Sriram Ayer

A book with hand-drawn illustrations that dares to break the stereotypes is a fresh new chapter for bored readers like me, who were tired of the run-of-the-mill heterosexual love stories. I am not a fan of romance but ofttimes, I take a peep into a book that talks of love, that is fresh like the blossoming buds of spring or the dewy mist on the grass after a rainy day.
The first chapter is a chilling account of what a person goes through before deciding to retort to the inevitable. Most suicide notes read exactly like the letter that the person who had decided to give up on life wrote to his loved ones. Only if we were to lend an ear to such voices when they stifle and struggle to tell us their story, many untimely suicides could have been avoided. The writer has wisely created an air of suspicion by crafting the letter carefully. I thought that this was clearly a case of a heterosexual romantic relationship having gone wrong.  
The author has taken careful caution to describe situations and people by using images, sights and sounds that transport you to the world which is being described in the book. Only a clever observer can use noises and mental pictures intelligently to tell a story. 
In chapter 5, Hari narrating his ordeal about how he was first molested by his uncle was a saddening tale, and many abuse victims as we see on social media have bravely dared to speak of the mishaps they had to encounter as kids. In chapter 6, Mr.Narender Hegde reminds us of many of our possessive worried parents who were afraid to let us go from the comfort and security of our homes, the first time we decided to step out to build  a career. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Fallible World of Facebook and Human Relationships

I always make it a point to wish all my friends on facebook, on their birthday. It's thoughtful and beautiful to add a pinch of sunshine to someone's life, especially on a day like their birthday. A one-liner of a birthday wish can cheer up a person which is the best we can do to keep in touch with people we know and also our acquaintances. On a social media platform like facebook, a birthday or anniversary wish sent once in a year according to me is the only and best route of communication once can maintain with their facebook friends. To add to this can be the occasional chatter on issues that are burning down the world or a discussion about personal problems that we so often talk of on platforms like facebook. 

There was a time when I had 1700 friends on facebook. The idea of logging into facebook where 1700 people were keeping a watch on me, on different occasions or at the same time under the rare circumstance of everyone logging in at the same moment was making me restless. To add to this awkwardness was the hard perverted stare from a few strangers who kept a check on my pictures. Then there were a few friends who loved to pick on me when I started a thread of discussion about gender. A no-holds barred talk on gender shakes the confidence of men with fragile egos. These friends were subsequently driven away from my facebook profile. Technology didn't destroy friendships here, it exposed the real faces behind the masks some of these men were wearing. Imagine a world, an educated civilized world where thoughts about gender inequality still threaten men who do not understand the root cause of the problem, to begin with. Recently I bid adieu to my best friend who had on countless occasions towed the line and made a joke of me on facebook, in full public view, earning the ire and criticism of many female friends who thought that the guy didn't deserve to be my friend in the first place. I wonder had facebook never existed, this discourse on gender benders might have never taken place, although I do not regret letting him go. Facebook acted as a mirror in this case I guess.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Teething as an Adult

Adulthood is a difficult phase of life. Life wastes away in daily deadlines at work, worrying about the future and most of all in seeing your energy reserve dwindle. I remember the times when no matter how many hours were spent in skipping, playing stapu or sweating it out in the basketball field, I didn't feel tired. Yes, I did gulp down gallons of water but I was always on my toes. As adulthood has stealthily engulfed me in its trap, I think I have become a new person. A human who is always fatigued and is looking for the slightest reason to hit the bed or curl on a couch with her favorite book. While our energy is getting spent like water, adulthood also brings with it, a peculiar problem of teething. We call it the arrival of the wisdom teeth, the hindmost molars appearing in your twenties which can be a valuable asset to you if properly aligned. Their eruption usually leads to excruciating pain and dizziness, which is exactly what I have been experiencing nowadays. 
This year had been passing away without too many debilitating health issues, until I realized day before yesterday that my wisdom teeth were tearing my jaws and torturing my sanity. 
I haven't been able to cut through my food properly since then trying my best to not chew food with my distant right molars. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Benefits of Filing your Tax Returns

A few days ago I happened to do a post on why the Danes were the happiest people in the world. I was amused to discover that the people in Denmark were fond of paying taxes and did their best to pay it on time. Since most financial transactions in Denmark happen through plastic money, cheating on taxes is difficult. Danes consider paying taxes as a sacred duty and in a country where air-surveillance is employed to make sure that everyone gives their dues, to pilfer is a tough task. In countries like Denmark, citizens focus on paying taxes and getting as much as they can, back from the government, in the form of paid maternity leaves etc. The government of Denmark is doing its best to provide the best of facilities to its citizens by judiciously investing the money in the development of the country. 

Coming to our part of the planet.
In India, everyone considers paying taxes a moral and social obligation, but very few go down that road and make sure that they give their dues. While most people are aware of the requirement of filing taxes, many more are still unaware of the implications of not filing returns on time.

The last date for filing returns is 31st July for the financial year ending on 31st March. The government has made it mandatory for all citizens to file returns whether they belong to the taxable bracket of income or not. Filing returns has made it easier for firms and individuals to enter transactions that are in the knowledge of the IT department.


My friend had always nurtured the dream of going abroad for the future seems to be grim in India for research students like us with the slashing of research funds by the government and the sub-standard research facilities in the laboratories of the country. She filed the papers for permanent residence for Canada recently along with me when her visa agent told her that for applying for VISA she needs to show her income tax returns. Since she was getting a meager stipend until now she was not punctually filing her returns. Her agent's words came as a shocker and she decided to start filing her returns immediately, but her dad gave her a pleasant surprise when he told her that he had filed her tax returns in the past. Her dad came as a messiah saving her from the hassles of paying her old returns, as she realized the importance of dutifully paying her dues to the government.   

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Inside the icy terrains of Iceland

Since I was a teenager, I had nested this dream of catching a glimpse of Northern lights which is why I have been planning and saving for a trip to Iceland. When someone asks me about my favourite destination, pat comes the reply, it is Iceland. I want to visit the place for two reasons, to watch the northern lights and see the midnight sun. Yes, you heard it right, in Iceland the sun stays awake until as late as 11 PM, which is only visible in summers. If you're travelling to the place especially to see the Aurora Borealis or northern lights, then winters are the best time. Most tourists pay a visit from mid-June to September mainly to indulge in outdoor activities like horse riding, snow mobiling etc.


                               
                                                Picture credit: guidedtoiceland.is

The number of daylight hours can have unanticipated emotional and mental effects and this should be taken into consideration before timing the trip. 
The temperature is cool in summer and remarkably mild in winter, all thanks to the Gulf stream and the lowest temperatures in New York is surprisingly lower than that in Reykjavik. The weather is violently volatile and once can sometimes experience four seasons in one day.  
If you're looking to discover the country side and participate in outdoor activities then September is the ideal time to visit. Experienced horse riders can get to see the countryside and participate in the Icelandic farming ritual that will tell you about the lifestyle and culture followed by  dwellers in the tiny hamlets outside the capital city.
If Aurora Borealis is in your list of "To do things" then mid-September to March is best suited for a visit. However one must also brace themselves up for disappointment, because the freaky weather can be a hindrance to the view. If you want to see this electromagnetic phenomenon, make sure that you stay for more than a week in Iceland. You can opt to stay in the city and from there head for a guided tour of Aurora Borealis or the more adventurous option is to stay near the forests in a warmed bubble made of perspex that will provide a scintillating view of the Artic sky.

How to get there?
You need a valid passport and visa applications in India are processed by the Embassy of Denmark. More information can be found on the website of Icelandic Directorate of Immigration
There are no direct flights from India to Iceland. Most flights consist of one to two stops with the most cost efficient tickets taking an extra travel time of seven hours in comparison to the priciest picks. See as to what suits you and you can make an informed choice about what you will go for.  Etihad Airways offers you pocket friendly deals while Lufthansa Airlines will provide comfort and save time.

Money
Krona is Iceland's monetary unit and dollars, euros and pounds can be easily exchanged for Krona. The most practical and reliable way is at the ATMs or currency exchange desk. Avoid exchanging money at hotels since they charge exorbitant transaction fees.
Visa and Mastercard are most widely accepted. Icelanders are in love with plastic money and whip one out for the smallest of transactions.