Thursday, November 22, 2007

C’MON, GROW UP MUM!

Even as you are figuring out how to tell your kids about the birds and the bees, they are out there doing it!

Vinita Dawra Nangia

A friend’s 10-year-old daughter asked an innocent question, “Mama, is it bad to talk to boys?” As her panicked heart almost dropped to her silver kolhapuris, the mother managed to reply equally casually, “No beta, it’s just the same as talking to your girl friends.”

It’s another matter that she spent rest of the day on phone with friends, torturing over whether she gave the right answer. Right or wrong, who’s to say? I spent years in dread of my kids asking me about the birds and the bees, preparing myself and priming my husband on possible answers. Advertisements of condoms or sanitary towels had us squirming, waiting for the questions that never came. Apprehension turned to curiosity, till one day it sunk in that by now the children could possibly teach us a thing or two!

When and where did they pick up the facts of life? That doesn’t matter as much as the fact that we were left totally out in the cold; our children never really felt the need to come to us for explanations or answers. Peers and media fulfilled that need.

There’s a huge disconnect because we are looking at the situation through the prism of our growing up years while these children have grown by leaps beyond a mere generation gap. I may have shed some tears of humiliation while changing out of my clingy tops as a teenager at my dad’s orders. Today’s children just laugh right back in your face, “Grow up, Mum!” What is ridiculous is that your children may well be indulging in consensual sex while you are still wondering how to impart sex education to them! So that it comes to a situation where parents need counseling far more than children ever do!

A colleague got a wake-up call when she discovered a packet of condoms in her 17-year-old’s bag; another hapless mum furtively screening her 17-year-old daughter’s text messages, was horrified to read, “Last night was wonderful!” She thought she’d sent her daughter for an innocent sleepover at a girlfriend’s place.

In both cases, when confronted, the children (unknown to each other) exploded at the invasion of their privacy and threatened to walk out. When the mother refused to back down, the boy stopped coming back home from his boarding for the weekends. In the second case, the mother realised that all she could do was accept the fact that her daughter was sexually active and just offer herself as a friend, to warn her against an unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease. She thus won her daughter’s confidence.

Whether sex education be imparted at home or school is an irrelevant debate for talk shows or print media today. Children have their own ways of knowing; they are out there doing it while you are busy figuring out how to tell them! Everyone tells parents to be liberal and talk about sex to their children, but nobody tells them how! A far better approach to your child is to be a confidante rather than talk down to him, hemming and hawing and making sex sound like a crime!

Virginity is no longer a noble word, nor is it an expected virtue by most youngsters. As in other fields, Bollywood stars lead the way here too. When an Aishwarya has a rather public affair with first Salman Khan, then Viveik Oberoi and ends up marrying Abhishek Bachchan, who has been through a similar number if not more of lovers – what price virginity?

And yet, parents will be parents and not sleep easy till their young ones are back home, sleeping peacefully in their own beds. So between being the protector and the confidante, where do you draw the line? One is quite amused by an interesting compromise some parents in Hyderabad have arrived at! Their young, working daughters and sons – mostly the IT or call centre crowd – cannot be debarred from late nights and visiting discotheques. So what have parents done to avoid sleepless nights? They have appointed security guards who accompany the youngsters to and from these venues.

One has to agree, the presence of a security guard can put a dampener on any ideas of a backseat canoodle!

ALL I HAVE TO DO IS DREAM…

Daydreaming. Mind wandering. Escapism. Call it what you will, but the mind does have a tendency to escape present confines fairly regularly

Vinita Dawra Nangia

Driving through heavy rain, I was arrested by the sight of a man dancing with vigour and certain panache in the middle of the road. He was obviously not quite with us, executing graceful twists and bowing to an audience visible just to his eyes. And yet, his exuberance was infectious and made passers-by smile.

Lost in a world of his own, he could rise above present circumstance and dwell in a reality that uplifted him.

This poor man was deranged and had his own demons to fight. Madness, even feigned as with Hamlet, gives us an excuse to escape reality and act at will. But even without that excuse, don’t we all seek escape from present circumstance and find solace in a world where thoughts become a reality that is more appealing than what surrounds us?

Daydreaming. Mind wandering. Escapism. Call it what you will, but the mind does have a tendency to escape present confines fairly regularly. Have you noticed how sometimes while engaged in familiar tasks, such as driving on a familiar route or eating, you lose track of time and are for a while unaware of what happened around you as your mind wanders? Yes, it happens to all of us. Psychologists have estimated that we daydream for one-third, or even half our waking hours!

Disconnecting for a while from reality is a need we all feel. And, what better way than creating a world away from reality with the help of imagination? A world that shapes up just the way we want it to? To become a weaver of dreams, build a suspension of disbelief, and so get away from everyday drudgery? All you could ever want can be yours – in that dream world you spin for yourself.

We do it all the while even without realizing. Have you never been pulled up in a meeting for daydreaming? Don’t you indulge in some dreaming while on a walk or in the middle of a mundane task? Have you never been horrified to catch yourself thinking of a presentation during an intimate moment!

A good book or movie too has the power to transport you to another world so that you land on your feet with a thud when it ends! Recent research quoted in US journal Science, reveals that “daydreaming is the brain’s normal state, rather than a pointless distraction!”

Most creative people – writers, artists, poets, thinkers – report their most inspiring moments during bouts of daydreaming. It is only when we give free rein to our imagination that we let go of limitations like fact and reason – what Keats termed as “negative capability” – the ability to hold onto a beautiful truth even if it doesn’t stand to reason. That’s what imagination helps us achieve – you always aim high and think big while daydreaming.

Would you believe, daydreaming, which gives the brain a much-needed break, is also used as a therapy in conflict management? Dreamers have better relationships because they tend to concentrate more on the better moments in a relationship.

But, as it happens with most joyous activities in life, more often than not we are made to feel guilty for even daydreaming! But, what if it’s these moments of escape that give you your day’s highpoints? What if this detachment from reality gives you your reasons to live?

So long as you don’t hurt anyone, why not just indulge? Just be careful not to dream so hard it erodes the distinction between dream and reality, thus toppling you over to the side of the man dancing in the rain!

A DIFFICULT WOMAN!


Isn’t it ironic that a woman spends half her life trying to prove she can do it as well as a man, and the rest in disproving the adjunct of “difficult” she earns as a result of that effort!


Vinita Dawra Nangia

Being a woman is like being on stage for most part of the day -- enacting roles, proving your worth, being watched and generally being put to test, so to speak.

In a work scenario dominated by men, a woman has to first prove she’s no less capable and then get on with the day’s work. Fighting stereotypes and biases, she has to initially put in double the effort to be half as effective. If she is to achieve a measure of success, a woman has to necessarily be tougher and more focussed than a guy. For, very soon a working girl realises it’s better to have a “tough” image rather than a compliant one. Though, later on, this unfortunately is what proves to be her nemesis!

As it did with Kiran Bedi. Supercop, superwoman – yet superceded for post of Delhi police commissioner by a man two years her junior in service. Where did she go wrong?

Men usually have two tried and tested ways of dealing with a woman at work – they either slip into the “Me Tarzan, you Jane” role with effortless ease, or they try their darnedest to desex her and accept her as “one of the boys”! With the first they settle into a comfortable, lightly flirtatious mode, in turn bestowing or withdrawing smiles to make her do their bidding. With the second, she becomes what Kiran Bedi calls their “booze buddy” – bingeing at watering holes and sharing a smoke on the staircase with them. Here she becomes one of them and more often than not, goes into an overdrive to acquire male acceptability.

When a woman resists both these castings and rather than gaining popularity with the men, concentrates on being an effective, no-nonsense professional, men resort to tagging her with their favourite epithet for women they can’t control – DIFFICULT! Obviously from their viewpoint she is difficult – because she is immune to all sexist manipulative tactics they know, and yet, as efficient and capable as they come!

In attempting to manage her work efficiently, she has earned the reputation of a succesful doer, who will naturally rub many up the wrong way as she goes about her work.

And so, when the time comes to reward her efforts, men around dither because they are out of their depth dealing with someone who scares them with her effiiency. Hence the epithet “difficult woman”.

Isn’t it ironic that a woman spends half her life trying to prove she can do it as well as a man, and the rest in disproving the adjunct of “difficult” she earns as a result of that effort!

While Kiran Bedi was good enough for some of the most difficult and unpopular postings (each one of which she turned around to her advantage), when it was her chance to be appointed police commissioner, her “tough, independent image” became her nemesis! Similarly, seniormost woman IAS officer Reva Nayyar didn’t make it as Cabinet Secretary. and Veena Sikri, IFS, wasn’t given any reason why government chose to overlook her when it came to appointing Foreign Secretary!

Have you noticed that while merit lists of school and competitive exams are dominated by girls, in the journey between classroom and boardroom, they seem to lose their advantage? Why? Because in the office situation, unlike at school or competitions, she is for the first time being evaluated, not as another roll number, but as a woman!!

Twenty-one years ago the Wall Street Journal had coined the term “glass ceiling” to refer to apparent barriers that prevent women from reaching the top hierarchy. For every Kiran Bedi who hits the headlines today, there are still any number of other victims who wither unseen.

No man can acknowledge the multi tasking dexterity of a woman. And she pays for that; how she pays! She is usually the one who handles home as well as office, but dare she let the twain meet? Not if she hopes to see her career graph on an upward swing!

If her children are unwell, she better give any other excuse but the truth or she gets typecast as a woman with family problems, unable to bear up under office pressure.

So then, does this mean that a woman in order to be successful, must settle into being either compliant or a booze buddy? Here I disagree with Kiran Bedi. Though slipping into roles men find comfortable may smoothen your daily official interactions, it certainly doesn’t translate into promotions or increments! The only women who have yet made it to the top – and there is a handful in India even today – are those that chose to march to their own drummers and were efficient professionals.

If she hopes to be a successful professional, a woman must learn to run neither with the wolves, nor with the hounds. She has to pave her own path and in doing so, ensure she doesn’t rub too many people up the wrong way. She needs to pray hard that men lose their insecurities.

And she has to be lucky. Man, does she have to be lucky!

DID YOU TOUCH SOMEONE TODAY?

A touch goes beyond physical and forges a connect that is more on an emotional and spiritual level. And yet, have you ever thought though something as remote as a rainbow can touch you, sometimes even the most intimate physical experiences can leave you untouched!

Vinita Dawra Nangia

Close your eyes and think of your most peaceful, healing moments. No matter what comes to mind, there’s bound to be a “touch” somewhere – your mother’s hand on your head; the arms of a loved one around you; the first time you held your baby; beauty that touched your heart; music that touched your soul; someone who came into your life and touched a chord…
Is a touch physical? Yes and no. A touch goes beyond physical and forges a connect that is more on an emotional and spiritual level. A life that touched you; a voice that touches you, or memories that will touch you forever… how can any of these be merely physical?
Consider, what would you rather lose – sight or feeling of touch? Think about it, and you realize the sensation of touch connects you far better to rest of the world than your other senses. Children instinctively seek physical contact whenever disturbed or happy. It’s only as we grow older that touching embarrasses us, because by then we start associating it with sexuality.
Animals touch each other all the time. That’s why pets who invite touch give us a feeling of well-being and are precious, especially to singles. Touch is as vital to animals as to every human being.
Remember what an instant hit Munnabhai’s jaadu ki jhappi became! If you dismiss that as fictive reality, what about the Free Hugs movement that’s creating waves across the world? Indeed, research has proved that a good hug rates second only to a good talk when it comes to blowing away the blues. If that’s not enough, hugging releases the hormone oxytocin, which is proven to arouse a caring response in men and women.

In olden times, medicine men healed with a touch; today men in love swear their woman can do the same for them! Jokes apart, therapeutic touch healing is today a successful form of alternate medicine that tries to gently manipulate the body’s energy flow towards a healthy and balanced one.
Ever stood next to an inconsolable friend or relative and not known what to say? You don’t need to; just a touch or hug conveys all. How many times has a hug suddenly made you feel better about yourself and the world?
In all this, touch helps form an instant bond and opens communication between two people. It can happen with those you know very well or sometimes, even with virtual strangers. But the deepest connect that touch helps us build, is with ourselves. Even touch therapy actually aids your own body to heal itself. The right touch helps you feel better about yourself instantly! A rainbow, snowy clouds, green meadows and soulful music that touch us, help us connect with our souls.
And yet, have you ever thought though something as remote as a rainbow can touch you, sometimes even the most intimate physical experiences can leave you untouched! The connection just doesn’t work.
And if there are touches that inspire, there are also those that don’t -- touches that leave you not just “untouched”, but defiled. These unwanted touches invade your personal space and could range from a deliberate brushing past on a crowded street to a colleague who insists on making his point by touching your arm or shoulder, to even just leery eyes that touch you intimately.
Strangely, in India, we are far more wary of touching and being touched than in the West. A rigid morality makes us question even the most innocent of gestures. So we are poor givers and getters of touch. Most of us have never even seen our parents hold hands or sit with their arms around each other, let alone hugging or kissing!
Think, how many times in the day are you touched or reach out to touch others? In what ways are you comfortable being touched? When was the last time you touched your grandparents or your parents? Think. For, if you have a questioning heart, you are bound to have an untouched one too…

Thursday, August 2, 2007

LIVE WITHOUT GUILT

We are surrounded by people trying to set guilt traps for us. It’s up to us to dodge them!

Vinita Dawra Nangia

Ever heard someone say they have no regrets in life – and been envious of them? How can that be? You smile and choose to take the declaration with a pinch of salt. Because, more often than not, most of us are riddled with some guilt or the other.

We are conditioned to operate under a cloud of guilt right from childhood, when it is used as a tool to make kids conform. When a child doesn’t fall in line, he is treated to a mix of guilt, shame and blame that tends to stick for life, even without his being aware of it.

We feel guilty about not doing something, then guilty for doing it; we feel guilty for eating, for spending, for not being punctual, for thinking of ourselves first, for having fun, for loving, for hating, for indulging; we feel guilty for being guilty – sometimes even for being alive, for heaven’s sake!

Things came to a head when realization struck one day that even as a senior professional, a wife and a mother, I would find myself referring to my parents’ set of dos and don’ts and attempting to conform to their image of a good girl, daughter, wife and mother!

Struck by the “disease to please”, most of my decisions would be based on what others around expected from me, so as not to disappoint, hurt or upset anyone. In the process, I was being stifled, with no breathing space. I didn’t want to be a “good girl, wife, daughter or mother”; I just wanted to be me – good or bad – and be comfortable within my skin.

Talking to friends, I realized I wasn’t the only one going through this struggle and seeking to connect with my true self. We are all surrounded by people who are forever trying to control us, judge us and make us feel guilty about who we are and what we do.

That’s the trap we fall into. It doesn’t take long to understand the motives of those who try to make you feel guilty – they exert control through guilt; often they are trying to hide their own inadequacies. Sometimes however, when they love you, they could just be trying to save you from what they consider the folly of your actions.

Psychologically, “feeling guilty” is not an emotion; it’s very much a conditioned response. It’s more mental than emotional and exhausts a lot of energy. Once you realize that it’s a negativity that can be done away with, you start discovering how often and for what ridiculous things you have been allowing yourself to suffer guilt.

Sometimes I find myself feeling guilty for cooking green vegetables when my kids complain about not having had enough pizzas and burgers lately! That is, till I pull myself up short!! My mom and husband could send me into paroxysms of guilt with one well-directed look, till I knew better! Mothers, husbands and children – all of them are adept at setting up guilt traps; it’s you who has to learn the art of dodging the same! To learn to have your own firm set of rights and wrongs; your own code of ethics.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say here are no absolute “rights” and “wrongs” – because there are, and yet in many cases, the context decides what is right for you. And, so long as you know your limits and are not hurting anyone in the bargain, you should go by what you think is right. Most people in the West live by the theory of moral relativity, that is, what is right for one person may not be so for another. However, if taken to an extreme, such an attitude could prove to be dangerous because you can actually argue anything into favouring you!

So, one has to tread a fine line and ensure that so long as we are following the broad laws of absolute morality and laws of the land, rest of what we do is really our business. And so, I’m not really answerable to anyone but to myself; so long as I know what I’m doing or saying is right and doesn’t harm anyone, why should anyone be allowed to make me feel guilty?

A SWISS TRAIL

Mountains, chocolates, cheese and Heidi – a few things Switzerland is known for. But, did you know that a visit to the scenic Alp country is like having visited Germany, France and Italy all in one go? Such is the deep cultural influence of these bordering countries that the 26 Swiss cantons are clearly divided into three areas that have absorbed not just the language and culture, but even food, architectural style and street names of these nations!
And their common paradigm is Nature’s bounty – snowy peaks; emerald meadows with tinkling cowbells; innumerable lakes and waterfalls, and of course the half-wooden, half concrete houses, churches and clock towers of every city and village. Traveling through these areas is easy with Switzerland’s amazing transport system that links trains, buses and boats efficiently to provide a smooth crisscross across mountains, through tunnels, on waterways and next to picturesque meadows and valleys.

German Swiss
Starting off from Lucerne, one witnesses the deep German influence. Dominated by the mesmerizing Lake Lucerne and set against towering Mount Pilatus, Lucerne is picture perfect and a base for day trips to popular destinations.
The first day we took a day trip to Interlaken, favourite destination of Bollywood and Indian honeymooners! Tradition combines interestingly with touristy buzz here. A short drive away is Trummelbach, the only mountain with 10 waterfalls within.
Next day we took a ferry to ----, from where we took the world’s steepest cog railway (max gradient:48 %) to the top of Mount Pilatus, known for some great adventure sports, aerial cableways, Switzerland’s longest toboggan, ropeways and exhilarating train rides. Hurtling along the toboggan was as daring as I decided to get!
Back in Lucerne, I walked down narrow streets leading to airy squares, with paintings on building facades that tell stories of time past. The walk took me across the ancient Chapel Bridge and Water Tower on River Rheus, along the quays, feeding ducks. Later we had a traditional Swiss dinner at ----- to the accompaniment of typical Swiss Alpine horn and yodelling.

A bit of Italy on the side
Next it was time to taste a bit of Italy and so we set off for Ticino. We took the William Tell Express, gliding across Lake Lucerne, admiring sleepy villages, inviting bays, lagoons, emerald green meadows throwing a green light on the ever changing colours of the lake. At the tiny, picturesque village of Fluelen we changed over to the famous Gotthard rail line, this year celebrating 125 years of existence. Across deep ravines and precipitous cliffs, through spiral and horseshoe tunnels, including the 15 km long Gotthard tunnel, we climbed swiftly from 470 to 1100 metres above sea level.
Ticino is very Italian. The capital, Bellinzona, is surrounded by lofty mountains, picturesque vineyards and overlooked by three castles. We walked along the charming historic town with narrow lanes, beguiling piazzas, 19th century buildings, courtyards, and ornamental terracotta facades inspired by Italian architects. Alpine farmers come to sell cheese every Saturday as locals gather in the piazza to soak in sun and gossip

The French Connection
Having had a taste of the German and Italian parts of Switzerland, it was time for us to check out how French the Swiss could be. Our next destination was Visp in the very French canton of Vallais, Switzerland’s ideal wine producing region..
Visp is a quaint, picturesque town with quiet streets and houses. We took a gourmet tour of the city, stopping at Cave de la Tour for a taste of wine from their vineyards with some Swiss cheese and cured meat before going on to try different eateries for a typical French dinner and dessert in true laidback French style.
From Visp we took the Gornergrat Bahn (highest open air cog railway in Europe) through spicy stone pine and larch forests, over flowery meadows up to the 3,089 metres high Gornergrat. Here, sitting in the highest hotel in the Swiss Alps, Kulmhotel Gornergrat, we looked around at the permanently snowcapped 29 peaks around, each more than 4000 metres high (including the famous Matterhorn at 4,478 metres).
This was the snowy climax of our trip! After the varied cultural experience we were treated to within Switzerland we realized how true it was said that something ‘urgent’ is for tomorrow in the Italian part of Switzerland; for today in the French area and for yesterday in the majority area that is Swiss German!

Monday, July 16, 2007

THE NAKED TRUTH

Nude protests grab instant media attention, but must be distinguished from other forms of nudity such as naturalism, exhibitionism, streaking or flashing.

Vinita Dawra Nangia

When Pooja Chauhan of Rajkot stripped to protest against dowry demands, she got instant attention. Nudity is bound to get you eyeballs – not just in India, but anywhere in the world. What changes is the attitude towards the naked body.
Most high profile, organized international groups take advantage of this attention grabbing tool and get people to drop clothes for causes they espouse. Especially PETA, which ropes in celebrities such as Pamela Anderson, Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell to pose naked on billboards to grab world headlines
Nudist protests have ranged from anti Bush-in-Iraq campaigns to female prisoners in Johannesburg disrobing to show displeasure at being shifted to another prison; Mexican farmers going topless to naked protestors in Spain against the annual ritual of bull-chasing. The Queen of England too wasn’t spared, as nude activists protested use of bearskin to make hats for her Palace guards.
Pooja’s is the second incident in India of a naked protest, first being when women in Manipur stripped in front of 17 Assam Rifles gate in 2004 to protest killing of Manorama. And yes, it’s a worldwide phenomenon that women strip as a form of protest far more than men do.
What do nude protestors hope to achieve when they shed clothes in public? The most obvious answer is media attention, which is instantaneous. Even though, much to the chagrin of naked campaigners, media focuses on the form of protest far more than the reason! Interestingly, apart from a play for attention, votaries of this unique form of protest reveal they are trying to highlight vulnerability of mankind and also reveling in freedom of breaking away from conformity.
Isn’t it interesting how the judgment we pass on nudity changes with context? Nobody derides a child for being born naked, but shed your clothes at any other stage of life at your peril! When 500 young Londoners stripped for artist Spencer Tunick in Selfridges as a live installation, it was called art, but when Protima Bedi streaked down Juhu in 1974, it lived on as her single biggest recognition in life as well as death. If a lone man walking down a road throws off his clothes, he’s called an exhibitionist, but if he participates naked in a group, he’s elevated to the status of nudist protestor with a cause! Nudity in a film is ok, but someone walking around naked in a non-sexual context isn’t!
If we agree that attitudes towards nudity reflect our degree of sexual repression, then a society as sexually repressed as India, is bound to frown upon nude protests. And so in India, Pooja, who bared her body to bare her soul, has to disappear the day after her protest, amidst snickers that the least she could have done is wear matching underwear if she planned to shed her outers!
One could have traced nudism to Adam and Eve, but their covering themselves in “shame” spoils it all. The true first votaries of nudism were really the Greeks and Romans around 1300 BC when Greek students exercised and were educated in the nude and athletes played naked in early Olympics! From here on things worsened to the extent that in the Victorian era even legs of pianos and chairs were covered so they wouldn’t arouse sexual interest!
It was only in the 20th century that organized nudism came into practice, with the first nudist park, Freilichtpark (Free Light park) opening near Hamburg in Germany in 1903.
Lately nudism, which is the phenomenon of people enjoying the liberation of being naked with each other, has a large number of votaries. There is no sexuality involved in this; it’s all about celebrating the human body. Exhibitionism on the other hand, has sexual connotations and derives pleasure from an audience. An extreme form of this is flashing, which is exposing oneself indecently in an attempt to shock or traumatize someone. As opposed to this, streaking is the “non-sexual act of taking off one’s clothes and running naked through a public place.”
Interesting, how the same act can arouse such different emotions in varying contexts!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

BOLLYWOOD BLAST

It’s certainly better to answer questions about Bollywood rather than the usual Indian stereotypes – poverty, cow worship and snake charmers!

Vinita Dawra Nangia

A riot of colour and costume; mesmerisingly energetic footwork; loud music that sweeps you into a dance, and a play of emotion on the faces of Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and a family from grandma to grandchild – all in the course of one extended musical sequence in Kal Ho Na Ho -- Dekho Dekho Na Pretty Woman

Who said India is known as the country of snake charmers and rope tricks? Or even for willfully roaming elephants and cows? Not even the Taj Mahal holds much fascination anymore!
Today India is the land of Bollywood! On a recent trip abroad, amongst a motley group of nationalities, the first question almost anyone asked me was about Bollywood. A young man from Germany exclaimed over Bollywood theme parties he’s attended and movies he’s watched back home in Hamburg. A Russian lady executed some exaggerated Bollywood dance steps to the amusement of Japanese, Chinese and Thai delegates, who all nodded vigorously in agreement.
Fellow journalists from Netherlands commented on Bollywood dances, a telling comment on the reach of Indian movies! The Swiss of course claim a special relationship with Bollywood, with a string of movies being shot at any given time in favoured scenic destinations such as Interlaken and Berne.
Most wanted to know about “your biggest star, someone called King Khan…?” Then came questions about “the actress who is a beauty queen and also appears in commercials….?” Even Johnny Lever is recognised – ““India’s top comedian, a short man with curly hair and big eyes.”
Bollywood is indeed a great window into our country today and it is through this prism that rest of the world looks at India. What is it about Indian movies that attracts a multitude of foreigners? Indeed, it was a surprise to see “Bollywood” bags with pictures of Shah Rukh selling in the market area in Berne. In Frankfurt, a colleague spied young German girls buying Bollywood DVDs dubbed into their language. Professor Ruthermond, renowned Indologist and formerly of Heidelberg University, comments on how Bollywood is possibly the largest export from India to Germany!
In an attempt to understand the phenomena, I turned to the one man surely responsible for much of it, a director whose movies don’t ever embarrass you with their depiction of India – Karan Johar. Karan agrees there’s been a sudden rise in Bollywood’s popularity abroad. He says, “In 2002 I sold the rights for my movie in Germany for $ 5,000, while four years later, this took a quantum leap to $ 2,50,000! It’s amazing. And Germany for some reason, is particularly smitten.”
Karan denies he has ever made any movie keeping in mind a foreign audience. “I make movies for Indians – from Bihar to New York. If they appeal to foreigners, that’s an added bonus!” He says you never know how or why a movie appeals to a foreign audience but all he has ever done is depict “everything unapologetically Indian -- the glitz, glamour, dances, our emotions which are not at all subtle, but so totally in-the-face. Kabhi Khushi, Kabhi Gham was a great showcase for all we stand for and at Cannes, people came out with tears streaming down their face.”
Karan opines that Indian films tug at the heartstrings and that is what appeals to foreign audiences and stays with them. “Europe can get quite depressing with the breakdown of their family system and everyone being so alone and self-centred. When there’s no family behind you, you start thinking small. On the other hand, we are all about family and attachment. We laugh loud and we cry even louder. We are not brushing any emotions under the carpet. Family support helps us think big and do well. Abroad they pay huge amounts to go and unburden before psychiatrists. We do so with family, parents and friends!”
So, it is the selflessness, togetherness and bonhomie of Indian families that appeal to foreign audiences, who view India as an exotic country with bright clothes, colours, religion and a strong culture. This intrigues foreigners as they grapple to understand a culture so different and so vibrant and happy.
One can’t help but feel relieved to be viewed through the Bollywood prism abroad. It’s certainly better to answer questions about Bollywood rather than the usual Indian stereotypes – poverty, cow worship and snake charmers! Isn’t it nice to have this replaced by the image of India as a great support system – family support as depicted by Bollywood; spiritual support and of course, tech support!

Monday, July 2, 2007

WHAT ATTRACTS A MAN TO A WOMAN

Do you have the guys making a beeline for you? Why ever not?

For a man, the seduction game is all about sex, sex and more sex. Only then comes – even more sex!

Vinita Dawra Nangia

Spruce up your appearance ladies and take grooming very, very seriously. Let us not blame women who go in for asset-enhancing techniques anymore. For, where a man is concerned, nothing seems to have changed so far as his mating instincts go. He is still the visual creature he was many centuries ago -- appearances are all to him!
And even with appearance, he goes straight for the jugular – those aspects that signify a woman’s sexuality are most attractive to him. For a man, the seduction game is all about sex, sex and more sex. Only then comes – even more sex! A woman might as well accept this and be resigned to the fact that it’s the sex appeal she oozes that scores over all other attributes she may possess – mental, emotional, spiritual, whatever.
Evolution has geared men to look for facial sexual signals. Research shows men are most attracted to a childlike face, for this arouses their paternal instincts to touch and protect. With eyes, men world over go for the large, luminescent variety. When a woman is attracted to a man, her pupils dilate. Contact lenses give the impression of glistening eyes and permanent dilation of pupils. And sure enough, studies reveal that men find women with contact lenses very sexy! Lips, if we are to believe Freud and zoologists, are an outer manifestation of a woman’s sexuality and fill with blood and swell up when she is excited. Men find full, sensual lips attractive. Do you wonder at the silicon injects women undergo to get the bee-bitten swollen look?
For the rest, men find a woman with long neck and long hair more appealing. Long necks signify gender difference while long hair indicates good health and so potential to produce healthy offspring.
Coming to body shape, a man’s ideal for women is a waist-hip ratio of about 70 per cent – and this ratio is actually an indicator of high fertility in a woman. All men love breasts and cleavage, and find a rounded, protruding behind attractive – a symbol of fertility since time immemorial. So, ok, with a man, looks do matter. And how! To the extent that over time, women’s bodies have evolved as sexual signals to beckon men!
However, things are different when a man is looking for a long term partner. Unlike women, men, with their age-old hunting instincts, know exactly what they are looking for when their search for a partner begins. And, a man makes a difference between short term and long term partners, with criteria for both differing.
If it is a fling or a one-night stand he is looking for, he looks out for women who are provocatively dressed, sexy and a little drunk and loud. If she doesn’t drink, confesses a male colleague, forget about it! You aren’t in luck that night. For a short term affair, she must also be friendly and warm into the bargain.
However, if a man is looking for a long term relationship, the criteria changes. Now he’s looking for a beautiful girl, warm and friendly. She should be sexy but not overtly so – after all you wouldn’t want a Mallika Sherawat as long term girlfriend, would you, exclaims the colleague in horrified tones! She should be ‘different’ from others – warm, attractive and a good conversationalist. Research shows personality, good looks, brain and humour is a man’s wish list in order of priority for a partner.
A man likes a woman to say positive things to him, ask questions about and show interest in whatever he does. Of course the one thing that puts him off is a woman who clings—is too needy and wanting all the time. A woman must give him his space. A trick the colleague shares is that the woman must keep withdrawing a bit and coming back again – so as to keep him on his toes. A man appreciates a slight aloofness over a clingy attitude.
If a man needs to appeal to a woman’s vanity to be attractive to her, she needs to appeal to his ego if she is to make an impact on him. Most men are susceptible to compliments that boost their self esteem. And nobody knows this better than a woman.
Give him single-minded attention, flirt with him, prod him on to talk about his day and work, make appropriately appreciative sounds at the right places and soon you will have him eating out of your hands. Till you keep him guessing, he will dance attendance; the moment he knows you are hooked, he will relax his guard and start taking you for granted. A man somehow is convinced that a woman dresses and grooms herself for him, though research shows women dress more for other women! Men however draw a straight correlation between the amount of effort women take with their appearance and their interest in them. As a result, if somewhere along the line a woman stops looking after her appearance, a man sees it as a signal that he is no longer important to her!
And so, just like a man must never stop complimenting a woman as we discussed in last week’s column, a woman must always look after her appearance for her man’s sake. If he must always pander to her vanity, she needs to pander to his ego. When a woman looks for a sense of humour in a man, she means he should be able to make her laugh; when he seeks a woman with a sense of humour, a man means she should be able to laugh at his jokes! While a woman looks for a bit of a scoundrel in a short term relationship, he is looking for a bit of a vamp. However for long term, both change criteria and look for more mind than matter! Now she seeks a guy with potential for moving ahead, while he looks for a good home maker.
Sounds so clinical and unromantic, doesn’t it? And yet, knowingly or unknowingly, it all boils down to just that! What’s so different about the 21st century? Primal instincts are still as much at play beneath a veneer of civilization.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

THE MANY HUES OF ROMANCE


Why must romance be bound by definitions and limits?

Vinita Dawra Nangia

Romance, who loves to nod and sing,
With drowsy head and folded wing,
Among the green leaves as they shake
Far down within some shadowy lake
-Romance by Edgar Allan Poe



  • Deeply dipping d├ęcolletage, dinner by candlelight and ardour in his eyes…… Romance?
    Yes, of course.
  • Walking hand in hand by the seaside, silhouetted against the sunset as you murmur sweet nothings to each other….. Romance?
    Sure.
  • Giggling together over nothing; shared chocolates, songs heard and sung together; fingers touched and snatched away; champagne and roses…. Romance?
    Mmmmm, YES!
  • Time spent together, full of love and mischief, but parting to go your separate ways, love locked deep in your hearts; a baby’s quivering dimpled bottom, pitter patter of rain, streaks of sunset colour in the sky … Romance?
    Ma…ybe.
  • A glimpse of knickers under Anna Kournikova’s tennis skirt; loving more than one person at a time, having no-strings-attached sex with a friend once in a while …. Romance?
    Ouch! Cheeni kum hai…But hey, WHY NOT?

Why must romance necessarily be something to do with love, togetherness and spending time with your lover? Like most things in life, why must romance be bound by definitions and limits? To the extent that when a website asked a number of romance writers to post their definitions of romance, each one defined it as the love story of a man and woman, their strength of character, trials and tribulations, and how they overcome these. Each author specified that a romance could only possibly have a happily ever after (HEA) ending!
But how realistic is that? The definition of romance changes with time. From medieval to Gothic to 18th century romantic poetry to early 20th century War romances, onto the Harlequin series and realistic romances – what a world of difference!
One way to measure this is to flick through a few romance novels. Pick up the all-time favourite Mills & Boons for instance. A few years ago, virginity was a pre-requisite and the main characters verbally sparred their way through the story till the end when they discovered their all-encompassing love and were allowed the first kiss… Swoon, swoon… how sweetly romantic!
Today, they start off as ‘fuck buddies’, move in together and the idea of marriage and HEA comes almost as a surprise! Virginity is not even considered, though fidelity is still a requisite.
Medieval romances were all about quests and adventure. Modern romance too is about quest – but an internal quest, a quest to discover yourself. Romance today is as much about your journey inwards – a relationship with self -- as it is a loving relationship with another.
Romance is no longer about waiting for the right time or opportunity; it’s about the here and now. It’s for you to find romance in every moment, every thought and every word. For, romance emanates from within you. If you keep waiting for the right time and place, it will just pass you by.
What are the feelings a romantic situation arouses? Romance is when you feel good about yourself and everyone around; when your good hormones are flowing and you love the whole world. If knickers peeking out from beneath a skirt seem kinda cute to you, then that’s your kind of romance! If you get addicted to exercise and look forward to your early morning walks, even that could be your experience of romance. Glaze gazing far out into the horizon with a blank mind could be as romantic as a bubble bath with your lover. Anything and everything that helps you connect with joy of living is romantic.
If you are willing to stretch your definition of it, romance is always in the air around you; you just have to sniff it out. It’s there in the leaf that just dropped to the ground; the trees laden with droopy, bright yellow amaltas; in the colours of dawn and dusk. It’s actually nowhere without; it’s within you.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

WHAT ATTRACTS A WOMAN TO A MAN

Looks, sense of humour and conversational skills are ok. But a woman’s biggest turn-on is an idea of the effect she has on you!

Vinita Dawra Nangia

What attracts a woman to a man? The usual reply: ‘A sense of humour, great personality and a sensitive, caring attitude’. The unusual reply: ‘Money and power’. What you will never hear is the actual truth. A woman is generally attracted to a man who is attracted to her.
There – the cat’s out of the bag -- the single biggest fear of fathers and husbands who become wary eyed the moment a man shows signs of being attracted to a woman!
And that’s why it becomes imperative that a man, if he is to succeed in the seduction game, compliments a woman on her looks, personality, her intelligence, eyes, hands, feet…anything!
Most women are so totally in love with themselves that the one thing that appeals to them above all is a guy who not just finds them appealing, but is deeply affected by them. Unable to fathom this, most sincere men may give compliments a miss, considering them too shallow to express their true feelings, and that’s where they make their fatal mistake. Just get this right guys, a woman wants to hear it all, all the time.
And, don’t just tell her she’s beautiful or gorgeous – she knows that and has been probably told so by many before you. What most men don’t realize is that a woman’s biggest turn-on is an idea of the effect she has on you! So go with, “You drive me nuts!” or “Do you even have an idea what you are doing to me?” or “I just can’t figure out the way time flies when I’m with you!” or “To me you are most precious; how does it matter what you wear?”
Just ladle it in guys, in huge heaps! Prefix this with what you may sneer at as mushy, overdone endearments (sweetheart, princess, darling, baby...) and you have a winner on your hands! No woman can resist a man who declares himself smitten by her. But do beware, once you have her hooked, she will be watching closely to see that effect doesn’t wear off ever.
A woman loves to know you are thinking of her at all times; convince her you do. Send her messages or call her at the most unexpected moments just to tell her even in the midst of all your work and engagements, part of your thoughts are with her. Never ever do anything to give her a feeling of rejection, such as cutting off her call or not getting back to her for a longish period. A woman needs to feel wanted and be your first priority all the time. She wants to be relevant to every aspect of your life; it gives her a great kick if you pose your professional dilemmas to her and involve her in a discussion. She also expects you to do likewise for her professional and social involvements.
Having said that, let’s not assume that just any man can get away on the strength of compliments alone. There are certain prerequisites a woman demands in a man. And no, looks is not one of them, though hygiene and grooming certainly are. A woman may be attracted to a good looking guy but she would be wary of choosing him as a partner. She realizes he would be attractive to other women too, and hence there’s more likelihood of him straying. And, loyalty is high on her list of requirements.
For ages women have been attracted to healthy, strong men who could be good providers. That still holds true, though today women also look for men who can meet their emotional needs. As discussed in an earlier column in this space, that’s the contemporary man’s dilemma – that a woman requires from him two opposite attributes – hardness as well as softness!
Of course a good body is always a beacon for the ladies. Here goes her wish list in order of priority according to a recent survey – strong, athletic shape; broad shoulders and chest; tight bum; a full growth of hair; sensual mouth; understanding eyes; strong chin and nose; flat abs and a three-day stubble! In fact the ladies even whisper about how a big nose, large hands and feet signify a big penis! Research however pooh-poohs such conjectures. It is also said that a man who dances well is bound to be a good lover; that could have an element of truth!
They say women are attracted to bad boys. A guy who is a bit of a scoundrel has immense appeal because of the element of unpredictability and danger he brings with him – it’s never boring with him because of the rollercoaster ride he takes you on along with him. And yet, however irresistible he may be, a woman seldom chooses a bad boy for a long term relationship, if she can help it.
Women aren’t genetically programmed to be aroused by the sight of male genitals, though it works the other way round for men – hence the popularity of porn magazines for men, and why porn for women never ever really took off. Growth of facial hair is directly connected to high levels of testosterone and hence is sexually attractive to a woman – the day your testosterone flows, beard growth is faster. Hence, a man with stubble looks like he is ready for action!
A man who is successful or bent upon improving his situation in life and has plans and goals towards that end, also attracts a woman. So, in short, a man on the move with great relationship and communication skills; is caring; and one who is never short on compliments, is a sure lady-killer!
Yes, you are right – tough! But not impossible. Whoever told you seducing a woman and keeping her interested was easy?