You know why pants were made? For horseback riding. Because people needed something comfortable, and to protect their legs. And there are some who say that the first trouser was invented by a Queen – a woman.
But if you are a woman wearing pants today, at some point you are asked the question ‘why do you dress like a guy’?
Our dresses have evolved over centuries, wherein certain garments became popular with men and some for women. Trousers veered to the men’s side mainly because they were out working, doing tasks that required horse riding, and jumping on fences and other things that did not need a garment getting in the way. And women continued with the airy (and then not so airy) garments of skirts and dresses.
Now that women are back out on the streets again doing things, why not go back to that simple garment of pants? It is comfortable. It gives you pockets to shove your keys, cellphone and money into. It means you can sit with your legs up without worrying about your dignity. It means you do not have to worry about a strong wind and flying dresses. It means you stay warmer.
Luckily for women, we’ve had the freedom to take back certain items of clothing. For men, not so lucky. Wouldn’t a guy want to wear something loose and comfortable to work in this heat? Except for Americans, and some parts of Europe, there are forms of a ‘skirt’ still popular, if not in the workplace. A mundu / lungi / sarong is quite popular in Asian countries. Romans wore long tunics, ensuring they survived the hot summers.The Greeks wore some version of it. So why not bring it back? If men will (and that’s the tough part) why shouldn’t they be allowed to wear skirts to work?
I’ve been reading about startups… Or tech companies that were once startups.
So far I’ve read about Twitter (a couple of books), Amazon, Facebook, WordPress (in progress) and a few others.
Midway through this process I began wondering about the “inside story” of Indian startups. We’ve got some good ones. We have a few in the top 10 unicorns as well. So where are their stories? Considering some of them have been around for nearly a decade, hasn’t it been long enough for some books to surface? Or is it too early?
I found one book about Alma Mater. An autobiography. That’s it. There are bibles mentioning a ton of them but where are individual books?
It is the world of click button publishing. An authorized bio, no matter how white washed, could be out in a matter of a few weeks. Haven’t any of the PR Gurus thought of this for their clients?!
I was probably 14 years old when I first heard about ‘Doctors Without Borders’. I was toying with ideas of becoming a doctor, and it seemed that this is where I would head if I did take up medicene.
As things worked out, I decided to become a reporter. And I spent quite a few months applying for all possible posts at Reporters Without Borders. I had no experience. All I had was a vision that this is where I wanted to be. Being a reporter to me was not something simple. It meant you had to walk a tight rope between facts and giving into your idealogies and sympathies. Conflict reporting was something that I was absolutely keen about, and several people asked me why. Several people tried to dissuade me by saying that this wasn’t a place for women.
But what was the point of being a reporter if all you did was write about pretty actresses, annoying politicians and corporate espionage? Human life matters. Beyond race, creed, sex, religion or borders. Something we forget all too often. Something we ignore all too often. It becomes about religion. About terror. About politics.
I wanted to write about the people who were living through this. Give them a voice. Bring their story to the public. And perhaps, in this situation, being a woman was an advantage because women could go in some places where men couldn’t.
From the other side of 30, I can possibly see the naiveity of this sentiment, of this ambition.
But if I got a chance to do it even today, I wouldn’t turn it down. Today, I realise that this was also a desire to learn for myself what the reality was. Not what media writes. Not stories written by people. Perhaps that is selfish.
At the end of the day, it is a person who suffers. It is a child who is left alone. Religion, caste, sex, country – they fade in the light of the misery and the horror. Maybe it won’t make a difference to tell these stories. In today’s world, all it will gain is a like and a share on Facebook. But the story would have been told. It would enter some consciousness, becoming another drop in the ocean, and eventually, maybe it will add up to something.
More importantly, people need to know the stories beyond the bigger picture. The decisions might not always be changeable. They might even be important for the bigger picture. But we need to know the price we are paying for it. If we are building a naval base at the cost of an indigenous society, maybe it is crucial for national security. But that does not negate the fact that we need to know that our security comes at the cost of destroying a culture, destroying landscape.
Perhaps we are building factories on forest land. And this is important for the livelihood of several thousands of people. But you need to be aware of what is the price of that factory. And maybe sometime, we’ve to say that the cost of it is too high. The question remains about where to draw the line… but we need to know.
Hinduism and Buddhism (and perhaps many other religions) have prayers to thank nature for offering us our livelihood. They ask us to apologize for hurting nature or anyone else, even if it is a tree being cut. They ask us to take only what we need and nothing more. Our needs are much higher today, but perhaps one needs to know what you are sacrificing for it.
In any case, a reporter’s job is not to judge. It is only to report the facts. The facts are both that the land is beyond destroyed and thousands of people displaced, and that the new building will benefit so many people and earn them money. It is up to the individual conscience what they think is right or wrong. And that’s why sometimes we need an outsider to give us the facts, because we are too entrenched in our story to see all the details.
Kalki Koechlin. Nandita Das.
You rarely hear about men liking these women. They don’t find them hot. They don’t find them interesting. But women… women love them. Not quite the same way they admire actresses like Priyanka Chopra or Katrina Kaif, but they have a different sort of affection for such women.
Why? To some of us, the answer to this is easy. Because these women are simply themselves. They do not set unrealistic standards for the regular women to achieve. They are almost regular women, with some fame and nicer clothes thrown in.
They have bad hair days, fat days, pimples, tanned skin and more. And more importantly, they are comfortable in their skin.
In the world of unrealistic body sizes and fashion sense, the regular woman feels pushed towards these ideals and it takes a tough fight to remain true to yourself.
Your body image is not entirely of your creation. We aspire to be slender. Not thin. Not fat. Slender. Sleek. With the right size of boobs and ass, and great shiny hair. And if we could have managed it in some ways, the right length of leg as well.
But the right size of boobs, ass and shiny hair actually takes a whole lot of maintenance. It takes money on products, it takes working out regularly, eating healthy and weekly trips to the salon, where you spend more time and money. And honestly, the average working women just does not have the time. Do you think we’d rather go to the parlor and suffer unspeakable tortures after a crazy week or get into our PJs, pour some cheap wine and pig out in front of the TV?
Personally, what I like about Kalki is she is not the bra-burning feminazi that’s become so common today. She is almost just a women, trying to live in this world. Of course, the pedigree helps… but there are some things that’ll never change no matter how rich or poor you are.
We’ve been conditioned to standards of beauty and fashion over centuries. With more media being thrown at us, these ideals are being reinforced quicker and stronger. Young girls are flooded with images on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, news sites, pop idols wherein people are a particular way.
If your genes bless you with a great body, you might have a little less teenage angst. But what if you are NOT the right size? What if you are just a teeny bit fatter? Thinner? Your hair is frizzier? You are shorter. You have a lot of hair and your parents don’t allow you to wax till you are 16.
Guys have their set of problems too… I’m pretty sure I do not know about most of it, but there are pressures to be and behave a particular way. Which is perhaps why guys like Rahul Bose make an impression. Many guys are not really keen on saying that they ‘like’ him… because masculinity demands that you do not subscribe to such notions.
We need more public figures who stop reinforcing stupid, unachievable aspirational images. No, I’d never want to be a Katrina Kaif or a Bipasha Basu. What I’d like is to be quietly graceful (and that’s as unachievable as the moon!). So I’d rather be myself… uncoordinated, sometimes graceful, and wacky.
Have you ever thought how much women, on average, spend on hair? Yes, I know we are supposed to be the spend thrift, consumerist, favorite with the advertisers because we are so easy to sell to sorta people. But perhaps it is our own warped self-image, the society’s steep expectations or media’s portrayal… or whatever it is, but a lot of it boils to one simple factor – hair.
A woman becomes aware of her hair when she hits puberty. Till then, the stuff on your head is just something to be kept out of the way and the rest of it does not matter. Then suddenly, you have to actually pay attention to these cells.
Let’s see what an average woman, living in a city with a decent job, in the age group of anywhere from 21 to 45, needs for the hair on her head.
- Leave-in conditioner
- Hair Mask
- Hair Spray (to whip it into shape on those bad hair days)
- Heat Protection Serum
Yep, we need alllll that to make ourselves look halfway decent. Not glam. Just presentable.
On average, we spend about INR 3,000 per month on all these prettying ‘basic’ products – and that’s by going for something just above the low-range of products. I’m not talking salon-level products.
Next, since we are obsessed about hair, we need to ensure that the remaining part of the body is free of hair. Which means bi-weekly appointments at the salon for waxing arms, legs, most part of the face, and if you are adventurous, a brazilian as well. When the bikini or the wedding season comes around, you might also need to wax your back, your stomach and well, maybe your whole body. Not accounting for the hours of pain, this also means an average of INR 1,500 per month for removing the hair from your body.
Then there are the hair cuts – and the search for the perfect hair stylist is as tough as the search for the perfect pair of pants. A single hair cut at a good salon – you are down another 2 grand every 3 months (if you are religious about maintaining your hair, that is).
Of course, you cannot forget the ‘special occasions’ wherein you’ve to get the hair washed,
shined and polished styled and set. Which is another INR 1,500 each setting. Believe it or not, most women have at least one occasion every month for which they need to hit the parlor!
Some of us also enjoy a calming head massage along with the other painful treatments, which means another INR 1,500 each month.
Let’s do the math: 3,000 + 1500 + 650 + 1500 + 1500 = 8150
We’re spending about 8 fricking grand on hair every month! That’s 96,000 a year!
All because we are obsessed with this thing called hair – which grows on every single human being over the age of 12.
That’s what we used to say when we were younger you know… and at that point, it seemed funny. But when you are on the other side of adulthood, when the decisions are yours to make and the responsibilities that go with it, you really, truly realise what that statements make.
You feel like slipping away and you wonder where it went. When you stopped to take a breath and then just forgot to move. Except, it feels like you aren’t really breathing much either. So you are just… taking up space and air?
Life sure sucks… it was designed that way by sheer human will. You are expected to toe certain lines that were apparently set up by ‘society’ that doesn’t do anything but set rules. It doesn’t lend a hand when you are down, but will lend a foot to kick you down more. But you are supposed to ascribe to the norms set by society. You are supposed to dress the way it wants,talk the way it wants and not do what feels right to you, simply because it is not right according to society.
A few decades ago, they still burnt women on their husbands’ pyre because society demanded of it. A few decades ago, most women couldn’t vote, couldn’t marry without the parental approval, and couldn’t even study because society deemed it so. What has this society given us but grief and why do we continue to bow to it.
Blogging is a way to vent. To share opinions. Except, we aren’t really designed to hear every single voice in the universe. Imagine if you had the ability to do that… you’d go nuts. Social media has brought that ability to us and you really, really don’t want to hear those millions of useless voices, each of which has an opinion and none of those opinions, including yours, matter in the bigger scheme of things.
There should be a way to turn down the volume. There is, actually. Get away from social media. Turn off the numerous TV channels blaring into your room.
There you go. Some semblance of peace.
I use a lot of apps. Even for regular sites like Twitter, I like to try out third-party apps. For work. For games. You get the idea.
But I’d never gotten around to using the Kindle app, primarily because I wasn’t convinced about reading online. I can read news articles and such, but reading entire books was a little tough. It lasted till I forced to switch over to e-books, and finally got used to it. Reading online doesn’t quite have the same joy and fun (and quite often, the sentences just don’t stick in your mind as well). But it sure is convenient. Many books, all the time.
So when Amazon offered ‘Kindle Unlimited’ for just INR 199, I figured it was time to give it a shot.
The first mistake I did was not perusing the books available in this list. “Over 1 million books” says the tag line, but any reader worth his / her salt knows that there are over 1 million crappy books in the world.
Let’s talk about the app itself first:
You’d think that a company whose first business was books would have some insight about readers and what they like. The home page is a film scroll, with editor’s picks listed below. But there is no option for me to make bookshelves. Unlike your book shelf at home, it is annoying to see all your books on a tiny little screen. I’d rather have book shelves on the home page, but that could just be me.
Then the scariest thing: Kindle reads your entire phone. ALL your files. And it lists every bloody PDF, epub, mobi or any other book format that is there in your phone. Now, apparently you can undo this if your documents are not in a folder named documents or books. But I find no way to stop the app from scanning my phone and listing the books. I have several confidential documents on my phone and I hate the fact that another app is accessing it. Even with Cyanogen’s Privacy Guard, you cannot stop this from happening.
There is a folder called ‘Kindle’ on your phone but unsurprisingly, there are no temp files there, but the app thinks it is okay to scan your phone and list all the documents it thinks you want to be listed on Kindle. And there is no option to ‘remove’ the particular file from Kindle. It deletes it from your device. Talk about taking over your phone !!!
The Menu has surprisingly limited options. You can choose ‘All’, ‘Books on your device’ and a couple of other options. Then, of course, settings which is less than nothing. A couple of options for sync, naming your device and that’s pretty much it.
Finding a Book:
If the reason you signed up for Kindle app, like I did, was the ‘Kindle Unlimited’ Option, then you’ll find it frustrating to access the Kindle store. There is no one-click option to access the store. You’ve to click on the cart, go to the kindle store, click on the ‘kindle unlimited’ feature and then you have the further task of narrowing down categories, and browsing through hundreds of titles. I’m not sure what algorithm is used to list the books, but there is no way to change that. This is fine on a bigger screen, but on a phone, it can be tedious scrolling through books 10 at a time.
You can search for a book, but it might or might not be available in the Kindle Unlimited Series. They perhaps expect you to browse like in a library, except on a 5 inch screen.
I searched for nearly 20 titles or more (How to be a woman, Raven Black, Unladylike: A memoir, Wikileaks, Alibi, Secret Sisters, Queen of the Oddballs, Book of Shadows, Run to the Hills etc). Some where available in Kindle format, but the ‘over 1 Million titles’ did not include any of these in the Kindle Unlimited Series.
I finally found one story about Wikileaks that I finally downloaded, and another chick lit. Then the process of downloading it to your phone, which means you need to repeat the entire process of going back to the Kindle store and trying to find a book, if you are trying to build up a collection.
In any case, you cannot have more than 10 books at a time according to Kindle. Not sure what the fuss is in this case, but moving on…
Now, if you want to find the book you downloaded from Kindle, there is no one-tap option to choose the file from ‘My Kindle Unlimited’ or some such thing. You’ve to pick it out of your library, among all the other books. For people like me, who are typically reading more than one book at a time, it is plain annoying. And no, I don’t want to be making ‘ collections’ of books to access.
This was one part I thought would be sorted. Perhaps I was peeved by the whole experience of finding a book to read (which took me over half an hour). The minute I opened the page, I found the settings annoying compared to the other ebook readers I’ve used.
Moonreader, for instance, allows you to handle the brightness of the screen with just a tap on one side of the screen. You can even set up scroll options etc with one-tap.
With the Kindle app, you’ve to go to the ‘menu’ on top of the page. Brightness options are limited – there was only ‘system brightness’ and if you manually tried to set the brightness, even the lowest was too bright at night.
The second annoying thing was something I noticed in the first chapter. It says “2 mins to finish chapter’. What the hell? By this point, I was beyond fiddling with controls of the app, so I don’t know if there is a way to turn this off. It is in unnecessary annoyance and I’m not sure what the developers were intending to do with it.
The third thing: ‘Popular highlights’… some of the lines are automatically highlighted while you are reading. This is turned on by default and there’s a way to turn it off, but again, multiple steps. Again, I’m not sure why this is a default feature.
I hate the entire experience of the Kindle app.
Verdict: The app seems to be attractive to bookworms, but with Google Books and many other third-party apps around, there’s absolutely no compelling reason to use Kindle app. There are no good books and it is simply annoying to handle. And thus far, I’ve not found a good collection of books either. Perhaps they are looking to push their device, but this is absolutely not an attractive preview.
The privacy concerns are quite serious.