Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Iron Maidens

For as long as I can remember I have been a huge fan of all genres of music and Iron Maiden was one of the first few bands that I thoroughly enjoyed listening to when I found out that I had an ear for metal music. I never really used to enjoy metal at first (and look at me now!) but an accidental hearing of The Land where Dragons Rule by DragonForce thinking it was the ATB song got me addicted. 

Anyway, one day I was doing another of my researches on music bands and a Wikipedia link got me to The Iron Maidens page. The world's only all-female tribute band of Iron Maiden. I wasted no time in listening to their music and I was spellbound. I mean it was simply brilliant. I don't know if I can ever finish talking about how much I loved it. The lead vocalist Aja Kim (Bruce Lee Chickinson) has an amazing voice. She impresses me as a singer, a martial arts champ (yeah she's a black belt -Shotokan) and as a performer. I mean there is a difference when you listen to her sing the song and then listen to Bruce's version but that's only because she is a she. The most amazing person I thought was Wanda Ortiz (Steph Harris). Nobody could have done a better bass and I mean seriously... that woman rocks. If I ever get to see her I will prolly die of the joy and honour. I heard their version of The Trooper. It couldn't get any better. It was the best cover I have ever seen of the song. 

Every member of the band is darn talented and Iron Maiden themselves have praised the band time and again for their perfect rendering of the songs. Enough said. They have a new female lead vocalist coming in now and I can't wait to see who.

I'm an Indian and like all other metalheads here I am thrilled about iron Maiden's concert here next year in Feb... the only thing that could make me happier is an Iron Maidens performance. And as said by various people time and time again, I have nothing more to say than echo what has already been said -you girls rock. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Breast ironing and irony

I spoke to this Nigerian girl a while back -Mahparah (not her real name). She is a lively seventeen year old and the first girl in her family to go to school. She laughs like an angel. A laugh that conceals all the pain that her past carries. Every moment of horror and agony that she went through. 

Mahparah misses her sister. She's dead. "Dead!" I exclaim. "How? What happened to her?" Mahparah does not answer. She says I might not understand if she told me. After some reassurance and prodding Mahparah says she was killed by her mother and by the society. By now I am sure it's some evil ritual of the community she lives in. I ask her to tell me more. She shared some pictures with me. Pictures of breasts. Deformed breasts. Breasts that looked like they had froth forming on them. Froth of scalded flesh. Blisters and boils. Her breasts were ironed with a hot grinding stone -the traditional way. 

I took one look at those pictures and I supressed a shriek. Mahparah continued to speak without emotion. Three days after her sister's breasts were ironed, her genitals were mutilated. She died shortly after that due to a horrible haemorrhage. It has been ten years now but Mahparah has not forgotten her sister's screams. And her mother's. She remembers her mother screaming... at her sister... telling her to bite her lip and take it all in. 

Mahparah said to me... you're a feminist... please do something about this. Tell people about this. Nobody even knows what we endure. Nobody knows what this is all about. And even if they do... it's only through all the scientific terms they use in articles and papers. Nobody understands the gravity.

 It's true. People know about many problems women face. Seldom have I come across people actually knowing what breast ironing is. Her words saddened me so much that it felt like somebody just placed a rock on my heart. This is why I want to tell Mahparah's story to the world. I really can't say much because I am not at liberty to reveal where she is from. (((Yes she told me not to eve if I said I changed her name :-| :'( )))

To Mahparah's luck, after her sister died... a qualified doctor had come to visit their community. He warned her parents that she would take Mahparah away to America if they did any of this BS to her. Mahparah and some other girls in her community were saved. But those were only a few. 

You must be wondering why on earth they do this. Because according to them the girls don't get raped by boys and men. Because the name of the family is held high. Because there's no loss of reputaion. And genitals are cut because they are evil and they are unhealthy. Because they will cause a woman to become a monster. Don't all these "religious" people who think that FGM should be done because god said so THINK for one moment? If god didn't want women to have clits, then they wouldn't have them. But they do so why cut it off? Patriarchy -down with you. 

A note to all people saying I'm not a feminist BUT I care for women's rights... You know guys? Feminists are not evil devils who want to turn all men into stone and then destroy them with sledgehammers. We only want equality. There are some bad apples who claim to be feminists but they want female superiority. I think they're idiots. All the real feminists think they're idiots. So if you want equality for women and men then you ARE a feminist. Why the term feminist? Because this has always been about women not getting the same legal or social privileges as men do. Not the other way round. 

Anyway that's not what, Mahparah is a hero to me. To anybody who cares to listen to her story. She is the face of bravery and courage. She stood up to her parents and said she needs to go to school like her brothers. "I'm first in class. I finally beat the boy who sists next to me in math", she said to me with an undeniable sense of pride and innocence. My heat goes out to her and all the other girls in that village who have sad stories to tell but they don't find the time to tell it. They are now shaping the future of their country. 

At the end of it all Mahparah returned to her usual self and with the laughter that captivates all souls, she said to me -"You know Swati, it's good to finally see some girls with breasts!" 

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Bush and the Indian media. Who's the bigger idiot?

An (in)famous specie that looks very much like the normal (and rather intelligent) chimpanzee but shows extreme characteristics of the brainless jellyfish has yet again made its way to the TV news channels and the national newspapers for its irrational comment on the soaring food prices and India.

Now I'd like to state some facts. 65.5% of the American population is obese. That country spends 14.2 billion on food. For PETS. OK so let's say the media over-reacted saying Bush "blamed" India but a) He said 350 million are poor. Sorry to correct you, Mr. Bush but the figure is closer to like 200 million. No, I'm not saying that's something to be proud of. Just that this is no unimportant figure to exaggerate it by the million. And b) He said : “And when you start getting wealth, you start demanding better nutrition and better food”. Nutrition and food? If I'm not wrong he was talking about the middle class and the "middle class" aren't "poor". Civics coaching anyone? The issue with middle class was never malnutrition. I think the whole issue is about him making it sound condescending. It is clear that he does not know about valid statistics. There's no surplus here. It is old news when I say that the poor are starving to death. Not because of inadeqate production, mind you. Just that the storage facilities here suck. We had to even import wheat in 2006-2007.

On the other hand:
I thoroughly "blame" the media for over reacting. I mean what was with the sensationalism? As a student of Journalism I find this to be appalling, disgusting and thoroughly frightening. Where are we heading to? OK so the guy is an idiot but if that's your opinion, express it on your frickin opinion page. NOT on page one with screaming headlines and bigass font sizes. Whatever happened to neutrality in news? This comment of his did not bear any sort of resentment to India. He never actually said this was only about India. He also mentioned China. Some time back Rice (Doesn't that last name sorta act as a pun here? Yeah a bad one but still...) had quite literally "blamed" India and China. But Bush's remarks don't shout the same motives. I'm no damn economy expert but this made even me go "What the... heck."

I shall now go drink to more intelligent presidents and journalists. Oh and cheaper foodgrain prices. I can't imagine a life without either sambaar rice or a burrito.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Today as I sit here having my lunch alone in my room, my thoughts drift back to this same day two years back. I see a terrace and six friends. Standing and talking about everything under the sun.

Suddenly A aimed to hit at B who ducked and C got the shot instead. D,E and F started laughing and E laughed so hard that she started crying. I think about this and I cry. It was beautiful. To always have someone beside you who will not let you feel like you're alone. Solidarity, trust, loyalty... Those were/are the ideals by which we lived and we still do. But then this thing called growing up happened to all of us. And so today we're poles apart but I can tell you... nothing has changed. We have to live where we have to live -- Not close by anymore. We can't spend much telephoning and messaging each other. A) There's no time and B) There's no money. But when we do get to talk to each other... it is one of those things which can not be described... Surreal. To know that the chipmunk that you knew finally got that haircut, the sly fox you felt like beating with a sledgehammer actually said "I miss you sis"... It's just out of the world. Ms. Studious managed time out of her studay (Study day but to her everyday is that so...) and sent me this message : Hey... Sem's going on. Will message you after it's over :)
I swear I could have hugged her. Maybe it's not much but just when you're feeling low there are these faces that you know and these hearts that you've shared so much with say hey you're not alone... It's just the best feeling in the world.

This is one thing among those many other things that MasterCard can't buy. :P

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Rachel Corrie

I don't know why it took me so long to write about her but I now am. The world should know her.

This is the speech she gave when she was in 5th grade:
I’m here for other children.
I’m here because I care.
I’m here because children everywhere are suffering and because forty thousand people die each day from hunger.
I’m here because those people are mostly children.
We have got to understand that the poor are all around us and we are ignoring them.
We have got to understand that these deaths are preventable.
We have got to understand that people in third world countries think and care and smile and cry just like us.
We have got to understand that they dream our dreams and we dream theirs.
We have got to understand that they are us. We are them.
My dream is to stop hunger by the year 2000.
My dream is to give the poor a chance.
My dream is to save the 40,000 people who die each day.
My dream can and will come true if we all look into the future and see the light that shines there.
If we ignore hunger, that light will go out.
If we all help and work together, it will grow and burn free with the potential of tomorrow.

– Rachel Corrie, aged ten, recorded at her school’s Fifth Grade Press Conference on World Hunger

She was an American who left to Palestine to lend her support for the people out there. Her protest was non-violent and like all the other people who wanted to do good for the humanity, she was killed by the Israelis. Crushed by the merciless blades of a bulldozer. She stood up and looked straight at the operator. He carried on and ran over her. Then he moved back and buried her deeper into the sand. She was only able to say : "My back is broken". She was taken to a hospital and later, she died. The American government funds the Israelis and they are yet to say anything about this issue.

These are two interesting links and if you're reading this blog, I request you to please take a look at them.

Palestine will miss you Rachel Corrie. So will the rest of the world. We hope that the Gaza strip will not be taken over by wrongful hands. Rest in peace. You are and will always remain to be mine and many other people's hero. Thank you.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Shawshank Redemption - Salvation comes from within

Thoroughly bored as I was, I decided to watch a movie as I had downloaded enough of them on my computer to last me for a lifetime. I didn't really decide which one to watch until one in the morning. I finally made up my mind and thought that I'd watch 'The Shawshank redemption'.

I was glad that I did. It was amazing. We've heard about genius. This movie was genius on the highest pedestal. I am not exaggerating. This is about one prisoner in the Shawshank prison who was convicted even though he was innocent for murdering his wife and her lover. Right from day one, he started planning his way out. It was meticulous, it was fool-proof and it was unbelievable. He was ordered two life sentences back to back. He got out in 20 years. For the time that he stayed there, Andy Dufresne did a lot. He gave Shawshank the finest prison library. He once played an Italian opera on the PA system and the whole prison heard it. Music was something their weary lives seldom comprised of. Andy obviously did not get away with it.

Andy was a financial tax consultant to many of the officers. He became indispensable to them. Everyone somehow was in awe of Andy. He was tortured by the warden, raped by a gang of prison bullies called 'The Sisters' and he was made to do all the work while others took the credit. But Andy Dufresne did not give up. He still had hopes. His close friend and inmate 'Red' often told him that hope would drive him to insanity. Any man would have believed Red. He had stayed in the prison for long and he could get anybody anything reasonable inside the prison. He was an important man. But Andy wouldn't. Andy still hoped.

20 years later, with the help of a rock hammer and Rita Hayworth (Not saying how), Andy escaped from the great Shawshank prison. He went to Mexico just like he wanted. Later, when his friend Red was released on parole, he went to the place where Andy told him he'd find something. It was a letter and some cash. Then came my favourite lines in the movie. The letter said: "Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things and good things never die." With directions Red joined Andy in Mexico, later.

Whoever would have thought that after serving years in prison, one could go to the Pacific Ocean and to Mexico and could get engaged in building a fine hotel on the beach? Andy would have. And he did. When you have an dogged desire to do something, you end up doing it. No matter how long it takes and no matter what the task is. All it takes is hope, a will of steel, courage, conviction and perseverance. Maybe some lateral thinking too.

SP: It took him a rock hammer and a Rita Hayworth poster to do this.

Try figuring that out before watching the movie!

Monday, March 17, 2008

A day with my best friend

For you TP :)

When I first joined my college, there were two people who I thought I could NEVER be close to. One of them, is this girl who is ebullient and cranky and wants to do ten things at one time. Vaish. Today she is good company when I'm bored. Nice girl. The second is TP. Brilliant woman. And I MEAN brilliant. She aces quiz. So good at it that she made it look easier than a nursery rhyme. Economy, literature, politics - you name it. TP knows it. OK so she is a little opinionated and gives her opinions when not asked sometimes but it is sort of hard for her to see even teachers talk crap and just sit there.

I never really spoke to her properly in the first year but as we advanced into the second, I got to know her better. The first response that you would elicit by TP's mention is 'Intellectual'. But as I interacted with her, I got to know that beneath those owly spectacles and assertive arguments, TP was a really nice person. She has absolutely no arrogance or haughtiness. Yes she has really high self - esteem and she has what it takes to back it up. An amazing writer, TP can shuffle and juxtapose her words so well that I have little doubt that if she ever writes a book, it will sell like hot cakes. Not just because she can make it sound good but because she believes in what she writes and her conviction just makes my respect for her go two-fold. A strong feminist, armed with a library of facts and figures in her head, TP is quite a scare to some chauvinists!

But at the end of the day, my favourite thing about my best friend is that she can really listen to you. If she wouldn't have been there I don't know how I could have waded my way through college thus far! Maybe sometimes she is busy and doesn't get to spend much time with me. But when she does, it is one of the best days of my life. Because she will sit there and listen to you rant, vent out your fury about anything from the stupid budget or the size of Cadbury's chocolates. She's this not just to me but to her lil baby brotha, T and some other people. And I'm sure we all love her.

TP, thanks for today and everyday. You make friendship a celebration. :) I have absolutely no doubt that you'll have no trouble climbing your way up to the top. Thanks for being you and thanks for being there :)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Feminism - NOT male bashing!

Why do people not think for themselves? One day, some women formed a group and stood up on the soapbox and hurled abuses at men. They called themselves feminists.

The media and the people contemptuously dubbed feminism as "evil". Huge error. If I claim to be a doctor and kill someone, will the whole world blame doctors? Doesn't make any sense does it? Why should it be any different for feminism? Today, every time I say I am a feminist, the immediate retort is: "Male basher!". I have some good male company who appreciate that I am a feminist and they know I don't bash them.

If it weren't for early feminists, women wouldn't be writing blogs or going to schools. They would be withheld in the kitchen, forced to draw a veil upon their face and raise kids. Fortunately today some women blog and wear what they want and are not ashamed if they can't cook. Not that they don't face problems.

There is not a single law from which women can seek respite for things like "eve teasing" which is nothing short of sexual harassment. The law states that nobody is allowed to insult the "modesty" of a woman! Ha! How broadminded.

Be it a roadside or public transport. The woman has to put up with so much all the time. Either it's a man ogling at her or it is a man trying to touch her. When the woman retorts, she is looked at strangely. "How can a woman do that in public? Eek!" And that line is coming from personal experience so don't even TRY to refute that statement.

In this society of patriarchy, men have all the power. However, there are some men who suffer too. Why? Because they are not "tough" and "macho" per se. Some men cry, you know. And what do they get told? "Stop crying like you are a girl!". So much for equality. If a guy really WANTS to cook, he gets laughed at. Cooking? Men should be doing engineering, you know! Cooking is a woman's cup of tea. Irony is that half of the time, the women say it themselves. Homosexuals are often looked down upon by straight men. "That is sooo gay!". And the same men watch lesbian porn. Talk about hypocrisy.

Also, some have a notion that women are not "smart enough". Why? They haven't invented many things! Now here I can a) Give you a long list of things that women invented, b) Tell you to be realistic. If you know your history even barely, you will KNOW that women did not have much previously. And all those religious books which have preordained rules for women - I am almost certain that they are made up. Men wrote those books to suit themselves. If it is the word of god then I certainly don't believe in a god who doesn't believe in egalitarianism! Today, boys are dropping out of colleges in the UK because they can't compete with the girls who are getting higher grades. Oh well, so much for the stupid mindset.

For those who think feminism is just a caper, we are not people who are gamboling around over here seeking for attention and frisking away in glory. We have reasons to believe that patriarchy is destructive and that women are oppressed due to it. And until ANY domination is wiped away, we are not going to step down. If feminists fight for women's rights and do not stand ANY kind of abuse or subjugation, unless you are a pervert or an MCP, there should be no trouble at all.

After all, there is more to a woman's life than just "nurturing" and "sacrificing". There is freedom out there. Mere existence is barely life.