On The Sitcom Couch

I’ve been watching FRIENDS. I’ve only known of it through extensive pop culture references. I’m only watching it because my content needs are very specific now – nothing dark/gristly (goodbye 75% of heavily promoted streaming content and all of social media), nothing deliberately addictive (tata, cliffhanger ending seasons). And I’ve run out of options that serve up bite-sized portions of 30 minutes or under.

I missed the first wave in the 90s satellite boom because my TV time was restricted – first by my family and later, by myself when I realised my reading had declined and I didn’t like it. I ignored the second wave in the 2000s because I was embracing hipsterdom and more interested in the obscure or at the very least, the contemporary. Plus I didn’t have any nostalgia to pull me. If it hadn’t been for the pandemic, I may have given this millennial 90s nostalgia resurgence a miss too.

But also because of the pandemic, I’m reexamining how I feel about various decisions in my life. It is the filter through which I’m viewing all I read, watch, listen and think. And going through FRIENDS is like pulling up an old showreel of my teens and early 20s. Each episode reminds me of someone from my past and suddenly I know what they were quoting (or in some cases, the fact that they were quoting, not saying). Actions are starting to make sense too.

I was waiting for some slow downloads yesterday and ended up bingeing several episodes. And I found myself absolutely revolted by an early and intense chapter of my love life (details on this another time, another place).

Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry) in F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

I realised the character closest to that person and so many of the other exploitative, quasi-or-directly abusive men I’ve dated, is Chandler. The smart-talking, sarcastic wiseguy. He’s also the one I felt most attracted to, in all these years even from a distance. It hit me when I came to the episode about his mother. Oh My God (let’s do this in Matthew Perry’s voice), that is my pattern. Dysfunctional men with dark backgrounds who wear the guise of cool aggressively to the point of hurting me and never caring. (Here’s an article that presents it as a good thing though)

Ross Geller (David Shwimmer) in F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

I also examined how I’ve felt about Ross, a character I’ve always thought of as boring and meh. This is exactly the kind of man I’ve never given a second glance to. And there have been so many. So the friendships, the dating may go on but these men haven’t made my heart race. I’m still untangling my thoughts on this because I’m realising Ross represents male vulnerability on this show. And there’s a part of me that’s been rejecting that. Shrinkspeak? I reject vulnerability in men because of my own patriarchsl notions and because I’m rejecting my own vulnerability. Whew, that’s heavy stuff to experience while watching a sitcom.

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Male Vulnerability

I read a really lovely book, featuring a club of men in traditionally macho professions (sports jocks, nightclub owners) getting together to learn about women and relationships by reading romance novels. The premise tickled me and its chicklit style carried me through well. Most of all, I found myself feeling very warmly towards men in general.

A couple of weeks ago, I started watching ‘Say Anything’ after having heard so much about it in popular culture and the famous boombox-over-head scene. I didn’t expect it to be this…intimate. The storyline wasn’t actually as dramatic as some of the other big names in the romcom genre. But the scene where the couple makes love for the first time wrung my heart out. Because the camera shows us the guy’s face, speechless, eyes lowered, only feeling. She says, “You’re trembling.” His response, delayed but seemingly on autopilot – “No.” She smiles and says, “Yes, you are.” and she wraps the blanket around him. I haven’t stopped thinking about that moment. It was a moment of tenderness but that’s not new. What’s new is that it was a moment of male tenderness. Of touching honesty, of authenticity and vulnerability IN A MAN.

I’m realising now, it’s what I liked about the Bromance Book Club series too. I haven’t seen enough male vulnerability. It certainly doesn’t get shown to us in books or movies or shows. Most men refuse to acknowledge it, let alone parading it around. I’ve encountered rage and cruelty and grief and control issues, all of which come from feeling scared and hurt and vulnerable. But never vulnerability openly shared. It’s hidden like it’s a shameful flaw.

And yes, perhaps I’ve done my part in attracting only the damaged that stifle their vulnerability, the best part of themselves. Perhaps I haven’t been kind either about letting these men feel like they can share. I’m not taking on the blame of the bad actions of some of the men I’ve dated. But I’m thinking, it’s like living with a bowl upturned over your world and seeing only the people stuck inside with you, bouncing off the edges and colliding against you.

There’s a world within men I’m yet to discover, though I think I’ve glimpsed it here and then with people who aren’t romantic partners. Friends, colleagues, relatives. Maybe a romantic/sexual relationship is the hardest one in which to share your vulnerability. But it’s also the one that lets you turn it into the deepest intimacy.

I’m very hopeful.

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A Thousand Apologies

After I asked women to share instances when men apologized to them, I realised something stood in the way of men and the word SORRY. I want to believe men are as rational & feeling as women and can see the damage done by not taking responsibility for their actions.



So what makes it possible for some men to get past their conditioning, to value a woman’s feelings more than the ego they’ve been taught to nurture & take responsibility for causing hurt? I asked men. The answers brought me much insight into the act of apology.

It’s a learning process for men. As girls, we’re taught to fear many things, which also means to know the price of things. Because boys are brought up without being held accountable, the idea that there are consequences doesn’t occur. By adulthood, the inequality felt by girls has become the rage of women.

The men who do care & feel (which I want to believe is most) feel hit by a ton of emotional debt. A lot of men’s answers to my question were about being apologetic, in general. Not apologising for specific actions. I realised this is a distinction many men have yet to make.

To a woman receiving this, it sounds like shame, not apology. Shame is not useful in remedying a situation. Our own conditioning makes us want to protect men from feeling this uncomfortable emotion. During great upset, it’s awful to feel compelled to take care of someone else when one is wounded, especially by that same person.

When I’m hurt by a man, I want to hear him apologize for that action. Not for existing or for being a man. It’s why I ask “What are you sorry for?” I want him to take responsibility to set things right. I do not want to take responsibility to comfort him, to teach him what his feelings mean. Because that’s not fair on me, already hurt. Because it’s exhausting. And because in most cases, my hurt goes unresolved while he assumes the situation is ‘solved’ because he said sorry.

I don’t need a thousand apologies. So what does a woman need when a man hurts her? That’s the stuff of another post. Leave your thoughts in the comments because I’m still pondering this.

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A THOUSAND APOLOGIES After I asked women to share instances when men apologized to them, I realised something stood in the way of men and the word SORRY. I want to believe men are as rational & feeling as women and can see the damage done by not taking responsibility for their actions. So what makes it possible for some men to get past their conditioning, to value a woman's feelings more than the ego they've been taught to nurture & take responsibility for causing hurt? I asked men. The answers brought me much insight into the act of apology. It's a learning process for men. As girls, we're taught to fear many things, which also means to know the price of things. Because boys are brought up without being held accountable, the idea that there are consequences doesn't occur. By adulthood, the inequality felt by girls has become the rage of women. The men who do care & feel (which I want to believe is most) feel hit by a ton of emotional debt. A lot of men's answers to my question were about being apologetic, in general. Not apologising for specific actions. I realised this is a distinction many men have yet to make. To a woman receiving this, it sounds like shame, not apology. Shame is not useful in remedying a situation. Our own conditioning makes us want to protect men from feeling this uncomfortable emotion. During great upset, it's awful to feel compelled to take care of someone else when one is wounded, especially by that same person. When I'm hurt by a man, I want to hear him apologize for that action. Not for existing or for being a man. It's why I ask "What are you sorry for?" I want him to take responsibility to set things right. I do not want to take responsibility to comfort him, to teach him what his feelings mean. Because that's not fair on me, already hurt. Because it's exhausting. And because in most cases, my hurt goes unresolved while he assumes the situation is 'solved' because he said sorry. I don't need a thousand apologies. So what does a woman need when a man hurts her? That's the stuff of another post. Leave your thoughts in the comments because I'm still pondering this. 🎶: A THOUSAND YEARS: Sting #IWear #SareeStyle

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Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

I asked women to tell me about a time a man apologised to them. Genuinely, taking responsibility for his actions/words, acknowledging damage done.



I received one story about an apology followed by remedying the situation. Another spoke about apologies becoming excuses to turn the blame onto her. One spoke of a true apology that nevertheless saw a repeat of the bad behaviour later, followed by more apologies. One said she couldn’t remember but she was sure she knew some men. If it’s so hard to think of a case, doesn’t it mean it’s too few and too little?

I received a lot of responses from women saying they had NEVER received an apology from a man and did not believe them capable of it. Which is what I want to focus on because that is the majority.

When I watched the film Thappad, I kept thinking “He didn’t apologise.” Not once. Yes, he’s a nice guy. Yes, he doesn’t do this all the time. But he did it that once and he never apologized. Everybody around colludes in ensuring he never has to. So the victim has no choice but to resort to the extreme of divorce.

Was it too much? Perhaps. Who is to blame? The person taking the action? Everyone who left them no choice? Or the person who created the issue in the first place who has still not taken action?

You cannot grant forgiveness to someone who isn’t sorry. And when forgiveness is demanded, it makes it hard to feel even empathy. An insult becomes exploitation.

Ever heard “Angrez chale gaye, sorry chod gaye”? Notice how it’s only used when uppercaste, wealthy men are called to account? Sorry is just a word in one language. But taking responsibility for oneself is universal to the act of being human.

We need to normalise men saying sorry. So many women lace their speech with “Sorry but…” apologising for existing, that it is a trope now. And so few men have apologised in their lives that most women can’t even remember a single instance. How is love, trust or respect to happen without it?

The test of a man is his willingness to take responsibility especially in a world that tells him he doesn’t have to.

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SORRY SEEMS TO BE THE HARDEST WORD I asked women to tell me about a time a man apologised to them. Genuinely, taking responsibility for his actions/words, acknowledging damage done. I received one story about an apology followed by remedying the situation. Another spoke about apologies becoming excuses to turn the blame onto her. One spoke of a true apology that nevertheless saw a repeat of the bad behaviour later, followed by more apologies. One said she couldn't remember but she was sure she knew some men. If it's so hard to think of a case, doesn't it mean it's too few and too little? I received a lot of responses from women saying they had NEVER received an apology from a man and did not believe them capable of it. Which is what I want to focus on because that is the majority. When I watched the film Thappad, I kept thinking "He didn't apologise." Not once. Yes, he's a nice guy. Yes, he doesn't do this all the time. But he did it that once and he never apologized. Everybody around colludes in ensuring he never has to. So the victim has no choice but to resort to the extreme of divorce. Was it too much? Perhaps. Who is to blame? The person taking the action? Everyone who left them no choice? Or the person who created the issue in the first place who has still not taken action? You cannot grant forgiveness to someone who isn't sorry. And when forgiveness is demanded, it makes it hard to feel even empathy. An insult becomes exploitation. Ever heard "Angrez chale gaye, sorry chod gaye"? Notice how it's only used when uppercaste, wealthy men are called to account? Sorry is just a word in one language. But taking responsibility for oneself is universal to the act of being human. We need to normalise men saying sorry. So many women lace their speech with "Sorry but…" apologising for existing, that it is a trope now. And so few men have apologised in their lives that most women can't even remember a single instance. How is love, trust or respect to happen without it? The test of a man is his willingness to take responsibility especially in a world that tells him he doesn't have to. 🎶: SORRY SEEMS TO BE THE HARDEST WORD: Elton John #theideasmithy

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Men With Dark Pasts – Indian Matrimony’s Vyasar

Indian Matchmaking – the show that has Twitter India all abuzz. Self-styled matchmaker Sima jetsets between Mumbai, Delhi and various parts of the US to match up Indians of various backgrounds (though all from a certain economic background) in unholy desi matrimony. The family-approved biodata, the faux pas questions, the awkward first meetings, the dealbreaker-or-not pondering, all topped with a generous dose of casteism, racism, body shaming and patriarchy because it wouldn’t be the Big Indian Wedding without these. So many thoughts.

Sima Taparia, the matchmaker from ‘Indian Matrimony’

But I want to focus on one particular person only, the one that seems like a unanimous favorite. Opinionated Aparna (with pushy/protective mom Jotika) has her detractors. A lot of people could relate to Nadia but I found her kind of bland and generic in her preferences. Do I even bother with the men when they’re the likes of Akshay’s mom (since she is his whole, entire personality)? Or the every SoBo/suburban Gujjuboi I’ve ever known, epitomised in Pradyuman? Claps all the way around for Vyasar, he of the jolly, teddybearlike personality and the one who saves this show from being a roundup of Indian men’s worst faults.

At first glance, I can see Vyasar as not being the cream of the ‘good catch’ crop. He doesn’t have an impressive career, chiseled features, fair skin or symbols of great wealth. You’d think someone like Ambitious Aparna would reject him right out but I actually think if you could get past her overbearing mother, these two might actually work. Or maybe that’s just because Aparna reminds me of myself in my 20s – in a tearing hurry and under so much pressure. It took nearly a decade before that sharp smile cracked to start to uncover who I really was.

And I liked Vyasar from the get-go. Student counseller, respected & beloved by the young people he works with? Loves comics, paints figurines? Check, check, check. There’s so much we could talk about. Then comes the kicker and here’s your spoiler alert if you haven’t already seen the series and plan to.

<Spoiler Alert>

Vyasar has a really dark past featuring a criminally violent father. Should he bring this up or not – a question they leave with the viewers. Alongside we see other singles facing the issue of withheld personal information. It’s easy to respect Vyasar for wanting to be honest and just as easy to say, “Don’t punish him for his father’s actions.” But hold on a minute. When did we conclude that to say no is a punishment? A woman’s affection is not something that’s accorded to the most deserving and taken away if found wanting. Honesty is not to be bartered for brownie points; it’s a hygiene factor.

I’m starting to wonder how much of the popularity wave for Vyasar is a sympathy gesture. Sympathy is not a good foundation for a relationship because it’s contingent on one party being in distress. What happens when they feel better? The sympathy giver feels like they’re not needed anymore. They either lose interest or will subconsciously or otherwise attempt to keep the other person distressed. Hello, abuse.

I have been thinking about what my decision would be if I were part of this group (because many of them are relatable and I think I even saw one of them on a dating app). Vyasar would be the only one I’d even consider. But after learning about this, I would probably want to step back.

I’ve learnt the hard way that love does not conquer all. And it is naive to believe that our pasts do not impact us in big ways. Men, in my experience, do not recover from trauma as well as women do. Perhaps its because they are allowed no room to identify and take charge of their own feelings.

In addition, women, especially romantic partners are held responsible for the problems that men bring into the relationship even from before. I was informed by a boyfriend that I’d have to ‘solve’ the problems of his family, which included a runaway cousin now separated from her husband and estranged from her parents, a mother playing politics with her siblings with said cousin as a pawn, a father withdrawing from his marriage into his own career, sundry other meddlesome relatives and friends. I was all of 23, an only child from a nuclear family. What did I know of these things? I was deemed unfit for the supreme honour of bearing the burdens of that dysfunctional family.

It’s true that Vyasar appears to have a less co-dependent relationship with his family than Pradyuman or Akshay. But even in the far chance that it were possible to have a relationship just with the Indian man only and not his whole goddamn family, what would it be like? I’ve been there as well. The woke dude, promising ‘brutal honesty’, preaching feminism, loving comics even. It resulted in my getting thrown across the room twice, having my nose almost broken, his family accusing me of causing trouble, his mother wanting to use our wedding as a cleanup PR effort for herself, wanting my family to pay for a 5 city circus. Apologies? No. I’ve been called toxic for this by the same woke man and his brigade of pseudo-woke people. And his daddy issues did not include prison or murder threats.

Indian fatherhood ranges from the Instagram/Facebook-ready pictures on Father’s Day to outright abusive but they’re all uniformly absent parents. The majority of the work of parenting falls to the women and there’s just no open for the offspring when the mother happens to be weak, manipulative or toxic herself. It may explain why the norm for Indian men is to be cardboard caricatures of one value at best and failing miserably even at that. Boys learn how to be men from their fathers/father figures and Indian fatherhood is not even a real thing. Daddy issues abound, only in India, it’s men who experience these. It is also a reason why I wouldn’t even consider a Delhi man. Even if he’s really nice, the culture that brings him up in the absence of one parent, is openly violent and misogynist. You cannot escape that no matter how loudly you decry it. What has been normalised for you as a child, becomes a foundation of who you are.

I think it’s a rare Indian man who has the ability to be a functioning, independent adult. It would go into the realm of fantasy to expect him to be these things while carrying around baggage of this kind. So, Vyasar? Sorry dude, you seem like the one spot of humanity in the putrid mess that is still a reasonably accurate depiction of Indian matrimony. But that’s not enough and it’s not an unfair punishment to say so.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Is This Feminism? – Hair Removal

I made my first big purchase in this COVID-19 year. I bought an epilator. Actually, I replaced my old one that finally gave way in May, in the style of all essential devices going kaput right under lockdown.

I felt really guilty about missing my epilator so much these past few weeks. I truly tried to live my hairy truth, rationalising that under isolation it would be easier to get used to as well. After all, my expensively coiffed hair that was ruined with a bad haircut last year, has been growing out at odd angles and I’ve resisted the urge to take my gardening scissors to it. Doesn’t the beauty complex reek of turning women into slaves of our body image? It does.

Image via Pixabay

But my vanity does not. Like the line in my poem, vanity really is my superpower. When I look good, smell good, feel good to myself, I am motivated, cheerful, happy, buoyed. Right now we’re in the worst state of guilt, fear, gloom and anxiety that anyone alive has ever faced. These positive boosts are not small.

I’ve been a regular swimmer at various periods in my adult life so hair on my legs has ceased to be a vanity issue. It’s not practical to hide them till the grow out, as the beauty parlours advise before a wax. That would mean I’d only swim for 2 days a month or have to wear full tights in Mumbai’s sweltering weather. Nuh-uh. I love the water too much to care. When the bigger body shaming issue of darkening skin hasn’t stopped me form swimming, why would a few hairs on my leg do that? And anyone who tells you hairy legs aren’t as aerodynamic (I’ve heard this shit) is lying. I don’t care how the swimsuit looks on me. No, that’s not true. I care about how everything looks on me at every moment of my life. But when it comes to the swimming pool, being a fluid, smooth swimmer is the essence of ‘good’ far more than photograph-worthiness ever will be.

It’s also not because I care about male validation. I learnt a long time ago men have no opinion on women’s bodies (especially if they get a chance to see them naked or touch them). And there’s no reason to give them a chance to have an opinion. My body, my rules and everyone else will shut up. I’ve never known a man to actually notice the hairiness of a woman’s legs.

I did know one man who was sensitive to textures. One time, when he put his hand on my arm, he lingered, his voice softening and said,

“You have such soft skin. It’s healthy and glows. A lot of women are fairer but they have sort of scaly skin when you touch it. Yours feels so good to touch.”

I’ve never forgotten that. It’s one of the nicest compliments I’ve received on my physicality. Yes, it might matter more because my body image issues have also revolved around my skin. But my arms aren’t that hairy and because of my skin colour, hair doesn’t show up as starkly on them.

This episode does point to something else though. My vanity about my skin is in the feel of it, not the look. It’s not even vanity, it’s sensuality. I love how my body feels right after I’ve come out of water – a swim or a bath. I love the way drops feel on my skin. I like the feeling of limbs that are supple and flexible, of skin that gleams with health & care. And hair removal is a part of that. I don’t like the hair on my legs. Admittedly, this is not exactly self-love. But this is not how the hair on my legs always was. Over two decades of waxing, threading and razors have rendered the growth longer and thicker than my natural body hair used to be. It grows out in a way that I do not like to feel when I place my palm on my knee or pull on a pair of tights or socks. It doesn’t make me hate my body; it just feels like a little something that’s less than perfectly wonderful.

I’ve been listening to a podcast titled The Guilty Feminist so I feel a bit better about myself for not living up to the penultimate of feminist ideals. And I remember that I do this for myself. Today was such a good day. I inaugurated the new epilator and my legs feel like they can carry me through most things and curl up in softness tonight. Feeling good has to be a feminist ideal.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Is This Feminism? – Negative Space

We are all facing the question of what privilege means, do we have it, how much of it and what this bodes. Race, caste, gender, religion, language. Privilege creates barriers & hierarchies. Because it’s inherently unjust, it’s also subtle & silent.

People with privilege literally cannot see it. Because their whole existence is based on believing in their worth & rightness, being the default setting of humanity and others being abnormal or undesirable or wrong. Privilege conversations are made further complex by intersectionality. A person may have one kind of privilege (race) while lacking another (gender). We focus on what we don’t have rather than what we do. So we miss (ERASE) those who have neither.

JK Rowling thinks someone whose lived experience is different from hers is ‘erasing’ her own. But to say trans women are not women is actual erasure. Same for All Lives Matter or Not All Men. Focusing on one group is not discrimination against another.

When a group of people say Stop erasing us, they are saying that they exist, they are not abnormal, not deserving of less. To think this means erasure of others is to assume there is only room for one kind of person to live with safety & respect. When someone asks you for respect, they are not asking to disrespect you. When a group asks you for safety, they are not demanding attack on you. They are saying you run the society they live in and have overlooked their needs as human beings.

The only thing the above threatens is the privileged person’s sense of absolute, unquestionable superiority. If you believe that people should not dare to question the treatment you mete out to them, you are being discriminatory. This is not an attack, it is a fact.

Erasure is bad so let’s use the word with care. The page is big enough to accommodate us all. 

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NEGATIVE SPACE We are all facing the question of what privilege means, do we have it, how much of it and what this bodes. Race, caste, gender, religion, language. Privilege creates barriers & hierarchies. Because it's inherently unjust, it's also subtle & silent. People with privilege literally cannot see it. Because their whole existence is based on believing in their worth & rightness, being the default setting of humanity and others being abnormal or undesirable or wrong. Privilege conversations are made further complex by intersectionality. A person may have one kind of privilege (race) while lacking another (gender). We focus on what we don't have rather than what we do. So we miss (ERASE) those who have neither. JK Rowling thinks someone whose lived experience is different from hers is 'erasing' her own. But to say trans women are not women is actual erasure. Same for All Lives Matter or Not All Men. Focusing on one group is not discrimination against another. When a group of people say Stop erasing us, they are saying that they exist, they are not abnormal, not deserving of less. To think this means erasure of others is to assume there is only room for one kind of person to live with safety & respect. When someone asks you for respect, they are not asking to disrespect you. When a group asks you for safety, they are not demanding attack on you. They are saying you run the society they live in and have overlooked their needs as human beings. The only thing the above threatens is the privileged person's sense of absolute, unquestionable superiority. If you believe that people should not dare to question the treatment you mete out to them, you are being discriminatory. This is not an attack, it is a fact. Erasure is bad so let's use the word with care. The page is big enough to accommodate us all. ——————————————————————————- **#IWear-newsprint saree+magnifying glass makeup for @alphabetsambar #CrimeCapers theme. ——————————————————————————- 🎶: BORN THIS WAY: Lady Gaga #theideasmithy

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Bon Feminist!

Are sealions good to eat? How about sadboi trolls? Incel brodudes? Interrupting shitposters?I thought about my claim that my feminism eats these guys on toast then realised it was time to diversify my feminist palate.

Poached MRAs

Let’s start with breakfast, my favorite meal of the day. Thanks to my nighttime go-to-hell-attitude, I’ve said something that draws in that aggrieved breed called MRAs (Men’s Rights Activists), crying about how haaaaard it is to be a man. They tend to be fragile, thin-skinned, full of golden privilege that they hide. Just like an egg.

The worst kind of lockdown man is a lockdown MRA complaining about having to *gasp* clean his own house. And the easiest kind of lockdown egg is a poached egg.
Ingredients are just one egg + a cup of water. Takes under a minute to prepare & another minute to clean up, since there are no grease stains or chopping boards to wash. And it fills you up enough for a couple of hours at least.

Set a small bowl of water to boil. Work up your head of steam so you can blow off several MRAs in one go. When tiny bubbles rise, swirl water clockwise. While it’s swirling, break egg on side of cooking range (not the bowl, it rocks & breaks the egg) and drop a NOBODY CARES into your replies. Drop contents of egg into center of swirling water. The swirling motion keeps the egg white from spreading around, forms into a tiny galaxy shape. Thank you, centripetal force & MRA self-centeredness.

Time to take egg off flame & drain the water. When it looks like the water is almost gone, plop into a katori. Slightly watery but that doesn’t affect the taste & is worth it to have an unbroken yolk. It’s easier to clean than dried up yolk. Dispose off eggshells and MRA sputters with mute button.
Sprinkle a little salt on top and if it’s available, a sprig of coriander. There! In the time it took to write this, I could have poached an egg and zinged a couple of men’s rights activists. With a dash of #YesAllWomen women spice.

Mansplainer 🍆

The substantial Mansplainer is best kept for lunch. Sneak in breakfast before he tells you how waking early will make you prettier & advises you on eating based on his WhatsApp University degree & extensive Wikipedia experience.

Mansplainers are glossy on the surface because they’ve figured out how to speak to (and over) women. Their thorny selves can prick easily. Hello, 🍆. Or aubergine, brinjal, baingan, they’ll have you know. When life gives you 🍆, you haan baba & make a hack babaghanoush.

Don’t slice the tip. Mansplainers may fall apart if you castrate them (women with brains=castration to them). Hold upright, smear 1tsp cooking oil over glossy skin. As mansplainer holds forth, remember to smile. Make a shallow incision lengthwise, ask a polite question. Make 4-5 similar incisions at regular intervals as mansplainer explains your life. Still holding the tip, place him…errr, the 🍆 on an open flame. It’ll take him awhile to realise you’re roasting him. Just keep smiling.

As he starts to deflate, you’ll see the insides of 🍆 turning brown. This is the time to poke holes – in his arguments & into the 🍆. If it comes out clean, it’s done. If he gets a second wind, let him continue roasting. In the meantime, you can do these as you wait: Squeeze a lemon, throw in arguments he can’t refute. Dry roast jeera for 10sec on open pan, list your facts. Stop as he starts to sputter. When you take the 🍆 off the flame, let it & your deflated mansplainer cool for awhile.

In your blender, toss in roasted jeera, lemon juice, salt and depending on how vindictive you’re feeling, a dab of pepper or chilli powder. When things have cooled enough for glossy skin to flake off, you can slice it away. Dump his roasted insides into the blender with the rest of the ingredients. He should have given you enough material to decimate every incorrect fact, every unverified observation and the real zinger – chopped garlic and a dash of “You get so emotional!” Pairs well with parathas or khakras. Serves one smug feminist.

Sliding into Dinner

If like me, you’re prone to theatricality, man misbehaviour decimation will have drawn in suckers for punishment – the DM sliders. I’d love to joke about mini-burgers, about screenshot skewering and more. But after a day of jhaadoo-pocha-bartan-kapde & men getting in the way, it’s time to wind down. So I’ll just do my part cleaning up the digital space I inhabit and my insides that have picked up irritants through a spicy day.

Curd rice is the answer to all evils. I’m Tamilian in this one regard only where I could live in hostile conditions, suffer through unaccustomed weather, unknown languages & strange environments as long as I have a plate of thayir-sadam to eat.

Curd is set in the night with the day’s leftover milk. The best accompaniments are sundry other leftovers. Warm milk just enough to be able to dip your finger in. Pour it into a fresh container (or katoris for single serve curd portions). Add a tiny dollop of old curd to this boiled milk – 1 tbsp for 1/2 liter of milk or just enough to sit on your fingertip, for each katori. Your curd should be ready the next morning and is best kept in the fridge, ready for the night. I let the DM sliders accumulate in my inbox to be tackled together rather than have them intrude into my mood all day.

Rice can be boiled in an open saucepan till you can see the grains turn into the plump, soft rice you like to eat. While you’re waiting, report each DM slider. A little salt added to the water will go a long way in taste. And if you screenshot before you report & block, you’ll have a backup case built in case the DM slider resurfaces.

If you’re feeling upto extra effort, chop up a carrot or cucumber and toss it into the curd rice. And let your DM slider know they’re being inappropriate before reporting-blocking them. Consider it your good deed for the day.

Any spicy/savory food is good accompaniment to curd rice. Salted mangoes, pickles, leftover vegetables, residual gravy, male misbehaviour you’ve tolerated through the day. Put them together, toss them into curd rice.

Bon Appetit!

*Written for @alphabetsambar#LitLab: FoodStories.

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A New Solidarity

#BoysLockerRoom presents an idea of solidarit as a quality used to protect wrongdoers from consequences. Everyone is made to participate as a virtue. I want to reclaim this idea of solidarity. It’s not a fortress meant to protect privilege. It’s a context of support that nurtures people’s better values.

Women are told other women are the enemy, that we can’t be friends, that our relationships with each other can only revolve around a man. We’re encouraged to suffer in isolation. The bonds between women are downplayed, disrupted, even villified. This is because female solidarity opposes the idea of protecting privilege.

For a woman, identity is a tug of war between a world hellbent on erasing us and one fragile body, a delicately built identity, a sensitive set of senses, a limited brain. What do women’s issues have to do with identity & solidarity? I’ll tell you.

My sense of self does NOT come from protecting men’s privilege to be monsters. It does not come from competing with other women for validation from that male idea of solidarity.

My existence is constantly challenged by men whose entitlement I reject. Also by women who benefit from patriarchy by compromising their self-respect. Every nasty barb, every attack by a rejected man, every thoughtless word by a distracted friend, every malicious act by a stranger is designed to remind me that the world doesn’t see me as a human.

But I’m healed by female solidarity. Men cannot do this because they do not have our context of struggle. A woman who knows the fight, can see past it really sees me. This validation between women doesn’t say anything about how strong we are. It doesn’t seek to rescue or make excuses for faults. It affirms & heals our best selves.

You deserve to exist. You are good. You are beautiful. You are love. You are power. You are joy. You are peace. You are all. The universe has a place for you. These matter when a woman says them to another.
We hold up each other’s best selves. Women who understand this are challenging the toxic idea of solidarity by making it about support, not protection. 

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A NEW SOLIDARITY #BoysLockerRoom presents an idea of solidarit as a quality used to protect wrongdoers from consequences. Everyone is made to participate as a virtue. I want to reclaim this idea of solidarity. It's not a fortress meant to protect privilege. It's a context of support that nurtures people's better values. Women are told other women are the enemy, that we can't be friends, that our relationships with each other can only revolve around a man. We're encouraged to suffer in isolation. The bonds between women are downplayed, disrupted, even villified. This is because female solidarity opposes the idea of protecting privilege. For a woman, identity is a tug of war between a world hellbent on erasing us and one fragile body, a delicately built identity, a sensitive set of senses, a limited brain. What do women's issues have to do with identity & solidarity? I'll tell you. My sense of self does NOT come from protecting men's privilege to be monsters. It does not come from competing with other women for validation from that male idea of solidarity. My existence is constantly challenged by men whose entitlement I reject. Also by women who benefit from patriarchy by compromising their self-respect. Every nasty barb, every attack by a rejected man, every thoughtless word by a distracted friend, every malicious act by a stranger is designed to remind me that the world doesn't see me as a human. But I'm healed by female solidarity. Men cannot do this because they do not have our context of struggle. A woman who knows the fight, can see past it really sees me. This validation between women doesn't say anything about how strong we are. It doesn't seek to rescue or make excuses for faults. It affirms & heals our best selves. You deserve to exist. You are good. You are beautiful. You are love. You are power. You are joy. You are peace. You are all. The universe has a place for you. These matter when a woman says them to another. We hold up each other's best selves. Women who understand this are challenging the toxic idea of solidarity by making it about support, not protection. 📸: @shrinkfemale 🎶: GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN-CYNDI LAUPER #theideasmithy

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

We Should All Be Nightiewali Aunties

I saw a trio walk down the main road that I face, last night. Slow, ambling gait and a shapeless collective shadow. As they passed under the street light, I caught a flash of familiar fabric swathes across their bodies. Dupattas, hijabs, masks – who could say? Immediately the thought sprung to my mind – ‘The Nightiewali Aunties’. Because they haven’t been seen for two months. I haven’t actually ever seen them on the main road before in all the years I’ve lived here. And it was too far away for me to see their faces so I’m not referring to any specific person.

India’s 11 week lockdown has just been lifted. From my window, I’ve watched the neon lit, car horn-infested road dwindle to a solo ambulance vainly blaring its siren, while flocks of birds (so many birds) fill up the air and even the ground. I’ve been outside my house, upto the end of the road to the grocery shops 3 times in this period. And I know most women, especially older ones have not set foot outside their homes in this entire period. Stir-crazy does not begin to describe it.

Why did the Nightiewali Aunties catch my eye? After all, long before lockdown was lifted, the neighborhood thugs have been slinking into lanes, defiantly turning up the volume on their tinny mobile phones. An odd couple or two has darted between street lights, snatching companionship, risking not just social censure but also the coronavirus. Two different elderly men have been strutting about the colony walking track, bare-chested at 7AM every day. Teenagers have played out games of cricket and even toss, glancing at the buildings around every few minutes and just a little quieter than usual. The gardener’s friends, usually invisible because of their social class and melting into shadows, have lounged on public benches. It has been 11 weeks of people grabbing public spaces in obvious defiance. Male people.

Image by Annalise Batista from Pixabay

After all, having our movements restricted, our spaces shrunk – this is not a new experience for any woman on the planet. But it is an entirely alien idea to almost every man. Even the ones who have experienced this as control from their families have had the permission to rebel, to flounce out in rage, to stay out longer than curfew knowing the most they’ll have to face is an upset person. 11 weeks have not been enough for the truth of an invisible, possibly lethal virus to sink into the minds of men.

The lockdown has been lifted, not because the curve was flattened but because life had to go on, people had to work, economies had to be restarted. The danger is far from gone. The question is just how many more people we’ll lose and for how long.

If the past 11 weeks have been any indication, I’m afraid we’re going to lose a lot more men faster. And because of the nature of the virus, infections are going to surge because they’re carriers – just like with HIV. I have much more faith in the Nightiewali Aunties taking precautions, following safety measures and prioritising community safety over their personal irritation. In the male of the species, especially the young, I’m afraid I have none. What a pity they’re the least vulnerable of all the human groups.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

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