Category Archives: Times, they are a-changing

Known and tested social structures that are changing due to the gender stereotypes breakdown.

SEXONOMICS: Making Feminism Fun

I haven’t written about SEXONOMICS all these months, have I? If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram or Youtube, you may have spotted a mention or two. Back in the month of love and Valentines, I got attacked at my favorite performance venue. That incident triggered off a polarising among my community with a handful of men victim-shaming me or rushing in to prove their machismo. Many more of them ignored my requests for help. And I realised that I was standing alone for ideas that would get me attacked into submission. I lost all my friends, my treasured relationships.

I also came onto stage, braving crippling stage fright and carrying the wounds of abusive, gaslighting, confidence-shattering relationships. And with this incident, I was being vanquished and systematically bled out.

I found an ally right then, a slight acquaintance that I’d laughed with in the past. She spoke with me and for me. And she asked if I’d like to collaborate on stage. We joined hands with the only man in our space who agreed with our thinking. Drawing strength from each other, we collaborated on a performance piece titled ‘The Parenting Economy‘. We performed it at NCPA during the South Asia Laadli Media Awards. Within a month, we were featured at two other events, one a creative space and one a nightclub. Two months later, another feminist performer invited us to collaborate on a ticketed show.

This is how SEXONOMICS was born.  Dramatic, is that? I’ve barely been able to catch my breath in this journey from solitary feminist struggling for a chance to speak to co-founder of SEXONOMICS.

Each performance has been reshaped in its writing, its delivery but most importantly, in the thought it espouses. We’ve addressed bad parenting, toxic gender roles, troublesome dating rituals, sexist language, the burden of social approval, revenge porn, common fears around sex, gender privilege, feminism and more. We’ve made use of poetry, rap, spoken word, drama, satire and role play. Every single performance has been an apprehensive step fearing retribution like in the past. And every single one has yielded much joy, learning and possibility.

One major milestone this month was Scroll.in carrying the following story about us –

‘With humour and sass, SEXONOMICS  the Band aims to make feminism fun for Indian women’

I am very glad for all the wonderful conversations that SEXONOMICS has made possible for me, with my collaborator but also with others. If you’ve enjoyed my writings so far, I think you’ll like this next stage in my words also. SEXONOMICS is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“People are so comfortable in their minds with misogynistic references,” Pandyan said. “I just want feminism to also be something that is welcome on the furniture of your mind. It ought to be sitting on the same plush sofa that has been the prerogative of Salman Khan or Honey Singh so far.”

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

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The Love Adventure: Past Sell-By Date

What does falling in love feel like? I don’t remember. I am not talking about sex. I am not talking about the compromises people make for companionship. I’m not even talking about socially sanctioned labels and relationship statuses. I am talking about mind-knocked-over, nothing but this makes sense LOVE. I know I’ve glimpsed it, felt it, been touched by it, even if I am not the most gracious of hosts to love.

I have possibly been in love once, maybe twice in my life and even those I’m never entirely certain. I crush often and easily. I stopped agonising over these years ago. Lust became welcome in my mind sometime ago, making it easier for me to distinguish it from emotion. Attraction? That something plus the lust & compatibility checklists – I’ve been circling around it for years, in my writing, in my experiences and it’s a frenemy I’ve come to respect but not fear.

But these days, I find myself mildly disinterested. I have to work hard to feel attracted to someone. It’s not that there is a dearth of intelligent, nice-looking, friendly, accessible single men around. And by getting involved with someone years younger at 30, I opened up my mating pool to a wider group. But they all feel like more of the same. I’ve seen the moves, I’ve seen the fumbles, I’ve weathered the games, I’ve survived the mistakes. What’s new?

On the theory that attraction must precede love, I stoked up the dying embers for someone who’s been on the periphery of my life for years. It took effort to remind myself to communicate with him, to convince myself to overlook the sheer slowness that all of this takes. It’s not that he’s an unworthy person, as such matters go. Late 30s, intelligent, independent, adequately ‘my type’ as far on the lust meter, single and acquainted (maybe even friends) with me. We were talking about our work and the daily things that occupied us. I heard a note of something in his voice that I didn’t like.

“You don’t think this is a big deal, do you?”

I asked, my tone mild. But he’s wise enough to catch the challenge in my words, if he listens. If he listens. He said,

“I do think that a lot of the issues you’re stressing about are non-issues, yeah.”

And just like that the embers died.

I feel zero, zip, nada, NOTHING for him after that statement. Not anger. He doesn’t get it and he doesn’t have to. Not a burning desire to prove myself. Does it matter to me what he thinks? No, not much. I know relationships take effort. But should wanting to take that effort, itself be so much effort? Oh no.

It has been over a week since that conversation. I have barely thought about him since then. He texted a couple of times and I texted back. Both times we found excuses to not meet. Valid reasons but we’ve both lived long enough and bravely enough to overcome reason when we’ve wanted to. It seems neither of us wanted to, enough.

I guess I’m documenting this here just in case in the years that come up, I look back and wonder why I never considered him. I did. But there was nothing to take it forward. Damn. He was the best prospect in years and years.

Have I tired of men? Has my violently dramatic past burnt out any joy I can take in love, romance and attraction? I am not old enough to be at retirement age. But at the prime of my life when I enjoy a combination of experience-based confidence, hard-won privilege and good health, I feel so little inclination to use them in the humankind’s oldest endeavour – to seek love and companionship. Maybe there is a shelf life to one’s own capacity for wonder, a necessary component in love and attraction. Mine seems to have crossed its expiry date.

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

Fairytale For Feminist Girls

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

 

GIRL TALK 

Girl Talk

There’s nothing like girl talk between former tomboys.

It’s dreams and drama
and nostalgia and world dominion
and yearning and alliance and fireworks
all in one.

Be a girl.
At least once in your life.

If you liked this, please follow my microfiction/micropoetry at https://www.yourquote.in/ideasmithy

The Ugly Male Face Of ‘Cannot Cope’

I always thought India hates its daughters. But now I believe it hates its sons even more.

One of the biggest advantages that I have is that I was given a realistic view of the world’s indifference and even hostility to my existence. Yes, this is an advantage because growing up aware that you need to work hard and fight for every good thing possible lets you develop this skillset. It teaches you that if the world does not accept you, you don’t shatter; you just try harder. It lets you not take anything or anyone for granted. True, it gives you trust issues. But in our world today, I think I’d rather have trust issues than survival issues.

I predicted this years ago, when my twenties were full of boy-men treating me and other women callously, thoughtlessly, cruelly even. The tables would turn and they are. It’s not that women are getting a better deal. No, we’ve learnt to cope. After all, we were trained to deal with betrayal and unpredictability, in a near-Spartan manner since we were little girls taught to flinch under the male gaze, tiptoe around fathers and brothers and work for their approval. We’ve survived and continue to do so.

But the men? Look at the male half of most break-ups, divorces, broken friendships and even layoffs. Do you see more calories? Greyer hair? Lesser hair and more paunches? More missed calls but also fewer Tinder matches? Higher debts on accrued credit card bills? More rumpled clothes? More dripping venom against life in hate-speech on the internet, stage performances, watercooler conversations? Fewer friendships? More bad behaviour at parties?

This is the ugly male face of Cannot Cope, Cannot Deal With Adult Life.

*Image via Pixabay

These are cracks appearing in the Raja Beta syndrome, as its foundation stones of the manipulative, infantalising family, ages. What happens to a full-grown adult who has been handicapped of social skills and deprived of the freedom/ability to take responsibility for his life, when the crutches falter? That is a damaged human being. Meet The Indian Man.

This one is struggling through a divorce, still bewildered that such a thing could happen. That one is dealing (very badly) with palpitations, diabetes, blood pressure, liver troubles and hating the medical system for it. This one feels inadequate at work, can’t find a way to rise and decides his women classmates must be sleeping their way up. That one can’t stand to see his wife spend so much time on Whatsapp and Facebook, can’t stand the TV they watch and can’t stand it when the electricity is off either. This one hates his colleagues, hates his fellow commuters, hates the spouses of his wife’s friends, hates his neighbors, hates the service staff and thinks it’s just that the world is wrong. That one thought he did everything right, degrees, labels etc. and yet everyone else looks happier than him. This one thought he was the cool one so where did it all go wrong? That one has no idea what to do when his spouse doesn’t get along with his family, is clueless when a job or a relationship ends and has no idea how to take care of his parents. Or himself.

This system is harsh on me but it has actively betrayed the Indian man. I’m truly sorry for all of you. I will not take care of you because that’s just allying with the system. I know many of you will not see that. I also know this the reason you turn your nameless rage against the system onto me and other women. But I’m still sorry. It’s the system, people who were supposed to love you that let you down, not me. All I can say is, it can get better and hatred is not the way.

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

No Games, Only Equals

It’s housekeeping time in the relationships corner of my life. I find myself going through this periodically. I unfriend people on Facebook that I don’t even remember ever interacting with. I withdraw from groups and communities that I do not find myself engaged with. And hardest but most important of all, I draw boundaries with people who have drifted into my life.

I live a very porous life most of the time. For the past seven years, I’ve been sharing so much of life online. My work is inextricably linked to the other things in my life. And I’m an active part of the large creative-intellectual tribe both online and offline. All of these mean that boundaries are constantly being dissolved and frequently, new ground is broken where no structures exist. I hate labels, after all.

But the downside of this is that I find myself frequently sapped by the world around me. People presume too much. People give too little back. Situations spiral out of control. And everything crashes as I scream ENOUGH! I bounce back from these pretty quickly and usually back to a life that has very few of its original inhabitants still standing, the rest swept away in the outburst or shellshocked. I’ve done it enough of times and now I know this is not something I need to be ashamed of. It still is tiring, though. The alternative is to live the kind of cloistered, rigid life that would suffocate me before anyone else.

In the past week, I have exploded at this completely awful person. And that is the only way I am able to think of him. If he had shown just a bit more spine, things would have been different. But maybe I also only got as much as I believed I could get. I was glad he didn’t hit me or abuse me. Those are really low standards to hold a human relationship to and I know better now. I ask more from relationships and people now. If a person needs so much game-playing to acknowledge that they like me, maybe that’s not going to turn out great and I deserve better. Equals do not play games; they have conversations.

We know that men are socialised to take and take and take and never give back. And as women, we have been socialised to give, give, give and never question. We are now learning to identify this earlier, call it out and hopefully start teaching the next generation of men to not be so parasitic in nature. But what makes us think men are the only parasites? There is a new breed of Alpha women who think they have to be like men to succeed and that includes being self-centered, manipulative and toxic. They give their admiration quickly and voluminously. They shout it out from the tops of buildings. And they crash spectacularly. Then they lash out. Viciously.

One of them (who in the past, has woken me up at 2 in the morning to discuss her relationship, in whose support I have judged and turned my back on people who didn’t do a thing to me) told me,

“Oh I didn’t notice what was happening to you (right before her eyes). I have problems. I’m selfish. And I didn’t know we were ghosting each other’s exes.”

Her words sliced through me. Was I being selfish? Was I being needy? Was my problem (getting attacked) that trivial? I realised she was doing exactly what my abusive ex did – gaslighting me.

Another one’s callousness cost me a paying project for no fault of mine. She did not apologise. She sounded annoyed when I called her out on it. She said I should ‘understand’ because I run Alphabet Sambar. When I told her no one had ever lost work because of me, she threw out,

“You’re just so perfect, aren’t you?”

She did the other thing my abusive ex did. Reeked resentment and rage at my successes and tried to make me apologise for her shortcomings. It wasn’t even the first time she had done so and I had forgiven her for it.

I had a sudden realisation. Both these women remind me of this other person I cut out last year. I felt the same vague unease each time they announced to the world that they were ‘such good friends’ with me. I winced each time they parrotted out speeches about my strength, my style, my personality and my writing/poetry. I know now what this is.

I was not their friend. I was a trophy. There is an insidious kind of label that I’ve been unable to avoid because I didn’t recognise it as a label. That’s the ‘I WANT TO BE HER’ label. This label marks me off as a benchmark or trophy but not a human being. This is not normal appreciation I’m talking about. It’s an onslaught of starry-eyed compliments that are being heaped in the hope that I will like the giver. It’s trading flattery for validation. And worst of all, it absolves the other person from the responsibility of being an equal – a friend.

* Image via Unsplash | Jasper van der Meij

I know this now because of two things. One, I do have actual friends who express their appreciation of me but also treat me as an equal. They call me out when I’m being stupid or weak. They joke with me. They step up when I need them. They do not resent my needs. They do not react violently at my imperfections. And finally, they never throw my achievements back at me.  And two, if these women remind me of the abusive men in my life, then what they’re doing is not friendship any more than what those men had for me was love.

I finally realised I enable all of these. I allow people to seep in. I allow people to call me friend (what a hateful term it has become, to cover all manner of sins) without thinking about whether our bond is that strong or that equal. I have not yet learnt how to gently put deflect such forced labels. I do not want to hurt the people who attempt to hang it on me; they do it from a deep hungry need and a misguided sense that I can satiate that need. But I cannot allow myself to be preyed on by the endless, one-sided neediness. I want to be able to give boundlessly but only to people who do the same back. I want fulfiling two-way relationships, not a fan club. Maybe I can learn how to deal with these women the way I learnt to deal with those men.

Once again, equals do not play games; they have conversations. Whether those games start with trading insults or excessive compliments, I guess they’re still games.

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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.

 

Don’t Flinch: Love In A Clickbaitey World

Love. It got so much harder with age. The finding of it, the keeping of it. But mostly, the being okay with it.

We are the generation that’s living life in flinch-decision mode. Swipe Right, Unsubscribe, Alt-Tab, Mute, Disconnect. No wonder our biggest addition to the world of relationships is “It’s complicated” and “ghosting”. Do we give up too easily? An entire generation of us cannot be uniformly more cowardly, weaker or superficial than the generations of humans before us.

No, I think the world is changing faster than it ever has. It’s already a universe different from the ones we were being groomed to enter. Nothing makes sense. And no one taught us how to deal with getting hurt. We don’t even allow each other (or ourselves) time and room to heal. Get over it, snap out, set his letters on fire, flush her pictures away, we say. Quick, quick, instant heal, instant burn, instant crash. It’s exhausting.

I decided not to react but live instead. I decided to hold off on flinch reactions for as long as I could. So I did not write reams of hate posts or heartbreak poetry about the diltoot (well, not too much). I briefly lashed out but I set it right. And before I knew it, we’re already three months into 2017, taxes are being computed and the world is making plans for the future.

In between all that, this nightmare happened. I got rescued, which is a novel experience for me. Nobody was around to even offer a kind word when an asshole was abusing me in college or when a ‘feminist’ fiance was beating me up and collecting accolades for singing about it. I got used to not being rescued, then I got used to being suspicious of anyone offering refuge and finally, I forgot what rescuing or even kindness looked like. This only happened because well, too much happened and I crashed. I would never have set foot on stage again, if it hadn’t been for this rescue. And instead, because of it, I went back onto that same stage and I led the orchestra. (Metaphorically speaking, that is – I opened an event that’s gone viral and then curated and hosted the follow-up event that got such a response that the venue got mobbed). I’m very tired.

I like my rescuer. It doesn’t go anywhere. Should it? Should I? What else? Have I lined up options? Have I protected myself? Am I looking at the big picture? Am I missing any details? Who’s SuperLiking me on Tinder? Is my Snapchat account still alive?

I don’t have to make a decision. I guess I don’t have to do anything. I have to remind myself of that often. I just have to take a deep breath and live through whatever happens. At 37 and single, I’m not really as raw as I was at 22 and abused or 31 and gaslit/dumped. But my reactions come from a place of habit. These habits don’t serve well. I’ve always prided myself on being able to acquire and drop habits easily. But how do you drop your flinch reactions without flinching?

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

Relationship Status: Between Swipe Right & Made In Heaven

Welcome again to the Dating Guide! I feel like it’s time to bring it back. This time perhaps as Dating Thirty-Plus? Or perhaps, The Dating Millenial Part 2? Never mind the nomenclature. It has changed.

I’m dating again after the better part of a decade. Most of these years were wasted in a relationship, engagement and the aftermath of the break-up. A year or two before that was frittered away waiting for the world’s systems (social and technological) to catch up with my (and now, I realise many of my generation’s) needs. Some of the time since the break-up has been spent healing and relearning trust, humour and strength, all essential skills for the single person setting out to find a match.

What do we find here? The dating landscape of the noughties decade is acknowledged today (bravo, bravo India, we finally feel able to admit to it). Human relationships and their creation have gone digital (once again, cheers). We now have a clear picture drawn in line strokes. Black and white.

At one end, we find that matrimonial sites are now acceptable and mainstream. After all, our mums are today’s biggest Skype and Whatsapp users. So it’s possible to find Higher-educated, Attractive, Family loving, Travel-enjoying, Horoscope-matched, Career-aligned, Well-Recommended matches at the tap of a button.

Simultaneously, jostling for screenspace with the aforementioned are services that let you Swipe Right for Hells No, Swipe Up for In Your Dreams, Swipe Down for Sexchat But No Meeting and Swipe Left for Your Place or Mine?

Which side do I pick? Umm, neither. I spent my 20s deeply uncomfortable with the chauvinism of wedding rituals, protesting the patriarchial hold on relationships and being shocked by the gender disparities in the law about these. Marriage? Uh, wait a minute please. I now have names for those niggling worries. I have proof of terrible idea for these outdated social systems. And now justifiably, I’m freaked out by anyone whose life goal is to get married and approachs it with the same one-minded zeal as chasing a professional deadline. So, no thank you ShubhShaadi, TurantVivah, JeevanSaathiya. I think it takes a lot more than a matched horoscope, profile, three templatised messages and one conversation to guarantee a happy marriage. I don’t know what guarantees one to be fair, but these are definitely not enough.

At the other end is the icy-chillness of the space (ironically) named for fire-related paraphrenalia. I don’t get hookups, I don’t want hookups and I’m too old to lose my self-esteem over that. In my opinion, it takes far more effort to have only sex-no strings attached than to try and build a relationship. I’d rather stay home with a good book, my feet dry in this horrible weather and my body clean of all the nasty things that doing the nasty with someone you don’t quite know could acquire.Digital choices

I don’t believe I’m an exception or a misnomer. I am looking for meaningful relationships. Someone I can laugh with and talk about important things with. I want to feel cherished and desired, but not in the flashy, Instagrammable romantic gesture way. I want to care about how someone’s day was rather than critique and optimise their itenerary. I think these are the stuff of life itself and just like life, don’t follow rigid schedules and previously agreed upon boundaries. I want a connection, not the Terms & Conditions document of Tinder nor the 30 year merger plan of Shaadi.

I want to think that this is true of most human beings because how can it not be? This is the driving need of every generation for centuries. I know that there is an entire generation of Indians just like myself. I think perhaps the ones venturing out into the digital space are just louder and even they are probably being cautious. It’s easier to navigate a straight line drawing; much harder to explore the grey that relationship-building is, especially if one has been bruised in the past.

It makes the dating game as tricky as it has always been. When I connect with a person, how do I say please don’t treat me like a piece of meat because I won’t treat you that way but also please don’t think I’m your Manic Pixie Dream Girl answer to all your problems just stop and breathe and give me a chance to be me and you a chance to be you and let’s see if maybe you and I could have a conversation and a walk together and see where that goes?

No, there’s no easy way to say all that. The Tinder types have lost interest at ‘please’ itself (rudeness is considered cool, isn’t it?). The Shaadi sort has lost their hearts because the English is correctly spelt.

Sigh. Patience. Maybe the next decade will be better for the grey zone of those looking for love.

*Images courtesy David Castillo Dominicio and sattva on FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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

 

Why I Returned To Tinder After Being Burnt

Jab Tinder And I First Met

I first got onto Tinder in early 2014, when it was new to India. So little was known about it then that I didn’t even realise its reputation as a hookup app. You see, I’m one of those few people that keeps up to date on what’s cutting edge in India, not what was fashionable last month in Los Angeles or London.

It was a horrendous experience. Two people I met, acted as if sex was an agreed upon deliverable and like I was a defaulting small business owner. Yes, exactly as businesslike as that. They were both MBAs from top universities and their behaviour was the kind we usually attribute to ‘low education, underdeveloped social conditions, poor exposure, regressive social customs’. There was talk about no strings attached sex and open relationships but no notion of consent or respect. These were the two I met.

Then there were the married men. Men I knew to be in committed relationships, but who had no compulsions hitting on me when they saw me on Tinder. There were rabid messages. The guy who asked, “What kind of a woman is on Tinder anyway?” The ‘wanna sex’, ‘send nudes’ messages that are practically memes now but were new to me then. Shaken, I added one line to my bio that I wasn’t looking for hookups. The matches dried up instantly. Then a friend found my profile and demanded to know what ‘use’ I was to the platform if I wasn’t offering up sex. He poured an onslaught of hate messages at me till I blocked him. And then I deleted the app and swore off.

This is the Indian man I’ve encountered and learnt to be wary of.

digital-dating2

Enter a caption

*Images courtesy David Castillo Dominicio and sattva on FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Life Since TinderBurn

I’ve given Tinder a wide berth since then. But I’ve dabbled with some of the other upcoming dating and match apps. Most of them see very little activity. I struggle to connect with the few people I do see there. And it’s frankly depressing to think that men my age are so devoid of looks, language, social skills, hobbies or literally ANYTHING that could hold my interest. The

Then it occurred to me that I was looking in the wrong places. Any kind of matching activity is a game of statistics – the greater the base size, the higher the chance of finding something of interest, if not value.

A recent revelation was that Shaadi.com (and similar matrimonial sites) were no different. I say revelation, because back in the early 2000s, I was on those sites as well, a combination of a ‘marriageble age’ and a very techno-savvy family. I met quite a few people. No one really clicked but we either stayed friends or just moved on in not unpleasant ways. It’s a strange feeling to discover that a space that you were an early entrant into, has turned into a cesspool. Well, I can’t complain, that’s true of Twitter as well.

Getting With The Hookup Generation

Maybe the problem is not Tinder or any one platform. Maybe it is a behavioural trend across our generation. I guess ‘the hookup culture’ is a real thing, not just what decripit old people say about the younger generation. But I don’t think our generation necessarily enjoys it either.

I’m coming to believe that most of us have very simple needs. We all want to find someone that feels comfortable and comforting. We want to be with someone that likes us and who we like too. While many of us are distracted by the glitzy allure of variety, anyone who has actually lived this life will attest to how tiring it is. Human beings are exhausting. Who has the energy to keep drawing boundaries? This is the channel-surfing of relationships and it’s just as unsatisfactory with people as it is with TV programs.

Yet, we do it because we can’t remember how not to. We’ve bought into the belief that somehow this keeps us safe from the (admittedly horrible) danger of heartbreak. When the problem is a generational one, shutting it out means shutting out the whole world.

Strike A Match, Swipe Right

I’ve been hearing slightly better things about Tinder, from both male and female friends. I figured that this where the numbers were going. And Tinder’s mutual match access might be some sort of protective measure. So over two years and much dithering later, I signed up again.

I had forgotten how good Tinder is for a woman’s ego. Everyone I swiped right on, matched with me almost instantly. 😊 Some of them were even Super Like (which in all fairne2016-09-13-17-43-29ss may just mean there are still way fewer women than men here). I also saw more than one man’s profile that categorically stated ‘not looking for hookups’. The cynic in me thinks that’s just a lot of men’s way to get women to swipe right. Even if that’s so, it indicates an acknowledgement of what a woman may want and that’s the start of consent.

And finally, Tinder is the first and only place so far where it’s possible to reject a man. In real life, say NO and men get defensive, nasty and frankly scary. Everywhere else on the internet, displeasing a man (even by saying ‘No thank you’) means a woman can expect a disproportionate amount of hate. But on Tinder it’s as easy as swiping left and hopefully one never has to think about it again because the men don’t know.

Twenty-four hours in, I will say that it feels a lot like Turbo Speed Dating. Swipe left, right, chat up, unmatch, juggle – these require a degree of concentrated energy that I may not be able to sustain for long. But that’s okay. Socialising is high octane energy and I’m fine as long as there’s a protective shield.

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

Happy Bhaag Jayegi Makes A Surprising Escape From Patriarchy

I caught Happy Bhaag Jayegi earlier this week (heh). It was full of the requisite hammy performances and stereotypical Punjabi loudness. But something stood out for me – an easter egg called feminism hidden inside what looks like a typical Bollywood film.

Diana-Penty-In-Happy-Bhaag-JayegiHappy is a high-spirited Amritsari girl with equal measures of determination and naivete. She is part Geet from Jab We Met, part Pooja from Dil Hain Ki Manta Nahin. She has a (rather nondescript) unemployed, dimwitted boyfriend who can’t summon up the energy to take their relationship further. So Happy proceeds to get engaged to a local contractor, Bagga. An elopment plan is made (masterminded no doubt by Happy since the boyfriend is so somnolent) which goes wrong and Happy finds herself over the border, alone, in full wedding regalia.

At the surface of it, it’s a loud, raucuous comedy making light of the Indian stereotypes of a bullying father, an overpowerful fiance and a hapless lover with the damsel in distress at the center of it. But Happy isn’t a helpless waif and neither is she a victim of her circumstances. Compared to her, all the men come across as silly, weak and clueless. She doesn’t appear bogged down when she’s being bethrothed to one man, even while her lover mourns at the gates of the party. She’s not defeated when she finds herself in Pakistan, minus passport, money, contacts or even a mobilephone. She isn’t even abashed when she’s arrested by the Pakistani police.

Yes, a lot of these could just come from arrogant naivete. And her situations are saved from becoming tragic by the presence of good (though weak/clueless) men. But that is the reality of life and feminism. A strong woman is not a superwoman who doesn’t need anyone else. And men are not all villains in the fight against patriarchy and repressive gender roles.

I first noticed it in Abhay Deol’s character but I thought it might just be nuance added by this (admittedly intelligent) actor alone. But there’s a recurring pattern in all the male characters. None of them are supervillains and all of them (in varying degrees) treat Happy as a human being, not an object.

Happy’s father cuts a sorry sight as he stumbles through Lahore streets, begging passers-by to tell him about his lost daughter. The overbearing patriarch has come a long way and he’s just a father devasted by the loss of his child. He is the only man to cling to an outdated sense of gender roles and he is suitably chastised by circumstance.

Bagga, the would-be fiance, is a local thug. Possibly due to the comedic nature of the movie, his response to Happy running away doesn’t become violent. He stays focussed on wanting to marry Happy. He even manages to turn potential humiliation into a sympathy vote for himself. No victims there either (I think he’d have made a good spouse for Happy) and he does it without slandering or punishing Happy. His chest-thumping machismo is cuckolded by intelligence and there is a sense of his having grown and moved on because of it.

The puppy-faced boyfriend gets to Pakistan, with a lot of help from everyone else. Yet, the night before the wedding, he is able to rouse himself out of his stupor to think beyond himself. He summons up the courage to ask Happy’s benefactor if he is not in love with her too. What a contrast from the usual depiction of the Indian lover as an entitled, jealous stalker!

Bilal, the benefactor, is mostly a privileged Pakistani counterpart of the boyfriend, ineffectual due to parental pressure (what’s Guddu’s excuse?). But he acknowledges that Happy’s influence makes him bestir himself and take action. I loved the complexity in his relationship with his own fiance. His fiance Zoya is truly his partner in crime through the film, rather than a helpless all-sacrificing woman. Bilal doesn’t turn into superman overnight but he fumbles, he yearns, he broods and he reaches a decision about his own life. And of women, he says,

“Madhubala to Dilip Kumar ko bhi nahin mili thi. Par yeh zaroori nahin ki Madhubala ko kitne chahate they. Yeh zaroori hain ki Madhubala kisko chahati thi.”

I haven’t seen a Bollywood love story in a long time, that acknowledges a woman’s consent. Bilal’s statement makes this a story about what the girl wants and her right to have it, rather than making her a trophy to be won by the best man. This makes me very happy and I’m quite willing to forgive the flaws in the movie for this one dialogue alone. Maybe the world is changing, even if not as quickly as I’d like it to.

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