Friday, October 28, 2011

Dealing with low self esteem/ bad body image

(Thank you to my friends Homer and Anumita  who thought I should absolutely write about this. Here it is)

An ex-boyfriend once commented on how fat and unattractive I was. Luckily for me, he is the only boyfriend to have ever said something so nasty and insensitive, but I am pretty certain that he is not the only person out there who has treated his partner badly. There are all forms of abuse and this is definitely one form. I would say that I am a fairly confident person and I do not usually take peoples' snide remarks to heart. But I want to know from other women (if they are willing to disclose, of course), have they experienced more hurt when the insults have come from someone who they have dated/ been with?

This wasn't all. My writing was torn down and I was called names. Toxic relationships are awful and the worst part is not being able to get out of them. Mine lasted for almost one and a half years and once I was out of it, I could feel the breeze on my face, stare at the blue sky and appreciate all the things I used to appreciate. I didn't know that this could suck the life out of me. I am prone to depression in any case (and I don't mean it in a casual sense. I have had problems with it before) and this did not make things better for me.

I Know I felt terrible about my body and myself and in trying to deal with it, I did two things. a. I wrote detailed letters to my best friend who handled me with kid gloves at the time and b. I took pictures of myself every single day. On some days, I looked nice, some days I thought I looked not so nice, but I made peace with who I was. And who I am. And what I looked like.This idea wasn't entirely original. My aunt once told me that one of the Gender Studies majors at one of the universities she teaches in once did a project on girls' bodies where she asked individuals to take pictures of themselves for a period of three months and submit them anonymously. The idea behind the project was to ensure that all sorts of bodies, shapes and sizes are appreciated.

However, I did deal with it and I have lots and lots of pictures of myself ( I hate taking pictures but I took one picture everyday for the entire year) and if anyone wants me to put them up, I will.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thank you

A journalist that I respect very much-Mridu Khullar Relph- and I started chatting when I chanced upon her blog and wrote her an email telling her about my work as a journalist who had just started out. We struck up a  friendship and Mridu went out of her way to advise and help me. What it made me realise though is that sometimes, all you need to do is reach out and politely ask for help. 
There are a lot of people in the world who are really interested in your work and wish to help you further your goals. Two other people who have been instrumental in furthering my writing goals are Julie Schwietert Collazo and David Miller. Julie ran the Matador Change website and I had first pitched an article to her about Social Entrepreneurs in India. Slowly, we began exchanging emails and discussing everything from Arundhati Roy to the "Day of the Dead". David has painstakingly edited my travel narratives and once gave me a very important piece of advice about my writing-he said to me "don't front" i.e write in as authentic a manner as possible.
Another person I must mention here is the lovely Alyssa Martino. Alyssa and I are writing buddies and often check in on each other specifically in terms of our work- often editing each others' works and pushing each other. Rudrani and I also run our works by each other before we actually submit something. 
The other day, while I was working on my dissertation I realised that I needed to understand the concept of boredom far more intricately than I know, for now. I had heard about an urban ethnographer with an interest in space and place, and knew that he may have insights that I might be able to use in my own dissertation. He wrote back within three days with a complete list of citations and other people that he had worked closely with,that I might want to contact. 
From last year, I have also been receiving emails almost every other day about how to get published or how to apply for specific scholarships. I reply to every single email without fail, even if I feel like I am stretched for time because I know  the thousands of people who were once unknown to me, but who have become great friends and have helped me in the past and continue to help me, support me, give me invaluable advice and act as mentors. Many of my closest friends have volunteered to read drafts of things I write, comment on them, critique them and correct typos for me- all because they wanted to ensure that I can put forth my best work. All my professors have been ever-ready to speak to me and give me advice about academic concerns whenever I have been confused in terms of what my next step should be. 
Literary work, journalistic writing and academia can often be isolating processes. It's great to have the help and support of your mentors and peers. This post is just to let all of you know what a huge part you have played and continue to play in my growth as a writer and as a person.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Yay yay yay!

After scouring the internets the Entire day, I can tell you the name of the book. Shabinay Nibedan  (Ananda Publishers)which rougly translates as "respectfully submitted". In the process of looking for the book, I finished reading Ektu Ushnotar Jonyo and Shukher Kacche. (If anyone wants PDFs, let me know. I'd be happy to send them across)

I finally know which book my literary antecedent belongs to :D

Monday, October 17, 2011


I have never been to a forest in my entire life. I don't exactly know why that is, and I've always envied my friends whose parents/ relatives have worked for the forestry department. My own great-uncle, who we lovingly call Cchordada, spent a great many years in the forests. My parents have thousands of stories to tell about their days in different forests of the country   but after my siblings and I were born, we have never ever visited one or even gone close to one.

One of the things that I want to do in the almost immediate future is to go to one of the forests in India ( recommendations, please!)

Part 2 of this story is even more interesting. I was named after a character in a book that was published in serialised form in Desh Patrika. The story was written by Buddhadeb Guha, a Chartered accountant who is also a very well-known author in Bengal. The woman in the story, the protagonist was  called Reeti Roy and she was a really stubborn woman with a bit of a feminist streak who visits a forest for the first time in her life. There she meets a handsome forest officer called Rajarshi ( Alas, I know NO Rajarshis- the one I know is like my uncle!) who is a fabulous cook, listens to the greatest music on earth, is slightly sarcastic and is a bit of a poet. She leaves something behind in the forest bungalow and from then onwards begins an exchange of letters.

The entire book is written in epistolary form. I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the book. If any of you happen to have read it, please let me know. I want to re-read it. Anyway, I identified with the girl very much and the man i.e Rajarshi wrote very nice letters. That would be Such an excellent way to be chased! Subtle and discreet, but very effective, nevertheless :P

 Baba, who decided to name me after the character, gave the book to me on my 16th birthday. I was a little bit scared to read the book, lest I really dislike it. But turns out- I loved it. Well, if I find out the name of the book, I shall buy it from Flipkart and read it again. I distinctly remember that there were vivid descriptions of the forest in the book. I don't know why, but I'm dying to visit a forest and see Elephants with huge tusks. They are called tuskers, I think.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Published Essay

For those who wanted to read my  Essay for Chicken Soup, here it is :

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


A large chunk of my dissertation has to do with memory and how people and societies remember.  So I have been grappling with these concepts a lot, lately.My elder brother's best friend came over today and we were discussing incidents and events and we realised that we remembered the same events rather differently. This made me think about all the people I have shared spaces with-some of whom I don't see anymore, some of whom I am not in touch with and I wonder if they remember things the same way I do. Chances are, they don't.

For instance, some of the things that were said were absolutely revelatory and even amusing. Maybe we should all write/ share our own versions of stories and discuss it with our friends and family to see who remembers what, and how. It could be interesting.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I watched a rather horrid film the other day. It is called A Little Bit of Heaven. Even though I was really really put off from the second scene itself, I watched the entire film. The reason for this can be attributed to one man and one man alone- Gael Garcia Bernal. What I don't understand is this- why a man as articulate, as intelligent ( and let me not even BEGIN on how beautiful the man is- and not in a plasticky hollywoody Tom-cruise Brad-Pitt way,  both of whom by the way I do not find the least bit attractive) do films like Letters to Juliet and A little bit of heaven?*
The fact that he has done films like Amores Perros, The Motorcycle Diaries, Y Tu Mama Tambien and Babel, has made it so much easier for me to ogle him and like him and actually WATCH and appreciate the films. And now this! Senor Bernal, the fact that you're in it will make me watch the worst films. So please pick your roles carefully, so I don't have to go through the torture of having to watch horrendous films like A Little Bit of Heaven again.

* I am not going on a tirade against chick flicks. But there *is* such a thing called good films and bad films.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Streamline or diversify?

I have been thinking about this a lot lately- is it better to streamline and write only about very specific things or to have a wider repertoire and a larger, more diverse body of work?For instance, I've grown up reading Chicken Soup books and Tinkle and Amar Chitra Kathas and enjoyed them immensely, but I'm possibly fonder of a Kazuo Ishiguro or a Paul Harding. Should my aim then be to restrict myself,try and write only for certain kinds of publications ( out of fear that I might be slotted?) or simply write for anything that does not offend my own sensibilities?These thoughts led to me sharing my concerns with a couple of friends who thought I should diversify.

My aim is to produce writing that not just appeals to me and to a specific audience, but also writing that has mass appeal. And I don't want to try and compromise on a niche piece i.e try writing it in a way so as to have it appeal to a non-specialist reader. I mean, I can live with my pluralism but will people reading my writing get confused? Am I going to appear to be someone with no real focus?

What do you think- streamline or diversify? What are your reasons for each?**

** I have decided to write about anything I feel like (writing about).

Thursday, October 6, 2011


When I suggested to Ma that she should do another degree, since she loves studying

Ma : Tumi MFA koro, ami tahole CFA korbo.

My parents are rockstars. Really.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Home is where the heart is, etcetera

 Everybody knows everybody. Six degrees of separation and the person is your brother's friend, friend's brother, brother's friend's sister, friend's cat's owner's son, and the worst part is, chances are, everybody knows everybody. As a 'burgeoning anthropologist',I have many things to say about this, but we shall reserve my judgments for now and continue with the whining till I successfully manage to cheese everyone off.
It's all well and good when it resembles the first part of the Ekta Kapoor  saas bahu saga- which, come to think of it now, feels like it was shot in the stone age. Much has happened while I was away and Ms Kapoor has graduated to "happening" things like Ragini MMS, and Dirty Picture. But We Digress Here.
The point I am trying to make here, and this is a Very Serious Point- one that should not be taken lightly at all- is the fact that EVERYBODY KNOWS EVERY FREAKING BODY. We all know how that goes, with all the infighting and the ridiculously fragile egos which are frankly more amusing than irritating or annoying.   A very imaginative "what's up? how's life" when the only real thought in your head is that you would really just like to clobber the person on the head, thank you verymuch. Or hear interesting stories about criminals who 'earmarked' their victims by cutting their heads off and playing football with them. Or about a straight-laced boy who made pie charts and bar graphs to track his income and expenditure- who decided that all of this wasn't worth it and that Macchu Picchu was the answer. Or maybe a penthouse in The Caribbean. Or Angola. (While you're reading this, to me a favour and donate to my penthouse in the Caribbean fund. Go on, do it. Don't waste time).
Anyway, like I was saying in the beginning ,everyone knows everyone.The sexy aunties and the parar dadas, the goodboys, the badgirls, the hep and the coolios, the amazing phuchkawalla who cheats us everytime without fail and we have to pay up irrespective of everything. 
And what happens at the end of the day? At the end of the day, You get a  lime green T-shirt from your father which says, "Get a natural High...climb trees." 
You can only imagine what a stressful day it has been. Thums up, and only thums up can save the world.