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In Quest of Fairness

As a fair complexioned, yet relatively darker sister of two, I have heard my share of fairness-related tropes over the years, from people exclaiming over how ‘fair and lovely’ someone is to people referring to me as the dark or if being kind, ‘wheatish’ one. It has been part and parcel of the Indian psyche for years, whether as an impact of colonialism or predating it by centuries, despite our darker-skinned heroines and heroes of myth like Draupadi or Krishna.
There is now a consumer video going viral about Fair and Lovely and how it makes people feel bad for being dark and it’s time for the brand to shut down. Is it a multicrore brand generating megabucks for HUL? Yes it is, and has been for years. Could it do that without consumer support and empathy? Not a chance in hell.
Brands that are successful manage to do that by understanding or anticipating a consumer’s needs and then producing the products that help fulfil those needs. A Fair and Lovely or Fair and Handsome could not ha…

Women's Day

I am not a big supporter of days – Valentine’s day and Mother’s day and the like – I consider them hokey and made up. And the way that International Women’s Day has come to be represented in society and the media certainly makes it no less trivial – every brand ‘salutes’ women and then goes on to offer discounts for beauty and fashion products as if that would suffice to celebrate womanhood the world over. It is not a day to be ‘celebrated’ and certainly not with sales offers and free spa offers and mani-pedis, as if all we need to distract us from the gender imbalance of society is a few beauty treatments or a shopping outlet. And then the next day we can go back to business as usual!

International Women’s Day should be a day to remind us of the distance covered and the millions of miles to go before we sleep. It is a day on which, as members of society, and the many stakeholders, from government to corporations, political parties, entertainers, artists - we all need to reflect on th…

“ ‘Tis nobler in the mind…”

Looking at the objective third party facts that seem to be emerging, it doesn’t seem like Prime Minister Modi’s gamble of demonetization has paid off in terms of the black money conundrum. It has so far produced arguably mixed results on the fronts of black money, preventing corruption or counterfeiting. Further, there is a quantity of anecdotal evidence and data on lost jobs, micro and small sector troubles and the return of thousands, if not lacs, of rural migrants back to the homestead, in distress. Given that, it seems to have become quite the puzzle as to why poor Indians aren’t up in arms against demonetization.
Hamlet once questioned whether
“…Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind To suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune Or to take up arms against a sea of troubles…” That, Hamlet, depends entirely on how you frame the argument, as Sir Humphrey would tell you!
The entire narrative of demonetization has been masterfully constructed by a skillful communicator to ensure tha…

Sephardic Almond Cake

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JLF, or Jaipur Literature Festival has now been an agenda on my winter horizon for the past 6 years. Every year, with some of my dearest friends, I spend 3-4 days soaking in panel discussions about eclectic topics, readings from books I haven't heard of before and interviews with new authors to be discovered. For the most part, we have stayed focussed on the festival itself, with a rare break for coffee or a shopping and lassi run during a one hour lunch break.

But a couple of years ago, it began pouring on day 2 of the fest. One of the trio was stuck on a flight that got directed from Mumbai to Delhi, Ahmedabad and then Jaipur due to the downpour, thus postponing her arrival time to sometime that evening. The other two - my soulsister M and I - rattled around the environs of the sodden Diggi Palace for a dispirited hour or so before we decided to make tracks.

We had heard about some interesting stores around Jaipur including Dhora, so we decided to head there. Anokhi Cafe happen…

Dangal

Sports films are a relatively newer genre in India and there have been very few films in the genre. Dangal is a classic sports film in the sense of an underdog (underbitch?) who fights against the odds to get to where she is, the early success, arrogance, fall and then the clawing back to victory. The classic redemption story.
But the true story is much more gritty than that. It is the fight against patriarchy, against social norms, against gender dominance by the male, against the stereotypical role of daughters and the traditional father-daughter equation that prevails in Haryana, which is one of the states with the highest gender imbalance. Dangal does a decent job of portraying all of this, even while it glosses over the many struggles that must have taken place in real life against the expected mores and behaviours society dictates for women, in favour of a focus on the relationship between father and daughters.
What Dangal does even better is to underline the terrible condition…

Demonetisation; or The Confusions of a Failed Economist

I’m no economist, despite an undergrad degree that claims the contrary. So, to be honest, I fail to understand the rationale behind the demonetization move. I mean, I’m sure (and hopeful) that someone somewhere has thought this through and that somewhere in the longterm cost-benefit analysis, the pains of poor people going without meals and real middle class people (Not my friends on social media – all of us must now admit that our origins may have been middle class but we are firmly in the fatcats class) dying while queueing up to withdraw money for their daughter’s weddings will all prove to have been worth it. Hopefully the epitaph will read ‘Never before have so few sacrificed so much (55 lives at present count) for so many’ and not the other way around (Never before have so many sacrificed so much for so little)!
But as of now, I’m honestly stumped. Can someone explain to me how this scheme is supposed to benefit the country? There were a few rationalisations given: 1        1. R…

It's Black, it's White

Increasingly we seem to live in a world where everything is Binary. Perhaps it began post 9/11 when the US started looking at the world outside purely in terms of friend or foe. Perhaps it was an outcome of George Bush’s policy of ‘If you’re not with us, you’re against us’. It seems to have cascaded around the world ever since, be it the outpouring of support for either side post Charlie Hebdo or the current public discourse in India. We seem to have become incapable of seeing finer shades of colour rather than pure black or white, or being able to appreciate a hundred and fifty shades of grey.
Each event, each utterance has to be reacted to, and the only way is either total condemnation or wholehearted praise. It shows in the wave of indignation that has greeted Bhagwat’s pronouncements on Mother Teresa for instance. Isn’t it a fact that Mother Teresa was a Christian misisonary and therefore as such her first duty was to proselytize? How does that negate or decry any of the wonderfu…