Friday, 21 September 2018

Drag

At a Blank Noise silent walk a few years ago, we strolled down the Carter Road promenade holding placards making statements about street sexual harassment. (I forget what my placard said.)
As we walked, I noticed something… different about the way the evening walkers looked at me. About halfway through, I got it. When we walk in public places, we unconsciously meet eyes, signalling the way we pass each other; that wasn’t happening. Every eye I passed was looking at my chest.
That’s the closest I’ve got to experiencing what to feels like to walk our streets as a woman.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Unfit

“Where’s today’s 100?”
“But I wrote a piece today! Stayed up all night to do it!”
“So, that’s like you did a formal event today, so no workout?”
“Yeah, I mean this was strenuous. The recording file got corrupted, and I had to struggle through my notes. And you know how bad my handwriting is.”
“Okay, so how many words did you write?”
“800ish.”
“Poor baby. Was it tough?”
“Struggled right through. Maybe I was sleepy. But I had committed to have it ready.”
“So you can’t write smooth and fast? You’re out of shape? More riyaaz, perhaps?”
“FUCK. Fine.”

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Ad habits

Spending years as an advertising copywriter teaches you good things. To understand your reader, the better to persuade her. To accept you are the interruption, not the reason she is reading; you had better work hard to hold her attention. And brevity (see previous sentence). To rejoice in the huge difference art direction can make; to collaborate, not just hand over lines when you’re done. Bad things? You — or at least I — become a slave to the brief, immobilised without one. Where is the background information? Life experience? Shudder. What am I selling? My thoughts? Why would anyone want that?

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Heal thyself

I gave you unsolicited advice yesterday. Write, I said. Write even when you don’t think anyone could possibly be interested in what you have to say. Put it on Facebook, and persevere even if it seems like no one’s reading. It’s exercise, I said; do it like you do your workout, not to show off how fit you are, not because you have a trek or half-marathon coming up, not with any other reason but to stay in shape for its own sake. Write fifty words, a hundred perhaps, before you do the rest of your day. No cheat days.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Sometimes

I've posted this poem before, but I feel like posting it again because it now has an even more special meaning for me.

I first read it in a new year card from Vikram Doctor (who isn't on any social media).

Doccy and I were colleagues at the start of our advertising careers. He had PG digs near office, and I crashed there often when we both had worked super-late. He introduced me to much classical music I'd never heard before, particularly opera (knowing I loved musical theatre, he cannily started by lending me his tape of Phantom of the Opera) and poetry I hadn't read.

Doccy was also the first gay man who came out to me, some years later, when we were no longer colleagues. I was a bit surprised — he didn't fit my mental stereotype of how gay men behaved; I even remember letting him know that a woman friend of mine had a thing for him — but our having being good friends for some time then, my respect for his brains and sensitivity, all these made me question my own biases, and really, it didn't take much longer than that particular conversation for me to see how wrong I was. (The only delicate part was that I had to tell that woman friend that this was something that wasn't gonna happen, and why.)

We've stayed friends for more than two decades. Not close, talk-every-day friends (I increasingly suspect I'm too emotionally stunted and/or self-centred to properly nurture such friendships), but when we talk or meet, it's as if the long gaps don't matter. He described it better in a warm, sensitive email he wrote me when John died; he told me the story of someone else he knew who had lost a loved one who had lived with a similar disabilities, which he segued into with this: "It was, I guess, one of those semi-work friendships, when you can get close but don't really keep in touch after your workplaces diverge, and yet that basic connection isn't lost and you can always catch up every couple of years or so (not unlike you and me!)"

Doccy isn't just the writer with a cult following — particularly when he writes about food! — who many of you read. He is also someone who has made time from his day job to work tirelessly for LGBTQIA causes, though you won't often see his name in bold print.

When the news came out the other day about the Supreme Court judgement on reading down Section 377, I remembered him first, even before I remembered the favourite aunt who I'm reasonably sure was gay, but never out. And I remembered this poem.

Sometimes

Sometimes things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.
(Why the poet's name isn't mentioned.)

Monday, 30 April 2018

Sauna sonnet

If I should compare thee to a summer's day
It meaneth this: thou dost me irritate.
Hot winds do irk the prickly heat of May,
It seems summer's lease wast under old rent rates.
Always too hot the eye of heaven blazeth,
These Elizabethans who liked this were dim.
Every hair by persp'ration and heat is braiseth,
The body droops, there is no remn'nt of vim.
Will this eternal summer ever fade?
We do not even get an effing spring.
Not a leaf stirreth, 'tis 40 in the shade!
Merciful death, where TF is thy sting?
There is no relief, e'en from cold libation;
Methinks I must perforce try aestivation.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Cancelled an Ola because

Cancelled an Ola because the driver was from the BJP and I knew he'd take me somewhere different from where I wanted to go and then tell me it was the Congress's fault.

Cancelled an Ola because the driver was from the Congress and I knew he wouldn't have a map and would have to wait for directions from Delhi.

Cancelled an Ola because the driver was from the AAP, and those folks only seem to know their way around Delhi.

Cancelled an Ola because the driver was from the CPI. I knew the fellow would wait at every traffic signal until it turned red.

Cancelled an Ola because the driver was from the Lok Satta Party. He seemed well-intentioned and all, but the vehicle didn't have a single seat.

Cancelled an Ola because the driver was from the Shiv Sena. Only thing he seemed to want to do is crash into the BJP guy's taxi.

Cancelled an Ola because the driver was from the JD(U). Didn't want to take a chance on a driver who thinks taking a U-turn is the best way to stay in a seat.

Cancelled an Ola because it was an autonomous car and I wouldn't be able to make any jokes about the driver.

Inspired by this:

Friday, 10 November 2017

Freelance feature writers wanted

I work with The Hindu's Bombay edition. We cover western India (Maharashtra,Gujarat, Goa).

I'm looking for a few freelance features contributors who can do regular work for us. You'll need to be a good writer who can work to a brief as well as come up with interesting pitches of your own, and know the geography you're pitching a story for. If we hit it off, I can promise regular work over the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (less frequent for the rest of our coverage area).

A non-exhaustive list of areas I'm particularly looking for features in: civic issues; citizens' initiatives; culture, communities and neighbourhoods; enterprises (including social entrepreneurs); education and campuses; history and heritage; environment and conservation; philanthropy. social work and the development world; health and fitness, including community and indigenous sports.

Please email me at firstname dot lastname at thehindu dot co dot in with (a) preferred broad subjects or areas of specialisation (b) links to two or three published pieces you're proud of, and a link to a personal blog or Web site, if you have one.

You don't need to send pitches right away, but I promise to read them if you do

(Also happy to hear from you if straight reporting is more your thing. We work with several freelancers who report for us on an almost daily basis. You'd need to be on top of your beat, regularly pitching and delivering, and potentially available seven days a week just in case something comes up.)

BMKJ

I’m a little despot
Short and stout
This is my hashtag
These are my louts
When the country's polling
Hear me shout
Now that I won UP
Can't have a Guja rout.

***

Little Ms Muffet
Went to the buffet
To get herself some food
She took some beef fry
And she didn't die
This was in Kerala, dude

***

Jack and Jill
Went up the hill
Where they met some goons quite hairy
Jack "fell down"
And broke his crown
Because being in love is unsanskari

***

Cowpat-cake Cowpat-cake
Photoshop man
Meme me a fake
As fast as you can
Proof it… oh eff that
Who reads anyway
If it's mocking Pappu
It has my okay

***

Little boy saffron,
Come blow your conch,
The gau-stuff's hit the fan
In a word, we are bonked.
But where is the boy
Who's good for the economy?
He's searching a haystack,
Finding black money.
Will you wake him?
No, not me;
The last time he 'acted'
We got demoneyed.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Advice to myself

• Stop sexual abuse and harassment when you can.

• Call it out. Without fear of repercussions. Remember what she's going through is worse than you might have to go through if you grow a spine.

• When you can't, help amplify her voice. When she stands up, don't assume she needs help, but let her know you're there if she needs you.

• Be aware that as much as you try to be a nice guy — and remember that 'nice' is a work in progress, an aspiration — she doesn't know it. She has seen too many nice guys turn into dick-brains. If you sense discomfort, give her space. That could mean leaving the room. Or making sure the door is open. Or making sure there are other people at least in sight or within earshot. When in doubt, because you're not good at reading social signals, assume you're being threatening.

• Being nice does not get you a medal or any other benefits. It's a minimum requirement.

• You're suspect because of your gender. Big fucking deal. She is a target because of hers.

• Remember, whatever your self-love issues, you're older now, which is power to some, that you sit in a seat that some perceive as powerful, that while you're not a huge guy, you're bigger than most women, that you have loving friends, but so many of them wield power. Remember that any or all of these things make you scary.

• For all of the reasons above, remember that whether you like it or not or deserve it or not, you're a role model.

• Assume no consent. Wait till the consent is explicit. 'Yes' is sexy.

• Listen. It's not about you. Just listen. Provide a shoulder, a hug, when you're sure that that won't intimidate or add to the problem. But at least fucking listen.

Added later

In a conversation with a dear friend (won't tag her, because she's a very private person) yesterday, she said something that made me think.

She did me the honour of saying, you already do these things, so why call it advice to yourself?

Yes, that is partly true.

I do do these things, or try to. But I didn't do them automatically, from some great inner sensitivity. I learned these things because I had good teachers who opened my mind up. And despite trying to internalise them, I often forget. I'm a reasonably normal heterosexual male, and sometimes that can take over. Also, because the nature of privilege, like bias, is that one doesn't see it. So I need to remind myself. Constantly.

As for the title, I did think of starting with something like 'advice to men' but didn't for several reasons.

The most cold-blooded first. My inner copywriter sensed that that would not break through the clutter, because, you know, there's a lot of advice to men happening out there.

Second, that would be a sermon. That is, I am showing you the path, follow me. That wasn't the intention. Related: while some men I know may benefit from reading this, I also know men far more sensitive than I am who reached these points long ago.

Third, this is an encapsulation of a personal journey. These are my learnings, which I try to live by. I'm putting this out there as a personal commitment, and a standard to be held to.

Post script:

The personal journey has by no means reached its destination. Advice, recommendations, pointers, all welcome. #NotAllMen refuse to ask for directions. : )