Tuesday, 26 October 2021

Table Talk with Sonia Jabbar

 The flyer has a portrait of Sonia Jabbar over the logo Table Talk, which flows into their name. The text: Headline: ‘Brewing Revolutions’ Subhead: ‘Legacies, elephants, and tea’ Below, ‘Sunday, 31 October, 8 p.m. IST’

Table Talk with Sonia Jabbar
Date: October 31, 2021
Time: 20:00 IST*

I knew Sonia via online networks and mutual friends over the years, and followed some of her work as an essayist, travel writer and photographer before I first met her at a party and promptly gushed ar her (I had just been blown away by an essay she had written that was in Elsewhere: Unusual Takes on India, a collection from the no-longer-among-the-living India Magazine) and she took several steps backwards, understandably alarmed. She did not, fortunately for me, block me from all social media after that, and I got to witness her metamorphosis into a plantation owner — when her mother passed away in 2011, Sonia took over the nurturing of Nuxalbari Tea in north Bengal, which her family has owned since 1884 — deeply involved not just with the growing of fine tea, but with the issues of the women who worked there and with conservation. In 2019, the Indian government recognised her work, giving her a Nari Shakti Puraskar.

We will talk about her various lives, about the nuances of tea, the elephants who pass through the estate and her w8ork to give them safe passage, the reforestation work.

We’ll chat for a couple of hours, including questions from and discussion with the audience. We won’t go much beyond 10 p.m., because Sonia has to be up with the sun.

Giving back

Table Talk will stay free to attend and free to listen to or watch later, for as long as I can afford to keep it that way. But we would like to use our privilege to help others, so we’re asking our guests to choose a cause.

Sonia’s choice is Haathi Saathi Foundation, on organisation she founded, which works on creating awareness of conservation issues with children, and other community outreach, creating elephant corridors, and reforestation. Asdie form making a donation, you could also choose to volunteer to spend time at the plantation, planting trees, recording elephant movement, building environmental and conservation leadership among rural kids. More here.

Attending

You will need to go to the Zoom link and register with a valid email address, after which you will get the link to join the event.

To get notifications of new episodes and links to past episodes, please subscribe to:
- this Google Group: https://groups.google.com/d/forum/ttandfps
- and / or this Telegram Channel: https://t.me/TTandFPS

* Please note, we start an hour ealier than the usual time, at 8:00 p.m. IST.

Friday, 15 October 2021

Table Talk with Nandita Iyer

The flyer has a portrait of Nandita Iyer over the logo Table Talk, which flows into their name. The text: Headline: ‘What the doctor ordered’ Subhead: ‘Superfoods and healthy scepticism’ Below, ‘Sunday, 17 October, 9 p.m. IST’

Table Talk with Nandita Iyer
Date: October 7, 2021
Time: 21:00 IST

Nandita is a qualified medical doctor, giving a lazy headline writer an option for basic wordplay (sorry, not sorry). But she is best known as an early food blogger (she started her blog in 2006) who is now a columnist, author, YouTube star, and consultant.

We will talk about her journey as a writer, of course, and then we will spend some time chatting about food fads and trends and how to take the long view on them, and of course the subject of her last book, superfoods.

We’ll chat for a couple of hours, including questions from and discussion with the audience, and if Nandita, who is an early riser, is amenable, we may talk a little longer.

Giving back

Table Talk will stay free to attend and free to listen to or watch later, for as long as I can afford to keep it that way. But we would like to use our privilege to help others, so we’re asking our guests to choose a cause. Nandita’s choice is a campaign that is buying school uniforms for underprivileged children in the Whitefield area of Bangalore. We’re requesting folks in the audience to thank Nandita for her time with a donation to the campaign.

Attending

You will need to go to the Zoom link and register with a valid email address, after which you will get the link to join the event.

To get notifications of new episodes and links to past episodes, please subscribe to:
- this Google Group: https://groups.google.com/d/forum/ttandfps
- and / or this Telegram Channel: https://t.me/TTandFPS

Thursday, 30 September 2021

What are the correct terms for referring to disabilities?



I get asked this often, perhaps because I’ve written about disability a little, and don’t have any visible disabilities myself, so it’s not embarrassing to ask me. So I thought it might be even less awkward to just leave this out here.

With this caveat. I AM NOT AN AUTHORITY ON THIS TOPIC. I’m just sharing what I’ve learnt, and it’s entirely possible that I get some things wrong. As a general guide, ask yourself this. How can I be more inclusive in my communication? How can I not be hurtful or exclude other people?*

Still with me? Okay then.

What are the correct terms for referring to disabilities?

First, ditch the euphemisms (like ‘specially abled,’ and ‘differently abled,’ ‘-challenged,’ ‘divyang’) or indications that a disability makes one less of a person (‘impaired’).

‘Specially-abled’ and its cousin, ‘differently abled’ rile many disabled people; it’s not, they say, that the ones without vision gain the ability to fly or that a spinal injury results in spidey sense.

The suffix ‘-challenged’ is as condescending, implying that all it takes to function in a world not designed for you is a bit of effort.

And what about ‘divyang,’ coined by our prime minister himself? A letter to the PM in January 2016 signed by 71 organisations and individuals asked that the term not be used. In that letter, and again in an open letter later that year, they said, “Invoking divinity will not lessen the stigma and discrimination that persons with disabilities have been historically subjected to and continue to encounter in their daily lives. […] We would like to reiterate that disability is not a divine gift. And the use of phrases like ‘divyang’ in no way ensures de-stigmatisation or an end to discrimination on grounds of disability.” (My friend Divyanshu, who among many other things, is a qualified paragliding pilot and runs a foundation that promotes inclusive adventure, says, “You call me divyang and I’ll SHOW you my divine body parts.”)

So, what CAN you say?

The general guideline is, put the personhood first, then, acknowledge the disability. For example, “People with visual disabilities” rather than “the visually impaired” or “visually challenged.” And it's generally a good idea to avoid “wheelchair-bound” which is a judgement, and go with “wheelchair user,” a statement of fact.

When it comes to public writing, most media house’s style guides will tell you to go with “person with disability” or “persons [or people] with disabilities.” Some also use the abbreviation PWDs if the term is being used repeatedly, but I don't like that, because it feels like another avoidance of acknowledging disability, though mild.

If it’s a stage event or a live online event, like say, introducing a person or a topic, go with person with disability, but best to ask the person. (And really, mentioning the disability is only relevant when the actual topic is disability or when the person’s disability clarifies something in your narrative.)

Yes, it may feel awkward, but ask. Think about how you like to be introduced formally; wouldn’t you prefer to be introduced on your terms? And those of you who have your names mispronounced often, isn’t it much nicer when an event host takes the time to check with you on how to say it right?

And there are other viewpoints too. Some people with hearing disabilities much prefer the term “Deaf” with a capital D. Divyanshu is perfectly fine with being called blind. Several friends who disabilities have no problems with the “-challenged” suffix.

So, ask.

One more. Tread very carefully when you want to say you find a disabled person inspirational. Many disabled people are totally fed up with that. “Inspiration porn,” they call it.


* On this last part, I wrote a piece in The Hindu a couple of years ago that focussed a bit more on the words we use when referring to mental illness and learning and intellectual disabilities.

And I’m adding here a comment from my friend Shilpa, which is about the terminology many neurodivergent people prefer, something I have only recently begun to educate myself on.


An important word on person-first language.

Agree with all of this, but many disabled people with genetic conditions see “put the person first” coming from an ableist perspective wherein a person with a disability or a difference is necessarily seen as “wrong” — where the benchmark is being “normal” or “right” — and the disability or difference pathologised.

Most autistic and neurodivergent people prefer identity-first language, in fact, since neurodivergence isn’t a piece of clothing that you can “take off,” so to speak, or “fix.” It very much makes you who you are: one is born neurodivergent, one will die neurodivergent. Which may or may not be the same as certain other disabilities, like someone who loses a limb in an accident, say. It’s similar to calling a LGBTQ person “person with gayness” or “person with homosexuality”; sounds incongruous, because it is.

That said, it’s always best to ask rather than to assume what language the disabled person prefers: identity-first, or person-first. There are no blanket rules here.

Monday, 27 September 2021

Table Talk with Vikram Doctor

The flyer has a portrait of Vikram Doctor over the logo Table Talk, which flows into their name. The text: Headline: 'Fast food' Subhead: 'Understanding Gandhi through what he ate' Below, 'Sunday, 3 October, 8 p.m. IST'

Table Talk with Vikram Doctor
Date: October 3, 2021
Time: 20:00* IST

You all know vikdoc, through his columns or his podcasts, or maybe, more recently, his Instagram (or perhaps, and I know this is unlikely, from his earlier appearance on Table Talk), the chap who finds fascinating connections that help us understand our world and where it came from.

This session was his idea, and when I say he does his homework, I do not say so lightly: Doc read all 96 volumes of Gandhi’s Collected Works, “finding references to Gandhi's interest in food all the way through.” We will chat about Gandhi’s dietary choices and how they shaped his life. For instance, when he first went to London, he was not a particularly political person, but his decision to stay vegetarian led him to explore the vegetarian movement in the UK, one that was part of a number of challenges to the British way of life, and began going to meetings of the local Vegetarian Society. And when he went to South Africa, he identified himself as a barrister and a member of the Vegetarian Society of the UK, whose aims he wanted to propagate there. There is more, of course, and I'm looking forward to it.

So, long story short, we'll chat for a couple of hours, including questions from and discussion with the audience, and if we can, we’ll persuade Doc to stay longer.

Giving back

Table Talk will stay free to attend and free to listen to or watch later, for as long as I can afford to keep it that way. But we would like to use our privilege to help others, so we’re asking our guests to choose a cause. Doc has chosen All Creatures Great and Small Sanctuary, which is a registered charitable trust. If you would like to say thank you for this session, and if you can afford to, please donate on their donation page, or via their campaign on Milaap.

Attending

You will need to go to the Zoom link and register with a valid email address, after which you will get the link to join the event.

To get notifications of new episodes and links to past episodes, please subscribe to:
- this Google Group: https://groups.google.com/d/forum/ttandfps
- and / or this Telegram Channel: https://t.me/TTandFPS

* If you've attended a Table Talk session before, please note the change in timing. This one will be at 8 p.m., not 9, since Sheru, the canine member of Doc's household, demands an early morning start to his day.

Friday, 24 September 2021

See through

Aside from school, I've never studied art formally. (One one-day clay workshop in the early 90s, and one short course in clay a couple of years ago, were the closest.) I had a few booklets from correspondence courses my aunts had done way before I was born, which had been left behind in my grandparents' home, and I would do the exercises, and I learnt more from those than I did in the art classes in school. (My school art teachers weren't really very good. One teacher I remember with dislike also doubled up as a Marathi teacher, and he was, one, a cruel bastard, would whack boys' knuckles with the edge of a ruler, throw wooden blackboard dusters across the room, that kind of thing, and, two, he favoured kids who copied his style, which was a bit advanced for school kids; he took the joy out of art for me. Later, my parents actually encouraged me to go to art school if I wanted, which is rare for folks of that generation who had no art background themselves, but I decided against it, partly because of what this arsehole had made me feel about studying art, and partly because there was very little career counselling available. I mean, I thought one went to art school only to become an artist or an art teacher. Sigh.)

Anyway.

When I began sculpting again, a few years ago, I found that my informal study of art, from poring over classic paintings — which began when I would download images of these for an ex who was a pretty good artist — and before that, just being in the same workspace as very skilled art directors, had rubbed off on me, and my sensibilities had changed. Often I find myself struggling to create what I can see in my mind but I haven't trained enough to make.

So I went back to informal study, following artists on Instagram, immersing myself in archives, you know.

And, to get the point of this ramble, zooming into pictures of dancers — who have always fascinated me, maybe because I wanted to be one, once upon a when — and athletes, to learn about bodies in motion, looking up anatomy drawings and renderings to understand muscles and bones, that kind of thing. I like creating shapes and figures of women more than I do men, which we'll leave for some future therapist to analyse.

This last bit has had a weird consequence.

Now, when I see a pretty woman, a beautiful face, a lithe body, rather than just saying thank you to the heavens, like any sensible heterosexual man, ever so often I find my mind stripping away their skin to imagine the muscles, the bones, the sinews.

Not always, thank goodness, but often. And even more thanks to providence that in this time I'm only seeing people virtually, or I would probably be arrested for, I don't know, unauthorised anatomy study?

I don't know how to feel about this.

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Random

When a woman friend says to me, “I hate men,” or something similar, one part of me cringes for all men and, I confess, instantly examines every interaction I’ve ever had with this specific woman if not all women. Another assumes, likely for my own sense of self-worth, that in this statement is an implicit “Not all men,” or that it isn’t about specific men but about a system in which men are the beneficiaries and in which I, as a man, benefit whether I choose to or not, or that for the moment, at least, my own maleness is not germane to what she is saying, or even, perhaps, for the purpose of this discussion, that I am an honorary woman.

That’s all right, then.

Monday, 20 September 2021

Early

Given that all my closest friends know the way my body clock works, and given they also know my medical history, I have to be very cautious about calling friends early in the day.

(Called one such friend the other day just after noon. I usually message people before I call them, but this time I was excited about something I‘d seen that friend was involved with, so I just picked up the phone to call and congratulate immediately. Friend is very senior person in friend’s company. Friend was in a meeting. Friend answered anyway. Later tells me, “Call from you when the sun is still up? I froke; thought it was an emergency.”)

Rear-view

When you’re friends on social media with people you’ve been in romantic relationships with in the past, or nurtured significant romantic feelings for, you come across their posts, their pictures — landmark events or daily stuff, it doesn’t matter — and there flashes across your mind’s eye snapshots of a ghost life in a branch of time that never happened in your reality.

Or is that just me?

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Table Talk with Rushina Munshaw-Ghildiyal

The flyer has a portrait of Rushina Munshaw-Ghildiyal over the logotype Table Talk, which flows into their name. The text: Headline: 'Bytes and bites' Subhead: 'Chronicling India’s  vast culinary legacy, online and off' Below, 'Sunday, 19 September, 9 p.m. IST'

Table Talk with Rushina Munshaw-Ghildiyal
Date: 19 September, 2021
Time: 21:00 IST

I've known Rushina from back when the term ‘social media’ wasn’t a thing and she and I were were part of a small community of early bloggers. Even then, she was carving out her space as a specialist, a food blogger, and in the years since, she has just grow’d and grow’d. In her words, “I describe myself as a Culinary Chronicler, but switch hats between being a teacher, a Corporate Food Consultant, and Curator of Food experiences.” She now runs her own consulting firm, A Perfect Bite, and APB Cook Studio, a food incubator lab, test kitchen and studio, and among other things, she authors Godrej’s annual Food Trends Report, runs conferences, and much more I hope to catch up on in our chat. And of course she continues to blog and is very active on Instagram, where I tease her about being an infuencer.

Our chat will be about her evolution from those blogging days and what she has learnt over the years about writing and making content about food, and in particular her work documenting this country's many cuisines, including her current project that focusses on spices, and much else. (If you have attended Table Talk sessions before, you know that tangents and digressions from the a̶l̶i̶b̶i̶ topic are a feature, not a bug.)

Giving back

Table Talk will stay free to attend, and when I get down to uploading past episodes, free to listen to or watch later, for as long as I can afford to keep it that way. But we would like to use our privilege to help others, so we’re asking our guests to choose a cause. Rushina’s pick is the Verushka Foundation, a small non-profit working to provide sustainable livelihood opportunities for young individuals with developmental disabilities by training them and placing them in the culinary space. If you would like to say thank you to Rushina for the session, please donate via Gpay or NEFT to
Account Name: Veruschka Foundation
Account Number: 013100101010946
IFSC Code: SRCB0000013
Name of Bank: The Saraswat Co-operative Bank Ltd.
Bank Branch: Marol

Attending

You will need to go to the Zoom link and register with a valid email address, after which you will get the link to join the event.

To get notifications of new episodes and links to past episodes, please subscribe to:
- this Google Group: https://groups.google.com/d/forum/ttandfps
- and / or this Telegram Channel: https://t.me/TTandFPS

More about Table talk here.

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Table Talk with Anita Roy

The flyer has a portrait of Anita Roy over the logotype Table Talk, which flows into their name. The text: Headline: 'Sourdough adventures' Subhead: 'Cultures, inheritances and stepping lightly on the planet' Below, 'Sunday, 5 September, 9 p.m. IST'

Table Talk with Anita Roy
Date: 5 September, 2021
Time: 21:00 IST

Anita is a writer and editor who has worked across genres. But the reason she is our guest for this edition is that she is also an environmentalist who lives her principles. And she bakes a mean loaf.

Our chat will be anchored in sourdough and what the simple act of making your own bread teaches you, but we’ll also talk about writing, especially for children and young adults, teaching, foraging, preserving for winter and future generations, and how these things converge in her life. And, erm, lots else. (If you have attended Table Talk sessions before, you know that tangents and digressions from the alibi topic are a feature, not a bug.)

Giving back

Table Talk will stay free to attend, and when I get down to uploading past episodes, free to listen to or watch later, for as long as I can afford to keep it that way. But we would like to use our privilege to help others, so we’re asking our guests to choose a cause. Anita’s pick is The Community Library Project, a movement I share her respect and love for. The nice part, she says, is anyone “can donate books as well as money, and anything that keeps dem stories circulating and not just gathering dust on some forgotten bookshelf has gotta be good.” If you would like to say thank you to Anita for the session, please go to the CLP’s donation page for details.

Attending

You will need to go to the Zoom link and register with a valid email address, after which you will get the link to join the event.

To get notifications of new episodes and links to past episodes, please subscribe to:
- this Google Group: https://groups.google.com/d/forum/ttandfps
- and / or this Telegram Channel: https://t.me/TTandFPS

More about Table talk here.