Archive | August 2011

SCRABBLING TIMES

It’s raining. A beautiful weather, but also one that confines you within the house. It’s on days like these that I recall fondly all the indoor games we indulged in like carom, cards, monopoly, ludo and my favorite ’Scrabble’.

Scrabble captured my imagination the first time I ever played the game. It gave me a high creating words out of the letters given that has lasted till date. I still do not give up an opportunity to set up the tiles anytime. Lack of willing company after marriage drove me to pester my poor husband and finally he too succumbed to the magic of Scrabble. My daughter is still a work in progress.

My best Scrabbling years were when I was in college. The administration, in a bid to improve students’ vocabulary, installed two Scrabble boards in the wide corridor right outside the chemistry lab. They were thus made easily accessible to us, the science students, and less for the others. The fumes and smells emanating from the lab did their bit in keeping some prospective enthusiasts away. We were 8 of us friends, mad about Scrabble, and we ruled the two boards without any rivals vying to seek positions at the boards. A game would start typically in the morning and carried out throughout the day with us playing in between classes, during a free period, recess or even during a lab session when a player at a time would go out and play her turn and then be back to mixing chemicals. We christened ourselves as ‘Scrabble Champions’ as we reckoned that no one could beat us.

Scrabble brought out the creative best in all of us, coz when stuck with difficult letters we coined some of the most creative words, that I’m sure even Shakespeare would have been proud of, with equally creative meanings. I wish I had saved those words. They would have certainly enriched the English language in a much better way than the way the ‘lingo’ is going these days.

Now I find Scrabble in cyberspace too but that would never give me the thrill of playing with real opponents sitting across you. You trying to read their minds or willing them not to use the space you want to use in your next turn or leaning over for a peek-a-boo at their tiles, the suspense as you pull out the tiles praying you get the ones that will enable you to make a word using all seven  or get that ‘triple word’ score, or the simple fun that goes in sharing time with the people you love.

So today, as it rains outside, I gently cajole my daughter to leave her computer and join me for a round of fun-filled magic that’s ‘Scrabble’. I know I’ll win one day.

CORRUPTION AND US

It’s raining Anna Hazare everywhere. Something like the song ‘here a Anna, there a Anna, everywhere a Anna-Anna’. He has captivated the collective psyche of our countrypeople who are tired and enraged at the surfacing of a new scam almost on a daily basis. Taxpayers are enraged at watching their hard-earned money filling the coffers of some corrupt politician who stows the money away, that could be used in uplifting our country, in some bank in a tax haven. The people have found a leader in Anna who, they believe, will pull the country out of this morass. His mission for a strong ‘lokpal bill’ has thus found support in the masses. People irrespective of class, gender, profession, religion or age have moved out of the comfort of their homes and are pledging their support, egged on by the media as the self appointed crusader. I too fully support Anna as it is necessary in a democracy that all people in power be accountable to the people who elected them and the corrupt be punished.

BUT .. I ask the people indulging in this mass hysteria a simple question. How did this happen? How did we get here? It is said that ‘we get the rulers we deserve’. When we point a finger at the rulers(be they of any party),we should also be aware of the three fingers pointing back at us. It is we, the people, who have sown, cultivated and nurtured this culture of corruption and we cry ourselves hoarse when we have to reap the crop we sowed. Yes, it is we who are corrupt for corruption begins when we offer money to the traffic policeman to be let off after violating a traffic rule, or when we give extra money to get a gas cylinder out of turn, or when we give huge donations to get our child admitted in a school, or when we bribe our way into big contracts and then recover the money many times over by putting in inferior quality of work, when we ask for commissions, or when we grease the palms of government employees to forward our files, and the list can go on and on. In fact the corruption starts right in our homes when we promise goodies to our kids in return for good marks or any other small favor.

The idea of a corruption free India is a beautiful one, one that we all as Indians should aspire for and that can happen only by introspection. We have to first cleanse ourselves before moving on to the larger scale of the nation. It’s only when WE say NO to taking and giving bribes, can  we dream of an India free from the grips of corruption.

So,  Indians, rise, take a pledge to eradicate corruption from your lives. Only then you are truly a part of a revolution. Just by switching off lights, taking out candle marches or sitting in dharnas, you do nothing to further your cause. You are then merely a part of a national circus.

FAIRNESS UNFAIR

Was watching my favorite daily soap the other day. During a break I forgot to switch channels and was thus exposed to the slew of advertisements that informed me about all things I needed without which my life was not worth living. I was also made aware that I wasn’t fair enough for anything good in life and every second ad was for either a cream or a soap or a bleach or a powder that promised to magically turn me fair—within a week or in a few minutes or in some cases even instantly. Some even offered me a scale to measure my fairness. I despaired along with the girl who was lamenting about not getting the attention of the guy she desired just because she was not the shade of milk. I rejoiced with the girl who turns into a diva (Cinderella like) after using the cream. (who needs a fairy godmother now that we have the fairness creams). And now men have joined the race too, to become whiter, with special creams for the masculine skin. (duh?)

This obsession with the white skin becomes so much more pronounced in the matrimonial pages of any newspaper or magazine. (by the way I find them a very entertaining read). All the bachelors out there are Tall, FAIR, and Handsome (all the girls waiting for your Tall, DARK, and Handsome prince- eat your heart out. There aren’t any) wanting beautiful and FAIR brides. And as for the girls, there are shades describing them from ‘very fair’ to ‘fair’ to ‘wheatish’ but never beyond that. With ‘arranged marriage’ still practiced in our country the parents of a dark skinned girl despair to find a groom for her. It does not matter how flawless her skin may be or how beautiful the features and no matter how well educated, smart, cultured or good at heart she may be-she loses it all to mere ‘melanin’.

I found out that this obsession for the fair skin goes back in centuries. The gods or ‘devataas’ were depicted as fair skinned whereas the demons or ‘asuras’ as dark skinned. Or maybe the bias had to do with the lighter skinned upper caste who ruled, as against the dark skinned lower caste people who did menial jobs.

And then as the final nail in the coffin, came the European rulers from the west and their ‘gori mems’, thus sealing the fates of all people dark skinned.

This ‘wanting of fair skin’ begins much before the birth of the child. When a woman is expecting she’s advised to eat almonds soaked overnight or drink raw coconut water and many more such remedies, so that her child will be fair. Even after the birth of the child the thing most talked about, amongst people coming to visit, after his/her resemblance to either of the parents, is the skin color.

And with the people swooning over the fair skinned actresses on big and small screen alike, it’s no wonder that the ‘fairness’ market is booming in our country with the cosmetic companies raking in the moolah.

So, is there a cure? It’s difficult to change the mindsets of a whole population just like asking the river to flow uphill. It will not happen till the people themselves start thinking differently and go beyond ‘skin deep’. Till then , I guess, the fair and lovelies will rule.

A food for thought though—what happens if you continue using the fairness cream after the stipulated 7 days in which it claims to make you at least five tones lighter. Do you go whiter and then some more whiter and then translucent and then what?????Try and let me know.

Till then I’m happy in my skin.