A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for February, 2014

On blogging..

Posted by Pepper on February 27, 2014

Some years ago I had written a post on my thoughts on blogging. No, I am not going to link back to that post, because I don’t endorse all my earlier views. I thought a sequel post would be a good idea though. As of today, these are my thoughts and here is where I stand. Needless to say, my thoughts are ever evolving and I do not guarantee endorsing these views 5 years from today.

1. I am no longer put off by lousy English. Yes, I still appreciate and admire good English and flawless writing, but I am not put off by awful Grammar the way I once was.

2. I no longer force myself to visit all bloggers that read or comment on my blog. I just accept the fact that I do not have that much time, so there is no point in harvesting the guilt within me.  And even when I do read blogs, I don’t bother to comment just to validate my presence on their blog. I comment if I have something to say, not simply to let the blogger know their post was read by me. At one time I was worried – if I don’t read and comment on other blogs, nobody will visit or comment on mine. Today, I really don’t care.

3. I have come to realise that I confuse people. I write very passionately about issues that are deep and sensitive. I talk about feminism and humanity and current affairs. And in the next instant I write a shallow post talking about the colour of my nails. It makes people wonder where I fit. But perhaps that is the point, I don’t have any one single carved nook that I fit into. I guess because I write so passionately about some topics, people expect me to follow a similar line of thought at all times.

The last time I wrote a very shallow post hating people with clear skin – I got a few mails telling me how beauty is not skin deep, how I am responsible for propagating false ideas of beauty. How blemishes can be beautiful too. I don’t disagree with any of that, but the mails left me feeling unnerved. While I know all of that, I still believe I have a right to be shallow when I want to. The mails were polite, so I have nothing against them. Since I am truly passionate and concerned about some issues at times, people expect me to show the same concern at all times. Well, what can I say? I can go from serious to silly, intellectual to stupid, deep to shallow within seconds. I have always been a contradicting personality. Aren’t we all? Nobody is one dimensional.

4. I still feel troubled when people dislike me without valid reason. I know a few people who bitch about my blog (okay fine, one person)  and I feel very bothered. If I write happy posts, she mails me saying I ‘show off’ too much and I love making a big deal about the little things in my life. If I write a post expressing my views on gender discrimination, she writes me a mail saying I love ‘sounding cool’, but the truth is I am just ‘wannabe’. I get a mail from her every now and then and it upsets me and amuses Mint. Very slowly though, I am beginning to learn to not care. I have to thank Mint for this. The feeling of truly not caring about what the world thinks of you is liberating.

5. Most people around me want their blogs to be their happy space, while I simply want mine to be ‘my space’. No pressure to always be happy. My place is happy, angry, sad, confused, whiny, jovial, deep, silly, shallow, fun, boring, contradicting and everything else. I think this is related to point no. 3. Since I include so many facets of myself on this blog – people are often left confused.

6. I love including pictures in my posts. A lot of people I know have a ‘no picture’ policy on their blog. Since I tend to over analyse everything, I worry about being careless by putting up pictures. I think I am finally convinced with my own choice to share pictures. I love adding pictures to posts because I believe photographs add some graphic details in a way that words can’t. Even when reading old posts of my own, I find myself connecting a lot more with posts that have a picture attached. They revive that moment for me with a lot of precision.

Moreover, I love reading other blogs that share pictures of their homes and other cherished moments. So I figure other people must like picture posts too. I know a few people who stay away from picture posts for security reasons. I totally respect and understand their decision. As of now, publishing a blurred picture does not make me feel threatened in any way. The day I start worrying about security and privacy, I will either stop publishing pictures, or I will mark my blog private and continue publishing pictures.

7. I have this knack of overlooking errors in my writing when I read the post before publishing. The moment I glance at the post after it is published, I notice the mistakes. They are either typos or spelling errors or it is incorrect usage of grammar. Why the hell do I only notice it after the post is published? It is so annoying! What makes it more annoying is the WordPress feature of spamming readers with ‘Updated posts’. So what if the ‘update’ was just a changed spelling? It is because of this feature that I don’t go back to editing my post to make the necessary corrections.

8. Sometimes I ‘refresh’ some blogs like a maniac. If the blogger hasn’t updated his blog in 10 days, chances are small that he/she will update it in the two minutes since I checked last. I have no idea why I do it. I refresh the url every 2-3 minutes, expecting a new  post to show up miraculously. Yes, I am responsible for a majority of the hits some of you get.

9. I feel a special bond with some of the blogworld kids. Ofcourse, all children are special, but some are more special to me than I can let on. I really love and adore them with all my heart.

10. Either I obsess over my blog stats and check them every day, or I completely forget about them and don’t view them for days/months. There is something else connected to this point though. In my opinion – the more regularly you write, the more people get used to reading you, the more they come back to your blog. That’s how your stats shoot up. So when I write regularly, I tend to be more aware of my daily hits. When I don’t blog as regularly, I almost forget my stats exist. At the end of the day, I am really trying to not care about numbers and hits. Writing for yourself is the best.

Posted in A penny for my thoughts | 37 Comments »

Weekend joy

Posted by Pepper on February 23, 2014

So many people around me are doing the 100 Happy Days challenge. While I surely can’t be brave enough to sign up for something that makes me post for 100 days straight, I can definitely use this initiative as an inspiration to write happy posts every now and then. So here I am to note my source of joy for the day.

Today, I spent my afternoon with my bacchas. I have 6 of them in this city. This is exactly why I love living in Mumbai. Like I have repeated a million times already, not just my immediate family but even my extended family lives here. As a result, I have numerous cousins in this city. And I consider their darling kids to be my very own bacchas. The sister and I love them to bits. We spend hours playing with them.

Today morning, my mom’s sister called to let us know that they were dropping in for lunch. She said she would bring her grand kids (my cousin’s kids) along with her. We squealed in excitement. Such impromptu plans bring us much joy. We spent most of our time waiting for them to arrive.

Finally, my babies came. And a lot of fun was had. At 7 and 5, they are very interesting to talk to. I enjoy asking them about their school, who their friends are, what their favourite colour is, and more. Have I told you my cousins kids go to a terrific school? In the right weather, their classes are held outdoors. When all the children in the world are learning to write the alphabet at 3, this school ensures they don’t start learning until 6 and a half. Until then, they train the kids to use their brains and develop their skills in unique ways. They actually tell the parents to not teach the kids to read or write at home, until the school starts readying them. For the initial few years, the kids are far behind other competitive schools, but once the school develops their brains adequately and starts teaching them to read and write, they whiz past the rest at an incredible speed. From what I have seen, their methodology and unusual theory seems to be working beautifully.

What I also love is that they teach the kids some important skills, instead of only focusing on an academic curriculum. They have ‘gardening’ as a subject and spend a significant amount of time learning how to plant and grow vegetation, while being made to understand the need for a greener planet. They get a home cooked nutritious meal everyday and they are made to wash their own plate every single day, right from the age of 5. All the little boys and girls are made to pick up after their own selves and wash the dishes together. For the children, washing their plates has become a way of life. Something they have grown used to and something they don’t think much about at all. I love the silent message the school sends out to them and the non discriminatory environment they are exposing them to.

I keep telling Mint I would *love* our future kids to go to a school like that. But the school fees are enough to cause a dizzy spell. My cousins are doing very well and can afford to send their kids to such schools, but us? I am not sure we have the capacity to fork out that kind of money. It makes me a little sad. Good overall development and a sound education is only available to those who have money. Those who don’t have to settle for schools that are regressive in thought and that preach rote learning.

Anyway, after have gleeful and entertaining conversations with the kids, we decided to play with some clay. We spread out a newspaper and on the bed and got to it. Baby hands and clay are a delight to watch, aren’t they?

clay 1

And speaking of clay, here is something the sister and her friend created a while ago. We had bought a little bucket of clay dough to play with sometime ago and it has been a lot of fun. A very worthwhile buy, I think.


It was such a lovely afternoon. And it is lovely afternoons like these that make me feel so connected to this city. For others, Mumbai is just a city – space starved, crowded and unaffordable. But for me, this is well and truly home. It is where I grew up. It is a way of life. It is where my entire family lives. It is where I spend such afternoons and add to my priced collection of memories.

Posted in Meet the family, Uncategorized | 29 Comments »

Depths of fright

Posted by Pepper on February 13, 2014

A building under construction, with no boundary walls. Only slabs that will one day be somebody’s roof. Yet another upcoming high rise in the city. The elevator shaft wasn’t yet ready. So we huffed and puffed our way up. I stood a few feet away from the edge of the floor, peering at the road from that height.

The height combined with the lack of constructed walls and boundaries gave us an unhindered view of the buzzing city. I watched from a distance. Mint, despite my wishes decided to walk over to the very edge. And just as he crossed over to the edge, stepping over the rubble and the dust, he stepped onto a loose tile and lost his balance. He stumbled. I let out a loud scream.

Yes, he was able to regain his lost balance on the last second. By now, he was on the very edge. Another inch forward and he would have fallen to his death. He paused for a second, as he gathered his wits and made his way back. I had by now felt my heart stop. I couldn’t feel a beat. My breath was caught in my lungs. The entire scene flashed  by my eyes and replayed in my mind several times.

The moment I could, I grabbed him. Not wanting to let go. I wanted to shout. I wanted to scream. I wanted to yell at him for wanting to go to the edge. But for those few moments, I had lost my voice. We had to make our way down the stairs after that, but my knees would not behave. The unstoppable and uncontrolled trembling made it very difficult for me to walk. So while the rest of the folks made their way down, I stood there in silence. Mint said nothing, but came up to me and gave me a big hug. And we hugged for a long time, without caring about the construction workers in sight, the darkness that was enveloping us, the smell of the damp cement, the debris strewn all around us. We just hugged in silence, till I felt my heartbeat return.

I shudder to think of all that I would have lost had he not been able to hold himself back in that one moment. Suddenly, all my complains in life seem very trivial. Sometimes, perspective is all it takes to put things in place for you.

Posted in Uncategorized | 23 Comments »

Points of focus

Posted by Pepper on February 10, 2014

You know those puzzles that make you join the dots to form a picture? I think my face looks like that as of now. The zits, scars, blemishes and acne really make my face resemble a ‘connect the dots’ game. All you people with clear, glowing skin, kindly get out of my sight. At times I believe my skin sustains more explosions than a damn war field. How unfair is that? But then I shouldn’t complain too much, because I know I do nothing to care for my skin. No deep cleansing, no toning, no moisturising. No sun screen. Nothing. And to add to it, my water intake is dangerously low.

Some people are blessed with naturally clear skin. They do nothing to nourish it. Yet their skin is radiant and glowing at all times. Well, if you belong to this category, you already know I hate you. And then there are others who do not have clear skin, but really work hard to maintain their skin tone. And it shows. I want to convert to this kind. I want to follow a healthy skin care regime.

But you know the problem? I can’t seem to have multiple focus points in my life. I don’t know why I am such an ineffective sloth. So if I choose to focus on one point – my skin for example, I start ignoring the rest of my responsibilities. I will spend an unreasonable amount of time cleansing and hydrating my skin, and I will ignore other daily chores like changing the sheets and folding my clothes.

It has always happened with me. When I decide to focus on healthy eating, I will spend long hours planning the menu, shopping for healthy food, instructing the cook, cutting and measuring portions of fresh fruit for daily consumption, but my home will begin to languish. I will not clear the dining table after meals. The bottle of pickle will stay there for days. Clothes will start piling on the couch. Laundry will be undone. All of this, because I will be spending all my time either being lazy, or focusing on healthy eating.

If I focus on my appearance, I will start exercising, I will spend time fixing my hair every other day, I will change my nail polish every now and then, I will spend time picking my clothes for the day, but my focus on healthy eating will be lost. My home will languish.

If I am focusing on something important at work, I will devote an excruciating amount of time to it, and everything else around me, my home and my body will come down in a violent crash. Like it always does. See what I mean by having a single point of focus? Perhaps it is a disorder. Perhaps it is a simple matter of having poor management skills. Or perhaps I am just too lazy to care for multiple things at the same time. How hard can it be to maintain a reasonably tidy home, finish work on time, eat healthy and care for your body? Very, apparently.

Not being able to evenly split my focus and keep the usual balls of work, home and health up in the air is bad enough. But what is worse is that I don’t keep even a single ball up for long. My focus on anything is always short lived. I start eating healthy, and that ball is up in the air. But suddenly one day I decide the home needs attention, and the health is involuntarily brought down and the home is elevated to the focus point. Another day, I decide to focus on appearance and all attention shifts to that new focus.

So when I am too busy at work, I am not eating healthy. When I am eating healthy, I pay no attention to personal grooming. When I am paying attention to grooming and appearance, my home is languishing. What do I do with myself? Do you realise now why I see no point in focusing on a good skin care regime? I know it won’t last. And I guess it will cost me a messy room. Someone shoot me.

Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour | 46 Comments »


Posted by Pepper on February 4, 2014

No, this post is not about the Aam Aadmi Party. This is actually about the usage ofaap‘. Which in Hindi means ‘you’, just a more respectable version of ‘you’. The causal and informal word for ‘you’ in Hindi is ‘Tu/tum’.

Many years before I got married, I heard a married cousin of mine referring to her husband as ‘aap’. It struck me as odd, because my cousin and I are close in age. And I wouldn’t expect people from my generation to be following these age old habits. Women from our parents generation always resorted to giggle inducing terms like ‘Suniye..’, or even ‘Aji sunte ho’ while calling out to their husbands. Because saying aloud your husband’s name was taboo. But today, I see people in our generation (especially in my social circle) sharing a more casual and informal relationship with their partners. So hearing my cousin call her husband ‘aap’ seemed strange to me. When she saw the surprise on my face, she said, “Why shouldn’t I be calling him aap? He is 3 years older to me”. Alright, each to his own.

Here is why I thought that reasoning would not work for me. When you are in an equal partnership, age is not of much relevance. You are two people on the same scale, nobody higher, nobody lower. A higher age does not mean a higher position in your relationship. There are no hierarchies. Age should do nothing to make your relationship unequal. And when two people are on absolutely equal terms, referring to one by a term that is used to respect elders seems strange to me. My partner will always be my equal first, and will be somebody who is 3 years elder to me only after that. Perhaps people will disagree, but this is how I feel.

So you can imagine my surprise when I first heard Mint calling me ‘aap’. It was in our courtship days. I was amused, and not quite sure how to react. When we would be dining out, he would ask me in the sweetest way possible, “Aapko kya khaana hai?” (What do you want to eat?) At first, I attributed it to his very South Indian Hindi, that isn’t capable of distinguishing between gender, age, and the likes. So I started training him to call me ‘tu’. It worked half the time. He would call me ‘tu’ 50% of the time, and the remaining 50% he would go back to calling me ‘aap’. Till date, this is the pattern we follow.

I have noticed something now. Whenever Mint babies me, he calls me aap. This baby business, by the way, is something I found strange earlier. Why do couples baby each other? Isn’t it dumb? It seemed so. Until Mint and I started doing it. There is something about letting go of all your duties, obligations and social pressures that come with adulthood. And you can take such liberties only with your partner. I feel comfortably acting unacceptably stupid in front of Mint. I give myself the liberty to throw an unreasonable tantrum at times, only in front of Mint. He lets me be his little child, who he has to pacify. So calling me ‘baby’ comes naturally.

It is the same with him. Many times I find myself caring for him the way I would care for a little child. I wake him up, I insist he finishes his yogurt, I bend down to moisturize his legs and more. Again, the word ‘baby’ just slips into our language without either of us even noticing it.

And the ‘aap’ and the ‘baby’ usually go together. Without even realising it, I started calling him ‘aap’ 50% of the time too. So we often hear sentences like “Baby, aapko sona nahi hai?”, or “Aap apna water finish karo” said in very loving ways. This, ofcourse, happens only 50% of the times. The remaining times, we effortlessly switch to lines like “Abey, tu kya bakwas kar raha hai”, or “Tera dimag kharab hai kya?”. Bundle of contradictions? We all are.

Posted in Uncategorized | 44 Comments »

Driving and women

Posted by Pepper on February 2, 2014

I started driving at 18, so I can safely say I’ve been driving for a decade now. Okay, fine, 9 years, if you want to nitpick. I do believe I am a good driver. I have good control over the car, my reflexes are sharp and I can maneuver skillfully. All my life, though, I’ve heard this one statement – Women are not good drivers. 

It is sad, the way we pass on this idea, from one generation to the next. It irks me a lot, because I spend about 2-3 hours at the wheel, every single day. And in all my driving time, I come across a million idiotic male drivers. Male drivers that drive slowly, with zero confidence – in the right most lane, thereby obstructing the flow of traffic. Male drivers that brake dangerously, without any warning. Male drivers that stop the car in the middle of a busy road and step aside for a smoke, exhibiting such baffling levels of stupidity and inconsideration. Male drivers that consider themselves to be speed demons, and carelessly whiz by your side without much regard for the dent they created in your car. And when I realise that the world would still consider me to be a worse driver than most of these idiots I spoke about, simply because I am a woman, I feel enraged. 

Where do we get our ideas from? Some people say they go by statistics. I tell you most statistics cannot be relied upon. The chosen sample set, the environment, the attitude of the researcher, the already existing bias, all play a role in influencing the end result. And ofcourse, we as a society, love to feed on this idea. Women are not reliable drivers. Which is why when I do driver skillfully, when I overtake other cars, when I confidently squeeze my car out of tight spots, I see other drivers around me looking at me admiringly. Why? Such driving is not expected from me because I am a woman? Why don’t they feel impressed by other men who do the same?

Ofcourse, female drivers make some mistakes, just like male drivers. The other day, I was driving in search of a petrol pump, (or gas station, depending upon your location). I really needed to fuel up, but I just couldn’t spot one. And then I saw it suddenly. It came on my left, the petrol pump. I was in the middle lane, and I swerved to the left, without much warning. It was a move I shouldn’t have made. I realised my mistake. Because of me, a bus in the left lane had to brake suddenly. I saw the driver get out angrily. I was just about to step out to apologize. But before I could, the driver who was about to reach my car, saw me. He let out a small laugh and told the conductor who was following him, “Samjha karo, ladki hai.” (We need to understand, it is a girl). He didn’t even wait for my apology, and climbed back into the bus.

Me? I was left feeling very insulted, and very angry, for further having maligned women drivers. I would rather face the bus driver’s rage, like any man would have to. I would rather apologise for the mistake I made. Instead of allowing this bias to seep deeper. I mean, how many times in a day do I see men driving stupidly? Men changing lanes erratically, without any warning, all along relying on my reflexes to brake suddenly? But the one time I do it, it gets written off as ‘typical female driving’? 

I do keep coming across women drivers who are not confident about their driving skills. This, despite them being good drivers. They just don’t have faith in their abilities. I think we as a society love to feed this idea to women. They are conditioned into believing they can’t drive well. And this lack of confidence can seriously hamper your ability to drive. It is sad.

Two days ago, I came across this article. It spoke about how a lot of fast selling small cars in India are not safe enough. In response, the Volkswagen representative said they understand the need for more safety features because of factors like increasing driving speeds, more women drivers, longer driving time and a younger driver. The separate mention of women drivers and younger drivers left a bitter taste in my mouth. What are they telling us really? That we need more safety features because more women drive? What does that imply? And this bias in an official statement? Also, why mention a ‘younger’ driver? Young drivers do not necessarily mean reckless drivers. Young might mean less experienced, but I can tell you, skill and experience do not always go hand. 

As usual, when I discussed this with a friend, I was accused of being oversensitive. I shared the link with IHM. She is somebody I have always looked up to. And she shared it on her blog. Calling me insensitive is a classic case of victim blaming. The statement by the VW rep was a very poorly worded one, with only one implication. I wonder why people believe I don’t have a reason to feel offended. If I choose to not raise my voice and remain silent, am I not doing my bit in strengthening this bias?

Posted in Gender | 15 Comments »

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