Poison Pen Writing

“We call this kind of thing ‘poison pen’ writing, when the writers are grown up, and they are held in universal loathing and hatred, considered the lowest of the low.” – Miss Potts

I grew up on a staple diet of Enid Blyton books – a new title purchased every week of my summer vacation – and this was among the little lessons I picked up from there. Anonymous letters were just not done. They were, I always thought, sent by people who hadn’t the courage to say what they wanted to your face. And courage was important.

Turns out, things have changed and how. Anonymous writing is now not only acceptable but even favourable. Recipients of such letters don’t burn the notes or throw them in the bin but publicise them on their ‘wall’ for everyone to see. Many do this even when the contents of the note are not complimentary – and this, it seems, is the new definition of courage.

In the past weeks or so, the Sarahah app has befuddled, puzzled and upset me. In case you have been fortunate enough to miss out on these notifications on your Facebook or Twitter timeline, Sarahah is an anonymous messaging service that lets people leave you ‘constructive feedback’. The recipient can then showcase these golden nuggets of feedback on their social media profiles.

Sarahah

So, there’s the shy little boy who finally professes his love for the girl who studied with him in high school. Cutesy and all. There’s also the counselor who gives you personality advice. And then there’s the disgruntled friend who complains you haven’t time for them, the random marriage proposer, the abuser, the positive thinker, the one who cannot give up SMS lingo on any platform whatsoever, the drunk messenger, and the wannabe who cannot stop shouting to the world how cool he/she is (and look, it just got validated). Last I heard, there are also people delivering threats and warnings through this app. Bullies, sadists, closet criminals. In an age where it is hard enough to protect ourselves and our loved ones (kids and teens included) from negativity and crime, do we really need yet another platform that facilitates negativity from behind a mask?

The sad truth is, given a chance, many of us want to vent, complain and lash out as opposed to applaud and celebrate. That’s how we are, we the people who get our rush from likes and comments on our daily breakfast.

It disturbs me. This show of one’s true voyeuristic nature behind a veil of anonymity. This thrill people are getting from spewing insults and abuse without coming out with them in the open. Giving in to this idle curiosity and wasting precious time over ‘feedback’ from some random person who hadn’t the heart or the interest to do it to your face. How valuable can such feedback be anyway if this so-called friend didn’t find it important to have shared it with you earlier? What is this desperate need for importance, the need to be thought about, even if the thoughts border on hatred, bullying and poison?

In essence, or so say the app founders, it is idyllic. Here are people who know you and might have advice or a nice thing or two to share. But the anonymity is what rattles me. What is the need to hide behind encryption? What stops you from posting this on someone’s wall through your profile, or heck, picking up the phone on them and saying it in as many words? But no. There’s an adrenaline rush in an anonymous message and it’s just not the same if someone brings this feedback up in conversation. When you get an anonymous message, it means someone found you important enough to be written to, in words of love, passion or hate. You are someone. It is this basic instinct and need to be acknowledged, recognised and held in some regard that this app and others like it seem to be catering to.

It really is heart-breaking to note how primal we remain, how easily swayed and dependent on others for our happiness. All it takes to stir us up is the beep of an incoming anonymous message.

Top 3 Tips to Survive an Awkward Phone Conversation

First, some creds. What makes me an authority on phone conversation tips? Just this – I am the queen of awkward. Many conversations with me are awkward, but phone conversations top the lot.

There’s something about not looking someone in the eye, not catching their facial expressions, and the very theme of talking on the phone (small talk) that just lends itself to awkwardness. Strange silences. Throat clearing. Repeating questions about the weather and “what did you cook for lunch/dinner?”. Asking whether “you can hear me?” a few times. Trying to sound chirpy and charged because hey, look who called. So, I have several years of experience in trying to evade, whine over, and eventually endure phone calls.

Awkward Phone Conversations

Here are the three valuable tips that have held me in good stead. Sharing this at the risk of personal offence to people I have tried these on – but hey, those times were genuine, I swear. Continue reading

In My Brown Skin

When I was in school, we didn’t have modern ideas about equality across communities, race and colour. (It is another story that equality was there anyway, without any of us talking about it much). So, it used to be fine and non-offensive to make personal remarks about someone’s hair-tie or school-bag or curly hair. It was all in good fun and nobody held it against anyone.

One afternoon, in the school bus, a classmate started a discussion about skin-colour. I think we were in class VIII or IX – that time when you start lingering in front of the mirror for longer moments than usual. She was a rather chubby, loud girl who loved airing her opinions about everything from the food at the canteen to the school song. Continue reading

No, Depression Does Not Just Mean Sadness

“I am depressed.”

It seems like such a simple thing to say, really. We are human beings, capable of feeling a vast range of emotions. So, when it starts raining just on a morning you had wanted to picnic, you can say it’s depressing. As is the taste of the food, the colour of the walls, your mood after watching a TV series. We are all ‘depressed’ about something or the other, almost every day. Continue reading

Exclaim Not

We learnt many punctuation marks at school. A variety of ways to express emotion in writing. Figures of speech. Multiple sentence forms. And yet, today, all of that has boiled down to, for so many of us, a single measly symbol. The exclamation mark. It has become the universal symbol of expressing all sorts of emotions – from urgency to happiness and disdain to anger. Now while I don’t deny that all of us have the right to exclaim as much as we want, I cannot also deny the intense reaction it provokes in me. Continue reading

Of Red, Hormones and Girl-Things You Shouldn’t Discuss

White and Red Skirt

She ran to the nearest washroom. It was the PT period and everyone was down at the playground. Nobody saw her running to the washroom. She shut the door on herself, almost throwing up at the stink. No matter how highbrow the school, the washrooms oddly started to stink toward the end of the day. Now, she told herself, surely it wouldn’t be so bad. Surely it would last out for another hour or so. Continue reading

9 Rules of Partying For Introverts

Tangy TuesdayIntroverts at a party

Wait, why do introverts need to party at all? I give you this, my dear: destiny. Sometimes, no matter what you do, destiny makes its presence felt. There will invariably be some party you just cannot miss – an office do of the husband he has to attend to be polite, a family gathering you must go to or risk being called snobbish, you get the idea. Considering I already battle my fair share of “why don’t you talk to us more often”, I try and avoid this scenario with R. So, when he whisked me away to this event, I found I couldn’t say no. Continue reading

No, Don’t Ask Me When I Plan to “Start” a Family

One of the rather uncomfortable side effects of marriage is the constant pressure to procreate. And the even more discomfiting fact is that this pressure comes from people you have never and would never discuss the mechanics of procreation with. Now, while I’ve been reasonably fortunate so far in dealing with the curiosity about my childbearing plans, that’s not what compelled me to write this post. It’s something a bit more disturbing.

After marriage, there is a host of people who enquire when you’re planning to “start a family”. And this always, imperatively, bugs me. No, not because it’s personal and nosey (which it is) but because it’s founded in falsehood. You see, I already have a family! Continue reading

Back To The Jungle

* Winning Entry in Disney’s My Mowgli Memory Contest *

Jungle Book

It was a late-winter Sunday morning in Delhi and still dark outside. The household was asleep. I tip-toed out of my bed, put on a jacket, and rushed to the washbasin. The floor-boards were chilly, the water even worse. But I didn’t mind. Before everyone woke up, I had to shower, put on fresh clothes, pray, and finish my homework. Erm, in case you have pinned me down as this ideal, unreal kid, let me burst the bubble. There was a big reason for the big rush.

Jungle Book aired on TV on Sundays. I couldn’t miss it for the world.

Outside our living-room window, the sun was now high up in the sky. The kitchen was fragrant with weekend-special breakfast, and I knew it, a chocolate pastry for me. Meanwhile, in the jungle, Mowgli the man-cub was being raised by a family of wolves. He had two excellent friends – Baloo, the bear and Bagheera, the panther. They hadn’t a soft bed or fluffy paranthas, and lived in perpetual fear of Sher Khan. But despite this, they were a bunch of happy folk. They were also my role models.

My family, predictably, latched on to my Jungle Book love, and used it to sell whatever point they were making. So, when I came back from school one day, my shirt all soiled with mud, Granny would go “Looks like our Mowgli jumped into a jungle puddle!” Or, if I crept behind Mom when the neighbours brought out their dog, she would remind me “Darling, he’s no Sher Khan!” You get the idea. This is why even though my home was well-lit, comfortable, and in the heart of the city, there was an aspect of the jungle to it. In my mind, there were mysteries right behind the fridge, or in the store-room, or in the dark of the attic. Almost within reach.

I say almost because I could never hold on to time. To be honest, I didn’t even try. Growing up seemed so tempting, so full of big and new experiences. So I grew up. There was holiday homework, then college assignments, then work deadlines. Unlike the freedom of the jungle, and the simplicity of those early Sunday mornings, life now presented complicated challenges. There was a time when achievements the size of Colonel Hathi came easily. Memorizing the lyrics of “Jungle Jungle Baat Chali Hai, Pata Chala Hai”, for instance. And now, one of the most daunting achievements was finding satisfaction.

I wonder how it will be to see my favourite people from the jungle all over again. They will have new and interesting voices, in a virtual world more real than ever before. In the Hindi version, I especially look forward to Irrfan Khan as Baloo and Om Puri as Bagheera – rich, powerful voices to portray the most adorable friends (and bodyguards) ever! Times have changed since the Jungle Book of my childhood, and we have reached new, fantastical standards of film-making. 

This Friday, I will sit with 3-D glasses over my spectacles, and let Disney carry me effortlessly into the depths of the jungle. There, waiting for me, will be all my friends of yore – the happy-go-lucky Mowgli, the affectionate Baalu, the strong and sensible Bagheera, and all the rest. Together we will re-create the beautiful and innocent land of childhood, still untouched by time.

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I’m blogging about #MyMowgliMemory at BlogAdda.

Picture Credit: The Hindu

Why Some People In a Movie Hall Just Can’t Shut Up

Tangy Tuesday Picks – 8 March, 2016

Silence

Okay, picture this. You have booked top notch seats in the over prized multiplex (wait, they are all overpriced – redundant adjective). You are all geared up to see this movie with widespread acclaim. And then it begins. But not only on the screen. Oh you denizen of utopia, not only on the screen.

Lately, I just can’t seem to watch a movie without being surrounded by people who talk as if its their living room, kids who cry as if their umbilical cord has just been cut, and mobile phones that constantly sing obnoxious ring-tones that their owners are too obnoxious to turn down. It is a cacophonous Rohit Shetty film and you don’t even have a helmet. So, I decided to try and enlist the various reasons behind this curious phenomenon. Continue reading