Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Pazhampori | Banana Fritters | Kerala Snack | For Amateurs Like Me

Pazhampori is sliced banana fritters. My non-mallu friends all go, 'what?' when i tell them that pazhampori is banana. The banana used to make this is not common in other Indian states. It is nenthrappazham in Malayalam. The kind of bananas that are usually available in Kolkata are those we call robusta, a variety of Cavendish bananas. That's what is commonly seen in Bombay too. I get my nenthrappazham from a Malayalee store nearby and they cost Rs. 80 per kilo. Half a kilo gives me three bananas and i can make a 24 small pazhamporis. I can also eat so many by myself. *Wide grin* Sometimes that's all i eat in a day. Apart from tea. Oh by the way, for people with normal eating habits, this is a snack that is usually had with tea.

In the snack and tea shops in Kerala, the pazhamporis that you get are longer than the ones i make. Probably because they have bigger pans to fry it in. 

Slice the bananas into thin discs. Usually, i slice one banana into two first and then slice each of those slices into two. Then i cut it into half to reduce the length. So each banana gives me 8 small pazhamporis.

Take 1 cup of maida (all purpose flour)
Add a pinch of salt
Add sugar - i add 5 tsps of sugar.
Add water to it to make it into a smooth paste, the kind that can cover each banana slice. Like the dosa batter. I use a little less than 1 cup of water for the right consistency of batter. 
Put all the banana slices in this batter.
Heat vegetable oil in a pan. Drop in a bit of batter to see if it rises and makes the 'shhhhh' sound. If it does, it's hot enough. Keep it in medium flame.
Take the banana slices one by one, coat it in batter and gently drop into the pan. 
You can fry three or four or even more bananas at a time, depending upon the size of your pan. 
Turn the slices over to the other side after a minute. I judge it by the colour. If it is golden brown, it's done. This is in the right amount of flame. If it is too high, you might still get the right colour but the insides might not be cooked. 

Pazhampori, Kerala snack. Banana fritters

Some make it adding an egg to the batter. I tried it and hated it. It completely changes the taste and it is not for those people who don't like an added taste to usual tastes. If you know what i mean. If you are used to the egg pazhampori from the beginning there is not much change in the recipe. Break an egg into the batter and mix it well. Keep in mind that adding the egg will make the batter more loose, so keep it at a slightly thicker consistency than required before adding the egg. 

There are very few things that i make better than my mother. I have realised that pazhampori is one of them. At home, i would be the first to know when she decided to make pazhampori. The smell tells me that. No, this is not the pazhampori frying smell i am talking about. Even when she is just beginning to make the batter, i somehow smell something i associate with pazhampori. Now that i have started making them myself, i have understood what she was doing wrong. Her slices were thicker than required. Instead of 8 thin slices, she was making 4 thick slices. Also, sometimes the maida wouldn't be cooked through. Anyway, she won't have to make these anymore now because i have learnt how to. I can make it for her. I also want to find out how many she can eat.

Oh, if you haven't guessed it yet, this snack is not healthy at all. Lots of oil and things that health conscious people should keep away from




Thursday, 14 September 2017

Exterior/Day/Footpath on a busy Road in Mumbai

Every evening on my way back home from work, i get pissed with the bikers using the footpath and honking for pedestrians to make way for them. Every evening, at the end of the footpath, i see the same old woman holding the hand of a person, walking slowly in the opposite direction. Yesterday, i saw that she was alone. It is only when she held her hand in front of me, beckoning me to hold it, that i realized that she was being walked by different people every day, strangers to her, just like me. 

I thought of my mother. I felt really sad.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Shrink Tales | Revisiting Violence by Mother and Sister: Why do Families Have to be Complicated, Always?



This session ended with me telling Ish, my therapist that i was a manipulative and abusive bitch. She said that saying that meant that i wasn't manipulative. It is part of the plan, i said in my mind. That's how i work around people. I think i try to make people like me by being manipulative. If i am interested in those people. I don't like whom i call the 'accent guy' in office. [He said 'oh you are from Kerala? But you don't have an accent!,' while speaking with the accent every indian has himself] So i don't try to manipulate him to like me. I like my boss and i do try to make her like me. Also feel guilty about it later. Same with Ish. It's all part of a big plan to make everyone i like like me. I hope i live to see the end of it. No use people liking me after i am dead, i suppose.

During therapy, Ish asked me if my reason to try and be like my sister was because i thought Appan would like me better if i was like my sister. It could be true. That's the reason why i started reading, learning english etc. The two of them seemed to be having so much fun talking about books and language and everything. I was a child, but i didn't know that. So i felt i was not fully equipped to talk to Appan. I must have decided to work on it. I succeeded too and i was proud of it.

But it's also true that i didn't feel good about me being liked more than my sister. I always felt that my mother liked me more than her and i did not like it. I did not like it when my sister felt bad about me playing chess, winning tournaments. How my father and mother did not have money to enroll her into any classes she liked, like dancing. By the time i was in the enrollment-in-extra-curricular-activities stage, something every middle class indian family has fun doing, my mother had money to do that. [My father was dead by then.] In fact, i 'retired' from chess when i was winning tournaments because i felt bad about my sister and also because my mother had started abusing me when i lost games.  

I uploaded on Facebook the picture of me confronting L about rape. My mother called me a day later and she was crying. I guessed that she must have seen the picture on Facebook. I wondered if what i was doing was right. Felt very bad hearing her cry. I told her that i was going to mallu land for a talk later that month. She cheered up a bit. I always feel bad for my mother thinking of what i made her go through. Then i feel hatred towards myself. But i will not be able to stop upsetting her because when i speak there is at least one woman somewhere out there, who finds courage to speak up, confront and fight. I owe it to her. 

During and after therapy last week i thought about Ish's comment on cat calling. I wanted to tell her that cat calling was not a compliment in any manner. It's like equating rape with sex. I thought about my own dependency. Tomorrow, if Ish were to say something that offended me, wouldn't i continue taking her help? Isn't that what i did in all abusive relationships? I also happened to read an article about the relation that a black person had with their white therapist and how the therapist was being racist. While thinking these, i got scared that Ish will stop believing the things i say, like everyone else, because i questioned them. Or did not agree with them on some front. Thought of NN's mother who is a therapist and her comments about Dalits.

Inji Pennu. I have not been able to understand her fully. And sometimes when i don't understand her i get angry with her in my mind. I have exhibited that anger once in public. So I can understand why a lot of people hate her. The problem becomes political when the hatred towards her is used to derail a larger cause that she or anyone stands for. My family falls under the category of people who hate her. They are also extremely jealous of her. I have no idea why.

The week took a downward spiral towards the end. I posted on Facebook about some of the abuse that i faced at the hands of my mother and sister. It has been hell after that. Everyone questioning me. My partner, my friends, Calico, Inji was the only one on my side, who in fact felt that there was a need for me to post that. She was the one who asked me to, if i could do it, pointing out how it was against #HugHadiya women. I questioned myself several times before doing it. And i did it. 

Mother attacked with emotional blackmailing. Sister with the usual cold 'i couldn't care  less' interspersed with emotional blackmailing. She sent a suicide note to me, blaming me for it. I immediately sought help. Even contacted her colleague who said that she had noticed that my sister had been very irregular at work, lately. I am worried about her. But there is absolutely no way i can help her now because she is neck deep in hatred for me. 

Meanwhile, during this ordeal, i thought  of suicide once again. First time after the last attempt. Whenever Mother starts one of her call her repeatedly till she is forced to pick the call, with messages i between asking to pick, i get very scared and feel like my tormentor is right next to me. Earlier these messages would be in bad language, sometimes with swear words. Or just 'edukkedi'. I cringe when i even think of it. Even while writing my eyes water. When all that started again, the exasperating conversations in which Mother says even more bizarre things, i thought of how it would be for them both if i had died. I thought that they would be relieved that they wouldn't have to deal with the only person who says nasty stuff about them, accuses them of abuse. Life would be easy for them, i caught myself thinking. 

I thought of getting an earlier appointment with Ish but decided against it. I can manage, i thought. It has now been two days since Mother spoke to me. The last thing she said to me was that other parents had done even worse things, probably and they were still liking my post on Facebook. I don't get hurt because she is saying that. I get hurt thinking that she is not getting the problem with saying something like that. It hurts me that when she is with Sister, she will never be questioned or made to understand what is wrong or even offered help. I really do care for my mother even though i have not been there for her when she wanted me. I have even forgotten how to express my love to her. [Eyes just watered again.] I am really sad that she is so alone, doesn't have a companion. 

Vai Vow got a high paying job and i am elated. Also jealous, but very little. I am very happy about him and i think that he will get immersed in work and will be able to forget me soon. I texted Mother. I hope she replies. I want to help her. 

Thursday, 7 September 2017

The Thorn Birds: Relevant Notes

 
Magie - A frame from the miniseries, The Thorn Birds.


Part 01
Very interesting. The owner of the farm - rich independent woman who seems to have a crush on the priest. The priest who wants to be the perfect priest. The young girl who is discriminated against for being a girl. It also seems as though the young girls in the place are also attracted to the priest (the beauty competition winner) He says, as reply to the young girl 'wouldn't want to upset/make jealous my best lady.' Sounded weird [towards the end of the first part.]
The old rich woman who clearly controls everything. (It is made to look unusual and cruel because it is a woman. also seems to be acting strange around the father's relationship with the young girl. I don't want to spoil your special 'arrangement' with emphasis on arrangement she says when she learns that the father has given a room for the girl in the parsonage. Really strange. But it is not badly made. Not at all.

The 'thorn bird' gives its life for just once. The best is only at the cost of great pain. The rich woman accuses that the priest's intentions with  the girl are not good. He is infuriated.  
Cardinal's robe. The priest confesses that he had eyes on her wealth and contacts. The youngest boy dies. Magie also has a church of her own where she prays. Like the woman in 'Sins'. The girl says she will grow up and marry the priest so that they can mate. The priest says he is a priest and he can't marry (wrong thing to say). She says he can stop being a priest anytime he wants. He says 'no'. Changes topic. The old woman is observing them. 

People cast glances at the priest when he places his hand on the girl's hair. The girl feels ignored and cries seeing that the priest is not talking to her properly. The woman (75) asks him to kiss her on her mouth. Says she loves him. Always have. He says he is still a priest. She says she is still young inside. [I predict she is going to die this night as i write while watching]
What you musn't do is dreaming of me in a romantic fashion - we've been through this before. Horse scene. 
[My prediction just came true. She is dead.]
Ha ha. That wicked old intelligent woman. She gave the man a temptation as her will. [I predict he will accept the cardinal's post.]
[My prediction came true.]
The priest says it is better this way because he won't  have to marry her to someone else or watch her change into something he can never have. He hates it that she grew up because he can't have her now. He could have her when she was a child. They kiss. The he does the 'I can't' thing and runs away. She however is happy. Says 'go to that god of yours but i know you'll come back to me because i'm the one who loves you.'
[P.S I like the theme music a lot.]

When the priest reaches Sydney, the older senior priest asks him if he loved all of that family alike or someone more than the other. He says that he loved the girl in particular. Felt responsible for her. That her parents sometimes forgot she existed. [Indicative - The higher officials were aware or that there were rumours of some sort.]

A younger priest is given a punishment transfer to a small parish somewhere for being 'disobedient' by breaking his vows of celibacy. The young girl should not know where you have been sent. This, our hero priest says. 'I think I know something of the pain you are feeling. You know how many in your situation might have given up the church but you have chosen to remain and it takes a great deal of courage. May god bless you for it.'

The girl gets married. The priest gets a high position like a bishop or something. 

Part 5 of 7
Lady Chatterly's lover. The lady gives Henry Miller reading list to Magie. To get herself pregnant. Magie tries to get herself pregnant. The arch bishop and Magie have sex. The priest goes back. 

Part 6 of 7
The son wants to be a priest. 
Father and son they are. They even look alike. 

Part 7 of 7
Election of new pope - I think actual footage. Nice. 
Son dies. A tragedy in the beach where the sister and her lover reunite. She even sees people gathering around a corpse but does not recognize that it's her brother. Father/priest dies. Daughter goes away with her lover and would pursue theatre. So in the end there is just the daughter she hated to take it (family, legacy?) forward. 

I really really liked this series.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Childhood, Love, Violence, Corporal Punishment and Me

Before i left for therapy, i felt like i was back in school, trying to impress my teachers. In fact, i was making slight changes to the post about the previous session and week when i realized that too much time had passed. It was rainy and as is inevitable in my case, the auto driver drove taking all the time in the world. I was late. Again i sensed the feeling i used to get when i was trying to impress my teachers. Being on time for everyone of P Mahmood's classes. Putting in extra effort to excel in some subjects etc. I think i felt good, feeling that way. I was also thinking of what i would be talking about my grandfather because Ish, my therapist had told me that that was what and who we were going to talk about, the coming week.

When i said that my psychiatrist had said that i was smiling more spontaneously, she smiled and said that she had noticed it too. I felt really good. I felt like someone like Inji Pennu was looking at me and deducing things that i thought only she could deduce. By my voice, my smile, how i talked etc. I had seen only Inji was able to do that. My mother was good at finding out if i was lying [how do mothers do that!], not what i felt.

She asked me what my earliest memory of my grandfather was. Let me call him 'Appan', which means father in malayalam.

In my mind, i saw the tree drawing that we had done. I must have been three. A tree of sticks with bulbs at the end as fruit, the brown diary in which it was drawn. Thought about the time when i started painting, after August chettan gave me crayons and i had started building a world of my own, upstairs. I had stuck some of his pictures and mine on the window sill. I felt good thinking that i still sketched. Something stayed in me, that was not touched upon by others. I remembered Appan coming back from a walk in the morning when we were staying in a rented house at V Colony. He had got a packet of sketch pens for me. He was really good at drawing. Even with his poor eyesight. So good at everything. Even when he was half blind.
When Ish told me that it was really something that i remembered such things from when i was only three years old, i felt really happy. That my love for Appan was huge and the best. 

I remembered being appreciated by Appan. How he marveled even at small things, like the way i pronounced 'your'. 'Achaame, it is different from the way we were all taught in school,' he had said to my grandmother, beaming.

Ish asked me if i remembered being taken away from my grandparents. I did. I still have the memory of me crying, bawling, struggling in my father's hands, asking to let me go back to Appan and Amma. I remember the painful partings at the end of school vacations. The time they left our house in Calicut to live in Bangalore, with my uncle. 

Ish asked me why they left. I told her that my mother and Amma were having problems. There were fights. She asked me if i hated my mother for having taken away Appan and Amma. I had not. I never looked at it that way, i guess. Never considered her an enemy or responsible. I wonder why. Ish remarked that it was really great on part of my mother that she didn't let hatred build up against herself from me and my sister.

I remembered how i used to try and take revenge for my sister by trying to hurt my mother. I would pinch her hard on the hand. Ish then spoke about how corporal punishment affected children. I spoke about the video i had seen, of a child being taught Math. Ish said she had watched it too and that it was horrible. Not for everyone, i said. My office people were laughing seeing that. What kind of people do you work with? Ish asked me. I told her i always ended up in spaces where such incidents alone happened. Then she spoke to me about sensitivity. 

When you go through certain experiences, you become extra sensitive about those. Like how i can detect sexual harassment immediately. Ish told me that she questioned everyone who used 'crazy' in a loose manner. She also told me that she used to see a lot of pregnant women around when she was pregnant. I pulled her leg by saying that there were no pregnant people around her and that she was seeing things. It was funny. I laughed for a long time. Even after coming home. 

What happened in my case, from what Ish told me, is that i grew up thinking hurt and abuse are part of love. I loved my mother very much. She always beat me. Said horrible things to me. So violence was normalized as far as i was concerned. And it came with love. When such things happen in childhood, you form your opinions based on it. You grow up internalizing these values. In fact, that says everything about the way i describe my relationship with Appan. I saw him as the only person i loved and who did not hurt me even once. That relationship was so precious for me for the same reason. It stood out from every other one in that it lacked violence. 

During and after the therapy i felt really at peace. I thought more about Appan, my mother and my sister. Then, one day, when i came home, the house was dirty as usual. I was really tired after work and was sad that Vai Vow hadn't tidied the house. I started crying. I told Vai Vow that i was trying not to be violent like how my mother had been. She used to abuse me verbally and sometimes hit me too, if the house was dirty when she came home from work. I wanted to break that cycle of abuse. Have been trying to do that ever since i moved in with Vai Vow. I tried not to express my anger or verbally abuse Vai Vow when such incidents happened. I cried for some time, explaining this to him. 

The next day, like considerate men after a rant by women, he made the house look like it was new. 

I also sent that message that i had typed out for this man, L, who was still messaging me. He was the one who first raped me. I was 17. He was 40. He abused me for two whole years and after all this, he had the audacity to text me. Once he sent an 'I MISS you' and recently he messaged me saying my film had been selected at VIBGYOR film festival. I had composed a message but hadn't sent it. I did this week. 'Please don't message me. I know that you raped me when i was 17'. When he didn't reply (retort) i wondered if it was because he considered himself victorious.

I confronted a rapist after many years.


For me the fight is over when i tell the person that i know that he abused me. That was what i wanted in Professor N's case too. I was also slightly worried that L would try and block my film from winning prizes or going to festivals. I thought of it before sending him the message. And told myself that this was exactly how power worked and that what i was doing was exactly how it should be dismantled. As i write this i feel a little better. I hope he doesn't text me ever again.

News of Chy winning the sexual harassment case at home brought me to tears. I immediately wanted to call Vai Vow and tell him. Then i told it to the women of WASH. Smiling even as i am typing. Felt really really good. As though i had won myself.

Then, my sister texted me. She called truce. After two years of no contact and rancour, she said that she was trying to forgive those who hurt her and that she would like to start talking. I don't know what hit her head. I am still scared of her and am scared that she will hurt me and dominate me again. The language was so. But this is a good start, nevertheless.

She texted from South Africa. Vai Vow joked that it took another continent to make her talk to me.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Wait, i Have to now Start Defending Kerala?

Guy in office today: 'Oh! you are from Kerala? But you don't have an accent!'
I am waiting for when they ask 'Oh you are from Kerala, how come you don't have coconuts for breasts?'

I am seriously  thinking of starting to say typically mallu stuff like zimbly and other such. Why Mumbai why, you making me bat for mallu land - something i have never, ever done, except when the mallus refuse to vote for BJP.

Sigh.

Shrink Tales: Longing to be Understood

It was raining on Sunday. I was running late. When i WhatsApped my therapist saying so, i got a text message from her saying that she was running late as well. She managed to reach on time and i got cheated and late. The first auto driver started shouting at me and i got scared because he was very loud and seemed very angry. I got down from his auto and took another auto that promised to take me to my destination @ Rs. 25. I ended up paying Rs. 50. So when i entered her room, i was already feeling defeated.

When i read out relevant portions from the 'aftermath' (what she calls notes on how i felt before, during and after therapy) she told me that it was still not enough. She told me that it was not easy to figure out what one was feeling all the time. She asked me several question and answering them, i kind of got an idea of what she was trying to make me write.

In the previous session, when i had narrated in short many of the abusive relationships i had been in, she had put in a sentence what she had deduced. She had asked me if it was okay to say that 'You would stick to a person ignoring all forms of abuse for the little moments of happiness that you received. Like in a trance, you keep taking abuse till someone breaks you out of it by stating things you probably knew all the while.' It had sounded like the story of my life when she said it. She now asked me what i had felt then. I told her that it struck a chord somewhere because that was exactly what had been happening. She asked me how it made me feel. 'Did you feel anxious?' No, i told her. What i had felt was relief. Someone had understood what was going on.

She told me that that was what she was looking for. If i felt relief when she said that, it meant that i craved to be understood. When she said that, i again felt relieved because it seemed true. In fact, the little happiness that i got in exchange of all abuse was that i was being understood in some way or the other. Professor N was almost completely all about that.

She asked me to try and think where this started from. The need to be understood. I thought hard but couldn't locate it. But i told her that right from childhood, i thought i was different from others around me. I now remember that i was the only child who did not cry in my class on first day of school. I remember the child-me taking a note of that. I remember the child-me knowing the answer to a question the nun (class teacher) had asked. It was a picture of a spider. I knew that it was a spider.

Later on in school, i was always making people laugh. Silly pranks that i played in class made other students and sometimes teachers laugh. I remembered how i was a good student and always wanted to impress teachers. Maybe i thought i was different because people laughed looking at things i did. I don't know.

I also spoke about my family. Father's alcoholism. Mother beating me and my sister. How my parents married out of love and not in the 'arranged marriage' system. How my mother raised us girls alone and how she never even got the time to mourn my father. I spoke about my grandparents, especially my grandfather whom i loved the most in the world.

When i started speaking about my grandfather, i felt the feeling i always feel when i think about him. Eyes becoming moist and a rush of love. Tenderness. Tenderness is what i always feel when i think of my grandparents. I remember that i used to shed a few tears whenever i got my grandfather's smell from some place. I would inhale it so deeply. I feel the pain of loss. Not excruciating but just permeating. Slowly. I feel that if i think a bit more about him, the pain will grow.

For me, my grandparents and the love i have for my grandfather are very private. I protect those feelings and am very possessive about them. Like it is the only precious little that i have that is not sad or hurtful. In fact, i describe my grandfather as the only person in this whole wide world who never hurt me.

In front of my therapist i became aware that for the first time, i will be talking about these precious thoughts. Immediately, i thought of the time when i had shared it with one of my ex lovers. How i had taken him to my grandfather because i want everyone i love to love everyone i love. How it was a big mistake. My grandfather died, keeping a man who abused me in whatever memory he had when he died, as Tuttu's love. This, when what Tuttu shared with him was nothing close to love. There, another private bit. My family calls me Tuttu.

After i came out of the therapist's more thoughts about grandfather came. I thought of what and how to talk of him. It seemed so vast and so full of love that i was not even sure that i could speak about it. Strangely, i didn't fear betrayal. Whenever there was a memory that came to me of grandfather, i stifled it and not let it out to people around me. No lover, no friend. I always thought that they didn't deserve to know of him or our love. But with Ish, my therapist, i did not feel so. Maybe because she was doing her job and i was her client. Maybe because she seemed to be good at understanding. I always felt that nobody understood my kind of love or that mine was not love at all. With Ish, I felt i had stopped thinking of what she might or might not know. I felt that if i let her, she would be able to figure me out.

I had my first appointment with the psychiatrist that week. When i went there, i got to know that Ish and she were in touch with each other regarding patients. Ish had messaged her that i was doing well. I felt good hearing it. Felt reassured, as though i had two women who were in touch with each other regarding my mental health so nothing could go wrong. Also felt good about the science thing. (I get really excited when i see methods that medicine or science employs to make lives easier for human beings. Rolls eyes to self.)

Told her about the obsession with weight. She said that she'd talk to Ish about it. When she said that i was looking well, i thought that she'd meant that i had gained weight. I told her that. She then explained that that was not what she had meant and explained the science behind it and that made me feel even more awesome. Because science. Apparently, the first time i had gone to her, she had noted that my smiles weren't spontaneous. This happened either because of depression or because of unfamiliarity. This time, she saw that i was smiling more spontaneously. I was relieved (that i she had not meant that i'd gained weight) and amazed (at all that simple science).

Noticed that during the week, my eyes were welling up like before. [Before i went to Kolkata and attempted suicide.] When i thought of my grandfather (dead - his love that i consider precious etc.) and my mother who lived alone in Kerala. Earlier, i would cry for some time. Now eyes just welled up and i stopped thinking about it in some time so that i wouldn't cry more. 

Constant guilt during the week that i wasn't working enough. Not getting up early enough. When i work like dog and make both breakfast and lunch for my partner before i leave for work, then i feel i accomplished something. Otherwise i feel like a loser. I think of mother and countless women who do much more and feel that i am lesser than all of them. I compare myself to Inji Pennu who does maybe four times the amount of work i do in a day. Feel inadequate when i think of it.

This click from my living room was on a day that i got up early enough to cook and then leave for work. A Monday morning.

A Monday morning, 1bhk, Bombay

Oh by the way the psychiatrist increased the dose of one of my pills to stop my recurring thoughts. In the night i wake up with a start to add things to my 'to-do' list for the next day. Also i am always thinking about my weight. 























Monday, 14 August 2017

The Great Indian Shit Problem

An Indian toilet (kunjila CC-BY-SA)

I am just back from the toilet. I had gone to pee. When i entered the toilet i realised that it had happened again. From the stench. I didn’t want to look there. It would ruin my day, sometimes weeks. It was the Great Indian Shit Problem.

My partner’s friend had come over. They chat about cinema. Sometimes i join in. But most of the time, when this friend of my partner whom i’ll call ‘Amt’ comes over, i am worried about just one thing. That like he had done the first time he visited, he would shit in my toilet and leave without flushing. It meant that if i was the one who went to toilet after him, i would have to pee/shit in the stench of his shit and see his shit.

Surprised? Don’t be. This is not an isolated incident or one of Amt’s idiosyncrasies. It is a problem that India has. As a country. We don’t know what to do with our shit. So much so that we entrust people — from a caste that we consider below others — with the job of cleaning it. If you have heard of India and not heard of the caste system, it means that you have only been reading brahminical news all this while.

India is a country where human beings were, as a tradition and as a profession, asked to carry the shit of other human beings. Manual scavenging in English. In Malayalam, my mothertongue, the word is derogatory ‘thotti’. This ‘job’ is reserved — oh the irony — only for Dalits. Would you believe it if i told you that manual scavenging was legally banned in India only in 2013? (Only the cleaning of ‘dry-toilets’ was banned in 1993)That is, just four years ago and 184 years after the ban on Sati. 148 years after the official ban on slavery in US, 52 years after the laws against dowry in India. Despite the law, manual scavenging continues unhindered, claiming lives of Dalits.

Amt’s habit is definitely not that of enforcing manual scavenging. Amt does not expect me or my partner to carry his shit on our head and dispose it. It is a habit that is common in India and only i seem to have a problem with. In here, the person who goes to the toilet after a practitioner of this ideology will have to see the colour and consistency of another person’s stool. With Amt, i have been that person and have flushed his shit down the toilet whenever it happened.

And it happens quite frequently. In hostels and even in strangers’ places. (As a matter of fact, we as a country are used to seeing a lot of human shit because we also practice open defecation. Here women get raped while they go to fields to defecate.) I am talking about manual scavenging and open defecation because i believe that the Great Indian Shit Problem has roots in it.

I thought about the problem a lot because for me, whenever it happens, it becomes a traumatic experience. I say traumatic, because like many incidents of abuse that i have faced, these shit-incidents flash before my eyes without warning. In my mind i get disgusted and get angry with the owner of the shit. For me, talking about shit is more awkward than talking about sex so it all happens in my head. The sight haunts me for weeks and it plays in my head when i talk to the perpetrators of the Great Indian Shit Problem. My thinking has resulted in the following conclusions.
  • In many parts of India, people don’t know how to use the Indian toilet.
OR
  • They pretend they don’t know how to use the Indian toilet.
  • People in India, especially Brahmins, believe it is okay for others to see their shit in the toilet.
Everyone seems to know that in a Western toilet you have to flush the shit down by pressing the flush handle. Not everyone does it. Some ‘forget’ to flush. Some leave after they flush without waiting to see if all of the shit goes down or not. For them, it is not important. I don’t know if there are others like me who have panic attacks thinking they forgot to flush and rush back before someone else enters the toilet. Or wait to see if there is even a speck of shit left in the closet after flushing, fill a bucket with water and flush it down again.

Oh the bucket. I have seen people who are not aware or who pretend to be not aware that shit can be flushed down even when the flush is not functioning and when there is no water in the flush tank. You just have to fill a bucket with water and dump it in the closet. I have even taken mugs of water repeatedly to flush shit down when there was no bucket in sight. These are very common situations in India and if a person doesn’t know these, it means that they believe that cleaning their own shit is not their business. Like most men. (Literally and figuratively.)I have seen shit floating in many public Western toilets. Where else is this belief and the audacity to practise it coming, than from India’s ‘tradition’ of manual scavenging?

Now the Indian toilet.

Consider the time when i was at this professor’s place in Thrissur, Kerala to learn how to play chess. This professor was a champion and a few children, including myself, had camped at his place for a week for coaching. One day, a girl came back from the bathroom clasping her nose with her hand, indicating disgust. She told us not to go to the bathroom where she had just gone. When we asked what the matter was, she said that someone had ‘done number 2’ in there. I soon saw the ‘number 2’ because my mother asked me to stay there for one day more than the other students because she thought i would get special lessons that way. I didn’t. What i got was the sight of someone’s shit in an Indian toilet in the bathroom where i was sent to take bath. I had to take bath standing in the stink of the shit that was now days old. I even thought of picking up a toilet brush and cleaning it up. (i have a servitude gene that helps me get into abusive relationships so…) I couldn’t do it. I cried. I took bath. And waited to be released from that place, chess coaching or not.

What i gathered from that incident was that in some families, it was not uncommon to leave one’s shit for someone else — in most cases, a domestic help — to clean.

I faced another version of this attitude when i lived in a hostel while learning cinema in Kolkata. Hostel meant shared bathrooms. That is when i realised that there were students who thought that after shitting and pouring water to clean their ass as well as the accumulated shit in the ceramic part of the toilet, their job was done. But that is not true about Indian toilets. Even if you clean the shit from the ceramic area, it only accumulates in the pipe filled with water at the end of it. It is very visible, floating over there. It is also very ‘smellable’ if left there. You can see the area (the round opening that is filled with water) i am talking about in the picture below.

Indian toilet — people refuse to remove shit from the pit area in the picture by pouring water in a bucket with some force. As a result, other people end up seeing other people’s shit. And bearing with the stench. (Image — kunjila CC-BY-SA)

It amazes me that a person can grow up in India and still not know these basics about cleaning one’s own shit. The first time i called it out was in my final year of filmmaking. I had knocked on my neighbour’s door and told them that they hadn’t flushed the toilet. When i went back in, the shit was gone. This mean that they knew how to do it. Yet, it was repeated and i had to knock on their door once again. I have lost count of times when i have seen this ‘floating shit’ in Indian toilets. This was what had happened with Amt too.

Another friend had complained that her neighbour left shit floating in the common Western toilet in the hostel. She suspected that he was doing so because he was high on marijuana. When i told this to the neighbour, he accused her of the same. Both were Brahmins. My neighbour in my hostel was too.
When i moved in with my partner, i got to know that he was someone who thought that in an Indian closet it was okay for him to leave his shit floating in the water pipe for me to see and smell. After i confronted him, he too proved that he certainly knew what to do because the shit disappeared. So did his habit. (Did i just save a relationship?)

When I saw Amt’s shit floating in the toilet for the first time, i immediately told my partner that it had happened. I was hoping he would talk to Amt. Instead, he replied, “At least he has started washing the plate he ate in.”

I don’t know what Indian men, Indian Brahminical men and those who emulate them smoke. Whatever it is, it is a substance that generates the illusion that women, dalits or your fellow human beings exist to clean up after them. This sexist wall drawing from a local
train station here says it the best.

Sexist wall drawing at Goregaon station, Mumbai (kunjila CC-BY-SA)

My partner is not brahmin and i don’t know Amt’s caste but i do think that this is a brahminical behaviour with roots in casteism. I can’t be sure because i have not heard anyone else talk about it.
Epilogue: I questioned Amt before he left. He swore that he always flushed after he shit and used copious amount of water. He gets chided at home for it, he said. I continue getting flashes of his shit and don’t know if he will ever visit again. My partner is taking lessons on doing dishes and laundry from me. In other words, i am shoving it down his throat.

Films, July, 2017, Bombay



1.     Microcosmos

Documentary on the microcosmic world.
Wow! What was that!
I am still not out  of the effect  it had one me. The film is like a fiction feature in which the characters are all small beings. In the world of small beings such as ants, the cock comes in, just like in a thriller film, he peeps into the ant’s nest and we see it from inside the nest. Oh, what a big monster. The climber climbing up. The flower going to sleep with the bee inside it. We clearly see how the pollens stick to the bees and how the flower deliberately tries to touch the bees with its pollen grains part. Wow! And the music. Really liked the use of music.
The snails making out. It looked gross to me in the beginning with all that slime but that scene was so beautiful. The caresses and the love. God! [Vai Vow made a bad attempt at a pathetic joke by saying ‘It’s not like they have to try. They’re always wet anyway.’] The wasp going around with its egg, the spider trapping the moth within seconds with its web. This film is just too awesome and this is a human supremacist who thinks that our race is better than all others speaking. So…

2.     . Two Days One Night

Daredenne brothers. Actor is the same as in Inception, The Dark Knight. About the employment situation there. Learnt a word called ‘dole’. The unemployment benefit given to people by the government in Britain. [Doled out is distribute and it can also mean a person’s destiny. Like ‘death be their dole who worst maintains the strife’. So this film is about a woman fighting to get back her job. She was fired and the other workers were asked to vote on the decision. If people vote for her and she wins, they’ll all lose a bonus of 1000. She goes from co-worker to co-worker asking if they can vote for her because a second secret ballot is going to be held. Politics at work. In the end one of her co-workers who voted for her, she is made an offer that she’d be allowed to continue if that person’s contract is not renewed. That way. Nice film. Not great. Rosetta is the best Dardenne brothers I’ve watched till now.

3.       The Deer Hunter
About people during war. It’s a three hour long film. Robert DNiro and this other actor whom you’ve seen in Inception? Let me check him out. Want to know where I’ve seen him before. Annie Hall is a film I’ve watched. Now will have to watch again. Batman Returns. Pulp Fiction. Sleepy Hollow. Yeah these are the films that I’ve watched in his list but don’t remember any of the roles. I loved him in The Deer Hunter so would like to watch all of these again.
The film, I don’t know, why were they glorifying America? The ‘game’ – Russian Roulette, it is called – isn’t that something! What would the people who play that game be like. I’ve watched 13Tzameti and it was an unforgettable experience. Of course, who wouldn’t want to make a film on that but really, it amazes me that such a game existed. Is murder about power too, like how rape is? There was a scene in which everyone sang a song and it dawned upon them, the gravity of the situation. That was nice. But I can’t agree with any of the American thing. They should get out of that habit and start making films that condemn wars waged by their country. Wikipedia says it’s an anti-war film but I don’t see how. Yes, it destroyed people’s lives but in the end why are all of them singing America great again. Or it is how civilians work? Is that what the intention was?

4.      Taxidermia

Didn’t like the film one bit. First of all it shows a lot of erect dicks. I don’t like it. I believe there is a difference. Anyway, it starts with a man who plays with the flame of a candle, he is then seen emitting fire from his dick. I am so sick and tired of these men talking in length about body and its ‘need’ and then show sexual activities, jerking off to young girls etc as if it’s a natural outcome of that ‘need’. So sick of that. Stop making such films, please. You have the whole universe telling you that and we, a small group, saying it doesn’t mean shit. Anyway in the end there is a taxidermist in the generation of people who eat, like a pig or something. Lots of gross stuff done to elicit ‘yuck’ reactions from people. Body, blood, flesh, corpulence, sex, woman becomes pig, cunt, woman, pig, child is born with a tail etc. Some shit. Why do people consider this a great film again?

5.      Catch Me If You Can

Great script. Based on a true story. Read up on the true story. This con man who is a juvenile. Leonardo De Caprio. These things in commercial films. You need to have many such things in a great commercial film. The one that you will have to make to make people talk about the real things. De Caprio tears off the wrappers on champagne bottles and everything. That was put there so that later, in the wedding that was going to happen, Tom Hanks could see a bottle like that
How it all begins, from the father – played by the actor who played Nick in The Deer Hunter. [The reason why I downloaded this film.] The line do you know why the Yankees always win was put there so that it could be repeated later. So is the tale of the two mice (frog in mallu land) and remember that’s where we see that this boy tears the paper off the champagne bottles.
I liked the part where we think Tom Hanks is lying. He tries to lie. We, till the end don’t get to know if he is lying or not. About his broken family, his daughter, his daughter’s age etc.
Now I have to watch all films by Steven Speilberg. Yes.
Title sequence. Cut and upload for the world to see.
[Depiction of women in this picture is pathetic. The model who has become a sex worker – implying what ‘these women really do’ and many more female characters like that. It also says that it is easier to con women than to con men. In so many words. Bevy of women airhostesses he uses to get out of the airport. All police people look at the women and don’t see the guy at all. Also somewhere blaming the broken family. Don’t know if that detail was from the real story. Anyway, they never showed that the woman was feeling guilty or something like that. I liked that.]

A title card from Catch Me If You Can. Vlc snap


6.      Takeoff

What a pathetically Islamophobic film. ISIS malayali. The good Muslim. The terrorist Muslim. The mallu who holds powerful positions everywhere. Probably Nair. Check the names of all the Hindus in the film when you prepare the video for this. These oppressed suppressed women -

7.      Schindler’s List

Steven Speilberg film. Sethuvamma said she and papaji had watched it together and that she remembered a scene where the Jews were taken to a gas chamber. I don’t know why the people who did what they could, to help Jews during Hitler’s reign should be celebrated this way. They are even called the Schindler’s Jews. Is that right? He was in SS and he did what he could because he knew what humanity was or love was. I don’t know. But that’s the least a person can do. The film itself is not that well made. Catch me if you can was much better. It is long for no reason.
The film is not entirely black and white. Look up what they did. The sight of a little girl wearing a red cloak. Later we see a deadbody with the same red cloak. Lighting of candles in the beginning – these were in colour.


Udaan

About boy who wants to escape abusive father. Engineering etc. Nice film. Went to Cannes. Lutera and Trapped by the same directo. I didn't like 'Trapped'. Not watched 'Lutera'. This film is much above 'Trapped'.

Spotted a continuity jerk with the watch in the end and joked about how the AD must have got scolded for it.

Really liked the edit. 


The tiger/leopard in cage shot - i felt that that was the director's decision over the editor's. That it has to be there. There was no need of those two shots. 

The train journey part in the beginning could've been avoided. 

It's interesting how the beginning of the film has been shown. People would think it's going to be about the four boys. Maybe because he had to go to Bombay later, in the script. 

Liked how homosexuality is suggested. With the Sikh. It is a bildungsroman.