What would RTH do?

That is the question.

If I were in a highschool yearbook, they would vote me most likely to die of a lynch mob. That does not prevent me from opening my mouth and serving a warm hearty cup of STFU to people who deserve it. My dark scathing humor will leave no matter of existence untouched. My innocence will touch your soul.

Welcome to a warped world turned inside out and upside down. All sorts of discretion advised.

Friday, January 25, 2013

These are Spirit Fingers

Winter can be a bitch. You know those days that feel like -20F wind chill factor and everybody bundles up. Well they feel like -100F to me. It is because I have Raynaud's phenomenon.

So what is Raynaud's?
It is a circulatory disorder. Blood circulation is reduced in cold weather causing discoloration.

What causes it?
Secondary Raynaud's can be triggered by diseases like Lupus. But the most common Primary Raynaud's has no known cause.

Is there a cure?
Primary Raynaud's has no cure. The triggering cause of Secondary Raynaud's can be treated.

Have I always had Raynaud's?
No. I was perfectly fine for several years. I used to even shovel snow in shorts and tees sometimes. This just started a few years ago. It creeps on you suddenly with no cause.

Does it hurt?
You might as well ask if one breathes. It does get better over time as your body gets used to the sensation.

The phenomenon cycles through phases. The first phase is when the digits turn white or the "death fingers" Back in the day my skin would prick and throb at this stage. Now it is a mild just a numbing or tingling sensation.

My Death fingers

The second phase is actually when the oxygen is cut of due to poor circulation. That is when everything turns blue or the "Terminal Blue". Don't be fooled because the terminal blue looks less alarming than the pasty white death fingers. The Terminal Blue is a real motherfucker. There was a time I would cry and writhe in agony if I hit this stage. Sometimes I still do. But now it just is a dull throbbing but bearable pain.

 My Terminal Blue

The final stage is when you get warm again and circulation begins again. This time the fingers turn red. Usually, it doesn't pain. But occasionally, I get a sharp shooting pain for a flash. 

What does one do to manage Raynaud's?
Simple logical stuff. Dress warm with thick woolen gloves and socks. Double up on wind chill advisory days. Avoid caffeine. Avoid staying out in the cold too long. Some people swear that extracts like Ginkgo Balboa help. I've never tried it though. 

I don't take as much care as I should. I have thick Brahma workman boots I wear during winter. That is it. I wear a thin pair of touch screen gloves. I'm supposed to wear another mitten, but can't be knackered. Sometimes, I even forget gloves. You get used to it. 

Once the discoloration sets in you can do various things to warm up your hands. The best warm up is sticking it a body cavity like armpit or by your crotch. Or run room temperature water over them. And I didn't make that shit up. The Mayo clinic website also suggests it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Meet Hans Faste

One of my favorite characters in "The Girl Who Played with Fire" is Hans Faste. The character is a total douche bag and an asshole. He really is not likable at all. But he adds comic relief. He has some of the funniest absurdest one liners of the book. One cannot help but be amused at his quips and assumptions. I think Stieg Larsson created the character to expose misogyny not for comic relief. But for me he always adds a touch of humor and edge to the book. How can you not laugh at his ignorance.

Take this scene from the book

“The same source that tipped us off about her and Wu at Kvarnen says that she used to hang out with a bunch of girls there a while back. Some kind of girl band called Evil Fingers."

"Evil fingers?" Bublanski repeated.

"Seems to be something occult."

"Don't tell me Salander is some damned Satanist too," Bublanski said. "The media are going to go nuts."

"Lesbian Satanists," Faste said helpfully.

"Hans, you've got a view of women from the Middle Ages," Modig said. "Even I've heard of Evil Fingers."

"You have?" Bublanski said.

"It was a girl rock band in the late nineties. No superstars, but they were pretty famous for a while."

"So hard-rocking lesbian Satanists," Faste said. 

Faste is really an interesting character. He is a good cop. In fact he is hand picked by the celebrated Inspector Bublanski. He is chosen because Bublanski believes that Faste has the investigative skills to serve on  his special team. Had it been any other criminal case Faste might have been a successful cop. But in the case of Lisbeth Salander he loses his script. He is one of those old fashioned and highly judgmental men. As soon as he sees Lisbeth Salander he makes a judgment call on her. In his world the tattooed and pierced goth girl has to be mentally deranged. There is no other reason for her self expression. He's made up his mind of her guilt. As her homosexual relationships and ties to a all female rock band emerges, Faste mentally paints her as a "hard-rocking lesbian satanist". The Neanderthal viewpoint is downright hilarious.

For the rest of the book Faste runs on a personal agenda against Lisbeth Salander. Much to the chagrin of his superiors and coworkers his views are highly misogynist and homophobic. He assumes that she hates men, and he loathes her for it. Despite there being holes in the theory, despite there being unanswered questions and several other plausibilities he refuses to suspect anyone other than Lisbeth Salander. Rather than solve a crime his agenda is to punish Lisbeth. As a result of his assumptions and judgments the following picture of Lisbeth emerges

"When all the media assertions were put together, the police appeared to be hunting for a psychotic lesbian who had joined a cult of Satanists that propagandized for S&M sex and hated society in general and men in particular. Because Salander had been abroad for the past year, there might be international connections too."

However, the reality couldn't be more different. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Lisbeth Salander psychologically or socially. She is  merely socially awkward and reserved, probably due to a form of autism. Her tattoos and piercings are just a form of self expression. There is nothing occult or dark about her. In fact she has a passion for math, not occult. She's bisexual. She doesn't hate men, but actually has friends like Dragan Armansky, Holger Palmgren, Paulo Roberto and Mikhail Blomkvist whom she loves and respects. She actually falls for Blomkvist for the kind of man he is. She's not a sadist or hugely into S&M. She merely enjoys a little rough play and dark outfits. There is nothing to substantiate the conclusions about her. Most importantly, she is completely innocent of the double murder ascribed to her.

Luckily for Lisbeth her friends Dragan, Paulo, Holger and Mikhail are there for her and help her out. And thankfully, the entire force is not Neanderthal like Faste. They are all intelligent people who are able to ask the right questions, uncover the answers and establish the truth. Collectively they expose Faste for who he is.

Now one might legitimately wonder, why the heck I would randomly write about a lesser known character like Hans Faster.  The thing is there are many men like that in the real world. On the surface they come across as ordinary, intelligent human beings. However, in due time their extreme ignorance, misogyny and homophobia is exposed. Once exposed, just like Faste they are incapable of conducting themselves in a rational dignified manner. They are unable to ask the right questions, grasp facts or construct coherent arguments. Instead they begin to flounder. They start hunting for "hard-rocking lesbian satanists" instead of focusing on the real issues. They have made up their minds and there is no changing it back.

And though they are total douche bags and ass holes, you cannot help but be amused at their quips and assumptions. They do add that certain comic relief to life. After all Neanderthals in the modern era are indeed special zoological specimen.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Silver Lining

All the news around India lately has centered around the rape. My American friends often ask me "what the fuck is going on in India?". I have a hard time explaining the culture of misogyny and abuse of women. It chokes and embitters me. Words fail me. I love my home country, but the recent news of violence, rape and abuse make me loathe my roots and feel ashamed to be an Indian.

In my previous blog post I shared my experiences as a woman in India. I talked about the leering, groping and sexual harassment in the streets. But there is also another side to India. One of my friends on twitter sent me a link to a beautiful blog post that narrates anecdotes of this other side. The part of India where men genuinely care for women, respect them and protect them. There is a part of India where you get random acts of kindness and friendly gestures from total strangers. I should know. I've met these kind strangers and good men.

Every dark cloud has a silver lining. There is a light at the end of every tunnel. I am hopeful, that someday India can change. I believe in the few good people and their ability to make a difference. For now read this blog post and smile, for there is hope.

Source: http://vitalsighs.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/this-is-also-india/

It was probably around now, the season, classes had thin attendance and the New Year had not yet guilt-kicked-in with its resolutions. We were 20 and quite drunk. It was the middle of the day, the four of us girls had bunked college and gone to Leopold’s in Colaba. We didn’t notice the table next to us. Four men, probably in their thirties, leery, not talking to each other. Some of us were smoking those thin, menthol cigarettes like newbies, being very cool. One of the men at the next table leaned towards us and asked if they could borrow our lighter. We thought nothing of it, but at that instant, a waiter was at our side, standing between our table and their’s, handing the man a matchbox.

After that, we began to notice. Whether late at night, or during the day, whether we were drunk on beer or club sandwiches, the staff at our Leo’s was always on the lookout for us. Waiting till we piled into a cab, watching, hawkeyed for any unnecessary enthusiasm from young men in groups without women while we danced or sat at the table in paroxysms of laughter.
We took it for granted.
I lived alone in my parents’ flat from the time I was 17. I biked to work for my first job at the Asian Age, in a little hellhole area of Mumbai, in lower-Lower Parel. We worked insane hours. I’d ride back to Bandra, at 1 in the morning, no helmet, very obviously a girl. I never felt unsafe.
Taking a cab late at night from near Haji Ali, the cabbie was uncharacteristically young. My mother had a litany of ‘safe practices’. One was, “choose an older cabbie if you can” (her concern was mostly about the speed at which young men drove, such was the time) but that night, there was only this young one. At Worli, the streets were deserted and out of nowhere a white van packed with screaming, drunk, men in their early twenties, began to drive alongside. They spied me, alone in the cab and began to make lewd gestures. They opened the door of the van at the signal. I saw the cabbie look at them and thought, ‘that’s it, this is how it’s going to end’. And then my cabbie hit the gas, broke the signal and sped off like his life depended on it. Like our lives depended on it. The van gave chase but eventually trailed off. I paid him outside my house and said ‘thank you’. He just nodded. We both knew what had happened and what had been averted.
On a bus, with my friend R, from whom I learned “there’s always a stone on the road to throw at a creep”, we watched a young girl being harassed by a man for ten minutes. Finally, it was too much. R, 5’8” and with our monsoon de-rigeur, a large black umbrella, tapped the man on the shoulder and said she’d get the conductor to throw him off the bus. He turned around and said, “but what am I doing?” So she looked at the girl, who surprised us all, (the entire bus was now staring at R) by saying “He wasn’t doing anything.” It was super embarrassing and weird. The girl, head bent, shuffled to the back of the bus but the conductor stared the man down and R and I shook our fists at him. He got off at the next stop in a hurry.
In a crowded bus, coming home, I finally got a seat next to a scrawny, unkempt looking young chap. Instinctively, I edged away from him only to find that one of the men standing in the aisle was using my shoulder to grind himself against. I fought back tears. I had no energy to get into an argument that day. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that the guy sitting next to me was staring at me. I turned on him in hatred, eyes wide with rage and he just said quietly, ‘Sister, let me sit on the outside.’ So we traded places. And as I looked out of the window, safe from harm, I let myself cry.
For every hideous incident of molestation, most women here will have a story that is heartening. In scruffy bars, stranded on highways because of a wrong turn, in an auto at 4 am, in the middle of Kamathipura, Nagpada, Bombay Central, Dadar… there is always a counter to the story of monstrous men. Stories of brave, kind strangers and the men and women you know.
Things have changed, yes, but nothing is irrevocable.
There’s creepy, awful, evil, misogynistic, opportunistic, cowardly, hateful, potential rapists in every city, in every place. What I have loved about Bombay, is that the good guys (and girls) still seem to outnumber the assholes. And that is why there’s hope for us yet.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Difference

Walking to school could be an embarrassment. There was a college on the way. Roadside Romeo's would sit outside on the walls to harass women. Whether it was walking to school in the mornings or to hockey practice in the evenings, you had to pass by these perverts and endure their lecherous comments. It really didn't matter if you were barely twelve-thirteen. I don't think Pedophilia exists in their dictionaries. None of us kids were even vying for attention. Drab brown school uniforms, clunky backpacks and shy awkward gaits don't really signal 'I'm sexy, look at me'. For some reason it was a fact of life. The collateral damage of being a girl. Boys would look  indiscriminately and the girl just had to endure.

High Schools and Universities in the United States do have their share of cool boy gangs. There are the jocks and studs who think they are better than everyone. They love pickup girls, especially the hot ones like cheerleaders. They like to leave trains of broken hearts. But despite all that women don't have to worry about passing such a group in front of schools and colleges. Most importantly, if you are just a kid of twelve-thirteen you definitely don't have to worry about these lechers. And if by chance one idiot ever crosses a line, your complaints will be taken seriously.

Growing up in India I've been grabbed, groped and stalked. Another fact of life, collateral damage of being a woman. It started when I was barely ten and carried on till I had left the country. You had to be careful not to go out late night. You had to be cautious what streets you walked on. You had to look at all the people around you with a suspicious eye. Even in public places like a bus stop, on a train, at a restaurant you had to be carefully consider where you would sit or stand. Sometimes you had no choice, but to use your backpack of purse as a barrier.

It has been over twelve years since I experienced any of that. Life has been so easy in the states that I forget that there is any difference in being a woman. I don't think twice about staying out late at night - one am, two am, three am, it really doesn't matter. I'm not worried about turning around the wrong corner. The city has its bad spots, but most of it its relatively safe. Even if you wander, the worst is that you might get mugged. I don't choose where to sit and stand in public transit. Now I don't mind being engulfed by the swarm of bodies in transit. I don't need backpacks or purses to act as barriers.

I remember the beaches in Goa. People from all across the world come to enjoy the beauty that is Goa. The sun, the sand, the surf, the shade of the coconut palms it truly is paradise. Western women walk around the beach and the little street shops in their bikinis. They lay on the beach exposing their skin to the sun for a fine tan. I remember all the men gathering and leering lustily at all these women. It was almost as if they had never seen a woman in their life. For some reason an innocent girl sunning herself was a nasty, filthy pornographic show men could salivate over.

The beaches in Brazil are nothing like that. Locals and visitors alike wear skimpy outfits. Showing off your ass and cleavage is like some sort of mandatory custom. But then again, you are on the beach to catch the sun and sand with your body. What is there so special to see. It is just ass and cleavage, nothing new. Men walk the beach nonchalantly. Vendors are more interested in selling their wares for a profit. Errand boys are concerned with delivering the cold beers and umbrellas promptly. The locals are more interested in kicking around a football or a game of beach volleyball.

When my coworker's boy hit that age where he noticed girls and would soon start dating, she had a talk with him. Not just the facts of life, but also to ensure that he knew how to behave and would always remain her good little boy. I don't remember any desi boys being taught by their mommas on how to be gentlemen.

Of course I know the experience of one person is not statistically significant. Many people may call my views biased or one sided. I'm not really an expert either. But I would still like to hazard a guess as to what makes the difference. I honestly don't think that item songs like Munni or Sheila cause sexual harassment. I don't think we should blame media for society's shortcomings. The west has its own modes of objectification like girls gone wild series, gentleman's clubs etc. Like Occam's Razor, I believe the difference is very simple. In most of the world men are raised to "respect women and treat them right" but it is not always the case in India. In most of the world men are taught "consent is important, no means no" but it is not always the case in India. In most of the world it is not the victims fault, but in India her short skirt, her working late, her dating boys are reasons that provoked the man. In most of the world it is unacceptable that women face harassment or be treated differently, but in India harassment is accepted as a part of life and a women has to conform to different rules. Change all the laws you want. Ban all the provocative songs we want. Do what you will. Unless our society changes its archaic attitudes - women in India will continue to suffer.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Farewell Two Oh Twelve

A year older. A year wearier. None the wiser.

Twenty twelve is just a blurb. A blink and miss flash of life that just passed on by. I look back and cannot discern beginning or end. All memories meld together in a continuum. None of them flesh out or stand out. Something within me stirs. I feel serenely happy and content. It must have been a good year. More importantly an even year. Finally, in the jarring roller coaster of life that hurls you up in the skies and tosses you down again, life has somehow hit that point where everything chugs along at an alarmingly even pace. Or perhaps I've become so used to it that even the thrills and chills and curve balls of life seem unnervingly mundane. Is this what growing up is like?

I look back at the year. I'm in Brazil. My toes dig into the warn sands of Copacabana. I stretch my arms out in front of Christ the Redeemer. I'm the King of the World! We're almost wiped out by a rogue wave at Ipanema. Everyone is cheering the Corinthians at Pacaembu stadium. I'm in Wisconsin. My fingertips claw deeper in my gloves. My arms hug myself, my body huddling within itself. I'm extremely cold. Our driveway is walled in with snow by the snowplow, again. Everyone is celebrating the New Year.

A year is such a strange thing. They seem endless and eternal, yet they buzz past you in a jiffy. You don't even know what hit you. Memories are even stranger. Sometimes so vivid, so real, surrounding you in the moment. Sometimes so distant, so foggy, leaving you grasping at nothing. How do you account for memories in a year? My taste buds recollect all the foodgasms of the year. My first filet mignon, the feijoada, the cotechino and all the wonderful flavors. My neurons recollect the drinks and hangovers. The endless shots of cacha├ža, the bottles of beer, the glasses of wine and everything in between. My thoughts strains my brain process trying to remember all that I've experienced, strain my brain for the memories. The birthdays, the arguments, the makeups, visiting family and games of 304. There's also accomplishments like a hundred movies, team trivia, biking through summer and conquering high point hill. 

Now I'm standing at the ending. I'm also standing at the beginning. Twenty twelve is in the past now. Twenty thirteen lies ahead of me. I'm at the junction of past, present and future. Then again, isn't every of life that pivotal juncture. Either way I forlornly look back. I excitedly look ahead. What goals will I set myself in twenty thirteen? What resolutions will I shackle myself to and break free? What lies around the corner? I look forward to the new memories I will create. I ponder what will come, what I will learn and what I will experience. 

Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? 

Is this real life? Will you come with me?