Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Welcome to adulthood

One of the worst things we do, I think, is convincing ourselves that our problems are all part and parcel of being an adult. I tweeted recently about how tired I was and someone left a reply along the lines of ‘welcome to adulthood’. They didn’t mean anything by it, but I thought, “no!”

We need to stop convincing ourselves that being an adult means killing ourselves, because it shouldn’t be. These past few days have been exhausting. I’ve been physically and mentally drained. Last week, I remember waiting for a bus and biting my lip to stop it from trembling. I remember blinking away tears. I remember not talking because I couldn’t stop my voice from doing that weird thing it does before you start crying.

I remember waking up hating myself. Thinking about all the different ways my life could just end and hating myself for hating the universe for not putting me in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I hated myself. I hated that I couldn’t love going to work. I hated that words had become the enemy. I hated that I rarely read because I was tired of letters. I was tired or reading and writing. Being told to do this and that. Having deadlines.

I hated that I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t meet deadlines. I couldn’t deliver as promised. I needed a break. But whenever one job ended, and I gave myself a break and took a nap or watched a film, I hated myself for not getting the other job done.

What was I doing? Why couldn’t I take control of my body and mind? Why was I wasting time?

Why was my mind and body so fucking exhausted?

Is this what it means to be an adult?

We all have jobs. I have a good thing going for me. I don’t have an 8-5 five days a week job. I don’t have bills to pay or groceries to buy or meals to cook. I have a good life and yet I was struggling. Why?

Shouldn’t I just stop fighting it? I should give in to it. Accept adulthood for what it is. Get my shit together. Work even harder. Do my very best and then some more. Stop giving myself breaks. This is what adulthood is about, isn’t it?

I’m 25. I have never had a fulltime job. I signed a contract for the first time just last year, despite having worked more or less since I left school in 2012. While my friends got into relationships and got married and had kids, I wondered how they had time to even go on a date. Hell, how did they find time to even works towards a date?

How do you find the energy to have a social life? How to find the time to do anything but work and hate yourself for not working more?

Did being an adult mean I had to strip my life of anything that wasn’t somehow related to work?


I’m tired. I need breaks. I need to prioritize the rights things, even if it means telling someone you can’t rewrite that article for the fourth time simply because you’ve made plans to meet your friends. Even if it means saying you can’t be at office five days a week and take on more work because you want to be at home with your cats.

I was doing things wrong. I was taking more things than I can handle because I thought that that’s what adults do. But what adults do is listen to their minds and their bodies and make others listen to them.

An adult won’t be a slave to their jobs or society or their parents. An adult will fight for themselves, even if that fight is against themselves.

I miss pouring my heart out into blogs. I miss writing what I felt instead of quoting other people and discussing topics that didn’t personally affect me. I miss what words used to mean to me.

There was a tweet going around recently about what you wanted to be when you were five. People answered with scientist or astronaut or teacher. So many career ambitions. Some achieved as an adult. Some left behind in childhood.

When I was five, I didn’t want to be anything. Not because I wanted to be anything and everything but because I didn’t know you had to be something when you grew up. Sure, both my parents had jobs but at five, this just meant not seeing my parents for most of the day. It meant spending hours with my grandmother. It meant playing with my cousins all day.

It never meant that I too, would someday have to work. It never occurred to me at five that I needed to be anything but what I was already.

And my heart breaks that I forgot this along the way. I know I need a job to earn money and live a ‘comfortable’ life. But what I forgot was that this shouldn’t come in exchange for who I was. I needed to find a way to work for that comfortable life while still being happy, while still doing the things I love.

This is what it means to be an adult.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

What do we expect from books?

I don’t read a lot of Sinhala novels and it’s mostly because the language can get super confusing. I know Sinhala, I can read it without any issue but dialect plays a huge role in novels.

If we talk about English novels for a second, novels by Irvine Welsh, for instance, can’t be easily understood if you aren’t familiar with accents. The same applies to Sinhala novels, to an extent. Words and phrases depend on what the author is used to or the region or era the story is based on. This puts me off Sinhala novels because I quite honestly don’t have the patience to dissect language.

This is perhaps why I found Appachchi Awith to be an easy read and also a hard to put down book. The storyline had a lot to do with it too, and it’s a book I would recommend to anyone.

I was talking about the book with a friend and they mentioned something along the lines of people not liking the book because the psychological elements may have put them off. And in a way, I get it. The book can be read without any understanding of mental disorders, but it helps to know what’s what.

But this made me think about what we really expect from books and movies. I am your average pretentious reader. I sometimes scoff at certain authors or genres. “Oh god, you read cheesy romance?” I would think. I will judge people by what they read.

And yet, I never applied this to movies and TV shows, and the reason is that I like movies and TV shows that don’t carry much depth or ‘value’. I have watched movies like 27 Dresses or Sweet Home Alabama or When Harry Met Sally or Four Weddings and a Funeral so many times. I love the cheesy scenes and dialogue and predictable endings.

So why didn’t I think of some films or TV shows as ‘beneath me’ the way I looked at some books? Well, I suppose it’s because of what I expect from them.

The thing about people who read is that they sometimes dictate what’s good reading and what’s bad or embarrassing. Some books are considered must-reads while others are guilty pleasures. But who makes these rules?

Now I know that we shouldn’t care about what other people think or say. But sometimes these opinions affect us without us even being conscious of it. And then we create this divide between those who read; the ones that read something of value and those who read garbage. We categorize authors as such, and we shame or ridicule people for not reading anyone worth reading.

But that shouldn’t be the case. I used to look down at romance and YA and what not, but guess what I go back to after a heavy read? YA. While the books often tackle important themes like mental health, relationships, bullying, sexuality, etc. they do so in a way that doesn’t wear you out or weigh you down.

Coming back to that initial question; what do we expect from books and movies?

From movies and TV shows, I expect entertainment. If I’m watching a movie at home, I often scroll down Twitter or Facebook while the movie plays. Very few movies demand my undivided attention. And very few movies make me think about it later on. Movies like 28 and Christopher Robin made me think about them days after I watched them, but most are just for those two or three hours that they go on for. After the movie ends, I forget about them, and I decide if I liked the movie or not by how I felt while watching it and not how I felt after.

Yesterday, I watched Bohemian Rhapsody. I loved it, and would love to watch it again. But it’s not a movie I’m taking anything from. I know that it’s not factual or a 100 percent accurate. I know that there are people involved who may want to make themselves look good when presented to the world. But for me, it’s not a source I’d use to learn about Queen or Freddie Mercury. For me, it was a movie that shows bits and pieces of Queen’s career and covered some of their songs.

It was emotional. I cried in the cinema. As I said, I want to watch it again. But I wasn’t looking for a life-changing experience. This isn’t something I expect from movies or TV shows and I think that this is why I’m surprised when a movie or TV show does move me in some way.

Books on the other hand don’t get away that easily. I expect more from them. I expect books to reach in to me and change the way I am. I want books to leave a mark, a scar. I want to be blown away once I read that last word.

I want more than what is between the covers when it comes to books. And this is perhaps why we categorize books and make people feel bad for reading certain genres and authors.

And this is why I’ve been trying to read more than what I think are good books. I want to read YA novels and romance novels. I want to read novels that don’t leave you with anything at the end. I want to gives books a chance the way I give movies and TV a chance. I want to have zero expectations.

I want to stop being a pretentious reader. I think we all should. You can read a book to be educated. You can read it and then take it with you for a while longer by doing more reading about certain things covered or mentioned in the book. Or you can read it, put it down and let it go. Forget about it completely. Look only to be entertained or occupied for whatever time it took you to read it.

I don’t want to read the good books only. I want to read anything and everything. Or at least as much as I can in this short time I have on Earth. Because when you forget those bestseller lists and award winners, you can find treasures. You can find some amazingly underrated books or authors by giving everything a chance.

Friday, October 5, 2018

What have we taught our boys and men?

We taught our boys and men that women are not only the fairer sex but also the weaker sex. We taught them that women are playthings to look at, stare at, and ogle. We taught them that they had a right to inspect every inch of a woman’s body and shout from across the street about every unspeakable act they’d like to use this woman’s body for.
We taught them that they can hit their sisters, wives and daughters. Their hand across a woman’s cheek was a favour done to the woman. To discipline them. Teach them a lesson. “She’s too young to have a boyfriend,” he says, pulling her by her hair. “But you were out there having sex when you were younger than I am,” she thinks.
We taught our men to measure our value. A good wife is one that obeys her husband. Is at his beck and call. Looks away when he sleeps with other women. A good wife is one that keeps the food warm for when he staggers home at 2 in the morning. Brought with her a good dowry. Is a virgin until her wedding night.
We taught them to cover up with excuses, to make it the woman’s fault. “But she was wearing a short dress. What could I do?” “If I was good-looking or rich, she’d consider it a compliment. I can’t help the way I am.” “She needs to know how to take a joke.” “Women never mean it when they say no. They have a secret language. No means yes.”
We taught them that their responsibilities were limited to money matters. Earn a salary and give a portion of it to pay the bills and buy the groceries. We taught them it was okay for them not to take on any responsibilities or tend to any chores around the house as long as they paid a bill or two. The washing, cooking, cleaning, sweeping, tidying up. Those were jobs women were meant to do.
We taught them that a woman’s role at home didn’t change even when the cost of living meant that both men and women had to work. She would be paid lesser than a man. Her job wouldn’t be as important her husband’s. And she’d come home to her second job. Take care of the kids. Cook. Clean. Wash the clothes. Iron them. The men come home and sit in front of the TV with a glass of arrack. “Here, make something for the bite,” they shout.
We taught our boys and men to be lazy pigs that know they can raise their voice and silence us, raise their hand and silence us. We taught our boys and men that they are entitled and privileged. We taught our men to be everything but kind and respectful.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Fuck feminism, eh?

If you know me, you will know that I hate weddings and don’t understand why people get married in this day and age. I could go on for hours about marriage, but yesterday, I forgot about all that and attended a wedding of a classmate. I hate admitting this sort of this but I am glad I went. The wedding was wonderful and I got to spend time with classmates I hadn’t seen since we left school in 2012.

Excuse any incorrect words used in this paragraph but I’m not familiar with what’s what in a church. The service was held in a beautiful church and the sermon was quite good and pretty funny. But then he said something like, “*bride’s name* you have to now be a mother to your husband.” And I thought, “no, fuck that shit.”

If you are a woman, you will be all too familiar with your lifelong role as a caretaker of men. From your father to brothers to husband to sons to grandsons, a woman is expected to take care of the men in her life.

Women aren’t taught (mostly by their own mothers) to cook for self-survival. Oh no, women who cook the most delicious meals go to bed hungry because of stupid cultural norms where the men of the family eat first or get the lion’s share. Women are taught to cook, wash clothes, and keep a house clean and whatnot just so they can do a good job as housekeeper when they get married.

Whenever people ask me why I am so against getting married, I go with one of two answers. The first is a lack of faith in people and commitment and the other is the fact that I don’t want to fit into society’s mould of The Good Wife.

I come from a family of independent women. This is not exactly by choice. Well, in a way, it was by choice. The choice of men to be complete shitshows. Except for my great grandmother who lost her husband when she was still quite young, my grandmother and mother took over things without letting men ruin their lives or force them to a standstill.

So I grew up seeing how my mother could still stand tall despite everything crashing to the ground in her life because she had a house of her own. She didn’t have to bother about rent or finding a roof for her kids. She wasn’t homeless when her marriage didn’t work out.

When people talk about men not letting their women work, my mother continues to work. My grandmother worked. My grandmother’s best friend is one of the most independent women I know. My grandmother’s sister lives by herself and worked until very recently.

The women in my life are strong and independent. They taught me that life isn’t easy but that you need to be strong enough to not let anyone or anything crush you. They taught me that you can only really truly trust and depend on yourself. They taught me that anyone else, family, friends, can and will betray or take advantage of you.

Growing up with such women, I never saw a need for a husband. And society has changed. Relationships have changed. Commitment has been challenged.

And the place of women in society has changed. Yesterday, at my classmate’s wedding, all the friends I met had jobs. Women earn their own money now. We are financially independent.

I take cabs by myself at night. I can walk into a bar and order a drink if I want to. If I feel like I need a smoke, I can light one up. I can sleep with a man I’m not married to if I want to.

And this is thanks to feminism. There are women in politics. Women climbing up the corporate ladder. Women living a life independent of men. Women bringing up kids by themselves. People have fought so hard just so we don’t have to stay locked up in our houses, living off whatever our men hand us. We don’t have to think our lives revolve around men, have babies we don’t want or get into marriages we don’t want to be in.

And I’m sure you are already thinking, “What kinds of a bubble does this nutcase live in?”

Let’s get to the dirty deets now.

I am 24 years old. When I travel by bus or train, my entire body freezes when a man sits or stands near me. When a man offers to take my bag (if I’m standing) or does anything nice, I worry that he has ulterior motives. When I take cabs back home, whether it’s at 11am, 4pm or 10pm, I am worried sick that something terrible will happen.

At work, I keep getting emails addressed as ‘dear sir’. Once I got a call regarding an article and the caller kept asking for ‘Mr Wickrama Adittiya’.

When I walk on the road, I have my resting bitch face on. I am always aware of my surroundings and the people close to me.

I live in constant fear. Why? Because I was born a woman in a world that thinks of women as plastic blow up dolls that are there solely for the pleasure of men. We go from taking care of the men in our lives to being ogled and catcalled on the road to be harassed in public transport or in our workplace. We are treated like shit and are then blamed for existing.

It’s always the woman’s fault. Society functions like a bullock cart. The man whips the ox until it can’t carry the weight anymore. It stops moving or it crashes to the ground. The man gets off the cart, curses the exhausted animal and blames it for being weak, being born to this fate, or asking for it by choosing this path in life.

And I’m sick of this. I’ve been sick of this for a long time. I’ve been sick of this even before I understood what sex was. Since I was a kid, society made sure I knew I was not just different to men but inferior to them.

So whenever I hear people say “fuck feminism” or “god, these feminist”, I fear for the future. I fear for my future. Because we always have hope that things will get better and the thought that it could get worse is terrifying. I want to live in a world where my gender isn’t a reason for people to treat me like shit, and if this means that you can’t make sexist jokes because “all these snowflakes get so offended” so be it.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Working from home

Whenever people ask me about work and I tell them I work from home, their response is some variation of, ‘omg you are so lucky!’ And when I first started working from home, in September 2016, I was over the moon about it. I was discovering the joys of working in my PJs, from bed, while stuffing my face with unhealthy snacks.

I haven’t asked people who have never worked from home what they think it’s like, but I’m assuming these are included in the package

  • Not having to wake up at some ungodly hour to go to work
  • Not having to sit in traffic for hours
  • Not having to deal with annoying coworkers
  • Not getting tangled in office politics
  • Working in the nude and not having anyone know

At first, it worked a bit like this. The magazine we were working on was new so we were still figuring out deadlines and how to get things done. We were used to working at an office. We couldn’t wrap our heads around how to get the same work done without ever meeting the people we work with.

So, for those first few weeks, I was in this place of bliss. When people said, ‘you are so lucky!’ I could and would respond with, ‘I know!’

Of course, this was short-lived since I soon realized that working from home isn’t as con-free as I thought it was. So now, whenever people tell me I’m lucky to be working from home, I want to scream at them and tell them that it isn’t all fun and games.

So let’s look at why working from home can drive you insane and what you can do to not go insane. Before that, here’s a much needed warning in this day and age. I can’t generalize my experience. The experience of working from home depends largely on the home you work from and the kind of work you do. But this is how I maintained what little sanity I have during these two years.

It’s not as fun

Before you label this a first world problem smh, please understand this. Working from home isn’t all fun and games. It’s exhausting. It makes you feel less human. It makes you feel like you’ve been shipped off to Pluto. At one point, I was actually craving the unnecessary drama of working at an office among other people.

Now I know that you always have the option of taking your work to a café or shared office/work space but with the paycheque I get, those were never options. So I had to be at home, and it could get really bad.

Working from home sometimes felt like being shut in a box. You kept moving around in this limited space. There was no one to talk to, share your thoughts with. Through a small hole in the box, you would see people going out with their colleagues, having fun. Discussing where to buy lunch from, going for a drink after work. And you sat in your box, alone.

You would hear a noise and you can never be sure if you’d made the noise, someone from the outside had or if your brain was playing tricks on you.

Days just merge together. The laws and systems within which the world operates no longer applies to you.

It’s like jumping into a pool expecting clean and clear water but finding the pool is filled with nothing but sludge. So I needed to make a few changes to my life. And these are what I found to be helpful to me, so please don’t throw potatoes at me because these didn’t work for you.


My first job was at the school library. It would get really quiet at times but when a class had their library period, I’d suddenly be in a room full of kids. My second job was at a busy and loud office. Mondays were slow and quiet days when most people had a day off since Saturday was a work day for some. I used to look forward to Mondays simply because I didn’t have to be around a lot of people. My third job was at a company that had maybe 10 employees. This number would have been perfect if only the office space was bigger. It felt cramped.

After all this, getting to work from home felt amazing. With just one other human at home during weekday mornings and afternoons, I basically had the house to myself. But the silence that filled every corner of the house started to drive me crazy. I was never one to listen to music but now I usually have something or the other playing just to drive away the eerie silence.

The solution is having company. In my case, it has been cats. Cats make great friends because they will sleep all day and not bother you that much, but they’ll also stay extremely close to you so that you don’t feel too lonely.

While working, I would talk to the cats, rant to them. When I was feeling bored or lazy, I would procrastinate by watching the cats play or be cute. The only con to cats is this: They can be a huge distraction because you want to spend all day hugging them and showering them with love and attention.


Because I didn’t work alone and had to send work to someone or the other by a certain time, I had to stick to my deadlines. But it wasn’t easy. Pushing yourself to sit down and get work done is a real challenge. I’ve wasted countless days in bed, unable to push myself to get work done.

My solution to this was to set fake deadlines and freak out about them. Convince your brain that the fake deadlines are the real ones. Have to send content to X by Saturday? Well, it’s actually Friday afternoon so hurry up. You will most likely miss your fake deadline but you can still meet your actual deadline.

Avoid the bed

At one point, I used to work from bed. This was mostly because I didn’t have a proper place in the house to work from. My mother then got me a desk and chair and set up an ‘office’ for me. This meant that I no longer lay in bed, pretending to work.

Always avoids beds when working or even studying. It’s so tempting to take a break and just sleep. Have a set place to work. Keep your laptop and notebooks there. Keep it as distraction free.

Make plans

I was never a social creature. I dreaded it when friends made plans. But working from home changed that. I’ve made a handful of friends during these two years and they have managed to get me to leave the house every now and then. If you can afford it, do make it a point to go out once a week. You don’t need to spend 6,000 rupees on each outing. There are so many inexpensive options.

Sometimes even taking the bus helps. You get to be around people, not feel as detached from the world. When you are at home day after day, you slowly turn your house into a prison. You can leave but you don’t want to. Your daily routine becomes bed to work to bed to work.

I started going for yoga classes around the same time as I started working from home. The classes helped me keep track of what day of the week it was. They made me stretch my legs, leave the house.

Having an activity like this really helps. I have trouble leaving the house. I will make plans, even get dressed and then have my brain give me a thousand and one reasons why I should stay at home. When it comes to plans with a friend or an event or something you were going to do by yourself, it’s easy to cancel plans*

But when you have an activity that has set dates and times, you just have to go. You can push yourself to leave the house.


I won’t deny it, I’ve gained a lot of weight since working from home. Yoga helps with stretching and meditating but not losing weight. This is mostly because I don’t practice as often as I should and also because I spend more time eating, sitting in one place and not exercising. Weight is a personal thing. For me, gaining weight isn’t the problem but the fact that said weight gain is limited to my tummy area.

I need to work on having a flatter tummy or I’ll need to look into wearing maternity clothes –you know those pants with the elastic waist? Ya, those.


These past two years, I’ve failed at maintaining my blogs or completing any challenges I set for myself. I wanted to post a doodle a day this year but never got around to it. I’ve wanted to write a story, but never got around to it. But I know that if I can stick to some sort of daily challenge that isn’t as tough as work, I can get my life back on track. I can keep track of what day it is and the work I’ve been doing.

When it feels like you are falling deeper and deeper into an abyss, you can’t wish for a miracle. There isn’t a rope suddenly tied around your waist that connects you to the edge of the cliff. There is no parachute to slow down your fall. All you want are small branches and edges to hold on to. Make your way up again, even if it takes you a very long time. Finding these branches can be tough and scary, but you need to listen to your body and mind. What is best for you? What works for you?

When you figure it out to some extent at least, things start to settle down a bit. You can then take time to see how you can stay sane while working from home.

*Cancelling plans is a messy thing. You shouldn’t cancel plans but sometimes you need to. Try to make your friends understand that cancelling plans isn’t about your relationship with them. I’ve had to cancel plans because of sick pets, general tiredness, illness, and my friends have understood. Be honest with them. Say that you aren’t going through the best of times and simply can’t leave the house or be around other people.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Lipstick Under My Burkha

Lipstick Under My Burkha is a film I wanted to watch but found no immediate need to. So despite having liked the trailer and read a few articles about the film, I never got around to watching it until today. And I’m glad I waited until now to watch it because it’s one of those films you need to focus all your attention on (also because I needed subtitles to understand what was being said).

If you haven’t watched the film or even heard about it, this isn’t the best place to be if you want the storyline. I’m not very good at remembering names or timelines. And this isn’t exactly a review of the film. But of course, major spoilers ahead.


As the movie came to an end, I realized that what made Lipstick Under My Burkha different was both its theme and how that theme was set in motion/portrayed. I haven’t watched a lot of films but this is one of those films that sheds light on women as they are without any of the subtlety. The film talks about female sexuality (yes, we aren’t objects that have no sexual needs, desires or urges). The film talks about the lengths women go to keep their families from starving. The film talks about girls who want to have fun and enjoy themselves but also have to live by the rules of their families.

And you’d think, ‘but this isn’t the first movie to talk about the ‘struggles of being a woman’?’ And true, it isn’t. There are so many films that talk about female sexuality, oppression, discrimination, domestic violence, etc. Lipstick Under My Burkha doesn’t bring us new shocking and so-far hidden stories about women.

But what it does is this: It portrays the woman not in the shadow of a man but as the protagonist. She’s in the spotlight. She has been given the mic and she doesn’t stay silent.

The characters live in a sort of apartment complex that is over a hundred years old and has definitely seen better days. The head or landlady, Usha, lives with her family and is loved and respected by her tenants. The erotica that she reads aloud carries the story forward. The fifty-something widow starts engaging in phone sex with her swimming coach (a young guy who thinks he’s talking to one of the young women at the pool).

Leela is engaged to a man she doesn’t love, an arrangement made by Usha. Leela and Arshad, a photographer, have big dreams about starting a business. The two are sleeping with each other and it’s not the nonsensical ‘making love’ we see in most films. On her engagement day, during a power cut, Usha finds Leela having sex with Arshad. Usha scolds Leela but then applies lipstick on her and sends her off to the engagement party.

Later on in the film, Leela and her soon-to-be husband are making out in his car. She starts unbuttoning his shirt when he says that their first time having sex should be special and should happen on their wedding night. This scene is important, I feel, because we see how Leela, the woman, wants sex but the man wants to make it some special union between a husband and wife. This is in contrast to the usual man forcing himself on the woman scenario.

Not that Lipstick Under My Burkha doesn’t have that kind of man. Shirin is married to a no-fun man who is back from Saudi Arabia. He is bringing no money to the table so Shirin starts working as a saleswoman. Her husband doesn’t know about this, and treats her like nothing but an object he has the right to fuck whenever he wants to. There is no affection between them. Shirin’s husband refuses to use a condom and so we learn that Shirin has had multiple abortions. She already has three sons.

Rehana is a college student who wears a burkha when leaving home and changes into jeans and tshirts when she gets to college. She loves Miley Cyrus, loves to dance and sing. She helps at her father’s tailoring shop. She lives two lives and in order to do so, ends up shoplifting quite a few things. She takes part in protests against a ban of jeans for female students.

There are obviously a few more characters in the film, the jealous ex-girlfriend who is also pregnant, the mistress, the mother who works as a nude model for artists to earn money for her family. But the film revolves around these four and ends with these four women.

And it’s amazing how, while the women’s lives and stories are shaped by men, those men are never the focus of the film. This, I feel, is what’s often lacking in ‘feminist’ films (which is apparently what people call films that talk about women in a positive or empowering sense). With this thought in mind, I went to the IMDB page of the film and scrolled down to the reviews. And the first user review made me roll my eyes.

The title of the review is ‘A feminist film where all (or most) men characters are rotten by default, but one that raises valid points! [+62%]’

The reviewer goes on to say, ‘While the film raises valid points on freedom of expression (in terms of occupational aspirations, dressing styles, sexual interests or taste in music even) when it comes to womenfolk, it does so at by portraying most of the men characters as vile/rotten/insecure. Is it so hard to make a feminist film without depicting the men as scoundrels (cheating husbands, jealous and instantly-dumping boyfriends, daddies who believe their daughters should be hidden away in boxes)? I think a feminist masterpiece would take shape only when women are portrayed (holistically) on/above par with their strong-willed (and well- written) better halves. That's when you feel a sense of genuine gratification.’

Of course, everyone is free to have their own opinions and sure, the men in the film are sort of props. They lack any depth and that is sort of needed in this case. In Lipstick Under My Burkha, the men don’t really matter. And while there are good men out there, there are also some pretty vile ones that we need to talk about. You see, men cheat on their wives but still manage to put the blame on the wife. Men don’t want their wives to earn money and take on what they think is their role in the family even if they don’t have a job anymore.

But it’s not only men who think sexuality, income, freedom, etc. are men’s territory. Women also think so. And Lipstick Under My Burkha doesn’t ignore these women. When Usha’s family finds out about her calls and the erotica she reads, it’s not only the men who kick her out of her house and shame her for having sexual needs ‘at that age’. It’s not only Rehana’s father who forces her into a life of the burkha, work at the tailor shop and no dancing, music, etc. It’ her mother too, who talks about shame to the family and whatnot.

And so the film is much needed to make us understand what a lot women go through in their day-to-day lives. Dealing with abusive and cheating husbands, social expectations of how you should behave at a certain age, cultural and religious limitations placed on your freedom, and the confusing and messy pool of love, sex, marriage, etc.

This is why Lipstick Under My Burkha is a film that you can watch despite its imperfections. This is why Lipstick Under My Burkha is a film that is needed, especially in South Asia where people can accept god into their lives but struggle to accept that women have sexual desires too.

As I said, this isn’t a review, so I won’t rate Lipstick Under My Burkha. And I won’t recommend it or suggest that anyone watch it. But I’ll say this. It’s nice to watch a film that talks about women without it being through men. It’s nice to watch a film that portrays women as they are instead of through the eyes of a man. And it’s nice to watch a film that doesn’t whisper or say but shouts, ‘women are sexual beings and they have the right enjoy what or who brings them pleasure.’

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The signs we ignore

(Warning to family if they are reading this: This post is about Athamma and Jon, so you may want to skip this one)

Sleep, for me, used to be easy. There was no tossing and turning. By 9.30pm, I was ready for bed. And even if I didn't fall asleep immediately, I'd just act out some scenario in my head (usually related to a story I'm working on. Nothing of the sexual fantasy kind. I promise), and before I can even work out most of the details, I'd be asleep.

Now I stay up till late, waiting to feel really sleepy so that I don't need to be alone with my thoughts anymore. I used to treasure that silence. That peace. I used to look forward to it. It helped me work on my stories and even poems. I'd piece together scenes and come up with stories I wanted to write someday. I thought of characters. I put together words and hoped I remembered them the next day.

These minutes of peace and quiet also allowed me to think about life. The people I love. The things I'd done. Just everyday, ordinary things. But it helped me wake up the next day having 'thought things through'.

Now, all I can think about are the bad things. The sad things. And so I opt to watch shitty TV shows (Comedy Central, get your act together) until I can't keep my eyes open anymore. Then I go to bed, knowing I'll feel terrible the next day because I'm used to getting a lot of sleep.

Continuing on this really interesting discussion on sleep, I've always looked at sleep as an 'all at once' kind of thing. Once minute I'll be acting out the argument between character A and character B, and the next I'll be asleep- or rather, I'll suddenly wake up and realize that I'd fallen asleep.

And this is how I thought death was too. One minute you are going about your life, and the next you are dead. I believed this even though people kept telling me how 'lucky' my grandmother was to have died without 'suffering' or having to spend days and days in some hospital bed.

And I knew what they meant. She woke me up at 11.40 complaining about feeling sick. I woke up my mother. Called my uncle. An ambulance was called. Within the hour, they carried her out of the house. Within the hour, my mother, uncle and brother came back from the hospital bearing bad news. Wait, did I say bad news? I meant, terrible, godawful, I-never-want-to-hear-such-news-again news.

But she seemed to have died all at once. Relatives, friends, people didn't believe she was gone so suddenly. She was 'perfectly alright' the day before. How could this happen?

Let's go back to the topic of sleep, now shall we? As much as it feels that way, I don't think we fall asleep all at once. Sleep is gradual, I think. I could be terribly wrong. I most probably am. But those hypnic jerks. Suddenly waking up. Feeling like you are floating. The slight confusion. That's all part of falling asleep, right? So you aren't awake one minute, asleep the next. There is this whole part in between where you fall asleep, but we never really remember that.

Death is like that, I now realize. It seems like something I should have realized a long ago. General knowledge, isn't it? Unless the death is caused by an accident, it's never sudden or unexpected. There's always this time in between being of good health and death that we so easily ignore.

When someone commits suicide, we wonder how their loved ones missed all the signs. I've seen posts about how Linkin Park's last album, One More Light, almost warned us that Chester wasn't okay. The last interview he gave was basically the biggest sign ever. How could we have missed it all? Why didn't anyone help him?

Well, it's easier to notice those signs and warnings after the person dies. It's then that you realize that death isn't a sudden occurrence. The universe sends us little warnings but we choose to ignore them.

With my grandmother, we are all thankful that she didn't 'suffer' or have tests done on her or take lots of pills. She hated all of that. She was so scared of doctors. Until her very last day, she never controlled her diet. She ate all the sweets she wanted. There used to always be chocolate in the house because she just couldn't resist it.

Until that very last day, she seemed to be in good health. Or so we like to believe.

But what about the fact that she felt weak and faint when walking? What about the fact that she didn't have as much energy as before? What about everything she hid from us? What about everything else we never noticed?

How did we not see how sick she was? How did we not see what was coming?

Fast-forward to last month.

Johnny Meowing Wickrama Adittiya is someone who filled my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If, somehow, you missed all those posts, he was the cat who decided a few years ago to adopt us. After Athamma's death in 2015 and my working-from-home status since September 2016, I got very attached to Jon.

If you know me, you'll know that I'm terrified of animals. I once nearly peed myself because there was a cat sitting in front of the bathroom door and I couldn't get to it. And I never liked animals either. I wasn't an animal person. Then this cat, who Amma claims has lived in various houses in the neighborhood, thought of entering our lives.

He wasn't just another cat. Oh man, he wasn't.

You see, I have an aversion to affection. I can't be loving or affectionate with people. Ask my mother. But with Jon, all that changed. Here was someone I could love with all my heart and be loved back. I started my day with Jon's meows and a little kiss on my hand or foot. If I was relaxing on a sofa, he'd jump on and find room to nap. He would sleep on my bed, wait for me outside closed doors and remind me that it's okay to love someone with all your heart.

A friend once told me that she has never seen me so attached to anyone. And I hadn't. I usually keep most things personal away from Facebook. With Jon, I just couldn't. He was my everything.

And then, last month, he fell sick. And we were given bad news. Not terrible, godawful, I-never-want-to-hear-such-news-again news. That would take three more weeks.

Jon's kidneys were causing him a lot of trouble. And he wasn't as young a cat as I liked to believe. He needed his kidneys flushed every single day. He was weak. He didn't eat. For four days Best Care visited us and treated him. From then on, we took him to the vet every evening.

He went missing one evening, and I was so heartbroken, a dentist thought my toothache was that bad. But no, it was Jon. He came back later, having gone gallivanting. He started eating more. He was back to meowing in the morning. He gave his little 'good morning' kisses.

Two weeks ago, things took a turn for the worse. He stopped eating. He could barely walk. We admitted him to a hospital, so he'd get better care. A day later, I got the terrible, godawful, I-never-want-to-hear-such-news-again news.

“I have some bad news,” the doctor said. “We tried our best,” he said. But all I could think of was, “my baby is gone.” And he was. Just like that.

Last night, my mother and I were going through all the pictures we have of him. And there are a lot. And he was so chubby in them. In those last few weeks, he was much thinner. In fact, a friend told me too, that he looked thinner. But I didn't think much of it. Jon had always had his moods.

While I console myself by saying that we did our best and that there was nothing else we could do, we should have known. I was with him all day. How could I have not known?

But anyway, it was his death that made me realize that how I thought of death was so wrong. Death, as sudden as it seems, isn't always so sudden. There are always signs. Always warnings. It's just that they turn into signs and warnings only when it's too late.

And it's difficult to not blame yourself. With Athamma, we were with her whenever we could. She lived with us. I slept in the same room as her. We spent so much time together. What were we not seeing? How did we miss all those signs?

But here's the thing.

I've spent the last two years, somewhat avoiding the truth that she's gone. I avoided it by focusing on Jon. Now that Jon too, is gone, I can't avoid this godawful truth anymore. I love very few people. And two of them, I've already lost. This leaves me with very few I want in my life. Immediate family. Friend who has always been with me. Few friends from work. And that's it. For now, there's no one else I love or want in my life and it terrifies me.

But there's something my cousin told me a few days ago. And at first I refused to accept it. But maybe it's time to look at the good things, instead of the bad. Sure, my life has been in crumbles since Athamma passed away. But this isn't what she left for me.

She left with me amazing memories. She taught me so much in life. She helped me be who I am. She showed me how unconditional love can be. And I don't want to remember her with all the pain and loneliness her death left me with.

Today is her birthday. She's not here to celebrate it. If she was here, we'd wait until evening to surprise her with a cake. We'd sing 'Happy Birthday' and she'd blow out the candles. She'll feed a piece to her two children, one in-law, her six grandchildren. She'll laugh and smile and be happy. We all will be. And that's what I want to remember.

It's hard. But it's necessary, maybe. Athamma deserves so much more than tears and pain and loneliness. She deserves to be remembered by all the good times we had together. And we had a lot of those.

As for Jon, I miss him everyday too. I miss how he'd nuzzle against me. How soft his fur felt. How he'd come looking for me inside the house.

And life feels so empty without them. Without Athamma. But even if we can never move on from the people we love, life goes on. It must. And we must let it drag us along even if we don't want to.