Monday, December 31, 2012

Of Rape and Honey Singh

The word "culture" is thrown around a lot these days. Culture shapes individuals, builds communities, defines a people and, if people are to be believed, breeds misogyny, molestation and male-privilege.

Unfortunately, just like the words "Strategic Decision" and "Bro", the word culture receives its fair share of abuse by the masses. Its used far too often for comfort, and often in the wrong context of things.

Given the events of the last few weeks, I've had a lot of fodder to think about, particularly about my culture. I say "my" and not "our" because I don't think I can impose my understanding of what my culture is on anyone else.

What is culture, then? How does one go about finding this culture? Is my culture as good as anyone else's?

I hear culture is inherited. Its the hundreds of values and principles that passed down to us from our learned elders, the infallible, sacrosanct beliefs that are the perfect solution to any moral dilemma.

The thing with inheritance, however, is that it can't be altered in any way. In the same way one inherits undesirable physical characteristics from one's parents, values, too, are far too difficult to be interfered with. The problem begins when the culture we inherit loses its relevance in a dynamic world.

We have a long, global history of sexual double-standards, fierce patriarchy and male-privilege. From medieval witch-burnings to tests-by-fire for chastity in Indian Mythology, the world has not been fair to the fairer sex. The times, they are a changin', however, and we must change with them.

The world may have a long way to go, but one cannot deny how far we've come. We have, in a lot of places, moved on from obsolete, ridiculous concepts of Sati, Homophobia, Caste-discrimination. I know these problems are existent still, but there's no denying the fact the decline in the widespread belief in them.

It can safely be said, then, that culture isn't an inherited characteristic. It can be altered, changed and created.Hence, blaming our problems on "The Indian Cultural Mindset" is simply taking the easy way out.

The other side of culture has received its own share of criticism for promoting sexual biases and misogyny  This is the culture that changes with every successive generations, sometimes in time spans even shorter than that.

This is pop culture.

As with the culture we claim to inherit, the culture that manifests itself in the mainstream of any generation has its own pros and cons.

Honey Singh drew a lot of flak for his misogynist lyrics and demeaning views on women in the music he makes. I suppose when you make a song titled "Balaatkari" you kinda have that one coming.

But is Honey Singh the problem? Is Kareena Kapoor the problem in "Fevicol Se"? Is Mahesh Bhatt the problem? Is Emraan Hashmi?

From Snoop Dogg to Lil Wayne, Hip-hop, more than any other genre of music, has had a "glorious" history of sexism, male-superiority and "bitches n'hoes". Even when a Missy Elliot (or Hard Kaur) find their way into the limelight, they cannot compare to the acclaim received by their male counterparts, even at their best.

In an industry ruled by men, women are expected to "be in their place", which mostly ends up being "on the pole" or "on her knees".

But have we not perpetuated this culture? In its very essence, pop culture is CREATED by the people. It may borrow elements from all sorts of places, but its born from nothing.

Honey Singh wouldn't talk about raping women if we didn't all download it and giggle as we played it on phones in the bus. Objectification wasn't invented by 50 cent, nor will Honey Singh be the one to end it.

Companies wouldn't create virtual rape games if there wasn't a market for it.

In a very good example of irony, we're all crying foul over a culture we've all created for ourselves.

So here's the deal. Banning Honey Singh isn't the answer. Banning Fevicol Se isn't the answer. Shutting clubs down early isn't the answer.

The answer is realizing the demand we've created over the years for this stuff, realising that this content exists because we want it to, that instead of asking for this content to be thrown away, we may need to think about why we're being fed with it in the first place.

So here are a few things we can do:

Stop downloading/buying/sharing music that is repressive, regressive and misogynistic.

Start questioning the validity of our inheritance in a world that may not need it anymore.

Stop using the world "culture" for anything that we're too tired fight against.

Yes, all this is largely abstract, its not all specific, its also extremely slow and painful to execute. I don't have the answers, I don't know how exactly we'll get there.

I do know this though:

You are not your parents. You are not the images on your TV. You are not the song on the radio. You are not creepy video-games.

You are not a product of the culture around you, your culture is a product of you and everyone you know.

Get out and make your own culture. A culture where Hip-Hop doesn't HAVE to be all about "Bitches and Hoes", where item numbers with regressive lyrics don't HAVE to be a part of a masala movies, where deodorant doesn't HAVE to get you a lot of girls to sell.

Don't ban what you've made. Learn and recreate.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Images from India Gate - When protest meets mobs

As I type this, my hands are still shaky. I'm backing up nearly every second word I write here because I can't get the letters right. My nose still stings from the tear gas and the pain on my leg from the lathis of the RAF feels a million times worse in the biting cold of the Delhi winter. I've not felt happier in ages.

I was at India Gate today. I went because I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself. I wanted to be a part of the living, breathing change that had collected itself around the humongous symbol of sacrifice and courage squat in the middle of the capital.

I hear now that since I left, the situation took a violent turn and what was once a peaceful demand for beneficial reform and swift action has now turned into a full scale riot. I suppose this is what happens when social benefit suffers the wrath of political agenda. To those creating or encouraging these activities, I plead, don't let this brilliant, and potentially revolutionary, movement go down the same road as everything else in this country. Let's not lose our collective shit.

While there, I managed to catch a few glimpses of the situation on camera. I'd like to share those images with you to give you a better idea of what was REALLY going on there today.

A man walks defiantly into the middle of the tear gas explosions. He has no weapons, just a flag.

When the tear gas explosions and Lathi Charges start, everyone runs. Tear gas burns like the fires of hell and a lathi to the leg in this weather shakes you up completely. But the courage isn't in enduring these pains, the courage lies in experiencing them and coming back to face them once again.

Pro(test) tip: If you're going to protest at any of the locations, wear a muffler and heavy jeans. Tear gas and Lathis shouldn't stop you, but you're not much good to the movement lying on the ground in pain.

A lot of people were calling this a leaderless protest, but I saw hundreds of young leaders, organising people in groups, creating human barricades, ensuring no one got trampled or hit, stopping any kind of violence that started to emerge.

Students stood no more than two feet from the Police, their voices hoarse with screams of "Aap kya kar rahe hain? Aap public ke liye kaam karte hain ya minister ke liye?" Both parties deserve respect, the students for their courage and the police for not losing their heads at this agitation.

While I was there, I was tear-gassed thrice and hit with a Lathi once. All four of these incidents were without any violent provocation from the protesters.The RAF would appear in hundreds every hour or so and Lathi charge the public, provoked or otherwise.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Of Rape, Protest and Family

I sit here on my comfortable chair, in my warm room, typing on my nice little laptop, scrolling through an endless stream of tweets about the events that happened earlier today and it angers me. More than that, it makes me feel guilty for not being there right next to the protesters as they were hosed down, lathi-charged and tear-gassed. I didn't have a job to go to today, I wasn't physically unable to get myself from my room to my car, there was no one in my way. I didn't go because, under the blanket of horror, disgust and anger, there is little I, or most people I know, do to change things. We're a lazy, static, apathetic lot, and we deserve the shit-storm we're in as citizens of this country.

But this one isn't about us, its about the fighters that showed up at 9 in the morning at India Gate to work for a cause they believe in, beside fellow believers they don't know, to take that tiny step towards showing an administration that operates on the concept of "Sab Chalta Hai" that the shit has hit the fan. And while its extremely easy to sit in front of your TV and talk about how the protesters are doing the right thing, it doesn't mean lauding their efforts is any less important than being there with them.

March forth, brave soldiers, and fight the good fight. You're waking up a country and a people that have been asleep and comfortable in their resignation to their condition for far too long, and I salute you for your efforts.

In the ongoing war against the oppression and violation of women in the country, however, its extremely important that we pick the right battlefields. Its vital that protests like the ones today don't fizzle out and, possibly, multiply across the country, bringing to the notice of the government the frustration and resilience that has been building up inside the minds of its citizens for all these years.

At the same time, revolution, quite like charity, begins at home.

Chauvinism, victim-bashing and misogyny aren't class-based evils, nor are they the result of economic circumstances. These ideas and values are the result of a long-standing tradition of the mindless celebration of the half of the country that does't have a vagina. As with any long standing tradition, the results aren't confined to a particular group of people.

These ideas are all around us. Some of us have heard them from our parents, others from uncles, some from a close family friend and some from the old lady across the hall. 
The belief that women are responsible for crimes against them if they act (or don't act) in a certain way is often treated by most of us as a belief that exists in the minds of people "outside our immediate environment". We, understandably, want to believe that these concepts aren't coming from within our family, friends and community. We want to believe these are ideas that sprout from the sick, chauvinist society that starts from right outside our home.

But they don't, they start with us.

Every time your uncle, in a family gathering, talks about how his daughter will "obviously" get married once she finishes college, you shift uncomfortably in your seat and nod along. You don't agree with him, but you won't talk back to your uncle in from of your entire family, would you? Fuck no. That would mean fighting off your entire family that feels there's a "time or place for everything" and demands you apologize immediately.

When hanging out with your friends, you stand and listen to one of them talk about how many women he's had in any amount of time, you don't turn around and say "How about you acknowledge the fact that these women CONSENTED to have intercourse with you and accept that you, being the vile, evil little pig you are, owe it to them to treat the decision with as much respect as you think you deserve for being the man in that agreement?" No, you stand there and high-five their cockiness (pun intended), or you stand and pretend to chuckle, or stand and do nothing at all. You don't want to be that one guy that brings the newspaper to the party.

We live in a society where everyone agrees that rape is wrong, but everyone does their bit to ensure its sustenance. 

We live in a society where we'll laugh and rejoice when 8-year-olds dance on stage to misogynistic Punjabi hip-hop that demeans women and practically implies that an entire gender is just manipulative, superficial whores, but we'll change the news channel when someone says the word "Rape". 

We're part of a system that will take its kids to see a movie with Kareena Kapoor dancing to the lyrics "Tandoori Murgi Hoon Main, Gatak Ja Saiyyan Alcohol se", but will be outraged should someone suggest we include sex education as a part of the school curriculum.

We're part of the system that will openly admit that we wouldn't give our daughters the same freedom and privileges their male counterparts enjoy, stop them from going out to parties, frown at a woman holding a cigarette and put the fear of god in the hearts of our sisters should they DREAM of (*gasp*) dating someone, but will continuously insist that "Women can do everything men can".

We're part of the system that believes in the beauty of the female form across centuries of art and literature, but can't say the word "vagina" without giggling.

In conclusion, I feel I need to reiterate how important the protest today was. It was essential that the people that count on the public for their powers and continued roles in administration are made aware that the people do, in fact, care. It was vital that we, as a people, stopped expecting the government to do the right thing out of the goodness of their hearts and shove the issues we care about in their faces till they realise that the problems can't be ignored without losing out on the largest vote bank in the country, THE INDIAN CITIZEN.

At the same time, its important that, at an individual level, we instil the change where we have the most influence. We can't always change society by our individual selves, but we can change the ones we love and the ones that love us back. We can change the people that put their faith in our opinion on a daily basis. If, by the end of the day, you can get one person you know to change the way they feel about women, rape and/or male-privilege, then you've become part of something much bigger than yourselves.

You are the change.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Of rape and the internet

There's been a lot of talk of Rape in the capital recently. There are numbers flying through the internet like nobody's business. All this talk of "Such and such number of rapes in just two years" and "So many rapes in moving vehicles" has been said, relayed and splashed through social networking sites so many times they've become as meaningless as the constantly diminishing hope that we and the people we love can make it out of  our youth without the scars of a misogynistic, violent, cruel society decorating our minds and bodies.

With every incident, there is anger. Where there is anger, there is hate. Where there is hate, there is stupidity.

As it is with everything on the internet, the rape of a young medical student on a luxury bus in the city has sparked an outburst of tweets, facebook statuses and blog posts (like this one, I suppose) full of opinions that are clearly formed in anger, fear or insecurity. I picked out a few of my favourites and responded as I saw fit.

1. "I'm from Delhi, I'm not a rapist. Stop saying Delhi is full of rapists"

Stereotypes are bad, even when they're good. There is little that can be said to justify pulling a large group of people under the blanket of a single characteristic just because its easier for someone to comprehend. Not all Punjabis are drunken brawlers, not all Bengalis are haughty, not all Americans are stupid and every man from Delhi isn't a savage animal with a raging libido.

But there are two things worth noting here.

One, no one said everyone in Delhi is a rapist, but to deny that Delhi is FULL of them isn't stretching the truth too much, given the statistics of sexual crimes in the city over the last decade. Saying Delhi isn't full of rapists would be like suggesting Hitler's Germany wasn't full of Nazis simply because there were a large number of attempts to overthrow the Nazi regime from within the country.

Two, its awfully easy to sit in your comfortable bed and type the words "I'm not a rapist" out on your nice little laptop, but no one ever thinks the words "I'm a rapist" to themselves, do they?

Its not like the men on that bus spent years telling themselves that it was a fantastic idea to get on a bus together and wait around for a young woman to stumble on to it, then assault, rape and, possibly fatally, injure her.

Rape isn't a crime of logic. Its the result of a sick, patriarchal, oppressive society that spends years telling men that they have the upper hand. Its in that moment when that lifelong inculcation of Male Privilege goes out of hand that a rapist is born, not through a logical, calculative reasoning, but through the uncontrollable, neanderthalanian urge for sexual relief backed by years of back-patting for being born with a penis.

The "potential to rape" is in all of us, to deny that is stupid. Its the unfortunate justification that society allows male sex offenders to give themselves that helps them realise it.

2. "Its unfair that everyone is so angry about Delhi, but so many rapes happen across the country no one cares about"

This blew me away. It took me a while to understand what the whole thing meant because it was inconceivable that anyone could be as daft.

You're pissed because the rape that happened in Delhi got so much media attention when rapes in smaller cities go unnoticed? Then I've got an exercise for you.

Think about the last sexual crime you can think of that happened in the city before the "bus incident". Then try to think of the one before that. Keep going and see how far you can get.

In all likelihood, you got a far as four, maybe, five cases. You still think these cases get ENOUGH attention?

It takes a great deal of cynicism to see the wrong in a case of sexual assault coming to the forefront in this manner. True, rapes in smaller cities DON'T get enough attention. True, the mainstream media tends to confine the top stories on the subject to the major metros. But, to see the kind of upheaval that has taken the city by storm, a city that had, pretty much, resigned itself to being the "rape capital", is heartening.

It may be a passing phase, it may be an internet fad, but its in the right direction. Don't turn the other way just because you think its getting more attention than another, albeit equally important issue. You're not helping ANYONE.

3. "That celebrity dumped his wife and married another woman, now he's talking about rape like a hypocrite"

I remember when Satyamev Jayate did a segment on crimes against women and a lot of people I know (and love) were all up in arms about how Aamir Khan was a hypocrite for doing that segment after walking out on his first wife.

Are we really equating the falling apart of a marriage to the violent sexual violation of an innocent woman? Have we, as a people, really set the bar so low that leaving a spouse and violating basic human rights are judged on the same scales?

And why should ANYTHING anyone has done be a deterrent to his right to speak out against an undeniable injustice? If a former sex-offender chooses to speak out against sex-crimes, would you turn him away? If the answer is yes, then, perhaps, you need to sort your priorities out just a little bit.


All said and done, rape is a heinous crime. It is not a crime of passion, nor it is a crime of lust. Its as violent as homicide, except with more sustained consequences.

But in all our anger and insecurity, our accusations and defenses, let's not lose our heads. Let's not say things that set us back fifty years on the already disappointingly static perception of rape in Indian Society.

Remember, if you don't help, you enable.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

You are not beautiful

You are not beautiful

You are not beautiful in how your hands, rough as sandpaper
Turn to richest cotton as they meet mine.

You are not beautiful in how your smile breaks through the saddest of days
And lights up your eyes as much as it lights up my life.

You are not beautiful in how, even in the crudest of actions
You are the living embodiment of grace, demure and pristine

You are not beautiful in how, after a day of hard labor,
you smell of freshwater streams and reinvigorate my senses.

You are not beautiful in how, when I hold your hand in a crowd
My face, beaming with pride, holds itself above all others.

You are not beautiful in how, when my lips touch yours,
your soft, comforting touch  warms me to my very core.

You are not beautiful in how, by being no more than yourself
you drive me to be more than I could dream of.

It is your strength, your courage, your faith
That helps me find my own
That helps me stand when my legs wouldn’t stop shaking
That helps me work, fight, persevere
To make this world a little better every day.
For you, for me, for us.

In that strength, my love, you are truly beautiful.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Public Urination (Yes, you read that right)

If you’re from Delhi, it means you’re feeling unbelievably hot right now. The weather is at a merciless high and my capacity to endure the outdoors is at an all time low. When I do muster the strength, however, the outdoors of the Capital are no great reward for my efforts.

If you’re from Delhi, and have ventured outdoors, you’ve probably experienced the State animal of Delhi, the Roadside Pee-er (Sci: Urinatus Unabashus). For those of you wondering why it isn’t the Roadside Rapist, that’s the state animal of Haryana, found primarily in the Shaded Highlands of Gurgaon. It’s a common mix-up, don’t worry about it.

The Roadside Urinator, however, has been known to flock primarily in the Scorching Concrete jungle of Delhi, though he is known to be spread across the Suburban section of the Indian Subcontinent. In this article, we will attempt to classify this most peculiar creature into a few broad categories.

Author’s note: If you are easily disgusted OR have a low capacity for crude, bordering-on-vile, humor OR are looking for enriching literary experiences, I suggest you redirect your attention to something better, possibly something with less Urine. I’ll take my business elsewhere, you prude. If you still wish to read on, I feel bad for you.
Let’s get to it then. Starting us off, indisputably, is……

1.       The Proud-as-hell Urinator:
Of the many variants of public relievers, none is as prevalent or as easily noticed as this one. This horrible excuse for a human being is, to put it gently, the reason for Delhi’s flourishing tourism.
This variant is found most commonly on neighbourhood streets. Unlike the other taxonomic brethren it has, The PAHU isn’t warded off by unrelenting gazes, offended stares or even the omnipresent “Dekho Gadhha M*** Raha Hai” graffiti (seriously, that shit is everywhere. Who paints those anyway? If you know someone who does, introduce me). In fact, he seems to take some sort of sick pleasure in it.
If you try staring at this person, he will stare right back (I understand that using ‘He’ as an assumed gender role is a little sexist, but I’ll go ahead and make that assumption anyway).
Though he seems to stray safe of Panchsheel or Greater Kailash, the lanes of West, East and North Delhi are ripe with these miscreants.
To emphasize on the pride and joy with which this animal decorates the wall of the city with his bodily fluids, he accompanies his act with a song (Think “Samundar mein naha ke” or “Aaj Mausam Badha Beymaan Hai”)

2.       The Shy One:
Unlike the PAHU, The Shy Urinator choose places of much less conspicuity. More commonly spotted on Highways and abandoned in-lanes, they prefer to keep their excretory activities to themselves and detest being confronted by someone who may have any sort of objection whatsoever.
As far as possible, this type of Pee-er prefers to keep his ‘activities’ as unnoticed as possible, which is why you will always find him looking over his shoulder to check for any approaching interceptors. This insecurity is not very well-founded, however, as a surprisingly low number of people are willing to approach a man in the middle of draining the main vein, let alone make any effort to make him stop mid-stream.
Someday, when I am bored and have nothing to do, I’ll go up to a Shy Pee-er and ‘Boo!’ the living daylights out of him. Nothing cracks me up more than watching a grown man run back to his motorcycle with his Johnson hanging out for the world to see, leaving a trail of hot, wet shame in his wake.

3.       The Urine-o-matic:
I remember going to watch the circus at a kid. There was a lady who stood on top of a tower of fifty men, contorted herself into an impossible curve and pulled the sheet out from beneath a table of silverware at fifty feet.
The Urine-o-matic is the Public Urination equivalent of that woman.
While he is in possession of two perfectly good hands, he prefers to Urinate keeping his ‘tool’ completely free of any restraints that his limbs may impose. While this is a great trick for showing off at parties (Right? I don’t know. I don’t go to many of those), its possibly not the best idea for the road.
I understand that you want to keep those hands clean for the journey, sir. Your body organs are under such poor maintenance, obviously, that the two hours succeeding your urination consisting of touching innumerable spit-covered walls, encountering dust and eating food prepared with the sweat and blood (and sweat) of the child-worker at the highway dhabha must be protected from its filth.
YOU have to understand, however, that your Instrument isn’t meant to be played that way, and you’re little act is about as pleasing to passers-by as a hot Kebab poker shoved into their eye-sockets.

4.       The Non-Urinator:
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. “This isn’t a category of public Pee-men at all”. You’re absolutely correct, of course.
However, this person is part of so rare a breed, and one so severely understated, I feel I would be doing them a great dishonor by not mentioning them here.
These are the men (or women, fine) who refuse to destroy the sanctity of the city by emptying their bladders all over the carefully constructed walls, the lush-green parks or the cross-country blessings that are the highways. They will fight the urge to publicly relieve themselves till their kidneys give way and their brain turns to pig-slur.
These people are heroes, and for all of those going “Oh, I know tons of people like that”, you need to feel better about yourself, because though together we seem a great number, we’re still a small army. We are the Spartan 300 to the Giant Persian army that is the public pee-er.
As long as there are people like these, hope runs immortal.

Like I said at the very beginning of the article, this isn’t a work of art, its drivel that I churned out on a boring Saturday. If you’re still not satisfied with it, write about it somewhere.

Like on a wall. With your pee. Unless you're a woman, in which case, HA!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Things in the NCR you should eat, and probably haven't.

As some of you may already know, during my time at BLAH Magazine, I co-wrote THIS article with Onaiza Drabu (Blog, Tumblr) about seven things you should eat in Delhi.
A lot has changed since that list was compiled, though:

1.   Sanchoz, CP has, since, closed operations, as has Cha Bar
2.   The quality of the Biryani at Max Mueller Bhavan has dropped considerably, as has the quality of most   of their dishes.
3.   I have been to more places since, tried more dishes, gained more weight and become much wiser in terms of food.

I don't, of course, claim to be a food critic, nor do I claim to be qualified for any such role (I like food far too much for that). I just love eating good food. So you can keep your low cholesterol and impressive longevity, thank you very much.

It is for the aforementioned reason that I have decided to compile another list, much better researched and with newer places. I'm going to start it off with something I had not a few hours ago.

1. Tikki at Brahmaputra Market, Noida:

"What?", says the dedicated meat-eater, "I thought Brahmaputra was only good for flesh-munchers that can relish the rolls, tikkas and biryanis. Oh hells no, my naive friend. The tikki served at Brahmaputra is one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten.

The good thing about it is that while the crust of the tikki is crustier than most places' to begin with, the delightful gentleman preparing the dish tops it off with a sprinkle of Papri. He then smothers it with an exquisite combination of Dahi, Chutneys, Masalas and Onions. 

The first thing that strikes you about the dish is the perfection of the Tikki itself. It is extremely crispy and crunchy on the outside (more so because of the Papri) while maintaining its softness and the flavour of the potato on the inside.

Secondly, but not less importantly, the Chutneys and Dahi, coupled with the Masala, are added in perfect proportion. The Dahi doesn't dilute the chutneys, nor do the chutneys overpower the Dahi and Masala. 

If you're vegetarian, and are forced to go to Brahmaputra with your meat-eating friends (as I did to several of my friends), or if you want to have some kick-arse Tikki, head down to this Palace of Foodgasms.

Unless you want to have a meal sitting down, in which case you should head down to....

2. Panda Wok, Sector-18, Noida

Hidden away in the lesser explored part of Sector-18, Panda Wok serves up some of the best Chinese food  this side of CP. 

Run by Chef-duo Som and Gunjan (former chefs at  some of the best hotels in the city), Panda Wok is commited to serving Five Star quality Chinese food at affordable prices. A meal for two sufficient to fill you up would cost you close to INR 200 a person. As one of the chefs puts it, "For 400 a person, you could KILL yourself with food".

The best thing on the Menu is is the Money Bag dumplings (though everything is lovely). The crust of the Money Bag is a thin layer, cleverly crafted to provide the right barrier between your tongue and the meaty flavour of the filling. The covering doesn't eat into the flavour of the filling, though it manages to retain its own distinct taste.

An extremely endearing touch is the balloon that is placed on every table. The guests burst the balloon at their table to uncover their 'Deal for the day'. Nothing extravagant, but it makes you love the place a little more.

The ambience of the restaurant is that of a tiny neighbourhood eatery, and that is all that Panda Wok claims to be. If you're around Noida with a craving for chinese food, you know where to head.

3. The Yum Yum Tree, New Friends Colony:

The Yum Yum Tree needs no introduction, but I'll introduce it anyway. Its a Chinese/Japanese/Thai restaurant in the main market of New Friends Colony (the one with the Shawarmas, yeah) that is known for, above all else, its Sushi Lunch.

While the lunch is excellent, no doubt, its not the best thing they have on the menu, not even close. So here's what you should eat at the Yum Yum Tree for the perfect meal:

Duck Spring Rolls in Gooseberry Sauce/ Duck Har Gao in Cherry Hoisin
If you're a fan of Dimsums, like yours truly, you will definitely appreciate the subtle flavour that fills both these dishes. Though they're not comparable in any way, both of them are amazing starters in their own rights. The good thing about both the dishes is the tinge of sweetness added by the Gooseberry sauce and The Hoisin that is missing in other, more salty dimsums.

Pork Spare Ribs
To be fair to other rib-selling restaurants in the city, I've attained negligible experience in the field of ribs and there is very little I have to compare the ribs at Yum Yum Tree to.
But to be fair to The Yum Yum Tree, their ribs are definitely one of the best things I've eaten in this city.
The meat is tender, not overcooked but not too tough, extremely juicy and cooked to near perfection by the geniuses in the white hats at 'The Tree'. They're best eaten piping hot and I would recommend you order them without any accompaniments in order to experience the dish in the best way possible. Though if Pork isn't your thing, I'd advise you to stay away from it and go for the more conventional white-meat dishes on the menu. The grilled fish dishes are good as well.

Date Pancakes
After a lovely meal, you can finish off with the Date Pancakes that is served with Jaggery Ice-Cream. The ensemble is a perfect blend of the two items that compliment each other without, amazingly, going overboard with the sweetness factor.

And finally, there's....

4. Its Greek to Me, Safdarjung Enclave

Tucked away in Safdarjung Enclave, probably one of the last places one looks to for a delicious fine dining experience, Its Greek to Me is a pleasant surprise. 

While this restaurant is, in no way, inexpensive, nor does the ambience of the restaurant match up to the prices on the menu, the food does not disappoint. Two of the dishes, however deserve a special mention.

The Non-veg Mezede platter is an excellent choice. The dips are absolutely delicious and form the perfect accompaniment to the platter. The Chicken Pita, Chicken strips and Roast Lamb are cooked to perfection with fresh, juicy meat (though I've heard otherwise about their Sea-food).

The other great thing on the Menu is the Baclava with Ice-cream. The dish is absolutely refreshing and is the perfect way to top off a fantastic meal.

I'd advise you to stay the frick away if you intend to eat for cheap prices, but on days you feel particularly indulgent, come around and give this place a try.

That's all for this time, but I'm a graduate now, and I work in Marketing, so I'll probably find time to write about more stuff I eat around the city. Maybe I'll write about food all over India, maybe the globe. Who knows. The world is my Oyster.

Mmmm, Oyster...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Rapists - How Fear Begets Helplessness.

This won’t be a long post, there isn’t much I have to say.

The other day, while stalking someone on Facebook, like you do, I chanced upon THIS picture. It was a photo captioned with the various things a rape victim should keep in mind about rapists that can help them be better prepared for an unexpected attack.

The picture, though intended to get as many eyeballs to the extremely helpful caption as possible, highlighted a very important point that continues to plague the minds of most people today.

In our heads, we turn rapists into powerful beings.

In the picture, the Rapists are menacing and confident, completely aware that the victim of their actions is completely helpless and can do nothing to prevent themselves from the evil that is to befall them. This perception of the victim is reinforced by the look of horror and helplessness on the face of the victim, who appears to be submissively accepting her plight, as much as she is anguished by it. Quite antagonistic to the message that goes along with the picture, wouldn’t you say?

While it is important that potential rape targets understand that rapists pose a considerable threat to them, it is equally, if not more, important that these potential targets be continuously reminded that they are not helpless. The image of a powerful, omnipresent rapist that has been fed into the mind of every young girl in the country needs to be destroyed and replaced with the true image of the average rapist, a pathetic, confused little person with very little clue of how drastic their actions are.

I don’t mean to say that the threat of rape is to be undermined, nor that rapists are to be treated with any sort of leniency whatsoever. The point is not to ask people to disregard the threat that these lunatics pose to society and its members. The point is to make the audience understand that rapists, just like any other criminal, are mortal, weak, pathetic and beatable.  

In a crisis situation, a person subject to an attempt to rape would be under high levels of stress and experiencing a thousand different emotions. Rationally speaking, the least we, as the environment to that victim, can do is remove fear from that array of experiences.

Screaming for help, using the pepper spray in your purse, attacking the attacker in sensitive areas of the body, keeping a phone ready with the appropriate help numbers dialed in high risk areas, these are all brilliant ideas to protect targets from the rape menace, but they cannot be brought into implementation unless the logical response behavior is allowed to function without being clouded by fear and the feeling of helplessness.

I know a lot of what I’m saying is extremely difficult. I’ve never been subject to any such situation (hold the immature humor) and that probably makes it easier for me to sit here in my room and belch this out onto a keyboard, but I’m trying to think logically to remove any obstacles there may be to a rape target approaching a crisis situation with a helpful, pre-planned defense mechanism, and the fear and helplessness instilled into them since an early age tops that list.

Once again, I don’t mean to offend anyone, undermine anyone’s suffering or advocate any sort of sympathy for a sexual offender.

I’m just saying, remove the fear of the threat, and you’ll remove the threat. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Eccentricities are funny things. It’s our eccentricities that set us apart, make us different from the rest of our species, give us our own identity. At the same time, they bind the human race in such exquisite harmony that no one is left different or identifiable. At the end of the day, we’re all eccentric, so we’re all the same, but we’re all eccentric in our own unique way.

Roberta Pereira sat on her comfortable chair. It was the only chair she’d ever sat on when she was at home. If there were guests over, well, they could sit wherever their jolly bums pleased, just not on her chair. It was almost as if every other chair in her house was alien and hostile, but not her chair.

No, this chair was just perfect.

As she entered her twelve character password, her fingers shivered from the Delhi cold. Covered in two shirts, a sweater and a jacket, it was highly illogical for her to feel this cold indoors, but that was the thing about Delhi winters. The cold seeped through your clothes and shivered your very soul till your insides were frigid. Like an old lover who won’t go away, the cold managed to stick to your skin through the thickest of covers.

Her Inbox had a new message, which was good. In an age of global interconnectivity, Roberta was quite the recluse. A thirty year-old orphan with no real friends had no reason to talk to the outside world. She was happy here, with her cup of hot tea, her consistently creaking bedroom door and her perfect little chair.

Roberta opened the message. It was from a dating site she’d signed up for several months ago out of sheer boredom and then completely forgotten about.

“Dear Roberta, WE HAVE A MATCH FOR YOU!” Somehow, the people at were more excited about finding her a match than she was. “Akhil would like to be friends with you. Would you like to accept or deny his request?”

Roberta’s finger was shaking. This was a real person. He’d seen her photographs, read things about her, possibly done a fair bit of research and was genuinely interested in having a legitimate relationship with her.

Reason kicked in.

“You can’t possibly be considering this seriously”, her brain said. “He could be a psychopath, or a rapist, or worse, he could be a Gym Instructor.

But he couldn’t be. No gym instructor would ever be interested in a girl like her. She was average looking, at best, with a profound love for literature and the conversational capacity of a beige wall. No, this man was a find.

She realized she’d been chewing her nails all this while, as she often did in moments of stress. Her finger hovered over the mouse as the cursor lay on “Accept”. Roberta had practically chewed her way past her nails and to her flesh at this point. Her backside rested on the edge of her comfortable chair.

She clicked.

As she lay back into her chair, her brain hurled obscenities at her for doing what she had done. Taking risks was not something she was used to.

At least she was in her chair. Yes, in her chair, she was safe.

Vikram Bhardwaj climbed down the stairs of his building, one step at a time, like every other person. He put a foot on one step, then a foot on the next, like every other person. Unlike every other person, however, he stopped at the step right before the last one and skipped a step ahead, right onto the landing between two staircases.

It was his own little way of breaking the monotony. As he climbed down the fifth floor, a thought struck him and he climbed back up. He knocked on the door at Flat no. 502 and screamed “Your rent is due, Miss Pereira. “

He didn’t know if she heard him. He didn’t think it mattered. Roberta was always a few days late with her rent, but she always eventually paid up. It was more than he could say about any of his other tenants.

One step. Two step. Three step. Four Step. Five step. Six Step. Seven step.


Over the years, climbing up and down his stairs had become a pastime of sorts for Vikram. He could think while he strode through them. It was the magical, silent perfection between the uncontrollable screaming and bickering of his wife and the irrepressible noise of the street.

Today Vikram was thinking about colours and, more specifically, about the subjectivity of colours. It was amazing how we just took the notion that a red is red and a blue is blue at face value.

What he saw as red, maybe Roberta from the fifth floor saw as blue and only called it red because that’s what she was told it was all her life. Maybe what one saw as green, others saw as yellow, or at least what one called yellow, and they called green.

The thought of it made him chuckle. What a fine joke it would be if one day we all found out we’d been seeing different things all this while, just calling them by the same name.

As he descended the last stairway on to the ground floor, he caught sight of a young, girl, no older than eighteen, with what could only be described as a horrific weight problem.

Vikram nearly threw up in his mouth. This morbidly obese monstrosity was exiting the elevator. Fat people disgusted Vikram. There was something about the way their weight spilled out their sides and their body jiggled as they pummelled their way through their miserable existence that almost made him want to beat their face in with blunt objects.

He felt the ground tremble as she made her way out the front gate. The back of her jeans said ‘Sweet honey’. “Too much sweet honey, apparently”, Vikram chuckled to himself.

Kids today had no real value for physical exercise. The least the girl could have done was take the stairs. Heck, one round up and down the stairs daily would probably do her more good than she could imagine.

Yes sir, Vikram loved the stairs.

Almost as much as he hated fat people.

Jaagriti could feel the tall, thin man stare at her bum as she walked out the gate. She was used to people staring at her wherever she went, but they were usually astonished by her size, they usually mocked her with their eyes. This man was different, though. There was a distinct hatred in his eyes, almost as if he held personal contempt for her.

People in this building were extremely strange. She sometimes wished her grandmother would move in with her parents so she wouldn’t have to visit her in this shithole, but she knew her father wouldn’t allow that.

She thought about the lady from Flat 502 who was staring out her front door, expecting someone who wasn’t there. As she passed by the flat, she stared into it. She found it to be most peculiar. A mattress, a bed, a computer and a chair were the only things in the whole apartment.

Yes, people in this building were extremely strange.

She walked on to the pavement, staring at her fat thighs. She hated those huge tree trunks more than anything in the world.

She tried to avoid looking at her thighs and went into what she liked to call ‘Lava times’. The yellow bricks on the edge of the pavement were all lava, and the black ones were safe, cool ground. She balanced her frame on the edge of the sidewalk and skipped every alternate brick, the yellow ones.

Black, yellow, black, yellow, black.

Jaagriti didn’t realise when the hypnotic rhythm of her “lava time” sent her mind wheeling back to school.

Vaishali Seth skipped across the hopscotch drawing on the hard concrete floor outside the school building. She jumped on one, then two, then three and four together.

Jaagriti watched from a distance.

Vaishali reached nine and ten, turned around, looked at Jaagriti and smirked.

“Don’t try this Jaagriti, you’ll have to pay the school for breaking through their floor”.

The other girls joined in her mocking laughter. They followed her every move like sheep. Meanwhile, Jaagriti felt her ears burn red with embarrassment. The laughter was reverberating through the entire school. It was a symphony of cruelty that was searing through Jaagriti’s skin, making her eyes swell up, sending big fat tears roll down her plump, red cheeks.

A sudden push on her left shoulder knocked her back to reality. The man who nearly knocked her over seemed to be in quite the rush.

It was then that she realised that she was crying.

She didn’t know what did it. Perhaps the man had injured her as he pushed her aside; perhaps it was the shock of being jerked out of her thoughts. Whatever it was, it had let open a gate of emotions she’d sealed shut for a very long time. As she sobbed her way to her house, she skipped the yellow bricks.

Yellow, black, yellow, black, yellow.
Lava, safety, lava, safety, lava.


That was all Anoop could think of. He needed safety. A place to hide away from the things that would probably chase him to the depths of hell. He needed to get away from the possibility of paying for his stupidity. He needed to find safety, and he needed to find it now.

And he sure as hell wasn’t going to let some fat bitch get in his way.

As he pushed the girl out of his way, he noticed she had “Sweet Honey” sewn across her fat, sorry ass. How perfectly inaccurate.

Reality kicked in.

He’d just killed an innocent woman. In his line of work, there was no room for mistakes, and he’d just made the biggest mistake in the book.

Never leave a mark.

It was all perfect, the plan. He’d silently shoot the old lady on the sixth floor in the back of her head; he’d wipe the blood off the marble floor, put her chopped body into a bag, transport it to Gagan’s warehouse and collect the money from the client.

What made it even better was that the client was none other than her husband. He’d be in on the whole thing. He’d throw the cops off, say she went out to buy some vegetables and never came back.

He should have known it was all too good to be true.

As he closed the wooden door with “Bhardwaj No. 601” on it and climbed down the stairs, his eyes met with that of a young woman, possibly in her late twenties, staring out her door, looking for someone that wasn’t there.

It was a whole minute before he realised she wasn’t looking into his eyes at all; she was looking straight at the big red blood stain on his shirt.

In his panic and hurry, Anoop had forgotten to change out of his bloodied shirt.

So much for a smooth first job.

Anoop’s mind began to race ahead of him. What if the woman told the cops she saw a man with a bloody shirt carry a huge black bag down the stairs? What if she told them what he’d looked like? He’d have to spend the rest of his life in prison. No, he couldn’t go to prison, that’s not what he came to the city for.

The very next second, before he even knew it happened, Anoop was standing over the woman’s body, blood oozing out of her throat, her mouth gasping for the last few breaths it could get, before her body gave in and she succumbed to the painlessness of death.

As he stood over her still, lifeless body, he realised he’d just destroyed his career, his client’s life and a very nice tiled floor, all in one go.

Instinct kicked in.

Anoop dropped the black bag and ran as fast as his frail legs could carry him. He ran down five storeys of stairs and out the gate.

He pushed the fat girl out of his way and ran around the corner of the block.

He hit a traffic light. He hated traffic lights. Ever since he’d arrived in Delhi, he made it a point to look both ways while crossing, even though most roads were split up into one way lanes. City drivers knew nothing about driving.

Soon enough, it became a habit. Look thrice to the left, thrice to the right, then cross.

But not today, today Anoop needed safety, and he needed it fast.

He never saw the truck coming.

As a horde of people stared in disgust at Anoop’s blood spilling all over the road, Anoop’s face was stuck in a look of absolute horror, the last look he ever had.

Akhil stared at the body of the young man and moved away almost instantaneously. “What a shame”, he thought to himself.

As Akhil walked, he began to twitch his nose. It was his own personal tick. It made him special.

He began to think about eccentricities. How unique they made us, and yet, they turned us into everyone else. He was eccentric in his own little way. The man on the road was obviously eccentric in a lot of ways.

“Eccentricities are funny things”, he thought to himself.

There was no time for thoughts like that today, though. Akhil had better things on his mind. He’d found the perfect woman. She wasn’t a young girl, but not too old, she loved books (as he did) and she didn’t like loud places. It was as if she’d been placed on this earth for him by the hand of god himself. Nothing could ruin his day now.

“Roberta Pereira”, he thought, “You’re going to make me a very happy man”.