Sunday, December 27, 2009

"Rape" as metaphor

The word's everywhere, even I'm guilty of using it to indicate that I'm not prepared for an exam, or I haven't practised enough to perform on stage blah blah. But is throwing that word around lightly justifiable? And what does its rampant use say, if anything at all?

What is the word rape a metaphor for? I don't think its usage is gendered, at least not in my immediate environment (i.e., on our campus). Thus I don't agree with some of the theories touched upon in the post that is linked above.

But I do think that its usage trivializes the crime, and in some cases, such as in the context of winning a game (our basketball team raped theirs, man!) or outsmarting someone (she was trying to argue in favour of xyz, I completely raped her) it lends a dangerous connotation to the actual act. One that associates rape with victory, greater power, success and celebration. Doesn't such usage also legitimize rape to an extent, if only at a subconscious level?

Yes, I know its not meant that way. But Yellow Submarine was not meant the way Helter Skelter understood it. And the makers of Gossip Girl certainly didn't think that a "vella" girl in a Hyderabadi high school would create an account on facebook, undertake the 'tremendous burden' of being one and deeply hurt her friends.

Meaning to say that such usage would a) hurt a victim of rape very profoundly and b) let some sadly misinformed kid somewhere feel that its cool to commit rape. Doesn't sound likely, but you never know.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

How much this sucks

People are making music, people my age, spinning at MOS, playing in bands, making music, and I'm sitting her, typing out a completely unoriginal, patently useless CPC project cause that's how my prof wants it. What could suck more?

I want to dance. Play. Write. Sing. Also research and write academic stuff, but if its exciting. Like jurisprudential crap. Very very interesting stuff, that. Or policy stuff. Not the procedure that needs to be followed when making an application for admission of additional evidence at appellate stage.



Thursday, November 19, 2009

And FINALLY, some hard facts.

For the "women can't drive" bunch-
For the "women can't fly" bunch-

Ooohh today is a happy day.

More coming. I promise you that.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Abusing the "I am a woman" Card. Stop doing it!

Women in combat seems to be the flavour of the week. I missed the show, but apparently it was the subject of NDTV's big fight yesterday. One argument that people tell me is made a lot is that women expect to have their cake and eat it too. So they join the forces but then ask not to be posted to risky terrain where they'll be surrounded by 50 jawans who might not be able to handle it well.

Now I'm not saying you should chuck female officers/butchers/auto drivers/bus drivers in the deep end and say- 'hey, you wanted the job, you got it, now deal'.

Throw 'em a line. Its going to be a long long while before women in this country feel safe anywhere, especially on top of a glacier surrounded only by men. And you can't blame them for it.

But if you want those opportunities ladies, you gotta stop expecting to be treated with kid gloves. Cause otherwise you can look forward to continue being denied equal opportunity on the ground that you can't handle the pressure. And I'm frankly very sick of hearing that. I'd think it would be the other way around. Entering the boxing ring, I felt the need to work harder than any other guy in that room, to show that I deserved to be given the opportunity to box. I felt the need to over-compensate. I'm not saying that that should be expected of women. But you're going to be a big pain in your own rear end if you expect to be treated like you're made of glass and be given an AK 47 too.

And lets be real. If you followed that link and read the comments people have made, you'll know what I mean when I say the psyche of both men and women in this country needs to go a LONG way. Women need to stop seeing themselves as people that need protecting, men need to get over their "women are naturally less physically, emotionally and genetically capable of handling combat" mindset. Having said that, realistically speaking (in India), the male psyche will change only when women start pushing themselves harder and deny them the opportunity of making comments like those. And just talking about it ain't gonna help beyond a point.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Morning namaaz

Pulling a laaaatttee nighter for crim law end term today. Highlight- apart from the almost rat-invasion, hearing the morning namaaz. Its funny how there always seems to be a mosque around, no matter where I am putting my head to rest. I like the sound. Its soothing, transportational and somewhat hypnotic.

My grandparents house in Hyderabad, we used to have a baby mosque right in front. (Also a mental hospital and tuberculosis facility down the street. Funky locality.) As the house grew older and changed colours (it is currently a VIRULENT shade of blue) the mosque grew, until it turned into a huge structure with loudspeakers almost edging into our windows.

So when the family gathered, there'd be a clamour to secure rooms farthest from the source of omg-isitfouralready-butiwantto-SLEEP!

Must get back to chargesheets.

PS- hols in two days!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Country makes me feel- happy, sunny, sad
Metal- takes care of any anger i'm feeling
emo- the above, plus if i feel like being morose, the best.
classic rock- for all occasions
classical- hmmmm, difficult to classify. a lot to do with memories for me.
indie- just regular
blues- oddly, rarely for when i actually have the blues. more for a bit of that rhythm and mellow, relaxed mood i cant find words to describe. well words other than those :P

Music. What would I do without it. It would put most therapists to shame.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I really felt like playing this morning. I don't do that a lot in law school. I think this was the fifth time in two years that I actually dusted her off and played. It feels good. I'm now looking for help reading tabs.

Songs I want to play so far
a)Morning yearning by Ben Harper
b) The Sky is falling by Sajid Akbar

Aliyah. I love that name. Close contender- Abla, meaning full bodied. But Aliyah just sounds so much better. It means sky, heaven some shit like that. What the hell, form over substance any day :P

I think i'm deviating from the mandate I'd set for my blog when I started off. But I think I'll settle for whatever I feel like writing, cause atleast I'll be writing.

PPS (for those of you who have not read Daddy-Long-Legs, PLEASE do) I think Aliyah and I are going to be very happy together! :D

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My first angsty law school post

Its about time, eh?

I was a big deal in school, and it wasnt a small school, so you cant give me the big fish in a small pond thing. And now, I'm far from studly. I study my butt off, but am not smart about the way I work. So I don't do well. It sucks. I can't tell you how much.

Essentially, law school isn't working out so well for me. I'm not the person people tally scores with, cause I'm a middle feeder. I don't know how people see me, but I'm willing to bet they don't think I'm the smartest or most hard working person around, even though I am both smart and hard working.

But you know what? It doesn't matter. For one, it can't. If it did, I'd never be happy. And law school isn't worth my happiness. No grades, competitions, or external sources of validation are worth my happiness.

And why should they be? Do professors here, or class mates or college mates know me better or do I? Obviously, the latter.

Besides, in three more years, I know I'm going to get what I want.

Another thing. Relationships here, so transient. Just when you think you've finally found someone you can rely on, off they go. And it happens with such a frequency that I think people even stop fighting it. They just let you drift away, and you do the same.

My best friend and I sometimes draw up lists of people that we actually trust and count as true friends. The list never goes beyond 5 or 6. But hey, who needs a whole entourage?

The lesson that I've learnt is that external means of self validation are all very well. I was the kid that wanted to win, I still am. I like achieving, I like putting up good performances, I like praise. But the absence of the above isn't going to make me feel like shit, cause that'd just be stupid.

I am, and will always be studly :D

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Awesome lassi and Assorted Delhi-isms

Went to the most awesome Lajpat nagar market to help dad with some shopping. Found that this market, like Karol Bagh, is dominated by sardars and punjabi paraphernalia. The best by product of this dominance is the most AMAZING lassi I've gulped down in too long a while. So creamy. Just the right amount of sweet. Huge, sweating steel glass, the only way to have lassi, in my opinion. So frothy. Mmmm.

Also, very decent kachori. And paneer bread pakora, for the adventurous. The bread pakora really anchored my stomach, but the chutney was beyond brilliant.

Sigh. Contemtment, thy name be small halwai ki dukan. (If you want to find this shop and try the lassi, which is something I very strongly recommend, just sniff the air a few metres off the main entrance to the market. The shop will reveal itself to you. There are two. I went to the one more tucked inside.)

On a different note, by jove I heart dilli. Kya style hai baap, logon ka. They're aggressive, but aaaa how they talk. Feel aati hai, tagdi waali. How they sell. And the city! Wide roads, awesome street food (BUNTAAAA! Tandoori momos!), monuments alongside flyovers (which is probably not so good for the monuments), a decent amount of greenery, sarojni... sigh.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Been a long time

Apparently I last posted on april 29th. Shame on me. So many things to write about.
the contempt of court law in this country
the joy of watching corny movies
how great it feels that the sister, the mater, pater and I are in the same house for a coupla days
how scary credit cards can be
discovering Delhi
souffle! not the dessert, karan's dog- souffle

So. I didnt know this, but apparently, the contempt of courts Act allows proceedings to be intiated in a number of situations, one of which is... drum roll... SCANDALIZING the court. Im sorry, what? So if I flash you, or am drunk around you, or dont double over enough, you get to intiate proceedings against me?

I intend to write a more.. ahem, academic piece about this, but basically, I think it serves the end of the Act to limit liability for "obstruction of justice". Maybe then we wont have judges giving railway officials hell for denying them first class tickets on the ground that it lowers the majesty of the court, and therefore amounts to contempt.

Its not the colonial era anymore. Remember?

PS- had a lonnng discussion with a fellow law schoolite about this, but would like your views, and the question is not about the magazine, or literal. To quote fellow law schoolite, its about the socio-cultural construct of male v. female sexuality. The question is- what is the female equivalent of a playboy? Slut?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

More on the big G

I mean god, y'all.

God = optimism. Optimism = god. Things are a blessing if you chose to seem them that way. My extended two weeks of internship in Bangalore are a blessing in diguise, cause I'll get access to the library when its empty and I don't have to come up with devious schemes to get photocopies.


Post script- forced sis to accompany me to a shopping trip today. Score! (it is almost impossible to get the young 'un to go shopping with me. I'm usually painfully, exasperatingly indecisive) Also, hashmi for 35 bucks. Lutera man in Bombay sold to me for Rs. 120 Argh. No mrp on the package. Hm.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Kick Like a Girl

In the ring, a familiar refrain always was- don't hit like a girl Aqseer, hit harder! (em, what?) The flip side was that boys/men dared not lose to girls or cry, for fear of being thought of as sissies.

Kick Like a Girl is a really cute documentary that busts these two gender stereotypes, and how. About the "Mighty Cheetahs", an eight year old girl's soccer team, the movie shows how the boys, and their parents, learn than kicking like a girl can be a good thing too!

The Mighty Cheetahs are so sick of "creaming" all the girls teams, that they decide to sample tougher competition (itself a bit of a cliche). So enter the boy's division they do, with confident young lads thinking they got it easy.

They so haven't.

These tiny masses of grit and energy go to work, and end up winning 5 out of nine matches, tying two, and losing two. (as I remember the numbers) Guess who won the series.

Along the way, a ref responds to a foul against one of the girls by saying something to the effect of- learn to handle it if you wanna play in the boys division. Em, fouls are fouls. The girls respond by saying- "that made us want to win even more, so we did!"

They cried, some of those girls. That didn't make them any less capable sportspersons. They were better team players, they passed better and the tears DID NOT come in the way. At all. In fact, I think they might have angered fellow team mates and made them want to play tougher, better.

There's this one point in the movie where the coach's daughter says- "they used to tell me, you kick like a girl. Well... I AM a girl!" (Hoot hoot hoot! :) )

The film ends with clips of the oppposing team members answering the question, "what would you say if someone told you you kick like a girl?" The answer-"I'd thank them!"

Guess why the film made me cry.
(Yeah. It made "boxer bhai" cry. I cry. A lot. I don't break stuff, or drink to deal with it. Crying wins this won. Oh, and just cause I cry doesn't automatically mean I can't bust your ass if you mess with me. :) )

About the new name

Seeing the way my blog is going, I decided it would be apt to call it - "the fire of hell, considered as punishment for sinners".

Lance Black's Speech. Or not.
I'm pretty sure they did, cause I dont remember Black's speech being half as moving as the women at say they found it.
Now I know why. Really, what is left to say? This sucks.

(just watched the unedited version on youtube. It IS a moving speech. He tells gay and lesbian kids that no matter what people say, god loves them and they're beautiful. Also promises that they will have equal rights across the US. ARGH.)

Would Art be as Much Fun if they Didn't Name their Works?

Case in point- "Chef to Go". Or even "Bottoms Up". (both available at

In a way the caption (or title) for a piece of art serves as a reference point for the beholder. A clue to the insides of the artist's head. It gives you a hint of the artist's view, and you're free to interpret that work the way you want. But sometimes, you wouldn't understand the work without the caption. Does that make art "smaller" or less effective in any way?

I don't think so. I think its just testimony to the very nature of art... how it can be subtle enough or symbolic enough to escape being understood. Just because its not that easy to understand what Murakami is trying to convey doesn't mean writing as a tool of communication is ineffective. Its the way that you chose to employ the tool that decides its effectiveness.

Its easier getting away with obscurity where art is concerned though.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Why does a 50 year old's morality apply, in ALL spheres, to a 20 something's?

Think about it. Twenty to thirty year olds are adults too. Credit us with the sense to know what is decent, and what people of a certain age group can handle.

Maybe some of us are forgetting Indian culture, or "Indian" values of decency. But heck, who defines whats Indian? People from the last generation, or the generation before that, or the generation before that?

Their culture is what Indian culture WAS. Which is not to say that our generation strikes a particularly appreciable balance between traditional Indianess and the far more accessible, and aggressive UK, US culture. It doesn't, we don't.

So I'm not saying that harbingers of "Indian culture" should put away their sitars, or sarees (the saree is actually a garment that the British forced us into adopting, btw). PLEASE, I do want to know more about my own, uninfluenced by Gwen Stefani, culture. I AM ashamed I know English better than I know Punjabi.

But while you do try and get me to learn my mother tongue, appreciate that "Indian" values are no longer the same as they were in your time. So if people with a different idea of decency decide to make a sensitive movie for a select audience that they think can handle it, keep your nose out of it. We don't destroy your harmoniums just because its not "Indian" enough for us.

Modi's Gujarat

I do not pretend to know much about politics. I am especially ignorant of Modi's capers. Of course, I know he can't boast of being very secular.
Two fellow interns at the office share the (apparently) widely held view in Gujarat that - Modi is a workaholic messiah for us, our welfare. Which I'm sure he is. But here's an interesting piece on the subject of secularism in the state.

Our Beloved Chief Justice

"Anuradha Roy of Permanent Black sent out the following:

On the 9th of February 2008, remarks by two eminent judiciary members the Chief Justice of Karnataka, Cyriac Joseph and State Human Rights Commission Chairperson Justice S.R.Nayak, stating that immodest dressing was the cause of increasing crimes against women were reported in the press.

The Hon’ble Chief Justice further elaborated his statement by mentioning that “Nowadays, women wear such kind of dresses even in temples and churches that when we go to places of worship, instead of meditating on God, we end up meditating on the person before us” and that the “provocative dresses that women wear in buses” put the “men travelling in the buses” in awkward situations and hence “women must dress modestly.”

The Chairperson, State Human Rights Commission, speaking on ‘Human Rights and the Lawyers Role’, gave his opinion on the Mumbai New Year molestation issue, when two women had their dresses torn off by a mob
of men outside a nightclub: “Yes, men are bad… But who asked them (the women) to venture out in the night…Women should not have gone out in the night and when they do, there is no point in complaining that men touched them and hit them. Youth are destroying our culture for momentary satisfaction.”

Anuradha sent this out without comments. I understand her mood. I’m done too. No witty commentary, no smart asides. I’m just plain exhausted."


Of Sparkly Autos and Musical Bigotry

So I think firang music is all or nothing. Either its all electronica, or its all rock. Or all pop or all country or all punk or all "iron and wine-y". Know what I mean? Which is why I have such rigid taste in that department.

On the other hand, Indian music does a lot of blending. Any recent AR Rahman track will reveal multiple layers of sound, and textures, genres, flavours of sound. Its not all or nothing. Its a superb mix of a lot of things.

Even Chekele by Avial. There's some funky electronica inspired stuff going on there, but I dont mind. Not one bit. Heck, I love that track.


Autos in Delhi have gone funky. Or funkier than I remember. So I get into this auto, and I'm flanked on the right by Priety Zinta with very silly beads in her hair, and on the other by Priyanka Chopra in a lehenga with her nose in the air (to give the viewer a stunning view of her sparkly blue eyeliner).

My sister tells me she got into an auto once that was lined with pictures of former president Kalam, and that the driver had hair exactly like his.
I even came across Winslet and Caprio in their immensely identifiable Titanic pose on the back rest in one auto.

Bangalore on the other hand contents itself with fancy fur or shiny interior decor.
Sometimes even disco lights. Them chaps in England would charge for that, but here, its on the house man. :D

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Annnnndddd the Oscar goes to..

I swear to you, Kate Winslet is the most beautiful woman I've seen in a long time. Was especially so when Ledger's family was talking about him.

Jackman was actually quite cute I thought. I was pretty shocked at all the antics, but they're definitely preferable to dull speeches.

Wee for Slumdog!

Such escapism I indulge in... Swarovski crystals ka shining curtain and glitz everywhere instead of the news, or reading something "socially relevant" etc.

So the SC ruled that bloggers will be liable for comments from other people on their posts. No more allowing hateful comments, or your behind goes to court.

Sigh. Although "fair comment" should still work... right?

Meanwhile, learnt something yesterday. The result counts at work. And the way you present your work. You could've worked like a dog, but shoddy presentation, and you're done for. Give em what they want, they way they want it. Down to the frills and the wrapping.

Going to try and watch the Hamlet and the Clown Prince (I think its called). Theatre... Finally!!! Life, is good :)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

And Oday to ze Moon

Me mater and pater bought me running shoes. With the cost of the purchase weighing down on me head, I decided to paisa vasoolo. (All lies, I want to lose weight. Hehe. Actually, no. I want to lose flab. There be difference. Vital difference) Anyhoo.

So six thirty am, when the mater rises, is too early for me. But me mater be quite the persuader. So I hauled posterior at ten thirty last night and ventured forth into the moonlight.

You know what I like about the moon? It doesn't hurt the eyes, its pretty and calm and spotty, it changes shapes
and most importantly...

it goes wherever you go. Like hutch puppy. Everywhere man! I'd be thinking of something slightly negative, and look up, and there it'd be, solid and true and calming to boot.

Awesome stuff.

Running is awesome. I've never liked it, as a form of exercise. Too boring, I've always though it is. But its kinda nice when you can master the art of adjusting ear phones while running.

All hail the pod. I think apple's a bit complacent about the pod though. They do only so much to make it worth all the hype.

Chalo ji
very random
"And in this moment I am happy"

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Go Here for a Laugh.

This I did not write, but everyone should read- Its on Frida

The Trouble with Frida Kahlo by Stephanie Mencimer
(emphasis mine)

If only I had been born a decade or two later. As a 6th grader in 1981, instead of enduring taunts about my emerging mustache, I could have found myself in high style, mocking those poor stylish Hollywood blondes who are now struggling to grow peach fuzz as they mimic the style of the late Mexican painter-cum-icon Frida Kahlo, who was so proud of her luxurious facial hair that she painted it right on to her self-portraits. My self-esteem could have been bolstered by any number of Frida storybooks, paper dolls, and art kits now available for millennial children in need of a unibrowed role model. Thanks to an extraordinarily enduring run of "Fridamania," the mustache and the unibrow have become vogue--particularly among museum-goers visiting a recent exhibit of Kahlo's paintings (along with those of Georgia O'Keeffe and Emily Carr) at Washington's National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA). Sporting their own unibrows, they leave with new Frida totebags full of Frida memorabilia: Frida watches, the "martyr mouse pad," dolls, full-length wall hangings, books, pocketbook mirrors, photo boxes, and dressing screens.

Never has a woman with a mustache been so revered--or so marketed--as Frida Kahlo. Like a female Che Guevara, she has become a cottage industry. In the past year, Volvo has used her self-portraits to sell cars to Hispanics, the U.S. Postal Service put her on a stamp, and Time magazine put her on its cover. There have been Frida look-alike contests, Frida operas, plays, documentaries, novels, a cookbook, and now, an English-language movie. Mexican beauty Salma Hayek recently debuted as Frida at the Cannes film festival (reportedly playing the role mustachioed, despite protests from Hollywood). Hayek, who wrestled the role away from Madonna and Jennifer Lopez, will join a star-studded cast that includes Latin Lothario Antonio Banderas.

The Kahlo cult has been well documented since it first emerged in the early 1990s. Back then, the artist was making headlines because her paintings were breaking records, fetching up to $1 million at auction, thanks in no small part to Madonna, an avid collector who claims to "identify with her pain and her sadness." Today, those paintings have wildly surpassed that mark, breaking $10 million--a price that puts Kahlo in a league with Picasso, Pollock, and Warhol.

What looked like a fad a decade ago has only grown stronger as Kahlo has been embraced as a poster child for every possible politically correct cause. By 1998, Cosmopolitan magazine was urging women to read Kahlo's biography as one of 10 ways to "celebrate National Women's Month." In a new book of essays celebrating resistance to the evils of global capitalism, John Berger writes an homage to Kahlo saying, "That she became a world legend is in part due to the fact that . . . under the new world order, the sharing of pain is one of the essential preconditions for a refinding of dignity and hope."

The fledgling NMWA has broken all box-office records with its recent show, drawing more than 28,000 visitors, in large part due to the Kahlo pilgrims. Susan Fisher Sterling, NMWA's chief curator, says "Each group seems to find some validation in Kahlo. In some ways we're obsessed with ourselves and sexuality. Kahlo was very much a part of that narcissistic body culture." Kahlo's art is to painting what the memoir is to literature--self-absorbed, confessional, and hard to dismiss as a flash in the pan. "Frida Kahlo has been the right artist at the right time," says Gregorio Luke, director of the Museum of Latin American Art (MoLAA) in California.

Feminists might celebrate Kahlo's ascent to greatness--if only her fame were related to her art. Instead, her fans are largely drawn by the story of her life, for which her paintings are often presented as simple illustration. Fridamaniacs are inspired by Kahlo's tragic tale of physical suffering--polio at six, grisly accident at 18--and fascinated with her glamorous friends and lovers, among them photographer and Soviet spy Tina Modotti and Leon Trotsky. It's the stuff that drives Hollywood, and the kind of story that has become de rigueur for entering the pantheon of "great" artists.

But, like a game of telephone, the more Kahlo's story has been told, the more it has been distorted, omitting uncomfortable details that show her to be a far more complex and flawed figure than the movies and cookbooks suggest. This elevation of the artist over the art diminishes the public understanding of Kahlo's place in history and overshadows the deeper and more disturbing truths in her work. Even more troubling, though, is that by airbrushing her biography, Kahlo's promoters have set her up for the inevitable fall so typical of women artists, that time when the contrarians will band together and take sport in shooting down her inflated image, and with it, her art.

Entering the Boy's Club

The inflation of the artist over the art is certainly not unique to Kahlo. As the old saying goes, there is no great art, only great artists. Art history has focused on the personalities of the artist as far back as 1435, and even more so after the arrival of Caravaggio, who was forced to flee Rome in 1606 after stabbing a young man to death in a dispute over a tennis score. Caravaggio helped cement the romantic ideal of the artist as troubled rogue and bohemian who flouts the norms of polite society. That artistic tradition has made good fodder for screenwriters; the lives of Jackson Pollock, Jean-Michael Basquiat, van Gogh, and Michelangelo have all been immortalized on film. Implicit, too, in these biopics is the notion that artists must suffer to experience the deep emotion that infuses their art. "The story of great artists is that they suffer during their lives and then their art is recognized as great after their death," says Margaret Lindauer, professor at Arizona State University and author of Devouring Frida: The Art History and Popular Celebrity of Frida Kahlo.

Until the 1970s, though, there were almost no "great" women artists, and virtually no literature describing where and how they might have fit into the history of Western art. As the feminist movement gathered steam, women sought to rectify that problem, but it was a difficult project. Historically, women's limited opportunities meant there were few women artists to begin with, and even fewer whose work had been collected and could be definitively attributed to them. (Male artists and scholars have, over the centuries, made a habit of appropriating the work of talented women or attributing it to men.) Once scholars did identify significant women artists, they had to demonstrate that those artists met the male standards for admission to the canon--i.e., they had to suffer and be mostly ignored during their lifetimes. This being the male canon, it was also helpful if the emerging female artists were beautiful and had glamorous friends.

Kahlo made a perfect candidate. She didn't lop off an ear, but Kahlo had a horrific story. In 1925, when she was 18, she was riding a bus in Mexico City when it was struck by a trolley car. A metal handrail pierced her abdomen, exiting through her vagina. Her spinal column was broken in three places. Her collarbone, some ribs, and her pelvis were broken, and her right leg was fractured in 11 places. Her foot was dislocated and crushed. No one thought she would live, much less walk again, but, after a month in the hospital, she went home. Encased for months in plaster body casts, Kahlo began to paint lying in bed with a special easel rigged up by her mother. With the help of a mirror, Kahlo began painting her trademark subject: herself. Of the 150 or so of her works that have survived, most are self-portraits. As she later said, "I paint myself because I am so often alone, because I am the subject I know best."

As if her bodily injuries weren't compelling enough, Kahlo's drama--as well as her art--was enhanced by what she referred to as the second accident in her life: Diego Rivera, the famous Mexican muralist to whom she was married for 25 years. Rivera was a notorious womanizer, a habit he did not abandon after marrying Kahlo, his third wife. Legend has it that for American women traveling to Mexico, having sex with Rivera was considered as essential as visiting Tenochtitlan. The 300-pound Rivera even had an affair with Kahlo's sister Christina. (Kahlo, in turn, had her own affairs with men and women.)

Both Kahlo and Rivera were active in the Communist Party and Mexican politics. More importantly, when Kahlo met Rivera, he was a leading proponent of a post-revolutionary movement known as Mexicanidad, which rejected Western European influences and the "easel art" of the aristocracy in favor of all things considered "authentically" Mexican, such as peasant handicrafts and pre-Columbian art. Kahlo also became a diehard adherent, adopting her now-famous traditional Mexican costumes--long skirts and dresses, which also had the practical effect of covering up her polio-withered leg. Rejecting, too, conventional standards of beauty, Kahlo not only didn't pluck her unibrow or mustache, she groomed them with special tools and even penciled them darker.

Likewise, her paintings, rooted in 19th-century Mexican portraiture, ingeniously incorporated elements of Mexican pop culture and pre-Columbian primitivism that, in the 1930s, had never been done before. Usually small, intimate paintings that contrasted with the grand mural tradition of her time, her work was often done on sheet metal rather than canvas, in the style of Mexican street artists who painted retablos, or small votive paintings that offer thanks to the Virgin Mary or a saint for a miraculous deliverance from misfortune.

The paintings often reflect her tumultuous relationship with Rivera, as well as the anguish of her ever-deteriorating health. Between the time of her accident and her death, Kahlo had more than 30 surgeries, and a gangrenous leg was eventually amputated. She dramatized the pain in her paintings, while carefully cultivating a self-image as a "heroic sufferer."

While Rivera was painting murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1932, Kahlo had a miscarriage, which prompted her to paint some of the most gruesome of the self-portraits that later sealed her reputation as one of the most original painters of her time. During those months in Detroit, she broke taboos and painted her miscarriage as well as a work entitled "My Birth," a startling look at a partially covered woman's body with Kahlo's bloodied head bursting out of the vagina. (Madonna, naturally, now owns that one.) In his autobiography, Rivera said, "Frida began work on a series of masterpieces which had no precedent in the history of art--paintings which exalted the feminine qualities of endurance of truth, reality, cruelty, and suffering (what makes these qualities so FEMININE? SUFFERING??? ENDURANCE? so we're a bunch of weeping willows shielding ourselves from ever present pain? or enduring this pain instead of countering it like we are expected to? or are we so sensitive that everything around us hurts us? this is obviously me, aqseer, talking). Never before had a woman put such agonized poetry on canvas as Frida did at this time in Detroit."

While Kahlo's work never attracted the attention her husband's did, it did win some critical acclaim. The great surrealist Andre Breton came to Mexico and fell in love with Kahlo's work (and Kahlo), calling it "a ribbon around a bomb." He arranged for her to show her work in New York in 1938--one of only two shows during her lifetime. Eventually, though, her failing health left her addicted to painkillers and alcohol. She continued to paint, but the addiction destroyed the controlled, delicate brushwork that had characterized her best work. In 1954, suffering from pneumonia, Kahlo went to a Communist march to protest the U.S. subversion of the left-wing Guatemalan government. Four days later, she died in what may or may not have been a suicide.

Reviving the Cult of Personality

Kahlo largely disappeared from the mainstream art world for almost 30 years, until Hayden Herrera's famous 1983 biography. When it was published, there wasn't a single monograph of Kahlo's work to show people what it looked like, but the biography, which could have been the basis for a Univision telenovela, sparked a Frida frenzy. By 1991, the Metropolitan Museum of Art was using her self-portrait to advertise an exhibit on the side of New York City buses.

Today, Kahlo's legend is much more akin to that of Evita Peron than of van Gogh. (It's no coincidence that when Madonna was unable to play Kahlo in a movie 10 years ago, she went on to star as Evita.) Among all the Kahlo tchotchkes now on sale at the NMWA gift shop, only her self-portraits adorn the fridge magnets, not "My Birth," or "A Few Small Nips," a disturbing image of a bleeding woman lying on a bed with a man standing over her wielding a stiletto. Kahlo's visage has become a symbol in its own right--a trend evident in the number of artists now creating tributes to her. Chicano artists in California have been incorporating her image into their murals since the 1970s in celebrations of their heritage. But the practice has become so common that the Japanese performance artist and drag queen Yasumasa Morimura recently did a show called "An Inner Dialogue with Frida Kahlo," in which he painted himself as Kahlo self-portraits.

Plenty of people have been thrilled by Fridamania, and not just because it may represent a feminist triumph. "I don't necessarily think that the excessive popularity of an artist is a bad thing," says MoLAA's Gregorio Luke. "You can agree or disagree with the sideshow, the marketing of it all. But we need a younger generation to get involved in the art world, and she draws them in. Young people dress like her. It's a fad, but a welcome one."

He might also mention that it's a profitable one, as Kahlo's icon status has driven up the value of her work, giving museums something besides the ubiquitous Impressionist shows to draw large crowds and gin up gift-shop sales. But Fridamania does have its downside, revealing particular dangers for the work of women artists who are treated as phenomena rather than simply as artists.
Kahlo's move into the cult of personality is a familiar pattern in which women stop being the artist and become the subject of art, transformed from a powerful creative force to an ideal of quietly suffering femininity. In her book Women, Art and Society, Whitney Chadwick traces the trend back to the 16th century, with stories like that of Marietta Robusti, the eldest daughter of the Venetian painter Tintoretto. Robusti worked full-time in her father's workshop for 15 years, developing skills that were considered indistinguishable from the great master's. Her fame as a portrait painter earned her the respect of emperors and the devotion of her father. After her death during childbirth at age 30, Robusti became a subject of fascination for other artists and writers, not because of her great work, but because of her tragic ending. According to Chadwick, Romantic artists of the 19th century transformed Robusti from a gifted prodigy into "a tubercular heroine passively expiring as she stimulated her father to new creative heights."
Some feminist art historians have struggled against such reworkings of women artists, but Kahlo's pop-culture mania revives it with a vengeance. Kahlo certainly facilitated this process by painting herself as the quietly suffering female. In every possible sense, the mass-culture Kahlo embodies that now-poisonous term: victimhood. She was the victim of patriarchal culture, victim of an unfaithful husband, and simply the victim of a horrific accident. But that's probably one reason why she's so popular. "People like to see women as victims," says Mary Garrard, a professor of art history at American University.

Just Like a Woman

The art establishment's demand for tragic bio as a prerequisite for greatness has given talented women artists wings of wax. Take the case of Artemisia Gentileschi, whom The New York Times dubbed "this season's Œit' girl," after an exhibition of her work opened in February at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Born in Rome in 1593, Artemisia was the daughter of Orazio Gentileschi, one of Caravaggio's most important followers. Artemisia is the first woman artist in the history of Western art whose historical significance is unquestionable. She also had a good story. In 1612, she was raped by one of her father's assistants, which prompted an O.J.-style trial during which the teenage Artemisia was tortured with thumbscrews to establish the truth of her statements. Despite her ordeal, she went on to become famous as an artist during her lifetime, and was the first woman admitted to the famed Accademia dell'Arte del Disegno in Florence. She was one of feminist scholars' first rediscoveries in the 1970s. But, as is the pattern, much of Artemisia's recent celebrity has not come from her art but from her story, which has inspired a number of plays, movies, and books, including Susan Vreeland's recent novel, The Passion of Artemisia, and the play "Lapis Blue Blood Red," which opened in New York in mid-February.

Unlike the fawning reverence accorded Kahlo, though, Artemisia's work is now taking something of a beating, particularly from the Met exhibit, which is curated with a highly skeptical view of her contributions to Western art. Met curator and spokesman Keith Christiansen has said that feminists, preoccupied with her biography and victimhood, have exaggerated Artemisia's achievement. She is, in his estimation, a mediocre artist. Yet Christiansen seems to be reacting more to the pop-culture inflation of the artist than to the art itself.

Her celebrity notwithstanding, Artemisia is an important figure in art history, having painted women in a way no one ever had before her. Her "Judith Slaying Holofernes," for instance, shows a muscular Judith hacking off Holofernes's head. Previous paintings of the story by men (and there were many) had always portrayed a squeamish Judith taking a gingerly approach to her grisly task, as befitting their view of women. If nothing else, Artemisia could do something men of the Accademia were not allowed to: She painted women from nude female models, making her all-nude paintings of Susanna and Cleopatra rare works for that time.

The backlash over Artemisia illustrates an artistic double standard: The female artist needs a compelling tragic biography to enter the male canon, yet her work is then trivialized because of that biography--something that rarely happens to men. (have I written yet about how women have to do this crazy juggling act of remaining "feminine", matching and then SURPASSING masculine standards in order to have people acknowledge that they might be equal to the task men have monopolized?) Critics have complained about the overemphasis on biography in art marketing by promoters of van Gogh. But as Garrard points out, nobody ever says van Gogh is overrated. "It's the women's artists' reputations that are always vulnerable," she says.

The Rise Before the Fall

Kahlo will no doubt suffer the same fate as Artemisia--although it's a testament to her work that the backlash hasn't come sooner. At the same time, Kahlo's work might benefit from a clearer examination that focuses less on her painting as autobiography. The NMWA exhibit is a good example of how the current view of Kahlo often fails to acknowledge that perhaps her images transcend autobiography and speak to universal themes, as all great art should. Walk through the NMWA's exhibit, and you'll see that even Kahlo's still- life paintings are treated as a reflection of her personal life. The "open fruit," we're told, depict her aggressive sexuality and obsession with fertility, as do the monkeys in her self-portraits, even though she had them as pets. (Apparently her pet dog, which she also painted, carries no such connotations.)

This kind of analysis, which is just as often articulated by women as by men, follows another long tradition in art criticism of attributing stereotypical female values to the work of women painters and eroticizing their subjects, regardless of how the painters intended the work to be read. For instance, one of the common interpretations of Kahlo's work is that it demonstrates how much she mourned her inability to have children. Herrera writes, "Many of her paintings express this fascination with procreation, and some directly reflect her despair at not having children. One of the most moving of the latter is 'Me and My Doll,' painted in 1937. " Yet that painting is hardly the image you'd expect from someone desperate for motherhood. It is a self-portrait of Kahlo sitting on a bed next to a lifeless looking child/doll. She is smoking a cigarette and looks bored, and is sitting some distance from the child on the bed--a reflection of, perhaps, her real lack of maternal instincts. Her other images of childbirth and pregnancy are some of the most violent and disturbing ever to grace a canvas.

Arizona State University's Lindauer has argued that nowhere in Kahlo's letters does she reveal a deep longing for children, and that whatever regrets she did express publicly may have been because her culture demanded them. In fact, Kahlo's letters reflect deep ambivalence--if not outright rejection--of having children, if only because she recognized that children would distract Rivera from his work--and from her. She volunteered for an abortion after one of her pregnancies partly because of this. When she got pregnant again, she considered another one, but ended up having a miscarriage after intentionally disobeying doctors' orders to stay in bed. (She took driving lessons instead.)
While it's impossible to know whether Kahlo's injuries would have allowed her to bring the child to term even if she had stayed in bed, her behavior is hardly that of a woman longing for a baby. The current view of Kahlo's work seems more a reflection of our current hysteria over childless professional women than anything in the art. "People make her a screen for their projections," says Chadwick, now a fellow at the Clark Art Institute and a professor of art at San Francisco State University.

It's entirely possible that Kahlo was conflicted, experiencing both longing for motherhood and relief at not having to endure it--a sentiment many women surely recognize. Yet that view would detract from the hagiography. "If [Kahlo's] paintings were looked at closely, she would become a dangerous woman," says Lindauer, explaining that Kahlo's paintings actually challenge lots of feminine ideals. If they really took a good look at her art, she adds, "People would be less comfortable buying her fridge magnets."

Because she died young, at 47, Kahlo never had a chance to repudiate some of the interpretations of her work as did Georgia O'Keeffe, who once threatened to quit painting if critics kept imbuing her flower paintings with Freudian interpretations. "She didn't want her flower paintings to be identified as the essence of womanhood," says the NMWA's Fisher.
Biography, Warts and All

If the focus of the art business must be on biography, that biography should at least include the artists' warts. Truly great artists, after all, can survive such scrutiny. But, because it seems a woman must become a saint to gain admittance to the Met, there is a great tendency by Kahlo's marketers to overlook the less appealing part of that biography. It's similar to the way the left likes to ignore the fact that the Guatemalan Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchu invented much of her memoir. Heroism serves the cause, and there is much of Kahlo's life that is not heroic.

Many of her surgeries may have been unnecessary. Even Herrera notes, "If Frida's physical problems had been as grave as she made out, she would never have been able to translate them into art." Kahlo's close friend, the famous doctor Leo Eloesser, believed that she used her many surgeries to get attention from people, particularly from Rivera. There's no doubt that she was obsessed with him in a way that should make feminists cringe. She also made several suicide attempts and spent much of her adult life addicted to drugs and alcohol.

More importantly, though, Kahlo's Communism--now treated as somehow sort of quaint--led her to embrace some unforgivable political positions. In 1936, Rivera, a dedicated Trotskyite, used his clout to petition the Mexican government to give Trotsky and his wife asylum after they were forced out of Norway. Rivera and Kahlo put up the Trotskys in Kahlo's family home, where Kahlo seduced the older man. (She painted a self-portrait dedicated to him that now hangs in Washington's NMWA.)

After Trotsky was assassinated, however, Kahlo turned on her old lover with a vengeance, claiming in an interview that Trotsky was a coward and had stolen from her while he stayed in her house (which wasn't true). "He irritated me from the time that he arrived with his pretentiousness, his pedantry because he thought he was a big deal," she said.

Rarely is this unflattering detail included in the condensed Kahlo story. Nor is the fact that Kahlo turned on Trotsky because she had become a devout Stalinist. Kahlo continued to worship Stalin even after it had become common knowledge that he was responsible for the deaths of millions of people, not to mention Trotsky himself. One of Kahlo's last paintings was called "Stalin and I," and her diary is full of her adolescent scribblings ("Viva Stalin!") about Stalin and her desire to meet him. Less scandalous but worth noting is that Kahlo despised the very gringos who now champion her work, and her art reflects her obvious disdain for the United States. One wonders what the postal service was thinking when it put Kahlo on a stamp. "Visas are denied to [foreign] artists with Frida Kahlo's politics," notes Chadwick.

Since her rediscovery in the 1970s, one of the few people to openly criticize Kahlo for her politics was her fellow countryman, the late Nobel laureate Octavio Paz. In Essays on Mexican Art, he questions whether someone could be both a great artist and "a despicable cur." In the end, he says they can, but suggests that, because of the way they embraced Stalin, "Diego and Frida ought not to be subjects of beatification but objects of study--and of repentance . . . the weaknesses, taints, and defects that show up in the works of Diego and Frida are moral in origin. The two of them betrayed their great gifts, and this can be seen in their painting. An artist may commit political errors and even common crimes, but the truly great artists--Villon or Pound, Caravaggio or Goya--pay for their mistakes and thereby redeem their art and their honor."

It's not an omission necessarily inherent to women's art--Pablo Neruda, the beloved left-wing Chilean poet, wrote poems to Stalin, which are almost never reproduced in books of his poetry. But neglecting the dark side of the artist's narrative deprives the public of a full appreciation of the art. Without knowing that by 1953 Kahlo was so strung out that she could barely pick up a paintbrush, how can the public possibly know why some of her late work is so bad? A casual observer might instead simply conclude after looking at one particularly sloppy, scratched-up canvas in the NMWA exhibit, that perhaps her work is overrated. The museum, after all, doesn't provide a reason to think otherwise.

Which is the really tragic part of Kahlo's story. Because when you sweep away the sideshow, ignore the overwrought analysis, and take a hard look at what she painted, much of it is extraordinary. Her paintings tap into sex and violence, life and death, in original and profound ways. "Suicide of Dorothy Hale," for instance, one of her lesser-known works, was commissioned in 1939 by Clare Booth Luce after her beautiful friend had thrown herself from her New York penthouse. Hale's bleeding corpse is shown smashed at the base of the high-rise, still looking stunning in a black cocktail dress. One shoeless foot is painted as if hanging off the frame, which is itself painted to look splattered with blood. Its surrealist influences are apparent, as are hints of the retablo style. Rather than soften Hale's suicide with American-style euphemism, Kahlo used the Mexican tradition of placing death front and center, in all its horror. The painting, even reproduced in black and white, as it is in Herrera's book, makes you stare guiltily the way you might driving past a car accident. Few paintings have such power. As Gregorio Luke explains, "Her work is very inclusive. She was able to incorporate elements of pop culture, Indian, Aztec mythology, surrealism, a whole variety of things in which many people can identify. She is the multicultural artist par excellence."

So while women might celebrate Kahlo's success, it may be that real progress has come when a woman can be remembered both as a great artist and as a despicable cur. Because in the end, as Garrard notes, "Life is interesting, but art is what the interesting person made."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Little Things

Tis a song by Colbie Caillat that I thought my sister liked, and therefore heard more than once. Its what I call a pink song and so I really had to sort of steel the stomach to hear it four times, and then I started liking it, a LOT and then I came back home and played it..
And my sister puked.


So I just heard it again.. and its too pink for me man.

NOT the point of the post.

So things haven't been peaches and cream (nicesong by the John Butler Trio btw)and lets just say happy happy Aqseer has been pretty much dead. Funnily enough, I felt happy happy today in the shower because I liked the smell of the shower gel my supahsistah uses (some palmolive shite. Palm Olive. Oo) and because Gilmore Girls is showing tomorrow at ten on Zee Cafe (I sound like an ad agency) and I've been wanting to watch it for a while.

Oh and cause I drank out of the coffee cup thing the Gilmore Girls are always drinking out of, so FULL happiness happened :P

The little things, indeed.

I remember a time that Samar stopped by while I was standing with my palm outstretched for a bit of dew that was dripping of the OAT's drapery, and grinning stupidly to myself cause it felt so nice in the middle of my palm

He said- 'cheap thrills eh?'.

They're the best, cheap thrills are, most times.

Old and New


I'm Aqseer. I used to be an outspoken, opinionated, unafraid girl. And then I lost myself in law school diplomacy and the idea of making balanced, fair arguments. You could argue it was a gain rather than a loss, and I might agree. In fact, to an extent, I do. Except I lost that girl to some other things as well, and that, I regret.

I lost it to people who thought it's wrong to be so opinionated so early in life, and to people that think feminism is a load of crap. Also that idealism is a load of crap, and that one person can't do shit to change anything. In fact, I think I let em change the way I think, a little bit.

Old Aqseer's back.

And thank... me.

A lot of malice
Just for show :)
Or maybe not.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Quotes from the "Fair" Side

"I base most of my fashion taste on what doesn't itch." -- Gilda Radner

"If high heels were so wonderful, men would be wearing them. -- Sue Grafton

"Nagging is the repetition of unpalatable truths." -- Baroness Edith Summerskill

"If men can run the world, why can't they stop wearing neckties?
How intelligent is it to start the day by tying a little noose around
your neck?" -- Linda Ellerbee

"Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got."
—Janis Joplin

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." —Margaret Mead

"I can honestly say that I was never affected by the question of the success of an undertaking. If I felt it was the right thing to do, I was for it regardless of the possible outcome."
—Golda Meir

"I think the key is for women not to set any limits."
— Martina Navratilova

"People think at the end of the day that a man is the only answer [to fulfillment]. Actually a job is better for me."
—Princess Diana

"Remember no one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
—Eleanor Roosevelt

"I think it's very important for everyone in America to realize right now the state of our country, not just on this issue but on a lot of issues, that it is time to get active again. People have just sat back and just sort of said, oh, let somebody else do it for a long time, and we're seeing what's happening to the country, even freedom of speech. It's not going well. So I think this is a real opportunity for people to see, yes, if you do get out and you do get active, there are other people there. You just have to seek them out."
—Mary Steenburgen

"In my heart, I think a woman has two choices: either she's a feminist or a masochist."
—Gloria Steinem

"You can tell how high a society is by how much of its garbage is recycled."
—Dhyani Ywahoo
(Native American)

"It's so clear that you have to cherish everyone. I think that's what I get from these older black women, that every soul is to be cherished, that every flower is to bloom."
—Alice Walker

Random (atlast)

Its a new day and I just feel like typing. Maybe cause there's nothing better to do. A mark of this blog's evolution into a real blog perhaps.

They're airing a lot of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. on television.. back to back episodes and all. Must be cause people still watch. Epic, that show. Forced humour sometimes, as I realised this morning.

I might have to read bare acts in Hindi, translate to English and collate. Not looking forward to it so much.

Are lawyers liars? We're people who argue one side and try not to highlight stuff that doesn't go in our favour. That makes us biased, and hey, that's the job.

But yeah sure, I guess some of us do lie through our teeth.

I like the idea of doing law. I'm glad I'm studying law, even if I'm not getting the bestest legal education on Planet Earth.

I NEED to watch stupid movies! Even corny stuff'll do.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What would you rather have? The picture or the Kid?

Remember the Pulitzer winning picture of the dying baby girl crawling towards a UN camp and a plump vulture waiting for her to die?

I used to think he was x number of horrible things for not having helped the kid. But before writing this, decided to google him and well..

First off, he wasn't an unaffected, cold man who would use the girl and her situation and cut cause it was convenient to. He hated apartheid and was part of a group called the Bang Bang club that was committed to exposing the brutality of the practice. All the stuff I've read on the events of the day says that he was disturbed about the picture and was very depressed after he took it. Also, most websites say that that wasn't the only picture he took that day, that he was overwhelmed by all the death around him and walked away, chanced upon this girl, saw a vulture settle down nearby, waited for 20 minutes for the vulture to fly away, took a shot, shooed the vulture away and left.

In circumstances like those, how many dying kids could he be expected to help? And how can people say with certainty that he was a cold, heartless man?
Visit- for the whole story, and for not so well informed people debating about whether his actions could've been justified as properly utilitarian or are inexcusable from a "basic human virtue" point of view.

Their arguments, in my opinion, are slightly irrelevant given the facts of this particular incident.

But in life in general- I think its an important debate- the 'classic dilemma' a journalist would face- the picture or the kid? Save the drowning people or report the incident so I can retain my job and expose the government?

Its true that images are more powerful than words, its true that photojournalists have got mouths to feed and that they can't go around saving every person they're taking pictures of and therefore its okay for them to click ten powerful pictures rather than take one and save a life.

But is it okay for them to shove kids in the line of fire to get a good picture, even if it does generate a lot of public outrage that might then stop the conflict thats killing people? I think not.

If thats the logic, some people need to get their priorities right.

I remember watching a video of a chap burning himself because Sonia G refused PMship and wondering why the hell the chap taking the video couldn't just pour a gallon of water over his head.
I get it now. Its his job, its important.

But what about the people standing around? They weren't creating awareness by standing around and watching. They were saving themselves a little inconvenience and a little time, thats all. But the degree of passivity Indians display in situations like this is another subject altogether.

More aware than ever, of the need to know the whole story afore judging,

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Masseuse thumbs

So Jagriti's got spondilitis or some less scary variant of it. Guess whose the new masseuse on the block.
I've done this twice so far, massaging her back i mean, and I don't last more than ten minutes. The thumbs just can't take it after that.
I wonder how masseuses? take it.

And I intend on closely examining their thumbs for signs of mutant development the next time I find one.

In peace,
Rare bird as it is,