Feminism

Can a comic book overcome India’s menstruation taboo? | Aditi Gupta & Tuhin Paul | TEDxBangalore

If you are a girl in India, you know a lot of things that are associated with menstruationnaah..I am not talking about the pains or the cramps..I am talking about those many, many, MANY things that are associated with the word. So when Aditi Gupta and Tuhin Paul, gave this Tedx Talk, I could connect to them instantly.

Here are a few things I learnt about menstruation when I was growing up:

It is not something you talk about. Our school had a lot of workshops on menstruation. From sixth standard we had to attend compulsory sessions where leading companies like whisper would come and inform scientific information via cartoons and skits. It was great to learn all this. But here is the thing, only girls were supposed to sit in this workshop. And once the workshop was over, and when boys asked why y’all were called, where y’all went, etc..we were supposed to be vague and not talk about it once the class got over. This is how actress Parineeti Chopra reacts to such taboos:

Cannot visit temples. When I first came to know about this rule, I asked, why? Why cannot I? How am I impure? I did not ask for this..and this is natural, if it was so impure, why did God create an impure thing? Also, you tell me stories were Gods have wives, there are also lot of Goddesses. If all women have menstruation, and that menstruation is a way to have kids, then Goddesses (who have kids) definately have menstruation, are Goddess Impure too? I have not yet received an answer to this question.

buying sanitary napkins is shameful. It was not explicitly said, but the way people around me acted, I felt very ashamed of buying a sanitary napkin for my self. I was so ashamed that I would go to malls, and buy a lot of things that I do not want and then act ‘innocent’ when the billing time cameeven if there was no mall, and I had to buy it from grocery store, I would point at it, and the shopkeeper would wrap it in a newspaper and a black polythene and hand it over.But then one day, not very long ago, I realized, how stupid being ashamed was! Why SO much secrecy?  I mean I was not buying a murder weapon, for Petes sake. And as soon as I realised that, I was able to go up, ask for a napkin of my choice and say ‘do not bother’ when the shopkeeper goes for the wrapping of newspapers. Check this out:

– No touching the pickles, becauseok..I cannot even think one logical reason for this. But this ad portrays breaking this taboo in a perfect way:

As I grew up, I found that a lot of my friends had to face a lot of other restrictions, from not touching, not washing hair, having separate utensils, having different bed sheets and many more!

Do we really need to cater to these unreasonable taboos?

You might also like:

http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2013/10/04/indias-period-problem/

Books

Crooked House: Book Review

Author: Agatha Christie

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Book Blurb:

In the sprawling, half-timbered mansion in the affluent suburb of Swinly Dean, Aristide Leonides lies dead from barbiturate poisoning. An accident? Not likely. In fact, suspicion has already fallen on his luscious widow, a cunning beauty fifty years his junior, set to inherit a sizeable fortune, and rumored to be carrying on with a strapping young tutor comfortably ensconced in the family estate. But criminologist Charles Hayward is casting his own doubts on the innocence of the entire Leonides brood. He knows them intimately. And he’s certain that in a crooked house such as Three Gables, no one’s on the level…

Review:

It would not be wrong to say that I grew up on a staple diet of Agatha Christies. My primary school library has them all, and I would devour them.

Crooked house has always been one of my absolute favorites. It does not have any of Ms. Christie’s characters like Miss. Marple, Poirot or Tommy and Tupense. The book has a host of different characters.

What I loved about the story was the sheer simplicity of the plot.The entire book you look out for the murderer, you guess it must be her, or it has to be done by him….and when the murderer is found out you get shocked, but then it all seems to fall into place and all those bits and pieces that were bothering you now seem to have the most logical explanations and you hit your head and think, “Why did I not think of that before?”

The book challenges your ideas of a murder mystery in every way.

This book is recommended for: Those who love to have a book challenge them, and those who love detective and murder mysteries.

Author Interviews, Books

Lessons from my Self-Publishing Journey by Eric Swanson

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Eric Swanson lives in the north—Edmonton, Canada—with his beautiful family. He retired this year from the National Research Council of Canada where he worked with companies developing treatments for infectious diseases including Ebola, Hepatitis, and Malaria through micro/nanotechnology. His worldview is as a follower of Jesus. He has recently self published a book “The First Candle”, and shares his experience with us so that those who wish to self publish can pick up a few tips and tricks!

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Lessons from my Self-Publishing Journey

In the beginning there was an experienced science writer who dreamed of writing a story, so he began his first book of fiction.

Being a newbie, I elected to use an experienced self-publishing company in order to learn to use various tools quickly. This decision taught me some excellent and valuable lessons and some expensive mistakes.

Here are a few of my most valuable lessons learned:

Use professional services. Do not skimp on editing, book layout, and graphic design, if you want a professional final book. No matter how well or how poorly you write, you will need a good editor to reign in the absurd and save yourself from your own crafted embarrassments!

Most of us are aware that the actual publishing of a book is not the expensive part, whether you do only eBooks or multiple formats. The great network and experience in my publishing company was invaluable. They understood the genre, which expedited the professional editing, graphic design, book cover, and final layout. Recommendations were generally excellent and of speedy value. I recommend using this experience.

Set realistic expectations. So where were my most costly mistakes? Marketing! My own ego let the marketing arm of my publisher convince me that my book could become a rapid international success. It is not going to happen!

Avoid being vulnerable to this self-deceit—it is expensive. It is unrealistic to expect that someone can separate your work from the 5,000 other works that came out on the very day yours did and will come out every day afterwards through well-placed international marketing. There will be no miraculous international successes—save your money and take it slowly.

Market locally. My most important lesson from a multitude of low-result marketing plans and expenses may surprise you. Go local! Various marketing tools can be valuable in local bookstores, marketing posters, signings, radio talk interviews, book clubs etc. My network had 100 times the impact of my international marketing. The lesson from this is – any extensive International marketing comes later. Some targeted, inexpensive web marketing can be great. Also, use your personal networks and don’t be shy!

Pursue interviews. Radio interviews are fun, but take some time to practice as I found it was not easy to be a good radio personality. A good host can serve you well, especially locally where they may know who you are!

Work on retailing. Don’t let the local bookstores put you in the wrong section – like ‘new authors’ – this section is a dud, and has no traffic. Get put in your genre section, and get your front page exposed even if you have to do this yourself. Takes time, but is effective, especially if you spent that extra time on your cover.

Make a book video. Find a vendor group familiar with your genre and save yourself much pain. In this case, once again my publishing company had fantastic connections. My video team did a first class job quickly and professionally (this is not for faint of heart and requires thousands of dollars for a good piece). Is it needed to sell books? I don’t really know, but I love the way it summarizes my book so I was greatly satisfied. It can capture the essence of your book in 60 seconds or less (see it at http://www.thefirstcandle.com). Please take a look at it and let me know if it makes you want to read my book.

Merry Christmas to one and ALL – Eric

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About the book:

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The First Candle is set in the wastelands of the post-apocalypse, where a minstrel troop gets caught in the middle of a titanic battle between a dark demon prince and the Brothers. Martin Longbow is a naïve minstrel, unaware that the millennium battles were spiritual. His dark mission journey will destroy flesh and blood, but lead to his discovery of how to resist the demonic evil set on world domination. The First Candle is available with amazon, click on the link to visit the site.

Also, there is a giveaway scheduled for this book from 2nd December 2014. Be sure to check out this blog on that day for more details!

Books

Quidditch Through The Ages: Book Review

Author: Kennilworthy Whisp (J.K. Rowling)

Quidditch Through the Ages

Book Blurb:

If you have ever asked yourself where the Golden Snitch came from, how the Bludgers came into existence or why the Wigtown Wanderers have pictures of meat cleavers on their robes, you need Quidditch Through the Ages. This edition is a copy of the volume in Hogwarts School Library, where it is consulted by young Quidditch fans on an almost daily basis.

Review:

This is a part of the “Hogwarts Library” collection that contains two other books.

If you are not extreme potterhead, and if you have lived your life without obsessing about Harry Potter, you will not find this book interesting.

The book contains facts and “real life incidents” that have happened during the “History” of Quidditch. The entire evolution of Quidditch as a game is elaborately mentioned.

The book also contains the rules and regulations that are in place today, and why the ministry felt the need to put these rules in place.

The best part of this book, is beyond a doubt, J. K. Rowling’s writing. The way she has written the book, especially the Dumledore’s note about how he got this book printed for the muggle readers is just wonderful.

I also learnt that Quidditch is not a sport that is popular in the Indian Wizarding community, as carpets are the preferred mode of commute and not broomsticks. Seriously… Indian Witches and Wizards? How could you compare the thrill of flying on a Firebolt to sitting on a carpet? :/

Who do I recommend it to? People who are crazy about Harry Potter.

 

Books

And We Remained: Book Review

Author: Asad Ali Junaid

And We Remained

Book Blurb:

It is Bangalore in the late 1990’s. There are tremendous socio-economic and cultural transformations taking place as a result of liberalization. How would these changes impact a group of friends in their late teens? How would they cope, find opportunities and what of their original identities would they be left with, after western ideologies are brought in and bombarded into their awareness by cable TV and new media?
Told through emails and first person account of events, And We Remained is a light and entertaining read of these friends as they experience love, heartbreak, prison, politics, drunken binges, strip clubs, sexcapades, US and Europe during their journey into adulthood.

Review:

This story is indeed different from the me too Chetan Bhagat genre that is currently dominating the romance genre. The story is carefully weaved with the past and the present. I liked how the present was told by the way of emails. It’s a reality, no matter how close we are with our friends in the college days, post college, we rarely get to meet, as each of us live in different parts of the country.

The emails that the friends send to each other, the way they interact, pull each others legs, tease each other, was extremely fun to read and raises a few chuckles as well.

I like the character development of most of the guys’ characters, especially how the college guys with their extremely one tracked mind, when it comes to girls, settle in US, and their views become more accepting and they start seeing females as people instead. I especially liked the mild overtone of irritation of guys who matured in terms of their views when they interacted with those who still held the same views.This was very fresh, new and interesting to read.

The book did lack the depth when it came to female characterization though. I felt it was a bit superficial, in which I never really knew what the girls were like, except the one girl who was their friend. There were a lot of cliched tropes, when it came to female characterization came into play, like the beautiful girl with her average looking friend (and the guys are attracted to the beautiful girl), the girls hostel which is filled with giggling girls who talk about guys, etc. There was more emphasis on the ‘looks’ and almost next to nothing about anything else. I would have liked to know more about the girl like what made her different, what kind of a person she was, what are her likes, dislikes, instead of just what she looked like.

The book fails the Bechdel Test.

I found a few editing errors as well. There were spelling mistakes as well as an entire paragraph was repeated in one place.

(I thank the author, Asad Ali Junaid, for sending me a copy of the book 🙂 )

Author Interviews, Books

Meet R. V. Raman, the author of “Fraudster”

Book review for Fraudster can be found here.

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Tell us something about yourself.

There is precious little to tell.

I’ve been a regular reader for over 40 years, reading anywhere from 2 to 20 books a month. With my turning to writing on the wrong side of 50, I have a problem. My expectations as a reader are mature and far higher than my abilities as a rookie writer. That often leaves me frustrated. But there is the fun part too! It feels like I’m back in school, learning a new skill. And guess what?

There are no exams!

Great! So, How did you shift from management consulting to writing?

I began planning for a shift about four years back, when I decided that I would move away from a single full-time role to multiple part-time ones. The idea was to be able to do a larger basket of things, including teaching and writing. A full-time corporate role, especially at senior levels,leaves very little time for other activities.

How did the Idea of writing Fraudster come to you?

Very simply, it was an experiment. I wanted to see if I could write something that the Indian reader would like. I had earlier experimented with epic fantasy (as Kevan Dinn), but soon realised that it was not popular in India. I decided to try crime fiction, and set it in an arena I knew well – corporate India. Rather than make it a plain murder mystery or a thriller, I wanted the story revolve to around banking and fraud.

When we think of banking fraud, what usually comes to mind are things like credit card fraud, phishing, account hacking, etc. But the real elephant in the room that few talk about is loan related fraud. I looked around and realised that nobody had written a novel about that.

Who is your favorite character from the book?

I never really thought about it, but it’s Varsha, I guess. If I had a daughter, I would have liked her to be like Varsha. But personally, I relate best to the characters of Visht & Subbu.

Is there anything you would like to say about the book for those who have not yet read it?

If you like mysteries or thrillers, or are interested in speculating about how things can go wrong in corporate India, consider reading Fraudster. Readers of all ages can read the novel; it is free of profanities and sleaze. Except for a couple of mild intensifiers, the language is clean.

What are you currently reading?

Niall Ferguson’s Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World.

Which are your personal favourite books?

In crime fiction, I’d include all Sherlock Holmes and Poirot stories, And Then There Were None, The Day of the Jackal, The Odessa File, Sphere and Congo. In SFF, it’s Lord of the Rings and Asimov’s entire Robot/Foundation Series. And in humour, it’s almost any Wodehouse (I am partial to Blandings Castle novels).

What’s next for you in terms of writing?

I will continue to write in both genres in the foreseeable future. Right now, I am working on a corporate thriller that is set in the Indian stock market.

“This interview is a part of The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program and Blog Tours.  To get free books log on to thereaderscosmos.blogspot.com

Books

Letter to My Daughter: Book Review

Author: Maya Angelou

Letter to My Daughter

Book Blurb:

For a world of devoted readers, a much-awaited new volume of absorbing stories and inspirational wisdom from one of our best-loved writers.

Dedicated to the daughter she never had but sees all around her, Letter to My Daughter reveals Maya Angelou’s path to living well and living a life with meaning. Told in her own inimitable style, this book transcends genres and categories: guidebook, memoir, poetry, and pure delight.

Here in short spellbinding essays are glimpses of the tumultuous life that led Angelou to an exalted place in American letters and taught her lessons in compassion and fortitude: how she was brought up by her indomitable grandmother in segregated Arkansas, taken in at thirteen by her more worldly and less religious mother, and grew to be an awkward, six-foot-tall teenager whose first experience of loveless sex paradoxically left her with her greatest gift, a son.

Whether she is recalling such lost friends as Coretta Scott King and Ossie Davis, extolling honesty, decrying vulgarity, explaining why becoming a Christian is a “lifelong endeavor,” or simply singing the praises of a meal of red rice–Maya Angelou writes from the heart to millions of women she considers her extended family.

Like the rest of her remarkable work, Letter to My Daughter entertains and teaches; it is a book to cherish, savor, re-read, and share.

My Review:

This is the first book of Maya Angelou that I have read. I immensely loved her writing style, the book felt like a private conversation between her and me.

I especially loved the message that she gave at the end of each chapter, it was humbling to see how bad things can make a beautiful person.

Some of the messages that I absolutely loved were:

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”

“A friend may be waiting behind a stranger’s face.”

“I am never proud to participate in violence, yet, I know that each of us must care enough for ourselves, that we can be ready and able to come to our own defense when and wherever needed.”

The best part of the book is that as a reader, we learn from her experiences, but this learning seeps gradually into our consciousness, and in no way makes us feel like somebody is preaching to us and making us learn.

Who do I recommend it to? Everybody, the simplicity of the language and the complexity of the thoughts would make this an ideal read for the nuance and experienced readers alike.

Books

Heart, Mind and Wallet: Book Review

Author: Ankur Ashta

Genre: Non Fiction, Marketing

Heart, Mind and Wallet

Book Blurb:

Consumer insight, though a potent possession, is not a magical agent that transpires from years of scrutiny and soul-searching. All it takes is a basic understanding of what enhances the pleasure for human beings and what reduces their pain. We all have, for example, used the ATM to withdraw cash, sometime or the other. Consider a situation where a person visiting the ATM doesn’t have to bother to key-in the amount he needs; the ATM recognizes him and hands him the money basis his identified needs. “Heart, Mind & Wallet” aims to highlight the handiness of insights, while – at the same time – capturing their potential, bringing into focus, in the context, how certain thought-leaders have used them to create winning stories.Consider a company leveraging expiry date for pillows to increase the sales of the product by more than 300%. Also, consider a company bridging the gap between ice-cream parlours and consumers and re-writing the way, ice-cream is consumed in India. This well-researched book throws light on some innate human factors, which – while being ridiculously entertaining – are also capable of defining success or failure of a brand. The book has been written in a fairly easy to understand language and, explains everything with loads of exciting stories and marketing examples (largely in Indian context).

Review:

This book explains marketing concepts without being too preachy. With extremely easy to understand and interesting examples, for managers, MBA students as well as those who have any interest in marketing.

The ice cream case study as well as the consumer and seller psychology by a simple sales guy was just so interesting.The main thing that sets this book apart from all others is that it is written in Indian context. Marketers of India face a tough time as Indians use products differently, and there needs to be different marketing tatctics that work with us, which comes out brilliantly in the Godrej Hair Dye Case Study.

This is a short, but very insightful and interesting read.

 

(I received a copy of this book though Goodreads “First reads” program)

Feminism, MY PAWFECT LIFE

Subtle Sexism: On Pets and Feminism

It has been a little over two years that those two melting brown eyes looked at me, and it was love at first sight. Indeed! I knew at that moment, that he and I are meant to be, and that is how I met Scooby, an adorable, naughty yellow Labrador.

These two years were fun and inspiring, he makes me a more responsible person. He is with me in the fun times and the bad. Especially the bad, he would insist on doing everything possible to bring back the smile. I just can never have a 100% bad day as his presence makes even the worst bearable, and the best, blissful. These two years have been the best and the most fulfilling years, I have grown as a person and learned things that only a loving dog could teach.

And in these two years, I have had a lot of people come up to me and ask me “So, what are you going to do with him once you get married?”, even before as a kid when I wanted a pet I was told “Not now, maybe after marriage you can think of having pets”.

I found it horribly weird, that people expect me to leave my dog (whom I love, and who loves me UNCONDITIONALLY, who makes me happy and makes my life better) with strangers, because some guy and his family, who till date have not made an appearance in my life, might not like having pets.

Now I have a lot of friends who have pets, so I asked around if this expectation were on every unmarried pet owner, or are those sundry people around me just a bit off.

Almost all the girls that I asked had heard these statements from the people around them, even those who wanted pets, could not get them, just because their future masters might not approve. (Yea, I always use the term “Master”, because in my mind, a husband is someone one can have an equal, loving relationship with. )

But strangely these expectations were not so rampant for the unmarried guys. In these cases, the girls who married the guys were expected to love the pet by default or just suck up and adjust if they did not like his pet. One person even went so far as to recommend the girl in question that she married a guy, and should love everything and everybody related to him, that is love…

But, why is this advice not given to the guys at large?

Why even in 21st century, a girl can have a pet only and only if her lord and master approves?

Why still what a guy prefers has importance than what a girl prefers?  Why cannot society see men as husbands, why it insists on seeing them as masters and lords?

As Superwoman says in this video, “anytime I want to do something like buy a dog, my mom says “No, you are not allowed to buy a dog for as long as you live in this house, when you get married, you can get two dogs”..umm..that’s stupid, when I get married, why would I want two dogs? And if my husband does not like dogs or does not want a dog, great, I have spent eight hundred thousand dollars getting married, and now I would have to spend thousands more to get a divorce. Mom really? I’m trying to save you money.” :P

This post was originally published here.