A new year, a new beginning

With this year tidily wrapping up, a year of surprisingly chill studying, some hectic TV show watching, I look back, with what seems like everybody else.
The Hindu published an 8 page tribute to women this year. Women who are pushing boundaries, breaking ceilings everyday, got 8 inches of tribute each in the newspaper. It doesn’t seem like a big thing, but to young girls, who read the paper and see these names, these stories, it gives them hope. That they too can be the kind of woman that other women want to be.

I have noticed, more and more frequently this past year, that I tend to censor my own writing. Not to cut out the bad words, or the excesses of thought, but to seem not too radical for my conservative family and friends. After a while I grow tired of this, and write exactly what I want to write, but then I leave it in my drafts and give you a whitewashed version. Because I remember that even this whitewashed version is considered radical.
So this year, here’s to saying what I want to say. Because no one will censor me, not even myself. Because I have things to say I want this world to sit up and hear. Because we have a voice, no matter who we are, and we deserve to be heard.

All this entitlement then strikes me as too much. We don’t deserve anything. The world does not owe us anything we don’t make for ourselves. I read Sapiens- a history of humankind, and this brilliant book told me that the human superpower is storytelling. That the ability to tell and believe stories is what put us on top of the food chain. But that that also means that all these concepts, countries, patriotism, equality, justice, fairness, feminism, kindness, virtue. All these are stories we have made up and believed in to make our soceity run smoothly. None of this actually exists. We are not equal. We are decidedly different. The real world has no justice or karma, no kindness or equality. There is only the unforgiving rule of survival of the fittest.

And in this world we live in a dual reality, and fight for imagined rights, and teach imagined virtues, and we stay on top of the food chain.
And in that world of dual reality, we talk about female achievement, and this year, and what we have done in it.

I have watched movies and read books that inspired me. Perhaps inflamed the ‘radical’ unattractive aspects of myself. And I promised to talk about the things that I really want to talk about.

I want female equality, and equal rights and opportunities, and gear up for a fight against the patriarchy and find that most often, it stops with that. The major opposition to the realisation of this ideal is not the male part of the patriarchy. It’s the females – Of course, the male part of it threatens to rape or kill any female who dares to raise her voice against a man, and this is, sadly condoned, endorsed and followed by our leaders-  but the females, they want us to listen to the male leader of the family, to take care of his needs because he is the working member. They want us to stay in our houses because it’s not safe, they want us to not wander out in the dark or even the dusk because it is not safe. They want us to dress conservatively, and cover everything up because it’s not safe. They want to give dowry, because that’s the societal norm, even if neither party wants it. They want us to be realistic and not talk theory that won’t help in the real world.

But I do live in the real world, and it doesn’t stop at dusk, because that’s when it’s unsafe for women. It doesn’t have men who are all monsters who prey on innocents. It has good decent men, who are treated with suspicion, because our mothers have taught us to be careful and ever vigilant. It also has monsters who prey on the innocent and we have worse monsters who say, look what she was wearing. Look what time it was. Look where she was going. Monsters who say she deserved it. And these being men, and women who raised me, who lead this country, who show the next generation how to live. This is the practical world I am supposed to fit into.

I don’t like it. I won’t fit into it. So if I have to be radical, I will be. If I have to be too theoretical and idealistic, I will be. Because these same people who taught me all these things, taught me to think for myself, to stand for the things I believe in, to not give into peer pressure. These same people taught me to be the change I want to see in this world.

So this year, I resolve to be a little more vocal. A little more firm, to believe a little more in myself. And be the change I want to see. Because this world needs me. Or atleast, that is the story I will tell myself, and that will be my superpower.

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Minute to midnight

With the release of the Avengers Infinity War trailer, I was engrossed like the rest of the Marvel loving universe. Everybody except my mother seems to like/love these movies. I do too. 

But two days later.

They’re so popular because there’s a tangible villain who’s an alien with superpowers. A hero is born/created with superpowers who fights and destroys the supervillain to save the world. Same old. Same old. 

They’re popular because this is comforting. That the world and us, if we are destroyed, will be by an alien, and that a fight can save us. That’s just wishful thinking now. 

What’s killing the world is us. Overpopulation and pollution and global warming. It might not be the end of the Earth. But might be the end of us. Surely we are headed into an ice age or a world class drowning. This time there won’t be a Noah’s ark. 

We are what is wrong with this earth, no matter how you look at it. Kali Yuga, climate change. Corruption, pollution. Greed, evil, ambition. We might starve or drown or burn or get buried. By our own hands. 

We are a minute to midnight. 

And there is no hero that can fight this villain for us. They’re both us. The hero and the villain. This earth that we were born into, might not be here for our children to be born into. We’re changing it too fast for us to evolve with it. The fight is not as simple as a fight. No matter the amount of special effects. 

So these movies remain ever popular. Because they sell a dream. That it won’t be our fault. And that we’re the good ones. And that we will be saved. Wake up. This isn’t a good dream. 

When the darkness beckons:

We are drawn to evil. Have you noticed? When you read a book, its the bad guy you’re attracted by. The hero is a cliche. He’s a saving the damsel in distress, slaying the dragons cliche. The villain, however has no limits. He can be anything and anyone he wants. And most often, if its done right, you like him a little bit too. Sometimes, more than a little bit.

Come on. He’s evil. He’s terrifying. He wants to impose suffering on the world. He wants to torture your heroine. He wants world domination. He just wants to eat the other characters. He is limitless. And you just can’t hate him.

Why is evil so fascinating, so attractive? Is it the scary part? Is it that you can empathize with these characters, a little bit? Is it the forbidden fruit thing? Is it that there’s a little bit of evil in all of us? Why do writers want to write evil characters? Why do actors relish playing villain? Why is evil so memorable? Because it is.

All time famous villains have a special place in our heart. You can’t hate them and you can’t love them. But they’re there, sucking you into the story with their black inky damp dark cold ways.

Growing up with books and films, I’ve met quite a few.
>Cruella de vil, from 101 dalmations. Come on, what can be more evil than a -excuse me- woman, who wants to kill cute little dogs so she can make a coat out of their skins. While we’re at it, let’s add all the other Disney villains. Those guys make the best villains.
>Agatha Trunchbull, from Matilda.
I don’t know how many of you remember her, but she was the quintessential villain in the mind of a child. Hates children, has rumoured secret ways to torture, tall and huge and strict and scary, and always willing to torture a child just for the fun of it. And she had her own torture chamber. And she’s headmistress. Very convenient. The rumoured ‘poochandi’ our parents told us about.
>Napoleon, from Animal farm.
The evil pig who takes over animal farm after kicking Snowball out, he’s brilliant, in the lines of the most famous dictators of all time. He plays mind games, divides and conquers, uses chants and sayings and propaganda, so the animals are more miserable and work more than they ever have before, but do it believing they’re better off than they ever were. And he sends off his most loyal supporter to be butchered when he’s too sick to work. All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
>The white witch, Chronicles of Narnia.
She’s evil and imposing, draws innocent children in with her cold charm, and turns into stone anyone she doesn’t want in her way. Into stone. At least Medusa couldn’t help it.
>Sher khan, the Jungle book.
He’s bitter and hurt and doesn’t want man in the jungle. All justified. He tries to hurt Mowgli, sure. But he’s a villain you just can’t hate. He fears Mowgli will bring fire into the jungle, and wants him out. Guess exactly what Mowgli brings into the jungle.
>Professor Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes.
Well, we needed someone to challenge Sherlock, and who do we have here. A hero is only as good as the villain. And Professor Moriarty is the brilliant nemesis to Detective Sherlock Holmes.
>Loki, The Marvel Universe.
Enough said. Evil and ambitious. The poor adopted boy always in his brother’s shadow. The charming scoundrel. Admit it. You all liked him better than Thor.
>The Joker, The Dark Knight.
He was the best. I do not have to say anymore.
>Hannibal Lecter, The silence of the lambs.
Sophisticated. Cultured. Brilliant. And a cannibal. He’s chilling, because he could be anybody. He could be the man sitting next to you at the restaurant, and who knows what he could be eating. Oops. Who he could be eating. The pinnacle- when he served a man his own cooked brains, and had him eat it.
>Lord Voldemort. The Harry potter series.
You know who he is. Pun intended. He who must not be named is the most evil wizard of our time, and is a standing favourite. If you don’t know why he’s on this list, what are you still doing here?

And of course, who can forget, Shakespeare, who gave us some of the most famous villains. Ever. Case in point,
>Macbeth. Wait. Lady Macbeth. Wait. The pair of them. No. The witches.
The best part, they weren’t villains. They were the story. The reluctant evil, the guilt, the ambition (  Ah, the Hamartia). With the dagger and the hand washing and the bubbling cauldron. I did not appreciate this book when I had to study it for two years. I was an idiot.

There are so many I’ve missed, and many I’ve yet to meet. Add to our collection, and give me books to go read.

Oh. Don’t add Dolores Umbridge to the list. There’s evil, and then there’s EVIL.

From the happily ever after to the sadly never after:

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Boy meets girl. Sparks fly and hearts flutter. A song comes on and a duet is had. Bad guy comes in and holds things up for a while before good triumphs over evil and boy and girl get back together and have their happily ever after.

Well, nowadays this comforting turn of events seems to no longer be in vogue. No, ma’am. What happens now, you ask me? Well, boy dies of cancer. Or if he fails to do that, he gets stabbed by fifty people. If he doesn’t cooperate with that either, well bad luck for him. Girl falls in love with another guy while he’s off being self sacrificing. Or a bomb goes off and she loses her leg. He dies and leaves her letters to help her get over it. Or at the end of the saga, they’ve fought off the bad guys and the friend’s limped off to heal after being wounded, and the girl’s got her own dragon now, but they decide to part ways after telling each other their names.  Now how ridiculous is this getting.

Well that seems to be all the rage these days. Authors apparently don’t want their characters to live happily ever after. Or live at all. We’re apparently in the middle of some sort of – let’s have fun killing people in books because it’s legal- age. The best of them become serial killers and kill off all the characters. After making you like them, and in increasingly gruesome ways.

What has the world come to, I ask you. When one can’t pick up a book and spend three hours on it, and emerge smiling because they got married and are having kids. No they’re grieving forever at the other’s grave or better yet, buried next to each other. Gone is the day of the comfort read. The days of saying- ‘ be still my beating heart. All’s well. It has to be. Nothing happens to the hero’. Well, those days are done and over with. This fever has caught on and is raging. Books, movies, there seems to be no exception.

Well, I for one am sick and tired. I want my characters to be happy. And I want to be happy with them. I want to pick up my favourite book and curl up with it and laugh and cry because everybody’s so happy. Not cry and feel depressed and swear off love because it hurts. Love is supposed to be the holy grail of a dreaming teenage girl. Real life better not interfere. And who said real life is a sadist, anyway?

Some optimism is good for life. And if we can’t even depend upon fiction to give us our fair share, then what happens to us? Our imagination should be able to be happy without so called reality intervening!

Call me naive, call me a dreamer, but I for one, want my happy endings. I want my hero and heroine to kiss and make up. I want good to triumph. Love to prevail. Damn real life and bring back the happily ever after. That’s what fiction is for anyway. To inspire. To instill joy. To let imagination run free.

Raise your glasses to the happily ever after!