The blunt and beautiful world of OTT Platforms

Working from home has undoubtedly made most of us revisit our schedules. Personally, it meant spending more time getting [lesser] work done. And a lot of time spent cleaning, cooking and of course, binge watching a lot of series and movies on a number of OTT platforms.

For a good while now, I have let my thoughts and subsequent actions be influenced by books that I read, and podcasts I listened to. I never thought that a TV series would really help me get perspective and want to delve into a particular area more.

I have always wondered what it would be like if there was as strong a female narrative in our history books as there is male. The sheer absence of female voices in the popular stories in the past and the looming fear that it might carry on into the next generations has made me exclusively read books written by female authors, listen to stories which speaks about the way women lived in the past and also watch series and movies that have mainly female voices. And just in the past couple months, I have spent hours reading and watching any narrative that sheds light on the perspective of the female. And I am in awe of how strongly and confidently several OTT platforms have wound stories around women. And no, I am not going to talk about how these stories show ‘real women’. I have a problem with that concept. I don’t think it is okay for one human to make a pass at another of being ‘not real enough’.

So, in particular order, here goes:
1. Bombay Begums

Bombay Begums | Netflix Official Site
picture from: netflix.com

I liked this show especially because of the nuances of the various women portrayed. How the woman struggled with herself, internally because she couldn’t have children and was climbing up the corporate ladder way above her male husband. How another woman, exploring her sexuality was also trying to assert her financial autonomy and stopped at no point to make ‘life in the big city’ happen for herself.
Sure, there are parts of characters I thought were too obvious. The woman CEO with the obvious personal struggles was a little overdone, I felt. But mind you, it was beautifully showcased.
Personally, I could connect a little bit with every woman in that story and thought it was wholly interesting.

2. The Bold Type

The Bold Type (TV Series 2017– ) - IMDb
picture from: imdb.com

To the naked [read: biased] eye, this show might look like one your standard “good looking actors with cute clothes on a fun, no brainer, drama TV show”. Sure, it is that. But it is SO MUCH MORE. The show celebrates stereotypes on TV shows that we all have enjoyed watching. But it also deals with issues that are true to the real world with such nuance. It very smartly shows that one can work in fashion, love makeup and fabulous clothes AND have extremely well researched opinions about political issues as well. And that this seemingly confusing combination in womxn is utterly normal!
It has characters that are wholly privileged. But the stories are strung such that these characters also check said privileges.
The story is incredibly organized and I can’t help but mention that the three [yes, three] protagonists come alive in every episode and there is so much to learn from each one of their elaborate experiences. Of course, some problems on this show might seem “so first world” or “oh so typical”. But, you know what? It is shown as exactly that! And that’s what makes it so very real and lovely.

3. Workin’ Moms

Workin' Moms | Netflix Official Site
picture from: netflix.com

This show is funny, and how! It shows how messy life is. But more importantly, it shows how moms are completely normal for wanting to put their desires and ambition first. It beautifully brought about struggles of returning to work after the having a baby [and no, not the “oh I’m not with my baby” guilt]. It shows how moms are biased too, how they DO NOT want to spend every waking minute thinking about what their teenage children are up to.
Yes, it celebrated moms for being badass. But it also brought the more important fact that being a mom is not the only aspect of a woman’s identity once she becomes one. It is ONE aspect of the multitudes that make her/him/them up.

4. How To Get Away With Murder

The Legacy of “How to Get Away with Murder” | by Richard LeBeau | Rants and  Raves | Medium
picture from: medium.com

I particularly liked this show because of the intense feelings it made me feel. Sure, it has some crazy, convoluted details that are rather gory. But the way the protagonist puts a brave face on and yet lets herself be extremely vulnerable with the other characters struck me a surprisingly endearing.
I actually thought that how, at various points in the story, different women and men fight for the protagonist’s validation, fight against her for what they stand for as well as reprimand her when she is being out of line.
The show itself ranges from heart warming to scary to creepy to downright disgusting as well!

5. Is Love Enough, Sir?

Sir (2018 film) - Wikipedia
picture from: wikipedia.org

This is a movie. And honestly, it deserves a whole blogpost for itself. But I was so touched by the simplicity of this story. And how certain aspects of our everyday life are so easy for us to take for granted but seem to be equivalent to moving mountains to some others. It made me reflect about where I come from and all the privileges that I have. And privileges that I haven’t even earned but just inherited and cannot shed. It made me think about how every human has multitudes and how enchantingly beautiful those multitudes are. And truly, it speaks of the blacks and whites in our world, at the same time, it celebrates the greys as well.
It explores that grey area between the right and wrong decisions while also portraying the desire of the characters to sway towards one extreme.
This movie was truly thought provoking and beautiful.

The curriculum conundrum

The pandemic has caused its share of misery for each one of us and our lived experiences through these times will- and I say this with a heavy heart and full assurance- change the way we make life decisions. Both career and personal and everything in between.

In the beginning of March, I returned home from a seemingly uneventful day at school. Towards the evening, my life as an educator changed. I was told to instruct all students that school shall not be opened for classes until further notice. I also added a “I’ll see you next week, this seems like a small precaution we need to take. Bye” in the end. My naivety from that statement makes me guffaw today.
The events that materialized subsequently were heart wrenching. I never got to see those set of kids I made calls to and never got to say good bye. I have since then transitioned out of that role, found a job in another school, moved cities, started working in a learning area which is new and exciting, met a whole new set of children and facilitators and adapted to online teaching methods. Sure, life goes on.
But I cannot tell you enough about the kind of alterations and adaptations that educators all over have made to ensure our children continue learning and growing. I have had educators who themselves did not have access to comfortable internet and suitable devices, call me and ask me about how to use platforms like Zoom and Google Classroom. We educators have had to think, rethink and change the way we look at education. And from walking around the classroom, running through corridors to get to class, spending our lunch breaks with kids who hoard us with stories and questions, we are now confined to our screens (for those of us who have the privileges of owning one), looking at those little faces in tiny boxes on the screen and hoping to God that the internet connection cooperates with you till you finish your meagerly allotted thirty minutes of teaching.

While educators and children continue to grapple with this changed dynamic in learning and teaching with technology (or with lack thereof), the policy makers continue to do some grappling of their own, offering fresh directives every single day on how to teach (read: how NOT to teach), what to teach (read: what NOT to teach) and how long to teach for. Sure, this comes with them keeping in mind the availability of resources for teachers and students, appropriate screen time, assistance of guardians and a host of other things. The role of the educator, and how we look at education has become so much more important now though. Schools, organisations that work closely in education are trying their best to make sure this year does not leave our children in a state of utter confusion and wider gaps than we’ll be able to bridge.
The discourse where I teach is definitely one brimming with as much positivity as possible, but there is an air of uncertainty that looms over us.

I teach grade school (grade 1 to grade 9) and I teach a curriculum that gives me the liberty to choose the text, format, method and content area I think will best meet the objective suggested in the curriculum. And while that offers me a great deal of flexibility, the idea of not being able to facilitate learning from close quarters brings with it a whole set of challenges and inhibitions. And while we think over how best to ensure learning among children (with reduced screen time, enough interactions, keeping in mind the importance of writing and note taking for them, ensuring they receive physical exercise), educators in my immediate circle still have a great deal to experiment with and not feel like it is a race against time to cover portions.

But that is not the case everywhere. I recently read that the Central Board of Secondary Education has announced that the syllabus for Class 9 to Class 12 will be reduced by 30 per cent in the current academic year, leaving out some extremely important topics that are formative [of opinions and knowledge bases] for our young adults. And this was done keeping in view “extraordinary situation prevailing in the country and the world”. Now, there are more than 21000 CBSE schools in India and perhaps we can assume that each one of these schools is well staffed. But by ‘well staffed’, I don’t mean quantity. I mean quality. Teachers who want to educate. And you and I both know that we cannot possibly presume that.
But here’s my conundrum. What of the students in those spaces? One might argue that they will “eventually get to know”. That’s a massively useless chance we risk taking. And I’m not even going to entertain the “it’s okay to not know” argument [Knowledge is power. Period].
The responsibility of the educator as carriers and “individuals who implement” the curriculum, deliver agreed upon standards, and syllabus has become profoundly important, now more than ever. At the end of the day, the onus is on the educator who walks into the classroom (read: appears on the screen) to make a responsible call of the what and why a student should learn something. And in order to do that, deeply anchored purpose and willingness is going to drive education at these times.

We, as a country have been talking about reimagining education for a while now. And after closely working in the sector, I know that we have some fantastic organisations working in the sector, alongside and along with the government to make sure we “up our game” when it comes to education.

And while we grapple with what to include and what to leave out of the syllabus, what about the experience of the curriculum we agreed on offering? Now more than ever, it has become so much more important to continue to reimagine our education with an alternate lens (or wider, or deeper, or all of them) and, now, more than ever, it has become important to reimagine the role of our educators.

Let it brew

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well…”
It is when I read this line from Virginia Woolf’s Room Of One’s Own for the first time that I put down this book telling myself that I am not ready for this book. I cannot remember how old I was at that time, but I decided that I needed more time before I could read Woolf and comprehend the brilliance that she is.

The next time I picked up this book, I was in, what I like to call, my ‘revolutionary feminist’ mode (Aren’t all feminists revolutionaries anyway?). During this phase, I wanted to read and know all there is to know about the various waves of feminism and form my own definition of it (at least I knew earlier on that feminism is a brilliant concept that allows for one to have their own definition of it).  However, I only got through the first chapter that time. I put it down, telling myself that I still wasn’t prepared to read this book. And no, I hadn’t built it up in my head. I just felt that there is some level of comprehension that I am yet to decipher before I can pick up this book again.

And when I picked up Room Of One’s Own for the third time and read through “…reprehensible poverty of women”, I was hooked. And this book, as many would claim, is a thorough page turner.
But maybe I’ll save my version of feminism for another post. This post is a little different. Come along, won’t you?

This book isn’t the only one I have taken into my hands, read a little and put it down for another time because I felt like I wasn’t ready for it. There have been many. And no, I haven’t abandoned them. I will go back to each one of them and try again, when I feel like I’m ready to do so. As I have, with many books I’ve picked up.
But it’s the feeling of ‘not getting it’ at the time that I have grown to enjoy. It makes me excited that there is something for me to get, more about life to comprehend and so much that is still outside the purview of my current understanding. It amuses me that I am not some grand old woman that has understood everything that there is about this world we live in (And by now if you’re picturing Penny from Big Bang Theory going “not knowing is part of the fun”, you’re with me). Not knowing YET is part of the fun, if you ask me.

This concept of an letting things take their pace and giving eventuality a chance has been quite the difficult path to take for me, personally. I think I only began wrapping my head around it in my early twenties. Being a dancer, ‘nailing it’ was drilled into my head (pun not intended). And growing up as a competitive dancer, figuring a routine out quickly, all at one go, memorizing it, translating it into muscle memory and then performing it to win was the expectation out of me. Eventuality stood no chance in front of my strict mother and my inherent need to push myself to meet her expectations.

What is this intense need for us to finish everything to its completion at the very first go? Isn’t there a beauty to letting yourself figure and taking time to get there? Pick up other (maybe related) experiences along the way and get there when you’re ready? No, it isn’t okay to slack off and not give it your all. But it’s also okay to not force yourself to understand something that clearly needs a little more time to brew before you it’s ready for your consumption.

Don’t get me wrong. I am never going to try to convince you to not persevere. If anything, I will stand at the front of the line and shout slogans about persevering. And giving things time comes more from a place of giving oneself time to grow before taking something out that could actually turn out to be more nuanced.

So yes, I will drop a book, shelf an idea I want to translate into a movement, wait before I test out a pedagogy routine. Only to wait and let myself grow into it and gather a better understanding before I pick it up and look at it with a more nuanced gaze again.

Lock-down

Our generation is witnessing the most dreaded of things. A pandemic. And we’re the bunch who are always on the move. We’re waiting to shop for the latest trends, we’re running to check out the new cafe in town, we’re hustling to make sure we get to take that trip we planned for. Even evolution suggests that we’re not made to be confined within four walls. But the world as we know it has come to standstill, whether we like it or not. And I cannot help but point out what a commendable job we’re doing.

We’re making sure we continue to hustle, we’re making sure we reach out to our friends and family a lot more (now that we have the time to do so), we’ve turned parents and ensuring our parents stay at home and understand the dearth of our situation (I know I have made one too many calls to my mother asking her to STAY PUT), we’re also recognizing the privileges we’ve always had and reaching out to help those who are having a difficult time.
And yes, we’re making sure we get the most out of this time by being super productive by learning a new skill or two. But we’re also mindful enough to know that it’s important for us to call out that it is okay to do none of that and just get through the day, during these hard times.

I, for one, am in the process of learning to get used to what we now call “the new normal”. It has been anything but easy to do this. And letting myself consume my endless social media feed about how people have been dedicating their extra time to become hyper woke about things, put more effort into their physical and mental fitness, become culinary experts and master their art-form of choice has not helped much.
The endless need to ensure I make the most of this time has taken a toll on me. It has made me blind to all that I had worked for, reflect on it and gather my learning from it. It has given me many a sleepless nights and made me uncomfortable. No, I’m not beyond functioning. I still wake up, exercise, schedule, cook, work, check up on my friends, watch TV shows, read, all that.
I am normal. But not the new normal.

As much as I know that it is imperative that we take these measures, and as much as I understand what a privilege it is to be able to say “I am functioning”, I cannot wait for all of this to be over.
If there is something I have learnt during this time, it is that I know now to value the outdoors so much more.

 

 

The Year That Was

For most of us, the end of a year brings with it a lot of mixed feelings. Reflections on the year that went by, hopes for the up coming year, resolutions, promises and the whole shebang.
Joining the bandwagon, I’d like to look back at the year I had.
While I have plenty of people to be grateful for, I am foremost going to call out that I did a couple things that I’m proud of.

After the shit show that was 2018, I decided that I had to do everything in my power to make 2019 a lot better. First thing I did was to start living by myself. And it was by far, the best thing I have done for myself in my life. Yes, it was supremely scary and lonely. But the amount of learning that happened is immense. I learnt a great deal just about myself and definitely got a little street smart. Of course, my friends helped a great deal. For this reason (and many others) 2019 will be the year I truly started to become my version of a functioning adult human.

I am also particularly happy about the professional collaborations I sought this year. I went out of my way to make sure I talk about my work, find like minded people to collaborate with and in the process, met some pretty great people.
Granted, there were days when this took the better of me and my anxiety came to fore rendering me incapable of even getting out of bed. But I know now that these one off days do pass and I hope that they will come far and less in between.

I danced so much more than ever this year. No, I wasn’t on stage, performing. But I was at home, dancing and creating work that I am happy about within the four walls of my home. And I also learnt that it’s absolutely okay to do that. And I’ve grown to believe that I’d rather put meaningful works of art out there than sell myself out. 2019 has been historic like that.

I have received so much strength and support this year from some of the most wonderful people. Friends from so many places have been there for me and my heart is filled with oodles of gratitude for each one of them. I don’t think (and I honestly thought about this) I could’ve done even half of what I did had it not been for these wonderful humans supporting me from whichever part of the world they are in.

Two of the most important things I have learnt this year is that A) Ask for help when you need it. There is no shame in it. Period. And B) Stop with that petty sense of entitlement; you are not the most awesome or the least awesome person in the world. The world owes you nothing.

I am walking into 2020 with a lot of hope and plans to make the upcoming year a lot more productive and enriching. *fingers crossed*

Beyond

A couple months ago, I took a trip to the mountains.

Sure, it was the cliched “get away from the city for a bit to find yourself” trip. But it was also a million more things for me.

Now for someone who actually dreads the mountains, (owing to the bone chilling cold at that altitude, the claustrophobia of the ranges closing in on you and the general unpredictability of the mountains) this trip was quite something.

But my greatest fear was that of breaking my routine. While in the comforts of my city, my job and my meticulously followed routine, I had the time to assign all my brain cells to things that actually bothered me. But the mountains completely changed all of that and my fears confronted me like a slap in the face.

The biting cold, the want of warmth, the excitement to explore, and the vigilance to stay safe threw me out of my routine and straight into survival mode. And it has by far been the most trying experience of my life and at the same time, the most enriching.

The beauty and serenity gave me time to get used to the solitude. It helped me think about the kind of person I want to be and what I’d like to do to evolve. It helped me ponder over my philosophy of life.

Most of all, the mountains taught me not to judge. People, landscapes and things. And not because everyone has their own struggles. I mean, sure they do. But beyond the judgements and conclusions, there is more peaceful, more accepting, more level playing field. And I’m going there, one way or another.

Like Rumi said, “Beyond the idea of wrongdoings and right doings, there is a field. I will meet you there”. And this resonates just perfectly.

A person called Home

What is home? Cliché will tell you that home is where the heart is, quirky pop culture posts will tell you things like ‘home is where the chai is’, and urban philosophers will tell you home is a myth and is only an elusive idea.

For me though, home is a person. Perhaps, a place becomes home because of the people I experience it with.
For the longest time, Bangalore was my home. It still is, in so many senses of the word.
But Bangalore is not home only because I grew up there. Bangalore is not home only because my parents and friends live there. Bangalore is not home only because I went to school and worked there.
As much as it is about the nooks and corners of Bangalore itself, it is also that much more about the people I spent time with at said places.
Home is Sunday morning breakfasts at Adigas because amma would wake up feeling lazy to cook on Sunday mornings and Yesha and I would end up walking to Adigas to pack idlis for home.
Home is ginger chai and banana cake at Chai Point because it is over these countless cups of chai that Pri and I took life changing decisions.
Home is long walks around Dollar’s Colony because Su and I walked through these streets discussing what life will turn out to be.
Home is Vada and Chutney at Veena Stores because Sid and I would take off from work and start our relaxed mornings with the yummy food there and continue to walk the beautiful streets of Malleshwaram.

And over a reflection a couple days ago, I realized that Pune is steadily becoming home as well. And it was a very comforting realization that, true to my nature, I have found people who have been instrumental in making this place home. People whom I have found a home in.

Pune is German Bakery because it is here that Dee and I held after school catharsis sessions.
Pune is the lemon grass tea at Third Wave because it is over these afternoons with T that I realized what kind of teacher I want to be for my kids.
Pune is chaat and shopping at MG road because it is here where Dee and I reconnected after months.
Pune is that one tree on the way to school that we stopped under, just for a moment, to say that we love each other.

And I am finding more reasons every day to embrace this city as home because the of the people I found here.

Metamorphosis

Last year, around this time, I made a decision that changed my entire life. Well, at least for the foreseeable future it has. It was a bright sunny day and I was on my way to work; the usual debacle of a two and a half hour long bus ride. Of course, I progressed into my usual spiral of thoughts of existentialism and worthlessness. Mind you, this had become an everyday ritual for me. It then hit me that this isn’t going to change unless I make a serious change in the way I was tackling my professional life.

Teaching is something I have had my eyes on for quite some time now. During university, I loved teaching dance and would jump at the first opportunity to teach that came my way. I just never considered it a serious professional path I could pursue. However, on that bus ride that sunny morning, when I finally decided that I’d had enough and wanted to do something more worthwhile with my life, teaching was the first thing that came to my mind. And just like that, it felt like a load had been lifted off my chest.

Now, it might seem all rosy. Because how difficult could it be to act upon it when you know what you want to do, right? Extremely difficult, to say the least. To voluntarily pull yourself out of a comfortable, secure and “promising” job, only to pursue something supremely difficult and uncomfortable is a herculean task in itself. And doing it with very little emotional support from people around you is even more difficult.

From deciding to move out of home, to applying for the job I wanted, to trying to get my parents onboard with my idea, to quitting my job, it has been a roller coaster ride. Some of these tiny battles, I have won. But some of them, I have lost. However, now that I am finally on the verge of moving out of home, I know that it will be worth it.

I have a lot of apprehensions moving out of the one place I’ve lived all my life. As the day comes closer, I feel more and more nervous about it. However, there is a sense of fulfilment and calm now. I am finally in a place where I know what I’m getting into and actually want to see myself through it.

Strength

We tend to have a very weird, one-dimensional definition of strength. We associate physical strength with being muscular and bulky and lifting a hundred kilos. We associate mental strength with stoicism and knowing how to deal with everything. But here’s the thing. Asking for help is a fine display of strength. Showing your emotions openly? That’s strong as well. Being human and having vulnerabilities and embracing said vulnerabilities is strong.

I have spent way too many precious years of my like having an absolutely juvenile idea about strength. I have spent way too many hours crying behind closed doors, thinking that I would look weak if someone saw me sobbing like that. I have spent so much of my life treating my strength like a fragile little glass vase at the edge of the table, which could fall at the blink of an eye and shatter into a million pieces.
Not anymore though. I’ve come to realise that my strengths lie in my vulnerabilities; in my heartbreaks (and subsequent suffering), in my unsuccessful dance performances and failed exams. My strength lies in all the trials and all the errors. Because I survived and emerged from all of them, did I not? I figured a way to deal with all my shortfalls. Yes, I spent hours crying and cursing myself for all the botched experiments of life. But that’s the thing about strength. It’s in these moments of doubt, contempt, sorrow and melancholia that I find immense strength. Dealing with these things while functioning daily as an adult is no walk in the park; it takes immense strength.

It might be time to change the kind of notions that we associate with strength. Maybe we should consider a display of our weaknesses as a strength? Maybe we should step away from associating emotional strength with stoicism? Maybe we should try and look at the strength in our vulnerabilities?

Afraid

Heartbreaks are a necessary part of growing up. They really shape a person’s character. They make you wary of people around you. And, most importantly, they make you a stronger version of yourself. This is what I’ve assimilated after reading countless articles and books about the topic.

And I agree with this. I don’t think heartbreaks are a “necessary” part of growing up. But they teach you a plethora of things. I know I am the person today due to all the heartbreak I’ve suffered.

Now I understand that not all heartbreaks stem from break ups or getting dumped. But I’d mostly like to talk about that kind of heartbreak. And after having had my fair share of this version of a heartbreak, I have unfortunately emerged as an afraid human being.

The heartbreaks that I’ve been through have led me to build walls around me. And I’m too afraid to let anyone surpass these walls. It scares me to put my trust and faith in someone. And it scares me even more to expect an individual to be there for me because, what if I’m eating up too much of their time? What if I don’t mean anything to them? Am I sharing too much? Am I asking for too much? To put it in a nutshell, I’m afraid to fall in love.

I’m too scared to feel things for someone. So I avoid it by holding them at a safe distance. Maybe because I don’t think I can feel so deeply anymore. Maybe I can’t be happily in love with them. It’s too daunting a thought. And I honestly do not think my fragile heart can take another heartbreak.

But hey, they say heartbreaks are a necessary part of growing up. They must know what they’re talking about, right?