...and then

Sunday, 10 April 2016

The Restless Quill has a new home.

It's been ten years since I've been blogging. And now I've moved. Blogger's been great for me but WordPress offers better things.  And so, I'll be at https://therestlessquillblog.wordpress.com/ now on.

I am especially excited about the pages I've had the time to create. One for my poetry and one for things I don't know how to categorise except by calling them rumination.

This blog remains open so please feel free to look around if you're coming here for the first time.

Once again, looking forward to seeing you, now on. here

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Do you know what a person who wants to commit suicide looks like?

Ok, Mrs Hema Malini, first thing: Not everyone exists to be admired by the world. Some of us exist, even live, because we want to do fun things and experience life in the forms that we can. Some of us live because we have reasons to live; they may not be great ones but they give us enough motivation.
In this really dreary business of living our lives and being adult about it, some times we fall ill. Because honestly, no person wants to actively kill themselves unless their life becomes too much to bear. 
What, then, is too much to bear? Who decides what is too much? You survived a broken heart or a bad business decision or a crippling tragedy. But the person next door may not have the same skills as you to cope. How did you survive? So many answers: you are dead inside, you are cold, you were hugged a lot when you were a child, you had help from a professional, you had a family (or friends) to cushion your crash,  you acquired skills, along the way, to become mentally “tough”. So many explanations. Any of this could make you a “winner”.  What doesn’t make you a winner is calling someone else who possibly had different setbacks from yours, and who may not have had the same support system as yours, a loser. You didn’t win on your own, Hemaji. Just like Pratyusha Bannerjee didn’t lose on her own. 
Do you have friends whose parents committed suicide? Lovers? Siblings? I do. The vocabulary of the act of suicide is inherently violent and judgemental. It provides no relief to the ones who were left behind. But worse, it renders the person who died infinitely small, incapable of dignity, and with no compassionate memory of them. That must stop. Every time you use the words “succumbed” and “weak” to describe someone who killed themselves, you’re negating, insulting and condemning every single person who has already made that choice. And that person may have been someone you love. That person might be someone who someone you love loves. 
What does a person who is about to commit suicide look like, Hemaji? Don’t know? Or maybe you do. But let me tell you anyway. I should know, I’ve been that person. More than once. A person who is about to commit suicide is first and foremost deranged. Think about that word. To have moved from a certain place, to have lost balance or a semblance of it. It is a person in the deepest, darkest pit of despair. It is a person who thinks the world will get by without them. That her own parents, children, partner don’t need her and there is nothing to look forward to tomorrow. It is a person so angry with herself at “failing” that tomorrow is a terrifying black thing that pulls, sucks and leeches so all-encompassingly that she doesn’t want to wake up. 
A person about to commit suicide is like a person functioning with a brain that is quickly spinning out of control. A person who commits suicide has a brain that is constantly lying to her. It’s like looking at life upside down for a long time till you start believe that the world is wrong and your point of view is right. A person who commits suicide does not have the ability to distinguish between the truth (whatever that is) and the lies that her brain is telling her. A person who commits suicide is, more or less, ill. Either for a long time or for a while, temporarily. Ill because she believes all the lies her brain tells her. Her challenges seem so big to her that it seems someone is crushing her heart physically. Like she can’t breathe. To her the pain is unbearable. It’s not just a feeling. It is intense, deep, real pain, because her brain has spun out of control so long back that she can’t see that there might be help at hand. That someone just might be able to hold her for a bit till she gains equilibrium. That the truth is, at the end of everything, with love and help, we may not have to kill ourselves.
And this is the difference between a person who wants to commit suicide and a person who thinks it is about... what was it that you said? ...  learning “to overcome all odds and emerge successful, not succumb under pressure and give up easily. The world admires a fighter not a loser.” 
What a thing to say about a woman who killed herself not too long ago. What a thing to say about a woman whose family cannot stop grieving. My experience of growing old has been that the more life throws at you, the better equipped you are to see that not everything is clear as day, not everyone has easy lives, and not everyone gives up easily. How dare you insinuate, Mrs Hema Malini, that Pratyusha gave up easily? How much do you know about her life or her struggles?
I know nothing of that girl’s life. I hadn’t heard of her before her death. But I know one thing: for a person who decides to give up their life and dismisses the fact that there might be people who care for them, there is nothing left. Absolutely nothing. And unless she had it in her to trust someone, to turn to someone, she died believing there was nothing left. That she meant nothing to anyone. And that place is an unbearably sad place. An unbearably lonely, sorrowful, depriving space that strips you of any sense of reality, any sense of self, any sense of purpose.
Am I saying suicide is okay? I am conflicted, honestly. If it ends your misery, then it should be your call to make. But there’s the paradox no? When you choose to commit suicide, almost always your mind isn’t well enough to make that decision. Then how is that a rational decision that I can stand by? How can I say that everyone who finds their misery unbearable should have the choice to end their lives?
Finally, suicide takes courage. It takes a person who can find it in themselves to hurt endlessly, permanently, their entire family and everyone who loves them. It takes making that insane, deranged decision to leave people you love fend for themselves emotionally, physically, and sometimes financially. Suicide isn’t for the cowardly, it isn’t for the faint of heart. And it isn’t for the sane. The next time you call someone who killed themselves weak, think about it. And if you still feel like calling them weak, wait till their bodies grow cold. 

Monday, 4 April 2016

Can someone find me a decent pair of panties?

Disclaimer: If you're going to hate for me having panties and tell me about the women who don't, you should stop reading now. I realise I am lucky to afford panties. I realise there are women who can't. I will write about them, too, one day. 

The other morning, two friends and I discussed underwear. "Dudes, what chuddies do you guys wear," asked one, like close friends do, often and offhand, bang in the middle of a conversation about taxes, weekend getaways, and hot, bald men who make you giggly. One of us said she doesn't wear any very often, and the other said La Senza, You can see why the three of us get along.

But what a great topic to open up. Because all of a sudden, here were three women of three fairly differing sizes and shapes -- and, therefore, needs -- diving right in and admitting it was so fucking difficult to find a decent pair of pants that you can just grab in the morning and wear, so you can deal with all the world is going to throw at you. And none of us could find a perfectly decent pair, that we could stick to. Brand names were exchanged, styles and preferences too. Period panties found their mention.

And here, for the first time, I understood the meaning of misery loving company. Because, you see, every time I say something, and someone tries to console me saying, "You are not alone," I keep thinking, "Why does that help me?" Solidarity has never made me feel better. So, for the first time, when someone else said they can't find a pair of pants that are just right, I was thrilled. It wasn't just me. It wasn't my imperfect. mum-of-two kids, chocolate-eating body that couldn't find a decent, solid pair. It was two other women who looked completely different from me who had the same problem.

I asked around. It's easy for me to do. Friends are used to me asking questions that are never explained. Out of the nine women I asked, one said they found reasonably comfortable panties every time she shopped. The rest had the same complaint as me. For the same reasons as well. No decent pants to be bloody found. And please, why should I find them? Because the women's underwear market was only Rs 11,000 crore big according to an Economic Times report* from last year.

What I want (top left) as opposed to what I get (rest of page) 

How do I  know this? Because internet. So your question should be, "Why do you know this odd fact, Sandhya?" I'll tell you why. Because when I started asking around, I saw that a lot more women were saying the same things that I was saying. Which is basically this: I want a pair of cotton pants that I can grab first thing after my shower in the morning, yank on and not worry about for the rest of the day. That and have them come in fun colours. So I did some armchair research.

What a fascinating world the world of undergarments for women in India is. For instance, DYK, that we export panties all the way from Korea, Turkey and Malaysia? Do they fit well, though? Ah. Also, DYK, you have charts available online that tell you exactly which port containers from which country carrying panties come at? I found this immensely valuable. When I am done going through all the brands that offer cotton panties and pinning them up on my soft board, marking them for all that's wrong with them, I will hijack one of those containers and go through an entire container-ful of panties to find that one perfect pair. Then I will find the manufacturer and have his babies and hold him hostage for the rest of his life so he never stops making them.

But back to my dipstick research. Although my sample size is minuscule -- I am aware of the fact -- it is an intrepid and adventurous one. These are women who have tried everything from Rs 35 for a pair to Rs 245 a piece. (They've gone higher but felt like that's all they should wear because paying Rs 685 for a pair of cotton panties made them treasure their rears and vulva so dearly that they couldn't care less what they wore to work.) To make my sample size bigger, I am going to ask each of you reading this, assuming you are women, to tell me how easy or difficult it is to find a comfortable, affordable and perfectly fitting pair of cotton panties in India.

I found another very interesting market research document** that tells me many things. But mostly it tells me three things, on first read.
1. The underwear industry continued thriving when the whole world saw an economic meltdown. AND STILL NO ONE IS MAKING COMFORTABLE CHUDDIES.

2. India has actual designers dedicated to researching and designing underwear. Could have fooled me. AND STILL NO ONE IS MAKING COMFORTABLE CHUDDIES.

3. Super-premium underwear for women is nearly THRICE as expensive as men's super-premium underwear (it's a thing). AND STILL NO ONE IS MAKING COMFORTABLE CHUDDIES.

I don't get it. Is it just women with regular bodies that can't find everyday panties? Do the model-ish, statuesque women all find perfect cotton panties to wear to work everyday? Do they go through the day with their derriere wrapped perfectly in a pair and their mindspace devoted to conquering the world, while the rest of us struggle with wedgies?

As the ET report clearly suggests, more women in India are buying more panties and bras. "They are buying more, too. An Indian woman now keeps about eight brassiere compared with 5-6 pieces in the past, a report by consultancy firm Wazir Advisors said. The number of panties in her wardrobe has almost doubled to 10, it said," one para says. (Who says brassiere any more?) Are all these women buying pants that they're just making do with?

Speaking of wedgies, why am I complaining about the lack of a basic pair of panties? Here's why. Actually, let me give you the entire list. Here's the do-and-don't list for comfortable women's panties that won't cost me a clitoris.

1. They shouldn't give you a wedgie. For women who dare to step out into the world with unsure panties, this is highly uncomfortable. Much productive time is spent training the mind to get used to the sensation of a wedgie if not dedicating it to find a place you can pull it free.

2. They shouldn't pinch your skin. I don't want to be sitting through meetings with the skin on my lower abdomen and my hips on fire because the elastic sucks big time. I certainly don't want to come home and nurse fat, angry welts till they calm down.

3. This might be because of the generous proportions on me but panties shouldn't be rolling down and settling anywhere they feel like. Panties are not adventurers.

These are basic rules of comfort. But why is this so difficult to find, you ask?


1. They don't make them free of above said crimes.

2. If they do that, they make them in polyester.

3. And in neons.

4. And with lace on the sides.

5. And with ruffles in the front.

6. And bows at the rear.

7. Or in brown, maroon, forest green.

8. And with elastic that unravels and makes you and the pants look like a reject from the factory.

9. And without a crotch.

10. And with a price tag of Rs 456 for cotton panties.

This is why a regular woman, with a regular job -- or not -- with regular ambitions of keeping her mind on the day's tasks instead of worrying about her panties, cannot find a decent pair to wear.

And in the miraculously rare event that I find panties that have none of these flaws, the name makes me want to gag myself with one of them. Men's underwear -- which is way less expensive in all categories  -- is named in pure spirit of idiocy. I mean what does VIP, MacroMan, Sand Beach and Lux even mean?! This time around, I feel your pain, men.

But women's underwear names are right up there on the patriarchy bandwagon. Lure Wear, Enamor, Lovable, Lusty Gal (I kid you not). Everything's just a step away from you feeling like a gift that's going to be unwrapped in a roomful of spectators. You'd think at least that would be enough reason for them to make the damn thing comfortable. Nope.

Left to me, I'd just name them: Fit, Stay, Non-wedge, etc. But hey, I don't make panties.


*The ET story I quoted from: http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2015-07-06/news/64142828_1_premium-brands-lingerie-intimate-wear

**The market research thingy: http://italiaindia.com/images/uploads/pdf/market-research-on-undergarments-sector-in-india.pdf