This New Year

I let the wind scatter my fancies
I let my thoughts be swept away
I wonder whether I will be back
As I prepare, from the path to stray

I wish a few wishes; make a resolution or two
Enjoy the cheer, the good will
I wonder whether I will be back
I wonder if I’ll go away

Happy New Year, everyone!

Waiting for you

Yes, you!

The statcounter on the blog says 9,999.

In the Sunday papers

This and this.

So, while Swaminathan Aiyar celebrates the “TV jury”, Sevanti Ninan says the mediator is disappearing from media. Here’s Mr. Aiyar:

In fact, hundreds of private TV channels in all languages have now made possible a judicial revolution. TV viewers have been transformed from a passive audience into judicial activists.

Is this trial by media? No. The new activism is not the activism of media barons, editors or producers. It is the activism of millions of TV viewers.

Of course he’s talking about Jessica Lall and Priyadarshini Mattoo. He even makes a reference to Afzal Guru (the ‘on the other hand’ example).

And then there is Sevanti Ninan:

One tirelessly self-promoting Indian blogger can’t get either his spellings or facts right. But who cares? He’s got an opinion to air.

He’s not talking about media trials, but about technology, and how it’s changed people’s media experience.

So here we are, with people telling us we’re now more involved than ever in the media, and that thanks to that, we’re now a TV jury.

I do take issue with that term, you know. We don’t have a jury system in India, for a reason: juries are swayed by “the evidence of one witness, rejecting all others”. Never a fair system. We chose, instead, to put our faith in judges, people who are supposed to be trained to weigh evidence. More importantly, they have all the evidence before them: all the evidence that both parties bring before them (and that applies to a trial jury too). And whatever Sevanti Ninan may think, the mediator is not missing, but is very much there. Whether it is the blogger or the editor, there is always someone deciding what we read, what we see. And they’re constrained by their own positions on the issue, by the limited space available to them, by considerations of selling more papers, TRPs, blog hits, or even just the love of their own voice.

All truth is mediated; and the nature of the mediation is what we need to recognise, if we are to participate intelligently in our democracy.

And that’s my voice.

Look how tall…!!

I used to be regular GuardianOnline reader once. Now I’m rather erratic about it, mostly because the Hindu has started carrying some of the Guardian Op-Eds.

So today’s Hindu also has one of those: a column by Hasan Suroor on the debate over the Ipswich murders.

Except one who came from a broken family, others were described as “normal” and “happy” girls. One was only 19 and wanted to be a pop star; another aspired to be a model; a third wanted to be a beautician; and one of them — daughter of a businessman — trained in social healthcare.

So, what happened? Why did they end up the way they did? Were they victims of circumstances? Or casualties of the choices they freely made for reasons they alone knew? And, most crucially, could they have been saved?

Hmm. Of course, the whys and wherefors he’s raised are important. And even more important is the stuff he brings up later:

The case has shocked Britain and led to calls for legalising prostitution so that sex workers are not forced to walk the streets and put their lives at risk. There have been suggestions that they should be allowed to work within a “regulated” environment by introducing a system of licensed brothels as in some other countries, or by setting up “managed areas” on the Dutch model. It has also been suggested that to keep drug addicts off the streets the Government should set up clinics where they can get the drugs they crave for, and also be treated for their addiction.

Ever since this imitation-Ripper began his spree, the focus has been on the victims. They were prostitutes. They abused drugs. Woman, please don’t walk alone at night; you might become a victim.

And still, the terms of this debate don’t reek of the ‘it’s her fault’ attitude that usually goes with victim-focus in the media. (Neither did the recent coverage of the Jessica Lall case, though not for want of trying, earlier.) Instead, the focus is on finding a solution: providing safe-areas, pushing for a re-trial.

Are we growing up?

Ever changing, and yet the same

I went to see the sun rise over the Taj Mahal, once again. No budding romances this time, just one 28 years old, and the results of it.

The ASI plaque outside the Taj tells us that the beauty of the Taj stems from its ever-changing background: the sky.

Rather like love, no?

Anyway, here are Pooh’s attempts to capture the colours, and some of mine:

Update: I’m told the pics are taking too long to load, and I can’t get wordpress to thumbnail them, so I’m posting a link!

Masculine beauty and suchlike

Well, the furious (by the standards of this blog) commenting on the previous post led to much thinking on beauty, and masculine beauty, and lots of other things. And ever notice how sometimes everything you read and watch and hear seems to tie up neatly with what you’re thinking? Well, that happened too.

It wasn’t just On Beauty, but also Guess who’s coming to Dinner and an article in yesterday’s Times of India and then a conversation with Daddy Long Legs. And, of course, the furious commenting on the last post.

So, beauty is definitely about attractiveness. So what makes men attractive? Blr Bytes pointed to a link that said it had something to do with evolutionary theory – characteristics associated with strength and all that. And Mr. Nair points me to an article about changing standards of male beauty. Clark Gable was attractive because he radiated sexual aggressiveness, present-day male movie stars are much more passive, it says.

So, masculine beauty. Again, a lot of ‘norms’. Much more activity-oriented, though. Strength, for example. Sexual predatoriness, or a lack thereof. And these are supposed to be linked to the ability to survive/procreate. But I really doubt that.

First, if the idea of beauty is linked to the ability to survive/procreate – sort of aiding the process of natural selection – then how come it is still linked to the ability to survive in forests and primitive civilisations: strength, predatoriness, et al? Hasn’t it evolved at all?

Second, how do you explain the fetish with slimness? For women, I mean. Surely, large hips and pelvises should be more beautiful than anorexically thin figures?

And third, how come men have to survive and women have to procreate? I mean, why isn’t strength beautiful in women? And what are the outward characterisitcs to judge whether men are fertile (virile?!)?

In any case, my proposition from the previous post continues to hold good: the moral authority to determine what is ‘beautiful’ lies primarily with the person whose beauty is being assessed. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder only in the case of objects, things. Not in the case of persons, people.

And that brings us to ‘objectification’ – when the norms are set by the beholder, we are objectifying: whether it is John Abraham or Bipasha Basu, Clark Gable or Katharine Hepburn. So we expect them to measure up to an invisible standard (She’s so fat in that movie but-of-course-not-as-fat-as-me-but-I’m-not-fat-really) and make that invisible object-standard a norm for actual, real human beings.

Self-loathing, of course, results.

Paper planes

A bunch of paper’s gone flying today, and I can’t call it back. There’s this terrible feeling that this was a BIG BIG BIG mistake, but now I can’t do anything about it. What’s worse, I have to carry it through and finish it!

I bought Dad On Beauty for his birthday, and as usual, finished reading it before he’s gotten round to it. There’s a point in the book where a mother is wondering how her daughter’s turned out the way she has, and she thinks something to the effect that she’d tried so hard to protect her from self-loathing, from the images that magazines and movies pushed down teenagers’ throats, but it seems to permeate the very air… I wish I could find the passage, but I’m feeling too lazy to go look.

It struck a chord, somehow. Reminded me of my mother. Thank God? There are times when I don’t, but most of the time I do. Whether it was her, or the fact that I studied at an all-residential Uni, or my sensible bunch of friends, I think I am reasonably safe from that self-loathing.

Yeah, only reasonably safe. There are times when I’m tempted to punish my body to match up to something I see, but thankfully, they’re fleeting!

And now I have a chance to explain my stand on ‘looks’. ‘Feminist’ doesn’t mean I have to be against feminine beauty, or even feminine beauty as defined by ‘predominantly male social norms’, but I’ve always found it difficult to explain this.

I find beauty in many things ‘feminine’: the curl of an eyelash, a dangling earring, tossing hair, the curve of a waist. A loud, confident laugh, the flushing of a face when angry: these may not be what come to mind when you say ‘feminine’, but I think they’re more beautiful in women than in men.

So my problem is not with the norms of beauty themselves, it is with the idea that (only?) men can set them. I agree with some of the norms, so I’m asked what it matters who set them. Well, I suppose I have a moral authority to set the norms, since it’s my body we’re talking about. And a norm, whoever’s set it, that leads to self-loathing, has no moral authority at all.

I can just hear you going “Norm who?” Shut up.

I wonder what the norms for masculine beauty are, though. Anyone have an idea?