Saturday, April 16, 2016

Two Lesbian Women and I

A True Story. (No Sexual Content)

 In the old days I knew two women, both young, and in their early twenties. Let’s just call them A and A.

When I first came to know about their being lesbian, I was shocked. I took it upon myself to try and talk them out of it. Feeling virtuous, I thought I would speak to them face to face. No back-biting from this girl!

I knocked on A's door and was invited in. The other A was there. The rumours must be true, I thought. Being of a delicate disposition I asked them bluntly if they were a couple. Their faces went white. They didn't know what to say. Who would, in similar circumstances? Imagine an interfering old aunt asking a heterosexual couple something similar. That's how I must have come across to them. 

(Of course, the recent case of the Mumbai police barging in on heterosexual couples checked into hotels, and carting them off to the chowki for questioning, making them pay fines to boot, defies every premise of a free society and consenting adults. Let's leave police being leveraged by leaders to 'mind our morals', for another day)

That the two As and I were more than just acquaintances meant they must have responded politely. I don't remember the exact words we exchanged as this was long ago, in the seventies. I do remember entreating them earnestly, not to deny two wonderful boys the opportunity of a lifetime of happiness with two such wonderful girls.

I still remember being nonplussed by their simple and eloquent response. “But we are happy.” 

My mind couldn't take that in. The argument went round and round. As far as I remember, they weren't rude, nor were they angry. Hopefully, they sensed an absence of hatred or anger in me, too. 

I was concerned and eager to make them see what I sincerely believed; that only members of the opposite sex could make them happy. 

I HAD NEVER HEARD OF, LEAVE ALONE SEEN, OTHERWISE. 

in other words, mine was conviction borne of ignorance and it made me incapable of listening. I know. I agree. I was dumb, foolish, young and ignorant. Mainly ignorant. I

They based their arguments on feelings of deep love, each for the other.

I went away, disappointed that I hadn't convinced them.

xxxxxxxx

There is a glut of information that is easily accessible now. Yet, ignorance exists. Why? Too many people don’t wish to go near that information. They don’t want to know either through a lack of interest or through fear of reprisals. 

This is what I feel - the more engagement there is between heterosexuals and homosexuals, the less homophobes and their phobia will matter. The engagement could be through a movie or a book, an article or a Youtube video. It doesn't matter. It is time we joined the conversation. 



#TimeWeJoinedTheConversation

In some countries, people fear political parties that whip up sentiments against the LGBTQ community. Fear keeps them quiet. They know individuals belonging to these parties believe they are above the law. They know these individuals are capable of violence if their will isn't done. As for those vocal homophobes, they have kept easygoing, non-interfering Indians mum for far too long.   


Sexual Orientation Doesn't Matter. These are loving partners and
parents.


In India, I’ve seen a mix. The best are the ones to whom someone’s sexual orientation doesn’t matter. They like people for their sense of humour or their thoughtfulness or knowledge of a particular subject or any number of reasons. In short, for who they are. The worst are the ones who feed on our ignorance and fear, not only to whip up ugly sentiments against the LGBTQ community but to justify violent actions against them.

A and A, I am not as ignorant as I used to be. I know people fall in love with others of the same or the opposite sex. I remember you to be lovely, inside and out. I remember you to be kind and fun. That is all that should have mattered. Forgive me.





Tuesday, October 6, 2015

WHY READERS REMEMBER AUTHOR NAMES

JRD in the diamond jubilee edition of 'Namaskar'
When I was an air hostess with Air India in the seventies under JRD Tata (before Morarji Desai thought fit to ‘fire’ him), we were proud to be called Air Indians. Not only was the training rigorous, as I am sure it is for new employees even today, everything spelt class. Our sarees and salwars showcased the best of India. Our caterers put a lot of thought and effort into preparing the menu. The wines and cheeses were carefully selected. On the whole, things ran smoothly for most flights with prompt action being taken by both, the ground staff and cabin crew, to ensure mistakes weren't repeated.

'Quality' was the buzz word, as was loyalty. We were happy and felt privileged to be employees of a mighty corporation. We were aware that benefits and privileges were shared by one and all. We had a medical department to look after every employee. We were secure, and sure our salaries, allowances and bonuses would be paid on time.

JRD was fired in 1978. I remember, most Indians were shocked, angry and upset.

Today, it is no secret that Air India is broke. We've all witnessed the gradual slide, none, more so, than insiders - people who work for the airline. To bring it down to cabin services level, let me give you a small example. Recently, I saw a little square of processed cheese wrapped in foil and accompanied by a single wilted (no exaggeration) lettuce leaf as part of the cheese platter. When we sat our food, wine and cheese tests or did the wet runs (explained as a footnote), I remember we had to know the names of twenty or thirty cheeses. I can only imagine the hot and embarrassed faces of the poor flying staff as they faced first class passengers with the "Air India Cheese Platter". It would have been better not to have served one at all.

Working for Air India under JRD Tata filled me with pride. Who chaired the airline after that? Don’t ask me. I quickly stake my claim to a poor memory. I've always suffered from Poor Memory Syndrome or PMS. BUT, I have no problems recalling the name, ‘JRD Tata’.

Which almost brings me to the point of this post and I hope you've enjoyed the detour.

In those days, a minuscule part of our service was addressing first class passengers by name.

Having a constant flow of passengers, three boarding at Bombay (as it was known then), two getting off at Delhi, but five getting on, it was a constant challenge to remember their names. I solved the problem by having a little scrap of paper concealed behind the bar in the cabin, with names and seat numbers of my passengers. I have no idea what my passengers thought of my frequent detours to the bar.

How is all that connected to an author's name? Today, when I pick up a novel, I still suffer from PMS for most author names. My PMS is worse because, not only am I older, there are far too many author names, some eminently forgettable,  to remember. Everyone has a story to tell and many, without making the effort to learn at least a few basic tools to tell it well.

If I reach a point in a book where I feel I am exactly where I want to be, right there, alongside those very characters, I feel a strong urge to pause and savour the moment. I flip the book over and remind myself of the author’s identity.

Daphne du Maurier
Who is it again, whose words are so wise, so thoughtful, amusing or clever? Whose words break my heart? Whose diabolical plot has me worried for their character’s safety?

Take the first Morris Gleitzman I read, "Two Weeks With The Queen." It had me laughing helplessly even as I felt choked with emotion. I loved what he wrote and especially what he left unsaid. Genius.

For me, that is what’s in an author’s name. It is the one name, out of millions, that is worth remembering.

It is the author whose work evokes enjoyment, appreciation and respect.

Wet Runs - An exciting part of our training when the service on board is emulated in the mockup at training school. Most of us pretended to be passengers. Two trainee airhostesses and two trainee pursers do the entire first class lunch or dinner service with real food and real bottles of wines filled (sadly) with water.

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Reviewers Who Help Sell Your Book: Why Unknown Authors Should Handpick Their First Few Reviewers




Book reviewers, to my mind, are the best publicity for a good book. Every author has an ideal reviewer, one who praises his or her work to high heaven! Alas, a good reviewer writes reviews for potential readers, not for the author.

Trying to break into a saturated book market isn't easy. If what you've written is unique and interesting you need to give it every chance to stand out from the rest. Book reviewers play a major role, and an unknown author needs the best.

This article is for authors, especially unknown authors, to understand the importance of handpicking their first few reviewers.

From the author’s perspective, the purpose of a review is simply to let other readers know whether the book is worth picking up or not.

Going Through Indian Blogging Platforms: They advertise your book well. Their reach is a definite plus. 

The major disadvantage of going through an Indian blogging platform is the way they pick reviewers. The platform invites bloggers to read and review your book. Whether these bloggers are capable of doing a book review isn't a consideration. Often, the blogger's language skills leave a lot to be desired. For a potential reader not to understand what the reviewer is trying to say is, at best, an opportunity lost. At worst, the potential reader ends up ascribing the same language skills to the author and loses interest in the book.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

#AmWriting and #FirstDraftDone: A conversation on Facebook


Can't believe I've just written the words, 'The End' for my second novel. Such a heady feeling. And dizzy with relief....
Posted by Khoty Mathur on Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The book is a sequel to "Never Mind Yaar"

The young idealists are grown. Binaifer (Binny, for short,) is invited, along with her cousins, to her aunt's home in Mumbai. 

She has fond memories of Armaity House. The entire clan used to gather there from all over India for December holidays. It is during one such holiday that Tehmton, her favourite cousin, shares a secret with Binny. Now, ten years on, she is eager to find out if things have worked out for him. She fears they haven't as he's never spoken of it again.

The first chance she gets, Binny asks him. What he tells her, and the grave repercussions it has for the extended family, is the heart of the story.

Does the family stand with him when they come to know? Does love conquer their fears and prejudices? Does Tehmton find his dream partner?

I started out intending to write about Binny. After innumerable choppy starts I found Tehmton writing himself on the pages with ever increasing frequency. He is the main protagonist.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Dreams That Blunt Our Humanity.

Wise words by the deputy Secretary General of the UN

We continue to witness terrible atrocities committed in the name of religion, or against individuals targeted simply because of their ethnic or religious background. These abhorrent crimes are intended to cause fear, hatred and deepening divisions.

AND

Education is one of our best defences against prejudices that can lead to extreme violence. We must instil in our youth a spirit that embraces pluralism and rejects all forms of discrimination or racism. All generations must be engaged in breaking down the mind-set of “us” versus “them”. All of us must join in the task of building societies that embrace our common humanity.

Someone wanted to know why this wasn't understood and carried out as a matter of fact? She asked, “Isn't humanity what comes naturally to human beings?” 

Here’s what I think. Humanity comes naturally to human beings but so does pride in one’s culture and community. Nobody knows why this is so. It just is. It isn't xenophobia - a fear of foreigners. It is a positive feeling, one of pride in our traditions. If that is the case why would it blunt our humanity? 


Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Bristle of Unspoken Antagonism

Microsoft free clipart
She was well dressed and sat prim and ramrod straight in one of the few high-backed chairs in the waiting room. The others in that room looked slightly frazzled but tried not to show how sick they felt. A mother read quietly to her son. A young man toyed with his phone. An elderly couple sat and talked softly amongst themselves.

Her middle-aged face stole disparaging glances at everyone only to dismiss each one with a sneer. None of us seemed to pass muster in her eyes.

I knew I’d soon get that dismissive look. It

Monday, September 29, 2014

What's lacking in Indian Self-Publishing?


They're or there? (Free clipart)
Is A Good Idea conveyed in Bad English Less Worthy?

Some time ago I'd written a post on the growth of the Indian publishing industry. Until the 90s, it was almost non-existent. I know because I searched the net for Indian publishers and could hardly, and with great difficulty, find a few. The Indian Author's only option was to try to break into the western market. Many authors tried writing stories they felt would appeal to westerners - stories of poverty, degradation and people on the edge of society. Stories about the Indian middle class, the 'burgeoning' Indian middle class, did exist but were completely overshadowed.