Of Sarees and Penises

When I was about 8 years old or so, I think my parents started leaving me alone in the house on Saturdays (it’s working day for all except those in the education system).  I was more than confident about the arrangement and was looking forward to it until one day there was a knock on the door! (I almost pee’d in my pants wondering, who knows that there is a child in this house at this time of the day; it must be someone who observes us closely).

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As instructed, I used the peep-hole on the door but all I could see was pitch blackness. This child-thief had put his finger on the peep-hole so that it causes me confusion and as a result, forces me to open the door to check. So I ran indoors to find the telephone book to call my neighbour (well-trained by my parents). Bear in mind, by now those kidnappers were banging and kicking the door. Tears were rolling down my cheeks, hands shaking (but for some strange reason I thought changing into something more than my underpants and a vest if I get kidnapped would be more appropriate).  Anyhow, terrified still, I tried the peep-hole again, this time I could also hear laughter and a lot of signature clapping (they are rejoicing at the damn idea of torturing a baby! They are picturing the party in their head, or so I thought). And through the peep-hole, what I saw was not good… If my panic rate on a scale was 8 now it was definitely 50. I was crying very very loudly in my head but not making any noise, hoping after so much banging they’d think there’s nobody at home. But as this they’d read my mind they started shouting back to my head: “Don’t fool us, we know you are inside, open the door!” They were none other than the eunuchs (commonly knowns as hijras) of India.

I quickly called up my neighbour and told her that some hijras are knocking at the door. She rushed upstairs and got rid of them. I hid under the blanket and never got out until mum came back home at about 2pm. After that episode, I was educated about hijras and my dad did not believe in nurturing fear, so he carried on leaving me alone, (which could have gone either way: me turning into some timid cow or what it did to me; it only made me stronger and less fearful of the damning reality of life – mine or others.)

In India, there is a huge stigmatising of hijras. Due to the lack of social respect and acceptance, they turn to prostitution and begging. Indian society can be two-faced. On one hand, Indians are disgusted of these men who are not sure of their sexual identity or have chosen to come out in public about not only their sexual preference but also about their castration or sometimes about being hermaphrodites. It is also strongly believed that hijras who live in this tight community kidnap and groom children into their ways of life to maintain the community. On the other hand, the same community are given (or shall I say these people have proclaimed) some kind of spiritual superiority, because when a son is born, these hijras are invited to do a little dance and shower the baby boy with some blessings in exchange for some money of course. It is almost as if to say that because these men were not strong enough to be the traditional more acceptable form of a man with a penis, marrying a woman, making babies that they can bless a son with strength that they lack. Why otherwise, can’t these eunuchs bless a girl child?!

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As a child, it is hard not to side with the society that dislikes these money-demanding members of the so-called “third sex”. Hijras in Indian have a very dry sense of humour. They would dress as a woman (some of them after they have had sex reassignment surgery) and then use their mysterious sexual status to threaten people for money. They would tease you by lifting up their saree almost half-way up to their knees as if to show their bits which to many would be quite unsightly and totally unwelcome. In theory, the fear of having to see their bits on the way to work will goad money out of  people’s pockets. I have never really seen any hijra ever EVER lift up his saree, the worst that usually happens is that they curse you for not giving them money. And as much as their blessings are respected, their curses are feared equally.

It took a few such mixed episodes and a lot of education and exposure to the LGBT world through various college projects and human curiosity for me to not fear hijras, just because they look and speak different. Different can be threatening to some if you know what I mean.

These hijras are loud, they will bang the door and scare you and laugh about it. As a child, I have met so many hijras some would just press their palms gently against my head as if to bless me for no reason or money and some would say “run run away, didn’t your mother teach you that hijras kidnap children and chop their bits off”. Now that is scary!

So, the Indian society has a lot of education to achieve to understand and respect the transgender community. But, the hijras also have to learn to mellow down their dry sense of humour.

This isn’t really a random post, but a post deviated from the actual subject that was in my head. I was reading about the Madeleine McCann case and wondered like many why would you leave your child alone in a foreign hotel room! But I was also simultaneously thinking about BBC’s programme by Stephen Fry called Out There, which was about LGBT. He went to India and interviewed some hijras. Result!!!

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For the ones who are more curious can read about Lakshmi – one of the many hijra’s who has received what can be called as an upper-class status and fame, promoting and fighting for the hijras all around the country of India.

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Breathe In 2013…….Movie Review

Breathe In

Breathe In

Are you having a mid-life crisis? Are you also hosting a cute foreign student with a dashing English accent living in your house? If the answer is yes, you have just won a film that you might relate to.

Breathe In (2013) ,  is a movie about a man who is incredibly frustrated with his teaching job, his sarcastic wife and squeaky swimming champion teenage daughter. He seeks love and solace in the arms of an English teenager (exactly the age of his daughter – yuck!) who comes to stay with his family as an exchange student.

Directed by Drake Doremus, I would say that the movie was well-made. I especially enjoyed the crisp editing and the screenplay. In the beginning of the movie, there is a family scene playing Jinga and I have to say that the camera work and performances together engaged me so much that it gave me a thrill of anticipation and made me go, “ohhh nooo….”, when it did eventually fall. That was a MOMENT for me. But then, that was the only moment!

I rented out this dvd because it had a good cast. Also, the storyline reminded me of the film American Beauty. Guy Pearce  played the music teacher who finds himself besotted by this English teenager with smokey eyes. I could tell that his performance was smooth as I could see Ed sympathise with him a LOT – worried me a little! The director of the movie seems to enjoy working with Felicity Jones, who played the not-so-innocent exchange student. And Amy Ryan played the “I have spent my entire life for the family and so my husband MUST have no opinion or interests” frustrated menopausal housewife, who finds it hard not to interrupt her husband or even demean him without any intention.

Breathe in wasn’t fantastic but if you feel like watching love-story drama, this film is worth a shot, just ONE!

Will I watch it again – NO!

Do I remember any dialogues – NO!

Do I sympathise with any characters – Not really!

Personally, I am anti “I am bored of my job, and so I will have an affair with this girl same age as my daughter who is eating what my wife is cooking for her and sharing bedroom with my little daughter.” I find it slightly disgusting, although the idea of love has no boundaries sounds very romantic.

Of Dark, Of Light

I came across this poem very recently on Ed’s blog (jamblichus.wordpress.com) and it has become one of my favourites.

bioluminesencse

Of Dark, Of Light – By Donna Vorreyer

Dark: a kind you cannot find in cities,
mangroves bowed across the channel,
a cathedral of branches leaping from
the black to tangle your paddle, your hair.

In the lagoon, surface still but for rowing,
each dip flips nature in reverse: sky starless,
smoky with clouds, water flashing bands
of blue as the paddle glides through.

Bioluminescence, they call it, microscopic
colonies exuding light from within. This
is the science, the speech the guide has
memorized to teach and tempt the tourists.

You watch the lightning streaks of ray
and fish glow like comet tails in space
and you must believe in magic or in God
as pinwheels of blue fire explode from

your fist opening and closing beneath the
water. You dip in your arm to the shoulder,
pull it slowly out, watch it gleam, mercury
slick with its own universe, particles

twinkling then dying, and you must resist
the urge to throw yourself from the kayak,
become a moving constellation, washed
clean, a whole being made of light.

 

 

 

Broadstairs Food Festival 2013

Broadstairs Food Festival is an annual event aimed at local people and local producers. The three day long Broadstairs Food Festival 2013, came to an end today. It has been the most aromatic and scrumptious weekend of the year in Broadstairs with a variety of Kentish food and drinks .

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The Victoria Gardens was dressed in white tents and marques, embellished with food from different ethnicity, accessorised with some mouth -watering desserts and complimented by some high quality freshly pressed apple juices, cider and more.

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The whole town was busy hustling with people traveling from far and wide, just to enjoy a buffet of glorious food ranging from Russian Shuba to the very tradition Hog roast (rolls). We even had a canine visitor who was well-popular.

I grew up in Mumbai, India. In India we live for food. The moment we wake up we start thinking about what to cook for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Having grown up in Mumbai, where food is celebrated every day and every celebration is judged by the food it serves, I had to go and rekindle my romantic relationship with food.

We started off by just trying bits and bobs before we decided to buy anything. Always wise, as there are too many temptations and if you stop and buy at every stall, you would have eaten into your overdraft even before you know it.

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Once the very wise inspection was over, my taste buds took me back to the chutney stall where we decided to buy the Tomato and chilli chutney which makes for a great add on in burritos, fajitas and sandwiches. If you are clever, you can use it as a base for curries too.

After that we walked on to the Russian food stall only because the man greeted me and my little two as “Ladies and Gentlemen”, we found it a bit funny and sympathised at his awkwardness which was oozing out of every fumble he made. We tried some Shuba and brought a slice to enjoy as a pre-dinner snack.

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The Russian food was much better than expected but it did not marvel me, partly because I found it hugely bland for my pallet, I knew I needed something hot. I asked around and everyone pointed me towards a falafel stall called Carrington’s Chup, where they was selling not falafel but some sort of home-made freshly fried crisps made out of wheat dough, served with his home-made spicy sauce (secret recipe). He had three version of heat with the hottest one called SHUT UP. I had a little taste and I knew why it was called Shut Up!

I had to get it, incase I needed some peace and quiet at home. It tastes a bit like the hot sauce they serve in spanish/mexican restaurants just a very very hot “blow my head off” variety. It goes well as a dip or add on in tacos or fajitas. It surely isn’t for the faint hearted and for people who don’t like the burning sensation during potty time. (just being honest!)

So after burning our buds, we had to soothe it with some apple juices and of course my favourite cider and ale :). I would recommend the Green Hop Ale. It was lush.  I tried more samples than I brought but sometimes indulging yourself shamelessly is completely worth it.

We brought Core’s Apple and Ginger juice (what a brilliant combination) and it apparently can last up to 100 days (it won’t last more than 100 minutes, but that is a different matter).

And then of course I felt like a traitor buying apple juices from someone else, when my beloved friends Sarah and Micky had also put up a stall. I could not resist those discovery apple juices. One of my bambinos despised the taste of ginger in the apple juice I  had brought earlier and sought comfort in the Little Stour Orchard’s discovery apple juice.

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On the way back, we stopped at the Italian stall and got some amazing sweet pastries and biscuits. They were all delicious but around 5pm, the lady at the stall started packing her things, making us rush a bit and we eventually lost a bit of interest in hanging about spending more money on her food (Never rush your customer).

Finally, on the way back, we stopped at this beautiful and elaborate bread stall with all kind of loafs from traditional sour dough bread to some interesting focaccia. But we bought Cholla (pronounced Hola), a jewish loaf with slightly sweet fluffy inside and gently crusted outside topped with black sesame seeds. It made for a delightful breakfast.

There were some stalls selling game meat and on the last day, Ed (our personal bank account) decided to honour the festival and brought some wild bore and apple sausages. My staffy would have preferred some venison I could tell from the way his nose was pointing at it.

Apart from the food stalls, the festival hosted a number of events for children and others . Many pop – up restaurants were amongst the many stalls as well.

The food festival ran from morning 10am to 6pm from Friday, 4th October to Sunday, 6th October. It was a lovely little visit.

My only criticism was that it closed very early in the evening. I would have wanted to go out with friends after putting the kids to bed, enjoying some cider and food on the go. But I totally appreciate that it could also cause huge losses to local restaurants.

I have to mention that there is a lot of hullabaloo at the beginning of the week leading to the festival. The week usually starts off with a Gala seven course dinner at the cost of £35, honing culinary cooking skills of the students from the East Kent College . In the evening, local restaurants and cafe’s host various events and entertainment with some delectable food. Some of the participants  this year were Oscar’s Festival Cafe, Wyatt & Jones and Thirty-Nine Steps to name a few.

All in all, I have had a food-a-licious time this weekend. How about you?