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Homeward Browned

Third-culture brown woman searches for a place called "home" (Currently in India)

Podcast: My Journey With Acne Part 2 (Treatments & What Causes My Acne)

In this podcast I talk about the problematic nature of the beauty industry and availability of thousands of acne treatments everywhere. Plus, the treatment I am currently using & how I found out about the cause of my acne.

If you have any comments or feedback please let me know!

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Podcast: My Journey with Acne Part 1

In this podcast I talk about my personal acne journey. It was at times painful, exhausting, and very very difficult. I remember hurtful things that were said to me, and how embarrassing it can be to have your acne brought up by strangers!

A Musician’s Daughter

In Search of Crescendos

All of 6, I strode sleepy eyed into my living room. The sound of a room filled with musicians tuning their instruments had woken me up. The living room was packed with a stringed ensemble setting up for their practice session. Bows occasionally clashed, and stands were shared as clips held sheets upon sheets of music in place.

My dad is a musician and the sight was far from unfamiliar. Tonight the likes of Mozart, Handel and Bach would be brought to life in my very own home. As I stood at the far end of the dining room – after having made my way through a maze of instrument cases, music stands and towering uncles- only one thought ran through my mind: “There goes my TV time!”.

But that was a long time ago. Unknowingly, all the pieces they played stayed with me. I often find myself humming along to…

View original post 882 more words

Fatass Chocolate Mug Brownie Recipe

Here’s a recipe for all of you out there who want to eat something chocolatey, sweet, fudgy, and gooey. Mix some shit together in a mug, microwave it, and hey, presto some self-hate in a mug.

You will need:

1 mug
1 microwave
1 fatass (you)

3 tablespoons plain flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil/vegetable oil/melted butter
5 tablespoons milk
Chocolate chips

Mix everything together in the mug until a soft consistency is achieved. Keep adding milk if you don’t think it’s wet enough.
Microwave it for about 1 to 1:30 minutes. Keep checking every 30 seconds to make sure you don’t overcook it.
Eat it and feel bad/good about yourself depending on your personal self-esteem.

I’m A Grumpy Old Bastard – In The Body Of A 26 Year Old Woman

I don’t really want to go out. That’s where all the people are. I’d much rather stay in my house, with my laptop and my books and my stuff. I’d rather wear my comfy “house clothes” that I can’t wear out because of the food stains and holes. I just want to do my work, watch my films, read my books, and be left alone. I don’t really love it when there are people in my house, either, but that can’t be helped sometimes. I hate small talk.

“LEAVE ME ALONE” is what I would scream at my parents when I had a tantrum. I dreaded the weekly dinner parties my parents and their friends had because I would have to wear proper clothes and talk to people and socialise with kids my own age. The best times were when someone’s lazy but genius parent would just put on a VHS movie for us. This meant I could just stare at that gorgeously glowing screen and not have to deal with anyone, including that kid who ate toothpaste. Adults would pretend to steal my nose (fuck off), and the unfunny ones would try so hard to be funny because they wanted the kids to think they were cool. I politely humoured them, of course.

I was a polite kid. I was SO POLITE, you guys. I would silently, smilingly steam while some uncle stole my glasses off my face. I would sit, quiet as a (possibly dead) mouse, in the living room when my parents entertained. I was The Quiet Child. I wasn’t shy, I just didn’t give a fuck about what anyone was talking about.

This was really cute when I was little, because grown-ups expected little girls to be quiet and well-mannered. But, boy did things change when I grew up. In the community that I come from – Urdu-speaking Bangalore Sunni Muslims – chit-chatting/gabbing/tittering is a bona fide activity for women. I’m supposed to want to wear awfully itchy clothing and attend weddings and talk to other girls my age about their itchy outfits and where they got their bangles from. I’d much rather be chewing on a glass bangle sandwich. It isn’t that these other people aren’t totally lovely, pleasant folk – which they are. It’s the fact that my gender and age mean that I am expected to participate in exhausting social rituals.

See, I don’t care much for expectations. Great expectations, low expectations, exceeded expectations. Expectations can piss off. It isn’t my job to fulfil whatever made-up fantasy of what I’m supposed to be like that lives in your head. Because I can’t read minds, and also, I don’t care.

If I was a 60 year old man, nobody would care what I did. Is it any wonder that Grumpy, of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves fame, was drawn as a beardy old coot and not a 5’2” Indian girl? My bastardliness would be cute, even. A charming little quirk I’d acquired at the ripe old age of 60. Except, of course, men are allowed to be horrible, unsocial bastards at any age. So this grumpy veteran didn’t just “ripen” with age – he was always a piece of shit. And all I really want in life is to be a horrible piece of shit and order people to get off my lawn and mind their own goddamn business.

Women are always expected to be nice to everyone and accommodating. Has anyone ever realised how creepy the word “accommodating” is? I’m not a hotel room. I do not want to accommodate your gross ass! My mother, every once in a while, complains about having to cook for guests that are coming over for lunch. Just order out, I’d tell her. No. It has to be home cooked food. It’s exhausting.

What do you think that 60 year old man would do? He’d tell you to fuck off home because The Searchers is on TV tonight and he’d rather watch that than deal with your annoying ass. He’d do exactly what he wanted to.

And I think that’s really fucked up, that women can’t just do what they want. Because doing what you want is rude. Letting people trample all over you is being nice. Letting other people dictate how you use your time is being accommodating. I read a massive (VERY LONG) article about the emotional labour women perform, which should’ve just been a neon sign saying “WOMEN, STOP GIVING A SHIT”.

So, to wrap things up, the whole point of this piece is do whatever the hell you want. I don’t care. Thanks for reading, I guess. Bye.

Abraham, Moses and Jesus Were Probably Black – But That Makes My Asian Muslim Family Uncomfortable

bilal

A few months ago when that amazing 3D image of what Jesus probably really looked like came out, I brought it up at the dinner table with some of my relatives in India. I said “Hey, some scientists found out what Jesus really looked like.” Everyone leaned in. I was mostly high off the thought that, yes, this was going to scientifically prove that white people can go suck it because Jesus wasn’t blonde and blue-eyed – he looked more like me than he did an Abercrombie & Fitch model.

He was an Arab Jew, and probably had some black African blood,” I revealed, psyched. Black African blood! Science to the rescue! Suck it, white people! Suck it, Indian Christians who have such deep-seated internalised racism that they hang photos of dreamy Ewan McGregor Jesus everywhere! Jesus is ours. Considering the sociopolitical climate in the United States at the time with Black Lives Matter and institutionalised racism against blacks, I revelled in the idea that if everyone realised Jesus was (somewhat) black, then racists would take a second to reflect on the link between religion and anti-black racism. As an Indian, I often align myself more with blacks, and other people of colour than I do with whites. I know this is not the case for many other brown people. Unfortunately, not many in India were aware of what was going on in Ferguson, and not many cared.

The response to my J-Bomb (Jesus bomb) was, umm, confusing. Remember how white people reacted to the black Stormtrooper? Looks of disgust. Incredulity. Internal turmoil. I’m pretty sure someone tore their shirt off like Marlon Brando in Streetcar and screamed “Nooooooooooooooooooooo!”

Wait, what? This was the reveal all of us have been dreaming about for centuries. Now I realised, not all of us. The Muslim community is kind of racist. The Asian Muslim community is definitely probably kinda racist.

For some inexplicable reason, Asian Muslims think they’re the best at being Muslim. (We’re not.) It might be because we’re brown-skinned which makes us feel a kinship with Arabs (where Islam all began). It might be because some of us, my family included, believe we are direct descendants of Arab/Persian/Turkish Muslims who migrated along trade routes in Asia. Maybe it’s because we’re not first-generation converts and believe in the idiotic fallacy that being born Muslim is superior to converting. Maybe we’re just dicks and think we’re better than everyone else.

I went a step further and – just to start some shit – said that Adam and Eve, Abraham, and Moses were all black too, because all humans were black in the beginning. We’re all from Africa, which is a supremely cool idea. My audience weren’t having it. The feared the thought that the Prophets they cherished and admired possibly did not look like them. This is the same reasoning behind Italian painters depicting Jesus as a skinny Fabio – people find comfort in praying to someone that looks like them. In Christian history, this turned into fucked up white supremacy. Colonialists used these images of Skinny Fabio Jesus to colonise and tell the brown heathens that, since God was white, white people are superior. Man was created in the image of God, right?

Why do dark-skinned Prophets scare us so? Is it because we actually think that we are superior to blacks? If black people are so inferior to us, then how on earth could we love and respect them as we love and respect our Adam, Abraham, Moses? Were Adam, Abraham and Moses thugs? Were they “street”? Were they drug dealers? How low did they wear their pants? Did they listen to rap music? Cornrows? Locs? Jay-Z?

Will Idris Elba play Musa in the inevitable Ten Commandments reboot? (Um, yes please.)

We dislike the thought of black Prophets because we dislike black people.

But whoa, hey! We’re not racists! There’s a hadith that says something about not being racist or something. And remember Bilal? He was one of the first Muslims – a great man. He was a black man and a slave and was liberated by Islam. By a show of hands how many of you have said these exact words: “Islam actually ended slavery, you know, 1400 years ago. Have you heard of Bilal?”

See, here’s the thing – let’s stop using Bilal as the Islamic mascot for anti-racism. That’s the same as a Men’s Rights Activist saying “We gave women the vote so what more do they want?”

Three vibrant, innocent young black Muslims were gunned down, execution style, in Indiana, USA. Mohamedtaha Omar, 23, Adam Kamel Mekki, 20, and Muhannad Adam Tairab, 17. I shared the news story on my Facebook wall twice. I’ve never even been to the United States, yet these boys were my brothers. I find comfort in having an international community. I got 1 share from a Muslim friend. Most of my Facebook friends are Muslim. You do the math.

These same Muslims go into full throttle during Ramadan with the Iftar memes and infographics showing you when the best time is to offer dua. That’s not the important stuff. This is the important stuff. Our brothers and sisters are being gunned down because we pray to a specific God. Would we have cared more if the boys were of Pakistani or Palestinian descent? I don’t know. All I know is our reaction, or lack thereof, was shameful.

Asian and Arab Muslims – you’re not special. Get over yourselves. Islam isn’t post-racial yet, like we want to believe it is. The liberation of Bilal is not the badge of honour that we all wear proudly, stupidly on our chests. Islam must be intersectional. Black Muslim Lives Matter.

May Our Three Brothers rest in peace, and may we keep their names in our mouths.

10 Reasons Why I Hate Talking To Older Men + An Open Letter To Older Women

  1. They always think they are right, and you are wrong.
  2. They HATE being told they are wrong, or when you disagree with them.
  3. When you have an opposing view on something, it has become their mission to prove you wrong because you are an ignorant and foolish little girl.
  4. They think they know everything about everything. (They don’t.)
  5. They like talking about topics about which they know nothing, yet pretend that they are experts on this topic.
  6. When they form a group of more than 2 older men, they all are experts on shit none of them are qualified to talk about.
  7. They reject arguments based on logic to support their already existing preconceived notions and beliefs (based on nothing).
  8. Mansplaining.
  9. They can’t handle the fact that you might know more about a certain subject than they do, so they start getting a little crazy.
  10. THEY REALLY HATE BEING TOLD THEY ARE WRONG.

Bonus reasons:
11. They won’t let you finish talking before interrupting you/talking over you.

An Open Letter to Older Women:

Dear Older Women,
I get it now. I finally understand. To you I owe everything I have today. I am thankful for your struggles and the sacrifices you have made to get me here. I thank you for raising your sons better than their fathers were raised. That’s all you. You moulded your sons to take on their fathers’ best qualities, and you ensured they shed their worst ones, the ones that held you back and suppressed your spirit.

I only have to deal with the shitshow of conversing with men of older generations a couple times a year. For you, this has been your life since you reached adolescence, since you got your first job, since you got married. Thank you for taking the bullet. Thank you for absorbing the shock. Thank you for raising a generation of men who are slightly better than their fathers.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.
With all my heart,
Nida

PS: I’m sorry.

 

10-minute Spicy Hot Spaghetti

This is what I cook for myself when I come downstairs for dinner and realise that dinner is, as usual, fucking chapattis. I’m thankful that I receive a hot cooked meal made for me every evening but I hate chapattis, and if I never saw one again it’d be too soon. Chapattis, to me, represent the drudgery of being an Indian woman having to retreat to the kitchen every evening to roll out the fuckers while the husband (ugh) and annoying kids (blech) watch TV. Screw you, chapattis. That shit is labour intensive and what do you get for it? The end product is a goddamn chapatti. (I know I’m being unfair to poor chapattis, but just laugh in the name of humour.)

When I’ve finished rolling my eyes (disgust, not disdain) and my eyeballs have resumed their original position, I grab what I need to make this because, as you’ll find, I already have everything I need in the kitchen.

There’s no photo because I ate it too quickly. It was bloody delicious.

Note: Cook the pasta and sauce at the same time, on adjacent hobs/stovetops.

Ingredients (Serves 1):

75-100 g dried spaghetti (I used wholewheat)
2 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped roughly
1/2 small onion, chopped roughly
3 fat cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp hot red chili flakes
2-3 tbsp olive oil, plus more for dressing
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

chopped fresh parsley (optional)

 

Method:

  1. Cook pasta as usual in boiling salted water. Salt generously, as we won’t be salting the sauce.
  2. While pasta is cooking, start cooking the garlic and onions in the olive oil in a small-medium saucepan.
  3. When sufficiently cooked (the garlic will go golden and the onions translucent), throw in the tomatoes.
  4. Add chili flakes and pepper and give it a stir.
  5. Pop on a lid and let cook on medium heat.
  6. After 5 minutes, the tomatoes should be softening nicely, and they should be letting out some liquid into the pan. If it looks dry, add water from the boiling pasta. Cover again and let cook.
  7. Keep adding pasta water to the sauce as it dries out, to thicken it and give moisture. This is vital to the sauce, so do retain all the pasta water. The sauce should be saucy, but not watery. If it’s too watery, simple let it cook down and reduce. If it’s too dry, add more of the starchy pasta water.
  8. After another 3-5 minutes, the pasta should be done. Drain the pasta and toss it into the sauce.
  9. Turn up the heat and toss quickly for a few seconds. The finished pasta will be perfectly al dente, coated lightly and elegantly in the spicy garlicky olive-oil-rich tomato sauce.
  10. Take off the heat and serve immediately. Drizzle with more olive oil, garnish with fresh parsley and more chili flakes.

 

 

 

 

 

No, Court (2014) Isn’t About The Judicial System – It’s About Women

I hadn’t heard of Court (Chaitanya Tamhane, 2014) until it made the cut for India’s offering to the Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Film category. I saw it recently at Bangalore’s Experimenta Film Festival, as part of a special program exploring “Politics of Form” – looking at how filmmakers use film form as a visual conduit, if you will, of their personal politics.

Tamhane’s filmic manifesto checks all the expected boxes: socialism – tick; freedom of speech – tick; India’s painfully sluggish court system – tick; corrupt law enforcement – tick; class systems – tick; upper-middle class sensibilities – tick; infuriating bureaucracy – tick. Even lampooning superstitious beliefs gets a big old heavy-handed tick in a scene where your average middle-class middle-aged middle-weight middle-intellect middle-India man implores his friend to change his mute son’s name to something more auspicious to get the damn kid to talk (I wonder if there are ways to reverse the process and mute the unmuted?). Halfway through the film we’ve got a pretty good idea of where Tamhane is coming from and where he’s going, but what comes as a surprise to us, and quite possibly Tamhane as well, is what we’ve learned about his politics of gender.

I caught up with Vivek Gomber, actor and producer of Court, outside the screening to ask him if their depiction of women in the film was something they had consciously and deliberately constructed. His answer was underwhelming (my fault, not his, for being disappointed in his dismissal of my reading). It wasn’t, he told me, and they weren’t trying to say anything about women in India. Not intentionally, anyway. He paraphrased writer-director Tamhane’s words on the topic, saying that he (Tamhane) wanted to portray court workers and lawyers as regular people (“They could be my uncle or aunt”). He succeeded – tremendously – and the result is an unavoidable, jarring look at the lives of women in India today.

We catch glimpses of the court players’ lives outside the courtroom. Defence attorney Vinay Vora (Vivek Gomber) drinks wine alone in front of the television, goes on a date at a swanky bar, and lunches with his parents on Sunday afternoon. But I leaned forward in my seat when we saw how public prosecutor Nutan (Geetanjali Kulkarni) spends her time outside the Sessions Court. After a long day in court, the sari-clad 40-something Marathi lady commutes by train, compliments a fellow passenger on her sari, and then confesses that she has to go home and cook dinner for her family. Her husband’s recent unfavourable health report means the responsibility of his diet and sugar and fat intake falls on her shoulders, and hers alone. At home she cooks dinner in a loose nightie, offering her legal reading services to a friend on the phone, and chases her kids to eat, serving salad to her tv-watching husband who doesn’t even look away from the set. Her daughter orders this prosecutor in a free speech vs. The Indian State court case to “bring me rice”. Later in the evening, Nutan does paperwork to prep for the next day. Incidentally, “Nutan” is also the name of my own mother, which got me thinking as I watched, horrified – Did I brattily order my working mother to serve me food when she got home like a short-order cook? Probably. Hasn’t every Indian child?

The duties and responsibilities of Indian women seep into and dampen every aspect of their lives. Coming home after a long day at work to cook for your husband and children is one thing, but peeling an orange and distributing segments to male colleagues in the law offices is another. I’ve worked in many a workplace and no man has ever peeled an orange for me.

The other women receive similar treatment. Vora’s mother gets called a nag (for airing some pretty rational annoyances) and is told by Vora to “serve me a plate” of lunch and “open the door” (no “please”) for his friend. Sharmila Pawar (Usha Bane), wife of a dead sewage worker, had to leave the city after her husband died and now has no work to support her young family – an example of a very real situation the wives of manual labourers in India face due to unsafe working conditions and no real education. Vora’s female legal assistant doesn’t have a name and doesn’t speak – ever. Even fictional women in the film diegesis haven’t heard of feminism. Nutan’s family see a Hindi slapstick comedy play where a young Marathi girl brings home a North Indian boy to meet the parents. Her father, in a display of eye-roll worthy Marathi virility, banishes his daughter and wife to the kitchen to make tea while he really takes care of things (kicks the N.I. Boy out of his daughter’s life), as only a man could do. The theatre audience roll with laughter, such is their acceptance of the family-life tableau in front of them.

The long takes and neorealist style force you to pay attention, not only to what happens on screen but how it happens. When we see interactions between mothers-and-children and husbands-wives that remind us, and even make us feel a twinge of guilt, about our own relationships with the women in our lives, yet another layer of the story materialises. These women have more than one dimension – but those extra dimensions say more about the filmmaker than the characters themselves.

There could be many reasons for the consistent and telling representations of Indian women in Court. It could be a completely intentional move by Tamhane, and I certainly hope it is because his script has demonstrated razor-sharp commentary on every other political and social shortcoming of modern India. Could feminism be one of them? I never actually asked him.

The other reason could be that this is simply how Tamhane, as a young Indian man, sees women. This is not a criticism but an acknowledgement of an almost instinctual ability to depict gender on-screen, as he has a visceral ability to depict the beating heart of the relationship between Indian culture and civil disobedience.

The final reason is the lack of female writer, director, producer on the film. Female voices affect female representations on-screen, and Court is a brilliant example of how a finished film reflects this fundamental variable. Gender is important, and it permeates not only how we view film, but how we make film. I hope Tamhane and Gomber become more informed and sensitive to representations of gender in their films so they can execute them as deftly as they did their sociopolitical tick-boxes. They’ve already unknowingly made the most plaintive depiction of women-on-screen this year.

I urge you to see Court if you can (it’s had a very limited release) and come to your own conclusions.

I wish Court the best of luck at the Oscars!

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