MLM: Musings of a Locked-up Mother

Article by: Lakshmi Vijaykumar, Senior Manager, Media & Public Relations

It has been more than four months that all of us are settling down in the new normal. Wait, have we settled in the real sense?

For starters, let’s define the new normal.

Normal (n): The usual typical unexpected state of a house where nothing is in order and one has to walk on landmines (read: toys, pencils, erasers, newspapers, towels et al).

The Coronavirus Pandemic has ensured that all of us stay cooped up in our respective homes with our “loved” ones. The days or even the nights have been blurred into one. Don’t even get me started on my attempts to leave my loved ones at my house to disappear in an atmosphere called “The office”! An office that was a platform for “me-time”, conversations both meaningful and casual with real people in the real world, and much more!

The new “normal” has ushered in an era for working moms where social distancing is practised externally, but inside the houses, children are yet to discover the meaning of the phrase. They are in constant touch with us and we cannot report to the authorities. By the way, my 8-year old daughter popped in some 10 times as I completed the first three paragraphs of this article. That’s the first layer of MLM – Musings of a locked-up Mother!

The new “normal” has ensured that there is no morning rush to pack multiple dabbas. But the working mothers have learnt to feed their children three meals and some 500 snacks in a day! We have even got innovative with our culinary expertise. We serve “red kidney beans cooked in rich tomato gravy with exotic spices on a flat bread”. And, there is tamarind infused hot & sour sauce boiled in home-ground spices served with fried chips as entrée. We cook a large quantity of something hoping that it lasts for the next meal only to find the pot empty in one meal. Is this what they call, One Pot One Shot cooking?

The other layer of lockdown days is discovering the Savage mom in me. In the first quarantine month, my family comprising two kids and a husband had what I called as “choice day”. So, each of them savoured their favourite dish every day. In the fourth Quarantine month, they still are provided with choices. This time it is simple – Take it or Leave it!

Yes, this is that layer of Covid-19 that no one is talking about! Scheduling grocery delivery for the next day on an online store feels like a celebration now. Not to mention that the delivery man is the most anticipated guest in our house.

They say, necessity is the mother of all inventions or termed the “Jugaad” in this part of the world. So, making use of the “social distancing” era, I tried a few jugaads too on inventing home-made anti-corona medicines, thanks to the Whatsapp university. But none of my inventions could go pass the first phase of trials, as my human guinea pigs ghosted me on those critical trial days.

I never imagined myself in a position of providing my children with their education. In the new stay-at-home days. I have mastered the art of conducting tests, finishing their classwork as well as homework (is there a difference?) and not scream at the insane hours of sitting up late to dole out school worksheets. 

And, finally I had the Mother of all Revelations. When the enforced lockdown began, I promised myself to stick to my workout routine, or the least (note this word) maintain a diet that would if not anything else help curb my weight gain. With the endless washing, cooking, chopping, stirring up a green salad is an added item in the menu. The phrase, “healthy food” has flown out of the kitchen window replacing with “Stick-to-me” type of items. It would be a “medical miracle” if I don’t weigh 10 kgs more than what I did Before Corona!   

Finally, the Pandemic has taught us an important lesson – both Mothers and Fathers are at present facing a re-organization of both work and care-giving time at home. While working mothers are actually busy integrating work and life, fathers are busy too lending their hands in their Whatsapp groups. No offence meant, there is a huge population of men out there who genuinely have begun to help their women folk at home. The Pandemic is likely to change the age old Patriarchal mindsets in Indian homes. This in the long run will (hopefully) have a positive effect on the productivity of both men and women professionals in a Post Pandemic world, if I may say so.


FIVE BOOKS WITH STRONG FEMALE PROTAGONISTS

 Article by: Sumona Chetia, Executive Content Development

Days seem longer nights feel stretched. The mundane routine of doing everything within the four walls of your house doesn’t always excite us. But we can add some pop to this lockdown work-life scenario by engaging ourselves in recreational activities. Reading is one such activity. And it can be made more fun by reading books based on strong female leads.

Since ages, the portrayal of women in literature was restricted to gender-biased roles. In Greek mythologies, women were identified as sexual objects rather than individuals. Undoubtedly female Goddesses had all the power, but it was the common woman that lacked. In the later stages, misogyny, and superiority of men took over the pages of literature. Even fairy tales chose to depict women as the damsel in distress in awe of their Prince Charming. It was only during the late 18th century when writers began to create female characters that surpassed the societal description. By the 20th century, a new wave of revolution swept across the world of books, and there was no stopping by. Women writers, female leads, and strong women protagonists flooded the field of literature.

Amongst those infinite gems here are five picks that depicted women in their true empowered self-

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

Swoon over Mr. Darcy all you want but, it’s our witty female protagonist Elizabeth Bennet who steals the show. A classic novel, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, picked on the social norms of defining a woman based on her marital status, manners, and upbringing. Despite the plot of the book set in the era of a patriarchal society, Elizabeth emerged as a feminine power. In an instance, when Elizabeth encounters a question on her relationship with the high-class Mr. Darcy, she replied, “He is a gentleman, I am a gentleman’s daughter; so far we are equal”.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)

Another masterpiece classic, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, tells the tale of four diverse and well-defined personalities (sisters). Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are the four strong female leads of the book bound by their passion for writing, art, and music. At a time when women were oppressed to stay at home, Little Women gives us a glimpse of how wanting a life outside domestic life is normal and basic women’s right.

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (1929)

Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own is an extended essay based on a series of lectures she delivered at two colleges of Cambridge University. The narration uses an ambitious fictional character who is on a mission to find quality work written by female authors. What follows is a significant discovery. There are plenty of books written about women by men, while there are hardly any books by women on men.  Woolf points out that a room of one’s own is what a woman requires to write. A room being the space to grow, to learn, and to write. A room being the opportunity for education.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (2000)

Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’ s memoir (in a graphic novel form) of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. An intelligent, high spirited, and outspoken young Marjane takes us through a journey of the dark side of society amidst a war. She questions the oppression of the regime, the silencing of her opinions, and the banishment of her ideologies.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

A series of dystopian novels by Suzanne Collins, which follows the story of Katniss Everdeen, who is forced to enter into the ruthless fight and death game created by the government, with the aim of controlling the society. Katniss is a strong, independent, and smart woman. She is a symbol of rebellion against atrocities and a breaker of stereotypes. She exhibits girl power in her actions, thoughts, and words.

As society is progressing, the representation of women in literature, be it prose or poetry is evolving too. Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet might now look as someone with many loopholes but undoubtedly those characters helped in shaping the creation of today’s feisty modern woman protagonists. The above list is only a small selection from the bigger lot. Please let us know in the comments section about more such books that you might have read.


Why are women film-makers scarce?

Article by: Sumona Chetia, Executive Content Development

Towards the end of 2019, Bang Geul Yi became the first female main producing director for a KBS (A South Korean television network) variety show. This news shouldn’t have raised eyebrows, but it did. The reason being South Korea entertainment industry displays gender disparity on both sides of the camera. So a female leading a show comprising of 6 male celebrities was bound to be a shocker.

It’s not just South Korea. In fact, all film and entertainment industries around the globe have accepted this as the norm. We have viewed great works of women directors getting side-lined at the Oscars n number of times. Despite a historic number of movies directed by women in the year 2019, not one female director got nominated for the Oscars 2020. What was supposed to be a banner year for women in arts turned out to be #OscarsSoMale

Let’s look at a few possible reasons of sexism in the world of cinema-

  • Lack of women (director) role model:

Directing a movie is a man’s job. That is the perception. And with that mind-set, women can’t imagine standing behind the camera.

  • Are overtly emotional:

Being emotional is an essential element in making art come to life on screens. But the notion is since men have been pioneers in carrying out this herculean task of making movies, the emotional aspect can’t be a good asset.

  • Where are the women?-the excuse:

An article read that many studios question, “Where are the women?” This excuse has been going around since forever.

  • Fewer opportunities to direct a second film:

A research-based report shows that women directed just 4% of the top 1200 films from 2007 to 2018. Of those female directors, only 17.4% had gotten to direct another movie beyond their debut feature (13% directed a second, 2.2% a third, and 2.2% a fourth).

Source: https://time.com/5763937/oscars-2020-female-directors-shut-out/

  • Women genres movie:

A prevailing idea that men make universal themed movies, whereas women’s stories are just for women rules the film-making domain. And this belief leads to distrusting a woman director’s vision.

There are many other societal and structural reasons for the under-representation of women in the film making industry, and those reasons will resonate with every working woman. Lack of opportunities, fear of prejudices, and the denial of acknowledgment further leads to the invisibility of the few female directors that the world has seen. The common key here is to break the glass ceilings and dominate your way through the role you deserve to achieve in a man dominated industry. And more and more female role models are the need of every hour.

A silver lining which failed to get recognized at the Oscars platform is still an inspiration of revolution for many aspiring and present female directors around the globe. With regional names like Sudha Kongara, Manju Borah, Rima Das, Anjali Menon, Ashwini Iyer Tiwari, etc… making their mark and adding numbers to the previously single digit is in itself a positive sign. Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma producing a hit series and a movie back to back on an OTT platform is indeed going to set an example of the power of diversity. Irrespective of her gender, the audience enjoyed the two sources of entertainment and, that’s what weighs more.

A shift can be seen post the Oscars 2020 backlash and new D&I norms in the filed of art and culture are possibly coming into force by the end of this year. The picture might not be rosy all of a sudden, but there will come a time when hearing about a film directed and produced by a female will be ordinary and mainstream. 

“Sometimes women can’t ask for control, so they have to take it. Ok? I want you to remember that”- Alex Levy played by Jennifer Aniston on the Morning Show.


Movies made by WOMEN for WOMEN

Article by: Sumona Chetia, Executive Content Development

Following the death of George Floyd, a black man at the hands of a white policeman in The United States, massive protests against institutional racism rose to attention. The impact was such that The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced to introduce new initiatives to address diversity and inclusion objectives within the film making industry. The proposed new rules constructed to offer more importance and recognition to people of colors and, women are all set to open up a new chapter of education and endorsement of all strands of diversity and inclusion in Hollywood and the Global Film Industry.

With this shining ray of hope, let’s take a look at these awesome five movies by and about women. No spoilers ahead, for sure!

  • Mulan- Niki Caro

Acclaimed filmmaker Niki Caro brought Mulan (the epic tale of a brave heart Chinese female warrior Hua Mulan) to life on the big screen. This Disney production is the projection of a righteous, fearless, and empowered Chinese maiden taking herself to the forefront of a battlefield to save her father.

A must watch for your young daughters.

  • Lady Bird- Greta Gerwig

A coming of age drama for teenage daughters and their mothers directed by the fantastic Greta Gerwig is a delight to watch. Lady Bird is a story of anguish and love surrounding the delicate relationship between a rebellious teenager and a passionate mother.

Greta Gerwig’s second solo directorial venture, “Little Women” adapted from the classic novel of the same name, is another name to include in this list.

  • Chhapaak- Meghna Gulzar

Chhapaak is the sound of stamping your feet on a muddy water puddle but, in this Bollywood movie, it refers to the sound of acid splashed across someone’s face. Inspired by the true events in acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal’s life, Chhapaak by Meghna Gulzar is a recreation with a few embellishments, but leaves room for facts face up-front.

  • Misbehaviour- Phillipa Lowthorpe

In 1970, the grand stage that celebrated beauty witnessed the crowning of the world’s first black Miss World moments after being invaded by Women Liberation protestors. The feminist protestors took the stage by storm to bring in a wave of change. Now the story of that night is being retold by Phillipa Lowthorpe in Misbehaviour, inspired by the memoir of Jennifer Hosten, who won the beauty pageant and made history.

  • Panga- Ashwini Iyer Tiwari

Panga is a Bollywood sports drama by Ashwini Iyer Tiwari. It follows the story of a former Kabaddi player and, now a working woman trying to make a comeback to the Kabaddi ground with the support of her husband and her son. Male allies in gender advocacy, indeed!

This list falls short in many ways. You are welcome to jot down a few more movies made by women and not necessarily for women in the comments section. But the actual problem lies in the question, “Why aren’t there more women film directors?” To find answers, wait for the next week’s blog article.