Archive | October, 2012

The next sexual revolution: All about a room of my own?

31 Oct

Abhijit Banerjee, noted economist and co-author of Poor Economics says in an editorial published in the Hindustan Times today that ‘that there are more forms of inequality to worry about than just money’. He asks, “What are we doing as a society to reduce inequality of access to sex?”

It’s a valid point. One of the biggest casualties of growing up in a middle class or lower middle class Indian household – where your chemistry books fight for space with your father’s grocery accounts book, where you have had to lock yourself up in the bathroom to say good-morning to the new boyfriend, where you’ve constantly fought with the grandmother to lower the TV volume so that your music player becomes audible – is your sex life.

And if you happen to be a boy, you have possibly cursed the school stud several times over for having a room of his own – one with Cindy Crawford posters and Cosmopolitans shoved under the mattress.

But did that bother you more than having to guzzle formulas while your younger sister tried to mug up the hierarchy of a Mughal administration in the same study room-cum-bedroom? Did it bother you more than the feeling of hopelessness at seeing your mother, an ailing grandparent and his/her nurse spend nights in the same room because that’s all that they had?

Chances are you have outgrown the school stud, found enough places – friends’ cars, sea-side hotels, parks, the house emptied by parents on a trip to the aunt’s house – to make out. And unlike Professor Banerjee, never thought to what we were doing to reduce inequality of access to sex.

I’m not so sure if Banerjee in his editorial, uses the obstacles to physical intimacy posed by economic inequality as a prototype for all the issues plaguing the homeless and the poor India, in which case you can’t question it much. However, as the blurb of Banerjee’s article published in the newspaper says, he probably sees no reason why we should be outraged at Mamata Banerjee‘s recent comment that ‘rapes in India has something to do with public displays of intimacy’.

He doesn’t defend rape on those grounds, but seems to associate its root – sexual jealousy – as something that has to do with the abysmal economic landscape of our country, which often leaves young people, especially men without the space to indulge in physical intimacy. Crowded, homes, not enough money, et al.

Banerjee traces the roots of ‘sexual jealousy’ to the economics of a middle class and lower middle class housing. “A lot of this inequality, at least in our urban areas, is a direct result of our policies. We pay lip service to low-income urban housing, but do nothing about it beyond insisting that tiny pockets of high income neighbourhoods get set aside for smaller and cheaper flats, which are usually just too lucrative to end up with the genuinely poor,” says Banerjee, in his article.

Does that mean sexual jealousy, something that Banerjee acknowledges as ‘powerful’ and ‘more palpable’ than several other forms of dissent, is rooted primarily in economic discrepancies?

To simplify in layman terms, would men and women be relatively free of sexual envy, had they enjoyed economic means that makes sex seem more gettable?

While Banerjee does debunk the idea of a ‘public brothel’ he seems to be saying that had there been enough space and enough women willing to have sex, unmindful of the man’s social status, the intensity of ‘sexual jealousy’ in our country would be dissipated. And this is an issue that the country should pay heed to.

At the risk of sounding cynical, one has to say, that the argument probably holds in some Utopian social structure. Banerjee, effectively, is asking for an economic overhaul – one that gives less-than-affluent men and women both the luxury and space to claim what he calls ‘conjugal rights’. Fair enough.

Though he seems to be denying doing so, Banerjee is circling back to the ‘inequality of money’ after all, an inequality which deprives people of education, medical help, basic life security, not just better sex. Arguing for better housing facilities to facilitate healthier sex lives, hence a safer society with more sense of justice, seems as absurd as Mamata Banerjee blaming rapes on open intermingling of the sexes.

While sexual jealousy doesn’t necessarily translate into rape, envy doesn’t always result in violence and Banerjee’s article doesn’t say so either, one cannot overlook the social profiles of the recent victims of rape and the perpetrators. Here we can safely assume that rape, is a result of strong sexual jealousy.

The men in Haryana, upper-class, moneyed Jats, raped a woman from their community, and presumably were not ones who would “watch their coevals go by with their wives or girlfriends, holding hands or cuddling, fortunate because their parents were rich enough that they had a place to go to and be intimate with each other.” The women in question, in most of these cases, weren’t seen tom-toming a rich boyfriend and his ample economic resources.

‘Sexual jealousy’, like Banerjee mentions, might be partially rooted in economic divisiveness – a lot like the way you harbour attraction for unattainable celebrities – but most of it, especially of the violent kind, has no foundation in any logic that can be addressed by government policies.

Banerjee notes: “There are few forces more powerful than sexual desire and few forms of inequality more palpable than inequality of access to sex: all the rich guys, to a first approximation, get all the pretty girls, at least if pretty is what Bollywood (or Hollywood) tells us it should be.”

Making sexual angst seem like the ‘most powerful’ fall-out of realtors’ unhinged colonisation of urban spaces also slightly dilutes the enormity of the other problems related to it. In some social narrative ‘access to sex’ might be of greater concern than access to a shelter that doesn’t drip rainwater on to a child’s head, but then that’s a micro-issue. And it hardly makes Mamata Banerjee’s views of ‘public display of intimacy’ and rape seem justified.


The human penis is a puzzler, no bones about it

23 Oct

The human penis is a puzzler, no bones about it.


20 Oct

Here is an amazing and heart-warming story from Nazim, a flight attendant on Delta Flight 15:

On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 we were about 5 hours out of Frankfurt, flying over the North Atlantic. All of a sudden the curtains parted and I was told to go to the cockpit, immediately, to see the captain.

As soon as I got there I noticed that the crew had that “All Business” look on their faces. The captain handed me a printed message. It was from Delta’s main office in Atlanta and simply read, “All airways over the Continental United States are closed to commercial air traffic. Land ASAP at the nearest airport. Advise your destination.”

No one said a word about what this could mean. We knew it was a serious situation and we needed to find terra firma quickly. The captain determinedthat the nearest airport was 400 miles behind us in Gander, New Foundland in Canada.

He requested approval for a route change from the Canadian traffic controller and approval was granted immediately – no questions asked. We found out later, of course, why there was no hesitation in approving our request.

While the flight crew prepared the airplane for landing, another message arrived from Atlanta telling us about some terrorist activity in the New York area. A few minutes later word came in about the hijackings.

We decided to LIE to the passengers while we were still in the air. We toldthem the plane had a simple instrument problem and that we needed to land at the nearest airport in Gander, New Foundland to have it checked out.

We promised to give more information after landing in Gander. There was much grumbling among the passengers, but that’s nothing new! Forty minutes later, we landed in Gander. Local time at Gander was 12:30 PM! …. that’s 11:00 AM EST.

There were already about 20 other airplanes on the ground from all over theworld that had taken this detour on their way to the U.S.

After we parked on the ramp, the captain made the following announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, you must be wondering if all these airplanes around us have the same instrument problem as we have. The reality is that we are here for another reason.” Then he went on to explain the little bit we knew about the situation in the U.S. There were loud gasps and stares of disbelief. The captain informed passengers that Ground control in Gander told us to stay put.

The Canadian Government was in charge of our situation and no one was allowed to get off the aircraft. No one on the ground was allowed to come near any of the airplanes. Only airport police would come around periodically, look us over and go on to the next airplane.

In the next hour or so more planes landed and Gander ended up with 53 airplanes from all over the world, 27 of which were U.S. commercial jets.

Meanwhile, bits of news started to come in over the aircraft radio and for the first time, we learned that airplanes were flown into the World Trade Center in New York and into the Pentagon in DC.

People were trying to use their cell phones, but were unable to connect due to a different cell system in Canada. Some did get through, but were only able to get to the Canadian operator who would tell them that the lines to the U.S. were either blocked or jammed.

Sometime in the evening the news filtered to us that the World Trade Center buildings had collapsed and that a fourth hijacking had resulted in a crash. By now the passengers were emotionally and physically exhausted, not to mention frightened, but everyone stayed amazingly calm. We had only to look out the window at the 52 other stranded aircraft to realize that we were not the only ones in this predicament.

We had been told earlier that they would be allowing people off the planes one plane at a time. At 6 PM, Gander airport told us that our turn to deplane would be 11 am the next morning.

Passengers were not happy, but they simply resigned themselves to this news without much noise and started to prepare themselves to spend the night on the airplane.

Gander had promised us medical attention, if needed, water, and lavatory servicing. And they were true to their word. Fortunately we had no medical situations to worry about. We did have a young lady who was 33 weeks into her pregnancy.

We took REALLY good care of her. The night passed without incident despite the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements. About 10:30 on the morning of the 12th a convoy of school buses showed up. We got off the plane and were taken to the terminal where we went through Immigration and Customs and then had to register with the Red Cross.

After that we (the crew) were separated from the passengers and were taken in vans to a small hotel. We had no idea where our passengers were going. We learned from the Red Cross that the town of Gander has a population of 10,400 people and they had about 10,500 passengers to take care of from all the airplanes that were forced into Gander! We were told to just relax at the hotel and we would be contacted when the U.S. airports opened again, but not to expect that call for a while.

We found out the total scope of the terror back home only after getting to our hotel and turning on the TV, 24 hours after it all started.

Meanwhile, we had lots of time on our hands and found that the people of Gander were extremely friendly. They started calling us the “plane people.” We enjoyed their hospitality, explored the town of Gander and ended up having a pretty good time.

Two days later, we got that call and were taken back to the Gander airport. Back on the plane, we were reunited with the passengers and found out what they had been doing for the past two days.

What we found out was incredible. Gander and all the surrounding communities (within about a 75 Kilometer radius) had closed all high schools, meeting halls, lodges, and any other large gathering places. They converted all these facilities to mass lodging areas for all the stranded travelers. Some had cots set up, some had mats with sleeping bags and pillows set up.

ALL the high school students were required to volunteer their time to take care of the “guests.” Our 218 passengers ended up in a town called Lewisporte, about 45 kilometers from Gander where they were put up in a high school. If any women wanted to be in a women-only facility, that was arranged. Families were kept together. All the elderly passengers were taken to private homes.

Remember that young pregnant lady? She was put up in a private home right across the street from a 24-hour Urgent Care facility. There was a dentist on call and both male and female nurses remained with the crowd for the duration.

Phone calls and e-mails to the U.S. and around the world were available to everyone once a day. During the day,passengers were offered “Excursion” trips. Some people went on boat cruises of the lakes and harbors. Some went for hikes in the local forests.Local bakeries stayed open to make fresh bread for the guests. Food was prepared by all the residents and brought to the schools. People were driven to restaurants of their choice and offered wonderful meals. Everyone was given tokens for local laundry mats to wash their clothes, since luggage was still on the aircraft. In other words, every single need was met for those stranded travelers.

Passengers were crying while telling us these stories. Finally, when they were told that U.S. airports had reopened, they were delivered to the airport right on time and without a single passenger missing or late. The local Red Cross had all the information about the whereabouts of each and every passenger and knew which plane they needed to be on and when all the planes were leaving. They coordinated everything beautifully. It was absolutely incredible.

When passengers came on board, it was like they had been on a cruise. Everyone knew each other by name. They were swapping stories of their stay, impressing each other with who had the better time.

Our flight back to Atlanta looked like a chartered party flight. The crew just stayed out of their way. It was mind-boggling. Passengers had totally bonded and were calling each other bytheir first names, exchanging phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses.

And then a very unusual thing happened.

One of our passengers approached me and asked if he could make an announcement over the PA system. We never, ever allow that. But this time was different. I said “of course” and handed him the mike.

He picked up the PA and reminded everyone about what they had just gone through in the last few days. He reminded them of the hospitality they had received at the hands of total strangers. He continued by saying that he would like to do something in return for the good folks of Lewisporte.

He said he was going to set up a Trust Fund under the name of DELTA 15 (our flight number). The purpose of the trust fund is to provide college scholarships for the high school students of Lewisporte. He asked for donations of any amount from his fellow travelers. When the paper with donations got back to us with the amounts, names, phone numbers and addresses, the total was for more than US $14,000!

The gentleman, an MD from Virginia, promised to match the donations and to start the administrative work on the scholarship. He also said that he would forward this proposal to Delta Corporate and ask them to donate as well. As I write this account, the trust fund is at more than $1.5 million and has assisted 134 students in college education.

I just wanted to share this story because we need good stories right now. It gives me a little bit of hope to know that some people in a far away place were kind to some strangers who literally dropped in on them. It reminds me how much good there is in the world.”

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19 Oct

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16 Oct


My ex-husband died tonight.

I’ve written that into scripts and scenes and backstories and 1.4 million entries of my journals.

But then it really happens.  And luckily, God wrote this script.  Because, over the 22 years I’ve known my ex, it hasn’t been easy.  It was often fun.  I laughed and cried and laughed some more.  I got cancer.  I attended a lot of Al-anon meetings.  I wished his death on at least one major occasion, and luckily God knew me better than that weakness of character and said No.

I loved this man.  Even throughout the hurtful times, I would see what drew me to him.  A heart that was bigger than the ocean, especially for the downtrodden.  A desire to always laugh and have fun and go out where the people were young and alive.   A deep desire to be better than the addiction that plagued him most…

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16 Oct

Jules' Fuel

Religion, politics, social gatherings.

No doubt, these do not traditionally mix, unless while literally at a religious or political gathering, respectively.

Why? Shenanigans could arise.

People’s morals and values deeply rooted in these subject matters come out of the woodworks, triggering hot-headed responses to opposing views.

Sure, it is possible to engage in civil debates, but let’s be honest, 99% of the time, it will be a case of “Let’s agree to disagree.”

I’m sure you’re nodding your head right now, thinking about the presidential debates, media reports, and, well, obsessive Facebook political posts every 2 seconds.

Are you that guy posting your political viewpoints daily, like we’re all supposed to agree? Well, it quite possibly ain’t gonna happen; but hey, I credit you for expressing your passionate beliefs in line with who you are.

But, I digress…

Amongst these landmark topics of debate includes another highly underrated subject FULL…

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16 Oct


When a writer writes a book where do the characters come from? Are they from real life? Are they completely made up? I think it’s a really interesting question and it’s one I’m often asked.

Every writer is different, but my characters are usually a bit of a mix of both. My starting point with a book is always what is going to happen and where it is set (some writers start with a character or set of characters but that’s not the way my mind works, I definitely start with the plot). After that I start thinking about the characters e.g. whether the characters are shy or outgoing, brave or timid, practical or dizzy etc. and then I start thinking of people in real life that I know like that and that helps me fill in details and really ‘see’ the character. I always like to feel I know…

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