Men cheat. Women take the flak: Case in point – Kristen Stewart VS Rupert Sanders

I don’t know much about Kristen Stewart and neither do I want to know. I am not a fan of the Twilight series of books by Stephenie Meyer nor have I been inclined to watch the movie version of the books in which Stewart plays the leading role. Being the mother of two teenage sons, I’ve heard about “Bella”, the character that Stewart plays in the Twilight movies, which won her a worldwide following of young fans. I did go and watch another movie she stars in, “Snow-white and the Huntsman” due to high praise for it from a friend who had watched it, not once but twice, but I came away disappointed. I only fancied the acting of Charlize Theron who plays the role of the wicked queen while Stewart played  the damsel in distress AKA Snow White, not very impressively.

But today my post is not about the Twilight books or the movies but it’s a post in defense of Kristen Stewart, the real life person who is making headline news across the world, not for her acting talents, but for cheating on her boyfriend with Rupert Sanders, (first time I heard of the guy) the much older, very much married director of “Snow-white and ….…..”   And it seems very obvious by now that only she is getting all the flak for their little misadventure with headlines screaming that Kristen Stewart cheated on her boyfriend with a married man while the guy, who was more than a willing accomplice, is being let off easily by the media and probably the fans.

This brings me to the reason why I thought of writing this post. Why is it always the woman who comes out looking like the villain when an infidelity of this nature becomes public? In this case the guy, a married man in his 40s with two kids, chose to cheat on his wife and but is pretty much getting mollycoddled by the media. If you take a man in his 40s and a girl in her early 20s (She 22 BTW), who should be the more leveled headed one, the  stronger one able to resist temptation?  I would say the man, very clearly in this case.  Despite her star status, the girl probably got flattered by an older, good-looking man paying extra attention to her and the man, the married one, should have thought twice before putting himself in a comprising situation. Well he did not and all hell has broken loose and poor Bella is slandered all around as the slut, a home wrecker etc.

I just saw a story that Sanders’ wife Liberty Ross has posted a nasty cartoon depicting Stewart as not so innocent but if I were her, I‘d be having a serious talk with the husband before maligning the other party to the infidelity.

Take the case of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Being the President of the supposedly most powerful nation in the world, having publicly proclaimed,”I did not have sex with that woman,”  only to admit later to an  affair with the White House intern,  what was the outcome. Of the two who came out looking the  villain in the episode? Certainly not Clinton.

The mindset to apportion blame disproportionately to women in such instances probably has to do with stories like that of Adam & Eve where the woman is shown as the one who is unable to resist temptation as well as being the temptress. Terms such as the “The Other Woman” have come to be used in a derogatory manner so that the blame almost always lies with the woman, when in reality it takes two to tango.

Which is why it is so sick to hear Sanders come with a pathetic statement expressing remorse for his behavior? ’’My beautiful wife and heavenly children are all I have in this world. ‘I love them with all my heart. I am praying that we can get through this together,’ Sanders said. I am sure he had a heavenly time with Stewart too, which he will not admit to.

To  cheat or not to cheat is a personal choice .But guys like Sanders should at least use the same excess testosterone levels in their system, which led to the infidelity in the first place, to admit he had a darn good time while it lasted and also admit that he would be continuing with the indiscretion if the lid was not blown.

For those of you interested, here is a link to another article in Stewart’s defense:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/07/27/the-affair-witch-hunt-leave-kristen-stewart-alone.html

Here is something funny I found as well:

“Someone told me the delightful story of the crusader who put a chastity belt on his wife and gave the key to his best friend for safekeeping, in case of his death. He had ridden only a few miles away when his friend, riding hard, caught up with him, saying ‘You gave me the wrong key!” 

― Anaïs Nin

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Six Things You May or May Not Know About Me

After having read a blog in which the writer had compiled a list of Ten Interesting Things about himself, I was inspired to try my hand at a similar exercise. Coincidentally that blogger (http://20four12.wordpress.com/) and I have some things in common so in a few instances I have used a similar format to fill in with what applies to me. For  now,  I ve only managed to come up with six things you may or may not know about me. I can complete the list later but for now, here goes.

I don’t have a college degree

I started working as a trainee reporter soon after my schooling and got hooked onto my work and hence further studies took a back seat. At that age I had little appreciation for the merits of earning a degree and despite my father taking the trouble to enroll me for a university course I neglected to follow it. Many years down the line I regret I did not follow his advice but at least now I have realized the importance of pursuing one’s education beyond schooling. This is why I keep drumming into the heads of my two sons that they have to finish with their university   education however appealing the prospect of gaining employment and earning at a young age is. As for me all is not lost. I’ve managed to complete a Post-Graduate Diploma recently having qualified to follow it due to my many years of work experience.  Thus I have also qualified to do a Master’s degree.  Father is no more but I am sure what little I have achieved will make him very proud.  By the way my graduation is next Tuesday (July 31, 2012).  I’ll finally get a wear a cloak and snap a photograph in it. PhD next? I don’t think so. Masters will do.

I am obsessed with books

I can’t recollect exactly how I caught the reading bug but what I remember is that from a very young age, I would curl up some place with a book in hand. It started with fairy tales, and then moved onto Enid Blyton’s and such similar books. Then for a short period of being engrossed in Mills & Boons romances, I moved onto reading Sydney Sheldon and Harold Robbins. (It was a time when books like “The Other Side of Midnight” and “The Carpetbaggers “were the closest one could get to reading an erotic novel.) My reading   repertoire has expanded a great deal between then and now. I cannot say I like a particular genre of books because I read fiction, nonfiction, classics and modern stories, short stories and even poems. I guess I can call myself a mature reader and one thing I do now , which I did not do before  , is , I  attach a lot of interest to the authors and try to learn about them as much as possible. I also try to read books by authors from all over the world so I can learn about different people and their ways. Right now I have books pretty much strew in all kinds of places in the house. What I aim to do one day is build a reading room cum library and open it up to other book lovers as well. It’s going to be a cozy “no fuss ‘place where people can come and read and also discuss books. Fingers crossed for this one.

I am a Maggie noodles mom

Why do I call myself a Maggie Noodles Mom? When my younger son was around 8 (I think) someone asked him what his mom cooks for him to which he replied, “My mother only knows how to make Maggie noodles.”Of course his reply ruined my reputation as a mother, who, instead of putting nutritious and wholesome food on the table for her children, was feeding them instant food. The truth is I cook very little. Thankfully the children have two grandmothers nearby who feed them well, not with instant food, but good home cooked food. I had dreamt of having the perfect family dinners before I got married and had kids but now I find it next to impossible to get the four of us around a dinner table.

 I have a tattoo

 Not many people know I have a tattoo on my back, just below  my left shoulder-blade,  I got it done few years ago, I am not sure why. I think it was mid-life crisis time and an example of another of the crazy impulsive things I do from time to time. The tattoo is supposed to depict that the “pen is mightier than the sword “and being a journalist, I still   hold onto such idealistic views, well knowing it’s not swords that we have to deal with these day but automatic guns. There isn’t much power a pen can yield next to an AK- 47. The pen too has lost its might to a great extent with the advent of the keyboard .Anyway there are times I wish I hadn’t got myself inked but the tattoo I here to stay so I rarely think about it. Out of sight is out of mind, in this case.

I love stationary

 Other than book shops, another place I can spend a lot of time in are stationary shops. I love to see all the coloured pencils, note books, erasers, pencil boxes and all kinds of knick knacks that are stored in these shops. Which also means I end up buying a lot of stationary which I don’t always need. I ve bought all kinds of notebooks because they have such pretty covers but I rarely write on them. The same goes for pens and pencils but most times when I am in a hurry and want a pencil or pen, I can’t find one.

 I lost my wedding ring

A few years ago, a burglar broke into our house while we slept and took away among other things my wedding ring which was lying on a table. I was rather upset about it at that time but while the ring has a lot of sentimental value, wearing a wedding band is just symbolic and does not necessarily mean everything is honky dory in a marriage.  (That’s the older, wiser me saying it. I was rather obsessed with the ring when it was shiny and new and was thrilled when people noticed I had a wedding band.). Anyway I got myself   another similar ring but I hardly wear it these days. This is in sharp contrast to my better half who doesn’t leave home without his wedding ring.

The agony of alcohol abuse: To confront or not to confront???

Why do educated, smart, independent women stay in relationships with alcoholic men? Why do they put up with years of physical and mental abuse, neglect and also expose their children to these same evils? These questions came to my mind after my sister had a frantic call from a friend last night who for years has endured this kind of a situation. It was another bout of her husband losing control, abusing her both physically and verbally, turning the house upside down, attracting the undue attention of neighbors and turning the once timid son, now in his early teens, into an aggressive boy, wanting to assault his own father.

Denial

I know the story is not new. It’s being repeated in thousands of houses across the country on a daily basis. All laws and safeguards guaranteed for women and children have no relevance in the world where alcoholism has taken control and women continue to endure the abuse.

One of my favorite pastimes when I am parked near a “wine store” or am somewhere within sight of one is to observe those who frequent them. It seems that  it is one place that all social standings, otherwise so acute in society, disappear.  There is the man on his push bike, the man in a three-wheeler, the one on the motor bike, the man in his Maruti car and those in their Prados and Monteros all stopping by to pick up their daily dose.  There seems to be a sense of unspoken comradeship when they walk up to the tiny opening through which the wine shop worker hands over the bottle. I‘ve seen many men immediately wrap it up in a newspaper and tuck it into a trouser pocket or into a shopping bag or somewhere out of sight.  It’s almost like they are ashamed to be seen with a bottle of alcohol in hand, probably because they know that once the contests enter their bodies, the metamorphosis they undergo changes their personalities radically.

This is in India but so true of Sri Lanka as well

I asked my sister why her friend cannot leave the man. The answer is, “She is afraid.”We’ve given her the number of  Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).She’s spoken to a  person there several times and he’s warned  her of the danger she is in. Its fear that is holding her back from taking the next step.Fear is such a strong emotion. It stops us from doing so many things but if that fear keeps us from acting now it could result one day in an irreversible eventuality. By then it may  be too late to act.

Which bring me to a book I read by renowned South Indian writer and activist Sivasankari which is based on the life of a man addicted to alcohol.  The Tamil title of the book is Oru Manithanin Kathai (The story of a man) but the English translation is titled Tyagu.

Sivasankari’s writes extensively on social issues such as drug abuse, alcoholism and old age problems and having read Tyagu I can say that her books are well researched and gets to the heart of an issue that not many like to confront.

Sivasankari

Tyagu, the protagonist in the novel, becomes addicted to alcohol at a young age and we see how his life gets destroyed gradually.  He bunks his studies, his marriage fails, he loses his job, he distances himself from his family members and friends, alienates himself from his own child and loses all sense of self-respect as his addiction takes total control over him.

Here are a few paragraphs from the first chapter in her book and it clearly illustrates the inner demons an alcoholic has to fight every moment of the day.

Tyagu closed his eyes.

His throat was parched. His tongue felt like cardboard. A woodpecker was pecking away inside his brain. Birds fluttered within his ears.

How long was he to suffer?

He looked around without lifting his head. Making certain that he was not being watched, he bravely extended his right hand and unclenched his fingers. Feeling them tremble, he quickly withdrew his hand and held it firm between his thigh and the chair.

He could easily nip upstairs, gulp down a mouthful of whisky and rush back, without being detected.

Just a mouthful… a small gulp. It would be a boon to his parched throat.

Even if he could have just a little drop, his throat would feel better. This suffering would end. The woodpecker would stop pecking. Just a mouthful.

Struggling to get up, Tyagu felt himself being pushed down. There lay his father’s lifeless body. What damned torture! Tyagu cursed himself. What sort of man was he, that he could not hold himself together even for a few hours?

He held on to the chair with both hands.

No, not now………….”

Alcoholism not only destroys an individual but also destroys families, communities and society as a whole. Which is why it has become  a national responsibility to deal with addicts and have them rehabilitated. But that is the big picture. In the meantime  behind closed doors, in obscure corners of this country, in big cities and small villages, inside  mud and thatched  huts and marbled floored mansions,  the monsters that senseless alcohol intake  unleash are  wreaking hell.

As for me, I’ll continue to hear the unfolding events in the life of my sister’s friend and her son and still be unable to do anything to stop it happening again.

Our book club……….. where books, chat and food holds sway

The wonderful thing about life is that there are times we accidentally meet people, connect with them almost immediately and from there on such a friendships help enrich our lives.

It was one such meeting with Layla, an ardent book lover that led to the setting up of our Book Club, known as the Read & Seed BC. The name is the same one under which Layla operates a cosy second-hand book shop in Colombo, which is where we met when I went there with a friend to check out the place I had seen motioned in a newspaper book review section.

She happened to be around the time we visited so we got talking and the Book Club idea come up. Within the next few days there was a flurry of e-mails flying to and fro and within less than a month we had decided to start the Read & Seed BC.

Our first meeting was on December 4, 2011 where we discussed the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. It was a book that has been an instant hit with almost everyone who’s read it and gave us plenty of issues for discussions.

Since then we’ve discussed The Reader by Bernhard Schlink, The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid and Waiting by Ha Jin. Last Sunday we met to discuss the Girl with The Pearl  Earring by Tracy Chevalier. We ‘ve chosen books  from writers  across the globe so that a lot of discussion also centers around what we have in common with people in other geographical areas but also learn about their customs and traditions, habits, superstitions etc.

The opportunity to exchange ideas has been an enlightening experience for all of us because of the different perspectives each of the members have on the book we choose to discuss.

An added bonus has been the post discussion snacks and tea time, thanks mainly to the culinary expertise of our host Layla. It’s an understatement  to call it snack time because   the spread always doubles as dinner.  Although it wasn’t planned this way, the  snacks are themed on the country where the story comes from so we’ve also had the chance to learn about the culinary delights in these countries. It’s also encouraged someone like me, for whom cooking is a least favorite subject, to look of recipes from different countries and try to replicate them. I ve only managed Dutch cucumber sandwiches so far but it’s a start.

A Book Club is not only a great place to meet fellow book lovers and discuss books but it is also a great place to exchange our views on life and its travails and enjoy each other’s company. So if you are a book lover and know like-minded people, it’s good to float the idea of starting a club and see where it leads. Happy Reading everyone.

Two stories from China set in different eras………….

Both books I am writing about are set in China, but in very different times. One is set at a time when the country is in the throes of a civil war and on the road to becoming a communist state. It is still a  time when private ownership of land is permitted and those who have money can spend lavishly while the other is set in a new  China where communism is well engrained and almost everything is state controlled, where everything from getting a divorce or taking a lover has become more a  public business than a private affair.

The books are The Good Earth written by Pearl S. Buck, an American national who spent many years in China, first with her parents who worked as missionaries there and later with her husband, and Waiting by Ha Jin, a Chinese American author who was born in China but later moved to the USA and began writing on life in a communist state.

Pearl S.Puck receives the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1939 from King Gustavus V of Sweden.

The Good Earth (1931)

The Good Earthis the story of a peasant farmer Wang Lung and his wife O-Lan. The book begins with   the marriage of Wang and O-Lan, following which their fortunes turn for the better due to sheer hard. In between working the fields, O-Lan delivers babies, attends to her ailing father-in-law and plays the role of the ideal wife.  Their lives are seriously disrupted, midway when a drought strikes the region they live in making them flee to the city where they endure the worst forms of poverty, begging on the streets to stay alive. But through it all O-Lan, who for me is the hero of the book, stands courageously to safeguard her family.  They later return to their former lands and once again prosper with Wang Lung acquiring more and more land and finally even the home of the former aristocratic landowner of the region who has fallen into ruin by then.  But with  the new-found fortune comes  temptation and Wang Lung seeks pleasures outside his home, falling in love with a pretty concubine who he takes home to live along side O-Lan. Towards the tail end of the book, more interesting happenings unfold which I shall not write about as a reader should discover them on their own.

The Good Earth – First Edition cover

The life of a peasant farmer family who lives in a remote area in China will appeal to almost everyone because it is the story of human endurance that anyone, anywhere can relate to. The book also details to the reader many old Chinese customs and traditions, their superstitions, their taboos which adds to the flavor of the book.

Waiting (1999)

Waiting by Ha Jin is set in communist China and is the story of Lin Kong, a military doctor who spends a good part of his life trying to get a divorce from his wife after falling for a another woman .He had agreed to an arranged marriage early on to Shuyuwho despite not being the best looking woman is considered  ideal wife material as far as his family is concerned. She is hard-working and has big hips which is a sign of fertility and hence he agrees to the marriage. Later he leaves his wife and daughter and has to move to many miles away to work in a military hospital where he falls for a pretty nurse named Manna Wu. Wanting to legitimize his relationship with Manna, Lin Kong tries 18 times to get a divorce but finds it a complicated process. During their long courtship, the doctor and nurse duo have to abide by the strict code of behavior for those living within the military camps, where anything more than holding sands could lead to dire consequences for both.

Ha Jin, Chinese-American writer of Waiting

It’s again one of those books I picked up because I fancied the cover page and liked the little I read in the back cover but it was well worth the price.

Even though the books are set at least three to four decades apart, one in the early 1930s and the other around the 1970s, there is similarity in   the loyalty, strength and endurance of two of the female charter, namely O-Lan and Shuyu.  Despite the indiscretions on the part of their husbands, the women remain fireclay loyal.

But it’s hard for me to dislike any of the characters in these books. . Be it the “other woman” or the “unfaithful husband”, they are all likable and very human characters.   Naturally many readers will empathise with the two wives because even though they are strong in character, they are also portrayed more as the victims.

So if you haven’t yet read these two books, I would suggest you do because they will not disappoint.

Cover of Waiting

Franz Kafka and his macabre and morbid world…………….

Franz Kafka

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” 

― Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka’s writings are not for the soft-hearted. Be it his most famous story, the Metamorphosis where a man wakes up one morning and finds he’s being transformed into a massive bug  or be it the Penal Colony where an elaborate machine used for torture is introduced to the reader, one who reads Kafka has to be ready to plunge into his dark world.

Read for example this opening paragraph from the Metamorphosis to understand what I mean:-

“One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in his bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug. He lay on his armour-hard back and saw, as he lifted his head up a little, his brown, arched abdomen divided up into rigid bow-like sections. From this height the blanket, just about ready to slide off completely, could hardly stay in place. His numerous legs, pitifully thin in comparison to the rest of his circumference, flickered helplessly before his eyes.”

When I first started reading Kafka, I was taken aback by the unpleasant and unconformable details that he dwells into and found them a strain on my senses.  Unless one is comfortable with the macabre and the morbid, his stories can leave you disturbed.

But even though I am not fond of reading ghastly stuff, I find it a challenge to read Kafka. But in between I also make it a point to I read some escapist stuff to get over the doom and gloom of his books.

Kafka was born to a German-speaking Jewish family in Prague, in the present day Czech Republic in July 1883.He is considered an iconic writer of the 20thCentury particularly because of the nature of his writings. The word Kafkaesque has become a part of the English language and is used to refer to the nightmarish situations that Kafka writes about. This itself underscores the lasting impression Kafka has left behind him.

Kafka museum in Prague

I feel everyone should read at least one of Kafka’s stories because despite their dark nurture, they are also simply written and are a challenge to read.

Statue at entrance to Kafka museum in Prague