April 21, 2019
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Grub Republic: It’s raining R-day offers at restaurants in Delhi

in Health/Life Style by

On Republic Day tomorrow, as the country revels in the spirit of patriotism, restaurants in the Capital gear up to serve guests with gusto. From discounts on total bill, to tricolour themed dishes, these places are going all out to woo customers.

“If anyone dress up in all three colours of our National Flag, we will be giving away a complimentary tricolour meal to them,” says Bhuvnesh Bhalla, director, Aanch. “We have specials like trio mania mocktail, tirang-e-paneer, tirang-e-murgh tikka and trilicious pasta,” he adds.Those born in the year 1950 are in for a special treat as they can treat themselves to a complimentary meal with dishes like kebabs and tricolor panacottas. “At Ssence-A Culinary Showcase, we are offering complimentary buffet to people born in the year 1950, the date of India’s very first Republic Day,” says Dhananjay Kumar, general manager, The Suryaa.If that was not enough, guests can enjoy a lavish meal at handsome discounts. “We are celebrating Republic Day with tricolour mocktails and dishes. Since it’s our 68th Republic Day, we are giving customers discount of 68% on their bill at Level 2 restaurant,” says chef Vikas Pant, Radisson Blu Paschim Vihar.

The day is all about celebrating the country, and what better way than to sample cuisines from various states? “We have got flavours from across the nation together under one roof. Guests can enjoy dishes like Lucknowi Murg, Dum Aloo Banarasi, Dakshini Saag, Paneer Jalfarezi, Mahi Tawa Masala and more. We also have a special dessert counter with traditional Indian desserts,” says chef Saroj Muduli, Courtyard by Marriott.

The grub doesn’t just stop there. If you love biryanis, then you are going to love this offer. “We are giving complimentary Tiranga Biryani as an appetiser to guests who order regular biryanis. This is a tribute to India and is served in the shape of the Indian Flag,” says chef Vikram Rawat of Ardor 2.1.

More offers on the platter

•Tricolour Grilled Affair at The Pirates of Grill, Noida

•Republic Day Specials at Molecule, Gurgaon

•Tricolour Specials at Café OMG Oh My God, Connaught Place

•Tricolour Roti and Curry Treat, Garam Dharam, Connaught Place

Why aren’t new mothers taking their maternity leaves?

in Life Style by

Washington, JAN 24: A new study has shown that number of would-be mothers taking maternity leave has remained stagnant despite many years of economic growth. According to it, more than half of maternity leaves taken by American mothers are unpaid, a figure that has proved slow to change.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Public Health, suggest that women who took maternity leave were economically better off than the typical mother — as described in the data — and were more likely to be married, white and more educated.

Researchers from Ohio State University in the US showed that about 273,000 women in the United States took maternity leave on average each month between 1994 and 2015, with no trend upwards or downwards.

Meanwhile, the number of men taking paternity leave increased from 5,800 men per month to 22,000 per month.

“Given the growing economy and the new state laws, I expected to see an increasing number of women taking maternity leave,” said study author Jay Zagorsky.

“There’s a lot of research that shows the benefits of allowing parents, especially mothers, to spend time with newborn children. Unfortunately, the number of women who receive those benefits has stagnated,” Zagorsky added.

The team used data from the Current Population Survey, a monthly survey conducted by the US Census Bureau.

Since 1993, most workers were covered by the federal government’s Family and Medical Leave Act, which gives eligible employees 12 weeks of unpaid time off during the first 12 months after birth to care for a newborn.

The results indicate that most women who took maternity leave were not paid — only 47.5 percent were compensated in 2015.

Paid maternity leave is increasing, but only by 0.26 percentage points per year.

However, the study also found that count of fathers taking paternity leave has tripled than the number of mothers taking maternity leave.

Zagorsky said the best estimates from the data would be that somewhere around 10 percent of men and 40 percent of women take some time off.

Women, too, have the right to fun

in Life Style/Uncategorized by

Apparently it matters whether the women out on MG Road and Brigade Road were leaving church or a pub after their New Year’s eve celebrations. Clearly, the former would be good girls in need of protection and the latter the kind of girls who were just asking for trouble.

One reads in the news of the victims of a terrorist attack in Istanbul on New Year’s eve being blamed for being hedonistic and partying on New Year’s eve.

Relatively speaking, women, particularly upper-middle-class women, have greater legitimacy in the new privatized spaces of consumption like shopping malls and coffee shops than in public spaces like parks or promenades. However, these are far from uncontested spaces, as the women attacked by the Sri Ram Sena in a Mangaluru pub found out in 2009. In 2012, assistant commissioner of police Vasant Dhoble arrested women who were having a good time at a pub in Mumbai, accusing them of prostitution.

When women drink and make merry to have a good time there is a great deal of anxiety not just in India but across the world. If women drink too much they are often warned of dire consequences and told they are asking for trouble. When men drink too much this often becomes an excuse for anything untoward or even illegal that they might do. Apparently women are entitled to not just less pay than men for equal work but also a lower share of fun, if any.

In a workshop I did with my collaborators as part of a research study on women’s access to public spaces, students conducted a small survey of the leisure time men and women have. This survey, while not statistically relevant, nonetheless demonstrated that while young men and women in their 20s had similar leisure and recreation time and activities, women in their 30s and 40s had far less leisure time than men in their age group.

If alcohol produces deep anxieties, the idea that women might have sex for fun creates unparalleled paranoia, especially coupled with the fear that women might choose to have this fun with men of the wrong class, caste or religion. The bogey of love jihad and the violence visited upon couples who dare to love across caste lines are testimony to this. And woe betide women if they place those resources that societies most value about them—their reproductive capacities—at risk.

Remember the brouhaha that followed in 2013 when it was suggested that women were using the emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) as a regular form of contraception? The media went ballistic, predicting doom for women’s reproductive health. Interestingly, while high doses of hormone are presumably not good for anyone, there is no evidence to suggest that the regular use of ECP has long-term health consequences. However, body-building hormones that are freely available and consumed do not seem to elicit the same level of concern.

Public spaces have in the last four years been placed at the centre of anxieties about women. Safety, cast in narrow terms such as the prevention of attacks by strangers in public, has become the cause that everyone can rally around. So when women claim the public space for fun it makes too many people anxious. Among these are the police, who are not at all sure they would be able to contain offenders and so often go on the offence, demanding women do not put themselves at “risk”.

I would argue that despite or perhaps because of how uncomfortable it makes everyone, fun is central to feminism. However, even within the feminist movement the claim for fun is often seen as “asking for too much” or as being far less important than other more pressing concerns like education or healthcare. However, there is no contest. We can claim the right to purposeless fun even as we demand better and universal healthcare and education. Just as we have contested the claims that the feminist movement is “West inspired” so also the feminist claim to fun is not a neo-liberal one. Nor is it an elite claim, for working-class women have as much desire and right to fun as middle-class women.

In fact, the claim to fun in cities, especially when separated from consumption as in the case of loitering, creates the possibility of greater liberation and freedom in the city in ways that are not tied to the spending of money. When women choose to loiter, to wander the streets, especially at night, we are refusing to be put into the little boxes that society would like us to be in.

Fun in public spaces cannot be quantified or sometimes even explained. How does one communicate the pleasure of the asphalt under your feet; the rush of finding the bus you want at a traffic signal and managing to jump into it; the serenity to be found in loitering over that cutting-chai at the tapri even in the midst of city chaos; the exhilaration of wandering in your city at night laughing with your friends. This is not simply fun, it’s belonging to your city and having it belong to you.

In saying #IWillGoOut or when we #MeetToSleep or post updates with #WhyLoiter or hang out as #GirlsAtDhabas, women are refusing to be cowed into retreating from the public, choosing resistance over conformity and eschewing fear by claiming the right to fun. These claims are neither frivolous nor fleeting—they are fundamental to full citizenship.

Shilpa Phadke is a sociologist and co-author of ‘Why Loiter? Women And Risk On Mumbai Streets’.

Theatrics of the Shahs

in Entertainment/Life Style by

Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah might not have been a couple if not for theatre. How Naseer met this “striking-looking girl who henceforth I could not keep my eyes off,” while sipping sugarcane juice with theatre guru Satyadev Dubey, is now part of his autobiography, And Then One Day. “I took to her the moment I saw her, and I really felt that I would like to get to know her. I even considered the possibility of spending my life with her…. We had not yet spoken to each other…but somehow I felt certain she was my kind of person,” recollects Naseer in his memoir.

They were destined to be a couple, and the stage brought them together. In Dubey’s play, Sambhog Se Sanyas Tak, they played husband and wife. Ratna, who had initially misheard his name as Shivendra Sinha and confused him with the filmmaker from FTII, soon took a liking to him.

“He used to wear these John Lennon dark glasses, which I loved. Also, he was the only one who knew what he was doing as an actor as opposed to the rest of us who were just blundering along,” recalls Ratna.

The collaborators

That was just the beginning, but the journey was anything but smooth. Ratna’s mother, veteran actress Dina Pathak, was not too fond of Naseer, and the fact that he had been previously married and had a daughter (Heeba), didn’t make matters any easier. But three decades and two children later, they are not only a happy couple but their collaboration on stage seldom misses the mark. They even take turns to direct each other.

And when they are on stage together, you can see the sparks fly.

“I think trust is key, and constant revision. Long ago, Naseer had said that the best relationships are the ones that cannot be defined. As actors, such indefinite relationships are crucial; we cannot be husband and wife when we are performing,” says Ratna.

Now even their kids have joined them at their theatre company, Motley. “Imaad and Vivaan are theatre babies. Just like Ratna herself. She grew up watching her mother (Dina Pathak) perform on stage and her kids grew up watching her and me,” says Naseer.

For Heeba, it was different. Naseer first saw her perform when she was 15. It was a school play and she played Mother Teresa. “It was a short act but I knew then and there that she has the potential to be a great actor. But, as I say to her often, being talented is not enough, you have to work hard,” he adds.

Heeba remembers the day vividly when she was performing in front of Naseer and Ratna and had hardly three lines. “But when the play ended, both came backstage and hugged me. They were elated!” says Heeba.

The Shahs never stop encouraging their kids, but they are also strict critics. “Mom is a hard taskmaster,” says Vivaan. Imaad agrees: “I’ve observed their working style quite a bit by now and I think they can both be taskmasters at different times when the situation calls for it. But mom will raise the slightly uncomfortable questions and cut straight to the crux of the matter without beating around the bush at all.”

Although acting runs in their genes, Imaad has branched out to music and has composed a few scores for Motley’s plays, the latest being Gadha Aur Gaddha. “I just told him one line and he got all the scores done. When I heard them, they were just what I had wanted,” exclaims Naseer.

The same goes for Heeba and Vivaan, both of whom have already directed their first plays, Parindon Ki Mehfil and Comedy of Horrors, respectively. “They are nothing great, but I am glad they are going in the right direction,” says Naseer.

If you’re the sentimental type, you may believe that working together as a family helps you understand each other better.

But for Naseer, the best part about working with family members is that you can round them up whenever you want, and start rehearsing!

Ratna believes that theatre has been the glue that not only holds them close but also keeps them sane and connected to new ideas from all over the world. “Theatre is part of our lives so there is always some preparation, discussion or rehearsal happening every day. I don’t know what we’d talk about if it weren’t for theatre, films and music,” says Ratna.

As a family, they talk about their projects and share ideas and, when needed, the parents are there to guide the kids. But Naseer and Ratna are against spoon-feeding. “We contribute with what we can when it is needed. But ideally, I try to stay away from what they are doing as much as possible. They have to grow and you can’t do that freely with mom looking over your shoulder! I am deeply grateful that my mom stayed out of our work but was a fantastic supporter and audience for everything we did. Nothing really grows under the shade of a banyan,” says Ratna.

Imaad explains that even though all of them occasionally turn to their parents for advice and opinions, the actor’s process is a fairly solitary one. “However, when the performance is for one of our own plays, of course everyone climbs onto the boat and we all love pointing stuff out to each other!” he adds.

The team that works together

In November, the entire family finally came together on stage for Riding Madly Off In All Directions. But Naseer points out that this is not their first time. “We did Julius Caesar together. Heeba was 15, Imaad was three and Vivaan was a baby. But they were there…all part of the crowd,” he guffaws.

It was different of course, all five working together as adults. “I thought it would be good apprenticeship to see how an entire production gets done,” says Naseer. “Although all three of them are exposed to the stage and very comfortable with the medium, and none of them suffer from stage fright, so far, I think, they had a very peripheral role. One wouldn’t call them for the entire rehearsal, and they would not know how an entire play gets done from scratch. I think this play gave them that. I had to push them a bit, but that is my job as the director of the play.”

For Vivaan, it was a learning experience in every possible way. “We never really got the chance to attend his workshops as students, and this was the first time I was part of the entire process of creating a play. We knew that dad is an amazing actor and director, but all this while we had seen him with the final product. This time, we saw him with the nuts and bolts, creating the entire experience. And that gave me the actual picture of how talented he really is!”

Vivaan has worked with several directors, both onstage and in movies, but he believes working with Naseer is a whole new ball game. “Not only is he a very visual director, almost cinematic in his approach, he is also one of those old-school directors who come with a very particular vision of what they want, and it is important for the actors to be able to execute that,” explains Vivaan. “That doesn’t mean he doesn’t encourage us to bring our own ideas to the table, but at the end of the day, it is his show.”

While rehearsing together, the Shah family found new equations with one another. “We laughed together, worked together, and yes, sometimes we also fought with one another, but disagreements are part of any creative process,” says Naseer. “But there were no hiccups working with them as actors. In fact, all three of them surprised me with their understanding of acting. I had worked with Heebs before, and knew she is a talented actor. Viv has always been a gifted and uninhibited actor, Imaad is a bit shy, but I realised that he is also deeply interested in acting. It makes me proud to see that they have found their individual connect with acting.”

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