On Gone Girl – 2

Contains spoilers.

From the time I was freaked out by the movie ‘Gone Girl‘ and decided against reading the book, I read 2 other novels by Gillian Flynn. As I liked her work, I decided to read Gone Girl but I couldn’t find a good edition in the library. I mostly came across those tiny print books and not the larger hardcover edition for the last few months. The moment I saw the hardcover edition, I picked it up.

So, have my opinions changed since I last wrote about it?

Not really.

For starters, I have become fairly familiar (and not too shocked) with psychopathic characters and their behaviour as I read other novels with similar characters and read other books by Gillian Flynn.

I found the book a bit slow in the first 120 pages and then it was terse and great. I do wish I had read the book before the movie and it is quite rare that I have watched a movie before the book. I have to admit that I would not have seen it coming the way I could in the movie.

I felt the book overall, had an undercurrent of hatred running through it.

  • Nick and his dad – Seem to hate women
  • Amy – Seems to hate her parents and Nick and men and has contempt for everyone.

I liked how the book explored additional things like how Nick felt when Amy came back, thoughts running through their minds and the additional people Amy had harmed. One thing I could not get, was how 2 psychologists could not see the psychopathic tendencies of their own daughter. Also, I felt Nick should have walked away citing (publicly) that he was not good enough for Amazing Amy, the moment, he found and destroyed her vomit jar and not have informed her that he threw it away. His reasons for staying pre-baby seem unsatisfactory to me.

This book paints a very depressing and creepy picture of Missouri.

Did I feel it was a portrait of a marriage after reading the book?

Not at all.

The section that seemed like a commentary on marriage was the first part with Amy’s diary entries but clearly it was engineered and written by a psychopath after studying people and other media (books, movies etc.). Psychopaths are great at studying others and make it seem like they get it but they really don’t and they can be highly intelligent and never get caught for all their lives. These mundane things like normal relationships bore them. They love playing and challenging people, both of which Amy did. I think it is pointless to try to understand the mentality of a psychopath because we never can. They are great at manipulating by mixing what triggers us at the raw emotional level with what they want. At the time of the book, Amy wanted a perfect marriage.

  • Amy pretends to be a ‘cool girl.’
  • Then, some guy (Nick) likes her.
  • Nick with a huge need for approval from everyone was also pretending to be this likeable guy .
  • All seems normal till now because many people are pretending while dating.
  • However, she is a perfectionist and has contempt for every human fallibility (another psychopathic tendency).
  • Everyone and everything has to be perfect.
  • They stop pretending after marriage.
  • She fills with hate when she realises that he doesn’t like her the way she is and when he is not perfect either.
  • Of course, the guy is a total douche bag and deserves to be dumped.
  • She plans for an entire year and works hard to frame him for murder.
  • He plays her and makes her come back.
  • He is shit scared of her.
  • He stays because he can’t settle for the normal girl anymore.
  • She gets pregnant by her own scheming.
  • He stays to protect the baby.

If marriage with a psychopath and a crazy jerk is the portrait of a marriage, then Gillian Flynn’s other books should equally freak us out about trusting our own parents and siblings. So, should Angela Marsons’s books. Because, everybody is out to kill you by that token.

Was this book feminist or misogynistic (one of the critiques to the author)?

Neither. Nick’s dad was misogynistic. Nick was afraid of turning into him. Amy zooms in on everything that can go wrong in marriages and wants her marriage to be perfect. Additionally, she goes on ‘feminist’ rants when men seem to like the woman she pretends to be and not what she really truly is and how she has to pretend. To me, this comes of as this man-hating anger and full of resentment and not really feminism. Amy has contempt for everything that is not perfect, so there’s nothing surprising there.

It also makes me wonder how when a guy is a psychopath, he is just a psychopath. When a woman is a psychopath, she becomes a representative of all crazy bitches women and cannot be just viewed as a psychopath.


If I am not Having It

If I am not having it, you can’t have it either. 

I find this attitude ridiculous but it is quite common. The underlying principle for this attitude is “I paid for it and I have no use for it but I would rather let it go to waste than let someone use it for free/cheaper cost because they did not pay (the full price) for it – I mean, why should they enjoy it for free/discounts when I paid full price for it?”

  • Today morning I saw a dustbin placed in the middle of a parking lot where my boss usually parks the car. Boss is on leave and that parking lot will be empty this week. My colleague must have done that because they do not want anybody else parking in that lot because it belongs to our office! Our lane is a very high traffic area with narrow lanes and people end up parking on the side of the lanes blocking other vehicles. If the parking lot is going to be empty, what is wrong if other people park there temporarily?
  • Same with a supermarket here. They give discounts for food that is going to expire soon but the price is so high even after the discount and I know nobody will buy it for that price.  Why not slash the price to $3 instead of keeping it at $8/$14 when the milk or salami is going to expire in 3 days?! When we provided feedback to the manager, they come up with their lame standard reply: ‘If we slash the price too much, people will wait for us to cut the price rather than pay full price.’ The unsold expired food is thrown away. To me it seems criminal that perfectly good food is flown all the way from USA or EU and then thrown away because the management is unwilling to provide proper discounts. Why would anyone pay that much for about to expire stuff when I can get fresher food for $1-2 more?
  • Another example from my office: We had perfectly good samples packs of scientific reagents from redundant brands which could have been used to perform 3-4 experiments. As we got it for free and even though the brands were no longer relevant to us, I did not see why we could not give it away to some customer who might put it to use. Instead, it was not given away and all the stuff expired and we still have it in our office – It was neither used nor thrown away. To me, it is just a waste of plastic and reagents which could have been used by someone.

Of course, there are cases when I have something I do not need but cannot find takers for it or don’t know where to look.

In my opinion, if one has something that is going to expire or not of use to them, it is best to give it away or sell it to someone who has some use for it rather than selfishly hoard it. In the end, one doesn’t use it and neither do others. It is just a waste of resources. 

5 Ways My Eating Habits Have Changed

After I wrote about my decision to stop drinking tea with lunch, it reinforced the fact that we pick up habits that are convenient and easy in our environment.One of the easier ways to make habits stick is to make it convenient (Better than before by Gretchen Rubin is a great book for habits). I was at the food court today and I had to tell myself at least 5 times not to order a drink phew! On the other hand, I felt that living in east Asia had also changed some of my eating habits for the better – at least the ones I observed and chose to follow.

3 Ways my eating habits changed for the better here

Note- A lot of these are gross generalizations but these are some of my observations and they do hold true to some extent in my sample pool. Of course, things are changing lately, but observing people over 30, many of who have traditional eating habits helps. Applicable to adults only.

  1. Early Dinners – Most Indians I know here have dinner after 8PM while many east Asians usually eat around 6-7PM. I felt this was a great habit and now try to eat dinner earlier. Having a partner who also likes to have dinner before 8 helps 🙂
  2. No snacking – This is a very bad habit a lot of Indians have. I don’t get why people have to lay out snacks like biscuits, mixture, sweets for eating 30 minutes after/before lunch. Having bajjis, samosas, chips around tea time aka 5PM is why many people can’t have dinner earlier. I notice that not many people here snack outside meal times.
  3. Less sweet – Most people will find east Asian desserts extremely bland and not sweet enough while east Asians find other desserts ‘too sweet’. This made me come up with my unscientific theory that if  I were to train my taste buds (& my future kid’s) to accept less sugar, I would not enjoy ‘too sweet’ foods overall. Uncle doesn’t agree with this theory and feels people should be taught to eat sweets moderately. This was easy for me because I do not like to eat too much sweet stuff.

2 ways my eating habits changed post Uncle

  1. More veggies – I sometimes used to skimp on veggies because it was acceptable (Ex: Sambar + Rice + Appalam) but uncle insists that a lunch is incomplete without veggies. So, I make an effort to eat more and cook more veggies.
  2. No food after 10PM – I don’t remember anyone voicing out this rule consistently in my life until Uncle. I have seen many people snack late in the night while chatting away.

I am not perfect and there are times I do not follow these rules. However, I am the sort of person who prefers having clear guidelines (even if I set them for myself) and functions better under them. Breaking these means I have to spend time debating with myself and thus am less likely to do it.

Another gem from Better than before – Decide once and you don’t have to decide again. 

Drinks With Meals

I have developed a habit of having iced milk tea with my lunch in the past few months. I do that partly because I feel the need to order something at the food court and sometimes because the food tastes absolutely bland without a drink. A habit I have been meaning to break.

Growing up in India (for me) meant that the drinks we had with meals was almost always water. Even now, I barely order any drinks when I eat out in India. However here in south-east Asia, ordering drinks seems to be norm. Many people go to the food courts and buy food & drinks. It is considered normal to have drinks instead of water. Banning soft drinks and having only water in the school canteens (like in France) is a bizarre  and unacceptable concept to a lot of people.

When I make my chai, people here are appalled that I add sugar to it and claim that I add too much sugar. Last week, I searched for the sugar content of the drinks found in the local food courts and was appalled to learn that they contain about 4-5 teaspoon in 1 cup (source)! It is so easy to be unaware when the sugar is not being added right in front of your eyes. Add to that, a lot of all drinks with milk use evaporated or condensed milk which have so many other chemicals along with sugar and trans fats rather than fresh milk.

Another drink  I now avoid is chai tea latte. I used to order it when I travelled in USA and later in cafes here because I missed chai. I promptly stopped when I read that it also has over 5 teaspoons of sugar in 1 cup and chai was made from some concentrate syrup not really freshly brewed chai.

Overall, I feel it is better to add your own sugar guilt-free rather than buy it with added sugar. I do not believe having these drinks every once in a while hurts anyone but it is important not to make it a daily habit *cough* like I have had. It would not be a problem if we weren’t eating so much processed food with added sugar but because added sugar is everywhere, it is up to consumers to look out for it.

Do you have the habit of ordering drinks with your lunch? Drinks like tea, coffee or soft drinks? How is that some societies have normalized purchase of drinks with food instead of promoting water? 

The Need for Independence & Control

I was reading Atul Gawande’s ‘Being Mortal’ when this hit me.

The author discusses how old people became depressed being in old age homes as there was loss of independence and privacy. They were being treated like kids – the home tells you when to get up and when to eat and what to eat. This is why assisted living in the original sense (the author talks about how assisted living as a concept changed over years) became popular because people could live in their own home by their own rules. The medical system and the oldies families were concerned with safety while the old peoples were more concerned about living the way they pleased with nobody dictating their lives.

If human nature strives for independence and control which is evidenced by research and old people are so unhappy about being told what to do, what about the countless daughter-in-laws (DILs) and sons in traditional societies who never get to be independent?

The moment the DIL comes into the family, everyone from her husband’s mother to father to other relatives take it upon themselves to show the DIL her place. They tell her what to cook, what to wear, when she can go out and even, if and when she can talk to her own parents. For the sons, unless they have studied/worked in another city, many of them never get the opportunity to explore their own tastes or desires. For the couple, they often do not get to explore setting up their own house or creating a home with their own rules. Often, it is about assimilating into somebody else’s home. 

On top of it, the in-laws and the husband are surprised when the DIL is upset about ‘trivial things’ like the colour of the curtains and wonder why she can’t ‘just adjust and give in’. That is because nobody likes being made to live their entire life according to another person’s whim and fancy. Yes, one could argue that one has to follow laws but everyone likes to have a semblance of control over their own lives to the largest extent possible as an adult.

Also, we (I sometimes do) often tend to go into parent mode with our parents as they grow older. Something we need to work on avoiding. 

Food for though for older people who wish to control their kids and their spouses lives. They may obey but they are not happy and this is why. If you are a DIL who feels irritated but can’t find anything wrong, this is why. Our societal norms are so ingrained in us that it is difficult to articulate what feels wrong. If you are a husband whose spouse complains about your mom/dad/sis/relative picking on her and you can’t get why she is so upset, this is why.

Give space and freedom to adults because that is how we are meant to be. How can one truly lead a fulfilled life if they do not get to live an independent life?

Language Dilemas

I was filling in a form yesterday and there was a language section.

  1. Native language: __________
  2. Additional language:________

I was unhappy about this and reluctantly filled in my mother tongue. I prefer it when people just provide blanks for language and let you choose your proficiency for spoken/written/reading.

  1. Language:____________   Proficiency:_____________
  2. Additional language:________   Proficiency:__________

It is quite easy for a person coming from a monolingual country to provide this and helpful, especially if one is from an English speaking country but I feel it puts non-native English speakers at disadvantage.

My native tongue may be Tamil but I am most proficient in English. When I put my native language as Tamil, it makes people assume that English is my second language which it is not. My Tamil is nowhere near native levels and technically I am lying when I put it as native but that’s what it says on many of my certificates.

I express myself the best in English. Of all the Indian languages, I believe I am most proficient in Hindi which again is not my native language. I speak Tamil without a Tamil accent which makes people laugh and I quickly switch back to English. Often, I tend to substitute Tamil words with Hindi when I cannot remember the exact word in the spur of the moment.

I read almost everything in English and have been doing so for years and struggle to read (or read slowly) in Tamil. I even read Hindi faster than Tamil. I make myself read Tamil to improve my reading speed but there are times I am not motivated and use Google Translate ha ha. Yes, I really do that for my mother tongue.

I watch only American TV series and mainly English movies. There are times when I watch Telugu/Hindi/Tamil movies though I prefer watching Telugu movies because I lived in Hyderabad.

Add to that my French textbooks and book.

Overall my language skills would rate as:English>Hindi>Tamil = Telugu (I can’t read or write Telugu)>French

My favourite language is English of course because I do everything and have benefited the most from this language.

Now is the Best Time

This is not a post about seizing the day and doing things right NOW! as the title suggests.

We were watching a movie about the Knights of Templar and it struck me….the same thing that strikes me when I watch Game of Thrones(GoT).

I absolutely have no idea about the daily life of an average Indian man or woman from the early or the middle ages. History textbooks are full of information only about the kings, their kingdoms, wars and who married who and how they died. Nothing about what an average person like me did.

Life seems like shit for most people without access to basic necessities unless they are rich/royal. Even, for them, there is this constant scheming and bartering of women. Just look at GoT. Yes, I am aware that it is fiction but it gives a good picture of what it is to be a woman in the middle ages and it is inspired by life in the dark ages.

If you ask me, I feel now is one of the best times to live as an average person in our history. I am really grateful for being born in this period. The opportunities, information, choices, mobility (economic and region wise) we have now is unparalleled. However, this information can make one think that there are so many problems in today’s world. I feel that this is a result of information availability than having more problems than before.

You know those “glorious ancient India” and “we were so great until the west took over” {idiotic} enthusiasts who keep on sharing how scientifically advanced we were and harping about how good our life was back then? Was an ordinary woman’s life really so much better than now?* I doubt it. Sure, we all have made wrong decisions along the way. We  could learn and choose the good things from the past but please stop telling me how modernization has ruined us all.

*I am aware that many women still do not have access to basic necessities and that is sad and should change. I imagined myself in the older times.

These enthusiasts can always reserve yourselves a place on the {yet to be invented} time machine and go back to the ancient times.Me? I want to live here now.