Wednesday, August 24, 2011
I came back home after another frustrating day at the office. Being a journalist can take the wind out of you and there are many times that you would like to turn your back and direct that very wind in your editor’s face. Story deadlines pending, no new ideas and a city where quality time is spent in your car. I needed to be around someone who could even remotely associate and empathize with my not so aggrandized state of mind.
I met Diboo and Ishey for drinks that evening. Bad idea. Optimists are always a bad idea. Especially when you know there a lot to crib about and the world is against you. So there I was, with the most cheerful, happy couple I knew and could not be more peeved. As the evening progressed and details of their upcoming wedding were shared and as I pretended to gush and fawn, Diboo seemed to sense what I needed. He looked at me and asked “So do you read blogs and stuff?” I told him I thought the whole concept of a blog was self –centered and I did not care about what people had to say because I hate people.
“That is no secret. You should read this guy called GK. When I read him for the first time, I realized I had officially come across someone who could be more grumpy and pissed off than you”, Diboo said rather pointedly. Now just so you know, this is a lot coming from the most mellow human being that ever lived. Ishey looked on approvingly and so there it was- my homework for the week. I was to read this boy’s blog and feel better.
When I went home that night, tired and a tad inebriated, I sat down to read this gentleman’s rants. As luck would have it, the first post I read was about how we pessimists should be left alone and that positive thinking can go take a bloody walk (I felt like saying piss, but I am a lady).
I was hooked.
He was witty, humourous and observant. But chuck that-he was also young, not married, spoke correct English AND lived in New Delhi. This boy gave me hope. I felt awake and alive and I darted across the hallway and knocked violently on Cheems’ door (my tolerant-as-hell- flatmate). There she emerged in her usual slow, soft spoken, patient way and asked “What ya Shaney? I was reading.” I dragged her to my room and made her read my latest find. She read while I made some steaming coffee for the both of us, brushed my teeth and just generally pottered around.
When I returned, with our mugs of Delhi’s finest brew (trust me, the best coffee in the city was made only in our home and only in our rickety little kitchen), she looked at me straight faced and said “Dude, this not a Delhi boy. Delhi boys don’t write like this”. But ofcourse they do. What’s the big deal? He’s pissed off and he’s venting, but thankfully its focused and pointed , which makes for an interesting read.
Turned out she was reading a post of his about some very profound relationship bullshit.
I was pretty taken in that night. There was a boy out there in this very city who if any of us ever went out on a date with, would never say ‘hare and theyure’ or ‘anyways’ ( seriously, what is up with the ‘s’ man?)before dropping the bigger more renowned profundity loaded grammatical gems like ‘Let me explain you’ (It’s been 24 years and darling, even I can’t explain me. Let’s see you do it). I felt free. Free of the fear that I will die alone if I continue to live in Delhi, a city I had rather grudgingly begun to accept and dare I say, actually like.
I slept well that night and woke up the next morning to a call from Biscuit. I spoke to her while I did my usual morning paper reading, coffee drinking, Cheems- annoying type chores, I told her about my little web discovery. Biscuit being the eternal realist, with the most dry sense of humour I have ever known says to me “Listen, I’ve heard of this guy.. But I also hear he’s moving to Bombay and then trust me, he’ll fall for some vapid Bombay model who’ll laugh at a damn wall also”. Cheems and I were shocked. Trust that Biscuit to lay it out for us so methodically that it was seeping into us like butter on hot toast.
And when I actually looked around at the relationships and boy-girl dynamics, Biscuit’s words only seemed to ring louder in my head. We realized we came across couples were the woman was smart and well spoken and had some tractor driving, bucolic Jaat for a boyfriend. Understandable. Atleast the man will, nine times out of ten, be strikingly good-looking. But trust me, it hurts like mad when an intelligent, witty man dates a woman, the only reason clearly being, that she is so hot that one needs to find a new word for hot. So does it boil down to all booty, no brains? So where does that leave women like Cheems, Biscuit and I (I hope you do realize by now that these are pseudonyms and that if these were infact their real names, they would really be in no position to pass any judgment on men)? The types who don’t care if Zara has a sale on (does it?) or if our nails are not done, but would jump at the chance to listen to our favourite string quartet playing live in the city.
Whenever I talk about this,the best loved butt of my rant so to speak, is usually Shashi Tharoor. Sophisticated, suave, good-looking (ok that is subjective), but totally the kind the ladies would be intrigued by. After two failed marriages, both to women who were writers, intellectuals and socially very active though not the best looking (seriously), he settles for one of Dubai’s best loved socialites. Why? Simple-- Ego-boost. And the guy wants arm candy for once in his life. He also wants a woman who would admire him and look up to him and not treat him like an equal and Sunandaji does just that and has openly admitted it. And this kind of behavior is exactly what scares women like me, who would look at a more or less balanced power play in a relationship. But are men really ready for that?
I recently went for a typical Delhi Punjabi wedding which for me was a whole new experience as weddings in Delhi are truly what they are made out to be—unreasonably ostentatious and over-the-top and this one was no exception. I got talking to a newly married couple I had got introduced to a few weeks earlier. They were quite a handsome couple and made me look like something that got stuck in a drain. But there was something I noticed. Every single story of theirs started with, “this one time when we were in Paris, London, Milan, Prague…………..” Now I have a fundamental problem with this. Whatever happened to the stories of this one time when we were just bumming around at home or the time when we cooked together and he said something completely outrageous or the time when we went for a long drive just to catch the sunrise in Neemrana? Whatever happened to the little things in a relationship that make the emotional connect so much deeper? And as I suspected, the woman in this particular couple had an MBA from some University of whatthefuckshire in the UK and the man was drool worthy and smart . Cheems gave them two years tops before one or both of them starts to cheat.
Let’s face it, we’ve become a bunch of cynical women who, for the life of us, will not do what we see our more compromising counterparts doing. Or rather who we see them doing.
So please, there is nothing wrong with playing the field. Remember, stark opposites DO NOT attract. Wrong English is just well..WRONG and stop wearing those fake stone faded jeans, you moron!
And do not settle . I’d rather listen to Altaf Raja’s ‘yaaro maine panga ley liya’ on loop than settle.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to attend a rather exigent phone call. It's from my 16-year old classical piano playing cousin in Bombay who’s been telling me love tales about her spanking new boyfriend who just started a new band.
And what do they play? Gangster Rap.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
……............taareefon ka post hai yeh.
What did you guys think huh? Bloody perverts.
After my last rather soulful outburst, I decided to get back to who I really am most of the time-- shallow and frivolous. This post is about the Maa. Yes, the absolutely spectacular life-giver of the gorgeousness that is me. TheMaa has been in my life in various forms from mom to friend to sister, as and when it is convenient to her or the situation in question. She’s hollered, vented and menopaused in ways that I cannot even begin to describe. But she has also loved, hugged and protected me like a tigress.
But this is not about what she taught me. It’s about what I taught her.
The one very important tenant to being a well brought up daughter is to have a well brought up mother. And that, ladies, is your responsibility. How you train her, make her listen to you and watch her as she takes on the world YOUR way. Can it get better that that? I think not. And here’s why.
Well there were a few things that my Maa had to learn in due course. She raised me to have a mind of my own and very strong passionate opinions. It was inevitable however that this emotional independence, would come and bite her shapely posterior one fine day. And it did. When I moved out of home to study and then work at a rather young age, I was faced with all kinds of pressures. One of the more taxing ones were those of the dating world. And the Maa, who otherwise is an incorrigible grumpy pessimist, is shockingly upbeat about love and the like. Which is why training her in this department was imperative. Let me give you an insight about which loopholes needed to be mended.
LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX BABY
Not ‘making love’ mother, but sex. Meaningless, emotionless, mind numbingly hollow sex.”
She just wouldn’t get it.
I remember coming home with some hot gossip about some chick who got knocked up by some guy who she was not supposed to be with. The story had everything— two sets opposing parents, about four ‘main tumhaare bachche ki maa banne waali hoon” screechy dialogues and ofcourse juicy details of where, when and how it happened. After all the details were divulged and the right noises made, the mother looks up at me and says “But why did she make love to him, when her heart was not in it?”
I then realized that it needed to be explained to her that in today’s day and age, a heart does not a night of wild intrepid copulation make. She looked at me like I was the loosest woman she had ever known but the good thing was that she was curious and that’s always a start.
MEET MY MANFRIEND
Not boyfriend, but manfriend. Just the guy who does your odd jobs, helps when your car has a breakdown in the middle of Khan market or when you just want to hang out and catch a drink. I had one of those. Now, I am someone who is very particular about who I call my friends, which is why I have so few. And this man is not a friend, period. So the mother decides to go by her very limited intuitive abilities and convinced herself that he is infact my lover and that he is the one I will watch the sunset with . No questions asked. The concept of an anytime boy is something that baffled her and once again she was out to do her research.
That’s the thing with the Maa that makes me feel a little luckier than most. Her scientific academic background makes her want to get to the root of everything, even the lives of the young and the frustrated. Like the time when T and I were 8 and asked her where babies came from. Instead of shooing us away she sat us down for two torturous hours and drew intricate, repulsive diagrams of tubes and cow heads and brought out her PhD biology book and told us what goes where in explicit detail.
No wonder T took so long to even kiss a boy. And no wonder I made Manfriends.
Now the Maa is a style icon. You gotta give it to her—the woman has penache and carries herself with absolute perfection even at her well, slightly geriatric stage of life. And more than anything, she’s appropriate, not like the cougar aunties you see in Delhi nightclubs. No no, the Maa is more like the chiffon saree and pearl string type you see at the races.
She was brought up in a small town in Kerala, but my grandfather was painfully anglicized, so in the land of mundus and Mohanlal, his daughter was in box pleat mini skirts and was mouthing Lord Byron nineteen to the dozen. And so the Maa has been quite the prim madam for a while now and marrying into the glamour and style of the defence forces only made her more of an elitist.
So when the Maa visited me in Delhi, and when our car got overtaken from the wrong side by a bunch of rowdy screaming Jaat boyzzzz, and when she saw me driving on without saying a word, she was livid. She rolled down the window and yelled “Listen, you insolent scoundrels, shut up or else!”
‘Insolent scoundrels’. This should be fun.
I slowed down just so I could hear their reaction. What followed was on the lines of “eh gori gori, jaand dey. Maade gaddi mein aajaa!”
The Maa looked at me and was shocked to learn that this was a regular phenomenon. For someone who is quite the feminist and faithless heathen, this was an eye opener. She realized that in Delhi you can’t mess with the Jaat boyzzzz and that there are actually places in India where despite having a woman CM, rape is normal and sometimes as a woman you just have to shut the hell up.
OH WHY OH WHY OH WHY YOU TELL ME L-L-L- LIES?
“What a man wants. What a man needs. Whatever doesn’t make you happy, certainly sets him free”.
This is what that stupid Chrisitina Aguilera should have croaked all those years ago. Would have saved my poor Maa the shame of seeing her daughter lie through her teeth when it came to the opposite sex. The Maa is brutally honest. She is well read and speaks her mind and as a woman, I am proud she is one of us. But I was also ashamed that a woman so intelligent cannot perform the one act that women are pros at—'faking it'. So there I was, telling her how to grin like a moron, smile like a retard and bat her lovely long eyelashes to just get things done.
I taught her elementary concepts behind why men like Shashi Tharoor marry women like Sunanda Pushkar and why contrary to popular opinion, it is not frivolous and the man IS third time lucky for sure (this ofcourse will be dwelled on in a soon to be released post).
It’s only when the Maa was well into her err.. well… current age bracket that she realized that the time single women like myself devote to men and all those testosterone issues is very legitimate--the kind of men you get committed to, the kinds you enjoy and then set free into the world outside, the ones that you never go near and the best ones ofcourse—the ones you keep hanging.
The Maa is fascinated by the theories and concepts of women in their twenties today. The Maa, always the ace student took copious notes, listened in on various scandalous telephone conversations with my girlfriends (which they surprisingly didn’t mind—they’re cool like that), always had the correct answers to all the pop quiz questions that I threw at her at various times of the day or night and the most important of all, she stopped judging. I basically made her into another version of me and if I were you, I would be a very worried person right now.
So here’s a toast to a successful professor and her most assiduous sharp student. To the woman who finally after all these years is mouthing lines like “My hips don’t lie, but I will”, to the woman who continues to be one of the main reasons I roll out of bed every morning. My hero. My Maa.
So if you guys have any your Maa stuff out there, please feel free to share away!
Thursday, August 18, 2011
It was a rainy midnight in July in an exhausted little city called Poona. I was fast asleep when all of a sudden I heard someone breathe very heavily, almost choking with utter shock and bewilderment. I woke up with a start only to see Maa staring at the television wide-eyed and terrified.
There it was —NDTV on full volume with Barkha Dutt reporting some flood, scandal, or some such thing which at that point did not matter. Maa pointed at the ticker, which was rolling the same news over and over, as if to make sure it was drilled deep into my cerebrum that the commanding officer of 22 Rashtriya Rifles has been shot in a terrorist encounter in the valley of Sopore. I stared in utter disbelief. One only knew people or knew of people who met with circumstances such as these, but knowing that this time it was my father at the receiving end of the bullet was just the one thing I could not fathom.
There were no tears. There was no pain. There was no shock. Only a pragmatic mother and her even more pragmatic ways. She told me to go back to sleep and decided that I should focus on my upcoming exams. Just like that. She made countless calls that night only to realize that all lines to my father’s office and residence in Kashmir were unattended and were probably going to be for many hours. We did not sleep that night and we assumed that we had lost him.
We found out later that despite Pak TV’s report that said ‘woh halal ho gaye’, he had been found and was rushed to the I.C.U. His radio operator, however was not so lucky. Those few hours in my otherwise calm adolescence were, undoubtedly the most traumatic and mind numbing. And I speak for most Army officer’s kids when I say that its times like these that makes us who we are- uncontrollably patriotic.
While news coverage in 1999 brought Kargil to the Indian living room, we witnessed the war at a very personal level. With every tricolour wrapped coffin, we hoped it was not someone we knew. Not the officer who used to play hide and seek with us during Mess parties, or the one who used to take us for bike rides on his new Kawasaki, or the one who first taught you how to hold a tennis racket or even the one who we used to make fun of because some pretty girl refused to dance with him in last month’s social evening. But all we could do was hope. As the number of dead soldiers soared, our hopes waned. Every death was the loss of a father, a husband, a son, a brother a fiancé or a childhood sweetheart, all of whom to us, were family.
While most of the country was surprisingly supportive, given the lack of information about the defence forces out there, there were instances that made most of us Army kids cringe, partly in disbelief and partly in disgust. I remember flying Indian Airlines from Bombay to Bhuj and as I was about to board the plane I suddenly noticed those dreaded coffins about 10 meters from where I was.
There were about fifteen of them, along the sidewalk, wrapped snugly in the tricolour before they were about to be transported to their various residences or battalions. I noticed this rather corpulent gentleman giving stern directions for what exactly to do with these ‘boxes’ as he called them. These were his exact words, while he loudly thumped one of them “Arey kya yaar, in dabbo ko hatta yaha se, poora jam karke rakha hai idhar.” My heart sank and my eyes welled up instantly with tears of anger, rage and most of all, insult.
But I could do nothing. I let him deride the lost lives of the people I have known and loved for years. To my horror, I found out later, that Indian Airlines had refused to transport these very coffins in their carriers. So much for being a public sector airline.
Being from a culturally inclined, rather diverse family, I was always given the emotional freedom to make my own choices, as a result of which I had an extremely eclectic group of friends from every age group and political predilection, the latter of which sometimes, would bother me to no end. During my college years and for a while after, the anti-army stand became the ‘it’ thing. One was young, rebellious and had read every online copy of Al-Jazeera and was now convinced that the army was out to get every civilian in sight. My friends would debate into the wee hours of the morning about atrocities committed and the ever so reported ‘mysterious deaths’. About whether the army had been given too free a rope and whether they deserve the perks they get. After numerous attempts to defend, protect and preserve the sanctity of my beloved establishment, I gave up. This constant bickering and debating was pointless and it took the life out of me, because for me it was not about defending an institution, it was about defending the only place I could call home.
Asking an army kid to ‘look at the other side’ or better still ‘get some perspective on the issue’ is like asking a Holocaust survivor to do the same. I don’t want perspective. I don’t see another side. All I see is that the lives of our men in uniform are not held in the high regard that they should be. All I see is that they pay too heavy a price for the eternal political hogwash. All I see is these selfless men, who have missed life’s smallest yet most important moments just so you can live out yours. All I see is one side and its mine and I am not ashamed or even inhibited to say it.
We are the only category of children in the country who get very confused when asked where we are from. What do I say? I am part Maharashtrian- part South Indian, I was brought up by Sardars and Parsis and I went to 13 schools? That’s just messed up. But it’s true. That’s where you can shove in your perspective argument. This kind of cultural diversity is exactly what perspective is. But this is the extent to which we can go. No more please.
I have always beamed with pride to be called an army ‘brat’ but as I walk into a life outside, a life of the unknown, one thing is for certain. This is a more-than-real, heartbreaking, gut wrenching goodbye to a love that has lasted a lifetime.