Sorry for the delay. No wait, actually I am not. I have real life situations to deal with and they are not as flattering and attention gaining as this blog. They have in the past month included moving to a brand new city, getting a job and trying to make sense of a life that I never thought I would embark upon.
The year long sabbatical has ended and I am back to the incessantly badgering whims of a demanding boss, high levels of pollution, perpetual traffic and the lack of time for a vibrant social life---ah, life like I love it.. So I am here in Bombay putting up with my grandparents (Amma and Acha). They’ve been out of town and so I am left with the house all to myself for about 2 weeks, out of which I’ve already spent a week trying to rectify and beautify the kitchen which I nearly burnt down. Yes muffin making for Christmas can be quite a bitch.
I have nothing specific to write about. I hope to soon though. But what the most intriguing part is how I now realize what a big deal the past months have been. It never sunk in when I was in Bhopal, a city where the mist so delicately rests on the horizon of the city lake, where the sounds of Sufi music resonated in my ears and where life just lets you stand still and breathe. I couldn’t have asked for a better sabbatical. No one bothered me, no one cared about the whirlwind that had engulfed my life. I felt protected, secure and shielded from all else that was around me.
I am exposed now. My thoughts, my life and most importantly, my vulnerabilities. It’s all out in the open, for all to see. They often ask me what has changed over the past few months, whether the media attention, the exposure, the lights, the accolades and the occasional outrage and all that noise has changed an intrinsic part of me. And as I sit here watching Amma cook and as I listen to Acha scream out expletives at Sachin for not scoring that century and as I just sink deeper into my couch with my book, I would have to say, NO. This is home, these are my people and as long as they see me as Shahana and not the Madrasan, I think I’ll get by. But this is as far as family and close friends are concerned (I have 4 of the latter so my expectation levels, as is clear, are rather low).
So what is it that I feel so insecure about? When was it that I realized that I was no longer cocooned?
I walked into the office on my first day of work, with a song in my heart, a spring in my step and all such drama, when all of a sudden my boss tells me “you know there are 3 people I have always wanted to meet—Arundhati Roy, Salman Rushdie and you. I look down shy and whimper a coy thank you, when in my mind I’m going like “So wait, rabid, pro – separatist with perpetually bad hair days and a bald post modernist with perpetually failed marriages. These are my choices?!” I look at him awkwardly and decide to get back to work. I know that I may spend 10 hours here at this workstation but I have a life and that life does include close people, whose value and significance in my life has stared at me, post the open letter. But there is another aspect that has unnerved me to a certain extent. The one question that most women have asked, a mystery they try to solve, a knot they attempt to undo with so much concentration that they come undone themselves. The one question that Carrie Bradshaw made a career out of—“What is he thinking?”
Most men I would meet ideally, would be those who’ve been relatively active on social media and on the internet in general and if you’re an urban yuppie Indian, 9 times out of 10, you’ve read the letter in question. And here is where the problem lies. There has been no real male interaction for about a year, so dating for me is as awkward as Amy Winehouse in Amma’s Satsang . Unless of course the man is confident enough to not judge, not have preconceived notions, not absolutely love or abhor what I wrote and someone who wants to know Shahana the person and not the phenomenon. In a world where meeting a half decent guy is as improbably as finding tandoori chicken in a Jain thaali, the open letter has far from helped my case. Conversations usually start with it and end with realizing that I am not crazy, rabid, am not Chengiz Khan’s love child and don’t own a weapon. Therefore I am no longer fun to be with and am no different from any other well brought up fauji kid with impeccable manners. Therefore sorry, the man might as well go fish in another pond.
Finding a scrupulous gentleman maybe a far call, I don’t deny that but at the end of the day the Madrasan tag has led to expectations that have crossed my level of comprehension. People often wonder why I haven’t written about this earlier, why I didn’t even give it a thought, hell, this one journalist even asked if the frenzy turned me asexual. Well, what can I say, big cities shove you into the cradle of controversy more than anything else. So the other day I told Cheems that I was contemplating a date with an old acquaintance, just coffee or a drink after work. How very corporate whore of me. She told me it’s been way too long and my mind, heart, soul and other anatomical areas may soon start resembling the Adam’s family home. So I went ahead like any other Indian girl about to meet an Indian boy--with my eyes closed and my mind on compromise mode.
I see him across the road and walk over to the other side. And for the next 3 hours all he spoke of was about how he agreed, disagreed and drew “socio- cultural, inferential references through post modern theorizing.” And this was just a starter. This Delhi University history honours discourse went on for a couple of hours after which he looked elated and satisfied and I looked like this : _____________. This was worse than I ever thought it could get, even worse than the time when this investment banker took me to an underground Iranian nightclub.
This is where I end. This is where I look at the mirror in the morning and ask myself if being known means being judged. Should I work on my body? Should I work on a pout? Should I giggle more? Must I have straight hair? I don’t know but I do know that some women aren’t meant to be tamed.
And it is here that I would like to think of Julia Roberts standing helpless before Hugh Grant and I remember her imploring him to consider her. I think of this one line after every failed evening with men who are too overwhelmed, angered or excited to meet me. It goes something like this:
“I am just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”