Thursday, March 11, 2010

Free yourself.

A large amount of time makes you an observer of life. It gives you the ability to be the interested observer, to sermonise and waggle fingers at the world. It feels much like the world is putting up a show and you have the time to sit and watch it peacefully. It also affords us a lot of time to examine the many holes in the fabric of our lives. It also makes you realise that the people around you have uncanny ability to harm themselves quite substantially and more than quite willingly.

Take for example, this lady I know. When she was in her early 20’s, she wasn’t treated very nicely by life, circumstances and her much-too-rich siblings. Now, thirty years later, when she talks about her life then, her voice stills shakes with unfinished anger and shadows the many many tears she’s shed. She counts every penny she has and will cheerfully bear sickness, just to save the few rupees it will cost. She keeps people at a distance so they can’t hurt her. The result: Thirty years later, she is bitter, discontent with her life and is always angry. She keeps to herself and her prayers, doesn’t meet anyone and generally likes the life of a hermit. The last time I met her, she told me about how life is a struggle and will always be one.

2 months later today, I woke up still thinking of that conversation. Sure, some people have spectacular lives, untouched by disease death or poverty. But for the most part, nearly all of us have gone through or are going through our many shares of the blacking factory experience. And refuse to let go of it.

Another interesting lady I know spends every single minute of her life cleaning. She spent most her life taking care of her ill parents and working on her PhD. When both passed on, she suddenly has nothing to do. So she cleans. Everyday before breakfast and after dinner for three hours, she cleans. If there is a flat surface in the house, it is cleaned everyday. She has a live- in maid who she then cleans after. She has arthritis, osteoporosis and asthma triggered by the ammonia fumes. She has no time to call her family, meet company or enough sleep. The aches in her body have her in tears but she will not see a doctor because he might prescribe physiotherapy that she doesn’t have time for. Basically, she has stopping living for the sake of a clean house. WHY? Why oh why would someone willingly do this to themselves? Who give a rat’s backside if the house is sparkling clean?

A very dear friend of mine here hates Bombayites on principle. For a long time, she was seeing this boy who then dumped her for better prospects, more money and a better figure. Since then, the mere mention of her Bombay life makes her breath steam.

It’s so amazing that it happens so much. Life is hard enough as it is. Why would you willingly put yourself through strain which doesn’t necessarily work out for you in the end? My husband calls it the suffering artist syndrome. I call it the useless martyr condition.

Of course, it’s easy for me to just say things like this. I still get mad as hell for not being to work here. I have to consciously not be bitter or smack their faces when people grumble about work. But it’s easier now.

There was a time when I held on to my grief and anger for so many years. I nurtured it and watched it grow until I became a thoroughly cynical person. Like Gupta Rajan in The Terminal said, “As long as I keep my floor clean, keep my head down, they have no reason to deport me, they have no reason to notice a man like me. I hid my scars well though. For all practical purposes, I was a cheerful, boisterous person. But I expected people to disappoint and they, very regularly, did. Once I realised that the hurt I’d been carrying around was choking me and forcing me to drown was when I knew I needed help.

Now, getting help and taking help are two very different things. I steadily resisted until I disgusted the people around me. Then an old friend sent me the Post Secret book. and I began to see how people saw me. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I did let go. Felt weird in the beginning, unfamiliar and raw but eventually it gets easier. Much like finally letting go of a thorny tree you’ve been tied to.

Why is it so difficult for people to let go? What weird chemical balance forces them to hold on to their worries? Is it because they’ve carried it for so long that they can no longer function without it? Or has it become so ingrained that it has become a part of the psyche? Is it symptomatic of another perhaps larger problem? Or do they just like being a prisoner of their feelings? And why does the reverse never happen? Don’t people want to hold on to the happiness in their life, instead if the hardships and the evil? Seems so logical but why is it so difficult to do?

John Assaraf had it right. Freeing oneself is just a choice. A difficult choice but it’s a choice.

Monday, March 08, 2010

So this is my life.

In response to the email questions I got...

I did get married. My prince Charming did turn up and did sweep me off my feet. So, much to the relief of my mom and other alleged well wishers, I did do the impossible, cross my fingers and jump the broom. I quit my wonderful job, moved to a wonderful country in Europe and life is A-OK.

At first, it all seemed amazing. It’s a picturesque country and has lots for me to do. It’s a bit pricey but I guess that’s true of most places outside Asia.

The man I have married is everything that I could have asked for and then some more. He brings the sunshine into my life. Like Julia Child would say, He's the bread to my butter and the breath to my life...

So, one year and one move later, I am firmly ensconced in Europaplein. I have a really small but lovely set of friends. I have forgotten German but am learning Dutch. Life is good.

Of course, there are issues. Sure, I had to get used to no Daddy making chai and no maids cleaning after me. I miss my mother, my friends and my life in Mumbai. I am, to put in correctly, in between jobs. This is a very small market for English language editors and the recession has left in raw wounds all around. And as wisely predicted by the good husband years ago, the lack of a job is making me drive him – and me, potty. And more importantly, along with my waistline, I am losing my mind.

Time for new plan. After half a lifetime, I need to start again. Because, in many ways, this is a new life.

So I am making a list of NEW things I have figured out about me.

1. I am a LOUSY housekeeper. Once upon a happier time, I was a maniacally clean person. Now, no longer. If the house is dusty, that’s fine by me. That’s one area that needs work...
2. I HATE not working. I used to be a rabid, why-should-I-make-someone-else-rich person but now that I’m not, I MISS working. I miss the chicaca chats, the monthly cheques and random shopping... sigh...
3. I have now become stupid. I haven’t used my brain for the better part of a year and now I seem to be incapable of doing anything that requires a cerebral movement...
4. I have become lazier than sin. It shows too. I am a few kilos heavier and several grey cells lighter.
5. I miss familiarity. So much so, that I read the same books and watches the same movies, just to cling to that element for something familiar. Or it could be laziness and stupidity. Ref 3 and 4.
6. My trichotillomania is coming back with a vengeance. Never a good thing.
7. I have no ability to multitask. I usually mess all of them up.
8. I cannot figure out commas.
9. I might not have a book in me. That’s a suicide inducing thought.
10. I actually like cooking. Relaxes me. (From what, one might ask?)
11. My attention span has now become that of a goldfish.
12. I need to start making commitments and honouring them. Too often, I leave an exit door open.

So, in order to feel somewhat normal again, I am resurrecting my blog. If that works out, I might also start a blog about food where I blog about most of the things I experiment with, eating wise. Let’s see how far that goes.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Tribulation Of An Arranged Marriage - The Men - 1

Consider this. For the last three years, my mother would finish all her work by the break of dawn. She would then perch her glasses on her eyes, set a glass of lemonade at the desk and start the grueling task of locating random potential husbands for her first-born daughter. In spite of all the experience and the prep, there is no guarantee to the results. Far from it. Maybe it’s the severe lack of sleep that’s impairing her vision or her intuition but my mother who’s superb with most things in life would manage to locate the worst of men.

Of course, I can’t blame her. Look at what the market has to offer in the first place. And what with all the bloody filters (religion, community, profession, age, occupation), the pickings are quite slim. Of course thanks to the great genius of my daddy, I didn’t need to meet most of them. When they did turn up and weren’t exactly marryable, my dad would veto it immediately. Thank god for fathers.

This post and a few other posts are going to be dedicated to those men who made sure my life was just a bit worse. Mind you, all of them are super qualified degree-wise. But after meeting several of these types, I’ve come to one conclusion. B-schools and medical schools need to introduce mandatory courses in Manners, Gender sensitivity and PE. I don’t think school was enough.

Bachelor No 1 aka The Miser-y of Glutton

This one was a hidden one. He’s a double I type from another city. Seemed erudite and well read and all the bells and whistles. After random chatting and emails, he decided to come to Bombay for a weekend to actually meet each other. That’s when the trouble began.

Once the flight had landed, the dude calls me up to ask me directions to the hotel. At 2am. That’s when I should have figured it out

Me: What’s the name of the hotel.
PH1: Hotel something-or-the-other.
Me: Where’s the area?
PH1: (Impatiently) I don’t know.
Me: Do you have a number?
PH1: Should I?
Me: Do you remember anything of the address?
PH1: (beginning to snap) Why would I? Don’t you know your own city?

At this point, I’m starting to feel more than a bit miffed. Since I don’t fit the primary requisite of carrying Google Maps in my head, maybe this is a sad deal. Then a bulb lights my sleep-fogged brain and I suddenly ask him if there is a guy with a placard with his name on it standing around. There was. Thankfully the hotel had the foresight to send a valet I go back to bed thanking all the valets in the world for being the beacon of direction for the morons in the world.

After a decent nights sleep, I was more than willing to get over the attitude and incompetence of previous night. Just as I was beatifically beaming about my good intentions, I get a call. The man is up and has demanded I go pick him up. Fine, he’s new to the city. I drive over and pick him up and I bring him back to my house. Did I mention he burped three times in 25 minutes? He comes home, burped some more, looked sullenly at the newspaper, finished EVERYTHING that my mom made (making her beam like the setting sun), barked in gruff monosyllables to everything asked. The eating didn’t put me off, like it should have. My mom’s fantastic in the kitchen and I’m a BIG eater myself. But this constant gruff tone and burping was worrying. But then we shouldn’t judge at first sight, should we?

So we set off to watch a movie. A Hindi shitty horrible movie. I got the tickets as I had the exact change. Okay, fine. Come interval, he disappears. Comes back with a bucket of popcorn, 3 Mars bars, samosas, nachos, and a Coke. And proceeds to eat the whole production by himself. After finishing EVERYTHING, he shoves the empty wrappers to the floor, looks at my expression, starts and says, “Shit, Was I supposed to offer you some?” I shake my head no; he looks relieved and continues watching the movie, burping loudly till the end.

After the movie, I was more than willing to go back home. When I said as much to the dude, he looks amazed and asks about lunch. Okay. Seemed fair. It was lunchtime anyway. So we go to Trishna, one of my favourite seafood places. Our man took the menu, ordered from the left side of three pages, orders three vodka tonics, and then looks at me expectantly for my order. The waiter took my Khichdi order and all of our man’s and went away. Three hours and several empty dishes later, I was disgusted, nauseated and dying to get home. As if the day wasn’t bad enough, our man leans back in his chair, burps loud enough for all of Trishna to hear and tosses the bill back at me saying, “Its your city, you’re getting this right?” For a lunch, where I ate half a plate of rice, I paid INR 4363.

After paying the bill, I put the man in a cab and send him to his house. He protested and grumbled. Accused me of being a mood kill and bad host (this AFTER I paid 4363 plus tickets). I stood my ground feigning a headache; afraid I might stick a pair of scissors into his head.

After meeting a few of my friends en route, I got home just as dusk had fallen. Life was gloomy out there too. There was a power outage and there were flickering candles everywhere. The minute I get home, my mom’s clamouring to know what happened. I show the bill to my mother, tell her the whole story and demand the money back from her. My mom paled visibly (she usually does at the mere mention of any money spent) and then looks at me sadly.

Mom: I’m sorry
Me: For what? He’s a jerk.
Mom: I didn’t realize this was the protocol now. I should have given the money before.
Me: Ma, you don’t understand. In one day I spent nearly 5000 rupees on a guy I don’t even like. He’s rude and crude, more importantly, I can’t afford him.

She shook her head. In the flickering candlelight, I saw something I didn’t expect. I saw real sorrow etched on my mom’s face. She was actually apologizing for some shit’s immature manners. Worried about the behaviour of a man that might be a future husband to her daughter, despising him and yet not willing to let him go as he is a potential son-in-law and might one day take care of her daughter. That’s when I realized that she probably had got it just as bad as well. She was willing to let a disgusting slob into the family and treat him well as long as he took care of me. Whether or not I realized it, that was a sacrifice too.

Thank god for fathers. I told my dad about him. The next day, I pretended to be sick but our man insisted that I go the airport with him. Not to be outdone, my dad insisted on coming along. At the airport, I said bye. My dad gave the standard HR answer, “We’ll be in touch”

Monday morning, my mom ends things with his mom.

Of course, over the next few day, the only topic of discussion was how I let a prize catch go. Relatives and neighbours came over to try and “set” me right. They spoke to me privately, they spoke to me in public. Some even thought I had a kind of a problem and thought I should see a psychologist. All of this continued until my mom zeroed in on the next one I was to meet. But that is an another post.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Tribulation Of An Arranged Marriage - The Setting

When I was younger, I had deadlines. Guy friends left at nine promptly; if I was out I needed to be home by ten, tell them where I am every 45 minutes and no car ever. Now if I’m with a PH (Prospective Husband Type) I get the car, no curfew and complete privacy. If I ever make the mistake of calling home, I’m told to hang up immediately as I was offending our esteemed guests. Sometimes I get the distinct impressing, if I was ever kidnapped by one of the PHs, my folks would take solace in the fact that he would get to spend some more time with me.

So when they put my profiles online, I was in trauma. I enjoy the occasional glass of wine. I enjoy photography, movies, theatre and museums. All of which was flatly ignored. I was portrayed as a “homely” girl who likes to cook, and doesn’t touch tobacco and alcohol. I should have realized the trouble I was gonna get in, from right there. I didn’t. I know better now.

The routine was simple. They look for a guy, they match horoscopes, if that matches then we talk on the phone, the parents come home, If the dude is in the same city, we meet, we see how it goes. If he doesn’t, we talk until we meet. If all’s well, we get engaged, If not, we say our shaloms to each other to each other, wish each other all the best and move on with out respective lives.

When the boy’s folks decide come over, there is an entire orchestrated exercise. My usually spotless abode then looks like the inside of a surgical ward at Breach Candy. The house is cleaned and recleaned with a feverish aggression. Every window grille washed, every corner dusted, AC’s serviced, fans cleaned, every single sheet of crystal polished, every little bit if glass was squeakily cleaned, first with a glass cleaner , then with newspaper, washrooms scrubbed till you can eat off them, TONS of food made, clothes folded and ironed, washcloths folded and ironed, bed linen upholstery and curtains all changed. The family pet terrapin, Nefertiti, would be scrubbed lovingly, her nails clipped, her shell waxed, her tub changed and she would be put in a small bathroom for the duration of the visit. My brother would be told to behave himself and sent off to get a haircut. Asha, our domestic help, usually well turned out at the best of times, ends up looking spectacular. If my mom had her way, they would have the apartment and the building repainted.

This was nothing compared to the wonders that it did for the Sachidanandan family life and it’s morale. The family, sarcastic and unintentionally amusing at the best of times, morph into shrill loud paranoid monsters. I would be asked to clean out my cupboard, drawers, refile all my papers, and rearrange all my books and DVD’s. After a long day of work, this particular set of chores is never on my list of evening plans. Result? War.

Clothes were an issue of course. I would want to wear jeans; my mom has set aside a saree for just this occasion and would insist that if I didn’t, I was even more ungrateful than she thought. Only tarts wore jeans when a boy came to see them. My question, why would a boy come to see a tart? This is also about the time that I would seriously start contemplating hiring a lawyer and getting emancipated from my family. Matricide was another option. My long suffering daddy would finally step in and we would compromise on kurta and jeans. Every single time. All this for a two hour visit.

By this time, my blood pressure is dangerously high, my tolerance levels dangerously low. I have a hatchet hidden under the bed (polished, of course) and I hope I never have to repeat this charade again.

But I do.
More soon.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Wonderland, Interrupted

She walks in beauty. I noticed her at the Lakme Fashion Week and wondered how I could have forgotten she was going to be there. She has the characteristic stride of someone who has been doing this a while. I loved the way she held a pose and whipped around to walk back. But something had changed.

I loved a lot of things about her. I loved the way she swung her shoulders back confidently and sashayed down. I loved the expression in her light eyes because they were completely open and honest. Most of all, I loved the innocence in her face because I knew it was genuine.

I used to know her a long time ago. In a way, she and I kind of grew up together. Our fathers worked in the same place and they were close friends. So it was natural that I meet her at the occasional office party.

When we were younger, I would wonder about this light skinned girl who was always lost in her happy little world. A pampered spoilt child slightly older than i was, she was treated well at home even if the world took liberties with her. Her semi foreign lineage, white skin and frail figure got her noticed and college and at the grand old age of 17, she was a ramp model. With her globetrotting and mine, I hadn’t seen her for about ten years by then,

The next time I met her, I was a struggling junior journalist and she was trying to get a foothold in the industry. I was to interview her. She recognized me immediately and we got chatting. I remember her telling me that her becoming a model was one way of telling all the people who tormented her to take a hike. Why would people torment her? She was quiet, she was naïve and she wasn’t the bright spark in the class. Peers can be cruel. For them, she was just someone to tease all day, never realizing that the sheltered girl was sensitive and often went home in tears. Was she angry with them? Oh no. They were nice. She just didn’t understand the jokes and was scared of them.

I had a grudging respect for her. Although she wasn’t the best looker, she had managed a glamorous career. She was nowhere near famous but she had managed to stabilize herself in this fickle industry. She didn’t sleep her way to the top and the sudden fame and money had nothing to change her. As the token ugly ducking everywhere, I was in awe and just a bit of envy. But as the years went by, we lost touch again.

I was invited to her wedding but I didn’t go. I wasn’t in the country at the time. My folks were away too. She was marrying this foreign academician and was to have a lovely future. She was to move back into the country of her mother and start anew there. She was to be very happy.

A few months ago, I heard from the radar that she was back. Divorced and with a kid. Her husband has beaten her up repeatedly. I longed to call her and ask her how she was. But it had been 6 years since we’d spoken. I wasn’t sure if she’s recognize me if I passed her on the street. I was right. She didn’t.

I was standing outside the NCPA hall when she passed me. In full make up, she was obviously on her way somewhere. She swept up the stairs and bumped right into me. For one minute, she looked at me and I saw the spark of a sudden familiarity in her face. The I realised what had changed. The innocent had lost its openness, its warmth. They had acquired a hard steely quality which can only be described as ruthless. We stared at each other for a minute and then someone yelled out to her. She was due for hair. She apologized for bumping and went by. That well of innocence that had been inside that child was lost.

I saw her again that evening. She was walking the ramp for a famous designer. I thought about the guts that it has taken this fundamentally shy and naïve child to abandon a brutal husband and move back home with a child. Into a society that already judges her because she’s a model, that judges her because she’s divorced, that tormented her as a child. I saw her put away her hopes and dreams and start life anew. I saw her go home to her baby after a show and not stay to party with her fellow models. I saw all of those sacrifices.

As she walked, shoulders squared, pelvis pushed out, looking more beautiful than I have ever seen her, she looked straight in front. She held a pose, whipped around and strode back into the wings.

The child is gone.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Arrange Marriage Tribulations. The Beginning

(This one’s got several parts. Watch this space)

Apart from the complete mortification of admitting that you haven’t met someone by yourself and letting your folks find a guy for you, there is so much more to arranged marriages. More mortification. One of the subjects they should teach in school is how to nab someone and hold on to him. I'm sure this will save much trauma and therapy in later years. For the age old tradition of arranged marriage is seriously one of the most humiliating experiences in the world.

People you know and love end up making you feel incomplete, like you were born without a nose or half a brain. The family you adore looks at you with pity and compassion. The guys THEY pick out look at you like you’re a side of beef. The boy’s relatives look down laundry lists of dos and don'ts that the girl absolutely must posses. You look in the mirror and seriously wonder if there is something wrong with you that your loved ones have politely overlooked for so many years. In my opinion, the Indian woman who has braved the arranged marriage is a brave species. Nothing but nothing can surpass this intense misery. I wish I’m kidding.

For the uninitiated, here’s some background. I come from conservative south Indian stock. I have lived all over the world, I read, I write I travel, I watch movies, I don’t party much, I’m learning to dance, I’m into content management and I’m a aspiring writer. I have Masters in English Literature; I hope to attain a PhD and an MBA eventually. I have a business Diploma in German and I hope to learn other languages. I work in a fairly decent position in a very fancy company. I enjoy long walks, beaches, foreign movies, learning languages and food.

It all started when I turned 24. A good age generally, a bad age if you aren’t seeing someone seriously. I wasn’t.

Before they stared looking, we had a family conference. They asked me what I'd like in a guy. My needs were simple. I wanted someone presentable with not too much of an age difference, who had a nice job, was emotionally mature and financially secure, from a metropolitan, with whom I had at least one interest in common. Love for traveling is mandatory. I wanted someone who wouldn’t suffocate or restrict me. I didn’t want anyone with dietary or lifestyle restrictions. They carefully wrote all of this down and promptly disregard it to date.

Then it was my turn. They then told me what my shortcomings were.
A)I wasn’t professionally qualified, I wasn’t a lawyer, doctor, engineer or even an MBA (This coming from the people who REFUSED to let me do an MBA because it was time to get married) therefore I shouldn’t expect a fancy job or a moneyed someone.
B)I have all the trappings of someone who lived in Mumbai and abroad so I shouldn’t expect a looker, I have a sharp tongue and a sharper pen so I shouldnt expect somene kind or patient.
C)Not anyone rich as we're not rich. (My dad has enough stowed away to put three generations through Harvard and still live but thats another story)
D)I am a girl therefore I shouldnt have too many interests. If I don’t have interests then I can cultivate the interests that my husband already has.
E)People don’t have the time to read these days so nobody intellectual. So let’s just see what we end up with.
F) Also i may or may not be a manglik, which is another booboo.

One complacent step at a time, the beloved family meticulously the quarter of a century that i have lived. Sobering thought.

Then, the entire looking process happens. Quite a difficult task but my mom manages just fine. I think my mom actually enjoys looking for guys for me. After breakfast is done, my mom perches her glasses on her nose and starts looking. She enthusiastically sifts through thousands of photographs of “eligible” men and short list several hundreds a day. Online matrimonial sites, bureaus, references, you name it. Every evening come, I’m promptly given a list of encrypted codes and photographs. Photographs of all the people she has shortlisted on the basis of horoscope, family background, educational qualification and looks, in that order.

Now see, there is a huge problem right there. My mom’s idea of good looks is my idea of a hairy scary troll. In true Malayalee style, the man needs to sport a mustache, which for me is highly avoidable. Of course, looks aren’t the only thing to life. There are others.

Sure, he may have a fancy job but speaks really badly. He may speak well but will only want vegetarians. He may have everything i look for but will want someone who will sit in a remote village in kerala and take care of the family business while he works on another continent. (This actually happened) He wants someone below the age of 26 while he is running his mid forties. Another one wants to be "friends". (on a matrimonial site?)They all want beautiful", working, fair, and homely. Everyone but everyone"of them is committment phobic. If I complain about the attitudes of their profiles, I'm given a line that came right out of an 80's Hindi flick, that im a girl and shouldnt expect anything.

Like i said, we're a hardy lot.

Read on. More soon.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

My happy times and places and things and people...

"Simply put this together as i keep forgetting what they are. Will keep updating this one.

The 3 o clock show at the planetarium
Worli Sea face in the monsoon
Chai and samosas for tea
Paani puri anywhere anytime
The crunch of snow under snow boots
Thick woolen socks on a winter evening
Filter coffee and Upma from Mani
The book beaches””
A full nights sleep
My mother’s humming of classical carnatic tunes.
Windy evenings
Winter mornings
Museums and Art galleries
Movie halls and theatres
I pods and long walks
Sound of Music
Comfortable shoes
A baby laughing
My mates in town
Late night movies
Comfortable silences
A hard days work
The first few days of being in crush
Long night drives
The sound of the surf
Respectful Silences
Impromptu plans
Horror movies with close friends
Freshly cut hair
A fireplace, a book and hot chocolate
Sunday afternoons with friends and F.R.I.E.N.D.S
Retail Therapy
Brushed steel flatware and crockery
Bang and Olufsen sound systems
“Baby’s Day out”with the family
Kareoke evenings at Jazz
New bottles of perfume.
Unexpected phone calls.
Prawns, Mussels and Neer Dosas with a friend. you know who you are.
Good days at work
Post It nosts in different colours
Old Showtunes
Working to music in the late evenings
Animated Movies'

Sol Kadi
Aam panna
Iced Tea
Subway's Italian BMT salad
Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters"and Googoo Doll's ""Ïris""