Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Two men and a girl brigade

It has been a long time since I ran into a suitably obnoxious member of the opposite sex. May be it’s my “Don’t mess with me” aura. May be they think I am some sort of extra-terrestrial, or may be they just follow this column and don’t want to be messed with.

The scenario was this. Last Thursday, me and my girl gang from work showed up for pre-dinner drinks at a nearby restaurant to celebrate a team member’s birthday. Just as we were leaving, I noticed a car parked behind mine which blocked both me and the birthday girl ( parked back to back) from leaving the premises.

Said owner of car was a finance/stock exchange type, me thinks (predictably gauche striped shirt was a giveaway). Stripey was bonding with Mr. Sharp Suit (possibly a colleague) over bloody marys. And that should have been a sign for me. What kind of guy drinks bloody mary at 7.30 pm? Simply, someone who is not man enough, as he soon demonstrated.

“Can’t do it now,” he said grumpily, when we asked him to move his car. “Will come after ten minutes….”
Birthday girl was suitably harried and had to make it to another party, and asked him again. He was louder and grumpier. “Can’t you see I am busy? Do whatever you want….

The whole thing blew up hugely out of proportion and we soon went to war! It felt like a Chak de moment, although I would much rather it was the Mirch Masala finale. The details of the exchange are irrelevant, but suffice to say that we pulled all the stops (the pipsqueak of a restaurant manager wasn’t really taking note of the situation)

When we revealed we were a pack of journos, Sharp Suit rose to the occasion and tried to make amends for the damage created by Stripey, who soon retreated into a corner while Sharp suit tried to play good cop. It angered me that we had to display power in such a crude way to earn a modicum of good behaviour, but it appeared that it was the only language they understood.

The last time a guy tried to mess with me, he got hit by a stool. I was all of 14. It was in Teen Murti Bhavan in our great capital (clich├ęd as it might sound, I was not surprised).. What annoyed me the most was that my parents didn’t allow me to finish the fight and go to jail, as I would have loved to
And strangely, history repeated itself. This time again, I had to leave the scene of the crime, as my sister called at the most inopportune moment, telling me she was stranded without keys and waiting for me outside my building.

Only difference was, this time, I had another me to finish the fight. And she did.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

You had me at Chak de!

(This was written soon after Chak De!, a movie that made me look at Shah Rukh Khan in a whole new way)

Dear SRK,

You had me at Chak De!
Actually you did have me at Fauji, a long long, time ago, although the “I say chaps” guy lingered longer in my memory. And then you did have me at Circus, and then at Baazigar.

Somewhere along, you lost me….for a very long time. You were busy prancing around in your Tommy Hilfigers and DKNYs or singing unchained melodies to chiffon clad lasses in deserts or haystacks. And I was suitably distracted by the other Khans and life and general, and it didn’t really matter much.

And then, out of the blue, you had me at Swades again, when I was hit by a surge of patriotism, wanting to build dams and get electricity into people’s homes and write on inland letters and postcards all over again…

The thing is, I never really had a favourite Khan — I find superlatives very hard to negotiate — reason why I don’t have a best friend, the best book I’ve ever read, the best movie I have ever seen, the best thing I have ever eaten or any of that.

Chak De changed everything for me. It’s irrelevant that after years, a movie had me choked, or the fact that my I-hate-Hindi-movies beau was as taken in by its implicit honesty and passion as I was, or that it had no songs, and no pervading gloss. But it all added up to the larger outcome — I had found new respect for you — something that will help me forgive everything you ever did. And that, to me is big.

I find the world of sport and movies about fascinating — probably because it is an alien world to me — a world that I could never really be a part of. When I was a little girl, all the big, bad girls were always into sport, while I was the nerd who sat on the first bench, knew all the answers and did all her homework.

I so wanted to be like them, but my puny frame, weak lungs and tam-bram upbringing never really allowed me. The closest I came to was being a reserve player in the volley ball team at school, and I was so petrified that I would have to play that I fell ill on the said day, and everyone thought I was the traitor.

Finally, after all these years, sport and me have kind of reached middle ground, what with the bro and the beau’s collective passions. I can now survive a game of cricket or golf or football and sometimes even ask the right questions without being totally off the mark.

So when I watched 16 feisty girls of seemingly different shapes and sizes (some who reminded me of me) get together and survive the collective politics resulting from their disparate energies, I am awed.

I think of the man who got them to think of the whole instead of the self…and yes, I know its all about good screenplay and direction and all that. But at the end of the day, it’s what you see. And I saw someone who was large enough to be smaller than the team. And that did it for me. So, SRK, I salute thee!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Random access memory

My best buddy needs to have a placard across his chest which reads “unlimited access.” Recently, he told me that his ex girlfriend, who dropped him rather unceremoniously a few years ago messaged him at wee hours, saying a chirpy hiii. Now, the thing about chirpy hiis is you never know where they are going. The thing also about random texts at wee hours is that they reek of ‘I have a hold on you.’ And more often than not, they are not innocent—there is always a hidden agenda, which is revealed in due course. And so it was.

The next thing he knew was that she needed to meet with him — she was feeling a “little messed up, and depressed” and the guy she was seeing didn’t turn out to be the guy who wanted to see her.
“Why do you allow her to have a hold on you?,” I asked him. Now, I am fiercely protective about my friends, so anything that alters their peace affects me. So I thought my concern was in order.
He looked stumped. “Huh!!! She just showed up on my facebook, so I added her to my friends. What could I have done?”
“Errr…. Ignored her?” I tell him. (They do have that option, I know)
“How can I do that? What will she think?”
(Holy crap! This is a slippery slope, I think….)
Call me old fashioned…but my boundaries are very clear — there is a reason why the ex is called the ex. But for the benefit of some super benevolent souls with closure issues out there, they should change it to axe. As in the verb.

But unsuspecting species like my aforementioned friend have “reach me anytime you need me” written all over them. Small wonder why they get messed with all the time by random exes.
So the next few months were a series of revelations of tell-tale ‘I don’t think I have closure’ signs on his part.
“She wants me to update her resume. She knows I am good at the stuff.”
“She can’t find a pet-sitter. And I still love her dog.”
“She is moving to Bombay, and needs my help. She doesn’t know anyone here.”
“She wants me to pick her up from the airport.”
“She wants me to drop her to the airport.”

There is this thing about airports. They are truly depressing places. Which means you really need to be into someone you are picking up or dropping — the whole thing takes a lot out of you. Definitely not to be wasted on a blast from the past, me thinks.
I listened patiently, as I know it was expected of me. But I knew he was beyond repair, so I let him be.
But it left me wondering. Why do men allow so much random access into their lives? I guess part of the reason is, they don’t have inbuilt filters. For men, all is innocent until proven guilty — and that can be a good thing and a bad thing. Women on the other hand are sharper about accessibility issues. If that makes us the bitches — well, so be it. Someone has to do the dirty work.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Gift me not

There was a time when birthdays made me nervous. Not that I ever gave a damn about getting a year older, but it was the sheer trepidation at opening my gifts and being horrified by some of what I found inside. I have gone through years of being saddled with hideous earrings, books I would never read, music I would never listen to, clothes I would never wear, photo-frames, lamps, vases, purses, pen holders, makeup, knick-knacks, T-shirts, accessories and jewelry that was SO NOT ME.

Not that they all got it wrong. I do have a few friends who always asked me what I’d like or by instinct, got me exactly what I wanted. Thank god for them.

Wouldn’t life be so much easier if people just asked you? Or took you shopping? Or just gave you gift vouchers? May be the reason they don’t is because they feel a certain nakedness in revealing their budget. It’s like saying, “Okay, this year, you are worth Rs X to me…”

 Which is why they try and enforce their choice on you. But I don’t get it. Surely they know you enough to know that you are not going to ask them for a plasma TV or something equally ridiculous. Why don’t they give you the benefit of doubt? And what are multiple options for?

After an era of un-me gifts, I finally mustered the courage to ask people whether it was okay to exchange. So, a not-so-becoming-red-and-yellow sweatshirt was traded for a crisp white linen blouse that was more me. Or the bland Alchemist or Six thinking hats for a Tom Robbins or Bill Bryson that was missing from my collection. They didn’t seem to mind —they were glad it was off their back…

If I have so much trouble with birthdays, I shudder to think of the innumerable monstrosities people receive on their weddings. I know for sure that everyone gets stuck with at least 20-30 gifts they don’t know what to do with. It is quite likely they donate it to charity, or worse, gift it to someone else — someone insignificant enough not to be invited to the wedding. But no one ever talks about it. I wonder why. May be because as a culture, we are taught to be grateful for anything we receive.

But I find it amazing that people who are closest to you can also goof up. Like my mother who gave me the shivers with her surprises. I really love her, but don’t necessarily love what she chooses for me, from grooms to gifts. After much deliberation, I had a heart to heart and asked her to leave both departments to me. To my surprise, she was relieved. Now, she either hands me a cash envelope, or buys me exactly what I want (color, design, style, model non-negotiable). It’s been a few years into this arrangement and both of us are extremely happy.

Or when the beau who once called me from Goa claiming he had sighted a ‘nice purple skirt’— I gave him the green signal, thinking purple, obviously. I later realised that there was much more than purple happening on that skirt. There was pink and elastic and flowers and sequins and layers. But his enthusiasm was endearing, and I bravely smiled my happy smile. (Okay, now you know..)
But I am finally in a happy place. Each year, I have a wish list (of items in varying budgets) which I sound off (upon being asked) to my inner circle… This year, I got exactly the wine glasses, perfume, dresses, books, pendant, i-shuffle and the DVD collection I wanted for my birthday. I have perfected the art of made-to-order gifts!

And if anyone out there plans to start a gift registry, I will be the first to sign up.