Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My two best men

The brother and the beau have finally met. For me, this was more significant than meeting the parents, or getting along with his best friend. Because, in my world, the brother was always 'the man', although I don’t think he ever knew it. Never mind the fact that he is younger (but looks older) or the fact that he always thought I should edit my dialogues and compress everything I said into 30 seconds, as that was the maximum he could deal with, or the fact that we both liked talking so much, that sometimes, no one was listening. The point is, as a younger sibling, he was often subjected to my domineering ways (or so he says), for which he is exercising payback time.

The tough thing about men you love is that sometimes, they don’t necessarily love each other, rather apply the ‘guilty until proven innocent’ rule. In my case, all it took was ten seconds and the magic word at 2 am. Beer?

And there began the bonding.
Both think that beer is something you drink when you are thirsty.
Both believe that the fridge and the larder should be full of juices and cheese and chocolate and ice-cream and preserves and things that they will never eat, but what if the food in the supermarket runs out?
Both believe that a moody remote is good reason to buy a new DVD player, which is good enough reason to buy a new TV, a hometheatre system, a fridge, and a washing machine — it’s always better when you buy in bulk, is their justification. Also, you get a free coffeemaker, so that’s great, isn’t it?
Both believe that the body can be challenged to consume the most toxic form of food at 4 am.
Both go to sleep with the television on, but wake up the second you switch it off.
Both buy clothes they never intend wearing but squirm when you ask them to give them away.
Both can spend an entire day watching squirrels and cats, and eat a lamb while they are doing so.
Both spring into extreme masculinity mode even if you mention in passing that a guy is sweet on you.
Both are extremely anal about their gadgets and wires, and treat them as if they would a lover.
Both take longer to get ready and spend more time in front of the mirror than I do.
Both have a natural aversion to smaller men and believe they should all perish.
Both have no qualms sleeping over their food, but will raise hell if they spot a crumb on their gaming station.

It’s funny how the things that have always irritated me about my brother are the very things I have to deal with all over again with the beau. But I think its all my doing — I remember I said in my very first column, I have always dreamt of having a boyfriend who was like my brother. Endearing, adventurous, spirited and someone who makes me laugh. Guess I am paying the price for it.

My mommy strongest

Hanging out in the ICU is not a pleasant experience. Especially when it's your mother who's battling it out inside. But as hours grow into days, you begin to achieve a rhythm in the whole thing, and then, it's all about project management.

I noticed that people around me were dealing with pain in quite different ways. Some were magically stoic and contained, as though they had a secret formula that I didn't have. Some couldn't stop their nervous chatter. Others, like me, were pacing up and down, prioritizing the list of things to be done.
But the most trying part is not the hanging around all day, waiting to be summoned. Neither is it being told by the doctors that they are trying their best, but we should be prepared for a tragedy, in case it decides to "befall us." Or waiting with bated breath as the doctor pronounces his verdict after an entire day of ultra-sound, echocardiographs, colour dopplers and INR ratios for prothrombin time. Or arranging for 16 bottles of blood in less than four hours — friends, friends of friends, absolute strangers showed up in their Saturday best for my mother as soon I sent out the alert.

And even that is not the most trying part. The most trying part is handling the relatives and their questions
"What time was she admitted?"
"Why /how did this happen?"
"Who brought her to the hospital?"
"Why Lilavati?"
"Can she talk"?
"What about eating?"
"How come we got to know at X time?"
"Is your brother coming?"
"What airline is he flying?"
"Why is he not flying ABC airline?"
"How is it that XYZ knew about it before us?"

With friends, it is so much simpler. "Tell us what you need and we'll do it for you." And they did. Whether it was offering money, blood, a hug for my mother or me, or just their prayers. Two days later, people are still calling or texting, and wanting to donate blood.

But then, there is something democratic about pain. My mother—retired school teacher with no print space to her credit was separated by one bed from Parle scion, Prakash Chauhan whom the nation reads about every day. I don't think my pain is any different from his daughters' who hang around all day—pacing, agitating, breaking down and going on about their business just like me. Or Kajol's, as she comes to visit her dad at the same hospital every day. Or even Amitabh Bachchan's for his ailing mother Teji Bachchan. Incidentally, my mother is still hoping that she runs into her longest crush before she is discharged. "At least some good should come out of this," she says.

She's a brave girl, my mother, and this is her third escape from death. And right now, I feel like the mother of a rambunctious 63 year old daughter who is itching to run away from the hospital, the tubes and the incessant poking, to her haven with two cats who worship the ground she walks on. She is itching to get out of the hospital gown, which she thinks is not very befitting to her figure. And she is itching to start being the boss all over again, and not being told what to do.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

And then there were boys

13th Nov 2007

I can’t wait to see Om Shanti Om. I am thrilled that finally, there’s a movie about the seventies, my favourite era — it was an era where men were men. Whether it was Shashi Kapoor’s flamboyance, or Vinod Khanna’s arrogance, or Amitabh Bachchan’s simmer, or Dharmendra’s bravado, or Feroz Khan’s panache, or even Shatrughan Sinha’s bellowing, or Sanjeev Kumar’s melancholic drama, there was one thing in common. They were all men’s men. They were men your dad celebrated, brother emulated, sister had a crush on and mum adored (I know mine had a deep fondness for Amitabh Bachchan and Manoj Kumar — wonder what they had in common)

Even the villains had flair. Whether it was Prem Chopra in his sharp suits and designer mufflers, with that gleam in his eye, or the clean chested Ranjeet in his micro-briefs, who, for some reason was always lounging on a float in a swimming pool surrounded by a bevy of very svelte babes in bikinis, when he usually got a phone call that got him to say “What?” in annoyance.

For someone like me who grew up in a topography that just about made it to the Bombay map, movies and books were my window to the world. We didn’t have a TV till much after the Asian games. And Star &Style was a piece of work to be taken very, very seriously.

When I was operated for tonsilitis as a kid, I was asked to name whatever I wanted to make me feel better about the fact that I couldn’t talk for two days. I asked for a supply of Picture Post, a delightful movie digest with lots of stills and glossy portraits and bios of movie stars. Believe me, it felt better than the ice-cream.

And what do we have now? If I look around moviedom today, I find the masculinity so manicured, it is not even lech-worthy. There are no men, only boys ( some descendants of the aforementioned) desperately trying to be men, but no amount of jackets, guns or SUVs is helping. Neither are glossy stunts and stylized dance moves and the waxed chests and the woven hair. There are no villains either, as the good guys are also the bad guys. And no vamps, as actresses are ready to break into cabaret-like gyrations.

The 70s was also a time when movies had real sexuality — even if we only saw a symbolic fireplace and torrential rain in the tacky back drop, a dropping of blankets, flowers nodding in unison, thunder for sound effects — the point is, one could feel the sex on screen. When was the last time you saw great chemistry between a man and a woman on the Bollywood screen in the last five years? Think hard.

Yes, the men are metrosexual and yes, they have the moves, good hair and biceps, an occasional cleavage and six packs and all that. But even when they turn 45, they will still be boys. And that to me, is not a great thing.

Femme fatale

Every girl has three kinds of friends — the ones who like her when she is happy, the ones who like her when she is sad and the ones who like her no matter what. Depending on what stage of life or mind you are in, the population of each of the above categories varies. The last kind is what makes a friend for life, so if you have two or more in that one, consider yourself blessed. The first one is not too bad per se — except that its longevity is questionable and one tends to have too many miscellanous files open at some point, and too much access to too many people.

It is the second category that can really get into murky waters — most of us, at some point or another have had friends who thrive on our pain, and use it as an opportunity to remind us how sorted they are.
I have had them too… and didn’t even know for quite a long while. But wisdom has finally caught on, and now I can sniff pain junkies from a mile. They are the ones who look for scabs that they can poke and prod — till they get you to a point when you feel miserable about yourself, and then they offer you their shoulder.

It’s like they need your pain to validate their presence. Think about it, you know it’s a no-win — if you are happy, you wont be by the end of the conversation. And if you are sad, you will be worse.
Either way, the power equation is firmly established by them asking all the questions and wanting to be the ones with all the answers — while you, completely unaware of the powertics, strip yourself of all emotions. Remember, the rule of the game is to start asking the questions. It’s always easier than answering, so why can’t you be the one who has the better job?

With men, it is different. They never really allow that degree of access to anyone, and besides, they hate answering questions. If you do friendships like a man, you are less likely to get hurt. Most men have ‘best friends’ who don’t know their secrets — but it doesn’t matter — there is not much emotion invested, and hence no major disappointments. The flip side is, they usually extend themselves to utterly random ‘friends of friends,’ who might think it is legitimate to call upon them in times of need.

Coming back to where we began, there is hope. All we need is to do some serious flushing, like I have. The last time a pain parasite called me to ask me how I was doing and what’s new and if I was happy and all that random collection of data, my antennae were on alert. I told her it was all good — work, life and love couldn’t be better, and began my barrage of questions. She hasn’t called back. Am guessing the power equation has shifted.