I am eight years old, and get punished in class by being made to sit in the boys’ row. The teacher doesn’t know that I love it. I poke a chubby-cheeked boy next to me to show him my pencil is sharper than his. He gets a clot in his eye and has to be taken to the hospital and my mother thinks I have had enough of ‘being with the boys’. She soon relegates me to an all girls' school, and endless death by estrogen. I never forgive her for that.
I am on my fourth cup of tea at the university campus, hanging out with the boys (again) trying to get that terribly important degree I didn't much care for, when a tall gaunt frame walks into my frame of reference. He looks like a cadaverous poet—gaunt, stubble, thick glasses. "Remember me?" he says. It takes me less than an instant to squeal, "Shit! Nikhil….You are the guy that got poked in the eye.” He tells me he recognized me for being the only girl in an all boys adda. We spend the next four hours discussing the past twelve years, and a crush is born. He writes me notes, poems, songs; he reads me notes, poems, songs…He brings out the girl in me. I stop hanging out with the boys.
Third job. Highlight of my day is lunch from Bhavnaben, a local caterer who doles out piping hot, gujju food day after day, which pretty much gets me ready for the dumbest brief from the client servicing team in the agency. Only that I share my dabba with a boy, and we are constantly in a race for who makes it first. Because there's no loyalty to the co-eater, only to the food. And since I eat like a man, it makes it all the more challenging to Amit, who comes huffing and panting from wherever he is at the dot of one p.m, only to find that I am already on my third phulka. It annoys him endless. When I quit, he is thrilled. Now he can share the dabba with a real woman, he says.
Suitable boy says he loves being with me because I am like one of the boys…..What? This is not going well, I think. He explains that it is because I am a straight talker and I don't speak in riddles like women do, and don't talk when not required; that makes him less stressed around me. This gets me curiouser and curiouser. Oh! We are getting into buddy zone, I think. Who are these women, I wonder. I want to be the mysterious one, I resolve.
I still haven't acquired that aura of mystery. But I am definitely getting closer to being a woman. Even though I love to drive, do my taxes, and I don't dig blow-drying, or being fetched and dropped. But then, neither do I dig pool, play station or soccer— things that the object of my affection would love me to.
Before I move into my new apartment, my architect-interior designer landlord looks at me approvingly and says I look the type who will keep a good house. And the type who will not have wild parties. I am stumped by his stereotyping.
I am in a open-air restaurant in Jodhpur, trying to get a voyeuristic view of the big fat wedding. I am being served by a two-earringed waiter who asks me if I want a beer. I am stumped by his non-stereotyping.
P.S….I have finally decided that I don’t need to choose. That I can be both women, and they both can be me.