Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Till meet do us part

Reunions make me queasy. I am not one of those people who had a Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na campus life, I haven’t gifted anyone a kitten (though I still believe that gifting someone an animal is a very contentious issue) and I have never danced with Pappu and Co. at a friend’s birthday party.

I would say that 40% of my life on campus was miserable. For most of my professional degree years, chasing first, a Bachelors’ and then a Masters’ in Pharmacy, I was miserable, and wanting to be someplace else.

Why did I waste a seat? I am still asked.

Forget the seat, I almost wasted my life. What about that?

It has taken years, almost decades to wipe out those memories and make new ones. Why then, would I want to go for a college reunion?

Well, for one, the person who asked me is someone I like and found redeeming in the whole experience, although, even then, he was largely a nerd, and chased the clichéd going-to America-doing- a PhD-finding-a-suitable girl-and getting married-and-living-happily-ever-after-dream. But he had the balls to call a spade a spade, and make no bones about his dream. There were a couple of others too who alleviated my state of misery, but about the large majority, the less said, the better.

There are people in your life who turn you into who you are simply because you don’t want to be like them. Running into such people and their sterile auras is reminding yourself about the ‘you’ that was.

Most were just roll numbers—I know them more for their positions at their lab work stations than their personalities or how they made me feel. And the funny thing is, with my tam-bram memory, I remember each and every one of them. I thought I’ll take the husband along so at least we have each other, but he firmly stated that he had no intentions of meeting my ‘molecule’ friends.

The last time I went to such a reunion, which was eight years ago, I came out feeling like an oddball. I had completely digressed from the field, had nothing in common with any of them, was still single and dating, a concept none of them really understood.

This time, we will be more or less on par as far as marriage, spouse and baby goes, but I still feel like an oddball.

Okay, so I am not giving back to the world of drugs and molecules. I will never find that vaccine for cancer or synthesise that radically cheap drug for AIDS. But I will also not be the one who is responsible for repackaging a vanilla pill and selling it in the market for four times the cost. Or making you realise that ZPTO (or whatever it is in shampoos) is a big thing. I write, therefore I am.

Family reunions are another thing. You decide you must do them, because “after all, it’s family”. So you make an effort to get to the back of beyond to attend your cousin’s cousin’s wedding. You decide you will try and be nice to people who were not very nice to you, or your parents. But when you come face-to-face, it’s the same thing. They still look like roll-numbers.

Happy new year and all that!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy holidays!

Coalescence. I love the word. I love science for helping me express what language cannot do with the same degree of precision or emotion. How else would you explain the phenomenon of people suddenly wanting to be seen as groups and not individuals?

In its most simplistic definition, coalescence is the union of diverse things into one body or form or group; the growing together of parts. It is what happens when the festive season sets in.

Families feel grateful that they are still families.

Friends begin to remember they can’t take friendship for granted.

Couples begin to remember they are still married.

Colleagues, who you don’t know the names of, wish you randomly and put a smile on your face.

Children begin to realise that parents are the only people who will always love them unconditionally.

And so..

You email or e-card people who you have never thought about in the past year. You text numbers from your phonebook that have been never texted or called before. You even call. You begin to add (sometimes even multiply) instead of subtract.

It’s that time of the year when people coalesce.

They say that when you say something positive long and loud and repeated enough, it becomes a truism, and the good energy rubs off onto you. May be that’s why even couples in dysfunctional relationships send out messages and cards in the festive season that end with Mr, Mrs and Master/Miss.

It’s what can get a Vindoo, with repeated nominations, but a firm belief in Desh Ka Aadesh to eventually win Big Boss, a topic I shared with buddy Chetan at a Christmas party whose piece de resistance was a flambéed pudding that had travelled four generations. Where the infant petted a dog six times his size and I realised why I did the right thing by bringing a child into a home with animals.

Even for me, a more-or-less minimalist who is on a mission to declutter her life in more than one way, festivals are the only time I want to add rather than subtract.

When we were growing up, cousins were people you met because of the grandparent connection—you had to share them (the grandparents), whether you liked it or not. Now that the grandparents are no more, the cousins are more or less redundant. They show up randomly on Facebook, want to be added as your ‘relative’, they post comments on your albums, and make fleeting plans to ‘meet up.’

Time passes. And one day, you have a child. And festivals become indicators of a family that was. And cousins’ children become more important than the cousins ever were. You look through their albums, you ask if their children are crawling or teething, you find bits of them in their children — the bond is renewed.

So finally, with the infant in tow, I am now looking at the festive season in a whole new way of awe and innocence. His.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mind over map

Okay, we all know this. Men suck at directions. And if they do read maps, like Allan Pease would like to claim, it’s probably because it gives them a prop, something to clutch onto, look busy, so we don’t load them with more things to do. It’s never about getting us to a certain place in the most optimum way. Why, then, are we still reading the book Why men don’t listen and women can’t read maps?. It just doesn’t make sense. We are the map, we are the directions, we are everything.

Last week was a first of sorts. The first time, in my three years of working for this newspaper that four women got together to chat about their men. It surprised me no end how our stories were similar. We had the same peeves:

Our men had too much stuff they weren’t willing to give away.

Our men were lousy at directions. Mine knew the way to things from Phoenix mills, or at best, Zenzi and another colleague’s, from Basilico.

Our men loved drivers, because it absolved them from the task of finding anything. Anywhere.

Our men had to get to somewhere familiar to head to somewhere unfamiliar. Never mind if it was a geographical absurdity. Like say, going to Croma to go to Del Italia.

Our men hadn’t read a map in years.

The husband has a deep inertia towards relocation, and I know by now that it has nothing to do with getting adjusted to a new place, the fact that he is Cancerian, or is it about moving from South Bombay (or wherever Lower Parel fits) to North Bombay. Yes, it is partly about finding a shop that can deliver beer, bread, and cigarettes, without batting an eyelid or pointing out that he was asking for too much. But it’s more about how he would have to find new nuclei to cling to.

He finally has. He can find his way to Croma and Landmark, and everything else stems from there. But every once in a while, I throw him a googly and take a road quiz. “Okay, we have to go to Four bungalows market and straight down from there.”

Blank face.

“Remember Indigo Cafe?”

Happy face.

Last weekend, we were invited to a dinner at Yari Road, a place that, for some reason intimidates the husband, almost giving him the feeling of being extradited. To top it all, I said I wanted to head on my own with the infant, since I didn’t want to wait indefinitely for him till he returned from work.

“I can draw you a map,” I said.

He winced.

There we go again, I thought. I waited. He swung by home with amazing precision of timing, simply because he was petrified of doing the trudge on his own.

But then, nothing has changed for me, really.Visions of my dad leaving us stranded at a railway station while he went to buy smokes and the train was ready for departure at another platform flash by. So do that of my brother driving us into the Canadian border, while showing me the Niagara falls, just as I landed in the United States, 10 years ago. During the ensuing one-hour interrogation by customs authorities as to how I could lose my way into another country, I stayed mum.

Allan Pease should be sued, I thought to myself.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sex, Lies and Videotape

It takes an incredibly stupid woman for a husband to have an affair outside of marriage. It takes an even more stupid woman for a husband to have nine of them. But it takes an ‘other woman’ of outstanding stupidity to think that such an affair is about love.

As Tiger Woods’ mistresses emerge from the woodworks (nine and counting), it makes me wonder, “What was the wife thinking?”

The only multi-tasking men can manage with some panache is watching television while eating their dinners. That too, because they don’t necessarily think the two tasks are inseparable. So for a woman not to know what her husband is up to when he is not with her, it takes an amazing lack of talent and intelligence, to say the least.

Woods’ recent car crash has inadvertently opened a can of mistresses, text messages, photos, video footage, voicemails, the works! How he managed his affairs, that too, with nine different women while being married, is a page many men are dying to rip off from his book — the way it’s been discussed, it’s keeping him more in the news than his golf ever did.

One married male friend turned a Facebook fan of Woods post his recent expose, and states in his status message, “All married men should be fans of Tiger Woods. The alleged mistress is super hot.”

“Come on Tiger!” said another status message.

A third one said, “Three down. How many more mistresses to go?”

It’s like the men are living vicariously through Woods and making mental notes about, “I should ask him how he did it..”

Apparently what kept the mistresses quiet was confessions of love, the media reports. Duh?

When Bollywood was abuzz with Hrithik Roshan’s alleged affair with Barbara Mori, it evoked similar reactions from men in my universe. “Hmm… she is hot…” (The statement was accompanied by a faraway look on their faces)

Yes, but you are not, moron.

We all know women who are at the giving or receiving end of such affairs. Someone I know had an affair with a married sugar daddy for eight years, and at the end of it was left with the realization that ‘he wasn’t really into marriage and kids’ and ‘we wanted different things’. Of course, you dodo!

Her professional life, on the other hand, was catapulted by the sugar-daddy connection, which is perhaps what will happen to the Woods line-up.

But there are enough gorgeous women out there entangled with talent-less, spineless, charisma-less men in so-called ‘love-less’ marriages, only hoping that they would leave their wives. Unfortunately there is no reward for ratting them out, like the waitress who was offered $ one million to stay mum. Or the wife who was offered $18 million to the wife to stay.

Methinks Woods’ wife would have the millions in her account, whatever happened with her marriage. So it’s not about ‘rolling in the dough,’ as some men would point out as her reason for staying in the marriage.

But it made me realise one thing. Marriage, even to tigers, is a big deal.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pretty Woman

The husband’s sister (I have decided that I find the in-law word a bit regressive) was in town last week. She is successful, attractive, mother of two and very ‘in control’ for the most part. When she stepped out of the airport, in the true spirit of the NRI who usually pays an arm for beauty treatments back home, she began fixing salon appointments to spruce up for her upcoming company retreat.

“You know how these young 20-something associates give you the ‘lookover’. They are forever checking you out and whispering — how you shouldn’t really be wearing something so tight or so short, how you have flesh where you shouldn’t have — you really can’t afford to take chances. You really got to keep up.”

I couldn’t imagine someone like her being threatened by a 20-something or even giving a fig about what they think. But she was, and she did.

I felt like telling her she should peep into the mind of the 20-something, may be then she would never want to trade places with one — size zero, great mane, hot boy friend notwithstanding. Because her mind would be a cesspool of burgeoning insecurities, such as, ‘Is he really into me?’, or ‘Is that a frown line?’ or ‘Should I eat dinner or skip it?’

I grew up thinking that my little sister was the one with the looks. Chiseled features, great cheekbones, dark, curly cascading hair, clear skin, gorgeous dimples and perhaps one of the few noses I have seen that can do justice to a nose-pin. But tell her she is looking good on any given day and she’ll go, “May be because I’ve just washed my hair,” or, “May be it’s the colour of my kurta,” or some such statement that reeks of modesty.

When I posted a “Your hair looks great!” on a friend’s Facebook album, she immediately replied, “It only looks good in pictures!”

A few weeks ago, I ran into a 30-something who was plotting to wangle a proposal from her 20-something boyfriend. Apparently she said to him, “The more you make me wait, the more plastic surgery you will have to pay for.” I figured her self-esteem totally depended on her manufactured looks. But how secure can a relationship that functioned on such a gradient be?

It made me wonder why women are so insecure about the way they look, however perfect they might seem to the eye of the beholder.

Over to me. It took me half my (expected) lifetime to come to terms with my looks. Till that happened, it was always about, “My hair is too thick/too curly, my arms are too thin, my nose is too wide or my skin has too many blemishes or my boobs are too small.”

Till one day, when I finally realised I was gorgeous (although nothing had really changed) and then there was no stopping me. Now I get by, completely unthreatened by the 20-somethings, totally celebrating the ‘me’ I found. And then it struck me. The day you think you are hot, you truly are.