Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mum's not the word

It’s hard to say which one is more endearing—a tech-unsavvy parent or a tech- savvy one. For the longest time, my mother was the techno-virgin of the family, having trouble even with something as innocuous as a remote control. Till she went on her big, fat, American holiday to visit the brother, undisputed tech-whiz, and life wasn’t the same again.

Before I did a little jig in celebration of the new few months of quietude, she was on the phone. I was flabbergasted. Isn’t there something called a time difference across the Pacific? What about jet lag? But there she was, chirpy as ever.

“So, did the maid come today?”

“Mother, you are in California. Is that all you can think about?”

“I just thought I’ll check on you and see how you are doing. Anyway, I have you on speed dial and can call you anytime!”

Well, I never..

I am not a phone person. My attention span is lower than that of my 14 month-old. I can barely conduct a civil conversation beyond two minutes. If it’s official, I make some excuse of having sensitive nerve endings around the ears and hang up.

Which is why, whenever I travelled on work, and the boyfriend/husband said, “Call me”, I used to think it was a great ordeal. Call and say what? That I miss him? What the view is like from my room? What I had for breakfast? Where did we go for dinner last night?

So it turns out that the mother’s calls to me have become daily instead of once in two days when she was here. Added to which are emails which she sends from her newly created gmail account, the size of the emails having progressively grown from two lines to two paragraphs to more or less essays by now. And each email has at least five questions to be answered.

My fear is, will I soon start receiving e-cards and wall messages instead of the cute notes she writes me for every birthday, anniversary and whatnot? And who knows— soon, she may want to start skyping and doing all those weird things people do in long distance relationships.

Finally, I had to tell her that I didn’t have exciting things to report every day, so could she call, say, twice a week?

A weekend went by. Come Monday, and there she was:

“So....? What’s been happening? What news?”

Last week, for once I thought I had some ‘news’ to give her as a cousin’s wife had delivered a baby girl. She turned the tables on me by giving me a gory account of all that happened prior to the birth—complications, course of action and the status as of that hour. Apparently, in the time it took me to reply to the cousin’s message, she had tracked down his wife’s mother’s number, spoken to the new mom, the rest of the family, and generally given her blessings.

I give up. She’s now threatening to arrive with a laptop and accessories and I fear that my life is going to be altered in a strange way. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Till knot do us part

So Shashi Tweet Tharoor has tied the knot for the third time. Good work there. After a weekend spent in post mortems of four marriages (thankfully, no funerals) that have fallen apart and a fifth that has been redefined as an open marriage, this comes as positive news, although Tharoor is no distant relative the last I checked my family tree.

The said marriages analysed have always been a little too dubious for me; one too volatile, one too aseptic, one too convenient and one too strategic, if you know what I mean. They have all called it quits and are in various stages of negotiation or paperwork, but my point is, do they know what it means to start all over again? Do they really think they will get it right the second time around? Do they believe the fault lies with the person and not marriage as a concept?

May be I am a tad old-fashioned, as was the girl-friend I was discussing this with, but we both agreed that at no point does a marriage ‘stop working’, unless you decide to stop working on it.

A bit of wisdom here to people on the verge or if you are courting someone: if it’s somewhat working, tie the knot before you really get to ‘know’ the other person. Because the more you know, the less you will like.

I’m always sceptical of couples who go out for too long, before they (usually one of them) decide to tie the knot. What will you know in four years that you won’t know in four months? (assuming, of course, that you are blessed with reasonable intelligence and an acute sense of extrapolation ). Longer the courtship, more the build-up, greater the expectations, higher the chances of disappointment (two of the four marriages discussed had very long courtships)

So other than a bereavement of the spouse in early years of a marriage, I see no reason why one would want to marry again. Once is gory enough. Imagine dealing with a life-long work in progress, OCDs, bizarre sleep cycles, another wardrobe, books you don’t care about, sharing a pot, your favourite food, quilt, shoe rack, suitcases, computer.. the works. Now imagine reaching an equilibrium (however skewed) with one person and then having to do it all over again with another. Which brings me to: how different can it be the second time around? So, unless the spouse is a psycho, abusive, a terrorist or a threat to society, why do the work again?

In the husband’s simplistic PS3 logic, why would you try to overwrite a perfectly saved game with something that could be er.. slightly dodgy or dubious?

Now, some women might be offended by that analogy, but I think I know the husband enough to know that if he has started equating me with a PS3 game, I must be highly indispensable.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

To write or not to write

I realise that being a gender columnist is more a disadvantage than I had imagined. Unlike, say, writing about B or C grade celebrities (who are always eager to tell you what their favourite fashion accessory is or where did they go for free booze on Independence day, or how busy they are not working), in my case, good material is not easy to come by and certainly not consistent.

The following has been happening far too often for me to ignore. It’s one of those weekends. There’s a bunch of friends – men and women –some married, some involved, some single, some of no specific relationship status. The alcohol is flowing, the music, catalytic, the food, capable of opening all your sensory pores and loosening your tongue. And then, something wise/witty/wicked is about to be said. Suddenly, the said person turns to look at me. “Oh, please don’t write about this..”

Woe upon me!

Earlier it was aunts who said, “Aiyyo Ramachandra, we better be careful. She might write about this.” One uncle recently told me, “I don’t understand your column these days. Please write only about your mother or your cats; that I like.” Or it was the mother’s voice, rather ominous, “Why did you have to write THAT? Now all my friends will know...”. Or it was the husband waking up on Tuesday morning with, “Am I going to get busted today?”

The fact that there are enough people out there who don’t know who I am or what I do helps. And thank god for them, else I would have never made it this far (this column will soon hit a double century).

Consider the odds. The husband has been bashed more than he can recover from, the brother is too far away from my radar, the father hasn’t been up to much lately, the son hasn’t really grown into his manhood, and male friends are always measured. Cat (female) is too alpha male and cat (male) is expectedly and consistently, a bumbling idiot. Where does that leave me?

Since we are now married with child, it so turns out that our repertoire of single friends is rapidly diminishing as they have probably found the first exit and run off. So we end up mostly with married (sometimes with child) couples and inevitably, marriage or husbands are always discussed.

But, in total breach of trust, I must share a great line a friend recently spewed at one of those orgasmic lunches (sorry, it was too good not to be reproduced). We were trying to define marriage and I said, “Marriage is about making lists of things that the other person (always the husband) is supposed to do but hasn’t.”

And she said, “Marriage is like joining the Amazing Race with one hand and one leg tied up.”

Now, someone please better that. Or give me a subject.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Productively yours

Dear census authority/formulator/nincompoop,

Eight months ago, I quit my fairly ‘economically productive’ job as deputy editor of a broadsheet to take up an even more productive and challenging assignment as mother and house manager.

The reason I did this was because even though I interviewed several candidates and organisations for the same, was willing to pay them handsome salaries, and offer them various perks and incentives, I figured that no one could do it as well as me. Perhaps they were not as emotionally qualified, masters of multi-tasking, had enough tenacity for the assignment or could withstand the hours and demands.

So I decided to hire me instead.

But maybe I had an ominous feeling that someday, I might be classified as an ‘economically non-productive worker’ by your highness and clubbed along with beggars and prostitutes in the census, whether out of callousness or just sheer ignorance. So I announced I am not doing this for free, and negotiated for a salary with the husband.

Now I had to take into account that the amount could not be more than what my employer (the husband) earned, although technically, when I computed my services, I realised I deserved to be paid more than him. I was managing home, finances, child, recreation and some. Do the math.

But I still figured I should subsidize my services for sake of the balance sheet and we agreed on an amount, which I have been suitably investing and watching grow.

The child is now thirteen months old, happy, and is in great health, physically and emotionally, doing the right things, getting the right nods and glances and generally making the parental units look good. The husband is also looking good fiscally (despite hiring me) and seems to have more mutual funds than friends in his kitty (not that the latter is a benchmark in a Facebook world).

I am now wondering if I should have defined my hours more clearly, as they are spilling out in all directions, sometimes making it difficult for me to even write this column. Should I, after an 8 to 6 shift, start filing my nails unless I am offered suitable overtime? What should be the rate per hour? I know it sounds banal, but how will I increase my economic productivity levels if I don’t factor in everything?

I think it’s time for a raise, because I feel I need to extend my contract, as I still haven’t found someone as good as me for the job. I hope my husband’s employers are listening, because I can’t get a raise unless he gets one.

And should they decide to back-check with you, dear census authority, I have worked out my own appraisal (verified by the husband and the family) and can present my KRAs and other gory details for your perusal. I read somewhere that there is a demand to compute the value of services provided by home-makers and I would be happy to share my numbers.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mansel in distress

The husband is very often, a self-appointed knight in shining armour for damsels in distress. He is on a personal mission to set right any man who does not behave with propriety with a woman and always thinks it’s his business to rescue nubile and not-so-nubile nymphets from the clutches of filthy men with dirty minds and long paws. Can’t remember when was the last time someone did that for you? Well, that’s what makes him a somewhat extinct species, and you might think I would be grateful for it.

Not really, because at least in my case, the men have been the ones who needed rescuing, since I look after myself very well, thank you. But the real reason I am not grateful is because most of the time, the said damsel is happy to be in distress and so, the husband’s intervention with a threat or a shove or a “Let’s take it outside” with the said man just spoils things for her. She thinks the pawing and the getting too cosy for comfort is actually working for her, so knights like him are clearly not welcome.

In the past it was his BFF, who often got into trouble with her mixed signals and then screamed for help when the pawing began. The result was many a road block and a few broken bones. In recent times, it has been women going through mid-life crises, after having figured out that they were with the wrong guy after all, so how about a little net practice with Mr Giggolo? (a name I chose thanks to the said person’s over-the-top masculinity and signs thereof)

So while the damsels are doing just fine, the husband seems to be the one in distress, losing sleep and peace of mind trying to rescue them from men they don’t want to be rescued from and then wondering why.

In recent times, his interventions have actually backfired, because the men he took offence to, like Mr Giggolo, seemed to be the flavour of the season among his ‘inner circle’ and so, he came out looking like the enemy for no fault of his.

Ironically, one is also subjected to regular whinings from certified bimbettes about how a certain Mr Spineless did nothing whilst being cushioned in the front seat of a taxi while she was being pawed in the back seat by a certain Mr Creepy. Now why was she in the back seat with Creepy, don’t ask. Why couldn’t she just disfigure his balls, don’t ask. Why was Mr Spineless in the front seat, don’t ask. And how did Creepy get into the taxi, don’t ask.

In the meanwhile, the husband resorts to the controller, killing in virtual life what he cannot in the real one.