Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Woman, uninterrupted

Something happens when a stunningly attractive woman walks into a group of men and women. The pH of the atmosphere changes. Things go from alkaline to acidic in seconds and the room is not the same again. Women are visibly disconcerted and men are ridden by part-anxiety and part-curiosity.

So she was hot. And chiselled. And funny. And kind. And friendly. And well turned out, despite the bikini-top-under-black-mini, with visibly no intentions of getting into her bikini avatar (good call on her part, considering the gentry floating).

The girls at the brunch wanted to know who she was, her back-story, her status vis-a-vis the guy she was with, so that they could compute how often would they really bump into her and whether they should bother being nice, or just pretend she never happened.

The boys wanted to know if she was really ‘with’ the one she had come with, or did they stand a chance at all, considering he wasn’t exactly a Greek god.

In short, she generated enough ripples to last the afternoon, which was not difficult as the only other ripples were tsunamis in the micro-pool generated by a bunch of somewhat gauche men who had no qualms about jumping into the water in their underwear, boxers or briefs notwithstanding.

It’s a tricky thing, being hot and attractive. While it’s ok to be hotter than the lowest common denominator who could be Ms Thunder-Thighs-still-wearing –her-high-school-clothes or Ms Bad-Make-up-camouflaged-by-uglier-sunglasses, or the I-am-two-sizes-too-small-pink-top, it is technically a crime to:

a) Be a stranger in a party and be the hottest thing around.

b) Be hotter than the girl women are not afraid to call hot, because men don’t find her hot, so they are not in the reckoning anyway.

c) Be hot and nice/clever/funny at the same time.

So then, the men didn’t speak to her—probably thought she is so stunning— what if she rejects us outright? And the women seemed disgruntled as the objects of their affection were somewhat distracted.

It struck me that while people are fairly okay celebrating the average and the mediocre and thumping each other on the back, when it comes to truly superlative beauty or brains, the world prefers to stay quiet, almost aloof. I wondered why. Beauty always comes with the ‘guilty-until-proven-innocent’ baggage, and so it was for the girl in question.

The only one who was truly democratic about it was my ten-month old who approved of her the minute she played his (current) favourite peek-a-boo game and passed his test. She was excited. So was he. They bonded. She stood a chance.

She had him at peek-a-boo.

Thank god for children.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Head over heels

Dear Harsha Bhogle, Virender Sehwag, Jackie Shroff, Akshaye Khanna, Salman Khan and millions of other men who have spent fortunes getting their manes repaired.


I cannot understand what makes men (and some visibly sensible ones at that) go in for hair transplants (or weaves or whatever they call them these days).

I am sure they feel like a million bucks (especially after spending something that’s close to that), but do their women think they do?

I can understand if they have moved with their new manes to an entirely new habitat where no one knows you and you can start all over again, pretending it was always like this. But what intrigues me is walking into a party where everyone and his dog knows that it is a crop acquired overnight (or however long it takes).

I wonder who their women are, and what they thought of the idea. Did they not feel the slightest trepidation, cupping a manufactured mane in their hands, and fearing that they might damage it? I would be worried silly if I dated such a guy and worry that I might be responsible for diminishing a wee bit of that crop every day even with my gentle ruffling.

Imagine Sehwag going, “Oh, that’s fifty thousand rupees worth hair gone!” every time a girl is sweet on him.

I can still get it if you are devastatingly good-looking, like a Johnny Depp and one fine day woke up to find your locks diminishing, you may have a case for some hair-engineering. But how many men who have had hair tragedies can really call their face their fortune?

A few handy tips for men on the verge (and believe me it’s nature’s way of saying that you may have to reinvent yourself):

· No hair is better than bad hair.

· A comb-over is a sure sign of a loser. Women run away from losers.

· Shaving your pate is one way to ensure you will never have a bad hair day.

· Think of all the money saved buying hair product and going to fancy hairdressers to cut hair that barely exists.

· Think of all the men you know who have gone bald. Now think back and remember them when they had hair. Which one is better?

Over to my men. The husband currently has a decent crop, which I fear is suffering gentle erosion by a certain hat he seems to have developed a fetish for. To the point when aunts have started asking me, “Why does he wear that? Is he balding?” Well, all I can say is that the son can sure learn the letter M from the father’s forehead at this point.

The son, on the other hand seems to have inherited the luscious and curly Iyer mop, so I don’t have to worry about him, at least for now. Unless the Y chromosome takes over as the dominant gene. Or he starts wearing hats too.

But I have an unofficial pre-nup with the husband which states that the day he starts visibly balding, he shaves his crop, because I will have none of the cover-up or hair cultivation business.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010


When in doubt, bring on the cats. Yes, it’s been a while since I went into feline zone, a subject of great interest to me, more so because it is something that I can never hope to fully unravel, even after spending four years writing this column on gender politics.

And thank god for small mysteries. Lessons from cats far supercede the Mars-Venus anomalies in my world, but I am not the first person to tell you that. I still can’t get over the fact that despite my glorious cat history of two decades and some spent with cats of various temperaments, personalities, quirks and lineages, I have never come across a pair such as my current twosome who are so into each other, and yet have enough left of them for human consumption.

So here’s Learnings from Cats - Part Two:

• Everything around you is not worth comprehending. Why does the fan creak, why does the cook look like she’s had a Happy Meal too many, why do people ring bells even though they can see you sitting right there, why do crows hover around and not have the guts or glory to swoop on you, and why do they find strength only in numbers and why does the neighbour lady talk to me like I am a dog — all a mighty waste of time in the cat world.

• If he’s into me, why is he not calling me, and why is he writing on walls of random sluts, is definitely not a cat preoccupation. When a cat is into you, it makes it amply clear, no mystery there. If a human works any other way, move on.

• Saying it like it is the best policy. No point air-kissing people and then bitching them out behind their backs. On the other hand, if someone’s feet catches your fancy, by all means give them a lick, or a scrub, or a full pedicure, if you please. Rewards will suitably follow.

• Less is not more. I have noticed friends, who in celebration of their newly acquired (read starved) bodies are dropping clothes, showing off cleavage, shoulder, navel, whatever it is they can find more than ever before. It intrigues me, the sudden state of nakedness, not that I am conservative, but the fact that women think that putting their boobs on the table is what is going to get them the guys. It is so not. What’s hidden is always intriguing. And there’s things the degree of buttoning in a shirt or a stray collar bone can do that all the world’s off-shoulder, one-shoulder, microminis, cleavage maximisers cannot. Notice how a cat swathed in your favourite shirt or sheet looks far more intriguing than one flashing its belly in abandon?

• If you are not into someone, make it amply clear. This will just waste less time, yours and his. A bird in hand is only worth two louts in the bush. So what would you rather have?

• If you are gorgeous, do nothing. Or better, just curl up. Let others do the work. If you are not, pretend you are, and things will work just the same.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

An inconvenient truth

Friendship is not always convenient. There was a time when you dropped everything that you did for a friend. And friends did the same for you. Now is a time when people ask you to drop by “If you are this side” or “If you are not doing anything” and making plans to “catch up” which they have no intention of keeping.

This is an age of promises, of “must do” and of “like.”

Why doesn’t anyone say, “Come and see me?” or, “Can I come and see you?” Why would I want to do anything else if you want me to do something with you? After all, you are my friend and you happened to me much before the trappings of marriage, motherhood et al.

And yet, friendship, unfortunately does not operate on autopilot and takes work. Sometimes much more than a relationship. Since most of us have more friends than relationships, it takes work on different counts. And some people are more demanding, more complex, less articulate about their feelings than others, so you have to read between the lines.

I thought I was good with the motions. I never wanted to be one of those people who ‘forgets her friends once she is married,’ so I try harder to prove myself. Sometimes it is confusing, as people still look at you suspiciously when you say, “Call any time you want to unload, or you feel like a home-cooked meal” (that much therapy I can do for friends anytime)

But when you move from the world of singles to doubles (in my case, threesome, or fivesome, if you count the cats), there is a kind of reluctance that comes in making a plan with you. It’s like you are being punished for leaving the singletons’ clan, or that you have to try harder to be taken seriously, or that you are guilty until proven innocent. I think it’s unfair.

Yes, it is about maximising, and yes there are friends who would club you with airport rides or visits to Oshiwara furniture market, and it’s not that Bombay is such a large city, but I am willing to let that pass.

It’s almost as though the motions of friendships have changed from calls to text messaging. And that’s another can of worms altogether. The instant reply versus the delayed reply. The instant call-back versus the delayed call-back. It’s like saying, “Yes, I know you called/texted, but I have a life full of things to do, so it took me time to reply.” Do people really think that an instant revert means you are just sitting around with nothing to do?

So then, there are friends I have known for decades, now all measured about putting themselves out, and I am left wondering what did I do. Why so? Why has friendship (aside of a few exceptions, and thank god for that) become political? My theory is: it’s the imbalance of life. There will always be someone who has more money, a better job, a dream house, more sex, more friends, better networking capabilities than you, but in my world, friendship has always transcended such politics. Or has it really?