So much for inner beauty!
The modern Indian woman and her relationships
So much for inner beauty!
Have always done Mumbai versus Delhi versus Bangalore etc. Thought this was very true!
I know I have been off for a loong time. Because I have been busy. Doing what, you ask. Well all the things that a writer and a stay-at-home mom do which when taken together and observed calmly from a rational distance somehow always amount to ‘nothing’. Yet nothing is as terribly important as nothing!
Yes so one family trip (dont u DARE call it a ‘Holiday’), two birthdays, two annual days, several bouts of family sickness, several social engagements (most of them were for the kids. And they are just 4 and 6!), few days dedicated to I-HAVE-TO-FINISH-THIS-BOOK-BY-DECEMBER later, I am back.
Only because I just had to show you this work:
Whadya think?I know its stereoype, I know its very Indian city, but what do you think-its a comic strip after all. From personal experience of living in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata- its not bad,eh?
Ever wonder why it is that only SRK gets detained at US airports? And not Aamir KHAN, Imraan KHAN, Salman KHAN, Arbaaz KHAN etc? Maybe because they don’t act as if they are going to blow up America!
My entire education has been a Tug of War match between me and my father. Ting! Ting! Ting!
(Imagine loud-announcer-with-microphone voice). At one end, we have the professional, heavyweight middle-class, Well Meaning Grounded Father (henceforth called WMGF) bringing with him years of dashed hopes and unfulfilled dreams, repackaged and rebranded as SOLID EXPERIENCE, so that you show some RESPECT, dammit!
On the other we have puny newbie (and fee fie fum to all of you who say that I can’t be described as ‘puny’). Feet in Clouds (henceforth called FC), floating aimlessly 9-inches above the ground. Exposed to American sitcoms such as Three’s a Company, Cheers and Family Ties and escapist 80’s Bollywood films at a very impressionable age, she thinks that the world is a heady cocktail of glamour, utter lack of substance and a good dose of group dancing for no reason whatsoever. FC wants to grow up to be glamorous, funny and very rich. And believes that that will just happen, somehow. It cannot be through grades, exams or anything remotely related to numbers. Those clearly pointed that thenonly option for her was an unconventional career. Surely, like Dickens and Einstein, low grades were directly proportional to some heretofore undiscovered hidden genius that shall one day make WMGF feel very very repentant.
‘Hah!’ WMGF scoffs and easily pulls FC to the other side.
Again. And Again. And Again.
At first, FC protested. ‘But what about poetry? Keats? Van Gogh? Jim Morrisson’
‘Self destructive! Immature!’WMGF declared.
‘Sherlock Holmes? WHAM? Amitabh Bachchan? ‘
‘Make- believe!’ WGMF stubbornly asserted. Parents of my generation possibly didn’t know WHAM! Not that that wasn’t a good thing.
FC went on, ‘But the stories? The imagination. The secret world behind my cupboard?’
WMGF suddenly looked anxious. This was before Harry Potter forced nine-year-olds to learn how to read. And Warner Bros. made millions the traditional Hollywood way- taking something good and screwing it up badly. Then rival studios sent off detectives to all the forgotten libraries in four corners of the world (since the world is a circle) and they picked through and cleaned off centuries’ worth of dust settled on C.S. Lewis’s Narnia.
WGMF recovered quickly. He shook his head and said, ‘Repeat after me: Profit= Selling Price- Cost Price.’
To cut a long story short, (since I suffer from ADHD, more on that later…or maybe not), I was pulled right through school, commerce college, MBA entrance and placement in international company as WMGF was keen that I end up as a safe, rich banker, preferably the investment type who normally are so boring that people thrust wads of cash at them just to shut them up. Then I could be glamorous, rich and exciting.
But, like the climax of a Bollywood film, the hero suddenly woke up. The underdog, the dark horse, the tortoise, David or what have you always wins against Goliath, WMGF would have known if he’d read instead of studied. As it was, he was caught unawares as he was suddenly pulled across like a rag doll. I rejected the dollar job for… drum roll…advertising the only somewhat glamourous career option in B-school. Which is as close as a ‘qualified’ person like me can get to Bollywood, fashion and glamour. WMGF shrugged his shoulders. ‘Are you sure? Did you read the salary part of your appointment letter?’ he asked and I nodded, smiling idiotically through starry eyes.
For the first time, I was waiting for office to start. I was waiting for life to happen. I was waiting for the red carpets, flashing bulbs, gay fawning fashion designers and Shah Rukh Khan to sweep me off my feet and into his arms. This was Mumbai, this was advertising, this was so cool. I would never regret this.
I regretted it on the first day. Instead of SRK, I got Brenda Fernandes, the stern, no-nonsense office receptionist who dressed like a Church-going grandmother. ‘Sit on the sofa and wait,’ she instructed shortly not looking up from her writing. No matter how much I squinted she did not look like Susan Sommers. Maybe she was just a temp. ‘Have you just joined?’ I asked her. Brenda Fernandes did not look up.
As I later learnt, no one in advertising EVER looked up from what they were pretending to be doing. The industry was made up of arrogant, lazy and hard-of-hearing people.
Never mind, was looking forward to my female boss. Was sure she would be hatefully- attractive, perfect female specimen like Priyanka Chopra or comic genius like Tina Fey. That was when an aunty-looking person walked into reception. She was wearing oversize old- fashioned, cotton Salwar-kameez. She had clearly never heard of make-up. She seemed either short-sighted or too afraid to see beyond a few steps in front of her.
‘Hi!’ she said, not smiling. No one in adverting smiles or says full sentences.
‘Come on,’ Boss aunty said shortly. Refer to above.
We were out of reception area and in the main office. Like a before-and-after film, the entire scene changed. The reception was the set of the Oscars. The office was the inside of Slumdog Millionaire. The reception was Michele Obama. The office was Newt Gingrich. The reception was TAJ by the bay, the reception was the beggars outside the TAJ by the bay. I could go on, but you get the drift. Papers were floating everywhere. It seemed as if random machines were set at short intervals to launch them into space at unsuspecting passer-bys. The people walking about were dressed as if they wished they were invisible. The furniture looked as if it had been donated by a Government orphanage.
This was unreal. Surely, any moment now people would pop out from under these paper mountains and yell ‘Surprise!’ Party poppers would pop, someone would open beers and laughter would fill the air while SRK (there is always SRK) would sweep me in his arms. Boss-Aunty led me to a corner of the office. Which I learnt later was called the GAS chamber/masturbation cubicle/ suicide cabinet. It was the strategy department.
‘Here!’ Boss-aunty pointed to a paper mountain in a corner. I looked around. Androids were bent over computer screens every two meters. Even if Aishwarya Rai danced naked in front of them, I doubted that their eyes would waver. Boss was staring at me expectedly.
I tried to smile.
NEVER EVER SMILE at someone from advertising. It is a gesture so far removed from normal that it triggers an irrational reaction. Remember the angry bull and red scarf and all that? Smile and Advertising personnel.
Boss erupted. ‘What the F*** do you think you are doing. Get to work.’ I turned to paper mountain, still hoping for SRK to jump out from beneath it. But Paper remained paper and within a week I learnt one of the eternal truisms of life.
Paper kills glamour. But more on that later (or maybe not).
P.S.: If you been reading my blog, you would know about my struggles with my second book. Toward the end, I am attending Gotham Wrting online classes. This is my attempt at the homework in my ‘humor writing’ class.
Some childhood stories stay with you forever. One of my favourites is this anecdote I’d read when I was a kid.
Walt Disney had made Disneyland for his daughter(whatever her name was). When she was a child she complained to her dad that she wanted a beautiful playground and dutifully Daddy dearest built her the Disney empire (or that was my impression of the story). However the daughter had no idea what Daddy had done for her. Once when she was thirteen she went up to her Daddy.
‘The Walt Disney?’
She mulled over this for two minutes. Then she held a paper and pen to her dad. ‘Can I have your autograph?’
Of course now that I am an adult, I get the irony of the story. The poor little rich kid(whatever her name was) who doesn’t even know her dad. But as a nine-year-old, my reaction was single-minded.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents. They have done so much for me. But if, just if, somehow the Lord’s calculations had gone just a little awry, I could have been a Bachchan. Or a Kapoor. Or a reliance, I mean an Ambani. Or even a Godrej.
Then instead of my rat-race school, I could have been smoking cigars and ogling at Italians on Swiss slopes next to some posh ‘finishing school’ . Then I would have easily sailed through a blue-blooded (shouldn’t it be green-blooded given that money is their prime selection criterion?) IVY league MBA. And self-righteously taken over the family business from the illiterate Indian-educated managers, modernized it, re-branded it and made it global (i.e. screwed it up completely).
And of course I would complain that I miss being ‘normal’. The atention gets too much to handle. Do you know how difficult it is to manage three houses in Europe and an island in Morocco? And the politics of a 35 member ‘staff’? And several showrooms full of Maybachs and jags? Or the unrealistic expectations of famous parents? (The Loius Vittons and Jimmy Choos do help).
Oh BOO CRAPPY HOO!!!
Yeah, I had a thing against these ‘golden kids’.
Until I met Ritu(name changed).
Ritu is a khandaani golden kid. She comes from a traditional joint family. Her dad had humble beginnings, but between him and his brother, they built one of the most successful commodity businesses in Asia. Ritu is the youngest child in the family. She did her graduation from Oxford and finished that off with a European MBA. Plus, unrelatedly and even more unfairly she is DDG (Drop Dead Gorgeous). And a very nice person.
Of course I hated her.
Until I got to know her. One evening over expensive wine (hers) and cheap snacks (mine), Ritu told me the synopsis of her life story. How her dad tried innumerable businesses before hitting jacpot. ‘Dad would go bankrupt. The business would shut down and he’d be heartbroken. But we would secretly rejoice. Now he would go back to his old company which would willingly take him back. We would move into a sea-facing flat, get new toys, new clothes. And then kaput. He would try a new business. Suddenly we would shift miles away into a old apartment and have to change three buses to reach school where other kids would make fun of our clothes and bikes.’
Ritu had really seen it all. She told me casually that her last birthday was the only one her father had had time to attend. She is 35. She told me of a brother who refused to take over the business because he wants to be an artist. She told me of a Dad who is willing to let go of his business rather than thrust it on a married daughter.
So yes, maybe the grass is greener on the other side and all that.
Ritu impressed me so much that I think I should write a book on her.
OMG! Just had an ‘aha’ moment.
Dialling Ritu’s number right now…To be Continued.
The recent furore over the Guardian article on the plus-size Lizzie Miller has already led to a series of opinionated blog posts. In a space of three days the article has invited so many comments that they have barred any more comments.
Most of the comments are from indignant people who insist that the pretty Miller is ‘NORMAL’ in Bold, Caps and often in bright colours. Especially since she is a size 12 and the average American is a size 16.
My first reaction was on similar lines. Forget her weight and dress size, just look at the pic.The 20-year-old is gorgeous, has creamy, unblemished skin with no visible cellulite on her thighs and just a small roll of fat which looks like something Indian women are adept at hiding under Kurtis and Saris. And she can’t even be a plus size model? Come on!
So I scrolled down to comment. Someone had written something on the lines of ‘She is real, curvy and beautiful, not an aritificial neurotic implant.’ I nodded vigourously and scrolled down further to agree. Then I came across a reply to this comment (Which I can’t find on the site now). A girl had said, ‘Do you mean to say that just because I am thin and do not have curves like her, I am artificial and not beautiful?’
Women love to pass snap judgements on each other. Not saying men are any better, but as a 30 plus, married mom, you kinda stop caring about them.
But for women, weight is like a perpetual championship event. We try impossible diets and feel that we are a success- lousy job and salary notwithstanding. Then we balloon and feel like a total failure. We puff in the gym, or avoid it with downcast eyes. We feel guilty about every morsel we put in, but still indulge in ice cream. (Is it indulging if we dont even enjoy it?)
We know how bad it is.
And yet we sit and judge. We don’t even need to say ‘You have really put on weight,’ or ”you need to diet’. Just one appraising top-to-toe judgemental eye-roll and swift dismissal is enough to discharge the opponent. And leave her wondering (with a chicken tikka in hand) ‘I knew I should have worked out today/not worn sleeveless/ suck stomach/ not eat/ pretend to faint’. We are too fat.
Or else it’s constant berating. After all, it’s not politically incorrect to tell people to put on weight. ‘Oh your charm has gone!’ , ‘what are you competing for- can you be Miss India?’ ‘You’re looking sick nowadays.’ We are too thin.
Reminds me of the old Amul chocolates ad. (Yes I am that old). Too old for dolls, too young for the disco.
Forget the media, we are our own worst enemies.
Its a bitch-eat-bitch world out there. Since everything else has too many calories.
In the words of Shania Twain, ‘Be a winner, Be a star, or BE HAPPY TO BE WHO YOU ARE!’ in bold, caps and bright colours.
This one is for the loves of my lives, my raison d’etre, my cute kiddos-Khushi (5) and Lakshya (4).
1) I tell Lakshya to keep his hands off his ‘pee-pee’ at times and he replies innocently, ‘But my pee-pee says, ‘touch me! touch me!”
2) Whenever Khushi meets a total stranger, she says ‘hi!’ shyly. And then adds confidentally, ‘You know, my mother is a writer!’
3) If you ask Khushi what she wants to be when she grows up, she says ‘I want to be a writer like Mamma.’ Lakshya wants to be a ‘driver’
4) On ashtami, we do not eat food before doing the ‘puja’. But on that day, Lakshya was hungry but Khushi was still getting ready. I told him to eat his breakfast and he replied, ‘But what about the puja?’
‘That’s okay,’ I told him. ‘We all will wait for Khushi to do the Puja, but you are hungry, you eat’ I placed food in front of him and walked off.
Five minutes later, I walked back to the room to see his little frame bent over the untouched plate. He was singing his night prayer on top of his voice. ‘Thank you God for the food we eat……’. Finally he announced ‘thank you god for everything!’ and turned to me with a smile. ‘Now I have done puja,’ he said and proceeded to start his breakfast.
5) Lakshya has lost the very expensive color-changing Lightning Mcqueen his grandparents gave him six months back. Angry, I told him that ‘nana-nani will not get you anything this time.’
One evening I overheared Lakshya talking to my mom on Skype and assuring her that the Lightning Mcqueen was safe but it was ‘hidden somewhere so that she would not find it when she came’.
6) Like most kids, Khushi loves junk food. I have to control her pigging out on cakes and pizzas (awww…honey). To do this, I have introduced ‘eat as much as you are hungry’. Needless to say she uses the ‘I am not hungry’ tactic on healthy food but never on the intended junk food.
One afternoon after yet another bowl of unfinished daal, I gave her a lecture and made her finish it. Several days later she had an upset stomach. Worried, I told her ‘eat less. don’t eat the daal if you are not hungry’. To which she promptly replied, ‘But you don’t trust me when I say that!’
And she is just five.
If you have been following my blog (and fee fie fum! if you haven’t) you would know THE struggle in my life. How my first book Burnt Toast was a lucky fluke, written with a toddler on my knee and a baby crawling dangerously close to the wires at my feet. And now I want be the next Aravind Adiga. Maybe. If only I could find a rags-to-riches, third world fiction story that seems to scare foreignors so much that they bestow awards and money on you to make you feel all better. Why should only the IT guys make money from the ‘India story’?
So I cleared my space (threw a mass of papers and printers that seemed to be magically floating on four pillars to discover little- seen table), found a tranquil space and time (waited for kids to go to school), and got ready ( bought 2 new shiny, pretty notebooks and 3 sets of multi-coloured pens) and waited for inspiration to strike.
And waited….and waited…..
The best authors write from their childhood experiences. Think ‘catcher in the rye’ and not ‘assholes finish first’ here. So I delved into the farthest memories of my childhood hoping to discover some innocent, struggling , Indian ‘desh ki mitti’ kind of recall that could be stark and alien to sympathetic foreignors.
There was only one problem. Try as I might to conjure images of open and dusty maidans and ice golas, I could only remember concrete flats, dollops ice cream and burgers. I pushed my mind towards deprived children in blue pinafores, jute bags and studying under street lamps and it stubbornly threw back images of uniformed dresses, gated playgrounds and elaborate assembly functions. I wanted to think of ‘hum honge kamyaab’ and ‘ek chidiya’ and it supplemented those images with ‘Papa kehte hain’. ‘Another day in paradise’ and ‘Remember the time’.
I finally had to admit that my childhood was very ordinary. And global. We didn’t even have a full time servant whose oppression I could make into the Indian version of ‘Help’. If there is anyone who is oppressed in Mumbai its my sexagenarian mom who is held to ransom by no-nonsense ‘ek kaam ka hazzaar rupaya’ kaamwaaalis.
The only deprivation I could think about my childhood was the lack on entertainment we had as kids. We used to wait for the 9’o clock serials the whole day and thought ‘mungerilal ke haseen sapne’ was hilarous. The weekend movie and Star trek was a really big thing. We played all afternoon and read books over and over till we had them by-heart.
Yep, that’s my whole childhood.
So much for the ‘India story’.
Flames was a big time- pass when we were tweens. The game that collapsed to F=Friend, L=Love, A=Adore,M=Marriage, E=Enemy, S=sister caught popular frenzy as scores of hormonal teens in 6th and 7th grade bent over the last pages of their notebooks doing and redoing tally marks with names of their opposite sex as if hoping for a different outcome everytime.
When we were twelve , it was as if a switch had been turned on. Suddenly we discovered BOYS. And I don’t just mean me. Everyone in my 7th standard class was suddenly having a crush, gossiping about someone else’s crush (teasing, we called it) or denying that gossip, while secretely doubting their own intentions. We all had a simultaneous ‘eureka’ moment-our homones seemed to bubble onto the surface as suddenly as boiling milk. It was all harmless fun- the most anyone would do was flirt shamelessly or hold hands in ice-cream parlours (this was before Barista) feeling very very blasphemous all the time. We thought our moms would have killed us if they found out.
Life has come a full circle. Recently at a birthday party, a young man asked my daughter to dance with him. She innocently agreed and they started jiving haltingly on a popular number. Then one of her friends whispered something to her.
‘No! We are just friends!’ my daughter refuted heatedly, throwing a fervent look at me in the corner. I smiled at her and pretended to be oblivious. Relieved, my daughter immediately dropped the boys’ hand and stalked off the dance floor.
I had once resolved that I would never be as removed from my daughter’s life as my Mom was from mine. At my time of course parents never talked about boys except to warn you that they were devils out to destroy your honour. And sex was out of the question- all your hormonal urges were taboo, unclean and impure. Anything but natural.
I had resolved that the moment my daughter and her friends showed first signs of ‘boyfriend awareness’, I would sit her down and explain to her how this was all natural and biological and not confusing. That she should not fight it but be smart about handling it. That having boyfriends was ok as long as you are firm about your limits and your choices. Eventually we would have ‘THE TALK’ too. It was all cool.
So now that her friends were already ‘teasing’ her about a boy, maybe it was time for phase one of ‘boy talk’, right?
There was just one problem. My daughter, Khushi is just five years old.
My knee-jerk reaction is shock and anger. Comments such as ‘you are too young for this’. ‘When you grow up, I will tell you’, ‘Stay away from boys, you don’t know what they are like’ etc. come to mind. In short, my first reaction was to be my Mom.
I am the 90’s kid, so I have seen the world shift before my eyes like an Transformer alien changing form within seconds. It’s funny how fast things changed. When I was in school none of us had boyfriends.Yet just five years later when I was passing out of college, every 10th grade girl in my school had one or had already broken off with one. Many girls confessed that they really didn’t even like the guy they were dating, but they ‘had to have’ a boyfriend.
Of course I know that Khushi is really too young. She really does not understand any of this and neither does the friend who teased her about ‘being in love’ with the dancing boy. A little probing reveals that they think ‘love’ is restricted to loving your parents and teachers, they don’t like boys and find them annoying and boring. Without any exceptions. In all probability they were just mimicking the actions of older children playing around them and ‘teasing’ each other in the playground. Instinctive as kids are, they had picked up the embarassment and excitement associated with the term ‘boyfriend’, but they had not linked it to the how and why of it. So much for puppy love.
So I had a few more years. I breathed a sigh of relief.
There was just one problem. The ‘older’ kids that Khushi was mimicking, were just eight or nine years old. Some were only seven.
I feel the beginnings of a headache. Suddenly I feel really old.