Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Linking

Have you ever hit the “next blog” link on your blog? Please try it sometime. When you’re utterly bored. I hit the link and the next four blogs, following mine, were all Christian blogs. Including two blogs being maintained by priests (one Catholic and one Anglican). I wonder what that means…

I don't have links unfortunately. It didn't occur to me to. However, whilst posting this, I tried it again and stumbled on a new "next blog" which is also faith-based, sort of.

Monday, August 30, 2010

How I'm getting married Pt4

(Ok, enough of a back story has been given into the people and events involved in the groom-hunt process. So, I’m going to skip to the part where I met some potential husband-might-be-s at home. These meetings deserve a post each not because the boys were that interesting, only because the event itself was interesting.)

The first time I had to meet a boy at home was May Day 2008. I remember this distinctly because I cancelled on coffee with two of my best and oldest girl friends who I hadn’t met in a very long time just to meet this person. I threw such a huge temper tantrum at home. Turns out that the boy in question, let’s call him A, had a post grad degree in Engineering, works (I think he still does) at L&T and was about 28 at the time. The proposal came to us courtesy my mother’s aunt, who I consider eminently sensible and love to pieces. Everyone was thrilled and my grandmother was gushing over the whole event. My grandmother (maternal) has been in a weird state of mind ever since my grandfather passed away in 2003. She wanted to tom-tom her mourning widowhood to the world. She was also severely depressed and was slowly losing her memory courtesy of a family history of dementia. By 2008, her condition had worsened considerably to the point where most of what she was saying was very in the moment rather than genuine. As of 2010 she thinks I'm cocky because I'm pretty and rich, so I get away with being arrogant and ignoring her all the time. To her, now, 11am and 10pm are the same. That's a whole other can of worms I don't want to open right now...

Prior to A coming home, my parents had gone to meet the A’s aunt and uncle, who live in Chennai and with whom A was living, and arrange for a suitable date for the both of us to meet. I didn’t even know that this was happening and when I found out, I lost my head. I mean, I’m the loser that’s sticking her neck out for this nonsense; will it kill you to at least tell me that this is going on? The response to that is that I don’t need to know and it doesn’t concern me and that it’s an adult thing. Erm, WTF! So, I had to bottle up my indignation and figure out what to do next. That’s around the time when my household went a little nutty. My mother was telling me to wear some “appropriately modest” outfit or some such thing. We finally settled on a salwar kameez that I had no issues with. Then there was the question of jewellery, this is the point where I started yelling my top off. I refused to wear anything but earrings. My mother said I should wear a gold chain. I refused. My mother insisted and said that if I did wear a chain, it would be for the best as she would stop nagging! I gave in at that point. It was too much of an effort to bother any longer.

Our apartment got a good dose of spring cleaning. Everyone got dressed and in the middle of getting the house ready, my grandmother slipped and fell and knicked her forehead! I thought it was a sign. My aunt was yelling because my grandmother was being careless (she’d broken her shoulder a month ago, so we were stressed enough as it is looking after her, last thing we needed was another injury). My brother was thoroughly amused and was plotting his entertainment and joke schedule for the evening (my brother is the guy who everyone loves because he’s the good-looking smart mouth that won’t stop talking and making some lame joke about something lame.) My father was putting on his best father-of-the-bride face. My mother was breaking her head over what to make for tea. And I was seething in a corner, dressed in something green, if I remember right. The guests arrived and that is where this story really begins.

Now, when a potential groom comes home, every half-intelligent Indian girl is expected to display a certain amount of coy. I, of course, possess no such delicate trait! I walked right out when the guests arrived and said hello. My mother, rolling her eyes, kept signalling that I go back inside. I didn’t catch that communication and stood around smiling and avoiding looking at the character that walked in my house in a two-toned purple shirt, black jeans, a ¼ Afro and an f-----g handlebar moustache. Then it was juice-serving time. I went around with a tray of juice, smiled at everyone I served it to and once again took position in some inordinate corner of the living room. All around me people were saying polite things to each other and so on. Finally, the pronouncement was made, “Let them sit alone and talk no?” And we did.

See, this was the first time I was ever doing this, so I was trying very hard to hold back my chortles (no other word really, I was on the brink of some serious laughter.) The conversation lasted about 45 minutes. Apparently this is a very serious thing in such a scenario as this implies that the boy and girl have a lot to say to each other. What people don’t realise is that when the girl in question is a non-stop-mile-a-minute ass like myself, 45 minutes is just a blip and a testament of my skills at eking out a conversation with myself when faced with awkward silence. From generic where do you work, the conversation steered into expectations and so on it was here that A said some truly priceless things like – “I party, but only with boys” (WTF does that mean? I, for one, would have some serious issues processing that); “Your brother talks a lot. Actually, at home, apart from my mother, no one talks, we’re very quiet (I figured then that I wouldn’t last in this situation); “Your brother is a flirt. I’ve seen him with girls in college” (This character was doing his final year M Tech when my brother was in college and has seen him talking to his friends and has hence judged him. Judging my brother = you’re out of my life forever after). However, the clincher was…

… “Your eyebrows have a nice shape. Do you go to the beauty parlour often? How often? Once a week? Every day? Once a month?” (I replied with, “How often I go is not your problem really.”) This comment of his was said in a very snide tone. The kind of tone that made me want to drag him by his moustache and drown him in the Cooum! To add to that, he mentioned something about meeting a girl who was in possession of 100% character (I think in the Malayalee male chauvinist dictionary that means, “She’s a virgin and she’s a docile cow who’ll be quietly obedient and doesn’t care if she has a moustache”). Questions about character in such conversations seriously bother me. Men in this country date women like me and marry the virgins. Girls like me, in Malayalee English we’re called Freaky Girls (Pl don’t be laughing), are the kinds you don’t take home to your mother. By virtue of living a regular city life, wearing smart clothes and speaking English, we’ve ruined our chances of ever getting married to a traditional Malayalee boy. (Note: Traditional Malayalee boys are pigs. They don’t know the R in respect when it comes to women. I won’t be tied to something like that forever!)

After this conversation, it was time for the visitors to leave. I told my father I would never marry this person, even if I was being held at gun point and to please tell them that I didn’t like the guy. My father, brother, aunt and mother were all of the same opinion, so A never became my husband. Which leads us to a boy we’ll call V…

Saturday, August 28, 2010

How I'm getting married Pt3

Sometimes, going away is the only way to stay close to what matters to you. That's what happened when I went to The Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi, to study for a year. Undegraduate study in India will keep you in college for three years. And me? I went to Stella Maris College, got my BA in English Literature and didn't know what to do with my life after! So, my lovely dad (retd. Col. K. Padmanabhan) goes out and buys a bunch of application forms and filles them out and sends them to universities in New Delhi. His logic? Do your masters, but not here. Stay away from us for a year or two and grow up! I was only too happy to go along with the plan. The secret in keeping the peace at home is this, let dad think it was his plan and his initiative ;). After form-filling and entrance-exam-writing and interview clearing, I was off to Delhi to study. Be a journalist. Change the world (yeah at 19, I really thought I was going to accomplish this!). So Delhi happened and Delhi was the best year of my life. It was too much fun, and my dear father was oblivious to that, because he knew that I was in Delhi, growing up and the methods of said process was really not his concern. I turned 20 in 2004 November and that was another landmark age for this whole marriage process. It was the age relatives had inappropriate things to say about soon becoming ineligible. While I was in IIMC a girl who was in the Advertising course got married. A lot of the girls who were studying with me at the time were planning post-graduation weddings. It was starting all over again, the marriage process.

My parents were alright with letting me study a little more before I started working, and being a humanities student to me meant that a lot more time could be spent on academics before hitting real-time. So, I was at the University of Madras doing my MA in English and a little theatre on the side and some studying and plenty of friend-making and fun-having. In 2005, after three years of breaking up I got back with an ex. I thought it was the relationship that was meant to be. It was supposed to be my forever after. It wasn't. Some things work out, some things don't. We said our tearful and angry goodbyes to each other. I'd started my new blog then, in memoriam of the first character I was on stage, Lizzie Borden! At the end of that academic year, I went to Singapore to visit my aunt and she planned a trip to Koh Samui, Thailand. At that time, I was 22 and more talk in Singapore about whether I have a boy or not and what my long-term plans with said boy were. Yeah, the whole thing was getting exhausting and I wanted to RUN!

It was at age 22, as mentioned before that the whole marriage process took on a new level of crazy. We were on our way to my grandmother's place and my father says, there is a proposal that's come for you. He's 30. His father was an IAS officer. They're based out of Delhi. And so on. There was an accompanying photograph. There was a lot of back and forth between my father and his. Everyone thought it would work out. I had a strange feeling about the whole process. Around that time, a few of my in-their-30s aunts were getting married and telling my mother to please leave me alone (thank god!). My father thought that my getting married early would let him live in peace and only worry about his son's education. Blah. Blah. Blah. That proposal never worked out, but that one photograph snowballed this marriage shit out the effing ceiling! My life and social appearences since the year 2006 have all been centred around one thing, when are you getting married? A girl like you should not be single for too long. You're so smart, why are you single. Blah. Blah. Blah.

More photographs. One of them was photoshopped onto an American looking backdrop! One photo was of a boy who was wearing some polyester pink shirt with straightened hair and looked into the camera like he's doing the world a favour by just being! There was another guy who's father called to say that the boy is 5 ft tall and insisted that I'd be getting the best deal out of this. At 168cms, I can safely say that someone who's 5 ft is a bit short no? There was one proposal that came of someone who was 11 years older and who was really rich and so on but he was based out of Kerala. This whole register on a matrimonal website and find a boy and show my daughter a million photos a day and pitch each of those million to her convincingly was taking a toll on my poor father. He thought he'd ever get to pay for a wedding. My mother and her two sisters, the loves of my life, were planning sarees and jewellery and themes and so on, and were telling me "just get married Chinku, we have so much dressing up to do". It was like everyone wanted a carnival and I was the main event!

Since turning 22 and integrating myself into the process of getting wedded to "the malayalee Ezhava boy of my dreams" my life hasn't been the same. It's been one matrimonial site after the other. It's been one hint after the other. It has also been one huge soap opera after another where this first proposal came back and I really thought I was going to get married in true cinematic style... but that's for later! :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

How I'm getting married Pt2

The trouble with being ‘fair’ in a country like mine is that the comments about your-daughter-is-so-pretty-get-her-married start early on. To be honest, I was never the girl you looked at in stunned silence for minutes on end because you couldn’t take your eyes off of her, I’m just fair complexioned. So, when I dressed in a saree, put some kajal, wore one of my mother/aunt’s necklaces and smiled a lot at people at someone’s wedding, they all thought they magically acquired the impropriety to tell my mother that she should keep a close eye on me and find me a boy soon! I’d stand there smiling and contemplating the many ways in which I could prise their tongues out of their mouth just so they’d stop talking.

When I was 18 (before November 2003), a distant cousin of mine was getting married. As is the case with pre-wedding-dressing, my mother, two aunts and I went through a rather rigorous process of deciding who would wear what. My grandmother, owner of some beautiful sarees herself, was not part of this decision-making process, what we picked she wore; old age and an utter loss of memory were not conducive to her being active in such conversations. Besides which, my grandfather had passed away recently and she was in her I-will-dress-only-in-widow-clothes phase where she would wear only cream sarees and so on. Somehow, at the age of 70 the concept of widowhood seemed more spiritual than social to me personally, and no one really cared if you were a recent widow at 70 and wore a coloured saree.

Moving on to the occasion itself and me - I picked a bright blue silk-cotton saree with a broad orange border and jewellery to go with it. I was in the final year of college and had decided that I’d quit wearing salwar kameezes to weddings and switch over to wearing sarees because at home, there was plenty to choose from. All I needed to do was get blouses stitched to my measurements and I could wear any and all sarees from four wardrobes! I won’t get into details about numbers and variety at this point. Once clothes had been picked and so on, the day of the wedding had dawned and we were all ready to go. At the venue, my mother, my aunts and I were talking to a bunch of our other relatives ranging from other aunts to cousins to great aunts and so on. So much so that we missed the ceremony itself. I need to digress a little at this point into traditional Malayalee ceremonies – they last around 10 minutes. The groom walks in, ushered in by a group of pretty young women after having had his feet washed by his brother-in-law. The bride, accompanied by the older women in the family and aforementioned pretty women, comes in after. A small prayer is said. The groom ties the thali (sacred thread signifying marriage) around the bride’s neck. Father of the bride hands her over to groom. They walk around the mandapam thrice. Wedding done! (Intricate details like exchanging rings and gifts from one family to another and falling at feet of elders also happens in this time frame.)

It was in the midst of this chatter of gossiping aunts and grandmothers that someone had dropped a line that went along the lines of – “Suma, Chinku is growing up so fast! It’s time you started looking out for her,” in my native Malayalam. That was also the moment I lost my temper with the world that was hyper obsessed about my wedding.

When we were leaving, I was helping my grandmother into the car we’d hired for the morning and someone, again in passing, threw something in our direction about how I was such a good-natured girl with such good character and how I’d make for someone’s ideal bride. It pissed me off like nothing else, again. Since that day, the more family gatherings I went to, the more people kept talking about how supposedly pretty I was and how pretty girls like me should not be at home for long and how I should get married early. Thankfully, a series of life-altering family events propelled conversations of that nature to another direction. Thankfully, my grandmother was aware enough at that time to tell other people that I was only 18 and that I had more degrees to acquire and that I had a job to get before I became someone’s wife. Thankfully, my parents were obsessed with me getting a master’s degree. Thankfully, the people closest to me were obsessed with keeping me in their lives a little longer. Thankfully, Trivandrum Malayalees are more matriarchal than most. Thankfully, a few of my aunts hadn’t married yet and until they all did, I was just going to be the so-called pretty girl they spotted at weddings.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

How I'm getting married - Pt1

There are many things that I could go on and on about. I keep thinking that those 'many things' will make for great blog posts. Which is why, I am, on a Saturday morning, choosing to go public, with a few things.

Let's start with The Groom Hunt.

In India, for the most part, marriages are arranged. In Urban India, this may not be the case. However, we all know that in this part of the world, marriages are arranged. Let's just approach the rest of this post with that assumption.

We'll begin with definitions. In some cases, arranged marriage could mean mother and father choose, mull over, decide on a boy and introduce their daughter to him and get them engaged in a week and married in three months. What this means, usually, is that the parents do most of the groundwork, from character analysis to background checks to family compatibility tests, the works! In these situations, the girl has little or no say and is expected to go along with the plans and get married and live the rest of her life as someone's Mrs., as someone's mother and so on. (Ok, that sentence was not supposed to be judgemental, but I can't stop my opinion from creeping in on this post, sorry.)

In other cases, parents and daughters sit at matrimonial services and websites, with a long list of expectations and conditions. Brokers (yes, marriage borkers who walk around with at least three dozen potential horoscopes and photographs and so on) are roped in to get involved. Aunts and uncles, if they are close to the family, are thinking of their wardrobes, jewellery, buffet options, etc, well in advance. You wedding is planned to the last detail, with or without your approval/consent. You have the final veto over the boy. It's a more tedious process, because arranged marriage in these cases take time to materialise.

There are a few instances when families get involved in relationships and organise a wedding and let the 'non-arranged' couple go through the traditional ceremony and pretend at the wedding that the relationship was all their idea because, well, the family is progressive like that!

(All this narrative is getting somewhere you think. It will eventually lead to a post. It is.)

I will be an arranged marriage statistic. I say this with conviction purely because my previous attempts (yes, there was more than one, and yes, I'm glad they didn't work out) failed miserably and in great soap-operatic splendour. Once it was established that I would let my parents decide, it seemed as if my life changed. No stress of meeting people with an agenda. I could smile and wave all I wanted. I could serve up sentimental dishwater-level rubbish about family values and how I was going to marry the boy my parents chose, etc, etc, etc. For the sake of this decision, I have encountered three absolute strangers who have made for bloody awesome stories at dinner tables and just about any gathering of friends.

The thing is, my family has been going through this groom-hunt business for some time now. Since I was 18 and spotted in a blue saree at a relative's wedding and someone asked. The reply was something along the lines of, "She's 18! She needs to graduate and get a master's degree!" Since then, enquiries have been made and were fielded by an evasiveness that is remarkable. Until I turned 22 and was in the final year of my MA at the University of Madras...

(I'm going to serlialise this. I think each episode in this entire saga deserves a post and some edits as things progress.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

W.h.a.t.e.v.e.r

Have you ever reached that stage of melancholy where everything is on the same level. Someone could scream at you or even hug you, but you'd have the same reaction? That's what happens sometimes. That's what's happening now. I don't want this. Ironically enough, I'm expected to be the strong person for someone. A person who I would have called friend at one point in time but not anymore. I don't appreciate people who use you for as long as they think they need you and then walk out without turning back and then come running back because they know that their next target is not as acquiescing as you were. I hate that attitude. And then post a certain point comes the explanations - 'I'm going through shit'. WTF! WHAT THE EFF!!!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Words and things

I’m the kind of nut job that would put the following down as a list and go on and on in a convoluted manner. However, I realised that if I took the time to, I could present some thoughts in a less convoluted fashion and could, if possible, make my lists look prettier than just a collection of bulleted points of note. So this is a new kind of post from me, the one-paragraph-per-thought post! I also realised that both these points are about words. I seem to have this strange connection to words. I keep thinking of them, and I keep wanting to find new ways to use them. It’s a lot of fun. It’s very interesting and the research involved results in you finding new ways in which to use these words 

Insight
Forge. It’s an interesting word. It signifies a process, an event, a conclusive happening that leads to all kinds of things. Good and bad. Some evenings, there will be conversations over beer and food. You will think that in those shared moments of misery and joy, friendships will be forged. Somehow, you will need to realise that forging is specifically about a new formation. It can’t be welded over what already exists. Bonds, that can be called tenuous on a good day, cannot be forged over a few shared, honest moments.


Remembering

I have this nasty habit of thinking of things when I’m the middle of some arbitrary conversation! It’s bizarre! Like today, for instance. I was chatting with a friend of mine and out of nowhere the word “asinine” came to mind, for no apparent reason. It just popped out of nowhere. No context or anything, it just popped! 

(I'm posting this from office. It's highly insane to be doing it, but whatever!)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dreams?

"So when are you writing a book Shruthi?," asks my photographer S as we're getting ready to leave after interviewing the poet Salma. I have a pretty standard response. "Soon as I quit journalism," I say. He's a little surprised and wonders aloud about why that is so. I try to tell him that being a journalist and writing, however much or little, doesn't really leave room for any creative writing. Somewhere in the midst of all the Gonzo-ism the ability to create another plot is tiresome to say the least. I'd read somewhere that most journos are "aspiring writers". I don't know what happens to each of our dreams of being writers. I wonder if we're waiting to get the Pulitzer or still yearning for that Nobel/Booker that may never come our way except for the honour of writing about it in that one gushing paragraph in the interview with the one person who did.
I know I'm making it sound like I'm a contender for the "best in the biz" title, but I'm not. I only know that I want to write. How and what I write is immaterial at this point. Maybe a few years later, I might want more. For now, this is enough. That's what I keep telling myself, this is enough. I'm still waiting to be convinced...

Friday, August 6, 2010

How wisdom is born

The great thing about chat conversations is this. Somewhere in the spontaneity of the moment some great insights are born. For instance, just now, my friend J and I are talking about religious activism online and boom he comes up with this prize -

God is a meme.

I think it's the awesomest thing ever to be uttered in the context of religious activism. I am going to update this everywhere. I even have perm to use it. :)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Dictionary update - August 4

Latest update of words/adjectives that I think up while in conversation

porn-hunt (need not necessarily be hyphenated): means searching for porn.

Back story is this. I send my friend S a link asking him to read it. He asks "Is it porn?". I say, "Why would I send you porn". S says, "Why wouldn't you send me porn". I say, " because I don't porn hunt".

These beauties were also interspersed with talk of Inception. A movie that I haven't watched as yet.

So there it is - new word!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Short and succint

Women are such interesting creatures. Like I’ve mentioned earlier, we love and hate each other with a visceralness that we don’t understand but seem to have imbibed in our insides. My recent trip to Bangalore has proven that women can in fact live with each other as long as we are not telling each other what to do. If my best friend and I are constantly running each other’s lives, chances are that I will be whining about it to someone who will listen and who will, off the record, be my new best friend! That’s the way it goes in woman-world. That’s the way it will be for the most part.