Saturday, October 30, 2010

It's raining!

I don't like coffee. I'm really not a fan. But Chennai is obsessed with it. We serve what is known as Kumbakonam Degree Coffee, go figure! The morning breakfast here is idli, vada, sambar and one steaming cup of over-sweet, strong coffee.

However, I slip up on my I don't like coffee rule when I'm at Sathyam Cinemas, which has now also expanded to include the awesome Escape at Express Avenue. Their cold coffee is milky, coffee-y and sweet and goes perfectly with their cream doughnut. Top that off with a freezing movie theatre and a good film, I'd say its a great combo overall, no? Well, I think so.

Ok, that is just a digression here. I'm thinking of other things today. Such as the rain. See, Chennai is a humid, humider and humidest city. Add to those conditions some nice average temperature of 35C and you have such a lowelee weather that most of us bring out the sweaters and such like when the rains and "winter" happens. It's hilarious to watch really...

Take for instance, this little roadside stall adjacent to Ramakrishna Mission Boys School in T Nagar. The place opens only during the rainy season and stocks some garish woollens which concerned mothers buy their children and dress them up in it when they travel to school during this time of the year. If you're travelling on a motorbike, then you're probably wearing one of those weird, striped head dress type things. Sometimes I think it is out of place, but I realise that for Chennai anything below 30C is little bit cold wonly.

Despite our intolerance for lower temperatures, we love going to Ooty and dressing up in more woollen clothing. I'm mostly amused by all this dressing up.

I've been in a winter that I can remember (I spent the first three years of my life in Dharamshala, in Himachal Pradesh, Dalai Lama's town. Dad was posted there and amma is the one remembers the agony of being a mother to two kids in that weather, my brother apparently walked out of out our quarters in in his perfectly clean woollen rompers and right into the post-hail slush. not good.) once in my life, when I was 19/20 and studying @ IIMC, Delhi. The temperature that December was 2C and I had never encountered such weather. No humidity, no need to bathe at least thrice a day to get the grime off your skin, no over-oily skin. (how I loved my skin in the Delhi winter, no breakouts, nothing, just clear skin, I miss it)

The rain, which is the indicator of the change in seasons and also the harbinger of cold weather until January in Chennai, turns this city into one giant slush pit. The Chennai Corporation suddenly woke up one morning and decided that they wanted to re-do the cabling, etc, in the city, but forgot to cover it up and re-lay the roads. More importantly, the minute the North East monsoon hit the city, all the labourers left the worksites leaving huge pits of unfinished wire work and consequently tons of slush and other disasters. The seasonal cycloon that always is supposed to hit Chennai but bothers coastal Andhra instead hasn't happened this year. Last year the Saidapet subway was flooded and a 45A bus was under the subway when that happened. This year, I don't know what kind of drama will ensue. I only hope that those of us who walk the roads can walk on level ground and not sink under the many open manholes... (Some smart asses think that leaving a sewage manhole open is the best way to ensure that excess rain water will not flood the roads, but this is the effing monsoon, there will be too much rain, what makes you think it's a solution jackass!)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hormones and other things

A hormonal female is not person to blog, unless she does want to talk about her being hormonal. Even that will not work because men the world over, have made it clear that women and their hormones and hormonal issues are of no concern to them. This is just to inform you that when I’m at “that time of the month” (fuck! To think that is going to be my state of being for the better part of the next 20 years makes me shudder!) I cannot write anything that reads like English. Since I don’t write in any other language, it effectively reads as, I can’t write!

Since most of my writing is one long rant, I should be able to talk even more eloquently when I’m PMS-ing, but I just can’t able to [sic]. (This ‘can’t able to’ rubbish is something that most Chennai people will serve up, from official communications to everyday speech, it’s a phrase that is hilarious in parts and also brings up some serious concerns in terms of the evolution of the language as spoken in the country. If the number of words from Indian English, such as the hideous ‘prepone’, getting inducted into the English dictionary is any indication, can’t able to is, in all likelihood, well on its way…)

Anyway, PMS is not something I go to town about. I find the acronym to be most overused and abused when women try to justify their callousness and stupidity. “I’m PMS-ing and depressed, please go away” is one of the most common things I’ve heard in my life. It’s an issue. God knows I have to grapple with it month in and month out, but that doesn’t mean that women are entitled to use it as a means to some weird end. If we’re out there fighting for rights and so on, then on what basis are we allowing ourselves to fight from the comforts and so on of things like PMS. It just doesn’t make sense.

This brings me back to the whole double standards thing. It’s incredible to me that one set of rules work for one situation/person/time and another set for another situation/person/time. It reminds me of a very interesting conversation I had with the ex three months into our relationship. He was in another city and suddenly asked me to come up with a list of things I disliked about him. This was all on chat. I took a serious amount of time thinking that up. The next day, when I asked him to make a list, he just rattled it off. Apparently, sir had made a list of things wrong with me, but did not think it would be a very good idea to tell me without context, so he made me come with a list so he wouldn’t look like the villain in the piece. I told him then that I thought it was total shit and he’d never hear the end of it from me.

What amazes me about people, and sometimes about me, is the ability to switch rules and regulations as the situation demands. More so, when the situation involves sex. That’s when the waters get murky and thoroughly interesting. People seem to have an opinion that is both moralistic and “appropriate” and “right” the same person will, in all probability, be the king/queen of behind the cupboard activities. I may come across as judgemental in that comment, but if there is one piece of wisdom that I have accumulated in these last 25 years, it is this – irony is the ruling world order – Newton’s third law; Murphy; whatever you want to call it. It’s how things function on this planet. They called it Karma in some religious text and I think it’s just plain awesome…

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Being cool

I’m awesome and I love it

“In a casual sense, the term "entitlement" refers to a notion or belief that one (or oneself) is deserving of some particular reward or benefit — if given without deeper legal or principled cause, the term is often given with pejorative connotation (e.g. a "sense of entitlement").”*

(*Source : Wikipedia)

The thing is, most of us young in-our-20s people seem to be born with this bizarre notion in our heads that we’re supposed to be right at the top of the ladder without having to take the effort to climb it rung by rung. I don’t know where it comes from. I have a feeling it’s the parents who are feeding their children these ideas about them being child prodigies and how they should be the bosses the day they join an organization rather than having to working towards it for a few years for the privilege. It’s amazing to watch these people though. Absolutely authoritative about the fact that they know better than most and they should be taken more seriously than most.

It amazes me this myopic world view. I wonder if these specimens ever got one tight slap from their parents, ever. I don’t know if this need to work hard and prove a point is a typically middle-class thing. Here’s what I don’t like about this type ok, they’re all over smart and talk total nonsense, but when it comes right down to it, they’re incapable of handling a situation. The amount of time they spend dissecting a problem can be productively re-directed towards getting a move on and figuring it out. Of course the dilly-dallying also includes asking a million questions that can only come out of a lack of basic common sense.

It’s mentally stressful to be around such people.

*tears hair out in frustration*

Monday, October 25, 2010

Things on the mind

(19 followers aa! Inna maen sollre nee (what are you saying man)!

Sometimes, I think I should just keep on posting without a care about who is reading, or not. However, I’m in double digit territory now and it is only fair that I acknowledge the fact. I like this I say. I really do. Due to this wonderful thing called updates, I’m capable of keeping up with every blog I read and have blogrolled most blogs that are following me. I might venture into recommendations one day, but not yet...)

A lot of what goes on here are personal chronicles of the life I live in Chennai – part mental, part prude, part mallu, part journo, part distressed 25/26 year old, etc. There is a lot more I want to say, but I keep worrying about it. I should. Here’s why –

On Sunday, my mother’s brother (maama) had come over and was registering his daughter on a school homework website type place. He tells me to add him on Facebook. I shouldn’t have tried to do that. My entire family – dad, mum, uncle, his wife – were standing behind me while I was trying to search for my uncle on FB and my father saw a few pictures of my brother standing with a couple of his female friends. I did, eventually, find my uncle on FB and I added him. But my father said something bizarre – “what if this S (name abbreviated for obvious reasons) has a marriage proposal and the guy she’s planning to get engaged to sees her posing like this with Sidhu. What would he make of it?”

I had to stop and stare at him at this juncture in the conversation. I told him if Facebook is going to be the deal maker/breaker for a marriage proposal then people are better off without marriage proposals from stupid people. My father is one of those grew-up-in-Kerala-but-never-grew-out-of-Kerala type. And just for the record, I think Malayali men are the worst type of male on this planet. They’re oily, creepy, chauvinistic, sadistic, completely psycho, weird and completely disrespectful to say the very least of how horrible they collectively are.

According to my father, I should try not to fit into this popular myth of young women in cities and rise above it. For instance, when I’d told them about my ex and wanting to get married to him, etc, my father’s reaction was not just about the melodrama and all of that related crap but it was more along the lines of – I never thought my children would fall into this rut of being in a relationship, I always thought they’d be able to rise above peer pressure and do something more important. (Like what, I wonder.)

I’m not Madame Curie to discover something truly path-breaking and change the course of science in my own way. My dad thinks his kids are made of some super mutation of human DNA but owing to non-utilisation of said mutation have, in many ways, failed. It doesn’t stop him from gloating in public though about our beauty and so on, which in turn, does not make up for this insane expectation of awesomeness either. It’s a pressure most parents put on their children, while some people deal with the kids not meeting these expectations, parents like mine continue to expect the sun, moon and stars from us and end up thinking, sheesh my progeny is a big fail, so much talent, so much potential, so much laziness.

The best thing in this scenario is the peer pressure argument. What peer pressure? You smoked a cig when you were 13 because someone told you to right? You drank when in army training because everyone was doing it right? Then what level of hypocritical expectation is this? It’s bizarre. If there is one thing I cannot tolerate, it is double standards. Different rules for different situations and different people. What’s the use of the world fighting for peace and harmony and equality if these double standards continue to exist?

Anyway, its one of those things that I deal with on a daily basis, and I can’t say I’ve learned to make my peace with it. I haven’t. I only hope that some day I will be able to tune it out!

Monday, October 18, 2010

When not in the mood

  • I'm going to throw up all over Chennai city if there is one more conversation about things that aren't going to change. Want to be an ideating idealist? go change the world. I don't want to listen to what is right and what is wrong with this country. People who are not part of the process, should suck it.
  • Beer is best not consumed. I don't much care for it. I don't get the fuss over it. You need to consume alcohol? Go straight for the stuff that hits you.
  • All the potentials that I meet in this city have one reaction when I tell them about a particular ex of mine. "you dated him?!!!" I just smile. I'm never going to get lucky as long as that stupid albatross is around my neck.
  • Chennai is a small city. Everyone knows everyone else and their mother. I need to leave.
  • I'm hoping that my 26th birthday will be ushered in with a relieving order from my current employer. It'd be a great birthday present.
  • Three years down the line, I've come into some information that I could have done without. I didn't need to know. Since I wasn't in on any of the drama, it seems like I missed out on everything. Yet somehow, I managed to remain on friendly terms with everyone involved.

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I really wanted to write this long, long post. But doesn't seem to be happening. Maybe a sordid chronicle of some of my behind-the-cupboard chronicles are in order. Who knows!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Stupidities

FWB.

Friends with benefits.

I’m not sure when and where this concept originated in the dating and relationship dictionary, but I can tell you this. I want to smack the shit out of it.

Someone and I are friends. But even that is a grey area. Here’s why – I’m of the firm belief that friends do more than just follow facebook and twitter updates and comment on said updates and send smses when in dire need of a conversation or otherwise. However, even if that basic form of real-time interaction is not happening, what will you call the relationship? I’m all for grey areas, purely because they give me all this material to blog about. But seriously, when there is a non-romantic relationship to be defined, why in the hell is it so difficult to just give it a name?

Apparently, the story goes that men and women, in any relationship, except filial, have a hard time of defining their relationships with each other. Why? Because of all that sex that comes in the way I’m told. Uh, seriously? I live in India; people here don’t have sex, except in their bedrooms and on the murals of Khajuraho. Even if we do have sex, we’re probably a couple of flowers suggestively shaking on the 70mm screen or worse, some skanky reperesentation of seduction gyrating to all kinds of music and making eyes at someone with her fake eyelashes. That’s sex in our country. It’s mostly cheap. It’s mostly non-existent.

Looping back to the subject at hand…

In the early 2000s, I discovered this FWB stupidfuckofaconcept. At the time, I thought I was being rather progressive by being OK with it. I even thought I was the kind of girl who could handle this so-called uncomplicated relationship with ease. Erm, ok. Thing is, I’ve either met the biggest jerks in town or I’ve been stupid to think there is more to all that senti talk I get before things proceed in an altogether different direction. I’m going to go with stupid. As the first decade of the 21st century is coming to a close, I’m realising that time has only made me loathe the relationship grey areas more and more.

So as to this friends thing. I find it hard for people to call you their friend and expect benefits when there is not f of the effing friendship to begin with, how will you cross that and get to the benefits? However much you would like to think that benefits are just benefits, they are the result of something. There needs to be a reason for said benefits. If there is no reason, no just cause, what can possibly be expected?

That question beats all. But this is where true talent lies. If you’re good with this craft of getting people to go with your scheme of things, any and all arguments in this post can be refuted and I will turn into a believer. That’s the fuckup. Assholes the world over are getting free hooker-type sex from friends by creating a relationship called FWB.

I wonder which of these women have seen the light and are a) clubbing the skulls of concerned morons and b) just breaking up with these friends.

I do not have the spine to bring this topic of discussion up and put a stop to the colourful proceedings. I think I should. Not for anything else, just so I have one less thing to worry about…

Rife as it is with nothingness, my graph of my daily existence sometimes peaks with such lovelies. I wonder what I’ll do when it stops?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pondering

I’ve realised that I use the word caste a lot in this blog. Especially when mentioning weddings and so on. I shouldn’t be using that word. I’m from a secular country and as someone who comes from a community that fought the absolute feudalism espoused in Kerala at one point in time, I should not be throwing a word like caste around in any way or form.

However, despite this being 2010, I have a profile listed in a matrimonial website that specifies that the boys or boys’ families asking for my hand in marriage should be the same caste as me.

It’s a very ironic thing if you ask me. Because the guru that my community follows, Sree Narayana Guru, had one major teaching – one caste, one religion and one God for man. (Oru jaathi, oru madam, oru deivam, manushyanu.) Despite being his followers, we have managed to, over the years, become more and more firmly entrenched in the belief that only Ezhavas are good enough to marry and mate with and breed more Ezhavas.

Elsewhere in my country, people are killing for caste. States like Haryana report honour killings on an eerily regular basis. The only crime of the victims concerned is that they fel in love with the wrong person. In some states, grooms are apparently kidnapped and forced to wed young girls who are or are not willing to get married (a film, Antardwand, was made on the same subject). A very good friend of mine is going through all kinds of mental trauma because her boyfriend’s parents refused to approve of their marriage. She’s been fighting for close to three years now. Their concern is that she’s not the same caste as them.

I’m not sure what all of it means from an anthropological point of view or from a cultural point of view or from a watchamacallit point of view. I do know that despite this being the 21st century and despite us being more evolved, it doesn’t seem to me as if we’ve moved anywhere. As a city-dweller, the quantities of apathy in my bloodstream are only increasing.

It doesn’t mean much to me, but it does to so many of the billion that reside in this country. For some people, it’s everything. I can understand if religion was the big thing, but when a so-called religion (I don’t think Hinduism is a religion per se. No one book to follow to the letter, etc.) itself has as many divisions within its framework, how the hell is one to escape that and look at the bigger picture.

Caste and its associated trauma was one of the reasons why there were so many mass conversions in India. A lot of the people who switched religions did so because to them being Hindu was more of a pain than it was peace of mind. They wanted to escape the shackles of social propriety imposed on them because of their religious beliefs and chose to follow a path to God that was not centred in classifications.

It’s a hard subject to articulate and debate, especially for me. I don’t know enough jargon to pull this off. Nor am I going to justify my usage of a word, in whatever spirit, in my posts. Suffice to say, it is what it is and it exists. I read the papers and sometimes there are stories of how an innocent, consenting, adult couple had to deal with the consequences of disapproval…

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Trips and things

And, I’m back from Kerala!

Do you know the kind of mental and social and physical trauma it is to be an immigrant Malayali? Its hell. Dante had nothing on this one. See, us Mals, the second we step back into coconut-land, we all go a little pseudo and decide to become flawless replicas of the denizens of our respective marunaadus. (Marunaadan Malayalis are out-of-Kerala Mallu people. Hence, making the marunaadu, the place outside Kerala where you were born or now live in and never want to leave from.)

When in Kerala, I turn it into a malayalam-speaking, slawar-wearing, gold-wearing (this is a big deal for me. I bloody hate gold. How I’m going to wear the tonne of gold all mallu brides are expected to wear on the day of their weddings is beyond me, but I apparently have to!) and elders-respecting person. I only do it because my paternal grandmother doesn’t bother saying hello, she just closely examines the chain I’m wearing instead and deems it appropriate that I’m in her vicinity. Sometimes, she sends me things to eat via my dad. Sometimes I “borrow” her nose pin to re-model and wear at some later date. Sometimes she’s the one waiting outside my father’s home in Kannambra so we can all hurry up and eat the Onasadya. Sometimes she’s the one yelling and screaming at my father for reasons I don’t understand. Sometimes I don’t like her. Sometimes I do. She’s my grandmother, I barely have a relationship with her, what little that remains, I’d like to keep in place.

I couldn’t meet muthashi (my paternal grandmother) this time. I was in Guruvayoor for my friend’s wedding. I think I need to make a trip to Kerala every once in a while without the pressure of having to visit family. It makes me appreciate the place a little bit more than usual. KErala is a place I cannot relate to unfortunately. I apologise to all the gori mems and saabs who think Kerala, and by extension, India, is all the shit, but try being mallu and living in a place where every man thinks he’s entitled to be a lech with you. Where every woman thinks wearing gold is about the best thing you can do with your time. Where your having a social life outside of family even evincing interest in such activity is an open invitation to everyone to rape you, and in less extreme cases, pass some form of derisive moral commentary. Where being a woman is a good thing only if you are an idol in a temple or the queen mother. I cannot imagine spending any length of time in Kerala, unless I’m there for a wedding, on a houseboat in the backwaters or taking a vacation with at least one more awkward-malayalam-speaking person.

So, we’ve established that I don’t fancy Kerala. But this is where I step in, again, to contradict myself.

I love being Mal, only not in Kerala. Outside Kerala, us Mals are very nice and very interesting people. We make Medimix Soap. We are known to make some of the best roadside tea in the country. We have the shortest wedding ceremonies. (under 10 minutes, even with all the drama, promise! When I get married, I will put a proper frame-by-frame post that will chronicle everything.) We also speak in the best non-Kerala Malayalam with each other irrespective of who else is in the conversation. We think our film comedy tracks are the best in the country. (Most of our movies are better than what shit Bollywood churns out. Don’t believe me? Watch Manichirtathaazhu and Bhool Bhulaiyya back-to-back, you’ll get it.)

I’m now going to drag this post to the direction that I first intended it to go, a short review of my most recent trip to my home state.

I’m 26 in November and single. Which translates into only one thing. My parents are failures! They have failed to secure a good marriage alliance for me. (yeah. That.) However, some other parents, or their kids, have been more successful and have managed to find ways to become socially acceptable at the advanced age of 26+. Case in point my friend Ash. She was one of the prettiest girls in school and one of my closest friends too. Over the years, our relationship went from typical school-girl BFF type to a more mature friendship which I greatly value and appreciate. I spend a lot of time sending out a note of thanks to the powers that be for women like her who are part of my life.

*edited (on Oct 8) to add photos. May as well...

(That's us)

Ash got lucky and fell in love with a boy who is, incidentally, from the same caste as her. (I am also same caste and while taking photographs, her dad silently tells me he's looking out for eligible boys for me...) There was no scope for objection from anyone really. And that is how they got married. For some vague reason her family wanted her to get married in Guruvayoor. Why they would do that is beyond me. Guruvayoor is a pilgrimage spot. People get married there if they’ve taken a vow that they want to. Some families bring their babies there for their first meal (or the chor-oonu). Some families bring their little children there on Saraswati Pooja, when the child is made to write one alphabet on a plate of rice as a signifier for the beginning of the learning process. Weddings in Guruvayoor are a little messy and crowded. The dress code is strict, women cannot wear salwars to the temple (although, I’ve been told that this rule has changed) and men have to wear only mundus, no shirts. Not only that, on some days there are more than 100 weddings that happen at the mandapam and there have been a few, and very far between, reports of instances where the brides and grooms got mixed up in the melee. (Some director made a movie of this in the early 90s I think.) All that aside, when Ash announced that her wedding was going to be in Guruvayoor, I had already booked my tickets!

When you travel from Chennai to Kerala, you must know that you need to book your tickets at least three months in advance to get confirmed tickets. The South Indian Railways has apparently not thought far ahead enough to create more trains to cater to this traffic, but then again, in a country with more than a billion people, that would be certifiably insane on many, many levels.

The three days from October 1 to October 3 were good fun. From the resort we stayed in to my friend’s hyperventilation when the mehendi was badly done and the fact that she was not ready on time to our last-minute dance at the mehendi party (we’d rehearsed since 9am that morning ok, so not last-minute :P). But then, this trip turned around a little bit on me. My mother and aunt’s tickets were not confirmed and they were stuck in Chennai trying ti figure out a way to come here. Being Mal, a trip to Guruvayoor is a must-do. Every chance we get or don’t, we’ve planned a trip to come see Guruvayoorappan. But I think him and my mother and aunt are having some kind of misunderstanding! He refused to let them have a peaceful trip to his place. They took a train that got them to Shoranur (about an hour away from Guruvayoor) at 2.15am on the morning of the 3rd. On the 3rd, after the wedding, we took a bus back. The bus boarded at Thrishur and we waited for almost four hours for the bus in a very shady part of town on the highway. The bus itself was leaky, had no seat numbers and did not make a single loo stop or dinner stop. The people travelling on that bus were cranky and we got to Chennai later than we should have…

‘Nuff said.

One thing that did come out of it, my mother and aunt both said they’ll never forget Ash’s wedding for a while!

My only regret, my friend Poornima was MIA from the proceedings. Her, Ash and me were the school bus gang and we’ve been super close since forever. The three of us should be at each other’s weddings... (As of Oct 7 morning, Poori tells me she had good reason. I hope she did. I'm sad enough that the great trio is getting disbanded...)

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In other blog-related updates

I’m stuck! The Unbearable Lightness of Being is not moving forward. I am, however, reading Kafka on the Shore and pretty fast. That just might be the next book review in the series…

THE END