Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dedication

Between 2001 and 2004, I was doing my bachelor’s degree. Three years in one of Chennai’s so-called “top” colleges. The place was, initially, a huge culture shock. Having grown up in a co-education school, it was hard for me to fathom an educational institution that comprised of only women. Some women seemed better at it than others. Some of them came pre-programmed with a big circle of friends and rules and regulations and who they liked and who they didn’t like. It was all so easy. Or so it seemed.

From the outside, aka, the bakery across the road, my college was a dream. A place full of all kinds of women. All shapes and sizes and personalities. It was, in short, dream land.

I met some of my best friends in this place. I remember dressing up to go. My mother checked what I was wearing. Since I was going to her alma mater, she assumed she was the best person for these things. Of course, this only meant that I fought with her almost every single day. She had problems with everything I wore and then she’d sit and complain about how un-hep I looked. It was extremely strange.

I’d completely forgotten by then that my mother was the crazy lady that dressed me up when I was a little girl. Perfectly delightful frocks, stockings, patent leather shoes, a handkerchief pinned to my frock and a perfect smile pasted on my face. I was, in some sense, the quintessential cute little thing. I could also roll across the floor much better than I could walk, I was that fat.

College was also three years of the worst dressing of my life. The worst. The nuns were obsessed with how we were dressed, so much so, that after a point, in my final year of college, I took to wearing sarees more often. It saved me a lot of trouble. The nuns were only too happy to encourage girls who dressed like that.

My three years in college also meant, Bhuva. S Bhuvaneshwari Rao. SB Rao. SB. She was one of my best friends and one of my biggest fans. I loved her and loved the contents of her lunch box. I remember her in the first year. She had long beautiful hair and she seemed to know how to be a friend. She was the girl everyone liked instantly. That was just the beginning of it.

It was only in our second year that Bhuva and I became close. Apart from constantly eating each other’s lunches and helping each other out with work, Bhuva, S and I would sit for hours having long conversations about life and so many other things. There was so much to talk about. So much to learn. So much to understand.

It was many conversations later that I began to notice something. My friend was in pain. She was hurting, worrying, traumatized about something and there was nothing any of us could do to help her. We knew that she was finding it hard to move away from her strict and orthodox upbringing and do things that she wanted to do. Simple things like cutting her hair.

By the time we were in the final year of college, she was in a relationship that was not helping her in any way. There were too many things going on in her life that no one knew too much about.

For all outward appearences, she was still the happy, sunshine person she was when she walked in to college.

We didn’t know what to tell her. We kept telling her break-up with him. Stop falling deeper into this mess. Get out of it. But, words were the only things we had. Words, words, words, useless fucking words.

The night she sat at home, crying her eyes out, telling us that she wanted to leave but that this guy had a knack of making it all feel right. It hurt me physically to watch her in so much agony. Again, all we had was only words, words, words.

After college, I left for Delhi. Far away from everything familiar. Far away from Bhuva. She would send me texts, inspirational texts, good mornings and I miss yous that made my day in a city that I loved and loathed in the same breath.

I remember the thrill of flying down home for the Diwali holidays. I stayed from my parents’ anniversary until my birthday. The day I landed, Bhuva came over. I remember the welcome back hug. That was her thing, hugs. She always came to you with her arms open, her smile on her face and you knew that it was going to be okay.

A few days later, my best friend called me to say that Bhuva had killed herself. We don’t know why. We’ll neverk now why. We tried so hard to search for an explanation. To figure out if we knew what the reason was. We wanted to know if we could have prevented it. She never told us once that she was in that much pain. Sometimes, I wish I knew someone who could have intervened.

Six years since it happened. I went back to her house to meet her parents just once. I didn’t want to go back again. It was like she never existed in that home. Her room had been cleaned out sanitized almost of her art work, her trinkets, her glass bangles, her spirit.

I could go on and on about this girl. But I remember her for two things – my mother and her shared birthdays and behind the cupboard.

She’s given me so much to smile about. I don’t know why she’s not around any longer. There are landmarks I’ve celebrated where I wish she was around, laughing her inimitable laugh and hugging me to celebrate.

Friday, January 21, 2011

To not party

So, I don’t like this living at home thing. I’ve never liked it, to be perfectly honest. It’s one of those weird Indian social propriety things that kids don’t leave their parents’ homes unless they are married. This applies to sons and daughters. For as long as this system exists, I know that our vague sense of entitlement at dad paying our bills and so on will exist. In times of crisis, call dad. That’s how we live in these here parts of the world. It’s not a rich kid’s prerogative. It’s every kid’s prerogative.

The only problem, however, is the simple fact that you can’t really do anything. You have to be home by bed time. This, if you ask me, sucks! It wasn’t until I was 24, that I got the keys to my front door so that I could come home whenever without disturbing my mother. It was a big event. My curfew until then was 10pm. Any time after that was just not acceptable.

Of course working in a newspaper only meant production days were late nights and I couldn’t help coming home after 11pm on a Friday. That’s when the rules relaxed a little bit. In a way, I’m glad my parents were a little strict. I can’t imagine this late night lifestyle any earlier than now. I would have become a little jaded with it. It’s still fun. It’s still interesting. I’m not sure how long it is going to last though. My best friend is leaving for the UK next Friday and I don’t know who I am going to hang out with. It’s not like I don’t have friends here, it’s just that they are not my it’s-Friday-let’s-go-out friends. They are my shit-we-haven’t-met-in-forever-let’s-get-silly friends.

I find it a little trivial to be sitting and complaining about this. I cannot imagine weeks and weeks of going to work, coming home and hanging out with my family. Dear god! I’ll go insane in 72 hours!

Not like my family is not cool. They’re fun. But I can’t do B-52 shots with them now can I?

This is what happens when you’re a 20-something in this country. Everyone gets married or is in the process of getting married, and as the last one standing, you’re stuck in a rut. It’s not a nice rut. It’s a bag full of shit that smells so bad that the entire room and a half is reeking with its stink.

Take last night for instance – I was home at 2. My mother had, by then, called me about 50,000 times already. When I reached, she was calling me names she usually reserves for people she wants to send to death row. I was more than a little angry. Fuck angry, I wanted to turn my back and walk out. This is not the first time. When they found out I was seeing a boy, I became a slut. Yeah, it’s that extreme with my parents. When they found out I drink my father took every chance he got to say – “Well, this is what life is all about right? Boys, booze and partying”.

Of course, he thought he was making me think about the immorality of my actions. He works with reverse psychology. That’s his MO. It hasn’t worked at all on either Sid or me.

This conflict is something I’ve had my whole life. This “You come from a very respectable family. This is not how girls from decent families behave.” BS I’ve been hearing since I was a teenager and I was talking to boys. Well, when you put your kids in a co-ed school, you should have thought about talking to boys, right? Never mind if the fees are subsidized because you’re a teacher.

It’s more than a little annoying to explain to parents about having normal, reasonable, non-sex relationships with some men. Especially, if you’ve known them since kindergarten. They, of course, don’t give you the credit of having a functioning brain and instincts and judgment. According to your parents, no matter how old you are, you’re always the kind with an IQ of 5 when it comes to life. This is especially true at home.

Sometimes, on particularly bad days, I wish I was the oily malayali. The one who centre parts her hair, uses coconut oil liberally, has curly hair (I don’t!), wears only salwar kameez (when she wears jeans of course she will wear a bindi and anklets and a synthetic kurta) and spoke with a thick accent (my mother’s convent Englishness would roll over and die, but I do wish it sometimes).

My life would have been easier. My parents would have nothing to complain about. I would not have had to deal with any of this nonsense. I wouldn’t be sitting here, in Chennai, hoping that I can move out ASAP just so I can sit at home all day because that is what I want to do.

It’s weird. It’s trivial. It’s nonsense. But this is precisely the kind of angst some US-heading software professionals are escaping from.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fighting

Do you like fights? Instances when you watch in absolute amazement as two or more people are confronting each other with accusations and whatnot. One is yelling, the other is justifying – that’s a decent fight. Some fights have two people calling each other names for the simple reason that they just don’t like each other or something the other person did.

Yesterday, while I was on the bus back home after my haircut, two women who got in started fighting. One woman had four kids and I couldn’t get a good look at the other one. They were calling each other some very serious names. They were pulling each other’s hair. The kid who was setting in the seat next to me was laughing his head off. His baby brother who was sitting on his lap didn’t get the fuss.

A few seconds later the bus conductor comes forward and tries to break it up. The driver is pissed. Some people got off the bus because they were getting too impatient. I wanted to know why they were fighting, but no one around me seemed to know. Finally, at one signal/traffic light the lady with too many children got off, all the while she was hurling abuses at the bus, the driver and conductor and spitting in the direction of the Metropolitan Transport Corporation behemoth!

I would have loved to know what they were fighting about. This kind of incident is a great alcohol accompaniment.

There’s something about fights that I enjoy. They’re honest. Raw. Human. Devoid of pretense. Who in this world can be fake in a fight? No one. I prefer watching fights. The people I see in a fight are interesting people.

In the movies too, fights are fun. A Kollywood (Tamil) film hero jumps through the air with this bizarre cycling action, and the entire gang of 20-odd villains writhe on the floor in pain. If you were watching Vel, like I was, a couple of years ago, you would have been subject to my little cousin screaming in the theatre to his mother – “amma! Tell Suriya to turn around amma, the villain is right behind him!”; “Oh no! Amma! Suriya is going to die! No, Amma, NO!” and other assorted warnings for Suriya to please watch his back.

Of course, we weren’t sitting in the last row. There was a family behind us who couldn’t watch the movie because my darling cousin was on his seat and yelling his head off!

Bollywood fights, well, after that locked in the garage beating up scene in Coolie, nothing really compares!

My favourite fights are when the comedians get involved. There’s something very interesting about trying to make a funny man fight. You’re so used to laughing at what they are saying that you don’t think they are capable of doing anything else in the script. Maybe it’s for effect, maybe fighting is not reserved for the alpha male, but comedians fighting is funny, in its own way.
Then there are verbal fights. Those are my personal favourites. When people let their vocabulary do the talking, oh man! What fun!

Ok, I’m going to clarify here, mudslinging is not cool ok. Equally matched verbal abusers fighting it out? Now that my friends is a great show. Butter up your popcorn and watch/listen!

Since I made movie references earlier, I would like to tell you about my favourite kind of movie verbal fights. The one’s where this one guy loses his temper and yells. Someone’s always yelling right? If you’ve watched the Lethal Weapon series, there is a scene in the third movie, I think, where Joe Pesci is brought in for the umpteenth time and he’s really upset. I was laughing the whole time. The whole time. People around me thought I was a complete nut job, but these things don’t seem funny to you? Really? Why?

Then of course there are the scenes in the Malayalam movies when the hero, who also sometimes doubles up as a comedian, is in this really weird situation, and you can see his agony. In that one instance, he makes a face and says something, not completely, but you know exactly what he means. For me, the king of that situation is Innocent. The look on his face sometimes, you have to watch it to know what I mean.

My grandmother, when she was in her right mind, would sometimes give either the vegetable lady or the fish man a piece of her mind. Good times. It was just the way she said it that made the whole scene hilarious. When I was that young, I trailed my grandmother all the time. Everything she said was so interesting. When she got annoyed and wanted to make a point, she launched into this thick Trivandrum accented harmless Malayalam abuse, which was so hilarious when delivered! I wish she was still like that. After a point, when I was a teenager, I would keep asking her to say a certain few words – “amamma, please?” and she’d oblige.

Sometimes, I want to say “amamma please?” in the hope that she’d get the cue…

***

In other news, this is the new love of my life, Sheep. So angry! I fell in love with this the instant I saw it. Some bank gave this to my mother as a new year present!







***

One more wedding. January 17. One more long-winded gossip session accompanied with Whiskey, Brandy and my boys from school.

Me and other things.

Yesterday, I tried writing a post about myself. You know the self-deprecatory post, just to show a bit of humanity in my otherwise indestructible- from-the-outside self. I scrapped it. Not because I don’t want people to know, it’s the kind of introspection that will make me delete this blog! Yeah, I’m crazy like that.

It’s a person’s responsibility, in a way, to look at their mistakes and try to become better people. If you’re open about putting yourself through that process, it’s amazing. I, for one, am that weakling who simply cannot put herself through a self-improvement exercise in public. It’s precisely the kind of oversharing that makes me uncomfortable.

It’s ironic because I overshare. Not in the this-is-what-I-did-at-16:26 Hrs kind of way, but more of a mini-biography-of-Shh kind of way. It’s a little creepy on hindsight, but I seem to do it and I seem, SEEM to find people who will listen also!

So, here’s what happens ok, I talk too much. Some kind and well-mannered soul listens for a while. Then there is absolute silence from the other side. It’s very confusing. Are you quiet because you want to hear more? You’ve fallen asleep? You’re so bored you’ve spaced out exactly the way you did in History class? You’re dead? You really don’t care? So many possibilities to consider . The worst of it is that people won’t tell me anything in fear that I will launch into another long-winded profound speech.

It’s a scary process.

Off late, I've stopped doing this. I only end up thinking something's wrong with me and let's be honest, no one wants to feel that way right?

***

So, next up in my travels is Kerala. Two consecutive weekends. One weekend I am going to this temple in Angadipuram to sit through a pooja that requests the universe to kindly align the stars in order so I can get married! The next weekend I will go back to Trivandrum for the Attukal Pongala. I can't believe I'm repeating events on this blog! It's ok, this time, I think it's going to be more fun. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. If all goes well, my mom #3 will make the trip.

***

And yes, I am back in Chennai. Home. And you know what? My family forgot that I was reaching on Saturday. So there I was outside the arrival gate of the airport and who do I see? No one. I called home and my father was sleeping! To make things worse, I left my phone behind in Singapore. I got my number back but I still can't get over my parents thinking that I was coming back on Sunday! I took a cab and spent the last of my money. I'm now completely broke. Have only Rs60 in my bank account. Sigh. I need a job!

***

Monday, January 10, 2011

Habits

Bad habits. They’re things our parents reprimand us for when we’re babies – you know constantly figuring out ways to tell us in Baby that boogers are not healthy snacks and that eating mud is not a carb substitute! As we grow older, these bad habits seem to take on another dimension and suddenly swallowing boogers seems like the habit du jour compared to the wonders of adolescence and adulthood and independence.

Sometimes, I wish bad habits were abstract. Things you justify to your children with logic and admonition.

But bad habits are not just concepts. In a lot of instances, bad habits are people. Flesh and blood human beings who seem okay on the outside but for some inexplicable reason have a hold on you that you can’t even justify, let alone articulate.

Joss Stone sings about her bad habit in one of her songs. Maybe she loved the guy she was singing about, but a lot of us don’t love the guy we’re talking about, and yet, we seem to cling to him in the vague hope that this once the bad habit will not be all that bad after all.

I don’t know where the whole saga begins, because it all starts off, as most relationships do, with a simple and innocent “hello”. The introduction slowly and surely slips into knowing each others' names, life histories, insecurities, loves and hates. You find yourself accumulating information by the second and processing it and storing it and re-hashing it just to be sure that you’ve got the facts down pat.

The next thing you know, this person is the centre of your universe and you can’t seem to find a way to justify this strange need you have to constantly be in this person’s presence. Just when you think all’s well in paradise, you’re crying all the time and wondering where the hell paradise went.

Even with all the crying, it’s impossible to let go. Somehow this person knows how to draw you into a circle of needing, constantly.

I really wish they're put this phenomenon under the “substance abuse” label, somewhere.

The irony is that the people who find themselves in this situation are often control freaks. In an everyday situation these people would not let someone past the giant, 10-foot thick brick wall they’ve built around them. However, some loophole in this seemingly flawless system allows the presence of this person to ensure that your little remaining sanity is f--k-d up.

The worst of it all is getting rid of a bad habit.

From cutting it off completely to sweating through an intense withdrawal, the process is painful to say the very least of it. The pain of it might be killing you on the inside, but one the other hand there are some who manage to derive some pleasure from your pain and go to town about their joy. I don’t know what the kick is really. It isn’t like people take advice seriously.

There is a moment when everything seems crystal clear. A moment when you wake up and no longer crave your bad habit. It’s the strangest thing, but you wish to go back to a more controlled intake rather than an overdose.

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I don’t know how to say no. Maybe I’m the only one who gets into these situations. In my four years of getting rid of a bad habit, I’ve learnt one very important lesson, saying no.

Because of this, there are days when I think I’m the only person on the planet. There are days when I read 100 pages more of a book because I have nothing else to do with my time. There are days, unfortunately, when I eat a bag of chips extra because I have no one to talk to who “understands me”. The rest of the time, when I’m not feeling miserable, I get on with my life because I know that five years down the line, I won’t regret this choice.

Friday, January 7, 2011

GO AND VOTE!

Now, for those of you who have been regulars in the blog universe, you probably know about the Bloggies. It's the longest-running award for this part of the interwebs and this year, I'm doing a wee bit of campaigning. Not for me! I'm not that shameless. Yet.

I want all of you to please vote for my friend Thauseef. I've been following his blog since forever and I must tell you, the one thing that has remained consistent about his space is his ability to let you see every painful detail in as microscopic a magnification as possible.

He's painfully honest about his life, loves and losses and tells a beautiful story. ensure he gets nominated for the "Best Writing of a Weblog" category, and if you agree with me, pass the word around.

Voting closes on January 16th for nominations. So, once again, please vote for my friend and pass the word around.

Lowe,
Shh

Sunday, January 2, 2011

BS

I saw an interesting post on Facebook today about the right to post on walls and the right to delete friends. It hit me then that friendships have moved on to a whole other dimension in the 2000s. There was a time when a friend didn’t have to adhere to so many things in order to be called a friend. A friend just was. Acceptance and distance was alright. Somehow the complexities and niceties that one has to maintain today was not even a talking point in the pre-overconnectivity era.

***
This long holiday and break-from-everything-familiar is an interesting gig. I like it. A lot. However, in some instances, I really wish I was around things and people familiar to me in a routine kind of way. It would have made my life so much easier knowing where everything is and getting work organized, and more importantly, getting work done. This, this time zone and waiting is a pain.

***
Someone told me that I now have nothing to rant about. I want him to read a previous post. Just about everything on this planet irks me. I’m one of those people who will never be happy with the sun, moon and stars. I need things to be a certain way. The response to this will either be a smirk or one of those self-righteous spiels that I care not to paraphrase here. Truth is, everyone has an opinion and everyone is living life on their own terms and doing the things they want to do. It’s fucking unfair that everyone else gets to do it and I don’t!

Why is it such a big deal when people express dissent? If the dissent itself is not causing grievous or bodily harm to anyone, it’s ok. It’s called democratic. It’s called individualism. It’s called the death of the genre. I’m sorry to say this, but in a world rife with deifying the individual, the time has come for generic to become archaic. Labels are so dated. Everyone is an expert now and statistics only apply to the individual. It’s called labelism this crime of dumping individuals in one basket and calling them all one thing. So, stop.

***
Forgot to add my biggest crime to that list I made. I do overkill like a pro – from jokes to hypotheses – I have an uncanny knack of making a point perfectly beautifully and then hammering it home like there’s no tomorrow. Case in point, direct your eyes towards the previous two paragraphs and figure it out.

THE END

Saturday, January 1, 2011

AWARDS!

And the new year in Shh world dawned with an award! My first award in blog town. I'm loving it I say. The award comes courtesy a girl who is very empathetic towards my case of the get-her-married-somehow parents. First off, THANK YOU, to Runaway Bride for the award. I'm honestly surprised that I won.

To begin with, here's a picture of the award itself.

Now that that's out of the way, here are five things about me you may, or may not, know
1) I freeze in front of a mike. I mean it. If I were singing or dancing, whole other story, however, extempore, and it's like my tongue ran away to Siberia or something
2) I keep wishing I was skinnier. It's an everyday thing. I look in the mirror and wish and wish and wish
3) I'm possibly the laziest person you'll ever meet. Unless I'm pushed to the point of not being able to handle the pressure, I won't do a damn thing!
4) I lose interest in just about everything, except a book. People, life, work, things, I'm not sure why, but I can't even being myself to sit through one episode of one TV series without flipping channels at least 10 times!
5) I'm terrified of being married to someone. I'm scared that a few weeks into it I'll run out of the house screaming.

Right, so that's out of the way. Here are blogs I'm in love with...

1) Kid in the Front Row - one word, awesomesauce! As for the rest, go read and find out no?
2) The Bottle Chronicles - she's 20-something and a mom and is all out when it comes to what's on her mind. I've been following her blog for ages and I do honestly think she deserves a read.
3) Sharanya Manivannan - not only is she a good friend, but she's also a brilliant writer.

The other people on my blogroll are folks who are on Blogger's awesome blogs listings, so it's okay.

Happy 2011 world.