Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fiction and all

(Ok, now I have no clue where this has come from. You’ll have to excuse this non-autobiographical occupation that I will sometimes indulge in. Kthxbai.)


Time, the day, the hours, the minutes, the seconds, are ticking painfully past me. I can hear it in the sounds of this silence that I’ve wrapped around myself. It’s painful to even imagine the kind of trauma that this solitude unleashes in my brain. The immense helplessness that I straddle every waking moment that I spend in the quiet.

I’m not alone here, in this space. It’s filled with thoughts of you, who I don’t know. It feels like we’ve known each other forever. I know it’s an odd thing to say, but it’s true. Seems a little cliché to even think it, but I can’t help myself. I have nothing else to do. Sometimes I yearn for the sounds of the dusty city I’ve left behind just so I will stop myself from reaching out to you every single time I can’t bear this isolation.

And it is an isolation. A self-imposed hermithood. I’m far away from everything I know, from everything I love and from everyone I should be around. But I choose to remain here, alone, surrounded by people who are 7 degrees away from being mine.

I wish I knew what you thought and what you make of us. I want to know. I need to know. But I’m terrified that asking you will only bring another silence and my already overwrought mind will collapse with the force of it.

This is me, then, leaving it be, hoping that when we do have a conversation, it will being back the comforting noise that soothes me. Until then, I contemplate in this silence, this quiet, this maddening, deafening place of no relief.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The intolerables

- people who spell ‘aww’ as ‘awe’ – the words mean two different things for god’s sake. Why do you do this?
- people, like me, who can only talk about one thing – getting married. I’m in no desperate hurry, but I don’t understand why it’s suddenly the only relevant topic of conversation amongst my friends.
- overanalysing types. You know how you went to the club with your girlfriends and ran into someone you didn’t like. Then you proceed to spend the next 72 hours telling me how this should not be discussed with anyone else and what you made of his eyelash twitch at 11.21pm as he exited the club. I didn’t notice, since I don’t wear my glasses often there’s no point in asking me to notice. Most important being, I don’t care.
- Oversharing. You scratched your balls on the way in? Really? How exciting. Like, that truly made my day.
- Exes. See, you are out of my life. There’s a reason we’re no longer together. When I was 18 and swayed by the BS that Bollywood was selling, your sales pitch to weasel your way into my life would have been so touching. Now? It’s just creepy. So, stop. Ok?
- Best friends who met me 5 hours ago. You love me? “Awe”. I mean, what more could I ask for from life except maybe friends like you. Do I know you? Want to know you? Need to know you? If I’ve answered no to all of the above, then fuck off?
- Quiet ones. I need to know what is on your mind, if I’m going to be dealing with you. So, please, don’t expect me to pick up all of your telepathic signals because my antenna is faulty. Direct communication, sans the noise factor, is extremely effective!
- People with defective spelling who roll out mile-long spiels about grammar and linguistic propriety. Self-explanatory no?
- People who let you talk too much. Since you’re the bitches that bitch about the talk-too-much folks on the side, please run. I’m looking for you with a butcher’s knife in hand. Be scared. Be VERY scared.
- Know-it-alls. The kind that will rattle off jargon about some total buzz kill subject of dinner table conversation and then look importantly around to see how many people have not understood. It’s nothing to be proud of!
- Pinch-faced prudes. Are of the opinion that sex=eeewww, gross? Do not ever try to attract male attention and then marry it and then procreate. I might actually follow through on the death threats.
- Malayali boys. You have a thick moustache and a thicker accent. You only want “freaky girls”. You think attacking a woman “who had it coming her way” is actually cool. I fucking hate you. You should have been a pile of steaming horse turd.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

How I met my husband! Part 0

One morning, at 9.45am, as I was getting ready to leave home for office, I couldn’t find the keys to the grill door. I asked my grandmother about it and she said she dodn't know where it was and she started looking for it too. This was a very dice-y situation. My grandmother is 79 and she has dementia. She doesn’t remember a thing, the only thing she knows with absolute clarity is that she’s Vasanthi Chandran and that she’s from the Veliyakainilayil Tharavadu in Murukkumpuzha, Trivandrum.

She has this habit of hiding things under her mattress. Especially the keys to the front door because she’s scared that someone will take it. She also thinks I’m the bitch from hell who’s come to torment and murder her! So, on this particular morning, when I was looking for the keys, my grandmother joins me and goes on crying about how she’s never going to get out of the house and that someone had locked her in.

By 10.15, I’d started to panic. I called my aunt in school and asked her if she gave the keys to the neighbours, she said no. At this point, I knew that I was going to be late to work. I’ve always had trouble being on time and just that morning, I did what I could to be on time so that I would a) get an auto, b) go past the crowded traffic signals a few minutes before the pile-ups began. I was also hoping that my boss, who had informed me that she was getting a little sick of my late-coming, wouldn’t notice. That was not going to happen.

10.20, and I’d lost all hope of being on time, so I called the neighbours and they told me, "can you please check under the mattress, she hides things there". And I did, and there the keys were. I almost cried, to be perfectly honest. I almost did. After yelling and letting off some steam, I left for work and landed almost half an hour late. My boss was, obviously, pissed off. I couldn’t really tell her that my grandmother hid the keys to the front door under her mattress, hence, it was difficult for me to get out of the house. Who’d believe that? That would be like telling my class 5 teacher about the complicated way in which my math homework disappeared!

That’s the day I realised that Murphy, that lunatic who exists in every single pop culture reference about karma and whatnot, had a soft spot for me. In fact, I think somewhere along the trope of one of my misadventures, I gave in and married him! I mean, how is a girl to refuse someone who ruins her day on such a consistent and persistent basis? All he does is to make sure that I know that he’s watching over me. It’s so sexy, it makes my knees cave!

I could go on, endlessly, about how much Murphy loves me, and how much he cares for me. I mean, look at what happened last year, on Christmas Day, while I was in Bali, I got Chicken Pox. Chicken fucking Pox, while on my most-anticipated holiday. It’s almost like he didn’t want me to leave his aura in Chennai and come to Indonesia, where the tourist joy would overshadow his bullshit. No, he managed to weasel his way through that and make a point. Bastard!

Every single time I think I should do something positive, he comes along and ruins it. I don’t want to sound like someone who is refusing blame for her own inherent faults, but I don’t see how getting Chicken Pox or my grandmother hiding the house keys, or no one being at home to see me off before I left for Singapore on the 22nd is in anyway my fault!

Murphy, I know we’re married. I hope I’m keeping you entertained and happy, because you know that all I do is think of you!

Always,
Shruthi

Friday, December 24, 2010

Holidaying

So, it’s day three of my “holiday” in Singapore. It doesn’t feel like one though. The trouble with visiting this lowelee island nation is the simple fact that I don’t take in the sights and ‘experience’ the place. I eat home food, hang out with by-marriage family, shop and go back to Chennai.

Not that I don’t enjoy it. I do. But, I wish I could take a holiday with only my friends for company and really explore a new place. I don’t mind if the trip only lasts a week or even three days, but I would truly appreciate the time I take to look around and lech at a tourist destination.

Tourist-y leching doesn’t happen when I’m in Singapore. I’ve become a little jaded with the place. That’s not a kind thing to say. If my aunt reads this, she’ll probably want me dead, but it’s true. On an almost bi-annual basis, I’m in Singapore. Apart from Singapore, my passport’s been stamped for Thailand and Indonesia and Sri Lanka. I want to go to Europe and Australia and a couple of other places where I know the chances of me falling ill to a mysterious forest virus are very miniscule!

However, for now, my foreign travel is restricted to Singapore.

In India too, there are a few places that I would like to visit. For starters, Mumbai. Then Rajasthan. Then Gujarat. Then UP and Orissa and West Bengal.

I think my PoA for 2011 is going to be to at least attempt to travel to one of these places. If not alone, then at least with my idiot younger brother, who’s far better company than I give him credit for. At least, my parents won’t worry and for an unmarried girl, male sibling for company would be appropriate no?

Oddly enough, I said the same thing about my plans for 2010 too. Apart from the temple-hopping, nothing really materialized. You know how sad that makes me? I wish, I truly wish I was like my darling friend N who saved money and traipsed off to Europe in June this year. I want to save money and traipse. I like traipsing!

Ok, so, I stop whining, yes? And I continue to enjoy this tropical country and my half-mad extended family!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chronicles

I could give this a timeline and make things easy for everyone. But, these are stories that began when we were all three years old. The stories of us who walked into school crying and kicking and screaming and left in pretty much the same condition I’d say.

Somewhere in the process of being around each other for 14 years, we all became friends by virtue of spending too much time together!

“If you had to pick one person from class who would be your booty call today, who would it be?” is the question that is raised past midnight, I don’t quite know if it is Tuesday or Wednesday. There is, as always, an equal representation from both sexes. That’s how it’s always been with our class. Always an equal representation.

I escape with, “you know who, and he was the only decent looking guy in the entire batch”. Everyone nods and passes the question on.

There is an awareness in this room, amongst the people talking, that we’ve all come quite a long way from the days when we were skinny teenagers in school with bad hair and worse uniforms. We’ve grown up, made some mistakes and turned out alright. The possibility of losing out on our relationship with one another is so huge, but somehow, thanks to social media, we’re in touch.
Staying in touch is important. Its how we know if whatshisname still has a soft corner for that curly haired girl and how the two of them talk to each other now, as opposed to never having spoken to each other in school.

It seems like there’s so much to talk about. We’re asking the same questions about each other, re-living moments from the past, a decade ago, looking at things, justifying and analysing and wondering how we managed to keep it together enough to get degrees and get jobs that paid well and re-assured our parents.

We’ve turned 26/27 too quickly it would seem and this is oh-so-apparent at a wedding. From a class of 64, which included students from the Science and Commerce streams, there are a few of us remaining who haven’t tied the knot and had babies. We congregate at each wedding/trip to the home town of Chennai and bitch and moan about how our parents are traumatising us about getting married and then go on to make fun of people who have done the brave thing – get married.

It occurs to us that being 26/27 is about the best thing to be, in a normal world. However, in India, South India to be more specific, being 26/27 and single and living under your parents’ roof is about the stupidest thing you can do. For starters, because you live with the folks, there are curfews and suchlike stupidities and other assortments of guilt trips for all the times that you neglect family dinners and go out and get drunk instead!

I text all the available-in-Chennai folk for a spontaneous midnight gathering and everyone says, “Yes, we’ll be there, name the time and place”. So, we meet, bride included. It’s a snapshot send-off for her. Only the people she likes and cares about are sitting at the table, talking nonsense as always. We’re asking her how she met her husband and how they decided to get married. It’s a time to analyse our own love stories and wonder why we never thought to be sensible.

We’re set to meet at 11, and some of us are on time. Well, I’m on time, which effectively means, everyone else will run late. If I be on time, the world is definitely running late! We meet, we talk, laugh, hug, wonder, ask stupid questions about who’s getting married next. Wondering if we’ve gone to meet A and S’s baby boy yet. At the end of it all, when we had to leave because Chennai is not open longer than 11.30, the bride is happy. We’re waiting to meet at the wedding and talk some more.

The next day of practice sees us introspect a little more. Confide a little more. Find out more common friends. Because, Chennai is a little English village and everyone knows everyone else and their brother. P and I hide behind the curtains to get our steps right and the boys are secretly pleased. When we come out, there is a camera recording the proceedings in the great hope that we were actually up to something. So they settled for the sexy dance step instead. “Girls, I don’t think you’re getting that step right. Priyanka Chopra does it really well in that song. I think you should rehearse it properly.” We can only roll our eyes and get on with it.

More songs are chosen, YouTubed for steps and so on, clipped, choreographed, perfected and finalized. At the end of it, after much back and forth, AP has one thing to say, “We may not put on the best show ever, but one thing’s for sure, thanks to P, we won’t repeat a single step!”

Dinner conversations are pure rewind. It’s never tiresome. We bring up a few uncomfortable topics of conversation – the misunderstandings we had. If this was an American movie, at this juncture in the narrative, the protagonists would have had a big ass fight and walked off and the group would have had to split up. “Shit, what was that about? We were so idiotic then, right?” is the common consensus.

It is exactly then that I know, 20 years down the line, spouses and babies notwithstanding, we’ll still be friends. And friends are about the only relations for whom you don’t have to trip over yourself to prove anything.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Weddings and all that - Pt 1


As I’m typing this, the henna on my hands is an insane shade of almost-black. If I were a bride, then it would be a sign of the deep and abiding love that my to-be husband will have for me (is the grammar ok on this one?). However, for this wedding, I am the bridesmaid. So, most people will only tell me that the blackish henna tattoo on my palms is an indicator of the immense love I will get from my future husband. Good.

It’s 4am, I’ve been staying up since Tuesday and by late I mean start dance practice at 7pm and end at 5am. After dinner, “practice” is just us sitting around in P’s living room talking, gossiping, asking questions, re-knowing each other, despite having gone to the same school since kindergarten. From being the kids in wan gray uniforms in school, we’ve all grown into very different people – some of us have some flesh on our bones, some of us are losing hair, some of us talk more, some of us have better hair and clothing, etc. We all do have one thing in common, we’ve known each other for way too long for us to ever be fake/weird around each other.

There’s always an element of TMI in our conversations. The same information would be met with a great amount of censure in any other social circle, but not this one.

There is a certain comfort in talking to each other. A certain complacence in not minding manners or words. These friends of mine deserve a lot more than a few measly I’m-too-tired-to-compose-right-now posts.

Hence, excuse the delay, and please to lech at the byootiful henna on my hands. Thanks.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wishes

In the best interest of my once-existent waist, god, I would much appreciate the gift of fortitude from you. The fortitude to resist the temptations of cheese and chocolate and carbohydrates and other things that are not healthy.

It’s something that I would like to take up more seriously, because honestly, I’m sick and tired of feeling like a big blub of flab. I tried yoga, in the hope that all that bending will whip me in shape. However that turned out to be an epic fail because I don’t think I’m good with bendy. Bendy is not me. Somehow, being from India, I should be all about the bendy, well, I’m not.

So, God, once again, I need to stop eating, else I’m pretty sure I will resemble a blimp and won’t be able to sleep on my bed because most of me will be falling off the sides. I beseech you, make the eating stop!

****

Now, it isn’t like I’m anorexic nor am I going to turn bulimic just because I need to lose weight. If I don’t do something now, I’ll be arthritic, my teeth will fall out because I’m eating too much of the sweet stuff, and I won’t fit into my clothes. As it is, I face the occasional embarrassment of not fitting into any one of my saree blouses because these love handles have just popped!

Truth is, I never was the skinny kid. I wish I was. I truly wish. Then I would have had cause to complain about how I’ve let myself go, blah, blah. No history there.

This, this fat phase of mine, is pure lethargy. It is the inability to say no and the absolute need to keep eating. It is also the inability to think, for one second, that I won’t accumulate all the nonsense I’ve been eating despite the fact that my stomach protests at the slightest provocation…

****

In other inappropriate news, I think washing machines are bad for people like me. Because, I own half the world’s underclothes and they just pile up because I know I have enough to get by and that I can shuck the lot in the machine and get it all washed in one stretch. I should be a little more conscientious about this, like I was when in the hostel in Delhi, but then again, conscientious and me are not very good friends, as illustrated above.

****

My best friend’s getting married on Sunday, and her being Sindhi (they who were once in Sindh, Pakistan, but ran away during the partition), means her wedding is a three-day do, which starts today. And since Pooja and I are such good friends, we’re dancing at her engagement party. We’ve been practicing since Tuesday and instead of being good children and practicing ever harder yesterday, we decided to try out three parts dance with one part vodka just for fun and ended up being all kinds of buzzed until 5am this morning!

Thing is, Seema and I have been best friends since we were 11 (and she was 12. I was the youngest in class, etc). We also went to college together. Most of our friends are people we’re studied with since kindergarten. These are boys and girls who’ve grown up with us. Thing is we were all pretty close as a class and over the years, we’ve taken the time and trouble to keep in touch.

Sometimes I puzzle over high school-related drama that I watch on TV or read and I think, “I would never have these issues with the monkeys I studied with”, I guess it also helped that my mother was the English teacher. But that should have made my life miserable. It didn’t, unless you count “Shruthi, what questions are coming in the Lit section of the paper?” being asked incessantly during exam time. For the life of me, I could never understand why people thought English was a tedious subject to study. More importantly, why they never studied English. I mean, you speak it, how hard can it be to understand?

But, I digress.

This weekend is all about my best friend, and her wedding and the fact that she will be moving to the UK after. I won’t have someone asking if I’m okay, because after December 19, that process will become an international text message. No more cupcake birthdays and shopping sprees and angst on email. She’ll be married and in another country and time zone. But I don’t care about that. She’s my best friend, we’ve been through nonsense together for the last 15 years, I think we can pull this long-distance thing off.

And on that happy note, I shalls post a more nostalgia post after the wedding is over…

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

100

Salivate.

It’s what happens when your mouth is suddenly filled with a thin, non-viscous fluid. It’s an instinctive reaction, something out of your control, it’s what happens when you experience a fleeting moment of intense want, no, need.

Salivate is precisely the term for me and my reaction to mango avakkai pickle. When I open the bottle and stare down at cubed raw mango pieces pickled in a thick mustard paste with salt and chilli powder and enough gingelly oil, I salivate. What else can I say really? If you’ve ever sat down to eat rice, curd and avakkai pickle, you’ll know. If you’ve ever eaten a bowl of curd and avakkai pickle you’ll know. If you’ve ever mixed avakkai pickle in hot rice and some ghee, trust me, you’ll know.

And this ladies and gentlemen is my 100th post.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Travels and travails

We're on the train. This time, we know about the bed bugs and cockroaches lurking behind the curtains of a A/C 2 converted into an A/C 3 bogey. (As per the Indian Railways a bogey is, in Indian English, is the entire carriage, and a compartment is where you sit/sleep.) This time the food was packed for fewer people, so there was lesser chaos. This time, it was just us and the people who were seated in the same compartment who were also going to the same place. This time, we set the alarm for 4am (that was my mother) to make sure that we got off at the right station. The trouble with travelling on the train to an in-between destination is that you have to know at exactly what time the train will arrive at your destination and what the previous station is so that you can get your luggage out.

Except at the first and last stops, trains don't wait at in-between stations too long, unless they're loading food or they're running late.

That's how my mother, two aunts, cousin and I went to Palakkad. This time, I was there for my younger cousin's wedding. S's wedding was fixed in September, we got the call on Vinayaka Chathurti telling us that she was getting married in December in Guruvayoor. My mother announced this piece of news with a very heavy heart. Not that she was resentful, just that she was really hoping to organise a wedding before my father's younger brother got the chance. As was my mother's sister no1. She actually told me one night, "don't worry, we'll make sure you get married before S does", yes, this is a race and I really want to win it, thank you so much for understanding the inner workings of my mind!

In Tamil, there is a saying - "Veedu katti paaru, kalyaanam panni paaru" - or something to that effect. It means, try building a house, try organising a wedding. These two are some sort of definitive events in the life of every average human being and will, in some way or form, add to one's life experience, or so they say. Organising a wedding, in a country like mine is a pain to say the very least. The entire family gets involved at some point and just about everyone who can articulate their thoughts will have something relevant to say about it. Whether it is about how much gold the girl will wear, to what saree she should wear, to which beautician she should go to, etc. But the second you announce that you intend to get your daughter married in Guruvayoor, the process takes on a whole different direction.

To begin with, Guruvayoor weddings, like all Malayali weddings, are blessedly brief. They don't take too much of your time. But Guruvayoor is also the place where you have to wait in queue for about 5 hours if you wish to see Krishna, the presiding deity at the temple. The place is a pilgrimage spot of sorts, so it's crowded almost every day. If you're there during Ayyappa season, then you will be dealing with an insane amount of humanity! On a good day, aka, when the stars are aligned to ensure that the bride and groom will live happily ever after, at least 300 weddings happen in Guruvayoor.

Thankfully, the weddings happen in these tiny mandapams built outside the East Nada or the door that Krishna is looking out of. However, since 200 other people are getting married in the same venue, chances are you could find yourself exchanging garlands with the wrong person! It has happened to a few people, almost happened to a few others. We knew this and made sure my cousin and her fiance were the ones who got on the mandapam. Thali-tying and garland-exchanging later, we went to eat.

See, eating at an Indian wedding is about as sacred as getting married itself. It all hinges on the food, if the sadya/meal is bad, rest assured that your wedding is an epic fail. Never mind how pretty the bride or how much gold she was wearing or how many people showed up. The sadya is the key factor, I'm sure the food at a wedding is the key factor everywhere. I don't think human beings are charitable enough to come to a wedding just to bless the couple and take a few smiling photographs and leave. Everyone wants to eat!

In the midst of all this, my parents managed to sweet talk one of the wedding photographers to take some pictures of me that could be circulated in Shaadi.com/to marriage brokers/ and other assorted marriage-related people. Me and my Copper Sulphate blue saree. The guy was taking pictures like there was no tomorrow. I refused to pose, of course, so half the pictures look like my facial muscles are convulsing of their own volition.

The worst part is the relatives. My father has 8 other siblings, which means I have some 20-odd first cousins. Then, both of my paternal grandparents, who are thankfully not related, also have a huge number of siblings, which means my father has his own share of the cousin market, meaning I have way too many aunts and uncles who only have one inappropriate question for me - "enne ariyo?/ do you know me".

Dear relative, especially you, who I don't know how I'm related to. I live in Chennai. I come to this part of the country once a year and only meet my immediate family, how on good god's earth am I supposed to know who you are if we've never met, and more importantly, have never been introduced. Tell me? Seriously, tell me!

My parents won't be around at such opportune moments and then I have to go looking for them, with unknown relative in tow, find them and deconstruct the relationship, and then smile a big smile and answer questions.

After plenty of this the next round of my trip involved going to one more temple to book one more pooja so I get married. We also went to my cousin's husband's hometown. All of this by car and on Kerala's lovely two-lane, undulating highways where everyone has this weird habit of driving exactly in the middle of the road and dodging one another at the last moment. Not to mention the buses which are all racing one another to get to their stops first. I was ill the whole time. Phlegm and cough and fever and what have you. Shruthi's Annual Mega Sinus Blowout was in full swing and there wasn't a damn thing I could about it except hide it under make-up, which didn't work.

By the time we got back to Palakkad, I'd spent too many hours in a closed vehicle. I needed some Chennai dust, as delivered by auto rickshaws. Of course, on the morning of December 13, the day I reached Chennai, or yesterday, to put it more succinctly, Chennai vaguely resembled some hill station (that's what the Brits created when they couldn't handle the heat/dust/humidity of India). There was dew and a mist for effect. To think of a mist floating above the Cooum is just bizarre! The auto ride from Central was a bit of a shocker, my mother and I were stunned for a few minutes while driving down Spur Tank Road.

I like Chennai like this. But this won't last for too long. Humidity (Humidras [humid+Madras] as a friend T re-christened this city) is the hallmark of this city. My next mission is to find a way to get me to stop hocking all the phlegm that seems to have replaced my blood. Turmeric and milk apparently does that or what is known as "masala pal" (pal [pronounced paal]=milk). My mother only had this to say about the combination "if you're brave enough, try it".

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ponders

I’ve always loved writing. That’s pretty much a standard response that you’d get from most writers, or should I say writer types?

I’m the writer types, I like saying “I’ve always loved writing”. However, the lady who put the “This is a 10-mark question, where is the rest of the answer” comment in your English answer sheet will have a different tale to tell. That lady is my mother, my English teacher in class 12/12th grade.

I had to write an ‘essay’ about this Keki Daruwala short story – Love in the Salt Desert. That question was worth 10 marks in a section for 55 marks. I was expected to wax eloquent about the ending of the story. Did I want to? I don’t think I did. Somehow when I was 16, having to wax eloquent about two people from two different countries who fell in love when their eyes met, was not my specialty. I was just happy writing three paragraphs of relevant sentences that made the point they had to. Hence the comment “This is a 10-mark question, where is the rest of the answer”.

I really and truly wish that I could go on and on endlessly about things. I mean look at some of the articles and columnists out there, read how they write with a certain amount of wit and panache about just about everything under the sun, even your chaddis if you let them. Well, I think some journalists have attempted to write about underwear, but it’s not in very good taste, don’t you think? I like good underwear, who doesn’t? But to sit and read about someone’s inners? Not very interesting, if you ask me. However, columnists still live and they are still talking about all and sundry, good for them. I tried to do that, for roughly two years, turns out, as much as I like spinning a verbal spiel and the next writer, I can’t run around being a commentator about all and sundry.

Now, what next? The writing gig didn’t work out. I should have taken the hint in class 12 when my mother pointed out very helpfully that I should attempt to pay some attention to what’s being asked of me. If I’d known then, I would never have attempted poetry and thoroughly embarrassed myself by creating a blog of poetry! Le sigh!

It’s that time of year, again, when I’m wondering, nay pondering the purpose of life again, and once more, I have no answers.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Nose and all

I tried writing this very profound post about weddings, etc. Then I realized the subject has already become redundant, in a manner of speaking, in this blog, so that post was abandoned.
Now, I’m too ill to think straight. Now sounds like ‘dow’ when I say it. My eyelids are all puffy and I’m beginning to look Chinese – it isn’t like I’m some doe-eyed Indian type anyway. This mega event that I’ve christened ‘Shruthi’s Annual Mega Sinus Blowout’ happens once a year - when I get so ill I can barely stand straight for a few minutes at a time. The rest of the year, it’s just a mild or non-existent version of things. Unlike my friend P, I have it easy in the allergies and sinusitis department. There was a time, however, when things were different. A time when all I remember was being ill.

This was school. There were about 3,000 other students there. I was in a class of 50-odd kids. Sat right in front and had to answer ‘how do you write with your left hand?’ at least once a day. I also remember having to blow my nose a lot. When you’re in my kind of school, it’s not the best thing to be doing.

Primary school was about the worst time of my life. Nothing, and I mean nothing, beats how annoying it was. To begin with, I was younger than the entire lot – born in November 1984 in a class full of people who were born in 1983 or early 1984. Then there was the matter of how short my hair was. My mother’s reasons were very simple, if my hair was long, she’d have to oil it, wash it, keep it pretty-looking. Short hair meant less work for her and fewer lice, yes lice. Any average Indian child in the under-10 category has a lice phase – it’s not cool. The girls in my class all had thick, long braids and I was so jealous of them.

The most standout commentary of my life as a school student was – ‘look how fat she is’ and other vernacular and more insulting versions of it, ‘her hair’s so short, she’s a boy in disguise’ and other vernacular and more insulting versions of it, and the worst ever, ‘mookuchali’ or snot. That’s right, a lot of the kids in my class called me snot and they loved every sniggering minute of it. To add to my worries, I had this maths (in India we say maths not math, ok?) teacher (or to be more appropriate, maths miss), who enjoyed giving me nose-blowing techniques and would constantly send me out of the classroom to go and blow my nose because me and my snot bothered her. My snot was a fairly big talking point for a few people and no, I’m not exaggerating for the sympathy votes here, one of my friends’ mothers remembers me as the girl who always had a tissue to her nose!

It didn’t help much that this was not just a childhood thing. Most of my adolescence was also spent tissue pack in hand. It’s only recently, since I stopped going out so much – you know school, college, masters, travel by bus/train within the city, inhale all this lovely dust – that my nose has settled down a bit. Working in an air-conditioned office as its advantages, except when those bums spray room freshener a few centimeters from where I’m sitting, and my trouble starts all over again!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Letter

Dear extreme honker,

The other vehicles on the road? The ones moving in the same direction as you in the pouring rain, they have nothing against you, really.

Everyone is going someplace, in pretty much the same hurry as you are. It isn't like you're the only vehicle owner on the road who is going somewhere important - everyone is.

Now, if you could only get your tiny brain to process that information and drive reasonably, we could all go where we need to, in better tempers, and with our cars in better shape.

Thank you,

Sincerely,
Shruthi

Friday, December 3, 2010

New in Shh world

Since November 22, I’ve been waiting for that feeling you get when you have no job, with the entire day stretched out in front of you and you’re thinking, “shit, I have nothing to do with my time!”

It hasn’t happened as yet, and I don’t think it will until January. That’s how much time I will be spending with my family, visiting temples, travelling out of the country, etc, etc, etc. Now that I’m not enjoying it, however, I don’t enjoy the fact that there is no pay cheque at the end of it all.
And that’s that for opinions.

********
(that was a sign on the window of the compartment we were sitting in)
14 people travelling in A/C 3 of the Indian Railways on the West Coast Express going to Mangalore is about as adventurous as I can think of being! The cast of this trip includes my 79-year-old grandmother who has no recollection of time or space or people. A home nurse we’ve hired to look after her. Our neighbour who, as a physiotherapist, is constantly telling us how to look after my grandmother. My mother and her three siblings who were all loud, opinionated and insisted on doing things their way, my father who really wanted to stand by the door of the bogey and get some air, me who really wanted to read a book, my two cousins, 11 and 7, who were constantly jumping from one upper berth to another, my mother’s brother’s wife, two relatives from Singapore who were travelling by train the first time and who had tons of hand sanitiser and suchlike.

We’d planned this trip to the Mookambika since June. And since June we’ve been planning the menu. With my uncle going to Sabarimala, the menu had to be vegetarian add to that the fact that the trip was, primarily, a temple visit, the menu HAD to be vegetarian. Now, when the possibility of no meat in a meal looms in a discussion that my family is having, things don’t turn out great. They just don’t. My aunt, my mother’s first sister, thinks vegetables are god’s curse to mankind and she makes such a production about no meat in her food that you’ll be forced to make something chicken just so she’ll shut up. The only vegetable that’s given any due consideration by the family is the humble root, the potato. So after much deliberation it was decided to make chappatis and potato podimas (it’s one thing made of mashed potatoes). Then we had to decide who was eating how many chappatis. Making the chappatis was nothing compared to the packing of the food bags.

My family takes an immense amount of time and effort into packing train food bags. When Siddharth and I were younger, and we travelled on these mammoth train journeys to Assam, Himachal Pradesh in the summers to see my dad, amma would pack enough food to last us those journeys and then some. There were times when we offered food to our co-travellers. From biscuits and chips to slices of vegetables and bread and butter and jam and cheese and boiled, unshelled eggs, tissue, and so on. If she could, she’d have carried an induction stove too! Those were good times on the Indian Railways.

So this trip, the food bags were loaded with roasted cashews, Pringles, mixture and chips from Grand Sweets, the dinner we’d made, water, the works. You know what? I couldn’t eat a damn thing! Yeah, that’s right, I couldn’t eat any of it. I had a stomach infection and I had to watch what I was eating, drinking, etc. So that happened and I was sulking pretty much the whole time. The fact that people were passing around food indiscriminately while I was sitting in the middle of the chaos of the train was not helping me one bit. The one thing that can truly send me into one of my infamous rants is the lack of food. I get really angsty, I get really annoying and I can’t fathom a sane reason why vegetarian food is such a bitch to cook. I really don’t. Anyway, I’m a pampered nut job whose mother still cooks for her so I should STFU. Even then, why is it so hard to cook some vegetables my family, WHY?!
(The Mookambika Temple)
Bitching about food aside, the trip to Mangalore turned out great. (Except for the prayers for “chinku to get married soon, please!”) The thing is I love temple-hopping. There’s something calming about being in a place of prayer. The only thing I don’t like though is the fact that people are constantly hinting at the amount of money you should be spending on doing a certain pooja that would guarantee you good health and other such wonderful life-necessary amenities! Temples, especially the ones in South India are built beautifully. If you’re not keen on praying, you’ll have plenty to look at. That’s something, no?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Updates

I'm unemployed. I don't have money. I'm happy. I'm travelling with my family to temples and more temples to pray and pray that I get married. I'm sick of it. But it all makes for a great post. A post that I am too tired to post at the moment, but a post that I will write in 48 hours.

kthxbai.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Turning 26

I am now unemployed. No work. No deadlines. No more journalism. Ah well, it had to come to an end sometime. Right? Right. It had to.

I will get back to working in 2011. But until the end of 2010, I have every intention of not doing a damn thing with my time, except perhaps write. Bore you, my 30-odd readers, with the mundane details of my life. I only hope that there is something interesting to say these next few weeks. As of now, I'm chasing an interview(s). I just hope that the people that I am trying to contact revert with a yes.

However, I must tell you about how non-alcoholic my birthday was. I found it more than just a little strange that every person who saw my swaying and happy drunk self when I turned 25 popped up at the club on Friday where I was. Everyone. It was random and for some reason made me think of circles. As you are well aware, I don't like circles. One thing though, I'm very happy that I didn't have a gigantic hangover while going to Mahabalipuram in insanely humid weather the next morning with relatives and biryani.

Here's to the occasionaly bouts of sobriety. And I'm hoping that 2011 will indeed be the year when astrologers will stop telling me I should have been a boy!!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Deep feelings!

Because it’s my birthday, and this is my blog, and I’m an attention-whore, I want to share one happy birthday wish that my lovely friend Nina posted on my wall in Facebook – “To the sister i should have had, wishing you hotness in a man, coolings in a chilled glass of sex on the beach, a lifetimes supply of retail nirvana with a bank balance to match. Happy birthday shruts.” I love her to pieces. Truly. That’s why, five years later, I flew to Delhi to surprise the nonsense out of her.
**********
Do you see her? That one, with the yellow-framed glasses, yeah. That’s me. Blank expression on the face. Probably with my nose buried in a book. In all likelihood, having a very interesting mental conversation with self and smiling to self about it. Tons of people find that weird. I used to care deeply about what people thought about that. It bothered me that people thought it was weird. The trouble with caring deeply about people is that it fucks you over so bad, you’re not sure if you’re sitting up or flat on your back staring at the ceiling wondering how in the hell to tie that loop so you could hang, snap your neck and end it.

That’s me. Former mental train wreck. Grappled with that eternal teenage issue – no one gets me. For a while, I was listening to some heavy duty angst music and thought that was an outlet. It wasn’t. The lyrics were great, as were the instrumentals, however, they did nothing to deal with the absolute rage of being misunderstood. One fine morning, I had this fine epiphany – almost everyone has the same problem. Everyone’s thinking ‘shit I’m a weirdo, no one gets me, how the fuck do I deal with this’. Clubbing oneself with the rest of the world is extremely problematic. You begin to feel even more insignificant. The whole tiny-speck-in-the-gigantic-universe syndrome. So how does this existential conundrum resolve itself?

It’s something I think about constantly. I want to be the right kind of person. And that is exactly the point at which I stop. Me being the right kind is about the stupidest thing I can think of. I’m really good at giving these long, sincere spiels about being the right person, but, I personally, am not. It’s an effort, and maybe Mahatma Gandhi got it right. However, he did sleep on the same bed with two young women to fight, and overcome, his sexual desire (bothersome detail that). I don’t mean to trivialise his struggle or what he stands for in this country. But this happened even to him. This pain we all suffer with, of wanting to be right, is going to kill us or get us born as a leaf insect in the next life! I’m pretty sure of it.

That being said, it is impossible to think that everyone is going to get it right. You’d have to be a saint no? Or some level of saint to ‘be the right person’. It’s that thing we call dharma here. Following the righteous path. Landed the Pandavas in crucioland for all the good that did. I mean, even Rajni is awesome as a villain than as a hero, so ideally everyone should embrace their villainy no? (May seem like I am telling all the rapists and killers of the world to please go ahead and get to work. I’m not. This is for folks with little bit mental filtration system. People who want to put themselves through the reverse osmosis process can also apply!)

Next point of pondering. Villains always lose. The right ones have these Karan Johar type lives and live in this beautiful golden light forever after. Who wants to right? I know that I won’t last in that atmosphere for every long. My mind won’t let me. I’ll go completely insane if I do.

And this post, this exact post is why I hate the fucking rain. Plenty slush pits. Plenty clouds. Zero sunshine. No vitamin D and mood-uplifting rays. Just clouds, gloom, doom and philosophy. Not good. Not good. Some mofo in some part of the world romanticized this weather, I want to castrate him and serve his balls to him for post-death meals. It can rain over the reservoirs and over the rivers where the water is. But I do not want it raining in my street and flooding my roads. I can’t see what’s under all that water and I don’t like things I cannot see and therefore cannot perceive.

Humbug!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Names

LOCATION – Somewhere in Trivandrum, Kerala.

OCCASION – a cousin’s wedding.

SCENE – everyone’s dressed up. Everyone’s busy discussing the next wedding in the family. There’s obviously a lot of inappropriate commentary being directed at the unmarried girls. There’s a lot of loud laughter from the girl’s side of the family. The boy’s side thinks they’re a bunch of hoydens. Only women form representation for the girl’s side. The boys in the family are busy looking very busy. Introductions are being made all around. Especially the out-of-Trivandrum ones. One such conversation…

“Chinks*, meet Sudha. She’s my cousin.”

“Hi, Sudha… (long pause)”

“Hi mol…”

*we smile at each other and she walks away. I turn to my mother and ask*

“So, amma, how are you two related?”

“Well, she’s my cousin.”

“Ok, so what should I call her? Kunjama? Apachi? Valiama?”

“Not sure. Let’s see. She’s….”

And it went on. I stuck with Sudha aunty. Because it’s the safer option, until amma figured the relationship out! The last I met Sudha aunty was at my cousin’s wedding in July. We’re still figuring out what to call her.

The first time I ever saw Sudha aunty was in a 4X4 black and white picture. She’s sitting on my mother’s tricycle with this big grin on her face and my mother looking most morose. She and amma are a year apart in age. She grew up in Singapore and now lives in Trivandrum. She’s related to me twice over. Because, well, my grandparents are cousins. So, my mother is related to everyone in her family twice over. I’m related to my maternal family twice over! To make my life and memory retention an even more delightful place is designations. See, if you’re Indian – I can’t say Mal here because this is a common phenomenon in this country of mine – chances are that relatives on your maternal side have a different form of address from the relatives on your paternal side. There’s also names for the older relatives to consider.

I love the fact that my father’s side of the family is insanely huge. He has 8 siblings. I have 20 first cousins. My father’s parents also had many siblings. So on and so on!

I die. Slow, excruciating, nomenclature-filled death.

Sigh.

(*It's bad enough that I'm Chinku to my family. It's mental how Shruthi became Chinku. My mother's reason? "You were just a Chinku, so we called you that" uh, what?! Chinku is bad enough, my family's coolness compels it to make Chinku - chinks, chinka, chinkama. As stated above, I die. Slow, excruciatin, nomenclature-filled death.)

P.S: We don't say aunt sudha, unless we're Anglo-Indian. Sudha aunty. That's it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Siblings

(Before I get to today’s edition of Rant 101, Sh Pady style. I need to re-direct you good folk to a blog that I recommend. Nothing but Ficus. He’s an awesome writer and a good friend. I do hope that you drop in.)

****

Here’s what bothers me about democracy – people get away with just about anything in the name of ‘the freedom of expression’. It just plain sucks. Take for instance this.

The last paragraph, with the bits about creepy things going on in the homes of ethnic minorities really got me. Even if the writer is being sarcastic, this shit cannot be sold in the name of social commentary. It is shit. It is racist. I don’t see how this stuff gets run on a medium as large as the internet. Where is editorial discretion? Who lets this shit pass? More importantly, why and how did it get passed.

I know of this website as a place where a lot of content is about issues like bullying (they hate the bully) and women’s issues. Most of it is dealt with well. They even made a big brouhaha about that Marie Claire article about fat people. I’m surprised that this one got published.

I guess I am a little annoyed that this post has been made on a forum that I follow and to some extent look up to. However, that doesn’t mean I have to be so biased that I will let this website become my touchstone for appropriate mass opinions. Sorry. I can’t able to do that ya!

As much as I’m all for saying my piece and telling the world to eff itself in the process, I do think that approach can be dangerous if it goes too far. On some level, we should all realise that a public forum has its share of responsibilities. Especially, if said forum deals with opinions. A follower of a website, any website, is a person who, to some degree, espouses their opinions. That being said, I don’t think I want to espouse this opinion. For one, I don’t see how this is even remotely sensible.

Siblings are bad? Really? – even if you don’t get along, at the very least you will have learnt how to deal with a person you don’t like, who is constantly in your vicinity. I honestly think that an only child is someone who will grow up to lack some very basic social interactions that big families bring with them. Too many siblings (my father has 8) might be a bit over the top, but one, or even two, is not that bad.

I know of friends who can’t really see eye to eye with their siblings. They get on with life. I know of friends who have siblings they absolutely love but are not overly coddling with them. I find it immensely annoying when almost every relationship has some degree of a sexual overtone attached to it thanks to some ‘study’ and some ‘expert opinion’. Freud, thanks a lot, buddy. I truly appreciate your immense contributions to helping deconstruct the true nature of human relationships.

Having a sibling has been, for me personally, a great experience. My brother and I grew up fighting with each other (I remember times when my mother sat somewhere in the house crying because she was convinced that Siddharth and I would never see eye-to-eye), kicking each other (WWE (nee F) had a lot to do with this) and constantly vowing that we’d never speak to the other again, ever. As we grew older, moved to the army quarters in Chennai and interacted with more kids, we grew to like each other better. My mother was a bit more peaceful when we were living apart from my grandparents and aunts and uncle. She had the time to establish the simple fact that she was the main authority in our family and Sid and I just had to deal with it. Complaining to my grandfather after my mother was giving us the cane was not going to cut it or have an impact for that matter. Not that it mattered, if we were being brats, the consensus was pretty uniform. After a big crying and complaining session, if I got a you're-a-brat-so-I-had-to-use-the-cane-but-I'm-crazy-about-you hugs, nothing could be wrong no? My mother was unflinchingly honest about the fact that Sid and I were annoying sometimes and needed to be disciplined so that we could understand that writing notes while in class is the right thing to do. Eidetic memories are not for everyone!

This article implies that ‘white’ adults with siblings are miserable and have issues. ‘Ethnic minority’ adults don’t have such issues, because some hallucinogen is involved. That hallucinogen, you lunatic, is called family. A unit you probably snort at when you watch a Disney movie and awe at when you watch The Godfather. However, if ‘space’ and suchlike is being given to children then they shouldn’t have ‘issues’ right? It makes me sick to sit and read through reams and reams of print devoted to the many ‘issues’ that children have these days. What issues? Why issues? These children live in developed countries where just about every system is in place. Ambulances reach on time, school education is free. There is a thing such as social security. They are documented citizens of their country. They have all that and yet they have issues. What do they need? Love? Free Hugs? Are these issues the reason why they leave their countries and come here as tourists to sit and exclaim over every stinky waterway and beggar and landscape and then proceed to write something as nonsense as Eat, Pray, Love? (That book is total rubbish. I don’t know how it sold so many copies. One more book by one more white person about one more cow and I’m going to try my best to ensure that they all NEVER be given a visa to travel here. The Bhagawad Gita is not the most sacred text of Yoga, you dumbass. It’s a treatise on dharma.)

The word issues has so many things wrong with it in this particular context. So many things. People need shrinks in times of extreme distress, but a sibling sure as hell is the wrong reason to need a shrink. If you think your mother doesn’t have the time for you, then just fucking deal with it and be glad you’re alive. I don’t want tell you about the innumerable number of instances when little girls didn’t live to see the day because their parents wanted a boy instead.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mull-it

Birthday month, for everything that I’ve hyped it out to be, is turning out to be not so great. For starters was Swetha’s death and now, Nandu. Nandu Narsimhan taught me at IIMC (not to be confused with IIM-Calcutta, PLEASE). He was 45 and died of a heart attack last night. Nothing more to say really. He was the favourite professor of all the Advertising diploma kids. We journo kids didn’t know much about him. We only sighed from a distance.

The thing is, when you study at an Indian government-funded college, life’s pretty nonsense. Everything is subsidised, including the quality of faculty. However the Advertising and PR diploma kids got a better deal. They learnt from the people who were in the industry. They learnt from the people who had the fancy cars and cool jobs. Journo students? We had an ape wannabe called P Mathur who said, and I know this because I counted, ‘and all that’ 125 times in class once! The rest just read aloud from a book all the time or told us not to eat food at a press conference.

Suffice to say, most of my time at IIMC was spent escaping from the rude reality that was ‘a premier journalism education’.

Running back to November. Apart from untimely deaths, this has been, so far, a month that I’m enjoying simply because I will be unemployed starting November 22. I want to be unemployed. I want to experience no-salary withdrawal symptoms for a bit and then get back to the corporate grind. In the time that I am at home, I hope to be writing more. Long ago, I had poetic aspirations (can be found here); I want that stupid feeling back. It’s a fun feeling – this combination of feeling artistic and very relevant.

The trouble with me and writing is this – I never really aspired to write. Ever. All I knew was that I had this great talent for not having studied squat before the exams but writing the appropriate words well enough to get decent marks. There was no yelling at home, my mother didn’t need to get her cane out, and all peace was maintained. (Ok, here’s the thing readers of mine, I’m from India, disciplining a child in this part of the world includes a smack or two. I’ve got my share. I don’t resent my mother. I don’t think she hates me. I don’t have ‘issues’. I was, still am, a pain. My mother, almost always, acted out of exasperation. You would too if it was the day before the final exam and your daughter’s school books were empty.)

When I was in my final year of college, Ranjit Hoskote visited for a week-long residence. I thank god every day for it. He re-introduced Arun Kolatkar to me. I owe him big time! Ranjit’s after class activity for the BA Literature students was a poetry workshop. I signed up too. My poem? Sucked ass! I hated it. He hated it. However, I re-worked it and it was much appreciated. When I was told that rhyming was not a pre-requisite to good poetry, I was pretty thrilled. That’s when I chased this grandiose notion of having the gift of poetry. It led to a lot of writing that my old blog had a lot of. I deleted all of it. Some of it is still alive, somewhere, in some online forum. I’m going to delete everything, I think.

I’m not sure what to do with this writing shindig any longer. Maybe journalism is the profession for me. I get the opportunity to make a piece of cake sound like a slice of heaven, why not, right?

All this resignation business has given me a lot to think about. What next is something I’m not letting myself answer right now. Let’s see where this is all going to go. For now, I just be angsty on blog, yes?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Overanalysing

When 2 + 2 suddenly looks like 42 (Douglas Adams, I would like to thank you profusely for this connotation attached to the number 42), it’s probably because my overanalytical mind is at work in full force and capacity. Some of the things I dream up are things that you’d never ave thought of and you’d probably turn around and say, "Shruthi you’re completely vetti (jobless) please get a life!" I’d have to agree with you, but then where’s the fun with idle time if you cannot over-imagine, right?

Half the nonsense in this blog is because I over-imagine. It is this tendency to over-imagine that leads to what I call writing overkill - making the same point in five to six differently worded sentences. I do that sometimes, and I’m not too happy about it. But then again one of the precepts of effective communication is reinforcement – it could either be wild gesticulating or making the same point until you get it.

I’m self-introspecting because of a convoluted connect I made about a person I know. I was watching some meant-for-brainless-viewing-only TV programme on Channel V about celebrities and their zodiac matches and consequently led me to think about someone I know, who is slightly obsessed over zodiacs and how she managed to have a crush on and go on to develop a relationship with the person whose zodiac is best compatible with hers. That thought I had while watching this inane TV programme almost killed me. Why I was thinking about that person is beyond me. Why I even made the connect is beyond me. I did think and I did make the connect. I did make 2 + 2 = 42.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Lists and all

  • Death has this funny way of remind you that it exists. I don't like that. This morning I woke up to the news that my youger brother's classmate from college died in an accident. He's devastated. She's the second friend he's lost in two years. It's not fair. Something about it is not right. I don't know what karma her death completed, whatever it was, it just wasn't right. To me at least. OR as my mother put it, maybe this was all the time she had on this planet. If that is the case, Swetha, wherever you are, I truly hope it's a better place.
  • My parents celebrated anniversary number 27 yesterday.
  • Have you heard of dhoti pants? Kindly Google it. My friend bought me a pair from Goa and I wore it to lunch yesterday. My uncle was most fascinated with it and insisted that we source this clothing item for everyone in the family, including my 11-year-old and 7-year-old cousins, and take a family photo wearing dhoti pants. The dhoti family apparently.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Diwali or the lack of it

Today is Diwali. Festival of lights. The biggest mithai gorge-fest. Diyas. Firecrackers. Some burn injuries. Some safety messages from fire and safety department. Diwali releases, which unfortunately did not include ant Rajini or Shah Rukh Khan film. Mutton curry and idli for breakfast (apparently in rememberance of Raavana). Oil baths. New clothes. A day in the life of people where there is no bickering, random disagreements and fights. It's a day to welcome Lakshmi into your home and generally have a blast.

That's about it. There was a point when Diwali was exciting for me. It isn't any longer. My brother is not around this year. My aunt is too scared of firecrackers for it to be any fun. This year it will just be diyas and so on. Nothing much. I think my family should start this send out mass greeting card system. Just so there is something to do today.

I'm Mal. We don't do any festival except Onam and Vishu. Everything else is just a cursory nod to the religious calendar. Which is good in a way. We even celebrate Christmas with homemade plum cake (rum-soaked dry fruits, etc, my mother is a rockstar with that) and wine. All in all, festivals are a good time to just soak in the ambience and have a good time about it. Can't say more really.

If you ever want to get a feel of festivity, come to Chennai around Diwali, catch a first day first show of a Tamil Diwali release. Hoot with the crowd. Go a little mental. Enjoy!

Monday, November 1, 2010

birthday

It’s November.

I turn a year older this month. I wait all year for this month.

I’m one of ‘those’ people – the ones that like their birthday and are all shrilly about it. The rest of the time, I’m unconcerned about things at large. But November is the only time in the year I get a little crazy. See November 6 is my parents’ wedding anniversary. Nov 14 is my best friend’s birthday. November 20 is my birthday. November 22 is my uncle’s birthday.

So many occasions to celebrate.

November is also a great time of year to be in Chennai. Slush pit notwithstanding. The heat and humidity are more tolerable. The green, what little there is of it, is greener. Over and above all that, it’s my birthday this month and what better time of year that your birthday? I don’t see how people can rate birthdays below festivals and girls nights out. To me, a birthday is the one day in the entire calendar year when it’s all about you. Simple. No one can argue with that. No one can disagree with the fact that it’s your day and you should be having fun. If you’re smart, you will take the day off and have a 24-hour party. Weekday birthdays especially are the best times to do this.

Anyway. It’s just a thought.

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.

*******
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