Saturday, April 13, 2013

The serious trouble with young writers

DISCLAIMER: I am all for young writers who are not Chetan Bhagat. I want to read what people who were introduced to the internet later than I was have to say. But if they talk about the same thing the same way and call it 'different' and 'mature', then the following blog post is but a natural consequence.

Your twenties, whichever part, are not the time for you to say you know yourself. Think I'm wrong? Well, here's an arithmetic question – how long from your twenties to your fifties? (We'll work with the assumption that you'll live that long, okay?) The answer is three decades. That is actually longer than the time that you've been alive, so, again, please don't assume you know everything about everything in your twenties, clearly there's a lot more of life to see, feel, experience.

The previous paragraph was purely to make a point, because I'm tired of all the young women writing things about marriage. As if they know what exactly to expect. I will only make an exception for those young women who have shared a room with their brothers. The shock of seeing damp towels on the floor or boxers being used for more than one day is not as intense as it is for those who grew up with a sister. Anyway, I was talking about marriage and what young twenty-somethings make of it.

Let's look at the recurring plots, themes and motifs of these so-called 'rants' shall we?

#1: The Parents
Now, I have spent an inordinate amount of time calling my dad 50 kinds of insane because he insisted on marrying me off to some random Malayali because our horoscopes matched and the family was a 'good family'. I called my dad 50 more kinds of insane when I was asked to meet these Malayalis whose pronunciation was atrocious, who did not believe in making eye contact, who spelled 'sense' as 'sence' in their online profiles, who thought the shape of my eyebrows meant money they had to spend on my trips to the beauty parlour, who had no clue about how to articulate themselves in English and so on.

The truth is, my father inherited this behaviour. He didn't come up with it on his own. He felt that the socially appropriate thing to do was to arrange his daughter's marriage, not because he wanted to see me married, but because everyone else was doing it and my younger cousins were getting there before me and his siblings were asking him questions. If you ask them directly, you'll find that parents don't have a self-formed opinion about getting their daughter married, they're just being sheeple in this context. So while calling them insane is one thing, actually believing that they are is a mistake.

I've found that having an open and honest discussion works well. At the time I was listed on matrimonial websites, I had to spend a LOT of time trying to make my father understand what I wanted from my life, and he told me one thing very clearly – 'it's your decision, I can only find the fellows, nothing else'. I would never have known he was on my side if we had not talked. Dissing our parents may be cool, but you need to put it in perspective after a while. We all have parents who behave the same way, and well, it's fun to call them mad and then watch the comments section explode with support, but leaving out the details about how your dad doesn't want you to be unhappy or sad for even one moment is unfair.

#2 The extended family

Ever since Vikram Seth wrote A Suitable Boy, and every third Indian English writer has talked about the husband-hunting process and Karan Johar and Yash Chopra started an entire industry around the “Big Fat Indian Wedding”, bitching about being harassed at weddings has always centred around that fat aunty who wouldn't quit interfering. If you don't have a close-knit family, I'm truly sorry for you. My maternal family would discuss my wedding after Sunday lunch, even before there was anyone in the picture. For them, it was a fun activity. The best part of those discussions was that they helped us document a lot of things before hand and in the six months leading up to my wedding, all the information was in one book.

As for that interfering aunty, she knows full well that she has no say in the wedding, but she's there because that's who she is. If she wasn't who the hell would you bitch about? Your mum? Think about it.

Every family in every culture, race, country, is overbearing. Please refer “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and all movies and TV shows starring Italians for more details on annoying families from 'the West'.

#3 Wanting to be different
Wanting to be different has become such a big deal that it's almost a fucking cliché! What different? How different? You're still having a show off wedding, right? You're still decking up like a Christmas tree and standing in front of people you have little to nothing to do with and posing for pictures no? You're still getting one of those 'candid' photographers to come to your wedding and 'capture those precious moments' no? Then how is this process different for you? Please explain it to me? SOMEONE!

If you, like two young couples I know, decide to get married exactly how YOU want to get married, then you can talk about different. For as long as your parents are at your wedding talking to other people rather than watch emotionally at their daughter getting married, you're not different, you're just like me and everyone else in this country who had a typical “Big Fat Indian Wedding”.

#4 Being modern
The next time I read this word in one of my articles or in anyone else's articles, I'm going to set fire to the internet! What bloody modern? What? You're young, you're getting married and submitting your rant about the fact that everyone's speaking over your head and not taking your opinion seriously since it is your life and your decision and so on to a magazine and the whole universe read it and put two claps. Congratulations, welcome to the modern world of modern people where helplessness is articulated in journalistic publications. I really do appreciate your modernity because having a traditional wedding with your family present and your participation in it being minimised to some puppet level is exactly how to be modern in life. Where is the assertiveness and so-called opinionated self that you're selling in your little piece? Do you think it comes from writing an article about it or actually taking a stand? If you're not taking a stand, please do the world a favour and shut up. Participation in life choices is the most important thing I can think of. If you can't do that, then don't sell it in an article for fuck's sake.

#5 Dreaming of fairytales
Um, are you a Karan Johar fan? Because you seem to be living in some delusional afterlife where everything is picture perfect. I'm not wrong, you said Disney, your fault. You don't see the minor details. You don't see the relationships in those horrid first couple of months following the wedding where you're having an existential life crisis and you can't share it with your husband because he's in shock at the loss of his bachelorhood and he doesn't know what to do with your constant pissed-off-ness at his amazing ability to tuck away bottles of water in the house, and all of his wet towels dropped on the floor and his annoying lack of ability to straighten out the toothpaste tube. The worst part? He thinks you're nuts for being sad about not being at home with your mother because he thinks 'well, you signed up for this 'being away from parents, it's what happens when two people get married, so what's the matter?'

The most sad part is the both of you wondering what the hell happened to the person you fell for because, well, they used to be different. Who is this new replacement at home who is taking over their lives and is not giving them any peace? God forbid if the food turns out to be shit, not only will you have a crying fit, the spouse will give you that 'this is an alien, not the love of my life' look. Yeah, about that Disney-perfect marriage, it exists in Disneyland. Far, far, away, and meant for an escape from reality. The moments you're looking for, you have to fight for sometimes. Sometimes they happen spontaneously. But they're never Disney-like. I can tell you that much.

Here are a few things I did not glean from the article -
1) arranged marriage or no?
2) why did you feel the need to write about it?
3) why do you think the world should take this particular opinion seriously? Is it because you find that your wedding and everything it entails is symptomatic of a society that is caring lesser and lesser about people and more about appearances?
4) you have nothing to say about getting married at 23?

Like I said before, I'm tired of content that has no depth and intelligence and takes the readers for granted. I'm tired of content that has no other thing to say except for surface details. I'm even more tired of all this being passed off as relevant journalism. And my guts are cringing at the fact that this is being taken seriously and everyone is identifying with it. In a way, I'm glad I'm no longer writing. I'm terrified of losing my love for this profession and the madness it entails. Being a sub-editor removes you from the immediacy of the process of news-making. It just gives you the time to ensure that the pieces you edit have some measure of depth, and for the moment that's enough.

P.S: I did, in this blog (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) and one other, write a six-part series about the husband hunt. I don't even read it anymore because I'm terrified of being the exact same person I've spent this much time ranting about. Shit. I'd like to go and eat some chocolate now. Thanks.

Friday, April 5, 2013

My future wife needs to be a cook.

"When I was engaged, A told my mother that I need to know how to cook mutton. The rest didn't matter."

That comment set off a trigger of unwholesome and truly troubling thoughts.

I have, since then, considered quitting the kitchen altogether and hanging a "the kitchen is closed" plaque. I cook. I don't like it. However, I like starvation even less, so I cook. It is only incidental that there is one more person eating my food.

I wish I didn't have to cook and didn't have to, by some calculated default, slip into the role of homemaker.

I wish my husband was my patron and I was lying around writing books that would always remain 'works-in-progress'.

I dislike the fact that young men in the 2000s are actually asking that their wives be domesticated. And I dislike it even more that us wives are becoming domesticated and then bitching about it.

What I want is that this whole culture of requiring domestication just stop.

No, it's not two families getting married. It's two people. And those who think it's more than that are just plain delusional and about 10000 degrees of insane.