Reckoning

2012. Distances grow. Without meaning to. From innocence, from love, from sharing, from family. From concern, from grappling, from reality. From truth. From coherence. From understanding. Growing up is happening too fast. Suddenly, there is no time. I’ve lost myself in a tumult of the outside, forgetting myself in the hurricane. Gladly so. Suddenly, it is easy to ignore the mundane, be engrossed in the trivial. It is easy to feel like I’m doing something of credibility, of worth, something that will have an impact. Much harder to realise, in moments of self-truth, that this may not really be so. At the end of the day, my eyes hurt behind lids that are coloured grey and red every time I close them. Loud guffaws of the day echo in some cob-webby attic of the mind. There’s distance in perceiving time too. Days have begun to feel like an age. Exhaustion consumes me, I don’t have the energy to think things through. And yet, this is ordinariness. Others have lives twisting into hyperbole every second. And I run away from them, from myself because I have no solace to offer. Every morning, I wake up unwillingly, and the first thought that floats into mind is a tiny prayer for a sense of humour to a God I don’t particularly believe in. And he/she grants it to me. And I live on…

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This story is not about undermining a woman’s choice to wear or be what she wants.

…It is about perceptions and generation gaps.

So, a couple of evenings ago, ma and i were gluttonously popping pani pooris at that famous stall in GK1’s M-Block market. We were also silently indulging in our second favourite pastime in markets (no prizes for guessing what is at number 1) : Voyeurism of the Venus-ites. It is by now common knowledge that while men check out women everywhere, women, too, check out other women more often than they size-up the mans on the prowl. And what is it that we’re checking for? A quick 5-second once-over can take in clothes, make up, hair, shoes, accessories, nail color, waistline, other lines and sizes and come to conclusions as to the nature and character of the studied specimen (speciman? speciwoman?). If you add another 2 seconds, judgements can be doled out if you have the ‘right’ company: all you need to do is raise eyebrows and make eye contact at the right moment. The smile is passed, the shoulders are shrugged in a it-takes-all-kinds-to-make-a-world way, and some bitchy part of the soul is satisfied at the one-uppance. There is nothing monumental about this process – it happens everywhere, all the time. But, I theorise, and thereby digress from my story.

So, ma n i have moved on to aloo chaat and somehow look up from the plate to take in this sight: three young women whose figures suggest they practice anorexia regularly, doddering up the street in painful high heels. The shortest of them wearing what seemed to be only a corset ( of the undergarment-of-yore variety, and therefore decidedly not classy ) and tight, terribly low-slung jeans, poker straight hair, heavy eyeliner, thick mascara, a peachy pout. Extremely conscious of herself, she has the air of one whose feet are barely making contact with the ground, she’s so high on how good she thinks she’s looking. Frantically gazes down at herself to check that just the right amount of skin is visible. Comes off looking like a brainless tart.

The mother and i quickly look at each other, smile. Grimace is more the word actually. We’re both tch-tching in our heads till the tittering trio are out of earshot.

And then, ma says, she’s clearly a small-town girl grown too big for her boots. Iske toh par nikal rahe hain, aur dekho kaise!

I say, yeah, well, what can one do? more tch-tching happens.

And then it occurs to me, hah! look at us, how arrogantly we talk, like we were born into the big-moneyed, big-city ranks. 11 years here and just look at us!

We laugh at ourselves. But then comes the punchline from the learned one: True, we’re middle class people, belonging to small towns. We’re bourgeois to the best of our abilities, but we never EVER behave like that. Never have, never will.

Point noted, O mother. There’s a lesson in decency to be had somewhere in there.

On a related note, I urge you to walk the talk, get down and dirty at Slutwalk Delhi on June 25. Talk about inverting roles, taking to the streets and taking back the power!

Happy in the New

…Aaaand so, 2011 is here. Yet another beginning, fresh start, clean break bla bla….and yet, so much carried over, unfinished business. 2010 was the year for travel – such fun it has been. One of the most chilled out years I have had in the recent past. 2011 promises to be, at best, turbulent. Big changes afoot – with post-graduation coming to a close, and other big (unmentionable) events possibly underfoot – this year I’m going to have to tread a wee bit more carefully.

But the soul is rankled this time by the observation that time. just. FLIES! and so, the other day, Anand Shankar and i were discussing retirement plans, since it apparently already seems round the corner for one who is yet to ( re? ) embark on a career and one who’s just started on his true calling. The plan ( as it has evolved in my purty head ) is: beach shack on fancy Goa beach, where the Shankar shall whip up fancy dishes, the Sve shall maitre’d with all her fancy shiny personality, the Shy-shur shall handle water sports and other such ruf-n-tuf activities and yours truly shall do her thing behind a bar counter, a la Tom in Cocktail, or the Coyote Ugly girls, whatever you prefer. Of course, for this plan to get underway, we need to all retire much early…but oh, the dream!

So anyhow, all such castles in the air apart, this year i promise myself no resolutions, simply because that’s a road that ends before it begins. But a few new life guidelines to be adopted include: taking things one day at a time; being sincere, no matter what; and, loving, not taking for granted.

Wish me the laughter, the love and all that i can see and learn in the world, and i shall wish it right back for you. Cheers!

Turn Turn Turn…Turn to Her

Of all the newness that daily living brings, today’s was an unexpected high. For the first time in 10 years, of which at least 5 i have spent travelling in DTC buses, i encountered a female bus conductor today. It was fate, i am sure of it…leaving home just the crucial two minutes late, getting onto a bus that broke down half a km later, then getting onto another, but jostled into a corner by Mama Sumo Hustler who took the seat i spotted first…and then, in that terribly filmy, slow-motion moment, when i turn my head, hair flying away from face to reveal super surprised eyes like those of a deer alerted, to hear the woman’s voice yell, albeit musically…”ARRE…ticket le loooo“…!

I approached her for my ticket. Saw the seat next to her was vacant, so asked her if i could sit there. To which she first said no, with an apologetic smile, so i didn’t push it. Then 5 minutes later she relents and lets me have the seat. Through the next 45 minutes i watch her go about her business as countless grizzly old men have gone in the very throne now accorded to her. Her maths sharp, her jaw set, her eyes alert, her tone gruff…She had me at ‘Ye lo’. 😛

Also for the next 45 minutes, i sat next to her, bursting with pride, as if it were my personal accomplishment, this miracle of a gender bender. And apparently, i was not alone in my surprise – the poor thing, who i am quite sure is younger than I am, was and is probably continually subject to stares, searching, puzzled, amused, lecherous stares but she just smiled at the nicer ones and avoided eye contact with the more dangerous ones. For some reason, i found my well of courage this time and stared down a couple of young upstarts (which is easy for this seat, like the ‘throne’, is elevated ). Every now and then, she’d look at me and smile, with rupee notes slipping out from one hand to the other, doing her mental calculations. A multi-tasker, i say! Next time, i promised myself, i shall speak to her, tell this story her way.

Of course, this overflow of joy in the name of feminism seems psychotic, but for now, hurrah for a new world!