Life's Like That

Thursday, March 23, 2006

I remember

I remember a time before cable television, when the Walt Disney Show and Heman were the only sources of entertainment.
I remember a time when I bought Kwality icecreams from the blue and white ice cream van that plied the streets in the quiet afternoons.
I remember a time when I spent the whole day in the bright summer sun without developing headaches, and feeling tired.
I remember a time when I could still buy something to eat with Re. 1.
I remember a time when I could stay up the entire night then attend class the next morning without feeling the least bit tired.
I remember a time when I loved and hated with equal fervour.
I remember a time when I was sure that somewhere there was that perfect man who combined greek god looks with amazing sensitivity, wit, humour, intellegence, unconditional love, acceptance, etc etc etc.

I remember a time when I believed in Santa Claus, and fairies and elves and brownies and pixies and Amelia Jane and Noddy and the Magic Faraway Tree and Noddy and Toyland.
I remember a time when good was good and bad was bad, and grey was just a another colour.
I remember a time when people I liked were my friends and people I didnt like so much were not friends and friendship was that simple a matter.
I remember a time when I wanted to go to my friends birthday party because she had invited me and I knew it was not just out of politeness.
I remember a time when I did everything I could for my friends without expecting anything in return.
I miss those times. I miss my innocence, I miss the innocence of those times. I miss being a child. I miss dealing with things that were black and white and uncomplicated. I miss being with people who were as uncomplicated as I.
I would give up a 100 Baskin Robbins icecreams for a plain Kwality's vanilla cup if I could eat it without worrying about the calories and my (ever burgeoning) weight. I can do without the 100 channels on my television if I could watch one hour of Heman and come away from it totally delighted and in love with the hero. I would give anything to be able to spend a summer day on a big open field and come away exhilarated with the days events rather than feeling tired, exhausted, grimy and ill.
But more than anything else, I wish I could somehow go back to the time when friends were friends and when one did things for ones friends just because....when one didnt read too much into situations, when one forgave ones friends for hurting one and promptly forgot about it. I wish I could make people say sorry, shake hands and make up. I wish I could go back to the person I was...the person who did stuff for her friends without expecting even an aknowledgement in return.
I hate the way things have turned out and will continue to turn out.I hate being grown up.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

House hunting.

It is a awful AWFUl experience. House hunting I mean. For the past one month I have been spending all weekends just following my broker around from one horrible little hovel to another. Ive seen all kinds you know. And had the most bizzare ridiculous conversations stemming from bizarre ridiculous houses. Such as these:
Conversation One.
Me(totally horrified and dumbstruck) : But why on earth is the loo inside the kitchen?
Landlord: Eh?
Me: The toilet. It is inside the kitchen.
Broker (looks bemused) : Yes Medem.
Me: But why??
Landlord: It is toilet. 24 hours water and geyser also.
Me: Inside the kitchen???? You cook food there. How can the food cooking area and the...er...(looking for socially acceptable way of saying food excreting area) toilet area be so close by? Isnt that totally unhygienic?
Landlord: No no. Full ventilation is there.
Me(yuckkkkkkk) : But its disgusting.
Broker: It is only Rs. XYZ Medem. Negotiable.
Me: Who cares about negotiable, its DISGUSTING.
Landlord (very affronted and aggressive): See noone has had problem with it. People love my apartment. If you have problem you leave.
Me: Of course I'll leave. Did you really expect me to stay in this disgusting place of yours? (turns to hapless broker), Mr. V, please take care not to show me places like this. The loo needs to be far away from the kitchen. Understood?
Broker(meekly) Yes medem.
Conversation Two
Me: Errrr, Mr. V, when I said that the loo needs to be far away from the kitchen, I didnt mean it should be away from the flat itself.
Broker: Sorry medem. What is the problem?
Me: The problem? The problem my dear man is that here, the loo is outside the flat on the terrace.
Broker: (mildly quizzical look)
Me: What am I supposed to do when it rains? Carry an umbrella to and from the loo?
Broker: You dont like it medem?
Me: NO I DO NOT. Even if the loo was inside, the flat is dark and dingy and depressing. I cannot fit a cupboard and a bed into that room. Either I will have to sleep on the floor or my clothes will.
Broker: Ok medem I will show you more houses.
Conversation Three
Me: Hmmmmm.
Landlord: So what do you do for a living?
Me : I work for an advertising agency (most people do not understand the concept of PR, so to save everybody's time I usually say advertising in reply to questions like this)
Landlord: Oh so you have irregular hours. (Looks grave and disapproving).
Me (Wonderng how my timings concern him in any way): Err...
Landlord: I might as well tell you now, that I will not allow any guests staying over. And no boys are to visit, even during the day.
Me(as rudely as I can) All right sir. I hope you find the nunlike orphan tenant you are looking for. Goodbye.
Conversation Four
Me: Yeah, this seems ok, but tell me, can you convert the Indian style loo into a Western style one?
Landlord (with undisgusied glee): Why you are wanting Western style loo? Are you having medical problems? (Looks up and down enthusiastically)
Me(Startled): No, I just...
Landlord (enthusiastically): No no you can tell me, after all we will be neighbours and we must help. And if I have to make investment changing toilets I must know exact reason.
Me(What the f***!!!!): OH forget it. I dont want to live near you. (runs away)
Conversation Five
Broker (Looking interestedly at Rahul who has been kind enough to take me to the house in question): Medem you will live alone or with family?
Me: Huh? Why do you ask??
Broker: No Medem. just asking if you are married Medem.
Me (siiiighhh): No I am not. But he will be a frequent visitor. Will there be problems on that issue?
Broker ( I can almost see the word Live Together, Sin and Scandal running through his head): No Medem some landlords might not like.
Me: Then dont take me to those landlords!!!!!
Conversation Six:

Me: This seems nice. Everything seems to be where its supposed to be. But umm, Im engaged and my fiance will come over frequently.Sometimes at odd hours. And I might have houseguests also, male and female. Will that be a problem?

Landlady: Thats your private life. I have no issues with your fiance or your friends. You can live in with your fiance for all I care. As long as you dont create a nuisance for the neighbours and they dont complain I dont have any problems.

Me (Halleluiah): Oh!! I see. (Crosses fingers behind back and looks around for possible flaws).

I signed the contract for the last mentioned place today. For the first time in my life I will be living in an apartment of my own, not my parents, not a PG or a hostel....an apartment of my own. And its nice, has attached Western style loo, and 2 balconies and a small kitchen and a nice living room and a big bedroom. And its furnished. And its in a nice area. I shall move in by April 1st. Nomore househunting....till next year when I get married and have to find a bigger place to live in. Until then...THANK GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Womens Day

I wanted to write something for the blog a thon, but as usual, I am well past the deadline for both registering and writing about street harassment, but I suppose its better late than never.
I wrote about my experience earlier, and understandably, it touched a chord. All the women who commented on that post had at least one such experience to recount. What was noticeable was the fact that almost all of us told of situations where either we did not scream, shout or draw attention to what was happening to us, or even if we did, we were faced with snide comments about deserving it because we were dressed a certain way, or even worse, "It happens...let it go"!
It happens. I know. We know. We face it everyday, sometimes even before we are grown up enough to understand why. I used to live near Gariahat in Calcutta and every evening my mother and I would walk through the hawker laden roads, window shopping, eating alu kabli and just wandering aimlessly. Sort of like a daily evening ritual that I shared with Ma. I remember Ma telling me very seriously when I was about 11/12 years old "Tinni keep your eyes and ears open when you are walking on the roads. There will be these men coming from the opposite direction who will try to bump into you on purpose; pay attention to whats going on around you and you will be able to avoid and sidestep them. " Why would anyone want to bump into people on purpose? How ridiculous I thought. But something in my mothers voice told me to take her seriously. And I tried to watch out for such immature people. It took a while for me to realize that this bumping and pushing did not stem from from some nonsensical childish whim, there was something far more disgusting at the root of their behaviour. With time I learnt to tell a potential bumping pervert from afar and sidestep very nimbly. Im still pretty good at it. And I found myself telling my 14 year old sister the exact same thing the other day.
We all have similar tales to tell dont we? People following us home, masturbating near us, bumping into us on purpose, singing lewd songs, and sometimes just staring at us. I was having a discussion on the male gaze with Arka yesterday and the question he threw up was where do you draw the line? How do you know when someone is giving you a flirtatious look and when he is mentally undressing you? How do you know what you thought was a mere flirtatious look wont turn into something more sinister? Most men look at attractive women, it does not automatically mean they are perverts or they will molest her. I dont have any definite answers to these questions. I cant pinpoint and say XYZ is the factor that differentiates the innocent look and the undressing one. All I can say is we know. Something, somehow feels wrong about the way a man is staring at us. It could be a daily labourer on the road, or our next door neighbour or in my case the man at the Book Fair. He stared hard and long at me while my father looked at the books. He made me uncomfortable, but I told myself I was imagining things and continued to stand outside the crowded stall. Then he walked over and grabbed my breast. And squeezed it so hard that tears came to my eyes. Then walked away casually, smirking. I stood there terrified;feeling dirty and ashamed, as if it was somehow my fault. I couldnt bring myself to speak of this incident with anyone for a long time afterwards.
It could be tutor or the friends brother or again, as with me, the driver. Thankfully he never went beyond just looking, but it was enough to make me uncomfortable in his presence, enough to make me sit bolt upright in the car, ready to open the door and jump out if he tried anything funny ( I remember one very panic stricken ride from Salt Lake to my house very vividly). I couldnt complain to my parents; what would I say? "He looked at me??" Although thinking back, I should have, my mother would have understood, Im sure. You cant pinpoint the male gaze. You just know when you are being subjected to it. And if someone makes you uncomfortable then just get the hell away from there as soon as possible. If its someone you know whose stare leaves you feeling naked then tell someone about it. Tell your mother, tell your friend, tell your sister and never ever be left alone with him. GET THE HELL AWAY FROM HIM.
The conspiracy of silence that society imposes on us is a very difficult one to break out of. I wish I could tell my sister to slap, scream, create a scene if she is ever molested, butas un-feminist as it may sound, I wont. I cant be sure that anyone will help her, I cant be sure that the molester wont turn violent and do something far worse to her. My only advice to her would be to just get the hell away from there as soon as possible. Wear whatever you want, but when you are walking on the road, make sure you wear a jacket or a stole on top of it. Dont walk around on the roads late at night and whatever you do, dont go to the cops, they are the worst of the lot. Carry safety pins, buy some pepper spray, and use it when necessary and then run as fast as you can. Come home and tell us, and we will do everything in our power to protect you from these monsters.

Sounds regressive doesnt it? Especially on Womens Day? But you know what I think? I think Womens Day is a farce. What the heck are we celebrating? Getting drunk when we want and smoking a cigarette on the road? Wearing jeans and sleeveless tops? Being financially independant? Working cool jobs? We, and by we I mean urban educated independant women, dont even represent 1/3 of the woman population in the country. How does Womens Day affect the woman in the slum, in the village? has anything changed for them? Hell! Has anything changed for us? We might have hip jobs, but still need a male friend or colleague to drop us home if we are working late. We might wear what we want but we still cover up before leaving the pub. We drink and smoke , but we still think twice beofre walking into a place like Dewars in Bangalore for a drink with our colleagues because its "not the kind of place you can take women to". We drive our own cars, but we feel safer with tinted windows, because then roadside romeos cant see into the car easily and therefore chances of being chased etc are much less.

There is nothing to celebrate. Women are still as un-emanicipated as they were 10 years back. Yes things have changed..but on the surface only. The larger, scarier issues remain unsolved. And I dont know if those will ever get solved. Read this, and then go on to read the anonymous comment...its scary. That is how some men think. And thats the reason women will continue to feel unsafe and continue to depend on the nice kind protective men they know(like Rahul, like Soham, like Vijay who responded to the anonymous comment) to be safe. I only hope, rising awareness of these issues and movements such as this help women, and I am able to tell my daughter someday to raise hell if someone misbehaves without being afraid of the molesters retaliation.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The ideal man in 8 simple steps.

Nothing is working in this office. Am very annoyed with stuff, therefore I shall distract myself by responding to Rainbeau Peep's tag.
The rules seem simple enough:
1. The tagged victim has to come up with 8 different points of their perfect lover.
2. You have to mention the sex of the target.
3. Tag 8 victims to join this game and leave a comment on their comments saying they've been tagged.
4. If tagged the 2nd time, there's no need to post again.
So 8 points of the perfect man...hmm...tough one. Well here goes, in no particular order...I shall steer clear of the expected ones about honesty and sense of humour...those are a given.
  1. I should be able to have a decent conversation with him. Topics can vary from our respective day at work to George Bush's visit to Vikram Seth to wife swapping (please note: a theoretical discussion on whether he would ever recommend such a thing after say 10 years of marriage and how I would react to it if he did.) to bird flu to gossip about people we know...but I need to be able to talk with him.
  2. He should get along with my friends and family.
  3. He should be able to deal with my moods and my short fuse. Unfortunately I am beginning to believe that this is quite unrealistic, NOONE can cope with my temper and my moody nature :( but since this is the completely unrealistic "ideal man" we are discussing here..what the hell!
  4. He should be a considerate lover.
  5. Should have no hang ups about sharing housework, including cooking.
  6. Should be demonstrative. In that I mean that he shouldnt be the kinds who find it difficult to show their partners they care. One doesnt need flowers or gifts or sappy cards all the time, but an unexpected hug, a heartfelt"I love you" once in a while is nice. Unfortunately Rahul fails miserably in this department : (
  7. Should not get grossed out by somewhat detailed discussions on ..errr...ummmm.....oh what the hell...potty probelms and the like. If one has a tummy upset, one needs to explain the nature of ones(or his for that matter) ailments without the ones partner turning pink and saying "Ron whats wrong with you! Dont be disgusting!". There is nothing disgusting about discussing these problems...everyone has them from time to time!!
  8. Should have absolutely no hang ups about where I go and who I meet and who I speak to(even if its in the middle of the night). Cant deal with possessive men.

Hmmm. So thats that. I now pass on the tag to....... Marauders Map, Ekta, Good Morning Midnight, Seema, Archana, M(Tread Softly Upon and umm...I dont know...umm...Deep(?) and errrr....Soham.

Hah!! Have fun!! *smirks*.