Thursday, February 26, 2009

The War Of The Roses

Even as hues of pink continue to pervade India's cityscapes, most of us, have been oblivious to the unfolding of a quieter, and perhaps, more powerful rebellion, right in the heart of a traditional male stronghold. The village of Banda in Uttar Pradesh.

Banda is located in, what is perhaps, the most lawless and desolate region in India - Bundelkhand. A land plagued by dacoity, Bundelkhand had witnessed the rise of the notorious bandit queen Phoolan Devi. Conflict, feudalism, poverty, deprivation and corruption are an integral part of daily life here. Have been for as long as anyone can remember. And, crimes against women & children, are as common-place as breathing.

So, you will well understand my shock, and awe, when I discovered that the bleak, forbidding Badlands, was also, the setting of the modern day War Of The Roses.

Banda's war of the roses is not between factions of society, as one would imagine.
There are no red or white roses here.
Only pinks.
Not the genteel, seemingly frail, baby and hot pink blooms, that one sees in well-manicured gardens. But, a deep fuchsia pink. The Gulabi pink.

A colour of power, which commands attention, respect and obedience.

The Gulabis are the poor, uneducated women of Banda,and its surrounds, who, under the leadership of Sampat Devi Lal, have raised their voices, and flexed their muscles, in unison, to protest against the stranglehold of male authority. They are women help each other to overthrow the yoke of oppression, and rise above their harsh circumstances, to take charge of their destinies.
And, in the process, they have transformed the humble pink sari into a symbol of freedom, feminine dignity and true woman-power.
The rise of the roses has been effectively chronicled by the Guardian, BBC and, the young Indian film-maker, Shagun. They feature in a few blogs as well. All of which, makes for very interesting reading.
Ask me, I know.
I have not been able to tear myself from google, since last evening!!!

The pink veiled warriors of Banda have evoked mixed emotions in me.
I am awed.
That, women, who have lived their entire lives in an environment of harsh bondage, conditioned to fit into stereotyped moulds, have broken free.
Their courage, amazes me.
It makes me hopeful.

That, they are illiterate, and yet, have found their paths, makes me wonder.
It appears that, one does not always need the benefits of education to find one's purpose in life. To gain the wisdom to discern right from wrong. Or, to find the courage to safeguard one's dignity.
It seems to me, that one just has to have the will. The way will emerge.

I am also greatly amused.

As Muthalik, and his Sena cronies, prepare to distribute pink saris to the chaddi campaigners, I wonder, if they are aware of the underlying symbolism of their gift?
Of, what the pink sari truly represents?
And, the message that their gifts COULD convey to its intended recipients?

How, incredibly ironic.
How, incredibly depressing.

Note to Readers: I had planned to add my findings about the Gulabi Gang, as a update to the last post 'The Charge Of The Pink Brigade'. Fortunately or unfortunately, blogspot played spoil sport and therefore, a post dedicated to the pink roses of UP.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Charge Of The Pink Brigade

My mail boxes are clogged.
With ladies underwear.
With, Pink Ladies Underwear, to be more precise!
And, horror of horrors, I hear, there may be pink saris on their way.
Perhaps, pink condoms too!!!

If that happens, I know my mail boxes are going to back up on me, leaving me stranded in the middle of a pink lake of cyber-debris, with bits of flotspam merrily bobbing around me!!!

I wouldn't have minded floundering about in a pink cesspool, had I believed in the cause. But, as much as I believe in human rights and personal freedom, especially for women, I am afraid
the pink chaddi campaign is not quite to my taste.

The Campaign offends my notion of womanliness.
And, it challenges my beliefs about being an agent of change without conforming to stereotypes.

Call me old fashioned.
But, I believe undergarments, be it bras, chaddis, thongs, knickers, bloomers or plain panties, belong in the lingerie cupboard. In the laundry basket. Or, on one's person.
NOT, in anyone's mail-box. Snail or E.

Call me idealistic.
But, I would rather be known as a woman who believes in personal freedom for herself, and all humanity, rather than be typecast as a pub-going, loose and forward woman.

I enjoy my wine.
I work odd hours.
I socialise with the male species.
And, I live my life by my dictates.
But, that does not make me loose or forward.
It only makes me, ME!

This probably explains my vehement objection to being typecast, even in jest. Because I am a human being and, not a commodity to be labelled and consigned into a water-tight category for the rest of her life.

But, truth be told, these are personal considerations.
Unique to me, and not binding on any other woman in this country.

My skepticism about the pink chaddis in Muthalik's post-box stems from the fact that I do not perceive it as a real, sustainable effort. It is neither deep nor comprehensive in its approach, and therefore, cannot have lasting effect.

Flinging one's undergarments at a belligerent bully is not going to deter him, or any other like him. I doubt it will even make an iota of difference to Muthalik or his rogue band.

Thronging pubs on a designated day, as a sign of solidarity, will not erase the trauma from the minds of the real victims. Nor, will it instill courage in an Indian woman, and enable her to fearlessly frequent pubs when SHE wants to.

Attempts to redefine Indian culture through audio and video representations of the perceptions of a narrow segment of the female population, will not change the core beliefs of the vast majority. It will not even dent the popular perception of an Indian woman as a second-class citizen, worthy of existence, at best, under the protective male wing, and at worst, in abject and servile bondage.

The Muthaliks and Ram Senas of our country are merely symptomatic of the cancers that gnaw at our society from within. Of control & subjugation. Of lies, deceit and greed. All of which, are so closely entwined, that no outward symptom can ever be fully treated in isolation.

Which is why, my friends, I feel that the Pink Chaddi Campaign is more about high-decibel fluff and glitz than real substance and action.
Quite tragic, really.
Especially, when one considers the momentum that it has gathered.

I wish the Pink Chaddi Campaign had more to do with Public Interest Litigation, sustained protests & strong petitions that harnessed the might of our legislature and judiciary to decapitate organisations, and rogue leaders, who violate human rights.

I wish the Pink Chaddi Campaign was working towards cleaner politics. Towards helping the powers that be in finding their teeth and claws. And, at making politicians, elected leaders & public servants accountable.

I wish the Pink Chaddi Campaign had more to do with the humanising of our media. And, with offering them much needed pointers in moral, responsible journalism.

And, how I wish the Pink Chaddi Campaign had everything to do with the cleaning up of mind-sets and attitudes towards women. More to do with educating women about the rights they were born with. And, in making them believe, that they are an integral part of the human race.

I wish the Pink Chaddi Campaign had more to do with the institution of support groups for victims of bullying & abuse. The victims in the Mangalore pub probably might have welcomed emotional support and access to resources in their battle for justice. I know I would have.

Above all, I wish the Pink Chaddi Campaign could motivate the general populace into shaking off their apathy when faced with a crime, and do the right thing by a victim of abuse.

This, my friends, is what I think the Indian women's backlash needs to be about.
And, not about throwing our panties after the bras!
But then, it wouldn't be the Pink Chaddi Campaign, would it?
The Pink Jhadoo* Campaign would, perhaps, be a more appropriate name then. Wouldn't it?

* Jhadoo - Broom

The Best Laid Plans

Sometimes, all it takes, is a near-invisible bit of frayed thread to unravel the best laid plans.
Just imagine.
A seemingly innocent loose end, which, escapes your eagle eye. Or perhaps, seems too insignificant to warrant much attention.
And the consequence?
Your plans in your hands, in an infuriating tangle of knots!
OK people, I exaggerate a wee bit.

BUT, this is what almost happened when I went on my sabbatical last week.

Not wanting to be disturbed in the midst of my hiatus of self-indulgence, I had taken great pains to explain to spouse, friends and colleagues about my soul's crying need for a vacation. The bright neon 'Do Not Disturb' sign was up and flashing for all to see, as I retreated into my shell, congratulating myself on having covered all bases effectively.

My euphoria lasted for all of 24 hours. Till breakfast on day 2 of my holiday.

I was about to dig into my chilly-cilantro egg-white omelet with greedy anticipation and relish, when my single-minded focus was shattered by the insistent ringing of the phone. I would have ignored the call, had it not been from a rather good friend of my aunt's with whom I enjoy the odd gossip session every now and then.
She was not a person to be put off. And so, with a deep sigh of regret, I pushed aside the albuminous object of my gluttony.
Much to my surprise, Auntie was almost hyperventilating.
Waves of panic crackled through the distance, threatening to scramble my grey cells into mush.The last traces of my greed vanished as I pressed the phone against my ear, straining to understand her garbled words.
A few seconds of intense listening, and a burning red ear later, I gathered that the panic attack had been induced, of all things, my mysterious disappearance from cyberspace.

But, the worst was yet to come.

In her panic, auntie had first called home to notify my mother and aunt of my disappearance, before calling me. As I reassured her and eventually hung up, I toyed with the idea of calling home to reassure the ladies in my family. But the lure of the still warm chilly-cilantro omelet proved to be irresistible and in no time, my family had been consigned to the dark recesses of my mind.

In my defense, I would like it to be known that the women in my family are extremely hardy and quite capable of taking good care of themselves. In all the years I have been away from home, I have never known my mother or anyone else worry about me. For you see, they, like me, had infinite faith in my ability to survive. So, it was no small wonder that I shrugged off the call and devoted my attention to the remnants of my breakfast.

But obviously, parents cannot be taken for granted, because one just cannot predict when they will take it upon themselves to break a set pattern!

36 hours later, my mother called....While I was at dinner.

It was just my luck that I was a little too engrossed in some excellent red wine and, also deafened by loud music, and failed to take her call.

What ensued was chaos!

My mother, who probably had visions of me dead, raped or kidnapped, promptly called DSK to investigate. It appeared that she had quite forgotten her emphatic stance, that any aggressor who sought to attack me, would rue the day he set his sights on me.
The husband, who was working late, and, was quite oblivious to my whereabouts, was taken quite by surprise by his hysterical woman at the other end of the line and struggled to reassure her while maintaining a calm facade for the benefit of his colleagues. And all through their shrill exchange, I kept trying to call both!!!.

Eventually, good sense prevailed.
The two decided to end their aimless speculation and, in true Holmsian style, commence investigations. As they rang off, I was able to connect to mom......Only to have Dsk interrupt continuously.

The melee stretched late into night.
My wine had gone sour.
My food had congealed. And, I missed dessert!!!
But, even as peace set in, I could not resist asking my mother why it took her a good 36 hours to respond to an alarm raised by a well-meaning though hyper-reactive friend.

And her answer?

A wicked giggle, followed by a breezy "Oh, I knew nothing bad could possibly happen. It was auntie who panicked, not me. Why else would I wait for a whole day and then some, before I tried to reach you?"

I guess, all's well that ends well.
Although, the next time round, I will be snipping away at the most innocent of fluff and frayed threads with a vengeance!!!

1. Picture on top: Red Yarn In Blue Hands from National Geographic Photography

Monday, February 23, 2009

Where Did The Dreams Go?

Last week, I took a much needed break from life.
From high pressure work situations, oppressive politics and deadlines that hung heavily over my neck. From people, expectations and demands. From
mundane routines and, the monotony of everyday life as I knew it.
I retreated into a cocoon of seclusion - a womb which proved to be the perfect space for introspection and intense soul searching.

It was with a sense of foolish pride that I turned my eye inward.
And, why ever not?
In my mind's eye, I had arrived in the world....On my own steam.
Success was mine for the asking.
I was attractive, personable and intelligent.
I had a job I loved.
I had friends to die for.
I had won great battles in life.
People admired me...Envied me.
But as I retraced my steps to look back on the achievements of the past decade, I was not as proud or happy as I should have been. Or as I once had been.

I sensed lassitude in my life. And ennui.
It was as if the fire that once raged within, was about to be doused.
As if the edges on the square peg were being evened out, and therefore, I was fitting better into the round hole.

I realised, with dismay, that I did not seem to be the person I once was.
Where had the fire gone?
When had the stardust faded from my eyes?

There was a time when I had dared to dream. Had pursued dreams with a passion, that bordered on obsessiveness.
There was a time when there was adventure in my soul. And, I had reached for the moon, and the glittering stars in the dark velvet skies, caring little for convention and society.
I used to speak my mind. Pursue knowledge with a thirst that just refused to be slaked.
The voices of fear were quelled, before its ugly tentacles held my being in a vice grip.
My heart knew what was right.
My spirit was strong and I knew I had it in me to achieve all that I wanted from life.

But now, as my mind reeled out a list of achievements, my soul gurgled vociferous protests. I was no longer the spunky, gauche girl who had left home at 24 with her meagre belongings, in search of fame and glory under the bright city-lights.
I had grown. And achieved much.

But, there still was no escaping the truth.
Somewhere along the way, complacency had set in.
I had begun to dream less. To want less and, to fear more.
And, I hated it.

Was the very act of living was beating the fight out of me?
I wondered if my ability to dream and achieve was being impaired by a fear of loss. And, by errors of judgement, which instead of serving as lessons, were sapping my soul of its uniqueness.

As I pondered on, I knew the reasons did not matter.

For, it is in our rare moments of alone-ness that we realise what our souls really need. We realise what is true. And, what we are made of.
I needed to feel alive again. To be able to dream grandiose dreams. And, be unafraid once more.
I discovered that the fire had not gone out.
It flickered feebly, demanding to be stoked...And, fed.
All is not lost.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My Fairy God Mother Is A New Age Communist!!!

Having grown up on a steady diet of fairy tales from Brothers Grimm, Hans Anderson and finally Enid Blyton, I spent most of my growing years (and adult life too) believing that everyone on this planet came with a kindly Fairy Godmother attached. And why ever not? After all, Cinderella had one and Sleeping Beauty did too. So why not any of us in the real world? Who other than a Fairy God Mother could possibly keep us from hopping, skipping and leap frogging into trouble or bail us out of it...And even more importantly, send Prince Charmings our way?
There was no doubt in my child mind. We all simply had to have a FG*. As a child, I remember devoting much time and energy plotting to net my elusive Fairy Godmother - a mischievous grandmotherly being who sailed on a puffy white cloud above me refusing to put in an appearance to discuss life and its many secrets with me. But as the years advanced, skepticism set in. Forget playing hide and seek, FG never put in an appearance with an umbrella or a rain coat when the storm clouds gathered above me.
At a certain point in time, skepticism gave way to anger. Perhaps it was the disappointment of my child-mind's expectations. Or maybe it was because I felt I have had more than my fair share of woes, most of which were circumstantial and some, I confess,were of my own making. Either way, the quantum of misadventures that came seeking me most definitely qualified me for a FG.
My rage against the recalcitrant FG peaked sometime last week, while I was taking stock of the paths I had travelled. As I stewed and simmered and shook an angry fist at the imaginary cloud above me, a reedy voice piped up peevishly.
"Such a racket!!...What is all this fuss and bother about?"
" Just that you haven't been doing your job!!!.You are never around when I need you" I fumed "You are supposed to be following me around...watching out for me..And I haven't seen you even once in all these years!!!"
" Oh yeah? And just who do you think has been talking to you and holding your hands every time you flirted with disaster???"
" You have????"
My best shot at sarcasm ricochets off FG's hide. Obviously, she is a worthy adversary!
" You are never around!!! Just look at my life....Trouble courts me and you are never around to bail me out"
" Do I look like a goddamn seat belt to you? You need to take responsibility for your life and your actions. I am around to guide you gently, if you would choose to listen to me"
For a whole minute, I was speechless. And then anger once again welled up finding its voice in the form of bitter accusations
"Oh yeah? That was not your line when you sent Cinderella off to a fancy ball in a pumpkin chariot and finery to find her Prince Charming. Or when you put Sleeping Beauty to sleep for a hundred years till her Prince Charming kissed her back to wakefulness!!!"
" That was in the fairy tales...Do you think FGs in the modern world have time or energy for all that jazz???In the real world, both of us have to work hard to keep your life on an even keel. After all, it is your life. You enjoy the fruits of your labour all by yourself, don't you? So you need to work hard for it too. There is no reason I should be doing anymore work than you are"
This I liked...An invisible Fairy God Mother who was not just spouting communistic principles at me but was also rubbishing away my favourite fairy tales!!! The communism I could digest but her take on fairy tales was a little too much for me to swallow and I couldn't resist reminding her about the Fairy in FG.
But much to my surprise, she waved me aside breezily.
" Fairy God Mother...The Voice of Conscience....Gut Instincts...Sixth Sense...Call me what you will....Its all the one and the same...Now, am I to be faulted if your notions and expectations belong in Utopia???"
Her tone brooked no argument. And honestly, I was a tad too nervous to even try. What if I offended her for life?
Just my luck that my Fairy God Mother turned out to be a new age commie!!!

* FG = Fairy God Mother

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Bully Boy

I pounded the pavement beside my car impatiently. A hundred million thoughts about my current project ran through my mind, keeping pace with my furious strides. I had places to go....things to do....but my progress had been arrested by my driver, who seemed to have miraculously vanished while I had stepped out for a quick chore.

Patience has never been one of my virtues! Amidst the multitude of thoughts that crowded my head, there was a ember of anger directed at my absconding driver.

The ember soon became a blaze. In my anger, I failed to see an old fluffy dog sniffing about my feet.
But a moment later, my attention was arrested by a pair of soulful eyes, gazing up at me with hope shining through.
Food? She seemed to ask me. I haven't eaten in days, Lady, so how about you and me moseying over to that delicious kebab joint and sinking our fangs into succulent pieces of meat.
As I considered her offer, she thumped a rhythmic " Say Yes...Say Yes" chant with her straggly white and brown tail.

I have always been a sucker for the underdog, especially those of the canine kind. So, how could I resist the melting brown eyes set in her dear brown-white face? Not to mention the primeval tail thumps ? A few moments later, my friend Lassie was gleefully digging into a portion of tandoori chicken. And, the driver was yet to make an appearance.

I continued to muse and walk, this time without anger or impatience.
With Lassie by my side, I was willing to wait.
All at once, I felt a whizzing past my ankle. Lassie started.
It was a sharp stone!
Outraged, we both swung around. A few yards away stood a little boy in denim. He couldn't have been more than 8 and yet, his eyes glinted and gleamed with the unabashed malice of an adult. I suppose he expected Lassie to cower but she was emboldened by my presence and turned her attentions back to her meal. As I watched, the little brat hssted and psssted at her and distorted his face in the ugliest of expressions. When his bestial sounds & posturing failed to evoke a reaction of fear from her, he searched the ground for another object to fling at her. Anger welled up in me once more as the brat swooped down and threw another stone before I could get to him.
Behind me, I heard a yelp of pain and before me, a little mean spirit laughed with unholy glee.
So much for the innocence of youth....
My palms itched to box his ears.

But with remarkable restraint, I let him off with a glare and demanded to know how he would like to be teased and pelted with stones by someone bigger, stronger and meaner than he was. The brat glowered at me, obviously unimpressed by me. I could see Lassie look nervous as she felt the full impact of his gaze on her. As he picked the third stone, I drew myself to my full height and issued my sharpest No. A NO which brooked no refusal, holding veiled threats of aching ears and red rumps.

Much to my surprise, his face crumpled. And he burst into tears. Not of remorse as I was to find out.
As the child bawled, an obese woman draped in shocking pink emerged from the shadows. Holding the child protectively beside her, the amazon turned to me.
" Your son?"
" Haan* my son..what did you do to him? why is he crying?" She demanded angrily of me.
The sobs in the background grew in volume.
" Your son was teasing that dog and hurled 2 stones at it. I stopped him at his third"
" So what? It is only a stray dog, isn't it?"
" It does not mean that your son or you have the right to stone it"
" You are not the owner of the dog, na? When my son hurts your dog, you come and complain to me. But otherwise..."
" Otherwise what?" I demanded icily
A few people around us slowed to watch the battle of the amazons.
" What is this? You yell at a strange child because he threw stones at a strange dog? Have you no shame for scolding a child? People all over India stone dogs. In fact, they run over them also and you are making a fuss about a child throwing a stone? Why don't you go reform someone else?"
" I did not yell at your child, although what he really deserves is a sound spanking for his cruelty to a weaker creature...."
But before I could complete my tirade, a bearded old man interjected "That is our dog and your son had no business throwing stones at it. "
As the two of us gaped at the good Samaritan, he continued " I am the owner of the Kebab shop there and Brownie is our shop dog."
" But she has no collar or tags..How will anyone know it is not a stray? So, you cannot blame a child for not differentiating between a stray and a pet"
" Madam, It does not matter. Your son knew that Brownie did not belong to him, didn't he? So why did he tease and hurt it?"

The vision in pink was flustered. But I was now seething with indignation at the old man.

How could he assume that a creature could be harassed as long as it was 'owned' by the harasser? As I composed my words of protest, he directed a gentle smile my way. "Madam, some people do not understand the value of beings - humans or four legged ones. Or the emptiness of the concept of ownership of people and animals. You and I could have argued with her all evening but she would never understand. So I had to speak in the language she understood. Let us hope that this will make her and her son think a second time when they are tempted to stone a strange animal"

As the lady beat a hasty retreat with her now silent son in tow, I could not help but ask the old man if Brownie was indeed his shop dog. Once again, that gentle smile.

"No, she isn't." He replied. "We feed her everyday and she spends time around the shop. But does she belong to us? Not at all."

As I drove away leaving Lassie contentedly devouring the last of her meal, I was in a quandary.

Was the old man right to have taken the ownership route?

Or should I have stood my ground and argued about animal rights?

Which took precedence - the cause or the effect?

I will never know, will I?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mere Paas Sasuma Hai*!

I was at a rather interesting wedding last Sunday.
For starters, it was an affair in purple-gold. The bride and groom raced down the aisle in purple-gold. The bridal bouquet was a fussy affair in purple-gold...a bunch of shiny cloth buds and not real ones!!!. The retinue of bridesmaids, flower girls, parents and siblings resembled a marching column in purple-gold. The pews bore sashes of purple-gold. The corsages the men wore were in purple-gold....As were their shirts and ties. The balloons were white and purple, probably because the purple-fixated pair couldn't find any gold ones.
Only the wedding cake remained traditional white, with purple-gold trimmings of course. As I watched the wedding unfold, I couldn't help but wonder if the bride's garter was in purple-gold too. And more importantly, why the colour co-ordinated invite hadn't advised us, hapless spectators, to carry our dark glasses along.
But this was just the beginning.
Right after the overwhelmingly purple hazed nuptials, we crammed ourselves into a tiny room next to the church, to toast good health and eternal happiness to the newly weds....sans champagne or even water, might I add. In the absence of anything - not even empty paper cups - to occupy our hands, we, the guests, dutifully clapped and cheered at the end of each toast.
A good hour later, the beaming groom stood up to acknowledge our wishes....Or so we thought as we watched him finger his purple tie and clear his throat. But, much to our amazement, he proceeded to talk about his dance school. He was a dancer with a school of his own, you see.
As the audience sat transfixed, a wee bit too startled to react, he called forward the teachers to take their bows. He did eventually get down to thanking his family and friends and the rest of us, but most of us were still a little too dazed to acknowledge his gratitude. Which probably was why the effusive bride swung into damage control mode and called on her brand new mother-in-law to take a bow.
"Auntie has been my own. Never J's mother.We have a very special bond" she declared with gay abandon.
The mother of the bride looked rather bemused.
Come to think of it, so did the mother-in-law.
I couldn't decide if her confusion stemmed from a genuine WTF moment or was the result of public attention.
But my train of thought was interrupted by the snigger of a catty onlooker
"Let's hear her say that once the honeymoon is done with"
I opened my mouth to protest but the lady droned on to prove her point "There is no point arguing, you know. She has seen her mother-in-law for what - 6 months? maybe a year? But not a lifetime, right? Mothers-in-law and Daughters-in-law are traditional enemies. It is a fool bride who thinks she can win over the in-law. Deep down, most mothers believe that no woman is ever good enough for sonny boy, even if she herself has handpicked the girl."
Was the bride being a little too optimistic? I wondered, as women around me nodded sagely in agreement. Was there something to Ms. Know-It-All's argument, although I wouldn't go as far as to agree with the Traditional Enemies part. The very phrase brought to my mind, visions of armour clad amazons atop elephants hurling mighty lances at each other!!!.

I have heard horrifying stories of mothers-in-law from hell. And, I have also heard of the odd gems who enjoy the best of relationships with their daughters-in-law. I personally knew of a mother-in-law who overcame all opposition from family and friends to marry off her daughter-in-law, who was widowed a few short months after her marriage. And I know of several mothers-in-law who are not just supportive but go out of their way to help ease the burdens on their daughters-in-law.
As I mused on, the lady continued with her pontification "And you know what the saddest part is? When women get married, her mother lets her go as well......"
Sighting my look of utter skepticism, she hurried to add a rather reluctant "well, in most cases at least"
Again, the sagacious nodding of the heads around me.
I had to concede that there was a modicum of truth in it. A married woman is very rarely her mother's. Despite the closeness and the love they may share, marriage also very subtly creates space and diminishes the sense of belonging between the two. Who lets whom go? Well, I haven't figured that one out but come to think of it, it must be for this very reason that we never find the Indian heroines declaiming "Meri Paas Ma Hai**" while our heroes, at all ages and phases, do not hesitate to announce to the world at large that they have their mothers firmly entrenched by their sides. This and the strong Freudian undertones in most Bollywood scripts, which will allow our weeping heroines to wail disconsolately in the arms of their 'papas', but never fall back on the strength of their mothers.
As I worked my way out of the claustrophobic room, I ran into the mother of the bride glumly attacking three jumbo pieces of the wedding cake with a vengeance. Not one, but three!!!
I congratulated her on acquiring a 'son' but far from cheering her, the thought seemed to depress her more.
"I am going to miss my daughter..She is so full of life and the house will be empty without her..I just about know her husband, so how can he take the place of a son? He is my daughter's husband. He has his family and now my little girl is going to be a part of their daily lives, not mine." she ended plaintively, shoving a plate bearing a purple topped slice of the wedding cake into my hands.
Across the room, the happy bride delved into her pristine white cake, quite oblivious to the fact that her mother was already saying a good-bye of sorts.
As I spooned a bit of the cake into my mouth, I found myself wishing that the lovely purple-gold bride would, in time, find a true ally in her mother-in-law. Call me overly optimistic if you wish. But I would love to meet this starry eyed girl a few years hence and hear her proclaim with pride "Meri Paas Sasuma Hai...Aur Woh Bhi Purple Gold Mein***"

* Mere Paas Sasuma Hai = I have my ma-in-law with me
** Meri Paas Ma Hai = I have my mom with me
*** Meri Paas Sasuma Hai...Aur Woh Bhi Purple-Gold Mein = I have my ma-in-law with me...and that too in purple gold

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Lady In Blue

At a party this evening, I spotted a gay young lady in blue. She giggled and sparkled but beneath her vivacious charm, I thought I could spot reserve. She sported no man at her side. And when as I was beginning to think that she was a solo act, I heard her mutter to a confidante in an angry undertone "This is precisely what I was telling you about. I don't have a face!!!. For so many years, I have dressed myself in alien costumes, performed rituals that made no sense to me and tolerated rude, narrow minded people I can barely communicate with...Just so that he does not loose face in his society. But does he even know that I have a face too?"
Obviously not I thought to myself, as my heart went out to her.
And then, I quickly arranged my features into an expression of nonchalance as her glance swept over the room and embraced all within with a warm dazzling smile.
Sometimes life sucks, doesn't it?