In retrospect

The autowalla who made my day

If you have been living in Bangalore for a while, you know what a nightmarish experience dealing with autowallahs can be.  I blame many of them for my frustration, anger, and angst. And for a while, this was my daily dose of the negative for the day. Firstly, they refuse to go pretty much anywhere at all; secondly, they dare to charge such a ridiculous amount that you end up laughing at the absurdity of the expectation; thirdly, if at all you do agree to pay the lower end of the ridiculous scale they might charge, you are still not guaranteed a comfortable and safe ride. Most of the autowallahs I have travelled with have been rash, have pretty much harassed women on streets my braking only within an inch of woman’s scooter, have honked non-stop on empty patches, have coughed and spat on the road, have played loud music, have given me the creepy stare through the rearview mirror, and I can keep going.

So you can imagine my excitement when I met an autowallah who not only didn’t scare me, but later made me regret not having asked his name and told him that he was an awesome human being.

I generally take the shuttle to and from office, but once a week or so, I return home earlier in an auto. It can be quite an ordeal given that it takes a minimum of an hour to reach home. I always factor in outright denial to go, extra charges, tricky seat, etc.

Last week, it was different. The awesome autowallah in question agreed to go where I wanted to without a question or whining. He started the meter as soon as I got in. He had no loud music, he didn’t think that his life and prestige depended on almost killing several people on the road. He was incredibly calm and poised. He did not race or honk. He did not overtake any vehicle. He let most vehicles pass by amiably. We then stopped at a signal where he stepped out, walked to a nearby tree, and then lit a cigarette. He had the decency to not smoke all over my face. Next, he gave some change to a beggar at the next signal. When we had almost reached my home, he asked me if I would mind if he stopped for a coffee because some bakery nearby apparently served the best coffee. I asked him to go ahead. He insisted that I have some. I politely refused and asked him to go for it. He still insisted some more and got me a cup. That too, free!!! I then told him that the coffee was awesome, which it truly was. I then reached home 5 mins later. The meter showed Rs. 187. A little less than it normally does. I handed him a 200. He actually tried to return exactly Rs. 13, which I of course refused. I generally do pay a Rs. 10 extra. I wanted to pay some more for the coffee, but I thought that would be an insult to his generous spirit.

Seriously, I think I’ll be cherishing this memory for ever, because believe me, this NEVER happens. I have met morons whom I have already agreed to pay Rs. 20 extra, and have yet thought it perfectly fine to not return the additional 7-8 rupees in change. One gentleman kept staring at me when the meter showed 32, I handed 60, and he thought I didn’t want the additional 8. I actually told him I was waiting for the change. The nerve!

Plus the man looked a bit like Anurag Kashyap with a plump face and slightly greying beard and hair. That look itself makes me feel safe like I am in the company of some warm-hearted mama (mother’s brother). I’m sure it’s just all in my head, but still, this time, it proved my belief right. 😀

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Smell

While discussing something on GM‘s blog, she mentioned the movie Aiyaa and then Gandha. That got me thinking about the sense of smell in general. I also thought about the movie Perfume, which I had liked a lot and have watched multiple times. It’s about a guy whose body has so odor at all. That’s pretty much like not having any identity, because all of us have our own individual scent. I can’t imagine what the world would be like without the sense of smell.

I’m very intrigued by the particular smells of anything and everything. I sometimes find myself inhaling deeply to get a better sense of a hint of a smell. It’s not even always a great smell. But I do tend to associate people with smells. Sometimes it’s the perfume they use, mixed with their own scent which creates a unique combination. Like my mum always carries this fresh, powdery, and flowery scent; dad always has a hint of brylcreem; the sis is generally a mix of fruity perfume with body lotion; I can identify my sister if I smell her used clothes. When I smell my used clothes, it’s kind of like a fruit going stale. I like perfumes form the fresh and fruity family.

I don’t think there’s any food that I don’t smell before eating. It’s an intrinsic part of the culinary experience for me. I love smelling leaves on trees. I smell my mint and basil plants every now and then, or nip a bit off the lemongrass plant to release the oils that carry that lovely scent. Or the smell of freshly ground masalas, which is so heady.

I am very interested in perfumes and how they smell different on different people. Like I had an ex-boss who used an amazing perfume. You could tell of it;s good quality such by the smell. It had a great sillage and left a trail for a good 2-3 minutes after he’d pass by. I could tell he has arrived by just that smell. I asked him what perfume he used out of curiosity. He was generous enough to tell, mainly because I gave a very academic explanation about what I wanted to know. I then made the husband buy it. The same perfume would bring out the mango fragrance on the boss, and brings out the patchouli on the husband. I’m sure it’s got to do something with the body temperature. I gifted some other perfume to dad, and am often surprised by how it smells like the perfume the boss used to wear, even though it’s a different brand.

Smells really are such an interesting topic. Sometime a vague waft of a random smell brings out so many old memories from the deepest and oldest memory-closets. It takes you by surprise that you still even remember something so old. You might not have even associated that event ot place with a certain smell at the point when the memory was taking shape.Like the heady and almost alcohol like but cloying sweet smell of dried bakuli (not sure what it is in English) reminds me of when I was about 16-17. That’s all I remember. No particular event, just me, when I was that age. I invariably picture that period in a certain kind of light as well.

I might have written about the smells I like before, I don’t quite remember, and am too lazy to check. But here’s some of the smells I like a lot.

  1. Bread baking and fresh bread
  2. Hot Waran Bhaat with green (smells of home, warmth, and safety)
  3. All citruses and mints
  4. Original dettol liquid mixed with water
  5. All kinds of soups
  6. Smell of rain
  7. Flowers going stale after falling off on the ground
  8. All kinds of fresh flowers
  9. Strawberries
  10. Fruity fresh perfumes
  11. Polo Black on husband, Olay cream on mum, Escada Sexy Graffiti on self
  12. The smell you get when you add a splash of water while roasting garlic
  13. Fresh basil on tomato sauce
  14. The smell of mountains, and valleys
  15. Old winter clothes stored in suitcases with naphthalene balls
  16.  Wood being cut while making furniture
  17. Old books the pages of which have gone yellow
  18. Khus in water
  19. Buttermilk with kaala namak and mint
  20. The mild smell while cutting fresh cucumbers
  21. Cinnamon in porridge
  22. the smell when you open a new marker or highlighter
  23. wet mud
  24. When you crush kaffir lime leaves in your hand
  25. Homemade “aamti” simmering
  26. The smell of hot chapatis (mum, home)

Does smell do that to you? Drive you crazy with some extreme emotion?

Of logic gone bonkers

I had been meaning to rant about an incident that happened at work on Friday, but had I written it earlier, it just be a series of f*** off, f*** off,f*** off,f*** off,f*** off….you get the drift. Usual Friday morning, I was having a casual conversation with the very nice lady to sits next to me, when a third lady comes in and starts talking pitching in her inputs about the topic. So far, so good. The third lady (we’ll just be calling her colleague from now) reappers at about desk about twenty minutes later, and here’s the conversation we have.

Colleague: Can I ask you a personal question? How old are you?

Me: 28.

Colleague: So you’ve been married for about two years? If you want to have children, you should start being serious about it from now itself. Don’t make it late.

Me (smiling politely): We have decided we don’t want to have children, so it’s all good. From this point on begins the bonkers part of the conversation.

Colleague: Main to tumhe batane aayi thi ki abhise try karo, yahan to kucch alag hi mamla hain, Fine it’s not yet two years since you got married, but you’ll change you’re mind.

Me (still smiling politely): No I won’t.

Colleague: Pehle sabhi aisehi bolte hain, but everything changes when you see that little thing in your hands.

Me: I’m sure it’s a lovely experience. Just something I have decided to forego.

Colleague: You will regret when you are 35.

Me: I can’t base my decision on what I may or may not feel after 7-8 years.

Colleague: You’re life will be incomplete. You don’t know what you’re missing.

Me; No it won’t. It’s a choice I have made based on what my husband and I want our life to be in the future.

Colleague: Ek toh hona hi chahiye.

Me: hmmm

Colleague: I just don’t get it. How can you not want to have a child? I think you haven’t given it enough thought.

Me: Actually we have. New in marriage, and honeymoon phase doesn’t apply to us. We’ve been together since we were both 18. So there’s nothing we don’t know about each other. This is what we had discussed even before we got married.

Colleague: Now I think you have thought too much about it. You have created a barrier around you. You’re trying to make a point.

Me: In front of whom?

Colleague: You are so negative. I am just saying be open.

Me: Sure. I am not saying I may not feel like having a child when I am 40. But my current decisions are based on what I “currently” feel.

Colleague: I just don’t get it.

Me: You don’t have to. I agree it’s an unusual choice. But I don’t see the point of having a child because my colleagues, my neigbours, my friends, or society at large think I should. I haven’t taken a single decision unless I have wanted to do it myself. There’s no way I am having a child, unless I want to. It’s unfair to the parents, and to the child.

Colleague: See ye sab sirf bolne ki batein hoti hain. You are just trying to prove something.

Me (trying very hard to smile politely, but on the verge of losing it): I take all my decisions based on what “I” feel and think.

At this point, the colleague backed off a bit. But she is so loud, that half the floor probably heard by decision and my argument. I was already behind schedule for somehting I absolutely needed to get done, so I tried hard to concerntrate on the job at hand. But that was not to be.She was back at my desk after an hour.

She asked me if I was hurt. I, still trying to be polite, said it was alright, and that I was used to getting those kind of questions. But she simply launched into another set of attack and accusations. It was the same thing all over again. I can’t even bother to type out the dialogues. She was not ready to take any hint. It didn’t look she had any intention of leaving my dek. She kept saying that she was going to come and tell me every day till I was convinced. She went on and on about how you can’t plan everything, and how you can’t do anything if you conceive. I realized by this point in the conversation that the woman was actually unaware of something called as birth control. She just believed that out “x” number of times that you have sex, you just conceive some “y” times more or less. I didn’t correct her ignorance, lest she start giving me sex advice just as loudly. She said I was going against the nature. I was very unnatural.

I wanted to scream and ask, “which part of our life as today do you think is natural?” Wearing clothes, driving cars, using electricity, mobiles, laptops, heck the very industry that pays us…none of it is natural. If deciding to not have a child is unnatural, so is deciding to stop after 1, 2, or three children. If all we cared about was living a natural life as staying true to our identity as animals, we would all have a dozen kids by now. Because then, every time you have sex, you might have conceived.” But I kept all that to myself. I clearly wasn’t dealing with a logical, rational being here. I was confronted by a baby-fanatic. The kind of mother who thinks that diapers smell heavenly. What can you do in such situations but try and get away?

I realized my mistake when another colleague who had overheard the entire conversation spoke to me. She asked me why I had bothered to explain,reason, and justify. Why had I just not said I didn’t want to talk about it. But my problem is, I just don’t know how to evade or give vague answers when i am asked a direct question. I tend to treat everyone equally in terms of what I might want to share with them. That evidently is not the right approach. You should either be very skillful in developing the kind of persona that nobody wants to mess around with, or at least be good and responding to people selectively based on their IQ and EQ.

I have realized that for all my “I-give-a-damn” talk, deep down I am a peace-loving person who would rather have a peaceful environment around. But it’s exactly these kind of people who attract absolute morons. I have become more and more sure that I am a weirdo magnet. I always end up finding these namunas. Or they find me. I invariably have plenty of such tales, that grace any party and make me a fun person to have around, with this kind of repertoire. But I honestly can pass. I don’t, absolutely don’t need such random people taking the liberty to give unsolicited advice about what is entirely a personal decision of a couple. I can’t tell if such people are stupid, indecent. illogical, or just plain rude.

“I’ll address the head of the family”

This is going to be bit of a rant. Don’t say I didn’t warn. 🙂

So there’s this whatsapp conversation that happened last week that I can’t seem to get over. A very very distant relative living here, whom I have met barely twice in my entire life, had called to invite me to her son’s thread ceremony. I am not a big fan of  (mildly saying hate) attending any traditional ceremonies. I don’t understand the purpose of such ceremonies, and I most certainly don’t care about the so called pundits validating anything for me. And I’m not partial…I am disinterested in pujas, thread ceremonies, wedding ceremonies, naming ceremonies…everything that involves another human being coming and saying some mantras and sanctifying some aspect of your life. However, I accepted the invitation anyway. My mother keeps saying that I am asocial, and as I grow older, this very “I-care-a-dam” attitude is going to come and bite me in the ass and leave me without any friends or social life. Lately, I have begun to see the truth of her wise words. After all, everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and opinions, and just because I have different set of beliefs, doesn’t mean I need to eliminate others who are otherwise very nice and loving people. So in the interest of retaining peace and mental sanity in the long run, and not ending up an old scary lady with a house full of cats (although this seems like a much more interesting prospect than attending any ceremonies), I saved the date.

The next day the lady sent me a message apologizing for not knowing my surname when she wanted to send me the invite. Now you see, she actually does know my surname, but she doesn’t know my husband’s surname. And she was being apologetic for not knowing my “new” surname. So I sent a reply back telling her my original name (since I haven’t changed my name), and then telling her my husband’s full name. I told her she could address the card to either one of us. She replied instantly saying she was going to go the traditional way and address it to the head of the family.

I didn’t know what to say. What when this pearl of wisdom is coming from a very well educated and intelligent woman. I would have ignored something like this if it came from an illiterate woman who has had no exposure to any urban setting. Anyway,  rational, progressive thinking has got nothing to do with education. I mean look at Bahinabai’s writings. It’s way ahead of what a majority of women aspire for themselves even today. But still, this lady had topped her university, has worked in some top IT companies before, and has been living in a metro for over 10 years. Secondly, she doesn’t even know my husband. She has seen him all of once, but would still rather address the “HEAD”. Thirdly, even if she didn’t want to ignore my husband’s name, how hard is it to address it to the both of us?

I wrote back saying, “Your choice!”. I wish though that I had said, “Our family doesn’t have a head, just two hearts,” t0 sort of drill the point that a relationship is not about power and position, but about love and understanding. But this would probably be too subtle a point for someone like her to understand.  The husband suggested that I wrote that we were a headless body. But I doubt if she’d get his wicked sense of humor.

Honestly, dialogues like these make me want to further withdraw in my own cocoon.  This is what I get when I finally decide to socialize a bit more outside my comfort zone. I really can’t help blaming women a little for the current state of misogynist patriarchy we live in. If an educated woman who actually even has the choice to not think like this, chooses to be second to her husband in everything, there’s not much left to say. And this is coming from a woman who has a son. If the mother believes in being second to the father, what are the odds of the son’s wife being treated as an equal? Very slim I’d say.

Thoughts?

Self and Social Image Battle

I woke up this morning feeling quite anxious. I had to go for a blood test in a few hours, and I am extremely scared of the blood flow not stopping after the tests. To add to the misery, my period was late. And then in those anxious early hours between half asleep and half awake, I just tumbled into several thoughts involving blood (the blood I wanted to come, the blood I didn’t want to be drawn out, pregnancy, health, vaginas, body image, what is acceptable and such other stuff. A complete chaos of related, loosely related, and completely unrelated topics. When I was growing up, I would be constantly worried that what if my vagina was abnormally shaped. All the worry was unfounded, but in retrospect, we all constantly keep reevaluating ourselves against some ideal image that we may have been brainwashed into on some subconscious level. Where otherwise did the unfounded worry come from? I have always been very very conscious of even the slightest change in my body. So one fine day, when I looked at my vagina, I was in for a bit of a shock…because it looked nothing like my frame of reference: my own naked baby pictures. I had sort of assumed it would look the same forever. And whom do you ask this to? I was afraid I would hear some unwanted truth that my vagina indeed was strange, so I never asked. And watching porn is no help either, what with everything being photoshopped to look all tucked in and neat. Basically body of a woman with private parts of a little girl! It was much much much later that I got over this after I read a couple of academic articles about vaginas, and vaginal image anxiety. That did not happen with breasts though. Culturally, we seem more open to talking about breast growth. In fact, we are also brainwashed into believing that bigger the better. But better in what way? Does bigger mean fitter? Of course not. And if it doesn’t then better for whom? We clearly subconsciously think about it in terms of sexual appeal to the opposite sex even from an age when no man is even in sight.  Why? Because that has become the norm. Body image is such a tricky business, that you don’t see yourself for what you actually are (even physically), but how others see you. And that’s what causes that weird anxiety. This was what struck me (this and most other things in the video) as ridiculous in that stupid Vogue Empower (or shall we say “Vague” Empower) video. The script talks about choosing to be or not to be size zero. How did size zero even come into picture? It’s not our choice…it is the choice that is made for us by the beauty industry, and then we are brainwashed into believing that’s what we need to be to be beautiful and accepted. It’s sad that you have to even discuss about not wanting to be size zero like you’re making some important point. I noticed that I am even prone to feeling anxious about other physical health parameters in general. And again, that’s because on a sub-conscious level I am constantly reevaluating my general state of being with some ideals that I may not even be aware of. Like I mentioned, I am constantly worried that my blood takes longer to clot. I blame the one horrific incident I underwent a few years back. I donated blood in a blood camp at work, and then my blood just wouldn’t stop. Everybody panicked, I was taken to the hospital where I underwent a couple of tests, all of which came out normal. Apparently, the guy who inserted the needle in my arm didn’t do it right and punctured an artery or something he wasn’t supposed to while drawing blood. So there was internal tear. But from that point on, I am a mess every time I have a blood test. I keep observing other people and mentally calculating how many seconds it took for their blood to stop and then worrying myself crazy if I took a few seconds more. So technically, I wouldn’t be worried if others took longer too (even though not ideal), because then what’s defined as normal itself changes. I have realized that I am quite sensitive to that constant conflict between what you naturally are, and what you try to be in the society to reach that stage which is deemed as generally acceptable. Then be it in terms of how you look, how you talk, and more still how you think. I find it sad, that while I myself appreciate misfits everywhere, being a misfit in most situations myself isn’t always such a reassuring thought.

Walk around the block

I felt transported back to a simpler time in childhood when we went for a walk around the neighborhood the other day. I can’t believe this is the first time we did that in over a year since moving here. I mean taking a walk for the sake of a walk, not to run down to the corner store to get eggs, milk or cigarettes.

It had just stopped raining, everything looked fresh and the air was cool and it felt great to have wrap the sweatshirt tighter when the coolness turned to shivery cold. We both talked about how we were going to miss CC terribly as she had left after staying with us for about 3 weeks and now we wont be able to have such a relaxed time with her for a long long time. We talked of how we didn’t know there was a tailor 50 metres away from home just because I didn’t walk to that side and then we decided we should do this often. In fact, we were so excited by how refreshed we felt after the little walk that we came home, had dinner, took the bike to go to Indiranagar, parked it there and then kept walking for over an hour. Indiranagar is so much better for such aimless yet hugely rewarding walks. There are trees all over, it’s well lit and also quite close from home.

I realised that it had been a really long time that we spent together without either of us having a laptop, a computer, a kindle or a phone before us. And I could help noticing how odd it was to feel like I had a revelation when in fact this is what we would do almost every day of the week when I was in school. I didn’t have to make a deliberate attempt to fit in a simple walk around the block in my enslaved by social media schedule. It just happened naturally. And yet, once I took that walk, I didnt want to stop.

But going by how artificial and unnatural my life has become, I hope it doesn’t take another year and another idiotically simple revelation to take that walk around the block again. Sigh…