Posts Tagged life

Living and dying in Hyderabad

One of these days I will probably meet a ghastly end on the roads of Hyderabad. Why the morbid thought? Well it’s utter mayhem out there. A situation not helped at all by my being a very nervous driver. Ask the kid, he knows. 

He sits by my side, cringing: “Amma! That’s an auto! You can’t let an auto overtake us!”

I assure him that I can:”We’re not in a race, da. You never know when that  three-wheeler-with-a-mind-of-its-own will stop to let someone hop in.”

Or ” Amma, do we have to crawl behind this truck/bus?

“Yes, da. I’d much rather be behind that monster than in front!” I say, thinking of my colleague whose car was hit by an RTC bus from behind while she was waiting at a traffic signal for god’s sake. It was many years ago, but her neck hasn’t completely recovered. 

The solution I think is to abandon traffic rules altogether. The few morons who observe them are just risking their lives and creating trouble for others. Let lawlessness prevail and it will soon be the survival of the fittest. Weaklings like me will go off the roads. And we’ll have Formula One driving all over the place. The kid would be so thrilled. Shudder!!

Every morning when I drive out to work I wonder if I’m risking my life.  But guess what. (Ahem. Fessing up.) More than death, it’s the thought of my epitaph that haunts me. I mean, should I keep one ready?  Because if I don’t, then someone else will probably write it for me. (No, I’m no celebrity, but there’s this psycho spam commenter on my blog who might just want to . . . ) 

And if someone else wrote it, it might just have a typo! Aaargh! I’d have to rise, phoenix-like, and wield the red pen. Or be condemned to wander eternity, a tormented soul with a typo-ridden epitaph. A fate worse than death.

So I’m seriously thinking about my epitaph. Suggestions are welcome. The best ones that come to mind are Emily Dickinson’s “Called back.” and Frank Sinatra’s “The best is yet to come.”

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Sex and the er . . . CNN IBN

Two young women are molested by a group of drunken revelers outside a Mumbai hotel in the wee hours of New Year’s Eve.

A young Swedish woman has her backside grabbed at a beach in Kochi, while her father, standing right beside her, is being interviewed on telly.  Also on New Year’s Eve.

Thus CNN IBN reports the “horrific events from around the country on New Year’s Eve.” (Mumbai and Kochi nicely round up the country, right?)  And then pops the SMS poll question for the day: Are Indians sex starved?

I am truly flummoxed. (Now isn’t that a lovely, near-archaic word?)

First, they mean Indian men, right? So since when has ‘Indian’ come to mean ‘Indian men’?

Second, do we really want to measure Indian male sexuality by a couple instances of depravity? Come on men, speak for yourselves!!

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Do I dare disturb the universe?

Why am I blogging? Isn’t  it  a) self-indulgent and b) a waste of time? Yes, I have also asked myself whether my life and thoughts are worth recording. I remain divided on the issue. For now.

Blog = web log. A diary. Except that it’s online and therefore not private. Not that diaries were always private. Famous writers had personal diaries that became public, telling us things we probably didn’t want to know about them: Leo Tolstoy, Emerson, Thoreau, Andre Gide, Scott Fitzgerald, Mary Shelley, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Anais Nin . . .

Diarists were not all clandestine recorders of stuff-that-wouldn’t-be-published-but-had-to-be-written.  There was Samuel Pepys, the Shakespeare of diarists. (His diary is here.)  And then Anne Frank for whom the diary was sheer survival.

A diary can be your psychotherapist.  When you feel homicidal, just write about it in your diary. And you will be cured.  Ventilation.

Here’s a nice piece on the diarist’s art.

I feel T Rex-ish in the blogging world. But hey, I know about diarying. I was a diarist in school; kept a record of my crushes on teachers, classmates, and writers. Very profound insights on all of them. So this blogging avatar is regressive;  a childhood fixation! 

What triggered the urge?   No, I’m not a famous writer surreptitiously maintaining a diary for people to ‘discover’ later and make me more famous. And no, I don’t want to tell the world that I’ve been there,  done that. (Does it really give anyone any insight into there and that?)

My top only two reasons: 

# 2 Finding my voice and thoughts. Both of which are very easily (and often willingly) lost in the jungle of academia. Also, you don’t really know something unless you write about it. There is so much to say. And so little time to say it in. As the Chinese say, “It’s later than you think.”

# 1 Finding space. Physical space is at such a premium today. (Yes, I’m preoccupied with trying to buy a decent flat. And for the middle-class in the city I live in, that is a harrowing experience.) Hence the attraction for a space that’s within finger-reach.   A space that’s at once private and public. Which I can occupy without having to prove my credentials. Or dislocate anyone else. 

And so I disturb the universe, flitting between my real-world space and this one,   interrupting and completing both. And, hopefully,  me too in the process. Moving in order to keep things whole, as Mark Strand says in this poem:

Keeping Things Whole 

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.

Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.
 

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.
 

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Crack Resistance

You can’t really say anything today without treading on somebody’s community corns.  Whether it’s Aaja Nachle, or Taslima Nasreen, or the Fine Arts students at MS University. Something is expressed and someone somewhere goes off the deep end.  The feelings of a community have been trifled with. 

Everybody has the right to an opinion, and to express it.  True. But why do we object to protests? Isn’t the freedom to protest as  much a right as freedom of expression? That’s what democracy is all about, isn’t it? That you can express an opinion. Or protest against it.

Not all ‘communities’ protest, however. Let me give you an example. Every day I drive past this huge hoarding that reads Crack Resistant Cement. Without the hyphen. (Unprintable!!!)   A cement bag and Perizaad Zorabian’s face complete the picture. Now what does she have to do with cement, I wonder. Is the tag line a reference to her as well? Hmmm.

But of course we all know. Nothing can attract attention to a product – whether it’s a matchstick or a space rocket – the way a woman’s face or body can.  Or any references to them. You should see the Deccan Chronicle hoardings. Huge ones featuring young, scantily dressed women.  And, my word, such creative tag lines: No Compromise. News Made Exciting. Bolder and Better.

What are they selling? DC? Or the women?

This ‘community’ (I know you know who) has no feelings that can be hurt. They look at and listen to such ‘freedom of expression’ and go about their lives in silence. Not one crack in the armour. 

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Sons and Mothers

I’m usually at a loss when it comes to telling junior the facts of life. Specially the steamy ones involving birds and bees. 

The other day a colleague dropped by for my signature on a letter petitioning the authorities to neuter the neighbourhood dogs.  She had it all worked out. An animal rights organization would set up camp in the neighbourhood for a month, identify all the er . . . potential  dogs, neuter them and . . . uh . . . observe their behaviour over the month. Just to make sure. All very tidy and clinical and humanitarian.  

I was quickly convinced.  Not that I oppose canine sexual rights, but nice old people on their morning and evening walks have Human Rights. So I signed. Not so some others.  One neighbour, a married woman with three children, asked my colleague,”Shouldn’t you be doing the family planning operation (sic) for the  uh . . . bitches?” Oh I see.  Canine machismo is also sacred. Not just her husband’s. 

 And the authorities had to be convinced. She’s usually dogged in these matters, is my colleague. “This is the season. They’re all in heat you know. . . ” And the fuddy-duddys shuffled their feet, cleared their throats and lowered their eyes.  “Yes, we will constitute a Committee . . .” one of them began. “But don’t you see?” she cried. “There’s no time! They’re getting more aggressive each day. You can’t put Nature through a Committee!!”

Unfortunately, while I shook with laughter,  my kid was right there listening to every word of this salacious conversation. And after she left, the inevitable questions: What’s neutered? Why male dogs? Why are they aggressive? Are human beings also neutered? Is  that why I don’t have a brother or a sister? Can we do this to Daddy when he gets angry?

HELP!!

But not all his questions are like this. Some really tug at the heartstrings.

“What happens to us when we die ma?”he once asked. And he looked troubled so I knew I had to be careful. Now my take on these ones is to give him as many views/opinions/facts as I know and then let him decide for himself. (Helping him think for himself and all. This is one enlightened mother.)  

So I told him what mythology, folklore, religion, and science have to say on the subject. And I ended with some fairy tales. Like the one about all of us becoming stars? Obviously he liked that one. Then he turned to me,  eyes widening and filling with tears. “But ma, you’ll die before me, no? And when I also die and become a star, how will I know which one of those stars up there is you? How will I come near you?”(I quote verbatim.)

Ah . . . children.

Afterthought. Here’s a really funny piece on the subject of children’s questions.  Typically machismo sense of humour. But hey. I forgive them, for they know not what they say. Really.

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Damned if we do and damned if we don’t

Here’s something sensible salvaged from that sea of frivolity,  the Indian blogosphere.  And written by A MAN. IMAGINE!! OK. OK. I know, reverse discrimination. But here’s what this piece triggers off.

Fellow women, how did we land ourselves in this mess?

> If we work outside the home, we’re neglecting our families. And we’re stupid anyway ‘coz we can’t manage both. (Look at how well men have been doing it for years. Managing I mean.) If we’re ‘just’ housewives then we haven’t the nerve/brains  to take on the world.

> We fought to come out of the home. And now we have both home and ‘outside home’ to take care of.

> If we have super successful careers then we’re pushy, go-getting bitches perfecting the art of sleeping around. And if we don’t then, “I told you so! Women can’t work!” 

> If we dress conservatively, then we’re not ‘liberated’. In any sense of the word. (And there are many.) If we flaunt our sexuality, then we’re simply playing into the grimy hands of men.

>If we don’t drive our own vehicles, then the sniggers: “Women cannot drive.” If we do, then we’re adding to the traffic chaos, to say nothing of the distraction because everyone wants to gawk at us.

(Will add to this list . . . )

And yet women are still more interesting to men than men are to women. Is it because, as Woolf famously said, women have always served as looking glasses, reflecting man at twice his natural size?

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