An amphibian encounter

(earlier partly published on my Facebook page)

My version

There IT was, sprawled large and lifelike on my bed! How would you react if you enter your bedroom and see a monster? I did exactly the same thing any woman in my situation would do, shrieked at the top of my voice. My savior came in. With the expression and audio clip of “What am I supposed to do? I can’t catch it.” At least you can be supportive. Go away. My warrior instincts, that I did not know existed, came alive. ( my husband will disagree). I tried tapping around the creature, maybe it is afraid of sounds. It slithered down from the bed and climbed my dressing table. I tried the traditional “shoo”, it seemed amused at my feeble attempts to dislodge it. We spend a good 1/2 hour playing cat and mouse. It went into all nooks and corners with me following and went up my bed again, trying to figure out my next move. the audacity of the fellow!

Enough! I needed a weapon, shall I try the AAP symbol. As focused as I was on locating the reptile, I did not hear my husband come in ( finally) to help. मेरी तो almost death ही हो गयी. Husband, wife armed with the झाड़ू, chasing a lizard, with the wife shrieking at every move of the fellow. Does it sounds funny to you? It was the most stressful 1/2 hour of the week. झाड़ू works at least on lizards, but I am no lizard encounter specialist.

My worse half’s version

T20 world cup. Bliss. Wifey moving around doing something’s that they do (don’t ask and you won’t get a task). Even with full focus on TV, a sound penetrated my ears that sounded vaguely like she was screaming. To go or not to go, I’ll miss the over. But if I don’t, there will be no end to it. Duty won. She was standing at the door of the room, looking out of her wits, pointing to a lizard on the bed. What! She made me miss the world cup for THIS?? What am I supposed to do? I can’t catch it. She gave me the look reserved for husbands-who-are-not-supportive and told me to go away. Good! Back to TV.

But you know the nagging feeling, she’ll try to be brave but she is actually terrified by the beast. My concentration is gone. T-20 can’t be prioritized over the 20 year old marriage. After battling with my conscience for 1/2 hour, T-20 lost, I went back in and saw their cat and mouse drill. Move aside, your savior is here, took the झाड़ू and just 5 minutes to chase it to the next room. There are some things boys naturally do better, like chasing lizards (can you see me shrug, बाएं हाथ का खेल हैं kind). And then she hugged me and started crying. What man, who wants the theatrics now. Vocally “It was just a lizard. Relax, it is all right. I am always there for you.” Finally, phew, she let me go back to the Indian National Pass-time.

And the creature’s version

She looked at me with crazy killer eyes, I was just taking my afternoon siesta on the lush bed. Haven’t they heard about peaceful coexistence?. These humans are crazy, specially the female of the species. Cant she go and do something in the wonderfully smelly place they call the kitchen. I love it, I can always catch my meal there. OK, let me go up this wooden thing, this is pretty smelly too, causing me to sneeze (and they call this perfume, ugh). Maybe now she will go away. But that high decibel sound she keeps producing every time I move, is getting on my nerves.

What is she doing? Why do I get the feeling that she is playing with me? Awesome, I love the mickey mouse chases, let me give her some exercise. Oh no, what is she wielding now? Looks like an ancient military weapon that was used on my ancestors as well.  How do I fight this? But now it is a question of my इज़्ज़त. I can’t let this lady bug win over me. In the lizard world,  मैं किसी को मुह दिखाने लायक नहीं रहूँगा!

I was almost winning the chase when the man of the house came in. Two people and a weapon. How can a puny creature like me handle such a strong trio, it is not fair. I have no option but to slither out of the master bedroom. But a lizard who runs away lives to fight another day. Like Arnold, I will be back!

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Letter to the lost prince

Dear Son,

These two months without you have been horrendous. The kingdom has missed you so much that they put up “We miss you” posters all over (or maybe they missed the laughs, sic). Do you have any idea at all what I went through in your absence! I wish I had taken the long overdue break in the Swiss Alps too. People have been speculating where you were and why you are not here with your people. What am I supposed to tell them?

I can’t tell them you are relaxing at Bangkok. (BTW, why did you go there, you are not even married?). You should have told me you need a change and I would have found you a beautiful Italian princess.  I could not tell them you were doing all the dangerous stunts in Uruguay. Their repartee would have been- A person who is unable to play the political  game in his kingdom has run away to play children’s games elsewhere. So, just for your records- I told them you were meditating about the future of the empire. But what is funny is that even after seeing you for so many years, people still believe you are capable of deep thinking. Your चिंतन break had given me so much of चिन्ता and I had to colour my hair every week to hide the greys.

During your absence the kingdom has been modified a lot. People are only talking about “अच्छे दिन” and “स्वच्छ भारत” and more such slogans in unpronounceable Hindi. Now we have to counter them with our anglicized accent (remember the people in this land worship the गोरी चमड़ी, and I seriously can’t think of any alternate reason why they would want you back, anyone sane would wish you Good Riddance). I was thinking of countering them with some innovative alternate slogans. Do you think “Good day” and “Save the Environment” can sell? Only we can think of such a radically different idea and we can distribute the biscuits along with it too. I know that the children in class V have to learn essays on environment I will get you the essay that got the first prize and you can memorize and recite it next time you are talking to Ornob.  I think even he will be impressed.

I don’t understand all this nonsense about “Make in India”. The only thing that it reminds me of is the ancient song by Alisha. Thinking aloud, if you get you an Indian bride, can we market the idea as a “Made in India bride”?  But these days bachelorhood is more in- so maybe frequent Bangkok trips is all you need. But then I digress.

I was also planning an image makeover for you now that you are back. The latest look in the vogue is one with 56 inch chest, white hair and beard and a suit with your name all over it. So start gymming now and make sure your lean look is gone and you develop at least a 50 inch chest to match. Stop shaving, go dye your hair and beard white, throw away your lenses and start wearing the latest branded rim-less specs. And I’ll get you a Gold embroidered Armani with “नाम तो सुना ही होगा” written all over it, I’ll sell one of your jiju’s lands to fund it. People will get confused and that suits us very well.

And what did you do about the essays I gave you to rote on “Land Bill” and “Indian Economy”? Have you revised them by heart? I don’t want you to falter when you are talking about these. I know you are coming back from sabbatical, but people still expect to see you fully conversant with the latest hot topics. And I want you to erase the words “women empowerment” from your vocabulary. It is a big no-no. The only entertainment it gave to the audience was similar to Kapil’s show. ( And you know I was seriously thinking about that alternate career for you, if this game does not work well, the jokes you can crack with a straight face will have people in splits).

Now I do understand you want to sit on my throne. Right now you are allowed to sit on my lap only. I am still going to be your babysitter and make sure you don’t fall off the chair. You can’t always run to me crying, Mommy, they are laughing at me, every time a media person says something you don’t understand. Look at my example, have I broken at all over these past decades. I learnt to wear this 6 yard ensemble, which is so tough to walk in, and learnt to say a few words in the tongue-twister language. You have to make some sacrifices to get the throne. Anyway, right now it is time to go to the rally and talk intelligently on the land bill. (Sometimes I feel your looks are so intelligent, till you open your mouth, sigh, जब अपना ही सिक्का खोटा..) Don’t botch it up else I am going to put you on my knees (on the same throne) and spank you hard.

Love you

Your overprotective worried hen-momma

P.S. I am glad the dog brought you back. This tail wagging sucker species also lighted crackers and danced. Can’t beat their loyalty.

A contrarian view on Gender Bias

A contrarian view on Gender Bias

Hot topic these days. People all around talk about gender bias at work, home, feticide and other unspeakable atrocities on women in India. With everyone giving their unsought opinions on issues faced by womankind, let me try to put across a different unsolicited perspective.

I was born in a middle class household in the 70’s. I had a brother and all of our family friends were similarly sized with a son and a daughter each. I did not know what gender meant, for a pretty long time, till I crammed my std VII Biology textbook. All of us played together, boys and girls and there were no taboos. Nobody ever told me not to play with boys or to learn sewing because I was a girl. I remember street-fighting with boys, sitting on them and pummeling them and my parents just indulged me – बड़ी होकर गुंडी बनेगी.

My first encounter with gender bias came, unexpectedly, from my dad, who believed and told me categorically- Girls are not good in Math. In his mind it was absolutely clear that he wanted his son to be an engineer and daughter to be a doctor, as traditionally planned during the 80’s. Me being a rebel and because I only wanted to do what my bro did, told him I want to be an engineer. He laughed at me. I was incensed to limit, so much so that I went to school and started sitting for the Math class, without letting him know. He came to know close to 2 years later when he had to sign my board examination form and declared- you are going to fail. Always up to the challenge, I took the exam and not just cleared but with pretty awesome grades. Since then, my dad has never dared utter a word about something girls cannot do.

I did face gender bias in College since in my state, girl education was virtually free, and I did not have to pay any fee. I did not ask for that bias and my dad was amply able to provide for my education, but I am just thinking about the thousands of others who would have benefited by this. Subsidized education was a perk I enjoyed, being a girl child in Rajasthan.

Always used to travelling everywhere alone, my next encounter with gender bias was when my dear MIL insisted that somebody drop me and pick me up if I had to go someplace. Nooo! I can manage myself and I feel restricted if I have an escort. But for the initial couple of years post marriage, she did unto me as was done unto her. Once she realized that it is impossible to keep up with my frequent travels, it slowly ceased.

My MIL also believes in the fact that the woman of the house must cook and pamper and spoil her husband- the way she does. Her exact words were “रोटी तो औरत को ही बनानी पड़ती हैं चाहे कितनी बड़ी नौकरी कर लो”. And she is the live example. But she was also the one who suggested I hire a maid for cooking, looking at my work hours. Yeah, in Indian households, the husband expects the wife to cook and clean and serve while he enthusiastically watches the sports channel or comments on the how badly the government is functioning. But did that make me a lesser person? In fact, me and my husband have divided the chores- he manages investments and bank work and travels and credit card payments, insurance and all the related things my feminine mind cannot even begin to fathom. I so much prefer the cooking and cleaning and shopping and teaching- I can manage that quite well, not sure if I could digest my hubby’s culinary efforts. (BTW, if I ask my husband to even give me a glass of water- my MIL still complains  – मेरे बेटे को काम बोला!)

Another strong example of gender bias in my family is that I earn more than my husband and everyone is pretty cool with that. There has never been a question around the man-of-the-house syndrome and my husband still comes home and watches TV and hogs the remote while I prefer to read a book. (and I am the unpaid driver too)

Domestic violence! I freely use my hands and words to hit my husband dearest, whenever he threatens to go to “पत्नी-पीड़ित मोर्चा” and when I am in a good mood. Of course we fight, and I am an equal contributor and partner in crime so why should I complain? And when I am ill, I have never seen my husband leave me for a wink. For better or for worse..

When I used to drive my Scorpio out on the Noida streets, I have actually seen people fall off their 2 wheeler’s because they can’t imagine in their wildest dreams a woman driving a SUV. Gender bias?

Workplace discrimination! There was this guy who told me he cannot work with a woman boss. And I reminded him “The best man for the job is a Woman” He resigned soon after. But then that was his problem, not mine. I get paid – fair and square – and sometimes so much that an organization had to hand me the pink slip to reduce cost. That is what happens when you are too good for your own good. Some people prefer to face the bias- I had this young girl in my office come and complain- My manager asked me to stay late, but I am a female! Seriously. When you expect equal pay and equal opportunity, working equally hard is a responsibility that tags along.

Is it a man’s world? Sure enough. But in today’s urban Indian world, a lot of us are emancipated enough. As an author interestingly wrote (not verbatim) – If women could reproduce on their own, the need for men in the world would diminish and by the theory of evolution, they would get extinct.

On a more sober note, as anyone who has ever stayed in Delhi would know, there are morons on the road who paw you and pass lewd remarks and you are powerless to do anything about it. Nothing is worse than the violated and sick feeling you have, when a two-wheeler runs past you, an arm pops out, touches you and the guy disappears in the night.  When you are twenty and one, these things happen and they happened to me as well. What did I do? Nothing. You just move on, put it behind, and hope that someday they would be punished. But I am definitely not planning to ruin my life for those percentage of people who don’t deserve a major mention.

A lot of people, my close friends and family, my relatives and co-workers are people who have helped make this world a better place for me. Some of my best friends are men (not that I have a bias against women) This time, this century, urban India is a good place to be. Like Dickens put it “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief…” I am not shutting my eyes to Nirbhaya and other calamities that happen all around me, but for every such case that happens, remember that there are also 1000 others who have never faced a major bias. And hope and believe that tomorrow the ratio will just get better.

Cut to Size

When a female crosses 40, she gets into a denial mode. All the rejuvenating cream ads make her believe in the fountain of eternal youth. She starts imagining that clothes that would look awesome on a 20 year old, would fit her as well and stuffs her wardrobe with most unsuitable attire. She hates her grey and thinning hair, so experiments unsuccessfully with ways and means for it to look black and full. She only buys voluminizing shampoos and hair loss and colouring treatments from the supermarket. She runs to the parlor to colour the single grey hair as soon as the sighting is made. When the “medium” size makes breathing tough due to the ever expanding waistline, she gets into fads like checking out the latest celebrity health club and decides to starve herself to lose that 5 kilos and couple of inches. All the effort to turn the clock back by those 20 years when she had neither the self confidence, nor the means to do anything silly like that.

One bright Sunday morning, my husband dearest saw Anjali Mukerjee in the newspaper. “You know, she has worked with Miss India’s. At least go and talk to them”. My shrill response of- “I am not FAT” did nothing to help. Even reminding that it will cost a hefty amount- did not deter him from the noble desire to reduce his wife (to pieces).

These days buying clothes has had its own challenges. The ones I really like, I did not fit into and rest look auntie-types (Ooh, I forget my status update to auntie some 20 years ago). Keep in mind that when I was the right age, India’s fashion statement was silk sarees and over-sized frocks. I had some cherished clothes from phoren which I have not been able to fit into for the past 10 years, I thought might as well see if Anjali could help. And there was this young kid who draped my dupatta chastely over my belly and I realized that she assumed I was pregnant. Did nothing good for my self esteem to look forever 4 months. My resolve strengthened.

We’ll help you lose weight without any exercises or therapies, all you have to do is follow our prescribed diet plan and do some walking. Sounded simple enough and I enrolled. Then they gave me pills to eat- they call it herbs- almost 10 a day. And took away everything that is worth eating. No rice (my bong avatar is aghast) or anything remotely tasty. Think of anything that you like eating and it is banned. Who likes to drink skimmed milk and eat oats poha (ugh), and salads every day. The worst part is I can’t even  start the day with my normal ginger tea and need to drink aleovera juice and warm water. Trust me, it tastes worse than awful. My mouth and tummy keeps grumbling away.

Losing weight is like gambling. You pay to lose and Anjali wins. Think of our middle aged, well oiled and rounded bodies -we have hoarded the fat over decades. That double chin and protruding belly did not develop overnight. It took immense effort and significant amount of oil and butter and cakes that we devoured to get these extra inches and just when the convex curves are beginning to show, we want to get rid of it. Just to get into that pair of shorts and look hideous. Or wear a swimsuit and display the sagging thighs and creaking knees. And so we end up paying someone to tell us that we need to  exercise and avoid fattening foods. Anjali has never heard of  “Life’s best things are always immoral, illegal or fattening.” Ah, to look at the ice-cream and not eat it- what will power and what a waste!

3 weeks of the painful torture and 3 kilos down, at least I have the satisfaction of losing some. But I so miss my vada-paos and chaats and alu-posto, and even the poor man’s daal-chawal. My favorite TV shows are now Farah’s Dawat and Masterchef and food-food channels but my will power is being taxed to the limit looking at mouth watering food and having to stay away from it. To see my husband dearest coolly drinking away his aamras when I am struggling with my salads and veggies- I am aching to kick him where it hurts most. And when I ask him, am I looking thinner, he coolly replies- so long as you are feeling it. Now what does that mean? Can he see my cut down size or is he cutting me down to size ?