Fountainhead

This is an era of entrepreneurship. How can our ‘army’ be far behind? Recently a new art form has been reinvented that goes by the name of ink attack. It is the latest art form trending in our beautiful country. For those of the computer generation, ink is a dark-colored liquid which when filled in a contraption called a pen, can be used to write via a human hand on a sheet of papyrus achieving a purpose similar to typing, except that it is a lot cheaper, it eliminates the need of a computer. A couple of decades back, that is what the traditional use of ink was. These days, it is only used in schools and colleges and government institutions. Since the use of the ink is deprecating at an alarming rate, our very own ‘army’ revived a potential use for it,  painting the human face black.

It is such a simple and brilliant idea. The uses of this art form are immense and innumerable. Some of the notable ones being –

1) It will give a boost to the fledgling ink industry.

2) it will also help the acid attack victims as predators catch on to this art form and start using ink instead of acid.

3) it can be used to tag children. The perennial problem of parents is to locate their offsprings in the school or mall. Different colored inks can be used to paint the faces of children and they can be found from far. A different approach may be to have your car and children the same color and each can then find the other.

4) it can be used to re-live ‘Wagle ki duniya’. A family can not only wear the same clothes, they can also look the same color. The Ambanis in the Red and the Tata’s in Blue.

5) The set of Avatar can be reproduced at a minimal cost.

6) Girls can paint themselves black when they go out in the night, even though it may not be in our culture to do so, and hence not fall prey to rapists.

7) It can be used in place of fairness creams, just paint your face white before you go, every girl can be potentially fair.

I really hope they patented the idea. It has such a far-reaching potential. At least a few billion dollars worth.

Choosing which face to paint is not at all a daunting task. The model proposed with the art form is to choose the foreign hand- oops, head. I mean a head to which the foreign hand is connected, sorry, but you get the idea. Anybody who wants a game of cricket with the foreign hand, anyone who wants to launch a book written by the foreign hand, anybody who wants to sing or dance or have a concert, or act in Bollywood movies and has a foreign hand, can be chosen. And the foreign implies the land from which little cute girls get lost and reach India, only to be dropped back safely by the Indian superhero.

The idea can generally be extended to anyone, who you can somehow prove, has an affiliation with a foreign hand, and will give you your desired 15 minutes of fame and recognition. And for the people who dare to celebrate valentine’s day, it should probably be a full body ink attack. I can foresee a long-term future for this strategy, you can use it on the opposition leaders, on the beef eaters, on your insufferable relatives, on people who want to spoil our 5000 yr old culture, on your unsuspecting husband when he turns up late and so many more.

I am thinking this would be such a great idea for my own startup. Its website will offer “dignified image tarnishing services” and people can choose the color, the victim, and time and the place. And my beefy employees can charge based on the amount of ink needed and the ease of application. For a thin person, maybe a discount of up to 50% can be offered. You should be able to choose the kind of ink, a temporary, semi-permanent, luster, metallic, and the color and shade – magenta! cyan! Crimson or mauve and… I can go on and on. And our mission statement will be “I have an ink-ling, do you?”. 

I will also have my own product roll-out in this space. I think we can recycle the perfume canisters for spraying children and women with light colors, and the huge car coloring sprayers can be used for the men. You can choose the product according to your usage requirement. This will be a product that can be used by individuals, families, and countries. A byproduct offering will be ink-removers, and a canister of remover can be offered in the promotional discount along with a canister of ink.

Can you imagine a country full of black people. Everyone will look the same, why am I suddenly thinking of China? We will get rid of apartheid! Is there a better way of creating uniformity in the country and the world! This product can achieve what no government in any country has ever been able to achieve. Equality. And just for Rs 999. A small price to pay. And guess what will my company be called- of course, Fountainhead.

The pre-natal era

And then I realized I was pregnant. I was not ready for it. It was nearly three years post marriage, I was almost 27,  by which time most females have had one or even two kids, and my family was on the verge of giving up. Actually it so happened that a week after my marriage, something I ate disagreed with me, and I threw up. And trust me, my family almost celebrated.

I was mentally prepared, the timing was planned, yet, I felt I was not ready to take up the responsibility. Next step was to find a good gynecologist in Delhi. There were several females in office with similar affliction- maybe it was the season, so I got the name of a high profile doctor during our preggies-at-notice-board-conversation. South Delhi elite doctoress. Made me wait for 2 hours. Put off #1. Then she looked at me and prescribed tests worth almost 5000 Rs. In the Nineties, that used to be a month’s salary for me. Put off #2. There was no put off #3 except her face which was pretty grumpy, not the kind an expectant mom should view. Was it done on purpose in order to appear disagreeable?

Anyway, never went back to her, found a middle class, affordable doctor at Lady Harding’s.

All those medicines and checkups, used to be pretty boring, but I went through all of it. The hunger pangs at 4 am in the morning was handled with a packet of biscuits. I never had any morning sickness, but post-cooking sickness. If I spent an hour in the kitchen, I could not eat anything afterwards. So, welcome to our first maid for the express purpose of cooking. The drives from Mayur Vihar to Vikaspuri, pillion on a scooter, just to eat the food cooked by my bachelor friends. Fortunately, I never had any Ben and Jerry moments. I wonder what my husband would have done, if I had asked for an not easily available delicacy in the middle of night.

People would take guesses at whether my first-born would be- boy or girl. I was told with the experienced certainty that only a mom in law can have, that I would have a boy. Her solid reasoning was based on my bump being only in the front and none in the back.

My bro-in-law had to get married during this time. Imagine Bikaner summer, with heavy saris, and covered head, 5 months of tummy and feeling totally bloated and not ready for festivities. All I wanted was to wear a thin loose gown, flop on bed and eat and sleep. That one week of ceremonies, with the petticoat biting the stomach, silky clothes sticking to me, the pasted smile with inner grimace, only solace was the good food. (I had to sleep in saris too)

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During Vipul’s wedding

I remember an episode in the seventh month, while I was still working, one day the lift was not working and I was told it would take a couple of hours to repair. I actually climbed 9 floors to my office, only to be chided by each and everyone on the awful risk that I took.

at peace
at peace

As a tradition, I had to go to Jodhpur to my mom’s home for my first baby. I was forbidden to travel in the eighth month, and ninth would be too late. So, the last day of the seventh month, I had to leave for my home town- those were train days. I still remember the drive from my home to the old Delhi railway station, pretty banged up drive. There was a bomb explosion in Chandni Chawk that day, right as my cab passed.  Total traffic chaos, noise and fog due to the blast, just about managed to catch the train.

It was the month of September-October, still pretty warm. Having nothing to do, I used to knit and sew for my first born. Made small dresses, both blue and pink, printed frocks and flannel shirts and woolen socks. The date, as per the doctor was 27 Oct. My mom’s experience told her that my baby would be out around Diwali, because apparently the noise of the crackers scares them enough to want to wriggle out of the warm sanctuary. Diwali came and went, nothing happened. 27 October came and went, nothing happened. Pretty patient guy, in no hurry to see the big bad world! Doctor told me not to worry, it can be 10 days here or there. So I waited.

7th November, the pain waves started coming after dinner. It was absolutely not delicious or bitter-sweet, adjectives that I have heard that describe the labour pain. This pain just feels like you want to go to the loo, except that it is constipative and you cannot. And that recurs every few minutes. We waited till the waves were around 10 minutes apart which was around 8 am the next morning. And then off to the hospital. The doctor said, it will take more time and put me on IV to induce further pain. And then the waves really got big.

The events of that day are mostly a blur. All I remember are waves of severe pain rising from deep down and going all the way till the head, every few minutes and me holding on to the railings of the bed and screaming. Once the wave has passed, you open your eyes, look around, and brace yourself for the next one. I remember many people around, trying to soothe, but then they did not have to go through it. My husband looking awfully worried- it was first time for him too.  My mom, mom in law all hovering around waiting and talking. Oh God, so almost 50% of the world population has to go through this???

After a few hours of this gruel, it still wasn’t enough for the baby to find a passage out, the doctor decided to finally do a C section. The waves never stopped. They put me in the stretcher to take me to the theater and I was wide open for the world to view for those few minutes. It was  helpless and awkward, I still remember maids and doctors and interns coming and peeping in and telling me- abhi time hain.

Finally somewhere around 2 pm, I am told, my baby boy was brought into the world. A wafer thin, mousy looking, flat nosed, hair all over except at the head, extremely fair bundle of responsibility. Who would give me sleepless nights for the months to come. But then that is another story.

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my baby wearing flannel shirt made by me

Hair, Hair

The problem with haircuts is that it never turns out the way it is expected. You look at various weird hairdo’s on the Internet ( type haircuts for 40+ females on Google), choose a few, use your phone’s 8 mega pixel camera to click and then land at the salon. Then you tell the guy with the scissors, I want a change. He looks a little stumped. What kind of change? Cautious question. I want to look different. He looks perplexed. Probably wondering what has got into her and how to best appease her. My thin straggling shoulder length hair does not give him too many ideas or options.

I close my eyes and all my past hairdo’s flashed before me one by one. I always had thin hair, when I was small, they were oiled well with mustard oil or heated coconut oil, tightly combed and finally tied into two tight tails with black or red ribbons. My dad would take me to the same roadside barber who used to cut his hair. The wooden chair on the side of the road, and a small shaving mirror hanging from the tree in the front, he had to put a plank on top of the chair for me to reach the mirror. For many years, I only went to him but slowly as I grew older, I realized this was totally down-market and I started insisting to be taken to a proper hairdresser.

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The oiled baby
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pigtailed in school

My hair grew in length with my age and the pigtail became thin braids. The ribbons remained in their place. My school uniform demanded red ribbons ( and red socks too). I never figured out how some girls always has great looking hair, polished, suited them, perfectly in place even in the windy city. And mine, even after the oiling and ribboning, a few strays would find their way out and I would end up looking as messy.. And when some girl would flick her hair so, ufff, why could I not have hair like that, how can Gods be so unkind to me. My dad discovered a hairdresser, a unisex salon for me on the station road. Considering my awesome knowledge about hair styles, I found him reasonably ok.

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the thin braids sans the ribbons

I loved Buns, loose buns ( Rekha kind) or top of the head kind but could never achieve similar results unlike some of my friends despite hours of efforts. My bun would look like a small black woolen ball tied with a rubber which would keep opening every few seconds and finally, getting tired of it, I would tie it so tightly, my head would start aching. In class XI, I suffered from typhoid. And my lovely hair started falling. A great excuse for cutting it really short. And I did. It actually looked good for a while, you know any Sheela, Rekha, Jaya or Sushma would look good at that age.

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the extremely short look right after typhoid
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the post marriage short hair

My illusion about the hairdresser was shattered in college, when a girl from Jaipur joined our college. Now, for the ugly ducklings in Jodhpur, Jaipur was where all style divas existed. She asked me for a place to cut her hair and I recommended my unisex fellow. Disaster struck. She came back and told me, you go to HIM for your HAIRCUT???. He doesn’t EVEN know how to HOLD hair. With all capitals emphasized! I was ready to sink into the ground as I stood looking guilty in front of the girl-who-came-from-Jaipur. Finally she discovered a better and costlier place for me. To be honest, there did exist some girls who would also fall into the category of my-hair-is-like-this-only with whom it was always easier to form a kinship.

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messing with ponies

When I came to Delhi, my eyes popped open at the beautiful hair of some of the hostel inmates. I learnt you could press your hair, curl your hair, perm it, and get gorgeous styles. I experimented. For some reason my hard perms looked good after 3 months only. The first time I permed my hair, my son ( must have been 2-3 years old) refused to recognize me and howled loudly when I tried to hold him. He stayed away from me for 2 full days and when he came hesitantly towards me, he sat in my lap and kept looking at my hair like an alien creature had taken hold of my head.

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permed

My husband always supported all my weirdos hairdo, every time I came home and look expectantly at him, he would look at me and say, looking good. What choice did he have anyway? A different response to a different style would have made any conversation with me impossible for a few days.

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when I don’t comb

But then I opened my eyes and came back to the present. I showed the-guy-with-the-scissors the photos of what I wanted. He looked at the photo and looked at me. I won’t be exactly like this, he was still hesitating. No, I want this only, I was firm. Ok, I will try and then he started on the journey with his scissors. Twenty minutes later, he flicked the comb, stepped back and said, done. It looks ok, with confidence. I looked at the photo, and looked at me, it doesn’t look like this? I said hesitatingly. No it does, my confidence seem to have migrated to him. I looked at it for a while before finally realizing what was different, the face. The photo has a beautiful face and the mirror showed mine. Well, gotta deal with the same face for this life, might as well smile at it.