Monday, September 17, 2007

So Long and Thanks for all the Fish

I think I'm done writing here. I find myself writing for an audience that lately is filled with people i know. They quote me in conversation. They write about me in their blogs. It's all quite flattering. And claustrophobia-inducing.

I find myself writing about nothing... or rather, writing about things that matter, but always considering the most palatable presentation. In the process I lose out on my truth. Instead, i come up with shoddy paragraphs that aren't even cathartic. Completely awful, and doesn't augur well for my career as a novelist.

Oh well, those are the breaks.

I hate making final statements, so i'll leave myself a loophole - This may be my home but i need a vacation. Maybe i'll be back. Maybe not.

Till i know, thanks for writing in. It's been great :-)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Delhi (dah-lee)

I've always had a love-hate relationship with Delhi... and no, it's not the cliched 'i love to hate' kind of thing either. It's... something else.

I have spent the longest time of my almost-nomadic life in Delhi - a total of 12 years. It's a really long time to spend in a city known for its chauvinistic attitude, unsafe streets, daylight rapes-kidnappings-muggings and where eve-teasing is so rampant as to be almost invisible.

It was when i realised that i was developing a chronic backache from the constant hunching and holding my arms in front of my chest that i decided to run. And oh, i ran. All the way across the country to Pune, the land of black soils and unimaginable freedom (comparitively speaking, ofcourse).

My next tryst with Delhi then began 3-4 years later when i fell in love with a Delhi-boy. It was ironic actually that i had to run away to find someone who was actually already in my friend circle. I hadn't noticed him ever while i was there. Very Alchemist. It was also a reflection of who i would have been had i continued living there - a closed-off person who lived in fear and gave an inch to no-one.

This time however, things were better. Probably because by then public transport was a thing of my past and interaction with the masses was kept to a minimum thanks to boyfriend-bodyguard always being around during the once-in-two-months trips that were undertaken. But what irked was that one needed those separators in place to be comfortable.

Back in Mumbai i would soak up the freedom, the mental space and the comparitive safety, while shaking off the remnants of the Dahlee Dust. When the romantic relationship ended, so did the renewed acquaintance with the city. Good riddance, i felt.

And then recently i found myself back there, now moving mostly between Le Meridien and Karol Bagh. I was there for a work assignment and was quite surprised to see how much Delhi has changed. It's become bigger and populated.. by cars. Coming from a city where one finds people on the streets regardless of the time of day/night, i was a little taken aback at not seeing too many people on the roads even during the day. But i did see a lot of cars. And Cabs.

Maybe it's distance that gives you the kind of objectivity required to reassess a place. Delhi is pretty. Clean air, thanks to stringent controls, lots of greenery and flowers and a comfortable climate. The houses are spacious as are the roads. The lifestyle is laid-back. The food is delicious. But somethings haven't changed. People talk loudly. LOUDLY. Cabbies overcharge and aren't considered safe. And there is a palpable sense of boundaries - of behaviour, clothing, etc - that exists.

The common sentiment is that if all the people from Delhi were vacuumed up and replaced by Bombayites, Delhi would be the most amazing city to live in. But until that happens, Delhi will continue to be the city that makes me glad i call Bombay (potholes, prices not withstanding) home.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Spark

Why is this concept so hard to understand? Women like men who know how to ignite the spark in them. Simple. Over the last couple of days i've been nanny to a few of my male friends' non-relationship problems. Both of them have decided they want to be with a particular girl (different girl for each of them) and the chosen girl ofcourse treats them like... furniture.

Can't say i blame the girl. While i was trying to tell them what they should do to attract attention of their respective scrumpets, I found myself giving up and saying, "I can't imagine you being sexual." Yeowch!! But there it is - THAT is the problem.

For a woman to be sexually attracted and feel sexual requires a man (or a woman, if she's gay). If you don't believe me, imagine being in a single-sex world. Make up companies would collapse, so would aftershave and perfume, etc etc. At this point, probably all the feminists of the world just turned in their graves, but i'm talking sexuality, not the equal rights in the workplace, man helping change diapers kind of stuff. Sexuality, whether we like it or not, is linked to sex, and the desire to mate. Who would want to mate with furniture?

Boy 1 told me, "i don't give 'bhao' to women. Either they talk to me or they can fuck off." And the result of that admirable stance? He's sipping coffee with a platonic female friend, while the Girl is probably having dinner with someone who went that extra distance and got noticed. Boy 2 asks, "What do you mean get noticed? We're friends already." Uh, yeah.. and that's how she treats you, not as someone she'd want to bonk silly.


And then i started wondering about the solution. What would it take to create the proverbial 'spark'. And the answer is - surprise.

The minute you surprise someone, you get their attention. It makes you stand out from the crowd. It's what all pick-up-lines, flowers in the workplace, whipped cream in bed etc is all about - surprise.

- the shy guy who reveals a sardonic sense of humor
- the funny guy who suddenly goes serious
- the 'fuck you, i'm cool' guy who shows sincere concern
- the ugly guy who keeps getting stunning women as visitors (call your friends or hire them, if you must!)
- the weird stamp collector almost-stalker guy...who's just near-sighted.

Or whatever.

The point i'm trying to make is that we as women love to categorize men. Once we have pigeon-holed you, then we can deal with you. It's the men who refuse to fall in with our definitions and keep us off-kilter that annoy us, irritate us and finally... get us.

Stupid, huh? I know. But the truth is, once you get our attention for a long enough period, then we start desiring your exclusive attention. And thus continues the age-old dance.

PS: Maybe the above is a simplistic explanation. But it's definitely a place to start.

I think.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Rules of Engagement

I felt a single most ecstatic burst of happiness a few days ago. It was while i watched a bunch of strangers - boys, girls, men and kids - throw their arms up in the air and dance to a song. I forget what song it was, i forget the singer - all i remember is that feeling of unadulterated happiness seeing all those people moving together to one common beat, smiling, laughing, moving their bodies, joyful. A simple beat, a simple song, and everyone relates to it in the most primal way. Fabulous.

Not like real life when there is no single beat, no single lyric, no one song. In the cacophony of verbal and non-verbal noise, i'm lost about what the next step should be.

Recently, i met Mark and we had a normal conversation about movies, music, friends and stuff while we sipped on wine and he rubbed my shoulders. It's taken a long many months of coffee breaks, dinners, sporadic dancing evenings out, etc - for us to get to this stage, but before i knew it, he was kissing (!!!) my shoulders and then i was astride him with my tongue down his throat. All very pulse-racingly exciting. But in my head i had a thousand questions firing off - what's going on? Does he like me? Or is this some strange validation thing? Or is this a 'casual' thing, as he said? Will it be casual for me? Do i want him? Or is my desire a function of not being able to have him? Or gratitude that he's in my life again?

So ofcourse, with all these questions going off like firecrackers, i'm obviously distracted, which reflects in my ardor. So things end off there, i go home, hugging myself in bed, awake till 5 o clock the next morning going nowhere in my head. And since then, nothing. No reference to the evening or the moment. We're back to being... friends.

I'm confused. I wish there was a a list of rules - of engagement - when it comes to the two sexes dancing the mating dance. And it's not just Mark. Looking over my recent interactions with Boys, i get a feeling something is out of whack.

First there's Mocha. After a break-up that wasn't really a break up but more a 'let's take a break' situation, we're back to using a plethora of 'baby', 'sweety' and 'darling' terminology. Which by itself doesn't mean anything i know, and considering we've each been through a serious relationship after that (which didn't work out), lots of water has flown under the bridge. So we're friends. Who adore each other. And I know it doesn't really mean anything that just because he called me out of the blue, i flew across to see him and spend one day with him. I know it doesn't mean anything that as we slept, he curled up around me and held me like he wasn't going to let go. I know all that... and yet, i can't help but wonder about the exact nature of the 'friendship.'

Then there's Jackie. Who went a little nuts on me after meeting me twice, and having two aborted conversations on the phone. He wrote well. Had deep profound insights on life and love. Didn't make me laugh much, but then the night was still young. Then, there was silence for a month. Nothing. Not even an email. Suddenly, one day around the time when i'd kind of written him off, he called to say he was getting married but he would call it all off if only I would give him one indication of my feelings. That was scary.

And finally ofcourse there's Mark.

So I tried formatting a few of these rules, but do feel free to add.

1) If you like someone, just tell them that. Let there be no secret about it. This is not a treasure hunt. Life's gonna be plenty interesting without this added tidbit of "what the fuck is going on!?!"

2) If you don't like them, don't kiss them. If you do kiss them, then let it mean that you DO like them. No casual kissing.

3) But if you don't "like them like them" (is it even allowed to say that once you get out of junior school?), then make it clear. Say, "I enjoyed kissing you (or not). But i don't really 'like you like you' (there's that ridiculous term again). So next time you see me, don't assume that i like you. Or fret about it." Make it clear immediately after kissing exercise. Or before. Or during. But make it clear.

4) If you don't make it clear that same time, then it means you DO like them like them (Fine! YOU find another term). Refer to rule 1.

5) None of the rules apply if I am the KISSER. Instead, please refer to Ostrich Rule below.

Ostrich Rule:

Look elsewhere. Look busy. Look uninterested. Laugh everything off, so you can pretend that you don't take anything seriously. All the while, hope nobody asks you to make difficult choices. So that if things go to hell in a teacup, you can't blame yourself. Nobody else can either. After all, you weren't even paying attention.

But please, someone make a decision!

PS: That means you.

Trust Me.

Two simple words. So easy to say. So hard to do.

He's my friend. Or rather he has become my friend over the last few months of hanging out, drinking and laughs. More importantly, he looks out for me. He makes me feel like i belong to something, no matter how tenuously. He makes me feel warm. He's like my brother and an ogre rolled into one. Which makes him fun. It's surprising, considering one of the first times i met him some many lifetimes ago, he came on to me in an unattractive manner. We don't ever talk about that, thank heavens.

But several years, and many waters under the bridge after that, we're laughing. And that's good. But we've rediscovered each other at a point in time when i'm extremely careful about whom i let into my world. I talk and laugh and let anyone believe that they're my friend. That part's easy. But when it comes to really being a part of my life and my affection, it's like pulling teeth out of my mouth. With pliers. I don't like it but that's how it is and it's tough. Not because i want to provide the challenge but because that's the only way i know how to protect myself.

And he speaks of trust. With the caveat - "don't tell me stuff after i'm 2 drinks down." Which pretty much is anytime i meet him. I've been burned once by him, even though we don't agree about whose fault it was. My position is, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter whose fault it was because I got burned, not him. I wonder if Trust works within a narrow boundary like that. I, who can barely count my own drinks when i get down to it, will i be able to censor myself based on someone else's inebriation? And more importantly, is that trust or just a window of providing information?

The other problem - if trust has been given and shattered thoughtlessly, forgiveness is hard to come by.

Unfortunately in my case there are no 'stages' when it comes to friendship and trust. Either I'm in or out. There are no grey areas, no cusps, no transition periods, nothing. It's a leap of faith. Call me lazy but I don't feel like leaping only to land on hard, jagged-edged rock. Done that so often it's almost boring.

To trust or not to trust, that is the question. Always.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Fearing Loss

A funeral. A man eulogising a stranger. The stranger's family sitting with head bowed, tears streaming down their faces. My friend among them. I don't believe in God, reincarnation or any of the other palliatives that one takes to survive the crushing blow of such loss. All i see is my friend sitting there crying renewed tears with every anecdote told about her father.

I wonder if i'll be there when my parents need me to hold their hand. Or will i typically run away, choosing to block out reality, hoping the calvinesque move will restore things to how they were. I will miss my mother's laugh even though she can drive me insane somedays. My father... I worry that all my unresolved things with him will remain so. Mostly because a resolution requires an acceptance of the problem. He doesn't believe there is any problem. I hope my brother is somewhere nearby as we can always laugh, even at the macabre.

I wonder if anyone will grieve for me. More importantly, I wonder if there will be anyone whose hand i shall hold as i breathe my last, tell them i love them and know that it made a difference to them knowing that.

Or shall i be alone, contemplating the loss of a life i never had? Does any of this matter when we are dead?

Sunday, August 5, 2007

"Don't they look cute together?"

How many times have i heard that question? And how many more times have i dismissed it with a look of disbelief that says, "How shallow! Two people in love are two people in love." And here i am today, eating my words.

I opened an old deserted folder on my laptop called "xyz". It's a folder which has old photographs and various pieces of literature linked to my last relationship. I haven't junked it yet. Don't know why. Probably because i expected a day like today, when i'll be intrigued about its contents, and double-click on it, as a dare.

Call me stupid. No really, i mean it. Say it aloud. "You are stupid." Said it? Thank you.

I think i'll blame my mother for this. And Simon. Simon who went and had a drink with him last night, and my mom, because she asked me today, "You are over him, right?" Otherwise i haven't thought of him in months.

The thing is, the girl in those pictures, she looks a bit like me, but not really. And that's what i'm having such a hard time comprehending. It's like i have blocked out such a large part of my memory when it comes to that relationship, that i can barely recognise myself in those pictures. In fact, when i look at them, i swear i can almost make out the haze that forms in front of my eyes.

I was plumper then. Longer hair. He was bald. Still is. Fair complexioned. Dark circles around his eyes. Nice smile. And the two of us look like we so weren't made for each other (lol!).. Seriously.

And i took so long to get over it. Sheeesh! What a waste.

(PS: Incidentally, That's why you called me stupid... the amount of time i took to get to this stage.)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Adult Choices

Everyone who knows someone who has cheated on their significant other, raise your hands! Yep, i'm guessing you did. Now, all those who blamed the other woman/man for breaking up a marriage, raise YOUR hands. I'm thinking the number of hands just went up by atleast half. I'm hoping not, though.

Because in today's day and age, you don't have a leg to stand on.

When my parents split, it was an unusual occurence for that time. For the longest time, the rest of the extended family even managed to pretend that it hadn't happened. In the meanwhile, my Dad met and fell in love with another woman. He technically cheated on my mother since they were still married at that time.

When they decided to officially call it quits, it was a shocking revelation for most people. Probably because in the rest of the family, something like this had never happened. Marriages were sacred and 'through thick and thin till death do you 'part' was a literal statement. And yet, here were two people, who had supposedly been madly in love and shared two kids, just calling it off. While my parents went through their share of grief, I believe that what really riled the rest of the family was the incomprehensible choice they made - personal happiness over societal norms.

Personal Happiness. Two words that changed a culture. Or not. My point being, once THAT can of worms is opened, there is no going back. Personal happiness doesn't stop at just relationships anymore, it extends to your job and career path, your possessions, your friends, etc etc. It goes from buying the right toothpaste (because it makes you feel good about yourself) to studying for the MBA (great pay packets!) to backpacking around the world to 'trying out' partners to see who best suits you.

Ofcourse, behaviour like that comes with its own share of value judgements from others. After all, one man's "partner trial" could very well be another man's "cheating partner". We've all heard "Do unto others as you'd like them to do unto you." (An Aside: That argument falls apart in the vicinity of a masochist who would in that case be giving everyone a royal thrashing.) And yes, we've all heard about the repurcussions of inviting 'bad karma'.

But really, whom are we kidding?? Pursuit of happiness is a choice you make every minute of every day. From the mundane - fried or poached? - to the complex - Shall i dump his sorry ass or shall i stay? - once that choice is made, it's YOUR choice. And hence, it's nobody's problem but yours.

So, if a man/ woman strays, it isn't because there was someone to stray towards, but that he/she CHOSE to risk what they had for the promise of something else.

Bottom line - If you single-mindedly chase your happiness (and that's a good thing, incidentally, since no one else will chase it for you), then it's only logical that others are doing it too. The bad news - their choices may not always fit in with your life plan. But those are the breaks of being an adult and taking responsibility for your life. It's not about paying your bills or doing the laundry - it's about accepting that whatever you do (or don't), has repurcussions on your life. That you have the power to choose. And hopefully you're adult enough to deal with that without hiding behind cliches.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Recipe for Love

What you will need:

a) Three glasses of home-made cashew wine, maybe more

b) Russel Crowe on the screen

c) Spicy jalapeno pizza

d) A film set in beautiful Florence

e) Rock ballads with lyrics like -

...."I knew something changed between us,
All the talk we made was small
But what do you say to someone
When they've heard you say it all
It's an awkward conversation,
In a most peculiar way
How did we get from saying "I love you" to "I'll see you around someday"....

or even lyrics like..

"I can never understand
Why when a drink is in my hand
Time accelerates and leaves me still in love with you..."

Or even...

"I’ve been chasing grace.
Grace ain’t so easily found..
One bad hand can devil a man, chase him and carry him down
When you start giving in, where do the promises all go
Will your darkest hour write a blank check on your soul..."

f) A deep baritone

g) Eyes that crinkle in amusement

h) Solitude

i) A sunday

j) A terrace with a view.

Mix all. Let settle. Hope for the best.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

"Dear God, please make me as interesting as my blog..."

(There's a danger in writing about fellow bloggers - they're likely to read your post. And then hate you for it. Unless you spare their feelings. Which isn't honest (and isn't that what a blog is?). And before you know it - you've already written for an audience. Damn!)

A few days ago, I bumped into a bunch of bloggers... different venues, but still fun. One of them happened to be the kid sister of a classmate from a lifetime ago. She claimed to have idolized me at some point. How sweet. Totally unlike today when i get hate - scraps from ex-subordinates. But that's another post (i notice lately that i'm shelving many things for later posts, and then never really getting down to it... Not good).

So anyway, back to blogger evening. It technically started at 6 in the PM, when i ended up meeting a fellow blogger for a non-alcoholic 'date' (non-alcoholic because i was heading back to work, and 'date' cuz 'meeting' sounds so... professional). He's a banker, not linked at all to the media world - a big plus. Big minus - he'd googled me and found out some details of my lurid past. Oh well, those are the breaks. Then later that evening, met up with 'kid sister', her friend, and another blogger whom i've known for a while now. I love their writing - they're witty, apparently honest and great storytellers.

But here's the thing - when one blogs, all that is true and honest and real about you is out there in the open. If you want to know anything about any blogger, just go to their page and their life's literally an open book. And then you meet them face-to-face for the first time and it's like meeting an intimate stranger. You know them, there are questions about their lives you want to ask, maybe just say that you're really thrilled about something or just that you feel their pain... and you can't. Because those intimacies are not 'yours'.... It's the oddest space to be in.

So you just watch them, intrigued and fascinated that someone so truly special is sitting within touching distance. You know that what's going on in behind that bemused expression is the real stuff - that as you're watching them, they're watching their world go slowly by, sifting through the chaff and making notes on what calls out to them.... In real life, they look like regular people - smoking, drinking, dancing, working, travelling, etc etc. But in THIS world.... Ah!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Words Words Words!!!

I spent an evening just now surrounded by a babble of words. Famous people, not so famous people, known faces, not so known faces, all talking non-stop while constantly looking over each others shoulders trying to see if there's someone else with whom they can share the same words with. "Hey, how are you? Long time.. i'm really drunk.. whom are you here with.. ok i'll go get me another drink... Did you hear about.. oh my gawd! That was so awful!.. yeah, i got this is South Africa, when i went for a you want another drink?.. What's up?.. how did the recording go? The shopping is so great... No, i stopped doing coke ages ago.. gymming 3 hrs everyday................." It didn't stop.

Maybe it's my discomfort around big noisy crowds that's coloring this particular post. Maybe it's my innate inability to 'mingle till i tingle'. Maybe it's the fact that more often than not i find people using words to hide rather than reveal. Maybe it's all of that and none of it.

Oh, for that one quiet moment of satisfaction spent with someone who, with one touch, drowned out the noises and made everything else fade.

"Use it or Lose it"

It's a common philosophy when it comes to sex - or atleast one's 'mojo' whatever that means. And lately, i've started wondering if, in fact, i may belong to the group that has 'lost' it.

I enjoy sex. I think it's fun. It's got this amazing feel-good factor that most romantic-comedies can't beat. However, lately, i've been quite circumspect when it comes to choosing bed-mates. After a spate of being highly indiscriminate, i just ended it cold turkey (I wish i could do the same with smoking, but that's another post). And since that time, refusing to be swayed by "Oh, i really need to be held right now", i haven't really... you know.. 'been' with anyone.

Then, one day, a conversation came up about the dreaded 'use it or lose it' factor. I admit i got scared. I mean, what if it's true?? So i turned to my age-old acid test - Matt - a man who's always known which buttons to push to get me going. Matt is a man in uniform. He's clean-shaven, tall, dark and lean, kisses like a dream, adores the ground i walk on, and is married. Perfect for a no-strings-attached experiment on mojo-ism. I've known Matt for many years, most of which he spent trying to get into my pants. It was quite flattering, i must admit. But somehow, his inabilty to commit and the fact that he had a long-term girlfriend (now wife) always got in the way of the two of us getting it on. Until a drunken, one-night stand ages ago.

That's history for you.

So a few days ago, after several glasses of wine (and several men who just had not managed to grab my attention over weeks), i thought, "Let me see if i still got it." I called Matt. He surprisingly was in town. Wife wasn't - not for the whole week. This just HAD to be considered as a sign that the Universe wants me to go ahead with the ridiculous plan that had formed in my head. After that, it was just a matter of when i could effectively rationalize my behavior and help my self-control crumble. It didn't take long.

I reached his doorstep, he kissed me hullo, and things got under way. Except - while he was nibbling my neck, and murmuring delicious nothings into my ear, i was thinking of a campaign i had to roll out by the next morning. Yep, I was thinking of work. Maybe it's a step above from thinking of the laundry, but hey! MATT was KISSING me!!! It was Matt! The gorgeous hunk with the big bike and the edgy death wish! Come ON!!

But it was too late... No matter how many glasses of wine i had, how many cigarettes i smoked, how cozy i got with him, somehow - it was over. Kissing him was fun but... cerebral. One constant refrain kept running through my head - Another one bites the dust. The next morning, when i kissed him goodbye, i didn't even feel a pang. It was awful.

In my highly disgruntled state, i bumped into a friend online. She's aware of my highly tumultuous non-relationship with Matt, and rationalized my feelings of 'having lost it' as "You're finally over him! Now you can move on! You haven't lost it - your standards are just not that low anymore." Hmmm..... and this is a friend.

I don't know about moving on. Maybe this is what the Wise Men meant when they talked about attaining nirvana or moksha or whatever. All i know is, i derive greater satisfaction out of watching Johnny Depp wobble his way into Pirate heaven than i do fielding calls from various unknowns.

Maybe i should get a cat named Martha. That's truly complete this picture.

Monday, June 25, 2007

That's what Friends are for...

Something happened. The exact event is commonplace and quite irrelevant. But it has led me to question all my beliefs when it comes to friends and what friendships imply.

I've never put too much stock in 'romantic' relationships - i understand that even if two people adore each other to bits, there are circumstances in which they cannot live with each other. That doesn't reflect badly on the sincerity of the feelings thereof, just that sometimes, shit happens.

But with friendships, the rules are different. More often than not, they're platonic to start with. Immediately, things like sexual tension and jealousy are done away with. And what's brought into sharp focus are the really important things like value systems, integrity and character - archaic words in the world we live in, i know... but i'm old-fashioned.

And in light of recent developments, i've come up with my own definition and list of friendship rules and why they're important.

A friend: Someone you know and like because he/she does the right thing by you and others without compromising his/her own values. Thus, someone whose value-system matches yours to a large extent.

1) Don't fraternize with your friend's ex without permission from the friend. If you do, it means you're ok with people hurting your friend. If the ex is the hurt party, and you want to be nice to him/her, without your friend being ok with it, then it means you're making a choice between your need to do the right thing, and your friend's need not to. If he/she isn't keen about doing the right thing, value systems are obviously out of whack.

2) Keep your friend's secrets. Unless ofcourse the friend's secret is hurting him/her - like drug usage, abuse, etc. Chances are, your friend knows that he/she is in trouble, but is terrified of the solution. Your job is to give them support, and perhaps a backbone. Not to spill the beans. They're not your beans to spill.

3) Accept your friend - quirks and all. Mostly because it takes all kinds to make the world, and if you try to change him/her to better fit your idea of what a friend should be, then you're not being much of a friend anyway. And hence, not worth the trouble of changing for.

4) Make time for your friends. Even if it is in the middle of the night. They wouldn't be calling if it wasn't important... to them atleast.

5) Don't take advantage of your friends. Know that some of their most vulnerable parts are known to you, which is a privilege. Don't use them for professional advancement (unless you have their permission), don't use them for personal grand-standing.

I'm sure there are several loopholes to the above few, and several additions that can be made. But what it essentially boils down to is respect and trust, the two cornerstones of any relationship. A friend asked me recently why it was that i couldn't keep a romantic relationship going - what is it that i was doing wrong. And i have to start wondering, am i expecting too much?

Friday, June 22, 2007

A Fairy Tale

About two years ago, one of my closest friends - Samantha - got married to a guy who adored her. Her wedding day was one of the most painful days of my life.

Many years ago, we had made a pact - that we would be true to our hearts, never compromise on love and never settle for less that our due. We'd been 17. And at the age of 28, after being whacked senseless by life and love, when she married a guy because she 'didn't care either ways', i felt betrayed. This girl, dressed in silk and gold, wearing a blank expression on the 'happiest day of her life' wasn't the friend i'd known and cherished all these years.

Months passed, during which phone calls were the usual mode of contact. But everytime i asked how she was doing, her brittle over-bright voice would travel across the phone waves assuring me that "Things are perfect." After a while, even those infrequent calls petered off - after all, it's impossible to have a real conversation when you're trying to ignore the elephant in the room. However, a few months ago, she called me and told me that she had filed for divorce. She sobbed about how horrible her marriage was, how she didn't love him, how her mother was making her life miserable because of the divorce, etc etc.

I was furious. How dare she expect me to just sit here and listen sympathetically when she knew exactly what she was getting into? And if what she was getting into was so anti-code, then how could she agree to it at all? And now, i was supposed to find it in me to understand her playing a victim? While i mouthed the meaningless platitudes that are meant to comfort and support, inside i was screaming, "What have you done to my friend?"

Then, a few days ago, i read a line that jumped out of the page and practically bit me in the ass. It went like this: Everyone, without exception, is leading their fairy tale life. What????

And then i thought about a conversation i had with Samantha, all those years ago. We were drinking coffee at my place one morning, playing hooky from college, and laughing about how it'll be when we grow up. I was going to be a high-powered corporate executive, having a series of highly intense monogamous relationships, while she was going to be an atleast-twice-married sexy Mama, with a string of admirers. Seems we were living our fairy tale lives after all....

Maybe that line was right. Maybe not. I called her anyway and really listened to her. And while doing so, i sensed my friend there, albeit in flashes. We spoke for an hour, and as I hung up, I promised to visit.

And then i sat down to rewrite my fairy tale.

Yours, Unattached

(After thinking about it a while, i've edited my original post. I think it perhaps now says what i wanted it to say)

A kid i know at work tried the "i'll read your signature" line on me. It was a slow day and i'm just stupidly drawn by things that promise to reveal some hidden aspect of my personality to me - so we sat down and the first thing she said to me was, "You don't like to own things." Wow. I must admit i have heard a variety of truisms like "you've been hurt before, you're very strong", etc etc... never something as specific as this though.

The reason i mention this is because over the last couple of weeks, my latest acquisition has been getting a lot of attention. My house. I bought it in the suburbs last year. To give you an idea of just how much of a big deal this is, let me explain. I prefer a laptop over a PC. Soft, light-weight bean bags and mattresses have been the preferred choice of furniture (i use the term loosely). I've never bought a TV or felt the need to. My only piece of furniture was a dismantleable spare-design burma-wood table and bar-stools and cupboard for clothes. Anything else would limit the 'up-and-move' quality of my existence, as seen from the average of 7 residences in as many years.

To a very large degree, this 'up and move' aspiration has been reflected in my romantic relationships. Anyone brought up the M-word, it would usually be the beginning of the end. Suddenly, things that were accepted as normal, would begin to irk - his need to just go off without leaving a note, his video-game dependency, his possessive streak, etc. And behind all the irrational arguments and the nagging nit-picking, would lie the question, "This is what i'm supposed to live with for the rest of my life??" And the answer, unfortunately, was more often than not 'NO'.

But now i own a house. It doesn't up and move. You can't pack it up and carry it with you to unpack on a hillside with beautiful views. In fact, there is little you can do with it except come back home to it every night... and repair its blemishes. And keep investing in it - your time, money, patience, peace of mind.

Much like a marriage. I find myself working really hard to keep my house looking just-so. No, i'm not anally-retentive when it comes to dust, or a bit of clutter, but i like my house to be mostly sorted. It helps me relax. It helps me unwind after a long day filled with agravations. Things that get broken have to be repaired. Things have to be bought. There is no out. You can't just leave because at some level you don't want to - it's home. Like a marriage should be.

The thing is, I didn't really buy the house. My parents bought it for me. (No, i'm not a spoilt brat...not a materially spoilt one, in any case.) This particular investment was done for various reasons - great investment opportunity, convenient base in Bombay, but most importantly, giving their only daughter roots in a rootless life. Mom even bought me plants that now i have to keep alive.

Ever since that time, things seem to be going completely out of control. .. or atleast the kind of control i'm used to having my life in. First there was the house, then there was heavy, wooden furniture, then a JOB to battle the vagaries of freelancing income to pay the EMIs, and now talk of getting a car.... All this, while there's still little to eat in my refrigerator and i'm fantasizing of just 'up-and-move'ing to Barcelona and earning my living as a bartender.

And this is where things get really freaky if i take the analogy forward. If my house is like a marriage, does that mean that even when i'm in it, i'll be constantly fantasizing about getting out, and more importantly, will i have to be kicked out of my inertia-driven state and almost forced into it?

The bottom line is, I sense myself growing roots, and the worrying part? It's not an entirely unpleasant feeling. A minor concern stays - When i look back at this time of my life 20 years from now, will i think that this was the point when i started losing myself and becoming the complete stranger i find staring back at me from the mirror now-then? Maybe. But for now, i love that in the mornings, bright sunlight streams into my living room, and the pretty flower-buds of my potted plants peek at me as i stand there, idly flipping through the papers, wondering whether i should order pizza for breakfast.

It's cozy. If this is marriage, it's allright.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Who, Me?

I've never been a popular kid. Through school i was always on the fringes of the 'in' crowd. I couldn't break into the Debating teams because i truly understood where the other guy was coming from; the dramatics team was a mystery as it was impossible for me to be 'natural' while playing 'little bo peep' and the basketball team had a height criterion.

I struggled with the fact that i wasn't ever going to be the 'hot chick' in school, that guys would always think of me as the back-thumping-never-crying-best-buddy and beautiful would never be a term applied to me. One day, while going through my delayed entry into adolescent agony, i despairingly asked my professor, "What if i'm no good at anything?!" And she wisely said, "Sometimes it's enough to be a good person." She obviously hadn't lived in the Bombay media world.

In my contrary state of mind (telling the world to go to hell while begging for acceptance in the same breath), i found solace in my diary (my older brother did too apparently, when he read out bits of my self-loathing to his friends, but that's another story). It became a place where i could be completely honest about what really mattered to me - and where the slow realisation hit me that little really did. But more importantly, it became a place of habit.

And today, when that habit has led to intensely private navel-gazing on the hugely public forum of the internet, i find that i finally have a much-appreciated fan club (you know who you are). But really, if truth and a healthy disdain of how people perceive you is all it takes to 'win friends and influence people', i wish someone had told me and saved me years of heartache. Then again... maybe not.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Faking It

Yesterday, a friend of mine told me about this embarrassing malfunction he had in bed. According to him, it has 'never happened' (yeah, right) and now he thinks it's because the woman he was with, just didn't have 'that special connection' with him. I looked at him askance, wondering whether he'd left his thinking mind along with his libido behind.

Then he brightened up and said, "But she did cum so that can be my goodbye gift to her." Uh yeah, sure. I was pissed off. Here was this guy i consider a friend who was being a total jerk about a girl who had gone out of her way to fake an orgasm for him. The moron didn't realise that that had been her goodbye gift to him.

Faked an orgasm??? Yes, sir. What followed was a lengthy discussion on orgasms, faking it, and how most men don't think their partners ever have done it. Finally it ended with him asking, "Why don't they just tell men how to give them an orgasm instead of being all romantic about it? I'm not a mindreader!" Reminded me of a blog i'd read where the writer almost begs for directions to a female orgasm. I wrote a comment on the same blog... which i'm reproducing here.

I must say, the demand for a "roadmap" to orgasm is so typically male. It's like saying - fixing the kitchen shelf needs a power drill, a saw, glue, etc, and helping my lady attain her orgasm needs a left here, a right there, slight u-turn.. and voila!

Really, come on!

A male orgasm is a physiological thing. From the age of 13 or younger, boys are taught, usually by their well-meaning older brothers or friends, how to get rid of that 'funny feeling in the pants'. A female orgasm - well, now THERE's a different story.

An orgasm for a woman is literally a way of letting go. She lets go of her inhibitions, her phobia about cellulite, being seen as imperfect (particularly by the male world which sees Claudia Schiffer as perfection), she puts away all thought - guilt over liking the 'dirty act of sex', of being considered a slut, of her laundry not done, of whether her underwear is sexy enough, etc etc. When she lets go of all of this - baggage - only then does she orgasm.

Being the sensitive, caring man of the 21st century, is actually about being able to help her do all of that - mainly by making her feel beautiful and cherished. And that process starts in the head, way before clothes are thrown off and strewn across the room. Unfortunately, there's no road map for that. Except for the big glaring word that men seem to just not see - it's called FOREPLAY.

ForePLAY. It's not supposed to be a chore. It's supposed to be stolen kisses, hand holding, raunchy messages in the middle of a board meeting. It's playful, teasing, surprising and joyous, because THAT is what sex is about. Or should be.

Women aren't trying to be mysterious or mystical about having an orgasm; it isn't a great secret that we don't want to share with you. The thing about orgasm - single or multiple - is that, while many women (not all, mind you) recognise it when going through it, very few women know consciously about these complicated but crucial elements that go into it.

What does happen is that, over the years, she goes through several men (or few men several times) who try really hard to satisfy her (bless them), who try to be the "sensitive, caring man of the 21st century". Some of them manage to do so, some of them don't, and its only in that process, she learns what makes her tick. And, like a learned trait, it becomes easier to let go, and easier to tip over to the side of a full-blown orgasm.

Then, why do we fake it? Just as the female 'orgasm' has burst onto the male sexual arena recently, even women have to deal with the pressures of "Did you cum? How many times? Was it good?" Jeez! Something that was supposed to be fun, and private, is now suddenly dinner table conversation, with women being called a variety of names - 'frigid, cold, unresponsive, weird, unwomanly' etc etc - if she hasn't "had one." And this is from other women, by the way.
In defence, women have learnt the fine art of 'faking it'(THAT is easy - remember Meg Ryan in "when Harry met Sally"?)and just enjoying the liberation of sexual intimacy hoping that while faking it, the real thing will come along, without the added pressure of looking for it.

The modern woman is not always swayed by material things because lately the modern woman can buy herself her own shiny baubles including the diamond ring. But the modern woman does enjoy "the weight of a man", and hopes to come across one who will help her drown out all the noise in her head and be able to say, in that glorious moment of ecstacy, "YES!!"

Monday, June 4, 2007

Do I look like a Dating Service?

There used to be a time when i would look forward to having everyone i care about - friends, family, etc - in one location as i truly believed that people important to me should know each other. This was a dream that had its basis in movies revolving around Thankgiving, where dysfunctional families got together for a whole day of torture. But i always thought they were hilarious. The dysfunctional family i could provide, the 'weird' friends would show up, and atleast for that one day/week/month, i won't have to miss anyone because everyone important would be there - though probably in different rooms.

Needless to say, the stars haven't yet aligned for that to happen. With family and friends scattered all over the world, with different schedules and different life cycles, it's understandable. But, at my end, i continue to try and stay in touch. Practically everyday, i'm out with someone for a drink or dinner. When that doesn't happen, phonecalls and emails rule. And as far as possible, i manipulate occasions where different groups of friends can meet and interact, and preferably form bonds that are independent of me. After all, that's how true families are formed.

Until, lately, i find a lot of my friends come up with a very annoying line of conversation. It goes something like this:

Friend: Yo! What plans tonight?
Me: Nothing major. Have a birthday party to go to. Wanna come?
Friend: Are there gonna be any cute/hot chicks/guys there?
Me: No idea.. i'm sure there will be some fairly interesting people.
Friend: Who?
Me: Well.. Name1, Name2, Name3...
Friend: they're not hot/cute/ oh lord, them again??
Me: They're friends. That's why i'm meeting them.
Friend: DO they have hot friends..?
Me: why?
Friend: Otherwise there's no point.

No point??? Almost everyone i count as a friend is attractive, funny, charming, mildly eccentric and interesting (including the irritant). I don't categorise them as shaggable or not, although i'm sure they would be considered so by someone. But what really gets my goat is the attitude that dismisses what an evening can potentially be by simply shutting your mind to the idea of the unexpected.

"If i'm not getting laid, then i'm not interested." Well, honey, if you aren't interested, you aren't getting laid.

Maybe people are getting more impatient about discovering each other. The speed-dating syndrome and the Sitcom/Movie world {where every half hour episode has so many beautiful (thanks to make-up and lighting), funny (thanks to a good script probably written by someone who isn't as hot as the people saying the lines) people} has leaked into our real world expectations, that we now have no time to read beyond the superficial.

Snap judgements are made on the basis of boob-size, butt-shape, hair-length, complexion, etc, before even bothering to actually 'see' a person. They don't notice that under the not-so-perfect boob-shape is someone who's tone-deaf and loves dancing, that the guy with the not-so-perfect weight category is someone who loves to race cars, that the obnoxious guy sitting in one corner of the room sullenly smoking cigarettes is a guy who's rather shy about big groups of people and hopes that someone will just talk nicely to him instead of being sarcastic.

I'm not saying it's easy. It just takes a temporary suspension of paranoia so that we can actually listen to what someone is saying without being convinced that he/she is malicious. It implies taking a break from being yourself, and giving that other person the same chance.

And if they can't do that, i just hope that they can stop pestering me to introduce them to my single, cute friends. Because whatever i may be, i'm not a dating service. And if that doesn't work, i really hope that the day when i'll have everyone under one roof isn't that far - that way, everyone will meet everyone i know and then they'll stop making "new hot friends" a pre-requisite for just hanging out.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Guilty Pleasures

Somethings i love to do. And i can't really talk about them with any kind of pride or rebellion because they're not really all that great or all that.. rebellious. They're just stuff i like to do and probably wouldn't admit to - like drinking juice straight from the carton without the intermediate step of pouring it into a glass. So here's a list.

- Watching Dance Movies. And i don't mean just the cult films like Dirty Dancing and The Company. I mean just any stupid, cliched badly-directed/acted/written film revolving around the main genre of dance. I can't help myself. I walk into the video store, look at all the really good films out there, but somedays when comfort is all you need, i find myself unerringly picking out a dance flick. I have watched them all i think - i know the stories almost backward - there's always the great but straight-laced dancer who gets influenced by the rogue street-dancing, whatever that may be, the little kid who dies and brings the rogue dancer to his senses and want to do something good with his talent, the inner conflict of the great dancer who just can't reach that final potential but who finds a way to get over it. And there's the dancing - from Dirty Dancing to Save the Last Dance to Step up, dance has always been a place where cultures have collided and passion has ruled. I think its my own sense of rebellion and cheering-on of change. Or not.

- Staying in Bed. I know, that sounds like the usual stuff, but i really stay in bed. I don't answer the door, no matter what. Various people ring the doorbell at different times of the day, and i can't be bothered to get up at all, knowing that they will go away. I stay curled up on my bed, with a book to read, my phone on silent mode (so that when i return calls the next day, i can claim that my phone was on silent mode and hence i can't really be held responsible for not answering). Yes, those days i find myself not eating much either cuz that would imply getting out of bed and rummaging in a fridge that most certainly would not have anything edible, or ordering in (which is pointless considering the previous 'not opening door' clause). At best, i get a bottle of water and keep it next to me. Hey, in some regions, it's even considered healthy. And Holy.

- Junk Food. This is a big one. Not just the comfort food kind of big. This stuff i can gorge on unendingly. Specifically those god-awful McDonald burgers. I know they're the stuff heart-attacks are made of, i know that each molecule of saturated fat will go straight to my thighs and add another dimple in them, i know it all... but oh! The joy of unwrapping that ridiculously small tasteless burger, and taking that first bite of cheese and mayo heaven... Don't get me wrong, i DON'T eat this everyday. There was a time when i did... but since then, better sense and my 30s caught up. Plus, i've discovered the joys of healthy sandwiches - whole wheat bread, slices of lean meat, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and a splash of mustard and marmite... I make them, i love them and i mostly eat only them. But every now and then, at just that time when you become conscious of your hunger and feel just that little bit lazy about getting off your not-so-toned ass... And the worst of it is - they home deliver!

- Talking to Myself. OK, this isn't the "senile grandmother talking to voices" kind of thing. Actually, on second thought, it might well be. But it basically revolves around me having completely rational conversations with "myself" (or whoever i happen to be imagining at that point) about anything and everything under the sun. There is a start, a middle and an end. Usually, neither of us gets convinced with the arguments presented. But "I" usually make more sense. "I" am smarter, more articulate, have greater ability of coming up with cutting and sarcastic remarks, and have a great grasp on logic. "Myself" on the other hand is mostly a listener, who tells me to take my prissy personality for a walk and not come back until i make sense. And then i go out for a walk with myself, batting the breeze like two crochety old ladies. Or five. Sometimes, its hilarious and I laugh out loud. Which is usually a little odd in the middle of a board meeting.

- Freecell. Yes, its that strange computer game that has four packs of cards all laid out in 8 columns and... well, I'm not here to provide a tutorial, you figure it out. The thing is, it's my calm down-unwind-rejuvenate-think laterally kind of game. I don't pretend to be infatuated by computer games. World of Warcraft and Tetris are really two games among a world of many that require concentration, an certain amount of guessing, and time. Freecell, on the other hand, requires no guessing, as all the cards are placed right in front of you. There is no clock against which you're playing. There is no numerical score that you have to beat. There are no thousand keys to hit to get different kinds of guns or kicks or what-have-you. It's not life-or-death (virtual or otherwise). You just have to get the packs in their slots using simple rules of available space. It's simple. It's logical. All the elements are in your control and every game theoretically can be won. I like that possibility. Atleast it exists in a game, if not in life.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Searcher's Anatomy.

What is it with love stories? Either the boy doesn't get the girl and that can be for any number of reasons - death, marriage, duty, obligation, etc etc. Or the boy gets the girl and then it falls apart over some ridiculous reason and we call it existential love stories where it's left ambiguous or the boy and the girl walk away from each other inexplicably and the audience is supposed to sigh and say "oh, that's so sad.. but there really was no other way. That's real life." Or boy dumps girl, thinking he's moving on to greener pastures only to find that he isn't, and in fact the girl has moved on to nicer, sweeter, not as hot but definitely better people who just swept them off their feet. Boy gets what he deserved. My kind of happy ending.

And then there's me. Boy meets girl. Boy gets girl. Boy proposes. Boy freaks out. Boy dumps girl. Boy gets married. And the girl? She meets other men, who're not nicer or sweeter, just another kind of strange. So strange, that she learns to prefer her own company, telling people that she's with other people when in fact she is home. Reading a book. Or watching season episodes of Grey's Anatomy.

All the time wondering when McDreamy is gonna waltz into her life. Which, going by the way she's going, would only be if he breaks down her door.


Monday, April 30, 2007

When i grow up....

Tomorrow's Labor Day. It's the day before i officially become one of the 'labor' - the kind that goes to an office every day at 10 am and stays there till about 8 pm, manages to do lots of things, all of which are totally mysterious. But, miraculously, they seem to be contributing to the GNP.

I have been a freelance writer for the better part of 4 years and before that, i have been a freelance assistant director for features, ad films, TV shows, etc. The word freelance is used a lot in my regular conversation, and when people ask me what i do, my usual response is, "I'm a (writer/director/actor/bartender) these days." They would give me a "you're so interesting" look, ask the basic questions to which i'd reply in my usual way ("yes, scripts.. screenplay.. films.. nothing you would have seen so far, it's all getting made... LOVELY weather we've been having, right??") we would laugh, and quickly we would move on to more tangible topics of conversation - like the latest war or Rupert Everett's sexy smile.

And i loved it. I lived in my favorite pair of jeans and sneakers, worked out of home which pretty much meant that i mastered flexitime, and couldn't be bothered about the impression i made on people so long as my work was impeccable. I would look down upon the "corporates" as people who barely saw anything beyond the four walls of their company, so completely imprisoned by who said what to whom, always huddled together in corners of bars talking about the skeletons in their bosses' or colleagues' closets, and who would laugh at jokes that weren't remotely funny. Me, I talked movies, and TV shows and knew what Mrs Jaya 'really' meant when she said something about Aishwarya. I could do what i wanted, when i wanted - i was the queen and mistress of all i surveyed - my time was truly my own, and a mid-afternoon movie mid-week wasn't a luxury. And someone was paying me to tell stories! Life couldn't get better.

Until i realised that there was a great price to pay for this exciting and volatile life. Somewhere in the vicinity of 700,000 bucks, to be precise, over the last 2 years. I was broke. Despite all the work i was doing, i wasn't seeing the paychecks i had earned. Producers just conveniently didn't take calls, IPR was just another meaningless collection of letters and 'the check is in the mail' was the cruel joke and it was on me.

So i capitulated. A job came along and someone put his faith in me. I took it up, promising to join from the first of May. All my friends congratulated me on a new life, new steps and new adventures (come on! How adventurous is going to work at an office after all?). I smile at them all, and yet i sense the underlying judgement that sounds something like "sellout." Or maybe that's just me. From being a bohemian raphsody, supremely arrogant of her choices, i have quickly morphed into someone who peddles her 'creativity' (probably non-existent) for the benefit of a faceless corporation.

And here i am, looking back on my ex-life with something that resembles nostalgia and a slight bitterness. Like looking from the outside in and wondering what went wrong. But more than that, i'm terrified that this new life, with its unique code of conduct, dress and language which will just strip me bare and expose that fact that i'm NOT creative, couldn't lead a team to save anyone's life and that i'm totally unemployable after all.

But atleast for a few months it'll be easier to introduce myself. "Hi, i'm Searcher, creative head, So and So company." That sounds allright then. But the big question remains - what do i wear??

Monday, April 23, 2007

Till Death Do Us 'Part? One can only hope.

So over the last couple of days, the whole marriage thing has been floating around a bit. And it's odd, because while i'm thinking that it's just one of those things, I observe that the Universe may just be lining up its stars to tell me something that i'm just not paying any attention to.

First, there was my grandmother calling me (she NEVER calls) telling me how she has set me up with some guy she's found out about who lives in the USA and who has a brother in Australia. Since when did people get married to someone based on the country of residence? No, i'm not being naive.... I know grooms and brides are sought after particularly if they happen to be in any of the First World countries, but we know that's not a marriage so much as a visa.

So anyway, about this guy. He's supposed to be absolutely perfect - settled (read as rich, has a green card, has a 6-digit dollar salary doing some IT/sales/marketing job in an international company), single (read as bored of chasing skirt and under pressure to provide the regulation bride and grandkids), etc etc. But how does one marry a stranger?

My friends seem to be facing this exact situation a lot these days. One of them is sure she won't marry a stranger. Her folks got her on to one of the matrimonial sites, and she met a few people, ended up falling for a few... but no marriage in site. After 6 months of dating, it's still "too early" to tell. The fact is, there's nothing to tell. They're still doing the dance that we're all tired of dancing - the reason one is going through the "for matrimonial purposes" exercise anyway.

Then i have my mother calling up - a veteran of two marriages. And it seems even she's pretty clueless. According to her, a marriage works only if two people trust and respect each other. After all, the age-old reasons for marriage seem to have been deemed redundant - financial security and sexual availability... and yes, family. But in today's changing world, women are earning enough to be independent, everyone's sexually active and women have been single parents for years already.

Then in today's paper, i read how, with lengthening paces in the world of scientific breakthrough, it's possible that sperms will soon be created out of bone marrow. No men needed. No mess, no heartache, no need for prozac. Yay.

And finally, all around me, my still-single and newly-single friends hurtle towards the wrong side of 30 or 35 or 40, wondering what went wrong. Why did that girl/ guy not love them enough/ not wait for them/ leave them/ cheat on them/ divorce them/ marry someone else, etc etc and why are they left on the sidelines, giving their all to keeping that smile pasted on their faces, while they watch someone else get their happily ever after?

I don't know what the Universe is trying to tell me. That time's running out? That we're lonely creatures of nature? I knew that a long time ago. But seriously, did it have to rub my nose in it?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Where would we be without our painful childhoods?

This was the question that Dr Finch, a psychiatrist, and an unforgettable character in the bestseller book (and now a motion picture) "Running with Scissors" asked Augusten (the writer) when he said, 'I don't fit in." We all have those days, but when you're younger, you have the capacity to feel every isolating moment in its purest agony., as the adult reflex of rationalising it hasn't yet kicked in. In those moments, it helps to have someone to blame. Augusten blamed his parents mostly (and yet didn't really), and i blamed mine.

When i was 13, my father left home and his family - his wife, and two kids - and went to NY, USA to study further. At the time, i thought it was just a short break, and soon he will return and we would go back to being the happy family that we had been (i mean, what are fights between parents, right? And hey, silent houses and non-conversation dinner tables are a small price to pay for having a dad and mom).

When the short break showed no sign of ending, I became worried that the reason my father was staying away was because when he had been here, he used to think that the only reason i talked to him was when i needed money to buy my small treats - candy, samosas, ice cream. I was hugely relieved when a few months later, my mom told me that we were all going to travel to the US, and start a new life with Dad. Maybe he had forgiven me.

Except, USA wasn't much fun. The place was cold, which probably made the people so too, and every evening there were the constant repetitive slightly drunken fights between mom, dad, my aunt and uncle (with whom we were staying in a 3-bedroom apartment that housed 4 adults, my brother, my three little cousins, a nanny and me). So when it became clear that this particular marital equation was not going to work, my mother made the very brave decision to return to India. With 15 year old me.

My father never let me forget it. He considered it the biggest betrayal that his daughter had committed against him - chosen MOM. In my head, it was the most practical decision - Dad had my brother, so Mom was going to have me. It was fair, right? Plus, Dad wasn't earning at all those days, so the idea of him supporting himself and two kids (one of them going to art school - my brother) was impossible. Plus i hated NY, hated the school there, the rules of existence ("don't stare at people, they will kill you!") that had been instilled into my young mind by my father and brother.

So when i returned to India, and home, and my school and friends, just a few months after leaving for another shore, i was relieved. I was happy. Except on those days when i would receive a letter from my father which would hold just the most awful things that he could think of writing to me - how i was selfish, didn't love him, how i was going to end up like my (shrewish) mother, how he was disappointed with me, etc. Let's just say, the fragile bonds of a father-daughter relationhsip were being frayed beyond repair. And we stopped writing to each other.
My mother continued living a half life, living with increasingly resentful in-laws who kept finding ways and means of throwing us out of the house, not earning enough to be able to move out, evading all "how's your husband?" questions with "he's fine" answers and when my father found someone else, and chose to break the news to my mother - bravely - through me, I held my mother as she wept in my arms. That was the day i knew i hated him.

Six years later, when i was in University, doing my Masters, my father dropped back into my life. He wanted to build bridges, held me and sobbed on my shoulder, telling me how thrilled he was to see me, how happy that i had become 'such a gorgeous lady', probably not quite fathoming the fact that he was a total stranger to me. But he tried a lot - gave me money to support myself through the lean beginning years of my work life, contributed finances towards buying my house and partly furnishing it. In exchange (and it always felt like that), i pretended to participate in the "we are fa-mi-lie" role play.

This entire thing probably goes to explain why in my own personal relationships, i am torn in two different directions - the desire to settle down and have a family that sticks together, and yet running at the first sign of committment. I look for father figures in my professional life, from whom i'm constantly seeking approval and hate rocking the boat, I have ill-advised relationships with highly inappropriate people, and torment myself with feelings of guilt and inadequacy when those relationships don't work out. Unfortunately, I don't see a way out of it, as i really have no frame of reference.

So boo-hoo.

Until i come across "Running with Scissors" about a childhood that is truly unbelievable. Born into a family with an alcoholic father, a psychotic mother with delusions of her creative genius who finally gives him up to the care and welfare of her freaky shrink, who defrauds his patients because of his own IRS woes, and his fucked up family where each one would be a separate tome in the psychobabble library of woes. And at the tender age of 15, when no child should be asked to make a decision of that magnitude, he decides to leave it all behind, and chase his dreams of being a writer in New York.

I like those kind of stories. Not just for the resonance that i sense - in some alternate part of me - but also for the fact that these are the true heroes of our time. In an age of technologically isolating lifestyles, where all one seems to have are memories of what one was and what one thought they would be, people who manage to survive their childhoods, and come out the stronger for it, are the ones who need to be applauded.

Augusten came out of it with a bestseller book. Hopefully i'll come out of it with something just as cool.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A small bottle of yellow pills...

... That's all it takes to end a life, usually your own. Ofcourse, getting the prescription pills requires a little bit of planning, but some kind of ingenious thinking, some acting abilities and some make-up can take care of it. The truth is, when it comes to quieting once and for all the all-pervasive silence that has invaded your entire being, it's a small price to pay.

When i was 15, a favorite teacher in school hanged herself from her living room fan when her two kids were out playing, and the husband was at work. At that time, it was a massive shock - after all, she always seemed so happy, she had such a great life, wonderful family - what could possibly have possessed her to take such a step? Running almost alongside that thought was the usual judgement - how selfish not to think of the devastation that she was going to leave behind.
The fact, as i think i know today, is that that very thought is probably what prevented her from taking that final step 3 weeks or even 6 months ago. But 3 weeks - 6 months later, when she found no respite from the life that she had, she despaired.

A few months ago, when i found myself face-to-face with the bottle of pills, I finally realised that words like 'selfish', 'cowardly', 'stupid' had no place in this scenario. At that time, the big problem was heartbreak. I know it's a cliche, but then a cliche didn't become one without help, right? However, at the time, i didn't recognise the signs... Let me explain.

Every BODY has a way of dealing with pain. Some drink, some fight and some cry. In my case, my body usually shuts down all systems of functioning, waits for my mind to deal with the pain and accompanying rage and then finally surfaces, whole, complete, new. However, when someone broke my heart, the magnitude of pain that radiated through all my nerve endings was more than my system was used to. It shut down, completely, while dealing with the pain and the gargantuan amount of rage that systematically eroded away my insides. The only thing that continued to function was the screensaver which kept flashing “I’m all right, don’t worry.”

Taking this screensaver as gospel truth (even i did that, incidentally... I know it's odd to talk of oneself in the third person, but trust me, that's usually what happens), I attempted normalcy. Hanging out with friends, going out every night, having interesting encounters of the sexual kind, and 'living it up' became the order of the day. However, as much as i would try normalcy, the more I started getting enveloped in a kind of fog (worse than prison walls) that separated me from the person sitting 2 feet away.

The spoken words began to have the metallic quality of sound emanating from an answering machine – and that’s what I became in return. Soon the words too lost their meaning, and I found myself lip-reading, emulating the expressions on the person’s face – they laugh and so will I, she quirks an eyebrow and so will I, he nods a question and I nod back in response. I was on auto-pilot mode. Which was probably good, because work was apparently great (My bank balance was quite healthy even though i don't remember now what i was doing then) and i had many friends (don't remember who was there and who wasn't). For all practical purposes, i had a great life.

The truth was I was imprisoned by my own silence, finding it impossible to reach out for anything, or to even scream for help, in my slippery journey to the edge. I wanted to yell and shout and scream about how much I was hurting, how much it pained to keep that smile pasted on my face, how essential it felt to reassure everyone else instead of focussing on me. And how, despite the parties and the drinks and the various laughs I was sharing with the world, I was desperately unhappy.

One morning, at home, I confronted myself. I finally acknowledged that ball of dread that had nestled comfortably in the pit of my stomach which left no place for food, drink, or any real peace. My reflection mirrored my emaciation of spirit, my lips which had lines of resentment etched around it, my eyes which had lost all of its sparkle. At the young age of 27, I had become a bitter, old woman. Didn't anyone see that?

And i thought, what a way to live, and what's worse, i could see no way out of it. Years of this isolating silence stretched out in front of me; dinners, drinks, parties that i would be at and yet feel absolutely unconnected to, the series of people i was naked with and now can't recollect the faces of... I was trapped. The idea of falling asleep one night without the accompanying dread of waking up to such an existence was hard to resist...

Just as that bottle of pills started to look really good to me, my guardian angel stepped off from his usual celestial perch and bumped into me, in the form of an old friend. He took one look at me and said, “Jeez, you look like shit. What’s up with you?” After all this time, with everyday being spent in the company of many friends, was i still so transparent to someone who took one hard look at me?

And in a crowded coffee shop, I sat across from him and poured my heart out like I hadn’t done ever. I cried and I laughed and then I went back to crying, and told him all about my loneliness, and my sense of disappointment, and the crushing blow to my sense of judgement and self worth… why didn’t anyone love me? Was it that hard?

And the mere act of telling him, and finally acknowledging to another live human being how completely apart I was falling over some guy was cathartic. Like layers of clothing, my bitterness and resentment and pride fell away to finally reveal my true unsullied self to the Sun. I basked in its heat, finally content that my unhappiness wasn’t a dirty secret that I was keeping hidden from everyone, and that I could let it out, and hence prevent it from festering.

Even as I sat there, the opaque fog of silence lifted from around me, and sounds of the world started filtering in. The lines around my mouth surprised themselves by curling up into a smile. And that smile finally sent that shot of electricity to my eyes that brought its spark back to life, albeit feebly… but then it hadn’t been used in months. That evening, I went home, and got rid of the pills, and the months of silence that had surrounded me. I revelled in the music of the day, I danced for the first time that year, and I actually listened to love songs.

Many months later and just a few days ago, I saw him again. Bombay is a small place, and its surprising that it hadn't happened more often, but it seems the Universe does conspire to give you everything you desire. By this time, a lot of water had flown under the bridge and I was able to see him for who he was - just another stranger smoking a cigarette wondering where his next paycheck was coming from. Maybe some crimes are never forgiven, but at that moment, I found myself surprisingly happy and relieved. It was finally over.

As I walked away, I knew that something inside me which i had assumed was broken, had healed itself. The fact that I had had a good look at Despair, gone right to the heart of it... and found nothing there might have helped a little.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


It’s winter, or what passes for winter in the temperate climes of Bombay. There is a nip in the air, and when you walk in the bright sunlight, it warms your soul, makes you happy to be alive and free. It is the season of falling in love, in believing in the mad rush of passion and the urge to jump in headlong into the soft fuzzy feeling of romance. It’s February, the month of Valentine.

As Damien Rice croons in my ear asking me heart-rending questions “…Is he dark enough to see your light? Is he bold enough to take you on? Does he drive you wild or just mildly free? I know I make you cry, make you want to die, but do you really feel alive without me?...” ('Accidental Babies', 9), I acknowledge that it has been a while since I answered yes to any of those questions. But I remember the time that I did.

The glorious head-rush that comes with the meeting of eyes with a guy you think is deadly cute, the joy of seeing him laugh at a shared joke, noticing his eyes crinkling as he leans in towards you as if he’s going to tell you a secret, close enough to make you think of kissing him and wondering what that would be like, the knowing look that both of you wear because you both love this particular dance, the dance that opens up the world of possibilities. Then he asks you, “Do you swing?” You look affronted and say, ‘I’m not that kind of girl!” and he rolls his eyes, takes the drink out of your hand, twirls you around and whispers in your ear, “Take your mind out of the gutter and dance with me.” And you dance, breathing him in, noticing the stubble lining his jaw, and before you know it, you’re moving to your own music, in your own little world where the other people are cardboard cut-outs frozen in time.

As he lets go of your hand, time filters back in and you look at him, noticing the crinkle that you left on his shirt when he had held you close. He smiles at you and you smile back, answering the unasked question, “Why not?” In the pit of your stomach, you feel the entire world opening up, and you feel as if you’re falling, and you hold your breath, waiting for the wildest ride of your life. He reaches out, holds your hand and both of you throw caution to the winds and take the plunge. Welcome to the romantic world’s cliché factory, may your stay be glorious.

In this season of love, I adore the romantic comedies that are released practically every week. They tell you the stories that you have grown up hearing and believing, that there is a fabulous guy for you, that you will find, connect and keep your perfect person with all his imperfections, and that you will feel the warmth of a family, of a group you belong to, and you will be adored and will not disappoint, that there will be music and happiness and many laughs which you will remember when you’re old, surrounded by your extremely close-knit circle of friends and family. There will be a happily ever after.

It gives me hope. Keeps me optimistic. And that’s a great start to the year.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

He died.

His name was Zane. February last year, i found an email from him sitting in my inbox saying, "Hi. was looking to make friends. You think we have something in common?" For the next 8 months, we communicated regularly. I loved hearing from him - across the immense cybervoid, i thought someone finally got me. I don't know what he looked like, or what he sounded like. But i know he cared about his work, the beaches and the mountains, that he believed he wouldn't find love, he liked to work towards perfection, his version of utopia, was glad for Microsoft and MS windows and the spell-check feature that would help him hide his dyslexia, that he was comfortable with who he was, loved his place in the world. And that all he wanted to do was 'fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds of distance run...'

Then sometime in October, after complimenting me on my writing style "like a pastel painting which changes into the deep brush strokes of a Vangogh oil", i didn't hear from him again. I wondered why, and assumed that this connection which i thought i'd felt had actually been a figment of my imagination, that we had indeed gone the route of millions of internet-spawned interactions that had faded into the cyber-oblivion. Maybe we had.

On a lark, i searched for his name on Orkut, and found only one reference for him. His was a name on someone else's "intro" that said, "To fill the unforgiving minute... (to my friend Zane who died a month ago while climbing K2..)" Something broke inside me. The loss of someone you never knew and yet someone who probably got you better than most people you do know, is something very hard to explain. I wish that we HAD in fact gone down the drifting-apart route, because somewhere i'd always have known that there was someone out there.. who understood.

He died on Dec 29. I've missed him for the longest while, and today i grieve for him, because of who he was, who he wanted to be, and most of all because he was a good man who knew what it was to love. I wish i'd met him.

Monday, January 8, 2007

And then there was Mark..

By now you've figured out that i don't use the real names of the real people. THis is probably because it helps me look at them, and more importantly me, objectively. Like for example, Mark. He's the love of my life currently - except he doesn't know it. I won't even add the silly "yet" to that statement because i'll probably never have the courage to tell him.

Before you think i'm a complete chicken shit (i am a partial one, but now i'll defend my non-chicken-shit part), i want to provide some background. Yes, there is always that, isn't there? I met Mark some 5 years ago while working on a film. I found him attractive, and obviously he was vaguely amused and quite taken by me, who was always looking for excuses to be around him. I didn't know him from Adam but would find reason to take my cup of coffee into his cabin and stick around chatting whenever i was at a loose end... and that was quite often.

So one day, he walked to where i was and asked me if i'd like to go out to dinner with him. I said yes, why not. We went to one of the newer joints there, and conflicted as i was about being with him when my boyfriend was in a different city, i did enjoy myself. He was clever, great with repartee, and enjoyed me. Early into the conversation we innocuously established rules: "yes, as my boyfriend was saying the other day..." His eyes sparkled with humor and surprise and he said, "Oh that was nice, very subtle.." And i said, "You noticed huh?"

And we laughed and talked and flirted, talked about our respective (presumably better) significant others, about how much we loved them, etc. I went back home with him to watch TV - it's true i didn't (still don't) own a TV, but was 1 am a good time to watch it at a stranger's house? It did seem like it at the time.

And we watched TV, listened to music, and spent the whole night kissing each other, saying how it's probably best if we just stick to friendship as cheating is way too stressful on everyone, and how we're innately too lazy to cheat.. Maybe we should just keep it light and easy, despite the obvious attraction. We agreed, he made me breakfast, he held me, i enjoyed it, i left for home the next morning, not realising how deep a bond had just been forged.

A year or so later, when my boyfriend broke up with me, i found myself spending a lot of time with him. Nothing else had happened between us except i'd still go over to watch TV (this time for real) while he would work and we ended up having conversations about life, love and other animals. It was really good. He was my shoulder to cry on, and when he said "You're really special and any man's an idiot for not seeing that", i believed him.

Then one day, when we were working together, he told me he was attracted to me, wanted to be with me... It was the most confusing day of my life. I have rules about messing with people i work with, about messing with friends as one most likely loses a lover and a friend... and yet, he was insistent. So i made big mistake - i thought we should sleep together and get it out of the way, go back to being friends...

But life, they say, is what happens when you're busy making other plans. We did it. I hated it because i was lying to myself. There was a life lesson - just say no. I could have. I didn't. Because i really thought the plan would work. Except clearly it didn't. Mark really wanted to be with me. And i couldn't lie to myself or him anymore. I wasn't in love. So when his best friend decided to ask me out, i said yes.

I broke Mark's heart. I've regretted it ever since. There was one whole night when there were tears, and pain and grief and loss. I'd give anything right now to take it back. He understandably stopped talking to me for more than a year. The day when i burst into tears on Mark's birthday when i learnt that i hadn't been invited for his party, and i realised just how much it hurt, was when i should have known how much he had and continued to matter. During that time, my relationship with the best friend fell apart, and all i really regretted in that was that i'd lost my best friend, and it wasn't the boyfriend.

6 months later, we started talking to me again. I was so happy, so relieved about it. And slowly i realised finally that i wanted to be with him, i missed what we had shared, i missed the ease, the confidence, the comfort, the banter, the conversation... And i knew that i probably won't have that again with him because he would never trust me with that part of him, and i'd hate to impose myself on him. This incidentally isn't conjecture - whenever the well-placed subject came up among my friends and him the conversation went like this: Friend - "Why don't you and Searcher get together?" Mark - "If something had to happen it would have already, right? I don't think it will anymore."

So that's where i am right now. In love with someone who probably at this stage barely knows i exist. And i can't bring up the subject with him because i'm afraid to hear him laugh at my silly notions, or worse, decide he can't possibly be friends with me anymore. What if he says yes, you ask? I haven't seen any indication that he will. Nothing. Once i'd asked him: "how do i know if a guy i like likes me back?" He said: "If it's meant to happen, it will."

Maybe i am a chicken shit. But i'm going to wait for a while, see if the Universe has a plan for me. Who knows, maybe something is meant to happen, and i shouldn't worry about timelines.