Red… For Hadia

SO we enter the abstract domain. Hadia, the inspiration behind this activity has herself asked me to write on “Red”.  This is what I feared. For me, anything that isn’t particular to the tee becomes nauseatingly close to psychoanalysis. And that scares me to pieces.

Yet, these are some disjointed thoughts that I associate the colour to.

*****

Mohabbatein was an all-round snooze fest. And as in every desert there blooms a cactus, yours truly took away a key message from the movie. Red Flower = Love, and Yellow Flower = Friendship. This of course was a part of the ever elusive Rose Day celebration in the cool college. And then the college I studied in had its own Rose Day celebrations. The only red roses I received that year were in a bouquet from a girl *cue confusion*. To her I remain eternally grateful for opening my eyes.

On a side note, I justified to myself that one offers red hibiscus to Ganesh idols because it’s “love”.

*****

I owned a red salwar kameez once which was just as gaudy as it was loud. It was bought for a school annual day event where the women were all “wives”. Of course the red was to be synonymous with married women. And that dress I wore whenever I felt like dressing up as Indian. I did the whole shebang with a bindi, and earrings etc. This phase went on till I realised the dress was suitable only in the context of “Ye Desh Hain Veer Jawaano Ka.” The only red I’ve worn since are a sporadic kurta here and there. Associations with choodha-wearing brides make me too conscious.

*****

I had an allergic reaction last year to who knows what. My face was swollen and was the shade of tomatoes. I ended up in the Emergency Room and then the ICU. But when I looked myself in the mirror, I realised this is what it must look like when an author says “he/she turned a brighter shade of red with embarrassment.” For me embarrassment is felt in the stomach, seldom shows up on my face.

*****

I remember my mother crying when I first started my period. I was 10, maybe 11. And she cried when she shared the “news” with her mother, then with her best friend and finally just cried every time she mentioned it to anyone. I didn’t get it then as to why she was crying if specks of blood showing up every month were normal, as she explained. A year later, the cramps began. Now, I cry every month yearning for the first decade of my life when I wasn’t bending double over my stomach.

*****

Marilyn Monroe looked like she had it all when she wore red lipstick. I think it was one of the late-night movies I sneaked a glance at oblivious to my parents. And then I noticed almost all of the “English film women” wore red lipsticks. At a discussion with peers (fellow preteens), I think one friend said it looked better on screen while another said it looked better on their skin tone than Indian actresses’. I bought my first red lipstick last year after a hijra woman I was interpreting for told me it would make my eyes stand out. Boy was she right.

*****

Priya Wal looked so damn cool in her red highlights in Remix, that Anwesha was my ultimate idol when I was in school. I wanted flaming red hair. Till I discovered naturally red hair. I realised I could never have those, or carry it off as confidently. The last time I was envious of the same was when I saw a senior colleague who carries off the red curls with better panache than Katrina Kaif in Fitoor. In my head, whenever I rebel, I have red highlights.

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Non-Monogamy or somewhere in the ball park area…For Sneha

I’d really appreciate it if you, as a reader, would decide for yourself if this is a topic you’d like to read. Skip to the next post if you’re not comfortable. Anyway, these are musings. There’s no point to it.

One of the things about being in the unmarried minority of 26-year -olds is ruminating on relationship dynamics all the time.

Non-monogamy isn’t new to these ruminations.

*****

As a curious, 10-year-old voracious reader, I came across the very scandalous idea that all of mankind was sired (umm, what’s the female equivalent?)  by 7 women. 

While my understanding of sexuality and sex was minimal (nil), it seemed strange that each woman would have SO many children. I had barely understood this concept, when I came across another scandalous article. A woman who talked about how she lived with her husband and girlfriend in the same house.

It took me another decade to grasp the concept of non – monogamous, polyamourous, or even non – heterosexual relationships. Yes, that long.

*****

My most favourite movie as a child was Kuch Kuch Hota Hain. Big surprise. If you grew up in the 90s, the eternally college going SRK was as irresistible as the basket ball-playing, summer camp-going Kajol. Rani Mukherjee was a by the way person in their love story.

And that was my point of reference for relationships for the longest time- soul mates meant to be together even if there are many people who matter to you much walking in and out of your life.

So you wait and you wait, till a person you’re meant to be with walks into your life. Or dances in. Or plays rugby. Or your mom spots one in a wedding.

Here’s the thing though, do you realise how much pressure that is on one person?

Ek ladka aur ladki kabhi dost nahi reh sakte. By which logic I should’ve had no trouble in being married by now. Multiple times. I could have a husband for everyday of the month, and then some.

And yet, it’s the expectation of being everything. The be all for one person for the rest of your life, for all your needs, that’s cumbersome.

*****

A worldly-wise friend of mine once said to me that you’ve not really been in a relationship till the time there are constraints on your life. While that’s not globally true, it’s a big disappointment for most people when their significant other is not jealous. Jealous = Invested in the relationship.

But then, heterosexual monogamy is the norm. I see friends give in to the pressure of relationships and align themselves to expected/accepted behaviour all the time. And  that’s because one is supposed to be in a long-term successful relationship.

I’ve seen many a person ruined by the pressure to conform. To be normal. Yet I find this elusive concept of a normal, everyday relationship slipping from my grasps. And that’s a struggle.

*****

I live in two houses now, one with the family and one with a flatmate. The latter is closer to work. I own two backpacks. One for work and one for travel. I have a bunch of friends to watch movies with, and another to discuss life with. I even own two phones, one for regular use and one back up.

Do you get the drift?

The Other Side of the Gender Debate

When people don’t offer seats to pregnant women on buses and trains, I really wish they would rot in hell.

Since 2007 I’ve been travelling in buses and trains practically everyday including on most Sundays. I often marvel at how women don’t offer seats to pregnant women, while they “book seats” as soon as they walk into the compartment.

The other day I offered my seat to a lady with toddler in tow. While she sat and thanked me, another one told me why did I get up. “If she’s has a young kid, then she should take an auto.”

I’ve read and participated in many debates and discussions regarding women in public spaces and what “etiquette” one applies in these situations. However nothing prepared me for a sixteen year old kid’s response yesterday.

If you’ve travelled by buses in Mumbai, you know that the “reserved” seats are quite prominent on the buses. Seats where women must be given preference to sit. These “reserved seats” are a bone of contention between many a lady and men who travel regularly. The two most extreme situations I’ve seen are that of a college girl asking a senior citizen to get up because it was a “ladies” seat and another when men stand in a relatively empty bus because the only available seats are “ladies” ones. I was quite taken aback at the first incident and mildly amused at the second.

Coming back to yesterday’s bus ride, I was comfortably standing in the bus after I sat for a solid hour in the train. I was probably the only woman standing and strangely enough, a boy got up to offer me his seat. On my repeated refusals, he just said “Baith jao. Gardi mein kisika dhakka lag gaya toh molestation ka charge daal doge”. (Sit down. If someone pushes in the crowd, you’ll file a molestation case.) And smiled.

Honestly, I don’t know what to make of it. Are we really putting the fear of the public or “mob” in men of this country or is this how it’s going to be now? Every woman gets offered a seat (read as unwanted chivalry) so that a Dowry-esque accusation doesn’t get filed against the men?

I’m still pondering on what to make of it. Any ideas?

Silhouettes in the Train

I have never been a feminist, nor will I ever be one, I guess, but it is something about women that stumps me, like it does to a billion men around the world. Their sheer love for giving, being able to express joy but not love, finding happiness in whatever is given and compromising and adjusting all her life. That is what makes a woman.

It’s the day when the Reservation Bill in the Parliament was to bring a change to the status of women in India. It’s the day when women around the world, celebrate their womanhood.  It’s that day when two women in the train became the inspiration of my blog.

I’ve never met them before, will probably never again, but when the Thane bound 6.10 pm fast local left platform 7 of CST today, two women, let the spirits of a whole compartment free with their carefree and melodious voices. Singing about nothing but just the lives of women in Mumbai, those two women who worked at the BMC, made me think of the women in my life.

My mom’s never quite been the ordinary housewife, always keeping herself busy with something or the other. I never remember her doing “nothing!” So when she decided to work again, somehow the idea didn’t seem too bad, she’d been working always anyway! But it was when she started working when things started to change drastically. The lonely house would yell in a hundred different ways, everyone had a lot of “growing up” to do; suddenly you grew responsible to where the keys to various cupboards and doors were. Whether the gas was put off, whether the servant came or no, whether the milk was kept in the fridge, whether instructions to the cook were understood and so on…

The first stanza of the “Powada” by the women was about the early morning rush in the life of a woman, getting ready herself, the Tiffin boxes ready, the children ready etc. My mom’s life since the past three months.

I, my sister, and practically every girl in my life, perfectly match the second stanza of the Powada. The women, who rush out of the houses, catch horribly crowded trains, but still find time for a lot of laughter and fun, and realize only when the time comes that we have forgotten something, (in most cases, it’s not just your homework but also your wallets, train passes etc. Perhaps only in my case!)

My grand mom, is active, is innovative, is full of energy and most of all is a sport. The woman of the third stanza. Who listens to all, but does her own in the end. One who cherishes her siesta, who wishes the whole world eat food made by her, one who never forgets your favorite color while buying you a dress.

My maasi is actually that, maa- si, like my second mom. She is one lively aunt you wish you’d have. She goofs up big time! Like the description in the fourth stanza. Where the woman gives the husband, the child’s lunch box. Abu, you are that woman, goofy but extremely lovable!

The song was called “Kashya zagtat Mumbaichya Baaika”, which, literally translated from Marathi, would mean “How the women of Mumbai live(?!)” but much more beyond that, it was an ode to the women, their lives, their womanhood, their passion for life.

It’s a few minutes after International Women’s Day ended, but I guess I am still not very late, here’s wishing all the women in my life, a very Happy Women’s Day!

Those two women, the silhouettes of my life, have now become an eternal memory. Their song resounds in my ears as a body of the silhouettes of the thoughts that they created in me. They are the silhouette de la vie! J