Sunday, September 24, 2006

A Journal in Shorthand

Hello, world.

Was an eventful week, this last one. Monday night dinner was at the Sumit Roys, where a fantastic time was had by all. Tuesday was a Tired Day and I was miserable because of, er, marital discord following on from the previous weekend. Wednesday I went to see Intro. I meant to give the kids a writeup, but their last show was yesterday evening – despite the crazy rain, which actually necessitated their having to bail out the driveway leading to the gallery – and they have been going houseful and more anyway, so I’ll just excuse myself, after all. It was grand though, and I think I forgive them for editing my baby out, although of course I will never tell them that.

Not surprisingly, Thursday was a Tired Day as well, and I had a horrible tummy upset to boot. What with the sudden attack of nausea and the diarrhoea, it was also a miserable day. V though spoiled me lots, so it was better than it might have been. Friday was his holiday, because of Mahalaya, and we had a lovely day lazing around and getting nothing done.

Ma gave me a shaad of sorts yesterday, i.e. Saturday. Since it’s actually meant to be a sasurbari thingie, and also because of the tummy upset, we kept it small, but she made me ilish machh’er tak and rice payesh, both of which I love, so it wasn’t too bad. Baba flew down the same time, so he got an eyeful of me dressed up in a saree and sindoor and all that jazz. Seemed to console him considerably. Probably the first time he’s seen me thus togged up since the wedding. (Not that I don’t do the whole saree routine, it’s just that he hasn’t been around to see it.)

I just wanted to jot down a quick summary of this last one week to look back upon.

Have been feeling awfully tired all day today (so what else is new). Took things easy all morning, will be packed off the nursing home in an hour. Am awfully nervous, now the time’s almost here. I know it’s a routine operation and all that – but they are still carving me open, innit? Also, lots of horoscopes in the Sunday papers this morning promise V that things will go his way, that he’ll get what he wants. I’m rather afraid that means it will be a girl after all.

Keep your fingers crossed tomorrow morning around 10 a.m. then. Will let you know more as and when I can. Or V will, as I said before. Ciao.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Traumatised, but Thankful

Was lying in bed staring at the ceiling one morning last week when Katy called, chuckling and giggling, and said I really should tune into Oprah Winfrey, there was much to learn. So I turned the tv on. Oprah was talking to parents of out of control toddlers, about some system devised by this lady who calls herself Supernanny. Confirmed my belief that most of these American parents are pretty clueless, really. Seriously. What with not wanting to harm the psyche of their kids and all the psychological stuff – I’m sure there’s sense in a lot of it, really, but I don’t think the parents get that either – they end up being purely terrorized. On the other hand, my parents inculcated, rather nonchalantly, lots of manners and discipline in my brother and me, purely through a careful use of scorn, derision and outright intimidation.

Of course, it traumatized the two of us for life, but as children at least, the two of us were known for our company manners. We were the only children in our colony who said please and thank you at the slightest provocation. We carried our parents’ shopping. We were, in short, the kids your parents threw up at you. Not bad for a system of discipline that was based more or less on pure meanness.

We were laughed into speaking decent English. When we did things that our parents considered we shouldn’t be doing, they used to ask us, did we really want to be like this girl or that boy? Yes, rank racial discrimination, but it worked. If we fussed over the food, we were made to eat what was on offer or allowed to go hungry. If we talked in the car while my father negotiated traffic, we got yelled at worse than the other drivers who were getting on my father’s nerves. We had to do things because we were told to, none of that explanatory business for us. Everything was always our fault, no matter how many other kids were involved. I spent an entire childhood convinced that my parents were selfish, cruel and unjust people. They were, of course. But they also got me to acknowledge to myself (if to nobody else) the consequences of my actions.

When I see all these kids running riot, I wonder what their parents are thinking. They (the parents) were probably brought up as strictly as I was, and I suppose they want their children’s youths to be different. But letting your children grow up thinking it’s a fair world is in itself not preparing them for the hardships they will face.

I know, I’m not a parent (yet!) and perhaps you think I’m in no position to talk. But I’d rather be mean to my kids and bring them up to obey their elders than to have them dictating terms to me at the age of seven.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Star is Being Born Only

Well, folks, only 6 more days to go. Delivery's scheduled for Monday, 25th September, at 10 a.m. (subject to change depending on my doc's fancy.) We will be at K. D. Cure Nursing-Home, Jodhpur Park, and not EEDF. If you go down the Post Office lane from Dhakuria, take the first right, and then the second left after that.

What with one thing and another, I didn't get around to mentioning that F is attaining fame and fortune (well, one out of two isn't too bad) rather early in life. Our baby is participating in Intro, Kanti's new play, starting on Wednesday.

From the 20th to the 24th of September, you can go and see the wonder that will be F, twice daily, at 6 and 8 p.m., at Uma Art Gallery, Kolkata. Tickets will cost you Rs. 30, from the venue or at the British Council. Cheap at the price, if you ask me.

Apart from my star mom shill talk, I'd still urge you to go check it out. I haven't seen any form of the production so far, but I do know the people who have created it, and to my mind, that's recommendation enough. And Uma's easy to find. It's on your left on Lansdowne, near Lansdowne Towers, just before you reach Minto Park.

Rimi has more about the play here.

(Kanti, you may pay me by cheque please, made out to my ICICI bank account.)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Fidgety Fudge – Unity in Diversity

As you might remember, a certain small baby was given the name of Fidgety Fudge as a working title until another, more appropriate name could be bestowed. That was soon shortened to Fudge, or more popularly Fidgety, by my parents, uncles and aunts. In this blog, which is generally noted for its cleanliness and wholesomeness of language and content (well, more or less), I cut the F-word down even more ruthlessly and used only the alphabet F.

This afternoon my parents had fun over the telephone figuring out what their precious grandchild that will be, will be called if we live in:

Maharashtra – Fidgeya

Bihar – Fidguwa

Uttar Pradesh – Fidgetylal

Rajasthan – Fidgetyram

Tamil Nadu – S. Fidgeyanan (S. for father’s name, of course)

Andhra Pradesh – Sai Fidgety Srinivas (No AP name is really complete without a Sai and a Srinivas in it, trust me.)

West Bengal – Pheeju, but of course

and Pheejeya in Bangladesh

I petulantly declared that I rather fancied calling my child by a Muslim name. My pet name (one of the two) is Arabic in origin and anyway, I like the sound of most Muslim names. My father, not to be outdone, called back in a couple of minutes and announced that I could call the baby Fiza Ali.



Since then, it struck my parents that they will be having a granddaughter. (It's a battle of wills between me and the rest of the world. Everybody wants a girl, so I've decided the baby's a boy. Won't they look stupid on the 25th, hah!) So anyway, my father sent me the list, edited. The bits in blue are for the girl, of course. Including the names contributed by you guys, here it is:

Maharashtra - Fidgeya - Fijibai

Bihar - Fidguwa - agey Phiji gey

Uttar Pradesh - Fidgetylal - Fiju Khatun (All UPites are Muslim)

Rajasthan - Fidgetyram - Fidgeshwari Devi

Tamil Nadu - S. Fidgeyanan (S. for father's name, of course) - K. S. Fijulakshmi (K for Kolkata, i.e. place of birth)

Andhra Pradesh - Sai Fidgety Srinivas (No AP name is really complete without a Sai and a Srinivas in it, trust me.) - Satya Sai Fidgika

West Bengal - Pheeju, but of course - Pheejoo

and Pheejeya in Bangladesh - Haramjadi (All girls are thus addressed)

Readers' contributions:

In Gujju land it would have been Fidgesh Shah - Phijuben Suratwali

in AP would be A.V.S.K.P.Fidgugaru - Satya Sai Fidgika, BE (Comp Sc)

And in Punjab, it would be Fidginder Singh AKA Fijjy - Gurfidge Kaur

N.B. All political incorrectness is from my father. Me, I'm usually far more diplomatic, but I didn't want to edit his comments here. Take it in the spirit it's meant.

Oh yes, and since I bet you're wondering, I was and still am usually called haramjadi. Occasionally bojjat maagi. When he's mad at me, or upset at my various negative points, he usually calls me by the names of his sisters. Go figure.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Knitting Up the Ravell'd Sleave of Care (or Something Like That)

Yesterday was a Tired Day, today even more so. And last night, after a couple of nights of being a good little baby, F decided to remind me that motherhood is going to be one long, miserable series of broken nights. I was kicked around till well past 2 a.m.

Anyway, what with one thing and another, I completely empathise with Andy for once!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

…That Baby’s Got New Clothes

Spoke to Aunty Hy this morning to see if she’s still in touch with the lady who was making and embroidering new-borns’ clothes when I helped Aunty out at the Loreto fĂȘte last year. Good news is, now Aunty’s getting them tailored herself, and she offered to fit out F with all kinds of things. So V and I are to go to her place this weekend and see what exactly she has in mind.

Which brings me to the superstition… My mother, after a lifetime of being a fairly sane if pig-headed lady, turned all weirdly superstitious last year. The wedding-planner (diary) could only be written in in red. (If you didn’t have a red pen/pencil/marker, you wrote on a piece of paper and stuffed it in the pages till the red thingie could be found.) The wedding could not be on a Saturday or a Thursday or on any day at all, seemingly. We could not travel during poush maash (mid-Dec. to mid-Jan. – which is when we did eventually travel, thanks to my beautifully timed stint of typhoid, hah!) Stuff like that.

And now it’s all spilling out again over the baby. She almost did something to me in the fifth month (I forget what you call that ceremony) but I was in bed and couldn’t have ceremonies done to me. Then she fluttered around trying to give me a shaad, but a dida put a stop to that, saying, “Don’t tire the poor girl out, she’s having a tough time anyway. Do whatever you want after the birth.” Good, because the very idea of having more than two or three people fussing around me is tiring in itself. And then, she wouldn’t allow me to ask the ultrasound doc whether F’s a boy or a girl. Now I ask you, how can I curse with any degree of fluency if I don’t even know what I’m cursing???

The one superstition everybody’s agreed upon though is the one where you don’t prepare for the baby. Everybody sorta (metaphorically) puts their hands in their pockets and whistles airily and claims not to know that a baby’s on the way and will need embroidered blankets, and wee dresses, and booties, and things. I felt very deprived, I can tell you. But everybody works around superstitions, I find. Ma’s been sneakily stocking up on old cotton sarees (for nappies, Wishful). Cousin J started college this year and got some new shirts tailored for that. Her mother ensured that half a metre was cut from every bit of cloth; she’s not actually making any dresses, of course, but she’s all set and ready to go when the dresses need making.

Ma and I have come to an agreement: I can plan whatever I like with Aunty Hy, so long as I don’t tell her I’m doing it. Because, you know, if she doesn’t know about it, it’s not happening.

Mothers!

(I don’t have a daughter yet but I can hardly wait to drive my own up the wall… *nasty smile*)

P.S.

That doesn’t mean F’s a girl. Everybody wants it to be, including V and all my friends-and-relations, so, if my contrariwise genes hold out, F’ll be a boy. Hah!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Experiences of Us Muchly-Marrieds

Rimi’s latest post amused me enough to post back in response. For one thing, I’ve got far too much to say to stuff into any poor little Comments box. For another, I disagree with as much as I agree. So read on, and don’t forget to check out the original, because I’ve only posted extracts here.


****

Practical Problems of Potential Young Brides
vs.
Experiences of Us Muchly-Marrieds

Life, ladies, is tough. Tradition demands you be pretty and he be rich, citizenship preferably marked in green. If you’re not pretty, buzz off. We do only the class act here.

I'm not pretty and V's not rich. We couldn't even make 'pretty rich' despite combining in a joint venture. And even in ‘love marriages’ everybody has an opinion. Comes down to the same thing. Nobody’s ever really happy with the chosen young man. (That’s till he becomes the jamai – the change only takes an hour, dammit – and then your entire family spoils him silly, be he rich or not.)

A quick surreptitious recon of the family and a few direct questions about banking details seems to please the older folks enough. Which just goes to show how little they know.

Which is why so many of them are (secretly) happy these days at kids deciding on own partners. The responsibility, thank heaven, is not theirs.

Take mothers-in-law.

You can have mine. She has her points. And she wants a daughter-in-law who will live with her.

And let's not even get into the rest of the new family. I mean, haven't you seen enough Ekta Kapoor to know what I’m talking about?

Ah, but having married into a family huge enough to satisfy even Ekta Kapoor, what I learned very quickly was that in larger families fewer people pry. Not speaking in terms of percentages even, but in actual numbers. In my own comparatively smaller family, everybody feels lost if they don't know each others' businesses.

And so, thanks to the new cool mums-in-law, there’s this new trouble. Like it or not, you have the cares of a household landing *smack* on your shoulders. And you know how it is...

If you don't, you can always ask V. When the two of us set up household in April, I knew how to make rice and tea. For dal I had to consult the cookbook. Luckily though, I did know enough about running a household to buy the washing-machine and microwave even before I got the gas connection. With a washing-machine, a microwave, an electric kettle and some optimism, you can defy the world. For a while at least.

I’m, like most, an only child. Spoilt silly, as everybody unfailingly tells me. Sure, we’ll tell people I'm an old hand at the housewifely arts – but shall deftly overlook to mention small details like the relative lethality of my dals and the charred designs on my rotis.

*Huge grin* When my relatives ever got around to showing me off, they had to fall back on an average academic career and unspecified extra-curricular activities. I even heard an aunt say in resignation one day, "O onek kichhu kore beraye. Ki shob natok kore, shunechhi. Kagoje-o lekhe naki. Khub independent to."

[“She goes around doing a lot of things. Does some kind of theatre, I’ve heard. Writes in the papers too, I believe. She’s very independent, na.”]

Which, if you realise, is damning very effectively with faint praise. Particularly in the marriage mart, where independence is just not a substitute for fair skin. Especially not to mothers-in-law, no matter how much she might want you to live with her.

Speaking of tarts, dammit to hell, you're supposed to glide along life wrapped in stunning belly-button baring saris now, aren't you? Because whatever it is people say, sweetie, if you stick to those knee-length skirts and frayed jeans even after you're married, be ready for more than just a dozen raised eyebrows a week. And disapproving glances and corrective phonecalls from chiefly feminine moral tsk-tskers. I mean, hello, did you not read that paragraph about our culture and stuff? Us spoilt only daughters of permissable households, I tell you.

Allow me to (gently) point out that you spoilt only daughters of permissive households are not the only knots in the fabric of our great traditional society. Us spoilt daughters (with siblings) whose permissive mothers actually buy *shudder* skirts for our trousseaus take our place proudly alongside you in offering fashionably – and more importantly, comfortably – dressed targets to the moral police.

Which brings us to the feminist dilemma: to change or not to change the (last) name. First, you can make up for the embarrasment of marrying young (“but he was too good to let go!”) by retaining your own name. Making a statement, as it were. Second, he might actually have a surname that compliments your name better than your own. In which case you might just invest a little in stamp papers and sound prettier for the rest of your life.

Or perhaps your Rs are prettier than your Ns, and therefore, in the interests of good handwriting, not to mention having no wish to go running to the various government offices to have your name change recorded on your driving license, your passport and your voter id, you choose to retain your Roy over the Niyogy. This usually complicates matters at some point when well-wishers who only know you, and only met you after your marriage at that, call your husband Mr. YourSurname. I have yet to meet a man who sees the funny side of this. Ironic, na?

What about the being fruitful and multiplying angle, though? Is he... um, your kind afterall, or should you conceive quickly and turn the marriage into that kind of a relationship?

I do believe “that kind of a relationship” went out with our parents generation. All married people I know are either on contraceptives, trying to conceive or getting it on with somebody else. But sex is all around.

Decisions, decisions.
Singlehood suddenly looking a lot better, isn't it darlings?

Notabit. Try living by yourself, not with your parents/cat/dog, but solely with yourself. Then the prospect of having another human being sharing your space, however remotely and however occasionally, does get brighter.

And we haven't yet gotten to the bits where both of you prefer the same side of the bed, he snores-you're a light sleeper, you hate his dog, you meet his single and available drop-dead gorgeous cousin three days after the wedding because he just couldn't make it suring showtime, he keeps forgeting to brush his teeth before bed, his addiction to lesbian por... er, erotica…

That is when you turn to your female relatives and find out the methods they’ve evolved for coping with all these ‘little’ marital bumps. Those nagging aunts and nitpicking grandmothers finally come of use, and you’d be surprised how useful they are, approached right.

Sigh. Still and all, better than being left on the shelf – to borrow a phrase from decades past – I suppose. This way at least you have a whole new family to bitch about. We offer our thanks for small mercies, amen.

And also this: once you’ve become onyo bari’r bou, you really can treat your own family just as you like. They actually won’t have that old hold over you any more. You can finally tell them to go to hell and best of all – your parents can’t/won’t force you to take it back.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

A Charulata Episode

I felt a bit like Charulata this afternoon. I was sitting on my bed, trying to finish my lunch. V had gone to see about the security system for Ally-the-car, and I was alone at home. Suddenly I heard the drum of the monkey-man and went to the window. As I watched the man and his monkeys turn into the lane in front of ours, I suddenly realized that that famous first scene of Charulata hadn’t been much different. I was looking out, not exactly through wooden shutters – although our windows do have them – but over a lace half-curtain; I didn’t use opera glasses either: we live on the ground floor and the only thing between my window and the lane is our verandah – but that sense of being utterly alone on a hot afternoon was strong.

The man stopped just in front of my house to chat with a young girl from one of our neighbouring windows. I couldn’t hear all that was said, but eventually she came out, and shyly asked him to come by on another day, because she wanted to see the monkeys dance. They were rather cute, too. There were two adults, a male and a female, and a baby. The entourage had halted because the young one seemed hungry and didn’t want to let the mother walk. Anyway, while the man and the girl were talking, it suddenly started pouring with rain. They took shelter under the roof of a garage in front of my verandah, but there were all these ants bothering the monkeys. So I called them to at least sit out the downpour in my verandah.

Made some tea for the man and myself, but I don’t think he had any of it. I saw him pour most of it into a saucer for the monkeys. For that matter, I didn’t know monkeys have tea. He wouldn’t take anything else though, either for himself or for them. The baby tried to get into the flat from under my feet, but since the mother showed no signs of following him there, he changed his mind.

Sometimes, loneliness is alleviated in the most unexpected ways.

V called in between, and asked me to take a picture, so here they are:

Friday, September 01, 2006

Of Confidantes, A Compliment and An Invitation

Laura, her boyfriend and Nunu came over today. Despite her phallic nickname, N is actually all woman. A scrappy sort, but feminine with it. We chatted for a few hours; now that she’s gone, I know what I really miss here in Cal: a woman buddy. The girl I’m closest to is far too busy to have much time for socializing, particularly since I can’t hop out and meet her places, and my other confidante has gone far, far away. *Sniff* (That’s because I’m yawning, mind. No other reason.)

Seriously though, the nicest part about chatting with N was the fact that she’s the only one of my friends who has actually got married, and therefore understands the stuff I say. I mean, when I crib about V, and moan about relatives, and worry about the housekeeping, it’s so very easy for my single friends to block it out and tell themselves that I’ve gone “all domesticated”. Maybe I have, but this is as real a world to me right now as their jobs and pubbing is to them. What I resent the most though is a certain assumption on of their parts that, since they don’t understand my world, I wouldn’t understand theirs. Silly mutts.

I really miss having girlfriends around. V does what he can, and he does it very well too (yep, we aren’t fighting at the moment) but some things men just don’t get. He doesn’t understand the importance of having new clothes even though I’ll probably be spending my Puja at the nursing-home. Nor does he ever feel the need to just sit and chat with me mindlessly. When we’ve got things to discuss, yes, but some nights, my greatest confidences have been greeted with a snore. It is a mark of how greatly I’ve mellowed that I do not poke him awake in indignation any more.

My nit-picking earned that sloppy Joe I married a compliment today. Laura walked into our flat, looked around and said, “Wow Sunny, this is the neatest room of a pregnant woman I ever saw.” It’s true that V does the picking up, but he certainly wouldn’t bother if I didn’t nag him into it.

...

Oh, and to answer everybody’s question:

The baby is due sometime around 24th, 25th September. The delivery’s been brought forward a month because my doctor does not wish to risk an emergency during the Puja chaos.

We’ll be at EEDF, Jodhpur Park, so if you’re in Calcutta, come visit.