Tuesday, March 11, 2008

It was a packed week, all last week. I don't remember much of it now but I do remember the weekend. Friday evening The Bhablet went to visit Giga and her daughter Cousin J; I went to scout around New Market for the Blank Noise Women's Day intervention; Vicky went to Dum Dum to meet a junior of my father's, who was flying through Cal and had brought us some stuff from my parents in Madras.

V and I met up at New Market afterwards, and we drove down to Giga's to pick The Bhablet up. It was a pleasant if tiring evening and I enjoyed wandering around Lindsay Street that extra hour while waiting for Vicky. Picked up some chicken patties from Nahoum's. I love New Market.

Saturday was a little crazy. Did all the housework, cooking and ran to do a Calcutta Walk. That started late and I had to hurry it up, which was most unsatisfactory if you ask me, because the Blank Noise shindig was to start at 5.30 p.m. It didn't start bang on the hour, but it wasn't too late. The idea was no longer "I didn't ask for it"; we've now moved forward to the more emphatic "I never 'ask for it'."

Some dozen of us wore white stickers across our bodies saying "I never 'ask for it'." and stood around in front of New Empire movie theatre distributing pamphlets detailing eve-teasing and its implications. We also handed out copies of testimonials of street sexual harassment and stickers to those who wished to join us. It's a stylized mode of handing out these things, because one stands confident and tall, chest out, feet planted firmly into the ground. You hold out a folded testimonial or pamphlet with a warm smile, to men and women alike. You learn to smile at strange men, to be comfortable just standing around doing 'nothing', to own the surroundings instead of letting the surroundings dictate their terms to you. And with your fellow BNP member far enough away to not hear you if you call out, it's not exactly safety in numbers that you take refuge in, but your own self confidence.

It was less exhilarating than the last intervention (the first in our city) and less complicated, but this time we didn't have Jasmeen around to guide us and I guess we didn't manage too badly.

The idea was to do this wearing clothes in which you had been harassed. I wore the t-shirt and rolled up jeans I had worn in B'lore last month. Funnily enough, I was not the slightest bit uncomfortable and in fact forgot that I was wearing these clothes for a specific reason. I can remember the days when I stuffed clothes I had been wearing when hassled into the back of my wardrobe, even though the t-shirt had been a favourite of mine. I think my current unconcern is less a matter of de-sensitisation and more a result of my age. I'm currently very comfortable in my skin and it shows. It shows in my walk, in my careless necklines, in the bra-straps which peep out now and then, in the skirts I've been buying (as opposed to the more utilitarian trousers). I was bolder in Uni, but with a sense of doing something bold. Nowadays I dress to suit myself. If I feel bold enough to handle stares I go with one look. If I'm too lazy to look the hot mama I go with with the other. It does mean I dress with less care than I used to, but now my clothes are more about me than themselves, if that makes sense?

The intervention itself was interesting. Vicky and The Bhablet came late. Imagine, if you wish, a Sue looking pretty much like any other girl around right then, handing out pamphlets with a polite smile. You know how to take that. Imagine her, looking the same, smiling the same, still handing them out, with a Bhablet perched on her hips. How would you take that?

The people in front of New Empire didn't know how to take that either.

There were a couple of transsexuals who took a sticker and stood around for a bit. Pleasant, well spoken. So different from the hijras who came calling a few days after we returned from Madras. They came around noon, just as I was putting R in his cot for his nap. They knew the man of the household would be at work and rang the bell in an extremely impertinent way. I thought it was V (who else would ring the bell so?) and opened the door. The spyhole was blocked. Then these two hijras barged in. There were four of them in all; two were fairly well spoken and polite; one was rude verging on nasty; one was out looking for trouble and ready to make some in its absence. The bitch.

I was upset at the way they shoved the door into face, tried to walk in. At how they had rung the bell. I told them just that. And I told them in no uncertain terms that they would not get a paise from me after such behaviour. In any case, why would I pay for a child nearly a year and a half old? Our apartment block has a flat on each floor (it's a small place) and a common door on the ground floor which is supposed to be locked but is kept open in the morning for the convenience of the people downstairs. They had barged in and asked where the family with the child was, downstairs, and had been directed upstairs. I was so upset, I called up our downstairs neighbour and told her to please take them away.

They were hard to get rid of, but eventually, managed to figure out that I meant what I said and that upsetting me would not only not get them any money but might just get them into some trouble. So they left, the quieter two first, then the less nasty one. The nastiest stuck around for some more time, bent on insulting me since she could not get money out of me. I listened carefully, but didn't hear anything I hadn't heard in all my years in Uni already. A little disappointing, really. She touched on my sexual relations with my father, those with my husband, how V would actually prefer her (he would?), how women like me, sorry, prostitutes like me, litter the streets yadda yadda. I was angry and terrified in equal parts, but when she was ranting and alone, I was mostly a little sorry for her. Whatever she says, I'm still the one in the pretty home with a husband and son. I'm the one in the nice clothes with food on her table. I guess I cannot afford to get judgmental.

Anyway, back to Blank Noise. We ended the intervention with a ten second blowing of whistles. Such fun! And then trooped into Barista's for cold coffees.

(Hey Ravi, Curls, Arjun, Hemant -- if you're reading this, I never enter a Barista but I think of you guys. Stay well.)

That night Vicky and I went to watch Black and White. My advice? Stay away from it. If you think the Anurag chappie is cute buy his poster, but he's done precious little acting in this film. (Not that he got much chance, although I like the bit in the end where he breaks down and punches a guy dead while hysterically demanding "Tu ne mere behen ko kyun mara?" It's the first bit of real emotion on sees from him and is thus curiously moving.)

Sunday I cleaned and cooked and cleaned and brought out cutlery and linen and stuff for our mini housewarming. It was just a party, actually. I don't like to call it a housewarming because we didn't invite too many people. Gayatri-Andi-Tara came, so did Suhrid-Payal-Li'lpet, Dana and Shuki. If you remember, Li'lpet is his nappy buddy, all of two weeks younger than him, while Tara is three months younger than them both. The Bhablet was happy to see other kids his size, but he hadn't quite bargained for them playing with his toys. Even worse, not returning them to him when he demanded them back.

It was a fun party, I think. Everybody seemed to be in a good mood and very sociable. Dana, Shuki and I squabbled a little over an alphabet puzzle, but hey, we've known each other for a while now, I guess our friendship can take it. The pork sausages from Kalman's went down a treat, there were drinks aplenty (Gayatri, being 7 months pregnant, wasn't drinking and made sure everybody knew how unhappy she was about it. I've promised her a night on the town after her popping day.) Dinner was Chinese from Dim Sum, while I'd made some sticky rice and noodles at home. I'd made rice and Irish stew for the kids and was most gratified that Li'lpet seemed to enjoy her dinner.

The cleaning was painful, both pre and post party. I've been maidless since Friday, having sacked the previous one for reasons I'm too tired to post right now, and all the work is doable, but I haven't been giving myself enough breaks in between. I'm glad I went in for my dinnerware though, and not for disposables, because I think the extra washing up is worth the beauty of dining off porcelain. Maids seem to be hard to find here. I've asked around and drawn blanks everywhere so far. Am hoping something works out soon. Oh well, hopefully all the floor-scrubbing may just help firm up that tummy till then.

Monday evening we went to visit my favourite dida. It was a nice evening, as always. So many more visits due, but we never get any done. By the time V is home, relaxed and ready to go anywhere his son is sleepy. These days, I'm also tired easy, what with so much more physical work. I've got out of the habit, perhaps.

The much delayed Proof cast party is at the Roys' tomorrow evening. I'll don my Supriya look one last time. Those of you who've been wondering at my current Facebook/Orkut photo, that's it. It's not me there, but Supriya. Her of the sharper cheekbones, neatly done hair and narrow scrutiny. Not me.

I guess it's time I got back on.


Mona said...

sue, sue. i love your posts. they're always so engrossing.
personally, i find transexuals intimidating, probably because i've never seen very many of them. i think they can sense that (and the pity!)they prey on me.
in india, for the first time, this year, i held my ground (=did not give her a single rupee!) for the very same reason, disrespect and rudeness, and it worked!
i might be intimidated and might feel really, really bad for them, but atleast i know how to deal with them.

Nisha said...

Loved the post and the Blank Noise episode. I'm uncomfortable around transpeople. Haven't been around them much and they are a little intimidating with their inconsistent attitude. But I do feel bad for them. Esp, like the ones who joined you in the BNP.

Shuki said...

If our friendship couldn't survive a heated squabble over the placement of alphabets, how will it withstand my next production?! We're good :). However, I would like to point out that I think my way of placing the letters was the best...

By the way, if I were to push clothes I've been harassed in to the back of my cupboard, I suspect I'd have no clothes left to wear. Even now, I face some kind of harassment (largely verbal or car-related) every day. Given that Cal is supposed to be a safe(r) city, I have seriously begun wondering if there's something about me thats triggering it off...

Sue said...

Mona -- Aw, flattery will get you everywhere, you know? I felt silly afterwards, because I had been so scared of physical violence. If I had considered, I'd have realised they'd never resort to that because that would lead to trouble for them more than for me.

Nisha -- I don't go around feeling sorry for them normally, but the curses the nasty one hurled at me did make me count my blessings.

Shuki -- Any child would know that there is only one way to do the puzzle, and that's mine.

Maybe you've lost your fuck-off-mister attitude. I had it in spades in Uni but have lost it somewhere since. Or maybe it's Lake Gardens.