Monday, March 31, 2008

V is the kind of rat

... that takes the book he is currently reading off to work with him.

Even though he knows perfectly well that I've got my eye on it and am bound to jump upon it once he's left home.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Ah. So.

Exactly.

I have, as you may have noticed, been away. If you haven't, you should have, and that's all I'm going on to say on that head. Of course, I've been commenting on the odd post and replying to a mail or two, but by and large, I was not, er, available for the last ten days because I was... how do I put it? Sort of suicidal with large doses of homicidal and a strong helping of paranoid thrown in to make it more fun.

Since then, though, the son and heir (to what? My doll collection?) has had a vaccination, plucked a bug out of empty air while his system was low, and is still quite sick. (I'm sorry, Dipali, I really haven't been taking in calls in a while, except from my mum, to whine about life in general. Was not up to levels necessary for polite society.) So what with all this -- and work, because I do work, remember? -- I've been a little out of it.

It's all been too much. No maid, V being of sporadic use in the household, a cranky/whiny/feverish Bhablet, me having picked up a milder version of the bug. This morning I was this close to ending it all. Not that I'm sure how one does that, because I sure as hell ain't slitting my wrists, no thank you, it hurts! But you know what I mean, I'm sure. V is of immense help when he wants to be; catch being he hasn't wanted, until these last two days.

Anyway, what with late night fantasies over wet dream songs on the FM -- excuse me, The Bhablet's up -- he's asleep, but now I've lost the thread. Whatever. Wasn't very important. I'm in a flippant sort of mood. I was desperately down last week and eventually texted E for help. Her reply's been sinking in all day. She's right, and is saying the sort of thing I'd say in her place. But the life I'm living is, well, the life I'm living. So I take the apologies in the form they come. Not the form I hoped they'd be, but then, nor was my acceptance as I'd hoped it to be. Probably it wasn't the way V wanted it to be either. Are things back to normal between us? Well, no, not entirely, but at least you can live in the flat now. The way things were, either he or I was running away as soon as we could.

Life's a bitch, some weeks. The fuckingest bitch except that there isn't any of that either.

In all this, the feeling I've had since Feb is growing stronger. I turn to Rahul in my moments of need. That is, trying to give him the most 'normal' atmosphere I can often helps me calm down and do what I should instead of what I want to do (i.e. murder his father). And he, he can be such a very special child. I had a bad attack of the baby blues after he was born. I think it was a carry on of the pregnancy depression and it stayed for months. Back then, when I would feed him and sit there softly crying out of sheer misery, he, tiny, wee Bhablet that he was, would stop feeding, look up at me; sometimes he'd brush me with his fists; he often smiled at me, or put out a hand and it was such a comforting thing. I'm talking of a two-month baby here. But he was old enough to know that when somebody is sad, you comfort them first and everything else can follow. He's done it ever since. As he grew older he'd try to ignore my tears, but he would stay by my side, try not to leave me alone. In turn, I realised that I was upsetting him, so I tried to cry less.

On Tuesday morning, things being especially rocky between Vicky and me, I was standing helplessly by the doorway wondering what to do when two little hands -- such strength in them -- came around my legs and I found myself being hugged. I've seen him, a child who cannot sit still for two consecutive seconds, and I'm not exaggerating, sit quietly in V's lap for minutes altogether when V is down.

He's such a little person and I'm so wary of burdening him with my sorrows. I haven't been able to stop the fights in front of him, but I'm trying my hardest to not ever run V down to him. Even when I want to, I really want to, and once or twice I have, I always apologise afterwards and tell him I didn't mean what I said, that I said it in anger. He may be only eighteen months old but I'll bet you whatever you want me to that he understands every word I say. (Chooses to disregard most of it, but he definitely understands it.) Where does he get his wisdom? I don't want him to grow up early and learn to deal with fractious parents. But even as I say that, another part of me says, yes, try to conquer your weaknesses, but we all have the parents we do. My own folks gave me a tough time growing up and I show the scars in my own parenting, but I believe I'm also a richer, tougher, more adaptable person because of it all.

I love him so much, and with this love is a growing respect. It's funny how I'm learning to adapt to living with not just one other person, but two.

In his illness I've taken to doing the one thing I always resisted -- holding him in my arms and walking the floor just to soothe him. He holds me so tight. I feel the strength in his skinny little arms and I return the pressure and pray as deeply as I can for the strength to not ever lean on him, to let him go do what he must, to watch him fall and not stop him even though I can.

This is not a post with a point, you know? Just missed blogging, but hey, all I can talk about it is my son. Such a special little boy. I never say it, but I think he knows I think it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My Favourite Second-Hand Bookseller

I'm in two minds about posting this, so I'd better do it quickly before I remember once more why I don't want to write about this.

Do you know Priya Cinema hall on Rashbehari? Just opposite that, in front of Smile Dental Care (I think) is a man who sells second-hand books. He sells them from a little blue cupboard which has been the same size since I first chanced upon him several years ago, and his collection is eclectic. You don't find the books that you're looking for, but you may just find several that you've given up hunting.

Ma and I almost cleared out his collection of Women's Weeklies (300 odd copies), and I bought some fun sex stuff from there. I can't tell you exactly what else I've picked up from him because they are so varied. You know how it is with these small second-hand shops. The other day I went there after a nearly two years, or perhaps more, come to think of it, and didn't like any of the books, but I came away with huge collection of Bunty-Judy-Debbie-Mandys and some Mills'n'Boons. This time, I told him sternly, I have no space for a lot of books and therefore would like to rent them, please. So we settled on a rate: Rs. 2 a day for the comics, and Rs. 5 a day for the M'n'Bs. And the 55 books are to be returned whenever I deem fit. And he gave The Bhablet a kiddy book (of dolls around the world, with cardboard pages) and refused payment for it. Vicky bought some comics, old Top Cat etc, each for Rs. 5.

Now do you see why I love this man???

He prices his books so well. I (used to) pick up a lot of junk from him, reasoning that I could spend Rs. 10 for a read. I wouldn't have spent Rs. 20 for the same book, but at Rs. 10 it was OK. I was in two minds about writing about him because I don't like to give all my discoveries away, but hey, if it keeps him in business, I'm willing to share.

So yeah, if you like, drop by and see if he has anything for you. His resources are limited, but he's a great guy and I like his way of making a sale.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Yippee it's Saturday!

I've been through one of my depressive phases all week and I think it's lifted at last.

Yippee yay! In addition, awright!

Friday, March 14, 2008

On Scarlett Keeling

I'm sure I don't need to link to her murder and consequent media war.

I'm glad they've found the two men who have confessed.

And ever since the story broke, I've been wondering, what the fuck were the two adults thinking, leaving a fifteen year-old behind with a young, single man in Goa? Or anywhere, for that matter. Call me conservative, but it's not something I understand. nowhere in the world and by that I mean nowhere, would I be comfortable with that.

Letting your fifteen year old go for a night out on the town? Sure, so long as she carries a phone, you know who she's at least starting the night out with and you know (and she knows) when she'd better be back.

Letting her stay back in the hotel, hanging out with friends while you go off sightseeing for the day? OK, but I'd rather not really.

Letting her stay back in a party place with some young local while you're in a separate state???

And having said that, I will also say that no amount of public pillorying or even judicial punishment is necessary for a parent who loses a child thus. Who is told that her daughter had consumed cocaine, alcohol and E; was raped by two men on a public beach; and died lying there unconscious in the high tide. This is the sort of thing every parents lives in dread of hearing and once you've heard it, any other punishment is superfluous and redundant.

On the monkey/maa ki scandal

Me: Even if he did call him a monkey, I mean, what's the big deal?
Baba: What do you mean, it's a huge deal. Any gorilla would be insulted to be called a monkey!

On that note, I lead you to this. If you haven't read it already.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Where the Mind Is Without Fear

Do you remember the poem? We had to recite it during the morning assembly at school. Always thought it was a lot of pompous rubbish.

But you know, people like me, we go through life with a lot of fears. I don't know about you but all my life so far has been about battling my insecurities. V and I fight because I'm insecure. Not, as I mostly argue, because I'm tired. And I do understand this in other people. Maybe I refuse to sympathise, but trust me, I can and do empathise.

This post, before we get side tracked, is not so much about V, though. It's about loneliness and giving up. And fighting your way out to the other side. It's about loneliness cutting so deep that it becomes a physical pain.

Maybe you know what I'm talking about. The person I'm writing this post for, she certainly does. And it hurts me to be so far away, because she's breaking her heart over the distance and the whys of a failed relationship. I couldn't answer her questions but I could be there next to her and show her that she's not alone. Because you know, she's not alone at all. There are so many of us who have watched our lives fall apart because of decisions somebody else took on our behalf, and most of us get back on track. A few, like I, have been lucky enough to find what they were looking for elsewhere. Not what they thought they wanted, but something else which was just what they needed.

This girl, she's fought her battles for a long time now. She's been fighting for years just to have the right to make her own decisions. She has a strong sense of responsibility, you see, so she finds it hard to walk away even from the people who hurt her. Now she's tired. She's too far away from home, too far from me, too far from where she wants to be. The irony here is that she's the one I've always gathered my own strength from. When I went through my own crises, she was too inexperienced to help me out in my particular trials. But it helped me to know that this one friend of mine never judged me, would always be there when I needed her in the middle of the night and would fight my battles for me no matter where the right of it lay. It takes strength to do this, you know, and strength is what defines her.

So when a fighter like her withdraws into herself, what do you do? How can I help? Emails are too vague, phone calls too expensive and anyway, too much remains unsaid.

I've been trying to draw on my own experience. Yes, it hurt to step out of the house, and it hurt to give anybody else the chance to cheer me up -- since the person I wanted to do this was not available -- but working very hard, immersing myself in books, movies, window-shopping helped. The books and movies reminded me of my own loss and made me cry, but the crying would tire me out and send me to sleep. Better than a sleepless night staring at the walls. I didn't want to read self-help stuff or inspirational stuff. Instead, I went back to stories I'd read as a kid. I started out turning pages without really reading them but eventually the old magic sucked me in. I re-read the Anne of Green Gable series and my collection of Louisa May Alcotts. Cried buckets through Rilla of Ingleside (about Anne's youngest daughter and if you haven't read it you should!) and Jo's Boys, but they helped me move on.

Because we all have to move on, that's how it goes. My philosophy is that one should always get something positive out of a relationship. That does not mean dwelling constantly on how great it was, but to ensure that the great stuff that it did to you is retained. So take the extra trouble to put on a little make up, a dab of perfume (not deo). Walk tall, confident that you were adored, that somebody thought you were worth so much. Take pride in being able to make another human being feel that way. Take pride in having made him happy. When the heartache starts, remind yourself that the last thing your lover ever wanted was to see you so low. In short, force yourself to be the person they loved, to see yourself through their eyes. From there it's a short walk out of depression.

I realise what I'm saying might sound pretty stupid. After all, if you're trying to get over somebody, perhaps reminding yourself of what you shared may not be the best way to do it. But I think it depends more on what you remind yourself of. After I broke up with Beq I tried to be the fun, irreverent person he saw me to be. A person I'm not, really, but being that Sue was fun, and I'm glad I carried something away from the years we spent together. Our special language hardly survives, our in-jokes have been forgotten, but the love of dance, of live music, of poetry and of Calcutta streets remain. This way, four years on, I think Beq'n'Sue was a great thing to happen to me. I didn't think this when we parted, but I do now. And I think it's equally great that it ended when it did, because it paved the way for V.

Life, you know, can change any second. You don't know what the next ten minutes will bring. I'm a great believer in balance. I think if I've paid in tears, surely there will come along something good to make up. My son is a case in point. His timing was so bad, it nearly permanently soured my marriage as well as my relationship with V's parents. But the love he gives me keeps me going, trudging past the daily problems. I did pay in tears and continue to do so. But I also receive a certain amount of love and happiness, enough to make it worth my while to keep trying.

This I would not have had, had I given up. Aborted the pregnancy because the timing was wrong. Walked out on Vicky because I'd had enough of his lack of focus. Slit my wrists because I wanted to.

There's always a choice, isn't there? You can do what you feel like doing; or you can force yourself to do what you know you will be proud of ten years later. Maybe this relationship will eventually work out, maybe it never will. Either way I think this girl should carry on with her life. Carry on growing into a person it's a privilege to know. Carry on developing her career, working out her family relationships. Finding new friends and finding new things and people to fall in love with. This way, should her love ever come her way again, she will be a richer person and will have more to give than ever before. And if it doesn't, she won't have lost anything waiting for it to come back. And knowing her as I do, I'll be greatly surprised if somebody else doesn't come along to fill up the hole left behind by her lover. Because to know my friend is to love her, I promise you that.

So, because she reads this blog, I just want her to know that she'll win this fight. Because the fight is not about making the relationship work. The fight is about her being strong enough to see the breakup in context with the rest of her life. She's young and has so much ahead of her. Good and bad. She has stories to tell my grandchildren, stories which only she can tell, now. Now is not the time to give up.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Halp!

I see that Googling "sex with uncle, sex with fathers friend while sleeping" leads one to this post.

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.

Monday, March 10, 2008

I'm happy to have nothing to do with them. I was unhappy while I was around them.

And I don't care that I'm uncool.

I'm glad my husband sleeps with only me.

And, basically, I don't care. Not so much as you'd notice.

Only that I miss the only one idiot I ever really cared a snap of my unsnappable fingers for. The rest of them are so many shades, that's all they are. I will not be seduced by the coolth. Fucking shades.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Privileged?

The Mad Momma has been going through some serious angst of late, of whether a high-end school is worth the rarified atmosphere. Dipali joined in at a tangent with her recollection of a privileged childhood.

And here are my two cents: from the way it felt, I had a very spoilt childhood. I was bought almost all the things I really wanted. We always had plenty to eat (too much, I thought, since I was a picky eater and didn't fancy most of what was on the table). I always had very pretty clothes. My brother and I owned good libraries of our own, apart from the books that the family had. We always had a car around, except for about three years, two in Hyd and a some months in Vizag, when we managed without. I usually had much more pocket money than most students in my class, even though any of them were from better off families. I also had a lot more freedom than any other girl I knew.

But you know, that's only how I saw it. There were plenty of things I didn't know and was too young to perceive. That whatever my parents couldn't afford to buy was either a gift from somebody else, or bought with money gifted to us, or I was tactfully convinced by my parents that it wasn't worth buying. And there were times when they spent a huge part of the family income on something that was very dear to my heart. Only because I craved it, not because I needed it or it was a good investment.

We didn't have plenty to eat. We ate very simple meals, and anything beyond chicken, eggs and the most basic fishes were rare treats. I was (still am) very fond of rice with butter, so difficult times saw us being served meals of just that. Then I thought I was very lucky. Now I know Ma was sighing with relief that the groceries could be stretched a little further.

Most of my nicest clothes were either stitched by my mother (who was a fantastic seamstress even if I say so myself) or put together out of cheaply bought cut pieces into wonderful designs by her and my aunt (Giga). Most people thought all my clothes were sent from relatives abroad. Ma and Giga would send a design to the tailor and Giga would embroider or add a button or two to the finished garment and the end result was a line of pretty dresses that were passed down to several cousins after me. I learnt to sew and embroider when I was seven or so and made my own dolls' clothes, accessories and later, even furniture.

We as a family started buying books only after we left Calcutta when I was nine. For the first time, the four of us came first in the spending of Baba's salary. We made the most of it. But even then, I remember how the new books were rationed by my mother. She would dole out a book per train journey or some such event, making a couple of purchases last me several months. To compensate, Baba used to buy us comics like Tinkle Digest. We were encouraged to borrow from neighbours.

When we lived in Cal, the cars were my grandfather's. (He also bought me my doll collection that I was justifiably proud of.) Baba's first car was our second-hand Fiat Emmy, bought as late as 1995, I think. That's only a dozen years years ago.

I asked for pocket money at the age of eight, and, intimidated by my own daring, named the sum of 25p when my father asked me to set a figure! Luckily for me, he decided to give me Rs. 3 and my brother Rs. 5. It was supposed to be spent on sweets or gifts for friends or saved up for special treats. Eventually it was increased to Rs. 1000 in class XII. I suppose I was naive but it never struck me that the allowance only increased with Baba's earning power. Somehow, our finances or lack thereof had never had a major impact in my life. The only times I was reminded that we had to careful of money was when Ma would go around turning off electric stuff, scolding us for our wastage. It's a habit she has now lost but it's passed on to me and I have environmental reasons to back up my parsimony!

And the freedom? That came with my parents being able to afford the books and the cable connection to open up my mind. Buying the clothes I wanted to wear. Having the security of a family car, should I need to be picked up/rescued from anywhere. It was a battle between my mother's wishes for me and my father's conservative ideas of what a girl should be like. (They both think they lost but I know I won.)

I've been writing "my" and "mine" because I don't know how Dada saw it. The older we get the more I feel that we had very different views of the years we shared. But I think it's all a matter of upbringing. Whether we had more or less, we always had enough to feed a guest, we always bathed with less water (or were asked to), we always saved all our new clothes for Puja, and we always counted the money we spent. This way, I never really knew when Baba got promotions and raises -- they meant precious little to my daily life. It didn't matter that the girls in my class were being bought jewellery and I wasn't -- I knew it was for their dowry and I was proud not to have a hope chest being made for me. If there was one thing my parents agreed upon, it was refusing to see marriage as an end (the end) for me.

Likewise, I learnt to share my pocket money with my friends and happily paid for those who couldn't afford our trips to Baker's Inn. I also learnt to not spend money when the people I was with opted for outings that cost less. My friends came from very different financial backgrounds but we all visited each other without a thought to how the meals, amenities etc. differed home to home.

It wasn't an ideal childhood but it was definitely a democratic one. And this is what I've been trying to say to MM all this while. I did study at one of the two best schools in town but it didn't guarantee anything. Sure, it was a small town, but a good portion of the students in my class came from filthy rich farming families. Nearly all owned land or at least their own home. But we never talked about it and indeed, I didn't even know all this until maybe the last two years of school. Yes, parents themselves are different now, and the kids they bring up may be far more materialistic than I'd like, but I can certainly teach a child of mine that an Xbox is less important than school uniforms and swimming classes. It doesn't matter whether he agrees, because I think in the long run he'd thank me for it, and I can wait for that.

Privilege is a matter of upbringing. I've seen friends of mine, rich beyond anything I can ever aspire to, tied down to their backgrounds, frustrated and unhappy. Their problems were the same as those of others from orthodox families from lower economic strata. And therefore, if privilege is all about what you feel you get rather than what you actually get, I personally think Brat's a very privileged kid. And he's lucky in that he has the kind of privileges that teach him to share his good fortune, to pass it on. He has parents he can take pride in; grandparents who adore him and have a rich history to give him; a comfortable home to bring friends to; and a loving sister to share his childhood. Kids are smart enough to know the value of these privileges, whatever they may say or express to the contrary. The Bhablet runs around strangers with open arms because he is privileged in having a family who think open arms are a good thing and that there is always a little love to be found. He is also privileged in having parents who would fight for his right to ask for love and expect it. An outsider might think his privileges are his expensive clothes and his flatful of toys, but his clothes and toys will not stay with him. Hopefully, this sense of love and security will.

Getting down to brass tacks, when selecting a school, I am thinking of the level of education they provide and how well-behaved their students are. How cheerful or not they seem. What their parents say. That really is all. If I can afford a school that will teach my son well, manners and morals as well as his studies, I'll be happy. I can teach him how to adjust to differently privileged kids, indeed, I consider that my job. Yes, I expect such a school in Cal will probably have mothers I can't identify with, but that's my problem and should have nothing to do with his education.

I guess MM, I owe you one, because I've been agonising over schools for a couple of months now and while my preoccupations are not the same as yours (haven't really gone into them here either) writing this post helped me sort out my own priorities.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Why Don't You Get a Real Job?

My first day at Call Cutta yesterday; turns out, it'll be my only one for the next two weeks. It went off well enough, and I'm wondering what the final script will turn out to be like.

Perhaps I should describe what the project is all about, first, and go on from there. Ok, say you're coming for a show. So you buy a ticket for say, the 4 p.m. show on Saturday. You go to the theatre at 3.45 and by 4 you have been fitted out with a phone (perhaps with a handsfree attached). You've been seated in a specific chair inside a room and asked to wait for your call.

At 4 p.m. you receive a call from one of us actors, and your show begins.

Now, in the first phase, we would introduce ourselves, confirm your identity and start guiding you out of the place you're in. You'd be given precise instructions, have landmarks described to you and told to note certain objects/writing/people/places as you walked. You'd walk down streets, alleys, in and out of houses, ruined theatres and abandoned railway stations and all the while, we'd be spinning a tale. We would tell you about ourselves, and ask about you. We would connect, over things we share and things we don't. It's, incidentally, amazing how much you can have in common halfway across the world.

You know you're talking to an actor in the guise of a call centre worker and some of the stuff I say may be utterly outrageous, but the connection we're building allows us both to laugh over the outrageousness of it all. And if you're a player, you play along and do some acting of your own.

At the end you and I would 'meet', over a video streamed over the internet. Whatever the walk itself has been like, the meeting is invariably a little exciting.

This is how we did it in 2005. First we did it for a couple of months here in Cal (the walks were in an area called Hatibagan in north Calcutta) and then we did it in Berlin.

In the second phase, which is what we're working on now, the Riminis added a twist. (They are the creator-directors of Call Cutta, among other, equally intriguing, psycho-theatrical projects.) They decided to work on the same idea, except that you, the audience, never leave the room. You stay in it for the 50 minutes that the show runs, and you do stuff within the room.

That's about all I'm going to say about it now, because I don't want to spoil the suspense. But yeah, if you're in any of the cities where we perform this year, you should definitely catch a show. I think we're performing in Mannheim, Paris, Zurich, Copenhagen and a few other places I cannot remember right now.

To me, it's a fun job. I can leave when bored and it doesn't reflect badly on my CV; I get paid pretty well although I'll admit that the work can get quite stressful (imagine doing 3 shows almost back to back each night); the hours are flexible (I only work when I can); and it's very interesting.

I bet it beats your nine-to-fiver.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Alphabet According to Sue

Still doing tags... Kiran's the one who stuck this one on me. Achchha, why do all these recent tags have lists? Such long ones too.

A - Available?: Depends on what I'm wanted for. I'm rather pricey like that.

B-Best friend: E. And Beq. V knows me as well as E but he's my husband and therefore harder on me and therefore I refuse to call him a best friend.

C-Cake or Pie?: Oooh, both! With fresh whipped cream.

D-Drink of choice: Water. Not cold but cool.

E-Essential thing used everyday: Soap.

F-Favourite colour: Turquoise. (Stop grinning, Joe!)

G-Gummi bears or worms: Gummi bears.

H-Hometown: Good ol' Cal.

I-Indulgence: Books, clothes, food. In that order. And nice, long, aimless drives.

J-January or February: Feb. Easier to work out what day a certain date will be.

K-Kids and names: 1 male issue. The Bhablet.

L-Life: is challenging, but that's ok.

M-Marriage Anniversary : Jan 22nd, 2006. Damn, I actually had to think for that one.

N-Number of siblings: 1

O-Oranges or apples: Apples

P-Phobias: Lizards, rats, creepy-crawlies. My jewellery falling into toilets.

Q-Quote: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I usually use it from the other perspective and do unto others as I want, and then stay prepared for them to do unto me the same way. If you know what I mean.

R-Reason to smile: A bright, sunny day.

S-Season: Summer, despite the searing heat. Hey, I grew up in the south.

T-Tag three people: Nope. Everybody seems to have done this one already.

U-Unknown fact about me: I'm actually a syndicate. A syndicate which is very snooty about syntax, grammar and punctuation.

V-Vegetable you do not like: It's called potol in Bengali. Patalkai in Telugu. Yuck. And capsicum.

W-Worst habit: I nag.

X-X-rays you have had: Teeth, knees, arm, hand. Can't remember others, but there may well be more.

Y-Your favorite food: Chicken a la Kiev. And phuchka.

Z-Zodiac: Cancer

Only yours left now, Gauri. Unless there's somebody else I've forgotten? Speak now or for ever hold your peace. I mean it.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Object of My Affection

Incidentally, I really did like the movie.

This is another tag that I think Anamika started. Anyway, Tharini tagged me aeons ago.

The tag is to write about some material posession that means a lot to you, as far as I remember. That brings back memories.

I thought long and hard and couldn't come up with any one thing. And then I realised, the 'thing'
that has seen me through the most is a 'person' to me.

Srinivas Teddy was gifted to me for my fourteenth birthday. I've always loved soft toys but was not given any after infancy. So I really like Satyanarayana Aunty's gift. Her youngest son gave me grief over getting a soft toy (he was 17 and I was dumb enough to hero worship him at the time) so I named the teddy after him in revenge. You know, like Mr. Potts in the Six Cousins series.

The name stuck and has stayed that way. My family call him Chinrey Chapta (which means "squashed flat like flattened puffed rice"). Well, he is a little flat I'll admit. And his tail gets squished and disappears into his butt. His bow is no longer the gay rainbow it was. And The Bhablet has taken a couple of bites out of him. But I still love him.

My love for him is not the kind that needs to hug him now and then. I just like knowing he's around because as soon as he is in a place, he makes it home. He's shared a lot of my secrets these last twelve years (well, almost) and has been around during the happiest as well as saddest parts of my life so far.

V understands this, always has. When The Bhablet and I went to spend two months in Madras in 2006 I didn't pack Srinivas because our bags were filled to bursting. He sneaked him in in his own luggage and I was so glad! Funnily enough, Srinivas Teddy didn't quite aprove of V when I decided to marry him. I have a suspicion that the disapproval was rooted in jealousy but we'll never know because he likes him well enough now. And he really likes The Bhablet, even after all the biting.

He's been to a lot of places with me. He went to Singapore in 2005, for one. I like travelling with him. He doesn't take up a lot of space and is most companionable on a long journey. And I don't mind the amused grins of my fellow travellers.

Here he is, with the rest of the bears in our house. (We have others but those are toys.) The big blue one is BB and was gifted to The Bhablet by his godfather at the annaprashan. The little blue one is Chhoto Bhai and was chosen by The Bhablet from Mothercare last week. I find it adorable how he walks around with Chhoto Bhai given that he's never shown much interest in soft toys thus far. The bigger brown bear in Louis, gifted to me by Vicky (although I guess you could say we share him) on our 6 month anniversary. (I also got roses and a dinner. I guess V thinks he's got the romance angle over and done with and need not bother any more.)

And the smaller brown teddy is Srinivas.