Monday, November 07, 2011

Names that We Take

I was passing by Jezebel when this article caught my eye. Now, if you've read me for any length of time you know I retained my maiden name and this has led to confusion, embarassment, complication and chaos at various points. It led to open fury when the people at Survey Building tried to insist that I register with Vicky's family name for my voter ID.

For those however who point out that retaining my father's name is not necessarily better than taking my husband's, I would like to explain something very simple: I consider myself a Roy girl, a daughter of the Roy lineage that has several distinguished men but whose womenfolk I have always felt have far more personality, attitude and influence.

When we have put our minds to it, there is not a lot that we Roy girls have left undone. We have managed extended families, overseas migration, children's tragedies and errant husbands with determination and flair. We do not suffer from any excess modesty, nor are we in the habit of taking any more nonsense than suits us. An ancestress of mine once kept one of India's premier trains waiting for the green flag because she had more important tasks for the station master to perform. Bucking tradition and dispelling myths, I learnt to drive. In Calcutta traffic on Calcutta roads. What is a mere District Magistrate or a Calcutta High Court barrister or an NSTS scholar next to any of this? I would like to see the distinguished menfolk in my family effortlessly maintain a household of no specific size (at any given point in time) and catering to upwards of 20 guests who may or may not drop in unexpectedly at random meals -- on a limited budget. Oh, and we also knit, embroider, write poetry, weave stories, excel at our studies (a Roy Girl topped the Higher Secondary exam (class XII boards) in the generation before mine) and cook to beat pros.

So that is why I call myself Sunayana Roy. When you read me, you read a Roy girl. That's why you enjoy it so much. We may be painful to live with but we are entertaining with it.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

On Beauty

[I think I began to write this one for a competition but felt it was too personal for such a platform. It's unfinished, at any rate.]

This is a post that has been so long in the making that I've already written and re-written it several times over in my head in the last few years. I never did write it down though so let it me give it another shot. It's one of those difficult subjects on which not much of what I write conveys exactly how I feel.

When Rahul was a toddler, outgrowing his toddlerhood to be exact, I remember thinking to myself what a very physical love mine is for this child of mine. Our love is for one another. I love the turn of his head, the way his eyes screw up when he grins -- one of the very few things he has condescended to inherit from me -- his unaristocratic feet, his skinny little arms, his non-existent little butt.

I love the physical aspects of my son as fiercely as I love his temperament and characteristics. I used to think it was part of the maternal package (after all I have always felt a possessiveness over his body, having helped create it within me) but as the years pass and I come to terms with his growing up, I realise my love for his physical little self has very little to do with the actuals. I loved his head when it was covered with baby hair that stood straight up and I loved it when it was covered with loose, silky curls and I love it just as much now that it is cut into short little spikes to help him cope with the summer heat. I loved his arms when they were chubbier and dimpled and bopped me all day and I love them now that they are skinny and hug me fiercely.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Marriage Bonds

[Still rooting through the drafts.]

I was in a sentimental mood last night and took out our wedding album and leafed through the photos.

There are several photographs of my first cousins in a large gang. Five years on it looks extremely unlikely that there ever will be any more such photos ever.

I found all my friends among the crowd, people I had never noticed in these same photographs, and remembered how my father and uncles petted me like a little girl for the last time and how much it meant to me that Dana and Shuktara dressed me for the wedding instead of a professional from a beauty parlour.

There are pictures of me drowsing on Cousin T's shoulder, my arms around Lakshmi, and there is a photo of E keeping an anxious eye on the proceedings. She travelled like a madwoman to get to my wedding and it matters a great deal to me that she was there.

I think there is something about being part of the team at a wedding. It matters to me that these people, my friends and family, came together and worked so hard to pull such a big event off. It matters to me that I have done my bit at my friends' weddings. These are the memories I'm making for myself as much as for the people who I help out.

Signing Off

[Another one from the drafts. Not sure when I wrote it or for what, but I continue to feel the same way!]

Signing an offensive comment or statement off with "peace", "warmth" or a stupid smiley not only makes your comment that much more offensive (because clearly peace, warmth or even shared humour is not your aim), it also makes you look like the kind of loser who cannot defend the statement he/she has just made, and it makes you look like you're the kind of loser who would slink around the edges of the room while a debate was actually on, in real life. If you can't debate face to face, I cannot take the trouble to listen to you online either. I realise that makes me a snob but you are still the loser standing next to internet trolls.

I know, boy do I know, how tempers can run high in an argument. People use unparliamentary language. That is not a problem to me. But trying to take the righteous high ground by signing off with a smiley ("hey look, I was not being all serious and ranty, why are you getting so upset dude?") -- well, that is just pathetic passive-aggressive bullshit. If nobody is calling you out on it that doesn't mean people haven't already stopped taking you seriously.

Peace.
Warmth.

I think if you want to say fuck you you should have the balls to do so.


Note to my regular readers:
Too many people signing off the most inflammatory letters with "peace" (or "warmth" or a smiley) in my life.

Saraswati Pujo 2011

[Just found this in my drafts.]

It's been a day I'd like to remember. Vicky had an early morning online meeting, so he left home shortly after 9. My maid bunked so I washed a lot of dishes and then had to scramble into my saree while he got Rahul dressed. Right after he left Rahul and I went upstairs for the pujo arranged by our neighbours. Two books of Rahul's were taken along to be blessed, although I wonder how pleased Ma Saraswati is with him, considering that he forbade me to participate in the anjali, going so far as to put his hand over my mouth and curtly bid me to be quiet...

We came home, made some wormcakes aka poka pancakes. I tore my pallu on the bedroom door handle. Small tear, but still. I've only worn this saree a couple of times and it happens to be a big favourite. We practised some writing. And then we set out again to Indrani thamma's house. Together with her and thamma (the MIL) we went to #24 (another branch of the Niyogis) for the afternoon.

It was great fun sitting and chatting there.

[I found this much of the post in my drafts. Let me see if I can reconstruct the rest of the day.]

Lunch at #24 was very interesting and not just because I enjoy catching up with family gossip. I've married into a Bangal family, as I've mentioned before, and Dhira jethi has kept many of the old traditions alive. One of these is the "jora ilish" (twin hilsa) lunch for Saraswati Puja. Two large hilsa fishes were ceremoniously decorated and consecrated before being carefully cleaned within a plastic packet (in lieu of a kulo -- no part of the fish is supposed to fall on the ground). They were then cut and cooked in a unique 'oil-free' way: in a big kada Dhira jethi let some kalo jeere splutter in some oil; she then covered the oil+kalo jeere completely with fresh papaya leaves and let the leaves cook. When the leaves had released sufficient water she carefully placed the delicate pieces of fish on the bed of leaves and water, added salt and covered the lot and let it cook. The result was a tender, very light fish curry that was surprisingly delicious. I wrinkled my nose at the initial overwhelming fishy smell but very soon all I cared for was getting as much fish as I could into myself. She served this with her trademark bhuna khichudi, a filling rice-dal combo topped with freshly grated ginger just before being removed from the fire. Delicious.

Vicky joined us from his office for the lunch. He drove us back home.

Dreams

I saw this and grinned. Vicky's never apologised for all the stuff he's done to me in my dreams, but that doesn't stop me vaguely resenting that he doesn't!

Don't feel too sorry for him though because Karma, who likes to balance all things in my life, has ensured that the son gave me a hard time the first half of last night because of whatever it was that I was doing in his dreams.