Friday, June 29, 2012

I just found an old address book

Back in school and for a couple of years in Uni I used to note down addresses and phone numbers in little address books.

Under 'V' I found an old, familiar phone listed as belonging to "Darling Vicky". Clearly I had it bad.

Monday, June 25, 2012

'Homes' for Pyrta

I wrote this piece for the Winter 2010 issue of Pyrta, run by the admirable Janice Pariat. Cross-posting at last!


The other day the husband and I had (mild) words over the person he had married. He thought he was marrying a Bengali girl from Calcutta; I thought he knew he was marrying into the Coromandel Coast. I have lived for more than two-thirds of my life in Calcutta, all in all, but what with having a home in Vizag and another home in Madras, not to mention many friends and a cousin in Bangalore, I feel a pull to the south that that you would have be Southie to understand. It's not at all the same as the liking and interest I have for Bombay or Delhi. Those to me are places I would not mind living in -- those are places that I love to visit -- but Hyderabad, Vizag, Madras and to a lesser extent Bangalore are all homes already to me.

This fractured concept of a home is something that requires coming to terms with. After all, if a place is home you tend to adopt its prejudices however subconsciously. This can lead to several problems. Let me outline two from my own experience of growing up in Vizag when it was still a sleepy small town:

1. You are never very sure where you really belong. Do you belong to the Bengalis and their cuisine (which you love) and their language (which you speak hesitantly) and their cultural mores (which only occasionally make sense to you)? Or do you belong to these Telugus and their cuisine (which you love) and their language (which you speak hesitantly) and their cultural mores (which only occasionally make sense to you)? Life is further complicated by the regional parochialism which dictates that the Telugus poke fun at the Bengalis and the Bengalis lump them all as "Madraji" and refuse to take the barbarians seriously. Think about it. When the jokes are flying around, who do you laugh with? And more importantly, who do you poke fun at?

2. As I said, you tend to pick up the prejudices of the people you have adopted, which can cause major internal complications when your father shifts jobs and suddenly your base shifts to Madras. After all, as every self-respecting Telugu girl knows, these Tamilians are good for nothing apart from a wholly misplaced sense of pride. To further confuse the issue, I fell in love with Madras at first sight. The beautiful little Victoria Hall next to the pretty Central Station, the wide beachfront, the old-world courtesy, the delicious cuisines, what was not to love?

For fifteen odd years I had to shift homes over and over. I hated Secunderabad when we moved there when I was ten and I hated Vizag when we moved there two years later. By the time we moved to Madras though I had learnt that each move brought along new peoples and places I was certain to enjoy and that each new home would shape me irrevocably. So even though I didn't rate Calcutta too highly when I moved back here, I tried to give it the benefit of the doubt. And sure enough, the easy public transport, the food (oh my goodness, the food!), the people and University life stamped their imprint on to me. So much so that now when I try to understand who I am and where I am from, the answers are never easy.

Do I belong to Bengal because my husband and son are Calcutta born and Calcutta bred? Do I belong to Vizag because I find myself slipping into Telugu when I get off the train at Waltair Station? Do I belong to Madras because I miss it so heartbrokenly now that my parents no longer live there? Or do I belong to Secunderabad because two of the happiest years of my life were spent there? My family members don't make the job easier because my mother grew up in Pune and my father considers himself a Bihari at heart. My brother probably watches movies in Telugu more than in any other language. It is this merry medley that I try to explain to the husband, that I tell him that he married. This happy jumble of people and places that I try to keep alive even as I sink deeper and deeper into the Calcutta life... this tolerance for strange speeches and foreign foods that I want to share with our son. The husband, though, maintains that I am Bengali by birth. He rubs insult into my Ghoti injury by pointing out that I'm Bangal by marriage. Arguments like these made me serve him pongal with sambar last night. That will teach him.

Sunayana Roy lives in Calcutta with her husband and son. She has been a columnist at The Statesman (Voices), a professional actress (over Skype), a freelance writer, an SEO optimiser (for 3 months only) and an advertising professional. She fights an addiction to parentheses while she contemplates the next step.

Friday, June 22, 2012


I think you should all bow down to me for spelling that title right the first time. I'm not the world's best speller and it's a difficult one anyway. But back to our miscellany:

1. Go wish our favourite blogger-activist-novelist -- it's Kiran's birthday today.

2. Take a moment to savour the monsoons. May has passed, thank heavens, and though it is still occasionally quite hot, at least now I can sleep at night.

3. Rahul spent two weeks in Delhi and one more week with Giga (my Mejopishi) in Cal and now he no longer wants to live with us. Now why does this feel like karma coming back to bite me in the bum?

4. School has begun and I'm working again. Life is almost back into its old routine, but not quite. Somehow, I can't fit into that rut just yet. Maybe a little later.

5. I've been re-reading my Maugham short stories. I was never a particular fan of the 20th century short story form but I think I have reached a stage in my life where the dispassionate lack of closure also makes a lot of sense to me. Where the stating of facts, the shrugged acceptance of circumstances no longer bothers my tidy little mind.

6. I've learnt to make chocolate mousse and lemon cheesecake: the latter with my homemade cheese (which sounds more exciting than it was, perhaps).

7. Blank Noise Kolkata is up and about again. I'm evaluating my degree of participation. Having a schoolgoing child who goes to bed by 8 pm makes a lot of activities more complex than I'd expected.

8. My weight has finally become something I simply can no longer afford to ignore... and I'm not even 30. I was prepared to balloon in my 30s but not just yet.

9. Much chaos in the extended family what with a great-aunt's illness, her daughter's surgery, extreme stress, loose talk and estrangement. For not the first time, I wish I lived elsewhere. I love this city but I've been ready to leave it since 1 April 2005.

10. I've been putting together wooden furniture for my dollshouse. I think it's time the house was populated once more. Shejomama brought me an entire set I hunted down online and now I'm painstakingly working on the pieces.

11. I cut my Chhotomama's hair in April. Met Shejomama in May. Will be hopefully partying my youngest cousins (two younger than Rahul) in August. Rahul met the cousin closets to his age, Nirjhar, at a movie last week. His Ennapishi sent him his older cousin's books, cars and dinosaurs. This is a summer of family happenings.

12. An article I read this morning: Why Women Still Can't Have It All

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The answer is blowing in the wind

This post comes from a lot of sources. Music I have been listening to, books that I have been reading, thoughts I have been thinking.

My question is, as a spouse or a committed partner, when do you realise that your significant other (to use a term I don't particularly like) is unhappy? When do you look for the umpteenth time into his face and realise he is this close to shutting himself into the bedroom and not emerging any time soon? When do you see that your wife's hands are shaking and her eyes are blinking back tears faster than they can fall?

Women, I see, live on the edge a lot. They are frustrated because there are not enough hours in the day, not enough patience in the world, not enough money to go around, not enough sex at nights, too many commitments, too many demands, too much pain. Do their husbands notice? Would it all be easier if their men occasionally acknowledged the stress of their days?

So, really, when you look at your partner, do you know if he or she is happy today? If you don't, why don't you?

Friday, June 15, 2012

I don't want to go to school

Says the boy, "I do not like staying away from you and Baba."

That would have touched our hearts if it were not for the fortnight he recently spent away from us in Delhi or that he is spending his evenings, nights and mornings with Giga in Moore Avenue this week.

As it was we burst out laughing in his face. And he joined us.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Other Side

Three months ago I blogged this.

The external circumstances remain much the same but oh, the change in me... it's as if I'm suddenly the person I really, really wanted to be at this age, at this stage.

Rahul has been in Delhi ever since I left him at Mejopishi's, eleven days ago. He returns home tomorrow. These last two-three days he has finally begun to miss us a little. Calls his father and me, has a hundred things we need to listen to right away.

This short time home alone with Vicky has been rather wonderful. He does his thing, I do mine. We've watched a lot of TV together, several movies (Snow White and the Huntsman, Prometheus, A Slight Case of Murder, among others), listened to music and hung out with friends. Mostly we've just relaxed. Like I said, nothing has changed and yet something has switched tracks so that life is more bearable.

I feel relieved. Whoever was in charge of me, whoever took charge, has helped me out of that grief.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

The cup and the lip

Yesterday a woman called me from Johnson & Johnson, asking if I would be comfortable answering a few questions on sanitary napkins.

I told her I don't use them.

For the second time, I heard a telemarketer laugh.

She probably thinks I'm past my menopause or something.

Actually, I use a menstrual cup. E got it for me over a year and a half ago and through trial and error (and a painful bout of infection) I have now reached the stage where I can go through an entire period using only the cup -- provided of course that I have easy access to clean bathrooms.

I was delighted to read this post on the Diva cup at IHM's last year. Not just because I was glad to see women discussing the alternative to sanitary napkins which I personally find quite uncomfortable but also because I hadn't known there was an affordable Indian version.

If you have any questions on The Keeper I'll be happy to answer them as best I can. If you haven't considered a menstrual cup I ask you to do so. They are easier to use than you think and I backed mine up with sanitary napkins until I was comfortable with the concept and usage of cups. A lot less trouble and mess than napkins, I can assure you.

(So, I know the title is rather juvenile. Indulge me.)

Update: Here is another user account.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

It's June

Was it only six months ago that I congratulated myself on how far Vicky and I had come? We had -- have -- because we do deal better today than ever before. I have begun to accept certain things about him even as I continue to protest them:

1. His lack of any tangible support towards any lasting career of mine. I have his permission to work but not much backup.

2. His utter self-centredness when it comes to household matters. Learning to accept this home truth has made every chore and errand that he runs without prompting, a huge bonus.

3. His lack of interest in what I do or who I do it with. It gets lonely in this marriage but yes, it beats having to answer to him for everything I do.

There are other aspects but these will do for now. I list them out because I've really worked on this stuff all this year.

It's been such an uphill climb. Not accepting this stuff about him although that was not easy either, but trying to reach beyond the resentment and, well, some degree of pure hatred, that recent decisions of his incited in me.

Mostly I try to focus on the good things about him. The other day, after I don't know, some years perhaps, I chose to focus on the circumstances under which he and I got together. I suppose I should be grateful to him because if he had not been there I would have been so utterly lost that, well, if you've ever gone through my archives or knew me in those days, you would know that the woman I was to become was almost drowned in the pain of that girl. But he was there. He was my island of calm and strength.

I'll be thirty in a month. One of the things that I think I have explored fairly deeply and need to now discard is neediness. The less I need him the more he appreciates me. The better I hide it the stronger I appear. With me, to do is to eventually be so hopefully my 30s will be enjoyed by a more independent me. I cannot change the circumstances of my life but I have decided that I can choose to be the person I want to be.

Do you know who I want to be? I'm not precisely sure but I'm fairly I will no longer cry and I will no longer beg. If I do, I will remind myself that I owe my future better than that.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about turning 30. This is one of those posts.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Fear of Falling

This year Rahul and I signed up at a nearby swimming pool. It's a bit weird swimming in a place where everybody's swimsuit has skirts and the men and women swim in segregated sections (the women get the raw deal because they only get a third of the pool) but I thought it would be lovely to be swimming again.

It is, but it's also alarming to note the fear of injury. I have been trying running dives since yesterday, just a few, and while mostly they have been successful, every dive has been accompanied by a fear of slipping on the edge of the pool.

As it is I swim like an ungainly aunty in a swimsuit from 15 years and 15 kilos ago. I wheeze my way through 50m lengths and haven't yet done two without stopping. Now I'm too scared to launch into a dive. Where did this fearful body come from and what am I supposed to do with it?

I can pinpoint exactly when the fear entered me. When I was pregnant with Rahul and worried about placenta praevia I started moving slowly and deliberately. Now I worry that Vicky drives too fast (he drove much faster when we were two heedless kids with no thoughts of children of our own) and I worry about slipping down stairs. And I cannot arc my body into the perfect dive.

I used to live for diving. The joy and the ecstasy of cutting a splashless one into still water. Growing unfit sucks.