Saturday, February 20, 2010

Friends?

This popped up in my Google Reader's Shared items this morning.

I've always cribbed about Facebook's and Twitter's terminology - there's got to be a more applicable nomenclature given the nature of these sites, and the people I interact with on them.

The irony
here, however? The two people who shared this post? I have no idea who they are. They somehow follow my Shared items, and so I follow theirs. And Reader tells me the post was shared by "two friends".

Sweet indeed.

NB: I'd forgotten how prolific (by my standards) my blogging becomes just before an exam. And yes, I know I really should be banned from blogging on a Sunday morning.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Empty Vessels

Vulturo writes on Desicritics:
"It is you who voluntarily decides to travel on the crowded bus or train, fully aware of the fact that there is not enough space for everybody, in the first place. The choice of traveling using more expensive means, or buying a car is always open to you."
Seriously? Seriously?
I was actually appreciating the author’s point of view till I got to this paragraph.
My friends call me a feminist, but I tend to disagree with them, because while I do get annoyed when I see women getting the short end of the stick, I don't necessarily believe that we need any extra favours either.
I was lucky enough to be given the car by my father to go travel from Gurgaon to JMC and subsequently South Campus, but there were days when that option wasn't there and I had to take a bus. So yeah, I’ve had my “personal space” invaded more often than I’d like to recall. I’ve done the whole crowded Delhi buses routine, I’ve also done the crowded stampede-in-the-metro routine where my classmate fell on the ground and had people trampled her – I’m pretty sure this guy has never been on the West Delhi-Dwarka metro route. I’ve had guys grope me, I’ve had a guy stick right next to me for the whole journey – the bus was really crowded when I got on and because he was much taller than me and had me backed into a corner, I couldn’t see that he had two feet of empty space behind him till it was too late, the ass.
By the end of those five years, I realised it was preferable to spend two hours taking the longer route via Safdarjung than the much faster and cheaper Dhaula Kuan/highway route, simply because the bus was familiar, and the crowd was safer. So yes, I had that choice to make and I made it, even with exams round the corner and each minute counting as precious time lost.
But then, I’ve been stopped by a guy wearing the fancy watch and driving the big car, asking me in excellent English what my name is because he thought I “looked good”. All a street away from my house, while I was walking home from the market, in a fairly upmarket locality in Gurgaon. In broad daylight. You want me to take the car every time I go to the market?
A lot of people don’t have even those many choices. Scrolling through the comments, I see the author is one of those who is big on making “choices” – walking out of an unhappy marriage, not getting married if you don’t want to, using more expensive means of transport. I envy this guy in some ways, because he has either never faced, or never cared about familial pressures, societal pressures, or any of those concerns that tend to rule our lives. And he is therefore able to sit in his glass castle and pass judgment on the many women in this country who don’t have those choices.
So no, I don’t blame the girl he sat next to one bit for looking at him warily and turning away from him. I say more power to her because she made her discomfort obvious – a lot of girls don’t even have the courage to do that.
Oh and for the record, that whole bullshit about speaking up loudly and embarrassing a guy into backing off? Doesn’t work. Not unless there’s a substantial number of women in the bus. Which, in Haryana Roadways buses, is rarely the case. DTC Bus No. 517, on the other hand, which goes from Aya Nagar to Safdarjung, is highly recommended - both in terms of punctuality and safety. I miss that route.
NB: It's been a long time since I wrote a post that could be given my old label of "feminist rants". The irony, given Vulturo's strong dislike of feminism as a concept, doesn't escape me.
NB2: For that fellow in the comments of that post who talks about "Bra burning feminism" - he would do well to actually read up on the history of feminism. The actual act of bra burning as it's described never happened - it's a myth that's got perpetuated over the centuries.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

When wishes come true

Thamma used to repeatedly ask my parents to do two things: build a house, and gift my brother a dog. She wanted her son to have a roof of his own over his head, and her grandson to have a dog of his own.

I was in my final year of school when my parents decided to go ahead and build a house. On 10th February, 2002, the chhat-dhalai of the house took place - the structure was complete, now only the interiors remained to get started. My parents' dream was close to coming true.

My father reached the site by early morning, and spent the whole day there. My mother, brother and I reached slightly later in the morning, bringing with us mithai for the construction crew etc. Halfway through the morning, Mamma got a call from a vet we occasionally used to ask about getting a pet - he knew someone who just brought home a golden retriever, and was bringing the pup to his clinic. We promptly went down to his clinic to see the tiny one, and immediately fell in love. Turned out the little one had sisters who were also looking for homes. The three of us looked at each other - a female golden retriever? For the past so many years, we had had our hearts set on getting another cocker spaniel, one who would take the place Ruff had left behind him. For some reason, which I have never understood till today, we decided to go for it.

On the way to the house the pups were staying in, we discussed possible names. I won; Lion King was my favourite movie, our dog would be named after Simba's daughter (with a cooler spelling though). On reaching there, my mother looked at the 3 tiny ones, and turned to my brother and me saying she knew which one she wanted, we had to choose. The brother and I looked at each other; he pointed to one and said "that one?", I nodded. We turned to Mamma, who had a grin on her face. For some reason, the princess was ours the second we all saw her.

We brought her home to meet Baba, and so began a love affair that hasn't ended till today - the father remains Kyra's favourite no matter what.

We came home that evening, tired but exhilarated. A house and a dog, what more could one want? Mamma refused to cook, I was asked to order Chinese for dinner. Just as I got through to the restaurant, I heard my dad calling my mum urgently. The news had just come in; on the day her two wishes came true, but before she could even find out, Thamma had passed away.

I never know how to feel on 10th February every year.

On a far more cheerful note, 10th February is also the heppy burday of the fantabulous Puneet, who blogs here and here, and tweets here. If you haven't been following these, I really don't know what you've been doing. Go wish her! And then follow her!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Oh Calcutta!

When friends, particularly non-Bengali ones, visit Calcutta, I'm usually filled with feelings of jealousy. But when they come back with tales of Park Street, the best continental or Italian restaurants in the city, partying nights, or having luchi-aloo at Oh Calcutta (!!), I invariably feel like they're talking of a city I've never been to.

In all the years I've been to Calcutta, I've visited Park Street exactly twice, and the promised visit to Flurry's has never yet happened. Calcutta for me has always been about relatives and my mother's college haunts. Visits there tend to get restricted to the same beloved places.

It's about the pavements of Gariahat and the maze that is New Market. The Sardarji at the purse shop who always smiles in recognition when he sees the mother, remembering vociferous arguments and long-drawn negotiations in the years gone by. The rolls at Bedouins, the jhal-muri at Nandan. Convincing my Mam, my grandmother, to skip cooking a heavy Bengali meal for one day at least so we can take her to the Chinese shop at the corner - which we enjoy far more than any 5-star restaurant my uncle wants to take us to; I get that from her. Strolls down College Street, and cutlets at Coffee House. The tram rides where my uncle insists I sit in the Ladies section of the compartment, away from him and the brother - even though we three are the only passengers in the compartment. Riding the metro to Esplanade simply to ride up the escalator and come down again - it was the only station with an escalator in those days. Stopping to pick up Ujjaler chanachur on the way to the airport or the station, with the father looking grimly at his watch.

Visiting my mother's numerous relatives, all of whom exclaim how much I look like their niece - even though my mirror tells me I take after my father. Speaking on the phone with the numerous relatives I haven't been able to meet - and hearing in great detail every ailment they and their spouses have had in the past year. Hearing my grandmother's neighbours yell at each other from corner of their house to another - all of which can be heard through the open walls between the two houses. Going to her neighbour's house to visit Doctor Dadu and Didu - the elderly couple who've been in that house for as long as I can remember and who always manage to make me feel so loved, even though there is no blood connection between us.

I love Calcutta, I do. But more than four days there, and I'm yearning to get away from all the questions. But those four days are usually a little piece of heaven.

Mam moved last year from the tiny little house she's lived in for nearly three decades to a high-rise building. I haven't visited her there yet, and in some ways I'm dreading it. Calcutta with no music coming in from the neighbour's houses in the morning and the evening? What is that like?

[PS: This post has also been posted over at Desicritics.]