Monthly Archives: February 2008

I told you so

They wonder why I have such a poor opinion of men

And then they go and prove me right.

Thanks, Neanderthal man, feel free to call me the Abusive Woman. You may never have abused a woman in your life but with this post you’ve given the opposite sex a good chance to call you and your kind,


Idiots!

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The Cad Fad

I’m quite offended by this new Sprite ad. A lot of ads seem to be offending me these days…no, it isn’t because ads have suddenly become offensive, it’s because I’m watching more TV. And being increasingly appalled by what popular culture is shoving down our gullets.

But to come back to the baki-sab-bakwaas drink, the ad features a guy telling his lady love that he must leave. When she asks Juliet-like why he has to go so early, he replies,

I’ve a date with my other girlfriend.

*Giggle giggle at boyfriend’s mischieviousness*

Cut to boyfriend sliding into seat facing girlfriend no.2 who inquires pettishly, why he’s late. And he drawls,

Had a date with my other girlfriend.

*Giggle giggle at boyfriend’s mischieviousness*

Underline the “At least I’m honest!!” line along with the standard all-else-is-crap funda. Ting tong.

Tell me again why it’s cool to be a cad? Of course I’m peeved by the sexism in that played up by popular culture. Anybody remember an Indipop song a few years ago featuring Lara Dutta double-dating two guys? The song was quite tellingly titled,

Tu chaalu hai re…

And then let me tell you what pisses you off the most. Having to have the following conversation with a close girlfriend:

She: Why on earth do we fall for men like this??
Me: Simple. Lousy taste.

It’s not a crime to be a cad…but it should be. Just recently I was called on to testify in one such case (if we may look at things in that light). It’s hard to tell whether my testimony would have swayed the verdict but the evidence certainly was damning. And yet, the culprit walked off scot-free. Damn him, damn his ilk. Don’t bother telling me that men aren’t all the same, please. One rotten creep is enough to ruin the entire barrel of trust. So, how you ask, did I speak? I didn’t. Like I said, I doubt my testimony would have changed much.

Lousy taste is something we’re all guilty of and I suppose we should be in handcuffs for it, in the same moment that the cads hang.

Idea-toon:The Male Mind

Maybe it isn’t a bad thing that men run the world. At least there are just two ways it can go – bad or worse.

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The Male Mind

Maybe it isn’t a bad thing that men run the world. At least there are just two ways it can go – bad or worse.

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Pre V-day syndrome

Of all the things to talk about, I never thought we’d be having a pep-talk about not feeling bad about being single on Valentine’s Day. Of all the people, I never thought I would be the one giving it to him.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~ 

Nearing the end of dinner as he puts his napkin down, an arm snakes over his shoulders with a sly look aimed in this direction,

So have the two of you exchanged shaadi.com IDs and stuff?

*CRINGE*

I said,

In all these years of friends, lovers, ex-boyfriends and their current girlfriends, I’ve never been embarassed. So embarassed!

~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Last year I had an unexpectedly mush-mush Valentine’s Day complete with chocolate and dinner and wine. And the most surprising thing was that it happened because he wanted to. Actually I quite enjoyed it. Bleh. Every now and then it’s good to do things that that will make you cringe in the future when you think about them.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Yesterday I had a conversation with two semi-strangers. From books and writing styles, the thoughts found their way into paths unexpected and

Do you believe in love at first sight?

My mind goes on auto-pilot when I’m tired. My mind goes on auto-pilot when I’m asked questions like this. I’m on auto-pilot most of the time when it comes to relationships these days. I listened politely as both of them told me why they believed it and how it had happened to them. And I said,

Fair enough. It’s just never happened to me so I don’t believe it happens.

But the fact of the matter is that I just don’t believe that it happens to people like me. And that’s so PostSecret, I’m ashamed.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~

I’m really hoping that she comes to her senses before Thursday because I know he’ll take much longer to. I’m standing by though, since I don’t think she will. On the other hand, yesterday did happen. So perhaps miracles do happen.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Oh and if anybody is still reading my rant, all the ‘he’s in this post are different people.

Communal looing

Like every good Mumbaiker, I spend about an hour and half commuting to work each morning. Then I perch on my chair, waiting for my colleague to come in, about 10 minutes later. She switches on her computer, rearranges her desk and gives me a little nod in the direction of the door. And we get up in unison and leave.

I’ve heard about this from several amused (and puzzled) men. We call it ‘Communal Looing’. The question is

Why do women go to the loo in groups?

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I suspect the real question is,

What on earth do they do in there???!!!

It is a good question. I’ll keep turning it over through my thoughts and blogs. If I ever figure out the answer I’ll keep mum and uphold the great secret of time. (Muhahaha…)

So what do we do when we ‘go’ in groups? Well….we talk. We giggle. We compare notes on men (boss, colleague, client, boyfriend, husband, friend). The sneaky suspicion men have that women are having a good laugh at their expense in the loo, is correct. The washroom is a great place for female bonding. After all, that really is the only place the men can’t intrude into our lives. (Down with the unisex!!)

Frantic damage control can be administered and strategies discussed.

I got an oil stain on my dress!!!

Here….use some talcum powder on it! It’s great for matting away all kinds of oils – facial or vegetable!

And there’s the…

What if he calls here and wants to talk?

Say “Oops, I hear my boss calling!” and hang up!

How about this…?

I tried some crunches yesterday & got a cramp. I hate these damn tyres!

Hee hee…bet he loves those love-handles though!

Yes well, and we play the fool sometimes too. One time we went out for a drink, the women went to the washroom together (of course!). There we discussed who was drinking what, who was sloshed, who could be lulled into saying something interesting in the present state of drunkeness. We giggled over some of the things the men were saying. Then we looked at the mirror together and appraised ourselves. One of them said

Security guard is a bloody letcher…did you notice?

I put in,

Bully for him, there’s a bevy of beauties passing by after all.

Rightttttt… she retorted,

We look more like Charlie’s angels!!

A minute later a sturdy matron in a grey salwar-kameez walked in on the three ‘beauties’ posing like Charlie’s angels and trying to photograph the mirror (without the camera showing).

Back to my workplace though, this communal looing is really obvious at work. All the guys smoke and there’s tremendous bonding happening over a shared cigarette. Strangers walk by and ask my male colleagues if they could share a light and then chat like they’ve been friends for years. Some of the women smoke but somehow they aren’t included in this camaraderie. However I’ve managed to get to know most women in the office, across floors and departments simply because we share the bathroom mirror in the mornings.

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Great friendships are born from that small-but-useful tip over how to get rid of pimples. Intellectual conversations start from a discussion on the best way to hide a hickey (horrors!…giggle giggle). An unexpected ally may be made from that emergency safety-pin passed over the cubicle wall.

Female-bonding is a good way to start and end the day.

Manguide 4: States Of India

This might seem to overlap with this chapter but it doesn’t really. That was about the place they live in, this is the colour that runs in their blood (it’s neither red nor blue!)

Gujjubhai : Now I’m going to run against the tide in this city when I rate this man top of my list of good prospective partners. Indeed it was a Gujju who made it clear when he explained,

For a Gujju man, you are an investment. He invests his time, his money and his emotions in you. He doesn’t make stupid desicions in these matters and he will never let an investment go waste. This man knows what he wants and he will get it.

That last line clinched it. How many other men, degrees, dollars et al can say the same thing? Never mind the implied cold-heartedness, I’m all for unshakeable loyalty over fleeting romance any day. Hand me a thepla….

MalluMan : For some weird reason, all the funny men I keep running into, turn out to have a lineage tracing back to ‘Gaad’s worrrn country’. I’m just being a friendly neighbor but I like these men who can laugh at themselves. And yeah, that curly mop hides a quick ticking brain.

Tamizhan: Okay, you already know my opinion on this breed. Familiarity breeds contempt, perhaps? I usually seem to like the stiffy, stodgy, pedigreed types. And that certainly describes our Tamizhan to the T! Of note, if he doesn’t swear by thair-sadam, he isn’t authentically Tam. Even if he is a software engineer in the U.S. with a pedigree and a state rank thrown in for good measure.

Punjab da puttar: Hehehe, you would think I would lurrrrve the male equivalent of this species. Not, however. I guess I prefer to be the star of any show. On the other hand, these guys make for great, huggy-teddy-bear type buddies for girls like me. For the rest of you with tastes different from mine, look for Prince Charming, complete with slick dressing, drenched in perfume (yes, not cologne unless he’s a Dilliwalla) and flowery language. Are you willing to be pretty Cinderella, though?

Bengali babu: Now I really hate this man. He’s the one with lofty ideals, who can throw patriotic fervour with even more panache than romantic poetry. There’s something quite sweet-as-roshogolla about him. And then again, as my heart breaks over the nice temperamental Bong dude who looks like he’s perfectly content being bossed over by women, I’m reminded of another Bong who smirked,

We just let everyone believe that. Who wants to run the world? The women can do it.

Huh. That takes the joy out of the fight for equality. And there’s something quite vile about a man who does know how to use his words. Stand warned, fellow romantics!

Marathi mulga: This one is astonishingly similar to the Tamizhan, minus the curd rice. Unlike the Bong though, he isn’t impressed simply by the fact that you can speak his mother tongue. Hardly impressed by your smart talking. Not visibly anyway. Not exactly a male chauvinist and yet…there is something faintly old-grandpa-like. Yes, even the cool Savarkars.
Quite stable though, if that’s what you’re looking for. Forget the flash though.

I’m obviously missing quite a few states here. Let’s just say the list above comprises the people I seem to keep running into? Ah, and what of a certain other state that’s big in the news and I undeniably have some experience with? Ah, well, enough written about them, lets just let the babus lie, shall we? 😉

Almost normal

The Kala Ghoda Art Festival this year takes me back to my campus days of festival-hopping. Make the trip for one event, bump into a whole lot of people who on reflection you know just will be there, catch another event completely on impulse and in general have a phlethora of varied experiences that don’t make immediate sense except for the fact that you know you’ll feel their impact for a long time to come.

I attended a..how do you call it…book launch? Not actually since there was more than one book and I think they’ve all been launched. Okay a tete-a-tete with the authors then in the cosy (windy and dewy and brrrrrr..chilly-for-Mumbaikers David Sasson Library). One of the books being talked about was Almost Single by Advaita Kala. I bought it because:

  • A friend had gushed over it to me the previous weekend, emphasizing that I would lurrrve the section on getting back at ex-boyfriends. Which makes me hmmm and then hmph. What’s worse than being defined by men? Being defined by ex-boyfriends!!
  • I’ve always wanted to own a book autographed by the author
  • The title made me wonder if it was about a character (or more) like me whose ‘real’ relationships with men are after breaking up, liberally masala-ed by sarcasm, evil barbs, other people, rebounds, mixed doubles (and triples..oh let’s not go there!) and in general messy links.
  • I just liked the author, her replies to the questions and the things she said about the book.

When I took the book up to her to have it signed, I told her what my friend had said about the chapter on revenge on the ex-. She actually giggled and said

Oh god, sometimes I think how juvenile that was!

And I assured her it wasn’t and came away gratified that I had invested in the words of someone who was quite obviously normal and not the I’m-always-cool-I’m-always-in-control-I’m-da-lady type I’ve been coming up against all too often.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Started the book this evening and it is very promising. I’m tickled and heartened by such lines as

Not too many women in India are over twenty-nine and single, with jobs, not careers which means the ‘she’s-really-career-focussed’ stuff doesn’t stick either.

and

This is what I love about girlfriends. Unlike with guys, when you have to enact a whole screenplay before you broach a topic, with girls you can just read others’ minds.

Ach, I’m also forced to concede that it’s been a long time since a guy has been a friend; it’s been only girlfriends and girlfriends as far as my recent mind’s eye can see. Where was I when they were handing out little envelopes to kids telling them that yes good, that was your biology chapter and here’s where you learn that these differences will influence even your so-called platonic relationships like friendship?! Gah, maybe I’m just so sexy that men can’t help going for me even if I’m their old buddy. At least my ego-armour still works.

Speaking of which I’m almost gladder to be called ‘sexy’ than ‘cute’ or ‘pretty’. Sexy is honest, sexy is direct, sexy says “I just wanna sleep with you” which I believe is what the other complimentary adjectives say as well, when a man is saying them to a woman, only they’re a lot more subtle (I call it underhanded!).

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

I’m also whining (while at it, may as well get in some more. Bigby did say “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.”) after reading Bitchfest which I picked up last week, breaking my no-books-till-I-finish-the-ones-I-own resolution and causing my mother to arch an eyebrow and inquire,

Aren’t you feminist enough? Without reading books to influence your thinking as well? I just think you are too extreme.

I was in an uncharacteristically good mood (Feminist books seem to do that to me) and I replied,

It is good to go into the depth of something and examine it from all angles to keep your mind open and keep from being bigoted.

Ever heard of ‘apne hi pair pe kulhadi marna‘? The self-help guides tell you not to read beauty magazines since they make you feel inadequate. Someone should have told me the same about powerful books. Now I’m afraid I’m not feminist enough. I have too much angst and not enough anger. I still manage to like men (shuffling feet). Male-bashing tirades aside, I actually do *shudder shudder* smile at men. I’ve been known to *gasp* even talk to them like they’re real human beings. And okay, okay, under duress, I confess, I’ve even done the occasional simpering. Beat me.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Younger men. Now why are there suddenly so many of them? Silly question – because the older ones are either married or I’ve already dated them. Not terribly younger mind you, not enough for the difference to show, well not to anyone but moi I suppose. It’s like wearing a different kind of lingerie than your usual type. Or perhaps to cut down the raunch quotient, it’s like using a different brand of shampoo. Mostly no one even notices and if you even tell anyone, they’re wondering “What’s the big..hey?” But you know…because it feels different, looks different and well…just is different. Oh bother, I’m too old for change. And the more I say that, the more dramatic and volatile life gets.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~
And I had decided no more whining, no more mindless ranting. This blog was getting too much of that. Well at least now it’s a ‘Now I’m feminist. Now I’m chick-lit. Now I’m just confused!” Just like me. PMS-ey every once in awhile *Sigh* At least that’s almost normal.

A Voice That Shatters Glass…The Glass Ceiling!

Music is an integral part of every youth festival, highlighted by the crowds at Antakshari, and Music Quiz events. The music competition is usually the grand highlight of at least one evening. That we are home to the biggest film industry in the world shows in the fact that the event almost always features exclusive Bollywood songs.

I was an amateur singer in college…jamming, impromptu background scores in classroom capers, singing the national anthem on Republic Day and invocation prayers during college events gave me aspirations towards musical stardom on campus.

Any regular will tell you that there is a collection of 5-6 favorites that are rendered by the participants. There are normally an equal number of male and female singers since the competition (quite fairly) assesses musical ability regardless of gender. Audience response is a key determinant in judging performance so seasoned participants pick songs that suit their temperament and sing them in a way that is proven to move the audience. A good singer can expect a collective sigh over Tadap Tadap ke and only conclude Saara zamana haseenon ka deewana successfully if at least a few whistles have been heard. My male counterparts spanned the gamut of musical Bollywood from comedy (Pag ghungroo bandh Meera naachi – Namak Halal) to melancholy (Tanhaai Dil Chahta hai), classical (Laga chunari mein daag) and romance (Kabhi kabhi mere dil mein khayal aata hai).

I tested the waters and quickly stumbled onto hot favorites like Mann kyon beheka (Utsav), Morni bagha ma (Lamhe) and Dil ne kaha chupke se (1942-A Love Story). But as a performer, these songs always left me feeling somewhat…incomplete. I longed for a real, full-bodied song that would let me snatch up the audience like the boy’s songs did. It took awhile to build a repertoire of songs that could get the audience shaking.

Then a male friend inquired,

Why do you always sing songs like this? It’s either cabaret or item numbers!

I protested,

What? I sang Dil Cheez Kya hai last time! It has a classical base.

Pat came the reply,

And it is a mujra.

And that’s when it hit me. There just aren’t powerful solos for women in Bollywood music! The most memorable songs are genteel lovestruck ballads of the sort that depict a delicate damsel awaiting her shehzada on safed ghoda riding to her rescue. Or the semi-soulful/mournful sort of the Na koi umang hai variety alternated by the haunting Kahin deep jale kaheen dil tunes.

And what of duets? For those acquainted with music, even a duet has a leader and a follower. Male and female voices work in different ranges of pitch and it is almost always the female voice that is arranged around the male voice. Symbolically, a typical Hindi duet usually has the male voice as the main, solid body with the female voice as a decorative motif twining around it, hitting the high notes occasionally. It is beautiful in its own way. It is art after all, and we’ve enjoyed it for decades.

But art is also about challenging boundaries and building something new, in thought and in expression. I defy you to name one Bollywood duet that has a female lead. I’m not counting such airs as Chura Liya hai which, while an undoubtedly spectacular classic, certainly does not make a case for powerful female expression.

I managed to find only one song – Hai Rama (Rangeela) which won us a first prize (and a fair bit of male attention coming my way…ha!). I’ll never forget the sheer headiness of singing this song, which my partner could not have shared. It was my song after all and all he was, was the gracious support voice. I got to set the pitch, the rhythm and the tone of the song. And most of all, it was my responsibility to convey the mood of the song. That’s what powerful expression is all about!

But for most part, in duets I had to settle for playing second fiddle (or voice) to such tunes as Humko hamhi se chura lo (Mohabbatein), Dekha ek khwab to yeh silsilay hue (Silsila) and Ek main aur ek tu (Khel khel mein).

There was some leeway in the solos and thank God for the magic of Asha and R.D.Burman! Quite unexpectedly, in my quest to wear the pants in the musical family, I had wandered into Asha Bhosale territory. Her success formula worked for me as well. While Lata didi was ruling the AIR roost with her ‘good little girl’ melodies, Asha entered the only domain left to her –saucy cabaret songs, scintillating dance numbers and generally the kind of songs that Helen and Bindu danced to but would never be picturised on the heroine. I took the stage with Yeh mera dil pyaar ka deewana (Don) and Piya tu ab to aaja (Moneeekka my darling, notwithstanding!). Sauciness was the only recourse left to Asha and it was the only way I could find, to make my kind of music. It just would take Madhubala’s verve to carry off a Jab pyaar kiya to darna kya. But for most part, even in music, the bad girl was the only one who got to taste power.

Popular hindi music hasn’t changed all that much. The few powerful female solos are still camouflaged in melodrama, raunch or abstraction. Think Zinda hoon main, Beedi jalaile, Pari hoon main.

Singing for the opposite sex would be another high. We enjoyed Kailash Kher’s soulful

Tune kya kar dala, mar gayee main, mit gayee main, ho gayee main teri deewani..

But I somehow can’t see Sunidhi Chauhan or Shreya Ghoshal getting the same reaction to a very spirited rendition

Gum shuda…

 

Even assuming that the male-female roles are still rather rigidly defined in Indian cinema, we find even gender-neutral emotions like inspiration voiced by male singers. While Baar baar haan (Lagaan) and Chak de (Chak de) may be too strongly sports-testosterone linked, what of Yeh tara, woh tara (Swades) and Bulla ke jaana main kaun (Rabbi Shergill)? I would have loved to have done a Bas itna sa khwab hai (Yes Boss) but I was vetoed by my team on account of it being a ‘male song’. I still don’t get it…women have dreams and ambitions too! And all we have to speak for it is Dil hai chota sa, choti si aasha (Roja)!

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A version is also posted on Yahoo! Real Beauty.

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