Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Episode 4: In which I fight militant dishes...and lose

It should be a truth universally acknowledged that a house inhabited by a single person not in possession of a large fortune must have at least one dirty dish in need of cleaning at all times. The only reason this is NOT a truth that is universally acknowledged is because we single peoples not in possession of full-time maid affording fortunes do not like to expose our struggles to the judgemental world that is full of people who think we should a. get a roommate (so that you don't have to be alone, beta) b. get a job that can afford a full-time maid (If you HAVE to work, why work for so little, beta?) c. get a spouse (so that you don't have to be so single, beta).

Of course, one acknowledges the first-worldness of our problems. But there is only so much privilege you can check, while also checking that ever-growing pile of leftover curry and burnt milk laden saucepans, so that it does not turn into a many-forked monster than murders you with chilly while you are passed out (mostly from exhaustion and unrealised potential).

One also acknowledges that years of living around people who preferred cleaning to cooking might have spoiled one a little (okay, may be a LOT). One is used to happily prancing out of the kitchen post-cooking with the assured comfort of knowing that dishes would be taken care of by one's friends/roomates who are just so glad that they didn't have to cook that they look at that ugly pile of dirty dishes with no more dread than they would look at a distant relative who has decided to visit unannounced.

And now, look at me. I spend more time cleaning up than I do in cooking. And I spend more time worrying about the amounts I have to clean up than actually cleaning up. I am not exaggerating. I leave one frying-pan in the sink at night thinking, “Meh, too tired, will deal with it tomorrow,” and the next morning, I come back to find that while I was blissfully asleep, the frying-pan has gone out and got itself some buddies in the coffee-mug and the milk-pan. And then they thought three made for an odd troupe, so they acquired some ladles and spoons to spruce things up. Of course, at this point the party was the talk of the kitchenhood, so the woks and plates just turned up like uninvited gate-crashers and brought with them lots of unwashed unspeakables. This is the point where someone should have called the cops on these juvenile delinquent vessels, but that would be in a world were justice and karma have some meaning.

Seriously. One wonders at the math that produces no less than six things to wash for every morsel of home-made food. One scrubs through the small Everest of pressure cookers, kadais, tawas and bowls. Then, one unclogs and cleans the sink, and moves on to clean the damn stove. Having scrubbed those burners till they gleam and grin at your bleeding fingers, one moves on to the kitchen counter (ha, ha, did you think that bleeding fingers is where one is done?). Once the kitchen counter starts to resemble a battle ground a little less, one sweeps the kitchen floor, takes the garbage out, comes back and crashes on the armchair (one wants to imagine with a glass of wine in hand, but then one's reality-checking subconscious points one to the opening argument of not having a large fortune at hand).

End of the day, finally, one sighs in relief! And in that little moment of imagined sense of accomplishment, one's eyes fall on the table, where one finds the coffee mug that one forgot to clear away in the morning rush, grinning in an evil fashion. AAAAARRGGGHHHHHHHH. There is no winning. No silver-lining behind this brown, burnt milk coloured cloud. Certainly no walking into the sunset in slow-mo with triumphant instrumental playing and one's comerades-in-arms doing a slow cap. There is only accepting the soul-crushing truth that one was bested by one's own kitchenware, and vowing, in a desperate attempt at holding on to the shards of one's self-respect, to never ever eat again.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Episode 3: In which I said "What's up, Yo?" and immediately felt old

At what point do you realise that you are not eighteen anymore? For most people it is their nineteenth birthday, I suppose. I of course, do not fall in that bracket. Which is why, when at 28, I say those hitherto innocuous words as a response to a friend's  unsuspecting "Hi!" and those words turn back and smack me on the back of my head with a "Who do you think you are, eighteen-year-old Crumbs?" I can only offer a mouth gaping like a goldfish in response. How do words do that? Where did they even get those tiny vicious hands to smack you?

That starts a depressing spiral of thought-processes, which goes from, "My god, I am too old to say 'What's up, yo?'" to "Why the hell did I start saying 'What's up, yo?' in the first place? What is wrong with 18-year-old me?" Which, of course, my now 28-year-old self immediately sees as an opportunity to be snarky and mean. "Lack of a mouth-to-brain filter, terrible over-estimation of capabilities, SO MUCH ANGST, to name a few," she smirks. "If you want a complete list, we'd both be 30 before we finish."

Sigh. Some days you function like a well-adjusted adult person, on the other days, your present self and your past self decide to have a conversation and give your future self a headache.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Episode 2: One with all the characterless single people

Ask anyone who has to had to hunt for a house in India, and they will most likely have at least one story where they were denied boarding on the basis of their marital status. Until a few years ago, the story used to be that all the single peoples were what the landlords used to be indignant about. Even as there is some semblance of equal discrimination now (mostly because the landlords have wisened up to the fact that the single peoples usually have more money to spare than the married and/or child-ed peoples, and they are less likely to leave any signs of having lived in the house when they rent, spare a carton of empty beer bottles), the whole notion that a single renter is the harbringer of the plague (or whatever is the modern equivalent of the plague. What would that be? Swine flu? Ebola? Honey Singh?) lingers on.

Back in the days when one was young and full of unrealised potential and other illusions, one has, with a bunch of friends, knocked on every door in a small locality outside of one's college campus. Twice. And it is not a pleasant experience. But one learns, and ergo, this time one was armed. As one called the potential landlords, the first question one asked was not, "What is the rent?" but, "I'm single, will you rent your house to a single woman?" One felt very proud of having thought of this and saved much of one's time. One, of course, overestimated one's enterprising. 

Having the single-phobia tackled, one was immediately confronted with, "Are you vegetarian?" One would comment, but then this discussion would quickly disintegrate into a vicious bloodbath, and much feelings would be injured? In a land where KFC, KFC, boasts of separate vegetarian kitchens (because mattar and murgi cannot mingle, of course), a solid number of India's vegetarians spend their entire lives convinced that non-vegetarians have but one agenda in their minds--surreptitiously feed them chicken and ruin their chances of at heavenly vegetarian afterlife. Ayio, karmam, karmam only. I do know that a lot of non-vegetarians DO make this their life's mission (mostly because they are bad people, NOT because they eat meat), but most of us are just happy that we don't have to share our chicken. Why would we want to work hard to spread our food resource pool thinner?

Having learnt this lesson also, and because one is nothing if not altruistic with one's store of knowledge, here is a quick, handy (and updated) check list to measure your renter-worthiness:
1. Are you single?
2. Are you a girl?
3. Are you a girl who is single?
4. Will you come back home late? (Up to two hours after sun-down can be considered the extent to which respectable stay-out time can be stretched. If you have to be told this, then give yourself a minus point.)
5. Are you a girl who is single and may come back home late?
6. Are you non-vegetarian?
7. Will you cook in the house you aspire to rent?
8. Will you cook non-veg in the house you aspire to rent?
9. Are you a single, non-vegetarian girl who plans to cook non-veg in the house you aspire to rent?
10. Do you have friends?
11. Do you have friends who will visit you in the house you aspire to rent?
12. Do you have friends of the opposite sex?
13. Do you have friends of the opposite sex who will visit you in the house you aspire to rent?
14. Do you have friends of the opposite sex who may spend a night in the house you aspire to rent?
15. Are you a single, non-vegetarian girl who may come back home late with friends of the opposite sex who then may stay over in the house you aspire to rent?

Give yourself a score of -1 for every yes, and -15 if the answer to the last question is yes. Also, consider acquiring some virtue and shame and give up your life of sin. THEN may be you will get a house to live in. May be.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Where I begin documenting my life again.

"It paid, she said; it was camouflage. If you kept the small rules, you could break big ones."

So, I moved (again). Living the life of a single woman in an Indian city is not nearly as glamourous as Konkona Sen would have you believe. There are no dusty, cute apartments with beach-view terraces. Neither are there random guys you meet in randomer parties that you gate crash into who then get their friends to haul all your furniture for you. There is however, a lot of paperwork. SO, here is where I attempt to create a realistic guide for wannabe grownups on filing the paperwork required for living, tentatively (and unreasonably ambitiously) called
Growing up for Dummies.

Episode 1: Through the Loophole (since rabbit-hole was getting old)

After years of living with roommates, and not-really-mates, Providence decided to cut me some slack. Which in the present situation is code for momentary-lowering-of-parents'-protect-single-daughter-from-the-world-and-herself-but-mostly-herself-shield. Which goes on to prove my theory that with parents (or at least parents like mine) the best approach is really slow exposure. Have a difficult decision you need them to sign off? Don't spring on them in the last minute and expect them to jump on recklessly speeding bandwagon (in the interest of near-complete honestly though, more often that not it is jumping off the wagon, not on, that you need them to do). Mention it casually in a phone call months before the actual event ("So, I might get this new job. So I might have to move. Since I might have to move, I am thinking, I will just get a place of my own.") Show your willingness to fight for it ("I'm 28 years old, and I am NOT sleeping in a bunk bed in a room with 4 other look-like-adults. WHADDAYA mean it may not be safe for a single girl to live alone?"). Then drop the topic and pretend you've forgotten about it for months. ("So, my boss did the damnest thing today. How are the neighbours?") Collect data to support your cause and casually drop it in daily conversation ("Remember that friend of mine from college you approve of? She moved into the city, and she is looking for an apartment. No she does not want a roommate.") And then months later, just as casually, in your best (non-confrontational and seemingly well-adjusted) adult voice, announce that you would, if they so agree, like to go ahead with the plan, probably. "So, I saw this ad online about this place that looks very neat. I was considering checking it out this weekend.) Pretend they are, and always have been, on with the plan, and ask for suggestions. ("I was thinking, I will look such and such areas and such and such rent. What do you think I should look out for?")

By that time, they would also have thought about it ("Why can't we have a nice, normal girl for a daughter?") and decided that they have bigger battles to fight ("Listen, we need to tell her that she needs to wake up at 4 am to sit for a puja to bribe gods to please find her a boy.") See, emotional blackmail and barter work is a two-way street after all.

In that moment of confusion and vulnerability, when they haltingly concede that may be your decision is not so gasp-inducing and the society may just live through the shock, you swoop in and quickly move into your cozy little studio apartment, above the homemade pastry shop and across the street from the neighbourhood library. Ha ha, I kid of course. This is the point when your chick-flick and Bollywood influenced naive brain meets the minions of Satans of the modern world, aka, the prospective landlords. But that is a story for a different day. (One must at least attempt at cliffhangers, no?)

Friday, December 07, 2012


The mornings are of purple skies streaked with deep crimson. It smells of cinnamon and coffee. And of course, of love. One wants likes to think that being whimsical is what one does best. It is when one is happiest.

Then he came along. And suddenly there was chaos. She could not think what was it about him that confused her so much. Feet. His feet. First time she told him that feet are the first thing about a person that attract her, he said it was very wise. "Clean feet are the basic sign of hygiene. If a person cares enough to keep his feet clean and stink-free, you can live with that person." She had sighed an exasperated sigh then. Trust him to take the romance out of everything.

She looked at him now, searching for his glasses that were on top of his head. Wondering how he is going to live with his absentmindedness, she reached up to pull down his glasses to his nose. He smiled, that amused, indulgent smile of his. She grinned back. It was going to be quite a morning.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Cost of Independence...and its Worth

I am often told, by well meaning friends, that I am a Grown-up now. That somehow, this business of being a Grown-up implies that I can, and should be able to make my own decisions. I am sure, I often say this, well-meaningly, to my friends as well. But of late, and only of late, I've begun to wonder what a sham that really is.

Being a Grown-up, does not mean a thing. Or perhaps, it means too many things, and not one of us can quite put our finger on an exact, enclosed in angular brackets, sort of definition. Which probably is why we walk around, all of us, with these myriad ideas of what our role as a Grown-up in Modern India should really entail. Traditionally, of course, things were probably much simply designed. I say probably, because I have no real experience having lived in these "traditional, more organised times", and as such, I can only venture what I can, at best, call an optimistic guess. Optimistic, for the thought that, if present times are such a mess, the times before and the times to come must offer a clearer perspective, a neater thinking to things. I may be entirely wrong, of course, but I am rather hoping that I am not.

So, my problem with the present state of affairs is this--we are still a culture which places an enormous emphasis on the family unit--and the family unit, where the parent/parent figures make most of our decisions for us. All keeping the child's best interest at heart of course. And I say this, without sarcasm, condescension or judgement. Neither is this my problem, really, it is merely one of the parameters that define my problem. My problem then, is this change that some of us have perhaps willingly, and perhaps unknowingly, entered into. The change, from being our parents' children to independent, but unattached adults. We, who sort of, kind of, "move out" of our homes, either to study or to work, and then a few years, or if we are lucky, months, later, learn that we are now independent. We can now make decisions, where previously, we would have sought permission. We find that we are responsible for finding (and funding) our own food, rent and bills, and by that extension, we can also decide what we wear, where we go, when we go, and who we go with (or without, for the matter). But then, the problem arises, when we realise that no one remembered to send this whole we-the-independent memo to our parents. Who still are under the impression that they make the decisions in their child's lives, just as their parents made theirs. You can clearly imagine the possible conflicts of interests. And when the said conflicts of interests do arise, the best anyone can do, is fumble and feel their way through the dark. Hence the several make-shift arrangements. "I drink, but please don't tell my parents." "I can never wear these shorts at home, but they are okay for here." "My mother still thinks my roommate's a girl." "Don't you dare put the pics of Saturday night on FB, I have family on my list!"

This, this, is the reason why we have been fighting for the same things since the last 50 years--more independence. And it does not help that all of us have friends who have parents who are more progressive than ours, and friends who have parents who are more conservative that ours. So on one hand, I have friends whose parents sit with her and drink, and on the other hand, I have parents who wont even let her pick the clothes to wear. So we are constantly off the mark while judging our own parents' progressiveness (or should I be saying permissiveness, really?). Which is probably why I was shocked when at 18, my parents let me move out of a convent hostel and into an apartment in an area they had not even been to, with 3 girls they had barely met and I knew for less than 6 months myself. And probably why I am shocked now at almost 27, and having survived 'independently' 4 jobs, 2 different cities, 3 different houses and more threatening-to-be-life-changing crisis than I care to even tell them, my folks won't let me take up an apartment on my own. So when my friends tell me I am a grown up, I am not even sure what that even means.

Am I looking for an answer here? I am not sure myself. I am just asking the question, and hoping that would take me somewhere. Answers, are after all, just collateral damage, are they not?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

And just like that

While endlessly wandering in the back alleys of the Internet, I stumbled upon this picture today. And just like that, I wanted to write. Not particularly about the picture, not particularly about the over dramatic futility of it, not particularly about anything. Just write. You know, scribble words, then see if they can stick around to become a sentence, and then see where that takes me.

It took me till a second paragraph, the question, as always, is what now?