For whatever reason, this month’s posts havent transferred. Will work on that.
Update: Now they have!
If (as his name suggests) he was trying to scare us, he succeeded. We all felt that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach as we heard of the blasts. We were afraid for people we knew, loved or hated. We were horrified for the ones we didn’t. We turned our faces from our TV screens, unable to watch the blood and gore, the mayhem he’d created. We found ourselves unable to change channels, flipping through just the ones that carried scrolls on which we hoped to see a familiar name.
Yes, we felt fear.
But he should know that courage is not the absence of fear, but the power to look it in the face. To give it the finger, to go on in spite of it.
Mumbai, you are our middle finger.
* Inspired by the message I got this morning from a friend in Mumbai:
“All okay on this front – at home, lots of people from office and our classmates as well from other places who couldn’t go home have landed up here, so we’re cooking for them and stuff… The spirit of this city is amazing – people are out on the streets handing water and food to the crowds trying to get home…”
It’s almost been a year since Anna‘s wedding. Yeah, a couple of months short. Something set me off thinking about it, and as usual, here it is.
It was probably around this time last year that I was informed in a rather hush-hush manner that Anna had a girlfriend whom he wanted to marry, and (here was the shocking bit) she wasn’t Indian!
Now, my parents are the far end of the ‘liberal branch of a conservative extended family’: they had a ‘luurrvve marriage’, and my extended family on my Dad’s side includes people who eat no onions, no garlic… you get the picture. Anyway, Anna is my Dad’s brother’s son, two years older than me. His parents fit somewhere behind mine on the liberal branch, and he was one of the good kids who studied engineering, went abroad for a Masters, got a job and ‘settled down’ – perfect marriage material. Tall, fair, good looking (though he’s turned into an out-of-shape pumpkin with all that milk-and-honey he’s been feeding on), well-settled – the kind of son parents dream of. Aamma was so proud of her boy!
So, one day, usually non-gossipy MM tells me what was being considered the latest scandal… Anna wanted to marry a firang girl. We laughed, MM and me. How tongues did wag! It was his business, and his parents’ (they’d reluctantly consented to the match) Why was everyone else in the family so disapproving? It took all of the considerable goodwill that my uncle had with the rest of the family for everyone to agree to attend the wedding, which was to be held here. Really!
But the biggest surprise for me was how my usually good-natured, warm and affectionate Aamma was reacting. When I heard that the parents had agreed, I had a mental picture of Aamma having to persuade my uncle to agree… it turned out it was the other way around! My stodgy, unimaginative, reliable, conservative uncle was the one who, having written to, emailed and spoken to both Anna and his girlfriend, had given the go-ahead. His logic was simple – she was just like them. In spite of having been raised half-way around the world from here, she was a strict Catholic: respected her parents, knew the importance of Family, had worked her way through college, and didn’t want to alienate them in any way.
Aamma, however, was on a whole different trip. Her son – the Good Boy – had kept this from her. For two years. Did he not trust her any more? Did he not love her? It was all ‘her’ fault. Anna was not like this. Or had he changed into this? Must have been because of ‘her’.
‘She’ turned out to be great fun, though. She’d decided to go through with this, so however uncomfortable she was, however tired, she would enjoy it! She went through the wedding week with a lost suitcase, wore itchy sarees, tolerated hours of photography, amazed at how much fun an Indian wedding was!
Yeah, I was talking about stereotypes. Everybody defied stereotype in this story – the sweet mother turned possessive, the conservative father turned tolerant, the firang bahu had fun, and most surprisingly of all, the Good Boy rebelled. But the sweet mother still stuffs me with food and packs me pickles when I visit them (“Wonder how you are surviving on that food your cook cooks!“), the conservative father is still looking for “good, Telugu Brahmin boys” for me to marry. The Good Boy is willing to check the antecedents of the ‘boys’ his father finds; the firang bahu asks after me once in a while.
Vinaya asked for a new post yesterday. I suspect this isn’t what she was looking for, but this is my blog, right?
I’ve thought a lot about where I want to say this. My first idea was to vent it directly at the group of people concerned, but they’ve made their indifference quite clear – there’s no point, then. I considered throwing it at a larger body of which they’re a part, in the hope that some remorse may be induced by peer pressure. But again, what’s the point? That kind of remorse doesn’t change behaviour, and there’s the danger that the message gets lost in the static. (Really, T.) So I send up a prayer to “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change“, and come here for the comfort of black-on-white. To use my wailing wall, so that I can continue to talk, and work, without turning into a raving hysteric.
The past few weeks have seen blow after blow to my self-image. Personal and professional, but I’m talking about the latter now. I never thought this was going to be an easy career choice; I decided early on, where my rewards would lie. I couldn’t help the twinges of regret when some of the consequences of my choice were brought home, and I’m ashamed of myself for that. I could laugh about it, though, because I was secure in the knowledge that the rewards I had chosen to work for were better. Higher. I wanted them more.
Now I realise I’m not going to get all of those either. While taking a class still gives me a high, maybe it is silly to expect recognition for it. All I can hope for, all I will get, are the highs. The joy of being able to speak, to test hypotheses, to indulge in argument. But there’s a tiny portion of me (maybe a large portion, actually) that craves appreciation for all the work I do. I’ve satisfied myself that it can come only from one source, and I don’t expect it from others. But even that seems to be too much to expect.
Oh, they’re only too ready to articulate their supposed appreciation. Only too ready to comment, if they read this. Only too ready to claim they love my passion for what I do, my experimentation, my openness. But they don’t hesitate to take advantage of that openness to hit me where it hurts, either. To use that passion against me, to sabotage my experiments.
I know it’s unfair to generalise thus about all of them. I know there are exceptions. But when the papers I read, the reactions I get, are all screaming at me that most people prefer me not to do what I’m doing, to leave my creativity behind, to not bring passion and emotion to what is, after all, a job to be done, it makes me wonder. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I don’t need to do all this. Why should I, anyway? What do I get from it?
Is it worth it? Maybe it’s time to quit.
The attribution of singlehood: Aunts, uncles, grandparents all deciding it’s about time something’s done to change your singlehood. To be completely fair, they’ll check with you – “So, is there someone…” And if you are single at the time of asking, or at least, not ready to be married off to whomever you might be seeing, you are deemed ‘marriageable’ and efforts to find the ‘suitable boy/girl’ will begin. As we say in legalese, it’s an irreversible presumption of singlehood.
The denial of declaratory rights: Woe betide you if you belong to the ‘liberal’ arm of a conservative extended family. For the extended family cannot be told of your non-single status, except for a few ‘liberal’ members, and then the whole question of who is told what and who is not told what and what can be said before whom and what can’t… what a tangled web we weave, when first we begin to deceive… Anyway, you can’t stand up and declare “I’m seeing someone, and no, I don’t know whether I’ll marry him!”
The ‘single-goal’ assumption: This refers to the assumption that if you’re seeing someone, and both parties are ‘settled’ (read: have jobs), the relationship has to become marital at some point. As long as you’re in college, you can have a ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’, but once you’re ‘settled’, the least you can have is a ‘committed relationship’.
The freedom of association: Or lack thereof. You’ve been seen in public with the Significant Other? Marriage is on the cards. How can you be seen in public with other members of the opposite sex, now? Faithless, you are!
Ah, the joys of singlehood!