About Laziness, Seat-Belts and Meaningless Crap

 

We’re driving around in my car, a colleague and I. You know the drill. Random shop talk, traffic noises and…weird beeping sounds?
“Did you clear that docu I was talking about earlier?”, I ask her
*beep* *beep*
“Nah, I have to get moving on that. Thanks for the reminder”
*beep* *beep*
“No problem. Just get it done before Wednesday”
*beep* *beep*
“Yeah”
*beep* *beep*
“Hey, CE?”
“Hmm?”
“What’s that beeping sound?”
*beep* *beep*
“It’s a seat-belt chime. Honda’s telling you to wear your seat-belt.”
“I see”
*beep* *beep*
“You don’t want to wear it?”
“Nah, no police around here”
*beep* *beep*
*****
One thing I figured out early in life is that people look at traffic rules in different ways. There are people who lean towards following traffic rules rigidly and without question. There are people who can’t quite differentiate between a traffic rule and a general guideline. And, of course, there are people who fall somewhere in-between.

In India, people follow traffic rules for one reason and one reason only – to avoid court visits and consequent fines.

See, when it comes to non-work related issues, the vast majority of us here in India aren’t just cheap, we’re also incredibly lazy. It’s in our blood. We may work 90 hour weeks, but goddamn it, when we get home, the couch better be ready to bear the burden of a sweaty backside and the AC better be running. Heck, we even have Air Conditioners which turn on with an SMS.

But lazy doesn’t come in one variety. Here’s a bit of life gyaan for you folks.

There are two extremes of lazy in the world – completely inexperienced, overly optimistic lazy and very experienced, highly cynical lazy. It’s like a sliding scale, and most people tend toward one or the other. What’s more, the two categories vary drastically in their approach to life in general and traffic rules in particular.

The inexperienced lazy person breaks rules left, right and center because following them is like, well, work. S/he omits wearing helmets and seat-belts, talks on a cellphone without bothering to pull over, takes the car out without bothering to sober up, drives at insane speeds for fun and frankly, just kind of creates trouble wherever s/he goes. The

Wilbur the pug

Inexperienced Lazy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

inexperienced lazy person is a walking talking health hazard. You can find these people at trying to get bail at police stations, recovering from their latest accident at trauma centers and chilling off while driving DTC buses. This is the kind of person you don’t want to bang into, because that may well be the last thing you do. Don’t get me wrong here. These guys aren’t all evil. In fact, they’re vital to modern society. Inexperienced lazy people are good for the economy, just not for you. If you went ‘huh’ at this point, you really need to think about this a bit more.

Journalists like these folks because they make neat little filler stories for them everyday. Physiotherapists, orthopedic surgeons and lawyers owe half their clients base to them. Safety Engineers love them because they’re the one thing that lets safety engineers afford the ultra safe and ultra expensive devices they invent everyday. Repair contractors would be out of business if these guys didn’t exist… like I said, they’re vital.

Contrast this with the experienced, cynical lazy person, who I’ll call ECLP for short. The experienced lazy person is every bit as lazy as the inexperienced lazy person, but unlike the latter, this individual knows that indiscriminate violation of traffic rules creates even more work than following the rules does. Through long bitter experience, the ECLP has lost all semblance of optimism and realizes that while rule-breakers are not always punished, the rule-breaker who really, REALLY does not want to be caught on a particular day is sure to get pulled over, make an unsuccessful attempt at bribery and then be made jump through hoops in court to regain a driving license. Therefore, the ECLP religiously wears their seat-belt, double checks insurance papers and blood alcohol levels and generally behaves like an ideal, law-abiding citizen  – as long as there is a cop within earshot. No cops, no rules; this individual lives on the idea that nothing is a crime (and therefore, work) unless you get caught.

Husky

Experienced Cynical Lazy Person – Dog Version (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

The ECLP can be seen, complete with the characteristic ‘screw the world’ smirk and unbelievable street-smartness, in corner offices, presidential villas and other nice places you’d like to visit before you kick the bucket.

In other words, the ECLP is badass and by golly, knows it.

India is full of both kinds of people as well as a lot of intermediate ones.

Hear about the drunk kid who smashed his car into a bridge? Inexperienced amateur.  Totally the first kind.

Cop who arrested him? On the way to ECLP status.

Cop’s boss? You know it.

What are you going to be? The choice is yours.

But always remember; that seat belt chime? It’s just to keep you from paying a fine. Wear it or don’t – depending on the concentration of Khaki in your area. It’s not really your head that needs protection. After all, Indian heads are the hardest in the world.

But your wallet and your time – now that’s a whole different story.

 

Five Handy Tips for an Arranged Marriage

Are you bored?
Need a break?
Boss/Professors giving you a hard time?
Tired of taking a man’s load on your frail feminine shoulders?

 

If you answered yes to those questions, I have the perfect solution for you, sistah!

Get married.

That’s right. Get married.

And don’t bother with the love-shove thingy. An arranged marriage is so much easier. There are so many benefits to it, I won’t even bother listing them out here. From awesomazing Starbucks coffee to getting a truckload of pretty Saris, an arranged marriage has something for everyone. And the best part is, you don’t even have to fall in love.

Of course, anything that good requires a certain amount of work. And since I’m such a great guy, I’m even going to give you some free tips on how to get your dream arranged marriage.

Tip #1: Look like Snow White

When I say Snow White, I mean you should, literally, look as though you were SNOW WHITE. As in, make your skin look freakishly white. This is very important, because as we all know,

Darkness x Desirability = Constant

The Whiter you are, the More is your Desirability.

So if you’re going to be grabbing this opportunity, be about it and go purchase that Fairness Cream right NOW!

Tip#2: Be homely

No, that’s not an insult.

Around here, Homely is a Good Thing. Nobody can quite lay their finger on what it means, exactly, but you’ll know you’re well up on your homeliness quotient when you spend most of your time at home, intensely absorbed in elder-worship and daily soaps, being a general doormat for everyone around you. It may take some time to get to that point, but the aforementioned daily soaps can really help you along, along with affirming your homely credentials.

Believe you me, Homeliness looks very, very good on your Matrimonial Ad.

Tip#3: Be well up in your cooking

No Nice Indian Girl is complete without her cooking skills. Since marrying you would effectively bar you husband from ever entering the kitchen, your cooking skills must be top-notch.

But don’t get too creative! Go with the traditional. Specifically, go with the rotis. Learn to make awesome rotis. Tie in your entire self-esteem with how soft your rotis turn out to be. That is the real test of your womanliness, the agni-pariksha, so to speak. Average won’t cut it. You HAVE to be better than his mother.

If you think that’s too much work, think of the rewards. Giving your husband Gastronomic pleasure is a sure way to keep him happy, which in turn, ensures that you get to buy that pearl choker you always wanted. It all works out to your benefit, in the end. And compliments never hurt.

Tip#4: Brush up on your demureness

A good Indian wife must be properly demure. It’s the basis of our entire culture, after all (if you don’t believe me, you’re obviously an ignorant Westerner).

Many years of education may have robbed you of your demureness, but that’s okay because the entire structure of your arranged marriage will help you get it back. That’s the beauty of it.

Be demure. Be indecisive. Dither on minor decisions. Don’t offer too many opinions. Accept life as it comes.

Tip#5: Ditch the Femi-Nazi crap

Feminism is not for nice Indian girls. It’s an evil invention of weirdo, uncultured Westerners who have no idea how to run a marriage. If you need proof, just look at the divorce rates in countries which have active feminist movements. They don’t even stigmatize divorce! I mean, how sucky is that?

As a good wifey, you must have the proper amount of justified disdain for Indian Feminists. Obviously, these are just bitter, rootless people who mindlessly ape the West. You shouldn’t feel angry at them (anger is unfeminine); rather, you should feel pity. How sad that they couldn’t get their own Arranged Marriage, and their own pearl chokers.

So, with those five hot tips, you’re well on your way. Don’t thank me; I’m just doing my part as a chivalrous protector of our culture.

Just don’t forget to count your blessings when you wake up in the morning, and your amazing husband does something really lovable, like compliment you on the excellent Parantha.

Count your blessings and shake your head, as you think about how wrong those feminists were.

 

 

 

Speaking of Career Women

Have you ever heard this kind of a remark?

Well, he’s a career man.

I haven’t. Not once in my twenty-one years of existence. There’s no such thing as a “career man”. Because men are just men.

How many times have you heard equivalents of this one, then?

Oh, her? Well she’s always been a bit of a career woman, you know.

It’s pretty common.

Apparently, there is such a thing as a “career woman”.  And she scares the bajeezus out of traditionalists.

It’s not hard to imagine why that might be. A career woman is strong. She has money. She’s independent. She’s ambitious. She’s smart.  She’s not a blond Barbie doll. She’s got interests far beyond a husband, kids and a clean kitchen. In short, she’s all the things that your average chauvinist DOESN’T want a woman to be.

Ergo, the prejudice.

The Bullshit.

The Generalizations.

The put-downs.

I’ve heard them all.

“Never marry a career woman”.

“She’ll quit when she gets married”

“She’ll quit when she has a second child”

“Career women are great in bed but they make terrible wives”. 

“Forget about kids if you marry a career woman”

“Women just aren’t meant to be career-oriented”

“Career woman are just deceiving themselves”

 

The whole rigmarole of unsolicited “advice” from playacting macho idiots who never learned to make  their own tea. The whole truckloads of sneering, contemptuous, condescending comments, which I’m supposed to support, by virtue of being male.

The juggernaut of prejudice grants no quarter. It takes over the imaginations of millions of people, esconces them in it’s own cozy comfort, and  builds a beautifully simple world-view which needs no effort to understand at all.

 

I am sick of it.

And I proclaim my irritation here.

Want to know what kind of woman I really like?

It’s NOT that cute brunette with an IQ lower than my microwave.

 

It’s that woman who doesn’t fit in.

It’s the woman who doesn’t feel the need to dress up like a helpless doll every day, just to impress a biased, blinkered society.

It’s the woman who has confidence enough to flip the finger at the same society.

It’s the woman who can be a REAL partner, not a doormat.

It’s the woman who’s got that intense, burning, searing FIRE in her belly.

It’s the woman who’s got that NEED to do well.

It’s the woman who can understand MY own fire.

NOT support it. Understand it. Feel it. Live it.

The woman who can completely chill out when it’s time to.

The woman who DEMANDS her due.

 

The chauvinists can have their Barbies.

All I need is a sparkling mixture of strenuous work and strenuous fun, and the sharp,bespectacled girl who can do full justice to that heady cocktail with me.

Losing a Cousin: The Sequel

Sequel to Losing A Cousin To Society.

She bends down low to serve the tea to me. Awkwardly, I grab a cup, some biscuits, and try to avoid eye contact. It’s not easy because she’s looking directly towards me.

The place is right out of a prime time K-serial. The family, seated around an implausibly elegant drawing-room. The outwardly smiling, “stern” Mother In Law. The aloof, unconcerned husband. The subservient parents of the bride. And, of course, the coyly gracious bride herself.

The mother in law goes on and on about how she saved the world with a matchstick. Polite smiles are exchanged. It’s all sickeningly sweet, just like the tea I’m trying to finish. I don’t even WANT to be here. My presence is merely a logistical necessity.

The husband gets out of his ostentatious aloofness and cracks a spouse war joke. More polite, rippling laughter. He’s allowed to crack these jokes now, to prove how hen-pecked he is. To prove how much he supposedly bends to his wife.

How gracious of him.

I clamp down on my annoyance. No point getting upset. There’s nothing I can do about this, and getting angry isn’t going to serve any purpose. Calm down.

There’s a clink of bangles and jewelry. The bride’s gotten up and she’s heading into the kitchen. I see my excuse to get out of the room and follow her. Awkwardness be damned, I’m going to talk to my favorite cousin.

As I enter the gleaming, surgically clean kitchen, I catch sight of her face. She’s looking radiant in the blood-red tones that the setting sun casts.

She looks at me. I look at her. I go first.

“So…how’s life?”, I ask her

“Oh! Good, good. Yours?”

“Just the usual.”

“Mmm hmm”

She gets some samosas out of the fridge and pops them in the microwave.

“How come you deleted your Facebook account?”, I say, by way of casual conversation. as we watch the lazy rotations of the turntable.

“Well, I’m married now, you know.”, she replies

“As is something like thirty percent of the Facebook population. As are my parents, for example. As is your husband.”

“Shut up, N.”

“Is it because ‘He’ doesn’t like it?”

She pulls the plate out of the microwave and begins to arrange the triangular delicacies on a tray. Her expression is inscrutable.

“Well, YES. Happy now?”

Not particularly

“Relax, I’m just asking!”

God. I REALLY need to calm down. Keep this friendly, I remind myself. She’s the victim here, not the culprit. Don’t chew her out.

“Okay, so now you know. Are you going to help me with serving this stuff?”

“Sure”

I pour out the chutney in the bowl and watch as the former corporate exec flits across the kitchen like a hapless, newly minted Domestic Goddess. God knows I’ve always been a better cook than her.

“S, just listen to me, okay?”

So this is it. I’m cutting to the chase. I know I’m going to be completely out of line. I know I’ll be going out on a limb here. But I will say what I have to say. Maybe I’m being stupid, but I think it’s important to say it.

She doesn’t respond. I know I have her attention, so I plod on.

“Look, S. If you ever feel you need help, if you need anything at all, I want you to call me. If you don’t want to call me, or if you think a woman might understand it better, call my mom or my sister. I think you’re too perceptive not to know how we feel about this whole thing. Still, we will respect your choices. I promise you that I will respect whatever you choose and I’m ready to fight for it. Just remember that we’re all here for you. That’s all, okay? Just don’t ever feel alone.”

She’s quiet for a second. Someone calls out her name from the drawing-room.

“It’s really not that b–”

“I’m not suggesting it is. Just remember, okay?”

A slow nod.

I turn around and walk back to the room, once again struggling to clamp down the anger and irritation. There’s nothing more to say.

I’m not even supposed to be here, like I said, much less get involved. But the heart does not listen to rationalizations of that sort. the heart does what the heart wants. And right now, it just wants to bro-fist its favorite cousin again and see that spunky confidence ONE more time. That’s all.

What’s with the accent, dude?

When I arrived in India about eight years ago, I was pretty typical for my age. I was your ordinary, garden-variety, pimply, scrawny teenager complete with the standard hormone-induced craziness.

It was a bit weird adjusting to the new school life, but one school and two years later, I was pretty much in my own private Valhalla. Things started going well. My marks improved. My sports participation became better. I joined the debating club. I learnt to play cricket. And then, there were the GIRLS. THAT was something which had never happened before. They looked at me. They talked to me. They were INTO me. Even a grunt like me could see that.
And I had no idea why. I may have been good at math, but I wasn’t a Rockstar by any stretch of imagination. I didn’t think I was that handsome. I wasn’t even the Cricket captain, for god’s sake. There was something weird about it, alright, but I didn’t care that much. I was too busy enjoying my new and improved Casanova persona. My parents chuckled at my experiments and gave me the usual reminders about setting limits etc etc. Life was good.

By the time I was halfway through Ninth grade, I had a steady girlfriend. Everything became cooler. The sky was a deeper blue. The evenings were mellow and sweet. I don’t think we had that much in common and I had no idea why she even liked me, but the experience was amazing. And, like most things which are that awesome, it didn’t last.

One afternoon, during dinner, I had the following convo with my elder sister.

“Hey, N, are you DATING that Niharika girl from your class?”, my sister said through a mouthful of rice.

I raised my eyebrows. “Um, yeah. So?”

She laughed at that for some reason, which, of course, irritated my teenage self.

“What’s your problem, S?”

More laughter

“God, you’re such an idiot! Can’t you SEE?”

“See what?”

“She doesn’t even like you! She’s just showing you off. One-upping her friends. I overheard her on the bus today.”

I stared at her like she was crazy.

“One-upping? Why would she do that? Why me?”

“Because you’re the… I dunno… hotshot NRI with the American accent and the ‘growing up in DC’ stories. Makes you popular”

“Oh, come on!”

She shrugged

“It’s the truth. Take it or leave it”

It turned out to be true, of course. I found out for myself soon enough and that was the end of it.

The funny thing is, I’ve seen that kind of behavior even from adults in India. They’re enthralled by the accent. They’re enthralled by the American-isms. Completely star-struck. Many of them pay lip-service to the “America is evil” school of thought, but their attitude doesn’t reflect that. I’ve recieved preferential service at posh cafes and restaurants for that reason. I’ve even seen people who’ve never been out of the country for any extended period, don faux accents, and consistently use the typical North American *kh* and *r* (“kharrrot”) or speak in an almost perfect RP. It’s cool to speak as though you were a foreigner and apparently, kind of attractive too. Makes you seem more intersting, it appears. Damned if I know why.

Darkness

 

They pushed me out,
into the light,
and all I saw was darkness.
Darkness in their faces,
Darkness in their faltering smiles,
Darkness in their unwelcoming gaze.

They did not hug me,
They did not greet me.
Why would they?
Do you hug a curse?
Do you greet a burden?
You do what She did.

You cry,
You lament,
bewail,
your misfortune,
at having borne not a child, but a girl,
at having brought not joy, but a mouth to feed,
not a working hand, but a commodity you do not want.

You do what He did.
You look on,
rage in your eyes,
despairing sadness in your heart,
you shut down,
and you blame her for it

I grew up in their home,
unseen,
unheard,
unneeded,
every morsel begrudged.
Biding time,
eking out the days,
waiting,
until I would be of age,
old enough to dump onto another.

And they did dump me,
dumped on him,
bought and paid for,
to do my duty,
to serve,
as was my destiny in this parched land,
barren from male footfalls,
starving for feminine gait.

Starve on, oh land,
for I will not come.
Dignity holds me here,
honor won’t let me go,
society won’t let me leave,
this cage of conventions,
this prison of a frozen culture,
frozen in time and spirit,
frozen ice cold in its cruelty.

I will stay here,
and wait,
for some little approval thrown my way,
for some scrap of affection,
for some precious moments of attention,
wait,
to bear a child, not a girl,
and dote on him, like no one doted on me

Image courtesy: the-nri.com online magazine

Losing a Cousin to Society

So, I had a family night yesterday. Went to this marriage ceremony.

The thing with Indian (or at least North Indian) marriage ceremonies is that despite the tremendous efforts of a small army of forced volunteers and the tremendous expenditures, they can end up being so excruciatingly boring for everyone (bride and groom included). There are only three classes of people who seem to enjoy going to Big Fat Indian weddings: foodies, alcoholics and Aunties.

For biological and sociological reasons, I am not an Aunty. Also, while I enjoy Paneer Tikka and the occasional pint of beer, I am not sufficiently monomaniacal about either of those to jump for joy at the thought of the next wedding in town. Company is generally rare. I feel out of place at both the car-o-bar and the food stalls. So I can usually be found sitting around with others of my ilk in one of the numerous chairs scattered around the place, intensely absorbed in a game of Angry Birds or some such.

Maybe I’m too young, or maybe I’m too naïve, but I really don’t see the point of all the showbiz. I don’t see the point of Inviting Three Hundred and Fifty Seven people, not counting kids. I don’t see the point of giving out obscene amounts of food and alcohol, and spending obscene amounts on what’s basically a big party. It’s not just that, though. After all, many Indians are more than rich enough to afford obscenely expensive parties. I may see it as a waste of money, but who’s to say my definition of waste is better than theirs? That’s not what I really want to write about. Last night, I witnessed something much worse than just showbiz.

Last night, I went to a party thrown by parents who pressurized their daughter into marrying a misogynistic moron. These same parents then paid a pundit to chant Sanskrit verses in the background in the hopes of making her married life a happy one. Last night, I went to a party where these parents sold out to social conventions that unilaterally decided their daughter was ready to be married. I saw them surrender to the toxic brew of a fake morality, of a fake culture,of such an…intensely, incorrigibly fake country. I saw them leave someone they surely loved, to the mercy of the winds on the rough seas of life.

I knew this woman, one of my cousins. I say knew, because I no longer know her. She was ambitious and smart, spirited and cultured, happy and vivacious, confident and charming. They took half of her away. I can see only the smartness and the culture, the vivaciousness and the charm .The ambition is gone. The spirit is gone. The happiness is vanished. The confidence is non-existent. All the rest of her is gone, into some deep recess of her conscious mind, some black hole from which there is no possible escape. What’s left is a vast, overpowering, overwhelming darkness around the fake halo of a fake personality. They succeeded in fitting a square peg into a round hole, destroying the peg in the process. They’ve built this sickeningly beautiful porcelain doll that smiles and laughs and cries like a human, but has nothing truly human about it. They did it without turning a hair, in yellow-bellied deference to that cruel mass called society, that terrible force which spares none and takes no prisoners, that horrible agency which makes devils out of loving parents.

I felt nauseated last night. I felt sick. I felt angry. I felt sad. The sort of sadness one feels when looking at a hurt kid.  This cousin is older than me. She is no kid. I should not feel that way, but I do. It’s none of my business, but saying that over and over does not cure the nausea. She’s a grown woman who married a grown man who expects her, in this day and age, to simply give up her career because he says so.  Married a man who talks about treating her like a queen, but orders her around as though she might be a bonded slave.

I felt so completely sick of this nation last night. So sick of it’s perversions. So sick of it’s horrible conventions. Screw you, society.