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 To Do At Long Traffic Lights

I discovered just the right thing to do, yesterday.

It all began with my discovery of A’s iPod sitting on the passenger seat of my car in the morning. I don’t know how it got there (I had no idea A even carries the thing around with her), but I picked it up and put it on the dash, intending to return it to her when I got the chance.

Now A’s techno/dance oriented musical tastes are a far cry from my own. I prefer Punk Rock or Oldies, or even Classical, and Electronica doesn’t really come into my horizon. Still, being in a mood for something different this morning, I decided to plug her iPod into the stereo system and check out some of her own favorites. It wasn’t halfway bad, to be honest.

I soon got into the groove, enjoying the energetic beat.

And at one of those traffic lights with interminable timers, I completely rocked out in the car. There was a newspaper on the rear seat. I picked it up and sang into it. I moved to the music. Drummed my free hand on the dashboard console. Moved my head around. Made goofy rockstar expressions. Jumped up and down in my seat. Squiggled my fingers. Held up my hands to acknowledge my imaginary fans. Thanked the crowd for the applause.

It was way cool. A closed car can give you such a nice sense of privacy,. You never get the feeling that you’re out in public.

THEN, I swiveled to my right and saw them. Small family in a grey Honda – a man, a woman, a teenaged girl, and a younger girl who might’ve been six or thereabouts. All four of them were looking STRAIGHT at me, incredulous expressions on their faces, their mouths forming round four round “O”s of surprise.

The woman caught my eye a few moments later and the entire family suddenly burst into delighted laughter, all at the same time. I laughed too. It was a good respite, I guess, from the usual glum faces that tend to greet you on Delhi roads. I gave them the thumbs up, pulled my foot off the brake and was on my way, just a bit happier at having spread some laughs around.

Music can be so awesome.

Here’s the song, btw.

Motivation, Thy Name Is Woman

I never thought I’d ever lack motivation. Most of my life so far, I’ve been the work hard and play hard kind of guy. Plenty of drive. Clear ambitions. Life mapped out to the moment..

A couple of years ago, I used to have these kinds of conversations:

Acquaintance: So what are you planning to do after college?

Me: Well, once I complete my Computer Science degree with my chosen electives, I plan to do a masters in Financial Engineering or maybe even Quantitative Finance . My eventual aim is to get into an Organizational Strategic Planning role where I can put the specialized skills to use and fully leverage my software engineering-based core competencies.

Acquaintance: o_o

Even through High School, I had the kind of fire in my belly that allowed me to beat 350,000 aspirants to the same college, spending a full two years cramming and working without a break.

College kicks the crud out of that enthusiasm. It just kills that fire in you. The last few months, my motivation has been running lower than a foodie’s on a diet. I’ve become too comfortable with my current place. I’ve become complacent. I’ve become a lazy bum.

I haven’t felt like working.¬† Exams have been torturous, revision anathema. I haven’t even felt like enjoying. All I’ve felt like doing was curling up on some soft bed and going to sleep.

Well, all that’s going to change, courtesy my girlfriend. Her own dedication was one of the reasons I was attracted to her in the first place. Same fire in the belly. Same ambitious streak. Same drive. We talked last night and it was like an epiphany, like waking up from a trance. It was funny, because we weren’t even talking about anything like that. But something in her tone just caught, and I could feel those forgotten embers firing up again, that monster in there waking up and sniffing the air hopefully.

I guess I realized that this time isn’t coming back. I’m only going to get it once. Let’s make the best of it. Let me squeeze the living daylights out of every single moment. Squeeze for all it’s worth. My motivation is back again and once again, I’m feeling carnivorous. Gotta go out there and hunt.