Lessons

Embarrassment is two part spelling and one part memory.

two Rs and two Ss on a good day.

It is the brightest red you leave on your uncle’s pants, the first day of your period

one r and one s on a bad day.

It is sitting with legs wide open in class and realizing later that there’s a gaping wide hole right in between–right where you don’t want it to be. Thankfully you had the sense to wear the only decent underwear you own – no holes or anything.

It is drunk-calling somebody you will never ever call when sober

two Bs and one S on a day you don’t want to remember.

It is arriving right on time for a date in his house and wondering why he looks annoyed

It is trying to hold her hand in public before she shoves it deep inside her pocket, out of your reach

It is asking a stupid question at a conference and telling yourself that there is nothing called a stupid question

It is the time you spend waiting for a reply. For at least one of the seven messages that you have left.

It is too many blue ticks on what’s app

It is not being able to escape the memory of a wrong spelling.

It is falling asleep on someone’s shoulder and having them push you back to the window

It is forgetting how to spell Bengali in a literature class one day, so you quietly scribble Bengally and watch as the horror unfolds.

It is the burden of a slow day — lengths of its wasteland hitting you long after you have gone to sleep and woken up to a longer, slower day.

Pensieve

I sometimes find, and I am sure you know the feeling, that I simply have too many thoughts and memories crammed into my mind.”

— Albus Dumbledore

It is 6:00 pm. I am sitting with dusty old department files from’95 and listening to the Azhan from a nearby mosque. It is oddly reassuring to listen to the Azhan today, especially after a big burger and a glass of O.M. My ears are sharper and begging for distractions.

I like unearthing old department files. Time and again, I find myself asking for stories about the department. These stories are from a faraway time where, I am assuming– there was more quiet. I imagine myself, following the people in and out of their stories from the 80’s, the 90’s,and the 2000’s. I am like Harry in the Pensieve – floating, desiring, following.

I look into yellowed papers and let my eyes sit on its words. Hand writings. Some familiar, some not- whose pensieves I cannot seek because they are lost. I find it hard to cope with moments like these because there is too much conflict in them. I am nostalgic for a time that wasn’t even mine.

Is there a word for this? To be nostalgic for a time that you have only heard of – from other people? What does it mean if you want to live in other people’s stories more than in your own? I am not looking for an answer. I am looking for a solution.

I came back from a family trip yesterday and like always, I kicked myself for having agreed to go on the trip. There was a baby on the trip – my nephew. My mother becomes a child when she sees him. In la-la land, it should make me happy no? To watch my mother laugh like a child? I think somewhere it did. But behind those giggles was a soft plea to me – to give her a grandchild. Her own, as they say – to play with and what not.

My aunt says I should have a baby before turning 30 because otherwise, they become slow – the babies. My grandmother says I have to get married before she dies otherwise she’ll never forgive me. I don’t want to know how she’s going to manage not forgiving me after her death. I have watched far too many horror movies.

I sat next to these women, holding their hands, giggling in my head and calmly nodding. My sister kept raising her eyebrows and making terrible lesbian jokes. My brother kept dying about wanting internet connection. The father of the baby was stuffing his face with food while the mother was feeding the baby- feeding herself- keeping the baby from falling off the earth. There was so much irony in this entire trip that it stopped becoming an irony after a point.

These are times when I don’t want the pensieve.

Other Beef Things

Bornagain Titus and I met in my final year of M.A. I took a liking to him immediately because he was slightly mad. He is my only best friend today who doesn’t know any of my secrets. In 2015, I come to learn that that’s how one keeps best friends; by not sharing secrets. I also like him because he reminds me of actor Dhanush. His relationship with his mother is the funniest thing ever. On Mother’s day, Titus decided to wish his mother after having annoyed her by missing Church one Sunday morning. When he giggled and wished his mother, she threw a glass of water on him and told him to get lost.

One day, Titus fought with his neighbour because the neighbours’ toilet exhaust fan was right in front of Titus’ bedroom. When they were fighting, the man called Titus a ‘third class’ fellow. Later that evening, when Titus’ mother asked him what he wanted for dinner and Titus said ‘Beef fry’, his mother whacked him on his head and told him not to say it loudly because beef was why people thought they were third class.

This reminded me of my Brahmin friends who intimidated me then and make me giggle now. They would jump four benches away on days that I brought chicken curry and eight when I brought fish. They stopped talking to me once for repeatedly saying ‘Chicken – mutton – fish – Kolla Puchi’. I don’t know what Kolla Puchi means but my father would say that to irritate all the vegetarians in my family. My mother, for instance, who had became a vegetarian only because of an oath she had taken to save my new born Jaundice-ridden brother’s life.

I was 7 when I watched my Mother perform Madastana. That morning, we woke early and I saw that my mother was wearing a saree. She usually wears churidhars so I was mildly surprised. I don’t remember the color of her saree but it may have been cream or even white. Madastana is when lower- caste women roll on the temple floor, on the leftovers of Brahmins’ food. I saw crumpled banyan leaves along with grains of rice and drumsticks that were chewed until all the juice had been squeezed out, stuck to the sides of mother’s saree.

My father stood close to her, bending now and then to make sure that her pallu sat tightly around her chest. I know there must have been another elder person there with us, keeping watch over me, as I ran helter-skelter through the courtyard and came back panting to catch up with my parents. I stopped only once because mother had started to cry. I was afraid because my father looked more upset than I have ever seen him.

Now when I gather what had passed that day between them, my father hated that mother was being stubborn and wanted to do the Madastana. They stopped talking to each other for a while after that and resumed only after my brother regained his health, which is why the Madastana had happened in the first place.

When a friend took me home for the third time, his sister asked me which god we worshipped at home. I didn’t know and it didn’t matter because what she actually wanted to know was my caste. When I told her I was Korama and that I didn’t know much about it, she told me not to mention it to any of the other people at her home. It seemed like she knew a lot more about Korama than I did.

At Peace

We close for Christmas holidays today. The department hasn’t been this quiet in a long time. I am tempted to do another list, but I won’t. WordPress anyway gives me an end-of-year review. Also, I don’t like that I have to rely so much on lists to keep the writing going.

It has been a good year. I won some, I lost some. At certain points, it looked like I lost more than I won but the biggest win this year has been to realize that I can survive all the things I thought I never could. For a long time I believed that I would never be able to deal with people hating me. Turns out I’m quite the bitch in the gofuckyourself department. Not bad at all. Although, I wish I was a nastier bitch and remembered to be nasty every now and then.

I am not too thrilled by the prospect of holidays only because they have come at such a terrific time that I am going to relax the fuck out of them, so much so that I am going to have to perform Krav Maga on myself (Fight Club style) to get back into work shape once college reopens.

Shri Pehelvan Sahaveer Main College

In my 10th std, everybody was convinced I was going to fail because I was the dullest child in Math that my family had ever produced. My English was declared just average because I didn’t know what the word ‘uxorious’ meant when we were watching Monsoon Wedding. My sister was the Harry Potter fan girl when this happened. So it was believed that she was the rock star and I needed help. My mother told me not to worry because they were going to set up a pharmacy in my name if I failed tenth and that I wouldn’t be jobless.

Whenever I think of this, I think of what all my high school over- achieving Brahmin friends would have said if they had seen me duck under the counter covered with Orbits and Kama sutra in Chintu Pharmacy. Or under the counter at Chintu Rajasthani cotton expo that had come mind numbingly close to Chintu’s café. Mouma seemed to be the only one who saw me with a degree in Humanities yet not in any of the Chintu buildings. She was the only woman to have faith in me. She said she would write letters to Puttaparthi Sai Baba and that he would pass me in all my exams.

I went to Shri Pehelvan Sahaveer Main College in Bangalore to do my B.A Journalism. It was quite a unique college. The Journalism course was run by the Psychology department and this was all kinds of hilarious. They kept finding saffronistas to teach us Journalism. My favourite cartoon was a Radio producer turned College lecturer named Radio Kantri. Radio Kantri taught us journalism by talking fondly of his childhood, The Hindu, Narendra Modi, and why A.R Rahman at the Oscars was the best thing to happen to India. Three years doing Journalism there and all I learnt was that The Hindu is a better newspaper than The Times of India.

In 2009, the infamous Mangalore Pub attack happened and I decided to send a pink Chaddi, thanks to The Pink Chaddi Campaign. Later that week, my father told me that he was friends with Pramod Muthalik, the bald head behind Sri Ram Sene, and that he had given him 10,000 Rs the previous year. I sent Muthalik another pink chaddi.

BRA & GSB

If I were to tell you the story of the women in my family, I would probably begin with Mouma and my aunts. My aunts are crazy in much the same way that aunts in most families are; and normal in a way that is still crazy. All the women in my family are various forms of the Metaphysical conceit.
When I was 4, I would sit on mouma’s lap with a glass of milk and refuse to drink it unless she showed me both her breasts. Soon, all my sisters started to demand this from her. We would sit around her smiling into our glasses of milk and wait for her to pull her breasts out. She must have been special because none of the other grandmothers did this. I think this is because she had lost her husband when she was rather young and not having a husband around makes old women very cool.

That’s the grandmother I remember. The other version of her is who she became when she was around her children. She had six; two boys and four girls. If I ever live to grow that old, I wish I inherit her madness. One morning she woke up having dreamt that the gods in Banaras were calling out to her. She demanded to be taken there right away. My mother laughed in her face and refused. It gave me an oddly primal pleasure to watch my mother being blackmailed first and bullied later by her mother to sponsor the Banaras trip.

Her extortion attempts are always successful because she threatens to go live with her children for ‘a few weeks’, if they don’t give her money. She knows her coming home means threatening them but it doesn’t make her sad because she makes a fortune out of it. When news of her arrival rocks the first floor of my house, the ground floor shakes with disapproval. Guestrooms are reorganised, undergarments are hidden inside lockers, bags are folded and kept away, and all the riches– shopped for carefully in various exhibitions, are stripped away until nothing but the gloomy exteriors of concrete remain.

 My Mouma, the bra thief snoops around the house for bras and chaddis regardless of how much they are torn or where, to give them away to other poorer relatives. I don’t know what she tells them when she hands it to them. I wonder if she’d collected empty Jockey boxes to fill them later with my bras and chaddis.

It’s more surprising to say this to myself but she’s also a fiercely independent woman. She prefers travelling alone and when she does, she travels in style. Hotels are booked months in advance, flight tickets are negotiated across two states – Karnataka (my mother) and Maharashtra (my Bombay aunt) and cars are arranged. Failing this, she goes AWOL for a long time and resurfaces at random points with new handbags from wherever she went but always smelling like Vibhooti. Wherever she came back from, she always smelled of Vibhooti, Marie biscuits and tea powder.

 When I ask for stories about my grandfather, I am only given one– like all those times I asked for too many things as a child and was given just the one bar of chocolate. My mother says he knew when he was going to die and that he scribbled the date on a wall in the house. He had a hole in his heart and died on the date he said he would. Nobody had time to be amazed by either this or his death because he had left behind a mountain of debt. It fell to the eldest son at home to take care of that and his siblings’ education.

My mother says she owned only two salwaar-kameezes when she went to Canara College. She would wear it every alternate day and her friends were kind enough never to ask her why. My aunts have always told my sister and I that we are lucky to be born rich because we don’t have to struggle with who’s wearing what. My Bombay aunt talks fondly about a time when the eldest sister would fold her favourite white salwaar-kameez neatly and put it under the bed to iron it and how one day, she- my Bombay aunt, sneaked into the room, wore it quickly and ran for her life for a family function that the elder one couldn’t attend because she had nothing to wear.

Growing up, my aunts navigated our desires with feel-bad stories of poverty from their childhood. Every time we made a fuss about not being able to watch a Salman Khan first day first show, my Bombay aunt would tell us the story of how she rolled on the floor and wept until dawn because it had rained and flooded and they couldn’t catch ‘Satte pe Satta’s last show in a broken theatre far away from home – so far, they had to change three buses to get there.

For a long time, I didn’t know what my mother’s caste was. I knew we were low-caste but whenever I asked for the name, I was told it was GSB. I knew that couldn’t have been right because Mouma said it all too hurriedly, like she wanted to say it fast and get it over with, like she had rehearsed it so often and so well that it had seemed a waste to throw it at a family member, instead of a stranger.

My mother, on the other hand said it with a half-smile, half- embarrassed look on her face. Once, I walked in on a conversation that my mother was having with Bubbly, my cousin.

-You should’ve told them no? That we are GSB.
-I told them but they didn’t look convinced
-Next time just remember to say GSB before anybody asks.

When I asked Bubbly about this conversation years later, she imitated my mother’s half-smile and told me that our ancestors were, for lack of a better word, ‘Nachnewaalis’ (dancers) and that’s why, collectively, they had all agreed on calling themselves GSB to avoid unpleasantness. Confused, I asked her why we had to hide it.

She said that that was because some of the Nachnewaalis were also prostitutes. I was 23 when I found out about this and I remember how much this information cheered me up. I imagined myself stumbling into old account books of clients or some such in one of the rooms in our Mangalore house.

We watched Shobhana in Manichitrathaazhu one evening. All of us sisters huddled in the last bedroom where there was no sunlight and the air was thick with the smell of Kannan Devan tea. For days I was convinced that I had in me, the spirit of my prostitute-ancestress. I explored all the rooms in a mad fervour to find old antiques/ jewellery/anything that looked like they didn’t belong in the house.

Sadly, all those rooms only had Kannan Devan tea powder rag-bags and one big, red old-school weighing machine. My cousins Avanti and Bubbly knew their way around the weighing machine. I looked, wide-eyed and thrilled at how they were able to use the correct weighing stones to weigh various things. I took a fancy to those weighing stones more than the weighing machine. My uncle kept that tea business for over five decades and continues to run it successfully. Even to this day, mother says she cannot stand to drink tea – green or black, the smell makes her nauseous.

My Bombay aunt and Mouma cannot stand each other because they are like each other. My Bombay aunt is the happiest woman I know because she tries. She is also one among the few people I know who have all the reason to be sad. She realised that her husband was an obnoxious person two hours after she married him. He was loud and uncouth.

Theirs was an arranged marriage. Their kundli had predicted a blissful union. In real life, she pondered over why their kundli lied so blatantly when she had to spend many nights outside the house after he had hit her and kicked her out. She didn’t leave him because she had watched and learnt what good wives do from far too many unhappy families and Bollywood movies.

Scooby was a stray dog that my Bombay aunt had taken in. He was a happy dog but ever so often he would get lonely so he would lie on the sofa and look woeful. My Bombay aunt would feel physically violated if she ever saw that dog unhappy so she would give him pep talks.

All the other colony dogs are jealous of you because you live luxuriously here with us. Don’t talk to them because they are all trying to usurp your position’.

My Bombay aunt and Mouma fight all the time. She knows that Mouma likes the other daughters more than her but what pisses her off is that Mouma does nothing to hide this. More than once I have heard my Mouma say ‘kauna gottu?’ Who knows? — when her other daughters said, ‘kasala amma teshi karta, tee ve tugeli dhuv nave?’ (Why do you act like that mother, she is also your daughter no?)

My Beef, Your Beef

I remember how his eyes became really small and seemed to disappear into their sockets when he was going to hit me. This was in 2009. We were at a hotel in Mussoorie eating the breakfast buffet. I had on my plate, a full English breakfast. When he asked me what the lump of red meat on my plate was, I said ‘Bacon’.

Is that pig?’
‘Yes’
‘OK. But sometimes they serve beef also so be careful’
‘It’s OK, I like beef’
-Silence-
‘You eat beef?’
‘Yes’

He looks at my mother who is sitting the way she always does when she knows something terrible is going to happen: her eyes boring into mine, fierce but saying nothing, pleading to stop. He says I have become like Arundhati Roy. I smirk. Two weeks ago, I had found out that Roy and I share the same birth day and I was still celebrating it.

I am just going to say ‘It’s ok, I like Arundhati Roy’, but my Bombay aunt can sense danger from a mile, so she pinches my arm. Now I am mad.

-I don’t want you in my house, he says. Two children are enough for me, I don’t want you.
-Ok. I’ll leave when we get back to Bangalore.

He has stood up, the table has moved back. The waiters have stopped whispering and are looking at us with devotion. I am wondering if they are taking sides. Whose side would they be on if they knew the whole story? I thought. He is leaving the table but before he does, he leans over all the plates and cutlery and my English breakfast to slap me. Mother has stopped him and has begun to pull him away.

I start weeping, my aunt starts patting my back rather rudely. I don’t know if she is trying to console me or taking revenge. My sister looks at me understandingly but there’s so much pity in her eyes that I must look away.

They say family fights make holidays special. I don’t want to slap the person who said this because later I will discover Lorelai Gilmore who said ‘there’s nothing like a family to screw up a family’.

I have a functional/guilt- induced relationship with my father, the same that most women seem to have with theirs. Have I mentioned that I love Freud? I refer to him in all my classes, especially when my students are being smartasses. While we were discussing a movie that I had just shown them, they said that the ending was kind of clichéd because it
rained and everybody was happy.

I said ‘Sigmund Freud said that if it rains at the end of a movie, then it’s a good movie’. They called my bluff but shut up. Since then I use Uncle Freud in all my classes when I have to invent something famous someone once said.

Every year on the 14th of April, my father sits us down to tell us we are what we are because of Ambedkar. It doesn’t matter that he was going to hit me for admitting to having eaten beef. It doesn’t matter that he insists on inviting Brahmins for lunch on all festivals. Because on the 14th of April, my father becomes the lanky Dalit boy that he was in his youth.

My mother recounts his childhood with a pain that I think he has chosen to remember only very rarely. When he studied engineering in Davanagere, he had no money. His father would send him 10 Rs every month. When he ran out of toothpaste, his friends lent him theirs in exchange for labour. He had to complete their record books. This arrangement ran like ration. For every assignment he wrote, he got a blob of toothpaste.

I know very little about his life back then. This was the first story about him I ever heard and the last I ever asked for. When I look at him in sepia photographs, I see him standing tall and thin, smiling widely. The corners around his eyes are always marked with a happiness that is too easy to believe and too far to imagine. My father looks happy in all the photographs. I don’t know how he does it, standing erect like a shirt on hanger, his hands joined behind his back, his eyes focused on the camera, his mouth breaking into a laugh that I remember as his laugh when we watch Tom and Jerry together.

When I ask them how they got married, my mother picks her answer carefully. She is always preparing her daughters for their lives in her answers to us. She came from a poor family, just like dad. One day when she was lighting choola to heat water in the bathroom, she found a photo ad in the newspaper matrimonial section. She had just picked up this bit of the paper to throw into the fire when she stopped. It was his photo. It said fair brides wanted. My mother was a fair bride. She boldly took the photo to her mother who only saw the words Government job next to a black and white photo of my dad and got her daughter ready. And like that they were married.

They were married in a hurry. My father was afraid of losing his fair bride to his mother’s dowry demands, something that my mother’s family couldn’t afford and something that my father wasn’t interested in.
And because he refused the dowry and became a good Indian man, he was cursed well. His mother-in-law visits us every now and then, more now than then and his mother stopped talking to him because of how nice he was to his in-laws and also because the dowry never came.

My mother says that two days into the marriage, she had begun to get very scared. My father would sit looking at ants early in the morning. He would trap one or two ants in a tumbler, look at them like a wild animal on hunt and smile. He would be fascinated by animals and my mother, by him.
I find their marriage very entertaining. Twenty seven years he’s been my father and he still struggles with Konkani much like he struggles with most other languages.

When we went to Munnar once, he was upset because the Tamil driver didn’t know the route and didn’t know Kannada. It always irritates my dad when people don’t know Kannada, especially Tamil people. My mother has tried to reason with him on this but he doesn’t listen. We think it’s because he adores Vadivel and loves watching Tamil movies so much that he hates to admit that he doesn’t even remember which the last good Kannada movie he watched was.

He thrust the phone into the driver’s hands and told him to call the hotel and tell them that we were on our way. The driver looked confused at which point my father barked, “K.S Anand anta sangu” which is a murder of two languages in an attempt to produce one.

His standard reaction to everything is swearing at people regardless of whether they have made him happy or sad. When we first moved into our new house, everything was messed up. Some walls weren’t painted, some switches weren’t working, and so he called the contractor and agonizingly said ‘Spitting spitting on your face, the saliva in my mouth also got over’, which made me wonder what he was more annoyed with – the unfinished work or the dearth of saliva in his mouth.

That was when he was bitterly angry. Most other times when he is cursing, he is also amused. Like this one time when he was driving and lost, we stopped to ask for directions from a man who gave us a clear map of where not to go. After 5 minutes of listening to that man’s elaborate ‘don’t take right, go straight, don’t take left, go straight’, my father put his head out of the window and said ‘Thoo, may someone pour masala dosa on your face’. Or like this other time when our maid Nagamma put his home slippers into the shoe cabinet for the 10th time that week, he ground his teeth and said ‘may cobras bite cobra-woman’s hands’

It made my mother chuckle with disbelief that he would dole out the most unconventional curses even when he was the happiest. Whenever our cook Shobhamma made what according to him was the best chicken saaru, he would say ‘what curry she’s made may her home fall into ruins’

When we went to Europe for 15 days, I was dreading Amsterdam and true to my horror; he hovered behind my sister and I throughout the shopping spree. He let us enter the first -half sections of all the shops where there were weed chewing gums, the second section was tricky – he had raised his eyebrows at the various novelty t-shirts and mannequins that wore things just to show off parts that weren’t covered.

At the third section where there were all manner of Dildos and Vibrators in fascinating colours and sizes that may have confused him about where to put them, he told us to about-turn and we did because we couldn’t keep the giggles inside any longer.

Frocks

Someday I will wear a pink bow and explain to my little sister why she can like, and wear pink. I will tell her about the time a boy in school had made me cry and I ran to the bathroom to wipe my eyes on the sleeves of my white uniform. I will tell her how while I cried; I surprised myself by noticing how green the bathroom tiles were. She will smirk, the edge of her lips curling, when I will tell her that my white skirt was actually a faded yellow and that it had made me very unhappy to see it that day.

I will tell her about Manav, the boy who sat behind me in class—the first boy to have ever made me cry. He was a big bully. Two of his front teeth were missing – Everytime I looked at him, it seemed like he had lost more teeth. This made me hate him more. That Wednesday in English class, he pulled one of my two piggy ponytails and wouldn’t give me my red ribbon. He said he threw it out the window. When I complained to the teacher, she looked up at me, clicked her tongue, and went back to reading her book.

When I will tell her this, my sister will look doubtful. Maybe she won’t believe Manav threw my ribbon away, maybe she won’t believe the ribbon was red, maybe she won’t believe the teacher didn’t do anything.

I will then begin telling her about another time another boy made me cry.

I will tell her about the pink frock with the pearly white beads down the front that ma picked for me. How when I told her I had to wear a new frock for the Christmas dance at school the next day, she frowned.

-Tell them you are Hindu. You get enough new clothes for Ganesh Chaturthi.

-But the teacher said that we must wear a new frock. All the girls have Christmas frocks. I want one. I want a pink one.

-Are they going to make you dance with boys now? Ask your dad, I don’t know about this. We don’t send our girls there so they can go dance with boys and all.

After I tell my sister this, we will readjust how we sit. We have been sitting here for too long now. The creases on the bed sheet have smoothed out. When we have finally picked a position, we are sitting a little apart from each other, almost decidedly. There’s enough space between us to keep both our palms on the bed now. I will then proceed to tell her how on the day of the grand Christmas dance, Rashmi and Ashish danced together. They were both class monitors. They looked so good together that it made me feel very uncomfortable. I didn’t like my stupid pink frock anymore. Rashmi was wearing a satin white one and her cheeks looked chubbier than ever, her eyes looked big and her lips were a nicer shade of pink than my dull frock. I looked at Ashish and wondered if he liked holding her. Did she like holding him?

I must have been staring at them for too long — I didn’t listen when the teacher started announcing something.  She told all the girls to switch partners and when I didn’t move, the boy I had been dancing with grind his teeth together and tugged at my beads, my pearly white beads that came off and hung loosely by their threads. Some other unfortunate beads came off easily and he hid them in his hands and refused to open out his palms and show them to me.

I ran to the bathroom and stood by the basin, crying. Everything was messed up. Ashish was not supposed to dance with her. Rashmi was not supposed to dance with him. My beads weren’t supposed to come off so easily. My pink frock was supposed to be the prettiest in the class.

When I will tell my sister that after that day, I have never owned anything pink – I am scared to tell her more. She will look at my pink bow and not ask me questions. I will tell her that now I like pink and that she too, should like pink. Her face will become an unreadable cloud and I can only seem to focus on her eyebrows and then everything dissolves and falls into stories I have not told yet. Slowly, everything starts disappearing – the bed, the bedroom, my sister, the frocks and I’m left alone, without any stories to tell.

Vicky Christina Barcelona

This is the first Saturday night I am spending with Bubbly and Mintu. I was in the department today reading Sound & The Fury for a little while before I realised I was alone. Mintu texted a little after I had become bored and abandoned my book. She said to bring wine, and that she wanted to watch Vicky Christina Barcelona. At first, I protested. I had watched it only last week, in a moment of mad inspiration. I told her we could watch horror. She refused. My throat felt dry and so I cancelled my writing group plan and headed home.

I picked up a bottle of Sula and rode. At 9:00, I had a long family dinner and marriage wasn’t mentioned. So I joked around, speaking urdu for sometime and then sent signs to Mintu and Bubbly to follow me upstairs.

We debated for a little while and then eventually I agreed to watch VCB. Very rarely am I able to watch a movie again after having watched it very recently. VCB, Band Baaja Baarat, DDLJ, The Holiday, Aadukalam, Monsoon Wedding, Amelie are some movies I can watch over and over again.

While it’s true that I notice something I have never noticed before when I watch a movie again, it is also true that there’s a mad, raging connection between women when they are drunk, and watching a Woody Allen movie together.

Tonight, for instance, I discovered that Mintu is perhaps the only human being who smirks at the same scenes that I do.  She smirked when Doug climbed up the escalator to meet Vicky after she had slept with Juan Antonio. She said that she loved the movie when Christina went to Juan Antonio’s home and better still, moved in with him. She hit the space bar at the exact same moments that I had — when Vicky refused to join Juan Antonio on his little trip to Oviedo and Christina considered it. At this point, Mintu asked us if we would ever do what Christina did. I said yes and Bubbly said no.

I knew they would both love Marie Elena. Especially that one scene where she poses for Christina, holding that cigarette like she’s holding, well, a cigarette. Mintu smirked when Marie Elena, speaking of Juan Antonio said ‘Our love will always be romantic because it is unfulfilled’

I have also learnt that women in love have a better sense of what’s about to happen in a movie, than women who aren’t in love. That’s because they think they have more to lose, and therefore are at risk all the time. Bubbly had a crazy sense of predicting when Marie Elena would lose it, and when she was just about to do something crazy. All of Mintu’s predictions were wrong. And as far as I can remember, so were mine.

Both my sisters however, cheered when Marie Elena and Christina kissed; and shrugged gruffly when Juan Antonio joined. Thankfully, Mintu giggled when Doug was turned on when Christina narrated her passionate scene with Marie Elena. ‘How typical!’ is what she didn’t say but knew,that she wanted to say.

I don’t even remember the wine anymore. It has been a good Saturday.