Girlfriends

Too often I have had girlfriends in my past I couldn’t stand to be around. They were all kinds of dreadful and the only defence I had against them was to be mean to them or ignore them completely. I just wish I had done something I have learnt to do only recently– Laugh and laugh loudly. There were so many of them. I resisted, fought, cried, got insecure, pitied myself and kept doing it repeatedly until they disappeared from my life. Too much was at stake then. I was trying to balance my new found feminism with going gaga over a man I loved whose approval I strongly sought. Things fell apart– I slapped one of his friends because he was a sexist hog and spent months crying over it. Now I look back and laugh because all it took was one tight slap and he was gone from my life.

The cooking girlfriend made my life difficult because she cooked and believed all women should cook. She pampered all the men around, including the love of my life, whom I didn’t mollycoddle usually but when I saw her doing it, I got sucked into the madness and pampered him crazy. Yes, I was insecure. No, I don’t feel stupid now because I am convinced I had to cross all of that to stand here and laugh.

I am a different person now which doesn’t mean I am less insecure about stuff. I just wish I hadn’t spent months fussing over my reactions to each of these shitheads. When I look back at the women I fought with, I miss them. Because minus feminism is important, I had a nice time with them. I was so busy trying to give them gyaan about how they should instead live their lives, I didn’t realise how nicely they would fit into my stories. I could have written then, when my anger was less funny and my writing, forceful and lame yet ambitious in a way it is too scared to be now.

I wish I was more invested in their lives and how they came to think the way they did. Despite all the irritation they harboured for me, which would come out only in moments, they were nice to me in a motherly yet real way. One of these women I am in touch with now is married and has just given birth to a boy. Around 8 months ago over a fury of whats app chats, she told me she didn’t want the baby. She was confused. She thought it was too early but was too scared to tell her husband. The final verdict came from her mother who convinced her that a year into the marriage is not too early to have a baby and that in some cases; it is the perfect time, especially if you have been living abroad.

This got me thinking of the many things I had chosen to ignore over my squabbles with her. Even so, I am not in a very forgiving place right now. I just wonder what she is doing now, at this moment. Feeding the baby or trying to shut it up because it has been howling all day.

Then there was another bored housewife up in arms against the F word, whom I laughed at 3 months ago on Facebook. That was fun but I felt really bad later because she was paavam and struggling with marriage issues, you know like spellings and stuff. Not fun.

I am listening to the soundtrack of Amelie now and wondering whom to think of fondly while I smile shyly. Not that there are many. It’s just that I want love to be perfect only in these moments — when I am listening to a nice song and don’t have to fret over whom to think of. This is the only time where Polygamy = 0, Monogamy =1.

Over and out

It is difficult to admit to yourself when you fall out of love. There aren’t signs nor symbols to tell you when you do, unlike when you are in love where every tear drop is out of feeling lucky and blessed, every smile is a play of memory and desire and every morning is a prayer. Here on the other side, there is a void now which is slowly beginning to fill with everything you don’t say to each other. A pause that appears more than once in a conversation; it twitches and you want nothing more than to wrap it up and put it in your pocket; to let it out only when it is healthier and is sure to inspire thoughtfulness and shared smiles.

It takes longer to dress up now, you pick clothes you don’t find interesting. When you turn back at your door and see the light and warmth in the curtains and the slow, rhythmic rising of fumes from incense sticks, you sigh and hang on to the hope of another Sunday, when all of this will be yours to touch and feel.

You go to familiar places, hoping it will rekindle forgotten desires, now abandoned in limbos – neither here nor there. The walk from the parking lot to the escalator is the hope for a good day. Then you say something, he says something else. Your face freezes in an expression you know he detests but it’s too late to think of what he detests and loves. Or perhaps you don’t care. Within a minute, the promise of a good day goes grinning by, and all you can do is stand there and wait to finish your thought, the fight.

A warped sense of pity and gratitude beckons you to walk along with him and force conversations on him, like squeezing an empty tube for that last remaining blob of toothpaste. But all you get is a set of grunts to match your ridiculous questions. You are only checking to see if the day still has potential, and then in that little distance between discomfort and accusation, you will know.

As you stand in silence on the escalator, you wonder if it always took you so long to get to the fourth floor. It seems as though another floor has been added because it really is taking you longer than usual to get there. Ringing echoes of laughter and memories of stories that you once inflicted on this escalator, this mall whisper behind you as you finally reach that dreaded fourth floor. And then a faint feeling of loveless coma whacks your face and you are left wondering if you just fell out of love.

Two pairs of hands are lifelessly sprawled on the table – they look yellow and tired. Every movement the hand makes is a battle between a desire to end the bickering, yet to not want to reach out and grasp his hand. The food arrives and you feel relief raining all over your insides. Hours later you are fighting the urge to push his weight off your chest while your face appears to be as calm as the moon. Every touch is a memory that your uncle left burnt on your thighs, hips and breasts. You go through with it and wait for it to end. It ends and you go home.

Of Fights and Families…

My mother and I talk only when we fight, and during commercial breaks between TV shows that we watch together very rarely. So during one of our latest verbal fits, she said something that made me think. When I fight my mouth begins an affair with my opponent’s mouth and has a life of its own and so the fact that my mother said something to me during a fight that made me stop and think is extraordinary to me. So last evening when I was trying to escape my mother’s madness, I told her that I was going to run away from her and the home. Normally when I say this, because I have said it so often and not had had the bloody gall to actually do it, my mother breaks into a fit of sobs and an even bigger fit of emotional blackmail diarrhea. After this, there’s not much left to do except shut up and watch her weep.

So just when I was preparing to do that she said that she could run away too, you know? I keep saying I will run away because I have the option to say or do that but she doesn’t have the option so she cannot even say it. It was at this point that I started feeling bad for her and I hate feeling bad for people I’m having life altering fights with.

I have always wondered what the right way is, to ease my folks into my life’s biggest tragedy, which is that I hate family and marriage and probably may never want either of those things. I haven’t mustered courage yet to tell them that. I am convinced that they will do everything within their power and the government’s to stop me from not wanting marriage or kids. And now this is my big problem, should I feed into the emotional drama back home or join in and do the same with my kids and theirs’? I’m saying this because whenever I picture myself giving in and doing just what my family expects me to, I always picture myself giving in fully; like full on sari wearing, child- strangling, husband well wishing mother of 2 who has quit her profession as a teacher and is now a stay at home feminist. This is a super scary picture, but one that is beginning to look more real with time.

This is like an old family photograph that has torn edges and is yellow but looks cheerful. One that children from another generation find and have questions to ask about. I hate this picture. The fact that it is not real is not the problem at all. I just hate it because I don’t know what else to do with this thing that isn’t real but powerful. Time and again, when I become weak and appear to be giving in to the “hamara sukhi parivaar” idea, that picture mocks me and I come flying back to rebellion.