Marzipan & Cotton Sarees

I finally went to Marzipan on Tuesday. I took a roundabout of Ulsoor lake and landed at a junction I should have paid attention to much earlier. When I got there, I was relieved to find that it had an accessible parking spot – something that Bangalore has taught me to look for, so meanly.

N and I ate New york Cheesecake, Moussaka, Chicken Baguette Sandwich and downed it all with a cup of Cappuccino. Marzipan is nothing like Parisian Cafe. It’s not small and one cannot get lost in thoughts, much less eavesdrop on other people’s conversations here. The tables are all safely placed at a careful distance from each other. A corner I would have preferred otherwise is furnished with a humongous sofa, and a teapoy with Pictionary, Scrabble and other board games on it. The cushions are blue and the interiors, brown.

On the other side, there are two long wooden slabs with bar stools. Both these slabs open to glass windows. I made a mental note to not to sit by the window that opened to the view of the main road. Too distracting. I ushered myself instead, to sit by the one that opened to the empty space. But that’s for another time, when I will go there alone.

N and I read each other’s pieces. Hers was Sci-fi. Mine was about going to Bhadravathi. She wore the green dress I have seen before and have come to feel so reassured by. I see her shuffling around in her apartment wearing a red lungi and a loose white tee — wondering if she should step out, pausing to see if the green dress would do today.

I don’t remember the first time I met her. I only know she must have been wearing a saree, a blue one. N and another N I know are the coolest saree-wearers. On many an occasion, I have pondered wearing a saree like that, but that’s for a world I haven’t made too many promises in. When I wear a saree, it will be a cotton one with a blouse that stubbornly won’t match the saree.

I liked Marzipan. Its windows are big and personal. And they have the best cheesecake I have tasted in ages. It’s our new writing group place.

Of Borrowed Bikinis

It’s what families do to me. It’s what my family does to me. This feeling that they are taking away from me what is mine – my body, my space, my idea of who I am and who I want to be like. It feels the way bodies sometimes react to danger. Like how 5 seconds before your body knows it’s going to touch concrete, it cringes and you taste blood in your mouth, like air squeezed out from your lungs.

I am 14, puberty and all. We are out on a holiday. I spend most of the night thinking about touch and sex and love only to be woken up rudely by mother at 6:30 in the morning. I have barely slept and not fully recovered from fantasies. We have to go out for a walk, all of us together, with the family. I don’t want to go, I say sleepily. I don’t have a choice because they can’t leave a girl alone, all by herself in a hotel room. The reason makes me slightly mad. Now I really don’t want to go even though I am wide awake because mother is being stubborn again.

No, we have to go because we have to see the sun and anyway I get to sleep at home how much ever I want. I fight, they shout, we leave. On the walk, they have a new problem. I am not looking happy ‘enough’. I have to enjoy because I am out with family. I didn’t want to because I didn’t feel like I had control over my body anymore. I had wet the bed, with no time to bathe or change, I was out for the walk with wet panties stinking from between my legs. I felt sicker because they were all watching me, forcing me to look happy.

I am 17, I have PTA. Mother gets there 30 minutes early and stands behind a pillar to watch if I am talking to any of the boys. Fast forward to 5 years later, my sister and mother joke about dad’s expression if he were to find out that she gets dropped home by her male friends on their two wheelers.

I am 20. I have a bad headache. Mother wants the grinder repaired. There are 3 other people at home perfectly capable of getting it repaired. But mother is convinced that I have to go. Maybe because she is mad at me for being in love (which I was), maybe she is mad at herself because she didn’t have enough evidence to prove it, maybe she is mad at me for lying, but for now she is mad at me for not waking up soon as she screamed my name to get the fucking grinder repaired.

I am 20. I want to go for a sleepover. She throws her plate of food away because I asked her why I can’t go. Every one at home is mad at me because she hasn’t eaten that night. I didn’t go for the sleepover.

I am 23. I get a job in Mysore, which isn’t too far away from home. Surprisingly they agree. But mother has cried thrice already because I looked ‘too’ happy to go to another city. I can’t find accommodation. Mother and father have BP issues so I have to quit. I spend more than a month at home, unemployed and depressed and now I have to stomach the fact that my sister is going to Pune to work. ‘They have people we know there’ ‘You’ll get a job soon, don’t worry’.

I am 23. Another sleepover. Dad yells, I yell back, he says he is going to slap me, mother lets me go.

I am 24. I have lied enough to learn that I don’t have to deal with any of the drama at home if I keep lying. So I keep lying.

I am 25. I have to wear a Saree for a cousin’s wedding. I don’t want to wear it but she looks tired and unhealthy and apparently her menopause becomes worse when I don’t wear a Saree. So I say ok. My sister doesn’t have to wear one because our clients only like chubby girls. When she puts on enough weight, she will be forced into a saree and made to stand in front of strangers who will rape her with their eyes. But now it is my turn to be raped.

I feel naked in a saree because I don’t want to wear it. I might wear a bikini and feel more clothed so long as I have decided to wear a bikini. I can’t talk to them about this. I don’t think they will understand.

I am 25. I am going to travel alone for the first time. I am excited. I don’t care that I had to lie to be here, doing my own thing, paying with my own money. I am glad I am here. They can all go to hell because for 3 days now, I am the master of my time on a holiday that I am paying for, where I will wear bikinis and run on beaches. I will think about the Saree later, when I have satisfied my body with a bikini.

A Tale of Sarees and Woes

When Meera was 18, the uncle who molested her when she was 14 and then again when she was 15, brought a man one day to her house wondering if her parents were willing to get her married. The man he brought with him was a colleague, an NRI and 32 years old. For the next two weeks, everybody at home only talked about the man and how lucky Meera was. But Meera was in love with somebody else, and even if she wasn’t, she didn’t want to get married to Gangappa, the NRI.

When Meera was 22, her mother found out about her affair. There were tears followed by a 2 day fast, followed by more tears and finally, bread and butter for dinner. When Meera was 23 and 24, she started to have a life outside of her home and her relationship with the boyfriend of 9 years. When this happened, relationships that she had left behind began to turn yellow and sour.

Outside of this home, Meera secretly liked wearing sarees. That was perhaps her only guilty pleasure that she took away from the list of things she had learnt not to like: functions, marriages and families for instance. Because of the hysteria built around young women wearing sarees during functions, Meera simultaneously developed an aversion towards it. Unknowingly, her family contributed a great deal to how stubborn Meera had become. Her dementor sister’s insistence on other people having to be in a good mood, if accidentally she woke up with one, had made Meera somewhat of an anti family person. And also because the dementor sister was a splendid daughter, rebelling against parents became twice as difficult for Meera.

She grew to hate her family and their emotional blackmails. Her dementor sister’s Karma speeches and Journey monologues left her with guilt initially and later when she found refuge in laughter and sarcasm, it became easier to ward off her fake Buddhism. Eventually Meera would come to realise that it wasn’t the depression that made her sad at home. It was home that made her sad. Even so, Meera held her ground until one day the worst saree fight ensued between mother and daughter. Meera succumbed because she didn’t know why but later that evening, after she had returned from dumping the blouse material at the tailor’s, something strange happened.

At first, Meera thought it was color from the clothes she was wearing, it was blue one day and green another day. The spots would hurt her more when she felt guilty about wearing a saree when she didn’t want to. She felt guilty because she didn’t have to do this just because her mother was mad. Her mother was always mad, and she could trust her sister to make her madder. If it wasn’t the saree, it was earrings or wearing sleeveless.

A week after the Saree incident, Meera died. A blue saree had weaved itself around Meera’s body and she had died of suffocation and guilt.