Thursday, September 29, 2011

Suicide: A Death of One's Own

Was reading this long and lovely article today. I'll be honest, I have no idea who she is, this woman who put a bag over her head and peacefully left the world. There is just something about the article that struck me. Early on, it describes this strong and very feminist woman thus.
She took Woolf’s concept of a room of one’s own to heart. In fact, she had several. There was one at her sprawling Central Park West apartment, purchased for tens of thousands of dollars in the sixties, and another at her country house (she had a “bat house” nailed to that house’s barn; Heilbrun loved bats). Then, when she was 68 years old, despite having three grown children, two grandchildren, and what by all accounts was a loving marriage, Heilbrun bought another house, all for herself. She wanted a house, she said, away from the “family togetherness” of the other house—“small, modern, full of machinery that worked, and above all habitable in winter, so that I might sit in front of a fire and contemplate, meditate, conjure, and, if in need of distraction, read.”
Then it says:
Heilbrun’s suicide was an act of will, an idea brought to life. It was something she chose, by herself, for herself. ...
And Heilbrun was nothing if not sensible: She made what she considered informed decisions, and seldom second-guessed herself.
 So there is a picture they have taken pains to build here. And then they go and print this.

In the days since her mother’s death, Margaret has been up and down: She is not quite sure what to think. “It’s not that I’m angry as much as I’m mystified,” she says. “She had so many more friends than I did—friends and acquaintances, people who looked up to her, who saw her as a nurturer and role model. Was it that she herself had no one to turn to? Why did she feel so isolated? She must have had fears and other feelings I can’t begin to have known. I know for myself that if you’re scared enough of something, you won’t ever speak of it.” She twists one of her rings. “But,” she says, “it was her plot.”
I don't understand why, if the case they have been building in the article all this time is to have a death of one's own, why they needed this quote from the daughter. It's also interesting to think that this closest daughter of this unconventional woman, with a very strongly and clearly articulated stance on life, has such a conventional reaction/interpretation. (Ok I'm not being horrible she lost her mother she wants solace, she doesn't want to believe that her mother decided to leave her, I get it.) The fact that it's in the article sort of undermines the whole thing for me. The point is that this woman made all her choices and lives by her principles. To me, it doesn't seem like such a terrible thing if, like the witches and wizards of the Discworld, you could know or even choose when you leave the world. You lived the life you wanted to; you have achieved things you think are worthy; you're done. You leave.

Sorry this might seem random but it just really struck me in the context of this particular women, about whom I know nothing, in this particular article, that it turned something of strength and fire that she had built into something banal and trite. Why do it?

P.S. On a lighter note, here's an idea to adopt from her life! Her children, "In their teens, they were each suddenly required to cook dinner for the family once a week—it works out perfectly, Heilbrun told friends, as long as you’re willing to eat peanut butter and jelly from time to time."

Monday, September 26, 2011


Not to indulge in it too much, but when I went to the doctor on friday, and again this morning, for my evil bitch ass tonsilitis, I realised that the man, despite being phoren educated and working, and putting his registration number on the prescription, he would only talk to me in Hindi Which meant that I responded in Hindi, but then I couldn't really describe the horror of my plight in the most accurate way.

Funny, cos down south, an urban middle to upper middle class doctor would never talk in local language unless patient couldn't do English..

Also, my friends keep singing those handclap game songs, you know biscuit biscuit what biscuit cocoa biscuit what cocoa while clapping hands madly in rhythm kind of stuff. But the same rrhymes, saying the same things, are in HINDI! Again, no problem with that, but even in a school where we didn't actually talk to one another in English, we sang the songs in English.

Is it just cos the likelihood that someone in Delhi speaks Hindi is exponentially higher than the likelihood that someone in Hyderabad will speak Telugu?

Edit: super advantage of north Indians not speaking English--when a telemarketer calls and babbles shudh matrubhasha at me, I just say look, I don't speak that much Hindi, I don't want to buy anything, so if it's anything else please speak to me in English. They say, aap ki samay ke liya dhanyavad and hang up.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fighting in the Family

Did you know that the Mahabharata is cursed, and if you read anything but the holy bits, it causes fights in the house of the reader?

Nona told me, when I told her I was reading it, not to read it all at once, but to read it in bits of I'd fight with people. Another spiritual/astrology friend I have, who would know this kind of trivia, told me there would be fights in my house. Interesting, no?

I think it might apply only to the Sanskrit though.

However, out of deference to Noni and the size of the book and the weird looks it gets me, I'm reading it alongside other books.

Friday, September 16, 2011

In which we wonder about crimson phalluses and dark-skinned beauty

A very long time ago, The Bride and I decided on a reading project--The Mahabharata. I think she, like the good girl she is, finished it and wrote about it at length. I, however, didn't, partly because the unwieldy hardback translation I had required bedtime reading, and once I started travelling and going out at night I never did read it.

At the book fair I found Rupa selling the Ramesh Menon's modern rendering, as it's called, and it being paperback and two volumes, and eligible for publisher's discount, I bought it. I'm progressing in leaps and bounds. The prose is lucid and chatty, and retains enough strangeness and Sanskrit to remind you that it is an ancient epic. There is none of the awkward syntax that so annoyed my friend who also read Kamala Subramiam's translation. I'm about 260 pages in, and the Pandavas have reached Kampali for Draupadi's swayamvara. Apart from the fact that I love that they have their South Indian names--Arjunaa, etc--here's what I find interesting so far.

Menon's prose is very luscious--descriptions are vivid and evocative, but sometimes make me flinch a bit because they seem OTT. There are some pieces of description that certainly appear to be superfluous to me, especially considering this is an abridged version and, even if this is in the original, there really isn't too much need to translate it. My favourite example, while describing Bakasura sneaking up behind Bheema:
His head was in the trees, as he stood quite naked and motionless, only his strange phallus twitching with the lust of the hunt. He saw what Bheema had done to the food. The rakshasha's hairless body quivered. His crimson organ subsided like a distraught serpent, and rage replaces excitement in his tiny eyes.

Really? Is the 'strange twitching phallus' really necessary? Or its deflation as it were? My friend says it's a deep mellu obsession with sex, so Menon can't fight it.I wonder if his editor at Rupa tried to stop it...something tells me no.

The ideal of beauty is dark-skinned. I wonder if this is so in the original! Here's a quote describing Draupadi:
The burning stillness assumed a human form. There were long, dark arms there, a perfect head flowing black tresses. As Drupada, his wife and the rishis watched, stunned by her incredible beauty, her skin dark as night, her face and body so perfect they were from a more pristine time, a young girl stepped out of the light.
Then, earlier on, talking of Hidimbi:
...she had turned herself into a dark human beauty...Dark as night, and as enticing...
There are more, but I can't be bothered to dig them out...

There's no gray in his characterization. Again, I don't know about the original, but I know Kamala Subramaniam, or atleast the part I read, definitely had positive and negative sides to characters. As Jai puts it, Duryodhana is a tragic hero with a fatal flaw, not a psychotic evil motherfucker (my words, not Jai's), which is how Menon paints him. I kind of want to slap whiny bitchy Arjuna, and am immediately suspicious of Duryodhana's evil, because there's no cause! Why does Dritharashtra turn gleefully evil in the twinkling of an eye? In every other rendering of the Mahabharata I find I am always drawn to Bheema, but here even he is annoying cos he's just so fucking perfect, especially the way he's all rowf rowf command me o master and I shall destroy for you. My personal favourite Bheema is in Palace of Illusions. The only mildly human character so far is Vidura. More updates once I meet Draupadi and Krishna!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

When funny doesn't happen

Teh interwebs were aflame yest, at least here in Delhi and India, with this post by 'A South Indian Girl', that perhaps started out trying to be funny but ended up being vitriolic and venomous, and kind of making the case for a nice big SMACK.*

It made me cringe, because I like to think of myself as a sambaar (not sambhar) eating, dark skin loving south Indian girl from a family that abounds with wry and sarcastic humour, often at the expense of stereotypes, but somehow, when I came to end of that tirade, I wanted to say, no! I am not that kind of south Indian girl. This is not to say that I don't think there is a positive goldmine of fun to be poked at Delhi boys, some of it in her post, especially when seen from the perspective of Chennai/Hyderabad/Bangalore girls. I think it could have been done better. In fact, it could have been done like this, wittily, and then would have made its point and been funny too.

The thing is, dark skin and ability to pronounce dosai aside, desi boys are desi boys, whether Delhi or not--they all have their problems. No, I don't want to hear you talk endlessly about engineering, coding, banking or whatever 'higher' form of intellectual pursuit you think you indulge in just because you went to IIT, South Indian Boy. I don't want to hear about your BMW or party life either, thanks Delhi Boy. Read a book. Both of you! And no, Chetan Bhagat is not a book. Neither is Business: The Ultimate resource. Or Algorithms & Data Structures: The Science Of Computing.

Ask me about myself. Yes, really I am a person. No, seeing your eyes glaze over when I say I studied English is not appealing, SIB. Yes, I know it's not engineering, science or commerce. No, it does not make me a wasteful burden on my parents. And no, DB, just because I went to St. Stephen's I'm not a snob. Really. I don't know designer brands, and I rather like my whiskey cheap. That's right, no single malts.

SIB, your IQ might be an astounding number, but it doesn't entitle you to look down on people, or to stand in a corner and refuse to talk to people you haven't known since you smoked up and headbanged to Fear of the Dark in 1999. There is more to life than academic/career excellence. If you spend all your time at work and can only talk to people you see at work anyway, then you better be dating your colleagues. DB, you might have the looks of  <insert Bollywood hero of choice> but I really can tell when you're looking at your reflection in my glasses and not actually at me. Both of you, the size of your bank balance does not make up for the size of your personality. And no, not the 'haalthy' type personality. 

To be fair though, my favourite kind of desi boys are those who don't grow up in their home states. Just the ability to understand that normalcy is defined differently in different parts of the country, and no one type is better or worse than the other is a great help. also those desi boys who are used to SIW. There is nothing sadder than the boy who is petrified and emasculated by a woman who sees no need to make him feel like a MAN. The desi boy who meets an SIW and matches her stride for stride, word for word, who genuinely listens to ehr and considers her opinion, without dismissing it just because you know he knows better cos he's a guy, or he went to IIM--that my friends is the best kind of desi boy. And the rarest.

*There's this one girl i know from Hyderabad who posted this big quote with the link when she shared it on fb. I'm like girl when have you EVER lives in north India, let alone Delhi! You have to have fought off the gropers in the mudrikas, beaten an auto driver down to come by meter (though Chennai girls are exempt), had a slanging match with your khadoos Punjabi landlord, had abuse and lascivious suggestions hurled at you from passing cars filled with Delhi boys, and so many more rites of passage before you have the right to slang those boys. You hafta LIVE the war to tell the stories and have the PTSD.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The new man in my life

I decided to stop whining, and refrained from posting self-indulgent nonsense. Thus the silence. Ahem. No, it has nothing to do with me being generally a sporadic poster No sirree.

However, I have big news. There is a new man in my life.

His name is Sameer. He's tall and fit, funny and sweet and I see him nearly every day for about an hour or so.

He's one of the trainers at my new gym.

Yes, ladies and germs, GymKitteh is BACK! (Interestingly they were playing Shady's back at the gym this morning.) GymKitteh is a lot of fun--she has channeled all her rage at self-absorbed exboyfriends and selfish disloyal exbestfriends into FINISHING THAT FUCKING SET! This means she has endorphins throwing Mardi Gras parties in her system all the time, and sleeps like a dead person. Which means she is a WHOLE LOTTA MORE FUN! And types in caps a lot ;)

Anyway, Sameer and I had a very itneresting conversation this morning, where he asked me if I had seen Bodyguard (based on Whitney Houstaon Kevin Kostner??) and I said no, movies are too expensive these days. (True dat. I spent THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY rupees on a chick flick that had half the good bits cut!!!) 'Arre madam main toh bas download katra hoon sab ko. Aap ko chaihye?' was his reply.

Sameer's most endearing trait is the way he keeps saying shaabaash--I haven't had that said to me since I was eight and the gardener was helping me learn to ride a bicycle. Second highest on the list is the fact that, though he isn't *my* personal trainer, he seems invested in me, to the extent that he kept an eye on me today, despite my having  been farmed out to someone else (Dharmendar) and noticed that I had been abandoned and was gasping and wheezing and trying to life the puny minimum weight on one of the chest workout machines. (When he'd been standing there the previous day he was pushing the bar too, so I could move it.) He must have signalled to someone else because another trainer (Raj) came bounding up to help.

I'm hoping the general well-being from channeling all the ugh out and the joys of DOMS will keep me at it--and maybe I'll lost some weight along the way and no longer be afraid to take my clothes off in front of a boy.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Who knew?

That I'd reach a point where I was shy, and nervous and not READY for sex? And it's not like I don't like ot trust the guys involved either.