Monthly Archives: February 2009

It’s all in my head!

Privacy, I think is completely overrated.  Not that I would know a whole lot about it. I mean when you grow up in a joint family with a minimum of 12-15 people around the house any given week, you grow completely unaware of a concept called privacy.  I grew up in the shadows of my elder cousins and completely shadowing the four who came after us. The only person I know who had some semblance of a private time was my grandmother who would, well shut herself up in her bathroom. No intruding there. My grandfather who had his own room had to put up with awkward grand kids who giggled at his nose when he was breathing or doing yoga and often trooped up behind him after dinner like a pack of hound dogs salivating at the smell of stories like “Akkama and the glass mountain” or “Detective Shambu” we sometimes left him alone after he had exhausted himself to sleep. The house was like this bright light that attracted moths – my relatives of all sizes, shapes, ages, colors, and languages often descending for days together. It was  fun to be tripping over people all the time especially because it meant all my cousins would come over and we could play hide and seek and four corners all day. Privacy?!?! what was that?? In a house where hiding and seeking was extremely popular, you had to be very careful going to the restroom when you needed to take a break or even sit for some quiet time.  It was scary the number of people who thought bathrooms made good hiding spots.  At one point, after an overload of Archie comics and Malory towers, I decided I needed some private space and wanted to keep a diary…. Like my grandmother often grumbles, I must have started the venture at Rahu Kaal for the simple reason that the diary kept turning up at the place I had not hid it. I once caught my brother reading it and giggling. Oh the fit I threw that day, my mother stared at him, my father stared at him and said Tsk! Tsk! and then they wanted to know what I had so secret that I wanted to write it in a diary!!! It was a long while before I wandered that path again. This time I thought I was clever and wrote it in a secret handwriting. Things I thought were going quite well, I mean I had my privacy, my thoughts and no one knew about it, until one day I discovered my brother’s diary written using the same “Secret” code. Uh! The indignation! Well! Of course I read his diary, the fellow had no clue how to hide it properly and what can I say, I wanted to know things…..

By the time, I was in high school and on my way to college, the moths no longer came that often. The house had quietened down to say about 6-9 people on a bad day. Not that it made much difference. I had a tiny little brother who was determined to follow in all of our footsteps, literally. The kid was everywhere. It was so much fun that none of us realized that the concept of privacy still remained a tad elusive. I would often get little breaks, when the sun was at its highest and the whole house fell into this post lunch slumber, with my father on the couch snoring, my grandmother on the diwan snoring, my little brother entertaining his toes and my mother half asleep on the chair. I could peacefully step into a room and read quietly without much disturbance atleast for 15 minutes, until the doorbell rang, or the telephone rang or the little one came in wanting to watch Popeye. And then my elder cousin found college friends, oh God the torture. I would usually come home from school a little early and would be watching TV, when he would burst through the doors, drag me into the kitchen, make me stay there and then head out, tip toe in, herd his friends into a room making sure they didn’t glance around and quickly shut the door. It was like this whole swat operation and it was painfully hilarious. I figured for about 5 mins that either I was very pretty and he did not want his hunky college men with pencil thin mustaches eyeing me, or thought so highly of his friends that I would end up ogling them. Well, 5 mins later, my cousin sister came trooping in grumbling and then my grandmother!!!! MY GRANDMOTHER!!!!! well, she had to make coffee and pakoras. So much for private kitchen time or TV time. Growing up like this…solitude, privacy, alone time, they were all in my head if and when I wanted it and I didn’t even realize how nice it was for a very very long time. And then I moved to the US.

I was alright for the first few weeks. The geek was at home, we talked, did the usual things and then came a Monday. I was actually good for the first few weeks actually. The Messenger kept me in touch with family for atleast an hour or so, I cleaned, read, went through photos, and wandered around. I has a deluge of thoughts and whatnot and extremely crowded conversations inside my head….and then they started slowing down. I usually  spoke to my parents for hours together, or even spoke to myself, anything to fill the silence. When I went home, I spoke non stop. When my mother went to her siesta, I would sit in front of her with an old reader’s digest, looking at her till she woke up. ” Honey! I can’t sleep if you are staring at me!” “Oh that’s okay Ma! You can sleep in the night, sleeping in the afternoon will make you fat either way.” or “No..Appa you are playing Solitaire all wrong, move a bit, let me help you” or “What are you writing, kiddo…Oh My God! Your handwriting is all over the place, let me write it for you.” What can I say, I was determined to make things seem old again

In spite of all this I love my private times. The ones at 9.30 in the night driving my car down the highway listening to Kishore Kumar, A.R.R or the Beatles or the Eagles. The moments at home when I can sit outside or inside with a book and a cup of tea and just the world humming around. For most part I have my privacy in my imagination, when I do make them real, I lap up every drop of it.

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A belly full of laughs.

You know how during weddings, engagements, random gathering of family for XYZ’s poonal, seemandham, no intentional gathering….people often get together and share these rib breakingly funny stories. I love those moments. It is that moment when your nine yard wearing grandmother, chewing betal leaves in her toothless mouth breaks into this story about some ancestor that seems so preposterous and funny, it has to be true. All the ladies lying around as if they were in some beach in Paris and the men in some corner room fully fed, watered and guffawing. I am far away from home, and father away from any gathering, but here are some fun facts and funnier stories from my side.

My cousin once jumped from the first floor onto a concrete floor because someone dared him to!

My mother once drove our 35 year old jeep onto a farmland claiming she was learning to drive.

Another time she was going around on a two wheeler and froze when a bus came in front of her. She went and eased the vehicle onto a wall. Needless to say she has never driven one since.

I once borrowed a scooty from my neighbour to test drive it around the neighbourhood and was made to write “I will not drive another’s vehicle again” a 100 times. I never let my father forget that one.

When all 6 of us cousins got together our favourite games were hide and seek and 6 corners. Once while playing hide and seek, my brother the seeker went missing. So we went in to drink our milk and continue the game. The dude was sitting on the table, smile on his mouth and 6 tall empty glasses of milk in front of him.

I was once mistaken for a boy in ooty and ogled at. Unfortunately my friend saw that one and has never let me forget it.

I have another cousin who is a walking disaster. He is 21 and so far he has been nicked by an angry bull, pecked by a cock, beaten by a mad women, fallen off a guava tree, broken his wrist on a wash basin, fallen while playing shuttle and broken his arm in two places, broken his leg, broken his other arm, fallen of a couch scared when the light went off and nicked his head, broken his foot. Security personnel have nightmares when he walks into an airport.

I have two cousins who fed one piano master white vinegar thinking it was lemonade scaring him away and perhaps scarring him for life. I have never seen a face go greener faster.

All of us were on a trip once in Calcutta when the driver of our minivan persisted in playing bengali songs loudly inspite of our pleas. Our defense, sing louder everytime. Wonder if he stopped having nightmares of six braying voices braying loudly in Tamil and Hindi.

My brother is responsible for me not eating brinjal. He told me they were fish.

I once convinced my father “Urvasi Urvasi” from the movie Kadhalan was a very meaningful song. I sang him the lyrics of a few lines and he often quotes it to people 😀

I was nicknamed “Pickle” for whatever weird reason in school. The most embarrassing moment was when the school principal used to yell “PICKLE” in front of a full ground of students.

My father and his father are crafty. The former has a big mustache which either earns him a salute wherever he goes or has people mistaking him for one famous movie star. He is more famous for his mustache and jeep than anything else. My grandfather usually gets his way with his beard and yellowish kurtas. He has had people coming in the middle of shops, streets, railway stations, hotels and do namaskaram and ask for kumkum or something or worse, he was once sitting in Rishikesh when two men came and did full namaskaram with my grandmother standing nearby and watching this. he just blessed them and kept chuckling.

What are some of your stories?


Questions for the defenders!

What is Indian culture?

If you claim Indian culture to be the culture handed down by Vedas and Upanishads, the you won’t mind me asking which caste you belong to?

Do you know your “Dharma”? Do you know what your duty is according to your position of birth? If you do, then why are you not doing that and instead parading around the towns wielding lathi’s and attacking people?

What are you doing in pants and shirts, which as far as I know were costumes handed down by the west?

Are you not aware that your culture teaches you to respect women and treat every women like they were Gods? Don’t you know even Ravan as a true Hindu did not lay a finger on Sita and gave her the respect she deserved?

Are making Illegal liquor part of Indian culture? Is the industry that makes these and in the process kills hundreds of men and disables their families in villages all over India part of Indian culture?

From where did you get your information that women should not dance in public? Are you aware that the great kings, their courtiers and even the great Indra himself had women who danced fro their pleasure and for the pleasure of a roomful of men?

If Dancing is not a part of Indian culture, who and why do you think our temples as a rule kept devadasi’s?

If women and men interacting is so abominable to you, then so should half the Vedas which were recited by women to men, half the culture in which women taught men and ruled through men.

If women and men interacting is so bad, then let the women free from the fields where they toil day in and day out, let them free from the various jobs they do for you, for your father, your brother in law and your friend.

If pubs are immoral, then so are “chayya kadai” run by night liqur stores, illegal brewing of liqour and pan beedi shops.

If it is women who desecrate your Indian culture by wearing “Skimpy Western Clothes” then we shall be proud to go back to the attires our ancestors wore. The small piece of cloth covering our upper body – the one without any noodle straps to offend you, the often transparent lower piece of cloth.

If you think women who wear noodle straps and “Nude clothes” deserve to be teased, what did my ver traditional 6 yard saree wearing mother do to deserve it, or what did the girl wearing the very traditional ‘Pavadai Dhawani”  do to deserve it, what did the sawar wearing Sarika Shah do to deserve it, or what did my purdah wearing friend do to deserve it?

Urban women and women in general make one of the largest percentage of voters in the country. We can make sure you don’t have any political clout and have no voice to speak if we wish to. We are capable of having the power to create good men and also the power to destroy misguided demons like you. Your Indian culture gave us the power to be Shakthi and Kali, Lakshmi and Durga…You might not like us now..I am sure you will not like us when we join together to do what we want and create the India that we believe in. Our votes will matter this election. THEY WILL.