Mosquito makes man a eunuch!

Once upon a time, when doing Yugpurush or something similar, actor Nana Patekar said, “Ek machhar aadmi ko hijda bana deta hai.” (A single mosquito can turn a man into a eunuch). He is so bloody right.

While I am still much a woman, I HATE mosquitoes with every last red blood corpuscle that I have in my body (and the ones the winged bastards have not sucked out). I am currently at my parents place – not Kolkata as someone masquerading as me has typed in the chat box – and I look as if I’ve had red-spot tattoos on my body. My legs, arms, thighs and back are dotted with itchy, little red dots no-thanks to the mosquitoes that have been having a week-long buffet on my body.

Seriously, if you are bothered by mosquitoes and need a solution, invite me over. I seem to act like some sort of mosquito repellent for other people since when I am around, the shits ONLY bite me. So much for us humans being the smartest of all species as we still have not been able to control moskies. Once the science text books spoke of having eradicated malaria, now it’s back full swing. Not to mention dengue, also perpetrated by the blood suckers.

Mosquitoes have no conscience. They will bite you when you are celebrating your happiest moment or lamenting a loss. They will bite you when you are killing yourself to meet a deadline and even when you are making love. A mosquito bite during sex is VERY inconvenient. First you have to stop, then you have to scratch and if you can’t reach the spot, you have to ask your partner to scratch. Bloody romance killers.

I don’t know the species of mosquitoes that are now around but I can personally vouch that these parasites have evolved.

Earlier if you lit a Kachua coil (Tortoise brand mosquito repellants that are burnt and the fumes are meant to kill them), the moskies would fly helter-skelter. It was good fun watching them try and escape the fumes, smother in frustration and collapse. Then when Good Knight mats hit the market, the little blue tablets did pretty much the same thing. NOW though, the moskies seem to have competitions diving INTO the fumes of the kachua coil. And I swear to the lord, I have seen at least three moskies sitting ON a hot, supposed-to-kill-them Good Knight mat and getting a tan.

I have seen moskies the size of my nose in Sikkim and have heard stories those could kill a horse. I am much smaller though thankfully those never bit me. Apparently Norway has mosquitoes the size of airplanes and drivers are asked not to collide with them. :[ Here at my parents place they aren’t that big, but are just as mean and just as skilled in the art of giving maximum pain. They also seem to compete in who can give me the biggest bump that later turns into an angry red burn that stays for a week and itches me.

For one, there are the guerilla mosquitoes. These are the ones you will never see till they bite you. Even after that and sitting with your eyes plastered on the walls and trying to find them, you will never manage to catch one and YET be bitten WHILE you are hunting for them. Some brazen ones seem to mock me by buzzing from right under my nose.

Then are the F-51 jet-mosquitoes. These dudes attack in a formation and make a straight dive for you. So while you try to defend yourself from five, there’s another two choosing that tender spot at the back of your neck, or behind your knee, or between your toes, or on your eyelid. Have you ever been bitten on your eyelid? I have just been, even as I type this. Shits.

I am sure at least some of you have encountered the Phoenix mosquitoes: You squash them in your hand, or against the table or on the notebook and JUST AS you think they are dead and remove your hand, the bastards zoom off. They DON’T die, they rise from the dead! Some of the Picasso mosquitoes also display the phoenix trait. Picasso moskies are the ones that bite in a pattern… Like I discovered five bumps on my thigh after my video game session last night and realized the bites looked like a flower. Or bites that are in a zig-zag or some such pattern. I appreciate artistic license and all that, but not with my blood dudes.

It’s a pain, sitting and writing here because I have suffered serious blood loss by the time I am done with 500 words. And now that I have to go and play my last round of Empire Earth – can beat the computer in the island scenarios but am thwarted when I choose the land scenarios – as tomorrow this time I will be on a train, I dread the bites I will have. Sigh. If only I could bite the bastards and make them feel the pain. If only.

PS: Um, have you heard of any women addicted to video games or a particular video game? My father reckons I am going to destroy my still-to-be-made family because I forget to make breakfast as I am playing a video game. If you know of girls who play games AND still manage to run families, do share. I will tell my father. Sigh. Going now, my kingdom calls.


Delhi Decade, so long

I've lived 10 years in Delhi and changed umpteen houses, even worked just 15 minutes from it but I've NEVER been to Chandni Chowk. Thankfully as part of my job, I saw some bits of Delhi that I otherwise wouldn't. Like the autorickshaw colony near Karkardooma airport at 1.30 am, sitting in an auto and trying to 'buy' ganja/marijuana so I could then do a bust-up, a crime story.

Or sitting in one of the GB Road (red light area in Delhi) brothels with the prostitutes, preparing for a role where I played a prostitute. They have wooden planks for beds and the girls mostly wear dirty nighties. The 'madams' were all unanimously fat. The married ones I spoke to, their families don't know they are prostitutes. Some have teenage daughters and don't want them to come to Delhi.

Discovering the Sundar Nagar nursery near the Nizamuddin tomb (and dargah) when doing the Commonwealth Games village story. Or for that matter rolling in shit and mud to slide under a barbed wire to get shots from inside the construction area for the tv special. Or climbing on top of a truck with guards threatening to beat us and pull us down... But strangely, there were no death threats. Strange because I got two you-will-be-bumped-off calls and an abduction threat when I used to write restaurant reviews and covered parties...all because this big-time restaurant near Qutub Minar was doing a fraud and we were to publish that story.

I also recognised certain personal facets. That I find it difficult to live with people and that people wholeheartedly reciprocate that! Or learning that audience/reader memory is really short. And they can love or hate you for their own reasons and it has nothing to do with good writing or bad. Or that you really don't need to write regular emails or call constantly with good friends. And that I have very few good friends.

Learnt from an HR that 'talent is recognised but character is rewarded'. Basically meaning you could be a talentless arsehole but if you suck up to the boss, you will get a good raise. It applies to ALL jobs. Of course that HR has an 'I' silent before it which stands for Inhuman Resources, they
never think of employee benefits. Or that if you don't show your spine, people will think you don't have one and to prove it, once in a while you need to squeeze their balls to drive home the point. When you hurt peoples' balls, they seem to understand your viewpoint rather quickly. However, it doesn't win you friends and could jack your career in the long run.

I could go on but (un)fortunately, all my thoughts are currently on juggle-mode in my brain so it's muddled about what to pick, sort, edit and put out before you. In short, quit my job, packed my house and moved from Delhi on June 25th - the silence has been because of parents visiting, sending Golu Dawg to another family, thinking that the family will eat him, Golu getting depressed and being returned to us, finding a new home for him, getting hooked to a stupid PC game called Empire EArth, playing it for 6 hours straight and pissing off Partner, Papa getting worried that I will get addicted and will leave my baby crying because of video games. No, I don't have a baby right now but my Dad saw 3 years into the future and predictedI am currently at my parents' place and waiting. Being completely dazed when the packers came, passing through our going-away parties completely dazed as well... And now, I have to wait, hate it, but I have to... Do I miss Delhi? Too soon yet, I think of her but that's about it. And bloody Blogger would not let me upload pics. (grumpy)


Been there, done that, for all to see

Apologies for the vanishing act. Was moving cities and am not in Delhi anymore. Where to and what now, will surely update when the time is opportune. A lot has passed, moving from a city that was home for a decade but never really took me as one of her own, making friends with people who were like passing ships through my life -- stop, dock, refuel and move -- to those I started out fighting and then became friends with, my entire career and the start of an 'independent' life where I learnt a lot and made more mistakes (new ones each time too!)... Changing so many houses, losing hope in humanity and regaining it through a certain dimpled smile and looking forward to something so new, so different, so challenging that I think I am still in shock. Golu Dawg did NOT die, he has been put up for adoption. So much more but in time...

Hindustan Times, June 26,2008
Been there, done that, for all to see
There are three distinct changes in travel today: One, you don’t ‘go to grandma’s’ for all holidays, you don’t have to buy extra film roll anymore and you can upload a picture from your mobile to your blog and show-off instantaneously. Today, as much as travel is about seeing the world, it’s also about showing the world.
With every new travel photograph uploaded on social networking sites and more pins on their “where I’ve travelled’ maps, holidaying is now about where you’ve been and how many know about it. For the choice of destination, experts to backpackers, everyone has an experience to sell. If a tour operator like Intrepid Travel promises off-the-beaten-track tours, Bug Bitten offers been-there-done-that travellers’ recommendations on where to go. With more people blogging their experiences, you realize that flight turbulence scares everyone, no one is happy with the service and despite technology, the seats in planes and trains are still uncomfortable. Greg Messon of Greg Messon’s Esoteric Earth writes simply, with much (often lengthy) detail and often echoes other people’s thoughts when he blogs, “I never quite got comfortable in my seat, so sleep never came, however I was at least able to watch 3 movies on my personal entertainment unit…” Or when Chris blogs on The Art of Non-Conformity saying, “It takes a long time to get to Jerusalem from Seattle, especially if you’re planning your trip around the lowest ticket price…”
Through pictures, text and videos, travel blogging is one of the hottest blog topics.And people are finding creative ways of story telling.
One of most popular forwards was the video of Matt Harding, the software engineer who quit his job and traveled the world, dancing before various places and monuments. Freelance illustrator and graphic designer Mike does it through sketches on Blogshank.
From the usual I-did-this-went-there blogs to Cranky Flier who follows every airline development fanatically and the blog Hope and Healing that chronicles the lives of two physicians who’ve been working in Liberia, travel is getting a new dimension. It also makes for open criticism. Tony France rues the end of class in luxury planes, “With their reputation for engineering, I can well believe that, back in the day, Lufthansa had better seats but it was a no-brainer that Air France had better food!”
This column appears every Thursday in The Hindustan Times


Boys will be bloke bloggers

The Hindustan Times, June 19, 2008
Myth-buster # 1: Men are blogging away and most of them aren’t tapping away about sports and electronics, but about health, fashion and – of my god! – home improvement

Here are two of the greatest myths about men: one, men don’t blog much; two, men think about sex every seven seconds. A quick search reveals that not only do men blog, they do so on topics other than HTML codes or battery-operated devices. Relationship author John Gray and company have long blamed men for being ‘non-communicative’. Not in cyberspace at least. The boys blog it all: weight, fashion, relationships, sex – and even – babies. Sample this: “The gym is a place that used to silently mock me whenever I walked by: Hey fatty, you enjoying that fifth slice of pizza?” blogs Arjewtwino. While he discusses weight issues and fashion – “I just don’t know what to wear, I’m packing for my trip to NYC” – he also writes on ‘men’ subjects like his favourite soccer team, food (a favourite with boy bloggers) and being kicked in the gonads. “…I always wondered from the worst moment of my life: what was the science of getting hit in the nutsack?” he writes, not something you’ll find on a woman’s blog.

Despite blogging on similar issues, humour differentiates ‘bloke’ blogs from the ‘babe’ ones. If ‘I am woman, hear me roar’ is the underlying tone in babe blogs, the boys do it in a more self-deprecatory manner. Even home-maintenance sounds funny. The Home Improvement Ninja blogs: “I had hoped that by killing all of them (mice)… it would forever deter others from ever trying to come back. Unfortunately, mice have a short memory.”

While ‘tags’ (blog lingo for topics) include hitherto ‘chick’ issues – no moisturizers yet, but grooming figures – don’t think that bloke bloggers are any less ‘men’ than the boys who only blog on tech or electronics. However, they do seem more open in challenging so-far accepted-male-behaviour. Tearing apart the much-man-loved movie Fight Club, the Ninja blogs: “Some guys think this movie is great… (they) hide their insecurities by fawning over this homo-erotic ritualized violence and faux philosophy about why it's okay to be a underachiever with no direction.”

While he declares “all men are liars”, 2006 Best Weblog Awards-winning blogger, Sam deBrito too does his bit in accepting men might not always be right and takes on the how-to-be-man concept. “I had also unknowingly bought into the gender propaganda that insists a guy must be A, B and C and done my part to propagate it to other men and women,” he writes. An insight into the mind of men is what bloke bloggers have to offer, peppered with sports statistics and humour. And it seems, at times, honesty.


Not scared to be me

So the latest reader-development in this blog was the ‘coming out’ of our very own ‘N’, who is now ‘Silbil’ and has thankfully reclaimed her identity as the author of Alu Chaat. Is it because she is now comfortable being ‘herself’? Or is it because while leading us to her blog, she still remains as anonymous to us/ readers/world, as she was before? Are you and I on the internet because while it let’s us connect with people, it keeps us safe and anonymous behind a wall (or monitor)? All those who exclusively blog about their lives, are they writing the absolute truth or the versions of the truth they want us to hear? And above all, when you read, comment or blog, is it because you want the world to know you and your thoughts or because you can hide the ‘real’ you?

This article talks about "coming out" on the Internet and flashing your individuality. It was the cover story for What’s Hot (The Times Of India), published on September 8, 2006.
Not Scared To Be Me

Sexy photographs, smart profiles. Fans, friends. Stalkers, networkers. Everyone has attitude and everyone’s wired in. Jhoomur Bose logs in to the World Wide Web…
"Want to know some of the effects of losing my anonymity? (a) All my friends now know how often I masturbate, what turns me on, and how obsessed with sex I am. (b) As does everyone I’ve ever worked with in the film industry. (c) As do my cousins, aunts and uncles as well. Beat that. (Not literally. Yuck.) (d) My sex drive has gone kaput. Having something sleazy printed about me in a national newspaper, with photographers sitting on my and my parents’ doorstep didn’t make me horny, it made me stressed, anxious, and lack sleep for ten days. (e) I cannot write on the blog, as I once did. Right now, I don’t know how, or in what capacity, I can write on here again. Thanks very f*****g much for outing me, you bastards."

Above is an excerpt from the August 26 entry on ‘Girl With A One Track Mind’, the blog recently published as an eponymous book. The blogger-author called herself ‘Abbey Lee’, till a newspaper reported her ‘real’ identity was ‘Zoe Margolis’. Her life isn’t the same. Zoe was doing the same thing as a million others: using the Internet and its promise of (some sort of) anonymity to either live out a fantasy or aspects of their lives unacceptable to society. Zoe’s isn’t the only case. Recently there were stripper and call girl Mimi and Belle de Jour, respectively, whose anonymous blogs (sex, life and perspective) have been published as books. Zoe, Mimi, Belle… they sought cyberspace for its ‘no identity, no problem’ philosophy.

But there are also those who couldn’t care less about anonymity and flaunt their identities. They don’t want to live out fantasies—they want to be themselves. Their profiles scream ‘I, me, myself'. The new Netizen is part of an e-junta (complete with picture and profile) and s/he wants to be known—worldwide.

"40 countries, 12 boats, 37 flights, 46 assholes and over a year later... Writing, avoiding...and campaigning for immigrants whilst musing on anal sex and pissing off the religious right." —Introduction on Mimi, a New York stripper’s non-anonymous blog


“We are not scared of ‘what will the world think of me’ anymore. It’s liberating to put forth your point and have many more responding to that point. It’s amazing to see so many varied opinions people have. It allows you, if needed, to change your thinking." —Vertika Yadav, PR consultant

A profile screams, “If I like you, I’ll be good to you.” Porn site? No, the author’s attitude towards “those who don’t have the patience to read what I have to say.” Sofi says, “I write about things people shy away from, so there are many who come just to check me out.” And her site? What? She doesn’t want it printed, for it will bring unnecessary attention! “I’m not ashamed of what I have to say. But it’s for the like-minded people I want to reach out to.” Reaching out to like-minded people, forming communities based on shared interests, meeting other members… the Internet user transitions from Anonymous to Affable!

There are some who still want to remain anonymous, and some of them don’t even write sex blogs. The reason? Fear of ridicule. Take Piali Sharma. She wants to join a networking site, but with an assumed name and no picture. Why join at all? “My anonymity gives me access to people’s innermost thoughts, which they might not reveal if they knew who I was. That apart, I’m basically shy and don’t really want to go all out… How do you know how people will react to what you say?” Some people don’t put up their pictures either for fear of being recognised — writing nasty comments about your boss with your picture up there WILL get you into trouble! — or for fear of the pictures being misused. Damn you, digital demons.

But the new flamboyant breed takes the Net to the next level. They are not scared of revealing themselves, of speaking their minds, of uploading their mug-shots. They will party at night with ‘real’ friends and log-in the morning after to describe the fun they had. For some, it’s the thrill of meeting new people. For others, it’s about putting ideas out there—for those who agree and for those who disagree. Says Piali, “It requires a certain character to bare it all. That’s not me. Neither can I handle so many ‘friends’. I’m more the one-friend type.” For better or for worse, the Internet gives you the chance(s) to forge a broader circle of acquaintances in a time when finding and maintaining meaningful friendships is getting tougher.

"It’s the time of collaboration and sharing and it’s booming as humans inherently want to connect." —Satish Warier, manager, menwhopause

"My profile has not been made to impress you. If you don't like it you are more than welcome to leave." —From the online scrapbook of a feisty female, in response to the usual "Will you be my frand" query on networking sites.

And so, we the people, are connecting and the global village is shrinking to a global neighbourhood. Yet, ironically, dissident voices blame the Internet for a not-so-pleasant phenomenon: social isolation. In June 2006, an authoritative study in American Sociological Review found that the average American had only two close confidants, down from an average of three in 1985.

Basically, the Americans and the rest of the world has fewer ‘real life, close friends.’ But isn’t loneliness part of life today—with or without the Internet? “Alone-in-a-crowd has become the norm,” says psychiatrist Dr Jitendra Nagpal. True too, what with people living thousands of miles away from home, when social and professional circles merge because of 12-hour jobs and commuting for another four and when finding time to hang out at the mall or meet friends for a stroll is tough. Suddenly, the only way for friends and family — dotted across the globe—to be together is in a virtual time zone, as bright green dots on Google Talk.

In this situation comes the saviour of the lonely planet—a dating site, a networking community, your personal blog and the tag of a 1000 ‘friends’ on your profile. Logging on is panacea. So, how then is the Internet making us asocial?

“We are communicating more but we are losing out on non-verbal, emotionally-flavoured conversation,” says Jitendra. Navin from Fropper.com differs. “Earlier, I wouldn’t get to meet people if I were working away from home. Today, I can interact daily, instantly, even share photographs, audio, video. Personal interactions are superior but infrequent. The Internet comes in to fulfil the human need for communication.”

For Erin McKean of Dressaday.com, it’s about meeting like-minded people: “The Internet is not (always) a bunch of computers talking to each other! It’s made by people, for people. In Chicago, where I live, I know barely six people who are interested in sewing to the degree I am. Online, I know over 100! The Internet makes it much easier to find people who share your interests.”
Shared interests. Time to kill. Research. Time-pass. The Internet does many things...but somewhere one wonders: is it taking us away from ‘real’ life, people and situations?

“What do you mean ‘lonely’? I have 1032 friends on Myspace!” —Blogger refuting he logs on because he is ‘lonely’

“He would return from work at 10 pm, race through dinner and then log on… till 6 am! Emails, chats, webcams… I couldn’t take it anymore. People who weren’t even there were more important to him.” Radha divorced her husband because he “wanted to be online all the time”.
Priya is paranoid about her 13-year-old. “Earlier, he would meet friends in the park to play, talk, do whatever kids do. Then he discovered the Internet. Now his gang has broken up; most of them have online friends. I hate to see him gaping at the monitor, rather than playing outside.”

‘Losing’ loved ones to the Net goes beyond porn. Addictions could be any and many: gaming sites, word puzzle sites, dating sites, photography sites, horoscope sites, DIY sites… And perhaps the biggest of them all—writing your thoughts and having people read and react.

Experts say it’s about drawing your own limits. “It’s a vice if you make it a vice. Spending all your time on the Net at the cost of everything else is bad,” says Navin. Jitendra reiterates, “The moment you compromise on your day-to-day social activities, you know you are overdoing it.”

“It is a presumption that anonymity is what works with people on the Net,” says Navin Mittal, head of operations, Fropper.com. “Yes, it is important for certain services, but it is not the biggest deal. Think about it: you divulge your identity when registering for an e-mail or seeking membership to a community. Even e-mails can be tracked through IP addresses, so to say that anonymity is the Internet’s biggest draw is false. The biggest draw is the fact that the Internet really draws you closer, the fact that the Web has permeated the lives of people more so than it had about five years ago.”

And if anonymity was really that big, social networking wouldn't be making such a bang in the global and Indian cyberspace. W limits, cyberia opens a plethora of possibilities. Meet, mate, chat, catch up, show off… As long as you’re in control of your life—virtual and real—you’ll do just fine. Go on, log in!


There are profiles and then there are profiles that grab eyeballs. Often it is pictures, oftener still it is a smart tag-line. A sample of some of the profile tags that ‘sell’ today:

...Would you believe everything I told you about myself?
... Independent, strong-willed, love animals, love Tolkien’s imagination, dream to have a room full of JUST books one day.
... Funny, messy, irresponsible, quick-witted guy, who thinks no end of himself!
... For those who know me, I don’t really need an intro. And for the losers who don’t know me, they can find out what they’re missing
...I have my own rules to live my life. And sometimes, just for kicks, to boost my rebellious nature I like to break them. Can you handle that?
... At heart, I am a drugged out, wasted (and obviously long-haired) hippy with a serious break from reality
... I like deep people, people whom I can’t just read off the the surface. I like to explore new tongues ;) and can speak quite a few lingos
... I want people to know who I am, and as far as my pictures go...I am not ugly!


Love, Sex and Lies: Surviving, Marriage

Today my parents completed 30 years of being together (32 if you count the two years of courtship) and to be very honest, it completely astounds me how they have managed to be together. Papa likes watching National Geographic, English movies and calls Hindi soap operas rona-dhona (weepies); Mamma watches soaps and loves Hindi movies. He was the most charming bachelor (think he was a player, never dared to ask so far, will do though!), a very good singer-dancer and an excellent public speaker. She was a beautiful girl, insecure, no talent for singing or dancing and a complete introvert. He had traveled a fair bit, had a sense of style, loved books and his English and had a sense of ‘class’. She had never been anywhere except her maternal home and Jabalpur, adored Rajesh Khanna, read only Denise Robins and Mills & Boon and spoke passable English.

They met at her grandma’s place, where he had come to visit another relative, slipped on a wet floor, she had laughed and he had been smitten. Despite their obvious differences, she refused to let anyone insult him – his family was known for their temper and he was short (5 feet 5”) – and he overruled his mother and refused to take any gifts from anyone. His mom wanted a carpet, a vehicle and what not, he refused to “accept” his bride in anything but “the sari she has on her body.” And that’s how he got her home. She got her Prince Charming but there was no kingdom. There was a baby on their first anniversary and at the meager salary Army officers got back then, they had to sell off whatever little jewellery she had. From having the most exotic and latest collection of colognes, the latest chart busters and a weakness for classic, expensive ties, he went to being happy with his quota of cigarettes, his rum and buying expensive dolls for his three-year-old.

As we grew up, she often complained about him not helping in the house, of being domineering and a tyrant. He in turn blamed her for being a nag, a party-pooper and for speaking “Mrs Pinto’s English.” She still cannot pronounce ‘statistics’ properly. Yet if he bought me my early books and read some of them, it was she who explained the meaning and encouraged me to participate in debates, dance competitions, speech contests… And they both stood proudly when we did well at school. The only times I have seen my parents kissing is when he would be going out-of-station; then too a chaste, gentle kiss on the mouth, with all attempts to NOT do it before the children. Hmm. I’ve never heard them exchange I-love-yous. Yet he completely broke down the one time she fell really ill. (Strangely, Ma’s never fallen ill! Touch wood) I was 14 and Ma was in the hospital and Papa had not shaved – blasphemy when you’re an officer – and had called me and said, “Mamma is ill, you’re the lady of the house, you have to help Papa, you know Papa is not too good with housekeeping.” That after he had refused to let me make tea because, “My daughter will not work in a kitchen,” from a man who needed his meal to be “proper”. After two days of washing dishes, I promptly fell ill (weak shit) and Mamma miraculously recovered. That was the only time I’ve seen her resting.

If I were to apply my Rules of Relationship Maintenance (as Partner calls them), their marriage should not have lasted. It has. Can I do the same, make a relationship last? Can you? Can we?

This is a cover-story I had done for What’s Hot, a Friday-pullout published for The Times of India; used to be their features editor then. Perhaps I'd do the article somewhat differently today... A two-years-old article (first published August 25, 2006), the questions still remain…

Age old marriage, same old questions

Armed truce? Loving someone else? Money? Kids? Jhoomur Bose finds out the little things creating big problems in marriages today

Infidelity is the flavour of the season. If the column space, film reel and talk time given to the phenomenon are anything to go by. Blame it on Shah Rukh Khan and Karan Johar for showing the ‘reel’ face of Indian marriage where couples fall in love with someone else and go looking for happiness outside marriage (Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna). But is that really the case? Are we ready to leave our partners for that elusive soul mate who might be waiting somewhere? Or are we looking for the love we thought we would find in marriage, but didn’t?

What’s Hot conducted a survey and asked 200 married people to find out if they would break their marriages for love—outside marriage. A whopping 73 per cent said they would NOT leave their partners for another. This is where it gets interesting. On the one hand, most say they will not leave their spouses. So if couples today are not leaving each other, does that mean Marriage has survived? Experts tell us that it might just have, but with a new set of problems and a new set of understandings. Marriage today means...


Is love with someone else possible when one is already married?

Yes: 73% No: 27%

If love happens outside marriage, should one leave the current

partner? No: 70% Yes: 18% Unsure: 12%

If a married friend leaves his/her spouse, will you be okay with it?

Yes: 72% No: 28%

If your partner falls in love with someone else, how will you react?

Will let them go: 57%, Will hurt, but will stay: 26%, Will have no issues: 10%, No issues if platonic: 7%


“And they lived happily ever after” is one of the most tragic sentences in literature. It’s tragic because it’s a falsehood. It is a myth that has led generations to expect something from marriage that is not possible.” — Joshua Liebman, author

Expectations. The one word that usually sounds the death knell for innumerable marriages. The expectation usually comes with a ‘high’ attached to it and also with varying stages of ‘unpreparedness’ for marriage. Says Sanjeeta, clinical psychologist, St. Stephens Hospital, “Readiness to marry is very important when two people tie the knot. However, that does not happen. People today plunge into marriages with a lot of unreal expectations, when they are not even prepared for marriage and have no clue of what marriage entails. Disillusionment is inevitable.”

Take Ruth and David,* who were college sweethearts. However, once they were married, love flew out of the window as soon as they were confronted with the mundane tasks of life. While Ruth had been the princess of her house and hadn’t ever lifted a finger, David too had been a pampered child and was expecting his wife to look after him like his mother did. Result? Ruth felt inadequate, she couldn’t “live up to his expectations.”

Sanjeeta points out that it’s not the major flare-ups that cause problems in marriages, but the smaller, seemingly trifling issues. “When both parties realise that marriage is not a bed of roses, when reality hits home, the men turn alcoholic, even violent, and the women go into depression.” Tarot reader Poonam Sethi, spiritual guru Yogi Ashwani or Sanjeeta, ask any expert and they tell you of many, many couples who come to them seeking relationship solutions. “Don’t look at marriage as a key to the perfect life you’ve always aspired for,” advises Yogi Ashwani of Dhyan Foundation. Sanjeeta feels the same, “People want their partners to be everything they dreamt of. You have to realise that your husband or your wife cannot give you all the happiness you want, in the sense that they cannot be everything for you.” Have expectations but do keep them real—your partner’s human too.


“If I did not succeed in marriage, how will my daughter succeed?” — Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt on his then-unmarried daughter Pooja Thankfully though, neither her father’s failed marriages nor his optimism about her failure in the marital arena daunted Pooja when she married Manish Makhija. However, neural wave therapist and counsellor Ranjeev Malhotra will tell you that it’s not as easy to get away from the influence of parents. “People are insecure, even afraid of marriage. From what we see of our parents and things that happen with other couples, people come with preconceived notions about marriage. When we see a marriage or relationship failing before us, a context is created. Later when something similar happens in our marriage, we see things in the context of the past and not in the context of current events. People don’t do a reality check and believe that marriages are like this—that they’re meant to be broken.”

Dr Samir Parikh, clinical psychologist, Max Medicare, calls it the “desensitisation and disinhibition” of people. “Earlier there were certain social deterrents when it came to maintaining a marriage. However, with divorces rising, infidelity increasing and because of things you hear and see around you, those very deterrents are being pushed back. People end up thinking, ‘When everyone else is doing it, let me do it too.’” And he’s right. Payal, 34 and mother of two, justifies her affair with a younger colleague. “Look around and show me one happy marriage. It’s been happening for a while. So what if couples are breaking apart or sleeping around to remain married? Everyone is doing it—and as long as my marriage is intact, who really cares?”

Maintaining conjugal bliss is all about giving each other a break and not getting hassled about what’s happening with other marriages. As Ranjeev says, “Our upbringing, the relationship our parents shared, the marriages of our friends—all factors affect our view of marriage.” However, just because your friend’s marriage ended doesn’t mean yours will too. As Poonam says, “The smart ones stick on. The emotional fools wreck their marriages.”

(*Some names changed on request)


“The conventional Indian man is taking his shower when the conventional Indian woman —his wife—is having her orgasm.” —Dr Jitendra Nagpal, on how sexual incompatibility creates problems If parents and society leave a mark on the way we perceive marriage, preconceived notions about men, women, relationships also play roles. Ranjeev adds, “Most men and women carry certain tainted opinions about the other sex and most of the time we are busy trying to prove how the marriage will not work out. If the women think all men are bastards, the men think all women are clingy. What happens next is that the man thinks his wife is trying to ‘cage’ him and
starts staying late at work, staying away from home and suddenly develops a need for more friends to avoid her. Understandably, the woman feels ignored, rejected, taken for granted and thinks all men are bastards. She starts being too clingy, too questioning and tries to hold on to the man even tighter thus proving his point that women are clingy. It’s a vicious cycle.” For Sanjeeta, it all boils down to space and mutual respect. “It is always a good idea to keep some amount of formality in a marriage. The moment you stop respecting the other’s personal boundaries, your marriage begins going downhill.”

Earlier, things were simple in a marriage: hubby went out to earn, wife stayed home. This cozy scene was spoilt once women started earning. Jitendra Nagpal, marriage counsellor and consultant psychiatrist at VIMHANS, explains, “The male has always been head of the family in the patriarchal set-up. Trouble starts when, even with changing equations and women working, we are hypocritical and would like to believe that the man is STILL the only head of the family.” Dr Vasantha R Patri says that the problem arises because a large number of married women do not have control over their own money as it’s still the husband who decides how the money is spent.


“Couples are placing less premium on commitment and are constantly confused.” — Dr Sanjeeta Prasad
“When you get into a marriage, you need to give your 100 per cent to it. However, given the socio-cultural changes we are undergoing today, an increasing number of young couples feel there are ‘more fish in the ocean’. Where if one partner does not work out, we move on to another, and another... But are these couples sure where their search for Mr/Ms Right will end? The whole attitude of ‘hua to hua, nahi to nahi’ won’t get us anywhere,” says Sanjeeta. Vasantha feels today women are fishing too. “Looking for love, sex and companionship outside marriage is nothing new to us. Look at the zamindars and maharajas. Today it’s different because the women want it too. Earlier they kept quiet, today women will have their fun too and will stay in a marriage for other benefits, not just the husband’s love or loyalty.”


“In the last 25 years, with access to higher education and more such opportunities, women have moved on to a more liberated attitude. However, most men are still frozen in time, 30 years ago. Among working couples, while both bring in a good pay packet, it is still the woman who has to do the housework,” says Vasantha. Ranjeev feels the man-woman relationship, particularly marriage, has also changed into a companionable human relationship of two individuals who share equal power. “It’s companionship that women are asking for, which the male is slowly adjusting to. Women want a partner, not a husband,” he adds. But do the men understand this?

For Jitendra, ‘division of labour’ has yet another connotation in the modern marriage. “The onus of understanding this social change has come to lie only on the woman. The responsibility of sustaining the new dynamics in a relationship is also on her, which adds to her pressures.” He adds, “When a couple comes for counselling, it’s funny to see them. Both parties would wait for the other to start speaking first, or one would ask the other to put his/her grievance first, or one would like to talk separately and not in front of the spouse. As a professional, there are many times when I can see that the couples themselves are confused and wondering—Where did we go wrong?”

Changing equations, both working to make the relationship work, understanding undercurrents or letting each other be—what do we do to rejuvenate our marriages into really fulfilling relationships? Jitendra’s take is that it will happen only when the men catch up with the women, who’ve zoomed far ahead. “All that the women need to do is be patient, particularly when it comes to men. As the Irish song goes, it is good to remember your husband at the end of the day is “just a man’.”

Right. But what about “just a woman”? Isn’t this placing the onus back on women?


Hindustan Times column - From the blog cabin

Hello there,
As I wrote in the previous post that all-going-well, I would be sharing some good news with you. Well, starting today (June 12) will be writing a column on blogs for The Hindustan Times. The column is called 'From the blog cabin' and will be published every Thursday on HT's 'Comment' page. For those who get HT at home, do check it out. For those who don't, log-in to their e-paper (click here), register and you can read it there.
If neither option appeals to you, feel free to check out the columns here or click on my toon on the right panel. Er, I am not cross-eyed as it appears on the toon and my nose is a bit shorter. Please feel free to leave your comments on the page or write to me with feedback.
If you are interested in suggesting blogs that YOU read and find interesting, please go right ahead and send me links.

Bra, brazen and bolti-bandh

What is fashion? Is it what we see on the ramps? Is it what we wear? If we say that Western clothes show off a woman's body, what about the sari: Does it not show more than it conceals? Do we stop being Indian if we prefer wearing western clothes? And if that's the case, how come no one says anything about men wearing dhotis? "Indian women don't smoke," is something bloody autorickshaw drivers have said to me. My response has always been the same: "What about the village women who smoke hookas and beedi?" So far no one has given me a fitting response to that. Smoking is a bad habit and clothing is a personal choice, why is 'Indianness' threatened by all this?

Mishraji’s Musings: Chapter 7
Brazen and bolti-bandh
(bolti bandh = speechless)

After the last debacle in the Mishra family where 33-year-old Catrina Kohli and Mishraji’s 22-year-old son, Tinkuji eloped and left Mishraji fuming, everyone seemed to lay low, yours truly included. The direct result of the Mishraji-yours truly face off was to stop blogging on ibnlive.com; one wasn’t too sure if he was reading that blog or not.

However, one has received news from Reliable Sources – read Colony Maids Grapevine since they trash everybody unlike your daily newspapers that have hidden political agendas and capital allegiances – that put off by the alleged media influence on his family affairs, Mishraji has sworn to NEVER get on to the Internet. “Too much unfiltered information, without any responsibility,” is what he thinks of the Net. Truth be told, it suits one fine. Since one’s last encounter with the Parivar (family), one had secretly missed the constant drama and had been waiting for something to give way.

As one completed the quick crossword over the second cup of coffee and took in the early morning background soundtrack – various scooters and motorcycles being kick-started, the swoosh of the brooms on the colony roads, dogs barking at waking cars and an assortment of vendors hawking their fares as they wheel-barrowed through the colony lanes – there was a distinctly alien sound emanating from the Mishra household. Even as one tried to put a name to the indistinct but familiar tune, someone turned up the volume and DON’T YOU WISH YOUR GIRLFRIEND WAS HOT LIKE ME blasted through the neighbourhood. Even the dogs stopped barking.

There had been no sound of music from the walls beyond ever since Mishraji had thrown Pinkiji’s tape-recorder out the window and thus it was with much justified curiosity – yours truly is a trained journalist after all – that one peeped into their courtyard to see who had dared let the music play. The vision was… a fashion disaster and reminded one of thunder thighs specialist, south-Indian actress Rambha (her fans lovingly call her ‘Rambo’).

Pinkiji was wearing tights, a noodle-strap top, had blonde streaks in her hair and was cat-walking on her verandah in five-inch heels at 8 am in the morning. She had a remote of some sort in her hand, was sipping from a bright red mug and her nail polish was a screaming red. Before one could duck behind the wall Pinkiji spotted yours truly. As one quickly schooled one’s expressions – rule of a good investigative journalist is to never show apparent shock – and blurted a hasty greeting, Pinkiji shouted over the music, “Hello-ji sex writer, what is the latest in your world of orgasm?”

All attempts at nonchalance went out the window and as one stood with an open mouth wondering what had happened to the salwar-kameez-clad Pinkiji, Mishraji walked in the gate carrying bananas, bread and milk in a packet.

“I was just saying hello,” Pinkiji and yours truly screamed out the same words, in chorus.
“Can you shut that awful song?” demanded Mishraji, his eyes fixated on yours truly. As Pinkiji turned the volume down and there was an eerie silence. Mishraji was still glaring at yours truly when Pinkiji started walking towards her father… CLACKETY CLACK CLACKETY CLACK. As Pinkiji’s heels clattered on the verandah floor, Mishraji turned to look at his daughter; she froze on the spot.

“WHAT are you wearing Pinki?” asked Mishraji with evident disproval.
“Tights Papaji, I…”
“I can see they are TIGHT. WHY are you wearing these hideous clothes and…” Mishraji would have continued if Mrs Mishraji had not stepped out of the house at that moment.

“Arre, you’ve come back, good now I can make some breakfast, would you like some p…” her voice trailed off noticing the scowl on her husband’s face. Mrs Mishraji looked from her husband, to her daughter and unsure of what to say, turned to yours truly and said, “Hello madam. Pinki and I came back from Bom… Mumbai, this morning only. Hope you are keeping well.”

“You don’t have to ask about her well-being. As long as people are suffering, the media will do well. LOOK at your daughter,” said Mishraji, wincing at his daughter’s tights-clad vision and before anyone could respond, “Did YOU buy her these clothes?” he demanded of his wife.

“Diya mausi gave me,” replied Pinki, in a small voice, “She said I would look good and that I should stop hiding behind a bedcover.”
“What nonsense is your aunt feeding you, what bedcover?” asked Mishraji, quickly losing his patience.
“Diya mausi calls a dupatta a bedcover and says salwar-kameez does not flatter an Indian woman’s body. Today’s modern woman does not wear bedcovers. Look at Lara Croft,” responded Pinkiji.

“Clothes are not meant for flattering, they are meant to cover your modesty; and who is Lara Croft?,” asked an irritated Mishraji.
“Lara Croft is a comic book superheroine…” responded Pinkiji.
“Comic book? ‘Comic’ means funny and you want to copy someone who..” Mishraji looked confused.
“Indian clothes aways try to make a woman look fat and feel as if she has to hide something… says Diya mausi and…” replied Pinkiji.
“Your Diya mausi thinks she is a Bollywood actress and…” said Mishraji.
“…and I think she is right. I am not naked,” replied Pinkiji and both Mrs Mishraji and yours truly gasped. She was answering back to her father! .

“You are not naked? Are you answering me back? What do you mean by THAT? Go change your clothes,” Mishraji asked and ordered in the same breath, with a sudden chill to his voice.

“I am not naked. I like these clothes. They make me feel free. Freedom of expression is my constitutional right. Ask Media Madam,” defied Pinkiji and one’s heart sank.

“ASK MEDIA MADAM? FINE. Madam, tell her these clothes are bad, tell her she looks fat in them,” demanded Mishraji. One was stuck and didn’t know what to say or how to get out of the situation when Mishraji turned on his daughter.

“And what do you mean freedom of expression? I have let you do whatever you feel like, have not been like other fathers. Maybe I should have been stricter. Just because I have never laid hands on you, you have…”

“You dare not,” said Pinkiji softly and everything went hush.
“PINKI,” said Mrs Mishraji.
“What?” asked Mishraji.
“Let it be, she doesn’t know what she is saying,” cajoled Mrs Mishraji.
“No, you dare not. You cannot hit me. I am an adult. You dare not touch me,” declared an unrelenting Pinkiji. Diya mausi had obviously had a strange influence on the girl.

“Dare not touch you? What are you saying? What is she saying Meenal?” Mishraji asked his wife and it was the first time one had heard her name. “She says I can’t touch her? This is the child who sat on my lap as a one-year-old. This is the girl, I… I taught her to walk. What does she mean I cannot touch her?” He was looking at his daughter askance.

Even as Pinkiji stared back at her father defiantly, Mrs Mishraji looked torn between her husband and her daughter and Mishraji looked as if someone had punched him in the gut, the cellphone in Mishraji’s pocket started ringing…

To be continued.


Pain in the butt, literally


The most sickening scene I have ever seen in a movie -- Saw 2 and Hostel included -- was the scene in Ram Teri Ganga Maili Ho Gayi, Mandakini is breast-feeding her baby and Raza Murad is staring at her breasts. It makes me sick. Sort of that one scene made the entire man-breast-staring equation sickeningly clear. I got thinking about that scene when I was doing some much needed blog-maintenance today, both here and on the import-version on Wordpress. And god, it takes time.

The most irritating thing was to realise that the categories I was deleting on Wordpress kept reappearing and that I really had no sense of HOW to categorise. There was a category that read "First". Like first what, you idiot. However, all wasn't lost as I discovered (figured after everyone else already had that is) some cool tricks on Wordpress. Have you realised that it's REALLY thrilling when you suddenly discover new tricks/ utilities on a device/ tool you have been using for a while? You feel like wow-I-must-be-so-cool, five minutes before realising that everyone but you knew how to do that?
'Realisations' was another category and going through tags and categories I realised some of the things that are foremost on my mind... Parents, family, anger, love, relationships and, er, breasts were my frequent tags. I have written many posts about breasts. Mine and those that belong to others. Man-breasts too. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I wasn't breast fed? (Ma had caesarian and was too much in pain)
By the way, have been thinking a bit and a daily update on the Mishra's might get a little tough and somewhat boring, both for you and me. So perhaps will be putting out their stories once/twice a week. Daily episodes will also require me to spy/ walk-in/show-too-much-interest and knowing Mishraji, I don't think I want to irritate him too much.
Also wanted to ask you something, particularly if you've stuck around for long: Do you think this blog is all about sex? Relationships, yes, but only sex?? Please do write in, feedback on this is important.
That apart, the last two days have been more of tying loose ends, on and off the blog. For personal reasons, have quit my job and currently looking at freelance work that I can start in a month's time. So some discussions on that front... Will definitely keep you guys posted; if all goes well, hopefully, will still continue writing for ibnlive.com. I'll miss that place, a very cool boss and some crazy, creative, hard-working people.

Funny, this month I completed 9 years in the media; was going through some of the old pieces/articles I've written for the print media -- newspaper and magazine cuttings -- and it felt so strange. It's like just yesterday I was standing in the centre of this bustling market at Mukherjee Nagar for a story on student accommodation. I was three months old in Delhi and lord, how I fucked up that story. Sigh. Or my first "crime" story or the first dead body I saw (militant shot down outside Nizamuddin Dargah) or waking up under my office table because I had no home (hmm, stories there, but some other time)
I went to the dentist yesterday and after he was done scaling my teeth I have even greater, new found love for Partner. How he kissed me all this while... Did you know we can produce cement in our mouth?! My bum is hurting. My tail bone sticks out and when I don't watch my posture and sit on my arse, it hurts. Also means I have been sitting on my arse all day. And all this aching-creaking means am getting old. At 29.
But I STILL enjoy watching kiddie flicks. Two days back I saw 'Herbie: Fully Loaded' on HBO and enjoyed it way more than Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which we saw this evening. Seriously, George Lucas and Steven Speilberg need to be hit on their heads for trying to insert aliens into everything. And what a waste of someone as talented as Cate Blanchett, was watching her last evening in Elizabeth: The Golden Years, and the lady is a chameleon. Class apart, love her. Ugh, also saw Die Hard 4 and I have new-found respect for Arnold Shwarzenegger; he's not the only one who does do-you-think-the-audience-is-stupid stunts with jet airplaces (remember True Lies, anyone?) Sheesh. Wouldn't have gone for Indiana had the power not gone off.
Have you realised that there is NOTHING to do during power cuts? What did people do when there was no electricity? Have you also noticed that whenever there is a power cut, mysteriously your cellphone will be on the last legs of its battery-power and will die out? And your other phone will have outgoing barred? And you will get calls from numbers you don't have stored and don't recognise and of course you cannot call back? (And by the way, Vodafone should be SUED. You get 15 phone calls from their customer care executive for bill payment but when you try to call the idiots, that IRRITATING voice will take you through all digits on your keypad but NOTHING will get you to an executive. AND they take your number, assure you they'll call back and never do. So what if they got the pug back on their ads, their service still sucks big time. Am soon going to swear off that brand for ever.)
Anyway... a proper post tomorrow, it's 2.20 am and I better hit bed.


Is sex against the Indian culture?

“There are no coincidences in life, everything is planned,” wrote James Redfield in The Celestine Prophecy. There has much debate about that logic what with Christian theologists claiming that God has indeed planned everything and even though we might think an event/occurrence is a coincidence, it was supposed to happen. Hinduism too believes in Destiny being preordained and while we might make our choices, our path in life has already been decided. As far as I am concerned, both decided Destiny and coincidence could well be true. Like going underground (hiding on the fourth floor that is) for three months and the night I decide to go out, I crash a guy’s party with common friends – without any intention of meeting any prospective love interest – and the host turns out to be by Partner now. And two years after I wrote it, he is word for word the man I had wished for in a post called, Here’s my Soulmate.

Like from going on a decided path to becoming a doctor, my father gets posted to Delhi, we have a neighbour who’s daughter was studying journalism and lo! I enroll into a journalism course. Or as I wrote earlier, on our first class assignment, a professor declaring “You are the next Shobhaa De” (we will never ask my Dad for his opinions on that, ok?) and then being a panelist with her on a TV show nine years later… What was destiny and what is coincidence?

Like is it coincidence that the next chapter on Mishraji’s Musings was written right after I participated in ‘We the People’ in January 2008… and now that I am going to republish it, last night NDTV re-ran the programme? Destiny, coincidence, convenience?

If you have had experiences that seemed like coincidence and turned out to be of major importance, write in and share… let’s get spooked!
Mishraji’s Musings Chapter 6
Sex is against the Indian culture


Stereotypically yours...

Families, what holds them together and what makes them love each other (if at all!)? Do we really know the people we call our family? What makes them tick, what ticks them off and will they really stand by you? Do we stay with our families because we love them or because that’s what we are supposed to do? If we do love them, why do brothers fight over property, why are sisters jealous of each other and why do families disintegrate as children grow and move on with their lives? In the animal world, there are no hard feelings when the children attain “maturity” and go on their path to make their own life. But in the human world, it’s called the ‘empty nest’ syndrome. Parents look after children and then children look after parents: Is it natural or are we forcing it? And if it should be okay for parents to “let go” of their children once they grow – and not interfere with their lives or expect anything in return – is it also fair to assume that the parents then should live their own lives, and perhaps cut us off the inheritance?
The last two more chapters in the pre-published Mishra stories…

Mishraji’s Musings Chapter 5
Catrina K’s secret and Salma Hayek

Despite Sam’s spirited attempt on Xmas eve (did one mention he is Catholic AND British?) – and after which Pinkiji dumped him – the appearance of Sam had only thrown the Mishra family into deepening silence. Except for brief periods Catrina Kohli appeared on the scene, which caused various Mishra family members to react in various ways.
Mishraji would look at Catrina with speculative suspicion. Mrs Mishraji would instantly develop an expression that could mean either she had bitten her tongue hard or had eaten a fly. Pinkiji would become very self-conscious and would send admiring glances to what Catrina was wearing. However, it was Tinkuji who reacted the most uncharacteristically. The fact that Catrina seemed to taunt him continuously wasn’t helping matters either.
While Tinkuji had displayed a general eye for the ladies – especially the girls who came for biology tuitions at the Professor's house, three houses down the Mishra's – Tinkuji was pointedly rude to Catrina. He would either leave each time Catrina appeared or refuse to look at her. It had started with Sam's dismissal on Xmas eve. Tinkuji's entry had gone unnoticed the other night because everyone was looking at Pinkiji slapping Sam.
As Sam had left holding his left cheek, everyone had noticed a stunned Tinkuji standing at the gate and Catrina had asked him, "So that's the end of Uncle Sam. How is your story coming along Tinkoo, Rosebud Salma? You dumping her too?"
Tinkuji had ignored Catrina, looked at Pinkiji stunned and had muttered, "But why did you dump Sam?" With no response coming, he shook his head, walked inside and had refused to speak to his sister or Catrina since then. In fact no one had spoken at all.
Till that morning's newspaper arrived and Mrs Mishraji yelled, "Aji sunte ho!" and Mishraji had come running, Pinkiji had followed with Tinkuji on her heels. The entire family had huddled together around the newspaper. 'Benazir Bhutto assassinated' screamed the headline. The entire family pulled in closer. As someone held the paper and someone else read out loud, Pinkiji said, "Papaji, we should get our own satellite dish. We would have had the news last evening."
"Yes," added Tinkuji, "You can watch everything instantly on 24/7 news channels."
"Is this the time to discuss TV? A world leader has died." chided Mrs Mishraji.
"But she's not our leader Mummyji, she is a Pakistani…” continued Pinkiji, embarrassed she had mentioned TV at all.
"OH keep quiet. Kabhi sochne ke liye rukte ho?,” said Mishraji, “Do you ever stop to think that things and life can change so instantly? Like you Pinki... One evening you hate your father for S...someone, another evening you slap that boy in public. Things just changed like that, so frivolously? Why did you give up on that boy?" At that Pinkiji burst out crying.
"Papaji, sorry. I don't know what to do (sob). First I like S... someone and you get angry. Then I don't like S... someone and you still get angry. (sob) Papaji, I did not like S... someone because I wanted to hurt you. And I just liked from far Papaji, from very far. I did not do anything to hurt you Papaji... I did like him," Pinkiji could barely talk, the tears flowed that fast and her lips quivered that hard.
"Then why the hell did you dump Sam? If you loved him strong enough" pointed Tinkuji at which point both parents asked him to shut up.
"Because no one calls my Papaji a liar," said Pinkiji and began bawling like a 9-year-old. Mrs Mishraji started crying loudly too saying, "Pinki bitiya mat ro."
Mishraji stood silently with changing expressions flitting across his face. One wasn't sure if he wanted to laugh or cry for one had never seen Mishraji do either. For a minute everyone stood doing their bit and then Mishraji folded the paper and ambled inside and both women followed him inside. Tinkuji stood there bemused and walked outside the gate. As Tinkuji made his exit, someone sighed loudly.
"SIGH. Such love. Don't you think THAT family is SO full of stereotypes," Catrina asked chattily, looking at yours truly, her hand resting on her heaving bosom. This was highly odd. First, Catrina had made a silent entry, which was unusual and then SHE was calling someone else a stereotype, which was... One didn't know what to say. "But then Media Madam, there are certain stereotypes that are so blatantly true, no?" Catrina continued smiling, the hand on her bosom shaking ever so slightly, something like a tremor in her voice, the consummate drama queen. "Like the stereotype of Good Indian Girls who will fall in love but will not take it to the right conclusion because they get sudden guilty feelings about letting their parents down. Or the stereotype of the Ageing Single Woman, like me, who can’t fall in love, can’t ask her man to stand by him because he is too scared, who…” (SOB). One was stunned. Catrina Kohli was crying or at least trying not to cry. What was happening?
“Do you know Media Madam, the man I love calls me the Queen of Poorly Conceived Stereotypes? He says I should not think of it as a compliment. But then, at least he calls me a queen," finished Catrina. One was trying to say the right words for such a situation when...
"My mother is not come, she go somewhere for other work. I have come for housework today, but two hours only work-time," said a soft voice in exactly those words and as one turned, one nearly died of shock. There was Salma Hayek standing at the gate, offering to do our housework.
(to be continued)


How to be a good girl

Did I tell you that I am addicted to The Sopranos? Earlier in the year when Partner returned from his Christmas-trip-back-home, he got Season 6 and recently when we went to KL-Melbourne, we got Seasons 1-5 and boy, do I LOVE that series. More than the gun-toting, boob-bearing, swearing and the pizzazz with which the series proceed, I love the way the story is developing and how the writers get the better of me in most episodes. 
I wrote sometime back how if I am reading a good book... Bollywood movies (by the way, the Hindi film industry is NOT known by that name officially but has unfortunately been called so ever since some movie mags called it that, sad; if at all there is an official name, it’s Mayanagri, the city of dreams) Our movies do have a certain predictability to them – and am being rather polite here – where usually you know what’s going to happen. I can also blame my outguessing-the-author syndrome to the trashy television serials we have, prime examples of how to blow money creating nothing original. We shall do TV bashing another time.

In one Sopranos episode, main protagonist Toni Sorpano’s 19-year-old daughter Meadow has a party at her recently-deceased grandmother’s house. Like MOST teenagers-having-party-without-parental-knowledge sequences, the party gets out of hand with drugs doing the round and people generally spewing and pissing all over the house. The parents want to punish Meadow and a heated argument follows. This is also a time when Mrs Soprano, Carmella and Meadow are going through a very bad phase as mother-daughter don’t see eye-to-eye and argue a lot. Meadow blames her mother for interfering with her life and being over-bearing. 

Given the child protection laws in the US – unlike India where parents can freely thwack their kids, you can’t do that in the US – the parents are worried about taking the right disciplinary action against Meadow. If they are too strict the girl could perhaps complain of child abuse and if they are too lenient, the girl gets too cocky knowing that her parents are helpless in punishing her. After finally deciding to cut her pocket money – and disgusted that the girl is not taking responsibility for her actions – Toni Soprano hires a cleaner to tidy-up the mess that his daughter’s party created. Upon reaching the house Toni notices someone inside the house and when he peeps in, he is shocked to find his 19-year-old, rebellious, argumentative, irresponsible daughter, sitting on the floor, scrubbing the vomit and piss. The episode ends with Toni Soprano looking thoroughly confused. 

There have been some interesting responses to Mishraji checking his 22-year-old son Tinku’s wallet and subsequently finding a condom in it. Most of you have written that children should be trusted enough to understand the right from the wrong. Perhaps sometimes trust coupled with ‘proper parenting’ is enough to keep children/ adolescents from doing stupid things (like drugs or perhaps random sex, different from responsible sex, but more on that some other time). Perhaps good parenting alone is not enough. At the end of the day, a child or teenager is also a PERSON who thinks and for better or worse, will usually take his/her own decisions. You can give a child as much freedom and s/he might not ‘misuse’ it or it could backfire and s/he might take you for a ride. Conversely, you can perhaps be as strict as you want and yet your child will do exactly as s/he pleases. However, what we do need to remember, understand and hope for is that maybe, just maybe what parents teach a child will be enough to take them through life and show them the right way… NOT the way that is deemed right, but the way the child feels is right for him/her, by him/her. 

Thank you to all those who’re aware of the earlier parts of the Mishra series, I request a little more of your patience as we are almost to the end of the already-published parts of the story and new ones are ready. This happened during Christmas 2007…

Mishraji’s Musings Chapter 4
Meri Christmas ya teri…

The atmosphere in the Kohli household - Canada-returned and celebrating Christmas - was quite jubilant and spirited. Since Mrs Kohli refused to buy a plastic Christmas tree "to save mother earth", the Kohli's had decorated their rather healthy Money Plant (Devil's ivy, pothos) as a 'Christmas tree'.

On the ground floor, at the Mishra's, things had been very silent since the day the condom had been discovered. Overnight Pinkiji had become a 'good girl'. Though she always wore her tortured-with-love look, she was now very clean and had given up her jeans to wear only Indian outfits. Somehow her father's silence seemed to have affected Pinkiji more strongly than his admonishing.

No such empathy was evident on Tinkuji's part: His wallet had been confiscated and he had taken to singing Michael Jackson's "They don't really care about us" under his breath. Mishraji sulked on his verandah over numerous cups of tea. Mrs Mishraji lovingly provided those cups, stealing worried glances at her husband.

Everything was silent. The silence had reached palpable decibels when shouts of "Merry Christmas!" came from the Kohli household. Mishraji was sitting out on the cold verandah that was unlit except for the twinkling glow from the Kohli's fairy lights. He had his monkey cap on, muffler around his neck, his pyjamas stuffed into his socks and his shawl tightly wrapped around him and was sipping a steaming cup of brandy, one of the rear occasions he picked up alcohol.

Even as holiday cheers echoed around, the Mishra doorbell cried out shrilly. Mishraji was startled and shouted "Who are you?" with such volume that even the Kohli household grew silent to listen-in. Everyone was quiet.

"Who are you?" bellowed Mishraji.
"I am Sam," came the response. Everyone's collective gasp was loud enough to be heard in the next colony.
There was a "Pinki you stay here," in Mrs Mishraji's hushed tones. Mishraji opened the gate. Outlined against the darkness was a slim man in jeans and a white shirt. Each time the twinkling lights danced on his face, one could see he was very handsome.

"Why are you here?" Mishraji asked without preamble.
"To wish you a Merry Christmas and..."
"We don't celebrate Christmas," replied Mishraji.
"...and I come in peace," ended Sam.
"And you will leave in pieces if you don't go immediately," answered Mishraji.

"Your daughter is the most beautiful woman on this planet," declared an undaunted Sam, hand upon his heart, he had come rehearsed.
"No she's not and I have been looking at her since her birth," replied Mishraji, "You are 22, every girl will look beautiful; she is 19, she will believe anyone who finds her beautiful. You don't even have a job," said Mishraji."
I work at a call center," came the prompt response.
"THAT is not a job. What if the call center shuts down tomorrow? How will you support my daughter?" Mishraji's case was final.

"Support your daughter? But why? I love her..." Sam was a bit confused.
"What do you mean "I love her"? You love her to take her to movies and sit behind you on your motorbike? What do you mean WHY support? Support because you will marry her... Will you marry her?" glowered Mishraji.
"Marriage? Now? I love her! But marriage... I came to wish Merry Christmas..." Sam faltered and the hand on his heart shook.

"We don't celebrate Christmas," replied Mishraji with finality. One could sense Mishraji's triumph, feel the boy's confusion (does love have to mean marriage?) and even hear Pinkiji's breaking heart at that admission (if he loves me, why can't he marry me?) when a whiff of something absolutely exotic invaded everyone's nostrils.

It was a bad imitation (bought in Gaffar Market, Karol Bagh) of Chanel No. 5 but was exotic nonetheless and it was coming off the very curvaceous body draped on the Kohli staircase banister. It was not a cat, it was Catrina Kohli: Colonel Kohli's very single I-am-US-citizen, 33-year-old, strange-English speaking sister who wore only salwar-kameez. But she wore such fitted salwar-kameez that it could put a "mini skirt's imagination to shame" according to Mrs Mishraji. Catrina looked like Lara Croft in Indian outfits and currently Lara Croft was holding an A-4 sized sheet in her hand.

"Ji axecuse me," purred Catrina, her kurta threatening to rip at the seams as she looked at the men. Mishraji nearly dropped his chai-cup and Sam who had been standing open-mouthed, started spluttering. Catrina cooed, "There is a Residents' Welfare Association circular that I forgot to give you Mishra sahab... for the annual colony Xmas party you have been chosen to play Santa Claus... My brother, Colonel Kohli will provide comic relief by playing your long lost twin brother, Banta Claus... After all Mishra sahab, let's spraad the true meaning, there is no meri-Christmas or teri-Christmas..." (meri = mine, teri = yours)

Sam whirled to look at Mishraji and pointing a finger at him said, "If you are going to be Santa Claus, you DO celebrate Christmas, why the bloody hell did you lie to me then?”

At that precise moment, Pinkiji who had been quite irritated with Sam for staring at Catrina walked up to him and slapped him. "How dare you use bad words in front of my father and call him a liar? We don't celebrate Christmas. Xmas party is just minority appeasement," and with that Pinkiji summarily dumped Sam.
(to be continued)


Condom conundrum

I had always thought it was Papa's 'over-protectiveness' that made him dislike the idea of me talking or befriending any boy. I say 'boy' because the first memories of Papa reacting adversely to any male company around me goes back 20 years... I was 9-years-old and the said boy was 12. 
We were stationed at Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh). This boy was a visiting relative of one of our neighbours. He was about two inches taller than me, had nearly blonde hair (called it 'English' hair back then) and very, very red lips. So he would play with us and we became playground friends. Till the day he pecked me on the cheek for some reason and there was "scandal" amongst the kids. I promptly reported the transgression to the Aunty whose house he was staying in; who in turn 'apologised' to my mother. That should have been that, only that Papa decided to have a mini-talk with me (over the years the length of those chats grew, much to my alarm).

The only thing Papa said was, "You stay away from that boy, he is not a good boy. All these Punjabi boys." After that I stayed away from 'Punjabi' boys for a long time. Till Papa found that one of my closest friends was a Tamil boy. Then he said, "All these Tamil boys..." and then it was "All these Jat boys..." and 'Nepalis', 'Sardars' and 'Christians' and so on and so forth. Towards the fag end of adolescence I realised that Papa perhaps just did not like boys. Or boys who were my friends. It was confirmed when I heard him telling Ma, "Ei je mein, ekta jhola-pora Marxist dhore aan be... nahole tattoo-kora Panjabi ke" (This girl will either get us a jhola-clad Marxist or a tattooed Punjabi boy) When I was getting close-to-marriageable, Ma said, very concerned, "Whatever you do, don't bring us a Christian, Muslim or Sikh." I pointed out that given Papa's restrictions and now hers added to it, there wouldn't be any/ many men left to marry. I had suggested a Nigerian and a horrified mother had said, "Bachcha gulo koto kaalo hobe". (The kids will be so dark). Funny because I am bloody dark-skinned too. Back then, it was a joke.

Mishraji's Musings, Chapter 3
Have you enjoyed sex yet?
My father also had a gun (two actually, licensed) and would often say that if I got him a "bugger" he didn't like, he would use it freely. Papa never used that gun (or perhaps I was smarter). Now Mishraji does not have a gun and uses rolled newspapers for causing physical harm. However, going by the expression he has been wearing lately - it's called murderous - one has no doubts about the senior gentleman's intentions.

Pinkiji's boundaries seem to have been relaxed since the last time one wrote (for reasons why, read 'But I love Sam, Papaji!). She is now allowed to come out onto the verandah. However one suspects Pinkiji has been asked to stay away from yours truly. Each time one ventures out and if Pinkiji is there as well, Mrs Mishraji can be heard yelling, "Pinkeee, andar aao." (come inside)
Despite feeling bad that the poor girl can't even get some sun in peace, one is mighty relieved that Pinkiji has given up blasting love songs on her tape recorder. Pinkiji's musical rebellion stopped when Mishraji killed the recorder, brandishing another rolled newspaper declaring, "Why fear when your love's here, eh? Let that "love" surface anywhere near my house and I will break his legs... like this," and with that the recorder had come flying out of the window. Since then Pinkiji has found a new form of protest, albeit a silent one.

Each the time girl is out, one has seen her wearing the same nightie and going by how her hair looks progressively more disheveled, one suspects Pinkiji has decided not to bathe. One was wondering how long the girl would keep up with her dirty-till-death attack when...
"PINKI! P.I.N.K.I. COME HERE!" It was Mishraji and to say he was bellowing would be putting it mildly. One happened to be hanging out clothes for drying and couldn't help but notice that a shaking-with-anger Mishraji was holding what looked like a neatly folded note in his hand. A cowering Pinkiji came outside. Yours truly shivered too, anything to do with writing and Mishraji usually assumes it's one's doing.

"What is THIS? Was that loafer here? Has he been passing letters to you under my very nose?" Mishraji was holding out the still-folded note. Pinkiji looked instantly hopeful then quailed under her father's withering look.
"No Papaji, it's not mine... may I have a look?" Pinkiji muttered and one marveled at her courage. Her father was not impressed.
"Don't get cheeky with me. I will read this aloud and if it is THAT loafer..." with that Mishraji opened the note. Everyone waited.
"Dear Jaanu," read Mishraji, nearly choking at the 'Jaanu' (my love), "Why are you avoiding I for three days?" he read, "Me have waited. Me love you soooo much and only you. Please cum soon. Did you get earlier notes? Same place. Your rosebud, Salma." Everyone was silent.
Mishraji looked ready to explode. "Salma? Rosebud? Is that a code word?"
"No, no Papaji, this is not mine... must be bhaiyya's," blurted Pinkiji and then immediately slapped her hand to her mouth. Mishraji's eyes narrowed. (bhaiyya = older brother)

"Your older brother's? Wah. I have sired a bunch of lovers... and SALMA? Both my younger children are doing it to me together. One likes a Christian, the other a Muslim. I will not..."
At that precise moment, junior Mishraji -- 22-years-old Tinku -- strolled in wearing Calvin Klain boxers, his usually spiked hair lying flat, milk packets in hand.
"Yo, 'sup? Wus dis all about?" he asked, doing a cross between Akon and 50 Cent (rappers for those who might not know) and stopped his hand-gestures midway, his eyes going from his father's face, to his sister's hand-shutting-mouth and finally to the note in his father's hand.
"Show me your wallet," Mishraji did not waste time, "Where there is one, there will be more notes. Who is Salma?" he demanded of his son, crumpling the note in his hand.
"Salma who?" retorted Tinkuji.
"Rosebud Salma," replied Mishraji through grit teeth.
"Ah. Salma Hayek..." replied Tinkuji, suspiciously eyeing the note in Mishraji's hand.

"Salma Hayek? Is she from this colony?" demanded Mishraji.
"She is from Hollywood..." said Tinkuji, trying to be brave, "Arre Daddyji, it's a..."
"Shutup. Show me your wallet. I want to see who else is hiding in there. First Sam, now Salma," declared his father. Tinkuji made no moves to give his wallet.
"Daddyji, my wallet is my personal property and..."
"SHUTUP! As long as you stay in this house, your personal property is my personal property since I paid for it. GIVE IT TO ME." Mishraji was in no mood for repartees. Tinkuji's quota of spunk had also run out and he meekly handed his wallet over.

Mishraji shook the wallet hard and things fell out. A calendar with Ganesha's picture, a half-eaten pan masala packet, a parking ticket, some coins and... a single, condom wrapper.
Everyone looked at the fallen objects and then everyone looked at Mishraji.
He was still staring at the ground, at the condom. With excruciating slowness, Mishraji bent and picked up the condom and held it up gingerly between his thumb and forefinger. Mishraji looked as if someone had punched him in the gut.
"What is...? Where did...? You...? Since when...?" The patriarch could not get himself to say whatever he was trying to say.
"Daddyji... I can explain... it was part of class project..." stuttered Tinkuji, taking a step back from his father.
Mishraji let his arms fall by his side, his head hung, "Bas, rehne do. I trusted you," was all he said. Mrs Mishraji stepped in and gently touched her husband's elbow, her voice though was steel.
"Tinku. Answer your father: Have you enjoyed sex yet?"
Mishraji did not wait for the answer and walked back inside.
(to be continued)
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