Saturday, August 30, 2014

NO Nonsense Chayaisms from the 80s….Does marriage end all?

Does marriage end all?

I met my old college friend after 20 years. It was quite an interesting meeting at a depart­ment store, just as I was bringing down a packet of Maggi noodles from the shelf, a “Hey! how are you”, from behind, ac­companied by a rather unfeminine thump on my back, made me turn round but soon it was a “My God! how good to see yon after all these years"’ kind of exchange.

We strolled out, Maggi noodles forgotten, into the adjoining cafe and ordered all the snacks we used to love in college, just for old times’ sake.

It was great to meet Veena after two decades but a pity to see what time or rather, her own indifference, had done to her. In college, she was in athlete, very conscious of her figure and a fitness maniac. Always well dressed. Veena was one of the smartest girls on the campus. Somewhere, over the years, she changed. She is now a portly matron and the way she gorged herself with the stuff we ordered, I can im­agine why!

She looks quite frumpy and a far cry from the Veena I knew. To my “Why have you let yourself go?” she shrugged her massive shoulders, chewed the batata wada and said. “I am married and have grown up kids – why should I bother? I’m not going to compete in any beauty contest!”

That made me think. Why do women con­sider marriage and motherhood the end- of all desire to look good? Are a trim figure and good grooming the prerogative of single wo­men — solely as a bait for unsuspecting males? How come the Veenas of yesteryear develop this attitude? Surely we owe it to ourselves to look and feel attractive?

I made a random survey and found that most husbands who go after ‘the other women’ are those who have wives who go to seed. These wives neither make the attempt nor are inc­lined to assess their own shortcoming. After all, a man has this inherent tendency to cast his roving eye hither and thither and no amount of slogan-shouting against it is going to change matters! Marriage itself, by its wearing tendency, can dampen the ardour of the man. It’s upto the woman to monitor his needs and keep up the desired image!

If I am sounding too partisan, let’s blame the men too! Many of them let their bellies protrude and merrily indulge their appetite, once married. Lucky for them that the wife is not in most cases, inclined to look for slimmer pastures.

A well-kept and well-dressed spouse is an important ingredient in conjugal happiness. No wife or husband has any business to take the other for granted and settle down to obesity and slovenliness.

The wife should take the trouble of cooking the right kind of food for the family, thus help- everyone keep trim. The hubby should not spoil it all by eating irresponsibly while out of the house. Going for long walks or exercising together can keep both fit and increase to­getherness.

Otherwise, marriage could be bursting at the seams, physically!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

NO Nonsense chayaisms from the 80s…Lively houses

Lively houses

Surveying the city of Lon­don in the early hours of dawn, Wordsworth exclaimed, “Dear God, the very houses seem asleep!” When I read this poem in school, the first thought that struck me was, how can houses sleep? After that, I started looking at houses, not as architectural specimens but as hu­man beings. Over the years, this exercise has almost become an ob­session and I am convinced that houses have a distinct character - a reflection of its inmates.

My grandfather’s house in My­sore was a very lively one. It had a courtyard which was like the lap of a mother — always inhabited by gurgling children. Surrounded by rooms, it spelt a cosy comfort and privacy from the prying eyes of neighbours. We practically grew up in the courtyard; eating, sleeping, playing, fighting, crying...On warm nights, we’d roll out a big “dhurrie” and sleep under the stars, exchang­ing giggles and whispers.
Childhood and courtyard have become inseparable symbols for me — evoking memories of a mother with a large heart — with the capacity to clasp a platoon of children, to her ample bosom.
When I talk to my sons about the courtyard, they exchange indulgent glances which say, ‘Let mom have her fancies!’ They cannot fathom this attachment I have for brick and mortar. I once took them to the place and they watched with amu­sement when I surreptitiously pres­sed my cheek against the wall — almost like a caress.
How can they understand? They are the product of an age when a house is a shelter. Frequent transf­ers have taken us to different houses for short spells. To them, a house has no emotional connotations. As long as they have walls to put up their posters of ghastly looking singers, they are happy! How can I blame them? It’s the changing va­lues that they reflect.
A house has ceased to be an entity exuding love and protection. It has become a dear commodity over which land-lords and tenants breathe fire and brimstone! It is no more a warm, pulsating being which can open its arms to the stray nephew... the widowed aunt... the destitute girl... the ailing grandfather... Like the inmates, houses have become selfish beings
who don’t want anyone other than father, mother and children.
Courtyards are a waste — to be used more practically for building rooms which can be rented out. Doors and windows are no more like a spontaneous smile, lighting up the house. They are mere modes of ventilation. You don’t hear the creak of the gate anymore — no one has the time to open it and come in...
The houses I was used to as a child, were like a large buxom woman who beams with pleasure. Now, they are like the slim, so­phisticated socialite, balancing her­self on stilettos — looking through contact lenses — pursing her lips lest she loses her icy aloofness. I look around and exclaim, “Dear God, the very houses seem dead...”

Monday, August 25, 2014

No Nonsense Chayaisms from the 80s…Terrorist me

Terrorist me
SOMETHING about me seems to spark off the suspicions of security staff. My face or physique must be conforming to a “type” of a terrorist but my mirror only reveals a greying, middle aged woman who could pass off for a middle school teacher or a happy housewife.
Yet, security guards at airports and airlines offices look twice at me, expecting me to explode a hand grenade into their face. No, it’s not my imagination that’s working overtime, nor am I paranoid. It’s actually happened.
There was this fat security female at the entrance to the Airlines of­fice. She was sitting in a chair and twiddling her toe nails as people went past her into the office. Sud­denly, she looked alert when she spotted me. Her radar seemed to have a spurious flash.
“Excuse me”, she said, none too politely, “open your bag”. Just for a moment I wished I had heeded my hubby’s advice to carry around a dainty handbag instead of a con­traption which is a cross between a hold-all and an overnighter!
Granted my bag had unseemly bulges due to my stuffing in a soap box, a torch and other parapherna­lia, but surely the security Miss couldn’t mistake them for explo­sives! She rummaged through the assorted collection in my bag and her eyes glinted. Her hand had found something heavy and metal­lic.
She gave me I-knew-you-were- no-good looks and gingerly picked up the heavy object. “What’s this?” she demanded, flourishing a cloth bag filled with what she presumed was some dynamite. “Open it”, I said with a smile and quite enjoyed her discomfiture when she undid the knot and found a whole lot of 25 np coins!
Bidding goodbye to visions of a quick promotion she settled down to twiddling her toes, waiting for another ‘type’ to come along.
At the Jaipur airport, while other women were given a quick looking over, I was held back for a thorough frisk — made me feel like a woman from the Middle East with an Omega watch belt around my waist.
‘Beep’ went the gadget she waved around me. That was enough to confirm her suspicion that I was trying to make a getaway after at least two bank robberies and a couple of killings. “Beep” went the gadget again and this time she searched thoroughly till she found the culprit — a huge baby nappy pin which was holding up my saree fall!!
The “crowning glory” of such experiences came at the Bangalore airport. After putting my small overnighter into the X-ray machine, I walked up to pick it up at the other end. ‘Wait’, said a curt voice, “open it”.
‘Now what’, I said to myself and mentally went through the contents of the case — my clothes and toiletries and a steel container my aunt had gifted as her daughter’s wedding memento. For a moment I wondered if someone had switched my case!
Enraged by my hesitation the security man prodded the bag say­ing, “There are round bomb like objects in metal — we want to see what they are — please open”.
Silently praying that the bag I wasn’t switched by a terrorist, I opened the bag. There — lying in the steel container were found luscious ladoos!! I mentally cursed aunty for planting such “deadly weapons” in her gift!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

NO Nonsense Chayaisms from the 80s...Old is beautiful

Old is beautiful
 “How old are you?” is a question l have to often answer. When I tell them I’m 37 years the usual exclamation is “but you don’t look so old” I feel like screaming “of course it’s not so ‘old’ to be 37!” but what’s the point? How can I convince them that ‘old’ is always 15 years more than what you are? I remember when l was a teenager, all those who were above 25, were ‘old’ and as I entered this category, only 40 could be ‘old’. Now that I’m nearing it, I look on all those who are below 60, as young!
 What is this frightening world called ‘old’? Is it a chronological phenomenon; a biological one or a cardio-vascular affliction? It cannot be the first two. There are men and women who are 80 and still fighting fit while a wasted and spend 25-year-old is not an uncommon sight. There are those who have naturally jet black hair and wrinkle-free-face at 50 while 15-year-olds hurry to the beauty parlour to dye their hair or bleach their face. So, it boils down to your being as young as you feel in your heart!
What is the secret of this feeling? With due apologise to tall the theories put forward by beauticians and doctors, I’d say that you feeling young depends on those who make you feel so. Kamala Das, in her poem has expressed this so beautifully:

“Middle age is, when your children are no longer friends, but critics .............
.......You are in a dream world mother
.......You are no longer young you know.”

            For a woman, it is her family which makes her young or old. A husband, who compliments her often, pampers her and makes her feel like a bride, all the time, will put a blush of youthfulness on her face. Children who, instead of treating her like a relic, vibe with her on the same wavelength, also contribute to her young looks. If you observe mothers with small children, they look worn out haggard and old. The same mothers, when the children grow up, loose that harassed look and bloom.
Anyway, why should we be afraid of growing of growing old? It’s pathetic to see women with bulging middles and frowning faces, dyeing their hair black. They neither look attractive nor young. Why this pre-occupation with black hair, I wonder. Unless one grows grey prematurely it is an elegant accessory to be worn with grace.
Why the compulsion to be secretive about one’s age? We women seem to be notorious for this. If you are 50, say so proudly. After all, you were not responsible for your being born so long ago! There are more meaningful qualities we can concentrate on, than counting the years we have lived. When you see Begum Ali Yavar Jung, do you see her wrinkles or grey hair? Does Maharani Gayatri Devi remind you of the decades behind her? Can you believe she’s past 60 as Indira Gandhi runs up the step ladder of an aircraft? (I wish she wouldn’t dye her hair so blatantly white on one side though!)
Growing old is a beautiful and gradual evolution. We should neither accelerate nor retard its progress. Let’s take it as one would savour champagne – in small sips an enjoying every moment of it!    
(As I post this at the age of 67...I still feel the same!!)