So question it

An old friend and I were on watsapp this morning, chatting about what we’ve been up to this last week. I mentioned that the OA and I have been out till 3 am both weekend nights and that I’m pooped.

Back came the response – You bad momma.

A play on my blog name, and a joke no doubt. Not bad woman, not wicked girl, not party animal, not antsy bitch, not party junkie.. but a reminder that I am a mother above all.

Should the OA tell his friends that he’s been out all night, he’ll get cheered on.

We women on the other hand, will always be judged in the court of mamas.


Halloween seems to be the next big thing to take over the country. I grimaced four years ago when kids came trick or treating at our doorstep. I sighed over it three years ago. Last year I helped the kids plan what they’d wear and this year I’ve accepted it as part of our celebrations.

And for every person who whines that it isn’t our culture, don’t we have enough of our own festivals and so on, I have a few responses.

Neither is exchanging engagement rings, raising a toast to an occasion, singing Happy Birthday and cutting birthday, wedding cakes, wearing jeans and dresses, Valentine’s Day, celebrating 1st of Jan as New Years, tossing up pasta for school, noodles at a roadside cart, I could go on. If you do any of those, don’t grudge the kids a day of running around dressed up as ghouls. It’s no better or worse than pitru paksh, has no religious rituals involved, is gender neutral and harms no one – unless they have a weak heart!

But.. but do you know the origin of the festival? How does it matter? Neither do the millions who celebrate festivals in this country. From Holi to Karva Chauth. I’ve had a different story from every person I asked. So clearly a story or origins can change and people will still celebrate, making the origin irrelevant. At the end of the day it’s just another reason to celebrate and in the times we live in, I’m happy to have more fun than war.

It’s interesting how people who otherwise only speak English, read only in English, don’t celebrate their kids’ birthdays according to the Hindu calendar and so on, have decided that this is where they draw the line. In fact we all choose to draw a line where we want, but who died and appointed us King to draw the line for others, citing cultural appropriation, when we are steeped in a culture that cannot claim to be pure anything?

Reminds me of the Shiv Sena on Valentine’s Day. Through the rest of the year they think nothing of Western imports like TV and mobile phones and the railway network.

A friend posted a few nights ago that she was sick of having spent an entire month praying for the men in the family via Karwa Chauth and Bhai Dooj and really wanted to celebrate something that was gender neutral, did not involve praying and was all about having some fun, with no food restrictions, no timelines, no order of events and no dire consequences predicted if not followed. This came after a riotous debate on my FB timeline, over fasting during Karva Chauth. It was amusing to have bongs declare Karva Chauth misogynistic, while claiming that Jamai Shoshti is kosher. Yes, husbands are being raised up on a pedestal in both cases, but at least we don’t fast, was the argument. Being blind to the flaws within one’s own culture is so easy.

I’m also on a food group where someone asked the ridiculous question – when did Indians start eating beef? A more relevant question would be, when did Indians stop eating beef? A war broke out on the thread and the lady who definitely didn’t ask it with any noble intentions in mind, deleted the thread when it threatened to overwhelm her.

It seems we’re in the midst of a churn and we’re asking questions. We’re just not always honest about the answers.

On kickers and talkers

Caught a late, late night show of Queen after the babies went to bed. I’m jinxed where movies are concerned. I always, always, ALWAYS have a kicker sitting behind me. I understand long-legged men find the space a little inadequate but I’m married to a long-legged man myself and he’s very careful about not inconveniencing other viewers.

Last night when the kicking began I turned around and requested the woman behind me to stop. She was one of a huge group and they chattered loudly through the movie but I let it pass. It was better than the idiots who bring cranky kids to late night films or the louts who have to take phone calls, mid-film.

But she wouldn’t stop kicking. I turned around and glared at her this time. She ignored me. And kept kicking, like a spoilt 4 year old.

By this time the interval was over and they’d passed in and out carrying food and bumping into our entire row and rocking it, with what must have been insanely huge butts if the shockwaves were anything to go by. The woman next to me began to complain, but most of us were just too decent to get into an all out fight.

The movie began and the kicking started again.

I stood up, arms akimbo, my shawl hanging on either side. For all practical purposes, creating a screen in front of her. The entire lot of them went silent and began whispering (oh, now they could whisper?!), wondering what was wrong with me.

The OA took one look at me, grinned and kept watching the movie.

I stood there and held it for all of about three minutes and the woman behind me stayed mum. She knew why I was doing it.

Then I turned around, bent towards her and said – I can’t help it. You’re not allowing me to sit in peace, so I’m forced to stand.

She had the grace to look uncomfortable but not the decency to apologise.

I sat down and enjoyed the rest of my movie in peace.

Sharing so that you can try this in future. Carry a stole or a dupatta to make it more effective and annoying.


I had the pleasure of catching both Queen and Highway in the last couple of weeks.

I was a little undecided over Highway. Yes, Randeep Hooda is toe curlingly hot and admittedly I have no experience in being kidnapped, but it just didn’t seem plausible. This insanely rich girl and the hired goon from the class they depicted him as coming from. Just didn’t fit. I found the second half dragged a little. The music was decent. And I was thrilled that they touched upon Child Sexual Abuse, a topic close to my heart. I just wish there had been a little more closure over that than they chose to give. On the other hand, that is exactly how it is in real life. You tell you family, you imagine a big scene. They stay quiet and the next day its like nothing happened.

Queen was good too. It’s just that Kangana’s voice and diction drive me nails-on-a-chalkboard-crazy.

I find it interesting that we’re finally doing films that show that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. Two films where the girls are oppressed unwittingly. Can’t take a late night drive, can’t go for dinner without a brother, can’t burp, can’t breathe in peace. I loved that they used the travel metaphor to set them free. To be themselves. I loved that they ended the film single and strong.

The OA and I got into the usual art imitating life conversation and looped it endlessly.

That girl on the bus

I looked up from my books only when the librarian began to make shooing noises. About time anyway, I thought. My head was aching, my eyes burning and my body exhausted by all the last minute cramming. Quickly putting my papers together I picked up my denim backpack. At 17, heading off to college, I’d wanted a new backpack, just like I had at the beginning of every school year. It was covered in graffiti; lyrics from songs by Metallica, Sepultura, Anthrax, Iron Maiden and decorated with graveyards, skulls, all drawn by my brother and my friends. So that I didn’t miss them too much, they said.

I’d stayed on in the library after classes and most of my regular companions had left much earlier. For once I would have to take the bus alone and as I walked out I realised with a shock that it was dark. It was early spring and the weather unpredictable. I looked at my navy churidar, thin white kameez and chiffon dupatta; woefully inadequate once the sun set and the chill came in. I loved this particular hand embroidered kameez, more so because Ma had embroidered if for me.

Wrapping the dupatta tightly around me I hurried to the bus stop and caught my regular bus pretty soon. I soon got a seat and settled into a corner, my bag arranged over my chest protectively, to avoid roving hands. I’d been awake all night studying and then up early in the morning for college, very short on sleep. The bus rattled on and I gave in to my fatigue, fading in and out of sleep.

I woke up to find myself in a strange part of town. Obviously I’d slept through my stop, I realised in horror. Getting off at the next bus stop I began to to make inquiries about getting home. This was in the good old days when blue lines and chartered buses ran in equal numbers. The only way to ensure you were getting on to the right bus was by listening carefully to the conductor rattle off the route, none of which sounded like anything on earth unless you paid close attention.

India Gate, I asked him? He nodded. I hopped on. I had very little money on me and I couldn’t afford the indulgence of an auto every time it got late.

By now it was really late and dark and I had no fucking clue as to where I was. My head began to ache more. The bus trundled down unfamiliar roads and I felt the panic rise. This was not the age of cell phones. My parents, far away in a small town, saved every rupee to send me to the best college in the country. My brother would start college next year and money was scarce. We couldn’t afford daily long distance calls and if I got lost, no one would know I was missing for a long, long time. I used to be the praying kind in those days, and so I prayed.

Soon the bus did turn on to a road I was familiar with. Vaguely.

And then I realised my mistake. In my nervousness I had only asked the conductor if it passed India Gate. I hadn’t clarified which end of the huge circle I needed to be. And anyone who has lived in Delhi and is familiar with the area will know what a walk that would mean.

The crowd had thinned out and then before I could even decide what to do, the bus turned off into one of the radials. Collecting my belongings and my wits, I walked up to the conductor and asked him where it was off to. Why, its regular route of course, he said. This is where the depot lay and where it would terminate.

Oh, my face fell. I needed to be on the other side of India Gate. By now it was 9 pm and the streets were deserted. I could get off and walk, I thought. Except that it was cold and dark and my lack of sense of direction was legendary.

Why not wait, said the conductor. ‘We have to sign in at the bus depot and show that we completed our route in time. After that we will drop you home.’

It’s a testament to how young, innocent, tired, desperate and foolish I was, that I agreed nervously. It seemed like a better option to walking back down the lonely road in the dark, not knowing which was the correct radial to take to go back home, encountering all sorts of people on the road.

They stopped at the bus depot and got off to do their official business. I sat on the first seat, a stone statue. I began to count every mistake I’d made since the day began. From getting little sleep, to studying too late in the library, to dropping off because of exhaustion. Yes, victim blaming usually begins at home.

Around me was darkness. A few other buses were parked in the dark. Rough voices shouted out to each other. I held back my terrified tears. The conductor’s head popped in the door and asked, Would I like some tea; it was a cold night.

‘No thank you, I don’t drink tea.’ I really didn’t want to offend him but I wasn’t allowed to drink tea while growing up and hadn’t grown into the habit after leaving home.

Ah, you must be a Christian, he said sagely.

H-h-how did you guess, I managed.

Because Christians don’t let their children get into tea-coffee habits, he pronounced.

And then he walked off and got himself and the driver a cup of tea. While they drank it they chatted with me about what I was studying and where I was from. He told me about his daughter, also doing her BA so that she could better herself. She too often had to travel back alone from college. Considering I was at their mercy to get home, I couldn’t think of any other polite option so I kept up my end of the conversation.

They finished their tea, paid up and then true to their word, drove me not just to the street I lived on but as close to my residence as the bus was allowed.

I got off the bus, my knees weak with relief and waved them goodbye.

Years later a much older girl got on to a bus on a busy Delhi street, at around the same time of night. She was with a companion, yet she got brutally raped and died.

She shouldn’t have been out so late they said. They shouldn’t have got on to a chartered bus they said. They shouldn’t have stayed on the bus when they realised there were no other passengers, they say.

I’ve spent a lot of the last month fighting these battles online. Trying to do everything I can to spread awareness. To stop the victim blaming. Because as a wise woman once said, when you blame the victim, you are defending the rapist.

Have you ever looked at it that way? Every time you think she should have avoided going out late, she should have taken an auto, she should have, she should have, she should have, you’re missing the point. It’s not what she should have. It’s what he SHOULDN’T have.

SHE and WE are just regular women trying to make our way in the world. We’ve all been educated by our parents in the hope that we’ll make something of ourselves. We work the same hours and then carry the same weary bodies back home on the same crowded buses that men do. The only difference is the way in which we hold our bodies. Arms folded against our chests, heads down, bag held defensively.

We all have the same series of events leading up to bad days. Late nights, working too hard, long days, missed buses and exhaustion that leads to us making that one mistake. Getting off at the wrong place, getting on the wrong bus, trusting the wrong people. Sometimes the only difference lies in that one mistake, taking that day from simply bad, to fatal.

The truth is, we can’t just sit home now. We’ve tasted freedom and independence, and we’re hooked. We’ve come too far to turn back now. We can’t live our lives cowering in fear. We cannot be stifled or restricted. We cannot be sheltered any longer. If I must live my life in fear and depend on my husband or brother to take me out, I shouldn’t have wasted my time getting an education. I should have just stayed home and stuck to cooking and cleaning. Why this false sense of equality where education is concerned when we can’t take that education and equality and make something of it? When we’re constantly being chaperoned or else at risk?

I urge you all, don’t stay home in fear. Step out. Fill the streets. Let them know they can’t push us back in. Let them grow used to seeing us out and about. Make it safer for yourself as well as the other girls simply trying to get home. From office, from a club, from hospital, from the airport. We’re living the same lives that men are. We have a right to the same safety they have. They just don’t want to see it yet. Someday they will.

I won’t cry tonight!

This is the second of my last 6 posts about live music acts. That says something about the neglected state of my blog and about decent big acts coming to India (No thank you, we don’t want the Bieber).

We booked our GnR tickets ages ago. When no one else had. It wouldn’t be the same of course, no Slash, no Izzy, no Duff. But after the Metallica fiasco we’re not being too choosy. We’ll take anything they throw our way. So we had the date marked on our calendar, babysitter organised, played every GnR album for days and sang Patience and Don’t cry as lullabies to the kids.

I’d like to be hipster about this but the truth is, no matter what you are listening to today, GnR is what a lot of us grew up on. To me GnR is not just a big act, it’s long afternoons in a dark old rambling house smelling of khus, American music banging out of tinny stereo systems and a bunch of desi kids sitting around on the floor rocking like their lives depended on it. It is my brother playing the lead to Sweet Child of Mine behind his back. Not an easy task when you realise an electric guitar is heavy and he was a young boy and always built slim. Not easy when you realise he had to reverse the position of his fingers and play the opposite of what he played when it was the right way up. He and his band would practice on our verandah, out in the heat and the blinding sun, wires everywhere, the frenetic drumming keeping my old great grandaunt awake. It was amazing fun to have awestruck kids bang on our gate and ask the boys for autographs. It was cool to be the only jobless one lighting cigarettes, untangling wires and holding down shaky plugs. And through this all we had a background score. Of GnR, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Anthrax, Sepultura, Alice in Chains and what not. We didn’t allow ourselves the luxury of dreaming that we’d ever get to see them. Until a few months ago.

About four days before the show I dislocated my navel (anyone who has heard of this ailment and knows a cure/ good doctor?).  Yes, apparently these things only happen to me. It first happened when I was 12 and turning cartwheels. My stomach crunches up and I stay curled in that foetal position for days. I can’t retain any food because all the internal organs are pushed out of place. It’s pure agony and the only flip side is I get a complete system detoxification. Okay, I jest. It’s a shit experience ( excuse the pun) and there are days I believe I will die of the pain. No amount of allopathy makes a difference, the diarrhea continues and only an experienced dai can massage it to relieve the knot or whatever my intestines have gone into. The only thing that worked wonders is when I was home and an old retainer would light a diya on my navel, upturn a cup on it and then once the diya burned out, yank it off. He called it a totka; I now realise the vacuum  it created yanked the navel back into place.

After the birth of the kids my stomach muscles have becomes more lax and now like all dislocations, the frequency has increased and it happens every 6 months or so. As luck would have it, this time it picked the day before GnR. I was literally writhing in pain. I spent the entire morning popping pills to stop the back door trot, but there was nothing I could do about the pain. I starved myself until I was dehydrated so that I didn’t need to use the toilet, but I could barely straighten up, so tightly knotted were my muscles/innards? The OA came home from work, took one look at me and said we’d either go together or not. I’d told myself that it wasn’t the end of the world if I missed it but I wasn’t able to buy my own story. And I didn’t want the OA to miss it, heck, I didn’t want to miss it myself. So we planned it such as to get there as soon as the opening act had finished. And as we parked and walked towards the lights arcing across the sky I forgot the navel and began to feel the butterflies.

A crowd of 20,000 and a live wire atmosphere. At this point I must be a snob and say I wish junta wouldn’t show up for an event if all they can do is name two songs. I saw loads of people who couldn’t sing along because they didn’t know any of the music. The reason behind the snobbishness really is that we would have a little more place to move if less wannabe types had shown up! Yes, yes, selfish! But that’s how it is. Everyone wants to say they listened to GnR growing up but won’t be able to name even two albums. Why then pack up the place for real old fans? Rant over.

My stomach ached but just knowing that I was listening to Estranged live, kept me on my feet. That and the crowd holding me upright long after my knees had given up the job.When you’re my height your impression of a rock show is loud music, the smell of weed mixed with sweat and that tall guy’s dreadlocks getting in your nose and mouth. This one was no different.

The OA of course towers above general junta and kept looking down in concern. Did I want to go home? Bathroom? Was I okay? Should he carry me? No, no, no. Carry me, I repeated in mock horror and genuine embarrassment. Yes, of course he said, looking offended. Did I think he couldn’t? Err.. no, I hastened to assure him. It wasn’t his capabilities I was doubting – it was my weight that would be a problem. What nonsense, he said – you’re just the right size for me. Erm. That is sweet, but no.

My earliest memories of how true love manifests itself at a rock show are from a college fest. Every batch has its first couple and my favourite was this petite girl with a riot of curls and a navel ring, and her very cute boyfriend who towered over her. The rock show during our college fest was on and she was hopping from foot to foot trying to catch a glimpse of the stage. And then he hefted her up with ease and plonked her down on his shoulders. Villager that I was, I stared, slack-jawed. What? In public? In college? And then I changed my tune to, how cute! Me next! Even though I was a mere 43 kilos, the then boyfriend couldn’t have been more than 53 kilos, almost a foot taller than me though he was – so I thought better of suggesting that he lift me up. Plus I have a huge dread of public displays of affection and I liked it fine down there, holding hands and staring at a back in front of me, imagining what the stage looked like.

So the OA’s offer was a dream come true, just 17 years too late. But there was no way I was climbing up on his shoulders and making a spectacle of myself. I had a gazillion friends in the crowd and a reputation to maintain, as a 34 year old mother of two. Until Sweet Child of Mine came and all sane thought vanished. I threw my jacket at an unsuspecting friend, tapped the OA on the shoulder and hopped on without a thought for his well being or my dignity. I saw the stage for the first time and I screamed like a banshee and waved. The crowd screamed louder, surged, waved, lighters came out (don’t ask me how they got them in) and in general I felt like a 16 year old. And the 16 year old me got closure in so many ways. Here I was, sitting on my better half’s shoulders watching GnR  – and he hadn’t keeled over under my weight and died yet, pushing 40 though he is! The man doesn’t do poetry, roses, chocolates or diamonds. But what he does for these old bones, I don’t know any other man who will.

When he took me down I was so content, I could have gone home right then. But not quite. I had to see the piano being rolled out for November Rain. THEN I could die. By the time it came to an end I was on cloud # 9 and ready to push through the crowds to get closer. The band was throwing plectrums into the crowd and I didn’t see them come, let alone see where they went. And so at the end, on a stranger’s encouragement I went down on my knees and dug around in the dirt. And I was rewarded.


Now I am back in bed, dying. But at least I can go in peace. :p

The light of the world

Here’s wishing all of you a warm and happy Diwali. It was particularly touching that kids around us all swore off firecrackers for a variety of reasons – pollution, the noise and disturbance to old folks, babies and animals, and finally, child labour in Sivakasi. And with all that effort we woke up to a fairly clear and clean day. Impressive.

We met some people who were surprised that kids were aware of such things. Lets not burden them with issues they have no understanding of, let them enjoy themselves, they said.

I smiled and said nothing. Yes, apparently I am growing old. *ugh*

We burden our kids by informing them early about their caste, community and the notion of an omniscient God (and I really haven’t met too many adults with an understanding of God), but we don’t believe they have the capacity to understand that little children like themselves are sitting in a dirty factory making crackers that are harmful to their health? Why is it hard to tell our children that animals are terrified of the loud sounds, when we don’t think twice about telling them that it’s wrong to pull a dog’s tail? Why is it hard to point out that we’re just burning up money instead of doing some good with it? Why can’t they have memories of drawing rangolis, making sweets, lighting diyas and stringing up garlands of marigold? Who decreed that fire crackers are de rigueur? We had a lovely time last night with friends, family, good food, laughter and light. I hope you did too.

A few glimpses of our home done up for the festival of lights

I love this malevolent frog!

Laying the table for a traditional Diwali dinner cooked by the OA