Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Dear Magazine, I am not sorry we broke up



The newspaper is dying a slow death, but not in India. For many households it’s still the perfect accompaniment with morning tea even though the many reports of horrific rapes and killings fill you with sorrow and disgust at the same time. Every member of the family has a favourite page. During my teen-angsty days ‘the middle’ mostly witty accounts of personal anecdotes, was my favourite. My Dad stuck to the sports page and Mom would devour very inch of the paper. When the ‘middle’ was removed, I shed lonely tears on its demise. Unfortunately, there was no social media where I could call for a candlelight vigil.

These days I spend most time on the editorial page. In this age of constant explosion of news that’s breaking the Internet every few minutes, you need a learned and well-informed pen to help you make sense of the chaos and cacophony that passes off as news.

As in any middle class home where a household item has nine lives before its expiry, the newspaper too enacts many roles with ease. After it has fulfilled its purpose of informing and sending ripples of outrage down our spine, it quietly takes on the humble job of lining shelves in cupboards and cleaning windows. The ones that escape this ordeal hand meekly surrender themselves to the local raddiwala who defies inflation and offers lesser and lesser money for the same pile.

As I hand over the stack of rustling newspapers to its new custodian, I can’t help but notice the few odd magazines cutting a lonely picture. I carefully avert my eyes from their accusing glances. They believe I have forsaken them for a new lover and they are right.

Damn you, online distractions!

The fact is, we did have a passionate love affair for decades. They were my besties after a long, tiring day, my before bed companion, the secret behind my know-all attitude. I remember how excited RayMan was when I trundled home with Cosmopolitan and 110 ways to make your man sigh in bed. I read them all, giggled, rolled my eyes and then promptly forgot all the tips. And my man let out a loud sigh.

It was through Illustrated Weekly I discovered great artists and their work. My Maa’s Bangla magazine with its agony aunt column where youngsters would share incestuous, forbidden and supremely weird but exciting tales of love and longing stoked my desire to learn the language. Magazines were a one stop shop for stories, opinion pieces, satire and how to use onion juice to rejuvenate your hair.

During its achhe dins they were the stars of the educated class whose only source of entertainment was Doordarshan. A proud heap under the centre table of the living room, ‘The National Geographic’ placed strategically on the top. In fact, my favourite family friends were the ones with an enviable collection of magazines. Every time we would visit the family, I would pick up a bunch, look for an empty room and spend a blissful hour or two in their company. If not magazines, there were always comics.

A train journey would be incomplete without the customary stash of film magazines - stories created from nothing, making us believe we were getting a sneak peek into the dark lives of messed up superstars. Yet we lapped it all up. I remember how excited I would be when Baba would come home with those mags and how much will-power I had to exercise not to read them all before we got on the train.

These days when I go the salon and see the familiar bunch of glossies that made my heart beat faster lying on a table next to me, I don’t feel a thing! Nope, not even the customary curiosity how my ex is doing without me. 


When did the disenchantment start? Was it boredom or predictability that killed the relationship? And it seems I am not alone. People at large have stopped buying magazines. With social media WhatsApp groups and Netflix eating into our leisure time, nobody has time for magazines anymore. Serious readers prefer a long time commitment and would rather cosy up with a book.

Who wants to wait a fortnight to read an in-depth analysis of yet another political move when it has already been done to death by several newspaper columns, panel discussions and lengthy Facebook posts! And nobody cares which film star slept with whom.

Plus there’s no dearth of quality writing from all over the world you get to read online without having to pay a dime. For tips on Rapunzel hair, how to make daal that doesn’t look like custard there’s always WhatsApp and Facebook groups.

I recently joined a group dedicated to curly haired women, and all they talk about is how many hours and money they spend on haircare for perfectly natural curls. And just like my Cosmo days, I roll my eyes, giggle and forget all the tips I read the moment I logout.

The medium may have changed, but the feeling hasn’t.

Dear magazine, it was good while it lasted but now I don't miss you at all.



Monday, July 17, 2017

Period leave – Yay or Nay for Empowerment


I will conquer the world but only after I am done with my periods

A Mumbai based firm in their attempt to be more women friendly has granted first day period leave to all its women employees. Yay! This should start making men wish they had periods too - the mythical condition that makes perfectly normal women turn into raging monsters. This monthly ritual of shedding eggs is much like the short skirt – the most popular defence for rapists and their many sympathisers. Every time a woman creates a scene, screams her lungs out, gets into an argument because she’s tired of taking shit, it is promptly attributed to the big P or her sis PMS. Either this, or she is menopausal, or may not be getting enough sex.

So deep is this rot in the mindset, a Trump voter went on to say the reason why she’ll never vote for Hillary is because a woman should never be the President. Her hormones that play hide and seek make her so volatile that she can start wars, totally ignoring the fact that both the world wars were started by leaders who were men.

That the future of world peace depends on the mental health of our vagina is a huge responsibility to shoulder. Phew!

Despite menstruation taking the blame for all the ills that befall mankind, it’s funny to note how little men know about it. Or rather choose not to know about it. Never mind the fact that they had taken the same path as period blood to slide out into the world.

Ah, well!

Thankfully we have come a long way from the time when menstruation was thought to make women periodically dangerous. The reason why we were kept in isolation, away from public space and temples, lest we desecrate its holiness.

Period is no longer the condition that renders us bechaari and immobile. We can choose what we want to do – run, swim, scale mountains, barge our way into temples or even go to office, Hell, I can go to my neighbourhood chemist and walk out with a pack of sanitary napkins without its soulmate, the brown paper bag!

No one but us gets to tell us what we can or cannot do. So a Serena Williams wins the Australian Open when she was 8 weeks pregnant. A well into her fifth month Gal Gadot plays the warrior princess in Wonder Woman and slays.

We are no longer shy from talking about what we go through when we are menstruating. Something that was unthinkable for generations before us.

So forgive me if I feel confused when a period leave is hailed as a giant leap for womankind.

Yes, I get it. It is an acknowledgment of what we go through, the uneasiness, the cramps that come and go like electricity in Gurgaon. For some women it’s worse – fainting spells, vomiting, debilitating pain that brings life to a grinding halt. But the lack of a period leave has never stopped us from staying home when it was too much to bear, right?

If we are okay with taking a holiday earmarked as ‘period leave’, what’s stopping us from going to our boss from telling, look, I am about to get my periods, the pain is unbearable. I need to go back home. And if PL is the new normal, why not make provisions for pre-menstrual syndrome as well? Bar women from being part of key decision making, meeting high-value clients, closing business deals, because hey, it’s that time of the month when her mood swings faster than a movie star’s sexual orientation.

I will conquer the world but only after I am done with my periods?

Friday, July 7, 2017

Open the door, the Goddess is right outside


If you are a woman of reasonable means living in India, chances are you have seen God regardless of your caste, belief and pet prejudices.

For those of you unfortunate enough to be deprived of this divine viewing let me describe to you in detail what it feels like.

Like all good things in life this too doesn't come easily. In fact it is a lengthy process that entails a lot of suffering, uncertainty, anxiety that gnaws at your insides. It's a lot like when you have the misfortune of going to a government office to get a job done. By the end of the ordeal and no solution in sight, you wish you were born a lizard with no responsibilities other than flicking your tongue around for your next meal.

Tragically the longer the suffering is, the higher the probability is of the sighting. Your mood swings like a pendulum on testosterone. You alternate between anger at being betrayed and extreme melancholy. Women experience dehydration from frequent bouts of crying. It is likely to occur when you are on all your fours with a mop in hand, your hair greasy from sweat.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, all you will hear is sad strains of the violin. Nothing feels right anymore, not even your favourite TV series. Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’ playing for the zillionth time at club near you doesn’t annoy you anymore. You feel exhausted all the time mentally and physically and often end up reminiscing about achhe din which was your reality just a week back.

But no, the unevolved type you are, you refused to appreciate the gloriousness of the present when everything worked with clockwork precision and you actually had time to post photos of flowers, cute kittens and your dinner. Instead you chose to find faults with it. You cribbed about cups with tea-stains, the carpet that looked it hasn't been brushed for weeks.

You refused to appreciate your achhe din while you were living it.

Maybe you deserved this living hell. Perhaps you were asking for it by behaving inappropriately.

But with great distress comes greater introspection. As you are crouched over the sink cleaning the pile of dishes, you chide yourself for being ungrateful for comforts you took for granted.

You are often spotted near the window scanning the horizon for missing achhe din.

Mind you, there will come a time when you might feel tempted to cheat. Especially when the one you trusted so deeply has gone silent. Won't even pick up your calls, reply to your drunk texts, refuse to LOL on all the WA jokes you forward.

Perhaps it is time to move on. Should I start looking for a new acche din?

You give yourself a tight slap for being so impatient. Shutup, Purba, you tell yourself. You have invested so much in this relationship. Don’t give up. Not yet.

Thankfully you manage to assure yourself it is meant to last forever.

So you wait with Zen like patience. You meditate to keep your equilibrium intact. Soon you start experiencing detachment from discomforts you experience but only in spurts. The rest of the time you continue wallowing in misery and trying to unknot your stomach.

And then one day when you are on the cusp of attaining Nirvana and losing your sanity, the bell rings. You drag yourself to the door and open it and lo behold, you are greeted with the most beautiful sight. There she is glowing like a goddess, looking a little shamefaced for putting you through hard labour. Your body is trembling with unsaid emotions and your eyes well up with tears. It takes immense willpower from collapsing at her feet with relief. Before she can say, Didi, you close her mouth with your hands and whisper – bass kar pagli, rulayegee kya?

It’s been two days. Your eyes can’t stop following her like a puppy as she sweeps the floor. Once or twice when she has caught you staring, you immediately start looking intently at your phone and post a few lame jokes on Twitter. You are now making a mental note of buying her a new sari from Amazon.

Maybe I’ll give her something in peacock blue this time. It’ll suit her dusky complexion.

Better still, I’ll build a shrine for her in my heart. After all behind every carefree and footloose woman is her kamwali bai.


Monday, June 19, 2017

An Idiots Guide to How to Compliment a Woman Without Offending Her

Courtesy Google images

Certain men seem to be under the impression that they are in charge of a woman’s self-worth, and not without reason. Since the time they sprouted facial hair, they have been told a woman squeezes herself in asthma inducing dresses, totters in high-heels and spends hours prettying herself only for his attention. As a true gentleman it is his duty to reward her for all her efforts by looking intently at her cleavage and mumble ‘you are hot’, while scratching his scrotum.

What puzzles him is, instead of rolling over with gratitude and bounding towards him with her tongue hanging out, she has the temerity to walk in the opposite direction.

Ungrateful bitch!

Seriously, do these creatures even know what they want? He can recount countless instances where he tried to appreciate her legs in those teeny-weeny shorts and dresses she wears by leering at them. Once he even dropped a few drops of drool on her thighs. The confused muddle-head shrieked in horror and slapped him hard instead!

Of course he was butt hurt. He immediately put on Attaullah Khan's classic, achha silaa diya tune mere pyaar ka and asked himself again and again, tears rolling down his cheeks - isn’t this the sole purpose of wearing cleavage revealing, thigh baring and curve flaunting dresses?

He ran to the nearest temple, hung from the bell and demanded to know from God in his most pain-stricken voice, why are women like this? God as usual gave him the silent treatment.

Do you think even God is a woman? Hey Bhagwan!

Not the one to give up so easily and also because his virginity depended on it, he tried to take the sophisticated path. It was a busy weekend when he spotted a very shapely posterior at the pub. He walked up to it and said – Girl, are you polio? Coz you’re making my legs weak. She laughed like a hyena and rolled her eyes like windshield wipers. Goddammit! He then went to the dance floor and stared soulfully at the women dancing. He almost dropped his pitcher of beer when he saw a mature type lady smile at him. He immediately ran up to her and started doing his Dharmendra type moves. To show his thoughtful side, he even offered to drop her home, even though she was in no mood to go back. When she refused, he asked all the other ladies at the pub if he could drop them safely at home, because zamana is so kharab, I tell you!

Shaandaar is 28, still a virgin. And has very little time left to lose it. His Mom is busy looking for a girl who doesn’t go to malls to be his bride.



What baffles Shaandaar is these girls who treat him like he’s some sort of infection, do khi khi with other boys. They are not even half as good-looking as he is. What do they have that he doesn’t? He has biceps, triceps, fair and handsome looks, his Dad gifted Audi, couple of kothis in Gurgaon and Ma kaa andha pyaar.

Monday, May 8, 2017

If You Believe You Are A Supermom, You are a Victim not a Victor



avoid socializing with women who cannot talk beyond their kids. No, it has nothing to do with them making me feel like a useless Mom. An alien who can’t even recall the name of the papers her daughter is appearing for in her final exams next week among a sea of women who know each chapter of the course-book by heart. Rather I am filled with dread as I hear them discuss their sons and daughters’ goals they have set and make plans for a future that’ll have them at the steering wheel.

Like any mother holding her baby for the first time in her arms, I too was overcome with a resolution of being the best Mom in this universe to my only child. The one I had birthed after 12 hours of excruciating pain. I read up all the books that were ever written on childcare in the history of humanity. I constantly exchanged notes with other Mommies on diets, regimens, early habits that should be inculcated to bring up a superkid. I slogged, stressed and worried incessantly. But somewhere along the line I realised no matter what I did, there were always tots who were brighter, better, chubbier than my baby.

Our neighbour’s toddler was a sterling example of everything my daughter wasn’t. All I had to do was step out on the balcony and our neighbour’s 2 and a few months old kid would start reciting the alphabet song with sickening accuracy. Two taps on the kid’s back he would start quoting from Shakespeare and three taps was when he’d launch into his take on quantum theory. It was as if his Mom had made it her sole mission to dazzle me with her son’s brilliance. My 3 year old daughter unmindful of her mother’s crippling feeling of inadequacy would continue caressing the utensils that she’d dragged from the kitchen with the broom.

It got worse when Tee started school. This is where I had my first taste of supermoms. This specimen was always found hovering near the teachers, could be spotted at all school events volunteering and never missed a PTM in its life. Its offspring was half a dozen chapters ahead of the class and usually had a super-achieving elder sibling in the same school. After school these alpha kids were carted to their theatre, dancing, piano, painting, gymnastics and math-for-genius classes.

These kids stood out from the rest of the class. They believed they were better than the rest and had this vicious need to assert themselves by ganging up their friends against students who couldn’t care less about their supremacy. It was as if they had internalized their parents’ aggression and anxiety to excel.

As a mother I understand this need of working ceaselessly towards making your ward outshine others. Then there’s maternal instinct that makes you do everything possible to protect her from despair, failure and hurt. But when this extends to micro-managing her life - treating her school projects, assessments, exams, even disagreements with friends as your own, you encourage the apple of your eyes to absolve herself of responsibility and accountably. You end up raising kids incapable of handling stress, failure on their own. And this extends to their adulthood when you are no longer available to fret and fuss around them.

Monday, April 24, 2017

No One Knows Us Better Than Our Bed

A Bed Is Not Just a Bed, Its Much More

Image courtesy - Google Images

When I was growing up, the bed in our house was not just a place where we retired to at the end of a long day. It was something that became what you wanted it to be – an easy chair, a couch, a coffee table, a study table or an oasis you needed to revive your soul. It hosts all the stages of the theatre of your life – as a baby in your mother’s lap, as a child seeking refuge from reality, as a lover discovering intimacy, as a couple going through the highs and lows together, as a person well-lived on his last journey.

During my growing up years, it would turn into a bat cave on hot summery afternoons. All I had to do was crawl under it and into my world of make-believe. Behind the spider-web curtain was my kingdom that no one could invade. When I would get bored of conjuring up my own fantasies, I would turn into a dead log on the bed. The book in my hand would transport me to a world where a kind old man helped kids in trouble, but not before he served them lemonade and cakes.

When my cousins would visit us during the summer break, it would turn into our adda corner. All of us stuck to each other like glue, talking about god-knows-what till our Moms’ voices calling out for us would break our non-stop chatter. It was where I spent hours coochie-cooing to my crush as he gazed at me dumb-struck by my beauty ; the tall dark handsome hero who smiled once every fortnight gave me asthmatic attacks as he swooped me into his arms. Sadly I’d have to shoo him away when my Mom caught my glazed eyes and silly grin look.

Clutching my cramped with anxiety stomach just the day before the exam, the heart sinking deeper because my syllabus was far from finished. Hugging the pillow as I listened to numbers requested by lovelorn boys for their crush on the radio and hoping someday someone would also dedicate a song to me. Sleepless nights, silent cries, dreamy sighs – my bed had seen it all. For me it was a place where I found and lost myself again and again.

I found out much later in life that it was not just me with an umbilical connection to my bed. Rather, laying on bed at awkward angles with legs propped up on the wall while philosophising about the purpose of your life is a national passion. RayMan’s favourite anecdote from his hostel days is when one of the parents came looking for their son and found instead a heap of skinny boys in their bare necessities (or not) stacked on each other.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Finding Me in Us


We have both found the ‘I’ in us and are not letting go of it. 

Every couple has their favourite chapter of their life they love regaling their friends with. Over the years their story-telling skills reach legendary proportions. They constantly scold each other for having missed the punchlines, laugh the loudest at their own jokes and pat themselves on their backs for having mesmerised their guests with their scintillating stories unmindful of their glazed eyes and loud yawns.

When they run out of friends, they wait for their kids to get married. Ask any daughter-in-law and she’ll agree, when-we-were-young-and-fabulous stories repeat themselves more often than history.

We have ours too and our favourite one goes back to our just married days. At that time we were two individuals with likes and dislikes as mismatched as Pahlaj Nihlani and rest of India’s views on censorship. The tea fanatic in him was appalled that his brand new mate for life couldn’t stand the sight of tea and preferred a glass of milk instead. The poor guy had envisioned both of us sipping tea and exchanging life’s philosophies with the setting sun. I was the Rajmah, bharta girl and he was the potoler-dalna, machher jhol guy.

Since we were in no mood to push our tastebuds out of their comfort zones, we’d cook our own meals. It didn’t help that we fell in love with each at different points of time. I mean when you are in love, don’t you partly surrender your ego and partly embrace his while he tch thchs at your temper tantrums?

He the rice eater would fix a 3 course meal in our dingy kitchen of our barsati half-submerged in his sweat-pool. Me, the roti girl would wonder if married life was about rolling amoeba shaped chappatis after a long day at work.

I think it was me who caved in first because I still remember how long and loud my Maa laughed when I told her I’d just had roti with aloo-posto. [To the uninformed, this is close to sacrilege]

As time progressed, our love matured from the tumultuous river gushing down the hills to its serene and deep version meandering through the plains. We embraced each other’s passions and peeves (most of them) while discovering new ones together. While we still stuck to our rice and roti ways, he learnt to appreciate chanaa masala with a hint of tanginess and I started cooking machh, chochoris and sukto during the weekend that we both ate with relish.

We’d cherish our us-time even if it meant watching a Hindi movie with me he didn’t quite fancy.

Not anymore.

For someone whose life revolved around her family and work suddenly decided she was missing the woman shorn of the roles of a mother, wife, daughter and sister. So I started thinking of things that made just me happy. It helped that I had just left my job with a fair bit of coercion from RayMan. With leisure time on hand I was now actively pursuing interests that I never had the time for.

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