Dowry

“I’m not taking any dowry, maa. I think I’ve told you that already. ” She looked at me like you look at muck, and said….

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What’s one thing adults in India really like to talk about at a family home evening?

Economics.

If it’s a gathering dominated by men, they’ll rant about the economic crisis in India, and blame the current government for everything, talk about old times when everything was perfect and when you could buy a month’s grocery with a coin that isn’t even minted anymore. While they are busy reminiscing prehistoric times, the women generally brew tea and slip an opinion while serving, which nobody listens to anyway. In these gatherings, no one shares a joke. Everyone deadpans, and nobody gets that. This gives the atmosphere a feel of seriousness, and everybody starts to believe adults are wise or something.

If it’s a gathering dominated by women, they talk about the wealth of their relatives, about marriage, where, of course, salaries of the groom and dowry are the most discussed topics. They also talk about weight loss programs and onions and compare prices of every two things that have a label on them. The men in these gatherings mostly stay mum, fiddling with whatever their hands pick up, or pretending to introspect while they mentally mock the silly conversation going on in front of them. In these gatherings, every next sentence is a hilarious joke, and you are supposed to laugh like you have hysteria.

As a kid or a teenager, you feel like an outsider to these gatherings. But what happens when you try to participate?

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“30 Lakhs did you say!!?? “My  mother asked, bewildered. Had she stretched her eyes any wider, she’d have torn a muscle. Aunty nodded, and said,

“He’s a surgeon. ”

“Duh! I don’t understand why my boy never showed interst in biology. “She said, a bit disappointed. Since we are poor, 30 Lakhs sounds like 30 billions to us. Although she didn’t say that to invite an answer from me, but I replied anyway.

“I’m not taking any dowry, maa. I think I’ve told you that already. ” She looked at me like you look at muck, and said,

“Don’t try to sound like you respect women or something. Had you respected women, you’d have made me tea everyday and pressed my feet when I’m tired. You don’t even accept my friend request. ”

“One, you own an electric foot massager. Two, I am never accepting your friend request. Three, I don’t respect women, I said it just because I don’t want to take dowry. “I clarified. To be honest, a wife who brings dowry doesn’t seem cool somehow. Plus, I’m not the kind who expects his girl to touch his feet every morning and compare him to Gods, which is what my mother expects her daughter-in-law to do, even though in our house, my father chops onions every evening while my mother watches Gopi Bahu. I like a woman who is a catastrophe – one who makes me chop onions every evening but who does not watch Gopi Bahu. My mother won’t understand that though.

“I gave your father a big fat dowry. “She said. Aunty suppressed a chuckle.

“Well, bad luck. ”

“Alright. But I’m choosing your bride. ”

“Ugh, maa. It doesn’t happen that way these days. Don’t you watch news or what? ”

“Don’t try to teach me stuffs. If I leave it to you, you’ll bring some English speaking towny girl who eats chicken and throws her in-laws to old age home. ”

“Let’s not even have a debate about veg and non-veg. I can give you a million reasons why people shouldn’t be judged on the basis of their diets. ”

That was enough to make her mad. To add to that, aunty confirmed my mother that her boy had already slipped from her hands. She called my father and said I was planning to throw her out of the house. The way my mother moulds facts and spices things up, she should have been on news channels.

I found a solution though. I made her tea and pressed her feet this weekend. She agreed, in return, to let me choose my wife, however, she’s still not allowing chicken consuming girls. English speaking woman is fine as long as she doesn’t call her an old hag and other terms she doesn’t understand. Yeah, and she’s not giving me anything in her will if I throw her to old age home.

Umm…I think she’s overreacting.

Stay tuned!!!!

“Trim Your Goddamn Beard”

“Umm..it’s women’s, isn’t it? ”
My mother gawked at me in disbelief, and I realized I was not supposed to talk about women’s trimmer when she still thought Doremon was my favorite cartoon.

Hullo Everyone!

Despite my mother being a beautician, I have never cared about my own look. I usually walk around in shabby pants and crumpled shirt, wearing a hairstyle that would make Jawed Habeeb want to grab a rope and hang himself to death, so, today morning, when my mother asked me to trim my goddamn beard, I pretended to be deaf.

“You look like a goat. “She commented.

“……”

“Ugh..why don’t you look at the mirror? ”

“……”

“Civilized people at least try to look clean and handsome. ”

“……”

“I’m sure you never had a girlfriend. ”

Well, that hurt. I instantly grabbed a mirror and checked my face. The person in the mirror resembled a wanted terrorist. It seemed like my chin had started growing pubic hair.

My mother handed me the trimmer she’d purchased at a 60% off sale in Nepal. She still thinks we should have waited for the discount rate to drop to 70, even though my moustaches were already falling in my mouth every time I parted my lips by the time it was 50. My mother can throttle elephants if that gives her a 90% discount on Palazzo pants or eyeliners.

I snatched the pink colored trimmer from her hand and after giving it a scornful look, switched it on. When you have to cut your beard with a pink trimmer, you realize how worthless you are. When I saw it for the first time, I was 100% sure it was a women’s trimmer. I consulted the guy at the counter.

“Umm..it’s women’s, isn’t it? ”
My mother gawked at me in disbelief, and I realized I was not supposed to talk about women’s trimmer when she still thought Doremon was my favorite cartoon.

Ooops.

“No. It’s not. Women’s trimmer is like…”the guy at the counter thought for a moment, and said, “er..different. ”

“Would you show me some other color? “I asked. He pursed his lips for a moment, and then shook his head.

“All other colors have been sold out. “He said.

Two minutes later, we were walking out the door, my hands holding a plastic bag that had a pink Men’s trimmer inside.

“I don’t like pin…”

“Women’s trimmer? “My mother raised both her eyebrows at once. I never complained about the pink trimmer again.

I slid the switch and the device gurgled to life. My mother watched me like I was a curious thing. As I shaved, I wondered if on the other side of this rigorous process, there’s a better person waiting out there, the one who could have girlfriends and stun the world.

Maybe….

Stay tuned!!!

Dropping This Year. Probably.

Your heart could betray you anytime, a bomb could blow you up anytime, or you could be shot dead for overtaking a minister’s car, or, well, his lad’s.

Hullo Everyone!

DU released its fourth cutoff today. Like every cutoff before, this one too carries a FUCK OFF signboard for a 83.8% who belongs to unreserved category, has never played a sport and is not physically disabled. So most probably, I’m dropping this year.

“Dropping this year!!!!!!!!!???????”My mother exclaimed as I told her about my plan. Her face looked like I’d expressed a wish for Sex change.
“Yeah. ”
“What would you do for one whole year? “She asked, stressing every word as if she was talking to a partially deaf nine year old who’s also slightly retarded.
“I’d do something. I’d try for other colleges next year. “I said. And then, we had a conversation she later called debate, even though it was she lecturing me all the time in a monotonous pitch.

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I have no idea what this ant is doing or how is it related to my post, but I felt like putting it here. Maybe I'm like an ant these days - small and overburdened.

If I drop, I’ll do a few things. Practising chess gets the topmost priority, of course. Then, maybe I’ll get a membership of the government library in my hometown. It’s a spooky place, actually, and I’m looking forward to flipping through tattered yellow pages in the dumb, dark and dusty chamber of the infamous city library.

I’d watch movies. It’s been a long time since I watched a movie. I’d watch all the IMBD chart-toppers. And maybe I’d even smuggle some porn DVDs from the electronic shop at Janta Chowk. It’s been a long time since I watched porn on my TV. Watching porn without having to wedge earphones in your ears is a liberating experience, I tell you.

I’d learn to ride scooty, finally. I’m going to be the oldest Indian to do so, for these days, in this country,  you learn scooty-riding before you learn Pythagoras theorem.

I’d get a bank account, buy books online till my father gets sick of this and stops reimbursing me.

And maybe I’d get a new haircut.

Well, there’s also a slight possibility that I’ll take admission in some cheap college and drag myself through three tormetous years. I really don’t know about my future. Nor do I want to.

Last night, my kidneys were hurting (or maybe it was just a backache or maybe I thought they were hurting) and I suddenly had a realization about the futility of chasing careers. Life is so unpredictable and unfair. I might get a cancer tomorrow. The worst thing about the twenty first century is your life span has trimmed down. Your heart could betray you anytime, a bomb could blow you up anytime, or you could be shot dead for overtaking a minister’s car, or, well, his lad’s. A terrorist with a gun, a PET scan – the avenues that lead to death have bloomed in number. And so, expectancy is short these days. That’s why I’m not planning big time.

OR MAYBE I’M JUST DEPRESSED!

Stay tuned!!!

♥ One Silly Love Story ♥

One day, when she was busy fishing for a pencil in her bag, I wrote in her cursive writing book – I Love You.
When she saw it, she drew a smiley below that.

Hullo Everyone!
I think I should tell you a love story today.
NOTE : This is a true story which involves underage children, one of who happens to be me. Don’t worry, it’s not about child abuse and it certainly does not involve two kids french-kissing.
Okay, brace yourselves, here it comes.
I had never had a girlfriend. Not that many eight year olds had one those days, but still, I was the only student in the class who could count the first hundred numbers backwards, so I guess that signified as something. There used to be a girl on the second-bench, who possessed nice, sleeky pageboy haircut, which always kept me on the edge of my seat. Maybe it was because she was my neighbor and visited our house every week to deliver Mehndi leaves to my mother, I really thought there was no one like her in the whole universe. Well, back then, the universe undoubtedly stretched from my own house to my grandparents’ house, so it was not that big deal. Moreover, I don’t think I meant that statement in a positive sense back then.
She totally sucked at arithmetics, but she could draw ducks and sunflowers and all those pictures they ask you to draw in std.III very well. We would not communicate, because every time somebody struck a conversation with me, the first thing I asked that person was if they watched Shaktiman. And the girl did not have a tv in her house – which, then, struck me as the biggest tragedy of all time.
Anyway, so one day, my teacher caught me gossiping with my friends while I was supposed to pay attention to three-digit multiplication problems he was scribbling nonchalantly on the board, and as a punishment, I was made to sit with that girl for a couple of weeks. I remember crying and begging the teacher to forgive me, but that arsehole acted like his ears were wedged. And so, I ended up sitting next to her.
At first, she struck me as a peculiar person, for, one, she did not bring a Tiffin box, and two, she still used Natraj pencils while the rest of humanity had supposedly progressed to Apsara.
“What’s nineteen multiplied by eight? “She’d whisper in my ears as the teacher ambled through the aisle every Saturday Class Test. I’d fake deafness and leave that particular problem in my notebook unattended till I was done with the rest of the questions. Now that I think about it, I was a total asshole back then. Anyway, she’d return me the favor in drawing classes, and that’s how our enmity continued.
My friends soon kicked me out of the gang.
“You are not pure anymore. “They said, as if she was untouchable, and left. After a long time, I was alone, however, the good thing about this was that I did not have to share my Maggie with anoyne anymore. But that, of course, didn’t happen.
“What do you do in lunch time? “I quizzed the girl one day.
“Homework. “She replied curtly. 
“What do you do at home then? “I asked, baffled.
“I help my mother. “She said, her eyes fixed at the worn-off texts on the yellowish page of her ragged book. I wondered if she was poor, like those children they showed on tv. I was instantly filled with guilt.
“Umm…here. Take my lunch. “I slid the blue Tiffin box towards her, adding, “But take only half of it. ”
I don’t know, maybe she smiled or maybe she glowered at me – I don’t distinctly remember – but after that, we were sharing lunch somehow. My friends mocked me big time for this.
“Hehe. Ravish eats with a girl. “One would say, and everyone would break into wild guffaws.
I considered, several times, putting an end to this lunch-sharing relationship, however, I could never make up my mind. I mean, I’d already started whispering back to her in Maths periods, and she’d already started drawing ducks in my blank notebook. So, it was kind of irreversible now.
One day, when she was busy fishing for a pencil in her bag, I wrote in her cursive writing book – I Love You.

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lovesove.com

When she saw it, she drew a smiley below that. I remember that moment – a foggy winter outside, and inside, a yellow bulb glowing quietly behind us. Our shadows stretched far on the floor, as if a part of an abstract painting. I still remember certain things about her. Her perfect hair, the algae-colored bag, the loop in her y’s, the brown in her eyes, and of course, the smiley she drew below my words.

We broke up as soon as my punishment was over. Back then, the company of my friends mattered more than that of a sweet little girl who drew ducks in my copy. I stopped sharing lunch with her.
She stopped coming to the school the next year. Her parents had admitted her to a cheap private school that’d just started. She’d still come to my house though, to deliver Mehndi leaves, but we behaved like strangers. My family left the city a year later, and I never saw her again.

It was a childish affair, but I am seventeen now, and I am yet to find someone like her, even though my universe is much bigger than what it used to be nine years ago.

Stay tuned!!!!

The Babyzilla

Sos!!! Help!!! 911!!! Maa!!!!

Hullo Everyone!
If there’s anyone I hate more than these pretentious grown-ups, the government of India and Kamaal Rashid Khan, it’s my baby cousin. She will turn two this August.
You might think of me as a stone-hearted asshole for hating the loveliest, cutest and purest kind of our rotten species, but, to be honest, that doesn’t change anything for me. I will continue to hate her till she grows up and realizes her mistakes and calls me one fine day to say, “Hey brother! I am very very sorry for all the trouble I caused you when I was about to turn two. And it would be kind of you to whatsapp me your address so that I could send you a blank cheque as compensation. ”
Well, there was a time I used to like kids. I mean they are cute, and it kind of melts your heart when they flash their gummy, pearly smile. But then, one of my neighbors, a two-year old, took advantage of me. He was adorable at first, but as we gelled together, he became bossy and whiney. He’d call me Kaliya and ask me to cook Maggie for him. I could no longer watch sports channel because he wanted to watch Lungi Dance they played all the time on 9xm. He made life hell and I swore to myself that I would never, ever, allow myself to undergo such molestation again.
And then, Delhi happened. It’s been almost two months now. Two months of extreme torture. Two months of freaking babysitting.
The girl is one smart thing, I tell you. She’s treated like she’s some kind of queen. The only thing she has to worry about is her one-eyed teddy ,which is treated like he’s some kind of king, and which keeps getting lost all the time. Well, I am sure he’s sick of her too, for she is always pulling and biting his nose, because she believes it’s a berry.
At first, I thought I could handle it. I have faced tough situations before. I took tetanus injections in my butts all my childhood. I was sure it couldn’t be tougher than that. But then, one fine morning, while I was carrying her in my arms and showing her our neighbour’s Chihuahuas, that little thing pissed on me. And I swear on Holy Santa, she smiled after that, as if she had been planning this for a long time. As Doctor would say – that spineless git!

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SOS! Help! 911! Maa!!!!
I ran to my mother, who laughed till her eyes pushed tears through the corners and her face went red.
“What’s so funny? I just got pissed on. “I hissed.
“Well, that’s what’s funny. “She said and restarted laughing.
“Is anybody here aware of a revolutionary invention called MamyPoko Pants? “I yelled. Aunty arrived on the spot, and then she laughed too, and then they both laughed together. The baby looked at us as if we were from a different planet.
“At least you’ll bathe now. ”
“I need chemical cleansing. “I said, “I need Dettol. ”
That’s only one of the one million ordeals I’ve been through. A few weeks ago, she asked me to wear her Tiara and sing Jingle Bells for her. I politely declined, and she began to howl as if I’d put a lizard in her shoe. My mother said, “why don’t you just do it? ” and after I did it, she said, “you’re, like, the worst singer of all time. ”
The baby smiled in agreement.
Back when The Kite Runner arrived at my doorstep, I took the parcel with a butterfly stuck on my forehead. The courier guy looked at me in mortified astonishment, and I had to explain that there’s a baby girl in this house who believed it’s extremely important for every person in this house to wear butterfly stickers while communicating with strangers.
“Oh! “He said, befuddled, “That’s….”
“Unique? ”
“Yeah. “He nodded.
She is learning alphabets these days, but to be honest, all she cares about is the picture of ice cream on the third page of her book. I told her once that she was not learning properly. She punched my nose and squealed, “Dhhish. ”
My mother goes crazy with joy every time she speaks a new word.
“Did you hear that!!!??? She just said ‘bottle’!!!!” As if bottle was Massachusetts!
“She is so intelligent! “My mother planted a few dozen kisses on her cheeks and announced a treat. Wow! I don’t remember being adored like that. Maybe that’s because I was very small, but I certainly don’t remember being gifted a book with a picture of ice cream in it.
The baby absolutely loves throwing away my shoes. I have told her a million times to stay away from them, but I always end up spotting them in weird places. Two days ago, I found my shoes in the mixer.
And to add to that, the number of Dettol baths have shot up, too. So yeah, IT SUCKS.
Her birthday hits in August, and everyone’s excited as hell. My mother is looking for baby products on amazon.com. I have  decided what I’ll gift her, though. MamyPoko pants.

Stay tuned!!!!

31st May 2016

The infant blinked quietly in her arms. Another kid, whose head would reach my knee cap, sat beside the eldest one. They were looking at me.

31st May 2016
Today evening, I decided that life was brutal and unfair. And that I needed huge chunks of dark chocolates to kill this unbearable depression. After stuffing my pocket with a few bucks, I slid out of the door. In the backdrop of these glossy towers of Ghaziyabad, you’ll see tarnished houses. Sheets of plastic, tattered clothes patched together to shelter misery. I walked through those lanes, which reeked of poverty and compromises. Lined on both sides of the road, these houses remind you of slums you see on the shiny LCD screens, perched on your sofa, munching popcorns. There were stunted kids rolling in the sand, some playing with wooden sticks. A girl clad in shabby clothes sat on a swing made of shabbier clothes tied end to end in a rope. Old people sat on khats and talked. Some just lay there, squatting off flies. Life here, somehow, seems dwarf against that in the sky-touching buildings.

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brighterbrains.org

I passed through the darkness and stepped into the light. Just by a crossroad, a small boy – hardly 10 – sat there, grilling corncobs (bhutta ). He sat there alone, fanning the smouldering coals and waiting expectantly for a customer. His face was covered in sweat and he stared out blankly. People jogged past, never throwing him a glance. He still waited, eyeing every single one of us. And then, his gaze fell on me. The same expectant look. I clenched the notes in my pocket and reminded myself of the dark chocolate I would be relishing in a few minutes. I passed him.
I don’t know why, but my legs felt weaker than before. Thoughts flooded my mind. What if he doesn’t get any customer today? What if he’s an orphan? What if he was really expecting me to buy the corncobs? What if he hasn’t made enough money to feed himself? He was so lanky. Did I just steal his chance of eating a loaf of bread? Did I just walk away from a little boy who deserved a life better than that?
I wheeled. I went back. He was selling ten a piece. I told him to cook five. He nodded and began grilling the first two. His face carried the crumbling innocence of a child, a child who’s raised along those stinky lanes, in the backdrop of glossy towers. I dared a few questions. He said he has a family and his father makes houses. He hails from Saharsa and has siblings. And then, he turned to fanning the coals again, quietly watching the charcoal pieces glowing amber. His eyes had the faintest glint of hope. I wondered if I should give him a few extra bucks. But his face sweated with pride. He was not a beggar. He made his own money. And so, I decided against it.
While he was on the last piece, his siblings joined him. A girl – probably 8 – carried her infant brother. Her cheeks were smeared with dirt. The infant blinked quietly in her arms. Another kid, whose head would reach my knee cap, sat beside the eldest one. They were looking at me. All of those scrawny little bodies. All of those six vacant eyes. Not uttering a word, just gazing as if trying to ask a question. I shuddered.
People cry over marks. People cry over breakups. However, standing in front of those withered children, trying to meet their gaze, realizing how desperately you want to do something for them and then swallowing the heartwrenching fact that you can do nothing more than buying those corncobs, you will feel your ribs snap and your heart break. You’ll get goosebumps….
As I walked back to the apartment and the life I lived in, I watched them through the corner of my eyes. They were huddled up together, quiet and still, looking for someone who’d buy their corncobs…