Wednesday, 25 November 2009

tainted love

“Those who hate most fervently must have once loved deeply; those who want to deny the world must have once embraced what they now set on fire.”
–Kurt Tucholsky

Thank you, Mr Tucholsky. My ability to swing from pure love to icy anger sometimes amazes even me. Some people blame it on the duplicitous nature of my sun sign but that could be a load of pigeon poo. Of course, I will say I have valid reasons and my shifts are based on unblemished (or sometimes slightly adulterated) logic. In my defense I am more logical than most of the other women I know. In bits and sometimes by leaps and bounds. But still. Human emotions are complicated. I will never completely understand them. Sometimes I spend hours analysing my own idiotic overreactions and once I figure out a practical approach to a problem, I botch it up again. Out of pride or hurt or a combination of the two. I’ve given up on analysing others’ behaviour. Because one never knows where it could stem from. They have their reasons, warped or not. Even if you know a person really well, you never, ever know them completely. We’re all tainted, complicated creatures.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

beauty and the beast

There were hushed whispers when she walked into the room, her white sari demurely wrapped around her head and her hands folded in front of her as she took her place in front of her late husband’s body. She couldn’t hear much of it but if she glanced about the room, she would have gotten a fair idea. “She brought death upon that family…”, “He should never have married her…”, “Look at her, so ugly.. poor boy, see what happened”, “That Chatterjee girl was the right match for him… This one, tho…” So on and so forth. You get the idea.


I knew what they were probably saying. Yet, it did not matter anymore. I felt strangely elated. Rid of all that had made me sink to the depths of almost nothing – for that was how I had been treated in the Bose household. When Jaideep finally chose me as his wife (out of dozens of other extraordinarily beautiful and talented women, mind you), his family was shocked. To say the least. His grandmother threatened to take her life, his mother would not come out of her room for a week (“You want to give me grandchildren who look like, like herrr?!” she screeched), and his siblings all chuckled in private (in public they promised to talk their brother out of it) because they thought the property would now go to them. But Jaideep, my future husband, was fixated on me. And for what reason, even I did not know at first. But I did come to know later. Oh, how I did. And how I was treated…


“She won’t get a paisa,” the mother-in-law muttered to herself as she wrapped her own white silk sari around herself a little tighter. “The little bitch… All her fault he died. All her fault..” The last few words trailed off into some genuine tears. After all not only did her beautiful, strapping, fair son marry a girl with a mouth which looked like a hare-lip, but he also died five years later, without producing a single heir. Of course there were rumours. But they were all rumours of course. A boy as fair and good-looking as Jaideep could never, ever do such things or be such a person. His mother shuddered thinking of what she had heard in the last five years. That he was caught with young boys, many under the age of ten, that he bribed the Panchayat head by doing him a couple of ahem favours as well. No, it was all untrue. Lies spread by her daughter-in-law because she was unable to produce an heir for the Bose family. Not that she could blame her son for not sleeping with his wife. What with that mouth of hers. And the mother-in-law gave a little shudder again. Maybe it was a good thing Jaideep died. So that he would never have to kiss that mouth again. And she burst into loud wails. Oh why, why, why did such a handsome, promising Bengali boy pick such a disfigured little bitch.


Suman looked at his sister-in-law. He was amazed. After everything that she had been through she was still standing tall, not breathing a word against anyone or ever speaking up for herself. His mother treated her worse than she treated the maids. At first Saraswati was made to clean the toilets because “the staff cannot do it properly and need to be shown how,” and later she became his father’s nurse. The crotchety old man was paralysed on his left side and needed constant care and attention. His paralysis didn’t stop him from wanting to climb on top of any woman that he came across. His daughter-in-law was the perfect victim especially since he knew his son would not be bedding her. The fag was too busy engaging in activities with any other man he met, who gave off any hints of being “different”. Although young boys were Jaideep’s favourite. Suman remembers having to pay off the maidservant’s family because her seven-year-old was once found bleeding and intoxicated (don’t ask with what) just outside Jaideep’s courtyard one day. The boy had been sodomised several times and his mouth was bleeding from other ahem activities as well. Saras was aware that Jai had no interest in women, and married her only because he was expected to marry. The family adored him, his beauty and manliness. They would never blame him for anything. “He married that girl because he is such a good boy. He knew nobody else would marry her and wanted to give her a good home,” was what the villagers said.

Bullshit. Jaideep wanted an excuse. Not to be obligated to satisfying his wife’s physical needs (which he now left to his father) and not to have any children. Because who could blame him for not regularly visiting his wife’s chambers when she looked the way she did. Suman sighed. His death was probably for the best.


Dr Mukherjee did not know where to look. When he looked at the eldest Mrs Bose weeping copiously into her silk sari, he felt like slapping her and taking out the large stick that she probably had stuck up her rectum. When he looked at the younger Mrs Bose he felt like weeping. Because he had done so much for the family against her. He was told to do so. Then when he saw the corpse, he didn’t know if he should cry or rejoice. Dr Mukherjee had been the Bose’s doctor for decades. He delivered Jaideep and had placed the warm bundle in his mother’s arms. Had he known what havoc Jai would wreak, he may have considered strangulating the baby in his sleep.

But even now, after so much horror, Saraswati was still standing before her husband’s body, her face expressionless yet with a firmness to it. Dr Mukherjee had performed two surgeries on her, as the family had requested him to. One was to “rectify” her hare-lip, and had only made it worse. The second was an abortion. Senior Mrs Bose was worried the baby would inherit the “lip” from Saraswati and asked that the pregnancy be terminated. The doctor knew the truth, though, since he was Jaideep’s doctor as well and was aware that the boy had eccentric sexual habits. The baby had been fathered by Jaideep’s father. His mother of course was blind to all sexual activities of the men in her house, and acceded when old Mr Bose suggested an abortion to prevent having a disfigured grandchild.

Dr Mukherjee also knew how Jaideep really died. The many STDs and alcoholism which had finally crept up on him, destroying his liver and other organs. Though he secretly suspected the boy of being HIV positive, since his immune system had been ridiculously off-colour towards the end. Who’d have thought, the doctor thought quietly, that such a gorgeous boy was so inhuman inside. Raping young boys and men, sometimes even scarring them and their insides for life, providing sexual favours to anybody who asked, and going to anybody to get a blowjob or two. All the while, allowing his decrepit old father to get off on his daughter-in-law because she looked a little different. Dr Mukherjee didn’t know who to be angry with. The family or himself for helping them.


When I finally looked up, I saw these faces. Each with different expressions. My mother-in-law crying, my brother-in-law looking almost amazed and the poor doctor looking grief-stricken. Not because Jai died but because he had partaken in everything. I looked at the corpse. Jai was as beautiful as ever; he looked like he was in a peaceful sleep, except his skin had taken on a yellow tinge after his liver failed. As his body burst into flames after Suman lit the pyre, I looked at my hands. There were cuts where the women had broken my bangles, nail marks where they grabbed my gold jewellery and rubbed off my sindoor. All because I was now a widow.

I felt relieved. I knew what I was going to do with the rest of my life. It had finally begun, now that my husband was dead. Luckily he and his father were too unwell for anybody to suspect that I had a hand in anything. And really, I didn’t. I only nudged them towards the white light, when they were already quite close to it. Jaideep was gone, now soon the father would follow. And I would be free. The thought overwhelmed me. I finally found myself weeping softly.


for a little more light on some of the things I've mentioned here, read about what widowhood entails for some women in India.

Friday, 13 November 2009

time after time

We are approaching the end of a cataclysmic decade. And i have a feeling the next one will leave us as dazed as this one did. Perhaps. Weirdly, this decade seems to have everything except a name. What should I call it… The 2Ks? You could look at it like a series of catastrophes – terror attacks, tsunamis, our democracy beginning to run under a Mario Puzo-esqe family. But there’s also been good stuff, though it doesn’t come to mind immediately! And so stuff from the ages gone by have gotten old and wrinkled and are becoming quaint. Take Friends for instance. Or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I remember drooling over Angel, watching him creep about in the darkness on Star World. And now it’s Twilight. Bye bye MJ, hello Jay-Z; so long Princess Di, greetings Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy?

We are in an age when things pretty much fly past us without us even realising. Then we wake up and we’re 25 or 35 or 50 or 70 and think, Christopher Columbus, where the hell did all the years go? (yes, there are people who say Christopher Columbus; come home and meet my witty grandaunt.) But even if it whizzed by, the first decade of the millennium will be one my generation will remember.

9/11, the exodus to countries like America and Australia, and now the exodus from those countries back to the “Far East”, iPods, ahem George Bush, Harry Potter, swine flu and SARS, Facebook and Twitter and Blackberry… the list is endless. I remember saying a quick thank you as we counted down the last few seconds of the previous millennium. I haven’t the faintest idea what I thanked the powers-that-be for but I foggily remember Nancy Drew making the list. This time, it has to be for all the lessons I’ve learnt in the past decade; for growing up and not turning into the crazy-ass kid who is a drug abuser and skids smoothly out of jail every few months because his daddy owns an MNC or runs a political party. I turned out fairly normal, even though the world around me was pretty insane. And it is insane for everybody now, regardless of their backgrounds.

Happy 2Kteens, everybody (clinks beer mug) and see you soon, hopefully!

Monday, 2 November 2009

young and restless

Adventure. Hmm. It seems that my life seriously lacks any adventure at the moment. But someone very close to me is embarking on what is possibly life’s biggest adventure – marriage.

Yup, my sister is getting married this month. Which is why I’ve decided not to indulge in any Nanowrimo or anything of the sort, because it’s quite possible she might disown me if I pay my writing more attention than her wedding. Fair enough. People get married only once. Erm. Well, most people. And I’m hoping my sister is one among the ‘most’. I’m sure the lovely couple will run into enough hurdles [they already have!] but well, nobody ever said marriage was easy. Hence I say… adventure.

As for why my life lacks any adventure… I’m not quite sure. I’m working myself to the bone but for some reason it’s no enough. And it’s not even “work” per say. I “work” only three days a week. The rest of the week has gone in attending Odissi class or reading [I’m reading a lot of late] or shopping for the wedding, or something of the sort. But for the past few months, something has been missing. I’m in cynical overdrive and there are a few moments of light, but otherwise I’m just plain bored or pondering over extremely philosophical things.

I need change. I know it won’t happen soon. A couple of years perhaps. But I need a different city, a change in lifestyle… something or the other. A change of friends maybe? I really don’t know. I love Chennai. The culture, the beaches, the people [well, most of them at least], the food, my friends, my home and whatnot. But I’m getting seriously restless, and I don’t know why. I need some adventure. Ahem some non-opposite sex-related adventure. A new phone, new dog or new job will just not do. I was thinking I’d save up and go do that masters in Creative Writing that I’ve been dreaming of for a while now. That would also take another couple of years though. Maybe I’ll just have to wait. After all, it’s not like adventure will drop into my lap. I’m going to have to find it on my own. But, in Chennai?! Where?!

For now it’ll have to be my sister’s wedding and the giant lot of relatives and friends my mother and I will be meeting after many, many moons. Family reunions can be fun, right? I hear snorts. It was a rhetorical question; please try to be a tad supportive. Sigh.