Sunday, 29 August 2010


“Have a little faith.”

That’s what he said.

So I did.

And look at me now. (Come on, you knew this was coming. If you didn’t… Well, grow up honey.) I’m three, almost four, months pregnant. Which is fine. We were married after all. But now I’m HIV positive too. Sounds pretty dramatic, huh?

I don’t think it’s sunk in really. Not quite. I’m more worried for the baby now than I am for myself. Me, I come from high society. I married an older man, one who had two marriages before me. I’m not saying don’t marry older men who have married before. I’m not saying anything really. I’m too worried for the baby. You see, I’m 37. And in India, some women are grandmothers by that age. They get married really early. Starting from the age of 18. Boys get married as early sometimes, though not as early. So there are very, very few women to manage to get to the age of 33 without showing the slightest inclination to find a husband, let alone marry and start reproducing. I should thank my family for that. They never put any pressure from me. They never even disputed the fact that Ajay was too old, or that his background was too hazy. (He’s 17 years older than me, and a “businessman” with I don’t-know-what businesses aside from extra-marital sex). My parents were in fact extremely supportive all throughout my career, my single days, my early days with Ajay and even when he was rumoured to have begun screwing around behind my back. (once even in front of me…….. don’t ask)

My brother was a little unsupportive. I took it as normal brotherly over-protectiveness. Ajay never struck me as the type who would stray. I think I was stupid and in love. Because once he got past my initial, extremely well-built defense mechanisms, there was no looking back. I think his desperation was what made him stick around long enough to break my barriers, in fact. We met two years before I married him and I slept with him after two dates because I thought, what the heck, why not have some fun. I never even told him about my mommy issues till about a year and half after we started seeing each other. Once I let him in though, there was no looking back. Even when I caught him in bed with my brother’s cousin-in-law’s niece. Yes, niece. She couldn’t have been more than 25. Even then, when he explained himself tearfully, I moved out for a few weeks but eventually took him back.
My parents were disbelieving and not entirely supportive but after they figured out I was in this for the long haul.. they stood by me. Hell, yes. They stood by the 36-year-old meandering artist (meandering professionally) married to a philandering and dubious “businessman”.

After I caught Ajay in bed with a different woman, I left. My father withdrew support from the bugger’s company (I never knew the details) and I packed my Louis Vuitton bags, took Bunny (my Irish Setter) and left in my Volkswagen Jetta.
A month later I discovered I was going to have a baby. I decided to keep it. Two months later my blood tests turned up HIV positive. And now, after confirming it with my gynaecologist and another specialist, I don’t know what to do. My mother is weeping, my father is on the verge of tears, my brother drove off so fast that I think he’ll crash his car… and I’m not telling Ajay.

The reason I say it’s not really sunk in yet is because I don’t care if my brother crashes his Audi or that my mother is weeping. Well I do. But more than that, much more than that, I’m horribly torn-up because my baby could have the virus too. And I’m not going to know till after it is born. So, what do I do?

I’m sitting on my terrace, dying to pour myself a really strong drink, and thinking: is it worse that I’m high society and not from some slum somewhere? I have middle class friends who have it easier than I do. More of them got married as and when they liked, to whomsoever they pleased, than girls whose parents are members of XYZ clubs – the types who hobnob with the rich, successful and famous.

My parents have already got enough whispers because they had a daughter marry late to a man much older than her. Then it didn’t turn out to be a Katie Holmes-Tom Cruise thing (who knows how that’ll turn out anyway) so we were gossiped about even more by page 3 people who had nothing better to do. And now. Well they’re bound to find out. Our circles aren’t too big so Mrs La-dee-dah who comes to the club to have high tea with Mrs Fla-bah-doo will be talking about it in a few months.

My parents can manage. I can. And my brother can, if he survives the drive home tonight. But what about Baby? Baby whose mother will not live longer than a couple decades at most. So Baby not only has daddy issues and trust issues as a result, but Mom-is-dead issues too. And that is if Baby does not die in the first few years herself. Presuming she’s a girl.

I never considered having a baby but once the stick turned blue I realised what women mean when they say, “John is the best thing to have happened in the marriage.” John the son, not the womanising husband.

Oh the phone rings. Who is it now? God? Where have you been you son of a cow. A female cow who did not have HIV I presume – smart lady. Now. Tell me what I should do. Have a baby who will inherit the fortune and the HIV perhaps, and be constantly under the societal gaze, or abort and save everybody the trauma… and me the will to live?

Oh sometimes I really wish I was poor and had a simpler life. More than that, I wish I hadn't had so much faith. In the wrong person.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

to study or not to study

It's ridiculous. The average fees for a taught Masters programme in England for a resident or European student is not more than 3,000 pounds. And the fees for the same course for an international student is 11,000 pounds. Given our exchange rate, that's like buying an Audi Q5. At least I can show off an Audi Q5 and have men and women alike fall at my feet. But that doesn't change the fact that I will be applying to universities in the UK for a highly expensive Masters degree at some point [hopefully when the exchange rate is not too high].

Why, though? I know my reasons [some may call them excuses]. Since my chosen topic has no takers in India, there really aren't any Masters programmes in it. I've come across one three-month course but I doubt that's even a certificate course. Sigh. And some people like my editor-in-chief even asked me "But why would you want to study Creative Writing??"

Why, indeed. Because I'd rather not do a media and communications course and waste my time and mother's hard-earned money? And because I'm the sort that believes you aren't always born with everything -- if you're born with a talent, maybe you could try nurturing it and sharpening your skills a little. And oh god, I'm bored of working everyday. Honestly. I know my job is interesting to a lot of people, and it is to me as well, on most days at least. But who needs an expensive Masters in the nuances of journalism and communication when all it takes is a) a pretty face [for television], b) ability to aggressively hunt down stories, c) ability to get people to talk even when they don't want to, and preferably say things that you want them to say so it fits with your story, d) time management skills, e) excellent contacts, or the charm and intelligence to make new ones if you're a beginner, and f) ability to keep boss and [maybe, if needed] colleagues happy.

Yes, that's a little harsh but it's mostly true. What else do you need to know... writing skills? *guffaw* That's what sub-editors and editors are for. Hmm, what else. Ethics? What's that? No, really. The journalists I know with ethics kind of have it instilled in them during the course of their childhood. If they don't have it... well, they don't. And those are the ones more suited for television. [Having worked in television, I think I can say that without a moment's doubt].

Coming back to a postgraduate degree. No point in doing it in this field honestly. And I've always dreamed of working at my own pace, in my own space, and simply writing. No news briefs and whatnot. [no offense to news briefs - they're wondrous in comparison to hunting down pointless sound bytes for idiotic stories on security threats which exist only in the minds of executive editors at TV news stations]

I want to write. Sigh. You may say one does not need to study that. Well I *want* to study that. [No no, that was not said a la child throwing a tantrum in supermarket demanding ice-cream]. I honestly would rather study something I'm enamoured with and would want to pursue, than something pointless like, say oh I dunno... anthropological media and communications studies.

Which brings me back to - why are Indian students willing to pay so much to study HR and the like, and why are universities abroad charging so much from people from supposed developing nations? Colonial hangover, much?