Of mortals and a maniac fly, the ordeal…

Throughout my teenage life, I have had a strong urge to work with or under Trivikram Srinivas. This desire may have majorly sprung due to the innocent jabber of friends around me. My topping the class in English sometimes combined with random successful elocution competitions gave my friends this brilliant idea and they constantly mentioned it to me. Silly cute friends, you know. They also tell you that you can become a cardiologist if you have some sort of fan following among your juniors. “You play with people’s hearts”, with a wink.

Phew! That was quite a drift.

So, I have always looked up to Trivikram for his mastery over the way he can combine subtle comedy with human values. But deep inside my heart I knew this dream can never come to reality solely cause of my lack of grasp on my mother tongue, Telugu. (Oh! I am not very proud of it) I make time to watch every movie of his, even if he has just penned down dialogues for the film. Then came along Srinu Vailta. So I had decided that these are my two most favorite directors in Tollywood. Oftentimes, I have thanked God that I wasn’t entirely restricted to an era where only Dasari Narayana Rao and Raghavendra Rao directed films. These people have delivered blockbusters, no doubt, but I would not be the first one condemning the latter’s obsession with women, fruits, and flowers.

Then came along this mortal director whose work reflects the vision of an arrogant devil and the impeccable grace of the superior Gods. S.S. Rajamouli. In a span of 12 years, with eight super hits, this man has left no stone upturned. Years ago, even when I sat down to watch his first film, I knew I would loathe him as he had been disciplined under the worst possible teacher on earth, Mr. Raghavendra Rao himself.

My friends often ask me, the outright feminist that you are, how can you even sit through a Rajamouli film? He just uses his heroines for songs. My answer is, “Power”. I don’t know what it is exactly about this man, but I hate his guts. I hate it that he makes his antagonists so darn powerful thus having to make his protagonists seem like super-heroes. I hate it that he makes meaningless films that simply have expected story lines. And I hate it that he can make crap and get away with it.

But I love this man for his villains. They are ruthless, arrogant, bloody assholes and have an aura of death around them. Titla, Kaatraj, Bikshu Yadav, and Ramineedu. Since he has such unbelievable super-human antagonists, the hero obviously is THE HERO. I still get jitters when I see Prabhas from Chatrapathi or Ravi Teja from Vikramarkudu. I truly believe, Rajamouli can personify a hero to the highest level, and although totally exaggerated, I cannot help but admire his work. He can also take credit for making me feel the desperate need to watch a film starring a Mega family member. Yes, I am talking about Magadheera.

I see men through his eyes. I mean, what are men if they cannot be frustratingly arrogant and powerful.  Some guys would like to blame cute actors like Siddhu and films like Bommarillu and Ala Modalaindi for raising the bar for qualifying as a boyfriend. I blame Rajamouli for my great expectations in men. They have to be gory, brutal and barbaric and make my life an action packed film.

There is a myth that after starring in a Rajamouli film, all heroes have to face a series of flops before they can get back into the game. I would like to think that nobody would care about barrels of donkey milk, if you have a spoon of cow milk, the quality, quantity funda, I mean. I have always been jinxed when it comes to watching Rajamouli’s films. Being a regular theater goer, I have never watched even one of his films in the theater till date. And trust me, all his films are a must-watch- in-theater types. Something or the other always pops up. I remember being broke and still wanting to drive for four hours just so that I could watch Magadheera on big screen. I was torn between hating Ram Charan and wanting to spend a 100 bucks to watch him in a theater. Eventually, the Rajamouli jinx took over.

Just after the Magadheera collection craze had subsided, Rajamouli announced that he would cast Sunil, a not very handsome comedian, as the protagonist in his next film. I had no absolute doubt his choice. This man wouldn’t settle for normal victory, you see.  But then came the heights of guts. Eega.

His latest flick is the revenge story of a fly. A story where a lover boy is killed, and born again, as a fly and makes life a living hell for his murderer. Stupid story, and an even more stupid cast. Then, again, stupid me. The jinx struck again and it turns out that currently I have no Telugu-speaking friends in town to accompany me to watch the film. I tried to convince my mallu roommate and she thinks I am ridiculously cranky to go watch a maniac fly. I have decided to break the jinx this time. I AM going to watch the film at the nearest theater tomorrow. Alone.

If the cutthroat director has the balls to challenge the audience to watch a stupid fly, I can bet it ought to be super good!

The Hangover

In one short line; my 73 day old Dell laptop cannot connect to the wireless internet. On a  very short note (you can contact me for the very long story); the last 20 days have been so frustrating because my laptop has been completely useless and astoundingly frustrating to a level that made me consider taking anger management classes. You see, a laptop that cannot access internet is worse than a T.V. that at least gives you 40 different channels.

This led me to realize that I haven’t gone without a computer for 10 years now. It took me back to the time when we had the Intel P3 desktop at home, the one that made a “kkksshh gggrrr pepepe” noise to connect to the internet via the BSNL land phone. And then, on to the time when I a had a very contented life with no e-mail, internet, computer, and/or a cell phone.

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I never slept well on May 31st nights. Every year, for 12 long years. About six of those nights were dreadfully teary as I did not want to leave ‘home sweet home’ and go back to school. The rest of them were spent in silent excitement to get back to the ‘real home’. Back then I was either too love struck or innocent to analyze the reason behind this feeling, all the way through 1991-2003.

Perhaps everyone who went to Primary School would agree with me on this. On being everything close to an ashram, this school was where I spent the 12 most valuable years of my life.

From the days when we all looked up at Sangeetha ma’am and were sure that she was the most beautiful teacher on earth to the days where Sashi ma’am caught us, big girls, for bunking darshan breakfast and milk, every monotonous day is worth reminiscing.

We had to write a letter to our parents every Saturday. Our class teacher would come into the class, distribute post cards, and write a letter on the board. We diligently copied away the letter, along with the drawing she made us reproduce on the back of the postcard. I moved from the yellow postcard to the blue inland letter, and from copying letters from the board to writing my own ones. It always bothered me that we couldn’t send or receive letters at our disposal, without them being invigilated by our class teacher. This obviously meant that we couldn’t write what we wanted to, all the time. Now I am not answerable to any teacher and can write what I want, when I want to. Nobody makes me sit down on a Saturday afternoon to write a letter.

Why is it that I wish that someone did so, and made me write that letter my dad has been asking me to write for over five years now?

Although letters were the main medium of communicating with the outside world, we were allowed to talk on the biscuit color landline phone sometimes. Those were the days when calling from Parthi to Anantapur was considered local. Oftentimes, I sneaked into the office when nobody was watching and treated myself to calling my home. Girls who wanted to talk to their parents came up to me and asked me to call my mom and ask her to call their parents and inform them that their daughter wanted them to give her a ring. This was an adventure that required Manorathi ma’am’s absence. The sneaking, the fear, having a bodyguard wait outside the office room and watch out for predators from the staff room just to use the damn phone seemed ridiculous then.

Why is it that now I have unrestricted and unlimited access to my cell phone and yet cannot make decent time to talk with my family?

In grade 6, during sports time, we had a friend who had a 67 keys Casio keyboard. I remember all our class girls being gaga over the instrument like little eager birds ready to try and fly for the very first time. We “caught places” to play, begged the keyboardist of our class to teach us a tune, and fought with the each other to practice these tunes. The only tune we knew to play was “Tujhe dekha to yeh jaana sanam” and we felt like Mozart when we played it. We used to be scared chickens who played on very very low volume since film songs weren’t allowed in school. I had vowed back then, when I was 12 years old, that I would buy myself the very same 67 keys Casio keyboard with the latest sound system, and turn into the great keyboardist of my time. And I did, the buying a keyboard part, I mean.

Why is my keyboard lying at some remote corner in the house, begging me to at least wipe off the dust it has accumulated?

Chocolates were a rare thing, ice creams and cool drinks too. We got to eat chocolates every Sunday, at lunch. We prayed, every Saturday, that H.M was in the mood for some pizza and not the brown egg-less cake and that Rajni ma’am would make the delicious square shaped pizza with nothing but onions and tomatoes on it. We fought for the strawberry milky-way ice cream bar over the mango one. Choco bar was a distant dream and GoldSpot was the best thing that could happen to you at the end of a week and you sipped on it for two long hours like you wouldn’t live to drink another one. We promised ourselves that we would never drink a glass of milk after the 12th grade and wished Limca had all the calcium we needed to build strong bones. I kept my promise here. My fridge is always loaded with Lindt and Ferrero Rocher, more or less has a pizza and coke from Domino’s Pizza, and occasionally a crate of Smirnoff Ice Flavors.

Why is it that I have the deepest longing for the red, yellow, and green Fanola candy and my heart aches to have an orange tongue from constantly sipping GoldSpot.

Those were the days when we carried around slam books each summer, just before we left school, and took down addresses and phone numbers of our friends. There was no Facebook, Yahoo, or Gmail then. We practically knew the addresses of some of our friends by-heart although we had never visited their homes. P.O Ghoom, Shimpoli Road  Borivali West, Saidabad Colony, Jayanagar etc. We could chant the class attendance order along with each ones date of birth even if you woke us up at midnight.

Why is that I cannot find time for those friends on their birthdays, even with reminders on Facebook?

My definition of heaven was the library, and library aunty was the luckiest woman alive as she got to spend all her days with books. The smell of old books, the hunt for a particular book, the brown chairs with a book stand to your right hand side, the corner where you could forget the entire world while you bury your head into the sea of knowledge and are unaware when the tiffin bell rings, all this for just forty minutes a week wrenched my heart. I had promised myself a room full of books and told myself I could have 24/7 access to it.

Why is it that now a kindle with my favorite collection of books seems less luring than my laptop with a Netflix account?

The pine for sleep. I’m not sure what it was that made us so sleepy all the time. We dozed during suprabhatam, assembly, bhajans, and night prayers. I dreaded those first few minutes in the early morning when Sashi ma’am came into the dormitory, switched on the lights and went ‘oooooooooooooommmm’. Sometimes she tickled our feet to wake us up. I thought that this was the most annoying sound I would ever hear in my life. Alarm clocks went by and now cellphone alarms seem captivating with all their different tunes, and you are even allowed to wake up to your favorite film song.

Why do I wish I had Sashi ma’am barge into my room, wake me up with the annoying “oooooooommmm” chanting and push me into the bathroom to brush? 

Why do birthdays remind me of being the first in the line? Why does chewing gum at work remind me of HM imitating foreign kids who chew gum disrespectfully in front of elders? Why do I miss the things that I was sure I despised, like stone idlies and bullet proof dosas? Why do I feel that the most comfortable couch on earth is the light brown one with silver rods, in the office room? Why do I sometimes secretly wish that I could get a whiff of the stink that came from dhobi clothes? Why do I still wish “Happy donekys birthday” every Jan 10th? Why does the love for a pair of white canvas shoes never die? Why do I still look to buy the steel plate with 4 katoris? Why don’t I feel embarrassed to lift my plate up to drink rasam with the “sluurrrp” sound even though we have guests at home? Why does playing on the elephant slide give me more joy than a roller coaster ride?

You will know what I mean if your answer is a long contented smile (as long as River Nile)

Pati Patni Aur Main

An Indian woman in her twenties is always judged based on her marital status. The prospect of being 27 and unmarried at the same time is equal to eating buffalo wings in a temple, that astoundingly shocking and inappropriate, I mean. This fact has annoyed me to such an extent in the past that it actually stopped affecting me for a while as I stepped back smelling the fragrance of my freedom. Until today.

Over the past two years, I have seen my group of single friends dwindling at a fast pace. It appeared to me that a higher number of the human population started to believe that the world was coming to an end in 2012 and all women in their twenties had to be married away so that they could at least die honorably. Well, if the 2012 myth was really true, what is the whole point in getting married now anyways?

When asked to define ‘husband’, I have always said, “Those mean men who steal from you, your favorite girlfriends.”

Think of a few girls with whom you grew up since you were six years old, girls who you saw naked during group-baths, girls from whose plate you flicked tasty paneer and dumped gross upma into, girls whose pencils and erasers you borrowed, lost and never returned, girls whose Chyawanprash you stole, girls with whom you learnt addition in Math, traffic rules in Social Studies and the difference between living and non-living things in Science, girls from whom you borrowed the sanitary napkin when you got your first period, and girls who actually saw you with no make-up and eyebrows like Kroor Singh from Chandrakantha. To these girls, add those girls whose frightened faces you remember on the first day of your college, girls you ran to, to discuss your first crush paranoia, girls with whom you shared all your xerox notes, and girls who lovingly lent you their Nokia phone to play the brick game and secretly text your crush.  Mix them together. Top this off with those girls who were there with you through more mature and major phases in your life, say during your joblessness, through your heart-breaks and hangovers, girls who helped you do silly yet meaningful things such as aimless conversations into the night, unnecessary shopping and gave you the right kind of advice when you were totally confused.

Marriage changes them, each one of these girls. You are then conveniently shoved into the back of their heads. And if you are lucky enough, they probably will think of you once in a year, when it’s your birthday. I have tried to understand and reason with them but I just don’t get it. Why does the whole wide world revolve around their husband? Actually, the most weird thing is that when a man remains a boy friend, the girl is all normal. The trouble begins only when the boyfriend turns into a husband. What is it? Is it the sex? Is it the responsibility? Is it the whole “Bharatiya Nari” deal? I wonder!

Although this is directed to every married girl in general and no one in particular, I am just in the mood to do some random rambling.

  • You cannot call her after 6 PM. That’s because her husband’s with her. Oh, you also cannot call her over the weekend, that is total privacy encroachment.
  • Don’t ever plan a trip with her. No, not even if you ask her 6 months ahead. She already has the next decade planned out.
  • Stop looking for her single pictures on Facebook. You are never going to find any.
  • Yeah! Deal with all the lovey-dovey updates, her husband is the best man on earth, and NO, you cannot actually flirt with him.
  • Face it! You cannot have a conversation without the husband being mentioned.
  • She hasn’t had the time to call you in 5 months? Consider yourself lucky, there is a mutual friend she hasn’t called for about 8 months now.
  • You tell her that you are still lying lazily in bed at 2 PM on Maha Shivratri. She will sound like you are an atheist of the highest order.
  • Learn this clause; Determined against consuming alcohol in the absence of their husbands.
  • Don’t bother buying her any gifts. Your little piece of love will seem like David in front of Goliath. The mean guy, her husband, would have already purchased the city for her.
  • In her world, you are like Pratibha Patil, spending 204 crores and valuable time globe trotting, while she is like Barack Obama, focused and already geared up for his presidential campaign.
  • You no longer get to hear any juicy details. “Yes, we did it, no big deal”, is all that you get from the same girl who described to you, her first kiss for about an hour.
  • You will be warned about loans, credit cards, mortgages, and insurance policies. If you are very unlucky, you will also be discoursed on the benefits of being married and chided for being so aimlessly unmarried at such an “old” age.
  • You have to get used to their new found interest in cooking.
  • “BFFs? Are you kidding me? We are no more in college.Yeah! Grow up.”
  • Pati is Parameshwar.
  • Learn the language of a 2 year old. She will make you talk to them quite often.
  • If she posted tons of messages on your Facebook wall earlier, drop your hopes now. She will seem super busy with her life and absolutely dead on networking sites, but hey, she has the time to ‘like’ all the posts by her husband. She will console you by asking you to go and look at her old messages. “Facebook has Timeline now, what for?”
  •  Texting equals hours of conversations on the phone.
  • Oh! She had a favorite hero? Her husband is her life-time hero now.
  • She will tell you that she was engaged in April, to be married in December, sometime in May. It really doesn’t matter to her that you weren’t informed. Look out for the excuses! Horoscopes, elders-ka-mamla, and a butt load of crap. (This is specifically targeted to the crazy woman who actually did this to me. Yes, she has subscribed to this blog but will be too lazy to read the whole thing anyways)

And, last but not the least, the couple knows your are the “woh” in their relationship and with pitiful eyes, they pray that you realize this fact sooner than later.

A Pinch of Everything

I moved to a new city in December 2011 and have been looking to lease a decent apartment ever since. It has been a very difficult hunt. That’s probably due to the fact that I have NO friends here. Initially, I was too busy to make new friends and later on, I was disgusted to.

I responded to a post on one of the “Desi” websites and checked out a place. I took an instant liking to it and the girl who had posted the ad liked me. We agreed on a few terms, the most important of which included that I needed the place for two months and would extend the lease based on my work agreement. She seemed totally cool about it and nodded her head like she was a Parkinson’s patient, desperate to share the rent and utilities with me. Two weeks passed. I was supposed to move in on a Tuesday. I called her up to ask her at what time I could be there with my stuff. And she bluntly told me that she wasn’t ‘cool’ with the two month agreement and had found a new roomie. This was the minute I realized that this apartment hunting shit wasn’t going to be easy.

Staying away from home, always in a boarding school or a hostel makes you meet people of all sorts. It doesn’t teach you much though. Or perhaps I haven’t learnt much.

Now there are some Indian names that you can use to christen both girls and boys. Being a little skeptical and hoping that it would be a girl who held the name, I dialed the number. Neither was the person a woman nor was the conversation a pleasing one. The most frustrating thing was that he asked me out on a date (without even seeing me). He wanted to go wine-tasting. The second one asked me if I was on any dating sites. The third one was the most ridiculous of the lot. He apparently got my number from one of the other two guys. He had decided to call me because I was from A.P. He asked me straight to my face (or to his phone) whether I am a “party-girl” and would like to live in with him in a 1 bed-room apartment. “Just like friends, you know,” he had added.

I decided to talk to my only guy friend (he’s going to be mad at me now for pulling him into every other blog) and bitch about these men. He then warned me that there can be no “just friends” when it comes to men and that too if they mention wine-tasting. To the best of my knowledge, girls, according to Indian men, fall into two distinct categories; the boring grandmothers and the party sluts animals. So, if you are this self-sustaining woman who stays away from home and is comfortable in western clothes, you automatically fall into the second category; the kind of person who will go and get drunk with a stranger or move-in with him. They will not let you be this woman who can be happy with her freedom and be respected at the same time. Do apartment hunting women scream “Available”? This kind of sexism disgusts me.

Restricting my search to “females only” I continued to search for a new place to live. I came across this girl whose ad I liked mainly because she stayed at a convenient distance to work. I called her up. Not only was she rude but she interviewed me with questions such as, “Tell me about yourself.” I informed her that I wasn’t exactly looking to share a place and would be glad if she could provide me with some information about the leasing office (I couldn’t find anything on the internet). She adamantly declined to even give me the apartment’s name and said that she would call me back in an hour. She never called back.

I wanted the name of the place at any cost. I asked a friend in Houston who is very good at talking to strangers to come to the rescue.  I say strangers because if you actually knew my friend, you would never believe that she is sweet-spoken. Anyways, my friend called her up and said she was looking to share this place. This rude woman told my friend that she would call back to confirm. And she did. She said that the place was taken but they had a good chit chat about the city for about 15 minutes. She gave my friend the name and address of the apartments.  She also told my friend about stores that I never knew existed in this city.

As my friend narrated the entire phone conversation to me, I interrupted, “Did you talk to her in Telugu?” I asked.

“Yes, she is from A.P”, She said.

You see, that’s where I went wrong. I had spoken to her in English.

The South Indians naturally assume that I’m a Gujarati because my last name is Patel. The North Indians think I do not deserve to a Patel because I can barely connect two Hindi sentences together. I went to a Christian minority college in Chennai that had no special rights for regular people. The Tamilians who listen to me speak in their language think that it’s an attempt of sheer mockery. I actually had a guy, who worked with me briefly, call me “Sambar rice”, when he found out that I was vegetarian. Another fancy name that I’ve heard is “Chennai chepala (fish) batch” because I prefer listening to original Tamil songs instead of Telugu-songs dubbed from Tamil. I am considered “dating-material” because I am out-spoken.

Our constitution says, and we brag to the people from other nations, that India is a sovereign, socialist, secular, linguistic democratic republic. This big fat essay answer looks pretty, only in the Civics notebook. Who follows it anyways? We will always be surrounded by narrow domestic walls.

My parents fell in love with each other when they were about 15 years old and they got married 10 years later, with a lot of drama because they belonged to different communities. I went to a school that helped me to realize that there is only one caste, the caste of humanity. I studied with people from different parts of the country for over a decade. I cannot read and write in my mother-tongue and I talk in English to strangers. My last name is Patel and I am not a Gujarati. I went to college that was in my neighboring state and I work in a country that’s half-way across the globe from my homeland.

Where do I belong?

And when the hell will I find a decent place to stay?

The Men with Disabilities

The Kumbhakarnas: In one short sentence, Kumbhakarna was a demon who slept for six months in a year. So, men can sleep anywhere, at any given time. Nothing can ever stop them. Be it an earthquake, a bulldozer rampaging into their house, a woman’s hue and cry, a siren, or loss of basic amenities; sleep wins, come what may! I’m sure the childhood fairy tale that I was very fond of- The Sleeping Beauty, is one huge piece of bull shit. This story talks of a beautiful princess who is cursed to sleep for a very very long time and is awakened by a kiss from a handsome prince. I would like to imagine that it was not the princess who was in slumber for a century, it was the Prince. Only a man can sleep for a century and beyond and not wake up even if his princess kissed him. He can sleep on a chair, on the ground, on a pile of dirt or in his own vomit. Even a Himesh Reshammiya song cannot wake him up.

It just baffles me. Are they designed to ‘switch off’ their nervous system when they sleep? Do men go deaf when they fall asleep? Can they seriously not hear their phone ring? How can they sleep for 15 hours straight?

The Ghajinis: Although this name has always revolved around the man who never accepted defeat until he conquered the Indian sub-continent, thanks to A.R Murugadoss’ effort in various languages, the name now signifies a man with amnesia. Men forget all the time. It makes me wonder how they even managed to pull along through high school. How did they devour 5 kgs of Social Studies text books by heart when they cannot remember the name of your favorite novel? I would like to think that this is no selective amnesia. Oh! believe me, they do not remember anything. Is it uncommon that a guy  walks up to you when you are busy flipping the pages of your notebook 30 minutes before an exam and asks with a ‘cool dude’ attitude, “What are you studying? Do we have an exam today?” See, I told you its not selective amnesia. They forget everything. Birthdays, anniversaries, reservations, keys, exams, deadlines, submissions, itineraries, credit card payments, debts, groceries, what you talk, and you.

What! Did God give them a peanut sized brain that probably has 1 GB memory? Do they use the entire 1 GB space to remember their full name and nothing else?

The Mantharas: Manthara was a maid of Kaikeyi who was very sly. She apparently poisoned Kaikeyi’s mind to banish Lord Rama to the forest. I am constantly reminded of Manthara when I see men who gossip. Everyone on earth who has a functioning tongue gossips. That is obvious. But who ever said men don’t gossip? Women are interested in and enjoy gossip but so do men. To my understanding, women generally bitch about people whom they despise. For men, this rule does not apply. They have all the time on this planet to gossip about anything, it just has to have the ability to move. Be it about your best friend’s secret boyfriend, someone’s third cousin’s husband’s lawsuit, or their favorite action hero’s dirty mistress. They need to hear it all and they listen to all of it with the same enthusiasm. They possibly can channelize their energy only in two directions; one is to sleep and the other is to gossip.

Why do we still fool ourselves that men don’t gossip?

The Slugs: Nothing disgusts me more than watching a slug after a rainy day. They are everywhere and don’t get out of you way. Oh wait! They were created to walk very slowly, not their fault for being lazy.

But what about lazy men? They are too lazy to shower, too lazy to cook, too lazy to brush, too lazy to get out of bed, too lazy to pick the damn phone and return your call, too lazy to text you back, too lazy to finish their assignments on time, too lazy to help with cleaning. This group of men is more of a mixture of The Kumbhakarnas and The Ghajinis in varying proportions. Are lazy men active enough to clean up after ‘nature calls them’?

The MCPs: Much has already been said and written about Male Chauvinistic Pigs and there is nothing new I can add to it. The is the category of men who are buffaloes and have very sharp horns. They take immense pleasure in charging with their over grown male egoistic horns, at independent women who they assume are secretly feeble.

The Guttermouths: The entire sewage system in India empties itself into their already foul mouths. To this group belong those men who eve-tease and torture you both on and outside college grounds. I personally know five such men. I mean, bad luck humped my back for about a year and I had to deal with them. I sincerely hope they go to hell!

Well Within Warranty

I have, for a very long time, been a victim of the Hewlett-Packard Company. I turned a deaf ear to many people who advised me to purchase a Dell laptop. I chose to pay heed to one very opinionated person and fate threw into my lap, a HP laptop and sent me swirling down a whirlpool for 3 long, very long years.

It took me a week in Sept 2008, to realize that I had made the wrong move. I do not clearly remember the exact make of the laptop mostly because I chose to call it ‘the steel dabba’. This laptop had a silver-steel finish to it and it heated up like a furnace. The steel touch pad would get so hot that it almost became impossible to ‘touch’ the touch pad at times. I would stare at it in disgust. Many a time I was tempted to break an egg and watch it warm into an omelette. The lab that I worked in did not have a microwave then. So I was also eager to explore if placing a cup of instant noodles with cold water would actually bring my lunch to boil. No kidding, but one of my friends hugged her HP laptop as she slept during winters because her room-mate was a polar bear from the Arctic and would not let her turn on the thermostat. Apparently it kept my human friend warm. 😀

“Buy a HP laptop along with a carton box full of Burnol ointment tubes” was a common joke. The frustration of an over-heated laptop shutting down right in the middle of  a mystery movie, or when you are sincerely writing up the last bit of your thesis, or when you have 10 more minutes to turn in your online assignment to Mr. Dracula, the alien stares your classmates throw at you cause your laptop makes a weird noise that sounds like you just started a motor engine right in the middle of the lecture, always having to carry your laptop charger (like a patient on IV fluids) cause your laptop won’t run for a single second without it; trust me, I have faced it all.

I may not have kept in mind my best friend’s birthday but I have definitely and distinctively marked on my calender, the day my laptop needed a warranty renewal. After complaining of an issue with the ‘heat sink exchange or whatever’, and having my laptop sent for servicing six times in two years, one kind man decided to replace my laptop for a new one. So I did get a new one. No heating issues. Just when I thought everything was going amazingly fine, one hinge of the laptop started to come apart. No, it did not succumb to a suicidal fall whatsoever.  Remember the friend who hugged her laptop in her sleep, the hinge of her new laptop came apart too. HP had tricked me and I realized that I had failed miserably to see through this trick. My warranty did not cover accidental damage, it was a limited hardware warranty.

When this news hit my head, I think I was more happy than sad. It gave me a stronger reason and the guts to push myself aboard, spend a 1000 bucks and coax myself into purchasing a Dell laptop for a tension free gadget survival. There! The decision had been made.

I was told that there was an offer. It sure was a good deal. A Dell XPS 14z, i7 processor, 8 GB RAM and 750 GB hard drive (in lay man terms). It saved me about 500 bucks. So I swooped in and grabbed onto the offer. My new laptop arrived with a big fat green label that said “REFURBISHED”. I was angry, very angry. Now I am not sure if I was angry because my laptop had two small scratches on it or because it was covered within a limited warranty, yet again. I decided to return it even without switching it on. I am generally an angry woman. A green label that mentioned that the use of refurbished products is ‘environmentally healthy’ pissed me off even more. I went through the ordeal of having to speak very patiently with a guy from Dell. He said that he was sorry for the miscommunication but I am very sure that he was not. He must have put me on hold and chuckled away to glory. Why else would he offer to take $ 35 off my purchase if I agreed to hold on to that gadget with limited warranty? “Are you kidding me, moron?”, I wanted to yell. The bloody state tax cost me $ 42. I held my breath and said, “Send me a (‘fucking’ in my mind) return label, already.”

Eventually I did purchase a new Dell laptop. I could only afford an XPS with the i 5 processor but the good news is that it covers accidental, theft, and hardware warranty for a whole year. It arrives today. As I sit here and track the status of my package every 30 minutes, excited and relieved, and typing into my HP that can barely sit straight or hold its screen and keyboard together but can make the sound of a running engine, I realize that today is the day my HP will rest in peace. I also realize how much our lives revolve around warranty/safety/protection in today’s world.

Why was I so fussy about having a solid warranty plan? Am I pessimistic? Was I looking for an optimistic exit in a pessimistic situation? Am I gearing up for a planned and easy future? Am I afraid of risks? Do I not know that often circumstances are never under my control?

Everything comes with a risk-free option nowadays that includes a small or big plan right into the near or far future. Gadget warranties, health and motor vehicle insurances, dinner dates, condoms, seat-belts, helmets, preparing for events way ahead of their deadlines, the fear of submission errors, procuring an employee’s emergency contact information the minute the employer offers him/her a job, planning a birthday party two months ahead, promising a friend to be there at her wedding, eagerly waiting for Sunday to catch up on the latest episode of Desperate Housewives, and the list could go on.

The question is: how sure are we about seeing the next day when we know that our life comes with no warranty?

Much ado about nothing!

As the clock struck 5:52 PM, I packed my bag and dashed to the bus that was bound homeward. It was too hot to be the first day of the spring quarter and the bus was empty. I flashed my bus pass at the driver who nodded with approval. I had a question for him and decided to ask him before he started driving. Here’s how the conversation went.

Me: Has bus no. 19 been re-scheduled? I happened to look it up on google maps and was unable to locate it.

Driver: No, it hasn’t. The new schedule will be out only in summer. I will keep you updated. I’ve seen you take this bus for two months now. Where do you work?

Me: Oh! Thanks. (Pointing to the building right opposite to where the bus had stopped) I work in that building.

Driver: What do you do ma’am?

Me: (Smiling) I am a Research Engineer.

Driver: Oh! That’s great to hear. You must be making a lot of money.

Me: Well, not really. You see, I just started working and am probably the most inexperienced on my team.

Driver: Okay, not now. But you will make lots of money in the future. Right?

I changed the subject to the sultry weather and walked to the seat by the window. Just as he turned the engine on and started driving, my mind went afloat.

Although becoming an Engineer was never an option that I had considered, I realized there wasn’t much of a choice if you had your roots in Andhra Pradesh. You either are an Engineer or a Doctor. I went to a school that taught me to be passionate about what I choose to do and to stick by it, the only sad part being you have no clue as to what you are passionate about when you are 15. It did not take me much to understand that ‘a doctor’ wasn’t something that was cut out for me. And if you studied pure sciences when you were in high school, you were given the benefit of choosing from a restricted group of various upcoming specializations in India like Biotechnology, Pharmacy, Microbiology etc.

So when I was ready to go to college, I had hundreds of people hovering over my decision. Sadly, these people were neither Engineers nor were they Doctors. Some of them were worried elders. The others were, however, a bunch of jobless people who chewed paan and gave free advice while flashing their orange teeth. When you choose something that sounds as fancy as Biomedical Engineering, you have to remember that you may turn out to be someone who is hanging in the air at all times. Besides, 80% of the people you talk to, your friends included, don’t even know what exactly you studied or you do. They think it is super cool to say BIO-%#*@^* and get away with it thinking you wouldn’t care. Well, how would you feel if I think Java, Oops, Pearl and Oyster are all same thing?

My memory remains crystal clear. The year was 2002. It had people telling me, “There is a huge SCOPE for this field. It is thriving in the U.S and the U.K.” Then they would dramatically turn to my mom and add, “My sister’s husbands’ brother’s wife’s brother-in-law’s  paternal uncle’s daughter’s donkey has a degree in this field. The donkey is a Biomedical Engineer. They make all these huge fancy machines that people use in hospitals. You remember the time when Uma’s husband had his stomach scanned by a machine that is 10 times bigger than the X-ray? That donkey designed it.” Precisely, those were the days when Apollo Hospitals had purchased its first PET-CT.

I felt the first adrenaline rush when I fixed a BP apparatus during my internship. I later inclined to research and faced the ordeal of working with and breaking bones. I found definite passion in this and decided to stick to it. Why else would I help with sawing bones at 10 in the night in a building that was rumored to be haunted.

Life moves quickly and soon I found myself with a Master’s degree. It was only when I was out on a seriously tiresome job hunt that the word ‘scope’ caught my sincere attention. I wanted to ask all the advising scholars who bragged about the ‘scope’ of this field to stand in a line so that I could whack their asses hard. As hard as the job hunt was kicking mine. What scope? There is no scope. I know that there are thousands of sick people dying every day and that a few hundreds of diseases stand invincible. And yet there is no scope for young researchers. God alone knows why companies are either too less in number or too huge in infrastructure. With companies expecting you to walk out of graduate school with over 5 years of industry experience, the immigration services leaching on you to show employment proof within 90 days of graduation, the novel taxes on the healthcare system, very few jobs, and extremely high competition, I wonder, “Does scope really exist?” It probably will, only if you are a shark in this rat race.

Now everything said and done, you will eventually fulfill those dreams. But what the bloody hell is it with “lots of money” when you are an Engineer. That’s like saying “All pastas taste the same irrespective of their sauces, be it alfredo, marinara, or pesto with basil.” No, not all Engineers make mountain loads of money. To my knowledge, it is the people who work with computers that do. That could be the only reason the film Chintakayala Ravi had its tag line as Software Engineer. If the other Engineers did too, the film would have been called Chintakayala Ravi-Chemical Engineer. If there was money with every Engineer, our Indian Engineering college Deans would happily call Johnson & Johnson to recruit students. They wouldn’t promise 100% placement merely by throwing Biology students into Infosys or Accenture.

Being a researcher basically means you belong to a typical Indian lower middle class family. Your pay check sustains you. You cannot decide for yourself or promise your friend, a trip to a beach in Florida during a long weekend in summer when it is only spring. You feel the urge to work on Saturdays.You do not fancy a 500 dollar iPad. You might prefer a 99 dollar e-reader and contemplate on it’s purchase for one whole week before you actually make it. A broken laptop is close to a broken heart and buying a new laptop seems like an extra month of house rent. You know the difference between necessity and luxury and you abide by it. You make sure you get your weekly dosage of protein without fail by drinking soy milk even though you are aware that it is expensive. Shopping malls don’t catch your attention even if you are a girl. A take out from your favorite Chinese restaurant is something remotely close to a festival.  If you decide to try a new brand of shampoo and it sucks, you do not throw it away even if it makes your hair look like crap. You use it until it is done. You are this espresso junkie who cares very little about crappy hair or papers strewn all over your desk. You keep your monthly expenses updated on an excel file.

Being a researcher also means you work like a donkey and like a donkey you enjoy doing it (Probably this is similar to the donkey my mom’s friend was talking about eight years ago).  So who actually cares about being called a nerd or having less money when you have no idea what your friend is talking about when she mentions that she has Monday Blues? Undoubtedly, I love what I do. And nerds have proved that nerds have high life satisfaction scores.

Phew! I had to get off the bus now. I looked at the driver as I darted forward to pull the chain and thought to myself, “Mr. Driver, if I really had the time and the money like a regular Engineer, I would use them to take driving lessons and buy myself a car. You wouldn’t see me riding a bus.” I looked at him again, smiled and said “Thank you” and got off.

As I slowly walked towards home enjoying the weather with Adele singing in my ears, I saw my landlady outside the house. She asked me if she could have a minute. I took my headphones off and she informed me that she had decided to increase the rent by a 100 bucks starting next month. I stared for a second and nodded my head in dismay when she added, “I’m sure you will not find it to be a problem. You are an Engineer. You make lots of money, right?”

Adele resumed singing in my ears.

When a Sathyabamaite meets Krishna…

Last week, at 2 am in the morning, I received a text from one of my friends. It said, “My parents want me to see this guy. He happens to be from Sathyabama University. Any chance you might know him?” I lay in bed, wide awake, desperately wishing I could help my friend. But I simply had to text back, “Girl, you know na, in our college boys and girls were not allowed to talk to each other. So I have no clue.”

I went to Sathyabama University, Chennai, for my under-grad education. Unfortunately, I do not have anyone to blame for sending me there. It was my very own brilliant idea. Apart from a number of factors for not being able to study in Hyderabad or Bangalore, Sathyabama caught my attention because it threw light on a path that could reunite me with a school friend I had been away from for two whole years. So I packed my bags, held my brother’s hand and marched into the campus. My parents thought I would do best if me and brother went to the same college.

Although I went to a boarding school my entire life, Sathyabama was a nightmare that had come to reality. This place had nothing but RULES and they sure were NOT meant to be broken. The most moronic ones on the list were; no electronic items on campus or in hostels (This meant no cell phones, no walk-mans or CD players, not even an iron box), dress code that included only salwar kammez for the girls with pinned dupatta, a stupid squad that was a team of dickheads who went around the campus all the time keeping a vigilant eye on us like we were terrorists (the lady squads barged into classrooms to check our bags for cellphones, love letters, and magazines/novels), and no talking to the opposite sex. Oh, and not to forget, the way we got our semester results. We were asked to assemble in one common area (I don’t remember what it was called). The entire college, say about 8,000 to 10,000 students. A list was made of those people who failed their tests. This list was read out; the name of the student and the number of tests he/she failed in. Arrears, they were called. I thank my stars for never being on the list. What else would you do but study if you never looked out of your umbrella. All in all, the Sathyabama experience was like the mean High School period we see in American films.

Well, Sathyabama was no IIT for us, even if the English scholar Jeppiaar thought so. This philosopher whose favorite lines are “Open window and let atmosphere come in” or “Boy boy talk no problem, girl girl talk no problem, boy girl talk I problem” was our Dean. (Here’s a sample of the shit this man talks- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eq02OOzo1YE)  And, supposedly he was dumb enough to impose a rule that makes life hard for me even to this day. If a boy and girl were caught talking, they were given an Office Duty (OD). I’m not sure of the details strictly because I never got one. But rumor has it that the people “caught” talking were made to stand a under tree all day or work outside the Directors office, serving refreshments to guests who came by. They could also be suspended from college or totally kicked out, depending on the intensity of the conversation. I never really wanted to take the risk, and with the bonus of having an over-protective brother, I never looked up and out of my blue umbrella while walking on campus. You always had to carry an umbrella in Chennai either cause of the sun or the rain. With all this drama, the only way you could talk to a guy was when you bumped into him in the mall or on the train that took you home. During the first 2 years of college, I wished to enhance the beauty of our gang by adding a boy or two. It never really happened and by the third year I did not care at all. I had good friends and nothing in seemed short at that point of life.

Little did I realize then that I failed to pick up the tricks of the trade when I was supposed to and so even to this day talking to a guy makes me all nervous. So much so that I could just swallow raw goat meat rather than make conversation with a guy. I truly hold Jeppiaar for my “Adam-abhorrence mania.” My limited knowledge helps me classify men into two defined categories; the head-strong and the desperate. The former highly pisses me off and the latter pisses me off even more. The chatter-box in my vocal cords comes to a stand still and prefers deathly silence to talking to a guy. I believe I truly deserve credit for having met and spoken to many men all along the way, and kept just one of them as a dear friend. Now this guy is neither head-strong nor desperate. My hatred for Jeppiaar goes to the highest peak when I sit at lunch with a bunch of male colleagues and I’m literally tongue-tied. I get so scared that my face looks like a girl who just lost her favorite puppy in the park. At moments like these I pray to all the 65 gods I know, to send food to my table as quickly as possible so that I can at least pretend like I’m a greedy pig with sole interest in free food. When it comes to guys, I also suffer from temporary amnesia. I need to look at a guy’s face 5-6 times before I can register it in my head. This makes me look retarded and sound rude and inappropriate. I once asked a guy whom I barely knew for while as to why his parents had given him a name that meant ‘handsome’. I assumed that all men are insensitive and said, “What if you turned out to be ugly?” So it all comes down to this when I talk to a guy. I’m either this nut-case who talks utter nonsense that the guy listening to me is thinking loudly,”When will she shut her mouth?”, so loudly that I can read shut-up in his eyes, or I am this frightened caterpillar who just wants nothing but to turn into a cocoon.

I get so tensed on a first date that I often succeed in convincing my “couple friends” to tag along with me making it seem something like a double date. I know its not going very well when the guy is keenly staring at the cricket match on TV right above my head or looking at the chess board on the table. Now, I hate cricket and do not know how to play chess. So I quickly gulp down hot chocolate coffee and pretend that I burnt my tongue. If he’s sensitive enough, he gives a damn and then I talk about coffee and chocolates. But if he thought I was an idiot to sip hot coffee without blowing at it, its a lost cause. It is at times such as these that I wish I could give Mr. Jeppiaar a good piece of my mind for making me look stupid at both, the personal and professional front.

Although my problem is not among the life threatening ones, I do hope that one fine day when Krishna comes along, this Sathyabamaite can tell him apart from the crowd. And, that she is smart enough to figure out if there is Rukmini lurking somewhere in his wallet, behind one of his credit cards.

The Tollywood HERO Worship

DISCLAIMER: The following content is not advisable for people with strong aggressive hearts and fanatic minds. All characters and incidents in this post are NOT fictitious and all resemblance to K. Shiva Shankara Vara Prasad and Co.  is intentional.

I must have been about 10 years when I made this list. Yes, I thought I was sure and this list would be the final one. Nothing more, nothing less.  It was a list of requirements that my life-partner had to fulfill.

  • He should not have beard or a mustache.
  • He should not eat meat, drink alcohol, and smoke.
  • He should either be an ex-student from the Sri Sathya Sai Institutes or be a Sai devotee.
  • He should NOT be a fan of Chiranjeevi.

As a kid I was a huge fan of Venkatesh. It was probably because he played all the good lovey-dovey roles. He was always the nice man at the end of the show. He never really planned murders or killed people for revenge. I never thought I would ever stop being in love with Venky. At least not until I saw Mahesh smoke on-screen. It happened during the first 5 minutes of Okkadu. (Yes, It was 2003 and I had left the second requirement far behind). I strongly believed this guy had intense eyes. They spoke volumes. Years rolled by and he didn’t appear on the screen as often as I would have liked to see him. Anyways, keeping the first requirement aside, I was hopelessly  drawn to the rough arrogance of Ravi Teja. Then I realized I couldn’t be certain. Most of the younger guys had some charm too. They were either tall and handsome or made good films and acted really really well. Although most of my friends have known me to be a huge fan of Mahesh’s, all that I care about these days is a novel and decent story line. Venky, Mahesh, and Ravi Teja are very violent and noisy people. They fight a lot on-screen.

Crushes are like first love in one particular way. As people believe, we are never really over our first love. I hold the same thing true for a crush. You  are over them and leading your very own happy life. Bham! One fine morning you come across them and you think, for one single second, “Oh my god! He is still so cute.”  When someone sends me a picture like this one, all that comes to my mind is, “Look at him in the Thums up picture. He is such a cute tomato.” Who cares about the salesman part! He has his life and I have mine. I’m definitely not going to buy an idea mobile or drink only Thums up just because he endorses them. I prefer Saridon for a headache and I am not sure what the other two advertisements are for.  He makes ads or movies, who really cares? He is a piece of handsomeness and the joy I derive from that is enough.

Coming back to the list of requirements, a number of people have asked me, “Why the fourth one? It’s kinda funny.” Well, I don’t know for sure either. I think it’s probably because of the way people absorb movies into their system. I’m not sure if all other states in India are this enthusiastically frenetic about their movies. It surprises and suffocates me. It was never officially declared, but the name Chiranjeevi is a religious faith that hundreds of thousands of people sincerely abide by. People behave like he is GOD. I do not object to his dancing and acting skills. He is a strong man, worked hard, and is an excellent actor. But luck did play a role. I would secretly like to believe that he got lucky catching a few famous novels by Yandamuri Veerendranath and combined them with Maestro Illayaraja’s music and made his way up the golden ladder his father-in-law laid down for him.

Hero worship stands true in its literal sense with him, no pun intended. People worship him in a manner that is overly done. He is a nice person owing to his work with the blood and eye donation work. But frankly,you should be the reason you donate your blood. Not his birthday. People take everything about him way too seriously. Some of them out there would give up their lives for him. Isn’t he just supposed to be entertainment? Something that keeps us occupied when we need to take a break. He is a topic in most of their parties. People fight over him, his caste, his work, his enemies, his extended family, and to add to it, his latest political drama. His fans are aggressive people. If you say one word against him you are dead meat. They fight over the number days his movies run for, the money he makes, and the so called collections. You are never going to get a share of it anyways. I have known people who only buy the drinks that he endorses. And that makes me want to yell, “GROW UPPPPP!!!” They will not let you go until you agree with them, that he is the savior of A.P born to redeem us of all our sins and take us to the promised-land. I am so tempted to talk about his fans pulping “the sseppu zzeevithaa” couple for their opinion on his entry into politics. But, again, they are a lost cause. I also do not want to include in this post, the extreme fanatical clashes between the Chiranjeevi fans and Balakrishna fans. That one I could compare to the battle of Kurukshetra. Oh! Sorry. That battle lasted for 18 days. This one doesn’t seem to come to an end even 18 years later. So let’s ignore that for now. Let us also ignore the cat fight between Manchu Mohan Babu and this guy during the Vajrotsamavam Fest. This Tom and Jerry couple, as he claims them to be, need no chasing around by us.

I do not say people compare him to God with no solid evidence. As the Hindu mythology goes, we have and pray to a number of Gods. Take Lord Shiva’s family for example; we pray to Ganesh, Parvathi, Shiva, and Murgan, similarly this fan lot automatically adores Ram Charan, Allu Arjun, and the very great Pawan Kalyan. They have to. I guess it’s in their holy book (whatever that is called). So, potentially, like he wasn’t entertaining enough he got his Co. in too. This gives the directors no choice but to cast these monkeys and we are left with no choice when our friends drag us to the zoo to watch them. Having friends who are silly fans chisels you and makes you a true friend. You are put in extremely frightening situations where you have to choose to stand up to your friend all along. My rules of friendship found me in the same theater 3 times to watch the film Jalsa. After being down with a fever for a few days, I have vowed never to watch another film that stars this man again, ever!! Has anyone even looked at Ram Charan closely? I look at men who dare to argue with me on this and doubtfully wonder, “Are men, who constantly crib about the actual handsome actors, insecure? Does appreciating this guy make them more secure?”

I have seen people waste time and money on this man and it compels me to think, “Is he worth all this? Do people realize that he isn’t even going to notice that you made a 30 minute video on his achievements, that you celebrated his birthday in some remote corner in the U.S, or that you got drunk and got into a fist fight for trying to save his ass? Did he even bother to consult you when he decided that he couldn’t handle the pressure of politics and dissolved his political party? He was busy hugging the political party that he had mocked for years and he left you to argue with your “other” friends, and defend him like he was family.” And what IS with this whole “Annayya, please come back into the films” thing. I have tried to and do not understand it. The man is an actor just like anyone in his field. He had decided to retire (or whatever!!) and here you are pulling him back and expecting him to lead you to the promised-land again.

In graduate school, I was once introduced to a guy who danced extremely well and was real cute. He probably din’t even realize that I existed after the introduction but I had a huge crush on him for a while. As per the rule more than 80% of guys who are born in the 80’s and 90’s are his fans. So was this guy and I knew it. I grew out of the crush, and moved out of graduate school. I once happened to notice that he put a picture of himself with his hero on Facebook. There were a number of people who thought this was indeed a golden opportunity and behaved like this guy’s soul had now been blessed. I looked at the picture in dismay. I say dismay because all I could think was, “Dude, you look and dance way better than your man. You are. And if you tried your hand in Tollywood you would rock.” I just could not bring myself to say it.

Life’s lessons have taught me that we cannot have a list of requirements. Nothing is in our control. Waiting for a guy born in the 20% of the non-fan group doesn’t seem likely. I might have to watch “Gabbar Singh” or the “old man himself” on screen in the future because my boy-friend wants me to, but picturing a little incident of the future brings a satisfying smile on my face. If my kid comes running to me asking me for money to watch the latest movie starring Pawan’s son, Ram Charan’s son or Allu Arjun’s son, I am going to whack his ass hard and not give him any. And if my husband ever dares to help my kids out, he will be denied the benefits of the house for a week.

FOOTNOTE: All the angry ones better remember! If you were dumb enough to ignore the disclaimer and are reading this now,  I’m the queen on my wordpress site. That gives me the authority to write what I want to with additional benefits of approving or trashing and spaming your nitwit comments.

An Arranged “Happily Ever After”…

THE INQUISITIVE ELDERS: We are the very worried and responsible ones. All that we care about is getting our kids married. Mind you, as quickly as possible. We believe there are certain rules to follow in the entire “marrying away our daughters” process and those rules are meant to be never-broken. We trust our friends too much (although we find it annoying that our daughters trust and spend extra time with their friends). So if a friend informs us of a potential groom, we are all for it. Trust us, we are totally okay with the fact that we know only the guy’s parents well. If the guy’s  parents are “good” and we haven’t met the guy even once, we take it for granted that their son doesn’t know the spelling of p-o-r-n. We also ask our daughters to put on a saree and decent make-up and drive her to a photo studio. We stand by and watch as the photographer asks her to stand or sit with a fake smile on her face. Our daughter now looks uncomfortably at the photographer and angrily at us. We wonder, “What is the fuss all about? It’s just a photo. Why can’t she pose and be done with it.” If she doesn’t agree to co-operate with us for this, we don’t talk to her for weeks. The pressure we put on her goes to a peak when we find out that our friend’s or relative’s kid who is as old as our daughter is also getting married. We nudge our daughters harder on such days. We say, “You remember Murthy Uncle’s daughter, 2 years younger than you. She is ALSO getting married this weekend and we have been invited. What are we going to say when they ask about you?” So finally she gives in. This photo now goes with a “biodata” right into a marriage bureau. We desperately pray that some handsome guy with a white collar job picks our daughter. Now, if our daughter has a darker complexion, is fat, or is generally short, it is as good as her being handicapped for the system of marriage. So we pray harder. We are often confused. Sometimes we pray for a son-in-law who is working in the US or UK and is earning in Dollars or Pounds. It gives us joy to brag to our friends that our daughter is in the foreign land. But sometimes we just want a guy working in Bangalore, Chennai, or Hyderabad. This gives her a chance to visit us often.

One fine day we receive a phone call from a friend or the bureau. A guy finally seems interested in our girl and so we ask her to take a day or two off from work to come home (She isn’t the company’s CEO anyways). She needs to wear the saree again and serve the guests with coffee/tea and snacks. Oh! These days some of us let our girls wear a salwar/kammeez for the occasion and have grown to be liberal enough to let the young ones meet alone in a restaurant, say for dinner. So you should give us some credit for “developing”.

Well, if its rather difficult to find an ideal boy through common friends, we are being more open nowadays to looking on the matrimony websites. No, it is not embarrassing. It means we are educated enough to learn how to use the computer, internet, e-mail etc. Besides we have to find a guy from our community, right? We do not have the question of an outside community guy. That would be totally Apacharam! Anyways, this is how the whole matrimony site thing works. We create a profile for our daughter. A profile that includes mundane stuff like photo, profession, hobbies and most importantly religion and caste. We manage the account ourselves. Yes! We do. We have given our daughter the freedom to manage her Gmail and Facebook account on her own (without our intervention) and so it’s okay that we manage her Bharath Matrimony (or equivalent) account. If you ask us, “How different is this online match making different from random online dating?”, we are going to be super pissed and think you are so immature that you still talk no logic. We will wonder how you are ever going to survive in your in-laws house with this kind of attitude. We will browse through random profiles of “prospective grooms” and send them to our daughters every week. If  it finally sinks into our daughter’s head that we are not going to let her escape from this entire marriage thing, she may reluctantly log into her account (Alright, we will give her the username and password). Now she can and should only look at the profiles of guys we send. If she is casually browsing and thinks that she might actually like another guy, we will object. It obviously hurts our ego. We agree that he belongs to the same community but we did not choose him.

We want things to go fine. We want our daughter to be happy at any cost. We have worked our entire life to keep her happy, and will continue to do so. We know what we are doing. We just don’t get it when she keeps asking for more time. For heavens sake you are over 25 years now. This is the right time. Once we decide one particular guy is the best for her, and would keep her totally happy, WE say YES. We are always ready to give dowry. We have been saving up all life for this moment. If the guy is decent enough to not accept it from us, we thank god for giving us such a good son-in-law. Once the YES is said there can be NO stopping. The dates are fixed, the shopping is done, the invitations are sent out, the venues are booked. And on the wedding day, just the very minute we are giving her away to the groom, we WONDER. We wonder if we did the right thing for her. We never intended to screw up for her. We wanted to give her the very best in life. We convince ourselves that the guy she had once been in love with was the most-imperfect guy for her. He couldn’t keep her happy. We hope she will understand that the guy she chose was not from our community and that there is the society and there are relatives we are answerable to. We hope she understands that being elders is complicated. After a few years, when we visit her home and walk into her kitchen to chat with her while she is cooking, the feeling we had on the day of her wedding comes right back to us. We ask her, “Are you happy?”. She looks deeply into our eyes, smiles, and says YES.

THE MACHO MAN: We are caught up in the rat race for most of our lives. We have many ambitions or targets, rather. Marriage?? Are you kidding me? We are never ready. We do it more or less as following a timetable. Go to school, graduate, get a job, get a house and a car, get a wife, get babies, get green card, get a pension, and get a grave. We are great! Some of us might actually look like monkeys but our mirror keeps reminding us, time and again, that we are no less than Hrithik Roshan. That makes us obviously deserve nothing less than Suzanne Roshan. We are not ashamed to create matrimony profiles. And since we are guys, we handle our own accounts. While creating an account we are busy wondering why the website is so slow and cursing it all the way. We try to think of new programs and bug fixes that could actually make the website efficient. We browse matrimony profiles when we are really really bored (Or say we do it on Facebook all the time). Sometimes we also sit in a group and judge profiles. Yeah! We are such dorks. We think we are clever but we actually are not. We say “no drinking, no smoking” while filling out the profile, and we put up pictures of us at a party holding a glass of scotch. We also do not have the brains to lock our pictures on Facebook. What the hell!!! We are boys. We do not hide pictures from people who are not our friends. We do not tell our parents that we do smoke, drink alcohol, eat non-veg, and go to strip-clubs. We’ll let our wives find that out on their own. They will be thrilled indeed.

Some of us, clearly, very few of us are sensitive and think its a big deal to welcome a woman into our lives. Most of us just want to meet the girl our parents think is ideal, talk to her on the phone and exchange texts till the day of the wedding, go shopping with her, change our relationship status on Facebook, collect lump sum dowry, take a few pictures, accept the wedding gifts, and bring home a wife. These days most of us have either had or still have girlfriends. We often know that it’s not going to work out with them in the end. But we wont say a word until she starts pushing us to talk to our parents about her. “Dude! We are just in our  late twenties. We haven’t settled down yet. We are in no place to take you home.” We then advice you to go ahead and marry the guy your parents choose. “Your parents know what’s best for you”, we try to convince and console them.

Then the so called settling doesn’t seem to come to an end. Once we clear the education loan, we have a car loan. Once we clear the car loan, we have the housing loan. Once we clear the housing loan, we realize there remains X, Y, and Z to do. So we decide, “Okay, lets get married now”. Its a part of the timetable, remember? So we are now 30 years or older. Some of us have a pot belly, some of us have a receding hairline, some of us are still handsome. We have also matured from wanting a Malaika Arora type model to just any girl who is patient and doesn’t make our life irritable. Even though we are educated and preach about wanting a “Developed India” and speak at length about the current issues curbing the development of India, some of us still want dowry. We believe it’s our birth right.

When called home by our parents to see a potential bride, we throw airs. We pretend to be busy with office work even though we actually aren’t. We believe we are the company’s Superman or Batman. Anyways we give an appointment and finally we get married. Sometimes we do not understand that the girls are always girls, at any given age. And that she needs to be treated differently. We expect her to treat our family like her own. We do not understand why she would have a problem with our mothers or our sisters. We are irritated if she demands all our attention. However, as time goes on, we learn to adjust. Quite quickly. We are the adaptive breed. If something about her is very frustrating, all that we need to do is go to a bar with a friend and have a beer. We are back to normal. After a few years, we are seated on the couch in the living room as we watch our kids play scrabble while our wives are making dinner. We stare at the T.V and wonder, “Are we happy?”. At that very moment, she smiles lovingly and calls out to us to have dinner. YES, we are happy, or at least we could say so.

THE DESI GIRL: We are dreamy people. The wedding – we would have had a million day-dreams and night-dreams about it. We are the most confused species on this entire planet. You see, we like the wedding (we have dreams about it), but do we like the marriage? I wonder! We grow up reading and believing  in the magic of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. We hope to meet our knight in shining armor one day. We exist with the faith that our knight will come one day, riding a white horse and that he will sweep us off our feet, and take us to the “happy-land”.

Time flies, reality hits. One, sometimes two, bad relationships. Wrong guys. Right guys but no future with them. Parents disapprove. Okay, we have finally come to terms with reality and will marry the guy whom our parents think is ideal. But posing in a studio with a saree? Ridiculous! Serving coffee and snacks to strangers? Embarrassing. Being rejected by a moron because he thinks you are either too short or too dark or too thin or too fat or too arrogant or cant afford the dowry? Angering and absurdly insulting. It doesn’t really matter to us if the guy drinks alcohol or smokes, just let us know. We are not fans of such thrilling surprises. And for the record, we are human too and we enjoy an occasional drink (puff) or two these days. We are as educated and intelligent and smart and independent as any of you these days. Pray, why should we give dowry?

Marriage isn’t a timetable for us, like how it is for the inquisitive elders and for the macho man. We have a lot of thinking to do. We are freaks. We freak out a lot. Marriage scares us. That’s why we are never ready. We are never sure we said yes to the right guy, although we know there is no perfect guy. When we look at the picture of a guy our parents send us via e-mail, we freak out. We have a thousand thoughts running through our tiny brain, all at once. We wonder if he’s nice. Is he caring? Will he listen? Does he have bad breath and will it make it impossible to kiss him? Does he have the pathetic habit of forgetting to put the toilet seat down after he is done? Is he neat? Will he help with the household work? Will his male ego shadow him all the time? Will he understand when you say you are in no mood to have sex that night? Will he learn to respect and believe in your faith? Will he stand up for you? Does he know that you can be a torture at times but that’s the way you are built? Does he know that you enjoy your single life as much as he does his? Will it occur to him that you value your family and friends as much as he does his? WE WONDER.

We don’t generally admit it but we do care about looks too. We think for a second, deep inside, is he good looking. Can I show him off to my friends? Can I proudly put up a picture of us together on Facebook? But once we get to know you, we really don’t care. We are stupid. We run to our best girl-friends all the time. Even if it is about decisions regarding you. We are possessive, over-bearing, full of love. We have expectations, great ones. We get cuddly and cute after watching a romantic film. We take joy in being foolish and believe that guys are as sweet as Siddhu from Bommarillu. Small things hurt us real hard. We have problems and we deal with all of them, both big or small, in the same way. Sometimes having no problems is a big problem for us. So basically we are kinda impossible and we think a lot. To say YES. And once we say yes, we think every single minute, all along the way. Am I going to be happy with him? So after a few years, when we question ourselves for the billionth time, Are we happy? We either smile to ourselves and say, “Yes, I think so” or call up our girlfriends and say, “Yes, at least I pretend to be so”.

But what if we are still left wondering whether there does exist a “HAPPILY EVER AFTER”.  And if it really did, how would it feel after all?