Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Maids in Leather Pants

At lunch today, I overheard a few women colleagues discussing their maids animatedly. One of them suddenly piped up in a sarcastic tone: "These maids have turned so modern nowadays! I saw my maid on her off day shopping in the local market, wearing jeans, lipstick, and high heels!" As the others on the table went “ooh” and “aah” at the apparently scandalous behaviour, I started thinking.

Yeah, yeah, I know what you are saying: “Arnie and thinking? Is that not a contradiction in terms?” Well, all I have say to that is that just because it is office, that does not mean that I sleep all the time. I do have to wake up sometimes, especially when I am eating. Otherwise there is a tendency to push food into my nose, and that is not really an elegant sight. And when I am awake, and the food is in front of me, I have to think of things other than food. So maid servants are as good or as bad a topic to think of as any other.

Which brings us back to what was I actually thinking about maid servants. No, you filthy minds, I do have not that kind of perverse thoughts about maid servants. Even if those maid servants are cleaner than normal and stylish enough to wear jeans and high heels.

What I was actually thinking is why do people have this tendency to fit everyone else into comfortable stereotypes? What is so wrong in a maid wearing jeans? Or, for that matter, in the maid wearing leather pants and tank tops, if it pleases her? Not only will it be a pleasant change from the coconut hair oiled middle aged sour-mooded specimens that are the norm in Delhi, it is also a striking a blow for equality of the sexes. After all, the guy who comes to wash my car in the mornings and the guy who delivers the newspapers both wear jeans, and no body seems to find that shocking in the least.

So what's so wrong in a maid wearing jeans? Isn't she a human being with her own likings, her own aspirations, and her own young heart which wants to follow the latest that the so-called social superiors claim as their birthright? Especially when the social inferior is in better shape than the scandalized social superior, who, charitably put, resembles a giant pumpkin as she is 5 foot tall and 4 foot broad?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Boys Don't Cry

He had left his hometown in sleepy Assam for the first time and gone all alone to big bad Calcutta for his college studies. Two days before his exams started, a national movement broke out in full flame, and engulfed the nation. He had never heard much about the Independence movement in Assam, and his youthful dreams were engulfed by the magnitude of what he saw in Calcutta.

Resolving that the least he could do was quit wearing foreign clothes, he went and bought some khadi kurtas and dhotis. From that to joining the nationalistic movement was a small step, and soon he told his parents that studies could wait: the important thing was that the nation should be free of foreign rule. His parents understood and gave their blessings. Within two months, he was in jail. He was beaten up rather badly every day by the jailors, but did not utter a word in protest. After all, the British were not exactly known for their leniency during the Civil Disobedience movement. And boys, of course, don’t cry.

By the time he was released, he was a changed man. He had almost forgotten to smile. Deciding that he was too old to study, he turned to tilling the land like a true swadeshi. Independence came soon to the nation, and his parents decided that the best way to celebrate that was to get him married off. After a year, he was blessed with a baby daughter, and a year after that, with a son. Unfortunately, the girl died within a year of the brother’s birth. As he went to bury his little daughter, he tried to be philosophical about it. Men, of course, don’t cry.

The son grew up quite healthy, and five years later, it seemed everything was turning out good as they were blessed with another daughter. This one survived till three years of age, before she too succumbed to the same symptoms that had afflicted his elder daughter. He was stoic about this death too: after all, grown men don’t cry.

Another ten years passed. He had another son, who too was perfectly healthy. He always wanted a daughter, so when his wife unexpectedly got in the family way again at almost forty, he was overjoyed. Medicinal care was much better now, and the birth was perfectly normal. The little girl grew up as the apple of her parents’ and her elder brothers’ eyes. But tragedy struck again when the girl suddenly fell seriously ill when she was eight years old. The doctors tried their best, but two months later, she succumbed to her mysterious ailments. He was shattered inside, but the boys and their mother looked up to him for strength, and he could not fail them. After all, middle-aged men don’t cry.

A decade passed, and the elder boy got married. When his daughter-in-law was expecting, he half-wished that it would not be a girl, because he was convinced that the girls in his lineage were cursed. But his grand-daughter was healthy, and this time he did not have to cry. Another grand daughter followed, and he was overjoyed that the curse was finally lifted. When the younger son too produced two girls, the now elderly gentleman showered all his affections on the four little girls.

His younger brother and his two sisters passed away within five years of each other. He missed them in his old age, but after a lifetime of self-restraint, he could not shed any tears at any of their deaths. Old men, after all, are not supposed to cry.

Yesterday he passed away as quietly as he had lived. He hated bothering any one, and went away with as little fuss as he could muster at the age of 83. When his youngest brother heard the news, he took it hard, but did not cry. After all, his brother had taught him that grown men don’t cry and he had taught that same lesson to his own son.

So when he called me up to tell me the news, I could not weep either. After all, boys don’t cry.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Come On Baby, Light My Fire

Thank heavens, I have given up smoking again! God, I feel fine. Homicidal maybe, but still fine. I am a different man ever since I quit smoking. Yes, I am now irritable, moody, depressed, rude, and nervous! Giving up smoking is very easy: I do it once every month. See, it has already been 2 hours since I quit smoking, and I’m already writing like a mass murderer.

A girl I was seeing seriously objected to my smoking. I had to quit, she insisted. So I did quit. I quit seeing her. After all, she was a lot less capable of lighting my fire than a cigarette. That was a terrible pun, I must admit!

Good food, good sex and good sleep: to these three basic needs of sanity, man has added nothing in the past five thousand years apart from the good smoke. They threaten me with lung cancer, and still I smoke. If they'd only threaten me with hard work, I might quit smoking for longer than the couple of hours every day I manage. I insist that the cigarette helps me lose weight too: one lung at a time.