...and then

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Becoming an asshole starts early.

You know how folks turn out to be assholes? Not the personal-criterion-meeting asshole but an asshole that anyone will recognise? You know how that happens? Because their parents show them exactly how to do it. A thousand free kisses to those who grew out of that nonsense and decided to un-asshole themselves in adulthood, but this post isn't about them.

Last weekend, I was minding my own business, finishing up back to school shopping, basically living my suburban cookie cutter nightmarish existence in glorious detail. Everything about that Sunday evening made me want to go on a killing spree in that people-full mall I was in that evening, and be committed for insanity. There I was holding on to my son's hand, my daughter was walking the kids' father, and we had bags and we were all dressed down terribly. We were the picture of an ideal family. In my head we were the picture of every cliche that I have critically struggled against.

But I digress. There was this show at the mall, a Disney show with Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse on stage. It wasn't one of those poor-cousin-of-Disney locally managed shows where costumes looked like they'd give you a disease if you as much as looked in that direction. This gig was a genuine Disney show and the whole team was down from Mumbai and were..., well, it was a great show. Having shopped for the kids to a certain amount that made you eligible for a ticket to watch, I waited in line with the kids for them to open up the seating area. 

I am one of those awful people you meet who tells people off for jumping queues, letting their toddlers walk on seats with shoes on, pointedly picks up trash if people have thrown it out in front of me and generally gets vocal and anal about selfish, uncaring insolence of which there's an abundance all around me. 

As I waited in line, two women with 67 children in tow (even though the passes said one adult, two kids) came up behind me and formed their own organic line. A polite girl stood behind me and I thought she might object, but she didn't. It was beginning to annoy me and having a propensity for losing my temper irrespective of where I am, I was weighing the options of telling these moronic chicks that there was a line and it didn't start behind them. While it tossed and turned, the woman behind me kept fidgeting. Little gets to me more than a fidgety person whose infernal fidgeting affects my physical space. Since this woman was practically assaulting my back with her breasts, stomach and her squirming spawn, I was being jostled quite a bit. I snapped and said, can you not stand so close. She looks at me and says but we are in line. Wrong thing to say, no? 

I had a go at her and said, uh no actually, she was breaking a pretty patient queue and if she really cared about being in the line, she'd go to the back. She says, "it's okay." 
I say, "no it's not. There are people, also with kids, waiting before you. You are being unfair to them."
She says, "it's okay. They don't have a problem, why do you?
So I said, "because if I let it go now, I won't sleep well at night." 
I am assuming she wasn't too bright because she turned dumb eyes at me and I said well,  if people behind me let you get ahead, good for you. 
Unfortunately, the girl right behind me was polite and didn't make a scene though she did register a half hearted protest to which again the moron mother said, it is okay.
I'd have forgotten about the whole incident, if the woman didn't turn around and tell the other woman with her, right in front of their preteen daughter, does she think this is the first time I've skipped a line, don't we know what we are supposed to do, we also have tickets, not like we are beggars, "over smart".  
I called security. Not because she was gloating but because she just got on my last nerve. I'll leave this story at that. 
But I thought about my maybe asshole tendency to want to be fair all the time. I am not sure I liked what happened or how I reacted. I might be embarrassing someone or delaying someone or plain being tightassed when I do these things but I very strongly believe that if you are going to let your kid see this behaviour you're just creating another wave of callous, rubbish individuals who dump their trash in the neighbour's yard and call themselves clean, in a manner of speaking. I know I am stating the obvious but I am incensed. In the last week alone, I've had way too many brushes with the indolence and selfishness that we as a whole indulge in and encourage. In the last week alone, I've send two kids to the back of the weighing line at supermarkets, kids whose parents sent them with "just one bag to be weighed", kids who do are learning implicitly and permanently that it is ok to rudely jump the queue, learning deceit and lack of respect. 
On the road, not a single person displays consideration for another driver, no giving way, no letting a pedestrian cross, no waiting. God knows how difficult it is to be a pedestrian in India without Impatient motorists speeding up just as they spot a weary guy trying to get to the other side of the road and to a homemade meal without getting himself killed. Unless you're an aggressive bitch, you can forget about getting a u-turn at crossroads where there're no traffic lights. Peeing in public, laughing at a fat person,  treating a waiter or service staff badly, especially without provocation. So many ways in which you can create a little asshole of your kid and perpetrate her or him or the world. Or not. 

Friday, 14 June 2013

"My Brother's Wedding" by Andaleeb Wajid. A review

Weddings are always fun to read about, especially Indian weddings. Romance, intrigue, larger than life family members and all the shopping make for a riveting read and that is exactly what Andaleeb Wajid’s third (published) book “My Brother’s Wedding” is all about.

“My Brother’s Wedding” starts with Saba’s blog. A 19 year old, Saba starts an anonymous blog that helps her deal with the circus that her brother’s wedding is. Soon enough, though, the actual wedding takes a back seat and all the events that change Saba’s life gently, yet permanently, play out on the blog. From the whiff of first love to how a family sticks together in times of trouble, Wajid takes you through a gamut of emotions, without leaving you drained of them. You just can’t help wanting to know what happens to the characters next.

Wajid is a consummate story teller, and fortunately enough, she has the language skills to tell a tight, funny, poignant story that hits the ground running from word go; right in the beginning, what you read is Saba, not the idea of Saba, not a slow movement by the author towards bulding Saba, but a lively, intelligent Saba, who lives in Bangalore and is different from the rest of her family. Saba’s family is educated and yet deeply traditional, in so much that she wears a full burqa and the women in her family still avert their faces when they come across strange men. Arranged marriages are still the norm and marrying out of the community (even though to another kind of Muslim community) still vexes families.

In the midst of all this is Saba,clear conscience and burqa intact and audacious underneath it. She has strong opinions on her siblings Zohaib and Rabia, her best friend is a world-weary Riya and finds herself taking the first step to pursuing a goodlooking boy who she has an instant crush on.  Not quite the girl most people think Muslim girls are.

Wajid has a strong narrative style and her characters, at least those who occupy most space in her book, are well-rounded and journey to a different place by the time she ends her book. But she is also a cruel author, rarely ever giving readers what they think they want; she snatches and obliterates, she erases and takes away, and presents you with a twist here and a turn there that will have you groaning in frustration. She has no qualms in doling out the worst fate to her characters, and in the end, that very cruelty is Wajid’s biggest advantage. There’s never predicting what the people in her books will do.

Women in Wajid’s writing, apart from obviously being women, are portrayed in the complexity that is associated with them in pop culture. They have many inner conflicts that are rarely shared with others, they are hesitant about love, and not afraid of lust. They are bright, not very stereotypical and question things around them regularly. I have found, Wajid is true to the Muslim women in her community who will accept their lot, but continue to struggle with their questions and complexes. The men, however, are a girl’s dream come true. They are always good looking, charming, cultured and respectful. Unafraid of their love for their girl, they are expressive and don’t hesitate to kiss the love of their lives, although the sex can come once they are married.

“My Brother’s Wedding” is a fast read because Wajid spins a story on a tight plot and delivers a satisfying end. I started in the morning and, with many interruptions, was done by late night. Of course, I do have a lot of time on my hands, but that’s a different thing. The paperback is published by Rupa and pitched as a young adult novel, although at 33, it kept me quite engrossed. I loved the cover,  a bright yellow background with ornate designs that served as a border to a girl sitting at a laptop.  Structurally, the novel shifts between Saba’s posts on her blog and an omniscient perspective that describes the goings on in Saba’s household.
Priced at Rs 295, I totally recommend this between two heavy reads.  

And if you’re in Bangalore tomorrow, June 15, 2013, do brave the traffic to attend the launch of this book at the Oxford Book Store,  1 MG Road Mall, next to Vivanta by Taj at 6.30 pm. 

(Disclosure: Andaleeb Wajid is a friend.)

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