...and then

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

I men-t to do this post some time ago.

I've meant to do this post for a while, and no, I haven't I misspelt the title.

As you will doubtless know by now, I go through life with perennially failed brakes. I take very sharp turns and I almost always rely on my smile and my incredible good luck to keep me from becoming roadkill.

There's never been an instance where I've slowed down, parked and said, wait a minute -- look at the map, will you? Look and see if that's where you want to go. I've just put on shades, folded the top down, turned the music up and driven on without watching the fuel gauge or for signboards. And where has that landed me? With a lot of fun. A lot more trouble. A lot of serious heartbreak. If I were the only one, I'd have just sucked it up and gone looking for the next shiny thing that distracted me. But life's not a one-way road, right? More often than  not, things are a two-way street. On those, I crash into people, swerve wildly to avoid them or just run out of fuel, get off and say hello to whoever else is parked by.

Among those are the men in my life. I love men, as I've said before. And I think it would be safe to say they love me. As long as they don't live with me or know me too well.

But we won't talk about how they feel about me.

The first, most important and honestly the best man in my life has to be my father.
Before you think I have a huge Electra complex, let me make things clear. We fight. Big time. He speaks Greek in medium tones and I speak Mercurian very fast in a loud voice. And oh, he speaks turning to the wall and I speak loud in a vacuum. We just don't hear each other. Never.

But for all that, he's the best man I know. He's taken all that his circumstance gave him and turned it around to his best advantage. He has every value that I determinedly brush off as not valuable. Only, I know I do it because imbibing those values would mean a lot of very hard work. He has every virtue that makes me scoff but only because I know if I were to appreciate those virtues he possesses, I will never be able to look myself in the mirror and accept the person that I am now.

My father is an intelligent man but he is also limited by his complete and utter respectability. His dignity is great and he's much fun when he's a little high. He absolutely loves to annoy a girl or two (me!) but he knows how to make me feel like a princess. He can cut me down, or into a million shreds, with his sarcasm (my wool is black these days, in the family) and his expression of complete resignation but he can also make me feel like a million planets with just one word of praise, a smile of approval. And at 30, I still crave it.

There's much I don't like about him but not as much as what he doesn't like about me. And he still loves me incomparably. So what does that say about him? We fight, we're rude to each other and we're very very unforgiving for a few moments in the day, on bad days. But he can reduce me to tears with his great great love. Just like I can him. If there's a softer heart I  haven't seen one.

The other day I was thinking about all this and it struck me that the only person I've never had a fight with is  my best friend. He's everything I could ask for -- patient, utterly non-judgmental (which is a good thing or I'd  be sentenced so many times, I am that bad) funny, undemanding, giving, and most of all loves me, inconsistencies and all.

I will leave my husband out of this list of the men in my life because I've written about him often enough. And will continue doing so. He, after all, is the husband.

I cringe every time a woman says, "Men are bastards." It's embarrassing because that woman has for sure met many men who aren't but she's choosing to focus on the few that are. It's funny because I imagine her saying to herself as she tries to look vicious, "Except my dad. And my brother. Oh, and my uncle. Oh yeah, my best friend too. Of course, my English teacher from school." It's just stupid because you can't make sweeping statements of judgement like that. And while I've my share of complete and utter excuses for men, I am thankful for these men in my life for helping me maintain a healthy attitude towards men. And so, my list won't be complete without two people who have contributed towards my constant and undying faith that we cannot, and should not, live without men.

My brother. We are very close in age. We grew up as partners in crime. Then we hated each other -- short of killing each other we gave each other every kind of beating. Then he grew up and became stronger -- and taller -- than me so I couldn't do as much damage. So we started being snarky and mean to each other. We went through tough times -- we didn't talk to each other for a bit, I threw him out of the house for some time, he messed up the folks with his 'reading' of who I was. And now he's easily older than me in his head, has a reached a place in life after much struggle, strength and thought where I can take his advice, criticism and suggestions seriously. I have never loved him as much as I love him today.

Here's why he reinforces my belief in the goodness of men.
1) When he hugs a girl, or puts his arm around her, he is extremely careful with his hands. Without being uncomfortable.
2) He has accepted my parents -- who I struggle with -- as they are and has managed to establish a beautiful, peaceful, trusting relationship with them.
3) He takes his wedding vows seriously. Very seriously. He says till then it was all excitement for him but when he vowed to do what he did, the whole impact of it became larger and reminds himself of it every so often.

Finally, the guy who decided to enter my life in the quietest way possible and stay there forever. No bang at the first meeting, no immediate connection. But I know for a fact that if I ever put my speed dial in use his number would be one of the ones. This friend would also be one of the five I would call if I found myself in trouble that I can't extricate myself from. If I were to sit down and define a friend, I'd just point people in his direction. He judges without hurting, calls a spade a spade and knows what I am thinking without my saying a word. There's no pretence, no what ifs, no "I wonder what he'll think of me if I tell him...". In one word, he's what free feels like.

Thinking about these men in my life led me to thinking about what I like in a man. I know this should be a post for Judy or Revs but what's wrong with a married girl talking about what she likes in a man? I am still a girl, red-blooded and fun at that. Just because I've eaten, should it mean I can't check out the menu? If nothing else, a poor sod asking "What do women want" may actually chance upon this piece and take back something that will leave him less mystified.

Here's my list.

1. I don't like a man who doesn't listen. If you're saying that's so typical of a woman because women talk a lot, then I think you're running away from reality. Men talk a lot. Like a whole lot and nothing flatters them than a woman who listens. I am a good listener because I am genuinely interested in people. And by that coin, I expect the same from anyone, not just a man. In a man, however, it is very special.

2. I like a man to remember little things about me. It could be that I don't drink aerated drinks or it could be that I love colours white, green and purple. It could be that I prefer sour orange juice over sweet. I've so far met only one who does that a lot.

3. I am not overly hung up over funny men. A man's got to have a sense of humour in the sense that he needs to be able to laugh -- at himself, at the world around him, at a joke from Readers' Digest. It doesn't matter if he doesn't have me rolling on the floor, catching my sides, laughing like it was going out of fashion.

4. I like a man who has a passion. Or two. Music, art, reading, riding, cars, cockroaches, forks, watches, mud, Sumo wrestlers. Anything. Just anything that gets him going. And moving.

5. Speaking of which, I like a man who's active -- who walks fast or plays a sport or something. I've known non-physical people and I know for a fact that their attitude in life could do with general improvement.

6. I like cheerful men. Not in that irritating blowing-sunshine-up-your-glutes kinda way but someone with a quick smile, on the ready. Someone who laughs at the small ironies of life.

7. A man needs to like alcohol. Really. The ones who don't, I am very suspicious about.

Men, is that a tall order? And the lovely women who come here, what's your list?

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Saturday, 26 June 2010

The art of calling my name in full.

For as long as I can remember, the only person I call by a pet name is my brother. Everyone else, however close they may be to my heart -- and I've been blessed with several good people in my life -- I call them by their given name. My best friend from school is still to get used to it, I think. And I've known her 22 years.

I like to think that a name is more than just a tag to identify a certain body. A name, as far as I am concerned, is deeply linked with who we are and how we identify ourselves. A lot like an email id actually. I notice invariably that teenagers and those who think they're still teenagers stick to pet names and email ids that have personality projections in them. I can take the pet name but the email addresses make me want to never write to them, even though I love them.

For example, my 15 year-old cousin calls herself Joanna Janet in places such as Facebook and email. Or some really odd thing like that. It fits her personality perfectly because she's growing up on High School Musical and Hannah Montana, so her exposure is very obviously Western. I'd have given her an award if she had nicknamed herself Subbulakshmi or Kartiyayani. I totally get her because she is 15.

But I recently ran into a few email addresses that made me realise that I spend far too much time thinking about things that I have no business thinking about. Mosquitoes, world peace and whether global warming is just someone's idea of a joke, for example. I should be thinking about not spending my money so fast that my kids will grow up believing education is for duds and Pink Floyd rocks. I should be thinking about more alternatives for five minutes of peace  than the empty interiors of a parked car. (I swear I did that today. My family trooped out and went home, I just lay in the back seat savouring the closed space, the quiet and the time to actually hear myself think.) I should basically be thinking about more useful things than why a grown person has an email id that says babyfacekid@ihaventgrownup.com.

Yes, yes, call me judgemental but I think after you've crossed 23, you should just have an email id that states your name and get on with life. I realise you might want to or have to throw in an underscore or a dot somewhere and I am mildly tolerant on that front. But I just cannot forgive a 34 year old whose email id is prettybabydoll@seekingattention.com.

But wow, how I've digressed.

Recently, a friend brought it up when I was referring to someone, that I could use that someone's pet name. I know I could but an anglicised little name doesn't have half the charm of a beautiful full name, in this case a Sanskrit one. And all the meaning that is held in the womb of that name is lost when I shorten it. I'd much rather be uncool than called a Pratyusha a Prat or a Ragini a Rags.

And as for me, for as long as I can remember, friends and family have called me pet names. One in particular. Anglicised, shorter and somewhat bimboesque but that's what I am for most my college and school mates, and definitely all of my family. Except my husband. Who has a totally different endearment for me. Something that I hold dear to my heart but something that also makes me laugh because it points to a couple things.
1) The age gap between him and me.
2) The very Malayalee in us.

Of course, when I am in the dog house I get called my full name (ouch) or when I am being introduced to someone. It's the strangest feeling ever. Sometimes when we are out together and he's opening doors for, showing me off and generally being the charmer he is, he tends to call me my name and I don't know then, whether to kiss him or laugh at the awkwardness of it.  Mostly because I insist I get called my beautiful, thoughtout, meaningful Sanskrit name but then feel suddenly very unloved when I get called it in full.
It leads me to think that maybe it is habit that we respond to and not our name. Inflections, tone, length of name is what we respond to. For example, a simple enough name is so different when spoken during roll call in school, at an introduction or in bed. The word is the same but the emotions they arouse in us -- from an indifferent "Present" to a thrill running up your spine.

So when Shakespeare said, "What's in a name", I honestly think he was smoking some rotten stuff and had totally lost the plot. My other theory is that he called his wife by his girlfriend's name and she gave him pure hell.

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