Thursday, April 9, 2015

Fiction - The Real Enemies

“How much do you make in a month?” he asked.

That should have been my first clue, but I gave in. I saw him walk inside the restaurant and I was already in awe. Seven, seven boys I had rejected in the last week. This one ought to be the one. Moreover, this was not how the eldest sibling among four sisters was supposed to behave.

He was tall, dark and handsome. His profile said he had a decent education and was making enough money. That was enough. Actually that’s how the arrange marriage system works in India – the boy should make enough money, the girl should look pretty.

So when he asked me how much I was making, I thought he was genuinely interested in my career. We hit it off and were married within two months. That should have been my second clue – why so soon?

He seemed distant initially. All the love and affection he showered upon me before the wedding had disappeared. I even had this suspicious feeling that he was into someone else. Oh, I was turning into a stupid wife whom I didn’t like at all.

The mother-in-law laid down the chores for me. I was responsible for morning breakfast before going to the office and ironing clothes after coming back. This was not that bad, I thought. At the end of the month, she called me in her room and asked for my salary.

Now I was new in this house and I had no idea how the finances worked. I thought it was rude to ask for the ‘balance sheet’ yet it was imperative since my hard earned money was now going to be a part of it. I hesitated at first but given her audacity to ask me for my salary, my confidence went up a notch.

“Didn’t he tell you? - We need to pay back the debt.” She said matter-of-factly.

No he DID not! “What debt?” I asked.

“His father took a debt of 50 lakh and lost in betting. When we came to know, he was extremely ashamed. He went to the train station and committed suicide. It’s been 10 years now, the interest has scaled up. We still have to pay off a huge proportion.” She rattled off like she must have done a hundred times before.

And I was told that the father was a patient of depression and that made him commit suicide.

I stood up and walked back to my room. It was all making sense now. Maybe he was into someone else. Maybe I was brought in this house only to pay off the debt. Maybe I made a mistake by just going by the rule book – good looks and good money makes a good husband.

He was coward enough to give in easily. There was a Pooja in his life who was ‘just a school teacher’. His mother had worked hard to provide for his education and so, he had to bring a hen that lay golden eggs. I was the one who had to pay for his father’s betting mania.

Frankly, there was nothing to look forward to in life now. I packed my bags and told him that I will never come back. His family and his debts were his to handle, I was a confident young woman who didn’t need a ‘Mrs.’ tag to live my life. I could be divorced and happy.

I guess the mother-son duo was luckier than the father ‘cause I was back the very next day. Apparently, my parents threatened to commit suicide if I did not return to the place from where only my coffin should leave. Like every other time, I gave in.

That should have been my first clue – my life was going to be miserable henceforth.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Stories of Hope

Newly married women have their own problems. They not only have to adjust with a new family but also a whole new lifestyle. Some say that men also have to make adjustments – I totally agree. But it is also true that women need to make many more modifications in comparison.

Take for example their career. I have rarely seen a man moving to his wife’s location of work. It is always the woman who moves to the city/country the husband is working at. I have seen so many women feel absolutely depressed because of lack of career opportunities after getting married.

This is especially true in case of women moving to the Gulf countries. Somehow these countries have lessor prospects for women than for men. Three of my friends – Ananya, Sunaina and Shweta – had a tough time adjusting because of the same reason.

Ananya and Shweta gave a couple of interviews initially only to get rejected. The position was usually filled by a man with a little more experience than them. Sunaina got selected in a place of work only to find herself surrounded by Arab men with whom she didn’t feel very comfortable with. She eventually quit her job after working for about four months.

But I am glad none of them gave up. Ananya kept pursuing her Chartered Accountancy exams till she could start working. She did have an MBA degree but that didn’t stop her from studying further. Shweta also applied for online courses and kept giving exams. Their CVs were improving with qualifications and that was atleast a saving grace.

Meanwhile Sunaina went to India and got in touch with a wholesaler who sold imitation jewellery. She went back to her country of residence and participated in an exhibition. The first day wasn’t any good. But on the second day, her sales boomed and she made up for the cost of operation.

Make no mistake – standing at a stall for 12 hours straight requires physical and mental strength. But it was her desire and determination which made her accomplish that with ease. It has been more than a year now and I am proud to say that Sunaina has participated in most exhibitions that have taken place in her city. She is making good money and is extremely satisfied.

Meanwhile Ananya and Shweta kept looking out for job profiles that would suit them. Ananya got lucky with one and started working about eight months back. She is now a respected employee of her company and is doing really well.

Shweta had an experience in Human Resources and started applying for freelancing jobs online. With her determination and technical expertise, she got a few jobs. Being busy with what she loves makes her really happy and I’m glad she’s doing well too.

These are a few of my favourite stories of optimism. It was the passion that these women showed that led them to the careers of their liking. It fills my heart with positivity and the feeling that if you are motivated enough, you can get whatever your heart desires.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Bachelor of Arts

I come from a family where education was never given much priority. I mean, I and my brother always got good grades and our parents were awfully proud. But that was genetic - we did well because we were disciplined and had a decent IQ.

My mother studied only till class 10. My father passed class 12 and joined the family business. They were, in a way, afraid to teach us. We always studied on our own and somehow managed to be in the top ten in our class.

When it was time to decide what subjects we would take for our graduation, my brother was told to take up commerce and join the business. My father said that he can go to the University to sit for his exams, but eventually he will have to sit at the shop. I was too young to understand what would have gone through his mind back then; but if it was me, I would have definitely revolted.

When I passed class 12, everybody asked me what I wanted to study. Frankly, I had no idea. All my friends came from a family of doctors, journalists, the works. They know what they wanted to do. I thought of following their league since I never thought of a career per se.

I had taken up commerce after high school. So the obvious choice for me would have been commerce in graduation as well. But with all the career counselling drama that my friends were going through, I thought of giving my subjects some importance as well.

It was then I decided to go against the family tradition of taking up commerce! I had already started publishing my poems in the local newspaper and so, I had to take up English. I wanted to learn about Shakespeare, read Pride and Prejudice and know more about Wordsworth. With one subject in mind, my heart was already in Bachelor of Arts.

I thought of taking Psychology as my second subject. I was deeply interested in human psyche and so this was an obvious choice. Now the third subject should have been either History or Geography, but I found those two really boring. And so, to neutralize the effect of a bold step, I decided to take up Economics!

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the subject. But I also wanted to keep my options open. Taking up Arts was a bold decision as far as my family was concerned. Economics could give them some relief. Frankly, I don’t think my family understood the concept of choosing your subjects, they just thought that the world was studying Commerce and their daughter should not be left behind!

In the time to come, I was the first one in my family to take up an MBA degree. The boy I chose was from IIM. I thought my parents would be proud. Alas, they didn’t know what IIM was!!! Anyway, I am glad I did #StartANewLife with the right thing to do and not the in thing to do. It was a life changing decision, and I’ll always be proud of it.

Best Friends Forever

My friend Pooja, she was expecting her first baby. She and Prateek were childhood friends turned lovers turned life partners. Knowing that she was pregnant was big news for them. Seeing them start a family made all of us extremely happy as well.

I met Pooja in kindergarten. We were chadhi buddies in real sense of the word. From dolls to teenage secrets to notes in college, we shared almost everything. When she started going out with Prateek, our friendship was tested. Her mother would call me at any time of the day enquiring about her. I was an expert at making up stories. Even today, when I think of the excuses I made for Pooja, I feel extremely proud!

She moved to another city after marriage. We kept in touch through phone calls and text messages. But slowly we both got busy in our lives and spoke only on birthdays or special occasions. We always started from where we left, but it was not as good as before.

When Pooja conceived her first child, Prateek was asked to go to America by his company. It was a time when a lot of people were being laid off and so, he could not refuse. Pooja went to stay with her in-laws and that is when the real trouble began.

One day, in her eight month, she called me. I was surprised to hear her crying at the other end. She told me she was missing Prateek and was not comfortable with his parents. She wanted to go to her parents place but because of certain customs, she was not allowed to. It was a very tough time for her and she didn’t know what to do.

That’s when I decided to renew our friendship just like the old days. I gave her a video call every single day to ask how she was doing. We discussed our past stories, our school days, our college life and everything that we shared in the years gone by.

She started to feel better very soon. My calls were like a whiff of fresh air in her dull, boring routine. Her in-laws were not bad people; she was just missing her normal life and her husband. This was the time when she needed him the most but could not have him.

But #together we solved these problems. Ofcourse I could not replace her husband (thank God for that!!) but I could give her the laughter and optimism that she needed. Being in America, Prateek struggled with the time difference. That was another problem that Pooja faced. Thankfully, I was in the same time zone and she felt relieved.

Prateek came back when she was just about to deliver the baby. I am glad they could be #together at that magical time in their life. The little one, Maisha, calls me Maasi. Pooja and Prateek say that they are forever indebted to me for her mother's well-being at a crucial time.  But really, the pleasure is all mine! That was indeed a memorable time for me and I am happy I could be with her and give her the strength and motivation to look up.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

55-word fiction: Terrified

It was red all around her. It seemed sticky and thick and absolutely gross. She flinched and thought of all the cotton she would need to clean it up. How would she go and tell her mother?
This nail-polish bottle was the only one she had before it fell on the floor and broke.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Movie Review – Fifty Shades of Grey

Most people would want to watch Fifty Shades of Grey because of the hype surrounding it. We did the same. To make things clear in the very beginning, I think this film should have been called fifty shades of nonsense/boredome!

It is a story of one Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) who meets and falls in love with a wealthy businessman Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). She soon discovers that Christian is into violent sex but still feels drawn towards him. And the ‘gentleman’ that he is, he waits for her to give her ‘consent’ to whatever he wants him to do with her.

Anna takes her time. She lets him do things but not everything. She finds him so charming that she keeps all her confusions aside. There are times in the movie when you feel that Christian is falling for her too – but like Anna, the audience feel confused as well that why he would do such things to someone he cared about. Eventually, she realises that she cannot take it any longer and that Christian would never treat their relationship like a normal couple. In the last scene, it seems she breaks up with him (unless a sequel comes and we learn new things ofcourse!).

Now this movie is like glorified pornography. The uncensored release has bold display of the duo’s body. When the same thing is repeated again and again and again, you get bored. The dialogues, however, don’t seem to be an essential part of the movie! There is absolutely no thrill, no drama, and no acting to look forward to in the movie.
And at another level - this movie is a bad message. It shows how women usually go for bad guys thinking they would change him which usually never happens. It shows how people readily accept domestic violence and still look like gentlemen. All throughout the movie, Christian tries to lure Anna with expensive gifts which do make her smile. I can go on and on but that would just make me feel more disgusted!
I only want to applaud Dakota’s courage for going ahead with such a difficult character. For a woman to put herself out there is not that easy. Other than that, you can watch your ‘collection’ at home and be happy. This movie would not add much. However, I think everyone will watch it just to know what it is about. Maybe we have just run out of good ideas in this world to be so curious about such a pathetic film!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Television Series Review – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

This Netflix new series created by Tina Frey (of the 30 Rock fame) and Robert Karlock, started as recently as 6th of March 2015. It is about the story of this girl, Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) who lived in an underground bunker for almost 15 years. She, with 3 other girls, was kidnapped by a cult which told them that the world had ended and they were the only survivors who had to live there forever.

 They were rescued in the pilot episode and thereafter Kimmy started her life in New York filled with enthusiasm. She did not want herself to be known to the world as a ‘Mole Woman’ like the news channels were calling her and so she started a fresh, new life. She started living with Titus Andromedon (a gay, aspiring Broadway performer) who becomes her confidant and best friend. Their landlady, Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane) is as quirky as one can get!

Kimmy finds a job as a housemaid/nanny with a wealthy Manhattan family. The lady of the house Jacqueline Voorhees is shown as a lonely, fashionable woman marked with the absence of a busy husband. She finds happiness in Kimmy’s company. Jacqueline has a teen stepdaughter, Xanthippe Voorhees, who’s always taking Kimmy’s case.

It is an extremely light-hearted series with a good dose of humour. Kimmy’s spirit is amazing and makes you fall in love with her. She’s ignorant of the new world and so her language from the 90’s makes you laugh. Her interactions with Xan are the funniest showing the real difference between this generation and the previous one.

The series is original and witty. You won’t be rolling on the floor, but you will be smiling alright! And it is not totally girly! Surely worth a watch.