Friday, 22 June 2012

The Anatomy of Being Good.

Before you read further, this is not a moral lecture. It is not a debate. It is not a question. You have to read really carefully, maybe even read every alternative sentence backwards and you will find the hidden, Satanic message – Pl brush your teeth before going to bed.

Goodness is an all-consuming, overarching concept which can somehow, represent something as irrelevant as eating your vitamins, to the larger accepted wrong of not killing other dudes. While I am absolutely no authority on the benefits of eating vitamins daily, I do know a bit about relationships. Having lived vicariously through a million-- Yes, sometimes it felt like  I was a part of the relationship between McDreamy and Grey—I know there is an almost symbiotic and sometimes parasitical connection between Goodness and the Relationship itself. For the purpose of ease, Goodness would represent most tenets of decency- honesty, trust, respect, yada yada.

All relationships are hinged on a mutually weird contract of goodness. Much like fingerprints and pet peeves, everyone has a very unique idea of ‘being good’. And, that’s where the trouble usually begins. When we ask someone to subscribe to our Goodness Video Library, and insist that from hereon, their tastes must only be Jack Black films, we’re only setting ourselves up for disappointment and heartache. 
Before the witch doctors come rushing in to burn me at the stake of, ‘but somethings like love, honour, fidelity are not individualistic’.

Please step back, and they most certainly are.

 Almost every idea of goodness is as unique, as the cowboy himself. There maybe many intersecting themes and beliefs,but the exact measure of what it is to be good, is only defined in our heads alone.

A guy, in an existing relationship, takes a strange, new girl to a hotel room. He picked this girl up at his neighbourhood bar, and she is partial to moccasins ( this was included, if like me, you were a fan of detail).
Would you say, him taking her to a hotel room was betrayal enough? Even though, once inside, all they did was poke holes in Freuds theories. Will betrayal/ not being good, begin with the first contact of skin? Or did it begin, when he told the new girl that he wishes his girlfriend would just leave?

This can be debated a million ways, but the harsh truth is- once you’re in a relationship, you’ll expect your cohort in weirdness, to subscribe to your version. And that's when Goodness takes on its most alien form. That’s when it is, its most difficult, most struggled with and most flouted self. If you think an emotional dependency/aggressive flirtation outside your twosome is perfectly ok, (you would be ok if your partner had one), then to restrain yourself from it would be a daily struggle. An everyday denial of Self.

There is a constant struggle between what is good nurturing and empowering to us and what is good, nurturing and empowering for your partner. In a relationship however, the Good for Self is often subservient to Good for Someone Else.  We project our versions of goodness onto the other person; all the while experiencing that being good for another is difficult and often unnatural.

 So, why do we do it? Why do we struggle and conform to versions of goodness, not even our own?

 So that someone else, conforms to ours.

It is really just that, isn't it?

A silent plea- Hey there, I’m going to do what you think is good and right, as long as you do the same for me. And maybe together, we won’t mess this up.

It really is, just that.

Friday, 15 June 2012

I broke up with Summer .

Dear Indian Summer,

I was looking for terms of endearments, but I couldn’t. This is a Dear John letter. I want to break up with you.

My first memory of you is from Jane Austen novels. She said you stretched on “languidly”, causing little pockets of breeze, which flirted with all the coquettish, young girls’ petticoats. I am unhappy to report that you caused no such attractive accidents with me. You did manage to cause patches of unsightly and uncomfortable sweat. These makes me feel neither coquettish, nor suitor worthy.

Of course, you make me crave for a pool, constantly and obsessively. I sometimes wonder if I am on a rather odd fantasy trip- all day long, I dream of a green tiled, chlorine filled pool. The reality however is cruel and my pool is filled with children, of various ages, in frilly costumes. Sometimes, these children are actually hefty aunties, and they enjoy the breeze on the frills of their whale-costumes. I am sorry; the heat is making me snarky.

They say that summer days are longer and nights are shorter. It seems like a cosmic joke really!  “Let me give you more hours of 40 degree plus temperature. Enjoy suckers!” The nights offer no respite. Angels whisper in your ear, if you stand real quiet. These angels, are almost always mosquitoes, and they don’t whisper as much as bite and suck. It’s a bit  much, even for the most ardent Twilight fan, to bear.

You’re also really seductive, dear summer heat. Every Monday to Friday around 3pm, you take over me and I fight a long, ardous battle against just closing my eyes and putting my head down on my desk.  Don't misunderstand me, you don’t work in a, “I wish you’d make me sleep with you” way, you’re more, chloroform on a white handkerchief effect. It’s really not pleasant. I wish you would stop, I might press charges otherwise.

Most of these days you seem to be in a menopausal mood. I want to tell Bob, he was wrong. No answers are blowing here, just really, really dry wind. It's like they conspire to blow in my face. Even if I just step outside to close the door.

My friends told you, didn’t they, about the one winter evening I laughed aloud? You designed things such, that the minute I step out in the sun, I tan. I do not tan in a beautiful, Jessica Alba came to Jaipur, way. I tan like *there really is no politically correct comparison to say out loud, but my now brown sisters know who I mean*

With every long summer day you give me, you take away my hunger. Do I Bon Apetit, myself anymore? No, siree. Plan for the day is to survive and not melt into watery goop-  like a wimpy nemesis of a badly written superhero. I sip on any liquid I find, always stumbling into coffee shops, gasping “Iced Anything, please". 
And this, when the menu is boasting of the latest Mango Soufflé, and handmade tagliatelle with roasted tomatoes and olives.

I decide to celebrate my relationship with you, and go on a vacation. Just to mark our yearly anniversary. Of course, since you plant this idea in everyone else’s head, prices skyrocket and everything everywhere becomes ‘tourist-y’.

 I am stuck with you, then, for what feels like eternity, with mosquitoes buzzing “my heart will go on” in my ear. Make them stop, I never thought I’d say it, but I prefer Celine.

(It’s not me. It really is you.)

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Delhi: Love in Cracked Pavements

It has been home to Ghalib and some choice galis. No matter which side of that word play you field, you can’t deny it. You have to live Delhi, to experience it. You have to be angered, have complained about the heat and prayed fervently each time you crossed the road.

A lot has been written about the city, a lot lost in subtext and most scribbled on the beautiful monuments within its spidery walls. Delhi for me, as a child, was a vacation home. Until I started college, that is. Since then, I have been having an indulgent, passionate affair with the city. Because that is the only relationship it can have.

The dry heat will creep up on the back of your neck, like an abusive lover.  It will leave you writhing for water, an oasis or a really cold drink. But then it rains, and one of the greenest cities in the world, looks coyly back at you. There is of course, the other little problem on how women here are unsafe and always dressed to go to prom. The second allegation, I have always found insulting and the monstrosity of the first, scary.
Every time someone complains about how Delhi girls dress, I wonder who they have been speaking with. Just because we don’t spend every weekend in a pajama and a ganji does not make ‘us’, Christmas tree- like.
See, that’s the thing about Delhi. You could be living here some years and suddenly you start your own, us versus them, war. Delhi grows on you, and not in a subtle, cultured metropolis from the West, way. It grows on you like a Dhol beat- loud and thumping. A  melody independent of lyrics, and suddenly, you’re uninhibited-  dancing in a glorious chorus of your own sweat.

There’s the vibrant, cultural, often hipster movement that the Hauz Khas crowd ascribes to. There’s all that history and food, squeezed together in meandering, entangled lanes of Chandini Chowk.  William Dalrymple, said " Delhi has this concertinaing history: growing suddenly, and then shrinking again,and then growing again—it’s kind of like one of those jellyfish that you might see in a nature film, expanding and contracting." From Chawri Bazaar, to that shop where you can get the ‘desi girl ’ sari knock off. There's Jama Masjid, which can awe, and the qawaali at Nizamuddin which slowly seeps into your veins.

There is a different Dilli cruising the night. Those famous expat parties, will make you feel a doppelganger of the city lives in seedy North Delhi bars.  There is a vibrant stereotyping of it’s different children. Dilli is partial to its well to-do, good looking and affluent child- South Delhi. West Delhi, is the child who grew up rash but with such a ‘good heart beta’ (visible in the “Daddy’s gift” as favoured choice of bumper sticker). East Delhi is the child that South Delhi won’t really talk in public with. And, North Delhi, is a little bit of everything. Depending on whether you’re seeing it from Kamala Nagar or Pitampura.

Sometimes, Delhi is the ‘con’ of every argument- you never fully understand if you belong or if it owns you. Sometimes it is the screaming space in a room- space to spread your arms and twirl around, as many times as you want. Or the space and expanse of Lodhi Garden, where lovers, joggers, tweeters while jogging, and picnickers all cohabitate.

Different people internalise Delhi in different ways.

Did you catch Delhi in the fake accent of the fresh return from ‘Landan’ and ‘Swizerlan’. Or, did you catch a whiff of Delhi in the poverty and squalor under our biggest over bridges ? You could have smelt it, in whiffs at your favorite kebab haunt. You  feel like you own the city behind the wheel of a powerful A4 Beast, or you  feel lost while manoeuvring your cycle amidst the world’s angriest drivers. Either way, you met with Dilli, didn’t you? It probably asked a lot of questions. About who you were, who your daddy was, what you did and what car you drove.
 Of course, it spoke more than it listened. But behind all the talking fast, wild gesticulation and obvious pride at being the Country’s capital- you felt a warm, large hearted hug. You were invited to eat food fit to be served to kings.

Dilli, is assimilation and rejection in a single breath. Every defense of the city is tired admittance to faults, and acknowledgement of a truly impenetrable spirit. A spirit inherited with the gore of Partition. People came, eyes glazed with loss, and started over. It is this starting over, that the city represents. A chance to start over and over again, with a spirit made of Teflon.

You see, there’s something to be said, about a city named after the most complex, inexplicable, often misunderstood human organ. Dilli really is.

                                                Dilli Haat
                                                Photo Credit :