Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Singh is King...well at home at least

What is this whole macho thing about men that separates them from us as a race? It baffles me really.

I have known various men since they roamed around wearing loafers and dungarees and collected bubblegum wrappers that came with free washable tattoos. And while I have graduated to growing my hair waist length and applying kohl on my eyes, they haven't changed much.

They still collect trophies and swap lewd jokes and tell exaggerated tales of conquests. I have tried to figure how their minds work, what causes them anguish and what is the right button to push but I am still in the dark.

Us, girls, during sleepovers or otherwise have taken to spitting out the word "MEN!" in the most derogatory way when we are irked by something they have done or are planning to do. But I doubt if they do the same. Or if they do, I suspect it is laced with their innate good humour and amused tolerance as they discuss the silly ways of all women.

I had a pebble in my shoes and asked my friend to hold my purse for a moment while I shook it out of my shoes. He held the purse with two fingers, as far away from him physically as possible while surreptitiously looking out for any passersby who might think he owned the brown, frilly contraption. I was amused but also baffled as to why holding a woman's purse might be effeminate. I mean, I'd hold a chainsaw any day if he offered me one.

I was having trouble with an abusive secretary of the housing complex I lived in. While I was worried, I felt it could be sorted out in a sit-in. Not when a bunch of my journalist friends felt the secretary has offended them personally and landed at my place charged with adrenaline with two cops in tow. As the situation unravelled I was trembling inside at the raised voices and threats flying around and assumed the guys would be concerned as well.

But one look at their faces and I knew I couldn't be more wrong. They were loving every minute of the brawl, one had his sleeves rolled up, the other had his arms around the shoulder of one of the cops while he showed who's boss to the 75-year-old grouchy secretary.

It is this aggression and protectiveness about their women that I think separates the two sexes. I do not know of any women, barring NGO activists of course, who would be quick to brawl when the situation demanded it. We have gathered around and bitched endlessly about troubles and have gone back to our lives without feeling the need to settle it NOW!

Take TV shows. I double over with laughter at every re-run of F.R.I.E.N.D.S and badger him with "what Monica says, what Chandler does, how Phoebe sings, Ross is so cute...". But when I ask him if he saw Season 8, he will assume I'm talking about soccer. "Chandler..who?" and I'll fly into a temper. He hears these names 19 times a week and still has no clue about what I'm talking about. Go figure.
Or conversation for that matter. My good man thinks I bring up the line "We don't talk anymore these days. lets sit and have a quality conversation," whenever he is trying to follow every ball bowled by Mendis. Absentmindedly he concedes..."yeah....talk...sure...lets..."
I have always assumed men are bumbling good natured overgrown children who need to be left alone with whatever dratted things that they do. But I never realized the depth of their vengeance.
So its 7 pm and time for FRIENDS re-run. As I settle in comfortably (having hidden the remote under the cushions out of his reach) he turns to me with a determined glint in his eyes and says "so what do you want to talk about?"


Monday, July 21, 2008

Back off! this blacker is mine!!

I say with no little regret that I am going to make a terrible movie ticket blacker.

I will not even be able to graduate as a ticket blacker's side-kick. I have no subtlety, no knack for spotting suckers and worst of all I get excited and start wringing my hands when a deal looks like its going to come through.

It happened thusly. I was at the movies yesterday with a friend. We made the rounds of three PVR multiplexes in my part of the town to be greeted with the "houseful" board every time. About to give up, I suggested taking a last try at a cinema hall near my house.

I was overcome with dismay at the serpentine queue leading up to the round glass hole of the counter. Behind which sat two very smug looking attendants who must have felt like Gods holding on to the puppet strings of us mortals who sweated, pined and craved for the tickets to Jaane Tu... or Kismet Konnection. And going by the dark evil looks a 20-something girl in cut-off pants was giving her boyfriend (sweating in the line right behind me), the cinema-attendants had every right to be smug.

As is my luck, when I was about three feet away from the Holy Grail someone shouted "Sold out! both jaane tu and kismet is sold out!! both houseful!" After 15 minutes in the spa-like enclosure, I was ready to collapse, but when i did, id like to be clutching the tickets in my hand.

Then a weird, husky voice started mumbling something in my ear. "two tickets.... got two tickets...want one...kismet...."...etc. For the two second it took me to register that this short, fat person in a semi-clean half sleeves shirt was actually a blacker, he was already beginning to move away.

"NO wait!! Don't go away! what have you got? Have you got two tickets really?" he stared at my hysterical face for a moment or two and then at the growing predatory looks on the faces of other ticket-seekers in the line and sensed his danger in letting too many into the scheme. The boyfriend behind me already put a hand on his shoulder saying "Mate, you and I should talk." With a guarded look at me he said "what are you talking about? I have got no tickets."

But I have by then tasted blood and coming out of the line cornered him, this time with my voice lowered... "sorry about that. so what have you got?" Two tickets of Kismet for Rs 4oo each. "WHAT!!! YOU'VE GOTTA BE KIDDING ME!!" I hadn't even got the words out of my mouth when I saw his check shirt whisk away in a flash and I was standing open jawed, my place in the line gone.

"And pray why are you gaping like an idiot?" my friend made me jump as he stood behind me. I narrated and he flashed two tickets that he got legitimately by standing in the other line for 20 minutes. It is evident that I do not understand the art of ticket-blacking.

"You were trying to get a bargain price from a blacker?" he said as parting shot.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Pappu cant write lyrics either

My father's hurt, accusing voice is haunting me still.

I was braced for the monologue ever since the caller tune of my unlisted phone (yeah the one I CAN switch off at will because the COMPANY doesn't pay for it) crooned "Pappu can't dance saala...!" into his ears.

"Are you kidding me?" were his precise words in that clipped tone I have come to associate with his disapproval of anything "ultra modern".

I can understand where he is coming from, having grown up on Naushad, Aamir Khan saab and Begum Akhtar. Also sometimes Don MacLean and Neil Diamond. So he couldn't care less if Pappu can dance or not. "Wait, it gets better... Pappu ki aankhen light blue, Pappu dikhta angrez hai...." I tried a weak shot at humour.

Indignant silence.

Oh come on. Its not as if I have loaded "Ho tainu ghodi kinhe chadhaya? Bhootni ke, tainu dulha kinhe banaya? Oye bhootni ke.." as my caller tune. I mean that's worse isn't it?

Lyrics have changed drastically over the last ten years. I remember shocking mom with "aisa bolega.. Saala.. waisa bolega.." when Rangeela was running in our local cinema hall.

"Saala" was a word decent girls from good families just didn't use.

Then came Rajababu and hip thrusts made triple indecent by the dhoti-langoti combination that had my dad gnashing his teeth and banging his tea cup down with unusual violence. Not to mention of course "sarkailo khatiya jaara lage..." featuring heaving bosoms and naughty stuff under blankets on a rickety cot.

Thank Virgin Mary my dad has not heard of Eminem.

"My bum is on your lips, my bum is on your lips"
And if I'm lucky, you might just give it a little kiss
And that's the message that we deliver to little kids
And expect them not to know what a woman's clitoris is
Of course they gonna know what intercourse is
By the time they hit fourth grade
They got the Discovery Channel don't they?"

Dad was quite fond of Amy Winehouse, her drug habit notwithstanding. I was frankly surprised. "She looks so much like Sharmila Tagore, doesn't she?" was his sheepish explanation.

You have to remember that during his days Rajesh Khanna, all dapper with a red scarf around his neck, nodded away to Tagore whose towering bun had men all aflutter. So quite understandably Winehouse with her kohl eyes and messy bun pulled at my dad's heartstrings.

Till he heard "Rehab".

"They’re tryin to make me go to rehab
I said no, no, no
Yes I been black, but when I come back
You wont know, know, know.
I aint got the time,
And if my Daddy thinks im fine,
He’s tried to make me go to rehab,
I wont go, go, go."

I don't know many girls who haven't chorused with "who the FUCK is Alice?" with Smokie's famous number. But I have had to yell the chorus as softly as possible because good girls also didn't say "fuck". Well, in my house at least.

But its all changed now.

The more kick-ass the lyrics is, the better. Which is why I still hum "Akhiyo se goli maarey" (also imitate a gun going off when no one's looking) and "Bhalobasha maaney Archies Gallery" (Love means Archies Gallery) by Bangla rock band Paras Pathor.

My grandma says when she was a kid, singing itself used to be taboo in her house as it was considered a profession of the 'kothewalis'. Then with time, she convinced her father to let her learn Hindustani classical with the solemn vow that she will never perform outside home in front of an audience, let alone make money out of it.

But she is surprisingly modern and game about "Billo Raani". "Its a good song," she declared. When I stared at her round-eyed, she patiently unravelled the song into precise raagas and notations. I was awe-struck. She just smiled and said no song is good or bad, if you know the grammar you see the song clinically.

"Even 'dhak dhak karne laga?"
"Even that."

"Even 'slim shady?'"
"Don't push it."


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