Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy new year

Dear diary,
Last New year when I was with the gang at Satyanilayam, I never imagined to be home the next new year anticipating my wedding day. Life changes so does people. I remember getting annoyed at friends who changed after wedding. What I really found hard to digest was when they said they were busy. I hated friends who relied on their hubbies and in-laws to decide their life. I never saw that happening to my friends who are working. Somewhere they seemed liberated enough to decide their own life. Now don’t ask me if liberated means to decide one’s own life. What I meant is at least my friends back at the institute agree with it when I say that the sky does not fall when married. Maybe they had learned to juggle these roles of wife and scholar (they got no option too)
But I have lost many good friends when they decided to marry. And this applies to girls alone. I have many friends who are men who claim they don’t meet their guy friends anymore. I think they mean no hang outs and booze parties, but I think they are better than girls when it comes to going for reunions and gang parties. But some say priorities does change.
I have friends who are watching my moves at the moment. I know they are curious to know if my hubby will draw the line or will my in-laws monitor my call list. I suddenly feel the insurmountable pressure of these eyes on me. Nothing will pacify their pre judged minds, those who want to believe a woman has no life of her own after she marries. Nothing will make them agree that our dear editor is as clear as his posts and gives me breathing space. As my good friend Jils asks why am I desperate to prove a point wont living it out answer all the queries. I have made too tall claims says our editor, and I love him for his analysis. Then again when I support him occasionally people remind me “Look whose changing”.
In a year’s time my priorities have shifted from ‘Life at IIT to Life at IIT and Life with ‘Who’. What still remains common in both the years is me- My transition from spinsterhood to commitment. And I hope I can do full justice to my new role without throwing away people and qualities I acquired from my old role.
I got no clue if men have similar thoughts? Maybe our editor could help me.

Dear readers we owe a lot to you for your support and comments. We got 9 more days on this journey to the altar so you might not find frequent posts like before. Please bear with us. Wish you all a happy and prosperous new year.Hope you all have a blast.

Two cups of tea with Sisyphus

I hoped this conversation would not be long. Frankly, I was bored, rather tired. It was a depressing place to be. All around me, I saw people screaming, being tied up, tearing and breaking stuff. I was at the National Mental Health centre in place??????. I think mental health was more positive than mental hospital. At least it covered insanity. I was a psychology graduate and patients who were educated or in the realm of consciousness acknowledged this occasionally. Saying this used to flatter me, how naive I was then. He used to meet me occasionally. I was busy most of the time during the day, so he came during the evenings.

I felt obliged because he was a case of chronic depression. He rarely opened up to people so his mother felt hopeful when he spoke to me. But was I listening to all that he said? I don’t know. And he gifted me something cute on my birthday. His stories were always the same, lost his girl friend, who cleared JEE and left him with his unfulfilled dreams of not making it to IIT. He was stressed. Failure was not acceptable at his home. With a line of doctors and engineers in the family, all from AIIMS and IIT’s, failure was looked down upon. More stress made the journey to his dream land even distant and depression became suicidal.

I looked at him with the tea cup in my hand, I felt guilty stealing sips. I realised I was looking through him. I was introspecting myself, but was I not as lost as him? Do I look like a loser to an IIT aspirant? I feel so contended with my studies. I felt ashamed for letting my mind wander when I was supposed to listen to him empathetically. I wanted to help but felt lethargic. I tried visualising the temples of knowledge he longed to get into. Never did I realise I would write this incident from the same temple seven years down the line. He spoke to me for half an hour and left. I finished my tea and left promising to help him the next day.

I received a call from his mother half an hour later. He attempted suicide by slitting his veins, buying a blade from the nearby shopping centre. I felt numb, I could not figure out why he did it. I did not understand what about IIT compelled him to end his life because he could not make it there. Years later I drink many cups, in one of the same place he yearned for, listening and reading about many others who commit suicide, despite making it to IIT.

My animosity continues to grow to the self perpetuation of this system which is like the myth of Sisyphus. ( am compelled to use the cliché – ‘The grass is always greener on the other side’, but believe me, I have been to the other side and it’s the same feeling there too. I have seen both the worlds, lived in them, worked in them and understood them; that the difference is not what we see but what we perceive. As for me, hopefully, another day, another time, with two cups of tea, I will relieve Sisyphus of his rock.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Marriage matters- Journey to the altar part 5

Year 2009 has been the toughest time of my life, so far. Maybe it’s because I am settling into a new life and also because my decisions may be dependent on many people. This is frustrating ; I thought I had the right to decide choices in my life and like everyone I justified it with my principles. Suddenly I don’t see it happening. This does not make it annoying enough. What makes it frustrating is the fact that I am constantly reminded that marriage is a compromise (contract is what they wanted to say). ‘A woman has to be submissive and obedient’ quoted many from bible and now a days I see more of these people around and seem to be stuck with them.

Fortunately I am marrying someone who understands my plight and the very fact I can put my views out here is the net result of that fortune. But, he being the strategic planner asks me to be patient and ignore things as long as people don’t interfere in my life.

As I watch the whole game helplessly, I see things go out of control. Everyone except me gets to decide how much gold and what kind of saree I should wear (though I can hardly drape the 5mtr cloth), when and where things should happen and how I should live my life. Only choice I made was the guy whom I should marry to (which I am thankful because many don’t have that option either).

Yes, I am talking of the 21st century. I am an overeducated dumbo who thought she conquered the world. Sadly, my degrees fail me in front of people who flash out the biggest degree “marriage certificate” which gives them the right to advice people (Hope I don’t catch the same fever after mine). “Men want things this way”, “be submissive, that’s our aim in life”, “learn to use the right make up”, “how about lingerie shopping?” the advices go on and on. “Ask him to get a saree above 15k, after all its a societal affair”, said some, “honeymoon in India, what the hell”, said others, “You should get it written on stamp paper that the kids will go to our church not theirs”, ”why can’t they marry here, why should we travel to their place”, “learn to take the control in your hand, girl”..... So you got it, before I can open my mouth, I am shot point blank, without a trial.

“Why do you bother”, asked Mr Who initially, but slowly he is facing similar realities. Now the process is a drag and the end is the only hope. Ridding oneself from the clutches of the concerned messiahs is a lucrative dream. I think of girls who take this silently. I can at least hide here in the name of research. There is nothing I can fight over anyways. “After all marriage is a sacrifice at the altar and we are scape goats all dressed up and adorned”, said another friend.

This is also the worst period in my research life. Research scholars are not well paid, and we are humans. Every 4 months we pay fees, so practically if you work hard to save, you can manage, without borrowing, to pay for your next fees and I am among those fortunate souls who doesn’t borrow but then unexpected expenses (like wedding) throws you off guard. It is not easy focussing on work too with hundred calls from relatives and friends, all of whom expect you to be equally excited. Now I am not a commercial that repeats with same intonations, so sometime some people feel hurt. “Hey we have been married and went through this stress”, says some (though most of them would be sitting home with kids). Thanks buddies for the support I say but I guess you were not doing a PhD at IIT, then. You had all the world’s time to shop and decide stuff rather crash land three days before wedding to save leaves. And mind it scholars are not meant to have a personal life. So those who venture for one has to pay a price. “You should have thought before joining, after all what good is a PhD for a woman”, said some irritating fool. I save a few plates at least by offending them :)

I apply for a fellowship but my paper gets stuck. I apply for a new ATM, my pin number does not reach the branch, I walk up and down the bank for days and I can’t get a five min job done. I try for an accommodation at a conference and I don’t make it. Anything I try doing boomerangs at the same speed. I need to top up, credit low on the guy’s mobile and because of rains there is no stock in Adayar. I post a letter it does not reach on time. I call someone he does not pick up for a week. Pen drive gets virus infected, Doctoral committee passed a repeat review meeting (which is like a court hearing) and my mess bill reflects excess amount which I can never ratify because the officer is never in place when I reach the concerned table. I am told after 3 years of study that I did a course that was unregistered in the institute.

In the midst of all this I am haunted by superstitions. People who visit the groom’s family should be in odd numbers. Wedding and engagement should happen in one year to be auspicious (though vacation period was suitable to groom and bride). Bride should not step out of home after engagement (we got two weeks break before wedding and I was hoping to save some days by going back to chennai).

I am advised to do yoga but I cannot fathom as to why are things turning a drag and aversive. I try believing that everyone goes through this but that’s not good enough for me.

“You guys are nuts, you decide what you want?”, said a guy and I stare back at my ‘self’ from five years ago – carefree, happy-go-lucky, feminist, on your face, creative, assertive, tom boyish, imaginative, in control and with the world under my feet. Yes, now I understand that marriage is a compromise, yes sir it is, not with others but with oneself.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Some questions and advices to brides that leaves me clueless?

There are like FAQ’s addressed to me and for the first time I realised it’s not men but women who mostly afflict me with their unfulfilled dreams or dictums and commandments alien to me. I thought I should write them down now. Of course I can never copy and replicate some of their expressions on my replies.

1. So did you not go and shop all the sarees and accessories ???
2. It is a girls’ dream to be the centre of attention in these shopping spree
3. Do a bridal facial pack for three weeks
4. How can you stay apart ????????????????
5. You should spend six months together , research can be done later
6. How much is the wedding saree please get something above 10k
7. Where is the honeymoon? Go abroad pleassssssssseeeee
8. Never, never say no to a honeymoon
9. Buy candles, lots of them
10. Have you thought of you know those stuff shopping????
11. Hey get him a present on engagement
12. Listen to this music it’s romantic
13. Ok if you are buying make up get this water proof......
14. Meet you doctor
15. How much gold? 100 sovereign is fashion these days
16. Does he cook? Breakfast in bed???
17. Remember we need to be submissive, tame your anger
18. Managed to tackle future in-laws, focus on strategies?
19. Will he give you a diamond?
20. Make sure he chooses a good saree?
21. Diet ... eat fruits, exercise
22. Do yoga skin should glow
23. What flowers on bouquet? Which colour?
24. Will you have an orchestra playing on the wedding eve?
25. Will there be dance , I love jive
26. Can’t you wear a bindi or mehndi how sadddddd
27. Applying for scholarship after marriage? Are you maddd?
28. Why are you reading all the time? It is the time to dream baby
29. Please read this book on relationships
30. What is your rashee and his? But you guys aren’t .................

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Marriage matters- Journey to the Altar- Part 4

He was back in my life and as a totally new person. Not the same old guy, who slept at 10 pm and woke up at 5 am. Not the same guy who told me I should manage my life on my own. The SMSes in middle of the day from office, the long mails and calls made me feel as if I was in Eldorado. But, Mom was oblivious of all these developments and kept bringing in proposals. I thought of telling my sister and in a conversation over phone slipped a hint lightly. "What do you mean that moron apologised? Where is your self respect? Are you accepting him?", She was shooting nonstop and before I could reply she told mom. “Listen girl, once a proposal is rejected and especially when the guy leaves insulting you, we don’t reconsider, so forget it”, mom said. I was crestfallen and there were faults on his side too, which I was turning a blind eye to at that moment.

I remembered a friend saying that I should have given him some time, rather than telling my mom that he left me. I remember her saying that this guy might come back. I don’t know what made me tell mom, what he had said in a confused state of his. Deep within, during all those troubles, I knew he would be back, but then why did I go tell mom and mess up the situation? All I could see was the word “FATE” blinking in front of my eyes. It had to happen for bigger reasons.

“Now what”? I asked him. “I messed it and I will sort it”, he said. I prayed no new proposals came up. I asked the Wipro guy to back out because a new proposal was fixed, risking the possibility of my parents calling his family. No proposals that came got materialised and my heart beamed with joy. I felt foolish feeling so much for someone who hurt me badly. But I also believed we both had to go through this painful course to become new individuals. We had suddenly become allies, conversations flew more easily, we became good friends and all that we had in common was pain and rejection and....... love.

Mom gave in after realising I had made up my mind. And arguing with a daughter who was overqualified in the marriage market by being 26 years of age and further, doing a PhD seemed unreasonable to her. She made a smart move by agreeing but reminding me it was my call.

“Don’t get excited”, he said, “You got no clue about my family. And it’s a long battle. Their approval, churches approval, getting the whole affair done peacefully, without annoying anyone”. And we were all alone just because we decided we wanted to be together. What sort of a marriage is this I asked? Love, arranged, love- arranged???

“Hmmm… no it’s a new category”. I raised my eyebrows to understand which category had I not concocted. “It’s Arranged – love marriage” and I smiled. All these conversations happened through chats and phones and it never occurred to me that I had not met him. We had seen snaps but we had not met in real. And meeting with families was quite nervous an affair.

“Listen, there is no way that I am gonna dress up in a saree and hold a tray and stand before your family”, I said.“Ok, madam do as you wish”, he said. We both knew we were nervous but the guys always had the upper hand in such fancy dress programs. “How many of you would be there”?, I asked. “6 or 7”, he said. “6 or 7 ? you want me to parade in front of everyone”, I yelled. “Look dear, I know you are tensed but don’t worry like this, everything will be fine. I told my folks that this is the girl so we just meet the family and fix up things. You don’t have to bother pleasing everyone”.

I reached home to find my family grinning at the door step. I was shy but could not understand why. It was just a family meeting. Without realising I picked up a saree and declared I am wearing it, to the surprise of everyone there. I knew he liked light colours but my aunt interfered saying I should wear bright colours like youngsters. I was in no position to say he likes it because it was too early to say all that considering things were half way.

If I was this nervous I could imagine him also on the verge of edginess. To top it all he rang my mom two nights back and said to her and others that this could be just a proposal but she should know why he returned again. He was in love with her daughter. And I can’t imagine how my mother heard that mushy speech but I could see her smiling weirdly all the time while dressing me up. I was worried they thought it was an old affair. Else it looked crazy marrying a guy from a different community, which no one in my family had dared before.

I sat there dressed for 2 hours when they arrived. I was nervous and impatient. I felt like I was to make a dashing stage entry and they were the audience who would judge my first impression. Maybe every debutant actor felt this pang. I was worried why I was not being called. Everybody except me was out in the drawing room. And my brother came in and said they are discussing roads, trains and weather. He seemed to blush. It was a blushing day. My cousin came in a while and said “why are they not calling you? this whole function is for them to see you, right?” I was getting frustrated because I could not hold the nervousness for long. I paced up and down swearing for wearing a saree. I was called as if the stage manager called the actor for entrance. I walked unsure of how to take my steps. They were all on the dining table having tea. All except him looked up at me, scrutinised me. I knew I looked different. He seemed more interested in the tea and the tea cup. I smiled at that and he looked up. Maybe it frightened him because I said I would not wear a saree.

I settled and there landed the first shell. “In our place the girl carries the tea in a tray”. “In our place we don’t”, mom retaliated. “But still she could have given my son at least a cup of tea”, said the dad- in-law. “I don’t mind giving mine???????? Whats the meaning”, I wanted to say, but he looked into my eyes, asking me to be silent and mom squeezed my hand. My aunt covered up saying we were not aware and will be careful in future. “Yes you should, you have another daughter”, dad-in-law said and laughed. I was happy though I broke one principle and wore a saree, I retained???????? the other by not serving tea.

“Don’t you guys want to talk”, dad-in-law asked. “No”, he said and suddenly all looked at him with admiration wondering how well mannered he was. “Decent guys don’t act like the modern guys of today”, someone remarked.

"So, we liked the girl", came the verdict. "We don’t want any dowry. And if god wills things will happen soon. Since they have chosen each other there is nothing we can do." I was trying to figure if that was a taunt or applaud.

As my relatives were leaving, my uncle asked- “why did he not talk to you, maybe shy huh?”, I smiled.

What would a guy, who spoke to his girl on train the night before, have left to talk, in front of the oldies, I told myself and winked.