Being back in WCC

College is one of the most important milestones in one’s career trajectory- it is your first taste of the “real” world.

College was a very, very forgettable experience for me. Never fitting in. Too afraid to stand out. When blending in was suffocating, I could not wait to get out.

I have noticed boys are more forgiving. Girls can be mean bitches. And when you are in a women’s college; one misstep is all it takes to land yourself in the bottom of the pit, gasping for air.

I visited WCC last week, it was an official visit, from work. Walking into campus caused memories to rise up my throat like bile. The smell of the pine trees, the clearly demarcated cohorts of students. The race up the stairs of the science block, the pungent smell of the laboratories.

And then I spy the girl dressed like an oddball- she is wearing a thin t-shirt and the wrong bra. Her hair is not conditioned; her eyebrows have not been shaped ever. A classmate would eventually show her how using eyeliner would do wonders to her face, yet another would offer her some strawberry lip balm, which would prompt her to buy some of her own. She walks by herself, yawning, because she spent all night unsuccessfully trying to finish Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. She is contemplating if she should skip her Human Genetics class to read what happens next.

Me.

Sometimes I wish college had not been so bad. But then I am grateful I had a chance to make all those mistakes before I hit those (they progressively became more troubled) 20’s. And I got wiser in the process.

WCC taught me that it was futile to change things you cannot- and it is wiser to channelize energies in other productive ways.

She gave me teachers I could look up to. And examples of girls I would never want to turn into.

WCC taught me how mere words had the power to crumble a person to dust.  It taught me that a pack of women can get more vicious than one made up of wolves. And that it is not necessary at all to be a part of one.

She taught me that letting go was key to being happy. There was nothing to be gained by holding on to angst. And time heals, makes you wiser, and gives you a chance to prove yourself- to yourself, again.

WCC gave me a total of 2 friendships that I will carry to my grave. One of these two fine ladies is kept busy by motherhood. The other, I watched La La Land with today, giggling like mad caps, and eventually lapsing into melancholic silence as the movie concluded.

WCC taught me how transient every detail of life is. Our definitions of success have changed, our dreams are different today, as are our priorities compared to what they were ten years ago.

And when friends I have today reminisce about their college lives, I withdraw into my little shell- not different from the one I used to habit in college. I have a little smile and nod my head, clenching my drink tighter.

Then I catch my reflection’s eye on the mirror, and she gives me a reassuring smile. Undeniably, WCC’s made me what I am today, you’ve got to give her that.

From the Hairstylist Diaries

I strongly believe in one phrase that I had read somewhere- There are no ugly women, only lazy ones. And although the debate for and against the necessity of grooming is yet to see the day, I for one, think that there is no quicker way to get noticed than by just being dressed right (or not, but we won’t go there now)

So people who are with me will know how intimate our relationship is with our stylists. Almost all my stylists have been ladies from the east and they would wordlessly go about their tasks with no change in facial expressions, no sudden gasps, be it a new tattoo that was not there the last time they did me or some weird, inexplicable request that might raise a few eyebrows in the normal world. If this is one kind of intimacy, we share another kind with our hair dressers.

However much my mother squirms at the idea of letting a man cut her hair, I tend to trust men more with my hair than the women. They are so adept at it in some unfathomable way, so off I went today, back to the stylist who had cut my hair the last time, and had given me three whole months of happy-hair-days. Of course, it goes unsaid that the dude was cute in a hairstylist-kind of way, but that, is just another toss-out-of-the-window fact in this context.

Today I realized just how many perks these guys get, from a ‘this is my space’ frame of thought.  So here is my stylist, let is call him N. He runs his fingers through my hair and tosses them around, and I am thinking how few men I have ever allowed to do that. He then suggests we wash it and then slathers shampoo first and then conditioner and then even dries it. I used to enjoy this ritual until once when one creepy dude went on to massage my neck and I had to catch his eye on the mirror and give him one of ‘those’ looks. So today I keep telling N how uncomfortable the basin is and cut his fussing and washing time by half.

We waddle back to my seat and we discuss what can be done with the hair. I tell N that I want to grow it and that I want him to just trim it a bit, keep the style, only trim. By now we are only talking to each-others’ reflections on the mirror, so he tells me he really could do something else.

‘Will it look nice?’

‘It will look different.’ Smiles.

I don’t like different because it takes time getting used to, so I tell him no, just trim it, and I will look boring and professional, with my business like ponytail and everybody would be happy. Then as he starts his measured-trimming, I remember my planned trip to Singapore and how sad my wavy hair would feel, bound up, in the photos, so suddenly I tell him, ‘Okay, N, just chop it all off’. He grins and says he would do something nice, and starts snipping away. I peek at him from under curtains of my hair, taking in the pierced eyebrow, the tattoo peeking from under a sleeve, the sleeves of his shirt and the arms- oh the arms! This suddenly makes me feel like a guilty voyeur so I say a prayer and shut my eyes, making conversation all the while.

A hairdresser is given that important a place in your life because you blindly (like in my case now) trust them with your looks for the next few months of your life.  We discuss his dad, his home back in Delhi, adapting to Chennai and learning tamil. I feel N blow-drying my hair and wait for him to go viola! I open my eyes to see that I look like Kajol from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. I shriek and vehemently tell N that I simply cannot go to work like this, so he makes his puppy dog face and goes about his damage control. He finally gives me something I like and combs my hair a certain way, but I use my fingers and comb them a different way. ‘Whatever I do, you will do what you want only!’ he tries to smile and say through his teeth. See! That is something that only those closest to me know.

I smile my smile, vowing never to come back here again, but I think we both know I would. That is what a regular hair dresser does to you. You start getting used to them, then you start feeling guilty when somebody better comes along, and it will take you all your courage to make the shift. It is like this- for want of a better word- semblance of a mentally platonic affair that you carry on with them. You bond with other girls who share him as a stylist. You feel a twang of jealousy when he remembers their names. You feel let down when he does not remember what cut he gave you the last time. Yet you will publicly profess your undying loyalty to him, and as a gesture of goodwill, tell all your friends about him and ask that they ask for ‘only him, nobody else!’

We women will never change.

ABC Challenge #20: T for Taboo

Note- I believed I had posted this before I posted ‘U’. Anyway that is Airtel 3G internet stick for you.

Taboo. This word brings alive memories of a National Geographic show where the crew would tour the world and bring to the audience crazy ideas/ rituals/ practices followed by fellow human beings across distant lands. Nothing, technically, is taboo, when it has been done over the ages. And when you have watched your own parents follow similar practices, it doesn’t really seem very strange. Though you might question the whole logic behind it (there would be some, in some rusty corner of the activity; it would have been layered with myth after myth, over the years) you would just go on with it simply to appease your folks at home. There are some ideas which are super taboo that Nat Geo forgot to cover. These are prevalent in India, some specific ones- in my community/household.
From the day a girl is born, she is raised to be decent marriage material. ‘If you don’t study well, you won’t get a good job, and then who will marry you?’(Not- study well, because YOU need a job to support yourself) , ‘Learn to cook, after you get married you will need to cook for a whole family’ (Not, does cooking interest you? There is so much to learn and it can be so much fun!), ‘ If your brother asks for a toy, give it! You will need to sacrifice so much more after your marriage!’ (Not- giving is love. Give, so it makes you happy)
She must stick to safe professions. After all, who would want to arrange a marriage with a girl who is an astronaut or archaeologist or wildlife researcher? (Women in these professions don’t marry and don’t procreate, apparently)
Travelling on your own? Are you mad? No!
Travelling with just another girl for company? So unsafe- No way!
Travelling with a boy? Oh god, who would marry you after that?!!
You could get away with being mean, selfish or just plain evil. But. If you, by any chance, happen to not be a virgin…That will be the end of any dreams of a decent marriage that you might be harbouring (there, everything boils down to the M word)
If reading all this makes you think, damn, it must be really sad being born a girl in this part of the world- bang on! In some remote places, the female child is only taboo.
Well, it is difficult. But we still manage to trudge on. Looking pretty, with a smile on the face. A thousand dreams shattered, ten thousand others left undreamed. But we will always hope 🙂 That, thankfully, isn’t taboo yet.

She loves me..She loves me not

[Note- This is a post that I had written in November 2012. I had published it in my first blog, here. For some reason, I connect to this post a lot and keep going back to it. It is only fitting that I re-post it here too 🙂 ]

  So, it is 12 am here, and I am sipping sugar less milk and typing away about something that has been troubling my head for all of the past few days. Last night I had this TALK with a friend that stretched into sunrise- about how, plainly how stupid most of us can be at times, with respect to this cannot-do-without something called relationships.
 
     I have a friend named Arjun who told me something really sensible way back when we were in school. It goes like this. You know fire can scald. Some people blindly go by that hand-me-down knowledge that fire is bad, and don’t dare go near it. There are some others who see other people getting their fingers burnt, get some sense and stay away from fire. And then there are some others who realize the perils of it only after they stick their own fingers into the furnace- yes a lesson is learnt; but so is a scar earned for life.
 
    Here, I only write about what I have learnt- from experiences of my own; and what I have seen happening around me- to friends of mine, to people I know. All of us have burnt ourselves at some point of time or the other, haven’t we?
 
     It is so sad- that while most of us may be experts at giving free advice, we simply lose the power of sight when the protagonist of the soap happens to be ourselves. I see so many, many smart, successful and sensible men and women claiming to have found ‘THE ONE’ and singing dreamy duets with him/her, when  the one in question is holding a placard that screams- BACK OFF! Most times, we are so caught up in our own fantasy land, too confident about ourselves and our capabilities in making this thing work- because this is what I want, that we simply fail to see if we are throwing energy, effort and time into the right individual. More often than not- it is going to end up in heart ache, and at the end of it all, you will be the one to who the world says ‘We ALL told you so!’ – You were too wound up in your flowery dreams to listen!
 
     I am at a loss to understand why many of us- myself included- fail to notice these signs. I made a list of all the visible signs I could think of. You are free to add more to this list.
The first and foremost would be ‘I love you, but_’ When this comes from a man, especially, it is time for the woman to pick her clothes, bags and all the broken shards of her heart and run. In my opinion, when someone says this- they are simply being nice. We better take the hint and scoot. Because- when you try to sort out the first issue they have with you, they will invariably come up with another issue. Because, if a man or woman really, really wants something to work out- excuses tend to evaporate.New paths are created. Mistakes are absolved. Everything- from your stutter to your family- is taken in stride. A man who says, ‘I’ll take care of everything’ deserves you more that a man who says ‘I really, really like you- but ..’ 
 
     Sometimes- we come across people who are just too busy. I have heard this hurled at myself too, more than once. There will be people who you feel are interested in you, but whose priority list will never include you. And I am pretty sure that when it doesn’t include you today- it will never include you ever. For good, or for bad we will never know now, but being well bred and sophisticated people, it is best we make our exit from the back door in the most graceful way possible- and not make a scene.
 
     And then, for some reason or the other- there will be people who let go of you too easily. The smallest issue might turn them off; the tiniest fight might cause them to break things off. ‘Ok let’s break up’ will be their mantra. The other unwilling partner, ofcourse, would be as unrelenting as ever. ‘When I want this so bad, I will make it work!’ But when the other person is not willing to even share the responsibility of making it work- even a bit- then there is something fundamentally wrong with your choice, my friend. 
 
     Then there is this lot- who claim to love you- but hate you. They hate your guts, your dressing, your looks- somehow- you will never be good enough for them. YET they will cling along- for reasons best known to them. ‘You cant do this- you cant do that..you are no good!’ flows the tirade. And Miss I-cannot-imagine-life-without-this-psycho will live through the daily erosion of her self esteem hoping her LOVE will make him change. Haha. Lady, grow up. It will never happen. Negativity is bad and negative people seldom change- get rid of both at Once!
 
Some folks out there might be waiting to get their fangs on me.
Love is holy, love is pure!
What would you know, you little thing-immature?
 
I seriously believe that Love is something that is a mix of respect, pleasure and joy. Mutual.
 
Matter of opinion. Like all other things in the world. 🙂

ABC Challenge #10: J for Jolie-Laide

I have been following this blog of late, which was where I landed on the wonderfully apt term ‘jolie laide’. This has been a word I have been searching high and low for, to describe many, many ladies who I know.

For those who follow French, the term literally means ‘pretty-ugly’. Count on the fashionable French to come up with a term like that! What it actually stands to describe is- ‘a woman who is attractive though not conventionally pretty’

How many of us have seen ladies sashaying by us, and wondered WHAT it is in her that makes us give her that second glance? I am not talking about the likes of Aishwarya Rai or Katrina Kaif or Priyanka Chopra- they are the beauties who would ALWAYS get people swooning. I am talking about somebody like Sushmita Sen (with her broad face and prominent cheek bones) or Deepika Padukone (who has a typical girl next door look, you wonder what is in her that makes her tick!).

From what I have seen, a self assured, yet plain looking woman would win any day over a super hot one with little or no self-confidence. A woman who knows her worth does not look outside for approval. She knows she is unique and matchless in her own way, and when her sense of merit is thus certified by her own self, she knows the world is at her feet. Nothing can stop her- and it shows on her face. The ‘I am worth all this and more’ feeling transforms the way she looks at herself and others, alters the way she talks and walks- and the world looks at this wonderful ball of energy with awe, unable to take its eye off her- and wonders what in her makes her plain self so captivating.

Jolie-Laide- A term so endearing, I fell in love with it, because it describes so many beautiful, confident women I know.

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However, I wouldn’t agree with the use of ‘laide’ on any woman, because, like I read somewhere, there are no ugly women, only lazy ones 🙂