The Practicality of Wedlock

It is a transaction, really, isn’t it? It is a transaction between two families in this crazy country that is supposed to happen at a certain point in one’s life, and meant to fulfil certain criteria, and yield specific results. The most bonkers part of this epiphany I had today is that I was blissfully unaware that this transactional model affected me in any way. But holy crap it has. It always has; I just never realised it. Till today.

I grew up with the vague idea that I wanted to marry another Indian. Same culture, similar background, a sense of belonging to the same homeland. [This, by the way, in spite of being born in another country, and being called a firangi most of the time.] I rail and rant against the “Indian male” syndrome of being patriarchal and narrow-minded and being unable to see that a woman is a being in her own right. She has dreams and desires and wishes of her own. And yet, I want to be with one of these very specimens. Strange.

In my previous relationships, I modified myself, my very identity, to conform to the transactional nature of marriage. Thankfully for my continued existence and mental stability, it never got as far as marriage. I fell blithely in love over and over again, not realising that the cookie cutter mould of a wife is what my dear exes would have dearly loved. Oh no. I thought it was ME they loved. Goodness what a bloody fool I am. [Note: present tense.]

I WANT to get married and have a family. I’ve admitted this so many times recently, because it was a revelation for me after my last breakup. I’ve said some of the things I am about say before, but there is stress pent up in my chest and I need to let it out. [A difficult conversation with mum in the morning is the root cause of this outburst.] Here is what *I* in my infinite stupidity thought marriage was all about:

Two people meet. They become friends and/or fall in love. One of those things comes first; and the other follows. The order doesn’t matter. What matters is that both things happen. You are one of those people. You are now in love with your best friend. With me so far?

You fall in love with that person. With their unique beauty of mind and soul, their heart, their thoughts, their dreams, perceptions, their flaws, their problems, and a million billion tiny and huge things that makes them who they are. You decide that life without this person by your side is not worth a second’s consideration.

Next, families come in. There are people who have perfect, loving families. There are those who aren’t speaking to their families. Families are complete, incomplete, difficult, trying, loving, accepting, welcoming, and much more. Configurations vary, but the goal is the same: be a support to your partner. They are close to their family? You become close to their family. They have trouble with dealing with their family? Stick by their side and deal with them. Support. Amalgamate. Absorb and be absorbed. Their family becomes your family.

It would be nice to have assets going into any relationship, but hey life isn’t a balance sheet is it? You cannot consider assets and liabilities when in love. Because that doesn’t make that person; it is just a thing they have to grapple with. Again, support. Be there. Just, be there.

Finally, and this is my biggest issue with marriage in India, forget what you are supposed to do. Life has no guarantees. You marry someone picture-perfect, with credentials down pat, and he turns out to be an abusive head case. She has affairs left, right, and centre. He gets mowed down in his car by a rogue truck. She goes blind. Your beautifully planned little life goes fucking kaput. What will you do then?

Yeah, so I was prepared to make compromises in myself and give off myself, because I loved that person on the other side. My partner was always my best friend. The person I looked to for unstinting support. The person, who if the roles were reversed, I would be there for with every fibre of my being.

I want to find love like that. I thought I had, the last time around, but it turned out to be an intricate web of manipulation and lies. But I loved like that. It took a long time to unlearn that love. That friendship. The desire to shoot off a text to say: “Hey. I’m sad. Just thinking of you makes me happy. Thanks for being in my life.”

Marriage is not about the wedding and the setting up of house and having children. It is all those things but so much more. Setting up your first home in a ramshackle building, with one bedroom and a tiny bathroom, but being happy. About coming home tired, and finding peace in each other’s company. About waking up in the middle of the night because someone’s parent has fallen ill, and rushing off together to the hospital with mussed hair and stale breath.

It is about cleaning your partner’s teeth when they’re too sick to do it themselves. About staying up all night when they have a report to file, just for company. It is about them paying the bills and you handling the groceries for the house, and taking over everything when one or the other is away. And being grumpy about it, but it’s ok because you are helping out your best friend.

It is about having fights about that expensive thing you bought without checking in first. And then you admitting it was wrong, and agreeing not to do it again. It is about laughing when you see someone else checking him out, and feeling pride at being his chosen one. It is about panicking about receiving a suggestive message, and him being the first and only person who you can talk to about it. It is about plugging in your ears with music, while he watches the game all through your carefully cooked meal. It is about kicking his ass, after the game is over, because insensitive much dude?

It is about all these crazy things that make you grow and him grow and you both grow together. It is about being complete with each other, and then building a family with that wonderful completeness. The joy of conceiving a baby, and the pain of bringing that baby into the world. Arguments about names, to arguments about why he should also get up in the night to feed his own spawn once in a while.

Ultimately, it is about growing old, knowing that someone has your back. My ex used to say: “I love you because I know when I grow old, and I forget to put my pants on one day, you’ll stop me from leaving the house and help me into those pants.” I would have. But I learned fast that he wouldn’t have. One sign of putting himself out, and out he would have bolted. Sigh.

My parents had a marriage like that, and I am starting to see why all their friends told my mother that they couldn’t imagine her pain, because she had a marriage in a billion.

Is it so crazy that this was my idea of marriage? Was is so insane that I never considered my single mother a “liability” like she said she was today, because I figured love conquers all? Granted with some difficulty, but yeah love still conquers.

Looks like I am destined to be unmarried and single. At least in this lifetime.

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Target Acquired

I am not a special little snowflake. Let’s get that out of the way before I continue. I am reasonably certain that every girl get her share of unwanted male attention, because I have seen enough evidence of it online. [I sort of wish I had a girlfriend to talk over this stuff with, because there would be someone else who had that shared experience. I’ve entirely given up on male friends.]

So remember this guy? His opening salvo should’ve sent up red flags, but I am an idiot and quash every survival instinct in the interest of being polite and courteous. Plus, he hadn’t said anything rude. He continued to chat, asking me questions about where I was from, and whether I was married. [Yes, I am aware that is 0 to 100 in less than 60 seconds, but even so, not rude.]

I continued to respond, using my Indianness as a shield of conservatism, because I don’t conveniently have a man in my life to deflect unwanted sexual attention. It worked, to point. And then this happens:

Because why wouldn’t you ask a perfect stranger if you could send them nudes? Absolutely normal, I suppose. Sigh.

Sniping Away

I found an old Facebook post about a conversation I had with the ex, regarding having kids. Copying the whole thing here, because it really shouldn’t be tampered with in any way!

During a chat about having kids in the future:

Me: “I really just want girls. Don’t think I could handle sons. Might kill them in the heat of the moment, and regret it later. Not to mention the jail time. Plus, I cannot in good conscience release copies of you into this unsuspecting world.”
Anand: “I don’t mind either, really. Any child of mine will be awesome.”
Me: *snorting sound*
Anand: *ignoring me* “However, when my daughters grow up, I will have to set up a sniper’s nest on the roof?”
Me: “A WHAT?!”
Anand: “A sniper’s nest. To take care of boyfriends.” *smugly* “I am a crack shot with a rifle, you know. Part of our Navy training. Won medals and stuff.”
Me: “Really now? Does the Navy train you for being unceremoniously spanked by your wife for being an unconscionable hypocrite?”
Anand: *very small voice* “No.”

An actual, honest-to-God conversation. Still hilarious, so many years later.

Words with More-Than-Friends

Never again will I question my sixth sense about men and their advances.

On some level I always knew that I could sense attraction from a guy, from a mile off. I put it down to many things: paranoia [chiefly, and thanks to a legion of male friends], over sensitivity, bad experiences, hyper awareness, and more recently, unconscious facial reading. None of these explain what happened yesterday.

A month or so ago, a friend challenged me to a game of Words with Friends. I rarely have an opponent for word games that I actually know, so I never downloaded these Scrabble-type of games. Most of my friends are afraid I will beat them, and their egos won’t stand up to the onslaught. Which is a pity, because it shows how little they really understand me. Anyway, I downloaded the game, and we played. It was fun!

But of course, he lost interest after a while, and I spent hours cajoling the only other friend I saw on the game to play with me. After much muttering and dire prognostications, he agreed. But he takes EVER SO LONG to make a move. 12 days long, is what I am saying. So of course I got bored, and started looking for random opponents.

In the intervening months, I have played with dozens of people: male, female, Indian, non-Indian, etc. The whole gamut. Not once has any one of them messaged me. We played the game till its end, and that was that. I am wary of online opponents, because my experience is that gamers can get nasty when they are losing.

So, I am not a stranger to playing with other strangers, is my point here. So when I received a new request to play with someone, and my mind sprang to the assumption that he was going to hit on me, I laughed myself out of the room.

There was no precedent. There was no indication. All he can see is my picture, which is what all my random opponents can see. So of course I shushed my immediate reaction, and accepted the game.

The first three moves, there was no message. I felt stupid for the assumption, and not a little ashamed at my vanity/arrogance or whatever other devil prompted that assumption. And then, this:

Sigh.

My takeaway from all of this? I won’t second guess my instincts again. But I sure as hell won’t share them with any of my friends either.

The Genesis of the Cake Fairy

So, a few months ago, I had written about being a cake fairy for my friends. I was recounting this story to someone else, and I finally recalled the exact circumstances under which I became the accursed cake fairy.

[How many times did I use the term ‘cake fairy’ up there? Far too many is how many. Moving on!]

I had been experimenting with baking for a while, trying out recipes out of books of celebrated chefs. I was wary of Internet recipes because I had tried a few and failed dramatically. So I found a chocolate cake recipe that looked sufficiently idiot-proof, and tried that. It turned out well.

The next day, while chatting with a fellow food-obsessed colleague who loved to cook, I brought up the cake. He said that next time I baked, he would love to have a slice. I nodded and left it at that.

A few weeks later, I made the cake again, and it turned out better than the first. Remembering my conversation with my colleague, I took half the cake, in 4 thick slices, to work. One was for him, and the others for whoever sat at my table.

In retrospect, I should have known this would cause problems. Because when has anyone ever learned to keep their mouths shut?

The first pain in the ass was UK, he of the Kanpur wedding fame. He came to our table for some work, and saw the box of cake. He was offered some, on the pain of death if he revealed its existence to anyone. He didn’t, to be fair to him, but the others sang like canaries.

The next day, I was cornered by so many of my friends, all demanding how I could have been so mean so as to feed only a fraction of the office with cake. I pleaded in vain, saying that the quantity didn’t justify an email to the whole office, and let’s face it, table above office in terms of loyalty, amirite?

No. A resounding, thigh-slapping, unequivocal negative.

So my punishment was set: I was to be hounded for cake once a day, every day, till I made reparations to the office. Even if I brought a very small amount, it was to go to everyone’s inbox, and each one’s luck would prevail.

And so the cake fairy was born. They carried out that threat, incidentally, till I caved and baked a full cake for the office. What a mistake. Because after that? The following nonsense has happened:

– One chap opened my purse, looking for cake. In my PURSE.
– One chap took the box of crumbs that were left over, and returned the box only the next day.
– One fellow posted on my Facebook timeline, and my mother joined forces with the asses.

And much more besides. The latest cake story was the wedding one. I should have some peace for a while. Here’s hoping!

Alternative Future

I have written a copious amount about how I am happy being single, about how I never want to be in a relationship again, and about how I never want children. Begrudgingly, I have also written about none of that is actually true; it was a reaction within the healing process of having a serious relationship flung back in my face. What did it take for me to confront these untruths that I had told myself [and those around me] for years? The possibility that I was falling for someone.

However, I’m sticking a pin in that scenario for the moment, because this post is about something else entirely. The alternative, if you will. Because, even though I had proclaimed all those lies to myself for several months, I hadn’t considered what one does as a single old lady.

What does one do? Knit? Bake? Sit in a rocking chair surrounded by cats? What exactly?

So I began to think about what life would be like as a single, older lady, possibly with no one else around the whole day. Maybe days, weeks, or even months. The prospect doesn’t frighten me, frankly, because I rather suspect it will be my reality one day. After my mother passes on, and so does my aunt, there are no connections I foresee that will tether me to one place.

What would I do?

Hopefully by then, financial security will be a given. I would have a stable home, small enough for myself and a bunch of dogs, I reckon. Well, maybe not the dogs. I don’t think heartbreak is something I wish to court late in life.

I imagine that I would travel alone, something I have longed to do for as long as I can remember. Do the things that other people have held me back from doing my whole life. Not in a bad way, but just take risks without having someone to worry about my safety, for instance.

Luckily, as an older person, I won’t attract too much unwanted attention. The grey hair sprouting liberally from my temples at the moment have taken on a benevolent purpose. As I lose weight, the fat will disappear from under the skin on my face, and wrinkles will develop. I hope that fitness will become a mainstay in my life, so energy will be plentiful.

Singledom in old age looks inviting, because the family alternative seems more and more remote as days pass. And, for the moment, I am surprisingly zen with that state of affairs. So be it.

Kanpur-Famous

I have my doubts about the veracity of this claim, but my friends assure me that I must be famous in Kanpur. Of course, they are idiots of the first water, so I rarely take them seriously. But it is a fun story nevertheless.

All this transpired during a friend’s wedding in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. A fair few of us were travelling and attending the wedding together, although there were only 2 women in a contingent of 12. I was one of these women.

Just after the baraat [the groom’s entry], we were entering the reception area. Because the actual wedding was at the ass-crack of dawn, the reception unusually took place first. I hear this is common practice with North Indian weddings, but it seems a little upside down to me. At any rate, hair mussed with the humidity and dancing, and panting thanks to uncomfortable heels, we traipsed into the venue.

Of course the bride’s side was set to welcome the groom’s party, and there were multiple photographers capturing all the goings-on. As we entered as a group, there were several pictures of us like that.

Then, the photographer waved to the boys to move aside. They obligingly did so, because they knew the other girl was not my favourite person, and that I would set my teeth at being alone with her in a series of snaps. I did set my teeth, but I went along with it for the sake of politeness, and in the interest of not making a scene.

After the photographer clicked a few pictures of the both of us, he waved us off. Or so I thought. We thanked him, and prepared to step aside, when:

Photographer: “Not you madam, the other madam only.”

In some surprise, I looked at him, and then at the other girl. I shrugged, because I wasn’t bothered by this development and started walking away.

Photographer: “No no no no no no! Madam stay. Other madam, side please.”

To my absolute horror, and to the unending glee of 10 miserable boys who live for fodder like this, the photographer wanted solo photographs of me. I stood in electrified shock, smile frozen in a rictus of growing dismay, as the photographer proceeded to move around me for various angle shots.

Yep.

After a few moments, I collected my scattered wits and firmly put a stop to the photographs. But the damage was done. I turned in some consternation to the guys, and saw them brimming with barely suppressed mirth. Barking a ‘oh shut up all of you’ in their general direction, I limped off to the buffet.

A little later, one of them sidled up to me to tease me. I fixed him with a baleful glare, and accused him of putting the photographer up to that stunt to embarrass me. He chuckled and said: “Dude, this is Kanpur. It costs less to bribe people here.” A response that made me feel miles better, I might add, because at least then I know it was a prank.

Fast forward a month or so later, when the groom was back in office after an extended break. Of the original group, 5 of us had put together a hamper as a wedding gift, and we wanted to know whether he liked the coffee machine we got for him.

There was a little ribbing because turns out he thought it was a mixer-grinder, and was pleasantly surprised to hear it wasn’t. Silly ass. I was laughing at him when he comes out with:

UK: “Oh by the way Karishma, my relatives thought you were a foreigner.”
Me: *blanching, because this was said in the middle of a big group* “What utter rubbish. Stop making shit up UK.”
UK: “Seriously! They asked me whether I had invited people from our ‘foreign ka office’.”
Me *starting to beat a hasty retreat amid gales of laughter*: “Liar liar, pants on fire.”
DG: “Dude! They asked her to dance with them too, during the baraat. None of us were asked to join in!”
Me: “Stop it!”
AG: “And the photographer took SO many pictures of her on her own!”
Me: “Guys..”
RP: “Holy shit, yeah! He asked us all to move aside! Even <other chick>!”
Me: “Wait! DG bribed him to do that!”
DG: “No I didn’t! I swear!”
Me: “Screw all of you. I hate you all.”
UK: “Um. I’ve been through all the photos. There are no pictures of just Karishma.”

Pin drop silence reigned after this bombshell hit, as each of us grappled with the implications. I was the first to run off, sped on faster by the shouts of laughter from the table.

To this day, over 2 years later, I still get teased about being a foreign pin-up girl in some Kanpur photographer’s studio. I’m not kidding: I really hate all of these guys. 😐