My Theory on Abs

Regardless of form, if I do 200 counts of abdominal exercises, I should have an instant washboard tummy. Otherwise, I do not feel that the excruciating pain in my muscles is worth it. Not a single bit.

That is all.

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Forced Interactions

Yesterday, I was in the market close to home, picking up some fruit and other odds and ends. My mum came with as well, as we’d decided to make a day of it. Now, I don’t usually leave her side, because she is somewhat wobbly on her feet. But as we were crossing the road, and standing on the road divider, we happened to be a few metres apart.

And that is the only reason I don’t have a murder scene to clean up today. Because my mum didn’t see this entire interaction unfold.

I stepped into the road, intending to cross as a car made a u-turn. However, I quickly jumped back because a bike rider swerved in the space between the car and the divider, and proceeded to speed ahead. I was directly in his path, and I would have rapidly become roadkill if I hadn’t moved when I did.

First of all, I was annoyed that he was being so ridiculous and rude. And then, as he drove past, he leaned over to me, and sang into my face.

I’m the first to admit that I have no clue about human psychology, apart from what little I read or see firsthand. But this? This was aggressive. Unnecessarily so, in my opinion, because apart from a hurried backward skip and maybe a frown, I didn’t react to his swerving in any way.

At first, I thought it was merely cheek. Then I recounted the story to a few people, and quite a few of them seemed to think it was because of my appearance. Great. Because THAT brings back WONDERFUL memories. :-\

[Post from old blog. Many of my views have changed in the interim, and I was too embarrassed to write the whole story out even then. But the incident remains disturbing nonetheless.]

Disturbia

My opinion of guys in India is no secret, in fact, I have a sneaky suspicion Akshay is slightly resentful of that opinion. Hardly surprising – he falls into the category – but he isn’t creepy. Creepiness is my number one complaint for the great unwashed (men) of India. And this time, I have an incident to prove it.

I have to open a DEMAT account, so I decided to trot along to the nearest branch of ICICI and open one. The person in charge wasn’t available, so my number was duly noted and I was told that a representative would get in touch with me. So far, excellent. I got a call later that afternoon (wow!) and the rep explained that he could come over and I wouldn’t have to go to the bank to fill out the forms. Great. I asked him to come the next day, and I needed to collect the necessary documents for the application.

The next day, he showed up. I handed over the documents, signed half a million times and was told this part of the process was over. For extra points, credibility-wise, they wanted a copy of my passport. I had the identification page photocopied, but not the address page. So the guy said I could hand it over to the rep who came to verify my address. Fair enough, I thought, although I was slightly annoyed that he didn’t tell me this before.

The next day, the guy calls up again, saying he needs that photocopy. I still hadn’t got the copy, so I asked him to give me an hour before coming (I also happened to be out at that time).

He came, right inside (which was odd since he had to merely collect one paper), and proceeded to make a big deal about the whole thing. After he ran out of excuses to linger, he finally got to his real point.

He turned to me, and said (in Hindi) that I was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. Also, yesterday when he saw me, apparently I blew his mind. I kept him awake all night with thoughts of me, and he is in love with me.

[blank stare]

All this sounds awful in English, but it’s typical movie dialogue in Hindi.

I was petrified.

I’ve had some horrendous experiences with perverts and touchy-feely guys, and this exchange made my blood run stone cold. I gathered my wits long enough to ask him very politely to leave, and that I was very uncomfortable with this situation.

I was terrified till I closed the door, on his parting words of ‘I love you’.

Some notes:

– The Akshay in the story is my ex. Not the most recent one, but one relationship I certainly regret with every fibre.
– I no longer think that Indian guys are creepy. I just have lost faith in humanity overall. I am exaggerating of course, but these sort of happenings don’t help.
– I was living alone at the time. There was no one else in the house except for me. My parents were in another city, and the boyfriend was too. My best friend had moved to another city recently, and I had just chucked up a job. If something were to have happened to me, exactly no one was going to know for at least 10 hours. My mother and I spoke every day, but that was in the evening. No one knew that this guy was coming over today, because I had told them that the process was over the previous day.
– A lot of people asked me why I didn’t complain about this guy to the bank. Mainly, it was because he didn’t threaten me. My fear was based on my poor experiences previously. Also, I was terrified that since he knew where I lived, I would face repercussions. And, he was handicapped. Must have been hard enough for him to get this job, with a stammer and double thumbs on both hands. No idea if I did the right thing, but that was my thought process at the time.

C’est la vie, eh?

Project: Shirt Resuscitation

[Side note: I’m supposed to be working right now, because I have a deadline tomorrow. Therefore, I am blogging. But, of course.]

I bought a bunch of tees at a large discount store a while back, and regretted it instantly because they are partially synthetic. I generally avoid the store because my previous experience with their clothes has been awful, to say the least.

Anyway, I am easily beguiled by colours, and I fell in love with this gorgeous shocking pink one. Pink has easily been my favourite colour since I was little, even though I went through this phase of ‘don’t-gender-stereotype-me-!’ in between, where I chose predominantly black and blue. Spoiler alert: it didn’t last long. With my complexion, medium to dark pinks work fairly well.

The tee in question, being made of questionable fabric, ripped rather easily after a few washes. I thought it would be a good opportunity to give it a bit of a lift, so mum and I bought some lace that matched it perfectly.

We gave it to a tailor, but because he used a sewing machine to attach said lace, the fabric underneath ripped rather dramatically. I took it back, and unpicked the lace from the top. The lace was mostly salvaged, and I can use it in the future for something or the other. Darned the rips in the fabric, so now I have a Frankenstein’s monster pink tee. [And a close up of the darned bits.]

Now, as you can see, the rips are all around the neck area, and they are rather inconveniently in different spots on both sides.

At this point, my mum suggested I chuck the thing in the bin and call it a day. But. BUT. I love surface embroidery, and I do not have the guts to actually try any of it out on good clothes or fabric. So this becomes the ideal training ground!

First, I drew a pattern that would cover the rips. Badly, I know, I’m not an artist. I had the outlines of the tee, and made sure that the A4 sheets covered the rips.

Ha. First thing I realised is: “Ambitious much, dipshit?” Those flowers are colossal. I cannot satin stitch those large areas, without the thread eventually sagging. So I now have to learn some other filling stitches.

Then, it occurred to me that I would need fusible interfacing. Otherwise, I could reasonably expect a repeat performance of the lace fiasco. So I bought that.

Finally, I don’t have embroidery thread. So what does smart-aleck Sundaram do? She orders it online, comparing the original photographs of the flowers on one tab, with the skeins on another tab. [And then I wonder why projects terrify me? Because I set myself up for failure every time with this go-big-or-go-home attitude.]

Anyway. This arrived in the mail a few days later:

I think I got enough, don’t you?

Now what remains is the actual project. Considering it has taken me almost 8 months to draw up a design, buy interfacing and thread, and buy yellow carbon paper for the design transfer, I wouldn’t hold my breath for any finishes any time soon.

But, since I am quite excited to do this, I will create a project index when I do start. [Standard disclaimer: Subject to memory not failing dismally at concerned time.]

Birth Super Control

This story needs background, so please bear with me.

I first asked my mother what sex was when I was a very little girl. I was in 3rd grade, and I think about 7 years old. I went up to her crying, because one of the girls had said I had had sex. Sobbing, I told her that no such thing had happened. My mother, credit to her for not laughing her guts out, sat me down, wiped away my tears, and asked me what had happened. I told her the whole story tremulously, and promised I hadn’t had sex at all.

Of course my mother believed me, because I hadn’t the foggiest idea what sex was in the first place. In my mind, it was like holding hands with a boy. She then asked me why I thought it was such a bad thing; which is something that stayed with me unconsciously many years later. She said that there was nothing wrong about sex, and it was a way that two people who loved each other could express that love.

Cut to a few years later, and I had a little more understanding, a lot more fascination, and none of the horror of sex. I went up to her and asked her what it was. By this time, my classmates had cooked up innumerable theories, and trying to keep them straight was doing my head in. So I went to the most reliable source of information I knew of: my mother.

Well.

She explained all right. She started with the X-chromosomes and Y-chromosomes of DNA. I kid you not. She began to explain the physical differences between a man and a woman from a genetic level. [My mother has only ever encountered cis-gendered, straight people. She has developed boundless inclusiveness for other orientations and gender identities since [thanks to yours truly], but she wasn’t aware of those realities at this juncture in the story.]

She then went on to explain that sex was a biological need that every living being had, right from humans, to animals, birds, fish, and plants. It was in their gene pool so that they could procreate and have babies to love and grow their families. Sex was not something to be ashamed of, but to be celebrated and done with consent between two adults of sound mind.

I don’t remember the full conversation and its particulars, but I left her side that afternoon profoundly disappointed. Sex being taboo is honestly one of the contributing factors to its overall mystique. When it is reduced mercilessly to a biological need, and [easily grossed out people please skip this next part] akin to the need to eat, sleep, urinate, and defecate [seriously, I remember THIS very clearly], it loses 99% of its allure.

Years passed, and I am now in my 30s. I have come to realise that my mother understands the concept of sex, or “making out” as she persists in calling it, even though I have told her different many, many times; but she is blissfully unaware anything related. For her, it was basically a love-making act between husband and wife. End of story. I have since educated her a lot more on the actual goings-on that happens between closed doors, and always been rewarded with widened eyes and a jaw that has quite literally dropped open. When my father was there, it was even funnier. He shook his head at me trying to tell my mother these things, and walked off with no little embarrassment.

I have to say; I am fortunate to be able to have had these conversations with my parents. They are by far the coolest pair I have ever encountered.

So on to the incident.

We had just moved back to Mumbai from Goa, and were in the process of resetting a house that had not actively been lived in for a while. Plus, there was a lot of a junk that my grandmother and aunt had collected [both being human squirrels] that we needed to jettison as they were either useless, broken, or both.

One afternoon, my mum was clearing out the contents of the toiletries shelves. This was a mass repository of spares and extras for toiletries in active use, those that had been bought at some point and merrily forgotten thereafter, and the detritus of travel. Because my aunt worked for a time in a flight catering company, and both my parents were hoteliers, there were innumerable tiny bottles of shampoo, conditioner, travel sewing kits, shaving cream, disposable razors, mini soaps, and associated paraphernalia.

I, on the other hand, was sorting through paperwork. I don’t exactly know when the mantle of dealing with paperwork fell on my shoulders, but if I ever get a time machine THAT’S what I would alter in my timeline. [Obviously, I am being facetious.]

Anyway, whilst in the midst of this purge, I get called to the kitchen by mum. She has something clutched in her fist, and she’s looking at me with all the fascinated trepidation that a child has when encountering something forbidden for the first time.

Her eyes as round as saucers, she asks in a whisper, in case my father hears I presume: “Are these condoms?!” and opens her fist. And I look.

In a small plastic ziploc baggie, there are two small, mound-shaped, orange objects made of what appears to be styrofoam. They were NOT condoms; but old-timey earplugs that airlines used to give out to passengers with sensitive ears.

It took me a minute for my mind to process these few things:
1. These are old, but fairly pedestrian, ear plugs.
2. My mother has clearly never seen a condom in her life.
3. I’m an only child.
4. How am I an only child?
5. I don’t really want to know, but I can’t really stop following that train of thought.

In the time that it took me to think these things, my mother was standing there like a deer caught in headlights. “Well,” she demanded with urgency, and that broke the mute spell I was under.

“Mama,” I said, as I tried very hard to control the tremor of wild laughter bubbling up inside my throat. “These are earplugs. How come I’m an only child, if you have no concept of what birth control looks like?”

The deflating look of surprise did me in though, and it was with a very sheepish: “Don’t laugh at your ignorant mother!” that I left the kitchen in peals of laughter.

Make-up and Men

The ex always had it in for make-up for some reason, forever claiming that: “You look beautiful without it, so why do you need it?” I tried to explain that it was because I liked the colours, and the ability to reinvent myself, but usually fell on deaf ears.

His list of dislikes, or rather “I don’t prefer” [sic], was rather long: I think make-up is unnecessary, and natural beauty is better; why straighten your hair when you have such lovely curls; wear something apart from jeans and tee. It has become your uniform, and you would look so good in other clothes too; would you consider putting flowers in your hair; and so on.

To be fair to him, he did provide a tremendous boost to my confidence, by telling me constantly that I was beautiful. [I paraphrase, because his versions were usually long, adjective-ridden, and hyperbolic. I’m too embarrassed to reproduce them.] But honestly, after the first flush of attraction was over, what difference did it make what I looked like?

He had no problem with me being overweight, although he did encourage me to become healthier overall. He had no problem with the normal exigencies of every day life: sweat, period stains, grimy hands, food-stained clothes, etc. His time spent in a naval academy really inured him to all of it, except: make-up.

So I toned it down considerably. Let’s say it was a happily conceded compromise, because there was all the other stuff to weigh against. It was a small thing to do. I went from full eye make-up to a liner and mascara. Dark lipsticks to glosses and balms. Very rarely did I do anything to my scraggly hair. And he was happy. Fair enough.

But after we split up, the status quo changed. I could do whatever I wanted to do, without wondering if he liked it or not. [I still did for months, but I imagine that’s natural.] And I got back to my rather flamboyant former style; not completely, because my taste evolved a bit.

And then I got back into the dating scene. And my friends noticed the change.

Dear lord.

I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve asked me why I apply make-up at all. It is such a bizarre question, because it is so normal, so pedestrian a thing to do for me. I have been tempted on several occasions to retort with: “Why do you comb your hair? Or what made you pick that shirt over a sack today?” but I refrain because sarcasm is hardly ever recognised as such.

And my friends. Good grief.

The remarks have had range, I’ll admit. Since none of these boys are remotely romantically interested [THANK THE HEAVENS!] in me, they don’t quite see me as a girl, but as a vaguely girlish approximation of a ‘bro’. Which results in annoying exclamations:

– “Why are you looking weird today?!”
– “Why do you have weird shit on your face?”
– “Are you unwell?”
– “You don’t actually need lipstick, you know. Makes you look like a girl.” [*facepalm*]
– “Oh God. You look like a girl today. Yuck.”

X-(

And in the last 10 days, I found myself explaining to 3 different men, why I use make-up: BECAUSE I LIKE IT!

Terminal Humour

The other day, again when I was working quietly, my mother suddenly burst into peals of ringing laughter. Since she is renown for her proclivity for puerile humour, I waited for the gusts of merriment to subside before asking, not without trepidation mind you: “What is so funny?”

This:

[Ignore the last line. It is a colloquialism in Marathi, whose import I have no hope of translating into English. And an immediate equivalent doesn’t spring to mind.]

Now, I found this mildly amusing. Not hysterical to the point of tears running down my face, which was mom’s condition. So I asked her why it was so funny. And her explanation was something!

Me: “Dude. This isn’t THAT funny. Why are you laughing so much?”
Mom: “I am imagining Queen Victoria turning into Shivaji!”
Me: *snort* “The joke is about the train station, not the people!”
Mom: “Can you imagine? That fat, pug-faced..” [I started laughing here.] “..old, regal lady sprouting a beard?”
Me: “Oh God. Ma, you’re too much..” *laughing*
Mom: “And balls and penises!”
Me: “Wait. Penises? PLURAL?!”
Mom: “Well yeah!”
Me: “I think I would have heard about it if Shivaji’s anatomy was that, erm, unique.”
Mom: “No no. It is a terminus na? Multiple platforms, exits, lanes…”
Me: *facepalm*

True story.

Book Review: Nocturnes

I picked up Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro entirely on a whim. I liked the look of the cover, which had an unclear image of a girl dancing. It was in yellow and blue, and fairly evocative.

Additionally, I happened to be at a wholesale book exhibition, where books were organised according to genre – and that’s it. This book was in the generic fiction section along with thousands of others. As I was browsing through, a girl exclaimed loudly from behind me, pointing out the book in my basket to her companion. “Where did you find that?!” she demanded of me. I was rather bemused by this extreme reaction to a book in the middle of thousands of other books. “From the fiction section,” I said, waving vaguely at the general area in which I had found it. She took off like a bullet, leaving her friend to mutter apologetically, and say that it was unusual to find his work in a place like this.

Suffice it to say, if I wasn’t 100% convinced about buying the book before that incident, I was totally sold after it. Any book that can turn what seemed like a normal person into a lunatic was worth one read at least. [There were classics also, in their own section, incidentally, and those had some real beauts.]

I must say, I am supremely glad I bought the book. Because it was an excellent story, and led me elevate Mr. Ishiguro to the ranks of one of my favourite authors.

Author: Kazuo Ishiguro

Story: The books is divided into 5 short stories. The common threads between them are, at least on the surface, music and love. But there is a definite undercurrent of melancholy to them all. Each of the practitioners are musically gifted, and the love is in various stages of being lost. Ultimately, the stories appear to be plucked out of each character’s life in an anecdotal style, and put forward as an experience that changed them to some degree.

In trademark Ishiguro style, none of the stories have definitive endings. They seem to stop with the salient points of the anecdote themselves, and giving the distinct impression that the lives in the stories carry on, and other things happen to them which are not part of the scope of these particular stories. [I know exactly how idiotic this sounds, but it is an ephemeral sort of quality that exists in all the author’s writing.]

Writing: The writing is exquisite. The words are simple, as are the sentences. What shines through, leaving the words behind on the page, is the story. They weave an illusory realm where the reader becomes less of a reader and more of a viewer. It is powerful writing to have such a visual impact. Again the ephemeral quality abounds, and although the reader ‘sees’, they don’t see clearly. The characters are not bounded by the words, nor by the situations. They are incomplete depictions, because people are not meant to fit into definitions. [Again, I know how crazy this sounds. I just have no other way to describe it.]

Characters: Overwhelmingly, the principal characters are caught up in events beyond their control. They seem to be spectators in situations that are centred around them. There is the cellist who is tutored by a mysterious lady, and she calls the shots of that relationship. There is the man whose friend wants him to stay over for his unlikeability and lack of direction in life, whereas the friend’s wife thinks his only value lies in his exquisite musical taste. And three other stories along the same broad strokes. Each character is caught in a maelstrom of emotion, predominantly of confusion, at the unfolding of these events. Understandably so.

Pace: Short stories necessitate rapid momentum. The stories are not rushed, but they do not linger over details. There is no comfortable pause in narrative, where the reader is allowed to flit across without investment. You want a break while reading this book? Stop between the stories. There’s your break.

Conclusion: The tone of this book is infectious. I felt a deep melancholy after reading it, and in someone with a greater tendency to be depressed, it might prove to be a trigger. Having said that, with an abundance of caution, I would wholeheartedly recommend the book to those who enjoy a touch of unreality in their literature. Perhaps that’s my takeaway, and someone else could have had an entirely different experience. Another one of the charms of the book.

Rating: ✩✩✩✩

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