Hazel

Of all the people who should be used to my light brown eyes by now, I think my parents top the list. But no. When my father was still around, he often stared into my eyes, and remarked [to my mother]: “She’s got my eyes!” A true sentiment, by the way, so he should really be used to seeing light eyes every dang day in the mirror!

My mother doesn’t often comment on my eyes or anything else that doesn’t change. She is complimentary about my appearance when I dress up, or when I get a hair cut, or something along those lines. So I am not used to hearing her comment about my eyes. In fact, I’ve never heard her comment on my eyes. Ever. So one day, when a shaft of sunlight happened to catch me in the eye, I was surprised to hear a quick intake of breath, and: “My goodness, you have golden eyes!” [I don’t. I have brown eyes. That’s it.]

Right. Ultimately, none of this is surprising, because both my parents were appreciative of beauty albeit in different ways. My father appreciated beauty in the every day around him, like my dog. He commented almost every day on what a pretty girl she was. And I understand that about him, because I am similar. My mother is appreciative of beauty in different ways: she exclaims about new beautiful things she encounters.

But this post isn’t about my folks; it is about how people react to my eyes.

It has been a while since I’ve been on Tinder, having realised that hook ups are not my thing at all. However, almost invariably, my matches have started off with a compliment about my eyes. And funnily enough, I don’t see what the big fuss is about. I don’t understand why light eyes are considered more attractive, because I personally think dark eyes are gorgeous too. I do get that big eyes are beautiful, but thanks to the fat on my face, my eyes looked normal. [Funnily enough, my dad had enormous eyes. I think, since I have the same bone structure, mine will look larger as my face thins out more.]

My first ever boyfriend, an absolutely gorgeous specimen, used to write poetry about my brown eyes. He introduced me to ICQ, an immensely popular instant messenger of the time. As he installed it, he asked me for a nickname, and I couldn’t think of one, so he chose ‘Hazel’ because of my eyes. [I nearly died with the romance of it all, mainly because I was 14 years old at the time.] As a result, Hazel caught on as my school nickname, without many people knowing the genesis.

Then one fine day, I was in the school bus and a girl from my building remarked on my “green” eyes. Now this was new for me: green? And she proceeded to argue with me for 20 minutes because I corrected her saying that my eyes are brown, not green.

That’s right. Someone argued with ME about the colour of MY eyes.

Thanks to my mother’s exclamation, all these past incidents leapt to mind. There are several more that I’ve probably forgotten, or in the annals of my old blog. It doesn’t matter really, but I always experience a mild jolt of surprise when someone makes a comment.

Or when I see a guy’s expression change to wonder when he is looking at me, just because a ray of sunshine suddenly peeps out from behind a cloud, and lights up my face. The intensity of his gaze increases, and it makes me blush because it is quite intimate to have a guy be so captivated that he doesn’t realise he staring unwaveringly straight into your eyes.

It is something, indeed.

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Cure for Insomnia

Remember this?

After turning down every possible suggestion and invitation thrown at me since my mother’s decision to talk about my hourly rate, I finally had to capitulate and agree to attend this event. The event was KT’s wife installation, as the president of their chapter of the Rotary Club.

There is no real reason for this, but I had no idea what the Rotary Club does. Even after the event, which was yesterday, I have some vague notions about small gestures of charity. I still have no concrete idea what they do.

But OMG. I have all of the opinions from the 3 hours I spent there. Buckle up guys, some acid is about to be unleashed.

First off, it is clearly a socialising setup for people who enjoy hobnobbing with others “of their own milieu” and very little else. Most of the people I saw there were self-important, appreciated a certain level of pompous and unnecessary ceremony, and generally enjoying brown-nosing and being brown-nosed in turn. [Yuck. What an awful, yet apt, expression.]

Second, there is altogether too much formality and very little substance. I think approximately 7 people came to speak at the lectern. I am not sure because I was concentrating hard on not falling asleep. There was the opening ceremony [lighting a lamp + Ganesh vandanam], then the immediate former president with his presentation, then the current president, then the person who called out names of the board of directors [out of which one was, I KID YOU NOT, a “Sergeant-at-arms”], then assistant governor, the district governor, and finally a vote of thanks by another person. I may have nodded off in between and missed about 20 people, but I doubt it.

There was also the passing out of badges, accompanied by lots of shaking of hands, and doling out of mementos and certificates.

Third, the Rotary Club is a social club. There is nothing inherently wrong about this, obviously, but they choose to garb this simple fact in a whole lot of tomfoolery. There is the odd charitable endeavour, ostensibly for which funds are raised, but let’s face it: there is far too much money that clearly goes into outings, lunches, and the like. If charity was the cornerstone of their activities, then there would be less brouhaha about “fellowships” [I gather this is a glorified way of describing “meetups”, because one of the fellowships was housie night] and more talk about worthy causes. There would be less focus on the individual contributions of members, and more about the causes they espouse. So, pardon me for being slightly cynical, but save me the limp effort towards “doing good”.

Fourth, there is a strong undercurrent of networking. The only person who was remotely close to my age was in insurance, and I can see the business value of him being part of this sunset crew. Polish enough egos, and they may well be persuaded to part with some moolah.

Fifth and final, the emphasis on getting new members to join. Now, as I gathered from the snatches of the talks I actually paid attention to, new members must be invited by an existing member. In the old days, I guess this was a prestigious club to be part of, but I can see that they now have targets for members. The current president’s goal is to increase the club by at least 13 members in her tenure.

Guess who is potentially one of these hapless 13? That’s right, yours truly.

Which, honestly, makes me wonder whether they have any idea of what kind of person I am. I detest unnecessary ceremony. I am of the start up culture; agile processes and talk-less-do-more culture. I do not enjoy vapid socialising. I cannot talk about schools [no kids], husband’s office [not married], kitty parties [unless it involves actual kittens], maids [do my own housework], politics [leads to arguments], card games [seriously?], and so on. My interests are different. But, I might as well have tried to get a charging rhino to change direction, so I gave up trying to convince them that this scene wasn’t for me. Finally, I began nodding along with the blandest expression I could muster.

It was a total write-off as far as Sunday afternoons go, but I suppose one has the occasional ridiculous day after all.

Topical Testing

I have this recurring problem with Internet lotharios, although in recent times the numbers have thankfully declined. They see my profile picture and start bombarding me with messages.

My first problem with this is that, deep down, it feeds into my insecurity about my appearance. Granted, I have been told all my life that I am beautiful, but it isn’t something I have internalised AT ALL. I don’t feel beautiful. This is in a large part to being overweight, and frankly being told that I am “too beautiful” for such-and-such thing is equally demoralising. However, all things being said, I want to break the subconscious validation I get from weirdos. It is detrimental, and I need to develop mental strength about my looks from within, rather than get it from such a negative source.

The second problem is that I don’t particularly enjoy the attention either. It is, as I noted before, extremely negative. However, I realise that there is person on the other side, and invariably that makes me reluctant to be rude outright.

Then a theory for how to deal with this annoyance hit me like a ton of bricks yesterday. [I should say epiphany, because that’s more positive, but my current favourite turn of phrase is ton of bricks.]

It should come as no surprise that a writer likes to read. [It has surprised people on occasion, and their surprise surprises me. What a convoluted sentence.] Therefore I spend a considerable amount of time trawling through the Internet. Now, I don’t claim to have particularly high-brow or intellectual interests, but I do occasionally read an article that is LONG. Again, I love books, so long articles are very much within my sphere of interest. Quelle surprise.

I devoured two such articles yesterday, and was sliding into a black hole on the subject. [Here are the articles, in case anyone is interested: The Ideological Turing test: How to be less wrong; and How could they?] I posted the first one on Facebook, knowing full well that potentially a fragment of my friends would react. Sure enough, one reaction. But that’s not why I posted it. I wanted someone particular [a close family member] to see it, and I imagine they did. So mission accomplished.

But then it struck me; I post such vapid nonsense on my feed that many of my friends have no idea what I do, no idea what my leanings or beliefs are, and finally no idea where I actually have two thoughts to rub together in my head. They are fairly justified in their surprise when someone who posts about the silliness in their life suddenly displays depth. Unsuspected, hitherto unforeseen depth.

Now, I honestly don’t mind being thought of as intellectually deficient, because social media is so much fluff anyway. But this got me thinking: suppose I start talking about what truly interests me to these random people who approach me?

Bear with me here. I am positing a theory with two potential outcomes.

If I start discussing, and really discussing a subject that I find interesting [I find A LOT of stuff interesting, by the way] in the depth to which I am thinking about it, I reckon I will have solved my problem entirely.

Potential outcome 1 [because I am an uncharitable, judgemental sort, I think this is the most likely outcome]: The person will get bored with the discussion, because in my experience they want something frothy and frivolous, and would prefer to stick to subjects like movies or celebrities. Their boredom, in the face of my relentless “intellectual” barrage about things like psychology, philosophy, food science, history, language, etc., will propel them to leave this miserable blue stocking alone. The face is not worth the incomprehensible babbling.

Potential outcome 2: The person will pick up the gauntlet of debate, and I would have found someone interesting to talk to. A caveat in this situation is that he could be the argumentative sort, with strongly held opinions formed in a narrow world view. That would be frustrating to encounter, as I have experienced before. Hopefully I will deal with it better now though.

[Side note: I once had someone on Twitter tell me: “All females think about it is dress!” After I got over my indignation over the sexism and the appalling grammar, I replied sarcastically: “Well, I can’t speak for every female, but I certainly don’t think about ‘dress’ all the time.” And when he took the bait and congratulated me, I continued: “No, I occasionally spare a thought for ‘shoe’ also.” Of course, he totally missed the sarcasm, and launched into an anecdote about how true it was that women spent too much time thinking about shoes too. Sigh.]

So there it is. My theory on dealing with randoms. I tried this today, and so far potential outcome 1 is holding true. Let’s see how far I can push it.

Poster Child

My mother and I partake of a ritual every morning: over steaming mugs of jeera-infused water, we dissect the world. These sessions are therapeutic, but can be funny, speculative, serious, intense, sad, and many things besides. They have served to iron out a lot of my mental flaws, and helped me come to terms with many a heartbreak. Today though. Holy shit.

A family friend is in town. Although she resides in Dubai – which is where the families met and became friends – she comes to Mumbai almost twice a year. This time though, her daughters are in tow. We were friends back in Dubai, but as years have worn on, the friendship has lapsed into an acquaintance. There are many reasons for this, I suppose, and I do not regret it as such.

Her elder daughter was closer, being about a year younger than me. But she has drawn away from me the most. And this is in spite of quite a cordial relationship on social media. So, while I soon stopped expecting her to even call when she was in my city, I was a little surprised that she is here with her mother – who constantly asks me to do stuff for her – and still hasn’t picked up the phone to call.

Again, I put this down to many things, as estrangement [even this weird, social media OK, real relationship NOT OK version] can take many forms and be caused by multiple factors. But my mother’s theory on the matter today blew my mind.

Now, this family has a dad. Obviously. The dad was very fond of us, as a family. Back in Dubai, he was great friends with my father; he often turned to my mother for counsel and spiritual camaraderie; and he actively encouraged his daughter to spend time with me, believing I would be a good influence on her.

This girl was a genuinely nice person, but she wasn’t the dutiful daughter type. She wasn’t interested in religion or her Malayali roots. She didn’t identify with Indian culture, and her father was despairing of her direction. She wants the luxury lifestyle with parties and shopping and friends and shows and hotels and food. There is nothing wrong with either the father’s track nor his daughter’s; but hooboy, the twain were never going to meet.

I exerted no influence on her whatsoever. It was not my place, and she confided in me from time to time. I couldn’t betray that trust by feeding her nuggets that her father thought would bring about a change. Besides, who am I kidding? I was a teenager. There was no way I was a positive influence on anyone.

Anyway, back to the present, and mum and I were talking about these girls being in Mumbai. Then we spoke about another of her friends, whose elder son seems to hate my guts with a vengeance I cannot fathom. I have barely spoken to him on 3 occasions, and that too it was purely transactional. I had to send him something for his father; and the second time we were at his father’s house for lunch. That’s it. But, the guy visibly grits his teeth every time he speaks to me. I just don’t understand why. Geez. Also, I don’t really care.

And then my mother has an epiphany: both these people dislike me because their respective fathers have probably waxed eloquent about my many attributes.

Now this salvo made me sit up. It also made my jaw drop. My eyes may have bugged out as well. Suffice it to say, I was taken back.

“I am a poster child?!” is what I believe I managed to croak out in my infinite shock. “ME?! HOW?!”

My mother ignored me, of course, and continued pondering her train of thought. “Well, they’ve both seen you, and I’m sure they would love their children to be more like you,” she said.

I collapsed into my seat, feeling quite deflated. My mother and I have rows on the regular, where I am always at fault for being: uncaring, selfish, self-absorbed, irritable, having mindsets, being stubborn, and a myriad other things. I have no great opinion of myself as a result, especially since we had had a row just two days before. Let’s just say self-confidence is at a low ebb.

“They should have a little chat with you to see that I am not really worth emulating,” I said, still digesting these revelations.

My mum scowled at me, and the discussion continued.

And so has my amazement.

I cannot believe anyone thinks I am the poster child for a good son/daughter. It is patently absurd. My mother finds a million faults with me every time she gets upset, even sometimes going as far as to say that I treat her very badly and do not care for her at all. This is bad enough. However, I have also had boyfriends’ families feel that I am not good enough for their sons: not traditional enough, etc.

So this poster child theory? Can I just laugh my head off because of my incredulity? Thanks.

KT and the Cupcakes

Sounds like a Perry Mason title.

A few weeks ago, I got a call from one of my father’s school friends. The family stays in Mumbai, and we have known them for years. However, while there used to be considerable social interaction between the families once upon a time, differing personalities and the lack of an ethical meeting ground has eroded the relationship considerably.

In addition, our financial circumstances have yo-yoed a lot over the years, and our current home [my grandparents’ old and crumbling flat] is hardly conducive to keeping up with the Joneses. It doesn’t bother us that people are shallow enough to decide to maintain a relationship on the basis of such circumstances, but there you go.

Last important factor to know: they are super-miserly. I mean, on a truly, unprecedented, epic level. The man asks for discounts for EVERYTHING. In restaurants, for clothes; you name it, he has asked. To be around in those situations, like I have in the past, causes quite the cringiest experiences of my life.

That’s just the background, and it serves to set up the family for the story I am about to share.

So, the dad [KT] calls me up one fine day, asking whether I would be interested in baking cupcakes for his granddaughter’s birthday. The cupcakes are meant for her class at school, and therefore there needs to be 70 of them.

Now, I have a reputation as a amateur baker. I make the odd cake and pie, and they are very well-received by whoever eats them. KT has “advised” me on many occasions [unsolicited and browbeating advice] that I should get into baked goods supply for smallish functions, etc. Since I bake purely for fun, and I have a home setup that is less than conducive to commercial cooking, and finally I am not trained AT ALL in food production? I have ignored this “advice” for many years.

But then again, I figured it might be a fun, one-off project to bake kiddie cupcakes, and try my hand at decoration. The directive was, at the time, fairly simple: 70 chocolate cupcakes, medium-sized, decorated for kids. I had to cost out the total, and let me know.

Then, he calls back again. He wants 5-6 samples of different flavours, so they can decide on which one they want. And I’m meant to have the samples ready by the next day.

This sent me into a tailspin. Because I had already agreed to the project, I lost my tongue entirely when it came to turning down the sample request. My mind was whirling, as I contemplated flavour combinations and ingredients and logistics and packaging for 6 differently-flavoured cupcakes.

I turned to my mother is abject horror, and she promptly blew up.

She told me to calm down, and to perish any thought of doing the project. Samples be damned, she said. Find a list of bakeries in their area, and send me their numbers. And then, she sent them off to him via Whatsapp. End of story.

There were several considerations that needed to be considered. I can only bake 12 cupcakes at a time. I cannot premake batter, because it gets flat. I can streamline the process, but only if I have a fixed recipe. Making 6 different flavours would entail a lot of tweaking and changing of recipes to suit younger children. Plus, they wouldn’t pick up the cakes; I would have to deliver them. And finally, were they going to pay for the samples? A chest-thumping hell no.

All this went down on a Saturday, midday if I am not mistaken. Sunday was sample delivery day. My mother’s messages had been read, but not acknowledged. So when the phone rang on Monday morning, I knew what was coming.

“You were supposed to get back to me by yesterday!” was the plaintive cry I heard, as I answered the call. “I did,” I replied, very calmly. “I asked mom to Whatsapp you, because I didn’t have that number.” “Oh. Um. We were very busy,” he harrumphed.

Anyway, I proceeded to tell him that he would get a better rate from a professional bakery, since they would be able to pass on economy of scale to him. Additionally, I would be buying ingredients at retail prices, and those would amp up the cost considerably. I deliberately picked these reasons to give him, knowing that the cost factor is dearest to his miserly little soul. And they were.

He couldn’t quite let go of the opportunity to put me in my place quite that easily though. He did agree with my logic, but admitting to it cost him a pang. So he said: “Oh. Ok. I thought you might like to do it.”

Right. Slog for hours over 70 cupcakes that you would expect to be exceptional AND cheap. If I had charged for the samples, would he have ponyed up? Hell no. I would have had to build that into my price of the cupcakes. All in all, it was a reprieve, and I will take the passive aggressive attitude if that is the least I have to endure to escape the work.

But. This situation had ramifications. More on that shortly.

Should I Be Flattered?

There was a friend, from my days in Scunthorpe, who always made the same observation on all my photos: “You always manage to look younger.” It was an isolated remark, which no one else echoed for many years, and frankly I took it with a pinch of salt.

Then I started shedding the kilos. I got a haircut, which turned my long, stringy hair into a curly mop. And another friend said that I was “ageing in reverse”. Again, I chuckled and let it go.

The thing is being overweight adds years to one’s face. So while I didn’t look older than my years – thanks in the most part to great skin inherited directly from my mother – I certainly didn’t pass off as younger.

But now? Hooboy.

Losing the flab has taken years off my face, and since the loss has been gradual, my skin hasn’t sagged. I am grateful for this, although I honestly am not losing weight to look different. Purely health motivated weight loss. So I haven’t looked at skin or hair or anything else that I find somewhat superficial during the process. Just focussed on getting fit.

So now, my profile pictures on Facebook are getting weird comments from friends [purely platonic, I should clarify]:

Right. Granddaughter. Parallel universe. Entirely normal reaction.

Then.

Today, I accepted an Instagram follow request from someone. I think we had a friend in common, so though perhaps this was someone I knew. Nope.

Honestly, it would be flattering if I didn’t think about it too carefully, except he thought I was lying to get out of talking to him. I also considered this was a line, except he got upset. Sigh.

I don’t have anyone else to share this nonsense with, so I briefly posted it on Facebook. And then I had a mental image of comments telling me to stop showing off, instead of understanding that this was just me trying to wrap my head around such absurdity. And promptly deleted the post.

I pinged my friend. What. A. Mistake.

[Non-Hindi folk: Ladka = Guy; Ekdum = Totally]

I get that it could be a line. I get that it is flattery. However, being absolutely sure of my age, I cannot process why I am suddenly the recipient of these comments. It is mind boggling. In my effort to process with someone, I have to make so many justifications. I am not showing off. I don’t particularly enjoy unsolicited male attention. I am not fishing for compliments.

I just can’t understand. Sigh.

And really, of all the things I could choose to be dishonest about, my lie of preference is to pretend I am 10 years older than what I am?

Lunacy.

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.