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!

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Chill. Relax. Take it lightly.

The other day, I went out with mom to buy groceries. We didn’t have too many items to check out, so, thinking it was the express counter, we stood in the queue of what turned out to be the cash-only register.

While we were quietly awaiting our turn, a bloke sidled up next to us. He was an old, grizzled chap, clearly middle class. Age usually makes me kinder, having older parents makes you acutely aware of people’s increasing frailties.

But, in contrast, a lifetime of being sidled up to inappropriately by men, and facing a nation full of queue-jumping selfish morons, has also honed a sixth sense which throws kindness to the wind. So when this particular piece of trash sidled up to us, I stuck out an elbow, and thrust my shopping cart aggressively in between.

Not that he got the message, because he continued to be uncomfortably close. Till I realised that he was just a patriarchal relic, and was pushing to be done with the process faster – which made me madder than otherwise.

My mom was in front of me, and she waited while the person before us had cleared their stuff into bags. She had her hand draped on the conveyor belt. And the man chose this moment to pipe up: “Oh! You can move your hand and start putting your stuff there.”

Now, I am aware that English is not the average Indian’s first language. I am aware that because of this, they sometimes choose the wrong words. However, nobody gets their tone wrong inadvertently. This guy was instructing us. And I was: Fuck that!

So I turned around and said: “We can see that. It would be nice if you could have some patience.” Make no mistake about it, I was fuming. And worse, I couldn’t even get the sentence out fully, because he interrupted me!

“Ok! Ok! Ok!” he said. I was even more furious. I couldn’t even put him in his place, because he was cutting me off in a louder tone! I seethed.

Finally, I started loading our stuff. I pulled out my card to pay, when the cashier said that it was a cash-only register. My mother and I were surprised, but didn’t argue. We said we were sorry, apologising for missing the tiny sign pointing in a different direction, packed up our things, and went to stand in another queue.

But not before: “Oh! This is cash-only. There is a sign. They don’t accept credit cards in this line.”

My mother had already walked on by, but I couldn’t take it.

“Please mind your own business. The cashier has already informed us of the mistake. It really doesn’t concern you.” Except, I got to ‘business’, and I got cut off again. But this time, I said: “Don’t interrupt me. So rude!”

Again, got interrupted. And the worst part was that he kept telling me to “Relax!” and how he was not doing anything, making me look like a demented lunatic for getting so hyper in the first place.

And that riled me even more. The cheek of someone telling me to calm down, because I objected to his patronising behaviour and intrusion into my personal space is just beyond my comprehension.

I need a way to figure this one out.

Midnight Awkwardness

During the first few months of us being together, I confided in my ex about being plagued by importunate men, who refused to back with just hints. I had to choose between bombarded with constant messages and hints, or choose to be brutally honest and block the guy. There was no middle ground, and for me, it was hard to shut down someone who wasn’t really doing anything heinous. [Just sexist and uncomfortable, but since that is a gradual scale, it is hard to find a concrete point to say STOP.]

I loved (still love?) my boyfriend at the time very much, and well he knew it. He didn’t try and interfere with any of these ridiculous situations, until I asked him to. I wanted my word to be respected, regardless if there was a man in the background. But he did offer me a tip: Don’t entertain calls or messages from these guys post-9 pm. Friends and like, family: all fine. Just not these guys.

Hm.

I did that, and lo and behold, it worked wonders. No lonely boys after work, who pleaded for a little time to chat. No midnight messages. Nothing. Just zip. And for 5 years [4 in the relationship + 1 getting over the relationship], I lived in this blissful realm of no encroachment.

Until yesterday.

Of course, being me, I had forgotten how it felt to be on this receiving end again. So I reply to messages when I receive them, unless I am otherwise occupied. I also signed up with Tinder, and well that requires a certain flexibility. And last but not least, I had lived in the comforting embrace of a relationship for so long, I forgot how little my refusal counted for anything with these romeos, with the lack of a supporting boyfriend/husband.

That’s the background. The second bit of background is: remember this guy? He messages me at 1 am; after two years of radio silence and removing me off all his social accounts, here is the highlight reel of the cringe-fest he sent me on Whatsapp:

KD: Looking out for someone
KD: Was scrolling through my contact today when I got to see u
KD: Feeling awesome to get in touch with u again
KD: Let’s be in chats until then
KD: Would love to know u more
KD: I mean things u like and all
KD: Shall wait for ur ping then
KD: And well please let me know if you have a nick name
KD: Really sleepy or can spend some time with me here
KD: I was feeling alone
KD: Let’s date if u r ok with it
KD: Let’s give it a try
KD: I find u romantic
KD: Especially love ur nose ring
KD: I use to observe u a lot

NO. OMG. I said no 4 times. And yet, I get a ‘I find you so romantic’. *shudder*

Hello from the Hinterland

Thanks to an ongoing project, my circadian rhythms have changed quite a bit. I can no longer get up before 8 am, without feeling like a truck has rammed into me. I do, on occasion, clamber out of bed around 7:30 am, but only if I’ve made a concerted effort to sleep before 2 am the previous night.

All of this boils down to me being rather unpleasant when I am unexpectedly woken up at oh-no-o’clock. Which happened this morning.

In India, I have learned to deal with three things I absolutely hate: the lack of personal space, the disregard for anyone else’s time, and complete absence of any sort of etiquette. Usually, I am able to handle behaviour symptomatic of this with mild irritation, and brush it off. Today, I nearly exploded.

My phone started vibrating in the morning, indicating that there was a call. I was fast asleep, so was surprised to hear it at all. I answered the phone, only to hear a voice peremptorily demanding: “Who is this?”

Another one of my triggers. If I had been awake, I would have calmly told the rude asshat that he had dialled the wrong number. But I just disconnected, thinking he would get the message. Spoiler alert: he didn’t.

He called twice, and I turned off the ringer. Again he called twice, and I was so cheesed off, I answered the call both times, and presumably he shouted into thin air. The fifth time, I disconnected and turned off my phone.

When I finally woke up, I turned the phone back on again. It was a good hour after the calls had initially come in, so I assumed that anyone with a modicum of a life would have gotten on with it by now. But I was wrong.

I got another call. This time, I was so furious I gave the phone to my mother to answer. [I would have yelled if I had answered.] She answered and told the idiot on the other side off. Finally the calls stopped.

Unfortunately for me though, I was so annoyed with the casual crassness of this individual, who thinks it is absolutely fine to call early in the morning, constantly pester someone with calls even though they clearly are not interested in speaking to you, and have the temerity to demand who they are calling.

I know I cannot change the world to suit my preferences, but today I would happily beaten down on this specimen of Indian village mentality till he got my point.

Relative Relationship

One of my favourite pastimes is to look at old pictures, and allow myself to be transported back in time. Especially after losing my dad, I find a bittersweet solace in looking at photos of him, and imagining his voice and expressions.

It was on one of this expeditions down the path of nostalgia that I came across a folder of wedding photos. It was a second cousin’s wedding, on my mother’s side, and my parents and my mum’s sister had attended. I had forgotten the folder altogether, as it was hidden away in another folder called “to be sorted”.

When I did discover it, it was like finding treasure. There were many pictures of my dad, all dressed up and looking exactly as I remember him. I felt I could reach through and reclaim some of the micro interactions we had: him smoothing out my hair, twitching a shirt into place, me hooking an arm through his elbow, him putting an arm around my shoulders, us sharing one of our innumerable conspiratorial grins, and just generally finding comfort in each other’s presence. Of course, I shed a few tears, but overall I was ecstatic.

I zeroed in on a photo of my parents; a beautiful one taken by my aunt, with them seated side by side with the utmost ease that comes with 40 years of togetherness. My mum was looking into the camera, posing with her jewellery and smiling slightly. My father was placidly awaiting someone’s arrival, and was thus looking off in another direction. The photo reminded me of the sparkle that lilted in our hearts, as we loved and lived with each other.

I posted the photo to Facebook. I tagged my mother in the picture because Facebook suggested it, and I was far too lazy to do much else. Thus, all her friends could see the picture too.

The picture was inundated with likes, and garnered a few comments too. I got the usual condescending ones from people of my parents’ generation, advising me to “look after my mother” or exhorting me to “keep God in my heart”. I ignored these comments, because I don’t need to be reminded of what is essentially my life. I am used to this brand of bad manners, and laughed it off without a thought.

But then one comment took my breath away.

One of my mother’s cousins, someone we aren’t close to mind you, commented on the picture. She must have spoken to my mother about a handful of times in her life, and I would hazard that she never spoke to my dad at all. I would be hard pressed to remember if she ever met my dad, as a matter of fact. This lady comments: “Miss you .”

I am a kind soul, and I make a LOT of allowances for people’s inability to communicate, their difficulties in finding the right words of expression, and much else besides. What I cannot stomach is blatant hypocrisy. This lady was well aware that she had never spoken to my father, and yet chose to declaim on a public forum that she misses him? Misses him how exactly? Misses the concept of his existence? I cannot fathom it.

After my eyes bugged out, I laughed for a full minute. I called up my mum’s sister, because my mother was apathetic to her cousin’s behaviour, and waved it off like one would a mosquito. My aunt however shared my meltdown. She laughed at first, only to stop abruptly and say: “She didn’t even call to condole when we lost him! WTF is her deal?!”

My sentiments exactly.

Waste Not Want Not

Of all things great and small that I absolutely detest is food wastage by an adult. [I added that last bit, because children don’t really understand the implications of food wastage.]

The other day, we had one of my mum’s friends from Dubai over. She has moved back to India permanently, and is currently settled in Vishakapatnam with her Air Force husband. She was on her way back from Calicut, and was taking a detour through Mumbai.

She had rung mum up, looking to catch up. She suggested lunch, and we decided to meet halfway. Our home is in Matunga East, and she was staying with friends in Andheri West. Her contention was that it needed to be accessible by auto rickshaw, so the initial plan was to meet up at Bandra Kurla Complex, where there are a plethora of nice restaurants.

On the day of, my mum was feeling poorly, so she asked her to come over instead. Now, since auto rickshaws are not allowed past a certain point in Mumbai, she offered her an Uber instead. Somewhat to my surprise, she accepted.

The lady showed up, and dove immediately into the laden table my mother had prepared. Since she was coming after a while, my mum had slogged over about 10 different dishes, all vastly different yet complementary. We were of course pleased to see that she was hungry, and I set about serving her, as is custom in India.

[As an aside, I follow customs up to a point. I prefer joining the meal too, instead of hovering solicitously, like a fathead, trying to be hospitable. I can be hospitable whilst eating too.]

Mum wasn’t hungry, so she skipped on food, and concentrated on making hot egg wraps. I am not being crude, but I piled that plate pretty high. I made sure there was a little of every item, and I had to set out bowls for those that didn’t fit on the plate.

After I sat down, I continued to push various dishes forward, asking if she would like anything periodically. She did take several helpings of various dishes, although she never once commented on the food or the spread. Mum did ask her whether she was enjoying the repast, but she declined to comment. I furrowed my brow a bit, but decided not to be judgemental.

After about 2 hours of lunch [yes, really!], she deigned to rise from the table. I saw in absolute shock that her plate was still mostly full of food. She has wasted almost every single item, even those she had taken seconds and thirds of.

In utter disbelief, my mum and I scraped food that I worked hard to earn and she slogged to make into a plastic bag for the bin. I was close to tears because it was effectively a full meal I had to throw into the bin. My mother was as stunned, but perhaps more collected than I was.

The rest of her visit passed in a red haze for me. And I was glad to be shot of her when she left, happily paying for a second Uber, this time for her to get back home.

I cannot begin to describe the rage and pain I felt when I saw that laden plate. Aside from the moral implications, income is not easily forthcoming in my household. My mother, despite being ill, worked very hard to prepare that meal. It is against our family’s culture to waste food.

Never want to clap eyes on her ever again.

Somewhere I Belong

[Refurbished post from the old blog.]

During a conversation with my folks, I was recounting a particularly amusing incident that had happened to mom and me, as we were migrating back to India.

Our last few years in Dubai were financially difficult for us, and because of a whole bunch of reasons, we had to come back in an amnesty. So to get our butts back to the motherland, we had to have our expired visas cancelled by the authorities. The process for this was not complicated, but it was separate for men and women. So one fine morning, mom and I went to the immigration department in Dubai to get our visas cancelled.

Without meaning to be classist or full of myself, we didn’t fit the mould of the average defaulter. So basically when we were in line, we stood out like sore thumbs amongst the housemaids, gardeners, cleaners, and so on. We waited quietly in line, and I was holding passports clutched in my fist.

My passport was a modest 2 booklets, because I was only 19 at the time. Mom’s, on the other hand, had 4 booklets. Don’t even get me started on Dad’s passport. I was holding both passports together, when one of the surtas (cops) saw my hand and exclaimed loudly.

She called us up to the table, and asked with incredulity, “YOU two want amnesty?! And for God’s sake, HOW many of you are there?”

A little confused, I replied: “I have only two passports.”

She snorted: “These are just two passports? How long have you people lived here?”

Mom: “26 years.”

Her jaw literally dropped open. She halted the queue (hard to believe she was from UAE, she was behaving just like an Indian government official), and called her colleagues together.

They jabbered in Arabic for a while, examined the passports carefully. All I understood were the exclamations of astonishment. By this time, Mom and I were fighting to stay serious. The whole situation was ridiculous.

One of the cops turned to me and then said: “But you were born in Sharjah! You are a UAE national. Why the hell are you going back?”

We laughed, answered their questions and finished the formalities. It lightened up a considerably stressful day. We were guests in someone else’s country after all, nothing could change that.

Returning to India gave us peace. No visas, no hassles – as far as we were concerned. We settled down to our lives here. When my Dad moved to Goa, we followed, and after a long LONG time, the family was together again.

When I was in Pune, I heard a lot of nonsense about “Maharashtra for the Maharashtrians”. None of my contemporary Marathis subscribed to this philosophy. I figured they were uncouth and ridiculous people.

I visited Bangalore, where someone categorically told us that they wanted no more people to move to the state. WTF? (Just as an aside, I have Kannadiga blood in me too.)

But the worst was reserved for Goa. Up to this point, all this happened to OTHER people – at least in India. I still considered myself an Indian – after all, what choice do I have with my parentage?

Somebody in Goa called me a migrant. I was stunned. A migrant? Till I realised that the Goans don’t want us here. I considered settling down in Goa, but now I am completely against it. I don’t want to stay anywhere where I am not wanted.