Feeling a Long Way Off

When I broke up with my significant other, I expected to miss a lot of things: the comfort, the familiarity, the physical, emotional, and mental closeness, the support, and a million other things, both vague and specific. I also dreaded the thought of trying to start anew, and having loved so deeply, I was under the first impression that it wasn’t even possible.┬áNot that that impression has changed. I still feel uncomfortable of falling in love with someone.

I also harboured the (mis?)conception that I could not be intimate with someone I didn’t love. Perhaps this was a part of my Indian psyche and the layers of conditioning that seep through cultural mores. Now, this part I am not to sure about.

I am not a person that is driven by pure desire, but I’ve started to think about dating for the sake of physical intimacy. I am still dead against the thought of a relationship though.

Basically, what I am trying to say without sounding like the ultimate despo, is that I have the strongest urge to grab the unsuspecting cute boy (who appears to be at least 5 years younger than me) and kiss him.

What. The. Hell.

Scammy Persistence

Persistent scammer thinks I’m an idiot.

Call 1.
Scammer: “Madam, your ATM card is blocked for security reasons.”
Me: “Which bank are you calling from?” [It’s a mobile number. No way this is a legit call.]
Scammer *after short, whispered conference with fellow scammer*: “Umm.. Bank of Maharashtra.”
Me: “Don’t have an account with them.”
Scammer:Nahi, sorry. Bank of India.”
Me: “Nope not them either.”
Scammer: “Ok madam. Sorry wrong number.”

A few hours later. Call 2. Same number.
Scammer: “Madam, humne aapko subhe phone kiya tha.” [Cheek!]
Me:Haan. Bolo.”
Scammer:Aapka number registered hai is account ke saath.”
Me:Achcha? Kaunsa number?” [I have 2 other numbers’ calls forwarded to one phone, in addition to mine.]
Scammer: “Um.. yehi wala.”
Me: *letting it go* “Achcha. Address kaunsa hai?”
Scammer: *click*

Two days later. Call 3. Same number.
Scammer: “Madam, aap kaunse bank ka ATM use karte ho?”
Me:Aap kaunse bank se call kar rahe ho?”
Scammer: “SBI.”
Me: “Don’t use that ATM card.”
Scammer: *click*

I know I shouldn’t indulge these conversations, but can’t help myself. Far too funny.

No Need for Sorry

Culturally, India is a bit of a hotch-potch. Truly, there is no such thing as “Indian culture”, because the country is peopled with so many different groups, who live together (sometimes harmoniously, many times not), and they are rarely homogeneous.

In the case of my family, we are from India, but have lived for a long time abroad. It was in Dubai, which is another melting pot of humanity, except there it was nationality that made us different, not regions. Granted, Indians predominantly interact with other Indians, seeking inclusion in the comfort of known and recognised, but we did interact with the others. So there was some amount of cultural transference – again, some bad some good.

After moving back to India, there was the instant realisation that we were “different”. I don’t really know how, but there was a divide. It wasn’t physical or even economical. It was somewhat behavioural in retrospect. It was the way we spoke, or the way we dressed, but mostly the way we interacted with other people. In Dubai, it was customary to be polite. Please, thank you, sorry, and excuse me are words that are hardcoded into our behavioural processes. In spite of being told many times to stop “being so formal”, I couldn’t help myself. I thank taxi drivers, I apologise for bumping into someone, I excuse myself when rising from a table, and so on. Hundreds of tiny behavioural patterns that made it us and them.

The other day, my mum, aunt and I went out shopping. I was in dire need of jeans. We trotted off to the nearest shopping plaza, and after some arduous selecting, settled down to have dinner at Domino’s Pizza.

As we were clearing the table (self-service at fast food places is another thing that was built into our systems in Dubai), there were other people waiting to be seated. They got really close to us, as we gathered our things. It was uncomfortable, and borderline offensive. I initially ignored it. I was with two older ladies, and courtesy demanded that they wait at a respectful distance so as not to crowd us out.

But they didn’t. I barely rose from my chair, before one of the fellows nipped behind me and sat in it. I couldn’t help myself: “It’s a good thing you waited till I got up. You’re in such a hurry, you would’ve sat in my lap otherwise.”

He ignored me, and refused to meet my eye. I let it go. But I had awoken the beast: mum. She proceeded to lecture the two blokes on etiquette. About waiting till people had left. About having courtesy for ladies. About not being so self-absorbed that their own comfort was paramount, and exclusive to all else.

It fell on deaf ears for the one who slipped into my chair, but the other one was sufficiently riled to respond. He adamantly refused to apologise, actually saying that! “It’s OK! It’s OK! No need for sorry. No need for sorry,” he chorused in broken English.

Of course this fanned the flames with my mother. She read them both the riot act, whilst he continued chanting his mantra. It was a stalemate. Finally, I got fed up and dragged her off.

It was an unpleasant experience, but finally what did I expect? This isn’t the first time nor will it be the last that people have been downright rude. It greatly saddens me to think that my countrymen are so often obsequiously deferential but lack the barest sliver of respect for their fellow beings.

Small-Minded, Small Bottle

In India, there are excruciating double standards with respect to gender: girls aren’t meant to do such and such thing, and boys are supposed to be strong, etc. The double standards are painful to both, but it would be fallacious to think that girls don’t have it much worse.

Anyway, I was raised to be an equal, and I am also fortunate to live in Mumbai. A lot of my confidence stems from the fact that I have my parents’ unstinting love and support. Sure, they will screw my happiness if I am at fault and I hurt someone, but I can count on them to have my back for anything else.

Which is why, I derive so much pleasure from my tiny acts of rebellion, where I feel like I am giving the patriarchy the middle finger.

Yesterday, while in the market, I happened to be on my own, as my family was already in another shop. I was meeting them there, after running a few errands. The day before, mum had asked me to add rum and port wine to our grocery list. I had no concrete plans to but alcohol, but I passed by a shop, so I figured I would cross that off my list.

I saw a bunch of men, some drunk and on the verge of disorderly, and others, judgemental uncle-types, in the immediate vicinity. Not a chick in sight. Of course not, good girls from good families are unaware of the existence of alcohol.

I went up to the counter with the most angelic look plastered on my face. One of the uncle-types was scandalised to see me there, but he clearly knew better than try and bully a 32-year old woman. I asked for the port wine, because we buy a particular brand, and then asked about the different kinds of rum available. The counter guy was flustered and stuttering, but he managed to calm down in the face of my sheer unflappability.

He brought out different varieties and I made a choice of brand. He then proceeded to wrap up a tiny bottle for me. I stopped him with a shake of my head, and for the benefit of the uncle-type, I said loudly, “Bhaiyya. Isse kya hoga? Sabse bada bottle dena.” [Bro. What will this achieve? Give me the biggest bottle you have.]

The uncle-type was so horrified, he tried to elbow me out of the way. I swung my purse hard into his side, and stalked off triumphantly.

Worth. It.

Graciously Yours

Being a confident adult is a privilege.

Growing up, I was extremely awkward. No big surprises there, since most of us are awkward while trying to find our feet in new situations outside our comfort zones. Except for the fortunate few that looked sophisticated and polished, hitting puberty with an unparalleled amount of poise, I remember several of us being attacked by hormones rather painfully.

I don’t really know how I became so painfully shy as a child, because I was a bouncy toddler. The shyness lasted throughout my schools and colleges, and only really went away when I got my first real job. And the shyness, as you can imagine, makes it super hard to make friends.

Not that I didn’t want friends; quite the opposite. I desperately craved friends. Friends in my mind were people who I could confide my awkwardness to, and have them explain the finer points of adolescence to me. Friends were meant to be forever, and this theory was largely driven by an exclusive diet of 90s American sitcoms like USA High and Saved by the Bell. And I had very few.

Actually, scratch that, I did have friends. But this was the time before Facebook, and instant messenger and email were just raising their heads in countries that were not the US. We weren’t in the habit of checking emails regularly, nor exchanging them frequently. So when I moved from Dubai to Scunthorpe for sixth form, I lost touch with people. Similarly, when I moved back to Dubai two years later, I again lost the phalanx of friends I had.

Making friends when not in a college or school? Really super duper hard. I came back to a Dubai where all my old friends had gone to university elsewhere. I was lonely for company my own age.

Now all this was background for my actual point, which I am coming to now. During my stint in the UK, my family had gotten friendlier with another family. One with two sons.

*deep breath*

I should perhaps mention that in Dubai, most schools were segregated. Being an Islamic country, mixing the sexes was a definite no-no, although a few schools got away with it. Thanks to being an only child, and being raised in this insane climate, I was immensely uncomfortable around boys. [So many of my friends now would be aghast at this revelation, considering I am always surrounded by blokes these days.]

So, when my mother suggested I try being friends with the younger of the family friend’s sons, GP, I baulked. He was about 4 years older, quite good looking, and, most importantly, A GUY. How was I supposed to make overtures of friendship to someone who I was, for all intents and purposes, deathly afraid of speaking to?

My mum knew I was awkward, and bless her soul, she tried to help. She asked her friend, this guy’s mum, whether GP would take me under his wing. At the time, I was equal parts humiliated and hopeful. But GP didn’t warm to the idea.

I get it: a younger girl tailing you around, foisted on you by your mother, is potentially no fun at all. Also, he had just broken up with someone, and apparently I was the living spit of this heartbreaker. So a thousand times no. Fair enough. I was hugely upset, and somewhat relieved too, but I understood. Why would anyone “cool” want to hang out with me?

Cut to a few years later, and I was still painfully shy. I was in India, and had gone to Pune with my mum. There, we met one of her college friends. He had two grown up sons, the younger of which was, like GP, about 4 years older. But that’s where the similarities end; HP, the other guy, was far more gracious. He, and another friend, took me around Pune, and we had a fabulous time together. We ate in cafes, they introduced me to some of their friends, they showed me the sights, and much more.

Today, I am almost 33, and I am no longer the shy, awkward young girl, with a paralysing fear of boys. Quite the opposite actually, as I am often considered the brave one with the string of male admirers. [One of my friends once called me a ‘boy magnet’ to my extreme embarrassment.] But more than any of that, I have often been in the position GP and HP were in so many years ago. And I have always handled it like HP, never like GP.

[And here is my point, at long last. Kudos if you lasted this long.]

Being a confident adult is a privilege. Life takes so many twists and turns, with so many opportunities to be scarred, mentally or otherwise. I came from a a secure, loving family and home, and I knew nothing of the abuse that many young people face. My shyness was because of my environment outside of home, because my appearance lacked coolness and my demeanour was not sophisticated. I didn’t listen to the right music, and I didn’t know how to manipulate. I was a vulnerable young person, brimming with shuttered positivity, in a world that celebrates jaded been-there done-that attitudes.

Therefore, when I have often found myself with a young person under my wing, I am reminded of the young starry-eyed me, looking desperately for acceptance. It is easy for me to be gracious, to adapt my conversation to suit their interest, to put their anxious minds at ease, and to make them feel wanted. It is so easy because I remember the turmoil-ridden person I was at that age, and how much I wished for someone to accept me like HP did.

I only hope that this sort of thing carries forward. Because being accepted can be a huge turning point for someone.

The Kenwood Saga

It has been a week of follow ups. And most of them didn’t make the cut. So, when I was pondering what on earth to blog about today, I thought I would share the story of my late waffle iron.

Some time in 2014, we bought a Kenwood sandwich maker. It was one of those convenient, albeit not sophisticated, models with interchangeable plates. I am not a fan of multi-tasking equipment, because the functions tend to be mediocre at best. [This is not of course a stricture on all multi-function equipment, as I would happily swap a limb a KitchenAid if my mother hadn’t issued an moratorium on any and all appliances till I find a place to put it.]

I was happy to have the Kenwood sandwich maker though, because it was an easy appliance to use. The waffles turned out fairly all right, if not crispy. They took an inordinate time to cook though, and that was rather tedious. Because of said tedium, I put off making waffles for many a moon.

Last week, my mum made an amazing salad. And because she was hogging the stovetop, I decided to make waffles as an accompaniment. It was a good decision; they turned out pretty well.

However, on the last batch, I put in too much batter. The waffles cooked for a while, and then the machine just turned off. I assumed it was the thermostat, but it wasn’t. The machine wasn’t turning on.

We waited for it to cool. Nope. We gave it a few days. Nope. It was time to call the service centre. Now, the shop from where we purchased the appliance had shut down. So that option was out.

After a lot of Internet searching, I found a call centre number. I called. They didn’t answer. After racking my brains a little, I placed a work order with Housejoy, a home services company. I selected the ‘grill’ option under the ‘oven’ category, and I still got a surly, unpleasant, unhelpful sod of a serviceman, who manhandled the appliance, even as he proclaimed he only fixed microwaves. He was one of the few people I have met in my life that I have wanted to punch hard. Anyway, I digress. [I didn’t punch him. But I am frustrated enough by his behaviour to decide never to use Housejoy. Ever.]

A little fed up, I tried the helpline again. And this time, I got through to an agent. He took down my details, and said that a service engineer would call in 48 hours. I was given a number too. He only cautioned that spares were taking time to source, and I might have to wait awhile.

About a day later, a nice lady from Chennai calls to confirm the time for an appointment. She repeats my address back to me, and says the service engineer would call before coming. So far, so great!

On the day he is supposed to come, the engineer does call. And says: “Hi, I’m calling from the Kenwood Service Centre. We have stopped servicing Kenwood appliances.”

To say I was taken aback is an understatement. I called the helpline and found out that, yes, the service contract from these third party providers had indeed been pulled. This is a service company known as Jeeves, by the way, not Kenwood Service Centre. Ah.

Next, I called a service number for Kenwood audio components, hoping they would have a current number. The very nice man told me very kindly that, while this was indeed the case a few weeks ago, the numbers had changed and they had not received the new information. I asked him whether the distributor would have this number, and he agreed that it would be a good idea to try them.

Then I looked for the distributor’s number, and I found one for a company called Matrix. The receptionist gave me a mobile number right away, saying that it belonged to the executive dealing with Kenwood. Great. I rang him up, and he told me that his company’s contract with Kenwood had ended in 2013. Another company had taken over the contract, and he could give me their number instead.

He also told me that while they were the latest distributors, their contract was also up. There would be a chance that they would refer me back to him, in which case please tell them that I got their number from him.

Slightly bewildered, I called the latest distributor’s executive. He confirmed that the Matrix guy was telling the truth, and that Kenwood had pulled all their contracts – import and service – from India at present. There was a renegotiation phase currently underway, and I would need to wait a few months for an authorised service centre to come up.

At this point, apart from the Housejoy douche, I had spoken to a series of nice, polite, and highly apologetic individuals. But my waffle iron wasn’t getting fixed. So now I have to lug it to the nearest electrical shop, where it may or may not get fixed.

A minute of silence for the dearly departed.