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.

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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. 😐

Fall in Love with the Worst of Me

I wrote before on feeling inadequate for potential mothers-in-law in a previous post. It was and is a fair representation of my state of mind when it comes to getting into a serious relationship with someone, but there is another aspect that also hamstrings me considerably.

There are a lot of things wrong with me; I prefer to think of them as flaws that I can work out eventually, but some are circumstantial. The latter, I have no control over. They are what they are. But one of my requirements for someone to be my partner is that they need to see me at my worst and still love me, before I move forward. There is background to this, so bear with me.

Way back in school, I was very much an awkward teen. I couldn’t speak to boys without stuttering and flushing a truly iridescent and unattractive shade of purple. My mother was less than amused with the ridiculous segregation that was part and parcel of living in an Islamic country, and of being in a starchy Indian school. So, when a boy in my year asked me out [through the aegis of a common friend], she drove me to accept.

Now the boy in question was an Adonis. The only difference was that he was Indian, and didn’t have the rippling physique. But oh my goodness was he gorgeous. He had brown hair, considerably lighter than the dark mops that usually adorn Indian heads. He had big green-grey eyes, set in an alabaster complexion. He was as fair as, if not fairer than, me. He was taller than I was, but not by a lot [we were young teens, so he had some more growing to do]. He was divinely beautiful, and I was not remotely attracted to him. [This story deserves its own post really, and I’ll get to it after I finish this one.]

Uday was a dreamboat, but he was a typical Dubai kid. Massive chip on his shoulder, attitude issues because despite his movie star looks, he was not a popular kid. [Our school culture placed a lot of emphasis on brashness, physique, and academics for social ranking.] His parents were separated too, which must have been rough for him, but overall he was something of snotty toerag.

I couldn’t for the life of me understand why any boy, let alone this gorgeous hunk, would be interested in me. I was the very epitome of uncool; and honestly, I still am although I am way chill with that status quo now. So when he wrote poems about my eyes [yes, really] I really had no wits about me to answer.

He asked me out on a date – again, had no idea what to do. His dad dropped me home later, and the common friend who set us up told me the next day that he had spent all his pocket money on the date. I felt terrible, but I had offered to pay my share, but possibly a timidly squeaking date wasn’t terribly convincing. So the common friend suggested I invite him over.

My mom was very cool with this plan, and she had me rent a movie, got us some snacks, and went out for a meeting, leaving us alone. [Have I mentioned my mom is a very very cool person?]

We watched the movie, and then we wanted to surf the web. Now, the computer was in my parents’ bedroom which also housed my extremely unfriendly dog of the time; a rather murderous white Alsatian. To get access to the computer, she needed to be shunted out of their bedroom into mine. She was not pleased.

There was a certain protocol that existed for this manoeuvre, and I forgot one of the salient points: remove the carpet rug off my room’s floor. Of course I forgot, and in her annoyance, my dog peed on the carpet.

Uday and I finished surfing the web, and I went to check on my dog. To my horror, I realised that she had expressed her disapproval in a rather large stain. So I had to clean it out pronto. I happened to be dressed in going-out clothes because of my gentleman caller, so I changed into home wear for the clean up.

I lugged the carpet into my parents’ bathroom to wash, and Uday caught sight of my erm ensemble. His eyebrows shot into his hairline and he sneered at me a little: “WHAT are you wearing?” At the best of times, I was not poised. At this? I bolted into the bathroom, carpet in tow. I scrubbed the thing, and dried it out in the balcony, my cheeks burning with embarrassment.

The problem was that for that instant, I looked like the help. In the social status-obsessed culture of Dubai, it wasn’t a good move. As a grown up, I couldn’t care less: Carpet > Superficial ideals. But at the time? I was crushed.

The date progressed thereafter, and I moved my dog back into her room after we were done surfing the web. We made out too, my first ever kiss [slobbery and wet] happening a mere hour or so after the carpet washing incident. [I still wasn’t attracted to him. I didn’t even like him at that point.] I just wanted him to go.

My mother thankfully returned, and his dad came to pick him up too. And I was left with a weird sense of what-just-happened.

A lot of what I have just described came back to me as I was writing the post, and it makes me want to unpack that chapter a little more for the sake of closure. But this post is about my takeaway: that I needed to be with someone who understands that life isn’t a pretty little fairytale.

Human beings are messy creatures. We have fluids oozing out of orifices, and our skins form thin layers between the eyes of the world and a mess of guts and bones. There are times when hair is all out of place, and we are covered in mud or dust or grime. Cooking involves effort, and it isn’t always prettified with a gingham apron and colourful pans. Having a baby isn’t romantic either; there is copious amounts of blood and ooze, and shit too on occasion. Vomit is a part of life too, and it sure as hell isn’t Instagram-worthy. As we age, our bodies start shutting shop. Teeth and hair fall out, and bellies flop out and skin dangles loosely in folds. Suppose illness strikes? Cancer isn’t pretty. Neither is malaria or typhoid.

Forget the messiness of the body for a moment, and realise that life too is messy. I live in a broken down apartment, with doors that have bits missing, and walls that are in parts crumbling and others losing paint. We try and keep the house as clean and liveable as possible, but circumstances have made it necessary for us to continue here. One of my exes would have baulked at the thought of sleeping on mattress in the living room, and complained incessantly of there being only one sink. [There are logistics involved with this; we are not unsanitary.]

I feel like that a person who judges me for what I look like, my circumstances, and how I manage to be happy in less than perfect surroundings is missing the point. The point is that these things are immaterial. A connection between two people, their hearts and minds, is beyond all this. It is to be able to see the goodness, the kindness, and joy within, and revel in a love that both create.

Uday was an immature kid at the time, and I don’t think, looking back, that he intended to sneer at me. However, because of my hypersensitivity to his reaction, I learned that I only want to be with someone who understands what lies beneath.

Compassionate Jokes

I have something of an unruly tongue at the best of times, but I learned today that I can control it on occasion.

Previously, when I went out with my family, I often uttered a famous TV dialogue which flummoxed my parents, as evidenced by this sorrowful Facebook post I put up years ago:

There is this celebrated TV show in India called CID. One of the characters, a policeman called “Daya”, is repeatedly asked by his superior officer to break down a door. Since my mom’s name is Daya, it amused me no end to tell my tiny mother to kick down doors. I got a lot of mileage [for myself] out of that quip, before I explained it to my parents.

So the other day, Mom and I had trotted off to the salon to get her a haircut, and we were accosted by a beggar lady on leaving the salon premises. Now, I am not an insensitive soul, but I have learned not to yield to their pleas for money. Food is fine, but money is problematic. [Definitely something I should figure out in another post.]

Now, there are many standard whines that beggars use to importune people into giving them money. This one said: “Please show some compassion.” That is a rough translation from: “Daya karo.

I didn’t say anything, although I was sorely tempted. Adult. *ahem*

Trigger Responsibility

Ha. Another rant. A potentially incoherent one, without a definitive outcome or conclusion.

Although the incidents described in my previous posts are recent, the sentiments they generate are not. The attention makes me feel sick, cheap, and dirty. I want it to stop because I hate it. I do not find it complimentary. I do not secretly revel in the attention. Nothing of the sort. I just abhor being the “other woman”.

It isn’t an indictment on other “other women”, by the way. Everyone’s situation is different, and apportioning blame is not something I can generalise easily. If I had to though? I would blame the cheating party. Because that’s the person doing the deceptive deed.

Anyway, when untoward incidents have befallen me, and thankfully the regularity with which they do so has decreased dramatically recently, I tend to introspect a lot. There is a lot of: “Why does this happen to me?” and “What can I have done to attract this attention?” and “Do I send the wrong signals?” and “Should I have done this differently?” and so on. There is much dissecting of my own behaviour that goes on and, even though on a cognitive level I know this is ridiculous, I look for where the blame is mine.

It isn’t that I don’t feel revulsion for the perpetrator and the incident; because I most certainly do. But a corner of my brain also feels revulsion for myself. In my more coherent moments, I know that it is terrible and wrong to feel like that, but in the moments of upset, it is inevitable.

I play the incidents several times in my mind, minutely examining decisions I made:

  • I shouldn’t have put up a status message on WhatsApp. -> He was emboldened to make a comment.
  • I shouldn’t have agreed to meet up with him. -> He took that as interest from me, whereas I was being polite.
  • I shouldn’t have worn that outfit. -> He thought I was dressing up for him.
  • I shouldn’t have responded to his midnight messages. -> He understood that as a signal that I was open to his advances.

And many more such thoughts. If any other girl said these things to me, I would have talked her out of this destructive thought process. I would have explained that this is a combination of rape culture and patriarchy, and that men need to be able to control themselves around women. I would have said that women need to stop berating themselves for making insignificant actions into major excuses for other people’s poor behaviour. We are allowed to dress up for ourselves, wearing what we want. Our appearance is not a signal to anyone, but how we choose to look for that moment.

And yet, I still think these things. I went through my PRIVATE Instagram account, and deleted all followers who were not personal friends. I have vowed not to put up status messages on WhatsApp. I stopped tweeting a long time ago. I didn’t do any of these things for attention, incidentally, but for the joy of reaching out to my friends and family with a random smile or thought.

I guess this blog is my final frontier of sharing, and that too because I have guarded the URL like national treasure. Ain’t no one getting a piece o’ me from here.