creative writing

It’s a Woe-man’s world 101

Recently Mail Today asked me to write an anecdotal article for them. It got published on 31st Jan’10 (best viewed in IE).  Here’s the unedited version of the article (which has one anecdote extra). Awaiting bouquets/brickbats in comments. 🙂

It’s a Woe-Man’s world

“Some husbands are living proof that a woman can take a joke”. How else does one explain the umpteen number of smart, intelligent, independent women getting married to chauvinists & changing their entire outlook for that mandatory milestone in life that we call “marriage”? They believe they need to either do that, or get slotted into the “failure” category. I see some of them living double lives – one when they are outside the home and one when they are under scrutiny of their in-laws.

Gone are the days when the typical matrimony setup had the boy’s family visiting the girl’s with the girl coyly handing out tea & demonstrating her obligatory culinary/sewing/singing/knitting (take your pick) skills. Cut to the present – now families meet in public places a.k.a. crowded cafes where the ‘boy’ & the ‘girl’ are given some time alone after both parties size each other in noisy environs & wonder who’ll foot the bill. Most such meetings end up poorly (literally) since there’s hardly any interaction before the two parties meet, no picture exchange, the only conversations on phone being limited to the “elders”. The entire premise is based on the concept of suitable “bio data” where almost everyone writes things like “hobbies – listening to music” and at most horoscope matching. The ‘boy’ & ‘girl’ in question usually squirm under the scrutiny of the opposite party, utter obligatory nonsense and return back with the real picture getting clearer much later with a phone call. One figures that the only “type” one would meet under these circumstances are “mama’s boys”.

A better method still, some “boys” & “girls” and sometimes even entire families, hang around on matrimonial websites a.k.a. glorified dating sites (& other unmentionable terms in a family newspaper). The goal for at least some of us, is to meet educated, employed, decent AND available men (the last being a very important attribute since most available men lack the first three qualities). But the assumption that one would meet such men beyond the realm of their mother’s pallus, shatters soon enough with the kind of experiences one faces on such sites.

Take for instance the typical “orkut fraandsheep request” type users who flock the site, spamming anyone with a profile, after all it takes only a click. Or the freeloaders with a daily income less than the cost of a peanut butter jar, who can’t write to save their life. I’ve been contacted by men between the ages of 21-62, with professions as varied as “Sweeper” to “Zamindar”, marital status ranging from divorcee-with-2-kids to got-married-a-month-back-now-separated. Some weirdos give reasons like “I’ve no problem with the age difference of just 6 months but my parents want an age difference of at least 3 years” as if its the parents who were going to wed me. Some (including the weirdo category) forget having been written off via a previous profile of theirs & reconnect anyway, when they create a new profile all over again. The online world does give freedom of expression but seemingly the parental pallu extends here too at times! Right from being called up early one morning by an NRI who was ensuring that I was female, thanks to a bad experience with a gay masquerading as a girl on a matrimonial site, to hearing about how one “profile user” stole another’s credit card when they met, to people plagiarizing someone elses pictures & passing them off as their own forgetting that SOME day they’ll meet people they contact, to the people one rejects stalking one on ones social networking profiles – I’ve seen it all!

But don’t take me to be “choosy” just yet. I went through the matrimonial process for many years, putting in my entire free time into the search & approached it very methodically. Taking a cue from another “organised user”, to make sense of the information overload, I maintained excel sheets for the various people I contacted & those who contacted me. The sheet got updated daily with the meticulousness & dedication I would assign only to my finances. Talking of finances, I might as well add, working in the IT industry for several years put me in a decent salary bracket & allowed me to possess my own car and house. With time, I moved out of my parents place and started living independently in the aforementioned house & swooshed around the city in the aforementioned car. Now that is considered a very bad move as far as the marriage market is concerned. I instantly got typecasted into the “fiercely independent” category and I could imagine the rejection thought process of the parents of prospective grooms – “live in boyfriends”, “can’t adjust into family”, you get the picture. Having a head between my shoulders, that actually does think & opine, does not help matters either. With time, taking cue from some online matrimonial profiles which stated clearly that they were looking for people earning as much or above their salary level, I added something to that effect in my profile as well. As expected I received mixed results. Some people could identify with it, whereas a lot of others contacted me on the sites only to harass me for the “attitude”. One guy wrote “You have such proud (sic), just coz u have lakshmi ki kripa.” That response was just begging for a reply & got it. I wrote “Yes, I am blessed with Lakshmi ki kripa, but you aren’t even blessed with Saraswati ki kripa — you can’t even write properly!”. Another user with misplaced patriotism contacted me just to tell me “You Pakis! Just go back to your country!” because my profile stated that my grandparents had migrated during partition from what is now Pakistan!

Even the traditional methods like matrimonial ads in newspapers or getting details of eligible matches through family friends & relatives yield similar results. In one particular instance the family seemed great, the “boy” seemed charming & possessed the four above mentioned attributes. Everything seemed just picture perfect. The family wanted to meet me & my parents at their place. Eventually we met & they instantly adopted me as their would-be daughter-in-law. The “boy’s” mom couldn’t stop fawning over me and kept gushing about something or the other. So much sudden love completely freaked me out. But it all fell into place when the hyperexcited mom of the boy in question took me aside & gave me a short lecture about how men are always careless, fickle minded, naughty and give in to temptations and how it was up to “us women”, the honourable creatures who could hold fort in such situations. Later the “boy” confessed to having been caught by his parents in a compromising position with a, well … friend. Ekta Kapoor’s serials had not started then, else the gushing mother in law, would have been quite the perfect caricature!

Even if one ignores the rotten apples, it’s a fact that most men in the marriage market have their expectations arising from the typical image of a wife who is “gharelu”, submissive, doesn’t talk back and “obeys”, perhaps created by the way we are brought up. Didn’t some elders say, TV is the root cause of all evil? It certainly rings true in this context.

Is it a crime if a woman is more successful or smarter than her better half? Well most men take that as a sign of their own failure. Some of my classmates from engineering, well educated people with good family backgrounds, actually wanted a wife who would NOT work after marriage! Strangely they never had a problem dating their own ambitious classmates from college but when it comes to the “wife search” it’s perhaps more about the apprehensions of these men than about the attributes of the women they look for! Surprisingly having a sister who also aspires to be independent doesn’t make any difference when the search for another female family member commences. The hypocrisy continues. I have observed that parents who believe in stereotypes mostly impose them on their progeny too. Someone who has the freedom to make his/her own choices is the kind of person who would also respect his better half’s choices & not get intimidated by them. The search for that kind of someone is still on, but till the time, the elusive groom who fits required attributes and does NOT get intimidated by me, comes, I go by what Carrie Bradshaw says “Why get married and make one man miserable when I can stay single and make thousands miserable?”

Fire and wine 13

Here’s the red wine for those who didn’t get to have it at my place.

Fire & wine

For the lovely combination of fire and wine,
and all utterly beauteous things divine,
On this valentine’s day,
I asked all lenses and cameras in sight,
the eternal question – “will you be mine?”.

I just love the combination of the red wine held over the bright fire. It is so visually appealing. Clicked at Sonapani. Quick 2 minute poem by self. Much merriment.

Made it to explore #276, 9Feb’08


Shireen looked into his blue eyes from her expressive ones. They looked like limpid pools of water, reflecting everything that came to her mind. Presently, they expressed satisfaction and subtly enquired about the same from him. She had slept with umpteen number of customers but this one was special. He somehow gave her respect. Didn’t treat her like a whore, like all others. True, that was her livelihood but still, wasn’t she human too? Or did they expect that a wad of notes ensured that the female there would somehow become a robot, cater to all whims and random fantasies, but not expect any pleasure in return, never decline any “order” however disgusting it may be? This man, somehow, made her forget her loneliness. He genuinely felt compassion *and* passion for her. She didn’t like giving a blow job and after noticing her hesitating, he never forced her for it. He had no idea, how much respect he had earned in Shireen’s eyes, just by not forcing her for something she didn’t want to do. If only her entire life had been like that. Her own. Her thought process was interrupted.. “I love you”, he whispered. Shireen could hardly believe her ears. It sounded like a symphony. “Me??”, she asked. “You do?”, the doubt was expressed with an underline. Almost instantly, she was afraid he would change his mind, although she loved him too. But she had spoken too soon. Suddenly she felt him hitting her. She felt sorry for having expressed her disbelief for something she could only have been thankful for. And then he was no longer there. It was amma, jolting her awake. A customer was waiting. Her “services” were required. He wanted the “moghul” routine, which involved dressing up like a “daasi” and feeding the “emperor” some grapes, coquettishly teasing him with the fruit, seducing him all the while. And the guy who had just claimed love for her? It had all been a dream. As always, she had been using the power of dreams to get what she desired.


This is the first “tag” I have ever been a part of. As a rule, I do not participate whenever I get tagged. But this one was “different”, since it involved some “creative writing”. I am not tagging anyone further. Anyone who likes the idea can try it. The rules are:
1. Write a 100-to-200-word entry using the following words: I, me, blow job, grapes, random, power, loneliness, water, robot and blue;
2. Use these words once and only once; and of course
3. The entry should make sense.

Atul, hope you like this attempt, though I couldn’t help dramatising it a bit :).

An ode

In the sweltering summer heat,
when even the roads are asweat,

I feel my legs are liquefied so,
this summer heat is going to make my body flow,

Like a tired old flower I wilt,
I try collecting myself together before I melt,

Cool cool icy water is a respite to my body,
but what about my eyes which feel so groggy,

Before I can liquesce any further, I spot you standing there,
Without meaning to, I begin to unabashedly stare,

You look so inviting, you are a pleasure to my eyes,
I feel as if for endurance of this heat, you are the prize,

Aah, looking at you makes me feel so fresh,
I peer futher into that yellow mesh,

‘Cause yellower than mustard and brighter than brass,
are your pretty petals – Amaltas.

City of Djinns

The “City of Djinns” doesn’t need any introduction. Neither the book nor the mystical city. William Dalrymple, born in Scotland, visited India around 1989 and stayed for 4 years during which he penned the book – ‘City of Djinns’. This book won the Thomas Cook travel book award. This is the story of one year in our very own city – Delhi, the city of Djinns. Djinns are supposedly another race like us, fashioned from fire, spirits invisible to the naked eye – one needs to fast and pray to see them.

William Dalrymple describes Delhi as “Full of riches and heroes, a labyrinth city of palaces, open gutters, filtered light through filigree lattices, choke of fumes and whiff of spices”. He unveils the ‘seven dead cities’ of Delhi in his book, the current being the 8th. Some even count the number as 15. These are nothing but a representation of the number of times Delhi has been destroyed and rebuilt. There are pieces of history lingering in every such city. Different areas of Delhi, preserve different centuries, even different millennia. Punjabi immigrants (form the recent day Delhi), old majors in Lodhi garden, old city eunuchs speaking courtly Urdu, Sadhus at Nigambodh ghat (depicting Indraprastha – first Delhi from Mahabharat) all form Delhi. Indraprastha was invaded & burned and yet it rose like a phoenix from fire, like hindus believe.

WD’s landlady for these 4 years was Mrs. Puri, a sikh from Lahore, expelled during partition, lost everything, rebuilt from scratch (like most punjabi immigrants). Her husband who was intermittently senile (he went crazy since 1984 Sikh riots), firmly believed that Mr. William had kept some mules ‘upstairs’. WD’s book talks about his experiences as a foreigner in this city – unused to domestic help and traffic snarls, his trysts with MTNL (which he called ‘an empire dedicated to beuracratic obfuscation), Delhi marriages which go on throughout the night, festivals like Holi, Diwali, Id, Dussehra and the fervour with which these are celebrated. WD goes on to talk about the 1984 riots, the partition and how these incidents affected people. The account is interspersed with amusing wit where his sikh driver – Balwinder Singh – points out ‘eye candy’ on the streets (clearly something WD is totally unused to) or tries communicating in his limited english resulting in some humourous misunderstandings. WD describes Shahjehanabad – the city established by Shah Jehan. He also visits Karachi where they asked him about certain ‘gullis’, or whether the streets still looked the same as before partition, (through whatever was left of them in their memory). There he meets the author of the book ‘Twilight in Delhi’ – a very good and accurate account of Delhi before the partition. Karachi itself looked very similar to Delhi – reconstructed.

People in Delhi believe in a certain prophecy that whosoever builds a new city, consequently loses it. History vouches for the same. Pandavas, Prithviraj Chauhan, Feroz Shah Tughlak, Shah Jahan are all examples of that. WD moves on to describe Lutyens Delhi and specifically its architecture. He gives accounts of someone who had seen it being built as a child. Events like the persian massacres of 1739 and the British recapture of 1857 are woven into his historical account. He writes about Nadir Shah and the British Resident – Sir David Ochterlony – who lived like a Moghul. He beautifully highlights the cultural amalgamation that followed in terms of the architecture in this era in ‘Dehlee’ and ‘Hurriyana’. Till date, the British residency supposedly retains some part of the mughal architecture (the moghul ruins on which it was built). WD also happens to read the letters from one particular British Resident – 183 years later at the same desk at which the resident wrote them. He writes about Angloindians, who suffer the worst racial prejudices of Indians and the British Both.

His culturally rich, amply researched and historically lush account mentions a lot of aspects of all cultures that Delhi has seen – for eg. Kabootar Baazi – a sport prevalent in old Delhi, Eunuchs and the way they exist. He talks about historical figures like Shah Jehan, Dara Shikoh, Aurangzeb, Roshanara Begum, their related history and their associated establishments – Shahjehanabad, Aurangabad, Roshanara Bagh, Shalimar Bagh etc. He writes about how Aurangzeb ousted his favoured brother Dara Shikoh and crowned himself in Shalimar Bagh, beheaded Dara Shikoh and sent his head on a platter to an imprisoned Shah Jehan just before his prison meal. The barbaric nature of the Moghuls is clearly evident through several tales.

This book also brings to light several interesting things to the unaware reader. Apart from the cultural, historical, architectural narratives, it contains things which I am sure many of us never knew. He mentions that the Britishers are to blame for diverting the ‘Jumna’ and laying in its place a main road so that the Mughal pavillions in Red Fort look out not to a source of water but onto a road – MG Road, one of the most noisy and polluted stretch of the Ring Road! WD also interviews Fakeerah Sultan Begum – the great grand daughter of Aurangzeb(!) who’s still alive and talks about Delhi as “her” city.

A ‘must read’ is a mild description for this book. More than a book, it is a time travel machine which takes you back several years and several centuries without never really leaving the present. It makes you realise that you were unaware of such treasures in your own backyard all this while. This enriching and informative book makes history look like an interesting dream where some bits are still fresh in my mind, bits where I experience the thrill of discovering something, some bits are sadly erased permanently and I am unable to recollect them and then there are still some, which I am trying to recollect, by digging deep through my memory. I want to know more by exploring whatever I have today. Something that textbook history could never achieve. Go ahead and read this book for accounts of Ibn Batuta’s travel adventures, Yunani medicine, Hakims, Hindi Gaalis!, Nizamuddin saints, Elusive eunuchs, Djinns which got captured, Kaurav’s capital – Hastinapur and many more interesting things while I take a copy with me to revisit Shalilmar Bagh, Roshanara Bagh, and Begumpur (On way to Mehrauli) where Mohd. Bin Tughlak had his palace. Not every city has a spirit of its own, but djinns or no djinns, Delhi does.