Monthly Archives: June 2013

What Grandma Knew Better

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In spite of my perpetual inclination towards the unbridled egalitarian human spirit, that invariably stereotypes me as a radical or even a painful rebel within an otherwise-perfectly-normal-and-peaceful-family, there rests a hidden world within me that brings out the apparent antithesis and a conflicting need within me. The latter world emerges out of the deep waters once the tides are low, at an innocuous hour when the sun is yet to rise and the entire cosmic space rests in unstirred silence and darkness. When I step into this world, individuality seems slightly overrated and even self-centered and lonely whereas the concept of conformism suddenly seems comforting even if it may be a little out of my comfort-zone as a giver every now and then.

This facet of my mind reminds me of my yearning for a family, it confesses to me the significance of those attributes of warmth and affection and bonhomie whose gravity soared above the realms of petty conveniences and practicality and whose impact could leave a heart altered and touched for life. Even today, when my mind is agitated by the silence within my self-drawn boundary that defines my own space, my mind wanders off into a remote yet apparently undesired possibility of a space filled with people and voices. That space around me that I so zealously guard from time to time from intruders seems no more than a barren land, unfriendly and forbidding. And I wait or even crave at times for someone to barge in with a booming voice and destroy my obsession for my sense of individuality and redeem my spirit of being an unguarded wanderer of the unknown.

In a world where most lives are gradually moving towards a more disciplined socialising pattern adorned by well-manicured protocols that I on a normal day would most naturally defend, the memory that comforts me most is of how I was always welcome at my grandparents’ house where I didn’t have to think of the convenient hours. I just knew I could go there anytime I liked and they would love me and be so happy to greet me! Grandma would pretend that her backache was gone so she could cook me my favourite bake! On the contrary, if I were to pick up the phone and call someone of my own generation I would have to think a zillion times about the hour and its appropriateness. To be fair to them I am, myself, duly guilty of the same practice most often when I prefer a prior heads up on how my following weekend would look like so I could plan my work around it. You see, it’s flawlessly convenient!

Any last minute variation to the revised almost accurate chronology that might involve more than five people on the surprise guest list would most invariably leave the likes of me hyperventilating inside, even more if it were on a weekday where the chances of winging it would be even lower for some unexplainable reason. Thankfully these freakishly scary mental images of being roped into impromptu action rarely spills onto the face, which by then carries the ‘what-a-pleasant-surprise!’ or ‘of-course-I’d-love-to-help!’ look in rehearsed reflex when inside it would feel like I had run out of oxygen or someone was plunging a knife into my hand.

Sometimes I wonder how the Smartphone generation got this way. On the contrary I grew up in a house thronging with guests and filled with laughter and parties. There were fewer bedrooms yet we never seemed to run out of space. Sometimes we even slept on the floor after we all had chatted for half the night over innumerable snacks and cups of coffee that mother quietly supplied from the kitchen. I don’t recall a single episode when my parents looked unhappy with visitors or uneasy for having to help people at an unearthly hour. Instead, our exams came and passed by like seasons, but that didn’t alter the pattern of guests at home – they were always welcome even if that meant that we had to quietly cancel our own plans. Declining a guest unless for an emergency was not an option. In those days, even the help at home wasn’t adequate nor were there enough machines to smoothen out the cleaning and laundry work. Yet, I am still to see my parents hit the panic button when the house is brimming with guests. It seems like such a pleasure to be visiting people like these.

Well, whom are we kidding here! Of course there were times when my parents and their parents too wished that they didn’t have to entertain those many guests at an uncomfortable time of the year! But they handled it differently. And guess what, they had their guests over anyway (most of the times)! How is that a smart choice? Well their loyalties and concern for one another wove them so close to each other that even during times of utter discontent my mother had a long list of people she knew she could trust with her eyes shut. Also, during times of celebration my parents knew they had so many loved ones who would be happy for us, who would bless us too. That is what that generation had earned! Loads of love, loyalty, companionship, good wishes and blessings! After all, this was what a family was meant to do, to flock together just like the birds, ants and elephants!

Instead it had started to seem too primitive or even obsolete a concept to many of us, by now, whose aspirations were driven primarily by convenience or a self-designed sense of individual space and justice. The head prevailed while the heart waited for a trial. Families slowly disintegrated into fragments where our only string of communication rested on the frail shoulders of the previous generation. Even today, the little that I know about my cousins and their lives is mostly through my mother. Sadly enough, even Facebook hasn’t played a vital role in establishing my loyal intent towards my family yet. We seem to have conveniently discarded things that haven’t suited us and tagged those as among the felonies of some manmade society while we have embraced ideologies that promote individuality to seem undeniably superior!

Most of us from this current generation tend to go incognito socially or explicitly announce our super busy schedules in advance so no social link starts to grow on us and weigh us down. We schedule dinners and lunches proudly as we conform to the practice where everyone is at the right place at the right time and there is also enough room and grub for everybody. Under such conditionality clause how easy is it to remain unpretentious? I have often felt a blatant disconnect between relatives and friends in such gatherings where only the unfaltering rapport among the previous generation has seemed assuring and comforting to me.

Today, even when my mind can relate to those of my generation and beyond, my heart yearns for that unconditional affection that I once received from the generations before mine. Sure, there were pitfalls then but it isn’t fully correct either to believe that we have got ourselves a fair deal – and that is the point here. I find myself a complete misfit as I crave for those family reunions that I grew up watching. I have decided to dismantle my panic button for good and step up for some traditional-style family time!

While I am no patron of social sanctions, I still wish we retained our abilities to distinguish between the attributes within a society that resonate with our human spirit of bonding and belonging as against those that we deceivingly device and construct only for the sake of it. I doubt if this is any less of an apocalypse for humankind and I won’t be surprised if our future generations called us primitive too for selfishly deconstructing a society that our forefathers once built. Perhaps this is where we stop and ponder…

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Are You Sanctioned Yet?

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece titled ‘Lust for Likes’ that spoke of our perpetual need for gratification through the verdict of the Collective, irrespective of the level of competence of the latter to pronounce a judgement. I am not sure how qualified I am to testify to the latter’s capabilities in this matter; however, I do believe that any independent opinion such as mine must count and so I must speak. In the earlier post I had mentioned how it was the number of votes in our favour, as evident, that mattered to us. The rest was amicably yet confidently damned.

Be it a piece of writing or an unadulterated opinion, both await response, if not recognition, from those around. Heavens forbid, if either should receive a not-so-positive acknowledgment (or no acknowledgement at all), then we are almost always convinced of our own incapability, instantly despising our sensibilities and expressions as we grapple helplessly in the dark for any scrap of consolation that would assure us that the ‘me’ wasn’t yet entirely worthless. We contain an inherent quality to doubt ourselves and an innate ability to trust the negative with regard to that self.

Just when I thought I had conveyed my remorse over our addiction to social attestations to our independent works and ideas, I noticed that the primary fault lay far deeper within a need with a pedigree that had been realised years and years ago when man had created the concept of social norms and behaviour for his immediate benefits then.

Here’s an oversimplified (almost stupid) outline of how I interpret the evolution of and the need for a society. When man decided to settle down and not wander about, he needed an assurance that things would be available and safe while he was stationed in his area of choice. But he eventually realised that nothing would come for free, and that he needed to be socially accepted first. He also figured that there was a possibility of conflicts if everybody had their way. So there needed to be a definite hierarchy and set of rules that favoured him and made his life unencumbered by stress and impediments. That is when the problem started.

In an attempt to straighten things out in his favor, he then created norms that reaffirmed and validated a defined set of right and wrong. In a jiffy, the inspiring intricacies of the otherwise free human mind and will were combed out following an oversimplified rationale and an even stunted intent. Since that moment we have only devised more and more ways to detain our minds and seize its spirit, threatening it from time to time in name of society.

With time these norms slowly became customs and traditions, and these customs that were initially designed to match our “requirements” slowly started dictating our mindsets. Over the years they established their unfaltering supremacy in our lives as a culture, and this we eventually came to regard as our cultural heritage. Before we knew, we had already fallen prey to the giant obsession for social acceptance.

We had to define and justify every relationship and every intention in a way that was expected of us by the society. Relationships needed validation; they often needed a sizeable justification too. Among these, a fair chunk of social sanctions were smartly weighed against a rational need and a thick smog of right and wrongs masked skillfully by a feel-good (and dangerously misleading) phrase – good intentions. This phrase has always made little sense to me.

Relationships too, just like schools and banks, were institutionalised, and that was all it took to get socially sanctioned. And just like the various kinds of bank accounts, there were different kinds of relationships too! And so they were legitimate (whatever that meant)! It was all good to keep us organised and safe within the parameters of law and order requirements, but I believe we took it way more seriously than that. Eventually, the legitimate became synonymous to the accepted that then became ‘right’. The others, that included moments of unadulterated yearnings and thoughts, roamed about like refugees and absconding convicts in the darkness of the night, since then. They refused to be tamed anyway.

Though even the sanctioned world too, just like the unsanctioned side, did bear the brunt of this obsession. I know a friend who had trouble finding a companion for himself after enduring two divorces in a row. The greatly glorified divorces had done an outstanding task in tagging him as the unworthy, or unreliable, or unlucky. His very own brother, on the other hand, who eventually decided to marry someone of his parents’ choice didn’t seem to bear that tag. Instead he became the ideal son. It didn’t matter if he had had an affair or a series of affairs before that choice. We only continued to see what was sanctioned.

Profound emotions like love and compassion too now waited in the same queue to be resized, sanctioned and stamped by innumerable rules like loyalty, duty, responsibility that waited to tickle our abused conscience and reaffirm our un-emancipated commitment towards making ourselves more mean-minded and shallow. Like a butcher we chopped and trimmed the very scope of those words into a handful of petty sanctioned relationships just the way we sliced the land into senseless bits. We took care of only what was ours, or so we thought it was.

In due time we seemed to forget those uninhibited emotions and the innumerable relations that slipped by into dark wilderness for having been unsanctioned or for having lived for a time span less worthy. Our minds had been manicured by then, and we all looked and felt and acted in the same way. We proudly called ourselves a society when instead we should have called ourselves a toy factory.

A levy and a sanction, which, I knew, were nomenclatures to defend the economic world, govern our social lives too, or at least, they still do in many parts of the world. These social sanctions only reduce us to mere commodities that are scanned at every station and then stamped in approval or disapproval. And most of us keep ourselves securely locked up so none of our insides spill out as we totter our way through each conveyor belt, keeping our anxious fingers crossed so that we are socially sanctioned just like the dirty luggage on the dusty conveyor belts at the airport or railway station. Any unrecognised luggage is treated like an explosive, a probable instrument for acts of terror …and will simply earn itself suspicious glances from those who have their head held high after being socially sanctioned.

This amalgamation of requirements that included a few lop-sided rules, among others, today seems sacrosanct and unbending in many parts of the world even now. As a result, we need social sanctions at every stage today in spite of being in a world of social networks! But must we always have everything defined within oversimplified closed quarters and parameters? Must we tag everything as right and wrong, good or bad? After all, how much right is right? Who decides? Why follow?

Must everything be weighed against self-appropriated consequences? Why can’t a thought, a moment, a relationship, an impulse count just as much, in its entirety, without having to scream out its meaning or significance? Why shouldn’t an indefinable relationship aspire to exist without any motive or definitive ending? Have we completely killed the wanderer in us? Are we willing to sacrifice our inherent free will of the wanderer? Or is it not the worst form of   sacrilege of the human soul?

A new life is now tagged as legitimate or illegitimate just like other contractual relationships that have been drafted and resized to fit the petty mindsets in the name of social security. And yet, how many of us feel socially secure today? I remember reading a book recently that said that earlier there used to be far greater humanitarian values where households would accept and take care of an orphan child who was unfed or homeless. It was only after certain religions disapproved of unsanctioned relationships and lives that people turned away from and refused to be associated with the allegedly ‘illegitimate’. ‘This is mine’, ‘that is yours’, ‘she has wronged’… these judgments have only torn us apart and given us a fake sense of power to criticise or condone one another. On the receiving end, those judgments have started to matter to us far more than they should have.

I shall refrain from commenting on the role of religion and let you make your own inferences and belief for now. I just know that religion has cost us several lives and the world’s history is a solid testimony to that. Be it the holiest city, Jerusalem or the Babri-Masjid area, these landmark sites in history have only tried to tell us about our futile attempts to own what belonged to all of us. It only tells us of our twisted and petty self-designed sanctions, be it religious or social or political. It only spells our incapability and stubborn efforts to conquer, capture and sanction a fragment of the free land or the free human spirit. Yet we refuse to learn.

The day we learn to set our minds and hearts free of all sanctions shall we redeem that lost wanderer’s soul within us that is capable of looking at itself as a part of a much larger creation. What a futile conquest it has been so far! I wish we had spent half that time to conquer our minds instead so we could defend that free world within and around us.

I don’t intend to overlook or deny the amount of progress individuals and developed societies have made where they are free to express themselves, define their sexual preferences, and occupy themselves with the work of their choice. It is only that I am unable to overlook that vast majority that refuses to evolve with the changing times, thus making the concept of a society seem so immaterial and inconsequential suddenly. They are the sorts who judge you for what you speak, what you wear, and who you talk to (with regard to your socially-assigned status, mind you). I have despised such people ever since I can remember and shall continue to do so.

Of course, I don’t count myself as the solitary reaper though I dare confess that the solitary confines of my workspace do lend me far more seriousness and gravity most of the times. I am also aware that any statement as this would only culminate into a longer list of people who despise me or de-recognize me (secretly or otherwise), as they have from time to time. But being perfectly aware of the unfortunate plight of our majority today, a fear like this seems no different than a self-inflicted wound, a self-assumed threat or even a form of blackmail to me.  According to me, sizing down an individual’s independence and choices is the worst form of abuse of the human spirit.

I have noticed the names and faces that appear and disappear each time I announce my perspective, and as much as I would secretly want to please each of them, I am constantly reminded of my loyalty to my own mind and its opinions first. My choice therefore is unanimous. And, I welcome everyone’s perspective with equal respect just as long as you can convince me that it is your independent mind that is talking to me.

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Nine To Five

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(another poem from Madhurima’s book ‘Goddess & Whore‘)

the tiny cloud
o’er my coffee mug
slowly fills
the air-con space
the rhyming clicks
on my black keyboard
begin to pick
their daily pace…
i take a sip
and retrieve my lip
the stain of red
still on the mug
i answer my phone
in rehearsed reflex
and feel a frown
upon my brow…
i haven’t much time
to fill my mind
with thoughts
of disappointment and fear
my coloured nails
in harmony click on
without a sign
of remorse or cheer…
i pull back my chair
that yields to my will
and stride down
the quiet corridor
my four-inch heels
confirm my being
announcing themselves
on the lacquered floor…
this is my world
from nine to five
when i decide
my destiny
no judging eye
can reach me here
no ladle nor knife
can make pieces of me…
I’ve seen
the raised eyebrow
the look you give
from time to time
but i choose this time
my book instead
and leave you to fuss
o’er my alleged crime…

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Ramblings Of A Married Man

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My parents have been married for over thirty years now, and their parents celebrated their golden anniversary five years ago. My great-grandfather too, I am told, looked much relieved and eager in a strange sort of way by the mere possibility of joining his companion after his death which also happened of heart-break soon after great grandma passed away. And here I am, Tito, barely into five years of my marriage (and four affairs that did not work out before marriage), already toying with the idea of running away to some place really far, where this alliance could not find me.

The reason I have started questioning this allegedly ‘holy union’ (of man, woman, the man’s mother, the woman’s mother, et all) is because this seems like the only thing that can possibly yield to my power without killing me of apparent guilt, since the rest of my relationships remain seemingly sacrosanct and sympathy-prone and protected. There comes a point where a man’s sense of guilt seems taller than his own sorrows. I’d selfishly allow Paro, my feisty and vocal half, to disown me than suffer the cruel verdict of being pronounced a bad son, a role that I have had to prove quite frequently of late. Paro would perhaps testify to this thought since she knows me reasonably well or perhaps since she is exhausted of dating my whole family to prove her love for me every day without the luxury of getting on with it gradually. Though I must add here that my Paro is no soft missy, which actually fuels my misery in the most conventional ways.

Apart from fearing the two women in my life – ma and Paro – I am also a god-fearing person though the logical side of me has been researching a reasonable bit on Hindu mythology these days. As it turns out, a mother and son relationship has been duly depicted and glorified by Krishna and his mother Yashoda. Looking for a mother and daughter relationship within these mythological parameters would be pointless; besides that’s a separate story for my wife Paro to rant about. Then there is the famous husband-wife duo, Shiv and Parvati, among others. This revered pair is complete on its own. And in spite of there being innumerable tales of a zillion gods and goddesses, I wonder why there is not a single mythological trace that leaves any social evidence on the concept of Shiv, Parvati and their parents living under the same roof!

What I gather from all this is that the concept of a nuclear family prevailed much earlier than we knew –an impressive and highly scientific practice, I must add. So, basically, there are two neat categories of family structures: the perfectly joint ones, like the ones our grandparents grew up in, and the perfectly nuclear ones that our Hindu gods and goddesses like Shiv and Parvati enjoyed. I am still wondering which category I should place Paro and me in, since the concept of individuality of a nuclear family, in our case, is only restricted to the mere physicality of the word. Rest all is driven by an innate sense of compulsive-duty-disorder and guilt that ties us with a building full of people, sans our consent.

I consider myself a reasonably rational and patient man most of the times. Paro says that is what leads one to most of the wrong answers in a marriage. However, with habitual poised rationality I revise the series of events in my life so I can place my finger finally on the correct vein, feel the pulse, and declare the exact problem. I am obsessed with working things out ‘amicably’, where that last word before the comma is my greatest weakness sometimes. Unpleasantness or being upfront is Paro’s forte and I secretly admire and hate her for that.

So, here’s a rough chronology of how my life has unfolded until now:

  • Left Delhi (home) after high school for my Masters in Bombay –all good.
  • Spoke to ma and pa over the phone every Tuesday from Bombay – all good.
  • Visited home once a year as a student but ma and pa understand – all good.
  • Met Paro at a college literary fest in Pune – all good.
  • Dated Paro for three years while in college (Bombay-Pune) – all good.
  • Secured a job in Chennai – Paro in Pune – parents in Delhi – all good.
  • Connected to Paro via chats, whatsapp and unplanned visits – all good.
  • Called ma and pa every Tuesday like earlier – all good.
  • Introduced Paro to ma and pa – all good.
  • Got married and settled in Chennai with Paro and a hectic work life – all good.
  • Called ma and pa every Tuesday like before – suddenly, not enough.
  • Visited home more frequently than before –suddenly, not enough.
  • Now get Paro to call ma and pa every Tuesday at least – seems impossible!
  • Also, call Paro’s parents to prove my point above to Paro – highly irregular myself.
  • Also, visit Paro’s parents – barely accomplishable with mounting work and ma’s remorse.

So, Paro unhappy with my attempts to train her, ma disappointed to see untrained Paro, ma suddenly disappointed with the same old me too! And I, frantically waiting for Paro to play along a little more discretely. Well, perhaps I am frantically waiting for one of the women to take the burden off me, since I wasn’t trained to handle one. Would it seem kind if I asked ma to let go of me (Paro would gladly do the honours here) or is it fair or sustainable to ask Paro to play along with the mounting motherly love and attachment? Whatever I say or do invariably wins me a tag from both the women of my being ‘typically insensitive’ and it’s time I worked this out in my head before I began to believe the same.

I am told how mothers always advise their daughters before their wedding day, and how their sisters and friends patiently hear their doubts in the middle of the night. In certain parts of India and the world, even today, girls are trained since childhood by parents or finishing schools so they make better wives; utterly offensive from the female perspective but from where I look at it, such guidance would only mean unrealistically helpful for a man like me to understand the depth of the waters that he is about to blissfully swim into.

Instead, in our childhood, we men learn that food will be served to us, the house will be taken care of even in our absence, and that our timely studies and sleep constitute the centre of the universe. In return we just need to know that our single-most nerve-wracking aim in life is to secure a job that can help us pay for our house, our meals and our family.

Only sometimes will we have to run a few errands or play the ‘safety amulet’ for my mother and sisters as we unknowingly protect them against invisible scavengers. And then, we are suddenly pushed into a marriage-arrangement that seems quite the opposite, even worse, if the girl isn’t trained since childhood how to take care of her husband. Could it be possible that the rising numbers of broken homes are the real reasons why developed countries demand that a man be sent for National Service where they are taught to cook and clean too?

Paro often jokes that this expectation-disparity is intentional, so we men would always crave for our mothers even as we enjoy the new set of liberties with a younger woman, and our wives wouldn’t stand a chance in giving us the life we used to have in our childhoods. Now who would have thought of that! And how naively people believe it to be chauvinism where all there is to it is a pawn in a ploy for power. Doesn’t this qualify me instead for feeling like a piece of property that any one woman must own? These thoughts in my mind most often culminate into a feeling of deceit and anger for my dad, grand dad and his dad for not revealing the real story or teaching us the tricks of the trade since the only blessed guy who swims across these torrid waters among all of us is pa! The ever-quiet pa.

I don’t quite recollect noticing my father’s opinions, as he perpetually remained planted in his study, still reliving his world of crime and punishment as a retired judge of the Delhi High Court. He never rolled his eyes nor sighed in disappointment. He never complained about my selfless mother nor did he seem overwhelmed with gratitude. He never mentioned to me how his life had taken a complete turn after marriage.

Today, the possibility of his seeming as satisfied and untroubled doesn’t quite seem as feasible in the real world. Yes, he did get extremely angry when I would not show any interest in studies, or when mother always forgot to take her blood-pressure medicines on time, or when she forced him to stay up post his bed- time to entertain guests at home (even worse if he was asked to drive them home after that). But that was it. With father, it was always a war of logic, discipline and rationality, whose wounds recover well within twenty-four hours. For the remaining matters, I am assuming, he battled them in his head as he remained in his typical quiet demeanour. But unfortunately I hadn’t got much time with him as a kid.

I grew up predominantly in my mother’s company where there existed a completely separate universe of emotions, intentions and opinions. What I inferred from that interaction was that:

‘Men are happy, women aren’t.’

‘Men are happy because they seek their own needs and comforts first. They do what they like’

‘Women are unhappy because they seek the needs and comforts of the men in their lives at the cost of their own space and needs. They cannot do everything they like’.

These paradigms almost like a magic river flowed into a string of beliefs:

‘Securing one’s own needs and comfort means being selfish’.

So, ‘men are selfish but happy, women are selfless and unhappy (well most of them)’.

And then to complicate that twisted analogy further there are apparently self-explanatory words that are often announced with a sigh and a frown – customs, traditions, male-dominated practices, and patriarchal societies, among others. And there I’d be, as a young boy, swallowing all of those pre-digested fodder for growing my own opinions.

Who asked these women to be selfless? Do the women want to be happy? Who are the guardians and patrons of these ideologies within every family? Are they the older women, the mothers, the widows? Or the husbands, the old widowers, or the fathers? I’m not referring to male-dominated panchayats or societies, I am referring to the tiniest fragment of it, which in its collective, lends character to every panchayat and society – a family; what a parent teaches a child before the latter builds a society. That, just that.

Men have, since time immemorial, been consistently accused of two things that, when placed beside each other, seem like a major paradox to me. Men, on one hand, are constantly reminded of how utterly incapable they are as emotional and social beings, leave aside their simple culinary or other similar soft skills, and on the other hand they are constantly accused of conniving and constructing the most robust chauvinistic society! Well, if we made this man’s world, then who made these beasts like men? Who made us chauvinistic? The answer is pretty obvious, but my ‘upbringing’ doesn’t give me the liberty to announce it or spell it out. Just that it always takes two to tango!

I am yet to fathom the most abused remarks made by women, most frivolously – “Men are not emotional. Men don’t feel, understand, or express feelings.” Well, guess what, if you step out of those dramatic outpourings that define an emotional exchange, there are simple subtle ways in which men like to communicate. Besides, by the time I was meant to leave home, I knew well that I was not meant to cry like a girl. It is almost as obvious and assumed as is the most stereotypical mindset in one’s sexual preference.

I knew, I was meant to fend for a living – that’s a man’s job! Where did I learn that? When did I learn all that? Clearly, my school didn’t teach me so. My wife believes in the exact opposite, which makes my struggle with my own self, my beliefs, and my upbringing even more unbearable! Then who taught me all that? By the time I took up my job as the primary bread earner, the women in my life had a different problem with me – why wasn’t I emotional? A million bucks for guessing that answer.

These days, I see a number of optimists and feminists and others ‘-ists’ who tell me that times are changing. Then why am I brooding over feeling torn between the unyielding powers of two of the most stubborn women? A few days ago, I did sit with my father for a couple of beers to trick him into spilling some tricks. After sitting keenly before pa for almost twenty minutes while he continued reading his newspaper like always, I started a general conversation that I would later have to maneuver.

We spoke of politics; we spoke of my stressful job environment, profitable investment opportunities, post-retirement career plans for father. And we finally concluded with a customary chat on health, spirituality, unending wants, overambitious attitudes, food habits, dog poop near father’s car, lack of sleep, football, and spirituality again, before being summoned inside for lunch.

With father, conversations were as real as this. I wonder if either of us even imagined the probability of talking anything else. Or was this one of the ancient techniques of staying sane and seeming stable? Since childhood, it had been the same route we’d take; though ‘spirituality’ had been a new addition. But that man-to-man time did kind of feel like a relief, a breath of fresh air!

I remembered suddenly how I always teased Paro with my whimsical aspirations of wanting to be a househusband and seeing her as a working-wife!

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013