Category Archives: Humour

Press Release: Goddess & Whore, Now Available Worldwide

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Goddess & Whore: Now available on BOOKadda, Flipkart, Amazon, Kindle, and in selected bookstores across India!

Goddess & Whore: Now available on BOOKadda, Flipkart, Amazon, Kindle and in selected bookstores across India!

October 2013, Singapore.

Goddess & Whore – a collection of modern poems – reaches bookstores worldwide this festive season.

Goddess & Whore – a collection of modern poems – weaves into a vivid narrative of a woman’s journey as she steps out of her various social identities and abuses to discover the true meaning to her existence. What begins as a nagging sense of disquiet and discontent evolves into a quest for inner peace. She draws inspiration from nature and begins to disentangle herself from all those relationships and resentments that she once carried, and only then does she discover her real indestructible self and makes the crossover that signifies the transformation of a being.

The poems celebrate the joys of womanhood and the beauty of nature even as they address certain social issues like the position of women, the rejection of the girl child, the violence against women, the traditions of fasting, and dated customs and rituals; and all these concerns culminate into a single question – ultimately what matters?

“The book aspires to convey the simple desire of a woman to be accepted for who she is, along with her dreams and aspirations, follies and foibles. She doesn’t wish to be glorified as a goddess nor be despised as a whore. At a broader level, this sentiment holds true for all human beings, whether man or woman,” explains Madhurima. “The book is available on Flipkart, BOOKadda, Amazon, Kindle and also in selected bookstores across India.”

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

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Ma, Me And My Report-Card

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Come result day and we find most students and their parents hyperventilating over that detail that seems to miraculously assure them of the approaching boom or doom in the child’s career and life. Seeing the Gen Z parents’ mounting involvement and obsession with their child’s academic life and their relentless struggle to control the same gives me the creeps and makes me feel rather lucky for having a set of carefree parents who unwittingly gave me space to discover myself. I also suffer occasional pangs of guilt for criticising and irritating such wonderful parents with my unending needs as a child and as an adolescent, though I must also add here that very few of those demands have been entertained or even considered. And I am grateful for that! I may safely confess today that due to the easy-going approach of my parents the commonly dreaded report card days that unfailingly appeared at regular intervals were among the best days of my school life!

A report card day meant a half-day from school. And what could be more fun than that for someone who harboured deep disdain for uninspiring regulations, and who was already averse and allergic to the overuse of the ‘competition’ drug. Well, in my case, there was actually another factor that made the awe-inspiring day more fun: my mother. And in a short while I shall tell you just how so. Well you see, my fondest recollection of the result day begins in Pune where I studied in a typical ICSE convent school known for its austere staff, snooty students and unbending discipline.

In spite of the look of consternation and alarm on my teacher’s otherwise cheerful countenance while doling out my not-so-unacceptable result on those fateful days, I would wait with feverish excitement every time the day approached. Memories of my teacher’s angst and the precious contents of the important document she handed over to me in the presence of my parents would fade from my memory soon after, but what time and tide have not been able to erode till date is my happiness surrounding this momentous event. In fact this feeling of unfettered happiness has strengthened with every passing year and I look back on this day with still greater fondness and longing than ever before.

Each report card day, it was delightfully entertaining to see my classmates sitting in pin-drop silence in the classroom nervously waiting for the peon, who looked like one of Dickens’ slimy characters, to come and announce their name and escort them to the hall downstairs where our class teacher would be waiting with the respective parent/parents to discuss the child’s results. As our names were called out, we had to pack our bags and leave for the day. I would easily be among the very few chirpy ones who could barely sit still, as I kept shuffling restlessly in excited anticipation and shamelessly cheering up even the top rankers. I remember how high-spirited I would be on a report card day since it meant an undisturbed date to a rarely visited place with my beautiful mother.

In those days a visit to the M.G. Road, an area known for its style quotient due to a cosmopolitan population and a substantial Parsi presence (which meant better bakeries, cafes, etc.), was much coveted due to the young crowd and the shopping arcades (though the concept of malls was alien to us then). And that part of the town being quite far away from where we lived then wasn’t somehow frequented by us. My school happened to be along the parameters of that area and so it was only logical that my mother and I made a quick trip to the Camp area on every report card day!

As soon as my name was announced, I would trot down those thick wooden stairs sliding my hand along the smooth wooden banister. Trotting and sliding were strictly prohibited in school but no one cared to check on a half-day. In fact, had it not been for that silly rule that the grim-faced prefect kept chanting every morning – ‘no hands on the banister!’ – I would never have learnt that wonderful word ‘banister’ that added an extra shine and weightiness to that old wooden staircase. As I entered the hall, there she’d be sitting in her signature chiffon sari, with a big bindi on her forehead, her long dark hair neatly tied and her sunglasses resting on her head. As soon as she’d notice me she would smile and give me her characteristic wide-eyed trying-to-be-strict look that meant to convey, “Sweetheart, you seem to have been up to some mischief in school again.” I could barely contain my excitement after seeing her, and neither could she.

My teachers seemed to like her for her poise and grace. I have somehow always suspected that it was her charming personality that guarded me from teachers pounding at me. Well, in the ICSE school that I studied in, most teachers were well groomed and smartly dressed but rather conventional in their outlook. Almost all of them showed a clear bias for the more obedient and studious among us and had little patience with the naughtier ones whom they categorised into ‘no good’ students and often chastised and compared them, with a hopeless grimace on their well made-up faces, to their ‘brilliant and more disciplined’ counterparts. How well this attitude helped in shaping and developing the young minds is anybody’s guess. Of course there were a few wonderful teachers whom we adored and who were instrumental in creating a great liking for the subjects they taught besides commanding deep respect for themselves.

My report card would be duly handed over to my mother with the same remark on every R-Day as I showed no sign of transforming into a model student from the little brat that I was, and consistently failed to exhibit even a remote sense of remorse, turning a deaf ear to all their reprimands and threats.

“She is naughty and restless, makes silly mistakes, and needs to concentrate on her work.”

After receiving that customary warning, I’d set off with my lovely mother on our date with my head held high and a wide grin on my happy face while she held my hand and my schoolbag for me. Neither my father nor my sister could wrestle for mother’s attention on that day.

On certain days she would smile and tell me that grandma too had come along. And my excitement would double! Grandma’s presence meant lunch at the famous Chinese Room. We would walk along the sidewalks under the crisp morning sun down the bustling streets lined with shops selling their colourful wares. Some small outlets sold hair clips and hair bands and other knick-knacks. These were the ones that interested us more than the larger stores and we would invariably end up spending hours here sifting through their stuff and picking up those that caught our fancy. And at each shop I too would get to pick up a little something for myself.

Then we would stop at a well-known Parsi bakery for some sandwiches and milkshake. This was the time when ma would gently tell me, “You could do so much better with your grades if you would concentrate a little more on your studies. It is only because you are so capable of doing better that I feel sad listening to your teachers complain.”

There was no scolding, no warning of dire consequences. I don’t think I even realised then that those grades had anything to do with my life ahead. I just knew that some subjects were boring, and I was entitled to my opinion though not always in a good way. Yet, it was that gentle advice from my mother that I remember more than the scolding and reproaches from others. Ma never yelled at me. She would only explain to me or tear up herself. The latter part of her emotional expression I understood much later in life.

In the evenings daddy would pick us up in his car and we would go home, happy and contented. Of course, I also got to hear the usual ‘you are ruining your life!’ from my father. But what I see of parents today, even that small reproach seems to me so much more acceptable. He would scold me a bit and then life would move on as though nothing had happened. Discussions at the dinner table would once again revolve around how we had spent the day or who had parked his scooter in our car park. On certain report card days we would all meet at grandma’s house for a special hand-cooked dinner by her. Father would never be able to scold me in front of my protective grandparents (grandpa especially) though few knew of the little words of advice at opportune moments I would get from grandma who always wanted me to be a little more disciplined and sincere about my studies.

Thankfully the pleasures of a half-day did not disappear even in high school. By then I had moved from an ICSE all-girls’ school to a co-ed environment. There too I had found like-minded crazy friends who knew how to appreciate and enjoy a half-day phenomenon, perhaps more. On certain report card days we had to be literally kicked out of the school premises since we would sit there with the group and enjoy the quiet link-ups and attention and tease each other over an unimaginable variety of topics. Some of us would walk down home together, and our memories about our results would have faded by then after our animated jabbering.

Of course we knew of the impending grumbles and admonishments that awaited us after our daddies returned home from work, but strangely those weren’t an earth-shattering thing for us. We had each other and our perpetually distracted minds that had lots of gossip-and-giggle topics, all ready to overshadow other details that made us unhappy. And that was a massive assurance for a youngster of that age. I remember how we planned a party on every result day. In fact parents today would probably faint on being informed that we partied the most on our pre-board-exam days. And trust me, we partied hard!

To be fair to my folks, I have been notorious among friends and family (who would willingly vouch for me) for being unruffled by these grades. My definition of studying was a little different from what the system demanded though I declare with utmost certainty that there will be quite a few students who would not mind my style of learning. According to me, subjects had to seem interesting for me to be curious enough to delve into them. Only curiosity could fuel learning. I loved History, English and Economics/ Social Studies as these subjects were taught by some of the most amazing teachers and they enlightened me on various interesting aspects of human behavior.

History taught me about mutinies and conquests, Economics taught me the rational mindset of a typical consumer, while Literature taught me the irrational and unedited sides of that same rational and rebellious human being. On most of the days I enjoyed learning in the classroom about things I didn’t know. And just when my concentration would begin to fade there would be those naughty students in class who would make funny noises to distract all of us. And so after a few hearty chuckles, there I’d be back again to absorb more information!

At home, I discussed History, Geography and Politics with my grandfather who was a radio journalist of his times. He made me write letters to the Editor each time I felt strongly for a social cause. I discussed spirituality and human values with my grandmother. Ma read out wonderful stories and poetry to my sister and me and introduced us to Tagore’s work. Father taught us the tougher qualities like discipline and hard work that came very slowly to me. I even loved the way some of my teachers explained their subjects to me. But the ticking clock and the threatening marks of red-ink hovering around my consciousness, like a hungry eagle that circles over its prey, made me forget everything I loved to learn, though I must mention that in spite of my bohemian grades I had stronger views and opinions on various issues than most students around me.

Unfortunately, even in those days, we lived in a world that relied on and valued over-simplistic judgments. That single number derived by some seemingly-irritated-with-life sleep-starved underpaid teacher at the end of the year would bear stupendous significance that threatened to ruin us forever if we didn’t bow down to it. Teachers formed biases over students based on these numbers, and so did our friends and relatives. I have seen several feisty and spirited children suffer ignominy for failing to adapt to that kind of a system. I have heard of cousins and friends badgered by ‘self attested well-wishers’ and driven to exasperation by their severely affected parents.

Also, there were those terrifying exams that surfaced as a party-pooper from time to time that drained me of every intent to prove how much I had learnt vis-à-vis how much the system or teacher was actually qualified to evaluate that unquantifiable detail. I realised that my ability to cram up dates or even shoot words by the minute, as the clock ticked away uncaringly, was zilch. Every atom of my body cringed from the prospect of mugging up chemical equations and historical timelines that made little sense to me. By the time I reached high school I had only managed to hold on to my love for English.

On the eve of my final high school exam I was advised not to use any ‘big word’ or ‘complicated sentence’ since the unknown face correcting my paper might not comprehend its meaning and award me a neat zero. I ask now, whose grade would that be? But the more disturbing question that stirs me is – who suffers ultimately? And the answer is always – the student.

During my childhood it was primarily a question of controlling a handful of children who simply refused to fit into the substandard settings of the examination and grading systems. Sure, our parents did grumble occasionally and our teachers complained and punished us. We would gaze at them with a rehearsed guilty look as our peers sniggered from their corners, and then we would return to fighting over who was at the bat and who was bowling. That was it; no more no less. The problem that students suffer today is much more complex and tragic since clearly it no longer seems like their life alone but also that of their parents that seems to crumble and collapse at the slightest disruption.

Children today seem to be sandwiched between an uncertain education system that is somewhat dangling in midair and their obsessing parents who seek refuge behind their alleged ‘good intention’. Terms like ‘fierce competition’, ‘family pressure’, ‘extra classes’, ‘quota system’ and so on are used generously by parents to explain the despicable levels of their selfish involvement in their children’s lives. Parents these days seem to be just a few yards short of attending classes and taking exams on behalf of their wards. Results have become a matter of pride and honour rather than just a number that may or may not reflect the child’s caliber and, sadly, life no longer resumes normalcy after this flawed and hyped verdict is announced.

Looking back, I feel humbled and blessed for having such wonderfully unworried parents who unconsciously knew the things that mattered. They didn’t have the time or the means to obsess over my sister or me. There were no special talent classes that we were sent to at the cost of the simple luxury and pleasure of playing with our friends until we had to be physically removed from the playground. We did not have nannies pretending to fuss over us. We had to be on our own. We knew we had to wait at a friend’s place till our parents got back from the market.

For us life and its inherent element of normalcy mattered more than some result that was churned out of nowhere. We needed to be happy and we also needed to be kind to others, and these had always been of paramount importance to my parents. Mess with these parts and you would be firmly pulled up. I was allowed to enjoy my mischief, my childhood and even my youth as I bunked a few classes, drove around the city in my two-wheeler on rainy afternoons, or dated young men. I knew I could always talk to my parents about these things without feeling guilty or embarrassed. I was allowed to be myself and so I was gradually able to discover myself since I had never been pinned down by grades. I was taught to celebrate my triumphs and defeats in the right spirit and without guilt.

I loved public speaking and won most of the competitions in my school life. With time I realised that I enjoyed studying subjects like English Literature, Sociology, Psychology. Chemical equations or monetary policies did not seem to appeal to me as much, and so I decided to take my next step based simply on that honest inclination that I felt at that point in my life. Every decision I have taken has always been based purely on my interest in that area or person rather than a fruitful motive backed by an unrealistic faith in an over-simplistic assessment or my ability to predict the future. Looking back today, it seems as though every decision that was candidly taken by me stemmed from an unconscious inherent knowledge of who I was or aspired to be. It even led me to those amazing teachers and colleagues who deeply influenced and empowered me at different stages of my life.

My heart goes out to those millions of perfectly capable adults who are stuck in a profession they do not enjoy. They never found the time to ask themselves what they really wanted, they often lament. I have succumbed to that invisible pressure at times and appeared for entrance exams on subjects that did not remotely interest me only so I could have a ‘secure’ (whatever that meant) and lucrative career. But life has been kind to me, and every time I have taken a decision with dishonest intentions I have faced a rejection. I shudder to think what might have happened if I had managed to make it to an MBA or Economics school.

What is a secure life anyway? I am tempted to end this post with what my professor at the journalism school says each time I enquire if his life is ‘all settled’. He only replies –“For god’s sake, Maddy! You should know me better by now! The day life does settle for me, I shall die of boredom.”

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Psychedelic Desires: Ad For A Suitable Companion

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Source: angrylambie.buzznet.com

Source: angrylambie.buzznet.com

An educated, emancipated and feisty woman seeks a suitable companion who possesses qualities that rarely meet the naked eye and who values the same subtleties in others and in life. She eagerly looks for a friend who values the simplest things in life like the scent of wet mud, the quiet night sky, or the touch of cold breeze just before a heavy downpour. She seeks a comrade who can count on her on the gloomiest days and celebrate with her during moments of inspiring madness.

She seeks a friend who, just like his companion, is able to follow the simple expedient of preserving his dignity and propriety before he ventures to vindicate himself; one who has the strength to speak his mind, the patience to hold back his judgement, and the intelligence to tell the difference. She is in search of someone who has the compassion to understand, and the humility to feel gratitude; a person who shares a delightful sense of humour and a selective bad memory, qualities that neatly qualify as indispensable for a beautiful friendship.

Above all, she looks for a companion who has the eyes to look beyond the whiteness of the skin or the curves of the hips and thighs, whose smile does not rely on the size of his wallet, whose mind can soar above the clouds even on the cloudiest day, and who can laugh and love sans a single petty condition. She seeks a friend who can accept and rejoice in a companionship along with its differences; a person who can forgive and yet retain the ability to suffer remorse after hurting another. She seeks a person who notices the unbearable weight of a single teardrop or the unsettled glance of a pair of eyes that refuses to sleep.

She desires a knowledgeable mind that thrives on the perpetual hunger for greater wisdom and a thirst for the finer arts; one whose existence relies heavily on the power of spiritual wisdom and the exploration and appreciation of the unfathomable beauty of nature. She seeks a person who has an independent mind yet possesses the strength to confess his complete dependence on his companion out of love. She seeks a person who lends more air to her wings as she makes her flight, while he too possesses wings of his own and has a flight to make. But most importantly, she desires a companion who, just like her, is determined to work on a relationship with patience, compassion and hope, and give it everything it needs just like raising a young child.

Our girl promises the same commitments to her companion-to-be even as she also assures that a constant disregard for the other’s sense-of-pride could be a single unfortunate reason to dissolve everything that could have mattered, only for a handful of things that should not have mattered at all. This alliance will only survive until it is carefully carried with care and not unmindfully dragged by its hair.

Last but not the least, she is open to both men and women from any cultural background to contact her for this possibly lifelong alliance. Additional attributes and qualities like practical self-reliance and knowledge of music and poetry, love for food and travel, though not absolutely essential, will be preferred…rest all remains immaterial.

© 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