The Funniness of Agony

I love Ogden Nash. I think the man’s genius. Anybody who can create a poem with three words and make you actually laugh is. My introduction to him was through my English text book in school, with This is Going to Hurt Just a Little Bit, dedicated to dentists. It struck me as so true.

I’m quite a regular at the dentist’s. So regular that I sometimes say I should marry one. But that’s just a joke. I find the idea of somebody who’s seen the insides of my mouth so closely and in so much detail knowing me outside of his office unfathomable, even unacceptable.

So, I had a rather excruciating trip to one, this morning. Post which, the LA, combined with the pain and tingling from it wearing off, caused me to pass out. I woke up, over six hours later, having been completely oblivious to everything. I’m sparing the more gory details, but suffice it to say, it was the perfect day to revisit my favourite poem ever…

This Is Going To Hurt Just A Little Bit
- Ogden Nash

One thing I like less than most things is sitting in a dentist chair with my mouth wide open.
And that I will never have to do it again is a hope that I am against hope hopen.
Because some tortures are physical and some are mental,
But the one that is both is dental.
It is hard to be self-possessed
With your jaw digging into your chest.

So hard to retain your calm
When your fingernails are making serious alterations in your life line or love line or some other important line in your palm;
So hard to give your usual effect of cheery benignity
When you know your position is one of the two or three in life most lacking in dignity.

And your mouth is like a section of road that is being worked on.
And it is all cluttered up with stone crushers and concrete mixers and drills and steam rollers and there isn’t a nerve in your head that you aren’t being irked on.

Oh, some people are unfortunate enough to be strung up by thumbs.
And others have things done to their gums,
And your teeth are supposed to be being polished,
But you have reason to believe they are being demolished.

And the circumstance that adds most to your terror
Is that it’s all done with a mirror,
Because the dentist may be a bear, or as the Romans used to say, only they were referring to a feminine bear when they said it, an ursa,
But all the same how can you be sure when he takes his crowbar in one hand and mirror in the other he won’t get mixed up, the way you do when you try to tie a bow tie with the aid of a mirror, and forget that left is right and vice versa?

And then at last he says That will be all; but it isn’t because he then coats your mouth from cellar to roof
With something that I suspect is generally used to put a shine on a horse’s hoof.

And you totter to your feet and think. Well it’s all over now and after all it was only this once.
And he says come back in three months.

And this, O Fate, is I think the most vicious circle that thou ever sentest,
That Man has to go continually to the dentist to keep his teeth in good condition
when the chief reason he wants his teeth in good condition
is so that he won’t have to go to the dentist.

P.S. I’ve been desperately looking for Candy is Dandy: The Best of Ogden Nash, an omnibus with some of his best, but it seems to be out of stock everywhere. So if you happen to see it somewhere, please do think of me. And don’t just think :)

Speak Up, You!

She got married at 22. It was way too early, I felt, as did my parents. But there were others in the family who did a ha! at me. “That’s how it’s done!” “What are you still waiting for?” “She’s so much younger, and you’re still sitting around!” I shrugged it off, with a good for her. Today, 3 years later, when the news of her marriage falling apart came in, my first impulse at a ‘ha right back at ya’ was quickly crushed by the reason. He’d been beating her up for the major part of those 3 years.

On the face of it, he’d been the perfect guy for her. She’d dropped out of higher education because she’d landed herself a plush job. He was older and with a job good enough to support her in case she didn’t make it big for lack of proper qualifications. Also, it was a ‘love’ marriage of the old-fashioned kind. He’d seen her at work and had gone straight to the M-word and the parents, something that guys these days (or at least the ones I happen to come across) seem to shudder at the prospect of. Honourable, indeed! No ‘let’s have fun’, ‘let’s see where it goes’ kinda shenanigans. Perfect, yeah! And when, after the wedding, she decided to study further, he was right there, by her side. Supportive, too. Just what we all want. And how they all loved him for it. Little did anybody know of the real state of her paradise.

I’m in the dark where all the deets of all that transpired are concerned. But a few months ago, they moved to a new city, away from both their families. She found herself a really nice job and all seemed to be going well. Till she decided, about a week ago, that she’d had enough. She moved out and is filing for a divorce. Her company has given her a place to stay and security, lest he try to harm her in any way. He has given his landlord notice for vacating the house they lived in, making sure she has nowhere to go till she finds her own place.

But this is where she’s gone wrong, a second time. The first, was to not speak up at the first such instance. Now, she’s making it worse by not filing a report against him for domestic violence. From what I’ve gathered, her parents, too, feel it best not to ‘risk her safety and make it any more ugly’ by doing so. But wasn’t she unsafe enough anyway, living with a wife-beater? Didn’t all those bruises he gave her make it ugly enough already? Or that he had her stalked by a private detective (who was incompetent enough to get caught) as soon as she moved out of her house? That she can’t be seen alone with a guy, lest he try to imply that she moved out because she was having an affair, instead of the real reason? From what I hear, the case, as it stands at the moment, seems to be one where she has decided to leave him without any substantial cause, making her the culprit, not him, and allowing him to get away with what’s as good as murder! Now, I’m not one for revenge. But there are certain things you cannot let go.

I feel this now and I felt this a couple of years ago, when a friend’s boyfriend hit her. I was to pick her up on my way to work. When I was 10 minutes away, she called to tell me to carry on. She was at the hospital because she’d ‘slipped on the staircase’. When I offered to see her there, she said it was OK, he was there with her and she’d be fine. She didn’t turn up to work that day. Nor the next. I was worried, but didn’t suspect a thing. Till then, I didn’t really believe these things happened, because it had never happened to anybody I knew. It was unfathomable to me that a man could hit a woman. What kind of pathetic person does that, anyway! A week later, she told me the truth. They’d had an argument in the morning, and he’d hit her, making her fall and hit her head against the corner of the dining table. When he saw/realised what he had done, he picked her up and rushed her to the hospital. That was the first time. He apologised profusely, promised her it would never happen again and she took him back. Then, just before she told me, it happened again. He slapped her. Good on her, she hit him right back, before throwing him out of the house. They never spoke again. Then, she confided in one or two others. For some reason, none of us thought of reporting it anywhere. She was out of it and free. He wasn’t going to come near her ever again, even though he worked in the same building. He left the organisation soon after. Maybe it had something to do with the icy looks he got every time he walked past any of us. In hindsight, maybe he just got a better offer elsewhere and he could move on and torment another. And this is why we should’ve reported it somewhere.

Of course, we did what we thought was in our friend’s interest. But who knows how many more people will fall victim to his abusiveness? And this is why ‘she’ needs to report it too. Because, like The Mother says, if he can beat her, he’s capable of anything!

*Disclaimer: While I would’ve liked to reveal the identities of the men, the stories, with factual details, are for these two women to tell.

Kitchenomics

“We may live without friends, we may live without books but we can’t live without cooks!”

Well, it’s actually kind of the other way round for me… Please don’t take away my books and friends; I can survive like the gatherers did, in prehistoric times, on just fruits and raw veggies.And that’s pretty much what this post is about: what happens when different people have their friends and books, but are left cook-less.

An apt day, indeed, to be finally putting this post up. I am on the night between the birthdays of two very important people in my ‘food life’–The Grandfather and Beautyma. To the former I owe most of my eating and cooking habits, courtesy genetics, of course, but also conditioning and taining. He’s the best cook in my world–when I say ‘ghar ka khaana’, I actually mean food made by him, not so much The Mother–and he’s also the fussiest eater ever (no, don’t roll your eyes, it really can get much worse than the dhania-aversion! And yes, you can blame the peculiar smelling-my-food-before-I-eat-it ritual on his DNA). But the most important thing I got from him was my initiation into the kitchen, and basic lessons–how to make rice, shortcuts to a good ‘sabzi’, the art of beating an egg well, how to use basic spices. And though I’m no expert, unlike him, my kitchen style (as I like to call it) is much like his, based on instinct, not so much recipe and using as many smart(read short)cuts as possible. Beautyma is my food-psychic. She knows what I want to eat when I can’t tell. She knows just how to cook for me, what to order for me, how to order for me, even how much and when to order for me. When we worked together, her drawers were stacked for me, and she knew when I’d be hungry and exactly what I needed/wanted to eat when. Fusspot that I am, all of this baffles The Mother, too, even with the nearly three decades of experience that she has with me! But Beautyma’s got it bang on!

The other highlight of the night was an extremely successful inning at the kitchen. A dinner party, and my mother had left two (what I later realised were The Main) dishes to me. Of course, I’d offered to experiment, and she took it up, refusing to offer suggestion or even taste either, in an uncharacteristic display of faith in my culinary skills. So she lets me do what I want to in the kitchen, if it’s just the family or family-like friends, but when we have people over, the only thing I’m trusted with is tea/coffee! But tonight, she just left it to me, and luckily for me, it all turned out gobsmackingly well! Achievement of the week!

As it turns out, ‘can you cook?’ is no longer typical of when boy meets girl. ‘How do you manage your food’ is quite typical of when people discover you live on your own. Note: Living with just spouse, for most of my generation, happens to be as good as living on your own too. We all face the same problems, but the biggest and singularly most importantisfood. Well, we all adapt, or at least figure out some means of survival. But what’s fascinating, and what prompted this post, besides a telephone conversation with The Lazy Housewife, is the range for each of us to adapt.

To be fair to them, The Lazy Housewife, B and Monkey have their mechanisms in place too. No, they won’t cook to save their lives. All right, so Monkey will make an extremely inedible ‘omelette’ if she absolutely must, but no, she’d rather grow a flower garden inside the house (she actually tried this) than even shop for vegetables! The result was a dining table strewn with takeaway menus and a fridge full of leftovers and lots of bread. B only believes in using her index finger in the kitchen–to push the buttons on her microwave! Okay, so she makes sure she puts the leftover food away and cleans up after, and makes her daily cuppa, but that’s it! She also detests eating out, unless it’s an occasion of sorts. The result is a maid ruled with an iron hand. Of course the maid plays truant, as they are wont to do. But B has some commendable armoury up her sleeve, to ensure the maid turns up often enough to at least leave her with leftovers for days she doesn’t turn up. Because B would prefer to starve than try a possible kitchen disaster! The Lazy Housewife is yet another extreme. She was munching throughout the aforementioned conversation–on cereal, straight from the box. Unfortunately for her husband, maids are not an option where they live, she won’t cook and he does know how to cook. As a result, the poor man goes to work, and cooks when he gets back home, because she can clean, not cook, unless all it involves is tossing three ingredients into a pressure cooker.

When TLH called that night, I was sitting with another friend of ours, AA, who lives alone, with her husband, too. And as I was talking to TLH, I couldn’t help but think of the difference between the two of them. AA needs an excuse to cook, bake, just be in the kitchen. She hosts parties and cooks for everybody herself, and runs an immaculate house too. I’m always impressed when I’m at hers. Every meal is a proper affair, the kind you ‘d expect in a larger household, with multiple dishes, and each served up well, properly garnished, et al. What really impresses me is that this is not her extra effort for me or other guests at her place, it’s the norm, it’s how she does it, almost every single time! There are exceptions, but her exception is like my norm, and her norm, my exception.

Beautyma and her husband recently moved into their own apartment. Till then, she had never really bothered about the food. But when they were doing up their place, she insisted on a nice little, modern kitchen, which would be a pleasure to work in. Then, she discovered she had talent too. But she has a neat system going. Most meals come in from her mother-in-law’s kitchen, in the apartment above theirs, and she whips up a storm in her own often enough–whenever she’s in the mood, or they’re entertaining or there is a need for it.

A had a curious system. He could cook to save his life and did too. But his trick was to keep his fridge well-stocked. He went grocery shopping every weekend, and picked up plenty of quick fix foods. He would try and go home once a month and he’d come back with a stock of chappatis and essential foods he could put in the deep freeze, pull out as and when, defrost and eat. Brilliant, but really?! I mean I’ve done something similar, when I lived in the same city as my grandparents and every weekend, The Grandfather would give me boxes full of cooked food to last me through the week. But chappatis!!! Ah well!

But the most inspiring story is this friend, who got married, went abroad and literally had to learn to fend for herself. Food lover, but non-cook, she made a hobby, then a project of it. You can check out what she did here. Aren’t you so impressed? Well, I asked her to leave her husband and marry me, and she turned me down! So that leaves me to fend for myself, and this is what I do… Eat apples! No, really!

Back to being random

Tonight seemed to be just about right to get back to my blog, after what seems to have been an eternity. No, I hadn’t lost interest in blogging or writing, nor had I run out of things to write about. On the contrary, I’ve been dying to write and I have a grand total of nine partially-written posts. What has kept me from completing and posting any of these was simply a lack of coherence. For one, I was always thinking of way too many things at the same time and I wanted to write about too many things together. For another, I wasn’t quite able to sift the mentionable from the unmentionable, so I chose to just keep mum about it all. Also, there have been way too many life and lifestyle changes in the last few months, so my routine of writing really took a flip. And then, I’m a bit of a freak–incomplete tasks nag me; I can continue to procrastinate, but they will keep nagging me, and if, for some reason, I’m unable to get down to those, I will procrastinate over everything else too! So, every time I tried to write something new, the older drafts would nag, and, unfortunately, it’s not a switch you can turn off and on–once the flow of thought is broken, it can take forever to get back to it!

What happened tonight? I’d say it’s just a happy night. For no reason in particular. It just is. I’m home, visiting my parents after almost a year. I wanted annual summer vacations so bad, I actually contemplated teaching as a profession; then, last summer, I decided to just give myself a break every year! So here I am, at home, allowing myself to be pampered by The Mother, and catching up on play and sleep :)

This is a throwback to a lot of things. We lived in this town when I was 15. The first time I had a summer with no holiday homework and no friends, much like this one, and I find myself doing the things I did 12 years ago, albeit differently. The cycling has been replaced by swimming. The brother’s company by The Mother and The Grandfather. This pup will drag his bed to my room and then insist on getting into my bed. I’ve graduated from from cakes, cookies and simple desserts… I baked my first batch of brownies today, and next on the agenda is tarts, pies and souffle, besides main course dishes slightly more complex than pasta and my cheat chicken.

Since I am on vacation, and thinking of nothing really, forget the 100-at-a-time, and doing only things I love to do (except the forced socialising, which really has ME wishing to turn into a wallflower!!!), I reckon it’s as good a time as any to being keyboard-happy, with every intention of keeping it up!

Weird’s the word

Do you think I’m weird, he asked me. Who’s not, I responded. Wow! How poignant! Not really. The W word gets thrown in my face quite often, for me, to me, for people around me, by people around me. Enough to send anybody with a slightly lower degree of self-esteem than mine to go spiralling down the abyss of self-questioning and self-doubt.
It was a standing joke with an ex that you had to be ‘weird’ to be my friend. Another said he kept coming back to me because he liked ‘weird’. When I playfully suggested what fun it would be to attend the latter’s wedding, The Princess was horrified, “You’re weird!” Okay, so I’m weird, now watcha gonna do about it?! “Nothing,” smiled back The Wise One. What’s there to do anything about?
Well, we’re all weird, aren’t we? It’s our quirks that make us weird. But it’s also our quirks that give us our individuality. My obsession with having my finger and toe nails painted the same colour might be weird to you, but then that’s me! The day I turn up with pink toes and red fingers, wouldn’t you wonder what’s wrong??? My self-obsession might be weird to another, but, for me, it’s what keeps me from sweating the small stuff. That I can just dance around the house may be weird to you, but the day I don’t do it, The Mother wonders if all’s okay with me.
Nin quit job after job, and botched up that crucial interview, the one everybody felt was going to be a breeze for her and that would get her where everybody thought she should’ve been. The W word came up again. But what was weird about it? She didn’t feel she belonged where the world thought she did. She had other ideas, and she’s is in a much happier place today for it!
The Princess spent an entire evening flirting with a rather acceptable boy. But when he offered to drop her home, she chickened out. Weird, again! But she just felt more comfortable going back with the same people she’d come to the party with. Did she miss out on anything? Not really.
Coming back to the person who inspired this post. I call him Weirdo, just because he’s convinced of his own ‘weird’-ness, and the name has a nice ring to it. Weirdo’s concern is that he lives in his own head, so much that the world doesn’t matter. But should it? I’ve always lived with the conviction that you can do what you want to and be the way you want to, as long as you can keep looking yourself in the eye every time you look at the mirror. Nobody and nothing else matters. So then, how does it matter if he lives in his head? If he’s a dreamer?
Isn’t conformity just so overrated? Why would you even want to conform, especially if it’s at the risk of losing your individuality? Sure, we all do things to please others. Must we not do things that please us because they might displease others or cause them to call us weird? Who’s to decide what’s weird and what’s not? And if you do think I’m weird, so be it. You’re most welcome to raise your eyebrow, while I revel in my weirdness :)

When a part of you goes missing…

Nani left us on this very day. How many years ago it was, I cannot remember. Not because it’s been such a long time. No, it’s only been a few years. Five, I think. Or is it just four. Calculation by order of events tells me it’s definitely more than three. The mind does not register. I’ll have to be reminded. Just as I had to be reminded what date it was today. And the year before. Last year, I wept from the guilt… How could I forget?! Today, I wept from the confusion in my head.

Problem is, I don’t forget. No, I have a razor-sharp memory that rarely allows me to forget dates, incidents, conversations. But here is a date that clearly doesn’t seem to register in my head. Possibly why I woke up confused and disoriented… I had no idea what day or date it was. Having been reminded, I was, not unexpectedly, sad, till it turned to confusion when I tried to recollect some memories of my favourite person ever. And what I drew was a huge blank.

Now, this scared me! Because it was like massive chunks had gone missing from my life. All my summer holidays, the two years I lived with her while Dadda was posted to remoteness, the innumerable times she visited us, my college years and after when I spent every weekend with her, everything was a blank. I can recall when we met, but I have no idea what happened then. Nothing. What did she cook? I think she fed me a lot, just as all grannies are wont to do. What did we talk about? We must’ve hugged and talked a lot, we’re just that kind of a family. All I could recollect was that we’d been thick as thieves, and that The Mother often complained about how Nani’d been more of a mother to me than she’d been to her, and how I was more Nani’s daughter than hers. But how??? What was it that prompted her to say that?

Weirdo’s explanation to this bizarre type of amnesia was that I’d come to terms with the loss, and that this was my way of accepting that Nani’s gone…just blocking it all out. I’m not so sure. Objectively looking at it, to me, it seems more like a case of denial…she was never there, so where could she go???!!! But inside me, I know that’s not true either. Because she was there. And she loved me, and I loved her back like I’ve never loved anybody else. And a part of me, even though I’m too disoriented right now to tell which part, will always be with her.

This one’s for you, Nani, because I know in my heart that you were the most beautiful person ever. I hope you’re spreading your beauty and warmth wherever you are, and gladdening more hearts, just as you did mine.

Being fabulous

http://icecream-is-cold.blogspot.com/2010/08/my-own-lady-gaga.html

“Be fabulous,” Heh said, in this post she wrote for me on my birthday last year. As I look back at it, well over a year later, I see the wisdom in her words. Fabulous is the only way to be. I realise that it could sound like I’m too full of myself, or like I’m trying to give myself an ego boost. Perhaps why this post has been so long in the making. While the first wouldn’t be entirely untrue, as it turns out, the reason for me writing this is neither. For this really is more a coming-of-age kind of post.

Now, I’ve always been an extremely observant and perceptive person. I notice far too much, and tend to analyse even more. While this may not always work to my advantage, in that I often end up seeing and discovering things that I may, emotionally, have been better off not knowing about, it has given me more than enough reasons to justify the greys. Ah, wisdom!

But I seem to have gone a step further. Of late, I have taken to this rather peculiar habit of observing myself. I seem to be registering, more acutely than ever, what I say and how I behave, and later subjecting it to my own scrutiny. And here’s what has been revealed…I’m fabulous! Not because I believe I’m the best thing ever, because there really is quite a monster not too well-camouflaged by that endearing smile, but because I can see the fabulous-ness in others, and because I couldn’t really be bothered by the monsters they hide behind their pretty faces. Because frankly, my dear, I couldn’t give a damn!

And I’ve learnt I can help you be able to not give a damn too. Like in the curious case of Morbid Kat. So, I got what was clearly a distress call from her, yesterday. By the end of our talkathon, she really couldn’t let things get her down either, and all because she’s fabulous. And that’s what we’re all about. :)

Coming back to Heh’s post, all those who read it and who know me, felt she had me down pat. I agree. And not just because it makes me out to be this really awesome person. But because the traits she’s picked on are traits that have seen me through time,traits that have been consistent despite all the change that has taken place in me…my zest for life and for the prettiness it has to offer.

The 27-year-old me is quite unlike the 26-year-old me. But the PS Heh wrote about is right there, still basking in her own moonshine, through the near-decade Heh has known her. Ranevsky still holds centrestage, and the only way she goes off is with a kick in the air and a dance to the wings, only to be taken over by Pari, who flits about seemingly without a care and with all the good cheer in the world, because all her worries are in those pockets that only a select few can enter, because they can be taken care of with a swish of the wand.

Heh’s post helped me embrace aspects of my personality, not because she lauded them, but because she made me realise they existed. Well, these aren’t exactly things you introspect and ponder over, and, so, I’d never spared them any thought. And, her post made me unapologetic about being so awesome, about striving to be fabulous.

And that’s just how the 27-year-old me is. Not perfect in any measure, but fabulous in every.

See the sun again…

I’m a happy person at the moment.

While I have every reason in the book to not be happy at the moment, I’m not. Because on the one hand, my heart’s been wrenched out, trampled upon, crushed, torn and burnt. But the wreckage was salvaged before it could damage the soul. The fire was put out, the cuts stitched up, the unseemly creases ironed out, and the heart was picked up and put right back in its place by those few I felt I could count on to do it, and not one of them let me down. A timely hug from The Princess (yes, I did actually call somebody else that!), ridiculous banter from The Mother, that special call from Dadda (it’s quite strange how much he sounded like I would if a friend of mine were in my place), a bit of extra indulgence from The Brother, just the stuff I needed to hear from Virtually Vague and Beautyma, a timely call and more indulgence from The Wise One (he’s been called by another name in earlier posts, but henceforth, this is how he shall be known), followed by some dragging out by The Monkey and the most ridiculous movie ever courtesy The Sweetheart. And just knowing that B is right where I need her… And, right now, I’m good to go, waiting for tomorrow morning, as opposed to the I-don’t-want-to-wake-up-and-face-the-world feeling (that, at times like these, is quite characteristic of me.

Instead of feeling the loss I should, I see this (no, I won’t explain it, so let’s just keep it at The Situation) as a final closure to something that has plagued my life and has put a question mark on every relationship I’ve had or come close to over the last five years. It is the end of a macro-era, marred by several micro ones. This is it. And I finally see clarity, and I feel free. Because I have, to quite an extent, been a prisoner to the diktats of The Situation. No more.

“Relationships come with an expiry date, love shouldn’t,” said The Midnight Rambler on his blog. But what when there’s hardly ever been a relationship, just the love. And then, you feel you can’t love the person anymore? Because the person may not reciprocate the love, but, more importantly, because the person is possibly not as worthy of your love as you felt he was… Well, that’s when the person does something that snaps you out of it. And that’s the point you feel like you might sink into an abyss, but all the wonderful, pretty (to know why I use this word, read ‘What’s in a Name’) people stick out their arms and pull you out before you get sucked in.

The post is cryptic, I know, but it is also revelatory. It may sound like a ramble, but I’m well aware of what I’m saying. I’ve put my heart out here, and The Wise One may not approve, because I’ve ‘opened myself up to a lot of scrutiny’, but it’s one of those I had to write. Because the overwhelming feeling in my heart at the moment is not hurt. On the contrary, I feel special, and I feel loved. It rains down, but I see the sun.

And those who got away, well, they can just stuff it, while I make my ‘princessy exit’. :)

Epilogue

So, Doc’s boy read the last post. He thought it was funny, and introduced himself as the guy with my phone number. I could’ve been embarrassed, but was just glad for his humour.

But, how do you react when a guy compares you to Homer Simpson?

Well, I just thanked him for ‘unsulting’ me back. What would you have done?

P.S. He’s probably reading this, too, but I suppose there was ‘unsult’ enough in the last post to bother much about making this public! :)