A Room of her own

In The Ugly Truth, Abby hides in a closet because Mike is stealing her show and being a sexist asspan. But she has to be ok with it — her show is getting massive TRP’s and as producer of the show, she has to swallow her pride and allow the patronizing man colleague to run it.

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Picture courtesy aceshowbiz.com

In No Reservations, Kate goes to the cold storage room every time Nick is threatening to take over her job. Suddenly Nick is everywhere. He is telling her how great she is at her work, he is irritatingly charming in a way that we are told we will learn to love, just give it time, and he is even a better mother to Zoey. Kate’s daily ritual of returning home to find it quiet and empty is ruined one evening when she realises that she hasn’t picked up Zoey from school.

You have seen her in the cold storage room before. She goes there when her sister dies, and when she feels like her life is being taken over by other people – sometimes by Zoey, and often by Nick.

‘This place is my life’, she says.

‘No, it’s not. It’s a part of your life, Kate. This isn’t who you are’

After teaching her who she is, Nick quits his job as Sous-chef and walks out– but not before telling her that he was offered her job. Later that night when she returns home, he has left her a message.

‘And btw—I turned down the offer’

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Picture courtesy aceshowbiz.com

In Wake up Sid, Aisha has nowhere to hide when her boss tells her to make coffee again. Her face falls as she quietly withdraws the hand that held the first draft of her story. Her home is hijacked by Sid whose things are all over the place. So where does she go when she needs a break from her own house? The bathroom.

When she decorates her house, Aisha paints the wall a nice, mustard yellow; her bedspread faces the big window with white curtains.

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Pic courtesy pinterest.com

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Pic courtesy polkacafe.com

In Alai Payuthey, we are shown what Shakthi’s home is like at 8:00 in the morning. Sitting at the dining table, wearing a yellow chudidar and studying for a medical exam, Shakthi is fighting because her mother has made upma again. Her mother is irritated because Shakthi’s hair is dishevelled and not neat, like her sister’s. Late in the night, in their room, Shakthi and her sister talk about the boy who has been stalking Shakthi. Shakthi is not thrilled and shushes at her sister to sleep.

After the boy and Shakthi are married, they live in a house that is still under construction and make it nice and cosy. A yellow bed sheet is thrown on a tiny bed; brown jute curtains are drawn, a gas stove sits in the kitchen. Days pass by and their clothes are strewn about, Shakthi’s used bindis dot the only mirror they own, a basketball sits on the floor, and they have their own worktables.

When she is late one day, he doesn’t have the keys to get in so he sits outside, waiting for her, sulking. When she comes, they fight. Their home has never looked so intimate. Shakthi circles a day off on a calendar that is hanging on a brick wall.

‘One for every day that we fight. Proof to show how difficult running a marriage is.’

In Bommarillu, Hasini takes Siddu out for coffee to a shop called Minerva. When he asks her where Minerva is, she says Secunderabad. Siddu is partly afraid, partly in awe but he agrees to go anyway because he isn’t used to taking a bus to another city to have coffee. As it turns out, Minerva is a dingy old shop run by a Muslim man named Sultan Bhai.

In Minerva, Sultan Bhai and Hasini beti chit chat about cricket. She almost forgets to introduce Sultan Bhai to her ‘guest.’ Siddu looks at all of this wide-mouthed and maybe a little disgusted as Hasini proceeds to tell Sultan Bhai to give them two coffees. Special, she says and Sultan Bhai orders the boys to clean the cups.

Later in the movie, when they know they are falling in love with each other, Siddu tells her not to go out late in the night to eat ice cream anymore.

In The Holiday, Iris returns to an empty home every night and when she leaves her city to find herself, she finds a man. When Amanda escapes to get over her break-up, she finds love again in the same home that Iris left – a man to complete a home, a man to complete themselves.

Iris cries. Amanda doesn’t.

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Iris’s home is small. It’s called Rosehill Cottage. She sits at her table one night and cries her lungs out. The man she loves is getting engaged. Her dog looks sympathetic and bored. She makes tea. On the table is a Sony laptop, a packet of tissues and a mug.

All these spaces, all these women who make these spaces their own and then when they are taken away, they hide or escape to closets and bathrooms and make rooms of their own.

 

 

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Cordelia Cordelia

Tuesdays are tricky. Both my best and worst days in the last one month have been Tuesdays. I think Tuesdays like playing with me. So I’ve decided that they don’t have to like me but I am going to tolerate them. I had a pretty regular day – class, lunch, curses, tea- blah – blah. After my last class, I sat at my desk and wondered if should just cut my uterus out and hide it somewhere. But then it tired me to think of blood, especially since I haven’t seen any in god knows how long so I decided to nap and read and make chai – and in that order. Thankfully my habit of mindlessly doing shit on Facebook will never outgrow me and I found SR’s new piece up on the Finger. It’s on Margaret Atwood’s book – Cat’s Eye. SR’s opening lines made me blush. Like somebody teased me and I couldn’t help but blush and pout at the same time.

Margaret Atwood wrote my childhood before it happened. Or at least a very good approximation of it.

And as I continued reading, I realized that I have accumulated far too many Cordelias in my life that I’ll never have the balls to walk away from. Some of these Cordelias don’t even know that they were my Cordelias. SR quotes Elaine, who says:

But Cordelia doesn’t do these things or have this power over me because she’s my enemy. Far from it. I know about enemies. There are enemies in the schoolyard, they yell things at one another and if they’re boys they fight. In the war there were enemies. […] You throw snowballs at enemies and rejoice if they get hit. With enemies you can feel hatred, and anger. But Cordelia is my friend. She likes me, she wants to help me, they all do. They are my friends, my girl friends, my best friends. I have never had any before and I’m terrified of losing them. I want to please.

The basic problem with all my Cordelias has been that they have all been my really good friends. I am only now learning how to survive potential Cordelias – measured, cold, distance. Something I think I may be getting good at. SR’s essay saved my Tuesday and made me not want to do miserable things to my uterus.

I wanted to same-pinch the crap out of her when I read this:

For me, this was crying. I’d cry and run away. Crying slid me into another mental state; one in which I didn’t feel so trapped that I was paralyzed, and my legs would actually move. Cry and run, cry and run, that’s my go-to for whenever I feel trapped – even today.

Every time I read an old journal, I count the number of times I have written- I am not going to cry about this anymore! And the number manages to astonish me every time. Even today, nothing comforts me like crying does. After a long session of feeling sorry and crying, my mind is clear and I get awfully chirpy.

My goal for the next week is to read Cat’s Eye and read like a motherfucker.

Meta

In Jan 2013, AM called for a meeting and we all sat in the old department, dragging our chairs from behind our desks, notepads in hands, looking for pens that worked.

‘Meta’, he said was Greek for ‘Beyond’. That was the first time I had heard of the word. We were all curious to see what would happen, the department was organizing its first fest and there I was, as short as I am today, bursting with more energy than I can remember now and bearing no idea that Meta in the years to come would grow with me.

There are a billion things I have said in the past that I want to forget. When I was looking for a job after my post grad, one of the prerequisites was to get a job that wouldn’t stretch after 5:00 pm. On my first day as a teacher, I realized that that’s never going to happen. I returned home that night, sitting on my bed with a dozen attendance sheets that I was learning how to fill. I filed each of my 6 classes into 6 different stick folders- orange for MCT, blue for Additional English and red for General English. The next day was my birthday but I didn’t realise that until midnight.

Two months later, when the job got tougher, my routine got messier and my life got interesting, I forgot all about the damn prerequisite. I had begun to see the post 5:00 pm of college hours as far more important. That’s where all my learning happened. That and Meta.

At the meeting, we discussed who would do what, and other things. Like all AM meetings, this one also lasted for all of 15 minutes. A good meeting shouldn’t take longer than ten minutes – he always says. Over the years, this will continue to remain true – this and the painfully big smile I feel in the pit of my stomach every time January rolls around the corner.

Meta-2013 will always remain special for various reasons. It doesn’t seem to matter how grand and festive or disappointing and noisy the other succeeding editions are. The first was a blind shot at something unknown – nobody knew what would happen. And we managed to survive it just alright. Sure, there were goof-ups. And I am sure I had something to do with most of those. I emceed like a child trying not to weep in front of her audience, confused various people, got myself confused on many an occasion but always trying to catch up with the blur that Meta becomes in the end.

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I remember walking into a classroom in science block one day for invigilation and realising that I hadn’t prepared for my ‘Secret Reading Addiction’. A key feature of Meta 2013-‘My Secret Reading Addiction’ was to impose on every member of the department, the horror of speaking to an audience about a book that they had enjoyed reading. I was the first bakra who was going to inaugurate the series. I quickly scribbled something at the back of a question paper and waited for the ordeal.

I heard myself in the speakers, later that evening, lumbering on about the joys of reading Nabokov, worried suddenly for my voice, cursing it for being so obnoxiously childish. As I would soon learn, my voice should have been the least of my worries; for sitting behind me all this while –hidden away from the world under the banyan tree was AM with a mike and everything.

He called himself ‘The Grand Inquisitor’ and I felt my intestines crawl as I heard the audience break into peals of laughter. He proceeded to crush me – little by little. A week later, when AM was to talk about his addiction, CA became The Grand Inquisitor. When AM heard this, he laughed his big laugh and refused to let CA talk. He picked everything he could get his hands on – bottle, pen, paper, flowers and threw them all at CA. The master plan crumbled and I snatched the tablecloth away from him before he could fling it across.

Meta became Meta when I saw this madness.

I am tempted to say things were simpler back in those days but things are always simpler in the past no? What Meta brought for me in 2013 was, to borrow AM’s term,‘Jhilmil’. It is easier to feel Jhilmil than it is to explain it. But this is what it means for me:

It is when your body is tired and wants to sit itself like a mountain on some chair and then when you do, you look around and see that there is warmth in the air, and people are talking or piling chairs up, or eating coconut naan and drinking chai and talking about the day. And then you begin to feel a familiar fullness in your chest – it bulges and expands and falls and spreads to the mouth, where a smile would have just begun to curve. The body pain will continue to sting, your legs would have retired but you have never felt this calm in ages. Not since the last Meta. And you just sit there and live the moment and watch the Banyan tree grow bigger and bigger in the darkness.

In 2013, the Jhilmil came from enjoying Meta more privately. Yes, more privately than sitting alone with one’s calm. It came from going to Couch with the dept at the end of every Meta day and watching as CA sat erect and watched women’s WWF delightfully, dumping hot coffee all over himself or watching AM notice this and smile his ‘Oh CA is going to say something-smile’ or laughing with ER about something MMB said to VRV whose uncle was/is apparently a snake.

Couch is gone now and so is the old department and Meta from 2013. Meta became too many things for many people. For some, it became that time of the year when things escalate to all kinds of crazy. For some others it became a battleground. For me it has been a Jhilmil and hopefully will remain so.

Two girls from the Science Stream wanted to volunteer for Meta last year. The same year – VB, a Natural Science student championed her way through Meta. The year before that, a very cute girl from PG English promised to become a writer and come back for the future Meta to sign books and everything. This year, two more science students have shown interest to volunteer. I look forward to getting to know these students who are doing various other courses but turn up, perhaps to see what their relationship with literature has to offer at Meta. Or maybe just to see what in the world is happening under the banyan tree, or to see if they can have some of their own jhilmils.

Meta 2016 is barely a month away. Despite all the madness of last year and the dipping low-energy of this year, I am quietly looking forward to it. Much like I look forward to traveling alone.

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I’m a little worried. Places have lost their meanings today. An unkempt desk at work makes sure that I will read. A clean desk just makes me want to watch things I have watched a hundred times before. I find that I can only rely on silence. I don’t know what to get out of it. I didn’t notice the sunlight falling on the corridor today, I didn’t notice the time it took to get to college today. It’s all becoming mechanical, faces are crowds, words are tiresome, the netbook is a war-site – complaining bitterly about all the times I have dropped it, the ambulance siren is less scary, the food from Peace is tasty, I am having two lunches and skipping breakfast and dinner, I have forgotten how to smile at myself, I have forgotten how to sleep.

For the 200th blog post :)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you hit 200 posts on your blog, people will *nudge nudge wink wink* and say ‘Blogging is not actual writing no?’. It is also a truth partly acknowledged that it will not be said directly. Here’s a clue. This is what they want to say: but she’s not a real writer ya!

Maybe. Maybe not. But this is how many fucks I gave about it today. One. And that’s why I am writing blogging about it. And then I’m all out. I feel strangely at peace with things today. First day of the academic year and I almost called in sick because I didn’t want to leave home, didn’t want to leave mommy. I’m not even kidding. The only reason I wanted to get out bed was because I spent my holidays doing absolutely nothing and was hoping the first day would yank me out of this sick – gestation period. This is the worst I have been at holidays. Worst. All my days were chewed up by meaningless binge-watching of HIMYM. My nights were long, warm and useless. I didn’t even wake up feeling refreshed.

The only good day I had was the 31st of December. I woke up, kicked myself, didn’t make my bed, had a bath, watched Romedy Now (Reruns of HIMYM, obvi), took my scooty and went to college. In the department, I made chai, cleaned up and settled down. I found futureme.org. A website that allows one to write letters for the future self. I wrote one. It will be delivered to my inbox on the 31st of Dec, 2016. I can’t wait to read it. I am wondering if it will make sense at all. The letter is 2000 words. It tired me so I ordered food from Khazana and watched HIMYM while eating it. The Ghee Rice, Dal, and Phal all agreed with me. Except when I dropped half a packet of Dal on my white palazzo pants. Best 31st Dec, ever.

I can’t think of a more perfect way to end my 200th blog post. I’ll just say today was a very interesting day. I am glad that holidays are over and that it’s a new bloody year and everything. The good ol’ Ladies Finger ran an essay I wrote about the women in my family. It’s a great boost – To begin New Year’s with the finger. Hee Hee.

Back home, I got fried for writing about this because apparently the man of the house has to be protected. If I’m not too careful, I may end up falling in love with all the women in my family. They are too busy protecting the men from getting hurt. This gave me the giggles. Mean ones.

Bubbly and I sat for hours this evening, talking about out great-grandmother. At one point, I had to whip open a tissue paper to map a family-tree, which began with one woman and ended with plenty of sons. I discovered many things about my family today. Some surprising, some disturbing, and some crazy- funny stories about a great-grandmother I never knew. I feel strangely inspired. Strange because it’s the same feeling I get after watching movies with a superb female cast.

I feel stronger because of the stories I heard today. Some days, maybe it’s enough to want to know more about the strong great-grandmother, and being told that she was strong. That’s all. It’s like watching Arundhati – scary, inspiring and deadly.

It was a pretty spectacular 200th blog post day. The high point of the evening was when Bubbly and I started talking about our Mangalore house. We began looking for a lost childhood that was short enough to fit into the house and long enough to follow us here, today.

What they told me

Living alone is a skill, like running long distance or programming old computers. You have to know parameters, protocols. You have to learn them so well that they become like a language: to have music always so that the silence doesn’t overwhelm you, to perform your work exquisitely well so that your time is filled. You have to allow yourself to open up until you are the exact size of the place you live, no more or else you get restless. No less, or else you drown. There are rules; there are ways of being and not being.                                                 ~ Catherynne M. Valente, Palimpsest

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Pic courtesy The Daily Mail

Somebody shared this on Facebook and I died. Even though I have never lived alone, it’s what I think about – at least once every day. Two months ago, I did a bit of research to find out what women think they need to do to become/feel independent. This is what a few of my favourite women from 2015 had to say:

NV:

  • Live alone
  • Travel alone
  • Walk alone
  • Masturbate
  • Cut men down to size
  • Say the words Vagina and Clit in public

NM: Learn to cook

SR:

  • Flip water-cans
  • Develop a tolerance for loneliness
  • Buy Condoms

ZG: Live alone

IA:

  • Read
  • Travel
  • Have a hobby

SA:

  • Save money
  • Eat/drink alone

I keep borrowing the final image of my living alone from movies. Konkona Sen from Wake up Sid! Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz from The Holiday are the absolutest. What continues to be the deal-maker however is this quote:

Then there’s the deep contentment of turning the key in your own front door on a Friday night, slamming it behind you, pouring a glass of wine and settling down to watch a favourite movie.

I found the quote here.

Lately, I’ve been feeling that the older I grow, the farther the dream seems. My fears grow horns on their own when I travel with my family. And really really scary horns. Like I start feeling I will somehow be pushed into their dreams and when that happens, I’ll be too paralyzed to do anything about it.

I want to say I haven’t made any resolutions but nobody will believe me. Not even my blog. It may just delete itself off if I lie to it on it. So maybe resolution number one should be to stop traveling with the family.