Vegetarian Nazis

I’m a vegetarian, have always been one and I don’t even like egg. In the sense that I am a vegetarian because we’re Brahmins and my parents raised me on a vegetarian diet and I just can’t bring myself to eating non vegetarian food now. As regards eggs I don’t eat them directly (boiled egg / omlettes and that kind), but am perfectly fine with eating them in baked foods or even putting it in my hair!

Now coming to the more sensitive parts, do I think non vegetarian food smells? Does it make me gag? Well I am extremely sensitive to smells, very strong smells like garlic, onions, some spices used in Indian cooking, deodrants, cleansers, indeed non vegetarian food affect me. I do eat out in hotels that serve both veg and non veg food and I find that in the finished form the food is fine, does not affect me except perhaps for certain ish based dishes. I’m not proud of this, but I can’t bear to even look at butcher shops on the road..hanging carcasses really repulse me. The smell of non veg food cooking also puts me off most of the time.

But the fact is that is my problem. Not the person cooking, eating or selling the food. Its food for the other person, the same way that I relish my potatoes and carrots. Why am I rambling about all of this? This post of Chandni’s and also a heated argument we had at my workplace.

People who have problems with living in Madras and some parts of Bombay find this to be one of the biggest stumbling blocks, finding a house to rent if their non Brahmins (read non vegetarians). I find it absolutely apalling. I mean its not like you as a landlord is sharing space with your tenant. It isnt as though the tenant is going to be rubbing chicken pieces on your wall or cleaning the floors with fish. What is your issue? Does a vegetarian’s presence make your house holy?

I really believed that such thoughts and beliefs were more in the minds of older generations and that the young people are more open minded. Turns out that I was wrong. My colleagues let’s call them G and S are both scouting for houses and happened to chance upon a property (a smallish unit with only 4 individual apartments) which was sounded good for both of them. They even went and took a look at it and they seemed fairly interested in the property. Then G came and suddenly announced that only one of them could buy the property. S is non vegetarian and G is this pure Brahmin who cannot breathe the air polluted by the smell of non vegetarian cooking. Well fine, go ahead and have such opinions, its really your problem, but in a public forum, your workplace at that, you really cannot afford to say things like “I cannot bear the bad smell”, ” Sunday afternoon vandha podum, veetliye iruka mudiyadu” (Sunday afternoons are the worst, I cannot stay at home). The decent thing to do would have been say this politely and back off, giving her the option to take the flat. But no, our man made a couple of noises about the dirty smells and proceeded to call up all his Brahmin friends to figure out whether they were interested in taking these flats. Now mild mannered S backed off, but this really got my goat and I tried arguing with him. I didnt have the support of even a single vegetarian in the group, I mean I was not even denying his right to feel that non veg cooking smells bad, but the least you can do it be a bit subtle about it and try not to hurt the sentiments of people who love to eat non veg food.

I basically gave him the example of agarbattis and me. I just detest the smell of agarbattis. The damn thing gives me a huge headache. But that is a nice smell, how can you not like it he said. Precisely my point dearie. Loads of people don’t think non veg food smells. But you do. Loads of people don’t think agarbatti smell is annoying. But I do. Now I can’t go around saying I won’t come to your house if you have agarbattis on can I? An wrinkle up my nose in disgust and say this is a nasty smell and that I’m repulsed by it? No sireee.

But he seemed rather unmoved and my guess is that not too many people who think that way are going to be moved either by what I have to say. And this will remain what it is, a rant. But the thing is that my guess is that these people don’t even realise that this is bad, uncivil behaviour..as bad as smoking in a crowded AC room, as bad as not offering a pregnant woman a seat in a bus.

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Where do we go from here

“Although suburban trains on the Western and Central Railways and Harbour Line functioned as usual, some buses, taxis and autorickshaws were set on fire.” – From the CNN IBN report on the rampage that MNS party workers have been on post Raj Thackeray’s arrest.

Now I really have nothing new to say on what Mr Thackeray has been upto. But I was a bit taken aback by this line from the report..so matter of fact, yet another facet of the whole issue.

I was in Bombay when the four Dalits were killed in Khairlanji and there was a round of riots in various parts of Maharashtra following the killings. I was returning home as usual by train and it was past 10 30 pm when the train pulled into the Chembur station. There was a flurry of stones and slippers into the compartment. There were two other women in the women only first class compartment and I was talking to KT on the phone. We were jolted out of our wits and for the first time in my life I was witnessing the feeling of fear for my safety. Some men from the next compartment shouted at us to close the doors and we lugged the doors shut. Through the grills they told us that they would come into our compartment in the next station, in case the rioters tried to force themselves in and we meekly agreed. Gave a thoroughly scared KT a quick update and waited for the next station where the same thing happened. We were relatively safe in the locked train..but what if someone threw something that was burning..what if they forced entry…the possibilites were incredibly scary and another issue was that we were all due to get off a couple of stations later in Vashi..

Another station..more stones…and we began long journey across the bridge and I remember telling KT that I was going to hang up as I wanted to be unhindered if I had to run, but he wanted to know what exactly I was upto as he was really scared for my safety. But we figured it made more sense for me to be alert and ready..and I hung up as we rolled into the Vashi station…

An eerie calm greeted us..a far cry from the three stations we left behind behind the bridge. I guess the toll road was a deterrent for the rioters and they couldnt be bothered to pay up the charges. After giving KT an update, we stuck close to the men from the first class compartment and I reached the auto stand and it was quite clear that Vashi was untouched by the rioting. I reached home with my heart beating so hard, the brush with danger looming large.

And it struck me. This was relatively a minor incident, in comparison to Bombay in 1991, Gujarat in 2002, the bomb blasts that have happened..

And now we have reached the level of such matter of fact statements in news. And I really don’t know where we’re headed…

Bye for now..

There is an orphanage right next to my apartment, now this is a big bungalow that houses girl children who have been orphaned or belong to very poor families that can’t afford to keep these girls..brings back memories of The Kite Runner, but the impression I got is that the girls are reasonably happy..as happy as these circumstances will allow.

Run by nuns, the home provides these girls with good shelter and food and stability that must be lacking in their homes. There is a corporation school nearby and I’ve seen the girls in that uniform. I’ve noticed an easy camaraderie between these girls, the older ones help the younger girls comb their hair, at studies. Once one of the girls received an electric shock and the whole house panicked and ran to the girl, she was fine, but I was touched with the concern that everyone seemed to have, it was not that everyone ran out of curiosity or to gawk, but the worry came through..Every now and then they’d have visitors, people celebrating their birthdays, New Year, Christmas..bringing these girls food, cake and other goodies. Diwali brought them exceptional pleasure and they went berserk bursting crackers.

Once a girl was taken away by her parents and she cried her heart out..and she begged them to leave her behind..it was heart rending, watching them cry and the child cry. I was left with this uncomfortable feeling in my stomach and I really hoped she was safe, I don’t know why but I was left hoping that these parents were going to be good to the kid, was she going to be taken off school to work or beg or worse..Or were they genuinely missing the child and had come to take her away and was the girl crying because she was going to miss the relative comforts of the home, her friends…

I think of that little spunky girl with short hair and her knee length pavadai. The one who received a burn while bursting crackers. The one who’s forever running around, climbing the roof and always in a flurry of activity. The one who I took one look at and asked myself, if I were to adopt a girl like her would I be able to love her like she was my own. The one who convinced me that I could. 

And oh they also had this cage with little birds…creating a non stop din. Waking up in the middle of the night you could hear them, why at any point in the day you could.

KT’s ma has gone down there and chatted with the nuns and the girls..I’ve never done that, I really don’t know why

Well they moved today. Bundled out all their belongings, the girls, the birds and have moved. Turns out that the bungalow is going to be torn down and a new bigger multi storeyed building built in its place…to accomodate more girls, a prayer hall and the works. I can’t help but say a prayer thanking that good soul who left this bungalow to the charitable trust..instead of selling it out to some developer, this in a prime area as well.  They’ve moved to a temporary place where they will stay till such time this construction is completed.

Yet I feel oddly filled with emotion, the air is silent now. No sound of the girls chattering, running around, saying their prayers, no birds creating a din. The lights are out and all I can see is the dim outline of the building and the trees. Oddly the bird cage is still here. KT looks at his foolish wife and pats her head and says they will be back soon. For me it cannot be sooner. Till then I can live in the belief that they are indeed in good hands and that they will be safe.

Resurfacing again

Ok here’s the update on my earlier post, didnt want to edit that one.  As Chandni put it I didnt want to let my prejudices /judgements to cloud my what I had to say to D. It was very clear that she wanted my help…she has no other friends or siblings.

So I decided to get her to elaborate on what she meant by A’s sister / family separating them…here’s what came out. Now while A knows that D wants to move mainly because of his sister the family clearly doesnt. And while A knows, he isnt willing to accept the argument. Yes they have talked…a lot about all the issues..fought…everything. And A knows that his sister’s behaving very badly but isnt willing to do anything drastic about it…because she is the baby of the family and he doesnt want to incur his parents’ wrath by openly supporting D and against her. So the bottom line here is that he doesnt think she is reason enough for A to get out.

Now D earns more than A. So when the whole Bombay idea was floated A’s family has been telling him that she is acting smart because she earns more than him, that her career is more important than him, that he should have married a stay at home girl,  a girl not too educated yada yada…Now that is very unfair because just 2 months back she turned down an offer from a company from Singapore because of A. She is now doing this mainly because of A’s sister and of course it she got a good job in the bargain.

So she is scared that A (who refuses to accept this truth) may get brainwashed when his parents and sister keep harping on the career being more important aspect and turn against her. When I told her that A would most probably be above all this, she said no there are moments he has felt this way before. And she reminded me that there was a point in time when A questioned her money spending and claimed that he was spending more money because of her insistence of living in Gurgaon and her unwillingness to stay in Delhi which would work out cheaper (both of them have offices in Gurgaon). So these undercurrents have been there and now she is scared that they will get full blown.

And her mind is made up she is moving to Bombay. Without A. And A’s parents are planning to move to Delhi. A will try and get a transfer in 6 months. I now feel this is actually a good thing. If their marriage can survive these 6 months, it will last their lifetime and I will be happy for D. If it doesnt survive these 6 months then she for sure is better off without him and its better now than later.

Resurfacing to breathe

Well I’m still neck deep in work…more and more seems to accumulate and I have a tag and a follow up post pending. But I’m doing neither and will instead write about an issue that has been simmering for a long time now and yesterday I was left fuming with the situation..

My friend D, the one I mentioned in passing earlier got married two years back. She a Tamilian met and fell in love with a Punjabi guy A. Complete recipie for disaster right from the word go..her parents were ok with the whole deal, his were not. They tried everything under the sun to stop the match..saying that she was too dark (I swear she is not, not like it matters but still), their horscopes don’t match, the astrologer said that A would die if they went ahead and got married, the marriage wouldnt last…every nasty thing possible was hurled at the poor girl. Now she is a perfect being, a senior from school, she was really someone I looked upto…she was really intelligent, excellent vocalist, great at sports, complete grace in handling herself..she was the complete package.

For about a year they kept yo yoing with the marriage thing…I tried talking her out of it for I don’t know what reason but I was really uncomfortable with her boyfriend. Finally they agreed and the wedding was fixed in lightening speed before A’s parents could change their minds and the wedding happened. A was working in Madras then and D was based out of Delhi in a job that involved extensive travel. A lived in with a room mate and D lived with her aunt in Delhi when she was there and her parents of course were in Madras. As the wedding took place really soon, they didnt have time to plan out how they were going to sort out their careers. So here they were married, headquartered in different cities and no clear plan as to what their future course of action would be. A’s parents fired the first salvo and said that they couldnt live in Madras…because she didn’t want her son to fall under any more evil Southie influences..so he had to find a new job…it made sense to choose Delhi because she was anyway working out of there. This though was fairly sick was still acceptable. Then came the bigger blow..no staying in D’s parents house when D was working out of her Madras office. Now A as I said earlier was living with a room mate..in a two bedroom house, with just one attached bathroom. So these newly weds lived with another guy in the house..in a room that had the bathroom attached to it…

Then there were digs and taunts, A’s dad never spoke to D…loads of bitchiness on the whole.

But they managed to sort out their jobs, both of them moving jobs based out of Gurgaon. There was an uneasy calm…but I could get a sense that A..who swore his undying love, who fought valiant battles against his parents was changing..bit by bit.

Now a fresh crisis has taken over. A’s sister has gotten herself a job in Gurgaon and is living with them. What’s the big deal you ask? Well the sister hates D (yeah a 25 year old), doesnt speak to her, doesnt do a spot of work in the house, wants to be lorded over, cooked for, driven around the place, won’t sit in the same table as D, will leave her used sanitary napkins lying around the place, basically causing hell for D. Now D has decided that enough is enough and refuses to put up with her anymore. She can’t get the sister out of the house, so she has decided switch jobs and move cities. A recently changed jobs so he cannot follow her. He cannot ask his sister to behave and he cannot ask her to get out..she earns a good salary and can for sure support herself. So D has found herslf a job in Bombay and A has told her that he can get a transfer in 6 months. So in the middle of salary negotiation and finding a place in Bombay I received a call from D.

She is not too sure she wants to move now. She is sure that she does not want to live under the same roof as A’s sister, but at the same time she has doubts….Those words sent a chill down my spine..I knew all was not rosy, but this?

“Pirichidivalonnu bayama irikku”

(Translated “I’ m scared they’d plot to separate us”)

These words have been echoing in my ears since yesterday. Here are highly educated people, people who have graduated from the cream of educational institutes in India, people working in top companies in the world. And the girl is scared of leaving her husband alone with his sister and perhaps parents because she is worried that they’d break up her marriage. I was too stunned to react to this and tried chiding her by telling her that A isnt a baby and is fully capable of making his decisions and holding his own..and she replied saying that I didn’t know how guys can change around their parents and family.

I mumbled something and ended the conversation there. My heart goes out to her…my first instinct was to think that if you can’t trust your husband enough to leave him around his family for six months, you’re better off without him..what kind of a marriage was this? But I really didnt want to say anything to her because I have spent a large part of my adult life telling my mother that she should have gotten a divorce early on in her life and always grew up thinking that if a guy were to hurt me in any way I was booting him out of my life, so much so my brother would joke that it would be a wonder if my marriage lasted 10 days…all this was before I met KT. All of this was playing in my head as I was talking to her and I wasnt sure if that instinct was resurfacing in me or whether I was thinking correctly, so I really didn’t want to say anything before examining my feelings.

Spoke to KT about it, now he has had very limited interaction with the two of them, we stayed one night with them in Gurgaon and needless to say D came out in flying colours in KT’s opinion and A flunked out miserably…the scene that played out there was right out of some 10 years ago…D cooking breakfast / lunch / juice , serving it to the great man who was sunning himself in the balcony reading his newspaper. Even KT felt queasy and offered to help. It was very very awkward to say the least.

When I  told KT what she had told me, he reacted in the exact same manner as I did and wants me to tell her that she is better off without A. Now D doesn’t have any other friend as such and I’m the only one. I know I need to give her my honest views, tell her how I feel…but is this crossing the line? I for one am not candid with her regarding my problems, so is that guilt holding me back from telling her what I feel. Or is it not my business at all? Should I go ahead and tell her? Is she asking me in order to hear from another person what she fears? I am really torn and am not sure how I need to handle this..suggestions please..

10 things

Been tagged by Childwoman and I have to put down 10 things I miss in my life right now and 10 things I want in a decade:

10 things I miss (This is turning out to be tough..I guess I’m having a better life now!)

  1. Being around my mom all the time..
  2. My grandmom being this active energetic woman..her weak and fragile being is killing me.
  3. Being that gentle, non aggressive, smiling person ( I remember this autograph book of mine from school where everybody mentioned my ever smiling face and cut to the present when KT has suddenly after these years noticed that my eyebrows join in the center and has attributed this “sudden development” to my persistent frowning!!).
  4. Those wonderful weekends in Bombay when KT would make those “offical trips” and we’d spend some truly magical time…and he’d every time make a trip to Matunga to get my starved being a full fledged South Indian meal!!
  5. Jamming sessions that we had in college..practice for various competitions, there was so much more music in my life when I was in school and college before I got sucked into the corporate rat race..the bunch of us has scattered and though a couple of them still perform occasionally it won’t really be possible to regroup.
  6. That fantastic drive, energy and discipline I had as a teenager…its not like its all gone now….but then was awesome!!
  7. My mom’s cooking!!! I still havent gotten used to KT’s mom’s cooking and mine..haha!!
  8. That sense of anticipation of these tiny holidays that we used to take as children…to Madras from my town, to Kodaikanal etc….that excitement, the run up, everything…holidays are still fun and are looked forward to…but yeah one can’t help feeling all adult about it…I think that is an extremely unclear statement, but its definitely different!!
  9. “Food compatibility” with my brother…I cant remember the last time only me and him did dinner together. Growing up, we perfectly complemented each other, we’d order food that both of us loved and we’d share…being able to eat a bit of everything.  Our tastes were in perfect sync! With KT and me, it isnt as perfect…we share and all that but our tastes are very different, plus his appetite obviously isnt the same as a kid’s so sharing portions doesnt work out too well!!
  10. I’ve run out of stuff!! And that pleases me immensely!!!

Things I want to achieve and get within the decade

Okay as a person I’m fairly hard on myself and have very high expectations from me and my life..so here goes:

  1. An MBA…I desperately wanted to get an MBA post my graduation…but missed IIMs fairly narrowly and our finances did not allow me to take off a year and re do CAT..and took up the cheapest alternative CA!! But I’m sure this will be one regret I will carry to my grave…don’t want to spend out 2 years..so maybe ISB..or any good place that has a 1 year course…now being married and all that makes it tough..but KT’s perfectly fine about it..so we have to work out the when and the how…
  2. Make a trip to New Zealand!!
  3. Have one baby and adopt another. (KT remember if we end up having twins, Im divorcing you and leaving both both the babies with you!)
  4. Bring complete happiness to my mother…not the happy that her kids are doing well happy but for herself, of the selfish kinds…personal happiness if that’s a word…she’s had it tough for too long in her life…its high time the tide changed.
  5. A complete turnaround in my dad’s behavioural traits….I want him to life a good clean life….all his troubles affect us no doubt, but they kill him the most…this point is akin to wishing something from a genie…but miracles can happen huh?
  6. Learn to cook properly 🙂
  7. Get some music back in my life…take vocal lessons, pick up  my rusty guitar.. something!
  8. Write stuff in newspapers…so far I’ve written one article in the paper, Business Line and one more is in the pipeline..I need to do this more regularly and then become a columnist!!
  9. Regain that personality of mine…that original personality when I was that much more pleasant, less rude and less untrusting, less strung up and wary…and lose some of that touch me not quality in me!!
  10. Start that charity fund that KT and me have been talking about for a year now but havent done anything about…that needs urgent action…actually I need to do this post on that idea and get more ideas and find a way of working towards it.

Not tagging anyone as most people seem to have done this one anyway… 🙂

Must revisit this next year to track progress!! Had a good time doing this one as it was some good introspection!! Thanks Childwoman!!

Buddies..

MM asked a question on her blog, whether we still have a best friend, like the kinds we had in school…this kind of opened a floodgate of emotions and feelings in me and it came close on the heels of KT asking me why I didnt still cultivate and nurture friendships…

I had a ” best friend”, A, perhaps for the first time when I was around 11…this was a time when things were hunky dory for me…there werent too many worries in the world…I was only hassled about having to study, preferring to spend time reading, TV, music etc…we hung out all the time in school, went to the movies together (with our mommies and younger siblings in tow!)…and then I also became closer to another girl, D who is now the closest I have to a best friend today. It was a simpler life, a smaller town…

Moving to Madras opened me up to a whole new set of people…now even though I was from a smaller town, I wasnt too far behind in terms of mental compatibility with the people around me was perhaps even more advanced mentally than loads of people…it was no culture shock or any such thing…but the issue was that it was around this time that my world began disintegrating….

The official reason for our move was that my granddad had passed away and as it was to take care of him that we’d moved to the small town it was no longer necessary for us to remain there, plus my ma could get back to her job…I’m sure my mom knew that it wasnt just as straightforward as this, but yeah she had no idea how bad it really was…but me being still that trusting 14 year old had no reason to believe otherwise and was very happy to get out of there…the only things that I knew I’d miss were my friends..my school where I was this popular girl and our lovely house…well a bungalow is more like it…we had just finished building our dream home..where no expense was spared as this was the “lifetime investment”..we had lived there barely a year…

The rude shock we had was when we moved to this tiny grubby apartment..in a not so great neighbourhood….we had entered hell…Things began to slowly unravel…my ma started work, it wasnt even a full time job..paying a measly Rs 3000 per month…my dad’s income came in trickles…and then came his brainwave…he’d do a course in IT that would cost Rs 2 lakhs and as we didnt have money he’d sell off the house and use the funds to pay for the course and pay off the housing loans and stash away the rest…The course was paid for and abandoned, the debts remained and the stashing away became gambled away…and the daily drink became one too many drinks everyday…We were left with this: One alcoholic man with a serious gambing addiction, one woman with a degree that has very restricted scope for employment, the one option in Madras able to offer her a part time position that paid very little..two confused school going children…

This was the beginning of my withdrawal…I was very ashamed of inviting people into my house…I couldnt answer questions about my dad…where he worked, what he did, this was from my new circle…as regards the old circle..there were questions on what happened to our house, had we bought a new one, the obvious shock when people saw our place…it was traumatic to say the least..I still remember my birthday that year….how I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed…and I remember the look of helpless dismay on my mother’s face and the look of confusion on my little brother’s face…he had done some minor thing that triggered off my tears and couldnt understand why he had upset me so much…Deception was my way of handling all of this..harmless lies here and there to mask glaring gaps in our lives…I stayed away from people never letting them get close enough to ask personal questions…no money meant no outings, coffee with friends, parties, nice gifts, canteen treats, fancy music CDs, posters in the room, different kinds of nail polish…I ceased to be that regular teenager and instead morphed into a serious girl who was focussed on doing well in acads…went from one class to another…generally shone in school from that perspective…so I cultivated this image of this moderately cool girl who was good at her work…I was not the nerdy studious child, but was neither this uber cool girl…I found this middle ground somewhere and stayed there….so naturally there were no best friends…I kind of lost touch with A and slowly got closer to D, but never close enough to pour my heart out…But at this point I drew closer and closer to my mom…my mom was the only one who knew what was going on and we supported each other..giving each other strength and the moral support to carry on with life and put on a brave face in dealing with the blows life was dealing us..

Things worsened and my dad could still not keep off the races and he began borrowing in order to be able to gamble…when they reached very messy proportions my mom put her foot down and insisted that he check into rehab…At the rehab, there was a family counselling session and the counsellor asked me who my friends were and whether I shared stuff about our troubles with them…When I said no and that my mom was my only friend..she asked my mom to watch out for me because was giving too many glib rehearsed answers and that I was taking all of this worse than I was letting on…

College was a worse nightmare….worse than school because of the innate nature of friendships and the general hanging around that it involves..I could never afford the fancy clothes, accessories…the inequality was even more glaring here….so I fell back on my acads, my CA, my music practice and a lot of stuff that kept me occupied all the time…

Then I joined my internship and KT stumbled onto my life….he ripped apart my facade and made out that there was some demon that I was battling with…he even realised that I was playing a double game…I was outwardly this cool, confident, easy going performer…but deep down inside there was this insecure scared person..I found myself finally able to talk about my troubles to someone other than my immediate family and was really grateful for the support he gave me…he was able to offer me a shoulder to cry on..to bounce off ideas..to just listen when the going got tough…and finally we were people that had no secrets from each other…we had each other’s interests at heart…we were….best friends….For the first time in my life I knew what it was to have a best friend in the true sense of the word…that our relationship has moved on ahead and that we’re now married is another matter altogether…but we still remain best friends…the only really close friend for me at least…I cannot even begin to talk about how much I am grateful for his presence in my life…he has basically returned the sanity into my life, he is the calming factor in my highly panicky existence…

Things have largely stabilised money wise now…my dad still drinks and still gambles, but the fact that the money flows more freely lessens the blow….the number of issues we deal with has lessened…I am way more secure now, have come into my own, my identity is mine…the skeletons in my closet matter lesser and lesser now…but I find myself unable to mingle freely with people…there’s always that distance I maintain, I don’t find the need to friends to hang out with or spend time with..I’m happy with keeping to myself, being around KT, my mom, my brother….It’s become my nature now…the cloak that I used to wear, I can now not differentiate it with my own skin…I know I need to change…but really don’t know where to start….