Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Dhobi's Daughter

Photo Courtesy: Pixabay

The little girl comes around every morning to collect my laundry.

I always know it’s her at the door from the sound the bell makes. A short, quick ring. She can’t reach the buzzer till she tip toes. One press and she’s back on her feet again.

The grave face watches me silently as I count the clothes carefully before handing them to her. She then piles them up on the old bedsheet I’ve given her and folds the corners of the sheet back across the clothes, making a knot in the middle neatly. Once the bundle is ready, she picks it up and flings it over her shoulders deftly, flicking her brown matted hair back in the process. A nod and then she’s gone. I can hear her the sound of her rubber slippers echoing off the walls as she tears down the stairwell.

She would be eleven or twelve years old. Almost the same age as my daughter Riya. She’s much shorter and thinner, wearing hand me downs that are a size too big. I’ve been seeing her doing the laundry run in our building for nearly a year now. I don’t think there’s been a single day when she hasn’t come around. 

I always refer to her as the dhobi’s daughter. I don’t even know what her name is. I’ve never asked her. Come to think of it, we’ve never had a real conversation. All our communication, so far, has been through hand gestures and head movements. A nod, a wave, a pat on the back.

Her father has a tiny makeshift stall outside our condominium. All day long, I see him and his wife busy at work, straightening and ironing clothes with the heavy metal iron they own. Their children, I think there are three of them, help the parents, by collecting and delivering clothes from door to door in the neighbourhood. Apart from our condominium, there are plenty of other buildings in the area, a few smaller houses and bungalows. The two older boys share a cycle between them but the little girl always comes on foot.

Sometimes I offer her biscuits, a chocolate, a glass of milk. She shakes her head when I show her the milk carton but her eyes shine at the sight of the Bourbon biscuits. There’s a hint of a smile on the grave face as she extends her grubby fingers. She eats quickly, noiselessly as I count the clothes. Watching me all the while.

On Sundays, she always lingers at the doorway, craning the little head towards the corridor at the end of which is our bedroom. I know she hangs around for a glimpse of Riya. When the bedroom door swings open and Riya stumbles into the living room sleepily, I can hear her catch her breath and stare at the pre-teen in wonderment, taking in the Star Wars tee shirt and shorts. Riya ignores her and wiggles into the sofa with the iPad in hand. I pat her on the shoulder lightly and she wolfs down the last of her biscuit and runs off with the bundle.

“You should smile at her, Riya, maybe even talk to her. It doesn’t hurt to be nice” I reprimand my daughter after I’ve shut the door. “Poor thing, she waits every Sunday to catch a glimpse of you. As though you were a film star or something.”

Riya mumbles, not looking up from her iPad. “Hmmmmm, okay, whatever.”

I sigh and head back into the kitchen. “Let’s give her some of your old toys when she comes around next Sunday. I wonder if she even has any toys,” I shout out from the kitchen. There’s no reply.

The next weekend, I get all the old toys out in the living room, piling them up in the corner. As soon as the bell rings, I run to the door and pull the little girl in excitedly. She steps inside the apartment, looking around furtively. I point towards the toys in the corner and her face lights up. She drops the bedsheet on the floor and runs across to the corner.

She’s running her fingers over the toys that I’ve assembled for her. Gently as though she doesn’t want to hurt them. Winnie the Pooh, Paddington Bear and sundry other fluffy creatures that Riya used to play with when she was younger. I’m not sure what she would like so I’ve brought out the entire collection. Ever since the iPad came into the picture, Riya hasn’t looked at any of her old toys and I’d been thinking of donating them to an orphanage.

I can hear her scuffle through the toys to get to the corner where the green bucket containing the Lego is stashed. She opens the bucket and the Lego pieces spill out onto the floor. She shrinks back, looking at me apologetically. I shake my head and smile and she plops down on the floor, relieved. Daily task of collecting clothes forgotten, red, green and blue blocks in hand. Smiling, I lay down a plate full of Bourbon biscuits on the floor next to her. A little distance away, Riya looks up from the iPad and smiles. “Looks like someone has found her favourite toy.”


The little girl hasn’t come to our door for more than a week now and a stack of clothes have piled up high on the bed. I’m concerned. She’s never missed a day in all these months. Was she ill? Or perhaps her parents have found out that she was playing in my house and punished her for it? Wouldn’t they have sent one of the brothers then? Surely, they can’t be all that angry for something as minor as this?

I call my neighbour, Mrs Sharma, and ask her whether the little girl has come around collecting clothes at their place. “No,” Mrs Sharma looks confused. “It’s been over a week and no one has come to collect the clothes for ironing. I was planning to go and ask the guard today.”

“I’ll go with you,” I say and we head downstairs. The security guard at our building is a new recruit. He scratches his head doubtfully. He’s been hired two days back and he’s never seen the little girl. “Perhaps, you should try at the main gate?” he volunteers. Exasperated we walk down to the main gate. 

I peer out of the main gate towards the makeshift stall. It looks abandoned. No signs of anyone having inhabited it ever. The iron is missing and the clothes have disappeared. The security guards look at us quizzically. “Do you know where the dhobi has disappeared? It’s been days and he hasn’t sent his daughter to collect clothes,” Mrs Sharma asks one of the guards.

“There’s been an incident Madam,” he replies hesitantly. “Something to do with the dhobi’s daughter. Something terrible. I don’t know for sure.”

“What incident?” there was panic in my voice “The dhobi works right there in front of you and you don’t know for sure? How is that possible?”

Leela, the female guard, looks apologetic “Madam, something bad happened to the little girl. That’s what everyone in our slum is saying. They are saying it’s come out in the English papers. Maybe you can find the report in the newspaper?”

I run back to the flat.

After desperately rummaging through the week’s papers, I find the report in yesterday’s Gurgaon Times. A tiny paragraph, tucked away in an obscure corner of the newspaper. 

On Sunday evening, the same evening that she had played with the blocks in our house, while Riya was tucking into her dinner in front of the television, the little girl was out delivering freshly ironed clothes to the houses nearby. The brothers usually did the evening rounds but they were at a friends’ house playing football  A couple of hours later, my daughter was in bed, sleeping peacefully but the dhobi’s daughter was dead. She had been raped, strangled and her lifeless body dumped in the bushes. Like trash.

The police had reached a dead end in their investigations. All in the course of a few days. The dhobi and his family had gone back to their village. People had forgotten and moved on. And I didn’t even know. All week, waiting for the next Sunday to come so that the little child could come and play with the Lego.

What if it was someone like us? A monster living in a fancy house or a kothi nearby? Someone known to the girl, a regular client who lured her into the house? With something as innocuous as candy. I had done it myself. I had offered her food, toys. I had made it easy for the culprit to attack. A friendly face, a welcoming house. How would that poor child have known any better?

I had killed her with my kindness.


I have packed and put away the Lego set. I couldn’t bear to see the blocks lying around. Maybe one of these days, I’ll give it away to a local orphanage.

The bell rings. Several impatient rings. I get up and go to the door.

An unpleasant looking chap is skulking in the corridor. It’s dark outside and I can’t see his face clearly. “Do you have any clothes to give for ironing?” he barks at me.

I shake my head and close the door.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Apocalypse Aunty and the Vegetables!

Photo Courtesy: World Wide Web

The vegetable shop was empty. 

Well, almost empty. I could see one lady at the checkout counter getting the vegetables in her plastic basket weighed. My heart skipped a few beats and suddenly, there was an extra spring in my step.

The tiny shop inside our condominium is packed like a can of sardines on most days. Residents, domestic help, nannies, chauffeurs – all of them jostling each other as they eye, poke and pick at the assortment of fruits and vegetables that the truck drops inside the building every morning. It’s a battlefield and one is lucky to get out of there on a busy morning, unscathed.

I hate vegetable shopping. Actually, I hate shopping. Period. I hate walking down aisles looking for things that are either too high up on shelves or not there at all. I hate banging into errant carts and trolleys on the way. I hate waiting at the counter behind people. Hate, hate, hate. You get the drift.

So you will understand the adrenaline rush I felt when I realized that I wouldn’t have to wait. The woman looked as though she was almost done. I couldn’t help but congratulate myself on my superb timing. I hastily threw a few things inside my basket and took my place politely behind her. The young fellow at the counter was holding out the bill.

The woman reached inside her bag for the money and then paused for a heart-stopping moment before reaching behind me to pull out a huge cabbage, narrowly missing my skull in the process.

“How much is the cabbage for?” 

Her shopping was not done evidently. The boy sighed and proceeded to weigh cabbage.

“And spinach? Oh, and how much are you selling the apples for?”

For the next fifteen minutes or so, she kept adding things to her basket. The old bill was discarded and the boy went back to weighing. 

What on earth was she stocking up for?  The Apocalypse? Her basket was overflowing!

My temper had started to flare and my eyelids were twitching like Chief Inspector Dreyfus in the Pink Panther movies.

Now I’ve been working really hard to keep my anger issues in check but this woman at the shop was not helping. Why on earth had she come to the counter without finishing her shopping? I see people doing this all the time in shops and malls and it is really bad etiquette. One of the reasons I hate going out in the first place. The app keeps my blood pressure in check.

I mustered all the self-control I could manage so that I didn’t whack her with my shopping basket. I turned purple with the effort.

Finally, after what seemed like hours, Apocalypse Aunty had finished and I saw her yelling for someone to help her lug her shopping. I heaved a sigh of relief and handed my basket to the chap. Just as he was about to weigh the potatoes, woman comes back and shoves a bundle of coriander leaves under my nose.

“You didn’t add this,” she told the boy accusingly. “You should have given this to me for free.”

The boy shook his head. “I can’t give you that much for free, you’ve taken too much already.” I could tell from his face that he was exhausted.

She gave him a dirty look. “This is not done,” she grumbled. “Well, how much is this much for?” 

He mumbled the amount.

And then she had the gall to ask me. “Are you done with your shopping?”

I would have vaporized her on the spot with my glare. 

She threw a five rupee coin on the counter, dumped the coriander in her bag, ordered her coolie to lift it, held up a floral umbrella and walked off, waddling her butt in the process. A butt I really wanted to kick.

Well I never!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Yikes on a Plane!


Tiny feet were kicking my seat from behind. Annoyingly regular kicks, a couple of seconds interval between each. I pressed back hard against the seat with all my might in a futile bid to stop the kicks. Didn't work. Kick Kick Kick, the demonic feet were at it again.

"Dhruv Beta, stop. You are annoying the aunty in front," I heard a woman's voice from behind me drawl.

The owner of the annoying feet, Dhruv Beta, refused. “Nahi!” he yelled at his mum and continued kicking the back of my seat, more determined than ever.

I gritted my teeth and started counting till ten, staring at the air hostess who had started her flight safety demonstrations in the aisle, further ahead, fixed smile on her pretty face. My face, on the other hand, had turned quite purple and I could feel my blood beginning to boil. Another couple of minutes and I would stick my face in the opening between the seats and glare at the little brat. That should do it. It’s worked before.

I stared at the yellow mask the stewardess was displaying when a sudden movement in front distracted me. From a narrow gap between the seats in front of me, I could see the occupants of the two seats glued together in what looked like a passionate liplock. As I stared at them, mouth hanging open, Dhruv Beta, his kicks, and the flight safety instructions were temporarily forgotten.

Smack. Muahh. Groans. Oh Baby, Janoo Panoo.

At the outset, let me tell you, the scene wasn’t particularly pleasant to look at. They were hardly Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson. And Fifty Shades isn’t even my favourite movie!

These two were in their sixties, the lady with an unpleasant scowl and brightly hennaed hair, piled high on her scalp. I had noticed her earlier being quite rude with the flight attendants when we were boarding the airplane. The man was wearing a jet black toupee. Tufts of white and orange hair peeked out from the side of his head not covered by the hair piece. He looked like Rocky Raccoon from the cartoon strip. For the next couple of minutes, I couldn’t help but stare as they went at each other in that cramped space. It was getting quite steamy. Much like a C grade South Indian soft porn film.


Wait a minute. Was I forgetting something? Or Someone?

I suddenly remembered I had company! I stared guiltily at the teen in the seat next to me, panic stricken for a heart stopping moment. Had she seen the action in front? Didn’t look like it. She was bent over her iPad, curls all over the place, glued to the Subway Surfers game on the screen, blissfully oblivious to the action in the front and back. Thank heavens for technology. At least, at this very moment, I thought to myself.

Dhruv Beta had started kicking again. I looked out of the window and realised that we were in mid-air and I hadn’t even noticed due to Mr and Mrs Grey in front of me.

I was determined not to stare, eyes fixed on my Kindle for the entire duration of the two-hour flight. But it was very hard, let me tell you. Between Dhruv Beta’s kicks and the passion being served up front, I was between a rock and a hard place. When refreshments were being offered, I heard Mrs Grey yell at the stewardess loudly “Hello! I want a lemon tea. Get me some nimboo at once!”

I sighed.

There should be a code of conduct for people travelling on board airplanes. Annoying passengers who need instructions on how to behave. Our plane could have done with a Romeo squad, much like a security inspector, to keep the amorous uncles and aunties in check. I hear they are quite strict about these things in cities such as Dubai. And more recently, Uttar Pradesh.

As for Dhruv Beta …. I’m not in favour of corporal punishment ... but spanking might help!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Killing me but not softly!

A plate of prawn tempura rolls had just arrived at the table. I was ravenous and couldn’t wait to tuck in. I had kept my bowl of dipping sauce ready and had reached for a roll when a strange sound reached my ears. It sounded as though a cat had been run over and was dying a slow, painful death. I dropped the tempura in alarm and pricked my ears. A cat inside the restaurant? 

It seemed unlikely. Even if the creature had managed to sneak in, tempted by the smell of food, who was causing it bodily harm? I looked around, over the heads of my fellow diners to see if I could spot the aggrieved feline. I couldn’t see it anywhere. No one around me seemed the least bit bothered. They were either stuffing their faces or talking with one another. It was Saturday evening and people were clearly in a mood to unwind. Not even a tiny shred of concern for the cat.

I felt annoyed. This wasn’t right. Perhaps I should have a word with the manager. I pushed my chair back and got ready to take up cudgels on behalf of the cat, probably lying injured somewhere, the poor kitty. 

That’s when I heard the sound again. Only this time, the cat had managed to string a few words together.

“Kiiiiiiilllling meeeeee softly
 oohhhhhhhh ohhhhhhhh ohhhhhhh
With his song,
 ooohhhh ooooh oooooh”

Realisation dawned. It wasn’t a hurt cat. It was a singing cat … erm .. human.

That’s when I saw him, over the bobbing heads. A young boy with a guitar in front of a microphone. The restaurant had hired him to provide live music. Caterwauling actually. That was his voice. No one was hurting animals. On second thought, perhaps a cat might have sounded better.

Strumming my pain with his fingers
 oooooh ooooh oooh”

I winced. My temples throbbed. I could feel the start of a headache. All of a sudden, the tempura roll didn’t seem appetising anymore. I just wanted to get away from the boy, his voice and the guitar.

The fellow was killing me with his song. And he wasn’t even being particularly soft. Rather he was loud and tone-deaf.

Now I'm all for supporting young, musical talent but some youngsters clearly need to be discouraged from pursuing a career in music. 

Sushi-Smushi. I’m calling for the cheque!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Take a Lift!

The young woman pressed the elevator button repeatedly. As though she was transmitting a message via Morse Code to a secret recipient. I looked at her curiously. She was clearly in a hurry, Chanel sunglasses parked on top of her head, face immaculately made up, wearing a Zara dress that I’d seen on the store mannequin a week back. 

“The lift will come when it’s ready. It won’t hurry if you press the button several times,” the words had shot out of my mouth before I could stop them. She turned around and subjected me to a withering glare. “I know,” she said frostily.

I noticed a little boy and his mother had entered the lobby to stand beside us. They seemed to be waiting for the elusive lift which had stopped at the 14thfloor for the longest time. Through the CCTV camera, I could see that a man was holding the lift door open as he kept poking his head out and yelling for someone to hurry up. I couldn’t hear what he was saying. But the head movements and the expression on his face were a dead giveaway.

As we waited in silence, the little boy kept running in circles around us. I looked at the mother hoping she would ask him to stop but she gazed at him adoringly. He was making me dizzy. By the time the lift arrived, I was teetering unsteadily. The man who had kept the lift waiting walked out, throwing me a suspicious look as he passed. He probably thought I had consumed copious quantities of alcohol! Beside him was his elegantly dressed wife. We had been waiting for her to get dressed.

The designer woman, mother and son nudged me roughly out of the way and got in. As though there was a prize for the one who got inside first. To my horror, I saw a tall man with a bicycle also headed towards the lift and narrowly missed getting trampled. Once he had manoeuvred his cycle inside the lift along with the woman, mother and son, I squeezed in with an apologetic look on my face. Now squeezing into anything, leave alone a lift, is a mammoth task for me as I am not tiny by any stretch of imagination. The little fellow had pressed all the buttons in the lift before his mother could say anything. I managed to slide in before the doors closed on me. The obnoxious brat then proceeded to play with all the buttons on the panel. I looked at the mother helplessly but she didn’t reprimand him. My fingers were itching to give him a tight slap.

Designer lady had whipped out her phone and was trying to take a selfie inside the lift. I gaped she puckered and preened trying to get the perfect angle. Well, we had plenty of time. Thanks to the brat, the lift was going to stop at every effing floor!

Selfie done, designer lady got off first followed by annoying mother and son. Then it was just me and Lance Armstrong in the lift. I wished he would be still but he kept moving his bike this way and that every couple of seconds. I almost got mowed down before I could leave the lift. I have painful wheel tracks on my feet if you'd care to look!

I have never been so angry in my life. Elevator etiquette should be taught in schools. Till then, I think I will take the stairs!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Mummy! And it’s not a Review

Around the time Wonder Woman was leaving Paradise Island to put an end to the World War, another woman was preparing to wage war, of a different kind, on an audience of around 100 unsuspecting movie-goers.

As the story unfolded on-screen, through the corner of my eye, I saw a little girl (she couldn’t have been more than two or three years old) walk down the red, carpeted stairs of the aisle in the movie theatre in search of her Mummy.  “I want to go to Mummy,” she yelled out loudly in Hindi, startling everyone in the audience. I could see heads turning this way and that, all around me. We all wondered where the mother was and why she wasn’t with her daughter.

The little girl walked a few steps down, tottered in the darkness and yelled out for her Papa this time, undaunted by the loud “ssssshs” emanating from various corners of the auditorium. A figure, possibly her harried Papa, darted out in the dark and proceeded to pull her back to her seat. The little girl wouldn’t move. She had reached the landing. Her mission to find her mother seemed more urgent than Wonder Woman’s quest for Ares. God knows where the poor woman was hiding. I had half a mind to look for her myself so that we could all get on with the movie in peace but the husband gave me a warning look and I froze.

Instead I watched as Papa sat his toddler down on the steps next to my seat and kept her entertained for the remainder of the movie with bags of popcorn and cola that attendants delivered at regular intervals. The two kept up a steady stream of conversation that made it impossible for me to concentrate on the movie. I couldn’t even glare at them. It was too dark for them to see!

So I slouched back in my seat and sulked while Wonder Woman saved the World. Unfortunately for me, Papa and his little wonder had ruined mine! Several hundreds of rupees flushed down the toilet. I would cheerfully wring the Mummy’s neck if I spotted her.

Thankfully for her (not for me), she remained as elusive as the prospect of a relaxing movie night after a hard, work week!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

About Names Not So Good, After All!

They say people from West Bengal have a chip on their shoulders. Why wouldn’t they? 

Imagine labouring through life, tough enough as it were, with a name gifted indulgently to you by a fond uncle or a loving grandma when you were little. Too little to protest.

Cut to the present. Imagine the horrors of having that name discovered, being ridiculed by the world at large. From anonymity to the centre of attention, except none of it is good. The name that you spent your whole lifetime trying to hide. How does it feel Potla? Or should I call you Habool or Pocha? Or are you a hulk of a man who goes by the name of Chhotu or an obese, middle aged woman called Flopsy?

Tsk tsk!

My pet name or, as Bengalis would have it, daak naam was recently revealed to the world thanks to a tip off by a friendly relative on a social media site. I don’t think she meant any harm but I have been struggling with the jibes ever since, silently seething. Why did my supposedly loving parents allow this to happen to their daughter? I haven't a clue. And no, it doesn’t help that it is a one-of-a-kind name and that you cannot claim mistaken identity.

Still, I guess it could have been worse. I could have been named after a cat. Or a dog. Pet lovers would go into raptures but there are some who might baulk at the idea. Like my dear departed grandma for instance.

During a visit to her sister-in-law’s place once, my grandmother discovered, much to her horror, that one of the many cats in the household had been named after her. Throughout her visit, she heard her sister-in-law (the matriarch of the family) screeching out at regular intervals: “Penky, stop jumping on the table!” “Penky get off the bed!” “Penky don’t you dare touch the milk!” 

You can imagine my grandmother’s state the whole time. She had been sitting in one corner of the room, drinking a cup of tea, rather quietly as this particular relative was not a favourite. I realise now that the feeling was probably mutual!

Each time, her name was yelled out, my grandma would jump out of her skin. She didn’t know why she was being admonished for the things she was NOT doing till her sister-in-law slyly introduced her to her namesake. A scruffy looking cat. Grandmother was humiliated to say the least! Secretly though, I thought it was hilarious and the perfect revenge!

Another time, my father was invited to a colleague’s son’s rice ceremony. On reaching the venue, he found the house teeming with guests, most of whom he obviously didn’t know. So he chose to park himself in a spot away from the crowds, next to the golden-brown dog tied to a charpoy with a chain. After a while, he heard the host, his colleague, shouting out loudly for a “Goldie? Goldie, where are you? Come here at once. Goldie?????”

My father helpfully offered: “Goldie is here, next to me, tied to the bed.”

The host came over to where my father was sitting, eyeing him rather coldly. “That’s not Goldie, that’s Jimmy. Goldie is my son, he’s crawled off somewhere and we can’t see him!”

Do you blame my father? I would have made the same mistake.

How was anyone to know that Goldie was not the dog?

Incidentally, Goldie is now a middle-aged, pot-bellied man, working as a manager in a bank. Good thing, he’s not on social media though.


Disclaimer: Any similarity to unfortunate pet names of persons living or dead is purely coincidental!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

For Your Eyes Only!


The ground floor trial rooms at the clothing store are occupied. It’s the start of a long weekend and there are shoppers crowding every floor of the three-storeyed retail store in Gurgaon. A couple of women are trying on clothes (heaps of them, in fact), darting out every couple of minutes to parade in front of their men, waiting patiently at the entrance to the trial rooms, and seek their approval.

The men, some of them pacing up and down the aisle impatiently or checking their smartphones while they wait, look up when their women materialise and either nod or shake their heads. The smiles on the womens’ faces dissolve into frowns or stay firmly in place depending on the signals they receive from the men. One of them, a pretty, thirty-something lingers a little longer than the others, smoothening the shimmery top over her tummy, fluttering her eyelids.

“Is it okay Jaanu? Are you sure I don’t look fat? This colour, is it nice?”

Jaanu, a stout man with heavyset features, nods and waves her off, back into the trial room. The moment she vanishes, he  starts checking his mail again, but not before darting a furtive, embarrassed glance in my direction.

I’m beaming now, enjoying the runway fashion show.

I’m accompanying the teenager and she has disappeared into one of the trial rooms with a bundle of things she wants to try on. There’s no chance of her appearing in the doorway to seek my approval. She knows I won’t approve and neither of us like exchanging angry words in public. So I wait, skulking in the aisles, while she makes up her mind on her own. Much like I do, when I'm out shopping on my own.

I can’t help but feel astonished that all of these women cannot pick outfits without taking sartorial advice from the men in their lives. I can understand wanting to look good for someone, but shouldn’t you be able to decide what you want to buy and whether or not it would look good on you, on your own? If the man says no, it doesn’t look nice, will you just accept that verdict without a question?

That doesn’t seem right to me. And it’s certainly not something I would do!

Jaanu's better half has just appeared wearing a frothy chiffon dress. But he doesn't like it. He scowls and shakes his head vigorously from side to side. She looks uncertain, bites her lower lip and heads back indoors sadly. What a shame. I thought she looked rather nice in that dress. But no one has asked for my opinion!

Of course, I can’t help but feel slightly envious of the fact that these men have taken time out and are patiently waiting while their wives and girlfriends shop. Not just that, it’s their decision whether or not a particular article of clothing will be bought. Now, that’s an awful amount of responsibility to give someone. Even if you are in love with that person.

There is the tiny matter of the bill. If these men are the ones doling out the cash, then perhaps it does make sense? They do get to decide what they spend their money on. But it’s not an air conditioner or a fridge or a piece of crockery that we are discussing. Why do they get to have a say in what their wives and girlfriends wear?

No one (other than my mother when I was a little girl) has ever taken me shopping. None of my boyfriends when I was a teenager or my husband of 23 years. I’ve mostly shopped alone and bought clothes I wanted to buy and felt I looked good in. Whether I did or not is another matter altogether! The only approval I’ve ever sought is my own.

Is it time to change? Seeing all these women, I’m beginning to wonder that maybe I’m the odd one out.  Perhaps I should ask my husband to take me shopping next week. There is a lovely blue blouse I’ve spotted.

I’m quite sure he will think I’ve lost it. Early onset of dementia. I can almost hear him laughing at me. My jaanu is not willing at all. But then, he’s not used to his woman seeking approval for anything so can’t say I blame him!

Do you?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

No sex, just tea please!

After two surgeries and nearly one and a half months of being bed-bound, I was anxious to get back to normal life. So when I found myself at the gynaecologist’s office for a routine post-operative check-up, the first question I asked was whether I could resume my domestic duties. In other words, make myself a cup of tea.

Getting up at the crack of dawn and brewing myself a pot of Darjeeling tea is the single most important thing in my life. That half hour of solitude before the household wakes and all hell breaks loose. Not being able to do that in the recent past has made my life quite miserable. Tea made by others is never the same. The colour, the flavour – sadly lacking.

“So doctor,” I asked cheerfully. “If everything is okay, can I head into the kitchen and make myself a cup of tea?”

She looked at me over the top of her glasses. “Yes, yes,” she said. “You can have sex!”

I was puzzled. Had the woman not heard right? I was talking about tea.

“No no,” I said, my ears growing warm. “I wanted to know whether I can do kitchen stuff. Make tea?”

“Yes,” she said blandly. “You can have coitus.”

Now the last time I checked, tea was not a code word for sex in any lingo. Which brings me to the burning question.

Is it my imagination or is the northern part of India obsessed with tea? Erm. Sorry, I meant SEX.

Yes, I know I come from a city where lovers (or lubhaars if you will) canoodle in every nook and cranny of a historical monument called the Victoria Memorial (doing stuff under umbrellas and blankets that would put Queen Victoria to shame had she been alive). But in Kolkata, there’s a time and a place. You either get a cabin in a sleazy restaurant with grimy green curtains or go to Victoria Memorial if you are so inclined.

Didi doesn’t bat an eyelid.

But here, it’s out in the open. In broad daylight. All people ever think about. Or talk about.

When I moved to Gurgaon, nearly twenty years ago, colleagues at my workplace would discuss contraception methods over bhindi and roti at lunch. From copper T’s to what nots, stuff that was enough to make one want to go off food for days. Made me forget my alphabets, it did. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

That should have given me a hint of things to come.

Sadly, it only got worse.

Colleagues, neighbours and random people I met would tell me that I needed to reproduce and fast. Time was running out. My biological clock was ticking and everyone and his Aunt was keeping time. Best days, methods. I didn’t need a book. I didn’t even need to ask. It was the favourite conversation-starter. Everywhere I looked, people were making babies faster than rabbits.


Twenty years later, I must say things haven’t improved one bit.

Oh well, at least I can drown my sorrows in a cup of tea! The beverage, what did you think I was talking about?