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?