To my unbeknownst childhood hero

The year short of the 90s, appa was transferred to Patna. We left the comfort of my paternal home in Trivandrum, leaving behind thatha, thathi and periappa, on a glorious monsoon day. It was not their first time; my parents had spent a good many years before I arrived, in the foothills of Janjira-murud and later Pune. So going to unknown lands with unfamiliar tongues wasn’t new to them.

Like all of appa’s transfers, I went from “shattered and heartbroken, I hate this place” to “this is my (2nd) home” in the 3 years i spent there. We lived in a typical middle class apartment complex, all families like ours, most of the dads in government jobs. The kids did the whole “games at twilight” scenes in the evenings, went to same schools, the women had each others backs when the men traveled for work. It was a close knit group. Everyone knew everyone.

It was a time when telephone and television weren’t necessities and nevertheless to say we didn’t own either. One of the families with two daughters had a TV and VCR. And it was at their place we kids gathered to watch a movie every weekend. Sometimes we would love a movie so much (like Mr. India) that we would forgo the evening playtime to catch few snippets, if the video cassette wasn’t due to be returned, that is!

The kids who hosted the movie time were from Madras. And unlike in my case, their parents had not learnt hindi at all; so the kids were on their own to figure out the second language which was compulsory in our school. The older daughter almost in her pre-teens once quipped that, if Sridevi could rule Bollywood without any formal training in hindi, it can’t be that hard, could it?

That was the first time i learnt that Sridevi was a already a superstar in the south, I had not known about, but those details didnt matter to me much back then. I simply looked forward to the movie nights on weekends. And probably because the hosts were fans of Sridevi, it was mostly her movies that we watched most of the time.

And just like that through her acting prowess, flamboyance and seamless panache with wit, she had won the hearts of us kids. I clearly remember laughing till my tummy ached, watching her in chalbaaz! We also did a terribly co-ordinated dance routine with “hawa-hawai” ; And so when recently vidya Balan had revived that magical number for us, I played it to my kids over and over till they asked me to stop!

And just like that, without even realising or declaring, Sridevi had become a huge part of those years for me. In the years that followed and during the time I lived in Chennai, I caught on a lot of her yesteryear tamil hits too and remember weeping like a child after moondram-pirai ( sadma ). Gravitating to her movies had seemed so natural that I hadnt put a tag to it all these years. It is just that easy to love talent like hers, i suppose!

But when the news floated in and the judgments followed since last saturday, these memories had come flooding back. I didnt expect it to impact me as much as it did. May be because I wasn’t ready to feel like I lost a part of my childhood so soon. And may be with her comeback since English-Vinglish, I was looking forward to many more years of awesomeness to come. And for many like me, we may never get to find out!

Venus and Mars

Couple of weeks back, N and I celebrated the year of tin/aluminum. For the uninitiated it is another way of saying, its been 10 years since we were wedded in the presence of our parents and 2000 other people. Yes that number was not an exaggeration. I digress.

If you have been married for a while and meet other married couples in a group, I am sure you must have been privy to a jocular almost bordering on hidden-angst of rants, that can be rightly termed a gender-war. It is usually a tirade that raises from chores and routines and women taking the heavier load. But expressed all in jest; we all get a few laughs at the expense of the men who play along being the country-bumpkin when it comes to matters of domestic everyday chores that keeps a family afloat.

The truth is far from that and we all know it; we do, right?? It is no secret that if the skirmish of right-way-to-toothpaste was infact shaking the foundation of our relationships, this is not the forum we would be discussing it on. Since the matter is much more fun to create the laughs, that is exactly what is told.

On one such recent evening, amidst the peals of laughter that kept coming without a break, I felt obligated to contribute and drew a blank! No, it wasnt always like that and no I am in no means saying we have found the solution to that equal marriage, whatever that means!

We have our everyday battles. Well who doesnt. Because thats when I was reminded of the game we played on our 10th anniversary party. We were each asked some controversial questions and we sat facing away from each other and our answers were suppose to be gesticulated. ( example: who wakes up first in the morning . I pointed to me and N pointed to me ). we had a hiccup at “who calls the shots?”. Probably the only question we didnt seemingly agree on. ( 10 points for those who guess what each answered )

But when i thought more about it, it seemed like the best response i could hope for!

A friend recently shared an post on how women aren’t nags, but they are just fed up. It was a highly popular one which has been doing the rounds for a few months now. It said exactly what many women have been through and may be going through often; And what exactly was told in jest (few paragraphs above). To me honestly the article was a huge eye-opener. It made me look back on this parley from when i have been old enough to notice it.

My parents have a lot of friends and as a pre-teen and teen i often got dragged to lots of dinners, where the women helped the hostess in the kitchen and men discussed politics in the living room. When the mood would lighten, I often noticed ( while pretending to play) how the conversations shifted too. The women also joined after desserts and there is one joke that stands out for me. One man would say ” i have BP ” which meant “bharyiye pedi” he would explain ( means — Afraid of my wife ) and another husband would quip ” I have BJP ” which is ” bharyiye janmana pedi” ( Afraid of my wife since birth ). And it is a joke i have seen repeated so many times, makes the women folk cringe and men guffaw.

Now the reason it was so ha-ha funny, aside from the popular acronyms as pun was because it was not true. If a man was truly deeply afraid of his wife and considering how sensitive testosterone bearers were in the generation before ours, this joke wouldn’t have seen the light of day.

Things are not astronomically different or better now, unfortunately. Men are okay to entertain criticism for their lack of panache when it comes to leaving a kitchen sink clean, because they deeply believe that is not their department of expertise nor do they want it to be. Because it magically gets done right? When they are settling with the remote or wee hours of the morning when the wife is fuming/nearly in tears at the extra work; but doesnt pick a fight because thats the last thing one needs to get everyone out the door in the morning!

And this is exactly what all the women folk who were belting disapproval one after another sugar coated with laughs were actually trying to express. and here is where the line from the article stands out for me —

“Walking that fine line to keep the peace and not upset your partner is something women are taught to accept as their duty from an early age”

¬†That line is exactly what the evenings spent in the company of my parents’ friends taught me. We have a running joke about “docile-wife” in our circle, but knowingly or unknowingly through bring up and observations we all fall under that time and again.

While the article resonates with most of us and we all agree upon it, It forced me to look at a side I hadnt gone into. It forced me to a reflect upon a huge list of things that magically get done without my knowledge as well. Please tell me, you have that list; because honestly that his and her list is what is keeping you together, like yin and yan?

The generation before ours ( the one with the BP and BJP jokes ),  knew that list really well. Thats how most of them built that mutual respect, stuck to their side of the duties and moved on without letting the jokes take the better of them. The only time i saw that dynamics shift with my parents was when my father retired. It was rarely put on the table for debate.

Marrying those lists as far as they can get is probably one way to approach this. And accepting chores are well chores.. not a entity to load with peeves is probably another addendum to the approach. But hey! if it was as easy as I just typed and if we had a manual that was a one-size-fits-all we wouldn’t we having this conversation would we?

But, a third piece to it that even I have been guilty of, is an important one, I wouldn’t shun away from anymore. So it bothered me that the his-list is something the partners did without making a raucous, while the her-list was the butt of all jokes all the time. Either the his-list is too easy/too small or it is some kind of man-den-secret-sauce. It drove me to create a Loooooong list of “who Does it?” and probably i never got to completing it either.

That list helped me and eventually us in two ways – To take more active interest and participation, not just as a silent partner in matters that were handled for me! And churning that list to eliminate peeves from routines and setting priority. Well! how does this help to relieve the emotional burden women carry you may ask? I can’t give any guarantees that it will. But it is a darn good way to know where a couple stands with the equilibrium in the relationship. And very likely that is a good start!

So today morning, we skimmed the to-doist together. We decided who would handle which errand and to sync back in the evening. And before i made that beeline to the garage, I quipped with a tinge of exasperation for the 400th time (not an exaggeration) ” You know that the strainer in the sink doesn’t doesn’t clean itself, right?” And then i was gone!