October 22, 2010

Auto Motive

Today, I left home, running late again, thanks to my mother’s penchant for cooking me well-balanced insipid meals. I mean, she is a nice cook otherwise, but mornings get to her and she can never finish cooking insipid rice + insipid sambar + insipid vegetable + insipid breakfast. And telling her to leave one insipid component out doesn’t help. That my father’s favourite morning exercise is galloping from one end of the house to another whistling and making other funny sounds doesn’t help either. But then, he seems to find great solace in the act of running around the house. It makes him look busy. Hence – despite the presence of a washing machine, clothes must be subjected to third degree torture – no palpable difference in the whiteness of our whites; the bathroom, however, is a mess. To add insult to injury, after third degree torture, they are transported in ones and twos by father dearest, who cradles them like babies on his trip to the washing machine (babies who drip pee/water all over the house giving my mother good reason to go slip in them and then claim that the act of almost-slipping has permanently damaged her coccyx). But my SAB TV sitcom-material family is not the main focus of this post.

Going back to line one, as I stepped out, dreading the running behind buses that are not kind enough to stop and autos who don’t seem to want to go anywhere at all, including jahannum. I know about the last because I always ask autowallahs if they want to go there and they usually say no if they haven’t driven off yet. I don’t know; people were kinder when I was younger; buses generally stopped if you found your centre (and the centre of the bus) and ran towards the bus waving your arms. They were nice uncles. And I have always had long arms. How I digress. Today, the first auto I found agreed to take me where I wanted to go, an entirely undesirable place. I was overwhelmed with warm feelings of affection and had to resist the urge to hug him and give him a big puppy.

But that doesn’t take away from the angry young woman I usually am. All the peace karma I earned doing yoga in Bihar evaporates when I need to take an auto. My beautiful green umbrella broke a rib when I banged it on an auto windscreen on a particularly rainy day when I needed to get something really urgent done which required me to be anything other than soaking wet which I was. Sadly, nothing happened to the auto windscreen. On another taxing morning, an errant auto driver whose vehicle was commandeered by force when he refused polite means grumpily muttered something about how he would push me out of the auto if I were a man. I almost challenged him to a midnight duel in black clothing and masks but decided it was safer to unleash another round of kutte-kameeney verse instead.

Because that rascala might have the gall to ask for midnight fare to come duel with me.

October 19, 2010

When you stare, beware

Men who stare need some appreciation for their unstinting, unblinking efforts. And so, I am there.

Even otherwise, I think men need workshops on doing simple things in public spaces. I don't know why men in shared rickshaws need to wait for me to stamp pointedly and ruin their polished-to-perfection shoes before they realise that spreading their stubby thighs and airing their central nether regions are not conducive to travel in communal vehicles. Especially not if the person beside you is about to fall out of the rickshaw while you dry your privates. But I rise to the occasion gallantly, stamping and nudging them into joint-legged submission. Sometimes I really regret the fact that I cannot walk in stilettos. Such potent devices for leg torture. Sigh!

Shouting at the unblinking ones won't help, because they are masters of abhinaya and would give butter-stealing Krishna a run for his butter when it comes to looking blank and guileless. Returning the stare, however, is more effective. I refer to my bus ride back home today. I was sitting right at the back, and here I digress, for I am happy to note that the new low-floor BEST buses have better shock absorbers. As we turned off SV Road, I noticed a man, around forty-five years of age, who seemed greatly intrigued by my neckline. Which was not plunging, as I immediately looked down to confirm. I looked out of the window, watching Bhardawadi go by. In the meantime, he continued staring; the polished bus windowpanes let me stare back, you see. My heart had melted considerably - also because I was listening to Yahi madhava on repeat and feeling bad about Radha and Krishna's doomed romance. So I decided I must bestow complete attention on my devoted starer. From Navrang, he became the recipient of my unstinting, unblinking stare.

Years of being stared at have taught me a thing or two about this subtle art. There is only one rule - don't shift vanishing points too often. I am a good student; by the time we reached Indian Oil, the subject was trying to hide his face in the crook of his arm. Very unsuccessfully. I was angry now, because my subject had not risen to the challenge. When Ranjana gets angry, she gets very angry. She choreographs revenge, frame by frame.

White trousers have gone out of fashion, and I think that is so sad. He was wearing grey trousers, but I decided I'd give him a kick or two. Anyway there is no kalari class in Bombay. My skills will go rusty. I did consider aiming high, for his white shirt, but the bus was full and I didn't want to injure innocents.

As luck would have it, he moved to the door, intending to alight at my stop. I gleefully got up and bolted towards the exit, momentarily startling another passenger when I overtook him in my rush to the door. But I was a woman on a mission. Staring at his impudent back, wondering how best to kick him as we got off the bus, feelings of gory revenge coursed through my body. I wanted to do something that would count for more than a few grains of dust on his grey pants. And then I remembered my kajal pencil.

It is lovely, oily kajal, full of camphor. (Try it, it's really nice and available at Khadi Gramodyog outlets.) First I thought I'd give him an autograph on his shirt (how lucky!) in red ink; but then, bigger is always better and my kajal pencil needed sharpening anyway. His shirt was so beautiful and white.

Like good dreams, the details of which must be ritually blurred into a single hazy happiness, what I did between Indian Oil and Four Bungalows was a smorgasbord of delightful things. I slyly scrubbed my kajal pencil over his shirt. I elbowed him hard when I got off the bus, even as I dragged my foot over his pants. And I propelled myself off the bus by aiming a backward kick at him. He looked positively shattered by the time he got off. I was happy about that.

Later, I felt bad, quite bad, because I realised that the shirt I so happily stained will end up in the corner of the bathroom, perhaps waiting to be washed by a woman. Mostly.

But then, I am evil and scheming, so that has led to the idea that lipstick might be more effective next time.