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.