Monday, 24 July 2017

Dating in the time of feminism!

“You’re the ‘feminist’ kinds, I heard. It should be fun dating you”, he texted and added a wink smiley.

I wondered what that really means. I read it again. I replied the same way I respond to most texts which I cannot come up with an appropriate reply for - ‘Hahahaha’. It perturbed me a bit, though. ‘Feminist’ types – what is the stereotype that he is expecting? Is he intimidated by me? Am I supposed to come across as intimidating?

His expectations compounded a lot of pressure on me. What if I do not come across to be ‘feminist’ enough? Will it shatter his bubble? Am I supposed to wear thick rimmed glasses and have conversations around the third wave of feminism? What was I supposed to do? What are feminist women supposed to be like? Should I be too assertive? Should I put red-lipstick on? Should I get offended by casual sexist jokes? Am I supposed to cut him in middle of conversations every time and womansplain things (Yes, I just invented that term)? Should I come across as a difficult woman?

Oh my God! This was too much pressure for me to handle, already! What if I come across as a ‘normal’ girl? It would break his world into a thousand tiny pieces.

I dressed up and hoped that it come across to be ‘feminist’ enough. I guess adding thin framed glasses to a sexy black dress does the trick. The neck of the black dress, however, should have the right amount of depth- neither so deep that you come across as slutty, nor so high that you seem prudish. It should be exactly 4.78 inches deep – it is the ideal feminist neckline depth. He then texts me and asks if he should pick me up; I am about to type yes, but then suddenly I think about my clan and how I would come across as a sheer disappointment if I let him pick me. I immediately text back, saying, ‘I am good, I’ll drive there.’ Having pressed the sent button, I suddenly realize that I don’t even have a car- ‘Wrong move, Charul. Wrong move!’ I immediately book an Uber and reach the brewery where we were supposed to meet.

He is waiting for me at the entrance, smiling. ‘Hey, you look beautiful!’, he remarks. I blush a bit and say thank you. (‘Blushing is acceptable, right?’ I whisper to myself. ‘I guess you are doing fine’, I respond back.)

Then the conversations get going and we become comfortable talking to each other. Suddenly, the guy at the next table started smoking. I coughed. It was co-incidental and I didn’t mind the smoke. He gave me that ‘Emraam Hashmi from Ashiq Banaya Aapne’ look and said, ‘Is it bothering you Charul, the smoke? Should I ask him to put it off?’ The alpha male instinct almost made me weak in the knees and I wanted to cough harder and tell him, ‘Yes, please save me from that big bad boy because I can’t say anything to him. Save me, will you? Please? ‘. However, I smiled and said, ‘I’m fine. I don’t really mind the smoke.’

The conversations post that went almost fine. Apart from the occasional, ‘Look I am all for feminism, but I don’t understand why women want reserved compartments in Delhi metro and talk about equality at the same time’, ‘I’m all for equality but then why can’t I hit you like I hit my guy friends?’, ‘If feminism stands for equality why is it called feminism in the first place’. Now, I have come across these questions so many times that I paused for a while, thought about the appropriate reply and was just about to lash at him when something within me stopped me saying, ‘Maybe I don’t have energy for this debate, today.’

However, just moments later – my clan started calling out to me loud and strong, ‘You must say it, Charul. You have to.’ I told him to get a drink and relax. Then, I started – one after another discussing all the ‘concerns’ he brought forward. Two minutes into the conversation, and he couldn't take it – ‘This is the problem with your kinds. You are so easily offended. You cannot take a joke.’ I wondered which of his statements was intended as a joke. I tried telling him that I am not offended, I am just trying to have a discussion – presenting another point of view. We can agree to disagree. He raised his hands, rather dramatically and said,’ Fine, you are right. Let’s just end the discussion.’ I did something between an eye-roll and a smile or a little of both. I don’t believe that I could do it well enough, though.

We were done with our food and drinks and I was prepared for the main test. Let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, this is no ordinary test. It is the most important test to qualify as a true feminist. This round has the veto power.

Was I ready for it? Yes, I was ready for it. I excused myself for the restroom, opened my wallet, took out my credit card and kept it in my pocket for easy access. Then, I waited, with bated breath. ‘Why are you sweating?’, he asked. ‘Nothing, it’s just too hot, suddenly.’ ‘I-have-to-grab-the-bill. I-have-to-grab-the-bill. I-have-to-grab-the-bill’, went on in loops in my head. I could see the waiter walking towards us. ‘Was I sitting at the right angle for him to offer me the bill? Did I seem rich enough? Will I be quick enough to grab it in case it is titled more to his side?’ Oh my God, I was nervous. Five, four, three, two, one – and, he kept it on his side of the table. I don’t remember being this quick ever, but I grabbed it and said, ‘It’s my treat.’ He looked at me, rather bewildered, not able to understand why I seemed so keen on treating him. He insisted on paying and we did some bit of drama for three minutes, post which, we agreed upon letting me pay this time. I sighed in relief. I passed the final, most crucial test.

I could hear claps in the background, ‘Thank you for not letting us down, Charul’, they said. He will no longer tell his friends, that when it comes to paying the bill- these feminist types forget about equality, suddenly they start preferring chivalry. I did a little dance when he was not looking.

Meanwhile, my phone beeped. It was a message from a dear friend- ‘Woman, you owe me 30k on Splitwise. I am not your husband; you do realize that, right?’.
‘Shut up! I’ll throw the money on your stupid face, you ass’, I reply.
‘Yes, how about you throw it today. I need to pay my rent.’
‘Fine, whatever!’.

Ah, things you do for your clan!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

A letter to the girl who radiates happiness!

Dear best friend,

It has been two long years in Hyderabad and I was contemplating over how I have changed as a person; over things, experiences and people who got added to my life. Surprisingly, what stood out in the entire list was you and this fact compelled me to write something about you – about us, disregarding how cheesy it might sound. I seldom write about people, because how can you put down what someone means to you in words and do justice to those emotions, but, today, I want to try.

I remember seeing you at office for the first time – bright blue shirt and black trousers, poker straight hair, make up so heavy that it could give one of those models a deep complex, heels so high that I wondered if you need to directly rush to a party right after office; and I immediately stereotyped you to be this loud Delhi girl I can never become close friends with. Funny how first impressions and be so misleading at times!

Destiny and a bit of conscious maneuvering of it got us together as flat mates and I want to write about how much I fell in love with you with every week that passed. Is it too cheesy already? Oh, I am a cheesy and mushy person – I pretend to be this cool girl, but I am so not her.

I want to build up and then reach this point where I tell you that I have found my soul mate in you, but an impatient person that I am, I will blurt it out already – ‘Honey, I have found my soul mate in you.’ I want to recollect incidents, you know those incidents when you look at your partner and think, ‘He’s the one.’ I want to talk about the ones when you made me feel that you’re the one.

I remember those mornings after some reckless drinking nights when I walked up to you with regret, sobbing softly. Sometimes I would walk up with a vomit-engulfed T-shirt, sometimes with a blacked-out memory, telling you, ‘My life is over. I have turned into one of those girls I hated.’ Thank you for telling me outright that you’re not going to say that it is fine, and it happens, and it is okay to be young and reckless. I want to thank you for being brutally honest and telling me that I am turning into a shitty person and that you don’t like this person. Thank you for loving me just enough and not being the forgiving and endearing person that I wanted you to be at that time. Thank you being the friend I needed, not the one I wanted.

Thank you for being at the first row for all my plays and performances and cheering for me every time, every single time. It means a lot, you know to have loved ones telling you that they’re proud of you. Thank you for the jewelry, make up and dresses that I borrowed every time. I often wonder what I’d do without your wardrobe.

I remember the days when I went through an existential crisis and forgot how to smile for days, and even weeks. Thank you for helping me get out of it to figure out who I am. Thank you for shaking me up and telling me that I’m your hero and that you derive your strength from me.

How can I forget my fracture and the way you cared for me like a mother – taking my tantrums, cooking for me, cancelling your parties and working from home because I was being a baby. The time when I was admitted to the hospital for the viral fever which chose to not leave me for three straight weeks. Thank you for taking my tantrums when I refused to talk to you because you left me alone for an hour to have dinner. I behaved like a cranky little baby. Thank you for letting me a baby, then.

Thank you for paying heed to my whims and remembering the little details that I whimsically throw around sometimes. You remembered that I once whimsically stated that I want to have a swing where I can sit and read, and went ahead and gifted me that swing on my birthday. I remember staring at a Winnie the Pooh soft toy for five minutes and claiming that I want it. It was both funny and flattering how you without another thought walked into the store and bought the Pooh. I remember being cranky and telling you that I am bored of you and that I need new friends. You smiled and patiently took my uncalled temper, went an extra mile and suggested some new people whom I can be friends with. I often wonder if I deserve this kind of love – the kind of love which spoils you. Thank you for spoiling me, sometimes.

I reminisce over our breakfast discussions, about my bizarre ideas of love and life and you understanding those ideas. It’s strange how we’re two extremely different people and yet understand each other so well. Thank you for supporting me on my solo trip despite knowing how reckless a person I am. Thank you for gifting me a solo trip package with a book, a diary, chocolates and flashlight. These little things, these little things that you do for me – they are everything!

I often wonder how some people continue to love me despite my expression of love being so vague. Thank you for understanding my expression of love even when it was so indirect. Thank you for understanding that I love you even when I wasn’t by your side for days on end when you were sick – emotionally and physically. Thank you for understanding that I love you the same even when I failed to plan your birthday even half as meticulously as you planned mine. Thank you for understanding my quirks and idiosyncrasies, accepting them and loving me despite them and sometimes, for them. Thank you being the person I can share my dreams and stories with, thank you for waiting for me at dinner. Thank you for being my person.

My vocabulary is not capable of doing justice to my emotions, but I’d just like you to know that I feel extremely lucky to have you in my life and you belong to the group of people whom I call mine and take for granted, sometimes. I love you!

I forgot to mention one thing – you radiate happiness. It falls off your shining cheeks, glittery eyes and infectious laughter and everyone in your radar gets a gift of that happiness. You can walk into a dank, dingy room and brighten it up with your smile. You are amazing! I think I have already crossed my threshold of the number of cheesy words I can use in a day.


The girl with the fake accent