The musings of a (not-so) single chick in the city. (Don't think that the term chick is derogoratory. We refer to boys by a number of terms). The travails in the life of an ex-miss-goody-two-shoes, ex-journalist, ex-small time model, ex-television actress, of being female in Chennai/ Pune/Bangalore, of ideas old and ideas new....

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Ella Meter-um Voduthu, Amma katchi valukkuthu - Auto meters are running in Chennai. I'm voting for Amma.

I am a Chennai-ite, and this has always meant dealing with auto drivers who are supremely dismissive of their customers, and us getting rides always depended on the rare occurrences of their condescension. This hate-hate relationship of customers with auto drivers was spawned by the drivers being encouraged in their exhortative behaviour by political goondas who owned and rented out thousands of auto-rickshaws.

One of my earliest memories (80’s) is of my father fighting with an auto-driver who agreed to go from Ayanavaram to Shanti Colony (Anna Nagar East) for 10 rupees, but demanded twelve rupees when we were halfway through, near ICF. My father, a man of principle, was unskilled in bargaining but very skilled at getting himself riled up, made the driver stop, paid him a full ten rupees for the half distance and walked my mother and carried me the rest of the way in the hot sun. No experience with auto drivers since has made me change my opinion of them as greedy and always bargain for more than the set kilometer rate, since then. 

But, these days my auto rides in Chennai are accompanied by a sense of surreal and furtive joy that feels like it will be snatched away any moment and I snap back out of my dream into reality where auto fares are back to normal. (Normal = exorbitant, see?). In fact I think that this ‘fair pricing’ won’t last and in fact, can’t last, because it is too good to be true. I walk away from an auto after having paid exactly 32 rupees according to the meter and I wasn't abused in face-turns-blue language and rage? Did the driver just nod politely and proceeded to bend down to start the engine? What the hell has happened to real life and more importantly, can this wonderfulness continue at all?

In an aside - Is that a vague sense of guilt I feel when I pay the price on the meter, like I have cheated the auto driver of his deserved extra (for which they usually work hard by arguing and playing a great game of negotiation) money?

Thanks to Amma, our own puratchithalaivi Ms.J.J, we pay what fair prices for auto rides as of the last one-two months, and the disbeliever that I am, I don’t think this will last. Regime change will happen, because while for me this is a change/difference big enough to re-vote her into office, it is not for a lot of people. Or the RTO offficers that are hounding these auto-wallas if they spot one without a re-calibrated meter now because of pressure from their bosses who are under pressure from Amma, will soon lose steam, because that is what normally happens, and slowly the meters will go into disuse and the earlier negotiation system will come back into force again. And normalcy will return. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Marriage is not for everyone

This is something I still believe in, now having been married for a while. It is HARD. And the good parts of marriage (whatever they might be for each person) do not necessarily score out the bad parts. And it is not for everyone, especially if one looks at marriage as a true partnership of two individuals as a way to form a family.
 Not everyone is made for such an existence, however much society wants everyone to conform to the unit/institution it has set up as the best way of managing disorder, chaos and anarchy- the dissenting , individualistic, non-conformist thought thinking, ‘I can be a part of  this society -even though I don’t like your ways of keeping order and organisation and will abstain from participating in some processes’ people by forcing, cajoling, convincing them into marriage, and then keeping them there by the pull of the emotional bonds that living in small units(forming a socially constructed ‘family’) and having progeny with a long term partner, create.
And now there are more and more options for people who do not subscribe to society’s way of making one live in a way that is easy for society to compartmentalise and disregard – “ OK, he seems to be following our rules, let’s move on to the next guy/girl to harass.”
Otherwise - “Oh, you have two wives? That is not cool, not acceptable. You say they have no problem with it, and happily co-exist in the same house? Sorry, that is not good enough assurance. This is wrong according to our rules. You want to live here, then lose one of them...” or “You have an adopted child? And you are single? Your parents are okay with this? But a man cannot look after a child by himself, that just is not allowed.  Either get married, or you have to return the child to the agency you got it from, I mean, unacceptable,” or “You are gay? You will go to jail if you have sex with a man in this country, ” or “ You are co-habiting with a man you are not married to? Shame, shame. We will proceed to give you so much trouble that you run back to your mama,” is how society scared people into following its tunes.

In spite of this, due to increased financial availability for all in the post LPG era, people have the luxury of choosing a lifestyle that they are happy with, instead of the factory produced, ‘Dad, Mom and 2.3 kids’ (Whatever the current number is.) that may not be their poison. They may choose to die a slow death in some other manner of their own choosing. 

The very mundane experiences of a recently paired-up woman

I now live in a big apartment complex in the suburbs, so far away from civilisation, that calling it the boondocks would be fair.  I see Aunties, Uncles and their kids all day. These aunties and uncles are probably only a few years older than me, but they seem like an era away from my age, their life and concerns. And the parents of the Aunties and Uncles, it is like being judged by a hundred different mothers and fathers-in-law, instead of just one pair.
I am teetering, neither where I was a few months ago, nor in my new neighbours’ spheres, where metal wheel versus rubber wheel durability on prams and correct use of the complex’s amphitheatre are the most debated topics. I couldn’t care less about these things. Yet, the things I do care about and want to participate in are all located far away inside the city where the people with less daily concerns live, because they  have no significant others, or because their significant others have the means and the interest to live inside the bustling city.
(Now, I can’t really blame the boy for wanting to try to live with nature and be one with the earth and all, given the fact that said boy has always lived in a city until now, a true city brat. So I feel that given a little time, boy will tire of having to drive to the grocery store instead of stepping into the one next door, or drive an hour just to catch a movie, or drive for 90 minutes to visit his cousins.)
(P.S : Not a word of the above to the boy :-) )

On a connected note, it is just short of miraculous to me how different are the things one starts caring about after one gets married. Like larger family dynamics, and who gets offended by what and what to do and what not to do when people from the other side visit. I mean, one starts caring about stuff one didn't have the slightest idea anyone would know or could care about. It is strange, this confluence of two different threads of life, and all the attached threads, coming together and trying hard not to choke any other threads off.