Wednesday, March 25, 2009

One sultry Wednesday evening……………..

…… I stepped out on to my balcony the smell of fried fish drifted upwards from the road below. The vendor, a middle aged man who sports a Veerappan moustache, had conveniently set up his stall near the wine shop across the road from our apartment. The fish, five rupees each, came wrapped in old newspaper with some onions and a slice of lemon. If you are a regular customer you might even get an extra lemon. Although a bit on the salty side the fish is tasty, cheap, good value for money, and a big hit with the boozehounds who patronize the wine shop as day turns into night and shadows become relatively longer. I secretly wonder if the fish man and the wine shop fellas are business partners. Because, you see, the saltier the fish is, the thirstier one becomes, and with a wine shop at arm’s length all one have to do is ask for another bottle of whatever one’s poison is. And what’s the point in drinking if one doesn’t have snacks to keep the mouth busy, and what better snack than a good non-vegetarian one?

I see him now; briskly doing his business, taking less than a minute to wrap a fish, and exchanging conspiratorial smiles with his co-conspirators, the liquor barons. The wine shop will close at 11 pm, and he will push away his trolley and go home to his family, and will lie in bed and smile and think of another successful evening gone by.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Questions questions everywhere I go. I'm sick to death of answering the same questions a million times. That’s one big disadvantage of living in a strange land. People around you are curious, and every new face you meet, every new friend you make means you have to answer questions 1-10 all over again. Strangers are no different. Go out shopping, go for medical checkups, go to the bank, go to any dashed place and the most asked question is “Where are you from?”
Sometimes I’d deliberately misunderstand and would tell the name of the locality where I live, and the look of perplexity on the other person’s face is priceless, a pure Kodak moment. Other commonly answered questions are -

-Is that in Nepal/China/?
-Why have you come here?
-What language do you speak?
-Is it similar to Chinese/Japanese/any Southeast Asian language?
-Say something in your language.
-What kind of food do you eat?
-What currency do you use?
-How do you like this place?
-How many brothers and sisters do you have?
-What is your father? (Yes they ask this and many times I’ve been tempted to answer “A man.”)

I don’t blame the local people for being curious. It’s human nature. If tomorrow I meet someone from say, Bora Bora, I’d probably ask the same questions, maybe even more. But answering the same questions every other day, questions from people as diverse as auto drivers to shopkeepers to colleagues to strangers on the street could get on your nerves a bit, I tell you.

Sometimes I’d get so fed up, so sick of saying the same things for the millionth time that I’d think to myself “Maybe I should just pack my bags and go home, to the place where everyone looks and speaks like me and nobody cares if I have fifty siblings or if my father is a ditch digger or asks me if I like living at home.”

But oh, the irony! I’ve been living away from home for too long, and every vacation, every Christmas, every trip home, with every familiar face I see, with every old acquaintance I meet, more questions come in my way.

-Oh, are you home? (No I'm still in Bora Bora, I am just materializing here and in a few seconds will dematerialize and you will see me no more).

-When did you arrive?
-When are you leaving again?

(Every single person invariably asks these two questions, and I’m tired of answering. Next time you see me out there don’t ask me these two. Sometimes I’d think I might just as well pin some notice, some tag on my chest that said – I arrived on so-and-so date and will leave again on so-and-so date, thank you very much)

-Where are you working now?
-How much is your salary (c’mon people have some sense)
-We thought you might have gotten married to one of them locals..ha ha ha…(I don’t know if this qualifies as a question but every second person said it to me)
-Is it hot out there?
-How many Mizos live there?
-My neighbour’s husband’s cousin’s daughter also studies there, do you know her? (No I don’t)
-Are you still living there? Are you never coming back? (I don’t know)

I know I'm just being grumpy and difficult, and you might want to ask me these questions, depending on which category you fall in, but well, like I’ve said, there’s just so much irritation a woman can endure.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The mornings after

So here I am, having completed a cool three decades in life. Many of you younger folks might be wondering how it feels. Do I feel weird, old, jaded, do I think I’ve seen it all and done it all? Do I feel that life has nothing new to offer me? Do I “suddenly start howling at the full moon and turn into a werewolf, or start having these strange fetishes for senile people”? Do I immediately act like a middle aged person and start dishing out advice to all and sundry? Do I suddenly develop aches and pains and ulcers in the remote corners of my body? Do I feel sad because I am not married and “nula senior” jokes and snide comments will follow me like a faithful puppy?

Of course not. Whoever it was who first said “Age is just a number” was absolutely right. The morning after the big day I looked into the mirror, more closely than I ever did, and inspected myself for signs of damage and aging. I wouldn’t lie and say I looked seventeen but I didn’t look too bad. No visible wrinkles, no grey hair, just the same old face staring back at me. I got dressed and discovered my five year old jeans still fit, I didn’t develop a sudden desire to wear frumpy dresses and didn’t rush out to buy anti-wrinkle creams and age defying miracle lotions or make appointments at posh beauty clinics. I didn't feel old at all. Life went on just as before.

Mentally, I’ve never felt better. I’ve made enough mistakes and committed enough crimes to be cautious and look carefully before I step into anything and not blindly jump without looking. I have better judgment of people, of things, and am able to see the bigger picture in life. I'm more confident, more self assured, and more positive. I've learned to enjoy and appreciate the little things. And the biggest discovery of them all? Life has so much to offer, there is so much to learn every day I don’t think I could ever feel old or learned or experienced. Life humbles. Every day is a new day, a new beginning.

Living away from home has its advantages. You don’t have nosy people poking their noses into your affairs and asking you when you are getting married, or if you're getting married at all. Out here you do get these questions once in a while but it’s different. Nobody spends their time analyzing why you are such an old maid, they just accept you as you are. But of course as long there is a Mizo community in your city you cannot escape the “nula senior” tag, and I’ve heard enough jokes to last me ten lifetimes. You want to crack one more joke at my expense? Go on punk, make my day. You feel I’ve been “around for a long time?” Keep it to yourself; I’ve heard it so many times from other juveniles like you. Ok I am not going to rant and rave about this “nula/tlangval senior” issue or the Mizo society; enough has been said already by other people.

Finally, a message to all you twenty somethings. Don’t be afraid of turning 30, it’s no big deal. Life will not stop, and contrary to what you think, it’s not downhill from here. I would say it’s just the opposite. I feel reborn, redeemed, vindicated, and that life has given me a second chance to correct all the mistakes I've made. In fact, you should be looking forward to it.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Big 0

If you are above the age of 21 then at some point in your life you must have experienced it. Why 21, you ask. Because unless you reach that great age you do not fully comprehend the importance of the 0, you are not matured enough to embrace it and accept it as a part of your life, as something that is completely unavoidable and will come to you again and again, if you live long enough. If you are in your teens you might argue and say, look I’m not yet 21 but it’s happened to me, I know what it means and what I felt. But like a broken record I repeat myself – 21 is the age when you realize its overwhelming significance and the impact 0 can have on your life.

And the best part? They say it gets better with age, you become a wiser, better human being, you are more refined, and evolutionally speaking, more highly developed and more adaptable to change. When you are in your 20’s or 30’s or even 40’s you may not feel comfortable talking about it, you may be slightly embarrassed to admit how many you’ve had. Women, especially, hate discussing numbers. And don’t ever ask. Never. Not ever.

Old people, on the other hand, love talking about it. They might even add a few numbers, and wouldn’t hesitate to describe in great detail what happened on every 0 occasion, if they can remember at all. Because when you are old, having many 0’s in your life is something to be proud of, something greatly desired. It shows you are healthy, and most likely had a very good life.

There are some unfortunate people who die without ever having one, and my heart bleeds for them. Why should anyone die without experiencing this great moment(s), moments that they will remember fondly in their sunset years?

Look at the people around you. Most of them would’ve had it. Some more than the others, some relatively very few. Look in the mirror. You know you’ve had it, don’t be in denial. (Who, me?) Yes, you!! I don’t know how many times, but I know it’s happened to you. And if you are healthy and alive it is going to happen again. It’s inevitable; you cannot run from it, there’s no place to hide. It’s the law of nature, it is how God made us. Now don’t go scratching that head and look confused and try to remember when the last time was. You may not remember every detail, but you know very well when it was, don’t you?

And me? Guilty, Your Honour. Had a couple of them, but for the life of me couldn’t remember what happened the last time. Because the last time was 10 years ago. And today is the day another one will come into my life, the Big Three-0.

Happy Birthday to me.

(PS I don't know why the date is showing March 2, but today is March 4)