Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Deranged Love Mutants

I don’t know if this is legal, but I'm taking my chances and copying paragraphs from a book I read a while back. It is a book titled How to be Hap-Hap-Happy like Me by Merrill Markoe who used to be head writer for David Letterman. It is kind of a self help book, but not in the way of normal self help books; rather it is a grimly funny satirical narration of a single woman’s life in the 90s. I'm going to share with you excerpts from one of the chapters “Deranged Love Mutants: The Story of Romeo and Juliet.”

So this year, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I decided to reread a true classic – Romeo and Juliet.

If you have not had the occasion to do so lately, please allow me to reacquaint you with the details of this timeless model of romantic love.

When we first meet the teenage Romeo, it is a Sunday night and he has decided to crash a ball just to catch a glimpse of Rosaline, a girl with whom he is desperately in love. Instead, he meets the thirteen-year-old Juliet. And even though, only seconds before he was deeply in love with Rosaline, now he knows instantly that this thirteen-year-old girl is the greatest love of his life. Really. She is. He’s not kidding this time.

Juliet has never been in love before. And yes, their two families hate each other. But so what? My parents never liked anyone I went out with either. The important thing is that by Monday afternoon, so beautiful is their love, they go ahead and get married.

Just one day later.

In lieu of a honeymoon, Romeo kills Juliet’s cousin and Juliet goes back home to spend the night at her parents’ house. Of course her parents do not know about the marriage yet, but they are so beside themselves with grief about the murdered cousin that Juliet’s father decides there is no time like the present to arrange for Juliet to marry an older man.

Well, she is thirteen and not getting any younger. Soon, she’ll be thirteen and a half. However, because he’s an adult and not a hot-headed teenager, he really doesn’t want to rush things. So he sets the wedding date for Thursday.

Naturally, the already-married Juliet realizes she must defy her father’s wishes. She is no longer a co-dependent. She has boundaries and as a fully individualized adult, she must stand up to him and tell him her intentions. She takes the most sensible course of action under the circumstances. She pretends to be dead.

This also bodes very well for the future of her marriage to Romeo since we now know that the core of any “love-at-first-sight” attraction is usually “repetition compulsion” – wherein a person reenacts the identical behavior and problems first seen in the parent-child relationship.

Thank God Romeo and Juliet killed themselves before we were able to chart their marriage any farther into the future when it most certainly would have descended into scenarios like this:

(Romeo enters parlor)

“Juliet! Juliet! My Light! I'm home! Juliet? Oh, I forgot to tell you that I ate the chocolate Easter bunny that you were… Juliet? Juliet? Oh no. Honey. Not dead again. Don’t tell me you're dead again. Please don’t be playing dead again. You were just dead on Monday. I can’t call 911 twice in one week. It is too embarrassing. Juliet? Juliet?”

Well, there you have this year’s Valentine’s Day poster couple. A thirteen-year-old girl who likes to pretend to be dead married to a teenage murderer who has no trouble falling in love with two different girls on the same Sunday night.

Which leaves us with this slightly comforting fact.

There is no reason to lament today’s lack of viable romantic models. Things are worse now than they ever were. The only difference is that back then no one watched Oprah or read psychology books. So they didn’t mind calling deranged neurotic behavior “the greatest love story ever told.”

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Movies and Memories

Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince is coming to our city this week, so I thought I’d better book some tickets online. To my dismay the only online tickets available were front row seats where if you sit your nose would almost touch the screen and you'd have to crane your neck in awkward angles to get a good view. I wasn’t really interested. I mean I really want to see the movie, but front row seats? Thank you but no thanks, I’ll come back next week. The world will not end just because I didn’t see a movie on its first week. And I can always download it from the internet.

I kind of miss the old days, not the old days when I was a teenager or when I was in school, but the days before multiplexes and multiple movie screens. The days of the good old movie theaters. There were no phone bookings or online bookings back then, and if you want to see a hit movie you’d have to reach the theatre long before the booking counters opened and most of the time stand in line to get a ticket. And then there were time slots for advance bookings. Movie tickets were cheap, around 30-40 bucks for balcony seats. And once you got the tickets there would be nothing to do, so you'd sit on the roadside watching the people, or if they let you inside the theatre you could roam around looking at movie posters. Sometimes the tickets would be sold out, but no fear, there were always a couple of guys selling black tickets, and selling them openly. They would stand near the gates and shout “Balcony pachas, balcony pachas.” Fifty bucks for a thirty-rupee ticket. Still a good bargain, because if you go home empty handed and come again the next day you would incur more on the auto fares etc than if you pay twenty rupees extra now.

There were no pubs or lounges or shopping malls where you could hang out, so we’d eagerly wait for new movie releases. I read my old diaries again (from around ‘98,’99) and every weekend I would write “went to this movie, that movie.” Sometimes we’d see two movies back to back, and sometimes see the same one many times. I particularly remember seeing “Michael” at least three times, you know the one where John Travolta plays an angel and Andie MacDowell was also in it. I think I’ll see it again this weekend, just for old time’s sake. And then there was the time we went to see the newly edited Star Wars, a bunch of us went, I think around six to seven people, and all of us fell asleep. But after seeing Revenge of the Sith I discovered it’s not boring at all, you just have to follow the story. Hayden Christensen and his troubled eyes converted me.

Last week I and a couple of nieces went to see The Hangover, and the ticket guy asked us if everyone was above eighteen. It reminded me of the time we went to see Striptease, I think that was in ‘98, the doorman asked my age and I promptly said “Twenty one.” Twenty one was really old back then, and thirty was like ancient. The innocence of youth! Gone forever, never to return.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Yes, that’s me, The Mascaraed One. Layers of mascara on my woefully short eyelashes. Have you ever noticed how long curly eyelashes make a person so beautiful, so alluring, so sexy? Of all the good and lovable things that God heaped upon me, long eyelashes are not one of them. I believe the heavenly supply room was short on eyelashes when God made me. And to top it off, I have these puffy eyelids that tend to droop down over the eyes. I guess now you’d have a fair idea of how badly I covet long spiky eyelashes. Fake eyelashes? Too pornstar-ish.

I heard that you can get your eyelashes “permanently curled” in Aizawl. Is that true? I wonder what technique and what chemicals will be used in this miraculous process. It sounds so scary. What if some chemicals get into my eyes and something happened, something bad? My eyes are bad enough already, I can’t afford to take any chances. So I will remain, short eyelashed.

Isn’t the mascara a truly wonderful invention? Instant glamour in a bottle. Makes even the most dowdy person feel good. It’s like wearing good underwear, nobody knows about it but you feel so good; it’s like a secret that only you know. Never mind that you have the shortest eyelashes that are still practically invisible even under a thick layer of mascara, never mind that you wear thick glasses and nobody will look that close into your eyes (even if they do they might hardly notice the newly blackened curled lashes), never mind that your eyelids are droopy and puffy; wearing mascara makes you feel glamorous and pretty. So ladies, go on, dip that brush in that tube and run it through your eyelashes. It’s one of life’s little pleasures.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Inside the book

The other day I was out by the pigpen looking at one of my sows. She had refused to eat for the last three days and I was fraught with worry. As it is I only have two sows, and fifty percent of them refusing to eat is enough to cause a budding farmer sleepless nights. Pigs don’t come cheap, you know, and with the prices of meat skyrocketing I was expecting to start a whole breed of pigs and make a bundle of money. This particular sow was gifted to me by one of my farmer neighbours, and that had made her extra special. She had been a happy little piglet, playful and energetic, content with the world around her, and suddenly here she was on a mysterious diet. I checked my calendar, it was the middle of June. Lent was over three months ago, and Ramzan wouldn’t come for another four months. Besides, she had never been religious, so you would understand when I say I was amazed and at the same time worried by this new eating regime. I had already consulted the local vet who duly came over and examined her and pronounced her hale and hearty. That got me thinking, had she been influenced by the thin goats across the farm, or was she trying for the size zero look? If only pigs could talk!

Leaving her to make up her mind, I walked over to the pond and sat down on one of the benches beside it. It was a hot summer day, and I was grateful for the ample shade provided by the palm trees around me. The air was thick and heavy, and was filled with the smell of ripe mangoes. I made a mental note to go to the market and hire a farm hand to harvest the fruits.

Do you hear me, I'm talking to you, across the waters, across the deep blue oceannnnn…”

Oh, the phone. It was Omboy.


“Amby, do you remember that pimp your boys robbed last week?”


“Uncle Enzo just called me, and it seems the pimp was protected by Giancarlo Morillo…”

“The Bull?” I interrupted. Morillo was never famous for his good looks.

“Yeah, Enzo said The Bull just rounded up his men and they are now at his house. I wouldn’t be surprised if they come looking for you at your farm.”

I got up from the bench and walked towards my farm house. The roses near the house wore a dry withered look, but there was no time to water them now.

“Listen Omboy, I’m going to ask for Uncle Enzo’s help. Is he at the casino?”

“I don’t think so, when he phoned me he was over at Papri’s college, you know she got into a fight again and they were about to throw her out of her sorority house.”

Papri was Enzo’s only daughter, fiercely independent and as wild as her father. It seemed her housemates had called her a gangster’s daughter and fights had broken out. I wasn’t surprised; she never was the kind to take insults lightly.

“Okay. At least he’s not racing cars and losing money. I'm going to his house in Yoville and wait for him there. Will you call him and let him know?”

“Sure thing,” said Omboy, “I too will lock up my farm and come to Yoville. I will bring some of my boys, just in case.”

“Okay, see you there.”

I hung up, locked the house, locked the gates, and left my farm.

As I walked on the dusty road it seemed the sun grew hotter and hotter and very soon my shirt was damp with sweat. I realized then the folly of my actions, walking on the main road where I was plainly visible, and it would take at least an hour before I reached Uncle Enzo’s place. I went back a few metres, and took the dirt path that would take me to Epis’s farm. I knew he would be working on his fields, and I could ask him to give me a ride me to town.

I was right, Epis was out on his fields, but he was not working. I found him near his apple grove, standing under a tree and taking photos of his apple flowers, so engrossed that he didn’t notice me approaching.

“I'm sure the photos will come out real nice,” I said.

He wasn’t surprised to hear a voice speaking suddenly; I guessed he must’ve had people sneaking up on him all the time. He turned around and blinked his eyes rapidly.

“Let’s hope so. The sun is a bit too… sunny, not exactly my favourite shooting weather. I have an assignment with the National Geographic and they want me to capture the different stages of an apple flower. I am not going to let an opportunity like this go by.”

“National Geographic? That is great news.”

“Yes, I am very happy to get this assignment. But I will not shoot any more today, I'm not at all happy with this sun.”

“Epis, can I ask you a small favour?”

“What is it?”

“Can you give me a ride into Yoville? I have some urgent work and I cannot possibly go there by foot,” I said, nervously twisting my hands.

He put away his photographing things, and we walked towards his farm house.

“No problem. I was going there anyway. Zualtay’s invited me for lunch.”

Relief washed over me. I looked at the time; it had been an hour since Omboy called me. I could imagine The Bull pacing his living room floor and giving instructions to his henchmen, I could hear in my mind the angry responses, and could see in my head the cold eyes of his thugs.

Epis changed into his town clothes, locked his house, saddled his horse and off we went a-trotting.

The horse was young and fast, and we reached Yoville in ten minutes flat. I saw some other farmers at the town square, some buying provisions, some dressed up in their town clothes and strolling with their family, and some selling their produce of fruits and vegetables.

Zualtay’s house was right in the middle of town, a small neat two storied house where she lived with her cats and dogs. We got down, and a big brown dog came rushing out of the house and barked loudly at us. His mistress came out, a tiny woman who didn’t look like the type to own a big brown dog. She told the dog to shut up, and on seeing us broke into a bright smile.

“Oh hello Amby, hello Epis. How nice of you to visit me. What brings you two to town on such a good working day?”

Epis looked at me and blinked his eyes that I supposed was meant to say “She’d clean forgotten about the lunch.”

“I am going to visit my uncle, and Epis here gave me a ride,” I said.

“Oh I see. And Epis, what about you?”

“You invited me to lunch, if I'm not mistaken,” he said.

“Oh yes I did, but it isn’t until tomorrow, right?”

“I'm sure you said Friday the 19th of June.”

“Oh I did, did I? How silly of me to forget. Come inside, I’ll change into something nice and I’ll take you to that fancy new restaurant.”

“Zualtay, I guess I’ll go along, some people are waiting for me at my uncle’s house,” I said.

“Oh all right, but do drop in on your way back home, you hear?”

“Yes of course, how can I not……

Do you hear me, I'm talking to you, across the waters, across the deep blue oceannnnn…

The phone again. It was an unfamiliar number.


“Madam, this is your cab driver, we are waiting downstairs, please come.”


I hung up, logged out of Facebook, and went to work.