Sunday, July 30, 2017

"Red Wedding" on the Scale of Poshness

"Does it really make sense to spend so much on a wedding that you feel bankrupt the day after?" asks the subtitle for Seema Goswami's column titled "Red Wedding" in Brunch today. Sensible question, one would say. Except that the examples of extravagance Goswami chooses to cite in her article are so many levels removed from the reality for me that I couldn't relate to them at all. 

Regular weddings are passe. Weddings are now supposed to be destination. So she says "... if the budget is tight... it will be an exclusive beach resort in Thailand or an opulent palace in India. If the money is no object, then the map will expand to include Florence, Venice, Vienna, or any other Historic European Cities." Of course Goswami means that choosing an exclusive beach resort in Thailand is extravagant too. However, for me, a sentence more relatable would have gone thus "... if the budget is tight... it will be Ajmal Khan Park. If the money is no object, then the map will expand to Hotel Ashoka."

From being "flown down in chartered planes" and "first-growth wines" being "on tap" to "trousseau" consisting of "diamonds for the mother-in-law, designer bags for the sister-in-law, a luxury car for the husband", Goswami slots all this as being over the top. The fact that I still by default refer to these items as "gifts" instead of "trousseau" says a lot about the gap between me and Goswami. We are at the opposite ends on the scale of poshness. And then comes the fact that I consider a bridal lehenga worth Rs. 75,000 over the top.

All this goes to prove that the reality is different for Goswami and me. While most people around me are still discussing how baraat bands have started charging more than 50K (Gasp!) for an evening, there is a section of the society that thinks that paying to be "given a tour of the Louvre afterhours" is over the top. The reality is that for people around Goswami, Hotel Ashoka simply isn't worth considering as a destination for a wedding. And for people like us, a wedding in Vienna is still hearsay.

So while Goswami is inundated with wedding invites accompanied by "handmade gourmet chocolates, silver mementoes", I nibble on the chocolate-coated almonds that a relative of mine (relatively speaking, ofcourse) has gifted with the invitation for their son's wedding.

I used to be a regular reader of Goswami's column in HTBruch, however, lately I feel I can't relate to them. At times I wonder whether I am indeed one of Brunch's target audience. I belong to the middle class that stays in two-bedroom flats. I am in a 9 to 5 job, and eating out is still reserved for occasions. The wine I drink is Sula or the Jacob's Creek, if someone is posh enough to gift one. I don't move around with the crowd that Goswami speaks to in her latest column. I have nothing against Goswami and her target audience, but I feel left out. Not a complaint. Just an observation.      

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Becoming Myself - My Toughest Challenge and Biggest Achievement

I have spent my entire life waiting for that one moment of inspiration when words would burst out, unbridled. I thought that it would happen in moments of intense pain, or may be when I feel a deep, passionate love for somebody. I waited for it to happen at times like these when someone’s advice refused to let me sleep. “Maybe it is not always advisable to say it out,” said a very dear friend, someone who has my best interests in mind, someone who I can trust with my eyes closed. This was a surprising piece of advice, simply because I never realized how and when I transformed from someone who needs to speak out, to someone who needs to be more restrained.


If I need to choose one word people have used about me in the past, I would pick “nice”. People liked me for this one trait. My presence didn’t make anyone uncomfortable, people “didn’t mind” having me around. I was the dhania powder in curry, the sada-bahar in the garden. But there is a price one needs to pay for being dhania powder. And I never realized this, but I was paying that price right from my childhood.

In the comfort of my home, I was a rebel. I held a morcha on my cycle when I was 5, writing “egg cake” with a chalk on every door, simply because my parents refused to buy me a proper cake on my birthday as it was navratra/shraadh. I stood close to my grandmother’s funeral pyre in a silent rebellion against my uncle who had earlier burst out asking,“what is a girl doing at a place like this?”

Among my cousins, I am the shrew who cannot be tamed. To many in my family, I am nalayak, the girl who refuses to be the one to manage the kitchen, one who doesn’t prioritize her marital home over her birth home. How all this makes me feel is probably enough material for another such post, so I will save it for later.

However, the fact remains that when compared to my elder sister, I always fell short of expectations. Relatives and friends have often told me how my sister is prettier, gentler, kinder, smarter than I am. She is all that and genuinely so, and, gosh, I love my sister more than I love anyone else in the world. She is my best friend. However, the truth is that I have spent a childhood, and even some years of my adulthood, trying to become more like her.

I tried to imbibe her mannerisms, her hobbies, her aspirations, and her ambitions. I became a fan of Imran Khan when she became one. I refused to leave her alone with her friends. I tried to sing like her. I even subscribed to Brilliant Tutorials in a bid to clear a medical entrance. Hell, I must have annoyed her a lot! I desperately wanted people to like me, but I had learned from experience that this could not be achieved by being myself.

After years of trying to alter my personality, I did manage to convince some relatives, and even fooled myself, with this “transformation” in me. I felt a short-lived deliverance when I heard words like “she is a much nicer person now.” The rest of the world almost never met the real me. However, the fact is that I felt fake. I had this nagging doubt that I was incapable of feeling any emotion deeply. I was in fact failing miserably. I couldn’t become my sister and I couldn’t be me. I was lost. I spent several precious years of my life in this state of a limbo.

It was a fear of judgement and a fear of disapproval that made me suppress my individuality. But at the end, it was just “fear”, which is after all based on imagined circumstances. It took one huge jolt (+ some years) to help me get free of this fake “niceness”. I have grown up more in these 5 years than I did when I was actually “growing up”. And my friend’s advice has made me realize this today. I am now the garam masala in the curry or the cactus in the garden. I am not everyone’s cup of tea, and I am okay with that.