Feeling chatty

I figure that I have not had a single meaningful conversation in three days. And I do not know which of these sentences is the tragic part. “*I* have not had”? Because I am a professional, living in a metro city, married and active on various social media. “Meaningful”? Because isn’t meaning highly over-rated and isn’t life made up of small little inconsequential things building up under your feet into a mountain, so that after years have passed, you see that you cannot even see the old you down there. Or is it the part with “three days”? For three days isn’t that long. You could see faces shoving magazines in your face at the traffic signal, every single day, and even if it’s class-ist, I can imagine some of them not having had a real conversation ever. Not one they consciously thought was meaningful anyway. I think the most tragic part is that I come to the blog. This blog isn’t supposed to be a muddled web of my various existential crises. I always imagine that my great granddaughter will probably be a historian and aching to know more about her roots, one day she will brush the dust off an old forgotten journal printed out of a badly-designed webpage, in the midst of all the family photos, and she’d read about a long-dead me and think “hey! the old woman was okay.” Maybe she’d be appalled by my lack of ambition and put it down to “women of those times” or maybe she’ll be shocked by the colourful language she’s sure to find here, if they are not pansy archaic terms by then. Maybe she’ll find me funny in how we sometimes find the writing of women we know were struggling with corsets and other cruelties, despite those realities. In any case, I’m not sure she’ll want to read about how I wanted to talk about how rude the house help is getting these days and shouldn’t we be hiring someone else, or listen to me complain about the lack of time to fix up a rather important medical appointment.

But that’s the thing. My mountain of realities is building up. When living in this construction, we need to talk about plumbers and distances and weather in different cities and new shiny devices and apps and spicy gossip and food and vague fanciful future plans. It’s only when we’re recounting life, when we reach the peak, that we can talk about who we are and who we have been without needing all those crutches. Old people, you all are so under-rated. Does it sound age-ist? It’s not, because I know I already want to take some younger-than-me people by the shoulders and shake them and say “WHY DON’T YOU LISTEN TO ME? I *know* THIS SHIT.” It is getting worse every day, and I’m sure to be the kind of mother who says “Did you not hear Mama?” in a passive-aggressive tone with a slightly cocked head, deadpan expression to boot. So it is all the more amazing to me that in the face of our refusing-to-have-kids-just-yet, eating-bad, being-careless-with-our-health, sleeping-late, driving-drunk ways, our elders are only giving us little polite reminders that our hoo-has need to get more active soon or that we need to shed that lard. I would’ve been all “TONIGHT IS BABY-MAKING NIGHT, DAUGHTER. YOUR UTERUS ISN’T GONNA BE FOREVER YOUNG.”, shows my track record thus far. Anyway. That memory-erasing digression aside, I was saying that meaningless conversations really make up meaningful conversation. *Pause for applause* But it’s true. If I am to go by my own pattern, most often I don’t need to even talk about “so where is this going, honey?” or something to that effect. (Essentially, the honey had better know where this is going by now. I’m a bad navigator.) I get pissed off because why should it be me reminding myself 5 times this week that the curtains need to be dry-cleaned; why can’t it be more collaborative; why can’t you remind me once for chrissakes; and is this is the lot of us women for the rest of our motherfucking lives? These kind of sentences that get women the undeserved drama-queen reputation are what are often bubbling under my calm exterior (that’s a joke) . Just getting this out makes me feel rebellious. And then I go marching to the dry cleaners. Am I obligated or pressurized by the societal pressures that subtly underline the gender differences between men and women, and infiltrate the part of our brains that controls “Responsibilities” and fucks with it? Don’t re-read that sentence. I can tell you the answer – it’s not that. It’s just that some people care and some don’t about some things. My husband cares a LOT about the crashing sound of a phone falling on the ground. It wakes him up from deep sleep and ask “KYA TOD DIYA”. I routinely kick my laptop off the bed (it’s not large enough for the both of us) and sleepily say “oops! but now you’re in a better place. you can’t fall any lower. i’ll pick you up in the morning. k thx bye.” You may now reverse the positions in case of dirty curtains. Dirty curtains (and their other kith and kin – chipped furniture, leaking taps, younameit) bring up in me the complex and heady nausea comprising of my mother’s strong belief that when I run my own house I’ll only feed my family Maggi for 18 years straight and my intense desire to prove her wrong,  my personal macro-mode visualization of germs crawling everywhere, the thought bubble I imagine on my guests’ heads thinking about the curtains being Dust Caves, and the WORST, the pressure I feel to impress my house help. So I know I’ll do it (or “get it done”, the new mantra of our generation). All I demand is that someone listen to my smart once-a-year and on my awesome-lonesome thought idea of doing this noble deed. All I get is silence or “they are not thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat dirty”. Like I’m imagining things. Why is it that all this sounds vaguely liberal, vaguely oppressive and vaguely feminist? Because that’s how we have conditioned ourselves recently. We read so many gender-based atrocities that our antennae are up. I know I do it. The reality is sometimes very different. So I have begun checking myself and seeing things with a, let me call it Fifth Wave Feminism (TM), lens. It involves swapping the positions of the man and the woman and seeing whether what they are saying is acceptable otherwise. “You’re going for a walk tomorrow. Have you *seen* your paunch?” I cannot even imagine the hysteria if the man (and not the woman, as the case is) in the couple I’m thinking of, had said this. But today, when a woman says it, it’s a total reflection of the Saffola ad aunty who’s been staying up nights making detailed excel sheets on which vegetable oil is the most “aapke dil ka khayaal rakhne waala“. But you cannot tell her about this Saffolaness (T-fucken’-M) of hers, because she finds those ads appalling. So you just nod and say “I know, so sexist”. Fun!

So yes, in my book of Sanity Preservation 101, it is fast becoming the best idea to stop thinking everything in terms of gender. That chaatwallah did NOT make me wait because I’m not as loud as the burly guy; it’s because I’m short and he couldn’t see me. That salesman did NOT ask “sir hain?” after ringing the doorbell because he thinks I don’t wear the pants in the household, it’s because I WAS wearing a gamchha on my shoulder. That mobile phone shopman is NOT only talking to my husband because he thinks women don’t understand technology, it’s because I asked him where the keyboard is in a touch-phone. Five times.

Khair, this wasn’t supposed to be this kind of a post. I just wanted to talk about the fact that I hate Fridays and love Saturdays. But, good talk.

Sometimes meaningless stuff makes the most meaningful conversation. Just not this time 🙂

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11 thoughts on “Feeling chatty

  1. So, meaningless-meaningful conversation is also sometimes th ebest kind, me thinks 😛 because I just caught myself going ditto, ditto ditto..
    Ditto on the mountain of realities building up.
    Ditto on the feeling old enough to want to shake some young people up and say listen to me, i *know* this shit!
    Ditto on the feeling young enough to know that I dont want babies just yet.
    Ditto on being reminded that “time is running out” bah!
    Ditto on wondering why things cannot be more collaborative around the house.
    Ditto on wondering why the husband doesnt “care” about the things I care about and vice versa.
    Ditto..ah well you get the drift.
    This was awesomely random, but don’t you sometimes feel that feeling chatty is the best way to get so many meaningless (yet meaningful) things out of your head?

    • Always always. I can’t count the thoughts and ideas I lose because I don’t have the brain equivalent of an organizer. Things I observe, read or think about randomly. I guess I’ll subject this sort of gibberish on my readers on and off. Better than not saying anything till you collect your thoughts, no?

  2. It made for EXTREMELY meaningful conversation, N. I had been thinking about this all day. Now I usually take pride in my super tidy and responsible husband (and why it deserves pride, is yet another matter of extreme gender stereotyped conditioning I seem to have :|). But this morning, when he spent 2 hours looking through car websites and recharging assorted calling cards while I cleaned the house upside down and wondered why he needs to store every fucking bill/ piece of paper/ wrapper/ envelope/ATM receipts that he brings home, on the dining table, I realized that it might just be the conditioning. When we went out today for many, many test drives, he asked questions about engines and auto brake somethings while I noticed the upholstery and how the music sounded, there it was again, something that is actually just conditioning but seems like gender stereotyping, that I hate with all my heart and usually deny its presence in my life in every fucking possible way.

    Also, ditto on hAAthi’s comment 😀 And on “My husband cares a LOT about the crashing sound of a phone falling on the ground. It wakes him up from deep sleep and ask KYA TOD DIYA.”

    This was by far one of the most awesome things I have read here. And I love how you are so much more regular here these days 🙂

    • Just had to butt in to say ditto once more. At the bills, notes, change, newspapers, shreds of paper with ideas scribbled on them — EVERYTHING lands on the dining table. And never moves form there. Until I decide to do my weekly cleaning. And it drives me batty.

      • Haha, T, thank you. I know I’m determined to be more regular.. don’t know, it’s still therapeutic to write here 🙂 I’m slowly learning that it takes very different mindsets to actually claim to be free of all sorts of gendered conditioning. In our case, it’s almost impossible. I could not do test drives or techie things if my life depended on them, and he can’t boil an egg. We’d both be miserable if we reversed roles. Till we have help for household chores, it’s a breeze *touchwood*. But if the cosmic balance of the universe is disturbed, we’ll be the first people to vapourize off the earth. Though I’m a VERY mean wife by all standards, I’m still beginning to think it’s unfair to keep telling him that not being able to cook at all is the more heinous sin. After all, that’s easily corrected by hiring a cook these days and there’s frankly little scope to correct it now, with his work hours. I’ll feel bad if someone asked me to learn to make an omelette at 12 in the night too. So I’m letting go. I’ll be the bhartiya nari rotting in the kitchen. I’ll just try and use a lot of wine in my cooking 😀

        Haathi and T, Yes, the dining table is like a permanent Dropbox in our house too. We have sort of called it truce by plonking a table-like thing by the side of the dining table on which we now dump sundry stuff and keep the dining zone war-free. Not an elegant solution. Quite dumb really, but we can eat without fighting. So yayy! 😀

        • Call be old school for making a sweeping statement like the one I am about to, but I dont think its ONLY conditioning. I think there are just some things that women are meant to take care of. Its why we have the eye, and not the men. Im not for a moment saying it shouldnt be the mans duty to learn to clean up or to cook, and neither am I saying that women should be the sole upholders of that side of the home. But the truth is, we ARE better at it for a reason, because genetically, historically, psychologically it comes naturally to us. After all, don’t we all marvel at the one in a hundred stay at home dad we occasionally come across? The one who lets his wife go out and chase a career and ignore the home and kids completely and takes over? I dont know about you guys, but I know a few of those and I have serious respect for them, as much as I respect the women who choose to have babies, by giving up their careers for a good few years and focusing completely on their children and home to ensure that its done well. I think Im rambling, but do you know what I mean?

          • I totally know and am in 100% agreement. There are things about the home I want done a certain way, and it feels more time-consuming to micro-manage someone to get it done that way. The eye. Not everyone has it. And truly, I’m always in awe of men who can be terrific stay-at-home dads and women who can be totally hands-off, as much as for women who can give up work for the best interest of their families (I’m starting to see just why this happens – if we can’t trust someone to hang our curtains a certain way, it’s no wonder people can’t trust their kids with strangers for close to 10 hours a day). Could never process the idea of men who want to be hands-off with parenting AND household without a bit of resentment, but I think now that I’m having to, I’m beginning to do that. Work these days isn’t the same as in our parents’ days. The husband’s work is such that he travels 2-3 days a week which means early morning flights, late night flights, meals at odd hours, little sleep, and when he is not travelling, his work takes up about 12 hours every day (on a good day) and he works 6 days a week. I don’t think I could make both of our lives any more stressful by getting him to learn cooking. It’s also not required. Maybe that’s the main reason? Whatever it is, I think the idea should be to not fall into and not protest gender roles despite discomfort and also not hate gender roles because they happen to be that. If a gender role works out as more comfortable for both us and I’m happier with it than without, I see no point in rocking the boat for the sake of subscribing to some cult. I’ll just do what feels right and if someone sees it as a justification, they probably don’t know me as well.

            • Having said that, the truth of our lives is that women’s jobs are not very much different from that of men these days. And I’m always pointing that out to the husband. And no I dont expect him to learn to cook and take over, but I expect him to understand and be a little grateful/understanding/sensitive to the fact that despite everything, women do end up managing twice the load (at work and at home)..

              • That’s also true. I was forever hassled and the fights were that many more when I was working at my previous workplace. you are sure to feel short-changed then.. there’s no denying it. I gave up on that job because it was stressing me out in every way possible. ever since, it has so happened that i have been in work situations where I’m relatively MUCH less frazzled and I find plenty of time. There’s no comparison really, between his work life and mine on that account. So I don’t mind taking on extra stuff around the house.

                That said, everyone including little kids should be sensitive to the work load at home. It’s the most energy-sapping kind, it creeps up on one invisibly and there’s never an end to what all needs to be done. And I don’t think there’s anybody who genuinely enjoys all kinds of work at home.. it’s just a chore that needs to get done. It really hurts if people never offer help and if everyone pretends that the dishes wash themselves. At the same time, most women don’t want to keep harping on the sensitization bit because you either sound like a nag and spoil everyone’s mood or in some households, it’s just not taken the right way (which is the saddest). I remember my mom used to tell us that one should never ask someone working in the kitchen to “please give me a glass of water”, because they’ll most likely not refuse but they won’t love it either. On the other hand, it takes little to get it yourself.

                In our house, he is good at packing stuff, making sure bills are paid on time, repairs etc. But he needs reminders. My biggest problem is that he doesn’t know how to cook etc. for the most basic of situations. I mean, this is one thing that one should be prepared for in life no matter what. Let’s see. All in good time.

                • This has been an interesting exchange. I cant help but feel most women universally have the same issues, at the heart of it all 🙂 I cant imagine how much we’d discuss this to death if we were to meet muhuhahahaha.. that would be a force to reckon with!

                • Haha. So true. In the end, this is one topic that finds mention in women’s conversations of about my age pretty consistently. What saddens me is that women of our moms’ generation and before have lived out their lives taking gender roles as granted, and now there are set attitudes that can’t be changed. For another day, anyway. And I sure wish we’ll meet one day. I pwomise I won’t just crib 😀

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