Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The Gift (Not of the Magi!)

During a particular period every year, THE husband looks stressed; very stressed in fact. His frowns deepen (he does frown from time to time; it enhances his personality!) and he goes into period of deep meditative silence (he is anyways the silent, thoughtful type). I even get suspicious looks from time to time as if I am responsible for all recent terror attacks.
No, it has nothing to do with his yearly appraisals or annual health check ups of immediate family members including him. And I presume you did not take that terror attack line seriously anyways.
It is that time of the year when there is a week or at the most 2 weeks left to my birthday!

Finally and invariably he asks the boring question of the year, “So well, umm…what is it that you would like as a birthday gift?”

And at that precise point I start looking stressed.

I mean why? Why cannot men guess through some infra red ray or whatever jargon these sci-fi thrillers mention that can transmit my wish list from my mind to his? My women friends never ask me these questions, they always KNOW! Yes, they remember the lovely lilac bag I wistfully looked at while window shopping 6 months back; if not lilac they at least aim for a similar shade. That’s what you call the art of gifting. Remembering what is required and making it a point to acquire it. Not like some task that has to be done.

Most of my guy friends and that includes THE husband has this whole “Let’s look at this as a compulsory boring activity” approach to birthday gifts. And no, they really don’t mind if you do not remember their birthdays or don’t get them a gift. The worrying part is they expect similar behaviour from you!
A very, very close guy friend (he was nearly as close as a girl friend, so you will understand why I was so disappointed in him) once got me a packet of Ferrero Rocher as my birthday gift. Really, how unimaginative can one get! I absolutely hate those chocolates! I was so mad at him for being so predictable. And no, please don’t expect me to understand and appreciate his gesture etc. I really do not care that “so many unfortunate souls do not have birthday presents”; on certain occasions especially like that of my birthday, I can be very selfish. Okay self centered. That sounds so much better!

Look, like all regular 18 -20 year olds I have read enough Femina, Cosmoplitan and other ‘women centric’ (whatever that means) magazines while spending time at the salon or while waiting for a train etc. Yes, at college, I used to travel by train post vacation back to mad-fun hostel life! In these magazines THE husband always springs a surprise; and here I am referring to the good, caring type husbands. They plan a secret gala party of take their wife to some exotic locale and have the best champagne under moonlight. Come on, you guys watch TV; not only women centric magazines but even regular ‘homo sapiens centric’ advertisements showcase these ideal scenarios.

So every year I am asked the same question and every year I get cheesed off and say, “Never mind, since you cannot even think/ remember what I want”.
At that point an argument breaks out and last two years it has been resolved in the form of “Lets go for a vacation somewhere”. Yes, I have even been taken on a vacation in December and told that this is a belated birthday gift. My birthday is in August for God’s sake, how belated can one get?
 I must give some credit though; in 2010 the lovely, blissful sea side vacation actually happened in SeptemberJ

Few of my married women friends, the ones who have been married for more than five years have given up hope on exotic presents. They are elated if their birthdays are remembered at all! Situation is so bad, that someone I know last year bought her own gift, asked the shop guys to wrap it nicely and keep it and then sent a sms to her husband reminding him to pick the gift up!

This weekend, someone who was referred by someone came to showcase few beautiful sarees. I do wear them occasionally and I was gifted a few earlier this year by while I visited relatives in Calcutta. Hence, I was clear in my mind that I don’t need another one, but well since he was referred I agreed to check his collection. Enters, THE husband. He absolutely insists that I must buy one. “That one and this one looks good; very classy..why don’t you check them etc etc?”
 It was surreal! Why was this fellow suddenly taking so much interest in checking sarees and nearly forcing me to buy one? Okay, so I did like one in particular and gave in to cajoling – both from my husband and the saree seller. And then, something even more strange happened. The husband insisted that he will gift this to me. Why this sudden excitement in giving me a gift? Mostly he gets into selective hearing mode whenever we discuss gifts.
And then, later that evening it hit me. On being asked point blank, he said with a casual shrug, “This opportunity was God sent. Now, I don’t have to bother about what to gift you for your birthday”.

Task completed for 2011.

My early Christmas wish: ‘Dear lord, let some brilliant publishing house bring out a Men’s magazine where they dedicate one less page to cars and instead have advice on “15 exotic gifts to give your wife on her birthday and make her feel special”. I will definitely gift a copy to THE husband!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

JLT -1 (For the uninitiated it stands for Just Like That !)

Went to see a new born baby today, four hours post her arrival on this planet. I was very excited. The last time I saw such a tiny baby was when my one of my nieces was born and that was twenty years back. The child had such cute, toy shaped hands and feet. They were pink in colour and perfectly formed.
Guess what The Husband did entire time we were in the fancy cabin where mom and baby was? He fiddled with his new phone. His logic on being reprimanded can-you-stop staring-at-the-damn phone was “This is new; I still need to understand a few features”. Dude, the baby is new too; did we not go all the way to see her?  How can a mobile be more interesting than a new doll like baby?

Men, if you ask me, are pretty weird!

Since I am on the ‘men are weird’ state of mind, let me discuss another incident. Few days back, I was unwell. My BFF was running high fever, so she called to chat and feel better. Well, you must be aware that talking and simultaneously giggling with your soul sister can immediately make your day better, no matter how sick you feel inside. So we both tried that therapy to cure ourselves. Once done with the half an hour (ONLY) conversation, I called The Husband to remind him of something. I did mention in the passing that not only me, but even my best friend has been feeling unwell. It was just one of those not-really-important-but-you-still-mention-it kinda statements. Guess, what the reaction was?
“You have no clue how badly I have hurt my hand while lifting so-and-so thing sometime back”. Let me tell you, this is not a one off instance, every time you mention that you are unwell, instead of empathy what comes in your direction is ‘my situation is worse than yours’ sulk. I of course did my ‘Oh-ho, you must take proper care blah blah’ mommy act and disconnected the call earlier than I wanted to. And then, promptly called back my BFF and we giggled heartily over men and how they never show signs of growing up!

Monday, 11 July 2011

For God's sake, get up, stand up!

Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
 Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight’
                           - Bob Marley

What is with men and violence? And with women who want to play the victim? Seriously, can’t either of them get a life?

A friend recently mailed me a link; one of those forwards where people want you to be a part of a movement by clicking on the link and showing your unconditional (well, whatever) support. So this cause, is for a deceased lady who was a resident of some fairly up-market place in Gurgaon who seems to have either committed suicide or was forced to do so by her philandering husband and indifferent-to-her-woes in-laws.
By Jove, this is an educated, working, woman-of-the-world person we are talking about; not the dozens of women who languish in remote parts of our country, who neither have an education nor means to support themselves and hence has no choice but to put up with mental, emotional, sexual abuse in a marriage. What left my mouth agape was when one has the option to support oneself (maybe not grandly but yes one can definitely manage a basic accommodation and three meals) by working, and in this case the lady had a job which means she was capable of earning her own living, then why was she taking shit from her husband for the last few years?
Why not walk out on a marriage that is anyway full of abuse? Why wait for a loser who is anyway disrespecting you by conducting an affair while being married to you and adding physical violence to the marriage and generally behaving like an oaf? Is it not obvious to these women that their husbands are not going to turn back and become the ideal husband; someone who can kick you, beat you and cheat on you was never an ideal human being in the first place, forget being an ideal husband.
And then, there is always the classic argument put forth by a whole lot of women who are in an abusive marriage. “How can I get out of the marriage, my child needs a balanced environment”; dude in an ‘environment’ where dad is hitting mom or insulting her in various other innovative / age old ways, how can any child grow up ‘balanced’?

Alas, feminism, it seems has not been able to teach what it was meant to. I can empathize with women who were burnt at the stake in the name of Sati or the ones who are still being killed in the name of honour/ dowry etc. But seriously, isn’t it time women stopped whining and started taking concrete steps to combat abuse hurled at them? Why keep pining for help from others? What about self help?

However, not all is lost, it seems.

Two weeks back, I and my husband spent 3 hours running between a local police station, our home and that of one of my friend’s. She had already filed for divorce and that particular evening, her soon-to-be-ex-husband landed up at her apartment, broke open the door and physically assaulted her. He has an anger management issue and there have been a couple of nasty situations in their marriage earlier too. Then one fine day, she just decided that it is indeed enough and went ahead and took a call to go their separate way. Yes, she has been feeling low (no one I know was ecstatic while filing for divorce), things looked very bleak, she does not have family or close friends living in the same city hence is more vulnerable emotionally, but then one cannot go on depending on others to fight their own wars. So yes, some of the women are finally taking a stand and sticking to it; truly admirableJ

I strongly feel that it is high time for women all across the globe specifically India, to wake up from their victimhood slumber. High time they took control of their life in their own hands and realize that one of the damn important ingredients that helps one become a good wife and a mother is to have ‘self respect’ – a good dose of it. Oh and by the way, women who have self respect are not the same as women with ‘ego’ and ‘attitude problem’!