Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Ladies Club and other things

I am done with my last Ladies Club here in Jalandhar and after two years of sincere attendance to this supposed informal meet of ladies of different cadre, I make my way towards another station with the same plastic chairs and the sofa ladies.

Coming from a civilian background, its hard to associate a get together with a wide display of sarees. The sarees that we usually keep it for special occasions becomes the highlight and somehow you feel you haven't got enough of them. The unit responsible for organizing the evening make it as a matter of life and death to impress the First Lady of the station by customizing the programs to her liking. Be it educational information (if you get stuck with a smart one) or a dance program. It's as if they want the rest of the ladies to have talent enough to fill the void of the evening that they are creating just to entertain one lady. So out comes the bathroom singers, the college type dancers, the lady who can communicate well enough for doing a flawless MC and also ladies that are good for nothing. They are simply not given a choice to say 'No'. 

Everyone gets a job here and no way to escape. Their explanation?
"I have done it in my times and now its your turn".
Perhaps no comeback for such a rhetoric statement. The invitations are handmade and often sticking to the themes. It could be a bridal, colors, seasons and traditional. Sounds fun enough but difficult to follow by the book. The new members feel its perhaps a bit exaggerated when they say its a bridal theme. Perhaps its just dressing in their best saree. After all who actually wants to take down that fifty thousand ghagra out of their boxes just to delight the ladies? But its the seniors that take enthusiasm in dressing in their age-old garbs, making it clear that they meant business. So it becomes a matter of pride and for next time we decide to dress exactly as we are told. Then there is the temptation of prizes for the best dressed and we all get swayed by the little fifty rupees candle stands/coffee mugs/ and so on (Bought  strictly at the AWWA* stores).  

By the end of the program you are just thinking about food. With no prizes (because the seniors have dressed better than you, though looking ridiculous in that out of season dress) and with a growling stomach, we look forward for something to eat. Again we get stuck with the standard menu of something that is liked by the First Lady and since we seem to be paying monthly for this, we hog anyways. (Our pride lost somewhere thinking about our husband's job again). I feel an army wife works for the inane aspects of the organization. 
The newly weds- An ornament
The seniors- A tyrant
Need I say more?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Fauji's House's

When everything is falling apart, the tiles coming out, the window panes falling off and the glass missing from them, the doors having a creamish texture of the previous family having resided here leaving their markings on the doors, cupboards (sometimes a straying crayons and that stubborn sketch pens)- you know you have reached a Fauji's house. Its my turn to make it a home and the MES* branch to deal with the technicalities. The first house we get is always an exciting part. The process of taking the possession, choosing the best of the furniture left and a bed that should match each other in heights. So here the creative part of us turns us into an interior designer (with no previous experience obviously). The only interior decorating I have ever done was piling up clothes in a corner, making sure it was away from the my moms eyes. But now married, it somehow becomes like a task to keep everything neat and clean (not that it goes in that order). 

To start from, bhaiya* makes sure that the bathroom's sparkling and the tiles have no left over moss, having been unattended for a long time. It starting from the scratch and with a flair for having things to put at the right place is a challenge. Because anyone can put things for display but its the right place with the right aura that needs a woman's hand(I browse books on Vastu Shastra and Fengshui). Husband's are tucked safely in their offices, come home to see a perfectly done up bedroom with a pile mess outside. Trunks in different sizes with different stuff. They are happy as long the TV's working and the lunch waiting with a smiling (But tired) wife to welcome them home. 

Husband:  Ask me if you need any help.
Me: Now that you ask me there is this heavy stuff and I can't decide  where I should keep the frames...
Husband (without looking into the eyes): I'll send you more help.
Me (resigned)

And enters the 'help'. I call them magicians. Within hours, things get to fall in place and the curtains are up. A theme's decided. Having seen many army houses now I decide to go with traditional /contemporary look. The yellow curtains give a warm glow to the living room and the frames find their rightful place on the walls. The previous owners having put nails all over the place so I didn't make an attempt to put up more, getting an idea that they had suffered from the same premonition. Last but not the least, its the MES* furniture that takes a very important role, no matter how bad a condition they are in. 

Husbands are good for gadget shopping though. Any place with screws, motor, digital, remotes and you don't have to waste time in convincing. So with the vital LED and the broadband, he bids me farewell to go for exercise* for fifteen days. I finish the decorating, dusting my hands with a satisfied grin. The bhaiya's spared with a thankful glance. 

So two years here and still making up ideas to make my home look good, I find my heart go heavy with the burden of having to leave it soon. Attachment in a fauji's life is a very dangerous thing. You cannot get attached with your man nor with the material things in our life. There is more to life than this now. Maybe substitute attachment with dedication to be your loved one and garb those little happy moments. Be it going out for a silly movie or ordering our Chinese because you are just too lazy to cook. Making aloo paranthas in the little two feet by two feet kitchen together because there is nothing on TV or deciding on that downloaded movie (thanks to torrents and sorry to piracy but you know we all do it) on the long, crazy Sundays...Sometimes in life you just need a partner to share things. I call my home a bachelor pad with added benefits because we have our own spaces in the same room  holding on to each other when life gets busy. 

And thank you Vaibhav for feeling at home :)

*MES- Military Engineer's Service who deal with fixing up the house
*Bhaiya-The help
*exercise- officer's train to use weapons during this period.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Mimic Men by V.S Naipaul- A book review

My first read for the BOOK READING CHALLENGE 2011 is THE MIMIC MEN by V.S NAIPAUL. 

Synopsis: A profound novel of cultural displacement, The Mimic Men masterfully evokes a colonial man's experience in a postcolonial world.
Born of Indian heritage and raised on a British-dependent Caribbean island, Ralph Singh has retired to suburban London, writing his memoirs as a means to impose order on a chaotic existence. His memories lead him to recognize the paradox of his childhood during which he secretly fantasized about a heroic India, yet changed his name from Ranjit Kripalsingh. As he assesses his short-lived marriage to an ostentatious white woman, Singh realizes what has kept him from becoming a proper Englishman. But it is the return home and his subsequent immersion in the roiling political atmosphere of a newly self-governed nation that ultimately provide Singh with the necessary insight to discover the crux of his disillusionment.

In an interview with Shankar Israel, Naipaul had this to say:
The people I saw were little people who were mimicking upper-class respectability. They had been slaves, and you can't write about that in the way that Tolstoy wrote about, even his backward society – for his society was whole and the one I knew was not. – Veena Singh, 'A Journey of Rejection: V S Naipaul's The Mimic Men' in ed, Mohit K Ray, V S Naipaul: Critical Essays, p156

Naipaul plays with words and the first thing that capture my attention is his mastery over it. And I thought with the size of the book i am choosing this would be a piece of cake. But it isn't and to get through it you need time on your hands (yes, the real one). And with sentences packed so tightly together, I almost delayed picking it up. But, determination to go ahead with a book with made me think so much- I started with THE MIMIC MEN. 

'Mimic' 1. To copy or imitate closely, especially in speech, expression, and gesture; ape* where it portrays a man who has been abandoned by his own people because Ralph Singh was actually a man who was never among them. The feeling of displacement is apparent in the first few pages

"I knew nothing until i heard of his (Mr Shylock) cremation from Lieni..."

He is careful not to relate himself emotionally to any event and narrates it with a sort of detachment almost as if a commentator. 

I could never actually make sense of this book. Yes, it is about a man who has lived and ruled the colony. I call him the 'Man of the merciless intent' and the protagonist realizes that he was once a part of the oppressionism. 

"Hate the oppression; fear the oppressed", are his words where he fears the life he is forced to live now. 

Very difficult for me not to relate the book to the time when we were ruled by the British. Not very long ago and the stories still humming in my mind with the movies like Lagaan, The Passage to India and Gandhi making an impression on me. This is a book for every Indian who wants to see through the glasses of an oppressor. And their lives after that. 

When I relate the book to Naipaul's private life, I get a feeling is apathy.  And for some reason I do not pre-judge. The book cover is a mirror to the words inside. It has a matte silhouette of man walking his way at the London streets with an English woman giving him a passing look. Almost like the look when we see a white (or am I being a racist here by quoting?) wearing a dhoti or a Saree. A look of amusement and why the need to be among us?"

Rating: 4.5/5

I see colours

Seasons are changing and I see the roads being filled the untouched leaves, brown and bare below my feet. I kicked them on the spur of the moment and I see how winter's given way to spring, followed by autumn. The walks in the evenings becoming a favorite pass-time as the flowers blooming, make the end of my very busy day.  Its almost like a homage to the season. My private time with nature. 

The soft chirping of the birds, imitating each other, flying their way home in the evening and making a very beautiful note of prayer as they dig into the trees that lay bare- now without the leaves. The parrots sharing that one last kiss as they make an announcing public display of affection. I wait to see a wood pecker, making a design deep into that bark and I picture them doing that everyday almost like a routine. 

 How we human beings have the advantage of a change! Perhaps being one of the privileged species where we can think and do what we want to do- perhaps within our means but the less we have the more we appreciate the finer things in life. Or perhaps do we learn from the lesser species? That determination towards a goal, the bond they have...all this sounds so simple yet so complicated in our world of materialism? And we move on with life wanting to achieve that MORE in life.