Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Treatments, huh?

It's funny, how much we women take up, bear with, and accept in our individual attempts to be "beautiful".
Take our average parlour experience for example. 
Wait, before you get cheesed off and brand me, here's a disclaimer. I'm not your bra-burning feminist who refuses to shave her armpits and/or to use perfume.
Uhh, no. I like clean arms and legs -- on me and others ;) as much as you do. But my recent trip to one of these modern-day temples for women realy got me thinking.
My mom, like every other middle-class Indian mother worried about her daughter (read, worried about her looks, skin tone and eating habits) kept insisting it's time for me to take that plunge.
 If you are anywhere in the 20s zone, and a single woman, you'll immediately understand what I'm talking of.
For us,  "coming of age", is intricately related to the kind of treatments and the amount of money you spend at the parlour. Still lost? OK, I'll explain.   
When you are in school, the max you are scheduled to try out at the parlour is the haircut. Okay, hair styling for today's kids, but that's pretty much about it. You jump onto that styling chair, while dying to be like the style divas who disappear behind the parlour's screens/curtains, to emerge shining after an hour or two. Or not. :P
Then, you take to your threading/waxing chapter, so the screens are no longer a mystery, but you are still not a diva. 
And then comes the time when you graduate to the world of masks and steams and facials. Oooooh! Now, we have come of age!!
Well, being naturaly disinclined towards this 'coming of age', (it scares me, coz talks of marriage almost invariably follow), I agree I've been pushing it off and generally delaying the experience for some time now. 
But what the hell, I said to myself today, and bravely walked into one of the best parlours the city has to offer. Bangalore, that is.
I looked at the card and asked for one of the 'treatments'. (Why do they call it a treatment? Am I infected/sick?). 
Anyway, a charming lady (er make up is meticulosly done and her feet look like she hardly ever walks on Bangalore roads) leads me to a smallish room, tastefully done up in white and lavender.
"Lie down, relax", says Miss Beautiful Feet. With due credit to her, her smile seems genuine.
Anyway, I lie down, mortified of my horribly large feet and almost unkempt hair.
Did I catch a secretly disapproving look?
I already begin to have misgivings.
However, I'm inside now, and lying down on their bed, so there's no way I can run away, can I?
And the "treatment" begins. It's suposed to de-tan me, while cleaning my skin pores and generaly taking me a step closer to looking like Aishwarya Rai.
Hah. I suddenly have a vision of myself, with shining hair, glowing skin and 'take-your-breath-away' looks.
And that's enough to make me fight my misgivings.
But wait. Why's she tugging and pulling at my face? 
'Hummmph?' I ask
'Its the massage,madam,' the clever girl deciphers my question and replies.
Aaah, ok. So I let my cheeks be pulled at, lips twisted, forehead bulldosed for almost 10 mintes. Or so I think.
And just as I feel the intensity slowing down, I get slapped. Seriously. Slapped.
'Whtttt?' I ask. BUt I know already. MASSAGE. 
And I get slapped all over my face for some more minutes.
 I'm already losing it by now.
To make matters worse, now Im supposed to burn myself with steam. It's horribly hot, and don't these guys know the latent heat in steam is much more than in water? It burns!!
But Miss Beauty Feet is smiling. And she launches into a diatribe on the benefits of steaming oneself up, and how people come in and request more steam time and etc etc etc.
Her look of disapproval is no more subtle now. She's judging me.
And I'm sick of it all.  And I'm past caring.
Hah, I say. Will I let her pull away at my cheeks (I have always hated it, even when people would do it to me as a child), tug at my lips, press my nose with metal weapons and then burn me....AND rip me apart for this?
No. So I dish ourt a curt "you know what, I don't want the treatment anymore," and get off the bed.
Miss Beauty feet is so startled she doesn't  know what to do, and I'm out of the room before she can recover.
The manager is worried. Yeas, these high-funda places have managers too, like the maitre-d at high-funda restaurants.
But I just ignore the questions and the stares (and occasional jeery smiles). I pay and leave.
And I call my Ma to make a point. If she wants me to "come-of-age", she had better throw a ball.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Why Terrorise?

How important is it for young (and otherwise) people to be afraid of their parents?
This is something that has troubled me ever since I was a pre-teenager, and started appreciating the one glaring difference between me and my other mates (they weren't friends, and I hardly speak to any of them anymore. I met my friends later in life, and consider myself lucky to know them). But anyway, this is not about my friends and non-friends, it's about that question that has troubled me for quite some time now, and also about the glaring difference between me and most, almost all, others. That is, being scared of ma and baba. I never have been, now or ever.
Does that make me one of the bad people? Does that mean I don't love or respect my parents? I don't think so.
I have always failed to understand the big gloating hoopla parents make about how terrified their kids are of them. Years ago, when the "aunties" of the neighbourhood would prattle about it, I would notice my ma keep quiet, having no contributions to make to the terror stories. My baba, in the rare occasions that he did land into one of these gatherings, would softly but deftly put in his views: "Moon or her brother are not terrified of us, and I see no reason why they should be"...well, not always those words, but something to that effect.
As for me, I would hear stories and first-hand accounts of domestic fear-factors everyday of my life. "My dad will kill me, my mom will clobber me"... they will this, they will that, they will basically flip at every attempt that the child makes towards having an independent existence.
And I would often wonder, am I missing something in life? Is my house the weird one, where there are no death threats or the necessity to hide, hush-up, act?
It was much later that I realised how weird my house was/is. Weird in a wonderful way. I have never been terrorised of my parents, so I have never had the overwhelming need to lie to them, or to hoodwink them.
Which is why I speak to my ma as if she were a friend ( okay, I will openly accept that there are some things that I do that they don't know I do, but that is really another story. I'll let in one reason here, and that is this. I firmly believe that different people have different places in your life. So, a friend cannot fill in for parents and vice versa. Notice, I said I speak to ma as if she were a friend. Maybe I'll write about it sometime later.)
To get back on track, let's fast forward to my college days. This is when I learnt that the in-house terrorisation has nothing to do with age, and that people become so whimpy with the constant grueling throughout their childhood that they barely have any will left to stand up for themselves. So what if they are 20 by now?
"You read The God of Small Things? I heard it's meant for adults." That's a first-year graduate pursuing a degree in English Honours (who's also my immediate junior) from one of the most reputed colleges in the country.
I stare, gulp, try to disguise my disgust in an awkward smile and hide my laughter by coughing. The most I manage is "Well, yes, it is meant for adults, but aren't you already 18?" And then I walk away. Not because I have nothing more to say. Oh yes, I do, but because I figure it would all be lost on her. I later find out how her mom (or was it the dad) always had a "strict watch" over what books she read, and what movies she watched, and she would be so scared of them that she would never venture out on her own. I know, I know, this could be a boon for fresh young minds, but why is it that most of the times parents keep the "watch", kids learn to read nothing more than Sidney Sheldon and often name Femina or Vougue or Overdrive as their favourite books?
Or helplessly accept that they cannot sit through any movie that makes them exercise their cerebral facilities even a bit? As far as I have seen, the "strict watch" destroys more than it builds, and coupled with the terror factor, well....
I know someone who has always balked at the fearlessness in my family. Her idea of a perfect mother (I speak more of mothers because where and when I grew up, moms have always had more to do with the moulding of the child, as most were home-makers and were more in touch with their children's lives) was/is of someone who has absolute control over her child's life, and in return, the ideal child would drop dead for fear as soon as s/he heard "ma ke boley debo" (i'm going to tell your mom) from any quarter.
Today, her 14 year old child hides more number of things from her than I could have even begun to think is necessary at that age, has an orkut profile that she uses to make "chat friends" who call her up late at night to often whisper ugly things (I know, as I'm a confidante, and I'm never going to let out the child's identity), complains about the "demonic mother" to anyone who is willing to lend a ear, and in general, cannot wait to move out of the parental home.
But then comes the big doubt. In the form of my sibling. He and I are opposites in more than external appearances. Where I live on books, he has hardly read one outside of his syllabus, while he's a sports enthusiast, I run away from any mention of the word sports, where I have always been a smart worker (and would hence tide through my academic years with pretty decent marks), his is an eternal struggle to cross the 40-mark line.
And my parents would often call up (by now I was already away from my parent's house), worried specially about his academics, his antics with the motorbike, his fights with other boys on the block (I'm tired of telling my kid brother that the smart never get caught. At least, not while boxing each other.)
But anyway, it was then that I often thought, would it be different if he were, like others, scared to death of our parents? So he never would think of not studying when asked to, of never doing anything we was forbidden to. But then, one day, Mrs-Demon-Mother's child, who would study, eat, exercise, talk, smile all with the Ma's permission, failed to graduate to the next class.
"I have no idea what happened. The child would be at the study table for as long as I asked. She never dared disobey. How could this happen?" wondered the mom.
My ma calls me to update me on how my brother, yet again, managed to clear by the skin of his teeth. And on the mom-in-question's predicament.
I sigh and laugh at the same time. Yes, the child would sit at the study table...thinking of newer and better ways to hoodwink you, knowing that the simple way of saying "Mom, I really don't want to study for so long today, can I get off this once" wasn't an option.
And thinking about it, my kid brother might have his faults, but we know well enough to trust him. Where play-acting is increasingly becoming the thing to do within families, mine is one where we talk, laugh, shout, scream, love, yell at each other without the slightest pretence, or the slightest misgivings.
So there, guess, I know the answer to my question now.

where the mind is without fear and the head is held high..

where the mind is without fear and the head is held high..