Waxing and whining

I’ve been picky about hair dressers for as long as I’ve needed haircuts. Once I meet and fall in love with the hairdresser destined for me, I go to them for years until either one of us leaves town.

But the rest of the hair on my body doesn’t get the same exclusive treatment. In fact, just the opposite. I’ve been to the big fancy waxing places where you could fall asleep while they de-hair your shin with magical hairy fairy wax.

But if you’ve been to an Indian home-turned-parlour – and you know the ones I’m talking about – then everything else is just fluff. These places – they’re loud, they’re rough and they scare the hair right out of the follicles. Two girls armed with wax strips and butter knives come at you like seagulls after a chippy, and turn you from a wildebeest to sheared sheep in under 30 mins. (If you’re in a hurry, they can make that four girls.)

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Generally called Angel’s Glow, Fair Beauty, Ladies Touch (Not a typo) or Miss Lovely, all of them offer the luxury and service of trying out wedding gowns in a fish market by the train tracks.

I was at one such magical place this past weekend.

Housed in a 2-bed apartment, the parlour makes you feel at home instantly. And by home, I mean the place where all your least favourite family members have gathered, but you can’t leave because the promise of free food has already made you its bitch.

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The living room serves as the reception (a row of chairs stacked against the wall) and as the hair-dyeing, face-fixing, hair-cutting zone. The chairs and mirrors point to the TV, which plays loud Bollywood music or, if you’re lucky, even louder Hindi soaps. This room also doubles up as the Society of Aunties Against Single Standards (SAASS) (omg this literally means mother-in-law in Hindi. It was purely coincidental and I love my mom-in-law who would never make it into this club.)

This group of powerful and opinionated women would make for ideal feminists if not for their fellow-female-cutting-down chainsaw and girls-your-age theories. But given their love of double standards, it is imperative to make your point and get out of the way, so they can disagree with you while agreeing with you.

I’m ushered into one of the bedrooms. Each bedroom is divided into refrigerator-sized subsections of semi-private waxing booths. A cold, hard plastic chair greets me, while my wallet trashes around my pocket wildly, begging to be spent at a swankier joint. Nope. Imma save that for the dermatologist.

We skip niceties and the waxer forward-slash life coach proceeds to scrape a vegemite-level schmear of wax along the length of my shin with the blunt side of a spatula-formerly-known-as butter-knife. Who cares if the wax just burnt through two layers of epidermis when you’re hoping the knife doesn’t puncture one of your blood vessels.

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When she stumbles upon my fourth tattoo, she can’t contain herself any more. Our conversation starts abruptly when the waxer informs me, the waxee, that when I get bored of my tattoos, laser is going to hurt. She knows. Her one client is never getting inked again. I shouldn’t either.

I mumble incoherently about knowing what I want, while it is painfully obvious that the woman with the hot wax and blunt knife knows what I really want.

Our awkward silence is broken by an active member of SAASS from the adjoining room. The conversation has been building up from Bollywood movies to Bollywood movie stars. Some heroine who is over the hill (30s) just had a baby. The woman getting her greys dyed black is about to drop some red hot wisdom. She cuts another woman off to loudly proclaim, in a voice that drips with wisdom – that women have a time for everything – studies, marriage and children. Maybe a career if it fits.

Of course she’s going to back it up.

“Why else would the female body hit puberty and menopause when it does?”

Boom.

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Given my stance of not taking any bullshit this year, I want to stand on the chair and educate them about positive body image, being strong female role models and uplifting girls, not boxing them in.

But I find myself standing atop a chair with more pressing work. The waxer is waxing the back of my legs and she finds it easier if I stand on top of the chair facing the wall, giving her a better vantage.

It is from this vantage that she spots my ankle tattoo. She decides that I don’t deserve her wisdom, so she mumbles to herself about spoiling your body. She throws a few rhetorical questions at my calves.

I steel myself to answer her. Yes, it hurt. No, my husband “doesn’t mind” – neither did my parents or 3-year-old son. Before I could school her on my-body-my-choice, she asks me to step down from my pedestal.

Meanwhile, so steadfast is our SAASS activist in her archaic views that she continues to Godzilla over everyone else with half an opinion and half a head of foils. By the sounds of it, mostly everyone in the reception/ face-fix room/ hair-do chair agree with her. They only wish for a chance to get into her SAASS club; they only wish she would accept their humble offerings in the form of a salacious story of their sister’s neighbour’s wayward daughter.

As I walk past these stalwarts of society in various stages of bleaching and dyeing, I feel guilty for tearing these women down in my head. I may not agree with a word they say, but it’s safe to assume they run their homes like a tight ship and practise a uniquely Indian form of feminism, which will always be at odds with what they preach.

Besides, I’m not picking a fight when I’ve just paid 1/10th of what it would’ve cost me elsewhere.

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All images from Google the Saviour and Creator.

If you ever find your way to one of these magic 2-bedroom-multi-room-salons, remember to keep your ears open and hand-sanitiser close. You’ll be wiser for it, and hairless in half the time.

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Show some respect.

My grandparents live 70 km to the right and my in-laws live 60 km to the left from where my parents’ stay when we’re in India. Which means long drives have become such a mainstay in my life that I have my favourite sights and pit stops bookmarked. Like the shops with heavily plagiarised names of social media networks and barbershops that Brad Pitt and Cindy Crawford unwittingly endorse. Certain traditions have continued over the years, like staying up for the bridge that reminds me of incessant backseat singing, or the strip of road flanked by trees and mountains that remind me of waking up groggy with my face buried in my grandmother’s lap. When I wasn’t travelling with my grandparents or parents, it was with my husband and child. Sometimes it was the sweet solitary drive with a driver, free of conversation, and free to daydream about the day ahead and reminisce about the days past.

On one such road this past month, a girl no older than I am, was travelling with her driver. I imagine she looked at the landmarks that had become her bookmarks on a road often travelled. At a pit stop she perhaps didn’t remember, her driver took it upon himself to let in four other men, who then horrifically molested and abused her for more than an hour while the car drove on.

The fact that she is a movie star doesn’t make this sick, sick, sick act any more or any less deserving of attention. The fact that this happens regularly does.

This news isn’t new, just another version. From the brutal rape, murder and assault of innumerable girls and women from 2 years of age to 60, we are not numb – we are seething with an unfathomable rage that threatens to destroy everything in our sight.

Every time I looked at the Hindu Goddess Kali, I felt a sense of disconnect with the all-consuming angry eyes, the chain of skulls and the trident piercing through a demon’s throat.

Not any more.

That is every woman today, even if she is smiling or crying outwardly.

This Women’s Day, I urge the men in my life to give the Hallmark holiday more meaning. While our sisters in the US go on the Day Without A Woman Strike, I’m asking every man I know to #ShowSomeRespect. Fuck the breakfast in bed and spa vouchers. Fuck the red roses and decorative mugs. Show the women in your life some respect.

Reach out to 10, 5, heck even 1 woman and tell her why you respect her. Because no matter how softly she giggles, she is made of a metal you haven’t even heard of yet. Because no matter how quickly she breaks into tears, she wipes them away and gets shit done.

Because she has to work twice as hard as you do to get the same recognition, while fighting off gropers and patriarchy with her elbows.

Because it isn’t about how hard she toils in the kitchen or how well she takes care of you – it’s why she does what she does, and you may never understand it.

So tell her. Tell her that you see it and respect it. She doesn’t need your protection or approval; she needs you to accept that she is equal and should be treated as such.

Then seek out 10 of your male friends and tell them to #ShowSomeRespect. Call your friends out on their sexist jokes and tell them you don’t appreciate it. Prove to the world that there’s more to locker room talk than vulgarity. Talk about your female classmates, workmates and friends. Talk about their achievements, strength and resilience.

Enough is enough is enough. No more women getting raped. No more putting women “in their place”. No more nagging wife jokes. No more talking over women. No means no.

No, Indian cinema, if her skin is exposed, it is NOT completely acceptable or even hilarious to grab it.

No, Hollywood, the damsels are not in distress.

No, music industry, her arse is not yours to smack.

And no, society, she is not yours to take.

Start now. Whether you make your pledge public or private, make it count. Get out there and #ShowSomeRespect.

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How Advertising Trained Me For Parenthood*

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Impossible is nothing.

That one line got me into advertising. I didn’t own a single Adidas product until last month (Dem Superstars got me), but that tagline blew my mind (as did the whole speech by Ali).

And advertising is everything it promised to be! The ideas and the mental blocks, the little wins and the epic crashes, the stress and the drinking, the stress drinking, the exhaustion and the exaltation, the imagination, the lies and the promises, the celebrations.

No segue needed.

How Advertising Trained Me For Parenthood* 

Mr. O, the Art Director.

“I can’t wait to start working with you on the awesome puzzle that we’ve both been dying to start all week.”

Open the box. Too much excitement.

“Wow, that’s a great idea! How about this? No, let’s try my way. That doesn’t make sense.

Hate the colours, hate the design, hate the puzzle. Your opinion is shit. It’s all shit anyway.”

Done.

“Wow, I’m a fucking genius.”

Mr. O, the Creative Director.

“Yay! You have a story for me. I cannot wait for you to blow my mind.

Aha aha. Hmm. Ok I see what you’re trying to say. I love it. But maybe a dragon comes and drives an ambulance over the seahorse. I want fire-breathing dragons. And dying seahorses. Unexpected, but believable.”

Mr. O, the Account Manager.

“I love you so much. You’re my favourite person in the whole world. I would trust you with my eyes closed, but my hands are tied. I simply cannot eat this meal you’ve painstakingly prepared for me. I want to. Oh how I believe in it, but I just can’t. My hands. Damn these shackles. Love you, though. The best.”

Mr. O, the Producer.

To mum: “Dude. I’d pick you over him (dad) any day. You’re so much more fun. He just doesn’t get it like you do, ya’ know. Let’s be besties. OMG LET’S DO LOLLIES!”

To dad: “Dude. I’d pick you over her (mum) any day. You’re so much more fun. She just doesn’t get it like you do, ya’ know. Let’s be besties. OMG LET’S DO LOLLIES!”

Mr. O, the HR guy.

Casually strolling down the hallway after bedtime.

My brain: HOLYFUCKINGSHIT WTF IS THIS GUY DOING HERE OUT OF THE BLUE? I should just go clear my desk.

Mr. O, the Supplier.

“Ohhh you wanted to me shower today?? Oohhh see I thought you said next Tuesday. Oh no. I can’t do it today. Trucksninjasbikes. Maybe be more clear next time? I’ll still have that bribe cookie though, thanks.”

Mr. O, the Copywriter.

“Yes, that’s e before i, 2 comes after 1, and B is for butterfly.”

To himself: “Geez. They wouldn’t survive a day without me.”

Impossible is a toddler.

*Nothing trains you for parenthood. Not even parenthood trains you for parenthood. Also, Title Case Because Advertising. 

It’s only words.

I started writing an amusing (if I may say so) post about getting my legs waxed, but kept getting derailed by one that’s been swimming in my fingertips since November 8 last year.

Tomorrow the free world gets itself a new despot – the Stale Cheeto aka Fuckface Von Clownstick aka Little Donnie Diaperpants aka PEEOTUS aka The White Pride Piper aka…you know what, just go here and here.

I share the sense of disappointment and alienation with the American people; but with it has returned a jarring personal memory for me.

Years ago at uni, I was the unwilling protagonist of a skit. It had all the elements of a timeless “meninist” crass comedy. Sexism, body shaming and the kind of blind confidence that can only spawn from generations of patriarchal entitlement.

I use the non-term meninist in quotes, because it will never be a thing.

I use the term timeless, in that, all these years later, it has never left me.

The skit was about how naked photos of a girl (coincidently, her name was mine with a letter changed) were leaked, and how all the excitement was quelled upon seeing how small her breasts were.

I stood there in the crowd, between seniors, juniors and peers, between friends and strangers. I stood there in the crowd, as realisation dawned on every one and they turned to look at me, one by one. I stood there in the crowd, as eyes pried through my tee, and judgement slobbered around my body.

I just stood there.

When I finally came to, the curtains were being drawn amid loud boos – and one too many cheers. I convinced my friends that I didn’t care what a bunch of immature college nobodies thought of me.

Here I am. 13 years later. Not caring what the immature college nobodies thought of me.

Until recently, I thought it was humiliation and rage that crippled me that afternoon when my classmates pointed at an imaginary picture of me in the nude, and frothed at the mouth before agreeing that my breasts just weren’t doing it for them.

I’ve often wondered what the “creative” process was like. I imagine the boys deciding to put up a skit. I imagine them thinking of what would get the most reaction from the crowds. I imagine someone suggesting me as a subject. I imagine all of them arriving at the premise of the story.

I stop imagining when the bile starts rising.

What I thought was sheer humiliation and rage back then, was my body refusing to acknowledge hurt and disbelief at the violent breach of trust by those who had been sharing the same space with me for four years.

I’m working to find the fabled higher consciousness where you learn to free yourself from painful memories. Until then, that it happened, marks its permanency in my mind.

This is the memory that my brain picked out as the president-elect prepares to take office.

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Megan Lane: Women and Trump, by Tony Ward

Everything about this campaign has brought back how I felt that day/week/year, and I feel for what the American people (and most of the world) are going through.

That people they’ve been sharing their space with all their lives just displayed in front of the world how lowly they regarded them – their body, ability, sexual-orientation, religion, origin.

But rather than standing frozen in shock and disgust, the world is rising up; and goddamnit if it isn’t the most beautiful things that’s come out of all this.

I’m not an American citizen or resident, but I think we can all agree that this poison has seeped into every living room and work cubicle around the world. Luckily, the antidote is making its way in.

When I let that offensive skit slide all those years ago, I opened the doors for every student to pass their judgement on my whole being, and made room on that stage for the next non-conforming girl to get publicly harassed.

Never again.

As an indignant Fox News reporter wondered: Are we planning to be in a state of mass protest for the next 4 years?. Yes, that sounds pretty accurate. I’m joining the global movements against systemic racism, sexism and bullying at every level, in my own way. With it, I hope I can wash away the ugly stain on my memories.

So no, Mr Trump & co., you cannot and will not get away with “Sayin’ it like it is”, because what it is to you, is repulsive to us. These words that you callously toss around because of the podium you’ve been afforded, are validating the basest of opinions and actions. Now we will toss our powerful words around, too. Equality, feminism, respect. Basic. Human. Kindness. And the podium on January 21 at the Women’s March is far bigger than any you will ever have the honour of standing on.

This is the year I lose friends.

Crabs have been crawling out from under my son’s blanket and pillow at approximately 2 am every night, pinching him with their “pinchers’. He wakes up screaming.

We assure O that there are no crabs, and tell him that maybe they’re lost and looking for their friends? We calm him down saying we will never let anything hurt him, and that we’re right there with him.

Did little Aya’s parents tell her that moments before she lost sight of them in Aleppo? Is that why she was being so incredibly brave?

Almost as an echo in my head, I can hear parents all around the world promising their little ones the same thing. In Aleppo, Mosul, Sudan, Peshawar, Sandy Hook.

I started writing this post around the fourth anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre. I was sitting in the back of a cab, reading an article written by a father who lost his child on that day. My vision blurred and cheeks burned with something more than rage.

It wasn’t a blinding sense of helplessness like I’ve felt these past few years when living beings have been reduced to dispensable numbers, through power struggles, cowardly terrorism and blatant intolerance towards a different race, gender and opinion. It wasn’t helplessness or rage or sadness I was feeling.

It was failure.

Absolute, crushing, suffocating failure.

I failed. As a thinking, breathing person of the world, I failed. Because I didn’t act when I had the chance. I researched all the perspectives to make an “informed decision”, but these children and people didn’t have time to spare to educate me.

But now I see it. There are no good guys or bad guys. There are no oil pipelines or terror groups. There are no ifs and buts.

There are dead bodies, orphans, rape victims. Parents who will never kiss their child’s toes again. Dreamers who will struggle to close their eyes again.

And then there are heroes. Women, men and children who rise above fear and differences, every day. Who stand – at frontlines, rallies, shelters. Who stand – for equality, compassion, peace.

This is the year to take a stand. From world peace to workplace sexism, we cannot take this shit lying down any longer. We cannot wait for someone braver, smarter, richer to come sort it out. It’s up to us. You and me.

I understand keyboard warriors make more noise than action, but if the biggest election upset of our generation was stirred and spurred on by social media, then I’m sure as hell not going to stop spewing strength, support and positivity.

Nothing major has changed in my life to suddenly make room for activism, but there has been a big shift in my mind. So from here on out, I will be loud; I will be outspoken; I will be relentless. I will continue to feel the pain and weep openly, but I will not give in to hate. I will be optimistic and see the best in everyone. I will be happy and spread cheer when I feel it. I promise to be an insufferable feminist and opinionated pain-in-the-arse. And I take courage in knowing I’m not alone. (Even if it means I will be left alone because I’m being a Debbie Downer and taking the “fun” out of casual racism and sexism. Sorrynotsorry future former friends.)

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If support seems biased to you (there’s more #prayforparis than #prayforsyria), then please shout louder to balance the scales without tearing the other one down. Shout until we silence the very idea of hate and intolerance.

Here’s to a future where pinching-crab-nightmares are the only things that keep adults and children up at night.

Let’s do this, 2017.

“The whole world wants to save Tibet. Don’t worry about saving Tibet, don’t get caught up in trying to save the world or trying to affect what is not in our direct control. You will grow old and the world may not be saved. Dream big, but instead change yourself and affect people directly in your realm of influence, and soon it will have a rippling effect.”

                                      His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Deflate belly, inflate ego.

We are inseparable. I’m never too far from its tender loving ingredients, and it refuses to leave my wobbly belly and thunder thighs. I can’t compromise on food. I won’t. Therefore, I gym.

Also, childbirth left my mobility at the mercy of exercise, but I’m too much in love with the little cutie patootie right now to rant. I’ll save it for when he pisses me off. Give him a second.

Meanwhile, please take a moment to join me in the magical journey that is my everyday workout session at my new gym*.

Title: Fitness For The Fabulous
Super exclusive gym. Like, seriously don’t call us, we’ll call you.

One does not associate words like boutique with gym. But that’s because one is not invited to join my gym. My gym is an exclusive boutique gym in Kuwait. Perched high above the plebs on the 37th floor, it offers me the privacy and exclusivity I deserve. And by repeatedly chanting “my gym”, I reach a higher consciousness that is reserved for the highly conscious select few. At my gym.

Every morning as I step out of the spiritually-elevating elevator ride into the fresh, rejuvenating air of my gym, I am greeted by my butler, Kay**. What? Yes, I have a butler. Don’t we all? She brings me temperature-controlled water in my freshly cleaned bottle, as per my request. Nay, my demand.

Laid next to the personal trainer’s workout plan for the day, is my luxury face towel #15. Why #15, you ask? So that my towels don’t get mixed in with the others. Can’t be mixing with the others, even if they’re non-plebs.

During my work out on state-of-the-art equipments, Kay offers me headphones. I choose to play my music on the speakers instead. It’s like they say in the fitness world, go big or go home. I use my treadmill’s interactive screen to keep up with all my inactivity on facebook, draw inspiration from Missy Elliot on Youtube. I quickly learn that running and typing isn’t very easy. Maybe I’ll ask Kay to type for me next time. And if I tire of the glorious panoramic view of Kuwait’s crystal blue waters from the 37th floor, I choose to run along the streets of San Fran or New York on my screen.

By my 12th squat, I accidentally let out a grunt to push through the pain. I looked around in embarrassment; for a second there I forgot where I was. HA! As if. Up on the 37th floor, I do as I please.

Did I mention my gym is on the 37th floor.

After my workout, I head in for a shower. What should I use today? The bronze tinted overhead dumper showerhead? Horizontal body massagers? Good ol’ handheld?

The L’occitane products are lined up on the dresser at my disposal. I turn down Kay’s offer to blow-dry my hair. I hope I didn’t disappoint her. It’s the third time I turned her down this morning; I said no to her offer to bring me coffee and breakfast, too. I wear the dress she has neatly ironed for me, and leave behind my gym clothes – they’re too sweaty for me to touch. They’ll be washed and ironed for me in the morning. As you do.

It’s only been a week and I am confident I will turn into the Goddess they guarantee***, but right now I descend from my 37th floor fitness haven, and stand among the normal. Yet, deep inside my shallow core, I know I’m special.

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Disclaimers:
* I have withheld the name of the gym because it could interfere with them accepting my Instagram request~~.

~~Just kidding. I get access to all Social Media accounts as soon as I hand over my kidney. Just kidding, I mean credit card. Haha I miss my kidney.

** Let’s call her Kay.

*** They don’t guarantee results, but let’s put it this way: I will lose weight in 1 of 3 ways –

  1. Fantastic workout plans and Nutrition advice.
  2. The speed at which the glass-walled elevator drops down from the 37th floor makes me shit my pantaloons every day.
  3. The money I’ve spent on the membership leaves me with very little to spend on food.

 

 

 

School-mumming it.

 

schoolmum

We’ve been on the move for 16 months. And after 16 months of stay-at-parent’s-home-mumming it, I was ready for school. I was looking forward to school. Then they go and ruin it all by saying something stupid like uniforms and packed lunches.

I’ll be right here when you’re done singing, thank you.

I’d gladly jump on the emotional roller coaster again, over packing a healthy lunch EVERY DAY (turns out that doesn’t include peanut butter sandwiches. Wtf?), and trying to remember when PT day is. And ironing uniforms. No way, man.

I seriously considered leaving him at home with my mum till he’s old enough to pack his own lunch. I’m sure she loves it. I mean, she’s bloody good at it. And isn’t that how the female psyche works?

But alas, it’s their way or the highway to jail for not educating your child.

So off I went, lost and confused, into the world of adulting: level 4000.

The night before.
I’m armed with my to-do list and there’s nothing I haven’t thought of. I triple check my extensive list with military precision to make sure my almost 3-year-old brings his A-game to his first day at pre-kinder.

The complete list:

  1. Breakfast at home.
  2. PT uniform.
  3. Pack lunch and fruit.
  4. Carry water bottle.

Uniform has been laid out, his jam sandwich has been sandwich-artisted out within an inch of its life.

Day 1.
I’ve taken the day off to celebrate my son’s coming-of-kinder-age. We walk into the school and are instantly part of the single entity that is a giant finger-crossing, wide-grinning and knee-wobbling parent. He loves it. We run out.

5 hours later, I wait for our regular cab to take me to pick him up. Except his car has unexpectedly broken down at the last micro second. I go from Snoop Dog chill to Tasmanian Devil chill.

I arrive 10 mins late, but luckily telling time wasn’t part of his lessons today. He’s happy. We run out.

Day 2.
I’m up at 3am. We have a leaky-nappy-but-we-haven’t-worn-a-nappy-in-months situation. I soothe his bruised ego and we cuddle in my bed. It’s his turn to hate life, not mine. When morning comes, all is forgotten and we’re super excited for school. The uniform looks too large for his tiny frame. A strand of hair is on strike and refuses to calm down. Everything is perfect.

I may have patted my back too hard, because halfway to work I remember that I did not feed my child breakfast. Lunch isn’t till 11:30am. It is 7:30am. Mum of The Goddamn Year.

Day 3.
Breakfast is ready early; he’s smashing his peanut butter sandwich and I’m smashing this school-work balance game. We’re in the car and I notice a blob of peanut butter on his uniform. Spit. Wipe. Keep going.

Day 4.
My mum calls after she’s picked him up from school at noon. I forgot to pack his bunny “Hops”. He is not happy and the cats in the neighbourhood have been spotted fleeing the area with bleeding ears.

Weekend.
Whatthefuck just happened?

Week 2.
Repeat. With more sophisticated crises.

To the parents who “design” their kids’ lunch boxes, polish their shoes, and make it look easy…

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