Wednesday, May 30, 2007


I am not going to write about sex for a long time now. This I had to write because a question sits heavily on my chest and I need to offload it. The question, necessarily asked by women, usually the married ones, is: "What if the man gets to know his wife is doing the same?"

The reference, as you can see, is to men who have no qualms having an extra-marital fling or a relationship. In other words, men who sleep around. And the question is thrown at me because I strongly believe, as may be evident from many of my posts, that the instinct of getting physical with someone does not recognise the barrier of marriage.

Marriage is an institution, perhaps a sacred one; and we all know how boring institutions are, especially the sacred ones. If you went by marriage as defined by these righteous women, then being married is like sitting obediently in a classroom, staring at the blackboard and nowhere else. But wouldn't you also like to hang out in the college canteen and eye the girls?

The point is, it is impossible not to succumb to outside charm if there is a functional brain in the head. It is very human. Men who claim they 100 percent faithful to their spouses are either lying or haven't had the opportunity or are scared of being caught. And women who claim their men are 100 percent faithful are either lying or ignorant.

Scared of being caught: if that's what prevents men (or women) from straying occasionally, I would still consider it as infidelity, because the mind has already strayed. In fact, fear of being caught is, according to me, the biggest reason for spouses remaining loyal, especially in a society like ours where people are nosy. Another reason is love: if you love your wife, you don't really fool around. But every once in a while, the head and the heart refuse to listen to each other.

How a man finds a way out between his urges and fears -- it is entirely upto him. Discretion helps a lot. But those who have to do it, do it anyways. Now, what if they find that their wives are doing the same? When this question is usually thrown at me, the woman on the other end perhaps thinks that I would be stunned, and that there would be lots of background music, Kyunki saas bhi kabhi bahu thhi-style, and that with my head hanging, I would realise my folly and come to senses.

The answer is simple: if the wife wants to be upto something, she will be. The fidelity of her husband will never be a factor in deciding whether she should succumb to the charms of another man. There might be other factors though -- such as the fear of getting caught, or people talking about her, or simply excess love for the husband. But just because a man is loyal is no guarantee that the wife will return the favour.

In my experience, most women who love the attention of men and like to spend time with them are the ones with sweetest hubands -- men who eat on time, sleep on time, make love dutifully on specified days of the week, and buy gifts for their wives and take them on annual holidays.

Women whose husbands are the opposite, the wild sort, spend most of their time keeping their husbands in check -- they are so occupied keeping other women at bay that they are completely oblivious of other men. Even if the other men were to shower attention on her, she would not indulge them, because she knows how terrible insecurity is, and she does not want to subject her husband to the same. Most often, they are the ones to throw the cliched question: "What if the wife did the same?" The question, perhaps, is born out of insecurity. Those secure enough, meanwhile, have all the fun.

Having said that, let me also add that sex, like death, is beyond analysis. You never know how it happens, when it happens and, where it happens.

Before I finish, a few things I did not know about sex but got to know this evening, thanks to Cosmopolitan magazine. Such as:

-- Men as well as women take 11-12 minutes to get aroused.

-- A woman's libido begins to drop once she is in a secure relationship.

-- Vaginal exposure to semen could help improve your mood.

-- The average length of soft penis is about 3 to 4 inches. The average length of an erect penis is about 5 to 6 inches.

-- Women fantasise more during sex than men.

-- Sex reduces joint pains.

-- Women are more likely to lie about their sex lives.

-- Weight-loss increases the apparent length of the penis. For every 35 pounds lost, you are longer by an inch.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Wind

For two months now I have been carrying in my wallet a piece of paper on which I had copied out a passage from William Burroughs In Extermination! I don't know why, but I felt captivated by the prose and since I don't borrow books, I copied it to reproduce it here:

Under a dim moon and dim stars I walked down to a clearing over the sea where I made love to a girl some nights before. She could not have known that her romantic middle-aged lover was actually a stranded pederast who had experienced considerable strain in fulfilling his male role. Anything is better than nothing is a very bad approach to sex. I stood there hearing the sound of the sea several hundred feet down at the bottom of a steep slope, feeling the wind on my face and remembering the wind on our bodies, the wind that is life to Puerto de los Santos. Los Vientos de Dios, the winds of God that blow away the mosquitoes and the miasmal mists and the swamp smells. The winds of God that kept the great tarantulas and the poisonous snakes at bay. The natives have a saying: "Wind die. You die. We die."

Saturday, May 26, 2007


woman noun an adult female human being.

Is that it? Is that why I am wasting my time for, rather, living my life for -- for adult female human beings? Makes me feel like a caveman, rather a chimp, who can't distinguish one female chimp from the other.

If I could rewrite the dictionary, the entry under woman would read as: "Species that drive the world. The earth might be revolving around the sun, but they make the remaining inhabitants of earth revolve around them."

Men are destined to revolve. The chase for a woman might seem to be a linear path that terminates in a "and they lived happily ever after" scenario. But if you view the chase from a space station, it would consist of never-ending circular motions. The man who has a chatty woman will revolve around the silent one. The man who is blessed with a member of the species that measures 34-28-36 will salivate in circles for the one with 38-32-40. Most often, in this part of the planet, the middle figure is not so relevant. Men who are paired with 5'4" look up to 5'8". Men whose women write poetry run around women who wear mini-skirts and read Cosmoplitan; while men whose women read Cosmopolitan want their paths to collide with women who read poetry.

You know what I mean. No, I don't mean that grass is always greener on the other side, or that men always look for variety. (I don't mean any of them at least in this post). What I mean is that women are the nucleus of this planet: no matter who they are, they always have a bunch of men revolving around them. Even if it is a plain woman who, for the rest of the world, does nothing worthwhile other than cooking at home and fetching water from the village well. She too will have a handful of admirers -- they could range from the village dhobi to the son of the headman.

Everybody loves women. So do I. In fact, if you care to go through the archives of Ganga Mail, it would appear that I love them more than anyone else does. And that's because I say so. But that was not always the case with me. In school, I was known as a shy boy. I distinctly remember that trip: I was in class eleven and, having the cleared the written examination for the National Defence Academy, I was called for the interview and aptitude tests to Varanasi, where I met fellow candidates of various ages. The stay lasted for about five days, and during the evenings, we would go to the town to watch movies or stroll in the streets.

One day outisde the movie hall, some of the older candidates bought cigarettes. I was shocked that they smoked. A bunch of girls passed by. Everybody stared at them. Suddenly, the senior-most in the group, a boy from Assam, caught me looking too. He clapped and pointed at me: "Dekho, dekho, yeh bhi dekh rahaa hai (See, see, even he is looking)!" A dozen pair of eyes turned to me and they all burst out laughing. As if I was not supposed to look.

Actually I was not supposed to. I considered staring at girls the most undignified thing to do. When in class ten, going for tuitions on our bicycles would be the only outing we had, and most of my classmates feasted their eyes on every 13- to 15-year-old girl that was found on the streets. I remember telling them: "What pleasure do you get by staring?" Maybe I did not know then. Or maybe I knew better.

During school and college days, many classmates went to movies just to watch Sridevi and Jaya Prada. "Kya maal hai," they would say. But I would choose my movies depending on the hero. And come on, when you had Amitabh Bachchan in a movie, did it matter if Rekha, Hema Malini or Sridevi was the heroine? And there came a time when the entire nation had lost its heart to Madhuri Dixit. I didn't. I worshipped Jackie Shroff, and had watched many of his movies alone.

That is why, for a very long time, I would find myself trying hard to think of names when posed with the question: "And, who is your favourite actress?" You could have interchanged Hema Malini of Satte Pe Satta with Rekha of Suhaag and nothing would have changed in either of the movies. Zeenat Aman could have been in Amar Akbar Anthony while Parveen Babi could have sang Aap jaisa koi in Qurbaani. The films would have still been hits.

But today, if someone asks the question, I have a ready answer: Tabu. She may not be glamorous like Aishwarya Rai, but she is good-looking and intense (if I were to watch old movies, I would prefer Geeta Bali over Madhubala, even though it is impossible to escape the latter's spell. Geeta Bali, mildly plump and with a naughty expression, was the girl next-door). If I were to be marooned in an island with Aishwarya, I would wonder: "She is gorgeous and all that, but what do I do with her?" With Tabu, there would be no such doubts.

For some reason, I also like Sandhya Mridul. I have seen only one film of hers -- Honeymoon Travels -- and I think she is a thinking man's woman. So sad that her husband in the movie turns out to be a gay. Another woman I fell for was singer Antara Choudhury -- singer Salil Choudhury's daughter. I saw her at a concert in Chennai: she downplays her good looks with grace, and her only ornaments are humility and a smile. Wish God makes more women like her.

That makes me wonder: what's the kind of women I crave for, or revolve around? To be politically correct, considering my marital status, what's the kind of women I would crave for, or revolve around? Here's a short list:

1. Women who are not the obvious object of desire for men. The obvious ones are such a turn off because they know they are being eyed by all and are thus so consumed by vanity that they are good for nothing else -- other than looking at the mirror.

2. The ones who are zaraa hatke -- somewhat different. The ones who can wear Fab India and carry it off with an attitude as if they were wearing Ritu Kumar. But on evenings they really wear Ritu Kumar, they make even the regulars of designerwear look pale.

3. Dusky women. Not that I have anything against women who are fair: just that I don't consider fairness as a synonym for beauty. Dusky women are so appealing. You can call it a quirk.

4. Women who wear glasses. (And who remember who take the glasses off just in time).

5. Women who write well -- or at least take pains to articulate their thoughts in writing and not make excuses like: "Come on, am not a writer like you!" They must remember that in the olden days, handwritten letters, crafted with a lot of effort, were the sole expression of the soul.

6. Women who don't care about their looks. That's when you can get on with business.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Writing And Making Love

From Ernest Hemingway on Writing:

"Eased off on the book . . . in May because Dr. said I worked too hard in April, and May fine month to fish and make love to Miss Mary. I have to ease off on makeing love when writing hard as the two things are run by the same motor."

-- to Charles Scribner, 1948.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Lost Pen

Exactly a year ago, with a great measure of smugness, I wrote a post titled Pens. It glorified the fountain pen and boasted about my collection. Perhaps I went overboard in my boasting, and in the process cast an evil eye on my own collection.

In the 365 days that have passed, I got poorer by six pens. Five of them I lost while shifting to the new house. I was heartbroken, but didn't quite shed tears over them because I still had a pair of Mont Blancs intact. One was gifted by my wife on the wedding day, and another by a friend as a wedding present. They more than made up for the missing pens, even though the missing pens had stood me through thick and thin, tolerating my mood swings and writing all my stories till the laptop came and forced them to a permanent place in the pen-holder.

Today, one of the Mont Blancs went missing too. The one wife had given me: I had even got my initials engraved on that. How it went missing, I do not know, but I know how it all began. Wife was packing up to go to Calcutta -- for a stay that is short enough not to make me feel miserable missing her, but long enough to enable me to relive my bachelor days. After she left I slept for a while and woke up to find dark clouds outside the window. The wind was throwing things off the shelf in the kitchen. Soon I smelt wet mud. I looked at the clock: only 5 pm. I got down and asked the driver to take me to Landmark, the bookshop. Chennai had never been so cool in months.

I bought four CDs and a book, Ernest Hemingway on Writing. Not my kind of book exactly, because I would rather try to write like Hemingway than read his reported views on the art of writing. But it was cheap, only Rs 288, so I bought it. Back home, alone, I sat on my table and switched on the laptop and, while it took its time opening, I browsed through the book. Instinctively, my hand reached for the pen-holder to find a pen and sign my name on the book. That's when I realised something was amiss.

It is not easy to buy another Mont Blanc: the model I had would cost a chunk of my salary. Even if I have the money, could I buy the sentiment that had made my wife gift the pen? But I guess I deserved losing it. Pen is not jewellery which you keep in the safe and take out only to wear on special occasions. The pen is a vehicle of your thoughts, and it is meant to be used. If I had used it regularly, I would have known where I had kept it the night before. But how can I guard it when I am myself a prisoner of the keyboard?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Marriage Versus Myself

I'm back. I better be. A few more weeks of absence and I would have forgotten my Blogger password. And a few months later, I could have found myself telling people: "I also used to have a blog." If that really happens, who should I blame? Myself, or marriage?

Technically, myself. Because I have all the time in the world to think and to write. And my wife does not whine when I sit at the computer. In fact, she wonders what's wrong with me the days I ignore my laptop. The late nights still belong to me, and nothing stops me from pouring a drink and start writing.

But psychologically, I would blame marriage. I might have all the time in the world, and I might have a wife who recognises my need to write, even if it's a blog post, but of what use are they if I don't get the urge to write? When you live alone, you are at constant conversation with yourself. And the conversation shakes your mind like a soda bottle: the contents are bound to spill out, in the form of writing or whatever. But when you have a partner living with you, and when you have a conversation with her, it is like mixing the soda with whisky: you drink, you are high and happy, you have dinner and go to sleep. Tomorrow is another day. Life goes on, and then one day, years later, you look into the mirror to find an entirely different person than you had believed yourself to be.

Moral of the story: soul-searching might lead to happiness, but happiness could be the biggest impediment to soul-searching. And without soul-searching, there would be no creativity. Is that why most creative men are so unhappily married? I am not seeking to generalise, but going merely by instances recorded in history, East or West. Einstein was a compulsive womaniser, and so was Picasso. Our own Khushwant Singh, on the other hand, is a compulsive talker about womanising but has been a faithful husband and has led a happy life – is that why he turns out such bad, albeit readable (because of the gossip), prose?

Tagore had his share of lovers; while Satyajit Ray was madly in love with his favourite actress till his wife confronted him about the affair and he fell at her feet, literally, to apologise. My favourite writer and singer were married four times each – that is Hemingway and Kishore Kumar. Down South, the most creative of actors and directors, Kamal Hassan, has already been married twice and is seen these days in the company of actress Gowthami.

The list of unhappily married celebrity men is very, very long. The latest addition to it is Aamir Khan, whose second marriage, according Stardust, is also said to be in doldrums.

But the list of happily married men is also very long. But it does not consist of celebrities I aspire to be. It comprises mostly of friends and relatives, who fed themselves so much on happiness and contentment that their waistlines swelled and their chins doubled and tripled. And an expanded waistline is the biggest enemy of productivity/creativity.

I once had a friend who studied journalism with me in Kanpur. In fact, I owe my career to him, in the sense that while we were still in college, he had coaxed me into coming to Lucknow to meet the editor of a paper. The editor happened to be out of town the day we went, and I gave up. But the next morning, my friend was again at my door, at 6, asking me to get ready to take the bus to Lucknow. I hurriedly got ready. We finally met the editor. I got the job, he didn’t.

A few months later, he managed to get in too, as a reporter. I envied him, for he was a reporter, while I was deskbound. But his father envied none of us: he sought the ultimate happiness for his son – a government job. So a promising reporter became a clerk in LIC. The new, ‘secure’ job was rapidly followed by marriage and a kid. The last I saw my friend, even though he lives in the neighbourhood, was 10 years ago: happiness and contentment radiated through his potbelly. He had no desire left in life: he had reached his destination. I was happy for him.

But the problem with creative men is that they have no fixed destination: they are vagabonds whose happiness lies in unhappiness, and who go wherever life takes them. They can never plan things like, “Ok, for five years I will work in this place, and then I will take a transfer back to my hometown, where I shall live happily ever after.”

That’s because a plan means topping one-fourth of a glass of whisky with soda. Whereas creativity means holding just the whisky: you have no idea what you are going to mix it with – it could be tap water or soda or Sprite, depending on the circumstances.

And life, post marriage, becomes a plan. You no longer listen to your heart, but only your head. And that’s when it shows on the waistline. If I were to listen to my head, I would have stopped blogging. The head would have reasoned: what do I get out of blogging, except for getting 25 readers? Isn’t it such as waste of time, when you could spend that time doing something constructive? But there is a heart that reasons: isn’t it great that you are able to reach out to 25 people, who share your thought process? What can be more constructive than that?

I would rather listen to the heart. Listening to the head would mean forgoing the little pleasures that life has to offer.

What, then, happens to creative women? Are they also faced with the same dilemma as men? Of course, they are, only that their sentiments rarely matter. Even today, even in cities, where women are supposed to be on par with men, it is the wife who settles for whatever job comes her way each time the husband gets a transfer or wants a transfer to a new place. Marriage itself is usually a transfer for her – to a place she night not want to be in. But then she opts for the transfer sportingly because she knows that’s how it is supposed to be.

Not only that, a woman also has to pretend to be happy in marriage, even though happiness, as I just said, could be an impediment to creativity. A man can nourish his creativity by proclaiming his supposed unhappiness to other women, who provide him the zing that he is looking for; but a woman can’t make such proclamations, for the simple reason that she will be seen as loose or horny. So they suffer.

In other words, it is so much easier for a man to balance marriage and ‘myself’, provided he has the brains. But a woman gladly settles for ‘us’ rather than ‘myself’. For example, here I am, cribbing about not being able to blog regularly because of marriage, but how often do I pause to think of the things that my wife is not able to do after her marriage to me?