Saturday, December 18, 2010

Birthday Thoughts: The Mellowing Of A Man

It was in June 2005, if my memory serves right, that I first visited Bangalore. I wasn't married then, I hadn't started this blog yet, I didn't know I would be writing books in the immediate future, I wrote a weekly column for the Sunday magazine of the paper and the occasional cover story, Gmail/Gtalk had only just arrived and I was still using Yahoo mail/messenger, and, above all, I had recently bought a laptop and got internet connection at home.

In short, those were the good, carefree days when I had all the time in the world and no worries. As soon as I would get home I would sign into Yahoo messenger and chat, at times all night, with friends who were online. Occasionally, I would log on to the public chatrooms of Yahoo, and mostly go to the Chennai rooms, to fish for someone interesting.

By 2005, though, the novelty of chatrooms was wearing off and they were only flooded with men desperately looking for an erotic chat or to hook up with willing women. Hardly any woman signed in unless equally desperate, which is something rare. This wasn't the case, though, in the early years of the decade when chatting with strangers on the internet had suddenly become the new pastime of computer-friendly Indians and you could run into some of the most intelligent and well-read women in these chatrooms.

So that night, a few hours before I was to take the Shatabdi Express to Bangalore, I logged on to public chat and went to one of the Bangalore 'rooms', hoping to find an additional reason to look forward to the visit. Luck was on my side. I found Ms X who, the moment I pinged her, was kind enough to leave aside other men she might have been chatting with and pay attention to me. We got talking. In an hour or so, the conversation shifted from the internet to the phone. In about another hour, we had planned when and where to meet up in Bangalore once I arrived. Throughout the conversation, she kept on repeating, "But you must know, I am not that kind of a girl." To which I kept replying, "When did I ever say you were that kind of a girl?" Whatever 'that' meant.

What happened next, many people who read me in New Sunday Express might remember. But for the benefit of those who did not, I'll do a quick rewind.

So I met Ms X in Bangalore the next evening. She was good-looking and all, but if I were to describe her in one word, it would be buxom. We had coffee and cutlets at a restaurant, after which she had ice-cream. Then we found ourselves at Bangalore Central, the mall. I looked at shirts and jeans, but found nothing that I would badly want to possess. As we were leaving, I asked her if she wanted to buy something.

"No, nothing."

"I will buy it for you."

"No, nothing. Let's go."

"Are you sure?"

"I want a pair of black trousers. That's the only thing I don't have. But I couldn't find them here."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I was looking around. They don't have it."

So we left Bangalore Central and proceeded to Brigade Road. There, we entered a shop where I bought myself a T-shirt and again asked her if she would like to buy something. She fancied a particular pink top, and I bought it for her. It was expensive, but never mind. After all, I was the one who suggested that we meet. I was now all set to say, "So it was nice meeting you" and was itching to get back to my hosts in Bangalore who had planned out the rest of the evening for me.

But as we climbed down the steps of the shop, Ms X said, "But this pink top, it will go best with black trousers. Will you get me black trousers too?"

The question aroused the sadist in me. I wanted to punish myself for having got into the situation. And so, that evening and the evening after were spent in search of a pair of black trousers for Ms X. We did not miss out any shop on Brigade Road and Commercial Street, yet we failed to find a pair of black trousers for her.

The problem was her waist size, which she said was 36 inches. But size 36 turned out to be too tight in the wrong places, while size 38, which very few shops stocked, was too loose. Oh, the torture of waiting outside the trial room as she tried out one pair of trouser after the other, in one shop after the other. We took the search into lanes branching off these roads, yet no luck. The search eventually ended a few months later in Pondy Bazaar in Chennai, but that's another story.

Upon returning to Chennai, I wrote about my trouser-hunting experience in the paper. The next morning, my phone was flooded with text messages by the time I woke up. "So the next time I want to buy clothes, I know who to ask," teased one friend. "Can't believe that an assistant editor of a paper is writing about all this," fumed another. By and large, people were amused and so was I.

Today, however, I would shudder at the thought of reading such a piece under my own byline. How could I seek the company of a total stranger, and then write about the encounter, that too in the paper! Today I wouldn't describe such an encounter even on my blog. There are times when I visit the archives of Ganga Mail for some reason or the other, and find myself quite surprised reading some of the stuff I've written in the past.

Marriage, I think, acts as a filter. Today if I happen to go to Bangalore alone and seek an encounter with a strange women, I am not going to write about it unless I've lost the desire to live. But that's the only filter that marriage introduces as you transform your thoughts into words -- the personalised becomes generalised. Otherwise, even after being married, I've written lengthy posts on subjects such as love, sex, marriage, fidelity and infidelity (or the inevitability of it). And it irritates me no end when, from time to time, well-meaning people ask me if my wife reads my blog. When I tell them she does, some ask, "Does she say anything?" Others ask, "Doesn't she say anything?"

But the real reason why I feel horrified or embarrassed at the thought that I could write something like that back then, lies in a three-letter word that most people dread: age. Today, even if I were not married, I would not go to a public chatroom and waste time there, least of all to seek the company of a stranger in a strange city. Initially, the idea of meeting a buxom beauty (and the possiblities such a meeting may hold) may be exciting, but soon the thought tires you out. What for -- I would ask myself. And even if I were to undertake such an adventure, I would never write about it. What for -- I would ask myself again.

I can feel the age. When I arrived in Chennai a decade ago, I was only a few days older than 30. I was new to the city, the city was new to Yahoo messenger -- it was so much fun. But whenever I signed into a chatroom, where one is expected to give out age/sex/location so that the other person could decide whether to respond to you or not, I would always identity myself as '29/m/Chennai', or '29/m/new to Chennai'. I was finding it very difficult to accept the fact that the first digit of my age should now begin with '3'. Even though the ages of 29 and 30 are separated by merely 365 days, the psychological impact on you (as well on the person you are seeking to chat with on the internet or elsewhere) can be tremendous. For a very long time I remained 29.

Today I don't have the slightest desire to cling on to 39. I am looking at 40 with my chest wide open: "Come, stab me! Kill my 30s and take me along with you." Forty is so much fun. That's when you realise the importance of having fun and actually work towards it.

The idea of fun, though, might differ. At 40, it no longer matters how many people you are with, but who you are with. The circle of people you know might expand but the number of friends shrinks drastically. Above all, you no longer brag or boast, but would have learned the art of discretion.

12 comments:

Paresh Palicha said...

BG, this is called maturing :-) you need not be embarrassed by what you have written in the past because that is what has brought you here. And, above all it means that you have lead an interesting & colourful life, not bland like others who may even post silly email forwards just keep their blogs active.

Happy birthday in advance. :)

Anonymous said...

BG, why have you left the readers asking for more. What happened next? are you still in touch with the woman? and most importantly, how can you still think of that woman with such kindness considering that she appears to be more of a gold digger, who wanted to get a few of her expensive outfits purchased by a stranger?

Sudeep Chowdhuri said...

Dear BG,
Paraphrasing Shakespeare, “The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks”. It therefore seems that the arms which are welcoming the ‘XL’ decade are not as wide open as you would like the audience to believe.

For the adventure of the ‘buxom’ lady one can reuse the above quote verbatim - “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”. Would someone who was not ‘that that kind of a girl’ need to emphasize it time and again?

Is it any wonder the story elicited much agitated response? Consider the facts – which man would meet an unknown lady, spend a day shopping with her, pay for it (the shopping I mean), and then ‘just’ go back home. The story should not have ended there, and you do hint that it did not end there, but then leave the reader in complete darkness as to what happened in the Chennai chapter that followed.

Obviously readers were agitated, and felt fit to do the written equivalent of throwing stones at you – why did leave the last chapter to the imagination?

margee said...

fortunate at forty...!
a good job ! a rewarding career !
a loving wife...sea of creativity flooded with freshness evrytime..
unlimited fans ...
if at forty one gets so much...I would ask magic to turn me into forty too..although m barely 23 !!!!
ur write ups comes as a surprize...
THUMBS UP !

Anonymous said...

Ganga mail in some way is your autobiography.
Usually autobiographies are written at the fag end of one's life. It is done so as the experience of life could be well narrated if you have lived it wholesomely.
People like you dont wait for life to catch up with you.
Instead you capture life-Ofcourse in instalments.
Ganga mail is an Autobiography in instalments.
Be it in instalments or in its entirety,people who have not lived their life the way they would prefer, find outlets to be critical.
In other words if your life had been a celebration,you would not have ventured into confessions.
The other day i read the autobiography of Tennis ace, Andre Agassi.
He says he hates tennis.Imagine he had won Wimbledon, US open and other tournaments hating the game. He had earned millions of dollars not out of love for the game.
May be till 39 you have been looking at the thorn and not the Rose.
You start saying, “It is impossible! The rose must be a dream, the rose must be MAYA, illusion, hallucination. How is it possible amongst thousands of thorns, how is a rose possible?” It looks contradictory, it looks illogical, it cannot happen in the nature of things.
At 40 now, you spin a different story.
You admire the audacity of the rose to emerge among the Thorns.
LIFE is a Rose at 40.

Janani Sampath said...

grown by leaps and bounds... good luck!! Iam sure much more is in store for you, buddy...new innings...(oops, watching the test match can't help this ;))

cheers

Soumya said...

Hey! I vaguely remember this one! Something about the girl gesticulating the required size difference by saying 'only this much'...?
Though it was amusing, I had thought that it was a mean way to end a relationship. Probably she isn't/wasn't a reader...

Deepika Munot said...

Trash your rear view mirror!! And let me tell from experience the 40s rock!! The insecurities of youth are gone, you like to pick and choose at leisure, being finicky is acceptable. The breathless anticipation is gone and tho' that might be considered as a jaded stage i feel its more that one can now be a connoiseur and indulge than having just a mad hunger to pacify.
Besides this just your travlogue of the journey called "Life"!!
Bon Voyage!!

Amrita Sabat said...

Nice post. After all, writers and creative ppl tend to have a more 'colorful' life....& y not? how els would biographies & blogs & written wrks be filled with immaturity & maturity all at the same time?! when we think 'why should i', then everything goes out the window. at least wen the 3 -letter word proved u younger, u did unabashed things lik this wich evoked all kinds of responses. thankfully at forty, u hv these things behind u......u hav ripened....40/m/connoiseur of chennai...:)

Frustrations Amalgamated said...

http://dreamzanddesires.blogspot.com/2010/12/transitions.html

Anubhuti said...

Now I need to read about trouser hunting in Pondy bazaar. In any case trying to get a size 36/38 in banglore is futile, for that you must come to Delhi, where many a buxom women adorn them with much pride !! You might also find some such companion here, wether you blog about it or not remains up to you. ;P

Anonymous said...

hiii SPARKLING MAN...

this is the power of ageing..the magic in THE WIFE, the heaven in THE ANGEL(daughter), cloning( son), beauty of friendship and mystery of girlfriend (stricklty no "s") all will be known by the time we sail and reach 50..
-sam