Thursday, 27 March 2014

All are whole, but some are more whole than others

I am waiting for that perfect topic to plop into my mind before I write here again. But it isn't. And meanwhile I can't stop thinking about a short sketch a blogger friend posted, a semi-fictional conversation between two little girls discussing earrings, one of them complaining about her mother allowing her only glue-on ones and no piercing. A perfect storm of thoughts and memories in a teacup.

For a whole bar of chocolate

My ears were pierced in my fifth year,  and my memories of the event are very clear, it happened at my maternal grandfather's house, one of my elder cousins, my mother's sister's daughter, was also pierced, just before me. We both had to sit on the floor on a small square rug, behind us our grandfather's bed against the large window, and before us our mothers and the stranger who did the piercing.  I remember nothing about him except that he wore a somewhat soiled dhoti.  My cousin cried a little.  My aunt promised us a whole bar of chocolate each if we didn't cry or make a fuss.  I remember becoming apprehensive at this point, if adults were willing to give such recklessly huge bribes, then it had to hurt like hell!

When my turn came I sat on the rug and the man pulled at my ears, first on one side and then the other, and I felt a prick while he marked out the position on the lobes.  I kept waiting for the terrible pain for which only an entire bar of chocolate could compensate enough.  But he did nothing further and turned away, I remember the smell of Dettol, but not my lobes being cleaned, and then my aunt handed me the chocolate. It was over.  The first blood had been drawn.

I remember being mildly disappointed when I looked in the mirror next, there were only bits of black yarn threaded and knotted through the scabbed hole, no fancy earrings like the grown ups.  I don't know when I got actual earrings, my first pair were tiny hoops in gold, which my mother substituted with small silver ones when I started to walk to school by myself, maybe around six or seven. She had heard or read of a little girl's lobes being torn open when her earrings were snatched by a mugger.  I liked my silver earrings better than the first gold pair because they had a small crystal embellishment.  At that time, silver was as good as dross. The assumption was no-one would want to steal them.  

I wore those all through school, till I was sixteen, never thought of taking them off, or trying a different pair.  Studs and danglers were totally no-no, as was costume jewellery.  The whole idea of a child/tween/young teen possessing a range of earrings was inconceivable.  I didn't see the women in my life changing their earrings often, from my grandmothers to my cousins, everyone had a pair stuck on their ears forever it seemed, I never consciously thought about the ornaments.  I started with my brand of special cluelessness pretty early.  

I took off my hoops first when I passed my school certificate and went back to Delhi.  At that time, it was all the rage to wear nosepins and many young women I knew got their noses pierced.  I didn't, though if anyone had asked me why, I wouldn't have been able to articulate a reason.  Over the years there I acquired maybe three or four pairs of silver studs to rotate as and when I liked.  That felt grown up and almost decadent.

You're not quite whole without some extra holes

I vaguely disliked going out with bare ears, or even with the wire hook earrings which left the holes visible.  For a long time, I disliked also that compulsion that I felt I was under, to wear earrings to cover my lobes.  Pretty much a no-win situation.  Some neuroses are good for a decade, some others more long term and greater value for money.  One learns to pick and choose ones complexes as one grows, that's one good thing about ageing. Nowadays I don't give a (insert preferred expletive here, I can't think of anything strong enough right this minute) either way. 

But the thing is, women who don't wear jewellery make people uncomfortable in India.  I remember standing, bare-armed, bare-eared, by my mother's bed when she was very sick indeed, just before she got diagnosed with her cancer, and a visiting doctor remarking on my unjewelleried state, asking why my arms were bare.  I remember being out with an aunt and her telling me that I was not fit to be seen in public because I had forgotten to wear my earrings that day. She insisted that I buy a cheap pair and bung them in right then and there, which I didn't, but all the same I felt like an idiot, like my slip was showing.  I was unmarried then.  The expectations regarding jewellery wearing take a quantum leap after a woman is married. Let's not even get into that here.

And the thing is also, women who wear too much jewellery or the wrong kind of jewellery make Indians equally uncomfortable.  A young adult woman wanting to get multiple piercings in her ear is likely to be opposed by her family, the same family who have got her lobes pierced as a religious ritual at age one or three or whatever.  A niece who wanted a tattoo and a piercing for her 18th birthday didn't get either ultimately because no-one in the family approved (including me! I dislike tattoos! henna is so much cooler). Either way we can't seem to let our women just be themselves.

The problem with any piercing is that it is a mutilation.  It alters our bodies permanently.  Any piercing done in childhood impacts our acceptance of our own bodies. "Look, your ears are not pretty as they are, they need things to hang down, stick out, loop over, loop under, to make them look presentable." That's the message, and we pick it up.  However clueless, however unconsciously.  It took me years to realise that bare ears can be pretty too; better bloody late than never.

Of course, jewellery and piercings and extreme decorations are all part of self expression, about choice and rights.  Any adult should have the right to do whatever the hell she pleases with her own body.  Adult.  That's the operative word here. Not a four year old or a 16 year old.  Not even an 18 year old who is dependent on her parents still, or who might change her mind two weeks later.  

As I was writing this post, my husband came in, so I asked him whether, if we had had a daughter, he'd have considered piercing her ears.  

"Pierce? ears? Wha-? What for?" he looked at me with a is-that-a-trick-question-what-are-you-up-to-now kind of expression and then satisfied, said,"Nah. Not under my watch.  Besides, any daughter of mine can damn well pay for it herself."  

What for.  Exactly.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Right, that's decided then... and my vote goes to..

Spontaneous and laid back, that's what I am going to be here.  No pre-scheduling, no agonising over topics, just be, just breathe.  Write whatever rubbish I feel like, edit or not if I feel like, no-one's going to read it anyway.

I read much stuff on blogs, mostly written by young people, I am way over the age of the average blogger, and so I am reading the gen-next's or Y's or Z's language instead of the antiquated version that  oldies like me use.  A lot of poetry floating around in the blogosphere, and I read many poems, asking to be voted up some forum or the other.  I am fresh from an excruciatingly painful read, not poetry, but something that promised the reader that it will show them (me) how to write better, and then veered off into such realms of errors and fuzziness that I clicked away feeling a little disappointed, cheated even. It was my first time there,  and the last.  

Therefore, this morning I am just going to spell out what is more likely to get my vote and what is a turn-off.

  • Poor spellings and SMS shorthand.  However modern and cutting edge the language may be, I will click away after the first line if I see "you" spelt as "u".  i cnt fthm t 2 sv ma lf, cn u?  I don't think so! I can't be lovin' lovin' and ain't too much either, unless it is part of dialogue.

  • Plainly wrong language.  No-one has any business to write poetry if they don't know the difference between conscience and conscious. Correction, no business writing anything at all.  The vocab must be sorted first thing. 

  • Forced rhymes. Especially if the poor heads of verbs in the present tense are knocked into a "do" or "did" for the sake of the rhyme scheme.  Like so

           The moon did shine
           over the skyline 

       Forced rhymes are off-putting.  Tremendously.  

            Poems don't have to rhyme 
            Every. Single. Time.

      Just saying.

  • Peppering things liberally with archaic words just because the poem is a medieval fixed form verse.  Thy and thine have been replaced for more than a century now.  Just because a sonnet or a rondeau is being attempted doesn't mean it must have thee and thy and doth and maketh all over it. Maketh me despair and tear out my grey tresses by the handfuls!

  • And if I see "thee" in one line and "you" spelt "u" in the next, well I am getting right out of there with my life and brain intact, never to return again.

  • The poem/post is more likely to get my vote if it doesn't use formal words unless absolutely necessary, such as "depart" instead of "leave". The tone of the writing should  match the words used, using a lot of long words in a nursery rhyme would be quite suicidal for a poet if they want to be read and memorised by children, for example.  Simple language works better always, at least for me, and I suspect for a lot of readers, even adults.

  • Muddled up tenses, particularly use of "had been", "was" and "is".  Mixed up time frames in prose is difficult enough to wrap my head around, in poetry it is excruciating.  Thanks, but no, thanks.  I am off to read something that requires less effort to decipher.

In a former life, for a couple of decades, I was a market researcher writing reports.  Like all things, market research has its good and bad points, its own takeaway in writing, and its life lessons.  When clients paid for information, there was little scope for poor communication, even less for inept language, verbosity and grammar errors.  Client satisfaction depended on being able to see established things from a fresh angle, to strike the right note, to communicate the right information crisply and simply, error-free both in content and style.  Only if I got it right would the clients come back again. Repeat business was one way of measuring organisational and individual effectiveness, my job depended on it.

Writing poetry and writing a business plan seem poles apart at first glance. But they are not.  Nothing is more pared down, crisper than a poem, the same old concepts of love and heartbreak and human foibles looked at from fresh angles; here too poor communication means the poem falls apart. Here too the need for the right note, the language  clear and error-free, the content matched to the style seamlessly.  Otherwise, the reader doesn't call back.  

Monday, 17 March 2014

Crazy, or what?

Why would anyone want another blog?  When she can't quite figure out the one she already has?

I don't really have an answer to that question.  All I know is that there was this button - and I clicked it and thought I would do it right this time round. Get a name that really reflects the blogging purpose, and my purpose in life overall.   So I typed in Just Lu(r)king which is as fitting a name as any for my online non-persona, I am not yet sure if grata or non-grata.

However, to get back to the point, I typed that good lu(r)king thing, and it so happened the address is not available.  A million people are lu(r)king here, what do I know?  So I just put in the next thing that came into my mind and presto, I have a blog. Another one.  Oh. My. God.  What am I ever going to post here?

Not poetry, that's for sure.  Am I fed up of having the poetry take over everything in my life, never moving, never budging, nagging on and on! Even my son is pointing that out.  (Ma, you know you write too much, too many poems are bad for you.  Here, try playing some flappy words. Or maybe he said boards? birds? whatever)  So, no thank you!  No poetry here! Gerroff, gerroff, shoo!

For the rest, I can't promise anything.  Probably whatever drivel that happens to come into my head.  So long as it does not rhyme.  As you can see, I am keeping my options open.

How many blogs does one person need to survive? Sheesh.