Thursday, January 03, 2008

The ugly duckling

Ramesh's stall was the haunt for more than one ideas floating in the sky. Located in one of the most busy shady lanes of the Jaipur of the days of yore; yes, I am that old by a certain yardstick. The hometown had, at least till the time it was not "malled", few places that one could safely sit and drink without any interruption... or distraction. The railway track behind the busiest mall at that time, the underbridge on JLN Marg and Ramesh's stall to name a few. I could imagine a certain Romeo & Juliet hiding behind a certain bush or wall-like structure. But this is not a good post so do not imagine nostalgia. Of course the underlying theme or the platform for this one is indeed nostalgia but the story is more important given something that happened last night.
I was sitting with one of the girls who is a good friend. There was something important that she had to discuss and was pretty grave a situation. Promise is what keeps me from divulging the details.
From nowhere, I made a small point - You know (friend) I am not one of those sexy people.
Girl: Yes Kirit, you are not sexy, I am sorry but you are not.
K: Yes I just said that. But then we are not discussing me, we are discussing them.

I like my friends for they do not hesitate to talk to me the way I prefer. But then I started wondering is that one of the reasons people don't talk to me. That is just flinging arrows in the dark dust, often a self-indulgent exercise but at times crippling the mind with the thought of being unsexy!


Let me recount a story that made me sit up and love myself all the more. One of those many anecdotes I am carrying with me and rarely speak unless shaken. Penny knows that bit very well.

So that day, Ramesh's father was taking care of the stall. Fondly referred to as "tau" (uncle in English), he was a laugh riot because of his dialect and histrionics. Once many a people caught him verbally assaulting a dog as the poor creature had nicked a matthee (a thick cookie). Tau love dogs so he could not have hit him. But he struck a Thor pose with his spatula high in his hand and hurling abuses at the rate of 4.5 every 2 seconds while the scared canine just stared at him. So, on the road, Tau trying to be a menace, devilish fella hurling abuses at the mortal soul down below besides his feet trying to make sense of whether he should run or stay or eat the damn matthee is one of the best live cartoons I have ever seen.


Sorry for telling you the stories of Tau the great! Yes, that day was different. I just had a fight with my then girlfriend called Prajakta. It was not her but one of those ugly friends that every girl has. Ugly, devilish and the one who keeps on asking, "I do not know how or why does she like you?" She said something that annoyed me. This was the time I had gotten rid of the flab and fat. From 88 kgs in school to 72, I was pretty darn slim and could wear anything now. And I had done this, to an extent, so that I have a wider acceptance than what was bestowed upon me by the others. I was so stupid! But more stupid was this girl who told me, bluntly, that it was out of pity that Prajakta had said yes to me. I, by definition, am a big loser, average looking and most importantly, totally unsexy and uncool [sic].

Now my reactions to statements like these are nothing more than bouts of extreme silence which kill me. There are various situations I imagine in my head with different voices, all trying to create a big chaotic confusion. And so I retreat. Where? I could not go home and surely couldn't see my friends at GT. So I head for the theka (wine shop), buy myself 3 beers, and head for the railway track. Not satisfied, I go back home in a dizzy state, albeit a quiet one. (I have a bad habit of talking a lot when I am drunk/dizzy/high)

The next morning was a pleasant one; the mud was still damp because of the 6am showers. And there were my favourite clouds - white with patches of grey - playing hide and seek with the blue sky that appears all the more blue after rains. I said, this might uplift my mood and head out with Jenny (my diary) to the tea stall. No college!

I ask for a kadak (strong) adrak chai (ginger tea) and a matthee to start with as I open a fresh page of the journal with the new black sharp-tip pen I had bought on the way. And my mind asks questions that have no definite answers. What is beauty? What is sexy and cool? What makes one acceptable? And just what the fuck is unsexy? YOU, KIRIT, YOU!

Hmmm, ok, that works but I still do not understand why was I made like one?

Tau: Badee baatein likh raha hai. Kay ho gaya?
(Writing big words, hunh? What happened?)
Me: Nahee bas aise hee. College jaane kaa man nahee thaa aur aaj mausam achcha hai, isliye.
(Nothing. just like that. It is a good day and I did not wish to go to the college.)
Tau: Oye tu kavi-type cheezein mat kar, padhai kar, paise kamaa aur matthee khaa.
(Listen, don't do things like those bloody poets. Study, earn money and eat cookies.)
Tau had a point but this post is about sex appeal or beauty. And let me tell you the connection - the molestation episode in Mumbai.
So, it has been few hours, guess 2-3, that I have been sitting in the shade of the neem tree and enjoying a beautiful afternoon. Pure bliss.

Joining me now are two police constables on a fucked up Hero Honda CD 100, the maximum mileage bike at one point of time. As a biker, I have always hated that piece of shit they called a motorcycle. My favourites were IND-SUZUKI and Kawasaki. They were having a pre-evening time of their own on a good day. Within few minutes of their arrival, two fifteen-year-old girls came running to them. The two were students of a government school nearby and were on their way back home. They looked tense, unpleasantly, the sorts where you are not shaking but disgusted and a bit wary of what is going to happen next. Not the serious kind of tense. One of them was shaking a bit, but that was because of anger. A lot of people including me have this tendency.

"Those hooligans are teasing us, they do so everyday," the girl shouted at the policeman. Small towns are sensitive and there is still some civic sense. Unlike a place like Delhi or Bombay. A bunch of young, teenaged loafers used to wait at a spot for these girls. And then the usual stuff that follows is disturbing for the young girls. That day was perhaps some limit. Some physical exchange and then some verbal exchange must have pushed the girls to shrug their tolerant innocence and retort. Obviously, the police in sight helped. The boys quickly hid.

The senior policeman sends his junior to fetch the boys the girl is complaining about. He comes back with two, both of whom somehow show no remorse.

Tau: Oh teree himmat kaisay huyee in bachchiyon ko chednee kee!
(How dare you tease these girls?)
Tau was asked to sit quietly by the policemen and in their typical, relaxed style, they ask those two grinning boys what happened.

Boy1: Sirjee, nothing happened. We do not know what the fuss is all about.
Girl: He is, this is the boy, this is that sick boy who makes this road difficult for us everyday. Punish him sir, take him to the station. He and his band of leering, crass and equally loafer brothers.
Policeman: What's the matter you little romeos?
Boy: Sir, have you looked at her face? Just look at her face! Who would even give a second look to this ugly duckling, let alone tease her?

And they all burst out in laughter...
For a moment, I was frozen. There was a young girl yet to live her puberty laughed at by a bunch of foolish males. Within a moment, the policeman changes his expression and snubs those two little rotten bastards. He lets them go with a warning and tells those two girls to go back to their respective homes and are free to come back if these guys do anything. Tau gives his warning too and I just stare with disgust.

I very well remember the girl had not spoken a word since the disgusting remark. she was stuck with silence, and as her friend grabbed her arm towards the home, she treaded as if transformed into a zombie.

Something told me that she was used to this remark. I would have been frozen and in a fit of anger, thrashed the motherfucker who called me that. She did not. She just walked away. I did not see her looking up to the Almighty, nor there was a face swipe suggesting she wiped those tears off. Was she crying? What did she do when she got back home? Did she punch the mirror, smudge the kohl, or shout at anyone thereafter? Or did she retreat to the shell? The proverbial cocoon of the imagined utopia, morbid or heavenly, where wishes are spoken irrespective of their nature of good or bad. Where one can imagine the self to be a Gandhian figure or a demonic resurrection. Was she there or did she get back to the mundane chores of the world the next day? I wanted to know as much as I did not.

Tau growled and minced his words as he continued to swear, the dog continued to bark, the policemen continued to laugh and then were lost by me in the dust of the dusk. And so was the girl. The ugly duckling.


This incident came back, with its own learnings. No this is not about moral science nor beauty-is-skin-deep, art of life preaching. This is about someone whose identity was wiped out in her head forever because she was ugly. Or so was she called. How does it matter? The girl would have been married by now to a man no less than the one who abused her. I hope there is someone better in her life and that she has not given up the hope of looking good for herself. Or feeling sexy about herself. No, we as humans do not see what is there before our eyes, we see what is in front of our eyes.

And I am still unsexy! Let me tell you it feels great... not being one of them. And I can still find a chai and matthee and those days at Tau the great's stall. (No one has ever met Ramesh, you know.)

Sheesha dekhne se mujhmein chaar chand lag jayenge kya,
Bhagwan ne yeh shakal dee hai, main toh isee mein khush hun.
(Would looking at the mirror add eternal beauty to my face
God has given me this face and I am happy with it.)
Tau the great