Here comes the bride.

This past week was dedicated to a family wedding. My sisterfriend Ruch got hitched and I was there to drink all the free alcohol.  As a bride she was flawless, she had every base covered as far as style went thus reminding me of my own wedding several years before – and how I managed to make one bad decision after another when it came to figuring out my ‘look’. Here now is the story of the biggest fashion faux pas committed by me on my wedding day: Continue reading

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When a woman becomes a wife.

As a married woman I am sometimes asked, “how do you know that he is the one?” Well the truth is that you never really know, but there are some clues that you may have made your final selection. Married or not here are some helpful hints that you have turned in to a wife:

1. You start using the pronoun ‘our’ for stuff that clearly belongs to him.

2. You develop laser like vision out of the back of your head. For example, you are at a party, your husband is standing in another room, yet you know exactly when he is chit-chatting (in his idiot way) with a woman more attractive than you are.

3. You also develop a scanner, like the ones they have in super-markets, and when your man comes home from a boys night out you can scan him for any trace of activities that you had previously forbidden.

4. You hack in to his e-mail, Blackberry, Facebook, and bank account without fear or guilt.

5. His minor hangovers mean that he is an alcoholic. Like that uncle of his twice removed.

6. You stop caring about being too hairy.

7. You constantly insult his parents, his siblings and his friends.  Yet he is not allowed to say one word about yours.

8. You sound annoyed when you speak to him.

9. You realize his taste in everything is deplorable.

10. And in some rare and extreme situations of wifeyness you fart, announce you are off to take a crap, and afterwards do not bother with lighting matches, lighting candles, cleaning the whole bathroom or taking a shower to disguise the stench. In fact you are quite happy to leave a skid mark just to show you were there.

 

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The meek shall not be inheriting the earth any time soon.

‘I think I may be close to failing my squat’, I moaned to Coach Margie Lempert, a strength coach at my gym.  For those of you who do not lift weights, ‘failure’ is the inability to move a particular weight and it happens to everyone at some point.

Margie listened politely and then simply said, “You know what – you’re strong, you’re just timid.” I was too shocked to ask for an explanation, and then her client arrived and she had to go, leaving me on the training platform with the bar and my insecurities.

A few days later – and totally unrelated to my fitness regimen – I read about a phenomenon called SlutWalk. For the uninitiated, SlutWalk is a protest march that originated in Toronto, Canada. The impetus for this movement stemmed from the words of a male police officer, who during a talk on safety uttered these words, “…women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized…”.  Instead of blaming SHITTY law enforcement, the officer blamed the victim, and instead of lying back and taking it a group of women got together and decided that they were going to dress like ‘sluts’ and march in protest of this blatant BULLSHIT.

The idea caught like wildfire with SlutWalks being hosted all over the world, and I was delighted to learn that a young Indian woman had organized a version of SlutWalk in our nation’s capital. With one of the highest rape stats on the planet I truly believed that this would be a good thing – our girls were taking matters in to their own hands and actually doing something about it. I was truly proud to be an Indian woman. And then, just like that, I read something that infuriated me – there was opposition to SlutWalk in India!

Sure I expected it, but I also expected the objectors to be men, old ones on their way out! But instead I came across these gems on the Internet, spouted by, of all people, Ms. Shobha De – a woman, and an educated woman at that: “Naming the protest ‘slut walk’ degrades women even if it has shock value,” AND “It’s a campaign driven by women in the West. It does not connect with women in the Indian context.”

Let me deal with this CRAP one turd at a time.

The fact that Ms. De is being so literal about the word ‘slut’ is just embarrassingly OLD-fashioned. That she lives in a world where the word degrades women tells me that she is out of touch. It is laughable that she thinks ‘slut’ has shock-value! What year are we in again? I for one have been using the word ‘slut’ as a compliment for ages and am pleased to report I am not alone. By doing so I do believe we devalue it as an insult. The way we did with the word ‘bitch’. But I am guessing Ms. De isn’t aware of that either.

She then has the nerve to tell us that it’s a campaign driven by the west and that we Indian women won’t connect to it. Here is what I would like to know – Ms. De, what are you smoking and might I have some? There is nothing western about the fear of rape, it seems like a very eastern concern if you ask me. The only people who can’t relate are the rich who live in safe zones that only money can buy. And seriously – if you have your La Perla undies in such a wad over SlutWalk, then come up with a better idea than just a half-arsed critique of this one.

But it isn’t just Ms. De. It’s a bunch of other people I have spoken to since then. Many think that we ladies are up in arms over nothing, and that there are ‘bigger’ problems for us to deal with. Really? There is a bigger problem than basic safety for HALF our population? Like it or not India is a country where a woman has to worry about what she wears, because if she doesn’t she might end up with the wrong kind of attention. And until our women are safe it is not an equal society.

Margie was right, timidity will get us nowhere. Being good, nice little girls who do the ‘right’ thing will get us nowhere. Worrying about what people think of us will get us nowhere. I applaud Ms. Sabarwal for having the balls to organize this protest in the face of all the opposition. Regardless of the outcome it shows me that young Indian women are no longer willing put up with a corrupt, inept police system and instead, like their Canadian sisters, are staging a fight for their BASIC rights.

SlutWalk may not be the answer to all our problems but it certainly got a reaction. And that’s a start. As for me, well, I did fail my squat. But I’m going back tomorrow and this time I won’t be afraid.

 

 

 

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HAWAII (or the holiday that confirmed I am a huge wimp)

I had given up on ever visiting Hawaii, there were too many reasons to not go. It was a 10-hour flight, if we had to go that far then we would have to stay for at least 10 days, and if you work in America then you know that this means you can’t really go anywhere else for the rest of the year, and then how on earth would we go to India and visit all our friends and family members who we see every single year, and it was bloody expensive.

So we lived in America for 10 long years without ever considering Hawaii as a serious holiday destination. Until our friends Vish and Carolina moved to Honolulu.

Within five months of their move we were waiting in line to clear security at Newark International Airport, congratulating ourselves on what a great idea it was to visit Hawaii. It was after all the perfect vacation spot, a mere 10 hour flight, which was nothing in comparison to the 17 hours to India, the islands had micro-climates (I had read) and we had better have a peek at those before global warming ended it all – so the relatives could wait, and most important of all we would be sponging off Vish and Caro’s goodwill.

Our plan was to spend half the holiday in Honolulu and the other half in Maui. Honolulu would be the ‘active vacation time’ – snorkeling, SCUBA, horseback riding, hiking and all the adventurous things we fancied ourselves to be ‘in to’. Maui would be laid back, ‘relaxed vacation time’ – my husband could continue with his active life-style and I would get stoned and lie on the beach for four days. Now that’s what I call balance.

On day one, Vish decided we would go snorkeling to Hanauma Bay.  The rental shop told us that the bay was rather choppy that day and suggested an alternate, equally beautiful venue. Vish decided that these professionals had no idea what they were talking about and chose to ignore their advice, and we, following along like sheep, agreed.  We arrived at Hanuma Bay ready for a day of underwater discovery. Because the bay was declared a protected marine life conservation area, we were shown a short film, instructing us to please, for the love of God, not step on, touch or steal any of the coral.  The film also told us that sunscreen would damage the coral and wasn’t great for the fish.

We hit the beach, and out of respect for the Hawaiian people and their island,  I abstained from using sunscreen until I had finished snorkeling. My plan was to spend at least an hour in the water. I strapped on my flippers and mask and waded in to the water.  It was clear with good visibility, good thing we hadn’t listened to those twits at the rental store.

Less than 5 minutes later I was wishing we had. The water was rough and with my minimal swimming skills I was being flopped about like a rag doll. I decided to get back to the beach and reassess the situation. On my way back (I had a total of maybe 20 meters to go) I got shoved by wave, instead of calmly floating along with it I panicked and tried to stand up thus pounding my knee in to a jagged piece of coral. It was frightfully painful but I was more concerned I might be arrested by the coral police.

I didn’t think it was possible until it happened – I fell ashore, with my arse in the air, my face in the sand, one hand uselessly grabbing at the beach lest I be pulled back in to the water, the other desperately gripping my bikini bottom, lest it get dragged out to sea without me in it.  Once I had salvaged my dignity I inspected the gash on my knee. It was more a deep scratch but it stung and bled like no-one’s business. Good thing I got out of the water – I may have been eaten by sharks.

I hobbled back to where we had left our things, dried off, discovered I had already sustained mild sunburn, slathered on the sun block and stayed put for the rest of the day, loudly letting my hosts and husband know that I was merely warming up and that I would be more active the next day.

Day two was dedicated to SCUBA diving. Vish had already booked us on a trip out of Waikiki. Traditionally, I have had to douse myself with anti-seasickness meds before embarking on such projects, but for some reason, I thought I was over that sort of thing. Assuming that positive thinking was all it would take to keep nausea at bay I sallied forth.  I was green around the gills halfway to the dive point, but I kept this to myself, thinking that once I was in the water, I would feel better.  Unfortunately if you are sick the last thing that will make you feel good is salt-water, and I ingested a whole lot of it during a mask-clearing and regulator recovery exercise.

It took every scrap of my positive thinking to appreciate the few fish we saw. All I wanted to do was get back on dry land. I saw our guide give us the ‘thumbs up’ sign, which, in SCUBA lingo, means we were re-surfacing. I was over-joyed – until I re-surfaced. The water is much jerkier the higher you go, and as I waited my turn to be hauled on to the boat, I started to feel queasy all over again. The next thing I know, I am vomiting INTO my regulator, taking it out of my mouth wasn’t an option because I was still semi-underwater and would have drowned.  It was more disgusting than you can imagine but damn it felt GREAT!

After feeding the fish (as vomiting is politely referred to by the diving community), I refrained from the second dive. I wrapped myself in towels, and with my water bottle in one hand, the other clinging to the railing of the boat, I stayed put, my eyes on Waikiki beach – a static object I couldn’t wait to walk upon.

As I sat there, praying for this wretched day to end, I made up my mind – I wasn’t going to be engaging my carcass in any activity that did not involve solid ground, and my two feet as the mode of transport.  I wasn’t cut out for this. I am a drama-nerd/couch potato, not a jock, and there was no shame in owning that.

On day three, the activity was horseback riding. I stuck to my guns and declined participation. I was happy to accompany my hyper-adventurous friends and spouse to Waimanalo (another breathtakingly gorgeous part of Oahu), but that was it. I wore a sarong to the ranch, so there was absolutely no way I could be talked in to it once we got there.

By this time my husband was in his element. He had not gotten seasick, had seen giant sea turtles, had snorkeled without a major injury, and in comparison to my sissy-girl turn, I could see his machismo was peaking.

On our arrival at the ranch the owner, the lovely horsewoman Elizabeth, asked Vish, Caro and Deepak to give her an idea of their riding skills so that she could assign them the appropriate horse. Carolina admitted she was a novice, and wanted a ride with a calm demeanor. Vish (a tad blustery, I thought) said he was ‘fairly experienced’, and Deepak announced, that while he hadn’t ridden in a while, he had ‘grown up around horses’.  I grabbed a beer, and hung out with the stray cats.

Because Elizabeth doesn’t have any help at the ranch Vish and Deepak did the decent thing and offered their assistance in getting the horses ready.

“Hey Elizabeth, how can we help?” asked Vish, as he and Deepak swaggered up to her.

“Hmmm, how about you guys saddle up those two horses.” She suggested.

I was silently impressed with the confidence both men exhibited at getting this job done.  They grabbed the blanket, saddle, reins and some other horse-related items. My husband threw the saddle over the horses back (let’s call the horse Percy). They then had to strap the saddle to Percy, but something seemed the matter and they couldn’t figure it out. Percy stood there benignly while Deepak and Vish both walked around him several times, scratching their heads, peering under Percy and whispering to each other, it was obvious they had no clue.  I watched this Mutt and Jeff show from a safe distance.

After saddling two steeds, Liz walked over and discovered that Deepak, the man who had grown up around horses, and Vish, the man who was fairly experienced, had combined their limited intelligence and flung the saddle on to Percy back to front. I was delighted with this. I had been feeling a right loser – and while I was still no Indiana Jones at least I wasn’t alone.

The following day we left for Maui, where I was to connect with my friend Orli and her family. “Rad”, Orli said on the phone, “just to be clear, I like to stay put in one place, once I am on the beach I won’t move.”

Finally! Something I knew I would be good at.

PS: Go to Hawaii. It is the most beautiful place I have ever seen.

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Pressure to be funny.

Last week a friend of mine asked me, “Do you feel pressure from other people to be funny all the time?”

I lied and said “Absolutely not.” This is rubbish obviously. I do feel pressure to be funny at all times, in the shower, at the gym, at work, on stage, at the Chiropractors office, and later this week on the flight to Hawaii I know I will, at some point, feel the need to entertain a fellow traveler, or flight attendant. However, I have learnt over time that this pressure doesn’t come from other people, it comes from within.

This need to make others laugh is primal. It gives me a bigger kick than almost anything else I can hope to experience with my panties on.  I am willing to say pretty much anything for a laugh and when I am drunk I will DO pretty much anything. This flaw/trait/annoying habit is hard to live with 24/7, and many people feel sorry for my husband. I don’t because I know that he will find peace with all this eventually.

Thanks to audience feedback (both actual theatre audiences and unsuspecting people in my life) I am well aware that there are many people who don’t find me funny (which is why I am forced to end many stories with the line ‘it was funny at the time’). This is terrible for my ego but an excellent life lesson. The lesson being ‘you can’t please all the motherfuckers all the time’.  But I live by the leave-no-stone-unturned’ rule and so I will usually try until I am absolutely certain they want to hit me.

I am most likely to make, and laugh at, jokes about bodily functions and incest. And I feel sorry for people who think this is lame and/or puerile. My comedy colleague Billy once told a story about a dream he had where he and his dad were taking a walk and they saw a dead bird and his dad suddenly picked the bird up and started fucking it.  I thought this was hilarious. I was the only person in the club that did.  I also find regular sex jokes funny but not as funny as incest-ridden sex jokes.  I keep thinking of making a list of stuff I don’t find funny but I can’t commit to anything just yet. Let’s say I’m pretty open-minded.

What made me like this? Was it the many years spent as an unattractive teenager desperate for attention, or is it the only-child-syndrome, or am I genetically predisposed to this condition of needing to make a spectacle of myself for other people’s amusement?

I think it is because I have no other skill. Some people can do math in their head, others can sing, and still others have big tits.

For better, but mainly for worse, I need to make you laugh.

PS: My show ‘Unladylike: The pitfalls of propriety’ is back onstage June 16 @ 8pm. The Producers Club 358 W 44th Street (b/w 8th & 9th Ave). Tickets at http://www.unladylike.eventbrite.com

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What a shitty bunch we are.

My friend Asa is a Swede.  I love hanging out with her because despite the fact that she has lived in India forever, is married to an Indian (hot boy), and has two delightful half-Indian encumbrances she has lost none of her Swedish disbelief over what a strange bunch of people we Indians are. She once asked me in her lovely Swedish accent and voice, and with a look of genuine puzzlement on her face,

“Why do you people HAVE to shit in the morning? “Why are you all so obsessed with this?”

It had never occurred to me, but viewing my people through the browney-green eyes of my Scandinavian friend I had to admit that we Indians are weird like that.  The morning dump to an Indian is what afternoon tea is to the Queen of England, a sacred ceremony that must take place at a particular time otherwise what’s the point?

While I can’t speak for all Indians I will say I have my own reasons for wanting to go before I leave the house. First of all – has anyone seen the public crappers in India? They make the Port Authority bus station toilets look like – well Buckingham Palace (can’t be helped the Royal Wedding just happened).  There is no way any self-respecting middle-class Indian lady such as I would shit in any of those, I could manage a #1 if push came to shove but I would rather shit my pants than spend upwards of 45 seconds in a public bog.

Then there is our upbringing.  My dad, a pilot with very early morning call-times, designed his morning routine around evacuating his bowels.  He knew that an hour later he would be airborne and any urges at that point could prove fatally distracting. My dad being one who shared a lot of what was on his mind put in place an environment that encouraged conversations about defecation, no detail was too minor to be ignored – size, color, consistency and any other pearls you may have wished to cast were all eagerly listened to, commented up on, and sometimes – admired and envied. He also created an air of competitiveness and would mock me if for any reason I missed my morning movement. To him this was a weakness, a failure on my part, and the reason for all my problems.  When I was a teenager he blamed my mood-swings on my not-like-clockwork shit-cycle.

So, to answer Asa’s question – there is no ONE good reason for our fixation but rather a host of variables that shape what we think, feel and do-do.

Any Indians reading this are free to share their views. I love hearing about this stuff.

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Tourists.

As an Indian I have 1.2 billion guests per year (well it fucking feels like that). These are my friends and family members who have come all the way to New York and are ready to ‘discover’ the greatest city on earth. They are tourists and they all have a few things in common. To begin with none of them want to do ‘touristy shit’. But I have managed to convince them all to do precisely that. They fold like accordions when I remind them of what happened to the WTC. Go see it while it’s still around.

On day one my intrepid travelers rise at 5am (earlier than they have ever have) thanks to jetlag.  They decide that since they are awake they should make the best use of the time and so they start their day early. Out by 9am they have sailed across to Lady Liberty (who on closer inspection looks like a dude by the way), they have been bored to death at Ellis Island, they have held the Bull’s balls near Wall Street (and usually think they are the only ones to have come up with that daring idea), they have shopped at Century 21 and they have eaten a bagel and a pretzel and are disgusted with both.

On Day two they wake up a little later, drink loads of coffee, then realize they have been dilly-dallying, and in a surge of adrenaline they leave the apartment to take in the wonders of The Empire State Building, Central Park and Bloomingdales.

On Day three they are exhausted. They wake up at 10am (if that) and decide to take a ‘day off’ from the ‘touristy shit’. They now want to hang with me and do stuff the locals would do. Translated this means that they want to sit on their arses all day because they are fucking knackered.  This is simply because they have never walked this much in their entire lives.

Welcome to New York, a walkers paradise where walking is our main mode of transit.  Unless you are willing to pry your eyes out of your head and sell them to afford cab-fare all day long you will need to accept the fact that walking extensively is part of the holiday.  No one tells you this ofcourse and locals talk about a ‘few blocks’ in a rather cavalier fashion thus giving our guests the misplaced notion that there isn’t that much of it to do. In addition to walking there is climbing. Into and out of subway stations.  All in all a holiday in the Big Badass Apple is physically draining.

I feel bad for my tourist friends, and for all tourists in general. Not only have most of them never walked and climbed this much, but on top of it all they have no idea of our ‘walking rules’.  For example you will see a family of five walking down a street in the same formation they would be in if they were seated in a theatre – in a row, right across the sidewalk, ambling slowly along, looking straight up at the big buildings and billboards, unaware that a local is trying to get past them.  They don’t know what ‘single-file’ means. They don’t get that we treat other people on the sidewalk the way most people treat cars on the street. And so they get bad vibes thrown their way.

As a local I like to make tourists feel welcome. I am nice at all times, I accept that they do not (in most cases) know any better, that they are good people with no idea what the fuck hit them.  And so I breathe deeply and try not to push them out of my way.  But I hit my wall and the limit of my patience in Time Square.

See Time Square is technically outside our jurisdiction. It wasn’t built for us; it was built for them – the tourists. If there is one nabe within which they can get away with blocking the walkways – this is it.

I avoid TSq at all costs but my one-woman show runs in a theatre that requires me to walk through this area, and rather than frustrate myself trying to push past tourists I, like so many of my fellow city-dwellers, have devised a method of walking through Time Square. What I do, to avoid tourist-rage, is I exit the subway and try and find another agro cow like myself, I then tailgate her all the way from 7th Avenue to 8th Avenue.  I allow her to fix the pace – when she slows down I do too, when she picks up speed so that she can take advantage of a small gap in the crowd I keep up.  If she walks I walk, if she runs I run.

It’s like being an automobile that accidentally slipped in to a high-security convoy.  And now that I don’t have to navigate anymore it’s easier for me to stay calm and enjoy the people who have respectfully come to visit my beloved city.

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