A Suitable Boy

I give up. Let someone else pick the next dysfunctional man I date.  Just don’t let that someone be my parents.

After a conversation on the dire state of my love life, my friend Jess suggested letting my friends introduce me to nice single men they knew.

Now, coming from an Indian family I am no stranger to the idea of relationship introductions. My Dad showed me a picture of my future husband when I was 11.

The image of a fat boy ramming an ice-cream into his mouth, as if it was the cure for ugly, made me burst into tears. As it turned out, he wasn’t my betrothed, but some random child who had wandered into the shot.

The arranged marriage ‘gag’ had been born. It would plague me all the way to adulthood.

Initially, there were some golden opportunities for a laugh. Like when my Dad signed me up to Shaadibride.com, an Indian dating website. We would sift through the applicants, who neither cared that I was an agnostic, nor that I drank and smoked.

“They’re desperate!” My dad would cry, laughing. Cheers, Dad.

But the fun would always be short lived. My dad’s thinly veiled desire to see me married to a nice, Indian boy always came out when an eligible candidate appeared. In this case it was a doctor, offering to fly me out to Frankfurt for a date. Then all I’d hear was:

“Why do you hate your people? Give him a chance!”

The doctors always made him crack.

Things haven’t changed. Only last month my Dad was waxing lyrical about the neighbourhood watch officer who had come to give him property stickers. Before him, it was the Olympian flautist he’d met at a wedding back home (playing fast and loose with the word Olympian there, Dad).

Occasionally, my mum will take over and dish out dating advice straight from the 30s.

No, I can’t keep quiet until the wedding day, mum. I don’t want to be a secretary and try to marry my boss. I will not learn to ‘talk nicely’ with ‘boys’. Thanks anyway.

They’re more bothered by me being single than I am.

I can only imagine that the sound of my biological clock ticking away like The Tell-tale Heart, is driving them to madness.

This is probably why I avoid any kind of spinstervention. Historically, they have ended in disappointment. My dad remains optimistic though.  He still insists I don’t stand directly in front of the microwave in case I fry my eggs.

Hope never dies.

 

 

 

Vicious Cycle

The only person you can change is yourself

Einstein once said that the definition of madness was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

You can fall into unhealthy patterns with certain people. I always thought if I tried harder, compromised and practiced patience, things would improve.

But people show you what they’re about. Ignore what they say. Mute and watch.

You’re not supposed to call it. You’re not supposed to change. You’re meant to perpetuate the cycle.

My relationship with my parents is a vicious cycle I have often tried to escape from. The stuff that Grimm Fairy tales are made of. I’ve always been quite wary of people and their intentions as a result.

If it was still socially acceptable to dump a daughter in a forest for not agreeing with you, my dad would be all over that, and my mum would blindly second him.

Why it’s like this is a mystery to me. My parents have always seen me as a troublemaker. My mother says it’s because I was a horrible child. Always crying. Having to defend why I cried as a baby was a particular low point.

I talk a lot. I have a fiery temper. I stand up for myself. I sing in the shower.

Not everyone likes that.

I was always pleasantly surprised by people who enjoyed my company. Growing up, being me was something I was told was offensive to others. The friends with ulterior motives, cheating partners, and bullying exes were to be expected, if I believed what my dad had to say.

It was easy to leave home. But cycles aren’t broken by walking away. You find a way to continue them.

If I kept asking people who didn’t value me what I was worth, I would keep on getting the same miserable answer and feeling bad about myself. There were better people to ask.

Saner people too.

I have had nothing but time on my hands in the last few months. Time to sort out my affairs, make plans for the future and readdress relationships I have had that have been one sided, disrespectful and disloyal.

It’s made me happier, albeit a few friends lighter.

There is no winning at home. If I’m not there I’m ungrateful, if I am there I wasn’t welcome in the first place.

You can’t argue with that.

You can put on headphones on and look for jobs abroad, or somewhere else to live.

It’s nice to be supported and liked by your parents. But not necessary.

My sanity and happiness, I can’t live without.

 

Main Image courtesy of Gratis Photography.

Asian in Asia

It’s 7am and I have a yoga class in an hour. I woke up because of the sea. Living in London, I’ve never had the luxury of waking up to anything other than the sound of urban foxes shagging. Mexico City wasn’t much better. Although sirens were often interspliced with drunken arguments, or thumping music. I didn’t realise how much I love to wake up to the sound of the sea.

The journey to get to Koh Phangan was not as tranquil.

The first night in Bangkok was spent wandering around the Khao San road shopping and avoiding teams of men in matching wife beaters, trying to drunkenly chat up anyone in grabbing reach. People like to touch here, not just drunken Brits out on a stag. I got poked in the boob, had my tattoo stroked and was awkwardly patted by a couple of giggly vendors, who may have been at the laughing gas balloons.

The night in Bangkok was a sensory overload. Lights. Vendors. Food. Massages. Rats. One of which I had an unsettling run in with that left me contemplating how much I really needed my right foot.

It was loud and bright and dirty and seedy. I liked it.

At 5am we were abruptly woken by our panicky Thai host who thought we were going to miss our flight. She had taken the liberty of booking us a taxi that was waiting as we spoke. I don’t think I’ve got packed and ready so quickly. I silently cursed her all the way to the airport.

The journey to get to Koh Phangan was a two fold nightmare. Unlike Alex Garland’s romanticised journey through jungle, jumping off waterfalls and swimming across the island, ours was more pedestrian and disgusting. The waves were dangerously high, so our speedboat jumped along the ocean for nearly two hours. The nausea it provoked was understandable. I regretted inhaling a pork bun and chilli chicken curry on the dock before we boarded. But the real kicker was the synchronised vomiting that began to take place about 20 minutes into the journey. Smiling faces handed out pink plastic bags and tissues, then the pukefest began. It was like the story Chunk describes in The Goonies: one person barfed and everyone else just joined in. It surrounded us and we sunk into our seats hoping we wouldn’t be hit by the spray.

My body’s natural defense mechanism in situations of high stress is to shut down. Much like a possum. Only more like a narcoleptic. I pass out.

When I awoke and drowsily got off the boat there was still another journey left to make. Kerry, had warned me that transport to The Sanctuary was a mafia. It’s lucky I had her and her amazing litigation skills to get me this far.

You couldn’t get a cheaper price no matter how good you were at haggling. What was worse they had decided to hike the prices up, to make the best of all the business that was anxiously waiting. We held out for as long as we could as the surliest driver in the world bitched at our attempts to bring the price down.

It didn’t feel great having to concede and get in the back of his shitty truck. It felt less great as we were hurled about along bumpy back streets out into the middle of nowhere.

Luckily we were headed towards Sanctuary.

So this is Christmas

 

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Not this year it isn’t…

John Lewis and shiny stuff would lead most of us to believe that this is the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas can be pretty wonderful: friends you haven’t seen in years, time with family, spreading joy, giving and receiving, great food, the list goes on. This year my attitude, normally on a par with Buddy the Elf, is a bit more like the weather: lukewarm.

Christmas comes but once a year. At least that was my mantra in past years when I forced a smile when being nagged by my parents about when I was going to meet a nice boy. Or when I was being nagged about when I was going to move closer to home. Or when I was wincing at drunken shouting and trivial arguments. Or when I was joining in on the shouting. I still managed a smile because a week down the line I would be back on a plane and far away. Future conversations could be tolerated. Or at least muted.

This year Christmas feels like it is building up to be Wrestlemania. All the previously small bouts that have taken place lover the last four months will now culminate in this one off spectacular event.

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All things festive

There is no tapping out.

A chair may be employed as a last minute act of desperation.

My plan to hide in the gym was thwarted. I may no longer have any idea what day of the week it is, but most of the normal working world have been counting the sleeps until they could go out, get battered, safe in the knowledge there was no getting up at 7 am the next morning.

This is my life.

Maybe that’s why my cheer isn’t as cheery. The biggest factor in my love of Christmas was desperate relief. The winter term was the longest one at school. After seven weeks of crowd control, marking, observations and prising kids off windows and walls, I wanted to sleep for two weeks. It’s like the Eddie Murphy joke about the cracker you get offered after weeks in the desert.

Christmas was the best cracker I had ever eaten.

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Christmas Hip Hop Carousel

Every day is like Christmas now. In the sense I get to stay at home watching bad television, balancing my finances and drinking anything mulled. All I’ve been missing over the last four months was a festive hat at a jaunty angle.

The traditional Christmas dinner is also a festive selling point.

Roast potatoes, Turkey, Christmas pudding, even sprouts, there’s something about that Christmas spread. It warms the heart.

As I sit staring at the swede that will be the crowning joy in vegan Christmas, I find it hard to get excited.

My brother is an excellent cook. It will be a Vegetarian/Vegan delight. But it’s not quite Christmas this year.

I nearly went full Scrooge when Facebook asked if I wanted to see what 2015 looked like. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

The Ghosts of Facebook Statuses past have helped me to gain some perspective this Christmas Eve.

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Still smiling. Kind of

This hasn’t been my worst Christmas. Not by a long shot.

There was the Christmas Air France lost all my luggage. The Christmas I lost my phone in a taxi on the way to the airport. The Christmas I nearly lost my hand and had to have surgery. Last Christmas, when  I was sent blow by blow details of how my then boyfriend liked to get down in the bedroom, and then had to spend the day comforting him.

This has been quite an uneventful festive season in retrospect.

Christmas has it’s good points. I get to make it magical for my nephew.  I stay up watching cheesy movies and playing board games with my siblings. It’s the only time of the year when I can hit reset with my parents and start afresh. I also get to see friends I love and laugh. Drunkenly.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. If I let it be.

So I’m going to get me some wine and listen to Jingle Bell Rock until the spirit of Christmas, or Christmas spirits restore me to my normally hyperactive Christmas state.
Happy holidays. Get merry. ’tis the season.

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The long road to insanity

The phenomenon of having to live with your parents again  after years of independence, is not something that I am experiencing alone. It’s pretty much standard practice for Londoners, especially with housing being priced the way it is. So when you are changing career and have no income you should thank your lucky stars that your parents will have you. You decide to use those years of worldly experience and let grown up you handle life with the folks. Unless they are my parents that is. No one is mature enough for that. My parents make me wonder how I ever managed to act like a functional member of society for so long. Maybe it’s adjusting to home life again. Indian families, have their own brand of crazy. I don’t know if they are crazy like my folks are though. There was a reason I left so young and so quickly. Sadly, had I put more thought into my escape I wouldn’t have been forced to move back because of finances. Sometimes I feel like I deserve a Pride of Britain award for not spontaneously combusting after a week in their company.

Many a laugh has been had at the expense of our torturous relationship. Friends want to meet my Dad, buy him a drink, think my mother is quaint and traditional. To these people I say: NO. There is nothing cute or eccentric about either of them. If I didn’t know better I would think they had been weaponised to make the enemy go mad in closed spaces. Maybe it’s me overreacting, I’m always being told that it can’t be that bad. I have decided to dole out the crazy in installments, so you can judge for yourself without the harmful side effects.

The never ending noise

As a talkative person who has been affectionately called a ‘big mouth” and inspired more inquisitive minds to wonder if I would ever shut up, I have a pretty good tolerance for noise. It generally doesn’t tend to bother me. I enjoy a good conversation, a stimulating discussion, an impassioned debate, just as much as the next person. Just not all day long. Definitely not if I am not needed to have said conversation. Much less so when it is screamed at me because the other participants are almost completely deaf. This is where my Dad is a viking. He doesn’t need an audience nor a conversation opener it would seem. He often starts in the middle with “So I told him…” It takes a while before I even realised the conversation is aimed at me. When he tries to have a discussion he thinks calling me a moron is helping to develop the debate. This is normally when I tap out and put my headphones on. He does get sulky when he can see you’re ignoring him, which often leads to very animated discussions with the television. When he and my Mum ‘talk’ it could be easily misinterpreted as an argument. The police have been called more than once. Occasionally he bursts into song which then makes my mother burst into song and we then have a Bollywood sing off at 9pm. Delightful.  Imagine this all day every day. I no longer leave my room if I am home without a sibling.

Practical Joker

When I was a teen it was the bane of my life. The fake letters in the post, the phone calls, the ‘hilarious caricatures’ where I was covered in acne and arm hair. What every sensitive 14 year old girl needs. My Dad can actually be quite a funny guy, but too often it’s at the expense of someone else and you need to remind yourself, he is a small old man whom you will gain zero satisfaction from killing. He is constantly making up songs about how I have no friends, or how I am stupid, but to a jazzy tune like Copacabana, so it can’t really be seen as cruel. Nothing sounds mean when sung right? Wrong. It’s actually the karaoke equivalent of “Why do you keep hitting yourself?” You can only be called an idiot 27 times in a row before you start developing a twitch. I know. I have tested it out. In an attempt to save my sanity I have started smoking again, Unfortunately unless I start smoking crack or dosing myself with Ketamine, it won’t be enough. My Mum feigns sleep, only having a sneaky peek to see if she can sit up and finish off the rest of the peanuts before he comes back to share his latest joke. He doesn’t need you to be awake to talk at you…

Over Sharing

Since I can remember being able to understand my Dad’s anecdotes about his reckless youth, I have begged my father to keep his personal life and sexual commentary to himself. He retells it like the Adventures of Emmanuelle, only it’s being told by a man who isn’t wearing his teeth yet. Player Player.  I doubt the film franchise would have had the same international success, had it been told by a wheezy, 76 year old Emmanuelle. No one needs to know that, nor do they want to picture that. The number of times I have wanted to stab myself in the ear after some comment my father has made about some scantily clad woman on the TV, or when he has managed to crowbar in a story of his sexual hey day, well I would have slowly stabbed myself to death. My cries of “Inappropriate!” are ignored. I am a prude, it would seem. According to him, once you pass 18 everything gets put on the table. Maybe this is why most people leave home around that age. Now I am back and using his electricity, the only way out of hearing it, is to get up and go. He’ll remember though. Next time I am hungover and unable to move on the sofa, he will pick up where he left off and there isn’t enough Rohypnol in the world…

Human compost heap

Both my parents seem to think that I double as a garbage disposal. They are both impulsive shoppers, easily swayed by a BOGOF campaign. My mother is the worst offender. She will come home after one of her walkabouts around London, with an bag filled with random snacks that have taken her fancy and will then proceed to push them on you like her life depending on your consumption of these goods. “Have you had a Battenberg?” She will ask this question seven times in a day, often minutes after the previous time and then finally approach me in all severity, pause the telly and instruct me that it is my job to eat all the remaining Battenberg as it now stale. After three hours. The same is done for any food in the fridge going off. Many a time have I walked into the dining room to see a plate with a stale cake, a watery looking piece of fruit, some hummous that I didn’t know we had and a packet of Golden Wonder, and walked back out before she could make me eat it. When I have returned later in the evening I can still hear her ranting about her ungrateful children and my dad’s inability to force us to eat food. The key is to wait until they’re asleep and throw the food into the recycling bin. She seems to be so much happier in the morning and if I fake stomach cramps I get a cup of tea thrown in to boot. Ironically when she gets food that we all love, we are all rationed one piece each and god forbid you should eat more than your share. Believe me, there is hell to pay when that happens.

Tomorrow we will cover drunken MJ impressions and learning shame. For now I have managed to convince myself to take a walk to the pub. It’s what a grown up would do.

Why didn’t I just show her the video of the sneezing panda?

  I have been promising my mum that I will show her how to use the internet for over a year now, well, I say promising, I mean threatening. She is happy to only listen to Capital Gold, which is now playing music from the 90s I hear, and likes to give anything you plug in (with the exception of the iron and microwave) a wide berth. A few years back she finally came around to the idea of owning a mobile phone, which was a huge leap for her. Sadly, she still seems to think it will switch itself on when messages arrive and keeps it in a handbag in her wardrobe for safe keeping. I would just give up, but after years of sporadic contact through Skype (her looking frightened, then slowly and awkwardly over enunciating questions about my eating habits) or the occasional letter reminding me to be demure and quiet if I wanted to trick a man into marrying me, I decided something had to be done. So, as one of various summer projects, I have decided to be her spiritual guide on her journey towards dominating the web. Worst. Idea. Ever.

Why I decided to start with Youtube I don’t know. Maybe because I thought I could show her some videos to make her laugh, move her from radio to moving image. She’d been looking through wedding pictures from a mate’s wedding on my dad’s iPad and seemed to be feeling comfortable with the new technology. Suddenly she remarked ‘This isn’t what a South Indian wedding is like.“ Seizing upon this opportunity to get her online, I suggested that she show me what a traditional wedding looked like and talked her through how to find videos on youtube. Big Mistake. What ensued was a self-inflicted hour of my mother sharing her disappointment at not having a daughter who was married yet through pictures and video. I managed to ‘accidentally’ close the Youtube window of the wonderful obedient girls who had married when my dad got involve. All of a sudden I was being held hostage and shown poorly videoed footage of my cousin’s wedding, while my mum explained each stage and my dad explained why the flute player was excellent marriage material (‘He played at the opening ceremony of the Olympics. What do you think of that?” Strangely enough dad, not much.)

My mum has tolerated my ‘special friends’ for years in the vain hope that I would eventually stay still and quiet long enough to trick one into marriage; for some reason she equates finding a man to marry with killing gazelles when I am concerned. My recent break-up seems to have spiraled both my parents into a panic which forces them to remind me that I won’t be attractive forever and that my eggs have an expiry date, facts that aren’t welcome at the best of times, let alone when you’ve broken up with someone you love. When we finally got to the last photo my mother exploded “These are your people! This is what we do! So just look happy and accept it.” This outburst was promptly followed by her trademark narcolepsy, robbing me of the opportunity to say anything in my defence. It was like a ‘You-should-be-married-by-now’ drive-by. In retrospect, not being in touch when I’m out of the country may not be the worst thing that could happen.