A Strike of Life

June 23, 2012
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Dressed in what resembled traditional south Indian attire (hardly), I walked into the hall full of old people, spotted with your occasional kid running around, and newly married bride. It was your typical Tamilian grihapravesham (housewarming), where all the ancient people were present to strictly scrutinize and criticize. As I entered, I felt their eyes turn to me for a minute or two, no doubt analyzing my appearance and my family, and trying to remember what they had heard of me in their past gossip sessions.

The women, all on one side of the hall- talking and chattering, swallowed up my mother immediately. Lost, I looked around for my father, but he had disappeared too, probably with the other men present. Before I could even say “F*** my life” I was hustled by someone with quite a strong grip. I turned to see a quivering old lady, decked in a gauzy green sari and sporting bangles, chains, big earrings and a humongous red bindi going “How big you have grown! Such a pretty girl now, just like your mother. Which school are you studying in?”

I guess she misinterpreted my credulous expression for a mixture of happiness and confusion for seconds later she said “Oh, you don’t remember me? You used to come to my house every day when you were 2 years old! I am your favorite mami (aunt)! Now do you remember?” Thinking it was the best way to escape the situation (read: scary old woman) quickly and effectively, I answered “Yes, of course, how could I possibly forget you? Granny talks about you very often.” And that was when the grenade exploded. I was surrounded by ten other women who started asking me similar questions, but their enthusiasm seemed to evaporate rather quickly when I told them I was 16 years old and studying in a boarding school in a different state. They turned from me to my mother, and started questioning her instead. You see, I am a young girl belonging to a well-off Iyer family that shouldn’t send me off to a place all by myself especially if that place has boys.

All these women, who clearly showed no interest in my life while I was growing up, suddenly have so many objections as to how my parents are raising me. It infuriated me, and I just stood there wondering why these women could be so bothered about other peoples’ lives. All through that brilliant Tamilian lunch-on-a-banana-leaf I sat, quietly pondering the situation life had put me in. I wished very much that I could tell these women it was none of their business and that just because I am a girl doesn’t mean I should be kept at home until I get married and sent off into another Iyer family, like they were. My temper began to rise consistently and I grew quieter and morose. In short, I grew into what I am today.

Today is a different story. I never attend these social gatherings. Society in my perspective is the most horrendous of human creations. It is the cause for the eventual doom that is to befall us. And yet humans are social animals. In the big picture, society is like a teasing predator, playing with its meal before consumption. And we are the unfortunate unthinking toys, carrying about our lives with your everyday Noddy and Mr. Plod, not to forget those annoying skittles. That brings us to the question, is life just a game? Just waiting to knock us over with that well-aimed strike, and we can’t run away. All we can do is pray that the ball falls into the gutter or that we luck out by encountering a spare. Forgive the bowling metaphors- they aren’t exactly what you can call apt. They are courtesy my having spent a bit of recent free time in a loud and crowded bowling alley, since my fading protests eventually proved to be futile. I became the subject of what I, perhaps incorrectly, term ‘peer pressure’.

Anyway, the aforementioned encounter with people of my language and ‘culture’ is carved into my memory and funnily enough, labeled ‘profound’. It might not seem to be at first sight, but I guess it’s all about how it feels deep inside. It brings alive my whole perspective of life and the people around me. It reminds me that there might be pits, but I don’t need to fall into them, and that things might be bad, but they could be worse- consider the possibility of their words actually governing my parents’ decision. Thank goodness that didn’t happen. This just goes to show that there always is another way to do things. Maybe you have slippers, but you could always wear shoes. Maybe it never snows in your hometown, but it can always rain. Maybe it’s hard to make someone laugh, but you can always make them smile. And that, I think, is the best gutter ball life can throw.





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