Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Finding a rental accommodation in Chennai

for mom and I has been an experience. Throughout our lives. More so after I became "Filim singer". 

I have been itching to write about the kinda questions mom and I have been facing in singaara, culture-protecting Chennai for a while now (especially after the demise of my grandparents, so lets say, 10 years), but for some reason held back. 

All through my childhood life had been in Adyar/Besant Nagar. Mom never really exposed me to the cruel and insensitive questions that landlords might ask a single woman and a daughter. But I got to know, when we decided my back was breaking driving from Adyar to Kodambakkam and Saligramam, where all the studios were sometimes, up and down, sometime twice in the same day. I'd have just reached home, to get another call for a recording and off I'd go driving the 15 kms to and fro. 

From a no-nonsense area to right in the middle of West Mambalam, because mom suddenly thought it'd be nice to live in an area surrounded by temples and all that. Was a very bad idea, coz we had never really been exposed to a typical area like West Mambalam and with "Maama enna panraaaeerr?" kinda questions. In fact mom hates it if someone calls her Maami.

West Mambalam was also the first time I was introduced to the concept of nosy neighbours. I would have kids come and ask my mom/me, who was that family who came in xyz car, wearing these clothes and had lunch with you and left at 4PM after spending x number of hours? are they relatives?" Clearly this kid was probably asked by his parent to find out :) Also was the first time I knew kids are trained by their parents to find out information from adults in such a manner or to go eavesdrop. (Yes, I know of parents who quietly send their kids to play around other adults who might be discussing something and come back to report on what was spoken of. Gossiping is inculcated in our culture :))

Shortly thereafter we realized West Mambalam was not our kinda area and that the divine temple romance was left behind and off we went into Saligramam. We lived in this house for almost 8 years and had the best ever, God-landlord who was actually a distant relative. After a point, once again, Saligramam to city was becoming tough. None of my friends would ever visit :p coz it was too far away. I was missing too many weddings/events coz I was too tired to drive. And with Arcot Road becoming a darn mess, it was becoming difficult for me to arrive anywhere on time. And I have an OCD issue with that. Driving with my feet on the brakes all the time wasn't my idea of fun driving. 

Cut to the next house in Nelson Manickam Road. The house is beautiful. The landlords live downstairs. Now everything was fine, until the landlord asked me to - 1. Marry his son and 2. Convert to his religion. All within a month of moving in here. I shall refrain from naming which religion because I don't think that would be polite. He says his son must learn how to be hardworking from me and that I am a very good girl. And hence I must marry him :p 

I am telling you, I get into some of the most unreal, ridiculous situations.

So off we go again looking for a house. Here are the questions that we heard from prospective landlords

1. Will you be back home by 9PM latest?

Because all the neighbours are elderly and they want no disturbance in the building. Disturbance isquolto opening lock, opening door and closing door quietly. 
I don't understand how many young people in their 20-s come back home at/before 9 PM. So if we rented this house, I guess mom and I are not allowed to watch a late-night film. 9PM curfew you see. I wonder if they think it's a hostel or a house they are renting. :p

2. Who will visit you?

What they also ask is will Directors/Actors visit you? If you work in the film industry and make any acquaintance, you peers are not allowed to visit you, coz you know, all that people in the film industry can do is hanky-panky all the time :p 

3. We will keep one set of keys with us. 

This was one thing that we were laughing about the most. Why would a landlord want to keep one set of keys for a house rented out to us, beats me. When I told a friend that the landlord said this, she said "Tell them OF COURSE. Only that when you guys go out and return, the house must be spotlessly clean, each day".

4. Will you sing? 

Err. I am a singer. I will have to practice, no? Oh that's not allowed? Ok. Thank God I don't tell people I am a trained Odissi dancer and learnt both Kathak and Odissi. :p (I can almost hear another landlord that I might meet in my near future scream)

5. Why did your father leave you? Where is he now? What is he doing? 

I think "Where is my father now" and "what is he doing" are two questions, the answer of which we both haven't really known and thereafter, wanted to know for almost 26 years. Why would anyone else want to know?

Is your father married to someone else? : No
Affair- a? : Not that I know of. 
Why? : I don't know. (Here I feel like saying I will give you his phone number. Please ask him why he didn't date/have an affair with anyone else after the divorce, etc. etc. etc)

6. How much do you get paid per song?

Here I would like to tell them, would you also like credit card statements, bank account statements service tax and tax papers too? 

Did I also tell you that all us people don't get paid for all these TV appearances on every show that you might see? Everytime I appear on TV the neighbours/watchmen and everyone else believe we'd have made quite a bit. Please also know that there are some gullible people who believe that if a newspaper writes about us, we are paid for the interview :p

7. You are only two people. Why do you need a big house? 

I have never understood this question either. So what if we are two people? We are expected to live in a cubby-hole?

[I have also not understood (this includes some relatives) why people criticize others who live in style or with some sophistication. Cannot only. Why? No need, they'll say. What does one earn money for after all? To have the lifestyle that you aspired to have na? So why not go ahead and live the life you want? OK that is another post]
We have a tendency to collect antique and artistic furniture and we have only about 3000 books. Some of the books are at least a couple of centuries old, that my mom has managed to maintain inspite of all our moving about. And I keep adding to the collection. Some people also don't know how much space some 50 pairs of shoes need ;) Plus my baking obsession .. oh actually my list is very long. We need a room for the library/study, thank-you-very-much. I guess the concept of having a den/study is lost on a lot of people.

Somehow mom and I, because of the kinda family we hailed from and from the heydays, we unfortunately cannot shake off, the, well, a certain class or style in the way we have basically inherited. Unfortunately Chennai and a lot of its landlords don't understand that.

Why don't we own a place yet? We dont. That's all. And a lot of investment gurus told us that it is a total waste of money to invest in a place in Chennai for the kinda space/locality that we might be happy in and we were advised to rent only and told to invest differently.

Yes I know some really nice people who leased their houses to some terrible tenants and are petrified with the experience that they might as well have the place under lock and key than rent it. 

So right now, story of our lives is to find a nice place so that I am not reminded every week by landlord on the importance of converting to save his ancestors who have attained heaven, from the sin of having a Hindu Daughter in law. I have only tried to tell the family No a few times. 

After reading this post, usual stalker will now send me a mail, as he usually does, Marry Me Chinmayi. I will protect you from all these people. Ppppah. I tell you. How all people will say "Oru Kalyanam pannikko, ellam seri aagidum" Like they say, from frying pan to blazing fire ;)

Watch this space. I might actually add some more bizarre questions that we are asked ;)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ellipses 2

I sometimes think our grandparents are perhaps more progressive and open minded than we are. Inspite of the "lack of exposure" that people of our generation sympathize them with, I see that generation more accepting of new ideas and views than people closer to my age. This film, Vicky Donor has a dialogue to that effect. Ayushman's character says, only the Metro and his 'biji' are modern in all of Delhi.

A lady who has been like a mother to mom, mom's moral support during a difficult phase in Bombay and someone who for me has been 'ammamma'. I am guilty of not having met her in quite a while now. I could say "she lives 20 kms away from where I currently live" but that's no excuse really. Mom and I met her a couple of days ago and she asked me "are you still alive?":) 

Her own grandchildren, when they were barely 4 or 5 years old, used to get into a tiff with me in possessiveness, if ammamma said I am the first grandchild. They'd say "No she is not" and start crying and physically attempt to push me away. The twin boys are now about to finish school. 

Invariably the topic of marriage did come up and when as we left, she applied kumkum on my forehead and mom's. Mom had to say at that appropriate time "seekrama kalyanam pannikka sollungo" (Ask her to get married soon) To which ammamma replied, "there is absolutely no need or hurry. And that things are very weird and scary these days and it is imperative that Chinmayi should be happy than get her married off just because people say so". 

I just couldn't help smiling at the way she pragmatically put her point across. Mom did loudly protest, of course, but ammamma was clearly on my side. ;)

Not that I have anything against the concept or idea of marriage but I see no reason for doing it just because a whole lot of people tell me that it is high time I did or tell me that its terrible to lead a life alone. 

I am seeing a lot of married people who live together yet alone. Someone said rather be alone single than be alone married. I also know some very happily married couples and some of them decided not to have children. They believe there is no need to bring children into such a terrible world and the reason that children will take care of us in our old age is not a valid argument.

In the past few years I have heard people being extremely insensitive to the point of being crass in 'well meaning' advice. One man said "how much longer are you going to keep earning like this and not marry?"
There were times that I would want to retort but mom would make eyes at me to keep quiet. "Yaar yaar vaaylayo vizhadhe" she'd say. Simply put, these are people who really, honestly don't matter. Some people are moulded/fashioned to be insensitive. Why split our hair after all? In such instances she also taught me to just nod head, smile and not say anything. I have seen some people so easily say "anubhavicha/kashtapatta dhaan puriyum" just like that. How vehemently a curse comes from some people just because you might disagree with their PoV.

And there are people like ammamma who has reprimanded me and taken my side as the situation may deem fit, over the years.

From friends and elders and others I seem to have learned one basic thing. Always, always listen to your gut instinct. Especially when it comes to marriage. If something tells you, rather shouts at you to not do it, just don't. No matter what. I know friends who have told me, I wish I'd had the guts to listen to my instinct when it kept telling me not to marry/be with someone. Because at that point they had no valid argument to put forth except that "I am having a bad feeling about this".

A friend also said, one is never really ready to marry. You just need to do it at some point.

Ours is a culture that says "get married. Everything will become alright". I also realize there is no formula to this thing. Maybe it is luck.

Until it is time for me to find out, which will happen when it has to, I'm liking my carefree life of having have to ask only my mother for permission to make a trip somewhere ;)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Ellipses 1

Are you someone who has sometimes been made to feel guilty just because you are 'running after money'? More so if you are a woman? 

Often times I find people who seem to have a knack of bringing you down if you are doing well for yourself in some sphere *and* are happy in your own space. 

When I see advise being doled out to others (I am usually not at the receiving end) I usually observe the person who is advising and the person who is at the receiving end. Sometimes I have seen such 'advice' which goes down to allege that the other is actually leading quite a 'worthless' life, all in the opinion of the advisor, of course. 

There are some who are strong enough to take all that with a bag of salt even though if this advise comes with a curse or two ("if you don't stop running after success/career/money you are going to suffer ... " you know, you get the drift) And there are some who do get influenced by all this.

I was staying over with friends a couple of weeks ago when I was traveling. Soon we were talking about a lot of things including the Delhi incident. My friends husband, A, said that the average man today is very threatened by the woman who is educated, comes from rural areas to the cities and finds financial independence. He doesn't know how to handle this woman who is no longer is turning to him, from under a veil, to ask "When will you give me the permission to walk the several kilometers to bring our family drinking water?" And today more women are choosing to be independent and single. Like someone said on Twitter, its better to be single and alone than be alone in a relationship.

I am now waiting with bated breath for the "FEMINIST" word and the like to be attached to me. Having an opinion about something also means I am opinionated, BTW :) That said, I would also give the benefit of doubt to someone who believes opining and being opinionated mean the same.

Anyway I'll humbly suggest this. If you are a man or a woman. Pursuing a career that you wanted, working on getting the lifestyle you aspire or simply doing that which you set out to do and most importantly, if you are happy doing all that, don't let anyone, ever, make you feel guilty.

I will also add that to find out if you are happy doing the things you are currently doing you would need to spend time with yourself or talk to someone. It could be a co-passenger on your next trip somewhere, the kind of people you suddenly get along with at random and ask them questions on things that may be running in your mind. (Of course, be careful with sharing personal information and all that, more so follow your gut instinct. Learn to heed it) I have also known that talking to a stranger also means that because they don't know you at all, they might end up lighting up a path. And I say lighting up a path because I feel that at any given point in time there are some roads that seem to have the floodlights on them and some roads which are completely buried in a thicket. Someone needs to show us that it exists.

Do what you want to do. Do what your heart tells you to do. Be happy. Guilt-free.

P.S.: On a slightly different note, you may also want to read this article. 

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Sometimes all that one needs to do is ask questions. And thereafter, the listening is a lovely experience.

A quote that I read in Katie Couric's book goes something like, 'you never learn anything if you were going to be listening only to yourself speak". Yes, these are not the exact words and I am unable to find the book in the growing pile I have so that I can reproduce it here verbatim *and* attribute it to the person by whom these words were spoken. 

Lately all that I am doing is asking people questions. About decisions they take and the choices they make. Trying to understand my own belief systems and seeing where I stand. I have come across some beautifully carefree souls.  Selfless ones. And I take away a lot of lessons from each conversation. 

A friend told me to be "selfish enough to be happy". Another told me to "speak out what you have in your heart". Sometimes, my friend says, we care too much about other people, what they think and more so, these 'people' are those we don't even know. So to say, these people are the "They" we speak of. "They" are no one in particular but they are omnipresent. However, it required a friend to bring into perspective that we are giving an omnipresent quality to those who dont deserve it really. Yes, maybe you are doing something that a third person will frown upon. But does your action give you happiness? However, no judging here. I'm not going into the "true happiness" "spiritual happiness" or "conscientious happiness" or the happiness that comes from "not hurting others"... you know, you get the drift. 

We don't allow ourselves to be happy most times. And should we not sit with ourselves and decide what it is that makes us happy? More often that not the answer won't lie in material aspects. It might be in spending time by yourself somewhere. Or anything at all. When was the last time you found out what you wanted? Did you spend time with yourself to find out if you were doing things that make you happy? Most importantly, without judging yourself. The biggest punishment we give ourselves is the judgment we pass on what we can/cannot/should/shouldnt/ought to do. Forget about passing judgments on others. Cannot do this because XYZ's aunt will think something.

One of the things I am trying to let go is my scathing judgments of myself. It would be good to give myself a break from my own acidic criticism. And yes, I am also realizing each day and reminding myself too, that I get to live as myself way once. And inspite of the limitations that I have in this lifetime, I am really not going to sprain my brain too much about general views and viewpoints. I did before. I definitely did. Not anymore. It is so not worth it. There are some things in myself that wont change. Certain ethics. Thank God for that.

But otherwise you know, when you die, who are you going to be answerable to? Are you going to lie there in the last moments of your life thinking that hey, you made good use of this time here on this realm and also had fun in the process or sigh that you led a life in a strait jacket you stitched around yourself, which I am sure others also put in a chain stitch or a cross stitch as they deemed convenient, living with as little movement that the jacket allowed? Of course I am sure there are people who are happy to lead a life like that, no judging there. But I guess what I am telling myself here and maybe to you, who read all these paragraphs to reach this line, that it is high time you chose to be happy. Doing the things you like. High time you lived. :) If you are, let me know, I'd be happy to take notes while I also go about my own journey.

Love. Live. Find the peace within. Its beautiful I hear.