An Awkward Conversation.

Boy: Just call her. Get it over with. Quick, like taking off a band-aid. And, be cool. Who the heck says ‘be cool’ nowadays, anyway? Now, where did I write down this girl’s number… This bloody maid, if you tell her a million times not to touch stuff, wohi karna hai!?

*Searches here and there*

Aha! Here it is! How’d it get here… lounging between the remote and the ashtray? A smoke to ease pre-call stress? Nah, post-call smoke type situation lag rahi hai yeh. Okay, here goes nothing!

*Inhales deeply and dials*

Boy: Hello?

Girl: Yes, hello.

Boy: Is this Anita?

Girl: Yes, this is her. Who is this?

Boy: Hi! I’m Ashish. Your mother and my mom spoke sometime this week about an alliance and I just wanted to get to speak to you before we decide to take things further…

Girl: Yeah, my mom mentioned something earlier today. How are you? Arre yaar, not another of those matrimonial site losers. Why do I have to go through this torture? I just want to get a job and enjoy myself…

Boy: Good! How are you?

Girl: I’m good as well.

Awkward Pause

(Pause)

(Pause)

(Pause)

Boy: So… What do you do? Are you working somewhere?

Girl: No, well… I was working for an MNC but, I recently quit so… I’m kind of in between jobs right now… Are you working or studying right now?

Boy: Yeah, I work for a bank. *Clears throatStandard Chartered Bank actually, I just got promoted last week so… Things are pretty hectic and there’s a lot of work to be done… It’s like I’m a mini CEO or something, hahahahe.

Girl: Seems arrogant… What the hell is a mini CEO… Like Mini Me or something?… Oh My God, I hope he’s not bald! AAAAAh, mujhe ganje se shaadi nahin karni…Mujhe shaadi hi kyun karni pad rahi hai…

Girl: Oh, that’s great!

Boy: Yup! Yessss! *Hi-Fives, err… Space?* I’ve made a good impression, ‘Mini CEO’! Hahaa! Good one, dude! Gotta use more of that scrumptious li’l phrase from now on!

Boy: Yeah, I landed this job right after my MBA, which I did from NMIMS, Mumbai. What about you? You’re an M.A., right?

Girl: Yeah, in Mass Communications… Lady Irwin, DU.

Boy: Cool!

(Pause)

*Awkward fidgeting at both ends*

Boy: So… what sun sign are you? Aur kya boloon?

Girl: I’m a Virgo

Boy: Oh!! I’m a Virgo, too! Virgos are the best, I tell you. They’re smart and creative and they are good looking and…uh… they’re practical and calm and…uh… romantic…

Girl: What a cheapo!!! Oh, yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that as well…

Boy: Yeah… astrology is fun and, and so useful!

Girl: Um, yeah. And, it helps in so many ways…

Boy: So, do you like watching movies? I like action flicks a lot!

Girl: Yeah, I like watching movies…

Boy: Great! I just saw ‘Elysium’. Matt Damon was awesome in it! Did you see any new flick recently?

Girl: Not really, I’m just really busy with looking for work and stuff…

Girl: *Checks the time* Oh, it’s 8:30 PM already? I gotta go, I have to make dinner. Chalo! Finally, I can hang up.

Boy: Sure! By the way, can you send me your FB link? I’ll send you mine as well… We can know more about each other that way. My e-mail ID is funkymunky@gheemail.com

Girl: Yeah, mine is dunkyshunky@chcheemail.com, I’ll send my FB page’s link to you.

Boy: Got it! Okay, thanks! I’ll send my FB page’s link to you as well. Nice talking to you! Bye!

Girl: Likewise, bye.

Boy: Well… thoda aur jaanane mein kya jaata hai? What’s the big deal in getting to know her a little more? Her voice sounded pretty mellifluous, actually.

Girl: What a loser! How arrogant and so pretentious! But, I suppose I should be polite and send the link-shink. Let’s see…

How Far Would You Go for Freedom? – ‘Persepolis’ – A Review

Marjane Satrapi‘s Persepolis has been a movie I’ve been aching to watch for a while now. And the wait was totally worth it. A series of deliciously illustrated flashbacks, Persepolis navigates through the journey of a young rebellious girl in the Shah’s Iran and during the anarchic Muslim rule in the ’80s and ’90s with such feeling that you are left contemplating the role of politics and society in your own life. 

Persepolis

Marji’s story is a simple one but, with so many ups and downs that one is left marveling at the grit and determination shown by citizens in a war torn and oppressed nation. Iran‘s tumultuous political and religious fundamentalism made it hard for people to breathe freely, let alone express themselves in the smallest possible ways. Yet, people found it within themselves to hope for a better future, a free life that would be, if not their own, their kids’ one day.

A family of blue bloods, a legacy of a martyred uncle and an openness and forwardness of mind, ideals and ethics sets the Satrapis miles apart from the cowed down milieu. Their fight with the Islamic fundamentalists’ brutal crackdown on “western” practices such as alcohol consumption, listening to music, applying make-up – basically anything that gives the user any modicum of enjoyment – is shown in a quirky yet hard hitting manner. The forward thinking ideals of the Satrapis and the viewpoint of the narrative don’t make one feel disconnected from the ordinary citizen rather, it gives one the distance required to see the situation for what it really was.

Punk is Not DedMarji’s parents are liberal and liberated. Her mother’s character is actually such a strong and poignant one, the refreshing feminism is a delight to connect with. If possible, the protagonist’s grandmother, a powerful woman in her time, no doubt, is even more progressive a character. From telling the story of her a divorce in the ’50s as she casually lights a meerschaum to ordering her granddaughter to take off her headscarf because it’s claustrophobic, Marji’s grandma’s character is undoubtedly a fine, strong, opinionated and powerful woman and it would truly have been a pleasure to have spent some time with the real life inspiration.

Marji’s journey as a young girl with forward thinking ideas gets her into tiffs with officials and her counterparts until finally her parents decide it’s best for her to live abroad and she’s packed off to Vienna. Her life there is better, her experiences varied. However, the underlying guilt of leaving a war torn country while she relishes sachertorte gnaws at her. Ironically, it isn’t patriotism or sentiment towards her fellow countrymen that drives Marji home, it’s heartbreak.

Marjane Satrapi

Marji’s journey is laden with so many facets of existence – war, religious fundamentalism, political strife and a search for the feminine pursuit but, mostly it’s a story of a little girl trying to find herself. Persepolis is a tale of freedom, feminism and just following one’s heart no matter what. Because, as Marji says when she leaves Iran, “Freedom has a price”, and it’s better one gets its worth.

The movie is a visual opiate and the illustrations are tasteful and evocative in a manner rarely seen and the  background score is a wonderful companion throughout the movie; the floating jasmine blooms indicative of interludes are a personal favorite – as is the story behind them. A delight for liberals, feminists, illustration fans and film lovers, Persepolis is a must watch!

Reaction

She’d been having trouble thinking of late. Well, not really thinking but, rather, thinking straight. Her life was going not so badly, when one looked at it. She had a sparkly new semi-bearable job, which was a blessing in these hard economic times. Moreover, working for a Wall Street giant had brought her to the city of her dreams, New York City, where she’d longed to live in since as far back as she could remember.

But, something was not right. She was not enjoying herself because she was, in reality, living in the past. Not because it held such precious memories (which, it did, by the way) but, because she was afraid she’d move too fast if she didn’t hold on to the past. Seemed silly when she thought about it but, regrettably, that is where she was at. Maybe it was more than that but, she was clearly not thinking right to figure it all yet. ‘So close yet, so far’ seemed to be an apt subtitle for this part of her life.

But, today, all of that would change. Little did she know when she woke up to the shrill default alarm tone of ‘Good Morning’ she set on her barely functional ‘Samsung Duos’ for Nine a.m. on the morning of March 25, 2013 that something unexpected was going to turn it all around.

She brushed off the copper bangs from her forehead and looked at herself in a frosty windowpane as she walked into her tiny pink wallpapered bathroom. She could just about make out the Donald Duck on her over-sized night tee in the foggy pane. She cinched the tee and looked at her silhouette with the critical eye only females engage while checking out themselves and their counterparts. She’d lost a couple of pounds and it was beginning to show now. She liked that. Having had her fill of her hazy outline she turned around to look around the bath. “This fluer-de-lis pattern is beginning to get overwhelming,” she decided, as she turned her attention to the cabinet mirror.

She sighed as she picked up her toothpaste, glancing at her chipping purple nail enamel and made a mental note to go for a manicure the coming weekend. As she brushed her short, square teeth, a bit of foam flew to her freckled button nose. “Maybe I should get a nose ring, I think a black one would be pretty damn nice – it would give some color to my pale face… Hmmmn, Jeanette mentioned a place in SoHo which did piercings and tattoos. But, it’d be too much, wouldn’t it? Maybe a nice tan would be better instead. But, aren’t those potentially cancerous? Well, I guess I look fine just like this… what the hell!”

Forever second guessing herself and not fully charging into anything. That was Marianne. Her whole life had become a one-step-forward-two-steps-back sort of situation and she was slowly starting to tire of it all.

On the ‘R’ train, Marianne gazed listlessy at her fellow commuters and wondered if they too had faced an impasse such as hers in life. And, how many were, like her, pretending to get by while actually being stuck in the same spot. As she walked into the swanky building of ‘Simon & Schumster’, she wondered what the day had in store for her. Surely, some oddly tiresome jobs – that being a secretary to one of the junior partners of the equity firm was not all that time consuming, or that exciting, was one of the recent realizations that had dawned on her. “Why am I even doing this job?”, she asked herself for the millionth time in five months. “To be in New York,” was her first and last thought on the matter as she reached her desk.

Chastising herself for not having adequate enough goals, Marianne took off her comfy Toms and put on her Miu Miu four inch heels. “It’s funny how I wear Toms when there isn’t much running to do and wear these God awful heels when I have to rush during work! Aaaargh! I hate this!”, she moaned to Jeanette, who was at the work station next to her. They had become sort of work friends, bonding over office politics gossip and Marianne had developed a soft corner for the African-Chinese single mother of three. “You’re preaching to the choir, sister! I ask myself the same thing all the time!”, nodded back Jeanette as she stapled documents with the efficiency of a well oiled machine.

The big beige office clock’s brown hands ticked slowly and Marianne kept glancing at it in anticipation all day. After a bit of light conversation, about ten coffee breaks and a smidgeon of filing and paper pushing, Marianne glanced at the hands of the clock as they pointed at 5:00 p.m. and decided to call it a day and head home.

“Hey, Marianne! Wait up!” called out Umang Mehrang, her boss. She turned around praying for anything but more work, although she had done pretty much zilch the whole day. “I was wondering if you would mind terribly drafting out this letter and then sending a facsimilie to this list of people before you leave?”, he said as he handed her a two page draft of an official looking letter and a list of names which was five pages long. “Now I know it’s 5:15 p.m. on a Friday and a pretty girl like you must have a lot of fun parties to go to but, work is worship, eh?”, Mehrang genially flapped his head from side to side and  Marianne was momentarily distracted by the salt and pepper tufts of hair jauntily swaying on his partially bald head. “Of course, I’ll just do it!”, she cringed inwardly and grinned outwardly as she trudged back to her desk. “Who says facsimilie anymore? Aaargh! I can’t believe I have to sit here and type this stuff when most of these morons have left for the weekend!”

An hour and forty-five minutes, not to mention a thousand grumbles later, Marianne finally left the now empty office for home. “Oh Christ! Don’t tell me it’s raining! Aaargh! I just can’t take this anymore. I think I need a drink.” She spotted a dike on the corner of Rector and Wall Street, its neon pink letters screaming, ‘Jamie’s Tavern’ and scooted inside.

The bar was dimly lit and it took a few seconds for Marianne’s light green eyes to adjust to. It smelled of Bourbon and stale trail mix, an odd combination but, soothing, nonetheless. The pink sign outside cast the bar in a rose light and Marianne had to squint to make out the cracked black and yellowed-white tiles on the floor. The walls had pictures all over and a dart board hung in one corner as people in ties and work dresses talked over each other while sipping on their drinks and munching tidbits. Well, this would have to do – it was now raining heavily and it was far too windy for Marianne to get to the station at this point. “Where are the empty seats?” she thought to herself, craning her neck as she paid for her Grasshopper.

As her eyes scanned the crowded bar, Marianne spotted an empty stool and lunged for it. Instead of the chintz-patterned velvet cushion seat, her fingers grabbed a bristly-hair covered, calloused hand. And, that’s when their eyes met.

Just like that.