Feminist Grandpa

Note to Dad: Read at your own risk and do not panic, okay? Actually, no. Don’t read. Really. Mat padho

 

My grandfather is mercurial, nit-picky, temperamental and a bit of a hoarder. In other words, he’s 80.

 

He is also a rockstar.

 

He’s lived with a heart condition for over 50 years, when on initial diagnosis he was told that he didn’t have more than 4 years to live. He’s lived in Chennai, Delhi, Pune, the UK and Norway. He can cook up a stellar pepper rasam. He can quote the Gita as well as Shakespeare with admirable ease. He is well versed with English and Hindi and Sanskrit and Tamil and German and a little bit of Spanish. He knows Operational Management from A to Z. He’s also a fine(st) civil engineer. He’s 80 and he still travels for work every single month.

 

Yes. I told you, he is a rockstar.

 

But today he won himself a Grammy. Topped the Billboard Chart. Let me explain.

 

Earlier this month, I turned 27. And it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman aged above 24, must be in want of self worth, i.e., a husband.

 

Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But the point is, I have inevitably entered that age where I must either find a boy for myself or enter the scheme of an arranged marriage conundrum. I don’t like most people I meet. The men I’ve met and seriously considered dating have sooner or later proved themselves to be Sir Patriarchy’s favourite babies. And Tinder, as you all know (from this and this), has been a disaster. So it’s come to the latter option by default.

 

I remember telling my mother once, “If I must share my bathroom with someone for the rest of my life, he’d better be worth it.

 

I have nothing against the institution of marriage. And I’m sure it’s wonderful when you find the right person. What I cannot stand, however, is marriage for the sake of marriage. Chumma (in Tamil, please. Not Hindi)

 

Marriage undoubtedly comes with more baggage, responsibilities and expectations in India than elsewhere, because you marry into a family and not just a person.

 

Some months ago, I came home after a long day at work. It was a painfully hot day. As soon as I came in I requested my mother to turn on the air conditioner. To this, she said, “Don’t get used to this. What happens if you get married and your husband and/or mother in law don’t like air conditioning?

 

To her credit, this was said in jest. I know that. But it made me furious.

 

This is my seventh year educating myself after completing high school. I’m slogging my ass off to land myself a good job. Become a lawyer. Finally find that space where I enjoy my area of work.

 

How is it okay that I do all this, purchase an AC because I have earned it, only to be unable to switch it on in my own house because someone else doesn’t like it?

 

Don’t get me wrong, I understand fully well that families work on mutual understanding and compromise. And family is more important than anything else. But the expectation that the daughter-in-law of the house must always be the one to make that compromise sets my teeth on edge.

 

This is exactly the mindset I’ve seen in a majority of the men I’ve met. They start off well and somewhere down the line, the deep set patriarchy and ingrained sexism rear their ugly heads. And maybe I set the bar high. Maybe my tolerance for everyday sexism is terribly low. But I don’t see why that is wrong. Or why I need to change that just to find a partner.

 

It is NOT okay to simply assume that my work is somehow less demanding and/or important than his. It is NOT okay to use the word “obedience” when it comes to the dynamics of a relationship. It is NOT okay to try and pass abuse for passion.

 

I have always enjoyed my own company. I grew up a single child with little to no friends. I was alone very often, yes. But I was rarely lonely. I like spending time with people, of course. But I don’t feel desperate for company.

 

Another argument made in favour of marriage is children. I am not a fan of children. Even if I was, am I the only one who thinks that it’s problematic to have procreation as the sole reason for marriage?

 

As I mentioned earlier, I have entered the convoluted mechanics of Project arranged marriage. However, my mother has one challenge she must complete before she officially starts with the groom hunt.

 

She must make one convincing argument in favour of marriage.

 

Arguments of companionship and children have been rejected. The former, because I do not believe companionship is worth it if it means sabotaging individuality (not individualism). And the latter, because I don’t enjoy migraines just yet.

 

And DO NOT tell me motherhood is essential to womanhood. It is NOT. They are both sanctimonious and wonderful and amazing. But they are not synonymous.

 

Here’s where Grandpa comes in.

 

My mother thought it would be smart to delegate this challenge to the man with an intimidating disposition and a panache for debates – her father. Old and glorious with all the classical heritage.

 

I suppose she forgot that this was also the man who did not approve of her marriage before she completed her Doctoral thesis and got herself a lucrative job. The man who sent her off to a hostel to study engineering while his colleagues prepared their daughters to be ideal wives. Who pushed her to prize independence over all else.

 

What we discovered today, or rather what was reaffirmed today, was that my grandpa, for all his diatribes on the beauty of Hindu traditions and Vedic learnings, is a feminist.

 

Because his response to my mother’s request — give your granddaughter a convincing reason to marry – was, “There is no convincing reason. There is no reason. Unless, of course, it makes her happy.

 

YAAASSSSSS.

 

Broad City GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

Mother facepalmed and gave up. For I know, she agrees with me. Dad does too.

 

They won’t say it, lest it encourage their stubborn daughter to become even more hard headed about this shaadi business. But they’re with me on this.

 

For now, I have a degree to complete. A lot of books to read. A job to find. A life to enjoy. And if a bathroom-share-worthy companion comes by, one might give it a go.

 

But for now, my Tatha deserves an applause

applause

 

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On Tinder-ing #2

A little over a year ago, I wrote a post about my attempt at online dating via Tinder. Which  never really went much beyond downloading the app and trashing several drafts of limericks for “description” on my profile page.

Last week, I was reinitiated and re-encouraged by my friend (let’s call her N) to rethink that decision. It worked because she struck while the iron was hot – we were at a mutual friend’s wedding and N herself can see matrimony in her near future. I am the only vertex in that triangle without a Y chromosome-d partner.

So, I did rethink.

Apparently, when you’re sitting in a corner while your friends are busy smoking pot, creative inspiration comes without effort. I did manage to scribble a few decent lines to be put up on that dreaded “description” box. I nearly included something that would constitute an unsubtle innuendo with scope for a great deal of desi sex jokes, but decided to ditch that. Still too wary of online dating to get into those comfy PJs.

Men will have to wait a bit to witness my tendency to make crass jokes and say inappropriate things.

A little over a week into Tinder, I’ve learned a thing or two. And not just about online dating.

  1. Tinder is fantastic for my fat-girl-ego. Nearly everyone I swipe right turns out to be a match. It assuages the hesitation of the girl in me who asked N – “Why would any man want to date someone who is fat?”N was uncharacteristically patient with me and said, “Because not all men are so shallow that their prime concern is how a woman looks. There are men out there who are good people looking for companionship.” 

    I must admit, I was ashamed at my own cynicism regarding men. So much for my ideas on body positivity and my efforts not to generalise. Sigh.

    Anyway, now that I am on Tinder and all these men are “matches”, they act like power boosters for the ego. Which is something I could really use once in a while.

  2. Men might not be shallow, but turns out I am. I find myself itching to swipe left for anyone who is:- Unemployed (I am even tempted to read “self-employed” as “unemployed”)Who uses bad grammar in their description

    – Who has attended a college/institution I have little to no respect forOh and that is not all.

    A man posing with his Mercedes is a snob. But anyone with a job I know doesn’t pay squat also doesn’t seem attractive. Techies are boring and “freelancers” are jobless.

    In retrospect, I am a terrible person. Not to mention shallow. And a snob.

    Sigh. Either I change how I think about things or I stop expecting men to show more depth of character than I am capable of. I like the former option better.

  3. Having admitted my own failings, I can now go on to laugh at the many ridiculous things one sees on Tinder 

    – Men with spouses or partners in their profile pics. Dude – what the hell are you doing? Either you’re an ass looking to cheat or you think having multiple partners somehow makes you a stud. Or you have no idea what Tinder is about. Either way, you’re getting swiped left without a second thought.

    – So much patriarchy – I once got a request from a guy whose description said “Hope there are some sanskaari girls here; most girls these days either smoke or drink.” I experienced the ultimate pleasure of cheap thrills when I asked the guy to fuck off.

    – There are also ones with memorable quotes like, “Men will be men; what do you want them to be – donuts?” or “I am who I am because you are you.” or men who’s current employment is as an “Individual.”

  4. 9/10 profiles have something to say about the love of travelling or some *insert wanderlust quote*. Is this the new fad? I’d like to see a man honestly admit that he’d rather just sit at home and binge watch movies.

Anywhooo – I never did expect Tinder to send me down the introspection route but it did and maybe I can learn to unlearn some things. We’re conditioned to prize academics and career prospects over all other “unimportant” things during the formative years of our life. Love-life and matrimony are things that belong to the “future”. Now that the “future” is here, how do I reorganise and reshuffle my priorities?

I feel guilty every time the presence of IIT/IIM on the description bar makes me instinctively give the profile a closer look. It’s something I always dissed others for. Clearly, I am not immune to it.

But I need to be. When did I begin to look at degrees before people? Or is that just how you filter profiles in a country where being one in a million counts for nothing because that only means you have 1000000 others in the same spot?

I’ve now started to be less flippant about my Tinder “swipes”. I actually read the entire profile before taking a call.

But the bad grammar is a total turn off and that’s an immediate no. That’s shallow alright but I refuse to apologise. We’re all allowed one vice, right?

On Tinder-ing

Until this morning, I was unaware of the existence of Tinder. I was made to Google it by a dear friend who insisted that I stop living under a rock. It opened my eyes to the world of online dating. Dating – not a matrimony site. So the search results didn’t make me want to just shut down my browser. So there really exists this world – one that seems rather popular and one I was completely oblivious to. I wonder what that says about me. I am a nerd, but the nerd-iest of my friends seem to be aware of this Tinder business. So I decided to get out of my hole and download the App. It has a pretty white woman (obviously) on the download badge but then so do most other apps. I decided not to care. The download complete, I proceeded to check out the App

  1. First thing – my profile. “Description” – I always fumble when such questions are posed. It is as bad as a job interview where they ask – “Okay, tell us something about yourself.” What is one to tell them? That I find that question boring and I am interested in their job and I also really want the money?

    This is similar; only you’re looking for the job of a “girlfriend” or whatever the hell one wants to be called.

    I also find it weird to have to tailor your profile to get someone to be “interested” in you. How is that done – and without lying? What end purpose will that serve? I decided to come back to this later and work on the rest of my profile first.

  1. I tend to be rather anal (read paranoid) about online security. I can conjure up in my head the worst-case scenario for just about everything. Especially the things that can happen if my personal details are available in public. Publicly available photographs are the worst.

    I just could not get myself to put up photos, especially ones where my face is completely visible. I could vividly imagine every creepy old man and peeping tom doing the worst things.

    I managed to get myself to upload that one picture with me under the tree where my round figure looks somewhat flattering and the tree is more visible than my face. The voices in my head screamed “hypocrite”

  1. It seems one has to turn on location services in order for the App to suggest your “match”. I can barely turn on location services for Facebook or Uber. But to do that for a dating app?

    My hands refused to cooperate. The worst-case scenarios in my head worsened as the Criminal-Minds-like-psycho-stalkers did terrible things with my location.

Even if I did find some “match”, I would probably spend my time looking for signs of a psychopath rather than looking into the man’s eyes. Sigh In the two hours I spent with my phone this morning, I learnt that mobile-online-dating are not for me. Nope.