Not long ago, a reader emailed to say, “Boy, you sure sound angry.” Some days later my husband asked, in passing, why I was looking so grumpy. And recently, my mother informed me that unless I channel my impotent rage about the state of the nation into some constructive activity, I can look forward to having a heart attack before the age of forty. Life is a great teacher; this time I learned that my mother defines ‘constructive activity’ as ‘an activity of her choice’, in this case, ‘helping her pick new fixtures for her house’.
By the way: funny things, fixtures. It turns out that changing a couple of bathroom taps directly cascades into sink replacement, pot upgradation, drawing-room wall destruction, living-room floor ripping-up, window reinvention all over the house, and green area landscaping. This so-called Domicile Theory, one of the lesser-known cold war-era paranoias, says that shining up the sink tap with Brasso is likely to result in your house immediately turning into rubble for six months before it rises, geriatric-like, from its fall, weaker but older, with new and unfamiliar problems.
Anyway, it seems that I’m no longer the serene, beatific person I was when I was younger and all my bits and bobs worked, brain included. Back then I had the answers to everything, and having no problems of my own freed me up to sort out everyone else’s. I found it very rewarding to go about telling people what was good for them, especially tragically incompetent people very much in need of a helping hand, like parents. It’s really very calming to be fourteen and know everything.
Today I still have no real problems. I have a house, safe drinking water if you discount the odd bit of government-approved cholera, all of my limbs and some of my wits, and I’ve never been busted for human trafficking, or staging fake police encounters, or embroiling my country in a pointless war—but none of this is an impediment to being cross a lot of the time anyway. A friend once gave a mug shot of me to a face reader, who shook his head and pronounced me full of krodh (anger).
Yes, somewhere along the line I’ve turned into someone on a short fuse who swears like a sailor and beetles her brow without even meaning to. I like to think that it’s not just my temperamental fate; that living in a Developing World metropolis has something to do with turning a fairly mild-mannered pacifist into a raving beast in the face of the slightest provocation.
I proved this to myself a couple of weeks ago, when I had the good fortune to find myself on a ridiculously good-looking beach on the island of Barbados, which is lapped on one coast by the Caribbean sea and on the other by the Atlantic ocean. As I washed down a flying fish sandwich with a cold Banks beer and watched a couple of well-muscled Barbadian men play ball on the sand, it occurred to me that the strange sensation on my forehead was an unknitted brow, and the strange muscle twitch on my face was a smile. For ten days I had no reason to frown except to squint at the sea against the sun.
Frankly, everyone seems much happier in Barbados than they do in Delhi, and I think this is because they are big fans of music and dancing, in addition to being fantastically laid-back to the point of institutionalising free rum punch at the airport check-in area. I, too, am obviously much happier in Barbados. We’d only been back a few days before my husband asked, in passing, “Why are you looking so grumpy?”