I’ve been wondering what to do for my birthday, by which I mean that my mother suggested, by which I mean that she shouted across the dining table, that I had social obligations, by which she means that I’ve been sponging off my family and friends long enough and that I should, by which she means bloody well better, return their hospitality.
So I’ve been thinking about having a party. (To friends and family who might be reading this: If you’re not invited, it’s because I haven’t sponged off you enough just yet, but no worries—the year is young). The whole idea of having people come to my house is extremely strange and troubling to me after years of just going to their houses. But with my mother getting into the act, I’m trying to keep calm by remembering that it will be very much like going out to someone else’s house, in this case my own.
It’s not strictly true, though, that I only go to other people’s houses. I also often go out to bars and pubs and suchlike, where I have a couple of drinks, maybe smoke a couple of cigarettes, have some conversation, sometimes dance a little, and drive myself home, almost always with my garters and strength of character intact. But that’s me. I have this insane propensity—insane, I tell you—to go about behaving as if I can live my life and do my own thing even though I have ovaries and a uterus.
Some people think this is seriously off the wall. I wrote, in a previous column, about my life as a woman in urban India, to which one gentleman reader responded by email: “I think you are insane. What message do you want to convey by smoking in a third-class compartment, hobnobbing with mechanics, standing in a queue of uncouth drunkards? For God's sake, stop your corrupting writings (sic) in a responsible newspaper.”
The message I’d like to convey to this gentleman is the same message I would like to convey to the faithful workers of the Sri Ram Sena who last week thrashed women in Mangalore for drinking alcohol in a pub, and to the mighty array of other self-styled custodians of Indian morals and values—and I do hope they will take it in the right spirit: “You’re dumb as rocks, and boring to boot! Piss off immediately.”
It’s amazing the number of people—not just in India but around the world—who continue to believe that it’s women causing all the moral mayhem. Most Indian women spend their lives wishing they weren’t stuck with men whose Indian morals and values consist of staring at women with their tongues lolling. And that’s the most harmless of a vast array of lousy Indian male behaviour that includes such Indian morals and values as honour killings and bride-burnings.
Thank god we have the Constitution, even though it would really help if people read it occasionally, especially those who run the country (and, for instance, ride roughshod over every living thing to build vast malls, only to then object to ‘mall culture’, which is apparently not the habit of being a consumerist pig but the habit of walking hand in hand.)
Anyway, sod all that. I have a party to think about. I’m not sure about the food, but yesterday I went to the government liquor store, stood in a queue of uncouth drunkards, and bought quantities of moral lubricant. To the massively boring custodians of my moral fabric: if it’s any consolation, my mother was with me.