I'm 33 today. I decided to follow my intuition and birthday gift myself the balance of the vote in favour of what I would like to do. So here are all 33 bits about me me and me.
1. If I needed only one word to describe myself while growing up I would definitely not use the word lucky. I have crap luck, especially of the lottery winning kind, so clearly that person is not me. I have never ever won anything. Not drawing competitions, not tambola, not even scrabble. Now I don’t waste my time or money trying.
2. I believe that in our family luck can only belong to one person. In our family it belongs to my brother. Passed on genetically from my mum who is also fantastically lucky but less so than the Nik. He is going to hit some sort of jackpot and then I’ll have to wrangle half of him. Strangely, this makes me happy and not even an iota envious. I think my word my might be lazy.
3. I never ever cried in front of anyone all through my teens. I reserved any tears (very very rare) for the bathroom. But it was in my teens that I came to accept that I was much more sensitive than I came across.
4. I cry more often and more openly now. Mainly it’s a reaction to a sentimental movie (like Dumbo, which has made me cry many a time since I was 8 years old) or homesickness on festivals. I would say I average about twice a year.
5. As a teenager I used to get bugged by small yet seemingly significant things. Then I made up a process to deal with everything. First I learnt to quickly disguise it. Then I’d forget about it. And then suddenly it didn’t matter anymore. Water off a ducks back is my universal rule.
6. As time went on I got better, quicker, sharper at it. To the point where if it did not concern V or my family members with some level of gravity, I could go through the process in about 25 seconds. This method has so far stood me in good stead.
7. I don’t make friends easily. I would say that 90% of people I know are acquaintances. But once you are a friend you will never ever doubt my loyalty. I have learnt to sieve the important from the unimportant. Very very quickly.
8. I think my own best character trait is loyalty. I strive for it to be kindness.
9. It therefore takes a lot to rile me. But if you rile me once too often you’ll find yourself being cut out from my existence in every way. There is no forgiveness. And there is no forgetting.
10. When I was a kid I wanted to be a different thing every week. Burning choices were librarian, art historian and archeologist. I’m not sure where all these choices went.
11. But for one entire teen summer month I was a librarian, seeing off mine and my co-conspirators books to various neighbourhood homes with love and hoping they’d come back in good condition. I think we made Rs.120 in total, between 4 of us. And most of the books did come back safe and sound. But it left me with a fear of ever lending books. So don't ask.
12. I hold a degree that people look at suspiciously. Like, “Loser, you didn’t get into anything else did you?”. Actually I did get into one very prestigious college. I chose not to go for two reasons, one of which (I am ashamed to say) was the tidings of an astrologer I call Elsie brown cow. The other is too foolish to ever mention.
13. It is not something I regret though. I don’t care what people think of my degree because it was such fun to get and I made some amazing enduring friendships there. It also means that I am a fairly good cook. Both V and I have waistlines to prove this.
14. My favorite color has always been purple. Any shade of it - from the palest lavender to the brightest neon purple.
15. As a child I implored my mother to wear this one particular chiffon sari a lot – bright purple and pink with silver work – for weddings, dinner parties etc. She only caved in to the request some of the times. It was a gift from my grandfather for Diwali one year (if memory serves me right) and my mother looked gorgeous in it. I, on the other hand, owned a pair of lavender coloured jeans that I wore till they could be worn no more. Did not look nearly as gorgeous but I was like an addict.
16. I have always lived in awe of my mother. She is not only one of the most beautiful woman I know (beaten in that only by my utterly gorgeous and graceful nani) but most certainly the most vivacious and positive person. She can meet anyone and be their friend in no time - from the dhobi to my colleagues, from the subji walla to my school friends, from the driver to random neighbours. It’s a gift.
17. She can take anything and make it better. She always tried to inculcate the optimistic viewpoint of the world. If you do good, you will get good, believe in the goodness of people etc. As a teen I was not having any of it and was a fairly surly pessimist just to test her every nerve. She has the patience of a saint, of this there is no doubt.
18. I think I aim everyday to be a little more like my mother - a bit more positive and lot more hopeful. Somewhere along the line my viewpoint changed. I think it was in my mid-twenties. But I can’t be sure. I now think I am a realist/ pragmatist. My glass has gone from half empty to half full between my teens and this adult me. I like the adult me a lot more.
19. In primary school, I wore glasses with a very low power. But I was so vain that for a Sanskrit recitation exam at age 6 I refused to wear them. I remember memorising that passage and the shlokas like my life depended on it.
20. I went for squint correction exercises to Dr. Wadhwa 3 days a week after school. With my mum, in an auto, dragging along a tiny Nik. I remember the journeys and the exercises so clearly that I could be 7 again, not 33.
21. I’m meant to wear some very low power specs even now to read, watch TV and work on the computer. I never do. In fact I think I threw away my only pair for no reason other than vanity. This is strange because I don’t think I am a vain person. I think with specs I have just always had some mental block. I plan to rectify this while I am 33.
22. As squabbling siblings in an 80’s childhood, with a 7 year gap between us, the Nik and I fought like the average Indian household. All trivial. A lot of petty “you touched my side of the desk” type nonsense. From what I remember my dad took my side and my mother took the Niks - almost always. I saw this as unfair then. I now see the logic. My parents were always on the same side and since someone had to take each of our sides to understand/reason/cajole I guess this was the way to even out the adult influence between us. Divide and rule.
23. In the end we turned out A-ok. Adoring siblings. He calls me fatty and I call him mote. It works. My parents are proud I think.
24. I like to think I genetically inherited my father’s wanderlust. Nobody but I listens patiently to his “When I was in London on a foggy day in 1970....” type stories. I love each and every one of them. I hope to chronicle some of the best ones either in my blog or a notebook in the next year. He is well traveled, well read and wise and I hope I can grow old with the same grace, intelligence and minimal regrets as he has.
25. Both my parents smoke - my mum cigarettes and my dad cigarettes plus a pipe. Growing up I hated this because none of my friends had cigarette smoking mothers and pipe smoking fathers. Beside the repercussions for their health I no longer care because it clearly makes them happy.
26. Growing up the Nik and I had only one rule. We wouldn’t buy matches or cigarettes from the corner shop, central market or anywhere. In fact we wouldn’t even fetch their cigarettes or lighters from the next room. It’s a rule we both follow to this day. My parents have learnt to live with it.
27. To my mind the only positive to my parents smoking habits were that Nik and I never smoked or were even ever tempted to try. This makes us sound like boring teenage nerds. We’ve never cared really. It’s a fact that makes me strangely proud.
28. My father and mother had a love marriage – he a malayali and she a UP kayastha – in a time when these cross-country alliances were frowned upon. One of my favourite bits about their love story is how my mother used to say she would never marry a dark man who wore glasses. She married a dark man with glasses. Lesson it left me with: never say never.
29. From my mother’s side I got the softness of my palms (exactly like my nana’s – never done a day’s work is how they are regularly described). From my father’s I got the trademark curly hair (anybody who knows anything about India can tell in a nano second that I am at least part Malayali). The hands are getting less soft what with age, the hair is ever spring and frizzy. Oh well.
30. I think I can count all my regrets on one hand. The top 2 are: I regret I never learnt Malayalam. And that I never learnt an instrument. I think I would have liked to learn the guitar and play like my father could. Speaking Malayalam would have made me feel like less of a fraud.
31. I like to think of myself not as half malayali and half UP-ite but as a wonderful lucky cocktail. I think I have convincing ancestry.
32. My favourite bit of ‘Friends’ is the one where Pheobe talks about how lobsters mate for life. V and I are lobsters. I cannot imagine my life without him. He makes all other things in my life pale in comparison. He is top of my short list of non-negotiables.
33. I think I am leading the most interesting life I could lead. I’m not sure I would change much with either a magic wand or a winning lottery ticket. If I had one word to describe it, it just might be lucky.
This is as much as you’ll get out of me at one time. Ever. So soak it in.