The latest word to be added to my vocabulary is the Arabic word for bougainvillea - Majnuneh – the feminine for crazy. I fell in love with the word as soon as I heard it.
A massive chunk of my world can be associated with the word ‘crazy’. If not wanting to stuff myself into the tiny little boxes society likes to pigeon hole people into means I’m crazy, it’s alright, I don’t mind being crazy. I learnt a long time ago that ‘crazy’ is often used to dismiss people whose intelligence is assumed to be irrelevant. I’m fine with being irrelevant in an ignorant person’s world. And habibi, all these stereotypes about women and feminine and girls and boys and mardangi and so on and so forth have become old and boring. Majnuneh is my new stereotype - where one can be just whoever the hell they wanna be. (yeah, I got myself an Arab friend, and she teaches me the best words ever!)
I must confess I’ve been guilty of indulging in stereotyping as well. I attributed the love for cooking as a feminine role. And it’s sick how ingrained it is in everyone’s mind. Speaking of cooking being a feminine stereotype, it’s amusing when some women don’t cook. I love the raised eyebrows from others. It’s so ingrained even I find myself defensively respond “I’m only good at washing dishes.” Sometimes the battle against stereotyping pushes people to the other extreme. In this case, becoming over sensitive. My friend who loves to cook once smiled at me and said “We cooked” when someone commented on the slurp-worthy food he’d dished out. Initially I thought he was mocking, when I realized my hypersensitive brain had misinterpreted the appreciation of clean dishes completely. Yes, I am fantastic at dishwashing. It’s a skill. It’s sometimes soothing. Sometimes a stress buster. And definitely more interesting than cooking. I mean, cooking is empowering, simple, and really easy, this knack you have, la la la. I make great instant noodles. And a killer glass of Tang. And some just-perfectly-boiled eggs. But that’s about it. So I really encourage good cooks to feed me. And I offer to wash dishes in return.
Another beloved issue is the question of marriage. True that when friends announced marriages or posted photos of their babies I had some serious introspective moments. But those only lasted 5 minutes. I have other stuff to do. Like drag myself for an evening ‘workout’ swim. Or ride a scooter without wobbling. Or stare at lizards chasing each other on the walls in fascinated terror. I for one, don’t trust myself to last long enough with someone, not yet. Not till forever. Most people annoy me in three months anyway. The rest evolve into friends, and all’s right with my world, thanks for interfering.
Somehow, I see some of my fears being turned into my greatest failings. Lizards. Yeah, you can stop laughing. So what if I’m terrified of them? I’m also terrified of cows. And unknown squashy squelchy things in ponds. And darkness. And heights. And millions of other things. Just like you. But don’t brush off my fears of absurd things as a feminine trait. That’s not fair. I know a lot of macho muscular men who’d run miles on imagining a cow’s looking at them weirdly or a snake might be around. One of my largest male cousins fled from our ancient tiny tortoise once! And you exclaim ‘women’ when I shriek at lizards? Really?!
No, I am not PMS-ing, nor is it that ‘time of the month’. Why can’t I just flip out on something randomly because it’s driving me nuts? I am old enough to freak out in front of someone I trust enough to bear with my momentary bad behavior. That doesn't mean I’m “being a woman”. I’ve seen men cry because India lost a cricket match. I cry when I get awfully angry. I hope I can drop kick you with some Krav Maga instead!
This is not some anti-guy rant. This is not even being ‘feminist’. I’m just tired of making excuses for who I am. Another stereotype I have unfortunately begun to dislike intensely is the ‘middle class’. Sorry that I was born where and when and in whichever family I was, I really can’t change that just now. A campaign against caste discriminations brought me back to the age old stereotype – urban middleclass kids don’t understand caste. Obviously we don’t. Or I don’t. Obviously no one discriminated against me because obviously I was born into an urban middleclass and not-like-we-really-care Hindu family. But you cannot blame me for it. When I was growing up, religion was the issue. I went to boarding school where religion was fascinating. I experimented with going to Church, and watched rituals carried out by Muslim friends. I was told by my grandma never to marry a Muslim. She never told me never to touch a Dalit.
Anywhere you go, there are rules and norms and attitudes and behaviour and people watching, judging, wondering, gossiping. You must eat your salad with the right fork and not walk barefoot in the restaurant or put your feet up on the theatre chair in front of you or walk sedately or be fully covered from head to toe or not make eye contact else you are asking to be raped or not be seen in a night club because that makes you a BAD girl or not have too many male friends because you are then ‘slutty’ or not express love for someone because love cannot be platonic or not punch someone’s arm when joking because then you must be hitting on them!! You must not even give your number to people or they will send you slushy mushy texts coz dammit, you gave them your number so it’s your fault, you were flirting. Luckily my guy friends are uber-cool. But, it's just weird that it's ok if they swear, or go to clubs, or get drunk, or fall off bikes, or smoke too much, or snort when laughing, or walk in their boxers coz they just dragged themselves outta a pool at 6 am.
These thoughts about who you should be really get me sometimes. I hate that sotto voce “girls these days…” that are thrown at me or the round eyed look of shock when the tattoos sneak peek. People don’t know how to categorize then. You see, giggly girls are ‘cute’. And the ones with big butts are ‘hot’. And the thin waists + big butts are *unpublishable*. And the ones with big boobs? God’s gift to mankind. And the ones in expensive clothes and expensive perfume – ahhhhh *drool drool*. And the one’s who can cook, clean, make chappatis, khichdi, gajar ke halwa, daal-chawal, blah blah blah – take home to momma. And then there are the badass girls who wear leather and bike around all over. I’m neither flowery, nor giggly, nor do I have a big butt. No expensive clothes. My jhola has dirt streaked ‘oms’ on it. The kajal hides how sleepy I actually am. And the loose baggy look works for me. No expensive perfume. Nor chappatis. No daal and only semi cooked chawal. And my friends who bike around don’t wear leather. It’s too hot! Shit. Where do you fit in these bizarre personalities?
Here’s where ‘Majnuneh’ comes in. Many women I am currently idolizing are the ones who bark with laughter or sit with their legs flopping over the arm of the chair. They are the ones who jump into pools at night, or are determined to follow a story through to see it end with justice. The cute one can drop kick you. And the bad ass one believes in stars & destiny. And the tough one sometimes goes mushy when she sees a puppy. They don't think twice before dancing stupidly or rolling over with laughter. One calls me "Dood" in an attempt to mimic my Indian accent. They believe in who they are, f*ck what the world stereotypes them as. Beautiful, alluring women. Soft spoken. Animated. Involved. Vivacious. Juggling. Balancing. Resolved. Determined. And crazy as hell. Just Majnuneh.