One job interview I went to, I was literally sent home after having my cheeks pulled (and my pocket replenished with toffee) because the octogenarians interviewing me thought I was too young. But then, the other day, I was in a train, and cast a random smile in the direction of some hyperactive toddler who was sitting across from me. (Random smile = yeah it's very nice you can jump on the seats and leave your footprints all over and generally be a nuisance and make a lot of noise but there's only so much I can take; so shut up now) The mother of said toddler got very excited by this first sign of someone wanting to engage with her child. So she tells her child, "Aunty ko hello bolo. Aunty ko poocho unka naam kya hain." And thus, uses aunty in place of other subtle pronouns again and again and again. Arre, not aunty, I am not so old, I want to say. But then I risk opening the floodgates of travel overfamiliarity and dealing with an avalanche of questions - how are you - how old are you - how old are your phupha-phuphi - oh why don't you have any phupha-phuphi - do you use B-Tex on the warts in your private parts, and so on, so I grin and bear the auntyfication.
I am the surly traveller who occupies the aisle seat and glares angrily at you if you smear your mango pickle oil on the seat. Or start playing bad music which is also loud. Or if you are the Rajdhani attendant who wakes me up at 7.30 am and says, "Madam, how much will you sleep? It's late now; eat your breakfast!" Even my mother doesn't dare do that. For I am kambalapriya.
I am not an ogress. I love children. But I have noticed my stars are always cruelly aligned when it comes to travel. I always get to sit next to the crankiest, most fidgety kid on the train/ plane. When they are at that innocent age when they are just sticking their fists into everything breakable but are incapable of achieving wider circulation because they can't really walk, it's still okay. When they are old enough to walk, and concurrently to discover the joys of stamping on rexine seats and trying their hand at mountain-climbing on a train, it's a big problem.
When I came back from Cochin, there were three kids in damage-causing reach. And they served cake on the plane. Cake is crumbly. Now, having spent two days getting firsthand experience of a Kerala wedding, all I wanted to do was sleep. Alas...
I promised R I wouldn't poke fun at her wedding, but it's just sitting there like a bubble in a sea of popped bubble-wrap, waiting to be, well, burst.
I still cannot get over the fact that the make-up took three hours and the wedding took five minutes. I'm sure the food at the wedding sadya empathises with me. It must have taken hours to cook but needs to be gobbled down in five minutes. They down the shutters after filling the lunch hall to capacity, so you're in an open enclosure, where you're being watched hungrily by this hungry crowd. It was probably the fastest meal I have ever eaten and if there were ranks, I come in third from bottom. And I pride myself on having adequate banana-leaf assembly-line eating experience. At some point, my sambar and my payasam decided to run into each other. Frankly, where they ran didn't bother me much as long as it was not in the direction of my sari. I was too busy trying to eat at a certain speed.
But then, someone saw me in the act. In an hour, everyone knew I was the greenhorn who had mixed her sambar and payasam (and tried to eat it; oh, the irreverence, the cheek!). By now, I am sure mothers in Kerala are telling their children a story - once there was an ogress in a sari who mixed her sambar and payasam. And the child cowers in fear. In playgrounds, girls are staring wide-eyed at self-defence manuals titled 'How to face the sambar-payasam mixing pisachi'. And maybe there is also an MMS circulating where the sambar and payasam flirt with each, mix, and I am shown eating this unholy blend with obvious relish. So yes, I am famous.
And I am an aunty. Maybe I should add that to my CV so that people know I'm old enough.
Note on title:
At some point during my MA, I began to appreciate the immense potential of the word 'discursive'. When one spends the whole day in discursive activity, it is good to be very honest and write a term paper called 'Discursive reflections on _________ (insert choice of topic).
Of course, professors are also discursive with grades.