Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's - A Day too late

It was a strange feeling. 

Very strange. Very special. Sweet Sorrow? Lonesome longing? Didn't know what it was. 

A warm inner glow? A calm simmer of joy? Didn't know what it was called.

It had been happening for a while. Every time I met her. Every time I talked to her. Every time I laughed with her. Every time she laughed at my jokes. A lump in my throat. A gulp to swallow my thrill. Trying to keep a straight face, when my knees grew weak. Trying to speak normally when my heart thumped at high speed. And I hoped that she was feeling the same too.

Then, I decided. 

I decided I would tell her. I decided I would let her know this. But, do I have a reasonable education? Do I have a reasonable job? Well, I think I did. But, will she get angry? Will she give a smile and hint favour? Maybe she will. Maybe she won't.

Destination: Greeting card shop. In 1991, the Internet, or Internet greeting cards, were unheard of. In 1991, even 'mobile phones' were unheard of. We didn't even have telephones - the wired kind - in either of our houses. 

But she had a friend. A more trustworthy medium. I stop by, at her friend's. Pass on a letter. The friend then will stop by, at her house. Passes on that letter. A fool-proof postal system.

But that system developed - between 1992 and 1994 - after the first greeting card. The first card was a direct delivery. But it was a delayed delivery. And this is the story of that delayed delivery.

The greeting card was purchased alright, but it had soon undergone strange metamorphosis, under my hands. Its chocolate-colored side was cut, into a heart-shaped card. And pasted on a white card. Also, cut into the same shape. Then, on either side of the heart - brown on one side and white on another - were pasted tiny stickers of flowers. And then one sticker had a starry-eyed, Archie Andrews, saying 'I think I like you' and a dizzy-eyed Betty Cooper looking at him.

This newly manufactured heart-shaped small item went into a tiny envelope. Then, the tiny envelope went into my shirt pocket. And I went with these two, to a youth group meeting. That was where a lot of young people were supposed to meet that evening for choir practice.

But my objective was a singular one. To muster enough courage to hand it over to her. The day was a special one. 14th February 1991.

Well, in 1991, in a city like Hyderabad, Valentine's Day was not popular, at all. Special TV Shows and satellite Channels were yet to come, and media hype and marketing hype was yet to be made. And, in 1991, it was a bold move, to even talk about Valentine's Day, in a Christian youth group! 

It was a 'oh-my-god-with-a-hand-on-mouth' kinda taboo. So, my mind knew that the operation I was embarking upon was a dangerous one. Very dangerous. It was almost, 'mission impossible".

But that was the mind. What about my heart? It had started beating erratically - when I saw her. What about my throat? It had become completely dry. I must have had three glasses of water, which didn't do any good. 

"Happy Valentine's Day", she said shaking hands, when we were slightly away from the others. Bold move. Very bold move. And seizing the God-sent opportunity, "Here, I got a card for you", is what I should have actually said and given the card to her. But I didn't. I just mumbled a quick "Thank you," and moved on.

Strange. Very Strange. It hardly took one second to mumble, thank you. But it had taken me a full one-hour to make up that card, the previous night. Now, the decreasing thumping of my heart was a relief and a disappointment at the same time. 

I walked home with my heart heavy but still thumping - Underneath the shirt which had a pocket, which had an envelope, which had a card, which had a sticker, which had my feelings. Unexpressed.

It was only the following day, at another meeting that I was able to regain confidence. It was only then that I was able to go close, hand it over, and whisper, "Here's an envelope with a card for you...and don't open it here. Open it at home alone".

There. It was done. That's what I meant when I said 'a delayed delivery'. Not on Valentine's Day, but the next day. 

But I am glad it was not the next year. The next year was 1992. But 1991 to 1994 was an exciting time, with three Valentine's days in them. A three-year period during which our courtship, and our self-developed communication system, flourished.

But the day, 14 February 1991, will forever be remembered by me, as 'Courage Lost', and 15 Feb 1991, as 'Courage Regained'.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Metrosexual Matters


What do the international celebrities David Beckham, Justin Timberlake, and, Johnny Depp have in common with Indian celebrities, Shah Rukh Khan, Saif AliKhan and Rohit Bal?

Well, in several surveys, these men are all rated as the most famous ‘metrosexuals’ today. This term – for which, your latest word processing software, still puts a red squiggle under it – has gained popularity at an incredible pace.

Are you a male? Do you tweeze, wax or trim your eyebrows? Do you shave/wax your legs, chest or back? Do you polish or paint your nails? Do you gel or perm your hair? Do you enjoy manicure and pedicure, like your female friends? Oh.… do? Well, nice to meet you, Mr. Metrosexual!

A metrosexual, you would have gathered, is a straight man perceived to have the style, culture and personal grooming practices usually associated with gay men.

The coinage of this word is attributed to a journalist, Mark Simpson, who said, “The typical metrosexual is a young man with money to spend, living in or within easy reach of a metropolis – because that’s where all the best shops, clubs, gyms and hairdressers are.”

For us, now, the real question is, Is it the fall of the He-man, and the rise of the Metrosexual? What’s happening to all the he-men? Are they becoming she-men? Is it not macho to be macho anymore? Is ‘sissy’ not a belittling word, anymore?

Seeing swarms of this new emerging breed of modern, straight, stylish, sensitive, well-groomed guys, in shopping malls, cinema halls, discotheques and university portals, one assumes that the tough working woman has broken the glass ceiling and is driving men into sensitive she-like attitude. After all, now, she wants to come home to a tender loving caring guy, who can cook and cry, as appropriate.

Euro RSCG Worldwide, a marketing communications agency based in New York City and more than 200 other cities, which conducted a worldwide survey on metrosexuals, says they are growing all around us. And that its not a passing fad!

This growing group of young, sophisticated spenders is a dream come true for makers of apparel, shoes, watches, jewellery and cosmetics. And this so-called feminization apparently has also made the marketers learn one thing : Soft men sell.

In the movies, when a man cries unabashedly at mushy-mushy incidents and memories, when a man admits he gets scared of blood, when a man cooks good food for a working wife, when a man seeks female help for man's work. It seems to be giving us a new learning : Soft men sell.

But, what do women think? Do they like this new trend?

No, says Stacey Pressman, a freelance producer for ESPN. Writing on her website, she compares a metrosexual to a female body builder. "While there is nothing wrong with a woman who is healthy and physically fit, who works out and builds muscle mass, there is something aesthetically unappealing when taken to the extreme. She looks masculine. To me, all of the lifestyle characteristics of the metrosexual man make him look feminine.... and I truly hope this trend fades out"

But yes, says Sharmila Khanna, an event organiser in Mumbai, in an article in ‘The Week”. "It enhances our relationship when we do things together. Who wouldn't want a well manicured-pedicured man who takes care of the way he looks?" Indian metrosexual is growing strong.

It is said that the cave-man was macho because if he was not, he would die. Or, at the least, he would not be attractive to women and, therefore, would have no opportunity to fulfil his biological need to have children. Today, good leaders and CEOs are expected to be sensitive, have empathy and bond with their people, be creative, act on instinct and gut feel (women's intuition?). Values like these are what makes them successful, and success is attractive to the opposite sex. There lies the reasoning.

Gender roles have been undergoing a redefinition in recent years as women enter the workforce as never before and men embrace less confining views of masculinity.

So, whether we like it or not, the metrosexual is here! And might stay here for quite a while.