You don’t need T. S. Eliot to tell you that April is the cruelest month. If you live in Mumbai, you know. Well, unless you stay in an air-conditioned apartment, drive an air-conditioned car, work in an air-conditioned office, and shop only in air-conditioned malls. For regular mortals, it is not at all absurd to feel nostalgic about the early days when people roamed around blissfully naked. They didn’t have to worry about clothes getting sweaty and itchy.
Anyway, you can’t do much about the weather you’ve been given, so it’s better to learn how to make some refreshing nimbu paani (lemonade). I like it with rock salt, a hint of pepper, and a wee bit of sugar. Mint leaves? Even better. No, this hasn’t become a fashion or food column. May the good Lord spare you such a travesty!
Actually, I have been thinking of the other Eliot lately. Yes, George Eliot, who wrote The Mill on The Floss, a novel that was prescribed reading in our literature class. That scene where Maggie Tulliver chops off her hair is the only one I remember so vividly. Maggie’s mother is fed up of her so-called wild ways, especially the unruly hair, and wishes that the girl would have a nice, curly mop just like her cousin’s. Maggie has had enough of everyone trying to make a lady out of her, so chop-chop-chop she goes. It’s her moment of liberation – instantly gratifying at one level, and a sort of metaphorical middle finger in the face of her Victorian world.
What amazes me is that little seems to have changed in some respects. I was reminded of Maggie when a friend told me about her little sister who is in the eighth grade. She is a confident person, loves to dress up, play games with the boys in the neighbourhood, and participates in many extra-curricular activities at school.
“Why do you leave your hair open all the time? You’re a big girl now. Boys look at you closely. You must be careful”
A few days ago, her mother said, “Why do you leave your hair open all the time? You’re a big girl now. Boys look at you closely. You must be careful.”
She replied, “Let them watch me. They are big boys. It’s natural for them to do that. What are you worried about?”
“About you, who else? Tie your hair properly. It draws too much attention.”
“Why don’t you buy me an invisibility cloak? I’ll wear it when I go out.”
“No one can win an argument with you. Do as you please. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.”
She did as she wished. Off she went to the salon, and got her hair cut short. Her mother was horrified. “What have you done? You look like a boy now.”
This happened at a conference, which called itself Asia’s biggest convention on the business of entertainment, or something to that effect. The day’s sessions were over, and a small party had been organized in the evening – a giant screen to watch the India versus Australia cricket match, and a stream of appetisers and alcohol.
I don’t watch cricket, and hardly care about alcohol, so I was just hanging around and chatting with some people I had met earlier. At some point during the conversation, I was introduced to a gentleman who insisted that we have a private meeting. He was convinced that I would be blown over by the short films he had made.
I wanted to be polite, so we found a table to sit at. The films were not online yet, and they would not have a theatrical release either. He wanted to upload them only after creating a sufficient amount of ‘buzz’.
“So, tell me about your films. Do you have them on a device?” I asked.
“Sure, that’s why I wanted to meet you. But let me tell you what they are about,” he said.
“Go ahead. I am all ears.”
“They are all about self exploration. The first one is about onanism, the second one is about bathing, and the third one is about vomiting.”
“Oh, that’s really interesting. Tell me more.”
“I shot myself doing all three things.”
“Oh, that’s quite experimental. But I am sorry, I have to go.”
“What happened? Don’t you want to see them?”
“I do but I just remembered that I have to be at home for something. Thank you for sharing your work with me.”
Chintan Girish Modi is a Mumbai-based writer. That he shares his last name with a Prime Minister is purely a matter of coincidence. He tweets at @chintan_connect