Going to work without my morning coffee the past one week has been killing me. There just had to be coffee today! With about five minutes to spare I popped into the nearest tea shop I saw. A minute after entering, I became aware of it being ‘unusual’ for girls to pop into tiny tea shops in little corners of the streets of Kochi. I could feel the stares sizing me up from top to bottom. I could also spot the smile my order-taker was trying to hide. “Sure you don’t want anything else?”
I might make speeches about this not having to bother me one bit. But it did it did! I am not sure which I despise more – the stares or the fact that I could be bothered. All I had in mind was drinking that coffee asap and getting the hell outta there.
I wonder why these little things don’t change. Women are anywhere and everywhere. But when it comes to breaking certain taken-for-granted little norms like ‘men of any status can be seen in any tea shop big or small, women regardless of their stature, just do not enter these spots’, we are big-time losers.
This is not about having to make a point that women can do it too. This is just a question of how such norms came to exist and how they continue to do so. They have broken rich-poor gaps, low class-high class differences, black-white horrors, but not man-woman. Never man-woman. Not in tea-shops, not in tea-untotalling.
Eighteen and just out of a girls’ school, I was still in a supposed-to-be-anti-men mode. Which means no-way-am-I-going-to-admit-I-like-them. It was during a trip from Trivandrum to Irinjalakuda. I was in a side seat enjoying the night journey. Opposite me was a gent whose face I could see though I don’t look at him directly. I could pretend I never knew his presence and at the same time follow his expressions.
I had this feeling he was smiling at me. Just looking at a strange girl and smiling. What was the idea? But I was still in that anti-mode I mentioned before which meant it would cost all my pride to actually turn and give a direct gaze. No I shall not. I sufficed by guessing he probably was smiling at me. Good thing about this anti-mode is it didn’t prevent me from turning my imagination full gear. So a song popped into our compartment from the windy night outside. Those falling-in-love songs. Rule number 17 in anti-mode is while no form of outward display expressing interest towards the other gender is promoted, the inside emotions need no boundaries.
Opposite gent – I can make out that he is in specs – rises to a hero in imagination. The scenes would have piled up one after another and grown into a cris-and-specs-romeo series. Unfortunately Irinjalakuda came and I got down leaving behind my hero who I imagined through my sideway-glances was looking after me longingly.
Fun part is I came back and wrote to my best friend Ros (others hooked to emails, ros and I took pen in hand – because we must always follow tradition and because internet was restricted by certain you-must-study-more parents). I wrote her about the gent – the descriptions of a man I didn’t even cast a glance at, came out so vividly in my letter. After a generous paragraph or two, I realized this might tarnish my anti-men image forever. Quickly my conscience conjured up a story for me – I say conscience because I had to believe it first before I wrote it. So I told self and ros, this gent here – he was not my “interest” but he looked very much like Kevin – the hero of the story I was writing then (yea I believed I was going to be a writer even back then – swapnanagalee veenudayuuuu…).
Now I laugh thinking about my haste to “justify” my “vayumnottam”. Poor Ros (or maybe clever Ros!) wrote ‘Oh I first thought you were vayumnokking, now I realize it was because it looked like your character’. Hehe.
Well all this now, cause I took a train and a young fellow was sitting opposite me. But gone are those days of teenage fantasies and this time I was genuinely uninterested. Poor me, am I losing it? Wish I was 8 years younger, I wanna go back to teenage. And I really wanna take a good look at my specs-romeo.