Hell no, I won’t grow!

The next guy who tells me about how some experience gave him personal growth is getting something sharp in his cranium. Seriously, blood’s going to pour out of his temporal artery. You know I mean it when I get mad anatomical with my death threats.

Why? Because it never ends there. Given male competitiveness, it turns into an arms race where each one feels the need to one-up the story. And it goes on and on until someone fabricates a coming of age tale where a plucky kid from Mumbai overcame his odds to win a million dollars on a game show in a country where we don’t count money in millions. All I want is to hang out with my friends and discuss guy-stuff. Just your average volleys of double-entendres and nothing too sensitive or soft; nerdy topics are welcome. Instead I get assaulted with this affirmation of adulthood, which often hides a plea for approval.

Most guys I know are comfortable with the ball-busting group dynamic where we pick on one guy and magnify his every imperfection. It’s immature. It’s caveman. It’s our way of sifting the herd for the weak link. So, that’s not four guys ganging up on one at McDonalds; it’s a test for vulnerabilities that we are better off catching here than in the wild—you know, the bar. But it’s familiar. It’s safe. We have come to expect it, maybe even enjoy it. But if well-enough was left alone, life would have been different. We wouldn’t have war and nuclear weapons, and Windows XP would still be the best operating system. (Okay, that last part is true. Not that I care.)

Once you go Mac…

Then someone goes ahead disrupts the equilibrium by showing us what a man he now is. Oddly, it’s often the same guy who used to turn a quiet evening of beer-drinking and cricket-chatter to a tequila-shot-drowned, vodka-infused, Jack Daniels chugging pukefest. You won’t believe it dude, when that kid grabbed my finger, I felt something. Yeah, you felt his fist. And then you returned the infant to his parents who will feed him at 3 am and hold his hand through rehab someday because grabbing that finger scarred him for life. But you will call this a paradigm shift and promote yourself from Jack Daniels to single malt to suit your current state of refinement. And we must follow along or cut you off like the gangrene that you are.

Half the time this whole personal growth or character-building bullshit is a band-aid for the most recent slight life has dished out. If so, that’s fine. It happens to everyone. Just don’t talk about it. It’s called rationalization because you do it to yourself. Selling yourself this crapola is hard enough. If you spread it around, daring others to refute it, you might just find out how many friends you really have.

Listening? Or staying awake by imagining you hanging on a meathook? (www.gogaminggiant.com)

I understand that when you watch Don Draper, who always had a mistress within Metrocard radius, walking around all mature-like, it’s understandable to regret the water-balloon fights and the time we faked a Harvard acceptance letter to mess with a friend’s head (He was so excited that he didn’t notice the w in Harward. Yes, I’m going to hell. More on that some other time.) In the animal world, prolonged eye contact means aggression, but among guys it’s just a staring contest to decide who will do a beer run. No one washes a dish after using it. We each fish ours out of the sink come dinnertime. That way, no one can shirk dishwashing. We order takeout because there’s no dishwashing before or after. But does that mean we are immature? I doubt it. We are just beta-testing adolescence at an age when we can appreciate it more.

If you ask me, it’s the hat. Without it, he’s a dumbass doctor on 30 Rock.

The way I look at it, maturity is paying your bills and having more friends than enemies. Done and done. Saying I mustn’t say or do some things because I’m not a teenager doesn’t resonate with me. Who draws these lines? When your grandfather was your age, he had two children. Yes, but that’s because there wasn’t much to do back then. Procreation was recreation. Let’s see him being all nice and fatherly in his twenties with a House marathon on HDTV and an FiOS internet connection. Do you know what a high-speed internet connection does to guys? It’s like giving us our own set of breasts—a productivity killer. Let’s face it. Most of us are going to live longer than our grandparents did. Why can’t we do things a little slower then? There’s no empirical evidence that playing Medal of Honor Allied Assault reduces your ability to be a father. Well it kinda does, if the laptop gets really warm.

Keep killing ’em Nazis—That’s your only effect on the gene pool.

So I’ve decided to stay immature, by society’s definitions, that is. Every now and then, I’ll wear whatever I can lay my hands on. I’m religious about showering and deodorants, so don’t call the CDC just yet. But if someone walks into a joke, I’m not gonna be the bigger person and let it go. Your ass is gonna get ridiculed. It will make you a better person. Or not. I don’t know. It will make me a happier person. That’s for sure.

Whoever decided that 26 is too old for that’s-what-she-said jokes did not check with me. In fact, all those who feel that way should just admit it right now. Admit it so I can un-friend you and cut you off. Or deal with it in silence. And that includes dick jokes, funny rape jokes (NOTE—I did not say rape threats, and no, they’re not the same.), and every other joke conceivable.

Except the Aristocrats. That shit is nasty.

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Meera’s woe: Part 1

September 2003

Meera sighed at the sight of the building. It was more dilapidated than she had imagined the ruined palaces of the Ottoman Empire to have been. She had to strain to hear the rickshaw driver. This surprised her, for she had never known a man to speak with such a soft voice. She paid him Rs. 100 and expected him to make any excuse possible to avoid giving her the change of Rs. 7.50, but he surprised her again. Ooty was warmer than she had expected in September. She walked in and asked the soporific guard to direct her to the matron’s office. A groggy thumb point later, she found herself face to face with one of the saddest people she had seen (not counting her little brother at the sight of her leaving).

“Welcome. You have been assigned room 22. It is on the second floor.”

“Thanks for letting me know, I would have been hunting for 22 on all other floors if it had not been for you.”

“No problem dear.”

Uh oh, she thought. When people don’t get sarcasm as simple as that, you can’t expect much sharpness from them.

Trying to outrun the rats was a lost cause. They just knew their way around the hostel better. Meera just had to see the bathroom. She knew what to expect, but her optimism always put her in embarrassing positions, like betting on India to win even when they needed ten runs per over with three wickets in hand. Her instinct did not disappoint. The bathroom was ugly, and the smell quickly reminded her of the time when she had passed by an opened men’s room at her old school.

Doing Bachelors in Engineering was her decision from the start, but she had not bargained for the archaic rule that all first year students were mandated to stay in the government hostel. It was basically a lockdown. You are actually paying money and being force-fed something. Is this what communism feels like, she thought. She dragged her dejected self to room 22, and sure enough it was on the second floor!

“Hi, I am Jyoti; this is Kusum, and you must be…”

“Meera…nice to meet you. So, you must be BE too right?”

“Oh! You are BE, no yaar, this hostel has freshers of many streams. I am doing my Bachelors in Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Kusum here is doing arts.”

How the hell are these girls so cheerful in this hell-hole? “By the way, how is the food here? Do they serve non-south Indian food anytime?”

“Yes, Thursdays and Sundays we get to have some Punjabi dishes, if the mess aunty is in a good mood? Why? Surely you are South-Indian…”

“Yeah, does not mean I need to live on sambar and rasam for the entire year right? Also, I was brought up in Mumbai.” Well, it was Runwal Nagar, Thane, but these people need not know that.

“Oh Mumbai, I have many relatives there…”

“Really lemme guess, Matunga right? I can practically smell the coffee beans and chicory!”

“FYI, it is Thane, but you need not be that rude. In any case, I am Malayali, not Tamil.”

“Oh! I did not mean to offend you” (Well, I did actually but, I am sure you will believe me if I say I did not.)

Nine weeks later.

“Meera, Dr. Bala is asking for you. You need to see him at the end of class today.”

“Sure, who is he?”

“You have been here two months and you don’t recognize the principal’s name?”

“I wasn’t aware of that being on the syllabus!”

“Yeah whatever, just go see him. That’s all I care about.”

“Cheer up Kusum, I’m sure it is about the hostel.”

Outside the class, up the stairs, thirty paces to the right and through a door bearing Dr. A. S. Bala in gold letters.

“Ah, Meera Iyer. Have a seat. I take it our conditions in the university hostel are below your expectations?”


“Don’t you know that all freshers have to spend their entire first year in the Uni hostel? I cannot allow you to change hostels at a whim.”

“I don’t get it Dr. Bala. I changed hostels two weeks ago. Your sphere of influence is shrinking fast.”

(Come on…don’t be a smartass. You don’t want the principal after you in the first year itself.)

“Yes, you need to move back in the hostel or face the consequences.”

“Please do whatever you wish sir, I have made my decision.”

“Very well, you may go.”

She spun on her right heel and left the room. The private hostel was a small bike-ride away. No more rats for roommates and food dabbas delivered by hand every afternoon and evening. Things were good so far…

Something always bothered her. It was like a grain of sand in her eye, or a stone in her shoe, annoyingly uruthufying her, reminding her of its presence. She knew that these four years were just a limbo. Her future happiness and contentment was elsewhere. Little did she know how close she would get to it before losing it.

Meera’s woe Part II

Meera’s woe Part III (Concluding part)