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Hey guys, the newspapers were abuzz recently with how the elegant & charming Sudha Murthy (the lady needs no introduction!) was told to "go and stand in the economy class queue" by a fellow woman, who went to the extent of calling her "a cattle class person" purely based on the fact that Ms Murthy was dressed in a simple salwar-kameez as opposed to the other woman's "heavily labelled, blinkers-firmly-in-place" appearance as she stood in the business class queue to check in.
Amused me no end, especially because of Ma'am Murthy's intelligent retort, but also because it reminded me of not one, but the many times I have had similar moments in my life. If I really have to zero in on a starting date, I think it all began a few months after I gave birth to my son. I was over-weight, sleep deprived, breast-feeding, stuck at home with no help, hangry (that's hungry+angry) and dressed in my baggy Big Mama jhabla. I had had a bath though, even if the parlour-visit was looooooong overdue!
I had just put the kichdi - a nutritious & quick-fix mix of vegetables, dals, rice & ghee - on the gas, when the bell rang. The plumber was here to fix the leaking potty. Imagine my shock when the first thing he said as soon as I opened the door was "Madam ko bulao."
Now my repertoire of multi-lingual expletives is RICH, practically POSH, but I usually do not unleash it on unsuspecting victims before a formal warning! So, gathering my wits about me, I pointed out as calmly as I could, that "I, in fact, WAS the Madam!!!" Smart guy that he was, he quickly lowered his glance, suitably adjusted his stance and got to work. No one argues with Mama Pande when she transforms into the Jat Optimus Prime!!! Her six arms ready for combat flailing the lath, belan, karchi, chaaku, sil-batta and jhaadu!
It was bad enough that I had to contend with suddenly being jagat "Aunty" - every 20-somethings worst nightmare. But this transmogrifying into Gunjan Bai, was akin to going from a proud Made in India straight to a hackle-raising Maid in India!
Chalo we can say that was a one-off, but what about the time when, like Sudhaji, I was dressed in a simple cotton salwar-kameez (an indigo piece from Anokhi mind you) and this sleepy guard at my friend's condo asked me for "my card" when I went to visit her. I could have pummelled him right into the foundation of the building with my bare hands but I controlled my urge. Did a quick anulom-vilom and barked "koi card nahin hai, madam ko intercom karo.. jaldi!". Shook him out of his reverie I tell you - for the next 15 days at least - as he groped nervously for the intercom digits. A card, let me explain, is something that the maids carry as a valid ID with them as part of the security measures in apartment complexes.
These are just two random instances, I have actually lost count of the number of times maids have given me THE look as I played everyday with my son in the community park when he was little or right now as I stand at the bus stop waiting to pick him up after school. It's got nothing to do with the dress: I am usually in my favourite denim shorts and a flowery cotton top. Cool, casual and very comfortable.
It's, unfortunately, to do with this whole other sad attitude, fast gaining acceptance that "being seen looking after your kid in public is lo-so!" How else do you explain it? For one, when I used to take my one-year-old to the swings and slides in the beautiful garden in Phase 2, almost 80% of the kids were with maids - no family supervision whatsoever! Thirteen years hence, I am still surrounded by maids mostly when I stand at the bus stop for pick up after school. Not trying to be holier-than-thou here, but seriously is the crease in your dress, the expensive coiffer and the relentlessly cultivated prim & propah persona more important than the little pleasures of a mum's life! Because seriously, REAL life is not what the yummy mummies on monthy glossies make it out to be. Fashionable, Fancy and Forever Fun. NO WAY! That's Fictitious & False!
REAL life is all about a great deal of sweat, some tears, tremendous hard-work, constant self doubt, sleep-less nights rolled along with moments of utter joy, sense of achievement, pride and the gradual building of confidence in yourself as a muti-tasking megalith simply called MOM... MA... MUMMY...AMMA.... AAI... AMMEE! The sweetest sound in the whole wide world! The label you can happily live by. Something, every mom, stay at home or office-going will totally agree on!
Sorry, I do get carried away a little bit sometimes. But I take it as another delightful imperfection. As for appearances, beauty is NOT about looks, make-up or clothes. True beauty comes from being yourself. I take that to a different plane with my profile shot that declares: Be YOU. The world will adjust!!
WHY NOT? When looks can be deceptive, and all the make-up in the world cannot eventually hide your true colours just as no amount of labels can ever cover up your true class! Truth has a strange way of revealing itself! And as Jean-Paul Gaultier famously quipped Elegance (both internal & external) is a question of personality, more than one's clothing. So what's it going to be: the shallow, designer name caller or the dignified, diligent doer? Make your choice...