ABRACADABRA: Unravelling the magic of a BRA down the years

Many years ago, I remember doing what I just love doing at the end of a long tiring day…..unhook, unclasp, undo and whoosh… off it comes…..Oh! the liberation that comes with yanking it off ……when you can finally let your hair down and release those poor organs from the clutches of that garment……it’s an out of ‘body’ experience only a girl can have.
Anyway, my daughter who was a toddler at the time watched as I expertly undid and slid off one strap under the sleeve of my top ,then the other and voila, there it was in my hand ready to fling as far away as possible…..all this with my modesty intact. For her it was like a magic trick……’My mummy is so clever!’ Who knew I had so many tricks up my sleeve ??
So, this is one trick that I would say every girl should know. How to get rid of the ‘body’ slickly and effortlessly. Learned many many moons ago in the hostel when a Bombayite came to live in the hostel one night and taught us naive hostel girls this manoeuvre. The way she executed it before an excited live audience as we gossiped and chattered, it has to be one of those things that will remain in my memory forever and needless to say I remember her only for that brilliant performance.
Why are you calling a bra a ‘body’ you might ask.Well, well, girls of a certain vintage will recall that a ‘body’ is that taboo feminine garment worn underneath, whose straps are as evil as are its other parts, which can never be on public display not even when left out to dry. We in India remember older ladies of the house call a bra a ‘body’. Wonder why….was it short for ‘bodice’ given that we corrupted a lot of English words? I have no idea. But ‘body’ it was……
The ‘body’ was a secret to be kept under wraps. Actually it was more like a white, ‘mulmul’ or thin cotton sleeveless vest, probably tailor made. I remember getting a sneaky peek at an occasional ‘body’ as it hung under a towel to dry.
When we went ‘body’ shopping , we had no idea what size to buy. 32 sounded like a good number so 32 it was. The body shop which also housed the body’s compatriot [ which deserves another story], was a cramped little dingy hole with boxes upon boxes of bodies. The bodies had names- Hema , Lata, Asha and some even had lace. We had no idea that bodies had cups. The idea was you entered the body shop, didn’t smile[ it was after all an undercover operation] and got the sales person, usually a miserable looking male to open the cardboard boxes. ‘ 32 ‘ we would croak in a hushed whisper as if that was a shameful secret being let out. And then as fast as we could, we just checked the hook and straps….the cups were usually a wrinkled mess….and thats it -you paid and left, not to return to the body shop for another 2 years. In those years the cup size changed, [ who knew anyway], the bra size changed[ does it matter??] and the straps went through 50 shades of grey.
In school as teenagers, wearing a bra was a big thing. Despite being an ‘only girls’ school, it was kept concealed by the other garment we wore – the petticoat. [a thin cotton sleeveless dress that extended to the knees….which these days is worn on its own as an outer fashion garment , but that’s another issue]. The petticoat persisted until one acquired the boldness to wear the bra on it’s own. We were bashful of the bra’s existence and even the bra strap on the back was viewed through the school blouse with fascination. As girls with changing teen bodies, we were curious to know who had started wearing this grown-up garment and although it was kept concealed in the snug confines of the petticoat , some clever girls figured that a little friendly slap on the back was all it took to diagnose a bra wearer! In the 9th and 10th std there was a lot of back slapping going on.The farewell parties in those years were when we wore our first sari blouses with the first you know what……complete with safety pins, straps sliding off, often the bra bigger than the blouse as it was borrowed from mother, aunty, older cousin or whoever. Or a random size 32!

Fast forward to the present. You don’t need me to tell you about body shops and bodies in this new world.
Just as I thought I knew everything about bodies and how to size them [ thank you Marks and Spencer] and how to sacrifice comfort for sexy style[ thank you wonder bra], i learned a new trick.
A friend told me that she hooks her bra on the front first, then turns it around 180 degrees so the strap is now at the back and THEN the arms go through the straps! Wow! You learn new things everyday.

Dental story : Surgical strike

Surgery classes were a terror. Our blood froze, mouths dried and muscles paralyzed at the thought of going for the weekly mockery that was surgery lectures. Wading through musty, sickness-laden, phenyl swabbed confines of the government hospital, past rusting stretchers with groaning faceless bodies covered with off-white, crumpled sheets, trying to avoid inhaling the stench of urine, vomit, raw wounds and dried blood in the ‘apatkaleen’ department was a challenge in itself. Uniformed Mamas on duty who looked into police cases like suicide and dowry deaths ignored us as we walked past the emergency department. Compared to the sanitized confines of the dental hospital, this was where the real action took place. It was grim, hard-core real medicine, real life and death scenarios playing out without the glamour seen in air-brushed serials on television. The fatigued nurses in their pristine white knee length frocks, tights and caps looked as if they had stepped out of the era of the British Raj. The doctors looked calm despite their surroundings. The one similarity between dental and general hospitals were the paan-stained corners at the top and bottom of every flight of stairs. It was hard to distinguish the paan from blood; it could have been both.

Surgery lectures were held after the daily dental lectures for the day were over. Groups of us students walked in, heads lowered, trying to keep as low a profile as possible. To describe the lectures as a spectacle was an understatement. It was more like a circus performance with us dental students playing jokers for the entertainment of the surgical registrars who stood against the wall at the back of the room enjoying the show as we trembled wondering what new insults would be hurled at us and what comic fun we would provide. Surgery class seemed to attract more students than our usual cohort of 70 something. The aged, ‘experienced’ faces joining us for this weekly session of shame were the ‘chronics’ who had suffered a ‘KT’ in surgery for more years than one.

To preside over the show, the sadist would emerge tall, lean, hunched, bespectacled. With a long finger he would point randomly at one of us. “YOU” he commanded in his quiet, refined voice. That’s it, the humiliation would start.

“What is the nerve supply of back of hand?” he once asked.  Shuddering we collectively tried desperately to extract a piece of information that had never been fed to our already exhausted brains. What does the back of hand look like? Yes, there are 5 digits. That’s as far as our knowledge went. How were we expected to know when our anatomy cadaver in first year dissection had no hands at all? Remember, we had only head, neck and torso; no limbs. Of course, we didn’t know. So, one by one we stood, clueless, mortified, embarrassed, blank. Like a pack of dominoes we fell, one at a time; what was left of our self-esteem shattered to a million pieces.

Dental story: The tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth.


I remember from an early age being brainwashed by my mother into thinking that I had to be a doctor when I grew up. I had no idea what I liked or much less what I had an aptitude for. But I went along blindly with what she advised. As the time to make a choice drew closer, I was convinced that I had to be a doctor no matter what. I was good academically and loved biology , so there was no thinking involved. I hated maths, so going towards engineering the other popular choice, was out of the question. The other options were unthinkable at that time.

So, when despite of getting great marks I missed out on getting admission to medicine by a point something margin, I was devastated. I joined BSc because I had not applied for anything else. I was obsessed with getting into medicine. I studied for all the medical entrance exams like a person possessed.

People asked me why I had not applied for BDS and I ignorantly asked ‘ what is that?’ Well, its dentistry, of course. I was horrified that they could even suggest that. I like so many, hated dentists and dental treatment. I had hated my orthodontist all along. Although he transformed me from an ugly duckling into something more presentable , I absolutely abhorred him .And his assistant. The needles, the nauseous smells, the hair-raising drilling sounds and of course the pain as he uprooted three of my teeth in quick succession made for regular nightmares. The smell of post-lunch oranges on his hairy, bare ungloved hands as he fiddled around in my mouth is still fresh in my mind. Nope, I did not want to be like him.

I would rather do BSc .Yes, I would do chemistry and become a scientist.

Soon, my stubbornness to persist with medicine faded and slowly I accepted that perhaps I needed to give myself a chance and apply for something else. Just being with people doing the BSc course changed my opinion. My peers were mostly unmotivated and disinterested youngsters who were whiling their time away doing BSc. Not all of them of course. But the majority definitely was.

So , when after one year, I could apply again, I applied for dentistry and pharmacy too.

This time around I missed out on getting into medicine by 2 seats. I can still remember vividly going to Grant medical college for the interviews and the person 2 places ahead of me getting in and the admissions stopped right there. The girl who was a place ahead and myself, bawled our eyes out. I was shattered and my dreams of wearing a white coat and brandishing a stethoscope had come to an end. I could not stop crying all the way to Pune. I was inconsolable as my poor father watched sadly in anguish. By the time I was home I could not cry any more and I went back to BSc. But a week later I got another interview call. This time for BDS.

I went along with my father to Mumbai and this time I got in comfortably.

I was on cloud nine, not because I got into dentistry but because I had now found a way to escape BSc and Pune and all the misery that I had put up with in the last one year.

I was elated and enthusiastically joined BDS in Mumbai, not knowing what I was doing.

Once there, I found to my sheer joy that the subjects were the ones taught in medicine. Subjects, that me, with my love for biology had a natural affinity for. Anatomy , physiology fascinated me. Pathology and pharmacology captured my imagination. The dental subjects too enthralled me. The laboratory work captured my fancy. I had always been a creative and artistic person. I loved doing things with my hands and had been very dexterous. Art had never been a career choice as we all knew it was not a sure shot mantra to money making. But now making dentures from scratch in the lab was a fantastic outlet for my creative energies. The intricate waxing , carving, getting messy with plaster, wax , acrylic and all sorts of materials was just the sort of stuff I liked to do. Not always easy, but I loved it.

Without realising it , I had entered a profession that was tailor made for me.

A mix of medicine and art, a challenge to the brain, a test of deftness and manual skills.

Now looking back I know that unknowingly I was pushed into making the right choice.

Oh yes, I did get admission into medicine by passing the All India PMT that year but the results were declared later by which time I was well and truly in love with dentistry and I am both proud and relieved that I stayed put and declined medicine.

Yes, my orthodontist would be shocked if he found out his worst ever patient went on to become a dentist! And yes the same smells, sounds are now reassuringly, part of life.

Sure, no one likes dentists, but ask anybody who has had toothache . Who helped them out of their pain? Their doctor or their dentist?

Getting someone out of pain is the most satisfying thing as a dentist and when ever I do that I know that this calling in life was just meant to be.

The tipsy thrills of C2H5OH

For the longest time, my sister and I thought brandy was a medicine that cured colds . We thought rum and whiskey help prevent colds! In fact, on our rain soaked adventures in the Khandala hills during our childhood. we were given whiskey – neat or mixed with rain water. We both actually enjoyed drinking the stuff and as predicted did not catch any sinister viruses.
Another time , as a teenager I was playing with neighbour friends in my uncle and aunt’s bedroom where there was a stash of alcohol under the bed. Someone dared me to drink some. So I foolishly opened a sealed bottle and took a swig. The friends were mortified that I had actually done it and I felt like a hero!
But somehow alcohol did not impress me as an adult. Perhaps we had grown up seeing so much daaru being sploshed around and various people getting sozzled and making fools of themselves that it put me off . I associate it with losing control over mind and body. The taste is another thing……people have tried to educate the naive , uncouth me of the taste of fine wine( a visit to Napa valley with me spitting most of the stuff out) or tried to make me exotic cocktails. It just doesn’t do for me what it does to others! Perhaps I needed a larger, stronger dose. I mean it tastes disgusting. I have tried to pretend liking it but beyond a few sips, I have to give up. I would much rather have stinky blue cheese ( yum, yum), bitter gourd or Marmite than alcohol.
I am not a prude and do keep trying to like alcohol. I want to be able to stylishly hold a flute of wine and get drunk some day. I have loved mulled wine but that was more for the added spices and the warmth which was comforting in the cold. I still love a sip of brandy for its ‘medicinal’ taste. I would love to lick just the foam off the top of beer if someone is willing to waste a beer on me . I once thirstily drank a glass of Pimms at full throttle because I thought it was ‘sarbat’ ( with MIL giving company and thinking the same innocent thoughts)- I mean we saw the apples and mint floating in the alcohol and thought it was fruit juice so we both drank it up and got dizzy together. I love pina colada but wish someone would not bother with adding the white rum- it tastes so much better as a mocktail. I love Baileys but that’s because it’s milky- why make it bitter??
So if anyone asks if I drink I don’t know what to say. I’m no teetotaller-it’s a bit like being a vegetarian who will have only the curry from ‘non-veg’ dishes!
I really want to like the stuff. I want to know what makes it tick. Why do people drink? How much does one have to drink to get drunk?
I do keep trying. I tried drinking on the plane some time ago so I wouldn’t feel anxious about flying, but alas I couldn’t down more than a few sips. I just cannot do what they do in the movies- glug several shots forcefully. The fear of losing control is so strong that it stops me from crossing the threshold.
In my late teens, I carried a water bottle during my Bombay Pune travels. I had an old, flat plastic bottle, which fitted perfectly into my small travel bag. One day on a delayed Bombay Pune train journey I was sitting in the general compartment. I was thirsty and nonchalantly whipped out my water bottle. I cannot describe the look on the faces of some males on the train. To me it was just a bottle. To them, it was a bottle of XXX rum and here was this girl drinking from it. So what if it was only water but it was still a daaru bottle. It was at that time in my life I realised how taboo alcohol is for some people.




  • You know you are a dentist when the first thing  you notice about anyone is their teeth.


  • You know you are a dentist when RIGHT is always ‘Patient’s right’ and

LEFT is always ‘Patient’s  LEFT’ …….. Basically Right is wrong!!


  • You know you are a dentist when you look at a pretty model’s teeth and instead of admiring the photo shopped / airbrushed face, you wickedly concentrate on the  posterior metal fillings, black rimmed margins of crowns and so on.



  • You know you are a  dentist when you think of Alginate when you knead chapatti atta dough.


  • You know you are a dentist when you have delightful dreams of removing chunks of calculus( ahhh the pleasure)!!!


  • You know you are a dentist when you spot calculus , plaque, materia alba and stains  in the lower incisors of hot hunks .


  • You know you are a dentist when you can spot a smoker by looking at his/her lips.


  • You know you are  a dentist when you become highly suspicious when you see a perfect set of teeth in an elderly person and look closely to make sure it’s not a denture!!!


  • You know you are  a dentist when you figure out a  person is a gutka eater from the way he speaks


  • You know you are a dentist when  you are never bored in a train or bus; you just amuse yourself diagnosing Class 3s , anterior open bites, bimaxillary protrusion and so on. Throw in a mesiodens and your day is made!


  • You know you are a dentist when you sincerely wonder when MS Dhoni is going to having his missing upper premolar replaced.


  • You know you are a dentist when u are still trying to find out who did  Kajol’s orthodontic treatment.


  • You know you are a dentist when you describe people whose names you don’t know by their teeth- ‘oh the guy with the missing laterals!’ Or ‘hmm the girl with the buccally displaced canines’


  • You know you are a dentist when your kid, in his mothers day card, thanks you for making him brush his teeth everyday..


  • You know you are a dentist when you eat most of your kids’ Halloween candy under the pretext of saving them from cavities.


  • You know you are a dentist when the smell of good old Zinc oxide Eugenol smells better than any balm on this planet.


  • You know you are a dentist when nostalgia means fondly remembering the days of triple arm slip joint, extra extra low snail speed ancient hand pieces, chip syringe and other such wonders


  • You know you are a dentist when your patients bring you chocolates


  • You know you are a dentist when you sit at a dining table, listen to someone’s jaw clicking and diagnose TMJ dysfunction


  • You know you are a dentist when you see a person you know who used to have a missing premolar and ……there she has it now. ‘Ohh she didn’t come to me for treatment’.


  • You know you are a dentist when you can identify a person who has had Orthodontic treatment even as a first year dental student.


  • You know you are a dentist  when instead of saying  “say cheese” while taking a photo, you say  “give me a molar to molar”


  • You know you are a dentist when extracting a tooth even a wobbly third degree mobile one, successfully, gives you a HIGH!!- every time!


  • You know you are a dentist when, at a party, you always dread the moment when somebody asks you what you do.


  • You know you are a dentist when the person in front of you  says, ” Nothing personal but I don’t like dentists” and you just smile and say ” I know, I know.”


  • You know you are a dentist when new acquaintances who have just found out what your profession is, cover their mouth, assume you make a lot of money and get a free consultation there and then.


  • You know you are a dentist when you just hate it when people ask how many months it took for you to do the dentistry course!!!  As if it’s some kind of sewing/ embroidery class


  • You know you are a dentist when you hate it when people ask ‘what made you take up dentistry?’ As if implying  ‘why on earth would someone want to be a dentist’

Can’t reveal the secret that actually I wanted to be a doctor but kya Kare, that 0.01 mark changed my destiny (for the better!!!).


You just say ‘I always wanted to be a dentist’. After all, dentistry contains  ‘destiny’!



Immunisation-hostel style

What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger…….hmmmm, I guess immunisation works on that principle. Micro/nano small frequent doses of nasty stuff makes a super human out of the wimpiest among us. Well, super-tolerant humans in any case.

Hostel life is one such immunity building exercise. Looking back, I am amazed at our survival skills…..

Yucky things first. Toilets. I know, EEEEEWWWWW but seriously I still have nightmares and one ghastly item haunts to this day-the ubiquitous empty plastic jar ( dabba) of alginate ( dental impression material) with it’s top hacked off- that was the supposed water tumbler.Oh! Oh! Ouch



Hostel- Examination fever

Mugging, cramming, handwritten notes, photocopied aka ‘xeroxed’ notes, borrowed notes, maaroed (stolen) notes, notes that were passed down for generations until they acquired the iconic status of a textbook, lugging thick heavy textbooks from the library, staying  up late at night, getting up early in the morning, sweet, milky sugary hot chai to keep the eyes awake and the brain on red alert, not sleeping some nights in a row, the fierce guarding of notes, going round the hostel rooms to see who was sleeping and who was awake, who was reading which textbooks and notes, tripping over muggers i.e. crammers in the hostel corridors and steps……………oh the flickering tube-lights and air of nervous electricity as we prepared for exams!

‘Rattoing’- nothing wrong with that as some facts just have to be learnt by rote……stuffing facts into an already overflowing brain. ‘What are the contents of the foramen magnum?’ The spinal cord of course. Yes, but what else? Well, who remembers now? Short term memory is great- it allow you to retain as much as you fill in and then post-exam, the  memory pot leaks copiously and a few days later- Whoosh! it is as empty as the foramen magnum in a dry skull!

Making mnemonics to remember everything. The weirder the ‘aide memoire’ the better. ‘What are the side effects of corticosteroids?’ Uh, pain? Well, painful to remember especially when the brain already had a million other ‘side effects’, ‘contraindications’, ‘pharmacological uses’ floating about.

Panic attacks, tears, dark circles, acidity, regurgitation, overeating, under-eating, last minute dash to eat Chyawanprash for better memory, oiled hair, maxis (not to be confused with glam maxi dresses) aka gowns all day long, self-inflicted torture, self-inflicted confinement to hostel room/corridor…….oh the discipline, the punishing regime which got harsher as the exam date approached.

It has been 3 decades…….yesterday’s misery is today’s ‘those good old days’.





21 Intrusive Questions One Woman Should Never Ask Another

Have you been at the receiving end of a question which has no answer? Have you been been stung by a question which is not a question but a statement in itself? Have you been asked a question so powerful that it has taken the wind out your lungs and almost choked you? Have you been hit so hard by a question, that you recoiled at how mere words can have the effect of a physical blow?

Of course we all have and I am not talking or a viva voce of a 12th standard exam where the examiner grills you about the laws of quantum physics or the anatomy of a frog brain.

This is the viva of day-to-day life, where we women interact with other women – women who are our ‘friends’, women who are acquaintances, women we meet socially or just random women who flit in and out of our lives, who just ask, ask , ask – without waiting for an answer, without wanting a response, without knowing us, without a thought.

Since we women speak mostly to other women and love to talk among other things, we ask a lot of questions – all playfully, unintentionally of course!

In an attempt to make small talk we women and men too, ask questions – as fillers, as conversation starters, as ice breakers … heart-breakers?

In 12th standard exams, we used to have a booklet called ’21 questions’- questions likely to be asked in the exams.

Here is my list of 21 questions women ask each other; questions that are questioning, investigating, probing, scrutinising. Questions that do not end with a question mark, but actually with a few exclamation marks. Questions that are statements. Questions that end in tears. Private tears!

Here is my list of 21 questions that one woman should not ask another.

“When is the good news?”
‘Good news’ as in “when are you getting married?” or ” When are you getting pregnant?” The most prying, inquisitive question of all. Is there an answer? I don’t know. A few days down the line, you recover from it and think of clever answers you could have given that woman who hurled it at you. Too late!

The ‘good news’ question is designed to make the toughest among us tongue-tied and speechless as we cower guiltily at our failure in delivering the ‘good news’. We glower in shame at not being able to give the ‘good news’ that is expected of us. Nope, that new job you started doesn’t count as ‘good news’, neither does that degree you acquired last year after months of hard toil.

“Have you put on weight?”
Why oh why does anyone need to know this? You may have put on a few milligrams or a few kilograms. How does it concern the questioner?

Wish you could counter this question with positive questions such as “Are you going to buy me a new wardrobe darling?” Or “Are you just admiring my new curves?” However, you squirm shamefully, hopelessly pulling in that tummy fat, pinching those love handles, sucking in the armpit fat as if that is possible and rue the last time you ate a gulab-jamun, swearing never to go near a dessert again.

The question haunts you as you struggle with your post-delivery hormones or menopause hormones or for that matter any womanly hormones that misbehave and no diet fads help either. The question destroys the self esteem that took a recent beating and just got back on track. Why couldn’t the questioner admire your well-filled out glowing cheeks and say you looked happy? Or just say nothing. You promise yourself to go running tomorrow, eat one chapati less and hope that Ms. Question Queen will be pleased with your weight loss. As if she is going to notice the 200 grams you have lost, but you will try. Oh yes you will. You will do what it takes….with tears in your eyes.

“Have you lost weight?”
Now surely this is a harmless question? Losing weight is great, isn’t it? We are all on that losing weight bandwagon. We all want to lose, lose, lose until we get into those impossibly stitched skinny jeans that make our thighs look like sausages and need scissors to take off . But that is another story!

So ‘Have you lost weight?” is a great question. Or is it? Hmmmm, why is it that this question is always asked to someone who is already slender and a little underweight anyway? Rubbing it in, tormenting- “haha you look thinner” is what it implies. Ask anyone who has problems gaining weight – believe it or not there are plenty of us grappling with weight issues on the other side of scale.

Putting on weight is not as easy as stuffing a samosa in the mouth. It takes years to pile on a few micrograms, but in those few seconds the questioner thinks nothing of it and rebukes you with a reminder of how thin you are, how imperfect, how inadequate.

Yup, you will go stuff yourself even if it makes you sick, you will gorge on ghee, wear a few extra layers, wear padding, maybe even go underground and hibernate… until the day you put on a few kilograms to appease Ms Perfect who is prowling around with a magnifying glass with a built-in weighing scale that weighs even the smallest of bacteria and advises them to put on more weight… aiming for perfection.

Is Ms. Perfect inviting you around to hers for breakfast, lunch or dinner, so she can feed you? Fat chance! Does it ever occur to Ms Perfect that there could be a medical reason for weight loss? If it does, you will get a free lecture on her hypothesis of the investigations,treatment, medication etc you should be on. Never mind that she has zero medical knowledge and even is she did, it matters little that it is unsolicited advice that she is freely and publicly doling out. Your medical history is up for public consumption, so get ready for being held up like an exhibit. This question makes you feel like a diseased liver specimen sitting in a formalin bottle in some smelly lab, watched in awe and disgust by medical students.

“Why are you looking tired?”
Another dreaded one. You just got ready, washed your hair, used new deo, fresh talcum powder. You put on that new dress. You make an effort. You step out for a breath of fresh air.You run into the lady in the lift. And then BOOM. “Why are you looking tired?” says one woman to another.

Whoah! Didn’t expect that! “Tired?” You ask. She clucks with glee in disapproval. “Yes, you have dark circles” Oops yes. You think of explanations, excuses, apologies. Your child’s viral fever last week – sleepless nights of worrying and placing damp cloths on a hot feverish forehead has obviously taken it’s toll. No, maybe it was that heavy period you had last month. Tired, tired, tired!

“Yes I look like a panda.” You try to joke weakly while Ms Question smirks and watches you crumble to pieces. Is she going to make you a cup of coffee to destress you? Is she going to give you a free massage coupon? Think not. Yet that one minute in the lift is all it took to make you dizzy and want to go back home, dark circles, under-eye bags in tow, while Ms Question exits the lift without looking back at you. By the way, does she even know your name?

“No brother? Only sisters?”
Whew! Who knew you would have pay for your parents’ inability to have that coveted male-offspring, 40 plus years after you were born? You feel sorry for your mother for the taunts she must have endured in her days and realise that the dinosaurs who taunted her are very much alive and kicking, asking those very same questions.

Ah! what a relief it must be to have a brother! Alas! you will never know what privileges it brings… But you do know the question, and the answer is usually is a simple yes. An apology for something that didn’t happen those many years ago. An admittance of what you missed in life, a life incomplete without a male sibling. (??!!)

“No son? Only daughter?”
This is similar to the above question except that this time you owe a better explanation for having no son. Are you able to provide an excuse? How could you stop at a daughter? Why didn’t you keep going until you produced a son?

You have to keep ‘trying’ whatever that means. Different positions? Certain days of the year more productive for male offspring, perhaps? A scientific discovery waiting to be made by you? Some magic potion that the begetters of sons know of and somehow you weren’t told of it?

And then what better way of reminding you that you have nobody in your old age to look after poor you and your husband, who obviously does not have anything to do with the male-female offspring equation!

“Has your daughter started her periods?”
Shocking! But true. Subtlety is extinct, manners were never there. Imagine being asked this question by educated women in a concerned tone, as if something terrible has happened – a calamity to be dealt with calm.

You think to yourself – how clever these women are. Diagnosing puberty just like that and then having the audacity to actually ask details. They would never ask if your daughter started algebra in school or if she plays badminton in the evenings. But then none of it is as interesting as starting periods, is it? You reel from the shock of that question and then a few days later, think of clever retorts. You plan revenge – you will ask about her daughter too, then admonish yourself for stooping so low. You plan vendetta- you will ask if her son has reached puberty… in a few years. That is revolting – you tell yourself. You sigh in resignation. Life has become an open book – whether you like it or not. If you don’t want questions, migrate to the moon, or to Mars.

“Why are you not wearing your mangalsutra or bindi or dupatta or whatever?”
Nothing puts you on the defensive like this one. Who ever thought that in this day and age, women younger than you could pull you up for not wearing the symbols of wedlock. You can understand older, traditional women asking those questions. But when modern women check you out and ask why your Indian outfit is not paired with a bindi, you wonder who makes these rules of what goes with what. I think of it as a decorative sticker not a symbol of anything. Anyone who wishes to wear it should and anyone who doesn’t, why should anyone care?

But hey, this question comes out of the blue, just when you are glowing from compliments of how pretty you look in a new salwar kameez, someone goes really green and spots that blank patch on your forehead and reminds you that you are incomplete. Point taken. Something is missing… Dot, dot dot, dot…

“Are you pregnant?”
Now this is different from the first question. This is when someone looks straight at your tummy before you have a chance to suck it in and fires that salvo. Hello, you want to say – Just think. I’ve had this tummy fat for at least two years or more. Is pregnancy the only thing a rotund tummy can be?

You swear to get rid of the tight T-shirt you are wearing and start wearing long tent-like baggy shirts. But you never know- Ms Question will still diagnose a pregnancy through and through it. You just cannot win. You have to live with the glory of being omni-pregnant for the rest of your life or at least until you figure out a way to avoid Ms Question and her X-ray eyes.

“Have you done planning?”
“Yes I have planned our next vacation”.
“No, no, ‘planning’”
“Yes, I have planned lunch-box menus for the whole week”.
“No, no ‘planning”‘.

Then you figure that ‘planning’ is planning the map of your life as in ‘planning’ your reproductive life. C’mon, how can you get this answer wrong? Planning is family planning and there is no hush-hush secret way to go about it. You need to reveal the micro details – pill or copper coil, tubes tied or something else. Other women have a right to know what your plans are and you can stop stammering and just get on with it matter-of-factly! Your gynaec history is up for scrutiny and there are several women out there who want the juicy details.

“You have made only ______ for dinner?”
Oh no, now the secret is out. You made Maggi for dinner and that will just not do. How can you? Aren’t you supposed to dish out four-course meals, year after year after year, through sickness and all? Didn’t you order a takeaway the other night? Is that what you are feeding your husband?

Oh, this question is loaded, demanding a full blown explanation and it better be good. Wait till they find out you buy ready-made chapatis and are too lazy to make your own dahi. You can almost hear the sniggers. Who cares if you juggle a family and career? Round, soft chapatis are a must, not the papads that you pass off as chapatis!

“Why are you not breastfeeding?”
Now, this is a really private activity not for public discussion. But some women love to play lactation counsellor and what better way than to make enquiries into whether you are breastfeeding or not?

Much as we would like to believe that breastfeeding is and can be done by all women, it remains a fact that there are medical reasons as to why some women just cannot even if they want to. But let other women get a whiff of the fact that you cannot breastfeed and you are in for some real bashing.

So instead of putting aside the trauma of not being able to breastfeed and looking at the alternatives, you force-feed yourself some milk-inducing fenugreek seeds, pull out the torturous contraption called breast pump in the vain hope of it extracting a few drops of dried breastmilk from your tired body and hope it shuts up the woman who questions your ability as a good mother to feed her baby. Several painful, fruitless attempts later, you go back to the powdered milk, dry your eyes and get back to nourishing your baby – all the while envying the women who have free flow milk in excess and secretly make plans to steal the bottles that they fill effortlessly every hour. So low does your spirit go when another of your ilk asks this question and actually wants to know the gory details of all that nature deprived you of!

“When are you taking another chance?”
“I am not into gambling, you know.”
“Arey ‘chance’ yaar.”

You still don’t understand.

Not one to give up, Ms Q persists with- “You know, ‘chance’ – when are you having another issue?”
“Issue with what?”
Ms Q gets to the point – “When are you giving the next good news?”
“Oh, but didn’t I give the good news 10 months ago?”
“Yes, but you have only one child and that too a daughter!”

If someone could monitor your blood pressure at this point, it has reached an epic high. Chances are the B.P. machine will explode as you work out this new ‘chance’ you must take in your life in the near future so that Ms Q and others like her are happy. The question is, is Ms. Q going to help you out with your pregnancy, delivery or in bringing up your ‘issue’? Not a chance.

“You are only a housewiiiiiiiiiiiiife?”
Said like a question, but a statement in itself. Implying that all you do all day long is sweat in the kitchen, pack tiffins, watch TV serials, gossip and sleep in the afternoon. A sad life indeed!

You try to defend yourself, you tell her it’s your choice, you tell her you enjoy it – Nope, you have to justify all those hours you are at home to this stranger you just met at a party who demands to know exactly what you’ve achieved by staying at home and wasting your time all these years. “Being a housewife is not a job, you know” – she is probably thinking and you just want to scream and tell her “Yes it is. It is a full-time, year round duty!”

Anyone who has a house has to keep it tidy and running for people to live in it. It is your job looking after your house and you work hard at keeping it the way it is. And you love it. Do you think Ms Q wants to know? She has made her statement and is now glazing over, gloating over her own ‘achievements’ while you figure why you gave up your paying 9 to 5 job to become a ‘housewife’ and be answerable to random ladies who are free to punch you with it from time to time. You swear to go home and start looking for part-time jobs even if it means going to the other end of town to do it.

“You don’t do dusting everyday?”
“Well, I have a shower everyday.”

Hmmmm…in the ‘good housewife manual’, it says ‘She’ must dust her house – shelves, corners, behind furniture, undersides of tables, between fan blades, on tops of cupboards – every single day. Oops, you’ve never known such places existed! Do you dare tell the questioning lady that you don’t bother dusting the vents of the air-conditioner, ever? That would be sacrilege – you would be banished from their club.

You want to tell them that a little dust is a good thing and even dust mites take time to adjust to new dusty surroundings before they do their nasty jobs. You hope they don’t find out that you didn’t change the bedsheets twice a week as they expect you to. So you just lie. “Yes, yes, I dust every day, even after the maid has done it – just to be sure that every evil speck of dust is removed. I have a spotless house”

(“Just warn me before you come home – in, fact tell me two days in advance and I will call the cleaning company before you inspect my house!”)

“What happened to your hair?”
This smacks you in the face and makes you want to pull your hair out, just that there isn’t much left of it.

It true, it’s sad. There is nothing like hair loss to make you feel down and out. When you see your precious hair go down the drain and that patch of untanned scalp starts showing through, you just want to hide from humanity.

Just when you shake off that fear, someone notices the thinning of your hair and BAM! ‘She’ wants to know what happened to your hair. You want the earth to swallow you up, you want to be reborn with a head full of hair, you start envying anyone with a thick mane of hair, even a hairy man, you look at girls with plaits the thickness of heavy-duty ropes and feel like cutting them off (Yes, it brings out the devil in you), you look at your hair on the floor and wonder if anyone tried making wigs with fallen hair, you feel like transplanting hair from your legs onto your head, you obsess about hair so much that you end up with more hair loss. More pain. That is what this question does…

“Are you going through menopause?”
Just when you thought you’d heard everything the cruel world had to say to you, this question starts hitting you in your 40s. You are sweating (it is a 40 degrees C summer, after all) and someone puts two and two together and makes it 40. Yes, these are hot flushes.

“Definitely”. They pronounce. “Are you going through menopause?” Without waiting for a response, they expertly pick that one symptom and the verdict is ‘menopause’. A gynaecologist would learn a thing or two from these ladies. “Your youth is over, lady”- that is the message and hope you are listening. Your pleas of “Oh but I have regular periods” or some such weak evidence is rubbished aside. Hot flushes it is. 40 equals middle age. Stop wearing those jeans and behave like an aunty at least now!

Finally, you resign to your fate. Bring on the menopause.

“Why isn’t your daughter married?”
It is nobody’s business asking you a private question such as this. Yet, how many times women ask this outright, demanding question to know the exact reasons? As if it is their right to ask as custodians of our perfect society which lays down the age at which a woman should be married, for she must be married at any cost.

Only a parent can feel the pain that such a question inflicts. Why? Why? Why? The world wants to know. Not because they can set it ‘right’ but because they want new fodder for gossip at a kitty party. A question such as this deserves no excuse, no apology, no explanation – no answer. It is nobody’s business. Period.

“Why is your child so thin?”
This ones makes you sad and angry at the same time. Sad because you try your best to fatten your child to reach the ‘ideal’ chubby body weight that society lays down as the gold standard of perfection. Never mind what the paediatrician says.

Ms Q throws a cursory glance at your child and pronounces her/him less than perfect. It is all your fault – you don’t cook right, feed right or do anything right. It is all your mother’s fault for not teaching you. You fume and froth at the mouth because this woman cannot see anything else in your child and compliment it. What is wrong with being thin anyway? You see, when it come to children, thin is unacceptable, fat, sorry ‘healthy’ is great. Touch wood! People like roly-poly kids. Now go force-feed your thin child…

“Hey, what have you got on your chin? HAIR?”
Ladies of a certain vintage will know exactly what I’m talking about. At a certain age, the hair on your head starts falling and as you wonder what happened to it (other than falling in the drain and on the floor), you realise that the naughty hormones decided to transplant this hair onto your chin! As if this whole process of chin hair sprouting by the dozens is not heart-wrenching enough, someone actually spots the hair and rubs it in with this nasty question.

Okay, you admit, it is there, it is only hair and it really hurts to have it threaded or plucked. But it really hurts even more when someone keeps looking at your chin as you as they talk to you and pops this question which is far from tongue-in-cheek!

“Why don’t you colour your hair?”
You don’t realise your roots are showing until someone shoots this at you. How did you forget that you are expected to be at your perfect best at all times? Grey roots showing are a no-no and flaunting them is blasphemy! You go on the back foot, start blabbering excuses – no time, couldn’t get the right shade, it’s not your fault, it is premature greying – defective genes, you know.

Too late- you’ve been caught out and even if you have a cold, you go buy some hair colour and slap it on those hideous roots.

Why oh why do women hurl these ‘harmless’ darts at other women? Do men ask women these questions? Doubt it.

Don’t we women belong to a sisterhood? Then why are such ‘harmless’ questions which have no answers floating around so freely and ‘innocently’?



First published on womensweb:




7 Rules to have your pakora and eat it too.

I love buffets- they are informal, you can choose what to eat, you can eat all you want and nobody is looking [ or so you think!].

But hey, what if you are on a diet and trying to cut down on eating humungous portions of food?

Now imagine being confronted by a magnificent array of Indian foods on offer at a party and the gulab jamuns look at you longingly, begging to be slurped and bitten into?

Now imagine having to look back at those wretched gulab jamuns and say ‘no’ to them! That’s right ! Can’t eat them or else all that huffing and puffing at the gym for one hour over the weekend will be ruined in one little gulp of that syrupy sugary dough ball with the come-hither looks.

If that isn’t too much to bear, imagine what happens when you sight the pakoras looking at you beseechingly and enticing you to grab a few oily gobbles.

Okay we’ve all been there and done THAT i.e cheated on our  diets when faced with the daunting task of surviving the temptations of a buffet and that too an Indian one where flavours abound and drool worthy foods just let melt your resolve and break that iron will power, making you forget your diet just for that one day. Poof! There goes one week’s worth of sweating it out and calorie burning.

So , for people like us who are on perpetual diets to lose weight here is a friendly guide to eating at buffets and not breaking the diet rules.

For those looking for serious diet rules or medical advice please look away and stop reading because this is a fun read meant for those who can laugh just as well as they can chomp.

Rule 1: Okay now I know this is silly but really helps. Eat before you get there. Yes you heard right. What is the point of going to the party you say. Well, do you want to control your weight or not, I say. There is no harm filling your empty tummy with a few bites of something healthy like fruit or plain yoghurt. So why go the party with a tummy that is rumbling and grumbling? Give it something before you go there and that way you won’t lunge for the party food like you have been on some bhook-hartaal or something!

Rule 2 : Go on a reconnaissance mission. Yup,as soon as you’ve done all the hellos and hugs, grabbed the welcome drink which should hopefully not add too much to to your calorie intake, go and check out the food – not with a plate in hand but just a little casual stroll to see what  is on offer.

Resist the temptation to take something off your husband’s plate and what he is already doing there when you are co-partners in this whole diet regime is another thing altogether. Never mind, ignore the hubby and go research all the dishes on display. Mentally tick the ones that are okay for you.

Forget the salad for now. What is the point of all this gorgeous food if you are going to munch on lettuce and cucumber.Unless you are desperate to diet of course- then by all means check out the salads and tick the ones that are not full of mayonnaise or cream or other forbidden goodies. Go for the sprouts and leaves.

But the other thing about salads is if you insist on having salads at the party , everyone will KNOW about your diet and that you are not eating proper food. How embarrassing is that! You don’t want the world know you are trying to eat less do you?

Mentally eliminate the curries that have an oily layer on top- nope that is not for you even if you spotted something green in it and thought is was full of iron.

Eliminate all the deep fried stuff – okay you really want that pakora because you last ate it two years ago and enough is enough. Right you shall have the pakora and eat it too.

Desserts: check out what is available and what you really crave. No, not all of them – just one or two. Okay done.

Having sussed out all the stuff you can have versus what you cannot have -hang around a little more. Chat, mingle, laugh, enjoy the company of friends, make new ones. It’s not all about the eating. At this point, you probably thank the dahi you had just before coming that is making you holding out this long.

Ask your friends what they like from the menu. If they have started off before you fret not.In fact, for all you know, the samosas are probably over so you cannot eat them even if you want to!


Rule 3  Go grab a plate. Select wisely. Try to avoid lumpy potatoes and fatty fried paneer chunks. Go for the cauliflowers and other veggies. Avoid the oily aubergines[ baingans] swimming gloriously in their oily pool. Go for dals, beans, chole and avoid anything where you cannot tell what vegetable it is. Take the chicken out of curry, the mutton out of the biryani and leave behind the curry and rice. Dont even look at the naan. If there are rotis grab them unless they are butter rotis or something similarly sinful.

It helps if you have worn a clingy , figure hugging dress because that will be a natural deterrent to eating to bursting limits.  Perhaps this should be Rule4.

Rule 4 Wear a well fitting dress where overeating will ruin your shapely contour by making you bloat. Do not wear elasticated,expanding type clothes that allow you to eat all you want. Make sure you get caught if you over-indulge. Be hard on yourself. That’s right. It takes a strong person to lose weight.

Rule 5 Do no pile your plate with a food mountain. It is seriously okay to go back for second and third helpings and yes, queuing up is a pain and so is spying the pooris at every trip because they are right at the start of the buffet line. Let the poori remind you of how you looked before you started this whole diet business. 

Serve yourself small portions. Even the pakora. Yes, that’s right. Got to indulge a little. Go on. Do yourself a service, give yourself a reward. A reward. Not rewards! Just one okay. Not one of each sinful type. Just one .

Is this cruelty or what? Who told you to go on this diet? What is wrong with being a little overweight?  The questions follow think and fast.

What is wrong with wearing loose tent like clothes for the rest of your life, you reason.Okay fine, if you suddenly feel this way, just give up and go tear into the buffet and eat like a maniac. But remember, as soon as you’ve done that ……….after the initial euphoric high, you will be nursing a hangover from all that excess for atleast a few days. Besides imagine how traumatised you will feel when you find out the your best friend survived the day eating just the chicken tikka and raita. So, let the feeling pass- don’t allow your self to be swayed – be dignified- small portions only. There is a CCTV in the room or imagine there is one or look around and spot someone watching you. That should stop you.

I love those sit down dinners where the video cameraman along with the glaring in-your-face lightwalla suddenly attack you just as you stuff a jalebi down your gullet and catch you in action -recording every single detail for posterity in someone’s wedding video where even after years, people rewind and watch your action sequence for a laugh. They should start doing that at buffets- it will help a lot of dieters.

Rule 6 : Eat slowly. Enjoy every morsel. thank the lord for this food.Let the pakora linger a little longer in your mouth. Savour the taste. Remember you won’t be allowed this luxury for the next two years. That doesn’t mean you go and grab a quick handful from the buffet. Nope, you will be lady -like or gentlemanly if you are a man and let others enjoy the pakoras as much as you enjoy yours.Resist the urge to be a glutton.Calm down. The gulab jamun should be arriving soon. The party is not over yet. Go help yourself to more raita [ skip if it is boondi raita.], go shamelessly help yourself to the last piece of chicken tikka or fish tikka. Think our your lipstick and think how the second pakora might smudge the lipliner- that should deter you like nothing else.


Rule 7 Some finer tips. My cousin invented this method of making a gulab jamun less gulabi, sorry sugary. Just hold the jamun under cold water from a sink for a few minutes, squeezing gently as you watch the oil and sugar leach out of the  jamun.Voila!a Enjoy the gulab jamun guilt free. Best done is your host’s kitchen away from prying eyes.[ Yes, yes i know this is daft, but hey it appealed to me, so I’m sharing it ] So next time instead of one maybe I can have two jamuns. One the topic of gulab jamuns, break the single jamun into pieces in your bowl and pretend each piece is one jamun. Seriously this works like nobody’s business. You can trick your brain into believing anything. The tummy is harder to trick. If your tummy is still hungry, obviously something wrong there. But go look for anything fruity on the menu. You probably overlooked it in favour of something naughty. Go help yourself to fruit from the fruit platter if any. Otherwise fruit salad will have to do  and fingers crossed it doesn’t have cream in it. Take the fruit and leave behind the custard.

As for the cake, how can you refuse a birthday cake!! Leave it for the children, have a tiny bite from someone’s plate or if you must, have a slice…….take the cake and leave the icing behind.

Sorry to offend people’s sensibilities. But this is what the world has come to.

If you think there is a lot of food waste [ mostly form you not doing justice to the burgeoning food menu], take some food with you. Ask the host to pack some for you and give it to someone less fortunate than you.

It will make you feel good, stop all the food going waste and hurrah your diet is untouched.