We all have stories

Don’t we?

I like to retell the one in which my friend and I locked our English teacher in the Staff Toilet back when we were in Class 12. Harmless for the most part (if you forget the angry teacher). Teenagers fancying a spot of rebellion, giggling the rest of the day, savouring this delicious secret (for years!) as though it were butterscotch icecream.

One gets to hear any number of interesting stories at work. Since the masses come in deciding to be chained to their desks for at least ten hours, they like to spend a couple of hours trading stories.

So what is in vogue?

Without doubt, stories that can be filed under the “women-cannot-be-trusted” category. The girl who had two boyfriends at the same time, the girl who broke up with her boyfriend when a wealthier one came along, the girl who tricked the boy into thinking she’d marry him and later married someone her parents found for her, the city girl who is incapable of compromise, the arrogant girl who won’t learn to cook. While popular culture advises men to not fall in love, men seem to advise each other along the same lines too (taking cues from songs like Venaam Macha Venaam, I suspect).

What else is in vogue?

Horror stories of inter-caste marriages, with details of atrocities committed in the name of honour. Couple runs away to Chennai and gets married, girl’s family invites them home after three months of silence (allegedly to make up), girl and boy are both murdered (their lunch is poisoned). Or this one: Girl’s brothers and father hack her to death because.. Sometimes it feels like I am teleported to Selvaraghavan’s Irandam Ulagam, a world in which fantastic beasts coexist with misogyny (and casteism, in this case), a world where social reform is probably an evil.

I fall into conversation with a boy younger than me, and he goes on to tell me how he would never commit the grave mistake of marrying a girl outside his caste. “My father would kill himself. Or me.” I can’t tell if he is joking. “Why would I do something like that knowing how wrong it is?” I start to lecture him on how accepting this status quo is a terrible thing to do, until he looks at me in a way not much different from the way the Dowager Countess looked at her maid Miss. Denker. “You’ve read too many novels [Denker]. You’ve watched too many moving pictures.”

I am aware of these occurrences – of the youth found dead, of the violence that erupts following such an event, more newspaper headlines that we skim over, feeling too disturbed to go into sordid details, click bait on websites until the eye rests on a link to panda videos, thinking we are in a cocoon above and beyond this filth, impenetrable in our urban bubbles that we imagine to be alternate universes.

But we live in this muck too.

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6 thoughts on “We all have stories

  1. Confession: I have narrated a few stories of the “She dumped him for a richer/better-looking/family-approved guy” type.

    Excuse: In the stories/anecdotes that I narrate, I do have inside information and am not extrapolating. I have begged some people (both men and women) not to lead on a person just because having a gf/bf is sexier than not having one. There was this rich girl who had a poorer bf. It is not just that she dumped him, it is that she never intended to inform her parents or take any step whatsoever. If both partners consider it a FWB relationship with no hard feelings, then I am all for it. I am a huge fan of the concept. But in these cases, there is a lot of broken hearts, broken egos etc and it is heart-breaking to see young people reduced to emotional wrecks, just because someone wanted to privelege to be addressed as chellam or kuttyma.

    However, the trend that you are talking about blames women either way.

    If a woman and a man are in a relationship and the woman wants to breakup, then “Intha ponungalea Ipadithaan”.
    If a woman and a man are in a relationship and the man wants to breakup, then “Intha ponungalea Ipadithaan”

    I do know guys who peg their number at 15-20 such relationships. I see no guilt in their eyes whatsoever. What do I say, “Intha pasangalea Ipadithaan”

    About the “a boy younger than me” thing. Inimel Ipadithaan. Regressiveness is always harder to take in people younger than us than olders.

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    1. I agree with you when you say those are people and stories you know. I know both men and women who have been treated unfairly in relationships, and thankfully, I know at least one guy who has the common sense to not generalize women.
      I should have been clearer in my post, my problem was with the attitude. How easy it is for men (and surprisingly, even many women!!) to brand women as loose or easy or not trustworthy, and win the approval of their peers.
      A conversation I overheard:
      Man 1: Ippolaam ponnunga love panren nu avanga Appa kitta sonna, Appa odaney okay solliduvaaru.
      Man 2: Yaen?
      Man 1: Avurukku theriyum, konja naal wait panna, andha ponney break up pannidum nu.
      Men: Hahahaha (Insert comment along lines of Indha ponnungaley ippdi dhaan).
      Just another thing I thought of now, as I was writing this comment. This difference in attitude is visible elsewhere too. If you consider a situation where a young girl and boy spend hours on the phone (with their significant others presumably): A group will now comment on the girl. ‘Eppdi kadala podudhu paaru’ or some comment about ‘kalachaaram’ or ‘Indha kaalathu ponnungala ellam nambave mudiyadhu’ or any other insensitive comments like that – without knowing anything about whom she was talking to! But this same group will choose to comment about the boy in a very different way. ‘Enna da oru vazhiya correct pannita pola?’ And proceed to slap him on the back.
      Okay this isn’t very relevant but I just wanted to get it out of my system. 😀
      And yes, when someone younger than me expresses something I just can’t get on board with, it really is a scary moment for me.. I find it difficult to accept.

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  2. I should have been clearer in my post

    No you were clear in your post. I was airing my own guilt at participating in these sessions. I usually phrase these things as follows. “Many of these early-20s folks don’t seem to see that it is possible to deeply hurt someone by systematically nurturing a relationship that is more of a timepass to one, but extremely serious to the other party. If a person realises that the other party is taking a relationship in an entirely serious way, he/she must have the sense to admit that they themselves did not take it that seriously. However, many just continue it in order to have a bit of fun. They very deliberately hurt someone who thinks the world of them. That is a sadistic thing to do”.

    Most people see this as “Ponnungalea ipadi thaan” in both ways, whoever is doing the dumping.

    I read a very interesting thought about this. When a man and a woman are in a relationship and it does not end in marriage, a lot of folks are less worried about the woman herself and more worried about her future husband who is not even in the picture right now. They seem to think that by not being immaculate enough, she is hurting his right to a pristine perfect bride. This is the meaning of ‘Indha kaalathu ponnungala ellam nambave mudiyadhu’. This point may be obvious to some. But it shook me when I realised that this was true. Nobody gives a damn that the girl herself may be hurt.

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    1. I think that concept is fairly obvious, the baseline assumption is that men must want a woman virginal in every sense. I’ve heard boys even say this explicitly. Maybe in a college with an active dating culture, boys can be heard saying, ‘I hope later in life I don’t end up getting an alliance from this college.’ Because they already know enough about the ‘quality’ of such women.

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  3. Oh I do know that attitude. I mean it in more severe cases as in some girl is in deep depression because someone isn’t as awesome as they thought they were and she feels betrayed and a LOT of people go, “Yes, Her poor future husband is soooooooo betrayed, poor, poor guy 😦 “. And I am like WTF.

    Liked by 1 person

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