Oh, hug off already.
I had to throw that plastic chair when I reached theatre practice. Maybe I was angry that I had gotten angry.
Who did that aunty think she was? Why do busybody nosy parker aunties always get involved in other people’s affairs? Who died and left them to be public protectors of “decency”? Cheh!
I hate people telling me what to do. If I want to say something, I’ll say it. I want to hug someone, I’ll hug them. Who is she to tell me not to hug my girlfriend? I hadn’t seen Asmita in so long. Well, I hadn’t seen her in ten days, but it felt like really long. You know what it’s like. We were excited about seeing each other.
Asmita and I were supposed to meet on the Delhi Metro on our way to Kashmiri Gate for theatre rehearsal. It was crowded and sticky as usual on the train, and we couldn’t really see each other. Just think of one of those Bollywood movie-type scenes. People began to leave for the next stop, and we kept looking for each other. Dramatic, dramatic. And then we saw each other at New Delhi Station. I just had to. It was 20 seconds long, the hug. Our train journey together had been six minutes long. Yeah, it was a warm hug. So?
Suddenly I felt this smack on my arm. Some woman was standing glowering at us. She looked like a typical fat Aunty – I don’t actually remember what exactly she looked like, I only have a caricature of her in my head. She hit me, can you believe it?
“Koi maryada nahin hai?” she screeched, “Publics mein yeh kaise kar sakte ho?” She had a really jarring voice, man.
Of course I didn’t know what the hell ‘maryada’ meant. For all I knew, Maryada was some person’s name. (It means something like ‘decorum’, by the way.) But I knew exactly what she was talking about. I shouldn’t have tried to reason with her.
I said nicely, “No man, aunty. Humne kuch galat nahin kiya.” I wasn’t fully angry yet.
I tell you, she kept talking louder and louder. Humiliation tactic it seemed like, so that she could get others on the train to join her. So in my bad Hindi, I lost it.
“Aap ki kya problem hai, hum aap ko nahin hug kar rahe the na!” I yelled.
Seriously, we weren’t hugging her! “Agar aap ko lagta hai ki hum kanoon ke khilaaf kuch kar rahe the, toh kripya karke police ko bata deejiye na?” I tried to use full shuddh Hindi types, kripya and all. But my tell-the-police line didn’t work.
“Aisa karna hai toh taxi leh liya karo!” she screeched back.
How do you even respond to that? Asmita was trying to calm me down. She’s also a hot head only, but still. Then Aunty turned to her.
“Aap toh ladki hain, aap ki toh koi maryada honi chahiye,” she said.
That’s it, gone case. Asmita’s inner feminist came out. “Ladki hoon, toh? Ladkon ko maryada nahin honi chahiye?” she shouted.
The whole coach was staring at us by now. We had one more stop to go. Some man came and pretended to be impartial, like he had decided he was the calm, cool guy whose opinion everyone cared about. Useless.
“Theek nahin tha, theek nahin tha,” he said. Who the hell are you to make the decision, man?
Then some other girl came and joined him. “What they are telling, even I am not liking,” she said, “But you should listen to them.” Just because they’re old. Then she walked away from us really quickly. Maybe she was scared I’d hug her too.
Kashmiri Gate, finally. I threw that chair when I got to rehearsal, I was all green Hulk by then. Why can’t people just mind their own business and leave us youngsters alone? Seriously, what kind of fragile culture are they protecting from hugs and affection?
By Mahesh Prabhu