Ah, time and again I keep getting those chain mails on the 'what men want'. All the guys in my mailing list very kindly oblige me with this favor. Numerous literary volumes have been dedicated on this profound (?) discussion (or is this a debate?) and many learned intellectuals have torn off their hair from those already balding heads, yet the topic continues to hog the major consciousness of both the sexes.

Why on earth am I interested in this? Simple, I am clearly a member of the 'fairer sex', who often wonders why is it that the other side is not popularly called the 'darker sex'? Now, my friends from the other side of the fence would be already nodding their heads in dismay, thinking 'oh here starts the feminist again'. But relax guys, am not going to launch into one of my lectures which so torments your souls. Not here, because my blog space is not about frowns but smiles :)

So what do men want according to me? No, I will not fall into the philosophical premise which many of my gender sisters would begin with - 'well, men are very simple to dissect'. No they are not. They are as complex as  women, their minds having as many layers and folds as women claim theirs to contain. 

I have grown up among boys, my chaddi friends are all boys, I have more men in my contact list than women and all my major gossip sessions are with Men...there is more to the list...but I hear a cough, and detect a frown somewhere...ahem, did she just say 'Gossip'...oh yes sir, I did say gossip. This is one of my gravest observations - Men not only indulge in hard core gossip, they relish their bitching sessions too! And oh, how they enjoy it. Only the other day, I overheard this off hand comment by a lady to her reportee 'Oh man, you are such a bitch' and he flashed a glowing smile at this unexpected comment. Really! All my gossip sources in office are men, some of them even peached on the high and mighty chairs of hierarchy. It is these Men who have taught me how they use these apparently harmless gossip to their benefit amidst the blood bath of office politics. Woa, one down!

My second observation - Men think they are amazing on road, they know their cars and they need no directions to reach anywhere in the universe. I admit, a majority of them are right. They definitely drive much better than the ladies (sorry dears, but even I keep a safe distance from my own gender when behind the wheels). You will hardly ever find a man driving with this hand brake still pulled up, his dress half hanging from the door, pushing the accelerator with all might and expecting it to reach 100 in the second gear itself, or reversing without consulting the rear view or side view mirrors and bumping into a pole which happens to be 10 feet away from the parking spot. Men also know and understand their (and other's) cars very well. They know the difference between the GS and GLS models and do not prefer a car because 'oh it looks so cute' but because it runs just awesome on the road. And Men know their directions. They just have an amazing (for the ladies) road sense. But here I stop and want to add 'Dude, sometimes its easier to ask for directions than showing your false machismo by pretending you know all the roads in the world!' And that not all your gender brothers know all about driving and the machines. I have encountered numerous men on road who take it as insult if a girl zooms past them, much in control of her machine and maneuvering it with greater skills than them. Yes there are women like that. Acknowledge it! I have known men who drive like idiots and are nuisance to the roads. I also know men who do not quite understand how a tallboy is different from a normal hatchback. And I have known girls who are walking talking encyclopedias of everything about cars, from the make to the engine specifications and seen the men's eyes pop-out while hearing them. 

The same applies to men and gadgets. They know it all. So it's either my bro or one of my chaddi friends who dictate when I decide to indulge myself with a new gadget. When these go kaput, I turn back to them. Men understand the hammers and the wires, the coding and the specifications better. They are simply designed that way. So the sooner we girls accept this, the better. Of course there are aberration to rules here too. A dear (girl) friend is a Tech writer and she reviews all the new gadgets in town with elan, thus needless to mention that my so called 'gadgets dudes' also turn to her more frequently than not for opinion and yes 'advise' for their (or others) next cool buy!

Men are usually color blind. They understand the basic colours like red, blue, green etc if you go the specifics like mauve, peach, aqua etc etc, you are most likely to meet a confused look and a reply like 'looks yellow/blue to me, what did I say wrong?'. This however does not apply for all men, just majority of them. I have the good luck of knowing men who know more shades of colours than girls can even imagine! They will floor you prostrate by the sheer range of their hues...I mean knowledge.

Emotions is another area where girls claim to score higher than men. Men are said to be not affected by emotions or that they can keep emotions far away from business. They don't shed tears at the drop of the hat and definitely don't sob away while watching a sad scene of that oh so emotional drama. But I would say, men are highly emotional beings. They just have more control over their expressions and hence one usually does not catch them break down publicly. They feel as much as a woman does, if not more. They get equally shattered when their heart breaks. And yes they too cry when if hurts. They just don't believe in making a public display of their feelings. Close pals have cried over my shoulder when they felt down, I have lent my hankie and wiped their tears while watching highly emotional movies with them and cursed the girlfriends who could walk over their hearts. Men want someone as understanding in a relationship, as women desire. Girls, they have a tender heart too!

Oh my list could go on. The usual facts like sex being top of their mind, they not understanding and taking hints which women drop, them being better at finance, being mama's boys, not remembering birthdays/anniversaries, them wanting their own time with their (boy)friends and beer, sports, they being habitually slobs, their untiring habit of flirting (most of them are bad at it though!) and eyeing other girls, their obsession with hair and news, their impatience (remember how many times they ring the bell before you can make it to the door), shopping! etc etc etc. Goods and bads of everything exists. More goods than the girls would believe and more bads than the boys would admit.

Here my feminist craves are churning back in my stomach and before I start screaming on top of my voice against the chauvinist pigs (Com'on guys, I have said more good things about you than I would ever admit in front of u ;-), so take this with a pinch of salt!), I should apply my brakes. 

But, my dear 'boy' friends...I love you all, for what you are...Men!!

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Name Game

According to Shakespeare "What's in a name? That which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet." So, then a name is 'just' a name. But ask people who have names others cant pronounce/understand/think to be funny etc etc and they will narrate their plight. As a Bengali child, born in Maharashtra and brought up in all parts of the country but Bengal, I have been a victim to this unfortunate condition.

Since time immortal, my dad had one wish - to be blessed with a girl child whom he will name 'Mohua' (a very typical and common Bengali name) and as all Bengalis, she has to have a 'dak naam', which will be 'Mou'. So the second I arrived on this earth, I had an identity waiting to embrace me! By my sheer good luck, the initial few years of my life (spent in Maharashtra) were smooth owing to my pet name 'Mou' which happened to sound similar to Marathi 'Mau', meaning soft. So, people simply called me Mau. So far so good.

It was in the beginning of my schooling days (in Bhopal) that I faced my first real 'weirdly named' hurdle. Try as I might, my class teacher could not get my name and finally decided to call me by my surname. I felt irritated and more insulted, as all the other 29 kids in the class were known and identified by their own names. To add to my misery, my classmates too decided to call me by various made up versions of my name. Someone rhymed - Mauwa Kauwa!

Then the doom's day arrived. We were studying the flora and fauna of a particular region called Chota Nagpur belt. A prominent tree found there is called 'Mohua' which is famous for its sweet smelling flower and fruit, and is fermented by the locals to prepare country liquor. All the 29 pairs of eyes turned and stared at me. Then the 30th pair looked me up and said "Oh Mandal, but your first name is Mohua right?". I wanted to scream "yes you jerk, you are right, and this you recognise now, after teaching the same subject for god knows how many years?". But my imaginary screams were buried under the huge roar of laughter that filled the class - "liquor eh?"... That was it, I knew I cannot live with this name any longer.

Teary eyed, I jumped on my dad that evening. He listened to me highly amused. Both mom dad referred to many probasi bangalis who had suffered worst. Like this girl named 'Shraboni' was called 'Sharabi' by her collegemates and even her professors; 'Soumya' and 'Suman' were laughed at for having girl's name when they were boys; 'Amlan' was rechristened as 'Amla - the fruit', 'Mousumi' became 'Musambi' and 'Sourjo Das' was often called the decendent of 'Surdas'. By the time they finished the list, my tears had turned into laughter. And then my father told me why I should be proud of my name - it reflected my identity and made me distinct from the crowd... - and that I should live up to the essence of my name! He gave me a new perspective and I grabbed it with both hands. That day I learnt to be comfortable in my own skin.

Over the years I have lived through many many many versions of my name. The most comic being 'Tharra' - country liquor in the Cow Belt's local dialect. I have met people who laughed at my name and people who marveled at its beauty. And I have met people who took extra pains to learn the right pronunciation of the same.

But hey, I love my name, it makes me who I am...and yes gives enough fodder to write a blog post!

Yours Truly

She turned back with a confused look on her face...I smiled...she said "Hi", still very confused.
I looked at her, with a grin pasted on my face, but I knew I had made a faux pas, I did not know this girl I just greeted so warmly! Undaunted though, I went ahead and grabbed the empty seat next to her and initiated a conversation.

It was the first day of college, all the first year students were invited for the Orientation program on a rainy afternoon. In spite of carrying an umbrella, I was drenched and was shivering in the cold blast of air-conditioning inside the large auditorium. Adding to my discomfiture was the fact that being new in the city, I felt like an alien the crowd of unknown faces. I was searching desperately for someone I could acquaint myself with, when I spotted  her. She was sitting on the aisle seat of a middle row. Her orange dress seemed to exude a certain warmth which soothed my hyper nerves. Something in her mannerism communicated a familiarity which none in this human sea seem to radiate. I felt I knew her, how and from where was a question which could be dealt with later. At that moment the only thing that mattered was - I knew this girl, soon to detect the contrary!

After a few curious exchanges, we discovered that not only we were to join the same class, but also shared the same ailment - the feeling of being an outsider. I had left behind my parents, then posted in Jabalpur and she came from Allahabad. As she would later comment, we both were from the 'cow belt', and felt more belonged there than in Calcutta, which happens to be the abode of our extended families. I could not believe my sheer good luck of meeting her. Through the show we found so much about each other and yet so little. We left college together that day with a silent promise of seeing each other the next day, the first day of our class.

By the next morning, I had completely forgotten her name! I was late for college, and was rushing through the human traffic of Park Street. I raced from the entry gate, through the front courtyard, to the main entrance of the college building. And there, on the stairs, was she, waiting for me - her first friend in college, as she told the others whom she had met by then. She flashed me her endearing smile, and I knew I had found 'my friend'. From that day Soma and me have been inseparable in college and beyond. We shared the same bench for all three years. She was a go getter and I was a little subdued, she was a typical tomboy and I was experimenting on being girly, she was a poetess and I was learning poetry, she wore her identity on her sleeves and I was still confused about who I am. But we stuck through. We had enormous fights and misunderstandings, we hated each other many a times, but we were tied together with this extraordinarily strong bond which would not break however hard it was hit. 

After college we headed to fulfill our destinies. Soma became the journalist she always wanted to be, battling social issues and raising voices against all that goes wrong in this country. I joined the corporate bandwagon to live the mechanical experience falsely glorified as a high flying job. I moved to Delhi while she remained in her beloved Calcutta. But that invisible bond remains.

All my life I have never ever initiated conversations with strangers. To an observer I can appear to be a very cold and arrogant human being. This continues to be a characteristic trait of mine. But that fateful day I am glad I broke my own rule. I not only went against my nature to approach Soma but even took the first step for beginning a conversation which smoothened our transition to a connection greater than friendship - we call each other soul sisters. We don't have to be in constant touch to know what's up in other's life. We call each other after ages and easily pick up threads from nowhere to be in tune. We just know.

People say you are lucky to have found a true friend. I say (touch wood) I am luckier than them to have met Soma.