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Travel and crossovers …

April 4th, 2008

“Don’t tie your hair up. You look older than your age. What work do you do?” Victory asked me.

“I go to the slums and travel around a lot,” I said.

“With kids you work huh?” Victory asked.

“No, I like to watch how cash circulation and rotation takes place among people in the slums,” I replied.

So here I was (or should I say ‘there I was’), in the saloon, with Victory who eventually, a few hours ago, cut my hair. Victory is neither male nor female. I don’t know what she is. And I cannot care because she is one of those few people who have crossed the biological boundary of male and female. The rest of us travel between these two boundaries psychologically, personally and spiritually.

This morning, as Victory was snipping away my hair, I asked her where she was from.

“Calcutta. Three of my brothers are married there.”

“Ah, my sister is married in Calcutta.”

“Yeah. I was working for 18 years in Bombay. But the problem is that if you do not have a place of your own in Bombay, then it is very difficult. My boss there had a maid. So my boss’s house was a few feet away from the sea and this maid had a little jhopda between my boss’s house and the sea. She told me, ‘pay 10,000 rupees and create a jhopda here, next to mine.’ I said I can’t live amidst these people and flatly refused. Then, a few years ago, I went to Bombay and saw that that jhopda was now a two storey building with proper electricity and water supply.” Victory started laughing as she said this.

“Now, only if you would have listened to her; you would have had become a real estate owner in Bombay. How we don’t take these pieces of advice!”

Victory laughed again. She started sprucing my hair and telling me how to style it and then look wild as I traveled through the slums.

“Yeah, I look wild there anyway. And the men are a tough cookie to talk to.”

“Yeah, they can eye you and you can have a tough time, like those American girls who would come down to Calcutta and join the Mother Teressa foundation to become nuns. They would dress in white sarees and look like satyam shivam sundaram. One of the girls was cornered by the men and my mother turned around to her and told her to go back to her country. We did not see her after a while.”

Victory told me that her home in Calcutta was at Bonga which is the border village between Bangladesh and India.

“At that time, there was no Bangladesh or East Pakistan. We would walk across freely.”

We talked all the while as she went snip-snip at my hair. We spoke of  saloons in Britain and according to her, the British, after the Egyptians, are the best hairdressers because they wear wigs.

“So do men make better hairdressers?” I asked.

“Why do you say so? People say men are better cooks but women are very good with their culinary skills too. There is nothing like men are better than women in certain skills. Both are good. It is like there is no Western or Indian hairstyle. Hairstyle is hairstyle. But you see all these make-up artists in the film industry, like Cory Walia. They are all gay. That is because you need to think in a feminine way to do make-up for women. Like Jackie Shroff can be the ultimate man but he cannot dress up a woman! But society does not accept gay people. There are laws against gay people. I think marriage and family are all personal issues and the government should not interfere in these matters.”

We talked for a while more about Europe being highly Christian and Hitler massacaring the homosexuals during the Holocaust. When she finished, she said it was nice talking to me.

So here I was, or there I was, or somewhere in between, in this city where I feel lost and found at various points in time. At one point in time, I was looking for those thrilling and exciting experiences in the city which would get me to write. In my mind, that distinction between the exciting everyday and the mundane everyday was clearly drawn up. But here I am, discovering people and drawing myself into encounters and interactions. Here I am, somewhere, traveling through people, their minds, my mind and myself. And there are crossovers, at each moment …

I am still finding myself …

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