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When Agony Aunts come calling!

I still get the heebie-jeebies when I recall Mrs. Bhalla's throaty laughter in my room. She is always brimming with ideas - all the wrong ones, of course, writes Shagun Dayal.

india Updated: Sep 29, 2005 18:01 IST

I still get the heebie-jeebies when I recall the throaty laughter of Mrs. Bhalla in my living room. She is always brimming with ideas - all the wrong ones, of course. She had joined my mother on a Sunday evening for high tea with her married daughter in tow. The prospect of meeting my childhood chum Neha was sadly marred by Mrs. Bhalla's overbearing concern about my marriage.

A working girl cherishes her Sunday just as she preserves her faded-fringed denims. I had slipped into one that day only to realise that my classic jeans didn't augur well with their collective yards of chiffon. The mother-daughter duo first exchanged glances as if they had seen me pole dancing! After her facial lineaments attained some degree of normalcy, Mrs Bhalla remarked that my piling ounces were directly proportionate to scant matrimonial alliances. While nibbling her oil-drenched pakodas, she lectured on how important it was to maintain the right curls and curves.

But the assault on my nerves had only just begun. Post-marriage flab, she declared, was acceptable. For example, who resembles a number eight, was "beautifully voluptuous"! I sighed as I could see the Sunday turning into a nightmare, all thanks to my agony aunt. Yeah, an aunt who was giving me all the unwanted agony.

I decided to grin and bear it - even when she proposed her neighbour's son, a trader in women's lingerie, as a suitable match. Lucky me! I would never again have to spend a dime on my negligees, said Mrs Bhalla. She winked and giggled in the most vicious way to put her point across.

She continued to feast on my patience and fished out a range of beauty products for which she had recently acquired distribution rights. Dusky skin was probably keeping wonderful, eligible grooms from lining up outside my door. She pestered that I use her potions to radiate 'fair & lovely' vibes to all the men around. No matter that they smelled like stale cough syrup; the stuff was still good enough to hook up a potential suitor, she insisted. Overcome by a sudden urge to tear out my hair by the handful, I instead gulped down a tall glass of water and kept any feminist tirade in check.

My twenties in ascending order was pricking Mrs Bhalla no end. Even the coffee and muffins did little to shut her up. Aging daughters should be packed off as soon as possible, she told my alarmed mother. The last bitter pill was when she loudly proclaimed that ambitious girls were no good. By then my self-esteem was already down in the dumps and I felt like screaming - "God, why did you ever make a woman out of me?"

The air had become pungent with Mrs Bhalla's snide remarks and I desperately needed a whiff of fresh air. My mother sensed my discomfort and suggested I take Neha to my room. An year-old bride, she perched gracefully on my couch. I asked what marriage meant to her and she said with disinterestedness, "well, it's different". Point noted, after pondering for a good two minutes she neither said good nor bad! No amount of probing after that could elicit a positive response.

Finally when our visitors left, I made sure all their 'enlightening' thoughts about life, marriage and beauty went out through the same door. I pulled on my drawstring pyjamas and wrapped up my day with an eclectic pizza-movie-couch combination. As for Mrs. Bhalla's trial products, I donated them to my more than happy maid. I vowed I would never let anyone else dampen my spirits the way they had.

I will continue to make my own rules and live like a queen. And boy, ain't I glad I am a woman.

First Published: Sep 10, 2005 19:49 IST