To the Vijay Laxmis of my Life!

Queen, Queen, Queen!

Every girl is going gaga over you in this part of the world (myself included) and you have given them tons of reasons to be that. Not only are you are a heartwarming film, you are a reminder of the fact that we all are indeed Queens.

Most of us are relating to the ‘heartbreak turning into the re-discovery’ premise on a very personal level. I have read some very well-written personal accounts reflecting the same. But I connected on a more micro-level: to stop being self-conscious. The kind of self-consciousness you impose upon yourself when you tend to take yourself too seriously (and also because you are a ‘girl’).

I have not in the least had a ‘very conservative’ upbringing, unlike Rani. I studied in a co-ed school. I had more guys as friends (it’s a different thing that a couple turned out to be creeps later on) than I ever had girls. My curfew was 10.00 P.M. (once I met a college mate at around 9.00 in the evening, a guy, who was rather shocked to see me ‘unescorted’). As far as I can remember, I was never picked on for not being ‘feminine’ (unless I count my Mother’s obsession to drape me in a sari and clutter me with jewellery during weddings, no sooner than I started graduation, which I mostly managed to avoid). Also, I was never ever told to prioritize marriage over career (but weirdly enough that changed the moment I left my hometown, but that is another story).

However, there were certain ‘moral’ restrictions. I was not to bring boys home, when I was ‘home alone’ and vice-versa. I could wear jeans and Ts as long as they were not ‘too tight’ or ‘too short’. I was not to touch alcohol or smoke (although my Mother once caught me in the bathroom and merely said ‘your Father has been telling me that his cigarettes are depleting too soon’ and that was that).

At times I did think these restrictions were rather unfair and bordered on paranoia (the above restrictions are more or less synonymous with ‘going astray’), I never really challenged them owing to the amount of liberty I did get as compared to my contemporaries. Neither did I feel the need to do these things by hook or by crook. As a result, I was somewhat of a moralist and extremely self-conscious. I scrupulously avoided spirit and took great care to dress ‘decently’ and I looked down upon girls who did drink (although I pretended that I didn’t actually mind) or flaunted themselves (I thought it was akin to ‘demeaning oneself’). Self-consciousness is a little more difficult to explain. Well, I was rather stiff. I couldn’t relax. I was obsessed with coming across as someone ‘intellectual, well-read and reserved’; someone who DID NOT indulge in ‘frivolities’ even with friends, let alone random people.

Then I met the Vijay Laxmi(s) in the most unlikely of places. A little known town called Dhenkanal where I had landed (rather skeptically) to pursue a journalism course. I met a motley crew there. But, the Vijays I became friends with were basically Delhiites, less on the lines of our Queen (aka Rani) and more like her friend Sonal (less ‘loud’ though). These Vijay Laxmis danced to the tune of ‘tip tip barsa pani’ and parodied the tacky 90s (‘Kamini, Kulta, Karmjali’, ‘the Ole Ole song’, Choli ke peeche kya hai, faking a ‘lip kiss’ under a duppatta et al.), danced their hearts out to Bolly beats, cracked potty jokes, clicked photos in wacky poses and related ‘boy troubles’ in the same breath. In short, they were not in the least bit conscious about how they were ‘ought to be’.  They did not take themselves too seriously. Slowly, but steadily, I found myself opening up, letting go off the austere standards I had set for myself. Being ‘nonsensical’ was indeed fun.

There’s a moment in Queen, a rather ‘uneasy’ one. Vijay Laxmi is all set to have a ‘wild night’ and she tries to make Rani less of a prude. She slides Rani’s dress down her shoulders, adjusts her bra strap and literally grabs her breasts to tell her ‘flaunt it when you have it’. It is a very blatant way of telling a woman to embrace her sexuality rather than to hide it. Eventually the two women head to the Eiffel Tower, which to me was one of the best moments in the film.

My Vijay Laxmis were not that blatant (after all we are Indians!). But they did make me embrace my ‘feminine’ side. Particularly two of them; although they had (have) very different sensibilities and preferences.  They taught me that it did feel good to ‘look good’ not for anybody but just for yourself; to wear a nice top and a pair of well-fitted trousers rather than be a ‘punk kid’ in a T, bermudas and flip-flops on all given days and go to a parlour to pamper yourself (for some weird logic-that I have never been able to decode- this too was a restriction for me).

During later months, we also had the quintessential ‘hostel experience’ viz. smuggling booze in, singing (no screaming) to the tunes of ‘Who the F**k is Alice’ into the wee hours of the morning, stealing ‘ration’ from the kitchen and stealthily making halwa at 2.00 in the night and many such countless memories (some of which are rather gross).

After 8 months, I headed to Delhi (this time for a job), my equivalent to Rani’s adventures in Amsterdam (I deliberately refrained from the Paris equation, that would be a little too much!). Delhi is a risqué city for a girl. But this is the city where-in I let my guard down against the opposite sex. I encountered creeps, quite a few. But I also met the likes of Taka and the French Guy (whatever his name was) and one particular guy who I can broadly liken to both Oleksander (Sikander) and the cute Italian chef. Some other day, maybe!

As of now, I feel like a Queen!

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