For a good part of my life, I'd say from the age of ten to the age of 30, I maintained that I had a tough time making friends with other women. Most of my friends from school to college to IIM Bangalore to the corporate world were all male.
I mean, let's face it. Women are complex creatures. We're emotional, we're difficult, and oftentimes we're just plain competing with each other. There was my arch-enemy in school who read my secret diary around to the whole class, and then in college, the girl who sneakily took over my lead part in the play, the senior who casually threatened to drop out of our pathetic five-member basketball team unless I stepped aside to let her be team captain. It just became easier to avoid women, and barring a few exceptions, I found my male pals just so much more steady and reliable.
It was especially mystifying for my husband Vijay. "But why do you have so many male friends?" He'd say. "I can't keep up!"
Even when it came to his oldest friends' wives, there'd be a problem. "It's not my fault!" I'd exclaim. "Did you hear what she said to me?" I'd break into a high-pitched whiny imitation "I never thought Lambu would marry a girl like you. I mean…he's so…sweet!" I'd let the implication sink in although Vijay would pretend he didn't get it. It didn't matter. We couldn't possibly hang out in a group with women like that around.
But then - over the last few years, I noticed that things changed, particularly after motherhood and my sabbatical. So much so that now, when I look around, at the age of 35, I see things differently when it comes to the women in my life. And there are suddenly rather many.
My Zumba students. About nine ladies, most of them working women, and all determined to make the most of their weekends when it comes to fitness. An enthu schoolteacher, a television show producer, two writers and publishers, a lawyer. On my birthday, they worked out a surprise choreo to "Happy Birthday" that had me in splits. It was awesome.
Then there's my Buddhist-and-Reiki-healer-and-therapist Anupama and my yoga teacher Apoorva. Over the last couple of years, they both played an instrumental role in my health and well-being and now they've become my friends. Rather different from each other in age and approach, they're both similar in terms of their basic philosophies and unfailing desire to help others and follow their own path. In my opinion, they're shining examples of what the best of the female of the species can be.
Which reminds me - Anupama also introduced me years ago to Kamal Capoor, who runs the Happy School for underprivileged kids in Gurgaon, a fantastic institution changing the future of hundreds of kids through education and love. I cannot tell you how much that kindly, sprightly, white-haired woman inspires and humbles me.
The mommy bloggers. It doesn't even matter that only a few of us blog anymore, but we were there for each other in the days before Facebook, when commenting on blogposts was not only the polite thing to do, but also kinda cool. Today, we're still connected thanks to social media. There are corporate types, stay-at-home-moms, writers, social activists and so on. A sweet bunch and I'll always remember that we once actually held a huge surprise online baby shower together for about four of us, probably the only one I'll ever be a part of.
Gurgaon moms. This is probably one of the most vibrant communities on Facebook, and I'm just so happy to be a part of it. I've asked all sorts of inane questions about furniture, ENT specialists, how to fix a crack in a bathtub, how to get an Aadhar card made, and there's usually a helpful response within minutes. It's become an automatic reaction to post a question here. Move over, Google. Now that's powerful!
The readers of my books. I hate to say it, but the men are few and far between when it comes to reading books by women authors - even though my first book (Just Married, Please Excuse) was about marriage, an institution usually involves some men; and my second book (Sorting Out Sid) was about a man. The women readers keep me going - they often write to me with heart-warming emails, some of them really funny, such as the recent one that read:
"I recently discovered your blog and I had this urge to contact you! SO I put all my stalker qualities to use and sent you a message on FB. But obviously you wouldn't have seen it as the message would have gone under the heading of "Others" (the folder in which you get messages from creepy unknown ppl - like me.) I am not doing a good job of introducing myself."
Also, I love the fact that Indian humour seems to be coming of age, and there are so many women writers out there with their own brand of funny! I'm proud and happy to be amongst them.
And finally, there's my help, all of whom are female. I often feel embarrassed about the number of part-timers and full-timers that I have, although there are three small kids in the house constantly bouncing off the walls. I still wouldn't want to disclose the number, except to say that my brother-in-law Ajay has suggested we get them all uniforms and hold a morning assembly. Without these women to help manage different aspects of my home, I would definitely not have been able to do all the things that I love to do.
All of this isn't even counting my mom, my sister, my sisters-in-law, and my precious few soul sisters. Not to mention, the women at HarperCollins from editorial and marketing and design, who help make and sell better books.
So, Happy Women's Day to all the women in my life, and those many others out there. You must know on this special occasion (and every other day) that you're amazing, an inspiration, and basically, utterly rock this planet. And hey - the fact that I'm finally beginning to appreciate my own kind can mean only one thing - I'm no longer a girl, I'm a grown woman. Yayyy! *Skips around the room excitedly*
PS - In the meantime, most of my men-friends have recently gone and got married and disappeared for a few years into their version of domestic bliss or whatever it is that happens to us when we are first married. I'll check in on them when we're all about 40.