1

You Had Me at No

Okay, I’ll admit it. A woman who says no turns me on.  Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 8.13.04 AM

There are men who get enraged when a woman says no to them. For a date, a relationship, to maintain a long-standing relationship.

A woman who says no is a strong woman with defined likes and dislikes. What does that mean?  That means this woman has a healthy and well-used intellect, and has taken the time to know, and love herself. She is comfortable saying no to things she doesn’t like, doesn’t want at that time. She takes action to safeguard her well-being, her happiness, and her mood. That means she takes responsibility for her happiness rather than depending on others for it, or blaming the world for her unhappiness.

And she puts herself first. Before you, before anyone else. She can also put someone else before her, but that’s her choice. Not an imposition, not an obligation. That means she’s not the kind to passively agree to something, and then be unhappy about it. You can trust her at her word. This is a woman for whom a yes in a yes, and a no is a no. She knows if she doesn’t look out for her happiness, and treat herself with respect, no one else will. Can’t you see it, just from the way she carries herself? Strong back, straight posture, chin jutting out at the world?

Isn’t this JUST the kind of woman you’d like to be with? Who doesn’t follow you around because she has to, but because she actually looked at the men around her, and chose to be with you? And if this woman says no, don’t do it. Listen carefully to what she is saying. She is usually saying, ‘don’t do this, do that’. And if that ‘do that’ means leave, give her space, if you truly love her, you will give her all she wants, including your absence.

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 8.18.24 AMOr, when a woman says no, she doesn’t feel like a cappuccino right now, do what I do: kiss her. Because these are our national treasures: the women who dare to say no. Even to people they love, who love them back. When a woman says no to you for a relationship, bow your head, and ask her if she’d accept being friends with you. Hurts, yes, but first and only rule of love is that you will give to your beloved what she wants. Not what you want, what she wants.

I love a woman who says no to me. You don’t have to get turned on, like me, but at the very least – love her for it. Want a woman to say yes to you? Honor her no first.

 

 

7

The Honor of an Ironman

I attempted the Vineman Ironman in Sonoma County, California.

Six weeks prior to the race I was in a bike crash in New Delhi, India, where I train. A bus stopped right in front of me and ejected a passenger, no allocated bus stop or anything of course. I went flying into a ditch and lay bleeding. I sustained four injuries: shoulder inner tissue damage, elbow and forearm, left thigh, and right ankle ligament sprain. Initially even a routine flight IMG_4268-2from Delhi to Bangalore would instigate tears from the gentle jiggling on my shoulder due to normal turbulence. The injury meant, also, that I could not train at all.

I had just met a lovely swim coach at Talkatora, where I swim, who was the youngest coach out of India with the highest credentials: Aayush Yadav. He just gave me a 5 km workout, when this happened. I tried getting in the pool, and did 100 m using my left arm. Each time I’d do a stroke, my left shoulder would pop.IMG_4657

As I got closer to the race, I had to get to Toronto to host a festival, then to California for the Ironman. Even in Toronto I wore a shoulder brace.

Three days before the Ironman, Marilyn applied tape to my shoulder and back. It was clear I was in a lot of pain even then, because gentle pressure from her hands on the tape would cause me to cry. She also applied TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation)* therapy – with electrodes on my injuries to disrupt pain messages from my injuries to my brain. I decided I would race, and try and sneak past my body through an Ironman.

I just wasn’t sure I would complete. I asked Priya Sreedharan, a dear friend, who is an engineer and a dancer, ‘will I complete the Ironman?’ She said, treat it like a prayer. What will happen, will happen.’ Another friend saw that I was panicking, and took me to Chinese restaurant in Union Square, handed me a fortune cookie, and said, this is about your race. Read it. I opened the fortune cookie, and it said, ‘Do not worry about getting a high position. Focus on form.’ As  I was driven at 5:15 am to Guernville by Marilyn, I was eerily calm.

So  I stood at the start line at Johnson’s Beach, Guerneville, at 6 am. The temperature of 57 deg F, most people were in their wetsuits, I wore my trisuit because  I have difficulty breathing in a wetsuit. The water was warmer, thankfully – a balmy 70 degree F (21 deg C). We all huddled together, grateful for the warmth. And we got talking.  I met Dexter, who was 71 years old, and was doing the Ironman. And I had a burning question. WHY do you have lipstick on, I asked. She said, oh, that’s my adventure lipstick, I wore it when I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. I think at this point several of us raised our arms heavenward.

We played the national anthem, then got into the Russian River, which was green from all the algae. I kept running into things to the right of the course because I’d do a proper stroke with my right arm, and a doggie paddle with my left, like a boat with one stronger oar. The water was green, therefore opaque. Rivers are not meant to be opaque, and this one wasn’t feeling too well. About 100 m in, I said, I can’t do this, swam over to a kayak, and said I can’t do it. And he was so kind. He said, are you sure? What’s going on? I said I have injuries. He didn’t accept that, and went directly to the real issue: he said, the beginning is rough with all these people in the water. You get kicked in the face, you touch people and are touched by people, you can’t see where you are going, and neither can they. He said, go under the bridge, about 100m on, and you’ll be able to stand. I got over my nerves, and swam the entire way. It took me longer because I ended up swimming more than the course. The course was 3.8 km but because I kept swimming off to sides and coming back, I ended up swimming 4.6 km. Towards the end of the course, this kayak lifeguard rowed beside me to give me company.  I looked up and asked, ‘are you the escort service I ordered?’ He laughed.

I got out of the water, and wasn’t too tired. The volunteers in the tents helped get my bike gear on. There were volunteers who were ‘wetsuit strippers’ too. They’d help you get off your wetsuit. The announcer previously had told us during the briefing, ‘please make sure your shorts are on tight under your wetsuit, because our wetsuit strippers might.. well, we want them to come back the next year.’

I got on my bike, and biked up a short hill. Many people had walked it. The course was rolling hills, but hills are hills. A few days ago, I’d changed my bike gears from 53/39 to 50/34 in the front, and 11/23 to 11/25 in the back, having discovered that my bike was geared for professionals, and even professionals wouldn’t hope to do San Francisco hills in those gears. I took my bike to the Sports Basement in the Presidio, and now, every time I tried to change gears it would take 30-50 pedal strokes before my poor bike would change gears. They would also lock up, forcing me to hastily unclip my cleats in case I fell on the hills being unable to pedal.

The story was: every time a professional rode past, most of the time, they would find it in their breathing to say ‘good job’ to people they’d pass. Perhaps just me. The Budget van guy would slow down to tell me the top of the hill is ‘just up there’ to encourage me. One spectator said, ‘Come on! Good job! I will RUN alongside you to encourage you!’ on a hill. Absolute strangers. They saw how hard I was working, and did their best to encourage me. It brought tears to my eyes. The volunteers at the aid stations would hold up bottles of gatorade, water and half bananas so we could take them without dismounting. They would mindfully keep a safe distance, reach into our bike path with only the bottle or the banana so we could take it safely and carry on.

At the midpoint, 56 mi or 90 km, they said turn right! Bike finish! And I turned in. I shouldn’t have, since I had done only one lap. I stopped, and said, I can’t, I have done only one lap, and turned around. The sensor registered that I  have completed the bike course. On seeing me turn around so close to the bike finish, one man started pointing to me and yelling, ‘winner of integrity right here! Winner of integrity!’ What he was referring to is, no one would have been the wiser if I finished my bike course then; the sensors registered me as having finished the bike course. But we don’t come to the Ironman to take shortcuts.

I stopped at 102 km or 63.75 mi, because my shoulder just couldn’t take anymore. It was hurting even in the aero position. I wasn’t exhausted yet, but I draw the line at worsening my injury. So I stopped. I AM an Ironman. Just not today.

cycling

Vasu Primlani, Cyclist at Noida Expressway, Noida, Gautam Buddha Nagar, Uttar Pradesh, India on 15th October-2013-Pix-Chandradeep Kumar

There is a code of honor. Among Ironmen, similar to the code of honor among the armed forces. This unsaid code says, I will bring all of me. Whatever it is: broken, whole, and offer up myself in entirety. Because I did that, I can hold my head up high. I might not have completed the Ironman, but I found it in me to uphold the honor of the Ironman.

And this race is about the grace of the American people: who cheer on strangers, regardless of their nationality, race, gender, entirely on the dint of their effort. They recognize that all effort is sacred, and they will do all in their power to support you. This is the United States I know and cherish.

I bow before you, and I’ll be back next year to complete the race.

 

*Thank you for correcting me, Gautham Naidu

 

 

2

A Moose and A Biryani

My parents in Alaska are Ray and Vivian Menaker. Vivian passed away from cancer a few years ago, and Ray last year. They were among the finest people I have known, the grandparents of the Alaskan environmental movement, helped set up the Alaskan bald eagle preserve, and were formative influences in my life.

I met them when I went up to do an GIS and web design internship at the Alaska Clean Water Alliance. Vivian was on the board of the organization, and I stayed with Ray and Vivian, and was never the same for that experience.

Haines is a small town upstream of Juneau, the capital of Alaska, along the Lynn Canal. Its small, but cruise ships would stop along this little port town. Once Ray pointed to a cruise ship and said, that cruise ship is using more electricity than the entire town of Haines. And in this tiny town, this young Indian girl of 23 found a home.

thimbleberryI used to wake up and go have a thimbleberry/ raspberry breakfast in their thimbleberry or raspberry bushes, Vivian grew her own produce in a lovely garden she constructed from scratch. I would fetch eggs (as would the town of Haines) from their double-storey chicken coop, clean chicken shit, chop wood (we had a wood stove), stayed with them in a house they pretty much built with their own hands. Vivian would make me cherry pie from cherries that I plucked from their cherry tree, and the finest granola in the world (both Vivian and I loved nuts).

Ray taught me how to drive a stick shift. Once when we came from driving into town, I ran and opened his door for him. And before getting out of the car, he looked down at the ground. And I asked, what are you looking for? He said, I don’t see the red carpet.

We had salmon caught fresh in the Alaskan waters. Vivian had installed a hand-cranked milling machine in her wall, and she would pour wheat into it, and flour would come out the other end. She would then make dough and put it in their bread maker and we would have the softest, warmest bread, best had with melted butter and Alaskan winters. We would wake up to the smell of a house infused with the smell of freshly baked bread. They never locked their home, or their car. Ray read stories every Saturday from across the world, and Vivian would listen to every story he read, back at home, over the radio.

For their 50th wedding anniversary, they snuck me into town at 3 am with eight feet of snow on the ground. The entire town showed up to give them a surprise wedding anniversary party.

2010-05-09 23.38.02You have to know this about them: Ray had a Gandhian charkha and he would spin stuff into yarn. By stuff I mean wool, yes, but the good people of Haines, Alaska, would also give him hair from their huskies, and he would spin that into yarn. And Vivian had a giant loom in one room, from which she would spin it into cloth. And these two wore bathrobes spun by Ray, and woven by Vivian all their lives.

I have always heard them say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to each other, and never once witnessed a fight. I once asked Ray, curious, Ray, how come you two never fight? What happens if you want one thing and Vivian another? Well, he said, in his slow drawl, then it doesn’t get done. Ray would say, Vivian and I have divided responsibilities around this house, Vivian does all the work, and I am perfectly willing to let her. (Which wasn’t quite true, since he did an equal amount of work). They went for walks in the evening, with Vivian holding onto Ray’s arm. He was gallant, and he would always offer his arm to Vivian.

And here is the most remarkable story: when I met Ray last, I was warned that he had lost his memory. When I visited him at Haines Assisted Living, he indeed didn’t recognize me, and he was as polite as he was to everyone. This is what he looked like when I saw him:

2010-05-10 01.50.26

So I decided to cook for everyone at the facility. Since I was in Alaska, guess what I cooked? I made biryani, but what kind? You’d never guess! Moose. I made moose biryani (I had never made biryani before). And this is the little miracle that occurred.

Now, Ray had never had Indian food before he met me. He had never met an Indian before. And he’d never had biryani before. I set a plate before him, he took a bite, frowned, looked up, and asked, you wouldn’t be Vasu Primlani, would you? HE didn’t remember me, but his palate did! From a dish he’d never had before! Not only did he remember, he remembered that he forgot! He said, ‘Now I feel like such an idiot for not remembering you.’

Ray and Vivian Menaker, good people become immortal, and you will live in my heart for my entire life. I love you, and you, and Alaska will always be my home.

2010-05-11 01.44.59

0

The XX Love Story

She’s a standup comedian who falls for Ms. M. But Ms M. is looking for a husband, not a girlfriend.

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 7.21.08 AMM. wasn’t even supposed to be there. She told me this later. Some of her friends from Puducherry were in Mumbai for the weekend, and she’d got them to the Canvas Laugh Club. M is not the “pay for a laugh” kind of girl. She’s all smiles, all the time. I swear she lights up the bloody room. But more on that later.

Read more..

1

A Bitch’s Rant

Ever wondered why you don’t get hugged?

Ever wondered why other Indian men get hugged and you don’t?

Because women don’t think you are trustworthy.

Indian women don’t even walk down the street looking up because they are afraid of what they’ll have shoved down their retinas: some guy exposing themselves publicly, some guy leering at them, some guy making lewd gestures.

As a woman, I am less concerned about this happening in Mumbai than I am in Delhi. In Calcutta a woman has to but speak up, and she will be assisted.

In Delhi, the men will team up, usually, against you. They will tell you you are ‘imagining it’. They will challenge you, and hope you engage more with them. They will disrupt your work, your training, your day, hoping you will talk to them (yelling counts), look at them (with disgust counts).

I had two such experiences at the National Sports Club of India, Delhi within 12 months. The first, last year, when a 70-something man took to the practice of taking off his swim trunks underwater and swimming naked, and calmly putting them back on in the shallow water as he walked. Disgusted beyond belief, I wrote a letter to NSCI administration, identifying the guy, asking them to ban this man from the pool, or I WILL take it up with the police.

NSCI is an old boys’ club. They took notice of the complaint a woman had bothered to give to them in writing, and did precisely nothing.

Come Monday, Mr. Regaling-Others-with-his-Shriveled-Penis was back in the pool, and I called the cops. As promised.

The cops came, they all banded together, and did their best to persuade me, and the cops, how ‘that never happened, and she’s making it up.’

bitchToday, I was swimming along the black line of the pool, so taking up precisely two feet of width of the pool. Along comes another manatee with absolutely no sense of direction, and not a care as to who he bumps into (because his bumping into people is other people’s problem, not his), comes closer and closer to me each lap. (Like they can’t see who is doing laps up and down the pool, and it’s a total surprise), and voila! Bumps right into me. No sorry, he can’t be concerned. He’s in the deep blue of the Caribbean, and he’s the only manatee in the ocean. I lost it there. ‘WTF? Why are you bumping into me?’ And here’s the classic excuse: I was swimming.

What you were doing, you sorry excuse of a man, is not caring for manners or civic sense. You don’t get modern or Western by learning English, donning swim trunks and flailing about in the water aimlessly like a disoriented whale. What you did was RUDE. Anyone with HALF a sense of propriety and honor would:

  1. Pay ATTENTION to where other swimmers are, and AVOID TOUCHING THEM
  2. Pay special respect to people who are WORKING HARD and DON’T COME IN THEIR WAY. Believe it or not, it obstructs their practice.
  3. If you DO bump into someone, there is a foreign custom invented clearly by Westerners and is NOT part of YOUR culture, its called apologizing.

You do NOT tell her to mind her manners when she cusses at you, call her a bitch, and ‘meet me outside’. What? A woman not wanting your irresistible hairy paws on her? Impossible.

THIS is why women never hug you. You are a crass wolf with something called Ego you mistake for Honor.

Women, like children, are like wild animals. They will approach you if they trust you. This is why men like you don’t get hugged: because you don’t deserve to. This is why Indian women think twice about hugging Indian men – they don’t know if they will be touched inappropriately when the man takes advance of that windfall gain of a the proximity of a woman within grabbing distance.

And this is the price every decent, honorable man pays for dicks like you – a woman will think twice when she looks at even those who deserve to be hugged.

And you? You will pay a price and will not even know it. You will live your miserable existence without the love of a woman. Because without trust, there is no love.

And I can hear your response to this blog as a I write it:

‘Huh? This bitch is crazy’.

0

The President has good taste

o I met the President. He’s actually an erudite, very sweet man.

People asked me, what will you do after you receive the award? I say, I’ll hold my hand out for a second award. They told me in advance I was going to get the award (you know, to make sure I was in town, prepare logistics etcetera) with the caveat that I not tell anyone. Do you know how HARD it was to keep THAT secret, the motherlode of all secrets, for all that time? I ended up cracking a little and telling people I had good news, and they’d ask eagerly, what good news (even some assumptions around children and pregnancy), I’d say, I can’t say. That earned me a few choice expletives.

SO, I say, I’ll hold out my hand for a second award, for NOT TELLING!!

The ceremony was imposing, which you can see here. Just scroll down, and you’ll see the video. Make you proud. It made me proud.

Oh, why did I get it? For being AWESOME, dude! For promoting the cause of women, through everything I do: standup comedy, business school professor, somatic practitioner, triathlete.

The Nari Shakti award is the highest and most prestigious award given to women by the President of India. And I am the first comedian EVER to receive it. EVER.

Thank you to Minister Maneka Gandhi and her office, the Ministry of Women and Child Development, for initiating and instituting this award.

And thank you, President Mukherjee. You have EXCELLENT taste.