After exciting childhood dreams that vacillated between astronomy, zoo keeping and diving with great white sharks, Khushnuma eventually settled for something a tad tamer-advertising. Six years ago, while on a sabbatical, she rediscovered her love for writing something more than creative briefs and PowerPoint presentations. Advertising and writing apart, she is extremely passionate about animal welfare, sustainability and of course, regular sabbaticals. Below you can read an excerpt from her book, ‘50 Cups of Coffee’. Courtesy: Penguin Random House/ Khushnuma Daruwala.
It’s Not Me, It’s You
After years of self-flagellation, a short span of six months in the arranged marriage market, made me come to the irrefutable conclusion—it’s not me, it’s them.
All these years I had bravely shouldered the accusations hurled at me by every journal article for my failed relationships. ‘Unconscious choice patterns’, ‘abysmal self-esteem’, ‘latent masochism’, screamed every psychologist and agony aunt. The pattern continued in my forays in the world of arranged marriage. Having burnt my fingers so often nothing remained of my digits but mere stubs, I stopped protesting long ago. Maybe my forehead was, unbeknownst to me, flashing a neon ‘WELCOME’ sign that only losers could see. Maybe I enjoyed the pain of being kicked in the gut. Maybe I was a psychiatrist’s dream case.
The only one who understood me was Roxette. It was comforting to know in this world of 7 billion, at least one was as messed up as me. I sang along to what seemed like a perfect summation of my life.
Cos every time I seem to fall in love Crash! Boom! Bang!
I find the heart but then I hit the wall
Crash! Boom! Bang!
That’s my real middle-name . . .
Marriage, like driving, was my frailty. I no longer admired people with great academic or sporting achievements. My unabashed admiration these days was reserved for those who could control and manoeuvre a large piece of metal (aka cars, buses, freight trucks) and for those who had managed the biggest coup of all, marriage; which of course meant pretty much everyone around me. These days, in any given room I was in, the majority could drive and were no longer single.
While I’m wandering the dating maze like a headless chicken, people are not only getting married, they are getting married for the second and even the third time. Obviously, it must be supremely easy. And obviously I was missing a trick.
It sounds horribly vain (actually just plain horrible), but there have been times when on spotting a not-so-pleasant looking woman I have silently sighed—‘Even she is married’ or ‘How did she land a husband?’ Shameful to say the least, but it wasn’t so much about putting them down as it was a self-pity trip. While I know love and marriage are not a function of looks, I’m not that terrible on the character scale, if I may say so myself.
They say epiphany often strikes when you reach a cul de sac or the edge of the precipice. Or when you are downing caffeine by the gallons.
As I vigorously stirred my caramel chip cold coffee wondering why the chips refused to dissolve into the frothy liquid, a hazy thought blurb materialized; maybe, just maybe, I was an alien. Part of a secret convoy of alien-scientists who had committed their entire life to the study of the primitive mating and dating rituals on planet earth. Maybe our memories had been neutralized by Men in Black–style neutralizers.
Farfetched as it may sound, this theory could well explain a lot—my absolute inability to detect when a man is flirting with me; why I couldn’t ever be like the women who proudly claimed ‘we can get men to do anything we want’ when I couldn’t even get my date to part with his beloved baseball cap while attending a fancy soiree; or my bewilderment at the gazillion odd concoctions one could prepare from a humble coffee bean. I never seem to run out of new beverages to try on these dates.
Maybe it was my superior alien sensibilities that were refusing to let me downgrade to the earth 2.0 male version.
Maybe the humans, despite their basic olfactory senses, could sense my alieny wiles.
Partly mollified by this hypothesis and partly by the rich caramelly beverage, I decided I was ready to throw down the gauntlet. Alien or human, I would carry on with my mission.