I stand at the bathroom door, frowning. Vijay is brushing his teeth and I wait for him to notice my worried expression. He doesn't. So I announce ''I'm worried.''
''I've read stuff that a lot of people I've met recently have written about me - they say I'm charming, engaging, nice, down to earth, simple...''
''But I'm supposed to be a snob! I've always been called the one with an attitude problem - only a few people who really know me have liked me - so why do people like me now? Am I putting on some kind of public persona now that I'm an author?''
''Yhaa'' Decisively, spewing a little foam. (Always very attractive)
''WHAT? You mean I'm a FAKE?''
He realizes he better pretend he's too busy finishing brushing to answer this one. Finally he rinses out his mouth and says, with an air of exaggerated patience ''What happened, Honey?''
I stalk over to the bed and sit down while he gets ready for work. I try to explain ''Arrey, yaar, people who've met me recently say I'm very nice! But am I really nice or am I just acting nice with them? If I am, I'm not doing it consciously.''
He thinks about it and says ''Well, now we know - think about it...it's like the difference between the real Amitabh Bachhan and the one the public perceives him as...'' He knows he's hitting me where it hurts with this one, I've speculated enough on why Jaya Bachhan looks so uptight all the time.
I stare at him. ''You're not helping. You're supposed to say - 'yes, sweetie, you really are engaging, charming, down to earth...'
Immediately, he says with the air of a boy reciting a poem at assembly time ''Of course, you're very engaging, charming, down-to-earth...''
I snap 'You're LYING.'
He clasps both hands to his face with an air of horror and says dramatically ''WHAT? You mean I'm a FAKE?''
It really was bothering me this morning, this whole thing. But only for about half an hour, until I realized what was going on -
Basically, the fact is that I've always been hot-tempered and on the vaguely volatile side in my younger days. And in school, and college, and even the early years of work, I projected this image of being the selective stuck-up type. And I think in many ways, I was all of the above - although as I am clearly mellowing with age - and motherhood and near-death-experiences-with-surgery-complications and Buddhism have all helped.
But above all, the fact is that I am so genuinely thrilled with people who are interested in my book, and who love what I've written that I actually feel terribly grateful to them. A friend of mine told me on Facebook,'' why are all your updates ending with Thank you? Since when does the uber-confident Y need to thank people for liking her writing?''. I tried to explain it to him, but I don't think he got it. Because it IS something to be very grateful for - each person who likes the book and talks about it, or writes to me with a question, or comes up to me at an event with a question, or who lands up and has lunch with me at Mamagoto or writes to me with feedback about where my book is and isn't available - what the hell is there to be stuck-up about?
The other thing that has clearly changed is in my ability to just talk to strangers - I read this post by Judy Balan last night, and I could totally identify with it - that is, this is how I was some time back, and maybe sometimes I still feel this way - but for the most part, I enjoy meeting new people. I'm not sure when this happened, and this one is not to do with the book - I've recently agreed to coffee dates with a couple of women who just asked me and happen to live nearby - and it was great meeting them, and we were chattering like old friends; and it was a completely balanced conversation and is gave me a perspective on lives that are rather different from mine. So the time it used to take me to warm up to a person - and the time it took for them to realize I really wasn't all that snooty - has been drastically cut down.
I think obviously it's helped that I've been getting mostly positive vibes about the book - but then, even the few odd negative reviews, I find I'm able to laugh off and naturally interact with even that set of people in a light-hearted manner. I'm so surprised that it doesn't really bother me - was I expecting it all along, that there would obviously be some negative things said about it - or am I just cushioned by the fact that 98% of those who've talked about it have done so more positively? I don't know, but it's basically very nice to be able to say that something doesn't bother me - because till a couple of years back, just about everything used to bother me.
There are disappointments of course, in terms of the way that some people in the writing/publishing industry end up behaving, although for the most part, people are very helpful. But it's the readers who really rock, and frankly, it's just really really easy to be nice to people who are being nice enough to like your creative work.
Also, there is some evidence to suggest I am also becoming way more tolerant than I ever was before. So much so that when someone recently messaged me on Facebook saying ''The book is almost below average -your writing cud had been better'', I just bit my lip and refrained from agreeing that Indeed It Cud Had. I simply politely thanked her for her feedback and left it at that. After all, she was expressing her point of view, and I had to respect that.
So net-net, I think I'm just going to have to make my peace with the fact that I am actually becoming a *Nicer* person. And that's nothing to worry about, right? The world could always use one more nice-r person.
P.S - Just occurred to me - Oh GOD. What if this causes me to lose my sarcasm? What the hell will I write then? Flowery stories about romance and relationships and world peace?...Oh nooo... Yayy, found something new to worry about....off I go!
Toodle-oo, peeps! *and remember - when this unusual combination of phrases becomes a rage - you heard it here first*.