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Rant #113
(published December 19, 2002)
Honey I Shrank My Pants
by Radhika Sharma

When I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, I realized that no amount of watching cable television in India had prepared me for what I was going to encounter in my new life in the U.S. As any alien (in INS lingo and not the MIB one) will testify, it is comparatively easier to accept and get used to the differences in the lifestyle than it is to register and process the subtleties of the new culture. Ever since my relocation I too have, encountered numerous surprises, small and big. My seemingly innocuous dryer is one of them. To be fair to my dryer, it has never done me disservice. Always supplying me with warm and dry clothes, come winter, rain or hail. Yet, why then did my heart skip a beat each time I loaded a fresh bunch of clothes in the dryer? Why then did I start running to the Women's Section in what seemed like almost every fathomable store in the South Bay?

Of course I couldn't have put on weight, my genetic bar was set for thinness. Never minds if genetics does not two carefully chosen family members' make! Yet I persisted with my hypothesis that I had been the innocent victim of shrinkage. No fault of mine. "Have I put on weight?" said I. (Every woman knows that such a statement can never be a question.) "No, you look just fine to me", answered my husband. (Smart man, this is how a non-questioning question should be answered.) And thus our verbal volleyball continued. "You look just fine to me…" I am still unsure about the operative word in this sentence. 'To Me' are two words. So I assumed it was 'look'. Thus temporarily mollified my quest for the un-shrinkable pant continued; in the meanwhile I tried various permutations and combinations to keep the ball rolling.

While I was searching for my "un-shrinkable pant", I was also searching for a job. In parties people would ask me "What duh." "What do you do?" I would query politely. " I work for Oracle". Then Oracle became Sun and Sun became Microsoft and Microsoft became Morgan Stanley and Morgan Stanley became Ernest and Young; but I still remained a writer. Newspaper-less. Editor-less. Respect less? All of my resume sending elicited only auto confirmation's and polite, 'We have a hiring freeze right now, but you never know.' Yes, I never knew. Sometimes I would cry. Or maybe it should be rephrased to: sometimes I would stop crying. "How can I get someone to listen?" I would ask my husband when I felt a little reasonable. At other times, when I was unreasonable (which I was most of time) I would yell "You make a choice and I have to start from scratch because of you!"

My husband is a reasonable person. So he sighed and he reasoned. He pampered me. He took me to libraries and dropped me off to attend classes. He listened to my never-ending childlike stories of an XYZ editor's non-committal reply to me. In short I helped give him a complete parenting experience even before he actually got there. A dry run never hurts. (Though a dryer run too many might!).

Then one day I got tired. I went out and bought two cotton pants. Extra large. My husband just stared at me, his eyes trying hard to tell me that I was crazy. "There is no way I will ever outgrow these pants, no matter how hard I try!" It seemed like I had finally found a balm to soothe my wounds. He kept quiet. Then another day I got tired. Again. I went out for a walk and came back with a shock: for him. "I am not going to write anymore." He didn't stay quiet. While he talked, I kept quiet. It didn't matter what his I.Q/E.Q was, there was no way I would let him convince me that I was the opposite of 'unemployable.'

So I lumbered on my newly chosen path. I would not write. I did not want to write.

One day went by and then another and listlessness became anxiety and anxiety became sadness. But I stuck to my guns. No point in writing if no one would ever read it, I reasoned. It was midnight and I read and I read and the knowledge that there was a world beyond what I knew seemed comforting. A world that was rational, funny and unhappy all at the same time. But most of all, it was a world that was redeeming. Little did I realize that my subconscious had another ace up its sleeve! Each day it would gently nudge me to go back and write again. I fought it for a while. Just a little while. Then like a child who grudging accepts that his parents are right, I listened to my heart and went back to my PC and banged on the keyboard. It was 2:00 a.m. in the morning and I was wide-awake.

At the end of two hours, in the darkness of the night, I saw my light. My own little insight. I had to write. That was all I knew. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. So happily I shut down my PC and went back to bed. My literary babies had decided to grow up. It didn't matter if the world did not think the world of my children. They would always mean the world to me.

The next morning I had a cup of tea and then started rummaging my closet for clothes. I saw something I had not seen in a while. My new bride . . . old pants. I decided to be brave. (Clearly discretion was not the better part of my valor.) They fit. Yes, my pants did fit. I did not have to fear my dryer anymore! (Well, maybe a little less.)

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