Saturday, April 19, 2008

Playing Safe

My life appears to be the dream existence for people back home to have to contend with living with their parents, strict deadlines, and well, living with their parents. I was telling a few friends about my fabulous (pronounced faaabyoolus) life and my fabulous friends and how another friend was coming down to live the fabulous life of the single woman in Mumbai and yadayadayada. Isn't it great? You go out, meet a guy, date some, stay over, doesn't work out, oh what the hell, meet another guy... now, I know my fabulous (stick with the pronunciation, people!) friends will protest that this is pure fiction, which it is, but we've done some of it, A and I, so I can't sign an affidavit (excuse the lawyer humour) that it CANNOT happen.

Then, yesterday, a not-so-fabulous thing, I got myself a Water Purifier. I called up the helpline, placed my order, and the guy said he'd come around 11. 10am, I was sitting in a spag and my sheep shorts trying to draft a Writ Petition when the doorbell rang.

3 men are standing outside my door. Whoa. I look at them, puzzled.

"Filter Order kiya na aapne?"

I heard an imaginary "baa" from the sheep on my nightwear, drawing attention to the state of my undress. "Ek minute" I said, and closed the door, pulled on a kurta and jeans, and made a quick mental calculation. Three of them, one of me. Is that safe? Yes, if they are water purifier setter uppers. But do you need three people to set up a water purifier? Shouldn't I be asking for ID?

There was only one way to find out.

Two of the men trooped in while the third took his own time, I led them into the kitchen. The box was placed on the floor and one of them looked a little perplexed about opening it. The other, in a split second, bent down and ripped through the masking tape.

With my kitchen knife.


As I watched them create a water purifier out of random parts, I remembered about guy No. 3. Now I had left the door open ("Always leave the door open when you're alone at home and some stranger has to come in", says Mom. Apparently you are better off with the possibility of other random goons entering your house than with a closed door and a repairman.) and so I went out to check on him, then suddenly realized that the repairmen could be pocketing forks and knives while I was looking away and so I took a stance which appeared that I was able to survey everything and coolly asked, "So where's the third guy?"

One of the guys looked up, "Oh, he decided to wait outside the building."

Did he? What if he was under the sofa? Or in the bathroom? I hopped into the living room (screw the cutlery) but couldn't see a thing out of place. I left the door slightly ajar (my mother does not live on the ground floor in a colony which houses bandicoots) while the men finished their work and gave me a crash course on the workings of the water purifier, after which I shooed them away, politely. I made some random conversation and threw in, in spite of myself, a silly line on how my husband would have to be explained everything - just because they were nice didn't mean they needed to know we were two women living alone.

And then I wondered, for someone who was that paranoid about undertaking repair work alone, I was pretty careless in letting perfect strangers know that I was living alone, or with my roommate, just because they seemed "interesting" and "nice" and spoke fluent English and laughed at shady characters who frequented clubs like Enigma. Imagine, you meet a guy, get him home, and bam - he knows your house, he knows you live alone, he knows your phone number (which is probably the first thing he got off you) - talk about an information overload. Especially since you don't even know if that was his own credit card that he paid the bill with. The next morning you might want to have nothing to do with him, but the feeling may not be mutual. Oh, and God forbid he's a kleptomaniac. Or if he smses his friends and invites them over. Or (shudder) if he doesn't flush the toilet?

Sex and the City has women getting random men over all the time. None of the lead characters, however, have men stealing stuff from their houses, no men are waiting outside their gates to throw acid on their faces, and none of them date serial killers with a heart of gold. Of course, we all like to think that we are "beyond" all this, and that we have "taste" and that we have a "good judge of character". But in the end, the only judgment you can actually vouch for is your own. I've been lucky with my roommate, touchwood. Think about it. How many women would smile and offer coffee to their roommate's latest 'find' at Poison, who says he's from Bandra and when she doesn't even know his last name? Me, being the paranoid freak that I am, I'd lock my door before going to sleep, if I could manage to get any sleep that night, that is.

I guess in the living-single women's world, safe sex involves a lot more than just condoms.

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