Too Much Oestrogen Is A Dangerous Thing

A recent report in the paper states that women’s breasts are getting bigger and the expert opinions they’ve glommed from the Daily Star state it’s due to an increase in female hormones caused by pollution and man-made chemicals in the environment.

If that is true then expect to see flights to Bangalore fully booked by flat-chested women from all over the world.

However, like everyone with a brain, I distrust anything the TOI prints. The editor must have googled ‘breasts’, found this article and passed it on to his sub-editors with the memo ‘Cover story for tomorrow. Unless Amitabh Bachhan has a new post on his blog.’

So I have another forkful of scrambled eggs, finish my tea and turn the page, choosing to not worry about oestrogen anymore.

Later in the day, I happen to be looking up prominent people in the Indian literary scene. Don’t ask. Something related to my day job. Too tedious to get into. I come across this blog written by a published female Indian author, Mridula Koshy.

Here are some excerpts. I quote verbatim.

“Torn petals of marigold drift between us. My heart is a stranger I watch take a step and then two, and the arm carves a smile there, in the belly, now spills a mass, dark into the dust.”

“Time is an accordion that never opening, closes.”

“Eagerness in our quivering knees. She leads us between yellow walls. Twist, she barks. Slop pots empty from overhead. She is nose lost in fetid piles. We are curious. So this is her bliss. Everywhere small lights quench. Sigh and rustle, man and woman embrace. The moon slides across the carom board sky. Onward the joy. Bound, stumble, prostrate. Feel it passing over us, gray lace, the trailing of night’s hem.”

The TOI, for once, was right. This oestrogen overload thing must be true. Nobody with a regular level of female hormones could construct transferred epithets of such staggering womanliness. Did you read that bit about the “arm carving a smile”? No amount of substance abuse can result in that. This author obviously has a yet-undiagnosed condition.

Wodehouse readers will no doubt recall the caricature that PGW created in Madeline Basset who believed ‘every time a fairy hiccoughs, a wee baby is born.’

Stylists and lyrical writers occupy a grey area in literature. On the one hand you have Shakespeare, and allowing personal bias, T S Eliot.  To the Bard is attributed such gems as ‘Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war’, ‘the winter of our discontent’ (Not Churchill, as many believe), ‘Salad Days’ and the classic ‘Woe is me’. He left us with an overflowing vault of phrases to turn into clichés, use in inspiring speeches and patch together in movie dialogues. So, thanks to the Shakemeister and a handful of others, to which I can even add Rushdie, we can all shout a big ‘Hooray for Stylists’.

On the other hand, you have writers of odious tripe, sentimental bilge about torn petals of marigold who are acclaimed for their stylistic virtues.

“Here is a natural stylist, with an easy, accessible turn of phrase…Hers is a determined, stealthy eye, born of fierce concentration, often conjuring up a rustic quiet: ‘Now her pregnant beauty startles him like the fish that rustle and slip past his shins in the flooded fields of paddy he bends over to seed.”

Rajni George, India Today, June 22, 2009.

Thing is, when I picture people writing stuff like that, I picture them in a tranquil (I hate that word but it’s apt) setting with aromatherapy oils slathered over themselves, stroking a peacock, listening to James Blunt. Before you read too much into it, I’m not making any more gay jokes here. This is about chick jokes. Let’s get our prejudices right.

So the question is, how much femininity qualifies as an acceptable norm? Where do we draw the line? In Ms Koshy’s case, clearly she needs help. They need to immediately cart her into a trauma unit and suck out as much oestrogen out of her as possible, before she grows a beard. And, obviously, keep her far away from pollution and man-made chemicals in the environment.

First published in KIRIK 03, May 2010