a short story by Aby Sam Thomas
Perhaps there are still people who don’t know who Lady Gaga is. For them, a brief introduction of her is necessary. Lady Gaga is an American pop star who has—seemingly—revolutionized the pop music industry. Her songs are reaching the number one spots effortlessly, and Gaga fans rejoice every time a Lady Gaga video on YouTube reaches one million views. Gaga has been hailed as the next big thing; out to galvanize the industry with her jaw-dropping outfits, crazy hairdos, catchy lyrics, and of course, her brand of amazing music.
I’m not a huge fan of her, unfortunately.
Lady Gaga can break mirrors, wear plastic bubble dresses, wear loud garish makeup, draw gleaming lightning arrows on her cheeks; anything she wants to do. What I have a problem is that her performances seem to be outdoing her music; and that, in my fair opinion, is sad. There are plenty of musicians who make good music and they should be on the front pages, rather than some blonde-dyed femme fatale wearing spiky headdresses and skin tight outfits. I still didn’t ‘get’ her music.
Unfortunately Nandita doesn’t feel the same way.
Nandita is my girlfriend of sorts-I say ‘of sorts’ since both of us have yet to figure out where we are on the relationship scale. As per Nandita, we are those avant-garde human beings who refuse to measure themselves by society standards. At least that’s what she tells me every time I pose the question of what we are doing. Nandita gives me the standard avant-garde explanation very seriously, and then gives me this wry smile. I love that smile. I smile back, and am just happy to be.
This Lady Gaga fixation that Nandita has is, I guess, part of her ideology about ‘Don’t judge me, you’ve no right to’. With her outrageous outfits and performances, Gaga has been controversial and hence, as I like to argue, remained in the spotlight always. Nandita opposes me vehemently. Her contention is that Gaga is Gaga because she is an absolutely unique artist—she thinks that Gaga can do what she wants to, and that no one needs to pick on her because of that. As long as Gaga is not hurting anyone else, then ‘the uptight asses can keep their mouths zipped’.
Of course, I’ve learnt the hard way that arguing with Nandita is a hopeless task. Both of us are well-grounded people who will stick to their stands no matter what; and so any argument between us is rarely completed with one side winning. With us, it’s more like ‘you can say what you wish, but I will stick to what I think’. Our intellectual arguments would have made Voltaire proud.
With the Lady Gaga argument though, Nandita scored by a neat new trick; which, I still believe, was way below the belt.
Nandita decided on one fine Tuesday morning that, from that day forth, her name will be Gogo.
I laughed till my insides hurt the first time Nandita made this announcement. Of all the names that Nandita could have taken, she chose Gogo. I reasoned with her—that was a downright ridiculous name, and that I also once had a dog named Gogo. But Nandita was not one to be swayed. Her main reasoning, behind the name change, was my problem with Lady Gaga; that I couldn’t see Gaga for the artist that she is. Nandita felt I considered Gaga just as a funny caricature that needn’t be taken seriously—which was absolutely right.
So Nandita decided if she morphed into this new creature called Gogo, then I would be awakened, and that I’d realize to not go just by appearances; and by the person under the facade. She said to me, “You know, Arjun, the problem is that you and several others are far too muddle-headed in your own worlds that you fail to see the unique qualities of other people. With Lady Gaga, that is exactly the case—you think of her as mad, but that is her most appealing quality.”
I shrugged when she said this. To me, it was all rubbish and Lady Gaga would remain just that-another one to be tossed out the memory bin. I was pretty sure that ‘Gogo’ was just a petty way of Nandita trying to get her way with me.
But Nandita was very serious about the whole matter; and I didn’t know it until the next week of that announcement. It started out with Twitter, Gmail and Facebook updates—I nearly choked on my pasta when I went online one morning and saw my contact list, saying: “Gogo-online”. Nandita’s crazy group of friends went along with her; they saw it all as a good joke and since they didn’t like me very much, they were very willing to follow Nandita’s rules. The people at the ad agency where she worked also didn’t raise eyebrows—but then, they had grown more accustomed to Nandita’s craziness every now and then. As long as she coined up funny and interesting taglines for products, they were okay with her pink hair streaks, or her blue eyeliner, or her handmade cloth bags she bought from the street, or now, even with her name change to Gogo.
I tried reasoning with her. I told her that I take back all what I said, and that Lady Gaga is a brilliant artist. Nandita simply rolled her eyes and said, “Arjun—you should know by now that I can read you like a book. You’re just saying that. I don’t want your stamp of approval for Gaga—she has plenty of fans already for that.” She smirked while making that last point, and saw that it had got me annoyed. She rose from her seat, cupped my face in her warm hands, kissed my cheek, and said, “I’m just trying to open your eyes, dear. You just need to accept her, that’s all I am asking.”
“And my acceptance of Gaga and Gogo means what, exactly?”
Nandita smiled and kissed me again. “It means that you are much more open-minded than you are now. And that you appreciate good artists when you see them.”
I sighed. “Nandita…”
She laughed. “The name is Gogo, darling.”
I sighed again. Sometimes Nandita was such a pain.
“And… by the way…” she added, while walking to her room, “You have to get Nina tomorrow.”
I looked up. “Me? Why?”
Nandita calmly turned around, twirling her hair. “Because I can’t, Arjun. I’ve a long night tomorrow-have a client presentation. Naveen is doing the presentation, but the boss has told me to go along as well.”
I just stared at her. Picking up Nina was not one of my favourite tasks. Nina and I didn’t have much of a good relationship.
“Fine, I’ll go get her from your parents. But do try and come back early.”
“Don’t be so scared of her, Arjun! She’s only two, you know.”
Nina was Nandita’s two year old daughter. While in her final year of college, Nandita had a fling with a college mate; which had resulted in a pregnancy. While the rest of the world—including her then boyfriend—had asked her to get an abortion and make life easy for all of them; Nandita had steadfastly refused to do anything of the sort. It was a struggle, and Nandita had bravely stuck to her guns. She still isn’t very comfortable talking to me on the subject. It was, as she had told me, an incredibly difficult time for her, and she was solely listening to her heart. For some reason, an abortion wasn’t her kind of solution to the ‘problem’.
Nandita and I had met a year ago. We got along famously after a friend introduced us to each other, and Nandita had very bluntly told me about Nina’s existence in the first meeting itself. I was jolted of course, but then again, I had several demons of my past too. I told her the past shouldn’t decide how the future should be, and that Nina being a part of her life shouldn’t really affect how I and Nandita got along with each other. I guess that’s how the seeds of our relationship started. We got along famously, and we did understand each other very well. She was smart, spunky and witty; I was quieter and moody; yet we shared levels of craziness that was too much to ignore! We got apartments next to each other; and that allowed us to have our own spaces, while at the same time, gave us a lot of time to be with each other as well. I thought it was working out well for a commitment-phobic like me; and so, we continued to be. We had reached the one year mark, and we were still going strong.
Nina was like every other baby girl, I guess. She had big puppy dog eyes, brown skin, and feisty black hair. She walked around as if she owned the place, and was a bit of a tantrum-maker. With Nandita though, the two were like buddies; they high-fived and played princess games whenever they could. It was great to watch the two of them bond-their interaction was simple, clean and pure. Nina had completed two years of age, but she hadn’t started talking entirely yet. While she did seem to understand things and blurt out words every now and then, her favourite word was, quite funnily, “Goo goo”.
Needless to say, Nina was very thrilled with her mother’s new name of “Gogo”.
Nina didn’t look suitably happy to see me when I went around to pick her up-she was obviously expecting her mother. She said “Goo goo” sadly when she saw me, and looked sadly at her grandparents. But I quietly took her hand, strapped her into the car seat, and drove her back to the city.
Nina was quiet throughout the car ride. I had a serious problem interacting with children and Nina was just one of the several kids who didn’t react favourably to me. With children, I found there was hardly anything in common that I could talk with them about. Of course, it is harder when the child in question had a single-word-vocabulary; and you had to especially tuned in to the accenting of the word. When it was ‘Goo goo’ with a twang, that meant she was interested and was curious. A soft, lilting ‘Goo goo’ meant perhaps that she was hurt; or perhaps that she was requiring something that wasn’t exactly in sight now. A shocked ‘Goo goo’ meant surprise, or fear. The differences were subtle, but very indicative.
Of course, I was no expert on reading the ‘Goo goo’ accents. Nandita had painstakingly explained the few above to me once; and being a dedicated learner, I had taken notes.
I unlocked the door to Nandita’s apartment, Nina walked in quietly. I called up her mother; and Nandita told me that she and Naveen were winding things up at the meeting and that they should be back soon. Nandita told me she had got food in the fridge, and that I need to microwave that and give it to Nina. I did exactly as instructed; and gave the plastic bowl to Nina as she played with her dolls. Nina accepted it, muttered something that I didn’t quite catch, and ate the macaroni with her large plastic pink fork.
I sat myself on the couch, switched on the television and flipped channels. Nina was sitting on the ground in front of me, and she played with her toys, not really noticing me. I felt a pang of unexpected sadness at that point, looking at Nina. While I acknowledged my weakness in dealing with children and preferred to stay away from them in general, it was also quite sad that I couldn’t find some kind of a relationship with my lover’s child. Was I just a weird specimen from the human species? Every other person I knew got along famously with children—I got plenty of glares and eye—rolls every time I mentioned this disability of mine.
Nina looked up at me for an instant. We both stared at each other for a few moments-if it were a photograph, it would have been a beautiful image—a two year old child peering into the eyes of a 25 year old man. She looked expectantly—I gave her back my standard blank stare. She went back to looking down at her bricks and dinosaurs.
It was then that the television started playing Lady Gaga’s ‘Just Dance’ music video.
I reflexively pulled up the remote control and felt the channel-change button.
“Goo goo…” said Nina.
I shifted uneasily. I reviewed the ‘Goo goo’ accents in my head. Was this surprise? Or…was it wonder?
I looked at Nina. She was staring wide-eyed at the television screen; where Lady Gaga was twirling and flipping around seemingly inebriated young people. I was worried for an instant—I tried remembering how the video went and wondered if there was any ‘inappropriate’ material in the video. I flinched when Gaga wondered how she ‘turned her shirt inside out’. But I was glad to see that none of the images were really making any sort of impression on little Nina.
But Nina was shaking her head, with a hint of a smile on her face; and—shockingly—I can’t think of any other word to describe it—grooving to the song. I couldn’t help but smile, as she shook her dinosaurs and cows to the rather catchy rhythm. She looked at me, and smiled—yes, she smiled, and perhaps the first time she did that. I seated myself on the ground next to her as she jived; and we both looked at the TV screen.
There had to be something there—if a child could get ‘it’, I should probably too.
It was an interesting video to say the least; but it was the song and the music that was overpowering. The video came to an end, with the riveting beats still ringing in my ears. When Nina realized it was over, she looked at me, and again muttered, “Goo goo…” It was the wistful one this time.
I pulled out Nandita’s laptop, found her Lady Gaga folder and put it on auto-play. There were no videos this time, just the songs. Nina wasn’t bothered—it was obvious she went for the music alone. Her eyes twinkled, and she handed me some of her toys. I got the purple dinosaur and the fireman finger puppet. We made these plastic organisms dance; humming to the tunes of Gaga.
And so it was—the two of us were finally bonding over songs of Lady Gaga. I realized that Nandita was indeed right—Gaga’s songs were mad and apparently senseless; but then, it was amazingly fun and that it was, quite frankly, art nonetheless. If a two year old could dance to it, then there definitely had to be something of merit there. I may not understand her outfits or her head dresses; but there it was—Gaga had just brought me and little Nina together. In a world with purple dinosaurs, finger puppets and cows.
It was a weird world—but the world was better with weird in it.
And I suddenly found myself appreciating Gaga for the artist that she was-with her spikes, blue arrows on cheeks, and all.
Nandita came home that night to see me and Nina on the floor, still playing; with Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’ in full volume.
Both Nina and I turned around. We both had blue lighting arrows on our cheeks.
“Arjun?” Nandita managed to say.
“Hey Gogo. What’s up?” I replied.
Nandita came forward, and enveloped the two of us in a bear hug.
[image courtesy: http://weheartit.com/entry/3177427/via/kirei]