Even as I am writing this, you are struggling between life and death, with an entire nation, nay, a world that prays for your speedy and safe recovery.
The first thing I did when I heard about what happened to you was of course google your name and I was shocked to see your year of birth as 1998. As young as 14! It took me back to what I was doing when I was 14.
Preparing for my boards exams, waiting for a Harry Potter novel, struggling with weight issues, worrying about pimples and a bunch of other things which seemed awfully important to me back then.
Education and women's rights activism? Naah not a chance in the world.
Writing a blog and expressing my views on promoting education for girls? I am pretty sure I was still writing essays titled "Television, boon or bane," back then.
Fighting to get the girls in my country educated? Nope! (I would most likely have fought for the opposite at that age and the maturity level that I had back then)
Getting threats from militant organistions? I am not sure I even knew what that term meant back then.
In relative comparison to you, the 14th year of my life makes me look painfully retarded.
I was brought up in a cocooned atmosphere. Education was almost a birth right. There was never a threat or danger to me receiving quality education, which is probably why I never valued it back then.
Today, I am a teacher. Teaching 8 year old kids in an impoverished government school in Chennai and your shooting angers me to no end. It leaves a dull ache in my heart because I have a very vague idea of what you are fighting for. Because I have a class of 7 girls and 21 boys and despite all odds being in their favor (lack of militant organisations, lack of people thinking 10-14 year old girls are threats, no fear of someone pumping bullets in your head, lack of death threats, etc) quality education seems like a distant dream.
You inspire me Malala
To go out there everyday and try my best and give my children the very best education that I can and help them fight against all the odds stacked against them
To try and instill in them whatever it was that your father instilled in you that made you so socially aware and sensitive way before the age of 14
To tell my girls your story so they understand what a struggle it is for girls in some parts of the world to go to school. And that problems of lack of running water and clean toilets pale in comparision to the problems of bullets in your head.
To tell my boys your story and sensitise them so they can send their sisters to school
To increase the enrollment ratio of girls in my school (I have 28 kids. The ratio in my class is 1:3 in favor of the boys)
You humble me Malala. immensely
I am almost twice as old as you are and I thought I was doing something awfully important when I started my fellowship with Teach for India.
There are times when I feel sorry for myself that I have to teach in a classroom which has no electricity. Better than living the constant fear that you might have no school.
There are times when I feel sorry for my children that they have to walk barefeet to reach school. Pales in comparison to walking in mortal fear of your life
There are times when I think I am doing as much as I can and leave the rest to chance. I realise now that now that it is a continuous fight. That one day all children WILL attain an excellent education come what may.
You give me hope Malala,
For in the times we live in, you give me immense hope
On the days that I think I am fighting a losing battle, I shall think of you and fight harder.
On the days that I think that my country does not give importance to education and girls, I shall think of you and ask myself what can I do about it
On the days that I am trying to talk to yet another parent who thinks education is not important for her girl child, I shall think of you and try harder
On the days that I think I am powerless against irrepressible forces, I shall think of your young 14 year old face and it will make my resolve stronger
I look at your picture and it makes me want to cry. Try as I might, I cannot for the life of me find anything threatening about this picture. I only see an innocent little girl with an iron resolve to make things better for herself and her country.
And I cannot begin to imagine what went through the minds of those who thought it was necessary to wipe you off the face of the earth and continue to bay for your blood.
I don’t know when you will recover. I don’t know how you will fight the forces that be. I don't know if the women in your country (and mine) will ever become truly liberated and educated in our time but one thing I know for sure, is that you give immense inspiration and hope to girls and women in your country (and mine) and you make our fight stronger
May your tribe increase.
So the tea shop right outside my school is a METAPHOR which I frequently use to tell my children about the kind of lives they should NOT aspire for.
Any child who does not do homework, does not come to school or uses poor language is always told, "Do you want to be like those men sitting in the tea shop in the morning? Always drinking tea and never doing any work? Have you seen a policeman drink tea there? Have you seen a doctor drink tea there? Have you seen a pilot come and drink tea there? The tea shop owner himself doesn't sit and drink tea there because he is busy making tea and doing work" and so on.
It is the MOST successful METAPHOR in my class and gets my kids in line almost instantly. I can almost hear their thoughts, "Must. NOT. drink. tea. in. tea. shop"
So today morning (an off day for kids but teachers had to come) tragedy struck when I was caught drinking tea at the tea shop by two of my students.
Dai, paaru da, miss tea kudikaranga (Hey look, Miss is drinking tea) said in the same tone used to say, "Look, miss has been caught with a glass of whisky"
Kill me now
In my defense, It was NOT A WORKING DAY AND I WANTED TO DRINK TEA! Arrrgh!
Also, it's ONLY a metaphor! Hullo!
1. So last week saw me falling down a flight of stairs and severely hurting my bum, so much so that the tissues around my bum are now totally damaged which means I can't sit. At all.
Yes. I shall now pause and wait for you to finish laughing and cracking all the bum jokes that you can think of. I have already cracked the "Sorry yaar, mai bumaar hoon" joke and have had other inconsiderate friends cracking the "How are you? hope you are doing kickass".
And this means I cannot cycle to school for at least a week, which is quite sad given its the only form of physical exercise I get (does shouting at kids, standing all day in a classroom with no electricity and running after kids during recess count by the way?). I really enjoy the early morning ride to school. Helps me plan my day and clear my head. Need to fix this posterior of mine, and fast.
Also these things have a way of happening to me. I was walking carefully down the stairs and the next thing I knew Dham dham dham and my tail bone is now severely injured.
2. Also with the Olympics going on an everything I have been following the news about Olympics on and off. And I have been laughing ever since I heard that the gold medal in trampoline was won by ..... wait for it... Dong Dong! -
but seriously. The only thing I can think of is that his parents named him after they heard the noise he made while jumping on the trampoline when he was a baby. Dong Dong Dong Dong.
Also I am curious to know if he has a brother called Ding and another one called Bell. Also is Dong both his first AND last name? Now that would be seriously funny!
And do people in his house rush to the door every time they hear his name because you know, how does one differentiate between a doorbell and a name like Dong Dong.
Here's the link by the way - DONG DONG
3. Teaching third grade kids who don't understand a word of English has to be the MOST challenging thing I ever did. (a close second would be watching half an Emraan Hashmi movie.) I realise that to make them understand I am increasingly beginning to talk like a retard. "You go house and write homework" I said yesterday and mentally kicked myself for how awful my english had become. In my defense when they dont know what home means and finish means I cant really say "Go home and finish homework" no?. Also the kind of questions I am being asked are quite legendary. So I was teaching subtraction with borrow and the number was 912 - 678 and this kid says "Miss tens so poor, have only one number. I borrow directly from hundreds? Yes?" and proceeded to do just that. kept the 1 in 912 intact and borrowed two times from 9 instead! Sighness. And dont you DARE say, oh my what a creative child because I will kick you where it hurts!
4. The weekend also saw me watching Ice Age 2 (where I had to constantly shift positions from one bum to the other because well, I cant sit properly without pain otherwise. This qualifies as the MOST embarrassing and uncomfortable injury ever and I have had some serious injuries before.)
I LOVED the movie and it made me wish I was IN the ice age while the continent drifted apart. SO MUCH coolness. Wow. Also Diego gets a girlfriend! :)
And Sid is still my favorite ice age character. My favorite scene is when Manny says "Diego is suffering from the L word" and Sid says "Leprosy?" and Manny says "No. It starts with an L and ends with an E" and Sid says, "Lice?". Hahahha! Also, there is an Indian villain in the movie who is called Gupta! Heh! Do watch it. The 3D is not great but the movie is awesome
5. And tomorrow is a HOLIDAY! Yay! :D. I am probably more excited than my kids at having a holiday. Its my first one in two months and if you have ever been a primary school teacher you will know how hectic and awfully busy the first two months of school can be. Both professionally and personally I have been SO busy in the past two months that its not even funny. Tomorrow I shall reply to emails from friends which have been languishing in my inbox for ages (Sorry B, tomorrow your mails shall be replied to!), tomorrow I shall clean my cupboard, tomorrow I will finish reading an entire book, tomorrow I will go for a long walk (weather in Chennai is lovely), tomorrow I will go and treat myself to some chocolate ice cream, tomorrow I will watch "Through sunglasses", an Iranian movie which I have been meaning to watch for errr- 2 years now. (I should just get back to watching more world cinema.)
Though knowing me I know that I will probably just spend it correcting papers and making worksheets and entering data and crying at how my kids have STILL not mastered subtraction with borrow despite me drilling it for two months. Sighness!
I would normally not write about something like this. Definitely not on my blog. And most definitely not when I am writing a post after two months.
But I have to say what I have to say.
So the last weekend saw me going to Madurai to meet my sister's edible and possibly the cutest twin babies on the planet, G and N. No cannibalistic tendencies but honestly they are SUCH cute kids that one just wants to stuff them between two slices of bread and have them for breakfast. Om nom nom.
Now that you are sufficiently disgusted let me continue.
As the trip to Madurai was about as efficiently planned as the errr... most unplanned trip to Madurai ever, I just went to Koyambedu and took one of the many buses leaving for Madurai
What follows is not something which is happening to me for the first time. It has happened to me before, has happened to ALL women/girls I know and very sadly will continue to happen till, well, we wipe men out from the planet. Which by the way is SUCH a good idea. Just freeze a couple of million good sperms (only if you want to that is. Because then we would have boy babies and after G was born I feel kindly towards boy babies so we can't really kill the boy babies you know. I would feel bad :P), wipe out the men and there you go - world peace, no strife, no hunger problems, no rape, no molestation, no dowry deaths, no need for contraception, no population explosion, no wet towels on the bed, no...
But I digress. More on this later.
So you might ask me why I choose to write about this particular incident when there have been so many.
Because I am proud of myself. So proud that I kicked a man in his balls in front of a bus full of men, who *might* be potential molestors themselves. Proud of the fact that there is now one man in Tamil Nadu who will DEFINITELY think twice before he even touches his own wife.
I shall not go into the gory details of what happened but in the middle of the night, I shouted at a bastard, swore at him in my most galeej tamil, poured a litre of water on his head, woke up everyone on the bus, confiscated his voter id card, kicked him in his balls...Thrice, made a co passenger slap him on his face, twice, and then waited till the bus reached the middle of nowhere, asked the bus to stop and made him get down.
I wish I had pepper spray. So I could have made his life more miserable but man! I am so proud of myself.
I also threatened to publish his photo is all the local newspapers that I know of and put it in public forums so people KNOW who he is. Which I have not been able to do. Because I don't know how to go about it. And also because if newspapers started carrying pictures of molestors, then well, there would ONLY be pictures of molestors in papers and little else.
So I shall share his picture and details here. And hope that the few good people who do visit this blog shall tell me how I can go about making his life miserable. Please give me really good ideas to make him regret his birth on this planet.
P.S: So a funny thing happened. When I shouted at this man and asked him how he DARE put his loathsome effing hand on me, he replies saying "I am a decent man. I did my engineering"
1. So all the women I love and love talking to for hours on the phone are now busy taking care of small, wailing, peeing, pooping creatures and have no time to spend talking to me. So my sister (and hence my mother) and my best friend have been so busy taking care of little babies that they don't remember the last time they were devoid of baby vomit, baby poop and smelt like a woman. My sister went as far as giving birth to not one but TWO babies and the house is completely and constantly chaotic with constant baby squeals and gazillion diapers and thousands of bottles of formula and cute little baby clothes hanging on the clothes line. I miss not being at home in Jamnagar where the worlds best niece and nephew are growing up too fast for me to catch up and watching them grow on skype doesnt really cut it. And Milinta, my best friend, thankfully gave birth to only one but one super hyperactive boy who can sit still for exactly 4 seconds before indulging in some activity. In her own words, "Revs, he can crawl faster than me. I can't catch up with him anymore. Phew". Oh well. The day I have kids I will directly have 6 year olds and send them away to school.
2. So till about a couple of months back (before the baby boom hit our family) the mater and pater were getting really worried and had come to the conclusion that I will remain a spinster for the rest of my life and possibly run away to Africa and start teaching young kids in Sudan or something. From coercion to pleading me to get married my parents were quite at their wits end. It also doesn't help that I work as a teacher (earning a pittance) in one of the worst slums of Mumbai (home to Chota Shakeel) and teach slum kids for a living. Most "prospective" alliances are rejected because I am not qualified enough or because I am a teacher or I don't earn enough or because I work for an NGO or the BEST - "if she works in a slum won't she contract some serious disease? Sorry. We don't want our son to get some terrible disease" HAHAHAHHAHAHAH! I think I laughed for three days continuously when I heard that!
Oh well. You need all kinds of people to make the world.
3. Which brings me to my third rant of the day. I think it is very sad that parents want excellent teachers for their kids but they do NOT want their children to aspire to be excellent teachers. You can be an excellent doctor, engineer, pilot but God forbid if you became a teacher then your career and your life are fucked for eternity. Surprisingly though, in the slum I teach in, I am the MOST respected person. I get special seats in the auto, rowdies won't eve tease me, parents will wear their best clothes when they come to meet me because I am a "teacher". A well educated person who knows it all. But in the so called "upper and middle class" I am looked down upon so violently it is shocking. "A teacher," say most people with a sneer. Why? they want to know. As if I decided to sell my kidneys or indluge in slave trade to earn some money for myself. BUT they will be the first people to complain or take up arms if their child's teacher doesn't teach properly. Very sad state of affairs for a country if teachers aren't respected or paid well enough.
4.So come June, I shall shift BACK to Chennai from Mumbai. I remember when I had to leave Chennai last year to come to Mumbai, I cried buckets and was extremely apprehensive about moving to a new city and that too to Mumbai, a purportedly hostile and tiring city. But now that I have to leave Mumbai to go finish my fellowship and teach in Chennai for an year, I feel hollow from within. I have come to love Mumbai and i LOVE the life this city exudes. This is possibly the only city which matches my pace and is as fast as I would like a city to be. I have had the most amazing time living in Mumbai, traveling in the city, teaching and interacting with the people in this city. Much as I like Chennai, I think the city is light years behind Mumbai in every sense. I don't want to romanticise Mumbai because no doubt it IS a difficult city and is a city of extremes with stark differences and contrasts in the living conditions of people of various incomes. But the city has been kind to me and for that I will be forever indebted.
5. So the other day I was feeling really senti about leaving my kids in Mumbai and going to Chennai and I put up pictures of me with all my kids in Facebook, with a short note about each child. So I had put up a picture of me with the Math whiz kid in my class who can multiply faster in his head than I can do on paper. AND my favorite Math teacher comments on that and says the following. (Click image). This happened a week back but I am still floating on cloud nine. My rather flawed, fail and tumultuous life has come a full circle. :)
I have been more stressed about the exams than my kids who are pretty bindaas about it and call me a day before the exam to ask "Didi, tomorrow exam? why? what exam?" while I hyperventilate and hope not to die of a weak heart.
I find solace by putting up statuses on facebook about my kids and getting opinions from other teachers.
So yesterday I put up a status message about how I was super tensed about my kids' exams and following were the responses I got from other fellow teachers.
You might have to click on the picture to expand it and read it. I think it's worth it. :)
NOW I know what my teachers spoke about, a day before our exams while all the time as a student I thought that they were chilling and waiting for us to get massacred. Ah! Perspective! :)
You know how most people spend their entire lives finding the true purpose of their existence and spend a lot of time talking about it and wondering when they will find theirs?
I mean I know people who have lived to be a 65 and still wondering what is the purpose of THEIR existence on this planet.
Well for the fact that it is a country, and a fairly young one at that, I think Bangladesh is DAMN lucky that just 41 years after its creation it has found the "true purpose of its existence".
The true purpose of Bangladesh's existence is so that Sachin could one day score his 100th 100 in this country. :P
P.S: I can't believe I have lived in a time when
- I saw the passing of a millenium
- India won the world cup
- Sachin made 200 runs
- Sachin made 10,000 runs
- Sachin made his 100th 100
I feel truly blessed.
So after school I usually take all my naughty kids and personally drop them off home to prevent them from getting into trouble and killing or maiming each other. The other day after dropping off two of them, Gaurav and I were walking hand in hand on the road, him humming Chammak Chalo and me smiling and feeling happy the way I usually do after school.
The best part about me and Gaurav is that no words need to be exchanged between us but we can still keep walking and turning around periodically to smile at each other. It is the best part of my day because Gaurav ALWAYS has a guilty smile which is the kind of smile kids give when they know they have done some mischief. He has this irrespective of whether he has been naughty or not.
So the other day while I was walking with Gaurav, I felt this sudden urgent tug on my hand.
Gaurav: didiiii, didiiiii
Me: What is it Gaurav?
Gaurav: That truck ke peeche. Look
Me: (puzzled): Yes?
Gaurav: I can read what is written on it
Horn. Ok. Please
"I can read everything now didiiiiii" (wide grin)
It is moments like these that make ALL of it worth it.
The Mumbai rains, the Mumbai trains, the dirty slum, the lecherous men, the rotting garbage, the stuffy classroom, the long, tiring days, the sore throat.
Everything pales in comparison to this one moment when the world around him starts making sense for a child of mine who couldn't write his own name an year ago.
This is why I teach.
P.S: This was my 200th post :)
P.P.S: This is my Gaurav.
My bhai! Mumbhai ka bhai wearing my glasses! :)
(llo llo llo llo)
The -llo -llo -llo -llo my friends was the sound of my hello echoing off the empty walls of an abandoned/haunted house which is pretty much how GBCI has become.
(laughs at own joke, realising she is the only one)
So it has ALMOST been two years since I stepped into this space. This, that was once my comfort zone, once the place i frequented the most, the place I liked most in the world. almost like a relationship. four year long relationship which I broke on a whim and which like all relationships do, took something out of me which I valued the most. My writing skills (if any existed)
I find it impossible now to write. About anything. And all that thinking about what to write wastes too much time. Time which I don't have.
So maybe I will start with what has happened these two years. I am sure all my two readers TOTALLY want to know where I have been up to so here goes.
So the last time you guys read GBCI, I was doing a course in journalism waiting to become the next Goenka asking people uncomfortable questions and making their lives miserable.
BUT I didnt. I mean I did try. So I joined the largest selling English daily in the world and worked for an year and then quit.
Quit to do what you might ask.
"Get married?" No
"Become a nuclear scientist?" No
"Go back to software?" Hell! No
"To do nothing. Err?" Haha! No
"To study some more? Dear God!" That was on the cards. But No!
So I quit to become a school teacher.
Haha! What I would give to see the expression on your faces right now.
Like my dad says "You are going down the ladder of success. From software engineer to jounralism to teacher. What next? watchman?"
Yes. So now I teach fifth grade kids in a low income school in Mumbai. And this has to be the best job I have EVER taken up.
More in my next post about what it is that I do and an introduction to the best-est kids on the planet
So long then!
So what you are about to read is not profound, philosophical jargon about how my course in media studies has changed me as a person and made me the pride of my parents and envy of all others’ but its basically a list of things I have observed in and around me in the past one year. Meenaks, I am sure it hurts your IIM-Bangalore sensibilties and the fact that I haven't used words which have more than 7 alphabets and in your own words (I could never come up with management jargons like tat) I hope the post is "harmonious to the stakeholder expectations". :P
So this was my comeback post on ch1 (the internal blogging site in Cognizant). Come back. Yes! Pretty much like the Bollywood heroine who gets married, has children, puts on 20 kgs of weight and then makes a comeback as second sister of hero’s friend. Ummm. Wrong analogy there for neither was I a Bollywood heroine (I had the looks though. I can assure you of that!! People who knew me shaduupp!! Ok? :P) nor did I get married and have children. But anyway a comeback this is. (Oh BTW, I tend to ramble a lot. So plizz to bear ok? Ok! )
So following are vairy vairy important lessons which you must incorporate in your life otherwise Swami Nithyanada will curse you with a life of celibacy. Oh by the way these are totally my views and there might be a lot of stereotypes in here so please don’t come after me with bazookas you media students! I am one of you guys! :P
1. “You have to cut the umbilical cord.”
This was what I heard first from a professor when I joined the course. With my knowledge of cryptic writing limited to Aravind’s posts (:P), when I heard this I remember wondering that if a person did not know the simple biological process that only cutting the umbilical cord would free the baby from the mother, the person probably did not deserve to be a professor at a prestigious institute. Apparently it was a metaphor (or a figure of speech or an allegory or whatever . :-\) which meant that I should distance myself and cut myself away from everything if I wanted to be a good journalist. Not be bogged down by petty issues like my caste, my gender, my religion, my family ties and such identities and have no fear. This was probably the biggest lesson I learnt here though I am not sure if I have reached a stage where I can mercilessly cut the umbilical cord (the figurative one).
2. Media students have enough opinions for you, me and people from 6 of the 7 continents in this world. No exaggeration. We (I say we because whether I like it or not I am now a part of “them”) have opinions on everything ranging from “Is the hilsa a better fish than karuvaadu and can south Indians cook fish as well as Bengalis can do” to “Is secularism a failed ideology in a country like India” to “Is godhaan garam a better brand of cigarettes than india kings” to “are feminists ugly women who cant get dates or do they really support a cause”, we have opinions on every frikkin’ thing on this planet. Who was it who said “Opinions are like smelly feet. Everyone has a couple and most of them stink”. So true Sir, so true.
3. When you hear words like “the existentialist dilemma”, “orientalisation of one self”, “challenging the hermeneutics”, “return and revenge of the simulacrum”, you can be sure that you are in a media school. We love big words. We love to make people think that we actually know more than them by using big words. We love to flummox people by pretending to understand what Pranab Mukherjee is talking about when he presents the budget. We love to declare that we read Marx, Foucault, Sartre, Pablo Neruda, Tolstoy, Simone de Beauvoir and we love to wear T shirts which say “Che Guevara”.
4. People actually respect engineers. No seriously. One big lesson that I have learnt is the fact that though engineers do not respect themselves enough, when you tell a non-engineer that you are an engineer you can see visible dilation of their pupils and visible arching of eyebrows and an audible “Oh!! fancy. So what engineer were you”. After which you would proceed to explain in detail about computer science and engineering and throw in words like “java”, “struts”, “application”, “develop”, “test case” etc and throw them off guard. AFTER which they would say things like “Umm. Actually my computer has been acting up for some time. Could you please take a look at it?” and throw YOU off guard. I mean seriously what is it with people who think that just because we are engineers we can fix everything?
5. Media students more often than not drink and smoke, and smoking not necessarily restricted to tobacco if you know what I mean. So do people of every profession but while the rest of the world smokes because they are addicted or to relieve pressure or for whatever reason, we apparently smoke to “challenge our intellectual limits”. Yes sir. When you are on a high apparently your thoughts go from thinking about “Does Gabten/Govinda look more revolting in yellow color pants or when he is wildly shaking his arms and legs and calling it dance” to “Does God exist?”, “ When will revolution come and relieve us from this imaginary bondage” etc etc. Another important lesson learnt is that you can’t die when you stay in the same room as someone who is smoking and I have mastered the art of holding my breath and having a conversation.
6. Joining a course offering journalism because you love writing is probably the biggest mistake you can make. If anything, it kills the little bit of creativity and panache in yout writing and makes your writing all newsy and crisp. So basically from writing about your trysts with dentists to your smelly feet and generally laughing at the idiosyncrasies of the world you go to writing about potholes in 12th cross street Indira Nagar and writing stuff like “12 killed and 15 injured as train derails”. And then you sit and edit what you have written because obviously the newspaper is not your blog and when they say 500 words they actually mean 498 and 2 words to fit in your names. So right from day one you are told to write crisp, precise to the point stuff. Not at all helpful for a person like me who is like a 84 year old grandma in this sense and loves to ramble on and on. (As you might already have noticed. :roll:)
7. Maybe this is too extreme but personally I think a course in media studies completely changes the way you look at life and your perspective. You no longer look at a paper in the morning with the same indifferent eye with which you look at a packet of milk. You no longer read articles for the news content which they offer but you become critical. Too long, too short, improper headlines, too many adjectives, biased, grammatical errors and so on and so forth. Same with the TV news channels and radio bulletins. Something suddenly changes and you read a bad article and go “Gasp!! I would never write like that. What lousy writing” though something tells me out in the real world maybe I will also end up writing such stories! And suddenly everything around you, wherever you go, whatever you do, is a story which needs to be told and written about!
8. A course in media studies puts ideas into your head and kind of nudges you to develop an “ideology” for life. So all of a sudden you think being an environmentalist is cool, being a feminist is cool and capitalism is the bane of mankind and that the Amabanis and Tatas and Birlas and ALL their obscene wealth should be wiped out from the face of this planet without actually understanding the principles of feminism, capitalism etc. If you are not careful enough you could end up carrying a red flag, shouting Jyoti Basu’s name and giving a “Lal Salaam” to people on the streets if you know what I mean! ;)
9. Your GK and world view improve vastly and you get to read a lot. And when I say read I do not mean books by Chetan Bhagat or books which are titled “Anything for you Ma’am” or “True Love” etc but books which actually make you sit up and think. Don’t get me wrong. I am not being an elitist or a bourgeoisie here. I am very grateful to Chetan Bhagat for making so many Indians read and inculcating the reading habit in so many people. But let’s face it. If you love reading and Bhagat’s was not the first book you read you would agree that his books are not what you would call good literature or informative or thought provoking. His books are best read when you are on a train and have 4 hours to kill and don’t know what to do.
Anyway I digress. Where was I? Yeah, reading habit. I remember in my first few classes the professor asked a question about the Emergency and none of us could answer it. So he sighed, took off his spectacles and went “The problem with your generation is that most of you think history began after you were born”. Very true that. A course in journalism makes you curious, makes you want to read and you realize what a LOT of books there are out there to read and you feel painfully unaccomplished and stupid when you realize how little you actually know about India, let alone the world.
10. I have developed a love for non-fiction which is rather surprising given I disliked the genre an year back and my ideas of non fiction were pretty much what most people’s idea of feminists or what constitutes feminism is. Having spoken to a lot of people I get the same reactions from them (about reading non-fiction, not about feminism! :P)
As of now these are the only pearls of wisdom that I can think of showering on you. A lot of other lessons have also been learnt but they are personal and obviously you don’t want to know about that. As I already said follow these and you will be rewarded with a life as rich and “fulfilling” as Swami Nithyananda’s. Babes, Booze, Bhashan (speech), “Beatitude”, Bhaktas and of course the Big bucks. Seriously. What more could one want from life.
Yes, the absence of TV cameras in bedrooms and earth shattering TV commentary like “Nadigai churidhar pottundu avar arigil vandhaar” would be helpful but then you can’t have everything in life can you?
Anyway, So I leave you now with hope and prayers that one day you will incorporate the rich lessons this place has taught you and become better, brighter more responsible human beings and will make this world a better place to live in. And always remember that whenever you point finger at others, there are three fingers pointing back at you and one finger pointing up to God (the thumb) . Go out into the world and achieve great heights my children.
Heh. Just kidding. The above are actually quotes stolen from my high school principal who would say the exact SAME thing year after year after year at student farewells. I always wanted to say it once in my lifetime especially the finger pointing dialogue! Finally got an opportunity! Thanks Meenaks!
2. Right when I am about to graduate from J-school and become a journalist, I hear about THIS and THIS
This is what I call divine intervention. Captain oops Gabten TV is my future now. To work with Gabten Vijaykanth. Wow! Now i know what reason I will give when people ask me why I chose to do journalism after having done engineering.
3. Being a disbeliever or rather, being agnostic I do not understand the concept behind shrardham or the fact that our ancestors have become crows and hence we must feed the crows to please them. I do not understand why we must waste perfectly good rice, paruppu, nei, vazhekka curry and feed about 2 kilos of above mentioned stuff to the crows. Don't get me wrong. I love crows. I find them more appealing than most human beings. I just think that giving 2 kilos of rice to hungry street children on the occassion of your loved one's death anniversary is probably a better way of remembering them than feeding crows. Having read his diaries and having heard stories about the way he lived his life, something tells me that S.R thatha would have been infinitely happy if we did not waste the food on crows and used it for something more worthwhile.
But year after year I go to Madhya Kailash for each thatha's death anniversary, watch the kurukal do the puja, watch them gloriously mispronounce our names (and even the mantras i daresay :P), get scolded by the kurukkal for sitting cross legged on the chair (its impolite for a girl to do so), docilely watch as mounds and mounds of rice is stacked away for the crows, crowned with ghee and paruppu and then sit and eat the food which only I, being the grandchild can eat and come back home. I do this because I know it makes paati happy and since I am the only grandchild or rather the only one in the "lineage" who is in India and Chennai I go and eat because apparently by doing so I am giving shanthi to the aatma of my thathas and also earning much needed punyam for me. I cannot help being sarcastic but honestly if God did exist I think he should be worried more about the shanthi of his children who are alive than the shanthi of the souls of the dead.
Ah well but thats just me!
4. To expect the world to be uncomplicated and your life to be as smooth as a baby's bottom is like expecting Mayawati to use taxpayers' money for the betterment of Uttar Pradesh and not use it to make garlands for herself. Aint gonna happen ever. Might as well get used to the fact that life is complicated, people are very very complicated and only the age old Indian mantra will help you. "Thoda adjust kar lo".
5. Reading a book about M.S.Subbulakshmi (A Life in Music by T.J.S.George) I realise what a LOT that woman has been through. What we see is only the singer but to read about the person behind that voice was very very inspiring. Marrying a man who was 14 years her senior, not able to marry the man she loved, giving music precedence over everything else in her life, bringing her husband's children from his previous marriage like her own children and not having children of her own, hers is a story which is worth reading according to me. Moved me somehow.
6. NOW, when the academic year is almost coming to an end the college library decides to stock up and the library now has rows and rows of actually interesting books and fiction at that. Our college library which was never known for its collection of fiction now has lots of good fiction books which alas we will never be able to read! I cant wait to start earning (AGAIN) so i can go on a book shopping spree and buy all the books on my ever growing list of books to buy which i have prepared in the past year.
7. Watched the movie October Sky and after a long time shed tears for a movie (So thats a book AND a movie which have moved me in a week. Yayy. Here's to more such fulfilling weeks!). Loved the subtle way in which the father son relationship is handled in the movie (reminded me of the HORRIFIC "daddy daddy" way in which the same was handled in Vaaranam Aayiram), loved the dialogues, especially the one in the end where Homer tells his dad who his real hero is, loved the southern accent, loved the way some of the scenes have been shot and loved the story. It is the true story of Homer Hickam and is a remake of the book Rocket Boys (which is an anagram of October Sky) written by Hickam. Any more suggestions for good movies?
8. The song "Iktara" from the movie Wake up Sid is what continuously runs on my ipod these days. I love the song. Its almost as if the song writer looked at me, observed my life and decided to pen the song. Beautiful words.
O re manwa tu to bawra hai
Tu hi jaane tu kya sochta hai
Tu hi jaane tu kya sochta hai
Kyun dikhaye sapne tu sote jaagte
Kaise main chaloon
Dekh na sakoon
So true! :)
So here goes! A love ahead of time - Part II! :P
Please do let me know what you think of it. Honestly! So if you don't like it please say so.
Narayan took his spectacles off to wipe them, cursing Pittsburgh’s weather under his breath, quickening his pace. Damn the frost which frosted his spectacles blurring his vision. Damn the cold which found its way to each and every crevice and bone in his body making him shiver. Narayan was walking with Shyam from the university to his quarters inside the campus. Fall had just gotten over and winter was setting in. The landscape was beautiful and all the trees had shed their leaves leaving a lovely carpet of red yellow and orange leaves on the ground. The students enjoyed this season. Every bench on campus was occupied with couples holding hands, whispering and giggling with the soft glow of love evident on their faces.
“Bloody hell. Defiling every inch of the campus by sitting and doing all kinds of nonsense on the benches. Love it seems. Bah!!” Shyam growled. “There should be a rule against this”.
“They are just students Shyam. This is the age to fall in love. You wouldn’t understand. You have obviously never been in love” said Narayan with a soft smile
“hah!! Like you have a lot of experience Narayan. You aren’t even married”
Narayan smiled. If only Shyam knew. Married with a wife and 2 kids for 26 years Shyam had seen less love that Narayan had in one year with Lakshmi!! That one wonderful year of his life
Lakshmi. Involuntarily he smiled at her memory.
The first time he saw her she was singing some Bhajan for the Golu at their house. He hated these customs. The Golu, the ladies visiting their house for Golu, all that money which amma and appa spent to do the various archanai’s at all the temples in trichy, the money they spent on feeding all the greedy kurukkals who came to do the “pithru kaaryam”. Narayan was sure Thatha would have been infinitely happy if appa had used all that money to feed the poor people in Trichy than spend it on these kurukkals for his devasam. It was ironical. The more he questioned these customs the more number of archanais amma did asking god to give her son “nalla buddhi” or good sense. Narayan was 22 years old. Angry, confused and agnostic he spent most of the time in the public library reading books on theology, sociology, anything he could lay his hands on and trying to find answers to his never ending questions and when at home he spent his time reading his thatha’s books. Leo Tolstoy, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, poems of Edgar Allan Poe and Pablo Neruda. He found solace in their writings.
He had a bachelors degree in Mathematics and with Appa’s influence he could have gotten a respectable job as a professor in Holy Cross trichy. But the rebel that he was, he had chosen to sit at home and read, discover himself and then go on to get settled in life. How he wished he had taken up that job. How he wished he had been well settled when he met Lakshmi. If only… if only..
He would never forget that day. The first time he touched her. It was pouring. As usual he had had a fight with appa and had picked up his umbrella and left home in a huff to walk to the library to spend some quality time reading. He was walking on the pavement when he suddenly saw someone walking right in the middle of the road and a car’s headlights flashing close behind. He realized that if he didn’t intervene the person would be hit. He reached out to the person’s arm and pulled her to safety even as the car whizzed by and it was Lakshmi. Those big beautiful kohl rimmed eyes staring at her with a gamut of emotions ranging from fear to apprehension to relief to confusion playing in them.
Are you crazy?” he shouted at her as soon as he found his voice
She turned around and started blubbering “Th…Thanks. I..I..didnt hear the car. It was raining and…”.
He had offered her his umbrella, still holding her arm and she had pushed it away determinedly preferring to go by bus and he had offered to wait with her.
In the past 30 years he had replayed that scene in his mind a 100 times, playing the hopeless what if game
What if he had just said “ok” and left her. She would never have come into his life then. He would have carried on with life, married someone his parents had chosen for him and been one of those innumerable human beings on earth untouched by the power of love.
But it was not to be. He had chosen to wait with her at the bus stand. Why? That was a question he couldn’t answer. Maybe he was bored, maybe it was hormones, maybe he had a foreboding that they were meant to fall in love or maybe he just wanted someone to talk to.
That day at the bus stop it was appa who had come and disturbed the perfect moment that he had shared with her. It was amazing how appa had spoilt some of the things he valued the most in life. That perfect moment with Lakshmi, his future,his life with Lakshmi…
“Narayan” shyam’s voice pierced his reverie. “Where are you going? We have reached our apartment”
Narayan entered his apartment glad to be alone with his thoughts and reveled in the warmth which it provided. How he missed the warm Trichy weather. He removed the layers of clothes on top of him, the gloves, the cap, his shoes and changed into a cotton shirt and veshti – his only connection with Trichy. He switched on the coffee maker and grimaced at the black color liquid it spewed forth. Black decaf, these Americans called it. What was coffee without a generous dose of fresh milk, prepared with fresh decoction, two spoons of sugar and shaken till the froth formed? He settled down with the coffee and his thoughts switched back to Lakshmi
That one wonderful year of his life.
When had he fallen in love with her? He couldn’t really say. Maybe it was that first sarcastic reply of hers. He was a very judgmental person and had thought of her as just another air head who went to college just so that she could put “B.Sc graduate” on her “marriage” resume. He was wrong. She was intelligent, innocent and willing to learn which was an endearing combination. He remembered how he would wait for her to come to the bus stand after college and would keep peeping out of the window in the library to see if she had come. Those endless conversations which he had with her, those long walks home, the smell of jasmine in her hair, and mysore sandal soap on her self, the tinkle of her anklets and bangles, the sound of her deep laughter, her intelligence, her inquisitiveness, the expression of wonder on her face when she spoke of the authors whose books he loaned her…. These were some images and sounds which had become ingrained in his memory. She was everything that he ever wanted in a woman. He always thought she was his and they were meant to be.
That day when she had told him that they had started groom hunting for her, THAT was the first day when fear had crept into him that she might not be his and he would have to do something if he didn’t want to lose her. He had proposed marriage and the happy tears in her eyes had been answer enough.
The same day he had broken the news at home. Amma had started crying and Appa with a melancholy expression on his face had asked him a question which had sealed Narayan’s fate because he didn’t have an answer. “If you were the father of a daughter would you assent to give her hand in marriage to a person like yourself who doesn’t earn and doesn’t seem to make any efforts at doing so?”
He had just assumed that Appa and Amma would agree because of the friendship between them and Lakshmi’s parents. He had been terribly mistaken. Appa hadn’t even allowed him to explain things to Lakshmi. He guessed that things at Lakshmi’s end were even worse because no communication came from that side too. He had sent her a letter explaining how things were and why they couldn’t get married because of society’s silly constraints. He never got a reply. She must have had a very low opinion of him.
Within a week, news of her marriage came. He had wanted to attend but Appa wouldn’t hear of it. To prevent him from doing anything brash they had gone to Coimbatore for a week to Perima’s place. By the time he came back the one person in the entire city who he cared for no longer existed. He had heard she was in Madras now married to a successful bank officer. She never came to Trichy after that and 2 years later appa had gotten a transfer to Madurai and they had moved. He finished his Post graduation in Coimbatore, finished his MS and Phd and had moved to Pittsburgh – unable to forget her. He had chosen to remain a bachelor. He didn’t think he was capable of loving anyone as much as he had loved Lakshmi. Amma had tried everything to convince him but he was determined. If it wasn’t Lakshmi it wasn’t anyone.
He drained his mug off the last few drops of the bitter liquid and stood for a long time at the window watching the falling leaves and the beautiful campus and thinking about Lakshmi and his fate.
Fate, thought Narayan was a cruel thing. It makes you meet and fall in love with a person who in ur heart of hearts u know can never be yours and yet in a strange inexplicable rather stupid way instead of wishing that u had never met them, you feel glad that they were a part of your life.
It had been 20 years since he had moved to Pittsburgh and yet he hadn’t gotten used to the country but he hadn’t wanted to go back to India. He had cherished the anonymity and freedom which this country had given him. That combined with the fact that Pittsburgh wasn’t swarming with “well wishers” wanting to get him married.
But now at the age of 52 he doubted if anyone would try to get him married.
It was time to go home. Time to go back to Trichy. Time again to spend the rest of his life as a bachelor, sitting at the public library and trying to answer elusive questions.
Life, had come a full circle.
I would say the same of 3 idiots. It may not be the best movie made, it may not be flawless, the story in parts may have a lot of holes, but it took me back to the four best years of my life. 4 years of engineering. Every scene, almost every character was something I could instantly relate to.
In the first scene when megabyte and kilobyte are introduced it reminded me of Ganguly who was born within a week of our arriving in hostel and for whom we cared for all the four years of college life.
The movie reminded me of the umpteen times when my friends and I would sit outside the hostel at 3 in the morning with a packet of murukku or chips (minus the alcohol of course ;)), stare at the stars and moon, berate the educational system and shout “Die M*th*ra d*v*, die. May your soul burn in hell u miserable piece of rotting flesh”. MD was one of the most loathed professors on campus MAINLY because she knew nothing, was a failure in life and hence liked to pick on all students if they did well.
It reminded me of the various Chaturs that I have come across while doing engineering whose only motto in life was marks and who would do anything to get them and who passed out of engineering having a percentage aggregate inversely proportional to the friends they had.
It reminded me of the days when results would come out and all of us would crowd around the computer to see that magic last column of “P”s which meant all pass. Only a week later would we be bothered to look at the marks. On the day of the results all that mattered was the column of Ps.
It reminded me of the time when inspite of having Ps we would all sit and cry because one of us would have that loathsome dreaded F.
“The only thing which saddens you more than a friend who has failed is a friend who has topped” says Madhavan in the movie. A truer word was never spoken.
Personally I could relate totally and absolutely to Madhavan’s character because Madhavan’s character was so totally me during engineering. Never doing very well, never having the guts to actually stand up and speak out against the system, always the person right in the middle of some mischief, always the “tinka” in some professors eye, never having the courage to actually pursue what I really wanted to, loathing engineering while enjoying every minute of my hostel life.
If you have ever seen people succumb to the pressures of engineering, if you have ever wondered why in hells name does it matter whether you read books written by two useless Bakshi brothers on electronics and electrical engineering which anyway they copied from “foreign authors”, if you don’t remember jack shit of what a capacitor does or what color wires are what in circuits lab or what control systems are, if you have wondered how 2500 lines of doubly linked list code (shamelessly copied from logic and ragesh - the two guys who really deserved to be computer science engineers) would help you get a job, if you have had friends whose parents weren’t very well off but who were excellent human beings, if you have had useless friends whose ideas of achievement were watching 4 movies back to back or sleeping 38 hours at a stretch, if you have cried more for a friend than for yourself, if you were at even one point of time in engineering willing to give your life for your friends, if you valued friendships more than silly marks, if you have hated all or most of your professors in college because they were cretins, if you have spent the 12 precious hours before the exams sitting in the hostel mess ,drinking chai and discussing the Indian educational system and its faults, if you have stared at an exam question paper and lost the blood on your face because not a single question looked familiar to you, if you have had professors saying gems like, “what is this smell coming out of my backside? I don’t like it”…
I am not saying the movie didn’t have its WTF moments
You don’t try to look for your closest bosom friend for 10 long years and finally when u decide to do, its because the nerd of your class wanted to prove a point? - WTF
You wont send an invite to your closest friend for your wedding just because you don’t know where he is? - WTF.
You say Aaal izzz well and a still born baby jumps to life - WTF
You use a vaccum cleaner to pump out a baby out of the mother? - epic WTF (they could have proved that he was an excellent engineer in a million other ways.)
And so on. But at the end of the movie I walked out of the hall feeling all warm and gooey and nice inside, not to mention the salty water in my pupils which resulted out of my thinking about my college days, my friends, the food and a gazillion different things. it’s a movie which is a laugh riot in the first half, so much so that you laugh so much for one scene your laughter drowns the humor in the next dialogue so u control those guffaws so u don’t miss the jokes.
Enough said. Please watch the movie. :-)
Yesterday a friend of mine burst into my room in the afternoon looking all flustered and worked up
Me: hey. Whats up?
Friend: You wont believe it man. Its broad daylight. 3 o clock in the afternoon. I had gone out to get an ice cream and I got eve teased.
(Context: Right opposite to my college is a boy’s hostel of central polytechnic which consists of a bunch of sexually frustrated boys most of whom are just discovering their hormones. Needless to say anything even remotely female excites them and it’s a nightmare to go out alone after 6.30 because of the cat calls and whistles.)
Me: Sighhh. You know what irks me most? The fact that we cant do anything about it.
Friend: Totally man. You know what she said in the gender class right? They are just trying to assert their masculinity by doing this
Me: Mmm-hmm. They need to get into either the role of a protector or provider. When neither happens these good for nothing fellows go around teasing or else they feel emasculated.
Friend: Yep. Its not about the fact that I went out in a pair of jeans. They would do it to a girl if she was in a salwar. Heck!! They would do it if they were blind but realized a girl was approaching them.
Friend: We need to challenge the hermeneutics (If you don’t understand this word. Chill. Neither do we. We had just learnt it in class that day). Of the fact that men are supposed to be protectors and providers while women are just objects of pleasure or just plain objects.
Me: The whole gender equation must change man. I mean who decides what are the characteristics of a man and what are the characteristics of a woman. These are just mere constructs of society which we need to challenge
Friend: Very true. Enough of this weaker sex nonsense and all the inequalities we put up with. And you know these incidents make me feel so cheap. Like I were some piece of trash or something. Sometimes I want to just turn around and lash at them but its no use I know. It would just provoke them to tease me further and frankly I don’t think they are worth it.
Me: True True.
Me: Hmmm. What did he say by the way? The usual whistling and cat calls and acting smart by trying to cycle right on top of you? Something obscene I am sure. Cha!! *coupla bad words*
Friend: Errr. He said “Happy Diwali”
This is what happens when you have gender classes continuously for a week and are so full of fresh ideas and thoughts and perspectives that you seem to want to debate and question everything!! Ohhh!! I love education!! :-)
Happy Diwali to you guys and errrr.. Nope I aint eve teasing!! :P