Friday, July 22, 2011

Well, how selfish are we?

Well, how selfish are we?  Do we really live for ourselves or do we succumb to the pressures of our society, or our family. Irony is that it is still selfish when we giving to the pressures of our family/ society, the act is not selfless but rather a show of weakness to withstand the kind of pressure.
In India, especially, lifestyle of most of us is society bound, we let the society decide set all most all the standards of our lives. From basic things like the kind of dress one should be wearing to bigger things like the kind of education one should have, the kind of free time activities permissible, the right age for marriage, even the right groom or bride, the right age for a having a child.....the list is perhaps never ending.
A German Boss of mine once emphatically proclaimed, I quote “having children has its advantages and disadvantages”. This is how the west logics, but the east on the contrary is heavily bound by the norms of the society and culture, there is nothing right or wrong about the status of the two culture but I mean only to state here the way the things are; even a pauper here, in india, thinks about the continuation of his lineage. At times I wonder what lineage, is the continuation of our blood line that important, and if yes why???? Few questions for which the answer clearly is a ‘no’, the world will not be bothered if our blood line would stop, not that we are Jesus Christ or something. I read from the book ‘The City of Djinns’ by William Dalrymple, that the great Moghul blood line (the legal heirs) is coming to a stop with this generation and does it matter to any of us except for the members outside that family, the answer is again a ‘no’.  But ‘the no’ for an answer isn’t quiet convincing for my oriental brain.
In India we let the society dictate our lives, the acceptable education is always ‘an engineering degree’, or ‘a medical degree’ or ‘the latest addition being the MBA’. The acceptable profession is always ‘a software engineer working in an MNC’, ‘a medical doctor’, ‘or an NRI working from the US’, well how about an army officer, there is a dead no. My mom was hell-bent against me getting married to Navneeth, one of her main reason for her dislike was the fact that he was an army officer, which was un acceptable to her.
If you are somewhere around your mid twenties, the one most frequented question in India, would be ‘when are you getting married’, like it’s any of their business and like they know what is the best age for us to get married. This question will swarm around you like where ever you go and whatever you do. If you are say 28 and not married the immediate and the not so immediate society would remind you with a sigh that you are getting older every day. It is even worse if you are a woman.
And when you do get married, willingly or unwillingly, it is not the end of it. The next set of rules await, the right time for having a child. And when you are a woman and nearing your 30, the society automatically sets the biological clock for you in the fast forward mode. But I had seen many people around, who have withstood the pressure, and have lived their lives in their own terms. May be not at all stages but at least at certain important decisions of their lives, they have bravely put their foot down for what they wanted out of life, than what others wanted them to do.
Well life is actually very simple. The best justice any one could do to their own life is do is to be true to be one self and keep themselves happy. Society is an external factor, which might acknowledge the kind of wealth or fame or knowledge you accumulate, and it might give you materialistic happiness, but that happiness is short lived. Real happiness is perhaps that feeling of content which is wholesome and long lasting, when you are happy the people around you are ultimately happy too, they will be if they are your well wishers. I am definitely not encouraging one to be a rebel, but only saying that: the best things in life like career, marriage etc should never be based on a compromise, never.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Nostalgia

This is an email, I wrote to a friend, a stranger whom I met in an even stranger city, and we ended up having one memorable, hell of a day! This mail is actually a quintessence of everything we did the day we met. When I wrote to Girish (thats right, thats his name, 'the stranger') last week, he said he liked it and posted it as a note in FB, well after a thought even I started liking it, and thought It would be nice to share it with the rest of you. The mail is mine, and was titled 'Nostalgia is indeed a bitch' as posted on FB as note. I suggest that every one should try doing something like this; say, go out with a stranger, it might be a day you will cherish for the rest of your lives. I should say this: thanks Girish, for making me realise that the letter was well written, for the apt title and for the lovely day some 5 years ago.

'Actually looking back....I had never done anything like that before and nothing after either... But you can try, you are still single, go out with some one else totally strange like for almost an entire day, walk around the city like that's your last chance to use your legs, climb up a dome through a million stairs, peek a view at the city listning to wrong history (hahaha), share opinion, sit by the river side take a pic, walk by the malls pick up a jacket, visit a chocolate museum and buy some of them, spend the evening at a bar having a drink talking about being in a platonic relationship, the night at the railway station, get checked by the German cops....and waking up to a doener, if I am not wrong at the railway station, and saying about a zillion things in a day.... that's pretty much every ting we did...did I miss out on any thing? '

P.S. Happy Anniversary Girish!


Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Circular, Recess Part-Three

Class 10 B was notorious for mischief. My school had a tradition of circulating information; the now late Mr. Anthony was the circular man who comes in with a bunch of circulars to be distributed in all the classes. He first reads them and a copy of the same note is then distributed to all the students in the class. And we, the students had our own traditions; it was customary of us to make the best use of our origami skills to make that piece of paper into a paper-rocket and then launch them almost immediately as soon we were left alone to be on our own. Treating an important piece of paper like waste gave us a lot of happiness, I think somewhere in our high school brains sat those subtle egos (besides the gross ego) and thus made us feel good for subtly mocking the powerful, like some kind of civil disobedience of not giving it importance, in some psychological level.

We always launched our rockets into the Nursery school next to ours, the Oakley Nursery School; like it was our favourite exploration grounds. We use to send our unmanned space-crafts into the Oakley in search of no mineral deposits or some extra-terrestrials, but I guess there are better things on earth to explore and spy on. Like...there were two good looking brothers living within the premises of Oakley they happened to be the sons of the Headmistress. One was Philip and the other, well, I don’t remember too well. Our math teach Mrs. Shanti had this hobby of calling out their names in the middle of the classes while we were busy working out problems. She gives us problems to solve in the class, and while we logic our brains to find a solution Mrs. Shanti bends over the window sill and calls for either, in a typical feminine posture, one arm almost akimbo but just hanging around the hip witouth touching it and the other on the window sill. And every time Poornima used to do Mrs. Shanti we had a rolling laughter. Doing some one and guessing who it was used to be one of our favourite games.

One fine day one such circular came and following the norms of our regular drill religiously shot our paper planes into Oakley, except Poornima. Well what Poornima did with it is now the history. Our very smart Poori (as all of us called her) followed the drill until making the plane and kept it safely inside her History record. And here is a lesson to learn, that certain drills have a purpose in its way it is and one shouldn’t doubt or question its ways, one should just do it; and if you don’t do it till the end to perfection the consequences may not be that pretty.

So the paper rocket kept in the record literally book marked the page in which she kept it in, opening the same page every time she opened the record note. As fate might have it the following period was a free period and we were expected to sit outside in the corridors and read. These corridors were grilled (like a balcony)and over looked the ground. During such free time we normally sit in a circle, choose one of our fattest books and keep it open in our laps and pretend to read but in reality play or gossip or giggle. And so we were doing the same that day too, but when the cosmos is conspiring against you it would take just a small thing or even things which you would enjoy on normal basis (like a gentle breeze) to spell catastrophe.

So we sat in circle and Poori opended her record, and hush came a gust of wind and blew the paper rocket away through the grills to the ground. Until this all was actually well for Poornima, only if she had not done the next thing she did. In excitement Poornima stood up to see the rocket landing in Sister Rosalie’s foot. And Sister Rosalie saw Poornima’s head peeping out of the balcony from the corridor. Sister Rosalie, as coincidence would have it (well, if you believe in coincidences), was our history teacher. From a history record, to the history teacher, to history; just too much history happening, I see. And that was the end of Poornima for that day! Poornima doesn’t buy trouble she earns it hahaha.

Sister Rosalie, confounded Poornima with best word the English language can offer. It was a long session between her and the teacher. We were eager for Poori’s victorious return, she came back looking blown off by a mighty cyclone, and all of us raged out laughing. The laughter of a life time: ladies and gentlemen, that was Poornima for you, one fun loving girl she was, the one and only.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Recess Part-Two (Shhhhhh.....)

We were in eleventh standard and my physics teacher Mrs. Guna had asked us to submit our physics lab record notes. We, as in my group of friends, (well let me make use of this moment to name all those lovely souls with whom growing up was extreme fun: Annie, Sharmila, Jayasri, Poornima, Uma, Neelu, Mayura, Jayapradha) were never the careful lot we always enjoyed doing things at the last moment, not that we did it out of choice, but out of sheer laxity or indifference ( the desi attitude). On the day of submission, none of the above mentioned had a proper cover to their record books, either the records were bare naked or shabbily clad. Not knowing what to do one of us spoke with our gate watchman “Teel Bahadur” and requested him to permit us to let us go out to the stationary shop around the corner which was aptly called “Sheena fancy corner”. He suggested us to bring a permission letter from the headmistress (to the Headmistress no ways, he should be kidding), this definitely was not an option for us, we "begged" but he shoo us away with his “lathi” like he was chasing a group of tumbling monkeys tumbling down the gates; it was his responsibility not to let any students out during the school time without permission duly signed by the headmistress and he was just doing his job.

Then we sat together to discuss our various other options to get hold of some brown sheets before the lab period in the afternoon. One, we could ask our stationary in who was Mrs. Shanthi but she, to our bad luck, was absent that day; now we didn’t expect this disaster to fall on the same day of our requirement. Next option was that we had was that we could "borrow" them from our chemistry teacher “Mrs. Mary Manjula”, because we had seen loads of brown sheets stored away in the chemistry lab’s store room during our lab sessions, which but she too denied saying “beg, borrow, steal but I am not going to give you the sheetss” and “it is your fault that you were irresponsible enough to not have covered our records on time”. We were disappointed, but the teacher was indeed right, she had a point, it was our fault. Thus we had run out of all fair choices, and had no other easy way but to use our higher secondary brains and together we evolved a plan.

Since the record submission was only after the lunch and we had planned to make use of the lunch period to execute our master plan. In our school we were forbidden to eat food inside our classes we had to go down to the tiffin-sheds or to the tree shades in the ground to have our food, this was followed to save the class rooms from getting too dirty. So this left the class rooms deserted during the lunch hours and we decided to make use of this time to slip into the locked chemistry library and get our hands on the brown covers (now this is called obiedience as our chemie teacher had it, we begged, we tried to borrow and now we were “stealing”).

Our school is about to become 125 years old, an antique building built during the Raj, with long doors, lovely arched French windows and high ceilings with those long stemmed fans hanging like chandeliers from the roofs of the classes. The lab door was locked normally (and today too it was) but the French window that it had, which happened to open into the corridor which we walked, was not locked. It could only be latched from inside and these old window latches would easily give away upon rocking them gently,through the  years most latches had become loose.

And we did just that, the lab was the second room from where flights of steps starts; there are actually two of them, one which took us to the third floor and another which led us down to the first floor, the lab was in the second floor of the building. So we rocked those giant windows open and jumped in and in the meanwhile we had arranged for someone to man the stairs so that in case of anyone coming up we could be signalled on time to get out of the lab.

The window was shaken open, and the action had begun. We quickly jumped inside through the windows and ran to the store room and grabbed as many as brown sheets as possible and jumped out as soon as possible too. It was indeed a clean sweep, like nothing happened at all. We even successfully wore the same nothing-had-happened-at-all-look upon our faces, beneath the giggle and the mischief.
The mission cover-your-records was thus successfully completed. We even generously lent the remaining sheets to those who needed them. Beg, borrow, steal, help yourself and then charity ofcourse, now this is the Robin Hood attitude, steal from those who have it in surplus and give to the needy. And almost a couple of weeks later one of our teacher was making a lot of noise about some missing brown sheets from her lab, now you know which teacher it could be. And we like good citizens (or like good politicians)  claimed that we were deeply shocked, expressed sympathy, condemned the act and called it cowardly (hahahahah). Folks, it was time to wear the who-could-it-be-look-?.





Friday, September 24, 2010

The Recess Part-One (The Bona fide Certificate)

I was thinking about one of the best times of my life, school days; and I have realised that there a million memories from those days, when life used to be joy-infinite. No work and all fun period of all our lives, I guess; and I decided that I should share every moment of joy and learning that we had in school. My school taught me everything, how to do it right, wear it out, talk it up etc to an extent that I can say a good part of me is a product of my school and the days that I have relived in these pages will remain forever. Since I have just too much to say, like always, I have explained each memory under the same title as a sequel, I hope I will be able to trigger the same excitement and joy and nostalgia which all of us hold for our respective alma maters. Here you go...

The Bona fide Certificate

It was during my higher secondary days in school. I needed a bona fide certificate from my school for a certain application process. And I was waiting outside the head mistress’s office, dressed in smart blue and white that was my schools uniform, to make a request for the certificate.

During my school days I always used to construct the conversation in my head before I spoke to any teachers or other staffs, to avoid the embarrassments of egregious grammar errors. To my luck the head mistress was too busy passing orders and she had barely taken notice of me; and I was hesitant to disturb her for the fear of it ending up in a disaster, so I decided to wait until she got a little relieved.

In the meanwhile I got lost in my own world, confused in constructing grammar-perfect sentences and rehearsing them within the space of my mind, making sure not to make any mistakes in front of my headmistress. Well, I went to a convent school which doesn’t take grammar mistakes that easily and the seniors that we were there was no reasons according to the school authorities why bad language should be forgiven within the premises of the school, at least.

Mrs. Shanti, my immensely popular Math teacher who passed by took notice of the perplexed me, asked :

Mrs. Shanti: “Vani, what are you doing and why are you standing here”.

Me: “I am waiting here to see the headmistress”.

Mrs. Shanti with a doubtful look on her face: “What for?”. “Were you punished?”

Me: “No, no, I need a Bona fide certificate”.

Mrs. Shanti (still doubtful): “Are you sure you are not punished”?

Well such was my reputation in school.

Me with a sheepish smile : “Yes, Miss Shanti I am sure I am here for a Bona fide certificate.”

Mrs. Shanti (now convinced): “Then why are you waiting here, come”.

She took me by my hand and took me into the office and summoned the office staff to issue me a bona fide certificate. And Bhamm, I had the most revered Bona fide certificate in hand.

Many more of such warm memories to be fondly expressed...


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Just talk to them!

There is a big gecko which lives behind the bookshelf in my drawing room which keeps running hither thither according to its will. What will could a gecko have? Not that its running out from its hide out, risking its life to go to the bathroom or something, it is plain hunger, the lizard runs behind small bugs which fly around. However I think this lizard is fond of spiders, he (or she...who knows??) is always running behind them which hang like tiny acrobats above his head. To me these spiders look like eight legged gymnast doing their tricks hanging down from the cieling, however for the lizard it would be like a fruit waiting to be eaten hanging down from the tree. (Lizards eye view. I know, you are thinking: "Some people have way too much time". Right now it is true indeed!).

Navneeth noticed a running gecko and suggested that it should be killed. Violence ey! Poor lizard, I thought, harmless  though rubbery and yucky. I told Navneeth that to get rid of a lizard one just has to tell it to get up leave, he gave me a you-think-I-am-an-idiot look. I explained that from childhood I have always talked a lizard out of home. I said “you just have to threaten the lizard to leave or otherwise be killed”, well yes it might sound like that I am trying to make a fool of all of you but the success rate of this technique is quiet high. So to all those who are looking for a pest control method to drive those lizards away just use your tongue to either sweet talk or threaten them out. This technique has almost always worked for me and it might for you too. The only drawback being that after a few days you might see the same lizard (or it might be some other lizard too, well I cannot tell one lizard from the other, they all look the same to me) back in the house, but you can just reapply the technique and ask it to get out, simple.

P.S: Please do try and tell me if it worked for you or if it is just my own childhood-fancy which I am still practicing.

Janmashtami

The “Maruthi-Gypsy” came strolling when the clock struck ten pm in the night to pick us up from our homes. Well oen might wonder what it could be that would start as late as ten in the night. Well it was the eve of Krishna Janmashtami. Janmashtami is the day of the birth of lord Krishna and is an occasion of vibrant celebrations across the Indian subcontinent and beyond, it falls on the eighth day of the second fortnight, in the month of Sravana when, the moon entered the house of Vrishabha in Rohini Nakshatra (star); and is a national holiday. Krishna Janmashtami is celebrated with more vigour in the north than in the south of India. The celebrations start on the eve of Janmashtami , it is also believed that the lord was born when the clock struck twelve in the night.

In our unit the bhajans had started well ahead of the pooja which was scheduled at twelve. All the folks of the unit were singing in ecstasy and merriment as the chanted “Radhe Krishna” “Radhe Krishna” throughout the night. It was as dark as coal when we had arrived thanks to the generator which also gave away but soon the power came and there was light. The men at the bhajan sat out and the women were seated in the mandir; the officers and their ladies also took their places there.

Inside the mandir were fully bedecked idols of Radha and Krishna and also another baby Krishna in the cradle. Just some thirty minutes before the midnight all the frantic singing came to cease giving way to the prayer service. I thought the prayer service was most beautifully begun with the opening address from the Maulwee sahib, and he opened with quotes from the holy Quoran and stated that Allah sends messengers like Mohammed, Jesu, Krishna to bring people to the path of righteousness and to establish the same in the society.

The Punditji then took over from the Maulwee sahib, he read parables from the Gita and quoted from the conversations between the almighty driver Lord Krishna and the driven Arjuna. Where the mportance of doing ones own duty is emphasized, that duty should be done even if their own kith and kin stand in its way.

As the message from Gita was extensively explained the clock struck twelve, and as it did the conch was blown proclaiming the Lords birth and then followed by an arthi and rocking the infant Lord’s cradle. We all received our prasadas after the pooja and it was the time for the bhajans to start off again with full energy, fuller zest and the fullest joy.

It was definitely a special moment in my life, the south Indian that I am, I had never witnessed Krishnashtami celebrated with such pomp. The singing continued the rest of the night into the whole of the following day, while we left to homes to our beds. I could still hear loud bhajans from the adjoining ISKON temple after I reached my home. The celebrations lasted for two days with never ceasing bajhans of un-diminishing passion, with the chants of “Hari Bol”. You could feel the Lord in the air everywhere you look around as “Radhe Krishna” reverberated all over.

The following day all of us had our respective poojas at home. And Navneeth join me from Makhwal, he had his day off for Janmashtami (Thank god!). The Celebrations reminded me of my Christmas in Emden with the Vogeses, Paul, Robert. I had attended the Christmas eve mass and the celebrations followed till the next day, these memories came over to my mind so naturally. Great celebration it was and now yet again. Just fell more in love with the God of love. Hari Bol!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It is a Goal!

Would you believe if I told you that once upon a time I played hockey at sub-junior level. I would not believe it myself. It was summer and I was nine years old, used to rush our way to the then Mayor Radha Krishnan Hockey Stadium in Egmore at early hours of the day. We practiced along the seniors with the sub-junior group, there was also a woman team practicing away from us, alongside. And there would different men to coach each team, and sad than I don’t even remember the name of my trainer, but I remember that he was a very old man, a veteran at the game.

We begun at around 5.30 in the morning and continued for roughly two hours every day. We always started our day with a prayer in Tamil, thanking and asking god to give us the strength to play well and wise and we finished our day in prayer too. Every day any one from the group could lead in prayer and the rest of the group would just follow.

It was a great way to start the practice, I thought, somehow used to enjoy them despite the fact that it was the same words that we repeated every day in prayer. As the group would huddle to form a circle and the one leading the prayer would stand at the centre. With the face of the stick on the ground we bend over as if getting ready to scoop a hockey ball we begin to pray. This is followed by the warming exercises like running around the ground. Stretching, push ups etc. Imagine two feeble hands of nine some fifty to hundred push-ups. Normally push-ups were used as punishments for drinking water during the training hours; they would grant us breaks during which water drinking was not a punishable activity. Imagine hundred push-ups, phew, well I could die of thirst!

After warming up were the rigorous practising session and by this time the mild morning sun is growing steadily in vigour as we dribbled, tribbled, scooped and hit the ball with our sticks. Well I was a sub-junior and had a junior Punjab tiger stick, was not one of the best sticks but was good enough for the summer camp and was even better enough for me. However the most admired and coveted were a “Vampire” or a “Vaijayanthi” those times, like you can show them off when you carry one of those shining and curvy piece of beauty. One kid even had an exotic “Karachi King”.

Well I dreamt of owning a Vampire some day, well I could buy one myself now but if I will be able to play with it is a different question for discussion altogether. After all the years of being inert to hockey, I can barely hold the stick in position properly, hockey is yet another trade which I seemed to have learnt and forgotten blissfully over time. Time makes me forget hehe.

Well back to the chak de vani story: after the practice we broke around seven thirty for a cup of hot milk and raw egg and of course not without a piece of the trainer’s brain. Well I vividly and only remember the leading trainer, was a well built, dark gentlemen. I even remember his name. His name was Sampath and we called him “Sampath Sir”. Raw eggs was not one of the best tasting snack with milk but was for all the protein an egg could offer. When the day was called off we normally don’t go home immediately as other normal children would. Well we had our own extended routine. As I practiced hockey my brother used to come to watch over the practice, and after the session I normally take my brothers cycle and ride around the stadium where tennis was practiced (Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium then was not as sophisticated as it now is, now it has a international turf and a well built stadium to cater for international games but earlier is was an uneven-mud turf surrounded by a small amphitheatre like structure to hold the audience fit for local matches only. The Stadium also housed a basketball court and a tennis court, I am not aware if they are still a part of the stadium today) and as a beginner I had starting trouble with an adult cycle. (I know you are wondering if a bicycle could have starting trouble well it could if I were the one riding it.)

The cycling affair of mine gave my brother just enough time to catch up with Deepa. Now don’t ask me who is Deepa, all that I could remember of Deepa is that she was a smart and a good looking girl and a daughter of a veterinary doctor and that is it. She used to practice tennis the same time I practiced hockey in the adjoining tennis court. Well that explains why my brother religiously used to come to watch me practising hockey every day, well, well, different people had different reasons to be at the Radhakrishnan Stadium, so maybe we should add bird watching too in the activity list of the then Radhakrishnan Stadium, ahem, ahem, whatever.....

And after “everything” was done, my brother, my cousins and me carelessly stroll back home and on the way we never fail to stop at kiosk which sells delicious lassi besides various other things. This actually is one of my most favourite part of the routine as I looked forward to it every day on our way back.

Why this narrative of a bygone childhood moment is being done now and what brought the delightful retrospection on to the paper? It was a match in Navneeth’s unit, a inter unit match between 17 Bihar and a 14 Sikh Lights. The game had a flamboyant army start; loud cries of adoration and cheering filled the arena. The Sikh unit went off with their traditional war cry “Jo Bhole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal” and the Bihar unit did well with their “Jai Bajrang Bali”!

The Sikh team started off well and were looking aggressive the first fifteen minutes while the Bihar team played defensive and around the 20th minute there was a goal from the Bihar team. And then there was a quick second goal from the Bihar team, I felt that that moment of climax which kind of paved way to Bihar’s success because it kind of “diminished” the hope of the opponent and “added” pressure on them (it is all Math you see!).

And then forward there was not a moment of hitch from the men of Bihar, not to forget their neat passes and a fine co-ordination and their ability to snitch the ball from the opponent and subsequently to convert them into a goal. Unfortunately the Sikh team couldn’t capitalise on the few penalty shots that they had. Well played, as the Bihar team closed it off with an assertive 7,0 ; it was Bihar all the way!

A great episode of a brilliant match and lovesome memories a perfect mixture for a blog, I guess. And please allow me to finish with the same spirit the match was closed with: “Bharat Mata Ki, Jai !”.