Monday, November 9, 2009

The little red Reynolds pen

I remember the day I stepped into 6 'A'. There were these array of new subjects- Physics, Chemistry, Biology, History and Geography that I had to cope with. Little did I expect that the slender, spectacled, prim-looking lady entering the class was to have such a long-lasting impression in my mind and to an extent even influence my opinion of a person.

My English teacher came with a big package of rules! Mondays and Wednesdays would be prose & poetry classes, Tuesday and Fridays- grammar and Thursdays non-detailed stories. All of us had to get our cursive handwriting notebooks everyday to class and write a page of the same sentence with each and every word without a break in between (b,l,k,h,d,f should have loops; t should not). How I used to crave to get a 'good' and not 'fair' remark from her! And I almost forgot...Wren and Martin was like her Bible. To all the grammar classes we HAVE to get a red ball point pen (to highlight adjectives, adverbs, mark clauses, etc., depending on what that particular class was about). And whoever does not comply with these rules had to stay kneel-down for the entire span of the class!!She would not care if it is the top-ranker or the 'makku' aka poor performer. The punishment was the same!

Also, she made it a point that she would not speak to anybody in a language other than English in front of her class. It used to be a rare sight (that we gush about) to spot her talking to the peons in Tamil. She does have her 'favorite' students but also makes herself harder on them when she corrects their exam papers. From class six, she never once wrote down answers on the blackboard but dictated them orally...unlike others. And was the most regular teacher...she would not take a sick leave, for crying out loud!! All of this put together made some students dislike her, obviously.

But it was also true that her English was impeccable! A fraction of her obsession with grammar has over the time transcended to some of her students, inclusive of me. Her classes were less about finishing up the portions and more time was spent on word-based exercises. I still remember the different words to describe sound and light which we once discussed as part of class activity. Shimmer, shine, glare, glisten, flicker......
For us, Thursdays was the fun class...with the least rules. Her way of story-telling was so much fun and it was even more enjoyable as we see that rare glimpse of a lighter side in her.

Ever since secondary education, I have been a sucker for grammar and writing. If today I feel, I express my thoughts much better in a written medium, it's all because of her. I could be biased in my opinion about her (also I was one of her 'favorites' ;) )..but she is like the ideal English teacher one can get. I strongly believe teachers bear a heavy influence on what a student thinks of a subject....and I am happy that I had her as my teacher.

To...JP ma'am!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ignorance is not bliss!

Every year, on the fifteenth day of the eighth month we dont fail to feel proud about and indebted to all those who have chosen to do boring things like protecting, essentially a line, so that we here can watch pirated movies, study abroad and bitch about the poor amenities back home, have fun at parties and crib about how much of a demanding life we lead. And time to time, the creative minds in our country cash in on this supposed feeling. No matter what the firangs have...we have our sanskar and sanskriti you see. But what do we really understand about these things? What do we think we represent? What exactly do we feel proud to be a part of?!

Very few of us know the answers. Do we know that the Sanskrit that we all are so proud about being the oldest language to be most structured and rich in literature is not even Indian by origin?! that Vedas are not religious scriptures! and they are not even just a set of hymns....they are scientific and mathematical documents?! Do we know that invention of the wheel, wagons and carriages happened atleast a millenium before the much-hyped Industrial revolution of the west?!

We only complaint and rue about why India hasnt taken to the sophistications of the West. When a westerner wonders why Indians don't have a common language, we only smile in response. Isn't it amazing how so many different people co-exist and to what extent India has come in its mere 60 years of freedom. Do we cut the government some slack at all? Do we understand that we are carrying baggage of over 30 centuries and still trying to march ahead? Do we know that even if we maintain the present rate of economic growth India's GDP will be above that of the 'developed' nations by 2030?Do we know inspite of the brain drain industrial growth has been unstoppable?


We only do things that dont take any effort. Blame, bitch, rue, complaint, discuss, argue, find faults and talk about how we can never become the great nation we once were. The truth is we are. Right now! To have endured such a tumultuous history, to have been plundered and robbed by foreign empires one after the other, to have awed the invaders and made them bond with our culture, to have had the courage to fight the biggest war of Independence against an imperialist regime in the history of the world, to have started with nothing over half a century back and still to have emerged as a major global player in present times...

I myself wasnt any different...and interestingly it so happens that a foreigner can see India in a more positive way than even we do. There are a zillion problems that remain unsolved...agreed! However, they will stay problems until we step forward with the right attitude. For a person who doesnt understand his own roots, growing or moving ahead is out of the question.My concern is not that we is that we are ignorant!

For those who might be interested, here is a documentary (aired in BBC) which I really liked about where it all started and how far we have come.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Good things come in packages!

Scene 1:

Meera Bhawan- BITS, Pilani.
12.30 PM

On the common loudspeaker: 9117(/5217/4216/4217) Nithya...parcel (3X)

Scene 2:

VG/Lemans- Clemson, South Carolina.
11.30 AM

UPS/Fedex delivery staff banging on the door. I open hurriedly and am greeted with "Package for you ma'am".

Scene 3:

Any F1 student returning from an India trip.

SMS/call on the mobile with a 'receive package' message.


The neatly printed out address slip...explaining in full detail who I am, to any person who happens to lay their eyes over it (just misses my horoscope ;) ). The sender's address in a precaution in the case of non/mis delivery. The letter that comes with it, saying that everybody is fine and they wish for the same here....even if I speak to them daily!

All of these and much more are the hallmark signs of a package hand-made by my dad :)

The process of package-sending is very elaborate. It might be prasadam from a recent pooja at home, new clothes for some upcoming festival or something I forgot to get/ running out of. Invariably, there is an independent list of things that mom makes. Pickles, podis, ready-to-eat mixes, sweets, norukku theeni (snacks), etc. And the highpoint of the entire procedure is my dad's highly adept packing skills. Not only does he give multi-layered covers to each and every tiny thing that is sent, but also arranges them so compactly that, if furthered made fanciful, can be used as a magic trick. I end up taking out 5 things out of one big thing.

Ah! I missed out the generous usage of tape. His packages can be vouched to be leak-proof with Indian railways, Indian postal/courier service and recently I discovered...even with international cargo shipping! I can say with as much confidence as I have....give him the challenge of shipping water in a package without leakage and be sure to lose!! Over the years, I have spent my time unpacking these parcels, initially from amusement to irritation to pride.

These packages...whatever they might much ever I like /not-so-much like them....still deliver their message. I know that I have a place that I can return to.. when I fail, when I do not want to try, when I see no way out, when I am too tired, when I don't want to talk about anything, when I just want to be.

And that's what I call HOME.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Firsts dont fade

Well...the title should be very much self explanatory! All this while we are used to listening to people glorifying their first love, kiss, etc, etc. As I generally maintain, life doesn't appear beautiful just for lovers. Somehow love of other sorts have been sidelined all along. Probably because these aren't entertaining enough. Recently, I have had an opportunity to think of a certain first child concept and the complications that it carries.

To start with, I am not a first child and so I probably do not understand it that well. Being the first child is a great thing, until your rival is born that is :)...It becomes difficult for the elder one to accept that whatever they had complete authority over, has to shared by a person they don't know. Like, I would be happy to share a chocolate with a friend rather than a stranger. And when young parents are at this stage when they have to share their love in between their children, it is difficult for them too. No matter how much ever you try, it is not possible to think things won't change. is true, that it is all a transient phase and once they grow a lil older, siblings become your confidantes and how much ever you fight, verbally and physically assualt each other, they will be there for you anytime you need them. But what does a child of three or four know of all this. For that child, the new born is competition. Sometimes, it so happens that the elder one is so protective of the younger one that such issues don't arise. Again, that kinda happens only if the first child is significantly older.

And the bane of being the elder one is realized all through childhood and teenage. The younger ones always seem little to the parents and hence escape most of the pranks they pull. And the elder ones face the canon :P... The elder one is also automatically expected to be responsible and see to it that their younger siblings do not make/get into trouble.

Having talked about all this, it is also true that the memories of first-time parenthood can't be paralleled. The excitement, curiosity and the experience remains unmatched. Their (first kid's) childhood until their siblings are born, is showered with love from parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles alike. For they are the FIRST! Actually, no matter how much the first child feels unattended and all that, they can still be sure that their sibling never had the undivided attention of people around, like they did. It might not be realized immediately, but down the lane they need to know what privilege they did enjoy. So...paying a lil price in the form of responsibility shouldn't be a big deal you know... :)

PS: Sorry Sow... :)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

From DD to Set Max

I was born in the era of the television. My childhood exactly matched with the rise of Indian television. The earliest memories of dinner time and evening tiffin can not be complete without the trademark doordarshan montage. Mile sur mera tumhara, malgudi days, chandrakanta, mahabharat,jungle book,vikram aur vethal, chitrahaar, rangoli, surabhi. Apart from all the mythological and historical stories heard from paati, amma and appa, these television serials have been my sole source of understanding what I belong to and what has gone past in the making of the country that I am so proud to be a part of now. Till date there is no mythological series that can compare with Mahabharath and no travel show that equals, let alone surpass, surabhi. Sunday mornings were never sunday mornings if not for rangoli, chandrakanta and mogli. Ofcourse shakthimaan joined the bandwagon later on. And all those good old commercials...dhoodh dhoodh, the earliest ads of dairy milk, female child education, bajaj, god! I dont understand why it is hard to find such feel-good commercials in today's time. Everything is glamourised or fit for adult viewership only.
Then with the globalisation came the array of private channels. I can still remember the first graphic theme song for sun tv. As it is I was a slow eater (still am). But my dinner time started becoming dinner night with television programs. "Idhu ungal sun tv-yin tamizh malai"! was the catch phrase during school days. Evening 7.00-7.30 will be a K.Balachander's teleserial. Then half an hour of home work with Ek minute running on Zee TV. The 8.00 hour slot is for news and then 'neengal ketta padal', 'chitrahaar' or 'pepsi ungal choice' will follow. Homework typically stays less than half done and then half an hour of some hasty work to make sure something is done for the following day. This was my typical primary school day routine. Ofcourse, days when an ODI is scheduled that will take precedence over these vernacular features.

In the beginning, Star plus was primarily an English channel. Then with increasing viewership, in the evening slots alone Hindi programs were being telecast and then it grew into a full-fledged hindi channel. However I started following star only with the legendary KBC. Prior to that the only program I remember is tu tu mein mein. And then started all these K sagas and in parallel chithi, metti oli, alaigal and kolangal (which btw is still airing!) took turns and kept us tied to the living room. My four years away from home during undergrad had taken a toll on my television viewership. Due to peer pressure of being able to watch only languages which everybody could understand, Hindi and English (rarely) channels were only preferred. K serials and the supposedly reality talent shows prevailed. However I kept patronising vernacular teleserials by constantly asking my mom what the current status of the plot was. And not once did I feel like I missed something when I resumed watching them during the semester holidays.
Another thing I used to be crazy about are these "First on Indian/world television" movies and award functions. When I was interning in Chennai (home), I kept watching Star, Sony and Set Max alternative to tamil channels. Whenever I saw an ad that @$#@%@ movie/function was going to be aired that Friday/Saturday, my immediate reaction would be to call up my friend (who was working then) and the day of the event, she'll invariably come to my house for dinner (invited/self-invited ;) )and we both lie down on the living room floor and incessantly watch the program despite the commercial breaks being longer.
Television, apart from being the idiot box, has been a part of my grooming years, my always-happy college time and a country where I dont even know when the successive episode of a series I like is going to air, I cant help but miss my dear optonica-turned-BPL-turned-LG box that has become an indispensable part of my living room and my life!

For no-specific-person's information: I still watch airtel super singer, ramany vs ramany, Mahabharath on youtube! :) :)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The curse of the XX

Before you perverts out there begin to feel the hormonal rush, let me remind you that a lil bit of knowledge about genetics will not hurt.


A girl.... loves pink, loves puppies, sings, is not interested in sports, is sweet, is innocent and naive, is not good at physics and math, does not have the right to go crazy and wild with joy with people around, is not supposed to propose her love for a guy,can not have a proficient career and a blissful family life. SO MUCH FOR THE XX. @Q#@$@#!%@#$%#$!


(Disclaimer-no generalisations made)

I love cricket and tennis. I know the difference between pace bowling and spin bowling. I can count numbers. I know which is left and which is right. I can take care of myself from roadside romeos. I like pink but I LOVE BLACK. Given a chance, me and my friends would love to keep chatting on the roads until its dinner time. I like to whistle when Rajinikanth appears for the first time on the screen in a theatre. I love to argue and not abide. I dont feel ashamed to express my feelings to my family/friends. I know I can manage a demanding job and an energy-sapping kid. Now...tell me if there is something genetically unusual!

With all the apparent development in the society (ofcourse I mean Indian), the feminine gender is still expected to be a certain way. Fundamental norms of ethics are what define a society. This I completely agree with. But a girl who hugs a guy friend and who wears fitting clothes neednt be given a killer stare. Your discrimination and reservation is not going to help us.

We are just a single chromosome different. Open your eyes!!

PS: I do not believe in the feminist movement. I only believe in equal opportunity, rights and duties for all.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Love actually..

For all those who haven't watched the movie, this is what the blog is going to be about:

Among the romantic comedies of the 2000s, this movie and especially this scene (opening -airport) has been very popular. And why wouldn't it be!? it exactly shows what the eye wants to see.

I myself was at the arrivals gate of an airport recently and it is a happy place to be. People waiting for their loved ones...people getting off flights expectant to see familiar faces waiting for them..some others who are looking for boards and name tags... and then there are loads of others who do not even spare a flashing glance to these people, some of them are couples and families who are absorbed within themselves and many others are lone travelers who just do not expect to see anyone.

It can be safely accepted that Indians do not tend to express their love for each other as freely as the Westerners do. And coming from the heart of South India, I can only be certain of this. As it is, our lifestyle has been quiet and laid back.. we dont dance at weddings or hug uncles and aunts. At the airport, some things that I saw made me wonder if the time has come for us to slip a lil bit out of our shells.

A kid just dumped his bag at the sight of his dad and ran to him like it was the happiest thing to have happened to him. A pregnant woman was waiting with her two toddlers for her husband. A very old woman was giving a warm welcome to three other old women who appeared like friends. I dont think I can see this frequently at Indian airports. We teach our kids to be careful with their bags and not talk to strangers, not many wives wait for their husbands and a reunion of old ladies is almost unheard of. All that we see are either friends/relatives picking up those who get off their flights/trains with a smile (these days it is getting better with friends atleast) or it is just those with "catch the next auto/taxi" thought on their minds.

It is time we understood that saying "I love you", "I missed you" or not worrying about people around you for a moment is not unpardonable. It is not restricted to love birds you know! A simple expression of love and affection is what makes you smile and be thankful for the wonderful life you have been gifted with.

A man never grows too old to be able to say he loves his parents, friends, spouse or/and children.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Just a matter of time....

Childhood carried all the innocent fun that has silently slipped off our hands. The distant sound of the bell of the ice cream wala, the evening bell everyday at school, DD music at the dinner hour, power shut down when you have 4 home works to submit the next day at school, being kicked out of the bed by your sister (this one is specific to me though;) ), the honk of your father's vehicle (escpecially if you are a daughter), crackers shopping the day before diwali....all these seem distant now. Time never gives you a forewarning does it?! We never knew it would be taken away from us so soon...and with all these small things that have managed to makes us happy for 20-odd years faded the innocence and the purity of the human heart.
All the while we traded being silly to be mature, being what we are to have socially acceptable etiquette, enjoying the moment to be planned ahead of time, taking things lightly to being responsible..and we never realized that no matter what the compromises we made would have to faced later in life....we never understood that innocence and childhood were given to us for a reason...
As a child, I thought having an "office job" was cool. You just have to go at 9 and be back at 5. Then Math and Biology were more dreadful. As the freshness fades...the failures, setbacks,struggles...not only to succeed but also to survive are becoming more evident. Its like a distant sight of moon....very pleasant,endearing...but little do we think of the craters.
And as childhood wanes there is something awaiting you...and there it comes with a bang! And the beginning of adulthood is marked by a few common things....
Fear of failure...the drive to perform (either from within or from outside) and the realities of life strike you hard. More often than not it is a necessity to survive rather than to better your life. The things at stake become huge...and so does the need to stay successful.
Uncertainty of the future..this is an inevitable feeling. On a given day you could be content...but never can you step ahead a few steps in life and be assertive of where you might be...
Social obligations which supercede personal preferences. This is universal...and of course Indians can relate more to it. You are no longer the child. You become the society and in spite of holding very strong opinions for/against certain things as a teenager, you find yourself either contradicting yourself, not expressing your opinion in order to conform to the crowd, not interested to express because you think your opinion doesn't change anything or just turning blind/deaf to the society.
Desperation and helplessness...This is my personal favorite and the most stinging. As kids, we dreamt of what our lives would be. There are two main things...the dream of what you will be professionally and who will be with you personally. The feminine gender has loads of its own...the dream wedding, the dream house etc., Coming back to where we were..adulthood takes you to places you never imagined of (both literally and figuratively). Geographic, interpersonal distances are the hallmark symptoms of adulthood. You can no longer do what you want to...Bu this I do not mean stifling your passions like you know learning dance or something. Am talking stuff that matter...your best friend's wedding, loss of your grand dad, going back home to mom's curd rice, your family reunion....things you would not have missed otherwise. Things that could have not been procrastinated, things that will not return, things that can make you feel like you were floating at that moment. Helplessness in that regard is the best form of torture you can dictate upon your enemy...
All you kids in schools and colleges right now...remember! Biology finals and Maths homework are any day better than soul searching and retrospection. Well...I know nobody will listen...
As they is just a matter of time.