Sunday 14 December 2014

Vignettes of Ahmednagar

When I was first told that I had to attend a NSS Orientation Programme in a place called Ahmednagar in Maharashtra, I was completely at a loss. I. did. not. want. to. go. But I had little or no choice. This was sometime in August.

Come November end and I realised with a bang that December was fast approaching and along with December, my time for Ahmednagar was at hand.

The journey began at 07: 45 pm on 30 November. Alone, I trudged with my baggage and thoughts for company. I wasn't thrilled or expectant.

But as always whenever we grumble about something unknown and yet to be experienced, chances are that the experience itself will remain forever memorable and that is precisely what happened.

The moment I beheld the campus of Ahmednagar College, Ahmednagar, I was smitten. The sprawling 80-acre campus was a delight as it brought memories of my 375-acre Madras Christian College. I like big campuses, I must admit. The weather was another factor that added to the charm of the place. It was cold and almost always we had to wear socks, shawls and cover our heads but still it was lovely to not sweat and feel the heat. And, going from the warm of Goa to the chill of Ahmednagar was definitely welcome. And right next to where we were housed, was a hostel of students from the North Eastern part of India. Every night the students would sing to the accompaniment of a guitar and me being the romantic would fall asleep listening to the guitar strains and songs. And, I think on the third day of our stay, there were carol rounds and I could hear Christmas songs throughout the evening and night till about 3 or 4 am. What bliss!

The training per say was predominantly in the local language, Marati but some resource persons were kind enough to present talks with English and Hindi thrown in liberally. If I was keen, I was also able to catch some meaning in the Marati lectures.

Kappad Market (Clothes Market): My usual hangout while in Nagar. I walked through the markets, looking, buying, smelling, laughing and sometimes staring. I had company most of the time (fellow NSS Programme Officers who had come for the training) but still I walked alone with myself and my senses.

Ahmednagar Jail/Fort: Before going to AN, I read up on the place and found that Jawaharlal Nehru, former Prime Minister of India was jailed in Ahmednagar and while in the prison, wrote Discovery of India. I did not want to miss seeing that jail and so when the entire group decided to visit, I was thrilled to bits.
The place has some beautiful sights and the jail itself had been converted to a museum. I also had some good conversations with some of the fellow participants. A broken frame of Gandhi was lying in an obscure part of the jail-turned-museum and I was but taken aback by the state of that picture frame. The play of the sun and the backdrop of the fort was a lovely picture to take back home as a memory and that was what I did.
The broken frame of Gandhi in the Ahmednagar jail

If not for the trip, I wouldn't have known the existence of the quaint town of Ahmednagar and the splendid campus of Ahmednagar College.

I do hope to go back to the College. Fingers crossed.

The silhouette of some participants against the flag in the fort

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Clevage, cats and fish

If you have visited the fish markets of Goa, then the title would not make your mind wander away. The markets are a 'must see' place if you are keen on experiencing a slice of the Goan way of life and believe me there is more than fish here. Well, if you are a fussy vegetarian who cannot ingest the smells and sights of slaughtered sea creatures, then I suggest you stroll in the beaches and update your Facebook status with sun, sea and sand and of course you spoiling it all with a wide grin! No offence, please.

When I first stepped into the market, the assault on my eyes and senses were incredible. I loved what I saw is an understatement. Of course, the smell was overpowering but so is culture! Fish - big, small, medium, white, yellow, orange, black, and the shapes and the variety was indeed a treat. And added to the fishes, crabs and prawn were the fisherwomen - buxom, garrulous, colourful, gold laden and flowers on their hair. They were a picture to treasure. And some had cleavages that could be mistaken for a tunnel - dark and deep. Some of my friends tell me that the cleavage sells more fish if the customer is a man. Well, do we actually need to hear it to know it! And if someone asks for a discount, then . . . the rest is history!

Oh oh . . . did I also mention cats. They dot the entire market and again we find, striped, plain, dotted, black, brown, white, black & white, brown & white, black & brown - They either sleep, eat or longingly stare at the fish and almost always their wait is rewarded. I must say that the cats are fat and lazy. Each one has a favourite spot at the market which can either be at the foot of the fish monger or the spot where the fish waste are thrown or on the lap of the woman/man. People and cats love fish in equal measure in Goa --- some like it raw while some like it hot!

Mario Miranda's depiction of a fish market in Goa

On one side of the market are men who cut the fish for customers for a price of 20 rupees and often while at the job, they strike a conversation either about fish - the cutting and cooking or about life in general and while the tongue utters the hands cut. Their knives, which is a prized possession makes smooth slices of the fish. Some salivate just by watching the fish being cut - Food like sex is a very personal and intimate act and knowing one's taste is the key to enjoying the process.

This reminds me of the film that I watched this afternoon, A Hundred Foot Journey which discusses the culinary experience of a young and handsome Hassan Kadam who enjoys and savours food that he goes on to becoming a Michelin chef. Every time he held an ingredient, I could see that his senses were aroused and delighted - nothing short of an orgasm. Well, I did say that food and sex were not quite different.

So, when food and sex can be mentioned in the same sentence, why not fish and cleavage (too much of Freudian symbols, I reckon ;) )

Image: Internet

Saturday 15 November 2014

Fear is something that manifests itself in different ways for various individuals. All of us, I reckon have some fear that is ever present, throbbing and threaten to rise any moment. It might be a fear of spotting a spider unawares or bad toilets or simply safety of a loved one. And, for that matter, most of it is psychological.

My parents-in-law have come to stay with us for a fortnight and through them we are experiencing the play of fear. They have come here from god's own country and it would not be an exaggeration if it was said that fear covers Kerala like a shroud. Open doors and windows after 7 pm make my parents-in-law quite tense. The freedom of having doors kept open even at 10: 30 pm gives them a shiver. My father-in-law especially gets restless and time-to-time asks us, "Shall I lock the door?" to which we casually mention, "No papa, it's fine." He cannot sit still and finally when we are not looking, he quickly closes the door, latches all the three locks and goes around to find other doors to close and latch. Well, my husband and I find this quite amusing but we also recognise the force of habit and the fear that is so etched in their minds. The same quality can be extended to many areas of our lives - Children fearing doing something because the parents have threatened them with dire consequences. Sometimes the fear never leaves even when the children are no longer children. Women who do not change some patterns of living long after they have divorced their abusive husband. Senior citizens who have long lived with certain ideas and routines and so on.

Fear is not entirely a negative emotion. Sometimes fear does help - for e. g. butterflies in the stomach before a speech or a class helps in better performance; a small fear before embarking on something big is generally positive and keeps us grounded and gives us a counter emotion to perform better and turn the fear into a motivating force.

But the kind of fear that has gripped my parents-in-law is not quite positive because it creates a tension of danger which is an impediment for them to feel safe and sound. The fear prevents them from enjoying the beauty of the calm night's breeze or the sighting of the moon through open windows. I still cannot blame them but hold the state of Kerala responsible for not providing the necessary policies and system to keep the place free of crime and robbery. Inspite of a police station located right in the adjacent street, my parents-in-law are scared of robbers who usually use different gimmicks to steal from houses.

Some fears don't go away - nor time nor god nor anything can enable a complete removal of the fear. I pray that such fears never grip us at any point of our life.

Dear reader, what is your fear that paralyses your living.

Thursday 13 November 2014

November jottings

The harsh rays of the mid-day sun have become mellower and gentle. Some of the birds have gone away. I think winter has arrived! I love this time of the year. I actually like the time beginning with the Fall, as it is referred to in the Western countries. We have no Fall, but we do see a subtle change in the weather. We complain less about the weather and generally a happy mood prevails. Winter, as every other season, has a special set of memories with it. And, winter in Goa is no different. It was in winter that we first arrived in this small state with our head dizzy with the picture-postcard frames and images of beaches floating in our sub-conscious minds. December will mark two years of our sojourn here. The first arrival now seems like aeons. The entire stretch of land after stepping out of the airport is a vacant and distant speck in memory. We pass the Airport quite often now and have lost track of the number of times we played and replayed the first scene of our arrival. Sometimes the roads still challenge me to a bout of nostalgia - about my Chennai. I see the Airport in Goa and think of Chennai. Airports have always been there in my cycle of life. I was born near one, grew up next to one and now, live next to one. Airports and winters, I reckon, are recurring points in my nostalgic diaries.

Coming back to winter, I remember the sweet nothings that were part of my teen and adult life. Bus rides, special classes, Christmas and many more. The soothing breeze is fit for a book and lovely coffee, both which are slowly disappearing from my horizon. One suffers due to time and the other due to taste/health. Such is life, I come to accept. I am not complaining. At different phases of one's life, there are different occupations and engagements. One has to make peace with them and learn to befriend them otherwise it gets a bit hard on us.

I am now getting ready to hop to the nearby beach. I am looking forward to soaking in the lovely evening glory of the mild month of November. I know that a million thoughts will cris-cross my mind but then, I want to be empty-handed and so will keep the thoughts safe in some corner of my mind.

Dear reader, hope you are enjoying the last months of this glorious year. Pray tell me, what are your thoughts.

Friday 17 October 2014

When two friends from those times came visiting

The past two days have filled me with a special flavour of joy. One doesn't use flavour in the context of joys, isn't it. But joy does have a flavour - nostalgic flavour, romantic flavour, happy flavour and so on. Well, the flavour of joy that filled me was the nostalgic types. Yes, in the span of two days, two bloggers/friends who had not paid a visit to my blog for a long time stopped by to say hello and record their thoughts.

The connection between Asif and me goes to 2009 when he used to frequent my blog and I his. We shared similar thoughts and a love for fine words. His comments were long, succinct and warm. His words filled me with joy and I would wait for his knock on my blog.


Asif stopped his visits. We did correspond over mails but even they stopped in 2011. Then wonders of wonders, I find his comment on my last post. he brought back memories of those days when traffic to my blog was heavy and comments came pouring in.

It was a joy to see Asif stop by and record his thoughts like old times.

Thanks Asif.

The second visitor is a long-distance runner whom I met over words and thoughts - Myriam Loor. We chanced upon each other's blogs and were quite regulars at each other's space. Running took her away from blogging and though she is a fantastic runner, I miss reading her blog posts which were practical, everyday instances which I could relate to. We are Facebook friends and pass by each other quite often but the intimacy we shared over our blog space was special.

Thanks Myriam for the comment. It was indeed a joy to see your name in my inbox - a reminder of earlier times.

Blogging is indeed special and it always will be!

Thursday 16 October 2014

35 years on the face of this earth!

It has been a long time . . . nearly 35 years on this earth. It does evoke wonderful feelings of warmth within my insides. Does it feel different? No but still everything is not the same as before. I have always maintained that birthdays are special - not because i celebrate my birth but because I am alive to celebrate life and its fulness. No, everything hasn't been a smooth walk on a clean surface but yes, the walk has been worth the journey. I revel at the small and big joys life has given me and also my ability to receive them.

I celebrate the thirty-five years of having seen, experienced and lived the life that I call mine. I deem it as my joy to have shared this span with many people - some who still remain and some who have taken different paths. I am grateful for the treasures of music, emails, bloggers and books that has enriched and sustained me.

I raise a toast to the joy of breath and thought.

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Signs of the times or mere carelessness

Every teacher I come across (I should say colleagues, I suppose) laments on how most of today's students are completely oblivious to their roles and responsibilities. And if one gets carried away, it is not quite difficult to agree with my fellow teachers. There is a strong sense of I-care-a-hoot attitude in most students of the present generation. This predicament often leads me to think of my student days and whether our teachers also shared the same feeling that we were oblivious to our duties. I like to think that we were naughty and quite the rebels but never careless about our responsibilities. I can also support this statement with examples of some of my own students. There are quite a handful of naughty and mischievous students who are also quite careful about their duties and responsibilities. I still vividly remember my classmates and batchmates - Of course, there were the usual boyfriend-girlfriend issues, not completing homework, late coming and many such common issues but not many students showed a bashful and aggressive attitude towards teachers. It baffles me to just see some students who are completely devoid of common sense, good manners and some social responsibility but I am also quick to add that not all students are like this.

I can relate when my colleagues seem quite miffed by the general behaviour of the majority of the students these days. Do we blame their parents, internet, or just dismiss their attitude as that of the times. But why are the times feeding a bashful and I-don't-care attitude? Is it the short attention span or the mindless thinking that one is empowered and hence can act in a certain way? The information technology, I reckon, has fed people with so much information without any support system that one tends to think that one is wise and intelligent. Humility was still a virtue when I was in College and it still is in some quarters. Can we dismiss behaviour of this kind as signs of the time?

I am thinking and wondering about the handful of students who still remind me of my days as a student. When a handful can retain some 'old-school' traits, why not the rest. As a teacher, I feel responsible for this kind of behaviour and at times feel quite powerless as well. Maybe teachers who have been there and done that can answer me. And, that does not mean I am new to this. I have been in the field for quite some time but still my queries remain unanswered and incomplete.

Dear reader, pray tell me what are your thoughts on this.

Friday 29 August 2014

When Angelina Jolie (finally) married Brad Pitt

The Occident always amazes and amuses me. When I read the news of the celebrity couple getting married, the first question that arose in my mind was - "Why did they have to wait for so long and come on they already have six children to boot?" In fact, I was speaking out aloud in my mind the existing cultural differences between the Occident and the Orient. In terms of love, marriage and legalities, the Western world always confounds me. Take for example my friend Christine. She has been seeing her boyfriend Bill for over ten years and naturally I had assumed that the question of getting married is an obvious. But no. When I asked Christine about their wedding, she injected aloud before exclaiming, "Well, he hasn't even asked me yet!" Now it was my turn to let out an interjection. Whaat on earth? Well, in India (atleast the one I know), if someone was going around for quite some time, it was a given that they would be married. After all those years of courtship, the question of a formal asking is out of the question. The only question is, "When can we possibly marry?" But Christine's answer stressed that inspite of love and marriage being the common denominator the way it happens is quite different in both these cultures. I therefore assume that people can be together for quite some time and choose not to get married or they would prefer to wait until the time is right (which is after getting a brood of six!) But then, this is not the case with every Western couple. Christians mostly are in a committed relationship and marry once the guy in question has asked the girl. Now, whether the asking is just a formality or something that is done to confirm the relationship is unknown to me.

When I was discussing this with R, he opined that in the Western world, the legalities come first than issues of trust and comfort. If not, why did Pitt and Jolie take so long to formalise their bond. Didn't they trust each other or did they second guess that something might go wrong and hence it is not wise to enter a formal and legal bond? Now, after being together with a person for an extended period of time and sharing almost everything - emotions, days and nights, children, bed, bodies and so on, how can one just go on thinking that if something goes wrong, one can leave. Is it trust versus legalities or something else?

In India at least, the moment one falls in love, it is not amusing or naive to think that one will get married to that person. In fact, most of us were like that. We thought that naturally love would lead to wedding; Of course, life taught us that it is not always so. Even then the idea of going out and waiting for the guy to ask for the hand is a bit ridiculous. What if the guy never asks? What if the guy thinks that his position is not quite sound and takes his own sweet time? Will the girl in question wait endlessly inspite of living together with the guy. These and many more questions amuse me when I think of the Western world and their systems. But sadly, the urban population in India is tilting towards these systems and I fear the day when the whole world resembles America.

Dear reader, what are your thoughts on this?

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Lover of books but undecided about THE book!

Many times I  have been tagged to list the first ten books that come to my mind when I think of the books that have affected me. I am always at a loss. I panic. I feel strange because it is quite difficult for me to list books like that. I know one always remembers and treasures the memory of books that have had profound influence on us but I fail miserably in that exercise. I do accept the tag and list down the books but I have to try hard to recollect the books that 1. I have read and 2. The ones that have affected me. I just can't do that and I admire those who can just list books like swatting a fly off their face or something. I adore books. I can't have enough of them. I hoard them and I can beat any miser to it. I hate lending books though I always want to borrow! I would rather buy a book for someone than lend one of my own. When someone discusses a book I like, I willingly join in but if someone asks me just like that, 'Who is your favourite writer?' I go blank. I always weigh endlessly - trying to somehow mask my great confusion and I almost always end up blurting the first name that comes to my mind. And the first name is the name that has crossed my weighing and has been sieved out - but still the name is not THE name or the book THE book. I hope you get the drift.

The world of books and writers is something that I cannot fathom. It is like a sea where one swims and it is quite difficult to say which part of the sea fascinated me. I mean every single part belongs to the bigger whole and every single book/writer contributes to the whole experience of reading and enjoying the world of books.

Every time I take up the tag, I end up thinking extra hours about the books I enjoyed reading and how each one has affected me. I coerce my thick memory to squeeze out atleast three or four titles. No. My mind has a mind of its own and it refuses to relent. I give up and forget the incident until another tag by my book-loving friends comes up. My rigmarole begins afresh leaving me wondering about the different titles that haunted me since the time I had signed up for the pleasures of reading and escaping into untraversed lands and diverse people. And, each time I escape and return, I am a new person. I allow myself to be reborn in a metaphorical way. In the journeys of Che, in the passions of Marquez, in the dreams of Coelho, in the ramblings of Bach and many many others, I have lost and gained myself. I was moved beyond my limits and I returned renewed to the present. At times my present coagulated with the book's present!

I cannot list books off my head for every book works in me in a unique manner. I allow myself to be!

Reader, do you share this predicament with me?

Monday 18 August 2014

(Un)Changing gender roles and general perceptions

Since the time I have started working, my husband and I have made some adjustments to our roles and responsibilities. One of them is cooking - while I prepare the breakfasts and dinners, my husband takes care of the lunches. These changes are made to suit our timings and availabilities. Since he remains at home during mid-morning and early afternoon, it is easier for him to prepare lunches.

But alas, these changes are almost attributed to the man being considerate and extra loving towards the wife, which I won't deny but the vital point is being narrowly missed. The point that cooking and cleaning is the sole domain of the woman and anything that is beyond those parameters is seen as a stroke of luck. WHY? Generations of cooking and cleaning has rendered the act of cooking and cleaning as the woman's work. And if the man assists in the kitchen or doing the laundry, the message sent is that he is being thoughtful and considerate.

Everyday at my workplace, my husband gets admiring phrases and loving vibes when I mention that he prepares the lunch. Women who are fiercely independent with their own salaries and strong opinions also tend to believe that cooking and cleaning is a woman's work and if she gets any help from her husband, then the wife is a lucky person.

Nothing has changed. It will take atleast a 100 years to change the mindset. The actions, roles and responsibilities might have changed but the fact that certain jobs are for certain genders has not changed. And, this is not something in India alone. When I read some posts/articles/essays, the author who is a woman credits her husband for being a darling, sweetheart and understanding husband/boyfriend simply because he takes care of the laundry and does the dishes.

I know that I am writing about something that has been done and dusted atleast a few million times and inspite of that I am confounded by the fact that nothing has changed. Feminism exists and most urban women are aware of it - either through first-hand or second-hand experience AND all these theories of women empowerment has not stopped women from thanking and praising the men to the skies when it comes to doing household work. Women still think that cooking and cleaning is their job and if anyone offers to relieve them from that, then it is an act which deserves praise and glorification.

And only men (some, atleast) can say that cleaning vessels is therapeutic. Ask that to a woman and she would show how actions speak (and cause immense pain) louder than words.

A long way to go . . .

Saturday 9 August 2014

The temperamental biometric

In the College where I teach, teachers have to do a biometric identification when they come in and again do it while leaving. A teacher has to stay for five hours in College and the only witness of this five-hour stay is the biometric machine. The records are then submitted to the University at the end of each month.

For the past three days or so, the biometric machine is not working. Yay! It seems that the machine is protesting and has violent mood swings and as a result it is celebration time for most of us. It is not everyday that we break the five-hour mandatory stay but the lack of the biometric identification seems to give a strange feeling of freedom.

I can imagine students getting happy and jumpy when they are freed from the shackles of attendance and all that jazz but teachers! Well, sometimes when there are rules which one is forced to bow down to, even if the tyrant is the biometric machine, it is a forced sort of discipline.

The childlike aspects of teachers come to the fore when there is a break in the regular routine - I don't see them hurrying to record their identification and fulfill the five hour jail stay! Of course, we don't rush earlier than before but still the chains of mandatory five hours stay is temporarily suspended.

I wonder about the different shackles of forced discipline that exists in my life and unless they are suspended, we will never know their bearing in our lives.

Inspite of everything, life goes on

What are your shackles (read discipline enforcement) dear reader?

Image: Internet

Thursday 7 August 2014

Confusing kindness for tolerance

When one is a teacher, there are several nuggets of experience to chew and internalise and one such nugget is the act of being kind and free with the students. When it comes to interacting with students inside and outside the classroom, I make it a point not to be very strict or reprimand them for every single act of theirs. Even while teaching, my examples are drawn from everyday aspects of life that the students can relate and sympathise. And the smile - I almost always have a smile pasted on my face which tends to make the student comfortable while in the class and also during our different interactions.

BUT all the aforementioned attributes of mine are almost always mistaken to be signs of an informal person who has great tolerance towards anything including malpractice. Well, I have now started to wonder about the signals that I am sending across to the naive students.

The smile is always mistaken as a sign of extreme tolerance on my part and also the green signal to flout certain disciplinary boundaries. I understand that I cannot expect my students to observe every single thing that is normally expected of them like sitting quiet in class, fidgeting with mobiles and trying to do their homework when I am teaching. But my friendly behaviour and pleasant demeanour makes them think that they can get away with whatever they are doing.

My angst and dilemma is how I should conduct myself as a teacher. Should I be kind and compassionate and understand that they are after all children who pretend to be adults or should I be rigid and firm and never smile thus forcing them to be like captives of Femme Fatale Susan or should I learn to balance my thoughts and learn to ignore certain aspects of student behaviour.

I have taught before and on many occasions I undergo this sudden rush of meandering thoughts where I question my conduct and role as a teacher. After all these years of teaching, I still struggle to resist finding a middle path and stop myself from complaining as to how how my kindness is mistaken for tolerance by the students.

Friday 1 August 2014

One aspect of Chennai that I would like to change

This post is part of the blog tag titled, The CBC Tablog - 2, where CBC stands for Chennai Bloggers Club. About 30 bloggers from Chennai are participating in this blog tag where everyone will write about their favourite city Chennai and what aspect of the city that they would like to change. So here's my post for the CBC tablog - 2 titled, 'What Aspect of Chennai that I Would Like to Change.'

Every city has its own charms and challenges and Chennai (Madras) is not an exception. As much as I like the city, there are many aspects of it that I would like to change. One unchangeable aspect is the weather, of course but in this post, I wouldn't waste me time discussing the unchangeable.

I would like to change the lack of green lungs in the city. As the city is expanding and accommodating a diverse range of people from various states and countries, it is losing out on green spaces which provide a certain calm to the eyes and also a healthier environment to the residents. Summer along with perspiration and fatigue, which is a constant in this part of the world is at its peak between April and August and if the city has parks and garden spread out in different strategic places, the residents will be able to cool off and socialise in the shade of the trees and the space of a park. Chennai does have some parks dotted in some places but that alone isn't enough for the ever-growing population.

The Municipal Corporation should identify many such places where people can gather together and find some fresh air to breathe and space to spend time without having to think of power failures and aircons. People who like reading books should be able to pack some food and park themselves on a bench and enjoy their book along with occasional sights and sounds of the surroundings.

The parks could also have small kiosks selling juices, icecreams. coffee and sandwiches. I'm sure people would flock to buy themselves a small snack while they socialise and enjoy their books or solitude.

The garden/park culture should catch up in the city and become a vital aspect of the city's map. I hope this dream of mine comes to pass in the near future.

This post will be succeeded by Kaushik Govindaswamy's post. Kaushik blogs at Words & Lines and is quite a sensitive and creative young man. The logo for this Tablog was designed by him and one look at his sketches and designs will sure leave you interjecting in appreciation. He recently successfully completed the A-Z challenge in Blogging with a wide range of interesting posts. I wish Kaushik all the best for his blog and his drawing.

Sunday 27 July 2014

Have you smelt fresh bread?

Seeing a picture of freshly baked bread on my friend's page, my first thought was about the smell of fresh bread. It is magic, I say and if you haven't known that smell, then my friend, you haven't been initiated into the fine art of smell and fragrances.

I have always been a sense person with smell dominating the senses. Freshly baked bread is not freshly baked bread alone - It is freshly baked bread and much more if you care to allow the smell to carry you into far away lands where there are dozens of bread episodes which are time-specific. And, no matter how much you have eaten store bought fresh bread, you cannot savour the smell until you have baked a bread and waited till the smell filled the tiny kitchen and then the adjacent room before filling the entire room and finally forces itself into your head through your nose. It lives there for years to come and will come out when you least expect it to raise its head - while having tea with a close friend who remarks on your fine bread or a child who speaks of the bread in passing or a silly song that was playing while baking the bread and is now playing on the radio.

Ah, you will say, the smell still lingers but not time. Those were the days I had time and interest to bake and bask in bread and then you stop. You stop because you have smelt that smell from your memory and you yearn . . . you yearn to smell real fresh bread and you search for dough (the eating kind) and salt and yeast and you work to smell that smell and savour that smell for years to come. Time can never be trusted but memories can sure coerce you to knead and sing along.

Post-script: This post is dedicated to the same friend on whose page I saw the picture of fresh bread. She loves cooking, baking, a hearty conversation and books (smell, feel and everything about books).

Friday 25 July 2014

Exploring the unexplored in Julie and Julia

While food and blogging are the most obvious and often written about matters while discussing the 2009 film Julie and Julia, I was fascinated by another story which though significant is not given much afterthought. I am referring to the friendship between Julia and Avis as long time pen pals. It touched a chord because writing letters and emails is something that I immensely enjoy and look forward to. I did have a couple of pen pals with whom I shared my everyday life stories and curious incidents. Inspite of not having met, there existed a bond that went beyond faces, touch and smiles. We connected via the medium of letters -- words, words and words. The anticipation was worth the joy received when I held the letter in my hand. A weary day in school would be transformed into bursts of happiness when the long awaited letter arrived. It was indeed undistilled pleasure.

Then email happened.

But the letters still were being exchanged along with long emails. The instant gratification of emails though praised to the high heavens still carried with it an element of anticipation and waiting. The few hours between hitting the 'send' mail icon and seeing a new mail notification is of course similar to the waiting of days in receiving a hand written note. I enjoy both the mediums and exploit them fully. 

When Julia casually mentions at the airport to Linda that she has never met Avis but has only corresponded with her through letters, the look of Linda's face is priceless. That was a moment that I savoured in the entire length of the movie for I know how it feels.

And today, my wait for emails is intense than the wait for snail mail for I am not expecting any snail mails in the present. This also reminds me that I have to write in order to receive and I shall soon do that.
As I grapple with teaching my students how to write formal letters, I am afraid that they will never know the joy of writing hand-written letters. I can lecture them on the pleasures and beauty of sending and receiving a letter but I can never make them understand the warmth and satisfaction of the act of writing letters.

In the meanwhile, I await an email from an interesting person.

How about you, dear reader?

Sunday 20 July 2014

Is the positive body image message creating lazy individuals

The avalanche of posts and essays on positive body image is astounding. The body and the individual relationship is the subject of many self-love promotion articles and is a relief to read when compared to the many articles on promoting a slim body. BUT what is alarming is that the signals sent by the positive body image posts, along with enabling people to love their body is also creating a steady group of lazy people. People have started loving their body a bit too much that they fail to understand that they are abusing it when they deprive it of exercise and a balanced diet.

Let me cite an example from my own neighbourhood.

X is a beautiful and successful young woman who earns an amount that is quite obscene. But it also happens that X is obese and is quite happy being so. Her success and pay package give her a confidence that many women don't have. She is independent but refuses to acknowledge that she has to be fit and healthy. I often see her consuming junk food like nobody's business and inspite of me gently coercing her to exercise, she winks at me and says, "I love my body. It is me." Agreed. But if you love your body, why not take care of it! Last week, X fainted while rushing to work and was diagnosed with low blood pressure and was advised to exercise in order to reduce her weight and keep other related lifestyle diseases at bay. Thankfully, she has started walking and also seems happier (at least her body must be for the walks!).

I admire X's audacity and openness to admit that she's on the heavier side and that she embraces her body but isn't her self-love also preventing her from exercising. If not laziness, then what?

Many individuals think quite falsely that exercising and eating sensibly is for people who are on the heavier side. When I discuss walking and exercising to many of my friends who are naturally skinny, they scoff at me saying, "Only people like you need to walk, not me." Really? Who are you kidding? Just try to bend and touch your toes with your hands. I bet your brittle bones will crack! Admit that you are either ignorant or lazy.

Eating sensibly and exercising is for everyone and especially if you actually admit to 'loving' your body, you should be able to understand its needs. Eating whatever comes your way along with working insane hours without adequate sleep and rushing through breakfast does not show your proclaimed love for your body.
I know that we all have certain body types and that they should be accepted and loved but being lazy and depriving the body of what it requires is definitely part of the 'positive body image package.' Period.

Disclaimer: If being lazy and sexy without exercise and sensible eating is what you believe in, then who am I to burst your neon bubble!

Tuesday 15 July 2014

On killing a tree and related thoughts

Long ago, in one of the poetry sessions, I cringed and squirmed at the detailed killing of a tree as depicted in Gieve Patel's poem, "On Killing a Tree" but today unwittingly I was party to killing a tree in our garden. A semi-grown nearly matured sweet-lime tree it was but sadly my lack of knowledge coupled with my domestic help's insistence, I sought a gardener and asked him to chop the sweet-lime tree. All was well until my husband roused from his slumber and followed the scene of the 'action' disturbed by the sounds. His look of dismay and choice words of admonition, nearly shook and unnerved me. It seemed quite unforgivable. Being a meat eater and watching live chickens being killed did not evoke such passion in me as the incident today. Even now as I recollect the bright green leaves and the threatening thorns of the tree, my mind fills with shame and sadness. I wonder why this should shake me and not the ghastly killing of chickens and goats and all that I consume. Perhaps it is the thought of having seen the tree everyday for almost eighteen months, watering it and at times talking to it while standing next to it while watering the plant. Perhaps it is an emotional response than a plantarian (Like humanitarian. My own coinage) one.




I mourn the loss and go on to dream of a supper of chicken curry and bread.

Leaving you with Gieve Patel's "On Killing a Tree"

On Killing a Tree

It takes much time to kill a tree,

Not a simple jab of the knife

Will do it. It has grown
Slowly consuming the earth,
Rising out of it, feeding
Upon its crust, absorbing
Years of sunlight, air, water,
And out of its leperous hide
Sprouting leaves.

So hack and chop
But this alone wont do it.
Not so much pain will do it.
The bleeding bark will heal
And from close to the ground
Will rise curled green twigs,
Miniature boughs
Which if unchecked will expand again
To former size.

The root is to be pulled out -
Out of the anchoring earth;
It is to be roped, tied,
And pulled out - snapped out
Or pulled out entirely,
Out from the earth-cave,
And the strength of the tree exposed,
The source, white and wet,
The most sensitive, hidden
For years inside the earth.

Then the matter
Of scorching and choking
In sun and air,
Browning, hardening,
Twisting, withering,
And then it is done.

(From POEMS, published by Nissim Ezekiel, Bombay 1966)

Sunday 29 June 2014

Mixing memory in reality

R responds to memory in a meticulous fashion. He never speaks of the past as often but while passing a place that was once dear to him, he never misses an opportunity to turn back and freeze the sight. I can clearly see that in the present, he is looking at his past and reminiscing his days spent in the portals of his Alma mater. But with me the scenario is the opposite. I don't turn back and hope to see me in another bygone time. Not even a fond glance. Sometimes, I find that a bit strange - an attitude of having grown rather outgrown the memory. People close to me find it scandalous. I choose to remain quiet, almost absent from the scene. I choose to see the bus stop where I stood. The car passes by the road and then turns. The once-upon-a-time familiar road is just another road where three years' worth of foot prints might be buried somewhere beneath the layers of tar and cement. Nursing dreams and chasing love marked those days of wanton abandon. No, they were not the best days of my life. I choose not to eulogize those days. 

The days pass by. Reality is something tangible not the memories. Sometimes the past is alluring but jaded and yellowed. They are no longer mine though they hold me chained to another reality and time. I like R's way of seeing things. He does not speak about his past in glowing adjectives nor does he miss an opportunity to mix a bit of memory when reality is happening.

Dear Reader, pray tell me what's your thought on this.




Tuesday 17 June 2014

The magic of monsoon

Waiting for the rain to come and being delighted seeing it pour is almost akin to waiting for the beloved to arrive and awake one's senses. Rain is magic to the senses. I like the rain when I am indoors but in Goa being outdoors during the rain is hassle-free and pleasant. Just the thought of hearing the pitter-patter of the rain droplets and falling asleep is heavenly and the feeling continues when one wakes up to the gentle hum of the rain outside. I never complain when my newsfeed bursts with pictures, songs and posts of rain. After all in a place like India, the respite from the heat and sweat is always welcome.

Rain has the ability to bring a smile on the face and a spring to the step. My domestic beams when I open the door. She tells me how cozy and cool the weather is and she finds it difficult to get out of bed. I smile and tell her that when it rains, I tend to get up quite earlier than the summer days. She smiles. Rain gives a light feeling to our senses and every task becomes a pleasant one. Well, sometimes the rain does add to the gloom of the inner mind but that's an occurrence that limits itself to maybe twice or thrice during the complete monsoon season. I guess a lot depends on the place that one lives as well. Rain in Chennai also makes me jubilant but Goa takes the huge chunk of joy quotient. Another happy effect of the monsoon is the appearance of many birds in our yard. I spotted many small birds chirruping and making merry in the rain. After a long time, I put my binoculars to good use by trying to spot birds sitting afar.

Rain is romance and romance is breath of life - Raising a toast to the magic of rain in Goa!

Sunday 15 June 2014

Lizard in my potty

It's one of those days when my urge to pee is rather urgent and I practically dance and run and make it to the toilet and rush to make myself comfortable when I spot a tail . . . I can understand that I eulogized the house lizard to mean home but the tail sends me into spasms err . . . convulsions of horror. Though the meek lizard does not scare me or sends me freaking out, the thought of sitting on the potty with the fear of the lizard springing up into my . . . is rather scary. Well, thankfully, we have another toilet and I quickly made my way there. I was back twice or thrice to see whether the poor fellow had made it outside the WC but to my utter dismay, he or she was still there almost forlorn (my interpretation) and sad.

This incident led mt to wonder on many similar aspects of life. We take so many things for granted and expect it to be the same always. Come on who thought that a lizard, of all places would land into a WC and shoo me into the neighbouring toilet. I shudder to think what I would have done if there was no alternative to this. I was able to pee because our home had another toilet. If not, would I have used the lizard-in-the-potty toilet? Would I have overcome my fear and let go of the creepy feeling to attend my urgent call of nature? Would I have played brave? It's easy for me to philosophize over a post but still the thought niggles me and I am unable to stop the rush of possibilities.  Well, I could have always sat down and let the stream of water flow out. Well, what if I had to shit and there was no other option but to sit on that lizard-inhabited-potty? My mind also thought of the hundreds of people who squat on open spaces with the risk of being bitten by scorpions, snakes and women especially who are prone to many untoward incidents while going out to relieve themselves.

Some questions remain as questions alone. I guess I am chicken to even think of the options. I always play safe, you see.

What about you?

Image 1: Internet

Friday 13 June 2014

When Austen turns D for desi

While airport hopping, I happened to pick a copy of Anuja Chauhan's Those Pricey Thakur Girls (2013) and after a few pages was struck by the semblance of the setting to that of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I tried hard not to compare P & P to TPTG but uncanny similarities between the Bennet girls and the Thakur girls did not allow my racy mind to stop the game of comparison. The pride of Debjani, the leading character of the story though has the pride of Elizabeth is but a pale shadow of the latter and Debjani's beau Dylan is after all a fond memory of Austen's brooding-charming-romantic hero Darcy. The eloping of the third daughter brings memories of Lydia and Wickham and of course the family drama that ensues is a reminiscence of the Bennets and their fancy balls and groom-hunting for their girls. I can understand that when one wants to pen a novel about the family complete with five daughters and extended family hullabaloos, it is difficult to do so without a faint Austenish hue to the entire setting. Chauhan has painted a book which can hop, skip and jump into a Bollywood set and I have even imagined the entire cast of the book. I think Anushka Sharma would make a crackling Debjani while Ranveer Singh would fit well with the lean and butt-sexy Dylan. I must admit that I found the 'butt' fetish of the girls a bit weird considering the fact that not many notice the derriere almost like a person's life depends on it!

The story was quite predictable but that's not what it is all about. How the story twirls and unfurls to lead to the predictable is the art of story telling and Chauhan has managed to deftly spin that tale. The episode of Debjani adding her own lines to the script of the news comes as a pleasant surprise to the reader who has all the while been imagining a trillion twists (thanks to Bollywood) to reach the 'happily ever after' scene which the discerning reader knows will definitely arrive.

Another reason for me to pick the book was one distinguished professor mentioning Chauhan's name after dismissing the entire lot of mushrooming 'writers' in today's India. He highly recommended Anuja Chauhan and asked us to pick up her books before casting a judgement on all the writers of today. Piqued by curiosity after hearing the Professor and seeing pictures of TPTG splashed liberally on my Facebook news-feed, I ventured to try this book. Quite a breezy and light read considering the fact that I completed the reading in a few hours short of twenty-four. This is the first of Chauhan for me and I would like to read what she had written before TPTG. And, for a person who has given memorable taglines such as "Yeh Diil Maange More" (The heart asks for more) and the lovable tune, "Oye Bubbly, Oh Oye Bubbly," Chauhan does have a penchant for words and phrases.

Yes, the desi Austen has conjured memories, stories and unforgettable characters with Those Pricey Thakur Girls.


Wednesday 4 June 2014

Grey regions and vaccum

I defended my Ph. D. thesis on the 2nd of June. One of my friends who attended the proceedings remarked, "You took the announcement of the degree quite calmly. You didn't seem to be overwhelmed and did not cry and all. Why?" I honestly did not know how to respond to his rather strange yet familiar question. I had imagined the situation several times in my head and every time, the scene had tears and melodrama. But in reality, when the announcement was made, I was calm and blank. I did not smile much as well. The feelings were similar when I had submitted my thesis three years ago. I knew and experienced the feeling of great moments which arrive and go quietly, without much ado. I also remember feeling the same while getting married. In fact, the excitement of the Ph. D. defense was a few degrees more than the wedding. 

I often try to understand the philosophy of getting excited and jumpy but I am unable to grasp it entirely. I do get excited, perhaps when the radio plays my favourite number or perhaps when Chennai Super Kings win a match. Sometimes, very rarely, suprises make me sqeal with delight. I don't much like surprises! Shopping for silver makes me happy and excited as well. But bigger moments like death, earning an accolade and such sink in gradually and smoothly. They fail to create any furore or waves. They stay and allow me to savour the whole episode in sparks when I least expect them. For example, when I switch the desktop and see a file titled, "Ph. D," on the screen, I pause and ponder about the journey and then when I shift to Facebook, the feeling evaporates. Then, when I talk to someone and suddenly they call me Dr, I savour the word. It passes. I move on. Then again while I least expect, the wave hits only to leave me in a short while. These joys are strange. You know that they rightly belong to you and that it has been earned by you but still you refuse to allow the victory to make you completely ecstatic.

A vaccum fills me as I will no longer unleash stories of how my Ph. D. viva-voce exam has not happened after three long years. Boy, I am a Dr now! (Smiles).

Cheers, dear reader. Raise a toast for me.

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet

Thursday 17 April 2014

Revelling in micro-stories

Facebook has many treats to offer and off late, it gives me immense pleasure to read the micro stories that are posted by my friends. The stories have diverse hues and moods depending on the emotional state of the writer; But whatever the frame of mind, these vignettes of life are presented in lucid prose which is a reader's delight.

Stories have always fascinated me and I believe that all of us irrespective of our age, status, social standing have a repertoire of stories that are waiting to be read and listened to. Some stories are forgotten, some escape the hearer and some are safely kept in the vault of memory. But stories that are shared are the ones that make life vibrant and help us revel in the collective conscious.

My friend Bhavana Nissima and Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury were the ones who captivated me with vignettes from their daily life; And, I was impressed how these vignettes shared as status messages on Facebook were an excellent archive of storing ordinary happenings with profound commentries. The instances shared by them were not once-in-a-blue-moon experience which had to recorded as milestones in history. Far from that, the incidents were insignificant happenings which happen to most of us on a regular basis but failed to be seen with awareness and insight.

After reading these micro stories, I have often felt that simple everyday occurances are indeed profound and perhaps will never happen again. For example, a butterfly caught inside the home and trying to somehow find its way out or a mosquitoe that repeatedly escapes the Chinese bat or a creeper that somehow finds a tree to climb on and so on. Even blogs are all about stories - stories of courage, passion, pain, love, hunger, smiles and other similar topics. But writing a post takes time and needs some comfort unlike typing a quick status message wihich shares our stories to everyone who knows and likes us. I call these status messages "micro stories," which make me either smile, ponder, or wonder.

I have stopped seeing Sociology, Psychology and Political Science as mere academic disciplines restricted to the portals of Universities and Colleges. In fact, I see Bhavana's and Maitreyee's micro stories as reflections of the time and state of the society and the individual. I learn much from their updates than I might from a textbook.

Dear reader, care for a story - an everyday one that.

Saturday 12 April 2014

Reflections on being away from the blog

There were days when the thought of staying away from the blog gave me a slight panic attack. I was like a new parent who would not want the baby out of the sight but like everything else, one outgrows the 'new parent' phase. Yes, the child's antics and movement is interesting nevertheless it does cause a certain monotony. Well, now I leave my blog unattended never even stopping to just view the blog, old posts and statistics which I did so religiously in the past. Thoughts spring up, incidents beg to be posted, opinions wait to be shared but the non-availability of a computer stops the instant gush of wanting to post. Sometimes, the topics grow stale and anachronic with the passage of time. I have thus changed my flow and rhythms. I am no longer a hard-core blogger who posts once in two days or once a week. I post when time, computer, thoughts are in tandem and that seldom happens. All said and done, I would like to keep writing. It has begun to look like my baby days in blogging when I used to post when I really wanted to, of course thoughts-time-computer in tandem!

If you have been here for some time, you will relate to my thoughts.

Thanks for stopping by, dear reader.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

A serene train ride

This evening after many years, I travelled in the route that used to be frequented by me. A corner window seat that was opposite to the direction of the train's journey was waiting for me and I could not be more happier. Feeling the gentle breeze on my face, I resolved to 'just' feel the present moment without resorting to sappy memories of erstwhile train rides. I did succeed albeit for three stops and almost by reflex the breeze whispered about the happy and not-so-happy moments spent in the train.

Sometimes you have so many fond memories that you literally feel them jostling with one another while one smart Charlie tumbles off and takes you on a tangent. I wonder which one it is: The train rides that patched up quarrels over long phone calls or the rides where a nagging junior would want to gossip about teachers and I would want to close my eyes to honour the lazy lull of the languid weather coupled with the slow motion of the train or the dreams of carving a teaching career while doing research or trying to rush to the one empty spot of the compartment before anyone even spots it or getting lost in the smell of food that wafts across the compartment or just trying to inhale the smell of the jasmine that a flower-seller hawks.

I smile and wonder how I cherish those moments but don't miss them. I don't even yearn for them and realise that they were wonderful no doubt, but belonged to a time then. I did fondly inhale the mixed smells of flowers, food and faint perfume and got down with a smile when the train reached my stop. I stood and watched till the train disappeared and knew that it will be a long time before I get to ride in a train again.

Readers, how long since you travelled in a train?

Sunday 23 March 2014

Changing seasons, moods and memories

I have finally discovered that it is possible to let go of memories -- to stop wallowing in them whenever an opportunity presents itself in the form of a song, a film, a smell and so on. Quite often when a particular song is played on the radio or television, the trick is to hum along without any thought of the past. I have started following this technique by listening to the song only as a song that I enjoy listening to rather than thinking of people, situations and emotions. It is easier said than done but not quite difficult. The human mind is capable of adapting itself and when an individual decides to consciously shut off memories, it is possible. With practice and determination, it is not an invincible exercise.

I also discovered that memories and seasons are linked inextricably. Changes in seasons bring about changes in moods and associated emotions. Though summer reminds one of long and languid vacations spent idly dreaming of school and friends, the constant perspiration wipes off all beautiful memories forcing one to stay focussed on the present. While a visit to Chennai in October evoked tender emotions writ large with yearning for one's home, the present visit makes me want to run away from Chennai. Whenever I sweat, I also emit the emotions that made me dislike this city in the first place. It is but natural that as I emit negative emotions, I purge myself but in this particular state, the more I emit, the more I grow irritable and morose. The city love has given way to city loathe, which is almsot like wanting to escape the boundaries set by parents to a life of freedom, only to realise that the freedome one so earnestly craved for was better off being explored within boundaries. Well, for now, I want to run away from Chennai but knowing fully well that in October, I will change my tune.

That said and done, there are some sights and sounds that seasons cannot fade. For example, the jacaranda and canna blooms that line the Mount Road are a treat that presents itself only during the summer months and so are the green-red water melons stretches that dot the road sides. The usual balmy morning and evening summer breeze, the clear blue skies and the summer goodies like buttermilk, vathal, kirni pazham are delights that make this time pleasant and lovely.

Coming back to memories, I think that they burden the self and rob the joy from the present. Limited doses at specific times is permissible but living with them is hazardous, I reckon.

Do your moods alter with changing seasons? 

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Implicit obedience versus an attitude of questioning

Today, I happened to see a poster in one of my friend's Facebook wall which went something like this, 'No matter what, my son will be the same to me as when he was a baby.' While the words revelled at the wonder of having children and marvelling at their antics, the message did send some signals to me. I read the message as, 'No matter how old you get, I will continue to see you as a baby and also treat you like one.' S. A. D. This is precisely the problem. One dimension of this 'smothering affection' is aiming at implicit obedience - An obedience which does not question and immediately doing what one is asked to. Often, I have heard this uttered by my parents, 'Just do it. Obey without questioning.' But me being me always asked, 'Why' earning their wrath and irritation. When I dwell on that 'Why,' it is not without any reason that I used to ask the question. After all, I wanted to know why I was asked to do something. This is one side of the whole matter.

Another side, children are encouraged to ask questions. To support this theory, many great scientists of the likes of Einstein, Galileo and others are cited. Philosophers like J. Krishnamurti are also famous for encouraging a questioning attitude. But somewhere parents (some parents) are lost between the encouraging-questioning-and-implicit-obedience quagmire. While questioning on the sun, moon, galaxies, solar system is looked upon with kindness and a parental glow which  seems to say, 'See, that's my daughter! How she questions everything. She is sure to become a genius and score high in her IQ tests . . . Blah Blah,' the same is frowned at while asking questions when the child is asked to do something. I guess parents are also quite stressed out by listening/reading to many free floating advice courtesy the internet, well meaning friends/colleagues/domestic help and all sundry. And like the cherry on the cake is the experience of having watched one's parents whose demands of obedience almost made one pee in the pants.

Children will remain children for many parents and even after the 'child' is no longer a child but a full grown adult, the implicit obedience tag never abandons the scenario. Phrases like, 'My son still obeys me without questioning' and 'Even today, I refuse to ask any question to my mom if she asks me to do something' fills the air of many households confusing the children who innocently ask, 'But why should I light a candle before this picture?'

Parents and children are both confused and in the end, the poster wins!

What's you take on this dear reader?

Saturday 8 March 2014

Tracing my reading timeline without success

If I have to trace my reading habit, I will be at a loss for I don't exactly know how I started to read and why. There are a few I know who will exactly tell the moment as if they forced their memory to record the significant date and episode. Alas! when I started reading, I hardly knew that one day reading would be considered such a fantastic activity and that there would be book-clubs, Facebook pages and blogs devoted to the love of reading and hoarding books. For that matter, I have never wondered to stop and think about the reading habit that found its way into my life until recently when we were having dinner with a BBC-Canada film director who asked me: So, Susan, do you read? How exactly did you start reading? Did your mom and dad read a lot? Did they ask you to read? What did you read as a child?

Well, I have to admit that I was looking at him with a blank expression for I cannot put a finger to my timeline of the much adored habit. I also seem at a loss when people gush and mush about Enid Blyton. I think that I haven't read Blyton and the much acclaimed hostel life stories. I remember having read Famous Five, Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew but never cared about the author. I used to remember titles but not authors but now I know that the names should be remembered and flaunted wherever and whenever appropriate.

The reason for reading is another topic that used to confound me. When I enrolled to do English Literature, the first day of the College, one had to meet the head of the department to collect our handbooks and also the identity card. She was a splendid woman who had a fine Brit accent. She asked me (in her RP): You are Susan? and then proceeded to ask, What do you read? to which I muttered 'Fffiction.' She then responded by asking, Why Fiction? I was at my wit's end. Why fiction? Come on, how would I know why I read fiction at the tender age of 19! Those days I did not know that there should be a reason for reading something. Coming from the suburbs and reading whatever managed to catch my fancy, I did not know how to respond to Why Fiction? What I did not know then was also that there were other genres like drama, poetry and other such which people did read for pleasure. I wish I had known that then. As they say, we get to know everything at the right time. Maybe that holds good in my case.

Why do people read afterall? Why do you read? I would like to read your responses.

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet

Saturday 1 March 2014

She could be me in another garb!

I know for a fact that each individual has her/his writing style which is unique to him/her but when I stop by at some blogs, I am reminded of the blogger ME. Yesterday, when I was supposed to be doing some serious work, I stopped at a blog for taking a wee break which extended beyond wee (that's another matter) and was astonished beyond belief that the writing was so very ME. In that blog, stood many posts which were drafted in my mind, same lines, same expressions and even same cliches. I was flabbergasted and a bit worried because the posts inflated my sense of 'uniqueness.' The topics were quite assorted but the thought process of those posts stripped me my sense of uniqueness. I guess that happens to almost most of us. No matter how much we talk of individuality and being special, some of these findings deflate our own brand that defines us.

The first post that I read piqued my curiosity because here was someone who thought and expressed things like me. I moved on to the next post and like that I would have read about ten posts or so which spoke of diverse interests and meanderings. Maybe the writer and I were some sort of joint souls who were separated many births ago but still have come together through posts in this era. As my reading progressed, I came to understand that I enjoyed those posts - the identity of the person behind those posts came alive with every post and that brought me close to the writer herself. I could see her smirk, delight, excited and morose. While she poured out her heart in her posts, I identified me. The thoughts that were a blur in my mind gained clarity when I read hers. Maybe I am exaggerating but I did feel like that when I read those posts by her.

The only thing I regret is that she had turned my drafts into delectable posts and I might not be interested in turning those drafts of mine into posts. She has already done that. Now, to prevent her turning more of my drafts into posts, I have to blog more regularly so that the girl who could be me would not steal my unwritten drafts.

This post is dedicated to her. I will not disclose her blog's name for you might land up there and exclaim, 'Really? She is not like Susan at all. In fact, she is much better!' Even though, you will not scream this on my face, the chances that you will find no similarities between us is quite high. So, I will leave you wondering about this blog I am referring to and also whether you have found any blog that captures the essence of YOU.

Sunday 16 February 2014

Gagging on milk powder

Can someone actually gag on milk powder. Well, if it is someone like me who likes to eat milk powder and is quite greedy about stuffing more than the mouth can contain, then one is sure to gag. And, one can even be gagged by the muffler, I read! Products like baby food, milk powder and certain other milk based powders somehow tickle my taste-buds and when I consume them, I do so like a frenzied person who hasn't come upon food for days. It begins with the promise of a single teaspoon but ends up with atleast seven teaspoons and much gagging. The problem is not seven teaspoons but seven teaspoons in a single (small) mouth at the same time! Even now when I think of it, I am  metaphorically choking and wondering how I could have managed such act of gluttony. Come to think of it, I gag on many things - literally and figuratively.

Take Facebook for example. I sometimes tend to spend so many hours browsing through the idle treats that are available to me that at the end of the day I feel as if I have gorged unlimited Facebook bytes that I feel tired and spent without having moved a muscle. I am not complaining but I sure feel sullen about the time that has slyly passed without my knowledge.

Another gag is sleep. I gag on sleep that when I finally decide to get some work done, my sleep memories often prod me to sleep again. Sleep is blissful and restful but the thought of sleeping without having done what I ought to have done, gags me. I choke and blame my irregular cycles of planning/procrastination.

I gag on books! Yes, you read that right. Books are meant to read but they have their own time. If one reads when one is meant to be doing something else then the guilt gags you big time. For this, I have to shift the blame to the many Facebook book clubs which I am a part of. See, the cycle has come full circle by connecting everything to the Facebook gag!

I know that this post was an exaggeration of sorts but then everyone is gagging on something all the time - and some gags come disguised as seemingly constructive things like Books, blogging, music and the not-so-innocent milk powder!

So what are you gagging on today?

Thursday 13 February 2014

Breaking the illusion of romantic train journeys

Off late I have come to accept the fact that I find long train journeys boring and that I prefer to sleep rather than cozy up to a book. Well, a few years ago, even two years ago, I wouldn't have accepted the fact of boring train journeys but now I realise that I better burst my self-made bubble. I suppose even age has something to contribute in this aspect. There was a time I swore by train journeys. And, sometimes, even now, the appearing of a blue coloured train at a distance with its smoke and sound makes me nostalgic for leaving to some place and just the imagination of curling up with a book sends spasms of excitement through my senses. Alas! the thrill lasts only for a few minutes when the distant approach of a train creates a frenzied longing - after the train arrives at the station and stops - I feel a bit unsettled to leave the comfort zone of my home and take on a  journey.

But mind you, I still enjoy travelling to new places or perhaps I think I do. Sometimes I wonder whether I allow certain lies to fog my mind and knowingly I submit myself to these grand illusions. These lies are always so comforting. They allow us to cheat ourselves and in the process we are made fools by our own thoughts and emotions.

Coming back to train journeys, I wonder whether it is the length of time or perhaps the closed confines of an AC chair that bores me. Maybe long journeys are better with hoardes of relatives and cousins who chatter away to glory. No, I have also travelled with many people but still find myself longing for the journey to come to an end. And books! I do like them but I prefer sleeping to reading while in a train. The moment I open a book, my eyes feel heavy and my senses dulled. I think that my body is weary and I shall sleep a bit and then get back to reading but that seldom happens. I sleep like there's no tomorrow and the book/s remain untouched through the rest of the journey and I make a mental note to not carry any books the next time. But as you suspected, I forget the promise, carry books in the next journey and continue to sleep blissfully.

I have come to realise that we carry an image of our younger self's habits, likings and desires into our consecutive phase of life. I, atleast, think that my tastes in food, books and music will continue to remain the same as I advance in years but sadly that is not the case; probably that is the reason one tends to grow out of friends who were so very precious during our childhood. Sometimes even memories are so - one outgrows them and after a point, there seems to be no much use for those thoughts except that they defined us once upon a time. Awareness of ourselves through passing years is a vital aspect of our life and many a times, we like to lie to ourselves and live under the illusion of seemingly being the same person through the various stages of our lives.

So, what are your thoughts on living under an illusion?

Monday 27 January 2014

Lessons from my Dell notebook

My blogging and other online activities have taken a toll due to the unavailability of a computer and so I have repaired my notebook, Dell  mini Inspiron 10 and have started using the same. To begin with, inspite of being thankful for the wee toy, I must admit that using this small thing is not quite easy for me. So, along with stating reasons for the difficulty in using this mini gadget, I will also jot down the lessons that this wee thing instills in me.

Being gentle always: My mini one likes me to be gentle on him. if I press any key (esp copy and paste) in quick succession, he retorts by stopping the page from loading. Invariably, I have to wait, press the keys slowly and gently, and then proceed with whatever I intended to do. Similarly if I click on the facebook notifications twice, the icons on the screen quickly become either very large or small. So, I have to be gentle, click once, wait and then proceed. Oh! The joys of a laptop/desktop! Sigh.

Awareness: I am not the harried/hurrying types but there is a limit one can take something in their stride. My small one forces and coerces me to take that one extra step in being aware of something in a leisurely pace. It does not like me opening many tabs at one given time. If I try that and go ahead, the small guy just stops working and is stubborn about staying in a state of limbo for a couple of minutes. I promptly close the online shopping tabs and force my concentration on two tabs at one time. Lessons in being aware of only the essential items are learnt.

Patience: The pages, while working on this notebook, load slower than the laptop forcing me to sit, wait and be calm. I know that no matter I try to press the keys over and over, the little guy will make sure that I follow his speed and not the other way round. In the interim, I have learned to slow down, wait and not get worked up if the page in question does not load the moment I click on it. Phew.

Strategy: For everything in life there is a certain strategy and when it comes to charging this small moron, I have to imagine and conjure all the possible strategies to make sure that the plug, the socket and the notebook are in perfect position. Again patience and awareness make their guest appearances here: I have to first choose the socket that is at a correct height so that the wire can be held in such a way that it is in a certain position, otherwise inspite of everything working perfectly fine, the computer does not get charged so I have to use a strategy where I use a chair to balance the three-pin point and make it sit smug on the plug-point and slowly I use the charging end and insert it into the notebook. If I try to hurry, then the process fails so the strategy is to use a perfect strategy!

Beauty is skin deep: My Dell mini Inspiron has a jazzy design and looks cool but beyond that if one tries to judge the working based on the exterior than one is in for a rude shock. Well, the notebooks have a different philosophy of working and one cannot blame the small fellow. The smallness is to blame - If one is used to laptops and desktops, then it becomes a tad wearisome to work on this small guy. Small is beautiful but also a bit tiresome to continuously work on. So, after all the old adage fits my small man well!

So, this is my computer story! I am glad that I can blog frequently alongside learning valuable life lessons from my wee computer.

So, what have your gadgets taught you? Are you willing to learn from them?

Image: Internet

Thursday 23 January 2014

Murakami and related thoughts

This year began with me reading a brand new author - the much acclaimed Haruki Murakami (whose name somehow always reminds me of the word, 'harami') Well, I have seen different quotes of his adorning different friends' Facebook walls and when an online book-club that I am a part of, decided to read Murakami for the month of January, I was filled with glee. I decided to pick, 'Kafka on the Shore' on a whim because of the name Kafka. Please don't think that I'm a fan of that metamorphosis Kafka! In fact, I hated that book - Metamorphosis! It is considered as a great piece of art and art is always something subjective and that subjectivity made me dislike that book! But a Japanese author dabbling with a Western writer's name in his Japanese novel's title made the book intriguing. And yes, as you guessed the book is definitely not a sunny read which one can savour with a cuppa tea and some muffins! Far from that, the book compels you to give it your complete attention and time and in doing so, it pulls you into the vortex of the dark aspects of your mind which you usually don't want to dig in normal times.

Murakami fashions his story after the famed Oedipus myth and leads the reader into various layers of the protagonists' minds. There are various allusions to many famous works and writers which point out to the different interests and sympathies of the writer. That he is fascinated and enthralled by many Western philosophers and music is no doubt and after reading the novel, one feels enriched by the information that we gain out of the book. Information on one hand and dissection of the self on the other is what this book did to me. It is quite impossible for me to maintain an emotional distance while engaging with the book because it is not possible to get into the skin of the different characters without drawing similar insights from our lives and the lives of those we know. One caution which I should use is being able to distance myself from the work of art. I guess that's a great lesson which time alone can teach me!

After completing 'Kafka,' I also dabbled with Murakami's collection of short stories titled, 'Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman.' It did not impress me much.

Most of the stories from the collection are quite abrupt and abstract. Being used to reading delightful short stories with equally delightful characters, Murakami forces me to let go of my previous experience of reading short stories and leads me into another reality which left me a bit disoriented. Metaphors and words are the characters of some of the stories and often they leave me heavy and tired. The pleasure that one associates with short stories is not present in Murakami's short stories instead each story leaves the reader distraught and groping for meaning and sense. Well, as I mentioned earlier, art is subjective and my conclusions can be subjective as well. I would very much welcome a debate or argument on the topic of Murakami's short stories.

So far, so good. Have you read Murakami? If yes, please tell me your thoughts on him and if no, I'd say, give it a try and see!

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet


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