The Price of Ambition

During one of my travels, I was seated next to an elderly Indian couple. They seemed to be in their mid fifties and they were in US to attend a wedding. As our flight was a couple of hours long, we spent the time, talking to each other about ourselves. So after the customary interchange, the conversation went like this.
Before I begin, any Indian person who is 10 years older than me is considered an uncle/aunty. Jokes apart I quite like this cute avuncular culture !

Uncle: So, how old are you?
Me: I am 27.
Uncle: You are married?
Me: Nope
Uncle: It is the right time, you should get married. What are you waiting for?
Me: I still have some distance to go before I think I am mature enough for that.
Uncle: What nonsense, you seem to be in the IT industry. How much do you make?
I disclose my salary after which he felt sorry for me and suggested he will put in kind words to his nephew who owns a start up company in SF.
Aunty interjects: What is your caste, beta?
Me: Uhm, I am not sure.
Aunty: Well, what is your last name? I can deduce your caste from your last name.
Me: Mind – Blown!
So here is the thing about Indian Aunties, they come pre-programmed with “ancenstry.com” database. So they can spell out your ancestors, what they did for a living, where they lived etc… all by just learning your last name.
I personally think they would have made very good Nazi’s as racial profiling comes easy to them. Don’t be offended, in India, ethnic cleansing looks something like this:

ganga_snan

I watched an interview of George Harrison, the fabled Beatles man. When asked about his cult status in the music industry, he said how he felt trapped under the limelight. Everyone around him thinks that he is a genius, but he alone knows that he has no idea what he’s doing.
I am officially an adult and I am really not sure how why this is the case.

Growing up, I was very excited and looked forward to the day when I would become an adult. I wanted to do what the cool people did, like go anywhere they want, eat anytime they want and talk to strangers as if they knew each other.
But more importantly as a career move, I never knew how people figured what they wanted to do. I mean, I am okay with computers I guess but I never understood  why would anyone pay me to do stuff which seems fun and quite easy?

So I asked a friend who went to IIT because I thought that he would surely know how to decide on a career. He said something brilliant.

The world loves mediocrity, if you are average, people aren’t threatened by you. So they would accept you, as a peer. And you would never be over-qualified for a job. So you can gradually make progress and be at a stage in your career. I mean imagine, if you were a genius at an entry level job. Wouldn’t that guarantee depression?

We all adore people who are brilliant but I feel most of them lead turbulent lives. Especially the ones who made an impact in history. And I am not talking about insecurity, I worship intelligence. When I listen to a Brahms composition, or read “Edward Bernays “Propaganda” or watch a performance by Martha Graham, I go numb. I am awestruck but at the same time sad that I would never be able to reproduce that. Ever.

I hope I didn’t come across as a douche with my choice in entertainment. I just wanted to sound eclectic! I am a regular guy with regular choices. And I think I am comfortable with that, because I know things that I am not.

Which brings me to another theory that I find fascinating -Peter’s Principle.

Peters principle: “Members of an organization where promotion is based on achievement, success, and merit will eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability”.
What it means is say you are an excellent programmer, you’d be promoted to an average senior programmer, then if you do stick on and hit the targets, you’ll become a manager. But since you were promoted for your technical skills and not people management, you’d end up becoming a terrible manager. But you can’t work on the same pay check years after working in the team. So getting promoted to a job you’ll be terrible at, seems to be the only logical way!
This might have been a demotivational article so far but look at the bright side. I think there is a reason why Indian and Asian students thrive in the western economy.  We are number one in IQ and intelligence and shit last in self esteem. So we ride this hamster wheel of hard work without realizing that, we have achieved our goals.
We seem to have an enforced sense of humility that prevents us from selling ourselves. I am tired of smart people complaining that “I do my job and expect rewards. I can’t go around prancing and announcing how terrific I am at what I do. That is just not me”.

And don’t even start about the inflated self purpose that us STEM folks have. We are just more relevant at the current time stamp in history that is all.
I would really recommend everyone to watch “Dirty Jobs” produced my Mike Rowe. He educates us about vocational education and it’s relevance in the job market today. You don’t have to cut it out as a marketing manager or a software analyst or an investment banker to become financially independent.
You could still lead a comfortable and a fulfilling career while being an electrician, crane operator or even a plumber. Those jobs won’t be automated. At least not in the near future. If my parents waited for their perfect job, they would never have provided me the opportunity to pursue what I wanted to do.

During my time in the middle east, I came across a lot of immigrant workers from Nepal, India, Philippines and Sri lanka. They would scourge and live minimally and send all the money back to their homes. And hopefully channel those resources to pay for their kids tuition’s. Unfortunately, due to their poverty they don’t think free will exists for their children.

They won’t allow their kids to become electricians or plumbers or a mechanic. They want them to be engineers and doctors. And if chips don’t fall the right way, they are just carving a very expensive tomb for their children in the form of student debts.

I am still trying to understand why paychecks are seen as a barometer for ambition? I just don’t get it. When people my age push their limits to get a better job and an upgrade in quality of life, I get it. Totally, but what is the answer to the question , what’s next?
Surely it can’t be just a better car, an expensive house or an exotic vacation. It just seems stupid and narrow to me.

In my own naive opinion, I feel we should measure our lives by experience rather than achievements. I am 27 now and frankly I have no idea how I got here. And I am pretty sure that when I become 40, I still would not have a clue where to go.
But I don’t want to extinguish this stupid addiction I have for experiences. I may change my opinion in the future, but isn’t having an evolving concept of what I want, an experience in itself?

But at present, I am comfortable with ambiguity. It doesn’t keep me up at night 🙂

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The myth buster’s guide to Marriage

This post is dedicated to my best friend, my bro who just got married!

I almost cringe at the prospect of using the word Marriage for the title of this blog. So I turned 26 ceremoniously a few months ago and it has dawned on me that people are headed to the next phase of their life.

I personally would like to think of myself as a trivial man with humble needs. I have always chased things that I need rather than what I want, so far this simple tenet has served me well and I am unwilling to shrug this off.

I have used the following space to articulate and think out loud the merits of the institution of marriage.

Almost all calls with my parents end on an awkward note where they hint about getting me married. And the hilarious part is when they try to sell it to me. I think their honest hardworking career has fostered them to gain a lot of skills, but sales aren’t among them. I feel they are confident in my lack of ability to find a girl for myself which is sweet and also profoundly sad at the same time. So here is a sample of their sales pitch

“Son, we are really glad that you are doing well. You are surrounded by friends, you get to travel a lot have a good job and having so much fun. But it’s now time to get serious.”

That’s the worst sales pitch ever. I don’t think they can sell parole to a convict who is facing a death penalty, with that pitch. I wanted to write this article for a long time. But I think this is a good time, most of my good friends have got married and have suffered a social death. Their social activity comprises of sharing insufferable pictures of each other at eventful places such as the mall, parking lot, temples, restaurants, movie theater, beach, work and practically every place which bans nudity.

Arranged marriage or love marriage? I really don’t know how this is even a question. My answer is, “If it ends in a marriage, does it even matter? Hah, I know I am quite the romantic. *blushes*

I am aware of statistics which say “Arranged Marriages” last longer. I think it is partially skewed. In arranged marriages you are necessarily married to each other’s family. So most “arranged marriages” last longer because they are designed to. If you think breaking up with one person sucks, try 200. We Indians are so uncomfortable seeking a resolution that we will try to see the relationship or the people involved die, rather than mitigate.

At least in India there is a notion that divorce should be permitted only in extreme cases of violence, harassment and abuse.

It is lost on me that in my society, two perfectly decent people would not be allowed to go their separate ways if they can’t find happiness without being judged or hated.  And this is a question that every quintessential couple faces. And the most clichéd answer is “Love cum arranged marriage”. You see you cannot concede either of them because society is perverted.  So for a groom

Arranged marriage:  Society goes “Lucky him, it must be the dowry”.

Love marriage: Society goes “Must’ve knocked her up”.

Work Life Balance: Work life balance is by far, my favorite oxymoron. And I can prove it to you. I hope you love numbers

All the hours spent in a week

Number of hours in a week: 168

Number of hours spent working, avg: 50

Number of hours for recreation such as gym, going for a run, reading etc..: 10

Number of hours spent on commute: 6

Sleep: 42

Time spent socializing with other equally boring couples in activities such as dinner, movies or spiritual recreation: 10

Time spent doing chores, because I believe in equality. LOL: 10

Total time left to spend with wife: 40

Guys get it easy. The above list is crazier if you’re a woman.

A grand total of 40 hours! So, good luck trying to make her feel like a Queen; be a responsible husband and raising a happy and healthy family. Oh also try to build a house, tend to the never ending family members from both sides, raise children. If he is a boy, make sure he is engineer. If she is a girl, make sure she is an engineer. Fund their college and then help them get married and be pretty darn successful at it. Oh by the way, make sure you are HAPPY while doing it.

Matching expectations: People feel that people with similar needs make a better couple. There are so many traits that act as deal breakers. For example, a groom might be a perfect match except the fact that the girls family expects a teetotaler. My parents pitched a girl for me who seemed pretty agreeable. But under “Music” she listed Falguni Pathak, so yeah that’s a strict no-no for me.

And something that people always ignore is sexual appetite.  That should be a huge factor but is always never discussed. Now I am using the term sexual in a very non sexual manner, like a botanist. Because when you date, you have sex. When you’re married you have intercourse. I don’t know about you but that sounds like a very responsible word to me. And often responsibilities aren’t fun. Nobody has ever blown the party whistle and screamed words like “Hey guys, lets crank up the volume, get drunk and be RESPONSIBLE”

Guys are always trigger-happy, while with women it’s more of a methodical approach. For guys we would be up for it in an instant, a girl just have to give us the hint and even if we are stuck on I-75 we would floor the silly Prius for you and reach home ASAP.

But for women, the process is more measured. They prefer treating them with attention, love, respect and all the adjectives you would find on a hallmark card. I am not a sexist; I am merely outlining the differences in approach towards a Darwinian act.

 Every matrimonial site ever: You see I have never been a huge fan of meeting people online. But once you are cruising towards your late 20’s your parents are  in a panic mode. It starts with it would be nice if my kid gets married to OMG PLZZZ someone marry my baby. The indian matrimonial sites reeks of parental influence. Most of the profiles are either tied to education, wealth, caste or culture. Nobody describes anything about what their personality is like.

I thought it would be a fantastic idea if such sites were designed like Amazon.com which would have user reviews. Where people would share review the families based on their experiences. Something like even though the groom’s father is Jain, I once saw him outside Steak and Shake.

My parents started sending me pictures of attractive women, I was surprised at how good of a wing man my dad could be. Then it struck me, the horror!

My dad uses Internet explorer as the basic browser whose home screen is set to Bing!

Happiness and loneliness: Most people marry of happiness; we grow up on stories where we are told if we behave good we will get a good wife or a husband who would make us happier. The flaw in this approach is lack of accountability. If I am getting into a relationship, I need to be sure of what I can contribute towards it. Are there qualities in me that would make the other person happier? Am I mature enough for that (I know it is a rhetorical question). Happiness is only true when shared and in order to share we must be prepared to give.

Loneliness: I think being alone and feeling lonely are completely different from each other.A major trigger towards getting married is the fear of ending up lonely. And I can assure you that it is morbidly terrifying to be left alone. Our society never accepts people who are lonely; they are either cast as greedy or gloomy. But in order to embrace happiness, one must like them. And you can only learn about yourself by embracing solitude. If you don’t like anything about you, it is ridiculous to expect others to.

We should realize that happiness is merely a state of mind; it is like those happy pit stops at the coffee shops while being on a road trip. One has to work towards it and it will last only for a while, but the mere pursuit makes the effort worthwhile. And if you can find someone who shares your view of happiness, then it is safe to say that you are going to have fun!

This post is dedicated to you bro! Good luck on your marriage.

Humor-us

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Global warming- meh, Terrorism- Bad but sigh, Corruption- yawn, Unemployment-Duh! None of these global phenomenon’s affect me much anymore. What gets my goat is what goes around in the name of humor.

People as you see and have read, I can be extremely, very, somewhat, remotely funny sometimes but I have acquired a taste in humor over the years. I used to laugh at the drop of a hat and I was ever so easily amused. But then began a chase which has worn me down. I continuously sought more humorous material either via books, movies, friends or comedians to a point that I think I have laughed myself out of it. I can no more relate to what goes around as humor. And if you think otherwise, I think many of you out there need a hug.

I think I have a healthy, palatable taste for humor (Not sense of humor). Saying “I have good taste in humor” is different from saying “I have a good sense of humor”. Let me illustrate:

Scene: Snickering at people who frantically press the elevator button repeatedly as if it helps – Taste in Humor.

Scene: The project has been well received by the clients and those who deserve will get a raise(Project Manager)- Sense of Humor.  

Ironically enough I have never met any guy who doesn’t think he is funny. You know what is sadder than a guy with no sense of humor? A successful guy in power who thinks he is humorous. I remember a project director hounding a friend of mine for not laughing at a joke while the other members laughed so hard as if  they didn’t want their tonsils anymore.

If you are single guy into your mid twenties humor is your last resort to get lucky. So it creates a hurried sense of insecurity in you even if you are trying to be normal. And we all know what insecurity lends, don’t we? – Lack of confidence.

Consider this situation which you would find in any dumbfuck Hindi Romcom which involves the goofy guy meets the serious girl (OR) the serious guy meets the goofy girl. The guy is at a friend’s marriage and being the verb that pretty much fucks your chance of getting laid Decent, you eyeball the girl only when she is not looking. You ∑ courage and go up to her. “You are pretty”, she goes What? You panic and reply “I am joking”. And she stomps off.

I believe humor is like a hiccup, it is best if it’s natural, you can’t force it. If you do it will only make things more awkward and give inception to a new Rom com script as described above. And the urge to impress the fairer sex has brought upon many such abominations to the world:

  1. Adapted humor: Its spelled plagiarism with a capital P. Did you have that friend in college who would go through your phone for funny jokes? Chances are that he isn’t looking at them to have a good laugh. He is trying to overcompensate for his lack of humor.

Course of Action: I hate such unoriginal people and wish fate curses them with eternal, mushy, clingy love.

2.Tag a billion: There isn’t shortage of such Tag whores. They are people who browse through office mails, reditt and other joke forums to find a picture which is as funny as getting Aids. No, the prick won’t just laugh at it. Instead he would upload it on Facebook and tag everyone who had ever said a Hi to him. Why should I validate his pitiable sense of humor?

Course of Action: Click on the dropdown next to the post, Unsubscribe from this person.

3.To Complement or ! complement: Compliments have always been a tricky issue for me. As often in my school the only response to a compliment was a walk to the principal’s office and later being forced to become the “brother” of the victim.  For people who grew up in the western culture let me illustrate. In U.S if a guy is naughty at school he ends up with a lot of girlfriends, in India especially in my school if you are naughty you end up with more sisters than Mother Teresa.

Now if a guy has a feeling for  a girl and proposes it via a letter or something there are two possible repercussions:

a)      She complains to the school principal who would detain you. On top of it the girl would “punish” you by tying you a “Rakhi” which makes you her brother. I never understood the twisted logic behind that.

b)      She would complain to her parents who would call your parents up and school them for shoddy parenting. By shoddy I mean raising you as a heterosexual boy.

Since compliment always lands us in hot water, we look for other alternatives. So even if a girl looks viscerally stunning, the only compliment we imbeciles could afford is in this format:

Yada yada yada (Compliment), blah blah blah (Negating the compliment!).

Eg:

Your “friend” for the lack of trying uploads a pretty picture of herself.

“You look stunning!” ”Good job on Photoshop”. Every time an idiot comes up with such a lame compliment, the terrorist camp falls short of one box of Kleenex.

4.Revenge of the emoticons: I enjoy emoticons as much as Mel Gibson enjoys Hanukkah; I could forgive the regular smiley or the sad expression. But I have an unhidden disgust for this one :P. What does that mean? Were you trying to be cheeky, Are you insecure of your statement, Must I not be offended by your stupidity?

An exclamation mark is supposed to mark a sense of surprise. What in the name of baby black Jesus is this?

 “!!!!!!!!”  Did you have a stroke or are you enjoying the moment so much that you are typing with one hand? And the ever unforgiveable albeit atheistic remark OMG LOL!!!!!

That one seals your deal and your chances of reaching heaven as you mock the existence of a Holy one.

All this while it may seem that I am being apathetic by picking on guys all along and trying to earn brownie points with the ladies, But I stand corrected. I have rarely come across a girl who I have found funny. I am not saying women aren’t funny, I am just saying they needn’t be funny.  Though there are exceptions, guys like me would testify that there are only two reasons we laugh at your jokes.

Either because you are pretty or we find your spirit and intellect too weak to handle sarcasm.

😛

Satyamev Jayate?- An Insight

It’s been a while since I wrote something new; I want to accuse my cruel Graduate studies for that. It sucked the life out of me and kept me running from pillar to post.  I had to dress up formally almost every day to college, suit up occasionally yada yada. I was very sincere with the whole thing you know? I would even iron my shirt and trousers, spray deodorant over my socks the previous night. Gosh! My mother would be proud of my preparedness.

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Anyway a new television phenomenon seems to have hit our Indian Telly. I have respected Aamir for his gutso, dedication and sincerity to art with a faint disregard for commercialization. Dhobi Ghat, Taare Zameen Par and Lagaan were testaments to his caliber. And it is refreshing to see him take on Indian television with the same attitude.

I believe gender bias is the reason for whole female feticide episode. It has many causal effects, reduced sex ratio as shown is just tip of the iceberg. As the gender gap widens, it creates logistical problem for men. It is like studying mechanical engineering in Anna University for the rest of your life, no girls for you.

I think the issue is by large a projection of our society, our values and our culture. I want to tie this issue to my generation which grew up in the late 80’s and early 90’s.I feel the change agents are my generation; hence I feel it is our moral responsibility in some way to uplift the image of our society.

I in some way was brought up in a gifted society. My parents were very educated, secular and the educational environment they provided was orthodox to say the least. My schooling was from a government school, nothing fancy. To share an example our extra-curricular activities would suck, they wouldn’t even let the boys dance with the girls in the group dance events. And mind you the dances won’t even be mildly provocative; the regular Daler Mahendi marries “My India the greatest” albums.

Let us look at some of the rules that our well educated, progressive yet orthodox society had set for us which could plague our social outlook towards women in the future.

Study well: For a majority of the guys like me who hailed from an  orthodox middle class family, we didn’t have the luxury to easily befriend girls and date them at a young age. Not that the 16 year old me would send the ladies toes curling. Girls were seen as distraction to boys and parents infuse a sense of guilt if a boy is spending time loitering with girls, irrespective of the academic performance.  Our teachers would report us to our parents if they found we were fooling around with a girl. In summary we were promised that girls would come eventually to us if we were successful with our academics and career. Isn’t that incredibly sexist? I bet you didn’t think so when they summoned you.

As girls are seen as an end product of success, it becomes a mild mental block to think of them as individuals. To be disappointed with the newlywed wife is akin to saying I bought this toy and it doesn’t listen to me anymore. Most guys who seriously believe that studying well is the cardinal rule to marry a hottie think again.

Imagine this scenario(Arranged marriage): Sincere boy abiding by their parents rules studies well and is at the girls house to seek the girl. Guy fantasizing that though the address is Anna naga there might be a Megan fox in this house hold dressed up in madisaar. But when ”homely” looking girl shows up and churns out dialogues like “Got 97% in tenth standard, strong communication skills and ability to make coffee while discussing editorial in Hindu” How heartbroken the guy would be. It is the same feeling that suicide bombers face after they discover that the 72 virgins are actually World of Warcraft nerds with sweaty underarms and ample acnes.

No wonder they turn out to be assholes during the marital life. (I think I might have offended both feminists and terrorists in one go. Never thought I would do this. Again.)

Think about this, we are taught to respect girls as our sisters and mothers but never as equals. We mask a hidden sense of disparity and indifference under the cloak of respect.

The problem with Elders: The show depicted women being cruelly dealt by the inlaws, some of them so uncharitable to mention in the space of this blog.  Now those in laws used to be children once, what changed; what exactly went wrong? You would find sapient 50 year olds writing columns and columns of how we need to improve as a generation, but what can they say about their conduct?

We are taught to treat our elders with veneration and adulation. There is nothing wrong in that, but when respect is transposed as unquestionable faith in their decision making; it bothers me. I had a huge tiff with my parents growing up where my parents and uncles were teaching me “manners”. Often they would go about how “parents/elders know what is best for their children”. I think to use todays jargon, I trolled them big time. I was forced to attend Java and VB classes. So I asked them which language do you think would be more productive, Java or VB? The fact that I didn’t know jack shit about programming nor do I know now is not the issue here.

The “elders” stood flummoxed but I do remember hours and hours of drama after that question, because I had proved to them that elders do not know best. They know only what they have been through and even then it doesn’t grant them any authority in my decision making. There is this untold fixation with authority that plagues our elders. Now I am in no way giving tips on parenting for it would be as pointless as reading an erotica written by L.K Advani.

The social divide: In the first world countries the only place where I see a gender divide is in the public restrooms. But take a look at our country, from ticket counters to public transport to election booths. We have separate lines for men and women. Shouldn’t they be more comfortable around us as we should be around them? How long do we need moral policing and forced guidance in social etiquettes?

Societal Pressure: I am talking about dowry system. This used to be the prime culprit for female feticide as poor people couldn’t afford to pay dowry to get their daughters off married. And they thought them of as burden as they couldn’t work with them in farms. This pathetic condition still holds true in many of our villages. But are we as metropolitan cities any better?

And if you ask the parents or the girls why they agree to it they would say that in order to be a part of the society we need to do it. If your neighbor spends X amount of money on wedding, you should at least spend X+1 on it. This social imbecility has to stop sometime, but I reckon it won’t.

Educating and empowering women has shown to be a great solution to eradicating poverty and as a majority of our population still lives in villages we should embrace it. Aishwarya rai’s apparent expulsion from a movie prompts a twitteranche (avalanche + twitter) but would they hike the salary by the merest of margins if their maid got pregnant?

http://www.oceanofweb.com/bollywood/aishwarya-pregnancy-bhandarkar.html

I want the show to put us at unease and ask uncomfortable questions which we have been avoiding for a long time. Under the aegis of technology and industrial revolution lies many a skeleton which haven’t seen the light. I hope we work towards a society where we are treated on basis of our behavior rather than our gender.  Good luck Aamir and Team!

S.T.U.T.T.E.R

*Fiction

CIRCA 1991

6 pm:

I don’t like sitting down with my legs folded, my stomach interrupts the action and the other leg keeps slipping down. The fan is moving slower than usual and I can actually see the rings painted around the axis. Green, orange and blue, they were painted for my brother’s birthday.

6.45 pm:

The wind is breezy and all kids are playing outside. I hold the railings on the window stilt firm caressing the rust gently. I want to join them, but tomorrow is a big day. Mom would be here anytime soon, time to practice that speech. I kneel before the bed and pull my blue bag underneath it. It almost resists the action, echoing my unwillingness to read over the paper again and again. But I have to, my mom’s friends and others will be at the stage. I have to perform well.

7.30:

Mom is back, she is making tea in the kitchen. Dad is watching news as I swing like a Chinese Buddha trying to memorize the words. The speech is about how India is a country we all should be proud of. I don’t understand pride, I am happy that we have a rich culture. But isn’t pride a bad quality, fall comes before pride was it? Or maybe it is the other way around. Anyway I must resist asking people questions about the same. I remember our teacher saying; don’t be over smart by asking such questions. If smart is good, isn’t over smart something better? These adults confuse me.

10.15pm

I can’t sleep; I keep shuffling in the bed. I try to play hide and seek with the clock. Burying my forehead in the soft pillow I can only see the second hand. It is my favorite hand on the clock, always active. But people ignore it; I have heard there are digital clocks with numbers on them. But I won’t like it as I can’t see the second hand. Gosh, so many thoughts. I hope I don’t forget the speech it is going to be a big day.

6.00 am

Radio wakes me up with a morning prayer, which softly plays at its own pace. I hate loud alarms I want to wake up with a smile.  As my eye lids crawl apart from each other, I can see that the milkman has come and is pouring milk into the container which is kept outside. I am nervous now; I feel I might forget the speech. I get up and walk towards kitchen, lunch is almost ready. The cooker whistles as the steam cuts through the morning mist like sliver through fog. I like the word sliver, it sounds like silver but isn’t. I picked it up from an Enid Blyton’s book

6.45

I am poring over the papers now, hmmm. I don’t like some words, they are difficult to pronounce. Patriotism, ah what an awful word to write! It seems it means love of one’s country and now I understand its meaning.

8 am

The bus is almost close to the gate, I didn’t get the window seat today. Maharaj, got ahead of me and we were talking about going to the canals to see the new fishes after the rain. I want to go there now, speech can wait. People scare me. Uff, the bus has come to a stop and now everyone has to get out of the bus.

9.25

Everyone is wishing me good luck. The teachers are standing behind my mom, their eyes are widening as they spot me. I feel lost the place is too huge. One of the  PT sir comes near me and says that my number is 12 and I should wait behind number 11. I don’t know why he did not say all the best.

I am sweating, there are only three kids before me and I feel everyone is looking at us. I don’t like the videographer. The light is too bright and he is always moving. My turn now, I quote Rabindranath Tagore and I feel funny listening to my own voice. Wait now, what was the next line??

I pause and suddenly I see people waiting, checking their time, some are nodding at each other. Some are holding their chin. I see someone smiling to someone and slowly many are doing the same. However this time I feel bad when they are smiling, it seems mean. Eyes botch up and my eyelids are pregnant with tears.

There seems to be a shadow carpeting the hall and everything is slowly becoming dark. I don’t know how long I have been standing staring at the microphone. I look to my left as my teacher signals me to leave; I kind of follow her lead. Suddenly everyone is whispering to each other and then I realize that I had failed. Everyone around me looks worried and in fact, I couldn’t speak for a few minutes as I could feel a lump in my throat. It was like there was a steel ball stuck in my tongue and I could think of words but I couldn’t speak it. I just wanted to say Mom, but it came out as Ma-uh-uh-om.

2002

Eleven years and 9 failed interview calls, years of bullying and taunts throughout my graduation I still am haunted by that incident.  I developed a condition which arose from fear which affected my voice box.  I don’t know why I froze up on the stage and got scared of what others would think.

I am cured now thanks to an intensive speech therapy.

I didn’t even know them, they were such strangers. But why I did I value their two minutes of attention up so much that I let it affect me.  I look around and I see people shaping their lives around opinions of strangers. Always playing safe, wrapping a fancy name around their lifestyle and ambition-Practical.

My Stutter is my scar to remind myself not to be daunted or be scared of what others think of me, at least those who don’t matter. I have seen fathers ignoring their daughters if their boss is at the dinner table. I have seen kids leave away their maids who take care of them as soon as they reach school and don’t even say good bye as they don’t want to be embarrassed by the “Aai”(House maid) in crumpled sari’s so that their unknown friends may not make fun of them. Young graduates letting go their dreams to a career which sounds acceptable in a society. Can’t blame them much, won’t be able to rent an apartment or wouldn’t be an eligible bachelor/bachelorette if it isn’t a “stable” career.

I have been in relationships where it ended just because society *might* not deem it acceptable due to caste boundaries. Who are these societies anyway? How are our lives any of its business? Of course world and life aren’t fair by any measure. But must we seriously ignore our calling and drown them amongst the voices of the faceless?

Coming of Age

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That sure makes sense!

I haven’t befriended a lot of firangs (A fond referral to all men and women, fair (noun) the darker ones are referred to kale’s not to be confused with the Maharashtrian Surname) but of the few I have, they seem to have a deep interest in Indian cinema. So naturally when they challenged me to a celluloid duel, we crossed swords over whose cinema was more entertaining. For every terminator there was one Rajnikanth, for every Bruce Willis there was a Sunny Deol and for every F.R.I.E.N.D.S we had a Hum Paanch. The deal was that not only would we argue but we should back it up by proof->YouTube.

Of course he thought that our actors were parodying Hollywood when I showed him our stunt scenes. What took a team of pyro technicians to achieve, Rajnikanth would do it with a flicker of a match stick. But when it came to ahem depiction of titillation our Indian media was found wanting. When I showed him how haute hot our videos were he went LOL. He said, mate “Are they making out or having a cold curing vapor session”. I felt insulted, but looking back it sure feels funny.

I grew up in a very orthodox community and as my mom was a teacher, I was never in a group that used to “discover” new things. I had to do it all on my own. In the name of adult supervision, my parents and elders prohibition of me watching certain portions of movies/music videos and late night TV channel only made my interest in them more shall we say piquant.

We would be at lunch, enjoying a good movie. Soon there would be a scene where the lead actor and actress would find each other in a compromising position. Soon enough, my mom would summon me “Dhanu go get water”. I would silently curse and fetch water and by the time I came the scene would have triggered a song. I would ask her and my dad “Well what happened, why are they dancing now”? They would ignore me. So later I decided that I had to find it out for myself, so the next time I was summoned to “fetch water” I sneaked and saw what adults do when they are excited.

Apparently whenever adults get excited at least in the cinema, two white lilly flowers would pollinate ( I later found that they were forcefully pollinated or flower rape. How is it rape if both the parties are forced?). I thought to myself well that is fairly innocuous, why they wouldn’t let me see it? So later as I graduated into my teens, a new type of restriction was forced upon us. Yes MTV was frowned upon and strictly prohibited.

But they were so famous for their pool parties which would be shown afterhours and as I heard from my friends they would blow my mind away. So as I couldn’t watch these raunchy videos in the day, on the pretext of night study I would burn the midnight lamp. Set the TV in such a way that the constant flicker would not bring attention to the hall room and of course mute the channel and check it over and again by reducing the volume to zero.

I swear my hearing sense at that time was so awesome that I could have easily given any German shepherd a run for its money. I soon passed the phase of Waiting for tonight-I am going to Ibiza- to our own kaanta laga in a breeze.

Then came the IT age, where we smuggled and traded our floppy discs-CD’s-Pen drives-Hard disks in illuminati style. We employed several encryption/decryption schemes to give a covert presence to our files. I remember employing an ingenious scheme by putting my files in a folder named “Let us see” by Balaguruswamy. Of course to the naked eye it might escape the fact that the name of the book was “Let us C” so this folder had something funny about it. However now I understand why I was never good at coding. Suppressed exposure to sexuality is the reason why so many Indian guys are gifted at computers at a young age. We learnt compression beyond winrar, techniques to hide files, create invisible partitions and so many tricks. Our parents were the first suspects we learned to work against. No doubts about it.

The funny thing about this is that as guys we didn’t only protect this secret between us but also from “respectable” girls in the group. As nerds we thought if the girls came to know that we too were exposed to the ways of the west, we would be looked down upon. It took us ages to understand that “Arey girls are also like us only”.

Time has flown and clocks have turned, now as adults when we come across nudity in the cinema or the movies, we no longer giggle, point or see around to see others reaction (I still do that, for the child in me is still alive). We instead look down upon teens who whistle and hoot and whisper to our significant others

“What Vulgar cinema and cheap teens, we were also their age once. But we never did this!”

Deep inside we secretly miss our days of yore, for surely we have come of age.