The one too many half wits we meet in life

  • The one who is a hungry fly

That time when you are in the kitchen and cooking something for yourself or spending some quality time with your food, this person will hover around you, eyeing your food with greed laden eyes.  They will incessantly comment that your food looks delish or gourmet even though it’s just instant noodles or a tomato cucumber sandwich.  Feeding them once in a while is okay but constantly having them in the vicinity with eyes fixated on your food does not count as a pleasant experience.

 

giphy13


  • The one who is always whining

Have you met this person who is constantly agonizing over everything and everyone? For example, they may hate their job, they may hate the process of looking for a job, they may hate the ‘good’ offers that they are getting and then they hate that they were rejected for those offers. I am not against hate, hate all you want. But what sets me off is how vocal they have to be about their hatred and how little do they do to improve their lives. These people are never satisfied with anything that they get and they pounce on first opportunity to complain.

giphy6


  • The one who is always arguing

These are another set of vocal ones. No matter when you look at them, they are constantly arguing. Be it for their desk that hasn’t been set up or on someone not complying to their standards of punctuality or for a certain compliance that they have to oblige to. The moment you say something to them, they will pick a loud argument in an attempt to assert their point and establish their superiority.

giphy7


  • The one who is not so subtly sexist

We all know this one person who constantly pitches the idea of marriage and mentally clocks the birth of our children. They come up with remarks like 24 is the best age for women to get married because any later than that makes them undesirable in the eyes of a man. When you ask them about their marriage plans they deny stating that they have better plans for life rather than ruining it by getting married. They talk about girlfriends generically and question how do men put up with their girlfriends. They tell you that you cannot single -handedly look for a house or assemble furniture or get a deed executed or walk a km to take a bus or talk about a sport or discuss stock markets because you are a woman. And if you do any of these or the myriad of other things that they deem women incapable of doing they wind up the conversation saying that you are different, that you are not like other women. When you try to point out their sexism, they tell you that they cannot be sexist because they have a sister. Wow.

giphy8


  • The one with the flawed reasoning skills

Let’s imagine you have cooked potatoes but on tasting them you realize that they are slightly raw. This person will suggest that the potatoes- the ones that you bought fresh the same day- remained uncooked because they were rotten. When you explain the concept of acid rain to them, they throw you a puzzled look and render the theory of gases infusing with rain water a myth. They believe that the refrigerator will stop functioning if you keep a warm dish inside and that the microwave will blow apart if something is overcooked accidentally. I don’t know how, but they have the ability to jump to the least logical conclusion in every situation.

giphy4


  • The one who is smugly uninformed

I remember a friend asking another friend (who is based out of Karantaka) what language did she watch Baahubali in. She replied Hindi, to which he further questioned that why did she not watch in South Indian. She replied that it released in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi and since she does not understand the former two, she watched it in Hindi. He then looked surprised that why did it not release in South Indian. You see how ignorant that sounds.

giphy12

I have known someone who believed that Kolkata is a state and that Darjeeling is in Kolkata. I have known someone who did not know who our first President was. I have known someone who thought that BJP and Congress are the only two political parties in India. I have known someone who did not know that when you carry a number from the denominator on the left hand side of the equation, it goes to the numerator on the right hand side and they were in college. I have known a person who did not know what evaporation is and said that it is not a part of their syllabus, so they are not required to know the same. I think a lot of credit goes to Karan Johar and Kareena Kapoor movies for popularizing the idea that being dumb is cool, but really it is not.

giphy3


  • The one who is a senior with zero regard for young

Have you been in a situation where you were required to meet someone at a senior position and they kept you waiting? You fix an appointment, personally confirm the same with them and then when you take a good 50 km detour to meet them, they are busy. It is not about them being occupied that sets me off but it is about that blatant lack of concern for your time, that unapologetic demeanor and that absence of basic courtesy to at least send a small message to reschedule.

I remember applying for an internship where the recruiter failed to call me for the scheduled interview six times. Almost on half the occasions, he reached me after days for rescheduling. After the 6th time, I politely declined that I cannot go through the never ending series of rescheduling, he expected me to understand that he was a busy man. While I understood the same what he failed to see was that even I had commitments that I was setting aside to make time for his offer.

giphy9


  • The one who is obsessively defensive

Picture this: X is a young man with a very naughty son. The kind of son who drives him crazy on days by making screeching noises, by ripping apart soft toys, by crying incessantly in social settings, etc. On some days, X cannot help but wonder how peaceful his life would have been without the prodigal son.  But the moment an outsider suggests that X’s son is stubborn and may be causing them a lot of trouble, X will hold their guard and completely oppose such a claim. At that point, X’s son will be a kind soul who has given them nothing but contentment.

This is simply one example of how defensive can X be. They use this trick every time someone voices an opinion contrary to theirs.

giphy10


 

  • The one who markets your opinions as their own

Imagine you told a friend that you want to go to Wayanad for a vacation. The scenic beauty coupled with a lost world appeal would make for a fulfilling visit. The next day your friend repeats the same sentences word by word to another person branding it as their own desire. It does not stop there. Your opinion on a stand up comedian, your taste in music, your taste in sports, your impression of your colleagues, your startup idea, your evaluation of a business model, no matter what you share with them, the next moment on, they make it their own. Things get strange, when they pitch your ideas to you calling them ‘original’. Just like the gift reshuffling on Diwali in an Indian house, they come knocking your door presenting a gift that you had given earlier.

giphy2


  •  The one with the noble intentions

Your friend gets rejected in a number of interviews. One night, in a non drunk conversation, they tell you that their parents believe the reason for their failure in securing a job is the people they socialize with including you. They further state that they agree with their parents. Over another conversation they call you cheap. They constantly put you in social settings with people you despise. They call you smug because you believe in helping yourself. They tell you that your analytical skills cause them stress. They tell you that they had requested their friends to compliment on your appearance even if they believed otherwise. They even tell you about that conversation with a friend where they concluded that you are stupid for not liking a movie. Basically, they say everything that could be deemed unfit for a pleasant conversation.

The moment you show that you are hurt, they say that your hostility is hurting them and they have always held bona fide intentions for you. All you can do is silently wonder that how can someone with such benevolent intentions utter such unkind words.

giphy


Honorable mention: All the Ola/Uber drivers

  • who accept your request, ask you for directions, reach your pick up point and then deny going to your destination.
  • who accept the request but don’t even start moving in your direction until you call and ask them to do the same.
  • who accept and cancel the ride because they don’t want to cross the Marathahalli bridge or the Kundanahalli signal or the Sony signal or the Silk board or anything that comes in your way.
  • who claim that they are at the pickup location even when they are in an entirely different block. When you tell them to come to the actual location, they demand you to locate them.

giphy1


This was a small list of all the people who add that dash of thrill and excitement in my day. No matter where I am in life, I always manage to find people who forfeit my faith in humanity and add to the list of interesting anecdotes. Just when I think that I cannot run into someone more stupid, my life throws another funny surprise at me.

Here’s a small toast to the never ending loop of half wits that I get to meet in my life.

giphy11

What about you? Have you had the good fortune to meet the people I have mentioned in this post or do you have even better stories to share? Let me know in the comments 😀

Advertisements

Take me to the hills or not

I don’t know how many of you remember those yellow boxes in our NCERT books. Yellow boxes perched in corner of the pages of our social science text books. Yellow boxes that housed interesting trivia revolving around the subject body of a chapter. Yellow boxes that every teacher emphasized on reading because they made a good opportunity for High Order Thinking Skills question.
I enjoyed reading them because often they were real life insights on topics like colonization, universal suffrage movement and industrialization; sometimes in symphony with the text and sometimes in conflict. Like there was a woman’s speech about right to vote highlighting that when we talk about suffrage it is only for half the human population that is men. There was a letter from a Marathi woman to Mahatama Gandhi explaining that she wants to endorse the Swadesi movement but culture calls for her to wear a sari that measures 9 yards and she does not have the resources to afford 9 yards of Khadi. There was a story in chapter on industrialization of Mumbai and London where the gods come to visit Mumbai and Lord Vishnu ends up being dwindled by a shoe seller. In the same chapter, a yellow box talked about the planned beautification of Paris. It included a remark from a poet that the city looks like ‘a tree, a bench, a kiosk, a tree, a bench, a kiosk and so on’. This line has stayed with me through the years.

I have been in Bangalore for 7 months now. My typical Wednesday looks like googling for a weekend getaway, the modes of reaching that place, the options on the accommodation, the popular haunts, activities in that area and at least one blog documenting the comprehensive travel experience. The catch here is that I don’t go to any of these places. Sometimes I am lazy, sometimes I am confused, sometimes I am scared, sometimes I have another plan and mostly I am not able to understand what I am looking for in terms of travel. But the first weekend of June was an exception because I went to Coorg.
Out of all the weekend getaways from Bangalore, Coorg is the most accessible in terms of the number of night buses that ply to and fro from Coorg and the distance. I was torn between Ooty and Coorg. However, that week I had two people tell me that Coorg is extremely beautiful and I read an article which called Coorg the Scotland of India. So I decided that I will go to Coorg. Amidst the boarding point shifting to 20 kms away, cancellation of my homestay booking, contracting a very inconvenient common cold and a couple of panic attacks later, I reached Coorg at 4:30 am.

IMG_20170603_073421
With no bed in the foreseeable future, a head riddled with Cetrizine and surrounded by a ubiquitous smell of cinnamon, I settled down on a bench and started making an itinerary in my head. I decided to walk towards Raja’s seat to catch the sunrise which was still an hour away. From where I was standing, the road turned into three different ways ahead. I followed the one that seemed closest to the directions on Google Maps. I continued on the circular path, reaching a point that offered a peripheral view of Madikeri. Behind me was the Madikeri fort and whether or not this was Raja’s seat remained open to debate because the navigation stopped working.
From the make believe Raja’s seat I walked in one of the other two directions. I walked and saw hills and houses, I walked and saw trees and arched ways, I walked and saw temples and churches, I walked and saw ‘Scotland of India’ before me. I looked at the view and remembered the hills I have been to and the landscapes that we find in our drawing books. I walked up to a modest looking eatery cum grocery store and helped myself to filter coffee. It was a small shop housed next to Ganesh Coffee House near the bus stand. It was a good cup of coffee, neither too strong nor too sweet, just the right proportion of everything. The vanilla sponge cake, which I tried later in the day, made for a good accompaniment to the coffee. I paid for the coffee and headed to the Omkareshwara temple.
The Omkareshwara Temple is situated in the centre of a water tank. It was built by a king who could not sleep peacefully after having killed a Brahmin. He was advised by his religious counsel to build a Shiva temple. So the king built the Omkareshwara temple. Barring a woman who was there for her morning walk I could not find anybody else. I wandered there for a little while, offered a small prayer and then found myself a deserted spot uphill that overlooked the hills and the temple.

IMG_20170603_071508
I stood there and thought about a number of things. I thought about that line on renovation of Paris. That line holds good for the Coorg that you see in pictures. We may not rework the places that we visit but we do recondition them in our pictures. In our pictures, we take the good bits of a place, the good trees, the good hills, the good roads and the good houses. But from where I stood, the air had a waft of cinnamon and a faint hint of dampness, the paints on the houses peeled because of the rain, the roads were muddy and there were open sewer lines. All of which evidence the existence of a community there, all of which form part of the narrative of Coorg. Then why do we use our fancy filters and tweak our pictures? Then why do we omit the less picturesque facets from our travel chronicles? Then why are we so obsessed with our travel destinations conforming to a certain standard of scenic beauty?

Standing there what I understood was that you never see what a place is in entirety until you visit it. No website, no travelogue can promise you the perfect landscape and the perfect vacation. It’s mostly individual. It’s mostly trial and error. That’s why I would like to travel again, for that little thrill of discovery, for that chance of stumbling upon what remains unspoken.


So that was my travel epiphany. What about you? What have you learnt from travelling so far?

Why 13 Reasons Why

4874101347_2eb46f3660_o

When I was 8, there was a girl in my class who all of us mocked because she was fat. Nobody liked her much, so we never had any qualms in making a joke or two on her being plump. One day, during recess, she told me that if she was fat then, so could be any of us in the future. Then we might realize how it feels to be mocked on a daily basis. However, that did not stop me or anybody else. Nobody knew who started calling her ‘Moti‘ in the first place, but we all continued because at that time, it seemed normal.


When I was 13, I went to Jaipur on a school trip. One night, after calling home, I was walking to my room from the lobby when a group of 5-6 girls appeared before me as if they were going to perform a flash mob. They began teasing me by making weird faces and calling me names. A few minutes later, they walked away. For that night and for the next few days, I kept on wondering who these girls were and why did they pick on me. I was scared of crossing paths with them because I did not want them to make fun of me again. I recognized their faces but I did not know them personally, I had never argued with them or talked to them. I could not understand their intentions. However, I never spoke about that incident.


That same year, I was after a pair of pink jeans. It was 2006 and I used to spend copious amounts of time watching Disney shows and playing games on the Disney website. I think I saw those jeans in Lizzie Mcguire and then I wanted them. I wore my pink jeans and a pink and white sweater to a friend’s birthday party. I did not know most people there. We were all seated in a round table fashion and while I was eating I saw two girls from the far end of the table sniggering at me. I ignored them. The next day at school, a friend told me that some people at the party found my attire queer; they devoted some time discussing how strange I looked and how strange I behaved. I never wore my pink jeans after that year.


I had access to a broadband connection and a printer at home. I remember that on our way back to our autos after school got over, we would sing songs sometimes. Among our favorites were ‘Kya Mujhe Pyar Hai’, ‘Dhoom Again’ and ‘Whenever Wherever’. I could never understand lyrics of English songs and I still can’t. I remember telling a friend that I simply Google the lyrics and sing along. She asked me, if I could get a print out of the lyrics for her. Then another friend asked for the same and then another 4-5 of them. Odd as it may sound, I recall a friend’s friend telling me that people in school believe that I am trying to win friends by handing out song lyrics. I felt sad, I felt like no matter what I did, it would always seem odd to someone.


It was in 9th, when I read Word Power that I realized what the problem was. I learned the word ‘Introvert’. I was an introvert. I was a person who was concerned with her own thoughts. I faced difficulty in communicating with people. I still can’t make sense of my first day conversations. Sadly, I assumed that when you do not talk to people, they do not know you and hence they do not concern themselves with you. However, the contrary was true in my case. Most people in my school believed the reason that I keep to myself is that I am arrogant about my grades or how they liked to put it ‘I was proudy’ (sic).


I remember waiting for a friend after a computer practical. She had come late and was perhaps one of the last few to take that exam. As we were heading back home, she said that she overheard a teacher telling another that my face reeks of arrogance, no wonder not many people like me.


In class 10, I was talking to the girls sitting in front of me. Then suddenly, one of them apologized to me for what happened on the Jaipur trip. I was taken aback. She explained that her friends were told by their friends that I was vain, that the reason I did not speak to a lot of people was that I was arrogant about my grades. So they took it upon themselves to teach me a lesson and poke fun at me. However, now that she has talked to me, she does not find me arrogant. I laughed it off and said that it did not matter. But at that point in time, it did. I found it hard to digest how easily people misjudge others purely on the basis of hearsay.

She was not the only individual to have come to that realization and confess that to me. In fact, a lot of people between classes 8-12th walked up to me to tell me that they have spoken unkind words about me on the basis of how others portrayed me. I always smiled at them and told them it was okay. I never knew what I should tell them. Should I tell them that their words had hurt me, should I tell them that their words had made me feel isolated, should I tell them that their words had forced me to render my personality unacceptable, should I tell them that I devoted almost 4 years on being pleasant to people who I knew where the chief conspirators of the rumor mill, should I tell them that I still cannot say ‘No’ to people, fearing that they will consider me to be arrogant, should I tell them that I still seek reassurances from good friends that I am not mean.


Why am I talking about all of this today? Because I want to talk about the show ‘13 Reasons Why’. For the uninitiated, it is a show that revolves around a teenager who commits suicide and leaves behind a box of cassette tapes recording the reasons behind committing suicide. The tapes contain narrations of incidents when she was bullied at her high school. Every day, I find an article in my Google Now condemning the show for its portrayal of violence and handling of teenage depression. Every time I read these articles, I feel that while some of the choices that the protagonist makes during the show are questionable but the show cannot be completely written off.

Throughout the run of the first season, you can find the characters saying that whatever Hannah faced at school was normal; whatever happened with her was nothing new or extra ordinary that she decided to kill herself. Thus it hit me that it is normal for people to be insensitive to other people in school. We have all been around a group of individuals in school who believed that they were entitled to pass unwarranted comments on others, to mete out ill treatment because of an assumed high ground. We have all spoken unpleasant things about people behind their back. Knowingly or unknowingly we have hurt people and to us, our words and actions seem inconsequential but to those they are directed at, our words and actions could be damaging. We must have made people cry on one or more occasions and we did not even bat an eyelid because thoughtlessness is deemed normal.

My parents always listened to the good bits from school not because they were unapproachable but because I always felt that they had their share of troubles to tend to. My problems seemed tiny in light of theirs. I am more open with my parents now while it was more essential to be vocal back then because I constantly yearned for assurance that my introversion is not an anomaly; that I do not have to reform myself to be more acceptable.

There is a tape where Hannah says, “You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own.” And it’s true because at a young age, it’s difficult to understand if there is a need to share our problems with others and if yes, then who should we approach.

I am not saying that ‘13 Reasons Why’ is an exact reproduction of our high school lives. But, it does depict correctly the callousness of high school children in their words and behavior. Callousness, that never opens for discussion in front of our adults. One of Hannah’s classmates mother constantly confronts her son with one question, “Have you been bullied Clay?” and he counters her asking, “What if I am the bully mom?” His question challenges an assumption that every parent holds dear to their heart. His question sums up why instead of dismissing the show entirely, it deserves to be watched and talked by parents and teachers alike. Because children howsoever unfettered they seem on surface, might be surrounded with a number of anxieties. Because children, howsoever innocent and beautiful they seem on surface, might have wicked tendencies. What ‘13 Reasons Why’ shows is that we are all capable of evil and we never fully comprehend the effect our evil bears on others lives. Because we are equally likely to be perpetrators and receivers, just like I have been both, a perpetrator at 8 and a receiver when I was 13.


The image has been sourced from Flickr.

 

 

 

 

Night of the untold

In case you have been reading the story I started writing last year, here is the next installment.


Pranav looks at her, smiling subtly he says, “I quit my job to come to Kashmir with you. So maybe I am still yours.”

Namrata looked at him with disbelief and prompted, “Pranav?”

He met her eyes and affirmed, “I quit my job to take this trip.”

“You can’t be serious.”, she responded.

“Why not?”, he asked her.

“You cannot quit your job that simply.”, she proclaimed.

“From my experience Nam, keeping a job is a much more tedious task than getting rid of it.”, he quirked.

“Am I supposed to find this funny?”, she asked annoyed at how we wasn’t giving her any details.

“What you should or should not find funny is solely at your discretion.”, he answered testing her patience further.

Namrata could not take another circumvented response; she held his hand and reminded, “Pranav remember you wanted us to talk a while ago. I want you to cooperate. Tell me why you quit.”

“I quit because I wanted to come here.”, he replied.

“You could have applied for a leave.”, she suggested.

Pranav chuckled at her response and spoke, “You can really underestimate my brains Nam. Of course I could have asked for a few days off; that was the first thing that occurred to me. But here’s the thing, my calendar was blocked that week and it wouldn’t have been long till it was blocked for the next two weeks also. I was sick of sugarcoating my words with Nitin to get things done. I wasn’t sure of how I should approach the situation. But I was sure that I did not want you to travel to Kashmir alone. I sat for an hour considering the means and the words to open my schedule. And I realized that I did not care much about retaining my job any longer. So I wrote down a formal resignation and handed it to Nitin.”

“And Nitin accepted it?”, she asked him.

“No, it came as a huge shock to him.”, he told her.

“I don’t blame the man; I still cannot believe my ears.”, she exclaimed.

“I remained vehement that I cannot continue working any longer. I will serve the notice period and be out of here peacefully. He tried rooting out the motivation behind the abrupt decision. After quite a lot of persuasion and negotiations we agreed that I can take a break for the 10 days following the weekend, after which I begin my 6 week notice period.”, he informed her.

“After the break, your decision to leave is subject to revocation, right?”, she confirmed.

“Yeah, he believes that I may be able to clear whatever is it that is troubling me. But, if I decide to maintain my decision even then, he will not coerce me further and make it official.”, he asserted.

“So you haven’t quit in the literal sense of the word as yet. This can all be a charade in the end to avail a ten day vacation.”, she argued.

“It could be, however I have made the choice Namrata, I am quitting my job. You may believe it or not, it was your impulsive decision to take this trip that has led me here.”, he maintained.

“Pranav, what are you going to do?”, she quizzed.

“I have to think about that.”, he responded.

“Will you take another job?”, she questioned him.

” I hope not.”, he said.

“It’s difficult to digest that you haven’t thought out the biggest decision of your life. Where are the plans, the trajectories, the risk analysis, and the charts plotting the returns? The man I married was the man with the blueprint.”, she asked him bewildered.

He smiled at her and said, “I have none this time Namrata. Remember that episode from FRIENDS, where Rachel keeps on complaining about working as a waitress and Chandler suggests that unless she quits her waitress job she will never be able to muster the drive to pursue a career in fashion. I thought of that episode and as erratic as the advice seemed prima facie, it works for Rachel. I acted on that advice.”

“Pranav, FRIENDS was a show, written by people like you and me. They found the premise of a character following her passion promising. So they made it work, deliberately.”, she reasoned with him.

“I understand the deliberation there Namrata. But, if you think about it, it does make sense. In order to do what you yearn for, you cannot continue to be complacent. I cannot even recall why I started working in the first place but I know why I kept working. Because I got accustomed to a certain lifestyle, a certain sense of comfort that I was to scared to lose. But now I want to do something that satisfies me, something that I believe in. And I cannot do that with luxuries and the restraints of my job.”, he explained to her.

“What do you believe in Pranav?”, she asked him.

“This trip, to begin with.”, he replied.

“You mean us.”, she confirmed.

“I mean you and your decision to come. I believed in it.”, he replied.

“What if this doesn’t work out like last time?”, she cross questioned.

“I did not try last time Namrata.”, he responded.

“And you’re confident that you will try this time?”, she inquired.

“I have no other options.”, he told her

Nmarata looked at the sky, she shut her eyes and after a brief consideration, she spoke, “Now that I see us making some progress, I have something to tell you.”

“Let me guess, that your Sherlock brain had long ago deduced that something’s wrong at work because I have not been getting any calls or mails.”, he said in an attempt to out wit her.

“Yes, of course I knew something’s fishy; also I have been seeing a shrink.”, she answered in a self assured tone.

Pranav could not understand if he heard the last bit correctly, so he asked, “What?”

“I have been going to a therapist for almost a year now.”, she replied.

“Wow, do we even know each other anymore.”, Pranav exclaimed.

“Going by this conversation, I think not.”, she chirped in.

56d1742bb444c271bfb74519de6f48a1


This is the 14th chapter of the story I had begun to write as a part of AtoZ. To make more sense of it, hop onto the page Anniversary and Kashmir.

Presently from inside my head VII

  • I was once facing trouble solving a problem in an accounting lecture because I had missed an earlier lecture. A friend then argued with me that sometimes it doesn’t hurt to ask for help. To which I told her that somehow I prefer figuring things on my own and not depending on others. She did not understand my point and felt that I was being a snob pretending to know everything. However, we don’t even talk now, which substantiates my belief- try not to depend on others. Because the fact is that people leave. They leave for better people, better environment or better opportunities. When you begin to depend on people and then those people decide to leave, it is troublesome to go through the process of un-depending on them. Not that I blame them for leaving, because sometimes had I been in a similar position, maybe I would’ve left too. Or maybe, I wouldn’t leave which makes the process of people leaving all the more unsettling.
  • I have always failed to understand what comfort do people find in raising their voices. If raising your voice could render your mistakes correct, could prove a person guilty of a wrongful act or could give you a moral high ground, then trust me all of us would have simply raised our voices to solve all our problems. The reason that I will not lift my volume against you is not because I don’t have a valid argument against you but because I understand the difference between a loud argument and a meaningful argument.
  • The most exhausting task in the world is to sit idle. Imagine you are made to sit in a place for a fixed number of hours. There is nothing that you can do but sit and stare ahead. Also, you have to keep doing this for a period of 3 years. That perhaps is the most daunting task in the world.
  • Why don’t they make shows like Gilmore Girls anymore? Why do all our shows have to be about power play and vengeance? People are being killed, people are being overthrown, people are being tortured, people are being exploited for personal benefits and people are being subjected to substance abuse. That pretty much sums our shows these days. Gilmore Girls is simple- it is centered on families, friendships and young love and a lot of coffee. It is warm and identifiable. Unlike today’s young shows, it is not juvenile at all. In spite of it being so straightforward, you are so invested in the characters that sometimes it is difficult to pick a side. Should it be Max or Luke? Should Rory go to Harvard or Yale? Should Lorelai be so unpleasant with her parents? The underlying point being that sometimes ordinary lives make for appealing plots.
  • Never be polite with an inconsiderate person. Because, it gives them the assurance that no matter how discourteous and self centered they be, their acts of unkindness will never rebound to them. If you want to be good, there are a lot of people in this world who could benefit from an act of kindness.
  • Have you ever been in a situation where you are surrounded with people who are acting stupid? These people are nice to you otherwise but their stupidity is hurting you. And then you find yourself in a conflict on whether you should resent their stupidity or ignore it because at the end of the day they are good to you.
  • I have almost a hundred ideas in my head that I want to write about. But, I will never be able to make time for any of those. Sometimes, I think that I should cut them short and include them in a random post like this one but at the same time I think that will such an inclusion do any justice to those ideas. Ultimately, I end up not writing about those ideas at all and they lay in that silent corner of my brain, consistently reminding of my negligence.

 

 

 

Deep Waters

When I was 17, I read a chapter in my English textbook called Deep Waters. It was an account of a man’s intense phobia of swimming. As a child, he had attempted to learn swimming. However due to some unfortunate circumstances he lands on the deep end of the pool struggling for life. ‘Deep waters’ is an account of that man’s fresh attempt in the pool as an adult, his constant labor to emerge triumphant against his deepest fear. I could never relate to that chapter. There were other chapters as well that I could not relate to. Like the one on resuscitating a still born or about two Armenian boys and their fascination for horse riding or that poem by Kamala Das called ‘My mother at 66’. I could never associate with these stories.

Within the past six years, I have come to one understanding that you have to be at a certain age or maturity to appreciate some stories. You have to witness that certain trajectory of experiences or that nuance in your emotions, to feel what the writer feels. Now, I understand some stories better but even now Deep Waters seems an alien territory to me because waters have never troubled me.

deepwater

I was 11 when I learned swimming. My mother and I, both of us had zero faith in the prospect that I will shine at any activity that requires me to make use of my physical faculties. Yet, we both believed we’d give it a try. By the end of that week, I could swim freestyle. My mother was so surprised that she came to the pool next day to confirm with coach if I have managed to overturn history. The coach confirmed that I indeed have. I swam for that summer and for the next summer. And like that I learnt my first sport and my last so far.

My hometown houses the National Institute of Physical Education. For my 15th summer, I went there for swimming. That marked my transition from looking at swimming as a recreational means to a formal sport.  Our session began with a ten minute warm up session, after which we were taken to the pool. Depending on one’s skill level, we were divided into three groups- beginner, intermediate and advanced- found swimming at different depths of the pool. I wanted to relearn swimming so I joined the beginners, pretending not to know how to swim at all. Swimming here was strict business; there was absolutely no room for sauntering in the pool or making small talk. So for 45 minutes everyone just swam. Given this level of dedicated concentration at the sport, my act did not last for more than a week. The instructor believed that I was picking up the sport much faster than the rest and within another week I found myself at the intermediate side of the pool.

I was in class 10th that year- the year that every Indian student first appears for the board exam, read, the first level of academic validation for every Indian student. I was an academically inclined individual then, who believed that marks could make or break your life. During those summers, I had an early morning science class followed by a mathematics class- that surfaced in my life courtesy lousy Physics and Maths teacher at school.  Every day I would sleep after attending the class and then leave for the swimming class in afternoon when the summer sun would peak at its extreme best. On some days, I would be exhausted and in spite of being inside the pool I would not commit to swimming because at the point it would never seem significant to me. The instructor started teaching me the backstroke and as far my memory helps me it came fluidly to me. I showed no signs of effort on balancing my body over the surface. And like that, I stepped up a level at the only sport I have known.

Eventually, ten minutes before closing the session, another instructor would gather us to dive into the pool from a height of 5 feet. On my first time, he told me that he wanted me to stick my arms close to my body and jump straight into the pool. But I did not jump. He coaxed me, but I did not yield. Ultimately, he warned me that he will have to push me and to that I smiled and said that I wouldn’t mind. So he pushed me and I landed in the pool. This became a routine. Every day he would coax me, every day I would not yield and every day he would have to push me. One day, he tried explaining to me that my rigidity is finally hurting me. Because every time that he pushes me, my body cuts across water in a non streamlined position resulting in an agonizing soreness on my limbs. He presumed that I was scared but he did not know of what. It was never the water or the height that I feared, but I feared having to take initiative, I feared that I did not know how to jump, I feared that I would do it all wrong and that is the fear that I have carried all along.

The institute arranges a closing ceremony where the parents are invited to see their children swim and in the end the students are given a certificate. I missed the last two days and the ceremony because I had an extra class. Being the academically inclined student that I was, I placed marks above swimming and skipped those two days where the instructor was going to help me focus on my breathing pattern- my Achilles heel at swimming. You may ask me why? Because I had an extra class on the chapter on electric current those three days. At that point in life, it was more important for me to understand what resistance and potential difference meant. To me, that was going to be of more aid in future than swimming could ever be to me.

This Sunday I swam after 9 years and all I remember is how to kick my legs in the water. I cannot use both my arms and my legs together. If I try to move my head to breathe, I end up completely disoriented with my limb movement. I cannot balance my body on the surface while attempting the backstroke. And the funny thing is that I don’t even remember what I learned in those extra classes except for that the unit of resistance is ohm and there are two types of circuits- parallel and series. And that is how I unlearned the only sport I knew.

For all my life, I placed my education over everything that life had to offer me. I cried in the classical dance class, I forgot how to do paper mache crafts, I rushed through my strokes while coloring, I skipped the physical education periods conveniently, I prioritized text books over all the half read novels and I lived under the illusion that I will be able to build a life on the basis of my education. With every passing day, that illusion is falling apart and forfeiting a piece of my mental peace in its wake. Every difficulty in my life currently stems from the education I chose for myself some six years ago. I am standing at the final juncture of my education and while I merrily make jokes on how by the end of this I will be rid of this gigantic albatross on my shoulder but inside I am not even half convinced that I want to continue this for another year. The problem is that my choice of alternatives are scant and even if they aren’t as scant as I have deemed them to be, the bigger problem is what it was back then, I still fear taking an initiative. I often think, that I could have done better at my life, had I been more agile with my choices and actions.

While I may not find deep waters troublesome, I have found my very own deep waters in breaking the status quo. And while the author managed to turn the tables on his fear, I don’t believe if have the ability and the luck to do that.

I will not be going to the fair this year

I don’t remember how young I was, maybe 9, maybe 10. But I distinctly remember my brother’s excitement as he pulled me to the fair’s newest ride. It was called the ‘Dragon Coaster’ – a miniature Roller Coaster. Unlike the Roller Coaster, this ride did not turn upside down rather it took side-way turns which made for 3 complete rounds. To my younger self, that seemed such a great high. I was thrilled and that thrill was matched in my brother’s eyes as he rushed me for a second time on the ride.

giant_wheel_by_gwendly-d5470w7

This is the story of my last ride at the fair. I have been going to the fair every year but not once have I taken another ride, not once has my brother accompanied me and not once have I acknowledged to anybody that I go to the fair. You may wonder why is that? Because I grew up and the fair did not fit the bill of being cool. There were cooler options like the amusement park or the mall. Then, why would someone want to go the fair? The shops no longer excite, the bubble blowers no longer excite, the food no longer excites and the dolls that dance on threads also no longer excite. So, no one ever talked about going to the fair. But anyway, I have been going every year because my parents enjoy the fair and their company still excites me.

What fair am I talking about? The trade fair that runs in my hometown during January-February every year. We are not a traditional family per se but we do uphold ‘our’ traditions seriously- like the mandatory after pooja drive on Diwali, Friday night movie and our Saturday visit to the fair.

The Trade Fair has something to offer to every person. Divided into sixteen segments called the chhatris -canopies- there are local electronic, furniture, automobiles retailers running great discounts on their products, there is a Shilp Bazar (Craft Fair) that features dainty artifacts, hand woven carperts and rugs, varieties of silks and pashmina, there is the infamous ‘Bombay Kitchen Gallery’ and other not so famous kitchen galleries displaying fancy tools for the kitchen, there are the pastel shaded kurtas with Chikan embroidery from Lucknow, the Kashmiri embroidered long phirans and ponchos, pashmina shawls and stoles from Jammu, every possible manifestation of street food and very cheap rides that fancy amusement parks boast of.

My father who is a ‘I don’t walk I drive’ person will enthusiastically walk for a good 2-3 hours as we move across the chhatries, picking groundnuts and popcorn on his way. We walk into electronic stores to see a certain appliance let’s say an induction plate but end up being hooked on a coffee machine that produces a brilliant froth during demonstration. Throughout that evening we toy with the conflict of need vs greed on the coffee machine. Every year we hunt for our favorite bhel puri vendor, every year we make a mental note of the chhatri he sits in and every year we end up forgetting it. We check into blanket stores to quiz the vendors on the prices and then my mother very smugly informs them that she is from Punjab where she gets a better quality at 3/4 the price.

We know of a Pashmina vendor who comes from Jammu to set up a stall here. The mark of a true Pashmina is that no matter how long it is, it can pass through a tiny ring. We visit this stall every year and every year the old man passes a shawl through a ring, expecting for us to be fascinated like it is the very first time. This act is then followed by him showing us his treasure- a silver embroidered Pashmina shawl which he has to dishearteningly keep aside once we tell him that we are eyeing something less luxurious. Sometimes, I think that he is constantly on a hunt for a match for the treasure- that being a self actualization milestone for him. So, it is customary for him to show that shawl to every one who comes with the hope of finding the one who can truly appreciate it.

My mother ardently looks forward to the Crafts Fair. A part of the clothes section operates on the Flea Market principles, the deeper you go, the more likely you are to find finer printed fabrics at throwaway prices. Our eyes are constantly on alert for interesting pottery crafts that can make their way into our living rooms. There is a swing that I see every year, the more I see it, the more I yearn to own it- if only we had a bigger balcony. For the last three years maybe, I see these low coffee tables and chairs-that are all the rage currently-that I place in my imaginary garden for imaginary high tea coffee. When I am done doing that, we peruse through the many warm stoles and silk pieces to zero in on the subtle colors and patterns.

Another mandatory visit is a stall that my mother stumbled upon an accident, a happy accident because they sell Pinterest worthy bedding, rugs, mats, mittens, comforters and covers again at very reasonable prices. You think of a home furnishing item, they have it, provided you are willing to spend some time looking because like everything good in life, their intricately embroidered pieces demand effort. If my hometown had a Little Black Book website, they would necessarily feature this stall as the Commercial Street of home furnishings, and of course the Crafts Bazar for offering some dainty artifacts.

I have been going to the fair every year. Like anything that you have been doing on a constant basis, the fair has made for many memories across the years. The reason that my nostalgia has surfaced today is because my parents went to the fair today but I did not. In fact, I will not be going this year because I am 1800 kilometers away from my hometown. But even if I cannot go this year, at least I can talk about the very little talked about fair, about the skilled workers who travel thousands of miles annually to find a market for their art, about the unappreciated labor that goes into organizing and running a fair every year, about how family dates can be fun too and about how the humblest of places you visit can make for a number of stories to tell. Among other things, I will sit on my imaginary swing in my imaginary balcony sipping on to coffee and munching cookies, till it is 2018 and the fair opens its doors again.

Presently from inside my head V

  • I have recently started watching Gilmore Girls. It revolves around the lives of a single mother Lorelai and her 16 year old daughter Rory. On their third month anniversary date, Rory’s boyfriend shows her the car that he is making for her because he wants her to spend her time studying for Harvard rather than wasting it waiting for the bus. They both lie down in the car looking at the stars when Rory tells her that this is such a perfect moment that no moment in her life will be able to match up with the beauty of what they are sharing in that moment. Looking at them, I wondered how many of us have known or would know of a moment as exquisite as theirs.

gilmore-girls-1-16-deam-and-rory

 

  • It is very easy to find fault in how another person may live their life or point their follies. Some of us take the first chance to highlight it to others- you waste a lot of time, you are indecisive, you procrastinate, you don’t think about your family, you are being childish, etc. However, when it comes to their own lives, they are all culpable of doing the same mistakes. When you point out those to them, they attempt to persuade you that they are caught in a myriad of small complexities that have to be resolved before they can arrive at a decision or act upon something. But, if it can be a myriad of complexities for them, then so can it be for the other person they were pointing a finger at. Then why not give people a benefit of doubt before criticizing them or charting out a path for them because let’s face it, everyone tries to make the most of the resources at hand, it is the small but significant considerations that hold them back.
  • I have a friend who works on software that runs on casino machines. Recently, she told me that at one point in her life, she would visit a casino and play on a slot machine with a sense of fulfillment that this is the product of her hard work. I looked at her and wondered that maybe this is what I am ardently looking for, this sense of pride in my work, this sense of satisfaction in what I do for a living. There once was a time when I took great pride in my education but now when I think about it, the only emotion that surfaces is dissatisfaction- on how little it helps me to solve any real time problems or on upholding my individuality.
  • I use Uber Pool/Ola Share on a regular basis. What strikes me is how little do both the cab companies think about their customers because their software evidently has no parameter for route optimizations when matching customers for the shared rides. I have taken a 7 km detour to drop my co-passenger in peak Bangalore traffic hours. There is a bridge that I have to cross everyday on my way to work which costs me a good 15-20 minutes. Imagine, I have been half way through the bridge and Uber tried pooling me with a rider whose society was on the service road adjacent to the bridge. Meaning which, I got off the bridge, took a U-turn after 2 kms, picked the rider and again had to go through the ordeal of passing that bridge in another 20 minutes. It’s difficult to fathom on how little thought has gone into the technology that forms the backbone of their shared services.
  • Making someone work for you is a skill, a skill that I don’t possess. Because, the time and energy required to induce another human being to work is twice of what it would take for me to complete the task at hand. Like, for example, I can ask my maid once to empty the dustbin in the room, but if she cannot recall to do the same everyday when the dustbin is parked right in front of her eyes, it goes on to reflect how little is she invested in doing her job. She has ignored it once, she will ignore it again. The more I try to remind her, the more it irks me because if I have to expend energy on making her do her work, then what good is her presence.

 

Mine

How easily do they tell you in stories, that under the night sky all that you can see is magic but all that she sees is mountain, her mountainous marriage that is. Namrata shifts her gaze at him and asks him, “What do you want to talk about?”

Pranav wished he was as  systemized on this conversation as he is otherwise but his reflexes were betraying him, so he casually answered, “Anything and everything that we haven’t talked about.”

“Wouldn’t that be two years of our lives?”, she questioned him.

“What if I have been keeping things from you much before that?”, he asked her with a hint of jest.

“Have you?”, she inquired.

“Do you trust me Nam, at all?”, he asked her meaningfully.

“There is precedent to support that I should not.”, she replied sternly.

“Why do you think did I come with you?’, he proved her.

“I have wanted to know that.”, she answered.

“I love you.”,he tells her.

“I don’t know if that is enough Pranav.”, she replies.

“I try Namrata.”, he reasons with her.

“I do too. I try to believe that this is what love is going to be from now on. Love is sleeping in different rooms, it is avoiding each other every day for the fear of what our mutual contempt may tell us about our incompetency at this relationship, it is taking a trip holding on to the belief that we can redeem our marriage; it is walking in the woods discovering each other anew as if we haven’t been together for the last 5 years, it is looking for symbols in flowers, in songs, in a bottle of rum, it is hoping that simple words hold a deeper meaning inside. But I don’t know if this is enough Pranav. Because I don’t like that it will never be what it was before, that it won’t be Pretty Woman and champagne and cherries, that it won’t be unrestrained flow of words and emotions, that it won’t be rings of laughter that echoed across our home, that it won’t be going to sleep with my head on your shoulder fingers intertwined, that it won’t be the impulse to hold you purposelessly but possessively thinking that you are mine. I don’t know how to be satisfied with this when I have had more.”, she articulates to him.

Pranav looks at her, smiling  subtly he says, “I quit my job to come to Kashmir with you. So may be I am still yours.”

This is the 13th chapter of the story I had begun to write as a part of AtoZ. To make more sense of it, hop onto the page Anniversary and Kashmir.

Lessons

“Why did it have to rain today?”, quizzed Namrata.

“I wish I had an answer to that.”, replied Pranav as he flipped the pages of the menu,

“Why does it always rain at the wrong time?”, Namrata wondered.

“Maybe because rains have not stumbled upon the concept of time.”, Pranav told her cheekily.

“Why do my plans get soiled every time?”, she asked him.

“Excuse me, my plans?”, he remarked.

“Okay our plans, why do our plans get soiled every time?”, she corrected herself.

“Isn’t that a question that the Dark Lord should have asked the death eaters?”, added Pranav.

“Can we not do anything?”, she asked him.

“You, for one, can stop fidgeting.”, he suggested.

“Fidgeting, you call this fidgeting. This is a normal human reaction to a problem.”, she replied infuriated.

“Ah, how can I forget your penchant for ‘normal human reactions’.”, he said recalling her restlessness at the airport when their flight was delayed.

“Never miss a chance to take a dig at me, do you.”, she pointed out.

“Try my best not to.”, he affirmed.

tumblr_mex6txddus1qbnhtpo1_500

“Why haven’t we ordered already?”, she questioned trying to divert his attention from her.

“Because apparently you have better things to think about than food.”, he answered. Looking at the crimson in her cheeks building up, he decided not to test her fury any further and asked, “What do you want to have?”

“Momos”, she answered.

Shaking his head in denial, he told her, “I will choose to ignore that.”

Shaking her head back at him, she told him firmly, “Seriously, we cannot come to Leh and not eat momos. That is a crime.”

“You know I don’t like momos, unless they are fried and fried momos aren’t on the menu.”; he tried reasoning with her.

“My bad, I had forgotten about Punjabis and their penchant for fried food.”, she said playfully.

“Fine, we will order momos.”, he said before she could play another joke on his North Indian attributes.

“And?”, she asked him.

“Thukpa? I think we should try Thukpa; both of us can use some warmth.”, he replied.

She smiled at him and said, “Getting strong at your puns Pranav, but I am ‘not’ impressed.”

He smiled back at her and pointed out, “But, when have you been?”

“Never, really.”, she added.

“Let’s add crispy noodles and spring rolls to that.”, he suggested.

“How can I say no to that, ever?”, she remarked.

“Never, really.”, he added further.

 

She shifted her attention to the downpour again and said, “Imagine, had it not been raining we could have been in Booklover’s Retreat sipping onto a warm cup of latte and reading.”

With a hint of surprise in his eyes, he asked her, “Is that it Namrata? That is what you want to do in Leh, be in a book store that doubles up as a cafe. We could have gone to Cha Bar in Connaught Place instead, would’ve saved our parents a lot of money and us a lot of time.”

“Being in a book cafe in Leh counts as an important experience.”, she said in her defense.

He could not believe that she was worried about not being in a book cafe right now and she was defending herself on this. He then said, “There are a number of other cafe experiences that Leh has to offer. Right at this time, we could have been scoring some chocolate momos and sipping onto jungli chai in Bon Apetit as the day changed its colors, we could have been in Gesmos gorging onto Yak Cheese Pizzas because you do not get Yak Cheese any place else in this country, we could have been in the Apple Garden Restaurant and eat amidst an apple orchard because it is not everyday that we get to be in an orchard, we could have been in Old Leh walking our way to Lala’s Cafe where coffee and cake comes with a history lesson, we could have been in the German Bakery and eating possibly the most delectable apple crumble. So you see, it is not always experiences with books that are the ones to look out for.”

Namata could not comprehend if he was trying to lift her spirits up or subdue them further by apprising her of the many things that they could have been doing presently. She woefully added, “And now I feel worse, for missing out on everything that this place has to offer and dining in the hotel because it had to rain on this vacation.”

“Dining in the hotel does not take away from the fact that we are still in Leh which is perched at an altitude of 11,000 feet; the restaurant we are sitting in offers a fairly good view of marvel that this place is and if you could just relax and open your eyes to what are we surrounded with, this might come across as an experience to you.”, he tried explaining to her.

Namrata did not argue further, rather she was smiling. He asked her, “Why are you smiling now?”

“I was wondering that I have always been this impatient -which evidently is quite irksome to you-then how is it that you fell in love with me, at all?”, she quizzed him.

“You weren’t this impatient.”, he answered not sure of himself.

“Dates back to my childhood, I believe, impatience is thy second name.”, she told him funnily.

“Haha, I don’t know about impatience but it isn’t every day that you are this good on self assessment.”, he joked.

“Tell me Pranav, did my restlessness not bother you then?”, she questioned him seriously.

“I always managed to talk you out of it or redeem for a cancelled plan.”, he answered.

“How?”, she asked.

“Do you remember your convocation?”, he asked her.

“Ah, you missed it.”, she recalled.

“It was a long day at work, I could not bail out early. I missed the convocation and also the grad dinner date I had promised you.” he explained.

“I was infuriated.”, she exclaimed.

“You weren’t taking my call., he reminded her.

“Call? I had resolved to not look in your direction again.” she told him.

Pranav added, “So at around midnight, I came to your friend’s apartment with a cold pizza, a britannia cake and a bottle of coke to make good on the grad dinner promise and to make you reconsider your decision of never looking at me again.”

“The minute you started talking, my rage began to dispel and we ultimately ended up having a date in the parking lot.”, she confessed to him.

“That was a good date.”, he remarked.

“That was an amazing date. Come to think of it, we made a cute couple back then.”, she admitted wistfully.

“Come to think of it, ‘our love back then’ sounds so ancient.” he admitted with a sense of hurt in his voice.

“Sometimes the answers lie in ancient tales.”, she said purposefully.

“What are you talking about?”, he inquired.

“Maybe, we should talk.”, she suggested.

“Talk about what?”, he asked further.

“Everything that’s going on with us.”, she answered.

“You think that will help in dispelling our rage?”, he inquired.

“If not, relationship reconciliation talks in Leh sounds like an experience in itself.”, she responded chuckling.


This is the 12th chapter of the story I had begun to write as a part of AtoZ. To make more sense of it, hop onto the page Anniversary and Kashmir.


Image has been sourced from this link.