Monday, May 25, 2009

A journey to Chennai - My mobile court

It was 8pm when I boarded Train No. 2624. Trains on Sunday evenings are always stuffy but the rains made it nauseating. I was told by my friend that we would have to share our berths with two girls who were her sub juniors. They were coming to our institute for PhD Interview. The compartment was tightly packed with local passengers too. It took an hour to reach Thrissur and that's when my friend told me one of those girls was RAC 1.

I looked stunned. Chances that her seat would be confirmed was high since they boarded from Kottayam. "Why did you people not sit there and check your seat"? , I asked out of curiosity. "Chechi they were men all around and we didn't want to sit there"?
That was the first bomb thud!!! "Men ? so what? are they aliens? And you left your seats"? (And women talk about reservations). It didn't bother these girls that they were sitting on someone's seats and would be taking someone's berth to sleep. Had they been on waiting list I would not mind but this what crazy they had a seat.

"Get up and follow me we are going to look at it right now", I said. I am sure my friend would not have intervened unless I suggested this. This is the problem with us women. The adjustment bug has caught us so well that we are willing to give up what we have and call it adjustment, You pay for a full ticket to sleep cramped somewhere else.Wow ! that's adjustment.

I sent the girls first to see what happened. They came back and told me the seat was confirmed but since they were not there it was allotted to the next RAC passenger.

I stared at them,they were least bothered. It's high time they learned some action, I thought and said "lets move". We walked up and down the train twice each Ticket checker send us to next one and finally we found the allotted checker.

"Where were you when I was allotting the seat", he roared. "I called out your name and it was two hours since you boarded". There was some truth in what he said and the men around us grumbled "these women are stupid". We were bound to listen to them because we had wronged. But I of all people could not listen humbly ,I thought of lying they missed the train and boarded with me but when I looked at their faces they stood so nonchalantly I was worried if they would agree to my cooked up story which I was saying for their benefit.

"Ok S9, 36", the checker said. I was happy as if I won a case in court and I smiled at the guys there, who did not like us fighting for a seat. The RAC fellow who got the girl's seat told me "why cant you accommodate these girls ? Gone are the days when people shared". "If there was no alternative I would do that but we don't pay full fare so men in waiting list can sleep on our berths and we adjust with friends" I said.

Throughout this episode what upset me was the attitude of these girls.They were silent, they never spoke where they should have, whats wrong with these people?, they don't believe they could ask for a seat and its their right. And we are talking of PhD candidates. Is this the education we mallus boast about? Are our women really empowered. I have seen illiterate women fight better? Does life skills act inversely proportional to education? I know it's just one incident to you people but I have been through many to conclude this is how our women think.

Why was I fighting for them? I thought of my mom who would have done the same?What happens to women like us ? We are labelled 'show offs', 'Arrogant' and obviously 'Feminists' , maybe ' Social out castes' after all who needs women who talk aloud?

Why do parents bring up girls like this that they whisper rather talk? That girl has qualified JRF and GATE my friend said. WOWWWWWW !!!!! I said , I wish they had some personality or attitude test too, judging by how these so called PhD scholars handle crisis.

No being weak is not a crime.... not fighting a situation is one.

As Adaina commented how do you of all people land in such situations, Teena?

I dont know da, Adaina? but this is what I call an exciting journey.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

One who fight's Destiny

She was sweating profusely. Working in special care baby unit meant you were always near incubators and heaters so naturally it was hot. But the contractions every 10 minutes was not a nice symptom. "First baby"?,asked the doctor."Yes doctor", she said. "Strange that your baby is in a hurry", he said ."But 5 months is way too early". "But I feel the baby pushing down" , she said. That was the first false alarm. After countless nights of staying awake in panic, expecting the baby to come out, everything seemed normal. She smiled and asked the baby."Why this hurry , you might regret once you are out".

She was also worried because it was time to shift from quarters. They had to now look for a house. Having a baby meant vacating quarters and finding a bigger house and 5th month was too early.
Duty was already painful with the new changes in the body. Taking care of new borns was part of her job, their smell, their changes, she knew it all but this was a new feeling.
"There is something peculiar about your baby the doctor said, your baby is in a hurry".

Baby shopping was an exciting event , first baby, meant everything was first time for the mother too. As she gathered the stuff she had her second alarm. It was the 7th month. "It's unsafe, you should either complete the 7th month or you should have had the baby in 6th month", said the matron."As if I ordered the baby to do this", the mother muttered. Three days in hospital pacified the baby not to come out soon.

Neither the mother, nor the doctor could understand these false alarms.
"Be prepared , your baby might attack at the wrong time".

Alas, the parents underestimated the baby. A new house was found , things were ready. The mother had completed her 7th month that day or you could say it was the
1st day of eight month. The baby was punctual and fully aware it was right time to strike.Baby somehow figured out, breaking the placenta meant no more admission and sending mom back. To the mother's horror this was no false alarm.It was really happening and when she was at home of all the places, and all alone.

"The baby will be premature and need extra care but I think it will survive , we need to ask why was this hurry", joked the doctor.

And early morning on Sept 24 1983 a 2 kg 100 gm delivery was made shattering the father's dreams who expected the baby a month later on his birthday." She seems to be a planner of her kind", the father told his best friend.

Need a name , the nurse said. Something which has both our alphabets the father said and named her "Teena". When she could pronounce she ditched the "T" and called herself "Inna". "She is a planner of her kind", the father repeated.

The mother still laments on her first pregnancy when the next two were a piece of cake for her. This baby has made her cry from the womb and has been pesky and naughty till date.

I struggled my way out into the world but I was eager even then.I keep telling you I am in love with the world ( not in the materialistic sense).
I intend to survive and not perish :)

Mom, this one's for you - Thanks to your verbatim details . Had to post something from Home before I finish vacation :)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

My First Art Class

Teaching anything arty is tough job. When I say art , I mean craft work and don’t pamper yourself with ideas on art education and aesthetic experiences. I got no where near those ideas with my experiences last week. It’s sad how arts are undermined as something that could distract kids and give respite to parents. Oh no! Let’s not get into necessity of Aesthetics in an Anesthetic society.

I thought kids naturally enjoyed arts. I always did as a kid. So with the same old ideas in my head (someone told me I got lot of ideas which was hard to manage) I entered my first ever class on clay moulding.

I love kids and here I was blessed with 17 of assorted ages (4-9 yrs). Some things cannot be planned. So, despite being warned by friends that this was gonna be fun and terrifying I found myself unprepared.

I started with the general instructions as to how this sort of clay hardened with exposure to air. They seemed uninterested in physics and chemistry.

I moved on to our general plan for the next three days. Some heard and some did not.

I divided them into three groups and decided I would take turns with each group.
It was amazing how randomness still brought people with similar tastes because I could see some groups working together perfectly and others working individually in a group or was it the dynamics of group formation?, I don’t know.

Some made beautiful stuff but would not help the others nearby. I thought the whole purpose of the workshop was making friends but here they were all islands. Was it how this generation worked?

Most of them I figured out were single children and to my disbelief they were too comfortable in solitary work. When one in a group finished they would call for me clamoring attention. When I asked why don’t you help your friends nearby they frowned which to me meant ‘how can you expect me to do that’?

One group had a girl motivating the others to mould shapes and they took pride in themselves as the best group. Now this was an interesting observation. When the ‘We feeling’ comes in, things worked in a different way. But to perceive oneself as a group there always was the requirement of the 'other group'. So now crept in competition. “We made more pieces, we painted them first” and then some ego boosting sessions. I did not have the time and energy to propound philosophies so I thought it was best to leave them alone.

The very attitude of how this programme came to me is interesting. The organisers wanted to have the children occupied with something new yet less messy and I was easily available. My friend recommended me and they thought I would agree.
I had different plans. I had once asked the same crèche permission to observe kids and they told me they need to hold a board meeting and get permission. Now here I was getting paid to observe children :P .

Ever since I could remember I was in love with colours. Don’t know if mom and dad did anything in specific to inculcate this love in me but they definitely did not hinder my interests. I am sure there is no other activity that could release the pent up energy and creativity and I believed everyone could get arty.

But this workshop proved me wrong. I had taught kids individually and in smaller groups before but they were kids who were genuinely interested, they were not forced to go for a summer camp. I salute my kindergarten teacher it must have been a pain to manage thirty plus kids who kept shouting, crying and messing around.

By the end of the class I felt dizzy. All I could hear was unending permissions to wash hands, use the toilet, complaints on someone stepping on others' models, clay getting hardened or someone not interested in a particular design.

I wanted to believe I am a progressive teacher (Hail John Dewey!!) and would want the child to do “the doing as well as thinking part”. But very soon I realized if I had to show their parents they did something I need to make it for them. The more I resisted the carrots looked like peanuts and peanuts like snowman.

The attention seeking part really turned me off. A 4 yr old boy kept telling me “Madam I like your dress, I like your bindi, can you tell me the shop you got this, Madam can I always sit next to you”? In spite of my efforts to put up with a polite smile I had to yell at him to shut up. First time I found it rude, slowly I found it natural.

Resolution of conflicts is not my area of interest but it’s inevitable when you teach kids. Here you had too many kids wailing rather mould clay. I had an interesting conflict resolution session. A boy cried after breaking a girl’s model. I scolded him for doing it too and he started crying. I thought it had to do with my scolding. But the case was interesting.He was frightened by the girl.She said she would get him arrested by the police for breaking her model.

This was my first male harassment case where I had to play a guy’s advocate. Now the 4 yr old(my admirer) got so terrified that he was on knees begging not to call the police. He was hysteric and all over the place. It distracted all and no work was done for the next 20 minutes. It took me some effort to understand his fears for police and to stop his crying. When he stopped he started again “Madam I like your dress……:)” . I wanted to remind him about the police but I had to curb my sadistic dispositions. (I must admit I was like that girl in school. I would not waste any opportunity to make boys cry)

Now when you decide to teach kids anything get prepared for the worst. Your art bag needs lot more than materials. Peace and conflict resolutions skills, some sense of humour, loads of patience and varied critical and creative thinking skills would be handy to begin with.

By the end of the day the smiles you bring on each other’s faces makes your day worth it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Tantalus- Tantalizing

'There is always a slip between the cup and the lip' that was her favourite quote and she was all prepared with this in mind, to meet him . "You can say all that you want because when I start I want your full attention", that's how he began the conversation. She had a premonition that something bad would happen. Unlike her usual self she was silent."You are not the person I wanted", he stated it raw. It made a screeching sound in her mind , something similar you hear when chalk screeches on a black board. She always found that irritating. " Maybe life has made you hard and you can't reciprocate, but I can wait patiently", she said. "And why would you do that out of some fancy?, get practical dear I work on plans , and if my planning goes wrong I don't venture into the whole thing at all". To him everything was a perfect plan, not that she did not notice it from day 1. But there had been pauses in long conversations, when she felt the stone hearted guy melt, there was a lot he could not express but she read them. It felt impossible to believe all that he said were questions for analysis.He analyzed and she let him do it, never did she feel like a guinea pig. Though he kept reminding her not to take things a level high, was he sure he didn't take them either? Had it been so why was it difficult to say things in black and white?

"I am looking for someone who can walk shoulder to shoulder with me facing problems" , he said."As in BSF ( border security force)" she asked? "Well you are weak by my standards", he added. Could not blame him for the analytical nature but what amazed her was how his life had merged with his job.

Taking an objective stand she could understand the problems stemmed from a deeper wound. She could not reach there and he would not let her. There was no denying some changes that happened in both their lives were irreversible."Why do we cling to things that don't last"? and "why do we neglect things that would last life long"?

"Where is your ego silly girl? pamper it , boost it, inflate it",her mind said. A tiny voice from some where within whispered" Not worth it". Sometimes you are fully loaded and ready to attack but you prefer not to. Why does that happen? No, definitely not because you are scared or weak. You just don't want to fight as natural as a kid says "no mood for school".

She was silent, and it was the most beautiful silence she experienced. Everything she did she could associate it with colours. Her silence was pale blue. She wrapped her arms around her knees and breathed. She counted till ten not her breath but his.

She remembered the curse of Tantalus - who was cursed to stand under a tree and when he raised his hands to pluck fruits it moved higher and when he lowered himself to drink water the water disappeared. And Tantalus tortured with desire to quench his thirst and satisfy his hunger stood defeated all his life, never getting what he wanted.

Some goals in life are tantalizing we are disillusioned in believing we can achieve them but the more we move towards them , more we are disheartened with their illusory effect.

She smiled at Tantalus and said, I free you, to free myself. Surprisingly it rained in the scorching summer.....Rains played a pivotal role in her life.Her sole witness to all her losses and new beginnings. It would be unfair had it not rained then.....

She smiled.....

I'll miss you Tantalus.... May your ego not lead to your curse of solitude and unquenchable thirst.

With a smile she said "Tantalus I free you".

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I hate shopping clothes precisely after 2007 August.Last evening I spend some time shopping clothes at cotton street after 3 years. My thoughts trailed back to 2007. I lost my dad that year. Now why do I relate it to clothes is a long story.Bear with me for a while.

Losing dad was not a shock to me,I was sad but it was something I was prepared for. I was brought up quite boldly to step in and carry responsibilities in adversities.

When I was in 6th STD mom had a surgery. Before her stitches could be removed we were informed she had to be re operated due to an infection. Things were critical and dad told me you need to be strong to take care of your younger ones and mom added, "dad wont be able to do it alone". She survived but I grew a lot than I should have in a single day ( something I believe is a problem now coz I don't relate to my peers ).

When mom called and told me I lost dad I was numbed for an hour but unlike others thought I was not upset with the loss. I was worried about things that had to be done thereafter, and I was unprepared for them. When I came home all I did I was run around for paper works and procedures. I had to get his body flown and I was determined not let him wait in an ice box at some mortuary in that desert.

Days were hectic. It was Onam season and a festive mood everywhere. I could never eat a sadhya with pleasure since then. At the passport office when we requested for an emergency passport for mom( her's had expired and it made me mad that she was so careless. Could not blame her for not foreseeing the circumstances either)the Officer Incharge a lady said ,"We are not here to issue passports for your daughter's delivery in the Gulf". Her anger was understandable those were the kind of emergencies she had ever seen. You don't get requests for emergency passports where a wife wants to get her dead husband's body on a daily basis.

Back home I was stopped by my aunts.The issue was my mother's clothes. Now had dad died at home the funeral would take place immediately.People would not flock in for 18 days to meet us. Now when people came mom who was always on bed was seen in floral pastel colours. Now that was a serious issue. I got a lecture on widows and sober colours. And maybe my Jupiter and Mars had gone on vacation so I was crazy.I was shopping black and grey in Onam season when women were going gaga over latest designs and colours. I saw mom run her hand over something colourful and feeling the fabric.She then left it back as if she had committed a sin. A scene like this in a movie like Deepa Mehta's Water would make an excellent trailer but, here it was my life.

I was back home when my aunts were telling my sister - you girls should wear dull stuff too. Now I lost it ( Jupiter returned from vacation). "Tell me one guy who goes shopping greys and blacks when his wife dies", I asked. "You made mom do all this , we got other issues to tackle I said", and left.Mom packed all her colourful dresses and stacked it in a cupboard. There was a tinge of melodrama to the whole process which to me was quite unnecessary with the complications already existent. After all ordering a coffin, doing flower arrangements and booking the grave was no fun and to top it when people remarked " How can unmarried girls do all this" ( No clue what that meant) all I could do was blink and make sure not a single tear came out.

Life turned so mechanical those days, people were eager to know the gruesome details of death, some wanted to know about the compensation, quality of teak wood for coffin. And then again advices to girls who were in charge of a funeral.They were not proud of us , they just felt sorry for us.

After the whole function was over I took Rachel my dog to the courtyard, of all those people there she was more sincere to her master, she sniffed as if searching for dad .We went to the terrace and sat on the swing, she was licking my tears of my face and I told her the stories of black and grey, she barked as if she agreed with me. It was raining and I cried as Charlie Chaplin said " I love to walk in rain so no one can see my tears".Unfortunately it was sunny at cotton street but I walked in the sun , tears gleamed.

Monday, May 11, 2009

First Love

This title is definitely misleading so if you are looking out to read a juicy snippet on my first love you are going to be disappointed. This is …hmmm….urghh ….. Well read along and you will know. I have never blogged anything about my dear sis and she had warned me not to. But she is the villainess/Actress in supporting role in this plot. So sis this one’s for you.

So long time ago when I was in school, (9th std precisely) we had a new entrant at class. A shy guy who wore glasses is all that I can remember now. I cant tell you his name ( he is married now).
Now my feminist genes were quite intact even then so I never spoke to boys, in fact I detested them. At every point I had to prove I was equal or better than them. They were pathetic creatures too. They looked down on us girls and could not bear when we topped in subjects. The pressure to top kept me working all the time and I never thought of peaceful coexistence.

Sadly after 8th std things started to change with other girls in my class. It’s that age when strange chemical changes take place in your brain. I heard many of them started dating (something I had only read in Archie’s). I was dumbstruck at their audacity/foolishness/girlishness and soon brought out my feminist manifesto. Few girls joined me too (we were all geeks). Now with my reputation no guy dared talk to me and if he did I crushed him. That’s when the new guy asked me for help one day. I was shocked at his impudence. But he soon began discussing about books and studies and I thought we could bend the principles of the manifesto. So from ‘No talking to boys’ I changed it to ‘Talk to boys who talk academic stuff’.

We went to the same tuition class and he joined my batch. Unfortunately I was the only girl there and I hated being with guys. But the new entrant ( aka Mr j ) gave me company and discussed about books. He even walked me home saying he liked exercise (and I literally believed it).

I felt strange but then we were talking serious stuff. Soon after this episode in Hindi class boys started singing songs when I entered. Dil to pagal hai released that year so the song sung for me was “ chand ne kuch kaha , raat ne kuch kaha, tu bhi sun bekhabar _______ kar oh oh oh ____________ kar”.
This _____________ kar sort of irked me. But I kept wondering why they sang this to me. Of all the girls in class I considered myself to be too low to be a potential victim for such trivial , petty issues. No one admired me at least for my beauty ( brains maybe :P I was studious).

That evening a senior of mine came and called me out of class. She said Mr J wanted to tell me something and was afraid to say it so had sent her. All the girls around started giggling. I still had no clue. ( cant believe I was so stupid). “What is it I asked”? She gave me a paper and smiled. “ I love you” it read. I started trembling ( I don’t know why). I started yelling “How dare he, I got a reputation to maintain”. He stepped in seeing me hysteric ( wow I always was hysteric). “I am not asking you to marry now, I love you” (think of it we are in 9th Std). I stormed out like heroines in bollywood movies in rage screaming “LEAVE ME ALONE”. The days that followed were quite melodramatic. I would march into Hindi class with my friends and try not to look at his side and he would stare like a love sick puppy throughout class even making teachers notice it.
I was frustrated and scared if dad knew would he stop my schooling? What about my career? My sis is a brat.One year younger to me but mentally 5 years younger. She kept playing as we waited for dad to pick us. Seeing me restless she asked “What’s it”?

I had to spill it to someone. Will you keep a secret I asked? She stopped playing and came like a dog wagging the tail. “Yes. Yes tell me”. I never told her my stuff so she felt privileged to hear something from me. And I told her about the love letter. She acted like Holmes and marched to and fro. “It’s serious, but you can trust me”, she said. I felt relieved though I knew it was not gonna work for long.

Next day when I was in class my sister came marching and called Mr J. “Hey come here you….”

I can still visualise her standing with her tie loosened, like a goonda. She was shorter than me then, quite cute too. Mr J walked out. Though a senior he was trying to impress me by acting polite. “Look Mr. stay away from my sis, you think she has no one to take care of her? Watch it boy or I will break your bones”, she screamed in her tweet bird voice. I felt like laughing seeing her put up a fight with a senior boy, I was happy to see her concern.

Now Mr J smiled but the bloody guys at class with egos like helium balloons said “How could you stand listening to that junior girl. Leave it to us we will set it even.”

That evening as we waited for dad, a bully in my class started picking on my sis. She told him to back off but he kept taunting her and as the scene grew hotter I called Mr J aside and requested to stop this. Now me requesting a guy was a historical moment so as Mr J and I got carried away with the historical part of it , I heard a scream. My sis was standing like David after attacking Goliath and the bully’s head was bleeding.

So much for my efforts to hide this love game, I thought.
Bully’s mom called up my mom and said your daughters did this to my son and if he has a memory loss and fails this exam I will sue you. (He had already failed a year and was a repeater so mom taunted his mother on that).
Bully’s mom could not bear my mom’s lecture and she rang up dad at his shop.

Dad came home and we had our public hearing. To me he said “So my daughter has grown up”? “But dad I don’t have anything to do with him, I hate boys I swear”, I said. I trust you he said. I felt proud that he did. And to my sis he said “So you won’t change your tom boyish ways”? She fidgeted with a pen and nodded her head which meant I don’t care.

And he told mom “I told that lady it served her right, after all what did her son expect when he messed with my daughter”. Turning to us he said “And next time no stitches, just break the bones, if it gets any serious I will manage the case, but don’t let it reach me, learn to manage issues”. You got the message? He asked my sister. We shook our heads in disbelief; my sis was beaming with pride. From next day she was Asha dada at school and teaching girls how to fight bullies. I am sure it was an accident and she was terrified though she says she did it with a plan.

The bully walked around sulking with his adornment for weeks. As for Mr J he could not bear my cold treatment, flunked few exams and left for Kerala. My classmates called me cold hearted for a year but I stuck to the feminist manifesto.

So that’s my first encounter with Love or rather a guy who fell in love with me. Now when I think of those moments or I watch movies where teenagers do similar things it makes me smile though then, to me it was the biggest disaster.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I am back

After a long gap I resume blogging again. Not that nothing spectacular or eventful did not happen over the past eight days.In fact too many significant events made it impossible for me to pen down my thoughts.

I was held up with a project and for days I dreamt correlation, mean and standard deviation. I resumed violin practice too, to beat the heat.

We got new caterers in mess they seem to know their job but, I am not hungry these days( Nope- No dieting that's not my cup of tea or coffee either :P )

One of our spinster brat is being tormented by a love triangle- she is being hurled with gifts.

Another one is away at home so I wont bring her in, she has nothing interesting happening either.

Our beloved spinster brat soon to be married hence soon to be ex communicated from this group is learning all the menial house work back home [ How outrageous :)]- I know there are many waiting to see me do it some day( nice try)

My favorite spinster brat has set her scores even with an old traitor ( jai chinjo Comrade Foi)

Two of my best friends fell in and out of love. The guy is going crazy and the girl is marrying someone else, I am left to counsel both.

Another friend of mine is getting married and its a love marriage. He asked me to edit a website he designed for his wedding, that was an interesting task and kept me busy.

I decided to teach few kids clay moulding. I thought it was easy and being a scholar in the area of education, I should interact more with kids, well I was proved wrong and on my way back I met with a minor accident.

As I was recuperating I met a guy who wrote awesome blogs..... I was smitten by his words and thought I needed to pause before I blog again.Hope he doesn't read this and if he does-I wasn't referring you :)

Finally the highlights of the week I got a cool book and few chocolates from a friend. It's a nice book "All Quiet on a Western Front" by Erich Remarque a German author. Grab a copy or wait for my review.I have been receiving too many books from people. Orhan pamuk's "The name is red" , J.K's book from Jobin chettan and the Nature book from Rubil brother. I got no excuse to say no books to read. To top the list Jils has given me lot of mallu stuff like Kazakinte ithihasam, London batheriyile luthiniya, Short stories from Chullikad. Guys you really wont know what's gonna hit you in the next blogs :)

Heated battles at home for wedding and Do I hear wedding bells? Nope I hear school bells - my field work start in June. Finally I got an answer to all of you out there who keep asking me how many years left for submitting the thesis? Well with the field work beginning 2 years precisely.[ I am not responsible if my parents get me married or my guide delays the process of research :) that would delay the PhD]

It's vacation in IIT but scholars got no vacation. I am leaving home for a break after long 5 months. So that's about the not so eventful 8 days of mine.

As for gyan- ful posts hmmmmmm.... I am still recuperating from the heads over heels phase after reading an awesome blog........... Don't worry I am resilient so will recuperate soon.

Till then..............

Jai chinjo

( This is the slogan of spinster bratz)- use if you are a spinster and a brat - you got to be both and not just one of the two.