Monday, November 02, 2015

The Sound of Silence

Phew. This has been a silent space hasn’t it?

I have seen graveyards that have seen more action than this blog. I mean that more as an analogy than as an “I am so cool, I go to see graveyards in the night”. I am not. Cool I mean. I can’t sleep alone at night without keeping the light on, let alone visit graveyards at night.

So that’s that. Now that we have established how sepulchral this blog is and the fact that I am probably the only person who will read this I am going to go ahead and say a lot of nonsense. Just in an attempt to revive this blog which used to such a happy place once. At least for me.

1) The last time I wrote on this space I was 26, unmarried, carefree, stupid, had long hair, was staying in Chennai and teaching children. Three years and one month later ALL of that has changed. I am now 29, very married, more mature than I want to be, have a boy cut now (which I think suits me a LOT :P), living in Hyderabad and not teaching children.

2. So what made me stop blogging. Nothing actually. Just that life caught up. And a more demanding job happened. And the mind became preoccupied with things that I will not even remember 5 years down the line and then feel sad that I left my life largely undocumented. And twitter happened. And suddenly it felt like 140 characters were enough to talk about everything that mattered in my life. Even for a locquacious person like me, twitter worked. It was easy, it was fast, it required less effort and it gave me the false sense of accomplishment of writing and being read.

3. Non sequitur, but I don’t know why people in India are celebrating Halloween. Like really guys. Are the state of affairs in this country not scary enough that now you want to dress up and paint yourself to look scary and go to a party? Now before you read further, let me tell you, I hate parties of any kind. Halloween or otherwise. I hate socializing with people I don’t like or in some cases I don’t know, I don’t drink and it makes me nauseous to stand in a crowd of drunk people who don’t really care whether I exist or not. I prefer one on one conversations in a quiet place where people are genuinely interested in knowing each other and are sober.
My idea of a perfect Saturday night is snuggled under a bedsheet reading a nice book or watching a nice movie or talking to a good friend.

Now that, that is established let me proceed to tell all the zero of you why I have a problem with Halloween.
a) I can’t stand it when people don’t question stuff and do something blindly. Blame it on my teacher genes that I NEED people to question and argue and think for themselves. If more people questioned and thought for themselves, religion wouldn’t exist, caste wouldn’t exist, gender inequality wouldn't exist, the beef ban wouldn't exist, BJP government wouldn’t exist and Chetan Bhagat and Amish Tripathi (puke!) wouldn’t exist. So my fundamental problem with Halloween is not why not? But really why? There aren’t dearth of festivals to celebrate in India. There are too fucking many of them anyway. There isn’t a dearth of opportunities to meet people. We are a bloody overcrowded country. It’s not like we don’t get enough opportunities to look scary. We take enough opportunities to cake our faces with make-up and scare little children and finally we would all do well to eat less chocolate, prevent diabetes, get some exercise and NOT celebrate Halloween. Phew!

b) No one has ANY idea why people celebrate Halloween. As research (cough) for this post I looked it up online and THIS is why Americans celebrate Halloween. It is apparently celebrated to denote the end of Summer. . And people in Chennai are celebrating it. Honestly it doesn’t get funnier than this. Chennai makkal, if you start putting on scary make up to celebrate the end of Summer, you need to drive yourself to the nearest mental asylum because end of summer for Chennai is like end of intolerance in the BJP regime. It doesn’t exist.

4) I have been reading this book called “The Difficult of Being Good” by Gurucharan Das and honestly the book speaks to my soul. It is the quintessential problem I have. When does one stop being good and start being selfish or start doing things that may not be for larger good but for personal good?

I am the last person on this planet to be religious (I am an evangelical atheist) but the book really made me question “what is my dharma”. Is it to do things that are for the greater good of the universe, is it to do things that are for my good or is it to do things that for the greater good of the people I serve. It explores the concept of dharma from the angle of various characters in the Mahabharata (which is my MOST favorite epic btw)

What makes a person good and why be good if it doesn’t come with any tangible “benefits”?  I know that I do what I do in every aspect of life because I think it is the right thing to do and because my conscience would kind of eat me alive if I did something it doesn’t fully agree with. I do believe that I am very intrinsically motivated and extrinsic factors like people, money, fame, popularity do not bother me at all. Especially money. Of the 101 future plans that I have making money doesn’t feature in the top 200 things to do before I die.

But there are times where I ponder about the why? Why do I do it when the only thing I “get” is a deep sense of satisfaction and a sense that I have upheld the values I hold close to my heart.  Which is basically a lot of bunkum if you ask me!
Which then makes me think that maybe I am not as intrinsically motivated as I thought myself to me. Maybe I do seek some sort of validation or external reward because otherwise I wouldn’t feel that way.
Things have always been very black and white for me and I have always thought that gray areas are areas of self-doubt  and uncertainty but this book has really made me think!
It ALMOST made me believe in karma. Do read if you are in the mood for some deep thinking and reflection.

5) In the past 3 years I have stopped doing things that I like doing. Namely

Playing (any game)
Watching plays
Writing to friends
Talking to friends

It could be because work is now SUPER exciting BUT all consuming and work + domestic chores (did I mention I am now married!?!) take up all my time, but I GENUINELY believe that if you want to do something you WILL find time to do it and if you find excuses to not do something then chances are that those things are no longer priority for you. This makes me sad. To realise that the above list of things are no longer a priority for me because other things like cooking, reading books and teaching I still find time to do despite my schedules. I know that as we grow older priorities change, we become different people, our interests and desires change but I do want to go back to a time when all of these things AND work AND people were a priority for me. Pch. This growing older business can really suck.

For the fact that I have not written anything in the past 3 years, I think this is a decent effort and I will try to write more often so I don't come in here three years later and think about how I have not written anything. 

P.S: Why the title for this post you ask? (I know no one's asking but I will still tell. Yes?) 
I always think silence makes the loudest sound and just by virtue of it's presence it makes the absence of sound felt. Like an argument with your spouse when the silence is so LOUD you want to scream or the silence in an exam hall which is filled with the noise of working brains. Like the silence on this blog. Which is screaming with past memories and nostalgia :)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Dear Malala

Dear Malala,
Even as I am writing this, you are struggling between life and death, with an entire nation, nay, a world that prays for your speedy and safe recovery. 
The first thing I did when I heard about what happened to you was of course google your name and I was shocked to see your year of birth as 1998. As young as 14! It took me back to what I was doing when I was 14.
Preparing for my boards exams, waiting for a Harry Potter novel, struggling with weight issues, worrying about pimples and a bunch of other things which seemed awfully important to me back then.

Education and women's rights activism? Naah not a chance in the world.

Writing a blog and expressing my views on promoting education for girls? I am pretty sure I was still writing essays titled "Television, boon or bane," back then.

Fighting to get the girls in my country educated? Nope! (I would most likely have fought for the opposite at that age and the maturity level that I had back then)

Getting threats from militant organistions? I am not sure I even knew what that term meant back then.

In relative comparison to you, the 14th year of my life makes me look painfully retarded.

I was brought up in a cocooned atmosphere. Education was almost a birth right. There was never a threat or danger to me receiving quality education, which is probably why I never valued it back then. 

Today, I am a teacher. Teaching 8 year old kids in an impoverished government school in Chennai and your shooting angers me to no end. It leaves a dull ache in my heart because I have a very vague idea of what you are fighting for. Because I have a class of 7 girls and 21 boys and despite all odds being in their favor (lack of militant organisations, lack of people thinking 10-14 year old girls are threats, no fear of someone pumping bullets in your head, lack of death threats, etc) quality education seems like a distant dream.

You inspire me Malala
To go out there everyday and try my best and give my children the very best education that I can and help them fight against all the odds stacked against them
To try and instill in them whatever it was that your father instilled in you that made you so socially aware and sensitive way before the age of 14
To tell my girls your story so they understand what a struggle it is for girls in some parts of the world to go to school. And that problems of lack of running water and clean toilets pale in comparision to the problems of bullets in your head.
To tell my boys your story and sensitise them so they can send their sisters to school
To increase the enrollment ratio of girls in my school (I have 28 kids. The ratio in my class is 1:3 in favor of the boys)

You humble me Malala. immensely
I am almost twice as old as you are and I thought I was doing something awfully important when I started my fellowship with Teach for India.
There are times when I feel sorry for myself that I have to teach in a classroom which has no electricity. Better than living the constant fear that you might have no school.
There are times when I feel sorry for my children that they have to walk barefeet to reach school. Pales in comparison to walking in mortal fear of your life
There are times when I think I am doing as much as I can and leave the rest to chance. I realise now that now that it is a continuous fight. That one day all children WILL attain an excellent education come what may.

You give me hope Malala,
For in the times we live in, you give me immense hope
On the days that I think I am fighting a losing battle, I shall think of you and fight harder.
On the days that I think that my country does not give importance to education and girls, I shall think of you and ask myself what can I do about it
On the days that I am trying to talk to yet another parent who thinks education is not important for her girl child, I shall think of you and try harder
On the days that I think I am powerless against irrepressible forces, I shall think of your young 14 year old face and it will make my resolve stronger

I look at your picture and it makes me want to cry. Try as I might, I cannot for the life of me find anything threatening about this picture. I only see an innocent little girl with an iron resolve to make things better for herself and her country.
And I cannot begin to imagine what went through the minds of those who thought it was necessary to wipe you off the face of the earth and continue to bay for your blood.
I don’t know when you will recover. I don’t know how you will fight the forces that be. I don't know if the women in your country (and mine) will ever become truly liberated and educated in our time but one thing I know for sure, is that you give immense inspiration and hope to girls and women in your country (and mine) and you make our fight stronger
May your tribe increase.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Messed up Metaphors

So the tea shop right outside my school is a METAPHOR which I frequently use to tell my children about the kind of lives they should NOT aspire for.

Any child who does not do homework, does not come to school or uses poor language is always told, "Do you want to be like those men sitting in the tea shop in the morning? Always drinking tea and never doing any work? Have you seen a policeman drink tea there? Have you seen a doctor drink tea there? Have you seen a pilot come and drink tea there? The tea shop owner himself doesn't sit and drink tea there because he is busy making tea and doing work" and so on.

It is the MOST successful METAPHOR in my class and gets my kids in line almost instantly. I can almost hear their thoughts, "Must. NOT. drink. tea. in. tea. shop"

So today morning (an off day for kids but teachers had to come) tragedy struck when I was caught drinking tea at the tea shop by two of my students. 

Dai, paaru da, miss tea kudikaranga (Hey look, Miss is drinking tea) said in the same tone used to say, "Look, miss has been caught with a glass of whisky"


Kill me now

In my defense, It was NOT A WORKING DAY AND I WANTED TO DRINK TEA! Arrrgh!
Also, it's ONLY a metaphor! Hullo!

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Bits and pieces from an ordinary life

1. So last week saw me falling down a flight of stairs and severely hurting my bum, so much so that the tissues around my bum are now totally damaged which means I can't sit. At all.
Yes. I shall now pause and wait for you to finish laughing and cracking all the bum jokes that you can think of. I have already cracked the "Sorry yaar, mai bumaar hoon" joke and have had other inconsiderate friends cracking the "How are you? hope you are doing kickass".
And this means I cannot cycle to school for at least a week, which is quite sad given its the only form of physical exercise I get (does shouting at kids, standing all day in a classroom with no electricity and running after kids during recess count by the way?). I really enjoy the early morning ride to school. Helps me plan my day and clear my head. Need to fix this posterior of mine, and fast.
Also these things have a way of happening to me. I was walking carefully down the stairs and the next thing I knew Dham dham dham and my tail bone is now severely injured.

2. Also with the Olympics going on an everything I have been following the news about Olympics on and off. And I have been laughing ever since I heard that the gold medal in trampoline was won by ..... wait for it... Dong Dong! -
but seriously. The only thing I can think of is that his parents named him after they heard the noise he made while jumping on the trampoline when he was a baby. Dong Dong Dong Dong.
Also I am curious to know if he has a brother called Ding and another one called Bell. Also is Dong both his first AND last name? Now that would be seriously funny!
And do people in his house rush to the door every time they hear his name because you know, how does one differentiate between a doorbell and a name like Dong Dong.
Here's the link by the way - DONG DONG

3. Teaching third grade kids who don't understand a word of English has to be the MOST challenging thing I ever did. (a close second would be watching half an Emraan Hashmi movie.) I realise that to make them understand I am increasingly beginning to talk like a retard. "You go house and write homework" I said yesterday and mentally kicked myself for how awful my english had become. In my defense when they dont know what home means and finish means I cant really say "Go home and finish homework" no?. Also the kind of questions I am being asked are quite legendary. So I was teaching subtraction with borrow and the number was 912 - 678 and this kid says "Miss tens so poor, have only one number. I borrow directly from hundreds? Yes?" and proceeded to do just that. kept the 1 in 912 intact and borrowed two times from 9 instead! Sighness. And dont you DARE say, oh my what a creative child because I will kick you where it hurts!

4. The weekend also saw me watching Ice Age 2 (where I had to constantly shift positions from one bum to the other because well, I cant sit properly without pain otherwise. This qualifies as the MOST embarrassing and uncomfortable injury ever and I have had some serious injuries before.)
I LOVED the movie and it made me wish I was IN the ice age while the continent drifted apart. SO MUCH coolness. Wow. Also Diego gets a girlfriend! :)
And Sid is still my favorite ice age character. My favorite scene is when Manny says "Diego is suffering from the L word" and Sid says "Leprosy?" and Manny says "No. It starts with an L and ends with an E" and Sid says, "Lice?". Hahahha! Also, there is an Indian villain in the movie who is called Gupta! Heh! Do watch it. The 3D is not great but the movie is awesome

5. And tomorrow is a HOLIDAY! Yay! :D. I am probably more excited than my kids at having a holiday. Its my first one in two months and if you have ever been a primary school teacher you will know how hectic and awfully busy the first two months of school can be. Both professionally and personally I have been SO busy in the past two months that its not even funny. Tomorrow I shall reply to emails from friends which have been languishing in my inbox for ages (Sorry B, tomorrow your mails shall be replied to!), tomorrow I shall clean my cupboard, tomorrow I will finish reading an entire book, tomorrow I will go for a long walk (weather in Chennai is lovely), tomorrow I will go and treat myself to some chocolate ice cream, tomorrow I will watch  "Through sunglasses", an Iranian movie which I have been meaning to watch for errr- 2 years now. (I should just get back to watching more world cinema.)
Though knowing me I know that I will probably just spend it correcting papers and making worksheets and entering data and crying at how my kids have STILL not mastered subtraction with borrow despite me drilling it for two months. Sighness!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

And I am SO proud of myself..

I would normally not write about something like this. Definitely not on my blog. And most definitely not when I am writing a post after two months.
But I have to say what I have to say.
So the last weekend saw me going to Madurai to meet my sister's edible and possibly the cutest twin babies on the planet, G and N. No cannibalistic tendencies but honestly they are SUCH cute kids that one just wants to stuff them between two slices of bread and have them for breakfast. Om nom nom.
Now that you are sufficiently disgusted let me continue.
As the trip to Madurai was about as efficiently planned as the errr... most unplanned trip to Madurai ever, I just went to Koyambedu and took one of the many buses leaving for Madurai
What follows is not something which is happening to me for the first time. It has happened to me before, has happened to ALL women/girls I know and very sadly will continue to happen till, well, we wipe men out from the planet. Which by the way is SUCH a good idea. Just freeze a couple of million good sperms (only if you want to that is. Because then we would have boy babies and after G was born I feel kindly towards boy babies so we can't really kill the boy babies you know. I would feel bad :P), wipe out the men and there you go - world peace, no strife, no hunger problems, no rape, no molestation, no dowry deaths, no need for contraception, no population explosion, no wet towels on the bed, no...
But I digress. More on this later.
So you might ask me why I choose to write about this particular incident when there have been so many.
Because I am proud of myself. So proud that I kicked a man in his balls in front of a bus full of men, who *might* be potential molestors themselves. Proud of the fact that there is now one man in Tamil Nadu who will DEFINITELY think twice before he even touches his own wife.
I shall not go into the gory details of what happened but in the middle of the night, I shouted at a bastard, swore at him in my most galeej tamil, poured a litre of water on his head, woke up everyone on the bus, confiscated his voter id card, kicked him in his balls...Thrice, made a co passenger slap him on his face, twice, and then waited till the bus reached the middle of nowhere, asked the bus to stop and made him get down.
I wish I had pepper spray. So I could have made his life more miserable but man! I am so proud of myself.
I also threatened to publish his photo is all the local newspapers that I know of and put it in public forums so people KNOW who he is. Which I have not been able to do. Because I don't know how to go about it. And also because if newspapers started carrying pictures of molestors, then well, there would ONLY be pictures of molestors in papers and little else.
So I shall share his picture and details here. And hope that the few good people who do visit this blog shall tell me how I can go about making his life miserable. Please give me really good ideas to make him regret his birth on this planet.

P.S: So a funny thing happened. When I shouted at this man and asked him how he DARE put his loathsome  effing hand on me, he replies saying "I am a decent man. I did my engineering"

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Of crying babies, teaching and Mumbai

1. So all the women I love and love talking to for hours on the phone are now busy taking care of small, wailing, peeing, pooping creatures and have no time to spend talking to me. So my sister (and hence my mother) and my best friend have been so busy taking care of little babies that they don't remember the last time they were devoid of baby vomit, baby poop and smelt like a woman. My sister went as far as giving birth to not one but TWO babies and the house is completely and constantly chaotic with constant baby squeals and gazillion diapers and thousands of bottles of formula and cute little baby clothes hanging on the clothes line. I miss not being at home in Jamnagar where the worlds best niece and nephew are growing up too fast for me to catch up and watching them grow on skype doesnt really cut it. And Milinta, my best friend, thankfully gave birth to only one but one super hyperactive boy who can sit still for exactly 4 seconds before indulging in some activity. In her own words, "Revs, he can crawl faster than me. I can't catch up with him anymore. Phew". Oh well. The day I have kids I will directly have 6 year olds and send them away to school.

2. So till about a couple of months back (before the baby boom hit our family) the mater and pater were getting really worried and had come to the conclusion that I will remain a spinster for the rest of my life and possibly run away to Africa and start teaching young kids in Sudan or something. From coercion to pleading me to get married my parents were quite at their wits end. It also doesn't help that I work as a teacher (earning a pittance) in one of the worst slums of Mumbai (home to Chota Shakeel) and teach slum kids for a living. Most "prospective" alliances are rejected because I am not qualified enough or because I am a teacher or I don't earn enough or because I work for an NGO or the BEST - "if she works in a slum won't she contract some serious disease? Sorry. We don't want our son to get some terrible disease" HAHAHAHHAHAHAH! I think I laughed for three days continuously when I heard that!
Oh well. You need all kinds of people to make the world.

3. Which brings me to my third rant of the day. I think it is very sad that parents want excellent teachers for their kids but they do NOT want their children to aspire to be excellent teachers. You can be an excellent doctor, engineer, pilot but God forbid if you became a teacher then your career and your life are fucked for eternity. Surprisingly though, in the slum I teach in, I am the MOST respected person. I get special seats in the auto, rowdies won't eve tease me, parents will wear their best clothes when they come to meet me because I am a "teacher". A well educated person who knows it all. But in the so called "upper and middle class" I am looked down upon so violently it is shocking. "A teacher," say most people with a sneer. Why? they want to know. As if I decided to sell my kidneys or indluge in slave trade to earn some money for myself. BUT they will be the first people to complain or take up arms if their child's teacher doesn't teach properly. Very sad state of affairs for a country if teachers aren't respected or paid well enough.

4.So come June, I shall shift BACK to Chennai from Mumbai. I remember when I had to leave Chennai last year to come to Mumbai, I cried buckets and was extremely apprehensive about moving to a new city and that too to Mumbai, a purportedly hostile and tiring city. But now that I have to leave Mumbai to go finish my fellowship and teach in Chennai for an year, I feel hollow from within. I have come to love Mumbai and i LOVE the life this city exudes. This is possibly the only city which matches my pace and is as fast as I would like a city to be. I have had the most amazing time living in Mumbai, traveling in the city, teaching and interacting with the people in this city. Much as I like Chennai, I think the city is light years behind Mumbai in every sense. I don't want to romanticise Mumbai because no doubt it IS a difficult city and is a city of extremes with stark differences and contrasts in the living conditions of people of various incomes. But the city has been kind to me and for that I will be forever indebted.

5. So the other day I was feeling really senti about leaving my kids in Mumbai and going to Chennai and I put up pictures of me with all my kids in Facebook, with a short note about each child. So I had put up a picture of me with the Math whiz kid in my class who can multiply faster in his head than I can do on paper. AND my favorite Math teacher comments on that and says the following. (Click image). This happened a week back but I am still floating on cloud nine. My rather flawed, fail and tumultuous life has come a full circle. :)

Monday, March 19, 2012

And this is what teachers talk about a day before exams!

So it has been a little crazy with the end of year exams and my upcoming trip to the US and shifting out of Mumbai and about a gazillion other things which I don't have the time to go into.
I have been more stressed about the exams than my kids who are pretty bindaas about it and call me a day before the exam to ask "Didi, tomorrow exam? why? what exam?" while I hyperventilate and hope not to die of a weak heart.
I find solace by putting up statuses on facebook about my kids and getting opinions from other teachers.
So yesterday I put up a status message about how I was super tensed about my kids' exams and following were the responses I got from other fellow teachers.
You might have to click on the picture to expand it and read it. I think it's worth it. :)
NOW I know what my teachers spoke about, a day before our exams while all the time as a student I thought that they were chilling and waiting for us to get massacred. Ah! Perspective! :)