Saturday, March 29, 2008

Disclaimer: The contents of this post are completely my thoughts. They haven’t been influenced by anyone. I am sorry if this post hurts anyone’s sentiments or if anyone thinks its contents are sacrilegious. My intention is not to hurt anyone.

I was a believer. A staunch believer. I used to make it a point to visit the temple at least twice a week, say a prayer daily, say a little prayer every time I passed a temple on the road. But somewhere in the past two years something has changed, some part of me has started asking some fundamental questions. In the past two years I have seen so much and experienced so many things that I have started asking some blasphemous questions. The past two years of my life have been relatively relaxed and as a part of college and also out of my personal interest I visited a couple of orphanages, old age homes, spastic societies to try and do my bit for the society.

The scenes which met my eyes when I went to these places were heart rendering and as I visited more such places I found it more and more difficult to believe that up there, there exists someone who is supposed to be looking after all of us, supposed to be doing justice, punishing the wrong and rewarding the right.

What wrong has 15 year old shabana done that she is “blessed” with the intelligence of a 3 year old, cannot wear clothes, cannot button up her dress, and cannot use the bathroom without someone helping her. What wrong has she done that while her peers talk of board exams, farewell parties and the latest trend in clothes she cannot even speak a coherent word let alone a sentence. She suffers from down syndrome.

What wrong has 67 year old patamma done that at the age of 67 though she has 2 sons and a daughter none of them want to keep her and have sent her to a depressing old age home where she gets a 5 feet by 3 feet space for herself, 2 sarees for diwali, one for new year and no visitors throughout the year though her children live in the same city.

What right has laloo Prasad yadav done that inspite of charges of embezzlement of so many funds, inspite of being such a corrupt politician he enjoys the status of a king?

What right has jagmohan dalmiya done that after misappropriating “just” 2 crores he gets bail and most probably will escape scot-free?

What kind of a justice system is this, where the innocent get punished and suffer more and the guilty enjoy a hassle less life? This is the justice system which is revered all over the world, accepted by one and all despite its horrendously screwed up laws and principles. The juctice system of God.

My grandmother tells me that every person who is suffering is actually repenting for the sins which he committed in his previous birth and every person who is happy and contented is reaping the benefits of the good things he did in his previous birth. What kind of a stupid, skewed system is this where u get punished for something but have no clue what you are getting punished for?

She says that this is the kalyugam and this is how god’s system works and that once evil has completely overshadowed the good, that is the time when god will descend in all his glory to take his last avatar and save the world from the evil. BullShit is all I can say. Even the most cruel person or a person with a heart of stone would melt if he saw the likes of shabana and patamma and we are talking about God here. The compassionate and considerate do gooder who cares for nothing but the “well being” of his children. If he does exist and is looking at all the pain and suffering and not doing a thing when he has the power to change all of this, then I cant believe we trust and pin our hopes on a person like this who just likes to look at all this suffering and not act. I would rather build temples and worship the person who started the old age home where patamma lives or the people who started Banyan the home for destitute and mentally ill women. My blood boils when I see people drop obscene amounts of money into the hundis in temples, some of which goes to decorate the idol of god and most of which goes god knows where.
I am confused and hurt when I think of the fact that something which I believed in for 20 years of my life is actually a farce.

I was a believer, a staunch believer, then I became agnostic and now I find myself tending towards atheism.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Makku!!! :)

I have been wanting to write about this incident which happened in my final year of engineering. It was the 7th semester exam time in hostel. Incidentally sem exam times are when our enthu levels are really high. Do not mistake me. By enthu levels I mean enthu levels to have fun. Enthu levels to study are usually at an all time low during semester times. Normal college days in hostel are just spent sleeping or watching movies endlessly but sem exams are the times when all of us make a sincere attempt to stay awake (the reason we stayed awake was to study which invariably never happened) and refrain from watching movies and hence ended up spending lots of time with each other. We used to stay awake till 4 in the morning pretending to study but gossiping and giggling and talking about everything except the course.

Anyway during the seventh sem exam time I dunno what came over our college management, but they decided that the hostels would have a coffee and tea vending machine. (similar to the ones we have in office) but not free of course (yeah our college was good but not that good). I wonder what they thought. Maybe they thought they could improve results by providing tea and coffee to the students.(preposterous idea. The only thing which could have improved our results would have been forging our mark sheets). Anyway it worked like this. We would have to get a 5 rupee token (a round gold colored coin) from the college stores, which we would have to insert into a slot and then select our option, keep the cup in the desired position and the machine would give us tea/coffee. like any other machine it would work at times and not work at times. Sometimes we would put the coin in and it wouldn’t react at all.

Anyway let me come to the night of November 26th 2006 2 a.m in the morning when five of us were pretending to study in the corridor. We had a paper called engineering ethics if I am not mistaken. An extremely dry paper. Now if one of us had a craving for tea invariably all of us would have it. So it all started off with me saying

Me: hey!! I am sleepy. Tea u guys?? U have tokens??
All friends in chorus: Yeah yeah. Lets go. Nothing seems to be entering our heads. maybe some tea will help. Tokens irruku.

(giggles because we know tea had nothing to do with our productivity and is just an excuse for us to while away time)

I put in my token first and it got stuck half way and refused to go into the slot. I tried pushing it in but a major part of it stayed outside. In my frustration I banged the machine hard with my fist. I was trying to aim the coin but my fist slipped and I banged the machine a little above its slot and wonder of wonders it started pouring out the tea with the coin half outside. We couldn’t believe our eyes. My friend then tried to pry out the coin and it came out. We were thrilled. Our first free tea!!Another friend suggested that maybe I should give it another blow to see if it was a fluke or if it really worked. I gave it another blow at approximately the same spot that I had done before and voila!! There it was pouring out tea again. We were ecstatic, surprised and scared all at the same time. First emotion was obvious, second one was because we were surprised at the stupidity of the machine (we later went on and named the machine “Makku” or stupid in tamil). The third one was because a part of our conscience pricked since in our heart of hearts we knew what we were doing wasn’t ethical. (ironical that we had our ethics exam next!! Sheesh!!). next thing was maintaining the secrecy of the whole thing. In a hostel of 200 odd girls if the news spread we knew both free tea and the machine would vanish. So the five of us vowed that apart from ten final year girls (our gang) we wouldn’t tell anyone else. And all of us would use Makku only at night or when the machine was unattended to.

Among the ten that we revealed our secret to there were a few harishchandras who went “hey this is wrong man. Our parents give us enough money to buy what we need. Why do we need to steal tea?”. It was then that we split our group of ten into two parts. The RH gang and the HBP gang, abbreviations for Robin Hood (the non-harishchandras) and the Honesty is the Best Policy gang. The HBP’s believed that honesty is the best policy and even in times of adversity and poverty (read most of the times) we must be honest and get tea only after putting in the token. On the other hand we the RH (errrr. Yeah. I was part of RH) believed in stealing from the rich (the college management. We figured they were rich enough to provide a few teas to poor malnourished gals) and giving to the poor (us of course). So we stole shamelessly, relentlessly and on a daily basis, all the time being careful in maintaining the secrecy. We were criminals. Occasionally we would put in a coin (borrowed from the HBP’s of course. :P) just so that people wouldn’t suspect that we were free loading and we did most of these criminal activities at night when only our gang would be awake and “studying”!!

Despite maintaining secrecy the news somehow got out (C’mon!! When u take ten girls into confidence basically u are taking 10! girls into confidence because each girl will in turn tell 10 other girls and ask her not to tell anyone.). Eventually the boys hostel came to know and they started free loading too and a month later after the sem exams were over and we came back after our hols, Makku was gone. (Apparently only 5 coins had been deposited and 75 teas/coffees had been claimed and I guess the management smelt a fish!!;))

It was an amazing thing while it lasted and even now when I think of it, the incident always cracks me up. It happened one and a half years back but the incident remains as fresh as it was when it happened on nov 26th 2006. Of the original five who were present one is married, one is in bhuwaneshwar, three of us are here working for cognizant. We guys don’t meet often now and there are many thing which we will forget but the night of November 26th 2006 will always remain fresh in our minds and is not likely to be erased from our memories. I dedicate this post to Mug, Hems, Moti and Touch me not. (I have used the pet names which we used for them in college. I have already trashed my name. I wouldn’t want to do the same to them also!!)

Sunday, March 09, 2008

A Slice of my life

Some random happenings in my life lifted from my diary and censored for a larger audience!! :P

1. Today for the first time someone called me aunty. For a long time the kid was calling me and I just ignored him thinking he was calling someone else and then he says “shruthi aunty can u please pass me the ball”? I was taken aback. Its like discovering the first white hair on your head, like discovering that you are not completely impervious to knee pains and back aches, discovering that its been so long since you passed out of school that you now have friends whose children are in school and you gulp and gasp and stubbornly try to hold on to whatever remaining youth is left in you. I am sure you are smirking right now and thinking “hell, she is only 22 and is hyperventilating as if she is 42 and is suffering from mid life crisis”. I am not disagreeing with the fact that yes I still have more than half my youth left ahead of me but it is just kind of unsettling that children call me aunty and adults expect me to be responsible, take my own decisions and also help them take decisions. the other day I almost burst out laughing when someone asked me “I am planning to invest in so and so mutual fund. Do u think it is the right thing to do”. It was hilarious. I have no clue about mutual funds, the bull and bear are just one domestic and one wild animal to me and it is best not to talk of my pathetic knowledge about the share market. Anyway coming back to the point I am just not used to this sudden adulthood which is being thrust on me. I hate it when people tell me “you are so immature. Cant u act your age?” I know I am trying unsuccessfully to cling on to my childhood and college life. Sigh!! I wish I grow up soon.

2. my sister’s husband has got a job in dubai. Even the person with the meanest intelligence can understand that this means my sister and her husband will be moving to dubai some time soon for a of minimum three years. I have been trying not to think about it and trying to postpone the inevitable but yesterday as they sat talking about things like visa, house, transfer, flight tickets etc it just struck me that in less than three months I am going to lose the one person I am closest to in this world and the thought is killing me. Things like “arey email hai na” , “flight tickets to dubai have become so cheap you can almost fly once every six months” , “arey yaar, mai every week tujhe call karoongi” are just idle talk. The truth is that things will never be the same, with her some thousand of kms away. Its weird. From the time preethi was in 10th till she got married we lived separately. She did her 11th and 12th in Chennai while I was in Jamnagar and then she went on to college and work. All those years I never felt any of the things which I am feeling now. Its just that for the past 2 and a half years we have grown more closer than we ever were and I hate having to break that. I am going to miss all the night shows, midnight chats, midnight movies at her place, her miserable cooking (read semiya upma), her good cooking (read everything else), stealing all her good clothes, pigging out on ice cream, teasing her intelligence (or the lack of it), being the peacemaker in all the fights which my sister and BIL have, riding with her on the two wheeler, screaming at all the chauvinists on OMR, eating vegetable pulao at punnu da dhaba with her…. Sigh!! So many things. Its an irony. The things in my life which I want a change in remain exactly the same (I have the same software job, same working hours, same miserable code which doesn’t work etc) and the things in my life which I wish would remain the same are changing (my sister moving and other things which I cannot mention). Life is cruel.

3. I have lost 5 kgs of weight in the past 3 months with absolutely no conscious effort from my side and I am sick and tired of people squealing, screaming and shouting at me saying “Eeeeeeeeee. You have lost so much weight. What did you do?” , “Oooooo!!! Don’t you eat at all? It isn’t good to lose so much of weight so drastically. So what did you do to lose all this weight”. Please!!! I don’t know why I am losing weight. If I knew then I would stop doing whatever it is because this weight loss has me also worried. How much ever I eat, however little exercise I get I lose weight. Might sound like an ideal situation (and trust me I was pretty happy when it was happening. Imagine. You can eat all the ice cream in the world without caring a damn about ur waistline) but now I am not so sure. One doctor said I had borderline tuberculosis (no kidding!!), another said it was work stress and said I should take it easy and stop working hard. Now work has been extremely taxing for the past 6 months but not so much that I start losing weight because of stress. After that I stopped visiting doctors. All my family members have their own theories though. My mother thinks it is because I work too much, eat very little and worry a lot. Her solution? Quit your present job, come and live with appa and me in this godforsaken place also called Jamnagar, work in reliance and eat good home food”
I would rather run a mile in tight shoes than work in Jamnagar. K
My grandmother in her typical predictable fashion thinks it is because I don’t drink milk and eat curd rice. I am tired of telling her that it has nothing to do with my eating curd rice and drinking milk as that’s how I have been all my life but no use.
My sister in her usual dum dum style thinks it is because I have fallen in love. I have not even tried telling her that the only man in my life right now is Herbert schildt (errrr. He is the guy who authored complete reference java) and the probability of my getting a boyfriend sometime in the near future is equal to the probability of Andrew Symonds completing evolution and becoming human. In other words zero. But she goes on and on and on, teasing me with every person she can think of. I have told her in typical hindi film style that “mere maang mein mai sirf george Clooney ke naam ka sindoor bharoongi” but even that doesn’t stop her!! L

4. though it sounds extremely clich├ęd and lame I have just realized that we realize the value of someone only when they are gone and dont care a damn about them when they are actually there.

5. Its amazing how you can totally relate to a complete stranger at times and how ever lasting friendships are sometime built in a jiffy. I recently started mailing this really really nice lady in los angeles (indian - working for cognizant) who i came to know because she reads my blogs and its incredible how we hit it off right from the word go. Its wonderful to mail her and i do not find peace until i have mailed her whatever happened the whole day and all our mails to each other always exceed two pages!! :). Thanks Anupama. You have made my life so much better. Your mails have given me something to look forward to when i get ready to go to office each day.

6. This is the 102nd post on my blog. i cant believe i have written 100 (gasp!!) posts!!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Its that time of the year again. Board exam time when lakhs and lakhs of students across the country sweat it out to get good marks. This year one of my first cousins is giving her 12th CBSE boars exams and everyone at home is behaving as if swathi (my cousin) is going to the war front to fight militants and not to write an exam. Suddenly the house is abuzz with calls from “close” relatives like my grandmother’s sisters husbands brothers son’s wife calling up swathi and giving her valuable advice like “get 8 hours of sleep and eat food on time. When my brother’s wife’s neighbours son was giving his board exam he slept only for 7 hours and 26 minutes and ended up getting only 92%. Disgrace to the entire family he was. Don’t make the same mistake”.

So when I called up swathi day before yesterday to wish her she was at her wits end and said “please shruthi. I have had people calling me up from the morning wishing me and giving me all kind of weird advice. I am really really tensed. I will talk later. bye”. It was then that I realized that we give entirely too much of importance to these silly board exams. I mean seriously. NOW, 5 years after I have given my boards (man!! Am I old or what??) I realize that its not such a big deal. I have seen people do miserably in their boards and still come up very well in life and I have also seen people who excel in their boards but today are doing what everyone else is doing.

Anyway coming back to the point yesterday an hour before the board exams began I was watching some news channel where the following conversation made me sick early in the morning.

Person 1 in the news studio : moving on to the next big news item today. Today the CBSE 10 and 12th std exams begin and the air is pregnant with tension with more than 4 lakh (he stresses on 4 lakh and pauses for effect) students all over the country taking up these exams which decide their future. Lets ask our correspondent malvika who is present outside the ABC public school noida about what the situation is like right now. Yes malvika. So how is the atmosphere right now? What is the mind set of the students?

Malvika : (striving for an intelligent expression and nodding her head periodically and then suddenly she starts speaking at the rate of 75 words per minute). Yes ravi. As you can see I am standing outside ABC noida. With just an hour to go students as well as parents have started streaming into the school and the atmosphere is thick (stress+pause) with apprehension and tension. Also topmost on every student and parents mind is the fact that CBSE has changed the pattern of its exam papers and introduced different kind of questions which test the students abilities. We have with us the principal of ABC with us. Lets ask her what she thinks about CBSE’s decision and how it will affect the students?
Thank you for joining us ma’am. So what do u think about CBSE’s decision of introducing very short answer type questions and how will it affect the students

Mrs Principal: (obviously this is her first time on TV. She is immaculately dressed and speaks like a true principal at the rate of 4 words per minute). Personally I think CBSE’s decision should not affect the students at all. Because if a student is well prepared and is fundamentally sound he/she should be able to tackle any kind of questions. And yes it is a good decision of CBSE’s part to introduce this concept for it will test the true understanding a student has of fundamental concepts

Malvika: So ma’am what steps have u taken to ensure the success of the students in your school

Mrs Principal: well we have conducted 17 pre pre board exams, 18 pre board exams, daily mock tests and assignments which will help the students be prepared for the real thing. We have also made sure that we don’t put much pressure on the students (I cant help but smirk at this)

Malvika: what steps do u think students preparing for the board exams should take to come out with flying colors?

Mrs Principal: Oh!! A student should get a minimum of eight hours of sleep, eat food regularly. Eat many small meals and not few large meals which would make him/her sleepy. His/ her mind must be “completely relaxed” and stress free for the D day because in the end it is not only intelligence which will help you but also a cool and composed mind.

At this point I am not able to take it any longer. Completely relaxed??? With each and every news channel offering their smart ass comments and giving advice which no one asked for and splashing the board exams across the media like this, how can any student or parent for that matter be relaxed? With such immense pressure to perform any child would break. It is no wonder that the number of children committing suicide because of failure to perform in the exam has gone up so drastically. I cannot even begin to imagine the kind of pressure a 14 year old must have undergone if it actually drove him to take his own life. And the case of kids committing suicide will be made into a big issue by the same news channels

The first people who should be blamed are these news channels. I am not joking when I say that ravi and malvika continued this board exam nonsense for half an hour in the morning for the breakfast news. When these news channels have no idea what to talk about they just pick up random, inconsequential things and talk about them as if they are the most crucial and vital topics. (the next news item in breakfast news was this “after the break lets look at a village in bihar where a little girl was married to a dog (stress+pause) to ward off evil spirits”). Any parent would have got a nervous breakdown if they had watched the way ravi and malvika spoke about the board exams thinking “Oh my god. My son wrote only 4 pre pre boards and only 5 pre boards. If only I had put him in a better school…”

Secondly parents must also try to understand and accept their children and their shortcomings. (I really hope Taare Zameen Par goes a long way in helping parents realize this). We cant all have prodigies as children. Give your child the freedom to be what he or she wants to be. Don’t pressurize or terrorize or your children.

And finally stop calling up kids, giving their board exams and boring them with your advice. I am sure you have great intentions in mind but trust me the advice which you are giving would have already been given by 7 other people in 8 different ways (unless of course your advice is “get drunk before your exam and go to the exam with a bad hangover” or something!! :P). So just call, wish him/ her luck and keep the phone down and you will earn a child’s good will!! ;)

This is just a random rant which I penned down after I saw what my cousin was going through. I sure hope she does well but even if she doesn’t it doesn’t matter because after all they are just board exams and not the kargil war!! :)