Friday, March 26, 2010

"Lessons" learnt in the past 9 months *giggle* *giggle*

So the other day Meenaks (a very dear friend of mine and top blogger in Cognizant. Pity he doesn’t write externally!) asked me to write a guest post on his blog about my “learnings” from my course in journalism and media studies. My first reaction was to smirk sarcastically which if you know me is my first reaction to most things in life. Unlike most people who believe that every phase in life is a learning opportunity from which you have to take important lessons, I believe that every phase in life is basically a mistake which you could have avoided but then since you didn’t have the good sense to do so you might as well enjoy the mistake, make the most of it and not make it again in life. (Think about it. Birth, Class 10, Class 12, college etc. All mistakes which most people don’t make more than once! :P) Yeah. The Eternal Optimist. That’s me! :P

So what you are about to read is not profound, philosophical jargon about how my course in media studies has changed me as a person and made me the pride of my parents and envy of all others’ but its basically a list of things I have observed in and around me in the past one year. Meenaks, I am sure it hurts your IIM-Bangalore sensibilties and the fact that I haven't used words which have more than 7 alphabets and in your own words (I could never come up with management jargons like tat) I hope the post is "harmonious to the stakeholder expectations". :P

So this was my comeback post on ch1 (the internal blogging site in Cognizant). Come back. Yes! Pretty much like the Bollywood heroine who gets married, has children, puts on 20 kgs of weight and then makes a comeback as second sister of hero’s friend. Ummm. Wrong analogy there for neither was I a Bollywood heroine (I had the looks though. I can assure you of that!! People who knew me shaduupp!! Ok? :P) nor did I get married and have children. But anyway a comeback this is. (Oh BTW, I tend to ramble a lot. So plizz to bear ok? Ok! )

So following are vairy vairy important lessons which you must incorporate in your life otherwise Swami Nithyanada will curse you with a life of celibacy. Oh by the way these are totally my views and there might be a lot of stereotypes in here so please don’t come after me with bazookas you media students! I am one of you guys! :P

1. “You have to cut the umbilical cord.”
This was what I heard first from a professor when I joined the course. With my knowledge of cryptic writing limited to Aravind’s posts (:P), when I heard this I remember wondering that if a person did not know the simple biological process that only cutting the umbilical cord would free the baby from the mother, the person probably did not deserve to be a professor at a prestigious institute. Apparently it was a metaphor (or a figure of speech or an allegory or whatever . :-\) which meant that I should distance myself and cut myself away from everything if I wanted to be a good journalist. Not be bogged down by petty issues like my caste, my gender, my religion, my family ties and such identities and have no fear. This was probably the biggest lesson I learnt here though I am not sure if I have reached a stage where I can mercilessly cut the umbilical cord (the figurative one).

2. Media students have enough opinions for you, me and people from 6 of the 7 continents in this world. No exaggeration. We (I say we because whether I like it or not I am now a part of “them”) have opinions on everything ranging from “Is the hilsa a better fish than karuvaadu and can south Indians cook fish as well as Bengalis can do” to “Is secularism a failed ideology in a country like India” to “Is godhaan garam a better brand of cigarettes than india kings” to “are feminists ugly women who cant get dates or do they really support a cause”, we have opinions on every frikkin’ thing on this planet. Who was it who said “Opinions are like smelly feet. Everyone has a couple and most of them stink”. So true Sir, so true.

3. When you hear words like “the existentialist dilemma”, “orientalisation of one self”, “challenging the hermeneutics”, “return and revenge of the simulacrum”, you can be sure that you are in a media school. We love big words. We love to make people think that we actually know more than them by using big words. We love to flummox people by pretending to understand what Pranab Mukherjee is talking about when he presents the budget. We love to declare that we read Marx, Foucault, Sartre, Pablo Neruda, Tolstoy, Simone de Beauvoir and we love to wear T shirts which say “Che Guevara”.

4. People actually respect engineers. No seriously. One big lesson that I have learnt is the fact that though engineers do not respect themselves enough, when you tell a non-engineer that you are an engineer you can see visible dilation of their pupils and visible arching of eyebrows and an audible “Oh!! fancy. So what engineer were you”. After which you would proceed to explain in detail about computer science and engineering and throw in words like “java”, “struts”, “application”, “develop”, “test case” etc and throw them off guard. AFTER which they would say things like “Umm. Actually my computer has been acting up for some time. Could you please take a look at it?” and throw YOU off guard. I mean seriously what is it with people who think that just because we are engineers we can fix everything?

5. Media students more often than not drink and smoke, and smoking not necessarily restricted to tobacco if you know what I mean. So do people of every profession but while the rest of the world smokes because they are addicted or to relieve pressure or for whatever reason, we apparently smoke to “challenge our intellectual limits”. Yes sir. When you are on a high apparently your thoughts go from thinking about “Does Gabten/Govinda look more revolting in yellow color pants or when he is wildly shaking his arms and legs and calling it dance” to “Does God exist?”, “ When will revolution come and relieve us from this imaginary bondage” etc etc. Another important lesson learnt is that you can’t die when you stay in the same room as someone who is smoking and I have mastered the art of holding my breath and having a conversation.

6. Joining a course offering journalism because you love writing is probably the biggest mistake you can make. If anything, it kills the little bit of creativity and panache in yout writing and makes your writing all newsy and crisp. So basically from writing about your trysts with dentists to your smelly feet and generally laughing at the idiosyncrasies of the world you go to writing about potholes in 12th cross street Indira Nagar and writing stuff like “12 killed and 15 injured as train derails”. And then you sit and edit what you have written because obviously the newspaper is not your blog and when they say 500 words they actually mean 498 and 2 words to fit in your names. So right from day one you are told to write crisp, precise to the point stuff. Not at all helpful for a person like me who is like a 84 year old grandma in this sense and loves to ramble on and on. (As you might already have noticed. :roll:)

7. Maybe this is too extreme but personally I think a course in media studies completely changes the way you look at life and your perspective. You no longer look at a paper in the morning with the same indifferent eye with which you look at a packet of milk. You no longer read articles for the news content which they offer but you become critical. Too long, too short, improper headlines, too many adjectives, biased, grammatical errors and so on and so forth. Same with the TV news channels and radio bulletins. Something suddenly changes and you read a bad article and go “Gasp!! I would never write like that. What lousy writing” though something tells me out in the real world maybe I will also end up writing such stories! And suddenly everything around you, wherever you go, whatever you do, is a story which needs to be told and written about!

8. A course in media studies puts ideas into your head and kind of nudges you to develop an “ideology” for life. So all of a sudden you think being an environmentalist is cool, being a feminist is cool and capitalism is the bane of mankind and that the Amabanis and Tatas and Birlas and ALL their obscene wealth should be wiped out from the face of this planet without actually understanding the principles of feminism, capitalism etc. If you are not careful enough you could end up carrying a red flag, shouting Jyoti Basu’s name and giving a “Lal Salaam” to people on the streets if you know what I mean! ;)

9. Your GK and world view improve vastly and you get to read a lot. And when I say read I do not mean books by Chetan Bhagat or books which are titled “Anything for you Ma’am” or “True Love” etc but books which actually make you sit up and think. Don’t get me wrong. I am not being an elitist or a bourgeoisie here. I am very grateful to Chetan Bhagat for making so many Indians read and inculcating the reading habit in so many people. But let’s face it. If you love reading and Bhagat’s was not the first book you read you would agree that his books are not what you would call good literature or informative or thought provoking. His books are best read when you are on a train and have 4 hours to kill and don’t know what to do.

Anyway I digress. Where was I? Yeah, reading habit. I remember in my first few classes the professor asked a question about the Emergency and none of us could answer it. So he sighed, took off his spectacles and went “The problem with your generation is that most of you think history began after you were born”. Very true that. A course in journalism makes you curious, makes you want to read and you realize what a LOT of books there are out there to read and you feel painfully unaccomplished and stupid when you realize how little you actually know about India, let alone the world.

10. I have developed a love for non-fiction which is rather surprising given I disliked the genre an year back and my ideas of non fiction were pretty much what most people’s idea of feminists or what constitutes feminism is. Having spoken to a lot of people I get the same reactions from them (about reading non-fiction, not about feminism! :P)

As of now these are the only pearls of wisdom that I can think of showering on you. A lot of other lessons have also been learnt but they are personal and obviously you don’t want to know about that. As I already said follow these and you will be rewarded with a life as rich and “fulfilling” as Swami Nithyananda’s. Babes, Booze, Bhashan (speech), “Beatitude”, Bhaktas and of course the Big bucks. Seriously. What more could one want from life.

Yes, the absence of TV cameras in bedrooms and earth shattering TV commentary like “Nadigai churidhar pottundu avar arigil vandhaar” would be helpful but then you can’t have everything in life can you?

Anyway, So I leave you now with hope and prayers that one day you will incorporate the rich lessons this place has taught you and become better, brighter more responsible human beings and will make this world a better place to live in. And always remember that whenever you point finger at others, there are three fingers pointing back at you and one finger pointing up to God (the thumb) . Go out into the world and achieve great heights my children.

Heh. Just kidding. The above are actually quotes stolen from my high school principal who would say the exact SAME thing year after year after year at student farewells. I always wanted to say it once in my lifetime especially the finger pointing dialogue! Finally got an opportunity! Thanks Meenaks!

Sunday, March 21, 2010


1. The maami of the 90s, at social gatherings used to talk about sarees and where they were bought and whether the wards of XYZ had married or not and other equally mind numbing things. The new age maami talks about facebook, writes on the walls of nieces and nephews, shouts "i love you sweetuu" and "lovingly" uploads embarassing photos from one's childhood which are talked about in great detail at social gatherings. I am not sure which maami i prefer!

2. Right when I am about to graduate from J-school and become a journalist, I hear about THIS and THIS
This is what I call divine intervention. Captain oops Gabten TV is my future now. To work with Gabten Vijaykanth. Wow! Now i know what reason I will give when people ask me why I chose to do journalism after having done engineering.

3. Being a disbeliever or rather, being agnostic I do not understand the concept behind shrardham or the fact that our ancestors have become crows and hence we must feed the crows to please them. I do not understand why we must waste perfectly good rice, paruppu, nei, vazhekka curry and feed about 2 kilos of above mentioned stuff to the crows. Don't get me wrong. I love crows. I find them more appealing than most human beings. I just think that giving 2 kilos of rice to hungry street children on the occassion of your loved one's death anniversary is probably a better way of remembering them than feeding crows. Having read his diaries and having heard stories about the way he lived his life, something tells me that S.R thatha would have been infinitely happy if we did not waste the food on crows and used it for something more worthwhile.
But year after year I go to Madhya Kailash for each thatha's death anniversary, watch the kurukal do the puja, watch them gloriously mispronounce our names (and even the mantras i daresay :P), get scolded by the kurukkal for sitting cross legged on the chair (its impolite for a girl to do so), docilely watch as mounds and mounds of rice is stacked away for the crows, crowned with ghee and paruppu and then sit and eat the food which only I, being the grandchild can eat and come back home. I do this because I know it makes paati happy and since I am the only grandchild or rather the only one in the "lineage" who is in India and Chennai I go and eat because apparently by doing so I am giving shanthi to the aatma of my thathas and also earning much needed punyam for me. I cannot help being sarcastic but honestly if God did exist I think he should be worried more about the shanthi of his children who are alive than the shanthi of the souls of the dead.
Ah well but thats just me!

4. To expect the world to be uncomplicated and your life to be as smooth as a baby's bottom is like expecting Mayawati to use taxpayers' money for the betterment of Uttar Pradesh and not use it to make garlands for herself. Aint gonna happen ever. Might as well get used to the fact that life is complicated, people are very very complicated and only the age old Indian mantra will help you. "Thoda adjust kar lo".

5. Reading a book about M.S.Subbulakshmi (A Life in Music by T.J.S.George) I realise what a LOT that woman has been through. What we see is only the singer but to read about the person behind that voice was very very inspiring. Marrying a man who was 14 years her senior, not able to marry the man she loved, giving music precedence over everything else in her life, bringing her husband's children from his previous marriage like her own children and not having children of her own, hers is a story which is worth reading according to me. Moved me somehow.

6. NOW, when the academic year is almost coming to an end the college library decides to stock up and the library now has rows and rows of actually interesting books and fiction at that. Our college library which was never known for its collection of fiction now has lots of good fiction books which alas we will never be able to read! I cant wait to start earning (AGAIN) so i can go on a book shopping spree and buy all the books on my ever growing list of books to buy which i have prepared in the past year.

7. Watched the movie October Sky and after a long time shed tears for a movie (So thats a book AND a movie which have moved me in a week. Yayy. Here's to more such fulfilling weeks!). Loved the subtle way in which the father son relationship is handled in the movie (reminded me of the HORRIFIC "daddy daddy" way in which the same was handled in Vaaranam Aayiram), loved the dialogues, especially the one in the end where Homer tells his dad who his real hero is, loved the southern accent, loved the way some of the scenes have been shot and loved the story. It is the true story of Homer Hickam and is a remake of the book Rocket Boys (which is an anagram of October Sky) written by Hickam. Any more suggestions for good movies?

8. The song "Iktara" from the movie Wake up Sid is what continuously runs on my ipod these days. I love the song. Its almost as if the song writer looked at me, observed my life and decided to pen the song. Beautiful words.

O re manwa tu to bawra hai
Tu hi jaane tu kya sochta hai
Tu hi jaane tu kya sochta hai
Kyun dikhaye sapne tu sote jaagte
Kaise main chaloon
Dekh na sakoon
Anjaane raaste

So true! :)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A love ahead of time - II - Plizz to bear with me! :P

So about an year and a half back i had written a short "love" story. (Read it HERE) Yeah, I know the probability of me writing a love story is same as the probability of RJD and SP coming out in support of Women's bill but I wanted to write the story from Narayan's perspective (many people also suggested I do) and I had written it but not published it. Found the document lying deep in the recesses of my C: drive so thought it was time to subject you to another one of my hopeless love stories! :P
So here goes! A love ahead of time - Part II! :P

Please do let me know what you think of it. Honestly! So if you don't like it please say so.


Narayan took his spectacles off to wipe them, cursing Pittsburgh’s weather under his breath, quickening his pace. Damn the frost which frosted his spectacles blurring his vision. Damn the cold which found its way to each and every crevice and bone in his body making him shiver. Narayan was walking with Shyam from the university to his quarters inside the campus. Fall had just gotten over and winter was setting in. The landscape was beautiful and all the trees had shed their leaves leaving a lovely carpet of red yellow and orange leaves on the ground. The students enjoyed this season. Every bench on campus was occupied with couples holding hands, whispering and giggling with the soft glow of love evident on their faces.

“Bloody hell. Defiling every inch of the campus by sitting and doing all kinds of nonsense on the benches. Love it seems. Bah!!” Shyam growled. “There should be a rule against this”.

“They are just students Shyam. This is the age to fall in love. You wouldn’t understand. You have obviously never been in love” said Narayan with a soft smile

“hah!! Like you have a lot of experience Narayan. You aren’t even married”

Narayan smiled. If only Shyam knew. Married with a wife and 2 kids for 26 years Shyam had seen less love that Narayan had in one year with Lakshmi!! That one wonderful year of his life

Lakshmi. Involuntarily he smiled at her memory.

The first time he saw her she was singing some Bhajan for the Golu at their house. He hated these customs. The Golu, the ladies visiting their house for Golu, all that money which amma and appa spent to do the various archanai’s at all the temples in trichy, the money they spent on feeding all the greedy kurukkals who came to do the “pithru kaaryam”. Narayan was sure Thatha would have been infinitely happy if appa had used all that money to feed the poor people in Trichy than spend it on these kurukkals for his devasam. It was ironical. The more he questioned these customs the more number of archanais amma did asking god to give her son “nalla buddhi” or good sense. Narayan was 22 years old. Angry, confused and agnostic he spent most of the time in the public library reading books on theology, sociology, anything he could lay his hands on and trying to find answers to his never ending questions and when at home he spent his time reading his thatha’s books. Leo Tolstoy, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, poems of Edgar Allan Poe and Pablo Neruda. He found solace in their writings.

He had a bachelors degree in Mathematics and with Appa’s influence he could have gotten a respectable job as a professor in Holy Cross trichy. But the rebel that he was, he had chosen to sit at home and read, discover himself and then go on to get settled in life. How he wished he had taken up that job. How he wished he had been well settled when he met Lakshmi. If only… if only..

He would never forget that day. The first time he touched her. It was pouring. As usual he had had a fight with appa and had picked up his umbrella and left home in a huff to walk to the library to spend some quality time reading. He was walking on the pavement when he suddenly saw someone walking right in the middle of the road and a car’s headlights flashing close behind. He realized that if he didn’t intervene the person would be hit. He reached out to the person’s arm and pulled her to safety even as the car whizzed by and it was Lakshmi. Those big beautiful kohl rimmed eyes staring at her with a gamut of emotions ranging from fear to apprehension to relief to confusion playing in them.

Are you crazy?” he shouted at her as soon as he found his voice

She turned around and started blubbering “Th…Thanks. I..I..didnt hear the car. It was raining and…”.

He had offered her his umbrella, still holding her arm and she had pushed it away determinedly preferring to go by bus and he had offered to wait with her.
In the past 30 years he had replayed that scene in his mind a 100 times, playing the hopeless what if game

What if he had just said “ok” and left her. She would never have come into his life then. He would have carried on with life, married someone his parents had chosen for him and been one of those innumerable human beings on earth untouched by the power of love.

But it was not to be. He had chosen to wait with her at the bus stand. Why? That was a question he couldn’t answer. Maybe he was bored, maybe it was hormones, maybe he had a foreboding that they were meant to fall in love or maybe he just wanted someone to talk to.

That day at the bus stop it was appa who had come and disturbed the perfect moment that he had shared with her. It was amazing how appa had spoilt some of the things he valued the most in life. That perfect moment with Lakshmi, his future,his life with Lakshmi…

“Narayan” shyam’s voice pierced his reverie. “Where are you going? We have reached our apartment”

Narayan entered his apartment glad to be alone with his thoughts and reveled in the warmth which it provided. How he missed the warm Trichy weather. He removed the layers of clothes on top of him, the gloves, the cap, his shoes and changed into a cotton shirt and veshti – his only connection with Trichy. He switched on the coffee maker and grimaced at the black color liquid it spewed forth. Black decaf, these Americans called it. What was coffee without a generous dose of fresh milk, prepared with fresh decoction, two spoons of sugar and shaken till the froth formed? He settled down with the coffee and his thoughts switched back to Lakshmi
That one wonderful year of his life.

When had he fallen in love with her? He couldn’t really say. Maybe it was that first sarcastic reply of hers. He was a very judgmental person and had thought of her as just another air head who went to college just so that she could put “B.Sc graduate” on her “marriage” resume. He was wrong. She was intelligent, innocent and willing to learn which was an endearing combination. He remembered how he would wait for her to come to the bus stand after college and would keep peeping out of the window in the library to see if she had come. Those endless conversations which he had with her, those long walks home, the smell of jasmine in her hair, and mysore sandal soap on her self, the tinkle of her anklets and bangles, the sound of her deep laughter, her intelligence, her inquisitiveness, the expression of wonder on her face when she spoke of the authors whose books he loaned her…. These were some images and sounds which had become ingrained in his memory. She was everything that he ever wanted in a woman. He always thought she was his and they were meant to be.

That day when she had told him that they had started groom hunting for her, THAT was the first day when fear had crept into him that she might not be his and he would have to do something if he didn’t want to lose her. He had proposed marriage and the happy tears in her eyes had been answer enough.

The same day he had broken the news at home. Amma had started crying and Appa with a melancholy expression on his face had asked him a question which had sealed Narayan’s fate because he didn’t have an answer. “If you were the father of a daughter would you assent to give her hand in marriage to a person like yourself who doesn’t earn and doesn’t seem to make any efforts at doing so?”

He had just assumed that Appa and Amma would agree because of the friendship between them and Lakshmi’s parents. He had been terribly mistaken. Appa hadn’t even allowed him to explain things to Lakshmi. He guessed that things at Lakshmi’s end were even worse because no communication came from that side too. He had sent her a letter explaining how things were and why they couldn’t get married because of society’s silly constraints. He never got a reply. She must have had a very low opinion of him.

Within a week, news of her marriage came. He had wanted to attend but Appa wouldn’t hear of it. To prevent him from doing anything brash they had gone to Coimbatore for a week to Perima’s place. By the time he came back the one person in the entire city who he cared for no longer existed. He had heard she was in Madras now married to a successful bank officer. She never came to Trichy after that and 2 years later appa had gotten a transfer to Madurai and they had moved. He finished his Post graduation in Coimbatore, finished his MS and Phd and had moved to Pittsburgh – unable to forget her. He had chosen to remain a bachelor. He didn’t think he was capable of loving anyone as much as he had loved Lakshmi. Amma had tried everything to convince him but he was determined. If it wasn’t Lakshmi it wasn’t anyone.

He drained his mug off the last few drops of the bitter liquid and stood for a long time at the window watching the falling leaves and the beautiful campus and thinking about Lakshmi and his fate.

Fate, thought Narayan was a cruel thing. It makes you meet and fall in love with a person who in ur heart of hearts u know can never be yours and yet in a strange inexplicable rather stupid way instead of wishing that u had never met them, you feel glad that they were a part of your life.

It had been 20 years since he had moved to Pittsburgh and yet he hadn’t gotten used to the country but he hadn’t wanted to go back to India. He had cherished the anonymity and freedom which this country had given him. That combined with the fact that Pittsburgh wasn’t swarming with “well wishers” wanting to get him married.
But now at the age of 52 he doubted if anyone would try to get him married.

It was time to go home. Time to go back to Trichy. Time again to spend the rest of his life as a bachelor, sitting at the public library and trying to answer elusive questions.

Life, had come a full circle.