Day 135: Wrapping up the year

Teaching Sharing

The last working day of the year ended in style: I got to teach a two-hour lecture and wrap up the session. There was a slight pressure when I found out that ChaCha, SrA and the SoulSurfer would be sitting in too. But most of those become trivial when you start teaching. It was more fun because I got to teach some technology, stuff from the life of 10 years. It reminded me again about how important it is to be content-strong. A few quick learnings from the session:

  • It’s always important to relate to the class and set up a tone of comfort before you get into teaching
  • There will always be those that are disinterested; forcing them to participate won’t help anybody
  • The front-benchers are your best friends – keep them happy
  • It’s always nice to know the names of the class
  • Some teachers make every topic/lesson boring, purely by bringing in exercises, evaluation and assessments into the picture – don’t be that person.

Overall, it was a good way to end the session before we broke for the semester. 

Mado turns a year older

Mado’s big day started my kinda way – with some authentic breakfast at MTR. It was fun to know that I had introduced all three to the beauty of some quality adult time. The food was amazing as always, the ride up was fun too, and the conversation was passable.

I had a strange old-woman moment, when I had the birthday cake sitting at home, in the fridge, and completely forgot to bring it along. In the end, things work out for the best, since MTR would have been a weird location to cut a cake. I was all the more confident of that decision when we eventually cut the cake at home in the evening – very sloppy, tasteless cake. Strange!

Sorries

ChaCha and I were chatting up after Mados little birthday party and we noticed how these boys were all too quick to pull out the white flags and say their sorry. Did it mean that they really understood the point and realized their folly, or did they just want to end the discussion, results nonetheless?

I understand the reasoning might just be to pick your battles, and lose a few fights to win the larger battle. But is that what all relationships end up being – a series of compromises? And if you were the one bringing out the white flag every single instance, would it become more difficult with each passing instance? And what if I fought every fight like it were the battle? Wouldn’t that be tasking, a huge strain on the relationship itself?

Pics4mswiss: looking over the red thatched roofs of Old City Bern

IMG-20171126-WA0024.jpg

Advertisements

Day 134: To act or not to act

A certain commotion caught my attention when walking into my block at lunch hour today. The security guard and the block maintenance in charge were in argument with a girl student. She made multiple protests and even tried eluding the security and running to class, while he way laid her and brought her back to the entrance.

I knew I had to do something. I had heard a lot about the rude behavior of the security. And this maintenance in-charge has been on my radar for a while now for speaking very rudely to a number of the support staffs. So, i intervened and asked the girl what the problem was. ‘I got late and bought a packet of food for lunch. Now my class is about to begin and I need to go in. He’s not letting me in with this covered food container’, she pleaded, looking desperately for some support. My mind had expected some serious argument – dress code maybe, or missing ID card. The minute I heard her protest, I immediately shrugged my shoulders and walked away. I almost did something to help but my sub-conscious walked away.

I thought about what I did, or didn’t do, for the rest of the day. There were many reasons why the girl needed support and I could have helped. The security had no control over students that bring lunch from home and eat in the classrooms. So why detain students that do not have the luxury of a home cooked meal and depend on the cafeteria? There was no crime committed here for which he had to chase her down the corridor like she were a thief. If anything, he could have warned her for the subsequent time and let her in. I could have reminded him of all of this. I didn’t.

Wasn’t this the reason I joined the student council? Wasn’t I interested in standing up for student problems? Then why was I taking a high-grade, especially by picking battles that mattered to me versus those that didn’t. Shouldn’t I be concerned about them all nonetheless. The elevator issue in the central block affected me even though I was directly not effected by it. This incident happened in my block; it was a security guard that I see on a daily basis. Shouldn’t this work me up more?

Sometimes I surprise myself with my actions, or inaction.

Pics4mswiss: Every winter, the earth covers itself in white, to cleanse itself of all that is. 

Day 133: Bleeding Blue

Cook-a-thon

ChaCha had a strong desire to eat some home cooked mor-koottu and I offered to let her experiment at home. So, the Sunday turned into a massive cook-a-thon at home. Chicken was added into the menu, some cleaning got done through the whole cooking process, and the lunch ended on a sweet note. I remembered how much I loved cooking to begin with. The last few months had scared me a little; had I lost the interest in this stress-relieving hobby, after all? After the cookathon, I realized the reason I was slacking off for the last few months was simply because of the lack of an audience. There is always an extra pep in the chop when you know someone else is around to share the meal.

There is something strange about the mind and its innate tendency to compare. As we were cleaning, marinating, cooking and eating the chicken, I kept going back to times with Dodo and the feelings from then. There had always been an excitement about a man that loved cooking. There would be moments of irritation when he’d automatically assume that I was the sous-chef, never the lead. There would be mirth in fighting between the classic rock that we loved then and the more subtle songs he loved now. At the end of the day, there would be a lot of whining about his job or his life, things for which the answer was always found only between the sheets. This communion felt different.

It differed in all aspects except the part where I was left cleaning an entire sink of used utensils, all by myself. It’s funny how this was a bone of contention with Dodo as well, and is a point of discussion now too. But it speaks volumes about the women in the lives of these men that do not even make them realize the basic decency that goes into cleaning up after yourself. I still respect Tiwari and Superbiker for their sensitivity towards the matter, especially the minute they realized that I did not have the luxury of a maid. Clean-up sucks and that’s probably one major factor that would hold me back in the future from accepting such offers.

BeeeEfffCeee

The latter half of the evening was a fete. First football match in a stadium, ever, and the BFC fan club, the West Block Blues were the right company. Mado was a dear; planning the idea up, getting us the tickets and even finding awesome seats. The rush that comes with 20,000 people chanting, swearing, booing and cheering at the same time is unique entirely. One might not follow the sport, not know the rules, or the names of the players. And yet one wouldn’t stay away from the energy of the scene.

It was as exciting as watching a live rock concert. Amazing. At the end of it all, good football won the match.

Life would all be topsy-turvy if not for a few things fancy that put you out of your comfort zone. 

Day 132: Oppressors unlimited 

The weekend started on a great note, the 4OfUs met to watch a forum theater by the TO community working with Srishti school of design. SoulSurfer stuck to the plan of  my first metro ride in the city, and I was glad that he persisted. The anonymity that comes with public transport and the novelty that came with the ride in the city was very energizing. A little stroll in and around Cubbon Park and we were seated in for the play.

For all that I read about the uniqueness of forum theater, I was impressed by seeing it in action. It’s quite likely that most of them in the audience were there, like me, because of some basic introduction into TO. But it was also likely that they were just random passers-bys, ones that were really moved by the scene that was playing out in front of them.

It was very encouraging to watch some men come up, and take on the role of the oppresed lady. It was very disturbing to hear some men talk about how they had experienced such violations of their personal space too. It was most disappointing to hear more and more stories of women facing these violations on a daily basis. Ten minutes back, half an hour back, 1 day back, 2 months ago, since 15 years; and the tyranny continues.

Being in the role of a spectactor was unnerving, especially to realize that the obstruction or the oppression that my role was facing could be faced in real life too. There could be a creepy Vijay slowly falling on you in the bus, there could be a driver who’d refuse to listen to all your protests, there could be a situation where you’d have no other option to try; and at that point, you might not get a retake.

It makes me angry to think about how inhuman mankind truly is, to be able to ignore another’s will and interest entirely, and to thrust one’s own want and needs. What bothers me more is to see men of the privileged backgrounds act like there was no problem at all. I’d like to see more men, like the SoulSurfer and MadO, step up and realize that women all around them – girl friends, mothers and sisters – were stepping on thin egg shells every time they were walking out the door. I’d like them to join the dialogues and become a voice of sanity in this deafening discussion.

I believe that without enough voices from the other side of the fence, we’d just be prisoners rattling our cages in a sound-proof room.

Pics4mswiss: When darkness prevails, the heavens open up and a new sunrise is seen. 

Day 131: Class Bully

B for Bala. B for Boss. B for Bully.

My class teacher chanted, laughing at her exquisite sense of humor. I have to give the lady the credit for at least being man enough to say it in front of me. I heard today that it’s the general term that teachers use to refer to me when I’m not around – bully.

I don’t know what bothers me more – the fact that the very teachers teaching us about professionalism, and the negatives of labeling children, are the ones that are guilty of breaking that moral code; or that none of my classmates have stood up against the teachers’ “joke” every time they made it. It specifically botheres me because I feel strongly against bullying and bossing around and being called that when you’re not is hurtful.

I am definitely guilty of voicing my discomfort when I feel it in class. I’ve said this before; I did not quit my career of  ten years to put up with sloppy syllabi and teachers that don’t plan their lessons. I am also guilty of being the first to respond to teachers in class, because the other two have either spaced out or do not have an opinion on the matter of discussion. And if my expressing my opinions about things that I’m passionate about warrant a tag on my head, then guilty as charged. Put me on the chopping block.

Pics4mswiss: colors of a day that ended well.  

Day 130: Being mean – not! 

It’s not easy when you act out what you’ve been meaning to for a long time.

One of the most powerful, and irritating, experiences that I’ve had on campus was at the kiosk; I was waiting to pick up some tea. This was almost a year and a half back, in semester 1, when I was fresh from my professional and western sense of personal space. This college, and most of India, knows nothing about personal space. There was already a row of students directly behind the counter, picking up tea and snacks that they needed. I stood in the next row, behind them, waiting to move in and order when they were done. Yes, life would be wonderful if we had a queue system now, wouldn’t it?

As I waited there, money in one hand and my phone in the other, a young lady joined the melee at the kiosk, in the circle (the crowd equivalent of a queue) behind me. How did I know she had joined our little, uncomfortable party? She was breathing down my neck (literally), was close enough to check my hair for split ends and her arm was stretched above all of the 5 foot and 7 inches of me. The icing on the cake was her shrill-pitched voice yelling ‘Bhayya, ek chai, bhayya, ek chai’. I realized that subtlety and hints were generally lost on this lot when none of my shuffling and mch’ing did any difference to her yelling. I wanted to turn around and shush her. I wanted to ask her if she thought I enjoyed standing where I was, stuck between a sweaty boy in the front and the shrieking her in the back. I wanted to remind her that I was there to pick up tea too, and it would only be fair for me to be served first, before she got her turn. I wanted to remind her of the sad situation that the anna was in, where he had his 2 hands and 2 ears competing against at least 100 hungry hands clawing at him. I stood still and waited for the sweaty boy in the front to get his job done.

Not a second later she yells ‘Abey chai dena, kutte ki aulaad’. It was of course drowned down by the rumpus around and never made it to the guy behind the counter. But I heard it crystal clear. I was fuming red. I turned around to let her have all that I had subdued only a second back, but all I could muster was a cold-dreaded stare. She got the message and walked away.

I think of that episode a lot, especially when I am at the kiosk and I see the persistent commotion. I often think of that young girl that I stared back at, and I wonder if she had learnt a lesson. I beat myself up for not coming up with a wittier response than a simple stare down. I worry for a generation that would go out of the safe confines of the university, and into the world, thinking that it was their legal entitlement to be served without a minute’s delay, and that it was okay to use any words they deem needed to get that done.

With all the thinking that I had done on this matter, today I was better prepared to respond when a similar incident replayed. I was waiting my turn for chai (I should probably stop drinking this much chai), and a young girl butts in from behind me and yells ‘Anna, ek tea’. I smile at her, she smiles back, and I ask her if I look like I was standing there for fun. Her smile drops half-way down, confused. “What happened?”, she asks. I explain my protest and her smile is completely gone. We stand there awkwardly as I pick up my tea and egg puff. As I head out, I say “Now is your turn. Luck!”, and she smiles, sheepishly.

And I felt miserable at the end of it all. Maybe more so than the previous time. I beat myself up this time for not picking the stare-down route. It actually hurt me to vocalize my discomfort because it made me sound like a bad person, where as I was not. Stopping someone from walking all over me made me feel like the one at fault.  Why did I get disturbed for simply expressing something that I had played out in my mind many times before?

I finally understand something that I had heard over the weekend at Diversity Dialogues. Some of us are very comfortable being the victim; being the one oppressed. Some of us never speak up against what troubles us simply because we are comfortable playing the role of a traditionalist. We do not want the world to think ill of us because of our conflicting opinions. We play along in order to get that gold medal, a fake smile and a nod of acceptance. We conform!

Pics4mswiss: One of the chairs of Einstein, in the old city Berne. Sit with the man and talk about conforming. 

Day 129: Mind work

The last discussion with the psych was an interesting one; it felt satisfying to review a recent decision made with a certain mindset and to revalidate it with a mind in a different space.

 

I blame it on the cliché about distances and the hearts growing fonder and on the hallowed mental image we build of people when they are not around us. But in the middle of my first week in Switzerland for two weeks, it dawned on the SoulSurfer that we were meant to be something more than just friends. Between discussions about loyalty and support systems, and what makes people gravitate towards a few and not others, he asked me to be his exclusive ‘girlfriend’. And I said yes.

 

Fast forward two weeks, and there is an exciting surprise pick-up at the airport, there are new friends in my life that I hadn’t anticipated or planned on having, and something doesn’t feel right. A day of being back in the country, and I am already worried by that decision from two weeks ago. He is extremely raw and inexperienced; Who talks to their Mounts at such an early phase when even the other partner isn’t sure?; How far can you deal with the naiveté before it becomes too much?; And all of the discussion is based on some “Gold-coin” grand scheme of things that might not even interest you in the first place. What if?

 

I turned to H for her expert advice on the matter and at the end of that conversation, I had convinced myself about how difficult this whole relationship felt. That’s exactly what I shared with the SoulSurfer, when asking for a time-out. Relationships are supposed to be like well-oiled machines shifting into gear; smooth and effortless. Here, between his immaturity and his Mount and my absolute confusion about whether I wanted this or not, it all felt cranked up and rough; it felt like we were sanding the edges too hard to make them fit. The man walked away with a new compass in his hand, completely lost.

 

At the psych’s couch, I retold the whole conundrum that lay ahead, half expecting her to revalidate my decisions and to tell me what a wonderful move I had taken in my life by asking for a break in this complicated situation I had put myself into.

 

Instead, she gave me a theory about the different ‘kinds of minds’ that we all have. The emotional mind – the one that makes all the feeling-related decisions; the rational mind – the one that analyzes the pros and cons of every decision; and the wise mind that consolidates information from the other two before making a balanced decision.

 

It made absolute sense. In Switzerland, away from the physical reality of the SoulSurfer, my emotional mind had felt comfort in his proposal and had jumped to accept it. Back in the country, grounded in the reality of the day-to-day, my reasonable mind had researched on all the negative data points that predicted trouble and had immediately withdrawn from the bargain and boxed itself up. The wise mind had stayed quiet through it all.

 

As I sat in her couch, eyes shut, and reflected on what both the emotional and the rational were telling me, the wise mind finally took over. A lot of my worries with the man were related to my mental image and impression of the Mount, all formed purely based on my discussions with the SoulSurfer. Biased and unfair. Unfair twice over, because we cant really blame someone for how their families are, can we? Moreover, if I myself wasn’t sure of a future together and the expiry date of such a future, then why was I worrying today thinking about that unclear future? It was evident that a powerful, subconscious fear in me was to get into an engagement similar to the last one, with the mallu man. If you knew that there would be no forever and beyond in a relationship, would you still get into it because it felt right today? But, we didn’t know enough to validate that there wouldn’t be a forever and beyond in this one. And we did not even know if the forever and beyond was truly what I was looking for. And it did feel right today, didn’t it?

 

The wise mind reviewed the question from earlier, and answered with a ‘Yes’. There were things that needed clarifying, there were issues that needed resolving, there were priorities to be sorted and there was growing up to do. But all of that could happen, together, as we gathered more data. During that growing up, and gathering data, the wise mind always had the power to reevaluate and decide on the next course of action. It would have to deal with the consequences of that decision then.

 

But why worry today about something that needs to happen tomorrow?