Day 108: You should never meet your superheroes

I don’t know whether I should blame the sociology paper or the extended conversations with SilverGhoster, on everything under the roof, but I have a strange cloud hanging over my head today. Some of the points of discussion during the leeching episode stayed with me and that kicked off our next big rant about relationships.

Black or White

Between the SilverGhoster and the DubaiCassanova, I see the two extremes that define the young men of today.

On one end of the spectrum are those that still believe in chivalry, address even women their own age as ‘Madam’ no matter how awkward it sounds to the modern ear, and prefer the clinical perspective on life, where superheroes exist only in fan fiction. They believe that trying to live the fancy life of glitter and glam painted by mass media will only result in heart break, and nothing is worth a lost peace of mind. They will settle with the charming damsel their mother, and the stars, pick for them, and will love that lady to the end of their life.

On the far blue corner, are the partyholics, who define the quality of life based on the glamour shown on their Instagram page. Their badges of accomplishments vary from the number of men/women one has slept with, to their varying sexualities, to the ability to fool the system entirely. They flout rules like their fathers owned the world, and if money was sufficient to build a social repute, ideologies could be dumped into the farthest shelves of living.

Neutral Ground

Does the world stay in stability because of the two extremities that abound in it? Or is the reason for all these doldrums in the world the very fact that such opposites try to co-exist?

As I continued probing and questioning the life choices on one of these extremities, my natural tendency was to advice him to loosen up, and enjoy the world for what it was. My recommendations were for a more loosely bound life-system, where it was acceptable to put oneself out there, to love and to crash and burn. I asked him to look at those on the other side, their learnings, and realize that he was missing out on so many interesting experiences just because of his principles of life.

And then, I stopped myself short. Was this just my human tendency to change anything that exists and to alter its natural state? If I had been talking to the DubaiCassanova, would I have instead advised him to look at the other end and be more sensitive? Now, wouldn’t this whole process, of advising one to become like the other, define my hypocrisy. While I profess hatred towards any form of advice, especially the uncalled ones that are very generously dished out by the society, wasn’t I doing the same thing by asking the SilverGhoster to let his ghosts of the past lay to rest and explore the world’s colors?

I still stand by what I said about my hatred for advice; any man that has a girl child will give you advice on how to raise a girl; anyone that has loved and lost will start dishing out relationship advice; anyone that has written a competitive examination is now your guide on how to crack it; and anyone that has raised a child, albeit a crack addict, will turn parental coach. What qualifies them to wear the superior cape of a guide, shaping your opinions and experiences, based on theirs? For me, someone that truly qualifies to advice another would be one that has seen that person in their entirety – at their massive highs, their utmost vulnerabilities, and knows the truest principles that shape their life. Or, is a qualified, certified psychological practitioner.

Anyone else is just using their number of years on the earth, their supposed experience, to place themselves at a position of power over you; the holy I’ve-been-there-I-know-it position.

The elusive karma

My barrage of counters on why he didn’t do a lot of things a typical 27 year old would do increased, and the sober SilverGhoster brought in the elusive karma. He said his interpretation of karma was that ‘anything that was meant to happen, would happen anyway, without any known push from your end‘. So, in love and life, he let things take their own course and watched how they evolved.

Funny how I think that’s the pop culture interpretation of karma while the true intent behind it is the opposite. From up his holy chariot, Lord Krishna said ‘कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन। मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि॥ २-४७’, or, ‘Karmanyevadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadacha na. Ma Karmaphalaheturbhurma Te Sangostvakarmani’. With this background, I see karma as the duty that you have to do for any result to come by. And inaction, or letting the universe do its thing, doesn’t count for karma.

So, when we say ‘What will be will be’ and use that as a reason for not doing something about it, we are basically doing anti-karma, and not the reverse.

That’s some deep stuff brewing, S. If you ask me, the man is right. Just relax, smell the rain in the winds, and things will fall into their place. And maybe that idea of relaxing and having fun is the karma we are all chasing. 

What say?” Scotch

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Day 104: They tend to leech you away from your parents 

Last working day of the semester and I have more glee than sadness. This semester has taken a huge toll on my emotions and my general sanity of mind, questioning my principles and the will to stick around through every bit of the way.  I’m grateful that with the exams, this will be all done. And that will leave me with just one more semester to go.

SilverGhoster

The last month or so has been a fun learning time, with all due thanks to the SilverGhoster. His 4 wheel drive accords him that name; the alternative that he picked for his ride was ‘Doll’. Haha! Anyway, it’s been chitter-chatter about the education scene in the country, some traditional views that run schools, cars and gals, and general love trouble.

Over lunch and tea, we got talking about his big checklist for the prospectives. Can’t blame the man for having one; I’ve been there, striking items off with each passing year. I’d like to mention a few here, not with the intention of outing the man’s super-secretive list, but to remember the discussion that followed each.

  • The girl has to be from Bangalore.
    • Why so? Well, there’s a friend of a family of a friend of the family, who got married to someone from UP. And when the mother of a friend asked about the friend of a family of the friend’s wife, she made a face when he said UP.
  • The girl has to have a younger brother.
    • Why younger? Older brothers tend to be overprotective, you know. And now you have a father and a mother and a brother to worry every time you make a move. And younger brothers can easily be brought in line, no?
    • Why not a sister? Younger or older? Well, a girl will eventually leave the house and the parents will have noone to take care of them anyway. Which means, the in-laws are around a lot, or the wife is gone a lot.
    • Why the whole hassle or siblings? Why not get a single child? Oh! We’ve seen a few of those and their long tentacles. They are too attached to their parents and are always trying to make the man leave his parents and live separately.
  • The girl had to love dogs.
    • Why? Who am I kidding? This one’s a no-brainer.

What caught me off was not just the patriarchy oozing from those demands, but also the naivete of not seeing through the stereotypes. Every time I prodded the discussion, questioning the idea, it all stopped at the societal norms and expectations, and him just being a regular man trying to meet those demands. While a lot of thought had gone into understanding why he needed a girl remotely interested in cars, the others had just gotten added with each societal eyebrow that raised around him.

Well, has he ever thought of how a girl would feel when she heard that her main intention was to ‘leech’ him away from his parents? Umm no. Does he know that research proves that daughters tend to take full custody of their aging parents while sons prefer to resort to hospicecare facilities? Oh, really? Why is it OK to expect a girl to leave her parents, her social circles, and fit right into the husband’s, while the reverse is unimaginable? Hmm valid thought.

I think we need to have more such over-the-coffee conversations with boys in this country. A number of these smart, intelligent, young men are simply looking for a spark to get them thinking. All they are missing is someone to tell them that the other side has a point of view too.

I’m not going to pat myself in the back and claim to have lit a spark. I would consider my karma done if that man at least started thinking on these lines.

While you’re busy lighting sparks, can you also feed me some mummum, please? I know it’s right here and I just have to lick it. But it feels like a lazy day. 

Pretty please?” Scotch 

Day 101: Your dog is actually very aggressive

Like Father

As I drove back from an unplanned long-distance drive through the city, between being stuck in traffic, and ambling along at a snail’s pace, I realized that I was my father’s daughter after all. Growing up, I’ve always seen my dad go out of the way to ensure guests got where they had to. His theory was always that we had the time, and the means, and we know the place; so why would we subject them to the horror of a new place. I remember all of us stuffed into the car at midnight to drop off my colleagues in Bombay that had come home for dinner. Most people would call a cab and then wave diligently from their pristine balconies; but not Balsu.

I think it all boils down to the love for driving, traffic or none, and like father, like daughter indeed.

Aggressive Dogs

Scotch and I headed out for the evening walk, and we were waiting for the elevator, when the neighbors at 201 popped out of their apartment. The man had the little toddler in his hands, while the lady ran behind him frantically. The child lay limp in the man’s arms, and he screamed out for B to come help, once and then again. As soon as Scotch saw these two grown adults run towards us, she sensed some strange danger to the two of us and started barking. I held her up against the wall while the man and the woman hesitated in front of the Bs, before running down to the family in the ground floor. The elevator dinged at my floor, and we got in and went down to the basement to finish our business.

It was evident that there was some problem with the little one – choking, maybe?

When we were done with the basement work, we saw the man holding the baby and walking around the front garden, trying to settle the baby down. So, I skipped Scotch’s ambling in the garden, and went back up to the house. As I put her back in the house, I saw Mrs. B, and so I went back out to check on the child.

Me: Hey, Is their child OK?

Mrs. B: Swallows some spit. Rolls her ballsy eyes. Your dog is very aggressive.

Me: Excuse me?

Mrs. B: Your dog, is actually, very aggressive.

Me: What did I ask you and what are you responding with? Turn around and walk away.

“She said what? She called me what? Are you sure the B in her name is not bitchy?

Oh! these humans. And they call us the beasts.” ~ Scotch

Scotch in the rain - Rajani

Day 95: You can’t keep questioning our decisions if you want this now

After all the action yesterday, today seemed like a drab Friday. Also because we had classes for only the first half of the day.

Revamp Syllabus

CD hadn’t prepared for her class, some strange reasons that only she could rationalize. So, she proposed we use the class hour to compare syllabi and propose changes for the next year. You know how I’ve been complaining to every teacher about the poor syllabus? So, this was a great opportunity and the real S within me was actually happy.

And then, I looked around the class and saw only SrA. So, the next 50 minutes would play out as thus – I would propose topics of relevance that students really need to study, CD would shy away from them because her traditional, conventional mind would not be able to think beyond the four squares, and SrA would have effectively used the time to finish up yet another final project, while I still lag behind in it.

True to my thoughts, that’s exactly what I told CD. I added that I could send recommendations to her from home, but I couldn’t afford to spend the class hour doing it.

And, we did our own projects.

Plan for Saturday

A and the rest of us asked HOD about the plan for the technology workshop organized for the Saturday. 830 to 530 talking about digital apps like Google Docs and Drive; things we were using on a daily basis. We wanted to sit out of it.

‘I can allow you to sit out of tomorrow’ , the HOD said, ‘but later, if I don’t automatically allow you, you shouldn’t complain. You can’t keep questioning our decisions, if you want this now’. And that’s how we sold our soul to the devil.

The HOD did not make the decision based on the utility of the event to the class, or the workload of the class, or the democratic opinion. He made his decision as a bargain between today’s leeway and a favor at a later time.

This HOD of yours seems to be a consistent actor in your sorry life, S. Don’t worry too much about the oldies. 

Here, take a hug.” Scotch 

Day 94: Don’t underestimate the power of a blind man

Back to Bethany

I did a solo trip back to Bethany Special School to collect completion certificates from the school. I also managed to pick up one of the carpets made by the students from amma’s sarees. It is always a pleasure being back. All the teachers welcomed me back warmly, enquired about the other two, and invited me to say hello to the students. I met Tarun, and our usual sweethearts, Jeslyn and Stuti, and they remembered. Stuti did a full bow and told me that she saw us during her dance for the Prize Day. Even Tarun recognized us during the Vote of thanks apparently. Beautiful souls.

I spent about two hours substituting for Ms Deepa since her mother was in the hospital. Got their computer running, then typed up a few mails and printed out letters for the Principal. It somehow justified the purpose that I was there for, as if the 20 odd hours we spent there didn’t. Maybe it’s me and my idea of not taking back anything but learning from such an institution.

Visually Impaired

The final Teaching practicum for the semester was at a an institution for the visually impaired, called Mitra Jyothi. It is support and resource center for the blind, and the founder is a visually impaired lady herself. So, I was in awe from get-go. We saw the Braille printers and slates, and a number of books published by the institute. It was an impressive establishment for sure. I even saw a blind student type up a super complicated formula in Excel as a part of the computer training, using the screen reader.

I learnt of volunteering opportunities to read books and convert them into talking libraries, and to edit recorded audio to make them blind-compatible. After the recent learning from Radio Namaste, this might be a great place for me to work with them over the weekends.

What affected me the most from the trip was something that the coordinator said. She spoke about the self-respect of the visually impaired and how not every blind man with a stick by the road wants your help to cross it. Most of them have been trained to take care of such basic tasks on their own, and unless they ask for help, you should stay away. A bold and yet powerful observation.

It got me thinking about how in our life’s aim to collect brownie points for the next, we offer help and assistance when we find fit. But what if the person at the other end doesn’t want your help? Are you smart enough to know where to back off?

Silver Ghoster

I’ve had a few decent conversations with SilverGhoster, and it has been refreshing to talk to someone of the newer generation that remembers their Shakespeare. Reddy child, doing his MBA to take over his mother’s school, and we talked about how Christ School is a major threat for their much smaller institution in the area. It talks immensely of brands and how the little mom-pop shop is invariably squashed.

That doesn’t counter the fact that they themselves suffer at the hands of poor teaching methods and teachers. Since it’s run by someone with minimal to no education backing, they still profess rote methods to innovative techniques. I was excited when he told me that most classes have about 25 to 30 students only. We spoke about how powerful that really is and the potential it has to bring real changes in the lives of the students. He had a valid point about the quality of teachers and their willingness to stay in a competitive market. We briefly spoke about recruiting at Christ and so.

Overall, seems like a sensible chappie.

Awkward Dreams

Woke up from a dream where I was being chased by a buffalo. Think the while scene was in a multi-story building, maybe even an infinity pool somewhere. At one point, I am standing in a crisp white room, possibly hiding from the buffalo it walks in, looks directly at me and doesn’t recognize/spot me. Then it takes a little Sniff, and charges directly at me.

And that’s how I was woken up by a blind buffalo chasing me through a fancy resort.

Don’t underestimate the power of a blind man? Is that what the visually challenged computer teacher said? Noo! I’m sure you made that up. Wait! He really said that??

Funny guy!

But it’s scary that they’re in the dark all their lives, no? ” Scotch

Day 85: Bad manners 

I’m learning a lot about poor manners from the Swiss, through this project.

I’ve worked in multi cultural environments before, but we always made sure that language was never seen as a barrier. Even when I worked with the Mexicans, and Indians from different parts of the country, we had an unsaid rule to always speak in English at the table. You do not want to sound like the Filipino pedicurists, who are probably just complaining about each other’s husband’s but always seem like they’re bitching about how your feet smell, because their whole conversation is in a language you do not know.

Even when we started off with this project, all of us Indians had an agreement to speak only in English lest we let the Malayalam, Hindi and Kannada backgrounds between us be a reason to split us. And then the Swiss showed up and shamelessly spoke in French all the time. For a novice ear, it always seems like they’re talking smack about us, gesticulating violently and furiously.

For the first few days, I interrupted, clarified and always tried to bring the conversation back to English. But now, into week 2, I’ve given up. I speak in Malayalam and Hindi to people in the project with whom I’ve never used any language other than English for the last one year. People are shocked with how good my Hindi or Malayalam is because that’s how little they’ve heard me speak it before. And often, I speak about the Swiss in Malayalam or Hindi so that they feel like they’re getting the Filipino pedicurists treatment. A tooth for a tooth, and a foreign language for a foreign language.

Anyway, we had a presentation by the Swiss students to the School of Education, and we learnt how poor they are with public speaking skills. Dinner at Namesake’s house quickly turned into a show of extravagance, what with the fancy jacuzzi and infinity pool in the club house. But the family was very welcoming and the food tasted good. Hectic day indeed!

You’re complaining about a foreign language now? And you yell ‘Sit’ and ‘namaskaram’ and what not to me every time. What’s with that? Should I just bark back in Scotch-tongue going forward?” Scotch

Day 81: Swiss-Indo Bhai-bhai

The day was amm…aazing! That’s it!

Business Meet

The first event of the day was at Taj Mansingh, and is that a luxury hotel or what!? We had a desk set up right at the entrance to the business hall, where the President of the Swiss Federation was going to address a number of business partners, to further the Indo-Swiss friendship. It was truly an exhilarating experience, rolling around with the organizers from the Swiss embassy in India, and talking to some of the visiting delegates. It was more fun to listen to the proceedings of the event itself:

  • Ms. Nirmala Sitaraman, Indian Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, was astute in her observations about the mutual dependence between the two countries.
  • Ms. Doris Leuthard, the President of the Swiss Confederation, was prim in her pink kurta, and summarized wonderfully the last 70 years.

So, TallSwiss played a great photographer, and I managed to listen to a majority of the session and summarize it on the radio, and Mr. YZ, well, he managed to stress out for all three of us. Since this was the first radio session for both TallSwiss and I, there were some hiccups starting off, but I think we got into the flow. I realized the key to being a successful radio host was spontaneity and content. You need to have sufficient material content in order to be spontaneous enough on the radio. If not, you are just blabbering on air and playing sloppy music.

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The Radio Namanste desk with YZ, and me looking super serious. 🙂

 

Delhi Darshan

We managed to report on most of the first event and TallSwiss and I took off to show him some New Delhi. A quick change and we were on an auto to the heart of Old Delhi; Chandni Chowk. I’d heard wonderful things about the parathewali gali and I was going to try some. We had a little stop-over at India gate, to show the TallSwiss off to the local public. He has been awfully calm in the middle of all the mayhem around; it is either a sign of utter disdain or a sign of his maturity. Only time will tell. Well, we sweated it out a little at India Gate, and took another auto to Chandni Chowk.

I am totally intrigued by the accent of Hindi that you find in Delhi. It’s rude almost to the point of being familial. Wonderful! I don’t know if the auto man is yelling at me, or asking me something like an extremely intrusive, paternal uncle would. What also moved me immensely was the scene around Old Delhi, Jama Masijd, in preparation for Bakr-Id. Hundreds of goats waited, chewing carelessly, unaware of the near-distant future that awaited them. Pity! I am convinced that my dietary choices are only temporary and my going vegan is just around the corner.

We got off a little ways to Parathewali gali, and walked the rest of the way, so that we could soak in a lot of the local sights and sounds. It was a new experience for me too, dari bazaar, and I definitely want to go back there, a camera in tow. Parathewali gali was a revelation, an entire little street dedicated to cholesterol mania. We had just enough time to eat an aloo paratha and a thick lassi.

aaf15c32-9d03-4962-bf09-38e0e00e6fb2 Hot and steaming aloo paratha, with a side of aloo and more aloo

Town Hall

The second big event was more high-security than the first, and we had to go through three rounds of security checks, metal and man, before we got into the main hall. The event was late by about an hour. But it was great honor to listen in on a town hall that was open to students of environmental sciences and climate studies of New Delhi. And through the radio broadcast, I’m hoping we opened this up to students from other parts of the world too.

Unlike the morning event, which was attended by business professionals, and she needed them to invest in climate and relationships, this event was for students in attendance and she spoke about the future. There was a lot about how India had to learn from Switzerland’s sustainable energy models and that India was going through the same transformation that Switzerland went through in the 1900s and that there was hope. Promising talk from a leader!

Since we were set up in the same hall as the main event, we couldn’t report live throughout, but we were able to get a majority recorded. And I was able to listen in to some very interesting talk. Most of the questions from the students were around what Switzerland could do for India, and how the students could help. This showed me two big things: One, the next generation wanted to do something, and Two, they wanted to know who could help and how. Powerful!

The weird buffet

This is when things got weird. Satan’s waterfall struck, and I had to get excused from the gentlemen to get stocked. I reached the Swiss embassy alone for the final event, the buffet dinner hosted for the President, and the Swiss joined in few minutes later. We were given a room right inside the embassy, by the main living area, where the President was expected to greet her guests before proceeding out to the garden for the events of the evening. This speaks wonders about the publicity that Radio Namaste had at the embassy and the expectations that the show held. For all that, I thought the two Swiss let us down. We were done setting up, and before we even went live, YZ was running crazy to get himself a drink. “I need my l’alcohol”, he went around screaming, and you should have seen the smirk on his face when we were handed three bottles of water. That completely shattered the high horse that I had put them on so far.

At least on three or four different occasions, they were both missing, off to find themselves a fix, while I handed the radio pad, mixing my own little AC/DC and ABBA. But, if we were there to report on the proceedings of the evening, then why were we playing just the tunes? I would have been really disappointed had I been on the other side, with a lax radio team.

Anyway, the evening show went on for about an hour, and I was able to listen in to the proceedings, as 5 Friendship Ambassadors were honored by the President at the embassy. It was inspiring to hear about the Premchands, who have been in business from Switzerland from the 1950s, and on the other hand, Mr Matias Echanove and Mr Rahul Srivastava, Co-Founders of the urbz platform in Mumbai and Geneva, two young entrepreneurs bringing the two countries together.

The event ended in dinner and we brought the show to a troubled end, before setting out for dinner. The dessert was amazing and I started with it to get the evening going. The Swiss were, of course, drinking more than eating, and it got me thinking about how quick I was to judge alcoholics. I’ve had trouble in the past accepting people and their excessive drinking; ex-boyfriends, the father, and past clients; and was I simply being too harsh on them for their choices?

YZ was excessively sweet after his third drink, and thanked me profusely for the ease with which I handled the day. He mentioned how nobody would have done the job better, and even when TallSwiss was hesitant, I brought in the facts and made the show worth it all. Just drunk talk or was he being genuinely grateful? That’s my problem with the drunk, I think; their words can never be taken for what they are worth.

“One should never be too quick to judge, S. If you looked at Scotch and I, you’d think we are born trouble-makers. But you get to know us a little more, and you’ll know that all we want is to relax and smell the rain. Give people a chance, S.” Goose

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