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 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 122: Journeys

Driving with the OldMan

The short vacation ended sooner than I anticipated and it was time to be back in the TrafficCity. Even before the blues of having to go back set in, the OldMan proposed his plan of coming along to attend some of colleague’s grand event. So, I had a driver.

I thought of a strange conversation I had many many years back, where I told Dodo that he was only my third favorite driver, after my dad, and Michael Schumacher. Driving back, I didn’t feel all that confident anymore? He drove at 140 and was of course completely in control. He braked on time and overtook like a pro. And yet, I wasn’t confident. After a while, I fake slept so that I wouldn’t have to imagine my death at every turn.

Was I relating his drinking habit to his waning driving skills? He himself did mention a reduction in reflexes. Was his age really catching up? Were my biases catching up with me?

As I sat opposite the OldMan at Nagarjuna, quietly observing him lost in thought while eating, I felt an eerie feeling of pity take over me. For the last few years, I have been slowing inching away from him, for reasons I’ve ranted out before. As my principles and ideologies solidified, I realized how opposite they were to his; that automatically made us on opposite camps. But sitting there at lunch, I felt a deep connect to his troubles.

I felt like the weakling in the family, always trying to compete and prove my worth. I felt like the failure son that could never be enough for a stickler father, and now the conservative brothers . I felt like the outcast that fell in love and wanted to marry before an older brother had. I felt the pain of the sole bread winner, lugging three women around, and fending for their every need. I felt the pressure of an underpaid job that kept me on the road for 20 days a month, and still did not give enough. I felt the pinch of the rising prices and the growing needs of the daughters. It hurt me when the teenage daughter rebelled and talked back. It stung when the adolescent called me the worst dad yet. I remembered how my inability to give them a more comfortable life caught on and was discussed much later. It pained me to think that my wife was more comfortable speaking about my troubles to someone else in the family, than to me. It hurt me to think that all three could lead a life on their own now, and didn’t really need me.

I felt the pain. Something inside me stirred a little too deep.

SilverGhoster’s birthday and beyond

SilverGhoster turned a year older and a dinner was due. It felt like a Boondock kinda evening, reveling in the classics of an era gone by. As I look back at the night, and the conversations from the dinner, there is an odd familiarity about it all. It felt like we had been this way for years, and this was just another dinner. We talked about cars, mothers, shitty curriculum, dowry system, growing up, growing old, friends, foes, food and whatnot. I realized that with Switch, H, and Dodo all gone, I missed this the most – the random musings under the sun. In fact, I lost Dodo on that front a long time back. I feel the conversations touch on some mundane topics these days, topics that don’t resonate beyond a basic courtesy level. This night, it felt right.

A little part of me wondered if this could lead to something more than just conversations. A major part of me smacked itself in the head, reminiscent of the heart breaks of the past, and the societal anguishes and the battles that lay ahead. Between us, we had the paradoxes, too alike and yet absolutely different from each other. He was the conformist while I had a rebel blood oozing out of every vein. He was the calculated, capitalist businessman, while I was the dreamer who wanted to move to an island and learn to swim. He wanted the machines and the money, and I’d give it all up for the peace of mind. We were poles apart.

Yet, the other Gemini twin smirked and reminded me of the poles that intertwined within me. If the opposites can co-exist within, why could they not thrive in two bodies outside? The rebel wanted to reach out and see if the connect existed, but the loner drew the shutters down and mourned.

Had my heart aged beyond repair so much that it did not want any more battles? Wouldn’t that leave me alone for the rest of my life; any relationship comes with its heart breaks? Was I ready to be my own support system when all was dark and bleak? Was I just imagining the demons in the shadows when at the end of the day the universe had it all sorted out? It always does sort things out on its own. Was the cosmos smiling animatedly as I shook his hand briefly, got out of the car and ran home, lest I do something stupid?

You don’t really have to be alone, S. What is life without a warm shoulder to lean on during the cold and dull nights? 

Fine, that’s your leg, I know. But you get the point, right?” Scotch 

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.


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 103: Leave, you can live with cookie on the streets

These last few days have been a major wastage of resources to get to college and back. We’ve barely had 2 or 3 classes each day and one with more drama than another. Remember?

Like yesterday, by about 12, I struggled and found my way back to the car, to start the long drive back home. I spent one hour and a half in the morning, and I anticipated at least 2 on my way back. I was spot on. So I had spent more time on the road going to and returning from Uni, than actually in the Uni itself.

Gorgeous omelets

And to make matters worse, I had restarted my diet with a few days of intermittent fasting. As I was driving back, I imagined the wondrous eggs lying on my counter, and the cheese in the fridge. I could picture the omelet I would make by putting these two simple and tell magical ingredients together. I had waded past Michael’s, the hot dude and his counter, full of chocolate croissants and chocolate doughnuts. I would make the omelet in all butter to make up for that missed chance at Michael’s. I had skipped breakfast as well. So, it will be a heavy brunch indeed.

I entered the house, and Scotch welcomed me in with more warmth and bum-shake than usual. Hmm. She must really love me. I was really gone for only a few hours. Wait a minute!

I walk over to the dining space, and the plastic container with the spicy groundnuts is lying on the ground, cracked into pieces. Not a sign of the extra spicy groundnuts. I look at the bed on the floor and it’s soaking wet. The recently bought bottle of epiotic, the ear cleaner, is lying strewn, a strategically placed hole leaking all the liquid out.

I turn to Scotch and she is already staring deep into the floor, ear flaps stuck to her head, and guilt overflowing. I chide her a little, point to the ear medicine and her mouth. I allow myself a small laugh, as I remember the recent upma episode. And I turn around towards the kitchen.


There are some utensils all strewn on the ground, knives lying scattered, and the floor mat is all wet. The bowl with the vinegar solution for her ear is empty and lying down on the ground as well. A step forward, and the egg cartons are lying on the floor, face down, and half chewed on.

I had recently bought 2 dozen eggs and might have used 3 for my last omelet. 2 dozen eggs minus 3 and there was no sight of even one. No shells or parts. Nada.

A strange anger took over me and I leapt for the nearest stick from the garden. Two sharp whacks on her feet and she kept quiet, not even a growl. She knew she’d done something very bad.

I opened the main door and asked her to go live with the streeties since she was into scavenging anyway. I was angered all the more when she diligently followed my instructions and went out the door. Dogs don’t get sarcasm, clearly. I tied her up to her leash in the balcony, ran to the bedroom and slammed the door loudly behind me, like dogs would understand such passive-aggressive bullshit.


Two minutes and I was already repenting every single minute of it. It was just eggs! And if anything, she would be the one in pain, what with all that excess protein intake. Why did I make it worse with the whacking? I wasn’t that kind of parent the last time I checked. I remembered how miserable I felt the last time, and this time I felt a million times worse. My ears were hot with the anger. And I could feel my heart racing.

I walked over and released her from her leash and gave her a nice long hug. Scotch over eggs, any day! And she burped in my face, as if returning all the affection, and I knew what was brewing in her little tummy already.

Well you know that free souls like me aren’t meant to be tied down. So, I’m going to make my sad face. 

And, you also know how much I love a challenge. So when you only gave me vegetables and Dalia for lunch, I just presumed that you had left the eggs for me to take later. After snack, maybe! ” 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