Friday, March 30, 2012

Oh, it's that boy from my class!

My visit to Madurai has begun with a startling discovery that they have opened a mall near Gokhale road. I discovered it after reading this article. It is very elegantly written not discounting the fact that mall or not, it is still situated in Madurai. I also noticed that one Mr. A.Shrikumar has written the article. I remembered vaguely that a classmate of mine with the same name, ignoring the rest of school's mad sprint for engineering/medicine, took up liberal arts. I have not seen him since I joined college and recalled my mother telling me that he is now working as a journalist at The Hindu. I know and remember him because of this funny thing that happened when I was in fourth grade. Apart from the zillion other competitions that TVS had, there was one that was an intra co-curricular affair that happened every year with about 30 different competitions including English handwriting, Tamil handwriting, etc. 

Taking a slight deviation from the main story, I feel that I have to tell you about the handwriting bit. I remember the handwriting competitions very well because it was the age where a person's success in life was measured by the slant of the copper plate. My mother blamed her handwriting for all the opportunities that she missed in her life. Egged on by my grandfather and the fun gang that our family is, there has always been a medium to heavy paranoia around handwriting. I copied pages and pages of Macmillan's handwriting books, perfecting the loop of my J’s, the curve of my e's and the slant of my t's. I wrote in pen while at home even when I was in first grade when the rest of the kids were just scribbling with crayons and pencils. I used gel pens; the ones whose blue was slightly more vivid adding flavour to my perfect copper plate. There was one gel pen whose blue was more like purple and when they stopped making it, I wrote to the manufacturer and got him to ship me 50 pens. My handwriting was thus renowned in my parents' circles and was proudly displayed when someone came home (Exhibit A).
Exhibit A (Writing in 5th Std)

After a year at college, the copperplate lost its "pointiness" and started having wide spaces in between the joints, overall reflecting the amount of time I spent writing records, which varied between 30-35 minutes. In the second year, the time reduced to 20 minutes and the tittles over my i's and the crosses over t's missed their marks by inches. By the end of third year, my records became very well known for the extremely illegible scrawl and many a lab prof have shuddered at my written work (Exhibit B). I once told this gleefully to my mother, who literally clutched her heart and left the room.

Exhibit B (Writing in the third year of college)

Coming back to the main story, it was my fourth grade and I had just joined TVS. Of the 13 or so cultural competitions I had entered  (even fancy dress as the little known Bhikhaji Cama), there was a poetry recitation competition for which Shrikumar and I were chosen from Fourth "A" to represent our class. I practiced the following for days together

To My Sister
O my sister remember the stars the tears the trains
The woods in spring the leaves the scented lanes
Recall the gradual dark the snow’s unmeasured fall
The naked fields the cloud’s immaculate folds
Recount each childhood pleasure: the skies of azure
The pageantry of wings the eye’s bright treasure.

Keep faith with present joys refuse to choose
Defer the vice of flesh the irrevocable choice
Cherish the eyes the proud incredible poise
Walk boldly my sister but do not deign to give
Remain secure from pain preserve thy hate thy heart.
~ Theodore Roethke

Phrases with fancy words like "Immaculate folds" & "Pageantry of wings" stuck to me so much that I was able to retrieve this poem in Google just by searching for those phrases. I practiced this darn poem for days together. All was well, until the day before the competition, the class teacher called Shrikumar & I to tell us that she had made a mistake and only one person was to be selected from one class. She reasoned that since I was already in 13 or so contests, it made sense for Shrikumar to go for this one. 

I was heart-broken. I cried and cried at the abject breach of fairness that my mother had to ring the bell of justice; er, call the principal's office demanding a selection process by a neutral judge. It was the time of monsoons and the next day, it rained so much that my school was flooded. We were wading through the rainwater as if we were crossing rivers. I remember flying into the class and dragging the generally very nice, soft-spoken Shrikumar by his arms, through the heavy rain and water to the next building for the impending hearing by our impartial judge. 

Imagine yourself as a principal of a school and having to put up with such situations- a completely barmy kid at one hand and a nice kid almost driven to tears by the aforementioned psycho kid, at another. It almost reminds me of this passage.

"How this situation arose, we do not know," said Dumbledore, speaking to everyone gathered in the room. "It seems to me, however, that we have no choice but to accept it. Both Cedric and Harry have been chosen to compete in the Tournament. This, therefore, they will do. ."

However, it was not the case. I waved and gesticulated and thundered the well-practiced poem until the teacher was forced into choosing me. I remember seeing Shrikumar's parents, the next day, coming to our school to talk about the emotional trauma their son had to go through.

He & I buried all the misgivings of the past in middle school. It is nice to know that he is doing great what with his selection to IRS. Whenever I think of him I always remember that rainy day of the poem and my more than maniacal competitiveness. Though this madness sprouted time and again through college, I give it to CIT for totally sapping this spirit from me by the time I finished college and converting me from 


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Everyone knows everything these days!

Should have been born at a time when things were less competitive, life was simpler and when people had to actually work hard to know things. :-)

                                                      RIP Britannica.

I chose not to attend classes while at TVS and spent long and lovely hours poring over these hardbound editions. I owe these books so much for letting me discover so many things so painstakingly that it all meant something.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

We the People

What we've seen our life is such a minuscule portion of what is out there. Most of us are good people. Sitting in our cushy cubicles and raising tickets to decrease the air-conditioning we spend the day meeting our targets. Days get made when a code works, when promotions happen or in some cases, by eating good food. Outside our big offices, we curse our governments for power cuts, for posting budgets that might not favour us. We occasionally get bothered about others who are not our Facebook friends. We have all been brought up well, and in our nice schools and our middle class parents we have learnt all the values we need. We were the darling of our families and though we didn't get everything we wanted, we were always told about the less fortunate ones out there

 When we grow up, we tweak our morals to suit company, to make ourselves likeable and fit in. We learn to lie effortlessly, but we are still good people. We have been taught about how good people get rewarded in moral stories over and over until it internalized.  When we find a group and when we find others who are lesser comfortable than we are, we bully. We taunt and joke about things that we don't feel comfortable about.

 We do feel sad when there is an accident, when we hear about such shocking and sordid stories of murders. We say how foolish it was for a person to have killed herself/himself, over simple things. We sometimes shed tears when we see gruesome images of wars elsewhere and when we hear about shocking rapes. We click our tongues at others' misfortune and sometimes, genuinely feel sorry for them. We pray for the dead. Not everyone, but at least the ones who trend on twitter. We talk of their greatness so much that the next generation might talk of us talking about the dead soul's greatness. We give away money when we feel charitable enough and feel better. 

We all play it safe. We take all this freedom, this lack of landmines and shelling and going through the day without getting killed as granted. The only wars we have gone to is with Pakistan which gets lost in a fuzzy haze of fim actors guild's fund raisers and frantic news coverage. When we get acrimonious we create our own wars. On Facebook. And on blogs.We argue with people and try belittling each other to the extent that is allowed by HR policies.

Somehow we protect ourselves and pretend everything else that is wrong with the world as a chronic disease that can be managed with a dose of indifference. We convince ourselves that what we do will be a  drop in the ocean anyway and won't matter. We know for a fact that the system is screwed up and there are way too many things beyond our control to attempt setting things right. We have learnt enough math to calculate the path of least resistance and maximum comfort. All of us are arm chair critics. We are still good people. So naive, cushioned and protected that we willingly protect ourselves from all that shit out there and set to control at least our own world where we have power to do so. 

We all know that it takes brutal power to step out of our comfort zone and actually solve others' problems. We hail the men and women who do, as heroes. We know these people from our school, our colony and as our playmates. We amaze at their tenacity in overcoming the same middle class paranoia our parents induced in us.  Not just because of how they change people's lives but because they have the guts to quit and step out of the air-conditioning regardless of the paycheck's conspicuous absence at the end of the month. 

We just live. And happily at that. Fifty years down the lane, whether "just living" will suffice is a question that remains to be answered. Presently, our sense of achievement does not have enough data points to draw a conclusion from. When it does, we hope that along the way we did stop somewhere and went beyond our means, at least at one instance and helped someone in need.

P.S- I watched Anbe Sivam for the tenth time yesterday. The more I saw of Madhavan, the more I could replace myself and most of the people I know in his place. I remembered a friend's friend who quit his well paying job to actually teach for under-privileged kids. When I will get the guts to lose my minuscule problems in the enormities of the others,  I do not know. But when I do, it shall be the real life changing moment that all my "Statement of Purpose"s tried to manufacture.

Monday, March 05, 2012


At the beginning of this year, I had told myself that I'd do something small/big everyday that would make me extremely happy for the entire day. Though I was not able to keep this up on all days, I have managed to stick on to it whenever possible. When I look back, not surprisingly, it all seems to be connected with food. Most of my Facebook statuses are about food, which conclusively proves that food comes very high on my priority list.

It usually starts at the fruit counters where I would try out a different fruit everyday or I would make a  different salad with different dressing for lunch . Since the beginning of the year, I have waited for a good amount of time for the fruit counter person to start cutting a fresh papaya or a fresh water melon so that I get to eat it as soon as it is cut. Somehow eating it this fresh makes me feel so victorious. If it happens during breakfast, it is always a sure sign that my day would go very well.
As fresh as it can get

Salad counter

This has also expanded my explorations in the kitchen during weekends where I have pigged over Pricha Kozhabu, Puliyitta keerai, Parapusili and the other Tirunelvelish food. I have been updating my cooking blog quite often these days.

We have a coffee shop in the first floor of our office. It is set up like Starbucks and it belongs to one the most popular coffee shops in Hyderabad. I have started working from this coffee shop for hours together mainly because the aroma of the freshly ground coffee and the general bustle gives me the focus I usually aspire to achieve. My team-mates get quite curious why I keep hanging around in the coffee shop when I have an equally good couch near my place to work from. This couch is legendary as it  is a result of an experiment I did in 15 minutes  to try and see if they would give me a couch if I ask for it. Since then, like Sheldon Cooper would say, the couch is  "a single point of consistency in an ever changing world and if my life is expressed as a function in a four-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system, this spot, would be "0,0,0,0"
The famous couch (0,0,0,0)

Also these people celebrate most of the festivals with aplomb. Brilliant decorations ensue with even more brilliant food. Take a look

Some other festival

They do this every month

Valentine's day

Today has been especially good for simple pleasures. Having woken up way early, I made my own breakfast, something that I had not done ever since I joined Google. I made white soft dosas and smeared them generously with my grandmother's molaga podi. Somehow this put me in a good mood despite it being a Monday.

After coming to office, I realized that we had Bisi Bele Bath for lunch. I kind of like to break surfaces when they serve such food. It gives me immense happiness to ladle the surface covered with Boondi on to my plate, add a dollop of ghee to the sizzling hot mixture. Today, they had hand made Vazhakka (green plantain) chips, a delicacy that only my maternal grandmother makes. Egged on by this, I decided to throw my calorie count to the wind and downed a couple of Rasagollas.

Inspired by the food, I spent post-lunch lounging on the La-Z boy, finishing all the work I had been postponing in a couple of hours. Having just turned 23, I can confidently say that I have never been hedonistic as I am these days.

P.S. Post was written after a mind-blowingly  good cup of cappuccino and one can attribute the general gaiety in the post to caffeine induced optimism :-). Also, I might not post it if I have to edit it sometime later so please excuse any grammatical errors.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Why Calvin and Salinger sound so alike

That's the whole trouble. You can't ever find a place that's nice and peaceful, because there isn't any. You may think there is, but once you get there, when you're not looking, somebody'll sneak up and write "Fuck you" right under your nose. Try it sometime. I think, even, if I ever die, and they stick me in a cemetery, and I have a tombstone and all, it'll say "Holden Caulfield" on it, and then what year I was born and what year I died, and then right under that it'll say "Fuck you." I'm positive, in fact.

I can totally imagine Calvin saying this, sans the profanity, of course. If Watterson had let Calvin to grow up he'd be so much like Holden and catching kids in the rye field. The anger in Holden's is the empathy and Calvin's wit make them the best medicines for bad anger bouts.