Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sshh..! Dont tell anyone !

Courtesy:Google Images.
When someone says ‘Hey don’t tell this to anyone’, in my head it sounds like ‘Hey I have planted a bomb under this building’.  Most people try to sound scary when they trust another person with their secret. And this secret is relevant only to them, so they could actually save the drama part. 

To be honest, keeping someone’s secret was a big deal in my school and college days. Like in school the biggest secret used to be :

 ‘Did you know why Sweta teacher dint come yesterday? She is pregnant!!’

 ‘What!!! :-o’

‘Can you believe it? Pregnant!!Now don’t tell anyone ’

 The fact that I dint care one bit about her pregnancy as long as we got a free hour was something my friends probably dint get. That Sweta teacher is a happily married woman and is pregnant with her second child and in a few weeks her bump is definitely going to show is a fact that did not deter the person breaking the news sound any less dramatic.

Then was college and secrets got spicy and scandalous like ‘Do you know that Ashok is two timing her? Don’t tell anyone’ or ‘That guy cheated in University Exam.. He actually told me not to tell anyone…but you don’t tell anyone okay?’. Well some secrets stayed, I forgot others, and when that person comes later and tells me the continuation of the earlier secret I get completely lost, but still manage to pretend rather convincingly. I was no exception I told some secrets too which some friends dint think qualified enough to be a ‘secret’ so they laughed over it at the bakery.

Well after that there was a long hiatus to secrecy in general. I was job hunting . During that time the only secret about me was that I was jobless and this secret was not kept by anyone. And the only secret I had was that I was cursing anyone who set their nosey business in my life and had the guts to ask’ Did you find a job YET ?’.

Well later came love and then marriage and then there were no secrets. We had a lot of friends who were couples and we hung out, and in a couple years there was such a dearth of secrets that I forgot the entire concept of secrecy altogether. This is what marriage does to you. Single friends don’t share anything anymore, because couples discuss everything, including that of the single friend. So basically I dint know anything about anyone anymore. I came to know that some erstwhile close friends were ‘In a relationship’ or ‘married’ or ‘blessed with a baby’ from Facebook.

But now there seems to be a whole new level of secrets. Like in my building a kid fell down and hurt her elbow, and her parents were keeping the matter top secret. However the child fell down in a public place and everyone knew it but no one was allowed to probe further into the updates of the incident. However being a working woman I am completely unaware of the secrets in my building and went ahead and asked that lady:

‘How’s your daughter?’ 
And she was like ‘Why?’
 I went on to ask…’She fell down or something na?’
She: ‘How did you know?’

Well ‘She is fine’ would have been a perfect answer to my first question, but the lady was hell bent to know who told me. My eyes told me…my eyes!! I saw her when she fell! And are kids not supposed to fall down? I really din’t know this …I fell down like thousands of times in my childhood and even have three stitches at the back of my head which the entire district of Trivandrum knows about. And now you know it too.

Other highly guarded examples of secrets are ‘Have you seen Deepika’s daughter? She was adopted…Shh don’t tell a single soul’ ‘or ‘Did you know Mahesh’s son was so ill he dint attend fourth grade exams? He may have to lose a year…Shh don’t ask them directly’ (This does not mean you can ask them indirectly). But when Deepika’s daughter becomes a topper or Mahesh’s son grows up to crack the IIT - THAT actually is a well-kept secret. Nobody wants to spread that news. And that my friend, is what secrecy is all about.

And then there are others who are extremely secretive about random personal things. Take for example a person who was disturbed about the strange disease her cat suffered from, and then pleaded me not to tell anyone. I was faced with two main dilemmas: 1. Does she think that I may spill this secret to other cats, which in turn will make her cat socially unacceptable?
2. Suppose I tell this to people…how do I start? ‘Listen I have a horrible secret to tell…my (unnamed) friend’s cat…’ does this sound like something anyone will be interested to know? Well I still keep the secret. Oh who am I kidding? It completely exited through my other ear.

Courtesy:Google Images

Well there are real secrets too. The family secrets, and more importantly stuff people share with me because they want to be heard. Like any other secret, these too stay and may be forgotten in the long run, but never does it reach another ear, because I consider it my own. 

But in the society we live in, everything is a secret and everyone thinks their lives are suspense thrillers. Like some people lie that they have two more years in Govt. service, but we know that they retired four years ago. Others fake their age even with their best friends. Others don’t divulge any details about their kids who went to study abroad. And among these secrets blooms fake friendship, something that is like a plague in our generation. 

Oh and by the way, that cat died. 

Dont tell her I told you. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A testimonial to Orkut.

Despite having received many requests to divulge my love story, I dint oblige as I have no mushy, tear-jerking, heartwarming story that can make anyone go ‘Awww’.  It does not have any typical cliches or thrilling twists that can make it worth a read forget interesting. To top it all, our parents did not make a hue and cry when we decided to get married, and that was the last nail on the scope for telling my story. Had they rejected my wish to marry him, I could’ve portrayed them as villains and blissfully get my character some sympathy and support. Oh well, the guy turned out to have a nice sense of humor, so life with him is not as boring as our jab-we-met version would have turned out.

We knew each other since day one of joining the same organization as trainees. Orkut was the Facebook of those times. Not having an account on Orkut was totally uncool. People started going places and buying stuff just to show off on Orkut, exactly like how it is now. Phones with 2 Megapixel cameras, polyphonic ringtones…mobile companies were bombarding the market and our minds. Nokia 3310 and Sony Walkman were dying a slow death. The only thing that remained the same was our stipend. Sigh. Scraps, testimonials, profile visitors…it was a happening time of our lives.

Soon we were friends, and added each other on Orkut, which is like a conservative form of live-in of those times: D From mere friends to Orkut buddies! You know what that means? It means he can see my photos! MY PHOTOS! :D

Many friends wrote me testimonials even without me having to buy them treats. And that really meant a lot to me. So one day I asked him to write me a testimonial, which looked like this.

Orkut used to have a wider page, and it actually fit what he actually meant by that . It reads ‘Princess’. On further interrogation it was revealed that he copied it from some other profile. (I told you, he is not the sky writer or Archies greeting card types). Copied or not, I got a testimonial! Yay! Fine by me! Thus started a full-fledged exchange of scraps, sms jokes, riddles and chain mails.

Orkut continued in the background, when we got married on Facebook and brutally ditched it. We moved on, forgetting conveniently that which brought us closer. Having experienced both Orkut and Facebook, Orkut always felt like an authentic coffee place, sepia dipped in memories, nostalgic and calm with the sound of sea in the background. Facebook is noisy, high profile and the place one saves the orange lipstick for.

It is time to say Goodbye to our first (virtual) hangout, the only remembrance of the unromantic, uncreative, blatantly copied ‘Princess’ testimonial. It was my only chance of showing my Dad-worshiper son that his Dad did not write me a testimonial, and when I asked him one he copied it! Now how will I start to explain to him what ‘testimonial’ means?

Goodbye, Orkut. I can’t forget you. Or the fact that you stole my only chance of scoring with my son.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The art of customization...(for dummies)

Like everyone else, I too spent my childhood and youth walking the corridors of school and college, racking my brains and waiting for results. I have never seen my name on top of any list (unless it was a list of latecomers or such).

I was not a topper in academics, sports, music, recitation or dance. I was not a favorite student of any teacher in all my life. I did not score well in the entrance examinations, my Kerala Engineering Entrance rank could easily be mistaken for a phone number, majority of my Engineering college batch mates don’t know me by name. I am the kind of person no one took seriously, and I have never given a reason for my parents to be immensely proud or disappointed. But here I am. For the record, I’m doing just fine.

These days, all parents think their kids are special (back in our times this was not the case). This applies to me too. But recently I came to know the weirdest things some parents do, to let others know that their kid is the unmatched champion in everything that needs skill, expertise and intellect, even the Lemon and Spoon race which they think is an item at the Olympics.

There is a monthly local magazine in my hometown; I admit it is the most boring magazine in the history of the written word. It is the size of a tinkle digest and consists of roughly 25 pages including both sides. This is one of those things that continued to reach my home, and just like phone or electricity bills, it came every month whether we liked it or not.

So subscribers thought why not spice up our magazine and make it interesting. After all roughly two thousand people read it – precisely, less than ten people read it, others use it as a fan during power cut or as a mat to place hot vessels on the table. So the breakthrough idea was to put up scan copy of their kids’ pre KG report card, 1st grade report card, certificate for group singing competition or another for excelling on sports day etc.

Image courtesy: Google images

It just leaves people like me lose the will to live.

And the best part. Below the scan copy of the report card, the names of both parents are written in bold. What goes through the minds of these parents? It could be either of these:

1.      Step one of a matrimonial profile, just insanely early.
2.      I was a loser; I want to tell everyone my kid is an Isaac Newton in the making.
3.      I intend to donate sperm, so this is proof for the rate I will charge for the same.
4.      I am encouraging him so he does well in the Entrance examination.
5.      I want to see my name in print, any publicity is good publicity.

There is no hard and fast rule to decide what to publish. The key is to know who should see it, and who will appreciate honestly your invitation to his themed fourth birthday party.  Mark Zuckerberg helps you do this by giving you an option to create a ‘Custom List’ on Facebook. Make your own custom list, Facebook or not.

Because you already know, that those odd 761 people don’t give a damn, but those who matter really do. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Parents are here ! *YOLO mode starts*

Even though I am away from my home country, my parents never let me feel the distance. They've visited me every single year I've been here. I don’t know many parents who do that, and therefore I am so blessed. Big bear hugs,  Mom’s cakes,  gifts,  lots of love and pampering to name a few. I cannot say this enough but I consider myself blessed only because I have the best parents ever.

Papa and Mummy came on Onam day. Papa was here till last weekend and Mummy will be here for a few weeks. I cannot begin to explain how it feels when she is here. When I come home in the evening, she opens the door with a welcoming smile, tells me to sit down and asks me what I want to eat. And this is what I call luxury. I relish it each day like there is no tomorrow. Emotional therapy , to say the least.

When they read this, they will realize that I am the worst hypocrite ever because all I do is take them for granted and sometimes even start silly arguments.

My driving lessons are going on during office lunch breaks. Yesterday I passed the signal test, which is one rung up the endless ladder of hurdles one must overcome to get a license. Well everyone passes this test so it is no big deal. After the one hour drive and repeated verbal warnings from my exasperated trainer I walked home exhausted, as if I burnt calories just by listening to him. If anything really burnt it should be my trainer’s brain. 

Meanwhile my toddler is having a whale of a time with his new defense lawyer, my mother. Any discipline that may have existed prior to her arrival, like dinner time, ipad time etc. has flown out of the window. I stopped yelling because he does not care anymore and pretends like he has Spiderman to back him. It is now his kingdom, his rules and I am treated like a tenant who does not pay rent. Well, I am in no mood for discipline either. Who needs discipline when Mom is here :D That sounds ironic, as my Mom was a chronic disciplinarian when we were younger. 
She is a whole new person after the birth of our son. She will let him punch her, or draw all over her face. She lets him hang upside down from the edge of the sofa and feed him dinner at the same time. Back in our times, we were taught to sit at the table, upright at ninety degrees, eat quietly without wasting even a morsel of food, wash our own plates and go to bed!

However I secretly love this grandma-grandson bonding. It helps me remain sane and enjoy some TV. Now tell me which mother does not want that?

So it’s a YOLO time for all of us right now. We have embraced the You-Only-Live-Once concept with all our hearts and are therefore eating cake with all our might.  We have also given discipline and social niceties a break. We don’t share Mom’s cakes or food in general. We have let our hair down badly enough to scare you. 

You don’t want to visit us for the time being, do you? :D  

Sunday, August 31, 2014

What 'Driver's License' Actually Means in India.

Unlike Muscat, there are lot of options for public transport in India, like if I want to eat Porotta and Beef fry I just have to get out of the house in my pajamas and yell at the rickshaw guy ‘ Chetta…Buhari vare ponam*’ [ *Brother I want to go to Buhari']. Or I can choose to just drive to Buhari- unfortunately they don’t have parking area but who cares we just park in the middle of the road. Because hunger cannot wait – everything else can, or should. I can also drive blindfolded here if I wanted to as there are no rules…in fact most people drive like they are blindfolded. Well Trivandrum is bliss in that way. Unlike some places up north where cows block ambulances on the road, and the dying person decides to consider it a divine intervention, in Trivandrum, dogs and cats rule the road, only in human form.

Getting a driver’s license is far simpler than eating Porotta and Beef fry. Some people just bribe the driving instructor and he will make sure that you, your mother, grandmother and paternal uncle gets license and start abusing the road, pedestrians and stray animals starting early hours of the very next morning. Only criteria being everyone in the above list should be alive. In some cases the driving instructor may actually insist that you turn up for the test. What a bummer! You still get the license. As a result every Jijo, Joji and Jojo gets a car (there is no dearth of car loans, you just have to prove that you are the owner of that coconut tree in your rented house premise) and start what they call ‘driving’.

This includes pretending that signals don’t exist, driving into a main road from a by lane at full speed without looking either way, honking without any reason every five seconds especially near schools and hospitals, showing the finger when someone refuses to be overtaken, driving across zebra lines at fifth gear as if it was a sign that angry zebras are chasing, not budging when there is an ambulance behind, continuously honking behind buses when passengers are boarding, honking like there is no tomorrow when old people cross the road, going out of the way to run over cats and dogs on purpose, run over sleeping people on the sidewalks, overtake on a single lane road because a lower end version of the same car was going ahead, use all kind of expletives if someone else does any of these and so on. Sadly Jijo, Joji and Jojo thought that this is how one can become cool overnight.

 However my driving instructor in Trivandrum was not the easy going types. Once he crushed my tiny feet with his gigantic sandals because I mistook the fifth gear for third! My foot was swollen for three days. It also did not qualify for ‘accident leave’ at office.

However my parents were not one of those ‘bribe-your-teacher-buy-your-license-fool-the-system’ types. Especially because this guy taught my mother and sister, he definitely had an idea about the average family intelligence. So I went many weeks for driving sessions, in the super-hot sun sacrificing all the weekend TV movies.

On the test day, after my turn the policeman asked me ‘So, you came to get a license?’ with a Shakti Kapoor smile.  And I was like ‘No Sir, I usually come to the Traffic Police grounds 35 km away from my house at 12 noon to buy donuts’ but I just smiled. I got the license.

If you thought that rocket science was the pinnacle of intellect that was humanly possible, it is time to rethink. There is something else that can actually come close to it, which is getting a driver’s license in Oman.

Because in Oman, they actually have rules.

And you need eyes on the back and sides.

To be continued.

Images Courtesy:Google Images.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Who are you to judge?

I was once asked, ‘Why can’t you be like her’?
And I could never get myself to like that person I was compared with.

Enmity and unhealthy rivalry among children mostly roots from the attitude of their parents. Some parents are judgmental or hypocrites of the highest degree…and these people are as harmful as drugs are to our society.

Contrary to popular ideas that all kids want only one thing – the TV remote, there are some kids that beg to differ. They prefer sports or toys instead. That everyone should behave in a way that is set by someone's 'perfect' child is an expectation that can be true for dogs and cats, not people. Some kids can talk very well at two. Some do not talk until they are six. This does not say anything about a child’s IQ or any other factor but it says a lot about the person who is making these comparisons. These are pointers to the fact that each and every kid is different, and whichever pace they grasp and perform, they will be fine. They will all turn out to be just fine. Just leave them alone.

My sister and I were often compared to a certain someone at church. This girl, let’s call her Alpha, was very famous in the church and the neighborhood for scoring consecutive A plus grades for mathematics in school.  And mathematics was supposed to be the subject in which the mark you score decides your destiny. Your emotional fate, which means if you don’t want to be discussed among nosy aunties in high pitched voices with frowning eyebrows then you should score well in Math. Mathematics is basically an aptitude subject. There are kids that find it easy, others who find it okay, some others that struggle. And I fell in the last category. I couldn't possibly get myself do math.

I was in hell. This was not because Alpha or her marks existed. But because Alpha’s parents decided to show off. Because they decided to scream from their rooftops that their daughter was superior in some way. And this marked our eternal grudge to Alpha and opened the way to complexes that ruined our self-worth.

However I grew older and there was role reversal. Now I have to listen to others compare their kids with mine. That my son does not speak as fluently (fluency is defined as the rate at which pathetic characters in cheap TV soaps deliver their dialogues which was obviously scripted by some moron over copious amounts of liquor), or that he is not tall enough for a three year old are things that bother other people! How tall should a three year old be? God!

This concern roots from desperation of people to establish that they have the perfect kid. The secret pleasure they get from this is directly proportional to the level of hypocrisy . It is likely that their perfect kid has inherited it too, who knows ! Kids know people, their intentions and how genuine they are. And I know that my son will grow up to never be best friends with the ‘perfect’ kids and their supremely divine parents. I will not stop him, as I know from my experience that it is not possible to be friends with the person you are compared with. The moment you compare, you are humiliating the child that will crush his self-respect in ways we cannot think of.

My basic question is this. Who else, besides parents, should be concerned about the child? Who? What does it take to leave the children alone?

On mornings when I drop my son at his nursery I watch all the parents. Some of them hug their kids and say ‘Take care..! See you soon’! And blow kisses. Others just say ‘Bye’ and go back to their vehicles in a hurry. Some others just leave them near the teacher and leave. Do you think the one that blew kisses loves her kid more than the one who left without waving bye?

Do you think so?  Who are you to judge?