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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?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Messier than Thou ..

Once, I walked into a men’s hostel holding Papa’s hands.

 It was not the hostel of the college I graduated from.  It was a warm Saturday morning and Papa decided to walk into the men’s hostel in Trivandrum, my hometown, to meet the warden for some reason. I also went with him, as it was too hot to wait in the car. Not that I had any interest to go inside ;-)

As it was weekend the boys had gone home, just a couple of them were walking around shirtless and clueless. I was amused, by the shock they got when they saw me.  We stood inside for like sixty to eighty seconds, during which the guys were doing the ‘Hangover’ act trying to recollect what happened to them the night before. Beyond that many seconds, anyone with normally functioning nostrils cannot survive in that building. Magazines strewn about, shirts hung randomly without clips, and that strong weird smell. The smell of a thousand cigarettes, stale food and dirty socks.

We came outside with the warden and they continued talking, while I stood beside Papa mourning my dying sense of smell. Then a guy came outside, dressed in a crisp shirt and jeans, shoes polished to perfection. He wore sunglasses that looked branded, hair wet from styling gel. As he walked past, I knew he wore some expensive perfume.

How can a person emerge out of that foul-smelling germ-infested building looking like he came right out of the Cinthol ad? Like hooooowww?

Let’s cut some slack here, it’s not just the men’s hostel. There are highly educated people whose homes look like the entire city’s garbage exploded inside it. You wouldn't believe the sartorial brilliance they impress us with post emerging from that trash can. Whatever happened to good hygiene and housekeeping?

Basically my Mom had an acute OCD condition. She couldn't stand even a microscopic speck of dust inside the house. She used to go to her Mom’s place, which also had pets gallivanting indoors, and start cleaning.
A real life Monica Geller. But when we were younger, everyone we knew had well-kept houses, I remember. Even if I walked in to my friend’s place unannounced it still looked tidy. Her room may not be the best example for it but teenagers are excused. We had a lot going on in our lives and had to please a lot of undeserving people, so tidying up the room was the last thing on our minds. As we grew older and had to marry, life got so boring that we thought we may as well tidy up.

Life in a hostel gave me a realistic peek into the upbringing of people in a bigger picture. Till then I had shared my room with my sister who too had an OCD, I was generally messier than my family but when I went to the hostel I realized my self-worth. There were girls who left cooked Maggie noodles in their rooms during semester holidays, and returned to a room of worms. There were others who dint mind sleeping with detergent powder, cloth hangers, books, shoes, water bottles, plates, plastic containers on the same bed. And there were others whose rooms looked like seven star hotels.  There were rooms that smelled so good and stuff kept so neatly even though none expected any guests in their rooms. The super clean rooms did impress me, but God I could not believe that people can be so lazy that they choose to sleep with a thousand random things on their beds instead of clearing them! In comparison my room looked like one straight out of a Karan Johar movie. And my parents thought that I was the laziest and messiest one!  

Parents were not allowed inside the hostel so there was no way to prove otherwise. Sigh. 

When I graduated college and started working in software companies there were colleagues alongside who coughed nonstop and others with conjunctivitis in closed cubicles  striving to meet deadlines that were more important than life. I graduated from messy, unhygienic surroundings to a whole new level of contagious diseases.

Now where do I start? 

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