The Board Tornado

Note to all kids/cousins/friends et.al going through the fucking tornado that is Board Exam Results:

I won’t be foolish enough to say your marks do not matter. They do. But the only thing a high score can do for you is maybe allow easier access to a few opportunities. That’s about it.

And believe me, NOBODY will care about your marks or whether you managed to score .002% more than your friend once the admission season is over. It is by no means indicative of your intelligence or even hard work. Or what becomes of you in life.

Yes, you might have to work harder to prove your calibre to those who for some reason believe that an examination reflects your competence. But in my humble opinion, don’t begrudge that. It’s not fair, but we live in a country where being one in a million isn’t enough. You’ve got to be one in 10 million (or something on those lines). It’s a logistical impossibility for a college/employer to objectively select candidates based on qualitative criteria. Understand this, accept it and work accordingly. (In any case the world isn’t a fair place. We all have to deal with that)

And since I’m now giving gyaan, here’s some more of it – Things WILL get better. In a few years from now you’ll look back at this and realise how none of it really matters. Not the numbers anyway.

Personal experience: I’d scored well throughout my school life, thanks to our TamBrahm obsession with stellar academic performance. This was till I entered Class 12 and  suddenly realised I had little aptitude or interest in the sciences, let alone JEE. And I scored miserably. I didn’t crack entrance exams. I was this close to a breakdown.

In retrospect, it was the best thing that happened to me. There was no way I could’ve convinced my parents to allow me to pursue Arts, let alone meet the amazing people I came to know along the way, had I performed well in 12th and managed to make it to a decent engineering college. It allowed me to realise that my skill sets lie elsewhere and they are NOT worthless.

Here’s the thing: I cannot for a second say that the poor scores never came back to bite me in he ass. They did and still do. I’m asked about it in job interviews some times. When I applied for admission to Law School. But it’s hardly insurmountable. You just need to have something else to show for your abilities – later performances, projects, experience, research, innovation – anything. You’ll figure it out. Just keep working hard.

Gyaan #3 – The world doesn’t owe you anything. Stop grudging others or blaming engineering colleges for your problems. They are a problem, sure, but they have also paved way for countless opportunities for people to make a better life for themselves. Acknowledge that, and then the fact that you are consciously choosing a path that’s going to be harder. That you might have friends earning in lakhs while you still have to beg for an internship stipend. But this is your choice and you won’t look back. And you will eventually get where you want to be, as long you keep at it.

PS – Yes, yes, easier said than done. I still have days when I think I should’ve maybe just “worked harder” and done engineering and gotten a job and “settled”. But when I get into the details of this delusion, I realise what a nightmare it would be. And then I’m back to being grateful for the way things turned out. It’s not easy, but it’s mine and I like it. (Interspersed with days of anxiety and doubts but thats just a part of life.)

All the best for everything, you guys! This is a full on Bollywood masala and you haven’t even come to the interval yet. You’re probably at that hit song that comes up shortly after the opening credits in which Govinda dances on the streets . Tujhko mirchi lagi toh main kya karun?

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My Parents On Tinder (For Parents)

Yes, you read that right. My parents went through profiles, swiped left, swiped right. They chatted, got excited, got ghosted and ghosted some others. The whole production.

But Tinder is too immature for them. Plus they’re both already married so their life is sorted. The project is to get me married. So they’ve been busy checking out Tinder for Parents, aka shaadi.com (and the likes, especially ones dedicated to the peculiar species of TamBrahms).

I resisted the idea for the longest time, because I didn’t and still don’t find anything very exciting about the prospect of sharing a bathroom with someone for the rest of my life while being forced to tolerate (even if I choose not to give into them) several patriarchal expectations within the household. Like the rest of the world wasn’t enough. But there was a little arm twisting, some cajoling and just general exhaustion with the frequent arguments. And I acceded. What’s the worst that could happen any way, especially considering my parents are the last people in the world to force me into marriage?

So, with the blessings of some greying relatives, my parents began the search. Their filters for choosing boys included age, education, job prospects and the absence of too many sisters because my mother’s experience with sister-in-laws has not been very pleasant, to say the least. That’s the starting point. Then the men are rated on a scale of “patriarchal bastard” to “decent human being”. To my parents’ credit, they’ve rejected more men on Tamil Matrimony in one month than I rejected on Tinder in six.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, because on matrimonial websites people are more honest about their expectations from women, and you rarely find horny self proclaimed “sapiosexuals” on it. The simple demands from an ideal Indian bride may be summarised as follows (In points because I attended a CBSE school):

  1. Modern yet traditional (Meaning jeans might be allowed but no drinking or late nights)
  2. Good looking (euphemism for fair and thin)
  3. Should have excellent career prospects but with “family values” so strong that she always chooses the home over the office
  4. Must partner with the man to take care of his family (Also take over household duties when the maid vanishes). The bride’s family doesn’t matter, of course

In return for all this, some men are gracious enough to add a line about how they’re quite okay should the woman decide to continue work after marriage.

And while the expectations from the bride are almost always explained in great detail, there is rarely anything mentioned about what they’re willing to offer in a marriage. That is left for the prospective brides to deduce from the annual salaries mentioned on the profile.

I had smartly requested my parents (for entirely selfish reasons) to give preference to men who own pets (because doggos are the best) and those living in Mumbai (because I want the “main maike chali jaaungi” threat to sound real)

My parents thought the whole exercise would be fun, because they aren’t in any particular hurry for this marriage business. However, they found themselves perilously close to losing their faith in mankind. “Man”kind.  There were hardly any who met the simple benchmarks of “don’t be an ass” or “be half the man my Dad is.”

But, because my intention here (unlike what it seems) is not male bashing, let me admit that everyone was not an asshole (at least on paper). There were some who were, you know, nice.

Well, sort of.

I had the (mis)fortune of talking to two of them. Let me tell you about them.

 

Prospective Groom #1

 

Let’s call him MM.

I spoke to him for about 20 minutes one evening. He owns some business which makes these super cool semiconductors. They must be really cool because he didn’t utter one sentence in those 20 minutes which didn’t mention the word semiconductor. Reminded me of this old colleague of mine who’d graduated from Princeton and could never have a conversation without mentioning Princeton at least once.

At the end of the 20 minutes, he asked if we could “proceed with the alliance.” When I suggested there was no way I could answer that after just once phone call, he assumed I had an issue with his “background.” I assured him that wasn’t the case.

From the next day, I promptly received a “Good Morning” and “Good Night” forward on WhatsApp every single day. I had to say Good Bye the next week. I have no doubt he was a nice person, just not someone I could imagine holding a conversation with without freuquent and inordinate awkward silences.

 

Prospective Groom #2

 

Let’s call him PS.

PS seemed harmless at first. He was rather funny and polite enough and understood these decisions regarding matrimony took time. Eventually I discovered hidden land mines and then he dropped grenades and he even owned a Glock.

  1. He insinuated I was considering him as a groom because I wanted a green card to move to the US (Did I mention the fellow lives in the States?)
  2. Couldn’t stop talking about what an amazing cook his mother is. Which is great but kinda weird if mentioned 10874859 times in every conversation.
  3. He seemed unable to wrap his mind around why I’d want to do an LLM and then look for a job if I did end up moving to the States. I mean, he earns well so it makes no sense that I’d like to have a career too, right?
  4. He made fun of HIV patients.
  5. He kept munching on chips the whole fucking time we spoke. Every time. I have no issues with people eating, and call me old school but it’s basic decency to at least pretend that you take this call seriously. I’d hear the crunch of the chips more often than his voice.

 

5 is a nice number so I’ll stop here.

This process has made me want to actively start looking for men to date. The other day I found myself ogling at the men at the bar, wondering if the looks thrown my way were arrogant or charming. And if they smelled nice. And if they’d listen to 90s Bollywood songs with me. (And other things but the parents also read this blog sometimes). Meanwhile my parents are exhausted at the end of this experience and for the time being, they’ve just given up. I shimmied a little in joy.

The search is on, and I am sure this is hardly the end of my trysts with the arranged marriage conundrum. I shall fasten my seatbelt and hopefully learn to laugh at myself (and others, of course) along the way.

 PS – Sorry for the long absence from this delightful space. In my defence I am just an exam away from being a lawyer! LLB Twiggy ❤

The News Detox

I have never been a dispassionate reader. Whether it is fiction, news, biographies, even fan-fiction. Initially, reading for me was all about the characters and the people involved. Over time I learned to appreciate writing and fiction in several layers and levels, but that first instinct to live vicariously through the characters is uncontrollable.

I remember reading The Clockwork Orange during my final year in college. I consider that one of the worst decisions of my life. Sure, the writing was great and the story dealt with some really interesting concepts. My first venture into dystopian fiction.

But it robbed me of sleep and peace for several weeks following the read. I was upset, scared, terrified of human nature. Worst of all – it ruined Beethoven for me. It’s like Stephen King’s It. Who said clowns were funny? They are monsters after my life.

With fiction, I can exercise choice. There is always the blurb which will tell me whether or not I am in a state of mind to read it. Once I read Revolutionary Road, I put off reading Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye for a whole year. It was good decision.

I don’t have the luxury of choice when it comes to news. Most of the news I read is through social media feeds – Twitter, Facebook etc. I also have apps downloaded on my phone that send regular notifications. For months (maybe even years) now, my days begin and end with news about rape, terrorism, cruelty, corruption, misogyny and the sheer apathy of mankind. And if on a rare occasion there is none of that, I am forced to read about a pointless, mind-numbing account of some random TV star’s wedding or a ridiculous catfight between celebrities who can’t act their age.

The mother has been reproaching me over my perennially vexed disposition. My temper is far more volatile than it used to be. In fact, I was rather proud of my generally calm temperament. No idea how I lost that.

I realised it has a lot with what I allow my brain to ingest. How am I to have a good day when the first thing I read in the morning is about farmers dropping dead like flies under the weight of endless debts? Or a woman in my own neighbourhood being raped mercilessly?

I am unable to congratulate friends on their pregnancy because I worry that if they have a girl, the child might get raped at some point in her life. My mother sends a prayer every day for girls forced into sexual slavery in Syria. When a politician does something worth appreciation, I cannot help but wonder if he did so only for publicity or to serve an ulterior motive. I am always either cynical or pessimistic. It’s not a good feeling to live with.

Since the past week I’ve been on what I call the news-detox-regime. I’ve unfollowed all news media on Facebook and Twitter. I don’t read the newspaper. I never watch the news on TV anyway. Complete mind-fuckery. I hoped it would help me cleanse my mind and body of the heaps of negativity.

Easier said than done. If I don’t read news, a friend will send me a Whataspp message about the shooting in Texas. Someone on the elevator will discuss the rape of two women in Uttar Pradesh. Some friend on Facebook will share a Dodo post about someone who tortured a puppy. I cannot help but feel for those people, seethe and become convinced that mine is not a country for women. Or animals. Or the poor.

I know I will get there. Cleanse was never easy. Cannot cut sugar and trans fat and dairy from one’s life in a single stroke. Takes time. Maybe start with portion control

I will get back to reading news at some point but I will have to manage my habits to ensure that what I read is simply to keep abreast of important events, and read material that is truly insightful. I want knowledge, and not just information in form of flashy headlines with twisted accounts of events, sprinkled generously with thoughtless opinions in poor language.

Meanwhile, I also need to change the way I read. I will not be left with any peace if I read everything I come across with such involvement. It makes one miserable.

A dear friend of mine writes a story on her blog. The protagonist in that story recently ended up breaking her best friend’s heart – despite her best intentions. I cried myself to sleep that night. It didn’t help that my friend writes spectacularly well.

This cannot continue. Cannot afford that. I don’t want to have to restrict my reading of fiction – which I truly believe is the best and easiest way to expand one’s experiences and understanding. Reading makes you a better person. I just don’t want it to also make me an unhappy person.

Any suggestions on where to start? Has anyone else tried this news-detox? Has it worked for you?

Let me know? 🙂

 

The rich kid in class

I was discussing this with a friend a few days back. The conversation keeps playing in my head and many passive memories (ones I’d rather forget, actually) keep coming to the fore. So I shall write. Maybe then I can close the chapter once and for all? Or at least bury a grudge.

 

I attended a Public School.  In Public School standards, I was the “rich kid” in class. We weren’t really rich, of course. But we had a car and that meant I was rich. It didn’t matter that the car was bought by dipping into years of savings because two of the three members in our family were asthmatic. That my dad still used the train to travel to the other end of the city while my mother and I used the car within a 5 mile radius because we couldn’t walk without wheezing.

 

I was almost always in this ambivalent limbo – where at home I was trained in the importance of being thrifty and in school I was somehow the brat who got dropped to school in a car and who’s mother travelled to the US on business every few months. It didn’t help that I did well in exams.

 

So I did everything I could to blend in with everyone – which meant I took every means necessary to hide any signs of “affluence”. I saved my favourite pens for homework and used the cheaper ones at school. I hid the pencil box mom bought me from the States under my desk so no one would see it and tease me about it. I even made sure my father dropped me to school much earlier than required so no one would see me get off the car. I pretended to enjoy standing in the sun even if the dust meant I’d spend the night scratching the rashes senseless. I took buses even when I had the pocket money to hire a rickshaw.

 

In short, I truly believed money was something one needed to feel guilty about. I hated money and everything to do with it. My tuition teacher, who also happened to be a classmate’s mother, often remarked that I would never see the “real world” because I was privileged. It made me sad. I wanted to see what the glory of this “real world” was all about. Money was the absolute worst. It seems every time I did badly in exams, it had to with the fact that money makes you take things easy. Surprisingly, even when I scored well, it could be attributed to wealth because I had access to everything. At the time I wondered how the hours I spent practising math had anything to do with my parents’ income.

 

By the end of school, I was convinced one didn’t need money, and one definitely shouldn’t want money. At a time when my choices should ideally have been informed by interests and priorities, I was mostly driven by guilt and the desperate need to be liked. Thankfully, I don’t regret the choices I made – because had I not made them, I would never have met the people who taught me that I did not have to be ashamed of who I was or where I came from as long as I knew how to respect others. Another reason I don’t have regrets is because it ensured I didn’t make a choice motivated solely by economic prospects. (Though it would have saved me a lot of trouble had I given it at least some consideration)

 

It was only once college ended and I actually got to the “real world” my friend’s mother had warned me about that I was forced to acknowledge the hard truth – that I actually desired money. Not in the sense that all I need in life is money or that wealth is my sole purpose in life. I just realised I wanted to earn a decent living and enjoy a comfortable life. Comfortable – I will admit – in the standards that my parents set for me.

 

Even then, for the longest time, I wondered if my career choices should be informed by these new discoveries about myself – because I couldn’t shed the feeling of overwhelming guilt every time I considered the monetary returns. Shouldn’t I be thinking of more important things first – like society, humanity, people, country?

 

It took many years, some failures and some introspection to realise something that should have been obvious right from the beginning –  Yes, I want to earn well. Yes, I want to provide for myself and my family. Yes, I want to have the luxury to spend if I want to without having to worry about affording dinner. If I ever have a child, I want to be able to provide him/her the best of everything. An education in a private school, to begin with. And no – this is not something to be ashamed of. This isn’t even shallow. I have some priorities in life and this is one of them. It isn’t a terrible thing. No it isn’t. This desire isn’t at the cost of everything else but it is a desire.

 

This doesn’t make me less of a person, less of a patriot (my country is doing everything in it’s power to shake this though), less of a woman, or less of a citizen. I follow the law, I vote, I never spit or litter on the roads, I volunteer for social efforts, I pay my taxes, and I try to be a responsible citizen the best I can. I try my best to be kind to others. For me that is enough.

 

Coldplay Rant

I love Coldplay. I really do. I once spent a good chunk of my meagre savings as a grad student to go watch them perform live in Manchester. They made it worth the effort. One of the best evenings of my life.

BUT BUT BUT. That doesn’t mean I like everything they do. The previous album was rather boring. Their brand new song is not. It’s catchy and hummable and pleasant; but the video. Oh my God. This stuff sets my teeth on edge. Like Danny Boyle and Katherine Boo weren’t bad enough, we now have this ignorant piece of shit.

Yes, they enjoy creative freedom and can do whatever they want. I’m not offended. It is annoying though. We’ve had enough people from the West making India look like a prehistoric place filled with godmen and snake charmers — a population rebelling against a “civilised world”. A world so removed from all that is “modern” that it seems to offer some sort of enlightenment to those from the first world. Rubbish.

Sure, religion is a huge part of who we are. But India is hardly the only country where that holds true. What’s with demonising Islamic nations and exoticizing Hindu ones ? Is everyone really so short of ideas that they feel the need to redo these stereotypes over and over again?

Coldplay’s new video also manages to sprinkle a few dilapidated cinema halls in between all the colourful hermits. Because how could an Indian stereotype be complete without a shady reference to Bollywood? They even went as far as to call Queen B “Rani”, the Hindi word for queen. So creative, no?

Oh, and I have complete faith in the idiocy of Sonam Kapoor; it’s hardly surprising to see that she’s a part of this phantasmagoric circus. Also, it seems the song was shot in Mumbai. One of the busiest, most densely populated urban centres in the world. I don’t know if the makers of this video were ignorant of this fact or just chose to ignore it when they decided to only focus on people dressed as rainbows. Beyonce included.

Anyway. I’ll just enjoy the song, and try to forget the video. I still like Coldplay and Violet Hill continues to be a favourite. Though I do prefer toy elephants in the videos.