Here Goes Nothing…

Ahem. I am going to blog like nothing happened. Let’s ignore the last year when I completely gave up on writing. Ok? OKAY.

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“Oh God Why Me?”

I turned another year older last month. Honestly, I cannot pinpoint to anything that’s changed in the last year. The last few years though? A LOT.

Responsibility comes with age, said my school teacher. Ya, right.

I cannot for the life of me point to one phase of my life where I didn’t feel that I wasn’t surrounded by kids. Too many negatives in that sentence. Basically, I’ve always felt like I was surrounded by immature kids who could do with some growing up.

Which gets me to my current phase in life.

I don’t blog as frequently as I used to at one point. I take on more work than what I can humanely accomplish. Which leads to muddled up deadlines and a lot of apologies. Much like the kids in my class.

See, there? I am actually growing more rash, as I grow up.

One might argue, that growing up is actually about taking calculated risks. But really, I am too much of a scared kitten for it to apply to me.

SO what are the risks I have taken in the last few years? Let’s see…

  1. I decided to let go of a career I dreamt of having since I was a kid. Sigh. (The sting never leaves, does it?)
  2. I have decided to get totally disconnected to any mainstream news and pop shows. (Still getting there!)
  3. I decided to be a teacher. (This is not funny.)

I put myself up for scrutiny every day. Every single day. The fellow teachers, the snotty 17-year-olds who cannot even cook their own food, the neighbours, the friends. Everyone judges me, because I am a teacher.

And no, this isn’t the snide, oh-you-must-be-teaching-because-you-can’t-do-anything-else kind of judging. That I can deal with. It’s the career-advice and job-accomplishments type of judging. Big deal, you say?

“Everyone gets that!”

NOT really.

You see, the problem is this: Not all of us might ever have dealt with a civil engineer. Not all of us know exactly what a doctor does. Nobody wants to know what an architect does. Or even a designer for that matter. None of us have a clue what CAs do! But here’s the thing, every single one of us, has had a teacher. Probably for an extended period of time. This, apparently, qualifies all and sundry to tell me how to do my job.

Now here’s the thing, I am new to this job. I never professionally trained to be a teacher. But I am one. And if I need advice, I’d rather go to someone who is a teacher rather than ask you, Madame and Monsieur Randome. You, who were teachers for one glorious day in 10th standard when you lorded over a bunch of 10-year-olds.

Also, everyone who is a teacher has only one advice for everyone else. You learn on the job! You’ve no clue what a class will be like unless you’re there – experiencing that hate emanate from a multitude of sources. Hate, or awe. There is never an understanding or appreciation for what you do, in my very vast experience. Kidding.

There’s a silent understanding – ‘I will behave. Hence, it is my right to demand that you end the class 10 minutes earlier than scheduled.’

I get this, and I do this; because even if I may be this young-ish teacher who is still figuring out how to carry on talking when a 100 faces are furiously stabbing at their iphones; I was on the other side of the table just a few moments ago. And while I demanded of my teachers to be a little more considerate towards me, a person balancing her education and a job, I think I can extend the same courtesy to my kids.

Moral of the story? As I grow another year older, I’ve realised educating someone isn’t entirely my cup of tea. Not yet at least. I will probably need advice. Not yours, though. Maybe advice from the people I am trying to learn with. My students.

PS. This birthday bought some awesome gifts. That deserves its own post! 😀

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Lonely Afternoons

Note: If you cannot stand meaningless posts, then you must stop right now! 🙂 You have been warned!

I decided to defeat my fears today. As I peeped in from the kitchen window, I could hear my tormentor’s voice over the din of the cars from below. How could I miss it? His was the voice that I was scared of since time immemorial. Those red eyes, how often had I hoped that I wouldn’t spot them when moving in the house alone in the afternoon? But they’d find me. Yes, he always knew when I was alone, and when it was likely that I would step into the kitchen.

Sometimes he’d wait for me there, and then take to his flight, like a ninja assassin ready to strike at the slightest move of the target. At other times, I would deliberately make noises and be ready with my arms to attack him. But today, alone, I decided, it was enough; I’d had enough of these mind games. My tormentor was worse than a person; he didn’t even need words to rattle the bones off me.

I took two tentative steps towards the kitchen, knowing for sure, he’d be there waiting for me. Like those numerous times when I was alone in the house, unarmed and scared. I mentally marked his usual spots, and the way I would tackle him at each one. With a steely grip on the stick, and a mental framework which I hoped was strong enough to face him, I decided to step in. Sure as hell, he was there, at his usual spot. On the kitchen counter.

I don’t really remember when was the first time I saw him there, staring like I had stepped into his home. Claiming my food and my space for him. But yes, he was there for as long as I could remember. Once I even came close to removing him from the kitchen, failed at the last step. He wouldn’t budge. With talons of steel, and a stare that’s burn the best soul, he’d remained the subject of my nightmares. Often I’d see him wait for me, like a stalker marking his obsession. Other times he’d just wait for me, knowing that sooner or later I would be there, to face him.

The evil soul that he was, he didn’t need anything that I possessed. But somehow, taking away my mental peace gave him some sort of sadistic pleasure. Be assured, he not so much as ever touched me, or harmed me physically; but often made it clear that if he chose to, I’d stand no chance. My fear fuelled from the fact that he was the one in control; he was the one who decided what I would look like that day. A bruised enemy, or a forsaken one.

As I walked into the kitchen, staring at him, his red pupils looking back at me; I thought of the numerous times my family had come to my rescue. None being scared of him as much as I was. How knowing that they would come to my rescue, my tormentor chose the time carefully. He always knew! And what did I know about him? Nothing apart from the fact that he was my tormentor.

I should have pushed those thoughts out of my head then, but I didn’t. Suddenly, my mind didn’t seem so strong when I saw him sitting there unperturbed. Seemingly undisturbed by the change in me, or did I change at all?

I spread my hands in front of me, my palms stretching out as if to push him away.

“Shoo!” I said.

He looked at me.

What was I thinking? Would that scare him!? HIM? Uncertain, but desperate, I tried again.

“Shoo?”

He sat there, clearly not bothered about what  I was doing. His legs tucked neatly under his body, his vajrasan would have made my mom proud.

Realising that it was again a one sided battle, he stretched his legs out, as though readying them for action. I stepped back. He stood as I moved back towards the kitchen door. He steadied his body bit by bit as I moved steadily into the hallway.

Whooooosh!

I knew the devil had taken his flight now, but then.

Twaaaaaaaaang!

He’d just landed closer to the door, as though challenging me to come get him. I knew I had lost the battle then. Something I should have realised long back. By now, whatever Jhaansi ki Rani feelings I had in me, were long abandoned, I just wanted him to leave. I’d curl up in peace then.

Just then; the bell rung. And he heard it too, I am sure. He came to the kitchen door, gave me a look that chided me. Obviously, the battle was not over. He was not done yet. As I moved tentatively to open the door, he opened his wings and flew out from the window. Knowing the exact spot where he wouldn’t get stuck, and knowing that I was still an easy prey for him.

And me? Well, I guess there is always a tomorrow to face my tormentor and kick him out of my life. Till then, I guess reinforcing the window grills with an anti-pigeon wire mesh would be wise.

Dying…

Once upon a time, I had a friend, who was true to me and gave me much joy. Through the friend I met so many other people, all of who became close to me. My friend gave me the benefit of doubt and let me speak to people as I wished and even share my joys as well as all that intrigued me. Soon, I hung out only with this friend and discovered a completely new world hitherto unknown to me.
But then came along another friend, whom I hung out more often, because my old friend had run out all resources available on me and there was nothing new for me to hold on to. I kid myself saying that I could be the ideal friend and hangout with both. But soon the new friend found me even better candies and a cooler group of activities.
I let the old friend go, without as much as a good bye. I was evil. My friend was dying, everyone said so, but I was not around. I was engrossed with the new friend. I still think of my friend sometimes, the first one, and wonder what happened. But I stop right there, just wonder.
My new friend meanwhile grew on to control me. And I let myself be controlled. I was after all hanging out with better and even funnier people now. We were all cool. We poked fun at my old friend, never stopping to think of all that had happened in the quest to be with the times. Times change. And they did!
I realised what the new friend was doing to me, and decided to let go and not have a friend at all. But all the people who came to me because I was with the new friend went away too. I convinced myself and found a middle way. I would spend only as much time as I would need to meet people and enjoy/benefit from the interaction. I missed the old times and wondered what happened to my friend.
They tell me now my new friend is dying. And very soon will. The doctor says in a few days a miracle is expected to better my new friend’s health. Will I hang on? Will I give up my new friend for a newer friend with better perks? Once all the people I know because of the new friend are also taken by the newer friend, I will inevitably move on too.
My new friend is dying. My newer friend on the other hand is most sought after now. Will my new friend ever survive the higher standards of cool that my newer friend is reaching? Probably yes, probably no. Will I stand by my new friend on the death bed? I do not know. Even as I see my new friend dying, I am smiling at my newer friend. With my newer friend, I see my friend. My first friend. Both staring down my new friend.
My new friend is dying, and I am watching. RIP Facebook.

Mere paas MAAA hain…..

Most friends I have; keep complaining for some or the other reason about the Bollywood style dialogue baazi at home.
I remember some one telling me that her mom says, “Tu is ghar ki laxmi hain, apni izzat apne haathon mein lekar ghoomti hain, apne ghar waalo ka maan rakh lena beti….” Every single morning.
As if the preaching wasn’t enough, the fact that it comes with such lines that you would expect from Reema Lagoo, Farida Jalal, Nirupa Roy or Rakhi Gulzar, makes an average teenager cringe more. And sticks with you through most of your adult life too.
I know of some one who still detests the fact that when he tried to sneak out a coin from the mandir in the house, was told that “kok se chor paida hua hain.” That hurts. I know.
But off late I’ve adopted this policy of accepting whatever my mom says with a pinch of salt. After all she is just as much influenced by the Bollywood dialogue baazi as I am!
Say for example, when I think of a happily married couple, my mind immediately conjures up a picture of a family of four, one boy one girl child, lady in a demure floral print saree and the man in a tee shirt and faded jeans, walking down Marine Drives at sunset, holding a balloon and some senghdana too go with the mood. Now that’s something right out of a 70’s movie end, where you’d expect a “The End” coming in from somewhere in the horizon. 
Nahiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!
To ab main hi aisi to meri maa kya hogi?
My mom is those types who would be a cross between Farida Jalal the heroine’s mom and Farida Jalal the hero’s mom. She’ll let us off when dad doesn’t and hold us back when dad lets us off. She’ll cry at our (my sis and my) good exams results, yell at us like the sky’s falling on her head and then finally take us shopping and then splurge.
There are times when she is the mini Rakhi Gulzar from Karan Arjun and horribly superstitious, at other times she is the Jaya Bachchan of KHNH. What stays constant? Dialogue baazi of course! When I say something, she calls it dialogue and now everything she says is what I call dialogue!
The fact of the matter remains that just as we are prone to react to all our life’s situations in the Bollywood way, life hasn’t remained just as romanticised. I see myself running into a guy’s arms in the middle of Sarson ke khet in the DDLJ style, but the fact of the matter remains that given a chance, I’d simply click a picture and put it up on FB, then brag to the world. “That’s me. Simran.”
I’d love to be the one at home, getting my kids’ homework done, cook some four course meal then finally put everyone off to sleep and then sit on the window staring at the moon. In reality, I’ll have a job, which won’t let me have time with my family, the kids will live in a crèche and learn to recognise the nanny their as maa, and I will be the aunty.
So then, whatever li’ll is left of this Bollywood style romantic life, with the black-slapping, canteen antakshris, running around for fests, I will enjoy. I will enjoy singing in the quadrangle, having chaai at the katta and fantasise running away and touring the world. Because what ever the reality may be, my mom will crack those Bollywood dialogues, I will sing “yeh dosti…” and turn into a hose pipe at every farewell and in the end of the day sing songs at the top of my voice like they represent what I feel.
The Bollywood in me will never die, nor will it off my mom. Or anyone’s mom for that matter. So if living happily enough means living in filmistan-created-world, so be it. Even if it means my mom deciding to enlighten me with the words, “Akeli ladki khuli tijori……

The Chinese Dentist

When you learn to read, you start reading everything!
 
When in primary school, I would read pamphlets, bill boards, hoardings, ingredients off the back of some random bottle in the store etc. And that’s how my language developed! Ditto when I learnt the Devnagiri script! On the way back from school, I’d go “Yethe matching blouse milel”, “Sakhar 10 rupaiye, Halad 5 rupaiye,” etc.
 
When it turned into a compulsive habit, I really don’t know! Before I knew it, on every route I had a fixed set of boards that I would read when in the bus, as though assuring myself that I was in a familiar place.

One of those boards was “Chinese Dentist: Tseyun Li”. It’s in K Villa, just a further ahead after Holy Cross School.
 
You’ve seen whom the Indians claim to be Chinese, are usually North East Indians or Nepalese. So, since an early age I thought it to be a sham, just like the Chinese fast food stall guy round the corner or the Chinese looking kids on signals!
 
Out of curiosity I once asked my dad, what was so special about a Chinese dentist? And I think he said they don’t use anaesthesia, their treatment is fast, it doesn’t pain, it isn’t very hygienic for the dentist since he uses bare hand and last, it’s expensive.
 
But frankly, never did I see that dentist. The door to his clinic was always shut. When I passed by school bus, by car, by autos and now by TMT, there would be nothing there. Just the small clinic by the corner of a small lane which leads to the main road. It was those small shops that remain somewhere at the back of your mind!
 
This morning, it changed. I was in the bus, passing by. And then, there was an old shrivelled Aunty or Uncle sitting there.
 
First thing I noticed, the person was sitting on a plastic chair with outstretched hands towards the rain. Then, the room was sparsely furnished, just a normal long seat for the patients. And then, as the bus paused for a moment, I saw the eyes. Mongolian eyes. The ones like the Chinese have. And, they looked sad (or was that me looking at them sad).
 
Big surprise you might say, Chinese doctor in a Chinese dentist’s clinic. But frankly, for almost 13 years now, I never believed there would be a REAL Chinese family in my neighbourhood! And there it was.
 
All day, I wondered about him (in retrospect it might have been a man Ok?) Did he have enough patients? Was he happy in India? Did he have a family here? If yes, then which school did the kids go to, since Chinese children in a school would be a topic of conversation! Were those eyes really sad like I thought? Or was he just sleepy?  Would I ever see him again? It took me a decade to know he existed. Was he an Indian citizen after all, migrated generations back? Do the Chinese come to India a lot? Do Indians go to China? Will I be friends with them? Ever? 
 
In short, I thought a lot! Silly me, probably. But it gave me this sense of being a novice, however old or well versed with the area I might be, I would never know all of it! Never know what surprises are lurking just around the corner, for me to discover in the unlikeliest of times.
 
That Chinese dentist bought me back to my senses. I am tiny, and I don’t know everything. One of these days I hope to pluck the courage to walk up to his clinic and speak to him and know him more. One of these days maybe…
 
Silhouettes of the things unknown…just were waiting to be discovered, in the form of a Chinese dentist!
Update 07/01/2014: I met the dentist and his family! At a poetry meet! And he’s so cool! Though I’m not sure it was him I saw. I was a little awkward, but hey! What are the chances?!

Freedom!!

Sometimes even in the worse of situations, things happen that make you wonder, “Hey! There is someone who is having a good laugh at whatever is happening to me now!”
This happened to me yesterday. 9.09am Thane starting, CST bound local. (Wonder if I am always going to blog about trains! :-P) So after a long time, at peak hour office rush, I was travelling in the ladies first class (I usually travel in the general since I have a group of friends, males included, with me always). So, I reached about two minutes before the train was to leave, with not even an iota of hope of getting a place to sit but eternally hoping that I’d at least get place to stand. Imagine my relief when the entire passageway was empty. 
 
Reminded me of a forwarded mail, “Mumbaikar’s idea of privacy: When your leg is not stepped on in the train, and you have enough space to breathe!” By those standards, I was in heaven!
 
So I happily put my bag down, plugged in my earplugs, and decided to have a hell of a time till Matunga. Salman was dancing to Shankar’s tunes at that time “Mann gaaye re haay re…” (Yes, it was my Facebook status also!) It was all so peaceful, too perfect to be true actually. Should’ve understood it then that there was going to be something wrong when the next song that played was the theme of Requiem for a Dream-dark and pensive-something bad was bound to happen. And it did.
Mulund station. In came hordes of women, like there was some free for all sale at D-Mart. Okay…I agree this would be the height of exaggeration, but the look on their faces made it seem like it was a war. And here was the first battalion leading the entire force. I stuck on to my place, second from the door, with my bag between my ankles, waiting for the forces to strike!
 
They came, found their space, and now I was a bit wary, but still had some place to stand. And accepted it all with a pinch of salt. It was okay! J At this point, Kareena was maroing thumke on Sunidhi’s sexy voice, “Ha! Chalo ab door yaha se, pahaadon se bhi aage…” How I wished I could!
Nahur. Women got down, more got in, Bhandup, some more got down, even more got in! By the time the train crossed Kanjurmarg, unfortunately, I couldn’t do what Hard Kaur was urging me to- “Rock to the rhythm and rock to the rhyme!” Though, I was “doob ja” oing, in a sea of harrowed women and unfortunately not in someone’s pyaar!
All this while, Facebook updating, mutual commenting was on. It was getting difficult by the minute to see the messages though. You can’t really read messages when your hands are pinned down, with two women leaning on you, pinning you to a corner the way you’d expect some Hollywood couple would make love. Really, absolutely no sense of privacy, physical torture! Which increases when someone’s stilettos come right down on your toes and you don’t even know who the guilty is!

Ugh!
Physical, mental, psychological torture. Vikhroli. Physical, as you obviously get poked at horrible places! Mental, as you hear words you wouldn’t want to hear early in the morning! (To be read as “melya college chya students” roughly translated as “Be gone ye College students”) Psychological? Tough to explain. What else would you call the torture of having your waist, butt touched, unabashedly just because they’re all women. And women breathing down your neck…their hot breath. Leaves a scar on young minds like mine!
Add to this the fact that the next station is Ghatkopar, where a hundred more climb in, along with some human bomb! (Biological warfare) Who didn’t clear her stomach before leaving for work; if you think those aromas are the worse that could happen to you when you are on your way for a big presentation, then think again my dear friends.
Because the worst part is you don’t know who it is. And even more worst is the fact that your hands are tied down. You can’t even cover your nose! Pah! Baba Ramdevji ke anulom vilom ki yaad aa gayi
I did sort of introspection at this point- why was I doing all this? What was the need? And BAAAM! came the answer in the form of Avril Lavigne who screamed in my ears “So much for my happy ending!” No kidding.
Hopes ran high, when Kurla came, I thought most of the women would get down, and I could move closer to the door, some fresh air, but no! More women came in. I wonder how the floor of the matchbox like ladies compartment never caves in. I was pushed in…but I went against the swarming numbers of women against me, egged by Shankar and Hrithik! “Haa yahi rasta hain tera!” Aur maine tab ye jaan liya tha!
I think I didn’t mention, I was wearing a churidar on this fateful day. Which was freshly ironed, and I didn’t want creases on the dress that I would make a presentation in. High hopes! My duppatta got stuck in someone’s hair, caused a huge, shrill scream when I tugged, and all I could hope was that it wouldn’t tear.

Thank god for small mercies…it didn’t!
Finally, after Sion went in a blur…came Matunga! Who got down? Just me! No one else got off from the entire compartment! But well, at that point of time, I would have danced better than Aishwarya for all her money and beauty when Shreya aptly sung in my ears “Re beheke chali main to keheke chali….na na re na na re na na re nana re!” How the faces I left behind in the train looked at me and my newly found freedom!