Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I need a Larissos.

Anyone who has an old house (and loves every inch of it) will know, dust and mess do not a home make. Which is why the dear old things have to be cleaned out from roof to ground floor every once in a while. (In our case, once every 50 years). And who is it that performs this expurgation? The daughters of the house, that’s who. In this case, one daughter, the others being responsible and working (yeah, right).

It’s lucky that I like cleaning. Especially when it’s deciding which books to keep and which to donate when the piles start reaching the ceiling. (I can spend hours in our attic-thakurghor, covered in ages-old dust, rooting for that one book I know I’d seen here a year ago.) But also cleaning in general. I love wiping a dirty glass pane with Colin and seeing it sparkle-it’s like modern alchemy. I feel so powerful. And I have also been known to stun my friends by saying, “Hey, want to come over? We’ll clean the old bookcases together!”

But this house is beyond me. I’ll tell you why. Picture an old, old townhouse in Bhowanipur, with paint that peels off no matter how many times you paint over- like an old woman who can’t be bothered to pull up her sari’s pallu when it keeps falling off. Inside, there are four floors and one attic with every inch of space crammed with old and new furniture-juxtaposed together terribly, hundreds of occasional and end tables we occasionally fall over, moth eaten carpets, rugs, cushions, madurs, once-ornamental vases and curios that have long given up trying to look young and pretty, hundreds of clocks that never go, one grandmother clock that ding-dongs whenever it feels like it, and one grandmother, bless her heart, who never throws anything away.

And books. Did I mention books? It’s accepted that old houses have old books, collected over the years. Our books, on the other hand, seem to have been collected since Gutenberg packed a printing press into his vacation gear. Every floor has them teeteringly balanced, on chairs, on the aforementioned occasional and end tables, on the TV, the DVD player, the computers, the almirahs, the beds of course, and on the seat of our exercise bike.(Which no one can use anymore because where do the books go?; so we’re all getting fatter and fatter.) We have Readers’ Digest Condensed books, four fat ones each year, from the 1950s. We have all the mandatory moth-attracting Encyclopaedias, the Historian’s History of the World, the Everyman’s Library, and so many political and spiritual books that Attila The Hun would be reformed if he read them all, leave alone Munnabhai. (Not that you would know it to look at them, they’re all coated with dust and look like rows of black ledgers.) Add to this my personal mountain of books, accumulated over the years, a lifetime’s worth of begging, whining, and coaxing.
And all this, who has to make into a magazine centerfold before New Years’, when the cousin’s Big Fat Bengali Wedding (Ashirbad, really) will happen? I do. And by magazine I mean ‘Good Housekeeping’, not ‘Ancient Ruins of India’.
And I swear, if I do it, on my matrimonial ad goes “Can do anything, including clean the Aegean Stables.”
Sucks to you, Hercules.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

I'm not bored, but Priyanka tagged me, and I'm more conscientous about tags than I am about my very-near exams, so I think I'll do this tag. I like tags.

Rules:1. Put your MP3 player on shuffle
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. You must write the name of the song no matter what. No cheating!

Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones ( "I can't get no satisfaction"-so no, it's not okay.)

Wooden Heart- Elvis Presley (Great.As if I wasn't single enough already.)

Take My Breath Away- Berlin (What? Just guy, please. ew.)

High-James Blunt (You're right Priyanka, this IS intuitive, HOW did my iPod know??)

18 till i die – Bryan Adams (HAHA. I'll have to die before 11th August next year, then.)

sajnaa aa bhi jaa-some metallic-voiced woman. (Oh My God. I didn't even know i had this on the iPod.But HOW apt. i'm getting creeped out now.)

Salvation - Cranberries (More like damnation.)

Sunshine–John Denver (Haha. They'll be pleased. Nice dutiful iPod their daughter's got.)

Manic Monday-Bangles (Yep, especially every Sunday.)

WHAT IS 2+2?
Heaven Is A Place On Earth – Belinda Carslile (2+2 makes heaven a place on earth. If only it weren't Unplottable.)

Witchy Woman– Eagles (I'm sure some unnamed people would agree.)

All You Need Is Love-Beatles (And not from just anyone, okay?)

Walk Of Life -Dire Straits (I always did like Johnny.)

Another Brick In The Wall-Pink Floyd (*thunderstruck*)

Your Heart Is An Empty Room–Death Cab or Cutie (And I'm looking for a place to rent.)

Run Like Hell-Pink Floyd (What?? Is this an otherworld warning? What did I DO?)

Woh Shaam Kuch Ajeeb Thi– Lata (Yeh shaam bhi ajeeb hai? *apprehensive look*)

In The Shadows– The Rasmus ("i'll be waiting/I'll be watching" ?This is getting seriously scary.)

Knocking on Heaven's Door-Bob Dylan (And do they open for me? Not a chance in hell, they don't.)

Fidelity–Regina Spektor (No, really. I don't even have anyone to betray.)

Come Undone - Duran Duran (Haha. And so they do. Like a muffler I once knitted.)

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun- Cyndi Lauper.(Good that it's not Untitled by Simple Plan)

So there. My iPod seems to have more AI than Apple fitted it out with, which is slightly unnerving. I tag anyone who reads this and thinks my iPod isn't prescient and I cheated.
And I have a messy post coming up, so stay tuned. Tuned? haha. haha. (I like bad jokes, okay?) Goodnight.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Callisto Debacle

First of all, I was on a forced hiatus for two months because of this post and my recalcitrant scanner. But i think you'll agree it needed the pictures.
Speaking of the artwork, it's by my fabulous friend Inam, (I.M. in the comic), who draws divinely, and has a flair for pinning down expressions. In a crazy moment of masochism, we made her draw it up for the school magazine. Luckily no one really believed it. Any scanning defects are mine...the original drawings are much better. (What do you think?)
Out of the 'Powerbluff Girls' (give us a break, we were young) mentioned, AC is me (Anasua Chatterjee), SC is Sreerupa my partner-in-crimes-in-which-we-get-caught and I don't think I should tell you about anyone else.

So here it is. The one incident I should never have mentioned to anyone, ever, is now coming out.
I blame my younger years for this. Ever since I was in fifth grade, I think, I've been sent off to fests and competitions all over the place. Fests no one went to, fests everyone went to, fests no one in their right mind would send me of all people to. I won some, lost most, but what i really lost was the ability to say no. I also lost any prudence i might have once had.

So, when the school rep bulldozed me and my friends (each one as suprememly crazy as I was) into-hold your breath-SINGING on stage for the Callisto Western Music event, we didn't think much of it. After all, we'd had a band in middle school, and even sang for Teacher's Day once.Of course, we conveniently forgot the carefully blank faces and strained smiles the teachers had had as we'd serenaded them.
We sang a few lines or so for practice over the next five days. (Whyever did stars need practice, anyway.) Most of the time we talked over how cool we'd look on stage, and what we'd wear for the cover picture of our first album. And we quite forgot that we didn't have a single instrument. None of us played ANYthing except D, who played the synthesiser.Intermittently.

This could be a public-interest ad about the evils of overconfidenceYou get the picture.As D-Daycame closer (D stands for disaster here), we panicked a bit. D (here, the keyboard-playing friend, not disaster) had no time to learn to play the tunes-so we figured out a brilliant solution.She didn't need to play any tune, she could just turn the knob to 'bass drum' and bang on it in time! We'd get along just fine.SO that was settled.Next were the songs. We chose them two days or so before the fest. They were..
1.Winds of change by the Scorpions. No, we weren't crazy, we actually thought we could pull it off on stage.The song that nobody should try to sing except in a bathroom, we, ninth graders, decided to perform, whistling and all.
2.At the beginning, OST Anastasia(the animated movie). It was a nice song, and we were kids, and we thought it would be cute. Yeah, except it wasn't.
3.If You Wanna Be My Lover by the Spice Girls. Concession to age-and besides, we wanted to dance on stage. At first no one realised it was us, so they cheered the school like crazy. And slunk away later after the debacle.
I think the point at which we realised the massacre that was going to happen was when we heard a girl from another school, pratt memorial i think, sing 'la bamba' in this fabulous, throaty, christina aguilera voice. And then we were on stage.
You bet something's wrong. This was AN's solo, the song from Pocahontas.
There were masses of ready-to-heckle teenagers everywhere. We took the mikes off the stands and moved forward. And then we sang. it took them a full five minutes before they realised it wasn't comic relief, these girls were actually participating. but before they could get to throwing anything, something else happened.

The music-if you call banging on a synthesizer music-stopped as if someone had mercifully yanked the cord out. As it happens, it had fallen out. We gamely started again.
Now the audience rebelled.
They screamed at the massacre we made of 'Winds of Change'. They groaned through 'At the Beginning'. And when we got to 'If You Wanna Be My Lover' they shrieked 'NO!' every time. They stood on chairs and roared fiercely in tandem. They tried to storm the stage. But you can't see anything from the stage because of the spotlights on you, so we sang and danced happily on, in oblivion.
My contacts always itch when i'm nervous, and the others had left their glasses backstage.
Sreerupa tripping over her laces, cannoning into me.

When the song ended, we did our 'signature' finger-waggling-at-the-audience move and jumped off the stage.
And then offstage, when we realised the enormity of the disaster, I don't think we've ever been more crushed in all our years of onstage humiliation.
The rep let us down, too. And she'd pushed us into this in the first place.A joke, indeed! Of course, it was one...

Running for our lives.
We had envisaged being snuck out the back door because of people wanting to get to us; but to get autographs, not to cause us bodily harm. Lugging the huge synthesizer between us, we ran for cover. And swore we'd never do that again.
Now if this were a college essay, i'd conclude by saying that from this episode, i learnt a hard lesson, namely stick within your limits; and learnt it well. But this is not a college essay, and so I feel free to disclose that we were on stage only months later. Doing what? Yes, singing. 'Phir Dhoom' this time, but with the same reactions from the audience.
But then that's another story.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Birthday Blues

I'm writing this with about an hour to go before my eighteenth birthday. I will not even start on how much that's freaking me out, what with reaching the end of childhood without having changed the world an iota, being a useless lump upon the careworn soulders of the proletariat and a chronic time waster and what not. What I will do, is whine about other things.
I was just looking over my first post, almost exactly two years ago, where I started out by saying,"I’m a sixteen year old girl from Kolkata" (which was totally untrue, because i wouldn't have been sixteen till another month, and that was NOT a good start-but then this blog is now loads of fun for me, so i guess 'making a good start' is just rubbish), and went on about Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince, which had just released-I remember liking Snape even then. So one of the things that haven't changed is that I still love Harry's world, and have never felt the need to turn up my nose at it.

Detour- I should go full circle by talking about Deathly Hallows a bit, as this blog started out with Half Blood Prince. I think it was wonderful; any issues i might have had I forgave her because of Snape, and except the epilogue I think it was a great end to the series. I have a soft spot for Harry puttar, having grown up with him, almost to the day.I got the first harry potter as my eleventh birthday gift, when we were both eleven. And I'm just glad I got to see and love something people worldwide went crazy about, like the earlier generation had Star Wars and Floyd.

So then. Back to what has changed.
1.I think I'm older. Yes, I know I'm technically older, and no thanks for reminding me, but I also think that I've grown a bit more tactful and a tiny bit less juvenile. Of course that might be because my "Be nice to me, I'm this little kid with great big sappy eyes" act probably won't work anymore. I mean, who falls for that in an 18 year old.

2.I'm definitely prettier. I don't know how, but it happened, and you won't hear any complaints from me. (And to think I never really believed in the Ugly Duckling Story. I mean, swan babies -cygnets?-can't be ugly, surely?)

3. I'm more social. I can even do small talk. It's hard, but I manage. Maybe being transferred to a new section away from the friends I'd had forever did it, but I can carry on a conversation with a strange person for much longer than two seconds now. (On good days I might even manage a minute.) And I am NOT letting go of my friends EVER, not even if I'm in Potoldanga and they're in Botswana, because I've missed them like anything ever since I we were rudely separated by fate, masquerading as Ma'am Narula.(Don't give me hell about this guys, I'm not responsible for what I admit under the influence of birthday blues.)

4.I still eat like the Empress of Blandings. Nothing's changed there.And I still pay for my own food.Which brings me to the next thing:

5. I'm still single. And I'm eighteen, and while pure as the driven snow was nice till now, it's not going to be that way when I'm twenty; and i highly doubt i'll have found anyone by then. there is NO one even on the horizon.I am doomed to spinsterhood.

6.I've found out what i want to do. Being a physicist might not be that easy, but it's the only thing that gets me excited, and as any kind of excitement is sorely absent from my life, I will go for it. And if I get the Nobel, your comments to this might well have helped me, so be nice.

7. I've managed to stay away from both conformity and also nonconformity just for the sake of it.I mean, I like Death Cab and Tracy Chapman, but I also like Harry Potter, Enid Blyton, and a lot of catchy film songs. As Anne says, if you have a nice nose (and i do, especially as it's quite pimple-free at the moment), it's a shame to turn it up and spoil it.

So I see it's turning 12:00 on me as I was rambling on about noses for an hour, so i think i'm 18 in..let's see...five minutes more? I think I'll wish myself a Happy Birthday and hope I get through tomorrow all right.
there are 5 seconds's done. i'm 18.
I'm going to bed. good night.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Millisecond Math

[This was written for flamebird' online magazine, and is reproduced here because priyanka said she needed another post(which makes me feel wanted, a bit), and i already had this written. Exams sneaked up on me again, and I will probably be failing this time, so please, no best of lucks.]

The one subject most people have real trouble with in school is math. Whether it's the way it's taught, with no emphasis on understanding and application, or whether it's the confidence-demolishing teachers and exams, a lot of people I know are afraid of the subject to the extent that they let it affect their choice of later studies. But the fact remains that math is just another language with its own grammar and a surfeit of logic; and as Feynman said, it's the language in which nature speaks.
It's also the one language which the human mind is programmed to understand from birth. Every sense organ of our bodies is a delicately tuned receiver of mathematical data for the brain; which in turn does an unbelievable amount of math to present us with, say, the correct picture of Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Le Grande Jatte with its innumerable dots, or to show us this printed page.
And everyone's brain does it, not just Einstein's or that belonging to the smartest kid in the class.
So then. Here’s a wow problem I came across in Halliday Resnick the other day. Very interesting.
What happens when you hear something? The sound goes in your ears; the brain interprets it, blah blah, yes. But how does your brain know which direction it’s coming from?
One clue it uses is the time delay, which we’ll call Δt, between the arrival of the sound at the ear closer to the source, and the arrival at the farther ear.
Here, when the wavefront (the wave) reaches your right ear(very originally named R here) it still has the distance d to travel before it reaches your left ear (yes, that is the one named L).

Some basic high school trig tells us that this distance is Dsinθ, where D is the separation between your ears (directly proportional to your fatheadedness). Using the basic equation, time=distance/speed, we get:
Δt= d/v = Dsinθ/v (where v is the speed of sound, in air)
And then, the brain does some millisecond algebra and comes out with
θ=sin-1 (vΔt/D). And, based on the measured value of Δt, a lifetime of experience which gives v, and the obvious knowledge of D, the brain computes the angle θ and tells you instantly which corner of the room your friend’s screeching at you from. And all this in a few milliseconds, to enable you to duck the textbook she throws at you.
(There’s some interesting extra info in Halliday about what happens in water, where the brain’s confused about v, but you can look that up yourself.)

The same thing happens when you see something, walk, talk, or do anything at all. The brain’s very good at math. And so are you. After all, it’s your brain. And if you’re having any problems, it’s either the way you were taught, or the fact that unlike the brain, you don’t practice enough. Whichever it is, there is no such thing as a ‘mathematical brain’ unless that refers to every brain in the world. Each of us is good at math, and we can all understand the language in which nature speaks. Marks are only about what formulae you can memorize and remember on exam day. The real test is when you hear a car radio two cars away in the traffic jam and can instantly tell where it’s coming from, and that it’s unmistakably Elvis singing. The rest is just putting down on paper what you can already do in your head.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Indian is as Indian does.

I've always been very much Indian. The indolence, the love of family, the respect for learning, the pointing-people-the-wrong-way-with-assurance, the garrulity, I have it all. And I'm proud of all that, and of my country. I do get that funny constriction in the chest when the national anthem's played, and I do feel compelled to rise to my feet and stand a little straighter. I hate hearing criticism of my country, and I did cry after I saw (and loved) Rang De Basanti. I was a sucker for the India Shining campaign, the Blue Billion ad, the glorified accounts in the History textbooks, and most of the other propagandist feel-good nonsense as well, because I, like most people in the world, am afflicted with patriotism. Shaw had said, with immense courage of conviction, "Patriotism is your conviction that your country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it."
There's a lot of sense in that. What is it that makes thousands of soldiers fight till the end for issues they know precious little about? Even when it's obvious the soldiers on the other side are just as passionately believing in their side of the story? What is it that enables statesmen all over the world to go to war, to buy their little military gadgets and planes to blow other countries to bits? What is it that makes us offer no protest when they waste millions of rupees on fancy planes we don't need, money that would feed some, even if not all, of our starving millions? What is it that lets one man fire unflinchingly into another man's eyes and lets him watch the other man die in agony, only because he's from a different geographical region of this planet?
Yup, patriotism it is.
Shaw, straight thinker and unafraid speaker, had also said, "You'll never have a quiet world till you knock the patriotism out of the human race."

He was right both times.Patriotism is a terrible thing. But it's also a terribly beautiful thing, entrancing fatally those who can bear to wear blinkers, and tearing apart with conflict those who can see both sides of a story. It makes you forget you're an individual with a mind, takes away reason, and thrusts you yelling and screaming into the seething, madly exultant crowd of people who commit atrocities in the name of their country. You become one of them, and in doing so, cease to become you and simply become an 'Indian'. (You can substitute the name of your country in the quotes. It's all the same). And that's all that you become.
You don't stop to think, what if I'd been born in Pakistan?

I don't flatter myself with being a clear thinker and able to resist patriotism. I do think my country is the best. I could write a whole new post about why it is, with bullet-pointed reasons.The national anthem will always make me stand a little straighter, the Republic Day parade of might will always make me proud of our strength, and if I ever go abroad, I'll be severely homesick and scoot back at the earliest opportunity. But I do hope that if ever the time comes for senseless conflict and taking of sides, this post will remind me of a man who did recognise conflict as senseless, and also remind me that it's gross arrogance to be convinced that my country is superior to all others, just because I was born in it.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Classic Case of Overexposure

The first book i remember reading was not, interestingly, an Enid Blyton or a E Nesbit or even a Boxcar children book. ( Though I love reading them now. I must be in regression). It was this book called the Black Arrow. It was abridged, and by RLStevenson, and I loved it, still do. After that, I read every classic I could get my hands on to. I loved Jane Austen, and Dickens(i loved Dickens), Verne, Alcott, Fenimore cooper. And so I was into classics from the very beginning. Some of them abridged, most not. I realise now I was too young for many of them, and had to go back to them later, but they were these books with character, not mass produced children's literature, and I fed on them ravenously.

Of course, this had many repercussions.
One, I had these huge glasses when I was six, and already had a small face, so from a distance it looked like two walking parabolic reflectors.
Two, I developed this weird habit of talking like I was this ancient Victorian. Hearing a little girl saying things like "why, pray?" and "That's pre-pre-preposterous!" must have been disconcerting, and it's no wonder people stayed away.
Three, I nearly bankrupted my family. At one point of time, I was getting twelve books a week, and they had to rent most of them, and even buy some, so I think they even tried to get me addicted to TV instead; but it was too modern and newfangled for me.
Four, I became this trying-to-be-dramatic, romantically-inclined creature, not unlike Anne but without her charm, which ensured and ensures that I remain single forever. Also, there wasn't and won't ever be, anyone like Darcy, or Bluntschli, or The Scarlet Pimpernel, or Dick Shelton.
Five, I ignored guests of all kinds, didn't eat unless they let me read while doing it or better still, spooned the stuff into me, stayed up till I'd finished a book or barricaded myself into the bathroom with it, and snapped at anyone, however well-meaning, who tried to talk to me in the middle of a book. To their credit, they soon learned, and let me alone after a while.

But then, I gained hours and hours of the most amazingly pure, uninterrupted(not that they didn't try), unforced pleasure that I never get from anything other than books. In all, I was a totally happy child, safe in the world I'd created for myself, letting no one in.(Come to think of it, I wouldn't marry me if I were a guy.What a bore.)

Now, to business. This post was prompted by the fact that sangy( can i call you that?) aka Roberta Flak, of (wow blog), tagged me. Which means I have to post the 5th para( or last if there's no fifth) of page 123, of the book I'm currently reading, and I have to tag five people more. And that's why I wrote this post, because the current book happens to be Rob Roy by Scott (sucks to all of you who expected Penthouse) and I find I haven't got over my fascination with the musty old things. They do smell so good...

*shakes head to clear it*.anyway, here's my bit.

"Besides the progress which Miss Vernon had, whose powerful mind readily adopted every means of information imparted to it, had made in more abstract science, I found her no contemptible linguist, and well acquainted with ancient and modern literature. Were it not that strong talents will often go furthest when they seem to have least assistance, it would be almost incredible to tall the rapidity of Miss Vernon's progress in knowledge; and it was still more extraordinary, when her stock of mental acquisitions from books was compared with her total ignorance of actual life. It seemed as if she saw and knew everything except what passed in the world around her; and I believe it was this very ignorance and simplicity of thinking upon ordinary subject, which rendered her conversation so irresistibly fascinating, and riveted the attention to whatever she said or did; since it was absolutely impossib;e to anticipate whther her next wprd or action was to display the most acute perception or the most profound simplicity. The degree of danger which necessarily attended a youth of my age and keen feelings from remaining in close and constant intimacy with an object so amiable and so peculiarly interesting, all who remember their own sentiments at my age may easily estimate."

I love this book ever since '98 when i got it. The heroine's so different from the usual simpering kind. Oh, and I tag Priyanka at butterfly assassin which does not mean that she slaughters innocent butterflies, and revolver at shootingfrom. I also tag raghu and another brick in the wall, seeing as they haven't done their part and I don't know anyone else to tag. And if you noticed that leaves another person to be tagged, you can jolly well be that person yourself, because I CANNOT think of anyone else. so there.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

I'm disgusted.

Don't read this if you expect a nice post, I'm sick.(Literally, I mean.)
I was a very healthy baby. I almost never cried, saving up all the whining for this blog; I never had croup, or measles, or chicken pox, or wooping cough, or mumps, or even the common cold or a stomach upset. And if I threw up on someone, it was only my way of protesting about the person, while sacrificing my dignity as befits a martyr. And while other people had fevers and things and didn't come to school, i didn't come as well, but instead of lying on a bed, had fun at home. I was tiny and scrawny, but I had and have this wowie of an immune system. And did I mention the invulnerable stomach of steel?

So when I had this accelerated heartbeat in 5th grade, I naturally thought it was some cute boy next door and this must be my first crush, and that's why they call it a crush. So when the doctor met us gravely I didn't think much of it (they always look grave or weirdly, falsely cheerful); that is, until he said I had SupraventricularTachychardia.(Yup, I couldn't pronounce it either.) It was an extra impulse or something in the heart, not very painful, just a sort of dhak-dhak like the heroines' dils, and then they got it zapped in Delhi so it was all right and my people were pretty relieved.It was over, they thought.

You guessed it. Not by far, it wasn't. I went on being healthy as hell and eating anything I could get my hands on and not looking noticeably the worse for it. And then in class 7 or so, at a time when I'd had nothing but home cooked food (cooked by shubu mashi who was new then and I hadn't got used to her grotesquesness-look at the earlier post for details) for a long time, down I come with ParaTyphoid, and just when they think it's licked, i get it AGAIN. And they can't even blame it on phuchkas.

Yeah, there's more. In 9th grade, the night before the Maths exam, I wake up with this raging fever. So I don't give the exams, and the doctor can't figure out what's wrong, so he decides it's dengue( which was conveniently doing the rounds just then) and i have this nice long holiday for about a month, and no exam to boot.Parents did get a scare, though.

And that brings me to a few days ago, just before Milaap the SPICMACAY fest, when, after a long time of no diseases or discomforts whatsoever (I should have known a malevolent providence was saving it up for a big one, I didn't even get a cold or an upset), I get a sore throat and the CMRI doctor takes one look at it and says:"You, my Young Lady, have got Acute Pharyngo-Tonsillitis." Which basically means Pharyngitis and tonsillitis together. Ow.

Yes, I'm okay now. And no, it doesn't hurt that much. And thank you for asking.But I think I'd take a cold once in a month instead of these nasty surprises they keep choosing ME to play on.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Wish I was alive.

Just as we reached school today, they gave us another week off for the PMT exams to be held. So school reopens on the 10th. And I'm amazingly happy about it. Relieved, even. Which as everyone probably agrees, is so boringly obvious and normal it's redundant to talk about, even on a blog.

I was just thinking, in one of the most powerful scenes in the Fountainhead, of Roark the architect looking at the Heller House being constructed; he's indecently, gloriously happy, revelling in the fulfillment of what he does, his 'job'.
He sees a party of people, out to enjoy one day out of many days of their existence, one girl savagely strumming an ukulele and yelling; "shrieking to the sky their release from the work and the burdens of the days behind them; they had worked and carried the burdens in order to reach a goal-and this was the goal." Roark forgets them in a moment, because he's distracted, transfixed, by a cartload of gleaming cut granite passing, intended for his building.

But I can't forget them, because they're me. They're us. Gleaning a day or two out of our existences to have 'fun', earning a respite from everyday lives, our lives for heaven's sake, to enjoy ourselves. Why is it that we have to be released from our lives to be ourselves, to be 'indecently, gloriously happy'? Why is it that the rest of the time, we're stuck in a closed room writing, like automatons, waiting desperately for the bell to ring and liberate us from what we do each day, that is our life?
I wonder if this void is what death might be like. Familiar, then.
I don't know. All I know is that I was glad today to escape my life for one week more.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Passions of a Sea Anemone

There’s this section in orkut that always has me stymied when, having absolutely nothing better to do, I fill out my profile for the umpteenth time. It’s the ‘my passions’ field. And frankly, I do not like it one bit. I mean, I know I’m pretty much a vegetable when school’s out, and that the gang would probably rate me 8 on a boring scale of 10(none of them read this blog a lot, so I can safely say 8 and not 10), and if I were an animagus I’d probably be a sea-anemone; but sitting there for five whole minutes thinking of my passions(‘ thinking of my passions’- what an oxymoron) is simply not acceptable.

So, I’m going to do something about it and list them out here. And I will NOT tell you how long it takes me to write this.

First of all-and this comes easy-reading. But would you say breathing, or drinking water, (or sitting with the gang on the grounds on lazy afternoons, all of us bunking classes) is a passion? Reading’s like that....I have to do it, or wither away. Or whatever it is sea anemones do when they decide they’ve had enough of life. I’ve always been like that. Can’t sleep without finishing a book, and when someone snatches it out of my hands at 2:30 in the night, I lie awake wondering about the next page. So no, it isn’t a passion. More like a necessity, like going to the toilet. (Yeah, ugh and all that.) So that’s out.

Next up, I could say music, because when I was young I’d wake up and go to sleep with the old maestros creating magic with ancient ragas. I had a musical home (no, not those things that tinkle when you turn a key). But well… those days are gone. Nothing’s forever, and somewhere down the line my tastes changed or rather my habits changed, and I moved on to a little western classical and then on to old bands and new bands and rock and music that means so many things it doesn’t mean anything at all. I still listen to old stuff, but mostly on the radio, and a few cds I have, but I fidget nowadays and I never used to fidget before. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to bring back something that just isn’t there anymore, and if I’ve learnt one thing, it is that that cannot be done.

It might be Science which sometimes fascinates me with the sheer wonder of the universe and people like Feynman have had a lot to do with that. But then, the everyday mind-numbing ordeal of copying notes like some macabre superfast typewriter and then mugging them up the night before the exams does a good job of putting my ‘scientific temper’ to sleep. So I’m back to the square marked one, which is the square I was born in, and will die in.Sad.

So is it Superman? That’s what I write sometimes when I’m trying to be smart-ass funny. But he’s really only the guy I admire, actually the guy everyone admires and wants. I mean, he’s Superman. I love graphic novels (comic books for the uninitiated) because of the amazing nuances and the cool people on and behind the pages, but I’m not so passionate about them that I’d go to a comic book convention in the neighbouring state like Seth. I’d like a guy like Clark someday,(umm, not exactly like him; I mean I could do without the vulnerability to Kryptonite), that’s why he sometimes makes it to the passions list, but since none of the guys I know remotely fit the bill, I’m as far away from a likely passion as I was before. So that’s out too. what am I passionate about?? I don’t like to admit it, but nothing much, really.
Oh well, man probably evolved from something like sea anemones anyway, so maybe there’s hope for me yet. So pray for me while I hibernate. (Yeah, I know they don’t hibernate, but I couldn’t find anything else. So sue me.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

An Old Story.

Here's something I wrote for Elective English Homework at the beginning of last year...and i did the assignment at one in the night; so judge not, lest ye be judged.
(This is I think the first time I'm posting any work on the net...that's why I chose this's not particularly good.)

Baby blues

“You think your baby is cute? Was she done by the masters?
If not, you’ve been tricked.
To stay clear of underachievers, delinquents and colicky youngsters, come to BundleOfJoy today! Anything else is a compromise…don’t compromise on your baby!”

What a horrible, weak advert, I think, sprawling on my overstuffed office chair. Some dimwitted decorator’s tweaked the Atmosystem to emanate heat from the walls-to stimulate brain activity- one of the daft ideas Personnel churns out with monotonic regularity to ‘motivate’ employees.

I toss the proofs aside, thinking, the best Child Effectiveness company can do much better than this. I mean, if you haven’t heard of BOJ, you must live on Mars-everyone knows we’re the best, if only by virtue of being the earliest. And people trust their precious ‘bundles of joy’ only to the best. We’re the oldest in this new business, the most prestigious. We started shop just after the GEC (Genetic Engineering Controversy) cleared up, and from that day 30 years ago, we’ve been ‘Raising the Bar for Young Achievers’. (That’s our company motto, by the way. You know, the heavily underlined attention-grabbing line beneath the giant logo.) So these dumb morons down in advert should find it easy as pie to write a proper ad. But instead, they send up such boring drivel…I put a huge cross on the page, which makes me feel pretty good, and send it down to advert after wrestling a bit with the Transferrer.

The swoosh of the sender having confirmed the transfer, I shift my attention to a more pressing task-the memo concerning the new incubator’s design problems.

To: Ms. A. Leeman, CEO 08.11.2067
BOJ Design Labs
Sub: Incubatron-004

Fault 302 noted in 33 cases out of 100.

Seemingly innocuous, this makes me sit up in consternation and almost slip off the glossy chair. Fault 302 is one of the more serious defects-and this particular message means that 33 out of 100 embryos tested negative on the Leeman-Harper Test for Exceptional Intelligence. As the test was designed by me, and so was the new incubator, this gives me an instant ulcer. Higher Management could have my head on a charger for this. The LHET test’s based on ‘average child mental ability’; and as more and more kids are designed to be cleverer, the standard keeps on increasing. That’s why we have to keep on building these new incubators each time. The normal IQ nowadays is around 212 (actually 212.0788 this instant), so it’s getting really difficult.

And now this. I suddenly feel so deflated I could cry. First the ad, now this Incubatron fault. Why can’t I just have a respite from the endless rush to keep up, why can’t the dratted parents be content for a day? All the time, they want more brains, more beauty, more grace, more everything; all the seven virtues in our catalogue, all at once! I make a note on my electronic Post It machine, which malfunctions as usual (why did they do away with office stationery?), and move to the next matter, a simple business of an E&E (egg and embryo) import bill from Africa, when the intercom rings. It’s Assia, my method analyst (secretary actually, but unions these days...) who tells me sympathetically, in hushed tones, “It’s a Blessed couple to see you, Ms.Leeman-Harper”.

This is bad. As per our code, Assia calls me ‘Ms. Leeman-Harper’ only when it’s a bad case, and before I can say I’m busy, the door’s jerked open and the Blessed couple comes in. The ‘Blessed couple’ is what we call devout parents who own one of our kids. Higher Management realized we had to woo the god-fearing parents somehow, so after the Pope endorsed our company, they came up with ‘Blessed’ to reassure the mothers and fathers. (As if they needed to-we’d have them beating a path to our door anyway). And the non-believers we call ‘NeoPragmatic’. Which means-nothing. But that’s management for you. (I have no idea why they’re so lame-I mean, Mr.Stark up in Higher Management was a BOJ baby himself….)

My musing are interrupted by the father, potbellied and balding, pulling out a chair with a jarring squeak. The exquisitely beautiful mother sits down softly and starts crying. The exaggerated cupid’s bow of her lips reminds me of something…she has the exact minor problem we had with the earliest models. The contrast between the two becomes even more striking as I realize that she must be a BOJ baby too. Encouraged, I ask the father, “What’s wrong, Sir? Is your child…?”

The man splutters,”The boy had a cricket match today, and let me tell you, if the press were to know of the poor showing he made, I’m sure it wouldn’t go down too well with your superiors! We didn’t get him done here to be humiliated in front of all my friends and neighbours, when it really counted!”
The mother burst into tears with renewed vigour and I handed her a self drying tissue. ”Won’t he be normal? Won’t he be a Superkid Grade Two like you promised?”

Wordlessly I take the boy’s birthsheet from the father and scan it. They had only 3 of the seven virtues- Beauty030, Brains034 and Health, the compulsory one. Definitely not a Grade Two. Not even a Superkid. We’re always getting these problems-parents who don’t read their birthsheets carefully and expect more than the kids are equipped for. I knew something like this was in the air when I saw the mom was one of the early models-we hadn’t introduced PhotoMemory then and anyway she was probably only a Beauty candidate.

I break the news as gently as possible and sweep the uncontrollably sobbing mother and the raging father out the door, muttering about suing us. He can’t, as he’s signed a No-Responsibility Certificate, but as I’ve said before, they aren’t very strong on memory. But for some reason, I feel pretty bad myself.

I step onto the Autoconveyor and it carries me to the design wing- I need to look into the problems with the new incubator. It’s revolutionary really-we’ve introduced emotional manipulating as well, so we’ll have Superattitude, Taste, Assertiveness, etc. etc. to put in the brochure as well……..but I suddenly feel so miserable and disheartened that instead of going on to the main unit, I step off near the ‘Higher Management Only’ sign and get in the electronically locked door. There’s a coffee machine in an alcove and I desperately need coffee. With a steaming cup in my hand I step to the switchboard containing the controls of the new incubator, installed for Management. Screwing off the top, I can see the bare innards of the machine, gleaming like the shark’s teeth in that vintage film ‘Jaws’ I watched a few days ago.

The simile arrests my mind. I look through the viewing module at the rows and rows of identical baby housing cells, hooked up to the huge gleaming machine in one corner, that’s filled with superior genes ready to be injected into the embryos-to-be. The cells are empty now, production paused, but soon they’ll be filled with our future ‘achievers’. Parents will be standing outside, wondering anxiously whether the new baby they ordered will be ‘better’ than the new baby the Joneses ordered. Smarter, cleverer, prettier, sportier, better adjusted…and they’ll be disappointed. Oh, won’t they! Not once, but throughout the little kid’s life at what he can’t do, not grateful for what he can. That’s the way parents are, at least the ones who come to us.

And that’s how we-and I-thrive. Feeding on their too-high aspirations, their grasping dreams. I have a great job, definitely not a noble one as they tell the bright-eyed graduates in our orientation meetings, but a good one. I’m never sick, if you discount the periodical ulcers everyone has.
I don’t have kids, of course…

In one fluid motion I hurl the steaming coffee onto the gleaming console of the Incubatron and watch the delicate circuitry vaporize in seconds. Then I walk out the ‘Higher Management Only’ door, out the design wing’s businesslike arch, out the lobby doors, grinning like a fool, into the street outside, teeming with imperfect people, real people. I jump onto the nearest UniTaxi and program it to the Bahamas.

Maybe they won’t find me. After all, I’m not a BOJ baby, with a built in tracking chip…….

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Seth Cohen Phenomenon.

(For those of you who're reading this from those regions of outer space without television, Seth Cohen is the lanky nerd from the OC, the guilty-pleasure teen drama that's actually funny for a change.)

The guy's tall and thin and wears baggy jeans ; is pretty intelligent and gets good grades, talkes fast and drawls, is amazingly funny in a chandler-type way, likes indie rock, obscure books and comic books-from Jack Kirby to Alan moore he likes them all-and he's filthy rich with a pool house and he can skateboard, he lives in sunny California, he has a sailboat which he sails alone, and he has these wonderfully un-screwed up parents.
The stuff of dreams, wouldn't you say?a king among kings. drool drool.

well, on the OC, he's this total loser, in every sense of the word.He's beaten up by the water polo jocks, the girl he likes never looks at him (i'm talking about before ryan, the beginning of the show), he's this unpopular nerd whom everybody makes fun of, the guy who hates Newport so much that he sails away to Portland to avoid another year like before.
my reason for stating all this? I just wanted to show how far apart we are. Over here, Seth would be the most popular guy in school-he'd go to fests and win and be cheered, be Head boy probably, at least a prefect, he'd have a gang of cool intellectuals and he's sit around discoursing on comic books and dostoevsky while the jocks wore duncecaps and did lines. he would mumble and drawl his way to the ladies' hearts(i know i'd love this guy), and he'd be the talk of the 'fest circuit', where he'd perform death cab for cutie and rooney and get everyone saying how unusual he was.
so why are we so different? is it because we prize intelligence and funny-ness and intellectual-giri and such-like more than sports and stuff? India (and i think Bengal specially) has this adda culture where the more obscure and unusual and incomprehendable you are, the more weird books you've read, the more eclectic your tastes, actually the more 'different' you are, the more you're prized.
i think i can guess why. maybe it's because we're so many, such a huge mass of sameness, that any individuality, any spark of originality is precious. in order to prove you're somebody, you have to be different, you have to be 'weird', in order to prevent blending in with the masses.

orkut gives me fodder for these weird opinions..look in any reasonably 'cool' person's profile and you'll see he or she has filled it up with obscure references, unknown names, music not many people like, films no one watches, pseudo-intellectual stuff that immediately makes people go..hmm, unusual guy(or gal). the person will invariably,at some point in the profile, state that his friends call him weird, or mad, or strange, etc etc.
to paraphrase one misogynist whose name I've forgotten, the one thing that's the same about everyone is that they all try to different.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Our Cook Who Can't Cook

I've always been a real foodie.I can recognise spices in food.Food gets me worked up.The best way to keep me happy is to feed me. My nickname at home is 'andha kua' which, as you may have guessed, underlines my capability of stashing away the good stuff in enormous amounts.So when people ask you what irony is, you can tell them about this post.

Our cook is this nice woman from some picturesque village who should have learnt cooking,at leat how to boil an egg, while being dandled in her mother's lap. But, somehow, she missed out that vital part of a cook's education and is now, unfortunately for us, a cook who can't cook.

Take a simple example of something like toast. What she does is, burn one side and rub the butter on it so that the butter gets black flecks and the toast gets, well, no butter. Then again, her favourite spice happens to be turmeric. so the predominant colour on the table is..yes, it's yellow. yellow dal, yellow chicken, yellow vegetables, yellow everything. And then there was the deadly lunch box. Before I wised up and stopped taking food to school, my lunch box was a time bomb. The friends would watch with panic stricken eyes when the clock struck 12:00 and it was time to get the box out. Of course, no one could eat a bite, least of all me and so I invariably brought it back untouched.

So, painstakingly and with much trial and error, mostly error, I learnt to cook. And surprise...I could cook, and well. I learnt how to make the heavenly chingri macher malai curry and chicken in white sauce and fragrant pulao and even maggi(which is really hard to make well). ....God I'm hungry already.And all thanks to our cook who can't cook.
So really, when my people say it I get all cynical, but they're right-all's well that ends well.Sorry-I meant everything happens for the best. and so on and so forth.

This post was really an attempt to make me feel better. Maths exam was dismal(i thought it'd go great) but physics was great(I thought i'd flunk; such is the contrariness of life), so I thought a bit of philosophy mixed with some own-trumpet blowing (at least I blow it in tune) would do me good. And it did.
Think I'll go and get some french fries.shubu mashi's (the c. who can't c.) gone home for a holiday. Time to hide the turmeric.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Oh to be young again...

Some more memories...
Looking back from the ripe old age of 17, I guess some of the most fun times have been when we at school (the Exciting Eleven, we were young and fond of Enid Blyton so excuse the name) were inventing up some of our weird scrapes to fall into, because the actual carrying out of them always made us so damn nervous that we always came within a hair's edge of being caught.Once we did get caught and were almost suspended, but I'm not gonna mention that here!

So-some-only some- of the great times:

All the times we bunked classes and hid backstairs and 'practiced' for our band(doomed from the start, as I've said) and forced our classmates to perjure their souls. One time, we nearly broke the lock of the school terrace and went up, but good sense and a darwanji's yells prevailed and we made good our escape.

Then there was the secret passage(there were many we'd found, but this was forbidden fruit so irresistible) with the 'shaft of light'(!), a perfectly innocent gully between the sports complex and the boundary wall which we were morbidly curious about and HAD to get into. But then, you can't blame little curious girls for being curious when there were always two or three darwanjis hanging around the gully with shifty eyes like they were guarding something-which made it even more suspicious in our young eyes. Of course, me and sreerupa (I think) did take a chance with our lives and sneaked in once (what did you expect) and saw a small door-ish type of thing, but then were ignominiously dragged out that's one unsolved mystery.

Speaking of mysteries reminds me of our 'Detective club' back in 4rth grade-which involved being suspicious of everybody in school, trying to prove the school had been a graveyard ages ago, believing that heinous crimes were going on in school under our very noses, and gathering up kites that fell into the school courtyard and feverishy analysing them for secret messages. One time we foung a plastic bag full of some white powder in the school workroom.we retrieved it, risking our necks in the process, and I took it home, bubbling with enthusiasm, to have it 'analysed' by an uncle who was a forensic scientist. He wisely took it without comment, and we forgot all about it in the excitement of discovering a bone(chicken, sadly) in the school grounds, (that proved it to have been a graveyard).
In 5th grade, I got to know-life, thy name is disappointment- it had been chalk powder.

more later.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Nothing Doing

We, being the absent minded giggling girls we sadly are, lost the card.
Talk about anticlimax.

(Oh and to the anonymous guy who resented our guywatching in his comment, I thumb my nose.Like he wouldn't like two pretty young things looking at him.yeah, rrright.)

Friday, January 12, 2007

It Could Happen To You....

A few days ago i met up with my friend sreerupa in Fame Hiland Park, near her house(our moms are friends and they tagged along too, like moms will). So we have fun, then head off to a eating plaza nearby and ditch the moms in a dhosa place (they're nice moms, very nice indeed, but can't go guy watching with your mom along) and sit down near a busy throughfare outside a shop(they had seats) with some nice crispy chicken.
So we're watching guys and eating,and watching, and making silly jokes and hilarious ones too as only the two of us can..we might fight a bit but there's a sort of mental wiring(don't get all inflated by the honour, sreeru) , watching and eating-me getting about 80% of the food-and rating the guys.well there's this guy there, and he's checking us out, but we rate him and move on coz we're like, only seventeen and he seems a bit old, like 25 or so.
so we keep being all funny(inspired to new heights by this guy with an intellectual french cut laughing at our wit) and he's laughing away and sitting there, and then we have to go, so we head off to the right to find the moms..and midway sreeru discovers she's left her bag behind(that's how we are.. once she left her maggi filled tiffin box in school for a week and what it turned into I will NOT describe here...i will when i feel like grossing people out though.)
so we rush back huffing and puffing and what do we see? no bag (duh), no man, and two tiny girls on our seats. so we scare them out of their wits and ask them about the bag, and they manage to say that the man picked it up, said something and rushed off, to the left. so we run hither and tither(no one says that anymore, i know) and finally come back exhausted.

the girls have scrammed, so we go into the shop and ask the manager about this man, saying he's a thief, we're gesticulating fiercely at this point. and guess what he does? he freezes us with a glare, takes out the bag-it looks like the holy grail to us by now-and says"the man left this for you".
with identical stunned and abashed expressions we rush out with our prize followed by the man's lecture on how people have no trust in others anymore ringing in our ears.
i go-"i told you cute guys aren't thieves"and sreeru says"okay,okay" and then she, ever suspicious, hunts in her bag to see if her money's there!
it is.
and along with it,there's something else.
her hand comes out with a torn-out half of a visiting card.
The man left us his phone number.

(that's why he'd walked off to the left earlier).we haven't called him yet. does anyone think we ought to? to thank him? and isn't the story out of a book? life is fun sometimes...