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Sunday, 28 December 2014

Whether or Not the Nation Demands to Know

Arnab Goswami, a man many Indians love to hate, is not a corrupt politician or a goon but a news presenter.

It is strange how social media posts update one of things back home in their country. My friend argued why he saves his little one from Indian TV. "C'mon! Horror movies and Arnab are not meant for kids. The time of my wall post will tell you when I watch it [mid night when the child is fast asleep]. But I won't be surprised if she asks one day: Dad, where are my chocolates? The nation demands an ANSWER!." 

I have been away from my home country for long and now am mostly between travels. It is by chance I get to watch Indian TV, especially its news channels. Sometimes it is entertaining to watch almost-comical presentations crammed with loud anchors seated in wrong emotions - venting out their childhood anger out on some new bully who must have taken the avatar of that new guest... they have now got a chance to attack in their studio. Forget it for a moment that the guests are not wise cracks. Then viewing becomes laboured and leaves one furious as TV proves it is nothing but an idot box [or must I say an idiot's box?]... with its own idiots almost energetically pulling the viewer's emotional state to that of the presenter's. 

Goswami is the anchorman of a news hour programme in one of India's many news channels. Complete with theatrics he loves to grill/fire/shoot/make faces/round his eyes/thrust some a4 sheet papers/shake his head in denial... at politicians and celebrities. It seems for years this anchor has been hogging airtime with all this... and his favourite line that interrupts the guest - 'the nation demands an answer'. This is repeated like an ad jingle though out the programme. This line is now a new favourite among the comics of the nation. Bollywood copies everything faster than Chinese fake-bag units. Hindi movies now cashes in on Goswami-theatrics to promote new releases... I happened to watch the SRK promo on Happy New Year where a con-man dressed like Goswami, complete with his idiosyncrasy entertains the viewer to have the name of the film registered well at the expense of the newsman.

To be frank I have nothing against his programme with a curious title 'Frankly Speaking'. Thanks to YouTube clips on Facebook reposts, I have only watched a few minutes of this journalist's work and it gives me palpitations... not that the guy intimidates me... but to know the whole world is probably watching such programmes. Though am not that weak or old to start complaining about my health but I have serious concerns for my countrymen and their children who may be subjected to this sort of entertainment/information options.

I recommend Indian television news channels to please start keeping a statutory warning line that 'TV news viewing can be harmful for your mental and emotional wellbeing'. This can probably warn heart patients or at least give a heads up to parents who may want to switch to other channels when children are around.

By better news channels, I don't intend to point at the western media. Western media's propaganda layers are as thick and gooey... but presented just as fine as Tiramisu. I will not speak of news in the Middle East yet, because I work and live in Dubai on a freelance journalist's visa and 'frankly speaking' will not do anything at this point to revoke my sole proprietor's license.

Why do we need to watch news on TV? For reasons to keep human resources of a now-not-so-relevant industry busy? I don't see any relevance in watching a 24-hour news channel when your phone can beep you the latest news for free!

I am sorry to let my industry colleagues know that the job of a TV news anchor will fast become redundant for two reasons. First of all, the new age of information dissemination is really easy, free and in your hands with the mobile technology... and this suits the busy/choosy/attention deficient/impatient mass population of hand-held-gadget-addicts who are the real majority of today's human race who has access to TV etc. 

Secondly, to produce a news package for TV takes so much more effort, human labour, man hours and is far more expensive. I was a TV journalist before I joined print media. You work more hours under constant pressure as the deadlines are hourly there... and then if you are lucky you will definitely get the golden chance to be the butt of some joke... for the right or wrong... reasons depending on the humour of management and/or sponsors. I am not against anyone dreaming a career in TV news journalism. For that dream to come true there must be better channels run/owned by real journalist-entrepreneurs who conduct themselves better/or are constantly trained to monitor their tones and undertones... and this breed should ideally not have a price tag on their news finding souls. Am not sure if you get all that I mean. Is it too bluvian? [Feel free to let me know ;)].

Online news reporting is a much better alternative for aspiring journalists. I worked for online portals before heading to TV news. It is the fastest and the most effective mode of mass communication for over a decade now and is here to stay for some more decades. The portal desk also gives you a lesser injurious environment to work if you can ignore office politics. The word that you typed wrong can be corrected as soon as it is found out… unlike when it is dramatised in a TV news relay that is recorded by enemy channels. 

In this matter, the worst place to work is the print media. In a Literary Festival last year I spotted a book by the name - UAE Newspaper Goof Ups. Believe me I was shocked to see a book full of newspaper clips with bylines of few of my contemporaries. Empathy made my ears turn red. Trust me this is exactly how it feels to be a news journalist. And exactly why many are happy to choose the desk and burry their life's purposes under spelling errors and silly human slips by those who must have made history while exposing a certain story... those envious reporters I mean!

It is only apparent that I admire a journalist, especially a good reporter. Trying to be a good journo for most of my career, I also know where the shoe bites the wearer. It is essential that editors served as reporters before they got there... cos experienced empathy powered leadership is the only thing that will run this creative brand of fire fighters.

For Goswami, I have little more to say. He is simply fighting... and is watched by an angry nation... of emotional viewers who thrive on drama over matter... and unfortunately all his research or study do not prevent him from morphing into the viewer's puppet monkey in the act. Am not sure if his manager watches him closely... not sure if the HR took a psychometric test before admitting him to that seat! Am not sure why I don't like this reporter though he seems to be doing his job well... perhaps it is the presentation. Am sorry I must confess it is bad!

Why am I writing this on/for a presenter whom I know not? He may never even read this. Well, being a reporter am 'frankly speaking' about what I found completely by chance. It is my duty whether or not the nation demands to know.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Play dead but love knocks you down anyway

Love is the one thing that transcends time and space, this is perhaps the gist of the spectacular sci-fi Interstellar. This was the last movie I saw in the cinema last month when I had no breathing time literally between study material and work and travel. 

The movie tells the story of a space traveller, played by Matthew McConaughey, who travels to make an adventurous inter-galactic voyage, swinging back and forth in many dimensions, before he comes home to realise the truth that love is the only single-most powerful phenomenon that eventually finds a way to save the mankind/human species. McConaughey’s bond with his little daughter is portrayed beautifully.

When you are away from home, being an expat in another city, most often the books you read and the movies you may watch do all the talking. It reminds you of things you have forgotten while living a hamster-on-the-wheel life. This movie too caught my nostalgia and dragged it once again to a long time back to one school day morning back home in Delhi.

Morning yells

It was the most dreadful time of the day also because I could never eat in a hurry. ‘You are dead if I come back and the milk is not finished.' That was my mother's favourite yell-line every morning as we all got ready to leave home. I had to make sure the milk disappeared. It would be poured quietly in to the sink or Sandy, our dog’s bowl and sometimes even the money plant in the corner got a milky surprise. And when mother came back I would pretend as if the milk made me so full beyond comprehension. We are all best actors when a situation demands. And if caught, I thought, I had no option than roll over and play dead, like our pet dogs.

A short walk over the bridge got me to where the school bus came. Father walked me there. He never supported forced-feeding but never interrupted mother. It was probably their secret pact. Anyway we hatched a plan to escape the breakfast round of yells. I would tap on the table with the cutlery. A sign for him to announce - 'Let me just wrap it in the foil, you could always eat it while we walk to the bus.' Winks exchanged.

The middle of the bridge offered that moment of peace. This is where I could fling that foil full of my frown-factor up in the air. It always landed right in front of the beggar who sat under the bridge. He must have thought God dropped breakfast air parcels... and he must have also thought that God took off on public holidays.

It was during a Diwali that grandparents had come over. Grandma reminded mother to arrange food for the poor before the prayers. Caught in the festive spirit to volunteer I mentioned about the beggar. My big mouth! Careless blurts always got me into trouble.

Hearing session

I could hear the monsoon clouds gather momentum as mother came closer. 'Somebody is gonna get hurt today' like how Russel Peters would ape his father who was about to punish boy Russel. This was not a funny moment for me.

Mother wore that ‘you are unbelievable expression’ and asked if he was the beggar I was throwing the food every morning? In that moment, I wished if the earth split open I could just disappear… like how the last traces of the milk ran into the holes of the stainless steel sink. I still have no idea how she always knew what I was up to. Mothers, I tell you!

'And the milk?' She wanted to know everything now. I knew it was time to play dead like Sandy. But most often I would look down to let pass the hearing session. If she demanded that I look into her eyes! It was the most horrible penance of all.

Not interested in feuds or because of their secret pact, father would never be in the picture. And as long as it was only mother speaking, it was only her speaking. And when she finished she finished once and for all. 

The verdict

The verdict was simple. 'Tomorrow onwards we all wake up earlier and I will sit with you till you finish the food and walk you to the bus stand. And if you missed the bus I will drop you to school. And if you reached late you can clean the reception area like other latecomers who missed the morning assembly' - those words rumbled louder than the monsoon clouds in India. While every culprit played dead, including our pet dogs, I thought of the next big idea to get rid of the morning misery. 

I agreed to join boarding school. 

Optimism has kept me going till date. Times changed and with no one in particular to exchange winks I sometimes post them on my social media box.

Living away from home some days nostalgia strikes in batches… of those wonder years of childhood… those silly moments that seemed like between life and death… love of our beloveds… the lane that walks you to back home and oh-so-precious mother's food. I miss being home this Diwali and perhaps the new year too… This year even though I visited India few times, was badly tied up with commitments in another cities, and could barely spend anytime at home.

Mother is now emotional. Time to roll over and play dead.

With sister and grandma from one of those days when grandparents visited… Guess this was clicked in Agra … b4 spotting Tajmahal

Monday, 13 October 2014

Mid-week Madness

That time of the week when you realise you are bang in the middle… in the middle of no where… not really in a desperate position but then it would be wrong to say 'no not there at all'.

I should ideally have eaten my breakfast by now and started with the day's activities. But trust me my pending list is so long that I have once again almost lost clue on what is a priority. Priorities come with a deadline! Those that had to be done now-now is always keeping those that were in pending…back there. Like if I have to go and meet someone… and that is promised... I just do. And then when am back I keep the lost hours for later.

Entertainment has almost become reshaping the to-do list. Also, laughing at self, doing that.

And if caught by surprise by an old friend the chats won't end! Hours lost. Landing me to this hour and day of the week! Pressing me to find an answers asap. Even when I know there is no quick solution!

And this, my friend, for me is always a Tuesday! Creepy coincidence week after week after week. Nobody to blame when life is just what I wanted. But is it all!? I wonder?

That time of the week when I sit looking at 'So far from sunday and so near to Thursday and look at what the hell am doing!?'

The mind I say is a wicked machine. When something is achieved it will always remind you of others that have a sob-face! Like, what about yoga? And your promises to self? And giving up sugar was supposed to happen in August. Or, starting work on the book was scheduled for February!!!

When you shut the world up the mind gets louder. It is that day of the week. Middle-of-no-where and am looking for a quick fix to fix the days activities and am just stuck [knowing there is no quick fix and struggling to find that little something that I know exists… and shall be found!].

That time of the week when I look at the pending mail's with class assignments each of them that I dread to open for they demand at least 2 hours of undivided attention. How can one focus in such a chaos.

Hey, who are you complaining to. You have all the tools. You learnt how to meditate. You know everything. Do all that! Start with forgiveness exercise!

Now? When I have no time.

Yes now! 

Phones off. Taking that break to get the day do its double duty… I can no longer take orders! I mean my mind's. I shall feed it with some peace and later some coffee!?

Ta ;)

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

What Happened to the Novelog?

Thank you for reading bluvian random thoughts for eight years now… thanks to new readers… and special thanks to those who actually took time out to ask what happened to the rest of the chapters of the novelog [a novelette within the blog]. And a big thanks to few of my friends who shared my blog to students who aspire to make a career in the media.

In this post am referring to the chapters of '13 Until I Die' - my journey as a journalist so far. 

My goal was to make big changes… was in my teens when I got my first pay check for breaking a story… started my career with a news agency while still studying in a college… later joined online news… moved cities while riding the rising wave of TV and finally joined a newspaper. Traditionally majority of journalists start from print and gradually migrate to electronic media but my growth was the other way round. 

From the mecca of journalism in India, its capital Delhi… to Mumbai and to the deserts of the Gulf… I have plenty of stories to tell and are not strictly about news hunting!

'13 Until I Die' is an experiment to see if people really read blogs… especially the sort I write. Encouraged by the amazing feedback… wrote 13 chapters… 9 published. 

Then I took a break! Sometimes you have to do that… even if it is your passion. Life changes, thoughts too… I had to pause to absorb them even though I still think somedays my mental age is just that of a 13 year old ;)

I was not happy with the last 4 chapters [yet to be published]… so rewrote them. Several times! And now they are almost ready to roll again.

Glad to remove this one out of my long-pending list… I mean to restart posting the chapters! ;)

General disclaimer: Any resemblance to persons living, dead, or reincarnated is not a coincidence. No animals were injured during the making of this novelog although some monkeys may have their feelings hurt. Sorry.

Here is a recap:

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Is it 'normal' to be a housewife?

For debate-sake a friend asked "If you were ever to adorn a 'housewife's hat'… will it bore you?" I don't know the right answer. But really… Who is actually a housewife? Will I be bored if I have to cook, raise children and is loved in return… is domesticity over-rated and a boring thing? Is ambition = life = professional career? Is there a personal CV? Is employment being confused with occupation… roles/profiles… duties/responsibilities… dreams/goals?

Who decides what you should be? Money?

When did this word 'housewife' originate? Who were the first housewives in human history?

[When you have many questions two things help… Google and/or meditate! I do both… and I still do wander online for poetic or comical relief!]

Woman = Maid = Hardcore Domestic Work

Wikipedia explains… A housewife is a woman whose main occupation is running or managing the family's home — caring for and educating her children, cooking and storing food etc.

And what does the housemaid do? Is there is a difference in the job description? 

Wikipedia again… A maid, or housemaid or maidservant, is a female person employed in domestic service. Although now usually found only in the most wealthy of households, in the Victorian era domestic service was the second largest category of employment in England and Wales, after agricultural work.

Correct me if I am wrong. The word housemaid is of British origin, for a female who helps the housewife (or just the wife/lady of the home/everyone else in the home!?). She gets to do most of what the housewife is supposed to do but gets paid as well. Right? Am a bit confused here because in Dubai male helps are also called as maids. So much for the job description/language evolution. Forget where the gender has got itself into…

Of course I do know what my friend intended to ask… actually he meant to ask… will a woman feel lesser being a 'housewife'… or how important do you think is this role especially for an educated and seemingly career-oriented female. Actually it is not in the word... it is just the way it is intended. Wrong way, I would say!

My answer is simple. Let the person be sans gender and you will get an answer. Accept situations. Invent solutions… without being held back because you are so-and-so… a businessman, teacher, dentist, doctor, husband or wife… I bet these are 'normal' questions… but then am now sure why they say 'normal can be silly, unnecessary… and is often abnormally boring'.

By the way, Wikipedia has an exhaustive explanation to the word 'normal' too. To learn it you need to click various links to people, physiology, social sciences, chemistry, geology… mathematics. [Ya right… all are mathematics… which means 'all the same' in local Kerala slang.] We must ban this 'normal' question… of what do you do… unless they are prepared to hear exactly what you do… like 'I talk, walk… sometimes I entertain questions like these… etc'. 

[You can change the answers to 'normal' ones if the asker is a future builder. Remember you will need to risk being yourself whether the stranger is your future builder or a lame a**h***. If you ask me the one who will let you be your-risked-self and is coincidentally your future builder is not an a**h***.]

Sometimes I respond like Rahul Gandhi in front of Arnab Goswami. Where the latter won't listen and reiterate in a manner probably his parents and Cambridge professors taught him to be while you talk to/interview people… and the former continues to say how great it is to be a Gandhi empowered to do good in a nation of do-gooders! Excuse the saggi(ttarian) please! I did not want political interventions in this post… [But the warning note is there in my blog profile… I let thoughts pour unedited. No apologies!]

Put simply - it is nobody's business to get under your skin… even if they are unaware of their 'normal-ness' [Sorry Mr Wadia this has got nothing to do with you].

Being a woman is a sensitive matter… just let it be… I would say… because being a man is not easy either! Lets forget gender totally. It has no relevance these days even if women continue to give birth as per 'normal' understanding [normal as an exception to gender specificity here... I don't mean to say C-secs are not 'normal' anymore].

Ads & Videos

I am reminded of a recent ad of a sanitary napkin. Where… in a studio… young people - before and after puberty ages are asked to run/kick like a 'girl'. The volunteers both male and female react differently. The drive home message is that and there is nothing bad about being 'a girl' than how it is mentioned. Negative shades creep in when the intention colours the word 'girl' in a silly way.  It is a smart move by ad-makers these days to produce social massages… that lift up a woman's 'normally' bruised self-esteem… and they go viral… thanks to so many of us on social media. Marketing is now dressed like overalls… selling is encrypted at a sublimal level... hence more effective than ever. [Here is the link to that video.]

[Have you heard this man… the first one to wear a napkin in the history… its a wonderful/hilarious TED talk

Back to the future

So what is wrong with spending more time at home? Wife is just an English word to describe that you are married. What does the word has to do with the person you are? Right? Is it as derogatory as every female connotation/feminine word has become now? 

I am not sure of an answer here but all I can be sure of is that whatever one may what to tag you… what you remain is what you remain. Confusing? Ok. Let me try that again. 

You will be the core person that you are whether you choose to go to work in an office or home… or work for an office from home… or build your own business… clean your kitchen counter… make your art… raise your children [raising children is another topic I will dissect as am still exploring what many people do in its honour… I will find an answer to why parents 'possess' kids than rejoice them… and why some say parenting is a thankless job. Isn't every new born an arrow into the future… why do some parents come in its way?]

So what is wrong if you… cook lovely meals or eat out… whether you wear a skirt to work or gown to shopping. Is it not all/entirely your choice? Who decides what you should do? And how? And why?

According to me to be a housewife is not for the faint-hearted. I also don't think it is a sacrifice. Life is made by a choice to live it. It is not while you compromise being/learning who you are. If you are sick and tired of being what you are then rewrite the script… and have another drama please! I know of so many friends who are 'literally forced' to work, compromising on family's quality time. Because they believe they grew up listening to all that… and have no clue really what they are or what they want. So everyone who is sure of what they are doing in the name of a career is actually excused in this post. Even those who are just doing it for the meal on the table! [a roof on top… or Prada in the closet.]

I don't want to generalise and say women are meant to stay at home… No way… I don't want to get noticed by fanatics who would put a gun to my head and [pull the trigger or] ask me to blog about 'an ideal woman's roles'. [What is ideal now!? I will skip Wikipedia learning for that one.] 

I will speak only of/for personal growth… sans gender/age… because that is the deciding factor between regressive thoughts and progressive leaps.

You cannot assign a role to anyone else than when you beg for one yourself. [Please read that sentence again.] Better still… why assign profile's to life's roles… there are plenty of other real 'normal' better things to do.

Can't we just live a good life than wasting the precious time around the bush… for brownie points/acknowledgement etc etc.

Bluvian conclusion

I just told my friend I would rather be just B'lu whether that is 'normal' or not. A tag is like a collar to the dog… if you ask me… [for humans to read the address on the locket and deposit him back to the kennel he ran away from… thinking the poor thing must be lost!?]. 

Honestly there is no difference in being an entrepreneur, spiritual teacher, artist or a layman [I don't understand who exactly a layman is … will Wiki later]… the problem is probably when you assign it with a gender. It is then that the women, men… wives or husbands are supposed to do some certain normal/abnormal so-and-sos. 

Please let us live in this century! Gone are the Victorians. Let us please kill [in a non-violent way by blessing those who lack spiritual/personal growth/right vocabulary] the keepers of the society… those thoughtless vandals responsible for deteriorating the words in the dictionary as well as the society of its 'normal' no-pun-intended casual usages of the kind [that are not so kind/well-humoured].

I would not trade being B'lu for any tags under the Sun… I may stay at home or go out… raise kids or cook meals… make money or spend it… I can't be writing a contract on what it is being me… I can try explaining what freedom means to me just as I do explore it. But one thing is for sure… I will remain happy and share my life with a lot of people who progressively love exploring what they are and love me in return more than I ask for :)

I am damn lucky to be me! Thank you!

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The New Smart Pain

Thanks to my smart phone. Let me dive right into the matter. My thumb aches and goes numb… due to phone overuse. Boom! The story is over here. Not really… you can't be relieved so fast!

B'lu fingers addicted to her phone… are also addicted to paint… clay, kitchen knife and plenty of other things that can't seem to stop herself from getting her hands dirty! [B4 I forget… Have I told you this hand has modelled for a TV ad?]

I am scared am fighting a brand new addiction. This time it is a smart phone!

I am really scared of those days coming back... when that painful spondylitis… had me on the physiotherapist's table for those unbelievably torturous procedure of traction. Weights attached to my upper and lower body… that would stretch in opposite directions… elongating my spine… to reinforce that lost gap. That stupid lost gap... had the bones pressing the nerves and some other odd stuff in between there - was the MRI-scan explanation for that incredible pain in the neck. 

[Trust me, each time I was stretched on the traction table I wished all that new pain would make me few inches longer may be!… Magically taller, all pain… all gain, I mean. Nah! It didn't. 13 sessions wasted if you look at it that way. But I must confess… that this primitive method did relieve me a 'little' from the neck pain 'temporarily'!]


I used to work at an incredibly stressful and understaffed news desk… editing about 30 stories on an average day to fit into some 5 broadsheet pages I had to 'tick off in green colour' for pre-press to pick, colour-process and move to the printing table. 

On each following day, the pages were nitpicked to have you held by neck to keep the job as neatly done as possible. The atmosphere was so negative with so many people having their necks held by necks held by more such necks [read the bit again its not a wrong sentence here]… literally and metaphysically so that every new person who joined the desk had to cross thought blobs that read 'aah here comes a fresh new neck'. I cannot believe I did that job for 6+ years. I mean obedience, for sooo long to end up with a neck [and a messed up head] that I took over an year to recover.

I love to read and I love to write… but that job wrung out all passion that the queen's language deserved complete with all its obsessive-compulsive-disorder-decorations like the punctuations, hyphens etc. I did not even like full-stopping anymore. All this had me exploring/resorting to a new language that rattled in my head.

I identified my alter-ego as Jim Carrey. To put things in perspective - it was Hank in Me, Myself & Irene. I was happy building/fighting the second person growing in my head… fighting for freedom! Freedom of expression and trying to find humour/reason to keep the mundane look exciting. The mutiny was on. Getting me nowhere… as I was glued to my seat... stressfully banging on my keyboard.

I was abusing it, I mean my passion, each time I was being subjected to biased/subjective use of certain words. 

Journalism was my ideal job. I wanted to find stories… be heard for my opinion… make a difference etc. But there… they did not want to hear anything… and mind you if you did anything like a journalist did… like snoop around for the true story… you had it! 

All that mattered was that readymade stories looked 'good'… in their uniforms… without creases… all spruced as per the style-sheet… laid neatly on a template that was pre-decided to kill every little innovative design in your head to present the matter slightly better! I would have reduced that 'control freak flowchart' to ashes if it was my own paper. But it was not my paper. I was confused. I thought I had to keep doing it… to stay alive! And kept doing it… while warm seed pillows wrapped like a snake around my neck… dreaming about my next reflexology session when I could sink into the masseuse's cozy chair and zonk out.

Fast & Furious

My news editor could sense my perturbation on the keyboard… but he only said 'you have really fast fingers.' 

I could not type any slower! The speed got into everything. Like Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump, I couldn't stop myself… [Yeah! Just like him I was on the cover of the Forbes Magazine for my incredible invention/life… Sigh! Are you still reading this post!?] 

A sweet person, used a wrong English word to give me a compliment... calling me a 'quickie' for I cooked up a quick meal. I used to jump and leap to match the beeps of the microwave that defrosted and sweated… to pack something 'healthy' for lunch. [And now!? I don't know what rushing is like. Will you trust me when I say am far from being retired… I pray for people who love to see others all ruffled/rushed like themselves! I bless them peace/health.]

Back then I also painted pretty much like that. I had to release the thought asap before it morphed into something else… I did/could not meditate like most painters would with the tip of their paint brush going dry. I din't even use a brush most of the time. The palette knife was my best friend… to slap and split the limp paint and violently mix em to form a new hue and texture that would eventually calm me down to catch a few hours of night's sleep… to face the nitpicking and neck holding the following day.

Why am I being poetic about speed?

In the mad craze to catchup on all that my life offered… today I am missing my pain-free thumb… and it is painful to think of a traction-treatment to this part of the body! Right now… am not using my right thumb… but still typing you see! 

Mobile life 

The smart phone has got me scrolling and reading all the time. Thanks to the fact that I can read all the time even if I am not carrying a book… or when am travelling etc… but really it is a bad addiction [and who doesn't know about that]… like everything else that can get u hooked on for unnecessarily long time… the thumb-scrolling is the new villain in my life!

I was always a bit hooked on to mobiles ever since I had my first one…. as it made me feel connected even though I lived most of my adult life by myself. I have owned about 10 phones by now and none of them were fully explored of all its features. I used mobiles mostly to call/text or read/click pics.

I must take you back to an eerie winter's night in New Delhi when a phone-o-act saved me… back then I had no cell phone. I was still studying. 

I was walking alone through the Jai Singh Marg (heart of the city). I heard footsteps catching up and the only thing I could think of was make them believe I am not alone. Like fake a phone call. I took out my wallet and pressed it to my ear... and pretended to talk to someone who was expecting me right at the corner of the road. Suddenly I heard the footsteps fade off. 

[Like my uncle, who heard the story, said - I was probably never stalked… they were tired/peaceful people walking back home from work… and when they reached their turn before mine... disappeared to their homes. Phew! But I truly believe it is the phone-o-act that saved me that night… and am pretty sure my uncle said so to make me feel 'ok' or safe/confident... to walk alone at night.]

Another time, years ago, my first mobile got me new job! I got this weird phone call - a job call. Weird because it was from the owner of an event company who wanted to offer a new reporter [me] a 'brand manager's job in his company. Guess why? He said that I typed back smses really fast… and that perhaps I may be the proactive person their company needs… to spread their wings.

[Back then, I wasn't smart-enough to understand that a new journalist can be an affordable/smarter-face to a new events company. That a scribe is a better bet than a sweet PR & marketing person who will sell but not speak/ask or explore… or sound as interesting/excited as a new journalist would… in as much spirit.] 

Just because that job seemed to empower me more than any other would to a 21-year-old… I took the plunge. Flinging [temporarily] my dream job of a journalist's I packed bags to a new city leaving my friends who were happy for the 'jump' in profile but did not want me to leave the city I grew up… along with them. You have no idea how possessive I was of my byline those days. And I never wanted to leave Delhi for anything else in the world. But I left! Why? God alone knows. All the way from Delhi to Mumbai… to live a new life… in a new job… in an overspilling city.

May be I made/make every choice to peek and see if I fit there… And settled in only when I found a part of myself there. Donno really!

Today, each beep on my mobile makes me frown at my right thumb. Well I am not in a meeting but am not touching that darn thing today. My thumb looks at me with an invisible face that winks and says 'Thumbs up' to that!

One [or two] big question[s]. Shall I get rid of the Watsapp… as it is robing a bit of my real-time like Facebook did a few years back? Or should I just keep the mobile on silent and forget about it for a few days? Will it be a temporary relief [or freak my family/friends… cos the last time I did this a friend drove down 50 kilometres to ring the door bell at the middle of the night and check if I was alive!]… Should I take a break as I rewire my brain and be more considerate to my aching thumb… or go see a doctor?

Somebody stop me!!! [The Mask-man Jim flashes his over-sized teeth!]

PS: It must be an off day for my mobile… but nobody can stop me from using my laptop! A-aarg-ha! I love the clicking sound of my keyboard.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

What do you want to be?

B'lu - then, now

Shook by the news of the untimely bereavement of one of my favourite English professors from college, am left to wonder why some news that has no particular relevance in my current life comes by and changes the course the day unannounced.

I was meant to rest my aching arm… and even as I started writing I was supposed to do something totally different but Noel sir’s passing away news reached me this afternoon. It was a stroke - my junior from college pinged to inform. Noel sir used to joke about the lack of interest among non-vegetarians to learn how to make tasty vegetarian dishes. He said, his own family was practically unaware of the existence of vegetables other than cabbage or potato… and that they all worried a lot about good health despite the odds. The irony, he reminded, was that people are intelligent but their habits make all the decisions whatsoever.

Leaving the mourning/campus nostalgia for later when I may be catching up with any of my college friends online, I am going to write what I initially thought for in this post. I opened this document to blog about changes whether or not they are good and who/what decides all that you want to become.

Is change a constant?
They say change is constant but some things don't change! Haven't you noticed? Ironically your definition to success keeps changing as you grow… I mean you chase different things… and then sometimes settle for no chasing at all… It is that change we are addressing here. No?

Never dreamt I would curate art. Couple of years back, I did not know what exactly a curator did. Someone who told me about it made it sound as easy as… librarian to library, curator to gallery… and that was so terribly wrong. I only vaguely knew that they knew a lot about art and thought for myself that it must be exciting to really know ‘a lot’ about art… and that how interesting that profile will be.

I was barely six when I first confronted this question – What do you want to become when you grow up? My class teacher, Neetu miss, from Sadhu Vaswani International School in Shanti Niketan situated in south Delhi… was the person who asked.

I wish to fly… was the answer. 

My teacher corrected me… "not verb, noun please". Then she turned to the class and asked - "What will you call a person who flies as a part of his job?" 

Many put their hands up and many spoke out of turn. [By the way in Delhi, it is normal, not just among children but also elders to speak out of turn… even outsiders adapt to all that Delhi-style of yelling and screaming to get the point across… did you see the Parliament in action today on TV?]

The class speculated. Aeroplane? Kite? Parrot? Armstrong? Arrow? Hanuman?

It was my neighbour Ankita who got it right - "A pilot". 

Miss clapped to acknowledge the right answer and along we all clapped… to see Ankita's face turn more pink [Is red a better word to describe a denser pink?] than it was already.

I went home and told mother I wish to be a pilot. She quickly reminded that I need to eat well and become really tall… rolling her eyes up… [as tall as the ceiling?] 

She spoke of my pilot-ambition every time the need to remind that came about. Like, when the eye doctor said the reason behind my new annoying frown was because I was ‘squinting and adjusting focus to read the blackboard clearly… eye sight is weak... balance the diet blah! blah!.’ Or when the physical education teacher mentioned ‘she is very athletic but to put her in her favorite game of basket ball is risky, she may get trampled over by bigger built Punjabi kids. She is tiny. Make her eat please she is always feeding her tiffin to the pigeons blah! blah!'.

I studied in that school only for a year because of various concerns. The top most ones being that I wouldn't eat if left by myself… and as rumour has it - it was dangerous to leave me alone to my devices after school. 

Devil’s workshop
My explorations were potentially harmful for a six-year-old as well as other confused adults at home.

An experiment of mixing the water-like kerosene oil with sticky cough syrup forgotten on the kitchen counter left mother wondering… sniffing… almost tasting… and then almost fainting when she found out what it was. Kerosene used to be kept hidden along with potentially dangerous other items like the hammer and the knives… They were secretly kept in the loft far above even her own reach. She asked, flapping her arms, “Did you fly to reach there?” [How I wish that was possible.]

It was only much later she realised she had given birth to a spider girl [I overheard her mention that worriedly to her friend on phone]. Apparently she sneaked in one day and found me using window frames and cracks in the wall tiles to climb and reach all over the place hunting for ‘god-knows-what’ in her words. Seriously, I have no memory of this… climbing business.

Another time was when the radio was turned to maximum volume… loud enough to match my jumping on the mattress… and all the jumping had me so tired… it was summers and I slept off on the cool floor under the bed… to such sound sleep that when I woke up and crawled out… saw the whole neighbourhood in my room... after they failed ringing bells/banging the front door… they had to break in along with my smile-less mother.

Everyone had a tough time saving my life and grandparents were constantly worried for their first-born grandchild. They had no idea what to do with me than make stern faces or make me join my palms and pray for better brains to the flickering flame of the oil lamp lit in front of various gods in the pooja room.

It was decided to pack me off to Kerala for a few months, as there were more hands and eyes to keep a closer watch… hoping perhaps that time would allow them find an agreeable solution.

I got to fly alone. I usually never troubled strangers… am the sweetest child they ever knew. The pilot [my dream job holder] found me to be a brave/peaceful passenger. I was called inside the cockpit. I got many brilliant views of the skies. I also did not meddle with those millions of switches the captain had in front of him to play with. [Why? Everyone on that flight had longer lives may be.]

I came down to Kerala and joined a local school, right in the middle of the school term. Mary Giri Vidya Mandir was run by nuns in my mother's hometown Punalur.

God's own specimens
In Kerala, everyone knows everyone’s everyone too. Have you not noticed, especially in Dubai, if a person from Kerala identifies another one… they ask each other… where they are from 'in' Kerala? They feel at home once this particular dialogue is exchanged and then a cord of connectivity is established… through which they build the rest of their conversation/lives. If you don't know where exactly on the map of Kerala you are from, you will be lucky enough to see some Kathakali mudras flicker on the face of the enquirer… who will then keenly educate you all about your vague guesses… because his maternal uncle’s wife’s cousin’s daughter was married off from where your ancestors hail.

Just today in a facebook chat someone just exclaimed "Hey so you go to Delhi despite being from Kerala… are you completely rootless?” What is rootless? I am not a tree!

Shanti miss, my class teacher at Mary Giri, knew my family better than me. She knew my grandfather, my uncles… as well as my 16-year-old nanny Sally chechi (chechi is a suffix locals give to someone elder and of the female gender in Kerala) who came to school to feed me out of her hand during each lunch break. It was humiliating for me to sit in the corridor and eat my food.

By the way my neighbor in Mary Giri class became somebody. It is a big coincidence he grew up and become famous. A film actor - Nishanth. But let me tell you he was not so popular in the class. I was the popular one. Not only because I was smaller than my younger sister but despite being a tiny 'girl' I used to bash up boys if they yelled [at anyone… not necessarily me]. I found them (boys) extremely irritating if they yelled into your ears or pulled your pony tails or broke pencils… some even captured dragon flies from the school’s garden and made them pick stones for fun!!! I am glad I spared none.

Shanti miss decided to put Nishanth and me together sharing one table. May be because we both joined school mid-term. He never made a noise but pronounced my name wrong every time! “What is Ara-jana… am Archana,” is the only taming I subjected him to. We used to divide the table with a ruler and pencil so we wouldn't let each other encroach over each other’s kingdoms! 

Eating was the worst thing that could happen to me those years… I was ignorant of the world's food crisis or malnutrition etc... I found eating a waste of time. I was plainly bored. Until somebody said a story – mind you an interesting story or ran after me to force it down my throat – no meal finished.

Today unbelievably food is another one of my passions. I love cooking and am invited to review fine dining joints in world's largest cities. Can you believe that!? I cannot! My grand mother definitely would not. She would think it is one of my lies to please her.

If you missed my previous posts – grandma is called Pullu - short form of Punalur mom.

Sally was recruited to execute Pullu's personal project to make sure I finished my lunch. Lunch hour at school was easier for Sally because we had a little secret. We stole burning candles from the altar at the school’s entrance… that I could play with while she fed me. If anyone knew about the candles it would have been a disaster. The school would have thrown me out and Sally would have got sacked from home too. Back in the class, my confused neighbor asked, “Arajana do you eat candles?” To which I would ask him to call my name correctly or I am ‘chanda’ [meaning cross officially for sometime]. Will it interest you to know there were some kids in that class who ate chalk?

Everyone at home thought I was restless because I was fat-less. So the solution revolved around food! They could not understand despite feeding me so closely why I remained thin. That was found out in no time. I used to fake eating and was distributing food to little sister who needed no extra feeding whatsoever… or was throwing it into the kennel for the dogs to snack… or spitting it out into flowerpots … all while I took quick strolls between each bite.

Somebody very cruel, donno who… had a new solution to make me put on weight quickly as it was almost time to go back… That somebody told Pullu to whisk in two fresh eggs (from local ducks) into half cup of cows milk and torture me to gulp it down using acrobatic precision… hands held like this…. neck held like that… posture. And she did it. I would puke each time. She won eventually after 3 batches of the concoction wasted. It was another story altogether that my little sister always wondered why anyone would hate to eat! That too eggs, her favourite!

Many relatives and old school friends who found me on social media say it was easy to find me because I haven't changed. They mean my picture. Face, I think! Ya only my face am sure… am no longer under weight and am always on the look out to keep the weight off – such is the change – if I must mention.

What is change?
Why do so many people continue to say I haven't changed, including Sofia miss, my mom's friend, one of the first persons to hold me soon after our family gynac Dr Aminammal brought me into the world.

Laxmi aunty, my grand aunt who lives in Bangalore saw me first when I was barely days old. When I met her last year she insisted I haven't changed. "Same eyes ma." [ma is her suffix for people she love].

My mother's only sister [my only real aunt], who doesn’t speak to us anymore over a property dispute, took care of me when I was a toddler. Last I spoke to her was few years back and that time she remembered how nothing changed… “not-bothered of weather or wind, look at your hair,” she said while we walked her pet dog for the last time [Rakhi, her pet GSD passed away the same year, leaving her more depressed than she already was].

I remember my late granddad's estate watchman's face that lit up when he saw us children during vacation. His family would visit our home whenever we flew down. They feel happy to call me by my pet name + suffix = bablookutty. And I automatically light up from ‘god-alone-knows’ inside somewhere.

They shouldn't have named a drug by the name Ecstasy… or may be it is the right name. I have friends who try all sorts of these substances and recommend them just like they do every other thing they get used to - 'as an artist it will be easier for you to fly… you must try at least pot'. Well they have no idea… Why pot when I am not even looking for a port to land… ever since Dr Aminaammal ushered me out. 

All these people make me think I must be somebody precious already… why would they all take so much trouble for me… and continue to remember me in such a fond manner.

They keep acknowledging me despite my stupidities, irrevocable mistakes… on a ‘god-alone-knows’ life path.

If you ask me once again what I want to become I may just escape your curiosity by reverting the question or take philosophical refuge… because honestly I don’t know the answer yet or if it is required to know that at all. Or perhaps I always knew! Ha!

I studied in 8 different schools… and 3 different colleges… and now after 7 different jobs… I am quiet comfortable in my skill/skin... though still studying the truth behind what Neetu miss asked… and if there is really one such thing as becoming something/somebody?

Perhaps nothing changes and I should rejoice just that. Or everything changes, so I rather celebrate that?

It is in the journey… as they say. That I agree! I do! How can I not?