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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?