Monday, March 26, 2012

story of a single bangle

(my own picture)

ever wonder what a single bangle is doing in your jewelry box? Well, if at all you have a single bangle, which has been waiting eternally to get paired up, then I can confidently say that you surely are from a middle class family. What is a middle class family? "We. Us. Our family". Yes, our father always gave us the comforts. Not luxuries. We have little aspirations and always aim to achieve them. And we achieve them and then we have some more aspirations. These aspirations are fulfilled by small efforts, little sacrifices and a team work of family members. Let me explain.

My parents always taught me not to day dream. It doesn't mean I sleep during day time. No, strictly I was never allowed to. But, they always made a point that we know the truth- we are allowed to travel by Rickshaw and not Auto rickshaw every time. We are allowed once-in-a-year trip to our relatives' place and one out-of-state trip once in 2-3 years. But no day dreams of singapore and paris tours. We are allotted a "cool" drink once in 1-2 months but there is always "cool" water in Fridge. Its ok to dine in a restaurant once in a year, but never more than that. A new dress on every birthday and just for new year and diwali. But never before or after that. These were our little aspirations.

So, we grew up enjoying these little comforts according to the schedules. We know they exist, we enjoyed them but never dreamt to have too many. my mother would take us to the shopping center where the stores of gold jewelry would shine during evening. We window shop for sometime, come home and discuss about our favourite ones. We don't have enough money to buy but have too much of self respect to just go inside and enquire about it. So, window shopping was just fine. And then, when our parents have budget to buy some gold, my mother would suggest, we buy a good one which is thick, big and has lot of design than just buying 2-3 plain ones. So, we end up buying a single bangle and convince ourselves that we can wear a watch on the other hand or pair it up in the future.

Such single bangles are the existing witnesses of our middle class life and how we dream of having certain luxuries. That single bangle might have eaten our savings of 2-3 years. But it enticed us in our childhood. It would grace us on many occasions. Those pendant less chains, studs sans danglers, single bangles- witnesses of little struggles of middle class families in India.

At least our family :)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fork in the road

“What are you aspiring to become when you grow old?”

“Oh my grand daughter will be a bureaucrat”

“We want to her to be a doctor”

“I think she should study engineering, there are plenty of seats available in every college and she can also earn lot of money”

“Your horoscope says you will be a scientist”

“You should probably become a singer because you sing well”

These sounds always haunted me. When I reached my teens, everybody except me, had dreams about my career. Who ever visited our house, would ask me what I wanted to become! I am not sure if they would seriously help me, if I say that I wish to become a sky diving instructor. But they definitely want to know what I would become and then give me some lecture about, “how I should study well and dream about my future” and then leave peacefully to their houses after they dump all their frustration on me. They do it, may be because their kids never listen to them, or may be it gives them some psychological satisfaction and a feel of achievement when they throw free knowledge!

Whatever it was, these rhyming sounds of what I would become always haunted me! I was literally smothered by the very idea of “no-idea-what-to-do” after I grow up. As a kid, I was into many cultural activities like singing, dancing, theater and each time I performed on stage, the spectators would assume, I would become a legend in the respective field. My extended family thought I would become a bureaucrat because; having a car in the household and some power in hand always fantasized them. They always slept through my eyes and dreamt through their minds.

In high school, there were many choices as to what to choose for college. When I saw my friends how clear they were in their vision, it surprised me. I always wonder how they know what they wanted to do. Either a doctor or an engineer! They know what to choose between these 2, because these two professions were trends at that time and also moneymaking jobs. I felt very suffocated with just 2 options. I wanted more. I never saw myself fitting into those shoes because I never wanted those shoes in first place! Yet, I dint know what I want.

I still remember the incident when my mother and I were having a conversation about a dress.

“Mom, I think I will wear it during my graduation days”

“Oh, so you want to do just some degree and not medicine?” my mom said instantly.

“Oh my, when did I say that?” I choked

“You just said that you want to wear it in your graduation, but you dint say that you will wear it for medical college” she grumped.

I instantly realized that I have to be real careful while choosing words and should not just mention whatever comes into my mind. Yet, it was very difficult for me to concentrate on many things. Days went by and finally the time came when I had to make a decision what my major would be. I thought I should also aspire to become a doctor like my father! Oh no, don’t get me wrong; my father is not a doctor. He too always aspired to become a doctor like my grandfather who served in military as a doctor. So, the concept of aspirations started form my father and inherited to me. Eventually my father never became a doctor!

But I love to become a doctor and I know it is a difficult task to pass the medical exams. It is no less than rocket science for me. I wasn’t pretty sure, if I can grill myself to become a doctor like my peers, who study for 18 hours a day. I can hardly keep my eyes on the books for 5 long minutes. 18 hours is a nightmare for me.

I can’t try in theaters because, my parents for who even movie posters are a matter of disgrace, having their daughter in theaters is an insult! They will disown me if I reveal my intentions. What about becoming a bureaucrat. I felt becoming a doctor was much easier. Options like singing and dancing- ah no, they don’t fetch me any money.

Apparently, I chose to become a doctor and majored in biological sciences. My real nightmares started then. I saw my peers studying like aliens. They don’t know what they have to eat for lunch, but they definitely know how the rat’s digestive system works.

I tried to make a few friends in my class, but no one was interested because I always claimed that becoming a doctor is a funny thing and knowing what we are, we should not be doing it. I was poor in understanding the plants and animals and also my classmates. I could never draw pictures. I argued with my lecturer in zoology class when he tried to make fun of Amoeba (shapeless single less creature) drawn by me. He mentioned in the class that he never saw such a shapeless creature. I claimed that amoeba is a shapeless creature and we can draw it the way we want!

My botany lecturer made a huge red mark in my answer sheet one day and showed it to me asking what it was. Her face frowned when I mentioned that it was a potato.

“Potato??” She asked me with her eyebrows in air.

“Yes mam, it is a potato” I replied.

“But potato doesn’t look like this. It is neither round, nor toroid, what is this?”

“Mam, that’s why it is a potato. A shapeless vegetable!”

She gave me zero marks and warned me to learn how to draw.

These incidents made a deep impact on me. I realized that becoming a doctor was not just my cup of tea. After swimming through many such hard waves, I finally reached the shore, but just a different shore. Definitely not the one I had to reach. But who cares, a shore is a shore. If things were so sure, then even Columbus and Vasco De Gama might not have discovered USA and India respectively. So, a shore is a shore.

My parents were more than upset, as I could not become a doctor. But the real forks in road appeared now. What to do in life? I had to choose between 2 major careers. Either become a microbiologist or choose a different path. I chose the different one. I chose the road hardly travelled. I assured my father that I wish to become the first of all than one in many.

I chose to become an environmentalist. The road hardly travelled by any. If not for this fork in the road, I would not have become what I am today. An ardent environmentalist, a young achiever and a researcher in a prestigious Environmental school. These were just few of many credentials that I acquired for having to take a right decision when I had to. Now all my classmates are just doctors! But I travelled around the world, met people, did assignments, achieved many degrees and awards.

Today -I am what I am.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My first job as a Tutor

Just like any other student, I always wished I had my pocket money for little expenses. But, it wasn’t like that in my life. My parents always made sure that I finished my education before I took up any job. So, going to job was a big no-no, until I am done with my studies and I had no choice but to wait to finish my college.

But things changed when I saw a small ad calling for tutors. I attended the interview and my happiness new no bounds when I was offered a job as a tutor to teach pre-school students. I thought I could cover my expenses and also interact with the kids and have fun together. So, it was catering my needs to go to college, earn money for sweet nothings and also have fun with kids. I could not ask for more!

Finally the day arrived when I had to go for tutoring. My nerves were acting up with excitement and my legs were trembling. Probably, I could have had a nervous breakdown if I were to teach in college. I convinced myself that all would be well as I was to teach small kids and need not worry about my skill and talent. Hardly I knew that I was about to hit a beehive!

My first day started off with my introduction to the kids and helping them with their homework. It was a hassle free day and I went home with ease of mind. As usual, the next day was quite normal and I went to teach the kids. But, things were not the same. It seems, the kids ganged up even before I arrived and had some conspiracy against me! Least I knew what was going to happen to me.

As soon as I arrived, the kids greeted me and I asked them open their books to complete their homework. I was too tired as it was a hectic day in college. Unknowingly I yawned and a kid started laughing loudly. I was embarrassed and apologized and asked them to resume their work. Suddenly one of the kids said she had some questions for me. I was curious to know what they were and asked her to shoot them.

She asked me who my favourite movie star in the movies is. I had a lump in my throat as it was least expected and I did not know how to handle it. But I convinced her that I would answer her if she finished her homework. Then 4 other kids said, they wanted to ask me questions and would complete homework only after I answer them all. I had no clue what to do. I agreed to their demands and they bombarded me with questions like my favourite movie star, favourite song and least did I expect when they asked me to sing! I had to agree to their demands and convince them every time. Finally after a grueling session, I was relieved from the interrogation and I requested them to complete their work. After I went home, I felt elated that I could carry some memories from the incident. But least did I know that there were more on the way.

Days went by and gradually I developed an unknown bonding with my kids. Everyday there were new dynamics, new discussions and new things. I still remember the day when I went to the class in a hurry and skipped my lunch. My tummy was hurling with hunger pangs and in between conversations, I told my kids that I dint have food that afternoon and so I was feeling hungry. Next day, one of the kids brought a small box of sweets and told me that I can have the food and need not feel hungry anymore. The gesture was so heart touching that not only did it fill my heart and stomach but also left unforgettable imprints that small gestures matter in life.

If not for this job, I would not have learnt this lesson in my life. It is so true that we come across many situations and people in life. But very few of them leave imprints that remain in our memories forever. The kid was hardly 6 years old, but she left an unforgettable memory that even after a decade it is afresh in my mind and I can relive it whenever I want.

My first job as a tutor to little kids taught me lessons of life. Everyday was a new learning and every dialogue and discussion was teaching me something. I thought of teaching the kids, but in return, I learnt many things that were never taught outside. My memories of those small and tiny gestures are unforgettable. I always love my first job.

Friday, March 02, 2012

India shining?

Before you throw rotten tomatoes and eggs on me after reading this post, let me make it clear that, this is just a thought that developed in my mind while watching a movie! and incase if you have still consider throwing tomatoes and continue with your decision, I plead to throw some good ones! afteral, tomato pickle is irresistible! jokes apart.

Not so long ago, white skinned people were ruling us. Yeah THE BRITISHERS. I never saw them ruling because I wasn't born then. but I surely learnt stories from my grandparents who were part of freedom movement. My grandmother who had the legacy of interacting with britishers closely (my grandfather was part of world war II as a doctor), told me quite a few stories. But each time she described India, I got a very beautiful picture. Not even once, did she mention about beggars on the roads, corrupted officials, poverty or people suffering from illness. Somehow, either she missed out on seeing/witnessing all these facts or may be they never existed! It was just about unity to fight against britishers and a unique voice screaming for freedom. She never mentioned about people fighting for power among themselves or anyone being selfish to grab others livelihood. It was just about help to others!

Then where are these now? What happened to that India where there was no poverty, no corruption, and there were only people voicing together for freedom struggle. there was only one form of enemy and people fought with it. britishers left us and we are free now.

Its been 6 decades and there is freedom in everything and everywhere. freedom in earning money, gaining power, raise above ashes and get access to resources. But there is a clear demarcation that is quite evident in various aspects like poverty, corruption, illness and the list goes on. sometimes i get this thought that may be we need someone to bother us from outside world so that we get united and work towards a similar goal than divide ourselves into various aimless tributaries.

I dont agree with the statement"India is shining". No, it is not. But I agree that India is definitely trying to shine and will shine if the opaqueness is shunned.

Time for tomatoes ;)