Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Republic Day 2011

Yes, I enjoy being served with a smile at the bank (on the rare occasions when I do need to step into a branch) and not being barked at with a frown...

Of course I love the fact that we live just ten minutes from the beach...the blue, pristine, white-sand beach of my dreams; not the hawker-infested, muddy, bottle-floating, industrial-waste-smelling waters...

There is no denying that I started enjoying long drives once I left the potholes/traffic/pollution behind and moved to Oz...

True, I can go to work without feeling bogged down by dirty politics, useless rivalries and the constant feeling of not being recognised or appreciated. Much relieved to know that I can walk out of office at 5pm when I have completed my work...and not wait for the boss to leave (even if there’s no work), before I can sneak out...

And I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge the material comforts that living in this country provides. True, I have to wash my clothes, do the dishes, cook the food, mow the lawn, fertilise the garden, fix the broken table, assemble new furniture, clean the cobwebs, spray pesticides, shop for grocery and even paint walls myself. But I can buy that Kindle for myself and the home theatre for hubby without a blink, swim in the pool of my own house, drive a decent car and still go for overseas holidays...

But none of the above-stated experiences give me goose bumps. I still rely on something like this for that rare feeling of pride, love, nostalgia and yearning:

Happy Republic Day.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Silly School Girls Club

I have known girls who drew the outline of a men’s brief on their answer sheets in response to a question that said “Give a brief outline of Shylock’s character in Merchant of Venice”. No, that’s not true. I don’t know any such girl. But wish I did, because am sure there are a few.

But I did know a Hindi-speaking girl who, in answer to a particular question in our Bengali exam, wrote this in her answer sheet:
Please refer to page 11, answer 2 of Obhagir Shorgo .

For a girl who chewed Pan Parag at that precious age, she did pretty well, I’d say. She had memorised word for word from a Questions and Answers book for that year, without hassling her delicate brain with the fate of Obhagi. Therefore, she had inadvertently done what many of us wanted to do i.e. directed our Bengali teacher to open the particular page in a book and look for the answer herself, if she was that desperate.

I also knew somebody who bribed me with a packet of chips in class 2, when she peed in her pants in class and wanted to keep it hush (I was the only privileged witness to the tributary).

But nothing beats another girl who took it a step forward. She pooped in her pants and obviously couldn’t keep it hush (even if she promised a lifetime’s supply of chips to the whole class). Our History teacher (a dainty, fragile, mouse-like lady) fainted at the stench. The school cleaner (one of the few male employees in an all-girls convent), came to the rescue with a broom . What was he thinking? To beat the last bit of shit out of her with a broom?

And of course there was that girl who slit her wrists to write a bloody letter to her class teacher...her latest “crush”. The letter never got posted or handed over to the person intended...but we all took turns to inspect her wrists and pinch her wounds see if she was faking it. What a happy hetero-sexual lady she now is! Wonder what makes so many school girls fancy their female teachers. Or do school authorities intentionally recruit masculine female teachers (with beards) to stop little girls from fancying real boys?

The school authority too had their share of silliness, especially trying to outwit the smart girls. Note to self: At that age, the crown of “smart girl” went to anyone with a boyfriend. But I digress. I believe that our convent had assigned a dying nun (one who had as much fun and sex in her life as does a domestic mop) to set our “School Uniform” rules:

  • The socks must start from where the dress ends
  • The shoes must be bought from the nearest “disability” store
  • Ugly, red, thick household curtains most be worn as ribbons on two equally oiled plaits
In short, no effort was spared to make us look as attractive as household rats. Therefore, any girl, who managed to acquire a boyfriend in spite of the household-rat look, was nothing short of “smart”. One such girl was spotted with a boy outside school premises, by one of the dying-nun brigade. On being interrogated, she said that it was her “brother”. The following week, we were to have a school fete, where families of students were welcome. Our noticeboard read “No brothers allowed, except infants”. The smart girls turned up with their boyfriends in the fete. On being interrogated again, they said that the boys were their boyfriends and assured the nuns that they had left all their brothers at home. Of course the girls spent their next weekend writing “I will learn to behave myself”, in immaculate handwriting, 500 times on ruled paper...but what the heck.

Silliness in school was so much fun. Don’t you think?

P.S. Obhagir Shorgo is a story about a young girl whose name pretty much defined her life. Obhagi = bad destiny.

Image - Courtesy Google

Friday, January 7, 2011

Packing Boxes and Boarding Flights

Call me old fashioned....boring...or unambitious. But I like stability. No, I love stability.

I wish I was part of an older generation...when people seldom changed jobs, cities, partners, cars, houses or friends. Our generation, on the other hand, seems to enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes with visa stamps on passports, flight tickets, removalists, mail redirection, house hunting and friend finding. In short, we love hassle. In fact, we love it so much that we happily give up everything that was truly ours (friends and family) to run after an elusive “something”. Some call it opportunity...others, quality of life.

I have changed jobs (innumerable times), cities (twice, with a strong possibility of a third time, which we talked ourselves out of), countries (once) and suburbs in the new cities (four times, twice in the same year). There is a general lack of loyalty to a place or phase of life. And this constant moving around has left me root-less, to say the least....and yearning for that feeling of belonging.

My dad retired from the company he joined straight after university. And I, his worthy daughter (NOT), changed four jobs in one year. F-O-U-R.  Yes, I have made more money. Yes, my learning curve also looks healthy. No regrets there. But the reason for changing from my third job to the fourth, is not that obvious to me. Let’s say, it happened...and I did not resist.

Only the other day I was telling a friend how my in-laws (who are in their late sixties, early seventies) are still in touch with friends who they have known since their college days. The same set of friends who came to my husband’s rice ceremony, came to our wedding...and will come to our kid’s rice ceremony (if we have any). And remember, they did not have Facebook to be in touch. No “poking a friend” or “sending a smiley” or relying on birthday alerts to wish your friends. It was all plain love...and a lot of sincere effort to keep the relationships going.

That’s the kind of shared history I miss. We make new friends every year. And by the end of the year, most relocate to other cities or countries, fading into the “virtual” world. I doubt if any of my current friends will be attending my kids’ marriage (note I don’t have any yet), who can teasingly pinch their cheeks and say “Getting married, dude? Remember how you peed in our bed once and covered it with auntie’s scarf?”

I have often heard my dad-in-law say “Your mom (in law) got this ABBA record as a gift for me, with her first salary. The sound quality is still superb.” That’s another thing I miss. I don’t really have any thing that goes back years. The books and CDs that I really thought were “mine” are "back home" still, in the room that used to be mine. The luggage allowance wasn’t enough to let us carry all our “emotional assets”. We carried the "essentials". Wish I can sit on a day bed someday, with wrinkled cheeks and toothless gums, and exclaim “Got this day bed on our sixth anniversary. Bloody good quality the mattress is.”

Remember “Central Perk” from the TV Series, “Friends”? It’s not a real place. It is based on Cholmondeley's, a coffee shop and lounge in Usen Castle at Brandeis University, the alma mater of the show's creators. But it was a coffee house that the “regulars” visited often throughout the series. In fact, they didn’t really have to call one another saying “meet me at the usual place”. They kind of stopped there after work, almost as a ritual. Wish I had something like that. Somewhere to stop...everyday...every-single-day, amidst the whirlwind of daily chores and responsibilities. Some place where my favorite people would turn up, every evening, by default. That regularity... that what I’d love. But alas! We have to send 571 emails to plan a dinner...and 689 mails to plan a picnic. And we go out of our way to make sure that we try a different place every time. What’s this obsession with “trying out new things?” Why not just find a place you like, and stick to it?

Until a few years back, there used to be a crack in the balcony of our home in Kolkata. Every time I asked my mom why she didn’t get it fixed, she’d say “Oh that! It’s when you hit the wall with your tricycle.” Now, how a toddler on a tricycle can cause such a crack on a brick wall is beyond me.  But what stands out is that fact that we lived in the same house for 30 years. By the time our kid (again, the one that’s not born yet) goes to high school, we may have changed more houses than his age.

 So, while we're packing boxes and boarding flights, are we really getting anywhere? Or are we only running as fast as we can in our own hamster wheels?