My favourite ghazals, the rain, some alcohol, a good book, the moon, and hot coffee.


14045209_10154261353402110_1734169495_o.jpg

The choice to customize is always tricky, especially when it involves being able to tweak your own life. You have freedom, and you have choices, and you can do whatever you want. I would compare my customized life to an ice cream tub. You know when you have too many choices while buying ice cream and you end up with a weird flavour because you tried mixing all the colourful attractive scoops together? Something like that. I’m living a weird colourful life in an ice cream tub it seems.

I’m underpaid, I’m independent, I’m paying my own bills, I’m doing what I love, And I’m happy. I wanted this life, and I have it now. (Yeah, I would love to earn more money, but hey, don’t they say something like you should do what you love and success and money would follow? I’m waiting for that ideal situation) Despite the problems, this wait is way more tolerable than what my life was till a year ago. I was overpaid (Yes, I truly believed so, and that depressed me), I was dependent, everything was taken care of, I hated my job, and I was terribly stressed about everything. There was a lurking sadness, always. And though it was somewhere inside me, in a little corner, hiding all the time, I felt it surfacing sometimes at odd moments- like when I was two drinks down, and listening to Mehdi Hassan; It surfaced in the form of a tear, in the form of a half-smile, in the form of a sway of my head. It did. And I enjoyed it. Funnily, I grew fond of it. I grew fond of how I enjoyed my grief, and explored and discussed philosophical questions with myself. Like I would have these complex discussions going on in my head, and I would just smile like a retard. It’s such a triumphant feeling you know, like you’ve found a life hack or something.

As days passed by, and things remained the same, I discovered it surfaced at other times too- when I looked out of the window at the downpour, when my own grief touched me through the sound of the rain. And I loved it. It surfaced when I saw the moon, pale, a little more than half, reminding me of the incomplete things in my never ending, rolling-all-over-the-floor to-do list. Sipping hot coffee and looking at the clouds through the huge glass window of my office tower, sometimes watching flocks of birds forming patters in the sky and admiring feeling jealous at their beautiful execution of creativity; secretly writing poetry sitting in the office washroom, and feeling ecstatic; being deeply and inextricably buried in a good book for days. All this, and more helped me survive the constant unrest, the constant sadness of not being able to find where I belong. And I feel stupid saying it, but I had fallen in love with my grief. When you feel you are sinking and you just embrace life for what it is; not resisting, not fighting. May be I had just befriended the little things that reminded me of it- my favourite ghazals, the rain, a good book, some alcohol, the moon, hot coffee. May be.

Last month, for the first time, something unusual happened- My favourite ghazal- Ranjish hi sahi by Mehdi Hasan didn’t stir the same emotions in me as it always did. I didn’t feel happy to be sad. May be because funnily, I didn’t have a reason to be sad. I somehow felt at peace with myself. For that ephemeral moment, I felt I was doing fine, and I don’t know why, but I didn’t like it. I had liked the sweet confusion, the seeking, my pursuits, I had liked all of that. I wanted the same old familiar feeling, even if it meant feeling a little low. Sometimes when I feel things like these, I seriously doubt my sanity. Like seriously, what’s wrong with me? (They say humans can never be happy, I now know what they mean.)

The following week of course, I was busy again. I was anxious and excited about doing well at work and there was commotion. But I just couldn’t stop thinking about what I had felt that night. It was something I had never experienced before, but it was also short-lived. And yesterday, I found myself looking at the moon and brooding again. Once again, I had a reason to ponder over the mysteries of life. Once again I was feeling low about something, and then feeling happy about the discussion in my head. Like life was making sense to me in weird ways. Call me mad, but that’s a major survival trick.

Of course, I need to work on and figure how to be happy when I am really feeling happy though.

Lol. kidding. 

 

Learning to tell jokes. Phew!


wp-1467110206434.jpg

I like my desk better now- with lesson plans, colourful worksheets, fun videos and audios on my desktop, and a daily task of creating something new.
It’s scary too, of course. Imagine standing in front of a batch of Japanese, Spanish, Indian, South Korean, and French speaking students, and trying to crack a joke in English. You are subject to instant validation and frankly, in the internet age, I’m not used to it. But sometimes, you have no escape, you just have to crack a joke, and it has to be funny.

Like last week, a student asked me what humour meant. Now how would you begin to explain humour to a beginner level class without cracking a joke? So you take a deep breath, muster some courage to build a joke around the first thing that comes to your mind, and shoot! If your students laugh, it means they all understand it. And you are like woah! they all get a joke in English! If they don’t, you feel shaky in your knees, and struggle to cover it up with a better one. It’s so tricky you know, they won’t get the jokes you have grown up with, and you have no idea about what they would find funny. And if they don’t find it funny, how would you get the meaning across? Sometimes you find a student strangely staring at you, with big eyes and raised eyebrows just when you think you’ve told the best joke of your life. Trust me, your world comes crashing down in that moment.

Sometimes my jokes aren’t funny, what’s funny is how all the students suddenly start looking at me when a question is asked, expecting an instant answer. You need to be quick, spontaneous. I have never been spontaneous. I’ve always been in awe of people who were, thinking it’s something you were born with. You know those people who don’t plan at all? I thought I could never be that person. Well, I was wrong. Eventually, you become that person, quickly learning to construct meanings with words and contexts your students would understand, and sometimes failing terribly. But I guess it’s okay; being tested every day, watching myself fail and then laughing at the fiascos every day. It makes you realise how fallible you are, and it’s important because every failure puts a tiny crack on your perfect self-image.  And when that happens, when you see a less perfect version of you, it bothers you like nothing does, making you want to mend it right there.

I’d read somewhere that we should try and fail at something every day. They say it helps in getting over the fear of failure and trying new things. I think it’s working for me. Well, it applies to telling jokes for now, but that’s progress no?

 

On being a teacher of the ‘funny language’


exa.jpg

A learned man said to me once, “Why do you want to become an English language teacher? It’s a fucked up and funny language.” It was a cloudy day, perfect for epiphanies, and so I let one mess with my brain again.

The two adjectives he used caused enough stirring in me to stick to my resolve to become one (effects of prolonged exposure to banality and monotony in life, I believe). And so I began on this journey, to a destination I thought I knew and understood. It’s been less than a year since I started teaching English professionally, and all I can say, is that I was wrong.

One of my students is a bright young boy who works as a waiter at a popular pub in Gurgaon. He always keeps me on my toes by asking me curious questions about the English language.Mam, on recharging my phone, why do I get a message saying ‘Your balance has been credited’? Don’t we use the ‘ing’ form of verb with ‘has +been’?” He asked me one day- with I don’t know why- a naughty smile.

While I know the English grammar rules, and also the fact that the mere possession of knowledge doesn’t suffice, I realized you have to be a teacher to really understand your own understanding of certain things. You have to pass on the concept in the best, the most creative way possible.

I asked him at the beginning of the session, as I do with all my new students- “Why do you want to learn English?” That day, I couldn’t help but notice a deep sadness and dejection in his eyes

I want to be able to speak English fluently so I can become a manager at a pub one day. And so that people would respect me. Nobody really respects the waiting staff. Whenever something goes wrong, even if the customer is at fault, we are reprimanded, and expected to apologize”, he explained, with his lips curved in a strangely gentle smile of despair.

I have seen these people at restaurants, the ones who for some twisted reason have grown up to believe that they are the most superior beings on this mortal planet. Being sarcastic at best and, rude and disrespectful at worst, these people think they own the place. The ritual of whistling, shouting out ‘Aey hello!’ to address the waiters is common. But, when I heard about it from this young boy, his eyes full of dreams and aspirations getting misty, his predicament pierced me like a sword. It angered me. I felt for this boy who was smart, humble, worked 16 hours a day, earned a livelihood for his family, and spent a considerable part of his monthly salary on learning English, with the belief that this language would earn him respect. I don’t know what’s disheartening if this isn’t.

His response that day changed the way I viewed my profession. Hell, it made me rethink the meaning of my choice to become an English language teacher. I realized that my perceived sense of responsibility towards my profession was all wrong. Since that day, I have taught many such students, who spoke in their native language with great confidence, but transformed into meek, underconfident strugglers the minute they switched to English. Some of them were so conscious of their pronunciation, that they wouldn’t speak the word but would spell it out to ask me the correct way of pronouncing it. Trust me, this really scared me as a teacher. 

You know English in India is not just a language- it’s like a degree that gives you confidence, promises you better prospects, better opportunities, better jobs, better livelihood, and it hurts me to say, but respect. May be I was aware of all this before, but now I am a part of this process for people. I am no more doing a job for myself alone, but for people who invest their trust in me. Teaching has changed me so much as a person; I have grown more perceptive, humbler, and yes I’m no more the judgmental grammar Nazi I used to be.

Ten years ago, my uncle had asked me what I wanted to become when I grew up, and I had said anything but a teacher. Surprised, he asked why, and I said, because nobody respects teachers. I don’t know what was responsible for this idea. May be the teasing and making fun of teachers at school which I hope, we all are guilty of indulging in. When I look back now, I just feel sad about our childhood sensibilities and morals.

But today I am glad I’m a teacher; I feel happy to see my students learning and becoming confident; their dejection dissipating as classes progress, and something meaningful is learnt. It’s amazing how these classes don’t just improve their communication, but also transform their personalities.

Lack of self worth, be it for any reason, can be the most dangerous thing for a young mind. I have been through this phase as a teenager, and I know how fucked up it feels. I don’t want people to go through it because of a language, and that too this funny language.

It would just be sad.

 

I’m looking for that moon.


I'm looking for that moon.

In search of the one controlling my life. Because clearly, I am not.

….

I’m looking for that moon,

That pale elusive ball of nonsense that is causing this rise and fall in me.

This flip in my gut, this sudden surge, this turmoil that capsizes my very being.

*

I’m looking for that moon,

The one with craters, that is digging out deep parts of me to make me like itself.

A puddle here, and a puddle there filled with a loss of self.

*

I’m looking for that moon,

The one that glows with something borrowed and something thrown back.

Illuminating me ephemerally, and then taking away my glory.

*

I’m looking for that moon,

The one that grows with pride one day and shrinks in distress the next.

Because it is shrinking me too, an inch, every night.

*

I’m looking for that moon,

The one that plays hide and seek, behind a tower, a cloud, a tree.

And when I whine it flashes a silver lining, like handing a rattle to a child.

*

I’m looking for that moon,

Because I am no more enjoying this game, for I’m not the sea, I get cracks.

Every time I’m lifted and plunged back in a frenzy, I get cracks.

…..

Being selfish.


ME

Selfishness is a luxury not everybody can afford. You don’t pay for it. Somebody else does.

Sometimes it involves cutting a part of your conscience and letting it bleed.

It requires a blindfold, painted with your own damn face.

It requires you to be a parasite, sometimes a guilty one.

It requires carrying your interests on top of your head while others struggle to protect theirs from being trampled down by your feet.

And yet there comes a time when you seek this evil, after having terribly and hopelessly failed as a selfless being.

It comes easy when you are young, expressed in the most innocent way-not sharing that new bar of chocolate with your sibling. Simple. It is instinctive then. It is natural. It is what you are born with, this selfishness. Until you are taught and conditioned to treat it as a vice and relinquish it forever. You forget all about it. You rub it off your mind, you bury it down somewhere, sometimes feeling guilty about its subconscious resurfacing. You are a good person, you tell yourself, a selfless person. Just like you had sworn to be a truthful person when you were once caught lying by your mom, only to realize later that lying is inevitable.

So yes, years later you look for it once again, to get some elements of it back, to make it your own, because you can’t be this person anymore, you can’t be a host to all these parasites anymore. You wish to be one of them. Because that is how survival works.

May be that’s why we were born with it. May be we were never meant to give it up entirely, and just use this ‘anti-value’ in moderation. Sometimes taking from people and sometimes giving them unconditionally?

But again, selfishness is a luxury not everybody can afford. Sometimes you can be selfish because someone is letting you be. You will be returning the favour later, or may be you get to be the ultimate selfish human.

14 outrageous and funny anti-women quotes in Chanakya Neeti


Chanakya Neeti

I just finished reading Chanakya Neeti, and found myself deeply shocked, and confused as to how a great scholar, an exceptional economist, and a clever administrator like him could be such a misogynist.

Undoubtedly, this book has some really good analogies, and some very wise thoughts. But largely this book is chauvinistic and misogynistic. The fact that it was written in another time does very little to provide a defense for such views. If it is so anachronistic and doesn’t apply to the current social environment, then why is it so widely read and appreciated?

Every mention of women in this book is either about her being a prostitute, or about how she should take care of her ‘character’, or how she ought to be faithful, or how deceitful she can be. No words like ‘character’ or ‘faithful’ are used in the context of men.

I wonder how many men this book has misled. If anything needs to be banned it is the anti-women parts in this book.

Here are 14 utterly outrageous and funny anti-women quotes in Chanakya Neeti that will make you cringe:

1. Women have a knack of talking to one man, casting an askew glance at another and loving secretly a third man. They can’t devotedly love just one man. (Material for the next sexist Honey Singh song?)

2. A woman quickly depletes a man’s potency but milk immediately restores it. Also, an added justification by the translator : ‘Ayurveda also believes that if a man drinks hot milk quickly after copulation, his strength gets revived’. (Now Now Now, a woman does what?)

3. The brass pot can be cleaned with ash, copper gets cleaned with acids, menstruation purifies women and the river water becomes potable after flowing through rapids. (Now that’s quite a comparison. So if menstruation purifies women, then how and when do they exactly become impure again?)

4. A woman is a liar, deceitful, foolish, greedy, impious and cruel. These are the innate attributes of a woman. (Wow, quite polite, and what about men? No mention.)

5. It is better not to have a king than having a king who is a tyrant; not to have a friend than having a wicked friend; not to have a wife than having an unfaithful wife. (What about unfaithful husbands? No mention. )

6. A woman doesn’t become as pious by giving alms, performing rigid austerities, and fasts and visiting sacred places, as by having the water she gets by washing her husband’s feet. (Wait. Whattt?)

7. The wife’s sins are suffered by the husband. (And the husband’s sins? oh of course, he can’t be sinful.)

8. A roving king, a roving brahman, and a roving Yogi are adored, but a roving woman is doomed. Meaning- an efficient ruler is always on a move, a brahman should not be attached to a particular place and so should move around to gain knowledge, and the same is true for a Yogi. But if a woman keeps on moving she exposes herself to a variety of dangers which could bring her disrepute or even the way to doom. (So that’s where they get the idea of ‘keeping women at home’ from.)

9. For good days one should save money, women should be protected even if it takes the money saved. But for self preservation the money and the women should be sacrificed. (Let’s talk about commodifying women.)

10. Fire, water, women, fool, snake and the royal family- beware of all these. They can prove fatal. (Women can be fatal. hmmm.. Our very own Honey Singh thinks the same-
I swear choti dress me bomb lagdi menu?’)

11. An unsatisfied brahman and a satisfied king perish. A shy prostitute and a shameless bride of a noble family perish. Meaning: A prostitute’s profession is such that if she is shy she loses her clientele. But the bride of a noble family has to be shy to win everyone’s respect. (Some professional advice for prostitutes. Because that’s the only profession mentioned by him for women.)

12. Learn courtesy from princes, sweet speech from the learned scholars, lying from gamblers, and deceit from women. (Ok so women do know something after all.)

13. Compared to males, females eat twice the amount of food, possess cleverness four times, display courage six times and have hunger for sex eight times. (Now how on earth did he measure that?)

14. A good wife is one who serves her husband in the morning like a mother does, loves him in the day like a sister does and pleases him like a prostitute in the night. (No comments.)

 

PS: The cover page says ‘more than 20,00,000 copies sold’. I wonder if ML Sharma owns one too. *Sigh*

Little pinching luxuries


Yesterday I with a hand on my heart hesitatingly paid 500 bucks at Hard Rock Cafe for a drink that usually costs Rs 150. And since I am not used to splurging anymore (read: I am jobless), it hurt. Quite a lot. I wanted to be the parsimonious freak miser I have become now a days, but then I thought, what the hell, its just once in a couple of months that I splurge spend like thisnot in the slightest convinced that I’m spending on something even remotely worth it. So I did it. That innocent yet special green piece of paper was immensely missed.

Its strange how we insidiously cease to value money. Now that I know my phone wouldn’t beep with a ‘new credit balance’ message from Citibank on the 30th of every month, I begin to realize how carelessly I swiped my card.

But sometimes its okay.
Sometimes its okay to treat yourself with sweet luxuries. Like this ‘not so worth it‘ drink.
May be its not about the drink; may be its about buying the luxury of being there- listening to live rock music with your friends, losing yourself in the great musical ambiance while sipping the overpriced sparkling liquid.
But yes it did pinch.

HRC’s profit, and on a philosophical note- happiness these days, is made up of ‘little pinching luxuries’. (and may be ‘little punching necessities’ for some)
And we don’t really mind it.