Friday, March 30, 2007

A time to reminisce

I'm reminiscing about school after reading Pretty Woman's blog about childhood. I'm not in the mood to write much, but I'd like to put this email that I sent to my school's mailing group a couple of years ago.

In my 12 years at school, I always was part of something during each annual day. I sang every year as part of the group song team that would perform when the stage was being prepared for the next drama/event. I was in the primary school play in the 5th standard...I was to play Cinderella, and the teachers were unable to find a Prince who was taller than I was. So my classmate, Anju, took that role and I became a step sister. (This incident stands out in memory because today I'm not considered "tall" by any measure :-)))

I also played the role of Mahishi in a classical dance based drama "Markandeya". I remember going up on stage to receive the general proficiency prize with black paint on my face that year. But what I do remember most is the excitement and the preparation that went in each year. Reaching school at an early hour in the afternoon. Having Mrs. Lalitha put on make up for us. Then collecting snack coupons and attempting to eat biscuits and bananas without getting the lipstick off.

I learnt music for almost 10 years privately. But I learnt music for12 years from our music teacher too. If my music teacher at home taught me to sing with my open voice, Mrs. Lalitha taught me to use my "false" voice. At a recent get together, someone commented on my ability to sing in two voices. I think I spent so much more time singing at school that today I cannot sing in my real voice for very long. And that training in school got me on to the college choir and is now contributing to local Hyderabad entertainment at Planet M.

I think I feel pretty much the same way about art, craft, SUPW, CCA, Scouts and Guides, and sports. They're important...and we had the good fortune to learn all that in school. I still come across people who cannot thread a needle or change a light bulb, have never played a game, haven't gone to camp, haven't painted, sung, quizzed or debated, haven't read a book outside of their textbooks...and I cannot help but think...was it because they didn't go to our school?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Road to Perdition?

One of my earlier posts, Inviting Trouble, talks about the traffic sense of people in India. I was shocked to see people ride with babies falling out of their scooters, and even more shocked to see them take babies in the front seats of their cars.

I've always wondered about how dangerous that could be. This morning, S and I were on our way to work when we got behind an Indica chugging along on the right most lane at about 25 kmph. S honked to get the car to move and we got ahead. Then the driver of the other came up, really close to us, and overtook us from the left. He cut in right in front of us and came to a complete halt. Then Mr. I-know-english-and-the-proof-lies-in-my-use-of-swear-words got out. He came over to our car and said to S, "You want to go fast, go in that lane." (That lane... was on the other side of the divider. Dude... we're still in India... physically, mentally and any which way you look at it) "Why don't you fly a plane if you want to drive so fast? What rash driving!" ( So fast? We were going at 40!) "My son almost got hurt because of you. Can I bash your car in return?" Whoa! He switched lanes without looking and had to apply his brakes as a result of which his child got hurt. Curiosity got the better of me and I looked into his car. The child was sitting on the lap of a lady (maybe its mother) in the front seat, while a maid sat in the back seat. Education is such a waste. (I use this line so often that S is tired of hearing it, but that's what comes across loud and clear, wherever I go.) S apologized for the fact that his son almost got hurt, but told him it was his fault.

It turned out that they were also headed to the same building where I work. When we reached the office, S got out of the car and went up to him and said, "Now I know how your son almost got hurt. Shouldn't you travel with your child in the back seat?" To which, Mr. Oh-I'm-so-ignorant responds with a "Who are you to tell me where my son should sit?"

Is there a God? Questions aside, I'd appeal to God to drive some sense into these idiots who drive on our roads. Teach them the rules before it is too late. If they were to learn from experience alone, it would prove way to costly.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Strange Encounters of the Arranged Kind - 3

I was truly impressed with this one, until...

When you're single, just about everyone is "looking out" for you. That they know next to nothing about you is a different thing. They only "mean well".

My cousin who is old enough to be my mother, had married off her two children and was focusing on getting me married. This incident dates back to about 2002-03. My cousin met a lady whom she knew quite well at a wedding. And the lady told her that she had an eligible bachelor son and she wasn't able to find a suitable bride for him. The "boy" in question was, indeed, most eligible. For a guy who was ranked among the top 10 in the IIT JEE exam that year had chosen to follow his heart and not the herd. That really impressed me.

He and I started exchanging some mails, started chatting, and soon he was in India and decided to come and meet me. A down to earth guy who did a lot of things on impulse, including making the decision to meet me. A post doc fellow in the US traveled in an unreserved compartment to Chennai simply because he didn't get a reservation on a weekend and he'd decided to meet me.

We met, talked, I even took him home to meet my parents, we spent an evening at the beach and he left for the station after dinner. We hit it off quite well. I was certain that despite the distance, if it had to work, it would. But there was no "love" or anything. After three months of regular correspondence (and by regular, I mean fortnightly), our man made a profound statement. "I am in the US and you are in India, I am not sure how we will work this marriage thing out." And I thought... if you didn't think I was the one for you, why couldn't you tell me directly? We knew right from the start that we were in different continents.

At that point I found myself thinking that it's a good thing that it didn't work out. No, it's not a question of sour grapes or anything, it is just that it feels good to get a sign beforehand. Imagine if we had gone ahead and if later on I'd come to know that he cannot confront a problem or talk about it. To think that with all that education, no one teaches us life skills. To the world, he was the title of Vikram Seth's novel. To me, he was another one who left an impression strong enough for me to blog about him 4 years later.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Strange Encounters of the Arranged Kind - 2

In the series of incidents around my journey along the arranged marriage highway, my second gem:

Mr. I-have-chalked-out-your-life-for-you: This one is almost too good to be true. I definitely remember how and when I met this guy. In fact, thanks to the person who had arranged this, my entire family and family's family also knew about this guy. His family credentials had been checked and while I was all of 25 (over the hill for most Indian women, right?) my cousin's uncle even pulled me aside at a family function and said to me, "Why don't you just say yes to this guy and put an end to your parents' misery?" I was angry... and as the Martian in Looney Tunes would say to Bugs Bunny, I wanted to say, "You have made me very angry... very angry indeed." But then "good upbringing" always seems to prevail. One is taught not to talk back and all that.

Finally, the 'boy' and his mother came to meet us. (I find it amusing that even when they cross 50, men are always referred to as boys when they are looking for a bride.) And everyone went to the dining area to have coffee, leaving the two of us to talk and 'get to know each other'. I have never understood how people decide, in an hour, or much less, who they will wake up with for the rest of their lives!

I was preparing to take the GMAT and I told him as much. He said, "So, you're a career minded woman. That's OK." (Oops... last heard that wasn't a crime. But will you,oh will you forgive me?) You can work for the next 3 years. After that we will have our first child. And after that I won't entertain any requests from you to go back to work again... ever! We had moved to the balcony by then and I almost fell from the 3rd floor to the children's play area below. I was so utterly shocked. I told him, "You haven't asked me to marry you. I haven't said yes. You haven't asked me if I want to have children at all. You have assumed that I'll give up my job when I have the baby. And, finally, you've taken it that my career decisions will rest in your hands. Isn't that a little too much?"

He said, "My mother always stayed home when we were kids. So my sister and I decided that a mother should always stay home. My sister also worked for 3 years after her marriage and had her first child then. And she's ket her part of the agreement and not gone back to work after that." (I love the logic. Can't beat this, can you?) I argued with him a bit and at the end he said, "Look, if you have 10 points for, I will have 10 points against, but this is not about who wins the argument. This is how I have planed my life and yours. That's it!"

Needless to say, when the cups of coffee were empty... pleasant goodbyes were exchanged and we never heard from them again!