Saturday, January 24, 2009

Teacher's Pet

A few days ago, on my way back from class, I saw the children from the local KV practicing their Republic Day march past on the street. A red-faced PT master was shouting out instructions, while the children stamped and shouted "left-right-left" energetically, but without much synchronization. One chubby little girl at the front with two oiled pigtails and big red bows however, was concentrating furiously and trying her best to catch the master's attention with her marching. She really reminded me of myself.
Through most of school, it was very important to me to be the teacher's pet. I loved being held up as an example. When teachers would say things like, "Why can't you be more like Nithya?" or "Sit next to Nithya and learn how to behave," I would flush pink with pleasure. This naturally made me rather unpopular with my classmates, but I was too busy gloating to notice.
I did change eventually, my friends began to like me (I hope), and I discovered the joys of sitting on the last bench- reading novels and passing chits. But that energetic little girl brought it all back, for a minute. I hope she grows out of it someday too. Being a back-bencher is far more fun!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Perfect Man

By the age of sixteen, I had a very clear definition of the perfect man for me. He would be tall and handsome, of course. He would also read prodigiously, dance and play an instrument. I wasn't very particular about the instrument, but I did hope it would be the violin. We would spend quiet evenings reading books in companionable silence before he brought out his violin and I sang for him. To vary the monotony, some evenings we would put on slow jazz and dance for hours on end. Did I mention that he would also be a splendid dancer?
Of course my practical side would kick in then- after all some of these talents were rather emasculating. So, I threw in sports for good measure. He would play proper, rough, manly sports like football and basketball while I cheered him on from the sidelines. Then we would return home where he'd help me cook dinner and then he'd write a gloriously romantic sonnet to my eyes and secret it under my pillow for me to find in the morning.

Then college happened and my perfect man started seeming more and more unreachable. I let go of each of his little perfections reluctantly, one by one. Maybe he didn't have to dance... Maybe he could learn the violin after we got together... Perhaps I would settle for someone not quite so formidably well read...Maybe a writing me a sonnet was rather soppy...

This went on for over three years until today in a random 2 am conversation, A asked me what qualities I looked for in my ideal man. I thought about it for a really long time and finally came up with, "I'm not quite sure..."
The starched up vision of perfection that I had doesn't seem at all right now. I always thought I was reluctantly letting go of my visions of the perfect man, and gloried in the doleful romance of the thought. But, now I get that all I was doing was growing up. Indeed such an embodiment of perfection, if he even existed, would probably be impossibly hard to live with.
Still, now that I've come face to face with reality and stripped all my visions bare, I'm feeling rather empty. I know that new ideas and dreams, far more real and precious, will come in to fill that void, one day. But right now, as the culmination of three year's wisdom, I cling to only one standard- no matter what else my perfect man does or doesn't do, he will not write poetry.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


All through my childhood, we moved from place to place. Every friendship I had, every relationship, was necessarily short. Oh, I had best friends wherever I went- there was Riya in Delhi, Kittu in Jammu, Vasudha in YOL, Parul in Jabalpur, Ruchika in Secunderabad... But now, all I remember about them are their names. I never really thought about it before- but by the time I was about 10, I knew better than to get too close to anyone other than my family. Too soon, we would have to leave and it would hurt. When the last day of school came, my best friend and I would hold hands and promise to write each other all the time. For the first few, I did write letters and they wrote back. But the letters would become fewer and further apart till they finally stopped.
Even now, I find it hard to get really close to people. Oh, I talk and joke and giggle and share secrets, but still sometimes feel essentially alone. I never fought with any of my friends. I always thought it was because I never really found anything worth fighting about. Now I wonder if it's because I didn't feel secure enough to believe that my friendships would survive the battle. I've never really fallen in love. To love someone is to give them rather frightening control over your life- something I'm simply not prepared to relinquish yet. I once came close, but he left and I find myself surprisingly dispassionate about it.
But now, after three and a half years of shared rooms, classes, clothes and secrets I have friends I truly care about. Friends in front of whom I can lose my temper and act selfish but know that I will be forgiven. Friends with whom I can really talk without worrying about being tactful or politically correct.
It's taken me three and a half years to get here. Now I have another four months with them. Then they leave- to jobs or far off universities. All these years, I was the one who left, but this time I'll be the one staying behind. They're already slipping away- they've entered this world of offer letters and university applications, renting flats and buying business suits- that I'm not a part of. I'm not ready for them to leave, I don't want them to go. I'm jealous of their new life that is taking them away from me. We will always be friends of course, we've been through too much together. But it will never be the same.

Friday, January 02, 2009

I'm sad to leave

Another year has gone by. I'll soon be a whole year older, but not a whit wiser. Time's passing always makes me pause and spend a few moments in thought; that's why I act all retrospective during New Year or on birthdays. But now that 2009 has already begun, I'm finding it rather hard to take a step back and look at the vast carcass of the year I leave behind. So, I'm just going to focus on this past month and hope that by writing of it here, at least some of the lessons I learnt in December will stick.

I worked in a newspaper: technically, I'm still working in the newspaper. Today's my last day and I've finished and filed my final article and I have nothing left to do. I learned that newspaper work can be a really adrenaline pumping job- you do have to get out a fresh paper every single day. There are hardly any holidays and people are always busy. Still, every single person I met, took out the time to smile and speak kindly to me- a bewildered intern. Everyone seemed rather bemused that an IITian would be interested in newspaper work, but they often went out of their way to make things easy for me.
Lesson 1: Be nice to people.

I also learnt that press people are treated pretty well out there. Every event I attended, I was plied with tea and offered free gifts. It can get to your head quite easily. I hopefully, haven't been around long enough yet.
Lesson 2: Don't let it all go to your head.

The work is always fresh; after all, you're constantly looking for a newer angle, a better edge, to make your piece stand out. Deadlines are tight and have to be met, no excuses.
Lesson3: (Most Important) Don't procrastinate. There's no time for it in the real world.

The news is always different and as a reporter, you get to meet new people everyday. There were amusing (WTF) moments and rather tiresome ones.
Lesson 4: Don't ever lose your sense of humour.

All said and done, I really don't want to return to Quantum Mechanics yet.
Can't I stay just a little bit longer?