Thursday, 16 June 2011

Moving On...

Two months short of a year of hiatus - too bad, I know! But then life is like that I guess. Sometimes it flows, as smooth as Dairy Milk Silk, and sometimes there are far too many roadblocks.

My last post was written in utter hopelessness in a land which is now fonder than it was at that time. I lived there for five months, met a lot of relatives for the first time, got along with them like a house on fire and reaffirmed the family girl tag that I already have. To cut a long story short, I was sad to leave that country, and I never thought it would turn out that way.

But then, I came home! That is always a happy place to be, or so I thought! The syndrome that I spoke about in this post had hit third degree by then - come on, it was almost six months since my course had finished, and here I was, doing NOTHING!

The jobhunt began. All roads seemed to lead me the Manorama way- whether it was the radio interview or the channel one that I attended. In the case of the latter one, the interviewer dug out the good old days of camera friendliness from my resume and asked me to host a show for them - while I had originally applied for the post of an Assistant Producer. And thus began my tryst with architecture. Veedu happened.

The Big Man Up There has His own ways of surprising me at the times that I need it the most! Veedu was one such opportunity. Since the time I left anchoring with Kairali TV voluntarily in 2007, I never nurtured a wish to face the video camera again. But I remember, once in Dubai, watching Anjana hosting Veedu and parroting her words, I was wondering how it would be to talk about architecture in such detail. And here I was, doing exactly that!

I got mixed reactions for my second face off with the camera. Acquaintances and pseudo friends said bland things like 'good work' while feedback on costumes, hair style and the like came from closer friends. A few people told me that I had nothing to do in the show and there was nothing intelligent in saying this bedroom is here, that bathroom is there. I was naive and nodded in agreement for the first couple of times. By the third time this remark came to me, I had given it some thought - for God's sake, there is no one job that is intelligent by itself. Intelligence is quite useful for any job - whether you are an engineer, a teacher or a plumber, a little bit of grey matter comes handy. While shooting for the first few episodes, architecture sounded like nothing but Greek and Latin to me. From where I was at that point, if I have come to a place where I am comfortable going for a shoot without any preparation whatsoever - and fully confident of performing well - it is all thanks to some good genes that my parents have given me. It would be serious injustice to them if I did not admit that.

So there I was, sitting comfortably in the anchor boots, and the offer from Radio Mango comes to join them as a Radio Jockey. Surprise again - the interview had happened eons ago and I was convinced that they were not going to call me. And they do, at the time I least expect it!

The final update before I wrap this post is that I have joined them, and I hope that the 'them' soon becomes 'us.' Wish me luck!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Missing home and myself...

The Indian Independence Day dawn is just a few hours away. And I am in a country that is not mine.

I have come here before, as a tourist. To see as many malls as I could, to eat as many previously-not-eaten-delicacies as I could, to visit as many relatives as I could – the objectives, the bent of mind, everything was typical. It felt great while it lasted.

This time, I have come to give my dad some company. He has lived in this country for three years now - alone. It means I am here for a longer period of time with boring things like looking for a job in an industry which almost does not exist in the country, thrown in. In flat one fortnight, I have begun to appreciate my country, my own country, infinitely more.

My country is not so sophisticated. The roads are not so smooth; the buildings are not so tall. But I can step out of my home and walk. To wherever I want to and even if I don’t know where to.

My country doesn’t pay as much money. With soaring house rents and real estate prices, city life is almost a battle for most middle class people. With ever-increasing food prices, sustenance is difficult for others across cities and villages. But there is always this house or that house to go to when you are hungry and not in the mood to cook.

My country is not one of plenty. There are people who don’t have it to eat one day’s meal. But when you do have it, you can have it where you please, even on the road, even during the holy month of Ramzan, without the worry of offending anyone, because acceptance comes naturally to us.

My country does not believe in autocracy or monopoly. We have more than ten telecom companies giving the consumers the best rates in the world for the sake of their existence. I can call anyone I want anytime I want without burning a hole in my pocket.

My country, with all its imperfectness, makes me feel at home.

To a country that made me what I am, thank you for the freedom you have endowed on me. Not just from the British, from all the other things that you as a country could have been and did not turn out to be. Love you India.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Back in my nest...

All over - the exams, the course, the madness. And I am home.

During the entire month of April, when my classmates were frantically going about applying for jobs, I told myself: you deserve a break, go ahead and take that, please don't enter the rat race.

And now, here I am, totally enjoying this 'doing nothing' phase, but finding it difficult to answer people's questions. Every second person I meet invariably asks: So what next? Got any job? Getting married?

I have gotten over the last part and have learnt to efficiently defer the question (or give a *proper* answer to it), but the former part is tough. I have realised over the last month that, to survive in India, you have to be 'doing' something. Read enrolled with a university, working with a company, doing a business or at least playing a wife! Otherwise, people make your life hell.

As each day passes by, I am sure my folks must be finding it difficult to answer this question as well. And for them, deferring the last part is not as easy as it might be for me. They are the ones who are responsible to get me hitched, after all! But I am sure they care more about my peace of mind than others. That part is comforting!

But otherwise, tell me why I should feel guilty about taking time off to catch up with Malayalam movies, reading a few good books and doing some freelance writing assignments? About planning to spend time with dad at a place where loneliness could make you crazy, and to do other random trips that I have always wanted to? Isn't my life, my life after all?

I know, these questions make no sense in a society like ours where everyone is more bothered about others lives than their own. But someone ought to fight it, and I like to believe that I am among the chosen ones!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

The end of an era!

It's been an awfully long time. I don't want to make any excuses this time. I can recollect at least ten different occasions when I thought, "I should write about this for MAMM," but I never sat down to do that. Sheer laziness. Nothing else.

It does not mean I have not been writing though. Take a look at this, in case it helps!

When I settled down with my laptop in front of the department today, I had absolutely no intention to write this one. But I bumped into this while browsing randomly and realised that I have come a long way. Of course, I had to share the intense nostalgia with you, right?

As clich├ęd as it may sound, it really feels like yesterday. I can still remember thinking in my head "Oh God, at which moment did I decide to choose this place?" while I rode closer to hostel every afternoon after class. What I cannot remember is when that feeling melted away. When I took a liking to this place. When this place became home.

There are a million things about the university that I will miss. F Hostel bajjis, fortnightly cycle shop visits, 5l Bisleri cans from Uncle's Shop, irani chai from Shop Com - too many to list.

On the course front, my choice of stream, I understand, was one of the best decisions in my life. Being the disillusioned bunch we were, of ten students with absolutely no particular liking for each other whatsoever, we have still managed to pull off a massive amount of work together. In the process, we have all become quite close too.

The teachers! :) I am one of those who cannot comfortably sit if a teacher passes by or enters a class. Even now, yes. When some of my classmates nudge me asking me to remain seated because they don't want to get up, I cannot agree. Some things are not meant to change whether you are in STD I or MA fourth semester.

Coming to the point, whatever disagreements I may have had with some of my faculty members, I completely cherish each one of them. If there has to be one person who I should start with, it is Prof. Pavarala. There is no logic to my particular liking for him other than the fact that he is an amazing teacher. He just knows his job too well. And when he talks, it makes complete sense to me. And if it doesn't, he decodes it from my expression and re-explains. It is a very simple equation.

Sanjay Sir always reminded me of Achan, a little less temperamental of course. In all frankness, I don't think it has anything to do with the fact that he is Deepti's dad. He is just very fatherly even when he teaches.

Ramu Sir is as much a friend as a teacher. He does not intimidate you and oozes the fact of the matter that he means well for you.

Someone who came late into my life is Usha Ma'am. I have had only one course with her, that too in the last semester. I love her for the person that she is. She completed my campus family equation by easily fitting in as the mother figure. And such less time she took!

Now, the last bit. Friends. I think I am quite jinxed in this department. Being an extrovert, I make friends wherever I go. I did so here as well. But you know, the 'best friend' types? That never happened to me. Probably it is my other preoccupations that never led me into such a bond. Probably it is my egoistic nature as someone close pointed out. Whatever it is, I graduate from this university, without finding a bosom buddy who I can treasure for life. There is Deepti who comes very close. But still, I feel a void which was caused by certain misunderstandings and heartbreaks. And coming to think that this was most probably my last lap of education and hence my last chance to make that kind of a friend, it is distressing.

Tomorrow, my fourth semester exams start. Another ten days, and my course gets over. All the pluses and minuses put together, I think I will come out victorious. I guess that's how my life was meant to be.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Leening's Manipur, Our Manipur...

Request: Please read the whole post before you make any judgment about me. :) I love Manipur!

Leening Meetei is my classmate at University of Hyderabad. If there is one word that describes him, it's Manipur; he eats, drinks and sleeps Manipur. When a research or writing assignment is given in class, no effort needs to be taken to guess what Leening would do. It would invariably be about Manipur.

I have very often been amused by this. I am a very proud Malayali; but I do not take up Kerala for every damn thing like he does. I have often thought; why such forceful assertion?

The other day, Leening was doing rounds in the class with a signature petition. It was addressed to the President of India against the fake encounter killing that happened in Manipur recently that took the life of Chonkham Sanjit (27). My turn was over and I was casually watching him. Then, I saw something in his eyes that I had never seen before - some amount of passion and a lot more of pain.

That's when I started thinking more deeply than I used to. Earlier, my thought process was something like this. 'With the very little knowledge I have of this huge issue, I know that most North Eastern states demand autonomy. Yet, there is a North East quota in my university (and probably in many other places in the country) and they are all duly filled. I mean, if you want to get separated from this country, why use the infrastructure here? That's sheer selfishness! If you want to take advantage of the facilities here, might as well stick to the sovereignty of the country!'

The pain in his eyes told me that he and I were different. I was born in a part of India that, post independence, has not witnessed a massive conflict of any sort. A place where democracy is probably at its best with everyone taking their right to life and freedom of expression for granted. I have hardly seen a person from the Armed Forces at work in the part of Kerala that I live. My perception of violence, freedom, civic sense and security is different because of this.

Leening, on the other hand, has probably spent his childhood in fear. To quote Tehelka, "Life in Manipur is like a lottery. You are alive because you are lucky." He did most of his education in Andhra Pradesh because the situation in his state was not condusive. He hasn't seen his family for months together now, because conflicts are consistent back home and travelling during our last vacation would have been dangerous. He has probably witnessed the death of a relative in the hands of people who are supposed to ensure security - the Armed Forces.

I have now realised that a comparison between him and me is futile; we are so darn different. It is because of the North East quota, that I used to detest, that Leening is being able to give wings to his dreams. It is because of his belief that change is possible in this country, despite all the atrocities that his state is witnessing, that he is still going on with that signature campaign. If he does not deserve to be a citizen of this India as comfortably as I am, with all the security that I was born with and am used to, then who else is this India for?

Many North Eastern Indians migrate to other parts of India in the hope of a better life. But is it any different for them? Armed Forces may not attack or kill without a reason, but what about civilians? They attack with detesting looks that speak on the lines of "Why the hell have you come over to our place?"

Just the other day, I was comfortably seated on an APSRTC bus. A North Eastern family comprising a young man, an almost-girl-like woman and their tiny kids got into the bus. The mother clad in a saree was a far cry from the stylish and sleek looking North Eastern girls I have seen on my campus, I thought. I noticed that people maintained a safe distance from the rough looking short man as though he was a terrorist, an intruder.

As the kids dozed off leaning to their mother's shoulder, I kept on gazing much to the discomfort of that woman. I was thinking how similar these four human beings were to any other random family in that bus. Yet, how different! It wouldn't be easy for them to get a house to live or a job to earn a living. The struggle to garner an identity was clearly visible on all the four faces. Even if they wanted to think of themselves as Indians, we the 'original Indians' would not let them do so.

Unity in Diversity is probably the most overrated myth that is taught in schools. You will grow up to learn that equality, let alone unity, is still a dream for many in this country.

Which is why I love you Debo! I love you for the fact that you are one of the few people who can think broad enough to assume a North Eastern Indian as close to you as I would assume a Malayali to me.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

An Ode About Onam...

It is Thiruvonam today; an auspicious day for any Malayali, no matter what his/her religion is. A time to rejoice despite any distress you may have. A time to bond with family whichever corner of the world you may be in, otherwise. And here I am, sitting in the department computer lab, seething in emotional pain, to put it in the least dramatic way as possible!

I have not even taken bath; forget having had a sadya with payasam. On the day when a vegan feast with diverse delicacies should have graced my palate for lunch, I gobbled up a KFC Zinger burger with vengeance. Either a sadya, or nothing close to it at all, I thought. This year, I angrily put aside my own rule of ten day vegetarianism during the Atham-Thiruvonam period.

I still remember my first Onam away from home. It was in 2006, soon after I joined Google. Having joined just in May, August came too soon and with all the training that was happening, it seemed rational not to take leaves. I did not give much thought to it as it seemed natural to miss a festival or two. I was officially 'out of home' and 'on my own,' right?

WRONG! The day dawned and I started off with a marathon on the telephone all smiles and ended up weeping like a lost child. I wished most of my realtives in the process and vouched to each of them that it was terrible to be doing so over telephone. Having heard stories of an Onasadya that had happened in the previous year at Google office, I expected the lunch of the day to wipe off my copious tears. To my utter dismay, the caterers had changed and the new guys did not know about the festival! I ate rice and porial and tried to satiate myself in vain. I still cannot manage to put together the pieces of a broken me of that day. I hadn't realised until then that I was so emotionally dependent on my family and promised myself that another Onam shall not pass by this way, without them being beside me.

I kept that promise and dutifully went home in the two subsequent years. First, while I was still with Google, and the second, after I joined UoH. I hate bunking classes normally; but Onam was a good enough reason to do so for a week. But this year, since a plan was on to celebrate Achan's shashtipoorthi in the last week of September, I had to make a compromise. Missing two weeks of classes in the same month could cause some trouble while registering for the end semester examinations. Thus, at the altar of educational insurgency, I sacrificed my need to be home.

I was thinking a while ago that it is just another day in Hyderabad. It is a regular working day, with not much buzz about Onam apart from the mad rush at Kairali restaurant situated at about 2km distance. Still, the day is so different for me. In the heart of heart, I keep reminded that everyone is celebrating back home and making merry. It is scary to think whether they are missing me or not. What if they are not? What if I am not that indispensable?

Worse still, unlike in 2006, I cannot even make a promise to myself that I would be home next year for Onam. I just don't know what I'd be doing next year, around this time!

It is funny how Onam is no more just a festival for me. With an assorted collection of memories that include tidbits of sleepless shoots during my Kairali TV days and impromptu trips with cousins and elders to touristy locations associated with it, Onam has become a habitual indulgence for me. One that makes me sulk, if I don't abide to it. Sad that I did not indulge this time; but only to reinvent my ties with my roots..

Happy Onam to all of you!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Birthday Recollections..

I was making a quick flashback journey through the past year, now that I am a year older; only to realise with joy that it had been phenomenal for me! Some highlights:

I quit the cushy job at Google after much deliberation. While some dear ones (read my parents) were happy that I finally did it, some others (mostly friends) made a verdict that I am insane. Who else will leave a job with Google for God's sake, right? Well, stories I am hearing these days say that lots of people actually do. I was one of the early ones to take the tough decision before the management did it! I miss the pancakes at breakfast and the almost-free massages at Tangerine Spa; but it is okay.

I joined a public university for my Masters. People uh-uh ed and advised me against it. Most of them wondered why I did not consider greener pastures like the USA and the UK when I could have. However, I stayed unperturbed and stuck to my plans. I was always sure that my country's infrastructure and facilities are enough for me to succeed in life. If I choose to make use of it, it will definitely come to my use. Believe me, it is happening. I shall now treasure that derogatory expression on the face an HR guy from Google (also my friend) to cheer me up a tad bit more when I graduate with flying colours next year. :)

I made the right decision while choosing between the two Central Universities in Hyderabad. The rank list at English and Foreign Languages University which had my name beaming on the top and the one at University of Hyderabad which had me as Number 2 on the waiting list for the stream of my choice, suggested the obvious. Being the attention seeker that I am, I wanted to study in the institution where I would be the apple of the eye from the beginning. Thankfully, I did not succumb to that dumb thought. I asked innumerable people what the right decision would be; sometimes to the level of annoying some patient friends. I took admission at EFLU since that happened first and I was not sure if UoH would graduate me from the waiting list to the confirmed list. Finally, while waiting for the admission week at UoH, I decided to bid good bye to my ego and arrive at a sensible conclusion. Confirmation of the stream I wanted (Print & New Media) = UoH. Allocation of what UoH thinks I fit into (Advertising & PR) = EFLU. As always, God showed me the right path and gave me the right opportunity - to study in the country's second best university, in the stream I wanted.

I figured in the top scorer list in both the semesters. In the first semester if I came second, God was gracious enough to promote me to the first position in the second semester. I always knew that pursuing one's passion in the form of education works wonders. Joining the rat race and crumbling later is so easy. But figuring out what you want from life and struggling a little to get it is so rewarding.

I got a cool new bunch of friends. All the girls are younger than me and most of the boys are older than me. I just meant that it is a group with a lot of age diversity contrary to my scary thought before joining that I would be the granny in the class because of the two year sabbatical I took from studies. So what if I am the eldest girl in the class? I also have the maturity that comes along with age and most of the younger ones respect me for that. Quite an ego boost for a Leo, you see!

I became an RJ doing shows in Hindi at Hyderabad! Who would have thought that all the K serials I watched meticulously in Kerala would prove beneficial one day? The intelligentsia of this nation may slam Ekta Kapoor for dishing out mindless soaps (Dr. Vinod Pavarala says though that there is nothing called mindless television; everyone finds some meaning in everything). But I am eternally grateful to her for replenishing my dry Hindi resources from a Kerala state syllabus school with free flowing saral Hindi through Kutumb, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and what not! Even if it was pyaar-zindagi-rishta-vishwas-bandhan ki baatein, I learnt the language there, and I flaunt it today to earn some pocket money. Thanks to Akkachi too for inculcating the interest for Rashtrabhasha in me through a culture of serial and film watching at home.

I became an avid blogger. Having joined a course in Print and New Media, I figured that I better do it rather than feel sorry later. My blog has now become a baby of mine who I had delivered prematurely and left unattended. I rediscovered the joy of this particular motherhood, also because of the lovely child Naags has raised.

I spoke to Achan direct dil se about something very special. I have a history of hysteric ways of expression of love for Amma; with Achan, I have always been subtle. But when it came to talking about something very very important, I thought Achan would lend a keener ear. Amma, of course, joined the discussion soon.

For all these and much more, God, I raise a toast to you.

PS: I also got a fantastic haircut done. I was so impressed with the salon and the lady who did it, I indulged in a hair spa experience as well. Lots of 'wellwishers' told me that I look a lot younger with the open, layered hair. In turn, I also take better care of it.