Letters to Sia: Year Three. Her Words.

Now that I have started speaking in full sentences (my parents and I disagree on the frequency of non-vocal intervals in between), Daddy decided to write this letter in my voice. Most likely because by this time next year I shall have a full vocabulary, and would be able to deny his exaggerated claims outright. So here’s his version of my train of thought (ooh, trains!).

There may be a right hand, but there is no wrong hand. Get over it.

If you ask me to use my words, and then deny my well-worded request for a toy/snack/pick up/outing, you have thereby lost the privilege of communicating with me in words for the next 20 minutes. (It clearly says so in my being-a-toddler manual). Now prepare your brains to translate my high-frequency wailing!

I want my mommy.

What do you mean I cannot wear the pretty princess dress repeatedly every day? I do not understand the logic behind this draconian rule you just made up.

When I say there is a monster in the house, you bet your butt there is a monster in the house. Do not refute my claim until you have personally checked every square inch of my room with a flashlight, microphone, night-vision goggles, infrared camera, electromagnetic field dissonance measuring device, and a Geiger counter.

I want my mommy.

Goldfish crackers is a meal, not a snack. Stop making up silly rules to hinder my joy.

Daddy’s beard hurts. I sometimes wonder if he has enough money to shave more often.

I only asked to go to the park. You’re the idiots who decided to settle down in a wintry region. You know what, forget the park. Let’s go to California!

My grandparents live inside an iPad. One time after a frustratingly long plane ride, they popped out and turned into real people. Boy, that freaked the poop out of me!

I want my mommy.

Whenever my parents look like they are about to doze off while waiting for me to doze off, I say “I need to go to the potty!” It’s pretty hilarious to see how quickly they snap out of it.

This is a very strange world. It’s unbelievable how many women out there are not my mommy.

I like blue and my mommy, so nobody else is allowed to like blue or my mommy.

Grownups are weird. They like phones, rather than playing with toys that can actually dance or play music. You need to make a call first, people! Simply staring at the phone won’t do anything fun! Jeez, how silly.

I feel like I should say ‘I want my mommy’, because it’s been a while since the last time I said ‘I want my mommy’.

My parents, grandparents, uncles and aunties sometimes buy me presents with the most fun boxes ever!

I get to play all day long at school, and yet I sometimes don’t feel like waking up and getting ready. But Mommy and Daddy are always in a hurry to get to their office. I don’t know what that place is, but I really look forward to going there when I grow up!

Sometimes when I wake up after a nap, it’s morning. And sometimes it’s evening. You guys have no idea how confusing my world is.

Mommy and Daddy are really scared of the clock. I have no idea why. At least my fears are reasonable, like the possibility that somebody will break in and eat all the cheese in the fridge when we are not at home.

Enough about me. Is my Mommy here yet?

Advertisements

Bheeshma

My grandfather once warned my dad that he would shoot him if he married my mom. When they eventually eloped and called home, he simply said “Congratulations on the wedding”. To me, this defined the man for many years. He had a notoriously short temper, and a scary one at that. Yet he also had a distinguished way of showing love and kindness when the situation called for it.

He was the grand patriarch of the family – the oldest of his generation, and a deeply respected man among those who knew him, and people who hadn’t even met him. He personified dedication to a cause one believed in. He spent his entire retired life in philanthropy, and religious and community service. At 79, he frequently rode long miles on his trusty old scooter to deliver groceries to a food shelter that he helped start and run. He cured jaundice in scores of people with a strict diet of cow’s milk and an herbal pill he concocted himself at home. None of us ever recall him being sick or exhausted. He had his shortcomings, but they were all redeeming in one way or another. He watched the TV too loud, but only because he couldn’t hear too well. He swore as a younger man, but never raised his voice on children. He proudly wore the badge of his priestly caste, but he accompanied it with sparkling advice from an exotic personal collection of idioms.

He shouldered the responsibilities for raising his brother and sisters, and supporting his step-mother, distant relatives and every unrelated person who came to him for help. His wife died 25 years earlier, and yet he always had a new fond anecdote to narrate about her. He raised his two sons with tough love, and they grew up to be tough men who showered their own sons with love. He went to great lengths to keep his daughter well-nurtured and cared for, and she transformed into an astonishingly resilient and kind-hearted person. He touched the life of every person he met, and always gave them support or saintly advice. Either way, he left an indelible impression. In my case, he left many lasting memories.

I remember while I grew up in his house, he would beep his motorcycle horn every evening as he turned into the street. I would abandon my toys and run to the porch steps to lay down a long wooden plank for him to wheel his bike up the stairs into the house. I remember he used to sit in front of the TV, wearing a dhoti and an undershirt, legs crossed at the ankles, one arm propped up at the elbow, and wearing a faint smile. I would watch him, an involuntary smile forming on my own face while I did. I remember the entire house reeking of ungodly smells from his druid-quality jaundice pills. I remember he took literally hundreds of photographs of us as a hobby – every single one of them a timeless treasure. I remember my brother once asked him what the greatest form of charity was, and he launched into an hour-long discourse on the virtues of feeding the hungry. I remember he remarked that my father and I had inherited his distinguished nose – ‘the trademark of the clan’, he called it.

I remember he took me a couple of times to a psychic, who I believe hypnotized me into seeing images of Lord Hanuman in an ink stain on my thumbnail. I remember he used to scare me when I was a little boy, that a frog was going inside my legs and it would ‘hatch’ out of my chubby thigh someday soon. I also remember his headphones – the very first pair I ever saw in my life, and I remember the first song I heard on them. I remember he used to take my grandmother and me to watch some unforgettable, classic movies. I remember he used to make all the four boys sit in a circle around him on the floor at dinner time. He would put gigantic balls of rice in our palms and we would hastily gobble them up before he came back around the circle to deliver the next one. I remember he would always answer the phone with a respectful tone, “Satyanarayana speaking…”

I remember the growing distance between us, as I moved away physically and emotionally from my extended family, drawn away by the circumstances of higher education, career and simply the pursuits of youth and life. Yet the few times I said “Hello, grandpa” on the phone, he answered back “Hi, grandpa!” every single time. I remember watching all my other grandparents die one after the other a long time ago, and being constantly reminded of this man’s mortality. In a way, I remember these words forming in my mind for several years now, like a morbid draft of his obituary. I remember hoping he would get to meet his great-granddaughter, as if to scratch that item off of my self-serving to-do list. It remains un-scratched forever.

The first time he fell ill in many years was merely a few months ago. His physical build and his endearing appetite were the first victims of the deadly disease. In the 17 days after his diagnosis, he slowly lost his strength, smile, the booming voice, and eventually his will to endure. But he never lost his mind. Even on the day before the end, he worried about the responsibilities my father and uncle would have to shoulder after he was gone. He politely endured the well-meaning, but increasingly depressing visits from all his relatives, near and distant – all falling over each other to get one last look at him. He became irritable and frustrated with all the pain he had to bear, but he never showed it to anyone who didn’t unconditionally love him.

The Mahabharata tells the story of the grand patriarch Bheeshma – he laid on a bed of arrows for days until the end of the Great Battle of Kurukshetra. He then literally willed Deliverance upon himself, surrounded by his kin. My grandfather endured everything that the cancer could throw at him while his family prayed for his relief, and eventually went to sleep in the loving arms of his three children.

Language fails us at the most unfortunate times, especially when it is desperately summoned. The job of a eulogist is to condense an entire human being and his life – all the memories, quirks, characteristics and events – into a single page. These pitiful lines do no justice to the man who was my father’s father. He was truly grand in several ways, at least to me. I have no pretenses about our relationship. I was not his favorite grandson, and neither was he my favorite grandparent. But I was his first, and he was my last. And that meant a lot to the both of us.

Moms

 

We live through so many years without fully understanding how well they protect us and how hard they work for us.

Some of us do realize it, after having to lead our own lives, run our own households and do every little thing by ourselves.

The turning point: "That's it. The next time I visit, I'll do everything in the house. I'll see to it that she doesn't even have to lift a finger"

Maybe next time.

And then IIMs will teach ‘Batch’ vs ‘Class’

Hi Friends,

We are the Group A9 for BS-II project which needs to be submitted this friday, 16th. Hence I propose that we meet once tonight at 12 AM in OH Lan Room. Reply soon so that we can change the time and venue which satisfies everyone’s interest.

~ V,

1st Year PGDM

IIM X

Eh? Did I just open Gmail and enter a time-warp? Cant be. First of all, there was no guy called V in my group (name masked obviously, because anonymity is fun!). Second of all, I was in group B1 and not A9. Third of all, I never set foot in IIM-X (Again, the letter ‘X’ is a disguise, of course). And most importantly, I don’t remember being part of any BS project (pun or otherwise).

Before I can make sense of how I ended up in this mailing list, a fellow A9 member chimes in:

good idea V!! lets meet today for a short while and get started atleast!!

hope to see you guys!!

~ C

Little piece of advice: stay away from C. Guys like V may be personified butt-pains, but C is actually the breed I nicknamed ‘the cheerleader’: lends his voice the most and contributes the least. And he’s not even the worst.

Well I am perfectly fine with time .. and yes good that you brought it up soon V ..

Thanks and Regards,

A1

PGP(PGDM) Class of 2009-11

IIM X

Ok, first of all what on earth is “CLASS of 2009-11”? Now A1 here is doing what we call DCP. Every IIM’s grading system includes a Class Participation (CP) component, which is awarded based on constructive, original contribution to discussions in the classroom. Now add ‘D’ for ‘Desperate’ and go figure.

And now comes my favorite part in the email thread:

Sorry guys. Not today. Can we do it tmrw plz. I wl be out of campus and will have to come back esp for this. Also B and C unwell after tmrw’s bash.

Please consider

A2

PGDM, Batch of 2011

IIM X

The thing I like best about A2 is that he’s brutally honest about the reason for not being able to work. A rare kind, as anyone will tell you. By the way, notice the prediction of misfortune that is about to befall B and C after the next day’s bash. And there is a self-prophecy too: he already sees himself among the BATCH OF 2011, while the rest of his A9 team will be saying ‘bye-bye’ to IIM-X that year. Yeah, keep coming up with those excuses, dude! Let’s see you make a career out of them.

At this point I couldn’t continue ‘eavesdropping’ on these conversations for fear of A2’s psychic powers. So I gleefully typed this out and hit Send: (you can tell I have a lot of time to spare)

Guys,

Good to see a lot of academic initiative going around.

Much as I’d love to contribute to the BS project, I regret the fact that I’m no longer at IIM.

(Yes, I jump at the slightest opportunity to brag. Blame the IIMs. Meanwhile the email continues below)

So all I can do is wish A9 the very best in this endeavor and ask to be excluded from the mailing list henceforth.

It pains me to read about exciting projects that I cannot hope to be a part of. Hope you all understand.

Regards,

theishu”

The next email (not part of this chain) taught me to include a smiley the next time I indulge in my evil, corny sense of humor via a textual medium (You heard that right. I said “next time”. There is going to be one, I assure you)

Hi theishu

I hope you remember me. We were in the same group of ManCom case study. Could you please tell me where are you now? Are you working or studying somewhere else? If possible, could you also let me know your reasons for leaving IIM-X? I am asking all this because I am also considering leaving IIMX due to financial constraints. Hope you would understand.

Regards

A3

For once, I did understand. A3’s email moved me, in spite of my stone-cold conscience. To think a zillion folks give it their everything to bell the CAT year after year, only to face a financial dead-end some times… And especially when banks fall over each other to fund the education of every person who gets that coveted admission letter. Life sucks indeed.

That poor A3 dude must be in some serious shit. I wish I could help but that’s all I can do at this point in time. You see, I really need all the peanuts I earn right now. Big dreams ahead. Anyway I shot off an email to A3 explaining he had the wrong email address and wished him luck on the money matters.

A week later…

Hi theishu,

Attached the spreadsheet for your part of the assignment

~ N

Words truly fail me. So “AAAAAARRRRGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!

And then you imagined a tree of babies

Childhood is all about getting mixed signals from parents. Before I get into what I really wanted to say, here are a few things I recently heard at a birthday bash for kids:

“No! No playing with the dog. Get on the water slide NOW!”

“I don’t care what everyone else is doing. You may NOT take your ice-cream outside! Sit here at the table, finish it and THEN you can go out to play”

“Stop crying. Look at all those girls staring at you”

“Stop sulking there in the corner. I’m warning you, we’re LEAVING if I don’t see you having fun in the next 2 minutes!!”

“Ok, that’s enough crying for now. Do you want all those boys to make fun of you?”

(My favorite) “No excuses. Everybody is on the waterslide and you must get on it too. Did you come to the party just to sit there and eat cake?”

Now, I am not at all against the parents who said these things. Hell, I’ll probably say them myself some day. But what I found funny was that the kids’ limited brains interpreted really confusing stuff from all these parents’ instructions:

– Dogs may SEEM like they’re fun. But a waterslide is much better. Trust me, I know (even though I’ve never had a dog or been anywhere near a waterslide all my life)

– Even though all the others are eating outdoors and doing just fine, you my child, have a special disability which calls for a flat surface on which to firmly balance your ice cream cone while you eat it

– You are not allowed to be a boy and cry at the same time

– You are expected to jump for joy and squeal in delight at a moment’s notice, even though you may have just been yelled at in front of your friends and a bunch of strangers. Suck it up, ‘coz life’s a bitch

– You are not allowed to cry in the presence of boys. It’s the most embarrassing thing that can happen to a girl.

– A birthday cake is NOT the greatest of God’s creations (NOOOOOOOO!!!!!)

Like I said, childhood is filled with mixed signals. (I know, this turned out to be a long one already, but now I get to the part that I actually wanted to talk about. So keep your head on, because it’s about to get interesting.)

Did your parents ever switch the TV channel whenever a kissing scene came up in an English movie? (I told you it was going to be interesting, didn’t I?) And did they also personally take you to see Indian movies in the cinema halls, where people in the front rows whistled and howled whenever the heroine’s belly-button appeared in EVERY SINGLE song?

Life was incredibly confusing, wasn’t it? And those know-it-all grown-ups think they are the only ones leading complicated lives.

The lesson the kids learn today is this: it’s not ok for them to watch Hannah Montana and her boyfriend kiss on the Disney channel. But it’s alright for them to go with their parents to watch the latest Bollywood (or Tollywood or Kollywood, etc.) flick filled with item numbers, rain songs, lip-locks and increasingly profane lyrics.

One would think the very common ‘A’ certificate in today’s desi movies would deter the parents, but to most of them it seems to say merely this: “Ok, maybe there are just one or two violent fights, an occasional cussword perhaps, maybe a rape and a couple of innuendos. But your kid is probably going to pick them up at school anyway from his friend, whose parents were ‘nice’ enough to take him to watch this film. So you might as well join the ‘good parents’ brigade and have the satisfaction of exposing your offspring to these elements yourself”

And so we have parents toting their tiny tots along to watch ‘Magadheera’, ‘Kaminey’, etc. And then these same parents are at home and begin to switch the channel or hit the fast-forward just when the two characters on the TV begin to stare knowingly into each other’s unblinking eyes. Something tells me the kid must be thinking, “I’m not stupid and I know what happens next. But I’m going to be a good kid and give you the illusion of control, you big, fat loser”

————————————————————————–

The weirdest thing of all is that India has no sex education, while China has got internet censorship (and neither policy is working according to plan). You don’t need a great deal of imagination to figure out why I named these two countries here.

Babies don’t exactly grow on trees, do they?

And then I wasn’t half-naked at all

If you are reading this, then I am going to risk the assumption that you have been to school at some point in your life. Wasn’t that a gorgeous time? A thousand kids, all in uniform, standing in the morning sun and listening to old people’s accusations (all of whom had bad childhoods and collectively aspired to grow up someday and psych the crap out of other kids). We are conditioned from a very young age to be prepared for the real, cruel world outside when we grow up. Golden days indeed!

Did you have a strict dress code at your school? I bet you did. And there must have been occasional checks too to make sure your clothes were pressed, your hair was tidy and your shoes were polished to shine. Ah… the shoes! The average kid comes in without his/her shoes atleast once in the school years. (If you are not average, then may God help you). You should hear the stories these poor idiots used to come up with.

My mother was sick, so she couldn’t wash my uniform, ma’am

My parents said I shouldn’t go for a haircut as it was not an auspicious day

The dog ate my shoe, Sir

For a while I was under the impression that the world was perfect and nobody lied except to save someone’s life, which was what all those mega-melodramatic southie movies taught me all my life. (Also the reason I always wondered why my parents didn’t have a photo of their courtship days with my mom in a yellow field and my dad wearing aviator goggles and red pants).

Anyway coming back to the subject of our discussion here, I used to think all these ‘defaulter’ students had much more exciting lives than I did. “Your home was robbed and the thieves took your school shoes too? That’s so awesome, Suresh! I wish someone would break into MY home and steal my books. Good riddance, eh?” I couldn’t understand why my teachers wouldn’t believe Suresh. Burglaries were pretty commonplace after all; one out of three movies has a theft scene. And why did they let Anita go with just a warning and no punishment? She happened to FORGET her shoes in a hurry? Give me a break! My teachers were clearly a bunch of bozos. And always biased towards the girls too!

The twisted ways of fate and barbed wire led to an injury on my foot one day. Yeah, yeah… you’re getting smart now. You can already predict that I’m going to say I didn’t wear my shoes to school the next day. What a genius you are! Well Genius, it’s up to you whether or not to believe my excuse. The important thing is… on one bright, lovely morning I found myself standing among those weeded out from the rest of the assembled crowd on the school grounds. The Legen…(wait for it) -dary Defaulters.

It’s frightening to be facing the entire school, waiting to be judged and condemned, with a thousand faces staring at you, sneering and smirking silently. At the same time, it was one of the most thrilling moments ever! I was so excited I could barely stop grinning (to this day I don’t know why). And then I discovered the secret joys. (no, no, NO you dirty dog… Focus! Focus!) I was in a new world, standing in front of the entire school… AND BEHIND THE TEACHERS, YAY! We could smile, grin, wink, dance and no one could nail us. Those poor twats who wore shoes that day had to endure the tortute of having to stay still.

So one never-ending morning assembly and one equally boring admonishing-session later, I found myself shuffling my slippered feet back to my classroom. Things just did not feel right that day. I was completely off my groove; everything was suddenly different and weird. For example, I was too close to the floor. And true to their name, those stupid slippers kept sliding off my feet on the sports ground. Did I mention the word ‘conditioning’ earlier? Yeah, so I was Pavlov’s dog when it came to the school uniform. Not wearing my shoes made me suddenly feel a few pounds lighter (and not in a good way). And my usually well-protected feet were now completely exposed to the elements.

Then came that strange feeling. That worst nightmare any of us ever had (I know you all agree with me on this). And it returned every few minutes for the rest of that unforgettable day. Every single time, I stopped dead in my tracks and looked around at the rest of my class. No, they weren’t pointing and laughing at me. “Good. No one noticed yet”, I thought. Trying not to draw any attention to myself, I slowly – very slowly – started to look down. Sweet relief! I thanked all the 3 crore Gods in the Hindu mythology. “It’s the SHOES that are missing. So I didn’t forget my pants after all!”

That was one very long day.

And then I chased my tail

First watch that TV commercial and then you’ll begin to see what I mean. Chances are you’ve watched this Colgate Gel ad a few hundred times when you still used the phrase, “When I become a grown-up…”

Ever notice that blue streak of light wrapped around that guy? I understand NOW that it’s supposed to convey the freshness that lingers around him after using that toothpaste (whatever). ‘NOW’ is the operative word here.

When it comes to kids, ads are the biggest liars in the world. It’s like leading a blind guy into a heap of mud or cow-dung or whatever and then laughing everytime he falls for it. And he does that EVERYTIME! I know, I know, this ad here wasn’t made for kids. But I live atleast on the fringes of the demographic that this campaign was targeted at.

I’m not sure if you were equally misled, but I can never forget the hundreds of mornings of failure, betrayal and disappointment when I put the toothpaste in my mouth and looked around myself like a dog chasing its tail. EVERY MORNING. Not once did I see a shimmering blue streak of light around me.

Today I thank my Mom for not letting me give up on using toothpaste altogether.