Tuesday, January 30, 2007

General Peril

The world loves to generalise ! I guess, it stems from a deep rooted desire to be judgemental and pass a conclusive verdict. The 'Americans' poke fun at the 'British ' for being poker faced , the 'British ' in turn pass comments about the 'French' being frivolous and the 'Americans' being callous, and the 'Indians' pass comments about anything and everything! :D While all this is at a wider scale, much closer to home, I have myself experienced several cases of generalization. People are no longer individuals. Once a couple of guys/ gals do something, and , to their bad luck, if they are all from the same region/ race; the credit / discredit is given to their entire gender/ region/ race!! :)

Most prominent are the "North Indian - South Indian" kind of comments. Here, people speak of South Indians as though they are a different race or to put it better, as though they are a different species. You have Punjabis, Bengalis, Gujjus, Delhi-ites [lucky people - just being from a city gets them recognition! :D] and you have "South Indians" - all the 5 states merged into a single body!! Here south Indians are spoken of being conservative and unattractive -dull [As an aisde, Aishwarya, Shilpa Shetty, Rani Jeyraj, Nikhil Chinnappa are all 'South Indians' - how dull and boring, right!! :D] . Early last year, when I came here, I fought tremendous number of battles, crusading for an identity other than "South Indian" and have yelled at sevral of my friends for generalising. Now, I am much more patient with the idiots who dont know the difference between a Gult , a Tam and a Kannadiga! There's one case that I remember quite well. My firend's sister, who had the unfortunate privelege of having three conservative "south Indian" girls as her room mates for a couple of weeks, was pouring out her woes to me [being completely unaware that I was a South Indian] . She went on about all south -Indian girls "putting lots of oil in their hair, talking in their own language, cooking weird dishes and above all, all of them having lice in their hair!! " After she finished, she asked me where I was from, and I had the malicious pleasure of telling her that I was a South Indian! :D

Several people talk to me at length, and then, upon knowing I am from Bangalore, they are surprised and ask me " Are you South Indian?? You surely dont look to be one!!" I still havent figured out whether I should take it as a compliment or I should be upset that I dont have features of my ethnicity !! :D

Down in Bangalore, "Northies" as they are called, are a different race . [Though not to the extent that "South Indians" are here!]. "Northies and Biharis", as they are usually refered to, are supposed to be people of lax morals, people who come down south to study as they aren't bright enough to get a seat in their own regional colleges, and people who just chill out, have fun, and xerox these people's notes as the exams draw close! :D

Thankfully, I have never felt the temptation to indulge in the "Northie-Southie" generalisation, and prefer to take people as they are - at an individual level. But Gender based generalisation - that's an other issue!! I must confess, I have spent several hours talking at length with my friends about "Guys" as a species and analysing the species' behaviour ! :D Come on, yaar, the crux of "Men are from mars, Women are from Venus" lies in this kind of generalisation! :D But still, I try and refrain from making comments like " All you guys are the same, see a female and ... " , guess it's mainly because I really get pissed off when my guy friends say stuff like "Girls always want stuffed dolls, and chocolates and mushy music" and stuff like that!! That kind of a stereotypic image of a female has been created by the media! I , for one, have outgrown all kinds of stuffed dolls, and listen to as much rock as romantic music! More than that, I have guy friends who love choclates as much as I do and infact, have a bigger love song collection than mine!!

Infact, Nature herself opposes generalisation. Dear old Boyle studies gases and proposed his infamous law and was greatly applauded only to realise later that gases obey the law only under select conditions. The gases that obeyed the law were called Ideal and those that dint were Real! [AS an aside, it is interesting to think as to how many of us are 'Real' and how many are 'Ideal' ! :)] . Proteins were thought to fold so that hydrophobic regions went in and hydrophilic ones came out. It seemed very accurate till they discovered proteins - cytosolic ones- with exposed hydrophobic residues. Infact all proposed Laws have "exceptions"! I guess, whenever Man tries to generalise and make Laws , Nature rebels and shows him exceptions to his law! May be it's Her style of fighting Generalisation and proving that each of Her creations is unique!!

Winding up here and singing off, before some one generalises and says "All her posts are damn lengthy " :D Tchao !

Monday, January 29, 2007


Lots of things happening in life .. Firstly, net ban has been postponed to Feb 26th, to 'help students to get acclimatised to new working conditions'. It is just to reduce the outcry for the moment and also, for the lack of any other sensible solution, coupled with the stubborn refusal to listen to our problems, this was the only thing they could do! ' Help students to get acclimatised to new working conditions' - Crap!!

Had been to pune for a day, to attend my youngest cousin's first birthday :). An extremely adorable baby, he is ! Was just thinking how all young ones are alike. My kittens [Shaama and Simha] , Gunda and Bheema as pups, this kid.. babies are innocent, be it from any species! [Pls. dont offence to the fact that I am comparing a human baby to kittens and puppies!] And, the gestures are so similar ! Even temeperments - even in animals, there are cranky ones, sweet mannered ones, ones that eat without any fuss, mischievous ones and few that cause noise enough to bring the roof down! :) It's truly a rejuvenating experience to be with a baby for a while. One can't help but smile upon looking at a baby's cherub like countenance :)

Back to insti to attend techfest 2007! Not going to describe the tech fest here - it truly deserves a seperate post!
Spent the techfest with Manas bhai! Was really nice meeting him after a long time - guess, it is 8 months now! And, there weren't any inhibitions what-so-ever and we could chat with the same ease that we shared during the summer. I had a great time, showing him the campus and nearby hangouts like HN, and he was sufficiently impressed (or atleast, made a good enough job of pretence :P) and made appropriate 'Ohh' , 'Aah', 'Great, yaar' kind of comments , giving me the satisfaction of showing him around ! :D JNC , if not anything else, has given me great friends - Ram, Pearly, and, of late, Mayank, Manas; and ofcourse, mentor-pals like Sonali and Subhra . Weird how in a short span of two / four months, you make friends for life . Here I repeat the gyan I sometimes dish out to Rash and others - it isn't the duration of the interaction, but the extent / intensity that matters.

Talking of Ram, I missed him at this tech fest, as I had roamed the fest partly with him last year, including a disastrous attempt at the Sci-tech [disastrous due to my zero contri towards the quiz! :D] . Missed Rash a hell lot, too, esp. during the awesome Warwick speech - kept feeling "arey yaar, this is just what she wanted to do, she would have really enjoyed this!" :)

All in all, returning to classes today , albeit a bit reluctantly :). Have lots of things coming up this week. Now, firmly entangled in Swar Sandhya, and dont think I can squirm out. So, meetings, meetings, and more meetings, it is! Got a quiz in my stats audit course, for which I have to try and understand regression analysis. :( . And the ususal, class-lab-french class stuff. Got to finish the Udgaonkar thingy before midsems and have to look up GRE dates as well. Well, girly, it's back to the grindstone for ya, after an awesome weekend!! And, for all my readers out there [ha ha!! dont I love showing off! :D] , await the post on Tech fest.. that's going to be one awesome description of one awesome fest !!! :)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

I am an IIT-B-ian :D

Few things that tell me that I have become an IIT-ian :)

1. I dont have a pair of sandals to wear with Indian clothes. [The pair that I have are heeled and I refuse to wear them, 'coz they break my back ! ]. So, without any qualms I wear my all-purpose floaters with my salwaar-kammez and the knowledge that this is a fashion-suicide doesnt bother me the least :D

2. I have a single shade of lipstick, which goes on (my lips) on all 'ocassions' , for a normal insti day, its just lip-gel (vaseline), baby! All the facts about day shades, night shades, party wear, matt and gloss finish learnt and practisied painstakingly during degree days have been forgotten, and most likely, wont be ever learnt again!!

3. Jokes like "Zindagi ka MATLAB seekho" [courtesy :Rash] make me laugh ! :D

4. I wear jeans and tees most of the time, and on the rare days on which I wear a salwar -kameez, my friends ask "aaj koi festival hai kya?"

5. Half my tees are IITB ones - hostel, dept, tech fest etc :D

6. Brekfast is a meal of questionable existance. On weekdays it generally consists of a rolled up paratha or a sandwhich, gobbled in midst of dashing off to the dept. On weekends, it is that meal which is sacrificed for greater causes such as sleep! [though, the latter bit abt weekends is changing due to my new year resolution abt jogging!]

7. 'Dayaa', 'Daya max', 'Scope hi hota hai', 'fight ho rahi hai, yar', 'God prof hai ', 'stud banda hai', 'pain na maar', 'fundoo', 'RGgiri', 'nbd', 'chamkaax', 'chillax', 'publi', 'freshie', 'sophie', 'matka' etc are a significant part of my conversation :D

8. It is not unusual when someone says "mein aaj jaldi so gayi , 0030 tak so gayi".

9. It isnt unusual either to put in a night out and still turn up to class. cult committee meetings at 930 or 1030 at night are normal , as well.

10. Above all, I return from my LG's home, to the campus , and feel "I am back home" :D

I love this place !! :)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

La vie.. c'est pas mal!

Our esteemed Insti is giving us an unforgettable republic day gift - net ban from 11 PM to 12:30 PM !! a 13.5 hr closure of the net in hostels. It is being introduced as a reaction to the recent suicide case, where the guy who commited suicide was a gaming addict. The authorities feel that with the ban, gaming would go down drastically, and with no net in the hostel, students would turn up promptly to classes. But, this is typically a case of "Cut off your nose to spite the face". For curtailing the 10% of students who game, the rest of the 90% are also being subjected to this unreasonable policy.

Came to know about this on friday evening, and was extremely pissed off ! [Forgive the swearing, guys, but cant come up with a better word to describe my feelings!] The reduction of net would hit at various levels. Primarily, most of studies involves lots of googling. There are no defined textbooks, and the net is the most convinient way to get the latest data, presented in different manners, so that we can understand well. It is easy to say study before hand, but with the hectic days, most of the study is done on the day prior to quizzes and midsems. Assignments as well, require the net. For both doing and for submission. Then, I would lose touch with most friends with whom I could chat at nite. Calling up would be too expensive, and hence, would be just once in a while. Chat also served as easy means of communicating and co-ordinating with hostel mates and friends. Mailing each other articles and study material during exams was very common. The authorities feel that with a great liby and with net in the dept, we shouldnt be having any problem. For one, we cant keep running over to the dept for every single doubt. Also, the dept doesnt have enough infrastructure to support all the students during the exams.

Some 'wise' profs remark that they did study without the net and we should be able to do the same, that the net is a luxury and not a necessity. Might be true, in a way, that I, too, got through my degree without a 24hr net. But the syllabus, and the study pattern was widely different then. And, above all, any luxury, used long enough, becomes an essentiality. Our fore-fathers dint have mixers and used the grinding stone. But, tomorrow, if the mixer in our kitchen breaks down, it would be impossible to revert to the mortar-pestle system! So, is this. You dont give us net from the beginning, and set the study-assignment patern in a similar manner, we wouldnt be complaining. But this is like depriving us of our rights.

So, I was seething and fuming that day. That and a coupla other things had me so frustrated, that I went around telling everyone that the Insti sucks, and life in general, sucks big time!! Then, spoke to Rash and Poo for a while, cribbed with Sid baab [excuse me, Sid! :)] and then, spoke for a long time with Ram. Felt good . Then, Rash came over, and after a long time, we friends sat and watched FRIENDS. Felt much better... and felt, that inspite of senseless authorities, draconian laws and the coming tough days; when one is blessed with great friends, like I am; the troubles become much more bearable and indeed, it seems like la vie, c'est pas mal!

Dream come true!

As my friend Maya says, MM for Mumbai Marathon.... The Dream run... 17.5 K people, 7 km, 1hr.... I am out of words [!!] .. just got one word to say.. AWESOME!!!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

bacchhe man ke sachhe , akal ke kachhe !

I share a weird relation with kids [of all types]. I like them.. from a distance. I have nothing against them. I dont belong to the class of Ogres [or Ogresses] who goes behind them with a cudgel. But, guess the kids somehow never seem to take me for one of those people that they pull to join in their game, and, to be frank, this fact never bothers me! :) I am happy with this arrangement. Relatives come home, bringing thier kids and I can 'entertain' them [translates as "look after them, and take care to see that they dont set the house on fire or throw my cat down from the terrace] for a couple of hours. More than 2 hrs and "I am really sorry, but I have an assignment to submit for tomorrow" :D
Just today, I bumped into a kid on the way back from lab. The kid reminded me of one from my street [back home] who used to be one of the few I really liked. I smiled at this kid, thinking of my little buddy. Now, I am one of those people who is said to have "a smile that lights up the place.. like the sun coming in" :D So, for the sun to come in, the blinds have to be pulled up right? that's just the way my nose crinkles as my lips part ! :D So, lots of people pull my leg abt my 'crinkly' smile [cant think of a better way to put it] So, the Kid [the one I bumped into] looks at me and says "Yeh kyun aisa kar rahe ho?' As he was walking alongside me, I thought I would hunour him, and asked "Kya?" (crinkly smiling again) The kid said "yeh" and tried a imitate me [A poor imitation I must say .. coz , my style is unique! :D] I smiled again and asked "Kyun ? acchha nahin hai?" The Kid said "Nahin, dekho , aise acchhe se hasna hai.. dekho aise karo.." and made a gesture as though he were ironing out the wrinkles on his nose. I decided to humour him further and repeated the gesture. Then the Kid said " Ab haso" and I tried smiling.. keeping the top half of my face completely immobile, and moving my lips by half a milimetre. The Kid seemed pleased by this infinitesimal upward movement of my cheek muscles and said " haan, yeh theek hai" . His inspection of my smile was so funny, I couldn't stop myself from bursting into laughter and ended up with my same old Colgate smile [complete with the crinkled nose! ] This seemed to offend the Kid and the demon [which, by now, I am sure exists in all kids] within him suppressed the 'Godliness' [ which people say exists in kids and I hvae not been able to witness so far!] of his nature was pushed aside. He said "kya aise karte ho! Aap ko hasna hi nahin aata hai! " By now, another lady walking behind the two of us, looked at me and smiled. I smiled back, thinking, she was this Kid's mother. And when I mean Smile, I mean I smiled the way I have been smiling for the past 22 years of my life. The Kid [my 'smile' teacher] was terribly offended that I hadn't learnt how to smile inspite of him teaching me twice!! And he decided to let me have it! He turned to that lady and said "aap ko pata hai? Is didi ko hasna aata hi nahin hai! pata hai woh kaise hasti hai? yun!!" and the imitation came on again! Both of us [me and the other lady] laughed . The lady, then, walked past us. And I realised she was just a passer by ! Now the Kid-turned-Devil went on to show all the passer-by's on the road as to exactly how I laughed! He stopped two BTechs walking by, pointed at em and gave a demo. Then he told aloud.. "chalo , inko bhi batate hain!" and caught another guy and told him! By this time, I was regretting the moment , when, I, in my foolishness, fiirst smiled at this Devil! Then, As I started turning towards the SAC [where I was heading to] , I could still hear the Kid telling yet another guy, and the guy asking "kaun" and the last words I heard were the Kid clarifying "woh, white waali didi" And thankfully, I moved both out-of-sight and out-of-earshot!!

Now seriously considering if I should give the "upper-face-immobile-half-mm-movement-of-lips" smile a shot... but, well, you cant teach an old dog new tricks [holds good for a bitch as well! ] .. and, how to unlearn smiling? guess I ll continue with my crinkly nosed smile after all! :D

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Moral policing

Read a well-written article in The Times today, about The Moral Police. These people are self-appointed guardians of the so-called "Indian Culture" .http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/SUNDAY_SPECIALS/Review/

This got me thinking about what we actually mean by "culture". It is a popular practice to interchangeably use 'culture' and 'tradition' and I am not sure if the majority of people knows that there is a difference mong the two.

Culture is defined as "that which is excellent in the arts, manners, etc" or even as "the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group: the youth culture; the drug culture." while Tradition is "the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation; a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting" . [Courtesy : Dictionary.com :) ]

While it may be a bit far-fetched to say that Mallika Sherawat pulling off a co-dancer's pants during a stage show can come under the definition of "that which is excellent in the arts, manners, etc" :D, it is surely wrong to say girls dressed in skirts are against Indian Culture. Especially, if it suits her and she can carry it off well, then, surely, that person cant be called uncultured! In fact, a jeans and a tee-shirt are truly more comfortable and easier to wear and maintain than a saree and also, they expose much lesser than what a saree does! :D

Culture is , as defined, our way of life. It is something that is dynamic, not rigid, that which changes with time. Tradition is rigid, unyeilding. Then, what should be "Indian Culture"? Is it defined by the clothes we wear, or the styles of dance,; or is it better reflected by our way of thought?

People blindly follow the customs without even pausing to think about their origin. In the name of cultre, you can see Rajasthani women wearing the pallu over their heads , even in major cities like Mumbai and Bangalore.The practice of covering one's head is common when the climate is too hot and sunny. In the Thar desert, even men wear turbans. But while the turban conviniently disappeared with the migration to the city; in a true MCP style, the pallu stayed firm, as a symbol of obeisance; passed on from generation to generation, forcing even the Modern woman, to cover her head and face in front of elder male members of the family.

Another firmly rooted practice is the attire of the widow. While in the cities, women are now resisting this practice; in rural India it is still followed rigidly. In the olden days, [ancient, infact], widows weren't allowed to look pretty. They had to wear drab clothes. They did not wear any accessories , like bangles, bindis, flowers, etc. At times, they were even disfigured by chopping off their hair, or even shaving their heads. The reason given was that a married woman was 'protected' by her husband, but a widow was all alone, at the mercy of the other 'lecherous men' in the society, so, she was made to look ugly to avoid thier unwanted attention. May be it would have been right, during those days of loot and plunder by invaders, continual wars and lack of proper governance [Like, during the invasion by Mohd. Ghazni and Mohd. Ghori, or even during Aurangazeb's exploits], though I must say the very reason stated for such a practice speaks a lot about the 'man'kind - those that are unable to protect their women and also those who instigate brutalities upon women. But , isn't it an irony that it is continued till now? Apart from bearing with the loss of her husband, the lady is not even allowed any means of happiness. This issue was very well addressed in the movie Dor [if you havent watched it, you are really sad, man! ]

Indian culture to me is a manner of thinking, which is broad-minded, unprejudiced, which is open to adopting mannerisms and customs from the other parts of the world if they are sensible. The kind of clothes we wear or the kind of music we listen to is wholly a matter of choice. The present generation, world-wide, is more open to experimentation. We listen to rock, but we also appreciate Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. We wear jeans to college but we also know to drape a saree well. We like to try out styles from over the world and finally, choose what suits us the best. We are not narrow-minded or resrict ourselves to our traditional mannerisms. This is the culture as it has evolved today and it is high time the Nation woke up to it and embraced it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Some heavy thinking

My battle with the bulge dates back to the time when I wasn't even born! Amma recounts of instances, during her final stages of pregnancy, when people would caringly ask her if she was having twins. But, only I was born - ek ladki kitne ke baraabar hai .. Do !! :)

Genetics tells us that the phenotype or the external appearance is an effect of both the genotype and the environment. I guess, God gave me a raw deal by putting both genotype and the environment against me. I am from a family of well-built or rather "Healthy" people. Coupled to it the fact that I am from South India [= "Rice eaters"] eating konkani food [= lots of coconut]. Add to it , Amma, who, along with being an excellent cook, is one of those people who ought to be named Annapoorna.

As a kid, I have given my mother loads of woes, by sleeping beautifully through the day, and staying awake the entire night, not letting her sleep. But, whatever be such petty problems, I am sure, she never got a chance to voice the popular crib - "My baby refuses to eat" !! I have childood pics of mine, clutching a teddy bear, where it is a bit difficult to decide who looks more stuffed ! :D So, with loving care, I grew up to be this well-rounded personality.

By the time I entered my teens, I joined the bandwagon of people who were figure conscious. Sure I had a figure, just that it was round [cliche, but, what the heck!]. Several innocuos comments and few blunt ones by people would prick. Like, a teacher's very subtle remark "She's a big girl" to the usual "fatty" kind of teasing by classmates. So, then began a series of diets . The 'No-sugar-at-all' diet, 'No-rice' , 'No-fried-food' and what not. Then , like a boon from the heavens came the "Seven-day-diet" . It had the following pattern :

Day 1. Just fruits, no bananas allowed, eat lots of water-melon, if available.
Day 2 . Just vegetables. No fruits allowed. No tomatoes allowed.
Day 3. Fruits and vegetables, still, no bananas and no tomatoes.
Day 4. Bananas and milk. You were allowed just 8 bananas and 4 glasses of milk in the day. Eat water-melon if still hungry.
Day 5. Fruits and vegetables. Today you were allowed a cup of dal as well.
Day 6 and 7. Fruits, vegetables (tomatoes included) and a cup of rice.
On all the days, you have to drink atleast 8 large glasses of water. And, no mention of exercise, mind you!

A friend had tried it and lost 3.5 kilos in a week. It seemed too good to be true. I took it on. Day one was good. I liked water melon and it was refreshing to eat fruits and my system felt relaxingly free. Day 2 was tough, but I grit my teeth and got through with it. Following days were bearable, but still, sometimes , a tremendous urge to bite into a cookie or a chocolate would overpower me, but my will power [or rather , 'wont' power] was strong, and I got through with the diet. Yippee!! I, too , had lost 3.5 kilos!! The human is a greedy animal and so, I took on another week of dieting. By now, water-melon was not all that interesting, infact, by the end of the week, it's very smell made me want to run away. The challenge of sticking to the diet while the rest of the family feasted, made me grumpy and I was almost biting-off heads of people who dared to suggest that I give up the diet. By the end of the second week, which came painfully slowly, I had lost just 1.5 kilos, which was good, as I , or rather, my family, couldn't have survived a third week of the diet. With the end of the diet, came the binge ! Never before had idlis tasted so delicious, as they did after the diet! I was so much filled with joy, to be back in the world of normal people, people who ate substantially, enjoying what they ate; that I celebrated a bit too much and put on all that I had lost, and even a bit more!! And, sadly, to date, I have not been able to regain my lost love for the poor water-melon.

Then came the Aerobics classes. I must say, I enjoyed those. Peppy music, interesting exercises and a hunky instructor - how much better can it get! The only thing striking a discordant note was the timing- class was at 5:30 AM. Still, with tremendous perseverence I stuck to it for 3 months, sacrificing the beautiful early morn sleep for a greater cause. Then, came winter and together with it, came my term exams. A 'temporary' break taken then, soon morphed into a permanent estrangement.

When I joined hostel, I guess I was the only one who wasn't too upset to be away from home food. Must say the mess dished out at our mess has aided a lot in the loss-of-appetite. This along with the increased physical activity here [= lots of walking] did result in a slow but steady reduction in body mass. Greatly encouraged by the recently-become-baggy jeans , I went home, expecting to be greeted by "Kitli sapoori zallya! " [For the konkani illiterate junta, this translates as "how slim have you become!" ] But let alone any such exclamations, even after being asked point blank, Amma just fixed her eye on me for a few seconds and concluded - " Makka kayin kalna " [ = I cant figure out any change] !! Hah, woe betide me!

So, now, finally, I stopped trying to actively lose wieght. Eat healthy- dont starve, but dont binge- is the mantra. Now, I've taken to jogging as well, and if I survive the rate-limiting step of getting out of bed in the winter mornings, I really do enjoy it. And, to be true, it seems to work ! I guess the Lord up there is a bit of a prankster. When I struggled to lose, He made sure I didn't - and, finally , when I made peace with my body, and backed out of the battle, He , too, gave in and is letting me have what I wanted :) Well, anyway, who's complaining!!

Thursday, January 4, 2007

The only thing constant in life.............

My last semester of MSc began today. The word 'last' rings a knell. A part of me wants to cling on to this magical place, to all my friends here, the thought of losing them scares me. I grew up after I came here, I learnt a lot about people in general and about myself in particular. I found the best friends ever, experienced the joys (and the lows, too) of hostel life, learnt to handle loneliness, learnt not to get bored with just my company :), to push my limits to the maximum, to live life to the maximum possible extent, did wild things, learnt to handle relationships... This place has given me more joys than I could ever imagine. But, in four months, I would have to leave.
My friend says that "The only thing constant in life is change". My brain agrees with what he says, but, still, how many times does the heart listen to logic! Feeling a bit blue...........................