Saturday, November 25, 2006

Bewdon zara bar sambhaalo...

...apun bas gaya aur aaya.




Thursday, November 23, 2006

Mentally unstaple

"Children's book publishing has two seasons - peak season... and super-peak season."

Thus spake a colleague and made history by being the most quoted guy in my company.


As the super-peak season draws near, lunch hours gradually disappear. People seem to work through lunch, and eat only if interrupted by a caring colleage's reminder. I'm lucky to have a few caring colleagues who pop by my cubicle with a "Lunch?" at 12.30 pm.

Yesterday, Belly Dancer dropped by with the magic word, and pulled me out of my stress-ridden daze. And suddenly I realised how very hungry I was. Still kinda dazed, I hurriedly grabbed the usual three things I take with me when I go for lunch - wallet, umbrella and mobile phone. We were waiting for Bananapen when I suddenly realised that something wasn't right. My mobile phone felt different in my hand. Gosh, had I picked up someone else's mobile phone?

So I looked down at the object in my hands.

Nope, it wasn't someone else's mobile phone.

It wasn't my mobile phone either.

It was a stapler. :|

I was gonna go for lunch with a stapler in my hands. :|

Gives a whole new meaning to the term 'staple food', doesn't it? :|


In unrelated news, the innocent citizens of Singapore were struck by panic due to reports of the jailbreak by the dangerous criminal Psychotic Stapler (or Stapling Psycho as the media 'fondly' refers to her), who has been spotted roaming the streets of Singapore, armed with a fully loaded stapler. It is to be noted that she is highly trained in using the weapon. Considering that she's been kinda pissed off with anything and everything in the last few days, any attempts to say things that could further annoy her may lead her to use the weapon. It is in the interest of the public to keep their mouths shut when in her company.

This message was issued in public interest by the Stapling Psycho.



Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I want...

I want to finish reading this chapter.
I want to be done with the exams.
I want to submit my dissertation to the university.
I want to graduate.
I want to hold my post-grad degree scroll.
I want to be a Master of Mass Communication.
I want to be done with studying for life.
I want to stop being so hard on myself.
I want to do away with discipline for a while.
I want to stop running.
I want to stop running out of inspiration.
I want to stop feeling tired, so tired.
I want to stop telling myself I'm not tired.
I want to run on food, water and rest, not adrenalin.
I want to wake up at noon on a saturday and not feel guilty.
I want to exercise.
I want to swim.
I want to ice-skate.
I want to sleep.
I want to go dancing.
I want to cook fancy dishes for my friends.
I want to walk home from office.
I want to go to the beach and blow soap bubbles.
I want to roller-blade and cycle at the beach.
I want to organise my photo-albums.
I want to spend a weekend doing nothing at all.
I want to have time to buy more clothes and shoes.
I want to rent movies and watch them sprawled on the mattress on the floor in my living room.
I want to go to Jade theatre and watch all the crappy Hindi movies.
I want to go to Chinatown and look at the random interesting things.
I want to subscribe to Hindi TV channels and watch meaningless soaps.
I want to spend time with my parents and my sis and baby Aish.
I want to see my three crazy cousins who live in the UK.
I want to catch up with my school friends.
I want to resume my Chinese lessons.
I want to learn Tamil and Malay too.
I want to email Dad regularly.
I want to invite people over and hold parties.
I want to volunteer.
I want to learn music.
I want to catch up with my blog buddies' blogs.
I want to update my blogroll.
I want to while away my time.
I want to write a few more books for kids.
I want to stop working for a while.
I want to go on a holiday.
I want to be able to take a day off when I am not feeling well.
I want to take leave.
I want more people in my team.
I want to clear my cubicle of random stuff accumulated over the last four years.
I want to stop travelling all the way to university after work.
I want to go home after work.
I want to go home. Home home. India home.
I want to take a break.

No actually, I want to quit.

So I can fall in love with my job all over again.




Saturday, November 18, 2006

Cross-examination

"There are only 2 questions and they are worth 100 marks. There is a lot to write. Use your time well, and focus when you sit for the exam." The prof had warned about the exam.

So Sayesha was all focused as she entered the exam hall. She had no distractions. All she wanted to have in her head was stuff about the exam.

Only about the exam.


So Sayesha turns over the question paper, reads the two questions and start writing the first answer.

And then suddenly out of nowhere, random thoughts start fleeting in and out of her head. The harder she tries to shrug them off, the more persistently the cross-connections dart through.

So between spasms of furious writing, this is what was happening in that head.


Jab kabhiiiiiiiiiii..........

Sheesh, stop singing in your head, Sayesha! You're in the middle of an exam.

Yeh Aarti ki bachi... exam ke pehle achhe achhe gaane kaiku bhejti hai... jab kabhiiiiii........

Sheesh, you were the one who listened to it 30 times on loop at work all morning, and now you blame Aarti?

Hmmm... woh bhi sahi baat hai...

Lekin KK is God, nahin?


Gosh that girl's jacket is such a bright yellow. I should look at her if I get sleepy.

Waise Shaan bhi koi kam nahin hai...

I like this pen... I should buy one in red for office work...

I had two missed calls from my editor 5 minutes before the exam... didn't have time to call back... hope there was no crisis...

Hey, Louis' mineral water bottle is the same brand as mine!

Since I got the bottle in, I should drink some now.

Don't drink too much. You may want to pee!

Hope I don't have to pee. I hate having to get up in the middle of an exam to go pee.


Damn it's freezing in here... how could I forget my jacket in the office? Thank goodness I asked my friend to get an extra one...

My feet are cold... I should have worn covered shoes...

My sis said she liked these shoes of mine... I think she was hinting man... I should have just given them to her...


After the exams, I will buy a few pairs of shoes for her...

... and for myself too. Gotta reward myself for finishing the exams, yeah?

Actually do I really have to wait till after the exams? The next paper is open-book anyway...

And I'll catch up with all the new movies too... maybe the new Bond movie...

But the new Bond looks like a lizard! :/

I think you're just afraid that you'll end up liking him.

That's just weird... what's wrong in liking a lizard-like Bond? Not like Pierce is my bachpan ka dost who would start sulking...

Hmmm... can't believe I am in the MLT again... seven years ago I was standing there in the middle of the stage and performing 'Ishq bina'... what glorious days...

Arre wah, prof is wearing a colourful shirt today... classes mein toh bahut dull clothes pehente hain... exam mein so rangeela?

Hey, he's walking towards the mike... what's he gonna say?

"You have 15 minutes remaining."

:O



Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Embedded systems

"Come on! It's 9.30 am! Your exams are in half an hour, we're getting late!"

"Coming, Dad!"

Panicking, I picked up my bag and ran. Dad had already started the scooter, which was also making impatient noises. I quickly hopped on and soon we were on our way. We were halfway when I suddenly realised something shocking. "Dad, stop stop stop. We have to go back. I left my pencil case at home!"

So back we went, and soon I was home. I ran up the stairs huffing and puffing, and rummaged around on my desk for the pencil case. Ah, there it was. I picked it up.

And suddenly, I blacked out. Nothingness.

I only regained consciousness when I felt the sunlight streaming onto my face through the window in my room. I opened my eyes and looked at the clock at my desk. It said 7.30 am. I looked at the date. It was the 15th. 7.30 am on the 15th?

I looked at the wall clock. 7.30 am. But wasn't yesterday the 15th? Yesterday, before I blacked out, it was 9.30 on the 15th, wasn't it? Technically, I should have missed my exam. But the clock was telling me I hadn't.

In a fit of panic, I went to look for my parents.
"Dad... Mom... what happened to me???? Why didn't you wake me up???? Did I miss the exam????"

"Huh? What exam?"

"The exam I had yesterday?"

"Beta, your exam is today."

"Today?? But what about yesterday? Remember... we had to come back? Because I had forgotten my pencil case? And then I blacked out?"

"Huh?"

"Remember? I asked you turn the scooter around and we came home... and then..."

"Scooter?"

And then it struck me.

Dad doesn't ride a scooter, he drives.

"Umm...."

"Yeah?" He looked puzzled.

"Oh. Hmmm... So... It was... a dream?"

"I'd think so." He laughed.

"So it's the 15th today? It's 7.30 am? I have not missed my exam?"

"No you haven't. Okay but make sure you're ready on time today. And don't forget to take your pencil case along."

I was so relieved. It was just a dream. I had not blacked out. I had not missed my exam. I breathed a sigh of relief. My parents were smiling at me.

In a strange sort of way.

Wait a minute...

Err... I don't live with my parents. They are in India.

What the hell was happening?

And then I woke up with a start. I looked at my phone. It was 15th November 2006. 6.30 in the morning.

This morning.

WOW.

A dream in a dream?

Double WOW.

Or was it a dream in a dream in a dream?

I guess I will find out when I wake up.





Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I'm not kidding

So there I was, sitting at lunch and telling my colleagues about this hot new television show called Desire: Table for three which for the last few days has been causing quite a disruption in my studies, when out of nowhere, without our knowledge, we realised that the topic had switched from the two hot brothers in the show to parenting. Much as I try to link back, I am unable to figure out how it happened, but it happened. So we started talking about how difficult parenting is, and how annoying unruly kids are, and how sometimes you just wanna slap the spoilt brats, irrespective of whom they belong to.

My colleague told me about how annoying her little cousins had become compared to the days when "at least they were cute". So true. Often, we see the best side of other's kids and don't really see the pain of parenting that people have to go through. Beyond the cuteness, lies the sinister reality that strikes the parents first, and eventually others too. We started discussing about how we would bring up our kids, and whether 'Spare the rod and spoil the child' is actually a myth. Well, I guess it depends on many factors such as the genes, the upbringing and the company the kid keeps which determines how disciplined or unruly he/she is. Sometimes the kids are already well-behaved and do not need constant discipline. I think I did pretty okay when I was little. Sometimes I wonder how my parents coped with my sister and me. We were never caned but I do remember being whacked only once by Dad, when in a fit of fury, I tore up his favourite 'Illustrated weekly of India', a news magazine popular in the days when I was a kid. It was a brand new issue and he hadn't even read it. I still remember the sting of the slap. The good thing is - I realised it pretty soon that I deserved it. That one slap was enough to teach me that my unjustified fury was wrong and would get me nothing.

I guess I belong to the school of thought that advocates the use of the cane. Not the 'cane' literally (though I remember getting caned in school by my class teacher in a mass caning of the entire class session!) but that of discipline - punishment for wrongdoings. I don't believe that it is enough for one of the parents to be strict (it could leave the kid confused or make him favour one over the other). I believe that both parents must be equal in their strictness and consistent in their dealings over bad behaviour.

Very young kids learn in stages. In the early stages, they differentiate right from wrong by observing the behaviour of their parents. To them, something that "makes Mummy or Daddy angry" is wrong. They do not understand the morality of right or wrong behaviour, nor do they understand what is reasonable and what is not.
Gandhiri is perhaps not entire suitable considering their cognitive abilities at that age. As they grow up, it makes sense to sit down with them for more mature discussions, and explain to them why exactly Daddy and Mummy get angry at certain behaviours. They can process reason better at that age.

I truly feel that kids need to know that there are lines, which if they cross, can lead to serious consequences. At that age, sometimes it's not easy to deal with them in a mature way, and perhaps talking it over is not enough. Perhaps a slap is the best way to make them understand what they should and should not do, and let them grow up and find out why they got slapped. It's kinda like pocket money. I spent a large part of my childhood wondering why I did not get pocket money like my friends did, even though Mom and Dad bought me everything that I asked for and deserved. No amount of "But why can't I have the money and buy the things myself?" arguments were accepted. So I had to accept their "No" albeit grudgingly at first. But now I know and I understand and I think they were right.

Frankly speaking, I'd never been really 'pally' with my parents. I never really considered them my 'friends' when I grew up. My interaction with them was based on respect, love, trust and to a certain extent, fear too. But I have no regrets. Today, even though I'm 26 and do not agree on everything with my parents, I do know that they know what's best for me. They trust me just as I trust them. Years ago, when I'd told Mom and Dad "I'll pick the guy I want to marry. But if you have any objection at all, I will not even ask you why. I will follow your wishes." I really meant it. And perhaps that is why they trust me. I think it took a lot of courage and trust on their part to send me off to a foreign country for ten years, and I can never forget that.

In modern times, where it is 'cool' to be of the same mental age as your kids, sometimes I feel that kids cross the line and behave too mature for their age because of the liberties given to them by the parents. The worst is when they forget to respect their parents because of these very liberties. I've seen kids talk back rudely at their parents and even use words like 'stupid' and 'shut up!' It shocks me because I remember getting a real bad scolding for being rude to my nanny.

Maybe it works differently for different people. Some kids are just naturally well-behaved while others are not. It's true that some kids respond better to conversation, and can be talked into being disciplined, but what if they can't be? Haven't we all seen kids who seem to be out of control - even of their own parents?

"I think I will whack my kid(s) if they don't behave." I declared to my colleagues.

That's when we realised that it was 1.35 pm and lunchtime was over. As we laughed over how four people who have no kids had been talking about parenting for over twenty minutes, and dispersed, I suddenly realised something else.

What a day to be talking about whacking kids, Sayesha! :/

Nehru chacha, maaf karna... but I still think I'll whack my kid(s). I'm just hoping that I won't have to.



Sunday, November 12, 2006

Ab tera kya hoga, Ramu?

Beta Ramu, tujhe yaad hai? Sholay mein kitne aadmi they?

Kisko laayega? Kahan se laayega?

Abhi bhi waqt hai. Abhi bhi kuchh nahin bigda.

Bin the production.

Really.




Friday, November 10, 2006

The help-less helpline

Ah, now I've got it all figured out.

A few weeks ago, on a tip-off from my blog buddy Rohit, The Times of India featured my interview on their 'Education Times' page. In the beginning, I bobbed up and down in my newfound 'Sala main toh sahab ban gaya' glory, but then I noticed something sinister happening on my Orkut account. Strange people (who are a different breed from strangers I must say) had started leaving me scraps and sending me messages with random queries. These people were also a different breed from the hot sexy guys wanting to do frand ships I'd blogged about some time ago. Those 'frand ship' messages had stopped appearing once I changed my Orkut profile message to read "I'm not on Orkut to "make new friends". I'm here to get in touch with old ones. Pls add me only if we know each other." (I know it doesn't sound cool and even borders on rudeness, but I got the message across. The 'frand ship' messages stopped.)

So when there was a sudden spike of messages and scraps from these strange people on Orkut, I started wondering what could have happened. And now I know! I'd mentioned in the interview that it's good to obtain information before joining an overseas university.

So now, suddenly I had become that source of information. :|


Now don't get me wrong. I'm all for helping people, including random strangers. To me, the concept of 'Pay it forward' is right up there amongst the highest of the high, along with Lage Raho Munnabhai's Gandhigiri concept. It's something we desperately need to keep us sane, to keep us human, in a world that seems to be repeatedly teaching us the same lesson - "stranger = danger".

So I try to do my part. I try to help people who ask me for advice about Singapore - universities, courses, places to see, house rents, taxes, living expenses, etc. I don't really mind it. I guess a faceless stranger asking you for information over the net is probably safer than a dubious-looking one standing at your door asking for a glass of water. Getting the info they need only takes a little bit of my time, and I feel good to be able to help. I feel privileged to be in a position where I can actually help someone. Information should be shared and all that blah. Sometimes I go out of the way to do research that would help someone. I have asked around about house rentals in random places in Singapore, procedures to apply for visit passes, and what not. I do what I can, in whatever way I can, sometimes to the extent of errr... making them suspicious. And thankfully, most of the time, I don't expect anything in return.

And that's exactly where my dilemma begins. Most of the time, people ask for help nicely. But sometimes they don't. Sometimes they're rude. Sometimes they assert a right over you. Sometimes they 'demand' things. And some of the requests for help are just plain damn exasperating.

Most of the messages and scraps I get tend to be about engineering courses in Singapore. Now I do not work as an engineer, even though I have a degree in engineering. So I really don't know what the market for engineers is like out there. But of course, I suppose these people don't know that I switched to publishing, so it's still okay. What is not okay is the kind of things they ask me, and the way some of them phrase their emails, and the way they demand answers as if I'm their local helpline. Now these are not people who're from my blog, and who know me reasonably well. If they were, I'd be more than willing to help, just as I'd be more than willing to ask them for help.

But these are random people I don't know. Random people with their random queries.


"Hi Sayesha I want to do master's in digital signal processing in NTU. Please give me the details about the course."

What the...! If I knew the details about the master's course in digital signal processing in NTU, I...err... wouldn't be able to live with myself. :|

"Hi is the engineering course in NTU good?"

"Hi Sayesha I am Rajesh from Raigarh. I got 92% in boards. I got into IIT and also NTU. What should I pick?"

"Will I get a job immediately after I graduate?"

"Hi I need more info on engineering courses in Singapore. Can I add you as a friend?"
*Notification - Random person X has added you as a friend.*

"HI....This is Muthu doing my final yr ECE in Hyderabad...Planning to apply for MSc Embedded Systems r Computer Control & Automation at NTU for August'07......can u plz gimme some info abt the conditions,standards n future prospects after doing MSc out ther so that I cld start my application process.....Thanx in advance...."

Some dudes even send me part of their resumes as if I'm in the selection panel.

"My profile: GRE 1020(730+290)(AWA -3) Toefl-243(4.5) 1)B.E upto 3-2 : 77%(ECE) 2)Inter/12th : 96.8% 3)10th/ssc : 90% 4) Presented 5 National level technical papers including ones at IIT,Mumbai n BITS pilani..(won 2 prizes- one at jntu,hyderabad and other at bits,pilani). 5)Participated in Robotics workshops conducted at IIT chennai n IIIT,hyderabad. 6) I've got merit certificate of participation in Regional Maths Olympiad(Andhra Pradesh) in 1999(class IX). 7)My partner n I were placed in 5th position in HINDU young world quiz in regional finals held in hyderabad in 2002."

Then there are those who have freshly landed in Singapore and need help. The annoying part is them thinking that they can immediately become your friend just because they landed in Singapore and emailed you.

"Hi I am new in Singapore. I need a friend to show me around. Can I befriend you?"
*Notification - Random person X has added you as a friend.*

"Hey I work in software came to Singapore three months back currently living in Bukit Batok. Which part of Singapore you live in?"
*Notification - Random person X has added you as a friend.*

Then there was this guy who wrote me a very polite email through Orkut, asking me for information about Singapore as he had just landed here on his job assignment. It was a very sincere email asking for help, and I'd have gladly gone out of the way to get all his questions answered, if not for that one small thing that ruined every one of his sincere words. The subject line. It read (and I copy word for word; sic) - YOU LOKK LIKE A ANGEL.

Needless to say, I instantly deleted that mail.

The worst thing is - when I ignore these emails, messages and scraps or delete them, I actually feel guilty. I feel like I'm acting pricey. One of my friends said, "Arre delete maar, tuney theka leke rakha hai kya saari duniya ko Singapore ke baare mein bataane ka?" ("Just delete them. It's not your responsibility to answer everyone's questions about Singapore.") She was right. It's not my responsibility. But why do I feel guilty?

A friend of mine recently said that he wanted to donate Rs 1 lakh to charity. The strangest thing is - he's not even that rich. But I got thinking. Deep inside every one of us, there's a person who desires to do good. To be selfless, to help people. Some donate their money to charity, some donate their time volunteering (at least I do, cos I work in kids' publishing, and money's not something I have a lot of). It's reassuring to know that we still think about helping others, even if it's because we're scared of burning in hell otherwise.

But I guess we have to draw the line somewhere. In our desire to "be a good person", we must not overlook our own dignity. We must judge for ourselves. We must understand that it is not possible for us to help everyone.

And most importantly, we must stop feeling guilty.

I don't have to feel guilty about these emails and scraps I delete without replying to.

I don't I don't I don't.

If I tell myself this sufficient number of times, I'll begin to believe it myself.

I'm not a bad person just because I can't help everyone who asks me for help.

I'm not I'm not I'm not.

I may 'LOKK LIKE A ANGEL', but I've gotta show my devilish side at times. :|



Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Please take note

There are little things that happen to us every day. Things that I refer to as "Pata hai kya hua?" ("Guess what happened?") events. Things that I come back and tell the flatmate.

"Pata hai kya hua? One of my Maths author wrote a question featuring a watermelon that apparently weighs 14 grams."

"Pata hai kya hua? One of my editors sent an email to an image library with the words 'I love your picture of the underside of Natasha. We would like to feature it in our magazine. It will be for educational puposes only.' without mentioning explicitly that Natasha is a spider. I almost fell off my chair laughing imagining the expression of the guy who read it. He must have thought Playboy sent him an email!"

"Pata hai kya hua? XYZ has tendered her resignation! I really like her, she's one of my lunch buddies!"

"Pata hai kya hua? Dad sent me a forward! Sheesh! A forward!"

"Pata hai kya hua? The new issue of the magazine came out and my copy went missing even before it reached me!"

"Pata hai kya hua? The editor I hired last month is leaving for the US to pursue a business degree."

"Pata hai kya hua? I discovered a paper-thin dead lizard in the old reference books cupboard in the office!"

"Pata hai kya hua? I accidentally drank hot milo using a straw and lost a layer from the roof of my mouth."

"Pata hai kya hua? They gave me a raise and a promotion!"

"Pata hai kya hua? The crazy author who's been calling me every day for the last two weeks called AGAIN!"

"Pata hai kya hua? An author referred to me in an email as 'the sweet, young and pleasant emcee at the Book Launch'."

"Pata hai kya hua? This morning the bus driver loudly abused a cab driver in mandarin for a full five minutes!"

In other words, every single day has a "Pata hai aaj kya hua?" event.

So it was really strange that it was 6:25 pm, I had gone through a full day of work, and was now at university for my class and no "Pata hai kya hua?" event had occurred. It was really odd because something or the other is bound to happen.

So as I sat there waiting for the class to start, looking at the people and the things. Half my classmates were already in, the rest were probably on the way, rushing from work. My project mate Patricia and I were sitting there wondering where our other project mate Cindy was. She was supposed to bring the printout of the report that we'd been slogging on for weeks, to submit to the professor. Some of my classmates were gobbling down their dinner in the class. Some were looking through their powerpoint slides, preparing for their presentation later. Some were discussing clothes and movies. Some were wondering if the professor would give out exam tips. Others were planning on how to escape from the class during the break.

Soon it was 6.30 pm and the class started. Patricia scurried over to one of the chairs at the back as usual, while like any good nerdy girl, I seated myself in my usual place, the first row, right under the professor's nose. Suddenly, in the middle of the class, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around, muttering under my breath, and this guy sitting behind me passed me a note.

A NOTE??!!!

I could not believe my eyes. I am freakin' 26. 26-year-olds don't get notes in the classroom. 16-year-olds too. At least that's how old I was when I last got a note. A note to make fun of what the teacher was wearing. A note to point out the guy dozing on the last bench. A note to request the class nerd (okay fine, that would be be!) not to remind the teacher about the homework that was due. A note to tell you that someone in the class liked you. Yeah, those were the days. Of random notes being passed around in the class.


But there it was, right in the middle of a Master's class, a note folded in half, with my name scribbled on top. I gave the guy who'd passed the note to me a questioning glance, and he gestured to say that the girl behind him had passed it to him. I looked at her and she motioned towards another girl, who pointed at another guy. Soon I lost track of the origin of the note but I did realise that it had travelled quite a bit before reaching me.

Who the hell had sent me a note?? And why?? There aren't even any cute guys in my class. But like it mattered. Who cared about who it was? The important thing was - someone in my class had passed me a note. Awww... I was 16 all over again! Awwww!! :D

So I deftly dropped the note into my lap, and making sure that the professor was not looking at me, excitedly opened it, thinking of what a great "Pata hai kya hua?" event it was to tell the flatmate.

I do not have words to describe the expression I had on my face when I read what I read.

This is what the note said:

"Sayesha,
Cindy has already passed the report to the professor.
If you wanna take a look, ask for it back for a minute just before the break.
Patricia."

Sheesh. So much for my 'note'.

Not exactly the "Pata hai kya hua?" event I had in mind, but I guess this would do. :|




Monday, November 06, 2006

Totally uncool

Hi, I'm Sayesha and I live on the equator. And today, I have something to say. Something un-cool.

"No Zee/Sony/Star TV subscription for you till the exams are over!" Ian had ordered.

"Okay." I said meekly.

Luckily, Ian does not know that SCV has a cool feature called 'Mosaic' where you can see every possible channel in the form of tiny windows. So as I sit and work on my assignments/dissertation/exam prep, I just put one of the hindi channels on the mosaic - whichever is playing the top ten chartbusters - and pretend that it's hindi radio. Kaam ka kaam, music ka music! Thenga to Ian!

So it was one of those days when I was doing my homework to Kay Kay's 'Kya mujhe pyaar hai' when I stumbled upon a commercial break.

"Vardhman knitting yarn." said the smooth voice.

Vardhman knitting yarn? Vardhman knitting yarn?

OMG VARDHMAN KNITTING YARN!


Realisation hit me like a snowball in the face - it's freakin' winter in India!!!!!!!!!

They say ang mohs (that's "Caucasians" in Singapore lingo) get a 'hardship allowance' when they come to work in Singapore.

Bloody hell. I need a hardship allowance too. Cos I have been facing the hardship of living in the same climate all year round for the last 8 years! That's hardship for me right there!

Eight years ago, when I got notification of the scholarship, Dad asked me "Do you want to go live in Singapore for ten years?" So I decided to take a closer look at the island. I took out the plastic inflatable globe that he'd got me for one of my birthdays, blew it up and looked for Singapore.

Ah, there it was, so tiny that even the letter 'S' wouldn't fit inside the little dot that it was on the globe.

"It's on the equator, Dad." I said.

"Yeah."

"No, it's right ON the equator."

"Yeah."

"So the climate is equatorial."

"Yeah."

It's hot the whole year round."

"Yeah."

"There's no winter."

"Yeah."

Sheesh.

So in July 1998, on a hot humid day, I landed on the land of no winter. The next day was a hot humid day. The day after was a hot humid day. The day after... you get the draft... the hot, humid draft if I may add.

Dad's transfers all over India had given me the good fortune to experience all kinds of winter - the bone-chilling winters in Patna to 'cold' winters in Jamshedpur to the 'pleasant' winters in Hyderabad.

I remember the winters of Patna most vividly. When I was a little girl, Mom told me one morning, "Beta, you can't bathe before going to school today."


"Yipppeeee!" I muttered under my breath and then asked with a serious disappointed face, "Really? Why not?"

"The water's frozen in the pipes. There's no water if you turn on the taps."

I couldn't be happier. Bathing early in the morning in winter (in spite of the water heater) was torturous. But Moms are Moms. She soon found a way out. She'd store water in the buckets overnight and then heat it up the next morning over the gas for me to bathe.

Dammit.


Then there was the crazy knitting. As soon as the monsoons got over, Mom would start knitting. Knitting between cooking sessions, knitting while watching TV, knitting when on the phone, knitting when talking to the neighbour, basically knitting all the time. Sometimes I'd help her wrap the yarns of wool into balls. At other times, she'd even let me knit a little. I'd proudly wear the sweaters she made to school. And then they introduced blazers as winter uniform. I loved it, yes. It looked very smart, yes. But somehow, the blazers lacked something that the sweaters Mom knitted used to have. They were not warm. Literally and otherwise.

Winter was also the time the dosa-wala used to do his rounds in our neighbourhood. He'd hit a large metal spoon against his hot griddle and we'd shout "Aa gaya aa gaya, dosa wala aa gaya!" and flock around him.

And then of course, there was the fire.

There was a lady in our neighbourhood who I'm pretty certain had a name but whom everyone used to refer to as 'Lalli ki mummy' ("Lalli's mother"). In the evening, Lalli ki mummy would set up a huge bonfire and my friends and I would huddle around it and sing "We didn't start the fire." Ooops, wrong song. I meant we'd sing hindi songs in 'test-match antakshari competitions' that would last for days. Sometimes it would get very very very late in the night, like really late, like 8 'o clock (hey, I was six! 8 o' clock was very very very late!) and my Mom would march forth on a one-woman 'Lalli ki mummy, meri beti mujhe lauta do' morcha ("Lalli ki mummy, return my daughter to me"). She'd peel me from the bonfire and I'd shout back to my friends, "Teri baari, la se!" for us to continue the game the next day.

We used to eagerly wait for the winter ads. The ads in India are anyways pretty phenomenal (on sunday evenings, my sister used to watch TV in the ten-min slot just before the movies when they showed the ads, and she'd go to do her homework when the movie started.) but winter ads were always more special. They were soft-focus ads with pretty women in pastel-coloured winter clothes and perfect skin and hair whom I wanted to grow up to be like. The Monte Carlo was one such ad, and so were Nivea moisturising lotion and Ponds cold cream and what not. And of course, Vardhman knitting yarn, the ad that I was watching on that tiny mosaic window.

Perhaps at that moment, somewhere in a house in Calcutta, Mom was knitting a sweater for Dad. Perhaps Dad was retrieving the big suitcase with all the winter clothes from the high shelves in the storeroom. Perhaps they were shopping for winter toiletries. And I'm sure they were thinking of me.

It's strange that I can't remember things from last week, and yet events from twenty years ago are crystal clear in my mind. I guess that's the power of human memory - the best years of our lives are beautifully preserved in the album of time and we can look at them again and again whenever we want.

As I sat there listening to the Vardhman knitting yarn ad on the mosaic, I felt something. On that hot summer day, with my air-conditioner trying hard to make me believe it was winter, I felt the monsoon. In my eyes.

Hi, I'm Sayesha and I live on the equator.

And today, I feel rather cold.




Saturday, November 04, 2006

Ab billi door nahin

This post is for all you guys & gals who're taking the CAT this month.

I have not met any of you, but I do know from our conversations and your blog posts how much it matters to you.

All the very very very best to you.


Bole toh, phod daalo! :D




Thursday, November 02, 2006

The blast and the furious

Dear full-time student,

What is your problem? If I am flipping through my notes before class, why must you panic? And what was it that you asked me today? Have I started studying for exams? No, my dear, no. The answer is no. In fact, it is NO.

I know the exams are in less than two weeks. But I don't have any leave left to stay home and study. My company does not give study leave for self-sponsored part-time masters courses. I'm already grateful they let me off early on the days I have classes. So no, I haven't started studying. You know why? Because I can't. I work full-time and my work keeps me very busy all day. Only I know how I have been managing my dissertation, my term projects, my presentations, my group meetings and classes alongside work. But you know what? I am fine with it. I am fine with the challenge of juggling work with studies. I've managed two semesters on adrenalin, I can manage one more. Have you heard me complain?

So yes, exams are in two weeks and I haven't started studying. And by the looks of it, I'm not going to be able to start anytime soon. So yes, I'm in deep shit. That should be my problem, isn't it? Why is it yours? And if you have to give me that disbelieving look when I say "No, I haven't started studying yet." why do you ask the question in the first place? Why are you panicking just because I'm not? Why do I make you nervous?

And what do you mean by "Sayesha, why do you always need to sit in the first row and be so attentive?" I need to because I want to. I am a part-time student, and unlike you, I do not have time to go back and look at the lecture notes. I'm revising simultaneously as the class is going on. And that is why I need to sit in the first row and be very attentive. And I do not care if you or anyone else thinks that I am a nerd. Discipline is my thing, and if it bothers you, I'm sorry I can't help you there.

I don't know whether you're trying to make yourself feel better by getting me to admit that I am in more of a soup than you are, or whether you're trying to get yourself motivated by checking on what I am doing. Whatever it is, do remind yourself that part-timers are different from full-timers. You cannot compare the two. I work full-time and study part-time. You study full-time. You do the math.

I'm not doing this course to beat you and everybody else in the grades list. I used to do that in school, not anymore. I'm not doing the course to compete with kids like you. I'm doing the course to get myself a post-grad degree. So if you want to compare and compete, do so with the full-timers. Don't come and ask me silly questions about whether I have started studying for exams. Because I will tell you the truth, and apparently you can't stomach the truth.


So stop behaving like a paranoid first year undergrad and concentrate on your own studying. You don't need to worry about me, I will manage. Just don't make me angry. Really. Don't. I mean it. I don't have time for your games. Find kids your own age to play with, will ya?

Now get out of my way so I can travel across to the other side of the country to get home and crash.

Cos I have to wake up at 6.30 am tomorrow to go to work, you see.