September 29, 2008


"School" ,she called it.
Mum said I'd love that place, and I was equally sure that I would hate it.

She fed me and dressed me with so much care that morning.
Packed my tiffin in a brand new shining red tiffin box with Micky Mouse and Donald Duck dancing on its top.

I was given a new pencil box, too...this one had Barbie stickers all over it. It contained a long green pencil with a tiny rubber at the end, a long violet one, a cute scented pink eraser, a little green sharpener and a 15 cm long ruler. Mum carefully sharpened both pencils so that it would help me write the most beautiful "A for APPLE" ever written by any kindergartner.
I still wasn't sure of what all the fuss was about. Mum combed my hair into neat piggy tails held together by little white hairbands...and made me wear a "uniform", whatever that meant. I found it embarrassingly funny with a bib in the front and a bow to go with it, but Mum kept calling it "cute". Of course, Mums will find you cute when the whole world doesn't.
Also I got white socks and new black shiny Ballerina shoes, that Mum polished and polished till I could see the reflection of myself when I bent over them.
She handed me over my new pink school bag, after stuffing into it my red tiffin box, blue pencil box, two neatly covered notebooks, a book on mathematics, another on English and a School Diary.
Dad called out to hurry up, while Mum was putting finishing touches to making me look hilarious...pinning a folded handkerchief on to the bib and putting a water bottle around my neck.
All set, we got into the car and headed for my first day at "school".
I had a funny feeling driving away from home, it was kinda eerie...reminded me of the time I was being taken to the dentist. Mom patted my head every now and then, and such affection scared me even more.
Where was I being taken to??!!

After a drive that lasted ages, we got off in front of a huge building with gigantic gates. A big board bearing the name of the school was right ahead of us.
"In a few days, you'll be able to read what's written on it", Dad smiled.
As we walked into a corridor, a bespectacled lady greeted us cheerfully. She ushered me away from Mum and Dad. I felt chills go up and down my spine as they waved byes to me anxiously and promised to pick me a few hours later. Mum stood there until she could no longer see me.
I was terribly frightened by then and was planning to turn back and run for my life before I was thrown into some dead, dark dungeons with slimy demons teaching me how to read the alphabet.
Contrary to what I had imagined, the corridor ended in a bright classroom, and there were no demons in it, but scores of other timid kids...looking as hilarious as me in new uniforms and powdered faces and colorful handkerchiefs pinned on to the bibs.
They stared at me and I stared back, as the lady showed me my bench and told me to settle down.
The teacher introduced herself and asked each of us our names. I fumbled thrice with mine, and the kids laughed. Damn....
She told us to open our notebook and take out pencils, while she hung before us a chart with huge pictures and strange symbols.
" ....A...and an...APPLE"..
After a while we were all busy scribbling those weird symbols in our notebooks, in horribly distorted handwriting. The period ended and another teacher walked in with a chart containing another set of crazy-looking symbols.
, she called them.

She taught us how to count, and at the end of the day I realised that I had five fingers on each hand.
I scribbled numbers in another notebook and the tip of my pencil broke thrice while i tried to write the digit '8'.

A bell rang and announced recess. Most kids had nibbled through half their tiffins already by then. Each of us chewed through our food awkwardly, and messed up the new uniforms, too.
Later we were taken to a playground, with swings and slides and see-saws and colorful cubical structures to climb through. We tumbled together, fell face down, ran around like a bunch of squirrels...had loads of fun! It wasn't awkward any more, I hardly knew the names of other kids, but they were friends now. There was the boy who fell of the see-saw, the girl who kept crying when she was pushed, the girl who threw her shoes into the fish-pond, the boy who could make goat-like sounds....
Before we realised, the day was over, and even before the bell rang anxious parents lined up outside the gates, to pick up the tiny tots.
I slipped on my bag and water bottle, and ran to where I saw Mum waiting for me. She was kinda shocked to see my piggy tails out of place and shoes all brown, uniform crumpled beyond recognition.
"What happened!?", she asked.
"Mum, can I come here again??", I said as I waved bye to my new found friends heading home.
"Yes,'ll be coming here everyday now.", she smiled as she ruffled my hair.
It was a really great day.

September 28, 2008

Gone in 10,800 Seconds...

I will not tell you how all this begins.
I have assumed you have been through this at some point in your life.

So let me get down straight to the dreadful details.

Examinations, if they were ever personified, I am sure would have been mercilessly shot dead on any street or building they were first seen at.

Fair enough, going by how menacing they can be.

The very day of an exam is remarkably different from any sleepless preparatory night before it. There is a strange calmness of mind one feels when he wakes up in the morning, from underneath a pile of books, pens, sheets of paper and new found notes.
No, not to be confused with peace or tranquility. It is merely the height of hopelessness, when one realizes that sitting down with books, or sniffing through chapter-end summaries is nothing but useless.

It is the final acceptance of the fact that "what could not be done in 5
months can't be done in 5 hours".

Me and my friends religiously follow this pattern each semester: putting
off preparations till the eleventh hour and fifty-ninth minute, and waking up on D-Day with fluctuating blood pressure and red eyes.

I'll bring together the four idiots again...(and this time give you ample proof that we are idiots):

(End-Semester Examination, Paper: Operating Systems, Time: 9 am to 12 pm)

7:05 a.m.:(Bus Stop)

I sleepwalk to the bus stop and bump into a few strangers before knocking down the right person. I find Jaz yawning @ 4 yawns/minute, and ask her the obvious question:
"Kuchh padhaa?"
She gives me a disgusted look, like what I just asked was the
stupidest,most illogical and the most embarrassing question on earth that one could have asked her. To put it more simply, she reacted as if I asked her something out of the actual question paper.

7:15 a.m.:(Inside the bus)

DJ shakes me out of sleep and almost out of my seat. She is perhaps the
only one of us who "REvises".
She asks me to explain something I have
never come across in my life.
I laugh, hysterically.

7:29 a.m.:(Inside the bus, again)

Annie shows me the syllabus, and I realize that my copy of the document
was the outdated one and whatever I had managed to study has been removed from the curriculum altogether. Jaz has to bear with my constant chant of "Damn it, Damn it!!" for the next forty-four minutes.

7:58 a.m.:(Still inside the bus)

"....And hence if relocation is static and done at assembly or load time, compaction isn't possible, unless relocation is dynamic and....." DJ elaborates on while I cut her speech short and ask her:
"What IS an
operating system?"
"An operating system is basically a system that uh...operates..umm...a
...system..", she clarifies.

8:26 a.m.:(In college, finally)
I chew on the edge of my notes and go "Damn it, Damn it.....".
Annie consoles me by saying that out-of-syllabus questions will fetch me grace marks, I shouldn't lose hope.

8:50 a.m.:(Bell!!)
I scatter pens and pencils in the hurry, drop my admit card, Annie picks them up and hands them over to my pale hands. We look at each other and find uniquely weird expressions on each face. We do only one thing that is left to do. "All the best...."

9:05 a.m.:(Exam Hall)
I spend 3 minutes staring at the question paper and the strange things
written in it,shift in my seat and look around, seeking faces that looked at least as bewildered and shocked as mine.
A few benches away, Jaz returns me a mirror reflection of my own
expression, and I heave a sigh of relief. Annie looks more confused than me, as if the typewritten letters were moving around in her copy of the question paper and she was waiting for them to settle down.
DJ meditates for 2 minutes and then bends over her answer sheet. She
lifts her pen and puts it down at 12:01 p.m., without looking up even once during this time.

10:00 a.m:(Exam Hall....and Bell!!)
The sudden ringing causes me to jump and drop my stationery again. I
get back to scribbling nonsense on my answer sheet.
After some amount
of analysis I notice that the questions were from exactly those sections of the syllabus that I conveniently left out, thinking they'd never appear in the set of questions (Murphy's Law #39).

11:10 a.m:(Exam Hall....Grrr...)
"Chhikk, chhikkk...sshhh...Oye!!", I hear from someone behind me.

"1 ka 'e' aata hai??", the voice asks.
I turn back and beg for answers to 1 ka 'a','c','d','e','g','h', and 'j'.
The voice doesn't call again.

11:24 a.m.:(Exam Hall....Darn..)
I am practically at the end of my wits, morphing my cramped knowledge into unrecognizable theories and yet-to-be discovered mechanisms in the field of computer architecture.
The same sentence appears in a variety of
disguises on different pages of my answer sheet.
The diagrams are all box-oriented ....hence I stack them at my own sweet will all over the page.

11:32 a.m:(....Still...Exam Hall)
I count the number of pages filled with fantastic elaborations and huge
diagrammatic representations of Then sick of writing further, I wrap up my stuff and hand the answer sheet over to the invigilator. As I leave the room, I turn to find others staring at me in disbelief. I give them a foolish smile and walk out.

12:17 p.m.:(Buses leaving)
The rest of the gang walks up to me, thankfully with no question paper in
hand. We can read faces better than books, and clearly each of us messed up the paper in our own way.
We break into giggles as we see each other's faces.

"My Gawdd....Maine life mein kabbbheee itna nahin phenkaa!!", DJ whines.
"Abey kya tha woh???"
(I am referring to the question paper).

"10...12...15...yes....15 marks out of syllabus....PASS!!", Annie
"Aaj ka paper toh ekdum bakwass gaya....1 down, 5 more to go"

Then after giving accounts of our ordeal in the examination hall,
Jaz says
something that Annie said last semester, DJ said the semester before that, and I say each semester......

"Iss baar toh gayaa.....Agli baar pakka padh ke aayenge"

We burst into violent laughter as we walk off.

September 5, 2008

Not Blind..... But Retarded.....

"Love is in the air...", chirped Nishi, while strolling beside me in the park.
I pondered over her statement as she heaved a really deep sigh.
It seemed oddly pathetic that the smoke and dust particles in the city air were more conspicuously visible to me than the "love".
She flicked a few popcorns into that love-filled air and did a little jig which she usually does when she is very, very happy.
And she was particularly happy these days...
For reasons obvious from her statement.
She was in "LoVe". Precisely for the third time..........

My cousin Nishi is a confused little soul.
The more she thinks she has a clear idea about what love means, the more clouded her judgement becomes. She has been into the labyrinth twice, and has admitted losing her way, both times.
She hasn't committed yet, and I thank God that she has retained that minimum cerebral functionality to not jump into relationships.
Now it may seem very weird as to what her definition of love is.....
Well, it is as messed up as that of any average teenager's.
She grew up reading Grimm's' Fairy Tales. And she believes that "Knights in Shining Armors riding White Stallions" do exist. Just that these days the Knights have traded their armors for Levi's Jeans, Calvin Klein shirts and accessories from Ray Ban & Fastrack. And the low-mileage white stallions have been chucked, enter "kewl" 150 cc bikes.
She has always dreamt of bumping into her soul mate in some scenic location (the Alps are her favourite), and rehearsed the "love-at-first-sight" thing numerous times in her head. And then comes the "lived-happily-ever-after" nonsense.
I'll say that the Idiot Box can be the worst friend-philosopher-guide to any young mind.
Especially to a mind like Nishi's.
Thanks to the world it has opened up to her, she hopes for a partner who looks like Enrique Iglesias, dances like Hrithik Roshan, has an aura like that of Prince William,as funny as Woody Allen, is at least as suave as Brad Pitt...and the list goes on...undergoing regular changes.
And she herself aspires to have the eyes of Aishwarya Rai, the tresses of Catherine Zeta Jones, the figure belonging to Cameron Diaz and the charm of Kate Winslet (minus signs of ageing).
And as she tells me more about the new "love" of her life, I get to know that this one is apparently much better than the guys she had admired in the past.
The first one she liked had a remote resemblance to Enrique (purely according to her)....her high-frequency "Eeeps!!!" of delight still ring in my ears like they did when she first told me about him. After a couple of months, she refused to talk about him. Coaxing out the reason was easy enough...she found him too "unintelligent".
Then a year later, she couldn't stop talking about a classmate who was so smart with integral calculus that she didn't mind him being average-looking. That was the only phase in her life I guess when she actually took interest in current affairs and social issues, until the long discussions on studies bored her for good.
I couldn't help but smile at her innocent and confused thoughts about this thing called "love". I knew very well that she was far from even guessing how and when these things affect one's life and the very course of existence, right now happy in a virtual dollhouse where everything is supposed to be pink and perfect.
I don't intend to break her happily chugging train of thoughts until the time comes, when she'll grow up and herself realize what it means to be responsible for another person's happiness, how difficult it is to hold on to everything in life at the same time, and what a tough experience it is, to be the reason that holds together someone else's world, too. It'll be a long time before I inform her that there is a really thin line between practicality and uncontrollable emotions she'll walk one day....
Till that day.....I constantly watch over her....
My stupid little Nishi....
In what she thinks.....

The following lines will definitely make no sense to her......

You have to walk carefully in the beginning of love;
the running across fields into your lover's arms can only come later when you're sure they won't laugh if you trip.
~~~Jonathan Carroll, "Outside the Dog Museum"