Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Then & Now: Zany moments of the past adding to the sanity of the present

Do I have an incredible experience to share? YES! (Incredible prizes? Who doesn't want to win? :D)
And the first thing that came to my mind when I came across this new 'Incredible Experience' contest by Mahindra on Indiblogger was THIS zany experience I am going to share. This was way back in 2007 but just thinking about writing on it brings into my memory vivid scenes and who said what and when and how in remarkable clarity. Such was the experience (and such is my memory *wink*)!

Most of the memories I still cherish are those that I have been fortunate to share with my school friends. My DU days are no less worthy of being called memorable (and I still have a good 3 years to spend here!) but school days are in a different league altogether and comparing them with my undergraduate years will be like comparing apples with oranges. I still go nostalgic when I remember all the mischief we did in those school camps, picnics and study tours and the smartness with which we used to cover up those notorious acts. This nostalgia is something I dearly treasure.

I left 'Scouts and Guides' in class IXth and the last camp I attended was a year back, in class viiith, in K.V. Puri. It was our first Scouts and Guides' camp out of the station and so we all broke loose, the fact that it was actually a testing camp, notwithstanding. It was the 'tritiya sopan' testing camp and we were total 13; 7 girls, 4 boys and 2 teachers.
We were informed about our selection just a week before the camp was to be held. Add to that incomplete log books, missing proficiency badges and you get a good recipe for a messed up preparation for a high profile test. 

Between packing our bags (and discussing on phone which all snacks to carry) 5 days before the scheduled departure and having fights on who will sleep next to whom, we also managed to copy seniors' log books. Our log books, that had some 15-20 pages just a week ago quickly metamorphosed to be as thick as some of our text books.

It was after having boarded the train that for the first time, we accepted that we were actually under prepared. We were still working on our log books.
This prompted me to make that fateful statement, "there is no way that we can pass."

Everyone, startled, shouted in chorus, "what", "are you nuts?", "shubh shubh bolo", "what exactly are you going there for then?" and all those kind of things. I repeated, this time more confidently, "We will fail. We hav'nt started studying whatever we have written. Be practical, yaar. Be realistic" (be practical was my pet dialogue in school, though that may be difficult to believe considering my present fascination with utopia).
"Alright, lagi bet?", someone asked and hell, I accepted. The mad girl that I was (and that I still am) I fixed the reward, oops! punishment, to be __________ (no I won't tell you right now :D). It should suffice to say that though it was unbelievably 'dangerous' I was too sure of myself to think of the plan backfiring and didn't mind raising the amused eyebrows.

Somehow we completed all the writing work in train, which also naturally snatched away the opportunity to look at the verdant hills and the mustard fields- sights we city kids were used to be deprived of. I fondly remembered the road trip I had taken a couple of years back with my extended family and longed for another one. Now when I think of it, I know which SUV I would want to have the road trip with- Mahindra XUV 500- pearly white!

We reached  the camping site by late afternoon and had only the night to prepare for the next two days' rigourous testing. We had a small gathering of the escort teachers and patrol leaders in the next hour where we were handed down the agenda and other details. As we had anticipated, the testing was going to be gruelling. The first day was entirely for practical test (test of camping skills) besides opening ceremony and a camp fire at night. The second day was for the written test and a few other things, besides the closing ceremony.

After the meeting was over, we were given supper packets (since the camp had not started, food was ordered from outside) which we hurriedly opened and ate and then headed straight to our rooms, to study. We didn't hav the luxury to sit in the school park or go to the beach as the students of other schools did: we had to study. 

But yes, it was really funny to see my classmate Bhavana ,who was rarely seen amidst books even before the exams, going through her log book like her life depended on her performance in the test the next day.
Till what time we all managed to stay awake I don't know but I must tell you, I never studied that long on a trot even during the board exams. 
Our roommates, guides from K.V. Charbatia, set their alarm at 4 in the morning, so that they didn't have to stand in queues for using the bathrooms, but it was we people who made the correct use of their alarm clocks and yes, we were indeed the first school to get ready for the opening ceremony: the event, that was to take place after 4 hours!
Up to 6 o' clock, we just studied, studied and studied and by then, though it is strange to say so, we had actually ended up studying soooo much that we had started looking forward to the test!

At 6:30 a.m., all the schools reported at the ground for warm-up exercises (called B.P's 6 exercises) and rehearsal for the opening ceremony. After about an hour we had our breakfast. And here happened one of the most bizzare events of my life (you would soon come to know why I call myself mad)- something that I will forget only if I go suffer from retrograde amnesia and the memory of which makes me smile even in my RM lecture. I was really annoyed that after standing in the queue for around 10 mins, witnessing so many petty quarrels and yellings, what we got was a plate of sooji ka halwa and matar ki sabzi (what a combination Sirji!). The curry was gone in no time but what was I to do with the halwa? 

Suddenly my friend tugged at my arms, "these are so cute, no?", pointing at about a dozen puppies who had just appeared from under the slide we were standing close to. I had a flashbulb moment. I put a spoonful of halwa in front of a puppy, "ole ole, eat it puppy, eat." But lo! It ran away! Now it was the turn of another puppy. But this one was no different and repeated its brother's act (or was 'it' 'its' sister?). I was just trying to coax another puppy to eat when our escort teacher, our guide captain, Aind Ma'am arrived with her plate."Girls hurry up. Sudha, you are playing with puppies, aren't you? We all are getting late, beta." Now this made me all the more determined. I said "Ma'am, one last time" and produced a big spoonful of halwa that had a tomato in it. "You have to eat it this time". But no,  that was not to be. This made me really bugged up. 

I held the puppy by its neck and pushed its face into the lump of halwa on the ground. Sniffing anger on Maam's face, I left the puppy there without looking at it another time and reluctantly finished the awful breakfast. Just as I was about to leave, Nupur said, "See, the puppy you fed has vommited" and just as I turned back, the puppy and me, face to face, eyeballs to eyeballs, and lo! It started licking its vomit (I know it sounds so yucky :D You see, I never knew my glare could have such an effect, though I did know that the boys of my class must have been pretty used to it by then, thanks to the 4 year long tenure of my monitorship lol). Needless to say, the puppy and my mad antics made all of those standing around me laugh holding their bellies but I was mad at myself for letting my madness get the better of me.

The opening ceremony was as expected. The district magistrate of Puri district was the chief guest and he applauded the energy and vigour with which the programmes were displayed. After a half an hour break, the practical test was all set to begin. But what was that? No sign of the much talked about testing stalls! Actually, there was to be one stall each for every area or topic to be tested and each stall was to have two teachers who were to examine our camping skills. Instead of this, all we saw was a few teachers sitting on chairs here and there on the field: here were our examiners in their fully equipped stalls! 

Our joy knew no bounds when we finally realized that the test was not going to be as tough as we had anticipated. It turned out to be a really casual affair.I remember a funny incident that will drive home my point. In one 'stall' , I was told to sing the 'scout geet' and I did that heartily, looking up at the sky, smiling at my good luck that at least the begining was good (no, I am not a good singer, only the song was very easy). Just as I was in my 4th line, I was interrupted with a "very good, you can go". I was elated that the generous lady had saved my tym. She was indeed pretty generous as I found out a moment later for she had put her signature in front of four of the topics to be tested! The next few hours were spent running from this post to that with our test cards, till the lunch. There was a one hour break for lunch and after that again no respite. That we completed the test in time was all that mattered, however, at the end of the day. Some examiners were strict but most of them were pretty generous. At 5 o' clock we were let off for preparing for the camp fire. Owing to lack of time (and energy), we could not prepare a dance or a play. We chose to sing a patriotic song. It was good but not good enough to get us a prize. When we returned to our room, we just threw ourselves on our matresses and it did take the hell of an effort on Shraddha didi's part to take take us down for dinner.

There was more study this night for the next day we had our written test. The next day.......well the less said about it the better. Though we had a comparatively better breakfast and a so-so all religion prayer, the test was gruelling to say the least. The questions were really tough but God had another innovative way of helping us out. Just as the exam was about to be over and we had only the MCQs left (the MCQs were the toughest), the escort teacher of the students sitting next to us came with a sheet of paper and started dictating the answers. You can guess who was the most benifited :D We were sort of in the 7th heaven, for now there was some realistic chance of our clearing the test. Long live that Ma'am!

After the completion of the exam we had a half hour break and then the preparation for the closing ceremony was to take place. Just before the lunch, the result was to be announced. I did not want to be present while my name was announced in the stage that I was one of the minority few who had failed! (yes I was nuts enough to have no qualms in conceiving such a possibility). 

So I tried going back to our room, making several excuses to our escort teachers and even succeeded partially- i managed to reach the entrance of the schul building, where unfortunately I was sent back by another teacher. So I was destined to hear that fateful statement after all! 

After the formalities were over, the principal of K.V. Puri, our revered Ojha Sir, came with a long piece of paper to the center of the stage; this paper had the names of the students who had failed. Oh the anxious moments! Winning the challenge was the last thing on my mind and I wanted my name not being announced so badly as I had never desired anything else. 

Suddenly I heard loud cheers. My friend Bhavana hugged me, "We have passed, we hav passed!" Yes, the paper was blank. What a silly gimmick, I mean what was the necessity of increasing our heartbeats so much? Yet the irritation over the unnecessary drama quickly subsided and I soon went into sort of a la-la world. Wild celebrations followed in the room and the most interesting part of the story is not a single person remembered anything about the challenge (or so I thought), of course except me. 

But the streak of madness in me overcame my senses soon enough and as we were descending down the stairs for our lunch, I blurted out, "hi hi, I lost the challenge." "Not anything funny Sudha, we all remember and we are going to give you the reward very soon". Now that was typical Devika style, I must say. I lived in denial for the next few moments, 100 times.......my God.......help! I ran to Aind Ma'am and with the innocence and whatever that has made me the apple of her eye, told that they all were going to give me a thrashing of 100 times...mmm...with pillows.
"Let me see how you even touch her", said our lovely protective Ma'am with all seriousness. Till the lunch was over, of course, I didn't leave her side. 

After lunch when we were just about to climb the stairs to our room, Ma'am met someone she knew and you could guess what happened next. Yes, I had to go- WITHOUT HER- all alone. With immense dread of being beaten up, I entered the room without Ma'am and was welcomed with two pillows thrown straight on my face. I thought I would go out of the room but by then Shrishti Di and Lalita Di had caught me. After that, well.........shower of pillows while I laid helpless on my mattress. And just like a bollywood movie our Ma'am appeared after everything was over!
I was almost desensitized and my jaw was paining due to laughing hard at my foolishness. This was an experience of a lifetime, I later realized, not just for the 'only once' nature of it (I won't ever agree to a similar bet in the future, no matter what LOL) but also because I later came to know that that one sided pillow fight was the highlight of the journey for most of us!

In an hour we had the closing ceremony and then we went for sight-seeing. Again owing to lack of time, we could only visit the Jagannath Temple and the Puri sea beach. Some of my friends had never been there before and it was sheer pleasure acting as their guide.


Climbing those 22 steps (the Baisi Pahacha as we call those hallowed 22 steps to salvation, in Oriya) and soaking in the embalming serenity pervading the way leading to the idols of the siblings Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Maa Subhadra, I lost myself for a good many moments to the tranquil ambience. Exploring the impossibly intricate designs on the sky-high ceilings inside the temple and those on the walls outside, my friends were awestruck at the hard work that must have gone into all of that in an age of no super machines to replace human labour. We had great fun following the antics of  the myriad monkeys and apes over there and the pot bellied Pandas, of course, became the hottest topic of discussion soon. I won't be amiss, however, if I say that except for the first few minutes, most of us were looking forward to the temple visit coming to an end. This was nothing out of the place- can a temple be of much competition to a sea beach, where adolescents are concerned?*wink*

I don't know what it is with 'me and the sea', but the moment those heaving waves, first breaking and then landing smoothly on the receptive sand, come into my sight, I feel a sense of 'everything-is-right-in-the-world'. Perhaps there is some connection between the two of us! A previous birth connection maybe...A geek in this birth could very well have been a mermaid in her previous birth, wotsay? :DIt was the nth time that I was going to have those waves kiss my feet and that salty breeze of the sea coast play with my hair, but I was nervously anticipating it like a demure girl on her first date, all through my running on the sand towards the vast expanse of sapphire blue gems glittering in the last few golden rays of the bleeding sun. 

Image courtsey: http://www.trekearth.com/members/satish_h/
Have you ever felt like 'God, You must be a genius to have created such a master piece' ? That was the feeling I had while looking at the waves running towards me holding hands and the clouds doing waltz with each other while a breezy zephyr was carrying away my bliss to spread all around. Peak experience, as we psychologists call it. Even just typing about it seems to have such a magical effect!
It is anybody's guess how difficult it must have been for our escort teachers to escort us, particularly me, back to our rooms. 

In the train it was all non-stop masti, fun and celebrations in the form of antakshari, pranks and junk food. We indulged in all sorts of crazy behavior we could think of and our teachers, relieved at our unexpected good result, let us be. In fact, if one element has to be singled out that remained a constant during the whole trip, it would be this- our crazy, zany behavior.
In retrospect, it is difficult to miss that those very moments of zaniness are among the ones I cherish the most today.

To talk in more general terms, back in those days, I was a bookish girl, preferring my study to the playground; also pretty cautious, unadventurous, conventional (in the way I behaved; nobody knew about my thoughts so it wasn’t surprising!), serious and reserved. I was not the spirited, thrill seeking kind of girls of my age. Though it did make me the ideal student of my teachers, the ideal daughter of my parents and a good role model for my younger sister and cousins, it also ensured that I didn’t share very many moments with friends doing ‘pagalpanti’ or simply ‘masti’, as they say, and missed out on making very many memories with my peer group which I would have ideally loved to have.

Over the years, my personality has remained much the same (except for the fact that now I am more of an ambivert than an introvert) and so the Type A person that I am makes it difficult for me to able to relax in the proper sense of the term. Earlier I used to be in the quest for perfection to please those important to me and now it is no less difficult when I am in much the same zone of thinking and working, albeit only to fulfil my own expectations. It is very natural for me to carry my work wherever I go and I won’t be amiss if I say I find it impossible to loaf around without a newspaper or a book in hand. 

Of course, there have been days when I have talked all nonsense for hours in the pretext of talking philosophy (see I am modest enough to admit this LOL) or offering free of cost amateur counselling (I am still in 2nd year only and in any case, in 3rd year, I’ll be opting for organisational behavior and not counselling so I don’t mind having begun giving people the benefits of my amateur counselling; I’ll remain an amateur in this field all my life, you see ;)). I have also listened to nonsense, very patiently, for hours on end, all smiles and nodding and asking questions, just for fun, but such incidents are too rare and too widely scattered over the last 2 years. 

The most interesting part of it is, being a psychology student, I am very well aware of it all and yet, can’t help it, volitionally. Now of course, I am not serious or reserved and going by what my friends say, I have a good sense of humour (something my school friends would have difficulty believing, but boy 2 years are a great many days!) which I expertly use, but so ingrained in me is my inability to relax that one might say nothing has changed in me. 

This precisely is where my school memories come into play.

I feel myself extremely privileged to have some of the choicest ones etched into my LTM (long term memory), garnished by generous helpings from my superbly efficient reconstructive memory (which has deleted all the bitter incidents and retained only the ones that make me happy) and my nostalgia is often my best companion during times of distress.
I understand now that we need to let ourselves loose at times and believe me, I think I am very fortunate to have done things, my ‘good-girl’ personality notwithstanding, which I know I may not be able to do in the future guiltlessly, due to my obsession with perfection. I thank God for having let me slip into the cordons of zaniness during this incredible tour for these very memories help me be sane today and be happy and comfortable being sane.
This trip to K.V. Puri, hence, in all seriousness of the term, qualifies as an ‘incredible experience’, and in all fairness, much more.

Indeed, what a tour it was! An incredible experience to the core!!

P.S. Thanks Mahindra and Indiblogger for sending me on this incredible trip in the bylanes of my memory :)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Holi: Licence for hooliganism?

No, I am not mad to publish a commentary on Holi after it is no longer in people's consciousness. Only the editors of Critical Thinkers (where this article was supposed to be published on 9th March) have vanished. Any further delay would have made this article redundant so...here I publish it in my blog.
Picture this: A week into holi and one is afraid to step out. Water balloons, mud water balloons, eggs and many other things (including condoms I have heard) filled with water and colour can land on you out of nowhere, Delhi being Delhi and Holi being Holi.
Picture this too: 2 days into Holi and one has to step out to get the data card recharged, and one does since the shop is a one minute walk from the PG. Narrow escape from 3 water balloons. Narrow escape for the parents’ of those tween boys, too- they were spared a long lecture on teaching kids how to enjoy with responsibility.

Now picture this: Holi is here. No escape possible because the landlady herself calls me to have breakfast with the family. But before I am allowed to touch anything out of the lavish spread, I must partake in the ‘celebrations’. Colours smeared on lips and stuffed into nose. Water thrown at me from a pipe.I run downstairs to bath again and come back for breakfast only after repeated assurances that the thing won’t be repeated. I bless my PG owners for the delectable food and think that the taste and the satisfaction will overweigh the effort and money that will go into washing the clothes this evening and replacing the lenses of spectacles before the mid semester break gets over. Yours truly is wrong. This time, before I am allowed to run downstairs, I am made to stand in front of the water pipe for a good 3 minutes and plead for mercy to my phone and watch.

Image courtsey: shivaniramaiah.wordpress.com

That’s my Holi experience this year, giving me all the more reasons to hate it more than I ever had. To a reader who doesn’t know me personally, this may sound very silly- after all isn’t this festival meant to be a day when you let yourself loose and just enjoy? But the reader may not be aware that I have never been able to make sense out of first getting yourself and your clothes dirty for 3 hours and then spending another 3 hours to clean up. Fine, this wasn’t as bad as it could be but the very fact that it all happened without my consent serves my hating this festival. Talking of letting loose and enjoying, how are you supposed to be able to enjoy being thrown mud or being thrown into a water tank? Let’s not talk about alcohol and shit here which are other popular Holi ammunition.
One may ask- Isn’t this day a part of our rich cultural tradition? My answer- I have never caught up with how all sorts of propriety in interacting with strangers, especially ladies, come to vanish into thin air on this day, granting license to hooliganism, so the culture part is out of the question. Surely, those of our ancestors who were the first to play Holi didn’t mean it to be a day when you harass random ladies who chance to pass your street, when you play pranks with strangers and laugh it off!

The biggest joke on all those who use the excuse of ‘Holi Hai’ to run amok with hooliganism- The International Women’s day coincided with Holi this year. I would love to know how many ladies felt empowered on the day.

Of course, I am not asking for avoiding Holi altogether. One can always enjoy with one’s family. Play only with your friends and relatives and don’t kill the spirit of this festival by harassing those non-willing. Set a good example for the kids in your family and teach them how to have a good time even while staying within limits.
There is always a right way and an easy way, to do things. Our choice reflects who we are, even in something trivial like the way we play Holi. Think it over.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Separation Blues

So our relationship did not last very long.
Nevertheless I want you to believe me, wherever you are, when I say that never had I allowed myself to imagine that it could be this short.

I had not allowed myself to grieve our parting as yet, hoping that you would come back. Maybe, you had not left me after all; maybe you were just out of sight and would come to take your place anytime soon. I know it is not your voluntary decision; it can’t be. I know you must have grieved as much as I have over these couple of days. What would I have not given to have you back? Hoping against hope wasn’t difficult. 

But today, I decided to give up. In fact, I wonder what took me so long to notice it that it is only fair that we are decreed to be no more together, no longer an enviable duo. Sigh! Isn’t it my fault, after all, that after denying myself every single thing that I started being attached with, I chose to spare you my vagabond ways? Wasn’t it hypocrisy on my part when I gave you undivided attention and company, over about 8 months continuously, never choosing to leave you alone, keeping our separation from each other to the barest minimum time possible and at the same time professing that the free bird in me flies out to a distant land at the very instant when the desire of building a nest becomes stronger than flying in the sky? (I don’t remember the exact words of Rabindranath Tagore, but this is the essence of the way he had described himself to his platonic love interest once.)

Thankfully, with you, I never was as inexpressive as I am with others. Words might have failed me often, but I am glad I made you know the extent of my admiration for you in other ways. You had everything I could desire in a companion- good listener, initiator of intellectually stimulating conversations, respecting my time and making me understand the value of my time, more than ever.
The way you had integrated yourself into my life, merging yourself so much into me that you had become a part of my identity, the way you still managed to keep your identity intact, the way you had made it impossible for others to find me complete without you, the way you made me more confident for the same….all this is going to be difficult…no impossible, to replace.
Will you believe me when I say that I won’t replace you at all?

P.S. Yours truly was very much attached with her watch which she lost this Holi. :’(
The above obituary is late by a few days but no disrespect could be intended, nor was negligence the reason for this delay. Yours truly would rather have this platonic love interest of hers dead than have it bear being with somebody else. Hence this obituary.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fallacy of confusing premises

You are not perfect. Far from that. 
Yet whenever I grow sick of the imperfection around, I instantly catch myself yearning for you.
 I...crave you, long for you, pine for you. 

After long intervals of not having given you or your memories any place in my thoughts,
 I think of you in a way that makes me feel like I had never abandoned your memories for a single second 
all this while. 

I am strong enough; enough to solve all my problems myself. 
At least when I feel I may not be up to it this time, I don't run to anybody with my problem. 
I keep the burden to myself. 
Yet the desire to hold you and cry in your arms in such moments is almost violent. 
I fervently feel the need to unburden myself- but not to anybody else other than you. 

They say there are no contradictions in this world. 
They say when you face a contradiction, check your premises for one of them must be wrong.
Which of my premises is wrong?

That you are not perfect? Or that I am not mad?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

It is alright to be weak at times....

Dear X
The lump in your throat these days, 
Speaks louder than the words your trembling lips utter; 
The tears in your brimming eyes look ready to gush out anytime; 
And that smile of yours no more recommends you to me,
For that plastic thing is the biggest barrier between your real self and me. 
Stop fighting with yourself, it is alright to be weak at times;
And no, you won't set me a bad example by doing that, so relax on that account; 
I am no longer the the bundle of innocence you loved; 
I now know there is something to be worried about, 
When you no longer take interest in your erstwhile favorite activities, 
When you pretend not to have heard scathing comments unambiguously directed at you, 
And continue humming and spreading sunshine all around 
When I know that you yourself are in deep agony. 
I only want you to understand that it is perfectly fine to let go at times, 
To lay bare your emotions, to not worry about what others will think of you,
To speak out your mind, and most importantly, 
To not let your different masks make you forget your real self. 
Enough of lending your shoulder to support every creature around you; 
I want you now to stand up for yourself. 
But before that you will need to accept that you have human failings after all; 
And that it is no crime showing your weakness to the world. 
When you have carried the burden of so many, so many times, 
Don't you think you should let somebody, for once, shoulder your burden as well? 
Why do you have to be the strength of everybody else, 
When you yourself are going weak on the inside everyday?
Don't you see that this weakness will one day wither you from inside? 
Let the volcano erupt; it has to someday, it can't be otherwise. 
Enough has been bottled up. Let it all out. 

I promise, this time, I will be your strength for a change.