March 28, 2011

What's in a name? Lots in a name!!

On 12th September 1986, at some time of the day, a baby girl was born to Mrs. Vijaya Ramachandran and Mr. A.K.Ramachandran. Their elder daughter, Lakshmi Ramachandran, was thrilled to see her younger sister. They named the little girl Vidya Ramachandran- a nice, decent, non-weird name, and she was lovingly called Ammu at home.

A nice, small family. Their only bother was that Vidya suffered from chronic asthma, and 29-and-a-half days out of the month, she was in the hospital. When she turned four, they put her in nursery. Her green colour identity card read ‘Vidya Ramachandran’ very proudly.

After kindergarten, it was time to enroll her in school. But she didn’t have a birth certificate yet. So Mr. Ramachandran went, all by himself, to get it done. He got it done, and waved the birth certificate proudly in front of his wife’s face once he was back. She also excitedly took it, and then froze a second later.

“What’s this??!!”

“Her birth certificate."

“But..but…!!! Her name!!”

The birth certificate now declared their daughter as Divya Nambiar.

“Oh ya, I changed it.” Just like that, cool as a cucumber.

“You changed our daughter’s name??!! How??!! And most importantly, why?!”

“Well, if it’s Vidya, her name will be towards the end in the alphabetical order. She’ll be picked last in everything. I didn’t want that. And the surname, well, we are Nambiar’s anyway, so I thought I’ll add that.”

And that’s how, Divya Nambiar became the only non-Ramachandran in the Ramachandran household.

And that’s also why, when asked her father’s name during her Kendriya Vidyalaya interview, Divya blanked out and said “I don’t know”.

What followed was years of solving the question mark that formed on people’s faces when they realized that she and her sister didn’t share the same surname, millions of “Yes, we are sisters. Real sisters!”, patiently retelling the ‘A.K.Ramachandran and his daughter’s birth certificate’ story a thousand times, reassuring everyone that “No, I’m not adopted. It was just a momentary lapse of reason on my dad’s part”, a failed attempt to change her surname to Ramachandran, only to be told by teachers that after so many years, who really cares (Sigh…)

So here it is, up for posterity.

Yes I’m her sister, dammit!!! BLOOD SISTER!!!

March 26, 2011

A love story...

It wasn’t love at first sight, I don’t believe in it anyways.

It began in 2007, that’s when we first met. A chance encounter in the month of June. Little did I know that it was just the beginning. We met again in August, with the sound of rain serving as the background score.

It began as just any other love story- with instant dislike. I didn’t like him, and I wasn’t exactly planning to spend the rest of my life with him. He wasn’t even an important factor in my life- just a temporary item that I had to put up with, till brighter pastures came my way.

But you know how it is with love. It is quirky. And stubborn. The more you try to resist it, the harder it’ll cling on to you. So it was with us. As I got to know him better, I realised, that he’s not so bad after all. He was not perfect, true, but then I’ve never liked perfection in the first place. He had his negatives, and they quite clearly outnumbered the positives. Heck, I wasn’t even ready to consider the good side of him initially.

Then I slowly started to acknowledge him, grudgingly. He was nice to me, and was trying hard to accommodate me. How could I ignore that? He was patient with me, allowing me to take my time to accept him. And he was very honest with me. He didn’t hide his ugly side just to get into my good books. He had shown his true colours right from the beginning, and the colours that seems garish and ugly to me initially, started to look better after a few months.

And so we carried on, for two years. It wasn’t a very stormy relationship- it was quite, calm, exciting(mainly owing to the novelty factor), with occasional fights when I got disillusioned with his negative streak. It was the kind of relationship that comes with an expiry date, and both parties were aware of it right at the onset. And maybe it was because of that, both of them tried not to get too attached to each other.

But as the expiry date drew closer, the pangs started. I knew I had to leave him soon, and the thought started to gnaw at me. Sure, it wasn’t like I was desperately in love with him, but we had reached a comfort level by now, one that you get only when you’ve seen the nastiest side of each other, but are still willing to accept each other with all that. He was also sending me signals, that he doesn’t want me to go, just as yet, to give him another chance, but I knew I was not meant to be his forever. So I made plans to leave. We prepared ourselves for the inevitable.

But we hadn’t considered the entry of a very cunning character at this juncture- Fate. Actually, correction. Re-entry of Fate, because She is the one who had brought us together in the first place. So Fate re-entered our lives, and decided that this love story will come to an end only when She decides it, not us. I didn’t leave. I stayed on. I figured, I gave him two years, one more won’t hurt.

And that’s when I really fell in love with him. Till now, I had shut my mind to him as an option, because I wasn’t aware that he was an option at all. But once I opened my eyes a bit wider, I could see him for all his splendour. He too accepted me with open arms, and though we didn’t make any promises to spend the rest of our lives together, we knew that would be together for quite some time. Or at least until Fate intervenes again.

Now we have reached a different level of comfort. And familiarity. We have accepted each other for whatever we are, and neither of us tries to change the other. Sometimes we can’t stand each other, but for the most part, we’re crazy about each other. He has grown on me now. He makes me happy. He makes me laugh, he makes me cry, but he never gives up on me or tries to send me away. I can’t imagine going away from him, starting my life with someone else. It wouldn’t be impossible, but it would be hard.

And that’s the love story of me and Hyderabad. Almost four years of a love-hate-love relationship, but still going strong, nevertheless. Be it the unbearable heat, the dirty monsoon, or the biting cold, I still love the city.

Sometimes, you just can’t challenge Fate.

March 23, 2011

I write...

I write about my childhood,

What happened in my girlhood.

I write about not being fair,

How I miss my long hair.

I can't write about politics,

It puts me in a fix.

I don't write about world issues,

Oh how I want a new pair of shoes.

Weird and me go hand-in-glove,

I've been a bitch and I've been in love.

I write about my mom and I playing Scrabble,

Basically, I just ramble...

March 16, 2011


My love is true,
Like the mountains’ hue.
Like the bird's-eye view.
Like the wind that blew.

Blue, the sky so bright
The clouds so white,
Terrors of the night
A word’s might.

Words that I dread
Relationships that are dead
The hearts that bled
At the things they read.

Red, the colour of love.
And of rage, they go hand-in-glove.
Emotions pure as a dove,
That thing called love.

Love, it’s a strange thing.
It’ll make your heart sing,
Tears that make your eyes sting,
Many are the emotions it’ll bring.

March 14, 2011

Killer Serial

There used to be a time when I watched a whole lot of Hindi serials, right from ‘Hip Hip Hurray’ to ‘Kyunki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi’. Actually, obsessively followed, is more like it. Thankfully, I grew out of that phase. Yes, I still obsessively watch FRIENDS, but I don’t consider it in the same category.( If you do, too bad. Sue me.)

One thing that is quite common with many of these soaps is their title. Their mile-long titles that have been borrowed (or ‘inspired’, as they like to say it) from the lyrics of yesteryears’ songs. ‘Agale janam mohe bitiya hi keejo’, ‘Main tulsi tere aangan ki’, ‘Thoda hai thode ki zaroorat hai’, etc. I can’t think of anymore, maybe because the titles were too long to remember. (Is it immense love for all those songs, or sheer lack of originality?)

So I thought, why not borrow titles of some popular English songs, and then write up my own plots for them? Humour me, will ya?

# Coming back to life(Pink Floyd)- The hero dies. Then comes back to life. The heroine dies. Then comes back to life. The hero’s Papa, Mummy, Chacha, Chachi, Nana, Nani, Taya, Tai all die. And they come back to life. Right. You get the picture.

# Comfortably numb (Floyd again): No particular plot. It just has to be mind-numbingly stupid. That shouldn’t be too hard.

# You are my dancing queen (ABBA): A dance-based reality show where all the men are dressed as women. ( offence to any particular community).

# Brown girl in the rain(Boney M): The main protagonist is a dark-skinned girl, and the opening shot will show her standing in the rain, getting drenched because no autos or taxis will stop for her, owing to her dark skin. Then she uses fairness creams to lighten her skin, after which she has no dearth of autos and taxis stopping for her.

# Ma Baker(Boney M): The protagonist is a 40-year-old single mother whose husband left her and now she runs a bakery where a lot of happy, smiling, annoyingly-optimistic youngsters hang out, and she’s like a mother hen to all. The bakery will be named ‘Ma’s Bakery’.

# Come on baby light my fire (The Doors): The hero is a fireman. He rescues the heroine from a burning building. Thus starts their ‘lou affair’.

# With or without you (U2): The heroine is dead. The hero can see and talk to her ghost (I refuse to call it a spirit), ala Mohabbatein.

# Time of your life ( Greenday): A sci-fi serial where the characters travel around in a time-capsule, and their adventures. They will wear garish silver colour costumes made of silver craft paper( like the ones we used for our school SUPW projects) and headdresses made of curtains.(Actually, I might want to act in one of these. Just to wear the trendy clothes.)

# Larger than life (Backstreet Boys): Story of a man who is huge, like a giant. Starring the Great Khali.

# Dark side of the moon (Umm..Floyd again, I’m afraid): A young, much-in-love couple meet by the moonlight everyday, and only by the moonlight. Two episodes later, the girl is pregnant. (Yes, apparently, holding hands can get you pregnant).

# Top of the world(The Carpenters): The opening shot will be of the heroine trying to jump off the top of a building to commit suicide, but the hero, a stranger, rescues her.(Don’t ask me how he got there. Does it look like I’m talking logic here?). And they live happily ever after. On the top floor of a building.

# Words (Boyzone): The hero is a writer of dictionaries. Rest is all irrelevant.

# Frozen (Madonna): Story of a company that manufactures freezers. Arch rivals steal their secret! Will they be able to save the formula, or will their dreams remain forever frozen?

Coming soon, on your favourite channel.
(If you've got worse PJ's to contribute, please feel free to use my comment box)

March 12, 2011

The one-year itch

We've all heard of the seven-year itch. Some of you may have experienced it. Some of us, who aren't married yet, live in fear of it.

I think I, and many of my generation, suffer from the one-year itch. You know, that phenomena where, after a year in a job, you feel the urge to jump to another one. Where you start to feel restless after a few months. You feel it's not gratifying, you're getting stagnant, even the coffee starts to taste like dishwater, and the hot receptionist (in the case of guys) starts to resemble your 50-year old aunt.

My dad's getting retired in May this year, after serving 37 years in BSNL. Thirty-fucking-seven years.

I don't think I can ever stay in one job for three years, let alone 37 years. And I take relief in the fact that it's not the problem with just me. My friends are pretty much the same. My roommate quit her first job after 11 months, and is thinking of quitting her next one soon as she completes one year there too. Another friend worked in four different places in the span of one year (he recently completed six months at his current job. It was like a celebration akin to a golden jubilee for him), yet another friend couldn't get along with her bosses, so she quit each job after a couple of months. There are more from my batch, who quit jobs after a few months. I think compared to them, I'm marginally better off, coz I held my first job for one year and four months, and don't plan to leave this second one anytime soon (But then, you never know. Once the itch comes, you gotta scratch it baby. I know. Grossville).

The other day, I was talking to dad, and he asked me "So when are you going to start looking for another job? You'll complete a year in September, right?" I didn't know what to say. Was our reputation for job-hopping so notorious? And I surprised myself with my answer. "I don't know dad, let me complete a year, then we'll see. If I still find it interesting even by september, then I'll stay on. I don't see any reason why I should quit." He was quite surprised too. So were my friends, when I told them about it.

What makes us change jobs so often? I don't even change my wardrobe so frequently. And I just can't seem to think of any reason other than 'generation problem'. Ya, to an extent, I guess that's what it is. But then, I also see other friends of mine, who did engineering, holding on to their jobs for 3-4 years. Yes, they complain, they gripe, they bitch, but they stay. Then is it just the problem with being a communications graduate? Maybe...

We need interesting jobs, something that'll be creatively gratifying as well as well-paying. We can't just work, we need to love our jobs, otherwise we won't do it well. And the best way to do it is to change jobs often, so that your interest never wanes. Soon as you get bored with one place, look for another job. It's all about building a good resume, so that there will be takers for your skill and talent. We want to follow our passion. We all want a 'career', but can't stay put in one place for long...But if that's the case, was my father bad at his work just because he was in it for 37 years? Quite contrary.. He was, and always will be, one of the most respected employees in his office. I wondered, what made him stay on in a 'boring, government job' for so long?

The answer, as it turns out, was quite simple. For him, the job was more a means of earning a living, than a vent for his passion. True, he loved his work and is a self-confessed workaholic, but he also had a family to take care of. He had responsibilities. An aging mother, wife and kids, kids' education, a house, middle-class aspirations. And let me tell you, he has done a brilliant job so far. His government job gave him security, it earned him respect in the society. He is proud of the fact that in spite of studying in a Malayalam medium school, he rose up to the level of a DGM. He could put his daughters in a central school, educate them till PG level, get his elder daughter married off lavishly, buy a flat,a car- all on his 'boring, government job' salary...

We're single, free from responsibilities, have the option to explore, and thankfully, have families that support us. But is it really going to help us in the long run? Will we ever find our passion? Will we ever be happy with any job? Sooner or later, either creativity or the money will play the bitch. I would know. I loved my first job, I thought I had found my calling. I used to slog. But gradually, I wasn't happy with the salary, And once you start to feel that you're not being paid for what you're worth (whatever that means), then you'll start to lose interest in what you do. So I quit. My current work, well, I don''t love it, but it's comfortable. The pay is better, the timings are flexible, and the best part is, I get a two-day weekend!(Yup, sometimes happiness can be as simple as a two-day weekend). I get home early, I get time to read, I get time to write. As for my passion, well, screw passion. I like my saturdays and sundays better. Ha!!

So has this rambling changed my view about the job-hopping? Will I hold on to a job even after one year, or will I succumb to the one-year itch?

I guess we'll know by september...

March 6, 2011

"My name is someone and anyone" *

Sometime during the end of 2009, my mom had come visiting me in Hyderabad. I was living alone at that time, and was going through a particularly crappy time in my life. A time where I was happy living alone and didn’t require anybody’s company.

So one night, mom and I were talking, and she asked me when I’m planning to move back to TVM. I told her that I wasn’t planning that anytime in the near future, and she didn’t quite like it. She could not digest the fact that I was happy living away from home, alone, with a handful of friends to keep me company, and a job that I loved. And I could not understand why she could not digest it. I mean, was there anything wrong in liking a city other than the one you have lived most of your life in? If I want to live alone and be by myself, is that akin to having a psychological condition(Now is not the time for "But aren't you crazy anyways?")?

“But how can you live alone like this? Don’t you get bored?” She asked.

“ Actually, I love it. I like being by myself. I’m happy that you are here, but in a month, I know I would want even you to go back home and leave me to my space.”

She was stunned, to say the least. She could not believe that her daughter wouldn’t want even her own people around her.

Well, it was true. I realize that it was a very mean thing to say, but like I said, I was in a rebellious frame of mind. I even told her that I want to go away to some hill station, far away from everyone, where I don’t know a single soul, and I want to teach kindergarten children and write. After a while, it was scary even to me.

It’s not exactly the same scenario anymore, but the idea of anonymity still fascinates me. You don’t know anyone, no one knows you, you’re not answerable to anyone but yourself. I can do whatever I want, and nobody will care a hoot. And even if they do care, how does it matter to me, because they don’t know me after all, right? Nobody to judge you based on your past, nobody to question your present.

Initially, it was my new-found freedom that I enjoyed. I’ve written about it earlier on too, how I like the fact that I’m not answerable to anyone here. I described it as a strange feeling. It’s not like my parents were very strict even while I was living with them. Not at all. In fact, my dad is the kind who always encouraged me and my sister to go out alone, do things by ourselves, so that we’re never dependent on anyone. Yes, I miss home, I miss my parents, I miss my friends back home, I miss the familiarity of the city I grew up in, but I know I don’t want to go back to it permanently now. I don’t think I will be able to handle it. Who knows, I might reach a point in life where I don’t want be alone at all, ever. Where I might need constant company. And when I reach that stage, I won’t resist it. Because after all, man is a social animal.

A dear friend of mine happened to tell me yesterday, that he wants to go away from Hyderabad for a while, go away to some place where no one knows him, he doesn’t know anybody, "to break the monotony, the stagnation of one place". And I realized that it’s not just me. I think, at some point, every person wants to live in anonymity. To cut away from familiar grounds and create a new familiarity. To stand apart from everyone and just watch. To discover new places, new people, a new you.

People could never understand how I could go alone for shopping, roam around the city all alone, spend weekends all by myself holed up inside my house, my books and music for company. They called me a loner.

I’m not a loner.. I just… like my space.

Now I don’t live alone anymore. I have a roommate. She works in the evening shift. When I leave in the morning, she’s asleep, when she comes back at night, I’m asleep. We see each other on weekends. So now it’s like, I have a roommate, but I still have my space. We don’t get on each other’s nerves, not get in the other’s way. We both like that.

Free. Anonymous. Loner.. The lines got blurred somewhere along the way.

As did the point of this post.

*Title of this post is taken from Jorge Luis Borge's poem "The boast of quietness".
Photo courtesy Rohan, friend and photographer.

March 4, 2011

It's all a matter of faith...

I was travelling to TVM a few months back, chugging along in Sabari Express, a book in hand, mind wandering. It was raining, and since I was travelling in sleeper class, I was having a hard time trying to shut the windows to keep the water out. I had got the side berth, and the one opposite mine was empty so far.

When the train reached Coimbatore station, a man got in and occupied the seat in front of mine. A middle-aged man, tall, moustached, wearing a safari suit. When I travel alone, I don’t chat up with any of my co-passengers. I bury myself in a book, or look outside the window (Point #8 under the first heading of this post totally makes sense, you know). I don’t talk to anyone, and if anyone tries to make conversation, I utter a few non-committal words and send clear signals that I’m not interested in talking (which brings me to the question, why oh why have I never had any good-looking, charming guy as a co-passenger? Never happened. Not once.) Unlike my mother. Oh she’s a talker, when she gets onto a train. By the time the train journey is over, not only will she know their names, she will also know their horoscopes, what time they were born, what time their children were born, what course their children are studying, which bench they sit at in class, what colour sari they wore for the wedding, and will suggest names for a child to be born. And the cutest thing is, she’ll come and share all this with the rest of us, very animatedly. :)..
So anyway, back to the person who got in from Coimbatore. He asked me whether the seat was taken, I nodded a no, and looked back quickly down to my book, afraid that a second longer might lead to an unnecessary conversation. After a few minutes, he asked me what I was reading. I showed him the book (I don’t remember what it was). He then asked me what I do.

“I work for GE”. Back to my book.

“Oh really? As what?”

“As a Communication Consultant.” Admire the rain.

“That’s interesting! What do you have to do in your job?”

Ok. Let me take a second here to mention another thing. Being the self-obsessed person that I am, the moment someone starts taking an interest in me and what I do, I will lose all interest in the book.

“ Well, I basically have to deal with all the internal communication happening there. Mailers, posters, presentations, etc.” Standard line that I dish out to everybody.

“Ok. So what did you study?”

I did a monologue for about ten minutes (Ya, turns out, I didn’t have all that much to talk about myself. Sigh…), during which I told him that I studied in HCU, worked in radio , what my hobbies are, and that eventually, I would like to write book.

Then I asked what he does. He told me he’s a DySP with the Tamil Nadu Police, stationed in Salem. Ah, that explains the scary moustache, I thought to myself. We then got to talking. The spotlight shifted from me to him. (Ok, maybe not a spotlight. A tubelight. Fair enough?) I was very interested in knowing about his line of work. We’ve only seen police officers on TV and movies, travelling around in those jeeps with the red light on top, jumping out of it even before it comes to a halt. I almost asked him whether he was carrying a gun as well, then decided not to. So he told me his cases, about the times he has put his life at risk, etc..
He then asked me, whether I’m a Hindu or Christian. I told him that I’m a Hindu. And just to be polite, I asked “What about you?”

“I’m a Hindu too. But I’m a devotee of Jesus. Jesus was there when I needed him the most. There was a point in my life where I feared I had lost everything. My father’s business had failed. My mother was ill. I was not able to get a job. Every avenue was closing its doors on me. Then one day, I decided to end my misery by ending my life. I got into my room one afternoon, closed the door, and tied a rope to the fan. But just as I was about to put the rope around my neck, I fainted. I then had a dream. In my dream, Jesus came to me and told me that he will always be with me, and not to end my life because my family needed me. I had never experienced anything like that before, but I remember waking up a totally different person. I was suddenly filled with hope and optimism. From then on, gradually things started to smooth out. I applied for a police job, i got through, my dad’s business recovered, I was able to support my family. I went to church, and still go, unfailingly every Sunday."

“But didn’t your family not have any problem with it?”

“I met with a lot of opposition from my family because of this. My dad threatened to throw me out of the house. I had to secretively go, and thankfully for me, I got married to somebody who is also a believer in Jesus. Now me, my wife and our two daughters together go to church every Sunday.”

We were silent for a while. I didn’t know what to say. I’ve not been the kind to go to the temple religiously and pray. I used to go during exams and festivals, but now I don’t go on those days too, because I feel it’s like bribing god. I believe in God, I don’t believe in bribing him to get my way. I light the lamp at home everyday, and pray at the wayside temples everyday. Does that make me any less of a believer? Does that put me on God’s black-list? If it did, then I’m afraid, God is no different from humans. Me and Him, we have a different kinda connection.

The train had almost reached Salem. The man got up to leave, and then he said something that really touched me. “God bless you, my child. I have never spoken to anyone about all this. I generally don’t talk to anyone in trains. But somehow, I felt like sharing this with you. It was as though God himself told me to share it with you. May you have a good life, and may you achieve whatever you want to in life.”

I believe that it’s not which god or religion you believe in that matters. You just have to have faith. The college that I studied in was run by Christians, and I often used to go to the chapel. Because it was very peaceful. I used to hear some of my Hindu friends who stayed in the hostel complain, though, about how the nuns used to force them to go to church. Is that how you can get a person to believe in God? By forcing them? I would turn resentful rather than religious, if I was forced to pray. My mother used to chide me for not going to the temple more often, and would drag me along when she went. But now, she basically leaves it to me to decide whether I wish to go or not. And she never had a problem with me going to a church either.

That person was not trying to convert me into Christianity or anything. He was just telling a tale of faith. I could either believe in it, or not believe in it.

I chose to write about it.