23 Oct

Curious about the title and the story? Skip to para 3 directly 😉

I am on a roller coaster ride, to a lot of my childhood and teenage memories. Applying to universities and writing SOPs has been taking me through a beautiful journey of my past. I am trying to figure out and filter the memories that are worthy of being read or are worth brownie points from people who are going to be responsible for considering my application.

Just because some of these will not feature in my application, does not make them trashy, does it? I thought, maybe I should just chronicle them. What if I suffer from some form of amnesia later in life and cannot remember them? What is going to make my day then? Or what if I build so many new awesome memories that the old ones start fading out? Not happening, IMO. That’s why, I think I will record a few of them here.

There is an old school friend “A” visiting the city soon, which is why this memory surfaced. Now this “A” wasn’t my bestie and was majorly a competitor in class. So this memory doesn’t go down as a particularly mushy one. And it doesn’t go down as a specifically cherished one either since … oh well, you will have to read on to find out why.

I was a bookworm.

Amongst my schoolbooks one could always find a novel or two in my bag.

I used to hide the novels inside my textbooks and read them. I have even woken up at 4 in the morning to finish some novels which were due at the library or had to be returned to a friend that day. But I digress. The point is, I was a bookworm way back in school. The kind of bookworm who was fond of novels and stories – a world of imagination, fiction, scientific knowledge woven into stories, mysteries and adventures.

Library hours, lunch breaks, recesses, free periods, teachers coming late to class. All this time would mostly go in reading. That time, I had this incurably bad habit. I would bite my nails while reading.

My friends would keep saying “Don’t. You won’t have any nails left anymore.”

My grandparents went to the extent of offering me their own nails to bite, just to make me see what a dirty habit it was. None of this worked. It was an unconscious habit and I wasn’t trying hard enough to give it up. Somebody did make me give it up though, and how.

One day “A” walked into class when the break was over. She stood next to me for a minute or two observing me. I was so engrossed in my book – reading fervently, turning pages and biting my nails that I did not notice her. Before I knew it, she gave me a resounding slap in front of the entire class. Believe it or not, my only reaction was a very confused “What?” I had no idea of what exactly had happened and why it had happened.

She said, “Stop biting your nails. It’s a not a good habit. It annoys me to no end to see you gnawing at your nails all the time. I hope this slap serves as a fitting lesson and you will give it up.”

She was the class monitor. Not that my school was Malory Towers or St. Claire’s, that I couldn’t have argued, sneaked or slapped her back. But we did hold up some of the values from there.

I was embarrassed. To be slapped in front of the entire class is humiliating. But that slap cured me of nail biting like nothing else had.

Off course this is not something that I am proud of. But in retrospect, I think she made a wonderful friend in her own way.


Peevy TV

1 Oct

Sunday. A friend’s place. A weekend lunch. Assorted crockery that’s trademark of a bachelorette house. Scrumptious food. Paneer. Biryani. Chicken. Gluttony company. Soft drinks. Yummy juicy Gulab Jamuns. Office gossip. Movie reviews. Job hunts. Books read. Fashion trends. Old memories. Link-ups. Laughter.

I wish this was the way it were. Unfortunately not. What was dished along with the food was a boring sitcom. Channel surfing. Incomplete conversations. Topics that we flipped through as we did channels. No eye contact. No laughter.

Sadly, a long awaited weekend that had held a promise of fun, turned into a monotony. Why?

As is the case many a times in a lot many Indian households, the person is not the host. The TV is. The person does not initiate conversation or play the ice breaker between the newly introduced. That job is left to the TV. The only thing that people can find to talk about apart from the weather are the TV programmes? Shouldn’t a house resonate with the sounds of warm, delicious conversation, be it civilized or unruly, rather than resonating with the sound of the Television with snatches of conversation in between? Why should one discuss what’s on TV than discussing a million other things? And that too when you have guests?

Maybe. Just maybe, there are households where people don’t have anything to say to each other anymore. They have finished having their fair share of conversation, and don’t want to sit in absolute silence. That is when the TV can be put on, for distraction. Or relaxation.

But, in a setting where people have actually congregated by choice to catch up, why should one need the TV?

At my place, it is considered rude. I remember a day from my childhood when I was very engrossed in a TV programme and as a consequence ignored a relative who had come to visit my parents. I didn’t bother to offer him any water or tea. Did not exchange any pleasantries. I just asked him to sit comfortably till my parent’s arrived. My parents were duly informed about my bad manners, and I was aptly punished for the same. The lesson has stayed since.

I was a child back then. And I was naïve. I could be forgiven or punished. But what would you say to adults who consciously do the same? Wouldn’t you think twice about revisiting that person? Wouldn’t it make you feel insulted that the person thinks you to be too dumb to carry out a proper conversation with you, and which is why the TV was required?  Or wouldn’t you be hurt that the person does not value your time or presence?

I have seen some people even ask their guests, “Do you want me to put the TV on for you? Which program do you watch?”

Why someone would do that is beyond me. Wouldn’t a person just stay at his/her home if he/she wanted to watch TV? Why even take the trouble of looking presentable and going to someone’s house. Just pig in on the couch, at your own sty I say.

I would really like to understand how this habit of ours came to be?

I asked a friend and he said, “Some people think of the TV as a member of their house, and it must have its say in every conversation.”

Do people really get so used to the constant hum of the TV that they don’t turn it off even if no one is watching it. Is it comparable to the awkward silence that sets into the house when there is a power-cut. No fans whirring over your head. No sound of the refrigerator’s stabilizer. Plain dead silence.

What do you think? What are the reasons? Care to share?

Coffee : Expresso Yourself

25 Sep

Do you know why I love coffee places so much?

Not because they are cool places to hang-out. It is because they have so much more to offer, than just coffee. There is something very magical about them. They let my thoughts flow, and in a million directions.

For one, the coffee is mostly amazing at an exclusively-coffee place. The ambience, the aroma of coffee and maybe even the caffeine kicks off so much – thoughts, conversations, mischief. The setup of the coffee tables and couches, make it so easy for you to relax and blend in. At some places, they even let you sit with your feet up. There is really no restriction on the time you want to keep a table occupied, as long as you order at least one cup of coffee. I don’t think that’s a high price to pay. Should be worth your time.

All these little things, they facilitate conversation and observation.

Some of the best conversations I have had with people have been at such coffee places. Deep and insightful, giving me food for thought and stuff to write.

Maybe it is about the time you take out especially for each other, just to have a conversation that makes it so special. What it signifies is respect. Somebody is specifically taking time out to hear what you have got to say. A dinner place is not the same. A dinner date is focussed more on the food than on the conversation. You would want to enjoy the food, pay the bill and leave. It is something that satisfies your palate but not your appetite for quality time and conversation.  A coffee date is entirely different. These are places that I have been to and still go, to let off steam with my then boyfriend and now husband. It has many a times helped relieve tension between the two of us and have rational conversations instead of arguments.

I have this funny quirk. I can cry and laugh at the same time. I have got hyperactive tear glands, and they turn themselves on the moment my emotions are free and flowing. There have been times when I am talking and rationalizing and the tap just starts flowing. It is very embarrassing sometimes. Not only for me, but even for the company I have got. At a restaurant, my husband probably would be very conscious if I were to let my tears flow. He is very scared of being kicked out for what people would interpret as a very un-gentlemanly behaviour to make a lady cry. At a coffee place, he is comparatively more in “be-yourself mode”, where he lets my quirk be, because nobody is really paying any attention to you. And if they are, they are not likely to intrude or draw conclusions.

On days when we have just been to a coffee place for fun, it is nice to sit and observe the people and the conversations that are happening around you. You can’t hear the talk at the next table; but you can see it. You can see the expressions. You can see the body language. There is so much that you can gauge from that.  You may even catch a phrase or two.

This is from the time when we were still in the newly married stage – 6 months at best. We had already started seeing the differences in our lifestyles and the initial complaints and the fuss that comes with living together, had already been exchanged.

There was a couple at the next table. I don’t think they had been married for very long either. They seemed to be having the exact same conversation that we had just had a few weeks ago. “You don’t make the bed.” “You don’t listen when I am talking. Please turn off the TV when I am talking to you and understand the instructions in one go.” “Honey relax. The house doesn’t have to look perfect all the time. I am used to living in a place that could look like a pig sty on some days. I don’t like it clean all the time”

Sitting on the next table, watching that confrontation, and miming the dialogues was downright hilarious. The husband and I were laughing at it till we had tears in our eyes.

There is another such anecdote that I can remember.

The story as I call it. There was a guy and a girl who were meeting for the first time to have a face to face conversation. We had been at the coffee-shop long enough to know that the girl had actually come there with her mom. The girl’s phone rang. She went out to meet the guy and introduce herself as the person he was supposed to be meeting. They occupied a different table; not the one where the mother was seated. In fact, the girl did not even introduce him to her mother. They had a fairly long conversation, after which I think the girl thought that the guy was potential marriage material and then she made the introductions between him and her mom.

I couldn’t hear one bit of their conversation. Neither between the mom and daughter, nor between the girl and the guy. But I was able to gauge their expressions. I could see that the girl was nervous and a little fidgety when she was with her mother. She had, in all likelihood told her mother that she wanted to have a face to face conversation with the boy before the families spoke on their behalf. Definitely an arranged marriage scene, but the girl had her say. That means that the girl was independent or at least capable of making decisions for herself without being coerced into them. Her family was probably protective. That is why the mother was accompanying her.

The girl’s body language changed when she was with the boy. She was still a little nervous, but more assertive about herself. There were questions to which the answers were given thoughtfully. I could see them pondering and weighing their words before they spoke. Such guarded conversation. And such an important decision to make.

It was like a silent movie for which I was writing the script.

What I loved about the entire chapter was that there was an easy and a not-so-uncomfortable way to choose your partner, in the presence of your parents, even in an arranged marriage situation.

See, that’s what happens over coffee. You find out-of-ordinary stories in ordinary situations, because no situation is really entirely ordinary is it?

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