We Don’t Need No Education

Yesterday, we were discussing a premier educational institution in Bangalore and its ridiculous rules about dressing.

It is so ironic that an educational institution, of all the places, should be prescribing and enforcing such absurd, rigid rules. Yes, we understand college students are nothing but bundles of raging hormones, and the slightest show of skin or fitted clothes will set them off on sexual rampages. We understand what a distraction it can be, and how important it is to set aside all distractions and concentrate on the goal, which is getting 99.99999% so that you can go on to become a doctor or engineer or lawyer.

What rubbish.

The lesson that is being imparted here is a lesson on control. How to make up absurd rules, instil a quaking fear, and thereby completely control another person. Sound familiar? Tradition is another name, closely followed by Indian culture.

Is this the lesson we want our youth to imbibe? How about having classes where both sexes are taught to perceive and respect each other as human beings, and not just two things on top or one thing below? How about making dress completely irrelevant? How about teaching substance over style?

The lessons that the kids take away are powerful. They learn that “decency” has nothing to do with behaviour, it is all to do with the way you dress. (If you dress “indecently”, hey, you asked for trouble). They learn that discipline does not mean self-control, it does not come from within; it means fearing a whipping, it means something imposed from out there.

And we wonder why our country is in such a state!

The educational institute is playing a nasty game. If it was so worried, it could have just imposed a uniform on its students — that would have at least been fair-play. No, it wants its students to have the illusion of freedom, but with all the control in its hands.

Perhaps that’s the way of teaching that life isn’t fair! Many will be punished for the (possible) sins of a few. But covering up bad apples won’t solve the problem, it will just make it easier for them to spread the rot.

Suit-able Woman

My niece really likes the TV serial Suits. So when I happened to catch it some time back on Comedy Central (strange choice of channel), I began to watch it. And I loved it.

As I watch Season 2 now, the one character that draws me in quite completely is Jessica Pearson, played superbly by Gina Torres.

(Pic courtesy thetvchick.com)

What makes her interesting is that she is so human. She is not portrayed as some superwoman battling the world on her own. She knows how to lead, she knows how to delegate, she fights like hell especially when her back is to the wall, and she doesn’t reduce herself to a caricature of a man. She is as feminine and beautiful as they come, and she knows how to play hardball most elegantly.

I really like the way the character has been fleshed out and Gina Torres fits the part so beautifully. Every character is interesting in this serial, but the one I always look out for is Jessica.

Not So Healthy

Forgive me for being a little touchy about this ad, but honestly, why can’t the entire family be the healthiest? Why is it reserved only for the daddy? And of course, it is perfectly correct that the little girl is (though I understand it is in jest) responsible for his health, right?

I don’t know, somehow it vexes me.

How Do You Break Up?

I’ve just finished a massive clean-up of my wardrobe. OK, not exactly massive, given the size of my wardrobe; perhaps the word I’m looking for is thorough.

It’s amazing what a good cleansing can do not just for the skin, but for the soul. I feel so much better with the clothes all neatly arranged — all the clothes that I actually wear. All the others have gone straight to the donation pile. Some I’ve just worn once, some have seen a good bit of wear. But they are banished now, and are out of my life (as soon as that bundle goes out of the house, that is — that will probably take its own sweet time!).

And yet, there are some garments that simply refuse to give up so easily. There’s one pretty pink and beige set that has lovely gold work on it. Lil D wants me to get it altered for her. There’s the other green and white set with little white beads — a perfect summery dress for Lil D, if only I get around to altering it. And then there’s a beautiful red and black set that was a gift, but was ruined during the tailoring. I just can’t bring myself to toss it out.

I put these at the back, giving myself some more time to do the needful, to harden my heart and throw it all out ruthlessly.

These are the ones that make breaking up with them so hard. You still cling on in hope that they can be redeemed, that you can somehow make it work. Only time will tell if your decision was right.

Na Jaane Queue


I sincerely wish that schools covered basic social etiquette. I am so fed up of the awful public behaviour of people in general that sometimes I have violent fantasies of bashing sense into their heads.

Take for instance the simple mechanism of a queue. You join the end of the queue when you arrive. You stand one behind the other. You await your turn. Your issue gets addressed. You exit. This is not rocket science. This is as keep-it-simple-stupid as possible.

Yet, we have such a way of making this an absolute nightmare. Every single rule is violated at every step.

You join the end of the queue when you arrive: Even if there are just three people in the queue, one simply has to try and break in. Sometimes, I have seen people completely ignore the queue and go straight to the counter (or whatever), oblivious to the looks-that-could-kill directed at them. If someone admonishes them, they either turn belligerent or feign ignorance. Oh, how I dearly wish to punch their faces at this juncture!

You stand one behind the other: Of course not! One must stand next to the other person, one must create parallel queues, one must spread out such that the queue resembles a fat, hungry caterpillar instead! I honestly feel like screaming at them sometimes. Is it so difficult, dammit?!

You await your turn: One’s turn is always just after the person at the counter, irrespective of the position in the queue. There has to be jostling, elbowing, pushing and shoving, crowding around the counter, basically anything but waiting.

Perhaps I should see the glass half-full instead of half-empty. Perhaps there is a business opportunity here. Perhaps I should start a course on Queue Management and Survival!

Honestly, it angers, saddens and depresses me that such a simple mechanism for maintaining order is so unnatural for the majority to follow. It shows clearly where our values lie and that is not at all encouraging.

My Old Man

His earliest memory is that of his father dying. He remembers the way the cot was placed in the room, he remembers the warm water his mother untiringly served both her ailing husband and her sick five-year old son. The son survived, the father died.

They look like such a lovely couple in their black and white portraits: his handsome eyes are gentle, she looks luminous and shy. Who knows what might have happened had he survived: a family larger than just their elder son and younger daughter, a life filled with laughter and gentleness, a good education, a comfortable job…all in the realm of imagination.

The harsh truth was that his mother was now widowed, at the tender age of nineteen. Having nowhere to go, she returned to her maternal home. There, in keeping with eons of tradition, she lived the secret life of a widow, confined to the kitchen and to chores, catering to the demands of the large joint family that lived on a rather meager salary (if he remembers right).

His eyes, once a sun-kissed golden brown but now a bit vacant, well up at the memories of what his mother (and he and his sister) had to endure. The hardships are chiselled into his head, too many to recount, so hard to bear even after so many years have passed. The past has caught up with him now, and sometimes, he can taste the same desperation, the same helplessness he felt when he was a boy with no rights, no means, and no voice.

At that time, he did the only thing he could to preserve his sanity. Movies. Back-to-back shows throughout the day, repeats and reruns, languages no bar — anything to keep his mind off the brutal life out there. At least in the theater, he could unburden the sorrows of his heart and be redeemed at the end. The bad guys got their comeuppance, the good guys walked into the sunset with a song on their lips. Here was happiness, however ephemeral.

In time, however, the wheel turned. Life became much kinder, much gentler. He earned his diploma without even books to study from. He landed a job that provided him the much needed financial security. He married a woman who was strong and forceful and smart, who fought for him as much as she did for herself, and together, they forged a new life. They built and feathered their little nest carefully and with pride. They brought three little girls into this world, and then nurtured them with both strictness and kindness.

His hunger for what he had not got while he was growing up was ferocious. He swore he would give them the best education he could afford. He enrolled them into a ‘convent’, spent every last penny on whatever their education needs were, and saw to it that his daughters accomplished what he had not been able to do. Amidst the tight budgets and penny-pinching, he introduced his family to his passion. Soon, movies became a family affair and regular outings provided much happiness, music, and laughter. Yet, the end of the day saw him meticulously writing down his accounts in his diary, and balancing to the very last paisa.

He, who was so careful with his money, counting and recounting every rupee, has now just given up on his financial affairs. He has no idea how much he has, how much has been spent. Sometimes, he asks the cost of things, but just cannot get a handle on how expensive everything has become.

Ah! His meticulousness! Even today, he folds his clothes with such precision that they look as if they have just been ironed. Memory fails him now; earlier, the story was that even in the dark, he could retrieve anything you asked for from his belongings. He had an eagle eye then, and even a slight displacement of a book or a bottle could never go undetected. In his younger days, he was dressed in crisp white clothes, and was fussy about the way his lunch was laid. Now, he is still fussy, but it is about the food he does not want to eat. He, who once had an appetite like Bhima himself, now eats like a bird, and the quantities grow less and less.

In his younger days, he was as strong as an ox, carrying two buckets of water at a time or hacking away at firewood in one stroke. His muscles were taut and he gritted his teeth whenever he did something heavy-duty. Now, he walks frail and gaunt, with small steps and a hesitant gait. He still hasn’t learnt how to use the walking stick correctly. He used to walk and cycle miles in his youth, and that benefits him now, for he is more or less independent. However, he still misses the outings sorely, and he wishes every now and then that he can just take off to wherever his heart desires.

It’s almost surreal — the way his memories are so clear and strong, yet he can’t remember recent events and people very well. In a way, his past has caught up with his present, and he lives in that world now, with occasional forays into the actual world. Still, he surprises sometimes with his mental sharpness. He still laughs in his cute, shy way. He still is meticulous about the way he completes his Word Search (he must have been through more than a dozen Word Search books now), marking each word carefully with a stub of a pencil, and asking his wife to review it once he is done. He doesn’t watch movies as much, and he still passionately hates politicians.

The long and sometime arduous journey he has successfully made has lasted for a full 90 years. In his own way, he has taught his children how to survive, how to carry on, and how to live an honest life despite everything. Many indeed are the lessons his life offers.

We are so very proud of you, Dad!


Execute Them!

The horror of Nirbhaya has given way to the horror of Gudiya. Iron rods, bottles, candles…the absolutely barbaric brutality and savagery…it literally wakes me up at night. I cringe at the awful thoughts that pass through my head, and the most macabre scenes bloody my imagination. A blind rage engulfs me when I think of Lil D and the kind of world she is slowly emerging into from the cocoon of our protection. A world where anything can happen and nothing will deter it.

According to this article (yes, I seem to get all my news from Yahoo!), there was chaos in parliament over the incident.

“Though parliament has recently passed tougher legislation to prevent rapes, the evil has not abated and such incidents are still on the rise throughout the country,” House Speaker Meira Kumar said before the house was adjourned.

Legislation to prevent rapes? OK, I agree, there are many ancient and irrelevant laws that definitely need to be redrafted, but how on earth will passing more and more laws make the “evil abate”? The need of the hour is to actually implement these laws, to actually execute them in the right spirit. That is what we are sorely lacking. If a cop gives hush-money to the family of a rape victim instead of accepting the complaint, will more laws really help?

What we really, really need is for cops to be like this one, for whom the law is truly above anyone, rich or poor.

The report continued, “Mrs. Witherspoon asked, ‘Do you know my name?’ I answered, ‘No, I don’t need to know your name.’ I then added, ‘right now.’ Mrs. Witherspoon stated, ‘You’re about to find out who I am.’ I stated, ‘I am not worried about you ma’am.'”

Can easily imagine how things would work out if this involved a Bollywood celebrity. They would put it down to being human, I suppose! ;|