Talking about the Future on the School Bus

10320348_757120340986332_8630196627970622781_nHave you ever wondered why we only remember snippets of our memories? Like one precious moment in time we managed to catch just before it slipped away, and stored it in the treasure chest of our minds. It might be a little dusty with time, but the essence remains pure.

This is one such memory carefully preserved in my memory box – the details are a little dusty, but it is still cherished.

What do you want to be when you grow up? – the favourite question of every adult whom you met. Today we had just written a paragraph in class on what we wanted to be when we grew up, and the topic was still fresh in our minds. By we, I mean me and my two best friends – who for the sake of anonymity, I am calling S and M. 

“So” I asked, looking out of the school bus window, at the receding building, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” 

“You tell, first”, M demands, testing the waters, testing if it is a trick question.  We were only 4 years old. 

“I wanna be a doctor” I replied proudly. “Like my uncle. He stays in London”. I never knew which held more fascination for me – the profession or the distant land, synonymous with all the magical places I read about in books (maybe that is why when I finally visited the city, a few years ago I was vaguely a little disappointed). Whatever the case, that was the only career path I knew of and deemed fitting back then. 

Now, S followed, a little tentatively, “I wanna be a teacher”. We turn up our noses. Being a teacher is the worst thing you could want to be at that age. A teacher was a wooden ruler wielding monster back then, who mercilessly gave homework to students. “Not any teacher”, she is quick to defend. “A good one, like Rina Miss. I will help students. I will be kind and never shout at them”. This was, still understandable. Rina Miss was all of our favourite teacher. She was kind, and always took extra interest in the underdogs – those who were bullied in the playground, those who didn’t seem to have friends, those who had problems at home. She would call them and talk to them at length. Sometimes she would give us chocolates and small gifts like pencils or ball-point pens (a rare privilege allowed to kids). She would take interest in what books we read and what films we saw, and when another teacher scolded us, it was to she who wiped our tears. 

Now it was M’s turn. She proudly puffed up her chest – “I want to be a wife!” We broke into peals of laughter. Marriage only had two meanings for us – 

  1. A game to play with when we were playing with our dolls.
  2. An occasion where we had to go dressed up and would be served tasty food, and would have our cheeks pulled by a dozen people we never remembered meeting. 

Once we managed to resume seriousness, we gave some serious thought to the question. “You will have to leave your parents”, I said gravely. As a girl, that was the biggest obstacle to marriage, in my opinion.

“I won’t”, M said, confidently. “I will make my husband leave his house, and come to live with my parents. My mother said that long ago that is how it happened. Men left their houses after marriage to come, stay with their wives”. (I have thought of this strange piece of knowledge for long. I guess my friend had misunderstood, or maybe her mother was talking about matriarchal societies)

“That is such a nice tradition!” I said. “Why did they change it? Why did our mothers shift residence after marriage?” 

For a moment we ponder this incomprehensible question. This ridiculousness of our mothers. “My father has a nice house” S said, almost defensively. We all were quiet. We couldn’t really debate this topic, without debasing either one of our parents, so we left it.

“When we get married, we won’t be like our mothers” I decide. “We will bring our husbands to our home. I will never leave my family!” images (1)

More than fifteen years has passed since this conversation took place. None of us are married….yet. I am pursuing a journalism career. M is pursuing English majors, and S just cleared high school. Very little remains of that ignorance and confidence now. Back then, all insurmountable problems had a simple solution. Sometimes I wish I could view life as simplistically now too.

(This post is in response to today’s Daily Prompt: Futures Past)





7 Reasons as to why I am Hermione

All those who have been to High School that it is impossible to pass through high school without acquiring a collection of nicknames. One such nickname which I was often teased by was ‘Hermione’ (from the Harry Potter books), and my last birthday gift from one of my friends was a Hermione figurine-key chain. I didn’t mind this particular nickname as much as I minded some others. Hermione is the favourite character of 90% of all Harry Potter fans, and definitely falls on the list of Top 5 favourite characters of all others. This might also be due to Emma Watson’s good looks though – detailed research is needed.

Here is a list of my 7 quintessential behaviour (there are lots more, but my readers’ patience is limited and seven is THE MAGICAL NUMBER according to Harry Potter) that earned me the sobriquet:

1. I always had a tonne of books with me wherever I went. Throughout my school life, I have spent a majority of my recesses in the library, poring over literary volumes. My poor friends had to track me down there, if and when they wanted to talk to me, and converse with me under the pointed glares of the librarian and her constant shush-ing; and in all probability I would be so lost in the book that I wouldn’t be listening either. I have spent most of my P.T. periods leaning against the pillars in the balcony and reading books too. Even on those rare occasions when I could be dragged out into the playground, I would be found on the swing, reading a book. Inducing me to play, like inducing Hermione to fly on a broom, is an activity fraught with peril. I remember one fateful Games period when our coach forced me onto the pitch with a bat in hand and a runner in tow. All I had to do was hit the ball with the bat. The runner would get my team runs. The first ball was a wide. On the second, I swung the ball hard and hit — my runner hard on the forehead. My classmates left me in my books in peace from then on. 

2. My Hand was constantly up in class. I am not even kidding. Sometimes I would raise my hand even before the teacher had framed the question. It grew to a point where teachers started completing their questions with anyone else besides….yours truly…

3. My Marks were usually over the average. You know how there are some students whom you seek out after exams to ask their scores so that you can know exactly how well you have done? Yeah, I am one of those. 

4. I have lectured teachers. If there is one thing I can’t stand it is incompetent teachers and bad teaching. The next generation depends on teachers. They can’t afford to be lazy. The number of fights I have had over teachers who made mistakes in class would fill a volume. Some common topics were — Kolkata is on the sea side – it isn’t!; Ammonia cannot be liquid and other such errors. 

5. I do not care how I look. Why? It is simply time consuming. I may wear make-up and make an effort to brush my hair on special occasions say the Yule Ball but otherwise it is just too much effort. I would rather study or read books.

6. I have asked teachers for extra homework. I like studying. Seriously I do. It is fun to learn stuff, like exploring dimensions you never knew about. To me it is an adventure. So, yes, after finishing my class work and home assignments, I have spent time asking teachers for extra work. I have taken more subjects than anyone else too. While we were required to take only five papers for graduation, I insisted and took six.

7. I have fought hard for what I believe in, and always stood by my friends. Arts students should be allowed to study science subjects, and vice-versa. I fought so many battles over that with my principal, and finally became the only student to opt for subjects from both streams. And the extra effort I spent in studying for them were amply rewarded in my marks that only proved my point. You might be now wondering how such a nerdy, geeky person like me ever have friends – simple, I am also very loyal. You tell me a secret, no one else will ever hear of it. You need my help, you just need to ask. My friends mean a lot to me, and are perhaps the only people for whom I would keep the book aside.

22nd February 2014 – An Indian Weekend

# Statutory Warning: All incidents mentioned her are strictly true…more or less. 

So, today while sitting in class and aimlessly doodling in my notebook while my professor droned on about ‘The Effects of Media on Adolescence’ I had a sudden brainwave of keeping an online diary. Heck why not? I thought. I am hopelessly single, a term employee at Jobless Incorporated and have a negligible social life – so I definitely have the time, and I have been itching to try something new for quite sometime now. Though knowing my innate and astonishing ability to procrastinate, it might soon reach an inevitable end anyways….well that’s enough depressing talk for one day, and before you start wondering how in the world you ended up here, I better start what I intended to start when I start(ed).

Most Indian Colleges have still to catch up on the true meaning of the concept of ‘weekend’. As far as they are concerned it means getting students to wake up at half-past five and come to college looking like zombies, so that you can further doom them with tedious lectures, and finally pile up enough homework and assignments to make sure that they don’t even have time to breathe on Sunday. Indian College Professors would excel at world domination. Anyways that’s how my day started. The only perk being that the hot guy I kinda-sorta like sat next to me in class today – I wish it was because he wanted my company, but I have a nasty feeling it was only because that was the only seat left available in the classroom when he arrived – and every now and then during the two hour long lecture, his hand would brush against mine. Once he actually started tapping my fingers with his, probably a game, or a desperate attempt to keep himself awake – whatever the case it generated enough adrenaline (and some other hormones) in me to keep my eyes open in class.

On my way back, in the notoriously slow Western Locals of Mumbai, I met up with a friend. She told me of another disastrous weekend she had with a couple of her friends. All of them had bought drinks and gone to one of the boys’ house for a booze party. This was the first time that they had purchased vodka, and thus did not have much of a clue as to when to restrain themselves, and also ignorant of the fact that the effect of vodka takes a while to sink in. So they kept drinking till they felt ‘high’ and the result was they passed the borderline of sobriety and sanity. After an extremely wild party they went out to a family restaurant to display their inebriated state to the entire world. One of the girls, my friend told me in between bursts of embarrassed laughter, dipped her paper napkin into the gravy boat and ate it. Yet, she continued, the worst part of the evening was yet to come. “You see, we were so drunk that we had forgotten to clean up the place; and when my friend went home he found all the bottles we were supposed to throw out on the table, the place stinking of alcohol and his parents standing in front of him, arms crossed”.

“So what happened?” I asked.

“Oh nothing much. He made up a story. He told his parents that did they honestly think he was stupid enough to drink, if he did drink, in his own house, and not clean up”.

“And they bought it?” I asked incredulously.

“Oh yes! You see his parents thought that no one could be that stupid. But we were. That stupid!”

“So, you were saved because his parents underestimated your stupidity!!” 

And that’s enough for today. I write again soon….maybe. Please feel free to leave a comment on what you think.