Tuesday, November 16, 2010

That's what they call serendipity

I normally give my car to the valet guy to park at the gym but it was night and it was raining and I didn't see him so I parked it myself. After finishing my workout, he offered to bring it around to the front of the gym but I declined because in truth, I didn't have any money to tip him. So running off sheepishly, I got into my car on the other side of the road and slowly, cautiously began reversing into that chaotic street with whatever vision I could possess inside a rain splattered car on a dark street with blitzing lights.

For some reason I looked to my right and spotted a small, white-clad man with spectacles and a much-cuter-than-but-a-lot-like Woody Allen face. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe it!

It was my maths tuition teacher from twelfth standard. The only maths tuition teacher I had who counted. For those of you who don't know, especially in Chennai, all kids are expected to go to tuition classes in the all important tenth and twelfth public exam years, irrespective of their capabilities. It's a rite of passage. The top students go to learn exam skills (which questions are bound to come in the paper and other tricks) and the others go to get what the school which moves at such a fast pace can't give them. My maths teacher, an endearing, limerick-making soul did try. But I was beyond help. I was really good but some irrational fear kept me back in only this subject. It was weird that something I really loved didn't love me back. Especially when it was a thing, not a person.

So this maths teacher was the one who transformed a paranoid, maths-loving but morbidly maths-phobic person into a smiling, peaceful 87% scoring, peace-with-demons-making school graduate. The one who made studying so easy with the help of practice papers. The adorable 90 + teacher who walked and walked and walked all around my part of town, tuition to tuition just because he didn't want to "stay at home watching TV". The one whose number I had lost, whom I feared had been long gone and whom I never really got to thank properly.

Now this may not be really relevant this but my father's a bit older. Living with him has endowed me with a fondness, a soft corner for older gentlemen beyond a particular age in the sense that I feel protective about them. I'm not really the type who feels children need fighting for. They do but they have enough people battling for the preservation of their innocence. My heart goes out to the older men and women, mostly men (because women are quite strong in this sense) who don't really have the energy that they used to have and who have to face a faster, glitzier world that wants to drop everything and move on.

So, meeting my teacher. I wanted to tell him so much. Thank him for helping me through a difficult period? Thank him for bringing sweetness and goodness into my life? Thank him for being a great teacher? But the words didn't really come out right. They overflowed and he nodded, he remembered me only after a while but he did. He asked about my former classmate and friend who had introduced me to him. He asked about my parents. Our conversation was less than sparkling and soul-searching but it was essential. It was special. God gave me my chance at gratitude and at filling the small hole in my heart that was incomplete. Nothing much was said but so much was expressed. I held his hand with both of mine and simply repeated "I'm so happy to see you"

Sunday, November 7, 2010

...And then life gives you a break

So after a long, therapeutic, post-midnight conversation with my positive conscience (A.K.A. Jhinks) I regained a fresh perspective on what this studying process actually means to me. She gave me pointers on what I'd forgotten-doing something for the love of it. And she's the right person to do so because the real reason I'm doing this course and enjoying a second chance at collegehood and knowledge-acquisition is the fact that she told me to accompany her to admissions last year and then overslept, thus making me go on my own and buying an application I didn't intend to. The story is longer and funnier but does not really belong here at this moment. Let's catalogue that under LIFE'S SECRET SMILES or GOING WITH THE FLOW. Or maybe just DESTINY.

Anyway, so Jhinks told me that it was absaaloootellyyyy (that sounds more like me) okayyyy to spend three hours on a page..just as long as I committed myself to every word on that page. Sai Baba, my Mum and others have all extolled on putting your best into what you're supposed to do at that moment. And also, God helps those who help themselves. I've always been all for that (as it distracts me from the looming questions) But I guess I needed a reminder. And last night, in that semi-conscious, giggly state that comes from sleep deprivation and a long rollercoaster conversation with your best friend since you were ten, I was coached into no more stress, no more million distractions (How I Met Your Mother, iTunes, or Diwali get togethers) only steely, slow, steady, studious state of mindedness (AhAA!)

And then I wake up, all set to delve into neutrality and the laws of warfare (after being distracted by Obama's rather fulfilling session with St. Xavier's students in Mumbai. "India has risen"-that should bury yesterday's disappointment. Whatever it is, I felt redeemed watching the interaction) and hello, Cyclone Jal (a creative name or what?) is heading our way. I go check my abandoned phone and find a barrage of missed calls and expectant messages. Holiday or not? Exam postponed or what? An hour later, we were sure. It's kinda like a damp, chilly Diwali present.

So I'm taking a few hours off to myself. Gotta clear out the week's worth of empty water bottles from this room, wipe the smudgy spectactles with my special lint-free blue cloth, burn a CD of funny songs (Action Replayy! Stupid and hilarious! Just the way I love it. Akshay Kumar is classically comical and it's nice to see Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan act goofy) and then get back to focusedness.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The adulation for Obama's nation (Sorry, Kanye)

The three-syllable proper noun is being chanted every couple of nano seconds on consecutive news channels as part of a flurry of commentary in English and every single Indian language. And in my father's room, there is a lot of channel flipping. So it's 'bamobamaobamaobama' 24/7 with opinions on the shaky airplane ladder to his 'महत्त्वपूर्ण' (important) words signed at the 26/11 memorial to a literal memorisation of his itinerary for today.

Not that I would really mind. I was a fan, still am and am reluctant to give it up. But being a student of IR, I am supposed to be objective and reasoning. Not non-commital on the aid to Pakistan deal. Being a citizen of India, I am supposed to be patriotic. Furious at "insourcing". He is the president of the USA after all. We aren't supposed to expect him to shine his benevolent, leader-of-the-free-world grace upon us. We know the NSS drill-geostrategic, geoeconomic, geopolitical that are consistent of US foreign policy. We know he's been wary of the surge of India and China and our impact on US jobs. My homeland's just started seeing economic success and we don't really want to give that up. Yet we are all fans. We want this hero to be universal, unconstrained by national jurisdiction and commitments and a house divided. Why does he feel like "our guy"? Cause he quotes Nehru and the Mahatma? Cause he spent some time in Indonesia as a kid and his sister's half-Indonesian? Cause he's brown? Cause he's a realisation of the American dream? Wait a second, why do we have an American dream? Let's skip that. We all still measure success in dollars and we can't really help it. We like the American political system, we followed Obama's election more closely than Dr. Singh's. We know Joe Biden better than our own vice-president, what's his name? Her name? (Shri M. Hamid Ansari, thank you, Google) Let's face it. Indian politics is a mess and it's uncool. Why, even American politics wasn't as glam when Bush was around. Obama brought his charm, his oratorical skills, his ideals and wife and made us dream in red, white and blue again. Can we help it? We're only human.

I'm still a fan, still want a hero and am still not about to let go of the voice that enriched my thought process through 'Dreams From My Father', the opinions that aided my answer papers in college. So let me have my illusions a little while longer. Let me imagine this American leader belongs to all of us and we can all catch a bit of stardust.