Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Wherever I may roam

“How can you not like idlies da?’, catechized the Super Nerd, his mouth still filled with the rock-hard rice cakes that the Azad mess specialized in. “It’s something like ending each sentence with a ‘da’- it’s the very basic definition of a South Indian. It's what sets us apart.” I still couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. At any rate, United had just trounced the Toons in their own backyard, and I wasn’t going to ruin my mood over a couple of idlies. “Oh, I forgot,” he added, almost as an afterthought, “you aren't a true Southie anyway.” He looked at me with a part-apologetic, part-‘you deserved it’, expression; perhaps expecting to find me miffed. Maybe I should have been. For some reason, I wasn't.

There was a time when overhearing Matkas gossiping in Tamil was all it took to make my heart skip a few dozen beats. The mention of Bangalore was followed by an over-enthusiastic, ‘where in Bangalore?’ The poster of Trisha in the Ganga canteen was all it took to set off a train of thought that inevitably revolved around some place downsouth. Lately, though, like almost everything else I ever believed in, the idea of 'home' seems to have fallen apart.

As I near the halfway mark of my stay in R-Land, I can't help but wonder how much of all this I would actually grow to miss. I will miss the people, certainly, but what else? The library that I visit for the sole purpose of checking my mail? Or the Electrical Department, that has been ever so kind in awarding me more C-pluses than I could ever keep count of? Home, I've come to believe, is no more than an illusion- a mirage, if you like, of a place that promised a better life. For some, the mirage stems from their own memories of their halcyon days of youth. For others, it stems from the self-erected barriers of 'us-and-them'.

Even as I type this out, elsewhere in the country, Biharis are being stoned for committing the 'crime' of settling in another part of their own country. To make matters worse, similar sentiments have been voiced in the two other major cities of the south, though, thankfully, they have, at least so far, remained just voices of dissent. Being a part-maddu, part-kaddu, part-nothing who has spent a good part of his life abroad, the only language in which I can claim a reasonable degree of fluency is the lingua pura. My Tamil starts and ends with the knowledge of the Chennai argot and a dozen Superstar punch-dialogues that four years in Chennai are bound to endow one with. Bargaining with the auto-rickshaw wallah for a ride to 4th block is all I can manage in Kannada. Come to think of it, should the 'maratha manoos' syndrome spread to the rest of the country, I would probably get lynched in just about every single part of the country.

When will we realize that a language is only a means of communication and nothing more? That, at the end of the day you are who you choose to be, and the accident of birth in a particular place has little to do with that? It is sad that, in 1956, the government of our country chose to divide our country on a linguistic basis. What is even sadder is that, 50 years hence, we still haven’t got over those divisions.

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Sunday, 17 February 2008

Il Joga Bonito

There are two kinds of world: the one we dream about and the real one. In the former, I am a shade over 6-foot-4, have the brains of Einstein and the looks of George Clooney. I managed only a 9.8 in the previous semester, and hope to improve. I have the voice of Jim Morrison and the oratory of Mark Anthony (the historic character, mind you). My blog has a readership rivalled only by LOTR, with the Potter series at a far-behind five-hundred-and-second.

Regarding the latter, though, the lesser said the better. But there are times in our life when the two converge, everything seems to be going right and you have to pinch yourself to quell your fears that this was another of those sundry corny stories that ended with the cliched, 'and my mom woke me up and I realized that I had been dreaming all along.' It is days like these that remain etched in our memories- the mid sems, the grades and the innumerable other woes of daily life, somehow, fade into oblivion. It is days like these that we'll tell our grandchildren about some desolate afternoon in a summer decades from now.

Today was one such day. For one thing, we were served Gobi Manchurian in the mess. For another, Manchester United knocked Arsenal out of the FA Cup, and how! It was the kind of thing fairytales are made of. Twenty minutes into the game and I realized why Old Trafford was called the Theatre of Dreams. The Red Devils were at their best, though their cause was helped to a large extent by a series of bloopers from an out-of-sorts Gunners side.

'We won!' I exclaimed, much to the perplexity of Miss Muffet. 'Some team, representing a city you haven't even been to, won', she opined. 'What do you mean 'we'?' In more ways than one, football craze is like religion. In both, the sceptic and the believer are in a perennial state of mutual sympathy. The former pities the latter for his apparent immaturity, while the latter does so for all that the sceptic loses out on due to his apathy.

Watching Nani and Anderson make a mockery of the hapless Arsenal defence must have been heart- breaking for any gunner, especially for one as loyal as the Bulk. I couldn't help but notice, though, that in spite of his disappointment, he couldn't help but applaud Nani's artistry. United isn't just about eleven players representing Manchester, just as Arsenal isn't about London, or Liverpool about the Merseyside. Football isn't just about twenty-two players chasing a ball. It's about victory and defeat, ecstasy and heartbreaks, passion and hope, heroes and villains, glory and disgrace. Football is about life, and it takes a while for one to realize how similar the two are. Football shows you how there are days when nothing goes your way no matter how hard you try, and how there are others when you are off colour and yet, manage to walk away with the honours. How it is one thing to talk about fairplay and honesty but quite another to display it on a field with a million eyes on you. How it is easy to stand by a team in victory, but takes tonnes of faith and resolve to do so in defeat. How no matter which side you are on, the game always comes first.

As I watch my fellow United supporters go wild in celebration, I realize that no matter how hard I tried, there was no plausible explanation for our fervour (the passion?). We know our whistles and applause in the Cautley TV Room will never get anywhere near the ears of Sir Alex Ferguson, and yet, we cheer United on just about as fervently as anyone seated in Old Trafford itself. This is, as PeeTeeVee, aptly put it, a love beyond logic. 'Some day', Miss Muffet goes on, 'you'll grow up and look back and laugh at the lameness of it all.' Someday, maybe. But I sincerely hope and pray that such a day never comes.

Friday, 8 February 2008

Growing down?

If there is one thing that maddus (citation: short for madrasis, a hyper-intelligent race hailing from the southern half of India.) love more than food and the Superstar, it is rain. We look forward to the monsoons the way a kid anticipates Christmas, only more eagerly. In cold and frigid R-land though, any form of precipitation is far from welcome, though that only seems to encourage Mother Nature to bless us with all the rain in the world. The icy droplets pierce one's skin like needles, and make the already near-impossible ordeal of attending the 9 o' clock lecture all the more cumbersome.

For me, though, there is a silver lining in the clouds after all. The rains, and the puddles that they bring along, mean that I can exhibit my dexterity in the art of drawing shapes on the pavement with my wet shoe-heels. The other day I even managed to write 'Dela' in the aforementioned manner. As I looked at my work of genius, oddly, it was not pride that I felt. The fact that it had come out brilliantly notwithstanding, for the first time, I felt embarrassed and bewildered by my own puerility.

As I look around, I realize that everyone around me has a sense of direction. Some are trying to put on some flab, while others are trying to lose theirs. Some are trying hard to hold on to the coveted DR-1 (short for department rank), while others are trying to make up for the uncharacteristic 7 that they scored in the autumn semester. Some are growing locks, albeit with plans to go bald the following semester. Others are busy apping away to glory to all and sundry for an internship in the suburbs of Siberia. Some moving closer to their dreams, others entrenching themselves in the long-forgotten art of studying. Summing up, everyone is moving forward. I, on the other hand, seem to be living life in reverse..

When I was eight years old, I was gripped by the age-old existential question- Who am I? People would point to their bodies, their hearts, their heads and I would drive them up the wall by saying, but that’s your body, who are you?
Now, at the age of nineteen, I crave Snickers bars.

As a sixteen year-old, I religiously attended classes. As an undergrad student, I run out of class midway through a lecture, having already procured the all-important 'P' next to my name. Moving up in life? Two years ago, I was the ideal high school student- teacher's pet (well, in all subjects except for biology, at least) and armed with a Kevin Arnold-esque boyish charm. Today, half my professors don't even know my name, and even those who do, know me for all the wrong reasons.

Why am I becoming shallower with every passing minute? Is the Roorkee water to blame?

At times I wonder, are you allotted just a certain amount of maturity? What if I used it all up as an annoying over-smart kid? Do I resign myself to a lifetime of finding joy in X-Men, puddles and Snickers bars?