Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Paradox of Pain

Everyone wants to be happy.
Everyone is jealous of a man who is happier than them.
So everyone pretends they are happy and tries to make others jealous of their happiness.
After all, isn't Happiness everything in Life??


Some people (this affliction is probably limited to a certain age group) don't wish to appear happy. Not always. There is no charm in being happy. The charm lies in misery, its concealment and the portrayal of suppressed grief. No, I am most definitely not making this up. The deeper the suffering (or its appearance), the better. There should be enough to make others envious of your pain, to make others admire you for it. If there is no great tragedy, you act as if there is. If someone else has a deeper cause for unhappiness, you either downplay it or pray to God to give you that one. But the agony should not spill over in a flood of tears, it should be contained. It should sooo break others' heart for you.

There is no denying the touch of Romance associated with Sorrow. Our heart goes out to the silently grieving hero rather than the teary-eyed heroine. However, in films, there is the omnipresent friend of the hero who knows everything, who divulges to (us and) others about his countless sacrifices. Of course the hero cannot list them himself. His job is to look melancholy when the narration is in progress. In real life, unfortunately, there is no such friend. So, if someone has to appreciate our hardships, we need to tell them about it. And blog about it. And stress how much we 'suffer in silence'.

Real life is a dampener that takes the romance away from sorrow. One cannot talk about his problems without having to hear that the listener is suffering even more.

- "I'm having a very tough time."
- "You have no idea what I am going through."

- "I have a hundred issues you know nothing about."
- "I'm sure they're nothing compared to mine!"

- "Nobody knows I am grieving inside. My heart is breaking even as I smile."
- "I keep my pain from my family and dear friends. The brave face I put up conceals the tragic life I lead."

We yearn for pain so that we can be a martyr before others. In that sense, it is the pain that gives us joy. That happiness is everything in life.
I call it the Paradox of Pain.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Scene: A nursery school auditorium.
Event: The much-awaited annual day.
Seated: Eager, twinkle-eyed relatives of the stars on stage.
Back-stage: Whimpering, smiling, jumping, rolling, wide-eyed, half-dressed, full-dressed, robed, falling-over-each-other-and-giggling bunch of pre-schoolers. And their harassed teachers.

The beautiful lady-in-white, the Master of Ceremony, announces the start of the programs. The lighting of the lamp, the welcome speech (by two six-year-olds in unison), and the prayer song by a group of four-year-olds (Haaaam ko maaaann ki shaaakti dennaaaaaaa...) follow.

The parents, grandparents and relatives settle down for the events. Unknown to them, there are about twenty-five programs ahead, counting the dances, skit and everything else that happens on the stage and off it. As the little ones sway, stand, stare, sniffle and scream on-stage, the MC announces, "Parents, please encourage the children!!" The audience bursts out in a thunderous clapping to the beat of the music, accompanied by chuckles and smiles at the performance, drowning everything else.

About ten programs down the line, there is a slow but perceptible change. The parents have started glancing at their watches. All that clapping has begun to burn their palms. The MC has stopped encouraging the parents to encourage the children. The children whose programs are over and their parents begin the exodus, leaving patches in the once-crowded hall. The MC requests everyone to stay because the certificates will be awarded at the end of the program, but very few wish to remain for what they could clearly foresee would last another two hours.

I cannot find a better or clearer example than this. We start everything with a burst of energy, believing that the enthusiasm will remain just as strong till the end. But more often than not, it doesn't. It begins to hurt our palms. It makes us tired. It... wears out.
We stop clapping and get up to leave.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Patience: When you watch the five-year-old fold clothes, slowly, carefully, tongue protruding, taking about ten-and-a-half minutes for every little handkerchief.

Satisfaction: When three or four wash loads of clothes are washed, dried, folded, kept neatly in their places, and the laundry basket is finally empty.

Relief: When an excruciating headache begins to recede.

Discomfort: When, after a sumptuous meal, you realise you need to urgently visit the loo.

Pleasure: When you spend a whole day scrubbing and cleaning, unknown to everyone, till the five-year-old comes in, looks around surprised and says, "Did you change the bulb? Why is this place gleaming?"

Peace: When the child falls asleep after an exhausting, energetic, lively, talking-nineteen-to-the-dozen day.

Pride: When someone you admire appreciates your work.

Pain: When you say 'I don't give a damn', and don't mean it.

Suffocation: When you want to complain, swear out loud or scream at someone but can't, because you know there is no point in grumbling and no one can fix or change anything and whatever you shout aloud the child will repeat.

Confusion: When you think you are a victim to society's cruelty and act like a martyr (aka hero) of the movies you watch over and over again, even borrowing dialogs from them.

Love: When you gaze at your sleeping child. When you miss your parents. When you think of people who make your life slices of rainbow.

Amazement: When the child secretly finishes his writing work when you are not looking and proudly shows it to you.

Determination: To know what you're doing is going to hurt a lot of people, cause many of them to turn against you, nevertheless go forward because you alone feel it is the right thing to do.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Who's teaching who...?

"Oh, you got new books from the school library? Let me see. "The fox and the grapes"! Now that's one story every child should read. Let me read it to you. See the picture, this is a grapevine. A plant in which grapes grow. See? It's a creeper."


"It isn't a creeper."
"It is. See, it is growing all the way up the tree, holding on to its trunk."

"It is not a creeper, it is a crawler."

"A creeper grows on the ground. Like this. A crawler grows up, crawling through the tree trunk."
"Ahh... yes. Crawler, you're right. Crawler. Not a creeper."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What we lack is a Smile...

At the gate, in the morning, the security guard on duty grunts, "Namaste, Madam..."
No smile...

At the hospital reception, the person in charge of scheduling appointments grumbles, "Be seated, I will call you..."
No smile...

The person next door with whom you share a wall, who even plays old Hindi songs that you like, walks past you, as if you're invisible...
No smile...

The person who picks up the phone at the popular pizza joint grunts, "Thank you for calling ---Pizza".
No smile...

Traffic cop on duty, when asked for directions to an apartment, "Straight, take left."
No smile...

The child returning from school jumps down from the school van and up to his Mother's arms.
Smiles that make you smile...

Chaywaali at the corner of the street, on seeing the child, "Paapu, come, I'll give you chocolates!"
Smiles that make you smile...

The World could do with more smiles...

Related Posts:
The little girl who wanted to make everyone smile
Little things that matter
The insignificance of a smile
Memoirs: Smile
Laugh, and not smile

Monday, March 14, 2011

I hate Malayalam Movies...

...  in which Malayalis don't speak like Malayalis.

In the recent past, I have come across a few youth-ish films in which youngsters talk like foreigners learning Malayalam. (At least the foreigners sound cute.) In reality, even in Bangalore, I don't hear so much Englishised Malayalam as that. Malayalis born and brought up outside Kerala may have this difficulty in twisting their tongues to the 'zhas' and 'Las' of Malayalam. When I look around, I see my son and children of my friends let go the perfect Malayalam that their parents taught them when they started speech. In this multi-cultural environment that they are growing up in, holding on to one language is very tough. The children are shifting to a mixed accent right before our eyes, and there is not much we can do about it, except insist they stick to the Mother-tongue at home.

But Kerala is a different story. Or isn't it? I don't remember coming across such atrocious accent in Kerala so far. Maybe it is cleverly evading me.

If the youth in Kerala really speak like that, I pity them.
If they don't, I still pity them, because many of them are going to watch these films and begin faking their accent.

Older posts:
Malayalam, a Unique Language

Friday, March 11, 2011

Don't make much of dreams...

Dreams, they tell me, are thoughts that the brain purges, in its daily wash-rinse cycle to remove chemical waste. In other words, the defragmenting, disk-cleaning and virus removal, scheduled daily, like any decent operating system. For this reason, it is not recommended to recall dreams after we wake up, else the trash will make its way back. A sensible brain that knows its business will perform these activities only when the owner is asleep, otherwise the stubborn being would cling to the thoughts without letting them be cleared. The brain, well-meaning as it is, does all its covert work like a maid who does not know a silk saree from a cotton salwar - which undoubtedly explains the mixed up stuff that appear in our sleep: wrong people at the wrong places and wrong times, nothing coming anywhere close to sense. What we see is the last screening on their way out.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Memories of a Train Journey

It took me a while to blog about this news item, and not without reason.

Maybe because I am a woman, maybe for other reasons, I do not understand the height of desperation that would drive any man to such measures. Is the urge so violent that one would want to force himself on a woman, and try to break in without consent, even when the woman is senseless with blood oozing from her head? Is his hunger so terrible that a piece of bread, stale and tasteless, would satisfy him? Especially in this age, where consent is not too difficult to find? How callous can one be?

Everyone has expressed a strong opinion (read, 'correct' opinion) regarding this incident, I am led to suspect that the ones who deplore it the most loudly are the ones who would do it, given a chance. There, that's an unkind statement, but one that could be true.

The incident brought two images to mind. The first was the unforgettable scene from Ghajini where Asin rescues a girl hiding in an empty compartment, an action that eventually leads to her death.

The second was a scene from my own life, on a hot, stuffy and unpleasant April day, when I was travelling from Trivandrum in Parasuram Express, better known those days as the Day Express. I thought the journey would never end. I only had a couple of books to keep me company. The train was packed till it reached Shoranur or maybe Kozhikode, in the late afternoon. After that the crowd began to thin. The compartment was more or less empty, with a few scattered passengers minding their own business.

The young men boarded at Kannur or maybe before that. They came and sat near me. I think there were three or four of them. I was pretending to read for want of something better to do, conscious that it was dark outside and I was very alone. They tried to open some conversation, which I resisted and discouraged with a stoic face. One of them asked me, "Where are you going?" I pointed forward (à la Clint Eastwood*). They assumed I meant Kasargode, the next major station. I had no intention of divulging that my destination was Mangalore, which would arrive only by 9PM.

As Kasargode Railway Station slid into view, they rose to alight, expecting me to do likewise. My nose deep inside my book, though I was not taking in a single word, I pretended not to have noticed anything. How can a woman travelling alone be so unconscious as to miss her station? The men were confused no doubt, and at the door, they stood looking at each other and me, and announcing aloud, "It is Kasargode Station." I raised my head, glanced outside through the window, looked at them and went back to my book.

It must have dawned on them then. They went their way. As the train left Kasargode, I closed my book whose pages I was turning for the past one hour without seeing a thing, let out a sigh of relief and settled down for the rest of the journey.

Nothing has changed after Soumya's death. We have moved on. The trains have moved on. The rallies and agitations have moved on.
Elsewhere, echoing the closing note of the article on NDTV, "...women still fend for themselves."

*The Clint Eastwood reference is from one of his famous Dollar Westerns, in which he rides into a town and a guy asks, "Where are you from?" Eastwood thrusts his thumb over his shoulder. "Where are you going?" Eastwood points forward. That's it. Not a single unnecessary word. I have gotten away with this technique many times in life.

Monday, March 7, 2011


A story should have a beginning and end, no doubt. Everyone knows that.

It is what happens between them that's important. There should be a plot. There should be climax. There should be people thrown in together, there should be people getting separated. There should be misery, there should be happiness. There should be pain, anger, emotions, there should be something extraordinary. There should be crises, devastation, and there should be survival.
There should be hope. There should be Life.

In other words, there should be *something* happening. People should change.

There should be some of these, or there should be all of these.

Without them, it would remain two hundred pages or two hours of happily ever after.
Then it does not become a story.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The results are in!

The Most Horrid thing of the Week...
... is the Headache.

It makes us deaf.
It makes us blind.

It makes us unreasonable.
It makes us immune to priorities.

It makes us insensitive to issues and chores.
It makes us lose our temper with adults and children alike.

It makes us want to go to bed with a blanket over the eyes and sleep for a decade.

Wow. Nothing else showed a more impressive track record this week.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Lies you say for the People you Love...

"Mamma, I didn't like this new bey blade you brought for me."
"What! Why?"

"It doesn't spin well. See? It stops too soon."
"Oh, I don't know anything about that. I just checked if it was working fine and bought it."

"Well, it works. But not as good as R's."
"Uh. That's too bad. I thought you'll like it. There were two others at the shop that weren't working at all, so I chose this."

"Which were those?"
"I don't know. Some bey blade. Would you have liked those that don't work??"

"No. I just wanted to know."


"Mamma, I like this."

"The new bey-blade."
"Wha-? I thought you said it wasn't good enough."

"I thought so at first. But now, see? If I rip it thus, it spins spectacularly."
"That's good."

"Thank you, baby." *Bliss*

* * * * *

"Dad, please bring me one bey blade when you come."
"I will try. It's pretty late and most of the toy shops must have closed."

"Baby, if your Dad brings some bey blade, even if it is not the one you wanted, please don't complain."


"Hi baby, here is the bey blade I bought for you. They were about to close the shop."
"Wow! This is exactly what I wanted!!!"

"No, not really. I just said so because you'd gone through so much trouble to get me one."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Snake

"Madam! Want to see a snake?"

"Have you seen a snake? Look there!"
"What snake? Ewwww.... is that real?"

"Yes Madam, I killed it, just a few minutes ago!"
"Ewwwwwww...... look at it! Good heavens! It's creeping me out! Where did it come from?"

"Over yonder, and was crawling this way."
"Ewwwwww..... it looks terrifying!!! What's it doing so close to civilization?!"

"Must have come out from that plot across the road where someone set fire to the bushes last week."
"Will there be more?"

"I don't know, Madam."


"Oh, by the way, did you hear of the snake?"
"What snake?"

"There was one outside the apartment. The security man killed it with his stick."

"I was pretty frightened when I saw it."
"Yeah... our children go out to play, I can't imagine what would happen if they encounter one."

"Ooohh.. the very thought is scary."


"Baby, don't go outside after dark."

"The Security Uncle saw a snake at the gate today."

"Yes, a long and huge one."
"Is it still there?"

"No, he killed it with a stick."

"It was huge and long and probably poisonous. You know what, it had the colour of the wall and the sand. You could easily miss if you're not careful. Promise me you'll be careful when you're playing outside."
"How did Security Uncle kill it?"

"With his stick."
"If I see a snake, I will ..."

"Just. Be. Careful."


"There was a snake outside the gate."
"What kind of snake?"

"The Security said some name. He said it was poisonous."

"He killed it with a stick."
"Whatever for?"

"It was crawling close to the wall."

"So? So means what?"
"It must have been looking for food. Snakes don't harm people. Why does everyone have to kill snakes the moment they see one?"

"It was very close to those houses. What if it went into one of them in its search for food? What if one of the children accidentally stepped on it?"
"Snakes don't harm anyone unless someone harms them first."

"I like to think Prevention is better than Cure."