Thursday, February 25, 2010

Movers and Shakers

                        A couple of years back whenever I was on the highway I used to look at these huge buses (Air buses as they are called) driving past and there would be two thoughts on my mind - 1) who would want to travel for hours in a claustrophobic bus?  2) wow! They look majestic..with nice seats..wish I could go on a ride sometime. Yes. Conflicting thoughts. My wish came true however with me moving to Tanjore. That means quite a number of trips by bus to home and back.

                        Now, I was thrilled the 1st time I traveled by an Air bus. Excitement clouded my judgement and I loved the ride. Then comes the 2nd trip and you start to notice reality. Air buses are of two types. Private owned and Govt buses. But they share a dozen commons.

                     Trips are mostly scheduled for the night and if you are not an expert at infant-sleeping like I am you’d have a strenuous ride.

Rule no: 1 – try getting a window seat. That way you get good air (sometimes could blow your head off) and you get to anchor your head onto the window so you wouldn’t slide down the seat. Which brings us to

Rule no : 2 – all buses by default have seats shaped into an angle that appears no where in geometry with the sole purpose of making sure you come sliding down your seat 10 secs after you have hoisted yourself up! (the ‘ol Tom and Jerry trick).

Rule no : 3 – never expect peace at night. There will most definitely be some movie playing all night, especially the loud ones that educate you on villainism (‘How to be a villain for dummies’). The driver and the conductor will be locked out at the front and listening to the 80’s classics but no, YOU have to endure the ultrasonics.

Rule no : 4 – if you are a germ freak stop being one immediately. All night-riders pull up for pit stops where the rest rooms or rest-whatever-structure that is will make you wish you could go blind, deaf and insensitive to smell all at once. But you have an 8-hour drive in the night and you are not exactly a Yogi to control your impulses. That’s the only time I wish I were a guy!

Rule no : 5 – most bus drivers are wannabe pilots and since they’ve been denied a stick they try to make do with the bucket of bolts you are traveling in. If you are blessed with the kind of roads I get to travel through sometimes, you might even have the privilege to get your femur interchanged with your neck bones or your vertebra in pieces!

                     Then there are the usuals. You are a goner if your neighbor is any of these - talkative, religious, fat, smelly, flirtatious, tossy in sleep or has a high decibel snore. I’ve had friends tell me they sometimes get bitten by bed-mites! Mosquitos are denizens of any bus and I’ve never been this fond of repellent-creams before.

                     These aside I love everytime I travel by bus. Am nocturnal and the night amazes me. The wind in my face, my favourite song in my i-Pod, a bar of chocolate in hand, thinking about everything I wanted to simply because I have time at hand and most of all the fact that am going home – Ah! Bliss.

P.S: don’t ask me about when I come back…

Image courtesy :

Make a wish

                               I was standing at my window talking to the stars (Yes. The night sky is my best friend and I talk to stars). Suddenly there fell this bright one from the sky…rather across the sky – one that is known as a shooting star! Now, this fellow is supposed to be rare to appear or at least rare to spot unless you have quick reflexes. So legend associates magic with him and the simplest form of it is that when you spot a shooting star you are granted a wish.

                              That’s phenomenal considering how much and how many things each of us wish we had everyday. From time to money, clothes to princes our lists keep running long enough to make a toilet paper roll the size of earth! Given that it should’ve been easy to make a wish with my star-wild card. These wish things are tricky. Making a wish is like practicing law. You can never cover all the loopholes. So there’s no asking for a 100 wishes and recharging your wish account at the 99th wish! All you get is one wish and choosing wisely is up to you.

                              Frankly I was stumped! For a person like me who actually maintains a wish list it should’ve been taken a blink of the eye to come up with one but I was just puzzled trying to prioritize what I wanted the most. A powerful wish deserved to be special and obviously targeted at something hard to get. But at that instant the hardest thing I could think of was getting my lab work attested by a strict  prof  before the deadline and I felt it wasn’t worth a star’s grant!

                              The seconds passed by and I could'nt pick on one thing I wanted to wish for. ‘a pretty dress’? – I’d have to wish for that with my Dad, not a star. ‘world peace’? - ya right. Am not Miss Universe. ‘a week’s holiday’? – special classes later? No thanks. I still hadn’t decided what I wanted Mr. Star to give me and I could actually see him up there giggling at my plight and holding up a sandglass to indicate my wish-time was slipping away.

                              I hit upon one thing I wanted finally! It was pretty complicated and it took me 5 minutes to get it out right but a wish is a wish. As Mr. Star tumbled away a 101 things came to my mind neatly organized by priority in MS excel format color coded based on degree of desperateness! So much for an above average IQ.  A guitar, GATE qualification, An i-Pod – how difficult is it to remember these basic short term wishes? Well no luck trying to get Starry to come back. He’s probably laughing at someone else’s confusion somewhere else. Never mind. There are millions more up there waiting to fall.

                            What did I wish for? Nah! Can’t tell you. Not supposed to until it comes true… :)

Image courtesy :

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Like a movie

                    One of my professors was once pretty annoyed. The reason being, we couldn’t recall a dozen facts taught to us in the previous class. And to prove to us our incompatibility the professor chose the age old analogy – “ when you can remember a movie sequence after a single viewing why cant you remember academics?”. The answer is quite simple. Our brains are saturated or should I blatantly go ahead and say – bored.

                    It’s a scientific fact that the brain can take in things and understand continuously for upto about 30 minutes. After that irrespective of how good or bad the class is it all goes over the head.

                   A movie stays in better memory for a while because it simple has everything that the brains loves to remember – moving objects, colour and sound. Plus you don’t have to mug the details of the movie to be able to write an essay answer for 15marks later. Try doing that. Watch a movie, better still, one that you know you would like and try writing down every single scene you watched. You’d at the most get a dozen sequences right. And those would be the ones that made a great impact upon you. Probably some PJ, a good shot, a stylish roof top fight, a catchy tune or a signature dance move or dialogue! Think about the movie after two days and you would’ve forgotten most of it!

                   I wrote movie reviews for a friend’s website and I had to take notes for doing it lest I forgot what I saw(absence of a photographic memory is one of the reasons people like to keep copies of movies to watch over again :) )

                  Monotony is what would best explain why students find it real hard to focus and remember what’s being taught. Add to it the pressure of having to perform in exams. The brain hates being told what to do. If you want to make it work you have to get it interested. The same works good for a movie too. Try watching a dozen movies of the same genre back to back. You’d want to run after a couple. Your mind automatically shuts down.

                  Feeding your brain is like feeding your tummy. You feed your stomach with  too much carbs it takes up rapidly at first, then slows down and faithfully makes you a slob and you go hunting for XL sized clothes! You feed your brain with text, formulae and concepts all day, by the time the bell goes the 1.5kg weight in your head is snoring. The trick to stay slim is to eat but eat small quantities of food number of times a day. And that works with the brain too. Try jamming half hour sessions of stuff you have to learn. Put it together in colorful notes, post- its, pneumonics and anything else that’s fun you can get your sleepyhead up and about! Alas! With an alarming volume of textbooks, references, papers, assignments, projects, records and other blah-blah to complete and a hundred exams to take whoever would listen to you when you say ‘make learning fun’!

                 Another obvious difference between watching a movie and attending class is you don’t go to the movies everyday but you have to maintain minimum attendance. Sighhh….
Kindergarten classrooms are all colorful. Why do you think they are? Kids are taught with rhymes, songs, cards, blocks, show & tell etc., Somewhere down the lane there’s too much to learn and too little time before you have to start preparing for entrance exams and the same lovely kids are taught and expected to mug. Doing that all your life and being evaluated for it does make it hard when you are asked to remember the basics now during a PG. All I remember is the alphabet that I learned from a colorful book with huge font!

                Am not quite sure whom to blame. The system? The students?  Their parents?  The society?  The pressure to be the best? What’s the point anyway when even after graduation most of us don’t know what we should be doing?!

               If classrooms are fun learning would automatically be fun. I still remember pictures from lectures done in PowerPoint. I remember what a couple of jovial professors taught me way back, I remember stuff that I learnt out of interest…the brain remembers what it likes rather , what you can make it like.

               The conclusion remains that it’s definitely not even a long shot at comparison between a movie and listening to a lecture. Same brain, same logic, prevalent facts. You just got to make things more endearing. If I were to become a teacher someday I would just like to get a class full of brains hyper interested…like a good movie would! 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Warm and cozy

                       My uncle built a new house recently and threw a customary and sweet housewarming party. A day of wholesome joy, long-time-no-see-meets and a religious start to building a home was what it turned out to be. A long and hectic month of planning and organizing preceded the success of that day and the whole family pitched in to help. Now being the nephew (ahem!) I had my own huge share of the responsibility cake to handle and my batteries were fully charged for it.

                      We were headlong into the proceedings even before the sun had hit his 1st snooze and the mother-calf duo worshipped as sacred were taken around and inside the house to invoke the Gods of prosperity. The little fellow spared us some brooming as he gobbled up every single flower around him..early breakfast I guess!

                       With the heat from the homam rising, one by one relatives and friends stared to arrive. Hospitality was one of the things on my plate and soon I had to set my heels to full-spin as I went about receiving people and making sure they were attended to. Now that might sound demanding but with the fact that I hadn’t caught a glimpse of most of them for years (that would explain the ‘you were this tiny when I last saw you’ comments) I was thrilled to the point of jumping up and down to be doing it.

                        Families are huge but Indian families in addition are unique. There are cool uncles, trendy aunts, Dumbledorish grandparents, at least a dozen cousins and a dozen more noisy Dennises! In all they create this heavy atmosphere of love and  togetherness like a huge pulsating heart. Add to it an artery of 1st name friends who’ve been with you for so long that they are a part of the family picture.

                       Watching my people, feeling the good vibes and listening to the laughter and chatter, made me feel gifted – to be part of it all. The food was exemplary and added a classic finishing touch.

                       With an exhausting day behind us I could feel the love, happiness, optimism and good energy resonating in every corner long after everyone had left. I realized that the house was en route becoming a home. If this is for a private gathering at home, no wonder the world looks up in awe at the big fat Indian weddings!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Its in the papers!

               It’s a lazy morning. As usual you want to strangle the shrill alarm but you have to go to college and its time to wake up. You sit up in bed and check out your mobile’s inbox sleepily. There’s a good morning you scroll through and the next message makes you scream and jump up in delight and your roomie hits you on the head thinking that you are the alarm! What wakes you up? A message from a friend congratulating you for that write up of yours that has made it to print…an extra pitch to your scream – you won a prize for it too! And there begins your special day of glory. There’s probably only one thing that can match the endless joy that writing brings with it – seeing it in print. You know your article by heart but you still read it a hundred times and somehow it looks better when published!
              You message every single contact on your list about it and one by one they start responding. From “good one” to “I’ve no idea how you cook up something so brilliant” you get all sorts of comments. The ones that turn the thrill up a notch are those good-hearted, sharp-eyed friends who have read it even before you told them. You try to do normal stuff like wash up and get ready but there comes this bunch of calls – from Mom who’s proud of you like never before, from Dad who’s not surprised you made it because you are “his kid”, Grandparents and uncles blessing you for more such feathers to your creative cap and from a couple of cousins and friends demanding a treat to celebrate!
               You manage to make it to college floating on cloud 9 to be met with your friends there and the niceties continue. All day long your mobile keeps beeping and the keys spelling thank you are over worked!
A few review your work, a few compare and contrast it with earlier ones you’ve written and few even quote from it!!! Friends tell you that a friend of their cousin’s friend like your work!
               By the time you get back home you are feeling like someone handed you the Booker! Your look sweeps the room and you find them -  a pen and a paper. Those two that made all this possible. A familiar sense of satisfaction flows through you because you’ve decided to do the obvious : Write about the experience. You sit down at your desk and forge the usual and powerful connection between your mind, heart and the pen…a few pages filled, you pick up your article to read it for the nth time before you go to bed, a huge smile and a heavy sigh conveying wordlessly how thankful you are to be in love…with an art called writing!