Sunday, October 19, 2008

On being the ‘Official representative of the dormant alumni association’

Lately, I have been trying to get in touch with school mates. Now people who know me will think this to be out of character. Keeping in touch with people and maintaining a social network as it were, is not exactly my forte. And it’s my hunch that I am not alone. That’s the reason social networking sites are such a rage. Contrary to popular belief, or should I say, marketing strategies, social networking site are for people who can’t keep in touch or don’t want to make the effort. It’s a feel good factor, this whole bunch of names of your friends list and you think you’re in touch with them, no need to make all those phone calls, write epic emails, have coffee with people who have nothing in common with you. And when there does arise a situation when you desperately need to contact them, hey, you have everything it takes, they’re literally a click away. I sort of ended up in such a situation and that’s why I’ve been trying to contact class mates from school this past week. And boy have these sites worked like a charm.

One of my cheeky ex class mates asked me a few days back “Since when have you become an official representative of the dormant alumni association?” I was a little amused and taken aback at the directness of the question. At any rate, it was a refreshing change from “Hi! How are you, it’s been so long, so good to hear from you.” Or even worse, “It’s so nice that you’ve taken this up, keep up the good work.” As if I do this for a living. But coming back to this guy’s question, it got me thinking about the exact turn of events that got me in this situation. This blog’s an attempt to put things to perspective. I will hopefully stop whining about it at the end of this piece. And guys, if any of you are reading this, I don’t want to be the official representative of the alumni association. So if any of you would actually want to do this, please mail me at the earliest.

School had been one long drawn affair for me. I was miserable at the subjects I chose- Math Chemistry and Physics and my teachers back in school did a very good job of helping me hate those subjects. I was one of those kids in the class who had no clue as to where I was headed, so when the time came to choose a stream, I did what 80% of my class mates did, picked what seemed the only subjects with a future. I suppose it didn’t help that I hung out with the brightest kids in class. They were nice people, but just very quick at all the things that I would take weeks to figure out. To top it all, I was teachers’ kid. Amma worked as a biology teacher in the same school, and was very popular with the students. Somehow, I suppose at that point in time, there was always the need to live up to a cool mom. And I certainly fell short by a large margin. But this post is not going to be a ‘let’s whine about school’ session. I will certainly do that in another post, but this piece is set five years later, in the present, I have in the intervening years done the sensible thing of opting for a stream that I actually like and have the aptitude for. I have completed my Masters in English Literature, a subject which I grew to love and presently work as an Instructional Designer.

I am home, in Chennai for a short vacation, and as usual I am comfortable in my complacency, not having kept in touch with anybody from school. I have always been amazed at my sister’s capacity to keep in touch with people, a thing I have never quite managed to do. So while she was off gallivanting around, trying to keep up with the schedules she makes to keep track of her social life, I am glued to the good old TV, perched on the ugly but very comfortable sofa that my parents recently bought. I am eagerly waiting for Amma, who is at work, despite it being Saturday. I run for the door when I hear the characteristic impatient knocks on the door that follow the door bell. After the initial hugs and enquiries, she drops the bomb shell. I am to attend an alumni meeting at school that evening. I moan, whine and complain to try and get out of the situation. But the damage is done, she’s told the whole world (everyone in the staff room) that I am in town and there’s no escaping the meeting. I sigh deeply, realizing that am not done being the Teacher’s kid.

At five in the evening, I find myself in the audio visual room of my school, desperately looking for my batch mates for the first time in many years. I don’t find any of them, many have headed to that land of opportunities to pursue the next course of action, post a bachelor’s degree in Engineering. The rest were just a little more sensible than me, and didn’t have moms for teachers. The school’s hardly changed, unless you count the green walls, a tad bit too bright, which have replaced the brown of an earlier era. Unlike the others, I am hardly inclined to run up the familiar flight of stairs to my class room, to look for the bench on which I etched my name. Damn the media for romanticized portrayal of school life.

I have dressed appropriately for the occasion, looking every bit the geek that left school five years ago. I play the sport, cordially greeting all familiar faces, including the Math’s teacher, who politely nods when I update him on what I have done with myself since the last time we met. After a quick survey of the people who have shown up, I quietly pull up a chair next to mom. I couldn’t possibly make a mistake with the name of this companion and hey it sure did save me the trouble of constantly keeping a check on what I said. Besides, it’s not like had a lot of choice, considering the sister ditched me for company from her own batch. And to be fair to mom, she’s good fun on such occasions, trying hard not to look stern and not laugh out loud at everything I say. I did get a couple of ‘behave yourself’ and ‘stop criticizing everything’ looks, but it wasn’t too bad. We get along quite famously.

The meeting begins and for most part there’s silence, nobody wants to be caught saying something stupid years after they’re out of school. The most enthusiastic ones are the most recent batch of students, gawky teenagers straight out of school, still enthusiastic. I remember being that not so long back. A record is passed around to collect everybody’s contact details. I seriously contemplate pulling off my usual trick of reversing the last two digits of my phone number and giving a mail id I abandoned a year back. But no such luck. My sister is standing right beside me. After the initial suggestions on what the role of the alumni should be, there are a lot of blank looks and embarrassed smiles going around. Thank god for the snacks and drink that fills the silence.

Half an hour later the scene is a little better, with people volunteering to speak to the students to let them know of opportunities in the ‘big bad world’. I am amused. I wish I could tell the kids that once they’re out, they’ll do just fine. If they can just hang in there and get past school, life’s going to be a breeze. School certainly does prepare you for life. You see the worst that’s on offer.

Just as my mouth begins to hurt from all the fake smiling, signs are made to bring the meeting to a close. But not before Alumni representatives are elected. Every batch has a choice to offer, of at least two people. Not so for the batch of 2003, where the only one to show up was me. I grudgingly give in my name, wishing one of the bright kids from my batch were in the room. Life has a strange way of beating the shit out of you. It throws up moments when the people who you once wanted out of a room are the people you desperately want in the room.

Post this, the hour and a half long ordeal is finally over. Good byes are said, promises to keep in touch are made. I get home to long lectures from mom and sis about being over critical about everything around me. I think what saved the hour for me is the fact that I actually volunteered to be the alumni coordinator for my batch.

So that’s how I got this mail a couple of weeks back with a long list of names to be contacted. And that’s how I went from being amongst the least active on social network sites to being this phenomenon that, again in my cheeky class mates words, disturbed the peace and quiet of the alumni association.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Kerning at Kohlad (part 3)

(Of bug bites and groggy eyes…)

Our journey to Kohlad was one long drive by road, from Hyderabad to Pune in a bug infested Volvo, and from Pune to Kohlad by a small little van sent to us by the River Trail campsite. A train would have certainly been a better idea, saving us some time and allowing for a more comfortable journey, but we couldn’t manage tickets. The sky rocketing fuel prices are making train journeys impossible, unless we book well ahead of time. And such trips can’t be planned several weeks in advance, unless of course we close shop and make a career out of traveling. But the discomfort of the journey apart, we certainly had some memorable moments on the bus drive. This post is dedicated to some of those crazy moments aboard some not-so-great busses.

Despite deadlines and last minute setbacks, all of us assembled on time at Paradise circle, where we were to be picked up. After the first fifteen minutes of anxiously looking out for the promising Volvo, and panicking because Mini was yet to show up, we realized that this was going to be a bit of a wait. Bags were set down, and some effort was made to move to the foot path and make way for moving vehicles. We were thirteen strong and it was a while before we realized that we were in the way of a lot of vehicles heading to a bar right behind us. Meghna and I headed to Paradise to sample some Haleem, while Yatin set out to stock up food for the journey ahead. An hour later we were still waiting, looking expectantly at all the large Volvos that passed us. Finally, we’re told that our vehicle had arrived and we troop into this little yellow van, which was neither air conditioned, nor had push back seats. I for one was really worried about a twelve hour journey in that bus. There were already a couple of us sharing seats and we were to pick up Anand and Nishana at Kukatpally. Thankfully, this was only a pick-up, which took us to the point where we would board our Volvo.

When we finally boarded the Volvo, it was about 9pm. We sank into our smelly seats that had towels for covers, trying not to be too bothered by the leaking AC vents over our heads. As the bus made its way through the infamous roads of Hyderabad, we were entertained by some very cheesy dance numbers on the TV screen, the kind that existed before decent clothes, good looks and the basic ability to dance became criteria to be a part of the film industry. Thank God for the new breed of fashion designers, make-up artists and fitness experts. But the guys who owned the bus were apparently frozen in time.

An hour into the journey, Ruby decides that it’s time to take matters into her hands. Up she springs, elbowing a co-passenger’s head, with a long speech about how we should be playing something since TV was no fun. By the time we knew it, she had us playing some complex word building game. Am yet to completely figure the nuances of it, but I remember getting away with words like ‘faultily’ and ‘jackily’…lol…That’s the good bit about being a student of English literature, you’re expected to have a good vocabulary. Sometimes that works to your advantage, though I can tell you that’s not always the case. Satya tried his luck with ‘Timmy’, but Ruby had him thrown out of the game. Ruby spent the next hour trying to get us to play more word games and Antakshari, some played along, trying to match her enthusiasm (am sure they were after the chocolates), others just dozed off or worse still, gave her a tough time. And the whole time, the dude in front of our seats had his head elbowed. He didn’t look too happy about it, but I suppose he knew better than to mess with Ruby. She claims to have smashed an eve teaser’s foot with a huge rock, back in Jaipur. Sure seems to have made headlines.

At about 12 am, the bus pulls in front of a dhaba of sorts. It’s Anand’s birthday and we had come prepared with a cake. We should have known better than to entrust it with Sallu bhai. He claims to have left it on his seat and sat on it by mistake. But we think he was frustrated that he couldn’t make it to the gym that evening, or maybe he was on his trip of trying to impress some hot chick on the bus. But the freaks that we are, we had Anand cut the smashed cake and even feasted on it, along with some delicious dhal fry and butter chicken.

The second arm of the journey was fairly uneventful. We reached Pune at about 7am, very badly bug bitten, groggy and stiff necked. After chai, smokes and a quick visit to a small toilet in a run-down hotel, we were on our way to Kohlad. Being an uphill climb, a lot of us had queasy stomachs an hour into the journey. It didn’t help that Satya kept yelling ‘yahan pe kaun kaun Waquar Younis hain’ every two minutes. The journey brought with it some absolutely stunning scenes, the kind you’d see only in picture post cards. The over cast skies and steady drizzle made the view just perfect. For a good part of the journey we kept going ‘waaaaaaannnnuuhhhhh’, Minishtyle, and clicking away on our little digicams. But I suppose the best of our pictures are no match to what we saw. I have always wondered in moments like these, if it’s probably best to take a deep breath and a good look at the view outside the window and say ‘click’, lest we don’t take back the real thing in our anxiety to freeze the moment. For the rest, we tried being more cooperative with Ruby and played passing the parcel.

At about 11 am, we spotted Rashmi in her white Santro. She’d lost her way and had been going in circles for a while. We hear she had a good time driving from Mumbai. The last rung of the journey, was in a little raft. It struck me that we made this long journey by road, but we weren’t quite there until we took our first of many water rides!

So that was our long bus ride to Kohlad. Look out for more posts on Kerning at Kohlad!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

User friendly? Usability? Disability Friendly?.......changing terms, changing attitudes

(The following post is for a Blog it! Competition in the office…read on)

The term ‘Usability’ was one that I encountered very recently, perhaps the day I started working with Kern. I had heard of ‘User Friendly’, but not of ‘Usability’. I am still trying to figure out the exact difference between the two terms. I suppose the difference is really in the attitude that each of these terms carry with them. ‘User Friendly’, sounds like an add-on, an extra aspect of a gadget or an interface, apart from its functionality. Therefore, a product is not necessarily a bad one if it serves the purpose for which it has been made. It’s a very good product if it not only serves the purpose for which it was made, but can also be easily used. Usability experts, on the other hand, believe that a product is a bad if the user cannot almost automatically figure out the nuances of its usage. A case in point is the Microsoft Excel based, story board tool that the Learning Solutions team has been using for the current project. The tool is great in that it oversees all aspects of story boarding, including the content, graphics, the interactions etc. It gives a certain structure to our work. After nearly a week, we’ve even sort of ‘got the hang’ of it. A usability expert, however, may not quite agree. The point I am trying to make, is that the attitude makes all the difference. And this is an important aspect to keep in mind while you read the rest of this piece.

Back in college, as a part of a course in video production, a team of girls from my class shot a documentary. The project was titled ‘Inclusion’, and the documentary tried to capture the different ways in which we as a society exclude physically and mentally handicapped people. This is an area that has enough scoop for several three hour feature films. Amir Khan’s Tare Zammen Par, is an ideal case in point. However, a documentary, as a genre had certain limitations, in terms of the narrative style and as a result, the time span. In other words, a documentary, unless it is being shown to a group of extremely motivated individuals, can be boring if it exceeds 15 to 20 minutes. The general public, being our target audience, certainly didn’t fall in this category. Therefore, we chose to deal only with infrastructural difficulties that public buildings, public facilities and public transport pose to users who are physically or mentally challenged.

The research phase of this project brought up some disturbing revelations. The complete ignorance of the general public apart, people simply didn’t see the need to make public amenities more accessible to the physically challenged. NGOs and activists, I realized, are still struggling to get ramps, wider lifts, do away with fancy swivel gates and spiraling stair cases which make libraries, schools and even public toilets a distant dream for many. The directors of one of the NGOs we approached had a very interesting take. She said that buildings that have a ramp or a large door to their lift seem so proud when they put up the disability friendly board outside their buildings. It seems like an added service that the organization housed in those buildings provide. Their needs to be a change in the general attitude of people. Until we reach a stage where only disability friendly buildings are made, we have a very long way to go. Providing a ramp or a larger lift is a right, not a favor to tout.

I think the point I am trying to make, lies in her statement. Most ‘disability friendly’ gadgets are made specifically for the disabled. How many mobiles phones and user interfaces have the concept of disability friendly inbuilt into them? It was mind boggling for me to realize that we actually ran a UT only for women with long nails using phones. I mean, it was remarkable to think that cell phone companies think so much into the Usability of their phones. But perhaps a small section of all that research and keenness to make a phone more usable can be spent in a different direction?

It’s the not that we have to make a change. Let’s face it, a more usable phone is really the least of a blind man’s concerns. In a week’s time, he’d get the ‘hang of it’, and he’s perfectly happy to use a computer with software he’s told is specifically made for HIS convenience. The point is something else, somewhat similar to the difference between ‘User friendly’ and ‘Usability’. I guess the point really is in the attitude.

Kerning at Kohlad (part 2)

(Nari Lajja Vastran…..Sneha keeps her shorts on!)

River crossing was the one activity that eluded us from the start. It was supposed to be the first activity and the easiest, to get us warmed up to the idea of water sports. Day 1 was wet and soggy, and the water currents were too strong for us to cross the river using a rope, that too while moving against the current. Day 2 was packed with other activities and the currents were still quite strong because of the torrential rains of the earlier day. This left us with Day 3, by which time a lot of us were too pooped out. The idea of crossing a river with aching arms and burning bruises didn’t appeal to everyone. Our troop, which had by now dwindled in number, made its way to the narrowest part of the river, across at least three slushy puddles of water. By this time, smelly wet clothes, slush, and grime didn’t bother us so much. There’s little you can do to fight it. You dry up after a dip in the river, you get wet in the rain; you scrub your feet clean and you’re back in the mud in no time at all. I guess it struck us all that the best way to deal with it was to do nothing about it.
So we make our way to a small clearing, where our trainers were tying a rope across the river. Now as hip as that sounds, the distance we were crossing couldn’t have been more 1/8th of a kilometer. Rash was the most excited amongst us and kept speculating about what would be our likely course of action. “It doesn’t look so tough ya, you just need to grab the rope and walk across.” I have to admit that I for one felt more at ease with Rash’s simple logic of it all. She further adds “It was supposed to be the first activity; it’s got to be easy. And besides we’re wearing life jackets, nothing will happen to us.” Obviously, she had in mind our rafting experience, which turned out to be more of a ‘let’s jump in and float on our backs’ experience.
Once the scene is set for us, we are divided into two groups. All the guys go into the first group. Since Sneha is the only swimmer amongst us women, we suggest that some of the guys swap places with a few of us. The trainer looks quite amused by this. His expression says it all. Even the best swimmer in a pool can do little to save a drowning man in an angry river.

Sushant aka Sallu Bhai was the first to take the lead. Oh by the way, he was christened Sallu Bhai at this exact point in time, as he kept getting his shirt off. He claims that his intentions were to keep his one dry shirt in a wearable condition for the journey back. We, however, think that he had other motives ;).
Sallu Bhai makes his way across with remarkable ease. All the iron he’s pumping sure did him good. Yatin and Ripul follow. Yatin walks across as if it was a stroll in the park (not quite…but compared to the rest of us sputtering, fumbling shorties with water in our eyes and mouth, he sure seemed to have literally walked across). Rash on the bank is eagerly waiting for Anand to make his way. “This is something to look out for. If he can make his way then I think we should also manage”. Lol….Any case, Anand does make his way across, that too with a fair degree of ease.
Our group is now ready to take the plunge. Rash goes in first, enthusiastic and energetic as ever. Half way across, which is where the current really picks up, she’s unable to hold on to the rope, she lets go and all of us get to see the first rescue mission. Damn, I knew Baywatch was fake and flawed. But reality always bites. An hour later, on dry ground, she tells me “I was more worried about getting to the other side; I would have had to make my way back!” thinking, I’d say. Getting back is really the tougher deal. You know exactly what you’re in for and you’re none the better for being wiser. You’re just more tired and very scared…scared about letting go and loosing you life. Well, at least that’s what most of us were scared of losing. Sneha’s fears were of course of a different dimension ;)
Half way across the river, where the currents are very strong, all of us are trying to hang on to the rope. But what do we hear from Sneha??? “Ah my shorts, it’s getting pulled away with the current.” That really had the rest of us in splits, Ripul yelling “Try and worry about holding on to your life, you can worry about your shorts a little later.”
I remember overhearing a conversation between Sathya and Sneha, the first week into work. I don’t quite remember the context but Sathya was making fun of Sneha’s dupatta and Sneha, in her attempt to fend him off called the dupatta the ‘naari lajja vastran’. The river crossing experience should have definitely redefined the term for her!
So that was river crossing folks, a story of how we all managed to keep our lives and our shorts!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Kerning at Kohlad

Kerning at Kohlad (part 1)

It’s been a few days since we returned from our trip to Kohlad and most of us at Kern are just about recovering from body ache, muscle pulls, bruises and rashes. I suppose all of us have carried a bit of River Kundalika and the River Trail camp with us!

The last couple of days have been a rush to capture our memories on the World Wide Web, make it permanent through photographs, emails and blogs, so friends and family can partake in our weekend adventure. I suppose my attempt is no different. But the deal with writing a few days later is that you don’t have to capsule the entire trip in one blog post. The need to narrate everything is satiated and there’s time for reflection. Besides, memory is fragmented. We don’t remember in sequence, and neither do we remember everything. My posts about the trip are going to be short sprints, covering only certain aspects of the trip, as and when they occur to me. So here goes….

As the newest kid on the block, I was quite excited about the trip to Kohlad. Not everybody gets to go for a trip to an exotic location, less than a month into work, fewer get entrusted with the role of playing Paparazzi, to unleash ‘deep dark secrets’ as Geeta would put it. It was already a couple of days into the trip and Nishana and I had done little to carry out the secret mission that Geeta had entrusted us with. We were running out of time and Hot Seat, a game I played back in college seemed like the only way to get mission ‘deep dark secrets’ underway. The game was explained, the ‘rules’, remade and we were all set for our rather, let’s face it, voyeuristic endeavor. I mean, deep, dark secrets for the harmless and ordinary go little beyond matters of lust.
A good scientist always finds himself (or herself) the guinea pig and this, shall we say social experiment, was no different. Off I went to face the hot seat, a rather unmemorable stint, since I had few deep, dark secrets. Besides, people were just about getting warmed up and were still learning about the tool they had just been offered. I mean think of the potential of being allowed to ask your colleagues five questions (any kind of questions)!! Anyways, read on to find out some of the really interesting questions and equally dark answers.

Mini was among the earliest to face the hot seat and she was asked as to what the hottest thing about Ashish was. Mini, in her cute sincere style launches into this long speech about how well behaved a guy Ashish is and as to how (and here comes the clincher) amongst all the guys who have ever asked her out he’s the most trustworthy and respectful guy. Ripul, catches on to this real quick and asks her as to how many guys have actually asked her out. It’s not the fact that it was a sizable number that sent the rest of us into splits, it’s the fact that she took two whole minutes to count on her fingers that really got us.

Meghna was another very memorable victim, a willing victim at that. Since Ashim couldn’t join us this time (he’s off to S.Africa), Meghna had to first answer a bunch of five questions as Ashim and then answer five of her own questions. Ashim’s stint was boring, courtesy Sathyajit who couldn’t quit asking boring questions about choosing design over girl friend, money etc . He was obviously on his trip of proving that Ashim was above this world of moh and maya. Sathya, we get the point, move on buddy, you’re still made for the lowest rung on Maslow’s pyramid. Meghna, by then bored out her skull decides to ask herself the questions. So each time we were racking our brains, she’d tell us what to ask! Here’s the one that took the cake “Ask me what we did in the water tank at NID?” LOL…What followed was a delightful adventure of how the two managed to get themselves locked in a water tank that was out of bounds and narrowly missed getting suspended thanks to friends who conducted a fake contextual enquiry with the security guard!

Sushant (aka Baba, aka Sallu bhai): As the only single bachelor in the office, everyone was out to clobber him. Firstly, he refuses to give his take on the hottest woman in the office. Finally when pushed to the corner (even Sallu bhai can’t resist the attack of a pack of wolves), he settles on Archie, who he’s not met so far! But here comes the best part, Baba actually had a girl friend when he was studying abroad. And she was nothing lesser than a hot Columbian whose name was revealed after much fuss and threats of getting beaten up if ever contacted. Ripul of course pulled out his fancy technology and Googled for her name right away!

Ripul was an absolute pro at tackling the questions. I thought he displayed the poise of a celebrity in Karan Johar’s hot seat. Among other interesting ones was his side to the ‘airport story' which was news even to Rashmi. But what really laid the icing on the cake was Ruby’s persistent questions about Ripul’s marital status vis a vis Geeta. And this was post the long romantic story of how they met at the airport. Rumor has it that she’s still

Those were some deep dark secrets of some Kernites. Oh I completely forgot to mention Nishana and Ruby who couldn’t stop talking about their supportive husbands. Ruby still had things to say about Rahul ten minutes after she was off the hot seat (lol…that was really cute)

So that’s the scoop from Kern’s Paparazzi, look out for more posts on Kerning at Kohlad…

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Living with the Grand Parents

I have always believed that writers are very troubled souls. It’s extreme trauma that urges a person to write, it’s a survival instinct. This is my first blog and it is extreme trauma that has pushed me over the edge…. enough to want to write….

For years the large house quietly tucked away in an exclusive locality in Secunderabad, was a place I looked forward to visiting every summer. Everything about it was perfect. The large rooms that stayed cool even as the temperatures soared outside, the garden around the house which was generally dry around the time I visited it, the cook who had aged with the house, cousins, uncles and aunts who also came visiting every summer. But what made it the stuff of an important chapter in a romanticized account of growing up, was my grandparents. My Grandparents were the regular kinds who pampered the whole bunch of us kids. They had little loose in over feeding us, indulging our every whim and tolerating the mess around them. I suppose that’s the good bit about grand parenting. You don’t have to worry yourself over the not so pleasant parts of a whole bunch of 4 to 10 years old trouping into your home. They probably even enjoyed the noise after ALL the peace and quiet.

But not everything’s peachy about a big old house. Take my word for it. Not if you’re actually living in it. No, no, am not talking about my month long holidays, I am talking about actually living in the house. Am not sure as to what exactly what I was thinking when I decided to take up a job in the city. I knew only too well that irrespective of how much I made every month, I’d be stuck living with my grand parents. How hard can it get staying with a couple of indulgent 70 year olds? The prospect didn’t seem bad at all, especially considering the little holes that my friends could afford to stay in as freshers straight out of University.

Memory- day 1 at Anbu Nilayam (that, by the way, is the name of the house….in Tamil it means the palace of love….jeez hail Murphy and his laws) It’s nine in the morning and I am dressed for the first day of my life as a working woman. I am seated in the dining hall for breakfast and the grand parents have wide expectant smiles on their faces. I am not feeling too good, must be the lack of sleep on the train.

Grand Mother: Kanna where is your office.

Me: It’s in tarnaka. Appa’s given me explicit instructions on how to get to the place so I can go on my own (obviously I had sensed what was coming)

Grand Father: It’s a new place, how can you just find your way, I’ll drop you, am not doing much anyway.

Me: (panic attack quite visible on my face) No thata, I think I can manage.

GM: (the termagant has decided, and there are no two ways to it): I’ll drop you on the way to school (she owns and runs a school). I can also meet your colleagues and check out the office. I should know all this.

Need I say more? What happened over the next one hour was annoyingly familiar. It was so similar to the Kindergarten kids getting dropped off at school, only this time it wasn’t so funny.

Memory- the day I returned home at 9pm:

There’s absolute silence in the house, except for the evening news on TV. I am told that there was a call from home. I pick up the phone and call my mother, trying to deal with the uneasy feeling rising in my stomach. I am told that my grandparents are ‘rather displeased’ about me returning home ‘after dark’. Negotiations are done, some whining is tried, frantic calls to the sister and friends are made. All of them are full of advice. “Get outa there if you want to keep your sanity.” “Stick it out kid, think of how much you’re saving.” “Give it more time, it’s not worth messing things up with folks at home.” And this one‘s of course from the parents “Everything is an experience, don’t expect everything to work your way all the time”, funny how they seem to say the same thing every time. Sure gets me wondering about the things that actually did work my way. Any case, the looser that I am I don’t confront them, I play it safe, as usual.

Memory- the day the cook didn’t show up.

Every morning I have my escape plan all charted out. The plan’s always simple and fools proof. Get out as soon as possible with the least amount of fuss, preferably without people actually seeing you. This is rather easy in my new place of work where I can get in for work as early as seven in the morning. But not everything seems all right this morning. I actually find my grand mother in the kitchen! All those stories about granny’s yummy food, am convinced they’re fake. My grandmother’s an awful cook and has insisted on keeping a cook even during the hardest of financial crisis. But the cook’s not shown up today and obviously, I need to pitch in. I discover that my grandmother’s idea of cooking for the day meant ensuring that every section of her four tier lunch box she carries for work has something exciting to offer. I sweat it out in the kitchen with knifes that should have been replaced a long time ago, a gas cylinder that runs out on this very day (hail Murphy again) and a mixer that sounds more like a plane taking off. I sure hope that all those people who found me grouchy on this day are reading this…

So I think you get the picture…I am always a little angered by people who flip when I tell them that staying with grandparents is not a good thing. They’re always telling me how lucky I am and as to how nice it is from my grandparents’ point of view……well they’ve obviously not been in my shoes…..But it’s not all bad, honestly. It’s not that I haven’t been amused and perhaps even happy at times. But that of course is muse for another day.