Monday, 23 July 2012

I Have Lived...

I was chatting with one of my colleagues, today, during lunch. Her brother will be appearing for his tenth standard board examination in the following year. "He is very confused about what stream to select. Since you are a counsellor, can you help him in selecting his career-path? He is a very intelligent boy and always fares well in his school examinations...Even I don't know whether he should pick Science or Commerce," my colleague stated.
"What about Humanities? Is he not at all interested in Arts?" I asked.
"I just told you he is a bright boy! Why would he need to study Arts?" my colleague cried in protest!
I could not help but smile at her exclamation.

In India, the moment an individual passes the tenth standard examination, he or she is expected to make the first significant decision of his or her life - which stream to choose? Arts, Commerce, or Science? Usually, students who excel in academics are expected to pursue a career in Science and become an engineer or doctor. The average students are encouraged to take up Commerce and pursue careers like Company Secretaryship or Chartered Accountancy. The remaining students who are labelled as 'weak in studies' or 'low achievers' have to take up Arts. And, no matter which stream you have selected, these days, it has become a fad to ultimately land up doing an M.B.A. degree; otherwise, you are believed to be nothing!

I startled my entire family by selecting Humanities as my future stream despite scoring well in my board examinations! It has been more than 7 years since I made that choice; and, today, if someone were to ask me whether I regret that decision, my answer would be 'no'.

I may not be earning as well as some of my peers but I do not regret choosing the path that I selected to walk upon. I see people around me who are dissatisfied and unhappy. They constantly seem to be running behind something - the tragic part is that they do not even know what it is that they are chasing!

I have always been living my life. Most people seem to be living the lives of others. They never knew who they were back then; and, even now, they have never managed to find out what they are. While I was living a 'fairy tale', people were absorbing the darker, grimmer realities - today, my life is filled with bright colours. The others are still seeing things in black or white...

People may call me a slut because of all the wonderful, pleasurable experiences that I have had. But I prefer travelling the forbidden path and relishing the fruits of my labour instead of dying with a mind exploding with virgin thoughts. There have been mistakes that I made but I have had the courage to move past those errors. It has not been an easy ride, I admit. There are times when I have not known where I was going and when I had no idea what was heading my way. But, in order to find ways that no one has discovered before, one does need to get lost! I may not have lived the 'ideal life' as some of my peers but I know that I am living my life in the best possible way that I can while others are busy following in the footsteps of others...

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Tattoo Girl!

My Supervisor was arranging some books on the shelf when I happened to enter the room. She smiled at me and asked me to pass her the books that were lying on the table. As I handed her the books, she suddenly glanced at my wrist and exclaimed, "Wow! Is that a permanent tattoo?"
I nodded my head to indicate a 'yes'.
"Oh!" she said. "You don't seem to be the kind of person who would get herself inked...Was this long ago?"
I was a little annoyed by her caustic remark so I merely shrugged and replied, "Not too long ago...I like tattoos. I, actually, have more than one."
Before she could ask me further questions, I excused myself saying that I have some work to do and I would talk to her later.

Even though my Supervisor was not the first person who had asked me these kind of questions, I must admit that I was quite flustered after this brief incident. In the past, I have experienced people labelling me as 'rebellious' and a 'wild child' merely on account of the fact that I have tattoos. There are some people who do not openly express their disapproval  but ask me questions like, "What will happen when you get bored of it later?" or "Didn't it hurt? Why would you go through so much trouble for that?" It surprises me that most of the time, I find myself getting amused at such questions instead of getting irritated. .

I still remember the day when I got myself inked for the first time. It was three years ago in the month of May, 2009. I had spent almost an entire evening with the tattoo-artist finalizing a design with two of my friends. The next day, I went and got myself inked. It's been more than three years since and today, I have four tattoos on my body and I am open to getting a few more if I want.

Many people do not see the sense in getting tattoos but to me, each tattoo of mine means something. I have the symbol of my zodiac sign - Libra - tattooed on the inner wrist of my right hand. Libra is represented by the scales and Librans are believed to be very balanced individuals. I have tweaked the symbol a little bit to define myself in a better manner. I always believe that I am someone constantly striving for balance but there are times when I feel that I tend to get biased instead of weighing both sides from a neutral standpoint.
Hence, my tattoo is a symbol of scales which are not balanced but tipping to one side more than the other.

I have a star tattooed on my body. It is a symbol of how special and unique I am as a person. It also reminds me that at no point of time in life must I get complacent because every time I should aim to reach for the stars! The star is blue because that happens to be my favourite colour!

I have a butterfly tattoo on my left arm. The butterfly, according to me, symbolizes change. The egg that hatches into a caterpillar; grows into a pupae; and then, finally, metamorphoses, into a butterfly is a beautiful miracle, in my opinion. The butterfly tattoo on my arm reminds me that in the course of my life, there are going to be a lot of changes. The tattoo is a reminder that change is inevitable and even if things appear to be horrible at any particular moment, it does not matter because that horrid moment, too, shall pass.

Finally, on my leg, I have a fairy tattooed. The reason for getting a tattoo on my leg was more for beautification purpose than any other - I had burnt that area of my skin which had resulted in a rather ugly white patch. I had foregone all attire that displayed by legs for almost five years. The reason for choosing the design of a fairy was to remind me that life is magical and no matter how old one grows, one should always continue to believe in the power of imagination and fantasy. For five years, I had covered my legs with full-length jeans and leggings. Today, I flaunt my legs with pride over capris and knee-length skirts. Yes, there was a time when I had body image issues - today, I may not have overcome them all but this tattoo has given me the strength to let go of some of them. Today, I feel beautiful not just from the inside but from my outer appearance as well.

I know that there are some people who completely detest the idea of a tattoo. While everyone is entitled to have an opinion, I think getting a tattoo is just a matter of trusting yourself and understanding that while there will be changes ahead, it is alright to make some moments of your life permanent and forever etch it on  your body...

Sunday, 8 July 2012

As Real As It Gets

This article of mine appeared in the 'Augmented Reality' issue of the 'Digital Natives with a Cause?' newsletter on Page 13. Here is the link:
I am posting the unedited version here - I think my original draft had fewer grammatical mistakes! I hope you enjoy reading this and I look forward to hearing what you have to say...

When I was in standard XI, I broke my leg and was confined to the bedroom for more than three months owing to my inability to walk. It was at that time of severe boredom and extreme loneliness that I stumbled upon the wonderful online world. I have never labelled myself as a ‘tech-savvy’ person. My visits to different sites that the Internet allowed me to access had, earlier, been limited to checking my e-mails periodically and using MSN Messenger or Yahoo Messenger to chat with my school friends or family members. After my fracture, I discovered that there is a limit to things one can watch on television and there is only a certain amount of books one can possess and finish reading at one point of time. My friends were busy with school-work, tuitions and suddenly I was no more a part of their world. I could only spend time with people if they chose to come home and meet me. At first, I had a lot of visitors but gradually, their frequencies and numbers started dwindling. Desperately looking for ways to spend time and maintain some contact with civilazation, I launched Google’s search engine and stumbled upon the world of online discussion-forums and groups where people from all across the world meet to talk on subjects pertaining to their common interest. From that day onwards, it seemed that my Fairy Godmother had waved her magical wand and suddenly time had started flying for me! I could while away time chatting with new people – it gave me an opportunity to know more about the view-points of people from different age-groups, different locations and different life-styles. I have always been fond of writing and it was an online friend, who, one day, introduced me to the world of blogging. Blogging not only gave me a platform to share my thoughts with others but it also gave me a chance to see what others had to say about them. Soon, I became a regular visitor of this online virtual world and some of the people I met, there, I ended up meeting in real-life as well.

I am not sure that I can call the world of the Internet a ‘virtual’ world. I am a real person and even when I am online, I would like to be considered as someone with a real existence. As I write this, I am reminded of Jacques Derrida and his statements on multiple realities. Derrida had questioned the very notion of what is reality – according to him, the very history of Western thought was based on opposition: good v/s evil, man v/s woman, mind v/s matter, black v/s white. Moreover, these oppositions were hierarchical with the second term being a corruption of the first. But how appropriate are these oppositions?  The opposite of good, in my opinion, is ‘not good’ – if we cannot define a person as being ‘good’, it is not necessary that the person can be labelled as ‘evil’. The opposite of evil is, therefore,  ‘not evil’ – a person may not be evil but he need not be good either! In the same manner, I feel it is wrong to juxtapose the real world against the virtual world.

For argument’s sake, I am going to use the terms ‘real world’ and ‘virtual world’ to explore the various facets of these two different realities. The so-called virtual world, today, is a society of its own harbouring a wide web of social interactions and relationships. Just like we are surrounded by all kinds of people in the real world, there are people of various backgrounds inhabiting the virtual world as well. In the real world, we meet people, exchange ideas, spend time together, talk about the incidents of our daily life…We do that in the virtual world as well! With lack of playgrounds in the urban centres of our country, children and adolescents restrict themselves to playing indoor games and today, online gaming is a popular phenomena with more and more people having access to gaming consoles like XBOX 360, Playstation 3 and Wii. In the real world, we all try garnering contacts to get work done, look out for jobs or get any kind of help; the virtual world is no different with people making use of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and many more to gather more human capital in the name of friends, followers and business contacts. People exercise their Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression in the real world by saying what they feel like in front of people. They do the same online on different platforms and are able to reach out to a wider mass of audience. Just like there are certain norms and values in the real world which the people are expected to follow, the people who are accessing the virtual world are also expected to adhere to a certain code of conduct. As time passes, the needs of the people change and if a society is not able to meet the changing requirements of the people, it crumbles and falls and is replaced by another. We see a similar trend happening in the virtual world as well.
At this point I would like to pose the question: Exactly how different is the real world from the virtual world?

I am a person with various identities – I am a woman; I am a counsellor; I am a resident of Mumbai – there are so many things that define me. I have many relationships; to name a few - I am a loving sister, a faithful friend and a dutiful daughter. We all have stories to share about how we met a particular person. We meet people at book-stores, in classrooms, at work…Similarly, we meet people online. Why is it that only the section of people who we met online get labelled as ‘virtual friends’? Isn’t our friendship with them as real to us as our other relationships. Do all ‘online friends’ have no significance at all in our daily, everyday life? Haven’t we at some point of the day or the other - say, on our way to work - thought about a particular friend and what he is upto even if he is someone we know in the virtual space. I, personally, would not like to have a non-real existence in the life of another person. I do not like being thought of as a virtual entity. I am no ghost who just lurks around in the online spaces from time to time! Why, then, would I deny somebody else a real place in my life?

So, is there really a distinction between the virtual world and the real one? Well, not for me, at least!

Friday, 6 July 2012

And The Award Goes To...

I did not really expect to see my name featured in the lists of a 'Very Inspiring BLOGGER Award' or in the 'One Lovely Blog Award' and I would really like to thank Uma for bestowing upon me these honours:

It really was very unexpected! It's just been a month since I have started blogging here and I am very grateful to all the people who visit my blog, drop in their comments, share different perspectives and appreciate my writings. Thank You All!

According to the rules, I need to state 7 random facts about myself. Being a person who loves talking about 'me', this is going to be a piece of cake! Here goes:

1. I hate French Fries. I do not understand why people like them!

2. I love the rains - not just getting wet when it is raining but I love watching the rains fall down from my balcony. I love sipping hot chocolate and watching the rains from my window.

3. I am a Grammar Nazi. I cannot stand grammatical mistakes and punctuation errors.

4. I am always colour-coordinated. When I dress up, everything has to match! And when I say 'everything', it includes (but is not limited to) jewellery, bag, lingerie, wallet, footwear and hair-clips! I actually change the display theme of my mobile phone every morning based on the outfit I am wearing!

5. I breathe books! I love reading and I am a very fast reader.

6. I am a dreamer. I am often late because I spend too much time admiring the sights and sounds on the road instead of focusing on walking and reaching my destination faster.

7. Waiters seem to be very fascinated by me! I have got discounts and complimentary dishes served at my table by waiters. Recent additions to that list include bus-drivers and conductors who have given me free joy-rides and saved my time by dropping me closer to my destination instead of the actual bus-stop!

Well, I need to pass on these awards. I am still new to this space but here is my list:



Chatty Wren


Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Busy Bee

A few days ago, one of my friends was cribbing about how she has no free time and is always busy doing something or the other. I was being the good listener and trying to empathize with her when, suddenly, she commented, "If only my life was as free as yours is...It would be so wonderful to have all the time in the world to do all that you wanted!" I was really irked by these statements but I remained quiet.
She continued, "I only get one day off...I have to sit in my office from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sometimes, I have to stay back if the work is not complete...These days I reach home by 8:30 p.m. and my parents are really irritated...You are so lucky you don't have to work so much!"
I was royally ticked off and I was bursting with indignation and irritation. I felt like retorting, "I have to be at work at 9:00 a.m. sharp which means I wake up before 7:00 a.m. almost everyday. Unlike you, I do not live with my parents - therefore, I do not have the luxury of simply waking up in the morning and taking off...I need to take care of some household chores as well! I stay at work till 4:30  p.m. While you sit at your desk, I am running behind hyperactive children, trying to observe and manage different classrooms, and doing remedial work with a few children. I agree I do not generally need to stay over-time but try spending fifteen minutes in the fifth grade classroom and you will not tell me that my job is not a stressful one! Moreover, I return home and then I need to give tuition and work on some other projects that come up on a freelancing basis. " Nevertheless, I did not say all this. I simply replied, "My job is not as easy as it looks and I am not as free as I seem to be!"
"Of course you are! You have time to do so many things...And you are in touch with most of us! You have a lot of time to spare!"

I shut my mouth and merely changed the topic. These days I feel that being busy has become a fashion! Children in school are busy juggling academics, tuition, and extra-curricular activities - they are as busy as grownups! In college, one is busy with assignments and, therefore, has a "genuine" reason of keeping away from family functions...And let's not even get started on what happens when one enters the world of work! You meet deadlines instead of meeting friends...Your social life takes a backseat and you are, forever, juggling between your household and work responsibilities.

I often converse with a friend of mine named Su. She always complains, "I get bored! I have nothing to do! You are so lucky! You have so many things to keep you busy!"
Looking back at these dialogues, I realize that there are certain people who appreciate those who are always busy. There have been times when I wished I could be one of those people but no matter how hard I try, I am never successful! Even if I am working from 9:00 a.m. in the morning to 8:00 p.m. at a continuous stretch, I still make it a point to regularly stay in touch with my near and dear ones. I meet them as frequently as I can - even if it means getting less time to relax after a hectic day of work! I agree with people when they tell me that they have no time to do the things they wish to do. There is never enough time to do all the things one wants to do. But you need to make time! I enjoy my work and have fun at the work-place but that does not mean that my work does not tire me out! Even I can just go back home, eat dinner and fall off to sleep. I choose not to do just that! I do not want to be a machine who has a mechanical, mundane existence and goes about leading life by merely  following routines and doing what society thinks I should do. There are friends who wonder why I use up my casual leaves for simple events like meeting an old friend or watching a movie.I know in the short term, spending time reading, sightseeing or being with my close friends will make me happy but in the long term, it would benefit me to focus more on work and become successful. However, I know that in the very long run, what will make better memories...When I die I do not think I will regret the fact that I could not complete some report on time. I might regret the fact that I did not get a chance to spend enough time doing the things I wanted to do or being with the people I wanted to be around...I wish to live a life without regrets and, therefore, I balance my social life and work life extremely well.

Life is too short for one to be busy! I feel people keep evaluating their life from an economical lens and do not invest time and energy doing things that interest them or being around people they like because the returns one may get from doing all that is not tangible!
The only time I immerse myself in work is when I am upset and I do not want to think about my current situation. I wonder if getting engrossed in work is everyone's path to existential escapism from the sordid realities engulfing their world...If that is the case, we, indeed, have a reason to worry about where the world is going!