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Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Bright Side of Life

Right now, there is nothing much in life except studies and exams. There’s hardly any time to get distracted. Even then, day-before-yesterday was special, amidst the academic humdrum.

Everyone needs a close confidant. There are ups and downs, and in order to overcome a mental turbulence, help is always welcome. A sounding board is sometimes curative for such a tumult.

There are a few who confide in me; it gives me some fulfilment to see that they feel much better after sharing their thoughts. Generally, only very close friends tend to confide in you, obviously because they trust you. But it’s a pleasant surprise when someone not so close, with whom you haven’t interacted much, who may go far away in the near future never to return back, who probably doesn’t count you in his/her day-to-day friends, about whom you don’t know anything beyond a routine hello, who knows it well that you don’t know much about him/her, comes up to you one fine day. And tells you everything. And confides in you.

It gives you immense amount of confidence. And it gives you a lot of hope. It makes you believe that life can take you anywhere. You feel wanted; you feel that your presence consoles someone. And this establishes your purpose of life, at least for a day.

All I know is that my day was made.

Monday, December 22, 2008

India without ‘K’

With so much happening on the political front, it’s tough to predict what will happen next. Before the nation is able to digest one controversy, a trigger-happy politician is ready with another arm-twister; the frenzy created thereby leaves most of us truly bewildered.

The last few months have undoubtedly witnessed a rather poor statesmanship from all politicians, in all possible areas of international relations. India looks like a battered baby, so to speak, and no one’s interested in any kind of vociferation. For some unknown reason, the folks at the helm are not able to articulate loudly and clearly enough.

Why don’t we give a fitting reply to the damning and illogical statements issued by other countries? Why do we listen to what everyone has to say without expressing disappointment? By ‘fitting reply’, I don’t (necessarily) mean any drastic step such as a military strike, but just a strong message, a statement, a warning or a suitable admonition.

Because of our failure, we had a rather disappointing news item sometime back in the dailies, the protests of so-called separatists of Kashmir have raised beyond the comfort levels. The issue of Kashmir is a long-standing one and it probably needs a separate ministry to handle it. Or soon, we’ll have to part with our crown and face an uncertain future due to the altered geopolitics. Yesterday, I read in the news that around 9 people were killed by protestors opposing the on-going polls. Everyday, we have 5-10 people dying in the valley (or probably much more, you never know). Till when is this going to continue? The most audacious act was when pro-Pak protestors waved their flag on prominent buildings located in downtown Srinagar, and no one could do anything! Appalling!

As if this was not enough, our foolish babus printed certain political maps of India last year. As expected, they goofed up – they printed India without Kashmir! I mean, what do they mean? There is a fundamental problem with us somewhere. Has a certain section of society accepted India without the K-word? The fact that this question arises is very unfortunate. Then we protest when someone has the guts to call us headless chicken.

Most of us have read the history of Kashmir. And we all know that the radaa could have been solved long ago, but the tale continues like a dangerous imbroglio. Although we cannot document the feelings of each and every Kashmiri, we all know (the world intelligence included) that Kashmir cannot survive on its own and it needs to remain with us. It’s a known fact now as to where the terror comes from. I’m sure all Kashmiris know what their best bet is.

What is the future of K? Will the two neighbours agree peacefully and happily on a common solution? Will one of the two forcibly grab the land and the other keeps whining/striking? Will the situation continue as it is, killing millions of people before life on earth finally comes to an end? Will peace ever flow in the valley, or will it be frozen, cold and dangerous from January thru December?

Sometimes, it’s thoroughly disheartening; when a government cannot preserve the original maps of a state like Nagaland, what it can do to bring a smile on the people of K is open to discussion.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Belt from the blue!

There are plenty of reasons why such a weird article appears in this blog. Though I’m sure it will not help me in anyway dealing with people who have inspired this post.

Let’s just take a detour here.

Does anyone know when did people on earth start wearing belts? Well, according to history, belts have existed since the Bronze Age, for men as well as women. However, they were popularised by the military junta of Eastern European countries, including Prussia. These individuals wore belts to emphasize their trim physique and flaunt their wide shoulders. Cartoonists often ridiculed these officers, portraying their waists cinched to uncomfortable extents. Modern belts replaced these military ones in 1920, and it became an accessory that assumed a much lower and a comfortable position (on the waist, that is). Of course, today we have all the possible variants of a belt, including the low waist ones (‘ABCD’ – aga bai chaddi distey), sagging belts; not to mention seat belts, conveyor belts, braces, etc.

The point is very simple.

Many people do not like wearing belts or are rather too lazy to do so. I probably belong to the second category. So does Salil, a batch mate, but since he whiles away most of his time studying in the inner section of the library, he is usually away from the hullabaloo generated by the ‘college public’.

One day, when we all were having lunch at Kalpadroom (a lunch room for students at KEM), Rujul suddenly shrieked and took everyone by surprise. “Hey Ani! You’re not wearing a belt!”

Everyone around dropped their morsels and with open mouths stared at my waist for a few seconds. I guess this is a very unique way of getting embarrassed when one is not wearing a belt. I tried convincing everyone that I was indeed very comfortable. I was better off without the strap of leather tethering my abdomen. There was absolutely no question of my trousers slipping away for good, so there was no need for anyone to be fearful (or watchful). However, this news was enough to cause flutters amongst the paparazzi.

It is now quite a known fact in college that Salil and I hate wearing a belt. Rujul reminds me almost everyday, “Ani, you still don’t have a belt!” or “tune belt kyun nahi pehana hai?” One day, she was kind enough to say, “Hey do you want me to gift you a belt on your birthday?” Soon the news spread from Kalpadroom to katta and we had all kinds of fashion statements from demigods themselves – Rohit, Jaskaran, Nazim, Jasmeen, Sanket, Mahesh, Suyog, Chandan - the list is endless. Once, I chanced upon an interesting line which had the entire katta in splits and the person who blurted this out, rather embarrassed. She said, and I quote, “Ani, why don’t you wear a belt? What are your intentions, haan?!

I guess the last straw was Mansi’s brother, Manan’s marriage reception. I thought that I had been pestered enough and should oblige others at least once. I don’t recollect exactly, but everyone sure gave me a rousing welcome at Nirali’s place the moment they realised I was wearing a belt. We were invited for lunch after which we had all planned some ‘time-pass’. That was the first and the last time I had gathered enough patience to wear the piece of leather.

After that, a couple of humorous remarks by certain acquaintances:

“You are doing medicine from KEM right? Then you must have a lot of experience under your belt!”

“This rural posting is surely going to hit you guys below the belt…!”

“It’s final year, dude. Better tighten your belt.”

Friday, December 5, 2008

Can the cat and mice, both play?

(This article appears in Gosumag 2008 - the annual college magazine of Seth GS Medical College. Its basically a potrait of an 'ideal teacher' - a rather puerile and sick topic i was told to write on. Obviously, the article is also as pathetic. Why it was printed, is still a mystery.)

An average-intelligent mouse wouldn’t want to take such a risk. No one would – masochism is not in vogue. However, after my medical admission, I felt like a masochist mouse making way into a feline colony. I remember discussing with a friend once in the train, “Imagine, all our teachers would actually be doctors! They would be so strict… we would be walloped in no time!” The rest of the journey was spent thinking about how miserable our lives would be in a medical school. Of course, the twaddle went on to conjure up a new recipe – that of an ideal teacher, whom we rightly named, ‘Prof. Gillette’ – the best a man can get.

A medical-teacher is a different personality if you compare with conventional teachers, so to speak. A school teacher is more like our pitaji/mataji; whereas we share quiet a friendly relationship with most teachers in the campus. Guru Gillette is therefore, an easygoing, down to earth person. He/she is very much astute, sharp, witty, proficient and well-versed.

Since it is the ultimate aim of all Gsites to arrange clinics/lectures, Mr. Gillette should succumb to all such requests instantly. The success rate of getting a clinic arranged should be equal amongst girls and boys – Gillette sir shouldn’t be partial towards the fairer sex. In such clinics/lectures, we don’t like our teachers stammering and searching for words to fill their mouth. We love it when professors snub an occasional Doubting Thomas who is loaded with too many questions and crows over nothing.

Every student reveres someone who is thorough with the subject and communicates well. Jonathan Kozol, in his book Letters to a Young Teacher, says, “The worst possible advice for a teacher is ‘start out tough and stick to the curriculum’”. Better teachers are aware of latest publications in medical journals and make it a point to share it with interested students. Time spent in discussing chokra-chokri lafdas and bhaaji-pala rates are not appreciated by any individual. Clinics should teach us concepts instead of unimportant statistics, numbers and probability equations.

Gilletteji should be smartly dressed and must encourage male/female residents (…wink) to be suave as well. At the same time, it’s annoying when Swami Gillette gives an ‘aati-kya-Khandala’ look to female students. It’s simple; we hate all sorts of competition.

An ideal teacher evaluates all students in an examination without any bias. He/she appreciates good answers and encourages when mistakes are made. He/she recognises deserving students and gives them their due. Gilletteji welcomes every student in his/her cabin for a viva with a lot of warmth – giving airhostesses a run for their money. They strive to make their students comfortably seated. They don’t give that ‘yay! tu fail ho gaya’ look to a particularly dull student.

We would appreciate teachers who allow us in a lecture even if we are ten minutes late – we would make sure to be on time for the next lecture if it’s indeed thought-provoking. They shouldn’t waste too much time in acts of futility such as correcting our journals. Instead, it would be great if Prof. Gillette helps us organise a few literary/sports/music events.

As Adyashantiji puts it, “True teaching leads to the freedom of no teaching, no teacher and no student”. Therefore, teachers can be our guides and help us decide a fruitful career; create better clinicians and individuals from crude students like us; treat us like similar younger humans – Gilletteji has been through all this at some point in time as well.

If the cat so wishes, maybe it can play together with the mice.

(Writing this piece brings back to memory Mrs. Gool, Supervisor for Primary Section, St. Blaise High School – this piece is a humble dedication)