Of Cabbages and Kings

April 17, 2011

Universities and Unhappiness

Filed under: Personal, Random musing — Chinmayi @ 8:28 am

Almost everyone I know who studied at the university that I went to describes it as the worst period in his/ her life. Sure, there are a few people who said it was the best period of their lives but these people were the mean, the inconsiderate and most prominently the uneducated – it was their playground.

Isn’t it a terrible thing? To create an institution where young people come, spend five years being wretchedly unhappy, and then spend another five recovering. Why would anyone do that? Why would anyone permit that?

PS – Yes, yes, I know that very very few Indian Universities can actually claim to have educated anyone. But this is a step worse isn’t it?

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March 14, 2010

These past few months

Filed under: Personal, Random musing — Chinmayi @ 6:04 am

I have a new job in a new city. New books have been read, new genres are being approached, and for the first time since high school, I am at an institution in India which actually challenges and stretches me.

A bipartisan effort has been made to bully a women’s reservation bill past the lines of sulking men in the Rajya Sabha. Although I have no idea at all about what impact the legislation will have on women in this country, I am so very proud of the female politicians who got together, across party lines, to see it though. Hats off to the sisterhood!

After mourning a lost relationship and its attendant lost dreams, I have found my way again. This time it really is MY way. I am doing work I enjoy in a place I enjoy among people I enjoy. I don’t feel derailed anymore.

One person I love is much happier than I thought and one person I love is much unhappier than I thought. The former I celebrate, and the latter I shall try and fix.

All in all, despite all the killings, banning of mosques, suicides and global warming, the world looks and feels like a better place.

March 18, 2009

The Blue Devils

Filed under: Personal — Chinmayi @ 10:15 pm

Once again, I have been on the verge of forgetting this little corner I like to scribble in. The last few months have been difficult – after whining for years about things that have been wrong with my life, I am trying to set them right…and it is taking some doing.

Do you live alone? Do you have days in which you hide under your blanket almost all day drinking cup after cup of Earl Grey until there are teacups over every clear surface in your room? Does your room look like a hurricane hit it a century ago and  no one has been inside ever since? These are just the small things…things that have been growing around me without my noticing them. It is strange how you can move past them so easily. One morning, you think that mushroom soup and a cosy blanket might be a better idea than a class on regional trade agreements, and the same evening you hear a song – a song that you have heard many, many times before but seen only this particular time that it smells of the rain. And suddenly the stale air of a little room suspended eleven storeys above a cold busy street in london blazes with the memory of an Indian thunderstorm, and you wake up. The teacups go back to the kitchen, the scattered papers sort themselves out and suddenly you remember where you were going before you went to sleep. 

I am back. I hope that I will stick around for bit. And if I don’t, I ask that you cross your fingers for me and hope that instead of diving back under a blanket…I am sorting out my room, my notes, my books and my life.

January 21, 2009

My American friend X came over today. X is of Indian origin and American sympathies. She loves butter and hates ghee. She starts many of her sentences with “America mein…”, and she has the usual distaste for arranged marriage and community centric living which to her are the defining characteristics of what might easily have been her country. X is a living breathing pity in many ways. She has travelled the world but never read a book*. She has grown up in America but in pursuit of ‘qualifications’, did not look for an education. She mouths the usual platitudes about Obama but would not take time to cast her vote for him. X is a pity because although her parents knew enough to move to a prosperous country and to grow wealthy in it, enough to shower their daughters with affection and to help them mingle in the new country, they did not know enough to use their wealth to purchase a different life for their children – the sort of life that moves beyond the pursuit of wealth for its own sake… one in which people understands things bigger than themselves and the boxes that they live in. 

But I think that the world may have changed a little today. My professor saw fit to interupt class and project the inaugural speech of that man who has been the symbol of a better world, so that we wouldn’t miss what is likely to turn into defining moment in history. As I type this, I can imagine gnarled and shaking hands moving over a keyboard decades later and tapping out my memories of this day.

Perhaps this man, with the popularity of a rock-star, and education and promise that truly befits a leader…perhaps this man who has found a way to reach the hundreds of people in front of him as well as thousands around the world, like myself and like X who hang on his every word…perhaps this man who has learned to tell the world what he knows instead of merely mouthing to it what it would like to hear…perhaps he will change the way that some people think. Not all people, but many people?

Today, he said “the success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.” If everybody who heard him understood him, I have faith that the world really will change. If not X, perhaps X’s daughter will learn the joy of studying something fascinating, and working towards something constructive…building a community not just a house in the posh part of town.

*okay that is an exaggeration. But she’s never even heard of P.G. Wodehouse!

January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

Filed under: Personal, Random musing — Chinmayi @ 10:38 pm

I will miss 2008 – it has seen me live in three different cities and make several major changes to my life. It has saved people I love from death and disaster.  It has brought me new friends and brought my old friends happiness and success. It has brought me to places that I dreamed of seeing and music I dreamed of hearing. It has even brought back on occassion, that increasingly-elusive pleasure that I used to take in my work.

Perhaps this year will heal us a little and help us rise into promises only glimpsed in 2008. Perhaps the world will start shaking off the cycle of violence that terrorism repeatedly pitches us into, and will look upwards at Obama’s message of hope and backwards into all that has redeemed it in the past. Perhaps this will be the year that will begin the end of distrust and will bring to the world a dazzling new idea like glasnost. Perhaps…

Here’s wishing the world a very happy 2009.  This day (if illusorily so) is special for all the hope that it carries. From here, 2009 could be a hundred kinds of beautiful…

December 29, 2008

The Original Blonde

Filed under: Across the Universe, Personal, Random musing — Chinmayi @ 12:03 am

My mother refused to buy me a Barbie when I was little – she had ideological issues with it. American cartoons had however taught me to idealise blonde hair and blue eyes and despite my mother’s efforts to protect me from stereotypes, I craved the doll.

All my friends had two or three Barbies and when we sat around re-doing the dolls’ hair or making up stories through which we walked our respective dolls, I always had a borrowed Barbie (since my other dolls were too large and clumsy to fit into a Barbie-game).  So when my cousin gave me her Barbie (as my mother watched in helplessly), I was delighted.

I lavished more attention on this doll than on all the others in my closet and was very particular about her grooming. So if it took my other dolls over three weeks to acquire bald heads, Barbie received her first haircut within days of being in my custody. With all my toddler-energy to expend, and my reluctance to part with the doll, my favourite game involved tossing Barbie up in the air repeatedly. The inevitable landing-mishap happened and Barbie lost a leg. Tears were shed and Mona, a petite dark-haired doll, was offered to me as consolation for Barbie’s missing leg (and I suspect in an effort to wean me away from Barbie). Mona was made welcome but regular attempts were made to fix poor Barbie’s leg, and I continued to live in her thrall until I learned to roller skate. 

What is it about Barbie? I know that for me it was a combination of reasons – all my friends had Barbies and obsessed with them endlessly; the doll was better made than all my dolls (with hinges for its limbs and suchlike); and it looked like all the fairy princesses in the cartoons I watched and the stories I read. The fact that Barbie was more anatomically accurate than my other dolls also appealed to me though I was innocent of the world’s obsession with the hour-glass figure until I went to college. 

Barbie turns 50 next year. Here’s a little debate on the pros and cons of the doll that most little girls want.

December 27, 2008

Christmas music!

Filed under: Music, Personal — Chinmayi @ 1:53 am

is something I look forward to every winter. I hobbled over to Westminister Abbey this year and shivered for an hour in their long queue so that I could hear the choir sing on Christmas eve. I even braved the man at the gate who was refusing to hand the programmes out to non-whites on the presumption that we were all tourists, and (instead of stomping off in a huff as I would normally be inclined to do in such a situation) coerced a programme out of him. The music was beautiful but I heard very little of it. I was treated instead to the squabbling/ bawling/ whining of two small children who clearly would have preferred an evening in the park to the crowded old church and whose parents were so happy to sit down for a bit (even through the portions where the ceremony required us all to stand) that they could not muster the energy to walk over to kids and encourage them to amuse themselves in less boisterous ways.

The next day I made it up to myself with a day full of music. For those who haven’t discovered the joys of BBC radio yet, this is a great time to start. Some of my favourites:

Johnnie Walker offers lovely Christmas related classic rock

Alan Titchmarsh for eclectic classical/ semi-classical (though he’s managed to throw in pop this time)

Chris Walker for drivetime rock

– And for those who like the popular sing-a-long carols, the Phil Spector Christmas album show

[Most of these shows will be available on air through this week after which the content will change]

November 26, 2008

Mumbai attacked

Filed under: Across the Universe, Personal — Tags: , , , — Chinmayi @ 9:09 pm

This seems to be a week for violence. Bombay is under attack as I sit in this faraway country and look up the next day’s reading material. The Hilton – which is brightly lit all night – looks tired and decrepit and has the army and the police swarming all over it. Arrogant powerful business-people are now frightened hostages huddled inside. People hurrying home after a long day’s work have died and their relatives cannot get to them because it is too dangerous.

A crowded raiway station, three (possibly four) of the most exclusive hotels and a busy central shopping avenue have been attacked. Machine guns and grenades seem to be flying about, there is blood splashed on the sidewalk and the most powerful and resilient city in my country is terrified and falling apart. A man that heads the firm that I used work at managed to escape from one of the hotels under attack. My friends are confined at their offices because to leave would mean to walk straight into restricted areas and gunfire. 

Tonight I will pray. That this madness stops. That more people are not hurt. That the retaliation is not worse than the attack. That the cycle of violence stops here and Bombay has time to heal as it has so many times before today.

November 16, 2008

Filed under: Personal, Random musing — Chinmayi @ 11:26 pm

London is very different from anything I have known so far. At home, it was possible to walk down a road and know instantly who to avoid and who to smile at. I can’t read faces here.

So when a greying man from my country accosts me at the tube station, I listen to him. He says he has just escaped death. A bus he was about to board had a horrible accident. I listen. Then he tells me he was visiting his ex-wife after thirty years. And then that she kissed him and she lives in a house as large as the buckingham palace. 

“Congratulations on your lucky escape”, I murmur and flee to the other end of the platform.

November 10, 2008

Protected: Welcome to my blog

Filed under: Personal — Chinmayi @ 8:44 pm

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