Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Snailr Project (or I am quite stupid)

So there's this blogger. Heaven knows how or why I found her blog, but thank the google demons for it. Her name is Anna Pickard, she's English and lives in San Francisco, and introduced me to Nightlife at the California Academy of Sciences, and it is my one greatest regret that I never had the courage to say umcanwemeetforadrinkmaybeheeI'mnotacreepystalkerIswear!

Why? This, for one. And this for another. That actually caused some extremely painful problems for my consultant friends stuck in boring meetings.

Anyway, I did manage to establish email contact with her, and when she launched this Snailr Project of course I was begging for a postcard. I mean snail mail AND trains!!! It has been a lifelong ambition of mine to take trains across the USA. Then I got one! A postcard, not a train. Or an ambition. I leapt and whirled about the house with joy, and Appa said er why do strange women you meet online keep sending you postcards? I searched and searched and SEARCHED for a scanner...and never found one. Guilt mounted, because well other people were posting their cards! Then last night I realised, I could just um take a photo of it...

That, in case you were wondering, is the front. And this is the back.

If you click you will definitely be able to read it. Also, Anna, I LOVE how you wrote my name! And your handwriting.

It's postcard number 4, and got here pretty darn quick! For those of you who can't/won't click,the text is this:
We have our first lunch on the train! In a formal, outdated routine, we're directed to make a Reservation as the dining steward passes through the train. At the appointed hour we go to the dining car and are seated opposite complete strangers. They don't introduce themselves by name, so we don't either. They're, we think, in their mid-70s, originally from New Jersey, now Southern California. She's short, and short of temper, and short-sighted. And short with the waitress. He is gentle, and determined. He has Alzheimer's/ At one point we all spend 10 minutes trying to help him find the words "Christmas tree."

Anna, I love you even more now that you hyphenate short-sighted.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


Frantically putting the finishing touches to my Spanish course I'm proofreading and the like. This means I notice that of the two verbs "to be" in Spanish, it is ser (permanent/intrinsic) that is used for bachelor and spinster hood, while estar (temporary, transient) is used to say married.

Of course this might be because the words married, divorced and separated are all participles and estar is used with participles, but it's more fun to wonder if this reflects an attitude to life. Heh.

One liner. Okay, two sentencer.

I just love how, when Appa signs off an email responding to me on the family emailing list he signs it Appa/(his name).

I also love how, when he used to write us letters when he lived in Indonesia, he would sign them "Rgds" or "Affly."

Monday, September 06, 2010

Ack ack ack fat rant alert

So looking for stuff online I bumped into this. The photos are lovely. Really they are. But what bothers me about it is these women are supposed to be overweight. REALLY??? Okay one of them could classify as plump, but if any of them is larger than a size 12 I'll fall over laughing.

What is the matter with us?

Saturday, September 04, 2010


Where I did my MA, there's a reason I used to call it the pisspot. A miniscule institute perched on the edge of the university, with a total of maybe 200 students in its MA, MPhil and PhD programs. People crammed three to a room in the hostels, teachers who did whatever they wanted and called it a course, without actually you know planning it or having any external evaluation of it, or looking at how to make a holistic program out of the business.

I remember in my first month, we had a strike! how exciting it was. We all lined up with posters in front of the admin building, we shouted slogans and giggled a lot and gasp ditched class. There wasn't room in the hostels, food in the mess or electricity.

Seven years later I go back. It now offers undergraduate courses and has been converted into a university proper. A central university with funding and everything. Now there are over 1000 students crammed into that same campus. The hostels have been "rebuilt" and "expanded," but people are now living three to a room. The lines are an hour long and there's no food at the end of the line. The students had a strike, almost a regular event now, and the acting vice chancellor refused to meet them. Well I hear he tried to wriggle out of a meeting he had agreed to. So they gheraoed him. And the professors in their indignant fury had a meeting. Shall we expel them? This disrespect for the dignity of their professors is unacceptable.

To you I say sir, or madam, what about the dignity of the student? What happened to the dignity of the human being? According to Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services...
 Is your dignity as a professor more important than your responsibility, as a professor and a part of civil society, to uphold the UDHR? Is your dignity as a professor more important than your duty as a professor to wish to impart and nurture knowledge, to which end your students should have managed to get a good night's sleep, take a shower, and put some food in their tummies before they get to class?

It makes me sick.

So much is so wrong with the way we look at education in this country (and the rest of the world, but right now my life is involved very deeply in this country and education), and that spills over into everything else. I'm not even touching the subject of school education. That's a whole parallel universe of worms.

Literacy is defined as being able to read and write your own name. Then guess what, I'm literate in every language that uses the Roman script.

Qualifying to teach a language at the university level means you can spout a lot of facts about the literature written in that language. You don't have to know the meaning of the word "predicate" but you can pass the NET exam and teach English in a university. Because, you know, being able to write a critical essay on Chaucer is immensely important to teaching modern English for daily usage to non speakers.

The point of going to college is to get the degree that is currently in fashion, not to actually learn to think. Because B.Tech or MBA on your CV will get you that BPO job where you work nights and make money.

Learning a language is a waste of time - putting one in the syllabus at your institute is merely a nod in the direction of the "trends" in favour of communication and international relations. So you can't be expected to actually pay for it. And the more people you can cram into a class the better, surely a student doesn't need more than three minutes of teach attention in a week! Also, why on earth would you need to know what a demonstrative pronoun is? It's not like you need to know the difference between subtraction and division to get an equation right.

Nobody cares. There are so many of us. Everyone wants an education. Everyone kills themselves saving up so their kids can go to engineering college. Those kids come out and they can't engineer anything to save their lives. But hey, they have the stamp. And they are the perfect little drones to perform all the pointless repetitive tasks that the outsourcing industry needs to get done. Should one of them wake up and rebel, out it goes, there's a hundred more dying to take its spot. That's exactly how we look at higher education. Never mind there's a hundred more where that one came from.

I want to scream at them. STOP IT. DON'T pin your life to this. Don't do it. Do not rush headlong into that furrow and dig yourself into it so deep you die there.

I, who am a vociferous and venom-spitting critic of "cultural studies;" I who woke up one morning in the middle of my MA litt and said FUCK woman, could you BE doing something more worthless; I sit here today and I think, well, it may be self serving and annoying; it may be a bubble, and it may lead to nothing much, but at least the humanities teach you to think. The humanities are the only discipline in India where you can look at your professor in your first year and say, no, I disagree, and be fairly confident you're not going to be failed. And they are the only place where you have a hope of being taught to life you head up, look around and go hmmm lemme try going the way the teacher said not to. (I'm talking about first year Bachelor's degree here.)

Ok I don't know where I was going with this anymore. Heh. I got distracted by an I-used-to-be-fat article, and of course three more posts mushroomed in my head. Here's hoping they see the light of day.

You never believe it’ll happen to you until it does.

Growing up, I never thought I’d be one of those girls. You know, with parents that wait up for them, and don’t let them out. With parents who make snide remarks that consistently undermine them. You know, with parents who don’t let them go out with their friends, parents who gently and persistently erode their lives until they don’t know if they're living in reality or a soap opera. One of those girls who’s always lying to her parents about where she is, who she’s with. One of those girls that will make her friends cousin pretend to be someone he isn’t so that her father will be a normal human being.

But apparently, I am one of those girls. “Oh! You’re going out carousing again” “Ha ha ha you’ll be up all night and lazy lie abed you’re going to sleep till 8.” Carousing – do you even know what that word means Amma? Do you? Because if that’s what you think you raised your daughter to do, then well you might as well a madam in a brothel no? And lazy lie abed? When is the last time a twenty-eight year old woke up at 730 because you would want her not – not because she slept early. Not because she had to be at work. Not because of anything. Except the fact that it makes a difference to YOU. You who can’t appreciate one damn thing about her. You who spend all you energy and time and insinuation telling her she’s not good enough, she’s failed. You who are hypocritical enough to say, be whoever you want to be, just the whoever we want you to be.

And me? I’m lying down taking the kind of behavior I’d be furious of my friends put up with, my mother and father would be furious of my friends put up with, my mother and father would give their own friends hell for for inflicting on their children. Can I support myself? Yes. Do I have savings? Yes. Do I have to live in your house? No. Do I have to live by your rules? No. Do I choose to? Yes. Why? Because, whatever it is, I am the child that is HERE. I may not ever have done anything the way you wanted, I might be the eternal disappointment, and if I’m not you sure do a helluva good job convincing me otherwise, but I’m HERE. I’m HERE. Under your roof. You can SEE every drink I have, every friend I see. You know what time I wake up. No, I'm not doing you any favours. But hey guess what, neither are you.

But because it’s not in your language, you cannot see the work I do. You cannot see the value I can bring to lives. No, not just in terms of my work. You cannot see the people who are GLAD that I’m their lives, the people who say I DON’T CARE HOW FARFETCHED IT IS, YOU ARE FUCKING AWESOME YOU WILL DO IT SO WELL. And when you are forced to see them, you can dismiss them because they’re your stupid child’s stupid friends. And she really did fuck up with one friend so of course she has no judgment.

Why do I care? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because you always told me I could do anything I could be anyone. That there are no rules about how someone should be or should act. That if I fulfill my responsibilities to other people, what I do otherwise is all mine. That being social is GOOD. That having conversations and interactions is GOOD. That I'm actually BEING a responsible contributing adult. Maybe you need to have a failure child. Maybe you need to see what it's like to have that.

I just wish I could turn it off. Like I have so blithely told people in the past, parents are your past. However much you love them, they are your past. You are your own future. But when it's you, your parents, the people whom you think gave you that feeling that you are superwoman you can do's not that easy to walk away. And god KNOWS I have tried. Emails. Conversations. Being the adult. Adapting to them. Now I'm done. You're the grown ups, right? Especially if I'm the fuckedup child.

Sometimes I just want to be the kid you know. That one. The one they love. The one they believe in. The one that they support.

Not the one they always question. Not the one they always doubt. Not the one who's always defending herself at the age of twenty-eight for doing things her older sister did at the age of FIFTEEN. The one whose presence is acknowledged and appreciated. The one who gets an "Aw you woke up early to spend time with me" not a "Good afternoon its 8am you lazy bum."

But I think I have FINALLY accepted that I'll never be that child. That child already exists. They don't need another one. Thank god I have a decent relationship with that child who can do no wrong, despite all the history.  I'll never be good enough. Ah what a cliche. Now to grow a pair and accept it.

So you know what Amma and Appa? I love you. I respect you. I drive kilometers every week to spend time with you. I lose hours of sleep every day to conform to how you think I should be. And you cannot even begin to acknowledge it. Well now, you're getting her. That rebellious fractious obnoxious child. That one who doesn't care what you say. That one who does what she wants and parties like a crazy person. That one who wakes up at 3pm and makes unreasonable demands. Cos fuck, if I'm paying the price I might as well enjoy the product no?

I'm done being a grown up only to be treated like a child. Let's see how you like actually getting what you think you've got.