My (worthless) two cents

11/9 was momentous in many ways. It was momentous to me as an Indian, that finally a big step was taken to do away with corruption. Corruption has seeped through the Indian way of life so deeply that it is rusting and corroding morals, principals and ideas. The step taken is inconvenient in the extreme short term, but, it will finally do away or bring to light the corrupt folks and their “black” money. But I am not here to talk about that as much as about the elections held in the country I’ve been living in for the last 7.5 years.

Yes, it was devastating. I have never been so personally invested or interested in election outcomes and as I sat agape staring at the numbers before me, I could not understand. I went through all the stages of grief -anger, denial, sadness and so on. I couldn’t even muster myself to sleep. I was devastated that a woman had failed to break the glass ceiling. But I was more upset that the opponent was who he is. Over the last six months or so, the Republican candidate was called thoroughly incompetent and other nasty adjectives. His debate performances just made interesting television and drew laughter from the educated,literate crowd. I never in my wildest dreams expected him to win. It would be closely contested I thought, but winning, not a chance.

Now that slowly everyone is accepting the reality of what has happened and articles upon articles emerge trying to assuage the public and heal their wounds, it has brought out the hordes of trump supporters in all their glory and they deserve to be heard. I have had the opportunity to travel and work in the “rust-belt” that seems so different from the world that my family, friends, co-workers and I inhabit and I think I deserve to describe the little I saw.

The whole area seems to be stuck in time, a once-glorious past, full of dilapidated buildings, rusting plumbing, potholed roads, faded neon signs and old-dented scratched cars. You felt you went back in time to an America that hasn’t caught up with its coastal developed belts. The houses look shabby and run-down save for some posh neighborhoods and bars are always full, even at noon on a workday. Chimneys poke through the skyline, all in different stages of ruin, full of graffiti, no longer functional. There are hundreds of restaurants that don’t understand the concept of vegetarianism. I have seen Walmarts with no vegetable or produce sections.This exists, today, in parallel to the swanky neighborhoods of the silicon valley and the skylines of Manhattan. People have old-fashioned ideas of the roles of man and woman, do not believe in travelling far and wide and college education seems a rarity. I have interacted with these folks who disregard the ideas or even the presence of a woman in their midst, because she is a woman. Call them misogynist if you will, but in reality, they have much bigger problems to deal with. Can you imagine the quality of education they receive? What is their stimulus to change? I can see in my mind’s eye, how his campaign would have appealed to them. Clinton was realistic in not promising all the lost jobs or reversing globalization. He wasn’t but his message was simpler, more directed to this demographic and it paid off. They live in a world where unemployment and worry about having enough to feed their family and pay off their mortgage lies foremost on their mind. Misogyny, racism comes afterward.On my coast-to-coast road trip, this was more than evident. The inner-cities have indeed fallen behind. Globalization might have brought in more material goods and made movement of items easier, but their life has seen a downfall and it is easy to see their contempt and anger against the system. They look for anyone, just anyone who might fight for their cause, his personal digressions and character flaws mean nothing to those who struggle to earn, live and eat everyday. This America is not very visible to the rest of the world, but it exists. It shocked me the first time I visited too. I realized the slim bubbles or fragile walls that separate my world from theirs. It felt like a different place. It is.

My anger is directed towards the newspapers and media outlets. It is normal for media houses to take sides but just showing one side of the coin is akin to brainwash. An avid consumer of everything printed – from the New York Times, The New Yorker, Washington Post and other publications who are described as liberals, I feel cheated. It is alright to publish opinions and ideas of left-liberals and denigrate a republican candidate who shows no regard for public decency or political correctness, but the other side should also be shown. Name-calling, adjective writing is one thing, but media outlets have a responsibility to present the reality to society and not just print what like-minded individuals want to read or see. It is uncomfortable for sure, but it gives the right picture. If I believed everything I had read, I would have assumed there was absolutely no one who was on Trump’s side and that such a vile, idiotic,corrupt individual should not even be allowed to venture close to policy-making, let alone represent a major political party. Had I not been to the inner cities myself, I would have never had that iota of suspicion that he does have takers and his words are finding support in some parts of this country.

I think it is time to move past this and move forward. It would be interesting to see what powers a President can yield and the system of checks and balances that exist in this country that would prevent any disastrous outcomes.  This election has brought to light the stark differences in mindset, economy and ideals that exist in this country. It is time to accept , bring to light and work on the gigantic flaws of racism, poverty, misogyny hiding in plain sight in this global powerhouse.

 

Advertisements

Breakup

The current news is so disturbing. Looks like no continent has been spared from the financial gloom either. Europe continues battling over the EU, exit and bailouts of Greece leading to abysmal numbers for the Euro, the US is all gloomy forecasting another recession due to the expiry of the Bush tax cuts, impending trillion (how many zeros again?) deficit and a not-so-great job growth rate and India battles its own demons everyday. Politics restricts itself to mostly the entertainment section nowadays with Silsilas in the Rajya Sabha, discussion on Rekha’s sarees in regular news and a sad celebration of the government’s reign in power. I remember governments tumbling within months and I continue to ponder how this alliance continues to hold its own. What really saddens me is that this is the best India has to offer currently.

What is worse is the horrific inflation rates. Growing up, dinner table conversations using to lovingly recollect how ‘annas’ were still worth a lot, a rupee could buy you a week’s groceries or more or how a scooter costed 100 bucks and was a reason for envy. That was wonderment in the 1990’s and the early 2000’s where a hundred rupee bill was considered so precious and hidden in the deepest pockets of school bags and a rupee coin was worth half a bus-ticket. With the increase in petrol prices to 80 rupees a litre today, I realized I can no longer gauge how expensive or cheap a commodity is. Something like the weather, I can feel celcius but farenheit still needs some basic math in my head to translate into something I can comprehend. Years ago, when onions costed 55 Rupees a kg temporarily and were paraded around instead of jewellery, people thought the worst had come. Today a trip to the vegetable store burns a sizeable hole in the pocket, not to mention groceries. Amidst all this, the state of the poor is just so saddening. My mol told me about my maid who doesn’t get to eat everyday since the cost of one meal for her family is now Rs.100.You never know where hundreds go, a eight hundred rupee outfit now is considered ‘cheap’, coconuts cost 30 bucks and a murugan idli dinner for three runs into the hundreds. I feel I’ve lost my yardstick to measure cost. I don’t know if a hundred rupees worth something is now normal or still pricy. How much money do you need to carry around to not run out of cash midway? Is a saree that runs into lakhs something only the uber-rich and crazy people buy or is it now a price people have to pay for it being a part of the wedding trousseau?

Lastly, with the rupee falling to a dollar as well (the bad news doesn’t stop, does it?) I calculated that the cost of living is actually lower here. I live on a student budget too. I can estimate the cost of items easier with dollar since conversion to rupees gives scary numbers (and 0’s I cannot keep track of). I think we’ve come to the phase where we can recount our childhood and amaze the next generation with the low numbers. Does that make me old? or the governance bad? I’m inclined to go with the latter.
Rupee – I breakup with you. It’s like I don’t even know you anymore. 😦

Toilet Paper Treatment

Call it the TP syndrome or the Chewing Gum analogy, but both essentially refer to the same phrase – Use and Throw.

I recently was at the receiving end of this sort of treatment, being disillusioned into friendship – going all out and helping said person, before being thrown out of the window without the slightest hesitation. I felt hurt and bad, thought of all things I shouldn’t have ever done had I paid heed to those who suffered the same previously at the hands of that person. But there is this nasty feeling called hope, where u mysteriously hope and falsely reassure yourself that said person wont do this to you and feel like absolute trash when it happens. I never understand people. I realize that perhaps a little self-centering is essential and being selfish is what allowed evolution to occur, but I tend to believe that there are always those really really close people, whom you are truthful to. Its okay to be formal and ask for mild help from people you don’t know, but faking friendship only to get your work done easily is heights of selfishness!

I have met so many people who have used me. Come to me and begged for help and not so much batted an eyelid afterwards, come in the middle of the night to ask help with exams and after its done pretend that I’m invisible or feign deafness when being called out to. I thought I had gotten used to it and gone beyond expecting things from people in return but when a supposed friend delivers that blow, it still shakes your faith in anyone at all. This is more rampant now that people are applying to universities and need help from those experienced. It is okay to inquire about the general state of affairs here, the system etc, but its NOT ok to randomly ask people to rewrite your SOP’s, bug them incessantly on chat for days till your admit comes and then leave them in the lurch completely. When you are friends with someone, it is okay to ask, but I realize some tactful people make friends for solely this purpose. So I’ve come up with the best way to keep my sanity intact. I’m NOT helping people anymore. I thought I would make an exception for people I call friends, but now I’m doubting that capability too.
Its not only me who has been through this. There are countless people who’ve suffered at the hands of such people and learnt their lesson. As I spoke to a friend for consolation, she assured me that this is normal and she had suffered from this multiple times. Also, that what such people lack is conscience, but then there is hardly anything we can do except excercise caution.
I’m not your fair-weather friend, though in my case,I should rather say I’m the bad-weather friend. People come to me when they are in doubt, in tension, worried and gladly omit me from their lives when they are happy, only to return when calamity strikes. I might not be the brightest person in predicting people’s behaviour but I’m definitely smart enough to adhere to “Once bitten, twice shy”.

So long people, call me names if you will but now its your turn to see my MEAN side. If you’ve already seen it, then so be it.

Where is the goodness gone?

“There are too many people, and too few human beings” – Robert Zend.

I find this line particularly true. As I look around me, in fact sometimes even introspect, I feel that true goodness of a person’s heart has almost ceased to exist. In this extremely competitive world, where competition is on the verge of even turning nasty, we have forgotten what it is to be good human beings. A good and genuine person. I remember agreeing wholeheartedly with Holden ( J.D Salinger’s masterpiece) as he groaned about phony people. To my utter disgust, I find them all around me. Every relationship seems to have a motive (like befriending students with cars in hopes of hitching a free ride) to even more serious commitments of money, power and a comfortable lifestyle. I know people who target those ahead of them, try their best to screw around with their work and then surge ahead and no longer bat an eyelid at their once-upon-a-time-friends. So it is my turn to ask, how long are we going to continue being phony?

I know toppers who are the nastiest and most unhelpful people to ensure that they remain ahead in their race, leaving their competitors behind.Can they be called nice people? If they are not, how come they do better in life than the really nice ones? I know people who lie about achievements, who use people to get their knowledge and later dump them faster than a Pepsi can. I know people who befriend certain others to ensure their comfort for the time being and once their work is done, refuse to recognize them. One can no longer genuinely reveal information about anything because you pray that the other doesn’t find out more than you did and God forbid, get ahead of you. You can’t trust their motives, their words. You can see through friendships and relationships as being solely for a particular reason. Is this growing up or hypocrisy? Sometimes, I remain confused.

Genuine people are those who help and expect nothing in return. People who know very well that they are going to be let down sometime in the future and still continue to help. I know this lovely couple who lives close to campus and take all efforts to drive Indian students to the far away Indian groceries fortnightly for free. They email, pick you and drop you from wherever you live and even invite you to these amazing Christmas, thanksgiving dinners and spoil you with a multitude of dishes. I know students who remain indifferent to their help and treat them like chauffeurs. I also know Indians who crash their parties and call their friends shamelessly in front of the hosts “hey FREE FOOD!! Come FAST!”. They have been experiencing this for so many years now. But still they continue to dole out gifts and dinners and help with the groceries which would have been impossible to shop for otherwise. Now that’s what I call selfless. They have no resumes to maintain, nothing to prove to anyone and yet they help. I am inspired by those people. I really am.

I signed up for volunteering for the Atlanta humane society because I love animals. This is my way for making up for lost time with my dearest Whisky and I long for responsive animal company (hamster spinning on a wheel or a fish or plants don’t really count!). I heard two guys talking ” Eeks! I hate animals man, cant do it.” The other stately told him ” Dude, its just for two months, smell the shit for now then we’ll smell the money.” Yeah right, I thought. You will tolerate an animal for putting it in your resume and appearing like this fake considerate person while in reality who knows?! That is my point. Things are at a juncture where if it can’t be proved, its okay to lie and fake. How much of all this can the world take? How many people (Indians, I am ashamed to say) will copy and get grades here while the other honest students seethe with anger. (Its another story that a huge Indian brigade got caught for the same and were punished). Now we fake our resumes, our grades, our relationships and even ourselves?

I’m not perfect either. I know I might have come across as someone as inconsiderate or ungrateful at times but trust me people (especially those I’ve offended) I meant nothing of it. I look for real love (that’s why I love my dog more than anything else since I know he will love me no matter what I am or become, rich or poor, beautiful or ugly), real knowledge and real relationships. I want friends whom I can speak my mind and feel lighter instead of worrying about how the news might benefit them, I want parties where everyone remains their true self and I want people to be genuine. Yeah right, I might also wish for world peace and destroying terrorism now that I am at it. Sigh. Come back to reality Nita. Ive to hunt for those true people I’m looking for. But I’m optimistic, I’ll find em. For the others, nothing in me will change.

Room-mate woes

Disclaimer 1: All of this may seem to be greek and latin to most boys.

Disclaimer 2: This is not for those who have found their perfect, dream room-mate and can’t imagine living without them.

Perhaps one of the most common topics of discussion between any two graduate students over a cup of coffee or lunch is the always-hated, never-forgiven, repeatedly-cursed entity – the room-mate. I am one of the unfortunate ones who didnt quite hit it off with her, right from the word go. The issues seem endless and the irritability is always on the rise. For someone who claimed to have no issues living in with anybody, this experience definitely changed all that.

Maybe it is because I was spoilt rotten with a single room all through college life or maybe now that I’m a little more grown up and responsible, the idea of finding half of your room in a complete mess doesnt go down well at all. Right from finding half cut lemons in your coffee mug when you have less than 3 minutes to leave or finding all your spoons stuck up vertically down the sink drain when you want to eat something, irritating room-mates can give you an experience of a lifetime and test your patience no end and I’ve had my share of trouble for a lifetime. Seriously.

I can say with confidence that I had the ill-luck of living with the dirtiest possible girl you could find on planet earth. This statement again might contradict the assumption that all girls are clean. Though my hostel experience did teach me that, the fact that this dirt now existed in my room became unbearable. Clothes strewn all over, earrings lying all over the carpet, hair covering the sink, all dirty pots and pans lying on the kitchen table, masala stains everywhere! EWW!! Everyday after happily tripping over her collection of shoes all over the living room floor, I was always welcomed by this beautiful sight. More I told her to clean up, the more mom-like I began to feel. Maybe she even thinks that I’m a nag of the highest order but that’s besides the point. We barely tolerate each other’s presence, forget cooking or eating together. So you might ask, why am I still with her? The answer my friend, lies in one single document – the lease.

So as my parallel hunt for subleasing continues and I battle with the woes of living in inhospitable conditions, I secretly long for my CH-3 369 which was my second home away from home for 3 best years of my life. Though I’m confident that I will find my dream apartment in the coming months and settle down to blissful and clean evenings, this one experience is enough to tarnish my confidence about sharing my living space with anybody.

All those who’ve found happiness and a great friend in your room-mate, consider yourself to be in the league of the extraordinarily lucky and I’m very envious of all of you.

PS: I did finally pass those exams I wrote about earlier. Praise God!

Sometimes…

There are the good days and there are those you wish you never lived through. Sometimes there comes those days which leave you wanting some more and certain others when despite having everything you crave for something else. Today was the latter.

Things were normal. Submissions, a pop-quiz that went rather normally, assignment, fairing and then a college football game to which I had tickets. Sounds good na? Only thing, I didnt have company to go see the match. Surprising, that in a crowd of so many thousands you still never find that good friend you can drag along, bully, to drop every other commitment and accompany you to some place. Mostly, there is never time to think of such things, (even now the marquee in my head is beeping about the Thermodynamics assignment in queue), but those rare instances that you are forced to think of this, it gets sad. Today as I walked past the Bobby Dodd stadium and the carnival-like atmosphere surrounding it, I felt really alone. For the first time in my existence of twenty odd years, I dont have someone in person to run to, to walk to the store with, to take my mind off homework for a while or to giggle and laugh at silly nothings. Sometimes, I just wish I had someone here.

I’m waiting.

Its time to start my next assignment. All the best Yellow Jackets, hope I get to see the next match at least.

Girl Talk: The Indian male stare

Introduce this topic among a group of twenteen girls lying joblessly in a hostel room at midnight and the bonding is similar to what porn does to boys in college. Experiences pour out and so does the frustration. Everywhere a girl goes, she is followed by hundreds of eyes of the common Indian man. The autowallahs, rickshaw pullers, the security guard, the valet parking guy, just about everyone as though you are an alien specimen supposed to be sitting in a zoo who has just escaped. I simply hate those leching gazes that check out your length and breadth and zero down on certain parts of your body.

At first, the girl becomes conscious (when you are 13 or 14 and just about changing all over) and then slowly with maturity comes the sad acceptance of the truth. You will be leached at from all sides, the taxi driver will try and adjust his rear-view mirror, people will deliberately fall against you in buses or trains, jerks on bikes will howl and whistle as you stand in bus-stops and the unstoppable, extremely irritating stare will follow you everywhere outside the comforts of your home.

What happened in Patna is sad, just like the tragedy that occurs regularly at Gateway of India every new year. Deep down inside every girl knows that any of this can happen to her at anytime, anyplace. Just the really unfortunate ones are victimized. I wonder what it is with this stare and gaze that occurs at all times and all places. The latest issue of Femina deals with this issue in great detail showcasing the exemplary braveness of certain women who hammered the man in question till he begged for apology. Not many among us are so brave.

I know this is the second feminist-like post in recent times, but the Patna episode and my own experiences and those of friends at the shopping expeditions (which leave me irritated most of the times) inspired me to put this down in words.

I know what I am going to do next time some such shit happens (and I encourage everyone else also) just stare back. Lets see how men behave when they come under the focus of the Indian female stare.