Sunday, March 25, 2007

Pora (Studies )

I have married into a large extended family with a lot of children and the mothers like all good bengali "MAAAs" are very constantly worrying about their child's "pora" (studies) and ensuring that each evening the little ones are dragged off (depending upon their moods at that specifc moment) either in complete miserable submission or kicking and screaming in pure rebellion to their books , so that they come back from school the next day with a "VERY GOOD" scrawled across their notebooks .

In all self-respecting Bengali homes, the children's "pora" (studies) is of paramount importance . Each mother considers her children's studies her prime duties. The most common refrain that a good Bengali mom is bound to utter is " Tubai/Rimli/Babai/Mamoni ekdomeiii porcheii na" loosely translated as "My child does not study " . All schedules in a Bengali household are arranged this concept of "pora " timings, bath,outings, visits, holdiays and even the job !

Tubai/Rimli/Babai/Mamoni's exams are considered a reflection of parenting success and their weekly test scores are studied with even greater intensity than the Sensex ! Outside any exam hall you will find scores of parents milling around with anxious faces wondering whether Tubai/Rimli/Babai/Mamoni is successfully downloading the " theory of relativity on paper"!

In spite of the historical background of such involvement of an average Bengali parent's in their ward's very average Bengali parents decided that I was to go to a Boarding School ! Their plan was greeted with howls of horror from our relatives and well-wishers about the adverse effects it would have on my "pora" and my entire "futre" was doomed.
The only one who stood by them was my Dadu. He doted on his only grand daughter and probably expected great things from yours truly and decreed that I had to go to the dreaded Boarding School !

At the age of 5 and a half , I was packed off (literally) to a boarding school in Darjeeling.

No matter what they say about it being easier to adapt to new situation when you are a child and things like is tough for 5.5 year old to actaully comprehend the sudden changes in her life especially when she cant express herself too well and is laughed at by her classmates for her funny pronouciation, so for the first month of her life in a boarding school she just cries and yells for her parents. It does not help that she has an unsympathetic matron who has lost interest in her because her parents have not given her enough tuck. Then the 5.5 year old's class teacher discovers that 5.5 is actually the only one in her class who can actually read complete books whilst her her other peers are still struggling with their alphabets and life becomes easier for her.

11 years later 5.5 graduates from her Boarding School as a 16-year old who is independent and adapting. Her relatives who had howled in despair now admire her "convent" English and gloat over her article (in English if you please) which appears in The Statesman supplement.
And her parents tell their friends and colleagues about the fact that they never accompanied their daughter to a single exam and yes she did scored very well at her boards.

It did help that my parents took a different approach to their daughter's "pora"

Friday, March 16, 2007

And Tell Me ……

I hate phone calls these days..whether it is about making them or receiving them.
Here’s how a typical conversation over the phone goes :

Friend : Hi D!
Me : Hello “Friend” !
Friend : So how’s life ?
Me : Good ? What about you ?
Friend : Ok, so how’s Hubby ?
Me : Fine
Friend : How’s work ?
Me : Hectic as usual
Friend : So, tell me what’s new …?

Me : Ummmmm
(Long Pause…….as I try to think of something to say, the mind starts to whir but no thoughts come to carry on the conversation )…..ummmmm nothing new. Same old stuff. What about you ?

Friend : Chol che (translated as Chal raha hain)

Friend : So, we must catch up sometime, it’s been a long time since we met.
Me : yeah, lets.

Friend : Ok then give me a call.
Me : Bye.

This call wasn't from some one I barely knew but from one of my best friends. We spent hours discussing everything from Aamir Khan's latest look to the bitchy colleague at work . The highlight of our days were the end of day phone call that we made to each other and caught up with the day's happening. It didn't matter how tired we were or what we simply "had" to do. We talked. Lately all my telephone conversations seem to go this way...even with my mother.

It's not that this friend and I have grown apart or anything. We are still very close and still turn to each other for comfort and pep talk....and yet things have changed. We have grown in our jobs to more responsibilities...we got married within months of each other and we both have two sets of families to look after..... RESPONSIBILTY seems to have got the better of us as we rush to live up to them.

What say people ...has this sense of "reposnsibilty" taken its toll on our relationships ?

There was a time when we split hairs on the phone on whether that good looking colleague who filled out her coffee cup from the machine had finally noticed her or was he merely being polite ? Today we dont even bother to discuss the underlying meaning of something the husband says or something the MIL's all so "same" and "boring".

I mean I dont feel like discussing my hard day at work any more...I dont want to tell anyone about my latest gadget, the I-pod Nano....I dont want to ask about some one's upset stomach....i dont want to talk about how horrible Nishabd was .....or how nice it is to read the Chronicles of Narnia. I just want silence. The presures of daily living...the job, the home, the family are all driving me to seek this silence ....and goodness me...I dont even have a kid !

Its not that I am cribbing.

I am really grateful for my job..which gives me my independence and purpose in life.
I am grateful for the supportive and understanding husband.
I am grateful for my caring parents and in-laws......and yet I feel that some where along the I live up to expectations...I am letting go of ME.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Pass it Forward …..

When was the last time when we actually helped a stranger? When was the last time a stranger helped you? When was the last time you looked at a stranger without suspicion or cynicism?

Ok…now let’s think about how we view our colleagues…neighbors…relatives and even friends ….envy, indifference, bare tolerance?

Were we always like this or have the years and regular betrayals have built a hard shell around us which we wear like a protective armour to defend us from yet another disappointment or yet another heart-break.

I suppose that all of us began as trusting individuals…. at least I did and I believed in people and I believed in goodness and I thought that the world was they way I thought it was , but what happened ? I got let down, hurt, insulted , used and betrayed and with each such sad incident a layer of indifference began to develop and strengthen around my heart . So gradually with the passage of time, I developed a degree of aloofness, and indifference it became easier for me to have sympathy for a street dog than for a human being.
I started controlling the emotions and got rid of relationships which I felt were a waste of my emotions.

In spite of all this, I have experienced miracles and acts of kindness which in some little corner of my heart have kept the faith alive.

When I had stopped believing in love, stopped that there would be a person who would accept me for what I was and not what I pretended to be, in walked a mad cap who forced himself into my life and started to take care of me…what a relief it was to know that, yes some one cared….and I believed once more.

When I had stopped believing in friends there was this girl who held my hand and stayed with me through some of the most difficult days of my life. There was not much that she could do to help me, but she listened and encouraged me…and I believed once more.

When I had lost faith in strangers, a person who barely knew me gave me the biggest break in my career and turned my life around forever. He never waited for me to keel over in gratitude and smiled in embarrassment whenever I tried to thank him…and I believed once more.

Thanks to these people , I still find myself stretching out a little bit and helping some one without expectation and once of my best satisfaction comes from helping freshers get their first break….because these people have taught me to believe and I am just passing it forward…