Why I’m Not a Grammar Nazi

Here’s the thing: I’m not a Grammar Nazi.

Notice how I didn’t say “I ain’t a Grammar Nazi.” to sort of emphasize my blatant disregard for English grammar and its rules. That’s because I know the difference ‘its’ and ‘it’s’, between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ and between ‘they’re’, ‘their’ and ‘there’. I know where apostrophes belong and I know where they don’t.

But imagine being greeted by a stupid question that requires an answer ten times its worth, both in quality and quantity at the end of a long, tiring day. And somewhere, in the midst of those characters, sticky keyboard keys, lethargic fingers and the looming threat of AutoCorrect that works only when one doesn’t need it, I might have neglected to put an apostrophe where it should’ve been, thus rendering my ‘it’s’ a mere ‘its’. Go ahead, sue me.

Unforgivable, isn’t it? Of course, apologising and correcting my mistake hardly makes up for anything, at least, in the opinion of the person I was chatting with. He was a good friend, but a cold blooded Grammar Nazi. And he embraced that fact like a medal, which frankly, brought out the worst in him.

I paid the price for my mistake, though. That little niggle triggered an entire conversation, more of a soliloquy, actually about the difference between ‘it’s’ and ‘its’, something that a) I had heard since preschool and knew very well and b) was apparently infinitely more important than my fatigue.

I’m going to say it. Grammar Nazis are, to put it politely, annoying.

Not that I’d ever want to be associated with Nazis of any kind, but I realised I’m often on the giving end of English grammar gyaan. Whether I like it or not, I find myself involuntarily proofreading things on the Internet, often paying more attention to trivial, pedantic details than to the point of substance being conveyed without looking into whether it was a typo or  negligence or worse, intentional. What’s worse is that I actually assume I’m doing the world a favour with these services no one asked for.

I consciously try to avoid being pedantic and singling minor errors out, especially if I understand what the person intends to convey. It’s hard because poor grammar irks me no end and that saturation point is just a misplaced comma away. It takes every inch of me to fight the urge to point out mistakes, but I’m proud to say, I’ve come a long way in suppressing that Grammar Nazi in me, even if it is just a little.

This battle started a long time ago, when I was in Year Two actually. My parents would correct me every time I used poor grammar, misspelt a word or got my diction wrong. My grandmother speaks English very well, considering it isn’t her first language. So back then, she made a minor diction error and I corrected without a hint of hesitation, quite scornfully, actually. Although she took it well, my father immediately took me aside and gave me a lecture on how correcting people at every faux pas was hurtful and annoying. I retorted immediately by saying, “But I was just teaching her, like you teach me”. Dad then explained to me that this pedantic tendency came off as a bid to establish one’s superiority as best he could to a kid in Year Two. He ended with, “If you absolutely must correct someone, do it with utmost courtesy. You may not know it yet, but it matters.”

I don’t know if he remembers this today, but I certainly do. I apologised to my grandma, half heartedly, not fully understanding the truth that lay interspersed with the message I had just been taught until much later.

In my view, when someone who has been speaking a language their entire life AND has had the opportunity  of an education AND the possibility of a typo or a mistake is ruled out, then it is not only acceptable, but desirable to be a Grammar Nazi. Learning a language is never easy, especially to someone who hasn’t been given a shot at as good an education as they would’ve liked. And when people like that have the courage to try their hand at communication in a world where scrutiny, scorn and criticism is just a less than perfectly prounounced vowel away, it’s pretty remarkable. Shooting them down by disparagingly ‘correcting’ them will eventually discourage them from learning.

Another reason I avoid being a pedant is because I speak some Indian languages and I’m no expert. I can communicate well enough to get by, but my spelling, grammar and vocabulary are way below par. I’ve also been learning French for two years, which hasn’t been easy. My diction passes muster, but I need to work on my spelling and my writing. I end up performing unwanted sex change operations on all nouns when it comes to these languages like French and most Indian languages where every noun has a gender. I admit, I find my teachers a little pedantic when my test scores plummet for minor errors. English is quite a difficult language to learn, more so when it isn’t one’s first language. A point to be noted is that poor grammar does not mean low intelligence and vice versa. This is why I’ve learnt to respect anyone making an attempt to learn new languages. Grammar Nazism is not cool here.

I know ”lete speak’ or ‘chat’ language seems like the least classy way to go about it, but inventing new words and abbreviation is how language evolves. Shakespeare himself invented words; ‘awesome’ and ‘madcap’ are a couple of them. The Bard also made verbs out of nouns to adapt to his rhyme and meter without hesitation, something that is looked down upon by today’s Grammar Nazis. I cringe at the idea of #hashtags being synonymous with 21st Century literature, but “We’ve always done it this way,” is the worst excuse for sticking to your roots. One thing I can say with absolute conviction is that petty details and punctilios takes away from the fun, the beauty and the pleasure we seek in language.

I think Stephen Fry perfectly encapsulates what I intend to convey through this video.

 

My Holiday in Lessons

I spent the first two weeks of April holidaying in my hometown, as I do every summer. The wave of inertia and frustration that governed the ten days of my life after my last board exam left behind stubborn negativity that lingered on way after its perpetrators departed. Everything vexed me, but I didn’t want to do anything about it. I tried my best to find the energy to go for my morning runs, get stuck in a book, write or just do something productive, but couldn’t.

Safe to say, I may have been mildly unenthusiastic about my annual Goa trip. All my cousins and friends were busy prepping for Uni entrances and higher education and I had internship commitments. My world was growing up as I chose to sleep in. It wouldn’t be the same anymore. If there’s anything worse than a dull, monotonous life, it’s a dull, monotonous holiday.

Here’s where I say that it wasn’t, and it was great fun, and we made time for each other and all you need is a little break sometimes and other mushy gooey clichés that make you want to run away and seek solace in the latest online cat video. Two weeks on vacation taught me more than two years of a less than mediocre HSC syllabus did. It wasn’t the hardcore party, late night gain-three-pounds-before-you-leave trip it usually had been, but it did teach me some of those bookish life lessons that quite frankly, you can’t learn from a book.

1.  Home is everything

Home is the place you can take your bra off at the end of a long day even if people do that just about anywhere. To me, home isn’t just about being yourself, or feeling safe, or feeling loved or even just people you care about. Home is frustration. Home is fights. Home is tears. But home is laughter. Home is good food. Home is where you don’t need an alarm clock to wake you up every morning. As much as you want to leave it right now, someday you’ll yearn to return.

2.  Get out

Yes, I said it. A bed, air conditioning and a laptop with WiFi connectivity is the closest I’ll ever get to heaven; however, the outdoors surprisingly comes a close second. In Goa, the better part of my day was spent at the beach. I tried to walk to everywhere I had to be in the dead of the Indian summer because it was so beautiful. Even if you prefer to hit the gym or if you’re not one for any sort of exercise (like me), spending even an hour a day outdoors taking a leisurely stroll will do a world of good for your mind.

3. Feed yourself

If you’re eating clean and healthy, keep at it. I know being sad is no excuse to give in. But if you’re having a bad day and you know nothing will make you happier than a three tiered chocolate cake with a melted chocolate centre and chocolate ice cream, eat it. You can run it off the next day. Or not.

4.  And your soul

There are things in this world far greater and more powerful than yourself or the individual human being. Respect and embrace the fact that you’re part of something huge. There is always something to be thankful for. Meditate to let the bad out.

5. Don’t be afraid to have fun

If something makes you so happy that you actually don’t want to shoot everyone around you, don’t ever feel guilty for doing it.

6. Don’t be afraid to take a break sometimes

It’s hard to ignore the competition sometimes when you want to get ahead. But it’s okay to slow down and watch the world move ahead. Spend a little time discovering yourself in corners of the world you’ve never seen. Else, you’ll be stuck playing catch up for a prize you later realise you never wanted. This is exactly why I love the idea of a gap year. Hopefully I’ll have the courage to take one in a couple of years.

7.  Salt water is the cure for everything

If tears, sweat and the sea don’t help you get over something, you’re going about it the wrong way. Don’t restrict your lacrimal glands. Feel those endorphins. Embrace those negative ions.

Damn, I’m Not Ready To Grow Up Yet

However insignificant the second Saturday of the year may have seemed to the average human being, it marked the passage of eighteen years since she was born. She was legally an adult.

And she traipsed through her Psychology text book well past midnight, she intermittently glanced at a phone and read every single “Happy Birthday,” text and replied to them while ignoring the calls. She never liked speaking on the phone and the people who were calling only knew that too well.

So, as Psychology and well, her birthday ensured she be deprived of sleep, she wondered why adulthood was something to be celebrated and most of all, why it had been wasted on someone like her.

Well, granted it helped her do a lot of things like drive, vote, get married, watch a movie rated A and a lot of other things she could do without. Could she be a kid anymore? Could she watch the kiddy TV programmes she loved to? Could she read her Enid Blytons?

Growing up was something she had never really taken too well. “My body grew up, not I,” she kept telling herself. Every sign, she kind of pushed it aside, suppressed it and let it bloom too late. There was still a little kidding around to do.

Yes, that too.

She couldn’t cook, the poor pyrophobic. She was afraid to talk to people. She would forget things. It wasn’t her fault, she was absent minded. She would forget errands, names, chores like brushing her teeth and washing her hair, to give messages, to do favours; she just couldn’t remember. She also forgot to take her daily dose of two spoonfuls of confidence she needed to get her through the day. She needed at least three reminders before she could do anything. She would sleep right through alarms. She couldn’t wake up unless someone woke her. And now, she was expected to be responsible for herself.

She was expected to dress like a lady. Her. This girl who just went everywhere with a crumpled, frayed, torn top, sweatpants and a bun fashioned out of hair that could well be the labyrinth of the devil. This girl would live in pyjamas if she could. She was gifted makeup, something she despised and wouldn’t be caught dead using. Last she counted, she had sixty seven spots on her right cheek. Makeup was obviously wasted on her. There was also a beauty salon voucher. The less said about that, the better.

Vote. She could vote. She ought to vote. And she didn’t, in the sanest of states of mind know what a good government was. She had never lived under one.

“Act your age,” she was told more often than any child strictly should be.

She liked to write. She didn’t feel she was very good at it. It was hard sometimes. She wrote beautiful sentences and tried to glue them together, often ending up with sticky fingers. She wasn’t ready to be much good at much else. She wasn’t ready to grow up.

Who draws the line anyway? How can one spurt into the throes of maturity once they’ve officially survived the world for eighteen years? As the hour neared midnight on the eve of her birthday, she knew eighteen wasn’t going to be the start of her adulthood. There was too much to do.

Her childhood, when it happened, wasn’t exactly the way she hoped it would turn out. A little regret, a couple of things she wished she could change along the way. But in retrospect, it sure was a pretty darn good one.

And so, at 11:55 p.m. on Friday, she closed her eyes and clung on tight to the last few minutes of her childhood; she tried to remember all of those years she’d tried so hard to forget.

Note: So, it’s pretty obvious that the post is about me minus the melodrama. Having said that, eighteen’s been pretty good to me so far if I can overlook the exams that ate into most of it. I’m not ready to grow up. But, it’s okay. I’m eighteen, my blog’s technically one (hence, the makeover). I’m a lazy, fat slob who loves to write with a mental age of 8 and I’m doing my best under the circumstances.

Where I’d Rather Be

Today, I found myself the way I always find myself in the mornings. Clinging on to my pillow for a little bit of extra sleep. It was Saturday and I was only dragging myself to college to return something to a friend before we broke off for the Christmas holidays.

I didn’t need a last day. I’d had a pretty brilliant penultimate day in Junior College and anything following a class Carol Singing victory would be a bit of an anti climax.

But anyway, I went to college only to be greeted by a bunch of friends gravitating towards the finality of it all; the fact that this was the last regular day of Junior College.

I’ve never really been one to live in the moment. I always find myself lost in thoughts of the past and dreams of the future. But today, I kind of did. Until I got home and looked back on all the memories college had given me these past few years and what lay ahead.

Rewind to the start of the First Year. 18th July 2012. There’s me, fresh out of school walking into college with big dreams. I was a little young, a lot more foolish with a silly, quiet confidence whispering I could do anything I set my mind to.

Little did I know as I walked in that some of the best people in the world were huddled among the sea of students in there.

They were so different, each one of them and now they would be identified by a common name. Xavierites.

I’d really like to name them, but I don’t want them to read this. Plus, they know who they are.

Junior College has been a roller coaster for me. And they’ve made the ride worth it. It’s been incredible discovering each of their quirks and fitting into the jigsaw puzzles that they are. From them alone, I’ve learnt so much, literally much more than the not so academically enriching HSC syllabus could ever teach me. For every laugh, every tear and every smile along the way, thank you for that.

Apart from the various life lessons, my teachers taught me a fair bit too. As dissatisfied and whiny as they are with the board syllabus, be it a movie, little extra snippets, memory tricks, they’ve made an effort. Even if they were unsuccessful at times, they’ve provided us laughs, been the butt of a few jokes and I think they’ll make sure that none of us return to Junior College by failing the boards.

College has taught me a lot. I’ve definitely become more street smart, more independent by making the tedious daily bus journey to college and I’ve almost learnt to manage my money. I’ve become more accepting, less judgmental by befriending people from various backgrounds.

I’ve been able to grow, personally. I started writing, properly. I’ve done things I’m proud of. I’ve done stupid things. Sometimes, I’ve done both together. Like the time I randomly walked into the office of Commissioner Of Police of Mumbai asking for an interview to supplement my Sociology project. And I got it!

I’ve taken embarrassing pictures, dropped food on my clothes, fallen down a good half a dozen times and lived up to my klutz name. I’ve embarrassed myself at public speaking events. I could go on here.

The point is, I’ve learnt what I can do and I’ve learnt what I can’t. And I’ve accepted myself.

I always wanted to go abroad and have a good education before my two years at Xavier’s. But now, I just don’t want that. You might argue that lowered ambition isn’t necessarily a good thing. But you know what, it isn’t so bad. I’m happy.

Sure, there’s been a couple of things I would rather not have done, a couple of people I wish I hadn’t known, a couple of days I could have relived.

But if this were a book, it sure as hell was a good one.

And so now I sit here at home and try to put what I feel into words. But I can’t really. I’ve left my heart behind in a world of stone walls and staircase labyrinths and the magic of Harry Potter.

That’s where I am. That’s where I’d rather be.

If I had to fail the boards to do this again with the same people, I wouldn’t. But I would think about it.

When Write Went Wrong: My Writing Journey

The joy of writing seems to have escaped me these past few weeks.

I can’t for the life of me sit down, uncap that damn pen and do a lot more than watch my opening sentence get encroached upon by vile meaningless doodles.

As I watched the drafts pile up and the untitled posts multiply, I reach out and close the WordPress tab, switching to Tumblr or Youtube instead.

Call it just another case of writer’s block, but I can’t seem to pen down anything that I find remotely satisfactory. The more I try, the more disappointed I am in myself.

I had to avoid feeling inadequate. So I tried to escape writing, to avoid it.

I started to put off writing. Soon, my priorities changed and other things took up my writing time. That didn’t make me feel any better. And I knew exactly why. I was escaping my escape.

That could be me.

I started looking for reasons to start writing again. I went through this blog, which I’ve maintained for almost a year now. And I found a few.

1. It’s the longest I’ve persevered with a blog. I’ve had several other blogs with sporadic, half hearted posts that I’ve started and stopped with not so much as a glimmer of hesitation. But when the thought of deleting this blog crossed my mind, I felt sadder than I’d care to admit. And that’s reason enough to continue. 

2. I’ve got better.  Admittedly, I’m no cousin of Shakespeare and my writing isn’t worthy of being published. But, looking back at my old posts, stories, poems and essays, I’m both embarrassed and thrilled to see how much I’ve grown as a writer. I mean, my improvement (at least to me) seems remarkable. If there’s one thing I know about writing, the more you do it, the better you get as long as you stay true to yourself. If writing more and more is going to get me to I-can-do-this-for-money quality, I sure am trying it (not to mention the fact that I can’t do much else). 

3. I actually love it. This admittedly, should be reason enough for me to continue. You fall out of love with things for a little while, have a little friction, have a bit of trouble. When this happens, it helps to take a break (a proper one, not the Rachel-and-Ross-I’ll-hold-it-against-you-for-the-rest-of-your-life kind). And all the while, you know you love them. And you know you can love them again. Because nothing makes you feel the same. 

4. I’m getting more confident. My blog is something I want everyone to see, but don’t want to show it to anyone. I’ve always been a rather private person about my deepest feelings. It’s actually hard to explain. I’m not afraid of criticism, it just feels like I’m being exposed, I’m vulnerable. I think it is because I really do love writing and my writing is the most honest expression of myself. For example, the things I’ve said here have never and will never be uttered in real life. I still don’t tell people about my blog until they ask and don’t share my writing with people I know unless they stumble upon it. But when someone I know tells me my work is good, it feels good. And that makes me want to do it better.

5. It’s my home. Writing is where I come to at the end of a bad day. When something is bothering me, I type out everything  I’m feeling about it on a word document (in single words, a lot of them four letter swear words, no need for eloquence here) and delete it. It actually helps clear your mind about it. Sometimes, it’s easy. Sometimes, I can just sit back and watch my sentences become paragraphs. At other times, it’s not so forgiving to labouriously craft a couple of sentences and give up. But it’s always been there. It’s my therapy. Yes, it’s uncooperative and unyielding at times. It’s where I feel safe, sound and loved. It’s where I feel at home.

MY WRITING JOURNEY

I also looked at why I write. Apart from the fact that I’m worse at most other things than I’d care to admit, I like to write.

My writing journey began with my reading one. I was introduced to books at a young age by my parents and fell in love with them immediately. I learnt to read faster than most of my friends and was allowed to read more advanced books by the librarian in Year One, much to the awe and envy of my classmates (*brag alert*). I developed a vivid imagination and it led me to read more and search for more words to express myself. I was always told that I had a gift for writing. It was something I took for granted at the time. I just wrote when I was forced to, for school, for a speech someone wanted or stories people wanted to send in for contests (Yes, I wrote the stories and they took the credit). But it didn’t worry me, because, I wrote very half heartedly. When I started blogging, I still didn’t put my all into my expression.

My writing as I know it now, took life nearly a year ago, last December. I took a three day trip with my family to Coorg. It was one of those experiences you can never really forget and you never really want to. It was one of those crossroads where you feel the inspiration run through your bones like never before.When I returned, everyone urged me to write a review of my stay. And that was well received by my relatives and became the first post on my blog. It’s quite long and in hindsight, badly written, but if you’re interested, you can read it here. I can say though, I’ve never been more inspired than that till date.

I feel a bouquet of beautiful feelings that drive me to write. Two are very potent and easy to explain. One, is reading what you’ve written a while ago and marvelling at your ability to create sentences like that. The second is my favourite. It is the feeling that you are giving life to your characters, your settings. It involves creating something that is your own. And I think that’s beautiful.

A WRITING TIP

For anyone who’s feeling uninspired, this quote always helps me.

Write.
Write more.
Write even more.
Write even more than that.
Write when you don’t want to.
Write when you do.
Write when you have something to say.
Write when you don’t.
Write every day.
Keep writing.

Brian Clark

I think writers should write something original everyday. It could be a couple of chapters; it could be a grocery list; it could be a phrase. But it should be yours.

I am writing today. Yay!

Writing about writing seemed like a good way to come back.

Yours,

CP

Art: Inspiration or Plagiarism?

For those of you who don’t know, I have a poetry blog too.

My poetry is very amateur and I’m not very proud of it, which is why I don’t talk about it much. Besides, the posts there are very sporadic and come only with bursts of emotional creativity.

Subtle promotion done, now it’s time to get to the point.

So, a couple of months ago, I was scrolling through Tumblr and I came across one of my poems (Hello, September) on my dash.

YES, MY POEM WAS ON TUMBLR!

It wasn’t titled or credited, just the text on a white background with about fifty notes on it. And I didn’t care because, if you didn’t get me yet, MY POEM WAS ON TUMBLR!

Forgive the petulance, dearies. But the elation of seeing my work, albeit untitled and uncredited on my dash, actually being liked and reblogged was unparalleled. I decided against telling anyone, because it seemed like a silly sort of achievement, when I might as well have shared the poem or uploaded a credited, titled version on Tumblr itself. I was chuffed, though.

A month later, I came across the same poem on tumblr in a similar post. It was still untitled, but this time, it was credited to someone with the initials “A.M.”

I read through the poem again, cross checked it and was sure it was mine. Had I subconsciously plagiarised a poem I’d previously read on Tumblr? No, I would have known.

I googled the poem and could find no other result except the one on my blog. I typed the whole poem out into the search bar and googled the lines. Same result: the tumblr post was just an image with a couple of tags and hadn’t been reblogged much.

I could think of nothing else but the apparent conclusion that somebody (A.M.) had plagiarised my work. Flattered as I might’ve been, I was angrier than ever. The nerve of the twit! But I pushed the incident to the back of my head since I had my exams then. (Of course I was on tumblr. during exams.)

I’ve been thinking about it incessantly since then.

Well, A.M. is a good artist.

It’s not like I haven’t ever plagiarised other work. My ideas that are inspired by books, art, music, real life incidents, the places I’ve been to, the people I’ve met and seen…are they plagiarised?

I came across a quote in the book And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini that explains this very notion beautifully:

I see the creative process as a necessarily thievish undertaking.  Dig beneath a beautiful piece of writing and you will find all manner of dishonor.  Creating means vandalizing the lives of other people, turning them into unwilling and unwitting participants.  You steal their desires, their dreams, pocket their flaws, their suffering.  You take what does not belong to you.  You do this knowingly. -Nila Wahdati

There’s a thin line between inspiration and plagiarism and it is easy to find yourself in the grey.

I myself often write about the people I know, or the people I’ve observed. Sometimes, I don’t even know about this. I may just read an incident in a book, witness something in the streets, or pick up lines straight out of movies and push them to the back of my mind, consciously overlooking their existence. Then years later, they may crop up and take shape in the words I write. And really, is that fair? And if it isn’t, is all art plagiarised?

I think art is individualistic. The seed of an idea may be dispersed from anywhere. But what counts is how you nurture it, how you let it grow, how you shape it, how you express it and most importantly, how you make it your own. The premise of art is to consciously or otherwise, create something that speaks volumes about you, the person you are, the person you want to be.

If you knowingly work on an idea that is not yours, tribute it, celebrate it, do it justice. Make it yours. Don’t just change the font and credit it to yourself.

Where do you think the line between inspiration and plagiarism lies? Leave a comment.

Why Do I Run?

Today, I went for a morning run after quite a while. And after that, for the first time ever, I felt good.

I’ve always maintained that nothing leaves me feeling more dead than a morning run. For all of those who swear by running (or, in my case, jog shuffling with intervals of painfully slow cool down walks enabling geriatric fitness freaks to overtake you), I am not a big fan of losing sleep by rising at some ungodly hour only to embarrass myself and end up with pains in muscles I never knew I had. Today, however, it struck me that there are worse feelings.

I’ve never been much good at any sport or enjoyed any, apart from swimming. I try to take a jog in the mornings to lose weight (which is a losing battle) and also to channel my aggression in a healthy way. In short, I exercise to try and keep myself from killing people who call me fat. But more on that later.

Since my exams last month, during which I lost sleep cramming and procrastinating, I’ve been battling inertia. I’ve been totally bored, but I don’t want to do anything to cure that boredom.

Change is good, I believe, except when it involves me moving my arse.

Newton’s Law of Inertia is, most unfortunately, ingrained into the minds of students. It’s unfortunate, because, it doesn’t really apply to me.

 The first law states that a body at rest will stay at rest until an external force acts upon it.

^That part is true. The next part has been modified suiting subject conditions:

 A body in motion will remain in motion at a constant velocity until acted on by an external force.   start looking for ways to be at rest while either giving up or moving at a diminishing velocity. 

Okay. So far we’ve established that I’m fat, lazy and don’t like to exercise.

And today, by some sort of magic, I actually felt a tinge of positivity after my run. So, I googled, “Why do people run?”

In case I haven’t mentioned it, I am the worst runner to have ever graced this earth. You know when people say, “There’s got to be someone worse than me,” they’re thinking of me.

So, besides weight loss, marathon training and health reasons, people actually like running. They feel and I quote, invigorated, a rush, a sense of spiritual heightening and other synonymous feelings.

Now, either they lie, or not all people look and feel like the Living Dead once they’re done running. But today, I kind of got a sense of what they were talking about. Of course, the living dead thing is the dominant feeling here.

Why do I run? It leaves me tired, at best and I can find other ways to channel my aggression. It hasn’t done anything for my weight, and doesn’t seem like it’s going to, especially since a run doubles my enormous appetite causing me to gorge on a lot of extra breakfast (And lunch and dinner too).

I think the answer’s right there. I don’t run to lose weight, to get a good body, to feel a rush or spiritual heightening. Everytime I run, I feel like I’ve earned the right to eat a delicious meal, the right to sink my teeth into pizza, chocolate and other the other treasures of junk food, the right to food I ideally should feel guilty eating.

Yes, I run to eat. And I’m not ashamed of that.

Shoe Bite

Yesterday, at exactly 3:46 pm, the cord of my left chappal or flip flop snapped, without provocation.

Maybe it was the almost slave like hours it’d encountered on my foot traipsing through Mumbai’s footpaths and public transport systems. Maybe it was the fact that my day outside home (which effectively began at 6:30 am) had been dragged into an “extra” Sociology class that promised never to cease. Whatever it may have been, my chappal lay effectively unusable as I tried to stay awake in class. I wondered if it was broken beyond fixing, or at least a temporary stitch to hold it in place until I was safe in the comforts of my home.

That’s not mine, but yeah, that’s what happened

Once class was finally dismissed, it didn’t take more than a step and a half to realise walking wasn’t meant to be done in broken chappals. So with my left side comfortably a centimetre lower than my right and the cool stone steps of St. Xavier’s under my feet, I trudged to the cobbler on the footpath outside college with my left chappal in my right hand. A five rupee job should hold it in place until I get home.

The street side cobbler outside college was one recommended to me by every person that saw me do the half barefoot walk of shame. I went there and asked him whether he could fix my chappal up with a couple of quick stitches. He said he could. I waited half barefoot on the footpath with a friend and reacted with a tiny excuse of a laugh to the apologetic smiles of passers by. That was until I saw what the cobbler was doing.

He took one of his sharp instruments which he presumably used to pierce through the leather and poked it into his foot to draw out blood. Initially, I thought it was just to get rid of a splinter. But he did it again. And again. And again. He repeatedly pricked himself until his foot was caked with blood. Then, he began slicing it with a blade. I couldn’t bear to look. My friend was looking away too.

Just when I began to doubt whether he would even get to mending my chappal at all, a young man walked by who had an amazingly inaccurate perception of how good he looked. With his swag and pompous gait, he asked the cobbler whether his shoes were repaired in an indifferent tone. The cobbler handed him a bag with shoes and they carried out a transaction.

A rough translation of the conversation that followed:

Man: What are you doing?

Cobbler: I’ve stitched up your shoes.

Man: Yes, that’s fine. Why are you stitching up your leg?

That’s when my friend interjected. “I don’t think we should wait here. Take your chappal and let’s go,” she said.  At that point, I couldn’t have agreed more. I picked up my broken chappal and made for the subway as fast as my half barefoot legs could carry me. Well, I just walked fast. I couldn’t stop thinking about that incident, about the man publicly cutting himself. “He must be doing it out of frustration. What kind of a life must they have?” my friend offered. Even as I made my way with the dust and germs of Mumbai’s footpaths on my foot until the next cobbler, it just haunted me.

What kind of a life must they have? He cut himself to feel pain. He did it publicly, for all to see and none to care.

He couldn’t face going to the place he called home; the little alcove fashioned out of cardboard and newspapers by the subway. He couldn’t face the fact that his wife, who sold clips and beads a foot away from him on the same street, earned more than he did at the end of the day. After all, he had pride. He couldn’t bear to face that his little children playing by the subway, clothed in nothing but dirty rags might never get an education, while he failed to rise above the feet of college students who talked of bunking lectures and the misfortunes that seldom outranked a broken shoe. At least, from what he had heard.

He was proud. He couldn’t face failure. He couldn’t bear the indifference of passers by. So, he cut himself. He was desperate to feel, even if what he felt was pain. That’s the thing about pain. It supercedes all emotion. When you are in pain, you seldom feel anything else. He sought comfort in the agony of blood pouring through his skin. When he cut himself, the pictures of the rich, upper middle class dreams, of a home, of failure, of shattering dreams, of having a menial job, of not being good enough, of being a waste of space all vanished into oblivion at the back of his mind.

In that moment, he only felt pain. And in that pain, relief.

This incident has been continually haunting me, leaving me unable to sleep or study, which isn’t really ideal with exams around the corner. I had to let it out somehow. It also broke my heart, which gave me another reason to write about it. I’d also written a poem about Pain some time ago.

The Extra

It’s easy to bring a smile to my face. The littlest of things like extra chocolate sauce or an empty seat on the 83 bus can make my heart skip a beat and just, make my day. And when things like these do make my day, it takes a a monumental catastrophe of sorts to ruin it. So, stepping into a mucky puddle whilst dismounting a relatively empty 83 bus won’t really affect me much. I mean, why would it? All it gives me, besides an insignificant tinge of momentary grief and an unpleasant smelling foot, is a new story to tell.

As far as I can remember, I’ve always been like that. So you wouldn’t be too surprised to know that I was as excited as ever when I was selected to take part in the annual Independence Day play, back in Year Seven. My role was one that could, in every logical sense, be classified into a crowd scene. The scope of my role extended to the portrayal of a village woman amongst a dozen others who had to scream “Bachao” when British tax collectors came harassing the villagers. In essence, I was an extra. A supernumerary. But the fact that I was a part of the play and that I would be wearing a saree for the first time was enough to blur the brutal truth; I was replaceable. A couple of my friends quit the play, citing the very reason I chose to ignore.

I dressed up and went to school that day. Amongst the occasional and trips on the folds of my  saree, the odd comment about me resembling my mother, the odder comments of me resembling specific teachers, I enjoyed myself. Although I’m pretty sure my mother didn’t even see me on stage, she said I did a great job. I didn’t know then, how stupid I was being. I was happy.

Taking the importance of participation a little too seriously, I was enthusiastic always about taking part, no matter how minuscule or insignificant my contribution was. It just made me feel useful.

I was reminded of this incident while reading Salinger’s “The Catcher In The Rye”, which I loved, by the end of it. Holden, the protagonist finds himself at Radio City Hall for their Christmas festival. Like most other things, Holden is at his cynical worst here.

It’s supposed to be religious as hell, I know, and very pretty and all, but I can’t see anything religious or pretty, for God’s sake, about a bunch of actors carrying crucifixes all over the stage. When they were all finished and started going out of the boxes again you could tell they could hardly wait to get a cigarette or something. I saw it with old Sally Hayes the year before, and she kept saying how beautiful it was, the costumes and all. I said old Jesus probably would’ve puked if He could see it—all those fancy costumes and all. Sally said I was a sacrilegious atheist. I probably am. The thing Jesus really would’ve liked would be the guy that plays the kettle drums in the orchestra. I’ve watched that guy sine I was about eight years old. My brother Allie and I, if we were with our parents and all, we used to move our seats and go way down so we could watch him. He’s the best drummer I ever saw. He only gets a chance to bang them a couple of times during a whole piece, but he never looks bored when he isn’t doing it. The when he does bang them, he does it so niche and sweet, with this nervous expression on his face.

Holden Caulfield and I are as alike as chalk and cheese, but I really struck a chord with that chap on this quote. It just made me realise how stupid I wasn’t being all these years.

Let me tell you about this boy I used to go to school with. We were in the same class, but we never talked much. He moved away at the end of the year. An introvert of sorts, he was assigned the task of erasing the blackboard at the end of every class and also arranging the chalk. He did this with utmost reverence. Everyday, I noticed he waited alone after class to clean the board and arrange the chalk. It wasn’t a great responsibility, but he did it meticulously without fail. His contribution wasn’t even noticed except on the rare occasion that he failed to do it on account of absentia. But believe me, this was rarer than a decent episode of Family Guy.  But he continued to carry out his responsibility while he had it.

So my point is, there are tons of “Little Jobs” deemed inconsequential by a lot of us, until they aren’t done. No work is ever beneath us. And every little chore is in some way beneficial, even necessary. Extras are in some ways integral to the framework. They may not be recognised with fame and adulation, but they know they have been successful when the machine they are cogs in purrs to life.

If at all you ever feel like an extra, remember you are integral. You are essential. You are needed.

Who else will read my blog?

Ekso Ekso,

CP.

Needing People

Something happened a few days ago that really puzzled me.

I was sitting at the seaface listening to my friend rant for the umpteenth time about how difficult his long distance relationship with his girlfriend was turning out to be.

I gave him the usual “Distance never works. It’s always hard.”

I know it’s a little too clichéd to be taken seriously, but I totally believe it. I don’t really have someone who’s been close to me forever. My friends have come and gone. It was either because I moved away or they moved away or we just stopped talking. Yes, technology helps to bridge the chasm of physical distance but who are we kidding? It’s not the same.

One of my best friends moved to Singapore and for a while after that, I hated school. We do chat regularly now, but there’s a difference. People change. And when you don’t see the metamorphosis yourself, it’s difficult to understand and much harder to accept. When I see my family back in Goa twice a year, I find so much has changed. I used to have a place in that whirlwind vortex. I used to be a part of them. And now, everytime I visit, even though it’s my home, I can’t help but feel like I’m being treated like a guest.

“We can work it out, you know”, my friend retorted, rather defensively.

“How?” I asked. “Here you are having trouble with a four month relationship. You may love her, but all you’ll do now is miss her. And missing someone hurts. Trust me, I know.” That shut him up. My friend, well acquainted with my long rants about homesickness, knew that this was something I had a lot of experience with.

We just sat there in silence and watched the sun slowly descend beneath the waves.

“You know, everyone’s not like you.”, he suddenly said.

Not like me? What was that supposed to mean. I knew I was pretty weird and embraced my quirkiness, but the tone he used indicated that this was something I shouldn’t be proud of.

He stared at his phone for a while, and suddenly, it hit me. I knew what he meant.

“What do you mean?”, I asked, knowing the answer already.

“Some of us need people.”

I quickly changed the subject exchanged a bit of small talk for a while before heading home.

All the way home, I thought about what he had said.

Didn’t I need people? Of course I did. I need my parents. I need my family. What he meant was “Some people need people for more than material wants. Some people just need someone to smile at them, to acknowledge them, to laugh with them, to support them. Some people just need someone to be there. Some people need the presence of others for security. Some people need to love. Some people need people.”

I never believed I needed to love someone. I can’t love someone that easily. I can’t not do without someone. Blame it on my short lived friendships that have planted seeds of fear in my mind about opening up and letting people in. Humans are selfish. I am selfish. We go our separate ways. I would chalk out my future towards the path that would lead me to individual success. I would never take a choice because of someone, or let anyone influence my decisions. People leave. I left too.

To be honest, being alone doesn’t scare me. The fact that my whole life would revolve around someone else, does. I guess, I just don’t want to miss people. Because I won’t let someone’s presence or absence determine my tomorrow.

I do have some amazing friends. And in less than a year, a lot of them are going to leave in pursuit of their dreams. Of course, I’ll miss them. But I’ll move on, like I’ve always done. I loved them. I love them. I will always love them, even though I’m not there to see the beautiful butterflies they turn into. But I can do without them. I can.

I just had to get that out.

Better post next time, promise.

You know I can do without you,

Ekso Ekso.