May 26, 2012

How I met your mother

Dear Shreya,

Happy 5th Birthday! You are a big girl now. On this occasion, I would like to tell you a story about two friends.

I first saw her in the summer of 1993. She passed me in the school corridor. She had long hair which was neatly tugged into two braids. I wondered who the new girl was. Few days later, I came to know that the new girl had shifted into our school from Delhi.

I and her becoming friends was out of question. You see, we both belonged to different divisions. There was some kind of politics between our class teachers which led to a cold war between the two divisions. They were good in sports and we were good in academics.

Over time, our paths crossed on a number of occasions: recital competitions, different exams, exhibitions. I secretly thought that she was quite clever and smart. She also excelled into sports, something in which I was a big zero. I don’t know what she thought of me. But never once did we talk to each other. The cold war only worsened over years as we beat their class by scoring over them and them defeating us in every sport.

Two years later, we appeared for the SSC board exams. On the day of the result, I was overjoyed. You see, I had scored good marks and stood fifth in the entire school. My marks guaranteed me admission in a good college. I was completely unaware that I had beaten her by merely one mark. Had she secured that extra mark her name would have been displayed on the school board.

I still clearly remember the first day of college. I went well in time for the first lecture. In the college corridor, I saw a big group of girls. They were busy introducing themselves and making small talk. I gingerly walked over. Imagine my surprise when I saw her in that group! A thousand questions raced my mind. How did she land up in the same college? What should I do? I wanted to back away, but before I could do so, a really chirpy girl asked me to introduce myself. I told my name and told which school I was coming from. The chirpy girl pointed to my school mate and said “This girl is from the same school. Do you know each other?” We both nodded our heads. The chirpy girl was very happy on hearing this and exclaimed that in a new college we at least knew someone familiar. Little did she know that our familiarity was the cause of our awkwardness.

Over the next few months, we did everything we could to avoid each other. We sat on different benches; we tried to make different friends. We soon became part of the same group. Still, we tried not to gel with each other. I purposely attended the lectures that she bunked and she did the same. However, destiny had something else in store for us. Slowly, we got to know each other. We discovered that we shared the same beliefs and had the same values. I started liking her laughter, her jokes, and her nature. I think she liked my simplicity. We started travelling together, talking on the phone after college, and hanging out more with each other. The rest, as they say, is history. We became the best of friends.

We were inseparable. We would spend hours visiting each other. Our parents knew what we meant to each other. When college was over, we found new ways and reasons to meet each other.

We are both die hard junkies and always found new places to satisfy our taste buds. All these years, she has dragged me to all the pathetic Salman Khan movies. I remember how I had tried my best not to laugh out loud on Salman’s over acting in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. How could I laugh when I saw tears streaming down my best friend’s face when Salman didn’t win the love of his life?:-)

Our friendship also had a twinge of possessiveness. When I thought that her new friend might take my place, I would express my concern to her. She did the same. I can surely say that she’s one friend who totally understood me.

Over years, our talks have changed from who’s the cutest boy in college, choosing the right career, what to look in a life partner, and now on how to discipline our kids. We both found good life partners and were blessed with beautiful daughters. Our daughters now video chat and talk to each other in their British and American accents.

She is one friend who has literally supported me through thick and thin. She has firmly told me when I did something wrong. Today, we both live in different countries and fall in different time zones. It’s not that we speak daily; it’s not that we share each and every secret. But we remain very close friends. My voice always cracks up when I tell her that I miss her; her eyes always fill up when she sends me an e-greeting telling me that she misses me. Sometime back, I told her that I wished we lived near each other. I told her that I wished I could see her doing her every day chores. And she said that somehow she pictures me in my house, talking to my family and doing my chores. I believed her and told her I knew what she meant.

My best friend, Bhagyashri, is none other than your mother. This is the story of how I met your mother and how we became the best of friends. So much so that one would never believe that we started out on the wrong foot. As Bhagoos rightly says, our story is how prejudices can keep you away from the best things in life.

The reason I told you this story is that if you ever meet someone in your life and you think that the person can never be your friend, keep your mind and heart open. You never know when you might meet your best friend: a true gem.

I am looking forward to tell this story to Sayali when she turns five.


Swapna aunty.

May 11, 2012

An extra ordinary day

It was never going to be an ordinary day. It would either be a day of extreme happiness, or that of despair and disappointment.

20th June, 2003. I still remember the day’s events as if they happened just yesterday. My kid brother had appeared for the IIT entrance exam and his results were expected that day. This was his second attempt at the entrance. He was also a first-year engineering student. His second semester exams were due to start the same day.

My brother had slogged very hard for the IIT entrance.  I would often see him perched with a thick Physics book and a sheaf of papers, working on some complex equation. I would ask him if he ever got bored of those scary equations. His answer would always be negative. A week before the exam, he went completely nuts. He shut all his books, switched on the radio, and danced throughout the house. I guess this is what happens when you spend days and nights with complex Physics equations:)

On the day of the result, all of us were pretty tensed since morning. Dad wished him luck and left for work. The internet at our home was not working, so I and my brother left in search of an internet café. We settled down into one and began the ardent task of entering his number on the website to check the results. Unfortunately, a million other students were doing the same thing causing the server to return an error. We tried in vain for a long time. It was also getting late for him to go to his exam center for his engineering paper.  If he couldn’t get into IIT that year, then he would have to continue with his engineering college.

I told my brother to proceed to his exam center and assured him that I would keep checking the results.  He left with uncertainty. Almost 20 minutes after he left, I was lucky. I entered his number and the website displayed the result. I had to blink my eyes several times to get rid of my tears and absorb the result. He was AIR 1249. My joy knew no bounds as I called my mother on our residence number and told her the good news. Our voices broke several times with the tumult of emotions. With his AIR, he would definitely get admission into one of the seven IIT’s. I told my mother that I would go to the exam center and tell my brother the news before his exam began.

In those days, my brother and I did not have cell phones. My brother had told me that his exam center was Watumal Engineering College in Worli. So I headed in search for that college. As I left the internet café, it started raining. I had a tough time reaching the college after taking a bus and a taxi. As I reached the college, I realized that a difficult task lay ahead. I did not know his roll number or the room he would be in. I knew it was foolhardy to search for my brother. But I could not bear the idea of him not knowing the wonderful news for another four hours. The college’s seven floors loomed high above me. I started my search with the top floor.

There were hundreds of students reading through last minute notes. I peeked in each and every room; I ran from floor to floor. The exam was scheduled to start at 11am and I had a good half hour to search for him. I even spoke to couple of students and asked them their last names hoping to figure out some way to know his room.  As the students began to take their seats for the paper, I still hadn’t found my brother. Finally, the exam started and I realized that my brother would be in one of the rooms, sitting unaware that he need not write that paper.

I decided to call my mother and inform her that I couldn’t locate my brother and would be heading home. We did not have any other option than to wait for him to return home or call my mother. Imagine my utter shock when my mother told me that my brother already knew his result. It seems he had called home. He told my mom that he went to the center and realized his roll number was not on the list. He found out that he had noted the incorrect center. His exam center was not in Worli, but in Dadar. While he made his departure from the Worli College, I was already en route to that college. He left the Worli College and tried to reach the Dadar center. But due to the rain, the road was flooded with traffic. He realized he would never make it to the paper on time. He got down from the bus, called mom on the landline, and heard the good news. He was sure that he would get admission in IIT. He headed home.

When I heard that my brother had taken down the wrong exam center and made me go through the hopeless task of finding him in a college where he would never be found, I just lost it. I told my mother that my brother was somehow intelligent enough to crack the IIT exams but forgot his intelligence when it came to simple things like noting down the exam center. Had he not got a good AIR, he would have got an absentee on the engineering paper. I was furious with my brother. I was also tired, hungry, and dehydrated. I swore that I would give my brother a piece of my mind on reaching home.

Again, I battled through the rain and traffic and spent a good hour to reach home. I rang the doorbell and mom opened the door. I was about to open my mouth and unleash my anger when I looked at my brother. My anger vanished into thin air. I had never seen my brother cry after he became a teenager. But his eyes were filled with tears of happiness as he embraced me in a tight hug. I have never known my brother to be emotional, but it was not an ordinary day.

It was a day when a mother’s sacrifices came to fruition. It was a day when a father’s chest swelled with pride. It was a day when a sister became utterly proud of her little brother. It was a day when a young boy’s efforts, determination, and dedication guaranteed him a seat in India’s top technical colleges.

Indeed, it was not an ordinary day.

This post is part of the contest It was never going to be an ordinary day.. on

May 1, 2012

Just another day

(As part of the group blogging activity, Seema gave us a chance to travel down memory lane and write a letter to ourself when we were 20 years old.)

Dear self at sweet 20,
You are going to hate me for this. I have put on 30 pounds since I was youL Well, it wasn’t all those lovely samosas I gorged on in college, nor the yummy masala pav I ate in Shubhalaxmi. I met this really cute guy seven years back. We dated for a year and he took me to all those lovely cafes. I had nice chubby cheeks when I got married. If that wasn’t enough, I befriended all the foodies in the world.  And now my post pregnancy weight refuses to vanish.

However, you will be proud to hear my accomplishments.  I selected a good career for myself and became a Technical Writer. I earn a decent income. That must be a relief to hear. I mean, when I was you, I would ask for pocket money every single day. I was quite shameless.

I got married in 2006 and was blessed with a princess in 2008. We named her Sayali. She’s a cute monster. I and my husband often worry how she will turn out when she’s a teenager. If she becomes anything like me, I am in for trouble. Do you remember that cute dress I had that reached just till my knees? One day it had suddenly vanished and I had strongly suspected mom. Well, I might have to resort to similar tactics when Sayali grows up.

Thanks to Sayali and my marriage, I am more attached to my mother. I still dote on my father, but it’s mom’s voice I want to hear first on the phone, it’s mom to whom I want to tell all my complaints of my daughter. And I know she understands just as I understand her much better. A rebellious 20-year old always got angry when mom told her to do something; but the mom in me now empathizes with my mother.

Do you remember how I never, ever set foot in my mom’s kitchen? I was determined that I would earn well enough to hire a cooking maid. God, I still shiver remembering my mom’s fits when she would proclaim that I would never find a good groom or kill my family due to hunger. Well, I was headed along that path but something changed in me. I guess I wanted to cook for the man I loved. But you would be shocked to hear that I started a food blog sometime back. Though it’s dormant now, it still has a good number of visitors.

I am now in the US for the second time with my family. I have a set routine and responsibilities. My problems are very much different from the ones I had when I was you. Back then I would worry about completing assignments at the nth hour, KT’s, getting caught by putting someone’s proxy, convincing parents for staying out late at night. Now, my problems include what to cook for dinner, planning my daughter’s studies, nagging my husband to complete his chores. You would think that my life is quite boring. But I like it the way it is. I am happy and content.

When I was you, I wanted life to continue the way it was for the rest of my life. I didn’t have a care or worry in the world. Life, as I knew it, meant college, friends, bunking lectures, using four letter words, throwing rockets on professors, watching movies in really cheap theatres, teasing each other silly with some cute guy, calling friends the minute after reaching home to “discuss something important we learnt that day”, going to Chembur station for xeroxing entire books a month before the exams, studying till late hours preparing for exams, wearing the same dress for all papers because it proved lucky, and then biting our nails while waiting for the results.

If I could turn back time, I would love to relive just another day, any day from my 20 year life. I would love to wake up one day and discover that I am 20 and be able to do all the things I did in college. 

So adios, my friend. It was good being you. I don’t have a single regret.

The spirit of you, but a teeny bit mature

P.S: Don’t be so jubilant after your Math exam and think that’s the end of it. You will have nightmares about that paper for years.