Sunday, December 21, 2008

Days of my Life

What a frenetically hectic time of year this is. The floor tiles took 2 and a half days to put in but almost double that time to clean up the dust and dirt that resulted. The Assembly election results surprised everyone with the Congress that's been kept down for two terms coming back with a bang. It made me realise that Mizos don't do things by half plus we do things unanimously. When something's the flavour of the people, everyone jumps on the bandwagon not wanting to be left out.

The day the votes were counted, something terrible happened that we'd long been dreading. One of our dogs Mami died after a week long illness. She was 11 years old and absolutely devoted to my sister P. Was a constant, ever faithful companion. Never left the room without her mistress and only deigned to trot behind her wheelchair when absolutely necessary. Her passing numbed us all. Rest in peace, little one.
On the evening of the first day we began working on the floors, someone stole my sister M's cell phone from the dining table. We can't imagine who could have had the audacity to slip in and calmly pick up the phone with its charger. That cheeky bit of burglary coupled with Mami's death, and the fact that our dogs are somewhat elderly anyway made us decide to put in a steel gate. A few thousand bucks poorer, we're now happily planning to use it to put up Christmas lights.

Then a couple of days last week, the Sunday School kids had a special camp just before their confirmation as full-fledged church members. My responsibility, alongwith 6 or 7 others, was in the kitchen, in the food dept. and preparing food four times a day for almost 100 people and cleaning up after them is no joke, believe me. We literally spent time washing mountains of dirty dishes, cups and spoons et al, and then immediately sitting down to peel and cut potatoes for the next meal, slicing veggies etc etc. E-x-h-a-u-s-t-i-n-g. And it was so cold and dark in the kitchen too.

It's hard to believe there's only just a couple days left for Christmas. Everything's so pretty and beautiful again. Everyone seems all agog with expectations, and there's so much goodwill being generated. It's a bit sad though that with cell phone connectivity, the old tradition of sending and receiving Christmas cards has almost disappeared. Of course, simply sending batches of instant sms-es on Christmas day to near and dear ones is so easy but there's a certain something in receiving lovely paper cards. Ah well, some things change but some good things abide still. Merry Christmas, everyone!


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Poll Day Woozeheads & a Winter Love Song


Mizoram went to the polls yesterday to vote in a new house of legislators for the next 5 years. Since Monday we've been hard at work around the house putting in burnt orange-brown floor tiles and the house is a mess of workers, water sloshing all over the floor and cement dust coating everything within sight. So my sister and I had to clean up good to go cast our votes. At the last moment I realised I didn't have my regulatory electoral ID card with me and couldn't remember where I'd left it. It wasn't where I thought it was supposed to be. Not in my wallet, not on my table, not in my drawer, not in my wardrobe. I frantically rummaged through my messy room, swearing I'd really get down to cleaning up as soon as possible as I keep meaning to. The dratted ID wasn't in sight and I wondered if I'd have to skip exercising my franchise this time. Then as I breathed a quick fervent prayer, I remembered my bedside Bible. I often store really, really important things there and gloryosky, there was my ID card nestling between the front cover and first page. Like they say, the Bible always has the answer to your prayers!

Here's a beautiful love song I just recently heard and love to pieces. Song for a Winter's Night written by the Canadian singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, hauntingly sung here by Sarah McLachlan and Jewel with footage from the movie King Arthur (which I haven't watched yet btw). All the snow makes me ├╝ber cold and I can't believe they're all actually moving around in those thin pieces of clothing! And while we don't exactly have snow in this part of the world, well, turns out Lightfoot wrote these lyrics not in the middle of a Canadian winter with snow falling outside but during a thunderstorm in July.

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter's night with you
And to be once again with you

For you, baby...


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Bold and the Beautiful

I've said this before but it doesn't seem to have flushed the rats out yet so here we go again. I'm seriously pissed at all those snoops who regularly invade my blogspace but don't bother to leave a courtesy note. Even just a little line saying Hello I was here, nice blog you have here or whatever. So to those furtive lurkers from Apia, Samoa, Singapore and Calcutta, West Bengal, whoever you are, either step forward and introduce yourselves or quit spying on me.

On to happier things, ever been on the panel of a beauty pageant? Ok, so beauty pageants aren't quite politically correct anymore but the enthusiasm they generate is still enormous. Especially at the undergrad level. And especially among the male population of said level.


At work, we have these little pageants as part of the annual sports and socio cultural fests and I've been on the panel for the third year running. Not exactly all fun and games as you might suppose. There's usually a great deal of planning and coordination that goes on behind the scenes. The girls practise catwalking and general deportment and are made to watch videos of past year competitions. And then of course, there's the little prerequisite that not very many beauty queen hopefuls enjoy - the interview round.

The first time I was a judge, the three of us on the panel, all female by the way, hadn't been told about it in advance. At the last minute, we were just told we had to ask a question of each contestant. Whoa, thinking up intelligent but not too taxing, things to ask at such short notice and in front of a very interested audience is not exactly a picnic at the park. All I could think of was What's your favourite colour. Naaaw, my two agitated co-judges said, something a little more complex. Another colleague sitting with us had obviously watched a few more pageants on TV and was able to come up with a little more happening questions. Like which person do you admire most and why. We ordered her to write out good questions to ask while we assessed the girls who'd already begun nervously sashaying up and down the stage.

Last year, the problem was solved with a list of questions already neatly printed out for us. All we had to do was pick them off the list. The girls too had already been made acquainted with the list so they knew what to expect and were able to sound considerably more intelligent and much more composed than the previous year's batch, poor things.

This year, the interview round was simplified even further to soothe the jittery nerves of the girls by informing them, albeit just a half hour or so before the event, which question in the list they were to answer. Question #1 would go to contestant #1, and so on. All they had to worry about now was prettifying themselves and pirouetting around confidently. Which they did beautifully. Salut, here's looking at you, kids!


Monday, November 17, 2008

Land of my Heart

Today's the 14th anniversary of my mother's death. Looking back, it seems unbelievable we've gone through all these years without her..

Sad reflections apart, the view this morning is one major reason why I a-d-0-r-e winter up here in the mountains. Thick, low lying clouds fill the hills and dales making for a brilliant illusion of stormy, wild, white seas.


Having lived most of my life in mountainous terrains, I often find it extremely taxing spending any great length of time in the plains. And in especially bad moments, it gives me a feeling close to claustrophobia not being able to see anything beyond the next few buildings. In the mountains, you always have a vast, unhampered view of houses and people below or above you.



Perhaps I unconsciously draw comfort from the fact that I can actually see life around me or perhaps I'm just a mountain woman at heart.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Chilli Pickling for Dummies

Here's a nice easy way to update your blog....woops, did I say update your blog? I meant a nice easy way to make chilli pickle :D

At this time of year, we have lots of these red hot little chillies called vai-hmarchate here, literally translated into birds' eye-view chilli. Get loads of these, make sure you break off all the stems and discard any that are even partially squishy. Then get a fork and pierce little holes into them. This can get pretty tedious but it's to make sure the the oil and masala gets properly marinated into the chilli innards.


Next you get a packet of pickle masala. Told you this is a recipe for dummies!


You then liberally sprinkle it all over the pre-fork-pierced chillies, like so....


Then you heat a liberal amount of oil in a pan and pour your spicy concoction into it. Make sure the heat's not turned up too high, and keep cooking till the chillies are tender...


Wait for it to cool down and then pour into a jar. You can put it out in the sun for a couple of days or you can eat it right away if you want to. And hey presto, you're all set for a red hot chilli winter!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Looking for an Echo


Despite living in a fairly small town, as you get older and pinned down to an unrelentingly unchanging everyday routine due to work and family obligations, it's rare that you get an opportunity to travel back in time and visit old haunts. This week I jumped at the chance to go back to my old college. I haven't gone back for over 20 years though I'd heard there were plenty of changes. Thursday was the perfect opportunity. It wasn't going to be some yawningly formal do that would've kept me rooted in one spot all day but a total fun outing - my college volleyball team was playing a rival team in a fiercely contested, very noisy final. The first two games went our way after which I slipped away for a walkabout...

Once upon a time, there used to be an empty field here, behind which was an old sprawling corrugated-roofed building which housed the college hall, classrooms, library and the students' recreation room. Now there are all these separate concrete buildings and volleyball and basketball courts.

This used to be the Science building where, as the junior-most class we were regularly shunted around these classrooms with elevated back benches. I don't for a minute suppose the tables and benches are the ones we'd used long ago but the scenario looked eerily the same..

In my time, there had been just a large wooden gate at the main entrance which I can't recall ever seeing closed...

The administrative building is new and freshly painted but at least it still stands in the same place it had always stood..


And peeping in through the empty English dept. room, I was pleasantly surprised to see a sketched portrait of my old English teacher who had died shortly after I passed out. We had always adored John Ruata because apart from being a good teacher, he was young and with it. He'd once even been persuaded to get up onstage with a guitar for a song at some function. But he'd also once embarrassed me in class. In a small Honours class of some 8 or 9 students, I'd been fighting heavy eyelids and had nodded off for a minute when he remarked something along the lines of the air down in the campus valley not being quite what it should be but that didn't excuse anyone from sleeping in his class! Rest in peace, U John, amid all the echoes of happy times...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Meltdown



I'm just about all wilted out. Been a hectic last few days. Exams at work again with the obligatory morning rush to be on duty by 8.45 am. When duty calls that early, I usually skip my morning meals and make do with omelettes or some other stomach fillers at the workplace. It's always struck me as being absurdly silly that we have to rush about so berserkly just to sit quietly for the rest of the day.

And then we've been having this unusually scorching spell of Indian summer. Octobers up here in the mountains are usually mild, pleasant times when the monsoon rains and humid heat fade into a cool tranquility by day, and nights have us digging into our cupboards for light blankets to top up the quilts. This October has been anything but. First it was heavy relentless rains and then relentless searing sun. I've been having to slap on sunblock first thing in the morning and then forget to reapply.

One of the saddest things about life is losing loved ones who were part of your life for as long as you can remember. Last week, my cousin gave up the fight after a fierce struggle with cancer. One of nine children, of which six were boys, he was the last male to go. Two sisters are the only survivors of that brood. I remember loving going over to their house as a kid. They had this pomelo tree right outside the house which grew the best fruit ever and any time we wanted, we just had to get a fruit and feast on it. My cousins also had lots of friends and at a time when record players were costly, precious things to have, they had one with plenty of great LPs and singles. The house seemed to be always filled with people, long-haired and hip, and every visit was always truly a memorable experience. The old house still stands today but the tree is gone, as have the people and the music. And one by one, my cousins drop away like tired fallen leaves.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

5 Life Lessons My Mother Taught Me (and Some Of Which Backfired)


With Mum and older sis

1. Bur keh thei a thil sa thun dawnin a bur tih lum phawt tur (Preheat a glass jar before pouring something hot into it). This came about one evening when I'd been heating pork fats and pouring the liquid into a glass jar which began to crack, spilling away the precious fat. Mum then gave me this piece of advice which I've never forgotten. She was like that, full of common sense and practical wisdom. I don't think she knew everything but in crunch situations, somehow she always had the knack of coming up with a practical solution to the problem.

2. Rizai sin lam zawng bik neih loh tur (Don't use just one side of a quilt or blanket, as the case might be) This one came when I once complained I needed a new quilt because the edge of one side was badly torn and dirty. She got me to bring it to her and on inspecting it, tut tutted disapprovingly. "Do you always use it just this side up?" she asked. "Yes Mum." "Well, you shouldn't do that. Use both sides, otherwise you'll quickly wear out the one side you use." Right, this one taught me to be adaptable and has stood me in good stead in several other things in life.

3. Mipa hnathawk bulah nula an thu mai mai ngai lo (Young ladies shouldn't sit around doing nothing beside working men) In an all-female family of four sisters and a widowed mother, we often needed male help around the house and usually took on hired hands. Sometimes they would be guys we knew well - neighbourhood guys who'd come over after dinner and watch TV or just drop in for some timepass. We liked those days when they'd be working on some very hard manual work and we'd hang around talking to them. That's when Mum would drop her admonitory stinker. The catch was we never did quite understand what exactly she meant. Don't distract working men or if you want to talk to working men, give them a hand. We assumed she meant the first and would quickly go looking for something productive to do elsewhere.

4. Mi mawl biak loh tur. An hminga koh zel tur (Address people by their names. It's rude just talking to people blankly) This was something Mum drilled into us right from the time we were little kids. She insisted it was impolite and rude asking people questions or just blurting out things point blank. Instead we were to always say, "Pu Biak, khawnge i kal dawn?" or "Ni Tlan, thingpui i duh em?" Mum drummed this into us so thoroughly that much later in life, there were often times when I'd meet acquaintances whose names I couldn't remember and end up passing by without a word or avoiding eye contact altogether. I've now learnt to let go of Mum's lesson in certain situations and acknowledge people with a word or a nod or a smile without actually remembering their names.

5. Aia upa zah tur (Respect your elders) Again a lesson I learned so well I sometimes have trouble with the flip side of it - respecting my juniors. Sigh, how terribly complicated life is.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Day Police Came to Get Me


Last week it was. The day started lazily enough with no indication of what lay in store. Wednesdays are my off-days at work but I was supposed to attend this get-together at 1 to meet an online overseas acquaintance who was in town. As four of us were speeding along, 45 minutes late, to the other side of town in a cab, my phone rang. It was my sister at home. She said worriedly, "Three policemen have just come in and want to see you." I went, "Who, me? What for?" She said she didn't know, they wouldn't say. Just that the OC at Bawngkawn Police Station had sent them to pick me up. My heart did flip flops as I racked my beanos on why they could possibly want me. Had someone made a complaint about something I said? Something I'd done years and years ago? Something I ate? Case of mistaken identity? I told my sister to give them my cell phone number and say I was tied up at the moment but would report at the station at 3. Ok, they reportedly said after confirming with their boss, 3 pm.

Unfortunately, the meet was still underway at 3 and no one seemed to realise time was tick tocking away. Amazing how some people can talk, by the way. Finally, my phone rang again. One of the men in khaki, in fact, the big boss man the OC himself. It seemed urgent and then it struck me that it must have something to do with a parcel I'd sent by speed post the previous day. "Is this about my parcel?" "Yes, ma'am, can you tell us the contents of the parcel?" "Um items of clothing, a book..." "That's all?" "I think so, magic jelly..." The officer, who had a very nice courteous tone of speaking, chuckled, "Magic jelly?" "Yes sir, ohhhh wait, I also put in a lighter in the shape of a pistol." "Ahhhh, a lighter shaped like a pistol?" "Yes sir, a gas lighter." "Well ma'am, can you come to the main post office so we can open it in your presence?" Silly me went, "Oh, why don't you just open it now? It's not anything dangerous, really." "Ma'am, we really would like to have you around when we do that. We'll wait for you in the speed post section." "Alright, I'll try to be there around 3.30."

The party finally split, after a spell of silly group photography, and I didn't tell anyone anything, just that I had to go to the post office. Only the speed post master was there when I arrived. He offered me a seat and said the police and parcel weren't there yet but a CID man was. Whoa - CID?! I was starting to feel terribly silly and uncomfortable. He was very nice and polite too but took down my name and particulars, the recipient of the parcel, etc etc. He said the people at the airport had seen the gun shape under x-ray and called in the police. Double whoa. He asked what size was the lighter and was it bigger than his gun, at which, to my horror, he whipped out from his trouser pocket a small pistol. "Oh, much smaller than that," I assured him hurriedly.

Then the police arrived with the condemned parcel. We ripped it open and I drew out the contents. A couple of chocolate bars fell out. I'd forgotten I'd packed those for a sweet-toothed someone. And then the suspicious item. Everyone began laughing and one policeman asked where I'd got it from and was it very expensive. Another said, "On the airport x-ray monitor it had looked much bigger and completely lifelike. If it'd been made of plastic, it wouldn't have been so suspect but with it being metallic, it was just too much!" I had to restitch the parcel packaging and since the post office didn't have needles or threads, the CID guy kindly said he knew a place just down the corner where I could do the needful and took me to a tailoring shop. After my parcel was neatly stitched up again, I went back to the post office and got it redeposited.

When I got home, my sister was in a tizzy. And in my mortification, I'd completely forgotten to call and let her know what was happening so she'd been just about climbing walls. Needless to say, when I related the whole crazy story, both my sisters thoroughly ticked me off for my idiocy and imbecility. One reminded me of how I'd once had my nailcutter confiscated from my handbag at the airport check-in. Ooops yes, when will I ever learn?


The offending object of suspicion


Friday, September 12, 2008

English as she is goodly writen


Perhaps it's because I teach English and have had a lifetime's fill of grammatical and constructional monstrosities. Or perhaps I'm just plain finicky and nitpicky but I detest people who cannot write correct English. Now speaking is a different matter altogether. Not being a native speaker myself, I fumble and trip over the spoken form all the time. Especially in the absence of daily conversational practice targets. But writing, ah, now that's something we've all had plenty of practice of most of our schoolgoing lives so it irks me no end when people keep doling it out in brokenly cringeworthy fashion.

Needless to say, I adore people who effortlessly and seamlessly write well in English. Of course some people are naturally born with the proverbial silver spoon at the tip of their fingers. They just naturally write well. And without fudging the issue, I know I write well. It's something I enjoy and have slowly got better at as I get older. But the people who unfailingly hit me for a sixer and make me fall madly in love with them are those who mix and manage standard English, formal and informal, and most importantly, colloquialisms with equal dexterity. I think the truest measure of a person's complete grasp of a language is his or her ability to use colloquial expressions with ease. When someone cruises along in formal English but completely misses out on a contemporary idiomatic expression, doh, that just doesn't cut it in my book. It's almost as criminal as the classic "Wanna make franship?" come on. Sic.

The funniest thing is native English speakers themselves are notoriously bad at writing in English. Case in point, all the people you see online, especially in chatrooms, who can't spell, punctuate or formulate their thoughts to save their nuts. Americans are an especially atrocious lot. It makes you wonder what standards grammar teachers keep in the US of A. Sure, originality of thought and self-expression and all that is important but surely not at the expense of making you look like a human grammatical error.

I imagine part of the problem is in the verbal having to be put down in writing. Oral expression is free and informal while writing is cluttered with rules and trip-you-ups. Details of grammar like spelling and punctuation obviously don't matter a dimsum in speaking and there's a lot more stress placed on immediacy of communication than in writing. All of which adds up to the verbal form being so vastly different from the written that fluent speakers flub right, left and centre in just about every aspect of writing.

Indians are reputed to be among the world's best writers of English and I'd have to agree. To some extent. What's definitely an oh no factor for me is the over-formal, pedantic, stilted writing style many swear by. Or maybe it's the only style they know. It just gets me a little claustrophobic after a while. Makes me itch to rip off the suit and neckwear and stuffy shoes and push them headfirst into the linguistic pool.

But then again, like I said, maybe I'm just an over-finicky, nitpicking English teacher.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Stepping up a tech notch

Got myself a new laptop Monday evening. A Compaq C795TU. I don't remember why exactly but I've wanted a Sony Vaio for ages. Problem was they were out of my budget range and I kept hearing that Vaios didn't have anything special about them really anyway. Then I caught sight of those pretty Dell Inspirons in all kinds of colours - red, pink, yellow, spring green, and some even with the most delicately beautiful artwork on them but they too were slightly too expensive for me again. Besides when I looked around in what my favourite Mizo poet who I won't name here aptly calls this "one hoss town," there were just black Dells. Oh well, that left me with this..


Funnily enough I don't enjoy working on a laptop at all. Not yet anyway. The keyboard is so hard and congested, and without the helpful little USB mouse, my poor right hand would be all cramped and arthritic-looking. Also I'm terrified that I'll break the glass screen. So to say nothing of lugging it around, much less balance it on my lap, I'm nervy about using it anywhere but up on my usual safe desktop table!

What's kind of neat though is the dinky little webcam. Not that I thought people used webcams anymore. I once used a webcam when chatting to someone who claimed an ardent interest in getting to know me better and whoosh, it was almost like dipping a live coal in cold water. LMWAO. Perhaps I'll stick a Bandaid over the cam :P



Friday, August 29, 2008

Radio Gaga

Dark rainy day. Took the day off because the kids were supposed to have a blood donation drive at work. I've donated blood thrice before and I'd have done it again but braving slush and mud and hours of being trapped in traffic to give a pint of blood just didn't figure on the agenda today.


When I was growing up, the radio was my best friend. No TVs, computors, cellphones, digicams, ipods and other fancy schmancy gizmos then. The radio was the one source I had of keeping up with the world outside my little world. Dad had just died and Mum was working hard to support her four daughters. The local school we now attended was hugely different from MH and since we'd all jumped two classes, schoolwork was a major headache. Specially the maths. Add to that, growing up pains and adolescent angst.

Shortwave radio was a magical escape from everyday hassles. Every evening after dinner, my sister and I would sit down to homework with the radio tuned to the Ivan and Eric Show on the SLBC. Their light banter sandwiched between music requests and top forty hits had us all agog. Later we discovered Radio Australia, VOA and the good old BBC. I grew particularly attached to the Beeb, never missing the pop music shows especially A Jolly Good Show with the irrepressible Noel Edmonds. Then I discovered Matthew on Music fronted by Brian Matthew who I thought had the most divinely deep voice. Matthew played mostly hard heavy rock (most of it what's known as classic rock today) and left a deep and lasting influence on me. Then there was Glenys Dickson who cheerily hosted Countdown on Radio Australia. There was also this obscure radio station called Super Rock KYOI my sister and I loved but couldn't understand because the dialogue was all in Japanese but they played the most terrific collection of rock classics we ever heard. Years later, after my sister married, she said she was once recollecting those old days with her husband and it turned out he and a friend of his were regular listeners to Super Rock KYOI too and had always thought they were the only ones around to know about it.

Just recently, we've been having FM radio via the local friendly neighbourhood AIR Aizawl, and I've been realising anew what fun radio is. It doesn't demand your complete attention like TV does and you can play it in the background while you do other things. Also I've been discovering that many bands who I cannot stand to watch are actually very listenable. Among them, the late Kurt Cobain and Nickleback. At least, without the distraction of their videos I can now appreciate why they've had had such success. What disappoints me though are the young radio jockeys. I don't know why they feel like they have to put on that very fake, exuberant sounding talk style, and some of the accents are so obviously put on, they make you cringe. Also their knowledge of the music they work with is so abysmally low it's very off putting. Quite clearly, these kids are products of a generation that grew up completely unaware of the joys of radio.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Those schoolgirl days...


Time flies so quickly. Even the Internet which came into my life just a couple of years, or so it seems like, is already strewn with people I've come across and messages and posts I'd put up already half-forgotten and relegated to the back of the cyber cupboard. Some of the people have become very real friends and we have get-togethers on a regular basis despite busy lives and and hectic schedules, one or two so-called friends turned out to be freeloaders, and many have been like the proverbial ships in the night - here today, gone tomorrow, out of sight, out of mind.

The net is such a huge place it's hard to keep track of every place I've been to and left a piece of myself. One of these I recently rediscovered is my old school reunion site. I was at Mount Hermon for just a year and a couple of months but despite my all too brief stay there, it remains one of my brightest memories. Located in beautiful Darjeeling with the Himalayas clearly visible across the distance, it wasn't some over-posh school filled with snooty brats of rich parents as we'd feared at first. In fact, I never really ever knew how upscale anyone's family was because it was such a happy friendly place. Like when you came across members of the staff, academic or otherwise, it was always a casual Hello Mr Jones! Hello Mrs Gardner! That, in the 70s when things in India were still strictly starchily Brit, is a fair indication of the informal atmosphere of the school. And the GHD (Going Home Day) songs in the school hymn book that we'd start singing around the end of the year...

Also it being a co-ed school, there were a great many pairing-ups, and often after the seniors (classes 7 to 12-ers) finished dinner, we Junior schoolers would watch happily as these couples would go off in pairs in the quadrangle downstairs. A favourite hangout for these post-dinner, pre-study hour romantic dates was a long fence around the main schoolyard and couples would hang around there which prompted one staff member to coin the term "fencing." If a boy and a girl were seen "fencing", they were acknowledged by everyone to be an item. Obviously, it was a school ahead of its time but my two sisters and I had to leave suddenly because my father became seriously sick and we joined local schools. I continued for a while to keep in touch with old friends but inevitably lost touch with all but one who kept me posted with updates on everything and everyone.

Then around 5 years ago, I came across this site which wasn't strictly an official school site but was run by an oldtimer who'd brought in lots of oldtimers. None of those Facebook/ Orkut old school communities type where you see only the very young and feel completely out of it all. There were many I didn't know, naturally but there were a few I actually remembered. I found that the best way of breaking the ice and getting people to share old memories was in getting them to talk of things like bunking, past escapades and crushes. I made a post on old school crushes which evoked so many memories in the most fun way possible and many decade-old secrets were confessed to and made public for the first time ever! Among them, we found out that Lochan, one of the regulars and most gentlemanly people I've ever had the pleasure to know anywhere, had been the unknowing target of a crush by the prettiest girl in school. Apparently, they were good friends but she'd a boyfriend then and used the runaround method of loading his younger brother with all sorts of eats. He never realised it was all thanks to his brother and never told him about it either until the girl's best friend spilled the secret almost 30 years later and the younger brother finally connected the dots! I had such a hilarious time the other day re-reading all the recollections. I'm ashamed to confess though that I've since lost touch with those renewed acquaintances too. Keeping in touch is so hard...

Yellowed and mildewed - me and sisters

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ouch

"What a swimming! What a butterflying! Michael Phelps is coming number 1!!"
- Doordarshan sports commentator


Sms a friend sent me yesterday :D

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Senior Moments


Just home from Sunday School where I realised I'd made a major boo boo last week. I'd been supposed to teach lesson #27 on Salvation but somehow got things mixed up and taught lesson #26 which was also on salvation but slightly differently stressed on Man in need of salvation. When I told my colleagues about it, they said they hadn't noticed but I'm mortified. I've never done anything like this before and for such an important lesson. Argh, my brains are screwed!

A similar thing happened to a woman I was buying vegetables from yesterday. It had been raining heavily and everything was wet and slushy and humid. She's a nice woman and one of my favourite veggie sellers so I bought a half kilo of tomatoes and set down 25 bucks in front of her. Then I picked up something else for 10 bucks which I added to the pile. Then I picked up something else again for 5 bucks and finding I didn't have a fiver to give her, took out a 50 note and took back the 35 bucks I'd laid out.

That's when it hit her. She looked at me blankly and went, "Uhhhh." "It's supposed to be 40 in all so you can give me back 10 rupees," I told her. She went, "Uh, what all did you buy?" I said, "Tomatoes = 25, hmarcha = 10, bekang = 5." She said confusedly, "But you took back the 35." "Yes, so now I'm giving you 50 and you're supposed to give me back 10." She mumbled, "But I'll be losing out if you take away the 35..."

Yarghhhh. I was starting to feel hot under the collar. Nothing I said could blow away the cobwebs in her mind. Luckily, a couple I know well came along looking at her vegetables and broke the impasse. We both explained to the wife our little tango and she told the veg woman it was alright, I'd bought 40 bucks worth of goods and given her 50 so she now had to return me a tenner. Which she did and we parted ways. Finally.

I've often been in that kind of can't work out figures and logic for nuts in my mind mental confusion so she has my sympathies entirely. With me, it usually happens that when I've been away travelling somewhere and getting back to basics at home I get disoriented completely and totally. I can't remember the littlest detail, and figures throw me for a loop as intricate as a figure skating triple axel followed by a double salchow. It's probably because I'm just too physically tired and not rested well enough and my mind shuts down from too much information too suddenly. I'm guessing the woman yesterday too was probably suffering from lack of sufficient sleep and rest since veg dealers get up crazily early on market days.

Ah life.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Dirty Laundry Thoughts


Picture: www.pbase.com

It's a funny old world but I'd still have thought you didn't need to learn how to manually do your laundry.

My colleague was today telling me about her son and daughter who've both flown the roost and left the comforts of home to work or study in other parts of the country. She said her husband, who seems to be a pretty hands-on dad, had been teaching the son how to wash clothes since he'd be staying at a hostel which wouldn't have a washing machine.

Ah, the advantages of technology and labour saving machines. I'd grown up washing clothes from hankies to bedsheets by hand and the washing machine became part of our lives only in the mid 80s. But then I suppose for those born in the mid 80s, it's perfectly justifiable to not be able to even imagine ever laundering items like bedspreads manually. The soaking in water, the rubbing and scrubbing with washing soap, the rinsing and drying out in the sun. Manual labour. So tiring today but in the past we went ahead and did it all with no complaints because it was a way of life and there simply wasn't any other alternative.

It's strange though that with all the time and labour saving devices and inventions we now have at our disposal, life doesn't get any easier or less hectic. Seems like the more technology we use, the less we learn how to manage our time and lifestyles.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Brutal Frankspeak


Earlier last week I came across this pertinent statement that read, "It has been said that the need to write about one's life experiences, even in the absence of a reader, is crucial to the development of a sense of consciousness."

While blogging was probably the last thing the writer had in mind, I figure that it would make for a good rule every conscientious blogger worth his/her blog spot should swear by. Nobody reads the crap you type? No problemo. It's still a great way for you to grow into your own person. Develop a better consciousness of who you are, find out what makes you tick, and what ticks you off. A virtual couch session, I guess.

Sometimes I think it's a major hassle that other people cruise by and read your stuff because you can't crib as much as you want to. I don't know why but there seems to be some unwritten rule especially among the Mizo blogging community that expects you to always put your best face forward and never ever let on that you're human. You're supposed to swear undying love for your country (read - this 21,087 sq kms of hinterland), swoon over bygone customs and traditions, express shock, horror and condescension at the corruption, debauchery and decadence that's apparently sweeping everything in its wake, and loudly and vociferously attack politicians, bureaucrats, office workers and everyone else unfortunate enough to be working in Mizoram.

I'm tired of all these Mizo online sites that run amok with lower middle class sensibilities and attitudes. The noseyparker harangues on interracial marriages, the blatant moral policing, the unabashed politicizing of absolutely everything and anything, the herd mentality and 'fraidy-cat resistance towards folks of other cultures and races - the only times when plainspeople and places are damned with faint praise being when they're unfavourably compared to things here.

I'm probably treading on a lot of toes here but hey, I just don't buy that kind of twisted mentality at all.


~~~

Friday, July 11, 2008

My Song of the Rain


if i forget
the fungus growing
in the house
on the walls
in my wardrobe
in my bones,
forget the
whispers of white
streak a blue sky
the esthesis
of sunshine...
and watch the world
take on a new
perspective through
a camera lens -
a bleak
black
brooding
battered
element-ravaged
beauty,
then i love
the rain.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Preoccupations With Occupations


Super hectic time of year. Work's in full swing again though it isn't something that happens often or for very long. Very soon, little odds and ends will crop up disrupting the smooth rhythm of classes, lectures and thought processes.

Among them, the inevitable students' elections which are seemingly casual on the surface with the kids putting up relaxed friendly faces but oftentimes there's actually a lot of frenetic activity behind the scenes. What's it with the male psyche and the lust for power? We once had a student candidate crying disconsolately on the steps after a loss. He was all snappily decked out in his Sunday best, suited, booted and neck-tied, and we were told he'd blown a small fortune on little professionally printed vote tags and a huge banner bearing his name. Enough to drive anyone to tears.

And then the sports. We had an unimaginably hooliganish intercollege free-for-all last year where rival college students taunted and threw stones at each other on the streets. Something similar had broken out the last couple of years but the powers-that-be had obviously dismissed them as one-off incidents and failed to provide adequate security. Needless to say, all hell broke loose last year which ironically brought it to the notice of the local media which tends to do nothing much else besides the in thing of lambasting politicians and eulogising our little small-town "celebrities." I suppose negative news is better than being constantly roundly ignored.

On the personal side, I've scored a little triumph this year. After all these years of teaching lit, I finally have the privilege of teaching Hamlet. I've taught Shakespeare before, put in several years of teaching Julius Caesar, in fact but Hamlet is in a class of its own. The brooding introspection and existential preoccupation. The Oedipal undertones. This is a challenge I'm enjoying every aside and soliloquy of.

Here's to the classics.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Football Fever? No Fervour, Por Favor!

Life repeats itself.
The Euro games. The football. The hype. The hoopla. The images. Fans in painted faces. Girls in look-at-me clothing. Beer-barrelled males in national colours. The debates. The arguments.

I'd watched World Cup '82 . Well, reruns of it a couple of weeks after it actually ended, and on a black and white TV, and without any real idea what it was all about. At a time when very few people around had TVs, my mother had gone out and splurged on one the year before, and housefuls of neighbours would turn up when anything interesting was on the program. In early summer, my grandmother had fallen and broken her thigh bone and was very ill but that didn't deter neighbours from swamping the house. My aunt was reported to have remarked that she couldn't understand how so many people could stand to watch men in the same black and white shirts chase a football around every night.

By the time the '86 edition rolled in, we'd been subscribing to Sportsworld and Sportstar magazines and regularly following the BBC radio sportsnews and English FA Cup on TV so we'd become pretty football-savvy. We could reel off names of players, even relatively obscure ones if they were cute, and knew which teams had great footballing history. We loved the spectacularity of Mexico '86 and were hugely entertained by the witticisms of the glib commentators. Like a French player taking a fall being breezily described as, "And that's a French roll." I remember Mum, my older sister and I once actually pulled off an all-nighter taking in 4 matches in succession. We stocked up on fresh pineapples slices, brewed tea at midnight, munched on snacks and were deliriously happy. By the time the final whistle blew on the last game, daylight was already breaking on the horizon.

I hardly remember the '90 edition. And on the late afternoon of the '94 final, my sister's husband's younger brother was killed in a road accident. My younger sisters went over. I stayed home with my mother who had cancer then and could no longer stay out long hours at night. We watched the final together in tired distraction, our minds not really registering any of it.

Personal circumstances change priorities, and repetition brings ennui to even the most exciting things after a while. Sports extravaganzas on TV no longer impact my life quite so emphatically as they once did. Now I barely manage to take in the first half of the early games. I don't know which teams are playing and I don't have the fixtures either. I just don't have the time or inclination to follow events, players or teams anymore.

But when I see images that always appear to accompany spectacular footballing events - colourful stadiums bursting with fans and noise, players celebrating goals in exuberant orgiastic frenzy, skimpily clad fans flaunting national flags and colours, nattily-dressed experts and ex-players debating on the refereeing, the goals that were allowed or shouldn't have been, the penalties, the offsides, the play-acting, the absurdly bizarre new rules etc etc, I'm reminded time and again of the old adage, "The more things change, the more things remain the same."

Saturday, June 07, 2008

My Favourite Pick-me-ups


First time I ever bit into into a thirst-quenching watermelon was when I was part of a college excursion tour travelling all over the country in the middle of summer. June, in fact. Since watermelons don't thrive well in Mizoram soil, for years and years I yearned for those dripping slices of summer fruit. Then a couple of years ago, we had a sudden flood of them in the shape of imports from neighbouring states and especially sweet ones from across the Bangladeshi border. Now we drip sweet, wet and chilled in summer up here in the mountains too. Ah bliss.



Salted cashewnuts. L-o-v-e these. I could eat tons of tins of them but like all good things in life, they're fattening. Sigh.



Salted biscuits. Yep, while some people have a sweet tooth I guess I have a fetish for salt. I remember wolfing down entire packets of these when I was all of 16 and slogging over my college exams. Needless to say, when the results came out and college reopened, I 'd padded up in all the wrong places.



I discovered chicken noodle soup as a university student in Shillong. There was this small, rundown, seedy-looking Chinese eating joint at Police Bazar where they served this lipsmackin', mindblowin' bowl of the skinniest noodles mixed with chicken and veg pieces. Absolute yumsville. My friend and I often bunked classes to slide them down our good-food-starved throats.



Life's not all eats and grub though. A great pick-me-up is a good light read, and Archie comics have been a hot favourite for years. Amazingly, there are people who express amazement that intelligent adults still read and enjoy the Riverdale crowd.


Nothing cheers me up as immediately as sunlight pouring in through the window when I wake up in the morning. Sunshine, blue skies, birds chirruping in the leafy trees....




The ultimate pick-me-up-er. My computor and internet connection. When lines are down or there's no power, I hate to admit it but I go cold turkey.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

To Be or Not To Be

At work sometime last week, we were discussing this new kid who'd taken admission just the previous day. The mother had called a colleague for advice after the new institution she'd been sending her daughter to didn't measure up to its hype and the girl had been forced to cool her heels for an entire year. What grabbed my attention was when someone mentioned the kid's first area of interest was the study of criminology. Whoa, now that would sound like an interesting profession out West but in a little state like Mizoram that's dependent on financial handouts from the Govt of India which is, to begin with, just a Third World nation itself, criminology? Hilarious.

Another colleague married to a forensics medico spoke of a concerned parent dropping by sometime ago to ask the doc's advice on her son's ambition of getting into forensic science too. She said her husband had explained quite clearly that the field wasn't one which seemed as glamourous or easy as many people believe, and if the kids could take a look at the forensics lab, they'd be quickly stripped of their delusions. We all agreed that much of these unreal misconceptions come from TV, with shows like CSI, Bones, Monk, Life etc glamourizing a world that actually takes a great deal of hard, painstaking labour and tedious investigations. And that's not even taking into account the most basic and fair to middling primitive resources we have here. Dreams fuelled by TV - that's so typical of the very young. The idealism, the romantic view of life and its possibilities. The impracticality. The need for a reality check. The earth-to-teen paging.

I'd been there once so I know. As a starry-eyed teen, I'd once longed for a career in advertising. Not that I had any real idea idea what exactly the job entailed but I enjoyed creative writing and teachers were always appreciative of my essays and compositions, and people were forever asking what my ambition in life was. However I was lucky enough to know what was what and the fleeting dream didn't last long, and I was perfectly content to trot off to the local college that my older sister was always raving about.

But then I suppose it's not the done thing to tell young people to dream small. I like challenging my Sunday School teens with the true life story of David Hartman who went completely blind at age 8 but went on to make it as a medical doctor and now practises psychiatry in the US. Now that's inspiring! On the other hand, you can't just sit kids down and tell them they can be anything they want like the woman in the Readers' Digest anecdote whose little daughter said she wanted to be a nurse. "No, honey," says the mother, all peachy keen to let the girl know it's a whole new world out there and she doesn't have to stick to stereotyped gender roles. "You don't have to be a nurse. You can be a doctor. You can be anything you want!" The little girl's eyes fire up with ambition as she goes, "Anything? Then I want to be a horse!"

Aye, there's the rub..

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Little Moon Music


The moon was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
Riding—riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door...

~~~

Above the quiet dock in midnight,
Tangled in the tall mast's corded height
Hangs the moon. What seemed so far away
Is but a child's balloon, forgotten after play.

~~~

It's either full moon night or darn close to it. I find it incredibly difficult getting a good photograph on my little digicam but that doesn't stop me from trying. This one reminds me of an old poem I studied many years ago and later taught. The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. The ultimate drama of an ill-fated romance between a highwayman and his sweetheart, the black-eyed Bess. Reads something like one of those old cowboy and western movies too.

Full moons also invariably remind me of T.E. Hulme's masterly Above the Dock. That's the poem in its entirety up there. Short, sharp, direct and descriptive. No hemming and hawing around. Minimalism at its superb best.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

When Necessity is the Mother of Reinvention

What do you do when you have a pile of debts to pay off and you still need a new look for a new season at work? Easy, you reinvent your old stuff. That's what I've been doing lately. Like today I dug out this old bag I bought at a second-hand market a couple of years ago.


It's a lovely jute-woven type shoulder bag in a beige brown shade, very summery as well but boringly plain. It had a little flower applique when I bought it but in a horribly jarring light blue colour. Tore that off as soon as I took it home too. Well, I took a long hard look at it today and bought some sequins and floral appliques in a nicely blending shade, and voila!