Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Stop the press!

This Independence Day has been the most different experience one I have had in ages. No flags or anthem singing or feeling slightly teary eyed hearing Vande Mataram (or singing Sare Jahan Se Accha). I didn't even need to find the white salwar kameez.

We were out last night at a friend's place. We were the last to arrive so it was acceptable that we were the last to leave as well (I hope!). I jumped at the chance to drink The British Empire which is this new beer brewed somewhere in Tamilnadu that the Tasmac guys claim is 'imported' !

I had an early morning run with the guys. I showed up a bit asleep, I admit. Every since I had my cycle stolen, I have to run to the start point- this is like 2.5 kms or so from home. I always miscalculate and reach too early or too late. Today I was a minute or two late I think, thankfully they were waiting for me.

We were supposed to sprint/stride up flyovers a few times. I was mentally not in the run at all. My feet have been hurting - nothing new or strange just something I have not attended to properly in recent times. I desultorily did the needful and was glad to have a ride back home.

At home chaos reigned supreme all day. The painters waltzed in and took over our rooms. The bathrooms were being acid-washed (all at once - brilliant organisation eh?). I ran around covering up stuff and trying to find some bathroom in which I could bathe in.

Friday is a test in Sanskrit for the child. In between a work-related set of phone calls (most upsetting and emotionally unsettling and confusing thing; hope its achieved closure now), we studied Sanskrit. So far its just vocabulary and spellings, so it was fun.

I set up a small quiz - conducted by child, participated by parents. One parent was most forceful in grabbing points illegally. The other parent kept focus on the aim of the exercise - viz. - child should get some practice in for her test. You can guess which was who.

This segued well into our evening. The child and I drove away from painters, carpenters, cleaners, cook, leaving the man of the household holding up the fort. A security guard took pity on me & my little i20 and let me squeeze in to a small spot at the Music Academy.

The Landmark Quiz was in full swing and after running into a close friend and his kid, we found seats. Don't know how the next umpteen hours passed, but we all had a fantastic time. I was blown away by some of the questions. So intricately detailed and awesome.

Ludwig (he will occasionally be referred to as The Quizmaster for various) who has been cribbing constantly and being mean to me incessantly, pulled ahead and won the damned thing by a HUGE margin. I was screaming my lungs out every time he picked up the mike and spoke into it (he was invariably right in his answer too). The kids tried to shush me. Well. My other friend who was also on stage pulled through to third place, so much happiness in KennyLand.

The child was so into the whole thing that I couldn't drag her away till it all finished. Even then she wanted to wait for ludwig to step down from the stage so she could congratulate him. After all these years of trying to convince her, I think she finally accepts that his head is that big because of the brains inside that giant skull. He was really brilliant - I mean I know he is, just awesome to see him win the National Landmark Quiz without ifs and buts. Just spectacular.

We returned home to maggi and curd rice (screw you SRK). Yes, having a cook visit home twice daily and asking her to make maggi for a meal is all kinds of wrong. So sue me. 10 pm. If this room could stop stinking of paint, I could sleep now, thinking about how much Navin looks like Mr. Bean.... 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

How much is too much?

I have been biting the students' ears off with this thing called the Sebatier Principle. Which basically asserts that perfection lies in the middle. Y'know. Not too much. Not too little. Just the right amount. Goldilocks would have approved.

The most difficult thing I have been doing lately is being a parent. I have fallen into the depths of a most unbelievable soul-searching exercise, and emerged triumphant from it. Well, not triumphant really, just realised that the truth is the truth and so be it.

How do these super mommies do it? I don't understand. Its not like the child (monstrous as she is), is that awful. She is a bit spaced out, for sure. She is a bit uppity, no doubt. She doesn't seem to like math enough, yes. But seriously, not too bad, overall.

So then the explanation for my complete lack of patience has to be that I suck. Or am too old. Or too stressed out about irrelevant things. Anyway that whole soul searching thing made me want to change things around a bit at the homestead.

Now, I have to be neither too controlling nor too loose on the reins. I have to reprimand a little but not too much. I have to give a little, accommodate her crazinesses a little, but not too much. I have be a bit of a strict disciplinarian but not over much. I have to have her study a little but not so much.

Well, unfortunately, this stuff requires a lot of patience. A lot of good quality sleep. Plenty of plenty of time. These are difficult things to get, currently. Work is super hectic. Race is in like 10 days. I am in a billion committees all day long. I am late on a lot of deadlines already.

At least I have a few minutes to write something. Coherent or not... 

Friday, 10 August 2012


In the spirit of embracing hypocrisy, I have been going around talking to students in the first year (and their parents, at one point) about life on campus, and dealing and coping. Rooms are full of these eager and bright young faces and I am blathering on about this and that to them. Doling out a lot of 'advice' and seriously feeling occasionally worried thinking about the whole practice what you preach ideal.

Yesterday, I was at a boy's hostel. Mandakini, its called, if you must know. It was fun, at least in some ways. I had my head down (negotiating puddles) as I walked through the corridor to the 'common room.' Many conversations seemed to trail off and stop as I passed through, I realised only later that it might have been because of my gender.  Oh well.

I really thought the boys would be a lot more enthusiastic than they were. In a sense it turned out to be a bit anti-climatic for me. We run a chota loop around this hostel every time. In this past season of marathon training, I feel like I have gotten to know every puddle and root and stone that is in the campus. As we traverse Mandakini, we usually joke about the crazy kids inside.

I like crazy kids, seriously, I don't think the crazy kid in me has extinguished either so I connect with that. As a topic to give structure to my blathering, I chose to speak about multi-tasking, Da Vinci (not the code, the original man himself) and, of course the door-stealer Feynman. "Why Feynman, there are many famous scientists, aren't there?" asked one of the kids.

That was a pretty awesome question. For me. Personally, I love to read Feynman stuff because he is a crazy kid. Seriously, till his dying day, he was a crazy kid. To add to that he is a genius with a sense of humour. But despite all that at the core, the reason I like him so much is because (I think) he was honest with himself, about himself. Yes. About his involvement in the making of the bomb, among other things.

Another person I like, for the same reason, is Fritz Haber. Different war, different weapon, but their post-war philosophical musings and (what I can gather, not having met them personally) on man and machine and war and so on, I really get that. (I didn't talk about him at the hostel, though I talk about him all the time in class).

It could be because of my age. I don't think I bothered about such things earlier. Nowadays, I spend plenty of time thinking about myself. And the whole thing about being honest with yourself, being able to deal with your guilt by yourself, that is challenging. Life doesn't wait around for you, does it? It goes on, even as you grapple with whatever it is you are grappling with.

I am at least am glad that I don't have the burden of being a genius to deal with. My small brain can deal with my small life and go forward. I make resolutions, I work hard at sticking to them. It was just last month that that thing that lurks right under the surface, well, it came up and bothered me incessantly. I have fought it and sent it away now, for now.

Perhaps its not so hypocritical after all. To stand in front of young people and tell them I know. I know they will go through moments, at least some of them, when it all looks upside down. I know that despite being smart, the solution will not be obvious. I know that the right thing to do doesn't change, ever. I know because I have been there, heck, I am still there, everyday almost.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012


Anyone remember Tatum O'Neal? I remembered the name but had completely forgotten the context. So I was reading the wikipedia entry and thinking, hmm.. actress? How come I know her. And really, I thought there was a tennis connection? Oh yeah! She was married to John McEnroe of course! Of course! It all comes back now.

And Tantum, is apparently some sort of gargle medicine I should be using. I am a bit worried 'cause I have to run a race in a couple of weeks time. Olympics fever (unrelated to the 'flu) makes you all aware and conscious of things that show up in dope tests, things that are OTC medications for sinusitis etc. usually.

Careful reflection will of course inform you that these things are relevant when one is setting national records, at the very least. Not so much for slightly overweight (for a runner) hobbyjoggers who crawl to the finish of a reasonably low key local race. The highlight of which is going to be dinner with friends. And the train ride with the child.

"You haven't seen me in ages" said the doctor. Nothing against her, I have just been very well. I haven't been to her in 1.5 years. In the interim, I met the dentist one time, because I was convinced that my wisdom tooth was infected (it wasn't even. damn. why was it hurting like hell then?).

"Lets load you up with antibiotics and anti-histamine and something called Mucolit (what an attractive name)" she said. I was trying to avoid just that. I have lived with my cold, cough, general sense of doom and despair, and lack of energy for like 15 days now. Why? Because I wanted to avoid anti-biotics.

"Yes, thats fair but we don't want any damage to your lungs" she said. I cannot deny that. I like my lungs. I need them fresh and perky and not black and lesion-y. They are important to me. They are the shrine I worship at. So I sucked it up and filled the prescription.

Two things made me finally succumb and go get this checked out:

  • Overall run-down-ness and crabbiness and consequent tantrummi-ness (McEnroe style!)
  • Difficult uphill (gentle slope) run where my lungs sent a final cry for help and hoped I'd listen
So I listened. And I met the doc. And now I look with dread at the list of scary sounding medicines I need to ingest over the next five days. Oh well. At least, the doctor said that she would like to join our Marina Beach runs sometimes. Hope she does, that will be fun, I am sure!