Saturday, June 27, 2009

The week that was

How do we count the days of our lives? How would we like to be remembered, how do we remember the important days of our lives? Do we remember the good days, the bad days, the happy days, the sad days, the day we met the loves of our lives, the day we lost our most loved ones, the day our children were born? Or do we remember days that may not look so important to others but has a special meaning to us, like the day our dog died or the day the cat gave birth to kittens, something seemingly insignificant to others but which otherwise means a lot to you?

The week gone by was an event full week, full of events. By event I don’t mean some gala function or gathering or party, but important events in life like birthdays and anniversaries etc.

Sunday the 21st was my younger brother’s birthday. We are a family who always make a big to-do over birthdays, and that day was no exception, or so I was informed. Plus it was the day his new daughter got baptized, so it was an extra special day back home. Even though I wasn’t there I can imagine everyone running around in a tizzy, late for church as usual, the baby crying and kicking, the phone ringing, the Sunday morning bathroom rush - just another busy Sunday morning. My sister and sister-in-law agonized over what the baby should wear at the baptism as she was still too small and could not yet be fitted into a fancy dress, and finally she went out in an ensemble that was all white, they told me. The little family was invited to dinner by my brother’s best friend who shared the same birthday with him. In fact, when they were born our two families lived in the same building, way back in 1981.

Monday the 22nd was the birthday of my other sister-in-law, my older brother’s wife. It was also the birthday of one of my girl friends at work, and she came all dressed up in a beautiful sari. On Tuesday the 23rd one of my friends gave birth to a baby girl, her second daughter. She called me up a few days later and sounded very happy, and I could hear voices in the background, her mother and female relatives who were there to care for her.

Wednesday the 24th was yet another colleague’s birthday, and there was the usual hullaballoo of cutting a cake and smearing it on his face and singing Happy Birthday with the worst group of people I've ever sung with (although I'm no songbird myself I can tell when someone sings off-key).

Thursday the 25th was pay day, so it goes without saying that it’s the best day of the month, every month. The next day was the 21st wedding anniversary of a team member so as the clock struck midnight congratulations and handshakes and unfunny anecdotes about married life floated about. Again a cake cutting ceremony followed (it almost seemed like we were looking for excuses to celebrate), but no smearing on the face this time. Just a bunch of people, most of us unmarried, celebrating the wedding anniversary of a friend, no doubt each one with his or her own thoughts about marriage. I reached home at around three am, and was roaming around in cyberspace when a headline hit me “Michael Jackson hospitalised.” TMZ had already reported that he had died, and I was shocked to the core. It was so sudden, so out of nowhere. BBC and CNN were still a bit hesitant to say he was dead, but a few minutes later they also joined in, reporting his death. A sudden wave of sadness, a feeling of loss engulfed me. I immediately downloaded his songs, and watched his videos on Youtube. It had been many years since I last saw the videos, and it was weird knowing that the energetic young man in the videos was now dead. Rest in peace, Michael Jackson.

I started thinking about death. If I die tomorrow, how will people remember me? What legacy will I leave behind? Who will cry when I die? Will people remember me for a long time, or will they feel sad for a few days and then go on with their lives? Death is something that will come to all of us; there is no escape from it no matter how much we avoid thinking about it. And what's so sad about it is that we cannot take any of our material things along when death’s cold hand reaches for us. We leave everything behind; we cannot take a single thing with us. No matter how many riches we accumulate, no matter how many material things we collect, in the end they belong to someone else. Nothing is truly ours. The world will remember us for the good deeds we did, for the great works we left behind, for our remarkable achievements and successes, that I believe is the only thing worth leaving behind.

Friday was uneventful, but the death of Michael Jackson had made it a sad day, and I spent every free minute I had listening to his songs, and I'm still listening to them as I write this.

This morning I got a phone call from home - my niece turns two months old today. Another reason to celebrate. In the midst of death and sadness, a new life slowly begins.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The S word

No, not the sword. I'm talking about the S word. My late cousin who was a big fan of Kung fu movies used to have a long shiny sword. I don’t know where that sword came from; I don’t know what happened to it.

Let’s jump straight into the discussion without any more dilly dallying. The word here is “Senior,” as in “Nula Senior, Tlangval Senior.” I cannot see you but I can imagine the smile on your lips slowly turning into a snicker, and the raised eyebrows and the resigned look. You are thinking, oh just another Nula Senior ranting and raving about something that will never be changed and will never go away from the Mizo society, just another frustrated old maid who cannot catch a husband. Tell me, O great learned person with infinite wisdom, does my being old and/or state of singledom bother you so much that you have to turn it into a joke and use it for your entertainment? I know that you as an individual are not to be blamed; you have grown up in a society where old chestnuts about unmarried people above the age of twenty-five are considered acceptable and funny, but that still doesn’t make you any less guilty. You have willingly gone and signed up to be one of those uncivilized morons who take pleasure in making fun of others and their marital status, which in my books makes you as guilty as Cain. I am not trying to change the society or raise any propaganda here, just airing a few of my opinions.

Let’s admit it, we’ve all laughed at Senior jokes, and even cracked a few ourselves. No self respecting Mizo comedian will do his act without telling something about the lady who was so old even God called her “Ka Pi,” or the lady who was so old her breast milk expired, etc etc. And every so-called jokes section in any of the million local magazines will feature Senior jokes from time to time. I can’t exactly figure out what is so funny about someone being unmarried because of their personal choice or because of circumstances, and I hope you agree with me when I say the people who love these jokes the most will most probably be the same ones who would get offended the easiest if such jokes were directed at them. Does that imply I've laughed my head off at such jokes? Not really. I admit I've laughed, but you’d never catch me saying such insensitive things and trying to pass them off as jokes, sad unfunny jokes.

And the unfunniest part? I am not old at all, at least I don’t consider myself to be. Sure, if you are at that age where twenty five is old and/or are still under the impression that people who’ve hit a quarter century are old fashioned outdated relics from another era, thirty may look and sound ancient. I may not speak in your lingo or type in your incomprehensible language or listen to your music, but if you think that qualifies me as “old” and “Senior”, all I can say to you is, just you wait, your turn will come, nobody gets younger, and the time will come when youngsters laugh at you and everything you do.

Even worse than the young unrefined hooligans are the older lot. You know them, the middle aged men with their paan-stained teeth and ugly potbellies, wearing wrinkly T-shirts or kurtas with big track pants that make irritating scrunchy sounds, sitting on street corners smoking and passing comments on female passers-by. These are the same guys you see on TV and the same guys publishing those innumerable magazines, the guys who think an unmarried woman is the ultimate fodder for their sad little TV shows and even sadder magazines.

To the scholars out there, when and how did this ridicule of “Senior” people first began in the Mizo society? Any idea on this? Can you enlighten us? I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist, and I would sure like to know how people achieved satisfaction from mocking their fellow human beings and embarrassing them, making them hesitate to go to any public gathering because of the label attached, heaping upon them an unwanted self consciousness, and making them withdraw into themselves. I would love to know how the brains of these morons are wired; did they ever put themselves in the shoes of the people they laugh at, did they ever stop to think Senior people are also human beings with feelings and emotions? Are they so numbed, so insensitive to everything that they cannot comprehend how their “jokes” might actually hurt the sentiments of others?

I've seen Mizo people from all walks of life, from the most intelligent to the most uneducated, pass these Senior comments. And I've also been on the receiving end many times, and trust me, it’s no picnic. There you are with a bunch of people doing whatever it is that Mizo people do when they hang out in groups and you don’t know something or have never heard of someone, and suddenly out of thin air comes that remark “Oh he/she is too old to know such thing.” That really hurts. You are immediately self conscious of everything you do from then on, think a hundred times before you say anything, and most likely would never go again to such gatherings.

I think I’ll stop now before I reach a thousand words, but let me say this just once more - Senior jokes are not funny at all. You too can be a subject, so please think twice before you speak and remember, even unmarried people too have feelings that can get hurt.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A day in the life

What a tiring, exhausting day. There is nothing like travelling almost a hundred kilometres and running around and dancing to make you tired and weary at the end of the day. Of course there are things like doing back-breaking work like farm work (actual physical work in the fields, not Farm Town in Facebook), or layering bricks under the hot sun (in that case anything to do with construction), or work in the mines, or a million other things that will drain you out and sap your energy at the end of the day; but for people like me who spend five days a week sitting in front of the computer and the remaining two days in the house either prone in bed or again stuck in front of the computer, the mere act of going out and coming back itself is tiring enough. But today was not tiresome at all. No sir, it was tiring, but not tiresome.

In case you're wondering what exactly I did that was tiring but not tiresome, let me proceed to tell you. But first, to get a clearer picture of things, let me list out what I didn’t do. One, I didn’t work in the fields (physical or virtual). Two, I didn’t dig ditches or lay bricks or fell timber. Three, I didn’t offer my services to charity and other such noble causes. Four, I didn’t move house and didn’t spend all day running around lifting boxes and suitcases and whatnot. Five, I didn’t run the marathon or triathlon. Six, I didn’t mine any minerals. Seven, I didn’t go into battle with dust in the house. Eight, I didn’t go mountain climbing or bungee jumping or do any adventure sports. Nine, I didn’t play cricket or football or kabbadi or tug-of-war. Let’s stop here; you aren’t really interested in knowing what I did or didn’t do, are you?

Which brings me to the next discussion, are we really interested in knowing what a person does every minute of his/her life? Nowadays you see people updating every minute detail of their lives online (“just reached the airport, the coffee counter is closed.” “sitting in the taxi waiting for the light to turn green.” “the contractions are three minutes apart now, I’m soooo excited!! I'm going to be a dad!!!”) Think of the poor stalkers, you’ve just made them redundant with your constant stream of inside information. You’ve taken the joy out of their lives, the endless shadowing, the snooping with a camera to catch any picture of you (doesn’t matter if you are wearing your flinty old bathrobe and your hair is a mess), the curiosity to know you better that makes them ..well, stalk you; they are deprived of all these little things now. All they have to do is go online and follow you on Twitter and become your friend in any of the social networking sites and they can relax and lean back on their chairs and know every possible thing about you with just the click of a mouse. They can now know who is your secret inner goddess, which celebrity you are most like, which colour is your aura, which number is lucky for you, what song/movie you are, how you are most likely to die, which animal you are, how attractive/lazy/evil you are, and a hundred other things they never will know simply by following you on the streets and making blank calls to your landline number. And the photos! They will now have unlimited access to every picture of you, no matter how unflattering or fat you look, no matter if your boyfriend / girlfriend / wife / husband / squeeze-of-the-day was in every one of them, what a delight to their eyes you must be. Restraining orders became a fond memory which they will narrate to their grandchildren, verbal abuses and screaming matches they will now receive only from their spouses. Life has become so smooth, so easy, so plain, so boring. Ahh.. the wonders of technology!

(Let me quickly check what my online friends are doing/thinking).

Okay I'm back in the cockpit. Nothing heart wrenching or earth shattering or remarkable happened while I was away typing the above passages. Now I can breathe easy and continue with the story of how I spent a tiring (but not tiresome) day.

First, I woke up early in the morning at nine-ish (hey I slept at four so you can stop tsk-ing), called up my colleagues to arrange for transport to the picnic spot where our department was having an outing. Then did the usual morning things and was out of the house by eleven. The only guy I could catch hold of said we would be going by bike (I said fine, no other choice, serves me right for leaving it until the last minute). Out I went to the meeting point, and discovered it was blazing hot. Went into a nearby China Bazar and found they sold a few caps, but as luck would have it the only one I could lay my hands on was a dirty denim Livis cap which I bought for the grand sum of thirty-five rupees. Friend arrived, off we went, got lost for a while, reached the Nagpur highway, cap fell off a couple of times and finally I didn’t bother to pick it up at all. Saw three boys and a pot of rose in a moped. Laughed out loud. Reached the place, sticky and sweaty, the program had already begun and we missed the singing competition (I didn’t mind much because I've heard these people sing and believe me, they are bad). Sat through the dance and skit competitions and the catwalk and rewards-and-recognitions program, had a heavy lunch, roamed around for a bit taking photographs, went to the dance floor where enthusiastic friends pulled me to dance (little did they know that I haven’t danced in ages), did a few clumsy outdated dance moves, then sat on the sidelines laughing and passing comments at the sweaty dancers, posed for a few more photos, had tea, went for a ride in a friend’s new Bullet, went home with another group of friends in a cramped Alto, had coconut water on the highway, listened to hip modern English songs (Quit Playing Games With My Heart, My Heart Will Go On, It’s My Life, Summer of 69 etc etc), reached home at around seven, bathed, slept, woke up, went online, had dinner, and here I am now giving this detailed report. My face and arms got tanned which I didn’t mind much because I was never a beauty queen anyway and besides looks don’t matter (the ugly individual’s excuse). It’s still early (around 12:30 in the AM) but I think I will head off to bed, got a dental appointment tomorrow. There you have it, the inside story of how my day went.

Oh Lord what did I just do? My stalkers are going to be so disappointed!

Sunday, June 7, 2009


At the risk of sounding uncool and not-with-the-times, let me say this: I hate SMS. No, I don’t hate the act of sending and receiving text messages, it can be fun at times; what I hate is the language used. Okay I know there are only so many characters that you can fit in one message and if you shorten every word you save space and thus save money, but do we need to abbreviate each and every word? “Cl me bck as soon as u get dis msg.” “Wer r u? if u dnt want to c me, fyn!”. And not content with our text messages, we are letting this new abbreviated language spill on to everything we write. How much effort does it take to write on your computer “I would like it very much if you can come over and maybe we can all go for a movie” instead of “I wud lyk it very much if u cn come over and myb we can ol go 4 a movie.” I'm not an English teacher, but I know English teachers the world over are crying over this, and I've read hundreds of pieces condemning this growing butchering of the English language.

Back in 98/99 when text messaging was still a new concept in India I remember reading an article about SMS-es and how useful they are and how it can help you stay in touch with anyone anytime. The author was saying how he was at a Bryan Adams concert and was SMS-ing to his girlfriend “da only thing dat luks gud on me is you” and I thought, wow this is cool. A few years later when I got my first mobile phone I remember sending SMS-es all the time, it was fun and addictive. To this day I still send the occasional SMS, but I now prefer making a short phone call. I don’t think I could survive a barrage of newly formed words slowly filling up my inbox.

We are all aware that Mizo is also under heavy fire in this battle of words, with new spellings popping up every now and then. I do admit I also tend to abbreviate, but it is mostly in replacing “aw” with “o”, as in “Voiin chu ka ron kal don.” Nothing much beyond this. I cringe when I see youngsters today write, “In rn kal dn lo anh cuan mn rn silh mey ru o.” I once got an SMS from a friend that I couldn’t understand at all; I called him back and asked what the message was all about.

I'm not trying to preach here or be pedantic or act like a know-it-all. If you want to write in a language that mystifies and perplexes in its compression and metamorphosis of already existing words, absolutely fine by me, it’s your phone/keyboard/pen, write as you please, it’s your life. But I hope and pray I am not the recipient of such magnificent compositions; you don’t want to give an old girl a heart attack, do you?