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Sun, Sand, Stars and Dreams

The chronicles of a misfit Indian teen

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YouTube: Teens Tell Their Story Project

In my 8th grade, there was a sudden phenomenon that hit the school. Everyone was trying to be the cool kid by talking about the aforementioned thing. However, like all unknown things cause people to panic, the school decided to ban it. 

Yes. YouTube. 

I’m sure that YouTube existed before that, but it spread to my part of the world around the time when I was 12 or 13. 

Most parents, and consequently the school, panicked because they thought that their children could have access to all kinds of explicit content on the free video sharing site. That included my parents. My dad did something to the computer which made YouTube inaccessible. 

However, due to all the hullabaloo, we kids were curious. We wanted to know what was so bad about it that we weren’t allowed to see. 

So, one day, during a basic computer hour in 8th grade, a group of us decided to open YouTube on our screens when the teacher wasn’t watching. We clicked on some random videos. But, being the novices that we were, we didn’t realise that the videos would actually have a soundtrack. (Yep. We were lame.) Simultaneously, the Titanic theme song, the theme to some random cartoon and some Arabic song blared out of our computers. Frantically, we tried pressing every button, but to no avail. 

The teacher found out and sent us to the principal’s office, who promptly gave us a good talking-to and made us write a letter saying that we will never use YouTube again, and sent us back to class. 
Fast-forward a few years. All of us are practically addicted to YouTube. That includes the said principal, teacher and parents. 

In my 12th grade, we were taught difficult concepts in chemistry using YouTube videos. My dad got addicted to listening to talks and 80s music on it. So much so that he loves the new offline feature because he can now play it in his car as well. 

My mum loves watching DIY videos on it. 
And me? Well, I started using YouTube for listening to music videos and then discovered vlogs and adorable dog videos. 

My favourite vloggers are superwoman and JacksGap. I do watch the occasional MentalFloss videos too. Apart from that, I watch book haul and book review videos, travel stories and a lot of comedy or commentaries about life in India. (AIB, East India Company, Being Indian, Enna Da Rascalas, Put Chutney are some of my favourites.)

That probably describes my likes in a nutshell. πŸ˜›
What about you all? What are your favourite YouTube channels/YouTubers?
P. S. This was written for the Week 3 of Teens Tell Their Story project conducted by Sherina and Caitlin

They have totally awesomesauce blogs! It will be great if you could check it out. πŸ™‚
~SunSandStarsAndDreams

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Happy birthday JKR!

An introverted 12-year old girl stared wide-eyed, as a young green-eyed wizard with a lightning bolt scar on his forehead waltzed into her life and changed it forever.

She was delighted to know that she was born on the day that the first book was published, he very same year too. She felt that she had some kind of magical connection to the world of magic, which later became a worldwide phenomenon.

Six years down the lane, she believes that it was the best thing that could have ever happened to her.
This is a fangirl’s tribute to the woman who changed her life, through the books she had written.
Yes. I am talking about Harry Potter.
Harry Potter was the one book that helped me continue my romance with reading novels and responsible for making me read more.
But, most of all, it was the magical world where I could escape into. The one place I felt happy. I believed that the characters were my friends, that I was best friends with Hermione, the character I could identify the most with. I have the same bushy hair, obsession with books, and the need to do something good in the world. Twelve years old me was also a loner, studious, very concerned about school, and had a lot of insecurities.
I went on adventures with the Trio, cheered for the Gryffindor Quidditch team, cried when Sirius Black, Fred Weasley, Remus Lupin and Tonks died, and felt happy for the survivors, although that happiness was tinged with a bit of sorrow.
It was the one fandom, whose fan fictions were devoured voraciously by me, perhaps, to make up for the lack of more books. I started writing for the public, by writing fan fictions, when I was around 13.
Harry Potter taught me to believe in myself.
It taught me that it is okay to be different.
It taught me that bookworms rule the world.
It taught me that happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one just remembers to turn on the lights.
It taught me that a person’s character can be judged not by how he treats his equals, but by how he treats his inferiors.
It taught me that there is a bit of light and dark in each and everyone of us, but it is the side that we choose to act on. That makes us who we are.
Before I die, I hope I could tell JKR how much of a role her books played in shaping my childhood.
Thank you, J. K. Rowling, for creating a magical childhood for an entire generation, and for the generations to come.
Happy birthday, Queen of our hearts, and the boy wizard who stole our hearts! πŸ™‚
P.S. If any Indian fan is reading this post, here’s something you might like. πŸ˜›

Places to visit to satisfy my wanderlust.

This is my finals week, but I was pretty bored. Summer is coming up soon, but unfortunately for me, this summer will not involve any vacation trips to places.
I might be an introverted bookworm, but I’m a travel enthusiast. But, my dad has never been one, so the number of places that I’ve travelled to in the past is pretty limited.
I would love to go on a World Tour or at least get a job which involves a lot of traveling and/or postings in different countries.
These are the top few places that I would love to visit.

In India:
1. Ooty and/or Nilgiris
Hill-station. Cool place. The perfect getaway from this hot and humid place that I’m in. Also, an extremely pretty place.

2. Pondicherry
It is a 5-hours long drive from the place I live. One of my summer goals is to learn driving and once I do that, this is one place that I’ll definitely go.
It’s an old French colony, and it has all the quaintness and old-timey feel to it. Auroville is a colony of dreamers, artists and spiritualists and is definitely a must-visit. (This is also the only place in this list that I’ve actually been to.)

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3. Goa
Open-minded, fun-loving people, great music, long stretches of beaches and the drinks. Need I say more?

4. New Delhi and Agra
The capital city. Also, I’ve always wanted to see the Taj Mahal.

5. Jaipur
Those mysterious, hauntingly beautiful palaces, who can resist going there, even though the heat is overpowering.

6. Andaman and Nicobar Isles
Scenic beaches, private islands, pretty place.

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7. The North-East
Picturesque mountains, unexplored land, great tea have a nice feel to it.

8. Jammu and Kashmir
Heaven on Earth. Need I say more?

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Now, for the international ones:

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Disclaimer: I don’t own any of the images used. They’ve all been sourced from Flickr and Google Images.
Obviously, that doesn’t include the last one. Yep. That’s my handwriting. πŸ˜›

Music and memories.

I don’t really consider myself to be a talented singer. In fact, I am tone-deaf and cannot distinguish good music from bad.
But, if there is something I love, it is singing. I love singing out of tune, at the top of my voice. It gives me a kind of freedom, a kind of happiness and puts me at peace.
There are certain songs that fill me with some kind of deep emotion and trigger memories of a distant happier past.
I was brought up in a South Indian household, where though technically both my parents’ mother tongue is Malayalam, my father is the only one who spent his early childhood years in Kerala and knows Malayalam well.
My mother is more familiar with Tamil.

(Malayalam is a language spoken in the South of India predominantly in a state called Kerala, whereas Tamil is also a South Indian language, but spoken mainly in a state called Tamil Nadu.)

There is this song which goes like, “Paattu paadi urakaam njan” in Malayalam, which roughly translates to “I’ll sing a song to put you to sleep” It is a lullaby for all practical purposes. If my father had a theme song, it would be that.
It brings back memories of my Dad trying to put a 2-year-old me to sleep, carrying me around the house and the patio and waiting in front of the AC still carrying me in his arms to cool me down on blisteringly hot summer nights in the desert, tenderly stroking my hair and softly singing this song.

My mother’s theme song would be “Kannai kalai maanai” a Tamil song, which roughly translates to,”My dear, my spotted deer”. A rather old one and melodious too. I remember her singing it to me in hot afternoons while I refused to nap. I’ve vivid memories of her pulling dark curtains across the window in her room, where they let a 3-year-old me be for afternoon naps, darkening the room even in the hot summer Sun, and then snuggling next to me, pulling me close and singing this song in her sweet melodious voice, the only one of us in our family who’s not tone-deaf.

Yesterday night, while I was randomly looking through my father’s collection of old audio cassettes, I found one labelled rather simply as “Lullabies”.
Curious, I kept it aside and continued perusing.
At night, before going to sleep, I inserted the lullaby cassette into an old tape recorder that I found, hoping to go to sleep peacefully, because for once, I was not overdue on any project and I had a 5-day mini-vacation too. (Which unfortunately ends today. College tomorrow. Again. No. -_-)
Instead, the exact opposite happened. The first song that played was what I considered as my father’s theme. By the end of it, I was a sobbing, weeping mess.
Then, it played my mother’s song. I turned it off ’cause I couldn’t bear to hear it any longer.
I cried into my pillow deep into the night. Why? I don’t really know. It is probably because of the memories attached to it. Memories of happier days. When all was fine in the world and when my parents used to love me and each other and actually sing me to sleep.
Songs, they have the power to invoke things, strong emotions hidden deep inside our wrinkled hearts. It was a kind of yearning, of longing, to go back. Back to Happiness. Away from these dark days.
Music in itself is powerful, but when it is coupled with memories, it becomes stronger, swinging either ways.
I don’t really know why I was affected so deeply by it, but it is probably because I miss it. I miss it all. The familiarity, the happiness, the completeness.
We were once such a happy family. Then suddenly, I have no idea what happened. It has been ages since I heard my mother sing, in that beautiful angelic voice of her’s. And my father too. It has been ages since I saw him happy. It has been far too long. Far too hard.
A whole new place, a whole new life. Uncharted territory for me.
It has been frightening to say the least.
And when something stirs into it and reminds me of the had-been, it ends up in a breakdown. It has been far too long. I have tried to be strong, to put on a happy face and pretend to be brave. But, now, I don’t know. It is frightening.

What songs stir up strong memories in you? Do share your stories in the comments box below! I’d love to hear about it.

~SunSandStarsAndDreams

FAAQ: Frequently Asked Annoying Questions

1. Since you are an only child, are your parents so submissive and cater to all your whims? (Everyone)
No. They don’t. Full stop.

2. Why did you not go for medicine/engineering? (Relatives and nearly every Indian friend of my parents)
Self explanatory. Considering the Indian obsession with these fields.

3. Why did you take science at school if you wanted to major in something totally different? (Nearly everyone.)
Well, I’m tired of explaining that I opted for science because of a few personal reasons.

4. Do you have a boyfriend or smoke or drink alcohol? I heard all NRI teens do! *conspiratorially* (Desi Aunties again)
My relationship status is not your concern. Besides I abhor smoking. Also, you don’t get alcohol in the place I live.

5. Why are you wearing a bangle in your ear and a skirt you bought when you were five? (Those desi aunties)
I wear a large hoop earring, because it frames my face and makes it look more pleasant.
Also, I bought that skirt (which is like 5 or maximum 6 inches above my knee) sometime in the past two years. But, why should my dressing sense bother you?

6. Why are you friends with ‘that’ group?
You’ve no idea how much they supported me.

7. So, you live in the Middle East, where in Dubai is it?
I’ve told most people more than once the proper geographical location of the GCC countries and still I get this.

8. So, you’re from South India. Are you a madrasi?
Please, please, do get your facts right.

9. Where in South India are you from?
Because this leads to two options:
One, I answer Chennai, and the next statement is, “You don’t look Tamil at all!”
So, you’re telling me that to look Tamil, I have to wear a big bindi, lots of glass bangles, bunches of jasmine in my hair, a silk skirt or saree and apply turmeric powder on my face and arms.
NO. Please hear my Tamil and then judge. Thank you.
Two, I answer Kerala and then the next statement is, “But, you don’t know Malayalam!” Of course I know Malayalam.
So, this is the thing, both my parents were from Kerala originally, but my paternal grandparents settled down in Ooty and my father did his schooling there. And my maternal grandfather had a central government job and they travelled around India, before finally settling down in Chennai. (Disadvantage of having a grandparent/parent in the Army or with a Central Government job.)
So, I consider Chennai my hometown, although I’m kind of like from everywhere in South India.

10. What language are you speaking, Tamil or Malayalam? (By those Malayali friends of mine)
I do know to speak both Tamil and Malayalam properly and without much of an accent. (Because, refer to previous point. ) But, if you are a Malayalj, I’m obviously speaking to you in Malayalam. Thank you very much.

The story of a girl with a different (weird) name.

What is in a name, you may ask. My answer to that is, “Everything”.
My name is Gayatri, and it is pronounced as, Gaaa-ya-three. That in itself, condemned me to a life where nearly no one could pronounce my name right.

When I was born, my father held a consultation with my mother and his family on what to name me.
His family was of the opinion that I was to be named Karthiyayini after his mother (my paternal grandmother) since I was the eldest girl child in their family.
But, my father wanted to name me either Shalini (a name with the same first letter as my mum’s name) or Gayatri (a name with the same first letter as my dad’s name).
So, at the end, I was named Karthiyayini in the naming ceremony held in the temple, but, my name was given as Gayatri in all the official documents, including my passport.

And I’ve hated it since then.
From the time my maternal uncle made fun of it, saying it sounded like three cows. (Gaay = Cow in Hindi)
And the time in primary school, when my teacher couldn’t pronounce so Indian a name and called me Gay-tree. (#NRIProblems)
To the time in Year Seven, when my friends made fun of the shortened version of my name, Gayu, saying it sounded like ” Gay you.”

If there was anything I was insecure about, it was my name.
It always ended in someone teasing me about it and me crying at home, although I was too proud to cry in front of them and give them that satisfaction. (I still never cry in front of anyone, how much ever they hurt me. It’s always at night, in the darkness.)
Although my parents tried consoling me, by telling me that my name is beautiful, because it was the name of an Indian princess and also that of a mother goddess who protects the Universe. Also, the word in Sanskrit meant a ‘hymn’ or ‘prayer’ and one of the most powerful chants (prayers) in Hinduism is called the Gayatri Mantra.
Yet, none of this had any effect on me, scarred as I was, from all that intentional and unintentional teasing I’d garnered over my name.
But, now, I’ve learnt to live with it, even if I don’t like it excessively, I tolerate it.
Although, even now, if someone mispronounces it, I cut them off with a firm, “It is pronounced as GAAA- YA- THREE.”

P. S. Yes! I’m back! For now. Four of my five major exams are done, with the last one on April 11th. Once that’s done too, I’ll be done with school! Like totally.

Sherlock Season 3, for the uninitiated. a.k.a. Annoying Spoilers (The Fandom Chronicles, Part #1)

No! No! Before you avert your eyes and skip to the next post, because you haven’t watched the first episode of Sherlock Season 3, I assure you that this post contains no spoilers.
Mostly because I haven’t watched it myself.

So, it didn’t air in the place I live and I don’t think it’s there online yet. So I haven’t watched it. Also because I was caught up with exams and stuff for senior year and I thought of reducing time I spend watching TV and reading novels.
But, now I am forced to avoid all social media, and my phone as well, for fear of Sherlock spoilers.
In fact, I logged out of Facebook and didn’t log in for a record THREE days (and counting!)
Because if there is one thing that I hate the most (apart from Dentists and Chemistry, obviously), it is a spoiler!

If I thought all my spoiler-o-phobia will reach a fever pitch, only if I log into social media, I was sorely mistaken.
I was reading the newspaper as usual, when I came across an article about Sherlock. I loved finding news about my fandoms in the local newspaper.
I continued reading, thinking nothing much would be given away, since it was the local paper and it hadn’t aired here till now.
But, I reached the part where it went,”The plot revolves…..”
Eeeeeeeaaaaaaaccccchhhhhhhhh!!!!!!! SPOILERS!
I flung the paper as far as it could go.
I mean, couldn’t they have at least marked the article with a ‘spoiler alert’ or something.
Well, I guess it was my fault too, because I shouldn’t have read it, knowing it was bound to contain sensitive information.
Yet again, my insatiable curiously played the spoiler.

2013

And so 2013 comes to a close as well.
This year hasn’t been one of the best for me, as those who’ve read my past posts would have known. I hope it wasn’t bad for you guys though.
The new year has the potential to be either the best or the worst year of my life. It all comes down to that one thing, fate or destiny.
Well, what has to happen, will happen, and instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, it is best to live in the present.
That’s what I plan to do from now on.
I guess I can call it a New Year Resolution. Although I don’t really take resolutions in a new year. Because if you want to change something about yourself, you’ve got to do it NOW and not wait till the year ends.

So, instead of thinking about unhappy things, it is better to count my blessings.

Some of the best things that happened to me in 2013:
1. My best friends: Gosh! You guys are amazing! I don’t know what I’d do without you all. You taught me what it means to live, to laugh, to enjoy and also to be serious at times. I swear I’ll miss you terribly when we part in April/May (after graduation), but I hope we keep in touch till we are ninety. πŸ˜›

2. My class and the teachers: I feel really blessed to have studied in such a wonderful class. The students and the teachers were absolutely brilliant.
Especially, that one teacher. Yes, I know that you hated me and that the feeling was mutual. Then, I don’t know what changed after the second term. I think you stopped hating me and that’s when I saw you for what you really are. That’s this amazing, bold, smart and brave woman, who is not afraid to stand up for anything. I admire you, a lot, and I think I’ll actually miss you, ma’am. It’s just that I’m still a bit too scared to tell you that.

3. Two trips which changed my perception of the whole world;
a. The field trip sponsored by the school.
b. An inter-school quiz held in another city and the subsequent road trip to and from the location with my teammates.
The quiz was held by the rival school who took out their on us, just because we had defeated them in a previous quiz. They asked obvious questions to their team and obscure ones to us, just so that we could be eliminated from the competition.
But, even if the quiz was bad, that trip taught me a lot. How we could overcome obstacles, and how a team supports each other.

4. The RCS essay competition:
For giving me a silver award and boosting my confidence.

5. This blog:
Even though I haven’t been very active, I have to say that I love you all (in the most innocent, platonic way ever). Because it gave me the confidence to be myself and believe in myself.

Things 2013 taught me
1. If you think you are good at something, there is always someone better than you.
2. Even if you are the best, someone else might end up winning, just because they had influence or support.
3. Be yourself. No matter what anyone else says, there is no one better than yourself.

On another note, this blog hit a 100 followers and 200 likes! And I’m very happy about it! πŸ˜€

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Anyway, I’d like to wish you all a hearty Season’s Greetings and hope that the new year blooms bright, fresh, happy and prosperous.
And with that, you can all go back to whatever you were doing or get ready to celebrate New Years’ Eve, while I go back to my books. (Not to start a pity party, but I just realised that I’ve never been to a party, a proper kind, not the functions where you tag along with your parents. But, I haven’t been to a wedding or a funeral either. So I’m not one to talk.)

The adventure of going shopping.

So, the last weekend, I went grocery shopping with my mother.
It wasn’t something I liked to do, since my mother has a tendency to spend too long at boring places.
Yet, I decided I’ll accompany her, especially since my father was too busy, and my mother wanted to go to an Indian shop, which was quite a few kilometres away from my house.
Then came the first obstacle. My father’s usual driver was on leave, so the spare driver from my father’s office, who was new to the city was to drive the car.
He didn’t know where he was going, yet he kept on driving to God-knows where, and after an hour-long trip around the city and a disastrous attempt to ask the way, we called my dad who promptly replied that he had no idea where the shop even was.
Finally, we called up the usual driver, who was on leave, and he directed us to our desired location.

If I thought that the trials of the day were over, I was hopelessly mistaken.
On entering the shop, I noticed that it was fully packed with other Indians, also out for shopping on a weekend. I told my mum that I’ll wait near the counter while she finished her shopping.
But, my mum told me firmly, that I was going to help her out with the shopping, and I agreed quickly and kept walking right into the heart of the crowd, swallowing my crowd-o-phobia.
No! I did not do that just to please my mum. It was because I had spotted someone whom I’d wanted to avoid, my math teacher, especially after my lousy math marks in the last test.
We came across a fairly deserted aisle, which contained shampoos and soaps and other such things.
While my mum was browsing through the varieties of shampoos, and I was staring into space, I noticed someone appearing at the other end of the aisle.
It was the very person I wanted to avoid.
“I’ll be back in a few seconds”, I told my mum.
“Stay right here”, she said.
“We’ll go.”
“I still have lots of things more to take.”
“We’ll go to the next aisle and that we’ll come back to this aisle a few seconds later.”
My mum just stared at me curiously.
By then, my teacher was getting more closer, but she didn’t seem to have spotted me yet.
It was then, that I was struck with a bright idea, which on retrospection, now seems like a rather idiotic one.
I whipped out my dupatta (scarf) from around my neck and tied it around my head and over my face like a Muslim niqab (face veil). I presumed that, with it being the Middle East, I wouldn’t stand out much. I stood there, pretending to closely examine a bar of soap and hoped my teacher would walk safely past me.
That’s exactly what didn’t happen.
My teacher noticed my mother instead. They didn’t know each other, but I had underestimated the limits two Indian women of around the same age could go up to.
My teacher approached my mother and said,”Excuse me, but you look rather familiar. Have we met before?”
“No. I don’t think so.”, my mother paused, and then asked,”Are you by any chance from Tamil Nadu?”
“Yes. I am.”
“Did you live in Chennai?
“Oh no. I’ve never been to Chennai. But, I realised why you look familiar. You look a bit like a girl in my class.”
Damn! I’d forgotten how alike my mum and I looked.
I was almost a carbon copy of my mum, except that I had a chubbier, rounder face. And that my mum was far more pretty, with her high cheekbones and all.
“Are you a teacher?”, asked my mum.
“Yes. In the Indian school. What do you do?”
“I’m an economist. What subject do you teach?”
“Math. In the 12th grade.”
Holy fudge. This just wasn’t happening!
“Really? My daughter is in the 12th grade math class. I think you might know her. She was here now. Where did she-“, my mum trailed off, on account of spotting me.
“Anu! Why are you wear-”
I interrupted her, by saying, “Amma, allergy, you know right”, hoping she’ll take the hint.
But, she didn’t.
“Allergy? What allergy?”, she asked oblivious to my frantic eye-signalling.
At that exact time, the scarf unravelled and fell off my face, on account of me being a novice in the art of veil-wearing.
“Anu! Just as I thought. You look like your mother, you know.”, exclaimed my teacher.
And there ensued a rather lengthy discussion between my mother and teacher which ended with them exchanging phone numbers and inviting each other to their respective houses.
So, one more reason added to the rather lengthy list of why I dislike going shopping.

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