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Sun, Sand, Stars and Dreams

The chronicles of a misfit Indian teen

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School

School, exams and other (in)significant things

So I thought of writing this today considering that the CBSE Class 12 exam results were out yesterday. Class 12 exams are the school leaving exams and altogether considered a big deal in India.

It is considered so much of a huge thing that relatives, Uncles and Aunties you never knew existed will dutifully phone you up on the result day to ask your exams and then pass some remark like, oh, XYZ got more. Even that uncle who usually ignores you on the street, the maid servant, and the flower seller lady, turn out to be terribly curious about it.

Honestly, it is a terrible time for the kids in question. Two years back, in 2014, when I was the one facing the same line of invasive questioning, it went to, ah, not bad marks, but you could have definitely scored better. I didn’t really care about it, because one, Indians are usually not prone to giving out praises easily, and two, I was on cloud nine. I had done really well, as far as I was concerned, scoring an overall percentage in the 90s.

All that happiness was literally sucked out of me, when my college application got stuck in a mound of Indian red tape, and only high-level recommendation could make it move any further. Especially considering I had planned on only writing the law entrance and getting into a law college (which again didn’t work out, as it was not fated for me) and had not given much thought in applying to Commerce/Business colleges.

That incident caused me a great deal of disillusionment, especially at that point where I realised that all those marks and merit had been for nothing.

And yet, Indian students practically live in fear of the dreaded Class 12 Board exams. That last one year of school is reduced to a haze of school, tuitions, extra coaching classes, classes for cracking various college entrance exams, and so on and so forth. The poor student is left with barely enough time to breathe, which eventually leads to a burnout. It is an extremely competitive rat race, because what is in line is not the student’s career prospects, rather a sort of status symbol for the parents.

I can still hear my aunt yelling at my cousin for not studying enough in his crucial school year, which thankfully ended now. This, considering that the poor kid woke up at 5am each day for tuitions before school, then school, and then tuitions again till 6pm, and also went for entrance exam coaching class during the weekends from 9am to 5pm.

I must confess I felt rather guilty about it, because his mother did all that so that he could get at least a percent more than I did. Because how much ever you ignore it, the Indian obsession with the what-will-others-think syndrome is very much there. The very same thing that makes parents push their children towards professions like engineering or medicine whether or not the children want to.

When I hear all these anecdotes, I cannot help but think back to my last year of school. It was one of the best years of my life. I had an amazing set of friends, I participated in a good many events and programmes, I went on day trips to many places across the city considering that it was also my last year there. I never went for any sort of tuitions or extra classes, nor did my school keep any. I went to school from 7am to 1pm, came home and relaxed. I watched a lot of movies, read a good many books, and so on. Honestly, I got around to actually studying for these exams when there was just about two weeks left. Yet, I passed, and scored as much as the one who forewent all of the above mentioned fun activities.

Maybe it was because I lived in the Middle East, away from all the pressures of India, although I did study in an Indian CBSE school and write the same exams as the ones in India.

But, I think it was more because of my parents. I may not get along well with my father, but I have much to be grateful for. They did not seem to bother much about me studying 24/7. They were more easy-going. They want me to succeed in my life, but they don’t believe that grades alone script a success story. And they do support me even now, after I decided to pursue an undergraduate degree in business, despite studying science in school. I know quite a number of friends, who pursued engineering because everyone else was, and they are miserable. I might be miserable in a way, but I do not regret not pursuing engineering.

But, what I wished to say in this post was this. You do you the best. Marks and grades do not really matter in the long run. Only passion and faith does. Good luck! 🙂

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.

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. 😛

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! 😀

20131231-010647 pm.jpg

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.)

Mid-yearly exams, academics, and other disappointments.

I’m back! Yay! So, I was able to keep up my promise.
To all those amazing people who followed my blog and commented on the posts, even during my long absence, you are all totally AWESOME! I promise I’ll reply back to your comments really soon.
Anyway, I’m back for the month of December at least.
November wasn’t a really good month for me.
Most of the month was spent in the mid-yearly exams.
Then came the part where I got the grades (or rather marks) of those exams.
My chemistry paper was a total disaster and I am happy to say that I actually passed. Although barely. If I’d got 10 marks less, I would have failed. That’s something I really couldn’t wrap my head around.
I had been this over-achieving, straight-A, perfect student. I could even remember the time I fought with my English teacher to give me half a mark more, so I would get above 95 in all subjects. That was in Year 10.
But, this year, the year where I have to attempt the most important exam in the life of an Indian school girl, the class XII boards, everything seems to be the opposite. I barely passed chemistry, got in late 70s in physics and didn’t cross 90% in either math or English, two of my favourite subjects.
We-ell, my marks in Home Ed were quite good, but my overall percentage is quite less.
But the sciences were blergh. Luckily, if all goes well, I’ll only have to suffer the sciences for another four months maximum.

My class teacher seemed quite disappointed in me. She told me that I could have done better, if not for my laziness and carelessness.
Although my parents didn’t exactly say anything till now, they are disappointed in me. I know that they think I’m a sort of failure in many ways, the only thing I had a bit was academics and now even that seems to have forsaken me.

Tomorrow is the day where I will have to go to school with my parents and they will confer with the teachers and my answer sheets along with my progress report will be given to them.
I really hope I have the emotional strength to withstand the day.

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.

My first guest post!

So, the awesomesauce folks out there at Teenage Bloggers’ Central decided to publish a series of posts written by five students in their last year of school. Every one of the five is from a different place, and the series of posts are aimed at documenting the gruelling experience of secondary school, from each place.

I’m happy to say that I was one of the five.
The first introductory post was published here yesterday.
My piece is the second one.

So, please take a look at it, and tell me what you think and also what we could do to improve it. 🙂

Thanks,
Anu.

The mists of mystery

The classmate:
I glanced up at the girl who had just sauntered in like she owned the place. She walked straight towards the second-last row, and occupied the corner-most place, adjacent to the wall of the class room. She opened a textbook and concentrated on it. She never spoke much to anyone. She was one of the two daughters of a rich politician and a renowned artist. She thought she was too high-and-mighty to even talk to us, lowly creatures. The freak.
I glanced at her with barely concealed disgust. She managed to project out an expensive and sophisticated air, even in the school uniform, with her expensive Armani jacket even in the summer, Cartier watch, diamond-studded platinum earrings, shoes from Lanvin and a bag from Hermes.
She might have as well had a board with flashing neon lights on her forehead proclaiming, “I’m filthy rich!”
I hated her and I think most of my classmates did. It wasn’t because of what she said or did, it was because of what she didn’t say or do or maybe because most people were envious of her.

The teacher:
I couldn’t help glancing at the girl in the corner, who was completely engrossed in her textbook, even though I’d given the class a free hour. Most of the students were chattering excitedly about the program held at school the previous day, but I’d noticed that she was absent for it.
I couldn’t help but think about her. I had never seen her speaking to anyone, or anyone speaking to her. It was like she didn’t exist for most of them.
Even many of my colleagues thought her to be a stuck-up rich snob, but I wasn’t convinced. I was sure that there was more to her than what met the eye.

HER:
I groaned. Yet another day. These days I dreaded waking up. I hoped that one of these days, I would just not wake up, but I don’t think that it is possible.
I hate my school, my class, the teachers, my family, my life. Everything.
I find no point in living, because it is just the same boring existence everyday.
When do my parents even have time for me? My father is busy with elections, party, office, controlling the country, yada yada, that I think that last time he spoke to me was almost a month back.
My mother is holed-up in her studio most of the time.
My elder sister is addicted to drugs and sex, but my parents think that she is the perfect daughter and I’m just the unwanted tag-along. I snorted.
I don’t have a nice family. Fine. How about friends? Friends, you say? I forgot what that word even was.
All those classmates spoke to me only if they needed something done because of my father’s connections, and if they realised that it wouldn’t work out, they forgot me again.
I don’t even remember the last time I smiled, let alone laughed.
Oh don’t worry, it’s the same thing every time.
In fact it happens every time that it’s almost boring.
Tenderly, I pushed up the sleeve of my Armani jacket, which I hated, yet wore it even in the summer, only to hide the years of scarring. I brought my arm up and held the cool metal surface of the blade against the skin. I closed my eyes, and slashed.

This post was written for The Weekly Writing Challenge

Good or bad: There is no definite boundary!

Just this last Thursday, I had a sort of sudden revelation or an epiphany of sorts.
It was just this.
We cannot classify everyone as either totally good or totally bad. Or, as Sirius Black put it, “We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we chose to act on. That’s who we truly are.” ( Yay! A Harry Potter reference!)

So, on Wednesday, I was feeling down. We had a programme-like thing at school, sometime way towards the end of October.
And I wanted to audition for the speeches. But, the teacher-in-charge of it, just told me that I wasn’t presentable enough to appear in front of the audience and also that I apparently had too soft a voice and told me that I was to be assigned to some backstage duties.

I was fuming. How could she just tell me off like that! I mean, she never heard me speak in front of an audience. Then how could she know whether I was good or bad at it?
About presentable, did she mean that I wasn’t good-looking? Fine, I have really unmanageably bushy hair and a chubby face. So what? What mattered more, talent for public speaking or just looking pretty but being afraid of the audience?
I know that I can speak quite adequately in front an audience. I don’t get nervous and fidgety.
And about my voice. Normally, I have a soft voice. (Unless I yell) I know that and I can’t change it and I don’t want to change it either. I even remember that once, my French teacher in Year 10, had told me that my voice was so sweet that she wouldn’t get bored of listening to it, even if I was talking nonsense for ages. But, that might have also been because she was so absolutely sweet.

But, what hurt me most was that the teacher who actually told me all this, was someone I actually thought was nice, good, someone I thought I respected and liked.

Then, the next day, a Thursday was yet another day of surprises.
There was this another teacher, who was generally thought to be weird, moody and irritable. Since it was the last class before the weekend, she said that she wasn’t going to teach because she felt tired.
Hesitantly, I asked her that I didn’t get a few questions in calculus and asked her if she could please explain it to me.
And she actually explained quite a few questions in calculus and cleared my doubts and even explained some more extra questions.
And the even more strange part was that, when I thanked her for actually explaining it so well to me, she smiled so widely and told me that I was quite smart and also to not let anyone else lower my self-confidence.
Note that this was one teacher who was almost always bitter, and someone who was disliked by many.
I still don’t know what to think about those two episodes.
But, whatever it was, the second one made my day! :’)

Edit: This post was supposed to be published around two days back. But, due to my lack of knowledge about the new WordPress app for iOS 7, I muddled it up and it got published as a password-protected file.
And I didn’t know how to change it.
So, I deleted that post and reposted it again today. 🙂

September.

Reasons I love September:

#1 Holidays, holidays and holidays:
I’m not kidding, in the first week, I got a three-day weekend, and then the next week, a four-day weekend, and now another four-day weekend.

#2 Festivals and celebrations:
The first week, we got to celebrate Teacher’s day at school. And then, it was Onam, a South Indian festival. This week, it is the National Day of the country where I live.

#3 School after a loooong summer vacation:
Nope, before you all start getting ideas, I’m not a school-obsessed nerd. I’m a nerd alright. But, not exactly obsessed with school. Oh well, whatever.
It was just that my vacation was like the worst thing ever. Having to stay almost one-and-a-half-months with relatives who dislike you (Yes! The feeling is mutual.) is beyond annoying.
So, I was rather happy when school reopened, because that meant being back with my awesomesauce friends and reverting back to my old, cheerful self again. (Instead of that depressed, anti-social creature that I turn into, when I’m around my relatives in India.)

#4 Winning an international writing competition:
Yes! I did. Not the first prize or anything, but I got featured on the Silver list. I’m rather proud of that, especially since it was one of the oldest writing competitions, held by The Royal Commonwealth Society, London in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, and it was my first attempt at sending some of my writing to a contest which expected such high standards.

#5 My mother’s birthday:
It was my mum’s 34th birthday (she’ll be happy that I made her 20 years younger! :P) on the 18th. That meant that I had a large chocolate cake, from one of the best bakeries in the city, all for myself. Well, excluding that little part which in had to give me friends and my mum herself. My dad is diabetic and hates chocolate, so I got to stuff my face with excess chocolate, which was just blissful heaven for a chocoholic like me.

So, that was why I ought to have loved September.
But, this was one of the worst months. Ever.
My relationship with my parents is on an all-time low. All we ever seem to do in the house is fight.
My dream of my future seems to be drifting further and further away.
My grades are not as good as I hoped.
I have lost all interest in anything related to my coursework and all I ever do, is read novels.
My best friend is depressed and I have no idea how to get her out of it and I seem to be sinking into depression myself.

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