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Sun, Sand, Stars and Dreams

The chronicles of a misfit Indian teen

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Social Issues

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! 🙂

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Money matters

Hello there!

I am back after a terrible attack of writer’s block, coupled with finals and just some general health problems. Nothing major, but quite tiresome indeed.

At the place I live, summer has started. This year has turned out to be especially hot and humid.

With summer comes the rush for finding summer jobs and/or internships. However, with India being a bit too obsessed with nepotism and what sort of influence/recommendation you can bring with you, finding summer jobs are not exactly a walk in the park.

But, by constantly pestering them and creating a general nuisance of myself, I managed to get an internship with a reputed NGO working for child rights. I loved the job at first, thinking that I am creating a change in the lives of underprivileged children et al. But, a week into the job, I was asked to do rather tedious work, which totally did not reap any sort of benefit: either to the children or to myself. Besides, it was unpaid. So, I quit the job.

Call me a spoilt brat, but the main reason I wanted to do a summer job or work part-time was because I do not want to be dependent on my parents’ money. I might stand to inherit it, but it is always my parents’ fortune.

I guess that this part might sound a bit confusing to almost everyone other than Indians or other South Asians. But, Indian parents do believe that it is their responsibility to bring up their children, educate them, and incur all the expenses related to their children’s education, living, and even marriage. That essentially means that most Indian kids grow up with their parents willing to pay for all their expenses well into their twenties.

As a matter of fact, I have met a certain ex-neighbour of mine, whose father paid for his medical degree, and then a Master’s degree in medicine. Then, he expected his father to buy him a brand new luxury sedan because that was expected of his in his new status as a doctor.

Well, you might think that I am exaggerating, but it is one hundred percent true.

But, that is not what I wish to do.

My parents are always there for me, as they keep assuring me. But, there is some independent streak in me, which makes me want to earn and use that money for my further needs.

Yes, I am in an undergraduate business school and my parents are paying for it. But, what I wish to pursue after this is not something that my parents totally approve. So, maybe it is just a whim, but I want to work and fund my further education. I guess it is just that when you expect your parents to do everything and pay for it all, you can’t really fault them about not letting you do what you wished to.

Up next:  A lack of choices in India when it comes to education, career or any sort of life decision.

Is it the same in your part of the world? Do you believe that parents should be responsible for their children till they are way into their 20s?

Alive and kicking

Hello world!

*peeps out from under the rock she has been hiding under*

It is nearly mid-March, but I haven’t put up a proper post yet.
Why? You might wonder. It is not because I was bored of it. Far from it, I was frightened of boring you all to death.

It has become a routine now. I have some really bad things happening in life, I disappear off the blogosphere, and come back a few days later, while telling how bad things were.

A while later, something worse happens, and then I believe it is the end of the world.

This has turned into a well-worn old cassette/record.

I came back out to write this post, for the main reason that this time is different.

I am currently going through one of the worst phases in my life, as of now. My world has turned topsy-turvy. Things I never thought will happen to me, took place. My dad fell really sick, I got into deep trouble in college just because I had an independent individualistic streak in me. I don’t want to elaborate because I really don’t want to dwell on it.

It has come to a point where the things going on in my life seem a bit too much for me. A sort of only rainclouds, no sunshine phase.

Last time something of a slightly lesser intensity came to pass, I fell back into severe depression. Sort of like those dark days.

But, this time, I have stayed strong till now. There has been a feeling of helplessness, hopelessness, because this time, the issues weighing on my mind are far worse.

I can’t say it is back to normal now. But, this too shall pass. I am still continuing to stay strong, and continuing with life.

~SunSandStarsAndDreams

 

P.S. I apologise if this post did not make much sense. Also, for the countless spelling and grammatical errors.

Is freedom just an illusion?

From the time I entered my junior year of high school, or Year 11, I used to think that college will entail more freedom. I used to dream about all the things I might be able to do, not wear an uniform, get to go for classes of a more relaxed nature, so on and so forth.
However, I joined college in a place that I never dreamed of, and naturally found faults with everything. It is an all-girls college. There were a certain amount of rules, such as a fixed college timing and having to attend all classes. The inability to just leave whenever we felt like. And the rule about clothes: nothing shorter than ankle-length to be worn.

I felt that it was the end of the world and just couldn’t wait for the three years to end so that I could get away from that place to something better.
That was definitely not what I imagined college to be.

However, an issue which has cropped up recently in the city I live in, has got me thinking.
Students of a certain engineering college in Chennai have gone on a protest against the barbaric rules and regulations enforced by the management.

For those who do not know what I am talking about, check this and this out.

Some of those rules are absolute shockers, and will make people wonder, “Is it even a college? Even prison is way better!”

ToDoListCollege

Not only is that list of rules which went viral, extremely sexist, it defeats the entire purpose of college. A few friends in that college told me that not only were there such bizarre rules for girls, there were rules like that for boys as well. For instance, they are not allowed to wear anything other than formals all day, every day, but they are also not allowed to wear branded formals which has the logo displayed on it. Also, the colour black is prohibited on their campus on certain days, because it is a holy colour for them. There have been reports of girl students being verbally and sexually harassed by the so-called guardians of discipline.
Plus, it being an engineering college, with future techies studying there, the ban on all forms of technology seems ridiculous.
The funniest one I have heard till date, a student was fined for “touching the ducks in the pond”.

What is the point of studying in a co-education college if you are not allowed to interact with the opposite sex?

Colleges like these made me believe that my college is way, way better. However, it makes you doubt the entire system. It makes us doubt the point of it all.

Students are protesting, however, the trend will stop only if parents and students collectively shun such colleges. But, the sad fact is that many parents don’t mind sending their children to such colleges, because these colleges guarantee a well-paid job once you graduate. The makes us wonder, when did the rat race for a well-paid job end up in this?
My parents studied in the same country, around 20 to 25 years back. Then, it was different. The rules were not there. Campuses were more liberal and everyone was off exploring their freedom, the feelings of love and heartbreak.
Now, all of those are restricted in a lot of colleges. Students are being denied their basic rights and are treated as something worse than scum.
So, are we actually progressing as the years pass? I think not.
India is a secular, democratic nation, which guarantees respect, freedom and equality for all of its citizens regardless of gender, religion, caste and community.
So, aren’t these students also inclusive of that? Or is freedom just an illusion?

~SunSanStarsAndDreams

So, what do you all think about the issue? What other ridiculous restrictions have you come about in schools/colleges? Do let us know in the comments box below! 🙂

The romance with a disappearing woman.

So, late yesterday night, I was doing what I do best during exams (finals this time). Yes, that;s right, procrastinate. It was a sort of a bad day, I was kind of down. A lot of stuff happened. My best friend is probably falling into a major clinical depression and she has no one around there to talk to. It was a pretty crappy day as a whole.
So, to cheer myself up, I got into my guilty pleasure. Watching/reading light, fluffy and happy romantic comedies. Yes, I can’t believe I admitted that out loud. I put up a facade of reading only serious books, and being a feminist. Of course I am still a feminist, but that doesn’t stop me from being a hopeless romantic on the inside.

Midway through “You’ve got mail”, I wondered about this. Nearly every single watchable rom-coms are Hollywood movies. Why doesn’t India have proper rom-coms or even a good sappy romance which does not a. end tragically or b. have unnecessary drama?

As a matter of fact, I haven’t watched or even heard of one good Indian teen movie. No, I don’t mean those movies set in a college with a hero and unwanted masala scenes.
3 Idiots was as good a college story as was possible in India. And yes, there are others like that.
But, personally, I haven’t watched any movie set in a high school.
Where are the Mean Girls?

On talking about this with a friend, she told me that it might be because high school romances are frowned upon in India.
That made me wonder then, leave alone high school romances, we barely have proper romances in Indian films.
Oh, I don’t count those masala movies with unwanted drama and fight scenes as a happy romance.

Apart from those romances which might have actually progressed well, but ended tragically with either one/both of the protagonist’s death, we don’t have any in Indian cinema as far as I know.
And not those movies where the guy is a creepy stalker, who follows the girl around and irritates her in every possible manner, and magically, she falls in ‘love’ with him. If that isn’t Stockholm Syndrome, I don’t know what is. This is what is fed to us Indians as ‘entertainment’ and then we talk about women’s safety issues in the country.

What I would like to see is a romantic movie, maybe just one, where the lead couple shares a healthy relationship, which does not involve a creepy stalker-like romance or one where the heroine is nothing but eye-candy who changes her whole persona and gives up everything just because she likes the hero. I would like to see an Indian romantic movie that any self-respecting lady or girl can watch without being bogged down by the patriarchal approach.
Call the Tamil movie OK Kanmani cheesy, but it did have a strong woman protagonist. One who isn’t afraid to follow her dreams, or take her own decisions. That in itself is a quantum leap for Indian cinema, heroines who can think for themselves.
I remember reading about this thing called a Bechdel test for movies. That says that in a movie, there ought to be at least one scene where two female characters, preferably named, talk about something other than a man. The sad part was that a bare minimum of Indian movies actually pass this test.
Is that really something to be proud of? I think not.
~SunSandStarsAndDreams

P.S. I have written this post based on my knowledge about South Indian cinema. Honestly, I have no clue about Bengali or Marathi cinema, which are supposedly known for their stories.

What do you all think about this issue? Do we need good romances in Indian cinema? Do you think that this is a problem only in Indian movies or is it equally true in World Cinema as well?

Flaws make you beautiful.

Why is it that the one thing nearly every human being craves for, whether consciously or otherwise, is acceptance? Acceptance from peers, society, family, so on and so forth.
Why are we so afraid to stand apart, for fear of being criticised?
Why are we, other than a select few, afraid to stand up for what we believe is right, or for who we really are?
Maybe it is just the way we are conditioned. To be no more than a clueless individual ourselves, and yet make fun of those who have it figured out, although maybe not in the conventional way, and make them doubt themselves.

I remember being a person that I wasn’t, only so that I will be accepted by my classmates, my relatives. I did not recognise myself at all.
That’s when I thought, fuck it all. I don’t care what others think of me. This is how I am going to be.
After I did that, I managed to get a lot of friends, back in high school. I had a minimum of 100 good friends that I could count upon and at least 500 acquaintances.
However, after college began, I went back to being needy and desperate. I was the new, awkward foreign-kid. I turned into a stranger in a desperate effort to get accepted. I did selfish things, rude things. Yet, I still felt foreign. Honestly, I felt a lot worser. That was not me, the kind who teased the kid with the learning disability and made her feel bad about herself. I was too afraid to speak out against those who did that too, under the fear of being labeled weird and not being accepted as one of them.
In the same time, I started missing having friends from back home, as I started acting distant towards them when they called, the rude act adopted for being accepted still in place.
A semester passed and I was still miserable. I fit in with a random group of classmates, but like a square peg in a round hole.
That was when I decided to drop the act and be myself again.
I knew that I was not perfect, but I was good enough.
I knew that even if I tried to act too cool, I will always be judged for something. If not for the messy, frizzy and curly hair, then for being curvy or for being too lazy to cake my face with makeup.
I know that I am not flawless, but I accept myself for who I really am. I know that although I might not be conventionally pretty, I know that I am a good person, I try to be intellectual. I decided to stand up for what I believed to be right. One day, I finally snapped at those people who made fun of the kid with a learning disability. I started volunteering to teach English to underprivileged kids on the weekends.
I may not be the most popular kid in college. I may not be the first choice for anything in college, whether it is a play or a contest or anything. I may not have a lot of friends in college.

But I do have friends from school. They may be living kilometres away, but they are still there and we are still close.
But, what ever happens, I will not give up my identity. This is who I am, and this is whom I shall always be. Ordinary, perhaps. Pretty, no. But, a dreamer, thinker, ambitious, smart and compassionate, yes.
For those who don’t wish to accept me the way I am, I am sorry but I have nothing to say except that I don’t care.

Sometime last night, as I lay thinking, I came up to a conclusion. To have others accept you, you must accept yourself first. The flaws are what make you beautiful.

Stay magical. Stay happy.
~SunSandStarsAndDreams

Do you agree with my opinion or not? Do feel free to share your thoughts on the subject in the comments box below.

On complicated people.

People. I just cannot understand them. It’s not that I’m an alien, but human beings are so complex.
I love people watching, though. Sitting in a warm, cozy cafe, nursing a cup of hot chocolate and just watching people go by.
Some of them might be in a hurry, others taking their own time.
I love imagining their lives and wondering what their stories might be.
However if there was something that I don’t get is this. The way how certain people are so complicated. Everything is a struggle with them, from liking them to getting along with them.
This topic came about when I was randomly talking with a friend.
In my world, if I like some people, I talk to them or be friendly towards them. If I don’t like them, I’ll just not talk to them. But if they do need any help from me, and I am in a position to help them, I will.
But, a lot of people in my class here, pretend to be friends or pretend to be nice towards you, just because they want something from you. After they do get whatever it is done, they just ignore you. And when you turn towards them for help, not so they just refuse, they pretend that you don’t exist.
I’ve had people here who stop talking to certain people just because they feel that talking to them is below their level. Or what will others think if they see them talking to ‘those’ people? Oh! The tragedy!

Honestly, through all my eighteen years of life, I’ve not been able to unravel and decipher the mystery of people. Hopefully, I might manage to do that later in life, when I’m older and wiser.
Till then,
Peace!

P. S. If anyone of you have it figured out, do let me know in the comments box below!

Conversations with the veteran auto driver.

Disclaimer: None of the views or opinions in this post are mine.

The day before yesterday, my second eldest cousin sister on my maternal side of the family gave birth to a baby boy. As Indian social norms go, we, that is my mother and I went to see the mother and baby yesterday.

But, because our driver had gone incognito and I do not have my license yet, we asked an auto driver to take us to their place. The said auto driver was someone known to my mother’s family since a long time. Maybe even 30 years or more.

A Chennai auto driver is almost what a New York taxi driver is.

So, the conversation my mother had with him went like this,

Mum (M): It has been ages now. How is your family?

Auto driver (AD): They are all good. My children are well settled, and they look after me very well. I rarely go on trips now. Just a few regular customers.

M: Settled? What are they doing now?

AD: My eldest son is working at a small bank, he’s earning well. My second son, ah, he’s really done well in life. He has a job in an IT firm, he earns a lot. Both of my sons are married. The eldest has a son and a daughter and the second son’s wife is pregnant.

M: How about your daughter?

AD: Ah! She’s good too. She has a son now. She quit working after her son was born. I support her decision and I think it is great. I’m telling my daughter-in-law to do the same thing. My son is earning well, why does she need to work now?

Me: Maybe because she likes working? Or that she likes having a great career?

AD: No. See, she can start working once her kid starts going to school. It will be very difficult to take care of the kid and work as well. A woman’s priority has to be her kids. It will be difficult for the kids too, not having enough of their mother’s attention.

M: So, we have moved back here and honestly, I find it very difficult to adjust. It has been more than 20 years since I left this country.

AD: Indeed! You were living in Dubai, right?

M: Yes, for a little time. Then, in Riyadh, somewhere close by.

AD: Oh? This Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar and all are near to Riyadh?

M: Yes. Somewhat near. But, they are different countries.

AD: I know why you find it hard to adjust here, then. My second son was working in Dubai for some time. He took my wife and me for a tour of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Very nice places they are. Even though it is hot, there are air-conditioners everywhere, very clean surroundings, friendly people, and everything available nearby.

M: Yes, yes. My niece, the one who gave birth to the baby boy yesterday, she lives in Singapore with her husband. That is a nice place too.

AD: Her husband has a job there? That is nice. He is from another religion, right?

M: Yes, he’s a Muslim.

AD: A Hindu girl married a Muslim boy? That’s scandalous! At least if it was a Christian, that’s way better than a Muslim. Now, what will they name this baby? Will he be a Muslim or a Hindu? It is a good thing that this girl’s sister got married before her. Because she wasn’t, no one would have wanted to marry her sister either.

I’m glad that my children don’t believe in all this love-pove nonsense.

Me: So, now that your children are well settled, how long will you work?

AD: As long as I can. I spent a lot on my children’s education and marriages. I don’t really have much for my wife and myself.

Me: Do you regret that?

AD: Spending on my children? No. Absolutely not! I’m happy that at least they are able to lead a better life than me. Driving auto and all.

Me: Do you enjoy your work?

AD: No. Not really. But, this is all I know to do. I am a loner in the auto-driver circle, I don’t really like them, especially these young men who are so rude, vulgar and uncultured. I am really glad that my sons work in offices and drive cars instead of autos.

Me: Really?

AD: Yes. Both my sons bought their own cars in the past year. My daughter’s husband has a car too. They drive to their offices.

Mum: Can you drive a car?

AD: No. I don’t know to. Never got around to it. I am scared of driving a car. I don’t know why, but after all these years of driving an auto, a car scares me. *laughs*

P.S. This is a first attempt at some kind of an interview. Do excuse if any mistakes are found. I’m an amateur. I’ll definitely love suggestions or comments on how to make it better! 🙂

In memoriam.

Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam passed away yesterday. For those who do not know who he is, he was a former President of India, a scientist and a great man.
I believe that he was the greatest Indian President that my generation has ever seen. I considered him to be a kind of role model ever since I read his autobiography in my 6th grade, when I was in an aeronautical scientist phase.
Even after I grew out of that, I admired him for his courage, his genius, his simplicity. He was a true role model. When he was to take the oath as the President, his special invitees were a cobbler and a small restaurant owner. Here are some more incidents that show how kind and inspiring he was.
He passed away yesterday, doing what he loved best, teaching a couple of college students. I did feel a little sad, but what annoyed me was other people’s reactions. Namely, my classmates.
Yes, I know that my classmates at college are a shallow, ignorant lot. But, even I couldn’t believe the depths they could go to.
When the news broke saying that the former-President has died, instead of having the courtesy to offer sympathy, the first thing that my classmates ask for is a holiday. The class group on Whatsapp went crazy with nearly 200 messages asking whether today was going to be a holiday or not.

When will they realise that when a person dies, it is not courteous to be happy about getting a holiday? What if the person who died was a close friend or relative?
This behaviour has disgusted me beyond the limit. How can people be so insensitive or immature?

“If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher.” 

I dread the day when people like these become the father, the mother and the teacher. The world shall be doomed.

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