Death by Humidity

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The last few weeks my hair has been behaving like Salman Khan (and his many controversies). It simply refuses to settle down. On a good hair day I look like Sai Baba (the one who dazzled his devotees by fishing out gold chains from his armpits). On a bad hair day I look like I have been freshly electrocuted. In fact if I can perfect my roaring skills, I can be easily mistaken for Lion King.

Gurgaon weather has become a copycat. It has started mimicking Kolkata’s horrible humidity. The type where there’s so much moisture in the air that you start resembling an Amazonian forest in full bloom. Your back hasn’t seen a dry day since May and you alternate between taking a shower in salty water that your body generates and water from the showerhead. Even the tiniest physical activity like a walk to the neighbourhood veggie store makes your body weep and you leave behind not footprints but tiny puddles. Unfortunately, Gurgaon is yet to adopt Kolkata’s lack of work culture where everyone treats work with disdain and prefers engaging in heated debates about Spain’s economic crisis in between sips of chaa and leisurely naps.

The good thing is that this muggy weather has taken care of my vanity. I avoid looking at the mirror at all costs – don’t want to see a hair-framed glistening blob of oil staring back at me. I’m not exactly doing my heart a favour when I scream a loud nahiiiiiiiiin and it races faster than Usain Bolt. Sometimes I have so many oil deposits on my face that I fear the all new fearless America led by Trump will invade me.

It has also turned me deeply religious. I am either praying to the Rain gods to relent and wash us away with its bounties or turn me into a plant so that I can soak in the joys of humidity.

Even god prefers multiple options.

Since I have started resembling a leaky faucet, I have decided to put myself to good use. If I have to move furniture in the house, I simply sit on it and wait patiently for my sweat to start working its magic. Ten minutes later when I get up the chair is firmly stuck to me a like a baby kangaroo to its mom, ready to move to newer plains. If I spot stains on the glass windows of our 16th floor apartment, I hang upside down like a bat and start rubbing my back against it till it becomes squeaky clean. I no longer reach out for the salt shaker when I discover our cook has forgotten to season the dal yet again. I simply stir it with my little finger. I have offered my services to Moms who are looking to scare their kids for not listening to them. I discovered this hidden talent when I semi-glared at a kid who wouldn’t stop fiddling with the control buttons inside the lift. One look at me and he clung to his Mom like fungus, his eyes shut in fear.

Hello beautiful, you sent me out of control!

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Indians often take flak for being among the least friendly. This disturbs me deeply because it’s far from being true. Granted, most of us would rather stare intently at our phone than make polite talk when in close proximity with strangers. If an unfamiliar person smiles at us, we immediately start speculating about their mental health. It’s more a genetic thing. Somebody forgot to tell us smiling is not taxable. Pushing, jostling and snarling come naturally to us. When we are driving, our middle finger is permanently raised and our cuss vocabulary will make even hardened criminals turn a deep shade of beetroot red. But in no way does it reflect our lack of friendliness. Okay, maybe not all of us are walking embodiments of congeniality. But our men more than make up for it with their friendly overtures towards the opposite sex.

Ask any woman and she will vouch for it. The time she made eye contact with her colleague as she laughed at his joke – and he promptly started making plans for their weekend getaway. Or the slightly tipsy woman at the pub who smiled at the wall and now it won’t stop pestering her for her number. Or the man she met at the party, enjoyed talking to him, even shared her number and now he texts her, ‘Sweeties, I miss you, lets meat!’ 55 times a day. Grrr!

Interestingly the not so single men she encounters are invariably the sweet ole chap victimised by the shrewish wife. By some strange miraculous coincidence ALL of them claim to be married to a woman who does not understand them at all. He’s just a lonely hardware looking for a software upgrade. Tch tch..

So now you know why the Indian woman is a tad grim-faced compared to her male counterpart. As a girl growing up, we felt the pinch of skewed sex ratio in crowded marketplaces, in the first bus we took, at the local tailoring outfit where our 13 year old self felt puzzled by the elderly darzi’s strange touch. Pretty soon we developed a snarl, a well-aimed shove with our elbow, a dead fish look to keep strange men’s unwanted advances under control. We discovered that the male has a strange manner of appreciating female beauty. When we walk on the road, we realise we are more effective than the traffic light at the intersection to make cars and scooters slow down. The helpful Samaritans they are, they offer us a ride not once but again and again. Dear Delhi police, I’m not sure why you’re wasting money on traffic lights, when all you need is a comely femme preferably in shorts, to bring traffic to a grinding halt. Some men become so consumed by passion that their grey cells trigger an avalanche of emotions and send furious signals to important body parts. Their hand reaches out for the motherboard, their genitals and they start scratching violently. Their mouth starts generating copious amounts of saliva which they respectfully direct at our feet. The vocal ones prefer making strange noises that closely resemble the mating call of chimpanzees. Good to know they are in no hurry to forget their ancestors! But this is also a highly evolved species that does not let a woman’s age, weight, skin colour, political leanings, dietary preferences, schooling, family background or the lack of it, hold them back. In fact they treat all of us with equal lust and are in turn treated by all of us with equal disgust.

Unbearable Burden of Being a Class XII Student in India

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If you are a parent of a teen who has just appeared for her board exams, you will know exactly what it feels like when the results are about to be declared. It’s like waiting for your own results. Only this time, you are not a carefree teen but a worry-wart adult plagued by ifs and buts and what will the world and its aunt think if your child scores an abysmal 85%. Even Mrs Chatterjee’s useless son scored a 97%! Oh, the triumphant look in her eyes when she distributed sweets in the neighbourhood. Too bad she got the mithai from a third rate halwai.

The thing is, we all seem to think scoring in 90’s is a breeze, till it’s your own teen’s turn to appear for her boards. It’s then you find out how much pressure we put on our kids by making abnormally high scores the new normal. Fact is only those who score high share it on social media. The rest keep mum. Consider this. Out of a total of 1,067,900 candidates registered for this year for class 12 exam, 89,000 students scored more than 90% in aggregate. Which means only 8% managed to breach the 90’s barrier. 

So, where does it leave the remaining 92%? Why don’t we talk about them? Why don’t newspapers follow their life journeys and come out with reassuring stories that scoring ‘low’ was not the end of their life? I wish more and more parents would tell their children that marks secured in exams do not define them. A child who obtains 78% may have a better grasp of a select few subjects and the ones who score a 99% may simply be able to memorise better. Many school teachers have mastered training their students in the art of answering correctly. Plus, the structure of the question papers is such that some students can work around the format and get high scores. Your exam score is certainly not the only indicator of your intelligence or the lack of it.

They will tell you high scores let you pick and choose the subject and college of your choice. Sadly this is not always true. When anyone who does reasonably well in exams opts for a handful of courses in a handful of premier colleges, there’s a mad scramble for their limited seats and not everyone manages to get in.  It’s quite likely that after battling stress and anxiety and studying for 12 hours a day for months, you secure 95% and will still not get into the college of your choice.

It’s not your fault. You did your best. But so did 7,000 odd students who scored above 95%.


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