Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bhaiyadada

( What I wrote for him)

How can one even begin to sum up twenty two years in a few short paragraphs? For twenty two years, I have had the privilege of sharing my life with a man I lovingly called Bhaiyadada. One of my earliest memories of him would be during the sweltering summer months, when I would come home from kindergarten and sure enough, there would be a mango ice lolly waiting for me in the refrigerator. Unlike other grandfathers, Bhaiyadada never bought the lollies- he made them himself, storing the mangoes in a specific way and ensuring that his grandkids got to savour the most delicious ice lollies that he had almost magically concocted. Ice lollies apart, he was also a fabulous cook and my siblings and I will remember many a Sunday afternoon when he cooked his famous chicken rezala with rice.

With his saucy wit and sharp sense of humour, he would often regale me with stories about football matches during his time in Murshidabad and during his college days. While being extremely critical and analytical about misdemeanours, he was always someone who was kind to animals and birds, to trees and to those in need. He always told me to fight for what I believed in, even if it meant going against the wishes of everyone else. He told me about how oppressed he felt as a young boy, having to wear formal clothes in order to attend classes with his tutors, something that he found so disdainful that later on in life he would only be seen in his Panjabi and pajama and sometimes, his trademark lungi.


Bhaiyadada was a man of great resilience. Even while his eyesight weakened, I remember him insisting that he come to the Boimela with me. Even though I was apprehensive at first, his characteristic stubbornness won me over and I remember walking through the dusty Maidan with him as he slowed down, gasping for breath. Everytime I asked him if he wanted to go back, he would reply, “Aami ekdom theek acchi.” After the book fair haul, I remember reading some of the books aloud to him.

His sharp mind and his thirst for knowledge never really disappeared. Even in his last days, my grandmother would read him passage after passage from his (and sometimes her) favourite books.

He touched many peoples’ lives, and often very silently. In this very difficult time and in a faraway land, the one thing that makes me strong is his sparkling smile and the twinkle in his eye when he would said, “Ekdin jokhon aami thakbo na, tokhon aami norok theke toke dekhte pabo.”

Friday, November 25, 2011

Article in Tehelka

Since I often write about my (sometimes nonexistent) love life and do it rather uninhibitedly and don't censor myself, I thought I'd share this piece. It's been published by Tehelka and was quite difficult to write, especially because it involved shedding light on some intricate details of my life. I was very pained during the process of writing it, having just lost my grandfather to cancer and was not speaking to the person I have alluded to in this piece. Things have normalised since- well, as normal as grief and death can ever be. I promised myself however that no matter what I go through in life, I will always try to make sense of it by writing down my thoughts. Many times, it will simply be my subjective hurt view, but I will continue to write about the happy things and sad. 

The picture you see in the main piece is ironically exactly how I felt when I walked across the streets of London alone. I hope I continue to speak about my life in the hope that some kindred spirit will have felt what I have and some other people can also relate to it.

This is also my first byline under Rhea Roy

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Updates

The best friend-whom I've been best friends with since I was three and lived not even a block away from- now has an unlimited India calling card. When skype conks, that is what we resort to. Earlier, when I was in the U.K and she was in Kolkata, I had a similar strategy. Bitching on an ISD call just seems sort of wrong, somehow. But does that stop us?

In other news, please pick up the December issue of Tehelka. I have a piece there. I also have pieces in a couple of anthologies (one of them being a really great literary anthology that I'm really proud of!) which I will write about when published.

Submitting my dissertation in two days. More blogging soon!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cambridge

After reading Julie's  blog where she asks her roommate about a specific city, I decided to ask Rudrani, my travelling companion on that trip (and many future trips to come) and friend extraordinare what her memories of Cambridge were. Here's what she had to say :
I have always prided myself on never missing a single train, or bus for that matter. I mean those on long distance journeys, of course. The only time I would have broken that prized record, I ended up stalling a National Express coach along with Reeti. This trip was a culmination of quite a few days of planning and a few minutes of extra snoozing almost cost us this expedition. I still remember me frantically begging the coach driver to wait just for a couple of seconds as Reeti sped behind me at Flash-like speed to make it. The other passengers looked on in amused indifference. We plonked ourselves onto the seats, huffing and puffing.
In a couple of hours we landed in sunny Cambridge and pottered around the town. The place had a quaint, old-world charm. I remember the both of us walking down the length of Cambridge and then remarking how small the place was. I guess we had become used to the bewildering labyrinth that was London. One enduring image is that of us strolling by the Cam river and basking in the late autumn sunshine.
Having been suitably chastised by our earlier encounter with Time, we decided to make it back to the coach station well in time. After all, tempting Fate all over again after a heavy meal of Thai curry followed by hot chocolate seemed quite impossible.

(This feels like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Stay tuned, I will write my version soon.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sweetness

 Everyone close to me knows my aversion for and complete fear of math. However, the nicest thing said to me today was this : You have me, Shreya and X to help you do math, what is your problem? 
All three are math whizzes But X, do you understand what's happening? Everyone's rooting for you man! :) ( And you already have some Very Important People on your side i.e me)
Which is a good thing really. I miss you and I can't wait to see you.  You screw up big time and on a regular basis, you're the zaniest  and most random person I've ever known.
Also, I hate it when you ask me to look up wikipedia when you know you're supposed to give me the tour of a place! But your general idiocy aside you're not too bad, actually . You for one will never question my love for Rahul Dravid.
Keep adding to that word doc. We really do need to go on that world tour when we're 30. And no plonking people in the Atlantic Ocean, please. 



Monday, November 14, 2011

Taking a chance

It takes great courage to do something that one is fearful of.  I don't think I rank high on the list of courageous people.Sometimes it takes someone close to you to tell you to take that leap. To do what you've always wanted to do. They don't assure you that you will not fall, but they do remind you that not taking your chances will make you deeply regret consequences. All of us have childhood dreams that we often shove aside, thinking that it's too impossible, beyond us to achieve. Beginning January 2012, I will try living that dream. It seems to me like an impossible dream now, but I will always wonder "what-if", if I don't do something about it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

New Blog!

My friend The soliloquist once described me as being "cheesier than a cheeseburger". This was way back in my first year at college and I vehemently denied her claims. However, turns out that she was right and I often have a ton of things to say that I don't say on this blog. I always have a ton of things to say, but that's beside the point really. So please check out my new blog The Story of Strange Things and follow me there, please! Thank you :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

My blog finally looks how I want it to look. Same design, only more jhinchaak and as they say, with more razzmatazz.


Heard Joseph Stiglitz speak today. He only validated what we've all been thinking so far- 'lack of bank regulations and the wrong politics' can ruin a country. ( side note- I hardly ever speak about my own politics on this blog, and I am beginning to think that this is very irresponsible  of me. I  don't usually say anything in blogspace, because right wing rhetoric really pisses me off and I can't relate to it at all.It also makes me hate the person propounding it and instead of trying to put forth a reasoned argument, I lose my temper and scream and shout. That isn't a good excuse not to write, though. I promise to be far more vocal in the months to come.) However, the good news according to Stiglitz is that India, which is a service oriented country  will do better during the recession thanks to our services (think IT sector) and our banks being regulated. That said, the inequalities and injustices in India are far worse than say the United States. The first step is to try and bridge the divide between the haves and the have nots.

Updates

Also, I'm splitting my byline. All frivolous articles and stories I write for fun and other exciting thingummies ( did you know I can make toys and like to write about them sometimes?) will be published under Rhea Roy. My academic and journalistic stuff will be under Reeti Roy, as usual.

I am on the final edits of my dissertation and working on a couple of interesting projects. What have you guys been upto?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Excerpts from an actual letter, to a friend

Thought of sharing this with those who might be interested in studying in the U.K and on a more general level, applies to anyone living away from home for the first time.
Being in London has been exceptionally difficult. Not because of the students, not because of my university, not because of the women and men in pearl green woolover sweaters, suede suits or sharp jackets, but the people I see every day on the streets (more on that later). I live near Russell Square, in a place called Cartwright Gardens, which is a half hour walk from the University. The halls are mostly made up of undergrads and even though they are a lot of fun, they have a lot more time than we do, during term time. The postgrads are very isolated individuals- our schedules are all different and we hardly ever see each other so fostering friendships becomes near impossible. We all know each other, but it’s mostly light-hearted conversation (which is good too), but not as much interaction as I might have liked.

R and some other Masters students in the U.K. tell me that this typifies the British education system and, in many ways, is the reflection of the ethos that encompasses it.
What has made me even more confused after coming here is that I don’t even know what my primary identity should be- journalist, academic, policy analyst, human rights worker and for all these years, I was so sure that I wanted to be a journalist first and everything else later. The International Press certainly needs more people with a holistic understanding of the media and people who can think incisively but also synthesize all that information. I feel like a misfit both amongst journalists and academics. For the former, I am too intellectual and for the latter, I am much too pragmatic. It’s a role that I’ve really enjoyed so far and not had to choose from.
As completely geeky as this sounds, I enjoy intellectual rigor immensely and going to classes, listening to lectures about the environment, public health, history, geography, anthropology, the environment, as well as public policy has been nothing short of an enriching experience. Even though I feel like I should be working from next year, I know I want to go back and be a research scholar. The rigorous practice of actually writing ethnography will drive me insane, but it’ll do two very important things for me- know how to do rigorous research and defend it, write and impress an academic audience. It will also give me more credibility to work in International Organisations and being a specialist always helps. Also, I don’t feel like I’m completely done with school.
The thing is, one of my childhood dreams has been to go to _ journalism school and I don’t know how I will factor both of them in. Fun fact: did you know that a PhD in the U.K takes three years but most people fund their own PhDs. That’s a complete no-go for me, and unless I get funded, I’d probably have to. I guess I’d probably want my primary job to be that of a researcher and public policy analyst and that would free up some time for writing. I don’t think I can not write. On really dark days, playing with words is all I really know.
Working with X is actually one of the redeeming features of the week. Every day, I see ordinary people -people like you and I-wearing tattered clothes, with paint on their faces and pencils tucked behind their ears, sweating it out. There’s this boy I see every day, he’s about eighteen and if given a choice, he’d probably want to go to college as well. He often stops me on the street and asks me about what I study and I think he’s quite a bright spark- and then I think about all the people back home, who should get an education and are not, it makes me very sad. And the lack of humanity is also very disconcerting. I hope I don’t grow into one of those people who shuts everything out and never does anything constructive by way of ensuring that kids are educated and well looked after. And working with children of refugees actually makes one understand how destitute these kids really are, unsheltered, unprotected, not knowing what tomorrow holds for them. Some children have never known their own homes, being carried from one shelter to another; they come from countries like Ghana, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, The Ivory Coast.
Many of their parents have been intellectuals in their own country, they have spoken out against dictatorial regimes, they have condemned massacres, some of them will be executed as soon as they set foot on their home soil again. Most of these people are Asylum Seekers i.e. those who have not even been granted Refugee Status. Some are condemned because of their homosexuality and others, because of their religion.
As I write this, two people outside my window are stacking up multicoloured books and strewing flowers on the pavement. Thank you for making me actually write this- it helped me put things into perspective.


Lalala!


I woke up feeling like this. Not smug, not happy but horrendously impish. And then proceeded to get on with my day. This picture was taken in my room in London, and with the inbuilt camera of my computer. The background is a dupatta that I hung on the wall of my room so that it would look cheery and I wouldn't feel too sad or lonely in the cold. I have already talked about how last year was not the easiest for me, but I am slowly discovering that there are all kinds of things that I feel excited about and am beginning to learn. Especially things that one can create-jewellery, bags, cartoons, handmade notebooks. My new blog, the story of strange things will document that, and travels, and all the interesting things I read. I would want this blog to be simply about what's going on in my life and have a separate one that is more funky and fun. Also, I haven't cheated on my blog even once. I have remained utterly faithful. I am not a serial blogcheater. Repeat after me, I am NOT a serial blogcheater.