Month: June 2008

Of Rickshaws, Among Other Things.

My accounts class gets over at around 8.30 am in the morning, after which I usually take a stroll through the little bylanes of Musuri Subramanian street, pass the Luz Church before I finally stumble onto the main road to catch an auto. A couple of days back, I happened to chance upon a rickshaw parked at the end of the little lane.

A rickshaw. I hadn’t seen a rickshaw in the city for quite a few years, and well, I took a little bit of time seeing the vehicle.

Rickshaws bring a lot of memories. I used to come back home from school in my kindergarten days on a rick, along with a couple of other kids who were in the same neighborhood. The rickshaw wallah, with his big mustache and blue lungi would religiously be at the school gates at 2.40 pm sharp to pick us up. He would then take our bags and deposit them with a thud on the rickshaw floor after which he’d ask “Kalambalaama?” (shall we start?) and then we’d answer “Aama!” (yes!) in chorus.

The pace of the rickshaw was something that I loved. Relaxed, almost nonchalant. It represented Chennai at one point of time. There was just no hurry, no pressure, no frenzied honking. The world moved at the same pace as the rickshaw did. The rickshaw rides back home from school enabled me to make so many friends in and around the neighborhood who shared the rick. Today though, I am not able to remember a single name, a single face. All I remember is playing “Uma Joshi Yay Yay Yay” as we slowly passed the huge trees that were once all over GN Chetty road on the way home. Sometimes, the rickshaw wallah would sing “Vaadhiyaar paatu” (songs from MGR movies) as he pedalled, which always left us in giggles.

Although I don’t remember his name, I do remember the fact that his 3 wheeled vehicle was the apple of his eye. The rick was always shiny, and sported a kunkuma pottu and malli-poo every Friday and whenever a “bad boy” would jump on to the rick, he would give the boy a knock on his head for doing so. Sometimes I wondered if his rickshaw had a name, like in the movies. It didn’t. But it was a little something more than just a source of income for him. Appa got the second car when I was in my 2nd standard. Naturally, the rick ride back home was no longer required. But the rickshaw wallah prevailed, he would always be at the gates at 2.40 pm. He’d acknowledge my presence by giving me a wry smile from time to time, and would ask “Ennama Lavuniya, car innum varla?” (Hasn’t your car come yet?). It was almost as if I had betrayed him by not travelling in his rickshaw anymore.
I didn’t understand his problems then. Autos were gaining popularity among the Anxious-PSBB-parent since they were quicker and safer (or so they thought) and the batches were just getting more prosperous by the year. Almost everyone had their own vehicle. The faithful rickshaw was losing popularity, which meant that its owners were losing business, thus explaining the look on his face. Like I said before, this was much too much for a 2nd standard kid to figure out so I took the easy way out and thought him to be a “stupid goose” being so mean.

A few years down the line, he too inevitably converted to the zippy auto, in fact, he was the last of the lot to do so. But I knew for a fact that he wasn’t very happy about it, it was not out of choice, hell, he didn’t even have a choice. For me, that was the year the rickshaw died. The traffic issues that were cropping up in the city didn’t exactly help save the rickshaws either. There was no provision for leisurely pedalling among the speeding bikes and cars. Chennai had moved on, and the rickshaw was left behind. 
I loved the rickshaw for a lot of reasons although my grandmother told me that I had a “gandam” (bad luck) where they were concerned (I had a major accident when I fell off from one of them when I was 9. Surgery, hospitalization, the works).

“Innaama, sawaari venuma?”
(Do you need a ride?)
The rick driver brought me back to 2008.
“Illa, rickshaw laam paathu romba naal aachu, adhaan paakaren”
(Not really, I’m just looking, Its just that it’s been a long time since I saw a rickshaw)
“Aama ma, eggumore moosiyum-la vekka vendidhu…rickshaw laam pozhappe illa ma…na vandhu meyyin-a Auto ottaren.”
(Yes ma, this should be kept in the Egmore Musuem..driving rickshaw is not a livelihood…My main job is actually driving an auto)
More small talk revealed that he was holding on to the rick for “suntimend”and was nice enough to oblige when I told him I wanted to take a picture of his rickshaw.

As I walked further down the road after telling him my thanks, I realized that sometimes, certain changes are inevitable, and even if we don’t really like them, we can’t stop it from happening anyway. Even if the rickshaw is redundant on the streets of Chennai today, it will always be part of Madras, the Madras I grew up in, the Madras I loved.

Death of the Sunday

Yesterday was possibly the longest day of my life. It started at 4 AM, I kid you not, 4 AM. This was mainly due to a little something called Statistics and Operations Research. I had completely fooled around on Saturday after coming from my English exam (Which was so-so. I hate English exams. The syllabus was complete crap.) so I had to wake up early to revise formulae and even figure out a few concepts in OR. I left to my exam centre at 8.30 am, and reached there at around 9.15 (its at the other end of the city, off Old Mahabalipuram Road) only to see people mugging formulae which I hadn’t even heard of. But I didn’t panic. I knew that if I tried a stunt like that, I’d end up forgetting what I had already learnt. So I just sat there and spaced out for the next half an hour after which I went to my room to write my paper.
It was incredibly hot day and I actually had a lot of fun pissing my invigilator off by “sitting inappropriately”. Before you get any ideas (!), I was sitting with my legs crossed on the chair, which according to my invigilator was apparently very unladylike (“No ma, you is not able to sit like that. Sit legs down ma”).
The exam was ok. I am pretty sure of most of my problems. Maybe I screwed up theory, I gassed a lot. I’ll pass. Which is pretty great for 4 hours of study (Like I said, I fooled around too much on Saturday after coming back from my English paper).
I finished my paper in two hours and left the hall. And you’d think, it being a Sunday, the rest of the day called for some well deserved rest.
It didn’t. I got a call from my audit manager asking me to report to office. Good Lord. I had inconveniently forgotten to take cash from my father in the morning as well. I had a grand total of Rs.30 in my wallet.
Which could mean only one thing.
B-U-S.
After some investigation regarding bus routes, I managed to get on the gloriously empty M7. It had a grand total of 5 people including one couple who were only too keen to show the rest of the planet that they were in love. The route was pretty terrible though, painfully long. On a brighter note, I managed to see parts of Chennai I had never seen. After getting off at T.Nagar, I was terribly tempted to go home. But I persevered and managed to catch another bus to my office. All this in 38 degrees of magnificent Chennai heat and an empty stomach.
And work stretched to 8.30 in the night. My mother called only once though and when I told her I would be back only at 8.30, she said “ok, catch an auto and come”.
I think she’s losing the whole “oh-my-precious-delicate-daughter” vibe which I have mixed feelings about. I mean, its great to be independant, trusted and all, but I am really not satisfied with the folks at home until I see some panicking and some “Aiyo Rama”s. I was almost angry at them for not being worried. Which is something I can’t explain, really. I have always complained about my mother’s endless worrying, but now that she’s not worrying, I am angry.
Complex emotion, this.
Anyhow, I somehow managed to leave by saying that I had class in the next morning.
Only when I reached home, I realized it was Sunday.
I think its some kind of karmic action for having too much fun the previous day.

And that was how my weekend died. With statistics, work, sugary tea and Good-Day biscuits.

Forgive this post, I am completely out of ideas and my neck hurts from all the staring into the computer. So I thought I’d write about my Sunday. Or the lack of it.

Thath Thvam Asee

Exam starts tomorrow. My exam centre is in the other side of the city which means I have to catch some shady bus, which is not at all fun.
First exam up is Sanskrit. The portions mainly consist of grammar and a bit of literature. The literature part of it is pretty hilarious, the translations to the poetry bit are particularly side-splitting.

“The younger sister of Ravana who is afflicted by cupid’s disease approached Ram like a snake oppressed by the heat of the summer would approach a sandal wood tree”

-verse 32, canto XII, Raguvamsa
I feel sorry for Kalidasa, the good man.

Oh well, Economics on Sunday, the portions are truly terrible and I haven’t covered an inch. But here I am, writing. Typing rather. I think I will apply for the post of President in the Honorary Society of Advanced Procrastination. Tomorrow.
English next Saturday. The portions are terrible, with dreadfully boring essays about err…I don’t really know, but knowing the University, I think I’m pretty accurate. Following English is this horrendous subject called Statistics and Operations research. It is puke-worthy and the syllabus is as vast as it is boring. The last exam is thankfully Financial Accounting. Child’s play.
My main concerns for worry are the twin terrors, Eco and Stat. And if I had an ounce of conscience and common sense, I’d be studying right now.
But I will shamelessly admit that I have neither and extend my presence here, albeit for a short while (I may not have conscience or common sense but I do have a Mother. A very loud mother.)

Speaking of mothers, Parents’ anniversary coming up this weekend. They will complete 21 years of holy matrimony (1987 – 2008) . While the Mohan-and-Padma-method-of-raising-daughters may not be perfect, I’m pretty convinced its the best.
Besides, even after 21 whole years, the two of them as corny as ever. Just yesterday, Appa was complaining of giddiness. When Amma asked him since when he had been having the feeling, he replied “Since the day I met you.” and Amma started giggling on cue.
I groaned, obviously. And gave the “Indha-vayasla…” (at this age…) dialog. But I was giggling inside too. Personally I think its unfair that the world’s best husband is married to my mother.
And until a couple of years back, I was pretty sure it was an arranged match. Turns out it was not. Amma is Appa’s best friend’s sister’s best friend. Quite a connection huh? That story I will leave for another day. The softspoken lady my father fell for is after me and If I don’t leave now, the consequences may be dire.
Happy anniversary!

I know what I did this summer

I have just started classes for Advanced Accounting and Cost Accounting & Financial Management. Of course, they have been very conveniently timed. My classes usually take place in the middle of the night and continue for a good two hours. The centre is something like a high security fortress. Just as you enter, Prime Academy’s watchmen Mamas with eyes that would put a hawk to shame will do a full scrutiny. My poor friend A got a earful from one mama for wearing “Baniyan without collar”. But honestly, its no joke, being in that class. You are in the midst of a sea of people, 600 odd students to be precise, and apart from trying to keep your brain awake and eyes open, you have to come with the terms with the fact that the problems in the workbook are pretty much Greek and Spanish. And on top of that MPV (accounts prof) will be doing rounds to check on your progress. And if you are caught lagging behind/sleeping/slacking/scribbling, well, as he puts it, “it is simppply not acceptable”. The clases run till the 1st week of October. Joy.
But on a more serious note, MPV is an awesome teacher. I have never seen anyone handle a class of 600 more deftly than he does. I have also never seen a chartered accountant with a bigger mustache.
Lesson learned: If you are to stay awake in class you must have had adequate sleep the previous night. But if you’re like me, you must wake your mom up and blackmail her into making double strong filter coffee for you.

Amma told me that she had fixed a “checkup” with a “lady doctor” in the Hospital. Upon arrival, we were whisked away to the waiting room. My suspicion regarding the lady doctor’s lady-ness was aroused when I read the name plate (Dr.Gopinath, it said.) and as I walked in, they were confirmed. The lady doctor was a man, a bald man to be precise, which made him very unladylike. I think this experience took the word ‘awkward’ to a whole new level for me.
Lesson learned: Next time you book an appointment with a lady doc, make sure you say that you want to see the lady doctor who is a lady.

Office drama! I got screamed at in my client office by a rather grumpy assistant general manager uncle who had digestion problems. I had a bunch of unwanted accusations aimed at me, and me being the braveheart that I am, started wailing. My water faucets went into full blast mode and I’m just sniffling and bawling. Honestly, I am slightly ashamed of myself for creating such a fuss but I will strongly vouch for the fact that the blasting (It included the gem – “I AM NOT AN OFFICE BOY!”. Ofcourse you’re not an Office ‘boy’ sir, You’re an office uncle. Trust me to come up with witty retorts 3 days after the after the actual conversation.) were totally unwarranted sicne I had not even screwed up My bawling didn’t go unnoticed, it became quite an issue, went right upto the MD. Grumpy also apologised, but then again, I wish I hadn’t cried. I would have complained nevertheless, but the crying made me feel like one fool. When I repeated the story to my dad amidst bawls, he got scared naturally. Dialogues like “Who’s that guy? I’ll come to your office right now and have a go at him” came up but after I had calmed down he told me very slowly that most 65+ working uncles were senile and that you had to leave them alone if you actually want to get some work done.
Lesson learned : If you are to convey an issue of such delicacy, I’d recommend you cry and then complain. If you’re going to do both at the same time, you will not only agitate your senior/manager but choke on the terrible saltiness of your own tears as well. Which is not nice.

Started studying for B.Com. Knowing me and my big fat ego, I had put off studying for my B.Com exams as something extremely simple. Opening my books I realized that it was not. And I have completely forgotten the technique of studying. I open the book and stare at it for 5 minutes, after which I have these intense urges to pick up my phone and talk for an hour or something. So my study chart goes like 5 minutes-1 hour break-25 minutes-head nodding off-sleep.
Lesson learned: Old habits, die hard.