When I was thirteen, I entered this completely nightmarish frenzy called Ninth Standard. Not like I didn’t have my share of fun back then, but that was when the pressure really began. Some of my friends on the verge of a nervous breakdown went and asked our teachers what sadistic pleasure the CBSE Board got in setting such huge portions, and what wicked kick they got from enforcing the portions to the last word apart from adding extra bits here and there. The reply we got seemed comforting enough – the Board wanted us to score well in class 10, hence portions weren’t all that difficult, but then, they needed to put in all the required portions somewhere, and hence we had monstrous portions that year. But we needn’t worry, next year would be a breeze comparitively.
Well, we grit our teeth and went through the year, more than one of us coming close to a nervous breakdown, but not quite. End of the year was wrought with tensions; everyone and his brother were queuing up for 10th Tuitions, mainly for Maths and Science. When the year did finally end, all we had for a break was two weeks, after which we started with tuitions. Which weren’t exactly a walk in the park [save for a couple who... well... never mind] what with regular tests and all that that comes with it. As the year progressed, we found that the portions were actually lighter than the previous year. But uh, who was that who talked of a breeze? It was more of a gale, and the only thing that kept me sane and light at heart was the advent of Radiocity and Suresh Venkat’s voice on Hot Air every evening, and Priya Ganapathy on the Late Show. The only consolation was what we heard from everyone else: “Study well, and get into a good school/PU college, and you can enjoy the rest of your life.”.
Which holds only if “enjoy” means zone out. Who ever thought of the JEE? And the whole concept of competitive exams for which people take off three, four, maybe even five or more years so that they can get their life made? Well, they didn’t do me a favour. Nor did the large number of deluded teens who considered it their life’s ambition to crack the exam. Voices from all over told me that the only thing that could get your life made was getting a decent rank in JEE. That these two years were a holiday to all your holidays. And the rest of your life would be good, with you raking in the big bucks with enormous ease.
Well, I followed all those dicta with much resistance at the beginning, but then got inured to the lifestyle after I saw a dozen others succumb and go silently. Again, radio came to my rescue during long hours of mowing through GuptaGupta, Irodov, Berman, Macomber and a dozen other names the cultural range of all of which you would come across only at the UN, or another IIT-aspirant’s bookshelf. Again, it was Rohit Barker, Darius Sunawalla, Sunaina Lal, Gita Modgil, Jonzie Kurien and Anjaan who were the only other voices in the room for those two years.
At the end of which I’d amassed considerable knowledge on Hard Rock, Alternative Rock, Hip-Hop and RnB, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and the patterns on Rohit Barker’s favourite innerwear.
Anyway, I didn’t quite hit paydirt with the JEE, but its poorer cousin called the AIEEE [also called IE, IEEE among other names] favoured me. The exam itself was a rotten piece of luck. It started with my center being NPS-Rajajinagar, which is too many godforsaken miles away from home. Tucked in an obscure corner of Rajajinagar, with no dashing name board over the entrance [ I heard from NPS-ites later that their school was scared of being targeted during riots, and hence decided to make it harder for miscreants to find], housed in a nondescript compound [I was too used to the impressive stone exteriors of The Oxford Senior Secondary School (CBSE), and the unruly crowd of students around it, apart from the huge lettering declaring its name], I found the place just in time. And after the Physics-Chemistry paper, they for some reason locked us all in the classrooms after a two-minute loo break. Lunchless, it didn’t take very long for my brains to fry. A nap during the Math paper [with a wake-up call from the invigilator ("One more time you lean downwards, I'll TEAR your OMR Sheet and throw it in the dustbin") who seemed to think that this was a new cheating mechanism] rejuvenated me. Back with friends, I heard that they were in amazing centers where their exams started a whole hour later as everyone had been let out for lunch, and apparently the restaurants around their centers were close to amazing.
Anyway, I was just preparing myself to put my feet up and relax when the results came out, due to which I had to spend the whole of the next month running from pillar to post. After which I joined NITK, and the rest as they say they say is history. It isn’t as lie-back-and-rest as I’d hoped it would be. And it isn’t a life-is-made position ensured, either. There’s always more to do, more to study, more sleepless nights coming up. And I’m talking about life post-NITK here. It doesn’t quite seem like what I was told five years ago. And no, it doesn’t mean I’m disillusioned, or want to be somewhere other than where I am now.
It’s just that it’s mighty frustrating to be told again and again of taking up a step that’ll ensure you a worry-free life, and later finding out that it’s not true, not entirely anyway. And I was too naive that I believed that such a band-aid solution was possible, that just a single step could ensure that the rest of your life stayed made. The truth is, it’s never over till it’s over. The reward for hard work is only more hard work, and anything else you get can only be a by-product, or a side-effect. So don’t put in hard work unless you are not afraid of seeing more of it, unless working is really what you enjoy. Your life will be “made” the same way if you do a Commerce degree, crack the CA exam, do an articleship for a while after which you do an MBA from IIMX. It’ll also be “made” when you do a degree in psychology, turn homemaker for a good many years, try your hand at various different enterprises, and finally when your kids are grown and gone, discover your true calling lies in a teaching career, which you then start actively pursuing. It isn’t a much differently “made” life you have when you are passionate about the written and spoken word since your childhood, take up science at Pre-University due to parental pressure, deliberately mess up your math scores so as to prevent the onset of a possible Engineering career, take up Arts and a career in journalism.
And my past few weeks seem to just reaffirm all that I just said. All I can hope is that I’ll have a peaceful, worry-free retirement where I can dedicate the rest of my life trying to teach coherent, intelligent speech to a Congo African Grey Parrot who I’ll call Jabberwockie, and an Indian crow I’ll call His Royal Highness, Edmund Blackadder [Indians are possibly the worst Anglophiles] , and possibly a mynah I’ll choose to call Woodstock.
A long time ago, Ogden Nash wrote:
The one-l lama,
He’s a priest.
The two-l llama,
He’s a beast.
And I will bet
A silk pajama
There isn’t any
I came across a mnemonic like that, recently, and this is my improvement on it:
The one-L NUL,
It ends an ASCII string.
The two-L NULL,
It points to no thing.
And I’ll say for sure
ANSI doesn’t do any talking
‘Bout any three-L NULLL.
Here are a few questions I picked from the placement prep book, I borrowed from my roomie…
1) Atmosphere always has
Ans: Insufficient data. Which extraterrestrial body are you talking about?
2 ) A clock always has
a) Battery (It could be a hand wound clock)
b) Numbers (My mum’s has dots instead of numbers and same is the case with mine)
c) Alarm (You can’t be sure)
d) Needle (It could be a digital one)
e) Frame (How do you know? It could be the clock at the bottom corner of my computer screen)
3 ) An oasis always has…
Ans: Water, unless it’s a mirage.
4) A school always has…
Hey!! Where did you leave the students?
5) A mirror always…
e) Reveals the truth (LOL!!)
6) Logic Question:
1. Some dogs are goats
2. Some goats are cows
This is either not in this century or this person was in McGonnagal’s Transfiguration class.
My conclusion about this book: It needs a thorough revision for the next edition…
It seems very, very long ago that I came across a book review in Deccan Herald’s weekly supplement for children, Open Sesame. This one was about a “story about magic, with a difference”. It talked about a boy having an oppressed existence with his aunt and uncle, and then being told he’s a wizard, following which he goes off to magic school, battles the villain who was responsible for killing his parents… and leaving the ending open for a sequel.
I, who normally gave short shrift to books reviewed in Open Sesame as being for an unimaginative bunch of little kids whose knowledge of literature rarely stretched beyond Fairy Stories written by authors of little or no reputation, apart from the occasional Enid Blyton, was sort of impressed. I don’t quite remember why; the storyline seemed awfully cliched and the review wasn’t such a great piece of writing anyway.
But I ended up with Prisoner of Azkaban on my thirteenth birthday [we at home have this thing about gifting books to each other, more so since all of my generation are bibliophiles. So right from my first birthday, I've always got books, coloring books, pens, paints, or some such thing from those at home apart from the usual thisNthat], and got hooked, and couldn’t stop gushing about the wonder that was JK Rowling.
Funnily by now, hardly anyone had heard of the wonderful world of wizardry at school, and they all dismissed it as some “fairy story”. Little did they know that fairies are one of the most half-witted magical creatures!
But the Sunday Times of India put it on the front page of their Sunday supplement once, and there you go! The phenomenon began. At first, a few bibliophiles like me started reading the books, made it conversation-filler material amongst ourselves… and all of a sudden, the corridors were echoing with talk of Basilisks, Animagi, loathing Snape, comparisons of McGonagall to our martinet-ish Principal….
Things only hotted up even more when the first movie was released, after which the buzz behind Goblet of Fire led to whispered conversations at the back of the school assembly about whether the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher would be a vampire as Dean Thomas predicted.
Winter break 1998. Yay! I finally got GoF. It’ll keep me company as we walk along the esplanade in Pondicherry… Oh, Darn! The city’s just too beautiful to see! Result: It took me four days to finish the book, and that too, I couldn’t spare more than just cursory glances at some chapters. But retribution took the form of spending New Year’s at an uncle’s place, sans TV. So I ended up reading the book again and again until I could quote it offhand, and my uncle ended up another Pottermaniac.
Well, it really had caught on. The mania still haunts the old gang from school. We just have to get started on Potter and we go on for hours on end. Just like HP-fans everywhere.
OoTP in class XII. Exams the week after. And I just had a couple of days to finish Dee’s copy. I had never been so maniacal about finishing a book before. Finished it off in a day. Hated it. I rather thought the Department of Mysteries bit towards the end was grossly overdone, at best. It had gone beyond all fantasy tales, IMHO. I was going to write off JK as just another woman whose fame had gone to her head and affected her work. Most people agreed. But when I said so to my friend who was the Grandfather of all Pottermaniacs, it was met with nothing but uncomprehension, surprise and an admonishment to “Go read it again, see what you’ve missed” and also a detailed analysis of why the Fifth book doesn’t deserve all the insults I heaped on it. I did, and discovered that my friend was right. The book shows a transition to a darker, more serious tone, setting the stage for the sixth and seventh books.
And… sixth book… that was when I was just a year at NITK, and when I’d found the place to be replete with dozens of Harry-lovers, some Snape-lovers, many Snape-haters, and the like. I was really maniacal about Harry Potter, as can be seen by my posts in the run-up to the release. The book cost a bomb, which IMHO was simply cashing in on the publicity, and I staunchly resolved “not to succumb to consumerism” and all of that idealism that was doing the rounds in my head back then. The ebook links my friends were giving me didn’t seem to be working, and I took it upon myself one fine morning to Find An Ebook In Less Than Three Hours Or Let My Internet Connection Perish In The Attempt. Sheer hell, it turned out to be, dodging the various links to buying it on Amazon, various links that talked of some eBook site bringing it out in eBook form, so many links that had the Chinese fake version that had caused some famous controversy that merited a million webpages dedicated to it alone, and most of all, the dead links. So it was on the eighteenth or nineteenth page of Ask.com [It was the first time Google had failed me] where I found this excellent site where the full text could be downloaded. Quickly converted it to PDF for ease of reading [I hate reading Word docs], and sat through it and finished it in six hours straight [Oh, my poor aching eyes ]
And now The Deathly Hallows. I don’t have any real expectations regarding it, it surely will be good, JK would want it to be worth the obnoxious amount her fans will be paying for the book, she would want to give everyone’s favourite hero a good sendoff. And she definitely won’t quit writing; she’s far too good for that. Her visual style is what keeps sending chills down our spines, makes us skim through the pages again and again hoping for a clue to what comes next. I also am not thinking of ANY ideas regarding what is to come. Harry lives/dies, Ron lives/dies, Ginny lives/dies, Hermione lives/dies…. I don’t much care. I’m waiting to be surprised, to be telling myself I should have seen it coming, and finally coming to terms with it and saying
“It’s perfect this way… the whole world is happy, kids haven’t quit reading [they've come back to it, actually,], Rowling’s rich, and I’ve been entertained for the past seven years, and I don’t have to worry about how to start conversations for the next few months”.
Oh, and any offers of the eBook [no, not the "leaked" one, it's utter garbage] or of the book are absolutely welcome.
Addendum: I got the ebook of HP7 two days in advance. A really “leaked” copy. Haven’t read it yet, but mean to do so soon. I can’t upload it here as it is 70 MB zipped. Those on NITK LAN can find it there, but others with hopefully better Net speeds can get it on http://avaxhome.org. Just search for deathly hallows. And the file is an encrypted .rar file, you’ll need the password given in the download page to decrypt it.
Addendum 2: Some kindly soul typed out the entire book. Managed to read it one day before it released. Many thanks to The Monk for the book from us Numbskulls. So far, I’ll say it’s a good one, though the soppy last chapter is quite a damper. Review coming later.
Yesterday’s Times Of India’s front page had everyone at home shocked. I wouldn’t say it was totally because a suspected terrorist was found to be a Bangalorean [and a qualified doctor at that]. ToI does very thorough yellow journalism, and dug into this guy’s past [possibly to uncover some minor incident that might have made him lose faith in democracy, and make it a big feature with reader-inputs on how others have also felt the same, and with some celebrity soundbytes from Rubi Chakravarthy, Chippy Gangjee, Prasad, Judith, Adam and Aviva Bidapa, Sadiqa Peerbhoy,Actresses Ramya, Daisy Bopanna and Jennifer Kotwal, Yusuf Arakkal and his son, [and tons of other Bangalore Times-made celebrities] and with some luck, Sudha Murthy, apart from numerous students on the campuses of Christ College, St. Joseph’s Junior College, Bishop Cottons and Mallya Aditi, and denounce the government and the establishment in general, and say that if India was a freer society, like The Netherlands, and if the municipal authority in Bangalore allowed pubs to remain open beyond 11 PM, this would never have happened].
Anyway, they did dig into his past, and found which school he had been to.
Which was the same school I went to.
I thought at first it was a mistake [I mean, the last thing you'd want to have is something in common with a terrorist], but when I looked at this person’s Orkut profile [arbitNewsChannel reported that his scrapbook was beseiged with death threats], there was no doubt; he’d specified it clearly.
Well, not bad at all! In sixteen years of existence, along with innumerable rolling trophies at interschool fests, and as many national-level “Best Teacher” awards to its staff, NTSE scholars, All-India Merit award winners, the school counts among its alumni numerous IITians, NITians [yes, that is counted as an achievement], radio jockeys [yeah, that too], CAT toppers, IIM grads and Rhodes scholars, one more guy on the front page of newspapers doesn’t make that hard a difference.
Oh, and the guy who drove the car that almost blew up in Glasgow is reportedly from Sri Aurobindo Memorial School, a similar one with as many [or slightly fewer, as the "my school is bestest" spirit in me says] trophy alumni.
Ahh, the times when all UK was well-known for was its witty sitcoms and when school alumni were just boring overachievers, and the only sort of terrorism we knew was generating enough noise to ensure Chanchala ma’am’s voice was drowned in the sea of babble, and hoping she would give up trying to teach us and let us off, or cross-questioning the new teacher en-masse to ensure she left with a nervous breakdown.