The Shape of Things to Come

>> Sunday, April 17, 2016

no more lying on a bed
shivering like the stars our toes curling
windows open, daylight
a kite, my spine long and loved
no more

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Feeding The Machine

>> Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I went to Kota for a week in December 2014. To most people, this might not sound like the ideal setup for a winter break, but my brother was studying there–post-Class 12, IIT prep, that stuff.

I hugged my boyfriend goodbye at the Bangalore airport and got on a flight to Jaipur, where I teamed up with my father, and we got in a taxi headed to Kota.

My father had been waiting at the airport for a while and was cracking jokes with cab drivers when I met him. I thought I heard him say something about helping them start a revolution. They laughed nervously.

We stopped at Tonk for brunch, where I judiciously stopped myself from buying Rajasthan-themed skirts and earrings clearly priced for foreign tourists. On the way, we made conversation with Rajesh, the driver. My father asked him what he thought of Vasundhara Raje. "No one respects her," he said. But isn't she from the Scindia family, asked my father, doesn't she have the whole dynasty thing going for her? "That's not her family," Rajesh said. "A woman belong to her husband. She was married to the Maharaj Rana of Dholpur, but they aren't together any more. What respect? A woman without a husband deserves no respect." My father dropped the subject, and I silently rolled my eyes.

Till the coaching class boom happened in the past decade, Kota was largely a trade town, with a type of limestone (known as Kota Stone) as its primary export. It's still a small town, though, but now most of its economy is built around institutes promising to get students into the IITs, NITs, and top medical colleges. There are hostels, apartments, family homes, all of them housing 15- to 20-year-olds. The city is teeming with young people, cheap "tiffin" restaurants, and cyber cafes. It's like a college town, except, of course, it isn't one at all. None of the large, privately-run educational institutions here are awarding degrees. Kota is a sprawling symptom of the failure of the Indian educational system.

The star of Kota, though, in on the wane. Rajesh, our taxi driver, attributed this to a series of kands, or scandals. A quick Google search showed that there have been a couple of "MMS scandals", but this is hardly surprising, given that Kota is a highly concentrated vat of unsupervised, enthusiastic young people at the peak of their hormonal turbulence. The rightness or wrongness of shaming young people, especially around issues of sex, is, of course, a whole other conversation. In any case, the parents I spoke to were troubled by the supposed licentiousness of the place, and it is possible that this is contributing to fewer admissions in Kota coaching institutes in recent years.

We met my brother in his hostel, a place run by a middle-aged family who seemed more concerned about "hostel rules" than about the emotional welfare of the youngsters living with them as their wards. My brother is a friendly person–smart and silly in equal measure, but he seemed downcast. No passing cloud, either; this felt like the shadow of a long imprisonment. People can have differing opinions on the worth of going through a ritual such as Kota, but to me, at that moment, it seemed like all the students here were in limbo. Not in school, but not in college either. All they had, really, was hope, and that didn't look like it was counting for much.

I called my boyfriend that night. "It's a prison," I said to him, "He's so unhappy. He's not meant to be here. He's too interesting, too alive.""I know people who spent time in Kota," the boyfriend said, "and they're all great people–fiercely independent, but great fun to be with."

I don't know if that's true. I do know that whatever happens, whether these students are successful in feeding the great Indian machine of the IITs or not, they will learn something about themselves in a place as insular and stressful as this (enough to be almost surreal), and sometimes that is more than enough.

I had dinner with my brother and his friends the next day. "Tanmay got a 52 rank in the previous test." Someone corrects him, "Not 52, 47." All of them contemplate the ramifications of this information in silence as they slowly chew their pieces of rubbery naan.



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Date A Girl Without A Head

>> Thursday, April 25, 2013

Date a girl without a head. Date a girl who has broken free from the shackles of society and convention. Date a girl who doesn't care so hard that she literally lopped off her head one morning and never looked back. She is utterly incapable of looking back. In fact, she can't look at anything at all. I mean sometimes she wants to and then it's kind of a bitch to have to feel for things with her hands and the stump of her neck, but the girl without a head is nothing if not brave.

Date a girl without a head. Date a girl who has not only been called "strange" and "foolhardy" but also "freakish", "repulsive" and "horrifying". The girl without a head squares her shoulders and takes everything life has to throw at her without as much as blinking an eyelid (she has none). The well-meaning advice of friends and the taunts of strangers - they all roll off her like water off a duck. Or like water off a smooth stump where a head used to be. You can mess up your metaphors. The girl without a head won't mind. She can't hear you anyway.

It's easy to spot this girl in public. She's the one without a head. You might find her at a cafe, folding origami into shapes that look vaguely head-like, or you might find her walking down the street - arms outstretched - grabbing hold of and rubbing the face of anyone unlucky enough to be looking down at their phone while walking. The girl without a head tries to be strong, but sometimes it simply isn't enough.  Hold her hands in yours and kiss the side of her neck when she least expects it. It's easy because she never expects it. She likes that.

Date a girl without a head because nothing will ever faze the children you will have together. No monster under their bed could ever hold a candle to your girl. They will not only be tough and quick with their fists (PTA meetings will be hard to live down) but will also be the smartest kids around because interacting with their mother will involve looking at an abacus or a softy rotating globe affixed to their mother's neck. The girl without a head wants only the best for her children.

Grow old with the girl without a head. Sit with her on your front porch and feel the frayed edges of her head-stump gently flutter in the spring breeze as she lays it on your shoulder. Love her then. Love her forever.

Date a girl without a head. Or better yet, date a girl with neither a head nor a torso.

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Twitter ate my brain

>> Wednesday, April 24, 2013

So I'm writing this in an effort to stop "doing the twitter" so much and slowly (maybe) regain control of my writing faculty and also other faculties in general (but hopefully not my Immunology faculty from college. She and I, we had our differences). Because a) I might have forgotten how to write long sentences and b) I'm worried that my brain has started thinking in 140 characters. You spend so much time trying to fit your nice complex thought into a simple sentence that slowly the simple sentence is all the complex thought you can muster. AMIRITE. hurrrrr.
Okay, I'm tired already. Baby steps.

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The Dentist Who Doesn't Lust

>> Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Last week on a bus to the amazing metropolitan city of Chennai, I met a dentist. I know he was a dentist because he asked me why I hadn't sought out orthodontic treatment (I have unusually sharp and slightly out-of-place canines), and then gave me professional advice on how to correct my unseemliness ("Of course though, if it doesn't bother you aesthetically then I suppose it's alright"). I could hear him speak in italics. Added to this his constant greasy grinning and what he told me next, I don't think I liked him very much.

He said he didn't lust any more. We were discussing various Art of Living programmes (I haven't been to any but I would like to) and he told me how, through controlled breathing and willpower, he did not experience the negative emotion of lust any more.
What is negative about the emotion of lust? I don't always act on it, but the occassional surge of wanting (or frisson, as a writer of 'romantica' might put it) feels pretty nice.
If I could host erections, I'd want to be able to revel in them.

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