A smokin Diwali indeed!

Diwali Weekend!!!

I know it is a little late to talk about it but it was good fun. The cribbing will still persist but even then…Stuck in Chennai for Diwali while the rest of my college mates went home or somewhere else, we decided to go to Pondichery or Puduchery as it is now christened. Situated just about 300 km away from Chennai, it takes roughly three hours by bus (regular public transport) and a lot faster by car.

Poor students, we took the bus route to this little city. Having caught the bus at seven in the morning, we spent most of the journey sleeping in between being crushed by the crowds in a rush to begin their vacation.
We reached Pondi at about 10.45am, a good three and a half hours after we left the noisy city of Chennai. Hard to believe, but people get up early in the morning to burst crackers. I felt this cultural disconnect with the city as in Mumbai, it was rarely done. Crackers were burst, definately, only after the rest of the city had gotten up or early evening (post sunset). Don’t know how much of that still rings true after the three months I have spent here, as friends who have recently visited the city tell me things have changed. Even my mom confirms the same.

Coming back to the trip at hand, I have two realisations that I need to share.
1. You can walk the whole breadth of Pondi in under an hour and
2. The city is cool!!! Everything is cheaper here. Be it the alcohol (which we unfortunately didn’t touch) or things like clothes, electronics etc.

This is because it is an Union territory and the taxes that are applicable are reduced by half as compared to other cities. In short everything we bought was cheaper by 4%. Oh what joy!
Only drawback of our trip? We went on a day when the whole city was closed. So no actual shopping could be done. Instead, spent the day zooming around the city on a kinetic. I think I forgot to mention, we hired a kinetic! This was my first unsupervised ride and I’m proud to say that barring one or two minor run-ins early on, the ride was smooth!
Realised the joy that guys feel when they ride the bike. The thought of being in control. Of having the wind or in this case the breeze (the bike couldn’t go too fast) running through your hair. Dodging vehicles, shouting at people, just feeling like a local ruffian, if local ruffians wear short skirts.

Good day!

Copyright Rohini Joseph

Travel worries

Tomorrow the Diwali weekend starts. Most of college has already left for vacation or is getting ready for it. Once again, I am not going anywhere. This time it is partly due to laziness and partly to the fact that I am out of cash. Another factor that was not factored in till the last moment was the holiday that college would declare on the only working day in-between.

View from the college terrace

So, like all good journalism students that can’t stay away from our computers in case the no-email genie will get us, we too thought that we will be here. Actually we had planned a trip to Kodaikanal but health, low finances (at least on my side) and improper planning played the villain.
Staying in the city seems boring but I guess I will do that now that everyone I know has decided to give up and go their separate ways. We decided to go to Pondichery for a day trip keeping in mind that everyone has other commitments and now one by one people have decided that since the company isn’t right, they can back out. For someone who has given their word to another, backing out of the plan is not an option for me now.
It amuses me to know that solitude is an expensive commodity. When you want it badly, it seems farthest from you but when left alone it becomes unbearable after a while. That’s the thing that scares me the most in this city. I know exactly two or three people outside of my college mates. I don’t want to spend any more time with them but unless I run away to some far away place, they are everywhere. The language too I find confusing (not for the lack of trying though). So I am going to be spending all my time with friends from college.
A festival is the worst time to be alone as nearly everyone else has returned home, leaving my hostel bare except for a few who cannot afford the trip home or are disallowed to leave the city.
I hate being stuck here! Vacations may not be a big thing for me but back home I would be able to visit friends who I may have been unable to meet on other occasions. I am going to miss that. Hopefully they will miss my irritating presence too.
What I will also miss is my sense of personal space. Out of options to go anywhere thanks to the crowds I may end up living in the city with just a day trip thrown in for relief. Chennai may be a big city but it is not kind to people from different cultures. Or maybe I haven’t been to those places that are. I some how always compare my days as a student in Chennai to my one week of vacation where I did a lot of roaming around, saw places and enjoyed the stay.
This sense of helpless loneliness would not have happened in Mumbai. I would have been able to hold my own, curl up in bed with a good book, eat cake and rest. I would not have to find excuses to go out. Here I am bound by a million obligations that leave my wanting for personal space.

I miss my home.

Copyright Rohini Joseph

A pessimist by choice

It is funny how little things can go a big way. My mother was scheduled for an operation today. All she told me was that it was a minor operation, “Not problem at all. Don’t worry. Will tell you later.” This left me seriously incapacitated to gauge the seriousness of the surgery.
The operation was slated to start at eight am and continue for about two hours. I called up my brother by 11 to check on mom. She wasn’t out as yet and he told me that it was actually a three-hour surgery. Disappointed, I asked him to call me as soon as she was out and once again after she was coherent enough to make small talk.
All through class in the afternoon I waited impatiently for his call. Every five minutes or so I would glance at my phone in case I missed his call. I even had a list of excuses ready in case I had to attend the call. But, he didn’t call. I spent the whole day worrying. The pessimist that I am I naturally assumed the worst and got upset with every minute. Finally I could not manage without knowing any longer, no matter how horrible the news could be. I had literally braced myself for the worst. I called my mother. No reply. I then called my brother and he picked up!
I tried to gauge from his voice if anything was wrong. He seemed fine! The nut that he was told me then that he was home and mom was safely out of the operation.
This has got me thinking. How is it that we automatically expect the worst out of any situation? Is it a bracing mechanism that has been put in by the mind to protect you against whatever may happen? So that everything else that happens may be a bonus as you were expecting the worst anyways.
What about the optimists then? Why do people say ‘be positive’? How are you supposed to be better equipped with positve thoughts? If you expect the best out of every situation and then something bad happens. How are you supposed to cope with it then?
For very long I tried following the ‘thinking postive’ method. For mmall things that didn’t matter in the larger scope of things I found was able to maintain the positive outlook. Big things, however, were a different story. Things like exams especially were always dealt with in the most pessimistic manner possible. In the end I have always felt better, no matter what the outcome.
I sure am glad to be a pessimist.
Copyright Rohini Joseph

International Issues

Today we saw a movie titled ‘LANKA-the other side of war and peace’. It was based on the Sri Lankan conflict and tried to look at the ‘collateral damage’ that so many years of violence had left on the people.

Directed by Iffat Fatima, the handout given to us described it as ‘The film is an act of recalling and remembering the brutal and tragic consequences of the use of violence, and its legitimization for perpetuation of power. Witnessed most poignantly, as those who have suffered through this violence narrate their stories of loss, displacement and survival, giving _expression to the larger narrative of war and peace.’
The movie was an interesting watch as hampered by the language barrier; one could do nothing but watch. The director did not add any voice-over as she wanted the visuals to tell the story. In that respect, the film delivered.
The film was started in 2002 when the A9 highway that linked the war-torn North and South was opened for civilians. Her interest in doing the film blossomed after she lived in the country for 5 years. It took her about three years to finish the film. What was interesting to find out was that one of our classmates had helped in the making of the documentary. A Sri Lankan, she helped in translations as the film crew traversed the country taking interviews of families who have lost livelihoods and members to the violence.
The movie was an eye-opener as being safe in my apartment in Mumbai the situation was alien to me. I particularly liked the raw footage and the story it told. Visions of families who have learnt to deal with children, husbands dying, disappearing helped move the narrative forward.
All in all an interesting experience. If only most classes on international issues were dealt with in this way. A lot more learning and a lot less sleeping would occur.
Copyright Rohini Joseph

Revelation

Recently, I got chatting with a boy who lives in Mumbai. He was coming down to Chennai for a few months and needed someone to show him along. For some reason he thought I would be the right person what with me having lived here for about 3 months (on Saturday). I agreed. How difficult can a city be after you have lived here for so long (right?).

I met these guys on Sunday finally. A full day after they had landed in the city. Out of options, I asked them to meet me at, where else? Spencer’s. After an hour whiled away having horrible coffee and juice, we didn’t know what to do.
That’s when it hit me. Am clueless about this city! Been here for so long and I knew nothing!
Luckily for me I had this list of coffee shops handy. We finally went to this lovely place called Amethyst (thankfully I knew where it was located). Other roommates had given me rave reviews of the place and I was keen on checking it out. 
A converted bungalow, Amethyst is a relaxed place to be. The architectural style is colonial and once inside it feels like you are transported to another place. Though being a Sunday the place was moderately empty unlike local café’s where it is a jostle for space. A reason could be that the food there is priced on the higher side.
The waiters more or less leave you alone and hours could be spent chatting while mulling over your food and drink. Unless of course you are in a hurry. 
We made the mistake of ordering food especially the pastas. They were unpalatable. 
The sandwiches were ok, though the mayo kept falling and making a mess. Not a good way for food to be eaten! 
My friends tell me that the place has better desserts. Going to check that out the next time I need a peaceful place to go to.
Copyright Rohini Joseph

Notions

Being part of a college (if one can call it that) that has people from all over the country and a few from outside as well has been an interesting experience. It has been a few months in this new city and suddenly it feels like home. The language may not make any sense to me but have learnt to ignore that.

This realisation came one fine morning as we were speeding to college (late as usual!) and the streets seemed familiar. It could have been that i have been seeing the same road everyday for the last 40 days while sitting on someones lap (that’s another experience all together) but even then the city didn’t feel foreign to me.
Anyways in the days that i have been here, I have been forced to mix around with women and lemme tell you it is not as bad I thought it would be. There are actually a few people who I have grown to love. The ones I have grown to hate are a rather small number.
What has been the most enlightening experience since i have been here is that after a while nationalities don’t matter at all. There are a good number of people here from different South Asian Federation countries and now unless of course the profs remind us we don’t even care. The whole alien thing that was a worry earlier has been completely obliterated.
Lets see how many more notions are rid in this year at ACJ.

Copyright Rohini Joseph

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Copyright Rohini Joseph