Books and other things

As I re-read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I wonder how I managed to forget so many lovely parts of the book – parts that are so relatable. Lovely.

In other things, I wonder how all that steam I let off about reservations has left out one really important thing – the fact that the UPA was just trying to gain political mileage out of this for the elections, and it seems to have succeeded wonderfully! Lots of controversial publicity, in which the UPA can be seen as being ‘on the side of’ the vote bank it wants to please… The EC should have just disqualified the party when Arjun Singh made that announcement, shouldn’t it?

And reflections on scary exams… the reactions to this one scared me! They’re calling it the ‘toughest paper they’ve ever done’ and stuff – what nonsense! I’m beginning to veer round to the school of thought that they’re just going on about how tough it was so that I mark ‘leniently’… how do I make them understand that there’s no such thing?!

Trials of a law teachers life*

With 2-1/2 hours of invigilation
Providing the inspiration,
Today’s a day for versification
That’ll boggle your imagination.

Watching an examination
Leads to infinite rumination
On inane things like pagination
And a problem on depreciation.

In the throes of desperation
To avoid (of mind) putrefaction
One searches for resusication
Something that merits exclamation!

In one room, perspiration
In the other, precipitation
The tortuousness of anticipation
The inevitability of pontification…

An attempt at ratiocination
Leads to the expiration
Of each and every aspiration
No end to this exploitation

Ah, the joys of invigilation!

Yeah, I know it’s a terrible rhyme – what do you expect?

*With due apologies to Chinmayi

Canned laughter and other such inanities

I’ve always wondered about canned laughter. A sitcom is either funny or it isn’t, right? When it is, I don’t need canned laughter to tell me when to laugh. In fact, it sometimes obscures the next gag, so it’s bad. When the darn thing is not funny, adding canned laughter to it just makes it worse – how often has listening to guffaws from faceless idiots made you want to laugh?

And then there is ‘Breaking News’. Can you ‘break’ the news that a cop in Delhi accepted a bribe? Can you ‘break’ news that is simultaneously being reported on every news channel from BBC to TV18? How long does news take to ‘break’? Can you keep ‘breaking’ the same news all evening? Yeah, I know the single quotes around ‘break’ are getting irritating. As irritating as ‘breaking news’ on TV?

Also, what is an ‘exclusive’? Is it exclusive if only one channel is reporting that the first cookies I baked were pinwheels? What are the legitimate subjects of exclusives? I read somewhere that you’re justified in reporting something as an exclusive only if it was something someone else would have wanted to report but couldn’t. I wonder how many so-called exclusives would qualify…

And last, but definitely not the least for someone like me, what is with all the bad grammar? Call centre executives are (supposedly) taught to speak English; why can’t someone offer the service to TV reporters? I suppose it would help if they bothered to train them in anything at all – when was the last time a TV reporter appeared to have wriiten himself/herself a script to follow?

One thing is clear: I’ve been watching too much TV.

My first batch…

… of cookies. It was years ago. They were pinwheels – you know, the concentric circles of chocolate and vanilla that crumble into yumminess in your mouth? With the help of a dog-eared cookbook, running out every few minutes to buy ingredients that we didn’t have, trying really hard to roll the dough out evenly without it crumbling on the countertop, finally taking a hot tray out of an ancient electric oven, only to have them disappear in minutes to the laconic comment “Not enough chocolate in the chocolate parts, but they’re quite nice.”

And my first batch of students. (Yeah, that’s what I meant to write about all along…) Leaving in – what? – eight? days.

I was going to go on in the vein of “I hope you’ve learnt…”, till I realised that I don’t hope anything of the sort. I know I’ve done my job with you – given tax law good enough associations in your mind, so that you won’t wrinkle your nose at the sight of a tax Act. Anything more that you’ve learnt, you’ve learnt. Logical – if I want to keep blaming students for failing exams, I have to admit that you’re the ones doing the work here. So, no hoping.

I also thought of congratulating you. There’s much to congratulate. From the person who’s holding admissions to some of the most coveted post-grad courses to the person who’s happy to have finished the course in five years, each of you has something to celebrate. Even if it’s just the fact that you’re “out of here”.
But there’s only one thing I want to congratulate you on – that’s the fact that you’ve found something to congratulate yourself on. Over the past weeks, I’ve seen each of your faces light up with pride. Pride in yourself. Whatever it was that made your face light up – congratulations on it!

I could you wish you luck, of course. But you’ll have that, whenever you truly need it. My wishing it is not going to make it happen, or vice-versa. And when you don’t need it, which would be more often than not, you’ll remember that it’s possible to reach standards that seem impossible. And that if it isn’t, trying anyway always pays off in the long run.

What does that leave me, to say?

A memory of the first day – disbelief writ large on sixty faces, as they heard me say “Tax is fun!” I looked normal enough – but was I, in fact, barmy?!
A counselling session. I was stunned. I knew it would be part of the job – but so soon? I was also a bit suspicious – was this a trip-up-the-new-one-watch-her-fall?
Then, much later – just before an exam. Two bright and sleepy faces – “you know, it’s like solving a crossword! Tax is fun!” Barminess reigned!

There are many more memories of you, of course, that I’ll cherish, things that’ll make me smile with nostalgia when I see you again. There were lessons I learnt – the rudiments of the art of gentle bullying, the use of sarcasm, when to provide reassurance, when to start a scare. The use of emotional blackmail. The power of honesty. To actually treat you as adults, though you were just as old as LS. And, of course, tax. You’ve taught me a lot. You gave me your trust when I needed it the most.

Thank you?

Update: Only comments on the post will be allowed on this post!! Don’t embarass me!

Dolls

There’s one on the table in front of me here – buttabomma. It’s a clay doll, I think it’s peculiar to AP – it’s usually a girl in a langa voni, with her hands held up in a dance pose. The skirt, the torso and the head are three separate pieces, and they’re all balanced one on top of the other (in the appropriate order, of course) on top of the legs, which are fixed to the flat base. The effect is that each piece sways individually with the breeze, or if you touch it – very graceful. Like a dancer, which she’s supposed to be.

And there’s one on my desk at the office too – perched on my table calendar, in front of the inkpot. A rag doll, a clown with a long orange cap. My penwiper – for when I fill my pen with ink, which I can never do without getting ink on the outside of the pen. And usually also on my nose, but that’s a different thing. I get asked whether I made him myself – I wonder whether I look like the kind of person who makes rag dolls. Even as a hobby.

There’s also the stuffed banana on my bed. I know, the Freudian implications are mind-boggling, but LS bought it for me long, long ago, when she was too young to know what they were. If it’s ever possible to be that young. I mean, Freud was talking about sub-conscious impulses, wasn’t he? Ok, stop sniggering. It’s big, and yellow, and has red eyes and a smile with a red tongue hanging out. Rather cute. I said, stop sniggering!

LS also made that grey and white stuffed dog on top of the cupboard. The one that’s so dirty you can’t tell it’s grey and white. You see, we can’t wash it because we don’t know if she used washable stuffing. In fact, we don’t know what stuffing she used. And it was too long ago for her to remember. Ho hum.

The only other ‘doll’ left in the house is a little green and blue monkey, perched on my table lamp, the twin to which (a pink and blue monkey) Dimmy should have. If she’s any kind of friend, that is.

Update: Dimmy has the doll. Yippeee!!

And even punctuation!!

The thought process set off by my last post led me to re-read Eats, Shoots and Leaves. The book now has its own website, did you know? And a game. Which is quite silly, but anyway.

Lynne Truss makes a point, though, that punctuation is, to a large extent, about personal style. Some people might think that there are too many commas in that last sentence. Or that there are too few in this one. Too bad – this is my blog!

So, another thing I love about my blog: I can punctuate the way I want, with no blue-pencil-wielding, grammatically-challenged editors to challenge me! Also a perk of my job – I can pepper other people’s papers with apostrophes, commas, full stops; change semi-colons into colons; even (annoyingly) circle a word and refuse to say what’s wrong with it… evil reigns!

Language, language!

It’s been a week of alarmed buildings and journals under chairs.

On Friday I noticed a sign at a mall in the city: “Warning! This building is alarmed!” Well, if the building was in danger of picking up its skirts and running, or even beginning to wail loudly, I suppose people planning to enter it should be warned. But it made me laugh till I got a stitch in my side, nonetheless. P was not amused. Why is it that very few people are amused by the things I find side-splittingly funny?

Saturday. Someone’s telling me about a Chair that’s being endowed, and says “…and they’re planning to start a journal under the chair…” Sent me into peals of laughter. To be fair, he grinned sheepishly when he realised what I was laughing at.

Set me thinking – what would be the correct construction of what he was trying to say? “..under the auspices of the chair”? How pompous that sounds! Is it because anything to do with academics usually does? Another example of how language constructs and reflects images and self-images?