December 21, 2015

How I approached exams. And how you should approach exams

In my graduation college's semester exams, I always stood first. Always. I was the first one to stand up and leave the exam hall. In internal exams, I was in and out of the hall within 10 minutes, since I didn't have the stomach to write anything more than my name and roll number in the answer sheet. I had chosen my journalism college because its website said no exams (regular assessment instead). Yet, today I've been asked to write an article advising school-goers how to approach their exam. Talk of irony!

The only practical advice I'd give is this: know the important questions, jot down the answers neatly on small chits and plan extremely carefully where to hide them. In class XII, I failed in physics in all the three pre-boards and three unit tests, except the 40-mark test in which prism formula's derivation was bound to come. It helped that I was seated in the last row, but even otherwise I'd have copied, like I did in first semester exams. Why bother memorising Henry Fayol's 14 principles of management when you can scribble them all on a piece of paper and 'refer' to it! During this exam, I had the two most feared invigilators in my exam hall. Yet I copied coolly. (Copying tip: Play it cool. Don't act suspicious.)

Please note that I do not endorse all of the following 21 points. They were written merely for the blog. I stand by only point no. 17, which is about last-minute preparation. The last time I prepared for an exam was in class XII; it was only on the day before the board exam that I actually ever studied. 

How I passed class XII boards
If you're a science student in class XII, CBSE course, have failed all three pre-boards and don't know a thing even two days before the exams are set to begin, you're in trouble. You know how science books are: bulky like telephone directories. That's how much syllabus one needs to cover. Now, in my first pre-board exams, I had failed in four out of five subjects, English being the only subject in which I passed. With 88 numbers, I was the top-scorer in this subject in my class. The sum total of my four other subjects' marks was 44 or 45. (I rue misplacing my class XII report card.)

By the third pre-board, I did manage to pass all subjects. Except physics. Had my paper been evaluated fair and square, I'd have cleared that subject too, but our physics teacher was known for being biased and insensible. He was pissed off with me for being a pain in the a** and thus was stingy in awarding marks, which is why I failed in the third pre-board. (I know it's not logical to fail a student who's barely managed to pass because you were pissed that he failed previous exams, but people are weird. Aren't they?)

So, the principal refused to give the admit card to me. He asked me, and the likes of me, to get a 'clearance' from the physics teacher. So, two-three days before the board exam, we had a small test. The syllabus was only the first two (or three?) chapters. Everyone knows, these first chapters are elementary level. I failed even that. The principal had to give the admit card, as he does not have the authority to withhold it. The 'clearance' in weak subject was of course a gimmick. We all knew that.

So, a day (or two?) before the board exam, I get my admit card. I was kind of relieved until I got the admit card in hand. Though I knew the principal would have to give the card, a part of me was wishing he didn't. That way, I won't have had to appear for the exam and I could have proclaimed: "I'd get good marks, only if I were allowed to write the exam!" But fate was cruel to me and didn't offer me that luxury.

So, you have less than 48 hours before a board exam and you know absolutely nothing about that subject. The book is like telephone directory in size, alien concepts on each page. How do you prepare? You do it my way.

Thankfully, those days, CBSE would allot a certain marks to each chapter. The question paper more or less stuck to that weightage. I had the math done. Total marks 70, passing marks 24 (it was in the 20s, I can't recall what exactly, but let's say it was 24). I'm safe if I prepare for 27-28 marks well. Prepare only this much, but prepare thoroughly.

Ok. Now how do we pick which topics to cover? There are certain factors to be considered: Which chapter has the most weightage? Which chapter will take the least amount of time to prepare? Which chapter/topic carries enough weightage and does not require any prior knowledge of related concepts? 

As part of my preparation, the first thing I studied intently was the chapter-wise allocation of marks. Next was the syllabus. I went through the index to identify topics I was confident I would grasp. This took some time. Once I zeroed in on the topics I'd study, I was good to start my preparation. As they say, well begun is half done. 

When I finally picked up the book (it had been lying safe and protected in the plastic cover ever since I had bought it a year ago, had opened it only a couple of times in between when I wanted to whiff in the smell of a new book), I was intimidated for a moment. I was scared. Even in class XI, I had never studied physics. In class IX and X too, I'd never touch physics questions in exams. But now I had no choice. 

I didn't have the luxury of time to worry. For the first time since the eve of class X social science exam, I started studying sincerely. As I was turning page after page, I was beginning to understand the concepts that had eluded me so far. So easy! I was happy and excited. Confidence continued to grow as I finished one topic after another. 

What do you think happened in the board exam? Ha! I knew that I knew my 28-mark portion well. When I got the question paper, I went through it calmly, taking my time. As I had to attempt only half of the questions anyway, I had all the time in the world. After I scanned the question paper completely, a confident smile was sitting pretty on my face. Whatever I had prepared in the past day and a half was enough to see me through. And pass I did. 

This is how I approached the other subjects too. Chemistry, maths, informatics practices. My approach works. I got 59.8% in the board exams, falling one mark short of 60%. Just one bloody mark. Huh! I did improve my performance in graduation, though, securing 59.9%. (No kidding, no exaggerating, no adjusting figures to facilitate storytelling. I can show you my marksheets.)

I've narrated this anecdote so that the so-called 'weak' students can take a leaf out of the book of someone who has been there, done that. Got an exam tomorrow and haven't prepared? Worry not. Prepare like I did, basic minimum studying. Oh, enough advice for insincere students. I'm enjoying gloating, so let me gloat some more.

My college days and (no) studies
During my graduation, I had stopped taking notes in the classroom after third semester. (Or after second sem?) I won't even take a notebook and pen to the college. I'd always remember to take my music-edition phone, its headset and my guitar. At the beginning of every semester, teachers would send my friends and I out of the classroom for not having a notebook, but as if I cared! My friends and I were only too happy to get the freedom to roam around and not miss out on attendance. Alas, the teachers shunted us out only the first few days.

That was my college life. No studying, no notes, no doing assignments, no taking exams seriously. That's how it was throughout, after the second semester. Till second semester, I had tried sincerely. But if despite writing so much, you get ho-hum marks, one's set to lose morale, right? Right.

Plus, the subjects in BBA are so repetitive. What you study in consumer behaviour is taught in organisational behaviour again. What's taught in business communication is taught in marketing again. What's taught in human resource management is taught in other subjects all over again. It was like old wine in new bottle. Plus, it was just stupid having to memorise things like '5 steps of problem-solving'. If a fly is bugging me, I'll shoo it away. Problem solved in one step. But for a simple thing like this BBA has five steps. Likewise, there are eight steps of communication. Eight stupid steps. I was disenchanted with BBA education and knew for sure I won't be going for an MBA. So there was no need for me to waste my college days over pointless things like studying.

The genuine slacker
But exams are a necessary evil. Cometh the exam time, even the 'coolest' of guys would run around, getting notes photocopied from the sincere ones. Ahead of semester exams, you could see these 'dyoods' with their nose buried in the photostats. Rest of the year they'd act tough, act (over)smart, but the heat of exam would always melt their cool quotient. That's what sets me apart from the lesser mortals. I never studied a thing for any exam after the second semester. Even my friends with whom I'd hang out throughout the day would stop wasting time with me a few days before the exam. 

I never studied. Didn't need to. I knew drawing wide margins on the answer sheet and generic bluffing would see me through. Even when I had to sit at home with books ahead of exams (parents, you see), it was always a book of quotable quotes or a novel that I've read a dozen times. I was never bothered, never afraid. What a cool life I had! This devil-may-care attitude... Wow! I'm ... I'm great. I love myself. I've always held that my college life was awesome, despite our waiter-like uniform. Thank you for that, God!

Hmmm... Originally, I intended to write only a couple of lines, to introduce the following blogpost, but look at just how much I've written! So full of myself! Haha.. Sign of healthy self-esteem ;-) So, getting down to brass tacks, here are the tips I thought up for students who are appearing for their board exam:

21 ways to approach your exam
Exams need not be the nerve-wracking experience a student goes through with bated breath. Follow these tips and breeze through this yearly event. Because while exams are important, they are no big deal.

1. Keep calm, it's exam time:
It is necessary to approach the exam with a calm mind. Anxiety and nervousness can mar your ability to answer the question paper. So, be it in the exam hall or while preparing for your all-important subjects, tell yourself that to make the best use of time at hand, you need to be relaxed. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and get your zen mode on.

2. Start easy while preparing:
Which topics seem like a cakewalk? Tend to them first. Feeling good? Good! Increase the difficulty level only progressively. This will help you gain the all-important confidence.

3. Don't miss on sleep:
Everyone sleeps less than usual ahead of exams, but make sure you don't stay up all night. Deprive yourself of sleep, and your mind becomes a lot less efficient in soaking and retaining information.

4. Eat smart:
Deep fried food will make you drowsy. Forgetting to eat will compromise your brain's ability to be alert and active. Eat healthy and make sure you don't miss a single meal during exams.

5. Cut down on social media:
Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp... If you find yourself spending too much time on these platforms, it's better to deactivate your profiles for the time being.

6. Previous question papers:
Try to arrange past five years' question papers. Ensure you know the answer to every question.

7. Solved question papers:
Get books of solved question papers and go through them. Read them. You'll be getting familiar with not only the recurring questions over the past few years, but also how to answer them.

8. Take mock tests at home:
This will help you get familiar with the concept of answering the exam paper in the due time. You'll get used to writing fast enough. If you take enough mock tests at home, exam fear (if any) would have no grip on you.

9. Write. Write. Write:
For many, preparation means merely reading. They don't bother practising by writing. Be it derivation of important formulae in science or maths or subjects like history and languages, practise by writing. The mind tends to race ahead in the flow when you are merely reading. It's when you write that your mind actively takes part in the process of learning. Make notes as you study a subject.

10. Write in detail:
For students of science and maths, it is important they write down all the steps of a question they are answering. Often, marks are awarded not just for the answer but also for the steps. If your answer sheet doesn't bear all the steps, you risk losing marks. Also, if your answer is wrong but some of your steps are right, you get marks for those steps.

11. Mind your handwriting:
Evaluators tend to be more generous in awarding marks if the answer sheet bears neat and beautiful handwriting. Gibberish text, on the other hand, puts them off and stands the risk of drawing fewer marks.

12. Draw diagrams:
If a question can be answered better with diagrams, draw them. Neatly drawn, relevant diagrams are an effective marks bait.

13. Important topics:
Almost every subject has topics teachers stress as important. One or the other topic from this core group is bound to appear in the question paper. So give due time to covering this portion.

14. Group studies:
Group study works when it comes to clearing doubts, but resort to this only when all of you have completed your syllabus and this gathering is not gonna end up in banter..

15. Revision:
The more often you revise, the stronger your grip on the syllabus will be. That's why it makes sense to start preparing early, so that you can allocate sufficient time to revise the syllabus.

16. Plan well in advance:
The sooner you start preparing, the better. With still a couple of months to go before the exams, sit down with the list of your entire syllabus and make a realistic study plan. A few chapters every day will go a long way.

17. Last-minute preparation:
If exams are fast approaching and you've just begun studying, try this approach: Get the breakdown of which chapters contain what weightage. Identify the ones with the most weightage and study them first. That means a better return on investment in terms of time spent and portion covered.

18. Be organised:
Some students choose questions that are easy or carry most marks, proceeding in a random manner. This leaves many flustered towards the end as to which questions are yet to be unanswered. Avoid this by being organised.

19. When you lose motivation:
It's common for a student to get overwhelmed and/or not being able to concentrate. To deal with such situations, look at the bigger picture. What's your aim in life? Sit back and visualise how scoring well will bring you closer to your dreams. Let it sink in. (If you're not clear what you want to be, let your motivation be escaping parents' rebuke. Whatever works!)

20. Don't prepare like this guy:

21. Go easy on yourself:
While your parents and teachers must be breathing under your neck, relax. Don't let the pressure get to you (because point 1). Set a realistic goal for yourself and give your best.

For parents: Road to exams needn't be testing times

I wrote this for the blog section of an education website, for which my friends have taken up the content generation work. I wrote this in one go, and I now realise I've a flair for preaching, giving lecture. No wonder I don't have a girlfriend. (#JustKidding)

Here's the write-up (I don't even know why I'm posting it here):

Come winter, children find their parents adopting an unusually no-nonsense approach towards their studies. The teenagers are told to cut the time they spend outside home and devote more time to study. The exams are drawing near, after all.

Students are aware how crucial the board or PU exams are and approach preparation with varying levels of sincerity, according to their level of motivation and interest. They go about their preparation with a nonchalance that sets off the panic alarm in their parents' psyche.

For many a middle-class parent, exam is an entity to be dreaded, like He Who Must Not Be Named. They cannot fathom how their child could be so naive as to prepare so little for the inevitable face-off with The Dark Lord. They start putting pressure on their ward. After all, it's his/her life that's at stake.

While their wards' academics should be a concern for every parent, it should never be a worry. However, that's what many parents do. They worry to an extent that the feeling of fear surrounding exams and marks seeps into the impressionable mind of their children. And this turns a regular, annual event of student life into a rough experience for many students.

Sadly, every year declaration of results is followed by a spate of suicides and suicide attempts by many schoolchildren. Fear, shame and guilt makes some to run away. Even in the run-up to the exams, many face a nervous breakdown. Every year, the government sets up helplines ahead of exams, so that students can speak to counsellors to soothe their frayed nerves. It is certainly a laudable step on the part of the government, but prevention is better than cure and that is where the role of parents comes.

If you are a parent and your child is set to face her school life's final exam this year, ask yourself if you're being harsh on her. By any chance, is your behaviour telling her she's worthless unless she studies hard and scores well? Does she know you'll still love her if she doesn't meet your expectations or does she think her marks are all that matter to you?

Adolescence is when children need their parents the most. But when they are met with disapproval instead of unconditional love, when they feel their report card is the be-all-and-end-all of who they are, their self-esteem takes a beating. Just like their parents berate them, they too start berating themselves. They think they are of no value. It's in this state of mind that children take extreme steps. And while not every disappointed kid resorts to such desperate measures, the scars thus brought upon a teenager result in her growing up to be an underconfident, damaged adult.

It is crucial that parents handle their wards in a sensible manner. Do pull them up when they slacken. Do tell them to get off Romedy Now and pick up their book. Be strict, but be loving too. Never nag them. Tell them what you expect of them and you'd be proud if they achieved it. Tell them you only want them to make a sincere effort. Push them at times, but never too hard. 

November 08, 2015

How I shunned crackers and still had a blast

I pride myself on quitting bursting crackers more than a decade ago. By the time I was in Class X, I had begun to understand how silly it is to pollute environment for momentary show of light. Perhaps my father's insistence the previous Diwali that we don't spend more than Rs100 on crackers, and me having to haggle over it, had killed the fun element of bursting them. 

So while sensible parenting sucked joy out of my life, having awesomely rambunctious seniors in school turned out to be a consolation. Though this incident happened 17 years ago, I remember it vividly. I was in Class VI. It was the day of inspection at our school. The moment our principal gave the bouquet to the inspecting team's chief, a loud bomb went off in the boys' toilet. The timing was so perfect! The day after the blast, the principal exploded in the morning assembly. My impressionable mind was deeply impressed. I was full of admiration for the unsung heroes behind this entertaining episode. It became my dream to repeat the feat when I grew up. 

Loud "booms" and "dhadaams" in the toilet every year around Diwali kept the fire in me alive. Years rolled by and I found myself in Class XII. Destiny beckoned me, but I was a chicken. Thank God I'm blessed with great friends. I had once shared my this desire with Munda (nickname). So one day, around Diwali, he asked me to come to the school early the next day.

As planned, Munda and I went to the lavatory, he peeled off the paper from the bomb's fuse, pulled out an incense stick, we wrapped the bomb's fuse carefully around it, deliberating upon its length so that the bomb goes off during the morning assembly. There was another risk factor. We had placed the bomb near the commode, so if someone were to sit to empty his bowel in that chamber, his morning was going to be eventful. We reasoned nobody would need to come to that chamber that early, and moreover who doesn't do his morning rituals at home ought to be punished.

So we lit up the incense stick's fragment and assumed our position for the morning assembly. With much anticipation we stood during the morning prayer: hands folded and praying to God to bless us with good judgement. The infamous pledge about all Indians being brothers and sisters was under way, when a loud sound from boys' toilet made the morning interesting. BOOOOOM!

Boys were elated. Girls went "hawww". Teachers were surprised at the audacity of the culprits. And the culprits were revelling in that smug feeling. The principal was yelling that he has terrorists for students. This only heightened our sense of accomplishment. What's funnier is that he thought a notorious junior of ours was the miscreant and kept harassing him the following days, hoping he'd crack and confess to 'his' crime. What entertainment!

That, my dear friends, is what festivals are about. Celebration, making memories and having a 'blast' with your loved ones. In fond memory of that event, I repeated the feat in my college too, this time taking the lead. So satisfying! Cannot end this blogpost without saying that I hope our principal doesn't come across this write-up. He shouldn't know it was us!

August 31, 2015

Pointless points for August (only 4)

1. Just started watching "Aap ka Suroor" on YouTube. Himesh Reshammiya's debut movie as an actor. Before any movie actually begins, you see a short prayer and flashy montage of the production firms. This movie has a prayer in Himesh's voice. By God, had I gone to the theatre and this thing had played, I'd have run away then and there. This sounds uber annoying!

2. I'm feeling so heavenly fresh today... The weather has been awesome-cool the entire day too. I don't feel like going to gym and getting sweaty. Confused :-/ (Update: I went and worked my ass off anyway.)

3. I've become sooo forgetful! I switch on comp to top up my mobile number, but turn it off after checking mail and Facebook. I head towards kitchen to have a fruit, but forget upon reaching kitchen why I'm there, so I drink water and come back. As of right now, there's something important I had to do on internet, I just can't recall what that is :-/

4. Delhi girls are absolutely beautiful. Gorgeous. Hot, classy, elegant. Whoa! Boy! In this department, Bangalore stands nowhere in front of Delhi. Be it Delhi Metro or a mall or DU campus, there's beauty all around. AMAZING! God!
Ok I need to stop raving.

As I've written in last month's (or the month before's entry), I've started an Instagram account. I've been posting a lot of pics there. Nothing cool or classy, just anything that draws my attention goes to my Instagram account. As I'm getting to express myself (even if to nobody or to complete strangers who notice my pics owing to relevant hashtags), catharsis means I've less to write down here.

Also, I was in Chhattisgarh for two months starting mid-August, so didn't have the time and space to note down anything. That's why there's no entry for September and October. And then I thought heck, let me post on Facebook anyway. This monthly series of would-be Facebook status stands suspended as of now. (As if anybody cares to know what's on my mind.)

Click here to go to my Instagram page, where I post pics of stray dogs and bright insects. Almost anything that catches my attention. I want to be more regular at blogging. I have a lot of interesting blog posts idea but I haven't written them. Like my thoughts on my short but eventful journalism career, my thoughts on leaving Bangalore, my struggle as a musician and a host of other things. I should stop wasting time on WhatsApp. Yeah, not having WhatsApp was a smart decision. Whenever anyone would ask me why I was not on WhatsApp despite having a smartphone, I'd tell them it'd lead to wastage of time. How right I was!

Yeah, it wasn't even me who installed this free messaging app on my phone. But yeah, the one who did is responsible for a lot of other da... Yeah, no point looking at the past. It's high time I look ahead and make a great future for myself.

July 31, 2015

Pointless points for July

1. At 75 kg, this is perhaps the heaviest I've been.

2. I can make perfect rotis now. Can knead the dough and make round, fooli hui roti. I know, I'm awesome B-)

3. Man, I bought more than 16 kg vegetables yesterday, and much of it is rotting today. All of it looked fine yesterday. How could it rot overnight!

4. Ah, Dreamweaver, why do you have to crash every two minutes! I was on to making a fantastic website for my band. WordPress downright sucks. Until I learn more about how to work with it. The restriction of a user having to work according its themes, instead of having its themes work according to the user, is a big boo-boo.

5. A note from the Universe:
Don't be angry.
Not ever.
It's not worth it. It's not necessary. There is always a higher road.

6. Lending money to friends is one of the worst mistakes you can commit. Either forget the friend or forget the money. 'Friends' are so humble and polite when borrowing and so dismissive and arrogant when it comes to returning.

7. So, a former friend asked me why I'm not on Instagram. I explained to her that a photo-sharing app is redundant, what with Facebook around. And then I downloaded Instagram and started an account. I wish restoring warmth and friendship was as easy.

8. When both the parties have erred in a dispute, the one to apologise ends up looking like the sole wrongdoer.

9. Finally, watched Edward Scissorhands, having caught only a minute or two of it earlier. Had no clue the story would take a gloomy turn after establishing all the characters. I don't like feeling sorry for people I like. Haha... Yeah, I loved Johnny Depp's sweet and simple Edward.
Trivia: I had named a girl in my office Edward Scissorhands, for she had lonnnnng nails. When she'd type on the keyboard, her fingers, those really long nails, looked just like Edward Scissorhands' blades. Hehe...

10. Don't know how an adware got installed into my computer. Wasted more than an hour of my precious time.

11. It's so embarrassing when you end up adding a bit too much salt to a dish while cooking for others. After extra salt yesterday, added extra asfoetida today.

12. Know what's more difficult than getting the balance of salt and spices right? Opening a mixer jar's lid.

13. Mom is out of town, dad is out for routine work and I've the house to myself. It means freedom to turn up the volume, pump up the base and enjoy loud music. \m/

14. Cooking record: Low salt, extra chilli powder, extra salt, extra asfoetida (heeng), extra vinegar, extra salt, extra salt, a bit extra oil. Phew...

15. I always look forward to this girl's WhatsApp status. She's got a natural sense of humour.

16. I just got a shortest possible missed call from Macedonia, of all places. (A few days later: Another missed call from Macedonia. Saw reports on Facebook that Vodafone users in J&K are getting missed calls from such numbers. When they call back, Rs50 are deducted from their balance.)

17. Are non-residents of Andaman & Nicobar Islands allowed to buy land there? I'd love to buy a huuuuuge plot there near the sea and build a villa. I think real estate should be pocket-friendly there. Cheap land plus fertile soil, man I can settle at that place!

18. Ah... Rowdy Roddy Piper passed away. First Dusty Rhodes, then Hot Rod. Bad month for wrestling fans. RIP, Rowdy!

19. I'm totally loving watching Splitsvilla 8. Started watching it only to see Sunny Leone (she's cute, charming, sweet, gentle, kind and intelligent) but I've warmed up to some of the contestants. Some are A-grade idiots, but that's why they were chosen for the show. 

20. There's one friend who gets mighty annoyed when her calls to me go unanswered. If I miss her call, I always have to prepare myself for comeuppance. Therefore, I've assigned her a distinct ringtone (she's the only one in my contact list with a special ringtone) to let me know it's her. The ringtone is The Undertaker's entrance theme. Hahahaha... Gong! And The Dead Man arrives. Perfect setting. If I miss The Dead Man's call, I'm gone. Just perfect. I'm so cool! I love myself! Hahaha... B-)

21. Read the FB status and then look at the last comment. Was your first interpretation of it the same as mine?

June 30, 2015

Would-have-been-Facebook-statuses for June

Firstly, I realise "statuses" is not a word. Just that I'm not a journalist anymore, so I sometimes deliberately do un-grammarly things to repent my Grammar Nazism.

1. I have created a fake id on Quora (a website where you post questions, people like you answer them. Just like Yahoo! Answers), under the name of a girl. Exchanged a few comments with a guy over a question I had posted. And now I get a message from him: 

Poor thing! I am not replying to him. Don't wanna make him think he's got chances of landing a girlfriend on Quora. KLPD hurts, so not gonna do it to him. I'm so nice!

2. Saw a tinyyyyyyy kitten on my way home from gym today. It's sooooo small. As if a newborn (but it wasn't that new, as its eyes were open, and it was walking. Infant kittens don't open their eyes till a few days after they're born). It was near that sugarcane juice stall on the road. That guy told me the kitten had been there for sometime. They shoo it, it comes back. Looks like its mother abandoned it. I paused and thought let's bring it home, but didn't, thinking what if its mother comes back. I hope it has found its mother. If it hasn't, I hope he survives the night and crosses my path tomorrow. I'll bring it home! I've thought of a name too, if it's a she. Mini!

3. My aunt (chachi ji) has brought suchhhhh succulent, delicious mangos home. Godddd... The best mangos I remember tasting. Its better than maaza. Way better. Awesome. The two occasions that I brought mangos, they turned out so so.

4. Had to replace my computer's mouse. And thank God for that! Now the cursor is cruising along on the monitor like a dream.

5. Finally, the road outside our house is being relaid. It was all dug up a year ago for laying new pipelines. Since then, it was a driver's worst nightmare. Should be ready by today evening. Thank God!

6. Yes! Yes! Yes! Brrrrrrockkkkk Lesssnarrrrrrr is back on WWE programming! This man makes this thing watchable.

7. If your childhood friend asks to borrow money, assuring you he'll return next month, he won't. Don't lend. Like Shakespeare said, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be."

8. I almost collided with a bike today. My fault. Was moving forward but looking back, drooling over those lovely dogs with bushy tails.

9. Gosh! I almost stepped on dog poop today! Missed it by a couple of inches. Thank God, for little mercies.

10. At 73-74 kg, 13" biceps, I think this is the heaviest I've ever been. But there's much more to do. I have much fat to burn.

11. Alas, have to quit gym as they increased fees from 1k a month to 1.5k a month. Will do bodyweight exercises at home. And get rich quickly so that I can build a gym at home. Not a great feeling to quit gymming. I was just beginning to peak.

12. Sad, how a former friend I was quite close with is not a friend anymore. It's amazing, how people outgrow supposed strong friendships. I wish none of my friends had outgrown our friendship. But that's how the cookie crumbles.

13. Rains are wonderful. The way sky goes dark and then it opens up... Amazing.

14. A recent pic from our garden.

June 17, 2015

How I miss Bangalore!

You can take the boy out of Bangalore, but you can't take Bangalore out of the... Wait. Why'd you take the boy outta there, in first place!

How I miss that slice of paradise! Been almost a year since I left my karmbhoomi for my janmbhoomi. While it's good to be home, it's a bummer not to have darshinis every 200 metres. What passes for sambhar up North makes me want to cry. The plastic spoon broke when I tried to dig into an idli.

Even street dogs don't chase me at night in Dehradun. Here, they merrily wag their bushy tails at human beings. No loud, frightening calls of "soppu" or "nighty nightyyyy nightyyyyyy" to wake me up every morning. No drums of panaka and majjige placed outside every temple on Ram Navami and other festivals. No bandh every few months. Leaving namma Bengaluru has left a Lalbagh-sized void in my life.

I had first come to the Silicon Valley of India at the age of 20, for my post-graduation in journalism. Upon completing the course, choosing to work in Delhi was natural, it being the prime news hub and just six hours from home (roughly the same time it takes to negotiate Mysore Road in moderate traffic). So I sent my bike, books and stuff back to Doon and took a train to the national capital. The moment I stepped under the merciless May sun at New Delhi railway station, I realised what a mistake I had made.

After enjoying The Garden City's cool, pleasant, Bollywood-romantic climate for 10 months, I couldn't possibly live anywhere else. So, I took my bike, tons of books and guitar to Bangalore again and came back for good. Got a job, earned my stripes and fell in love with the city all over again.

It was my sheer luck I lived near Basavanagudi. There was everything one could ask for around my room. All types of eateries (where you can sit, not sit, only levitate), flower markets, three dingy bars, even a wholesale wine shop and a hospital whose speeding ambulance rammed into me one night.

I'm not complaining. If it wasn't for living in this part of the city, I might never have known what a taste-riot Davangere benne dosa is (slurrrrp!). I might never have known there's more to life than masala dosa-plain dosa. There's open dosa, neer dosa, khali dosa, set dosa, I'm-forgetting-its-name-but-it-rocks dosa... And when I thought my palate was satiated, I learnt about 99 dosa!

I'd wait for Tuesdays and Saturdays as that's when my nearest darshini would make bisibele bath. From "bhaat" to "bath", it was quite a learning, and unlearning, curve. Like finding out that a North Karnataka dish is called "paddu". Same for thatte idli.

Lost & found in translation
I'm not mocking. Cannot. Just highlighting the amusing, comical discoveries a non-Kannadiga makes in Bangalore. Like the word "chumma". A semi-cheesy, arguably sleazy slang for "kiss" in Hindi, it assumes an innocuous meaning—"non-sense"—in Kannada. It's a delight to hear the local people saying "chumma", stress on the second syllable, to express frustration.

Then there's "ma". A gentleman in my office (he's actually a gentle man, unless he gets really pissed off) would address almost every girl as "ma". "You got my story? Any doubt, ma? Ok, ma." That sounds so cute! And the way local people hold their hand in thumbs-up gesture while asking something. It makes the uninitiated wonder what's wrong. Over time they observe nothing's wrong. And such discoveries make for such an aha moment!

After six years of living in Bangalore, I consider myself a Bangalorean. I am. When my friends here ask me if "Kannad" is spoken in Karnataka, I cut them off and tell them it's "Kannada". I miss the city when my friends in Bangalore brag about the lovely weather and post pics of flower-laden trees. The Bangalorean in me quit supporting RCB when it dropped Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble for players from other states.

As you live in Bangalore, soak in its culture, its manners, its lifestyle, the city endears you to itself no end. Like the fascinating sight of autorickshaws—and sometimes puny bikes—plying around with huge banana trees strapped to them on Ayudh Pooja. Even auto drivers' gimmick of refusing to go on hire and nonchalantly driving away into the horizon starts seeming funny after a point.

For the auto drivers' serious swag, for the irresistible 99 dosa stalls, for the high of loitering on Brigade Road and for endless reasons one can point out, Bangalore is awesome. Always will be. 

“And wherever I wander, this one thing I've learnt
It's to here... I will always, always return” 
— Bryan Adams in I'll Always Return

May 31, 2015

Would-have-been-Facebook statuses

I always have something to say. A thought, an observation, a review, a critique, a joke, an anecdote. Usually, I post such stuff on Facebook. It's ironical: people add us as friends, but act pained and snobbish when we post stuff we'd tell our friends about. Who doesn't talk to their friends about the movies they watched recently! Or the book they're reading, or if they've started gymming or are learning cooking. It's so normal. But then there are so many snooty memes with holier-than-thou sarcasm. I make a mental note of whichever Facebook friend of mine shares and/or likes such memes. Unless this smart ass is a beautiful girl who uploads pics regularly, I unfollow such people. (If you're about to shoot another uppity comment like "You can unfollow on Twitter, not on Facebook", go check your facts.)

Bloody keyboard warriors. Their ways remind me of a quote I had come across somewhere: "Following someone on Twitter and complaining about what they're tweeting is like stalking someone and complaining about the route they are taking."

If you're thinking I'm pissed off because someone crapped on my posts/photo, that didn't happen. I just don't like this meme culture, which rewards cyber bullying with likes and shares. Ridiculing, mocking at people (mostly celebrities) is passed on as humour. The sheer quantity of memes and 'jokes' that were doing rounds about Virat Kohli-Anushka Sharma after Team India lost the World Cup semi-final was shameful. I don't appreciate Rahul Gandhi 'jokes' either. Let him be. Sorry, drifting...

What I intended to say was this: Of course, I understand that Facebook friends are 'friends', not friends. So if I write there I got a new shirt, it's not like standing with my buddies and telling them I got a new shirt. It's like sending a pamphlet, saying "Hemant Gairola got a new shirt" to the house of my neighbours, elementary school teachers, relatives, college juniors, college seniors, school juniors, school seniors, people-who-couldn't-care-less. Given the number of things I feel like sharing, posting all of them on FB would be akin to sending them multiple pamphlets throughout the day. To avoid that, I'll now post those random updates on my blog, at the end of every month.

I know, there's no point of this exercise. Almost the entire traffic on my blog is due to people searching for "gays in Bangalore", "gays on MG Road Bangalore", "Bangalore Mirror sexpert column" and "how to apply for internship at The Hindu". Still, I'd jot down my thoughts anyway. Just for the sake of catharsis. One day, soon enough, I'll be a rockstar. And I'll have a legions of fan who'd love to devour every word I write. Soon enough. Ok, let's start.

1. Watched a Hollywood movie today. The protagonist was stark naked throughout. A treat to the eyes! Hahahaha... It was a dog. The lead role was of a dog. Marley & Me is such a lovely movie. A rambunctious labrador pup. His life with a cute couple (Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston), as they become parents of three kids. The film starts with him entering their lives as a puppy, and ends 13 years later, when his old-age complications meant he had to be put to sleep. The movie became so unbearably poignant towards the end. Reminded me of my dog, Caesar. But we used to call him "Seejar". Or "Seeju". My first love. He deserves an entire blog post. I've been meaning to write it for long. Should do it soon.

2. John Cena needs to stop addressing wrestlers a few younger than him as "son". He's just 37, not 67.

3. Why did an image of purple stilettos flash in my mind right now as I was thinking of logging out?!? Should try them sometime? Hahaha... :P

4. Any girl—no matter how intelligent, beautiful and charming—if she types "ty" to say "thank you", ... God! Just don't do it. As if "k" was not dumb enough.

6. Finished reading a collection of poems of Harivansh Rai Bachchan. What amazing poetry! Goodness! He's brilliant! What a rich vocabulary!

7. Reading Ramdhari Singh Dinkar's collection of poems about Karna. Such powerful verses... They transport you to Mahabharata era, right where the story is unfolding. Ancient Indian mythologies are so full of wisdom and still relevant!

8. My gym trainer got me a protein supplement today, and since bringing the product home, I'm going through its customer reviews online. It's bewildering! I've seen 200+ reviews and hardly a couple of customers have written about whether or not they found it effective in muscle growth. One review: "Taste great and mixes well can not really ask much more out quality protein powder." You bought protein powder for taste? What about muscle recovery? Reminds me of my boss's favourite word: Moron.

9. Lychee trees in Dehradun have started bearing the fruit. They are beginning to ripe. Just a few weeks, and we'll have lychees on sale. Such a refreshing sight to see bunches of green and red lychees hanging from trees. Everywhere! It must have been 8+ years since I last had the fruit. Can't wait! Also, I should get home other pahaadi fruits. Peach, apricot, endemic berries... Been ages since I last had them!

10. Just learnt that the girl who uses "ty" to say "thank you" on Facebook also says "ship" when she means "worship". "I ship him!" She wrote. How did such short forms become 'cool'?

11. Another couple of friends of mine got engaged or married this month. And I'm yet to be good friends with a girl who doesn't see a brother in me. Man!

Dang! I logged into acting on a brainwave, to jot down a would-have-been-Facebook status. Totally forgot what it was.

12. May 31 is Anti-Smoking Day. All chain smokers celebrating their birthday today must be having a good laugh. But what to do! There's no day a smoker isn't born.

13. Recalled the status I mentioned before point number 12. This: My computer's mouse has a ghost in it. Suddenly it disappears from one place on the screen and appears at another. Like an angry ghost who throws things around, it's closing tabs on Chrome (web browser) and clicking on random links.

14. Didn't feel even a pinch as the injection needle went into my vein to draw blood for some tests. Eyebrow being pierced five times (excruciatingly, on the last two occasions) and ears being pierced six times, I guess my pain threshold has shot through the roof. 

May 11, 2015

I was born to be a journalist

How old were you when you tendered your first resignation? Your early 20s? I was nine when I proffered mine. I happen to have a copy of it. Read on. Try not to judge me.

"tention", "jailer". Nice. The sheer frustration that's jumping off the paper indicates how awfully awesome I must have been at making a mountain out of a molehill. I had realised more than a decade ago that I was an obnoxious kid, this resignation letter just confirmed it.

By the way, to this day, I employ (dumb) analogies and metaphors to explain my arguments. Until I stumbled upon my 'resignation' letter, I used to think I picked up these tools when I was striving to improve my English. Now I know better. I was born this way! 

Me at it again
Well, that letter came about when I was in class V. Two years later, the school had pissed me off again. So I shot off another letter. And it's a genuine grievance. I so loathed it when it'd happen.

I didn't need to finish that letter. One day, when the princi(pal) was on rounds, I jumped right in front of him and poured my heart out, to which he just laughed and asked me to go back to my class. That was three much (pun intended).

But, I had raised a genuine issue. Half-yearly exams of class VII. My downward spiral in studies (which became a free fall only in class XI) had not yet begun. Every single mark mattered. I had voluntarily got my two marks deducted in science. From 93, I came down to 91. Was being honest despite the race to the top. And when my female competitors went to get their marks cut, they were told it would be effin adjusted in annual exams! What the hell is that! Biased teacher. Unfair. Boys were being discriminated against.

Unrelated rant
And girls of my class were such phony, backbiting creatures. Ahh... They'd report to our beastly sports teachers almost every time we'd bunk classes and play cricket. All of 11-12 years, but so sadistic. That's how I started hating girls and swore not to talk to those lowly creatures.

Since then, I've had only my boys for company, and we totally rock it! Band of brothers. Ok ok. I concede. One side-effect of choosing not to talk to girls was that I don't quite know yet how to talk to girls. That's why no girlfriend. I don't know what to say after "Nice pic". 

Sorry, drifting off. Yeah, the point is... I wonder how I grew up into a hardcore feminist despite having such pathetic girls as my classmates till the age of 17!

Back on track. More narcissistic anecdotes
Sorry. The actual point was, I always had that journalism-thingy in me. Whenever I was pissed off, I wrote. Captaincy became a burden? Write to principal. Teachers guilty of partiality? Write to principal. Unconsciously though, I believed in the power of the pen. I always had that anti-authority thing in me.

Ahead of the half-yearly exams when we were in class VI, our sadistic class teacher instructed us to stay put in the classroom and study in the games period. Why the hell would we do that! How could she take away our coveted games period! Boys of my class were apprehensive of defying her diktat. I charged them up (was always a leader) and we all had a ball. Literally and figuratively. 

(Yeah, the dumbass girls reported this too to the class teacher, who was then fuming. Called me a rotten fish that spoils the whole pond. But did I care? Ha! Do I ever care!)

I can narrate n number of such anecdotes. I always had it in me. Netagiri ka keeda. When 'wronged', others would whine, but I'd do something about it. 

S***! This netagiri ka keeda has made me do some stupid things too. When we were in class VII, I had taken a complaint against a guy three years my senior to the principal. What plaint? He was hitting on a girl of my class. Making advances, stalking her. She was scared (or so my friends told me). I reported it to the princi, who referred the matter to the sports teacher, who then beat that guy black and blue.

Five years later, we were class XII students. My friend who had accompanied me to the principal was now himself in love with a junior. So was I. Hehe... We'd bunk our physics lab period together, go to the first floor lavatory and let out cold sighs while drooling upon our love interests, who had their games period that very hour. They'd be playing volleyball/kho-kho or something stupid. The point is, as time had turned the tables on us, we realised how we were wrong in telling on our senior. (Sorry, buddy. We regret that.)

That was one occasion where my zealous side... Ok. Nobody is reading the blog. (And it's getting scarily rhetorical!!) Let me just end it here :P

February 27, 2015

Bloody phool: More pics from our garden

Who grows potatoes in their kitchen garden! My mom does. We have a lot of vegetables growing in our garden. And some flowers. Ummm... I'm a bit distracted to type much (got my music practice and meditations on mind) so I'll stop writing and post the pics. Will start with flowers. 

Of all the varieties of flowers in our garden. This has to be the one I put above all. 

This pair of flowers screams togetherness. If only people were like this.
These li'l flowers look refreshing.

Now this yellow flower bed. Awesome.

And my undisputed favourite pic of our garden. Just love it!

This thing in background is some rare and exotic plant, I've heard. My mom knows what it's called but I'm too lazy to go into the kitchen and ask its name. But I have one more pic of the plant.

If I end this post with pics of vegetables, it might amount to leaving you with a bad taste in the mouth, given I offered the dessert (the flowers) first. So let me keep one flower picture for the end and bring veggie pictures now. There's not much, though. To start with, here's a snapshot of some of the potatoes we grew in our garden. There was more, but we ate it. Aalu ka parantha :D

This is a bird's eye view of what's growing in one part of the garden. I don't know what's what here. But there's a lot of stuff. Carrots, potatoes, radish, turnip, green leafy vegetables and what not.

And here's a month-old pic of a flower plant, right after it had rained. There's no flower here. Yet. I like how the plants are holding on to water droplets and the droplets are merrily sitting there, cocking a snook at gravity.

After a month or so, the plant gave us this flower. Bloody focus of the phone camera. I just couldn't get it right. The flower looks pretty in person.

Ok. That's it. Tour of our garden ends here. I won't make any effort to hunt for a smart quote to end this blogpost. Dinner is ready. And I don't like thandi rotis. So I'll just post the link of my previous blogpost that had pics of flowers and vegetables growing in our garden. Beautiful flowers' beautiful pics. Done. Going. Bye.