Saturday, April 29, 2006

Pox it is!

I have no idea why I hesitate to lock horns with my mother. It would be so easy to beat her!

After hours and hours of pestering her to find the English name of Manal Vaari Amman, she said she'll call up my uncle (a doctor) and check it up.

So, night around 9, I'm tired after doing almost nothing, lying in my room, on the maroon saree with the neem leaves around (still remember Karpoora Nayagiye...?) Mom walks into my room with phone in hand. Thought she was comin to tell me the name of the Amman.

"Hello, how are you? Yes, we are fine. Aswini wants to talk to you."
Wow, she dialled the number all by herself. Saved my energy.
"Hello chittappa..." And I go on to tell him symptom after symptom, when and where it started, how much it spread, how big, etc etc.
"It's chicken pox. I'm sure."
Er...But... Didn't I already...No, that conversation is with my mother, after I hang up.
"And your mother will tell you it is Mariamman or Kali Atha or something. Please remember it is a virus. It will go by itself, no treatment needed. But take a drug I tell you, it will avert dangerous after-effects like deafness or blindness."
Now, my mom was a science teacher! So of course she knows that this is a virus and how it comes and how it leaves. As for me, I'm just gonna stick to the Amman story, makes the disease fun for 10 days.

After giving her the coldest of all cold stares, I hand her the phone to take down the medicine prescribed. She hears the "chicken pox" too. The entire time, I'm staring at her. Once done, she looks at me and asks, "So, did you hear it for yourself?"

"Yes. More importantly, did YOU hear it?"
"Of course. I told you."
"You told me Manal Vaari Amman."
"That is chicken pox."
"In which part of Tamil Nadu?"
"That is what it is called."
"I thought you said I already had the pox."
"That was measles!"
"What? Since when?"
"Measles is that tiny prickly heat like stuff."
Ah yes, the tiny prickly heat like stuff. Any more adjectives, similes, metaphors mother dear? Or, should I add hyperboles to the list too?

So, chicken pox is what I have. And my mom, well, she is still my mom, I still love her, but I just can't resist pouncing on her for things like these... Imagine, if I had to fill up some kinda medical form for some place, and it asks me about chicken pox, and I say yes, when 6 months old, and a week later I get pox... I would be screwed! Ok, bad analogy I guess, but you get the idea of how idiotic it would be to not know what disease one has, don't you?

Hope my mom gets it. Amman help her. Oh wait, that is me! :D

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Pox or not...?

Optical exam went good. However, I learnt only after finishing that it would be corrected by HOD. Thought it would be Ma'am... I wrote stories thinkin it'd be her! Well, what's done is done.

Came home. Mom had made the enquiries I had wanted her to. "It is what I feared..."
"Uh oh, chicken pox?"
She is silent. As if the world of finally socializing came crashing on my head, I walk into my room, and frantically message the news to friends. Jus hope I didn't infect anyone today. Apologies if I had, you know I didn't mean to! The I-told-you-sos and take-cares stream into my inbox.

Then realization hits me... late as usual.

"Mom didn't you say I already had chicken pox?"
"You had tiny tiny prickly heat like stuff, when you were 6 months old."
"So, what do I have now?"
"I told her your symptoms, she confirmed it."
"She who? And what do I have?"
"The doctor's wife."
"What... you didn't ask the doctor?"
"No, he is elsewhere."
"uh... so... why not ask him what this is?"
"I know what it is."
"So it is not chicken pox?"
"It is called Manal Vaari Amman."
"Translate pls..."
"I think it is called shingles in English."
"You think?"
"Anyway, same treatment..."
"I wanna know what I have."
"Jus take plenty of rest."
"Keep drinking fluids. Tender coconut, fruit juices..."
"I have no problems with your treatment. I just want to know what I have... for the record."
"it is called shingles."
"You sure?"
"I know the tamil name for sure."
"o...k... So it is not pox."
"Thank you."

So to all the people i misinformed, here it is. Shingles (or so i think). Jus check with your moms what manal vaari amman means, and let me know.

But all said and whined about, I got something from my parents these last 10 days that I have never got in the last few years. I don't know what to call it. It started the night I came home from the resort. Dad knew, mom was informed by Balu only at home. Both sat with me, in silence. They didn't make anything worse. That was a moment of joy in itself. They just wanted to know what happened. I narrated. They knew it was nobody's fault, and they were on my side. That was invaluable. It was good to know they were very much the people I wanted them to be. They spoke a little philosophy, something I had been talking to myself about. Knowing they were ok with me, I could move on.

"Don't sleep alone tonight, ok? Come to the master bedroom and sleep on the extra cot." Thanks dad, you spoke my mind.

In the days to come, they didn't question what I did. I wanted to spend time with friends in college the very next day, and they said yes. Even their son didn't flinch. I was there until 7, while my proj viva work was goin on at home. They didn't ask. They knew better. When I came home smiling from college that night, Dad smiled. "So good to see you like this."

News of the inquiry came. They shared my views, again. They even hated the same people I did. They asked the same questions I asked my friends. We were one.

Inquiry was runnin parallely, while something else was running in me. Boils! One sunday, one more the next day, doubles on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, one popped up every hour. I'm majorly freaking out now. Here is my last chance to clear this paper, I have to be someplace next semester, and I get a disease (whose name I'm still not sure of!) Man it's gettin itchy. But I can't stop... gotta study, gotta pass. Oh dear, what is goin on with me? Enter mom. Doctor of divinity. It's a blessing, she says. Explain please, I'm missing out something...

See, she had just given a garland of flowers to the Melmaruvathur Amman on Sunday. The same day that I got my first boil. So, she goes to the roots of the disease and the word and says it isn't Ammai, it is Amman. O...k... Wait there is more.

When people get these boils (no matter what the disease is), it is equivalent to Amman entering the body. So we shouldn't chase it away with Western medicine. It has to be treated the way it has always been from generation to generation, coz this is a really holy disease. The patient (aka...the possessed) is anointed with turmeric and neem leaf pasts and made to lie on colors pleasing to Amman. I should touch the boils on myself only by stroking it with Neem leaves. For, I am appeasing Amman. The Amman within me. People can't call me bad names, or scold me, coz I'm Amman. I sleep on a maroon saree, neem leaves all around me.

I completely understand the science behind it. Yet, when I'm standing like a mannequin while my mother polka-dots me with green and yellow, simultaneously singing "Karpoora Naayagiye Kanagavalli..." I can't help giggling. I apologise to Amman, I know this is a bad disease, and I'm praying that I get cured with no complications. But I can't help giggling. Here's my chance to let my hair loose and do the Bhadragali dance...

But my poor mom. I guess this is straining her. She hardly gets enough sleep, now she has to attend to me too. I can't do anything by myself. She has to make those pastes, she has to apply them, she has to wake up before me, sleep after me, even now that my exams are over. She is the epitome of patience. And my dad... he was so afraid I'd get into some kinda trouble in coll for going to the exam with all these boils, that he waited for me in coll itself the entire 3 hours. Of course, it helped him get a refreshing walk throughout campus, some fresh coffee from canteen (somehow, he hated it!) I guess the trip did him more good. But the fact that he did it itself surprises me!

One thing I learnt... Wish I had a word for it... My parents are always there for me. They make their presence felt when I need it most. Otherwise, they think I'm bold enough to take care of it myself. Leave the overprotection aside... I'm talking deeper stuff. They know when I need them, and they rise without being asked.

My parents... You gotta love 'em!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Just another conversation

Saturday night. The only time when the four of us get to sit around the dinner table and speak. No family senti or anything, jus that sometimes it is nice to see that the four chairs bought for the purpose of the table are actually put to use.

This time, the topic was my admission...
Dad: "When you get there, immediately get some kind of aid, ok?"
Mom: "So, you are really gonna go? What will I do without you?"
Me: "I will try my best. But aid in my field is quite limited."
Bro: "Then why the hell did you apply to that field? What is wrong with the course you are studying now? They give plenty of aid for that. Why couldn't you have just applied there?"
Me: "What is the point of doing that? I have anyway decided not to continue in that line. Why can't I study something that will help me in the kind of job I'm looking for?"
Bro: "What makes you think the point of you studying further is for the purpose of you earning? It is simply to satisfy you that we are sending you there. You wanted to study, so go study. Why do you think we are gonna look to you for support?" (FYI, bro, the "we" who are sending me to study does not include you. So butt out. Of course I didn't tell this openly, wish I had...)
Mom: "You can just take the job you have in hand, can't you?"
Dad: "Throw it into the dustbin. That is not at all a good job."
Me: "I'm not gonna listen to this anymore. I don't want to have this conversation. I'm leaving."
Dad: "Pah! There she goes again."
Me: "And I'm definitely not gonna sit around watching you nod your head for whatever nonsense your son throws at me. There has got to be a limit, dad."
Bro: "All you girls learn this well!"
Mom: "Why do you both always keep irritating? If it is not me, it is her. Don't you all have something better to do?"

I walk away from there, towards my room. I can hear the men of the house laughing away about something else. The topic had changed so fast. It didn't matter to them what I had just done. They didn't care what I felt. I am not an individual begging for an equal opportunity to show that I can excel. I am someone's daughter, hence an embodiment of their genetic codes, a manifestation of their dreams, a mannequin well decorated that can be shown off to the world. I am someone's sister, assumed to be living in his shadow. I am, after all, a woman to them.

So what am I to me?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Memoirs of a co-ord

Given I won't write a decent post on my blog for sometime, here's a copy of my article for the department mag...

Seems like just yesterday that the grand blueprint was drawn up for our plans of 6 issues a year. It looked so feasible, the kind of timelines and deadlines we had drawn. 6 issues, hah! Piece of cake. Call it arrogance, call it overconfidence. By the time the first issue came up, we said Ok, fine, 4 then. (We could’ve said 5, but just wanted some “even”ness in the system). Then when the second issue came out, it was exam season. We knew for sure that you’d all be scrambling with textbooks, and the edition we’d been working on will end up as a doormat, a tissue, an ink-flow-checking-paper, a fan (I’ve heard about the power-cuts in the hostel), a chewing gum wrapper, and just about everything else we didn’t want it to be. In all, one issue in the first sem, one issue (so far) in the second sem. Totally not where we wanted to be, given our tall claims. When it hit, it hit us hard.

“Hey, speak to the juniors, get some articles from them” says Vivek the Editor. The frequency of that statement follows a Poisson distribution, peaking at about a week before publishing, then dying down knowing we need to start working on the layout. Dutifully I comply, messaging them, calling them, meeting them, asking them. “I’ve told them Akka, but they are busy with assessments (or) lab mini-project (or) assessments (or) industrial visit (or) assessments”, comes the prompt reply from each of them. 2nd and 3rd years alike.

We had a good team of technically sound final year students to help with the regular features. Ravi, the biker boy, for introducing Robotics as an option for specialization; Mars, the spiritual physicist, to make EMW seem easier than, say, making an omelette; Shanka, the all-knowing non-‘hunk’a, to span the extremes of VLSI; Mathu, divine earthling, bringing in the fun part…the contests; more of them reminding us that it is still techie-friendly with the ECE crowd. What we needed was that extra creative spark from the juniors to tell them, this is for you, by you.

And then there was Pri Mo,
With her never-ending word flow,
Flying around the Science block,
The only good poet in the flock.

Put your ear to the ground Red-Indian style, and if you hear the sound of high heels trotting on the ground, then you know that AR is on her way, rushing to the Pulse meeting, and even better, that the science article is ready in her hands. Besides them, a decnt lot of contributions from students of all years. But it takes someone to make it all look appealing, look readable, look good. SAK did it, working night and day on the Pulse layout. For the unacquainted, he is the 2005 GATE AIR 6, 2006 GATE AIR 4. So, you can be a genius and still do extra curricular work, no excuses.

So many ideas, so little time. At least we can graduate in consolation thinking we’ve left it to our juniors to break the record of bringing more than 3 articles a year. (As Prof VCR candidly, and somewhat acerbically, put it, “So, this newsletter is bi-monthly, not monthly. Hmmm… good!” Err… good???) There were suggestions of a debate, but it got controversial. There was an accusation of “copy-pasting”, but the editors had done their homework well. (This guy was such a coward! Used the title of a prominent Tamil actress to slander us with his vocabulary of expletives, and before we could retort, deleted his ID. Besides, this no-gooder wouldn’t write for us, but rather lash out at those who do). Memories of working for pulse, the great expectations, summoning and canceling meetings within minutes, running around for articles, making up titles, searching for tit-bits, adding it in my statement of purpose to vindicate my fluency in the language (the things we say for an assistantship!), it’ll all be something to look back and smile about, if not roll on the floor laughing.


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