Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Games People Play Part 2

Okay, so I came up with a few more games that we used to play as a kid and here's the list:

1. Lock & Key
It was a variation of chase. If the 'denner' catches you, you have to stop right where you are and you can't move unless another player comes to you and says "Key". I remember playing this with a boy who was so good that he always touched everyone so quickly that very soon that very soon, every player would be standing still and we would have no option but to start the game all over again.

2. Music Competition
There was a broken house somewhere in our neighbourhood and a raised platform in it. That would be our stage. We would 'sing' as though in a competition and in the end, one of us would win.

Friday, November 5, 2010


The most popular British import to India is English language. It is so popular that Indians have now developed a new language called Indian English which pays no heed to the rules of grammar and utmost attention to fake accents and rapidfire speech. In India, you will hear people say things like “I live in Delhi only” instead of “I live right here in Delhi”. In fact, the word ‘prepone’ (as opposed to postpone) is now being considered to be included in dictionaries thanks to Indians.
I have always been to English medium schools. All English medium school have one thing in common- the students make jokes about how their teachers speak English. I know that it is a joke because my sister told them and so did my friends when I went to a different school ten years later.
Let me give you a few examples. Following are some things both my sister and I as well as our friends have claimed that out teachers have said:
“Don’t understand that tree”. (She means: Don’t stand under that tree.)
“Open the windows, let the atmosphere come in”. (She means: Open the windows, let the breeze come in. Interestingly, this was the most popular joke and I have seen students from all school making it about some teacher or the other.)
“Stand in a straight circle”.
“Walk in two single lines”.
“I talk, you talk. Why do you middle talk?” (I think this means something like, “Either I am going to talk or you. So why are you interrupting?”)
“The Principal has just passed away”. (And no, this wasn’t said right after the Principal died).
“I have two daughters/ sons. Both of them are girls/boys”.
But not everything is a joke. Once, a teacher asked me to go to the school stationary store and get “two blue gel pens, one black and one red”. She really did say that. I swear. Ask anybody from my school who had been in Class VI-B in the year 2005.
I only wonder when this English fever will come to an end.

Lost Jobs

Doctor, engineer, investment banker.... That’s it. I can’t think of any other professions. I mean, I can think of them, but they are not the professions that my friend want to have. There is a rare case who wants to be an actor but he is an exception. In fact, people don’t ask me what I’d like to do someday. They ask me (since I am Science student and I take Biology) this question which sounds a lot like one of those True/False questions: “Engineering or Medical?”
As these thoughts clouded over my mind, I started thinking about the professions which we have lost. No, I am not talking about things which don’t pay well or ‘risky’ jobs which don’t ensure a future. I am talking about things which many people did barely a decade ago, services which were once provided to the general public but are now not needed. I am really young and so, it is shocking to know how many types of jobs have just disappeared from the scene since I was born. Here’s a look at some of them.

1.    The Postman
The man had a khaki uniform and bag full of letters. Every neighborhood had its own postman who, to some extent, was a part of its identity. The postman in my neighborhood was a man with a beard and a kind face. I remember talking to him and because I was still practically a baby, he occasionally made a fuss of me. When coming back from pre-school, I would see him on the streets and wave to him. Without him, our neighborhood was incomplete.
And then one day, he was gone.
I don’t know when, but his visits become rarer and rarer and then he just disappeared. He didn't even leave a phone number. At the time, I didn’t mind his absence but now I realize that it was in a way the end of an era. The world was developing. ‘Globalization’ was the word . E-mails defeated letters and so-called ‘trunk calls’ were no longer that expensive.  And now, Facebook is the fashionable thing and we don’t even know how letters are really written (‘are’ has become ‘r’, ‘you’ has become ‘u’, ‘see you’ has become ‘cu’ and so on.) I guess we were all so fascinated with these developments that we forgot about the postman who was dying all this while. Today we only have faceless, less individualistic versions of him, mostly courier guys whose faces never register in our heads. The mail they bring in is often, if not always, important but so impersonal that  we don't exactly wait for them. They don't wear a khaki uniform, they don't know us and we don't know them. Boy, communication sure has changed.
I sometimes wonder what our beloved, bearded Postman Uncle is doing these days.
2. Film Poster Artists
The first film I watched in a theatre was Devdas. It was in an old, unpopular single-screen theatre. There was a huge billboard in front of it and on it was a poster for Devdas. The man on the poster holding a bottle of alcohol was not Shah Rukh Khan but a 2D painting of him. Aishwarya Rai's mouth looked a little out of place and Madhure Dixit's face wasn't like, well, Madhuri Dixit's face. The era of painted film posters still prevailed and then, very suddenly, was gone. Now, Shah Rukh Khan always looks like himself, Aishwarya Rai's infamous beauty isn't hampered by a less-than-perfect brush stroke, Madhuri Dixit's face doesn't look changed. The posters are perfect. Or are they?
It was once, I think in Lajpat Nagar, that I saw a poster for a film starring Amitabh Bachchan. My child's brain didn't register what movie it was, but I still  remember telling my mother, "See, that poster looks so....real", and my mother naming some famous artist who had humble beginnings as a poster artist. Every line, every shade of colour on Amitabh Bachchan's face was absolutely perfect, so much so that I started thinking of poster making as an art. Yes, it's true- we have lost a valuable form of art and the artists too.
[Note: Designing book covers is an art too but whenever a book gets made into a movie, the original design of the book cover gets replaced by the movie poster. I think a torn ribbon on the cover of Eclipse representing Bella cutting ties with her human life (I guess we all knew she would do that and it didn't come as much of a surprise) is a lot more meaningful than Robert Pattinson's face and Talor Lautner's abs. Leave the book covers alone. Let's just not lose another form of art.]
3. Kabuliwala
No, this isn't in reference to Rabindranth Tagore's infamous story about a kabuliwala-turned-convict. Kabuliwalas disappeared by the time I was born, at least in Delhi. My parents tell me about them. They brought nuts and dry fruits from Kabul (really?) and sold them like door-to-door salesmen. I wonder what they looked like. Did they carry a bag? What kind of bag? Were they really from Kabul? I guess I'll never be able to find out for myself. For now, all I can do is go to a sweet shop selling over-priced dry fruits.
4. Telephone Operator
I have never encountered one in my life because by the time I was born, 'trunk' calls, which needed to be booked in advance, had turned into STD calls. You didn't have to scream at the operator to book yourself a two-minute call. You didn't have to wait for hours and hear the operator's voice again and again before actually getting to talk to the one you want. I have to admit I'm glad it's easier to make calls these days (who wants to yell into the receiver and wait endless hours?) but i wish I could meet someone who really was a telephone operator once.
5. Writer
Surprised? I know Chetan Bhagat is there, but think about the scenario many years ago. There used to be a time when there were hundreds of magazines in the market, which means hundreds of writers for every language.  There were beautiful, inspirational stories for all kinds of people which I had the good fortune to read thanks to my father and granfather's archives. Now, all I see in newspapers and magazines in gossip-y chick lit, articles whose only aim seems to be to promote the west, uninspired travel articles which make you think that the writer didn't even have to travel to the place he has written about and merely copied something out of a brochure, magazines which claim to be for 'young adults' but are actually for toddlers and writers who only know what the problem is, not the solution. Where did all the good writers go? Do good writers even exist anymore? Is it because we are losing our patience to read (why do you think Mr. 140 Characters aka Twitter is such a hit?) and don't know how to recognize, let alone encourage budding writers.
For now, that's all I could come up with but given my age, I'm sure I'm missing out on a lot. For example, according to my mother, there were people who went from one house to another selling shawls and offering to make blankets and pillows and I have never seen sch people. My guess is, in the next few years, the so-called kirana stores, that is the stores which don't have aisles and electronic cash counters and the 'shop-keeper' standing behind the counter hands you things from through an invisible wall, will become obsolete in India and will get replaced by super-markets like the ones in Europe and America. If you know about any jobs which have disappeared or will disappear in the coming years, write about them in a comments section.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I Hate Love Stories

I hate love stories. They show us pretty pictures of how wonderful life can be if you find somebody perfect for yourselves and tempt us to a blissful state which doesn't exist at all. As a result of this, people (mainly female teenagers) lead unhappy lives due to repeated failure in attaining something (that is, their own perfect love story) which doesn't exist in the first place.

So all the lovesick teenagers out there, here's a question for you: have you ever wondered why love stories end the way they do?

Possible Ending #1: Death Of Protagonists
Take, for example, Romeo and Juliet. Both of them die in the end. Heer and Ranjha meet the same end. Sohni and Mahiwal? Same old story. There is a story from the Andaman and Nicobar islands called 'Tatara-Vamiro katha' in which male protagonist Tatara's sword splits the earth in two and Tatara dies when he cannot make it to either of the two halves.

Possible Ending #2: Happily Ever After
This is the stuff of fairy tales. Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty- all of them ended with the prince and the damsel in distress both getting what they wanted. The atmosphere created by these endings is so warm, fuzzy and cuddly that readers (most of which are not over three years of age) start expecting the same ending from their lives.

Possible Ending #3: The Jane Austen Marriage Ending
Jane Austen, although old, was a very modern writer. Despite my hatred for love stories, I like all the Jane Austen novels, not only because these are romantic comedies which still form the basis for many movies, but also because she never underestimated the power of money and a big mansion when it came to choosing a husband but at the same time didn't treat material wealth as the only criteria. These stories always end with the haughty female protagonist marrying the rich, misunderstood male protagonists and becoming the mistress in what looks like a five-star hotel.

Possible Ending #4: The Twilight Ending
These days, Twilight is ruling the world. I think it is an old-world romance set in the modern world and can never represent teenagers of today, but who am I to say anything when the book has sold 87 million copies (Okay, I admit it. Four of those copies were bought by me.) The ending to the Twilight series is mainly the conclusion of the love triangle, with Bella choosing Edward over Jacob (and Jacob imprinting on a baby and forgetting all about Bella). If the love story involves three people, it usually ends like this, with the girl choosing 'what her heart wants' and not what is good for her. Not that hairy werewolves who burst out of their clothes every time they change form are good for anyone, but still.

Now, come back to my question: why do love stories end the way they do?

The answer is pretty simple- Because that's how people want it to end!

For example, Romeo and Juliet had to die in the end because nobody wanted their families to patch up and attend a lavish wedding, because then the story would become as mundane as that of Chetan Bhagat's '2 States'. So, Shakespeare thought it was much better for both of them to die so that readers admire their rather romantic sacrifice. But isn't death a little risky? I mean, how can you be so sure that you are going to meet on the other side? What if Romeo fell for another hot dead girl and forgot about Juliet? That wouldn't be good.

And then there's the happily ever after. Well, here's the thing- Happily Ever Afters suck! Once you get your perfect ending, there will be nothing left to want and then, there will be no reason to live. And besides, is it right for a young girl's dream to be to get rescued by a charming prince? There are way better dreams one could have.

Jane Austen may have been modern and honest about her views on the society's obsession with money and marriage. But what happen after the main characters marry? Do their kids have stomach infection and drive them crazy? Does the boy become bankrupt and the girl leave him? Hmmm..... Lots to wonder.

Then comes the situation with love triangles. Any person at the center of this non-geometrical triangle would probably never choose either suitor because he/she would be enjoying the double attention and the fight for him/her way too much. That's just how egotistical and self-centered people usually are!

Last but not the least, in real life, people aren't the way they are in stories. For example, can you imagine Edward Cullen going to his eight-hour job and coming back home late in the evening and losing his bronze hair as it gets older. And if Edward had really been like that, would Bella, who has a strange obsession with beauty, ever fall in love with him? I don't think so.

But there is some good news for all those who have just had their romantic bubble burst- real life is way more interesting than 'happily ever after'.

Throughout your life, different people are going to love you in different ways. If you did happen to come across romantic love, it would not be worth losing all the other forms of love you have in your life. So open your eyes! Don't chase after the kind of love you have only read about. You won't find it, it will find you. In the meantime, enjoy all the other forms of love coming from your people and in the end, you will have your own 'happily ever after'.

Games People Play

There was a time when video games didn't exist. No guns on screens, no motion-sensors, no PS2, in fact, no computer or TV. For a lot of boys (and some girls) of the 21st century, this probably sounds like the end of the world. It is the picture of bleakness and monotony, a glimpse of a life meant to breeze past without the joys of pixelized images. Nobody can be happy in a world like this, right?


For someone who really wants to play, the world is a playground. Even today, in villages, and smaller towns, kids play games which they sometimes invent by themselves. Just think about it- cricket, football, hockey, volleyball, they must all have been started by a very small group of people and today, these games mean the world to a lot of people. Over the years, they have developed and are now considered sophisticated games which require skill and dedication.

On careful thought, you will see that a lot of games children play require skills. You need to be smart for some, fast for others. Besides, they're fun. Following are a few games I remember playing in my childhood:

1. Steppu
This game is called by different names in different places. You first make two boxes on a pavement an then, one. Continue doing this until you have six sets which look like this:

We would throw a piece of stone on I and the game begins. We had to stand on one leg and try to jump to (2,3) with our right foot landing on two and our left foot on 3. Then, we would proceed to the following boxes , landing on one foot or two, depending on the requirement. At (5,6), we would turn around in one jump and come back to (2,3). Finally, we would pick up the stone from 1 and skipping the first box, get back to your original position. The same process was repeated with all the boxes.

2. Chocolate
This was a game me and my friends supposedly invented. It was a variation of Steppu, but still a little different because it's setup looked like this.
We would throw the stone at 1, and then jump on one leg to 1, lightly kick the stone so that it got into the empty square in the centre. We would consider ourselves disqualified if the stone went to some other box or stopped at on of the square boundaries. Then, we would hop on one leg and cross the set-up in a anti-clockwise manner. Finally, we would hop onto  the empty square and try to kick the stone out of the set-up and once again, we would consider ourselves disqualified if the stone stopped somewhere inside the set-up or on the square boundary. After we all got a chance, we would do the same thing again, every time aiming our stone at the next box. This game wasn't as easy as it looked because in squares 3,4 and 5, it was hard to aim the stone because of their increased distance from us. I remember kicking too hard or too lightly and me stone would land at the wrong place.

3. Oonch-Neech Ka Papda
I, who grew up in Delhi, call it Oonch-Neech Ka Papda and my parents, who are from West Bengal (dad) and Assam (mom), call it Kumeer-Danga. All pavements and porches were the oonch (upper surface) and surfaces at a lower level were called neech (lower surface). One of us would choose ooch or neech and the rest of us would try to stay on the surface not chosen. We couldn't stay on one level of surface for more than ten seconds and had to change our position for time to time at the risk of getting caught.

4. Colour Touch
One of us girls would call out a color and we would all run to touch any object (including all articles of clothing) which had this color while the girl would try to catch us.

5. Advertisement
One of us girls would choose a letter from the English alphabet and we would have to name a product whose name starts with that letter and has its advertisement on TV. If we could come up with a name, we would have to try and sneak past an imaginary no-man's land and get to the other side at the risk of getting caught.

6. Marbles
Even though this game is not played much these days, I am pretty sure everyone knows what it's about. it's requires aim and concentration and even though it may be called 'juvenile', it is a hard game which not everyone can play.

7. Wall Touch
We would play this game in school when we couldn't go outdoors. We had to have at least part of our body touching one of two Walls facing each other and while we tried to change our wall, somebody would try to catch us. I was never too good at this game. Once I got caught and it was my turn to start catching, I would always make an excuse to get outw

8. Chicklet
It was a lot like chase. The 'denner' would give us a theme, like flowers or colours, and we would all choose a particular color or flower. Then we would tell the denner what we had chosen but we wouldn't tell her who had chosen what. She would say any one of the names (eg, 'Rose' or 'Red) and whoever's choice it corresponded to had to run away from a denner. If things got too close, she could just scream out some other player's choice and the denner would then have to chase that girl. it wasn't really a fair game, because every time the denner got too close to us, we forced her to chase some other player. But it was while playing this game that one of my Physical Training teachers saw how fast I was and chose me to be in the 4/100m relay at the Junior Zonal level Championships, in which my team scored a silver. I am no longer a good runner, but I remember that once not even the boys could chase me down. My only disadvantage was that I had this knack of always choosing unconventional names (I chose 'Tulip' when others chose rose, lily or marigold. I chose 'Mauve' when pink, blue and red were the more common options) and so, the denner always knew what my choice was.

What would you call the above mentioned games? Juvenile, silly, girlie, odd? But think about the kind of creativity that has gone into inventing them, the genius which only children possess. There must have been something about them that made us play them again and again and within a few weeks of getting tired of them, we would start playing them again. I later realized that none of the games had been too simple, with some of us always being better players than others. I wonder where these games went? Did they get taken over by video games or was it just that children don't have much space to play these days (blame real estate developers)? Whatever it was, I can see a shift in the games people play and boy, do I miss those old games.

World's Most Beautiful Women

Who would you call the world's most beautiful woman? Answers would most probably vary. Over the years, I have seen good-looking people on TV and I've thought, "Ah, she looks pretty!" or "That's just eight pounds of make-up" or "Hmmm. Okay...." Let's face it. Girls have a tendency to think about beauty a lot and judge other girls for it. My friends, the Facebook-obsessed ones, spend a lot of time looking at pictures of other girls they know on their Facebook profiles and holding discussions about their opinions. I'm sure this shallowness will never come to an end because even I, someone who believes in deep thinking, do think about beauty a lot.

I thought about all the people I have considered beautiful in my life and came up with a list. The list is in no particular order.

Rani Mukherjee
She was and still is my favorite actress. Talent counts for something, right? What made her beautiful to me were her dancing skills. Despite being so short, she had the energy and elegance of someone lithe and tall. Has anybody ever noticed this? Perhaps not, because we are so obsessed with break-dancers. But I suggest you watch some videos of her and you will surely see her talent.

                                                                                                                      Anoushka Sharma
Some years ago, a breed of women who claimed to be actresses came to the movie business and yes, they were all amazingly beautiful. I didn't like any of them. The only girl who caught my attention was Anoushka Sharma and it wasn't because of her beautiful face, but because she was the only girl who seemed to have a spark and a humanness that came close to the actresses of before.

Selena Gomez
I think a lot of teenage girls would want to look like her. I don't think she is very good as a singer, and I think she is not as good as Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato, and her style of music doesn't really come across as deep to me, but we can all agree that she is adorable in the way she looks. When I first saw her on Wizards Of Waverly Place, I thought I had seen her somewhere before, but WOWP was practically her first acting job, so it couldn't be true. it was just that she totally matched my idea of 'cute'.

Queen Latifa
I was a feminist by the time I was twelve, greatly interested in women who did things women mostly didn't do. Rapping was one such thing. How often do we come across female rappers? Very rarely. But Queen Latifa was a special woman. She later went on to do movies. One look at her and you would say, "Oh, what an oversized aunty", and you wouldn't be wrong because she weighs over 200lbs. But the great thing was that despite being overweight, she always played women who are considered attractive by people.

Nafisa Ali
She is an old lady now (age 53), and for me, it is hard to even imagine her being young. She was a swimmer and horse rider and is now an actress. In the age of plastic surgery, it is good to see someone who just naturally looks good.

Rachel Weisz
When I first became a fan of Hollywood, she was at the peak of her career and for a while I wanted to look just like her. She wasn't my favorite actress, but yes, I thought she was the prettiest.

Beyonce Knowles
Let's face it, we, as Indians are so obsessed with fair skin that we never think of black women as conventionally beautiful. But I think this particular woman is really beautiful. Her face is perfect and she is talented (a rare thing), besides being jaw-droppingly rich- what else does it take to be beautiful?

If you look at the list above, you will see that not a single woman looks like the other, but they are all beautiful. So why is it that we carry a set image of beauty in our heads and anything which doesn't fit that image automatically becomes 'ugly' or 'ordinary'?  Get out of the 'thin, fair, tall' line of thinking today and start looking with less shallow eyes and you'll see that people of different sizes and shapes are often very beautiful.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Harry Potter Comes To India

When I was ten years old, I wrote my first play 'Harry Potter Comes to India'. It was the story of Harry Potter coming to India after he finds out that the Dursleys have been abducted by Voldemort and Ron and Hermione are spending the holidays with an Indian Hogwarts student in her house in India. Of course, there was very little magic involved, because we barely had any props, let alone special affects, and our stage was the top of the staircase in our assembly hall, but the fact that I had put together thirty ten-year-old actors in one play and made them memorize their lines and speak them on the day of the show still makes me proud.

The following year, I wrote another play called 'Jadoo and The World' for my English assessment. It was about Jadoo encountering five earthlings. The play was unsuccessful.

Then I wrote a play called 'To Be Or Not To Be'. I had just heard this Shakespeare line somewhere and had thought it would be a good name for a play even though it had no relevance to my play. It was about a popstar who gets AIDS. I played an AIDS patient in that. I was the dignified moralist of my school and barely twelve years old, and the fact that I had written a play about something like AIDS came as a shock to everybody. It took a lot of hard-work just to make the actors comfortable to enact a play with such a subject matter. The play wasn't very successful, but it was the only time in the history of the school that a student so young had written and directed a play like this.

Next, I wrote a play called 'Meeting Point'. It was set in Goa and was a combination of four love stories that were loosely connected. No, Salaam-E-Ishq had not released back then and I have never seen Love Actually, even though I know it has a similar story. A few months later, a French film called Paris Je'Taime (Paris, I Love You) was released which had a very 'Meeting Point' feel to it. The play was rejected by the other members of my group who decided to put up a slapstick comedy which flopped miserably. Besides, even if I had got my group members to act in my play, the teachers wouldn't have approved of such young kids being in a romantic play.

'Meeting Point' was the end of my career as a dramatist. The following year, when I was fourteen, I moved to Mumbai and never got a chance to put up another play.

My father had a much better resume as a child actor. In his days, kids were the Gods of extra-curricular activities. They did everything- singing, painting, dance, drama, decoration. My grandfather had an even more interesting childhood, full of activities.

These days, I don't see any child taking the initiative to do something extra. They are too busy with their Science Olympiads. People don't seem to realize that given the chance, they can do so many creative things, and thanks to the lack of encouragement, even children don't want to try new things. It is common to hear children say, "I don't have time".

Where did all the good days go? When did things go so wrong? Since when did children not have time? Since when did kids stop play-acting?

I don't have the answers, but I do know one thing- children are supposed to be tiny, whacky geniuses, not busy people in small bodies.

The Rajneeti of Mahabharat

I saw 'Rajneeti' yesterday. Even though I am sure it won't appeal to most people my age, I loved the movie, especially the rather feminist ending. It doesn't leave you feeling soft and warm, but it does make you realize what goes into all those elections that we read about.

y dad thinks 'Rajneeti' is like the 'Godfather', but I beg to differ.

I have never seen 'The Godfather', but after hearing its premise I think some analogies may be drawn between the two movies in question. But a better analogy can be drawn with somthing closer home- The Mahabharata. Here is why-
1) The movie begins with an unmarried girl from a political family giving birth to a baby boy, who is abandoned in a boat by Brij Gopal (Nana Patekar). The boy grows up to become Dalit leader Suraj (Ajay Devgan) who is also the adoptive son of the political family's driver. He is taken under the wing of Veerendra Pratap (Manoj Bajpai) after Veerendra's father denies him succession. This is a lot like when Draupadi's son (fathered by the Sun God) was abandoned and later taken under the wing of the Kauravas.
2) The rivalry between Manoj Bajpai and Arjun Rampal begins after Manoj's father has a heart attack and his declares Arjun his successor. This heart attack does in Rajneeti what Duryodhan's father's blindness did in Mahabharata. In fact, Manoj Bajpai's character seems inspired by Duryodhan.
4) In the end, after things get murkier between the two rival parties, Bharati goes to her long lost son Suraj and asks him to return to his 'family'. Draupadi had made a similar appeal in Mahabharata.
I don't know the Mahabharata like the back of my hand, but if I had, I would probably have been able to draw more similarities.
The truth is that epics are called epics for a reason and even in the age of multiplexes and 3D, they can form the basis for great movies.

Why Settle For Settlement?

I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost (English poet, 1874-1963)

Imagine yourself ten years from now. What would be the things you would want to have? Perhaps a big apartment, an air conditioner, some good furniture and of course, a family of your own. From this angle the future seems to be perfect.

Now picture a different scenario. Ten years from now, you could be living in a cramped room, with only a table fan and a mattress and you could be unmarried.

Which of the above scenarios would you rather choose?

I bet you would choose the first one. But consider this- ten years from now, you are going to be about twenty-eight years old (if I am right about the demographic this blog caters to). At this age, would it be better for you to have everything in your life sorted out or would it be better to struggle for your dream? If you choose the latter, a lot of hardships are guaranteed, but when you are young and energetic, hardships are supposed to be part of your life. Why is it that we want to play it safe with all our life choices so that we are fully settled by the time we hit thirty years of age? Why do we want to be done with every experience and live like a sixty-five year old when we still have youthful zeal in us?

Well, the answer to these questions will be given differently by different people.

Most boys would say upon much pondering that when you are seventeen, you don't know what exactly you want to do with the rest of your life and so it is best to just take the path that has been taken a million times by others. This path is tried and tested and since the people who had taken it have turned out to have comfortable lives, this path is the obvious choice. Even if some boy has a strong dream, he may be scared to give up the luxuries of his upper-middle class life to follow it.

Girls would have a different answer which they may not express (thanks to the spread of pseudo-feminism). The truth is that even today girls have to chose between family and career. By the time she is thirty, she is expected to have a complete family of four. She has been taught to believe that it is not going to matter how successful she is until she has her own family. Its okay for her to be jobless, but not unmarried. Face it, people. Try being an Indian girl for a week and you will say that these observations of mine are correct. In such a situation, how can a girl pursue her dreams and take risks. And what's the point anyways if she is going to end up becoming somebody's wife?

But think about what Robert Frost said. He said that he took the road less travelled and that was what made all the difference. Whether this difference was positive or negative has been left for the reader to decide, but what matters is that there is a difference. Someone who chooses the road less travelled chooses to live with a difference. He/she chooses to live the life of his/her choice, even if this path has been described by Robert Frost as follows- '...... as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear.......'

Today, make your choice, take your route, carve your niche and face the hardships that come along the way. Chances are that one day you will saying with a relieved sigh that you took the road less travelled by and that was what made all the difference.

Let's Watch A Movie With A Real Lead Actress

I watched the Oscars a few days ago. I must say that I liked them, especially because they showed clippings of the movie-making process when the award nominations for the technical and creative categories were announced. They actually showed the designs for the 'Young Victioria' before it got the award for Best Costume Design. The lead characters from the Best Animated Feature nominations even spoke a few lines and they were funny despite not being human.

One thing that I noticed while watching the Oscars was that all the women nominated for Best Actress had the real lead role in their respective movies. Carey Mulligan from An Education played a London schoolgirl, Meryl Streep from Julie &Julia played the famous cook Julia Child, Sandra Bullock (who actually won) played a suburban woman who adopts a black teenager in The Blind Side, Helen Mirren played Leo Tolstoy's wife in The Last Station and Gabourey Sidibe played an abused teenager in Precious. When I say that they had real lead roles, I mean that they were the lead in movies which told the stories of interesting woman. They were not part of the show, they were the show. It is good to know that there still are filmmakers who consider the lives of women worthy of cinematic reflection.

And that brings me to the Indian film industry. Over the past few years, I have noticed a steep decline in the number of lead actresses in our country. Most of the new actresses are former models who just look pretty but I doubt that they would be able to carry a movie on their own shoulders without having a big actor around. Even the characters they potray are bland and one dimensional. Many of them potray young women whose only purpose in life is to live for other people, especially their leading man. The good actresses, who may score a little low on beauty but are more talented than all Bollywood actors put together, are forced to do art films which are beautiful creations that do rounds of film festivals but never make it to multiplexes.

Remember Rani Mukherjee in Black or Karishma Kapoor in Fiza? Where did all the movies about beautiful, strong, independent yet feminine women go? Does this mean that the psyche of most Indians which like to have women in the kitchen or in a beauty pageant has trickled its way into the movie halls and now we are forced to watch women be treated as mere glamour dolls? Why can't we think of women who have brains and several shades to their characters? Are all such women dead, or have we just forgotten to look at women as something different and deeper than what we perceive them to be?

I am going to keep waiting for a good Indian movie about the life of a woman (and no, Priyanka Chopra walking down the ram in Fashion does not count). Meanwhile, here is a movie I suggest you watch. It's called The Runaways and it stars Kristen Stewart (you may know her from Twilight) and Dakota Fanning (who was the little girl in War Of The Worlds). The Runaways were the first all-girl rock band in the 1970s. Their members were mere teenagers when the band reached its height of fame. This fame, although notoriously short-lived, opened the doors for many girl singers, and the fact that you see Madonna and Britney Spears or even Sunidhi Chauhan on TV today is thanks to this band. Even though these girls were controversial and their life included scandals like drug addiction, the very fact that they chose to assert themselves through their music and played the electric guitar and the drums instead of softer instruments like the piano is interesting. These were women who refused to conform and lived an unconventional life. They thought like no man could. They were also the singers of a song called 'Cherry Bomb' which I think is the mother of all teen anthems.

Below is a trailer of The Runaways and a video of the song 'Cherry Bomb'.

And by the way, I am pretty sure that there are a lot of wonderful, inspiring women in India whose lives could be the subject of movies. We did give the world a great movie called Mother India, didn't we? Khoon Bhari Maang was a Bollywood movie, right? This means that even Bollywood can make dazzling movies about women. Until such a movie comes, enjoy this video from Mother India:

Are You Indian?

On Sunday, I read a column on high-heels. Yes, one page in an Indian weekly was wasted over an article about high-heels, which by the way very few people can afford in our country.

Over the years, I have observed that English periodicals have a thing for publishing articles about stuff that most Indians cannot afford. For example, how many people can actually afford to live in a five-star hotel? So why do we have columns dedicated solely to five-star hotels?

And then, there are movies which have absolutely nothing to do with Indian society. Let's take 'Wake Up Sid' as an example. Photography is not a viable career option in India (unfortunately). Why would a girl come to Mumbai from Kolkata to become a writer when there are more magazines and journals published in West Bengal than in Maharashtra? Nobody can buy a cheap flat near Marine Drive. And by the way, nowhere in India do platonic friends live with each other the way Sid and Ayesha did. Evidently, 'Wake Up Sid' is a Hindi movie, but is purely American in its ways.

Truth is, we are slowly detaching ourselves from our society. We are trying to be American, when we are actually Indian. We dream of the freedom that youth in the west already has. We dream of the luxury that most Indians do not have. I actually think this is a good things, but not completely.

Let us try to be Indians for a change. Isn't that better than hanging out at forbidden clubs and then taunting divorced women for not being able to handle relationships? Let us first try to respect people of all professions and not think of domestic servants and sweepers as people who are meant to disappear into the background once they are done serving us. We do respect a waitress' profession when the waitress is played by someone like Julia Roberts. Maybe then we can think about unviable professions like photography and writing. Maybe we should try taking the responsibility that comes with freedom before actually experiencing the perks of freedom. Maybe we should change things in India before becoming pseudo-American.

Decline Of The Handwriting

Do you have any idea what your mother's handwriting looks like? Or your father's? When was the last time you read a secret note from your best friend?

There was a time when handwriting meant a lot to people. Ancient Roman handwriting styles included Roman cursive, and the more calligraphic rustic capitals and square capitals, the latter of which forms the basis for modern capital letters and was used in stone inscriptions. In India, the inscriptions from the Harappan civilisation and Indus Valley civilisation give us some serious insights into our past.

What you see above is an example of classic American business handwriting known as Spencerian script.

Gandhiji was one of the many great men to lay emphasis on good handwriting. But despite the success of Lage Raho Munnabhai, nobody seems to acknowledge the beauty and grace of good handwriting anymore. The beautiful calligraphic script that people once prided themselves for have now turned into clumsy scrawls, as you can see below:

When I was younger, I won an award for good hadwriting for two consecutive years. The school I went to back then, i.e. Birla Vidya Niketan in New Delhi, even organized annual handwriting contests for young children. Back then, I never realized the importance of this, but today I know why a hand-written letter looks and feels so much better than an e-mail written in a computer-made font.

There are many people who say that e-mails and computers are just a way of saving paper. We don't want our beloved trees to be felled, do we? But such notions take the attention from more obvious causes of deforestation such as large-scale industrialization in forest areas, wastage of paper and aversion towards recycled paper. If schools made it mandatory for students to use recycled paper notebooks, a lot of paper could be saved. But no. Teachers are way too bothered about the relatively darker shade of recycled paper. So, now most people think that e-mails and phone texts are the solution to deforestation (seen that Idea ad with Abhishek Bachchan as a tree?). But this has led to the disappearance of the traditional culture of handwriting. Today, most teenagers are more comfortable writing e-mails than letters. What if you have a relative living in some part of West Bengal which does not have internet connection? What do you do in such a situation? Break off all ties with them because picking up a pen and writing a letter is too cumbersome for you?

Today, we don't know what our best friend's handwriting is like. Gone are the days when people wrote emotional notes to their loved ones. Today we have generic smileys which convey emotions. Whether or not you are truly smiling, the same smiley will appear on the computer screen. The art of expressing one's emotions through writing has been on the decline because ready-made 'emoticons' are just a click away.

Did you know how much the disappearance of handwriting has hurt the art and business of penmanship? In the United States, starting in the late 19th century, there were cries that handwriting was being neglected due to the typewriter. By the 21st century, blame was being attached to the use of computers. Linked to this decline in penmanship has been a decrease from two hours per day in penmanship instruction during the 19th century to less than an hour per semester in 2007.

And what about our history? How will our future generations (if they ever get a chance to grace this planet given the constant threats of the end of the world being presented by movies like '2012' and 'I Am Legend') ever get to know anything about our lives? We have not made strong monuments which will stand the test of time. Not only that, we won't have inscriptions and scripts written by us which give a detailed account of our lives and practices. What do you expect them to do? Access our Facebook or Twitter page thousand years from now? But won't our internet accounts expire by then and won't our posts and blogs become irrelevant once new technology comes in?

Thankfully, there are still some people who understand the value of good handwriting. Throughout most British oriented countries such as Nepal, Competitions are held almost everyday as penmanship is an important asset of every student. These competitions carefully analyze the handwriting of the competitor and chooses the one with most ease, neatness, and beauty.

Next Valentine's Day- a festival which has lost all meaning and become a commercialized affair- try writing a handwritten note to all the people you love. Next Diwali, make a card and just write 'Happy Diwali' inside it. Next Christmas, pick up a sparkly red pen and make a 'Merry Christmas' note to your friend. Write a letter to your friend living in another city and experience the excitement of waiting for a reply. I assure you, these events will become just a little bit more exhilarating.

Ever Wondered What I Look Like?

When you can't see someone's face, you come up with so many ideas about how one might look. We claim to know how to determine someone else's appearance just because we know a few things about them. We also sometimes claim to know how to 'face read', that is to know what a person is like from the inside by just looking at what is on the outside. But the truth is, all this is impossible. No, seriously. Have you ever seen Shakespeare? Okay, so he was a great playwright and all and he was probably beautiful on the inside, but on the outside, he was just a bald, skinny dude. Insides and Outsides have no connection at all. What you guys (those rare few who actually read my non-tweeting, over 140 characters long posts) see is what is inside of me. You see what I think and you see what I want you to know. But there is someone on the outside too. And when I am not thinking about the glories of marathons, Board Exams, Indian obsession with white skin, the lack of good TV shows and all such stuff, I actually think of very inconsequential things. So, do you want to know what I look like?

So, this is me. Not very impressive, I know. I am not thin, or tall or very beautiful. But this is who I am. Can't help it can I?

I don't pay as much attention to my appearance as some of my friend do. I like jeans and a T-shirt and have a serious no-frills policy. But I am allowed to indulge in fashion therapy when I get sad or start feeling ugly and/or insecure about my weight. For example, I have a habit of going through the pages of an abandoned issue of 'In Style' that I had picked up from an airport (if you are really moralistic, you would probably think this can be certified as stealing). But the thing is, I can never be like one of those people who grace the pages of glossy magazines. I am no Aishwarya Rai. I can't be Angelina Jolie. Heck, I am not even Kristen Stewart from 'Twilight' (Bella is not supposed to be gorgeous, remember?). But I am me. Am I happy? Yes I am, because I would much rather be an ugly original than a breathtakingly beautiful lookalike.

This is my outside. My inner side is something you must already be familiar with. As you can see, I like to think and I like to talk and I have an opinion on pretty much everything. Right now, I have an opinion about depletion of finite resources. I mean, think of it this way- if we keep using too much resources, powerful countries are going to bombard the little ones to gobble up any amount of resource that is left, be it water, forests or oil. And the generation which will witness this will not be the next one, but this one. The end is coming sooner than we had expected.

See, I have opinions about issues big people from all over the world go all the way to Copenhagen to discuss.

I guess what I am trying to say is that one thing does not make a person. On the outside, I look absolutely normal. Nobody pays much attention to me when I am out on the streets because I look like everyone else. But this tiny detail does not say much about me, because on the inside, I am different from others. At the end of the day, we are all unique and it is a combination of our inner self and outer facade that makes us so.

Make Some Noise!

My blog isn't the most popular. It's not even minorly popular. In a world where people do not have any patience for anything more than the 140 characters that Twitter allows per tweet, it is no surprise that longer blog post are slowly losing relevance. But tell me- doesn't it take a big genius to accommodate the whole issue of Indians' obsession with white skin or the marvels of the Navi Mumbai marathon in 140 words? Maybe it is only right for people to expect that I will keep it short and snappy if I aspire to take up some of the precious time of those who read my blog, but hey! I am just sixteen. I still don't have the genius it takes to write down all I want to say in 140 words! Honestly, I have been getting a lot of lectures from my dad too. He says that if I want to become the writer I dream of becoming, I need to lessen the number of words that get transferred from my keyboard to the computer screen. He is right. But what can I do? I just have so much to say!

And I bet that you have a lot to say too. If you are reading a blog like mine, there is no way that you have no opinion. Isn't it important for others to know what you have to say? It sounds big, but I really think that there are a lot of young, educated people in India, and honestly, they are the only ones who can make a difference. I want to be responsible for at least 1 per cent of that change. Up until now, it looks like I am not very successful. My blog does not have too many readers, and it have zero postages in the comments sections. So help me fulfill my dream. Make some noise. Tell me what you think and leave a comment after you read a post. Maybe I will get a glimpse of that small percentage of Indian teenagers who actually care about something.

The Day I Ran

I used to run when I was very young. I had even scored a silver medal in a zonal championship in Delhi. But then things happened. I grew up. I had to study and I gained more weight. It must seem strange to any fifty-five year old that a teenager could have left anything because of the burden of circumstances, but in today’s world in which pressures come from all directions, it happens. But then we all know at the back of our mind that pressures have to be handled and that was why I started running again. Some would say it was bad timing, because I was in class X and the Board exams were around the corner. But I think that if I would have waited longer, maybe I would never have started running again and perhaps I would have had to face my worst nightmare of becoming fat at twenty.

I lost in a few races in school. As usual, I had to bear a lot of jokes and taunts. I even cried in the bathroom for five minutes. But when I came back home, I went downstairs and ran around my building twenty times. The only regret I had was that I now had no chance to prove that I could run.

I was wrong. The truth is that sometimes there is a second chance, and for me it came in the form of the Navi Mumbai marathon held on 24th January, 2010. I had missed the previous marathon and I was hell bent upon going this time. I hadn’t prepared much because I had a score of 9.5/20 in Geography and I was spending most of my time solving sample papers. But the truth was that I wasn’t studying through 24 hours anyways, which meant that I did have time and that I could prepare.
I was late for the marathon. I had a pair of shoes which had torn soles, but I wore them because I had forgotten to tell my parents to buy new ones and also because my personal belief is that old things are softer to touch. I thought I was doing a big thing. I was finally getting to prove that I could do it. I was going to run almost five kilometers, which some of my people thought would be impossible because I am a girl and because I have the wrong body type. And I was doing all this even though I had 150 pages of Geography notes to study as soon as I got back home.
Once again, I was wrong. I was surprised to see that at least 1/3 of the participants were female. Many of them did not seem to have any experience but they were still doing it. There were people who were running for a cause, whether it be delayed justice or the need to save the earth. They weren’t just running for themselves. I was further proven wrong when I saw the 2km event for senior citizens. One of the first ones to cross the finish line in that even was an elderly woman who seemed fitter than I do! And as soon as all the senior citizens finished the race, they started dancing merrily. There are some people who think they can’t do a lot of things because they were born girls and others who think that once they are old, they have nothing to run towards. They are wrong. There can be a finish line to cross even if you are seventy only if you want it to be there. I decided that this was how I wanted to age- with my wrinkly feet covered in running shoes.

When my event began, I was happy to see how many people just wanted to start running. They took off at full speed. Some of them stumbled, but they got up and got back to work. My own father, who is fifty-five years old was ahead of me by the time we crossed the one kilometer line. I thanked God. At least I had good genes. Even I left many people behind, mostly men and boys. My old, torn shoes started giving me trouble in the end when the balls of my feet seemed like they were brushing against the rough surface of the road. Due to a knee injury I had suffered while doing step ups a month ago, my legs ached terribly. I had to walk but I didn’t stop. Actually, I didn’t see anybody stop.

When I saw the finish line, I ran faster than should have been possible because I really wanted to get ahead of all the people who were level with me. Of course, my father, who has some stiff joints and is over four times my age, had finished the race ten minutes before me, done his stretching exercises and was already back on his feet. Some people took pictures of me. My first marathon was over. I had gone from Fortune Hotel to Vashi Station and back.

The only thing which disappointed me was that I was given water in disposable plastic cups, hundreds of which had already littered the roadside, under a tree which had a placard saying ‘Say No To Plastics’ because this marathon was a run against global warming. Oh, well. You gain some, you lose some.

I don’t know much about my future. I don’t know what my score in the Board Exams will be. I don’t know if we can control global warming. I don’t even know what time I will wake up tomorrow morning. But I do know that I will be in the Navi Mumbai Marathon next year.

Good Television Is Every Teenager's Birthright

Recently, I saw that some of the kids channels have come up with Hindi shows which mostly aim at the teenage audience. I remember that when I was very little and my sister was as old as I am now, shows like ‘School Days’ and ‘Hip-Hip Hurray’ appealed a lot to the teens. But now, that is not the case. In recent year, teenage fiction shows have on channels like Disney have failed to be as popular as they once used to be.

It is because these shows have nothing to like in them.

Firstly, these shows are very unrealistic. For example, practically all schools in India have uniforms. We hate them, but we have to wear them. But in these shows, the students never have to wear uniforms. If they did have to wear uniforms, maybe then the writers could come up with some relevant storylines, like students campaigning against having to wear the same thing everyday or teachers punishing students because the hemline of their school is an inch too high. Here is a second example, students never have to go to Science Labs or P.T. Class, they are always in the Drama room or in the Hindi class. Another example: these shows have fifteen-year-old kids forming their own musical bands and struggling to make it big in the music world. This idea has been incorporated in the last three marginally high-budget teen shows I can think of and now it is getting a little stale.Besides, it’s not like all students have an interested in music; some are into art, some are into dance and some may even be really into academics! Lastly, in my life I have never come across an Indian band comprising of a bunch of fifteen-year olds who get paid to perform at gigs. In fact, I can’t really remember any mainstream Indian band at all. If only the producers could just let the characters have expectations which are more realistic and common than becoming a successful band, like getting into IIT or maybe even challenging the upper-middle class society and deciding not to get into IIT. But alas, these shows look like they are set in a parallel universe, where India is like America as it is portrayed by the media and teenagers worry about petty friendship-problems and never about board exams and home-work.

The second problem is that the producers seem to be hell-bent upon adopting the American concept of stereotypes and cliques. There is always the ‘Mean Girl’, the ‘Crybaby’, the ‘Tomboy’, the ‘Rock Star’, the ‘Nerd’, the ‘Sweet Little Girl’ and the ‘Rebel’. You can only describe these characters in a maximum of one word, like ‘sweet’ or ‘tomboyish’ or ‘stupid’. You can never use a little more mature adjectives for them, like ‘angry’ or ‘na├»ve’ or ‘egotistic’ or ‘confused’. The worst part is that when teenagers watch these shows, they feel that they too need to be of a certain ‘type’ and thus start conforming their behaviour to match that of their favourite TV character.

Last but not the least, these shows are not very original. They seem like the producers took some story ideas from ‘Hannah Montana’ and some ideas from ‘The Suite Life Of Zack and Cody’, mixed them together and translated them in Hindi. Sometimes, these shows become too wholesome. All the characters have perfect morals. They never get jealous and they never get too angry. That is why they can’t send out the good message they want to send to the teens, because all the characters are morally perfect, something we can never be.

I know that English shows are better than Hindi shows in lots of ways. I’ll end this with a comparison between my favourite American teen drama, Dawson’s Creek, and the Indian shows we get on TV these days. Dawson’s Creek ran from 1998-2003. It was about the life of Dawson and his friends Joey, Jack, Jen and Pacey. Joey is the one with a dead mother and a criminal father and Jen is a troubled teen. But if the show were Indian, Joey would have had no troubled past, she would simply be the ‘tomboy’ and Jen would not even be on the show. They talk openly about every subject we might call indecent, but at the same time they all (except Pacey, perhaps) are very principled. But if the show were Indian, there would never be an episode about how many kids are taking to smoking and alcohol these days. When Dawson’s Creek first started, critics blasted it saying that it had a bunch of teenagers who live in a world where conversations include constant analysis and small-talk seems to be a crime. Even this was incorporated into the storyline when Dawson makes an autobiographical movie and his film teacher says that “it is just about some teenagers who talk too much”. But can an Indian show develop its own identity instead of just walking the path which has already treaded by many short-running teen fiction shows and maintain its identity even if some critic points out a flaw? I don’t think so.

What producers should understand is that we need shows which are as good as Western shows, not exactly like the Western Shows. Maybe if we get a show which is relevant to our life and has to do with our day-to-day problems, we might as well watch it. Until then, I am going to stick to the original ‘Hannah Montana’.

Are We Really Fair?

I am a teenager and already aware that if you are dark, you are in for a tough life, especially with so many advertisements on TV which show how an Indian girl gets rejected by prospective suitors and at job interviews because she is dark and then she pick up a fairness cream and voila, in just seven days, she is a star. Well, just like those ad girls, in the past, I have had to suffer a lot for my skin colour.

For first 13 years, I was living in Delhi, where fair complexion seemed to be highly desirable feature. And, unfortunately, there were quite a few very fair girls in my locality and in school, and they made sure that I feel inferior because of my skin colour. Every now and then, one of my friends would say, “You’re dark but your sister is fair”, in such pitiful tones that it seemed like they were sympathizing with me for being the ugly duckling who has to live under the swan’s shadow. All these to an otherwise very active and popular girl.

When I was younger, I joined the Dance Club of my school. There were two dance groups. The first group was for the good dancers. Surprisingly, I turned out to be a pretty good dancer. Everybody said that. Then why was I in the second group. It was because there was no first group and second group. There was the ‘pretty’ group and ‘ugly’ group.

The first group got the better song, the better costume, more complements and the right to whine and sulk if the second group took a minute of extra practice time. I was in the second group. The first group was full of fair-y queens, we were the ladies-in-waiting. India is a place, where in a school function, even audience are not expected to appreciate really good dancing, but to exclaim “so cute” while watching the dancers in the front row.

I looked generally like any normal healthy girl. But, alas, my problem was that I was dark, and in India, and most part of the world adorable young princesses are always fair. Since childhood, all our English story books have been telling that all good fairy tale characters are fair complexioned. Think of the irony when in European background – Snow White’s stepmother say ‘who is the fairest of all’? But not ‘who is the prettiest of them all’? Imperialists have wired the fair-ness idea in our brain so strongly that there seems to be no escape. We even forget that many of our pretty princes in Indian mythology and history were actually dark and were considered beautiful.

In those days, everyday my friends would suggest use of sunscreens and bleaches for me. Those ads on TV irritated me so much that I could kill myself. As if that was not enough, soon the companies came up with fairness creams for men and TV soap operas about the ‘struggles’ of a dark-skinned girl.

Now here is the truth about our obsession with fairness creams. Businessmen selling cosmetics renamed bleaching products as fairness products and now happily minting money. Ads get us to believe that we are ugly, just to sell their products. Plus, there is a lot of clever marketing involved. And, they do not tell what else ‘fairness cream’ does. Well they corrode our skin. And, nobody is sure what its long term side effects are.

These days nobody says anything about my skin colour. Somehow, my skin seems to be a shade or two lighter (without those bloody creams), but I am not fair even today. I go to my new school in Mumbai now. Here boys and girls are much nicer and nature’s law of average is actually towards average complexion, so none of them are zombie white. In fact, people here are prettier than in my old school. Sure, here too people are complemented for being fair, but nobody is openly taunted for being dark. All of a sudden, I think Tyra Banks; a black model is really smart and beautiful. I don’t want to look like those fair girls on TV add and sit-coms now. I know that pretty people look pretty because they are pretty, not because they are fair. Now I know that I am not as ugly as I was once made to feel.


(In Cuba – “white” Hispanic Cubans so pleasantly coexist with their “black” African counterparts. Well, that is the utopia, brought in by a proactive Government and positively activist citizens. There all dolls are to be made in two shades - fair and dark. Cuba has one of the highest literacy and educational standard in the world. Indeed, they used education to build a healthy nation and remove adverse prejudices.

So, education is the solution, not the fairness creams. In fact right education to give right attitude and a bit of social awareness and activism are all it takes to make the change. We did the same successfully against smoking and reckless smokers are no longer considered heroes.

We must think and act. After all it is one of the silliest (and mentally cruelest) prejudices which remain to be eradicated for a really enlightened India that threw out the Gore Log a long time back.)

Let's Talk Board Exams

Since I am a student of Class X and will be giving my board exam this year, I wanted the first post to be about the cancellation of Xth Board Exams. A lot has been said in favour and against this decision. There is one group of people who say that Board Exams should not have been canceled because it served as a practice round for the Class XIIth Board Exams. They also say that the Board Exams made students serious about their education from Class X onwards. Some people believe that our score in the Class X Board Exam helps us understand our aptitude, and so, it helps us choose our stream (Science, Arts or Commerce).

There is this second group of people who say that it is good that there won't be any Board Exams from now on. Their arguments are quite simple. They feel that Board Exams cause unnecessary stress and unhealthy competition among students and their parents. There are some teachers who are of the opinion that Board Exams do not determine the aptitude of a person, because many students surprisingly end up scoring well in subjects they have never been good at. And of course, most students support this decision because no kid wants to slog five hours a day for a Board Exam.

There is this third group of people who think that they are just plain lucky. This group of people consists of all the students who are currently studying in Class X and will be the last batch to give the Board Exam. Had they been a year younger, they would not have had to give this monstrous Exam which claims thousands of pages in thousand of newspapers every year.

I must say that I belong to the second group. In fact, I support this new system of giving grades to the students. Many people are against the 'grading system' because they feel that giving the same grade to a person who scores 95% and a person who scores 99% is unfair. However, I am of the opinion that it is good that the same grade will be given to any student who scores within a certain range of marks. This is because I feel that Board Exams have never been fair in the first place.

Board Exams are conducted so that students know where they stand at a national level. But how is this fair when not all students appearing for the Exam do not have the same resources. It is obvious that a person who has spends tens of thousands of rupees on coaching classes so that they can study the same thing a million times and has well-educated parents and a good atmosphere for studying at home will score more than others. Not all students in India are so lucky. There are many students who are part of the first generation of their family to make it to Class X. They are just as bright and intelligent as their luckier counterparts, but they don't have the resources to score 99%. They cannot afford to go to expensive Coaching Classes and nobody in their family can help them with their studies.

So, is it fair to test the two types of students I have mentioned above on the same level? Clearly, intellect and hard-work are not the only deciders as far as scores are concerned. Resources matter just as much, especially since these coaching classes have a big hand in making their students memorize every page of the textbook so there are no room for mistakes, even if you write the exam with closed eyes.

Therefore, it is safe to say that a person who scores 95% with ample resources is on the same level as somebody who scores 85% without ample resources. So, why should they not be given the same grade.

Now, our score in the Board Exam determines what subjects we will study after Class X. But how is that fair, considering our papers our checked by exhausted teachers who have to check 35 papers per day? Can you imagine how these teachers must feel when they have to read the same thing five-hundred times? No wonder they mechanically give marks. Since these teachers are strangers to the students whose papers they are checking, they cannot take into account the caliber of the student, and for all these reasons, students sometimes do not get the marks they deserve.

Last but not the least, why should an Exam which we write at fifteen years of age have the power to determine our destiny? In fact, don't you think that it is wrong for fifteen year old children to be choosing what subject they want to study and in a way narrow down their career options at such a young age? There are just so many things that fifteen-year-olds are not allowed to do because they are considered too young, but how come they are allowed to choose what subject they want? In fact, I think it is much better if students get to choose out of a wide range of subjects and not just pick from the combinations of subjects offered to them by their school. For example, I think a student must be allowed to study History and Physics at the same time.

For all the above mentioned reasons, I am in favour of the cancellation of Board Exams. But this is just my opinion......