Monday, September 19, 2011

The days of absence

I remember the date very well.  It was the night of 18th September, 2011.  It feels just like last night.  My day and subsequently, the night, was jeopardized thanks to the common cold.  Even though it is supposed to be common, I have no idea why it creates so much havoc.  It is very easy to draw parallels between a nose that has caught cold and an Indian road during traffic jam.  You almost feel for the nose, as it tries all possible tricks to allow itself some fresh air and keep the breathing smooth and easy.  On the contrary, it is anything but smooth.  On top of it, the blocked nose brings with it a running mucus that can suffocate your happiness.  In my experience, there is no way to escape the effects of the common cold without some medication.  But, when you compare it to the traffic jams on Bangalore roads, you have no reason to doubt why it is so common.

So, one of those nights it was, and I just took an effervescent cold relief tablet and slept like there never was to be a tomorrow.  As the alarm went off early in the morning, and as I snoozed many a time, as my head spun in many different directions, there was only one thing clear in my head.  I just cannot go to work today.  Rather, I was in no good shape to tackle and respond to different mails and issues.  They had to wait another day.  As I typed my customary email, and got back to sleep, I wondered how things had changed from the time I had to submit a leave letter in school for such reasons.

Convincing the teacher is one thing, but convincing your mom that you actually have a cold when you don't have one is one of the toughest things in the world.  My primary school was early in the morning.  I had to be in the class at 7:30 AM.  That's like getting up at 6:30 on cold wintry mornings to get ready to go to school.  So, if you had to start the drama, it better be with some amount of planning.  The sniff of the nose was just not enough to induce event the slightest of sympathy.  She had seen several days like this, and by this time, even she was bored of the reasons.

Sniff, sniff!

Enough of this nonsense, just get up and get ready.

Another sniff, sniff.

Even before I completed the customary sniff, I was there in the bathroom brushing my teeth.

After a point, it was easy to go to school than to go through the hassle of getting a leave letter handwritten at home.  That was a painful experience.

Anyway, common cold is frightening.  But, there have been instances when I have skipped school for absolutely genuine reasons.

I have a younger brother who was a maniac of a kid, and both of us used to get into regular wrestling bouts, albeit, without any fixed rules.  So, anybody can kick anybody's butt at will.  Just replace the butt with the face, and both our faces used to be scarred with whatever few nails we had on our finger tips.  So, one fine day, I actually had to skip school, since my face was covered with a lot of scars.

The next day, when I went to school (I think I was in my fourth grade), I was treated like a cool dude.  I actually looked like a guy who had fought a war in the Siachen belt.  There were bloodied lines, some short and some long, intersecting at will, running across my face.

The teacher, in her usual stern voice, asked me, What happened to your face?

I, in my English, as bad then as it is now, answered meekly,

Miss, my brother killed my face. (In Tamil, Killradhu means to pinch)

My obviously Tamil illiterate teacher gave me a puzzled and shocking look.

That's when you have the class leader, or whoever it is, the guy who knows all the languages and is actually the cool dude of the class, to find out what exactly happened.  Also, by now, you must have realized by my response, that there was no way in the world that I could have been the class leader.  As he explained the situation to the teacher, she let out a laugh that I still cannot forget, and to compound my misery further, she brought two of her colleagues and explained what had just happened.  I was the butt of ridicule for the rest of the day.

The Tamilification of the English language that began then has still not left. 

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Maamis discuss job prospects

The topic of Maamis never ceases to amaze me, and as they don several hats, and develop their knowledge base in almost everything with commanding ease, no wonder they have so much to talk about.  Maamis have become the know all and end all of all things, which we thought could be accomplished only by someone like Lord Vishnu.  Their expertise ranges from the confines of the kitchen to the interiors of US, inside pages of Kumudam to the web pages on the internet, a close coterie of friends and neighbors to sending (and responding to) friend requests on Facebook, keeping a tab of soap operas on TV to finding Youtube videos with ease, listening to Vishnu Sahasranaman as easily on the cd player to Googling the meaning of the verses and even creating tutorials on cooking and uploading them on to Youtube.  In fact, as recently as last month, when my wife had to wear a madisaar (nine yard) saree for the Varalakshmi Puja, she was directed to a tutorial Youtube video on how to wear one with ease, thanks to one of the maamis.  Times have certainly changed from the days when they found it laborious to turn on the computer and connect to the internet.  In short, Maamis are turning tech savvy.  

The conversation, when I call home, has certainly changed.  

Praveen, you should have been here.  Yesterday, the final of the Super Singer program (or whatever that show is called) was held.  The female singer was fantastic.  It was a great experience.

I nod and give a silent "Hmmm".

You should be able to easily find it on Youtube.  Why don't you give the following search query...?

I secretly pray that she didn't ask me if I knew what Youtube was.

Anyway, it is fascinating to watch two maamis in conversation.  A gist of which would proceed on the following lines.

Maami curious (MC): Enna maami, unga payanukku USla velai kadachudtha?
[A literal translation would be "What Maami, did your son get a job in the US?
A cool translation, considering the way Maamis speak nowadays, would be "What's up Maami? Your son looking for a cool job, haan?"]

Maami Defensive(MD): Enna avvalavu seekarama kadachuruma.  Economy serilay theriyuma.  Obamavukku avvalavu pressureaan.  Yaarukkumay avvalavu easyaa velai kidaikka matteengardhan.  Unemployment rate koodinde pordhan.  Recession recessionnu solra.  
[Oh, come on Maami, it's not that easy to get a job.  Obama has a lot of pressure.  Everyone is finding it hard to get a job.  Even the unemployment rate is at an all time high.  Everybody is talking about a recession.]

MC: Unga Payyan dhan computer science aache.  Ippodhan technology companiesku korachalay illaiye.  En, Google, Facebooknu try pannalaamolio?
[ Indirectly, Maami curious is saying "You have a duffer of a son who is studying computer science.  Why can't he try at Google or Facebook?"]

MD: Ella edathulayum hiring freezeaan.  Enna pandradhu pongo.  Neenga, Sandhyavukku, moonu maasama Perumalukku vendinda maadri, naanum vendikka aaramikkanum.  Ava Edho oru chinna companyla dhane irukka?
[MD has become so offensive that she has almost slapped the other maami like the way Rajinikanth slaps Vijayashanthi in Mannan.  Just like the way you were praying for your daughter's success for three months, I have to start my prayers now.  Is she working for a small company? Note, she is not talking about a startup.]

MC: Enna maami appadi kettel.  She is working for one of the top companies in Pennsylvania. ava 401k matching 5% kudakkaralaaam.  That's not a joke, you know.  Unga Payyana, paarthu eduthukka sollungo.  Edho offer vandhadhu, Krishna Ramanu accepta pannika solladheengo.  Ask him to research well.
[Maami has thrown the English usage in the middle.  It means things are badly hotting up. "Ask your son to not just accept an offer.  Let him carefully study the offer and then join the company."  She also slips in about her daughter's company's 401k matching policy.]

MD: Oh Aaamam.  Naanum adhudhaan sollirken.  You know, he wants a job only in the west coast or the east coast.  Avanukku Boston illena Bay Arealadhan velai venuma.  Kids today are so choosy. 
[Maami indirectly taking a jab that Pennsylvania is not his son's preferred destination.  He is a cool dude, who wants to be in Bay Area or Boston.]

MC: Pullaiya online apply panna sollungo.  Naraiya websites irukkaam.  
[MC delivers killer punches.  Ask him to apply online.  There are a lot of websites.  Seriously, who is going to snail mail resumes?]

Further, she continues,

MC: En machchini oda anna pullaiku Californiala velai kadachurkkan.  So, definiteaa kidaikkama pogadhu maami.
[My husband's brother's wife's brother's son has also got a job recently in California.  So, definitely there won't be a situation that he will go jobless. This is like seriously influencing the other maami to think about the worst possibility.  What an analogy.  What a data point!]

MD: Ennamo, Bhagavan vitta vazhi.  
[Let God lead the way]

MC: Avan enna OPT la irukkana. [Is he on OPT?]

MD: Aamam.  Luckily, ippodhan OPT 29 monthsku extend pannitaale.  Adhunaala konjam relief.
[Maami has updated info about everything.  She knows that the OPT is valid for 29 months.]

MC: So, avan university vittacha illena angaiyedhan irukkana?  Avana California poga sollungo.  He will easily get a job there.
[Means: Is that fool still vegetating in the university after graduation? If so, then ask him to go to California immediately.  Because, yeah, it seems as though jobs are like chocolates in California.  Everyone gets a job there.]

MD: illai, avan aduththa vaaram kalambaran.  Avan Graduation mudunje oru vaaramdhan aardhu.
[Oh, he is leaving next week.  Before, the other maami can pounce on her, she goes on the defensive by saying that her son graduated only last week.]

MC does not make an effort to hide her scorn.  What a worthless son you have is written all over her face. 

MC: Naa vena Sandhyava vittu refer panna sollatuma.  She was saying that there are a lot of openings in her company.

MA: Oh sure, Maami.  Avan Resume anuppa solren.  In any case, avan sollindrundhan, Pennsylvania is a nice place, appadinu!
[Oh sure, I will ask him to send his resume to your daughter.  In any case, he was saying that Pennsylvania is a nice place.]