Saturday, September 26, 2009

Shashi Tharoor Twittered!

We, Indians, have this way with emotions that is quite unique in all aspects of understanding. It’s difficult to decipher when and how we’ll be offended. It has something to do with our DNA that defines us the way we are and the funny thing is that we are absolutely OKAY with it. I guess there must be a strong reason behind this whole panorama, to say the least. But for the time being, let the sleeping devil lie!

I have no issue with us being Indians and acting all “Indian”, be it our choice of cinema, our music, way of life and humor but it gets on my nerve when I see our dear MEDIA trying to milk away on us. The recent episode of Shashi Tharoor (I’m sure you all know him; if not, then Google him. Its time you do) and his “tweeting” controversy (labeled Twittergate!!!), all scrutinized and condemned by the politicos and journos, tells us how much our so-called fourth estate needs a change of view, just for a change.

Well, Shashi Tharoor is not the everyday corrupt MP that India is so used to and he comes from an elite background and a career that glistens in his everyday life activities (Tweeter being one of them).

Tweeter is gumption in today’s world and I can’t exclude India from that world, even if it’s confined to just urban areas. It’s a kind of mini-blogging site where you can post message or sentence of 140 characters including the space and punctuations. In simpler words, it’s a craze of sort. Or else, how can we explain the presence of dignitaries like Barack Obama, Kevin Rudd and Gordon Brown, gleefully tweeting on it, and not to mention other famous and big shots like Oprah Winfrey, Ashton Kutcher, Jonathan Ross, Hugh Jackman and sports personalities like Andy Murray, Williams Sisters, Shaq O’Neal and Lance Armstrong. Some renowned Indians too have made their presence (read Tweets) felt on Twitter including Pritesh Nandy, Chetan Bhagat, Priyanka Chopra and Karan Johar but SHASHI THAROOR takes the cake with 231,635 followers, as of now.

Tharoor’s presence on Twitter definitely contributed to its success in India. He has this aura of success, achievement and definitely a missing demeanor that is the need of time. He is an able diplomat cum author cum human rights activist. His success in recent General Election in which he shook the stronghold of communist party in Thiruvananthapuram, his constituent now, is a breather for many. But one cardinal rule remains true to Shashi Tharoor: He is not a politician. And this ‘liability’ is what making the mountain of a mole in Tharoor’s case. But does he really need to be one to serve his beloved nation?

About a week or so ago, he was asked by a journalist on Twitter whether he too will travel in cattle class (a famous reference to anything crowded), in view of the recent austerity drive preached and ‘proposed to be practiced’ by the ruling party, Congress, to which Tharoor belongs. Since the question was asked in jest, he too answered in jest saying “absolutely, in cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows.”

Of course, he didn’t mean any offense considering the fact that he isn’t the kind who shies away from temple to prove his western outlook. But the way the media played the role of devil’s advocate was not only tiresome and clichéd but even haphazard in some sense. They encroached on his Twittering as if it was a crime of sort.

The media joke didn’t end there. It went on publish stories of how Tharoor was complaining about excessive workload that was backlogging on him due to his 6 days visit to Liberia and Ghana. Thankfully, Tharoor continued twittering about his visit in bright positivity on strengthening international relationships. The sad part was, when instead of covering the African visit, the media was busy pinning on Twittergate and its backlashes from opposition party demanding Tharoor’s resignation!!

Media just couldn’t overcome the hangover on that stupid joke that was supposed to be forgotten like our wise PM suggested. I’m glad our PM is a man to reckon with, not the usual fools we have up there.

I read Tharoor was supposedly asked to refrain from Twittering which I don’t think he adhered to, thus debunking the hogwash of our everyday newspapers and lot. He is a public servant and he needs to keep his personal perspective in check and I do agree with the required code of conduct but I don’t think you need to teach a guy who spent almost three decades as a diplomat in United Nations and had a Ph.D at the age of 22 and has authored more than ten books. His only crime was his sense of humor!

In a country where politicians are hardly looked up to, let alone followed, Tharoor is ray of hope for us or at least to me. I’ve been following him since long and I was thrilled with his appointment as a Minister in External Affairs. I’m active on Twitter too and follow Shashi Tharoor’s comments with zeal because he exudes this enigmatic charm that was absent in almost all of the past public servant, may be due to lack of Internet Age or maybe, plain lack of magnetism!

One thing is for sure, now, Mr. Tharoor must be well aware of Indian Media’s strong ambiguity when it comes to a guy who spent most of his life traveling around the world and settles down in India with a silver ticket to Parliament!!!!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

2 years of typing and listening!

Today I completed 2 years. Two years of utter delight in performing 'sleight-of-hand' that may sound frivolous to a "careerist"!

It was exactly on this day in 2007 that I started my job here at Green Point Technology Services [GPTS] as a trainee transcriber. I had failed in my fourth semester exams and was nervous but wanted to get out my house and earn money anyhow. I was an insomniac too so it helped in my job as it required nocturnal presence. I remember being so happy and excited then. The happiness gradually gave way to rationality and beckoning of reality. And that's the sad part about staying at a job where you don't know what your tomorrow is all about. Moreover, my parents hated this job of mine!

For starters, business transcription is a simpleton job where you listen to an audio file on headphone and transcribe it out on MS Word document. It all depends on your English listening skill, discerning quality and typing speed. I was a bit slow initially during my training days but eventually brewed up to comfortable "finger-tapping". Today its my speed that is making me stay put in this company coz I don't see any better reason for a transcription company to hold on to a guy who hasn't promoted himself to Editor's post yet, in 2 years time!

Time flies by and we can't hold on to it but we certainly can rely a lot on our indiscreet memory. I reminisce how quickly the time has flown. Two years!! The last two years saw most of my polytechnic and college friends begin their "career" in some MNCs either in Mumbai, Pune or Bangalore. And they really tried hard to coax me out of here by using the same ole career mumbo-jumbo. I stuck to my grounds (or to my idiocracy) and here I'm still transcribing away to glory!

We all pursue happiness and for some, it has a huge price of societal bondage. Mine is a bit simpler. I don't deal with real society. I'm far happy with the virtual internet society and I can't blame anyone for being 23 years of age and having no career, girlfriend or life! But I can surely bring some perspective to the role that my current job played in three of the above mentioned arena.

I never wanted a career. I remember telling my mom that I would be a writer like Ruskin Bond after completing SSC. That was quite naïve and my parents were not too thrilled about my choice. Eventually, I packed my bag to Government Polytechnic Nashik for three years diploma. Then came back to Mumbai for Bachelors degree which still eludes me and I'm not talking about the one in Electronics. I haven't got one in Arts either though I must say I've starting in the RIGHT direction by getting enrolling in long distance B.A course! But who cares about career in a transcription industry. Everyone is so engrossed with the file and TAT and deadline and devil-knows-what that it hardly matters what field you come from (or are going to)!!!

Turning to the second topic, I never expected to have any girlfriend here at this job where females are considered RUMORS!! So that pretty much helped me keep my slate clean and title of "MOST SINGLEST GUY EVER" alive! But I must say that I was pretty blessed after meeting some like-minded friends out here who were a lot like me (but will deny it). I met Tushar (who later became my brokeback partner… not the movie kind of course!) We are mostly broke and I'm always on back of his bike. Then there were Shybu, Rojella (he keeps changing his name so I'm sticking with this one), Deeva (light-eyed wonder boy with sweaty hands and empty pants) and Aly (well his name is Alliston but I prefer Aly, nickname for Alien). All of these guys rocked on day one and still manage to do, somehow.

Thirdly, my life has been pretty much erratic, confused and sweet with lots of movies (CINEMA saved me from insanity), football (I still play bad but I'm happy with it), music (language evaporated a long time back), PC upgradation (at last I was able to do something about my piggish PC tho its not worth it… its still not kosher, nor working well), aphthous ulcers (it happens with graveyard shift dinner time), poems (I left poetry writing and now prefer one-liners which I post regularly on Facebook, Twitter and Orkut though not everything I post belongs to me…I'm a great 'copywriter' too) and yada yada yada….

Two years is not a huge number to boast of considering my dad is completing his 40th year under one hotel family but considering the job-jumping guys do around, I guess it's certainly an achievement and it's my first full-time job too. We can keep regretting the decisions we took but it hardly matters when the curtain is down. So I must say I'm pretty much elated with everything around me and I wouldn't have missed it at any given cost. GPTS rocks, my colleagues rock and foremost of all, my ignorance rocks!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sixth time unlucky at US Open!

I know I'm not the only one on this face of planet with a broken heart tonight. There are millions out there who wanted Roger Federer to go an inch further and grab that title. Of course, I'm talking about US Open 2009 which was snatched by Juan Martin Del Potro (DelPo), a 20 year lad from Argentina, with overpowering game and feral instinct on court. If only the match was won by my athletic icon, I would have been writing this blog in a different tone, a more triumphant sort of one. But sadly, that isn't the case and I can just hopelessly reflect on what happened in that deciding 5th set.

Federer was comfortable in the first set with an easy win, was persistent in the second set which ultimately went into a tie-breaker and won by DelPo. The third set saw Federer get back to what he does best: WIN. The fourth set had all the drama of a perfect movie script. Both were neck to neck fighting, one for the title, other to stay in the match and force a fifth setter. Ultimately it was the hopeless that fought and won hope. Federer lost the 4th set and had to play in the decider set. The fourth set contained a match point for Federer which could have avoided the disappointment that was to follow but DelPo was strong and firm enough to stave away the scare. Federer not only lost the set but even lost his ubiquitous cool. He even used the F-word against the Chair Umpire. When was the last time Federer used an audible F-word on court?

With the fifth set getting on a go, it turned the heat up on both the players and it showed. DelPo with his lean, tall stature was showing sign of extreme fatigue whereas the ever-cool Federer was exhibiting signs of mental torture, not only from his failing game strategy but also due to the boisterous crowd ranting "Vamos DelPo" and "Ole" at full stretch. The crowd was more appropriate for soccer match and even the Chair Umpire realized it as very few was paying heeding to the famous "Thank you, Silence Please!!"

Within a span of 15 minutes, DelPo was leading 3-0 and it made me damn nervous, least to say. I could smell something really bad will follow and it did. Federer was not only hitting balls miles away from his usual bull's eye but even was falling prey to conniptions. That showed when he argued with the Chair Umpire about a call that turned out to be a false and was actually made by some erratic spectator. Federer wasn't Federer and it clearly resulted in giving up which Federer hardly ever does, at least not in a Grand Slam event. Within the next 30 minutes, the match was up, DelPo was down….on the court crying tears of joy and Federer, in his gentlemanly best, applauded the new Champion at award giving ceremony.

If only Federer had won this one and kept his 40 match winning streaks at US Open alive, I would have had a better day today. This may sound hyped but I couldn't sleep after watching this "horror". The last set kept repeating itself in my dreams and messed up my already twisted brain! For me, it's more like watching a guy who can extend the threshold of human endurance and create new boundaries for future humankind to achieve and upset. Pete Sampras made it possible for a Federer to dream of 14 and more Grand Slam titles. Similarly, I want Federer to make it possible for a DelPo or a Murray to dream of 20 or more GS titles someday in future. But as of now, Federer is still stuck at 15!!!

I remember Federer crying like a sweetheart after losing to Rafael Nadal in this year's Australian Open Final and I tried to convince myself that he'll come back strong. And thankfully he did come back like a Phoenix. And that's exactly what I'll do again. I can't give up on a great Champion like him. Nadal, without his knees is nothing and that's because his game is centered on his pace whereas Federer is a more complete and nuanced player. I can only fret about how close Federer was to the well but he died thirsty and all but it doesn't matter. He missed on the William Renshaw's record of 6 consecutive Wimbledon titles, thanks to Nadal and similarly, he missed Bill Tilden's 6th consecutive US titles record.

But it's OK. It's all right. He will rise again and grab what belongs to him and in a manner that won't have any angry tantrum with the Chair Umpire or any sign of complacency. He is a genius and even geniuses have bad days. Today was just one of them and he can get over it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Teaching Kids English!

For the past three years or so, I've been involved with teaching English to kids, mostly of eight to ten grades. Of course, teaching is a tougher job than studying and I can claim to have first hand knowledge of this adage. It all started when I failed in my second year degree examination in '06 and decided to "earn" while I waited for my sophomore exams! I thought it was a good idea then. I still do.

I love English. I just love this language. I'm better off being biased to it. Although I do believe that language must be confined to its basic job of transfer of ideas but there aren't many other languages that can match English in its malleable nuances. Knowing English and learning it is one thing while teaching it is something else. But when my former math tutor, Akbar Sir called me to ask whether I was ready to "impart" my grammar skills to some of his students, I readily accepted. I guess it was more of a need rather than any calculated move. I was at home killing time (and my parents' hopes for me becoming an Electronics engineer in future which I ultimately succeeded in killing!!) so I looked at this chance as a move out of home and saving me some vituperative comments from my adorable mom!

I remember it was the month of December and I was called at around 8 in the morning to this place which I'm quite familiar with as I had spend a huge part of my school day life there. I was directed to a room with a decent green-board (blackboard are passé) and about 40 kids sitting down on the floor with unassumingly curious eyes. I started my lesson with the line, "Kids, English is a tough language……" I don't remember much of what happened next but that line remains with me till date. Many things have changed since then. The class is now pronounced and established and called Akbar's Academy. But something didn't change. The students loved me I guess and that love has remained till date. Perhaps, I like to think that way, whether it's true or false as I've learnt that it's impossible to endear your style of teaching with all the kids attending. There are always some kids who miss the learning train. It's either my fault or theirs but it's painful because I get my pay whereas they don't get their marks.

I have been teaching this insanely beautiful language since then and if you ask me, I'm a lousy teacher, in fact, terrible but I must say it has been a heck of a ride for me. As of today, I teach 279 kids, divided in six batches and ranging from grade IX, X and XI. I hardly manage to remember not more than few dozens of names. It's not only taxing on my already stressed mind to ask names but also cruel to memorize it so I leave the name and go with the face. I only work on weekends with these kids and no doubt, weekends aren't a day of relish for me, as it is for my colleagues. Its tough handling two jobs!

I frequently ask myself whether it's for money or is it just a vocation that I dearly am attracted to. I don't get a straight answer. Its better that way; to have a sign of mystery to my purpose. There are times when I don’t wish to continue anymore and leave the job for good. There are times when the lack of energy to impose discipline overwhelms my discretion. I'm a disciplinarian but not the draconian kind. I expect my kids to be communicative but at the same time, I also want them to communicate with me, not their co-benchers. Asking students to observe silence and obedience is difficult but not entirely impossible.

Now coming to the English part, the kids I deal with represents a locality which is no more so a ghetto with middle-middle class locales with lower-middle class mentality at best. The people I'm talking about are ignorant about world news, don't care about civility, are bellicose in general and don't neither give a hoot about English nor watch English language news, shows or movies on TV and don't read English newspapers, magazines or periodicals. In spite of all these shortcomings, they are adamant about one thing; THEY WANT THEIR KIDS TO KNOW AND SPEAK ENGLISH!!

I won't say that this expectation is wrong or unreasonable because these are hard-working people who want their offspring to take a better course towards life. Moreover, they also acknowledge the strength of English in outside world but sadly don't prescribe it to their daily life. The only reason they aren't helping my case is in their steep ignorance and apathy towards "learning" and "helping" their kids learn it. Being a parent, they can do a lot like buying comics and story books and stuff like that which my semi-educated dad used to do on his own. Forget it; things don't change unless things change.

I don't teach their parents but I always make it a point to put a big part of the blame on them since I can't get myself to understand their layman "plight". Anyways, I'm doing great with the kids at hand and I try to mention how grateful they should be for their parents are working like clock for their tuition fee! It’s a double-edged argument for me. On one hand, I hate the whole philistine ambiance and on the other, I'd want these kids to not end up like their parents!

The hilarious part of English is its grammar. You can't teach nor learn grammar if you don't think in that language. It's an innate feeling. No matter how much I try to differentiate the baloney of using "am" in front of "They", the kids won't get it until and unless they start loving the language like I did way back when I was in seventh grade and got in touch with this superb teacher and present mentor, Aslam Sir. But that's where the fun of teaching grammar lies. You have no idea what is going on in those small little brains of these cute growing kids but you want them to think and question like you do. It never works successfully every single time. But I love to gamble on the better odds!

In these fast forwarded years I had with Akbar's, I've witnessed some sweet success stories too. One of my students named Farooq notched 88 marks out of 100, beating all previous SSC records in English exam in his school (which coincidentally was mine too). And thankfully, none of my kids have failed though some were apathetic enough to just score passing mark. Whole and sole, I can say I've been lucky with the kind of work I've did and the kind of results I expected and the kind of results I got. I even worked as an assistant English teacher at a school as the registered teacher was ill or something and I completed the portion in 3 months flat. That was one heck of an experience too.

I'm not sure how long will I continue with this so called vocation of mine. I'm not pursuing engineering either. To be honest, I left engineering four months ago and joined long distance bachelors program for a degree in B.A. My parents were appalled at my guts but I just didn't want to continue with engineering math and formulas. My friends and colleagues think I can make a future in teaching but I can't even say "yeah" as my vacillating mind will dance to different tune any given next day! But whatever the future be, right now I'm loving the pressure of weekends that includes making notes, preparing question papers, taking tests and checking answer sheets and even the noise of the backbenchers who are hell-bent on not learning and I'm happy fighting and trying to inculcate the dose of this beautiful language into their novice ears!