Saturday, 3 November 2012

It breathes! It thinks! It's not a mutual fund!

Hello. I have rather too polite in many of my previous posts, perhaps because I was blissfully sitting at home, meeting friends. But thanks to the wondrous occasion of Bijoya, coupled with the fact that my father is the youngest of 7 children, I have been touring the city to seek blessings from my relatives. I usually go on these trips, not because their blessings work, but because the visits don't last for than 2-3 hours. I can be on my best behaviour for that long. A little longer and the mask slips.  So it's usually few funny replies, a lot of very sweet smiles and some banal question-answer sessions. All of which is routine for me.

But there are  few individuals who scare me. Within two hours, they almost damage my ability to think straight for the next twenty-four. Now we all have some relatives who are self-appointed career and relationship consultants, offering advice at an alarming rate. This gentleman I will now talk about belongs to that category but transcends it. In the guise of giving me advice he talks about himself and his daughter.

He asks me what I intend to do. This is where things get difficult as my intentions don't always make sense to them. He asks me the "scope" of my chosen profession. I stare back not knowing what he means by the word scope. Then he proceeds to explain what he means.

What does an editor do? (Of course he assumes I am one. Which I am not. Yet.) So I explain. He then asks "Why will any author except a new one listen to what an editor says?" I try to explain that editors are not superior mortals trying to make everyone listen to them. They try to do what's best for a book. He nods.

Then it dawns upon him that I am not one. So he asks whether what I am saying is based on assumption or facts. I have forgotten my reply.

He then proceeds to express his view that this is a "behind-the-scene" job and asks me why have I not chosen one  in which  I can be "on the stage". The metaphor is quite lost on me. My mind drifts to the time I played the Shojaru in Ha ja ba ra la. Anyway, realising that it is a metaphorical stage,  I say not everyone wants the same thing in life.

Then he comes to the point. The point that has been the most annoying part of any conversation that involved me for the past few months. Since I have cleared the entrance exam for college lectureship and I can get a scholarship for further studies if I get into any research program it is a great puzzle why am I not doing that. 'Why am I not doing what?' I ask. Appearing for interviews, applying for a Ph.D etc. I say I don't want to teach right now. Also, that I don't have a proposal for research. Except that I don't say it bluntly, I ask "Who will write the proposal?" The sarcasm is lost on him. He replies "no one writes it for anyone." Thank god he told me!

Anyway he tells me that proposals don't just happen, one has to go very deep into the subject and discuss ideas. He talks non-stop for a few minutes.  My  I-am-a-patient-woman expression is almost giving way to an I-am-a-patient one, when he stops. Stops to tell us that his daughter's IQ is above average and that he is known by everyone in his para, from rickshaw wallahs to vegetable sellers. Then he returns to his favourite topic. Me.

"I am not discouraging you," he begins,  and tells me that this line has no safety and security.  I say I can't teach now, because I need to sleep at night. His wife, so long busy serving refreshments, gets offended and asks why do I think teachers don't sleep at night. I hurriedly explain that I meant if I don't do something that I really want to do, I won't sleep at night. ( All this is extremely ironical because I am a chronic insomniac, but they don't need to know that.)

Then to highlight the insecurity of this line, the gentleman entertains us with the tale of a journalist who headed a respected newspaper few years ago and is now the head of a recently launched daily which is not that great. I wonder what line he was talking about when he comes to my rescue and explains - this media line. With great emphasis on media in the way people talk about escorts, brothels and stuff. I don't even bother to explain that I am not in that media line.  I am too busy eating an egg-roll - the only saving grace of the evening.

These paragraphs obviously represent an edited version of what happened.

Am I overreacting? I am sorry if you think so. Though I agree I need to be more indifferent because at the end of it all, these people don't matter.

No, I do not come from a house which has not allowed me to do what I want. I have done exactly what I want, at every step of my life. My parents have never objected. So have many of my friends. But it has not been easy. I know some did not even have this luxury and face more serious challenges. But I can't speak for them. I know parents and relatives want the best for us. I do not question their intention. But what they think is best for us might not be what we want.

They have spent huge amounts bringing us up, have given us the best that they could in terms of education and I'd like to believe that the more responsible among us, keep that in mind. ( Some don't. Like the ones buying 5 phones in a year. I am not talking about them.) Their investment is not only financial, they invest time, perhaps the best time of their lives, and also I can't begin to talk about the emotional investment. However, that, and that alone does not give them the right to dictate how we live our lives. Safety, security and status (of how I hate that fucking word) are relative.

So dear would-be parents, if you want to treat your yet-to-be-born kid as a mutual fund that must provide a high return on investment, then take my advice and invest in a high-quality condom.

Good Night.

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