Did you do what you were told when you were young, or did you rebel?
We had it easy. Mom wasn’t Hammurabi. We had latitude and free reign, but rebel I did, raging (ha!) against conformity and uniformity (societal) for a while. My cringe period, ladies and gentlemen. There was some edict about haircuts and new clothes, but that wasn’t enforced after thirteen, as prearranged. I was a veritable brand ambassador, straining the family budget to flaunt authentic jeans (which I’d then tear up or defile with indelible ink, but that story has already been told.) It amuses me that the Chinese counterfeit Levi’s 501 I wear now are only one-third the price I paid twenty years ago, and that’s not factoring in inflation. The humanity! I sent money home yesterday, part of the ever-ongoing atonement. I add a secondary layer to my donning deceptive denim by labeling it a political statement against mediocre boilerplate modern art. Go figure.
What did your childhood bedroom look like?
A 14” Toshiba TV missing a couple primary colors, the table it perched on, two wooden chairs, a combination bookshelf/trinket ledge, attic with wooden crossbeams from where I could hear rats scurrying at night, and the inevitable calendar on the wall in which I’d check the phases of the Moon. This rented house with the tamarind tree infested with hairy “itch worms” and the mango tree neighborhood girls liked to climb was where I was born and featured in dreams well into my twenties. We moved to our own three-storied (including basement garage) air-conditioned marvel with the harmonica-shaped TV antenna when I was 13, and I had my own bedroom with posters of choice, music system, and home computer, and I’d lie listening to Bruce Hornsby reading Sagan late into the night. Two decades later, things are more or less the same. My rags-to-riches wife accuses this opulent upbringing to all my character flaws.
Are there foods, smells, songs or sounds that bring back memories of childhood for you?
gothambu puttu, ozhichu koottan (vellakkari (not madamma)), netholi fry, vellari maanga, ari nellikka, Sip-Up, Big Fun, Nestlé milk powder, barbecued cassava, baked arrowroot, thin breadfruit chips, etc.
Ponds Dreamflower, green Cinthol, Pears, Mysore Sandal (apparently, I spent all my girlhood in the bathroom), lemongrass, damp hay, dislodged moss, burning leaves, etc.
Songs. Ha! I just have to list my “Most Played” column on Winamp.
The clink of chains of an elephant walking by, grind of bullock-cart wheels, soldiers marching early in the morning (we lived a kilometer from the Pangode military camp), ice-cream man’s bell, whirr of the yellow Cessna in the sky, etc.
What is something you often did on Sundays when you were growing up?
Have kanji and potato fries (Sunday special), watch the fare on TV, and run to the fields and ponds to torture lower vertebrates.
Sometimes the notes are ferocious, skirmishes against the author raging along the borders of every page in tiny black script. If I could just get my hands on you, Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O’Brien, they seem to say, I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.
Other comments are more offhand, dismissive “Nonsense.” “Please!” “HA!!”— that kind of thing. I remember once looking up from my reading, my thumb as a bookmark, trying to imagine what the person must look like who wrote “Don’t be a ninny” alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.
Students are more modest needing to leave only their splayed footprints along the shore of the page. One scrawls “Metaphor” next to a stanza of Eliot’s. Another notes the presence of “Irony” fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.
Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers, hands cupped around their mouths. “Absolutely,” they shout to Duns-Scotus and James Baldwin. “Yes.” “Bull’s-eye.” “My man!” Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points rain down along the sidelines.
And if you have managed to graduate from college without ever having written “Man vs. Nature” in a margin, perhaps now is the time to take one step forward.
We have all seized the white perimeter as our own and reached for a pen if only to show we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages; we pressed a thought into the wayside, planted an impression along the verge.
Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria jotted along the borders of the Gospels brief asides about the pains of copying, a bird singing near their window, or the sunlight that illuminated their page— anonymous men catching a ride into the future on a vessel more lasting than themselves.
And you have not read Joshua Reynolds, they say, until you have read him enwreathed with Blake’s furious scribbling.
Yet the one I think of more often, the one that dangles from me like a locket, was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye I borrowed from the local library one slow, hot summer. I was just beginning high school then, reading books on a davenport in my parents’ living room, and I cannot tell you how vastly my loneliness was deepened how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed, when I found on one page
a few greasy smears and next to them, written in soft pencil— by a beautiful girl, I could tell, whom I would never meet— “Pardon the egg salad stains, but I’m in love.”
Capricorn (astrology), tenth sign of the zodiac, symbolized by a mountain goat. Astrologers believe that people whose birthdays fall between December 22 and January 19 are born under the sun sign of Capricorn. The planet Saturn rules Capricorn, which is an earth sign.
According to astrologers, Capricorns have responsible, disciplined, practical, methodical, cautious, serious, and sometimes pessimistic natures. Capricorns believe that anything worth having is worth working hard for, and they assign the highest value to things won through the hardest work. Typical Capricorns are aloof and shy, sometimes even awkward, because they stay so focused on responsibility. To them life is serious business, and they sometimes have difficulty relaxing and having fun. Because of this, Capricorns may be lonely.
Astrologers believe that Capricorns respect power, authority, structure, tradition, and old things whose value and durability are tested by time. Capricorns are ambitious, and they typically are not satisfied unless they have reached a level of power and authority. They have a deep need for security, especially financial, and often will work very hard to get rich. Professions traditionally associated with Capricorn include banking; government, big business, and other situations with power hierarchies; mining; farming; and construction.
Gemini (astrology), the third sign of the zodiac, symbolized by twins. Astrologers consider people whose birthdays fall between May 21 and June 21 to be born under the sun sign of Gemini. The planet Mercury, named after the ancient Roman messenger god, rules Gemini, which is an air sign.
According to astrologers, Geminis tend to be quick-witted, changeable, talkative, versatile, and sometimes crafty or mischievous. Geminis are known for their ability to express themselves, and are witty, clever, and often well-read. They usually have something to say about everything. Astrologers believe that typical Geminis have highly developed intellects, and that they place greater importance on learning than on emotional or practical issues. However, they consider Geminis to be so clever that they can give the impression of deep emotion or of the practicality of their desires.
Astrologers believe Geminis have the ability, and often the need, to do more than one thing at a time. Geminis are so interested in everything that they get bored easily and often cannot resist moving on to the next subject, tendencies which can make them seem shallow and fickle. Professions associated with the sign Gemini include teaching, journalism, publishing, sales, and other professions that require verbal skills and flexibility.
Yesterday (Thursday) was Nazreen’s entrance test, at Al-Yasmin. Yes, that Malayali school we’d rather not associate with, but are forced to, as we are sorely out of options. We loosely knew the test involved writing the alphabet, sequential numbers, identifying first letters of words from pictures, etc., but were unsure of what else. My daughter’s conversational English isn’t excellent (her accent is Yankee, but grammar undeniably wonky), although her comprehension isn’t too bad. There were discussions on preparation and we decided some amount of groundwork was in order. I hate putting a child through any kind of stress regarding a “test,” but I am not the only parent. My misgivings were swept aside by another who had struggled to come up from nothing, to whom ultra-competitiveness is an ingrained ethic and being prepared synonymous with survival. And so the firstborn was put through her paces and, reassuringly, found not wanting. Apart from academic stuff, we prepped her on questions involving age, nationality, hometown, her mama’s and papa’s professions—you know, my mother is a doctor, my father is an engineer, etc. (I corrected mine to kaaperukki, but my flippancy was frowned upon.) I compared this with the eve of my engineering entrance; I was walking along Statue junction with my friends, drunk, and singing songs. But that wasn’t exactly an option here.
Nazreen didn’t show any irritation, nor did she appear worried about anything. Or so we thought. I sleep in the TV room, because of everybody’s coughs and sneezes. It’s difficult for anybody to get restful sleep, what with protracted hacking in alternating shifts. Also, the wife has pleurisy with shooting pains in the ribs, so it’s separate rooms until the supposed cordon sanitaire lifts. So, coming back to Nazreen, her mama told me in the morning she was mumbling doctor, engineer while tossing and turning in fretful sleep, and she wet the bed. She hasn’t had a case of incontinence in ages. This was extremely distressing. Kids are sensitive to minute vibes and nuances, however hard parents try to hide with cheerful conversation and lame jokes. We, as parents, aren’t exactly subtle either. I hated myself for not being perceptive enough to detect her foreboding, and for being accomplice to fostering anguish. She’s just like me—all brave and cocky outside, but full of dread and terror inside. It took me a while to get her to smile after dressing up. We set off.
Anxious parents with fidgety kids queued up near the school office. Nervous faces all around. The tension hung low. After a disorganized registration process and sidestepping a clumsy faculty photo shoot, a tall guy in a blue suit led us to the test room. We accompanied Nazreen till the door and saw other kids inside already taking the test. She didn’t even look at us as she walked inside and sat in one of those tiny chairs. The doors closed, we were asked to wait outside, and we did, back among concerned brooding parentage. I recalled my first days of school at Carmel Convent, the scenic route the school bus took, the strange children, and the snack of stale biscuits that upset my stomach. I remembered I just wanted to be back home, back with people I knew. (Things haven’t progressed much since, have they?) My daughter would be feeling the same, I thought. We must fight these personal battles, and grow up to fight more, until we die. Pointless, but that’s how the world works.
It was a half-hour test. We walked around the school, disappointed by poor facilities and meager means of recreation. The only thing of interest was the art and craft of little ones pasted on numerous notice boards. I scoured for signs of originality, but found none. Twenty minutes passed, and a teacher brought a diffident Nazreen out, a strange mix of emotions on my daughter’s face. Nobody else had left the classroom. Catching sight of us, she smiled wanly. The teacher disappeared inside. Nazreen must have failed to perform in strange surroundings with strange people and they had to let her go, my ever-optimistic wife muttered. Better ask her what happened, empirical I opined. So we did. She was reluctant to talk, and I felt she didn’t want to recall what had happened inside. But there’s no stopping an impatient mother, and the daughter had to come clean.
There was writing the alphabet, which she completed in two minutes, counting of various objects, another two minutes, writing numbers from 41 to 100, five minutes, and identifying the first letters of words, one minute. The only thing she had trouble with was the first letter of a bird the teacher showed her. My daughter was trying to decide whether it was a sparrow or a lark. Well, it was just a bird, and the first letter was B. Oh, well. She, who knows Danny DeVito is The Penguin in Batman Returns, whose favorite Nick Park movie is Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit episode the one with the burglar penguin, who hates the wicked falcon in Stuart Little 2, who knows Zazu from Lion King is a hornbill, that a pterosaur is the flying dinosaur in Jurassic Park III … was stumped by bird. Bird! Imagine that. I couldn’t help but laugh, a laugh of relief and pride. The other kids hadn’t come out because they hadn’t finished; the teachers were helping them along, and most were sitting confused and dazed, wanting to see their parents.
So yeah, that was good; and it felt good.
The results will be announced the end of this month and admission happens thereafter. We are yet to hear from Middle East International School; that’s where we’d really like her to go.
I’d like to see a nature film where an eagle swoops down and pulls a fish out of a lake, and then maybe he’s flying along, low to the ground, and the fish pulls a worm out of the ground. Now that’s a documentary. —Jack Handey
I wish outer space guys would conquer the Earth and make people their pets, because I’d like to have one of those little beds with my name on it. —Jack Handey
Sometimes I think you have to march right in and demand your rights, even if you don’t know what your rights are, or who the person is you’re talking to. Then on the way out, slam the door. —Jack Handey
If you’re a cowboy and you’re dragging a guy behind your horse, I bet it would really make you mad if you looked back and the guy was reading a magazine. —Jack Handey
When I was a teen in pinafores and plimsolls torn-jeans and sandals, I kept diaries and journals for posterity—stuff that would require large doses of moxie and coils of clear gut to read at this point in time. Much later, there was an uncommentable, static Updates page on my site and right after that, I discovered LiveJournal. It sort of grew from there and I got increasingly addicted, as I discovered I could read a whole bunch of other people’s lives and writing all in one place with minimal clicks and maximal scrolling.
2) What is the majority of your posts? (e.g. custom, private, friends, public) a) Why do you choose to post this (these) way(s)?
Public posts are the norm. Rarely do I make any friends-only posts, and even those are opened up after a few days. Never by request, though.
3) What sort of communities, if any, are you active in? a) Do you post frequently? b) Why did you join these (this) particular community(ies)?
I lurked around a few communities I was a member of, savoring and digesting for a while, and then decided to go completely incommunitado. I joined them because they were topically and memberly interesting; I left them all because I knew I would never make a post. I prowl still.
4) Do you feel you are different online than in real life? For example, do you feel your journal adequately reflects the real you?
In real life I am thirteen kilos overweight. The journal reveals a tiny part of me that I want made public; the real me is best left unreflected. Not because of the deep, dark secrets, but for the horrible tedium that would ensue. This might imply that what is reflected is not tedious, which is exactly what I want to imply.
5) Do you feel you have different identities in LiveJournal? For example, maybe you say different things depending on what community you are posting in.
Fortunately, I don’t post to communities at all. But then, because I am a total milksop, I can see myself agreeing to completely contradictory things and being a total hypocrite. It’s a good thing for my self-esteem that I am not in any communities.
6) What does LiveJournal mean to you?
A great way to meet and keep track of friends, interesting people and wonderful writers, and a place for occasional self-indulgent tomfoolery.
7) What is the significance of your User Info page?
I try not to scare people off. The nonsensical bio describes me to a J, and the interests to an O; but it’s the memories part that I consider most interesting, which makes this a total non sequitur of a sentence.
I repeat myself when I say some people will do anything to keep a journal going.
User Number: 100799
Date Created: 2001-04-14
Number of Posts: 128
An upright immoral citizen and a thoroughgoing loser beset by delusions of adequacy, Mujib is often mistaken for an inexpensive Persian rug or a second-hand edition of Reader’s Digest. A duty-bound domestic, he can be found prowling established coffeehouses and areas of dense vegetation in comfortable cotton clothing and matching wrist-wear.
Strengths: Dullness, irritability, pigheadedness.
Weaknesses: Eyesight, stamina, hair, peanuts in chocolate.
Special Skills: Ability to shirk responsibility at the drop of a…
Weapons: Powerful premolars, short stubby fingers with nails cut down to the quick, flexible spine.
Motto: If you can do it, somebody else can do it much better; so why bother?