Posted in India, Kota., Life, Me and moi

Just be good. You’ll be good enough.

The 12th std CBSE board results came out yesterday. For people who don’t know, they’re for a national test that high school final year students in India have to take to pass out of high school. Initially, your performance in the CBSE boards used to decide into what colleges you got admission. In recent years, its importance has waned with the advent of national entrance tests for pretty much every professional course. However, it still is the first truly big test that a student has to take and a very big deal in a high schooler’s life.

It is also, unfortunately, a matter of social pride (or shame) for the parents. Taking the tests that span over the entire month of April is hard enough for the kid, without his or her parents’ ego being attached to whether their child does better than Mrs Sharma’s kid.

What ensues is more anxiety and stress than any 18 yr old should ever have to face.

A common cause for concern is the pressure from parents to do well in the national board examinations, especially for Class XII, before finishing school. As scores in these exams often determine college admissions and subsequent employment opportunities, students aged 16-18 are often subjected to undue pressure at home to succeed. When they don’t, suicide becomes a way out. In 2013 alone, 2,471 suicides were attributed to “failure in examination”.

I did well in my board exams, but I had to face the failure of not getting through the medical entrance test. It’s the same kind of pressure, even more, amplified in Kota. Fours years on, let me tell you: it does not matter. Not a single person in the last four years has asked me my CBSE marks, or even my rank in the medical entrance test. The thing about the Indian education system is that it’s a great equaliser in a beautiful, fucked up way. Simply because of our population structure and size, there is intense competition to get in. But once you’re in a professional college, a topper and a passer are equally unequipped to deal with actual life. What matters is your work ethic and your good humour.

So, if you did well in your boards this year: Congratulations. Enjoy the moment. Just remember that you WILL NOT get these kinds of marks in professional college. Ever.

If you thought you did well when the results first came out but now too many relatives have asked you “Aga marka kuthe gele? Ajun ka nahi milale? (Why didn’t you get more?)”: Hang in there. You’ll be fine. Also, sometimes, if your parents think you could’ve done better, it’s because of their belief in your potential, not their disappointment in your reality.

If you haven’t done as well as you’d hoped: Calm down. I know it sounds like a cliche, but it’s not the end of the world. I know you don’t feel like facing their disappointed faces, their tears. I’ve been there. But please understand that there’s more to life than marks. Please understand that your parents understand that too. A failure is an amazing learning opportunity. Use it as such. If you’re worried about disappointing your parents, remember that a rash decision is going to sadden them a hundred times more than bad marks. Everyone in the world continues to disappoint their parents much beyond high school. And your parents will still love you after every let-down.

If you’re a parent with a child in any of the above categories: Please make sure that your child feels loved at this point. I know that as Indian parent, you have trouble with differentiating between negative reinforcement and punishment; your child is feeling like shit anyway, they don’t need more reasons to be stressed. Help them look at themselves and the future in a better, more productive light. Your child is old enough to go out in the big outside world, but not old enough to deal with it. I know that the last few years have been teenage hell for you, but your child is more like you than you or the child knows. Please, be a friend. Be a parent.

Nobody loses all the time.

Posted in India, Kota., Life, Me and moi

The Great Indian Passport Saga

The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.”

[From the Preface]
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters   

When I was a mild-mannered human, I had to apply to renew my passport which had expired when I turned 18. My mother celebrated my entry into adulthood by informing me that I had to deal with the entire process myself. My deep, deep horror of banks, administration and government offices turned me into an absolute whiner at that. She enjoyed telling me, however, that adulthood is all about having to do things that you don’t want to do. (She has, by the way, gleefully enjoyed telling me this ever since I’ve turned 18, and it’s been four years now.)

Indian bureaucracy is a direct descendent of colonial British bureaucracy, in that the bureaucrats think they either should or do rule over us all. (They do.) I am not a coward for being afraid of them.

I was in Kota at the time, so thought it tedious to apply for a passport there when I’d be staying just for a year. I waited for me to return home before applying. It took 7 trips to the passport office and many, many hours spent waiting in lines before my file came to my local police station for verification. Except, I didn’t know that. Some glitch in the system kept me from being informed that I was supposed to go to the station at a specific time on a specific day, and when I finally called them, I was told my file had been closed. Facepalm.

So I applied again. By this time, I’d managed to pass the entrance exam, but where I would actually study was still unknown. I called the police station every day until they finally asked me to come down. It had been three months since I applied, so by then I was well settled into college in Mumbai. I had a huge folder with umpteen notarised and self attested photocopies of all my documents, and I was so ready to Get. This. Done.

“Where do you study?” the gentleman asked me kindly.

I smiled and told him. I even added “To be a doctor” for good measure. People have a soft spot for future doctors.

“Ah, I see. Good, good. That’s a good college. My niece studies there. You’ll have to apply from Mumbai of course, since you live there now. We can’t possibly do your police verification in Mumbai.”

I stared at him with my mouth open.

“Couldn’t you just send this file to your Mumbai counterparts? ”

“I’m afraid not.”

All arguing and pleading was in vain.

I applied for the third time in Mumbai. It was particularly enjoyable since now I had to deal with the passport officer’s suspicions about my previous two closed files, not to mention having to go from pillar to post to get bona fide certificates from my government college red tape-laden office. Having to fill triplicate written applications for the smallest details is cool too. And of course, travelling in Mumbai monsoons with important paper documents is always easy and pleasant.


I wish this story had a happy ending. But the fact of the matter is, I still don’t have my passport. My globe-trotting brother got his passport stolen in Hong Kong in May, and he had to return home on an Emergency Certificate. He already has his passport.

If I was on Twitter, I would tweet Sushma Swaraj. If the papers are to be believed, that generally helps. Or maybe I should learn the art of discreetly bribing. As my mother will no doubt enjoy telling me, that’s what adulthood is all about too.


Posted in Kota., Life, Me and moi

A rant about bad driving.

I hate people who drive badly. As in, if you go too slow it’s fine with me. I can just overtake you. But, if you’re driving like you’re in the bloody Grand Prix, prepare to bear my ire.
These idiots think they can just whiz past you and you are just magically supposed to understand that and save your life. I avoided being a gory newspaper article by half an inch today. Half an inch. Whoever that driver was got his life permanently cursed. In fact, if anybody is proficient in voodoo, I request them to exterminate him.

Seriously necessary around here.

There is no way you can control your driving properly if you’re at a high speed. What if a child comes on the road? What about some poor bird? What about ME?!
Please, people. Drive safely. You really don’t want to spend the rest of your life in jail. And you REALLY don’t wanna mess with my voodoo.

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Posted in Food, Humour, Kota., Life, Me and moi

Totally non-scientific theory Tuesday: You can smell food when you’re hungry.

I have had pretty regular mealtimes all my life, basically because of school. Even when I changed schools the breaks more or less coincided. But here it’s agony.
Not that their break times are so out of the ordinary. It’s just that we may or may not always get enough time to eat in them. The professors think nothing of taking an extra ten minutes and giving us exactly five clock minutes as a break at 9 in the morning. Which means that by 12, my stomach is calling me stuff that would make a sailor blush. And I am just slightly toning it down as I think of the professor in my mind.
This horrible situation is made even worse by the absolutely delicious smells that pervade the classroom at that time.

They should distribute this in class. Productivity will be up by atleast 80%.

I’m sure somebody around me just opened a bag of popcorn. Or potato chips. Oh my god, I’m dying here, I don’t care if I don’t know that person, I’m going to just go there and beg for one. Or two. Or twelve. I turn around. The geeks around me are all fixated on the blackboard. Who the hell is eating that delicious food when I’m starving? I look sideways. Everyone is either writing or listening. I turn to my best friend who sits beside me.
“Who’s eating popcorn?”
“Can’t you smell it? Somebody’s eating popcorn! Do you think I should ask for some?”
“I can’t smell anything! Seriously, do you think somebody could actually eat something in this class without getting thrown out? Now stop twisting and turning and stop talking to me! If the professor spots you, you’re in big trouble.”
I bury my head in my notebook. Wait, can’t anybody else smell it? AM I IMAGINING THINGS? My stomach pouts at me. I will myself through the next hour, thinking of pizza and chips and popcorn. If the professor asks me a question there is no way I would be able to even tell what topic we’re on.

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Posted in Books, Kota., Life, Me and moi

Things I hate doing over and over again but have to.

Does anybody celebrate Groundhog Day? 6 weeks more of winter will be more than welcome to me here, but I associate this day with the movie more. Therefore, to kinda celebrate Groundhog Day, things I have to do over again but don’t want to:

1.) First things first. I am in Kota now because I’m taking a gap year to study for my pre-meds. Ideally I should have gotten through last year. So this.

2.) Studying about pollution. I have been taught the same things about air, water and land pollution since 5th grade. I absolutely understand the importance of focusing on it year after year, but can’t you make it even a little bit more interesting?

3.) Telling people that I didn’t get specs by watching too much TV. Really people, stop. You bore me. Be original.

4.) Exercising. Why can’t I do it once and instantly be thin and fit?

5.) Telling people that it’s ‘anyway’ not ‘anyways’. I actually have a plan for this. I will only vote for the candidate who promises to eradicate grammar mistakes in his term.

So this is my list. What’s yours?

Posted in Kota., Me and moi

Warning: I will be looking like Oscar the Grouch for the next month.

I have noticed something strange about this self-announced city in which I live. The beauty salons have tolerable names. They have genuinely expensive products lining their windows. Their prices are MORE than market level. But I just can’t stop myself from breathing a sigh of relief after I escape not looking like the Queen of Hearts.
Ambience plays a big role, you know. And of course, the beauty professionals must look like they know how to make people, including themselves, look good. And maybe this is just a prejudice of mine, but I cannot believe that men know anything about threading eyebrows. So please keep your hands away from my face. What’s that you say? You’re a trained professional? Nope, sorry, I would rather look like a wild animal for a month more till I get home and go near more convincingly professional people.
Hence, a fair warning. If you see a creature like this

around you for the next month, do not panic. It’s just me.

Posted in Kota., Life, Me and moi, Totally non-scientific theory Tuesday

Totally non-scientific theory Tuesday: Time goes slower if you check your watch every two seconds.


There are lectures where I want to desperately get up and shake the professor a bit hard to get him to be less soporific, or, in extreme cases, tell the person sitting next to me to shoot me NOW. Today was the worst one I have ever experienced.
A new professor starts teaching us physical chemistry from today, so I was pretty excited. Plus, his lecture was scheduled to be our first, early in the morning.
He came, we saw, we dropped asleep. Or I tried to. But I was sitting right in front of him. There was NO way I could actually sleep. I envied every other person their freedom to doze off, and I swear, I must have checked my watch at least 500 times in those two hours.


At first, I rejoiced over every 6 degrees that my minute hand moved (for non-nerdy people, the minute hand moves 6 degrees in a minute), but after a while, I started checking whether my watch was working properly. How could the lecture go on so completely, monotonously, really, really LONG?! I checked around to see if anybody else felt the way I did, but of course, no one responded, because they were all sleeping.