Animals ko dekho – Part two

After that year, not many animals came because we only became animals but that is another story. So I will tell you the next significant animal story which is the rat story that happened last month. So basically ever since this semester began, we have all been wondering why we are like this. Morning to evening everything is bish fish bish. In the skin of the evening, some relief begins to come in the form of chai and aloo bondas. Life was going on like this only. If one evening, we are swallowed by old videos, another evening by a new ajji who makes best vades.

Then came the rat.

Sometime in the beginning of October, Mini Ma’am said that a rat is eating all her food. Arul sah saw one big box behind her table and said there are rats. Etienne sir said that he hears them chewing things all day.

Then one day, there was proof. Someone gave Mini Ma’am 2 big bars of Amul chocolate. Next morning, one of them had been taken tabiyat se. Byavarsi rat had eaten the whole bar leaving only the cover for ma’am. The other bar had bite marks but looked like by the time it finished the first bar, the bootha of marx might have told the rat to saak maadu. It had no energy left to eat the second one so it gave up. Like this only, one one day, one one thing it was eating and going.

We wondered if the rat was coming in through the bathroom window so we began locking it up. Then for a few days, we forgot about the door and rat. 

One evening after polishing off whatever food and chai was there, Sah, Pranava, and I were sitting and wondering why Pranava couldn’t stop talking about Shweta Philip’s periods. At some point, Sah’s ears got signal that rat is chewing something in the big box so Pranava began to remove the books from the top of the box. Little by little, Mini Ma’am’s world was becoming smaller because rat had chewed through her badminton shoes, books, cards, and a packet of dates also.

Every time sah said it’s here it’s here, Pranava jumped one inch up in the air and came back. Every time Pranava removed one more thing from the box, he jumped two inches in the air and came back. Every time Pranava made noise, he got scared because of his own noise, jumped three inches in the air and came back. Like this he was doing and sah was just sitting and laughing and I was bravely standing by the box.

Sah was saying byavarsi rat would have drilled two holes in the box – one to enter and one to escape. So by the time we got to the box, it would’ve probably escaped and is now probably sitting somewhere and watching all of us. The minute he said this, Pranava’s heart began doing dab dab and little bit I also got scared because the image of a rat watching us go mad while we looked for it made it somewhat hitchcocky and bitchcocky also.

Pranava continued digging and after a long minute, he suddenly turned to sah and cried, “Why you had to say that sah? Now I can’t stop thinking about that rat watching us” – sah said “You worry about the rat’s feelings for you later.” Just after he said this, Pranava jumped fourteen inches up in the air because he sensed the rat scuttling between some books. I was bravely standing only but for safety reasons I stood on top of a chair. First of all, I was worried that Pranava was having a fit, second of all I was wearing an ankle-length dress so if the rat climbed up, I would be hacked to death by Pranava while sah would sit dreamily in the background stroking his beard saying hmmmm.

Pranava got tired of jumping so many times so we dragged the box towards the entrance. But because the box was almost empty, and we were so close to the mission, Pranava’s heart was doing full dub dub and I was bravely standing, so sah kept digging. We discovered more books, edges and all chewed properly by the rat. 

My copy of Ralph Waldo Ellison was found and just when I was giggling at the irony of looking for an eli and finding Eli’s son instead, Pranava screamed aieeeeeeee, launched himself outside the department, and ran around squealing it’s here it’s here. Apparently the rat had taken one look at him and gone back in.

Sah began digging aggressively, the rat jumped out and launched itself like pranava had only seconds ago. But because of Pranava’s incessant screaming, we couldn’t tell if it went inside the department or outside on the corridor. To be on the safer side, we dragged the box out. Sah hissed at Pranava to bring something to hit the rat with. He ran inside and I closed the door in case the rat wanted to follow its brother. 

Sah doubled down laughing maniacally when Pranava started screaming from inside saying don’t lock me in with the rat and started banging the door. Boy loses his shit before shit loses him. Sah opened the door and laughed in his face and then laughed more when he saw what Pranava had found to beat the rat – 2 copper water bottles. Sah took the plastic sword students had made for Upstage and said go man this is better.

In this manner, one mental boy with 2 bottles, one mad man with a sword, and one elegant, graceful, and brave lady carrying herself with profound dignity ran around the corridor chasing after the rat which, as we discovered had leapt behind the dustbin. From there, it scurried towards the labs where it disappeared behind the cupboard. Pranava ran to see if it had escaped from the window.

We were prepared to give up at this point but then he started laughing. Pranava, not the rat. Apparently the rat had heaved itself onto the skirting of the wall and was now standing there, one leg on each side of the wall, one paw on each side of the wall – like that lady from Tom & Jerry who climbs random things when she sees Jerry (this irony fest is a marvel film, I say)

At this point Sah hissed at Pranava to go bring the stick next to my table to thwack it on the rat. Sah was giving fotherly smile to byavarsi rat. Stick came, pranava fought bravely against the darkness, rat showed its bum and escaped towards the dustbin. Sah ran like Milkha Singh, somewhat dignified only but like jogging on a treadmill so it looked like he was standing in the same place running.

Pranava saw sah running and went dancing behind him like coyote from that road runner show. His chappals were getting in the way so he threw them and ran. He caught up with the rat and landed one tappak then threw the stick in one corner, screamed like tweety and ran away.

Sah took the stick and landed many tappaks. Rat there only spottu. In the middle of all this, tweety pranava suddenly turns up from nowhere and tries to cover my eyes saying madam I am here to protect you. Many bad words came to mouth but because I am a dignified, graceful, elegant, and brave lady – I kept them to myself.

Then Calvin came and we told him everything that had happened. Running after the byavarsi rat, killing it, and achieving all of this with tweety screaming every now then had made us hungry so we discarded the rat some 3 kms away and went to Khazana to belt biryani, veal kebabs, and phal.

Three people will tell you three versions of the story but please remember gentle reader that the most sincere, honest, truthful, and accurate account is the one you read here from Lady Whistledown herself.

On some winter evenings, I wonder what it would be like to see an audio-less CCTV footage of this whole thing.

Bhayankara.

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Animals ko dekho – Part one

First of all, animals are not new to the department. Second of all, one afternoon in 2014, during one of those nice June days when college had just reopened, I was paapa sitting at my table and minding my own business. There was a GE meeting going on in the little corner that was CA, ER, MMB, and AM’s tables. Everybody except one other colleague and I, was in the meeting. 

I was paapa listening to Amelie and typing so I couldn’t hear what was happening but then I saw a hand waving in the distance. It was waving at me and kept moving rapidly and then it waved at several other things. That hand was my colleague’s hand and I removed my earphones to ask her why she was handing me. She pointed to 2 squirrels – one on my shoulder, the other on my lap. I didn’t know where to look first but I screamed and those creatures whisked themselves away before I could show them how violated they made me feel. It was humiliating because first of all squirrels are scared of everything in life, second of all despite this fear, they treated me like furniture and decided to climb on top of me. No maryadhe only.

When the colleague and I jumped up and down screaming squirrel squirrel, the meeting was interrupted but no one looked interrupted. Arul sah snorted and Cheriyan sir brushed his hand casually, didn’t even uncross his legs and declared, “squirrels don’t do anything.” Then like that only, he went back to discuss PSA General English. Colleague and I grimly walked out and began jumping up and down in the corridor.

****

Then many weeks later, one monkey came. In life there are many monkeys but the monkey that came was a real monkey – it was big and its tail was oranger than the rest of its body. First of all it walked into the department aaram se as if it was coming to get feedback for writing. Second of all, it stood and growled at all of us. Mini Ma’am said “Arool Arool, there is a monkey here Arool”. Arool Sah started giggling as if the monkey was proposing to him. Etienne sir looked puzzled and came to investigate. Then he put both his hands in both his pockets, leaned against the bookshelf and looked at it. I have seen him do this when he is getting ready to talk about postcolonialism. Cheriyan sir, legs crossed, declared, “monkeys don’t do anything” and went back to drinking tea. 

I clutched my heart and went to class. When I came back, I saw that a line of colleagues was standing a little away from my table, smiling at it as if Shah Rukh Khan was sitting there. I looked and it was the bastard monkey sitting on my chair, drinking my leftover tea from my tea mug. After everything in life, it also had the bloody gall to spit out my tea and walk away, as if it didn’t approve. Cheriyan sir told us that he once saw on Discovery Channel that monkeys are afraid of male aggression so Mini Ma’am, and him ran after the monkey, stomping their feet. Monkey walked aaram se to the fourth floor.

Arul sah was sitting at his table seeing all of this and enjoying like anything. When I went to him with my mouth open, he said “don’t feel bad vj, it’s probably because your tea didn’t have sugar”. I closed my mouth and went back to my table.

****

In the Staff Seminar Hall later that same year, there was a meeting happening. I was sitting in the last row because it is closest to the exit. The squirrel-colleague was sitting next to me and Cheriyan sir was sitting in the first row. We were discussing some HRD syllabus and right when someone said this is the only way to do it, a pigeon flew into the staff seminar hall, startling me and my squirrel-colleague. It flew over our heads, bloody wings flapping near our ears. We screamed. The speaker said damn these pigeons and Cheriyan sir, without even turning back, without even uncrossing his legs, looked sideways and declared, “pigeons don’t do anything”

My heart was clutched once again.

****

Six years later, a couple of girls and I went to investigate the newly renovated department. The girls were excited to see the new department. I was seeing old wine in new bottle so I was in some different mood only. We were sitting in the Dean’s chambers and I wanted to demonstrate my full appreciation of the chambers. Nice vyoo was there outside Dean sir’s window also – sky and skyline, garden and clothesline and all.

See outside means one pigeon is hanging there. It was a dead pigeon hanging by a kite thread and oscillating to and fro in its life-like stillness. I said aa aa aa, and pointed at the window. Akanksha leapt across the aisle, ran away from all of us and started weeping for the dead pigeon. Naziti couldn’t stop laughing and called it Lalit from House of Secrets. I had just watched that documentary so although I could appreciate her mad wit and charming presence of mind, the pigeon looked more and more life-like the more we looked at it – freaking all of us out. Shireen made some dead baby type jokes, Chrisitini wanted to slap everybody. I said Karma and sent them all home.

Next morning, Dean sir is calling snakes, the manager to inform him of this most urgent matter. Snakes comes in, sees it, nods at all of us, says “100% suicide case”, and walks off like CID.

Exactly a year after that, I came here to tell you that all this happened.

What would Thomas Cromwell do during Invigilation? — and other wonderments

That time of the month. In more ways than one.

I think I know why Hilary Mantel is called Hilary Mantel. Woman is mad funny. I am reading a scene where Thomas Cromwell and Mary Boleyn meet for the first time. Full seduction pro max – green stockings, heaving chest, heaving Adam’s and other apples, index finger tracing and all is happening. Our hero is leaning against the wall and she is standing close to him. (I have watched couples do this in Sophia College, Mumbai which is Spencer College in Ishq Vishq)

In Wolf hall, this scene is harmless flirtation but it is also 1530s. I don’t want to be pompous by assuming I know what is harmless what isn’t. Mary indirectly proposes to him and he is taken aback but says nothing.

She is on his mind long after the conversation, and they are both on ours but he is our hero for a reason – he believes it would be best to put some distance between him and all the Boleyns even if he and we are pretty turned on by all the wall-leaning. He tells Rafe (an adopted son-type boy who works for him), and Rafe says, ‘I think you imagined it. She must have meant something else.’

Weeks later a rumor is heard that Mary is pregnant. And Rafe asks Cromwell – Bro, are you sure you only leaned against the wall? it seems.

I guffawed. Am having mad fun reading this book.

In other news, I had invigilation duty in the Electronics lab yesterday. I’ve never been in there before. It’s part of the old campus and one way of knowing this is how cool the body becomes because of all the stone walls. There were two refrigerators inside, and 2 godrej cupboards which were kept ulta. I wonder why.

Took me back to my short-lived stint as a science student and how petrified I was of the Physics labs. The teacher apparently thanked god after I quit and called me a dud. Lol.

I wonder what she’s doing these days.

In other other news, we kickstarted the department quiz sessions yesterday. I teamed with Nodzi because she’s a rockstar and would win. I only knew 3 answers and was too afraid to be sure of 2 other answers which turned out to be correct. Somewhere in between, I began pouting and became inwardly bitter because there was some quiz boi energy I was getting irritated with. But watching Franny giggling, smiling, and basically having the time of her life while playing made me want to do the same.

When in doubt, always look at a girl having fun.

Hi

“I have come to realize that excellence is achieved through devotion. My devotion does not mean retiring to a forest & meditating there. My idea of devotion implies extreme power of enduring suffering, and extreme power of working” – Dr. B.R Ambedkar

It’s somewhat of a relief that you aren’t around to see what these people would have done with this quote. They would have called your work ethic toxic and you, elite Dalit. There’s no limit to how many words we can use everyday. Not that that would have made us more careful. But a girl can hope no? It is rare to find people who have discipline with words and work, like you did.

Tomorrow is independence day it seems. I have a few wishes – I want to learn how to work, like you did. I want to learn how not to tolerate fools, like you did. I want to sustain a discipline with words, work, people, and myself, like you did. Please teach me how.

Stay well.

Love & hugses

Vj

Teaching in Dangerlok

Couldn’t sleep one night so spent it all by reading Eunice De Souza. I wish I could have more reading nights like these even if they make me groggy and teary the next day.

Eunice De Souza’s Dangerlok is what I needed to combat fucking NEP. Rina Ferreira, the single, double-parrot-keeping teacher in Bombay has the life, the guts, the buddhi that I want for me. She teaches English at a college, smokes, talks to her parrots, writes letters to her lovers, chills with her friend Vera with whom she goes oor-suthooing, comes back home, smokes, drinks chai, reads, and sleeps.

Every now and then, I need to be gently whisked and battered into remembering that I am a teacher. I spent all my childhood wanting to grow up and make my own money and now that I am doing it – I am barely even acknowledging it. I act as if I’m so used to it. But I need to, now and then behave as if it still surprises me that I teach for a living, for thrills, for fun, for play. That I get paid to do what I love.

Some moments from last week that I want to remember:

  1. At an NEP meeting, someone said, “When you run into students years after you’ve taught them, they are not going to recognize you and thank you for teaching them passive voice. They will remember that you taught them Julius Caesar”
  2. I returned to a science class to teach them general english after very long and had more fun than I’ve had teaching anything else in years. I became again, the girl I was nine years ago who wasn’t sure of anything except knowing that some thank yous are more genuine than others. And that when a student stays back after class to say it, words that once echoed sharply in hollow classrooms now make me smile. With this gratitude, I move from one meeting to another on MS Teams.
  3. After I said bye to them last week, I was very nearly crying. We had been talking about English- its miseries and joys. And how it’s nothing to be afraid of, how there was once a man who sometimes wielded English like a weapon, sometimes like a suit, and sometimes as so much a part of him that it’s hard to imagine he once didn’t know English.
  4. I am not very easily moved to tears when I talk about English. But to talk about English amidst students much like me was reassuring, like finding your own people after a long day of being lost. The English here is the kind we learn to speak despite school, despite teachers in school, despite not speaking it at home, and despite education itself.
  5. Sometimes students can be so fiercely themselves, so delightfully hungry to learn that I wonder who is the teacher here. There is so much to learn from students about how to stand up against governments that are so anti-students and anti-learning. Those who come from such far away places to learn and make a stable future for themselves remind you of the anger you feel in your teeth for this fuckall government in whose imagination, the student is a young NRI- return Modi.
  6. Later that same day, I broke down in class, again. Turned camera off this time. And cried harder when they reached out to console me. I was telling them about what it was like to be a young teacher. Did students take young women teachers seriously back then? I was telling them about not being able to stand in front of a class to teach Romeo and Juliet after I’d allowed myself to be belittled by opinions and that if I could go back in time, I’d own Shakespeare’s ass the way I know I can, the way this department has taught me to.
  7. Any department that can teach its young Dalit women teachers to not be afraid of Shakespeare or of students who think they know Shakespeare just because they know English is an enemy of the Savarna state which makes the NEP – a beacon of Savarna rashtra and every teacher fighting it across the state, an Ambedkarite.
  8. After classes these days, I am watching young people take care of other young people. Metonym, our inter-class literary championship is an excuse for us to make fraandship with students. It’s the last thing we’ll be able to do before NEP hits us so all my enthu is going there and I’m hoping they remember us for this, if not anything else.
  9. I am exhausted from asking myself what would Ambedkar do if he was here so I’ve been watching Saarpatta every morning to begin the day.
  10. Yesterday, in a Theatre Studies class when a student was just getting ready to perform, his mother walked in, banged a kitten on his lap and went away. He grabbed it in both his hands and threw the paapa kitten somewhere. She’s called Mia it seems. I died laughing.

Eunice De Souza would write her way out of NEP. It’s what I think I should also do. Why aren’t there any biographies of Miss De Souza? If there are, please tell me. I want to read.

Who do you think you are?

is the name of a lovely book by Alice Munro.

it’s also what a boy’s posture once asked of me as he stood tall in front of my desk, his finger issuing a warning to me and my table.

Behind him were creepers that had work to do but hung for some reason, on every word I said, every yawn I stole, every fart I managed.

And that day I learnt that very few things in this dreary world are as cute as 18-year-old boys taking themselves seriously.

TIL that ‘Who do you think you are?’ is also the name of a TV show.

LOL – II

Image Credits - Alison Bechdel, Are you My Mother?
Image Credits – Alison Bechdel, Are you My Mother?

We are separated – you and I

by the big measure of laugh

that my work throws at you,

and others like you.

Even so, I hope that one day –

you too will find something that you love doing,

and then,

at least then – 

I, and the few others like me –

will stop mattering in your world.

And you, greatness embodied, can finally get a life

of your own,

your own.