Saturday, February 6, 2010

As I Chew On Bon Bogoris...



I ate wild plums today.

Bon Bogori, for my Assamese readers. Red, juicy, salted ones.

Food can be a source of comfort and often trigger nostalgia. I think 'wild plums' and I am transported back to my school days. The ride back home from school, shirt sleeves finally rolled back, tie knot loosened, slouching on the backseat of the car (a white Fiat), listening to the same cassette of Kishore Kumar songs and eating wild plums I had bought during lunch break from the vendor outside school. This routine rarely varied during the half an hour ride. Except on Thursdays when my sister and I got pocket money to buy an ice-cream. I would keep reminding her from the previous evening onwards that we had to collect the ice-cream money before leaving for school the next day. Because there was a high probability of forgetting it in the early morning rush of bathroom queues, last minute homework, reading my favorite Archie comics while having breakfast, jostling for space in front of the mirror while combing our hair, tying shoelaces (a pain even now), packing my school bag and lunch box; and I used to wake up just an hour before school started!

I remember a very comical situation I got into (and I have an innate talent for such kinds) during that 7am ride to school once. There was this girl in my class, PKY, whom we used to call tubelight owing to her much delayed understanding of what was being said. Once on the way to school, I saw PKY waiting for the school bus. I told her that I'd give her a lift but she smiled and replied that she doesn't want to bother me. But I was insistent and she agreed to travel the remaining three kilometers to school in my car.  I had to buy a notebook on the way and stopped at a stationery shop. While waiting for the shopkeeper to find the two-lined notebook, we saw PKY's bus go by and we smiled and waved to our friends in the school bus. But when it was time to pay for the notebook, I realized I had forgotten to bring my purse. And my purse was in my school bag! I panicked. I had no option but to send our driver back home to get my school bag while PKY and I walked two kilometers to school and reached quite late. She never took a ride with me to school again! I still remember the look on her face that day, trying hard to suppress her anger and mumbling curses against me while I was trying very hard not to giggle. I'm still not able to suppress my giggles every time I'm reminded of PKY.

Friday, February 5, 2010

When Was The Last Time You Did Something For The First Time?




She asked me.

I thought. The minutes ticked by painfully slow. But I still couldn't recall.

And it's a sad thing.

In the past two years, I'd undergone a disillusionment towards the way my life has shaped out to be. It'd been a gradual process; stifled emotions squeezing their way out from the depths of my heart and thoughts I'd vehemently refused to ponder upon all these years.

A middle-class upbringing grounded on its own definitions of success and a future planned out to the last detail for me-a secure job of a doctor, a job in the US, a six figure salary-painted a pretty picture and I took the plunge.

In junior college my friends opted for biology as an elective. I wanted to continue hanging out with them, so did I. They brought application forms for medical entrance exam. Again I was scared of exploring new territory so, I stood in queue to get the application form. I cleared the exam at one go and my friends didn't. It was only when I was sitting among unfamiliar faces in a class of a hundred and fifty students on that first day of medical college taking the Hippocrates oath I realized that I had chosen my career. This was it.

Hectic classes followed. I was forced to be a part of the race to survive the grueling years in medical college. I played my part and well too. I loved the power to heal that the doctors held. It's the most powerful thing of all. You can give a new life to others. Some doctors realized the great responsibility that this power brought along and humbly offered their services to people. Rest were a bunch of inflated egos and a smirk, a retort, a snarl were the first things they had to offer to patients.

Many factors contributed to my disillusionment; the stifling and rigid curriculum, few biases, my own gradually escalating obsessive compulsive disorder and the most important of it all, I was finally beginning to think for myself.

I was a good student in the sense that I molded myself well to any situation you put me into. My parents could have put me into any career and I would have survived in that just by the inherent desire of trying to do well whatever I do. I could've been an engineer, a lawyer, a businesswoman, a teacher. Anyone. Whatever was the flavour, as a friend rightly put it.

I wasn't the only one who had this mind-set while growing up, many of my peers and family has the same story to tell. Conservative Indian families have rigid rules about what a girl ought to do. Success was defined to me as a good job overseas, a few cars, a grand house, a flourishing career; this was the benchmark set before me. A close friend recently told me her parents had told her to enjoy her life once she passed the hurdle of matriculation exam. Then there were the hurdles of engineering entrance exam, engineering exam and now a MBA degree that she had to overcome before getting a chance to enjoy life, by which I'm sure she meant exploring her own hopes and aspirations and just for a moment enjoy the simple pleasure of not thinking about the next exam to clear. I wonder if she'll ever get the chance.

We have mastered the art of loving what we do. During the past two years when I struggled with the thoughts of a life based on my own wishes, I was startled by my own and others' responses. I am no writer. But I love to write. I want to learn the art of creative writing. I want to give serious thought to my interest in history and ancient scriptures. And I want to travel. Not fancy spas and luxury vacations. Just travel for the sake of travel. Maybe even the previously unexplored nooks of a nearby town. Travel is a liberty I crave for. But solo travel is still a dream. I only get to go on planned vacations to the usual tourist spots. And yet again, I have no option but to love what I get.

I still haven't been able to cut my umbilical cord. My parents are the best parents I could've asked for. They have given me everything I want. Pampered a lot. But their over-protectiveness have led to such a situation now that I can't go anywhere without another person accompanying me. It's not the travel restrictions, it's just that I'm still not allowed to be self-reliant even at the age of 24. I'm leading the life of a dependent 12 year old! And I haven't been able to do anything about it. I can't hurt my parents. I've tried discussing with them this problem, but there was no change in their protectiveness. Everyone comments on how it's high time I pave my own life path. I know I should do that too. It's already too late. My whole life has been sketched to the last detail by others. My whims were catered to but major decisions were already taken for me. Abandoning the noble profession of a doctor to pursue writing was frowned upon. Who in their right mind does that? Is success guaranteed? No. Will you make as much money as a doctor does? No. Is it a secure job? No. Are you aware of the hard life out there? No. Do you have the talent? Not yet. "So, shut up and concentrate on your career as a doctor. Time runs out fast for a girl. Your friends are getting married. Concentrate on getting PG in a good hospital, get married, have kids; and then you'll have abundant time to follow your hobbies". Will I?

I don't have an aversion to being a doctor. I feel blessed that I'm given a chance to serve people in need. I have gone through instances in the past where I came close to losing my father to critical illnesses but it's through sheer dedication and skill the doctors overcame all hurdles his age, his co-morbidities posed along with the critical illness. I have nothing but true devotion to this skill bestowed on doctors and which I've been given a chance to be a part of. But who goes to a "simple" MBBS degree holder these days? You need to have a string of degrees behind your name, fight out the fierce competition in private practice or positions in reputed hospitals. Do you know many hours of studying brings about these? Your entire youth. Do you have time to pursue on the side-lines your so-called "hobbies"? As an amateur? Yes. As a professional? No. They remain just "hobbies".

I'm finally taking a stand on how my life is run. I deserve a say in that, don't I? I'm officially not in the race anymore. My life, my pace, my dreams, my aspirations. Will the people who talk now about their idea of success and condemn me for losing the competitive streak provide a solution to the ever-increasing emptiness that grows with time in the runners of this rat race? They won't.


So, why should I live my life according to what the world wants me to be? My definition of success: Being myself and doing what I love in a world that is constantly trying to make me do something else.

And here's a huge thank you to Priyanka, my friend who asked me this question today. Thanks for being so supportive :)


Photo courtesy: http://i.telegraph.co.uk/telegraph/multimedia/archive/01408/happiness_1408507c.jpg