Tuesday, May 27, 2008

You lucky thing!

A school has ordered hundreds of bananas in a bid to improve its pupils' performance in exams.

is also being played in preparation sessions and lavender-laced tissues are being given to nervous pupils, at Whitecross High School.

The efforts taken to pacify the tensed student and the attention to detail in that quest is laudable - a teacher from the school said on TV that they are distributing the bananas precisely 45 minutes before the exam so that the banana is digested well before the exam and the brain doesn't have to compete for blood supply with the digestive system!

Even after a couple of banana boosters and the lavender sniffs every 15 minutes, if you failed to make the cut, not to worry, you could still get by. Here's how
If students feel that they were disadvantaged in the process because they had a lot of stress in their personal life on the exam day (mother hospitalised, father drinking all night), students would be awarded bonus marks to compensate for their disadvantage.
I know someone who missed out the CAT bus in 2006 in India, all because of a full-bladder-during-the-exam stress.

And if that's not enough, if you are lucky, you could 'win' a fortune as well.
Schoolchildren given the wrong GCSE and A-level grades could collectively be awarded millions of pounds in compensation under a government proposal, an exam board has said.
Calicut University in India would go bankrupt in a jiffy if they were to give out even 100rs per error!

If the average stressed-out kid in India gets to read this, I am sure s/he'll curse his luck and would prester his parents to move to the UK. Well, I would have cried my eye-balls off for these luxuries in my schooling.

Now, isn't that something worth a deep sigh?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Scottish Highlands

A picture is worth a thousand words and in some cases, even more.

The Silver Sands of Morar

The backdrop at Silver Sands.

The clouds were certainly celebrating something.

Spot the differences!

Lochy Caravan - Fort Williams
Home for 3 days. Caravans.
It was such a joy to wake up, look out the window and the mountains greet you.

Green and how!

Lochy river. Ice cold.

Ode to the martyrs.

Celebration of spring.

What's Scotland without sheep?
How can you go to Scotland and not have a picture of the sheep.

More pics here.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Face to face with the enemy

Every fortnight, I do a two hour cross-London trip to East Ham. Purpose of the trip: procure freshly made dosa batter [maavu]. I don't mind spending two hours closed up in the London tube to enjoy crispy dosas for breakfast (maybe lunch and dinner too!).

Last week, after a tiring day at work (stumbling all day can cause finger cramps!), I decided to set out to East Ham to replenish my dwindling dosa batter supplies. I was lost in thought (as usual) and lost my way as well. I decided to trust my instinct and ask the decent looking twenty-something Indian-looking guy on the road for directions.

Me: Hi there, I seem to be lost. I am looking for Chennai Dosa. Do you know where it is?
One of the highlights of the trip is to treat myself to an Onion Oothappam at Chennai Dosa (a popular south-Indian eatery) before I proceed to buy the dosa batter.
He: Sure. You are walking in the wrong direction. I am going that way, so if you would walk with me, I can get you to Chennai Dosa.
Me: Thanks a lot.
We walk in silence.
He: Why do so many people like Chennai Dosa so much? I have been there couple of times and to be honest, I didn't like that place. Don't you get tired of dosas?
Apparently he didn't know that he was talking to the I-would-do-anything-for-dosa gal. I decided to be polite rather than try to defend dosas and all its goodness.
Me: Aw that's sad. If you don't like dosas, they do have a lot of other stuff too. Try their biriyani or their paratta.
He: [smiles].
He: So you're not from East Ham, considering that you got lost trying to find Chennai Dosa?
Me: Oh no, I live on the other side of London, just here to pick some groceries I don't get near my place.
Notice that I didn't mention that I was there with the sole purpose of getting the dosa batter. No use mentioning it to a dosa-hater.
He: Oh, that's quite a journey. Food lover, eh?
Me: Yeah, sort of. [Sheepish grin that I get to use a lot these days]

After two minutes I decide that it's my turn to break the silence next.
Me: So where are you from?
He: [Smiles.] What do you think?
He had the typical north Indian look. So I decided to venture a safe guess.
Me: Delhi?
He: No!
Me: Punjab
He: No!
Me: Kashmir?
He: No, but close. [Smiles]

Me: I give up. I am from Kerala. Where are you from?
He: I am from Pakistan.

P-A-K-I-S-T-A-N! P-A-K-I-S-T-A-N!

Oh my God did he say P-A-K-I-S-T-A-N?!

I was so taken aback that I stopped walking for a second. It was the first time I was face to face to with someone from Pakistan and to my mind, apparently, Pakistan was a code-word for 'danger'.

The first thought that flashed in my mind was: "Enemy alert. Get away from him ASAP!"

I am sure he caught a glimpse of the fear, anger and hatred in my eyes. He looked away and smiled.

He: I have a lot of friends here from Kerala.
Me: I see.
He: Oh here we are.
We were in front of Chennai Dosa.
He: Let me take your leave lady. Enjoy your dosa. [smiles]
Me: [Sheepishly sorry grin]
As I snacked on the crunchy onion rava dosa that day, for the first time, my mind was far away from dosas. I felt guilty and ashamed that the word 'Pakistan' had evoked such visibly strong reactions in me.

Every Indian would identify with this when I say that, from the time I was born, everything I had heard of Pakistan had a negative connotation to it. Partition, a million innocent people losing their lives just so that Muslims can have their own country, Terrorism, Line of Control, Quarrels on Kashmir, Indo-Pak wars, Cricket feuds, Bombings.....it goes on and on. My mind has been slowly conditioned to associate 'Pakistan' with 'all that is bad' and anyone from Pakistan, without any doubt, was my enemy. We get slow doses of this hatred injected into our mind daily through newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, movies, songs, email-forwards and even cartoons and jokes.

I felt ashamed that these feelings were so deep-routed in me. Weren't there innocent people living in Pakistan as well? In between all the negative thoughts, we fail to remember these human beings who get branded as 'Bad' or 'Terrorists' or 'Enemy' just because he/she is from Pakistan. Will we ever be able to think of Pakistanis as our friends, considering that we have been slowly brain-washed to think otherwise?

I had a lot of questions in my mind when I watched the movie Earth by Deepa Mehta, where best friends kill each other in the name of religion and lust. I doubted whether religion was a strong enough drug to kill one's best-friends. After the way I found myself reacting at the mere presence of a Pakistani, I have no more doubts. And it's scary.