Tuesday, June 29, 2010

If Words Aren't Important, Why Don't You Make Up New Ones Instead of Using Others to Say What You Mean and Not What They Are Supposed To?

Okay, longest title ever. And that's an answer to something I've heard (stupid) people say when I pointed out that I misunderstood them because of words they used wrongly. (So again, continuing on that theme: would you understand what I mean if I said "gobblygook wrokic majon linow"?  "But they are just nonsense words!" "Exactly.")

One of the most annoying grammatical mistakes I come across is the use of "would" for "will". Yes, do you remember "will"? We all learnt it in school, didn't we? No, "I would go to work" does not mean the same as "I will go to work." In fact, it doesn't mean much, because I'm still waiting for you to complete your sentence and tell me what's stopping you from going to work!

The Guy told me a funny story from work. An Indian colleague was in a meeting with an American colleague, and the Indian asked for advice about a work situation. The American suggested, "I would do ABC." The next day, the American colleague asked if the Indian had, in fact, done ABC. The Indian, of course, was flabbergasted, because hadn't the other said yesterday that he would do it?

And what's this about using words like "propose" and "affair" to mean something they don't mean? You don't propose to someone when you say "I love you". You propose if you ask a question, such as, "Why don't we kill your boyfriend so that I can move in with you?" or "Will you marry me?"

One day I'm chatting to a senior at work and he says, "When I was having an affair..." And I'm trying really hard to not show shock while thinking, "He cheated on his wife? WHY is he telling me? What am I supposed to say?" Thankfully, I am quite good at keeping a poker face, and only let out a smile when I finally realised that he was referring to when he was dating his now-wife.

What else bugs me? This one isn't grammatical as much as it is political. It's men (yeah usually men in my experience, though women might do it too) referring to a person in the abstract (usually a customer - internal or external, or an employee, or some other abstract figure), and using, every single time, the pronoun "he".

I am a woman. In office. Is this fact so difficult to grasp? Look around you. I bet quite a few of your colleagues are women too. Yet saying "she" is so much more difficult, is it? (Now picture me with my face close to yours, saying in my soft dangerous voice, "IS IT?")

Another story from the Guy, this not so funny: he sat in a meeting with a couple of men from his office, and some client contacts. The employee who was presenting went on referring to the user of the product they were discussing as 'he'. But three of the four client contacts were women. Do you want to tell me they didn't notice?

Are you telling me it's so difficult to say "he or she" instead of "he"? Why not use "their"? Oh, it's not grammatical, is it? Come on, language evolves with changing times, and Enid Blyton used this seventy years ago. If you are such a stickler, why not just use 'she' once in a while, and 'he' the rest of the time? (This is my favourite approach.) But you're not a stickler, are you? You're just stupid. If you were a stickler, you wouldn't make the error of saying what you don't mean in the first place. (Of course you don't mean only men can be your clients/employees/whatever. Do you? DO YOU?)

Monday, June 28, 2010

What Women Want: No, I'm Not Telling You

I can tell you what I want - but I might not, unless I trust you. Why do you think I can tell you what all women want?

Some women want time to themselves. Some want meaningful work. Some want a new haircut. Some want to find love. Some want their in-laws to treat them better. Some want to do well in their exams. Some want more money.

Some want women to be treated equally. Some think they are equal enough. Some like the place the patriarchy allots them. Some want sons. Some want to wear skirts.

Some want to have sex. Some want to not have sex. Some want an end to sexual harassment. Some want equal pay. Some want to walk on the streets safely.

Some want their daughters dead. Some want to not have to pay dowry. Some want a foreign holiday. Some want a perfect wedding. Some want to live with the woman they love.

Some want to drive. Some want to write. Some want to whistle. Some want to play sports.

Some want a promotion. Some want to govern the country. Some want to reach space. Some want to stay home and take care of their children.

Some want to never have children. Some want to get well. Some want better access. Some want to watch a movie. Some want fresh flowers in the living room.

Some want to not be raped. Some want to not be cut. Some want to abuse a younger friend. Some want an education.

But why do you want me to tell you? Because you think women are difficult puzzles, if you've solved one, you've solved them all? Because it's too much effort to ask the women in your life what they want, and to listen when they tell you?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Voices in My Head - I

Meet Me, Miki
Leaving office at six on a Friday evening would have felt much nicer if I had actually had any plans for the weekend. I said goodbye cheerily as I walked off, smiling at the jealous groans of those who were still at their desks. I chatted with a couple of colleagues as we took the lift down. I found my cab and squeezed myself in next to the two other people already in the back seat. Usually, we all sat in silence as the cab took us to our homes, but our relief at finding ourselves at the end of another week of work loosened tongues.
“I’m going home to my parents in Meerut,” confessed Geeta. “My dad’s on his way to pick me up: I’m just going home to change and pack first.” Geeta lived in Gurgaon, at least on weekdays, with two roommates. I knew her well because we often shared a cab; her house was at a little distance from mine.
 “I wish I could go home every weekend!”said Arpita enviously. “My parents live all the way away in Jamshedpur.  But I’m going out with my roommates and some other friends tonight. ”
“All the way away indeed!” I thought. My mother lived in Assam, and I hadn’t seen her for nearly two years.
“Where are you going?” The man in the front seat, whose name I didn’t know, seemed curious.
“I don’t know,” said Arpita. “Some place in Vasant Vihar, I think. It’s supposed to be a happening place, with a great bar, but I don’t remember the name…”
My bschool was not very far from Vasant Vihar and I had lived in the vicinity for nearly two years, but I had no idea of what nightly attractions the area held. My hostel had had a curfew of 9 pm.
“I’ve got a cousin coming over tomorrow morning,” said the young man, whom Arpita called Shailesh. “I’m going to show her around town: she’s very keen on getting some shopping done.”
“What about you, Miki?” asked Geeta kindly. “What are you doing this weekend?”
“I… I haven’t made any particular plans yet,” I said. “I’m just so glad that the week is over.”
“Amen,” said Shailesh, and the others gave sighs of agreement, while I was relieved at not being asked to elaborate upon my lack of plans for the next two days – or, indeed, for the future.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Do You Want to Read a Story?

A really long story. 

One of the things I did when I stayed home on a break was to write down a story I had wanted to write a long time. I wanted it to be a novel that would make me a writer. Once it was down, however, and I read it with a dispassionate eye (very difficult to do), I realised it just wasn't good enough. It was too personal, too autobiographical, too... boring. It was a coming-of-age story like many you must have read. It was too close to real life, to normal, boring life, to be really interesting. 
And then I went back to a full-time job. And loved it as I've never loved doing anything before. And realised, this is it. This is what I'm meant to do. That dream of becoming a writer was just that, a vague dream. I have never enjoyed writing as much as I enjoy this. 

So, anyway. There lies the 55,000 word document in my computer, gathering the metaphorical dust. So, I thought, why not share it with you, my faithful readers? (Yes, all three of you.)

But then I thought, do you want to read it? It's ready, but it'll still take me some effort. I'll re-read and edit each chapter as I put it up, and try to polish as I go along. (And with the changes they've made to blogger, even putting up a short post is a pain. It keeps putting in paragraph breaks that I don't want, and that I can't quite eliminate with my inadequate knowledge of html.) If I do put it up, I'll do a chapter every Sunday, so you can read it on the weekend (if you don't have a life - but I'm not judging, I'm the one who works till 11 pm on Fridays), or on Monday, if you're the kind who spends the day reading blogs at work (lucky  you!)

So, what do you say? Do you want to read it? Say yes or no, below. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tired of Being Your Friend

I'm tired of being the one who listens.
I'm tired of being the one who calls.
The one who ends silences.
The one who breaks down walls.

The one who never shows anger.
The one who never asks.
And the one who will remember
But wear a smiling mask.

Old friends are better than new.
They know you without needing to ask.
But I wish that sometimes you
would, even if you know, still ask.

I'm tired of the distances.
Of having to work at keeping it alive.
Excuse me my absences:
I may - or may not - be back in a while.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Pictures of My City

Cities are concrete, dust and confined spaces. They are crowds, noise and haste. 

Yet I manage sometimes to find little pieces of quiet, of beauty. Let me share some with you. 

One day, the cab carrying me to work stopped within an army cantonment area. I looked out of the window to see this lane leading away, and was much tempted to follow.

Taken from the same cab, at the same time. 

And this, a view from the opposite window. 

A couple of kilometres before my office, right in the so-called "IT city", this laden bullock cart trudged along. I wish I had captured a better picture. 

Most weekday mornings, I stand here to catch my bus. The tree above is one that shelters me from the sun, while I stand and stare at passing strangers and at the flowers on the opposite side of the street. 

And because I love gulmohars, here is one. They remind me of Assam, of the rows of flaming trees on either side of the highway, of a large tree that I passed on my way to school each morning. We call them krishnasura. 

Here's another, lending color to the drab surroundings. 

Friday, June 04, 2010

Banning Facebook

That religious lunatics want Facebook banned is kind of expected, but for the Maharashtra administration to put its weight behind such requests is silly - or scary, depending on how you look at it.

And is it just me that finds it ridiculous that the Catholic Secular(!) Forum and a Sunni organisation have joined hands for the cause?