Is it English or Auto-Pilot???

Over the years, I’ve come to like English language. As a kid I used to read and talk in English but as my usage of the language has increased, I have graduated to thinking in English (most of the times, though sometimes I can’t help but think in Gujarati :))

Recently, I was teaching spoken English to a teenage Gujarati-medium student.  When for 15 years you have learnt one language and are thinking, listening and understanding everything in that language, then learning a new language can be a very different and a difficult experience. For me, teaching him was a challenge. His questions and thought-process behind answers/questions was very different from my English-medium students. He was in a constant battle with the logic his Gujarati-medium education had ingrained in him. I am not saying that a Gujarati medium education is bad but each language has a different base and it’s easiest to learn a language from our childhood. If I were to teach an English-medium student, Gujarati language at the age of 15, I’m sure he will apply his English education logic to learning Gujarati.

Over the last month, as we both were discovering English language from its root, we tried – unsuccessfully – to solve many English language mysteries which I had never ever questioned or thought about before. I’ll list a few here:

  • When to pronounce “c” with a “k” sound and when with an “s” sound – example – CUT and EXCITE. I had never thought about “c” pronunciations before so when he asked me this question I was scratching my head for five minutes. Then I took a page and started writing all the C words I could think of and I could think of this logic – Pronounce “c” with a “k” sound where C is followed by vowels – A, O, U (examples cut, cot, cat) and with an “s” sound when C is followed by vowels E and I (examples cipher and excite).
  • One day we did a session on guessing the meanings of words based on their spellings and pronunciations. While we learnt little, we surely discovered that “English is funny language.”  For starters, let’s take “boondoggle”, it means an expensive and wasteful project. When I asked him to guess the meaning, he said, “it’s probably something related to the boon of using an internet dongle.” Next, we went to “switcheroo”, the meaning of which is fairly simple, an act of swapping two objects. But we still had a good laugh over it because it sounds like someone swapped “loo” and “switch” to make the word. “Ambush” is another funny one, while it means a surprise attack, he said, “it sounds like a call for help ‘I’m in a bush’.”

In the end, what I’m trying to say is that in the one month I couldn’t really answer many of his questions nor could I teach him much but I feel that I definitely learnt something. Once our familiarity with a subject, a language, a person, or a relationship increases, we stop thinking. We go into an auto-pilot mode, not thinking about anything and just reacting most of the time.

While auto-pilot is OK once in a while, where is the charm in it? Why learn to fly a plane when you’re going to use auto-pilot? Hence, after my English teaching bout with the Gujarati-medium student, I’m no longer on auto-pilot when it comes to my English. I’ve become more aware of the new words and the new writing styles I read and what I write. I’m also trying to reduce auto-pilot-giri in my relationships and taking more effort to connect with people.


Getting Accustomed to Shiekhdom

Doha Corniche

This post is the result of a friend’s “farmaish”.  I’m usually a zero-unagi, living-in-my-own world kind of person.  But recently a friend’s email asking me about life in Gulf, made me sit up and notice things, habits, and people around me.

Its like there are two worlds in this country – one for local nationals and the Westerners (who, I feel, enjoy a demi-god status here) and another for immigrants from other Asian countries.  From my observations and limited number of experiences so far I’ll try to paint the two worlds:

Apart from the obvious heat issues which affect both the worlds, there is very little common between them.  First is the obvious problem of being disrespected because I’m an Indian.  In India, while Indians don’t pay heed to other Indians, here it is taken one step further. If you are an Indian, you will be put down at every point – residency permits take time to process for Indians and you will be failed in your first attempt at driving test just because you’re an Indian (doesn’t matter if you drive as good as or better than Michael Schumacher 😉 ).

Next is the general all-round struggle and the job divide (which is more a result of the way the rules in this country are structured) but its a vast difference anyway. For any company to operate here, they have to have a tie-up with a local firm, and hence the local nationals are ultra-rich irrespective of their education and capabilities. I’ve only seen Indians, Sri Lankans and Filipinos in blue collar jobs. White collar jobs go to Indians, Sri Lankans and Filipinos but I feel that well-paying, top level jobs would most likely be reserved for the “oh-so-great” Westerners or local nationals.

On the other hand, in the Sheikhs and Westerners-infested world, there is general merriment and a cake-walk through all the procedures. The local nationals are ill-mannered and seem not very well-educated but by the virtue of the country’s rule, they are very rich and hence in an untouchable bubble of their own.

However, what I’ve described above is an irreversible condition that sounds sad but isn’t so bad on an everyday basis. I am very happy here because I am getting more time for myself and my family, work-life balance is excellent here, I’m doing things I love, and obviously because of more money :).  Of course, there is room to be happier if I can make some friends from the other end of the spectrum. While the opportunity and effort for something like this is low, I feel I shouldn’t pass a judgement on the other world, till I get a chance to interact with them and know them.

The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

Sorry to disappoint Shakespeare fans but this post isn’t about Tempest or Shakespeare-isms (not that am not a fan of him). But this is a mindless post about my crazy dreams. So if you’re not interested, please stop reading now itself. I wont mind one bit 🙂

While for most people, imagination is what fuels their consciousness and cognition, in my  case its only ever active (or rather over-active) in my dreams. When I’m awake, imagination rarely comes to my aid :(. But put me to sleep and my subconscious teams up with Mr. Imagination and everything that I’ve seen or read or thought during the day gets crazily linked up in one dream. Somehow, my high-school is always the setting of my dreams where I meet people from all around the world and where stupid things happen. Once upon a time, I used to waste my limited brainspace trying to analyze them but now I just laugh them out with my friends and family 🙂  

I had one such crazy dream yesterday and to explain its origin – I saw Sholay on the TV last night :).  The location, as usual, is my high school…

In one of the classrooms, I have some interns and new-hires from my office. I’m taking their induction along with a very senior member from my office. After the “class”, the senior member calls me aside and says lets arrange for tea for everyone in the upcoming break so that we can have an informal ice-breaker session. So we go to the canteen which looks like the admissions department of a hospital. The lady at the cashier’s is wearing a nurse uniform and in a matronly voice shooed us  off saying we cant arrange for 30 cups of tea in 15 minutes.

Hence, the senior official decides to buy cold drinks, while me, the over-zealous organizer, decides to go out of the school compound to look for a tea vendor. As soon as I step out, voila, I meet Mr. Bachchan… He just happens to be standing outside in the scorching heat looking majestic and a little sweat-drenched in an old t-shirt and jeans. When I see him, my first reaction to him isn’t “OMG”, its – “Do you know anyone who can provide me 30 cups of tea in 10 mins?” Him being the gentleman, he takes me around the back, where Dharmendra is sitting in a dilapidated building on a dilapidated “jhulla” whistling away to glory. Mr. Bachchan calls out, “Veeru… dya know wherez our chai-wala. There’s an emergency here” and I’m astonishined to see him address Dharmendra like that so I ask him “After all these years of Sholay.. you still call each other Jai and Veeru?” But before he can answer, Veeru shouts, “Jai, run and take cover… Gabbar is here”

So we rush into the school building as we are being bombarded with bullets.  We run into my classroom and as soon as we enter, there is a hush in the room and since everyone is staring at me and Mr. Bachchan alternatively, I just blurt out, “I couldn’t find tea, so I brought Mr. Amitabh Bachchan with me.”

Before anyone could say anything, my alarm went off and my groggy self was trying to make sense of the fading image of Amitabh Bachchan in my head.

Am I A Good Person Or Am I Just Scared

I’ve been thinking since a few days and after reading this post some of my friends might say over-thinking.  But anyways, am putting my thoughts out there because I’d really like your opinion on this.

A couple of days ago, something unpleasant happened that made me think that maybe this is a payback for not being a good human being. While I got over the payback incident, it got me thinking – Am I really a good person or am I just scared of consequences and hence am being good?

I have toed the line most of the times (I cant say always, am not that good either) and tried to make everyone around me happy but I feel that behind my actions there is probably an unconscious thought that if I don’t do right by others, right things won’t happen with me.  I am wondering whether I am living more in fear of God and consequences rather than goodness of heart.

As kids we are taught that if we do bad things, God punishes us – is this teaching imparted or rather grilled into us to instill goodness or to instill the fear of God? Would God want us to fear him? Or is this a good way to teach children to be good human beings? We are also taught that if we do good things, good things will happen for us. So when something good happens, I think of it as repayment for something good I did for someone.  

What I’m trying to say is that I don’t know what can be a person’s thought process behind doing good deeds – is it the fear of God or is it the expectation of something good in return or is it mere goodness of heart? Any thoughts???  


Project Housewife

Project HousewifeI’ve been married for over four years and until recently I was working full-time (sometimes even more number of hours than my husband 😦 ).  I quit my job to move to Gulf with my husband. When I landed, I was fully enthusiastic about starting a new chapter and inwardly thought will make myself a proud housewife. Just like anyone who starts a new course or new job, even I was full of aspirations and dreams for my new role as a housewife. I thought I’ll put my everything into managing the household chores, learn ironing, and most importantly become a good cook and maybe in a galaxy far-far-away, participate in masterchef :).

Of course, it’s always easier to dream than do. Just like a kid with a new toy, the fascination and experimentation levels were high in the first month. I looked up videos on the internet on how to iron clothes and tried my best to iron my husband’s formals. Having feasted on TV-serials (since I was unemployed), the image in my head was of a TV-serial biwi who rises to the occasion and becomes perfect but as is the case often with reality, I was nowhere near it.  Despite numerous back-breaking attempts, the ironing would never be crease-free and there would always be dust in some nook of the house.  Next came my attempts at baking, after 5 consecutive cakes in the dustbin I realized my useless microwave was incapable of baking and pressure cooker baking was also proving difficult. My innate laziness (which, if you ask my mother, is in every drop of my very o-negative blood) started rearing its ugly head and I started slacking in work. In the end it all boiled down to a vegetative state of spending time in front of the television or gorging on useless romance novels.

As days excruciatingly turned into weeks, I realized that while I loved the break from work and stress, I was getting depressed sitting at home not meeting people. I need deadlines and a timetable to keep me in line and so I started small things at home like teaching English and dance. It got me interacting with a lot of people and I started keeping busy for four to five hours every day. This gave my day a sense of purpose and it also motivated me to get back to house work. I started taking an interest in cooking and cleaning again. Am no masterchef but once in two weeks, I try a new dish and it is palatable, if not masterchef standard :).  Ironing is still a mystery but it’s not a deal breaker for me.

At first I wasn’t sure if I should put the status of my project “Housewife” as ‘failed’ or ‘suspended’ but then I renamed it to “Semi-Housewife” and the current status of this new project is ‘little slow but on track’.