Saturday, December 24, 2011

College Life - Aditanar College, Tiruchendur (4/6)

Hostel Day & College Day
The highlight of all celebrations is the hostel day celebration that we usually have while nearing the end of the year. It's not a one-day celebration. It goes on for a week. A lot of sports events and other competitions would be there. The most important of them all is the cricket tournament. It would be like the world cup where you would have everything like league, semis and finals. There would be other sports such as Kabaddi, Volley Ball, This Ball, That Ball, etc. At the end of it all comes the grand finale - the Hostel Day, in which the prize distribution for the winners would take place. The hostel day function would have a lot of cultural events as well. The highlight of hostel day function is the farewell speech given by some of the outgoing students. Every year at least one person would rock in that. I was planning to rock when my turn would come but unfortunately the hostel day itself didn't happen when I was in the final year. Want to know why? It's a big story. Please wait for a few more weeks. We will discuss about that as well.

Likewise, the college day function is another important one. It generally comes in the month of March. It's an important day for the final year students as it takes place just before the course end. Isn't everything that we enjoy with the loved ones with whom we are parting ways shortly a great experience? The college day would be a grand ceremony. Mr. Sivanthi Adityan, the president of our college committee, better known as a media-czar and owner of two popular Tamil newspapers Daily Thanthi and Maalai Malar, would be there without fail every year. It's his college. Using his influence some inspirational - well known personality would be brought as chief guest to the function. Seeing all that we would all feel very proud that we were not studying in an ordinary college. That afternoon, the NCC cadets would give a guard of honor parade to both of them (our president and the chief guest). The practice sessions would start more than a month before. It would be like the independence day and republic day parades that happen Red Fort in New Delhi. The background music during the parade, the beautiful blue sea in the background and the scene of all colorful flags flying high would all give goosebumps. Even now I get goosebumps when I think of that experience. I also participated in the parade in first two years. Third year, I was not interested to continue in NCC. I am one of them who escaped from that saying that NCC took away all my freedom. The cultural events in the night would be rocking. All of them would be of great quality. One month practice, no?! I don't think I ever participated in any of the college day cultural events. I told you, they are of good quality, right? So, that said everything. :)

Whichever part of the world he is in, Mr. Sivanthi Adityan would be back in his den in that one week. His native place is very near from there. First day, he participates in the college day function. The next day, he inaugurates the car festival in Tiruchendur temple. Then, there is temple festival in his native place Kayamozhi. Then, he would go to the temple festival in Sun Paper Mill, a business unit owned by him in Cheranmahadevi. That entire week, he would be in that region only - attending one or the other function. I have even heard that he goes hunting in the those nights with his people when he stays in his native place. Wow! What a life! This is the kind of life we all yearn for, right? Not only him. Almost everyone in Nadar community has this custom of coming back to their native place for a week in the month of March-April every year for temple festival. If you check with their children whose families are based at cities like Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore, etc. they would say that's one of the most joyful periods in their lives. Check out if you know anyone. I have envied them many times for not having such customs in our place.

Weekend, Cricket and Beach
Let's come back to the Hostel Day Cricket tournament now. We start the practice for it right from the day one we join. As soon as the college ends at 4pm we would come running to the hostel and start at 4.15pm. It would go on till it becomes completely dark. The center of the square-shaped hostel is the ground. The ground is little small, which adds to the fun. Most of us learnt hitting sixes only after going there. That confidence would help us to smash sixes in bigger grounds  later. As the hostel is on the seashore, the ground is full of sand. It is suitable for falling down and pretending so while fielding and catching. There were a lot of tall trees in the ground, which made catches not just a matter of ability but also of luck as well. Even the balls that would otherwise go for six would be stopped by the tall trees and on the other hand even the shots that would have got caught would get saved with the help of trees. It would be so nice watching the catches and misses when the ball gets stopped by a tree, falls down going in different directions after hitting each branch leaving the fielder utterly confused about where it would fall finally. We have also seen scenes where the fielder would catch a fruit falling down from the tree instead of the ball. Some people like batting and some like bowling. Some are all-rounders. I am an all-rounder. It's the same name for both - those who do well in both as well as those who screw-up in both.

We would play like mad on weekends. We would have more people to play with us. Even those who roam around in the areas of bus stand, beach and temple would be stuck in the hostel because of the heat. The heat is not a problem for them but for those they plan to see in those places. Who would come out in such a heat? So, we would include them also on weekends. If we start the game after having pongal in the morning, by afternoon it would have got digested completely, which otherwise wouldn't get digested even in the night. It would be so hard and heavy that many guys won't have lunch on those days. That pongal has an important place in our hostel lives. The first day we have that pongal we would curse ourselves and our parents for landing in that hostel. We would surely complain about it to our parents when we call up home that night. But, in the next few months, invariably everyone in the entire hostel would have fallen in love with that pongal - with no exceptions. It's a miracle that continues to happen every year. 'How is it that something that was hated so much became so lovable!' is the question everyone of us have even today.

There are some more things that happen in the weekends. One of them is going to the beach for sea bath. That apart, we would go to the beach on full moon days (actually in the nights) as well - not to take sea bath but just to see the sea (there were guys who would go on no moon days as well but they are a different group!). When I say 'we', it's not four or five people. Almost the whole of hostel! Only few people like me who are 'scared of the night' would stay in the hostel. Sometimes I would join the gang on mission fearing that staying alone in hostel may be more dangerous than going to the beach with a bigger crowd. The tides would be bigger and noisier on those days. The intensity of tides would scare us to death. I was telling you in one of the previous posts about how I feared as if we were going to submerge in Tsunami when I saw the sea on the first day. Later, after seeing the sea every day that fear died down. It's only on full moon days we would be reminded of that fearful thoughts again.

Sometimes people would also catch crabs when we go in the nights. While coming back we would come back with bags full of crabs. I could never master that art though. But, some of my friends were experts in it. They would cook tasty crabs after coming back. Almost the entire hostel would have a second dinner that night. Somehow I have never been attracted by the taste of crabs as well. I would just be with them. That's it. Once, this business continued till 4am from midnight. I always like only the items that are easy to eat. I don't like techniques such as removing seeds, peeling off skins, separating bones, etc. However tasty something is, I wouldn't like it if I have to put some extra effort to eat it.

Late-night Movies
Right from school days till today, one thing that I find very difficult is - taking leaves. I find it so difficult to stand in front of someone requesting for something and giving him an opportunity to ask me questions. I think it's better not to do something if it has to happen with someone's permission. I have had a lot of problems because of this crazy attitude. Bunking classes is one of the most significant experiences in college, right? Both in first year and the second year, many of my friends used to bunk classes. They would use that time to do something more useful. It includes things starting from going for movies to roaming around the town. I also started doing it once in a while - only after coming to the final year. It's very occasional that I bunked for movies. Most of the times I bunked classes, I took good rest staying in hostel.

I never used to be interested in movies right from childhood. It all started off with an egoistic attitude. I used to think that watching movies was an entertainment of the ordinary people and I was not one of them. Later, even after realizing that I don't become intelligent just by not watching movies, I am not able to make myself interested in it. One of the most memorable things for those who stayed in hostels is the late-night movies. It used to be more adventurous in school hostels. It's not so adventurous in college hostels because they anyway give you a lot of freedom. Saturday nights are called film-nights, which means your shackles are removed on those nights to watch all sorts of movies you want to watch. When you are allowed to do something, what is the fun in doing the same thing unlawfully? There were also adventurous ones who used to think, "Who are they to allow us? I would only go when they don't allow!". I am sure such people are there everywhere. They had a kind of association. Every night they would assemble after the study hours and abscond. They would go almost every night when we were in the second year and third year. They would even go for the same movie again and again but would never sleep in the room.

There were five theaters in Tiruchendur. If that's not enough, there were few theaters in the nearby town Arumuganeri as well. There was one in Authoor, another town in neighborhood. The one in Authoor was owned by our friend Madhavan's father. If he was there when we went, the movie would be free that day. There was no theater in Kayalpatnam which was a town closer than Arumuganeri and Authoor for us. Arumuganeri and Kayalpatnam are two adjucent towns in a distance of three kilometers. Some of my friends would even go till Tuticorin. It would take about 2.5 hours up and down in bus so it was possible only in weekends.

I also became a part-time member in that association in the final year. I mean, I would go with them only once in a while. It's easy to go because it would be before 10pm. The watchmen wouldn't trouble while going. It's not like in school hostel where you would have prison-like rules. It's a problem only when you return in the midnight. There are many options. The easiest of them is jumping the gate. If the watchman wakes up, gone case! The next day, every one's father will be there to see the warden in hostel and Lord Subramanya in Tiruchendur temple. Thus, the full-time members of the association 'take care' of the watchmen once in a while. As a 'take-and-give' (not give-and-take), the watchmen would either keep the gate open at that time or ignore you while jumping the gate.

This 'taking care' business is unlawful by the rules and regulations of the hostel. If the warden comes to know about it, it would lead to punishments. But, the givers and takes have always been there. Like entertainment-lovers taking care of the watchmen, food-lovers would take care of the mess servants. They would go to the mess in the closing time after everyone leaves and get special treatment. They would get return on their investment on the days when non-veg is served. Some guys would voluntarily go and take care of them for the special treatment but others would just give them some money when the servants come to them and ask with a 'poor face'. Can't say no. These guys would just give without any expectations. See where corruption starts. What can Anna Hazare do for all these?

Cyclers and Bikers
The responsibility of getting the late night news to the hostel lied with the late-night moviegoers. Likewise, there were a few groups to get the early morning outside news. One of them is those who went for type writing classes in the early morning - waking up before the rest of the hostel. I think we were the last generation that learnt type writing. The computers swallowed all the type writing machines after they came. Some went for computer classes as well. I also went for the evening computer classes. Exclusively for this, some rich boys had brought cycles from home. Cycles were many in number. Some guys would keep their cycle like girl friend (I don't like calling it like wife!). There were cases of losing relationships after asking the cycle for a day. They would behave as if they joined the college to maintain their cycles - spending most of their time in wiping, washing, cleaning and fondling it.

Only one guy (Sasidharan, my room mate in the final year) had bike. Imagine how rich he would have been. I don't think anyone asked him for bike and lost his relationship. But, there were only few guys to talk about bikes. They would talk about a lot of statistics and techniques in the bike their father or uncle back home had. They would talk about everything about bikes - what is good in each bike, what is bad in each bike, which are the fast moving bikes, which are the not moving bikes, etc. I used to wonder what they would achieve knowing all these unnecessary things. But, when I also bought a bike and started talking about those things with everyone with so much zeal later, I realized they were the ones that were ahead of our time at that time itself. Anand Ram, Ram Kumar, Arun - Sorry friends, I understood very late that you were all great. :)

All these guys who were interested in talking about bikes and statistics around them had a lot of other similarities as well. They had a clear idea about their future - they were clear about what to study next, do next after the course, etc. Later, it was them who settled easily in big cities. They had good dress sense. It was only them who used to wear jeans then. Most of them were either from English-medium schools or big cities. They had good knowledge about English movies. They used to watch a lot of Hindi movies and listen to Hindi songs as well. They looked like big show-offs to those who grew up in remote villages that had no exposure to the outside world. These guys would always want to play Hindi songs while others would love Tamil songs. Luckily, when A R Rahman came and gave the same music in both the languages, there was no reason for them to fight.


-Cont in 5/6...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

College Life - Aditanar College, Tiruchendur (3/6)


Rufus Anna
Rufus Anna was an English Literature student. We were natural allies (Like the Congress-DMK one? No... Please!). Anywhere we go, we search for a friend who is suitable for us from the first day itself, right? He was a find from such a search. I changed a lot as a person after meeting him. He had a lot of influence on me. I used to easily make enemies earlier. Only after meeting him did I realize that it's only friendliness that can help you go places. It came naturally for him. Looking at him, I worked hard against my nature to change myself. Both of us were interested in politics. But, my politics was only to the extent of speaking till late nights whereas he was doing a lot of fieldwork at that time itself.

Generally, in college days, it is only those boys who smoke, drink and do all the naughty things become popular among other boys. I used to wonder what made him so popular in his entire batch despite not having these habits. Almost everyone in his batch used to call him "thalaiva", which means "the leader". I even used to feel jealous of it at times because I also wanted to become a leader but didn't have the stuff. He had it so he became a leader. It's not so easy to become a leader of everyone's choice so automatically. He had extraordinary faith in people around him. He was very active in Congress party and used to believe that all his party men were very nice people. I was always skeptical about that. But, now I have realized people like him ‘have to’ be optimistic like that. What can you achieve when you are working with people if you don't believe them? What keeps most of the politicians in their business today is their strong belief in people's foolishness. On the contrary, he used to believe in the positives of people. That's how one should be. That's why they also liked him so much. It's only critics like us that need to look at both the sides. Only we are under compulsion to keep talking about the negatives. Those in the field are there because of their faith. He is in the field so it's not wrong.

He was interested in literature as well. Even in that, my interest was only to the extent of speaking about it. He went ‘into’ it. Literature to me was just the weekly magazines. I remember he was reading a lot of good quality books at that time itself. We used to discuss about spirituality as well. He was born in an environment which believed that converting everyone that they met to their religion is the whole purpose of their birth and it looked like he also believed in that philosophy for about 25 years. But now he has lost interest in all that and dedicated himself to what really is divine - working for people. He was very active in Congress party during college days but now he is working with people who are working day in and out to wipe off Congress from our land. Only when you see things first hand would you realize how horrible they are, right? He was practicing in the Supreme Court in Delhi for some time and is back in Madurai High Court now.

He is all the more dynamic now. He is an advocate just for the namesake. He is more active in working for people's causes. He hasn't married yet. He is living a life that both of us dreamed of. I am just running after worldly things and still envying him. I am not sure if I would have been as successful as him even if I had gone with him. I don't think I have the mettle. Even now, once in a while we connect on a call and speak for hours. I don't see so much frequency match these days like earlier. His exceptional reading habit and real life exposures have taken him far ahead and I am stuck in the materialistic world so the gap between us has widened. It's a life time relationship for me. If he doesn't run even faster and go too far ahead, or if I run faster in his direction and get closer to him, we can think of working together on something some time in future, as we dreamed of in our college days. As of now, it doesn't look like there is an opportunity for it. But, I wouldn’t think the purpose of meeting him in my life is realized unless I work with him on something for at least a short period of time. Let's see.

Students Union
When I talk about Rufus Anna the next thing that comes to my mind immediately is the students union. We had students union in our college when I was in the first year. He was planning to become the chairman next year. I thought people like him who talk of ethics and values getting into it would be a disaster. I always used to sow these negative seeds in him. He always used to say he had plans to tackle all that so he would handle them easily. The only expectation students have from their chairman is, every second day, he should come out of his class and call for a strike even if there is no reason. I was never convinced that they would listen to him if he goes to them and says, "We shouldn't strike with no valid reason; we shouldn't stop vehicles; we shouldn't throw stones on buses!". But, he is a person who thinks, ‘Yes, you are right but that is not enough. What have you done to change it?’. I thought he was getting into a meaningless thing then. Now when I sit back and think about it, I think he might have succeeded in doing what he wanted to. Worst case, he would have got a temporary success for a year at least. The next year, they might have gone with a leader of their choice again – someone who calls for strike at the drop of a hate.

I saw everything that we see in politics today in the students union elections then. I even heard that a friend of mine who was contesting for a post as useless as the class representative offered cash for vote. All your supporters need to be pampered with drinks and everything during the entire election week or month. A gang of ten to twenty people would make a circle around all those who won as class representatives on the election day and take them to a safe place to avoid last minute horse trading before the chairman election. Money and muscle were the two basic requirements for success. Some boys would praise the colleges in nearby towns Tuticorin and Tirunelveli for being more student-friendly. Student friendly... what is that? Having more strikes and breaking more glasses! All these wouldn't happen in our college. Somehow there was a good culture right from the beginning. The college had its own proud heritage. Once in a while when things went beyond control, they knew how to bring it under control and they did succeed in it. It crossed all the limits that year so the next year student union was dissolved after long debates.

Already my respect for trade unions was fading away after hearing about some of their atrocities though I had a lot of respect for them earlier. I was losing respect on almost everyone that claimed to fight for their rights. I somehow started feeling that the generation next was going to the dogs. I was one of those who prayed inside for the dissolution of the students union. I was so happy when I heard that it was dissolved. The only reason behind the strikes was - the few days off we got. Happy if it is one day… Thrilled if it is for few more days! My blood would boil when my friends crib, "In other colleges they close indefinitely for months. Only here it's so bad – we get only a day or two. Our union is waste!". As if the union is only to get holidays! All those who damage public properties during the strikes used to be heroes among students. I used to wonder how he would manage this sort of people if he becomes their chairman. Now I think maybe if he had been given that opportunity he would have changed the culture.

When I saw some of my friends pelt stones on buses, break glasses and disturb peaceful lives of innocent people on roads, I used to pray that those same guys should get stoned, bleed and cry in the same place when they come with their family and young children some ten-twenty years later. I had heard that many leaders started their political career as union leaders in their colleges before becoming big in politics. That worked like a launch pad and dress rehearsal for them. Knowing that, I also had some interest in students union but the price paid for that rehearsal was too much and it’s not worth it. Then I decided it was better not to have such an experience at such a huge cost. Even Gandhi and Nehru were not union leaders in their colleges. That way, none of them that became so big in politics were union leaders in their colleges. Many leaders hadn't even gone to college. Maybe, only the second rung leaders, that too not all, wanted such education and experiences.

Though I come from leftist background that advocates unionism everywhere, I strongly feel that there is nothing that the students have to fight for - there is no right of theirs to be protected. They should just focus on their studies when they are in college. It's more important that their families are protected later with the help of their degrees. Sometimes even the teachers unions use them for their benefit. Any union that just fights for salary increase is meaningless in my view. It’s such an irony that they even fight for the resolution of Kashmir issue, Sri Lankan issue, the American imperialism and all at times. The moment they get their few days off, they would go off - as if the problems were resolved overnight. I still have a mixed opinion about trade unions. They also behave odd many times. At the same time, I also think that they would be exploited and cheated completely by the capitalists if there are no unions. The conclusion is - It's not enough to start something with a good intention. It has to sustain that intention throughout and work only for that cause. That's what will determine their success and failure in the long run.

Celebrations
We heard a lot of stories about the past when we joined. We were told, until the previous year, like in college, even in the hostel there used to be a lot of strikes. The approach in hostel was, any problem, everyone will fast that night. Gandhian approach! There are two losses. One - all the food would go waste; two - the cost of the food wasted so would anyway be borne by the students. Maybe there were valid reasons at times but most of the times they were done to irritate the wardens and test their patience. Sadism is not the property of any particular age but I think it is too much at that age. One of the nightmarish experiences they had in the previous year was, every night they would hear an explosive sound (just a powerful cracker!) in one or the other place. One night in front of wardens room, next night in one of the toilets, another night in mess hall, another night in TV room and so on. This continued for almost three months till the college ended for that year. They could never find out who did it till the last day. Don't know where that gentleman is now. For the students, it was a big fun because it hurt none. Every night they would meet up in the place where explosion took place, laugh out and dismantle. But for the wardens, it was a big challenge and a matter of concern.

The reason we heard for such naughtiness was - the then warden was very strict. He would have thought that was the right way to treat students and otherwise they wouldn't be in control. But, it actually hit him back. That's what happens when you are very strict with people who are supposed to be in your control. Those in receiving end would try to give back in some way or the other. That's exactly what happened there. There was a new warden in the year we joined. He proved to the world how he could keep the students in control by not controlling them - being friendly and flexible with them. If you respect them, they would respect you back. He proved the simple theory – ‘What you sow is what you reap!’. Some people may think, ‘Why should we please them to keep them under control?’. We don't necessarily have to see that as a compromise formula for peace. It's just about respecting individuals irrespective of their age and status so that you would get reciprocated the same way. Not just for college - hostel students, I think, this would apply for all social problems. I know it's not so easy for everyone to be so.

The new warden was a very nice person. He always used to wear a friendly smile on his face. He used to respect everyone and speak very nicely. From the day one he came, it was celebrations galore - one after the other. Starting with Vinayak Chathurthi, we had a lot of celebrations in the first year - Quiz competition, Christmas celebration, Pongal celebration, Ramzan celebration, Tree planting day, Discussion on Religions, etc. etc. I gave a speech on Vinayak Chathurthi; read a poem for Christmas; read another poem for Pongal and won first prize. Rufus Anna's poem was better than mine but it got only second prize. Reason - at that time itself he used to write in a style that commoners can’t understand. Ramzan celebration - I just watched from off the stage. My favorite speaker - our then Tamil HOD Mr. Abdul Razak gave a superb speech. Planted a few trees and gave nice poses for photograph on Tree planting day. They would have all grown big now. I anchored the Discussion on Religions.

There were five colleges under the same trust. It should be more now. We were talking about becoming a separate university then itself. I am surprised why it has not happened yet. We used to bring guests from other colleges as well for some functions. Apart from these, there would be many games and cultural events as well. In Pongal celebrations, a friend of mine Saravana Krishnan had brought his uncle from his native place and both uncle and nephew played Silambam – a dying martial art in Tamil Nadu.


-Cont in 4/N...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Madness of Parenthood

The circle first drawn by marriage
Shrinks further when there is a new arrival

Marriage is the beginning of imposed selfishness
Childbirth is the beginning of unconscious selfishness

It's a magic that would make your house your world
Even if you are someone who thinks the world is very small

It's the only purpose of many lives
Even for the ones that decided to end themselves long back

It's a fleshy magnet that would attract you to even fire
Even if you are someone scared of seeing fire in picture

You would even kill yourself
To save its life and to bring it out safe
Which you would do for no one else and nothing else

"I will give my life"
A statement youngsters make out of madness
Not knowing what it means in real sense
That's madness of love!

Action speaks louder than words
If you have to do it for your child...
You wouldn't say that but do it!

Even this is a state of madness... madness of parenthood!

* Again, a translated version so the quality is compromised! :(

Saturday, December 10, 2011

College Life - Aditanar College, Tiruchendur (2/6)

Extra-Curricular Activities
Let's also discuss about how the college life added fuel to my love for writing and public speaking. Guys who are interested in such things, wherever they go, wait for an opportunity to show their talent to everyone. The moment they get that opportunity they would waste no time in proving who they are. Even if they don't get an opportunity, they would keep boasting about their talent with everyone they meet from day one. I also did that. A four-lines short poem of mine was published in my school's annual magazine when I was in my twelfth standard. I was wondering if someone who wrote just four lines was jumping so much, what would those guys who had written forty lines have done. They would have gone straight to Chennai to look for opportunities to write lyrics in movies. I was always keeping that magazine in hand and was showing to everybody I met in the two months summer vacation I had after the public exams. I took that with me while joining the college also. I would slowly start the discussion asking about their interest first and then mine. And, then would tell them about the magazine story and show it to them if I find them interesting in all these. Some people would look weirdly and move on. Others would introduce me to some more people saying, "hey, this guy writes poetry and all!". It's people like them who make our job easier, right?! One such person who was doing that was my class mate Madhusoodanan.

It's such introductions that would bring the first opportunity to your door steps. The first opportunity that knocked my doors was in the college. One of our lecturers by name Mr. Rajesh who was in temporary posting was leaving after his term ended. A farewell party was arranged by the computer science department. They wanted some students also to speak a few words about Rajesh sir. They also wanted someone from the first year to be part of it. Madhusoodanan started spreading the word quickly. He said some of the boys around, "Hey, this guy writes poetry and all. He said he speaks on stage also!". So, it was decided that 'he' is the one to represent the first year. I was saying "no... no..." and meaning "yes... yes..." and accepted the offer. After the speech, people were all very happy. They said, "Generally, only studious boys come to computer science. It's very rare that we have had boys like you in our department!". They were all very proud. I don't know if others were proud but I was very proud. I am sure Madhusoodanan would have felt prouder than me. He didn't stay for too long. He got Engineering seat in few months and left. He is from the temple town of Srivilliputtur. I don't know where he is now. I also don't know if he would remember all these now. There were many people like him who left in the middle. Almost around ten people would have gone like that. With that introduction, I started participating in all cultural events in the college. Got good reception as well everywhere.

There were many forums (fora?!) and clubs like Thiruvalluvar mandram, Gandhian thought club, Writers forum (one for Tamil and another for English!), Blood donors club, Value education club, etc. I applied for all clubs and got enrolled in the first year itself. My plan was to become the joint secretary in the second year and the secretary in the third year. It did happen in some forums. The value education club, for example, organizes for seminars on specific topics two days in a week (it was on Wednesdays and Thursdays if I am not wrong!). Generally, the professors who are good in public speaking are brought for this. Sometimes, people from outside also were brought. One or two opportunities were given to students as well. I also got that opportunity once. It should be a topic of some value - because it's called value education! I don't remember what I spoke on. There would at least be ten competitions in a year. I used to take part in all of them and come second in most of them! Second? Yeah, that is my favorite place. Somehow, I wouldn't come first. It would be different people who come first every time. The same person would even go to third place next time but the second place was always reserved for me in all three years. At some point in time, I was even worried if I would always be a No. 2 in everything in life.

There was a half-yearly magazine called "Campus News" in the college. I joined the Editorial board of that as well. If any of my friends read this now, they would wonder if I was so mad about all these. They may know that I was always interested in these stuff more than anything else but they wouldn't have thought I was so mad about all these. Everyone has some madness - mania. I had this mania. I am wondering how I lived a life forgetting all these for almost ten years later. One major problem I had was, I could never write romantic poems. There was no need for that as well. I was very proud of identifying myself as a 'social thinker'. Those days, I used to think, the poets were the most intelligent people on earth. I used to even believe that the world would be more peaceful and prosperous if they become our rulers. Only now do I understand that you should not give them anything other than a pen and a piece of paper. Since I was very active in all these things, I was closer to the staff in Tamil department than with my own ones - the computer science staff. They all used to be very fond of me.

Mr. Kannan, the current head of Tamil department, once told in the class itself, "Whether you get a job in your field or not, I can assure you of a journalist job in Daily Thanthi (A Tamil newspaper run by the same management of our college's). If we give you a letter that's enough!". Mr. Abdul Razzak, who was the head of Tamil department then, had no connection with our class (heard that he is no more!) but he was always in touch with me. In one of the college events, he said on the stage, "Everyone has a favorite poem and I have one. It is this..." and read a long poem. In the end he asked "Do you know who wrote this poem?" and paused for a while. Nobody could guess it right. He said, "He is sitting right here... Bharathiraja! Stand up!" and made me feel so honored. He is a great orator. I used to love his speeches. He can keep people engrossed in his speech for hours. More than all these, whatever interest I have in writing, speaking, politics and public affairs till today was all watered there. I am not sure if I would have had so many opportunities in any other college. I don't think I can forget this or deny this - ever.

Blood Donors Club
This club was founded in a time when blood donation was not all that common as it is now. From a single digit number (of donations) in the first year it had become 200+ in the year I left. I won't be surprised even if it has reached 1000 now. If there is any need for blood anywhere in any of the three districts in that region (Tuticorin, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari), it was our students who went to the spot immediately to donate blood. Sometimes, they used to go to far away places as well. Some of my friends went to Kerala also. I went till Nagercoil once. I think, all the credits should go to our college for making blood donation so simple in the entire region.

In my second year, Mr. Rufus (I am planning to write many paragraphs about this person later!) was the secretary for this club. I always used to roam with him and by virtue of that I became the secretary the next year. I had an extra eye for this club because of the obvious attraction it has. Can there be a better satisfaction than being part of a group that works for such a cause? Generally, someone from English department who stays in hostel becomes the secretary. That year, thanks to my super-interest, I shared that responsibility with a day-scholar English department student.

We had a lot of different experiences as well in that club. Once, a person who came asked for a donor from his caste itself. Our professor got wild and shouted, "Man, doing this itself is a big favor for you. In this, you have such a reservation also!". Then he agreed to take whoever was sent. The same person came after a few months looking for 'his brother'. His brother? Yeah, that's what he said - "I want to see my brother who gave blood the other day!". Isn't it surprising in this age? We also strictly instruct the people who come to not give any cash to the donors other than the travel expenses. We also instruct them to provide some good food and buy something like Horlicks bottle after the process. That's it. Even our boys used to be very interested in donating blood. That's why even when our boys used to disturb the public at times they would take it very light. Those days, we were seen as life donors - not just blood donors.

And, in the year end, a certificate would be given to all donors. There was an automatic leave for half-a-day for blood donors. Their names would appear in the college magazines. There was nothing other than these. I am sure none of these would have been a matter of importance for them. It's just that happiness, satisfaction and pride. That's it. Some boys would be counting days. As soon as they complete 90 days after one donation they will be ready for the next one. There were people who would have given ten times in three years. They are so happy about it. Giving is winning for them. Good boys... bad boys... all boys would be good when it comes to blood donation. I am sure they would be spreading this habit even after leaving the college. Isn't it a noble thing?

Sisters and Brothers
Our college is a boys college. To be politically correct - a men's college! Can't say it's a 'men only' college. There were also girls... sorry ladies... in some classes. There were three Post Graduate courses - M.A. Economics, M.A. English and M.Sc. Mathematics. All of them had lady students also. Those boys who think life without girls is incomplete would somehow make some friends in the PG classes. They would call them their sisters. As they are elder in age, that's the only option they had. They would be our heroes during the days of Rakhi festival. The more rakhis one had the more popular he was. Those boys who think being the brother of elder women is the cheapest thing in life had other options like the bus stand, the temple and the beach in front of the temple. Some boys can't sleep that night if they don't show their face to at least one new girl every evening in any of these three places.

Since I am the one who is writing I shouldn't miss the opportunity to portray me as a good boy, right? Yeah, I never went to the temple in the three years I spent there. If you don't know how popular that temple is, please help yourself with some googling. It is one of the six abodes of Lord Murugan. Everyday, thousands of devotees come to that place. That's the reason our boys roam around that temple. I won't have gone to the beach in front of the temple more than ten times in the entire three years. I would have gone to the bus stand only on days when I went to my native place. Most importantly, I didn't have any sister in the college. I was so shy of women then. It's only after coming to Bangalore did I get rid of that shyness. I only had brothers. Brothers? Yeah, you have to call all your seniors "anna", which means brother. To be precise - elder brother! It used to be a big problem often. Boys coming from other regions would find it very difficult to call so and call by the name itself by mistake, which would become a big problem.

Today, after getting used to the culture of calling people of even the father's age by name, all these seem very silly. But, I still love that culture. It's the culture of that land. It's just about being Roman in Rome, right? Calling the seniors by name in that place is as awkward as calling my manager "anna" in Bangalore. It's a big challenge for those who spent more years in schools. They would have to call smaller boys "anna" just because they are seniors in college. Some boys don't take it very seriously and just adapt to that culture. That's the beauty in it.

I had two such annas (brothers). I am still in touch with them. Both of them are related to the legal profession in some way. The first one is Mr. Mariappa. He is married to a magistrate. The second one is Mr. Rufus. He is an advocate. Both were Mr. Mohan Ram's close friends. That's where all these started, right? Mr. Mariappa is my senior in the same department - computer science. He is from Tenkasi. We were roaming together from my first year itself. Starting from the morning and evening walks on the seashore to weekend outings... everything was with him. There is nothing that we haven't talked about.

How about the other one? There is a lot to talk about him so let's discuss in detail in the next part.

-Cont in 3/N...

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

College Life - Aditanar College, Tiruchendur (1/6)

College life is always special. That too for those who stayed in hostel during that time, it is super special. It's super special for me. Both my native place (Nagalapuram) and the college are in the same district - Tuticorin district. But, the distance between my place and college is 100 kilo meters. We are in the northern border of the district whereas the college is in the southern border of it. We have to change many buses to reach there. Minimum two; maximum four buses. Nagalapuram-Tuticorin-Tiruchendur or Nagalapuram-Vilathikulam-Tuticorin-Tiruchendur or Nagalapuram-Vilathikulam-Ettayapuram-Tuticorin-Tiruchendur are the routes. Whichever route I take... it would take four hours. No much variance. It's wise to get into whichever bus you see instead of having any specific route in mind. We were wise so we always did that. 'We' means? It's three people - Marisamy, Kannapiran and myself. Marisamy and Kannapiran are my juniors who joined when I was in second year. Kannapiran comes till Vilathikulam and takes a different bus to his village - Velidupatti. Marisamy comes with me till Nagalapuram and goes by walk or bicycle to his village - Kalloorani.

This region of Vilathikulam-Nagalapuram-Pudur should feature in any list that containts the most backward regions in the whole of Tamil Nadu. Since it's completely a deserted-rural area and there is no major town anywhere close by, the lives of people from that region has never improved. Urban lifestyle, technology, fashion... everything reaches there very late. In any college you can find region-wise groups. Seeing that if guys from our region try to form groups, they will be disappointed. I don't think any college will have more than five people from our region. That's the maximum one could think of. Despite that whoever went for higher studies went northwards only. Generally, it's places like Aruppukottai, Virudhunagar and Madurai that we prefer. Few go to Sattur also. Not just for education, for everything our people went northwards only. We hardly have people that have any connection on the south side. Only those who have their mother's place that side might go that side. There may be a few people like me who went southwards for their education as well without knowing really why they did so.

What to do?
Let's first see how I went southwards. Like majority, even I went northwards to Aruppukottai for higher secondary. One thing I was very clear during my higher secondary was that I would study only Computer Science irrespective of whatever marks I score in higher secondary. If the marks are good, I would go for B.E. Computer Science; if it's lesser then I would go for B.Sc. Computer Science; if it's worse than that then Diploma in Computer Science. The reason - two of my cousins who had chosen computer science (Prakash - B.Sc. in Computer Science and Mahesh - M.Sc. in Computer Science) had quickly come out of all the initial troubles and were almost settled in good jobs. I strongly hoped that they would help me get a good job if I choose the same subject too. Those days, it was not so easy to have such guidance for those who were educated in such remote places. So, that way, I think, I should have been extraordinarily lucky.

So, with a very clear idea about future, we were waiting for the results. The marks were less as expected. They were less than what we had expected also. Even if it was the same as expected, I could have joined Engineering. We were also clear on another thing - only if it is a free seat we will go for Engineering; otherwise, a strict 'no'. We were not interested in going for payment seats with self-finance colleges. It's needless to say - it's not just the 'interest' that is required, right? Not only that. Only extraordinarily intelligent students were studying Engineering those days. Since I was becoming worse year after year, I had to drop that idea. From the next year itself, I could see that both higher secondary marks as well as Engineering seats were given generously. That's because the number of Engineering colleges suddenly jumped up. Many times, I have wished I were born six months later.

Okay, let's talk about what happened. The time is never enough to talk about what did not happen, right? Ifs are always exciting but they are things that didn't happen, right? So, no point! We were almost sure that we won't get Engineering seat. We didn't try for anything else. A family friend of us from our place - Mr. Paul Pandian was working as lecturer in Aditanar College, Tiruchendur. He is still continuing. We checked with him as to what could be done next. He said, "We may be able to get computer science in our college for this score. Let's try!". We tried. We also got a seat. We have talked so much about my future plans with him right from childhood. I have proudly talked about my plans to go to Russia to study medicine and all. Finally, the plane that planned to go to Russia landed in the same college where he worked - that too with his guidance.

First Day
Joined the college. Joined the hostel. The first day in college was over. When we came back to hostel, there were a lot of introductions and self-introductions. Heard a lot of stories about people crying in different rooms. I don't know how the others that didn't cry felt but I felt that there was a strong feeling to cry though I managed to control it. It was not the first time for me to go away from home. So, it was easier to manage. However, the first day in any new place where you don't have anyone known is always difficult to handle, right? That too in the evenings it would be very tough. Evenings have an extraordinary power (I think, there are too many 'extraordinary's today!). It's very difficult to conquer that. We all decided to conquer it. By going to the beach. Beach? Yeah, it's not too far from our hostel. It's just behind the hostel. We can see the tides if we go upstairs. So close! A tsunami will wipe off the whole structure. It's so close! But, luckily, when tsunami hit the whole of coastal Tamil Nadu in 2004, nothing happened in Tiruchendur. The media had their own stories for that also. On the first day itself, we were also told that there were only two colleges on the seashore in the whole of Tamil Nadu and ours was one of them. So, we decided to go and see the beach in a much closer proximity.

One can easily hear the sound of waves sitting inside the hostel itself. We went to see it even closer. As we got closer the noise got bigger. We were scared to go any closer. The thoughts of seeing the same sea in the same place in childhood once when it was all the more scary kept coming to my mind. I had also seen it in Rameshwaram, which doesn't make so much noise. People back in our place call the Tiruchendur sea as male sea as it makes so much noise and the Rameshwaram one as female sea as it is silent. Poor people - they are calling it reverse. Maybe, they would have corrected it now. When we went closer, I started feeling as if there was going to be something like tsunami in next few minutes even in the days when that word was not known. Some of my friends were scared like me. Some others were emboldening everyone saying, "All these fears will be there only on the first day; see you will get used to it within a week!". It did happen. We got used to it.

There were a lot of people on the beach. All of them were the hostel students. Mostly, the first year students on their first day. There were also some seniors who were engrossed in enjoying the beauty of the sea by singing some movie songs. There is no dearth of songs for such people in our movies, right?! They were just lost in their own world. It didn't look like they were all 'love-failure' cases. They looked sad but the sadness didn't look to be real. To me, they looked like the ones who wanted to fall in love with someone and then they wanted that love to fail and then they wanted to sing those songs in sadness. Or, maybe, the sadness was because they couldn't even dream of going near the girl they had in mind. Whatever... they were teaching how to enjoy the next three years in such artificial sadness to their like-minded juniors who had just joined. It's needless to say that some of my batch mates also started like that afterwards.

The Next Day
The second day itself was a holiday. It was very helpful for us to get introduced to all. There is absolutely no ragging in our college. I am sure it continues like that even now. It's one of the best colleges in southern Tamil Nadu. Be it studies... games... extra-curricular activities... our boys rock in everything and everywhere. Hmm... Let's come back to the second day introductions. People were forming gangs based on their regions. For many people, there were known friends from their own place already. But, I didn't have that privilege. When I scouted throughout, there was one person from our Vilathikulam region. I could find another interesting, in fact a more interesting, person. Someone who studied in the same higher secondary school and hostel in Aruppukottai where I had studied - Mr. Mohan Ram. He is from a place called Thangachimadam near Rameshwaram. He had come out of school two years earlier so I didn't have the opportunity to know him in school. But, since he had wasted one year in between while trying for Engineering seat, he was just one year senior to me in college. As I was very close to him, I became very close to his entire gang. He was very popular in his batch. He looks tall and stout like a police commissioner. He looks scary but is a very friendly man. Good person. That day, a gang of some fifty people, led by him, went to the beach to take sea bath. That's the day when the fear of sea (should be some phobia!) vanished gradually.

Right from day one, I was roaming around with his batch. This irritated some of my batch mates. Somehow, I have been very fond of being with elders from childhood. I feel more mature when I do that. It roots from the feeling that the people of our age are not as mature as us. I know that it's wrong and it would be called arrogance but I have never been able to conquer that feeling fully. The price I paid for that in college was too much. All my batch mates used to look at me differently. Most people talked about it as a big problem. I used to try to reduce my connection with the seniors and increase it this side but in vain. Likewise, the sub-warden Mr. Vairavaraj who was taking care of the hostel was from our computer science department. So, I used to speak little jovially with him. My friends used to have problem with this as well. Some even doubted if I was his spy. This habit of defying boundaries still continues. I mix up with everyone - people from all cultures even in work place without having any reservations. Generally, people form groups based on many things in work place. But, I always love crossing borders. My intention is not to irritate anyone's eyes but that's how it's taken most of the times. According to me, it's just an attempt to be boundary-less.

Committees
I don't know how it is in other colleges and hostels. We had something called 'committees' in our hostel. They used to be responsible for all administrative jobs. Just like ministers! Like each ministry having a minister or two, each committee would have some members. Mess committee, Sports committee, Magazine committee, Audio committee, and Hygiene committee are some of them. Each committee would have two to five members. If there are two, one would be from second year and the other would be from third year. These committee members would generally be popular in their batches. Or, let's put it this way - Only the popular guys in their batches would get nominated for these committees. If one was interested, it was a great opportunity to hone their managerial skills while being a student itself. Even there, there were guys who looted the hostel money (only few, not all!). That's when I realized that even if our politics is filled with educated fellows it may not get better drastically. Corruption is in our veins. Some of my friends did a good job in that as well. I have also seen how difficult life is for them.

Mess committee is the most powerful one. There is lot of money. Not just that. You would get good food. Special food! The mess staff would pamper them because they are like their bosses. Even the wardens would give them some respect. Though there were no elections for this, it was almost like the students union in the college. It had equal respect in the hostel. I had decided to become one of these committee members right in the first year itself. I just believed that it would be a good learning ground for me as I was dreaming to join politics later. Only when I came to second year did I realize - Just like joining politics, even that's not a kids play and not all can do that so easily and successfully. There were bigger big shots who were born and designed for these things. I got - Yoga committee. That also was because of my closeness with Vairavaraj sir. He was the one who taught Yoga so generally the computer science boys who were close to him would be nominated for Yoga committee. So, by that logic, I became the Yoga committee member for second year - that year. I didn't want to lose hope. Decided to try in the third year also.

I was eyeing the Mess committee because of the power it had. But, I didn't have people support for that. If I ask, I would be told, "You need some extra stuff for that, which you don't have!". Knowing that I didn't want to put myself in embarrassment. So, I was looking something better than Yoga committee. I mean, something that has more power! When I looked around, what looked interesting was - Magazine committee. What is that? All newspapers and magazines that come into the hostel would be put in front of my room. Every morning, I would have an intelligent crowd in front of my room - waking me up with the day's stories. That's not all - I would be part of the editorial board of the bi-annual magazine "Hostel Light". That's anyway an interesting job for us, right? So, I took that wholeheartedly. In the first year itself, I got second prize in a poetry competition, which ensured I never forgot poetry in the rest of my life. In the first year itself, a short story of mine got published in the "Hostel Light" so that meant "for the next three years... for all these kind of jobs... he is the guy in our hostel!". So, in the second year, though I was not part of Magazine committee, Vairavaraj sir gave me a special role in editorial board. So, there is prior experience as well! More than all that, even this committee won't have too much competition - more or less like the Yoga committee. Something that I thought too big which others thought nothing! So, I was the unanimous choice for the Magazine committee in third year. If at all I had been adamant about becoming the Mess committee member, I am sure you can guess what would have happened. I would have been kicked on my back and asked to sit in a corner until the course ended.

- Not 'The End'... :)

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Prose or Poetry?

I have suddenly started feeling attracted towards poetry these days. I don't know why. Maybe because of the growing laziness. We need more time to write prose or essays. That may be the root cause of the growing laziness. Can't say that writing poems is easier than writing prose. Though they look smaller in size, they are heavier in weight many times. Just felt like thinking about it in more detail today. This is what came out when I squeezed my head throughout the day.

And, let me tell you upfront before you ask me any tough questions and save some embarrassment. What I call poetry is not poetry in true sense. It's called 'prose poetry' or 'the new poetry' in English. This is the most popular form of literature in many of our Indian languages. It means it won't sound like verses but won't be as plain as prose as well. They play with words but it need not be as rhyming as a poem.  The biggest change it brought to our literature is, the literature was democratized with the entry of this form of literature. The earlier forms of poetry stayed only with the elite whereas the new form of it reached everyone that could read and write. It's more or less like - "if you are literate you could be a poet as well!". How do these poems look? It's just like a combination of few one-liners. If we have to define it in a lingo that the current generation could understand, it is like a tweet or a set of few related tweets. So, what you are not able to say in a tweet with the restriction of 140 letters, you can write it as a poem. Simple as that! :)

I decide the form of my post (whether poetry or prose) depending on what I want to say. Some are crisp when said in poetic form, some are good in story format and some are better in essay format. Few things are easier to be said in a specific form than the others. Even the impact is better. Some things fit in more than one form. Some times, it may be difficult to express in a specific form but the impact will be good. So, calculating all the pros and cons in all forms I decide which form to go with.

Can't say that this attraction is totally new. When I tried to pen down something with an ink pen for the first time in childhood, the first drop of ink that came out was a poetic drop. Then throughout my school life, my only connection with writing was those poems. That's what helped in projecting an 'interested-in-literature' image in college as well. In those days (it's not so long back anyways!), there were a lot of students who wrote poems. Not sure if that craze is still there. These days, I find most of the youngsters being very interested in Hollywood movies. There were no too many such boys or girls those days.

Leave it. Let's come back to our story. Poetry was the major turn-on for all lovers. Not only for the lovers... even for the wannabe lovers. Who are those wannabes? I am sure you would know that open secret - it's everybody in that age group, irrespective of which generation you belong to. I am sure you would know the other secret as well - whether you went to college or not... whether you were a good boy or a bad boy... whether you had girls around you or not... the lust for love starts budding in your teens. The credit goes to all romantic movies of our respective generations.

Today, when I sit back and think, I somehow feel that love for poetry has vanished - not just with the current generation but also with those of us from the previous generations. It may be a totally wrong judgement. The reason why I think so is because most of the posts in blogsphere are prose and not poetry. It may be a judgement just based on my own posts. Maybe because I believe my prose is better than poetry (Please excuse if you are one of those who think, "Prose or poetry... nothing is worth reading in your blog!") or my prose is slightly better-accepted by the blogsphere. I know that there have been some prose posts as well that were never read beyond the first paragraph. :)

That's the personal story. Even if I look at the entire blogsphere, I couldn't see much poetry. In fact, poetry is much more convenient like fast-food. You can just eat, wipe and throw in minutes. It may also be that, what I have seen and call as blogsphere might be a small prosesphere within the entire blogsphere. Maybe in some other part of the blogsphere, poetry is rocking. If any of you were so patient to read until this paragraph, I have a request for you - Please let me know if my understanding is right and where poetry is placed in the Indian and global blogsphere.

Until few centuries back, literature means it was only poetry (this is different from what I call  poetry now!) in Indian languages. We didn't have anything called prose. That too, the thing called punctuation never existed in this land. All these were actually brought to us by the ones who came to loot us and spread their religions here. It's not that we have to feel bad for that. That's what took the languages (the written form of them) to masses. If those changes had not happened, even the languages would have got stuck with only the elite and might and justified all the inequality as 'natural' in this land - till date.

I feel like my relationship with the words getting renewed whenever I try poetry. In poetry is where we play with words, right? That's where beauty has more place. No other form of writing gives so much importance for beauty. Likewise, it's not so easy to present research materials in poetry as it is done in prose. But, we are the descendants of the same people who did it successfully few centuries back. Did what? Presenting research materials in poetry form! Is there a better - bigger story than our epics Ramayana and Mahabharata? But, that's the very reason why they were stuck only with the elite for so long. Just imagine its reach if it had been in prose form and in a language that the common man could understood.

I have an uncle who is an accomplished writer in the Tamil literary world. He writes short stories and novels. Once in my teens - in the years when I could only read and write poetry, I asked him a silly question, "Uncle, why are you not writing poetry?". As usual, he replied in a way that I couldn't understand. He said, "I try poetry within stories!". As usual, I understood that also after some time. He meant, "If you could write stories in the same style as poems, why to try that separately giving another name for it?". After that, I also wanted to write like that. Poetry doesn't mean that it has to be rhyming and rhythmic like the style used in our epics. Unlike those poetry, "the new poetry" or "prose poetry" is about having powerful content and not rhyming words. That's what all the readers of his (my uncle's) say about his writing. That's why most people complain that his writings are not easily understandable just like "the new poetry".

It is just like how when some people speak everything that they speak sounds like a philosophy whereas when others speak we don't find anything philosophical but they keep underlining their sentences to get received as philosophies. Likewise, instead of calling something poetry myself and getting caught it's better to be poetic in prose itself, right?! The biggest benefit of that is, nobody can come and fight saying it's not a philosophy or poetry. But, if you don't keep underlining like that, nobody will look at you. Attention seeking, I mean, advertisement is a major success factor in this consumerist world.

Poetry has the maximum amount of variety. The same poem that is exclaimed "what a poetry?!" is exclaimed differently as "what nonsense is this?!" by someone else. That's the amount of variety it has got. This gives an advantage for people like me. We can say, "According to me, this is what is poetry!" because there are hundred different types of poetry according to hundred different people. We can easily escape by safely saying, "If you don't like, it is your problem... it's a problem in your taste!". So, all I am trying to say now is, I am planning to harass you all by writing a lot of something called poetry in coming days. Keep checking out this space at least to see if I succeed once in writing poetry. I don't know if you will get what you want in them but I am sure I will get what I want from you (in the form of feedback). :)

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