Sunday, November 1, 2009

Beyond the pretty face..

The door opened. I lift my eyes, and I'm suddenly exposed to alot of light. Light peering in from every angle of the room. It's irking to my eyes, but I still give a constrained smile. People infront of me are singing and dancing. They're enjoying themselves at the expense of my discomfort. I'm standing here, loosely holding the garland in my hands, hoping that I'm looking perfect in everywhich way possible. Someone's hand is trying to fix the way I was holding the garland, perhaps the angle didn't look so perfect. I was told that both hands need to be perfectly collinear while holding the garland.

I'm moving slowly, partly due to the fact that the people infront of me wouldn't stop dancing, and partly because my restrictive dress allowed me little movement. I'm giving a perfect, well practiced smile at every step, so that people feel that I'm a good bride. I'm going to be a good wife. I also have my eyes lowered, I must come across as a shy person. People don't like brides who don't lower their eyes.

My make-up has been done with extreme caution and finesse. Every stroke has been done with great precision. I must admit, I do look beautiful, but it's making me feel uncomfortable. I'm not used to so much make-up, but it's a widely accepted and followed norm that a bride must look beautiful.

It is a strange, wierd feeling when the realization that the marriage is happening for real dawns upon you. I will no longer carry my own surname, it'll be someone else's. I'll no longer be able to be carefree and free spirited, marriage means responsibility, I'll have to transition to a responsible woman. My mother used to me tell me stories of her childhood, how she used to be extremely naughty and fun-loving. But her vibrant story always came to an abrupt halt the moment she said, "Then I got married", as if marriage acted as a 'Dead End' to her enjoyable life.

My surroundings seem to transition to slow motion, and everything becomes blurred. I can't help but wonder, will the same thing happen to me ? Am I just two steps away from losing the liveliness of my life ? People are still dancing around me, but I'm suddenly feeling laden, perhaps the real realization has finally dawned upon me. A completely new chapter of my life is about to begin, I'm just one step away from entering a completely different world, a new realm, a new system, a new life. For alot of people, this realization maybe exhilerating and exciting, but I'm scared. I'm afraid of this turning point.

I finally reach the grand seat where the groom is waiting for me. The DJ is playing a supposedly romantic song called 'Bahaaron phool barsaao, mera mehboob aaya hai..", I hate this song, but I smile nevertheless. The cheering gets louder as I go and stand infront of the groom. He's holding the garland too. People are trying to make this ceremony amusing by trying out various antics. Why people like to mess around during the 'jaymala' ceremony evades me. Why can't we just exchange garlands and get over with it ?

Someone lifts the groom up, so that I can't put the garland around his neck. I don't try to either. After a few moments of continued (and unwanted) delay, he finally moves towards me and puts the garland around my neck, I do the same and we turn to face the people. The photographer jumps out and requests us to take our previous 'pose' again, so that he could take a photo. He basically wanted us to position ourselves in such a way that it seems as though we're still putting the garlands around each other's necks.

This starts my thought process again. Why does everything seem so fake ? So artificial ? Is this marriage a superficial ceremony only to be recorded for future entertainment purposes ? The 'Jaymala' is supposed to be pure, true and genuine ceremony, not an eye-candy for ten thousand people and a juicy oppurtunity for the photographer to click endless photos.

As we take our seats and the crowds moves towards the DJ, I know that the entire ceremony went as planned, and as practiced. It was perfect. I looked perfect, the groom looked perfect. But now, in this very moment, I was wishing, more than anything else, to get out of that room, shed my artificial look and be imperfect again.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The untamed Monster

"Please turn to page 56"

Mr. Fernandis, the physics teacher, said aloud as he walked towards the blackboard. There were shuffling noises as the students began to open their books.

Mr Fernandis turned towards the class and said, "We're going to start with the phenomenon of 'scattering of light' today", his eyes scanned the room carefully and calculatingly, "Now, who can tell me what scattering is ? Does someone have a general idea ?"

A hand quickly shot up in air. Rohan Bahugana. Topper of the class.

"Scattering is a general physical process where some forms of radiation, such as light, sound, or moving particles, are forced to deviate from a straight trajectory by one or more localized non-uniformities in the medium through which they pass"

Mr. Fernandis gave him an impressed nod, "Very right, Rohan, very right. Now, we're not going to be exploring other forms of radiation, we're only going to do Scattering of light"

Walking back to the blackboard, he said, "Now, please note down the phenomenon of scattering of light as I write it on the blackboard..."

Swati lazily yawned as the physics teacher explained 'Scattering of light'. She was trying very hard to focus, as the boards were just round the corner, but somehow her brain was not complying with her wish, it seemed to wander everywhere except the blackboard infront of her. She looked around the class and observed the students. Some of them were busy taking down extensive notes, particularly Rohan Bahugana. Some of them were simply indifferent and continued to do what they wished. She saw two boys making caricatures on their registers. Some were trying to focus, just like her, but were failing miserably.

Swati was, by no means, a brilliant student. She was average in every department - be it academics, sports, co-curricular. She was just another student, just another face in the crowd. Her name wasn't a name to be remembered by the teachers, neither was it the name to be discussed when some competition or event was taking place, nor was she counted among the 'popular' students.

She covered her mouth as she yawned again, glancing at her wristwatch to check if the bell was about to ring. Not anytime soon. She was broken out of her reverie as a sharp voice cut through her thoughts.

"Swati! Where is your attention ? I have been noticing you, you don't seem to be in the class!"

Mr. Fernandis hollered as he glared at her. Swati quickly stood up, gathering her thoughts she managed to utter, "I'm sorry sir, I'm really-"

"I don't understand, why do you all come to school if you don't want to pay attention ? You're only wasting our time and yours. Stay at home and do what you want!" His voice boomed across the class, "You probably don't realize, but these are the most crucial years of your life. Your boards are approaching within not more than 2 months, and this is your status ?" He continued, but had mellowed down slightly, "I'm telling you students, if you don't start working now, you will not be able to score well in boards"

Swati stood with her eyes fixed at the ground, listening to her teacher's lecture, feeling slightly embarrassed due to being the one to invoke this reaction.

Mr. Fernandis had now stopped. He stared at Swati for a moment and said, "Sit down, and start working hard" She meekly nodded and sat down.

Within a few moments, 'Scattering of light' was back.


Boards are nearing. 1 month and 25 days.

Swati lay in her bed, thinking about the approaching doom. I'm going to get really bad marks, she thought with dismay, or what if I flunk ?, she shuddered at the thought.

The word 'boards' itself had become her enemy. She felt as though an invisible force was pushing her towards them faster than the usual pace. Her parents had become more stringent about her timetable, and now most of her time was spent studying notes or learning text. Inspite of all the efforts put in by her, the syllabus seemed to be a never ending train that was moving at a snail's pace. It loomed over her head like a monster ready to kill.

She recalled her parent's words, "You must get good marks. We have alot of expectations from you. Make it a goal that you have to get atleast 92 %"

And her teachers, "Start working hard, boards are just round the corner. You will not be able to score well if you don't start working from today"

And her relatives, "How are your preparations going on ? Will you score as much as your cousin ?..."

She suddenly felt laden with a responsibility, a responsibility towards her parents, her teachers, her relatives. They had too many expectations from her. They wanted, no, needed her to do well. Suddenly, an inexplicable fear ran down her spine, what if I don't do well ? Will they hate me ? Will they not like me ? She didn't want to think about what would happen otherwise, or probably my parents haven't even thought otherwise.

She finally went to sleep, thinking about the 'target' she had to meet the next day, the fear still lingering at the back of her mind.


20 days. Impending doom.

Swati was scribbling quickly. Her tuition teacher was explaining 'Consumer movement'. Life was very hectic, with her days full of nothing but tutions. School had given off to students of 10th and 12th one month before the boards began, so they could study according to themselves.

With each passing day, Swati became more and more anxious about boards. Although, her syllabus was almost complete, she felt as though she had only begun to touch the surface of it. The more she revised, the more loopholes she discovered. Her parents wouldn't stop lecturing her about the importance of marks day in and day out.

She was only hoping and praying that she would be able to write her exams well. She had to score well. Choice was a liberty she didn't have.


Last day of Boards. Doom over.

Swati stepped out of the room and let out a sigh of relief. The boards were finally over. She couldn't believe it. The month dreaded by all students of class 10th was finally over. Before she could introspect more, she was surrounded by her cheerful friends who were congratulating each other.

She felt her boards had gone well enough, considering the average platform she accounted herself to be upon. She was satisfied. But the question was, will her parents be satisfied ? If she didn't get 92 %, will she be liked ?

She tried to steer that thought away from her brain and she walked out of the school. The test was over. Now, the wait for the result starts.


Result Day.

Swati got up at 6 am that day. She simply could not sleep. A torrent of mixed emotions was flooding her mind and heart - Excitement, fear, apprehension, nervousness, expectation, happiness, sadness...all at once. She was taking deep breaths to calm herself, but it wasn't helping. Some of her close relatives were also arriving to share the news with her. Disclosing her result infront of everyone would make her nervous.

She got up and paced her room, and told herself that it was going to be alright. She gulped down 5 glasses of water to calm her nerves. 7 am. 2 hours to go. The result was going to be out at 9 am on the Internet. She lay down on her bed again, her heart beating faster than ever.

Finally, the much awaited moment came as the minute hand touched '9'. Swati was infront of the computer, and atleast 6 people were behind her - Her father, mother, uncle, aunt and 2 elder cousins.

She typed in her roll number and instantly her result was infront of her. Before she could start reading her marks, her father had begun to calculate her percentage.


Her heart sank. It could not be 88%. It simply could not be 88%. Her father re-calculated. 88%. He stared at the paper with a dissappointed gaze. Her mother looked defeated too. An eerie silence hung in the room. Her brain felt numb, and she sat fixared in her seat, unable to move an inch. She couldn't even score a 90%.

Her father stared at her long and hard, and then simply turned around and walked out of the room. Her mother followed. She was vaguely aware of her relatives mumbling behind her back.

"Well, she was always average.."

"She couldn't have scored more than her cousins.."

"88% is ok, I suppose.."

"Atleast she will be able to take science.."

Tears stinged her eyes as she stared at her result. She had disappointed everyone. People had so many expectations and she had let all of them down. She didn't bother to wipe her tears as they flowed incessantly.



Swati's parents had not spoken to her for one day. The next day, her father had scolded her well about for 1 hour. He told her how she was good for nothing, and how she had splashed water over their expectations. He told her how she was average and would continue to be the same for the rest of her life.

"What have you done ? you couldn't even score a 90%!"

"What will people say ?"

"You know how much Mr. Sharma's daugher scored ? 95% !"

"How will I face the world ?"

His words stabbed her in the heart, and pierced her ears. She continued to say, "Sorry Papa..Sorry Maa", but they didn't seem to listen. Tears flowed freely, but she was hardly paying attention to them.

When they were done, they walked out of her room, shutting the door behind them.


Student suffers a nervous breakdown - Hospitalized

A student of class 10th, Swati Saxena, recently suffered a nervous breakdown and now has been hospitalized because she could not fair well in her boards. She was brought to the hospital in a fragile state as she looked weak and worn out. Her parents say they have no idea why this happened as her surroundings were well taken care of. Reports state that she had not been eating well and incessant crying had drained her out of her energy. She is now being given glucose via IV's in the Intensive Care Unit...

As some other student, in some other school, in some other state, shuffled through his newspaper, this piece of news was lost amidst the bigger articles, and a somewhere, a group of students pitied Swati's condition for a few moments and moved onto other topics. As the day ended, her story was buried in it's grave, and was forgotten like any other similar case.