Monday, June 29, 2009

Introducing Vandana Singh

Today, Vandana Singh joined us as the 3rd instructor of the workshop.

Vandana is the "scientist" in the trio of Gurus who have been enlightening us in the past 3 weeks. Despite possessing a Ph.D. in theoretical particle physics and teaching at a small-town college in USA, she writers speculative fiction and has published a number of stories. She is also the author of the Younguncle series of children's books.

Due to an unfortunate accident in the loo, I arrived late for the class. I couldn't take part in the exercise but I really enjoyed the rest of the class. Who knew learning about gravity could be so easy? I wish my teaches back in school were this gentle and patient!

And oh, she had another interesting exercise - we had to take a proven scientific fact and retell it as a mythology story. I had a ball writing this one and my entry "The Monkey's Bargain" was praised as one of the best.

I am happy!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Of Chaats and Children

Tonight was the chaat party at the PBCEC building at IIT-K. Lots of pani puris and tikki chaats and gulab jamuns. And vanilla ice cream too!

Be it a get-together or a conference, if they are not friends or family, I don't mingle with the crowd. I know - this totally kills the concept of networking, which is crucial to a writer, especially to a broke one. But that's the way I am, and I have tried a lot, but I could never, ever make small talk or inane talk or intelligent talk. I have just come to terms with it and stopped agonising about it.

But this party at IIT-K was a slight exception. My classmates were such an outrageous lot (think ADHD kids on drugs) that it was impossible to hide from them. So while I successfully avoided mingling with the faculty (not by choice; there is something about me that makes members of academia run for cover), I spent quite some time "chaating" with Himanshu and Akshat.

After an hour, it became apparent that 8pm is the limit for IIT parties, which elicited collective groans from the aforementioned hyper classmates. Just when we were about to leave, Himashu noticed a chubby boy, around 9, sitting alone in a corner of the lawn. I had noticed him earler, and Himanshu succeeded in what I wanted to do - he steered out little group towards the boy and sat near him.

Like a typical IIT kid, he was relaxed and quietly confident. He answered our questions patiently and commented casually about the heat. He had a very adult-like way of nodding his head when speaking, and I felt the familiar rush of compassion and delight that I feel these days for kids. I wanted to hug him and sit with him and play a game of chess, take him to the zoo this weekend, and may be exchange email ids and years down the lane, advice him which country to go during his gap year.

It is during times like these that I remember my age - very, very close to the big 3-oh. The clock is loudest when I see children sitting alone or being quietly brave. I never simper over babies - in fact, being the OB I am, I don't even like being responsible enough to care for babies - but older children always make me sad. In a hearbeat, they turn the corner to find Teensville and acquire precocious (even cynical) wisdom, but when they are still at middle school and believe in Famous Five, they are innocense personified, a rare feat and sight in the world.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Science Fiction workshop 2009, IIT Kanpur

So far, great.

The 1st batch is a mixture of late teens, young people, and above 30 category. We had a journalist, a lecturer, a copy editor, a moleculor biologist, few IIT students, and a newspaper columnist amidst us.

The mornings (9am-1pm) are spent in critiquing each other's stories, and the afternoons (2:30pm-5:30pm) in theory and writing exercises. This is EXACTLY what I wished I had as a college experience when I was younger. Anil Menon is an awesome workshop facilitator and I am glad, GLAD to have taken the plunge and come here from London.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Finally at Kanpur

We arrived at 7am in Kanpur but the train actually stopped at the station only at 8:15pm. It took us an hour to get from the station to IIT. On the way, the roadscape looked so dismal and dry that I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep.

IIT Kanpur is pretty much like the Chennai one, may be more roads and lesser area of woods. It certainly was hot. The Girls Hostel building was all squares and corridors, not one curve in sight. Our room was compact, with two single beds, as Suneetha and I were sharing the room. One plus was that it was right opposite to the restrooms (later proved to be a godsend... when the heat wouldn't allow us to sleep, we would wake up at all sorts of hours and stand under the shower...)

I kind of crashed for some time, while Suneetha went ahead and attended the inaugrual function. I, as usual, went late and entered the AC hall to find Anil Menon doing a group writing exercise. (More about the workshop tomm)

Sunday, June 14, 2009


New Delhi Railway Station. AKA The Station from the Underbelly of Hell.

The minute there were seats available in Lichavi Express in the last 48 hours, I should have suspected something foul.

It was supposed to arrive at 3pm. It came at 1am the next day.

10 hours in crowded, hot NDLS with luggage and a thousand people sitting on the platform. Sitting, sleeping, eating, and in some cases pissing and shitting too. Add to that a sandstorm in the night, where everything, including our bodies, shone yellow.

Luckily, Suneetha and I parked our bums on a bench but you have NO idea how precarious our positions were. Eyes followed our every move, calculating when we would leave our bench. Scared witless about forsaking our bench and sitting amidst limbs and arms, we didn't even get up once in the 6 hours. Yep, no food or potty break.

There must be a reason why were were put through this. If there is, I haven't found it yet.

Though I have an entirely new appreciation for the people of DUNE.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

I didn't have a camera with me...

... when a 5-year old child leaned against my arm and whispered her wish to become a rock star, her face shining in trust that I would never betray her big secret.

... when she held a duck race in her pink bathtub every evening, willing her favourite duckie to win, and pouting when he didn't.

... when she lead me to the trampoline on sunny days, patiently teaching me to jump, and screaming delightfully when we played 'Crocodile grab me' in mid air.

The life of a nanny is filled with such moments. The child you wake up in the morning and tuck in at the night is not yours. You cannot kiss or hug her, since at a wrong moment, it can be percieved as perverse. There is no bond between you and her, save for the bond of employment, a crisp exchange of notes every Friday evening, in return for infinite care and affection during the week.

The real parents, often absent due to work and recreation, are such a jealous lot that you have to constantly check in your emotions and behave like a strict governess, instead of the indulgent nanny - otherwise, the child would love you more, which will render you jobless in a second.

It is impossible to take a picture of the child who has allowed you into her magical world and helped you rediscover innocence. You have to rely on your mind as the camera, and your memory as the storehouse for the pictures.

You can only hope that the pictures never get old.