Wednesday, 14 September 2016

My Dad

I don't know why but I felt like writing about my dad. People generally do such things as obeisance but what's the point? I want him to know how much I appreciate him in my life. Not just everyone other than him.

Everybody (at least most people I know), looks up to their dads. I'm one such person. As a kid, I saw my dad as the strict and angry man who came home smelling the same way he went out in the morning. How was that even possible? And he always managed to egg me on with things I had to do. I was always a round and plump kid (still am I suppose). My dad would make me exercise. And it's not the sort of, "Go for a walk around the block" sort of thing. I used to dread waking up on Fridays and Saturdays (that was the weekend in Dubai) because he'd be home and he'd make me sweat, quite literally! XD Only later in life did I realise how much it helped me. I managed to remain "fluffy" but yet rather flexible and was able to get till Black Dan 1 in my karate class. Now if that isn't an achievement in itself for a fat kid, I don't know what is. And this is just one of those examples that happen to pop into my head now.

Today I consider myself an adult capable of making my own decisions, not just in the littler things like KitKat or Dairy Milk, but also in life. And my dad has played a very big part in this being the culmination of the last 22 years. At a very young age of 11, he let me switch schools back to a more expensive one (I was in The Millennium School and shifted to Our Own High School in 2004 when they hiked the fees in the former). I thought he didn't know that I wanted to go back so I could be with my puppy crush but somehow he did (I didn't discuss such things with him back then). "So you want to go back to Millennium for a girl? Fine. Go. Be happy!" That's one more thing I learned from him. "Be happy!" Not enough people say that. People always say, "Study well", "Be a good boy", "Be responsible", "Live a 100 years" but the happy-go-lucky Vishu is a result of passive "be happy" propaganda I've been receiving since I asked my dad for a GameBoy.

Many people might say I was a spoiled kid in terms of getting many materialistic things that I wanted. Maybe I was? Who knows? But I didn't grow up spoiled (Or maybe I still am? That's something others must say).

So I went back to TMS, had a lot of fun, etc. Basically life was chill. Till one fine day my mom lets me in on a family secret. We were to leave for Chennai. My first reaction was, "Yay! Holidays with Paati and the cousins" but then she said two words that still remain etched in my memory, "for good". For good. Who says such things? "How do you know if it's going to be good there? I like my life here! I have many friends. I have a girlfriend. I'm happy. I'm just getting into my school football team. Things are good here." But no, we had to go. And as a 13 year old kid who was just getting to know what friendship was, I didn't like it. I had to go away from all this.
One month (August 2007) was spent in indoctrination. "Chennai is different from Dubai, the kids are different, the schools are different, your uncles, aunts and cousins might not meet you as often as they do during your yearly vacations to India. Basically everything is different. Be prepared for a culture shock", she said. I still remember the date. September 5, 2007. I left Dubai. For good (they said). Now why did I get into all this? That's because this was a turning point in my life. And it came about because my dad was done with life away from home. 20 years in the Gulf and you'd think the man was too used to the luxury and the comforts of life. But unfortunate for mini me (I wouldn't say that now), he wasn't.

For the better part of my teenage, I continued to regard my dad as the bipolar person that I saw him as. We used to share many father-son moments but I also remember getting slapped for lying. That's one thing he's ingrained in my psyche. Lying is bad. Haha! Maybe sometimes it can turn out for the better? White lies may be good? But for some reason I turned out to be a very bad liar.

I started looking up to my dad after I finished my 10th grade. Everyone was taking their first steps into their careers. My friends' parents were filling out forms ticking either "Science" or "Commerce". Here I was discussing with my dad why I wanted biology and not computer science. Nobody, literally nobody I knew, discussed this decision with their parents. I was given responsibility. And it felt giddy. That's one more memory thag has remained etched. We were standing in the quadrangle of my new school with that dirty yellow foolscap form with all the details except "stream" filled out. The box that got ticked would decide the rest of my life. As we neared the principal's office my dad turned around and asked me, "Kandippa computer vendama?" I took the form from him and ticked "biology". He smiled. And did I also spot a tinge of pride in his eyes? I didn't know enough to sense it back then.

I finished school, got rejected by NUS and NTU (the only 2 foreign universities my dad was okay with me applying to), bungled my IIT entrance exam (I was never really interested anyway) and managed to get admitted into 3 colleges - VIT, Manipal and SASTRA, in that same order. At the time, I was slighted by the fact that my dad would make the decision of making me study inside the country for me. After all, I was capable of making my own decisions right? But in hindsight, I see why he did it and I can think of no other way it could have been.

For some reasons that I cannot now recall, we discarded VIT and managed to get me admitted into both (yes, both) Manipal and SASTRA. As we left SASTRA after the counselling session, my dad asked me, "So, sollu. Manipal or SASTRA?" One more decision. A very difficult one. As the taxi ride out of the campus I stared at the campus I was exiting. Did I want to spend the next 4 years of my life in that shit? A tear crept out but I managed to stifle it. "SASTRA", I said. For the entire first year of my engineering I regretted the decision, but today, I'm glad I took the decision and I'm glad I took it myself. And I couldn't have done it if my dad didn't open the protective cage around me and leave both roads open for me to traverse upon.

College was when I really started appreciating how much my dad had managed to shape my entire psyche, passively. He never said, "Do this" or "Don't do this". He generally just said this, "Don't do anything that you can't tell me". Of course I can't boast of having adhered to this thumb rule strictly but it has helped me open up to my dad like no other son can boast of. He knows a lot (not all) of my secrets and has sometimes ventured into suggesting (never dictating) what I must do. For the last 4 years it has helped me. And I think I have him to thank majorly.

Fast forward to mid 2015. I was just finishing my third year and was looking at grad schools to apply to. We sat together and drew up the specifics about all the schools that I thought were good. After I was done drawing up my list he said, "You just take care of getting admission and leave the rest to me". What else was there to take care of? Pfft! Whatever dad. Just chill. I got this. How wrong I was! Being the overconfident baboon that I am, I skipped studying for the GATE and the CSIR and was quite bored while preparing for my GRE. My college exams didn't need preparation at all (or maybe they did and I never slogged like a moron).

But towards the end of exam season, I started getting the shivers. "What if no college deems me fit? What if I become a loafer with no ambition because I squandered the ones I could have had?" Thoughts like this were an everyday occurrence in one phase of my final year. It got so bad that I started having constant headaches and became very irritable. But one day when I was on the phone with my dad he said, "So what? Apdiye if you cant get admission enna aidum? That's not the end of the world! Stop worrying about it!" It didn't work. I was still scared. But at least now I had something to think about. I started formulating backup plans. I applied to magazines hoping they'd like my writing (again, being the overconfident idiot that I am, I told my college I didn't need their placement cell to get me a job). Few of them replied but when they heard I was a noob right out of college, I heard no more from them.

Come March, my internal tests were going on and I was loafing around, as usual. Added to the lack of interest in working hard, day and night, I had a lot on my mind. I had received about 6-7 rejections by then. I was so used to it that, once, I didn't open an email from a university because I knew it would start with the words, "We regret to inform you..."

It was on one of those days that I received an email from ETH Z├╝rich that started, "It is our pleasure to inform you that..." Wait what? WHAT? Okay I'm probably asleep. WHAT? Me? WHAT? Maybe there's been a mistake? A clerical error? The wrong email recipient? No but it said Herr Kannan. Okay come on. Kannan is a common enough last name. But wait, there's an attachment. *click* There it was. My full name with an ugly photo of me that I had submitted to them because I didn't think they'd even bother with my application. The first thing I did was call my dad. He was happy for me. Overjoyed even! He passed around the phone to the others in the family and then when he got it back he said this, "Are you happy?" I cried that night after a long time.

Here I stand today, about to leave the country. It occurred to me that I couldn't have gotten here without him. I couldn't have done any of this shit. So many times he's made me do things I thought were impossible for me simply by letting me know that he placed his full faith in me and my capabilities. How do you possibly let such a guy down? You just end up doing the unachievable.

I remember discussing with a friend of mine that we can never live up to the standards that our dads had set. I still think that holds true. I don't think I can do it pa. I could go on but this is a blog and people get bored after a point.

Thanks Dad :*

Friday, 2 September 2016

When will we change?

I'm sitting in a train bound for Bangalore. A city where people from so many different places congregate to make a living. One might assume that the train bound for Bangalore might be filled with quite an array of pluralistic men and women who get along with many cultures. But I seem to have the misfortune of being stuck with 2 burly men who cannot stop berating the woes of having North Indian people (indha Hindi kaaranunga) "take our jobs". Seems even the Railway Police Force should be controlled by the state in which the train runs! Haha! Are these the sort of people that predominate our diverse country or are they mere dots in a sea of people with great respect for other ethnicities? Am I just naïve in assuming that the latter is true?

For a country that fought oppression together and is divided by states but united as a nation, do we still see India as a country that is an amalgamation of many states or do we see it as a nation divided by mere cartographic boundaries into separate states? The idea of a nation is something that cannot be brought about just by a blue passport with the Indian sigil on it. I may not be the most patriotic person around but I think I can safely say I subscribe to the idea of a nation. One where men, women and children see themselves as Indians before they are Tamil, Marathi, Punjabi, etc.

We seem to be okay with it when a Dhoni represents the city of Chennai. But we're not okay with a Karan protecting our homes? An article I read a while back in The Hindu comes to mind. It spoke of the idea of a nation, about how European countries struggled to instill ideas such as "Le Patrie" into the minds and hearts of their people, about why it is important for a people to remain united and other such things.

So how does someone go about bringing a change? Do we just wait for the old ideas to die? Do we try to change the old ideas? Must our people undergo a whole new Renaissance in order to transform the Indian ethos? It's debate time. :)