Saturday, August 15, 2020

Utta Journal Entry - Part 1

Utta's Journal Entry – Part 1 

2004 Summer 

Alas, it is the start of the last week I will be in Madras and I have not yet obliged my mother by writing in this journal. So I will now. 

Being less of a burden… 

Quite possibly the longest month of my life and I don't say this in vain. It is simply a fact. When you wake up every day at 6 am, and have absolutely no agenda, the day seems like it will never end. Right now it is 3:10pm. I feel like it is seven pm. Oh well. Lesson number one. When you have nothing to do the best thing is to observe. It gives you a way to have a nice stay with family and friends and to pick up on the simple things which are actually humorous (maybe not!). 

This journal will not be a conventional daily account of my life rather be about that, which I feel like ranting and raving this year. I came to India with a different mindset than previous years, mainly because I'm 18, attending university and I should start acting that way. Believe me it's difficult. Self sufficiency is thrown out the window. According to grandparents I will always be 10. My goal was to be as less a burden as possible to my grandparents, by washing after myself, my plate, not complaining about the food which is given to me and basically not asking for anything, save this notebook. Also their not having to nag me to wake me up in the morning. However, the plan backfires because I haven't taken into account what to say when I DON'T WANT ANYTHING. See in India, when a day is planned around meals, refusing to eat something is not tolerated. Jayamma and paati don't understand that when I don't want something, I also don't want any of the 10 alternatives there are. For example, if I don't want tea and don't ask for something else, then that also means no coffee, Horlicks, Milo or any other drink they may have! If you don't eat you make them feel exhausted, as if they simply can't help you -when you don't need any help?!! 

Tamil Serials and Seniors 

This present moment? Right now, I'm sitting in Mandaveli in the main room. It is 8:40 and I'm in my nightie. I'm in the corner, where athai paati used to sit, but she does less now since my previous visit. A Tamil serial is playing on Raj TV.  Jayamma and Nagalakshmi mami are commenting on how I don't sing. I decline to make a comment. Thathappa peers to see the notebook. I pull it away not indulging his curiosity. Oh now things are so different here. I observe so many differences. The retired community does not (and wishes not to) change with the times. I see Jayamma and NM flinching when they see a scantily clad woman on TV exclaiming, "asingam". (However, I do share Jayamma's hatred for the Tamil actor Vijay. . He's so nasty. Why do girls have such bad taste. First Sivaji, then this man. But anyhow, I don't fancy Indian actors except Arjun Rampal, Rahul Khanna and perhaps Aamir Khan. The first just for pure looks of course, as his repertoire is not much at all). But let me proceed on the topic of Tamil serials. Believe me, I have tried to accept these and watch but I simply can't. They suck, for lack of a better word. Be it Ahalya, Anandham, Sorgam, Metti Oli, Annamalai, Kolangal, they are all the same boring domestic issues. Someone is broke, bad marriages, sympathetic, good, yet naive old people, nonstop crying, love birds, marriage confirmations - so old, so beaten to death. Every five minutes, someone is eating or drinking something. What makes it all worse is that the same people act in five different serials about the same subject matter, but in different roles. This is not the movies people, this is a show!! Whatever their logic watching these, confuses the hell out of me. However, the popularity of these serials here cannot go unnoticed. Senior citizens, especially live on this stuff- as like on a drug. TV serials and meals, that's all they care about. At any house you go to at 7pm, Kolangal will be playing no matter where you are. Mind you, Tamilnadu has more people than the whole of Canada! It is a craze and I just can't understand it. Call me - every other outsider! I continue to write as the mosquitoes bite the hell out of me. Time to pull out the odomos. Tonight we had tomato soup for dinner. It was some of the best soup we ever had. Jayamma makes the most awesome croutons. 

My Tamil! 

Lately this month. I've been struggling with my Tamil. Words don't come out as fluidly and smoothly as I would wish. I understand the language completely and read well, but I will explain why this speech deficiency is a real problem for me. Just as any family member, my grandparents do get on my nerves sometimes. Their possessiveness, overprotectiveness and Jayamma's advice about various matters. I consciously decide not to hold back this time. However, it is so difficult to express oneself here. They don't understand my English and not only do I have to speak slower, I have to modify how I speak. I'am also not good at assertive Tamil, to express and convey what I would like to. Finally, after all that trouble, I'm the one who sounds stupid, so I must stay quiet, because I don't convey what I want to say. 

Today is a different day. I sit here at about, 9:30am in Besant Nagar and am relaxed. I have already had my one hour morning walk with thatha, had my glass of chilled water, then sathukudijuice, lay down for half an hour finishing my book "The Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri, surfed the net, showered and now I sit here. If I had been in Canada I wouldn't have gotten up yet. But things are changing, and I am becoming more disciplined. It will be the same, when I get back as well. Similar routine, less doting than I get here. 

Set Up Box

When I came to India this year, the one thing that frustrated me is that all the English channels are now unavailable! So a set up box had to be purchased for Rs. 7000. And then on top of that, a monthly fee to be made. After much complaint on my part we decided to rent it for a month in Besant Nagar. But the rental scheme no longer exists. So, Suja, with a contact, helped us fix it illegally, four days after I landed. Yes, I could watch the last two games of the French Open with thatha. This year, the consensus was that the French Open sucked. But it was fun to watch it with thatha because we would both shout at the screen when we were frustrated because of an unforced error or a double fault. As always paati picked Myksina to win and thatha Dementeva. But for the first time, I sided with thatha. For the Sampras Agassi finals, I had sided with paati and against thatha. Too bad this wasn't that exciting. The men's was a little more interesting with the unseated Gaudio coming out of a two set loss to win in five sets, but the game lacked flare. Me and thatha couldn't stop shouting at the TV, haha. Finally, Gaudio pulled it off, 8/6 because of a fifth set tie break. Poor Coria.  Paati kept saying Coria's wife looked like she was going to divorce him. Thatha thought she was pretty. 

Something me and paati both enjoyed watching was the National Spelling Bee. We were both so happy that the white boy won. Paati reasoned it as follows. The Indian was moody, and his brother won two years ago. Also because his Indian parents probably forced it on him and coached him. The white boy had three siblings, and had to learn in the midst of all the commotion. Paati was also impressed by the compassion of the mother, as she had adopted a Chinese girl. She kept telling Suja this.

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