Tuesday, January 5, 2016

My 2016 planners

It's 2016. Time to archive the old planners and journals, break into the new ones, and to learn and evolve from past mistakes and experiences. After some considerarion, I decided to stick to most of my old planning habits of last year, with a few simple tweaks to upgrade myself because:

- Pre-finals and finals of final year approaching. Lots of exams dates to consider, exam prep and exam post-mortem to schedule, assignments to hand in and labwork to complete

- Post-graduation plans to line up and methodically execute

- Since there's a high possibility that mum might be out of town for a week sometime in the coming few months, I'll be in charge of the house and it's various mammalian and avian inhabitants

- Increased part-time tutoring committments.

So, all in all, three-fourths of this year is going to be somewhat stressful and to cope with that I'm using:

- A pocket-sized monthly planner for a bird's-eye view of my day/week/month/year

- A day-based hardbound notebook to file away to-dos and appointments/events/reminders efficiently, somewhat like an even more minimalist version of Ryder Carroll's excellent bullet journal method. There's blank pages in the front and back for specialized tasklists/reading lists/goals

- An A6-size daily schedule notebook, that I fill in either the previous night or first thing in the morning, after consulting my day's tasklist, to lend some semblance of structure to the day, along the lines of what Cal Newport does

- A dedicated journal to rant in at the end of the day. Last year, I tried combining a journal and day-based notebook, but since I'll write a couple of lines one ay and five pages the next, the effect was wildy uneven, so I went back to my trusty old diary to ask for forgiveness. Everything's been peachy since then.

And that's all. No frills, no fussing, no five-coloured pens to code different levels of urgency of a scarily-lengthy tasklist, no washi tape to segregate different sections of a page. At the end of each day, I skim through my monthly planner to see if there's anything urgent on the horizon, put a checkmark against the tasks I've completed that day, look up the important tasks of the following day and contruct a flexible schedule for the following day. If in the mood, maybe a little entry in my journal and some frivolous bedtime reading. Then I go to bed, at peace with myself and with the world.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Thoughts about a particular gore film

Apparently I'm a careless person and treat my body like shit instead of the temple it is supposed to be, hence my blood pressure gets pretty low every few months and I behave like those swooning princesses of yore with alarming frequency, much to the chagrin of my mother. The maternal unit finally had enough of my behaviour so now I'm under supervised house-arrest till the end of the puja vacations. It's not that bad, since my she's running  all my errands for me and giving me gigantic glasses of coconut water to drink on a daily basis. I'm not a fan of the early bedtime, though, but my mother has promised to smack me if I don't behave.


Since I'm always late to the party, it's of no surprise to anyone that it was only last month that I came to know about "A Serbian Film", which is a vile, vile movie. Hell, I only read the synopsis on Wikipedia and it made me want to get mind-bogglingly drunk just so that I could forget what I'd read. Unfortunately, I don't drink anymore, so you can understand my agony.

Now I'm no cultural commentator, given that the only culture I regularly expose myself to is anime with English subtitles, but it makes me wonder about the type of person who would publicly  appreciate this film. While I can begrudingly accept the fact that maybe, just maybe I should not have eaten an entire plate of oily chana-masala at seven in the morning before setting out on a day-long trip, what I cannot accept is any argument extolling the artsiness of this asnine piece of shit, whatever the director says in his interviews. 

"Just watch it, it's nothing like you've seen before!" said an excited friend to me. He will soon be dead and buried in my backyard.

(This blog post is the bastard child of boredom and general crankiness, produced while watching my tenth-grade tutee struggle to give a relatively-easy test on sound waves.) 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

What I like // What I dislike

What I like: Commuting at 6 AM to college.
What I dislike: Arriving at college at 6:30 AM to find out class has been cancelled.

What I like: The festive feeling of Durga Puja.
What I dislike: Going out during the pujas and almost being trampled to death.

What I like: Being a vegan.
What I dislike: People trying to feed me paneer because "Isn't it vegan, Dee?"

What I like: Black and white Hollywood movies.
What I dislike: Bollywood making horrible remakes of those movies.

What I like: Finding a slice of cake in the fridge.
What I dislike: Having to share the goddamn slice with anyone.

What I like: A huge pile of birthday presents at the end of the day.
What I dislike: People asking me, six months later, "Remember what I got you for your birthday?"

What I like: Buying shiny jewellery.
What I dislike: Actually having to wear that jewellery in public.

What I like: Cute guys trying to make conversation.
What I dislike: Smiling too much so as to not accidentally expose my resting bitch-face during aforementioned conversation.

What I like: Watching "Roman Holiday".
What I dislike: Watching the last fifteen minutes of "Roman Holiday" with people around and trying to contain my sniffles.

What I like: Going through family albums.
What I dislike: Coming across embarrassing childhood photographs of myself.

What I like: Crawling under a warm blanket on winter nights.
What I dislike: Having to push the warm blanket away on subsequent winter mornings.

What I like: Eating phuchkas after a long time.
What I dislike: Noticing the phuchka-wallah's sore-filled hands after eating one.

What I like: Putting on a bandaid over a bad cut.
What I dislike: Having to rip off the bandaid later and painfully lose all the underlying body hair.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Confessions of a serial snoozer

Mother: How was college?

Me: I fell asleep in my electronics class during attendance. Woke up a considerable amount of time later to find professor hadn't noticed, despite me sitting in the first bench.

Mother: I assume you didn't ask for your attendance later?

Me: What was I going to say? "Sorry, ma'am but I was asleep for half your class and forgot to answer during roll call. Could you please mark me present?"

Mother: Didn't similar incidents happen during your school days too?

Me: Yep. Lots of times in Bengali classes. A few times during Value Education. Always during Art/Craft. Once during an English Lit. lecture on Macbeth. The professor actually thought I was being very well-behaved (everyone else had been fidgeting and whispering during the whole class) and gave me 2 points at the end of class.

Mother: How wicked.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The story of my university-mandated compulsory ENVS college-trip on a hot summer day

Image taken from Akash Mondal's photoblog

(This post has been written furtively in a single stretch by a college student supposed to be reading a dry textbook chapter on groundwater-- excuse the pun-- who would appreciate it if you didn't nitpick silly things like proper punctuation, grammar, sentence-construction and spellings.) 

I was woken up by my cellphone alarm blaring Fall Out Boy's "Light 'Em Up" (which my optimistic self had set to 4 AM last night despite a 1 AM bedtime) in retaliation to which I immediately pressed the snooze button and went back to sleep. Five minutes later the alarm blared again. Snooze. Alarm. Snooze.

"Oh, for God's sake," muttered my mother, kicking me out of bed.

Now let me tell you something about my mother. She's a wonderful lady in general, but an absolute harpy  when it comes to mornings. She doesn't care what time I go to bed, as long as I wake up by sunrise. I could be up all night being Batgirl but if I miss watching the sun rise the next morning, breakfast's going to be extremely late and is going to be served with a side of extra vocal-based venom.

But I digress. So anyhoo...

Brushed, yoga-ed, fed and packed, I stood in front of my wardrobe and briefly contemplated the merits of wearing a pair of proper, society-approved, fitted pair of pants of the denim variety before breaking down morally and putting on a faded pair of cotton salwar-pants I'd stolen from my mother's wardrobe six months ago, a pair usually reserved for classes scheduled at ungodly hours in the mornings. On went a cotton undershirt, a cotton kurti in a delightful shade of blue, socks and my trusty pair of converse that had seen me through numerous walking expeditions and a one-week long geology field trip, one morning of which was spent trekking through poop-infested shrubberies. I realized that the chest-pocket of the kurti had a little tear in one corner. I tried to cover it surreptituously with my sunglasses as my mother entered my room.

"Don't bother hiding the tear," the maternal unit observed, pursing her lips slightly, as she always does when she catches me in clothes she'd rather donate to charity. 

"It's going to be a long day in the sun," I said defensively, "And these are the most comfortabe clothes I own."

"Oh, get going before it's late," she said irritably, shooing me away.

We were supposed to report to college by seven in the morning. The buses left after eight-fifteen, by which time I had already been reduced to a sweaty ball of fat. My one-litre water supply had already been reduced to 70% and my sanity levels were about to plummet, given the choice of songs that were being played by the bus conductor-- you'll sympathize with me if you can muster up the courage to imagine the type of songs that make Yo-Yo Honey Singh seem like Jagjit Singh. Okay? Good.

We reached the wetlands and our professors explained what was expected to us:

1.       Eat breakfast
2.       Sit quietly and listen to the pre-work instructions
3.       Follow professors around the place
4.       Take notes throughout the whole event
5.       Eat lunch
6.       Do whatever young things like us are supposed to do
7.       Get on the buses, collect out attendance slips, sit still till we reached our college campus.

Breakfast looked appetizing-- puris, potato curry and rasgullas-- and since it had been hours since I'd last eaten I wolfed down everything on my plate despite the rubbery texture of the bread, and gave the rasgulla to one of the stray dogs eyeing my plate. There was a huge plastic jar of water near the dustbins which we all assumed to be water meant for washing our hands, till one of the event organizers came rushing over and explained in an injured voice that it was mineral water, meant for drinking purposes.

"Boo," pouted a chick, "My hands are still dirty."

He looked at her murderously for a second before dragging the jar away to the kitchens, announcing loudly that drinking water would henceforth be available from the kitchens only and people who wanted water would have to deposit their empty bottles to him, which he'd fill and return back to them.

In the meantime, a couple of girls armed with DSLRs, who had apparently never set foot outside non-urban areas, began to take pictures of ants and grazing cows and fallen leaves and thatched cottages, while the rest of us jaded folk placed bets on what they'd photograh next ("It'll definitely be that flower by her foot next, just you see!")

Breakfast over, we signed our names in the attendance sheets, got out our unlined notebooks and pens and stood expectantly near the bench on which the teachers were busy assembling the various instruments: a TDS-meter, a pH-meter, a salinometer, a Secchi disc, a soil thermometer and a couple of plankton nets. The zoology-department professor started to talk and we took notes. Five minutes later, the sun emerged from the clouds it had been hiding behind for the past two hours and my face began to burn.

For those of you who don't know, my skin is as resillient as a tomato peel. it's sensitive to heat, pollution, dust in general, and intense direct sunlight. I'd forgotten to pack a sunscreen and I couldn't find a non-embarrassing hat anywhere in the house, so I'd bought a pair of sunglasses and hoped to stay in the shade for the majority of the day. The sunglasses, by virtue of them slipping off my nose due to my extraordinary sweating capabilites, had already proved their uselessness and had been stowed back in the bag.

I found a spot of shaded concrete land to rest my butt on and here I sat the entire duration of the lecture, jotting down whatever words I heard that I could spell, ignoring the strong smell of freshly-excreted cowdung coming from the brown pile a feet away from me. It was already turning out to be a fun morning.

The geology-department professor outlined our task (which I'd already read in the textbook the previous night and hence was free to snooze through) : our job was to survey the nearby waterbodies using the instruments and note down everything in our notebooks, and then get the notebooks signed by one of the professors. Then we had to go home, create a project report and submit it, alongwith today's notes, to the college by November. This trip and report combined made up 25% of our total grade in the subject, and was important as hell.

Soon it was time to get crackin'. We first tackled the subfeeder canal adjoining our picnic spot. GPS location, soil temperature, TDS levels, etc. were noted down diliigently in our notebooks. One chick shoved me pretty hard to pass through to her friend, and the chick I accidentally fell against passive-aggressively called me uncultured  before turning back to her notebook, in retaliation to which I tapped her on the back and called her a small-minded bitch. 

As you can see, I'm a very shy person. 

Ahem, on with the story.

I could see the botany professor sitting quietly in the shade. The geology professor was searching his pockets for a smoke. The overenthusiastic zoology professor had, by this time, began rhapsodizing about the various snails and crabs in the water (I refer back to my field notes and see that I have scribbled down "vivapara- snail", "jusia"and "cyranomas larvae" in all their misspelt glory.)

In my defence, the last time I studied zoology was back during my highschool days, when I had biology as my additional subject. And even back then it was the subject I paid the least amount of attention to. I should've picked Computer Studies instead, then I would've become fluent in C and C++ and would've sailed through this computer-programming portion of the physics syllabus. Dammit, sixteen year-old Dee!

By the time we reached the eighth water-body ("pond 5") everyone other than the botany and zoology majors had been converted to brain-dead zombies. The geology professor was in the background, enjoying a chuckle with his lab assistant (a wonderful man, knows the funniest stories) and most of the kids had returned back to the campside to sit in the shade and share biscuits. The zoology professor kept saying terms which sounded like Hebrew ("damselfly-nymph", "planorbis", "bythania", as jotted down in my little notebook) to which his students kept pointing excitedly and taking pictures; the rest of us troopers (from the physics, chemistry, geology, math, economics, statistics and computer science departments) were mindlessly shuffling along behind them, muttering curses and thinking of iced teas and fufilling lunches.

Finally, it was time for lunch. There was daal, rice, a potato curry, an option between a chicken and a paneer curry, some sort of sweetmeat, and a salad. There was a long line for the nosh, so it took a good ten minutes for me to reach Paradise. I told the server that I didn't need either of the chicken or paneer options, to which he nodded and dumped a serving of paneer on my plate. Whoop-de-fucking-do.

I'm vegan, but what I dislike more than consuming animal products is wasting food on my plate. So I asked around to see if anyone needed it (everyone was too busy crunching their way through chicken pieces) and since the dogs had by then disappeared for greener pastures, I sighed heroically and chowed it down. Post-lunch, I turned down all offers of group pictures and found myself a secluded spot, a cottage-style housing affair sans walls which consisted of an outer sitting area and an inner sleeping area separated by a thin bamboo wall, near the biggest pond, ready to sleep my afternoon away. But my stomach had an entirely different set of plans in mind.

It started as a slight ache, like those little hunger pangs you pass by a beautifully-decorated pastry-shop window, but soon developed into a full-sized stomach cramp. Pretty soon I was moaning like a pregnant woman in the early stages of childbirth, only in my case it didn't feel like there would be a happy ending. I wanted to rush to the toilet in case any unfortunate accidents rendered me a hygienic-mess-cum-social-pariah, but washroom horror stories overheard in the morning from my classmates kept my feet in check.  Maybe it was the paneer, maybe it was the extended time period between breakfast and lunch, whatever it was fucked up my afternoon excellently.

To add insult to injury, a group of preppy-looking girls gracefully lowered their posteriors a foot away from me and began to share some rather-excellent gossip from their school days (I stifled my moaning and tried to be unobtrusive, for if there's one thing worse than having a stomach ache, it is the fact being discovered by gossipy strangers.) Some of the topics I caught in my pain-induced daze were:

1.       Girls caught with their boyfriends' hands down their pants
2.       Girls caught with condoms in their purses
3.       Girls caught with cellphones in their underpants
4.       Girls caught bunking school

All the talk distracted me from my pain and after an hour or so, I felt exhausted but considerably better and capable of unhindered locomotion. I went to look for my classmates, saw that most of them were busy taking group pictures and beat a hasty retreat back to the water, where I watched a cow graze on a tiny island a short distance away and made a list of the ways in which it could've reached there. Then I watched a classmate try to pet a bunch of calves and be ignored by each and every one of them, ate a biscuit and called my mother to tell her I'd hopefully be home by five.

Soon it was time to go back and we trooped back in our respective buses and gratefully accepted our attendance cards. Our bus started, it began to rain almost immediatey afterwards, and we had to close all the windows and meditate on how dumplings felt while being steamed. We soon reached the main road and were only thirty minutes away from freedom, when the smartass bus-driver took a road he deemed to be a "short-cut", which actually turned out to be a route riddled with traffic-jams and narrow lanes, and delivered us back in front of the college gates an hour later. We were the last bus to arrive, and the others had already dispersed. Tired to the bone, sweaty and stinking, and somehow hungry again (this is why I'm fat), I managed to catch the metro back home and was soon lying collapsed on the living-room couch, being given a thorough welcoming by the dogs.

The good thing about dogs is that they make you feel better, whatever your initial circumstances. A shower and a dinner later, I was all set for a couple of hours of good work. Another thing which made me feel better was a conversation I'd had my geology professor a little before we'd set out for home:

Me: *sighs*

Professor: Boring, isn't it?

Me: Zoology's pretty scary.

Professor: At least you're done after today. I, on the other hand, have to come back here tomorrow, that too with humanities students, a group of people who have even lesser interest in this than you people.

(Despite the stupid tone of the article, the East Kolkata Wetlands is a fragile zone which contributes a lot to our city, a fact I'm grateful towards and will hopefully make clear in my college report. For more information check out this link, this link and this link. Also, this link.)