The Tale of the Juju

It all started when my cousin told me about ten years ago about how wishing on a sardarji brings you good luck. We were sitting in the Mumbai local train, when she saw a sardarji uncle enter the train with his family- she instantly turned to me with her index and middle finger interlocked and in all the seriousness of a sixteen year old, asked me to tap on her head thrice and “release” the lock! Were turbaned, paratha-eating, big-hearted Punjabi gentlemen around when the east-Africans invented this “sacred ritual” while dancing around a holy pyre in the wee hours of a full moon night chanting “Obala obala….!!” Who knows! But for my sister, this was the best and only form of juju she knew!

I, as it turns out, am an even bigger juju-believing junkie than she is, because I took the story a step further. Don’t laugh, because this is important. So, there is one really sweet-looking, small-built sardarji who always wears a red turban and lives somewhere close to where I stay in India. I saw him once, riding his cycle on a very busy intersection- I was returning home from a particularly terrible practical exam and like an obedient sister, did the tap-your-head-thrice-and-release-the-lock ritual! By some stroke of luck, I got an A in that exam! And just like that, he became my most favorite juju-sardarji uncle in the whole world! I see him very rarely, mind you, which only adds to the angel-like charm I feel for him. Over the years, there have been many such objects and people which have been delegated to a similar divine stature – a yellow UCB T-shirt I got as a gift (which I wore once during my entire board exams!), my mom (if I argued with her before leaving the house, my day went bad!), blue Scorpios (yes, those Mahindra SUV’s in India), shooting stars (I’ve only seen one till now, but it was so awesome that I almost forgot to wish!) and many other things! Friday, the 13th and wishing on fallen eyelashes were too common for me- what is special about discarded hair, right!

Before you dismiss me as a crazy fanatic, let me assure you that I do understand the science behind it – it is an extension of the placebo effect – a strong (even irrational) belief in something which causes the perception of a therapeutic reaction.The other aspect of it is that unlike a true scientific experiment, in such cases, one keeps record of only the hits and comfortably disregards the misses each time. But then again, who said I was trying to prove my theory using science? Trying to prove the juju is almost like dissing the juju in their face, and you never diss the juju!

Where do all these crazy beliefs come from? Why is it that we follow logic and reasoning to describe almost all phenomena around us, but still reserve some space in our minds for these superstitions? The fact is that we cannot use rationale to explain everything. The fact is that no matter how practical we may be, we still want to witness miracles every day…

Maybe my data will yield good results..
Maybe the interviewer will like my personality, even though I may not have the best experience..
Maybe there wasn’t a camera at that last traffic light..
Maybe he will finally stop pretending that he doesn’t care..

There is a very big divide between things we can and cannot control. Bad things do happen to good people. And sometimes, you can’t help but want to be a little bad, but still not have to pay for it. And while the nice, grown-up thing to do is to learn to accept things we cannot change, it is never an easy thing to do! The kid in us wants to believe that maybe if we wish hard enough, we will get that toy. Sometimes we need that tiny push from within; sometimes we need to know that while all the odds may be against us, we still can hit the jackpot….if only we see that red sardarji on the cycle!

Find a penny, pick it up; and all day long, you’ll have good luck! 🙂


All it takes is Visa Power !!

Came across this cartoon strip a few days ago. It’s been doing the rounds for quite a while now, but is apt for anybody harboring dreams of studying in a US University and getting the all-so-important ticket to the land of dreams- the US Visa !! (As Jiggy says in Jaane Tu…- Sab ko nahin milta !!)

Well, I’m at Stage 14 currently… Phew! So much for dreams…

So what’s your aim in life ?!

I was talking to a friend yesterday about how the whole placement scenario works in engineering colleges. It’s weird, but the one thing Dale (a COEP professor, I think that’s enough said!) was bang-on-target about is that the reason students want to get into a good engineering college is to get a good job! Somehow the moment you come to know you’ve cleared your third year, the one fear that strikes the mind of every engineering student is- placements! Anyway been there, done that. So I completely understand and sympathize with them! So, I was reliving my interview experience when I suddenly remembered this seemingly simple, but brillianto question this guy from Cognizant asked me- “What is your aim in life?”

Now in interviews and SOPs, you make up your answers. And more often than not, they consist of phrases you pick up from the company/university website spiced with stuff like “cutting edge research”, “pioneers in the field of blah blah”, “leaders of tomorrow”, “perfect opportunity to hone my technical expertise” and what not! Obviously, coz these people decide whether you get the job or the university admit. But while I was telling her all this, I realized that I haven’t even bothered to give a thought to its real answer all these years! (And I thought, at 23 I’d know it all!)

I remember when I was in school in Doha, my mom had a teacher friend who’s daughter was about 5-6 years elder to me. I must’ve been around 13 then. So this daughter, all bright and smart, apparently told her mom that one day she’d have a flashy office on like the hundredth floor of a glass building from where it’d seem like the whole world was at her feet! See, that’s so Shah Rukh Khan-isque !! Same illuminating moment came in his life when he declared to his friend, standing on Marine Drive (I think) that one day he’d own the city! And he so does! Lol.. Well, I have no idea whether that bright and smarty-pants daughter got her hundredth floor office or not, but the point is- she had the “guts” to make a statement like that, when she was all of 20! And that is what oh-so-impressed my mom, who got all sentimental that day! Made me seem like a fool coz I hadn’t made any such promises; I was still battling with World War I statistics!

Then, I remember there was this one time my mom, sister and I were driving home from someplace, I’m guessing a fancy dinner coz that’s when we’re at out chattiest best! And I told my mom that one day I’d have a production company and I’d name it after her coz I was so proud of the way she’d raised me !! Yeah well, first reaction to that was shudder- why would I launch a production company!? And that was followed by laughter, fortunately not the ROTFLMAO kind coz she was driving! She thought I was drunk on food or something, making crazy statements like that! So there, my first attempt went down the drain! Well what do you know, I’ll still have that production company one day; only it won’t be named after her! So her loss, not mine !! 😛

Anyway, so ever since that fiasco, I stopped making such claims. 12th Boards happened, engineering happened and now further studying will happen. And I still don’t have the answer to that billion dollar question- “Where do you see yourself ten years from now?!” (By the way, shouldn’t that question be reserved for film stars; at least they’ll have interesting answers!)

So, with a hint of apprehension, I attempt to answer that question today. And since I truly believe that success is a journey, not a destination (taaliyan !!), instead of a definitive target, I shall be listing out things I plan to accomplish before I’m 27. Why 27? Coz I don’t think I can plan as far as ten years, a five year plan seems like a good start. (On an entirely different note- in five years I shall be 27!? When is that quarter life crisis supposed to hit!? Does it kill!?)

1. Have a job that will hopefully be related to industrial engineering and will be something I really care about. Now question for all working people- is it possible to have a job you care about or is that just a myth?!
2. Become a professional photographer.
3. Complete Dream Project 1. What the project is about is a secret. You’ll anyway know when it’s complete.
4. Have a detailed plan ready for the production company. Let’s start with the name..
5. I do measure success to some extent with material possessions. So I’d feel really glad if I’d own my own house and car by then. I’m guessing if I accomplish 1 by the time I’m 25, then this wouldn’t be an impossible dream.
6. Visit Egypt, Greece, Europe (at least Germany and France), Nepal and Australia. That’s one for each year. And implied here, would be doing all the stuff that’s typical of each place like scuba diving at the Reefs in Australia. This is in keeping with the “do everything at least once in life” motto! Hopefully one of the above will be one of those budget trips with random strangers, as I mentioned here.
7. Learn to speak German fluently. And manageable French and Spanish.
8. Learn how to play football, ekdam properly!
9. Visit an Indian Air Force base and hopefully co-pilot one of the jets. This is coz I’m crazy about the IAF (and NOT because of the airforce pilots in crew cuts; that’s sooo typical… :-P) And if I were two centimeters taller (and a lot fitter), I’d be an IAF officer today!
10. Stay unmarried. Yeah well, you’ll know why that’s important once you meet my mom !!

Phew! There…that’s my list! I don’t know how many of these I’m going to be able to accomplish in the stipulated time frame. We’ll continue this five years from today..

Mush on the net !!

I’m not a very big fan of publicizing my personal (read: love) life- whether in public or on the net! I find it pretty incredible how couples are so upbeat about the idea of putting up little details about their “better”-half or their marriage on their blogs or personal websites. I’m not saying it’s wrong or whatever; I guess it’s just about me being a kinda private person, that’s all.

But I came across this and this on the blog of this girl I know through a common friend. Now, though I don’t think I would ever write similar posts on my blog, reading them even made me go awwwww…… 🙂

Note to all boyfriends: Girls like having a “proposal story”, so even if you’ll have been seeing each other for ten years, make it a point to formally “propose” to your girl before taking the big step !! She’s obviously going to say yes, so you don’t have to get all jittery and anxious about it.. You may call it the western influence or whatever..but it’s important to us! Gives us a nice story to tell the children and grandchildren and well…makes you look kinda cool too !! 😉

Found this cartoon strip on the net – guys would probably be able to identify with this! 😉 Cheers !!

Its all in the stars…..

My mom’s just back from her quarterly visit to the astrologer. This is probably the fifth one she’s visiting in the past 3 years. Each one of them is either an incarnation of some blessed priest or has been granted with unique intuitive capabilities. And of course, each has their own say on what the stars have in store for us. I remember my mom dragged me along to one such lady, during my twelfth board exams, and she told me to stay away from people whose names begin with P and H, as they would be detrimental to my progress. (Readers beware !!) Another gave me a ring to wear in my index finger, to improve my concentration. The latest news is that I would be married before March 2007, and to be event-specific, that is before I even graduate !! Abhi tak zindagi main kisi ladke ka thikana nahi hai, shaadi to door ki baat hai !! ;-);-)

We find these kinds of ‘readers of the stars’ everywhere. Some sit with fortune cards and parrots on footpaths, while others charge 2000 bucks for a one-hour consultation. Some help the average middle class Indian wife deal with growing demands of her family, while others lend an advisory hand to Page 3 regulars !! Whatever it may be, they sure have people eating out of their hands !!

And of course, the objects used for the predictions are varied too- there are the sun signs, the moon signs, the Chinese calendar symbols, some read the positions of the stars while you were born, while others ask you to change the way you spell your name, some read your face, some analyze handwritings, while some pick tarot cards- but all of them sure have something to say about your future !! Pune Times goes a step ahead and tells you about how good a roomie you are, how you’d like your first date to be, and even how good a kisser you are, all on the basis of the sun sign you belong to !! Probably I should ask a guy who’s kissed two girls of the same sun sign to vouch for that one !! 😉

Talking about astrology specifically, I do know that it is a very ancient science, though I never have bothered to delve into the scientific aspects of stargazing. But frankly, I really am not very sure about the credibility of this science. Do positions of stars really determine our lives? Can changing the way we spell our name divert ‘negative energies’ around us and make our lives happy? Do our ‘haath ki rekhaein’ have our future written in them already? Then probably it is not wrong to have a fatalist attitude- after all, we don’t entirely become accountable for the doings in our lives. It is, after all, inevitable !!

The many people I’ve spoken to, about this, tell me- “The best way out of it is to do your work with utmost sincerity and give each task your 100%. Take each day as it comes. The rest, leave to the Lord. After all, He is the Caretaker of the Universe.” Seems logical. Then what about the atheists? They do not believe in the Supreme Power. They believe that they control their lives entirely. That they are responsible for every action and every decision they make. Are they being foolhardy then?

Too many questions, and no convincing answers. Of course I know that there needs to be a balance struck between the two. I cannot possibly expect to do well in my exams just by wearing a lucky colour, and using a lucky pen, if I refuse to open my books and get my ass down to work. Besides, I’m definitely not going to stop driving if someone tells me I am prone to accidents in a particular week. But personally, I have always viewed astrology and its affiliated branches from a more experimental point of view. I mean, I do read the daily forecast frequently (in Pune Times !!), but only to see if it works. Fortunately or unfortunately, I’ve not come across a single day, as yet, when the predictions of Mr. Anupam Kapil have worked.

But it is just so tragic that there are so many people all over, who are nearly obsessed with these practices. Probably knowing of any sort of impending disasters serve as release valves for the anxiety-laden minds of some people. (Chalo, balaa talee !!) Probably a better alternative would be to concentrate more on your deeds and actions. Cause I bet the good you do to people around you would definitely pay you better returns than adding an extra ‘A’ to your first name !!

Touché !!