Thursday, December 8, 2016

The CJ

When I am traveling, even when we are commuting within the city, music is an essential. Over time, when I have traveled either with friends or family, the task of carrying a playlist has often fell on me. And I am quite particular about the playlists. Not to boast, but my co-travelers have mostly enjoyed and appreciated my playlists.

With time, controlling the playlist in the car has become a part of my slight OCD condition (which I think I suffer from!). I feel anxious when I am not in charge of the car music and become irritated when someone changes the ongoing track (especially if I like that track) or play their own collection. In fact, my mood has been spoiled on many occasions because of such instances. Yeah, I know I am sounding like a crazy lady here. But that's the truth.

By the way, I call myself the CJ. Yeah, Car Jockey! Inspired by DJ and RJ of course.

Our car music system doesn't have a remote control. Worse, the controls for the media player are on the steering wheel. When Az is driving, I mostly sit in the front passenger seat (my favourite seat by the way). But sometimes due to various reasons (like older co-passengers or to adjust more people), I take the seat behind the driver's seat. Yeah, even my car seats are fixed and I am uncomfortable in the other seats. Anyways, when Az is driving, I simply ask him to move on to the next track, whenever necessary. But sometimes, there are certain people accompanying us, that too sitting on the front passenger seat, who keep on asking Az to change the track. Really enough to set me off.

When I am traveling in someone else's car and the music is on, I keep calm. And while in cab, I simply put on my earphones and enjoy.

Fortunately, my parents' car's music system has a remote. Last year, when we visited them, I had to occupy the last row seat during a trip. But with the remote, I could easily do my job. When we returned back to Delhi, I realized that I had carried back the remote in my bag. See, that's how seriously I take my job of being the CJ. So please, don't mess with my music.

NB: Actual meaning of Car Jockey.
Car jockeys are people in Indonesia who solicit by the side of the road a random commuter who does not have enough passengers to legally use a carpool lane. The jockey offers to go along with the commuter for a fixed price. This is a way to bypass carpool restrictions requiring a certain number of passengers.

In the United States, a car jockey is also known as a parking lot attendant and is responsible for parking vehicles or issuing tickets in a parking lot or garage.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Becoming Family

Being the eldest daughter as well the eldest daughter-in-law is no piece of cake. From surviving on instant noodles to running a household of seven people, I have come a long way.  Being brought up in a nuclear family, where my father was the only male, I never had to deal with collective unorganized male habits. And  suddenly I found myself in a house with five grown-up male children, who were being used to waited upon hand and foot by their mothers and aunts.

Az's parents, Mom and Dad, stay abroad. The current household consists of the two of us, his two younger brothers and three younger first cousins (one girl and two boys, initially it was one boy). The five of them are students and so it is more like managing a hostel. Thankfully Az is of the helping (around the house) kind.

In the initial months of marriage, I was not working and the girl had not joined college yet. So she used to help me out in many aspects. But when she joined college, she could not help me in the same way as earlier. And with so many boys in the house, the house never looked organized and straight. I realized that I cannot go on like this. If you have watched the Bollywood flick called "Satte Pe Satta", the Indian version of  Hollywood's "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers", you would understand when I say that my condition was more or less like the eldest brother's wife (subdued version). So one fine day, I told the residents upfront that I am not expert homemakers like their mothers and aunts, and cannot keep on cleaning up after them. I would need their help in managing the house. And the sweet devils did oblige, with some push. 

As much as I had to adjust to the new personalities around me, the others too had to adjust to  me. I was not used to having so many men at home and they were not used to having an unconventional woman in the house. I am not really the "sugarcoating words" kind and would rather call a spade a spade rather than talking behind someone's back. So initially, there used to be some awkward moments. But all the kids are well disciplined when it comes to behaving with elders and unlike most families, there has been no rudeness with the daughter-in-law. And gradually, I became mother-cum-sister figure in the house (at least I think so!)

I feel the experience of staying in a hostel during my higher studies, and later on my own after I started to work helped me a lot in settling down in my marital home. But the most important factor was that we opened up our hearts to each other. The second important factor has been open communication. If there is any hard feelings in the house, we encourage each other to come upfront and make up. It is also encouraged that the kids share their problems, so that we can help each other to find solutions.

And it has been mostly fun. As all the residents are from the younger generation, there is not much formality involved. We watch movies late into the night on weekends, order outside food often, pull each others' legs and yet watch each others' backs. And with so many people, there is one thing or the thing always happening. Drama, action, romance, humour, games, tears, smiles; you name it and you have it. There is absolutely no dearth of entertainment in the house.

Over the period of time, I am growing as a person. I am also learning to let go of things which I cannot control like having the cushions straight at all times!. Still it is a long way to go. I still lose my mind from time to time. But all's well.  And today it feels as if I have been always a part of the Khan family. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Then and Now #1: Value of Money

After post-graduation, when we started  working, a friend shared that her female boss wore kurtas of some brand called "W". It was actually the first time that we became aware of the existence of such a brand. So "W" became a wish. Even today when I can actually afford, I still think twice before going for a "W" item, even on discount. I would stare at the item, evaluate if it really worth it and then decide. And today, my sister-in-law and her friends wear "W" to college.

Thankfully most of the kids we went to school or college with, were of the same economic class. And frankly, I rarely compared myself with kids who used or wore expensive stuff. As a student, I had one one mantra, "When I shall earn, I will own what I desire". There was a wishlist of small as well big things. Actually I still have a wishlist. Owning a branded jeans or a hair-straightener became a reality only when I started to earn. Today, such things are in necessary items list for the college going girls in the family. 

I tell the kids (whoever is younger than me!) at home that we should not forget where we come from. We should not forget our roots.  I see around me that even kids with humble backgrounds are becoming increasingly brand conscious. There are several factors. Peer influence and media exposure being the major ones. Increase in pocket money adds to the spending power of kids. 

Contrary to kids today, we got pocket money only when we moved out of our native place to study and started staying in hostels. And it was pocket money only in name. It was actually a fixed amount of money every month to take care of all expenses. In my case, my pocket money took care of my basic toiletries, notebooks and stationery, phone calls, photocopies, projects, outside food, minor college event contributions, local conveyance, etc. I used the college/university library and computer centre to the fullest so that I didn't have to buy books or a computer. And I also saved a bit from it to get tiny gifts for the family while going home during breaks. In our times, the aim was to save parents' money wherever possible,  and ask them for extra money only when absolutely necessary. Now I see students debiting all expenses related to basic needs and studies to their guardians. Their pocket money actually takes care of their material desires and wishes mostly. And even after they have been provided for, they still have demands.

For me, there was no pride in spending my parents' hard-earned money to fulfill my personal desires. Today, my pride lies in the fact that I am capable of fulfilling my own wishes as well as that of my parents.  And I am proud of my parents as well as my grandparents that they made me the woman I am today. Fortunately, my close friends are of the same class of society, with similar upbringing. So I had never actually felt the peer pressure of brand consciousness or the need to meet any peer standards. I strongly feel that if one fulfills his/her own desires with his/her parents' money, what excitement will be left for when you can actually buy things with the money you have earned!

When I was a child, I had a couple of pairs of shoes. When Ma was a child, she had just one pair of shoes,  black in colour. And the same pair worked for school as well as other occasions. Deta had walked either barefoot to school (a distance of around seven kilometers) or wearing open rubber sandals. He and his siblings used to get one pair of new shoes during the Durga Puja festival. And if the new pair were small for him, he would rather manage with those (by soaking them in water to stretch them out) instead of giving them back because there was no guarantee that he would actually receive a fresh pair in the right size. During our times, things had changed of course, and we had more than a couple of pairs.  But humble stories like that of my parents' childhood helped to keep us grounded, to remember to be thankful for what we had.

I completed my basic education in small town in upper Assam. For graduation, I went to Kolkata. When I came home during my first semester break, I bragged in front of my granny that I watched a movie with tickets which cost over a hundred rupees in black. I thought she would be surprised at the  cost. Instead she reprimanded me right away saying that my parents are working hard and making sacrifices back home so that I can have a good education, and I was wasting money on movies. Her words brought me back to my senses. So this was the way I was raised. I have been taught the value of money and hard work by my elders and that has kept me grounded.

P.S.: As I was growing up, I remember my parents and other relatives sharing stories starting with the opening line, "In our times,....." And now that I am a grown-up myself, I have started doing the same thing; comparing things how we used to do as kids and how kids do them now. Since I have decided to start my post series called "Then and Now", I am actually feeling somewhat old already. These posts are not aimed at reprimanding today's kids and their value system, but merely reminiscing about the bygone time and to accept that outlook on life changes over the generation. Also please note, you may or may not be able to relate to the post. But if like me, you had a typical middle-class upbringing, you most probably will.

And yes, I am definitely feeling much older now.