He was the perfect man. His eyes were sunshine, he was a great listener and there has never been another man as good with kids as he was. Mothers would trust their brainless infants in his deep, deep lap and he would be the light of every selfie in however large a group.
Donald McDonald and I had a great thing going, for about 17 years. And then I discovered his shady truth. His lies broke my heart, and then some. I never could return to McDonald’s the same way after that. If I did, it would be my personal Walk of Pain.
Like in any good love story, let me start right at the beginning when Donald and I didn’t even know the other existed.
I grew up a quiet, well behaved little girl in Delhi who had no clue what burgers or French fries were until I started going to school, and to school picnics. Mommy made these yellow things that looked like chopped bananas but tasted delicious and as un-banana as possible. Those were French fries, and in later years, I was to discover burgers after coming down from a cinema hall after my first movie (Josh), and straight into McDonald’s. I would encode that scent for a lifetime, never to forget it.
That’s when I saw him. For the first time.
Donald McDonald, the beacon of all things delicious and lovable. My hero!
We became friends when after dozens of failed attempts, I finally gathered the courage to walk with my uncle to his calm and rather beautiful self sitting outside McDonald’s, on a bench, smiling always, and despite my persistent fear that if I sit in his lap I will slip in and never come out again, my uncle scooped my tiny self up and put me down into the deadly trench of McDonald’s Lap.
McDonald’s Lap has deeper connotations than you’d think. ‘Once a customer, always a customer’ should be their real motto, because after those first few trips, I never could resist the heavy and oily smell of unhealthy food that McD sells.
In fact, my love was so strong, that as an 8 year old, I once entered a mask-painting contest at McD and on the day of declaration of results, was dressed and ready half an hour before we were scheduled to leave. That’s to say a lot for an eight year old, now. Unfortunately, my dad got late and I missed the mere 30 minute party, but Donald was there and he made me smile anyway.
It was true love.
And then came the teen years. I started going out with friends. Sometimes I took them to McD, but sometimes I went to other places. I found that there was no McDonald’s in Zimbabwe, which felt like a strange economic decision.
I started reading about the world. I read about the issues people face every day, the poverty and the injustice. I felt sad, so I grabbed a McVeggie and calmed myself down. Yet, I kept reading. I came across Upworthy, which became my career dream. And then one day, it all came crashing down.
Donald McDonald was a cheat.
I couldn’t believe it when I first saw it, but there was no denying the truth.
One day while surfing through Upworthy, I found this heartbreaking news.
McDonald’s has been paying it’s workers much below the minimum wage for years.
I felt betrayed. All those times I would go to Donald to share my pain of the crimes in this world, he was just lying to me! He was dealing under the table himself, while feeding me on his criminally-produced burgers!
The pay an average McDonald’s employee receives is so less that even if they saved for years, say 10 years, they wouldn’t be able to afford a decent apartment. I know there are a lot of variables to that, so I went on an evidence spree.
I was still making up my mind on what to do, when Upworthy dropped the final blow.
McDonald’s doesn’t just pay peanuts, it steals too. Many workers who went to cash their embarrassing cheques found that they bounced! They BOUNCED. A greedy corporation’s cheques bounce.
Donald…. it’s over.
Don’t call me, don’t text me, don’t email me. No we can’t be friends anymore. No I won’t try your new paneer burger. I am impressed by Zimbabwe to keep thieves out. And NO. I am NOT lovin’ it!
In keeping with the tradition of birthday merrymaking, I placed my demand on the table like a portfolio to be studied. My birthday was two days away and in the exasperated desperation of last minute planning, they had finally asked me for my birthday wish list. They gave me puzzled looks. They raised their eyebrows and squinted, checking if they had read the wish list correct. Two words spawned the entire white expanse. They read- “Something… big.”
My cousins hooted, for this was just another challenge for them. Ask what I may, I knew what I would receive from them. The little one would choke me awake, wish me ‘appy budday didi’ and say that the gift is not ready but I am not to worry for it was on its way. ‘On its way’ was really code for ‘I’m looking for my sketch pens’ and indeed, later in the evening I would find a handmade card magically appearing on top of my bookshelf (sometimes even on my dinner plate!) and happy, I would kiss her thanks.
The older one is a little quieter. She too would greet me, cheerful as the moon but there would not be much comment further in the day that it was my birthday or that I, even though I’m older, expect a gift. Yet she would go out of her way to share her world with me, as if letting me in on her stickers and hair bands and any other prized possession of hers would be a priviledge I must be honoured to have. Perhaps, if I am lucky, she would let me take a few pictures of her, for I find few things more beautiful in the world than my cousin.
Maami, my dear maami, would be different. She wouldn’t bother with waking me up or entertaining me. Her focus would be stuffing me up like a Thanksgiving turkey, with delicacies sweet as cake and doughnuts. She knows everything I like to eat. She does one better and surprises me. I know I do not need to ask her for anything, for she will ensure that I eat for every single second that I’m not playing with the cousins.
This is also that time of the year when my real sister gets a little possessive. She is hit by this sudden realization that I am, first and foremost, her didi and that it is her moral duty and right to give me the biggest present of them all. We all know that nobody can top mom’s surprises, but we like to try anyway. From hampers of food to movie plans to this crazily short skirt for January, my li’l sister partners with all sorts of financers, dads, brothers, uncles and whatever money she can find around, to put together a gift she can offer me with pride.
Enough ado about gifts. My birthday certainly is not all about that. There is my uncle whose job is to ensure I find myself on the floor. Not as a prank, it’s just his routine to make me laugh so much that I inevitably find myself rolling on the floor, tangled with my sisters, all trying to hold our stomachs in and keep our food in our tummies.
There is mom who smiles at me in the breaks between every dialogue and every act, as if she and I share a secret. Sometimes I begin to think we do. Is not understanding a secret in itself.
This birthday, however everyone was perplexed. What do I mean big. What do I want. I grinned, enjoying my little private joke. Go figure, I teased them with my eyes.
For a day they all wondered what to do. When answers failed to appear, jokes did, and everyone said sure they’ll do lots of big things: they’ll wear big clothes and sit in big chairs and eat with big spoons. Content with the genius they had just exhibited, they returned my grin and teased me back. My birthday was just as great as ever, just as I had expected.But that is not my point.
My delight and amusement rests in that one day before the big day when everyone was firing up their brains, thinking, thinking, thinking what they want to do for me. And what would be ‘big’ enough. As it turns out, my wish list was a present from me to myself. Who said a birthday has to be just a day. Mine wasn’t.
It was much… ‘bigger’ than that.
Note: Take a moment to smile at that post before we get down to business, y’all! So apparently 19 of you shared my comeback? I’m sitting here and wondering who you guys are, angels really, so how about when you feel like doing that, you leave a comment simple saying “Facebook Shared” so that I can count you in in my bedtime prayers? Hehe.
In June 2013, I pulled the plug on this blog and many of you, just like me, were disheartened about the decision. Let’s be honest. It SPELLED failure. The most important thing about blogging, that any blogger or really anyone with a bit of experience with fans will tell you is that there has to be content and there has to be regular content. The content part was going pretty strong for me, I was writing two stories at the same time which is more than I can boast off ever since. So what was the problem?
Regularity. It gets pretty hard to publish content when your brain is in a frizzy, and you’re doubting your every move.
But we’ve looked back enough, now is the time I announce what I’ve already subtly told you…. I’m back. *Drumroll please*
As always, this blog is about life, happiness and all the crazy I am upto, which shall include everything from the typical Dog-ate-my-homework lies, to winning and losing at a Chinese game called Mahjong, to finding content on the internet that will BLOW your mind. I do that. What I also do is head the Prefectorial Board of my school this year, so this will be a great opportunity for all Bal Bharatians to stalk me, yay. Of course, since pain and angst and rebellion is unseparable from me, there will also be a lot of social issues writing, fiction and hopefully one or two fundraisers up here.
But whatever may come, this much I guarantee you: My personalised sense of satire that dwells into mockery as well as rises above hope, will catch up with you all, as I write on Address Is Not Available every Thursday.
Too much Future Tense. Here’s what I was upto while I was neglecting ya’ll since June 2013.
- Wrote my name in a ancient script called cuneiform and fell in love with archaeology.
- Went to City Montessori School for some competitions and debates but ended up having the Most Awful Trip of my life, and I can guarantee nothing in the future can no worse than what happened. Comic reconstruction of events may just be the next post.
- Participated in a rather biased MUN which was fun nonetheless, in the skirt we all know. Remember this?
- Found family halfway across the globe!
- Became Director of the Interact Club of the school and hence heard some lectures and participated in the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (where I won the Volleyball match because the opposite team never showed up!)
- Discovered the soporific power of the Political Science book
- Made friends in odd places- The Dominos sales executive, the bus driver, the peon for the Vice Principal.
- Wore a Vietnamese dress
- Discovered air charging as a part of my love-hate relationship with my phone. Basically my phone wasn’t charging when connected to the socket, and was finding juice instead flowing wildly through the air and began charging the MOMENT I unplugged it.
- Visited the International Book Fair for two consecutive days and bought nearly 50 books for the school library.
- Hitchhiked across the breadth of the country with my cousins and the elders. We flew from the capital, Delhi, to a place in the northeast called Mohanbari, and then began the pain. And adventure. And bumpy roads. But mostly pain because I get sick on the hills and the northeast was 90% hills and 10% sleep. Well the point is, we reached the northern most point in India, on my birthday, which happens to be a special thing because that place is not open to civilians, metres from the Chinese border. Guess what we had for lunch everyday? Potatoes and cauliflower. Guess we had for dinner? Cauliflower and potatoes. The following image is the happiest memory I have of the entire trip.
There were many more friends, lessons and awards on the way but you know me.. There’s only so much I can remember off the top of my head! My Facebook movie says I did much more, anyway.
I’m very glad to see that most of my followers have decided to stay, feel free to kick this blog with all sorts of nasty comments if I ever leave you again. If you stayed, you’d get an email automatically but if you’re new, please subscribe because that would make me happy much and also because me and my subscribers are an elite club with whom I love to interact. As always, the comment box is forever at your service! I realise now this is a rather wordy post, but I just made up for almost an entire year so you’ve got to give that grace!
Lastly, I have been asked to make a Facebook page for this blog, so if enough of you subscribe to the activity here I might just do that.
Now I’m gonna go edit the About page, yet again, and writhe in embarrassment of reading my old post. I missed you too! See you next Thursday.
I’ll cut to it: I’m stopping blogging for some time. I don’t know when I’ll be back, no clue how long it will take, but I’d like those following me to stay. It’ll do no harm anyway. I’m just too busy with lots of other stuff right now, but given how I loved blogging this one year and how much I’d love to put my writing out here, I may be back soon. Who knows…
So, it’s not goodbye… just time out. Namaste.
Sex education and fear mongering have an intricate relationship.
“Whatever you do, don’t get pregnant while you’re still a teen.” They whisper, then shout, then hammer. “Or don’t listen, and change diapers while your dreams are strangled with the baby clothes.”
How is a teenager even expected to respond to this. That is not a question, but an accusation. In a world where teenage pregnancy is akin to one of the seven sins, where we rush to “rescue” anyone that “falls beneath” it is surprising that WHO records 16 million girls giving birth in their adolescence every year, worldwide. Surely, if it such a crime to be a young mother, we must have the morals, the technology and the system to avoid it. Then why don’t we.
The authors of a dedicated American book, ‘Teenage Pregnancy in Developed Countries: Determinants and Policy Implications’ drive the dilemma of teenager in the Unites States right to home; “[U.S.] teenagers… have inherited the worst of all possible worlds… Movies, music, radio and TV tell them that sex is romantic, exciting, titillating… Yet, at the same time young people get the message good girls should say no.”
The reason young mothers don’t have the support (of any form) is because we deal with teenage pregnancy with hostility or ignorance, while we don’t explain all the mediums through which teenagers clearly see sex to be a way of life at their age. The reason a young girl needs to be worried if she gets pregnant is because society makes SURE she has it harsh.
It may be a father who chooses to disown the girl on hearing the news, it maybe a passerby with a accusing look in here eyes, it may be a pastor bent on treating the child as weed she needs to be cured of, it may be her friends who forget her with each passing day. The crux is we aren’t prepared to love a young mother.
Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett writes for The Guardian that teenage pregnancy will not be stopped by shaming young mothers. That’s correct. Rejection and boycott of young mothers is widely practiced in major pockets of the civilized world, especially in the Indian subcontinent and elite culture but the figures don’t show any change. Clearly, shaming is not working, and without divulging into whether it SHOULD be employed in the first place or not, it is clear that the approach needs to change.
Instead, the aid a young mother really needs can be broadly classified into three areas; moral support, financial back-up and medicinal help.
While love, care, and acceptance; and thus a change in mentality is too much to ask for from this blog post, mere support in voluntary work with dedicated agencies is one thing anyone anywhere in the world can do. It is a simple thing we should do.
Teenage pregnancy rates vary between countries because of differences in levels of sexual activity, marriage among teenagers, general sex education provided and access to affordable contraceptive options. Worldwide, teenage pregnancy rates range from 143 per 1000 in some sub-Saharan African countries to 2.9 per 1000 in South Korea.
The fifth annual State of the World’s Mothers report, published by the international charity Save the Children, found that 13 million births (a tenth of all births worldwide) each year are to women aged under 20, and more than 90% of these births are in developing countries.
Developing countries; such an illusion. If these countries really are so advanced shouldn’t the statistics tell differently?
Studies by the Guttmacher Institute reveal differently- “Most continental Western European countries have very low teenage birth rates. This is varyingly attributed to good sex education and high levels of contraceptive use (in the case of the Netherlands and Scandinavia), traditional values and social stigmatization (in the case of Spain and Italy) or both (in the case of Switzerland).”
Does this mean a teenage girl is less likely to get pregnant in South Korea than in Africa? No. It does not.
Statistics unfortunately do not tell us chance, but only rate. For all we know, the Health Department of Africa may be more focused on tending to young mothers than any other country in the world. It is just that they have a larger population to address than other countries.
In fact, what this data does tell us is that there are teen moms everywhere. True, some places more than others, some places are safer for abortion, some places provide more psychological pressure. But there is scope to help everywhere.
American teen singer Carly Ray Jepsen may have sought to motivate pregnant girls when she said “You’re supposed to be changing the world … not changing diapers” but her message, sadly, backfired. Instead of outright abortion of every teenager’s child, the objective really is to help the teens start thinking of themselves as something more valuable than just victims. Young mothers need to be empowered. That will happen not when we provide abortion clinics everywhere, but when we allow a girl to have a real choice whether she wants to go to that clinic, and if she doesn’t, there should be a good chance for her baby and her to have a healthy life.
This is where we can help. The concerned citizens of the world can make a young woman’s life easier by supporting a number of organizations in a number of ways.
Cortesha Sanders, founder of Mothers Helping Mothers would love to see you aid her in the mission to provide monetary and moral support to young mothers. Geneva Farrow is the founder of A Young Mother’s D.R.E.A.M. (YMD) a mentoring organization that helps young mothers complete their education, something we know is a basic prerequisite to do well in the 21st century. Alternative House’s Assisting Young Mothers Program provides shelter to those who are thrown out of their house, yet another way in helping out a teen mom survive. All these organisations, like many more, accept monetary or voluntary help.
The WHO tells us that if trends should continue, 750,000 teen girls will become mothers this year in the. Daughters of teen mothers are 3 times as likely to become teen mothers themselves. These statistics not only shame us, but laugh in the face of anyone who cares. Girls are dying. There isn’t enough help. When we put a young teenager girl in a situation to give birth, for which her body is still not ready, we are letting not one, but two lives be destroyed.
It is easy to find organisations to support. There are so many options within the government (of almost all countries) it itself. All that is needed is the will. The will to show we care.
” ‘Scuse me, which exit to come out at the Stateman’s House?”
“6″ said the Metro official who had been prompted with the question.
Betty was good with monosyllabic answers. It was pure courtesy that she had framed a full question to ask in the first place, had she known the guy she would have run with a two word question and a hinting tone- “Statesman’s House?”
Gratefully, Betty nodded and started walking towards Exit 6, smiling as she heard the quick shuffle of his feet behind her as he realised the dialogue was over and caught up.
“So, Statesman’s House?” asked her diligently inquisitive tail.
“An important newspaper once, a landmark building now.” she answered with the smile full in her words.
Betty liked how she said Important. She had a way of rounding the Ort that made her feel British, made her feel a master with her words. Words… they empowered her. But she hated how she had totally, utterly, completely wasted a word in her response. A landmark is a stand-alone word. She shouldn’t have said “building”. Of course it was a building, in fact any structure would have done. Grunt. She had decapitated the charm of the word ‘landmark’.
The strangely charming voice of her companion brought her back to the real world, as Betty dodged yet another street vendor, this time consciously.
“Geez, how many are there!” he wasn’t used to the streets as she was. He wasn’t used to the country.
“It’s a back lane. And that-” she said, walking on and pointing to a magnificent building of red stone “- is one of the culprits for my intense fascination with this place. The Statesman’s House.”
“Wow. Looks good. So what’s in it now?”
“Don’t know. Never been in. There was a bookstore on the ground floor once.”
Books… all those books with all those words that-
“You’ve never been in? Wha- am I ever going to understand you?”
Betty giggled. “Not if you’re going to walk that slow, mister.”
Jay shook his head and hurried to catch up with this little crazyness he had of a guide, and thought of the day all those months back he had met her online.
“Hey look, I didn’t do nothing, don’t you blame it on me!”
“I’m not, you idiot.”
“Then what are you calling me an idiot for.”
“Cause you are wasting my time, that’s why. Just patch me in through to your stupid boss.”
“I told you, he’s out. Lady, you need to understand how to talk to a Customer Service-”
“Customer Service? Is that you? Well, I am not a customer. Not anymore. I’m giving up your stupid shitty service today and I don’t want to hear from this good for nothing company after that. And just so we’re clear, you never did provide any service, Mr. Customer Frigging Service.”
The line went dead and the customer service helper frowned. First day at the job and already the messenger was taking burns. This was going to be a hell of a job, but Nate needed it, so he better talk more authoritatively with the next angry caller.
The phone rang again. Nate spent a moment looking at the red light flash at the base of the phone, not entirely willingly to listen to another complaint already but determined to really start with his new job.
“Airphone Customer Service, How may I help you?”
Nathan of the Airphone telecom company believed more in God than he had in the past few years, primarily because he realised he would need divine intervention to survive this job as his first two calls were from angry, shrieking customers. Correction, one ex-customer and one slowly going down the same line.
Ten hours and a billion complaint calls later, Nate flopped lifeless on the couch at his flat, and thought of sleep, only sleep. He checked his phone what time it was; 7.30. Well, that would be a new record, to go to sleep that early. He could call Elizabeth over for a while. He called her, hoping to have in a few seconds the first pleasant conversation of his day.
“Hello,” said a voice so gruffly male that Nate checked the number on his screen. Yep, that was Elizabeth’s number, but that was definitely not her voice.
“Who is this?” Nate wasted no time establishing credentials, he wanted to know right away who was picking his friend, almost-girlfriend’s phone.
But before he got any response, he heard scuffle at the other end, and Betty’s voice in the background, obviously talking to the guy who had answered.
“Who said you could answer my phone!” Betty was saying, but Nate could feel the the smile in her fake angry outburst. Nate wasn’t very happy about that.
“Nate! Hi, whatsup.”
“Umm nothing really, was just wondering if you’d like to come over. But it’s fine if you have company.” It wasn’t fine. He was almost screaming inside, get rid of the dude and come to me!
“No, it’s okay. Actually, what if I bring him too. He’s Jay, remember I told you about a guy from Africa who was coming over?”
Jay… she hadn’t told him the name. So, what was the deal with this guy… Nate thought the best way to find out was invite him over too.
“Yeah sure. See you both soon. And hey, bring the Polaroid. Too long since we had pictures.”
The line was dead before Nate even heard Betty’s response. But he had gotten used to that in the day. Now Nate had more pressing matters on hand.
Just who was this Jay and what was he doing to his chances with Betty. He was about to find out.
#Note to reader; the post title reads BJN, which are the initials of the three characters in this story. Should this post receive a fairly good response, then stories that follow in this series will contain the same code BJN in the title. So, it’s up to you if you want to read more. I’ll keep ‘em coming.
Posting about laughter has never been this fun before. I think everybody knows by now that the internet gave brilliance a chance to be shown. And here’s an example:
While most people were drooling over this picture of actress Emma Watson and largely discussing how different she now looked from her appearance in the early Harry Potter movies, this one guy was exceptionally creative and forthcoming with his funky mind:
He said, “Now that’s a huge fart.”
I hope Emma sees the funny element of the whole thing and decides not to sue this knight in humorous armour. I for one wouldn’t, but then I don’t see a scenario where I’d be wearing those shorts and a coat on top too. Really, is it summer or winter? For celebs I know it doesn’t matter, their seasons are more like AC or outdoor, but that’s still a not-me combination.
What surprised me today was the sheer NUMBER of pro-Internet and pro-happy things on Internet posts I saw on Facebook. In fact, I even logged up with a site that does just that! Upworthy posts about significant things, usually poignant things happening worldwide, and thanks to email, I can get instant notifs of such events. Go ahead, join them, they’re at:
On Facebook; http://www.facebook.com/Upworthy?hc_location=stream
And their site; http://www.upworthy.com/
Since I’ve safely established over the last few posts how awesome the Internet is for me, and how much I appreciate it, this I promise will be my last post about the same. There is no end to how much I can love the things that hit me online, and I find new stuff every minute. Yes, I just found something more.
Patrick (amazing man) Stewart. Also known as Captain Jean-Luc Pucard in the world of Star Trek. Also known as Professor Charles Xavier in the world of mutants.
But a hero for women, in every world.
He’s talking to the crowd. He’s asked an unexpected question. No, I’m not going to tell you what it was, I really wish you’d see the video for yourself. And as Upworthy says, after 2.40 he’s going to break your heart a little.
Okay, I have to reveal! He answered the fan’s question, very candidly, very completely. But then he did something he just didn’t need to. Absolutely out of his character, no compulsion, and that’s what shows the kind of man he is. They were ready for the next question, and suddenly Patrick Stewart asks: My dear, are you all right?
Frankly there’s not much to the question. We throw it around all the time don’t we. How are you? You good? Whatsup? But listen to him say it, see him say it, and it means everything. He’s genuinely interested. He probably might not meet the girl ever again, but it is important enough for him to ASK. I wonder if I ask my relatives that question when they clearly seem in trouble as genuinely as he did. I hope I do!
A word of information: If you feel the urge to support the organisations he mentions, just watch the video with Annotations on, yes those pop ups that are usually for marketing. You’ll find the helplines and websites you need.
Well, I am now bedazzled by the power of Internet. It’s brought me some good friends, the best friend. It’s got me enrichment. Made me closer to people around the world, made me understand the world. And as much as critics continue to condemn Internet in my school, I can only pity them that they are that shallow. Internet is not the fault, you are. As I say, you can make a weapon out of a spoon too, so are you going to boycott cutlery next?
My last word after these last few blog posts: The Internet rocks.