Unwavering Ambivalence

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Ruchika:

Friday the 13th may not be all that genuine, but I like the idea of having one day in the year when you can senselessly blame all misfortunes on the date (of all things) and be fine. That said, this is one post that deserves reading by one writer I really admire.
Also, such an interesting idea! I may write my own views on this some day…

Originally posted on Mostly Bright Ideas:

FortuneTellerThere was a time, when I was a teenager and therefore remarkably witless, that I fell for every crackpot idea that crossed my path. I was certain I had extrasensory perception, could move objects with my mind and see the future, and would eventually figure out how to walk through walls. I believed in ghosts, alien abductions, witches, sea monsters, psychic healing, astrology, numerology, auras, demonic possession, magic spells, good luck charms, communication with the dead, parallel universes, and spontaneous combustion. If it defied and contradicted modern science, I was convinced of its truth.

I’m older now, and much wiser, and have all but let go of those childish notions. And there’s at least the glimmer of possibility that the rest of the world is doing the same.

For example, Friday the thirteenth has always been a date when many of us felt free to blame our problems and mistakes…

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Dubious Exam Time Happiness!

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I am actually quite started that I could feel so positive and hopeful during exam time. Ever since I returned from Fukuoka, even on the plane to Delhi, I was getting into exam mode. It’s twelfth standard and everybody automatically pushes their heads into books this year. Maybe that’s because we get our board marks in the end, which are the one numerical value that defines which college we get into, and it’s quite important if you want to study overseas like me. I doubt anybody reads because they will miss school reading, so yeah boards it is. Actually, there are ways to crack the board exams. Over time people have observed patterns and they know routines that will be healthy for this year. I have my own actually. So far it has gone just okay. The plan is to a little everyday. I don’t really have a problem with that, unlike MANY of my seniors. In fact, during their last days, my seniors were telling everybody “Read from the start” and shaking their heads.

 

So. I did read from the start. I just took a massive holiday from mid May to mid June, floating in my bubble of travel happiness and good weather over there. So as I was saying, when I finally understood that this is all good but I now have to get in exam mode, I started reading again but I was really waiting for the dread to set in. For those of you who know me, you would have an idea of my exam phase. I crunch my work well. But I also get critical of things like the way exams are held, the quality of material we are reading and I ALWAYS complain about how we don’t write essays in English. I feel that is one major draw back, for me, as I want to write Sooo many theses. Then, as the exam dates start approaching, I begin getting a little worried. Okay, this needs a little background to it.

 

Up until seventh grade, I never really had to study for exams. My mom says in 5th, I read my Social Studies chapters and told her I’m ready for the exam and I actually was. And in 3rd I didn’t even need to read, I would just listen in class and I was prepped. So yes, I’m basically a prodigy. Just kidding! Then after seventh, I put in a little effort because there was more content to know about. And finally, I actually studies hard in tenth grade. I remember how bad Chemistry got for me at one point simply because there were too many exceptions to the rule. I loved the reactions and everything, but the names of the compounds made me think of storybook characters and that was one year when ALL my friends were seated TOTALLY AROUND me. I was literally at the center of my universe. We have permanent seating in class because our class teachers tend to get tired of our talking so that mattered a lot.

 

I still got a CGPA 10 that year. I really don’t know how that worked out but this just happens with me because last year I even made the Scholar Badge by a 0.3 mark when I was certain I was going to fall back that year. I now have seven back to back Scholars and that’s frankly the highest you can go because a Scholar in 12th grade in Humanities is as impossible as it gets. I’ll explain some other time.

 

This sounds like I’m boasting doesn’t it. Don’t worry, now it won’t:

I have been having some problems in math. Which is rather embarrassing because math is one of my favourite subjects and ever since I watched my mum tutor math (since I was six I think) I have been rather good at it. My benefit is that I’ve been exposed to numbers and have been seeing them being worked in my house for so long, and I generally have a good speed, that I don’t get scared. My problem though with math is that I don’t practice enough. Last year, when they suddenly shower you with 13 chapters of new math concepts, I made the almost fatal mistake of not doing math. Yes ladies and gentlemen, the 0.3 that saved me was math. And to think I got 100s till 10th grade. Duh, me.

This year, as soon as I got back in exam mode, I focused on math, made a chart for the rest of my subjects and left it with my mom, deliberately. Because I know that as long as she has the chart, and she can see which chapters and subjects I have tick-marked, I will be pressed to work and not give her any reason to cut my luxuries down. Frankly, my house is a much happier place when my mom is happy. So this was a bit of me working psychology on myself. I also asked my best friend to ask me if I read for 4 hours everyday. I don’t ever want to disappoint him so this would make me actually read.

Television became a problem. I don’t overdo it, I just watch Criminal Minds because I’m obsessed with it and maybe House because it’s quick and smart. The trouble is when my sister stays up late night and watches some silly comedy I don’t like at all. The volume is too loud in those shows anyway and the laughter clipping they add every two seconds makes me cringe. That was hampering my work and thought process. So I began staying up even later till the point… that… I no longer sleep at night.

I watch the dawn every morning, cracking nitrogen bubbles in my knuckles and wait for mom to wake up so that I can take her place in bed and go to sleep. Don’t worry I spend the night doing really productive things like reading and writing for something you’ll know about shortly. Then I wake up at noon, shower and everything and have human interaction, work at stuff that don’t require much concentration, collect notes from my friends which needs to be done during decent hours of course, and go for math class. Math class actually structures my entire day.

Now that you have the background, let me tell you why I get worried lately during exam time. My subjects are mostly theory subjects. They require quite a lot of learning things verbatim from the book. And since most of it is just touch and go at a cestpool of ideas, I have a hard time peeling myself off the net looking deeper into it. For example, for the exams in July, I have to remember what four books and eight chapters say on any of their pages. The exams are usually three days apart so there is just enough time to brush up on the content during the exam period. I have problems in mugging up what needs to be mugging up. But since I write fast and I construct my answers rather well, I don’t have it all that bad.

This year I got a little worried about my jargon. Psychology has a LOT of classification that I just don’t agree with. But since I’m just a schoolgirl and the people who say those things are much more read and much more heard, my views are my views and I still have to read.

And then something funny happened.

I stopped being anxious.

This has A LOT to do with the fact that I practiced math this time. I did.

It also has to do with my friends, whom I’ve met sometimes now and they help me remember that we’re all doing this together. Otherwise when we get prep leaves one tends to go out of his/her mind being stuck with themselves, don’t they. I also took some tests from my senior and very helpful friend, Bhanvi. This is a good idea guys. If any of you are taking exams soon or need to prepare for anything really, get someone to give you simple deadlines and take tests of content little by little. It makes you sure that you’re done with that part of your courseload.

The fact that VidCon is on right now and that some of my favourite YouTubers are vlogging it makes me delighted. VidCon is a gathering for anyone who is involved with online videos, making and watching and it is one of the nice things about this world. I love watching vlogs. Much more than mainstream videos in fact because that’s what strikes a chord with me!

When I started my channel, unprepared as I was and with still no editing skills, I just wanted to show the world what I am seeing and experiencing. Sometimes it is not possible for you to get everything that makes you happy. Travel for instance is a dream of many people who currently can’t do it, for their own reasons. So when somebody just shows you the place you want to see in an honest way through the internet, it is just wonderful.

Also, when I went to Japan there were sooooo many photos I wanted to take. But I couldn’t keep my group waiting for me all the time and as you know, I forgot taking pendrives to store those photos on anyway, so I switched to videos. Videos capture every inch of the space you’re loving. Most of the time when you’re doing or experiencing something you can’t believe, a video records it perfectly. It gets the sounds and the colours AS WELL AS your instant ramble of thoughts of how this place has struck you. The first impression or boom feeling as I call it is important for me. I literally start typing what I am feeling on phone, much to my friends displeasure who then have to wait a while to get my attention back. And then you can share that video with the rest of the world, with the rest of your world and they can feel it too.

 

So, watching VidCon and other genuine vlogs makes me destress in a  way. It shows me what I’m aiming for, WHY I am studying if you can understand it that way.

After a long YouTube session, I posted this on my Fb page:

My dear world,

There are a few updates coming up soon. Things I want to share with you. But I guess there is not much point writing about them before they happen because you won’t be able to picture it. I just want to express in short then, how I feel when I do something new which is close to my heart. Whether it be writing on my blog on a topic I’m passionate about, or surf the net which btw really inspires me. There are some things that just make you happy.

And DESPITE it being exam time, I am actually managing to do those things. So, in this very candid post, I’m just telling you… Life is just fine ya know.

Anyway. STORIES LATER! Soon…

I have been dancing to myself, often singing to myself too. I have been looking for someone with a skateboard because I reaaaally dig those and want to learn. I have been eating mangoes left right and centre. Mangoes and lichis are perhaps the best things about Indian summer. Maybe the only good things in fact. I have also been doing some secret stuff. I’m sorry I can’t tell you about that just yet, because there is a selection process and I feel if I tell you and don’t then get selected it will disappoint everybody. So, just cross your fingers and wait yeah? Oh if I DO get selected, you’ll hear about it ENOUGH times because I will be doing an insane amount of publicity. Oh there’s your hint. Wink, wink! It’s that sort of thing that makes a seventeen year old really hopeful.

 

So here I am. Sticky with sweat, two days from my first exam, still got reading to do for it yelp, and not panicking. I am having trouble doing simple things like adding annotations to my videos, those things just aren’t showing but I’m still okay. I’m proud of myself. Trust me, when it gets bad it actually feels miserable. My friends and I drag ourselves to class which then becomes a massive unsaid support group and we go into the exam hall holding on together. We’re not bad at exams, we just want get over with them.

And I’m saying that before the first exams of five have even begun. Go, me!

If you dropped by for a piece of fiction and found this, tell me if this wasn’t like a story. If you liked the little voice of me talking plain and simple, tell me that too. I wonder why you guys don’t use my comment box. More of you have been following me lately, come on talk to me.

Anyway. Thanks everyone. I just feel like I’m actually speaking to anybody who is reading this. This is real for me.

Good night, all the best. Let me know if you have a skateboard!

In The Palace Of Patiala

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The Indian flag soared. Revelry and celebration hadn’t stopped all year, and it
didn’t seem to stop now. Hearts were soaring, memories were smiling, heads
were held high as the massacre was behind them and the sweet scent of
independence hung thick in the air. By now, a government was in place, and such
a government that had the burden of bringing two million people satisfaction
with a common policy, in a common polity. For this, it worked relentless, in dark
and in light, pushing and crooning and sighing with each conquered mass, inching
steadily towards success with each tribe that said yes to Independent India.
Not far from the new capital was the kingdom of lush royalty, the State of Patiala.

The palace swooned over stretches of green pastures, windows cracked open to
let rosy sunlight in, fountains squeaked and burst attempting to touch the clouds.
The maidens admired their chiseled noses in the mirrors as the dasis draped
heavy silk on their shoulders, and the men twirled their moustaches with pride.
The world was impressed with India. In one year, most of the princely states had
succumbed to the power of democracy; covert titles were all that was left of the
royalty. Yet, the Maharaj of Patiala was not celebrating. Today, the man they
called their Prime Minister was coming to steal his land. He would start with
humble requests until he brought the Maharaj down on his knees and forced
negotiation. But the Maharaj was not born yesterday. He had dealt with many a
colonial Viceroys and princesses, and many more Indian kings in far off valleys and
gone on to win their daughters. Today would be just another victory, as had
always been.

The regalia were laid out, as he approached in his purple velvet robes, the smell
of roses fuming. He studied the zari of Benaras, pure gold sewn on his sherwani.
Khaddi silk from the East delicately trapped between diamonds brought all the
way from Britain, were all a small part of his magnificent attire. He had told the
dasis to bring out the finest. Today, the Maharaj had the pride of Patiala on his
mind, almost ready for battle if so required.

Maharaj clapped his hands. An echo raced throughout the palace, and the
servants who waited outside rushed in to turn this mortal into a king. The
sherwani was tied, the jutiyan placed under his feet, endless maroon satin
wrapped over his shoulder and arm. Two men daintily carried a silver tray into the
room, and another two picked the royal turban and set it carefully on the
Maharaj’s head as the sapphires beamed. He put up his hand and they went out
as quickly as they had come. Not a word was spoken, for it was forbidden. The
Maharaj studied his reflection. The Prime Minister shall not win Patiala!

But he was leaving no stone unturned. There was a treasure in the Palace of
Patiala that subdued the fiercest of egos and burnt the envious. It had taken two
years to complete this beauty, in which was enshrined the beauty of Patiala. In its
radiance shined his kingdom’s crop and in its sound the sound of the people’s joy.
The Maharaj walked towards the inner room now, head higher with each step. He
grasped the sordid black box, wondrously gazing at the elegance it had gained
since its occupant. His fingers were steady in this moment of anticipation. Slowly
now, he cracked open the brass lock and twisting the knob, he pulled the lid off.

His eyes ached to see a sparkling sun inside, and he threw the lid away… And
gaped.

It was gone.
A tiger roar shocked all of Patiala, trumpets were blown, and gongs were
sounded, dhols were beaten with urgent strength as soldiers fled into the country.
Catastrophe had struck.

The Patiala necklace had been stolen.

They say it’s time to move on

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Its been two weeks since I returned from Fukuoka. Yes, I still say I went to Fukuoka, instead of saying Japan directly because I really only saw this one city. Did we even see the whole of Fukuoka. We may have, we may not but I’m very pleased with what we did and nothing is going to spoil that.


Two things before I begin: I was toying with the idea of writing this entire post in Kanji but that may not be possible :) Second, if I have to give an orientation programme or write any report about the trip (since it was an education program cum environment conference) I may be quoting extensively from this post. So if you catch me doing it, feel free to pass a wink. I’d be our lil joke!
And yes, this is another long one. Just try scrolling down. Also, the best things to do with long blog posts is to click on the title so that you exit the home page with ALLLL the posts and when you now scroll, you only go down THIS post.


And finally. FUKUOKA.

 

At first I was… Apprehensive (safe word) about the seven hour plus two hour journey because as a kid I didn’t take airtravel well. But talking nicely to the check in attendant pays off people, I got the first row window seat which basically means I had both leg space and a view. Hint: Just generally be nice at the airport if youre not always nice anyway. You never know who will make your journey better.

Well I WAS going to the Land of the Rising Sun, after all
Well I WAS going to the Land of the Rising Sun, after all


A smooth and sleepy ten hours later I was in Fukuoka, having had lunch at the airport which was like a hard foreboding for most of my team. Spices are non existent in Japanese food, and Indians will notice that. Besides that, the city clearly had everything going right. The people were friendly despite neither party understanding the other’s language most of the time. The weather was splendid and that matters more than food to a person like me. I took a gazillion photos and thanks to a DSLR that is possible, and the inherent free and happy vibes of adventure put me in Smile Mode for all eight days.

You all largely know what my schedule was. You might in fact know more about what I did than my mom does, because she wasn’t able to follow the instant updates on Ruchika Online and you could. I’ll fill in the gaps now.

The day we landed, we only had an orientation program on the itinerary. Two very sweet prefecture government officers welcomed us to what may be called, due to the way Fukuoka is written in Kanji, the Happy City. You know- I often wonder about the extent to which I can reveal things on my blog, and I’m going to just say this one out – a lot of girls on my team Liked the officers.

This was the second time I marked NO to a lot of food on our food preference card. At first I though they only asked about octopus for the sake of it, but a few days later while at homestay, I was told that octopus was as common in Japan as ladyfinger in India.

A vegetarian goes to Japan. Go figure.
A vegetarian goes to Japan. Go figure.

What was nowhere in the itinerary but got special time and eventually happened every single day was- SHOPPING. Every body was excited about souvenirs and Action Kamen candy and this chocolate stick the team discovered called ‘Pocky’. I sincerely believe we may collectively have bought all packets of Pocky at the shops in Hakata subway station on the last day. I am not that into shopping so this just meant A LOT of time for me to click photographs. Conclusion: I had to borrow three pen drives (20 GB in all)  to bring all those snapshots back home.

I visited Hakuryo Senior High School where we did small scaled science experiments to show cleanliness of water, made PET bottle microscopes, danced the bhangda, made four new friends one of whom has the craziest photo pose ideas. (Kenji tilted his waist about thirty degrees and put his fingers on his dimples just cause he was bored!)

Then. We went to Kyushu University.

This is my favourite part of the trip. There’s something about having lunch with the students and being shown around the campus with the very awesome Kensho, and then taking him along for our workshop on Organic LED of which I doubt either of us understood much… you had to be there to feel it. Kensho has been the definition of a nice person and photobooth tantics, nonlinguistic jokes and lots of talking later, I have a friend in him. I don’t even know how you describe a person when they’re simple. Complications are easy to notice but happiness, simplicity and genuineness are hard to describe.

Say Hi to Kensho! :)
Say Hi to Kensho! :)

I remember thinking when I filmed for YouTube that night, that if the first day was this buoyant, what should I be expecting from the next six.And what kind of people should I look forward to. Does anybody even get angry here?

The second day, it perked up a step. We traveled a long distance, most of which I spent sleeping since I’m such a nocturnal being. Merin, my friend from my team woke me up when we pulled into Nissan Motor. This is where I missed my friend Harshit a LOT. We all have that one friend who really likes cars, and not because he wants to be an automobile engineer, just because they’re cars. Harshit had once explained the entire manufacturing of a Lamborghini to me for a magazine article, which resulted in a strange thing. I was actually answering queries when we walked the plant. Pictures weren’t allowed or I’d show you the three new cars that even someone as ignorant about cars as me could appreciate.

What is age. No, really. Look at that smile!
What is age. No, really. Look at that smile!

From there, we took the scenic route to Kyushu Environmental Museum. The Japanese countryside has beautiful traditional houses with trimmed gardens and for a country low on space, even with their reclaimed land and cabin accommodation, the place was Huge. The museum may in fact be at the core of our environment education trip. If Japan could go from fatal pollution levels and rainbow smoke in the 1960s to being one of the most livable countries on the planet, India needs to step up its game. And India can. We also did a lot of impressive craft work with 80+ year olds. This was best out of waste minus the cliche. And lastly, we walked through an ECo House, made of volcanic ash that could potentially save 60% energy consumption. I should also mention, 23 tired students dropped by a waste management plant on our way back to beds and showers at the hotel, and ALL of us had first mistaken the structure to be a park or something alike. Where’s the dirt, Fukuoka, spill already.

The next day was tight. Literally, my skirt had some problems fitting over the stockings at first. We were in school uniforms or formals, dressed to present Delhi Eco Club to the vice Governor of Fukuoka Prefecture. Our two friendly officers had arranged to take us from lunch to the offices for showtime. But before any of that, we were to be exposed to more privileges of the kind we had been exploiting like kings and queens so far. We… got to see… NOH theatre. Performed by men in archaic Japanese, on a special stage not to be ruined by hand oils, with negligible props and simple lighting is Noh and its comic counterpart is Kyogan- all of which was shown and taught in part to us by professional artists. I have strong feelings of respect for those artists we met that day, mostly because while treasuring this art form dearly, they could laugh with a bunch of curious teenagers who had just been shown something they just didn’t understand and found ridiculous.

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And lastly, for the next three days we were put into HomeStay. I’ve already written about that in detail before. I didn’t report the Farewell though. There might be a reason that exchange students before us went insanely excited to tell us about this leg of the programme. Homestay doesn’t just put a kid into a completely new environment to adapt and work within. It also not only shows us the culture of the place for what it truly is. The best part about HomeStay for me was that I entered Techan’s house under the instruction of calling it Home, and left it with the self inclination to. Techan gave a lovely toast at the farewell, where he continued to tease his batch about the late hours and the dancing and the food and ice cream we hogged. I got to try on a Kimono courtesy of another homestay family. I gave the Farewell speech and am glad that it made everyone laugh.

 

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The official work of constructing action plans and giving presentations may not interest you so much. On the day before last, we visited the Dazaifu shrine and painted wooden blocks shaped like bull finches and I DANCED ON THE STREETS on my final night in Fukuoka, in the rain. (Although Dex, the DSLR had to be protected under an umbrella!)

The team went mad that night. We were partying on two floors, eating out of packets in whichever room we were, packing our stuff, I helped pack others’, taking showers and clicking pictures.

The next day it was just airplanes and airports. The entire team slept through the first two hour flight because we had stayed up the entire night. In fact, I do not even recall feeling the plane take off OR land and was only woken up at Tokyo by a radiant cabin attendant who didn’t mind my sleepy drooly self.  And then we went through a LONG customs check. Like an idiot I took the three remaining ready to eat packets in my hand baggage. Those got taken out at customs. Guess what else I had in my hand bag? A pair of scissors. Great packing, Ruchi. -_- At the airport, I had some yen unspent and my mom literally instructed me to spend it. So I went around the shops and of course, the food shops and one of the things I bought is this little thing here. Its completely adorable and the sword is a real piece attached behind it!

Just look at it!
Just look at it!

We landed fine. We said smiling goodbyes and went away with our families. It was really hot in Delhi and has continued to be so since. I’ve been reminded what power cuts are. There are many clear differences in where I was and where I am now. My mom is extremely happy I went on this trip because she says now I know what to aim for. (We consider me going out of India for college..)

And lastly, the title of this post. Fukuoka has been great and I will always look dreamily at my photos from there. But I may need to now get down to hard core reading for upcoming exams, adapt back to the heat and the very different culture of Delhi. In fact, one of my friends even told me, not so subtly, that I should stop comparing as it could get irritating for those listening.

So here I am. Writing the Final Word on Fukuoka, two weeks after I wrote the First Word on it… and I smile, filled with dreams of that last night I spent in the hotel lobby with a dear friend, looking out of the window and sighing and laughing. I knew it then, and I remember it now: I will never forget the place, the people or my feelings, and I will go back one day, running into the city’s heart.

Host Father is rocking!

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I know day 2 and 3 are pending and you all still haven’t met the awesome Kensho, but YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE FAMILY I AM STAYING WITH STARTING TODAY. I did experience the highly priviledged and secretive Noh theatre which is supposed to be one rare art now, I did visit the government today which had an energy of its own, but hear hear about the family exchange first!!Three of us students were collected by our host father (term: Otosa, although he insists we call him by his nickname, Techan) He doesn’t know much English, and his wife knows barely any, but we seem to communicate somehow through our broken pronunciation of Japanese from our guide book, and his experience with exchange students before us. For security and absolute emergency we do have a bright orange cell phone to connect us to our coordinators, but that is just lying around as for now. Techan stopped multiple times en route to his house to show us things we usually see in a romantic Hollywood flick. Those sunsets are real, people… As is everything else in them picture perfect landscapes. This family owns a millery, so he could tell us quite a bit about the countryside agriculture and water work, which was actually quite interesting despite what you know about crops and farms. He showed us a “beautiful river” which frankly we didn’t need to be told because our eyes were glued to the sparkling water out of our windows anyway. Then he told us how a dam worked in moving this water and though we couldn’t see the dam, we saw two lanes of river water flowing in opposite directions, exactly like the controlled road traffic of Fukuoka. We aren’t in Fukuoka by the way, this is another town whose name I forget. If our conversation was better I could confirm if the Japanese really have tamed the water too. I would day order from chaos (Orbo da chaos) except its hard to imagine Japan in chaos!Techan showed us model water wheels, then real water wheels and also the water they transported to the wheat fields on the opposite side of the road. Everything just there before us, no fence, no segregation of road and farm, just comfortable coexistence. He explained everything about anything we saw, buildings, boards, people, just about anything and carried his words just fine despite speaking English like a two year old would. Which is hardly any. He showed us the third highest mountain in Japan, which apparently we are going to try and climb tomorrow morning. He asked about Hindi music which we have since sung far too many times because it went perfectly with the atmosphere, showed us 7-11 which I thought meant seven days, eleven months but its just 7am to 11pm, which also is now just a name and it is open 24 hours. All through, by the way, the drive was fast, maybe 80 kmph and we were literally gliding along with all the other cars through a perfect transport network. Who needs a sports car when an average car in Japan is a sailboat on melted butter. Before we came to the house, Techan showed us the two schools we will be visiting tomorrow, quite literally as schoolchildren attending that school for a day, and both of them are one block and a turn away on either side. No other student from my group has been placed that close, and I have every intention of walking down to school tomorrow. I then unknot all my fingers, sighing with wonder as the I see the house. Traditional. Japanese. Wood and bamboo and mud and tatai mat. Filled with all sorts of little treasures and colourful trinkets and woaaaah the technology, wait for the next paragraph and I just had to peel myself off the threshhold where two dozen hats hung. Technology. I doubt they even feel it is technology, it is so common for them. The MAT corridors have pressure and temperature sensors so the light comes on the moment I step on it. Doors are half the thickness of an usual door, but still have three layers to it, middle one being a mesh to keep insects out. Everything is warm honey wood and creme mat. Which reminds me of the eco house we visited recently, made of volcanic ash. They have the latest gadgets, and ALL of them in fact, but thats not what I mean when I saw technology. You and I have already talked about toilets abs bathrooms before. So listen to this. I step in front of the seat, the lid goes up, the sensor detects me and lights go on. Seat is heated, which frankly is so relaxing that it kinda makes you WANT to go to the loo a few times in the day. Yeah, I just said that. After that, you just sit and do your business and push a few buttons to get cleaned up and then step right off like into non-smelly air. It really is impressive. The Japanese bathing is different from usual. First there is a room where you keep your clothes and dress. Then there’s an area with a lot of controls and a full length mirror, and waterproof mat which tilts ever so slightly into a drain. Then, the masterpiece, the tub. The tub you do NOT bathe in. I’ll explain. So you use all those pretty controls to adjust heat and amount and outlet of water and then bathe standing besides the tub, on the mat, using either a handheld shower or a plastic basket. Somehow the idea of bathing in front of a full length mirror made me laugh. Soap, sud and wash. Now that you’re ready to leave and dress, don’t. Now step into the tub, which is filled with water at 41 degree Celsius and is used by many people without draining. Also, scented and sprinkled with blue sea salts. Kings, I tell you, the Japanese are all kings and queens! The Japanese frigging take sauna twice a day! No wonder they are all so relaxed and kind and have great skin and just so calm. And this is not even luxury. Its common as a chair, because every family has this. And just so you know… I’m in a village right now. A village. Indians… Impressed yet?Sauna took a minute to get used to but once in, I never wanted to come out. Its different from taking a dip in a tub, and hard to explain how different. Just twiddle your toes in the water, let it ride on your cheeks and in one single dip, you and your feet will come out with baby soft pink skin. I did. So far I have only told you about the non interaction part. There’s so much more to tell! After we were blown by the beauty of this.. This dream house! (I will try my best to show you in a video) AND we were told that WiFi was available AND we had seen where we would be sleeping like Shinchan, we sat for dinner. They asked us if we eat chicken, and I told them I’m vegetarian. Next thing I know, Techan is returning (when did he leave?) with groceries…. For me. We nodded vehemently against eating octopus, which apparently is salt-common in that area, and that uncommon in India. Another student told them I ate eggs (I hadn’t for years) so they bought some for me, which I learned to way hardboiled and actually liked okay. We ate soyabeans with seaweed.. Obviously seaweed was really new. Then a rice filled soya roll. Also, it seems Indian lassi is real famous in Japan. French cheese. Salads. Stirred vegetables (for me). Two hard oiled eggs (for me). Chicken pieces probably from KFC (for the others). Potato stir. Sweet potato dry sticks. And finally… Ice cream like I have never had before. Cookie crumble too. They overfeed us everywhere. I wonder how they are mostly all slim in that case. We try chopsticks every place we go to but revert to forks and spoons for many things. We had to flit through our guidebook many times to say we will cook Indian food for lunch tomorrow, that we didn’t need to shop, and that we had never had Japanese noodles. Also, we were waiting for WiFi password and had mentioned it so many times in our Hindi protected speech that we gave it an alias- chuchu, to refrain from embarrassing them or ourselves. Sometime in between Techan asked us what we usually eat, seeing that even the famous wasabi was new to us, and on mention of Italian, he announced two minutes later that there’s pizza for breakfast tomorrow. We. Were stumped. 7.45 we went to see hataru. There are apparently stretches and stretches of land where the newborns gather every night over very clean water. I could not get a picture and did not have time to worry about that, because people… Hataru, are fireflies. Fireflies which I held and played with a few hours ago. My hands feel like they touched gold dust. We walked through fields and houses and across an onion and potato field, saw firemen prepare for an upcoming contest in two days, and finally to a place with more fireflies flirting over the water besides the road. The people of that area had hung jack o lanterns on a bamboo branch, only these weren’t scary but carved with summer and spring imagery, decorated with flowers underneath and scented.. Somehow!By the lanterns we met three other students who.. Umm.. Hugged and greeted us and started yelling in delight, completely obliterating the fact that we met them two hours ago. They heard about our mountain climbing plan and got their family to agree to let them go too, shared their experience so far, got extremely jealous about WiFi and hugged us again before we left. So apparently the place Techan had parked in front of is his second home.. And his sister and niece found us at the door. We went in, and found out that the niece is a pianist and the sister sings and reached art to secondary school students. They were familiar with exchange students because Techan has had Vietnamese people stay before, but we were the first Indians. The same indoors, except space that looked like it was prepared for a gathering that might be for the hatura concert (firefly concert) shr is hosting very soon. We sang, they sang, we left with a lot of sayonaras and waves and stopped. In 7-11. Techan wanted us to buy two bottles of our preferred liquids each, one for the mountain climb, and the other for the school visit. And it seemed that we won a Starbucks style coffee when we paid for it. Woaaah, right!Sigh. There’s a lot that cannot be said in words, so I will try for the video with no assurance when i can upload it. For the rest, keep checking updates on Facebook. Sayonara, world! My shinchan bed invites me

The Written Word on Fukuoka

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As I write this blog in my now dark hotel room (it’s so late it’s early), the screen of this borrowed laptop is glaring at me and Maggi Cuppa noodles are steaming a distance away, while both my phone and the camera battery number two are being charged, occupying both adaptors and sockets on the desk. The air conditioning is cold enough for me to pull on my extra sweatshirt, which mom packed with foresight. (Apparently, she’s been right about most of the packing, including the coffee and the ready-to-eat food, but NOT about the mathris she secretly slipped in my check in baggage. Yes mom, I found them.)

I already vlogged on YouTube today and yesterday, as well as gave you lots of pictures and updates on Facebook  but this was pending. A blog post, our style. This might be a bit long, for I have two days to cover and a new world to explain.

T3 is India’s perfectly jazzy international terminal which I knew how to work because I flew to my aunt’s from there before. Narita International Airport at Tokyo was even better. We even walked through a Quarantine area where nothing happened so I’m wondering if the Japanese secretly pumped something in the air around me. Many of the checks were new to me, like Customs and though the attendants didn’t speak English, they smiled and worked with efficient grace. From there, a domestic flight to Haneda airport clarified all the difference between an international and domestic flight for me! From service to smell, everything changed.

The Japanese have cutting clean, metal and bright light airports. In fact, all their public services are like that. We had lunch at the airport, a Japanese dish called Tempura (lots of rice coating!) which simply didn’t sit well with 22 hungry Indian teenagers. I liked the experience but I needed some calories soon after. In the basement of the airport itself, we caught the subway, with the cutest little train tickets and went to Hanada, the main station of the city. I am sure you have something to compare it with, every metro has one. For Delhiites this would be Rajiv Chowk.

We took the subway to Gion which happened to have a hilarious bill bkard. I will show you pictures in a different post because as I said, there’s only so much I can do from a borrowed device. Nakata san and Yanase san are our coordinators from Japan, and I wonder if all japanese people are as kind as them.

They say all buildings, includings hotels and visiting areas are earthquake proof. So if an earthquake is part of our experience on this trip, we are advised to stay inside because that is safer.  Technology for the Japs is a easy luxury, and I can see that every where I go. Yet, they don’t take it for granted and would rather cycle around the city than drive. I have seen far more cycles in two days than I would see in delhi for a month. There are cycle stands everywhere. There is a chain along staircases to take bicycles on to the road. In fact, traffic sense is very impressive in the city. Pedestrian traffic lights are actyally used. If the road is empty, people still stop for the red signal.  What I assumed for cars packed along the road turbed out to be people waiting for the lights to change and keeping in their lane.

People look like the stepped right out of a magazine. On the rare occasion that someone looks old, they are so fit and maintained that age actually becomes a number, and nothing more. The women are stylish, and visibly comfortable.  The sex ratio of this place must be pretty balanced because I have never seen so many females on the streets. Also, whoever brought the concept of uncomfortable heels to india gets mental punches from me very time I see a woman in heels. However high they may be, the shoes are sensible and pretty darn efficient. Everyone is in shades of subdued Blues and Blacks and formals, even a man we saw picking a cigarrete butt on the street and looking for non existent dirt, even men on cycles.

On the 27th, we went to Fukuoka International Student Centre for an orientation program. The JICE coordinators were and have been perfecty happy to explain everything a billion times to all of us, about japan, about the schedule, about things we might find new and things we needed to remember.

For example,toilet training. We were told to SIT on the toilet seat when we pressed the spray or bidet because if we didnt we would simply get sprayed in the face with that water. important information,  hey.

The prefecture representatives introduces us to the Happy City, a welcome much more honest and warm than your usual bureaucratic speech. The two men have since been meeting us at all our visit venues and talk to us and click pictures with and for us as if they are as responsible for us as our coordinators.

Maps and sos cards and IDs and an established compatibility later, we checked in to our hotel, owned our rooms and spread out to stretch our the jet lag. I didnt have any so I clicked pictures of course. Pictures that you shall have to wait for, I am afraid. Posts and updates depend a lot on when and how I get wifi and cables and pcs.

For dinner, we have been promised indian food. But everything indian is just indian on the surface and sweet or bland, which is nothing to mind, but some of us are already dreaming about the ready to eat and packed foods in our bags.

I have to cut in now to say bye, for the laptops are to be circulatedat this uungodly hour, nocturnal creatures that we are. I revert to the traditional pen and paper to write the other blogs to sow you asap.

Technology, stay with me. This trip is fun and so filled I am takinglots of time to publish posts. Notes are all over the place and I am wondering where coffee ready mix is, so this is sayonara for now.

Japan is to love. In one day already.

Little Tea Party

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Dylan Thomas once said, “I hold a beast, an angel and a madman in me.” Perhaps that was one bright epiphany for him, perhaps the observation of general human tendencies, but it couldn’t have been more true for Anouk even if it had been tailored for her, with a dozen words to spare.

Her beast, her angel and her madman were having a tea party today, each flashing its grin in turn, peeping in and out on her face like children through a curtain. Angel, please let me have angel today, Anouk had listless hope. No longer bundling energy enough to beg, all she could do was hope, knowing only too well that on usual days, she would either hurt someone or get hurt herself. Seldom was she gifted a completely happy day with a bright blue ribbon, and all she could do was hope today was one.

The inner angel spread her wings and beamed, softly silver in Anouk’s eyes as she thrust herself out of bed. Plans for today were deliberately enthusiastic, to cut into a long week of sorrowful routine. She was going to meet a friend, in exactly twenty minutes. On any other day, twenty minutes would have been too less. To bathe, dress and accessorize, a girl needs time. Today this girl had much different circumstances and twenty was enough time to slip into the skirt and blouse, the only skirt and blouse she hadn’t packed.

Good point #1- Upcoming trip to Japan. Surely she could trap her beast in with that, pacifying it that all was well.

Sighing, she picked her threadbare bag, threw in her charger and almost dried phone, some money to get back and a sheet of paper to write the apology she owed her boyfriend.

Bad point #1- She had hurt him.

The beast stirred and the madman’s ears pricked, each possibly wondering whose release this really was. The beast sensed there was probably her own pain involved, and sulked back in his seat, while the madman’s eyes danced like a disco light in a New Year’s party. Without him, she was a lost child with fear brimming in the corners of her eyes. This was the madman’s playground.

The plan, concentrate on the happy plan, Anouk chastised herself and ran down the road, hailing a rickshaw to her friend’s place in less time than she had allowed herself. She had half the day to chill with her friend, and the only real planned thing: trying a variant of lentils for lunch. Then she had her beloved gran coming over to help her pack for Japan. And in between that, she had to finish the apology to win back normal conversation with the man she loved. That was a two to one ratio, in favour of the angel. Hope seemed to be working just fine, for now.

Good thing #2- It was windy and her cheeks flushed with the gale.

The angel spread her wings, the beast cringed.

Bad thing #2- An idiot drove through water spilled on the street, and splashed her legs with a dozen mucky droplets.

The angel folded the wings back in, the madman squealed.

“Anouk!” Mira hugged her at the door, and Anouk visibly freshened. Bonus points for angel, who stretched her arms and flew a few feet above the tea party table. “Mira…” Anouk hugged her back, tight and sincere. It took them two minutes to cover for a month of absence, as each had been busy with their own brand of torture. Together they were only youth and giggles, rolled into hours and hours of effortless company. Quickly, Anouk forgot the injustice of the past week, being framed for something she didn’t do, being humiliated for doing nothing wrong. She deleted the words that ached in her mind, said by her father, said by her teacher, words that were pure hatred and tyranny, words she didn’t deserve but then we are seldom treated how we deserve to be. She purposefully kicked out feeling like a limp puppet, when she realised her parents had gone to her school to defend her but had been far too polite, as decent folk tend to be, far too polite to have gotten due attention. All this was another story, puzzling to an onlooker, possibly puzzling to Mira too. But it was Anouk’s troubled truth. And slowly, it was fading, Bad Points of the past being shot out with a bow the angel had gotten hold of. Oh she was magnificent, gliding over the beast’s scrowls.

“Anouk?” Mira asked, concern visible in her eyes.

“It’s fine. It’s ok now.”

Mira nodded with silent understanding, years of practice coming in play. And in that brief loving gesture, Anouk was suddenly empowered. She straightened her back, two inches taller, and called order to the gathering. The tea party came to an abrupt halt as those present nodded in resignation to the boss, Her. Yes, you listen to me now, she put her hand down on the table, as tea cups and sugar cubes vanished and the party was over. Listen.

The seething pain of her school incident still kindled a fire in her heart, but she had largely accepted that she needed to give it time. Next on the list was her father, a man whose day seemed to start and end with how much trouble he could brew for his unsuspecting family, and her in particular for she was the fiesty one of the lot. Standing next to Mira, for a moment she thought how worthless his attempts would be if she could only just fly away into her future, far far away from him. The angel sat up at the possibility of escape and safety, until the madman winked: What about her sister. Or her mother. So she needed to root it our, not cut the trunk. Very well, and Anouk wondered idly if the beast could help with that. Quickly she reprimanded herself, she was much better than to answer bitterness with more bitterness. She was Anouk, powerful and strong. Anouk, who had willed her life and earned a trip to Japan. A free trip, she thanked her stars. She was Anouk, loved by a man whose mere existence in her life was enough for her to take on her father and all his brutality.

 

Her boyfriend… those present perked to attention as the next agenda flitted into discussion. It was hard for either of them to understand whose arena this really was. Being a matter of love, the angel felt a certain possessiveness. Being interspersed with pain, the madman wanted in. The beast, frankly, was willing to attack just about anything that involved negativity, and there’s plenty negativity in wounded hearts.

It had all been a misunderstanding. She had been talking normally, conversing about his day, and hers. Then he had started getting cryptic again, laconic with his answers and shutting her out, and she became a helpless child again. She tried to pull him back in, saying he really couldn’t do this, he needed to tell her! But the words she chose were wrong, and he felt like she disrespected him. How much further from the truth could that be. Disrespect him?! Her love, her strength, her faith! But her words were wrong, and she had to pay.

And that she was willing to do. You see, perceptions of right and wrong fail when it comes to love. That’s what drives poets mad. That’s what makes men promise the moon and beyond. That’s what puzzles the angel, the beast and the madman and frankly, that’s the only thing worth hurting for.

Anouk smiled a dazzled smile.

Bad point #numberunknown- She had come to no conclusion.

Good point #numberunimportant- She was master of the three voices of her soul.

Bad point stressed- She really had no plan of action, nothing to DO, nothing decided, definite.

Good point stressed doubly- Yes, she had no solution. But she had clarity, and strength. A friend and her time, and new food to try. She had a paper to write an apology on, with a light heart and unbridled love. She had a trip to pack for, and her gran to help. She had him, her boyfriend, always and always by her side, being the very word of ecstasy and the embodiment of something deeper than love. She had no solutions!  And right now, she really didn’t care for one.

A new woman with glittering eyes walked into the house, a deserted tea party fading in the back of her mind, cold.