Category Archives: March 2012

A Calmer You: I am in love with Board Exams

Stand up. Don’t think just stand up. Walk up to the nearest mirror. Look at the face that stares back at you. Does he or she seem like a dimwit moron? No? Then, why does life treat you like one, yaar? Note: All the lazy ones who have now sat down in the washroom to continue reading the paper among, err… other activities, have lost the right to answer this question.

Competition, they say, is one of the foundations on which human race thrives. We need to compete with each other to bring out the best in us, and grow in life. Fair enough. But that sounds like a good, happy reason, while the manifestation of competition in our lives is such that it brings bucketloads of stress and tension from an early age. Ab mujhe hi dekh lo. At such a young age (ha!), I’ve been buried under this stress that my column constantly needs to compete with others, and to prove its worth, it has to focus on — no, not what I want to write about— but topical issues, like board exams, and that too in a ‘positive’ light. Arrey bhaad mein gaye board exams. They used to give me grief several years back, and they are giving me grief even now.

a calmer you column in board exams ki tou calmness tips fight stress

Just realising that my brief is to talk about things in a positive light, I must add that despite the minor irritants of depression, nervous breakdown etc, board exams are indeed a great way to judge our capabilities in life. So much so that human race may just cease to evolve and grow if we didn’t have them.

[stextbox id=”info”]Calmness Tips To Fight the Stress of Board Examinations[/stextbox]

In fact, I demand that we have board exams every five years in our lives, till we turn 65, after which they could be held every two years, because, you know, life expectancy etc. Why should the pleasure of this life changing concept be restricted to the 17-year-old brats who don’t even value its worth and insult its inherent goodness by endlessly calling helplines to seek psychological counselling. Morons. Here, let me give you psychological counselling.

Do this.
1. Go up to three people you admire in life and ask…. Oye, I don’t mean ‘admire’ in that sense, you idiot. It’s not the Valentine’s Day column, we are talking serious stuff here. You actually deserve to give boards every year. Okay, coming back to the point I was trying to make. Go up to three people you admire and idolize. Could be your parents. Should be your parents.

Ask them to rattle off their subject wise marks in board exams. They wouldn’t know. Some of them may boast of an aggregate percentage etc, in which case you have my sympathies. This is just to tell you a simple fact. To become such a person in life that someone would admire, idolize and might want to emulate — you don’t necessarily need a mark sheet with A1 written in the column on the right.

You just need to be good at who you are. Yes, that A1 helps, it gets you further when it comes to admissions etc and I’m not denying its importance. I’m just denying its status as sole criterion to judge your worth in life. Itna toh banta hai.

2. Stop making a monster out of a simple thing: You have been put through examinations ever since you took admission in school and still used to pee your pants. So what’s so big and bothersome about board exams? It’s just that the question paper has been set centrally and that you have to go to a school other than yours to take them. Achha hai. In your own school, your reputation precedes you. So even if you’ve been behaving the way readers of this column are known to behave in public life, the invigilator at the examination center won’t know and would treat you with respect.

Isn’t that great? And as far as the question paper is concerned, the fact that it’s meant for a wide range of students with varying intelligence levels actually makes it comparatively easier to tackle, as compared to the one being set by a teacher who knows the strengths and weaknesses of the class she’s taught through the year. Think positive.

3. Promise me — whether you are taking board exams or are 58 years old — that you’ll see forward in life and not crib about whatever’s already done and over with. Which means that I strictly forbid you from minutely dissecting the question paper once you’ve given that exam… and trying to compare how you’ve done vis a vis that drama queen in the class who has a crush on the same guy as you.

You know, when God was making the human body, everything was decided after a lot of thought. There’s a reason why we have eyes and hands in the front, and they can’t revolve 180 degrees to turn backwards. Because God always intended us to look ahead. So the physics paper sucked? Well, for once, physics is now history! What’s done is done. Deal with the devils when they confront you, not the ones that reside in your imagination. Based on the marks you ultimately get, sit in peace and figure out options for your future course of action. Trust me, there are plenty of them, for all kinds of results.

Finally, an ode to the creators of the board exams.

Sir, ma’am
— you’ve been great thinkers. We wouldn’t have figured out a way to evolve, had you not come up with this beautiful, well justified, thoroughly proper system, of judging what course a 17-year-old’s life should take. It’s vital to channelise them in this age itself. They wouldn’t have known what to pursue in life, and would have wasted time trying out new things. At least these marks don’t leave them with much choice, hence avoiding confusion.

And of course, competition thrives a society. So in order to identify the stronger ones among us, it’s important that those who are weak at grasping the nuances of certain subjects be handed over a documented proof that they are losers. They should take it in their stride. And surely, you’ve ensured that there are enough helplines for psychological guidance.

Please, do consider my suggestion that we all take board exams through our lives. It’ll be healthy. A humble thank you from me and the 17-year-olds.


Sonal Kalra is fondly remembering her board exam days. Mom would make coffee all night, dad would cancel official tours. The whole family was united in tension. Is yours too?

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Introducing the Time-Wasters Association of India

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Aur Kya? Jaan le rakhi hai. Mom told me early on that some people are gifted. They can talk well. I’ve now come across a breed of gifted ones who can really talk… well… nonstop. Today happens to be the day that I was born on, just a few years ago. I’m desperately trying to meet the deadline of filing this column so that I can dutifully enjoy as so many birthday wishes are asking me to. But would some people let that happen? No way.

Introducing the Time-Wasters Association of India - Time management tips

[stextbox id=”info”]Time Management Tips – How to Avoid Time Wastage and Time-Wasters[/stextbox]

A God’s-gift-to-humanity from the neighbourhood just dropped in as he had decided to say hi. The monologue lasted 74 minutes, there was no mention of ‘hi’ in it and it has now made me miss my deadline, with the offender giving a damn about it. Sia, a regular reader of this column and a student of class 12, once wrote to me about this classmate of hers, who would first finish studying for the next day’s exam and then call up other classmates to chat with them, thus wasting their precious time. You know what, let’s take a pledge that henceforth we won’t let them. Yes, you heard me right. Time is precious. Don’t let anyone waste yours. Here’s what to do.

1 Recognise the time offenders in your life:

I have my neighbour Mr Chaddha doing the honours in my life, surely you would know of those around you who believe that the tongue shrinks if not used all the time. Learn to recognise such people and follow this single point strategy – AVOID. However, sometimes the time offenders in your life happen to be such people who you can’t avoid for some reason — a colleague who sits right next to you and loves to gossip, a close relative who rings you and forgets that the phone call has to end at some point or even your best friend who drops unannounced and doesn’t take hints that you are busy. Specially for such cases, scientists have invented technological marvels, like the earphones, or psychological weapons, like lying.

Yes, I’m telling you to lie, only if it’s unavoidable. If anyone ever calls or drops in unannounced when you’re busy with something important and asks if you have a moment, either have the courage to tell the truth and say you are tied up, or say you were about to leave for somewhere. Your body language makes all the difference. If someone who you are damn sure will take away your next precious next hour, drops in, just stand and talk to them. If you are standing yourself, the other person is unlikely to park their tashreef ka tokra at your place forever. Try it.

2 Learn to switch off the phone and close the door:

These two acts can save your life, and many, many valuable hours that comprise it. We somehow live under the wrong impression that whenever a phone rings, it has to be picked up. Let me ask you – who pays the bill of your phone, you or the caller? If it’s you, it’s damn well your prerogative to decide when you can talk and when you can’t. If there’s something critical that you are doing — whether it is finishing the syllabus for the exam or sending that important mail you’ve been keeping pending for long, always put the phone on silent mode and close the door. At least, some people would get the message that you don’t wish to be disturbed. You can always call people back later, rather you should, but having finished your work well in time will make you feel really good about yourself.

3 Cut to the chase:

Tell people that you don’t like the fact that they don’t respect your time. We in India do not believe in saying things upfront, because we are always bothered that being straightforward may hurt or offend the other person. It’s a culture thing, but nowhere is it written in stone that you have to take s**t from everyone. Try telling the time-waster politely that you have something important to do, and that you can’t entertain them right now.

If they feel bad, it’s their problem. In all likelihood they won’t. People appreciate honesty; we are just too scared to use it. The golden rule, for avoiding time-wasters and even generally in life, is – Don’t say YES – to everyone, all the time. As long as you are convinced in your head that you have not done an unethical or unfair thing by declining something or someone, you are all good. It’s much better to say what you’re feeling and getting over with it, than silently cursing someone and wasting a lot of your time and energy in the process.

Finally, I have just one thing to add. Everyone reading this column would like to think of themselves as the victim and someone else as the offender. But deep inside, you would know if you in fact, are a time-waster for someone else. Realise it if you are, and try to change. No one likes to hang out with people who have no respect for time. You surely don’t want to be someone who others are working hard to avoid. Basic courtesies like messaging someone before you go to them and checking if they are free, or sometimes noticing the instrument on the wall that we all call a clock doesn’t hurt. Someone somewhere will only thank you for it. If you still don’t agree, come to Siberia. I’m anyway taking Chaddha ji there.

Sonal Kalra has already missed 29 birthday-wish calls in a hurry to file this column. Would Chaddha ji ever makeup for the blessings she lost?

Have we really understood men?

If you think raising a voice for women means raising a voice against all men, you may have lost the plot already

Sorry, this week’s column is not going to make you laugh. It might make you think, which is also not a bad thing, if done in moderation. As tough as it is for me personally, to remain serious for long, there is surely something that snaps inside when I read about nightmares such as the one that befell the 23-year-old pub worker in Gurgaon last week. You know, all along while growing up, we are told that it’s unsafe for girls to go out alone at night. Or that it’s risky to venture out walking on the streets beyond a certain time.

have we understood real men women safety a calmer you column

I remember, on occasions when I would need to take an auto rickshaw, mom would ask me, or whoever was seeing me off, to note or remember the number of the auto, till I safely reached home. Doing just that, seemed to instil a promise of safety in our minds.

This girl, who was returning back from work late at night because her shift demanded so, not only was inside a properly registered and verified radio taxi, but also had her own brother escorting her home, when she was forcibly dragged out of the cab by seven men and eventually gang raped. An incident like this, which is not the worst you would’ve heard of in India, sometimes turns all your beliefs about safety upside down. But, contrary to what you may be thinking by now, today’s column is not about women safety.

The morning after the newspapers splashed the story of this unfortunate incident, there were angry voices all over Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere.

`Indian men are bastards’. `We are a depraved society, castrate them’ -were just some of the points being made, in different forms or phrases. This reminded me of a letter I’d got from a young guy, Saurabh (would want to withhold his last name) several months back. He sounded severely anguished over an incident where a bunch of men were passing lewd comments and harassing a girl in front of his eyes. `I felt sick to the core. At that moment, I just couldn’t figure out what I should have done. Confront them and get into a physical fight, when they were many and I was alone?
Thankfully they didn’t touch the girl and she left the scene safely but I’ve not been able to sleep peacefully ever since. I feel ashamed and guilty, even though it wasn’t my fault,’ he wrote.

Reading Saurabh’s letter made me realise that his agony of having been a helpless witness to something like this would have easily got drowned in the sympathy I, or anyone, would feel for what that girl had to go through. Many of you may even say that he should have immediately done something, call the cops, fought with the guys singlehandedly, to prove that he’s a real man. Because it’s always easy to `say’ things in life, what’s tough is to be in situations and handle them.

Anyway, the point that I’m making is this, while there are millions of girls in our country who grow up facing harassment of some kind at the hands of rogue men who think this is a way of exercising their power, there are millions of men in our country who feel equally disgusted and repulsed by such acts, and also suffer from the additional burden of hearing angry comments when it comes to `generalised male bashing’.

I’m not likely to find many supporters for my theory, considering it’s almost always cases of women that get sexually harassed by men come to the light, but let’s face the reality. On hearing about a rape case or any such incident of harassment, although a woman’s reaction may be more empathetic considering they can imagine what the victim may have gone through, I can bet on the fact that an equal number of men and women also end up saying things like `she shouldn’t have dressed this way.’ `If a girl would go dancing late night in a club, what else does she expect’.

Because, my dear, my theory says that a distorted mind-set has no correlation with the gender.
Your mom may be equally vehement in telling you not to wear a certain dress to college, than your dad. Sometimes even more than your dad. Our women chief ministers of several states in the past have made public statements condemning a rape victim’s lifestyle, statements that earned them the wrath of the activist kinds. But they were only saying what a whole lot of unknown, common women say every day to their daughters.
There is cancer in our very mindset for several generations, some patients get noticed, some don’t.

I realise I may have been blabbering through this column, so here are the quick points I want to make 1 To the women: Not all men are lechers or rapists, and you also know that. So let’s stop taking the easy route of generalised male bashing. If only we would care to notice, most men around you are as repulsed as you are, of the heinous crimes against women. And sadly, as helpless. THAT needs to change, for both of you.

2 To the men: For the sheer fact that it happens to be members of your fraternity that mostly commit these crimes, the onus is all the more on you to bring about a real change. If all that you’ve been doing after reading news about these incidents is shaking your head in sadness, making a few remarks about what our society has come down to, and then supporting your wife in not sending your daughter to that party with friends, you are doing more damage than you think.
Think about it.

The biggest criticism I’m likely to face after this week’s column i that all that I’ve said is also mere lip service. How will just saying something bring about a real change? How will this ever stop a girl from being sexually harassed on a secluded road at night. Well, let’s make a villain out of the lips only if spoken words are not followed by constructive action o a definitive change in the mind-set. In our own small way, my team and I are hoping to bring about that, and you’ll get to see that happen in the coming weeks on Spoken words are just the beginning, change has to start somewhere.

Sonal Kalra would wait to hear from you on who you think make the `Real Men’.