Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Grand Sophy

The Women's Web has a writing contest: the Favourite Fictional Female contest. What do you have to do? Just pick a female character from a novel that you would like/admire/appreciate, write about her in less than 500 words, and submit your entry to the Women's Web. Visit their website for more information. My entry for this contest is below:

I’ve always had immense respect for people who can fly in the face of convention and societal expectations to do what they want to and what they think is right. Sophy, from the book the Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer, is a character who does exactly that. The book is a romance set during the period of English Regency. Women in this time did not have much freedom. Society was governed by strict rules of behaviour: sports such as driving and shooting were considered extremely unsuitable for women; single women could not entertain men without a chaperone; it was unheard-of for a woman to remain unmarried past the age of 21; flirting was one of the cardinal sins for a woman.

In such a society, Sophy is a breath of fresh air. She was brought up by her eccentric diplomat father who taught her to look out for herself instead of depending on a man for protection. Sophy learned to become an excellent shot and to “drive to an inch”, sometimes making her the talk of the town.

The independence and strength of mind that I love in Sophy is obvious throughout the book. When she’s left in London with her aunt while her father travels to Brazil, she proceeds to take the entire family in hand to solve their problems. She formulates a plan that is as scandalous as it is innovative to make one of her cousins recognise that the man she loves for who he really is; she goes to a villainous moneylender herself to stop him from harassing another cousin, something that no woman is ever supposed to do; she stops yet another cousin from foisting his unwelcome and unpleasant fiancĂ©e onto his family, and puts an end to his unquestioned but well-intentioned authority over his siblings.

I love Sophy’s practical way of looking at a situation and never giving up. According to her, the people who say that there’s nothing to be done are those who are “too lazy or too timorous to make a push to be helpful”. And Sophy was definitely neither: she came up with successful plans to put an end to any problem that she saw.

Sophy has a very witty sense of humour, which kept me in splits throughout the book. Her hot temper rises up only in situations where I can’t help but agree with her, but never drowns out her innate sense of fairness. She does not let her love for a person blind her to the person’s faults, nor does she ever blind herself to her own faults. She doesn’t hide her opinions from men the way she’s supposed to, and is not afraid to tell her equally strong-willed cousin (and future husband) when she disagrees with his actions.

It’s because of Sophy that I never go anywhere without my copy of The Grand Sophy. Not only would I love to have written her, but in many ways, I’d love to be like her.

Friday, October 8, 2010

CWG Experiences

I've been to a couple of CWG events during the past few days, mainly to see what the organisers have managed to pull off and to be a small part of a big event happening in my city. Leaving aside the matter of how they prepared for the games, I wanted to see whether what they tried to do actually worked.

On Tuesday, I went to see Badminton at the Siri Fort Sports Complex; that went pretty smoothly. Even though there were no signs at the main entrance telling spectators to use the side entrance, we did manage to find our way to the gate we were supposed to use, buy tickets, and reach our seats. The area was clean, there were more than enough volunteers to guide us along the somewhat convoluted path to the stadium, and the stadium itself looked great. The entire experience was a lot of fun. Badminton is a sport that I have played and like, so I could at least dimly appreciate the skill of the players. The entire event seemed fairly well organised.

The next day, however, my mom and I tried to go watch Athletics at the new Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. I say "tried" because even though we bought tickets, we didn't actually manage to go into the stadium. The "servers were down" when we got to JLN Stadium to buy tickets, but thankfully, we only had to wait five minutes before the servers were up and the queue was moving. So, standing at Gate 14, we finally managed to buy two tickets that allowed us entry at Gate 6.

How far could it be, we reasoned, and resolutely walked the way indicated by the police officers. And walked and walked and walked. At one point, we actually left the stadium behind us and took a road leading away from the stadium because the road around the stadium was blocked. So we were supposed to walk up the other road, take two lefts, and walk all the way back to the stadium.

We walked for nearly 45 minutes before we reached an intersection point with CWG volunteers. Who then informed us that Gate 6 was at least another kilometre from where we stood, and the only way to get there was to walk. I was tired, my mother was exhausted, and we were furious. After somewhat dramatically tearing up the tickets and throwing them away, we found an auto and came back home.

Today, we went to watch the India versus Australia hockey match. Someone we knew had two extra tickets, so I don't know whether the servers at the ticket office at the Dhyanchand Stadium were down or not, but we got to the stadium easily (we took an auto rather than try the shuttle service from Metro stations). Both the matches were fun to watch, even though the Indian team got trounced by the Australians, and the audience was huge, enthusiastic and very loud.

The problem emerged when we wanted to leave. After the match was over, the entire audience trooped out of the stadium only to find no shuttle buses to take us to the nearest Metro stations. We ended up walking nearly a kilometre, I think, to Pragati Maidan, where we stood in a very long line to get through security check, to finally take a train back home.

What I've found is that the CWG Organising Committee seems to have done a good job with the actual building of the stadiums and other venues, late as the completion might be. The operations of the games, however, need some serious help. Efficient selling of tickets should not be as a big a hurdle as it seems to be! And it makes absolutely no sense to expect spectators to walk so much to watch anything, let alone matches where India may not even be playing!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Three Years, Countless Calories

Instant noodles, strong coffee,
Bread-and-cheese, flat Coke,
Midnight ice-cream tubs, soupy Maggi,
Readymade pasta sauce, packets of chips.

MTR Indian food, microwaved sweet corn,
Icy water, expired milk, old cereal,
Thai food, frozen cheesecake on sale,
Bars of chocolate, M&M packets.

Spicy potatoes with too much haldi,
Chola from cans, frozen parathas,
Baked-beans-on-bread, scrambled eggs,
A lot more Maggi.

Coke with JD, orange juice with vodka,
Salt and lime, tequila shots,
Frozen margharitas with stolen tequila,
Coke with Old Monk, surreptitious cigarettes.

What college tastes like.