Life Hacks from Agony Akka Columns

What will four people say?

Illustration: Satheesh Vellinezhi  

Dear Agony Aunty,

I am an Indian middle-class teen boy with typical Indian middle-class conservative family issues. Forced to study stuff I’ve no interest in. My numerous other real passions count for nought in my family’s eyes. And yeah, no points for guessing what they want me to do. Engineering. Reinforcing the Tamil Nadu stereotype. All due to fear of what those naalu per (four people) will say. Reminds me of the ‘Rakita’ lyrics. Give me some solution?

— Nihilistic Unlucky Miserable Boy

Dear NUMB,

Oho naughty boy. You are calling me aunty? Doesn’t matter. I am very broad-minded that way. Many children in my building society are calling me aunty. I give them gentle pat on head and I don’t give them any chocolate when my sister comes from America but otherwise why to say anything. Of course all the men in building society, young and old, they are simply not letting me graduate to aunty stage! Can you believe? Jokers only they are, haha.

What do you have against engineering I say. You can build bridges and malls and whatnot. But wait, maybe you are doing computer engineering? You can go to America and write code and earn in dollars? Why not? It is famous escape route being taken by many young men from Tamil Nadu. Up until IIT, they are wearing veshti and singing ‘Bhaja Govindam’, then off they go to Wyoming or Arkansas and the next thing you know Swaminathan has become Sammy and they are saying ‘gimme a break buddy’ in American twang but still unable to pronounce colloquial.

But maybe you are having creative interests? You want to sing and become new Hariharan? Or become cinestar like Rajinikanth? You should have written in detail about what and all are these “passions” that are “counting for nought”. (Incidentally, nobody has written letter in correct English to me using words like “nought”. For one moment I sat there looking at screen and my eyes filled with tears, but never mind, just fleeting feeling.)

Whatever you do, those naalu per, ‘four people’, are going to play big supporting actor role in your life. Mostly, they will win Oscar and you will get nothing. That is life. If you want to become actor, four people will think otherwise. If you want to eat ice-cream at midnight or drink beer with your pals, those same four people will have an opinion.

One day you must ask your parents to arrange meeting between you and four people. Call me also. I have long wanted to make their acquaintance because, believe it or not, those same four people used to haunt my youth as well. My father was under their spell but my mother was made of sterner stuff. So only I managed to defy four people and remain single. Otherwise today I won’t be sitting here giving valuable advice to helpless boys like you. Instead I will be making vengaya sambhar and potato podimas for fully able-bodied husband and same four people. Now I make only for myself.

However, some passions are not only allowed but encouraged by ‘four people’. Notably, chess and mridangam. You can try taking these up. But immediately you have to be so good as to convert these passions into monetary value. Only then passion will get pass marks.

But what is this ‘Rakita’ you mention, dear boy? Perhaps it is new OTT series? Or a new energy drink? Maybe it is girlfriend? Whatever or whoever it is, if ‘Rakita’ is the way to unnought your noughted passions, go for it. It seems unlikely that engineering can do that for you.

— AA

agony.akka@gmail.com


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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 5:50:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/what-will-four-people-say/article34787062.ece

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