Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Protective Incompetence Syndrome

“People who don't want to get dragged into some kind of work often develop a protective incompetence at it”. Today I came across this brilliant observation by a very smart person on the internet (which has these days become a faithful companion for reasons undisclosed). Much to my husband’s chagrin the sentence can very truthfully read as “When Nandita does not want to get dragged into some kind of work, she often develops a protective incompetence at it” as one of the solemn and not so flattering entries on my “life as an adult” report card. Everyone who knows me has been at some point been subjected to my “protective incompetence syndrome” (hereby referred to as PIS).And at some point wondered aloud as to how a smart person like myself (yes I am allowed to brag about myself in all the posts) can be beyond dumb while dealing with a few things. Before people (yes the all of ten people who read my blog can be referred to as people) jump to the conclusion that my “left-right recognition” disorder is feigned and is a protective device I use to prevent myself from walking/heading straight and reaching the right destination, let me assure all of you it is a real disorder and some day medical science shall evolve enough to prove my complete innocence and real incompetence.
Well getting back to the intriguing subject of “PIS” the first evidence I submit for the jury’s consumption is that I am technically handicapped engineer. IT BHU, one of the best engineering colleges in India, attempted to train me as an engineer, a ceramic engineer at that, in vain. However, living for four years with some people who believed that babbling about electrical circuits, java scripts and some motor qualified as conversation, I was acutely aware of the fact that I could never salivate at the thought of technology. However hard I tried I could never titrate, measure, calibrate or fix anything precisely. My poor lab mates after a year of struggling with my handicap, incorrect results and innumerable re dos finally took things in their hands (literally) and henceforth I was assigned the all important work of cleaning, recording, holding test tubes and cracking silly jokes to keep the spirits of the group high. It was truly a win-win situation. (Or that’s how I would like to reminisce about it). Three years were spent with the group successfully completing all experiments without my expertise, well within the allotted time, the rest of the time well spent at the cafeteria discussing the state of Indian/university/department/class politics, Norwegian literature and the latest champions of Age of Empires. I have worn my “technical incompetence” on my sleeve and till date have never tried to read the manual of any new appliance, always stare at the husband expectantly when people ask questions on how many songs can my new N 70 store (have not used its music features till now), what mega-pixel camera we have and expertly file my nails as the husband figures out why has the fridge suddenly gone kaput.
Just recently I went home and bought my parents a new DVD player, which my mother has only used till now to pause and watch my wedding DVD some 50 times, each time with a new guest to torture. Well getting back to the DVD player, I made a few feeble attempts to read the manual and get the player to play (well u guessed it) my wedding DVD, till my technical PIS completely took over me and I declared that we should call up the showroom salesman to come and give us the promised demo. For the umpteenth time I heard “engineer ho naa??” from my totally bewildered dad. My submissions on how we were entitled to the demo in this “customer is queen” era were dully ignored, Mr. Fixit Dad took over and a few buttons, rewiring and instructions later lo and behold hey presto the DVD player started belting out boring visuals and filmy music from my wedding DVD. Thus my tryst with technology continues as my technical PIS strengthens with each passing day.
My next submission to this audience is my non existing driving skills. Living in Bangalore with the extremely hostile public transport system often makes me wonder whether the time to shed my driving PIS has come but like all syndromes PIS is also not easy to let go off. My driving PIS however has a (legitimate) history. During my class 9 summer vacations my dad decided that my pursuit of nothingness has reached its zenith and there were a few skills that were to be passed on father to daughter, driving being the first one.
The lessons began with much fanfare early one morning on our beloved Fiat (those were its good old days, when all the four doors could be opened). Changing the gears, maneuvering the car while dealing with rickshaws, tempos, lunas and cars on the unruly roads of Lucknow was a daunting task but my tenacious soul was not to be deterred and I mastered the art of driving under the watchful eyes of my father. Till one day, fairly confident of my driving skills I maneuvered the steering wheel with the gusto and gumption of a seasoned driver as my dad sat next to me, basking in the contentment of having taught his daughter well. Till one wobbly cycle wallah decided to plonk himself right in front of me (or so I claim till date). As I started screeching at the top of my voice, not availing the benefits of having a horn (that functioned too in those days) and my dad shouted “brakes, brakes I pressed what I thought were the breaks with a vengeance, except it was the accelerator I was actually pressing. Fortunately I only rammed into an enclosed lawn in front of a house while the cycle wallah escaped unscathed.
Having recovered from the shock unhurt I saw a group of morning walkers, doodhwallahs and curious auntyjis congregating around mumbling on how much damage to “jaan – maal” could have happened due to the reckless driving of a heady teenager. My dad somehow managed to calm them in his true Lucknowi style and got construction workers to haul the poor Fiat out of a mangle of concrete, wire and bushes. I heaved a sigh of relief and my dad drove me back home. My brother claims the downfall of the Fiat began that very day (but that’s another story). Years have passed since, experiments on various cars have happened, the accelerator-brake confusion making its presence felt every time I think I am all set to hit the road. My husband has been desperately trying to teach me how to drive, but the driving PIS has survived all efforts.
Finally as I struggle with my usual inability of coming up with anything clever to end the post I am forced to write “These were some of my PISs what are yours???”

1 comment:

R.Ganesh said...

You wouldn't have ever imagined to receive a comment on a blogpost of 2007 but yes its true. Enjoyed reading PIS. Glad that PIS lost its ground when it comes to your writing skills. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it.