A Lesson in English a.k.a. don’t mess with an English major


I’ve been working as a freelance editor and proofreader for the noteworthy freelancing website Upwork since July and I will now be deactivating my account.

It was truly a wonderful experience while it lasted, working odd transcription jobs here and there to supplement my current income. I got myself enough to buy my very own Samson Meteor mic to record better quality songs which I will love and cherish for eternity and nobody can take that experience away from me.

But I just got ‘fired’ from a job that has left a very lasting and bad impression on me. At least I’ve gotten an anecdote out of this whole ordeal, one that has taught me to never underestimate the power of ignorance especially when it comes to the English language. I guess this is a way for me to vent. For the sake of protecting my client’s identity, I will rename him Mr. Taco Bell. So here it goes:

It all began last Sunday when Mr. Taco Bell, after a month’s absence, informed me that he now had new work for me. I was simply ecstatic. Not that my current job at a very well established publishing house isn’t good enough – I actually cannot believe how lucky I am to be doing something I genuinely enjoy – but, you know, millennials. We like to earn money and find ways to retire early, am I right or what?

So, here’s how Mr. Taco Bell phrased his offer:

Dear Echo,

I hope you’ve been doing well. Congrats on your first experience at one of my many chain fast food joints. I know, the tacos are shit small.

I have new work for you, if you’re interested.

  1. Chopping up fresh ingredients for our delicious tacos and assembling the tacos for delivery.
  2. Quality control of said tacos for utmost quality of quality-ness.

Let me know if you’d like to do 1 and/or 2.

Kind regards,
Mr. Taco Bell

Obviously, Mr. Taco Bell didn’t offer me those specific tasks to perform but the content of the tasks does not matter. I want you to keep this part in mind:

Let me know if you’d like to do 1 and/or 2.

My response, being eager to work again and earn extra cash, was that I chose to do 1 and 2. Simple, right?

So, I picked 5 different tacos and I chopped up all the ingredients for the 5 tacos as well as assembled all of the tacos and plated them up and made the hell sure that they were of the utmost quality of quality-ness. I sent the 5 delicious tacos Mr. Taco Bell’s way and asked him how much I could charge him for the two tasks.

I was adamant in getting this clarified because in the past he’d only asked me to do task no. 2, quality control, and I knew that rate very well but I didn’t know what the rate for task no. 1 was. His swift response was utter confusion. Huh after huh after huh, he finally said, “You realize one freelancer won’t be doing both task no. 1 and task no. 2?” Does that baffle you, dear reader? Because it sure as hell baffled me. But wait a minute, Mr. Taco Bell. Didn’t you just give me the choice of doing both task no. 1 and task no. 2?

Let me know if you’d like to do 1 and/or 2.

Also, isn’t that the reason why this messaging thread is called, “Task no. 1 and task no. 2”, as opposed to all the previous messaging threads that were called, “Task no. 2”? (Upwork has a chatbox in which clients and freelancers can either text or voice chat or video chat. Mr. Taco Bell and I text) I was really finding it difficult to try to make Mr. Taco Bell see my point. It almost felt as though he was scrambling for excuses not to pay me for doing both the tasks which infuriated me to hell and back.

All this back and forth of confusion and feeling like a headless chicken took place just this past week. That is, until today, when I decided to put my foot down and get to the bottom of it.

Mr. Taco Bell mentions that the rate of payment of task no. 1 is the same as that of task no. 2. My response, as any normal person’s response would be, was to repeat myself for the hundredth time: “So that means I can charge you the same for task no. 1 & 2, right?” Finally, I get a semblance of an answer, but not the one I was hoping for: “What do you mean?” he says. “I never told you to do both task no. 1 & 2.”

Let me know if you’d like to do 1 and/or 2.

Uh uh, Mr. Taco Bell, you ain’t doing me like that. Not today.

I rummage through our chat and directly quoted him thus:

Let me know if you’d like to do 1 and/or 2.

I thought if he saw his exact words, quoted and everything, that the whole confusion would be done away with and we could both skip happily away into the sunset and continue working on them delicious tacos. I was dead wrong.

He repeated himself. Literally, he said, “Yeah, I asked you if you could do 1 and/or 2, that doesn’t mean I wanted you to do both.” And that, dear readers, is when the record stopped playing and that god awful record scratch noise echoed in my head.

Let me know if you’d like to do 1 and/or 2.

The whole world came to a screeching halt as his words rang in my ears. I finally understood what had happened. Mr. Taco Bell thought he was in the right all along and that I was some money hungry freelancer who wanted to get paid for work she wasn’t asked to do and which, therefore, was null and void. Mr. Taco Bell thought he was completely innocent and I was the culprit trying to twist his words and change her stance. Mr. Taco Bell thought he knew the English language very well and thought he, presumably not a student of English literature, could one up me, a student of English literature.

I told him, “If you wanted me to work on just one of the tasks, you should have said ‘1 or 2’. ‘And/or’ implies that I have the choice to pick one or both.” andor.PNG

We argue back and forth about this terminology when he finally utters the words, “You are an English major, I would hope you would know better in this profession.” Okay, so, you’re telling me, that I – an English literature major with a clean track record on this website and working with you, Mr. Taco Bell – am in the wrong and you – a non-English literature major who always makes the mistake of assigning me work that I have already done – are in the right? Well – excuse my French – fuck me!

Avoiding the subject entirely, Mr. Taco Bell asks, “Remember the bonus I gave you last month?” I said yes. He says, “Did you say thank you?” I thought, hang on, what are you implying. I said yes. And showed him the receipts, thank you. He continues, “Then I can’t believe you would accuse me of avoiding to pay you…” Now, I really thought someone was pranking me. It clearly must be the language gods playing a big joke on me for being so annoyed by people who say “should of” instead of “should have”. I explained that that was not the issue at all and that I never doubted him and bla bla all the while biting my tongue wishing it was socially acceptable in a business setting to say things like, “bitch, are you out yo mind?” Or, “U wot m8?”

In the end, Mr. Taco Bell agrees to pay me the amount due but not before writing a very saucy message, which I didn’t bother to fully read. I’m not wasting my eyes on your words if you can’t even English, m8. The gist of it was that:

  1. One person cannot be assigned both task no. 1 and task no. 2 because it may result in a biased piece of work. A freelancer who chops up and assembles one taco may be biased towards the quality of his/her taco as he/she is the creator of said taco.And,
  2. If I would have just told Mr. Taco Bell that I had done both tasks of assembling tacos and quality control of said tacos, he would have said sorry for the confusion, clarified me on the subject, and moved on.

He then told me he could not work with me again as this experience has left a bad taste in his mouth.

I wrote him a short and sweet message thanking him for the payment and subsequently defended myself thus:

  1. I did not know this was the case as you had never mentioned it to me before, my dearest Mr. Taco Bell.
  2. In fact, I did tell you I had done both tasks. Remember the agreement? Or how about that time I asked you what I could charge you considering that I had done both task no. 1 and task no. 2? Or maybe that time after you tried to mansplain mathematics to me – an individual whose favorite subject in high school was maths and who was selected to participate in a maths competition in the 10th grade – and I said, “Please, sir. Let us not stray away from the issue; that I did both task no. 1 and task no. 2 (see the correct usage of ‘and’, and how I didn’t say ‘and/or’).” Not once did you, Mr. Taco Bell, get off your high horse and correct me when I was begging you for your correction and clarification.

I found myself about to write more and more saucily. But I refrained as that would have been a very petty road upon which I would bump into Mr. Taco Bell, and I think that sort are best to avoid in life. I only hope, and I genuinely hope, that somebody corrects you one day, Mr. Taco Bell, and you do not respond with the ignorance which you chose to smother yourself in today.

And that’s that chapter of my life.

I am by no means a grammar nazi. Context is something that matters to me. I understand many people don’t speak English as their first language and that some people may not have known about certain grammar rules or word spellings or certain diction, etc, and so I excuse you when you make a mistake but I will also try to correct you and hope that you can be your best self or close to your best self one day. Or, I would hope that the human spirit of perseverance were burning bright enough in you that you would find ways to correct your mistakes like, I dunno, maybe Google?

People learn the things they learn to either grow for themselves or help others, or both (<– a situation where the use of and/or would have been correct). When I come across a peer or friend or family member who uses a certain phrase or word incorrectly, and that I know certainly that it is incorrect because I have learned it somewhere, then – if I’m up for it – I will not hesitate to tell you how to do it right. Nor should you hesitate to tell me if I’m doing something wrong. Mistakes are the most potent things that help you learn; without mistakes you cannot learn. And that is a philosophy that I hold dearly to my heart.

I don’t hesitate when my mother asks me if a simple text message she is sending that’s been written in English is correct or not. Even if it really irks me.

I didn’t hesitate when that one Manipuri politician and I got into a debate over Facebook about the many tenses of the verb ‘to write’ and I totally pwned his ass while family and friends watched. I wish I still had a screenshot of it. That was a glorious day.

It’s one thing to write something incorrectly, it’s another when you write it incorrectly, somebody lets you know of it, and absolutely refuse to acknowledge that maybe what you’ve written is incorrect. If you don’t want to hear it from me, fine. But at least, at the very least, give yourself some wiggle room because we’re not all perfect, and look it up yourself. We are in a generation where information is so readily available. Literally, all it takes is a single swipe and a few taps and you’re there.

I just cannot understand how people can still be ignorant about certain topics that they can easily un-ignorify themselves from. It baffles me.

The English language is great. But it will also be the death of me. Don’t be surprised if one day you find me dead from a heart attack because I’d come across an image with the two deadliest words in the English language: should of.


Genie In A Candle

Day 13 of Flash Fiction Month!

Today we were given a horror genre challenge. My personal challenge was to use the monster/creature trope, using a birthday candle, and lastly ending it on the “The End…Or Is It?” trope. 

Having nothing better to do after school was let out, Alexander, Paul and David sat in a dimly lit garage holding their breaths as Alexander held the striped birthday candle.

“Jimmy sold this to me for five bucks,” Alexander said. “If nothing happens, we go get my money back alright guys?”

“Sure,” Paul agreed. David answered with a nod. “And what exactly is supposed to happen?”

“He said a genie’s soul is trapped in this candle. And you know what genies do.”

“Yeah, I’ve seen Aladdin,” Paul nodded. “So now what? You supposed to rub the candle?”

“We light it.”

Alexander struck a match and lit the striped birthday candle. The three boys looked at each other for a second before the flame began to flicker. The flame moved from one side to the other and flickered from yellow to green to blue. It grew larger and large till it touched the ceiling.

“This is it, boys,” Alexander proclaimed, rubbing his hands.

The flame that was now well above their heads suddenly shrunk to the size of a fist and out of it came a voice that said: “What?”

Alexander cleared his throat. “Oh ye wise genie of the candle. I am your new mast—..”

“Now just who the hell do you think I am?” Out of the blue flame emerged a tiny round head that peered up at the boys. Two tiny arms emerged from either sides of its round bulbous blue body.

“You’re the genie of the candle right?” asked Paul.

“Genie?” The blue entity rested a hand on one hip while the other came up to point at the boy who spoke. “I am no genie. I am a monster from the deepest darkest depths of your innermost fears sent to eat you up.”

“So,” Alexander started, “you’re not a genie?”

He turned his gaze and his little pointed finger to Alexander. “Hell no,” he spat out a tiny spark of blue that hit the ground with a fizzle.

“So,” Alexander continued, “you’re not gonna grant my wish?”

“Your wish?” The blue entity looked incredulous. “No, I’m not gonna grant your wish. I ain’t a fuckin’ fluffy ass genie. Who do you think I am? I’m a spawn of the devil. I am Beelzebub and Behemoth combined. Some call me Asmodeus, some call me Azazel. I am Lucifer’s servant and I am here to eat your sou—..”

Alexander blew the striped birthday candle out and the blue entity vanished leaving behind a trail of smoke.

“What a waste,” Alexander said. “Come on boys. Let’s go teach Jimmy a lesson.”

Alexander snapped the striped birthday candle in two and threw it on the ground. He stomped off with Paul following closely behind.

David, who’d sat there quiet like a ghost the whole time, stared at the broken candle. He got up to leave but not before picking up the broken striped birthday candle, carefully placing it in his pant pocket. He smiled, gave his pocket a light pat and followed his friends.



I Want To Ride My Bike

I put my helmet on
And I tag along
On the scooter you bought
With the first pay you got

I cling onto the back handles
And I sweat like melted wax candles
While moving to the corner swerves
A current runs through my nerves

Then we get home finally
Dearest brother smiling so smugly
I lie awake at night
When my thoughts fill me with fright

Engine too hot it bursts
We skid off and crash
The flames engulf us to ash

Anxiety deadened
Distracted by a QUEEN song:
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike

Lost attention to the balance
Wonder how hell happened

We stop and a dastardly bird
Bestows upon us a turd
I shout, “This is absurd!”
Brother turns and laughs
Then crashes and splits into half

A collision course

Miscalculate the widths
Of cars-to-buses
Face turns up in a history of great crashes
Between the pole-mangled car
And the one that drove into a bar
Except we were pressed against car-to-bus
And life ended thus
A mix of blood, guts and pus

Become that urban myth
The one where “Come Sail Away”
Is to be recited all the way
And the mighty hand of Styx
Will bless you with the life gift
To avoid the first to the fifth

And now you’ve seen
Why at seventeen
I resolved that:
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike.

I’ve been thinking a lot about death ever since my big brother got a scooter…

That Styx reference, I swear, works. My brother picked me up yesterday from college and we made a series of complicated turns but I was singing “Come Sail Away” and it turns out I saved our asses with my perfect posture and distracted state of mind.



Rant Poetry #2 – Unachieved

Push, strain, clench
Until you achieve
Sweet interminable glory.
Your muscles tire
But your resolve
Should remain firm.
Legs become jello,
Toes dig in;
Untangle the knots.
I look around,
There’s locked doors
And I gaze
Jealously beyond them.
Dreams I could
Never dream of
Behind closed doors.
Tired of waiting
I am waiting,
Waiting for this
Thing inside me
To come out.
Now I sit,
With folded arms:
Please sweet Jesus,
Let me shit.

I didn’t mean to be crude at all, but it’s a very common thing we all face in our lifetime. The way I see it, if peace cannot exist without chaos, if everything is relative to its exact opposite, then why should we only talk about all the great things in life and not about the base as well? Like pooping.


The Family Duff

I recently discovered that I am a Duff. To be specific, I am my family’s Duff.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term “Duff”, you may look it up on Urban Dictionary or watch the 2015 movie The Duff in which a tomboyish Mae Whitman discovers she is the ‘Designated Ugly Fat Friend’ (note: the Duff does not necessarily have to be ugly or fat) in her – as you young’uns call it – squad.

Let’s take a moment now to acknowledge my absolute revulsion at the term ‘squad’.

This is what ‘squad’ makes me think of. Cheesy, 90s, super awkward high fives and a feeling that you’ll wear scrunchies and high-waisted jeans forever and ever.

Getting back to the matter at hand, this past Sunday afternoon, I got a text from one of my classmates that – word-for-word – said:

Esther. Your brother is so handsome. So hot!! (followed by some googly heart-shaped eyes)

I know that objectively speaking my brother is a good-looking chap. He’s quite tall, has unbelievably fair skin and his lips are like that of Angelina Jolie’s which is especially unfair because the girl in the family is meant to inherit such divine design. So parading him around on Convocation 2015, I was wary, as any possessive sister would be of their dear brother, of every single girl in our presence. So I laughed and laughed and told my brother about the text.

Then this morning, as my friend – the one in the epic cape picture – and I sat down during a free period, we discussed my brother and my mom whom she said were, “out of this world.” It didn’t hit me then, like when you think of the times you’ve said hello to people and they’ve looked you in the eye but all you receive is this palpable sense of distance and coldness and then you realize they don’t know you, because it was a thought that’s been circling my brain since I hit puberty. Cuz’ you know, puberty is that one point in your life when you’re quite literally beaten up by a million epiphanies.

My mom and brother are both fair skinned and completely fashionable. My mom has the ability to literally wear a potato sack and make it look good. I say literally because the dress she wore for my high school graduation looked, to me, exactly like a potato sack. And my brother can also literally wear whatever the hell he wants and still look good in it. It’s just some heaven sent gift that these two have.

High School Graduation 2011. Mom in a potato sack dress.

High School Graduation 2011. Mom in a potato sack dress.

Then there’s me and my dad.

We’ve both got fairly tan skin, we both bear our frames with awkwardness, and – I just realized now through a photo that my mom posted on Facebook – we both have the same awkward smile. You know when you give a half-hearted smile and it’s not genuine, not that our official smiles are awkward. I think mine is fabulous thank you.

And there’s the issue of conventional beauty. I heard it through the grapevine that some people think I should “dress up” more because my mother dresses up so well. The truth is, everyone has their own style. Even that person you’re snickering at who looks like a hobo has his/her own style. It’s called hobo chic. And of course, my tan skin. That’s just something I personally have to deal with as an Indian. Every time I see a fairness cream ad on TV I roll my eyes. Is it seriously that hard to just take a bath regularly? In my case, my tan skin is a choice. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Who the hell wants to look all pale and sickly?

This guy.

This guy.

This apparent divide between mom/brother and dad/me could be evidenced by our bloodtypes. My mom is B positive, my dad is A positive, I’m A positive and my brother is AB positive. Basically, my brother’s got the best of both worlds – that is, man-ish good looks from my father’s side and the height and frame from my mother’s – and I’m sat here with my father’s DNA. I am essentially my father’s daughter. We both hate social gatherings, we both would rather smile than contribute to a conversation/debate, we both LOVE The Walking Dead, and we’ve both got a knack for written words.

See, my dad and I are merely bordering their godliness

See, my dad and I are merely bordering their godliness

If I were to get into the whys and hows of my status as family Duff (dad doesn’t count because he’s jaded by his old age – LOL) there would be but one answer: divine intervention. It just was meant to be. No amount of plastic surgery can fix what is always going to be there. But that’s not the true point of being a Duff.

The moral of the movie The Duff was the acceptance and turning-up-to-eleven of one’s duff status. Yes you may be the ugly one, or the fat one, or the approachable one because your friends are too intimidatingly striking to approach, or whatever it is, but at the end of the day, it means that you’re that much more extraordinary because you’ve had to walk through life fighting for your position, discovering yourself not through someone else’s eyes or words but independently on your own.

I love my tan skin. It means that I go outside and I do things. It means I can exist forthwith without putting tons and tons of product on my skin. Hey ladies, the trick to getting rid of your “dark skin” is BATHING.

My awkwardness means I can enjoy myself without following social conventions.

Case in point.

Case in point.

And the spotlight being shoved at someone else means that I can take on a variety of things like singing, playing an instrument, drawing, writing, thinking. Yes, thinking.


So if you, hello you, ever feel like you don’t fit in, take that time to fit in to yourself. If society won’t let you occupy space in itself, fill up your own universe.

We are all universes waiting to be inhabited and nurtured.