Friday, November 22, 2013

What We Do to Our Children

      It was a late afternoon. I was a taking a longer but peaceful route home from the department. It was a cloudy but pleasant day. The the four legged denizens were all taking advantage of the lower temperature and were all around the place. As I passed the Kendriya Vidyalaya, I could see kids in small groups on their way back from school.
      A little boy was walking little ahead of me, talking to his friends, happy as any kid would be after the school hours. And then he saw a small puppy walking towards them, wagging his tails. His friends weren't so sure of what to do and they kept their distance. Our hero, the little boy was so happy to see the puppy that he bent down to pat its head and generally to pet the puppy for a while. The puppy started moving towards its mother and the boy followed. The older was bit tensed at first but later relaxed and the boy began to pet both the puppy and its mother, all stray dogs. This friends gathered around them and it was a happy scene.
      And then the boy's mother who was walking a little ahead turned back and saw the boy with the dogs. She started shouting and screaming at the top of her voice asking the boy to leave the dogs. The boy was a bit reluctant and slow it getting. I was so shocked to see what happened next. The lady picked up a stick and broke it into pieces and stared throwing them - at the dogs and also at the boy! And then she dragged the boy away from the scene.
      These are the kind of messages that we give our children. Whatever bit of kindness and sweetness they have inside them we make sure are drained out by the time they grow up. This little boy would get two lessons from this small incident and at his age such impressions will last. First he'll remember that any random act of kindness towards another living being is not generally appreciated. Second he'll learn that violence and cruelty - whether against humans or animals - is acceptable.
     This is what we do to the young children around us. And then we complain these days young people don't have love and affection, the rate of violence is increasing, they are uncaring, and what not. They are learning for what we show them!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

On Reading "Writing Octopus"

One evening Veena and I had an outing and came back to the room. We were very happy. We had just got a copy of K. Srilata's latest collection of poems Writing Octopus. We started reading the poems aloud. We liked them. There was small talk, poems, love, and laughter. It was beautiful. There were really nice, sweet, fun filled poems. There is a poem about the bright blue bird that flew into her house and,
"When it flies out, leaves behind
its bright blue.

The blue hops down
Becomes first one word,
and then, another,
till, finally, it assumes the face of a poem. "

Then we got to the poem "Not in the Picture". I had read it before and told her so far that was my favourite in the collection. Then she started reading it aloud. The poem ends,
"this desire,
for certain photographs. If you are not watchful,
it can stab you through the heart."
Once the poem was over, there was total silence. No more laughter, no more words. We just sat looking at each other for some time. 

These moments are what we get from gifted writers and such moments are what making reading poetry a rewarding experience. It is all the more rewarding, if you have the company of someone who loves poetry as much as you do.

Writing Octopus is a wonderful collection of poetry. This is one enjoyable, readable (read to yourself when you are alone, read out aloud when you are on a high, read to each other when you are in good company kind of readable) collection of poems that I have come across recently. Reading this one is pure joy. It has that power to give you moments to remember. The blue bird that dropped its blue, the baby dolphin in the blueness of the ocean, the oysters stolen from the sea and thrown towards the sky, photographs old and new, and of course the octopus will remain with us long after we have finished reading the collection.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Goa Diaries 2 Old Goa

This time we are a large group and thanks to Shyam we have a good bus, packed lunches, and a planned route. We started at 9 in the morning and the first stop was the Basilica of Bom Jesus. This is the magnificent Portuguese church where the relic of the saint Franxis Xavier is kept. The group is let off to explore the Bom Jesus Church, the museum near by, the Cajetan church, and the viceroy's arc. People form groups and get into activities according to their tastes and inclinations. Some bought candles and went inside the churches, some decided to attend the masses, some went on a shopping spree buying junk jewelry, hats etc, Some found a shop that sells chilled beer and camped there en masse, some others like yours truly (lacking such fixed direction in life) just loafed around watching the fun and taking pictures.
Relic of St. Francis Xavier

Cajetan Church
We weren't done with divinity for the day yet. The next stop was Mangesha Temple. Most of us did a quick round of the temple and found time for some quick shopping. If you can bargain well, you can get some good deals from the shops around the temple, especially if you want souvenirs for friends and relatives.

Then we stopped for lunch, again near a wine shop. We made most of the opportunity, combining our biryanis with beers and some really great cocktails. It was at this place that someone from the group discovered the wonders of coconut and rum and generously carried some back to the guest house.

The last and the best stop of the day was Colva beach. If you want to visit Goa on a peaceful, off season trip and have plans to get into the water and have fun, the place to go is Colva beach. The beach is comparatively clean, less crowded, and beautiful. The way the waves come in and cover you and the recede the way it had come has to be experienced. It was in a shack near the beach that we discovered this really great cocktail of Coconut feni, chocolate liqueur, and pepsi. Sunset at Colva and it was stumps on day 1 of the group tour.

Setting Sun, Colva beach

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Goa Diaries 1 - Calangute

It is our first day in Goa and it is a Sunday! So off we went to Panaji, the nearest city. After a bit of asking around, figured out that Calangute is a popular beach and we can get a direct bus there. So we decided to start our exploring Goa mission with Calangute. The bus went through a route that reminded my friend of Aleppey and me of Kozhikode.
As the number of restaurant cum bars, shops selling beach wear and bright necklaces and bangles, and wine shops along the road side started increasing, we realised we were nearing the beach. The bus dropped us quite near the beach. One look at the crowd, the bright clothes, shorts and hats, beer bottles and cans in hands, there is no mistaking that you are in Goa.
It was around 12 and both of us were pretty hungry. We followed the crowd and got into this nice looking restaurant and were bowled by the ambiance, the view of the sea from the window.  We ordered cashew feni the first thing. The waiter there told us it goes well with something that has lime and we combined it with limca. It had a kind of hard taste. We combined that with steak, rice, fruits etc. Later we found out that the place is called Souza Lobo and is quite famous.
After the lunch, we ventured out into the beach and had fun watching the crowd, the antics of semi clad people and the violent sea of Calangute. Goa in this season is not ideal for bathing or getting into the water and the coast guard was doing a good job of warning people. We did not venture far into the water; stayed on the safety of the shores and watched the fun.
View from the window
Then we wandered in and out of the various shops selling stuff ranging from liquor to eatables to slippers, clothes and jewelry. There are nice souvenir pieces and quite nice looking German silver jewelry. Since we were going to be in Goa for some time and we had ample time left for shopping we did not buy much.

Then back to catch the bus to Panaji and after some beautiful view of Mandovi along the way, we are in Panaji. From Panaji we take another bus to Goa University. More of sightseeing along the way in terms of the Mandovi, Miramar beach etc and we are back in university guest house. We hit bed that day, two tired but happy people, eagerly looking forward to more of Goa experience.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Note for my Father

What would a father do if his grown up daughter calls him and starts crying/shouting/screaming? Say during the day or in the middle of the night. How many fathers would be able to put their own anxieties and curiosity to the back seat and say things would be fine, knowing well very that the world we live in is not exactly a wonderful place? Especially if the daughter in question has a proven track record of an uncanny ability to land in extremely messy situations? That too when the first insticnt is to enter the stage and do all you can do to protect your daughter. Or at least give the daughter a good long lecture on life? Well my father is a champion of tough situations!
No matter how grown up you are, for a father you are still his little girl. (Mine calls me so even now!) As I said the first insticnt of any father would be to try and get all the information and do everything possible to help his daughter out. It takes a whole lot of effort to understand a daughter's need for privacy and still give that all important support. It is not easy understanding the struggles of somebody living in a world that is so different from the one that you are comfortable with.
If I am to take a stock of all good things that have happened to me so far in my life, on top of the list would be the fact that I have wonderful parents. The kind of support that they have given me in times of both war and peace have been phenomenal.
I am thankful for the confidence that you have shown in me time and again. For all our quarrels, disagreements, and ego clashes, I love you, I love you, I love you.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

On Playing Badminton

I'm not a games or athletics kind of person. My interest in sports is limited to live telecasts of cricket and tennis matches. (This can be cultivated as a hobby if you have the right company. I was lucky enough to get some nice people around wherever I go - Keerthi in Palakkad, Meera and Meenu at HCU) Well, I always read my newspaper backwards, that is starting from the sports page. The logic is in case I don't get time to read it completely I will miss only the political dramas and not the interesting stuff. 

The only game that I have shown any kind of interest outside television is badminton. During school days, when our school championship dates are drawn, we used to clean the vacant lot in our colony. There used to be this small plot that was just enough for a badminton court. A net was tied, the court was marked, and the matches began. The carnival begins as soon as the classes are over and continues till its too dark to make out the shuttlecock. At a set of sweating stinking school kids get back home, tired but happy. Once the championship at school ends, the net is pulled down, the court forgotten and the kids pulled down into an endless chain of class tests, quizzes, midterm tests, and term exams.

After school, I have been roaming around - college hostels, PGs, apartments - I've always been on the move. I haven't had the kind of friends, time, or space for any kind of games. 

Last week one day I was in my hostel room, reading something, when a girl from the next room came asked me if I would like to play badminton with her. Now we are not close or anything. When we happen to meet we do chat casually, asking the kind of stupid questions that we know are stupid, but ask anyway.  So that's the kind of friendship that I share with her. Anyway I decide to play and go down with her. We start playing.

It felt good; the feel of a playing, running around. I generally find it difficult to run or engage in any kind of activity that puts strain on me due to my asthma. But playing badminton did not make feel any kind of breathing trouble. In spite of the fact that I was sweating and taking a bit of strain, I felt fine, perfectly healthy. I was happy too.

Then we started talking – about classes, courses that we have signed up, families, home town, food in the mess and a lot of other things. During that half an hour we bonded like we haven’t done in last two months!
“Do you have a boy friend?”
“Yes. You?”
“I didn’t find anyone nice.”
“You will find someone soon.”
We wouldn’t have had such a personal conversation though we live in adjacent rooms if weren’t playing together that day. It was definitely the beginning of a new friendship.

 Half an hour of badminton left me tired, sweaty, happy and feeling much better about life in general. It also gave me a new friend. All you need to make life seem better are simple things like this.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Thoughts on a Roosting Crow

One day during my post dinner walk through the campus, I saw a solitary crow roosting on a rather low branch. There was no other crow on that tree or any of the trees nearby. I checked the tree once more to make sure. Yes, there it was – a single crow probably fast asleep in a world of crowish dreams. I found that rather strange for I thought crows generally gather together for night roosts, mostly on the same tree night after night. 
I was reminded of my days in Mercy campus. A small campus comfortably settled little outside the hustle and bustle of Palakkad town. Those of you who have had an opportunity to live in that campus would remember the crows. By around five in the evening they’ll start coming on ones and twos and by six the whole place is drowned in the cacophony. There is a lot of noise, so much of moving around –  fighting for a favourite place, may be for a seat next to a particular lady, sharing notes on how good or bad the day had been, settling family quarrels, the list goes on. By the time the party finally settles down, it’s dark. Then it is all quiet, time to sleep. Come early morning, the crows are up much before any of us in the hostels. Without much ado these early birds depart to different places to catch the proverbial worm. Nobody lingers in the hostel premises. May be experience taught them too that mess food is not really worth it. By evening they are back! Those huge trees in our campus have been favourite roosting sites for generations of crows.
Well, so that is how I thought crows generally behave. Even if they forage alone or in small groups, roosting time was when they believed in strength in numbers. And there was this crow, all alone. Maybe he was a rebel, and did not believe in following the norm. Perhaps the crow believed in staying far from the madding crowd. :P It could have been an old crow that did not feel like it could make to the roosting site that may be far away. There is a possibility of the crow being a social outcast and hence unable to join the others. Did the crow feel lonely? Do crows also have the urge like humans, to be socially acceptable, to do things that are ‘cool’ so that they can stay in a group? Did this crow brave all such temptations and decided to make a statement by staying alone?
The next day when I went for my walk I looked for the crow, it was not there. It is more than a week since I saw my crow, all alone on a low branch. I do not know if it had gone back to its group or if it had chosen a roosting site, all for itself, far away from the prying eyes of nosey research scholars. But every day when I pass that tree, I look up, to check whether my lonely crow is there.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Father goes to work. Mother cooks food.

So now I am a research scholar. Don't ask me researching on what, I don't have much of an idea other than the broad area. All you need to do is attend a few mandatory courses, read up a little bit and then generally loaf around. One of the mandatory courses involved a session on communication. The session deals basically with how you speak, how you write, and how you present your information.
There is a male professor, a room full of students, three fourth of whom are students, AC lecture hall, projector, and a PPT to be projected. The class begins. This professor was teaching us how placing stress on different words in a sentence makes a difference to the meaning. Of all the sentences that he could use, the one the man could think of was: "A woman without her man is nothing."
1. A woman without her man is nothing.
2. A woman without her man is nothing.
3. A woman without her man is nothing.
4. A woman without her man is nothing.
5. A woman without her man is nothing.
I surprised me that a professor who has been teaching in a reputed institute, like an IIT, could not think of a better sentence. A sentence that was not demeaning or disturbing to at least 25 per cent of the class, a sentence that did not hurt. It was not a discussion on gender. There was no need to use a sentence like this. A simple "The sun rises in the east" or "Take the dog for a walk." would have served the purpose. But no; irrespective of what subject you are teaching, which kind of audience you are teaching, you need to make a point that women are nothing without the men. Are men this insecure?
All this while I thought it was the school text books which told us "Father goes to work." and "Mother cooks food." were the worst culprits. Your teacher then told you boys help father in the garden and girls help mother in the kitchen. I thought once you grow up and go to colleges, universities, IITs, things will change. I am wrong. In humanities departments we boast of being more aware, more sensitive to the issues of gender, caste etc. We consider ourselves to be liberal, progressive, sensitive and what not. And then we do things like this. It is one thing to preach equality and gender sensitivity and another thing to think of what you say and do in your classrooms.
I learnt my lesson. There is no point in growing up and leaving school and going to fancy institutes. They still give you the same crap. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Platinum Days of Love

All these platinum day of love ads that come in magazines remind me of Sita; of her ring of love. She was colleague. Sita somehow did not seem to fit into the corporate office and the crowd that surrounded her. She came to office dressed in silk sarees and jewellery that reflected her ancient royal family. However, her sweet nature did not have even a small trace of either corporate stiffness or royal arrogance. She was sweet and friendly, often finding time to chat with everyone on the floor. She knew almost everyone in the office, their families and even their pets! At times, the more sophisticated ones around us made fun of her friendly nature.

She was quite friendly with me. One day she came to my cubicle for a casual chat. We were discussing that one topic of perennial interest to Malayali women - gold jewellery. She had a wonderful collection and always gave us tips on buying jewellery. For some reason, I noticed the chain that she was wearing and casually remarked that it did not resemble the traditional 'thali' or mangalsuthr. Then she told me, "I don't consider that important anymore and I don't wear one. I have reached a stage in life where I have to stop doing things to please people. I do not consider marriage the most important thing in my life right now. I have realised the futility of such symbolic stuff. After an early marriage and bringing up children and all that, I've had my share playing the home maker. Now, my career, my independence, and the work that I do are all as important to me as my family."

And then she showed me something wonderful. A ring - a heart set in gold. "Look at this. I made this ring few years back. I melted down two separate rings - one gifted by my grandmother and other by my mother. I melted those down and made this one. I wear this all the time, in memory of the two most remarkable women who have made me what I am today. Wearing this gives me strength. As a woman, this means a lot to me. They have helped me grow. They have helped me to think, to dream, and to be independent. Wearing this means a lot to me."

To say I was moved by her words would be an understatement. I thought it was beautiful. It is a wonderful thing, this sense of a whole line of women, who have borne you, fed you, brought you up, and empowered you.