Oru pakal koodi….

Raghu janalazhikallilude purathekku nokki ninnu. Oru neenda neduveerpu ayalude ullil ninnum uyarnnu.

Ineytra kalam,Uma.

Ineytra kalam njan ninne kathirikkanam, arodennillate ayal chodichu.

satyathil ayal ennum avele snehichirunnu. Thanekkal,mattarekkalum ayalku aval vendapetavalayirunnu.

Engilum orikkalum atu avalodu parayan kazhinjilla…

entho, avalude notam avalude uyarnna jeevitha shaili ellam ayale valathe kuzhakki

rajuvannu paranjathu, uma bharthavumayi verpettu veetil vannittundennu

ayalkku 50 vayassayi,avalkkum.Kazhinja karyangal aval engineyannavo

nokki kannunnathu?

ayal chinthichu.

Uma tande mail nokki, edakku google search cheythu ayale kurichariyyan shramichu.

tanikku pranthu thanne, Uma chinthichu. Allengil orale engine taan ithra kalam orkunnu, enthinu?

ah, arkariyam….

dooragnalill randu hridayam angine midichu kondirunnu.

oru nalla naleye kurichu avar swapnam kandu

oru pakal koodi kadannu poyi….

 

 

 

 

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The First Lesson

The bell rang.

Ajay got up from his seat and  rushed ahead. Loud cheers and whistles greeted his ears as he doubled up.

The Principal would be on his rounds.

The old man was surprisingly fast and extremely stealthy.

For all you know, he could just be breathing into your back. He glanced around cautiously.

What make was his shoes? Ajay wondered.

Like a  royal beast of prey the class waited for its victim. Feet shuffled at a distance. Clearly the informers were preparing the cadres for the battle ahead.

Yesterday Ajay  had rushed to the classroom in spite of being weighed down by the two samosas.He had wanted to start his teaching career on a good note. What happened though was worse than a nightmare.

Ajay  knew that he was reasonably good looking.It amused him  when girls vied for his attention.

On festive occasions when he dressed in the traditional kasavu dhothi, there was always a chorus of oohs and aahs. Exaggeration…may be.

His heart though was set on that elusive damsel who buried her nose into books and romanced the pot bellied librarian.

Attitude or stupidity!

Fools indeed rush where angels fear to tread..One day he is going to confront her.

He stood outside the classroom for a fraction of a second and then stepped in.

In front of the class was the devil himself with a tie stuffed beneath his shirt to give the impression of the breasts  and a scale held below his belt suggesting you know what…

Devil 2,3 and 4 watched the  rainbow of colours on Ajay’s face with glee.

The girls giggled uncontrollably.

Human anatomy  had just got an altogether new interpretation for these 13 year olds.

Ajay’s  hand touched his beard nervously.  He  walked up to the little devil and thumped his back.  The rolled up tie fell from its place.

Good show, Nirul. Keep it up.

To the class he said, Yes the show is over, lets  do what we are here for.

He quickly got into the routine of classroom teaching. The title on the board, the date while kept his third eye open for any  stealth arms aimed at him,paper balls, chalk pieces or even some heavier stuff.

Corporal punishment was a big no, the old man had reminded him on the day of his induction. Ajay  too knew he could not sustain anger and  the posture of a tough taskmaster for long. How long can he pull off what he is not?

Unlike his corporate friends he had no bench time. He had to plunge ahead into icy waters and learn to swim. There was no other go.

What  happens to you is nobody’s business at school but what you do or don’t do is! He knew it well.

Ajay envied the magic of Sathish. All Sathish would do in a class room is to go in with a grumpy face,grab the chair and settle down to sleep. It is said that no one, not even the Devil D himself dared to disturb his sleep.

Well! such times will come for him too…

He  explained the concept using stories and anecdotes. He could feel that the class warming up to him. He felt relieved.

When the bell rang, he made some small talk and stepped out. A few of the students came out too. Surely, they have enjoyed the session or why would they want to know more about him.

Ajay smiled to himself.

The Devil D rushed past him, almost causing him to trip. Well, no need to be complacent yet….

 

Another incident

Beefy biceps sunk, the massive shoulders hunched the man sat studying his palms in silence.

Tiny rivulets ran down his cheeks and on reaching his mustache lost their way sprinkling down on to his trimmed beard.

A drop or two fell in to the girls hands. She held the face up ,looked into the eyes and said slowly, this is not because of you.

He nodded  and clenched his fists with a self deprecating shrug.

Its not because of  you,father, the girl said again. Her feet cut her dress torn,her body wrecked but her spirit intact.

She looked at the silhouette of the man,her father. More than the assault on her body, the crumpled ego of her father pained her.

Its awkward to be discovered the way she was that too by her father. Its even more awkward when her father sits down in a corner and sobs to himself.

She had come to this garden many times before. She had often been to her friends house before for a home work, for a project and they had sat together until late evening to complete it.

Time stretched itself with Bollywood gossip and aunty’s yummy snacks. This time when Rama called her, she took off on her bicycle in no time. She shouted out that she will be back from her friend’s place in an hour.

At Rama’s house, she knocked on the door and uncle opened it. She had always thought that he looked at her strangely. She was careful to  stay miles away from him.

Once or twice when she had gone to Rama’s house on Diwali, the man had hugged her, and she had wriggled free out of his arms. But she loved talking to Rama and aunt so  much that, she did not give it much thought. She kept visiting them.

That evening, her bag slung on her shoulder, she stepped in happily. She had no idea that Rama had gone out with her mother to meet someone urgently. When the man tried to assault her she  fled, pushing him away and fell on the road, tripping on a rock. She lay there bleeding  when her father came looking for her.

She hadn’t  expected her father to pick up a quarrel or fight the devil but she was shocked at his reaction. After rushing to her hurriedly and helping her to get back on her feet, he stood shaken, sobbing.

Nothing is amiss,Pa.I am alright. Let’s go home.

They walked home in silence.

She narrated the incident to her mother. Angry and  outraged her mother picked up the sickle and threatened to cut the old man’s head.

There’s no use, ma.  Nobody will believe us.

I will be careful hereafter. I will not go there.Besides, I love Rama. I don’t want her and auntie to feel hurt. Let’s not talk about this again.I am OK. I know to take care of myself.

She glanced at the hunched shoulders of her father and picked up her books. Her fight was hers alone. She sighed.

 

 

So What’s in a Name?

Daiwalakshmy, Dhanalakshmy, Srilakshmi

Kamakshi, Arunakshi, Pankajakshi

Sakunthala,Charulatha, Snehalatha

Damayanti,Vasavadatta,Malavika….

I loved the sound of these names as a child and I still do.

When I learnt more of  Malayalam, I  understood the meaning of these royal sounding names and felt jealous of those who were called so. The goddess of wealth,the lotus-eyed so on and so-forth.

I  pestered my mother,why didn’t you give me a more meaningful name like Saraswathi or Lakshmi? Not one to stand nonsense, my mother replied , ok, I will call you Kaali hereafter!

I  was horrified.I  hadn’t thought of that.

Reminded of  Goddess Kaali’s ferocious countenance,I just kept  mum. No complaints on this front ever…

With the  general belief  that the more you call a person’s name, the more the person acquires that quality, Indian parents  are  particularly choosy when it comes to naming their child.

Some farsighted parents go on to name their children, Vishwanath- the lord of the universe, Anand- the  joyful, Anakha-the sinless, Rani- the queen, Susheela- the well -behaved, Sweta- the fair one,Rajkumar- the Prince, Shikhar – the peak etc hoping  to do their part in securing their child’s future.

While on a short visit to Mumbai,  I  was not surprised to notice that  every  other boy there is  named Sachin after the master blaster, Sachin Tendulkar.

A proud mother in Kerala named her 6 girls Usha,Uma,Ullekha, Ujitha,Urvashi and Udaya respectively. It was quite the news in the village. Their  traumatized father considered the birth of the  girls a curse upon him and conveniently took to the path of spirituality. The girls, though grew up to become accomplished women under the watchful eyes of their loving mother.

A child is named Antima,the last  signifying that she is the last among the girls born in the family. Another named Nirasha, loss of hope, because the crops failed when she was born. A son is called Visham,difficulty, because the family went through a difficult time at his birth. A girl child of dark complexion is called Krishna after Lord Krishna Another is called Kali- meaning a bud or  the darker one.

Some names are inspired by personalities ranging  from Bush to Clinton to Obama to Franklin  to Betty. Others try to strike an east-west balance with  Happy Krishna, Lucky Balram, Preity Sita etc.

Some of the typical names in Kerala would be Chackochan, Ousepachan, Thankachan or  Govindan Kutty, Ammu Kutty or Chinnu Kutty or  Aamina, Khairunnissa ,Khadija and perhaps  Simble Vinod…

But why should real names be a torment?

I was shocked when a senior master called out to  one of the naughty boys, hey kalu, what’s your problem?

Every individual loves his name.

For a teacher remembering the names of her students  is a daunting task. But Mr. Dikshit, a former Principal at Daly College, often impressed  everyone  when he  recollected  not just the name of  a student but that of his father, uncle and every other possible relative who passed out of that school.

I was thrilled when my favorite  Professor, Dr. Vijayan Nair of Government Victoria College recognized me by my name, after  almost 15 years.

Gogol in Jhumpa Lahiri’s famed novel,  The Name Sake, grows up to hate his name. The boy was named after his father’s favorite writer, Nikolai Gogol. In fact, he changes his name to Nicki when he grows up.

Our names are special, at least to each one of us.

But sometimes there’s so much more to a name.

It would be good to try and  say each name with love, at least with some care and a little more respect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those well earned fine lines…

Annie dug into her last reservoir of courage to grapple with the challenges life posed in front of her.

Disease. Death. Joblessness. Indifference. Loneliness.

When the  very effort of morale boosting started to drain her energy she stopped mending the unwilling wall.

She decided to  focus inward. She paid attention to her skills and abilities and decided to work more on them.

A family of four and a single bread winner.

She  looked at her modest abilities and shuddered.

It was clear that she wanted a better life. It was clear that for her children, it was the best she could do. So she did.

She decided to explore and try what the world has to offer. Over the years  she stood up to take charge, to bundle responsibilities, to put up a brave face, to be  the so  called man of the family.

Yet she still found joys in her life and reasons to celebrate.

Yesterday noticing the fine lines beneath her eyes, I remarked lightly, age is catching up with you, lady!

Annie went to the mirror. These are my  badges of honor, she smiled.

Caressing them lovingly she added that the fine lines beneath her eyes and the callused hands are her reward for hard work. She was not ashamed of them.

Brave and aging beautifully, now, isn’t that a deadly combination?

The Rattrap by Selma Lagerlof

The rattrap seller plods the city dressed in rags looking hungry and feeling very tired. The business is not very profitable. As he walks around, he is amused to think that the world itself is a rattrap, with baits awaiting  all.

One evening he knocked on the  door of a house when he was tired and hungry. As opposed to his expectation, he was  welcomed warmly and was treated kindly by the owner.

The old man shared food and tobacco with him. They even  played cards. Perhaps the old man was very lonely and was happy to have some company.The old crofter told the rattrap seller that he was  comfortable thanks to his cow. In fact the last month he  had received 30 kronors in return for the milk he sold. Then as if to prove his point, the old man  took 3 ten-kronor bills and held it up in front of the visitor’s eyes  before stuffing it back into the pouch that hung on the window frame.

The next day, the men parted ways with a good bye. The rattrap seller however, came back to walk away with the 3  ten kronor notes.

After he stole the money, the vagabond  realized that he had lost the courage to walk on the public highway. He walked into the woods and soon got confused. He  had been fooled by a bait and had been caught.

As he walked further, in the darkness of the December evening, he approached the Ramsjo Ironworks.  He walked in and stood by the furnace. The black smiths continued to work  ignoring his presence  but  he felt comforted by the heat inside and  he fell asleep quickly.

 Sometime later, the master of Ramsjo Ironworks entered and walked up to the vagabond, pulled his blanket away and exclaimed,”But of course, its you, Nils  Olof”! The rattrap seller had never seen the man before and thought vaguely that the owner had mistaken him for someone else.  But he kept quiet. He was tired and was hopeful that the old man might throw him some money.
To his surprise the owner invited the peddler to his mansion.The poor man protested and stayed back with the blacksmiths.
A little later the master’s daughter appeared. She introduced herself as Elda Wilmanson and requested him to join them at the manor. The poor peddler could not refuse her kind invitation. He went along. Soon he was all clean and  ready to join the family for breakfast.
The iron master who waited for his friend Captain Von Sthol was not amused when he saw the peddler. He looked at the vagabond angrily, accusing him of hiding his true identity.
The poor man stuttered. He said it was not his fault at all. He tried to explain to the master that the world was a big rattrap and that the master himself could be caught in it one day.
When her father firmly asked the vagabond to leave, the girl chipped in.  She shut the door saying that the  poor man was not going to be turned away on a Christmas eve.  Her father agreed reluctantly on her insistence. At the table, the man ate quietly and the rest of the  day he slept  except for waking up to have some food.
On the day of Christmas, the father and the girl went to attend Christmas service. When they returned the girl was told that  the rattrap peddler had  left a small  little package for her.
Inside the package was a rattrap with three crumpled ten kronor notes in it. A note in it read that the man was deeply touched by the way Miss Wilmanson treated him. He did not want her to be embarrassed by the presence of a thief on such a day and asked her to  return the 3 ten kronors to the old man from whom he had stolen it. He said that he had been elevated to the position of a captain from that of a rat in the rattrap by her kindness.
The story ‘The Rattrap Seller’ by Selma Lagerlof is a beautiful portrayal of the power of honest love and respect for another human being. It is indeed true that  love and understanding can transform the hardest of criminals.
The title assumes significance as the writer uses it  to drive home the fact that individuals are merely victims of their circumstances and that all it requires to bring about a change in another person is some love and caring.

Lost Spring: Anees Jung

The writer who is a journalist by profession meets a  bright young boy whose name is Saheb. He is a refugee from Dhaka, Bangladesh . Jung is deeply touched by Saheb’s lively and enthusiastic nature which is in stark contrast to the impoverished background he hails from.

Saheb’s full name is Saheb-e-Alam, which means the  lord of the universe. Despite his rather grandiose name, Saheb is a rag picker and he spends his day walking barefoot in search of waste.His family  had left the barren unfertile fields of his  country in search of better living conditions and are now settled in Seemapuri, a slum in the outskirts of New Delhi.

The inhabitants of Seemapuri have elevated the status of rag-picking to that of a  fine art. Garbage to them is no less valuable than gold.

One day, the writer asked Saheb if he would join a school if Anees were to start it. The boy did not say anything but after a few months he comes back to ask if the school has been started and the writer is left red-faced and confesses that it is not so easy to start a school.

Saheb loves tennis. He intently watches others play it. He has even managed to get a pair of shoes. It does not matter to him if they are old or discarded. His eyes light up watching others play the game he loves.

Sometime later, Saheb starts working as an assistant at a small tea shop. He is paid 800 rupees and gets his meals free. The writer rues the fact that the job has only taken away Saheb’s freedom without giving him much in return.

Mukesh makes bangles like everyone else in his family.The delicate bangles he makes adds colour to the lives of many but leaves his own dull and uninteresting.

One day he takes the writer to his home,a shack covered with tarpaulin which he announces proudly is being re-built. Inside, Anees is greeted by Mukesh’s, sister-in-law preparing food for the family.

Mukesh’s father had tried all means to better his lot. He worked as a tailor then as a bangle maker but could not build a home for himself or send his children to school.  All he could do was to teach them what he knows- to make bangles.

Mukesh’s grandfather had lost his eyesight, it was his –karam-destiny,sighed his wife. Making bangles in the dark dingy hutments they lived in, welding coloured glass into circles of bangles , the boys and girls  start working early in their lives. Eventually they get  used to adjusting their eyes to the darkness around them than the light outside.

The poor sales and low cost of the bangles they make does not earn them enough. But it is a profession they have followed over a few generations and a shift to a safer more profitable one is not easy.

Caught between the  shackles of the caste into which they are born, the ruthlessness of the middle men or sahukars, Mukesh and his community see no hope for themselves.

But Mukesh  does manage to become the  mechanic he always wanted to be.

Perhaps change is possible…

In Lost Spring, Anees Jung looks at the lives of young and old living in sub human conditions with  sympathy and understanding.

The Last Lesson :Notes

The Last Lesson is a short story written   by Alphonse Daudet, a French novelist. Set in the days of the Franco-Prussian (1870-71),it  is gives us an  evocative account of the havoc war creates  in the lives of common    people .

The French districts Alsace and Lorraine fall  in to German hands during the Franco-Prussian war. The Germans impose various rules and restrictions upon the peace-loving populace of Alsace  which includes a ban on speaking  French and an imposition of German as the language of the land.

Through the eyes of the young protagonist, Frantz, we see how life in Alsace comes to a standstill due to German occupation. Little Frantz never liked his French lessons nor the strict master with his customary cane.

That particular day, Frantz reaches his class late as usual and hopes to enter unnoticed while there is still  commotion in the class room. He is surprised when he sees his classmates sitting quietly listening to his teacher, dressed in his best Sunday clothes.  He also notices some village elders  like the old Mr. Hauser sitting pensively in the classroom.

When M Hamel announces ‘this is your last class, I want you to be attentive’ Frantz  wakes up to the reality. He regrets not being able to answer the questions in the class. He is unhappy that he will not have another chance to learn French. M Hamel too expresses his disappointment at the lack of interest in learning French among the villagers and the students.  He too shares the blame  for not giving the task due importance. M Hamel asserts that  French is the most beautiful language in the world, the most logical and the most clear.

Hamel had the most receptive class in all his 40 years of teaching that day.He  urged his listeners to hold their language close to their heart . It  was their key to the  prison of slavery.  Before dismissing the class he  writes Vive La France on the board in the hope that the people of Alsace will forever love French.

The  story, the Last Lesson is a telling account of the cultural and emotional alienation war and foreign occupation creates in the lives of innocent people.

Deep Water : Notes

In  Deep Water, the writer William  Douglas discusses  fear and ways to overcome  it. He relates experiences from his own life  to  tell  us that  any fear can be overcome with grit and determination.

As a young boy of ten or eleven Douglas was  pushed into the YMCA pool at Yakima  by a  senior . The experience was traumatic and left a stigma on his psyche which would not heal for a very long time.  Not until, Douglas decided to take charge of driving  the fear away from his mind.

Douglas’   aversion to water  had started  much earlier  when he was a kid of 3 or 4 years. His father had taken him to the beach in California. As he  stood in the surf with his father, a sudden wake knocked him down.  Though his father merely laughed it off , the experience left a lasting impression on young  Douglas mind. When later he nearly drowned in the  YMCA pool, Douglas decided to stay away from water.

Even as an adult at  Tieton or Bumping River or  in the Warm Lake of the Goat Rocks  Douglas could never enjoy himself, the terror of water always left him numb and shaken. It was then that he decided to seek  professional help.

The instructor  who took up the task  tied a belt around Douglas and using a pulley took him  over the pool again and again for  5 days.   Each time the instructor ,relaxed his grip and let the writer hit the pool,  a panic stricken Douglas almost froze in fear.

With repeated practice and encouragement from the instructor, Douglas  learned to put his head under water.  He was then made to hold on to the end of the pool and simply kick  with his legs.

Slowly, he learned  to relax in water. The  instructor built a swimmer in Douglas, piece by piece, brick by brick. But he was not yet convinced of his total recovery from fear, until he took his final test at Lake Wentworth in New Hampshire .

There he dived off a dock at Triggs Island and swam two miles across the lake to stamp Act Island.  He tried every known technique of swimming and felt afrraid only once.  When the fear threatened  to  attack , the writer  mocked it saying, Well, Mr Terror, what do you think you can do to me? It fled and he swam on.

When the writer went up to Tieton to Conrad Meadows, up the Conrad Creek Trail to Meade Glacier  and dived across Warm Lake , he knew that he  had conquered his fear of water in totality.

The writer quotes  Roosevelt who  said ,“All we have to fear is fear itself”. Deep Water is all about the fact that no fear is unconquerable.

 

Samaira,the Karma Yogi

Samaira watched her husband,Raghu as he pretended to be absorbed in the morning news. His eyes though were following Rakhi’s movements as she played with 2 year old Prithvi.

Rakhi was a blessing! It has been a month since her sister had come to stay with with them and Sami  could feel the difference.

Life had settled into a comfortable rhythm.  While Sami continued to cook and keep everything ready for her children, Rakhi would see to it that they were well taken care of . Once back home from work Sami still found time for everyone, kids, husband,Rakhi and managed to face another day with a smile on her face, thanks to her younger sister.

Mom, coffee, Sirish commanded from his room. Now that he has grown taller and fatter,Sirish took himself very seriously. He was his father’s photocopy. He liked it when things came to him, wherever he was.

Sami could not say no to her Sirish, he was her pride, the future, MBBS.. Sami held on to the wall to get up and walked slowly to the kitchen shouting, Your order is my command, Sir. You will give your wife a tough time!

Raghu worked in a small company. His inflated ego led him into disputes with the management at his workplace till they finally chuck him out. This was a routine. Nowadays though, he is a little more stable.

Sami had every reason in the world to cling to her job as if it were her dear life.And she did just that.

When Ani and others spoke about spotting her husband and Rakhi in the park, at the cinemas, Sami dismissed the news as figments of their imagination. Yeah , he was fond of her,so what? Last Deepawali, when he went out of his way to get Rakhi a new salwar, Sami was surprised. Raghu said, she works for us all the time. We have to keep her happy.

Later that year,Raghu got a transfer to Mumbai.He told  her that he could not go without Rakhi.  And Sami was stunned, was it really so?  God! Why did she never notice? What about her children?Was she blind,naive or plain stupid? She had no clue.

The next day, she firmly told her husband not to return home if he continued his affair with her sister.In a hurry to get away from her, he did not stop to argue and they left while she  and her kids stood watching. Sami put her life energies  into nurturing her children. The sense of humiliation, of being cheated and unloved drove her to put more  and more hours at the work place. As if to compensate for what she lost on her personal front, her professional life was a great success.

She grew in stature until she was heading the branch and was recognized as a great team leader. The two boys meanwhile grew up swiftly. They had become independent too. While she managed everything ,the boys never troubled her with outrageous demands and continued to excel at school and college.Once in a year, her husband dropped by to visit his boys, bringing them presents and  before flying back to his new nest.

Often, Sami was advised by her friends to go for divorce. She too thought of it but in the humdrum of bringing up her boys and managing her work, she had no time to do anything about it.

Her mother who had conveniently given Sami to her sister never cared enough. Her aunt who took the place of her mother, never loved her enough to care. Sami did not know who to turn to and well, she didn’t really miss his absence. She had no desire to find another partner for herself. So she left it at that.

Sirish and Prithvi grew up, found jobs and partners  and settled in the US.

One fine day after his retirement, Raghu returned and stayed on .They lived like strangers in her house. Rakhi had gone to live with one of her cousins it seems. She never asked.

Could she have turned him away? Yes,of course. But she did not, all she felt  was  a painless indifference to Raghu and every body else.

Sirish sometimes talks to his father to manage an investment, to meet some one, to buy a plot etc. Of his mother, he has no use. Prithvi finds time to pay an annual visit and ask about her welfare once in a while.

When Sami looked around, she saw that there was no one of her so called family with her, all she had was a handful of friends.

Perhaps it was her zen like calm that helped her through the pain. Perhaps it was learning Reiki, then yoga, then meditation or the satsang or the numerous charity events that she participated in.

Sami has no complaints. Whatever happened, happened. Life’s experiences were meant for just that, to be experienced…

Though late in her life, she met many interesting people who valued her presence. This is her achievement, her joy and her pride, the recognition she earned as a Reiki master, a yoga expert and a practitioner of healing therapy.

I am a karma yogi,she said proudly, I worked when I worked, I loved, when I loved and when I served, I served  with my whole heart.

What happened to me,was never because of me.It happened  in spite of me. There is no  room for sorrow in my  life. She smiled.