And She Gave

For they came in droves men and women

of all kinds and ages from far and near

to the one who gives herself easily in service

to partake in the richness of her good

and then to walk away.

Later though they  were compelled to return to her

fed up of their own anger,greed and indifference.

Each time she snuggled them to her bosom gently

not a word of rebuke, no remorse came forth

just the soothing lull of a loving heart was felt.

Infinite times the hands stretched seeking,groping,searching

as many times she held them kissing, comforting, caressing

She, who was solicited but never loved as one’s own

was for all and not for one.

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A room full of love

To  you I owe

who I am

said the teacher

you found in me

what I forever searched

you saw in me

what I was blind to

you gave me

what the world never bestowed upon me

If I failed in love

and  gained in respect

So let it  be

coz I am the richer for it.

The Paratha Life

The soothing fragrance of melting butter  and aloo parathas waft into the veranda.My stomach starts growling and I am  overcome with lust-lust for food.

I shirk away the desire to tuck deeper into the blanket and step out,determined to grab the best bite.

I am visiting Anu and am often found opening and closing lids of containers in search for goodies in her spacious kitchen.

Anu’s kitchen is a treasure house. From mouth-watering laddoos to deliciously baked cakes and cookies, it’s a true foodie- haven.

Such is the fame of her laddoos that little children who visit her ask pointedly, Aunty, where have you kept the laddoo, eyeing the unassuming steel dabba on the dining table.

Anu was never the regular I love cooking types. In fact, she never ventured into the area hitherto lorded over by her miss perfectionist- the mom-who-knew-it-all.

It was her child who awakened the sleeping master cook in Anu. When the doctor declared that the bakery items were responsible for the white spots on her pretty little cheeks, Anu started to dish out some mouth watering home-made snacks.

For someone who hated cooking, Anu started to love rolling round laddoos of every kind. From wheat flour, to gram flour to sooji,any thing and every thing came out looking round and delicious in the form of laddoo at her home. Her little one’s ‘awesome !’ was the only reward she waited for.

Whether it was protein deficiency ,cold and cough or anemia or a disgruntled mother-in-law or  a grumpy child that was the knotted issue of the time, Anu always found a laddoo-cure for every situation.

Even as work at office ate into her time Anu still tried and kept herself at the task.

While teasing her super -woman aspirations, I genuinely wondered why someone would not spare some time for one self and give up cooking, that most taxing of all wifing-mothering-homing duties.

I was about to embark on another session of worldly wisdom when Anu looks misty eyed, her face turned to the ceiling to mouth these pearls: Life is like an aloo paratha…those bland edges add to the taste, so don’t fight, succumb to the harsh realities of life!

While I go scrounging in her kitchen, you try making sense of that!

 

A Realistic Fantasy

Reality stood

outside my window

grinning

mocking

making grim faces

he painted a thousand sorrows

I smiled

he strung a hundred broken hearts together

I jeered at him

he showed me aging,caged in misery

I ignored him

He taunted my poor fate

no chance of finding a true mate

I thumped my chest

and showed him I am the best.

He turned and fled.

sacred within

a sacred space stood intact

un-breached by memories

untainted by experiences

a sacred space of hope

untouched by bitterness

unexploited by weakness

a sacred space of love

unscathed by hatred

unspoiled by disappointments

a sacred space of strength

nurtured her hopes,her dreams,her love

neither neglect nor distance or distrust

tainted the sacred space

that rooted for her within her.

 

 

The difficulty in saying ‘NO’

The plate was loaded. The hands tied. But refuse I would not, I could not rather, not to him, not to her, not to anyone. So I acquiesced  with a non committal nod, the classic Indian nod, which like a palindrome,can be read either ways! Most intelligent people I interact with considered it, my nod i.e., an indication of the highest level of commitment. The Indian nod is funny enough but mine borders on weirdom. But that’s another story.

As I went on being the yes-minister nodding my head happily and taking on tasks that I knew were not exactly my cup of tea, I was burdening myself with a whole lot of avoidable stress and guilt. The weight of unfulfilled expectations hung around my neck like an albatross.This was becoming a pattern.I even tried the disappearing act, unsuccessfully,and was spotted and taken to task by the taskmasters.

The desire to stay relevant, to be validated, to be acknowledged and to please  is perhaps the reason for my hesitation to say No. My good friend, Google suggests that I am not alone in thinking so. Apparently,the difficulty of saying No is a universal malaise. It goes without saying that this bit of information felt just great.

Well, it was time for some action and I decided to take out a card hitherto not played.

The ‘NO’. The word NO.

I started flashing it oftner…

What a relief that was!

It felt liberating.

I am sorry, I can’t help. It’s difficult etc became the norm of the day. These replaced the ‘I will try,I am kinda busy, but will do it’ etc.

I did  end up losing a few friends and well-wishers in the process but earned a lot of space for myself which was more than rewarding.

No with a capital ‘N’ is my best buddy these days. And I can’t tell you how much I have gained by saying No. If you don’t believe me, you should try it yourself.

Gurucharan Das did well to write a book titled’ The Difficulty of Being Good’. But how about a sequel titled, The Difficulty of Being Bad’. Should be interesting!

 

 

Mother Me

Mother me

said she

eyes burning

hands shivering

feet tottering

mother me

said she

aching from being strong

tired of standing tall

mother me

said she

take me to the party

tell me a story

sing me a song

mother me

said she

hug me tight

hold me fast

sit me down

mother me

said she

listen

stop

watch

mother me

said she

still be the night

slow be the sun

shine upon your own.

mother me

she whispered

the spirit cried

the hands worked.

An Adage A Day-Many drops make an ocean

Many drops make an ocean is a thought that stresses on the importance of small purposeful steps in order to reach a greater goal. As I sit down to write, it starts raining and slowly the tiny drops of rain forms small streams and small little puddles across the earth as the  thirsty land quenches its long sustained thirst. As people are facing drought in many parts of the country, one wonders of how efforts to conserve rain water could positively impact their lives.

I want to share an experience of a little boy in one of  the classes that I taught. Lets call him M. So M is this cute little fellow who is not going to grow any taller. While his classmates stand high and tall, he walks in and out of the class room almost unseen. When I enter the class, its his regular habit to hide beneath the desk. I ask,is he absent and he triumphantly pops up from beneath the desk to take his place. He is in 10th. He is a sharp fellow, who excels at academics. His friends though find him cute and sometimes use him for entertainment. Somebody knuckles on his head, another would pull his shirt and he would be teased and tossed across the class. Brave as he was he would smilingly endure the bullying, he needed his friends. He also knew they did not mean him any harm.

As days went by,I often got many occasion to test his speaking and reading skills. Increasingly, I felt impressed by his ability to enact roles effectively, read a poem or prose well, conduct a show etc. I could see that he too was steadily gaining confidence.Now his friends were milder in teasing him and often asked him for suggestions when it came to language. He was enjoying his new found status.

In the meanwhile, I quit my job as a teacher and moved on to do Content Management. When I visited the school a few months later, my students surrounded me. Somebody wanted a hug, someone wanted me to listen to his achievements, another told me of her results in the exams but together they chorused, Mam you know what, M gave such a good speech in the assembly.You should have been there to listen to him. That is what  I cherished the most. When I looked around, M looked at me with pride in his eyes.

I have often experienced how small achievements can add levels of confidence to an individual, especially youngsters. Language teaching is an effective tool in enhancing self confidence and self esteem of students. There is so much that can be done in a language class room, activities and events that can be planned to  leave an indelible mark on the students mind.

One of the boys had come running to tell me that winning the first prize in street play competition at another school was the first ever achievement in his life. Surely, it cannot be so. But the boy attached so much importance to the event and eventually went on to hold a leadership position in the school. That’s one reason why I believe schools should stress less on number of stories or plays or poems taught but should instead focus on making every day in the class room a memorable experience.

When I asked my 12th standard students to interpret the word “Voice” in different ways, I was more than impressed by the numerous thoughts and ideas that they brought into play in the classroom. A group envisioned voice as the struggle between the good and evil in the conscience, another thought of loss of voice. The variety of interpretations and depth in presentation, the group synergy, the understanding of social issues and events would put to rest any doubt one might have of the indifference of today’s youth, a common grouse among us adults.

Many drops does make an ocean, indeed, small sustained efforts at building something whether it is a bank balance or a reputation or  developing a new skill or learning a new language can all be fruitful in the end. The challenge is to be at the task day after day, without losing one’s interest or compromising on one’s commitment.

Like Pamela and Anil Malhotra who bought 55 acres of barren land 23 years ago and nurtured it into a living,breathing forest teeming with wild life. Like Manjhi who carved a path through the hills  over a period of 22 years so that the villagers can get easy medical attention after the tragic death of his wife. Like Sachin Tendulkar, the cricket super god, who according to Harsha Bhogle played 55 games as a 14 year old without a break for 55 days.He practiced for 2 hours, played a game and practiced for another 2 hours and fell asleep on the dining table. And to do that for 55 days! That’s what made him the champion that he is. Or like Sania Mirza, whom India loved to hate and then loved all the more because there was no other go, her talent and her hard work  made her the leading doubles player with Martina Hingis and the nation had to adore her.Or like Leander Paes and so many others.

The path to success in laid out in small steps of determination and grit.

Another life lost

Who would have had such hatred

such indifference

to inflict such pain

Who could have known

that she could be so assaulted

so brutally broken to pieces

Who had  foreseen

our memories being short

of the possibilities of violence

on a soul that sought to stand up

Who would now dare to question

the actions disowned

the actions trumpeted

or the actions pushed under the carpet of ignorance/time/forgetfulness

Who would now ask her daughter

to step ahead and dream

to see the world as an oyster

to fight tooth and nail

Who would not want to hide

the girl child behind the doors

behind the veils of fear, insecurity and dependence

Or do we hold a fragile hope for a better place for the girl?