The Veneer

It is all about putting up a strong veneer, invincible, impregnable, strong, standing against the storms.

It is what Anu decided to do as she set herself against the year, the new year, you see!

Swinging her butt to the new and old of hindi film songs and romancing the handsomest in her fantasies, Anu sashayed her way into the new year, all made up and up todate.

Saris procured from the flea markets in New Delhi with gota patti, laces and more, with bell sleeves and sleevelessness, back-full or back less, a young spirit in a life style that is a copy of Sabyasachi she made her mind to show it to them, this year.

New year resolutions, my foot! ‘I am gonna live my life, dammit’, she declared loud and clear, and we laughed at the feisty woman pretending to be flimsy.

‘This too is me’, she explained for my sake and I pretended not to hear.

Cheers to your new year, happy and happening!!!

Dance or no dance, love or no love, just live life every moment with the veneer in place. That be the goal.

‘2019, don’t miss your chance to unload the gifts!’

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No Sanskrit please! Come on!

‘No Sanskrit, mom’, said a young girl to her mom. ‘Are you crazy?’

‘Learn something like French or still better German, but Sanskrit why?? Who does that???’

My friend shared with me the agony of her daughter when she announced her preparation for retirement.

‘You see’, said my friend, ‘I would like to be knowledgeable in the real sense. I mean my grand father was a well-known Sanskrit scholar. I want to continue his legacy. Moreover I have always been fascinated by the language and literature of the past.’

She smiled confidently looking into her future and perhaps picturing herself narrating Sanskrit stories and proudly holding the beacon of knowledge in her hand.

I nodded enthusiastically in support of her statement, as it struck a chord in me, this vision for sustainable sixties, ohk, may be not the vibhuthi and all, just some literature, a few poems, some shlokas and great company, yes, with everything else as well, if you know what I mean!

I don’t intend to go for a ‘vanavas’ as yet, not in another 30 years, i.e. if the battery lasts that long!

Sanskrit has always fascinated me. I enjoy reciting the shlokas by Sankaracharya for its innate rhyme and rhythm. My mother is learning to recite Sanskrit shlokas herself. When my daughter had a choice of going for Sanskrit, German or French in her 5th standard, she had picked Sanskrit much to my amusement.

When queried,she pontificated, ‘first learn your culture and language, no, before you go on to learn others!’…hmm heavy stuff for a little girl to utter but made sense somehow.

Retirement or not, there are enough reasons to pick up something new to learn, after all, it is said to keep you young.

I have a few new things lined up this coming year, like learning to speak Kannada, learn a few more shlokas in Sanskrit or join a dance class or re-start Yoga big time and well, the list is rather long….

But what are you picking up new this coming year?

Baking maybe or cycling or writing? Do share.

Coz he thought her fine

I must be fine

she said

if he thought me fine

may be just a little bit un-fine

but mostly fine

after all he said so.

Did you notice that he laughed at my joke?

nodded his head when I spoke?

turned to look at me as I was leaving?

It must be, no, should be because, you see, I am more than just fine.

Did you not see how we stood and how perfect we looked?

Did you not see the smile that graced my face and lit in his eyes?

Did you not hear the excitement with which he cheered when my friend spoke?

It is I am sure because he thinks I am just a little more fine than most people.

He has not said anything, no, not yet

I am sure he is going to some day, some time, just like that and we might just laugh over it.

Yeah, I heard he is leaving, may be he didn’t find me around

You see, I can be quite a trouble sometimes

I am sure he is going to come back and then, well, who knows?

No, I have not spoken yet, I am a bit scared.

I get hurt easily.

What if ?

May be I should just keep waiting, after all, I know for sure he thinks I am quite fine.

(Sigh!)

PS: Fine in love

Pleasantly surprised

Have you been thinking of springing up a surprise on someone? Have you been wondering of whether it is a good thing to do or not?

Some people say, they don’t like surprises but most would I guess, welcome pleasant surprises.

My brother, Ajay Govind is a master at planning surprise visits and gifts. Armed with ingenious ideas from his wife Ramya, they make a formidable duo.

That said, I have recently re-discovered the art of gifting. I am relishing the experience of planning gifts, experiences and more… It’s a small life, after all.

Thinking back, of how miserly I have been of my time and efforts in reaching out to others , I must blame my own insecurity more than anything else.

May be, being ticked for my ‘over enthusiasm’ in reaching out to others as ‘they will not value what you give’ dampened my spirits.

How stupid! I mean one should give something for the joy of giving not necessarily for the ‘return gift’! Life alone can teach us some lessons!

As I go about in my more confident avatar these days, I end up asking for time, company, random communication, some banter, in rare cases even a gift for instance, I might just call a friend and say, ‘come on, let’s go out or when can we talk or let’s catch up or something like that’.I just surprised my superior when I told her that it was birthday and she had forgotten to wish me. As she hugged and wished me a belated birthday, I kind of beamed a 100 watt smile unable to contain myself.

I was also over joyed to be the recipient of a package of love and friendship on my birthday from rather unexpected quarters. Wishes tricked in from my students, friends, former colleagues, relatives and well-wishers, thanks to social media, lifting my spirits and reinforcing the need to stay connected and in touch with good souls.

Some reprimands from my little circle of comfort and authority on the need to be kinder with myself, surprised and touched me to the core.

We are living in times when expressing love and affection for another is so much easier thanks to technology. Why not put it to good use?

So, go on, spread some cheer.

Call up someone, gift something, accrue some good karma as you start your innings in 2019.

So long, cheers!

Things I wish would go digital

While we count the steps and watch the calories and have sleep monitored and heart checked technology is definitely being put to good use.

One of the class projects my students did was a smart dustbin which they said could help us achieve the goal of ‘Swachh Bharat’, looks like a far cry to me, but there is no harm in trying.

But with such dependency on technology I wonder why some things don’t make their way to reality?

Is it because they lack commercial value?

Well,I don’t have much of an idea why these don’t exist, I mean, in places that I frequent or stay in, especially in the tech-capital of India!

But here are a few things I wish would make it to reality:

  • Bill boards depicting levels of air pollution

Instead of the funny innocuous faces that adorn the bridges and the walls of every nook and corner, I wish there were bill boards pointing to the quality of air we breathe.

Maybe that would enthuse some of us to look for alternative mode of transport or may be think twice before we randomly dump waste.

  • Smart readings of water tables in every colony

Shouldn’t these be there already ? I mean, won’t information boards make us more alert about rain water harvesting and saving our lakes and rivers?

  • List of councilors displayed prominently for easy contact

Well, we need someone to blame and who better than the fools/’leaders’ we elected into positions of power?

  • Locations of parks or public spaces like libraries

Would this help us to use the public spaces more responsibly, not sure, worth a try though!

  • Health status of public infrastructure like bridges, fly overs etc.

I mean, isn’t it important to know when a fly over came up and what has been the maintenance done so far? Or how old is the district hospital and what is its infrastructure or how many government schools are there in an area and what is their status or even the number of public utilities in any place?

  • Government income vs expenditure

I find the toll tax booths very interesting. How do they earn in a day? What happens to the earnings? Does it like go on for ever like the ones on the Bangalore Airport road? Who keeps the money? Would love to know that!

  • A tree count , a bird count and so on

How many trees are there in the colony or municipality or town? Are there sacred groves around? What is the status of the trees? What birds frequent this place? How can they be taken care of ?Can some data on this be visible in public places?

  • A distress booth for all men and all animals

Can we have a distress booth for anyone to walk in to seek help, ok, not a confession booth! Just to have someone give guidance to help resolve the matter.Dedicated social welfare workers could address the issues or at least lend an ear to the grievance. Or maybe a huge punching bag can be installed for us to vent our anger in peace! How about that?!

Maybe I sound stupid or maybe some of these are already in existence or may be I am alive in an ancient time?!

Yeah! May be that is the case!

PS: Man, machines and more

Of a different kind of a gift

Is it only expensive gifts that become special? Does it always take a diamond to express love, not really, right?

What was your most precious gift? What made it special to you?

My daughter to me has been the most precious of all gifts so far and I can’t be thankful enough to have her.

The classroom experiences have been rewarding and fulfilling and some times the results have been so breathtaking that I was left speechless.

This happened recently when students stretched themselves to outdo each other in the evaluation.

Each group vied with each other to bring out the best in them.

There were bursts of anger, some distress due to over powering emotions and the stress of time and piling work, yet they stuck to the task and turned out some really impressive stuff.

From designing drones, to coming up with alternative solutions for energy, to trying to address some evils of the ever increasing pollution by tree plantation, to finding new ways to alleviate poverty or waste management each group surpassed the expectations that was set for them.

Outclassing themselves and out doing their own inhibitions, they came out as proud co-creators of new innovative thinking.

But what won my heart was a piece of writing from a student who I had taught around 4 years ago,.When he wrote me a thank you letter, I was in the seventh heaven. I mean good words are always welcome, they become your anchor to steer you through some turbulent times.

More so, each teacher or facilitator looks forward to this kind of validation or appreciation of his/her efforts.

Perhaps we should all be more generous in appreciating the teaching community.

Perhaps we could reach out to the elders and say a word of thanks.

Perhaps it is not too late to acknowledge an act of understanding and kindness.

Perhaps it will leave you in good spirits.

Perhaps this is just the right time to make that move to express gratitude to someone beloved yet forgotten.

So, what are you waiting for? Call up and say thank you to someone who made a difference to your life:-)

Btw don’t you think it is high time , we had a ‘maid’s day’, a ‘plumber’s day’, a cleaner’s day’ and so on!

Of walking in the out of the box manner

But said my student,’ I have not yet learnt to think out of the box. Other wise the class was always interesting, the teacher energetic and engaging, but I wish I had learnt to think out of the box too’.

This was his reply to a feed back of the session as the semester draws to a close.

We are in the staff room and he has come with his friend. So I tell him’,Why don’t you try to go from here to the exit of this staff room in a different manner?

‘Like’, he looked at me in surprise.

‘Shouldn’t I walk?’

‘Yes, you may’, I said but cover this distance in a different manner.

He stood thinking. His friend teased, ‘he is tensed mam’. We both looked at him eagerly.

After 2 long minutes, the boy raised his hands, swung on his feet and danced to the exit, he turned back to wave me a good bye as he walked away.

Perhaps he realized that he has indeed done some thinking out of the box!

Open Appreciation Forum – A Classroom Activity

It was the last class. The last day of the semester when  I would meet them and we have already completed the portions and done with the evaluations. 

We have had a good time together. Some of my classes have broken their backs and wracked their brains to come up with excellent end of the semester work. So good, in fact that we in the department were tempted to hold an exhibition of the same. 

Good work deserves great appreciation, nothing less. So while we discuss this and more, I invite the class to ‘Shoot a question to whoever they want’. The class goes wild asking all kinds of funny questions.

After some time, I announce that it is time for an ‘Open Appreciation’ . Anyone can stand up and share one thing positive about another person.

This was such an interesting activity that students randomly stood up to toast their friends and classmates. From good looks, to great speech, to kindness, to team spirit, to leadership skills, to discipline to basket ball, a pandora of good deeds broke loose in the class and set an atmosphere of instant camaraderie and classmate-ship. 

As the faculty, my heart swell to its brim and I came away thinking of the ‘goodness in and around all of us’. What a grand finale to a session of fun-filled learning!

Classroom magic

As always classrooms create magic.

A space of safety and trust, of beautiful exchanges, of ideas, of daring to ask, of willingness to tell and listen.

Sometimes it is willingness to cheer.

Something surreal happened in the classroom today as young 20 year olds shared their brilliant ideas of science and its application in our lives. 

One of the speakers in the group is not used to speaking much. The last time he spoke, he did not manage to stand for a minute. He also revealed a tendency to cluck his tongue which the audience took up in good fun.

Perhaps he didn’t like it. Perhaps it helped him to decide to try harder.

Because today, when he spoke and he clucked his tongue a few times, and though some among the audience took it up, he continued speaking for a full 2 minute and a half. He did not stop. He was determined to speak his mind and the class broke into thunderous applause at his courage and perseverance. 

A small wall just collapsed. 

An impediment in his self discovery just vanished. 

At the time of dispersal, many got up to shake hands with him.

Classrooms are creative spaces for positive interaction, my belief in the same just got reinforced. 

Of Toxic Masculinity

It is not often that I write about gender gaps and gender misgivings, yet one has to agree toxic masculinity is  very much in practice at home as well as at work places as women continue to break the glass ceilings.

One of my friends asked in anguish, ‘Why does this guy shout so much?’.’Because he is unable to manage his emotions’.

‘What is irritating him so much?’, ‘The fact that you are a woman, who is far more accomplished than him and that you are younger. In his generation, he has only seen women who take commands, never one to speak with confidence.’

‘What is with the condescending tone?”Why does this guy talk to me as if, I am kid’? ‘Well, he is simply trying to put you in your place and trying his best to protect his’supremacy’.’ ‘By talking another person down?!!’. ‘That is one of the many ways’.

‘Why does he always tell me that I saw/heard/experienced it incorrectly?’ or that ‘it must be a figment of my imagination, when I know it is not’. ‘Apparently, the logic behind this thought is that  women are more given to  creativity and fantasy !.’

‘Why does he say that he is used to dealing with rough people and so he tends to talk rudely?’ ‘Really, how come he is so polite when he deals with customers, because his rude behavior might cost him his job!’

Excuses for bad behavior are many, in fact some say it is authentic and real compared to more civilized representations of emotions. However, when words are specifically tuned to hurt and malign they better not be said. 

No man or woman has the right to hurt with words because unlike the  injuries of the body, that of mind will take a lifetime to heal. 

Now, does it mean that women don’t hurt?! No, not really. What is important is to give respect to every gender man, woman or otherwise!