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One question to many

In one of the training sessions held recently, the participants were allowed to ask questions to each other.

It is just a month since the college started, the students of the first semester are still quite new to each other.The class consists of an eclectic mix of individuals from different parts of India and even those from abroad.

When the task was announced with the mandatory rules for the activity, participants looked anxious. Some of them tried to go into hiding and were definitely not keen to stand up to ask a question.

Yes, there were doubts. What kind of questions do we ask? Can we ask the girls too? so on and so forth.

So,the first question to the student from Yemen was how did he find being here in India and he took the question sportively and answered that the culture in India and in Yemen was quite similar and he had no problem in getting adjusted to the place. The participants welcomed the answer with a round of applause.

Since the one who answered the question had to choose another to ask the question to before he could sit down, he came up with an interesting question, ‘Do you think people from other nationalities are welcomed positively in India or not?’. The girl who replied said that since India was multi-cultural in itself, people from different nationalities are welcomed here.

She then went on to ask an all important question to one of the boys about a ‘crush’ on any of the classmates. What I found very stimulating and bold was when a student from Nagaland was asked, if he faced any discrimination in Bangalore, especially in the university. The class was silent considering the intent and the impact of the question. The student who answered said that, yes, he faced a certain discrimination in Bangalore but not yet in the university. This was followed by a discussion on such instances and the idea of tolerance and intolerance in the society. After some discussion, the class reached a conclusion that if the student faced any sort of discrimination in the campus, the class would stand with him and ensure that it does not happen again.

That the class was discussing a topic like tolerance at a time when Rohingya refugees are being asked to return to their homeland was perhaps not lost on anyone.

Slowly the class was warming up to the idea of asking questions and facing them. Some one who was asked why he was very late to class every day, replied confidently, ‘I travel 57 kilometres  each day.’

Another person who the class thought was a geek was asked what his hobbies were? When he replied that it was hanging out with friends, the class did not still look convinced and suggested that he become a lecturer.

Young people need to be have time to discuss what is happening around them, beyond the text books, beyond the classrooms, way beyond their curriculum. Providing time to the youth to discuss and deliberate what happens around, what happens within and among them will probably be a good idea to let the steam out, build rapport, feel comfortable and make better relationships in life.

As a nation, we complain about the growing indifference towards socio-cultural situations and events among the youth forgetting the fact that we bring them up so secluded, so isolated from everything happening even in their immediate neighbourhood. How can we expect any one who has been told to focus only on his/her studies throughout to suddenly take cognizance of what is happening around?

If education was truly linked to real life then the repair of the roads, the throwing of the garbage, the collection and its disposal. the traffic, animal welfare, health, corruption and so many other so-called social issues could well be handled by our school and college-goers,don’t you think?

That fat girl in a short dress!

So Ahilya wore the short dress she always wanted to wear to college. It came up to her knees. She looked at herself in the mirror. Her face shone with confidence and a spirited sense of life.

She walked out to the bus stop to catch the college bus. She wore stockings because, you never know the local thugs, might just comment and spoil her day.

She headed to the college where she among the others who wore the best dress they had took to stage and rocked. Literally rocked the stage!

On her way home she heard someone mutter, “Look at her,so heavy and wearing a short dress!”. Ahilya did not pause to comment.

The day before, however, she was in knots. Her friends had told her that she will be the MC for the event and she did not have a suitable dress, you know a smart one.Ahilya ransacked her wardrobe and her eyes fell on this cute little black dress with sleeves and coming up to her knees.

“This is ideal,” she thought while slipping into it and finding to her delight that she fit in.

Some of Ahilya’s friends and seniors though had some nasty comments for her. Ahilya ignored them until she met a teacher who literally glared at her and asked her to go and change.Ahilya was shocked, there were others in short dress then what is the problem,she thought.

That she is fat ok. If there is sexism and racism, surely there is weightism, she said to herself.

She did not want to tell the gentlemen and the ladies who were busy criticizing her that her health conditions will never allow her to become slim or skinny or whatever and does she have to wait that long to wear her favourite dress, well, she is not going to do it.

So she wore it to the college and that was it. Some commended her, others mocked but you see, no one could dim the glow on her face.

That fat girl in a short dress is just another girl…

Of Questioning

So does Bangalore have hard water?

How’s the traffic around the place?

How’s the community?

Is there space for washing machine?

My baby is too small and will I get a maid there?

The barrage of questions that came my way today were from a prospective tenant. She mentioned that her husband was throwing some angry looks at her but she went on putting me through a grilling session.

My crime was that I  own a flat which I bought with much effort and great love and which now I had to vacate to maneuver the menacing traffic of Bangalore.

The interrogation that my prospective tenant put me through made me wonder about my own poor questioning skills.

How many people do I question on an average? Do I ask enough questions to myself?

My daughter is now convinced that ‘deep thinking’ is the way to success. Do I practice deep thinking?

How many questions did I ask the owner before agreeing to the rent and the deposit he demanded of me? How many questions did I have for my employer before I joined the institution? Do I ask my family enough questions? Did I ask my parents any relevant questions? Did I question the choices they made for me? Do I ask my partner why he does what he does or why he does not do what he should do?

I like to believe in the goodness of things and that the world is in general a great place. I also like to believe in the power of the universe and her effort to get me what is best for me at any time.

But I do find myself of being of quite a ‘questionable’ character, I mean, random people shoot off questions to me.

So what do you do?

What does your husband do?

How old are you?

What do you have for breakfast?

Have you had any accident before? Yes, this literally took me aback, coming from someone in my team. She wanted to know how long I have been driving and how many accidents I have had.

I was like, goodness, what a great question to ask someone first thing in the morning!

Honestly, I rarely ask questions to others. I am very interested and usually find it offensive to ask too personal a question.

I have had to tell some of my ‘questioners’ to take a break and quit questioning, questioning me!

Now are the questions relevant, are they in the right spirit, are they even sensible?

My philosophy about questioning is that ask only if required. And ask personal questions, I ask them too rarely.

Asking a random person, so you never thought of a second child? or you never bought a house for yourself? or you never wanted to give up this relationship or you never wanted to consult a doctor can be as annoying as giving unsolicited advice to strangers.

While I understand the prospective tenant’s interest in getting to know more of the place, she is getting to, I am not sure how much an owner can be responsible for the weather, traffic, climatic conditions, quality of water etc. of the place.

But yes, I must thank her for getting me to rethink my questioning abilities. Perhaps it is time to relearn the ability to ask a question before getting into a situation. Perhaps!

But do you shoot random questions to random people?

Have you had people asking weird questions to you?

Fighting bad

So bad it feels to you that it stinks. The whole thing stinks and the stench is such that you are unable to breathe in or breathe out. You feel frustrated, angry, irritated and some times you wonder if you are heading to the mental asylum.

But then  you look again at life and its ways with you and smile because if someone is bent on making your life hell, you might as well relax and join the fun.

You definitely know what is that you want and how to get it. You can clearly identify the spoil sports,the chronic complainers and the master whiners and you know how it is eating into your peace. Yet you put up knowing well, it is not your thing and that your right to happiness cannot be compromised at any cost.

Life you say, must have a plan to polish you,to chisel you, to grind you inside out. There must be a purpose. It is your life and you know when to bend and to whom and why and when not to. This is not certainly a sign of weakness or compromise. Perhaps it is just the lull before the storm.

Well, there may not be a purpose after all. It may just be an illusion but the power of decision, the knowledge that you are in command chills you. You can any time call quit. You can any time walk out and start again.

The key to your happiness is firmly in your hand. No amount of pleading or pretension can cause you to turn away from the course of your action.

Then it is decided. You endure till you want to. You allow till you want to.

The moment you decide otherwise you walk out and that will pinch and how!

So you hold on firmly to your dear life and your dearer beliefs and trust no one but yourself.






Where would we be without them?

Do you watch serials on the TV? Do you see that the rich, palatial mansions which are inhabited by the characters in the serial, have help for every other task? A servant for the mem saheb’s massage, another for the kitchen, yet another to assist in the car wash and more and more. Hiring helpers  is indeed a more than a status symbol for most of us.Indeed, ‘the more rich you are the more helpers you have’ is perhaps the one take away from any serial you watch on the Indian Television.

My mother is in her 60’s. She runs the show at her home single-handed. If she does take a maid’s help for some time, she is most courteous and considerate in feeding the maid, inquiring after her family and some times even helping her with a little extra pay. 

What I find irksome about some of us who employ house help is the way we treat them.Agreed that there is no labor law to protect their rights or that they themselves may not be aware of it, still, as educated modern Indians we should be able to be a little kind and understanding to those who work for us or better still, help us survive and earn our bread.

There are of course instances when the employers go out of their way to help the maids. Geetha bai for instance, worked with me at Indore. She picked up the importance of monthly savings and had started a postal account in her name, thanks to one of her employers. She sent her son to one of local colleges. When her daughter met with an accident she was assisted in filing a case against the criminal. She was quite the woman of the times and often chided me,’Didi, you know nothing!’

I picked up the importance of being courteous and pleasant from my parents, my ever smiling- father and ever ready to help-mother. I cannot definitely claim to be as good as them but I do try.

In my apartment, the other day, we ladies were deliberating of creating a fund to help our maids so that they can get their children admission to college,schools or for medical emergencies. In the past there have been instances of such understanding and compassion on and off but its time to institutionalize the true spirit of give and take by making it more formal. Imagine, how many families will actually benefit if we can together bring in a culture of taking care of some of the needs of those who work for us.

Those among us who have enough to share should now look beyond giving away old books and old clothes to the maid. It is just not enough.What will actually help them is may be a fund to use during emergencies so that they can lead their lives with dignity.

I wonder if it is the general belief that ,’if you give them an inch, they will take a mile’, stops us from being nice to those in need.

Some times, some of us will have a sour experience or two while trying to be good to others. That is but natural. What it should not do is stop us from being kind to another person.

The security guard at the college I work brightens up every time he is addressed in Assamese. It is a recognition about who he is and where he comes from. Definitely his day is brighter.

Give a smile, speak with kindness, address with respect, make someone’s day better, especially those of the ones who help us.

And most importantly, where would we be without those who help us live?

PS: My daughter just now enlightened me of my own bias in calling someone a ‘servant’. Thanks for that piece of learning!

Cherukenthye?/ The doggie at home

I hear Leens calling her husband and asking him every alternate hour ‘Cherukanthye’?. She is referring to the new addition to the family,the 2 month old Golden Retriever.

Ever since he came into her life, our lives, adds Leena, there is so much more fun and laughter. The vacuum that seemed to exist between her and her husband seemed to have evaporated as they bond over the antics of the little ‘Spart’.

Everything now revolves around this little one. Disciplining him, taking care of him, feeding him and taking him for walks are her priorities now. She regales with pride of how her spoilt brat,’Spart’ is  an attention-seeker and will never leave her side once she is back home from work.The delight of the day was ‘Spart’ devouring tasty food prepared by his father.

That’s when another equally proud mother shares the story of her two kids, Sandy and Thor. The 8 month old Sandy is chirpy and vivacious. She enjoys car rides, with the air brushing against her ears, says Kavya, more like Rose in The Titanic.

Thor though is broody and gets upset with car rides.He prefers the quiet of the house and loves to take long strolls in the garden.

‘And she cooks food for her kids, but not for me’, complains the husband. And we all laugh together, realizing how integral pets are to a family.

My former colleague,Aimen was of the firm opinion that you have not experienced true love until you have had a pet. She seems to borrow heavily from Anatole France who said “Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.

Once in the hostel in Indore, one of the boys had kept a turtle as a pet. My cousins, three of them together would keep rabbits, dog, cat etc. as pets and I remember how my aunt used to complain.

I rarely thought it fit to ask for any pet as a kid but if I could have had one, may be I too would have kept a dog. Once when I was looking for sponsors for the school magazine, three boys of 10th Standard came to me with a suggestion that they would like to advertise their pet shop, They even tried to convince me to invest in their business venture.

My mother feeds crows as soon as the rice is boiled and strained of the starch. Sharp at 10 AM, when she is back from the temple, she is greeted by two to three crows who seem to be waiting for the food.

In our so called busy life, while we run from pillar to post to pay the EMI and the school fees and the medical bills, we rarely have time to think of others. Caring for animals will certainly keep us more alive.

If only we remembered more frequently that the planet we live on belongs to them as well, we would be better humans.





Of Passion

“How do I know it’s passion, when I see one?” asked the famed author Carmine Gallo to the equally famous Chef, Ferran Adria.

Ferran pointed at a wine glass and asked Carmine, “What comes to our mind when you see that?” A drink”, said, Carmine easily. “When I see a wine glass what comes to my mind is celebration, joy, fun and much more”, replied Ferran illustrating the true meaning of passion in the process.

Passion then is what you do out of love. It is that which sustains your soul and not just your monthly income.

Passion is what you can go on doing endlessly without having to look at time or crave for a break.

Maybe that’s why the greatest of artists are also so prolific. They seem to thrive on the quantity of work. When work is such pleasure, who would complain!

After Tom Sawyer of ‘The adventures of Tom Sawyer’ by Mark Twain sells the idea of white washing the fence as an activity of great value,Aunt Polly’s fence was white washed more than twice. Tom’s play mates literally vied with one another to help him, bartering their most precious possessions in return for ‘work’. Mark Twain remarks that ‘work consists of anything that a body is obliged to do and play consists of anything that a body is not obliged to do’. Passion makes work pleasurable like play.

The weight of expectations, a steady income,the society, misguided education often nips off a budding passion. Many of us spend a lifetime being unable to decide where exactly our passion lies.

I always loved reading and writing. Some later I realized that I also enjoy speaking, especially addressing large audiences. I found myself mostly on stage speaking and often training and encouraging my students to enjoy their time on stage whether it was for debate, elocution or simply anchoring for an event at school.

While my interest in writing lay dormant thanks to an unfulfilled ambition to become journalist, I kept writing off and on. It is only with time and much practice that I am able to put up my thoughts before you today.

Teaching is another passion I developed almost accidentally. I love teaching, being able to make even a small difference to someone’s life.When I look at myself today, I am glad that I have more or less interwoven my areas of interest into my life.

So, clearly my passion lies in each one of these areas of my interest.

To identify your area of passion,you should ask yourself, what gives you the purest joy?

Is it numbers,money matters, science or art? What makes you want to do something again and again?

What makes your heart sing, your smile brighter and your days happier. Go find it for yourself and do it.

It’s one life, live it the way you deem fit.

Live your passion! Live it big!