Bean bag – Unnecessary environmentally hostile,so-called luxury item!

I was still a teenager when I first encountered a bean bag and shyly tried to place my rump on it in discomfort before enjoying the feeling of sinking into a tub of luxury…well almost!

I remember thinking of the rather rich interior of what was at that time to my mind ‘signs of great prosperity’ in some admiration.

Some day I had thought to myself of having a home where there will be a place for a bean bag in a corner and perhaps a child lazing out on it.

I did never come to buy a bean bag and now I realize it was for good.

You see, a bean bag is stuffed with countless thermocol balls which will float around in our waters and laze around on the planet for years to come. There is no way of destroying these!

The problem of the bean bag is actually the problem of that very useful enemy of nature, the packaging material, the favorite with students and teachers for classroom projects, the white sheets of the versatile material which is in use alike for decorative and functional purposes – the thermocol.

According to BBMP, Bangalore also called Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike, which is the body for the maintenance of the city infrastructure rising e-commerce has resulted in unprecedented use of thermocol which has in turn affected the city drains adversely.

https://bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com/bangalore/civic/bbmps-package-deal-dump-thermocol-pay-the-penalty/articleshow/61209036.cms

Unplanned and thoughtless chasing of luxury has indeed led us to the state that we are in today. Look around to see the kind of avoidable waste we pile up on the planet every day, every hour, every second.

In our enthusiasm to over manufacture and over sell we have ended up creating a whole list of products and items which more harmful than beneficial, yet in the name of commercialization, marketing and profit mongering, countries, companies and individuals have contributed to the massive deterioration of the quality of the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink and the soil we will return to. According to Elin Ostrom’s Theory of Commons, air, water, land and other items of ‘public property’ like the forests, wild life and so on are tragically owned by none, but used alike by all and therefore end up being exploited and plundered indiscriminately, the repercussions of we are living with already!

If you don’t agree please look up these links!

https://www.beanbagsrus.com.au/blog/bean-bags-safe/

https://bigbeanbagcompany.com/

https://www.britannica.com/story/plastic-disaster-how-your-bags-bottles-and-body-wash-pollute-the-oceans

So do we have options? Here are some alternative traditional seats which require you to sort of semi-squat available in olden days including in my ancestral home during my childhood called the ‘palaka’.

That is if you entered the kitchen or the dining room in say 1980s, one of my aunts or uncles would simply ask you to pull a ‘palaka’ and get seated!

slurping rice porridge using spoons fashioned of pale jack fruit leaves in the kitchen with uncles and grand parents, while seated on ‘palaka’ is a favorite memory

Now there is another variety which was used during special occasions like poojas, mostly to place the lighted lamp during festivals like ‘Vishu’, ‘Onam’ or when paying tribute to departed souls during ‘chatham’ the now almost forgotten ‘avana palaka’.

Avana Palaka



I did find some interesting ancestral cookware, which perhaps have only nostalgic value at this wonderful site
https://www.facebook.com/Ardacookware/

Am I denouncing all the benefits of modern living and glorifying the past? Well, you are free to have your opinion, but all I am trying to say is that we can be more aware of the waste we generate in the name of luxury and can certainly avoid products which have the thermocol balls which choke drains, kill animals, pollute water and are even a fire hazard! Perhaps an ‘environmental friendly’ rating on products will and should help.

Its Ugadi here in Bangalore, it’s new year and time for new thoughts, may be a little thinking of the world we live in will help all of us, cheers to that and Happy Ugadi, folks!

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ജീവിതം

ചില ജീവിതങ്ങൾ
അങ്ങനെയാണത്രെ
അവ സന്തോഷത്തിന്റെയും
ദുഖത്തിന്റെയ്യും
ഇടയിലുള്ള
ഒരു
ഉഉഞ്ഞാലാട്ടം മാത്രമാണ്

മനസ്സിൽ
വിരുന്നു വന്ന കൂട്ടം കൂടിയ
ദുഖത്തെ
മാറ്റി പാർപ്പിച്ചിട്ടു വേണമായിരുന്നു
അവള്ക്കു
സന്തോഷത്തെ വരവേൽകുവാൻ
ഇത്തിരി ശബ്‍ദവും
ഒത്തിരി മോഹവും
അതിനുള്ള തയാറെടുപ്പായിരുന്നു.

അവർ എന്ത് മനസ്സിലാക്കിയോ ആവൊ
അവൾ നെടുവീർപ്പിട്ടു.

The Autograph Seeker- rather un-put-down-able a book!

I started reading again and the joy is long lasting, I mean the reading of a book stays with you like the fragrance of a favorite perfume or like Wordsworth so famously said in his poem, ‘The Daffodils’, ‘For oft when on my couch I lie, in solemn or in pensive mood, they dance upon my inward eye, a host of golden daffodils’.

I had listened to a speech by Toastmaster Tony V. Francis and had thought of him as being witty. As a fellow Keralite, I did strike up a conversation with him at the IIMB Toastmasters Meet. But that was sometime ago.
When I heard about his book hitting the market I was curious but since lethargy is or was my prime state of mind at that time, I did not think of reading it. When I chanced upon the book in the college library I picked it up, remembering the author and my accidental running into him at a TM session. 
As I first took the book in my hand and browsed through, I wondered what was the purpose of all those autographs?Wasn’t it frivolous? As I started reading though, I was hooked. I was seriously in awe of the narrator as he took me through the formative years of his protagonist, his meeting with Vinny and the whole connection of St. Xaviers with the family of  Vinny.

The Addy who played the dark moor, Othello on stage, the native, the nigger and his love for the lead lady, Alice, with her pale skin and tragic life gives the school boy romance of Tony an unexpected twist.The tragic end to the life of the actress Esther Leach, Alice’s mother, the accidental killing of Alice’s step brother add layers of interesting love, action, drama and emotions to the story.

Considering what happens in the end, it makes sense that the ‘sunnys’ believed in the rumor of the ghosted green room beneath their stage!

I liked the idea of the camera sort of panning into the Alice and her son, viewing St.Xaviers, the renovated version of the elite theater of Calcutta, San Souci of Park Street, Purono Kolkatta as the Google tells me.

I liked the flipping back and forth into time. I thought the writer was already imagining a film being made of his book.His cinematic movement of the time frame cannot be accidental.

I fell in love with Vinny, the fierce independent mute girl who falls for a talkative, adventurous chap. I liked the way each of Tony’s friends have been built albeit the fact that they are all ‘sunnys’ in the book, with characteristics and qualities, that could make this novel, if made into a film, a sort of a prequel to ‘The Three Idiots’. A lot of detailing has gone into each character and since the time I read ‘The Masters’ or later the ‘Harry Potter’ when was school life so beautifully built into a story, I wonder! I would recommend reading The Autograph Seeker for a curious mixture of love, revenge, a tinge of history and a whole lot of innocence!

https://www.theautographseeker.com/

https://www.facebook.com/tonyvfrancisnow/

Musings

Sometimes said Anu, ‘ I wonder if I am living the last leg of my life, is it why I am suddenly able to do so much? Is it why I am receiving so much good will? Is it why the world is suddenly very kind to me that I am overwhelmed in gratitude?’

Does it have to be so? I countered;’Couldn’t it be so that you have been working hard for this and it is finally good times seeping in slowly? Maybe life waited to bless you with bounties and you are having your time in the sun, finally and that you can’t believe it yet.’

We looked at each other, she and I.

Unable to believe in the goodness of times, Anu was keen to poke a finger of disbelief at my conviction.

‘Much has been happening ever since the pall of naysayers lifted off . I started my doctoral studies. I even got a paper accepted at an international conference. I managed to write a chapter on Design Thinking for a book. Been hosting quite a few events at my workplace.’

‘Professionally it looks like I am in a good space. ‘

I smiled encouragingly even though part of me said ‘ what a gasbag!’ I knew where all this was coming from.
I quietly reached out for my helmet when I heard her murmur
‘But at my back I always hear Time’s winged chariot hurrying near,And yonder all before us lie Deserts of vast eternity’ ,’Thats Andrew Marvell in his poem To The Coy Mistress.’
‘Yes mam,’ I smiled as I got up and waved her a silent good bye.
Must you be so glum I thought to myself as I rode home.

Of a step

A step ahead

in a direction long set

set with riddles

a step it is

a move to the unknown

a lunge to break or be

a response to the need to breathe

a long thought out action

a call out to friends

stay, be, hold,help

some steps are a-breaking

some words a-soothing

some steps a-risking

life’s call

her response

a small smile waits to be a throttle

the universe watches

‘much have I seen

much left unseen!’

Stones speak

Beyond everything is sorrow

a huge wall of sorrow

that blankets life and living

enveloping it in a sheet of dust

breaking into dirt and throwing up every now and then

a scream is let out from the plants, nay, every grass

every tree weeps, every branch shakes

the birds have gone silent

leaving man to his means

that benefit none

not even him,

The earth shatters

convulsing within itself in painful spasms

crying out in whispers, in murmurs

‘a little love please

a little care please

I can give you more than you can hold’

‘but first’ cried the stone

relic of our past existences

son of mother earth

brother to man and life in spirit

‘learn to listen to the sky, the waters and the soil

learn to bow before you take

learn to know what to take and when

for all you, birds, animals and men

return to me’, the stone smiled gently

glimpses of life here and after played

songs rose from each sand

the trees nodded

the birds cooed

the sky roared.

Ps: when stones speak

The Social Awkwardness of ‘Singlehood’

You learn things as you live by it. Till it occurs to you, everything is distant, non- relatable and vague but the moment you experience it, well, it hits you and you realize, ‘ oh, so this is it’, ‘this is how it feels’, ‘this is why it is called so’ and so on. 

Funny, that I thought of myself as some one eager to make friends and have a good time but discovered to my horror that I am a social recluse,someone who loves being on the stage but is lost in small conversation, the hi, hellos and how do you dos.

When I get invited by my friends, former colleagues for a get together, and I fight tooth and nail not to go. I am wary of close encounters  even with friends!

Though I am not kind of bundled with too many invitations an occasional free ticket to a wedding or a family function from colleagues or a friend from another time puts me into a fix again. 

Apart from good food, there is nothing that entices me to reach the venue decked up and smiling. 

Now, family events are essentially a show off time. It is like ‘ look, we are together despite the storm’. ‘See, that tall boy is my son’. ‘Hey, that woman out there, she is my mil. We hate each other but hang out together.’ or ‘I just got a promotion’, ‘We only drive Benz or we only have boys in our family’. ‘Do you know how much my son earns?’ ‘Oh, poor thing,how sad your life is !’ 

Or such sort of  things.  Looking back, I realize I have always been rather wary of events and functions. Maybe I was not ready to answer the litany of questions by curious relatives eager to poke a finger or that I was plain afraid of being asked to repeat the multiplication table or recite some thing from Shakespeare.

And some of us who may not be able to boast of a ‘perfect family’ find it difficult to face the umbrage of queries and knowing smiles and tend to withdraw even more into our shells.

It is like you have failed somehow, even though ‘ you know in your heart that you have been living in the right honorable manner’, you are somehow found lacking and that is not a comfortable position to be in.

Hmm, why allow anyone to prick your bubble of self- contentment and expose yourself to unwanted interrogation rather than stay comfortable in your own cocoon.

Well, it does not really make a difference, events happen despite your presence or absence, so just chill with some coffee and order some good food.

That said, I go back to reading! 

So, have you felt the absence of good company? 

Have you also been plagued with social phobia of some kind?

What have you done about it? Did you also bury yourself in books?

Why I wouldn’t trade teaching for another profession?

Here are my reasons for choosing to continue in the teaching profession.

  • The power of classrooms. I sincerely believe in the spiritual and life-changing experiences a classroom can provide. I have been lucky enough to be part of some and time and again as I enter another day into my teaching career, my belief in wholesomeness of a good classroom atmosphere in building amazing individuals is deepened beyond doubt.
  • Intangible yet life-altering rewards: Rewards of being a teacher cannot be merely restricted to a few thousand rupees which you definitely need to run the home. There is much more to teaching as a career than the measly salary! 
  • Individual experiences will vary but overall these are the definite takeaways:
  • The joy of seeing positive transformation in those you interact with.
  •  When a student tells you that ‘ it’s my first inter-school trophy, mam’, ‘thank you so much’, tears rush to fill the eyes.
  • When someone comes out of the comfort zone and sheds his inhibitions and stands up to say, ‘I have never shared this before, but I would like to share it today with all of you’, two things happen, an atmosphere of trust and respect for the person is built,secondly the person has stepped out of his self-created wall and declared himself to be a free spirit.
  • When students express their commitment to social change through speeches, projects, actions, interactions, you feel humbled to be a small part of their journey to self-excellence.
  • When someone so different from whom you knew turns up at your door and says, ‘you remember me’, you are stunned into silence and a momentary incoherence. Kabir Gawlani, if I didn’t know how to respond to you, and offended you in some manner,my apologies. I was just too stunned!
  • Age does not matter, in a classroom, students of any age, behave just like students. If you don’t believe that, just walk into our PhD classes where the faculty behaves well, just like most students do!
  • A sense of life-purpose: Is it the Sanskrit shlokas that pontificate on the importance of the ‘guru’ or the culture or the self-assumed mythology, I am convinced that , teaching like spirituality is a calling. You can continue to be a teacher only because you want to!

Some times classrooms can be toxic, painful, burdensome to both teachers and students. It is best to understand and try different approaches when that happens or may be just withdraw if it is too much for you to handle.

Just like every other relationship, the teacher-taught relationship will also have its highs and lows. On the teacher’s part, it is even more incumbent to remain graceful even in defeat or inability to cope. Malice, never helped anyone.

I have had some very bitter experiences in my early years but I have also had some great times, so when I decided to continue as a teacher, it was definitely because I decided to embrace the positivism and learn to work on whatever was lacking, which was a lot, actually!

Today, though with almost a score into teaching I  have come to accept that it is not necessary to be able to bring any dramatic change in anyone. Small self-realizations and experiences to know the self -strengths and limitations are more powerful than a teacher led movement sort of a thing!

In my early years, I did sometimes,think of myself as a savior whose job it was to uplift and ennoble, ha! ignorance! or at least, a feeling that ‘I am so concerned about your future, what a tragedy that you are not!’ but time has taught me not to take so much burden on my not -so-capable shoulders, and not to assume too much of self- importance and that has helped, really!

With daily presentations and speeches and lots of sharing, I am looking forward to my classes everyday, I am constantly impressed by the amazing range of abilities and talents the youth display and profess to own, there is much gratitude to you, dear universe, dear mom, for the 5 rupee application form to the Government Teacher Training College, Calicut and my family for letting me be a teacher, thank you!

Broken hopes

a yawning gap

of misery sucks in

life and cheerfulness 

like a black hole

a hand to hold 

a shoulder to rest 

a few kind words 

is all that the soul seeks 

yet in giving 

in losing oneself 

there are hidden swamps 

pain, agony and sorrow 

claim life’s efforts to flourish

nay, just stay afloat!

what karmic paths lead where 

what joys will someday compensate

what the morrows hold 

just a plain gleaming vacuum 

of broken tinsel dreams 

searing torn hopes 

a knowledge of nothingness 

thunder, fire and lightening

an empty empty living. 

Of coaxing plants to bloom!

‘It is so, very much’, said my aunt, when I looked surprised.

When the jasmine plant in her garden refused to flower even after a year of planting, she and my uncle, walked up and down the plant and made some threatening noises,’It’s time to cut her down, she is of no use’, they said a few times in the vicinity of the lady jasmine and went to sleep. My aunt avers that she was greeted in the wee hours of the next day with the fragrance of freshly in bloom jasmine that filled the entire neighborhood! And this is no joke….

Listening to my aunt narrating her experience, there were many others who shared the same view and have had a similar experience.

At the dinner yesterday, hosted by my aunt and my uncle in their quaint house filled with plants of all varieties including the rather elite ‘dragon fruit’ of  2 types and many more, my mom herself a lover of plants and trees and an avid gardener and my aunts and uncles shared stories of how they have cajoled and coaxed the plants and trees in their garden to flower with a little tease and often some threat!

I look for confirmation and my mother assures me that grandfather would walk up and down his land at Kopparambil conversing to the coconut trees and extracting promises of getting good fruits. Really!

I remember how workers climbing up each coconut tree and accumulate mounds and mounds of coconuts strewn around, with grand father or one of my uncles surveying the produce and keeping a count and agonizing over the falling price of coconut in the market.

The coconuts would be de-husked with skill and the coconut water collected in a huge vessel to be fed to the cattle and some of us who were interested and then a bullock cart would come to take the coconuts to the market. This must have been in early 1980s. There would be a lot of celebration as people moved up and down the place, some providing food and water to the workers, others carrying stuff out of the compound, the arrival of the cart, the hope of impending profit all  adding to the air of festivity.

Apparently, the art of coaxing plants to flower is much researched and discussed topic especially amid those blessed with green fingers!

Like my uncle said with an air of finality, ‘to the ignorant every plant is a weed, to the knowledgeable it is so much more!’

I should know that considering how every time I follow my mother on a garden trail, I am over whelmed by the knowledge of my own ignorance as my mother rattles of names, qualities, personality traits, benefits and other quirks of every grass, sorry, plant on the way.

Those who love the plants, live and die for them are a different breed altogether!

My uncle, concluded making a reference to one of his former colleagues who is also an horticulturalist, ‘when a plant is threatened that it will be eliminated before fulfilling its life’s purpose of flowering, it will pull out all its resources to achieve its dream goal’. Something akin to Paulo Coehlo’s much quoted statement,  “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

Perhaps it is true for human beings too, the fear of being pushed to oblivion, to be eliminated or vanquished does sometimes bring out the best in that person.