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!’

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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.

Kitty @ the boarding

We wondered for days about our travel. How would we do that? What about our kitten? It was not possible to take her along with us. As the day for our travel neared my daughter was very apprehensive, ‘Will she forget us mom?’, she asked again and again.

I had smartly delegated the task of finding a suitable pet boarding to my daughter. She did her research, called up, asked around and found a suitable place.

Messi watched us quietly as we packed our bags. Every now and then she came running to check what was happening.

‘Is she feeling suspicious?’, we both felt a sharp pang of betrayal. ‘It feels like cheating her!’

Finally, we reach the pet boarding house, there are many cats at the place, the young man who runs the center looked as if he knew his job. ‘I take my cats for pet shows’, he showed us his many medals, we felt reassured, watching his banter with the cats,some of which were his own. ‘Some times people just drop their cats and go’, the owner mused, as we filled the forms and completed the formalities. A very small sickly kitten tried to nuzzle on to my feet, ‘that is a rescue’, he said.

While returning from the pet boarding we were quiet, ‘will Messi be fine, will she remember us, when we come back?’

When we entered the silent house we both realized our shock at not finding her around.

But this had to be, if only for a few days.

Ciao, Messi, much love!

 

Of looking back

‘Look Back in Anger’ is John Osborne’s iconic work which focuses on the struggles of the protagonist of the play, Jimmy Porter. But the looking back I am referring to is not in anger but in love.

‘A looking back’ in expectation of seeing the face seeing you off. Of the desire to gently nod and wave your hand in good bye, see you soon!

It is the ‘looking back’ that every child who climbs into the bus turns back in expectation for. When the dad or mom who boarded the child walks off before waving that precious goodbye, a small disappointment sets in the eyes and the heart of the child.

A few days of holidays help me to see my daughter off to college, as she boards the rick, she turns back to look for me. I would have almost shut the door, but I saw that the driver was taking a u-turn and stood back for a few more minutes to be once again greeted by that precious ‘looking back’ with a naughty glint in her eyes.

Ah! for the small joys of living.

If you are romantic at heart like me, you would have yearned for the good byes and welcomes as much as I did. Growing up on a steady diet of films, in which the wife dutifully waves a good bye to the husband as he leaves for the office, I too would get myself ready even if I did not look my best, after all the kitchen work to ‘see him off’!

Well, it was always a disappointment for my now estranged husband always cribbed and cried his way to work. He cursed every one in this world and above. It was clear that work was an harassment for him, so was life. Now to say good bye to him was something I tried my hand at, until later, in my wisdom of survival, I simply hid myself in the bedroom, till the bike zoomed off in the distance and heaved a sigh of relief.

Seeing him off was the toughest see offs of my life!

When I come back after visiting my parents back home, I always hate to look back to see my mother’s moist eyes. And to having to look ahead and pretend as if everything was fine.

Even now when my dad visits me, he drops me to the bus stop and I turn around to wave him a good bye, what a feeling it is!

I wish we realized how important it is to cherish these seemingly small moments of love and care.

I wish we simply turned around with a smile to say a good bye.

I wish  we learned to invest time in small deeds of kindness to spread cheer around!

So what is your experience of ‘looking back’?

 

#FootpathBeku- Art drives social awareness

In a unique campaign to create awareness about the usurpation of public spaces for private use, the Malleswaram Social, a residents association which proudly claims to ‘ BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE! Also, SEE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO BRING!’ has come out with funny video to drive home the message.

What is interesting about the short video is the use of Bharatanatyam, a classical dance style to draw attention to the sorry state of affairs. Laced with subtle satire and humor the video is a must watch and will hopefully trigger some positive action.

As Bangalore grapples with the growing demands on its scant and dilapidated infrastructure by the ever growing population it is  for the citizens of this once proudly called, ‘garden city’ to do their bit to restore at lease some of its past glory.

Citizen rights and citizen duties are closely interlinked and often we are in a hurry to criticize the establishment.
We forget our total indifference to our surroundings and our refusal to follow the rules of the land. Take for example, the effort of the BBMP to encourage the urban population to segregate waste and our collective non-co-operation to do the same!
Hope more such movements sprout across the city! I am expecting a ‘Say no to spitting’ one soon!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRQdYLiOoDY2E7u4YhoLzXA

 

 

Delighting teachers

Been teaching for donkeys years now but it is special every time when students come back to you.

Today for instance, a group of students came to meet me, those who I don’t teach this year. It felt so good that they thought of dropping by and asking my whereabouts.

In a few minutes of interaction, I could see how they have grown,changed for the better.

It is a small world, sometimes harsh, but moments like these make the life worthwhile and delights the teacher in me.

I am suddenly reminded of my teachers, Mam Geetha Atmaram, Dr. Vijayan Nair,Dr. Vinay Nair, Dr. Catherine Thankamma from Government Victoria College, Palakkad. Baby Mathew Teacher , Mary Kutty Teacher and Dakhshayani Teacher  and Annie Teacher from LSN Convent Ottapalam. Thyagarajan Sir, Johnson Kingsley Sir from SDA , Kaniampuram then Nagajyothi Miss from Vijnana Vihara School, Vijayawada, Uma Miss from NSM Public School, Vijayawada, Radha Teacher from Ambalur School, can’t recollect the name!

Some one said that we internalize our role models unconsciously and model ourselves after them, in our professional and personal lives.

It could be that I modeled myself after my teachers and parents, for good or bad, for better or worse!

So many teachers, yet so few could I recollect reinforcing my belief in making classrooms fun places for students.

Happy classrooms make happy students and happier teachers and as a bonus you get some great results too!