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So, what do you really want?

Say fast, what do you want, really???

For yourself, yeah, just for you.

Tell now.

Now.

Ok.

I go quiet, inhale, exhale.

Tell, just tell.

Go to the home in Varandhirapilly.

Stay there.

Do some thing.

Teach or train.

Grow my own food.

Sit out in the sun.

Be there for achan and amma.

Earn enough to be comfortable.

Take care of self.

Take care of others.

Reach out and help.

And write.

read.

listen.

tell stories, maybe.

travel.

Ok. Then do no……

I laugh.

She nods her head, rolls her eyes.

You will manage?

You bet!!!

More nods, more rolling of eyes.

Ps: The other side.

of seeking help

“You don’t have ego”, said the man. Anu wondered if he meant it the good way or the bad way.

She kept quiet and went into turmoil for sometime. Later though, she concluded on her own, ‘perhaps it a good thing after all.’

When faced with struggles she rarely hesitates to seek help and this has helped, seriously, in different ways and has also bolstered her faith in the collective goodness of humanity.

When at crossroads, she always reached out.

Did some of those to whom she reached out, misunderstand her intentions or her familiarity? Perhaps they did. Who is to tell?

But reach out she does, unabashedly and as easily as she can be reached out to.

The results have been pretty impressive to sort of reinforce in her belief of one humanity-knotted even in separation.

A friend who finds time to listen, to ask a few pertinent questions and promises to check on her a week later, now, if that is not a gift worth having, what is?

A student who reaches out to ask, ‘all good mam’, ‘let me know if you need help’, really! this world is so good already.

‘Write’, said another, ‘just write I will read, if no one else’ and she laughed out loudly.

‘Looks like you need a break, care to join me to watch a contemporary dance performance?’

‘Here, let me help you do this, ah! you are not that bad are you!’.

‘Care to talk for sometime’, ‘let me get you a coffee’.

‘So, I know your work, don’t I’, ‘Will set that right’.

‘So you look radiant, what have you done to yourself recently’.

‘Ok, ma, just relax, you can do it. It is just a matter of figuring it out’

‘You are one strong girl aren’t you, if anyone says it differently, give my number, I will have a talk and I mean it’

‘Lazy, you!!!! goodness, whoever said that’

‘Go, take a break. Try a trip. Indulge yourself and you know what your mind is just going to flourish again, you will bounce back girl’.

‘When I tell you good things, you don’t listen, if anyone else says, its a big thing for you, hun…”

Kind souls, kinder words, spending time and effort to cheer someone up.

Sometimes the world overwhelms her with its kindness and she does embarrass me with her over eager, over enthusiastic self, over animated face, but tell me if 2021 doesn’t look beautiful already!

Study Buddy

So there I was breaking my head and a part of my heart over nothing when Sudha called,’ So, what did you do so far?’ .

‘What’, asked I.

‘Your studies girl’.

‘Oh! Ohk!’

‘hmm doing it’.

‘So I am going to register for this thing, it’s a must now right . Now I am going to pester you, and you call and ask after me, ok’, she said.

‘Ohk, done’

‘Now answer my question, you have started the work or still idling?’

‘No, doing it actually have the draft ready’.

‘So send it to your guide and get approval. Don’t sit over it ok’.

‘Ok’, said I still unable to believe my luck.

So, there she is my study buddy.

‘love much’

‘much love’

done, dana done!

Sudha explained to me the need of a study buddy. ‘So when we were studying in school or college, we were doing just that,studies I mean and still how distracted we were. The support or the interest of a friend in our progress did motivate us, right’.

‘Now studying when life is full swing, with so many things going on in different directions, it is sure going to be more difficult, even when your intentions are right and you are still somewhat bright’, she laughed.

‘So, now I am your study buddy ok, so what if my subject is different from yours, doesn’t matter’.

‘I am going to do my PhD at Indian Institute of Science, no less!’

‘So, your job is to inquire after me and keep me motivated’.

‘Ok’, said I surprised and much pleased.

‘I will be calling you, ok, now get back to some good work!’

Oh, wow, I thought, ‘ Who told her of my dire need?’

I was reminded of a Sudha here and a Sudha there in all my study tasks.

At school in Seventh Day Adventist School, Kaniampuram, the beautiful cherubic Sudha who loved sports and spoke animatedly. At Government Victoria College, Palakkad, Sudha with pink cheeks and sprightliness that kept us so glued that we were called soul sisters and now a Sudha so spirited that she is going to change a few things! Whew! Life!

Professional Learning Network or PCN, ‘C’ for Crying

Coz she’s a student again

for good or bad who knows

She chose this path

and now she is stuck

what brought her here

will not get her there

much struggle awaits

eats into the poor brain

sneaks into the sleep

makes her a total wreck

now all thru’ her life

she held a few hands steady

patted a few backs many

put a smile here and

gave a shoulder there

now when she’s on this journey

she needs a helping hand for sure

a shoulder to cry

an ear to hear the woes

(mostly her fears)

‘a paper not done’

‘procrastinator number one’

the teacher is angry

the student is bewildered

what got her here

is madness for sure

now if you may

friend, bystander

curious onlooker

or cursory glance-r

if you have the gumption

the grit and the notion

to help a student

quick to learn

as to have fun

to read and to forget

to write and be merry

to check on progress

without censure

be kind enough

to step in

afterall they said

world is one family

or so she has heard

knowing she is mad

knowledge that there are others madder

comforts her

if in kind censure and critical advice

you excel,

if times weigh on you

and you have an ear to lend

write to a soul

tangled in pages, theories and more

this is a request

so drop in a hi and bolster a soul

@ sreelekhakopparambil@gmail.com

you shall be visited by bounties galore

When the degree comes

and if she is still sane and sturdy

a treat for you is for sure

if not well, consider your time wasted and sorry aforehand!

PS: Professional lamenting, a wise woman said, ‘all doctors are mad’, maybe!

Meenu,the meemi-ViI, Action

Radha walked up to Anitha di’s flat to check on her in the afternoon. She took Nandu with her to Anitha di’s home.

They sat quietly as Anitha complained of a mild headache. Di was surprised to know that Nandu had visited the lake alone. ‘Did you, Nandu?’, di asked him with a smile on her face.

Nandu sat quiet. When Radha returned to work, Nandu stayed back at Anitha aunty’s flat reading books. Nandu decided to share what happened at the lake with Anitha aunty.

He narrated how Meenu, the meemi introduced herself and shared the concern of the lake dwellers with him. He spoke of Meenu, the meemi’s mentor, Turtle dodamma as well.

Anitha listened on, ‘ Is the boy delusional? He looks normal enough’. Maybe it is just his over worked imagination. Maybe I have been telling him too many stories. I have to be careful with him. After all he is Radha’s lifeline, now mine too in some ways.’

Nandu asked Anitha aunty about a few things that day. ‘Why is dirty water being flushed into the lake? Are there laws about waste water treatment? Why are they flouted? Who looks into all this? Is there a way to save the lake and do something for the fish and other lake dwellers? Does the polluted waters of the lake affect the water in the nearby wells, borewells?’

Anitha observed Nandu thoughtfully, ‘he seems to have grown up all of a sudden. Did he always think so much? ‘

Anitha shared her thoughts and whatever information she had with Nandu. She decided that Nandu needed some more help, as he had exhibited a deep desire to learn more.

Together they browsed Amazon to check what kind of mobiles were available that were cheap and affordable. Anitha told Nandu that he could come to her home and use his mobile to read and understand more. ‘Thanks to internet anyone can learn anything now, you too can do it, Nandu’.

Nandu happily accepted Anitha aunty’s offer. He did not feel awkward with her anymore. The walks continued uninterrupted the next day onwards now with a new twist. Post the walk, classes for Nandu started at Anitha’s home.

Anitha aunty allowed Nandu reading time on his mobile after he had learnt his lessons. When Nandu told Radha of Anitha aunty’s offer, she was hesitant but Nandu told her how important it was for him to learn.

The classes at the school were off and if he had to become someone big, he had to learn continuously. This convinced Radha who also agreed for regular classes with Anitha di for her son. ‘It is bound to benefit him anyways.’

Like most kids, Nandu was a quick learner. The mobile to him came as a boon, with Anitha aunty’s wifi he could read and learn as much as he wanted.

He read about the Puttenahalli Lake and how it had shrunk over a period of time. He came to know of citizen efforts to save it. But the dirty water which was Meenu, the meemi’s main concern needed a different solution altogether.

Nandu’s increasing knowledge base did not go unnoticed in the colony. He found an admiring crowd around him who wanted to listen to his stories of the lake, of Meenu, the meemi, of the hibiscus, of the wars, the heroes, of Gandhi, of Salim Ali and what not. The respect he got among his peers made Nandu bold.

He was not sure if Meenu, the meemi was real or a fantasy, he was not sure if she really talked to him or not. The truth is that after that day, Ms. Shiny Scales never appeared in front of him again. ‘Was she fine?’, Nandu often thought to himself.

As months passed, the colony became active for local elections. Nandu heard that the local MLA was going to address the rally in a few weeks time.

He went to his colony and talked to his friends. He told them how the apartments let untreated sewage into the lake. He said that if they supported him they could raise the matter in front of big leaders, this would make them popular too.

One of his friends, Raju asked timidly, ‘but we don’t live near the lake, nor in the apartment , how does it matter to us?’ Nandu listened to his doubt and answered that ‘every thing mattered to everyone, sometimes we do not realize it, that’s all.’ No one disputed Nandu’s wisdom. After all he even spoke in English. No school taught this kind of English, as far as they knew, maybe he was actually very smart. They kept quiet and decided to do as he said.

His group of friends were aged between 5-12 and there were girls as well as boys in it. The oldest boys and girls in the group worked on pieces of cloth to create banners which read,’ stop pollution’, ‘ save lake’, ‘we want cleanliness’,’ they also live’, etc.

Nandu requested Anitha aunty to buy him some paint and a few brushes. He already knew what to write on the cloth. Anitha did not think much of Nandu’s request, anyways, it was her deal that if he studied well and completed his lessons, he was eligible for special gifts. He also asked her for some old saris, light colored ones, ‘What are you doing, Nandu?’, Anitha asked him but gave an old cream sari she had with her. ‘Take this’, she smiled.

Radha noticed that Nandu had become more serious and that he and friends in the colony were always busy. ‘It is good to have kids busy,’ like all other parents in the colony she too thought the same. Radha did not bother much. ‘So long as they don’t create trouble’.

The MLA, Ranganath, finally came to the colony. Stage was set and mic was readied, blaring all kinds of songs. Some kids danced to the songs. Soon chairs were readied. Shri Ranganath walked to the podium. The colony which rarely saw electricity apart from the faint street lamps and a few bulbs here and there, was lit brightly that day. The entire area was in a festive mood. With free food and free liquor, there was no dearth of light hearted banter among the men folk. The women sat huddled here and there, they were mostly quiet.

The crowd applauded the MLA for everything he said. He seemed to be very high on energy. There was a few moments break in the programme when the leader looked down at a paper and was seen discussing something with a supporter.

The distracted crowd was surprised to notice a bunch of kids wearing garlands of rags and holding banners come to the stage. The motley group was led by a boy in shorts. The television cameras and the photographers looking for TRP turned their focus on the group. Dressed shabbily but walking erect, the kids in front carried banners which read. ‘Save Puttenahalli Lake’, ‘ Save the fish’, ‘Stop dirtying the lake’, ‘Stop construction near the lake’ and so on in English and in Kannada.

The leader on the dais was surprised at funny looking kids’ boldness but he chose to play to the gallery and called the boys and girls on to the stage. He asked Nandu if he wanted to say something.

That moment changed everything for Nandu. Nandu took the mic and spoke calmly about the lake, the fish in the lake and how they were unable to breathe. He spoke about his friend, Meenu, the meemi and Turtle dodamma and how it was important to all of us to save the residents of the lake.

The confused crowd looked on but the leader on stage started to clap for Nandu and every one joined with enthusiasm. As the news was broadcast, Anitha who watched the evening news was shocked and touched by Nandu’s speech, ‘So, the Meenu, the meemi stuff was real, was it?’

When a reporter asked Nandu why he was doing all this, he replied calmly, ‘ All life on the planet are connected. Though we live in this colony as poor people, we always dream of living in a good home someday. Similarly the fish in the lake too have a right to live in the best of waters, after all it is their only home. Besides, keeping the waters clean will help all of us. It is not the fault of the fish that the waters are being dirtied. We need to help them. A man can move to another village or town, but where will the fish go, what about Turtle dodamma, they deserve to live and die with dignity.’

The reply stunned the audience to silence. ‘Such wisdom at such a small age, surprising’, said the reporter who congratulated the boy on his boldness.

More interviews of Nandu and his motley team upstaged the MLA who had no choice but to play along. As the kids became prime time news items, it became essential for the authorities to make the right noise.

Last heard, the BBMP has promised to punish the builders who flouted water treatment norms. The MLA won the election riding on popularity votes for treating the kids with respect among other things.

A few moths later, Nandu’s life returned to daily grind but learning with Anitha aunty lifted his spirits. He promised to do more for the lake and for Meenu, the meemi, her mom and Turtle dodamma’.

Did he ever meet Ms.Shiny Scales again, perhaps not.

Nandu continued his morning walks with Anitha di. After all he was a small kid, but now he had a vision about his city, he knew that this was only the beginning of a long journey…

The End.

Meenu, the Meemi -vi, The dialogue

Nandu has been visiting the lake with Anitha aunty every single day. This had become a routine affair for him. He enjoyed listening to Anitha aunty’s stories, the tit bits of wisdom she shared in her animated tone about plants or animals or sometimes just stories.

Radha, on the other hand, found that her son was learning a lot these days and felt proud of her son. Sometimes a tinge of jealousy touched her soul, ‘does her son value Anitha di more now?’ but as Nandu ran back to her after the walk and hugged her, she relaxed and smiled .

In the evenings when the mother and son walked back home after work, Nandu always told Radha about the things he learned that day. Since the school was off, his source of learning was Anitha aunty and those morning walks with her. ‘If only I too had been educated too ‘, thought Radha, ‘but my son is lucky that he has found a mentor in Anitha di. Besides, di has started teaching him to read books in English and Kannada. They say, there is someone for everyone, even someone like me,’ smiled Radha thinking to herself.

One day Anitha aunty did not turn up for the walk, Nandu waited for her for sometime and later decided to go ahead to the lake. There was something about the lake that attracted him. ‘Did the lake too have few friends like him? What about the birds, do they feel lonely too? And miss Shiny scales, what about her?’ Nandu could not help smiling at the thought seeing her again.

He walked hurriedly to the lake and ran around saying ‘sat’ to each tree. This was the game he played in his colony with his friends. He then sat down quietly, brooding. ‘Maybe I should have waited for Anitha aunty? Is she sick?’ he panicked suddenly.

He turned when he heard a loud splash of water in the lake. He noticed how a nearby canal emptied dirty waters into the lake. Some frothing appeared at the mouth of the canal. ‘It must be difficult for miss Shiny Scales,’ he thought to himself.

As if reading his thoughts, a faint hello was heard. He looked around to see if anyone was around. Perhaps hiding behind the trees but no. His attention was drawn to the circles in the water caused by Ms.Shiny Scales. He asked, ‘wait, was it you who spoke?’.

‘Looks like that’, said the voice from water. ‘In fact I too discovered just now that I can speak in your language. You are not smart enough to learn ours anyways, so Turtle dodamma must have played her magic trick on me instead of you’.

‘Btw, I am Meenu, the meemi, glad to meet you, said Ms. Shiny Scales.

‘Oh,’ said the boy blurting ‘, me too’ almost unintentionally.

‘ For many days, I have been thinking of speaking to you, I like the fact that you are a quiet but smart boy’, smiled Meenu, the meemi.

‘Thank you’, said Nandu this seemed to be a normal thing now. ‘Hmmmm…..Maybe some fish do speak actually, maybe Anitha aunty forgot to tell me’, he thought to himself. He made a mental note to tell her about this unusual incident.

‘I don’t have much time, like your Cindrella right, Turtle dodamma’s magic too has a short life time. So, if you don’t mind,I willl come straight to the point, is that fine , Nandu?’, Continued Meenu, the meemi.

‘So, you know my name as well, ‘, asked Nandu.

‘Yes and much more’, replied Meenu, the meemi suddenly all wise and sagely, as she replied in a rather grownup tone.

Time stood still as the conversation went on for about an hour.

Later, Nandu woke up as if from a trance. There was no trace of Ms. Shiny Scales or Ms. Meenu, the meemi anywhere. ‘So, was I dreaming? ‘, asked Nandu himself.

Nandu walked back a bit lost and confused. He reached the apartment where his mother worked looking tired. He hugged his mother tight and went to sleep.

Radha saw that his son had gone to the lake alone. She wanted to scold him for not waiting for Anitha di, but he was so fast asleep that she sat down next to him, on the cot in the parking area, a sort of creche for the workers’ children. She gently put a bedsheet on him and went back to her work.

‘I have to talk to him about this. But first let me check on Anitha di, what happened to her? Poor thing, she stays alone too’. She decided to meet Anitha di during her break.

Meenu,the meemi -V, turtle Dodamma

Meenu, the meemi dived deep into the waters to reach out to Turtle dodamma, who has seen many generations of humans themselves. A mystic who carried her own home on her back, Turtle dodamma had no interest in others’ affairs. But Meenu had seen her mom consult her for advices and suggestions in difficult situations. And it was time for some sage counsel now.

Turtle dodamma was a recluse who talked less and worked even lesser. It was not clear what she did the whole of five hundred years of living on the planet. Perhaps she lived long because she did nothing. Anyways, Meenu, the meemi was advised to pluck a few plants from the lake bed and collect a few tadpoles for her mom. This should cure her of the fatigue and tiredness. Meenu, the meemi did just that and soon returned to Turtle dodamma for some serious talk.

Turtle dodamma loved the vivacious Meenu, the meemi and her shiny scales. Turtle dodamma closed her eyes and talked slowly about the life beyond the lake. She described Meenu’s kith and kin who lived in rivers and danced in joy, they were called dolphins. She also talked about the fierce sharks and the gentle whales who ruled the deep waters of the oceans. ‘But not anymore.’ Meenu, the meemi was startled at the sadness in Turtle dodamma’s voice. She asked quickly ,’but why Turtle dodamma?’ ‘Because they are not free of dirt or disease either. The humans are everywhere and they leave a dirty trail behind. They, the humans have changed everything and left devastation all around’. Turtle dodamma nodded her small head sadly.

‘But’, asked Meenu, the meemi, ‘is there nothing I can do?’ Turtle dodamma laughed gently. ‘If you can be heard by them, perhaps then’.

‘Don’t they speak our language? Maybe I can learn theirs. Amma tells me anything is possible if there is a will. And I am born to do great things, Turtle dodamma’. Turtle dodamma didn’t say anything. It looked as if she had gone into a trance. After paddling around her for a few minutes, Meenu, the meemi returned to her mother.

Somethings have to change now. How long can the hegemony of humans go on? When the adversary is treacherous and vile, one has to look to connect to him.

Meenu, the meemi watched her mom becoming more sprightly and cheerful as the medicine started to work. She thanked Turtle dodamma in her heart. Tomorrow I have to meet her again. In great wars, one needs great mentors and there can’t be anyone wiser than Turtle dodamma, after all she has seen many generations of humans themselves.

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Turtle dodamma

Living to learn

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