Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Vibrant glimpses of a fading year

Image courtesy: Google

2014 has almost faded into a bunch of memories with just a few hours left for the New Year to begin. The coming of 2015 rekindles hopes, desires and dreams in each and every one of us, but at this juncture my heart is full of gratitude for the year gone by. The year may have faded from present to past, but its glimpses remain vibrant, painted in beautiful hues by the various emotions I have experienced, people I have met and activities I have engaged in.

Being a high school science teacher, I was fortunate to be able to interact with an amazingly talented bunch of creative teenagers. Sometimes they did make me pull my hair wondering if teaching was my forte, but at other times they made me proud and taught me valuable lessons that I will never forget. By April 2014, a satisfying academic year drew to a close. I bade a final goodbye to all my colleagues during our trip to Nandi Hills.

One of the sweetest memories I have of 2014 is our first wedding anniversary. We felt it came too soon! It feels great to be married to the person who was first my colleague and then a great friend. It was a proud moment for all of us in the family, when he was awarded a doctorate. We celebrated by holidaying for 2 months! We spent a month in Doha with our brother and family. The summer heat didn't scorch our spirits at all as we had a fun time cooking, sightseeing, shopping and playing together. The icing on the cake was our nephew Manomay and his antics.

The second month of our holiday was spent in hot and sweaty Kolkata with my in-laws. Again, the heat and sweat were ignored while exploring the city’s museums and markets. We treated ourselves to the finger licking chaats, delicious mangoes, kulfies and many other delicacies. A trip to my home in Kochi proved relaxing and nostalgic. I devoured the simple meals prepared by Amma and spent time with my cousins and my darling nephew Aarav.

I revisited my long forgotten hobbies – gardening, reading, writing and painting. I started an organic terrace garden and though it is very small I’m quite proud of it. I got back to reading regularly and am stocking up some books in the hope of having a nice library one day. The itch to express my feelings and thoughts had me starting this blog with 30 plus posts in a span of four months. I am so glad I started writing as I now know how much I love it. Motivation came in the form of my article in Women’sWeb and another in The New Indian Express apart from the encouragement from well wishers and fellow bloggers.

End-of-the-year-family-time in Kolkata was fun, catching up with family and relatives and now it is New Year’s Eve being spent with my beloved husband in Bangalore. A quiet celebration so like us, away from the partying crowd. I am happy that I got to spend a lot of time this year with people who really matter to me. As a couple too, we went on short trips, picnics, cycling trips and nature walks. We did many things together with gardening, cooking and playing scrabble topping the list.

A memorable year indeed- loads of family time, discovery of hidden talents, plenty of time amidst nature and quite a bit of travelling.  Good bye 2014. This adieu is forever, but THANK YOU for all the evergreen memories.                 

Wish you all a very Happy New Year 2015!!

Monday, 29 December 2014

In the lap of nature

Taken on one of our trips
Being amidst nature in my opinion, is the most soothing, refreshing and energising experiences one can have, second only to the warmth of a mother’s lap. Born and brought up in a place where we were engulfed by swaying coconut palms, ponds studded with wild scented lilies in the purple-green background of  water hyacinths and vast open fields blanketed by wild grass and touch-me- not that would fill up during rains, creating a playground for frogs, crickets and snakes, this lap of nature rightfully belonged to me too. I would spend hours playing in the grass, feeding cows, petting them, collecting seeds, stones and just about anything that fancied me. It was the green patch in front of our house that I ran to when I did something mischievous and my irritated mother chased me.

Image courtesy:Google
Every inch of our modest garden nurtured something green- no, not manicured lawns and the yellow -green Duranta hedges (they are too business-like and formal), but wild flowers, climbers, hibiscus, jasmine a few vegetables and other plants that we mercilessly dismiss as “weeds”. My uncle and I would collect lotuses and lilies and arrange them in a jug of water to be able to adore their beauty even indoors, just as people would now click photographs and set it as their desktop backgrounds and screen savers. Study time always meant going to the balcony or terrace (unless it was too sunny or heavily pouring) with a steaming cup of tea and snacks and reading at leisure till twilight, when most of the light was gradually gobbled up by the approaching night.

Image courtesy: Google
The gentle breeze laden with freshness, the endlessly falling dry leaves, the whispering leaves, the bright green blades of grass studded with dew drops that shone with a brilliance comparable to diamonds, the golden sunshine illuminating all the minuscule particles in its path into a glittering dance, the humming bees, the flapping birds calling out to one another, the butterflies and dragonflies in their graceful dance; they all seemed to be claiming their share of nature, their mother’s lap to be a part of her. There is no end to these memories just like the infinite horizon.

Image courtesy: Google

Things are a lot different now with apartments, homes and building complexes dotting the view from my terrace and balcony. Fewer trees and gardens, courtyards sealed with concrete, rarity of birds and bees have become so common that we are all easily getting used to it. This makes a park or a small green patch all the more precious. During free time, I just rush to the nearby park, sit on one of the benches and absorb all the beauty I see around hoping to fully charge my batteries. I read books, dream and even write some of my blog posts sitting there. I am determined to spend a lot of time in the diminishing pieces of nature’s lap before it is too late. So dear whoever you are, grab every chance to sleep and play on her lap and even better, make one for yourself.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Red Apples

Image courtesy: Google

"Apples are red" the teacher said.
Green, yellow too said my head.
"Green apples, tangy and sweet,
bright red ones just like meat,
white inside that time turned brown."
I was wrong said the teacher's frown.

Then she drew an apple with a leaf
And I painted it red with some grief.
"Very good, so bright and neat"
she smiled as she came near my seat.
My friends too did the same
to escape her frown and blame.

Soon I was lost in the red tide around
with just dreams of a place where colours abound.

Image courtesy: Google

Friday, 19 December 2014


Image courtesy: Google

The echoing silence told me
that I was now alone,
his empty chair offered me
its lap where I could moan.
Friends wept, family too,
before they parted.
And without much ado,
I waved and nodded.

But his face lingered,
framed, on the wall,
his voice I heard
as I waited for his call.
His scent so familiar
still hung in the air,
making me shed a tear
at our incomplete pair.

Love birds and butterflies
resumed their part;
mesmerising with their lies
many a young heart.
The aftertaste of lost love
they kept a dark secret,
so surely tomorrow
love, all will tread.

Monday, 15 December 2014

The witch in white

Image courtesy: Google

I am the witch in white
considered an inauspicious sight,
my vibrant being bleached till light,
my hopes and desires knotted tight.

I am the witch in white
widowed by a feudal fight,
spending a day so bright
like it were a moonless night.

I am the witch in white;
to freedom I have no right,
but I dream of a charming knight,
much to my heart’s delight.

I am the one you call the witch in white,
determined to use her might
to break free from this plight
and to soar the sky like a kite.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Share a Tiffin

Image courtesy: Google

With just a day left for the Blog to Feed a Child campaign to end, I thought of writing one more post to do my tiny bit in eliminating classroom hunger. The number of young stomachs that go hungry in India is huge and classroom hunger is one of the reasons behind students dropping out of schools. Want of money for meals drives children away from school, to work as labourers, mechanics, cleaners and cooks.

If the RTE and all other campaigns towards ensuring better and equal opportunities in education for all children of India are to bear fruit, elimination of classroom hunger is a must. The government already has a mid-day meal programme running and several NGOs notably the Akshaya Patra foundation are doing a great job in this regard. But the number of mouths to be fed far exceeds the output of these community kitchens and there have been serious flaws in the execution of the mid-day meal programme of the government.

So it is time to share responsibility with the government and do our bit as voluntary groups, corporates, NGOs social workers or just as a citizen who cares. Here is a suggestion for what we can do as individuals at a more personal level than donating for the cause.

Sharing Your Tiffin
The basic idea is to encourage children to volunteer to carry extra tiffin box to share with a needy class/school mate. Share a tiffin programme can be of use especially in private schools which enrol students from underprivileged backgrounds through the RTE act. Very often being a minority in private schools, these children face ridicule and isolation by teachers and students that makes them drop out. Added to this the problems of poverty and hunger makes them flee from the intellectual demands of academics. Due to the small number of such children in these schools, there is hardly any NGO that supplies them food.

Nutritional and social inclusion of children can be made possible if sharing a tiffin box is encouraged. It involves other children of the school (along with their parents) volunteering to take up responsibility of sharing a meal (nutritional food) with one class mate from a less privileged background for a certain period of time. Given the diversity of eating habits, number of kids admitted through RTE and their needs, the programme can be implemented differently in different contexts. The whole idea is to bring together kids, socially and emotionally over a tiffin box.

    I am going to #BlogToFeedAChild with Akshaya Patra and BlogAdda.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Bin It

Image courtesy: Google
2014 is slowly fading into the past as a collage of memories and we eagerly await a new beginning, a new journey through 2015. The twilight between the years is a good time to reflect about the past experiences that have shaped us into what we are at this moment, and to weave dreams of a bright future. So here is a list of 10 things I wish to dump and start afresh the next year. I don’t want to call them resolutions and make too many guilt trips in 2015; let’s say these are some things I want to stop doing and I’ll try hard not to do them, to the best of my ability.

1. Worrying unnecessarily (to be thrown out of the window)
We often forget that the past has slipped away, the future is yet to come and that the present is all that we have in our hands. Living in the present and not worrying over things that happened in the past and not mulling over an uncertain future is something I want to try and practice faithfully. I have the habit of worrying unnecessarily sometimes, even about things that are beyond my control. So next time I am faced with a distressing situation or thought, I hope to find my way through it in a calm manner. And worrying about what others will think, that’s another story in itself. I don’t want to care about it.

2. (Locking the doors to) excessive gadget and social media usage
Though I am not one of those gadget freaks, I still feel I need to keep a watch over the time I spend with my phone. I hope to reduce logging into social media sites to just once a day and not use my phone unless I have a pressing reason to do so. I wish to remind myself that my really smart phone has the potential to make me stupid and that I have a life outside the sphere of “likes” and “comments”. I don’t need to advertise whatever I think and feel (meh, happy, blessed, irritated and a million more), all the restaurants I dine at, the gifts that my husband gives me and other things that very few people actually care about. I hope to refrain from posting status updates unless I have something strong and meaningful to say.  Number of photos that I send floating into cyberspace to go down but not to zero. 

3. Compromises on health and well being (to be swatted away)
In the beginning of 2014 my husband and I had resolved to make better lifestyle choices for better health. I feel I have done justice to it by cutting down greatly on junk food. Of course, I’m human (a foodie too) and have made compromises and treated myself to pizzas and pastries. The coming year I hope to continue the efforts and take it a little further by consuming fresh wholesome meals, exercising and meditating on a daily basis. I should also make my lifestyle more eco-friendly for the benefit of my family and others inhabiting this planet.

4. Being judgmental (to be flushed out of my system)
We are all different- we differ in appearances, feelings, values, thoughts, desires and many other things. I hope to be more inclusive of the variety around me and not judge other people based on the clothes they wear or choices they make based on skewed perceptions and the limited view from the window of my mind. I want to be able to put myself in others’ shoes, at least give it a shot before taking the easier route of judging the other person.

5. Lack of confidence in my writing (to be trampled under my feet)
I love writing and that alone is a strong enough reason for me to write. I should stop inhibiting myself by needless comparisons and fear of criticism. I need to work hard in improving my writing and keep blogging regularly whether people are reading me or not. My blog is a part of my creative space and I intend to make the best of it.

6. Impulsive buying and accumulation of things (to be swept under the carpet)
Though I am not a shopaholic and am a “limited needs”  person, I still realize that there is room for improvement when I see unused stuff  occupying space in the kitchen, wardrobe etc. I am going to ask myself if I really need something before fishing out my wallet. I wish to use my creativity to the fullest and try to come up with new uses for old stuff. If unsuccessful, I will give them to someone who really needs them. An exception however is in the case of books. That’s just not possible!

7. Wastage of food, water (to be condemned)
Need of the hour, this one can’t be put off till Jan 1 2015. It’s a basic necessity that sustains life, and unfortunately millions out there still struggle for a glass of clean water to drink and a plate of nutritious food to eat. And apart from food and water, there are many other things we mindlessly throw as waste. I need to raid the dustbin to see what I can reuse and recycle. It is time to lock away the tragic memories of my unsuccessful wet waste composting attempts and start with renewed hope and wisdom from mistakes of the past.

8. Shouting in anger (to be silenced)
I’m sure there are peaceful ways of expressing displeasure and anger than shouting till the other person becomes deaf to your calls. Sometimes I immediately regret the things I mouth in fury as I don’t think I ever mean them. I should learn better ways of letting others know of my disapproval. I’m considering a crash course in anger management where I am the teacher and student. Leaving the place and talking about it later is something I wish to try the next time I sense my nostrils flaring and fuming.

9. Taking people, relations and things for granted (to be given a cold shoulder)
I can’t let excuses like “being busy” sever my relations with favourite people. I hope to overcome the inertia to make that call to a loved one to show that I really care. The clock is ticking; we are not yet capable of stopping death. I realize relationships need constant nurturing with love, care and understanding and that a little weeding of misunderstandings and ill feelings that may have sprouted will be great. Apart from people I often tend to take all the things I have, freedom and safety that I enjoy for granted. I want to dump that.

10. Procrastination (to go down the drain)
Though I enthusiastically do all the stuff I am very interested in, I tend to become lazy when it comes to stuff that doesn't interest me, but which have to be done. These include simple things like going to the bank and closing a sleepy account, cleaning up after a frenzy of cooking, cleaning my cupboard and similar stuff that I feel are “too clerical” and “boring” at times. I hope I do these things without my husband and parents having to play the role of an alarm clock (repeated alarms make it all the more boring). I should update my CV after I write this post. Boring as hell but my career is at stake!

The next time you catch me doing something I promised to dump, you can sure question me. But please try not to be the alarm!

This post was written for IndiSpire for the topic:

Friday, 5 December 2014

Real love

Image courtesy: Google

The soft click of the door was music to my ears. Music that liberated, music that ignited hopes and desires, music that prophesied the much awaited shuffle of feet along the cobbled garden path. It was such a great relief to have him by my side every day, soon after my husband left for work juggling his bag, a huge file that was too big for his bag, his coat, spare house keys, mobile phone, and a sandwich half wrapped with foil that he ate in the car. His presence was infinitely comforting like the warm sun rays that caressed me in the cold December mornings, the warmth having survived the double barriers of the painted glass window and silky soft curtains.

He came every day without fail. No cards, bunches of roses, perfumes, jewellery or tickets to a surprise luxurious holiday in one of those boringly similar resorts that my husband treated me to. No formal dinners or romantic dates or packed movie halls with buckets of popcorn. No passionate nights that people thought to be the cherry on top of the cupcake of love. No elaborate words of love to impress me. Just his loving presence when I needed him, plain love without the fake frills. I am glad it is this way with us because sometimes these frills are so breathtakingly beautiful and intoxicating that even a fleeting moment of deprivation throws us into a loveless, lonely abyss powerful enough to shield out even the brightest rays of hope.

He had no business empire to keep him busy, nor did he have a passionate inclination towards the share market. He would rather preoccupy himself with my emotional ups and downs than the rise and fall of share values. No mobile phone to distract him during awkward moments or when he was bored. He enjoyed my company and whatever it gave him- interesting conversations, talks about mundane stuff, my lack lustre marital life, problems to ponder upon, promises to be given and kept and many other things. With him I could be my very own self, the naked truth in stark contrast to the mirage I was to my husband.

This was my deep dark secret, a strange love that I sought outside wedlock. My husband would never forgive me if he knew. He could never be expected to fathom my need for such a grave infringement of forbidden territories. To him I was a mere responsibility, a wife who had to be sheltered, clothed, fed and infused with his overflowing passion that trickled through his bursting seams. In his view, he was doing a great job keeping me happy and content within the cruelly confining walls of a massive bungalow only that accentuated its emptiness.

“What more could a wife possibly wish for?” his friends would exclaim whenever they came over for dinner. And to this my husband would reply with an unnatural laughter, feigning humility. All the things he showered me with were the very same things I just did not want.

What I wanted was a companion as real as my heart full of love, as real as my hatred towards my conjugal life, as real as the fear of my bold venture out of marriage being exposed by the person fate had forcefully bound me with. But I prided myself in having made a perfect plan to keep both of them from meeting. We met only when my husband had sped away to sit at a desk in a faraway office, flirting with computers as much as he did with his secretary.

On my birthday, we lovers decided to hold hands and talk a little more than our daily quota. As we laughed till our stomachs hurt, threw pillows like lunatics and teased each other, I was oblivious to the click on the front door. Soon he was there, my husband, looming in front of us with a baffled expression that I thought was smeared with jealousy. Too horrified at being caught red handed, I now could only think of our safety, how to escape from the beast.

“Run my love; go away before he hurts you!” I screamed. I kept screaming, howling and crying out of fear of the unfamiliar events to unfold and the nagging possibility that I may never again hear the much awaited shuffling of legs at the doorway.

“I hate you! We are in love, leave us alone you bastard! “I spat at my husband who suddenly looked so concerned. To insult him further, we hugged each other for the first time, determined not to let go.  I was drained by the end of it and swayed unsteadily. I must have fainted because when I opened my eyes, I was in a hospital room. What had happened? Had he tried to kill us? Or just him? What story had he cooked up and served to all the relatives who had gathered? Did he want a divorce? My head was throbbing. Was it my cruel fate to weep all my life over lost love?

 My husband came in with a doctor. I listened to their conversation while pretending to sleep.

“She has deluded herself into thinking that she has a lover. When I went home today, earlier than usual to give her a birthday surprise, she was talking to the walls, laughing insanely. I am really worried about her. There was no one else in the room!” said my husband. Liar. He had caught us both having a nice time and now he was trying to make others believe I had a problem. I couldn't believe this was happening. Had he gone blind? Or was he losing his mind? I had to tell the truth to someone. But who would listen to me? Who would believe me? I cried at my fate, for my lost love and the desert of a life I would be forced to lead with a person who I never loved.

When the doctor left with my husband, I opened the flask to pour myself some milk. As I unscrewed the lid, a tiny face bobbing up and down peered back at me. My happiness knew no bounds. I hadn't lost my love after all. He had been hiding in the bottle, waiting for the chaos to die away.

“Come out, I've been waiting for you!” I whispered. As he came out from the flask and sat beside me, everything felt normal again. He held my hand and we talked. My love was real indeed. It was ridiculous of anyone to think that I had delusions. They would never see or acknowledge the real love of my life. 

Monday, 1 December 2014

Rightfully yours

Image courtesy: Google

Dear children of my cursed womb
I beg of you from my newly dug tomb,
to see how senseless was this fight
among tender hands that once held tight.

Those endless days of joy and laughter
veiled so well what was to come after,
that I prided in the perfectness
of the happy family I would witness.

 But age and ailment suddenly pranced
and wore me out as they advanced,
snapping the threads of brotherhood
I’d woven you with since childhood.

When you sought a fancied treasure
my grief and rue knew no measure.
This life of numbers that you lead
can never count the tear drops I still bleed.

When you surrounded me on my bed
I saw hungry vultures wanting me dead.
To the pain and grief I was ready to succumb
when I saw no love in your eyes so numb.

You abruptly had ample time at hand
to sever a precious piece of land.
With great passion you contemplated,
discussed, debated till you felt elated.

“The house for me, the shop and jewels for her.
The other one deserves not a single acre.”
The echoes of your heartless words
will haunt me even in other worlds.

I have only one thing to say
To the bits of my womb gone astray,
By claiming what you thought was rightfully yours
You have lost pure love that was truly yours.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Where Ganga meets Yamuna

Image courtesy: Google
I am Ganga. This is not my story alone.

In fact this is the only story I have seen around me and heard from the women of my neighbourhood at the end of a tiring day or while waiting to fetch water in the long queue that snakes around the corner of the tall buildings where the lucky rich people live. Of course, theirs is a different story because they live in houses that touch the sky, beyond the reach of miseries and wretchedness.

I am a working woman.  My day begins at three in the morning when I wake up without the aid of alarm clocks. That’s the time my husband’s day comes to an end and he knocks at the door. On some days he prefers to bang so hard that the wooden planks that I painstakingly gathered and nailed together fall apart. My husband slaps his victory on my cheeks. Sometimes he celebrates by wringing my neck till he squeezes out a few drops of tears from my eyes. A few punches mean that the cheap liquor he had gulped down was not to his liking. On a lucky day he just disappears into the only other room in our house with a younger woman. He ends his day by slumping on the straw mat on the floor, where our daughter sleeps.

 I fear for the safety of my daughter but I have to go out to work. I do not want us to stay hungry. So I cook some food and sit down to make floral garlands that I sell at the local market. This is the best part of my day. I bathe in the fragrance of the delicate flowers that is a magical balm to my wounds. As I thread the flowers together, I weave dreams of a better life. Sometimes, I feel jealous of my Memsab who lives in one of the tall buildings; security guards watching over the queer houses stacked one on top of the other. Her husband is a caring man who never beats her. He pampers her with the luxury he can easily afford. He gives her so many gifts when he returns from places where he travels by plane. They have a beautiful daughter who goes to school, speaks English and dances well.

After selling garlands, I go to work as a maid in a few houses. By evening I reach Memsab’s house. In between my chores I talk to her. She listens patiently to my laments. She seems to understand my problems though she has none of her own. I have dinner at her house, pack some food for my daughter and return home. My daughter and I mop the house and wash clothes. We say a prayer and try to sleep hoping we never hear the knock at the door next morning.

I think about my day as I lie on the floor at night. I did the same tonight. Today Memsahab was not her usual self. As I poured out my heart and the story behind my bruised body, I noticed a stray tear slide down her cheek. It must have been a very heavy one because it dragged itself along, peeling away a few layers of a beautiful mask, so skilfully worn that I never had a clue all these years. Beneath her mask was a similar story veiled by silence.

She is Yamuna. And this is not her story alone.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Food for thought

  • Image courtesy: Akshaya Patra Foundation

     One crisp Bangalore morning as I walked to school enthralled by the warm sunshine and the cool breeze, I was startled by a voice that called out “Vidya Akka!” from somewhere behind me. I turned to see one of my students, a 13 year old boy running towards me. Gasping for breath, he said he wanted to walk with me to school. Both of us were glad to have company during the 20 minute walk and so we talked. He asked me about my daily routine, family and so on. I answered him and asked him the same. He said he played after going home, bathed, did his homework, studied if he felt like and then slept.                                                                                                     
     I felt that he had missed out something. “What about dinner?” I asked candidly. It was only when he stared at me without an answer for two whole seconds did I realise my stupidity. I felt really bad but I couldn’t take back my words, instead chewed the inside of my cheek, trying to change the topic. It was too late. He said “I don’t have dinner Akka. The food we get from school is all that I eat.” I was speechless. Thankfully we had reached school by then. He waved and ran to play with his friends.                                                                                                                                     
    I felt so silly. I had taken for granted everything that life had given me- food, clothing, shelter, loving family and friends, education, career, health and so many other things. My thoughts were interrupted by the school bell to remind us of breakfast time. As the students lined up for a helping of chitranna (lemon rice) I felt so glad that the school provided breakfast, lunch and ragi malt in the evening. It made sure the kids were not hungry in the classroom and could be attentive in class without growling stomachs to distract them.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
     Akshayapatra Foundation of ISKCON provides food to all the students of the school as part of its mid-day meal programme. Along with other factors, the mid-day meal initiative plays a crucial role in bringing many students to school, who would otherwise have landed up as child workers or would never have come to school. Thanks to various other benevolent people, breakfast and nutritious ragi malt are also given to all children from kindergarten to 10th standard. They are given boiled eggs twice a week. Many children like my 13 year old student don’t eat anything after going home. If government schools and NGOs provide basic nutrition to students, it will definitely attract them back to class, prevent drop outs to an extent and ensures that the child is energetic enough to absorb the knowledge he/she is being fed with. It also ensures that more girls are sent to school and not kept at home for domestic work.                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
    I hope I can fuel a child’s hunger for knowledge as a teacher and satiate his/her hunger for food as a blogger. I am going to #BlogToFeedAChild with Akshaya Patra and BlogAdda.
  • (This is an initiative by BlogAdda which will sponsor meals for an Akshaya Patra beneficiary for an entire year for each blog that is written about this)
  • P.S- Don't wait to think. Be the change!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Bored? That’s great!

Image courtesy: Tumblr

I often come across people who seem to be eternally stuck to the assorted gadgets in their prized possession. It really amuses me, how they apportion their time between laptops, tablets, smart phones and so many other gizmos. I fear that a lame joke that someone cracked may actually be true- that we live in an age where phones are getting smarter and people, idiotic.

Why is it that a few seconds of doing nothing makes us feel work-less, worthless and less important than people with ears plugged and fingers in perpetual swiping motion? Even a few minutes of boredom has become so intolerable in this age of the fast and furious where even food has to be “fast”. Next time you are in a public space, just look around you and you will find people torturing themselves by over-stimulating their senses. It’s true. They just don’t realize it. If a shopping mall has free Wi-Fi, even lovers would prefer texting each other while holding hands! That’s the rule. Free Wi-Fi HAS to be used.

Children seem to be as busy as professionals. Wake up, go for sports practice, go to school, come back, quickly snack, go for tuitions, come back and do homework, play, study, watch T.V/browse the internet/play video games, have dinner, sleep. On weekends, add a music/dance/swimming/karate class to the above list. I dread that day when parents may have to take an appointment with their child (after rescheduling theirs) to just hold hands and take a stroll in the park together.

I can’t help thinking about my childhood days when there was so much time at hand that boredom was something that I encountered every day. Being the only child of my parents didn't make matters very easy. I was always faced with the challenge of entertaining myself and coming up with new things to do. Since I was spared of the idiot box (Doordarshan was more depressing than boredom) and the smartest of gadgets, I found myself painting, writing, making my own songs(parodies), making use of waste materials in the house to create new things, cooking up new games and stories and finding my own methods of engaging myself in a productive activity. Things that I made and did, though far from perfect, were at least original and left me satisfied and proud.

 I can’t suppress my laughter when I think of the seriousness with which I hosted imaginary cookery shows, conducted parent teacher meetings, taught maths and English to teddy bears, dolls and sometimes even my mother. My cousins and I even scripted and enacted plays on our cot that served as our stage shrouded by my mother’s sari. I kept a secret diary, had imaginary friends, made my own code language, conducted tuition classes (yes, I earned my pocket money) for kids younger than me and did so many other interesting things on my own. I even made my own brick house (without cement) with a thatched roof in our terrace. You can imagine how bored I would have been to carry nearly hundred bricks up the stairs and make a house!

There have been other times when I just gazed out of the window, looking at the sunset or people on the road, trying to guess their stories or reflect on mine. Even as an adult, I enjoy the bout of creativity that is born after a period of boredom. Though my husband has to bear the brunt of my frustration while I am bored, the outcome is quite rewarding, really. A painting, a handmade card, a new dish, a heartfelt handwritten letter, a new hobby- the outcomes are sometimes unpredictable. Even this blog wouldn't have materialised had I succumbed to the charms of my phone and laptop that promise to entertain me faithfully 24×7.

Of course, I have nothing against technology. I too depend on it every day. I hold no grudge against children who learn different things either. The point is to stop ourselves from being enslaved by them to such an extent that without them we feel empty. Boredom is not such a bad thing. Once while I was taking class about the human digestive system, the students and I got so bored of the lesson (yes teachers get bored too!) that we decided to have some fun. I asked the students to imagine themselves as a piece of bread or dosa or whatever and write about their experience. The answers were so enthusiastically written with a good dose of humour that left us in peals of laughter. A Biology lesson was effectively turned into a creative writing session thanks to boredom.

Empty spaces can be filled with something new, but not a space that is already crammed.  Once in a while let’s take our eyes and hands away from our gadgets find some time and clear the canvas of our minds and fill it with new colours and patterns. The result will surely amaze you. So, cheers to boredom!!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Attention please!!!

Image courtesy: Google

Yesterday was Children’s Day. The numerous posts on social media reminding everyone about the importance of the day made me close my eyes and dream a little. My students in their blue and green uniform. Laughing, chatting, playing....... Then a petite girl in a pinafore with checks of black, white and red, a crisp white blouse and a red tie. She walked along the school corridors, the fingertips of her outstretched hands caressing the walls, leaving an invisible mark of her presence. She stopped and turned towards me. It was myself! Minus two decades. It was a refreshing vision, in the cozy comfort of my closed eyelids. I couldn't help letting out a childish giggle recollecting fond memories of childhood…much before the turbulent teens that would accelerate my metamorphosis into an adult.

When I was in second grade, once for some strange reason I fail to recollect, my friend Vinaya and I decided that we wanted to die. So we kept chewing our pencils, swallowing the lead that painted our teeth a powdery black. Our teacher Mini Miss spotted us sharpening our pencils with great focus, chewing endlessly at their sharpened ends, while the rest of the class paid attention to the lesson. She immediately demanded that we leave the room and wash our mouths if we wished to sit in her class. As we walked to the restroom, we asked each other why we hadn't died. Strange!

The entire class watched us (in awe, I liked to think) as we quietly occupied our seats. We felt like war heroes. So what if we had been caught and scolded. We had “dared” to try and kill ourselves with pencil lead. Now when I think of it, I guess I hadn't really wanted to die. May be just fall a little sick to gain some attention from friends, parents or teachers. An extra helping of love and care, some favouritism I thought I deserved!! May be that’s why when I oooh! and aaaahh! over small cuts, burns and bruises even now, my husband calls me a drama queen. A little bit of drama to feel like the queen of his heart. Yes, the child in me is alive and kicking!

Image courtesy: Google

Monday, 10 November 2014

Beauty therapy

Image courtesy: Google

“You have very dry skin
and a very hairy shin.
A face laden with freckles
and wrinkles on your knuckles.”
“The hair so dry and frizzy
makes me feel so dizzy,
your curls a maddening mane
isn't combing it a pain?”

“Your heels sport many cracks
and below the eyes two dark sacks.
It’s strange you neglect beauty
That’s part of feminine duty.”
I who had never cared
Got so very scared,
wondered if I’d lose my beloved
who I had just recently wedded.

So drawing some courage
from the beautiful image
that my friends painted of me-
creamy, steamy, dreamy and filmy,
I entered the world of mirrors
that loudly proclaimed my errors,
to scrub myself to glamour,
to be my spouse’s charmer.

“Why-o-why you never came before,
dear girl who looks like a wild boar?”
remarked the concerned therapist
about my beauty in a gist.
My nightmare began- waxing,
threading, steaming......taxing.
Massage, pedicure and manicure
and other things too obscure.

I paid a heavy price
with tears in my eyes
Bleached face with rashes
that scorched my skin to ashes
“You've become too different
queer sight, feel and scent.”
His words filled regret in my head
As we lay two strangers on the bed.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Dawn at Dusk

As we stroll hand in hand
along the coarse beach sand,
our foot prints fresh and wet
witness silently each new set
while they fade away
with neither fuss nor delay.
A clean slate of sand
so golden, so grand
awaiting bare feet
of new people to meet,
each leaving their mark
some faint others dark

The whispering breeze so restless
loosening my curls into a mess
impatient, eager to share its tales
as we inched ahead like snails.
The swaying palms painted green
lean low to savour sights unseen.
The mighty giant deep and blue
weaves foamy frills of a different hue.
The golden sun now dons pink
a bright fuchsia before the sink
into the horizon so very vast,
bright daylight will soon fade past

Nestled in nature’s arms,
truly mesmerised by its charms
we feel the passion we always kept veiled
and caged within our tender hearts.
At twilight your words of love
seem like blessings from heaven above.
This love is meant to be
nurtured and celebrated for all to see.
Should silver hair at life’s sunset
strangle our feelings in its net?
So here it is, “I love you.
Let us begin a life anew.”

Sunday, 2 November 2014

If I had known

Image courtesy: Google

If I had known
that you loved me
and truly cared
for my invisible tears

If I had known
that you took pride in me,
in the little steps of mine
that had never been easy

If I had known
that you caressed my cheeks
and said a silent prayer
when I was fast asleep

If I had known
that I was dear to you
when you didn't seem to notice
as I hugged you tight

If I had known
that you would be by my side
when things go wrong
or on a very bad day

If I had known
that you wished only the best
as you angrily spat out
the nastiest of words

If only I had known!
But how would I know
about words unspoken,
of unexpressed love?

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Life in a Crowded Red Bus

 Buses have been an inalienable part of my life. Right from when I was a baby to the present, I have relied on them as a means of transport. In fact, it is the vehicle in which I have travelled the most. Inevitably, a multitude of strong memories and emotions are tethered to this red giant on wheels. I have been witness to and have experienced pleasant, funny, embarrassing, distressing, painful, irritating, obnoxious and even scary incidents during my journeys.

A quick primer about private buses in Kerala. They are mostly coloured bright red. Unlike other states in India, there are very few public transport buses available to commute within the city, so people rely on these bright red buses on a daily basis. Interestingly, they are not numbered route-wise but have names that I feel, give them a human touch. St.John, Hasnamol, Arafa, King, Mangalya, Jyothis, Nawaz and so on. So if you overhear someone at the bus stop saying they’re waiting for Aishwarya, in all probability it is the bus they are waiting for. Some times when seen from a distance they even seem to look human! It amuses me how my psyche fabricates humanoid images of these buses. Some look depressed or have a frowning face, some have huge nostrils and some others are decked up like a bride during festivals.

Having travelled so much in buses it would not be fair on my part to brush aside the people one encounters in them- most importantly the driver, cleaner (fondly called kili which means bird in Malayalam) and conductor (ticket collector). They are too conspicuous to miss with their numerous avatars ranging from friendly, kind and helpful to flirts, oglers, gropers and heartless beasts. Young, old, middle aged. All kinds. Then of course there are my co passengers- babies(crying or sleeping), children(school going, armed with heavy bags), working women (bathed in coconut oil, hair dripping with the oil-water emulsion), college students (well dressed, ready to flash their student travel concession cards), fish mongers and labourers (with their pots, basins, baskets and tools) and many others with their own stories of joy and grief.

Each time I step into its threshold I get whisked away into another world, a world bubbling, fuming steaming within the confines of the flaming red chassis. With not an inch to be spared, the overcrowded bus speeds away like a lunatic, least concerned about other beings on the road. Trapped inside and suffocated by the various smells and carbon dioxide laden puffs emanating from my fellow passengers exacerbated by my short stature, I make a desperate attempt to stand on my toes gasping for some fresh air. In utter disappointment, I withdraw my attempts as the slightest movement invites devilish glares, scowls and tch-tchs from the aunties poised to attack with their elbows outstretched. How can I forget those days when I helplessly watched the bus speeding past my destination due to my inept jostling skills? Or the days I scrambled out of the bus, my hair a total mess, my  duppatta caressing many a confused head as I tugged at it waiting outside the window for some benevolent stranger to throw my bag out and for another to catch it promptly and hand it over to me.

On many occasions middle aged men tried their luck in touching, pinching or pressing themselves on to women “by mistake”. Sometimes I watched helplessly, at other times I was rescued by safety pins and high heels. Infatuated drivers and cleaners sometimes refused to accept the ticket fare in spite of insistence. Once, a lady nearly fell off the moving bus as it raced ahead impatiently even before she could alight. There have been pleasant incidents too. Those lucky days when I managed to get a seat and travel comfortably, when I was helped by a lady in picking up my wallet that I thought was lost in the crowd and those days when I got to sit with friends enjoying a conversation about the most mundane of things. The luckiest day when I reached college alive and safe having travelled on the foot-board with only my feet inside, torso and head getting drenched in the merciless monsoon showers, my hands clutching the rails as if holding onto my soul which could slip away any moment.

On Saturdays and holidays I would get to sit by the window and tap my feet to the tasteless music being played by the driver, savouring the sights along the road and the breeze on my face. A luxurious gift that ignited many thoughts. On those days I often compared the journey to life. There is a beginning and an end. Many things happen between the two. People come and leave. There can be good experiences and bitter ones, some that make us happy, others that teach us a lesson. Some people and things stay with us throughout. Others depart when it is time. Some come very late in life but leave their indelible mark. Some others are never noticed. Some may have been worth noticing. In the end, however pleasant or bitter the journey, one has to move on with renewed hope. A new journey, a new beginning....a new life.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Lesson 1 for the newly wed: Advertise

It was the beginning of a new academic year. The entire school was back after a refreshing (or not so refreshing) break. It was my first year at work after marriage. Many of them at school knew about this as I had invited them for the function before we broke for the holidays. As I entered the school office I found it strange that after the expected “Congrats!”, “How is married life?”, “How was the honeymoon?” and “How are your in-laws?” people started giving me deadly looks. I cringed as they scanned me from head to toe.

Head: Sindoor and Bindi missing.
Neck: Mangalsutr/Thaali missing.
Hands: Bangles missing. Ring missing.
Toes: Toe rings missing.

Too many things missing, much to their discomfort. I have always hated jewellery especially gold. So without them I felt absolutely normal and comfy. As I smiled at every one and asked them about their holidays, I got weird responses like

“At least the mangalsutr, can’t you wear it for your husband’s sake?”
(Is my husband’s fate sealed in a few grams of gold hanging from my neck?)
“Girls these days!”
(Yes girls these days at least try to think with their own head rather than the moral policemen’s)
“Your husband or at least mother-in-law didn’t say anything?”
(They have better work to do than police me)
“How will people know whether you are married or not?”
(I don’t display labels of any other relation on my body. Apart from being a wife, I am a daughter, granddaughter, sister, aunt, friend and many others. If I displayed a symbol each for the endless relations, I would collapse under their collective weight)
“People will always respect women who wear the symbols of marriage”
(People should respect others based on qualities for which he or she can take credit. One’s religion, sexuality, appearances etc. don’t qualify for that)

I dodged most of them with smiles though I had answers and better questions with me. It would just fall into deaf ears. I should have anticipated this. I was under the notion that times had changed and people were more accepting of fresh ideas and that patriarchy did not exist in educated people’s world at least. Too na├»ve. I was in no mood to share my ideologies with them. I headed to my class. Only to dodge similar questions repeated by gen next with an added “Your husband has allowed you to work even after marriage, so…”
(I am an adult, the constitution says I can vote someone into power in the Indian democracy, I can get a driving licence, can get married and do so many other things. But wait, someone has to allow me to work, take care of my parents or wear clothes of my choice?)

Of course, I don’t intend to blame the children who said that. Their words reflect the society we live in. Children imbibe ideas and notions from adults around them. It is a different story if women did these things of their own free will, but most often there is an invisible but undeniably present mental filter in our heads (especially after marriage) that doesn't allow our values and ideals to permeate into our consciousness, instead lets them fade into the past as distant memories that would soon be forgotten. In the struggle to get into the good books of others, we become a new person, living someone else’s dreams, thinking like someone else, one’s identity inseparably tagged to someone else’s.

 I am myself first. I love the person I am. Happy the way I am. I have many dreams for myself. Without having to feel guilty. Only then I am ready to don the role of daughter, sister, friend and wife without losing myself.

P.S: Many people have argued with me saying that these are part of our culture, so we should accept them without questioning. I believe culture changes, it evolves. Otherwise we wouldn't have been able to get rid of many social evils and malpractices like sati. Some others tried to give me scientific reasons behind sindoor, toe ring, bangles and thaali associating it with reproduction and sexual life. Just a gentle reminder that people from other cultures too have been there, done that!

photo credit: askmir via photopin cc

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Let’s talk: Alone amidst the crowd

Image courtesy: Google

He was the tiniest in my class. Cheeky, lively and bubbling with excitement all the time. Except when there was writing or reading to be done. He was an amazing actor, sometimes volunteering to act out parts of stories that I read out in class. I would often catch him strumming an imaginary guitar when the entire class was busy multiplying gigantic numbers or doing the “Chammak challo” act as I cleaned the black board. He could hardly read and write but loved listening to stories. Once, while the rest of the class was playing, I caught him sitting alone in class. I decided to give him company and invited him to a game of dumb charades. He was not in the mood.

Boy: Akka, I want to tell you a story.
Me:  Really? Which one?
Boy: No, not from any book. I made the story in my mind.
Me: Wow! That’s nice. Would you care to write it out in your book?
Boy: No Akka. I hate writing. I don’t know any spellings.
Me: Ok. Tell me.
Boy: There was once a boy who studied in a good school. He never listened in class, never did homework and was very, very naughty.
Me: Hmm..
Boy: He loved to sing, dance and act. But he hated English and Maths. His teachers always scolded him. He had no friends. Nobody liked him. His parents and sisters always punished him.
Me: Oh! That’s sad.
Boy: Yes. The boy felt very sad. He was alone all the time. One day he did not go to school. Then all his classmates missed him. But he was not at home too. His parents were worried. They searched for him everywhere. All over the earth. But they did not find him.
Me: Where did he go?
Boy: He made a rocket and flew away to another planet where nobody could find him. He was happy to be alone in that planet. Everyone on earth cried because they missed him. But the boy never came back.
Me (shocked): That is a sad story. The boy seems to be nice and maybe he WAS loved.
Boy: You know who that boy is, Akka?

I had guessed by then and enveloped by sadness, but wanted him to speak.

Me: You say.
Boy (laughing): Me!!! So easy it was. You didn’t know?!

I was shattered. The words “You didn’t know” kept echoing in my head. I had nothing to say. As a teacher, as a part of the education system, I had failed. The system has no room or time for emotions and sentiments of students. No room for diversity.  Whoever heard of testing students in acting and storytelling skills when there was so much to learn in Maths, Chemistry, History and Literature? So what if a student was lonely, stressed or depressed? In the mad rush by students, parents and teachers to complete the syllabus, prepare for exams, flaunt good grades, meet deadlines and targets, there seems to be no space for such beautiful wild flowers to blossom. They perish, their beauty unnoticed among the endless fields of similar looking flowers.