Friday, December 14, 2007

I've been Tagged!

I remember as children, we used to play the game of tag. Run around in circles, the 'den' trying to catch you, while you desperately try to outrun him. Then, he runs up to you, slaps you in the back and says "Tag, you're it!"...all too familiar. But I did not know tagging has aqquired a different meaning on the net. You actually 'tag' friendly bloggers. I've been tagged, first time by Miss Latha Vidyaranya mam, and as per the rules, I have to state 8 things about myself. Usually, I never pay heed to those "Send this message to five people in five minutes or else you will suffer eternal misery until your death-day" sort of taunting mails and comments, but tagging is friendlier, and fun too, so I have decided to be a sport and quickly jot down 8 things about myself. I know dear readers, I am merely boring you with this. I already talked about myself on my birthday! Ah well...this is for Miss Latha mam then.

8 things about me: (which you did not know)
1) I am a person who likes to see the world as a pretty, happy place to live in, ignoring the viler parts because I find uncomfortable truths hard to digest.
2) I hate anything which is artificial--like artificial fruits in your pretty bamboo basket, or even those plastic flowers you bought home for 15 rupees.
3) I love frosty, cold, or chilly weather, preferably if it is a stormy day with heavy rains. Getting drenched in the rain and swimming are somethings I enjoy.
4) My balcony is one of my most favorite places in the world. It's the place where I study, read, or even reflect on life (don't blink your eyes)
5) I like walking, when I have the mood for it. Walking home from tution in the morning can sometimes seem frustrating, but sometimes, it's really fun.
6) I LOVE to eat things spicy. I always like spicy food, no matter the weather. I even eat the apples and the pomogranites with chilli powder. I love granny's pickles. I hate the unhealthy sweets and never eat too much.
7) I like meeting up with friends and cousins. I have this knack of mingling better with people who are younger than me when compared to my peers.
8) Ah favorite holiday spots happen to be visits to national parks, and not malls. I feel claustrophobic when I'm in a crowd, not at all comfortable. I hate public gatherings and avoid them.
So there you go...8 things about me. So I have kept a promise and been a sport then. I have to tag a person, now, I guess...isn;t that how it works? OK, then, I tag my friend Deepti then! 'Deepti,'re it!"
And the rest of you, sigh in relief and wait for my upcoming blog next Sunday.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Overlooked Problem

When we hired the ‘van man’ to drop me home every evening from school, I never imagined that the situation would present some delicate complications. The ‘van man’ picked up kids from all kinds of schools—and, waiting period for this gentlemen, Mr. Someshekar being long, the footpath would be crowded with all sorts of stranded looking children. It was a mass confluence which presented diversity in the sorts of kids you would come across, which itself was the problem. You see, all of us would inevitably interact, and, by then, we were old enough to have mastered the crude ability to judge the other person and analyze situations.
It would have been well if we were from the same school, or from the same syllabus. But you see, we were ICSE and they were state-board…which made all the difference.

Ah…so you have understood. Or maybe you haven’t? Let me explain. We were taught from the beginning that the syllabus we were studying was highest in the country. That felt like Cinderella going to the ball. Although the teacher intended it to be a bitter truth that was to shock the young minds, we took it all optimistically. “Of course, we will be brainier”. This awareness, or perhaps, the illusions, lead to misinterpretations. We were over-confident, held our heads high, and never considered falling to the level of the ‘staties’ (the nickname). We believed that our syllabus was tougher, and hence we were obviously brainier than the state-board students.
We were unfriendly, and scorned at those people. We refused to accept State-board students to be equal, intelligent and talented.

I remember when a state-board girl had once said, “There is too many mud in my shoes, ya!”, my friend had sniggered and whispered, “All these state board people don’t know how to talk.” Generally, the ICSE and the CBSE students were recognized to be hostile and indifferent at school gatherings—we never mingled and had those strange attitude problems which are difficult to explain. Of course, I never considered myself being anywhere above the state board students, seeing we shared similar perspectives. More than that, I did not believe it was my authority to judge a person on marks, but sadly, most ICSE students still refuse to think like this. It feels good to consider yourself superior, and they cling to the illusion. They do not like to be associated with the state-board students, in fact, they stay away from each other even, forming different unfriendly groups.
When a state-board student, who had secured 94% in state-board tenth examinations got 96% in first PU, one girl had remarked with evident surprise, “But how is that possible? Only a CBSE student is supposed to get marks like that!”Even in the first trigonometry class in college, every ICSE student was ready to blurt out answers even before the teacher said anything, simply trying to announce that they already were aware of the syllabus. The first thing the teacher said upon entering the class is “I want every ICSE and CBSE student to shut up, and listen only!”

This behavior of the ICSE and CBSE students becomes noticeable when you come to college. Once again, this is the place where students from all syllabi come together to form a class. People hunt out for ‘CBSE’ friends only. You’re godly if you’re from the central or the Indian board, or else, you’re inferior. It’s a negative impact on the minds of the state-board students who are already warned that the PU syllabus is too difficult for them to handle. I think, this is one of the overlooked issues of academic life—teachers don’t talk about this issue often. I agree, and I’ve written this in my previous post too, the state board curriculum needs improvement, but it does not mean other students have the right to discriminate. Haven’t we all been taught in school that everyone is equal, no matter anything? As a student, I think it is wrong to discriminate on the basis of what school or syllabus you come from. State-board students are ignored, discriminated, and forced to feel inferior. The major problem arising in children is still this horrible complex. It continues even today. Only something like a miracle can change the way we think. Childhood is no longer supported by the reigns of innocence, instead, in the fiercely competitive world, children are adapting to learn to discriminate in terms of marks, and I think, the horses are heading the wrong way, destructing the nature of the purer heads, and finally, we end up not understanding what true equality feels like with our unbalanced and biased minds.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

My English Textbook

I have been scrutinizing my second PUC English text book with criticality and I can conclude with confidence that, it is, in a few respects, below the standards. I’m not trying to say I am an insufferable know-it-all who is supremely cynic, who enjoys scorning at textbooks and finding faults. I am not talking individualistically; it is a collective opinion of most students. Open the textbook and you see only translations—almost every other story is a direct translation from Kannada, Malayalam, or Hindi. I agree, translating languages is a difficult and delicate process, but finally, they end up translating things into unusual sentences like “The owl is a vegetarian creature” ( The Rightful Inheritors of the Earth—pg, 3 first PU text). Don’t we usually use ‘omnivorous’ there?

If you think I am being harshly critical, think about this. Why do we need only translated versions in out textbooks? Isn’t English rich in original stories and authors? We’ve got all types of literature which provides an interesting read. If you want an Indian flavour, you can always include RK Narayan’s writings in your textbook. Most stories are in reported speech—we have interviews to bi-heart. Like where Baba Amte was born, and what he did (and is doing) throughout his life. This makes the textbook really boring. Our state needs to improve the curriculum—I must say my school-text books were far better than what I’m reading now. It’s no joke when I say my brother’s eight standard textbook is far more advanced than the primitive 2nd PU English book that I am destined to read. He has prominent works of famous authors and poets—O Henry, William Shakesphere, RK Narayan, Wordsworth, H.W. Longfellow, Connon Doyle’s works….I can give you many examples to illustrate my point.

A story from my textbook named ‘Unni Katha’:
“ Unni,” said Mutthashi, “Tell me a story,”

Mutthashi had chewed on her betel-nut to her satisfaction after her frugal meal of kanji. Now she waited for Unni. Only Unni’s stories could put her to sleep. Peering through the open door she called out to him. “Come Unni,”. She was impatient for his story. “

This is from my brother’s 8th standard ICSE textbook:
We can only be partially acquainted with the events which actually influence our lives and our final destiny. There are innumerable other events which do not leave any impression on us. If we were to know all the changes in our fortunes, life would be full of hope and fear, joy and disappointment, to afford us a single hour of true serenity.”

You’ll probably laugh when you realize the poem below has been prescribed for 2nd PU syllabus:

We are going to see the rabbit,
We are going to see the rabbit,
Which rabbit, people say?
Which rabbit, ask the children?
Which rabbit?
The only rabbit,
The only rabbit in England!”
This is another passage from my text book:
“When harvest-time was at it’s height
They could not take us to the farm,
They left us, bundled very tight,
And prayed we wouldn’t come to harm.”
My brother will snigger if he hears that we have such poems, because they’re doing Wordsworth, John Keats and Sir Walter Scott. Here’s a poem from Whispers of Immortality which is prescribed for him:

The sanguine Sunrise with his meteor eyes,
And his burning plumes outspread,
Leaps on the back of my sailing rack,
When the morning star shines dead; or Long Fellow’s work:

“The shades of night were falling fast,
As through an Alpine village passed,
A youth who bore, ‘mid snow and ice,
A banner, with the strange device,

Do you agree with my point? I’m not trying to say I look out for posh English of flowery language to claim the eight standard book is superior. Rather, I’m trying to say that there are interesting passages, vivid descriptions, originality, and a correct selection of a wide array of authors and an exposure to different forms of English here---patriarchian sonnets, Shakespearian works (He’ll be doing Julius Caesar next year), metaphoric expressions are the very essence of hard-core English literature. If you are a logical thinker, you’ll be wondering why on earth am I complaining? The easier to read the textbook, the easier it is to get marks, right? Wrong! Imagine, they ask us to underline sentences like “Melkkoran was obsessed with work” and say “It is very symbolic” and we’ll be left with wondering what’s so symbolic about the four word sentence. And of course, they ask the question in the exam—“What was Melkorran obsessed with?” for FOUR marks and expect us to write a page. The answer is in one word “work.” Even if you explain the gentlemen’s profession of cutting trees, I doubt it will take up a page. Sometimes, complicated things are easier to decipher than simple matters. Like when a person asks you why 2+2 is four, you’ll start wondering how you’ll explain that. That’s exactly the problem 2nd PU students are faced with, we don’t know how to give page-long descriptions of simple situations like “He was drinking tea and chatting with a friend.”

Ultimately, I don’t know whom to blame. As long as we get our marks, parents and teachers are happy. But what the students are really doing is mindlessly bi-hearting some names, places events, and names of authors and vomiting it out in paper. It’s not helping us to improve our English in any way, and we’re loosing the little interest we have in the language. We have stories which do not have conclusive endings at all—I think it is high time something is done about this and better stories are included in our curriculum to make reading the textbook an experience to savor.

Just a simple thought

I don't know why I am attracted to traditional ideas and ancient thoughts. Ideas crop up in my head so suddenly, at the most unimaginable times, like an erupting volcano. So, when I'm studying Aldeyhydes, and I'm reading "Primary alchols under controlled oxidation in the presence of acidified potassium dichromate..." I stop in midsentence. Something fantastic is wriggling in my brain. I don't ignore it, I nourish the thought, and finally the wriggling worm of a faint idea aqquires meaning and dimension.

I hardly have anything to remember school by--my slam book does not count, many people could not sign it. This year, I have a bright idea, to make college days truly immortal in my memory. I want to design a memory quilt for myself. I know what you are thinking, you are probably shaking your head saying all this is 'old lady stuff'--some primitive craft confined to the hands of dim-witted housewives and circles of gossipmongers who simply have too much time to waste. Something like this might be a challenging and ambitious project for a teenager, and anyways, I'm in the "turning point" of my life (please don't repeat those words again. I UNDERSTAND i'm in the crucial phase). As quilting takes some time, I have strictly decided to begin only in the holidays after my CET exams. But the desire the thought itself has provoked is so strong, that I'm pretty sure I'll complete the quilt in a jiffy.

I have never told you the tale of the headless teddy. It was my first stitching project. I was learning to stitch from a cousin of mine, I was supposed to be stitching a teddy bear, but my first attempt yeilded disasterous results and I had to abandon my teddy bear, which reamined headless till the end. I have never touched a needle from then. Obviously, if I am to stitch something like a patchwork quilt for myself without any past expereince or prior knowledge, I need to research, and I have done it with keen interest.

Quilting is part of the great american tradition, and comes with quite a few stories and superstitions attached to it. For example, if you sew a hundred peice quilt without a single mistake in the seams, then that quilt will aqquire the magical ability to make anything you dream about under it come true. Don't worry, I'm not planning on a hundred square masterpeice--I was thinking of a simple 60 square patchwork. Here's how it will work--I'll get the fabric, and the permanent felt tip pens of all colours (ahem, quite a bit expensive there. I need to use flowery words of flattery with mom to make this work). I'll cut out the squares, and ask each friend to autograph it. Each peice that will become a part of my quilt will be charecteristically special, absolutely unique. That's because every individual is different, and everyone conveys their thoughts in writing in different forms.I'll then give some pratical meaning to all the lovingly scrawled words...I'll sew them together and sleep under them...won't that be lovely?

My quilt shall be a present I'll gift myself...something special of my creation. It, like ordinary gifts shall not collect dust behind glass showcases, or be stacked away in the attics, but shall be used to revive the best memories of college life, bring back, with vigour, the hundred faces of classmastes, when I unforgivably forget them. And slowly, with every stitch, I shall give a form to my college memories, the quilt shall be the greatest masterpeice of expression. All the memories will be sewn together to collectively narrate a story--reminding me of the countless times I've laughed this year. And yes, before going to sleep, the quilt shall give me ultimate comfort, envoloping me in a sixty wisphers of friendly 'good-nights'. I will probably go to sleep with a smile on my face, aware that my freinds are there, in written form on my memory quilt, keeping me warm though the night...but now, I need to allow my fantastic dream to melt, lock it away in my brain for a while, because I am expected to be studying organic chemisrty today. When I'm finished with the quilt, a few months down the line, you can expect a detailed account of it on my blog. So here I go again..." Primary alchols under contolled oxidation in the presence of acidified potassium dichormate..." and the wriggling worm of my idea is forced into the 'restricted thoughts' section of my brain.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The not-so-silent Reunion (Reunion part II)

I remember Varsha had once said to me that I was a different person—a person who found it difficult to talk, to mingle, and one who finds discomfort in the easiest and simplest of matters. Maybe she’s right. Yesterday, I found her phone number I was searching for, and called up Varsha and I was asked to come over. I was nervous, which is so typical of me. I stopped over at the milk store to buy a packet of Pedas, I wore my best set of cloths and put on a friendly smile. This was it, I was going to face my friend again, after two entire years of complete separation….we were finally going to talk. We were going to talk— I hate that word…only the two of us…I wondered what I could say. I would be hearing Varsha’s voice again, closer and clearer, and hopefully, a lot more friendlier than it had been two years ago. I would be, once again, staring into her eyes, talking, laughing and sharing memories.

Mom said she would drop me at Varsha’s place and leave. I felt a nagging worry, queasiness that she was deserting me, the terror of abandonment….pretty childish right? I felt exactly like the first time that I entered into kindergarten. You know, when your parents leave you in Nursery school and wave you off, and you are suddenly faced with something you need to deal with alone? My problem is I cannot deal with things. I need people to be there to instruct, guide and teach me. Maybe my mother sensed I was feeling quite a bit uncomfortable and decided to hang around for sometime, in the Verandah, but she was clear that she would not intrude into our conversation.

The first fifteen minutes were spent in absolute silence. I never begin a conversation. I wait for the other person to start. And I waited for Varsha patiently. She waited for me. We occasionally threw smiles at each other, and I spent quite a lot of time staring at the dregs of Bounvita left behind in my teacup and took keen interest in the brass trophies Varsha’s brother had won in Lawn tennis competitions. Varsha stared at the TV, and coughed. Oh, god, why isn’t she speaking? Does she still hate me? Meanwhile, precious time is ticking away…I look at mother for support, but she is already engaged in animated conversation with Varsha’s mother. I have no choice. I have to be the one to start. I open my mouth, close it. I open my mouth again, twice, and say nothing. No words come, the silence is still haunting. Maybe someone should give me a pen. I could write a 50 page book, then and there….but why aren’t the words coming to my tongue? Finally, miraculously, out pops a feeble, “How’s college, Varsha?”

She’s now looking at me. She shrugs, and finally, the formalness melts, and Varsha’s casual tone creeps into her strong voice, “Fine, but worse than school, you know.”
I am relieved to hear her talking so normally again. So, here bursts out a successful conversation.
“Why don’t you come into my room, Lakshmi?”
That talk stretched for an hour. Suddenly, I was talking more. Mom wasen;t there beside me, but I was talking like the old times, with absolute ease. We had broken the ice, and we were talking so fast that we covered everything from college, school, friends, family, interests, academics in less than an hour. I did not believe that this could have been so easy, and I had restricted myself from doing this for two years. The topic reverted to school. She talked about everyone—even her enemies at school.
“You know,” she chuckled, “ It’s weird that the only people I hate are the people I like,”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s funny, it’s quite difficult to explain. It turns out that the people I usually quarrel with are often my best pals, get it?”
“Well, I cannot hate a person, you see…”
“You cannot?”
“No, I mean, it’s no one’s right to hate anyone else. No one deserves to be hated.”
“So, you did not hate me when I was in school?”
“Nah, you know, you were the one who just took it to the heart. I did not mean the things I said back then. You just take a lot of things literally. I don’t hate you.”
You see, this is why I like Varsha. She’s forgiving, and although she is stubborn in her views, she is clear in her expression. She admits things easily, confesses when necessary and lives with an open heart. She does not hide her feelings.
“I can be mean sometimes, I cannot help it, I am like that.” She says.
“You’re not a bad person, Varsha,”
“Well…” she says, analyzing herself, “It depends on how you look at it. I can be good, and I firmly believe that the things I do are right, but when the world thinks I am wrong, then I become a bad person….my college thinks I am a villain, just because I stand up and object the wrong things.”
The conversation drifted endlessly, and it reminded me of some of the old warmth that we shared. But, to be absolutely honest, the complete truth is that there is still an incompleteness, a void which cannot be filled. I doubt if anything can replace it. It’s wrong to expect too. We have grown up, and, well, we cannot possibly have retained all that innocence, those dreams, ambitions we had as children. We cannot forget that this is just ‘patch-up’ work and a conscious effort to regain a strained relationship. There is an air of artificial deliberateness, we are careful in our actions, and have control over our tongues. Somewhere, I cannot help but feel that the natural friendship which blossomed and united us unconsciously, fruitfully, has ended in carefully planned reunion, after two years. But I am happy that I finally reconciled, and for now, that is enough. Thanks, Varsha, for forgiving me….

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Silent Reunion

Let me tell you a story of an old school rivalry which turned friends into foes. It’s my story. It’s a story of how a simple misunderstanding led to ghastly misinterpretations even before each of us got a chance to correct ourselves and realize our mistakes. It’s the story of me and my best friend Varsha.

No one in school knew Varsha as well as I did. She was a complex person to understand and she did look different with those heavy eyes which spoke of inaction. Only Lakshmi Bharadwaj knew how those eyes which seemed so dull could acquire that cold, hard glacial glint when Varsha was bent upon something. Only I understood her deepest fears, and Varsha confided only in me. We were thick friends—so thick that the English teacher had called us ‘Chip n’ Dale’. In the last year of my school life someone suggested that I move up front in Chemistry classes. I hated the backbench where I was seated next to Varsha, because I felt uncomfortable there but she loved it. So, I asked weather we could move up front together. She said she couldn’t. Maybe I was being harsh, stupid….I simply got up, moved front without saying anything as simple as a ‘See ya later’ or offering any sort of explanation. This rude action of mine, Varsha suddenly interpreted that I hated her. She felt ignored. She asked me to say sorry.

I couldn’t accept my mistake. I pretended I did not do anything wrong, and I did not like saying ‘sorry’ for everything. Imagine, such a very small trivial matter culminated in a bitter chasm. We argued relentlessly, aggressively—it was a battle of words. And Varsha was clear in expressing herself, and she gave me a glare and said, “You’re not my friend anymore until you say sorry, and learn to accept mistakes!” I inflated, I was angry. I was a fool who didn’t see a point in her words. I thought I could manage without her. I could find better friends….I could get more popular then. 17th of June 2005, it was, I still remember the date. I went home thinking Varsha would somehow forget everything, and the next day would be perfect.

Conrtrary to my happy belief, our relationship crumbled, and every school day became a visit to nightmareville. From that day, we stopped talking and from then…the backbench turned silent. The cascade of laughter, the giggles and chortles under the teacher;s nose were missing….the fun had evaporated, and the surroundings had turned grimly silent. The truth was, each of us felt very hollow inside, (Varsha’s eyes betrayed all her feelings) and both of us felt like compromising. But none of us did it. I was adamantly stubborn. I did not like being called a ‘betrayer!, and I chose to remain mute.

It was only when I joined college, and Varsha went somewhere else, I felt that overwhelming emptiness and accepted that this was all due to my mistake. I knew a glorious relationship which was blooming had died, and I also realized it was too late for me to do anything. Varsha had chosen to move along a different path, and I had chosen mine. We had moved away….far away from each other, and my conscience pricked me and said, “You should have said sorry!” The anger which was so strong in the beginning of the year had waned, and I felt like going back to her, hold her hand and say “I’m really sorry buddy, I shouldn’t have ignored you!”….but the sorry never came.

Wednesday, when I was attending a cousin’s musical audition, I felt that I heard Varsha’s voice. Even after two long years, that voice was not forgotten…I instinctively sensed she was there, and she was! She was sitting just a row behind me. My heart raced, I turned Magenta, and I felt a weight of a stone in my stomach. I could have said it. I could have screamed out the words. But I was stuttering horribly, I was shaking all over. I wanted a precise confession, I complete understanding of my accumulated guilt. Guess what I did? I wrote a five page ‘sorry’. It’s the biggest letter I have written to anyone. Writing, I believe is the best form of expression, better than talking anyway, I’m horribly bad speaker. My heart stopped as she read it,…but then, she smiled!

She did something unexpected. She wrote back too. She wrote something like this;
“ Lakshmi, I’m not as good as a writer as you are, so I staunchly apologize if this letter conveys any wrong message to you. I don’t intend to say anything wrong, because we’ve always been FRIENDS, right? I believe a lot in friendship….this letter is to tell you that I don’t hate you, and how glad I am to see you. But ultimately, I thank you for not having broken the relationship of 10 years….and I don’t really know what to say.”

We could have simply talked. But then, talking wouldn’t have helped me. I knew I would have stammered, stuttered, and jumbled up words in the excitement, and a confession would look like a mutter of some gibberish which Varsha could not have comprehended. My letter spoke for me. Before the audition could end, and I could shake Varsha’s hand and express how grateful I was—before the golden moment of saying, ‘Thanks, mate!’, Varsha had disappeared. I knew her well, and she was always a quick-spirited person. She had suddenly disappeared, like a shadow, out of the line of my vision. She had disappeared as abruptly and silently as she had come. But I had her letter, I had her reply, and the written words consoled me.

I plan to call up Varsha sometime after I find her number in an old diary. We both were great friends, and I’m happy that our friendship has revived. When I turn the pages of my mental album, I can clearly see the picture of two young girls sitting near a construction site, legs and buckled shoes dangling, nibbling on Alphabet yummies, waiting for our mothers and whispering together, “We’re the greatest friends the earth has ever seen!” And one of those girls still says we are!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Different Diwali

This year’s Diwali was different for me. This year, I was given the responsibility of managing myself, I was given the choice to make this festival perfect or lousy, happy or grim for myself, because I was in control of everything. You see, my entire family complete with cousins and aunts packed their bags to tour Mumbai, leaving this girl behind, dwelling happily on their decision because the bookworm of the family is busy ‘studying’. My tution warmly gave us a special Diwali offer—‘special’ double maths classes! Charming, right? Honestly, I was not surprised, these ‘holiday specials’ keep happening in tution. Well, the classes too were fun, in a strange way to tell. I mean, we can’t be learning Integration anyway, because this time, on top of the rumble of the wretched Bangalore traffic, there were naughty kids all around bursting crackers like mad, making it all more difficult for the maths lecturer, and bless their souls, easier for us to accuse someone and tell the teacher, “We can’t hear a thing, sir!” (not like we would be listening if there was perfect silence anyway). And I was quickly updated on what’s stirring in the bollywood world when Uma mam was teaching Mechanical effect of electric current and also understood the entire storyline of Om Shanti Om and Saawariya, because a dear friend was kind enough to narrate them.

My Diwali was eco-friendly as always. On Friday morning, the wonderful kids down the road started burning crackers right from six in the morning so, the day started with a bang! And of course, a racing heart and a half-awake mind, which kept wondering why the house was not on fire. My Diwali shopping included books only (you needn’t remind me I am an unusual teenager)—I got a strange book called the ‘Power of your Subconscious Mind’, ‘A century old detective stories’ (They are REALLY outdated stories, I mean, after learning all about DNA fingerprinting, tandem repeats and genetic coding, tyring to find the murderer by studying facial expressions is really lame but the book came off real cheap at the bookfair at the Indian Institute of World Culture!) and O Henry’s short stories—I remember someone had suggested the book to me some time ago, so I pounced on it as soon as I caught sight of it!

One of my relatives arrived with her kids to celebrate Diwali with me, and share some yummy food. A cousin came from Pune to celebrate the festival and we stayed up way past bed-time playing Sequence, Bluff and Chowka-baara. Needless to say, in the next day’s tution classes, my head was lolling, thank goodness the teacher didn’t notice. I watched a lot of TV---I watched Chak De India which was on C-Bangalore, lounged a little reading my books, and visited my childhood friends, who live around the corner, and yet, are so absorbed in their lives that it is often difficult for them to recognize me. All four of us gathered in my friend Shravya’s house in a deliberate effort to rediscover a lost friendship, and ended up talking so much that it was eight in the night by the time I went home. We also visited the studios to get a nice photo clicked. My cousin’s sleeping over at my place every day, and has promised to bring in a nice CD to watch today. On Friday afternoon, we went to the hotel for lunch, and I chatted away happily without a care in the world, because, obviously, it was Revathi’s treat, and we really enjoyed the food and the chatter.

You will be happy to know that I am not forgetting my manners or etiquette. In spite of all the stuff going on, I am miraculously calm. I did not throw a tantrum when they said, “Lakshmi, you’re not coming to Mumbai”, I did not feel sad or hurt, I did not groan when the teacher curtly said “Double maths classes!” Instead, I’m making it a pretty happy Diwali for myself. Now that is a tough job, especially when you are in second PU and the teachers are intent on straining your brain cells to overwork. If you’re a teenager missing out on all the fun, even attending classes and special classes and tests on Sundays loosing temper is quite easy. You’ll be resembling a dog chained to the leash, howling in frustration. But Lakshmi Bharadwaj has control on her Spleen, I cannot be angry so easily. All signs of frustration were erased when I decided to enjoy my Diwali alone, no matter anything. No one should rob me of the right to celebrate, and no one did. And guess what? My Diwali was not spent solitarily, loads of people joined in to celebrate. Cousins, friends and real chums turned up. And I did have a blast, without burning a single cracker.

Well, the fact is, I missed my family a lot this Diwali, but this year’s Diwali was not about moping around, cursing my fate, or I-hate-missing-out-on-all-the-fun attitude. It was about meeting up with friends and cousins, eating, laughing, lighting up the festival of lights with a thousand smiles. And that, my friends, is warmer than the electrical lights we use to light up our homes.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Sabitha Madam and my Scrapbook--a school story

I remember the fifth standard days of carefree fun and pure excitement which opened up to the promising light of each new day. Everything about life looked optimistically lively then, and I lived in happiness and contentment every single day of my life. There was no responsibility to hamper me, and I must say, I enjoyed the year immensely, and would like to call it the ‘golden year’ of my schooling.

That year, we had Sabitha Mam for Geography. She was an imposing creature, her looks traditionally suiting how teachers were supposed to look like. She had a sort of mulish expression, wore thick glasses, which, I think, she was unusually proud of. She had a reason too—those glasses magnified her eyes to a large extent, making that threatening frosty glare a hundred times colder. I always remember her in her blue shawl she wore on wintery days, walking serenely in the silent corridors every morning. She was a terrific teacher besides, drawing the map of India so superbly on the board within a minute.

She was stubbornly insistent about certain things, which looked like an annoying habit of hers then, which irritated us to no end. We were forced to sit strait, not to yawn, sitting in that perfect, erect posture, with a smile on our faces, and no unnecessary emotions disfiguring our charming expression. She carried with her a long wooden scale, which served useful in pointing out various geographic locations, and yes, the duster, which she continuously rapped on the table to subside the rising decibel levels due to daily chatter in the classroom. She was undoubtedly an energetic woman, rapping that duster continuously even after “pin-drop silence” (the most commonly used word in school language) was achieved. RAP-RAP-RAP-RAP-RAP….”I want everyone’s attention” was the phrase with which every class began, after which, she would become a little genial in her ways, teaching smoothly, without a single stutter in her commanding voice.

She did have certain different norms—she was unique in her teaching methods. After every lesson, there was to be a quiz—a hot contest between the boys and girls, and for that, to beat the boys at least (it would be the utmost disgrace to loose), we would somehow learn the lesson, mugging it up twenty times if required. We would eagerly await the end of each lesson, and that fair game, at the end, we would play…one could almost feel the excitement in the air. It felt like an India-Pakistan match being played inside the hot classroom….no one will guess how much I miss those quizzes now. We crossed our fingers, squeezed each others hands, murmured prayers, howled like crazy buffoons, and sometimes, even cried! We celebrated learning….five more points…six…seven….we cheered every time Sabitha mam added an extra ‘I’ on the board. Of course, I have reason to believe she was always inclined to the girls side, every time we won a neck-to-neck competition with one point, a small smile would quiver at the edge of her lips, and it would be gone in an instant, and you would swear you had imagined it. But I was observant, and I almost sensed that she silently supported us.

In the fifth year, she introduced a new method of learning, which has come to stay in my school for nine long years. When we were given books, I always had the habit of opening each one and smelling them (I loved the smell of new books), and while engaging in this worthless activity, I noticed one extra long note book which was plain. We always wrote in ruled books, so I was naturally curious. Then, Sabitha mam went on to explain that she had replaced chart-making with ‘Scrapbooking’ that year—that sounded like a big word, so we listened. She told us how we would use our scrapbook to do collect information and paste it ‘attractively’ in an organized fashion---that was the sort of formal language she used, but we all knew it meant using our scrapbook in the way we liked, sticking sloppy pictures in a highly disorganized and haphazard fashion, and I must tell you, we absolutely enjoyed anything which was not neat, and we made use of the opportunity to doodle in our books. There were some non-creative people who groaned and called it ‘absolutely wicious’ , but I ignored them, because I loved scrapbooking. I was terribly good at it, and I was pleased when I got that extra star or a ‘ v.good’ marked next to my picture.

Scrapbooking became a nice hobby and an enjoyable homework. It is because of my scrapbook that I now remember where the Chota-Nagpur plateau is, and where exactly the Himalayas are---I remember representing them with cotton on the map of India, and drawing an arrow below scrawling below ‘The Greater Himalayas’ in big bold black letters. I can remember it so effortlessly, better than I remember any other subject from school—it’s because I enjoyed learning it. My scrapbook became so dear to me, that I eagerly waited for homework, and my friends were repulsed and thought that I was abnormal. But then, I went on to receive some great marks in geography, and my scrapbook became famous. I still can remember using red sand for Karnataka’s ‘laterite soil’ and black seeds for ‘black soil’ of Madhya Pradesh and I still remember her saying cotton grows well in black soil. I did loads of creative stuff in my scrapbook, and I finished by adding a personal flavour to it—be it drawing a complicated volcanic mountain, or the earth’s meridians. That year, I felt special in geography class—like I was pushed into the lime-light. I was famous. I loved it. Everyone talked about “Lakshmi’s scrapbook” and I smiled.

From that year, every year, kids from my school have started working on personal scrapbooks. When I saw my brother working on his geography scrapbook, I instantly knew Sabitha mam was behind it all, but I ventured to ask, “Who teaches you geography?”
“Sabitha Mam,” he said.
I knew it! She is the sort of genius who can think up such wonderful things. It reminded me of the time I was his age, and also, that it’s already been seven years since then. Well, when mom’s teaching Arjun, and asks, “ What are the tributaries of Ganges?” I like to intrude and say “The Ghagra, the Gomathi, the Chenab,….” And instantly, my mind forms the picture of those diagrams I drew in my scrapbook with blue sketch pen seven years ago. My brother looks at me quizzically, as if I am too complex to understand.

I will remember my fifth year for all the fun it provided, and I will remember Sabith mam too…who continues teaching at Kumaran’s school even in old age. Countless students love her ways—like the ‘checkerboard games’ that we often played in her class…all her students mainly remember that rapping noise which was common in geography class and that commanding voice saying, “INDIA,” pointing proudly with her stout stick to the diagram on the board.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

My movie review-Akeelah and the Bee

I'm having the perfect holiday right now. Papa kept his promise, and we visited Disneyland, and I enjoyed every bit of that trip. Disneyland is geared up to celebrate Halloween, so everything was draped in orange, with pumpkins and skeletons and grand music...and I got into the 'mood' to celebrate. Then, we visited the Universal studios for the second time and yesterday was our trip to the Santa Monica beach, just around the time of sunset...we splashed around, played with the sand, and felt the sea-breeze hit our faces. And today is our day-off, to recoup ourselves, gain that lost energy...and I'm enjoying sleeping in, without anyone yelling "Wake up, Lakshmi! It's time for tutions!" I shamelessly slept in for ten hours today...and all-you-can-eat chocolate, and for once, having absolutely nothing to do--no responsibility, no homework, no college--this feels like heaven! Today, I was just watching TV, and I came across one wonderful movie, so I thought I'll write a's better than sitting for hours together on the couch and drooling, because I suddenly have so much time on my hands.

The Akeelah and the Bee is a movie which was released last year, and it's about a girl from south Los Angeles who has a lot of problems. She goes to a school which is low in it's standards, and Akeelah is that average student who gets ragged, and is really unpopular. But this young 11 year old has amazing talent...she can spell words really well. She gets selected to participate in the scripps National Spelling Bee. The Scripps National Spelling Bee is a real contest which takes place in Washington DC every year, and it's a really tough spelling contest for kids. I'm really deviating from the point here, but we need to be proud that in the year 2005, all the 3 finalists for the contest were Indians. Anyway, once Akeelah Gets selected, her life dramatically changes...suddenly, people start expecting her to win-and the little girl finds it so hard to deal with the preassure of things, studying etymology (did I spell that correctly?), and she wants to back out in the last moment. Then, her mother gives her the ultimate advise...that it is not the right thing to do. This is a heart warming story and it is not only about spelling--it's about endurance, of hanging on, it;s about the thirst to proove yourself even admist a bunch of serious problems, it's about overcoming your deficiencies...the sort of story which encourages you, to overcome all odds. Yet, the story is extremely realistic, and does not fail to create an impact.

It is still an entertainer, with a perfect blend of humour and fun. The story is simple, yet, in the simplicity you can find great lessons--it teaches, and that is the sort of thing one looks out for in a movie. For those of you who loved Iqbal, Black or Chak De, this is just the right movie for preaches the same philosophy--that achievement is overcoming problems--and you don't have to be a super-hero to achieve. All you require is will-power, and self-belief and you can overcome anything in life. I encourage everyone to watch the time you visit the CD store don;t ask for those mindless superhero movies which make you feel stupid, look for movies like Akeelah and the Bee which shows everyone can be a super-hero because everyone is blessed with talent and suddenly, you'll find yourself feeling so special inside.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

My October holidays

October is one of my favorite months, not only because my birthday falls in October, but my dussera holidays are always fun, and my october holidays are usually meanigfully spent. As a kid, October only meant Granny's house and Mysore's classic Dussera celebrations, but this year it's a bit more. I'm touring Los Angeles right now, and Papa's promised a visit to DisneyLand tomorrow--my exotic birthday present. Stritly speaking, we are not here for holidaying, we're here for some 'extremely important official buisness', but I haven;t bothered to learn about it. Right now, I'm feeling like a battery who is being charged. As Mr. GVK had mentioned in one of his blogs, life tends to go in slow-motion when you are in the United States, and well, i have decided to make the most of it, while I am here. After an extremely fast-paced lifestyle, I have decided to simply take life easy. In fact, lethragy suits me so perfectly that I can lounge for days together. The guilty feeling is that I am feeling like an escapist right now...I'll be missing my tutions, and Mr. KRN of BASE will be wondering what has happened to this girl who has suddenly dissaperared from tutions for fifteen days...and I've left a lot of work stagnating back home. But the sad part remains I missed my college trip to calicut and classmates tried to make me jealous by saying I was missing something very important in life, and the truth is, I would rather miss disneyland to go to that's just a pity I missed it. But when I return next Sunday, I'm sure most of my classmates will be twittering and asking me about my trip, while the truth is, I will be feeling hollow inside, learning they probably had more fun than I could ever imagine.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Squirrel Antics

This story is about a squirrel and an ear of corn. It’s a tale of valor of a squirrel which braved a camera placed inches near it, not to mention a imposing-looking human staring down at it, grinning manically…..just for that ear of corn. Shows how hungry the animal world is….I was not trying to scare it, I was trying to hide myself, but the squirrel was clever, and she(or he?) noticed me! Well, well, since I am still a beginner in animal photography, my first attempt was a slow and patience-testing process, but nevertheless I was excited enough to pursue my new-found hobby with vigor. I’ve beginning to understand that photography is not as easy as it sounds. When I have more time on my hands, and hopefully, if the little fellow visits me again (he keeps coming every other day), I want to start off a crash course in animal photography, without causing any inconvenience to that timid squirrel, and as they say, what better place to start off than your own backyard?

But I must admit, the credit for all the pictures here does not go only to me, mom and my brother helped. I hope you enjoy goign through the photos!

Five things you need to know about squirrels

Well, don;t ask for the validity of these things...these are the things about squirrel behavior that I have observed, and if you are a true scientist, I'm in trouble! Squirrels are lovable creatures, but they are fickle and need patience while dealing with. They communicate in shrill screeches, with their tails lashing out once, and they 'smell' you often...and when they are doing that, you can observe that their ears sort of move up and down,...they collect cotton in the winter to keep them warm in the winter season, so if you are a kind soul, you'll take enough care to provide some cotton to them (This is a proved fact, from Maneka Ghandhi's article)...well, don;t try to touch a squirrel, because if a squirrel smells 'human' then, other squirrels may kill it!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Childhood Fantasy

It all started off when we decided to play hide and seek in the neighboring house. I remember the occupants had just left, making that house an ideal retreat for snoopy kids like us. We spent our time trampling that house, running amok in the compound and prodding every nook and corner to discover unknown secrets. It was then we came upon a very strange corner of the house, which was wilder and spookier than our vibrant imagination could ever describe. It was their little shed in the backyard—well, not a shed, actually, that would be a disgrace to that room in the back…it was a huge room, and if one peeked in through the window, one would get a clear view of the bizarre and unworldly….and I know the thrill of terror I experienced whenever I stared through the window, it felt like looking into that horrible darker realm that I believed existed. Now, if you were an adult, you would have found nothing to be scared of, but we whispered in hushed voices, and the room remained our topic of discussion for many days.

I don’t know who started the rumor. It would be better not to find out, but we firmly and secretly belived that room was haunted. It was always locked, you know, and we had our reasons to believe it was haunted. If you peeped into the room, even you would find out. It was a very dusty room, which looked like it hadn’t been opened in centuries, with an old family portrait hanging meekly from one wall—we had never seen that family inhabit this colony, we had never heard of them, we didn’t know if they still existed, which made things all the weirder, of course. Unsolved mysteries appealed to our growing minds and we were just beginning to understand the joy of discovery. And then there was this black, horribly old sofa set in one corner of the room which seemed to have been abandoned for quite a few years…the look of it, with a huge gash in the center made us reason that it was literally ripped apart by ‘the ghost.’ There was a chair too, nothing too charming about the chair, it was made of plain wood, but we were grateful it was not the rocking kind, because we were sure that we would hear it creak in the middle of the night, and crumbling, infested walls…we were scared. Well, after spending many an afternoon staring blankly into that room, imagining all sorts of horrors, nothing exciting really happened, the room remained untouched, and soon was assumed to be unworthy of attention.

Most of us gave up, but this avid ‘bird-watcher’ considered ‘room-watching’ as the most noble honour any kid could be blessed with. What more, she had a wonderful side-kick who believed in everything she did, and trusted her beyond belief. My friend Shruthi and I made this ‘room-watching’ an compulsory and routine event, as we were sure something exciting was bound to happen, and we took out time off, introducing every child in the colony to the ‘spooky house.’ We wanted more sentries, but we never got them, no one believed us, so we spun some fabulous lies, and grander tall tales which were quite convincing, but no one was brave enough to accompany us, and that is why we found ourselves so lonely on solitary afternoons.

You should have seen the ways we discussed our theories, which seemed so wonderfully probable then, and which look utterly stupid and hilarious now. My god! The detailed discussions nearly drove me mad with wild explanations, but believe it or not, after month long of waiting, our patience and hard-work did pay off, because something exciting did happen. Something which explained everything, anyway. Someone moved into the house. It looked like a disaster, but we still snooped around the house, finally, we did enough snooping to be noticed, and no one quite appreciates and welcomes the idea of a group of two girls mysteriously prowling around their house for no apparent reason. The house-owner was observing us; he even introduced his daughter Preeti to us, but we continued prowling around, hungry for some news, frenzied with curiosity, and finally, he was irritated enough to talk to us, puny little girls.
“You want to look into the back-room, is it not? Come, I’ll take you there,”
We followed hastily, it felt like dream come true. Somehow, entering into that dark hell of the room, which was always locked, blocking our entry had given in. After so many months of staring through the mesh-window, we were actually inside, right there, the only two girls in the entire world who were entitled to enter that room! It did strangle our curiosity, it dimmed our interest, after having finally understood there was nothing extraordinary about the room whatsoever. The man stood around scratching his head,
“What a mess to get rid of! People preserve all kinds of unwanted things here…it’s going to take me time to clean it all up!” The window had never given us a complete view, but now, the room looked paler than before, and most unattractive. We were enraged that our time had not payed off. He opened the wooden shelf in the corner, which too was stashed with unwanted, broken articles, he raised his eyebrows, picked up something, dusted it, and said,
“Here, you want this?”
It was some yellowed and illustrated book named The Tales of Odyssey, and we accepted the prize and looked into it, and tried reading. The pages were missing, and the story was too uninteresting and complicated with a tiny print for us to read, and we gave it up for good. But we preserved it because it was our reward for guarding that room. And we triumphantly showcased it as a souvenir of our endeavors, and most of our friends grew envious, now that I think of it, that book was even unworthy of envy! It could have been picked easily out of an old paperwaala’s cart! Finally, we ended up loosing the book, it too disappeared due to carelessness, but it spurted more of our interest, and we spent our time once again, murmuring that a ghost has returned to claim it’s book! Remembering this makes me think of how mischievous and incurably hopeful kid I was as a kid, my mischievousness has evaporated and I have grown out of that attitude faster than I can wispher ‘ghost’ in someone else’s ear.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

More on my Book-binder

I was returning from a long and exciting Sunday, when I discovered some wonderful news which I want to share with you. Well, I went to the movie--Chak De at PVR Cinemas on Sunday, and having enjoyed the entire movie, I was returning home, when I saw my book-binder was open, and asked my friend to drop me off at the Ghandi bazaar main road. My book-binder, Mr. Manikyam, (I finally discovered his name) was not there, but his son-in-law was busy. In the beginning, he failed to recognise me, and then, after observing me closely, he remarked,
"Ah yes...your mother had come. Told me something about posting about our shop on the net. Could you give me the site?" I wrote it for him, and he seemed very excited that the entire world could now read about that humble book-binding shop down Ghandi bazaar road. As far as I have heard, the family is trying alternate methods of livelihood---I have a small request on behalf of Mr. Ravi, Mr. Manikyam;s son-in-law--if you want to purchase batteries or if any of your electrical applinces need fixing, and if you happen to be a resident of south bangalore, please contact Mr. K.P. Ravi, who works for Signil Batteries. His contact no is 9845727243. While I actually went about wrongly assuming that my book-binder was a very lonely man, I have discovered, in fact that he is popular and very well loved. Mr. Ravi showed me a small letter which was written in Kannada. He could not read it, but I could just decipher the shaky scrawly writing. It was not something extravagent--it was a simple letter which was adressed to my book-binder and it read somehting like this,
" Respected Manikyam sir,
I keep looking at your shop everytime I pass this stretch of road, and I admire your hard-working nature. Keep it up and best wishes."
"You see, that letter was written by another old man who lives close by. My! He is such a wonderful soul that he brings coffee here, makes my father-in-law drink the coffee, and even takes away the cup. My father-in-law is such a lucky man to be cared for by all people like you. He is loved so much by the people. I am grateful."
I was touched. I think, after worrying about my book-binder for so long, I have found an apt conclusion for my incomplete blogs--and this, dear readers, is for real. Mr. Manikyam might close down, but his family will survive, and the old man might consider retirement, having passed on his skills to his son in law also, but he will be comforted to know that he is loved and appreciated, not only by me, but by all sorts of people who live in my neighbourhood. Caring comes from the heart, and I feel my actions have been right, I have done all I could for the book-binder, and I am considerably pleased that he is happy. I was infact, so touched that I bought A second Bowl of Chiken Soup for the Soul book on the long walk home with my mom's money. Something which was not appreciated too much, but at that instant, I felt there was a need to read about like-minded people, trying to change the world with small steps...and I find comfort in reading about it, after all, books are my favorite freinds.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Why do Teenagers Blog?

There have been discussions on why old people need to blog on Mysore Blog Park recently, something which I am keenly following. I have read about the eldest blogger on Mr. GVK’s blog and how blogging can improve one’s health in Mr. Tharakan’s blog. It all sounds intriguing. Let me look at the other side of things…why do teenagers blog? Firstly, it does seem to be strange…teenagers can be easily defined in terms of TV, Barbarism, fashion, rock music and slang words. But serious writing? Nah, that is quite hard to imagine. You might think, being the computer whizzes we are, we use blogs as online diaries. Maybe you are right. If you observe the ‘teenage’ blogs, you can see we usually write about ourselves. We are those struggling souls, caught between childhood and adulthood, struggling on a path of self-discovery. That’s why we need a blog. We need to voice ourselves, it gives immense relief.

Teenagers can be unusual bloggers. All of us simply don’t use blogs as our personal journals. For some people like me, it all has a deeper meaning. There are actually a group of people who are out to prove that teenagers are not careless bloggers. That includes me. We can be serious writers, logical and profound thinkers, touchy, sentimental, we know we are capable of spreading awareness through blogs and online articles, some of us can understand adults, we can have a philosophical inclination too, at times. All of us are not those brainless chaps who only care about junk food and don’t know respect. We do. We too can be humane. Although today’s teenagers seem to be synonymous with wild and barbaric, try to look inside. You’ll see half of childhood innocence, and the maturity and strength of a growing mind. You’ll see a confused brain…a mixture of delicate thoughts which need assortment….there is also the pressure of dealing with things, of proving yourself, look deeper and you’ll see we are not at all as complex as we seem.

I have met some talented teenagers on blogpark, and I think I should introduce them to you. If you can read Telagu, you should go through the local magazine called Eenadu, it talks about a thirteen-year old blogger and magazine editor named Shambavi. If you cannot read Telagu, you should buy a recent copy of Tinkle and go through the Tinkle Times column. Shambavi is very talented. She’s on blogspot at She edits a children’s mag called ‘Invincible’ and she gives useful tips about studying, and keeping cool about it. That’s the sort of advise people like me need. She even wrote about our former president Abdul Kalaam and he was so pleased that she was invited to meet him!

Another active writer is my dearest friend, Deepti. She too is thirteen, and although she only recently took to blogging, she has enormous talent, and has written a large number of essays. You shall be baffled if you do read them (Deepti is shy in revealing her written works, and basically uncomfortable with others going through her works), but her writings reflect the thoughts of a mature person, there is underlying philosophy and a rich understanding of how life works. Something which is hard for even me to digest. Her essay named ‘Another Day in Paradise’ needs to be read and promoted, and Deepti has promised to blog it next. Although she has found time to only blog a single poem on her blog , I ask you to go through it, you’ll understand what I mean.
So you see, people who want to write always will, immaterial of weather they are thirteen or thirty year old’s. And some people need to understand that even that wild creature of a teenager who irritates you with his weird ways and repulsive looks does have a heart…perhaps, if he starts writing, he’ll be able to prove that even he does possess talent, a skill, and the urge to prove himself.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

To my teacher

I remember the first day she entered the class—her long saree rippling behind her, her face lively and utter pleasantness etched on her face…ah, you should have seen her then. She looked like the teacher. Meera mam—lovely memories of my best school year cloud my mind when I speak of her. That was in fifth standard, and I still haven’t forgotten her. Obviously, we don’t forget our best teachers. There was initial reluctance, you see—she was new, and she taught boring science, and she was our class teacher. No one knew her, and everyone thought ‘new’ teacher meant an outsider. But her winning smile and her passion for teaching won us over. She was something apart from a teacher—she was someone who understood. She was someone who taught the joy of sharing, of the values of friendship….she was different, and all of us loved her.

Meera Mam had strange ways. For example, if you didn’t finish your lunch, she would sit with you, with your spoon in her hand, and feed you the old curd rice your mom had packed!
“You should not waste what your parents send you,” she used to say. Now, if Meera Mam fed you, she would do it in front of the entire class, and it was something of an embarrassment to be fed, so we used to finish our entire lunch. That was a clever plan of hers, so ingeniously designed, yet so simple.

Did I mention she had the greatest handwriting on earth? I have tried to imitate her long slender l’s and curvy g’s but it was never possible to get it right. I remember one day when she was particularly strained, and she arrived to class quite late and started off on something. Now, the backbenches were creating quite a racket, yelling and shouting and she repeatedly asked them to stop. I was a backbencher then too---but I was the meekest girl in class, you wouldn’t find me talking for anything. Finally, Meera mam decided to punish us.
“The last two benches will stand up and remain standing until the end of the period.”
Others obliged quite cheerfully, but I was shocked. I had never been punished before—I was the perfect student. I stood up on wobbly legs, tears clouding my eyes—I had not talked, I had not done anything wrong.
“Keep quiet, Lakshmi, don’t be such a cry-baby,” Sharanya jabbed me, which made me cry further. By then, Meera Mam was staring at me, “ It’s all right, dear. That was my mistake. You haven’t done anything wrong, you can sit down.”
I sat down gratefully, I remember how regretful Meera Mam seemed that day.

Two years later, Meera Mam left school to care for her newly adopted son. I just felt like I should dedicate this blog to her on teacher’s day, to my best teacher. To meera mam with love. …

And if there are any teachers here today, I would like to wish them a Happy Teacher’s Day too, including my mom. My mom is a commerce lecturer, and although I have heard she is one of the greatest teachers at PES, I don’t really know how she teaches, I have never attended her class, sometimes I wish I could. But at home, mom has been a great teacher, tenderly teaching life-lessons, and I realize I ought not to be angry with her, for her lessons will ultimately help me in life.
(I would like it if some of you could talk of your favorite teachers—teachers day, after all is for honoring and respecting them)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Teenage English

(Having analysed my previous post, I realized I have glorified teenagers a little too much...of course, I do not wish to take back anything I have said, but I think I should devote this blog to what's wrong with teenagers. We also have some drawbacks...we cannot be perfect.)

Here is the sort of conversation you might come across if you dropped by a college these days.
“ Hey, waadiiupp, dude?”
“Nothin’, everything’s groovy,”
“Whacha doin’ man?”
“Nothin, chillin,’”
“Awesome, Where’s MJ and gang?”
“Dey were hangin at that funky and totally hapenning mall and hoggin’ some chips, like, whatever, man, who knows? They were, like, bunkin’ class, you know, like, dey were bugged to the core, chem.was totally freakish today, so Dey took a break and decided to hang!”
“What’s she do in chem?’
“You bunked class too?”
“Me bunked class, mate ”
“Cool! She did aldehydes and ketones,”
“The What-sits?”
“Some boring organic stuff dude, chill, don’t go cracking,”
“Was she mad, da?”
“Totally Burnin’!”
“She’s such a bull-crusher!”
“Alrigh’ buddy, gottago, me mom’ll toast me if I don’t turn up! Catchya!”
“Adios, Amigo!”
Now, if you understood half of that conversation, very good, it means you are fully updated with the modern trends of English Langauge, if you haven’t, you are someone like me, who prefers not to understand at all, because it hardly makes sense. The present day youth are largely responsible for brutally disfiguring the English Language. Seriously, I thought my grammar was bad! English, firstly, is not English because teenagers mix it with Kannada, Malayali, Spanish, French, American English or anything that sounds barbaric to the tongue. What is most irritating and common habit among school children is adding a ‘da’ at the end of every sentence! I’m not trying to degrade any language, but English is rapidly deteriorating into a mass of misspelled words and utter gibberish, and people change it according to their fancy. The funny thing is deteriorating English has become a necessity among us! Inferior English is ‘cool’ to put in the right terms. They try to associate even the language with fashion, new words are ‘in’ and others are ‘out’. For me, it’s illogical and highly nonsensical, and I have to make a deliberate effort to ignore slangs, because I have the fear my writing will decay with them, if I catch up to it. What a pity! Shakesphere would have drowned himself if he was alive!

Another annoying habit is to use shrt frms (short forms) every other day, which is more common with the girls. The ‘SMS’ language is creeping into daily usage.
“I’ll be back, A.S.A.P.” (as soon as possible) and "OMG OMG OMG!" (Oh my gosh!) somehow annoy me. Drooling with words too, like “Coooooooool!” is most common. And whenever you don’t find the right words, just insert ‘whatever’ or ‘like’ and it makes a fabulous sentence, filling in all the blanks! Words like ‘snazzy’ ‘hip-hop’ ‘chic’ have replaced ‘different’ ‘nice’ and ‘fashionable’. If you speak like this,
“It was such a nice day, yesterday, that I decided to have a long walk, and I took some cream biscuits along, just to munch along the way. And then there was such a cool breeze, I was happy, and contented,” people would stare and think you are exotic, because only a few speak like that anymore. That would translate into something like this in the ‘teenage’ English:
“ It was a cool day yesterday, man, so, I like, decided to chill, and I chucked myself out, got somethin’ to hog on, and de wing was like, whatever, you know? Made me feel sort of gud,”
If this continues, I fear the entire world would be divided into normal and abnormal English speakers, and in the course of literary evolution, who knows? This might become a new language(although a primitive and an inferior one, no doubt)and we might require a translator in the future! Teenagers, are you listening?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A visit to Gorur

Ok, after one of those ‘mood swings’ of mine, I’m back to being normal, healthy and happy. It’s just wonderful I have a day off today, so I thought I’d blog something exciting. My recent trip to Hassan and Gorur was interesting, and I was waiting for time to document it. It was the week before last that we left for Hassan—it was an ideal family outing, with cousins with whom you can endlessly talk with perfect confidence because they are the sort of people who will really understand why academics is boring and why movies deserve to be discussed. We were cramped in a single car, all the seven of us, but that did not matter, what mattered was feeling the wind on your face, gossiping, and listening to the music blaring as the car sped past on the highway. I must say I was the most excited of all, because I would be visiting Gorur for the second time.

Anyone who is well into Kannada literature would have heard the name of Gorur Ramaswamy Iyengar, a man who had a wonderful way with the pen. I call him the RK Narayan of Kannada literature….his writing is realistically captivating, and leaves a powerful imprint on the mind. This man was from the village of Gorur, which is about 22 kilometers from Hassan. Just like Narayan, who describes Malgudi in his imaginative detail, Ramaswamy too writes usually about his village with great fondness and natural pride. His writings were so powerful that they beckoned me to Gorur, and I somehow made sure I visited the place I had read about so often, last year. When I finished reading a marvelous novel written by him ( Namma Oorina Rasikaru), I just couldn’t stand the urge to visit the place. The same way RKN’s fans would feel if someone told them Malgudi existed, or Harry Potter fans were invited into the Hogwarts school of witchcraft. The place had changed over the years, as I observed from the car window. The book written by Ramaswamy Iyengar is half-a-century old, and the vivid description of the village and it’s people stayed in the depths of my mind as I made a quick comparison between the old and new faces of the village and I realized that the little village nestled in between the refreshing greens of the Malnad region of Karnataka was on it’s way to change---with modern bus-stands, trendy new buildings, this was not the village I had read about. But still, the visit was not all that disappointing. We did visit the temple on the banks of the river Hemavathi---it was one structure which remained unaffected by the constant changes and even didn’t forget to peek into Mr. Ramaswamy’s house!

This time, there was in additional bonus—we visited the Hemavathi dam, the waters were surging because the river was overflowing with water this monsoon. The Hemavathi Dam, I think is one of the best places to visit in Northern Karnataka, especially during the monsoons. The atmosphere of the Malnad region is truly magical. The cold winds will heal and revive you, the unpredictable sun who plays hide and seek in between the clouds can mesmerize you and the breathtaking view of the turbulent and vigorous waters of the Hemavathi river will numb your senses. The silent beauty of Hassan and surrounding regions will command respect and you’ll find yourself falling in love with this region, it feels better than home. This region is characterized by Abundance, and even the weather suits people like me who prefer the cold and wet kind of a climate. It is a stark contrast to Bangalore, and you can lose yourself in nature, all the elements here are free and strong, with nothing to arrest them---the winds, the water, the thick emerald forest cover….you will not see meekness, even Hemavathi river is a ferocious, you cannot swim in it when it’s overflowing, she will drag you away. For all those dare-devils, a visit to the Dam can invoke a rush of tingling excitement. Just stand around looking at the water, and there will be an unexpected surge of cold water, and before you know it, you are drenched to the skin, shivering, and waiting for more of it. It’s better than the fun rides at GRS! I got really wet, and to top it all off, it started raining the next moment, which made it all the better, of course. I am secretly proud I have no fear of water or the rains, I welcome it, (I think I could still go get drenched once more, even after falling sick, because I stayed out in the rains too long on Thusday!) Hey, and I forgot to mention! I did a bit of bird-watching too! Malnad is a bird-watcher’s paradise! I spotted the Indain Roller once more, the blue-tailed bee-eater (One of my favorites—I haden’t seen one in a long time), the common tailor bird, cormorants and plenty of cattle egrets. I was dancing around, trying to get pictures, which the adults did not appereciatet too much. The photos too did not come out properly, because it was raining outside, or I would have surely posted them. That ended a memorable weekend, a weekend that I am sure not to forget.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

More on the Book Binder

In one of my previous posts named 'THE BOOK BINDER' (Sorry, I don't know how to link to previous posts, perhaps, a little help here?), I had talked about my favorite book-binding shop down Ghandi Bazaar road which will be closed down in the near future, and the cause for it all, is the rapid urbanization of my city. I finally suceeded in getting the pictures of this book-binding shop, the temple, and Ghandi Bazaar road, as I felt it necessary to give you the complete picture of the scenario. For those of you who have read that post of mine, this will be an additional delight (or I hope so), for those of you who haven't, I request you to go through it in your spare time.

Quick note: What's happening?
This is a very old book binding shop, opened in the 1960's in NR colony, Bangalore,and quality book binding is undertaken here. This is the place, faithfully, where I give my tinkle comic books for binding every year. But now, the shop has to close down. The Reasons?

A supermarket has come up next to this old shop

The supermarket wants more space, and the owner of the shop, who has rented the place to the binder is preassurizing him to close down

The man has agreed, because he is not doing good buisness of late

Who is the man?
That man there, in the photograph, is my book-binder. He is a faithful, devoted man. He has long years of expereince, and is very talented because, he learnt the art of book-binding long ago from the last of the Bristish before they left our country. He has been working every since, elsewhere in Bangalore, and then he moved over to NR colony in the 1960's. He has witnessed the independence movement too, and he is in Bangalore for a long long time. He can tell me how my city was, fifty years ago! The man says, even his workers have stopped showing up for work, because they get better salary somewhere else...he is now forced to do everything alone, and he is distressed, and unhappy. I have observed of late, his reflexes have slowed, and he speaks with a slight stutter. This man is in a real predicament, and I don't know how to help him, I don't know what a small teenager like me can do...what an aweful waste of talent, if he closes down! I really don't want that to happen. I need advise. Any suggestions?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Science Practicals

Science, they say, is all about ‘experimenting’. Well, thank my lucky stars that the colleges don’t think so, or I would be failing. Somehow, experimenting is not my cup of tea, and things tend to go horribly wrong when I experiment with stuff. I am extremely careful, and I try not to experiment at all (who cares what happens to potassium carbonate when you add concentrated sulphuric acid to it?), but if I am forced to…well, my teacher has to bear the consequences.

My greatest achievement is that I managed to survive without breaking a test tube last year. That is pretty difficult to manage…usually; I end up with something very different from what is considered ‘normal’. For example, the day when my chem. Experiment when horribly wrong, and only my test tube turned motty-green, emitting a horrible, green coloured gas, with my teacher screaming, “Not the test for Ist group acid Radicals, my girl, try with Hydrogen Sulphide!” Everyone else’s had the required “Curdy white precipitate”, and people were closing their noses…well, you get the picture.

The worst and the most boring of all practicals is physics….I almost never get the values right. It’s gives a dose of frustration, really…it makes me tear my hair out. It’s wonderful that Hemavathi, my classmate is by my side, saying, “That’s not right,” “That’s not how you should do it!” Well, the circuit connections go wrong when I try, and I can’t time the number of oscillations of the pendulum (we calculated the acceleration due to gravity on earth to be 11.8 when it has to be 9.8 meters per second) The so called ‘Scientific temperament’, blah..blah…blah…it lacking. Hmm…I wonder how Thomas Alva Edison experimented with nearly a hundred substituents of carbon for the bulb, before he got it right. If I were him, the world would still be dark at night.

Coming to Bio…my favorite. I was a good artist in school and there is nearly no experimenting, so it’s fun. I can sit for long hours, sketching the cross-section of the liver’s hepatic cells until I reach perfection. But there are yucky parts too…Cockroach dissection! I nearly vomited when they did that. They pair up 2 people, and I never even touched the cockroach, let alone dissect it! My friend Thunga was perfectly happy doing it, and I totally freaked out when I observed that the ‘unconscious’ or the ‘dead’ cockroach (It’s hard to make out with cockroaches, actually) was either regaining consciousness, or coming back to life while she was dissecting it. Somebody actually scared me we would have to dissect a toad this year, until I learnt that there were joking.

Well, that’s practicals for you. In my next blog, I wish to continue on what went wrong in practicals, and how I coped with it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

It’s Independence day! Well, there will be a surge of patriotism today as we remember long dead heroes of the country and pay our tributes to them. They are interviewing some of the Kannada freedom fighters on TV today, and looking at all this, it makes me wonder, why do we ignore our freedom fighters until it is August 15th? Nobody bothers about the old chap down the filthy lane, ninety-five and barely able to survive on his income, until it is Independence day. Well, on 15th August, we put a shawl around his neck, keep a mike near his mouth, and fire questions at him.

Our freedom fighters—the remaining ones are living in pathetic conditions. I think, atleast, one ought to be practical when honoring such noble, poverty-stricken people. We give them a shawl, a memento painted in the tricolors or a certificate…well, what will an old man do with a hundred shawls? The certificates are useless, and the memento or trophy just becomes a showpiece. We could pay for his food, instead, or even provide him with a comfortable home. These men are grieving deeply—they are grieving to know that they did not fight for the country to be treated like this. They want to live with dignity, they trusted the government to provide them with homes and comfort for the great sacrifices they have made in the past. To me, Independence day is not about walking around in the streets, waving our tricolour flag madly, it’s about seeing the smile on the faces of these fighters again, it’s about the faith in the country returning to their hearts…that’s when I’ll say the struggle for independence fulfilled it’s own causes, and that we are truly happy and free, because India, then, has turned out to be what the original leaders once dreamt of.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Are you forgetting to have fun?

Remember the first day you learnt to ride a cycle? And the way you took your new bike to school to show it off to classmates? And long, leisurely schooldays when you returned home with a bunch of friends, riding your cycle through green by-lanes, on the roads, and explored everything possible, prodded in every nook and corner with your good old cycle? There will be a ‘Tcah! What days!” on your tongue right now, as you slip into the memories of the ‘good old days’.

But that’s the funny thing about our old men and adults. We just live on memories, thinking, always reminiscing. For instance, you might sit and brood on the way you had fun on your cycle as a lad, when you ought to realize that you are still living, your bones are still strong (perhaps even a little stiff due to meager exercise), and it is still possible to go out there, into the beautiful open, and ride a cycle again, and enjoy the feel of the wind on your face. But the sad things about Indians is that we stare a lot (Look at that old man, he still rides a cycle!), and even if you want to do the things you want to do, people will stare, point and comment. We have established well-defined rules as to what a kid ought to be like, and what an adult should do with his or her life. That’s really sad, we should abandon the system, because everyone should be allowed to enjoy their lives, no matter what.

My ‘Indianness’ always intruded when I saw strange things in America.
“Old women swim?”
“Oh my gosh! Look at that man! He watches kid’s movies!”
“Man! That women is sixty and she drives a car everyday?”
“ Is it really an old man who just trekked a mile into the forest?”
You see, our old men don’t do that. Our old men sit and home and sleep, think of their ‘good old days’ or read philosophy. I see very few exceptions who are still working. Admit it, most of us love ice-cream and chocolates, but some shy away from ice-cream, because ice-cream is ‘for kids.’ Our adults don’t read comics, don’t watch Disney, don’t swim, don’t cycle (for high school kids, you know), don’t go for the roller coaster ride with their son at the fair…but some just pretend to be serious men, when there heart craves to have fun, just like they did when they were kids.

I firmly believe that life is always beautiful when we view things through a child’s eyes. Life should be utilized to the fullest, and people just forget to have fun as they grow up. Well, you can be sure, that, in this nation’s teeming millions, there is a girl who will grow up to become a fun-loving adult. And that’s me….you can be sure.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Book-Binder

(Kindly note--this is the longest blog I have ever written. I know it is inappropriate to post essays on my blog, and I know it might irritate the casual reader to go through the entire thing...if you have time, pl go through, if you don't skip to the end, coz it carries a message. This one's been rotting in my account for quite some time, and so I thought I should put it to good use and blog it)

Come every June or July, my heart wells in the sweet expectation of the monsoons. But June is not only about monsoons, it’s that special time of the year when I ritualistically, tenderly give up my newly acquired tinkle comics for a couple of weeks as they’ll be visiting the book binder, to have them neatly trimmed off, pressed and binded, to be preserved eternally, in colourful red and green covers for me to savor for the days to come.

This book-binder interests me, because he is like none other. He is a traditional one, I can see, he’s been in the line for many years. I know my books well, and I know this dear man well also, and his work is always neat, unselfishly completed with faithfulness and loyalty. One can’t help but admire the quality of his work…anything entrusted to him is carried out to the best of his ability, never once, it seems, has he lost interest in his work. Yet, the little old man down Gandhi Bazaar Road remains unrecognized: he reposes in a silent cocoon of his, not wishing to really come out and scream that he deserves a pat on his back for working so hard for all these years... but he has faith in himself, and for him, that is enough--it gives him strength to continue the mundane work of his.

His workplace is nothing too special—it is old, derelict and neglected corner of a building, and is supremely unattractive and drab. It can easily slip off one's eyes: many people who live here are unaware of it’s existence. But I just happened to chance on it, when I needed to get my books bound. My eyes desperately sought a binder, and they rested with delight on the small grey corner of the building which announced Elegant Printing Works.

Initially, I was reluctant, I suppressed my urge to rush my books to his place—I had to be careful. It was a matter of selecting a talented binder. I hated the insensitive kinds who were not devoted to their work. I was already dissatisfied with my previous binder who had done a bad job with my books and I had decided to be even more selective when it came to choosing the right book-binder. Well, the first look at this man told me he was the right one. I took my books to him one day as he sat working, with my beloved comic books in a heavy plastic cover. I observed him till I was allowed to speak. He was binding some books, and beside him rested a think wad of gum, which he was plastering onto the book covers. Over in one corner of the room rested a rusty binding machine, and there was a sort-of a makeshift attic above his weary head which was stashed with all kinds of bound, yellowing books and I wondered if they were still readable. His room was small, and the man himself was small, wearing thick spectacles, and a white bunion. We gave our comics to him, repeatedly murmuring that he ought to be careful, because these comics were important to me. He asked us to return in three days when the books would be ready and I waited anxiously to see my books return home.

I hurried to the binder’s ( the 8th of July, it was, according to my Journal entry) back seated on my mother’s two-wheeler, and my books were bound and ready at the shop, as promised. The man was waiting. The payment he requested was minimal (it looks like he was unaware of how much the other binders were demanding, evidently, it was more than he was.) I remember it was a beautiful day, there is a temple neighboring his humble shop, and there were people visiting the temple. The famous giant trees of my neighborhood which I am so proud of did not sway, they were too burly for the winds, but the leaves rustled, and small rains started off, and I knew they would get stronger.

I could not help but feel true pity towards this man, a devoted, hard-working man, an old timer working away on his rusting book-binding machine. Judging by the state of his workplace, he did not earn much. It looked like we were his only customers in days. There was this overwhelming pity for this man. Previously, I had not bothered about him: just like many others, he had passed unnoticed like a commoner under my eye. That day, I made a promise. From that moment, I decided that every year, it would be to this man I would bring my Tinkle comics for binding, and every year, he would, without doubt return my bound books…and everytime I read them, I would feel grateful to the sturdy hands which had ensured me that pleasure.

That is my problem—I care too much, and I am proud of it. I cannot be insensitive, however small a problem is. Maybe, it was my impulse to feed this man, my understanding that he deserves more than he has earned that makes me take my Tinkle books to him every year. I also know, I am not the ultimate one, and yes, I only take my books to him once a year, and you might argue that the money he gets out of this will not suffice…he cannot live on it. True, but it always helps to be a little kinder…to make a small change, to take a little step and extend a caring hand. Some helping silently is better than remaining indifferent, is it not?

For the past three years, I have unfailingly taken my books to him, and he has worked with great perseverance, the only changes I have seen in his workplace it an addition of 2 chairs—A wicker one with an old pillow and a simple steel folding chair. I suspect he gets back-pain often, and when I visit him, I usually sit on the cold steel chair, leaving the other one empty.

This year, once again, the time arrived to count my books, number them and visit the book-binder. I packed them up neatly in a plastic bag as usual, but I was unable to go along with my mother, as it was test-time, and requested her to drop it off at the Binder’s. She did so, and she returned and told me, that this was possibly the last time I would have my books bound here, because the old man was closing his shop.

It is sad, somehow, his defeat dampened my spirit. I don’t know why. Maybe it was the evidence that my simple job of sustaining him had failed…I asked her why. She told me the poor man was burdened under constant pressure from the owner who had permitted him to use that useless corner of the building for his purposes.
“The owner has asked him to vacate the place” she said, “And the man has agreed to close down. They are not doing good business.”

Finally, I understood why. Recently, a Spencer’s supermarket had erupted next to his workplace—with flashy orange displays to attract customers. I don’t like such changes—a supermarket in front of a temple and next to a book-binder looks misplaced, but that's the sad thing about Bangalore, everything is growing haphazardly…and sometimes, I feel angered, as if I want to put an end to the constant changes the city is facing, showing it’s ugly face in every corner of the city....I would want it to stop, I would like my city to return to it’s original splendor, although I realize it is near to impossible.

I suspect, the supermarket wants to widen, engulfing the poor binder’s shop, and the old man has given in….I know he will stop working now. I only wonder how his future will be… ‘ritual’ is broken, and I am sure, I shall not find a better book-binder anywhere in the city…and I shall blame this all to the rapid urbanization, which had unpleasantly affected me, and incensed me beyond belief.

But whatever’s done is done. The truth remains that I shall miss this old man and his shop, the wicker chair, the old, dusty attic…everything. He shall remain unforgotten, because his handiwork rests in my hands….I will be missing you, old man.