Friday, May 25, 2007

The Magic of the Rains

Finally, after a long wait the pre-monsoon showers have bought some respite to me. The monsoons will forever remain my favorite season…I eagerly wait for it all year, and when it does arrive, I never forget to give it a warm welcome, a grand reception with one regal smile. I’m thankful for the rains because I don’t know how I could survive without it. It’s that special time of the year, when all of my aunt’s potted plants downstairs attain that lush, healthy look, and there is that sweet smell of the earth again, and the mango tree in my backyard is rejoicing…then there are those coconut trees in the distance adding to all the magic with that rustling music, that gentle sway of those trees, which stand out against the drab concrete buildings in the distance. It is raining outside now, very hard with thunder and lightning, and already, and that mounting tension about the year I am going to face (I’m, entering second PU), that tight knot in my stomach is loosening a little bit. The rains create this new atmosphere for me, and somehow, it dissolves and washes away all my blues. I call this pure magic.

Have all of you forgotten how you used to enjoy the rainy season as children? I haven’t. I know pretty well what I used to do. I used to make those paper boats and sail them in the rains, get drenched (trying to stay outdoors as much as possible), and after the rains subsided, I enjoyed going around, watching all the raindrops collected on the leaves, which really looked beautiful. I used to draw up a chair, and watch it rain all day long. Rains looked like miracles to me, and they still do. And guess what I did today? I have this feeling that my childhood is slipping away, and to make the most of it, I went outdoors, got drenched in the rains, sailed a paper boat, forgot about studies for a day, drew up a chair and watched it rain enjoying a hot cup of coffee. I felt like a kid was a wonderful feeling. I revisted the time when it was not considered indecent on my part to play in puddles of water. There was this carefree attitude that I am so familair with from my early childhood...the times when it was considered OK to not study, the times when I was allowed to race my freinds on the roads. You should see how scandalized my mom looked when I came back drenched from head to foot! Apparently, it was the shock of seeing a young-adult behaving like a five-year old! I got a nice scolding. It's ok if the adults don't understand me. I know, I had done justice to myself, because when it rains, I am a kid again, I feel I a new side of me emerging…and when it rains, I tend to forget manners. That’s the magic of the rainy season!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Our Amar Tinkle Club.

Amar Tinkle club is a small organization of true book lovers and tinkle readers. Tinkle readers from various cities have formed their own ‘Amar Tinkle Clubs’. One such Amar Tinkle Club is ours, right here in Bangalore, and I am proud to say I am part of it. The First Amar Tinkle Clubs started in Mumbai, then spread to various other cities, and the beloved ‘Father of Comics’, Uncle Pai, creator of the Amar Chitra Katha series, originally came up with an idea. An Amar Tinkle Club mainly consists of kids and young adults and we engage ourselves in fun activities, like reading, debate and such other things. Well, I thought our club must be something more special. As I have written in my other post My favorite tree, a tree from our road was mercilessly cut by a haughty neighbor so we decided to talk about the issue seriously, and finally take some action. You will be surprised at what small kids can do. They have a wonderful sense of judgment. Right now, we are a group of four! I thought I should post some pictures to share the proud moment of Amar Tinkle Club’s first meeting!!

Well, in our first meeting, all of us resolved to do one thing—buy a plant each and raise it. I got the idea from a concept I read about. It appeared in an open sesame issue, a long time ago. On the day a boy was born, a mango tree was planted in the orchard. As the boy grew, the tree grew with him. When he was twenty, the tree was strong and burly. When he became old, the tree sagged. The man called the tree “My tree” because he thought of it as a friend, and played under it’s shade all the time. When the man died, the tree was chopped down for the pyre. In the end, the tree feels happy that the man had been so nice to it, and it feels it is dying an appropriate death. I loved the concept of “My tree” because if we do grow a tree, we will attach a bond to it, and we can proudly say that our trees are our properties, and I think it will not be too hard to treat inanimate trees just like our pets and nurture them with care.

It was a hot summer’s day, but the little meeting went smoothly. I only wished my cousin, Rukmini who lives in Mysore was here in Bangalore with me, she would have loved it. Both of us are nature lovers, and she would have liked to take part in this.

There were intimate moments of fun, too! An Amar Tinkle Club member, my brother’s friend was so angry about felling down of a tree that he volunteered to spy on that ‘bad tree killing woman’ and throw stones at her! Well, well, I told him that “An organized effort to nurture trees and care for nature” did not include throwing stones and ‘barbarism’. For this, he replied in a typical style ‘that is what I would do!’ and ‘you sound too complicated! Girls are weird’

The most difficult thing about dealing with a kid and making him understand complicated concepts like global warming, deforestation, water preservation, and polluting of air before he snoozes off to sleep or starts catching flies. The main aim is to hold their attention which is not as easy as it sounds! They love to enjoy better things like cricket and TV, and it took me a lot of effort to make them abandon the idiot box, and turn to me instead. I can understand when their thread of thought goes astray—that’s when there is a misty look in the eyes which says ‘This girl is bugging me’ and a huge yawn. Then, they’ll start doodling their fingers, and twisting a piece of metal wire around their hands, all the while nodding their heads in happy pretence. Then, I had this bright idea. A really wise one popped up in my head-- To play with their psychology.
“ Look, all the adults in the world are stupid,” I said, “ You know that!”
For once, we all agreed on the same point. “Uh-huh,”
“ They are so dumb that they cut trees and stuff, and some people, like the ‘bad tree woman’ make a mess of the world. So, we should show them that kids have got tough stuff too, and we can be responsible. We are surely more brilliant in such matters than adults will ever be!”
“So will you buy a plant for the Amar Tinkle Club?”
“Oh, you bet!”

The best thing is to give such small boys with you-are-going-to-save-the-earth feeling because it makes them feel important. They love to be considered as “Green Warriors”. Give them a stick and a spade and they’ll go around pretending it is some secret instrument which is going to come in handy in this ‘useful and extremely dangerous venture’. Surprisingly, it does not take much time to convince them that the world is sort of video-game like in certain aspects and they can go on planting one tree after another just as fast as Mario climbs a tree to rescue his princess.
We dispersed by afternoon, just before lunch and we shared a silent promise in our hearts to do something to make the world a better place. It was a secret oath, a noble pledge, and I think there was definitely a smile on my brother’s friend, Pavan’s face as he was planning to depart. In a day, he had become a recognized valiant green warrior!! And I felt that I had made a small difference in the world….for me, as well as for my tiny friends. “Beware,” I whispered, “The Green Warriors are here!”

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Dying Earth

Have you read the papers recently? They are all screaming about global warming. On a poll conducted recently, a question was asked. “Do you think the warnings on global warming are exaggerated?” Nearly 98% of them answered “yes”. Clearly, people are not as concerned as they ought to be. And the papers are doing a good job. They are stressing on the point that the earth is going to be doomed if we don’t do something about this matter. But of course, people have heard the word “Global Warming” so often that they regard it with distaste and boredom. “Everywhere it says the same thing,” they groan, “Everyone talks about global warming. It is bugging me.”
But the fact is, it needs to be talked about. It is our future. Our planet’s future. How is it that no one is getting alarmed about this? Why isn’t anybody scared about the ill-fate of our planet? Why is it that the early warning signs of a dangerous and perilous future that is in store for us not considered seriously? Why is the fact that Bangalore has a probable seismic fault not ringing a bell?

I admit, I am alarmed. I just want people to understand. Visualize the future of Indian Subcontinent and it will horrify you. By 2035, the Himalayas will melt, the Ganges and the Indus will become seasonal, other rivers will dry up. Temperatures will soar so much that today’s Bangalorian weather will be nothing compared to it. Kerala will be submerged under water. Be sure to catch an early visit to the Maldives, because it will not exist for your grand-children to see. 30% of the world’s species will become extinct. ¼ th of all the mammals on earth will die. Asia has already lost 90% of it’s original wildlife. When I become 30 years old people will be pointing at photographs of Rhinos and saying “Gee, it seems such a species of animals existed once”
By 2060, A whopping BILLION people will be forced to migrate from Asian and other poor countries because of horrible climatic conditions in Asia. More than a MILLION people will suffer from shortage of food and water. And most of us will be alive to witness all this. 2035 is not too distant after all. So we need to be bothered. Global warming’s already started and it’s happening now. And guess who will suffer first from the impact? You guessed it! The Tropical countries. Africa, India, Indonesia, Sri-Lanka. That means us too. It amazes me how we are still alive in the environment that we have created. People in Bangalore are living in the 7th most polluted city in India, and we are still adding to the pollution. Looking at the Bangalorian streets, the absolute lack of fauna, it seems to me that nobody really cares for the up gradation of the environment. Only thing that I can see is buildings rising from every nook and corner. Amazing Architectural marvels. But what the people don’t understand is that, if they just contribute that same space to build a park instead of an apartment complex for personal profit, they will be benefiting the earth. And if they continue to ignore my advice, it is no surprise that in the distant future, a massive earthquake will bring these structures crumbling down.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

My Uncle

Above everything in my life, I honor relationships and human values. For me, it is more important to be an honest person, a loving friend and a perfect daughter than to know all the sciences of the world. Therefore, an inborn quality of mine is personal attachment to every person who matters in my life, every little remainder of how close my family is knit. My family is quite large, and everyone, including even the distant relatives are welcome here. Grandma, Grandpa, the Uncles, Giggling Aunties, Cousins, Brothers and Sisters are so closely attached that it is no surprise that even if one person is separated from us, all of us feel the pain.

Today, I want to talk about Kumar Uncle. Well, what can I say about him? He was unique in many aspects. Have you ever heard of a 48 year old reading children’s comics? Well, that was the man. He was quite brainy too. Chemistry was his first love. There was also this urge to share things with others—he loved to take time off, and watch a cartoon with me if he wanted to. He certainly had a different sense of humor that made him stand apart in the family circle. Humble, Honest, Hardworking. That defines him for you. He always loved to stop by my house to say hello, enjoy a cup of coffee, share those intimate moments with his cousin. Life had always been simple for him, and he ensured that he never missed out on conveying his greetings on people’s birthdays. He never forgot to celebrate life for what it offered, and even the downfalls, he savored.

He was a lovely person, really. He introduced me to comics, funny English comedies like Sister Act, and taught me to work out physics problems without using formulas. Dinner at his house was a wonderful affair. His daughter and me shared a lot of things in common. I remember his daughter had stored away some comics upstairs, which I wanted to retrieve. She bought down a whole gunny sack full of them, and asked me to choose some. I chose only the Tinkle comics, being my natural favorite.
“My! You read only Tinkle?” he had asked, “That’s bad! Kids should read everything. Next time, come round my place, and I’ll give you some Indrajal comics, I think you will like it,”
He was the first person who loved comics in the same way I did, loved to watch animated movies, loved to have fun in the real sense of the word. He was simple, but there is much to learn from his simplicity.

Kumar Uncle died today of Heart Attack. I guess he left too soon. He loved life too much, and had taught me to love it too. I will relish all the moments I have spent with this wonderful man. And just like he has advised me, I will learn to like all books equally, and when I grow up, I want to become a person just like him—the Happy-go-lucky girl who never forgets the value of life, the enjoyment that is to be derived from a simple living, and to celebrate everything that life will ever offer me, no matter what.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

A Glimpse of Frankfurt

I remember the first day that the channel Cartoon Network was aired on Television. A channel which was packed with cartoon from morning to night, surely, it was a kid’s delight. I stayed up watching the Popeye the Sailor Man late into the night, forcing my Grandma to stay awake and watch it with me as well, because I was scared of the night. Popeye the Sailor Man was the last show of the day, the Grand Finale and I wouldn’t miss that for anything. I remember vividly, another Cartoon which was aired on this channel.

It was called Heidi---the cartoon version of the famous Swiss classical novel, Heidi written by Joanna Spyri. I was too young to bother reading novels then, and Heidi was one cartoon I fell in love with. Oh, it was not one of those ‘stupid’ and ‘senseless’ children’s cartoons with dancing donkeys and talking birds, but Heidi was something which was truly unique and special in many ways. It told a story, packed with morals, life-lessons, and many such things which are absolutely required for the developing child. I was attracted to it because it portrayed a girl who was very much like me in many aspects and I loved to assume that I was Heidi, the little seven year old girl herself, roaming the lush Andes mountainside meadows and picking wildflowers. It told me of a beautiful relationship between the girl and her Grandfather—Heidi lived a carefree mountain life, shepherding the sheep, making friends with birds and goats, and going to winter school. I remember in one episode in which Heidi is dragged away from her Grandpa to the city of Frankfurt. I associated that with me being dragged back to Bangalore after spending my summer with my Grandparents.

I later found out that Andes was a mountain range that really existed, and Frankfurt existed too. I had loved the animated version of Frankfurt so much that I dreamed of visiting the Andes once, really picking flowers from the mountain slopes and of course a nice visit to city of Frankfurt. Many years later, when I was in the Frankfurt Airport as a Transit Passenger, I couldn’t help looking out of the glass windows, taking in the breathtaking view of the city. It was something which was exactly as I had imagined it to be. Somewhere, the story of the little girl seemed to unfold. Slanting red rooftops, houses baking under the warm sun, concrete buildings which rose in the distance, Frankfurt had not changed. Even though I never visited the Andes, I was grateful that I got a small glimpse of Frankfurt. Somehow, for this little girl who has not really grown up, it was not too hard to imagine the smiling face of Heidi staring back at me from the tallest tower of the city.