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!