Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Help children grow!

I made a dramatic entry into this world.Or so I was led to believe. My father was a doctor in the army. He was transferred to Madras from Bangalore and was asked to report immediately. My mom was either over confident about my father’s capabilities or she lacked confidence to protest so she accompanied him bag and baggage plus an older son and a mother in law even though she was eight and a half months pregnant. After all it was an overnight’s journey and all she had to do was to sleep through the night. But God willed otherwise. She had to disembark at Jolarpet and I was born at the Railway hospital around the time she expected to reach Madras. My grandmother arrived in Madras bag and baggage minus her son and daughter in law with a four year old grandson accompanying her. My dad was a good narrator and he made me feel like a heroine of Hindi films, right from the time I could understand his words. He repeated the story of my birth to anyone who was willing (or unwilling) to listen. However, others in the extended family were less charitable. I was a darkling born to fair skinned parents and both sides of the family were quick to disown me. My father’s sisters said that I looked like my mother’s brother and sister and my mother’s family swore that I was an exact replica of my dad’s sisters. Had it not been for my dad I might have been traumatised. He made me feel that I was God’s special gift to him. There were times when I’d wonder if I actually belonged to another family and if there had been an exchange of babies in the railway hospital. I would invariably end up deciding that even if my ‘real’ parents came asking for me I’d never ever agree to go with them! I remember asking my father why I was dark when he was fair. He would reply that all children were born dark but became fair when they drank a lot of milk. I really believed him and after drinking a glass of milk I’d invariably check out if I had indeed become fairer.

My mother was, by nature, a quiet person but I remember her being a very caring person from my earliest memories of her. I had never seen her openly agitated or aggressive. She neither defended nor offended me.But in her own way she left a lasting impression on me. As a child she would tell me not to waste food.
“ Goddess Annapoorna will cry if you waste food.”she would say “ She’ll say ‘with so many children going without food, this little girl wastes so much of it’.” Being my dad’s daughter, I’d visualise a Goddess with crown and jewels sitting by a well and crying on account of me.


I owe it to my fifth grade teacher who made me realise that it is the ‘mind’ that matters in the long run. She was Miss Claire who was perhaps the best teacher I’ve ever had. She was our class teacher and for the first time in my life I was selected to play an important role in a play. According to her, my pronounciation was good and with a little effort I’d be fine. I was so grateful to her that I decided to give the role my best shot. After all I could not afford to let her down! The play was a success with not only me but each of those who had a role in it feeling proud to have been part of the group. She instilled a confidence that continues to remain with me till this day. The good thing about her was that she made each one of us feel special. Even the weakest student could approach her without fear. She would give us responsibilities and trust us to live up to her expectations and for our part we’d take them rather seriously.Today I realise the value of having her for a teacher during my formative years.God bless you Miss Claire wherever you may be!


Each child should be made to feel special and wanted. They too nurse a good amount of self respect.Unfortunately, due to our busy schedule, we are not able pay much attention to their feelings. Let us atleast refrain from making insensitive remarks. Children today face so much competition and this is perhaps the least we can do for them.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Copied from Suemamma's blog!

Thank you Suemamma for letting me copy these quotes.for those intereted in visiting her blog it is http://mtwardhafamily.blogspot.com/.I'm going to link her anyway.These quotes were too cute to ignore

Grandkids: Ya Gotta Love 'Em!

After putting her grandchildren to bed, a grandmother changed into old slacks and a droopy blouse and proceeded to wash her hair. As she heard the children getting more and more rambunctious, her patience grew thin. At last, she threw a towel around her head and stormed into their room, putting them back to bed with stern warnings. As she left the room, she heard the three-year-old say with a trembling voice, "Who was that"?

---

When my grandson, Billy, and I entered our vacation cabin, we kept the lights off until we were inside to keep from attracting pesky insects. Still, a few fireflies followed us in. Noticing them before I did, Billy whispered, "It's no use, Grandpa. The mosquitoes are coming after us with flashlights."

---

A nursery school teacher was delivering a station wagon full of kids home one day when a fire truck zoomed past. Sitting in the front seat of the fire truck was a Dalmatian dog. The children started discussing the dog's duties. "They use him to keep crowds back," said one youngster. "No, said another,"he's just for good luck." A third child brought the argument to a close. "They use the dogs," she said firmly, "to find the fire hydrant."

---

Our five-year-old grandson couldn't wait to tell his grandfather about the movie we had watched on television, "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." The scenes with the submarine and the giant octopus had kept him wide-eyed. In the middle of the telling, my husband interrupted, "Mark! "What caused the submarine to sink"? With a look of incredulity Mark replied, "Grampa, it was the 20,000 leaks!!"

---

I didn't know if my granddaughter had learned her colors yet, so I decided to test her. I would point out something and ask what color it was. She would tell me and she was always correct. But it was fun for me, so I continued. At last, she headed for the door, saying sagely, "Grandma, I think you should try to figure out some of these yourself!"

-----

Mommy Test

I was out walking with my four-year-old daughter. She picked up something off the ground and started to put it in her mouth. I took the item away from her and I asked her not to do that.

"Why"? my daughter asked.

"Because it's been laying outside, you don't know where it's been, it's dirty and probably has germs" I replied.

At this point, my daughter looked at me with total admiration and asked, "Wow! How do you know all this stuff"?

"Uh," I was thinking quickly, "All Moms know this stuff. It's on the Mommy Test. You have to know it or they don't let you be a Mommy."

We walked along in silence for two or three minutes, but she was evidently pondering this new information.

"Oh, I get it!" she beamed, "So if you don't pass the test, you have to be the Daddy"?

"Exactly!" I replied back with a big smile on my face and joy in my heart.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A Happy Ganesh Chaturthi!

A Happy Ganesh Chaturthi to all of you. May the blessings of Lord Ganesha guide you through your lives and bring peace and joy into it.

One story about Lord Ganesha impresses me a lot. He went around his parents Siva and Parvathi and considered it to be equivalent to going around the world. In short prostrating before your parents is like having conquered the world. How very true! Our parents have given life to us and we’d be non-exisistent without them. They should therefore mean the world to us. Let us spend a moment recalling all that they have done for us. They may or may not have left us worldly possessions depending on their status in life. But they have certainly given us heartfelt blessings. It is their blessing that carries us through life. Let us then devote this day to them!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

My Student Teachers-Part-II

These are students who have not got the best opportunity. Many are from backgrounds where parents do not even understand the need for educating a girl child. For them this is a stop gap arrangement and is valued in the marriage market. Yet each year we get a few who make it big. Our Alumni list can vouch for this. The founders of our college were ambitious people and it was their effort that still shows in every nook and corner of the place. To them, the peon and the professor were equally important for the well being of the institute and it is students like these that sustain and motivate us. There are many more that deserve a mention and we are in for a surprise from the most unexpected quarters. My post would have no end if I went on and on but I must stop with the mention of two more students. Manisha Mishra and Madhumita.
Manisha was a hard worker but a really poor student. I could make out that she tried her best but she failed her part I exams. She would come to me from time to time to clarify her doubts. She was finding it difficult to cope. I gently suggested that she take up a lighter course. Perhaps a non practical subject. Her reply made me think of the plight of the girl child in our society.
“ Ma’am,” she said “ this is the only time I get to spend outside my home. I cannot receive phone calls or meet anyone other than a five year old boy whom I teach just to keep myself from turning mad. My dad drops me at the college gate and picks me up from there. He truly believes that one should come to college only for practicals and theory ought to be studied on one’s own. He checks my time table each day and brings me over only on the days that I have practicals. If I took up a non practical subject I’d be held captive in my own house.”
Here was a fiercely protective father who wants the best for his daughter but on his own terms and conditions. The girl was underweight and pale as well as a nervous wreck. I wanted to talk to her parents but the girl forbade me to do so. He knew me by name from what the girl had told him but if I spoke up for her he’d perhaps discontinue her studies and accuse me of being a bad influence on her. Her mother truly believed that this was the best way to protect a girl child from this big bad world.
Madumita’s father worked for the Indian Cable Company. The company has been closed down since 1994 or so. Employees retain their quarters but nothing else. The company is unable to pay their settlement dues. To support her family Madhumita works in a pre-primary school and is paid a princely sum of a thousand rupees. She leaves hom at 6.00 in the morning works in her school from 7.00AM to 11.30 AM and rushes to college to attend classes. She misses the first two periods almost every day. But when she enters the class room she has a pleasant smile for all of us,. One cannot ever see a trace of frustration or annoyance in her face. After class she stays back to note down what she missed and to clear any doubts that she may have. She hasn’t passed out yet but I have no doubt that her future is bound to be bright.
“ Why don’t you get yourself a two wheeler?” I asked.
“ A two wheeler has to be fed with petrol” she replied. “ We already have four mouths to feed.”
And she laughed the laughter of a carefree youth just like others of her age.
I think that I’ve learnt much more from these girls than what I’ve taught them. It is this rich treasure of knowledge that no one can ever take away.

My Student Teachers-Part I

In my twenty five years of interaction with teenagers in my college,I’ve come across several students who have impressed me not with their brilliance but by the simplicity of their nature and their will to improve. Here I must mention that we do not get the best students. The University administration sees to it that the best ones as well as the second best group leave the state and seek admission elsewhere even though their families can barely afford to finance them. These children fare quite well wherever they take admission and in whatever course they choose to study. The reasons for this brain drain are many but the chief among them is the inordinate delay in conducting exams and publishing results as well as the outmoded syllabus that is being followed. Corrective measures are now being taken and this may perhaps restrain the exodus of the student population in future. Those who remain have all odds going against them and yet some do very well despite the hurdles they encounter.
One girl who stands out in my memory is Jennifer Wadia. She took up Botany as her Honours subject by sheer default. She had opted for Maths as her optional and Biology as her extra subject in her Intermediate course and wanted to major in Statistics. Though Biology was an extra subject she was quite sincere in her work. Those were days when the Intermediate council had just begun to use computers for tabulation work. As luck would have it due to some faulty entry the girl got 07 in one and 70 in the other Maths paper whereas she was expecting above 90 in both papers. It would have been better had she failed her exams but when the marks in the two papers were averaged she managed to pass though she got less than the 45% required to be given Honours in Maths or Stats. Her marks in Biology were good enough and she landed in our department to major in Botany!
Her loss was our gain for she easily stands out as our best student. She had to overcome her initial disappointment. She did it so naturally with a maturity that belied her age. She would never leave us alone till she understood the chapter. She motivated her entire class to study and due to her effort we had a whole bunch of sincere students. In practical classes she’d insist on tabulating an erratic result and mark it out for the examiner to see. Marking it out, she’d write in her neat handwriting, ‘experimental error, to be omitted.’ I’d tease her about it saying that she was inviting trouble by attracting the examiner’s attention.
‘‘After all why don’t you omit it yourself.’’ I’d ask.
‘‘Ma’’am’ she’d reply ‘‘aren’t we supposed to learn from our mistakes?’’
She would continue to argue that the examiner would understand that being a student she was liable to make mistakes. Today she is married and teaches Biology in a High School in Ahmedabad. She is touch with us and I have no doubt that she’d be a fine teacher.
Another student was Sumita a Bengali girl who was from a vernacular medium. Her sincerity was evident but unfortunately her hand writing was awful and her diagrams pathetic. One day I made a casual remark that if I were the examiner checking her answer sheet I’d feel like giving 4/10 even for a good answer.
“Presentation makes a lot of difference’’ I said “and a well labelled diagram is worth three pages of theory.”
“ What should I do about it ma’am” she asked.
I replied half in jest-
“ Get a cursive writing book and practise each day. Draw a figure from your text book while you watch TV.”
After saying this I forgot about it so one can imagine my shock when after the Puja vacations the girl came and showed me pages and pages of neatly practised handwriting and diagrams! To top it she asked me with utmost sincerity-
“Ma’am will you now give me 7/10 for a good answer?”
Her query brought tears to my eyes. I really had no answer to give. Like the kids mentioned in an earlier post my students continue to defeat me year after year. She went on to get a first division and did her M.Sc too. I don’t have to tell you that she also remains in touch with us.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Small Mercies Matter a Lot!

Friends,
Don't let my tag story mis lead you.I did manage to top my batch in M.sc and I did qualify the Eligibility Test for Lectureship at the age of 44.But the success story came to an abrupt end there.Our chief minister Lalu Yadav saw to it that none of the achievers ever became lecturers.Those who paid 2 lakhs as an offering to the almighty Lalu and others who had political connections got the job and we only have our degree and certificate to take out and see every now and then.In the meantime I've added a Ph.D to my name and now I have become a philosopher in the true sense of the word. I am able to view good and bad with a balanced mind.I remain a Lab In charge and will perhaps retire as one.But that is whatBihar/Jharkhand is and nothing can be done.My only satisfaction is that all batch toppers are looked down upon with equal contempt.But inspite of all this I have no regrets.My HOD respects me for what I am and lets me take classes anyway.My colleagues are nice to me and respect me for what I am.My Students don't care what designation I hold or how much I am paid.I am better off than others who qualified BET.Here I must add that the four who qualified from Jamshedpur were all M.Sc in Botany And were all batch toppers of different batches and universities. So the exam and results had not been tampered with.The interview was in the government's hand and the merit list that was taken care of by the powers that be.A case was filed and lost.Another person who qualified with me works for a private college and is being paid only Rs.2000/pm.I have a much better salary and am eligible for pension and other retirement benefits.I sincerely thank God for not having to worry about monetary gains. So when my children feel bad for the shabby treatment I got, I tell them 'what's in a name?minus the money and the designation and see for yourselves.Would you still consider that I've been treated badly?Let us see good in all things and thank God for small mercies.'

Friday, August 18, 2006

Tagged Again

I’ve been tagged by starry nights and here are my responses-

I AM THINKING ABOUT: How I’ll deal with the day when I leave for India and get on with life without my grand daughter to pamper.

I SAID: To myself that neither good times nor the bad ones last forever.

I WANT TO: Make amends for past mistakes and be careful in the future too.

I WISH: That I could erase from my mind all the bad times I faced. I think I’ve done it but it sometimes lurks in a corner of my mind. I also wish to be able to make myself useful to a fellow human being when he needs me most.


I WONDER: When the terrorism that threatens the world will end. Will it be wiped off or be replaced by something worse. I wonder how people can be mean to others. I feel that if I tried to be mean I’d hurt myself more than the person I wish to hurt. It is therefore in my own interest that I am good to people.

I REGRET: Not having realized the importance of a career earlier than I did. If I had joined my job around five years earlier I’d have propped up my sagging career. But now that I have written this I do feel, that, for the place accorded to me by my colleagues, I have no cause to regret at all. I regret not having visited my mother a little before her death and expecting her to live for ever. I regret not having done enough for a kind soul like her.
I HEAR: music in the chatter of my teen age students and return with them to my carefree youth.

I AM: Just what I am. An incorrigible optimist. I have no fear of an impending hell where we’ll stand to be judged by God Almighty. My image of God is similar to that of my father- Kind hearted, generous and affectionate. Such a God would forgive my mistakes and never punish me for errors committed unintentionally.

I DANCE: I don’t dance often but I danced for joy when I managed to top my batch in M.Sc at the age of 37 beating a 21 year old record held by the then VC. Another time when I jumped with joy was when I qualified the Bihar Eligibility Test for Lectureship at the age of 44 and was one among the 4 who qualified the exam from Jamshedpur. I felt like dancing when my grand daughters were born but keeping in mind the welfare of people around me I restrained myself.

I SING: I do have a ear for music but unfortunately I don’t sing. I only croak when no one is around.

I CRY: Easily in imagined situations or when I read a story. I normally don’t cry in real situations for I am usually in a philosophical mood or busy thinking of a way out.

I AM NOT: Good at hiding my feelings. Iam a very transparent person.

I MAKE WITH MY HANDS: Deepavali sweets as well as the tradtional stuff for all our festivals. My friends in Jamshedpur know what special dish to expect and when.

I WRITE: Whatever I feel like and whenever I can. I am not very organised in my writing.

I CONFUSE: The names and faces of cinema stars. My dead grandma would be ashamed of me .

I NEED: A time of my own each day of my life.

need to pull my husband's leg every now and then!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Delicious Defeat!

Children have a way of putting one to shame. At least I feel so. My experience as a mother cum teacher tells me that both roles have witnessed defeats at the hands of the most innocent looking youngster. Let me give you an example.

It was a hot summer afternoon. I had returned from college and was trying to settle down with a book in hand. My children were being unusually noisy that day. They were playing some indoor game and the occasional arguments, accusations and counter allegations were becoming a little too much to bear. Being a teacher I stormed out of the bedroom to silence them in the only way I knew.

“ Silence all of you!” I said “why this commotion? Bring out your rough notebooks and write twenty-five times- ‘I will not disturb mummy when she is resting.’

“Twenty five times….?” Protested my older daughter.

“You will write it fifty times.” I replied, “You are the one who starts trouble.”

“Mummy” my four-year-old son enquired, “How do I write such a long sentence? Can you make it short for me?”

My heart melted at the sight of his innocent eyes. I knew I could not afford to support him but I also needed to split the group.

“I am not punishing you” I said. “ You can come and listen to a story from me.”

“ I don’t want to listen to your story,” he wailed. “I want to be punished just like them. Give me something to write.”

My daughter was just waiting for the opportunity.

“Come here to me I’ll write it out for you.” She said.

Not waiting for my response she took out a paper and wrote in bold letters-

I WILL BE GOOD.

Just then a tiny voice squeaked from nowhere-

“Aunty, may I have a piece of paper? And should I also write the same as them? Or could I replace mummy by aunty?”

It was a friend of theirs who had come over to play and since she had also made a noise she perhaps thought that it was only fair that she should also be punished. And her query was pertinent enough. It was my fault that I hadn’t noticed her presence. I certainly could not punish other people’s kids! I was genuinely filled with remorse and guilt. I tried to cajole her to go back home.

“Why don’t you go home and come in the evening? May be we could go out for a stroll in the park?”

“Please aunty, do let me stay,” the girl was certainly not going walk into the trap laid out by me. “ I promise not to disturb you. Shall I run home and fetch my pencil and note book or could I borrow it from them?”

I was glad to be defeated by these little ones. This was not the first time nor would it be the last. They say victory is sweet but on that day I realized that defeat also could be delicious. These youngsters could transform punishment into fun as long as they remained together!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I've been tagged!

passerby55 has tagged me.here are my responses


One book that changed your life?

The Geeta according to Gandhi.Unfotunately I lent it to a friend who forgot to return it to me.

One book you have read more than once?

'To kill a mocking bird' by Harper Lee.I am fond of reading portions of a book over and over again.

One book you would want on a desert island?

'The Fountain Head' by Ayn Rand

One book that made you laugh?

'Love and Marriages' by Bill Cosby. Actually there are a few more.

One book that made you cry?

It is a Tamil book "Nainda Ullam" by Anuttama

One book you wish had been written?

A book on how to tackle daughters in law. I may soon have one and I want to be prepared.

One book you wish had never been written?

I can't think of such a book.

One book you are currently reading.

'falling leaves'- a true story of a chinese girl.

One book you have been meaning to read?

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.Better late than never!

Now let me tag Velu Nair and Srijith Unni to see what they have to say

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Free To Hope

There was a story that I heard a few years back about one’s perception of good and evil. It was something like this-

Duryodhan and Yudhishtra were sent on a trip around the world and asked to identify one good and one evil person each. Yudhishtra returned saying that he could not find a single evil person and Duryodhan said the same about finding a good person. The truth of course lies between the two extremes like the glass being either half full or half empty. The world is perceived and seen as one wishes to see it. I have always wondered about the definition of good and evil. Aren’t these two relative terms? Circumstances make one good or evil or at least so they say. But then how is it that, of children raised in the same environment, one turns out to be good and another evil? Then there are those who deliberately cover up their good side lest they appear weak! And there are those who successfully cover up the evil side of their nature and are rarely exposed if at all. How then is it that the same person is good for one and bad for another?

There was a phrase that caught my attention – ‘majburi mey mahatma ban-na’ which means ‘to become a saint under compulsion’ or ‘when you have no option’. It is easy for a person who has no access to underhand dealings to claim that he would never accept bribes. Who’s offering him a bribe in any case? If you are offered a bribe and still refuse it you have a cause to walk with your head held high.

Suicide bombers of the present times make hijackers of the eighties look like saints. I was among those who criticized our government for giving in to the hijackers in the Khandhar case. Today I feel grateful that those hijackers. They at least gave our leaders a chance to negotiate instead of blowing up the plane in mid-air.

After the Mumbai train blast on 7/11 I rang up a friend to ask if her son working in Mumbai was doing fine. Her reply made me think of the mess we’re in-

"You ask about Ravi today. Perhaps I’ll ask about Rahul tomorrow. Bombay or New York, New Delhi or Washington, air travel or bus travel or a walk down the street, no one is safe.”

The perpetrators of this terrorist culture, safely stay behind the scenes. It is the youth, who implements their plans, that gives up his life to promote their cause. I saw a TV program ‘The mind of a suicide bomber’ in which the circumstances leading to a person becoming a suicide bomber were discussed. A few suicide bombers who failed in their attempt were interviewed. It was a painful experience to watch youth energy being thus wasted and destroyed. These young boys in their twenties, had a childhood just like ours. What then made them turn into ‘weapons of mass destruction’ if I may take the liberty of using the term? I thought of what may be going on in their mother’s mind, of the sleepless nights that she might be spending. Like me, she may also be praying for her son’s safety.

I may just go on and on without an end. But that is not going to serve any purpose. We should all put our heads together and see if anything can be done about it. A man is called good if he is able to exercise control over the evil side of his nature and is labeled evil when he does not do it. There is always a conflict going on in our mind between the good and evil aspects of our nature. This is what we call the ‘call of the conscience’. Even a self-proclaimed unbeliever is bound to surrender to the voice within him. Is it possible to reach out and touch that vital cord to awaken the goodness that is asleep in him?

I dream of a world where universal brotherhood prevails and men and women live in peace. It has happened before and will happen again. All scriptures depict the triumph of good over evil and history is famous for repeating itself. I only want it to happen soon, much before it becomes too late.

But until then I have only hope to fall back on – a hope that such people will have some sense and a hope that a major war will be averted. I am grateful that I am at least free to hope for that's just about what remains in the end.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Coffee Cups

A good friend of mine sent this to me.I hope you also enjoy it--


A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor.

Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life.

Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups, porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite. Telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

All the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: "If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress.

Be assured that the cup itself, adds no quality to the coffee in most cases just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups, and then began eyeing each other's cups.

Now consider this: Life is the coffee, and the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of Life we live. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us." God brews the coffee, not the cups : enjoy your coffee.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Justice Prevails!

Last Friday we celebrated Varalakshmi Puja. My mind raced back to the same day five years back. The memory was not a pleasant one but then one cannot always hope to see only good things in life. This was an experience that caused a lot of anguish but it also served as an eye opener to me.

I had just finished my lunch when the telephone rang. It was my good friend Rajam, the librarian, calling me immediately after getting home. It must have been around two in the afternoon. Those days we worked from 7.30 in the morning till 1.30 in the afternoon. She knew that I was busy but the news must have been urgent and so it was.

“ Two of our bahadurs have been transferred.” She said, “One to Dhurva and the other to Daltonganj. They have been asked to vacate their quarters immediately. They’ve left the college and no one knows where they have gone.”

The news came as a shock to me. The Principal had victimized both of them for reasons that cannot be elaborated here. In an earlier post I had made a passing mention that our founder Principal treated us like family and the spirit continued even after her death. The two gatekeepers were mild mannered, even-tempered, polite and respectful. Every morning we’d be greeted with a warm smile and a ‘namaste didi’. The new principal, who chose to believe that peons and the like should not have a mind of their own, had tormented them ever since she took charge. She cut off their water supply and expected them to come begging for water. They opted to fetch water from a common tap rather than feel obliged to her. They were not the only ones to be tortured. She troubled all staff-members, teachers included, and had managed to terrify most of them. By transferring these two she was only warning the rest of us and saying ‘Beware! You will meet a similar fate if only you dare to defy me!’

Now that the transfer orders had been dispatched from the Vice Chancellor’s office the two gatemen had no option but to join duty at the assigned colleges and approach the university authorities for reconsideration. I sat wondering what could be done to help the two men. It was a Friday and they had time till Monday to join. I tried contacting a few of my colleagues but as luck would have it my phone was dead. The colleges assigned to them were in remote areas and one of the gatemen had children studying in school. His wife was working in a private college as a peon. Where had the two bahadurs vanished and why did they vacate their quarters I wondered. And why was the joining time so short? I did not have to be a genius to figure out that the principal had used her clout and influenced the authorities to hasten the process.

My husband came home form office. I told him of our bahadur’s transfer. He assured me of his support in whatever I chose to do. I was in a safe position. My daughters were already married and had settled down abroad. My son was in his final year at college. I had a supportive husband. In the worst case the principal could get me also transferred to some god forsaken place and show to the world that she was the boss. Why not? I thought. A new place and a new environment was not a bad idea. My dilemma reached its logical end. I decided to stand up for our gatemen and face the consequence. But heart of hearts I knew that nothing would happen to me. She had already bitten more than she could chew in my case, when she tried to withhold an arrear payment. Moreover, I was not alone. There was a group that played safe and another that took risks. I belonged to the second group. My experience told me that she troubled the ‘yes ma’am’ group more than us. We for our part took care not to break rules or give a chance to fingers being pointed at us.

During the weekend we drafted a letter to the Hon’able Chancellor who was none other than the Governor of Jharkhand. We got as many as possible to sign a petition, favoring the victims, addressed to the Vice Chancellor. Three of us went to Ranchi on Monday morning along with the two bahadurs. We spoke to the officer in charge at the Chancellor’s office and met the VC, pro VC and the Registrar of the university. We made the two gatemen convey their point of view and requested them to reconsider the case. We had tears in our eyes when we left them at Ranchi to join their respective colleges. But we also felt a satisfaction of having done our bit.

When we went to college the next day there was excitement in the air. The principal was trying hard to find out who went with those two. She remained ignorant till the end.

The Chancellor’s office ordered a probe and within two months the two gatemen were back. The principal was transferred to a better and bigger college so we could not make out if she was punished or rewarded. Some times it pays to see such people rewarded. They set higher goals and leave us in peace. May be she asked for a transfer since she was unable to face the possibility of having the gatemen back in the college. Anyway it did not matter to me whether she went or stayed. Varalakshmi had granted me a boon and enabled me to help a fellow human being when he needed me most!

In the meantime I had learnt a lesson or two. Justice still prevailed. We only need to pursue it. We accept defeat far too soon. Not all can stand up to fight for what they feel is right. They have their own reasons for not doing so. But actors on the stage need prompters behind. They are equally important and those behind the screen also have a role to play. The episode strengthened my belief in goodness that still prevailed in the human mind.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Keep to yourselves!

I was on my way from Los Angeles to Baltimore on a visit to my children who stay in the East Coast. We had to change planes somewhere in the middle of the journey. As luck would have it my husband and I got two middle seats on either side of the aisle and were sandwiched between two unknown faces. My children tend to forget that we were the ones who taught them to walk and talk. They live in perpetual fear that we may get lost in transit. We were given calling cards, three copies of their phone numbers and what not. We sat through umpteen phone calls with an equal number of directions of what we could do and what we couldn’t. Let me list a few of them.

1. Don’t talk to strangers. …….. This one is especially directed at me. My husband always has tobacco in his mouth so he can’t talk any way. I sometimes wonder if he chews tobacco to avoid conversations…. but that’s beside the point.

2. Don’t pet children unknown to you. Your intentions may be misunderstood. Weren’t they being a trifle unfair? You see a cute looking kid and you’re supposed to look away……. Times had really changed!

3. Don’t offer or accept food from unknown people. A difficult proposal. Will give it a try. We Indians cannot eat our food without offering it first to the one beside us.

4. Don’t accept responsibility of anyone else’s luggage. This made sense even to ‘living fossils’ like us.

5. Stay together. …….. Do we need to be told? We stayed together through thick and thin. Thirty-three years together with hopes of many more to come and these kids tell us to ‘stay together’ the way we told them some twenty-five years back! It was a good thing that they didn’t say ‘hold your hands and stand in a corner’ the way I would tell them when they were kids. I imagined myself holding my husband’s hands and ‘standing in a corner’ and burst out laughing!

6. Mummy, you take care of your passports and all such stuff, daddy can’t handle it…….. If I was the mother hen what were they? We all treat him as the baby of the house and keep expecting him to ‘grow up’.

Jokes apart I must admit that I was touched by the concern they showed. Times had changed and it was always better to keep to yourself since one never knew what the person next to you was up to. Gone were the days when traveling was like an extended picnic. We’ve traveled several times to and from Jamshedpur and most of the time it was a two-night journey. If it had not been for good travel companions our trips would have been difficult to handle.

Did I follow my children’s advice? I tried my best but I must admit that I did break a few of their rules. I did not pet any unknown children but made an exception of a cute little pup. To my right was an African American, traveling with a month old puppy. The pup had a silvery body and his legs and mouth were golden in color. The little thing kept standing up and wagging its tail every time I looked in his direction. I was sure that I didn’t look like a kidnapper and I could not help it even if I did. “ Will he be okay in that bag?” I enquired. “ He’ll be fine” his master replied. From then on, we struck a healthy conversation and rule no. 1 was already broken. The boy was working in a plastic manufacturing company; he was taking this puppy to his twenty-year-old niece who was working in New York. The bag had cost him seventy dollars and his air- tickets another hundred. I could see my husband on the other side of the aisle very much wanting to join our conversation but unfortunately the plane was full and no one was keen to exchange places.

To my right was a Hollywood actress though I did not know it initially. She was poring through some magazine that she had brought and lent them to me when she was done with them. All three magazines had something to do with wedding plans. While one dealt with trendy wedding gowns the other described ‘destination’ weddings, their estimated costs etc. The third gave instructions on wedding etiquette like how to prepare guest lists, seating arrangements, who should be accorded priority and how and many other details that went into the preparation of weddings in America. I was pretty sure that this cute girl was a bride to be and hence her interest in these books. I imagined her in a wedding gown with pretty little bridesmaids accompanying her! She was also going through what appeared to me a drama script. I wondered if she was a student rehearsing for a college play. I was not sure if she would like my asking her personal questions but it was safe to talk of her career plans.

“ Are you a student?” I ventured to ask.

“ I am an actress from Hollywood” she replied “ and I am on my way to a shooting schedule.” She then gave me a list of films in which she had made an appearance though none of it registered to me. I am not a film buff any way and I find it hard to remember and correlate faces and names of film personalities. What struck me was the casual way that she disclosed her identity and the relaxed manner in which she went about carrying her own luggage and waiting in the queue like anyone else. Her role perhaps had something to do with a wedding scene. She might just be a budding actress and may be she could not afford first class travel. But if she was that which I took her to be, I could see that a bright future awaited her.

Tracy, that was the name of the boy with the puppy, was going right upto Baltimore and when we alighted in Cincinnati to catch a connecting flight he also accompanied us to the waiting area. By then we had almost become friends, and it was impossible for us to have our sandwiches without offering him a piece. I wondered if I looked like a food poisoner but took the risk of offering it to him anyway. He must have been famished but he also seemed to trust me and took a piece after an initial hesitation.

The journey finally came to an end. We parted ways as all passengers must but I still carry pleasant memories of the journey. My children were right in their own way. They had nothing but our safety in mind. The world is being held hostage by terrorist groups but it has not yet taken away the human touch in all our dealings. People still find it hard to distrust their fellow human beings. To my mind it appears that it is this human touch that binds all our hearts together and helps us survive the worst tragedies.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Applicable to all

I came across this nice poem that I'd like to share with you all.unfortunately the poets name is not mentioned.Does anyone know?


Around the corner I have a friend,
In this great city that has no end,
Yet the days go by and weeks rush on,
And before I know it, a year is gone.
And I never see my old friends face,
For life is a swift and terrible race,
He knows I like him just as well,
As in the days when I rang his bell.
And he rang mine but we were younger then,
And now we are busy, tired men.
Tired of playing a foolish game,
Tired of trying to make a name.
"Tomorrow" I say! "I will call on Jim
Just to show that I'm thinking of him."
But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes,
And distance between us grows and grows.
Around the corner, yet miles away.
"Here's a telegram sir," "Jim died today."
And that's what we get and deserve in the end.
Around the corner, a vanished friend.
Remember to always say what you mean.
If you love someone, tell them.
Don't be afraid to express yourself.
Reach out and tell someone what they mean to you.
Because when you decide that it is the right time
It might be too late.
Seize the day. Never have regrets.
And most importantly, stay close to your friends
and family, for they have helped
make you the person that you are today.

Friday, August 04, 2006

' Who Is Who?'

I was newly married and was going to the market with my sister in law. We met Champa on our way. She was my sister in law’s school senior. She was married by then and mother to two hyperactive boys aged one and three. She eyed me with interest and said-

“Planning to have kids soon?”

My marriage was barely a month old and in our times we took time to open up on such topics. I did not know how to respond. I turned to my sister in law. She was unmarried then, so she conveniently looked away.

Champa continued without waiting for a reply.

“ Never ever have children. Take my advice. You are better off without them.”

Just out of politeness I ventured to ask-

“ Do you have children?”
That triggered it. She started a monologue that seemed to have no end.

“ You call them children! They are little demons both of them. I named them Happy and Joy. Grief and Sorrow would’ve been more appropriate. They can’t stay still for a minute. The older one nearly dismantled the mirror from my dressing table and the younger one made a mess of my make-up kit. Can’t leave them unattended even for a minute. It’s years since I had a good night’s rest……………”

The poor girl went on and on. I could understand her plight having seen a bunch back home. My very own younger brothers! My mother had to move to her maternal home after my father’s death when my brothers were three and five. I remember them permanently perched on a guava tree and I often felt scared that they’d fall down and break an arm or leg. They always had a group of friends over and every evening was picnic time. By the time I got married they had outgrown that phase so I told Champa not to lose hope.

A friend of mine has two sons. Her husband is a doctor. The children would fall down, get up, ring up their father, call the compounder who’d take them to the clinic and dress or stitch the wound as required. My friend says she’s lucky to have a doctor at home or else she’d spend half her salary stitching up wounds. When they were small she lived in perpetual fear of what might await her when she went home.

My own children were no saints. They knew that their father was no doctor so they stopped short of dangerously injuring each other. Instead of fistfights and wrestling matches they entered into a war of words. Each one of them outdid the other in coining names, muttering under their breath and making faces! When their temper rose high they were at their creative best! I had to settle quarrels almost each day. My husband played the 'blissfully ignorant' parent on such occasions.

If you thought fistfights and the like are domains of boys, let me tell you that you are wrong. A cousin of mine has three cute daughters. They’d ‘claw’ each other like little tigresses. I was once at their place when war was declared. Two of them started a hair pulling match while the third gave us a minute by minute report of the 'sporting' event. My cousin resigned herself to destiny saying, “They will not stop until they’ve plucked a hair or two. I only hope they do it soon.”

When I was young my favorite pass time was to compare notes with other parents and feel relieved that their fate was similar to mine. I was quite sure that the kids would turn out to be hooligans, ruffians anything but normal human beings. I’m very glad that they all proved me wrong. All of them have grown to become fine young men and women.

Happy and Joy are marketting managers now. The little tigresses are beauties, with brains as well. Two are doctors and one is a journalist. My own children are okay too and as for my brothers, they are fine, with arms and legs right in place. Many of those children are now parents and are already beginning to compare notes. “Your times were different,” they tell us.

“Not at all” I tell them. “Children will be children and have always been so. My only request is to let them be. Give them some time to do as they please.”

What about the angels that gave their parents no trouble at all. Did they become preachers or pastors or holy men? Not at all!They look and sound like my own brats and I find it difficult to say 'who's is who and which was which'.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Cat's Curse - Part - II

Uncle,” asked Shanta “ What is all this fuss about?”

Shanta was bubbly teenager full of questions. She knew of her uncle’s frugal spending habits and was surprised that he had agreed to shell out so much money for a prayer ceremony. He would haggle over the price of coriander leaves and travel by bus rather than take a taxi to save money.

‘This must be a very special puja for them’ she thought.

“Your aunt consulted an astrologer regarding her chances of having children and he had suggested that she should get people to help her make a lakh shivlings out of clay and offer special prayers to them to be blessed with a child. She also has to feed twentyone Suhasinis, give them gifts of sarees, bangles and what not. She has been making arrangement since yesterday getting all the ladies from the neighborhood to help and all of their families will be dining at our place. It’s going to be a long day so let’s hurry.”
“Why on earth did he suggest such an expensive affair?” Shanta found the whole thing preposterous.
“According to him I had killed a cat in some previous birth. The cat cursed me and therefore I’m destined to be deprived of children” said Sundaram trying to suppress a smile.
“This is absolutely ridiculous, and I find it strange that you have given in to the manipulations of a conman.” Shanta could not believe her ears.

Sundaram continued but on a more serious note.

“Your aunt has known no pleasure ever since she married me. I had my own set of worries and denied her simple pleasures like going out for a movie or eating out on special occasions. She has never grumbled or complained. When the astrologer laid the blame of our childless existence on me she was distraught and wanted to atone for an act unknowingly committed by me in a so-called previous birth. The thought of my being further punished in future births is not acceptable to her. She feels that we have enough responsibilities and with all of you around she does not really miss not having a child of her own. This prayer ceremony is her investment for my future! Tell me now, was I wrong in giving in to her?”

“I do not believe in astrology but I do hope Rajam aunty is blessed with a child of her own” said Shanta.

“Unfortunately that is not to be” said her uncle “hers is a rare medical condition in which the ovaries do not ovulate. This occurs in about one in ten thousand women. The hormones produce signs and symptoms of puberty but she is infertile in the real sense of the word. So children of our own are out of question. Your aunt is unaware of her physical condition so keep it to yourself”

Shanta took a long time to find her voice.

Does Amma know of this?” she finally asked referring to her grandmother.

“Of course she knows it.” Laughed Sundaram “ In fact the idea of consulting an astrologer was hers. The whole story about the cat’s curse was your grandmother’s idea. Sometimes her imagination does run wild. She paid the astrologer a tidy sum and got him to repeat the story. She did not want anyone to point an accusing finger at her daughter in law. Moreover, your aunt being innocent and na├»ve easily believed the story and never bothered to ask for the doctor’s report. Nor did she wish to go for second medical opinion. She feels that with the performance of this puja the matter has been settled once and for all. Now let’s go back fast.”

Sundaram returned and sat down by his wife’s side and performed the rituals with utmost sincerity. They prostrated at the feet of elderly ladies the Suhasinis who represented the Goddess of fertility and sought their blessings. His mother spoke to each one of them and asked if they were happy with the arrangements.
“Bless these children. Your heartfelt blessings will grant them a string of children” she pleaded.
Shanta watched them from a distance. Her uncle and grandmother were putting up such a superb act! The trio seemed happy enough. Children might have had a distractive influence on them. Here they were! Destined to remain children all their lives. Maybe it was appropriate that large hearted people like her aunt Rajam be allowed to spread love to a wider range of recipients rather than be tied down to their immediate families.

A Cat's Curse - Part I

The house was bustling with friends and well wishers. Children were running around. Everyone was trying to be helpful. Rajam was busy making the necessary arrangements for the prayer ceremony when her mother in law Lakshmi called out to her.
“ The priest will be here at 10’o clock sharp. Are you sure to have everything ready by then?”
“Everything is ready amma” replied Rajam.
“Did you count the Shivlings?” asked Lakshmi “ Set them in silver plates. Keep them in separate lots of a thousand in each plate. Ask someone to help you. You haven’t had solid food since yesterday. Did you have something to drink? Shall I fetch you some orange juice? I don’t think the priest would object to your having some fruits to eat.”
“I’m not hungry at all” said Rajam touched by the concern shown by the older woman “All I want is for the function to proceed without any problem. The suhasinis are already here. They will gather in the main hall and will soon start chanting the SOUNDARYALAHIRI. It is very important that they leave our home in a happy and satisfied frame of mind.” Rajam was a god-fearing woman. The suhasinis were a carefully selected group of women who had been invited to represent the goddess Parvati.
They had to be treated with due respect lest the gods be displeased.

“Everything will be fine child” said Lakshmi “you are such a kind hearted soul. No evil can ever befall you.”
The cook came to ask for something and Rajam left to attend to his query. Lakshmi’s mind raced back to the time when Rajam entered the house as a young thirteen-year-old bride having married Sundaram her eldest son. The two of them had instantly taken to each other and over the sixteen years that had gone by Rajam had indeed become an integral part of their family. She was a friend to her brothers and sisters in law and a second mother to their children. Sundaram was a serious minded person and having lost his father early in life he took up the responsibility of educating his brothers and marrying off his sisters. Rajam stood by him ever cheerful, never complaining. Lakshmi had almost forgotten the days before Rajam’s arrival. She was much more than a daughter in law to her willingly adapting to the customs of the family and never proceeding to do anything on her own be it cooking a special meal or deciding on the gift to be given to a newly married couple in their neighborhood.

‘ If only these two had been blessed with a child…….’ thought Lakshmi.
“Amma” Sundaram’s voice woke her up from her reverie. “ Is it alright if I go out for a short while? I need to draw money from the bank. By the way I plan to draw 10,000/- rupees. Will that be enough?”
“Make it 15,000/- son. We should not run short of money and a little extra money won’t hurt. I know this puja is a little expensive. But Rajam rarely asks for anything so let us not deny her the pleasure.”
“I’ll be back soon amma. Ask the priest to start the rituals let him not wait for me.” Sundaram left accompanied by his niece Shanta.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

United We Stand.

My school-mates often come up with interesting accounts of their school days in our school blog.. We were boarders and had our share of fun. I had a younger sister who was put in the junior dormitory. I was in charge of the snacks and toilet items that we got from home. I’d play the ‘big’ sister and would get cold stares not only from my younger sibling but a group of her friends who were on her side. We laughed and played, shared and cared, quarreled and made up and had loads of fun in our own way. However, should anyone ask me whether kids 10 and 12 years of age should be put in a hostel I’d say ‘ not until absolutely essential’. Home is always a better option for growing children. Any way this is beside the point. I wish to share with you an episode that stands out in my memory as if it were yesterday although forty years have flown by.

We in the girls hostel were generally curious to know how things were with the boys. They lived in an annex that was a mile from our hostel. They’d be paraded to our hostel three times a day for meals. They hated to be brought in like prisoners of war while we watched them with suppressed smiles. The prefect would walk in front and their warden would guard the rear. They would walk two by two according to their height. The sub junior group had their dormitory in our hostel so the boy’s annex housed the age group of 8 to 18 years.

On a Monday morning the boys came in but they didn’t join us for breakfast. They were made to stand in front of the principal’s office. They had been up to some mischief that much was clear. They would not look at us nor did they talk among themselves. Their prefect stood there along with them saying nothing at all. Finally the Principal came down. Mr. Oomen Samuel who was also our Science teacher briefed her of the situation. Soon we also got to hear the story. The senior boys had bought masala dosai through a day student, sneaked it to the dormitory and had a kind of dosai party at midnight. To be on the safe side they had locked up the warden’s room from outside but forgot to unlock it before going to bed. The charges against them were-

They had kept their pocket money when it had to be turned in to the warden. All purchases had to be made through him.
Food was not to be brought into the sleeping area.
By locking up the warden they were setting a bad precedence.
The Principal asked the culprits to own up or face the consequence. ‘No Breakfast’.
No one responded. Not even the junior most. Nor the prefect.Some of the girls had brothers among those punished. They tried to sneak food to their brothers but the brothers refused to eat.

We went to our classes and came back for lunch. The boys were standing in the scorching sun. No breakfast and no lunch also. The principal tried to divide the group. She spoke to the juniors with no result. Finally at three in the afternoon they boys were given lunch after being given a severe warning. We never ever came to know who were the students responsible for the act.

I recently posed my question on the blog. I recalled the incident and asked for the inside story. Pat came the reply from a junior whose name I remember but not his face “ I was the worthy who locked up Mr. Samuel. But it was not for masala dosai but chicken biriyani! And we were punished by Mr Varghese not Miss Cheriyan.” His reply gave me a new insight. Batch after batch locked up Mr. Samuel when they wanted to have a party.More often than not they were caught and punished.

But the incident also renewed my admiration to the group. It was evident to all that the juniors were not involved in the act. The Principal was only using them to get out the truth. They either feared their seniors or were loyal to them or may be a bit of both. Hostel life united hearts and they were one thro’ thick or thin.