Saturday, 16 November 2013


                                                                ‘BACCHE MAN KE SACCHE?’

After my short stint as a teacher I have had a grave insight into the psyche of children. I call it grave because the whole ‘bacche man ke sacche’ thing fell flat on its face. I had the opportunity to interact with some 3rd and 4th graders and believe you me, they are no angels. The genetic make-up of being born human takes precedence over everything else. Humans are genetically conditioned to survive (which reflects in their being still here) and for this they cheat, they fib, they coerce and carve their way through life. These traits are present there amongst kids as well. In fact I feel they are born with it and then slowly as they struggle to make a place for themselves in society they hone these skills as circumstances demand.
I can make my contention clearer with some instances I happened to be a part of. One day I entered the class and saw the whole bunch of seven somethings crowded in a corner. They were all shouting at a ‘bechara’ cowering and trying to get heard over the din. I told them to wish me first as I was the teacher and then tell me their problem. They didn’t seem to hear my screeching pleas and carried on. I had to physically pull them away from there and bring some order to the class. Finally it was time to listen to the story.  One of them said that X had stolen his pencil. The other one shouted that X is a habitual ‘chor’. A few more joined in the brouhaha and X’s feeble outcries were drowned in the collective incrimination.
It turned out that while doing a class assignment, Y’s pencil had rolled down and fallen into X’s bag. On conducting a search it was recovered from his bag and so he was branded a ‘chor’. Because X was submissive he was an easy target. This mentality of dominating over the lesser mortals can be widely seen in the adult world as well. How did the kids learn it- is a question which needs to be answered. At such an age when they can’t even memorise their lessons properly it’s a bit too much to believe that they can imbibe such complex behaviour patterns from their surroundings. I feel these behavioural propensities are already present in them. They act according to situations they find themselves in.
To further elucidate my point I will cite a few more examples. They won’t hesitate to use force on hapless fellow students, some with reason and some without. I chanced upon one other episode where the monitor beat up everyone with a scale. I share the responsibility for the beatings. It was I who had made the naughtiest of the lot the monitor of the class. I was experimenting with the theory that when an irresponsible and incorrigible child is given a responsibility he invariably mends his behaviour. But here he was going around beating his classmates which even I never did, as I am against using physical force on children. Just because they are physically at a disadvantage doesn’t give us the authority to use the rod. Try doing so with a chap of your own ‘make’.
Then they are smart – really, really smart. At the tender age of seven when some of them are not even pottie-trained, they know their rights. One of them came up to my colleague and said that she can go to jail for hitting him! My friend was left speechless and amused at the same time. Guess RTI was passed keeping theses brats in mind.  These small little marvels are not just innocent bundles of joy. They are well on their way to learning the ropes of ‘being human’.
Many of you would like to bash me up the first chance you get for disrespecting our ‘sacred angels’. But this is what I observed.  Children are born through us and if they can inherit our ‘big eyes’, our ‘dark hair’, our ‘ sharp little nose’, our ‘fair complexion’, our ‘perfection’, then they can also inherit our greed, our hatred, our shenanigans and our complexes. What we as adults need to do is mould them, guide them. These personality strains will stay with them but we need to teach them how to successfully suppress the negatives and give wings to the positives.
Despite my experiences I still feel that children are far better specimen of the human race. They still have the transparency of character which we have lost under the dust collected over years of living. They still have a long path to traverse and make choices on the way. We only need to make sure that those choices are ‘right’ and ‘worthy’.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Exams! Oh Exams!

                                              EXAMINATION HALL
Exam time! Stress! Cramming! Tension! Indigestion! Nervous sweat! We all are well versed in the adjectives defining exams. Exams are the culmination of everything one has learnt over a period of time. Its like a crescendo at the end of a not so melodious, soul stirring symphony. Not that the current education environment can be compared to a symphony! It takes all kinds to make a bunch and so it happens in the examination hall too.
Early morning assemblies happen in full earnest. The prayers go up from a burdened heart with so much projectile force that its sure to land at the feet of the One-Above. Oiled hair, tilaked foreheads, red threads of mandir pujas all become a part of the uniform.
The teacher arrives in the Hall carrying the bundles of torture. Just a slight shift in the stance of the students signals the start of a battle - battle with the words. The teacher asks for peace and quiet but how will she quieten the fluttering butterflies of anxiety in the rumbling, curds swishing bellies. As the question paper and answer sheet land on the desk - different welcomes await them. Some kiss them, some fold their hands in prayer, some take them on with full confidence, some accept them with sweating palms, some handle them with fear, some with reverence and some with complete apathy.
Then starts the elaborate ritual of filling the columns and drawing margins. Decorations make the paper so colourful and add some romance to the drab white paper. Small flowers adorn the corners. Some go in for full on assault and start straight away. Some wait for the shock to settle in a and deal with it, one bite at a time. After the ritualistic assessment of the paper is over some faces have slight hints of smiles and some wide eyed dazed expressions. Some feel the colour returning to their faces. The teacher takes the rounds of the Hall as frenzied fingers get busy with the pens. One desk has a mini-makeshift temple placed in a corner with ganesha's idol smiling up benevolently - but reception towers on the student's face are not ready yet. She's totally confused and scared. God Almighty save her!
Fifteen minutes into the paper one of them dozes off while thinking really hard. Another goes for a full blast yawn. Some are skittish trying to coax the answers from their fellow students. Everyone tries his/her level best to tackle the questions which sit prettily on their desks challenging them to a duel. Some students win in the end and some loose. But somehow all manage to fight the battle and survive to fight the one coming up the next day.Stories are repeated only the character of the paper changes. Yesterday it was English, the next day it would be Maths. This battle of the knowledge and the seekers will continue till Lawyers design the templates of our education system. Hope some day actual educationists take on the task and help the warring factions sign the truce!                           

Friday, 20 September 2013

                                               I KILL MY FATHER
It came as a cold stab, an icy dagger plunged into the depths of my heart- the news of my father's passing. I knew it was coming, an imminent danger to the peace and quiet of my being. But when the news came it shattered my studied equanimity. All my mental preparedness to steel myself against such an eventuality lay waste as I mourned his death. He was a silent presence in my life. Having been married relatively early I didn't get the chance and the time to spend some conscious years with him. Just a phone call from him, the sound of his reassuring sweet nothings meant I was sheltered. But that day when the call came in I felt exposed bare and violated - violated by the Almighty - our Supreme Father, whom I have not seen but who sent papa in his image. He ruthlessly erased that image. For me papa went a little too soon, a little too quickly. He was 69. Another decade and a half wouldn't have harmed anyone let alone God.
 His last rites were a big tamasha with many players and the grieving family caught in the middle- dazed and perplexed. It was like a party only difference being instead of music there was wailing of neighbours, instead of beats there were incoherent recitation of the Panditji's mantras. The ritualistic confusion lasted for ten days. Papa was forgotten in the melee, we too laughed and tried to look somber as life seemed normal with a handsome photograph of him smiling and laughing with us.
Finally the people left. One by one the relatives trickled away having performed their duties sincerely and as per custom. We were left to bear the heavy bundle of loss all by ourselves. The burden was almost non-existent but now it felt as heavy as lead and as claustrophobic as a dark windowless room. Our spirits crumbled under the load, knees gave way as an overpowering realisation of grief and irreparable loss became real. So many people had shared our loss but now the whole weight bore down on us. We as a family tried hard to stay afloat.
Then we too scattered, went to our marital families, to live and love again.My husband stood by me, as solid and silent as a rock, giving me space to come to terms with the darkness I felt but made sure that the space did not swallow me up. My papa's image was permanently etched in my mind, the moment I closed my eyes he would appear, smiling or just be there. I didn't want him to come, not now when his physical form had been vapourised by fire. I wanted him to take himself away, but he persisted.
I buried myself in work to keep my mind off him and his memories. I knew no one would understand the pain I felt. Loss of a loved one is so intimate that no one else can even begun to fathom the intensity of it all unless and until he himself has travelled in the same boat. So my grief became a permanent resident of my heart. I dealt with it in my own way not letting anyone in on the secret. For everyone else I had moved on but reality was I still stood where I was, in the moment of his passing on.
I felt angry at my father. He had taken away the normalcy from my life. He had changed the way I lived. He would haunt me when I was the most vulnerable - in the silence of the night. Everybody in the house slept and I wept- soundless tears seeped into the softness of my pillow. I would not let the others hear the anguish of my soul. I would lay awake, peer into the dark to see if I could spot him. I wanted to believe that he would be standing somewhere watching me. But no that was not to happen
Its been over two years now but still a lump forms, sadness grips my heart,tears well up and the unfairness of it all makes me angry. but now I don't let him pervade my thoughts. I kill him! make him disappear, I want to feel free again, free in the knowledge that he's there, maybe not in form but in spirit. I want to be able to remember him with a smile and a laugh, not with tears and helpless resignation. I want him to come and not want to kill him. Its a struggle but may be some day his memories and love will prevail and I'll freely revel in the happiness of having spent memorable times with him.

Thursday, 17 January 2013


It was a harried and disturbing experience not just for us but for the victim too. Raped and murdered. The culprits were caught. BTW the girl's identity is hidden to save her from further shame but why are the bastards who are the actual shameful lot allowed to cover their faces. They should not be given the privilege to decide whether they show their faces to the world or not. If they have the balls to express themselves publicly then the same balls should urge them to look the world in the eye. The incident unleashed a wave of anger and disgust towards the whole system- social, political, moral and judicial. Each of these systems fails us - the lesser mortals. The anger was justified and should have been assuaged by the authorities by taking prompt action. But it turned into a prime time TV show. Soundbites dropped in from everywhere. Intellectuals and fools alike grabbed the microphones and poured some more words into the hapless instruments. By the way hats off to them (mics) for listening and digesting all the wisdom and crap that is stuffed down their throats. Coming back to the issue- where are the heated debates. Pakistan's antics have taken centrestage. I hope the investigative journalists are following the Delhi case away from the spotlight or is it a wasted investment. This happens with almost everything. Sensationalism is the oil which runs the Media machinery. It gets some work done too, that much we need to grant them. We go on commemorating the anniversaries and the spokespersons go back into their cubbyholes smug in the knowledge that the worst is over. Till the next storm strikes they lapse into an air-conditioned slumber. That is the SOP. After 66 years of Indian independence it is time to grant us our freedom too. Freedom from abuse, discrimination and condescension, freedom from eve-teasing and rapes, freedom from squeezing our identities into our vagina, freedom to step out with the confidence of a man. And if this freedom is not easy to come by then its time to stake claim over it through a sustained and integrated movement at all levels. After all its our right as human beings. Why should we go begging for it?