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.