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Archive for the ‘Experience’ Category

          “Oh! I am from Mumbai, do you know St Michaels school. My son was educated there, he is in the first year of engineering now”, this was the rant of a middle aged and what seemed to be an over protective mother of her only son. It seems she has an attraction for the United States and wants her son to pursue further education there. So here she was at Techfest, searching for information on education institutions, for her son 3 years before he graduates. I shouldn’t be the one to judge but … isn’t it too much pressure!! Oh and she did mention that one of her relatives was an IIT alumnus a long time ago. That’s one case of freedom to do-what-you-like, stifled.
          Education institutions on the other hand expect students to be inherently great, but leave little opportunity for students to be great. One educationist asked me “do you have any publications, I said yeah. Oh he said then its great, you will be a good Phd candidate”, come over to so and so place and we can have a chat and I will introduce you to the faculty of so and so college so you can start off applying to a place abroad for your Phd.
          I sometimes feel we are just our CVs, and nothing more in this market driven place. Each move, so to say has to be planned and must be an added bullet point on a white sheet of paper, in order to attain great heights. Any attention given to arts or creativity must be scrutinized in order to mesh well with future goals. And we complain that people lack creativity. So a student in comparison feels like nothing, when he/she is compared to people his own age group, unless of course he/she strikes gold. Until then I hope they don’t take an extreme step and end up as a statistic. We have to start somewhere, CVs dont just materialise from thin air. Here is where the education institutions play an important role, but they too shirk off their responsibility, and the responsibility lies with the student for not being able to produce a good CV. Its all a vicious circle.
 
So i pose a few questions:
Can we remove this stifling environment?
Can the people around us grow out of comparing?
Can parents just let their wards grow out on their own and stop pressurizing them?
Can education institutions stop expecting from students and begin doing their job and giving the necessary values and education to the students?

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The war within

I lay myself on that cool white sand and look at the stars

The stars at play in the dark sky I see, oblivion a blurr

Sitting myself up I feel the breeze, as it whispers in my ear

Those chills it sends over my skin, keen to let me know

 

I wake on that sand and sit myself up

I look to the distant ship, floating far far away

A wonder it seems to look at the far expanse of water

Hearing the birds tweet, makes me want to fly

 

Is life like that ship I wonder, a distant aim to be achieved

A colossal expanse to cover as I move towards that goal

Is life like the birds I wonder, living life as each moment

Like each moment tweet they must, to cherish and to hold

 

As the waters caress my feet, they cover my feet and leave it wet

They say to me that they must wrap my feet though I want not

Troubled times like water, covers my existence and the journey ensues

It makes wonder why I am here, do I live just to fight each day

 

As I walk along, the heart is uneasy at the core

I ponder each day the race begins, outwit we must to feed our existence

The war begins at the core of our existence, taking us to new highs

Little do we realise, we fight none but ourselves

 

Where can we find ourselves, but in ourselves

Where are the roads that lead to happiness, but within

Where does sadness seat itself, but at the core of our existence

Where oh where I ask the mortal, why do they look beyond the self

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Innocent are those eyes, deep in them I see a wonderful friend

The smile could take the breath away, i can lose my self in them

Hope to be there in troubled times are rife, though no cares of the world

Why may I doubt the intention, care I need the least?

 

As i walk the untrodden path, the demons come out to play,

They wear grabs of friendship, lest i notice their hidden rot.

I know not what they want, beguiled by their luster i am led,

Overwhelmed was I of the following, questioned not i even once why.

 

Oh how but how can one know the good from the bad,

Where oh where may I get directions of how to look beneath the masks,

Is there no one who can lift that veil for me,tied are my hands,

Why oh why do I have to dig deep inside, those skeletons unearthed.

 

Strange are the ways of the world, we see one thing and get just the opposite,

We need but to avoid the ditches in our path, lest we are fooled.

Strange are the people we meet, stab they must when we look the other way,

We need but to avoid those, lest they spoil us too.

 

We live in a word of bent spines and broken rules,

Promises made need not last their course, they are but a need of the hour

We exist among those who have no conscience,

Lies sugar coated to suit, the mountain of them buried under a facade

 

As i watch on, enlightened now more than ever, astounded at their finesse to deceive,

Crave do i to inform the gullible, to divulge the ineptitude they embrace.

Hold myself though lest i am rebuked, distanced from the ones who call me their own,

Enlightened can they be when they open their minds, open to the truth i worry though lest not too late

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Day in day out there is this lurking shadow I see

Its mine though I feel its someone I know not

Weeks on end I feel it feeding on me

Its as though I feed the air

 

Created though out of our own imagination

A figment that make the greatest fall to pieces, and the smallest capitalize

We love to keep it as a friend, though they eat us from within

There behind people, there behind structures demons overwhelming

 

Unknown are the people we meet in life, befriend we must fearful or not

People make fear a part of their existence, a reason to avoid the unknown

Fear they give to others, delegating their insecurities

Those daunting shapes, those unknown faces

 

Loath I must those that have not tasted defeat

Detest those that have not tried enough I will

What but fear can they share, only a soul untested

They live in cocoons safe in their shells of gold rested

 

I adore those that drive out the fears in me

They that fear not to show me what I do not see

Are not they that make us worthy sculptures

Adorned in the world, leading a hoard of worshipers

 

Must children teach to fear not the unknown

Must they leap, fall and rise again for us to learn

They can but not be left to fear, unless we keep them strong

Must we not stand by them as they go along

 

We travel far and wide, we move in droves

Must we be with our own always, must we quell fear with our own

Our own betray us when in need we must learn, distributing fear to keep us nigh

It is those we befriend who come to our rescue, those that want nothing in return

 

Leap we must if we have to test life, no adventure too great

Leap we must into the unknown, proud of an existence lived not in vain

Life makes us step into the lap of uncertainty time and again

Change must we embrace, a new page changed

 

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As the hot paranthas were being served at our favourite eat out, we were in deep discussion, it seemed we could not come to a consensus on whether love was blind (as the proverb goes) or for that matter foolish. The practicality of being in love was not part of the discussion, since we all knew that, it was not what we were entitled to discuss(to be elaborated later). Specifically we were discussing love between two seemingly distant individuals with the desire to spend life together.

Before there is an all out war of words, i would like to explain where the discussion originated. Recently one among the idiots became attached to a girl , who he had met on a social networking site just a few months back. And we were trying to explain to him that his decision was suicide. To elaborate further, the idiot has a great career and is at the crossroads of his career and the girl is much younger to him. Another catch to this whole situation is that the guy is about to elope with this girl since she will be engaged soon to someone who her parents have chosen for her. Now it will be clear as to why we were up in arms over his decision to make such a move.

As the discussion went on and the finger pointing began, each one began to explain his foolish move in this regard. One said that he just liked a girl from class and proposed right away, needless to say he was rejected outright by the girl. The other idiot had more than that. He seemed to have heated arguments about his girlfriends with his parents on such decisions, and conceded to what his parents had to say finally. In it was realized that none of them knew who was the right person for them, but it was certain they knew who they did not want as their partners for life.

But as events progressed and the engagement date drew closer there was a certain panic in the air. Before the engagement the parents sent the bride-to-be in discussion, for an outing with her fiancé to get to know each other.  This overnight outing turned out to be a recipe for disaster. Surprisingly the parents were in support of this marriage and no amount of rambling on the part of the girl seemed to affect their decision. Needless to describe what the girl will go through if she is forced to spend the rest of her life with this person.

Coming back to the discussion of love, as all of this was happening the first idiot was getting jittery here as she would call and give a detailed description of what was in process. Loss of appetite, lack of sleep and the apprehension were playing mind games with him. All that was in his mind was his love and affection for her and how the plan to free her from the clutches of her parents and marauding fiancé.

After having seen close ones with failed marriages due to such and other issues, there are questions as to why  parents would push their children into the precipice of life long suffering.  Some if not many outcomes are favourable outcomes. The hostel caretaker is one among the many favourable outcomes. He eloped and married a girl stouter than he, but of a higher caste. Initially his parents were worried that the girl had a mental/physical defect so she was inclined to marry someone of a lower caste. His first child bridged the in-law family divide, but not until they had done their bit of taunting until the child was born.  As I describe this in four lines here it is not enough to explain what mental trauma he and his wife must have faced during the first few years of their marriage.

The story of that night ended on a happy note. The fiancé did not get his way, and drank himself to a stupor with his friends in an adjacent room, while the girl sat hungry and without sleep in the next room. Later that morning the girl returned home happy to be back. She narrated the nights happenings to the parents and as luck may have it the parents agreed to take matters into their hands. The engagement is off for now, leaving the first idiot heaving a sigh of relief. It also leaves him with a ray of hope that the journey he is about to embark is on the right course.

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I remember a time when everything looked like bliss from that point of view. It is a class room filled with individuals i had the least idea about. There is a breeze blowing outside, and it seems it will rain in a while. The clouds are thundering and i am blissfully writing something in my notebook. There are enlarged pictures on the wall in the room, and the teacher is at it with the lessons.

It is nursery class and the day is a day during the monsoons. We are all seated in the class room, apprehensive about whether we will get home dry. Some are so happy and ready to splash in the puddles that they have worn their new rain coats in class itself while others are scared to death about getting home. I remember it was a classroom in the campus away from the other higher ups. Maybe it was to restrict the kids form the higher classes from bullying us, it maybe it was just to keep us from wandering about the whole campus. But i distinctly remember it being guarded like a fortress by the Bais and the Peons.

Lunch time was a time when all the kids would sit in a circle and open out the goodies their mums had prepared for them, for some lunch would begin during the class room lectures. They would open out their lunch boxes and begin feasting on it. classes were big, with about 60-65 students in one class, with the teacher blaring in one distant corner while the major chunk of the class cried, pranked, ate at the other end.

P T or physical training was the best time during the day. There was this Bai who would sit us down in a group and make us recite numerous marathi and other kiddie songs. She would wield a branch from a nearby tree to keep us from any mischief, though i faintly remember her ever use it. Her look though would scare the wits out of any kid, playing mischief in that time would mean a deadly stare from her.

Class room was a place more to play sing and learn than to be nerds. Distinct remembrances of the teacher who taught us, may she rest in peace. She was Miss Rose. A small tiny teacher but with an attitude that spelt ‘no nonsence‘ as soon as she entered the class room. What left and indelible mark on our minds was the way we learnt A-Z and all the nursery rhymes she would so diligently teach in the class. The class room would be rapt in silence as we would all join into the chorus of the nursery rhymes. There were the occasional punishments but not without a reason.

I realise now as i have in the past time too, life as a kid, full of wonder devoid of prejudice is the most fruitful portion of living. Though of course there are the pangs of being the smallest ones and the excessive need to grow up. Reality dawns when the growing up actually happens “i wish i was a child” is something i have heard innumerable times.

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Half drowsy in my senses I was oblivious to the fact that there were people burning something in the middle of the road in front of the Patna Junction, and the driver of the vehicle was moving at break neck speed honking continuously at anyone on the road. How did I get here, or more so why did I get here was the question I was incessantly asking myself, as we were returning to the hotel from the wedding of a dear friend. We were 4 of us huddled together in the Tata Sumo, being driven by a reckless 50 something, as we made our way back from the final rituals that marked the end of the wedding. It was 8:00 am, and we had to get back, pack, take some rest and leave for Mumbai by the 11:10 train.

Looking at the vast nothingness as we began our journey back to the financial capital, I began thinking about the run up to the wedding. We had been emotionally blackmailed into attending a wedding 1700km from Mumbai; we booked our tickets and left that Monday night. Though we had company a long train journey for me was a relatively novel experience. 30 hours would be a long haul, so we had prepared ourselves with books, loaded the phones and iPods with music, and donned the friendly cap to befriend people in the train, to tide over the pangs of the long journey. But nothing worked for the first 12 hours, until we arrived at a station named Itarsi in Madhya Pradesh. For those who do not know, Madhya Pradesh was the largest state within India until Chhattisgrah was carved out in 2000, the heart of India so to say. Most of the time spent during the journey is in MP, vast fields of wheat, coupled with flat terrain, with very less vegetation marked the landscape.

After Itarsi we spent most of our time in the cubicle where a lady friend was, more so since we befriended this cute 10 year old. Little did we know that this 10 year old would make our journey worth the while. After that the whole journey was dotted with anecdotes of performances from various “Saas Bahu” serials that are a regular feature on television. She taught us to enjoy Ludo, a lesser known game in Maharashtra. Though, until we realized that the harsh reality of child labour was sitting right in front of us, we were oblivious to the source of so much talent packed in such a small package.

We arrived in Patna on a cold Wednesday morning, promptly escorted to out hotel by the groom to be to rest until the wedding. Sight seeing was on our minds but that was restricted to a visit to a British era granary in Patna called “Gool ghar”, the place being as the name suggests. The Ganges was a beautiful sight to see atop the granary.

We rested a while, later to prepare ourselves for the big fat wedding. As I am told by my trusted sources all north Indian weddings begin with the “Baraat” late into the evening. The wedding rituals begin at the girls place early in the morning at about 2 am. The dawn of the new day mark the end of the rituals of the wedding and the successful union of the couple in matrimony. This wedding was no different, as we prepared ourselves for the long haul; I was intent on observing every bit of the rituals. The groom dressed and ready was subjected to a ritual of tamarind water drinking at his house, after which he along with his mother travels to the nearest temple to solemnize the handing over of the groom to the girl’s people by the groom’s mother. We then proceeded to the venue of the “Baraat“, where we were required to feast on snacks to energize us to dance all the way to the house of the bride to be. The “Baraat” requires a person to have a unique ability. It requires the person to be adept in street dance, subject to blaring music, similar to a carnival in celebration of the arrival of the groom. I had none of those qualities so was restricted to taking photographs of the moving procession, which had blocked off half the road, forcing traffic to be diverted through the opposite lane. No heckling by the local cops made any difference to the procession. As I was told later that wedding days are the most worrisome for travelers, since all forms of transportation is employed leaving travelers to fend for themselves. As it were we proceeded and reached the girls place at 12:15 am. Dinner was served, but not before the garlanding ceremony. This ceremony marks the beginning of the wedding. The thing about the garlanding is that the boy’s people must hoist him so that the girl is not allowed to garland him easily. The sole purpose is make the bride feel the achievement of garlanding the boy, and the boy to hang onto his bachelorhood a while longer. Though sadly the groom’s friends gave in too soon.

The rituals began with the girl’s people performing some rituals on the groom, after which the main pooja began with the bride and the groom squatting in front of the ritual pyre. Most of it seemed like French, Greek and Latin to me, since the narration was in Sanskrit. There was a flow of sentiments as the pooja began both from the girl and from her close relatives, where as we were busy with fun and frolicking As part of the rituals in the end the bride and the groom were made to sit in the centre of a wooden frame representing the house, and the Pandit began the proceedings. It ended with the bride being held by her hands by the groom, circling the frame 7 times (to represent the togetherness of the couple for 7 lives). The bride had in her hand a receptacle. Each time the brother of the bride would put corn into the receptacle and the groom would shake it off the receptacle. This whole activity went on till they completed 7 rounds of the frame. Interestingly after the completion of each round the bride had to place her foot on a wooden strip containing rice, after which the groom was required to remove her foot from the strip. This according to the pandit was representative of the duty of a husband to correct his wife incase she steps the wrong way, represented by her stepping on the strip of wood. We congratulated the bride and the groom on their achievement of the marathon marriage ceremony and left.

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