Tuesday, February 21, 2012

LA NATURA E L'ARTE DI DIO

"I love to think of nature as having unlimited broadcasting stations, through which God speaks to us every day, every hour and every moment of our lives, if we will only tune in and remain so."


     7 AM. 7 AM. 7 AM. (the Android phone screeches). Why did I install this application that tells me the time? I roll off the bed (literally), rub my eyes and walk to the front door. The newspaper is out there, and so is a packet of milk.
     "Sneha, make some tea." I spread the newspaper on the floor and commence reading from the sports page. I hate politics (which covers most of the front page), and don't have a keen sense for business or gossip (without taking potshots at leading dailies). And then, my mind wanders (lonely as a cloud, that floats on high over vales & hills - dedicated to Wordsworth).

(Kowsalya supraja Rama poorva sandhya pravaarthathe...)
6 AM. I don't need an alarm to wake me up. The radio awakens me with a soothing effect. I sit up and hear out "Suprabhatam" (I get a red underline that suggests I misspelled the word, and further suggests Mahabharata as the right spelling!!!). I brush, bathe and dress before sitting at the table for breakfast. The time is 6.50 (I didn't wear a watch in those days) as the regional news starts on the radio. I step out of the house and watch the dawning sun displace the darkness.
      It takes me about ten minutes to get past the fields, and to the bus stop. I can't afford to be late because if I miss the bus it would take another hour before the next one comes along. Adjacent to the bus-stop, there's a Mosque (Islamic prayer house) & a tea stall (we Mallus can't travel long without stopping for chai). Most of the elderly clerics find their way to the tea-stall after Fajr and sip steaming sulaimanis as they discuss world events. A few of them are well-acquainted with my uncle (he is a local panchayat member) and exchange pleasantries when I run into them. Those five minutes keep me well-informed, even better than reading "Bangalore Mirror." The bus appears, and I'm on my way. Like every other day.

Sunday Morning (8 AM).
Brushed my teeth. Check.
Logged into Facebook. Check.
Commented on someone's status. Check.
Had breakfast. Check.
Watch a movie, have lunch. Check.
It's only 2. How do I kill the rest of the time?

Sunday (6 AM) - 10 years back.
     We (my brother & I) tiptoe to the door. The door slightly groans as we pull it open. We step out and pull it shut. And then we run. Did I brush my teeth? Would it really matter? Because I'm out to play cricket, not act in a toothpaste commercial. It's almost noon when we get back. Hunger & fatigue are not on our minds, at least till the time we return.
     Initially, our cricket kit included a rubber ball and the bough (not past tense of bark :P) of a coconut tree.
Stumps were three well-cut stems of a fledgling bamboo tree. Our pitch was a gravel-base and the ground was in the middle of a coconut grove. Apart from the opposition fielders, we had to comprehend with the coconut fielders in order to score runs. Our game would resort to Messrs Duckworth & Lewis method as soon as we lost the ball. If the matches were played in the evening, we would play out till darkness encompassed our "stadium".
     After lunch, we would sit down and play cards or chess under the Mango tree. During summer vacation, the trees would bear in-numerous mangoes which generally made up for dessert (we had 6 trees, all of which bore different types of mangoes). We would slice the ripe mango and dip it in a mixture of salt & red chilli powder. My mother would cut the mango while we drooled, waiting for the biggest piece. As the sun headed west, we would head out to the paddy fields for a game of soccer. April generally meant that the fields were barren and appeared as our Old Trafford. The game would last even after dusk set in (till the time we could kick the ball or the opponents feet). We would make our way back to the house through the rear entry after washing up near the well. Bruises & wounds would be hidden from mom's observant eyes. A quick dinner and a good night's sleep would keep us fresh for the next week.

     What are the advantages of growing up with nature? For a long time, I didn't know what pollution meant. The air was fresh and clean, and we remained devoid of allergies. It was always cooler under the trees than inside the house in summer. Air-conditioning literally meant "conditioned by natural air." We cultivated our own vegetables, rice & poultry. A Healthy way of living.
     I remember one specific incident from my childhood. I had gone on a trip to Chennai to visit my father's relatives. The house was adjacent to a Mango Grove and the ripe fruits tempted me. We stood on the terrace and threw stones at the mangoes. A couple of them fell on the other side of the wall and in a flash we jumped over the wall to retrieve them. The very next moment, I felt a hand on my arm. An old lady was talking to me in an unfathomable language. She dragged me to the house and rang the bell. My dad and his uncle quickly came out and negotiated with the hag. She wanted 50 Rs for the two mangoes and got away with it. After living close to nature all my life, I had imagined mangoes to be free of cost.
     Most kids of our age had never seen a television set. They had seen more of real life than reel life. Babies grew up seeings crows & sparrows, and listening to frogs croaking during monsoon. They grew up touching flowers & leaves, and playing with the mud.
     Today's kids grow up with cellphones, laptops & game consoles. A bee might scare the wits out of them &  walking without a pair of crocs is totally unheard of. It would take a lot of convincing to muddy their feet and taste the sweet nectar from the banana tree. The sting of the bee hurts, but makes up for an experience. I hope that my kids get a similar chance in life to grow up in nature's lap. Far, far away from the madding crowd.
Where the bee sucks, there suck I:
In a cowslip's bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat's back I do fly
After summer merrily.
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.
- The Tempest

 


P.S: This post is an entry for "The Kissan 100% Real Blogger Contest." #Get Real

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Growing Young

"Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten."

     We did a play in high-school about an adolescent who returns to school 20 years after he graduated. The theme of the play was simple, the guy felt that he had been cheated of a proper education and wanted his tuition fees reimbursed. A set of funny sequences follow, he meets up with each his teachers and they put him through tests. The teachers work on proving him wrong by asking silly questions (How long did the 30 year old war last?) and the student tries to outsmart them (he answers 7 years). The tutor eventually proves that his answer was right.
      At the end of the final rehearsal, we were informed that the play could not be performed due to a restriction from the Ministry of Education (Sultanate of Oman). They felt that it would portray education in bad light, and make a mockery of it. When the tears subsided, I felt he was right. The traditional gurukul system would remain in our midst and teachers would always be held in high esteem. Unfortunately, I've been proven wrong over the past couple of years.
    A  couple of days back, I was shocked to read the headlines in the newspaper. A teacher was brutally stabbed during school hours by a student. The student was irate after the teacher reprimanded him harshly for his low grades (wonder how many I would have killed). I tried to put myself in the student's shoes. And I couldn't. The student had carried a knife for 3 days, waiting for an opportunity. That is cold-blooded murder and it sends shivers down my spine. Are parents keeping track of their wards? Or do their responsibilities end with paying the tuition fees?
     I decided to read further into the evolution of behavioural trends in children. I have seen this at close quarters with the way my cousins deal with my nephews/nieces. The disgusting rat race has reached a point where we expect kids to mature overnight. Higher responsibilities are placed on them, and therefore higher incentives to motivate them. In short, a higher cliff, and a deeper fall. Parents feel that the teachers in schools aren't competent enough, and express it in front of their children. Let's admit it, the standard of teaching in schools are dropping but the attention at home is falling at a higher pace. We are bothered about the knowledge & information that our wards gain without stressing on cultural & social values. We do not differentiate good & bad, right & wrong as long as they are at the top of their game.
     I was reading an article by Alison Gopnik, a professor in Psychology at UCLA. She points out that "If you think of the teenage brain as a car, today's adolescents acquire an accelerator a long time before they can steer and brake." Read further here.
If you think of the teenage brain as a car, today's adolescents acquire an accelerator a long time before they can steer and brake.
     We might keep blaming the education system till the cows come home, but unless we step forth and make those changes in our household, let's not expect changes. My mom has always been a house-wife. I didn't expect her to teach me Physics or Maths. But, she thought me that cheating & stealing were punishable, Honesty would pay us in the long run & Integrity would get us respect. Karma was above everything else, and we would reap the rewards of our actions alone. It might have left me struggling with the Fourier series or Laws of Thermodynamics, but who cares? My morals are intact, I ponder whether my actions are right or wrong before stabbing someone twice in the neck, once in the stomach and thrice in the chest.
"We are taught you must blame your parents, your sisters, your brothers, the school, the teachers - but never blame yourself. It's never your fault. But it's always your fault, because if you wanted to change you're the one who has got to change."


P.S: When today's parents provide memory pills to their children rather than a glass of milk, I consider myself lucky to be part of the earlier generation.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Blood Positive

“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” ~ Winston Churchill


      August 2010, (A lazy Saturday afternoon): My room-mates were planning the evening's itinerary. Our Saturday's schedule generally included late lunch followed by a couple of beers and probably a couple* of pegs (*couple is a relative term). Out of the blue (no disrespect to Aakash Chopra), a friend called up. They urgently required A+ve blood for an acquaintance who met with an accident. They were finding it hard to get donors without traces of alcohol in their blood. Possibly, the aftermath of a Friday night.
     We reached the hospital within the next 20 minutes. Along with my friend, there were a couple others who had come over to donate blood. They were in need of 12 packets of blood, a sizable amount. We got our weight & blood pressure checked, filled up a couple of forms and donated our share of blood. Next morning we were informed that the patient had survived a 4-hour surgery on her left hand. A packet of juice & a couple of biscuits followed by a good night's sleep helped us in regaining the donated blood.
     Feb 2012, (Monday Morning Blues): I hate Mondays. They remind me that weekends are too short. And I prefer to be left alone on Monday morning. I was at my grumpiest best when I received a call from Jayadeva Heart Hospital. They wanted blood, and were on the lookout for donors. I asked my colleague to drop me off at the Hospital and walked into the emergency section. A lady was scheduled for a bypass surgery and required blood. I donated my share and prayed for the lady's quick recovery.
     Thanks to Aditi, I donated blood every 6 months. Initially, I was highly apprehensive about donating blood. But, after reading about it I felt that it would help a lot of people in need. Since then, I have been part of regular blood bank activities for the last 4-5 years. I felt really happy after donating blood on those two specific instances since I contributed my part in saving a life.
     Over these years, I've come across a lot of people who are hesitant to donate blood. They feel that it might take something away from them. A lot of people expect to be paid for donating blood without obliging to the greater cause of serving humanity. In one strange case, A father refused to accept donors who were working in the IT field (he presumed that all software engineers smoke cigarettes & drink alcohol often). All this is a consequence of misinformation.
     Here's a few facts about blood donation:
1. Any healthy person between the age of 20 & 50 can donate blood as long as they have no traces of alcohol, steroids, medicines in their blood (ideally 48-72 hours should pass).
2. Donating is relatively safe, but some donors have bruising where the needle is inserted or may feel faint.
3. Potential donors are evaluated for anything that might make their blood unsafe to use.
4. The donated blood is regenerated within 24-48 hours in the body.
       Blood donation is a great way to serve society. Saving lives doesn't necessarily mean that we need to wear a cape and tag ourselves as super-heroes. Spread the word, donate blood!
 “`We be of one blood, thou and I..." - Rudyard Kipling



P.S: A 7-month old baby wanted O -ve blood in Jayadeva. Donors, please contact the emergency section of the hospital.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The sound of silence

"I'm a man of many words, and choose to remain that way." - Skv
      Friday was hectic. Really tiring. Having spent over 6 hours of my day in meetings, conference calls & training sessions, I was left with a throat as dry as the Sahara (not the one that deserted the BCCI). I had to catch the train home, so there wasn't any time to cater to my throat's demands of hot water with honey, ginger & lemon juice (ah, a shade of brandy would set the thing on fire!).
     My post is not about grand-ma's recipe for cocktails. I wish to reflect on the nuances of our senses (the poems are getting me to rhyme in prose as well). We ideally have 5 senses (the 6th exists in Bollywood & 7th in Kollywood only); sight, touch, hearing, smell & taste. I highly value & appreciate the efficient working of these senses. But, I have always held a greater preference towards speech. I could imagine (disclaimer: imagination has no limits) surviving without one of the other senses, but speech will always be of the highest priority. Let me explain why.
     As a kid, my dad constantly remarked, "Son, if it weren't for your sharp tongue, a crow would have swooped down and taken you off the ground (this is what happens to kids who refuse to eat vegetables)." As i grew up, my vocal prowess held me in good stead. In fact, it was the only thing that allowed me to get into this profession (read Recruitment). Over the years, I have found it extremely hard to sit quiet for more than a couple of minutes.
     In recruitment, I spent the first 4 years bending my 'B's and rolling my 'R's. As my confidence picked up, it reflected in the other facets of my life as well. Speech became my major option for a livelihood. Frustrated people who couldn't withstand the chatter proposed an alternate profession in law. On the sports field, I couldn't keep the sledging far from my game. And, the volume in the bathroom just got higher with my kolaveris.
     All this has been about me. Coming back to Friday. I survived two Meru breakdowns to reach the railway station ahead of time. I wanted to move away from the noisy crowds centered near the busy, tea stalls and so headed towards a pair of empty seats at the far end of the platform. A group of 5 seemed to be right at my tail and I felt bothered. For the next few minutes, I hardly heard a whisper and so turned around to check on them. I held my breath as I watched them converse with the grace of a ballet. Their arms moved in symphony, drawing imaginary castles in the air. A thousand words were spoken, yet none were heard. I tried to keep my breathing down for the fear of intruding their world. Their eyes moved in tandem with their flailing limbs as each one narrated his part of the story.
     Like artists drawing strokes on the canvas, alike an orchestrated symphony, the aura drew me closer. If they had turned, they'd have mistaken me for eavesdropping their conversation. They were in another planet, oblivious to commotion surrounding them. For a moment, I tried convincing myself that a group were playing dumb charades. But, it didn't hold. An initial wave of sympathy was overlapped by one of respect and due admiration. We, who have all our abilities intact are disabled in every phase of our life. We do not push ourselves to achieve beyond the norms expected of us. As the train trudged towards the station, the group disbanded. And I stood still, lost for words.

 “Do not speak unless you can improve the silence”

Friday, February 3, 2012

Paradise of Love

 

 Amidst vast deserts lies an oasis,
Among the deepest oceans there exists Islands,
In the depth of my heart lies your soul.
An image, a gesture, the complete you.
In the fortress of my domain,
Your shadow develops silently,
As a boulder rolls over a meagre pebble,
That clings on to the edge of a cliff.
Our love becomes eternal and divine,
When our souls solely combine.
Do not deceive, do not betray,
For I am an incomplete being;
Without the fulfilment of your love.
These plaintive verses will never equal,
The harmony of love in me for you.
Always disclose the truths,
The unbiased, impartial and formidable truths.
My benevolence that prevails over you,
Is like a memorabilia presented to the sky,
A twinkling star that wholly resembles you,
An unfinished destiny, an undecided fate.
                                                                          - Skv

P.S: This was the first poem that I wrote, and so holds a special place in my heart. I wrote it in the Physics Lab (I can imagine Newton turning in his grave)!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

As we part

“The squirrel that you kill in jest, dies in earnest.”

     I've hit a block. On the contrary, it would seem highly pretentious to term it as "Writer's Block." The dearth of topics are not confounding me, rather I do have a long list of topics (including an unfinished novel) that needs dedicated attention, but finding time to write is the primary concern. So, I've found an alternative. I'll introduce my collection of poems to this blog (been a decade since most of them were penned) over the next couple of weeks while the new posts get created.

As we part

In my darkest hour, Devoid of thoughts,
A touch on my shoulder, that reassuring smile,
Brightening the journey ahead,
"Its not over yet", you said;
"At the end of the day, you'll be at your goal."

I moved along, slowily but steadily,
Growing from strength to strength,
Crafting a path of fame,
All because of you my friend.

Now when the end is in sight,
You're bidding good bye.
Parting is inevitable, reunion a distant hope.
But when the truth settles in,
A voice in my heart will whisper,
"Its not over yet, 

                          At the end of the day, you'll be at your goal......."                                                                                                                   - Skv.