Saturday, April 30, 2005

Back with a bang...

Dearest Reader,
Here I am with a few posts to make up for the past few days (alright, weeks) of no posts. I was caught up in some stuff and had no time to post or mail (been off mails, significantly). I was touched when people asked me "Why no posts?". I was laughing when a friend told me "We can write once a week or once in two weeks; you should write everyday"!! Yeah right! :-)
I notice that most people have updated their blogs (no Wookie, removing comments is not the same as updating!! ;-) and enjoyed reading Anu's Bangalore Diaries (very well narrated), Prabha's story and Renuka's rambling and others. Feels like a arriving late at a park with everyone started off on their games and occasionally someone calling you (no Amrita, I haven't found my mobile and I don't plan on getting one.) and asking you "E, aren't you coming?".
I am here to join you guys with a few posts spread over the week. But before I proceed, something I wish to discuss with you.
I have had a few readers tell me that they liked a few of my earlier posts. Most of them picked the "Roll of memory" or "Sweet Nothings" or similar fare. I am glad that you liked them, but I would like to introduce you to what I feel I enjoy while writing. I am not much into writing emotional fare. I am not much into writing a particular style of fiction or faction, for that matter. I am here to titillate and learn new games that some of you play so well. I am here to try this and try that and create a new game called This-That. I could reel out tear jerkers or those "ooooh so romantic" stuff, but I would lose my true self in that. I like you, but not so much that I would like to lose my core... I hope you don't mind.

So what do we have for the next few days? For Saturday and Sunday (23rd & 24th of April) this post should suffice. This post will also provide feelers to what is yet to come into the open. I have spread some stuff out for you over the next few days and you can chose to visit this blog on specific days to read what interests you. So what do we have, for heaven's sake? (The dates below will be transformed into links on appropriate days)

Monday, 25th April 2005: A light start
No point beginning a week with heavy matters (well I am not your employer to think "that's ok"), so we shall indulge ourselves in a light story. A lot of things happen after dark and this story speaks of one such incident. I really wouldn't want to go through that one again...

Tuesday, 26th April 2005: A thousand words
I have a collection of pictures taken on a recent trip and some others too. I shall share them with you. One could put them on a share and let you guys access it, but ...
If you like any of them, let me know and I can send you a copy of it.

Wednesday, 27th April 2005: What we learn and what was taught
A post about pedagogy and revisiting the many things one has learnt about teaching and what matters. SS and M are also interested in this topic and they (apart from a few others) are reason for this post finding itself on this blog. I had written a very elaborate one (on paper) which I shall summarise in this post. It would be interesting to watch the comments that would flow in...

Thursday, 28th April 2005: Haiku Day
I had spent the weekend of 16th and 17th writing Haiku. I had read (again) Basho on 14th and 15th and was fired up to write some of my own. Haiku is basically a form of writing/poetry which originated in Japan. I had decided to write 100+ pieces but managed to write only about a third of that (too many interruptions). I shall pick a few Haiku from the few dozens I wrote and some of renowned poets from al over the world. I shan't disclose which are mine and which aren't... :-)

Friday, 29th April 2005: Show me the money...
This is a dialogue I came across some time ago. I shan't disclose anymore. This post contains adult material, and reader discretion is expected.

Bonus: Food for thought .... and discussion
I was discussing with a dear friend of mine about the suppressed value of tangibles, which, cultures around the world shun as a sign of being cultured and tolerant. But are we really that?

I shall spend the rest of this weekend commenting on blogs which I was unable to visit. I was presented with a wonderful blog by my friend. I would urge readers to visit Melancholetta (at least those who like poetry). Some of the posts are in vernacular languages, and most are a splendid read. A wonderful effort.

So what had you been doing this weekend?

ps: The post title was back with a bag(of posts). God knows how the "n" crept in ;-)
I have really never been good with plans, so let it not be a surprise if the agenda turns out to be a filler for this post :-))

Friday, April 29, 2005

The Bonus Post

Here is the bonus I was talking to you about. Something to ponder over:

We are brought up in a culture to treat materialistic things as "bad" or in a condescending manner.
What do you want in life?
What? Money? Shee. You are so materialistic...

So be it with appearances. To say that I want a good looking guy is considered so ... (I don't want to use that word here). If the girl said "I like someone understanding and caring..." Oh! She is so nice and mature and ... humbug. Is it wrong for a girl to want a good looking guy (nothing withstanding)? We hear so often that the matrimonial advt. are getting so "urgggh". Wanted a pretty homely fair girl. So cheap. Why? Should a guy say plain, dark "plumpish" girl? Why would they? Why would anyone say that? Some people can't stand fat. Some people can't stand a flat stubby nose. So what's wrong? Are we fostering an environment of lies in order to appear decent and civilised?

Is it wrong for a person to be clear in saying that "Money matters to me and I am going headlong into it" or "I want to get married only to US guys, because I get a free trip to US and don't have to exert myself too much for that"?

If your philosophy doesn't agree with it, does it become a bad philosophy if someone else follows it?

If a guy rejected a girl because she was plain, would you call him a cheapo?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Haiku for you

Do you know what a syllable is? Do you know how many syllables are there in invisible or condign or merry or smile (use the last link on this post to answer this question)? Poetry has depended greatly on syllables to define what we loosely call the metre (in the context of ghazals it is called the beher and there are more behers than the total number of alphabets in my entire name). It comes as little surprise that a country which has measured everything from its walk to the chips it carefully manufactures to its quality processes, would create a system of poetry so heavily restricted by the count of syllables. Haiku has various shadows to its image. Some think of it as a mere joke or a funny quote. Some consider it profound and pithy. It is what we would call limericks when hesitantly erected against the showy and colourful backgrounds of Shakespearean sonnets and HWL's quatrains. When compared to the other forms of Japanese poetry, Haiku was considered a commoner's fare and at times, mere entertainment and vulgar. So be it!!
I shall spare you the history of Haiku (you could search it on the net, although I would suggest speaking to a Japanese poet to get something authentic). I think we should share these common facts before we proceed. Haiku is a short verse composed of 17 syllables (onji). The popular version of the rules instructs poets to adhere to the 5-7-5 rule (viz. the count of syllables on each line, totaling 17). Reference to a season (kigo) is usually expected in a Haiku, although there are many exceptions to that rule. There are many rules and I would refer you to this page, in case you are interested.

I usually employ Haiku to convey an observation or to relate to my philosophical thought process.

So let us consider a few Haiku (I have picked some of the best of other poets and a few random ones of mine):

When the rain stopped
Over mongrel's gay pawprints
Coffin bearers strode

It's not that the heart
grows cold. No, it burns to ash,
and the ash grows cold.

A kite floats
At the place in the sky
Where it floated yesterday.

How the cartwheel turns
Now that spoke presses, now this-
Ephemeral pains

Road from Banbury
a man spilled from his crushed car
dead eyes full of rain

Independence Day-
I let him touch
a little bit of me

spring snow . . .
whispering into
the horse's ear

When the fire is raised
Drums struck loud and notes ascend
Beats of the sheep's soul

I caught a petal fallen from cherry tree in my hand.
Opening the fist
I find nothing there.

dry heat-
to the same withered flower
a bee returns

Little brat cries loud
While his mother spanks him hard
A tear in her eye

Cold winter cobbled paths
No sign of dear friends and kin
Thus I find someone

How reluctantly
the bee emerges from deep
within the peony

The cleanest lettuce
She will soon sell them to you
Her hands soil laden

A world of dew,
and within every dewdrop
a world of struggle

Heavy eyes close shut
Behold a false world so real
Why do I wake up?

Seas slowly darken
and the wild duck's plaintive cry
grows faintly white

Spring passes
and the birds cry out- tears
in the eyes of fishes

On the road burnt by
White heat of an angry sun
Memories of snow

She teases and taunts
But he smiles as he clenches
A long lost nose ring

Touch of her firm breasts
Thousand day vow and then this?
She wears his habit.

Some Haiku were written for friends. I have avoided quoting them here.

This is what Basho had to say of himself:

In this mortal frame of mine which is made of a hundred
bones and nine orifices there is something, and this
something is called a wind-swept spirit for lack of a
better name, for it is much like a thin drapery that is
torn and swept away at the slightest stir of the wind.
This something in me took to writing poetry years ago,
merely to amuse itself at first, but finally making it its
lifelong business. It must be admitted, however, that
there were times when it sank into such dejection
that it was almost ready to drop its pursuit, or again
times when it was so puffed up with pride that it exulted
in vain victories over the others. Indeed, ever since it began to
write poetry, it has never found peace with itself,
always wavering between doubts of one kind and another. At
one time it wanted to gain security by entering the service
of a court, and at another it wished to measure the depth
of its ignorance by trying to be a scholar, but it was prevented
from either because of its unquenchable love of poetry. The fact is,
it knows no other art than the art of writing poetry, and therefore,
it hangs on to it more or less blindly.


The second Haiku: Joel Welling
The third Haiku: Buson Yosa
The fifth Haiku: Jane K. Lambert
The sixth Haiku: Fay Aoyagi
The seventh Haiku: Scott Metz
The ninth Haiku: Kyoshi Takahama
The tenth Haiku: Charles Easter
The thirteenth Haiku: Basho
The fifteenth Haiku: Issa
The seventeenth Haiku: Basho
The eighteenth Haiku: Basho

Two of my favourites:
Number 2 and 8

ps: In case some Haiku is not clear or you wish to discuss any, feel free to put it in your comments...

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Why do we need schools?

I suppose this post comes after drifting wildly on some drafts which happened with least design. I suppose this topic is such that I can't help drift. When we talk about pedagogy, we could come up with a mini constitution about what should be done and what shouldn't and how things should be and how they shouldn't. I would urge the eager reader (and the not-so-eager ones too) to find time to read an earlier post (and a few others scattered all over the blog) of mine regarding what I would like to see in a school in which I would contribute significant effort and time. That would form a micro-constitution and surely serve as direction to my concept of education. What I wish to visit in this post is the meta-need for education so that we understand what we need to do with this critical matter as our cynosure.
My original article (which is still on paper) covered many aspects of the education system in India and the education system per se. I shall restrict this post to one facet. The remaining issues (administration, finances, detailed curriculum, etc.) shall be discussed in later posts. This post is basically about understanding and realising the need for change and my ideas on achieving it. I use he/his/him in this post to mean she/he, her/his and her/him respectively.

We all say that the education system is horrible, or it is in dire need of reform and repair. Pray, tell me why? What is it that is bad in our education system? Globally the output of our education system is considered lucrative enough. We now have scores of companies moving their technical as well as semi-technical work to India (and mind you, cost is not the sole reason). So our education system seems to be doing a good job. Why, then, do we still complain about our education system?
My take on this (and I insist that it is purely my opinion) might seem idealistic. I can't help it. I prefer looking at a person as a global citizen and I believe that the education system should prepare one to be fully equipped in meeting that role with their best. What I mean by a global citizen can be easily summarised in a few words. I think a global citizen views his actions and the consequences of his actions with the larger picture clear in his mind. His action is not determined by self-centredness. A global citizen is mature. The global citizen is not out to impress you with his high ideals and grand plans. So a school that prepares you for this is what I would call a school. Secondly, the school should prepare the student to pursue his favourite field of occupation. This requires a great amount of involvement and effort from the school and parents too. We shall proceed to outline the steps necessary to effect this. The message and philosophy of the school would be present in every action and practice of the school and its members. This philosophy is what stems from one's wisdom and maturity and can be partially captured in the following statements:

Strive to be a person of use to this world.

Believe in what you do and you would see the folly of competition and rivalry.

The behaviour and philosophy of oneself cannot be contingent to others following the same.

Education is a collective responsibility and activity, and learning is mutually realised.

It is essential to understand, and constructive curiosity is encouraged.

The role of the Educators and the school does not end.

An Educator's job is not merely to instruct.

At each stage the student and Educator should progress one step further towards making a wise and natural decision.

We have to live in this world and it is important to understand the ways of the world.

These are what I am eager to call the 9 commandments, but I refrain from doing so. These are meant to be realised by every individual in the school absolutely and not followed as a commandment is.
Now we shall proceed to discuss how a student's stay in the school is divided into phases. There isn't a line dividing these phases and the student shall naturally transit from one phase to another. The Educators would be involved with a student throughout his stay and shall be aware of the child's progress. Although we are dividing the stay into phases, every student will realise each phase to natural and organic completion.
The initial 5 years of the student's stay will be spent in nurturing and maintaining his instinctive and spontaneous nature. A child is not forced into doing anything, but allowed to explore the world. The focus is on building the foundation for the child to enjoy learning and understanding. Knowledge, as something accumulated and stored for on-demand disposal, will not be exposed to the chidren at this point (as far as possible it shall never be something that a student gets to see). Children are gradually taught a variety of things and these are carefully linked to theory (photosynthesis, for example, is theory). Appreciation for colour, shapes, mechanics, nature, etc. is important at that age. From this should arise natural curiosity and intelligent reasoning. A group of children could be shown a steam engine and they should be allowed to enjoy and play whatever games they can conceive in the engine. Occasionally, an Educator should throw in statements and questions which would raise the curiosity of a few children and maintain the curiosity level. Another scene I can imagine now is a tree-house construction exercise. Safety measures, careful planning, team work, physics of balancing and equilibrium, etc. can be introduced in this exercise. All this in a matter of 3-6 hours of fun filled activity! Games and creative projects and artwork would fill most of this phase. New students shall not be admitted into the school beyond this phase.
The next phase lasts for about 3 years. Students in this phase are introduced to the vital need of accepting responsibility and solving problems. Subjects are introduced with a clear explanation as to why we are learning them. Memorising periodic table elements and the like can be postponed to later. A student is introduced to a subject by clearly presenting the scope of the subject, the learning that we shall gain from studying and investigating it and then the current application of it in the real world. We need to pick up suitable examples in order to impress upon the child's mind the utility of what they are learning. To tell them that they should study about a micro organism because they need that information if they are going to study some rare strains of it while working in a research lab in the Amazon forest... that's not going to catch their attention although it might catch their yawns. To take them to an ill maintained waterway and explain the problems of these things and how the water in their houses can get polluted and then slowly explain the role of micro organisms in spreading diseases and thereafter studying amoebas and flagellate organisms might have a comprehensive impact. Honestly, I am shooting from the hip when I suggest this. I am sure we can come up with better ideas, so let not the idea hold you down but let the need for an idea lift you. Respect for printed/visual/available material, and how to research printed/visual/available material shall also be introduced here. Serious and well meant study is the concise goal of this phase. In this phase, a child will also be exposed to various streams of lifestyles present in the world. Philosophical discussions about why and why not shall also be introduced at this stage. These discussions shall stem from the student's curiosity about the world and incidents of the world. The student is also introduced to taking care of what belongs to them as well as what they utilise. This includes maintaining the school, the roads that lead to the school, areas around their houses, etc. This is introduced as a continuous activity and not something exclusive to this phase or while being part of this school.
Students should realise why they are in school and what they need to do. The consequences of nearly every plausible choice should be presented to them in order to help them make decisions. All this forms a part of the 2nd phase.

The last phase (extending for about 5 years) concentrates on helping the child realise his true passion and building him towards it. Mind you, this is not done at the outset of the phase (we really aren't expecting 12 year olds to be clear about what they want to do in life), neither is there a surety that every child will realise his dream path or passion at the end of this phase. There will be individuals who aren't clear and all that they want to do is get a degree because they want to get a job because they want to earn money and gain respectibility because they wish to get married because they wish to form a good family with children and a sense of security. We cannot look down upon such people. Some people are not made for stepping beyond the ordinary (I really don't think I would love to see the world filled with Beethovens or Edisons or Mother Teresas). The objective of the school is to make them realise that their natural disposition is towards being ordinary and they should be comfortable with that choice and not regret it later. Great problems arise due to rejecting the truth.
This phase will help students specialise or continue to be generalists (and most of them can go ahead and pick popular courses in the market). The specialist are not necessarily artists or creatives. They could be children who have decided to go into medicine or go ahead and become an aeronautical engineer (but not those aeronautical engineers who later join software companies!;-). Specialists would be an inappropriate word. Let's call them the clarified. Actually no, we can't call them that as well. By the end of this phase, everyone is clear about what they want to do. Those who pick streams which aren't likely to earn large monetary benefits (like a painter, or a social activist) will be supported by the school (which includes anyone and everyone who has ever been a part of the school). By supporting them, we mean that we would provide basic requirements only.
Once the child (and the school) feels that he is done with his basic foundation and is ready to go ahead and continue with some form of specialisation (academic or otherwise), the school shall help him find footing initially and then sit back and watch him make his progress. The school will continue to serve as a place where all members of the school can return whenever they feel that they need a place to sit and understand/ponder. Educators are available to those who currently study in the school as well as older members of the school. As we said earlier, the role of the school never ends. If a member is overwhelmed by life and the world and wishes to return to the school, he can take up the role of an Educator or contribute towards other activities within the school. A member need not have studied in the school for a complete 16-17 years in order to be a member.
So basically, education, to me, serves the purpose of making me more receptive, intelligent (not in a conniving way) and clear. In other words a well prepared global citizen.

Links of interest:

Researched articles and opinions:

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A thousand words...


Hope you enjoy this array of pictures...

Monday, April 25, 2005

A night to remember

There wouldn't be much sense in reporting this incident before what happened when my watch had shown 7:35. Well, it never showed me that time ever again. A few minutes after that, the Boslom Annual "God-Knows-Why" Party was immersed in one of those typical San Diego power outages.
Richard Boslom, was the first to speak after the religiously dispensed shrieks subsided.
"Gang, please be calm," he boomed. You would forgive him had you known that he addressed his mother's funeral party as "Gang" too
A shriek followed. "Behave yourself, whoever you are." The voice belonged to Mrs. Thorpe, unless a talking parrot with a sore throat had flown in unnoticed (which shouldn't have been so difficult in this black labyrinth). She always had this fear that someone would take advantage of her "hapless disposition" and "disturb her modesty" as she was so oft heard saying. God alone knows that Gregory Thorpe was (and I am sure that it is a matter of the past) forced to the daily exercise of protecting disturbance of his own modesty. I was certain there wasn't even a blind fly anywhere close to the satin gown that draped her pencil thin frame.
Cellphones rang with least respect to rhythm, and as darkness is popularly known to accentuate, the discordant notes provided the apposite background score for this scene.
People talked with people they believed were standing next to them. I headed in the direction of the bar. The caution exercised would have made a surgeon seem like a carpenter. In spite of all the care I could muster, I occasionally bumped into some flesh and bone wrapped in skin & some portions that I wouldn't be caught staring in broad daylight. I finally managed my expedition to lead me to an empty stool and now I shall detail the most exciting side of that darkness which, even enveloped itself.
"Anyone here?"
"Yes, Sir. How can I help you?"
"A dry martini, please." I paused before I continued,"Can you find the stuff?"
"No problem, Sir. In a moment."
I heard some glassy tunes followed by a metallic cadenza. This was music, not those noises ringing all over (or at least in my head). Then I heard soft gin, alternating between splashing against ice, and the sides of the shaker. I could have danced to the mellowed "slush, slush".
"Here you are, Sir."
I groped in the dark before asking him, "Ummm, could you help me find it? I don't want to topple it over."
Suddenly I heard some tapping start to the left of me.
"Can you hear that Sir?"
"Oh! Yes."
"Extend your left hand towards it."
I did. I jolted when a cold, damp hand held mine and slowly pushed it down the table. It must have been the shaker that turned it so cold. My hand was practically numb before he pushed a colder glass into my hand, with his other hand.
"That's it, Sir."
"Cool. Nice idea. You are pretty smart, young man." At my age, any other man who could stand had to be a young man.
"Thank you, Sir."
He was still holding my hand (unless it was the hangover of the ride across the table) when I heard bodies pile into the stools beside me.
"Bartender, could you make us two Guinness and leave? Is there anyone else here?"
I squeezed his hand.
"No, Sir. I'll get your drinks."
I tried hard not to slurp on my drink.
"Sir, your drinks."
"Thanks. Now would you .... please ....."
"I'll leave, Sir. Have a nice evening."
Silence prevailed for what seemed like eternity.
"Who's there?"
I nearly spat my drink out. Gathering myself with a rapidity, which, in retrospect, was astonishing. I stopped my heart long enough to assure him that there was no one unwanted around him. Had I stopped it any longer, there wouldn't be anyone alive around him. Before I proceed, I would like to issue an explanation. Gentlemanliness was defined and accepted in broad daylight. Nothing was mentioned as requisite of being a gentleman in such unlit surroundings. Hence, it doesn't do wrong to overhear such conversation and report it to the eagerly awaiting mass. No tache' to a gentleman who can't be recognised.
So, let us continue. After convincing himself that there was no one around, he turned his attention to the person beside him on the other side.
"Cherrie, please understand. I love you. Why do you think I take pains to explain this to you?"
"It is just a matter of weeks before she delivers that baby. Then, I will try to file for divorce. She suspects something; else she wouldn't have let the baby come into the picture. She's putting pressure on us. But I am smarter, yes, I am. Let the baby plop out and I'll divorce her."
The lady must have enjoyed her Guinness enough to not waste time putting her acknowledgement in words, unless the promise of excitement left her speechless.
"I hate her, that little wretch. Susan, I hate you. I hate you, Susan. God, I would love to walk up to her right now and tell her that. Doctors say no stress now, but I want to tell her that. Ooooh! You are quite wild tonight. Can't wait to get back home, huh? This is the perfect time, too, honey. Come to me now. Yes!"
Thereafter, the words and sounds demand censure, inconsequential of the luminosity of the place. I cannot put to words what followed, but for the excited soul, I have just this to say-- they were noisy and have only the cellphone tones to thank for suitably annulling those carnal tones beside me. Well, I can't deny that after a long time, I had had a memorable evening. It was all well and dramatic and close to the end, if you know what I mean, when I was interrupted thus.
"A whisky please."
"Damn", is all that I could say.
"Damn", said the man on the floor.
The darkness spoke silence for the next few seconds.
"Hello! Is the bartender there?"
"Yes, ma'am."
"Damn", is all that I could say.
"Damn", said the man on the floor.
"Get me a whiskey then."
"On its way, ma'am."
I heard him pour the drink. I could also hear the rustling sounds of people reentering their customary garb.
"Here, ma'am."
"Whisky, whisky, go down to my pit, and when you do, let the room be alit."
Then the intruder burst out laughing at her own sorry excuse for poetry. I simply smacked my forehead.
"Arnold? Where have you been? I was looking, rather feeling all over the place for you."
"Yes, but if you are there, then who is here?"
It was time for me to slip away. I rose from my stool and managed one step before the intruder said, "Who is where? Let me finish my drink."
May wonders never cease, for scarcely had she replaced her glass on the table and the lights came on. So here I was between a woman called Cherrie, a man called Arnold and Mrs. Thorpe to his right.
"Mrs. Thorpe?"
"You were wonderful, Arnie baby."
"Get away from me."
"What does she mean, you were wonderful Arnie baby?"
It was uncomfortable to be the only one who wasn't speaking anything but so in the midst of things. I wanted to leave, but deemed fit not to come in the line of fire.
"I'll explain Cherrie", and he got up, only to be pulled back by Mrs. Thorpe.
"Cherrie, I thought she was you and ..."
"You thought this thing was me?"
"No sweetie, he's lying. He was all Amanda this and Amanda that on the floor."
"Goodbye Arnold. I knew it. I knew you were scum."
"Listen Cherrie, please ...."
He was running after her with Mrs. Thorpe attaching herself to an arm of his.
The rest forms the predictable stuff that sells millions in the name of romance novels. At the following Boslom Annual "God-Knows-Why" party, I heard that Arnold and Susan were divorced. Gregory Thorpe was seen often with a woman called Cherrie, but it is difficult to ascertain whether it was the same whisky-poetess. Mrs. Thorpe, with her modesty disturbed so thoroughly, had managed to trade Arnold's peace for his personal trainer. Arnold has taken a part time job as an electrician, and assures his customers that they wouldn't face a blackout while he serviced their house.
But these details are of little importance. Why I relate this incident to you is, please be on the lookout for a suave bartender wearing a silver Rolex with a "H.G." inscribed on the underside. In case the lights go out and you hear tapping, don't move your hand towards him; run.

Monday, April 11, 2005

When lines never meet...

Dark brown poured into warm, moist white; while others admired Rohit-anna pouring the coffee from one vessel into another, I watched Kumar's eyes eagerly looking at me. I smiled at him and softly ruffled his hair. He loved it and would withdraw playfully. His hair, immediately, settled into the partition, which he had brought with him when he had reached this place about 3 months ago. His mother had left her kind hands' impression on his hair.
"Amma would seat me with my head between her knees and comb it for me. Bhaiyya, don't use mustard oil. Its not good for your hair."
"But Kumar, it seems to have given you a nice mane."
"Smells bad, bhaiyya. How does it matter if you have good hair while you smell horrible."
I would run my hand through his hair and he would laugh and step back although he ensured that he never stepped far away from my hand.

Today was different. The news was bearing on the tea shop like a heavy pal. Our batch was slowly breaking up and going back home. I preferred to come here to going to the movie party. Rohit-anna had promised me a special poha dish. We had spent 3 years with these guys. They were from some village in Karnataka. Nice guys. There was never a shortage of sugar at this place and teas and coffees were emptied into earnest conversation. We discussed code, algorithms, hostel gossip and the guys and girls coming out of the international hostel nearby. Rohit-anna and his relatives (and friends although we never knew who was who) would feed us with the latest information running the university grounds. It was immediately spiced up and decked to suit one's taste and passed on. Little surprise was shown in receiving the same gossip in five different cultural costumes. The only person who was a true virgin was Kumar. He was always Kumar to anyone and his picture around the univ. was the same on a Tibetian tongue as well as the Mallu lips. Kumar was the boy who delivered the tea and coffee and aloo paratha wherever you seated yourself around the tea shop. He would run upto you, all 4 feet of oversized shorts and perforated T-shirts, and serve you the veg. fried rice you asked with a smile you never did, but which, you realise, goes well with nearly all that the shop has to serve. The smile stayed when Rohit-anna smacked him for forgetting someone's order and when I ran my hand through his stubborn hair which still carried the design his mother's comb created before he boarded the bus to here.
Kumar is what you had with tea and with coffee and today I had him in front of me watching me with moist eyes and a smile, which he didn't want to erase, lest I fail to recognise him.
"You'll be a good boy?"
He nodded his head.
"He is useless", Rohit-anna said with a smile as he handed me the coffee.
"Annnaaaaa. After 3 years you still don't ...", and I looked at him disapprovingly.
"Oh! Oh! Sorry", and handed the coffee to Kumar. "Go give it to the green man there."
Kumar reluctantly took it and looked up at me.
"I am not leaving now."
He smiled and ran towards the "green" guy.
I inhaled as much of the tea shop I could and looked at the cream rolls in the glass jar. Their cream had dried and the shell was in crumbs. I had to exhale although the shop stayed in me.
"I will return at least once a year."
"Please come. They say that they will shut our shop", Rohit-anna said
"No, they won't. Give them one of your sheera-poha mix."
He started laughing.
"But not the curd that you serve with aloo paratha"
He threw his towel at me.
Kumar was back beside me. I looked at Rohit-anna and he produced the poha that he had specially saved for me. Brown was the colour for the day as I lovingly accepted the porcelain bowl of yellow wonder dotted with dark fried peanuts.
"Bhaiyya, I will bring it for you."
I handed it over to Kumar and let him carry it for me till I was under my favourite gum tree. He hastily whipped out his towel and swatted the stones for me and looked up at me happily. I sat down on the stone and put out my hand. Kumar straightened the spoon in the bowl and handed it over to me. I smiled at him and expected him to rush back to Rohit-anna, but he went down on his haunches in front of me. I raised my eyebrows questioningly. "For some time, bhaiyya." I smiled at him and proceeded to eat the wonderful dish. When I was done I laid it down beside me and Kumar hurried to pick it up. I stopped him and asked him to stand up erect in front of me. I asked him to close his eyes. He did so immediately and smiled even wider. I took out the surprise I had for him and spread it across his chest. He started and opened his eyes.
I smacked him on his head and rushed to gather the end of the T that was released by that hand.
"Haan. T-shirt."
That is when it struck him.
"For me?" he asked with eyes widening slowly.
I smiled at him and asked him to take off his weather and moth hole ridden T-shirt. He took it off rapidly and wiped his face with it. I offered the new one to him and asked him to face the sun while he wore it. It was a shade large for him but looked nice on him. He turned around and tried to fill his new garb as much as he could. I pursed my lips and look him up and down with phoney criticism.
"Hmmm. You need to eat properly, but it suits you very well."
He was shaking visibly and tried to conceal it by falling to his knees and touching my feet. I smacked him hard on his head and pulled him up.
"How many times have I told you?" and filled a palm full of his face and shook it playfully.
"Bhaiyaa... thanks."
I had been planning on this evening for quite some time. I recalled all my rehearsals and started out slowly.
"So, what do I get in return?"
"Bhaiyya, I saved some soft cream rolls for you and ..."
"No, no. I don't want that. I want you to study hard. You want to study, right?"
He nodded his head as vigourously as his neck allowed him.
"So what will you do?"
"I will study hard and take all the money I earn to my amma."
I frowned at him.
"I will be earning money for my amma, right? She needs it. Now that I am studying like you, I will earn a lot of money and will send it to her."
"After you finish studying, you will start earning", and I ran my hand through his hair, but his mother's love was stronger than my most well conceived plans to alter his hair style.
"Till then? No, no. Amma will be hungry."
"But Kumar..."
"Kumaaaaaaaar", Rohit-anna called out.
Kumar ran a few steps towards him and stopped. He turned around and looked at me. I had risen to my feet. I was looking straight ahead at the setting sun but was aware of Kumar's eyes. He paused long enough before I turned and walked away. I heard his small feet run as he carried someone's dishes and somebody's tea. I parted ways with my poha, Kumar and my academic confidence of changing the world with a T-shirt and hollow dreams.

When the going gets tough...

I had planned on putting up a different post, but with the kind of weekend I had (the details of which are known to some) I decided to postpone it.

My weekend was horrible in summary and essence. But as I was telling M, the advantage of starting out with a miserably horrible weekend is that things can only get better and there is no lower point to go to. She sure had that smug expression on her face when she said "Hmm. That's one way of looking at it..."

Having lost my mobile I came up with these ideas. Nothing earth shatteringly new about them!

Will put up the originally intended post once I am sure that the coast is clear...

Friday, April 08, 2005

Some Interesting links...

I know this is not what you might want to see on my blog, but the effect that these have had on me today has been unnerving. I cannot explain...

Today is a happily sad day for me. Google's patent details are out and it carries the same stuff that my friend and I had put together more than a year ago as a part of our search engine strategy patent. We had pretty much aborted the efforts on it and were feeling half sad, half happy to see Google go ahead with the plans. :-)
The flash presentation (first link) refers to customised news and journals which was pretty much the idea of this post.
Lot of other things happened... :-) Never knew that a day could suddenly become so overwhelming...

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Blogger Mense

And to say that I enjoy blogging is an understatement. It is thrilling, for its central element is writing, composing, weaving, regaling in the taste of words and then sitting back to catch my breath long enough before I get back to romancing the words... Well, I am hooked. I had told myself at the outset of this week that I shall not post anything new for two weeks. Work was demanding too much of my time and I seemed to be neglecting a few other things. I could only cut back on blogging. I smiled at myself for I knew that my resolve was thinner than the late February ice on the lake. But don't we all look forward to that ice melting away?
And then I sat back and went over all my posts and comments to those posts. I really enjoyed reading them. I had forgotten (literally) my earlier posts, and laughed and smiled at them as found appropriate. I enjoyed some comments and was happy to feel the joy of finding Atanu Dey's comments. To me it was flattery "Atanu Dey read __my__ blog!! :-O "
But before that, I had had a nice surprise. I had created and deleted at least 3 blogs before I stuck to this one. I was searching for something like "JK+Tao+interpretation" on Google once, and landed on Meera's (now-pretty-much-defunct) blog called Rakshasa and Apsara. I sorta liked the read out there and from there came to her personal blog. Tsunami was making news then and her posts couldn't resist the urge of carrying a wave of the then current tragedy in them. My comments were fairly general then. After that I started posting on my blog and hoped that this "Meera" would comment on them. Well, it happened and that was a nice surprise to me. I couldn't have (explicitly) asked her to visit my blog, but was glad she did.
That and many more incidents (Xena's visits and recent visits by Dheepak) started making me think about a few practices of Bloggers.

1. We love comments: Of course we do. Comments mean a lot to us. An extended conversation, like one held when we lean back on the charpoi, a tea cup in hand and a lazy smile kissing our mouths. The dancing shade tangoing with the sun beams and painting ephemeral yellow discs on our squinting eyes. Between sips one murmurs "Yeah Eroteme, nice post. Reminds me of...." and then Nurhan jumps in and pips, "Profound" and I say "Thanks.." before someone munching on those bajjis offers me, along with what she is eating, a "But I don't agree with that thing you said ..." and I smile. Things warm up while the chai cools down. A tongue-in-cheek comment from you-know-who a sweet comment from another you-know-who and my day is suddenly bright and sunny and the nearby barren land is replaced, in well choreographed progression, with a large blossoming mustard field interspaced with tulips of everyone's choice. They sway with the conversation. Out of the blue, someone enjoying the breeze on her bicycle stops and decides to join. Some leave and some stay on, asking the little boy, Mannu, to refill their glasses, and "make it fast".
A few people forward the comments they receive on their blogs and the excitement is unmistakably there. On the rear-room threshold excited whispers and giggles before revealing the little sweet ball of fresh tamarind she managed to get for herself and now a bit of it for me as well. Its the taste which tells me that it is tamarind for light is not privy to our fun, and it is her giggles and heavy breath which tells me it is her and that the tamarind is special.
Some discuss comments offline and wonder "Why did she say something like that? I wasn't trying to portray that side..." and "He really got on my nerves. Silly lizard, thinks he knows too much and is God's second cousin!" All of this is so much fun which brings me to my next point...

2. Blogger Mores: If someone visits my blog I think I should reciprocate. Some people (including me) go as far as assuring the commenter that we "would visit shortly...". People link other blogs on their pages. These blogs are usually the ones we visit often or belong to someone we know (virtually or really). Initial bunch of comments are polite and soon start getting funnier and more casual. Sometimes a casual initial comment is thrown in to test waters... :-) On some blogs I saw comments which said "I have linked your blog on mine. I hope that is ok." And then the comment in reply would be something like "Of course it is, I have linked your blog on mine as well..." Another thing I noticed is that, if one doesn't comment for long on one's blog then the other person also slowly stops commenting... :-(

3. We love (or love to hate) the people on the blogs: After a time, they aren't merely comments with a different name. They are people; fairly real and breathing people whose opinion matters or whom we don't wish to hurt or who really are a bunch of comments "I would be happier without". Does life give us something different with the real people? I suppose not. It was a nail biting finish while someone waited for their transfer letter to come in, it was depressing to watch something sad happen in someone's life about which you couldn't do much, Anu and Amrita's IP was so tiring till completion, it was nostalgic reading about the farewell at the insti on Mahesh's blog, a quirky post on Meera's blog makes you call her and ask her "Wassup?" and exciting to watch the comment score increase on a blog where the author was undecided about the fate of the post.
Sometimes one can clearly identify a blog family (as I call it): DV, Phantom, Trou, et al. on one side, Renuka, Krish, Dheepak, et al at their picnic and a few others...
It surely is not merely about posting and commenting. Unintentionally we tend to reach out beyond the blog-world. Not sure whether everyone does, but I suppose it is fairly normal that one is interested in the commenter. Like Trou's comment on the Zen Koan made me cock my head to a side and think "Hmmm, interesting... Who is this Trou-whatever? Trou-vill? Trou-vale?" A wise commenter and friend told me, "_____, your name must generate half the interest in the reader. Most people must think that Eroteme would have something to do with Eros!!" I so wish it did. Eroteme simply means the question mark symbol "?". Sometimes the commenter bugs the living daylights out of us. You have half a mind to block this blogger... but... :-) I enjoy my offline relationships with fellow bloggers (and some who reluctantly maintain them with me!). All this helps me arrive at ...

4. No longer a personal journey: Are we always simply writing for ourselves? We start wondering whether these people will even be interested in these things. It happened many times with me and others. I had this post about how I went about cleaning my room. After posting it, I said to myself, "What? Are you mad? Why would anyone in their sane senses be interested in your chores?". I turned out wrong. A friend told me "______, don't worry. Its your blog. You can post whatever you want on it..." I passed the same words of wisdom to Wookie when she removed a post; now it is her most popular one... The same person who gave me the advice recently told me "_____, is it so disturbing? I think I shall take it down" and I happily chipped in the same advice back to her.
Now, people matter. We seem to write for the entertainment of the "gang" and not simply what "I felt like". We wonder "Why didn't Renuka comment on my blog as yet? She always does..." (actually she doesn't ;-) or "Anonymous? Boy, who's this now? Interesting stuff s/he reads. Hmmm. I hope its a girl!!" :-)) Well, the last part is just me! We want people to enjoy what we write. Sometimes a "Nice post. You really must consider writing ..." makes you think "Did he mean it or was he simply saying something nice and rushing off?"
Once, on a friend's (I am itching to reveal the name, but...) post I had, in my usual style, critiqued and commented. Everyone else came along and said "Oh! its so nice." "It the best" "How I wish I could write like this..." and so on including a "this is the best post ...". I was like "What? This is not her best. It is very good, but please read this one and this one or this one...." My friend was also lamenting the attention that post was receiving and we had a good time discussing this. Vicariousness creeps in uncalled and is rarely thrown out.
So before every post, one wonders: "Will they like it?" "Is it too plain?" "Naah, isn't it too quotidian an affair that I tell?"
But, I suppose, occasionally one does write for quenching the old "thirst of the soul" or an exclusive piece for XXXXXX or something we strongly believe in (I was telling a friend how a controversial piece on the Tsunami incident still lies as a draft in my account).

Connected by a single golden thread of the joy to write and read and collect around a tree in autumn and discuss, the blog world surely is an interesting place where great talents, minds, genuine tales, albeit plain and simple, meet and enrich our lives in a way I never thought possible.

Thank you for making it possible...

"Mannu, ek aur chai laanaa. Jaldi"