Posted in Anecdotes, Musings

Remembering Shaari

Shaari..

Shaari? Was that her name? I’m not really sure. I don’t remember.

What I do remember is the little shy girl, smiling timidly in a classroom where she herself might have suspected she didn’t belong in. I remember  she always had amicable smiles and average marks. Her skin was dark, her hair oily, combed back and held in place by plastic clips. I feel like describing her as having possessed mousy features as a child, perhaps because I can easily liken her to a tiny brown creature scurrying away from attention, and comfortable in dark corners.

But why I remember her is not because of her physical features or her characters. It is because of a plain sunny morning when a new teacher asked us to introduce ourselves, and one by one we reeled off our particulars – name, place, parent’s occupation – and when her turn came, she mentioned her father was a coolie. A daily wage labourer.

I was incredulous. My 11 year old mind was fascinated by the prospect of someone like her sitting here in a private school, among the children of professionals.. In retrospect, it does seem sad that such a thing even occurred to me. And yet, that’s what set her apart, for me. The fact that she was the daughter of an ambitious man, who refused to let his meagre earnings be a barrier in his daughter’s future, or believe that she was in any way less worthy of the painted classrooms of the celebrated convent school whose high walls were a stone’s throw from their small house. I used to imagine him coming home tired every night, and looking across the street at the iron gates; I would even conjure up a look of determination on his weary face..

The headmaster, Father T, would come by regularly to ask how many were yet to pay their monthly fees and invariably she would stand up every time. I believe she was given special consideration though, and allowed late payment.

I remember she was not particularly bright, or maybe she just  never had anyone to help her with her lessons at home. Maybe that was one of the reasons, along with financial constraints, that led her to shift elsewhere after middle school. 

I’ve never seen her since, but I do sometimes wonder what became of her. Had she found the new school to her liking? Has she have grown out of her shell with time? 

Sometimes, I imagine running into her some day, and struggling to recognise the mousy girl I knew behind the confident young woman who challenged the world, with her proud father by her side. I would like that very much. 

I look forward to that day.

I loved her then in a strange, new kind of way, as one loves a finely tuned sentence in a book that one wishes one could write but knows one can’t.

– Shashi Tharoor

(The Other Man)

Posted in Musings

Helping Yourself

We live in an age when independence is considered the greatest virtue and to seek help a sign of weakness. But it is true that I have so many people in my life who help me out every day, in their own little ways. I like to believe that I give back, but the truth is that I often don’t offer help – not voluntarily, not proactively, not in a manner that cannot be refused. This post from Behind The White Coat served as a reminder of how I ought to change that. Enjoy.

Behind the White Coat

Angel at the Met in NYC

“We are going to bring meals for the next week or two if that is OK. People really want to help out in some way.”

I sat staring at the email and struggled with an answer.

Asking for help is hard.

Receiving unsolicited help gracefully is even harder.

Why?

I don’t need help. I don’t want help. No, that’s not true. I don’t want to need help. I feel guilty needing help. I feel guilty receiving help.

What will other people think? I’m a doctor. I could just order stuff, right? I have a money cushion that a lot of others don’t have. Will I be judged for accepting help? Moooching. Weak. Will I then owe people favors that they will call in later? I don’t want to OWE anyone anything.

To accept a meal, you have to be decently dressed and willing to socialize for a few minutes. Are…

View original post 353 more words

Posted in Musings

Not Child’s Play

The Open Page of The Hindu today featured a short article titled ‘The World of Chhota Bheem’ which highlighted the dark sides of the highly popular animated TV show for children, stereotypical characters and racist biases being some of them. The writer lamented over how these may subtly influence the multitude of children who watch the show regularly. I, for one, being one of the 90s children brought up on a lavish dosage of Cartoon Network, couldn’t help pondering on my own upbringing. Looking back, I realize I can trace almost every aspect of my personality to one childhood experience or the other.

Yours truly is an environmentalist who faces constant death threats from friends secondary to irritating and long drawn lectures about saving Mother Earth, and today it struck me how my favorite toon as a kid, Captain Planet, might have something to do with it.

wp-1503837152725.jpeg
The power is yours!!

For the uninitiated, it was an animated edutainment program which featured five youngsters from five continents, each in possession of a powerful ring that could be used to control the elements (Fire, Water, Wind, Earth and Heart). Working together, they could seek the help of Captain Planet who would fight the enemies (criminal masterminds with no concern for ecosystems) and save the day. Their portrayal  of the perfect Earth with a focus on sustainability, afforestation, animal conservation and responsible waste management had a significant impact on the kind of person I turned out to be.  Today, twenty years down the line, the mantra of Reuse, Reduce and Recycle still stays fresh in my mind and I try to comply with it wherever possible.

On a similar note, I am pretty sure Denver, The Last Dinosaur is to blame for my one devilish craving – potato chips.

The issue does not pertain to TV shows alone. One of my favorite toys as a child was a set of tiny colored wooden cookware I acquired on a visit to Madurai. The minuscule look-alikes of pans, rollers and traditional utensils won my heart like nothing else did. Over the years, the pieces were broken, misplaced, lost.. As I grew up, they became but a fond memory. Fast forward to January 2017 when I come across brightly colored wooden items at a handicraft exhibition in Pondicherry and go gaga over them. I come to know that these are the famous Channapatna Toys from Karnataka – these even have a GI tag! Since then, I have gone back multiple times and acquired more and more of these adorable collectibles. I’m afraid I can’t help it. They are a part of my childhood and that alone deems them a precious and priceless status.

img_20170129_152451241.jpg

When I was a little girl, I imagined I would remember not to grow up to be the kind of adults I hated, the ones that forgot all the simple games, the tricks, the ones that did not know how to turn a piece of old newspaper into a little boat, or a ripe coconut leaf into a watch. But as J. M. Barrie ruefully documents in Peter Pan, we forget. All of us grow up and forget what it is to be a child. That in itself is not so dangerous – we only turn potentially boring. What is indeed dangerous is how, as parents, elder siblings, uncles and aunts, we forget how impressionable children are, how every little thing can make or break them and have lasting effects on their lives.

Especially in today’s world where mass media, social media and cyberspace come together to play a major role in our daily lives, we need to be responsible enough to decide and control what the posterity is exposed to. Toddlers do not need iPads, they need attention and care that they can in turn learn to disseminate. Let technology take a backseat; lead them to books, stories and imaginative play.

Let us create the perfect future, the perfect Earth, one child at a time.

Posted in Verses

Let Me Draw Life

Let me draw life

From your breath,

Your beat,

Your smile,

Let me shine

Under the warming glow

Of your gaze,

Let me sleep

In the dark corners

Of your arms,

Let your heart be my haven

Mine yours,

My worries lost in your whispers

And your forevers entangled

In the curls of my hair..

Till death do us part

For but a miniscule moment;

Ask the moon and the stars –

Silent witnesses

Of a love forged

And kept aflame

Across eternity,

Born and reborn,

And in each new life

I shall seek you out

As I always have..

Posted in Verses

The Brook, Revisited

“For men may come, and men may go

But I go on forever..”

.

Will you??

Even as the men who come

Mock your chastity,

Assault your sheen,

Crush the pebbles you lovingly shaped

To dust and dig out

Your entrails

To feed their greed,

Even as you’re used

Abused

Left dry

And led to plead

For a drop of rain

Under the scorching sun

To heal your wounds,

Search in vain

For roots to weep on

After their plunder,

Or a branch to rest under,

As you bleed filth,

As your sweet fragrance

Turns to stench,

And your tears

To black bile.

Will you survive

As the men who go

Smother you with their corpses

Burn you with their hot ashes

Bury you in their darkness?

How longer, how much longer

Till the poisons

That course your veins

Gift you sweet death,

Release from the torment

Of being another whore

Tamed to submit

To mankind’s fancies;

Yes, men may come and men may go

But will you go on forever??

I dedicate this poem to Ganga, to Yamuna, to Citarum River, Yellow River, Doce, Marilao River, Cuyahoga, Mississippi River, Buriganga and all the other rivers and streams and brooks in the world – Mothers who nourished us, nurtured us, on whose laps all civilisations arose and who are now dying a slow death due to our apathy. Water is our elixir, rivers are our lifeline. Let’s save them before it’s too late.

Posted in Verses

Conversation

It seems

I’m not the only one

To wake and yearn

For my beloved;

Still is the air,

Save the gentle sighs,

Memories perhaps

Of the night’s embrace;

Leaves rustle in hushed tones –

Envying greens, scarlet dreams

And yes, some yellowed,

Burnt by many a rendezvous

With the stars..

The roses too blush,

Turning away

Dewy cheeks – imprints,

Wet kisses of moonshine.

They whisper tales

And I whisper back;

They speak in passionate longing

Of the ravishing skies

The charming stars,

The blue night,

And then listen

As I speak of you.

Posted in Anecdotes

Midnight Pangs

It was nearly two by the time I decided to retire, even though the assignment was only done halfway. I’d have to cram it into the morning hours somehow and submit in the evening.

I realised Amigo SR had already fallen asleep on the only mattress in the hostel room. My idea to have him keep me company till completion of the work was evidently faulty. Better still, his head rested on my folded blanket for a pillow. Great. There was no way my malnourished body could stand the A/C-fan combo that he pledged alliance to, so I ended up attempting the obvious – that magic switch of items under the Head of a Sleeper. It was almost a success till I felt empowered enough to adjust the pillow further,  and lo, he was up.

Which is not really so bad on its own. But like every soul that gets woken up in the middle of slumber, he couldn’t sleep again.

We chatted for a while more, and when I finally realized he wasn’t going to shut up if I didn’t, I pretended to have an attack of narcolepsy and froze in mid-conversation. He prodded me a couple of times, and then started on some self-relevatory remarks and loud ruminations till finally falling asleep again.

Which is when I should have ideally slept, except for that pang of midnight hunger that hits you just when you’re in bed. I decided to sleep it out, fearing I’d wake him up again, but my tummy wouldn’t let me. Apparently sleep and hunger do not really go hand in hand. I waited for a while to make sure he was really out, my stomach grumbling all the way, before finally creeping out from under the blanket, only to be hit by the AC’s freezing blow.I stealthily and hurriedly made my way into the kitchen, grabbed a couple of slices of bread and ran back to protection under the covers.

Once satiated and warm, it struck me just how convenient and lucky it was that, when I was cold and hungry, I had bread and a blanket at hand, that I was sleeping on the floor by choice, and that too on a bed sheet. 

It was very very lucky indeed.

Posted in Anecdotes

Smith’s Bday

Amigo DC and I decided to step out of the Health Centre for refreshments in the evening. The few patients trickling in were being managed by the interns anyway.

The aimless search ended prematurely as I spotted a café quite close to the centre that I had noticed once before, but did not check out. A typical tourist hotspot with the routine stock of shawls, cotton garments, incense, handmade soaps, bags and jewellery. As we settled in after ordering tea, I noticed a clock on the wall behind me. Another antique piece kept for sale perhaps.

I peered closer and noticed it said Richard, and then around the middle, what I made out to be ‘Smith’s Bday’.DC inquired whether I was interested in buying it, but I pointed out how the clock was dead, stuck at 2:12. 

She laughed. “Maybe that’s when Smith was born”.

I looked at her and then the clock in surprise, grinning like an idiot.

She was joking of course, but I liked the idea. Clocks set to immortalise the moment of your birth. 

 I didn’t inquire about the clock after all. I didn’t want to know if the clock needed a new battery or it had died of old age. Nope. I’d rather be grinning stupidly.

Because sometimes, to be stupid is to know magic.