30 November, 2012

Happy Thirteenth, Aparna :-)

(Picture courtesy : cafepress.com via Google)

Egad !!  We will have our very own teen in about 7 hours and a few minutes !!  Ah Ha !!  You’re not officially a teen yet.  You will be one – at 3.25 pm (Indian Standard Time).  See how I’m desperately trying to hold on to your babyhood !!! :-)
Alright, getting down to the basics J.  Aps, this is that time of the year yet again when I stare wistfully at time zipping past and I wonder where it flies to.  Thirteen years back, I vividly remember that moment when the nurses handed me a bundle which had two arms, two legs, ten perfect tiny fingers and ten perfect tiny toes – not to mention a pair of huge eyes that were wide open and a beautifully bald head (well, almost !!).  There !  Just like that !!  My heart walked out of my body and was yours – that very instant.  A part of me though, was thoroughly petrified.  I was scared out of my daylights, for, I simply did not know what to do with that tiny little vociferous bundle in my arms.  The thought that we (me and daddy) were now actually responsible for bringing up a life was thoroughly terrifying.
Thirteen years have flown past and you are, today, officially, at one of the most important crossroads of life.  Thirteen, it is often said, is that threshold between being a girl and a young lady.  You’ve changed – oh yes !  you have !!  Who would know this better than us, who share your life and us, who share our lives with you – day in and day out. 
I found myself looking at the family picture that I have on my phone as a wallpaper.  Think it had been taken a couple of years back and I could not help but marvel at the changes in you.  Gone are those chubby cheeks, which have been replaced with a chiselled face – with features and a strong character of its own.  Gone is that wavy hair which has been replaced by these silky straight tresses that I openly admire.  Gone is that tentative look in your eyes as you tried to figure out whether to step forward or not to and in its place what I see now is a newfound confidence in yourself and your ability to deal with situations, as they arise.  Gone is the self-doubt that used to cloud your lovely eyes more often than we would have liked it to and in its place what I see very often now is a steely determination – to fight the odds and try and conquer them.  Good on you, Aparna .  Good on you !
It’s hard to believe that it’s just five more years before you hit college / university and the possibility being very strong that it would be some place halfway around this globe.  The thought is exciting on the one hand because it would open up a whole new world for you but at the same time, a bit unsettling too, truth be told.  So we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it !!
Right now, for you, life is all about choices.  It is scary but it is time to embrace them as well.  I know you will – in your own inimitable way and if you need help along the way – I know I don’t need to say it but I’ll say it any way – we are always here for you.
When I see you nowadays, the thought that strikes me is just this – you do know a lot more about life and its ways than you did a couple of years back yet there are so many things that you still don’t.  Life, it is often said, is a great teacher and it decides to teach you lots of things along the way.  It does !  You are still innocent enough to “not know” when someone is not being completely honest with you but that bit comes with experience. 
As you discover “true friends” and learn to distinguish them from the “conniving ones”, there may be times when you’ll still get hurt and truth be told, I’ve never ever been good at watching you get hurt.  When something or someone hurts you, you hurt, yes but we, as your parents who have to stand and watch you getting hurt (because life sometimes teaches people lessons the hard way), is doubly painful.  We’ve been down this road before when you were in Primary School but what I would like you to take away from those painful memories of being bullied is the fact that it has made you a much stronger person, it has helped you evolve into a much tougher and a much more resilient individual. 
As girls step into the “young lady” stage in life, the word “boys” usually takes on a totally different connotation J.  Am not completely sure I’m ready for that yet.  For that matter, I honestly don’t know if you are, either J.
There have been numerous times when we’ve stepped and trodden on each others’ toes and feet over the past couple of years.  Though our relationship is on a much more even keel now there will be times in the future when I might intervene (what you might construe as an intrusion) and step on your toes.  Do be patient with me then, for I too am learning to be a mom to a teen.  Yes, I’ve been a teen before (though that was a completely different story) but never before have I been a mom to a teen.  Now that is a different cup of tea, altogether.  Even on days when we turn on each other, when we have our “stare each other in the eyes and dare each other to give up first” moments, on days when I give you a good piece of my mind (Oh yes – those days aren’t over yet) I hope you do remember that whatever we do, we do with the best of your interest in our hearts.  I hope you hang on to that, especially on days when I’m being hard on you.
I love the time we spend shopping together.  Not only is it fun but it is when I see facets of you (just as I’m sure you see crazy facets of me !) that I’ve never seen before.  That day when we spent a hour and a half in the perfume store still beings a huge smile to my face.  It was time well spent together and added bonus – the boys had to wait outside the store for us !!  You know what, let’s do that more often !!!  Oh that said, you are most welcome to spray my perfumes away to oblivion.  What ?  You think I’ve not noticed the rate at which my Gucci Envy Me and the Elizabeth Arden and many others have gone down a few centimeters ??  Seriously ??  Well, spray away, young lady.  Perfumes are an integral part of a woman’s wardrobe and you are most welcome to mine.
I hope and pray today, as I do every single day, that you see yourself the way I see you – kind, compassionate, creative, not –very-patient J, graceful, sure, strong, confident, crazy funny (what – did you not know that you are indeed a riot ?), gentle and passionate about your true friends and about what you do. 
While you have officially finished your childhood, in terms of the numbers, don’t quite run away from it.  Keep that little child in your heart alive and kicking, now and for ever.  Don’t rush into being a grown up.  I’d say be thirteen for a good while – maybe about a year or so J and then you can go on to being fourteen J.  Life is a lovely journey, albeit with a few bumps along the way.  Enjoy it, for life is indeed a great ride, speed bumps and all included.
Yes – I’ve not officially admitted this so far.  I’ve always ribbed you about this.  I’ve always accepted this – but in jest – whilst crouching down.  But today, I officially admit that you are indeed taller than me.  Yes, you are !  As I say that, I stand tall and I stand proud.  Proud of what you are today, of what you have made of yourself as you stand at this crossroad in your life.

With all my love and then some,
Mom :-)

29 November, 2012

The Crime - a 100 word story

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He was frantic.  He dug the earth with a sense of urgency.  He had to hide his crime, conceal it.  He could sense the weariness in his muscles, yet the fear of being caught kept him going.  In the distance, he heard the screen door creak.  Someone was opening the door and would soon be here.  The hole seemed deep enough.  He struggled with the large bag, panting with exertion.  He heard her calling out to him.  He ran – as fast as he could – his tail wagging hard.  His big bag of cookies were safe under the ground. 

28 November, 2012

Is it important for teachers to have a dress sense ?

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I read this article in the NY Times the other day when I came across this link which one of my friends had posted on Facebook. 
To be honest, the first time I read the article, some portions left me with the feeling that the kids’ priorities were misplaced.  But then, I read the article again – this time through a pre-teen or a teen’s eyes – and to a some extent, I could see where they were coming from.  This article has indeed raised an important question : “How important is it for teachers to dress well ?”.  There could well be two schools of thought here.  One that says that it is absolutely essential for teachers to be well dressed and the other school of thought that says that kids go to school to study and that is that.  How teachers dress is not any of their business.
I, for one, would say that it definitely matters as to how presentable teachers are.  Yes.  Teachers (for that matter, people belonging to any profession or not belonging to a profession, per se) need to dress well.  In saying dress well, I do not mean to say that teachers should go into the classroom dressed in tuxedos and ball gowns.  But there indeed needs to be some decorum to their sense of dress and style.
That said, it is a given that teachers need to dress suitably depending on the age group they teach.  If one were to walk into a primary school dressed in totally formal clothes, it would indeed make it very difficult for the kids to connect with them, not to mention involve oneself in the kind of activities that form an integral part of teaching the lower primaries.
Yet again, if one thinks that “anything is OK” just because they teach little kids in the lower primaries – I speak from personal experience in saying – “think again”.  Even little children, as young as 6-7 notice what their teacher wears.  They do ! 
I’ve had seven / eight year olds – sometimes even six year olds come up to me and say – your dress is very nice or I like the colour of your dress or some such.  So yes – it definitely matters and when you are standing there at the head of the class with about 30 -35 pairs of eyes focussed on you – it would be safe to assume that your dress sense or the lack of it (as the case may be), is indeed under scrutiny.
One might argue that the kids in the article were being judgemental - too judgemental when what they really should be doing is studying and learning.  That is primarily what they go to school for.  This was my initial reaction too, when I first read the article.   But just give this a think – how would you react to a sloppily dressed teacher in the classroom ?  An important aspect of teaching that one always needs to bear in mind is the fact that teachers are role models.  Teachers are the people parents entrust their kids with, for about 8 hours a day and if children are expected to attend school in neat uniforms and a good degree of personal hygiene, is it but natural that the same be expected from the teachers too.
I’m not saying that I am judgemental when I see sloppily dressed people.  Yes, the thought does cross my mind as to whether the other person could have paid a bit more of attention to their clothes or to their general appearance but that’s about it.  I do not categorise people or look down upon them just because they look sloppy.  But then again, that kind of an attitude does not set in when one is a pre- teen or a teen.  For a non- judgemental attitude to set in takes a lot of mellowing and maturity which come as one walks down the path of life.   To expect that kind of an attitude from a pre- teen or a teen is, in my honest opinion, asking for too much too soon.
I was taken a bit aback by the nastiness of some of the comments like “my teacher looks like an ayah” or “her nail polish is always chipped”.  In the first instance, making that sort of a generalisation is a no-no and someone needs to tell the kids that.  In saying that a teacher dresses like an ayah, not only is the kid putting the teacher down but is trodding upon all the ayahs as well.  It is equivalent to creating a stereotype and that needs to be addressed. 
As far as chipped nail polish goes, I never wear it, precisely for that very reason.  Nail polish chips ! Chipped nail polish has never ever appealed to me and I guess it never will.  But that said, if I see a lady brandishing her talons on which the nail polish has merrily chipped away, I will most definitely not say anything to the lady in question.  In this respect, as in many others, I would rather keep my opinions to myself.  But then again, like I said before, I am forty plus and life has taught me a thing or two about not being judgemental.  A teen will not think the same way. The statement  “her nail polish is always chipped” is the kind of talk that  I usually attribute to the brashness of youth and no, I’m not going to be judgemental on that count either.  I am not going to judge that teen for having said that because at that age, looking at things through their eyes, it makes sense. 
A teen’s priority or priorities are definitely not going to be the same as that of a person who has seen a lot of shades to life.  As we live life, as we battle with situations, as we learn to accept wins or defeats with grace (or otherwise), as we learn to juggle and balance the many little facets of life, as we learn to look at our choices, make our decisions and accept responsibility for the same, life adds lots of shades of grey (God No !  That was not a pun !) to our attitude, our outlook, our thoughts, our mind-sets, our opinions and in general, our approach to a certain situation.  We still very much have the blacks and the whites to our spectrum of opinions but there are many grey pages in there as well.  As life progresses, one finds oneself riffling through those pages much more than one did when one was a teen.
Teaching is a profession which is a highly visible one.  Teachers are “seen”, are “observable” all the time – be it by students, be it by parents or their co-teachers.  Ergo, it does make it important that teachers be presentable – in terms of their dress sense and in terms of their mannerisms.  It also presents the teacher as a suitable authority figure when it comes to dealing with students and if needed, the parents concerned too.
Teachers are not expected to dress in extremely formal clothes or designer outfits when at school but it would be safe and logical to assume that children and parents who walk into school expect to see teachers dressed for work and not looking as though they are dressed for the disco, a prom or a day at the farm.

The Beginning - a 100 word story

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His world was dark.  The walls were closing in on him.   Invisible arms enveloped him in a bear hug, pushed him forward.  He resisted, almost vexed.  He did not want to go on but seemed not to have a choice.  He could hear strange sounds, none of which made any sense.  It was starting again – a crushing bear hug.  It propelled him towards the bright light at the end of the tunnel. His ears hurt from the cacophony, his eyes from the bright lights, his lungs hurt as the first wisps of air seeped into them.  He cried.  People cheered.

23 November, 2012

Kasab hanged. Justice served. Really ???

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Over the past two days, the Indian newspapers have been full of it.  News about Kasab’s hanging, I mean.  People have been exulting his hanging, saying he got what he deserved and what have you.  Kasab is gone but the memories of 26/11 are still fresh in the minds of the people – people who lost loved ones in the terror attack in Mumbai as well as people who watched / read about it around the globe.  There were many who were seen cheering, jeering and hooting after the hanging of Kasab.  It reminded me of the bloodthirsty lynch mobs that I remember seeing during the Hindu Muslim riots in Bombay, a few decades back.  What were people celebrating ?  A man’s death ?  Or worse still, a man who had been put to death ?

As far as Kasab and the other terrorists who landed in Bombay on 26/11 are concerned, they had, in all probability, been brainwashed to such an extent that they would have come into Bombay prepared to die for their “cause”.  They might have had illusions of “jannat” planted firmly in their minds, if they were to become “shaheeds”.  So then, why are people exulting and celebrating the hanging of Kasab ?  Celebrating having created another "martyr" that the future prospects of terror groups can look up to ?

Kasab being hanged is not the end of it, is it ?  For that matter, what was Kasab ?  Sold as a 13 year old to the LeT by his parents, he was nothing more than a pawn in the hands of those who recruited him, trained him, indoctrinated him and then set him loose on the shores of Bombay with an AK-47 assault rifle.  Where are the masterminds ?  Until and unless these masterminds are targeted, until and unless these kingpins are brought to justice, the purpose has not really been served, justice has not really been meted out.  By hanging Kasab, the little toe in one of the feet has probably been cut off.  That’s what he was, I guess or probably a much smaller potato than even a little toe.  He probably was the little nail on the little toe and that little nail has been pulled out.  The body and the brain behind that carnage in Bombay on 26/11 more than three years back, are very much alive and kicking. 

In this context, it was not really surprising to read a report in the TOI stating that Imran Khan’s so called party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf is now demanding the execution of an Indian citizen, Sarabjit Singh, who has been imprisoned in Pakistan for the past 21 years or so.  Sarabjit Singh has been imprisoned in Pakistan after having been convicted for his alleged involvement in the Lahore and Faisalabad bombings in 1990.  True politician that he is, he’s suddenly sprung to life with a demand that Sarabjit Singh be executed.  Yes, Mr.Khan is doing nothing but riding high on the anger and sentiment that is running through some parts of Pakistan after they learnt of Kasab’s hanging.    What Kasab’s hanging has done, first and foremost, is given open opportunities for opportunists like Imran Khan to thrust themselves as the saviours of the nation in an effort to gain public support.

I too was among the many who were absolutely horrified with what happened in Bombay on 26/11.  Sitting so far away, my heart too bled for the city which had been home for the first 24 years of my life.  I cannot even begin to imagine how people who lost their loved ones in that attack felt and are feeling, even today.  The pain must be raw, the agony must be chokingly real.  My question is – has Kasab’s hanging really helped ? Is it really helping heal these wounds ?  If so, how ?  Does the word  justice intrinsically apply here ? 

Kasab’s hanging is definitely more about politics than about justice, per se.  People celebrating Kasab’s death has just brought to the fore the growing tendency that is being witnessed in the human populace – a thirst for revenge, a raging need for blood to be spilled in retaliation.

Mahatma Gandhi was so right when he said “an eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind”.  We are surely and steadily heading in that direction and in saying that, I am actually being an optimist because I’m still trying to convince myself that there’s still hope for humanity.  A part of me, the sceptical part of me, sincerely doubts it.

If it is true justice we are talking about, then there has to be diplomatic pressure on the government of Pakistan to reel in the masterminds.  Justice lies in bringing the whole body to book, not by just ripping off the nail from the little toe in a body and mind which is very much alive and impenitent.

22 November, 2012

'Tis Camp Time, Yet Again ......

(Pic courtesy : erwinnavyanto.in via Google)
He left on Tuesday morning.  It was camp time.  Last year, he’d been away for three days – this time around it was going to be four days and three nights.  This time around, camp was definitely going to be different.  While last year, they were safely ensconced within the confines of a dorm, this year around, they were scheduled to camp in little tents on an open campsite.  Though we knew this was safe, given the parent’s allowance for worry (albeit a little), fingers and toes were indeed crossed, hoping and praying that everything would be fine and that camp would be a memorable experience.
He had his own bunch of doubts and there were a few butterflies that had been making their presence felt, ever since school opened after the mid term break.  Come camp morning, Vic dropped him off at school and later Vic said the transformation he’d seen in Pecan was remarkable.  The moment Pecan saw his group of friends at school, he was totally relaxed and within minutes, he had dumped his bag on a bench and was off to play tag with his friends.
Thus began this year’s camp odyssey. 
Today is Day 3 of camp and Pecan and all the other kids will be going back to their respective homes tomorrow.  They will be tired but hopefully, all of them will carry within their hearts, sweet memories of a camp, which, from the looks of it, has taught them things their parents would never even dream of.  Survival skills, surfing, making a makeshift raft and actually setting sail in it, getting sand all over them and being hosed down with cold water, building a makeshift shelter, starting a fire with twigs and tinder …. I can go on and on.  These are things that I’ve gleaned just by looking at the pictures that are being continually posted on the live blog by the teachers who are at camp with the kids.
We had not had even a glimpse of Pecan over the past two days.  Today morning, as I was looking at the live blog and the updated pictures, there he was.  He was on the beach, with his friend and the two of them appeared to be working on building a makeshift raft.  “When did he grow up so ?” was the first incoherent thought that wormed its way into my mind.  It was followed by a sincere sensation that warmed the heart because Pecan looked content and happy. 
When one sees that ones kids are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, one knows that it is time indeed to start loosening those strings.  Those strings that scream “you are needed – now and always”.  Parents will always be needed but it is important to loosen those strings along the way.   More important is to be able to start “letting go”.  It is more difficult to “let go” than to “hold on”.  With the realization that kids are getting capable of taking care of themselves, dawns the comprehension that the kids are indeed “growing older”.  “Growing up” is so very bittersweet.  It is poignant, it is heart rending but at the same time, it is also a rather tender, moving experience – for a parent to realize that soon will come the time when those emotional strings will have to be seriously undone.
He will, as will all the other kids at camp, come back probably a bit more independent than he was when he left a couple of days back but this independence will hold them in good stead.  I’m sure this camp would have taught them invaluable experiences, ones that we, as parents would never ever have dreamt of teaching them.  I’m sure this camp would have increased their confidence in themselves and their capabilities when it comes to handling situations without their parents around.
This camp would have, as will the next one too, definitely taught them to slow down and appreciate the more natural things in life.  While they are at camp, they are isolated from electronic devices that otherwise tend to take up a major chunk of their free time.  No IPods, IPads, Smartphones – for that matter – they do not even have TV.  Without electronic distractions, Pecan hopefully has been learning to appreciate life in the slow lane.  What is TV compared to camping out in the open under a blanket of stars.  What is an electronic alarm clock when you get to wake up in the morning to the chirping of birds and the mooing of cows and buffaloes J.
I don’t know why but even as I sat here, penning this down, I could feel my eyes misting.  That made me look within my heart and I was indeed pleasantly surprised to discover that that misting of the eyes was not because I was missing Pecan or because I wanted to tighten those emotional strings but more so to do with the fact that there is definitely a certain amount of pride associated with knowing that one’s child can manage by himself, away from home and parents.
I am sure he will come back home tired and exhausted tomorrow but with more feathers to add to the cap of independence.  As yet another day goes by with Pecan at camp, as a few more emotional strings tug and stretch in an attempt to break free, here’s hoping that he comes back from camp tired but happy.  Here’s hoping that he comes back from camp physically exhausted but with a heart full of memories that he’s bound to hold dear, for a lifetime.
I do hope this camp has proved to be a learning experience for all the kids involved and that in part it has brought them face to face with the knowledge that when the situation so arises, if the situation so calls for it, there exists within each and every one of them, a nucleus of strength and a hub of determination that can help them scale walls, no matter how high. 
Like Dennis Waitley once said 
"The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence."

20 November, 2012

The Hunger Games - Glorified Gore !!

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Sundays have invariably turned into one of those “family movie” days. It’s quite nice, actually. All four of us, sitting together to watch a movie. There will be the odd interpretations flying around, Vic throwing his one liners (especially while watching a Hindi movie)or maybe some translations for the kids, again if it happens to be a Hindi movie – all in all, it’s time well spent together.  

Yesterday was no different.  The kids already seemed to have made up their minds and for once, actually seemed to concur on a movie.  They wanted to watch "The Hunger Games".  Little did we know what we were in for.

At the very onset, I found myself struggling to cope with the very concept. For The Hunger Games uneducated ones (I was one until my eyes were rather rudely opened yesterday), the story is set in Panem (a fictional name for North America) and there’s The Capitol, which happens to be the oppressive government. Then there are the 12 districts, which, many decades ago, had revolted against The Capitol. As a punishment and to set an example, the 12 districts which transgressed The Capitol had to “offer” one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18, to be a part of the annual Hunger Games.

It was rather sickening, truth be told. It may be a piece of fiction but I have to say, at the danger of incurring the wrath of the die hard Suzanne Collins fans out there, it is gruesome fiction, at its very best. In this case, I am not using the word “best” in the complimentary sense. Not at all.

What I saw on screen yesterday was a state sponsored sanction to kill and shed blood. It was an olden day gladiator kind of scenario plying to the desperate need among people nowadays to watch reality shows. Who in their right mind gets off on watching teens and pre-teens hack each other to death ? It was gruesome, it was grisly, it was hideous and rather macabre and I for one, found it rather repugnant.

What message is the movie trying to send across to the youth of today – given the fact that this is classified as juvenile fiction ?  Yes, it is a dog-eat-dog world they have inherited but, one has to draw a line somewhere?!  But, the movie actually promulgates the 'fittest will survive' theory to such an extreme that, civilized human beings are reduced to the level of animals of the same species out for each other's blood.  And this is not a war we are talking about.  It is a form of state sponsored and licenced right to kill; or be killed.

People might argue that the main protagonist Katniss Everdeen is a symbol hope of a revolutionary as she sets in motion the wheels of protest and change in Panem. All this said and done, one cannot dispute the fact that the whole concept and the execution of the entire concept – be it in terms of the book or the movie – is disturbingly dark
Even more so given the fact that this is entertainment aimed at the young population.  What's even more disturbing and scary is the fact that due to peer pressure (or not), they seem to actually like it and seem addicted to the series.

This movie is a perfect example of everything that’s going wrong with the world of today. There’s this scene in the movie where all 24 contestants have been lined up and they’re waiting for the cue to start The Hunger Games. In the middle of the field is what they call the Cornucopia where all the weapons are laid out for the kids to choose from. Nice !! Weapons of your choice – there are daggers, machetes, bows and arrows and god knows what else. I guess I was too flipped out to notice. Once the “games” start, one sees teens rushing towards the middle to pick up a weapon of their choice and then begins the bloodbath. Teens quite literally hacking other teens to death. I could feel the contents of my stomach churning and to be honest, I could not bring myself to look. It was perverse, it was dark – way too dark for my liking. Through it all, the one question that I kept asking myself was whether we should be watching this movie at all – that too with the kids.

Macadamia caught the look of disgust on my face and said softly “the book’s much better. Not as gruesome”. As far as I’m concerned, it is pretty much the same. Maybe the author of the trilogy was trying to convey a message in saying that these are the evils of a government as autocratic as the one in The Capitol but as far as I go, this was a very very morbid way of getting the message across. 

Kids, I guess, react to written words differently than they do with images. Images have this rather disturbing quality of being able to imprint themselves on teen minds. Out here, in this movie, it is not just people killing each other – it is basically a whole load of teens around the world, watching one teen hack another teen to death – without any remorse whatsoever. In fact, there are a couple of scenes in the movie where a bunch of teens are actually shown enjoying “hunting” other teens down. Sadism at its very best and morality breached through every single pore in the human body.

There are scenes which left me praying – literally praying – I don’t know for what. I could simply not stomach what was being shown on screen. Kids hacking each other to death, throwing knives at each other with the sole intent to kill, tracking and hunting each other down – and here’s the worst part – people watching on these huge giant television screens and actually feeding off and getting off on all this gore and violence.

There isn’t much of a difference between the humans of today and those in the Roman era of days bygone when people jeered and cheered and rooted and screamed themselves hoarse with the excitement of watching fellow human beings being ripped to shreds by wild animals or by other people. Those were gladiators in coliseums and now we have teenagers in the movies.

Have we, as a human race, become that desensitized ? Have we, as a human race, actually begun to enjoy watching bloodshed and gore – all in the name of fiction and reality TV ? Have we, as a human race, begun enjoying such monstrosity to such an extent that authors and moviemakers have made this their favourite hunting ground ? Does the human race silently hunger for such violence ? 
Have we, as humans, crossed that divide between right and wrong, good and evil ? Have our minds been numbed to such an extent that this movie has actually been deemed “awesome” ? 

These questions and many many more are still racing through my mind and while I still find myself battling with the very concept on which the book and the movie are based, the visual images that seem imprinted on my mind.

They just don’t seem to go away !

After watching the movie, Vic summarized his thoughts by saying "If this is what the world is heading towards, it is 2012 and it's high time GOD hit the reset button".  Something's really wrong in the configuration of his creations.

12 November, 2012

The magic of Diwali .....

There is something magical about Diwali.  No matter which part of India one is in or one is from, Diwali is that time of the year one associates with everything colourful, delicious and nice.  It is a time when large families all come together to celebrate, all misgiving forgiven and forgotten, for the time being atleast.  It is a time when even people who watch their weight and are extremely calorie conscious, give in to the festive urge and indulge in the mouth watering deliciousness of Indian mithai.
Diwali usually falls in the month of October / November every year – depending on the Lunar calendar.  The soggy days of the monsoon and the fieriness of the October heat would have mellowed by the time Diwali sets in.  This is one thing about Diwali that I remember rather vividly. 
The whole house is cleaned and swabbed and swept and mopped before Diwali and I’m pretty sure that houses are left more sterile and clean than the operating rooms in hospitals.  Elders walk around the house with discerning eyes, eyes which wait to narrow at the tiniest speck of dust anywhere in the house.    
All through my childhood days, I remember Diwali as the festival that heralds the start of the mild coolness that we know as winter in Bombay.  The temperatures would drop that wee bit, making it even more difficult for children to wake up early in the morning for the traditional oil bath that officially marks the beginning of the festivities on Diwali day. 
It would still be dark when I woke up, as did my friends back then.  Not even a weak ray of light would be found breaking through that dense layer of darkness which would still be encompassing the sky.  It was almost as if the darkness waited patiently, anticipating to be dispelled by the lights of Diwali.   It would be completely silent in the morning.  A silence that unequivocally embraced the darkness.  A silence which would send out silent invitations to people to create noise and herald the start of the festivities that usually accompany the colourful, boisterous festival of Diwali.
I remember being able to wake up on Diwali very early in the morning, without much prompting.  This had even lead my mom to remark once “ I wish it were this easy to wake you up on school days or exam days”.  It was a task, an uphill one, just to down a glass of milk on Diwali day because there was lots of good stuff waiting, just across the threshold.  New clothes, yummy snacks and the quintessential favourite – firecrackers.   
Impatience would reign supreme, bubbling away under the surface of normalcy, as children strained on the imaginary leashes that held them from laying their hands on all the goodies.  Oil would be applied to the children’s heads and we would rush off to the bathroom for the traditional head bath – for once, not quite caring if the water that day was warm enough or whether it still retained enough coolness to supplement the nip in the air and make things uncomfortably cold.  All these would be pushed to the fringes as the only aim at that point of time would be to be the first one out of the house.  The only objective would be to greet the first rays of the sun, that shimmering hazy hue of pink as it burst through the darkness of the night sky with the noisy abandon and the colourful recklessness of firecrackers.
Diwali embodied all this and much much more.  It was much more than just a festival.  It is much more than just a festival.  It is an entity that springs to life, it spread cheer and goodwill and re-establishes the strength of good over evil.  It renews ones faith in the goodness of heart, it reintroduces the joy of simply being. 
The only light on Diwali mornings in most houses would be the light of the oil lamps or the diyas, which would be lit everywhere.  There is something intrinsically magical about the smell of the wicks burning, spreading light and warmth and the oil providing the diyas with that magical encouragement and fuel for it to burn.  I’ve seen these little diyas bring down walls which had hitherto been erected between family members and it is almost magical – the feeling of seeing dislike or animosity between people being dissolved by the soft shimmer of the diyas.  That little arc of light illuminates the mind, paves the path towards mending and growth.
Despite all the noise and abandon, despite all the glitter and shimmer, Diwali brings with it a kind of serenity that makes one pause peacefully.  There used to be a time when I used to light the diyas at home while my mom would be busy making yummy food and snacks to serve all the guests who came home.  Now, on Diwali, I take immense heart in watching Macadamia and Pecan light the diyas with an innocence of heart that only childhood bears testimony to. 
Diwali is a riot – yes, it is.  It is a riot of colours, of sound, of festivities, of guests, of goodwill and of hearts brimming with cheer and optimism.  It is a portent of all good things in life, a harbinger, a precursor that wills people to invest their faith in all things good, noble, worthy and virtuous.  Diwali is a festival that illuminates not just the confines of the four walls at home but one that enlightens the mind as well.  At the very heart of celebrations, Diwali is all about prayers, of rejuvenation and of new beginnings. 
This Diwali, as you watch your children giggle with unabashed glee as they light firecrackers, as you watch the faces of your children illuminated and bathed in the purest of lights emanating from the arc of the flames in the diyas they light, as you feel the serenity and the strength of the festival seep into you, as you revel in good wishes from family and friends, may these pictures of festivity, goodwill, happiness, joy and love - captured in the frame of your mind always be yours.

09 November, 2012

The Algebra of Life .....

(Picture courtesy : zazzle.com via Google)

The more I see of it, the more I am convinced of one thing – life, as we humans know it – is nothing but a bunch of complex equations.  This analogy, coming from a person like me, who hates, absolutely hates Maths with a passion.  I hate Maths so much that I’m seriously thinking of equating life to a chemical equation.  Now those – I used to love, during my school days ?  Chemistry was a subject (still is, for that matter) that I enjoyed unlike the mundane (you are welcome to disagree) Maths which never failed to do my head in, each and every time it came into contact with it. 
Macadamia has, over the past two years, at school, been introduced to the wonder that is Algebra.  Last year, after her first few trysts with the subject, she was seen remarking with what seemed like a rather profound opinion to the effect that she hated the subject.  My belief in genetics had just been cemented.  Yes – genes do indeed pass on was what my mind said to me, fortified by the fact that Macadamia seemed to hate Algebra with more of a passion than I ever had.
Over a period of time, algebraic expressions started to float in – equations, constants, variables, operations, functions, exponents and what have you.  Enough said.  I don’t like to talk about Maths much and that is pretty much the reference and reverence I’m willing to give to the subject in this context. 
These algebraic terms, however, did set me thinking.  Thinking, not of all those silly mistakes I’d committed in my Maths papers at school but rather of this giant canvass that we call life.  All said and done, once born on this planet we know as Earth, we automatically start to fill in the hitherto empty canvass that we come with.  Sometimes there are lines in the canvass, sometimes arcs, sometimes just random wriggles and haphazard strokes.  Some of the lines and curves are systematic and planned while many others are accidental and unintentional.  Life goes on, the canvass begins to fill, pretty much without us realizing the colourful panorama that we are in the process of creating.   
Come to think of it – what is it that we do, most of the time ?  We are constantly in search of, constantly trying to balance this equation called life.  We go through the usual motions of life, we eat, we sleep, we study, we read, we write, we cook, we clean et c etc but through it all what comes to the foreground is the fact that we are forever in an attempt to find stability, poise and equilibrium.  Steadiness is something the human mind seems to have an affinity for.  It takes comfort in stability.  It luxuriates in the cosiness that comes along with constancy and permanence. 
Then there are the variables.  Like the saying goes, the only constant in life is change.  Little changes, big changes – changes, nevertheless.  As we go through this sojourn on Earth, through our daily motions of painting on the aforesaid canvass, we are constantly evaluating changes, we constantly face changes.  Pretty much like equations in Algebra, some variables help us find solutions and maintain that sense of balance whereas there are other variables that do nothing but confuse us  and throw that routine and sense of steadiness out of gear.  We have our “constants” in life just as we have more than our share of “variables”.    
Good experiences are added to this vast canvass of our mind, bad experiences are subtracted.  We multiply our resources in an attempt to divide our daily pressures into manageable bits and pieces.  Through it all, we continue to paint a rich tapestry of our emotions and feelings, achievements and disappointments, happy moments and the not-so-happy ones.  Life is nothing but a constant equation in progress. 
As the world progressed, as newer inventions came to the fore as people got busier, equations have definitely changed.  They are not the same they used to be, say twenty years back and looking ahead, they will not be the same twenty years from now.  In that sense, life and the way we deal with it, are nothing but variables.  Technology has changed our way of life, has changed the way we deal with situations and if I may use an Algebraic expression “ it has changed the way we try to and eventually succeed in balancing equations and finding solutions”. 
As newer generations come into the picture, certain things that us, the now “older generation” took for granted and grew up with, are being shed with impunity.  Values are being grossly subtracted as also morals and scruples.  The exponential theory applies too.  These values are now being shed at an exponential rate or rather, algebraically speaking, raised to the power ‘n’.  The field of electronics and robotics has taken giant leaps forward and it is still a matter of debate as to whether they have made life easier or more complicated.  Twenty five years back, we survived just fine without smart phones and touch screens.  Having a television at home or a telephone that worked, was considered a wonder.  Now we have a whole plethora of devices that have made multitasking a norm rather than an anomaly.  Ask the generation of today and they would simply say that life as they know now is a rational expression while the life people lived twenty five years back is a perfect example of an irrational expression J.
Each one of us diligently continues to paint our very own canvass, we do stop to borrow or lend a couple of colours along the way, occasionally yet, somehow, the palette always remains full with more colours to use, resulting in more derivatives.  We continue to swim amidst the sea of constants and variables, equations and balances, calculations and comparisons.  The space that remains on the canvass begs to be filled and paint brush and palette in hand,  if I may borrow yet another algebraic expression, we continue to revel in and relish the little and the big ABC’s of life.