Did you not….?

Did you not hear the song unheard unsung?

Did you not stop while you rushed ahead?

Did you not notice while you so determinedly looked away?

Did you not listen close with your eyes fixed else where?

Did you not know when you acted brilliantly ignorant?

Did you not follow when you ‘unfollowed’?

Did you not look up while trying to be unknown?

Did you not stop to admire when you wore sarcasm on your brows?

Did you not taste what you almost spit out vehemently?

Did it not scar even when you balmed it with fairness, blemish-free creams?

Forget it friend, foe or fiend

Move ahead

As equals we meet, soon!

If only you never knew what you couldn’t do….

If only you never knew that you couldn’t dream,do or achieve

if only you never knew that your wishes will never come true

if you only you never knew that you are nothing like a super human

if only you never knew the gods and the men who said they know the gods

if only you never knew the quirks and twerks of being you

if only you never knew the fears of being you

if only you never knew the cowards who stopped you

if only you never knew the language of those who smirked and those who jilted

if only you never knew the truth of what was always a lie

if only you never knew the meaningless mumbo-jumbo of ‘high fashion’ and ‘high society’

if  only you never knew that to fall was never about the fall

if only you never knew the power of those crisp sheets of paper

if only you never knew the ways to poison yourself slow with hate,arms,advice,’I know it all kind’ or belief

if only you never knew the need for a ‘status’ update and otherwise

if only you never knew what you couldn’t do

who could stop you, friends,enemies, believers and non-believers?

You would simply be who you are.

Lay off : The other side

I have to prepare for a lay off – months in advance.When I get the hint of it coming, I panic.

I spend sleepless nights and agonize over presenting the news to the concerned employee.

My family senses trouble and leaves me alone to mull and munch over ways to deal with the situation.

At the office, the HR prepares me for the daunting task and arms me with a script and I , if you know me well, am blessed to have the gift of the gab , but here I stand tongue tied.

I find it difficult every time I have to say the unspeakable. It breaks my heart to say those traumatic words and shake the very foundation of a family. It is also true that I have no escape.

Having memorized the script, I proceed with a straight face but as soon as I reach the third line, the employee in front of me breaks down and I have no words of consolation to offer him.

Do I think of myself as the ‘Hangman’ in the famous Carl Sandburg poem? No, not really.But I do know that the wheel of fortune is turning continuously and soon it will be my turn to be the hapless listener who has to pack my bags!

IT is today a not-so-great-a-place to be in.

And then I think about the young graduates and post graduates who are entering the job market or preparing to enter the same wondering what awaits them.

Sometimes I think it is time to consider your career in the IT sector as short-lived or as unpredictable as that, say, in the film industry.

I mean each one of us need to be prepare ourselves for an alternative career as well.

Those days of one job, one life is over. A well thought out  Plan B or C is our only life saver.

What do I tell the youngsters then?

Invest time and energy in your passions and your hobbies. If you don’t have one, develop it now.

Try to marry your interests and learning in the IT sector with other subjects or areas of study.

Find out more about what is happening around you.

The chances of your migrating to a developed nation with your IT credentials to live a good life and be happy for ever after, is, perhaps, not happening anymore.

So, look around, read more, stay abreast with current affairs. Use technology to solve the day to day problems faced by the common man. Forget being the tech geek, go ahead and be the all rounder.

All scar remover! Guaranteed remover of scars!Of the heart too?!!!

I remember reading about Albert Einstein growing up in a noisy action-packed neighborhood where scars were worn like medallions, with pride and honor.

Now I drive a rather sturdy but not so chic Maruti Alto. Last time while I  driving back home, a gentleman cab driver who was in a tearing hurry to reach wherever punched hard on to my back. A policeman rushed to the spot and luckily, noticed that I was driving safe and took up my case with the cab driver. Since both parties were equally affected, I decided not to press for any police case but just get on my way back home. The dent on the back of my car stood out like a sore pimple.

Being who I am and what I am going through at a particular point of time in my life, I refused to make it up or stitch up the loose parts and make my Alto look dandy again.

While I continue to drive in and out of the city despite a sore car bump, I get stared at all the time.

Some times I am stopped by absolute strangers who want to know, what happened to my car? Who did it? When did it happen? What did I do to the culprits? To explain all this to curious by-standers is a great task.

I wonder why all cars have to look show room new. Well, considering how we drive around in Bangalore isn’t that a tall order?

So, if you are wondering if I am planning to get it mended. Yes, when I am in a situation to do so!

Similarly people keep asking me about the scars on my face. Is that a pimple scar? So big? Looks like you had chicken-pox and so on it goes, speculations about what might have happened to make me a scare crow. I can only smile in reply.

At an upscale school, where I taught, I was often reminded by my colleagues,  “It is time to go to parlour. Go get yourself waxed, your eye brows shaped etc.”

I am not particularly keen to be dolled up always. I might sometimes indulge myself but otherwise, I am ok being the way I am.

My friend today was talking about the scars  laid deep onto her soul. ” I cry when I pray, no body gets to know what I feel. I feel so lonely and life looks meaningless to me.”

It is not just the physical objects that we want to maintain scar-free even the heart, but is it even feasible?

Those who talk to me are sometimes taken aback when I say what is as it is. Perhaps they regret starting off a conversation with me,later.

Knowing that life is not blemish free for any single person, why should we be shy of saying what we feel? Why should we feel the need to suppress the truth instead of saying it as it is?

 

Invictus – The Film

I had picked up A Lone walk to Freedom but it is a huge volume and I gave up soon.

I did however watch  the movie Invictus  thrice in a row. I was mimicking my daughter to whom I had recommended ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy’, based on the life of Michelangelo. She smartly watched BBC videos  and came back to quiz me on the topic. It goes with out saying that I scored poorly.

I cannot but be amazed at my own ignorance of the people who lived in our times, their greatness, their deeds and their legacy. Was I not curious enough? How could I not know enough about the movers and shakers of our world,of at least these recent times? For that ignorance I know I have no one to blame but myself.

But here I am redeeming my pride by watching the best in the cinema, or at least consciously trying to and listening to the best in the music and hoping to visit the best of the places while munching up on great food… now that’s a beautiful dream…isn’t it?

The beauty of a well made film is  that it goes straight to your heart and leaves you changed. That is what ‘Invictus’ did to me. With some great acting by Morgan Freeman who impersonated,Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon as Francois Peinaar, Adoja Andoh as Brenda, Mandela’s assistant make the film memorable. I particularly loved Brenda’s swaying her hips as she waltzed in and out of the presidential office, some times a friend, sometimes a confidant and even a strict governess to the man.  She stood out as the most graceful woman in the entire film. The best acting of course is by Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. The maid at Peinaar’s home also deserves a special mention.mandela1980x1100_l82b9c5h_pec6xvug

I must also say something about the poem Invictus by W.E Henley of whom I had first read about in Maxbeerbhom’s essay ‘Speed’. That was long time ago, but the poem is something I go back to for the rugged feel of mastery over life, especially when you read out the lines,’I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul’.

So it turns out that the poem was Nelson Mandela’s corner stone in his 27 years of imprisonment. 27 years of imprisonment in a narrow cell where you are humiliated and ill treated can turn any one insane, but Madiba as Nelson Mandela was called by his clan, emerged strong enough to put an end to apartheid in South Africa and also set the country on a course of progress and togetherness.

While he did so, he stood alone, his family was estranged from him for what they perceived to be his bowing down to those who perpetrated unimaginable crimes and violence upon the black people for years together.

Yet, this man, Nelson Mandela stood strong and with conviction in his vision for a rainbow country steered the course, amidst violence, distrust from the blacks as well as the whites and used a game, rugby, to bridge the gap.

Call it strategy or mere accident, by striking a friendship with the Rugby captain, Peinaar and egging him on to connect to the black people, Mandela created a momentum that eventually catapulted the South African team to win the Rugby world cup in their homeland.

What makes such men? Where does such conviction come from?

Most of us lose the courage on receiving a bank notice or losing a job or failing in love, yet men such as this rare as they are stick to their goal and are relentless in pursuing what they set out to achieve.

Mandela goes on to become Peinaar’s first son’s god father. In an interview, Francois Peinaar recalls how his second son at the age of five had walked up to Mandela to ask’ Will you please be my godfather too?’.

The film makes a case for sports and its phenomenal ability to create connect against deeply set apathy among people.

India should take a leaf from the South African example. We should free our children from the burden of heavy books to the freedom of the play ground so that they emerge stronger, with a better discipline and a clearer vision of life itself.

We should play more to connect on the field and off the field because the bonds are stronger and lasting in nature.

About the film, need I say more, it is a winner and needs to be watched again and again.

Gratitude Wins

It took me time to understand how it works and when I found out the magic of gratitude, I held on to it.

It has since become my lifeline to count ways to thank every single minute of living.

Sorrows, complaints seem to vanish and new found joys appear as if from nowhere.

What would be called miracles become mainstream leaving hope alive and ticking even when gloom, hopelessness and the worries of  existence crowd the mind.

Ahead the dark abysses of fear, sadness and whatever other feelings of insecurity and unhappiness may there be, the heart convinced by the power of gratitude manages to retain a summery sheen.

At times there is even the audacity to hope for the best in the worst and I am amazed at the power of the mind.

Yes, there are complaints and wish-it-were-so’s but the spell of the doom that such thoughts would otherwise  cast are short and far in between.

In the unrelenting march of challenges that life throws at me as if I were a batsman facing the fury of an opposing bowler,I manage to retain what might look like impractical, dreamy, ungrounded, fly high kind of  hope and faith that is ridiculous even to my common sense but that which eventually pulls me out and sets me on to a path of change for good.

I realize that change being a constant it cannot guarantee itself to be good always. It has to  be bad or not so good at times and that is the character of life.

This being the case I certainly have no reason to complain but to enjoy the ride the bumps, the lows and the highs when they come,as they come.

To waste time in cribbing and counting sorrows would only take me backward than forward.

So it is then decided that  each day I sit down to count, to count the blessings, to be thankful for experiences that make me for better or worse what I am.

It is a long list usually to thank those who stood by and those who turned away, those who sought to help and to be helped, to those who taught a lesson fair or hard, to those who showed the way and led me astray, to that which helps me stand every time I fall and those that cause the fall, there is much to thank and so gratitude wins, every time!

 

 

 

What I learnt in 14 years of teaching at school?

I learnt, unlearned and relearned quite a few things while teaching at school. I started teaching in the year 1997. I was 24. I was appointed as a Primary school teacher. I taught Science, Maths and English to classes 1& 2 and took reading lessons to KG 2.  Later I went on to teach secondary and senior secondary classes. I was fortunate to also lead a team of 10 -12 years in my stint as Head of the Department at 2 prestigious school. At 43 with just over a 5  year gap in between, I continue to teach, albeit a different age group. I learnt my first lessons in teaching from my students.

Lesson 1: Feeling helpless or insecure leads to anger which is harmful

I was teaching Kinder Garten Senior, a class of over 40 children. It was my first job ever.The Principal was on rounds.I was nervous and wanted my class to be quiet. My helplessness made me angry and I used a wooden scale to hit a child, I regretted it immediately.I had taken out my anger on an innocent child  and it pinched me. I realized that I had alienated her, perhaps for ever. I resolved never to hit a child again.

Lesson 2: Stick to your areas of expertise

I was teaching mathematics to students of grade II. My confidence in my mathematical skills is rather poor. It was so then as it is now. Yet I was teaching complicated ‘line sums’ to students of grade 2. The class was very affectionate because I usually told them stories. They rarely asked me any questions exposing my ignorance. I simply copied what was given in the text book as a sample sum on the board and asked the students note it down. During the PTM, a parent told me that though the boy was very fond of me, he did not know how to solve the sum. I did not either. I kept mum. I realized that as a student of English, I had no business teaching mathematics to anyone, not even a student of grade II, especially because I was no good at it. I stuck to my subject thereafter, no matter what.

Lesson 3: Know your audience

I will never forget how I had rather sarcastically asked my favorite students to stand up, meaning those who get scolded by me in Grade II. It was still my first year in teaching. I watched in surprise as some of the brightest boys and girls stood up almost shy, declaring themselves to be most beloved of me. I realized sarcasm doesn’t work with small children. In another instance, one of the students invited me to his home almost everyday and  I casually replied that I would come the next day. This continued till he came to me and said angrily,” Come on 35th, madam!” .I realized that children mean what they say.

Lesson 4: Beware of labeling

I was teaching at a Government Boys School in Calicut, Kerala for my B.Ed practical teaching sessions. The teaching period was for a month and a half. I was assigned a class of Grade IX repeaters. Some of the boys had not been promoted for years together.While teaching them I realized how being branded as repeaters and failures restricted their scope of imagination. When asked what their ambitions were in life, they replied modestly, “I want to open a cycle repair shop”, “I want to run a watch repair shop” and so on. I don’t know what they grew up to become in life but I am sure they are doing well.

Lesson 5: Even a senior student is still a child, at times

I had gone to meet the Principal and rushed to the class of Grade XII, Science batch. The class had well over 40 students. As I walked in I was surprised at the silence. I wondered if the students had quietly ran off to the ground. I entered the class, fearing the worst, to find all my 12 standard boys and girls pretending to be fast asleep, their heads on the desks and their eyes closed.It was a sweet gesture. I was touched by the innocence of adolescence!

Lesson 6: Keep them engaged, or the hell breaks loose

I have over the years learnt that a class has to be kept engaged at all times. It requires some amount of ingenuity and planning on the part of the teacher but there is nothing like an engaged class, eager to prove their skills. Activities, if well-designed and planned can keep even the most unruly class hooked and students, irrespective of their age, love to be challenged. At the same time, students easily see through the charade of activity to camouflage lack of preparation! So be cautioned.

Lesson 7: You can be a good teacher without having to be strict

I always envied those of my kind who inspired silence with their mere presence. With my taste for activities, I do not always find a quiet class very interesting. Besides, how do you learn a language with out speaking it? I got over this feeling of insecurity with a lot of practice and experience over a long period of time. I realized, a silent classroom may not always be the right place for learning.Moreover, if the learning process is interesting there is a willing confluence of interests of that of the teacher and the student that makes the whole exercise meaningful.

Lesson 8: Just be yourself

I taught in what may be called the elitist schools and colleges. I was a little apprehensive initially. Should now start to change how I dress? Will they accept me? I learnt that students rarely judge you on the basis of what you wear and how.  They are most concerned with how you teach and how you can be of use to them. Once they are convinced of the knowledge and willingness to teach of an educator, they usually come around. While my short stint in the corporate sector overemphasized the relevance of appearance to success, the learners rarely bother much about the attire of the educator, except that he/she should be decently dressed.

Lesson 9: Own up ignorance and get back when prepared

In these techno driven times, it is understood that students do indeed know more about subjects than probably the teacher does. This should not deter the teacher, who can always ask for time to look up, read and then get back. Students do not expect the teacher  to know everything any more! I had this experience of a student of mine who would wait each day to test my vocabulary with the most difficult words.Whenever I did not know, all I had to do is to say, “I don’t know.”

Lesson 10: Allow students to take charge

A classroom that is democratic in nature is always a winner. Allowing students to collaborate and co-create learning experiences by allowing room for experimentation and exploration, activities and entertainment makes a class more lively. It also guarantees that you have the support of the students in what you do. By asking students, how they want to go about attaining certain skills and by accommodating their suggestions to improve an activity or a classroom event, the teacher helps in ensuring that students themselves take ownership of learning. Nothing helps more than a will to learn. By sharing responsibilities in deciding parameters for judging classroom events, designing assessments and activities, I could mostly manage to get the near absolute support of students. While designing newspapers, cartoon strips, magazines or organizing debates and discussions, the pattern of collaboration always helped.

Lesson 12: Be generous in appreciation

Despite the common perception that most youngsters are utterly spoilt, self-willed individuals who rarely listen to anybody, I realized that harsh words and harsh actions always hurt and  the damage is irreparable. Even the most difficult and unruly child can be won over by  appreciation and a pat on the back. One of the teachers I worked with, Ms.Julie Clinton is quite a favorite with her children. I remember how a particularly weak student did not want to fail in her subject because ‘Julie mam would be hurt’. It is interesting how much can be achieved in a classroom with some affection, an open heart and a willingness to understand and appreciate the effort that goes into learning. This in fact holds true even in the case of adults. When I informed my students of my decision to move on, a 2nd year degree student mumbled, “Mam you helped me to regain my confidence, now what will I do?”

Lesson 13: Stop playing the victim, give up romantic notions about yourself as a savior

This is perhaps the most difficult learning in my teaching career. I remember many times when I thought of myself as the victim, as someone who has embarked on a noble mission of teaching, preparing the grand future of the nation, only to be dismissed, humiliated and misunderstood. But it is also the most important lesson I learned. It was a bitter pill that sometimes my adolescent students administered to the egoistic teacher in me repeatedly till I accepted the fact that teaching was like any other job. It is not necessary to be liked or loved as long as you know you are doing your work.

In the most difficult situations in my life, I find myself asking, “What would the teacher in me do in this situation?” .Trust me, I have learnt to hold my tongue and lend a hand thanks to my students.

To more years in teaching, Cheers!