Friday, November 14, 2014

Make a Difference

In the 1990s, hearing of the work done by a charitable organisation promoting computer education in village schools in one of the districts of Tamil Nadu, a European lady desired to see the place. A teacher herself, she sat with the girls during the class and could not but help notice the cramped seating arrangement.

After the class was over, the lady met the principal and asked him how he would spend the donation she made. He told her that he wanted computers for his school.

"What you need is more space for the girls," the lady told him and contributed the amount needed to provide more classrooms and benches for the girls.

A few years later, when meeting another school principal, she saw smoke billowing outside. She was told that food was being cooked for the children under 6 in the two anganwadis nearby. She went to investigate and found that the smoke was due to the firewood. Aware of the need for clean atmosphere for children to grow and develop in, she insisted that proper kitchen with gas stoves be arranged and donated the amount needed to make two kitchens.

The elderly gentleman who had represented the organisation and coordinated these efforts recalled these incidents when I met him recently. But even as he spoke, I was amazed at the lady's interest and insight. She probably made the same contribution she had intended initially, even more probably. But it is the thoughtfulness and the courage to express it which was thought-provoking. If each of us were to take greater care in our efforts to contributing to the society and follow up to see the impact, we will probably see better results, implemented faster.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Ahead of Peers

Disruptive, evidently bored and with loads of attitude, the 13-14 year old boy was a past master in evading activities the rest in his noisy groups were willing to do. Finally, when I realised that it was futile involving him in any activity, and better in fact to let others keep doing their tasks and engage him in conversation (I am a wannabe psychologist too) he asked me quietly, "Ma'am, how did you get your books published?"

Startled, I turned to look at him closely. This was a workshop on writing for children, and though I wondered what I can teach kids of today, to talk of publishing even before writing seemed overly precocious. "Why do you ask?" I hedged.

"My friend and I have written a novel which is part fantasy, part mythology. One of our friend's mothers is a patenting agent and she has helped us patent it. We are trying to get it published."

I was silent and glad when a distraction caused us to break up the conversation. Patenting agent? I hadn't event heard the word till I had started working.

Then he showed me another novel he was writing based on the Wimpy series. I read through a few pages and could well understand why he would have found a workshop on writing a waste of time.

Not everybody had that standard in that class of 52, thankfully. But I wondered, what avenues did such children who were ahead of their age groups have? What coping mechanisms were they being given when they met with disappointments?

Friday, October 24, 2014

New Friends

One Earth: New Friends: An earthworm struggled on the gravelly road near my children's school. Once upon a time, I couldn't put enough distance between us....

Sunday, October 19, 2014

What Will Be, Will Be

Your right arm cannot become your left; your head cannot become the feet or vice versa, thus says Vasishta's Yoga.

No rocket science, that, we may well think. And yet, to remember it at just the moment when we need it the most - when something we desire does not bear fruition; when something we expect as inevitable proves evasive; when something we aspire for goes beyond our reach - that is the real test.

When the hand that must pull you up tells you to stop instead, when the person who is to open the door blocks the way, when the wind beneath your wings clips it instead... Will anger, ranting and raving be of any use? Will we overcome hurdles, pass through closed doors, fly on the strength of our emotions? 

If the hand stops, the door closes, the wing is clipped, is that the end, or do you find new ways, new strength, new purpose?

Maybe the roadblock is meant to divert you to a different purpose. Maybe your purpose was only to go thus far and no more. Maybe the hand pushes you down so that you may jump higher.

Some lines from 'Murder in the Cathedral' that I am trying to locate but have not: Your destiny turns so that the ultimate destiny be achieved. If we knew that, maybe we would remember the words from Yoga Vasishta always. But it is the obscurity, the mystery, the uncertainty that is like a rite of passage, a test by fire that can consume us like wood or strengthen us like steel.

When I think thus, I understand these verses from Bhagavad Geeta better - Do your duty, do not worry about the results. With no expectations, you are not affected by the consequences. And so, you take the next path that opens up, that will open up... 

And you will see it because anger did not blind you, disappointment did not make you dejected. Because you will know that it is part of the journey, a stopover to your final destination.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Moment of Glory

When my friend, my guide to sites that encouraged writing, mailed to me about a competition on a site where one of my novels was already serialised and another is currently running, I thought and almost dismissed the thought of sending in anything. But 'The Circle of Zero', written from a the point of view of a man, contrary to my usual obsession with women and their complicated lives, was lying idle, having been written in 2009/10. So why not, I thought and sent that, not really sure what to expect.

When the mail inviting me for the event came, I had to excuse myself as I was traveling that evening. Then I got a mail telling me I was a winner.

Now that changed everything and after much agonising, I decided to risk going there. Oh what a sweet surprise was in store for me!!! The first prize in Romance!!!!

Of course we were getting late as the event stretched beyond expectations, but when my name was called out and I walked up to receive the prize, it was as if my efforts had finally borne some fruit. Getting published by Pageturn was the first step, but this one was a recognition of a different sort and just gave hope in a new direction.

With hope comes a sense of responsibility - that I continue to write different things and that too, stuff worthy of note or at least consideration.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Unconditional Respect

Yesterday while driving on a busy street, I noticed an old man trying to cross. Just as he thought he got a clearing, a two-wheeler came rushing down to cut his path and the man stepped back.

Not an unusual sight. I have heard my father complain about the impossibility of crossing certain roads. I recently took my mother out and was surprised at how, in the last one year of restricted movement and commuting only by car if needed, she found the roads that she had traversed with as much alacrity as her age permitted, unsafe. I don't even send my children to the road outside my gate for fear of speeding vehicles though at their age, I remember being sent to the local shops several times in a day.

This syndrome of treating the road as personal domain is a result not just of the high one gets from the powerful engines and the speed associated with it but our own attitude to the world. I think it is a consequence of the attitude - 'only 'I' matter(s?). If you want respect and consideration, earn it. Till then, I shall act just as I please.'

The suave may have cultured ways of expressing it. But when practiced by the uncultured or the pretentious, it borders on to aggression and insensitivity. It transgresses boundaries and interferes with others' rights and lives, disturbing them in ways that do not make us any respectable.

Have we forgotten the question, "What do I do to deserve respect and consideration?"

I will not hark back to ancient times, for the brash and the bashful existed at all times. In fact, aware of the human tendency to become selfish and self-centered, the stress was on respecting lives, be it other humans, animals or plants. The question asked was not whether they deserve respect but whether we have it in us to be respectful.

I can understand well why. When I pause to give someone way, when I try to put my needs behind, the heart expands and the feeling of well-being spreads through my body. When for some reason, even genuine, I dig my heels in, I feel closed and tense like a taut string. Certain situations cannot be avoided. But that moment need not define the respect I give the other. I can and must learn not to colour my attitude of respect with a moment of disagreement. If disagreements continue, I can maintain my respectful distance.

Giving respect is an act not for the benefit of the other person, but ourselves. It makes us better humans and let's strive for that.

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