Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Making Of 'Comfort Zone'

An elaboration for those who understand and those who don't understand the poem.

It is in man's nature to seek comfort and a secure life. He, therefore, treads the beaten path. A point is reached when he is ensconced in a safe and comfortable life. And then if he looks back, he realises that he was paying the price - he had bartered adventure for security.

Reading about Matsuo Basho, the Japanese Haiku master of the 17th C put these thoughts into my mind. For Basho was a man who lived life on his own terms. A teacher, he refused to be tied down to a sedate life and chose to satisfy his restless spirit. Clad in his simple straw shoes, unencumbered by possessions, he wandered North, east and west to see his country and find fodder for his poetry. Throughout his wanderings, he attracted students and won their admiration.He was a hyohakusha (a wanderer). I felt that the English meaning didn't quite express the wanderlust and restlessness of a wild spirit. Hence the use of the Japanese word.

There are times when you feel suffocated by the comfort of routine. While the world can do without another school teacher, it needs people who will care enough to reach out to those in need. Life is a gift. There is only one life and what have you done?? You have remained inside the haven of your safety shell; the soft beneath untouched by hands that reach. What have you seen in this wonderful world? You have remained in the darkness of your cocoon.You had wings to fly and what did you do? Afraid to flutter them, you have aborted your growth. Blind to your own beauty. What have you learnt? You had little adventure, you made no mistakes.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Comfort Zone

It is warm in here,
Dark and cosy,
Insulated from hands that reach,
That probe and find the soft beneath.

Dead to the tug of ties,
Larval oblivion pacifies.
Unscorched by heat
Nor cooled by breeze.

While outside winds wander
And light reveals,
The worm grows wings,
Fated to flutter impotent-
A hyohakusha in a cell,
Too late to tear the wall.

In the swelter,
The blinding darkness,
The cushion of comfort
Stuffed into airways,
Gasping to die -
Aborted in the cocoon.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Words fail.
Simply unable to express the shock, the tragedy of seeing my country being raped, my brethren getting killed.
This is one wound that time won't heal.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Emerging Enlightened From Fifth Standard

Just two terms in fifth standard and I’ve learnt so much! The education has been multilevel – ethical, practical, creative and.... relentless.

Here are a few lessons that the 10 year olds taught me.

We were describing experiences in a railway station. That was the exercise given in the reader. Few had seen a train or a station. So I switched to an airport - and the response was resounding. But they spoke only about things that they bought at the airport – chocolates, cookies, juice, toys and one smart boy said books ( my repeated talks about the wonder of books and reading gave him an idea what would please me.) Wanting to turn the discussion to other things, I told the class that I loved to observe people at the airport – their clothes, appearance, behaviour... when Kevin in his high pitched voice said, “ Ma’am I think you were staring and that is not polite.” – and down dropped my sails…

Once we were doing Ruskin Bond’s 'A Face In The Dark', the story of a person meeting a faceless boy in the woods. This man runs in terror and reports to the watchman at his residence the scary sight. The climax of the story is the watchman holding his lantern to his face and asking, “ Was the face like this?” And the person is horrified to see that the watchman also had no features on his face. I had expected the class to experience the thrill of fear, the mystery of the supernatural. I’d expected wrong. They had a more down to earth doubt – How did the watchman speak if he didn’t have a mouth???

Entering class five is like stepping into the tower of Babel. Everyone speaks, not bothering if anyone listens. The sight of a teacher triggers cacophony. There are those who remind you that you have to give a dictation or collect the worksheet or give back the corrected work or take the recitation test or something. There is a bunch that offers service- to distribute the books or collect the homework or clean the blackboard or write the names of offenders. Then there are requests- Can I go to the toilet, I want to drink water, Please give us games, May I read first… But the majority enjoys complaining – That boy pushed me, She took my pen, Stuti is copying the homework from Wafa,You didn’t give my book after correction, I don’t have place to sit, She spoke in Malayalam, He speaks Tamil all the time, Walid said a bad word, He said shut up, He called me dog… It is a practical exam in patience I tell you!

The other day Aditya who has the loudest voice said “Ma’am Walid used the F word!!” The ‘oooh’ that followed inspired him to repeat the accusation even louder . Obviously Aditya was enjoying the added pleasure of uttering the prohibited word with total legitimacy. I had to do something before he spelled it out. So I turned on the guilty Walid with an angry frown and threatened him with dire consequences if he dared to repeat the crime. I then felt compelled to give a short talk on abstinence from uttering bad words. “Shame on all those who use filthy language,” I launched into the tirade, “The words you use show your culture. If you use such words, it shows that you are uncivilized (they had just learnt that word) Such small children, using such bad words…!.” I couldn’t complete the scolding. Aditya bobbed up like a @#*!@# Jack-in-the-box asking(shouting), “WHEN WE GROW OLDER CAN WE USE BAD WORDS, Ma’am?” It took a while for me to untie my tongue and put it back into my big mouth which was already occupied by my foot - shoe, stocking and all.

Logic is supreme for these children. If the masculine gender for mistress is master then the masculine for Countess should be Counter. And a female monk should be monkey??

There are so many more enlightening experiences that happen in that room. I need to jot them down before they slip from my mind. But then I am too preoccupied in experiencing those experiences

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Strike that Ass and Where's your Butt?

"John has only two balls," the teacher said, trying not to blush.

She was not discussing the strange need of the adequately equipped John to be superhumanly endowed.

That was an English teacher giving an exercise in the use of although. (Although John had only two balls, he gave them both to his brothers.)

And that teacher was me.

I can see the textbook- makers chuckling as they write such sentences for the poor teacher to handle in a class of thirty boys and girls.

Perhaps it isn't the textbook makers who are the villains.

Language has changed so much that unless you are alert, your words may sound suspicious. The fall of a word from innocent to obscene gives rise to unintended vulgarity and giggles in the class. A teacher has to step cautiously around formerly clean words like gay, come, bush, hole, pussy, D... ... you know. Besides the media, the songs and writing to which the adoloscents are exposed promote the new, not-so-clean meaning rather than the original.

Teachers of old had to only mind their language. Now even gestures convey multiple meanings.When I taught my daughter in class twelve, one day she came home embarassed and told me not to show my finger at the class. You see, I'd had this habit of counting out points on my fingers. I never noticed that a finger stayed up as I waxed eloquent on a particular point!

Every generation of students has a teacher who organises 'kiss contests'. But the GK teacher in my staffroom created an 'earthcake' when he threatened to screw the students who didn't perform well in the 'kiss'. Of course, what he meant was that he would put pressure on them to do well.

Sometimes you realise, too late, how your instructions sounded in class. After assigning tasks, I would ask my students to 'do it silently' or 'do it together' or worse, 'do it with your partner'.

The worst was yet to come as I smiled wisely and advised, "Keep doing it till you get it right." And then there were snorts that just couldn't be suppressed. That's when I wanted the earth to split open and swallow me up.

I thought I'd learnt never to put my foot in my mouth ever again.

But yesterday I blanched to hear myself say to the eleventh standard student -
" Strike that 'as' and where's your 'but'?"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Fable Of The Greedy Goat

Once upon a time a goat
Lived beside a castle moat.
To chew and eat was the sole purpose
Of this Capra Ae-gag-rus*.

So all day long she would chew
and eat and chew and bleat and poo,
Till one day, in sunny May
She found the meadow had gone gray.

For she'd consumed at such a rate
Seeds hadn't time to germinate.
Gone was all the greenery.
She'd eaten up the scenery!

The goat was now in great despair
She searched for morsels everywhere.
Then she saw the royal clothes
Drying in the wind outdoors.

My lord's corset, My lady's skirt.
The princess's blouse, the prince's shirt
Were objects of the goat's munching,
But the maid's scream cut short her lunching.

Soon the culprit was taken in,
And sentenced for her evil sin.
Thus the tale of our heroine
Ended at the guillotine.

Now gentle reader, learn your lesson:
If you are a glutton, you'll be dead mutton.

* Capra Aegagrus - scientific nomenclature for goat

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Town Like Valancherry

The remote Kerala village of Valancherry where the ancestral home is situated has grown into quite a town, thanks to 'Gelf' prosperity. Its claim to townhood rests on the numerous shops that have sprung up.

In the not too distant past there used to be the curly-wurly kallu (toddy) in white letters on black boards with translations of the word in every language. (Obviously it was a much sought after thirst quencher.) These boards have been replaced by Bars and Beverages boards. And in place of chaaya kadas (tea shops) that sold pittu and kadala, you have Chaaynees hotels that sell Manjoorie and cooldrings. There are also Backeries that offer pups and doughnites.

I remember the time I went to a Valancherry shop looking for lip gloss. The salesman regretted that he didn't have lip gloss. "But we have steel glass", he said brightly. Another time the local tailor suggested sewing on lice on the fleets of a dress. But the time I was struck dumb was when a shopman offered to show nipples when I went looking for pickles!

During my stay at V town this year, I was eager for similar jocularity. But was sorely disappointed, until I spied a bollboard that advertised 'Bizarre Management Course'... Perhaps the Biz had something to do with Business?? But more intriguing was 'Romantic Laundry'. Now who can explain that???

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Blog Troubles

‘ @#&*’
‘ *&^%#@!’
My limited/ dormant/ passive vocabulary of bad words is exhausted.
I’ve been using them fluently while I try to post. The reason is my slothful, sluggish computer and the capricious net connection. They abscond when needed and the work has to be redone all over again. Leaving me , the epitome of patience , in a fit of fury. Proof of these failures can be seen in my previous post which is with neither title nor conclusion. ( How shameful!) As for commenting, it is a torture on the nerves.

Worse is that my blog dashboard buttons appear in Arabic! Guessing and clicking is no fun. Besides I have erroneously deleted what I wanted to keep and posted what I didn’t want to , thanks to illiteracy of the Arab tongue. I’ll scream if someone tells me to make a change on the language bar. Because I have. In vain.

While in India, I got a Tata Indicom connection, beguiled by Kajol’s ‘wow, now, how’ ad. But that was a mistake. Infuriatingly ssslllowww!

Now that I’ve vented my anger it feels better. But don’t blame me if this rant appears on my blog.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

During wifely get-togethers I always feel inadequate. The conversation seldom appeals to me and my contribution never appeals to anyone present. I don’t know a diamond from a zircon or a Pajero from a Prada. What’s more , I don’t bake or barbecue, or straighten my hair or read Femina. My self esteem dipping, I question my feminity. I am proud to be a woman and I hate to be a freak.

But my gender identity is reaffirmed beyond doubt when I go shopping. I simply love to do that.( not the grocery type). I go shopping with my friends and browse along. We compare prices, inspect the quality, marvel at the variety, get excited about the new arrivals, fall for discounts and have a great time. We try on footwear, recommend tops, exchange tips on crockery – And we cement our friendship. The lingerie section is our favourite. These intriguing items leave us intrigued. It is fascinating to see the feathered, sequined, padded, lacy, transparent varieties. None of us buys one .But our expeditions are never complete without giggling and marveling at them.

Little do men understand the womanly passion to shop. They don’t know that it is a mission of fantasy. It is a noble endeavour to gather information to be handed over to others of the Sisterhood. It is a Sacred Duty!

It takes feminine logic to know that when you enter a shop to buy sandals, you don’t have to buy them. You can leave the shop with that lovely dupatta instead (which was never on the agenda and for which you have to shop to find a suit to match.) The male morality does not recognize the sin of getting lured into buying something that is overpriced however much you adore the item. They assume that just because you rejected the sari with big flowers, you should buy the one with the small flowers. The wisdom of buying a top that is small for you so that you may feel compelled to reduce is beyond a man’s comprehension. Hence it is very important to never take a man along when you go shopping.

Very early in my marriage I learnt this lesson. My husband would expect me to have a shopping list and buy what was there on it. How foolish! He would tag along and look at his watch after just 3o minutes. Then he would sigh dramatically. Then glare angrily. When I ignored these childish displays, he would begin getting palpitations and I really don’t know how he managed to get smoke to come from his ears. When he proceeded to become a public nuisance, I would have to leave. Soon he willingly agreed to stay at home when I went to the shops. But (I think just to kill joy) he would send my son along. The son is worse. It is a wonder how the chromosomes can carry behavioral features. The fellow would hover around murmuring and grumbling, until I got him to sit in a cosy corner with his mobile or MP3. But he has this terrible tendency to make big eyes when the bill is given and harangue me about spending such amounts for ‘stupid stuff’.

My daughter, now she and I are of a feather; only we tend to stray from the sane path when we get together. I remember some of our adventures at sundry malls. The time when we took a set of skimpy dresses (which she would never be allowed to wear) to the trial room and laughed as she tried them on. It is amazing how models manage to keep them on or get themselves into such clothes. Not to mention the complicated strings and contraptions

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Marital Accord

Matrimony and Arguments make strange bedfellows. But the two are inseparable. What’s a marriage without its healthy share of shouting matches? It is ok as long as it doesn’t turn nasty. Believe me it can. The couple may end up saying things they never meant. So despite its okness, arguments are better avoided. In my role as Materialmom, I distribute unsolicited advice to the young and the less experienced on how to do that.

Usually an argument has its origin in unconnected factors such as a bad day, a bad mood, a headache, deprivation or just about anything else. The signs of an argument are easy to discern- a frown, raised voice, rude words…. Once you detect the signs, be alert. Decide that you will not contribute to the quarrel. Deliberately adopt the body language that is opposite to that of the partner. If he (read she if you are a male)) frowns, you appear calm; if he shouts, you speak softly; if he is rude, you be extra polite. Now, this may seem too submissive, but it isn’t. Bide your time and later when the snapping dies out and he is feeling sheepish, you can remind him how childish his behaviour was and how mature yours. Besides when you have a bad day you may be the one shouting. ( make sure that your partner reads this post so that he /she will know the ideal response.)

The trick is not to get provoked. Let your partner’s harsh words fall off you like water off a duck’s back. Don’t get soaked by them. You can do this by understanding that your partner needs to let off steam and is too upset to understand what is really bothering him. So don’t take criticism personally. Even if you are the reason for resentment having things out in the open is certainly better than the cold and silent treatment. In such cases explain your behaviour/action and then shut up.

When you swap words with your partner it is not just a temptation, but an obsession to have the last word. But never insist on that for a) there is no last word in an argument. b) silence is the best last word. In fact during a war of words, the less said the better. Reticence is a virtue. Imagine your partner throwing barbs at you. When you don’t bite the bait, he would scream in frustration while you would have the last laugh and your dignity.

I know that many youngsters are frowning as they read this. I understand their longing to rebel- because I’ve been there and I’ve done that. Two decades of the real thing have convinced me that one stoops only to conquer. If you get involved and emotional you are in for tears and trouble. ( Sometimes tears do wash away a lot of accumulated frustrations.) When you stand outside yourself and watch a shout scene being played out, you find that it is but a laughing matter.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Vacation Plans - In Credible India

Phew!! The last of the marklists and report cards are done. Enough of racing against an unreasonable deadline. I don’t want to count another quarter or convert another score to grade. My family has tolerated my rude snapping and hurried cooking with noble patience. And after the storm of work I stand among the debris of question papers, answer keys, files, marksheets and sundry papers like a tired soldier on a bloody battlefield.

The summer vacation has arrived. But no lazy days ahead as I prepare to go to India as usual. The thought brings a thrill of excitement, a smile of anticipation. The monsoon must have set in and as the aircraft circles to land at Cochin, the fond and familiar sight of coconut trees glistening green will greet my hungry eyes that have survived on a diet of dull desert. But before that there is lots to do. The house must be prepared for 2 months of orphanhood. I tackle the fridge first, once it is bare there is no cooking . :)
Then all the objects have to be covered or packed away lest they get caked with dust.

Then there is shopping and packing. Just about everything is available in India today. Still I buy all sorts of things for family and friends. With chocolates, food stuff, cosmetics and clothes adding to the 90 kgs allowed for our three tickets, a lot of my stuff will have to be dumped.

The next two months will be a whirlwind of trips to relatives and temples. Again I will go to the bakery. I will buy twenty packets of miscellaneous eats- one for each house I visit. Again I will pull my unwilling children to meet uncles and aunts, drink innumerable cups of tea, cuddle the newest arrivals in the family, sit by bedridden seniors with an ache in my heart. Again I will go to Guruvayur to unburden one year’s worries while Guruvayurappan with his impish smile lets me find my way on my own. We share a unique, lifelong relationship- Krishna and I. Again I will go to the Vadakkumnaathan temple around which lies the town of Thrissur, originally Thrisiva Perur. This Siva temple is so large, so uncrowded, so peaceful and so beautiful that it calms the mind and invigorates the body. By the time you complete one pradakshinam (circling of the temple) you will have worked up a massive appetite. An astute man sells hot roasted peanuts outside.

But too soon the beauty will pale, the thrill will pall : the powercuts, the mosquitos, the hartals, the absconding servants, the rotten rain, the petrol prices all will take their toll until I will be glad to go away. :(

Next June again I will plan my vacation. Again I will consider Singapore/ S.Africa/ the US/ Egypt or some exotic spot. And again I will settle for India.

Yes, I know, I deserve the mosquitos .

Friday, May 16, 2008

Ran(dumb) Thoughts

I have noticed that ......

....Maths teachers wear geometrical print. (Biology teachers go for the floral and leaves motif.)

.....most male bloggers post their photos on their profile. Females seldom do.(How little things have changed!)

.....people who are not attractive in their youth look better as they grow older. ...and vice versa. ( There, you have an aspect of relativity.)

.....Mr.Right is every girl's dream, but Mr. Always Right! is a horror. (Murder in such cases, as in euthanasia should be legalised.)

.....s_ _t has replaced God. ( I exclaim, 'O God'. My kids say, 'O s_ _t'.)

.....people defecate in the open in Chennai. (Rajnikant can solve the problem with a single fiery dialogue on sanitation in his next movie.)

......there is a link between one thought and the next. (Ref the previous two points for evidence.)

.......what is 'reason' to a student is an 'excuse' for a teacher. (Been there, done both.)

.......appearances are deceptive. (Just because John Abraham looks dumb, he doesn't have to be dumb. I know all the young girls will lynch me for that.) is more practical to be pessimistic. (A pessimist is always ready for a crisis, an optimist is taken by surprise.)

........what you've got is just as wonderful as what you might have got.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Teacher As Leader

I was at this workshop on Teachers as Leaders - Beyond the Curriculum. There were about 300 teachers from different Indian schools.
Instead of going ahead with the workshop, there was a needless inaugural ceremony with several speakers. Thankfully the speeches were short and not too bad, except for the host school principal whose pronunciation was bad and style was atrocious. She thanked the 'cheerman' for organising the event. She valued the 'apawrchoonty' to get away from the 'moondane' into the magical and she was sure that she would have 'good mammaries' (of the talk) that everyone would go to and go back to... Albeit the embarrassment, it lightened things for me ,the eternal fault finder.
Some teachers of the host school then sang a song (shudder). It had been penned by one of those poor souls (probably forced to do so). Teachers are pathetic creatures, expected to be clerk, mother, counsellor, policeman, spy, choreographer, editor, songwriter, and much more.

The content of the workshop was not new, but the perspective was. The resource person, who vaguely resembled one of my back seat boys made us do this mind exercise which actually blew my mind. Besides, the introspection that followed the session uncovered several shortcomings that I had closed my eyes to. Of course my friends and I did pass notes and giggle at the nonsense responses of several teachers. But it was a holiday well spent.
Few agreed with me though. Some delegates felt that crowded classrooms, absent infrastructure, profit oriented management, overworked(and underpaid) teachers are not really conducive to teaching, let alone 'transforming the students by creating magic in the class'. The majority found the day a waste because they could have spent it at home(doing what? cooking?), because it was boring and most because the tea was bad and lunch was worse!
Later pondering on the teaching profession, the words of Malvolio (Shakespeare's Twelfth Night) came to mind. "Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. Teachers seem like the fool Malvolio - bearing the cross of nobility that is thrust upon them... because people love to hate teachers - students write nasty remarks about them on orkut, the parents criticise them.. Teachers can't demand or protest because they are 'noble'. It is sad but true that schools have become 'teaching shops' and society refuses to respect individuals who trod the path not taken. Parents still force children to learn subjects that they have no aptitude for or interest in. As long as this scenario prevails, teachers are destined to be leaders in the confines of a cage.
Despite these dismal thoughts I am happy I chose to be a teacher. I am so glad I didn't have to work in a bank or something, counting currency endlessly. What can be more rewarding than staying young at heart, being surrounded by youthful energy, learning something new each day?!

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Dead sobs fled from yawning graves,
Exiled spirits, banished into ennui.
Pang and spasm each aching lub-dub as
Raped heart in silence screams,
Entrenched within parched sighs.
Soul soaked in tears unshed
Stained in sorrow's sad dye.
Inky blood to burn each cell
Oozing puss of pain -
Naked, numbing pain...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


My first memory of praying was as a child in No.6, Sarangapani Street - the house my grandfather built, where my cousins and I grew up. The pooja room was on the top floor of the 3 storey structure - what we kids called the 'up-up-stairs'.

Every evening at dusk we would be sent up-up-stairs to light the lamp and say our prayers aloud. I can see the deerskin that my grandmother used to sit on, I can smell the oil and vibhuthi, feel the softness of the silk of a swami's dhothi treasured in a pretty carved sandalwood box. I see the pictures of lovely goddesses and pretty gods. Among them also the image of mother Mary and infant Jesus, kept there for the benefit of Jacob our boy servant sent from a Kerala village.

The lamp-lighting and prayers were invariably punctuated with quarrels and they ended with a hurried '...shanthi shanti shanthi'.

After the prayer session, all would run down the narrow stairs. I cannot recall what excitement awaited, but the running happened. Being the littlest of all, I was rather slow and therefore left behind. That is when fear took over. Shadows loomed and the little girl was sure one of them was 'boochandi' come to do evil things to her. Terror squeezed her breathless as her feet stumbled down the stairs. All the while she sang at the top of her voice, half to take strength from the noise, half to appear brave to the others laughing at the bottom landing.

I remember sidling up to my grandfather one night as he reclined on his armchair, preparing his betel leaves. I asked him why we had to pray every single day. He probably thought it was blasphemy, but proceeded to explain, " Have you watched the wheel? Any point on the circumference keeps going up or down as the wheel moves. But look at the centre - it stays unmoved whatever happens to the wheel. People who pray are like the centre of the wheel." Grandfather's reply left me disappointed. Why was he talking about wheels?

When I went to my parents during the vacation, I'd listen as my father sang bhajans in his inimitable way . I'd lie on my mother's lap and doze off. My mother often said that it was 'ashreekaram' - inauspicious - to sleep at dusk during prayers. But even today prayers induce sleep, especially in the evening.

Adoloscence came with doubts and questions. Did I really think that god sat and answered prayers? Why pray for stuff when you can work and get it . Yes work was worship.

Time and tide didn't wait; child bearing brought humility and faith. "Please keep my children healthy, wealthy, wise, happy, lucky, goodlooking, smart, efficient, useful individuals. May they get the good that they deserve and deserve the good that they get...." thus went my prayers. I felt quite smug with my 'complete 'prayer. It included all that they would need....... or did it? I remembered Tithonus.

Tithonus, a character in Greek mythology had prayed for immortal life, but he had forgotten to ask for everlasting youth. So the unfortunate fellow was destined to live endlessly, an old old man while his wife,the lovely Aurora- Dawn rose with renewed youth every morning. ( The poem by Tennyson is a must read)

So the tale of Tithonus led me to total surrender as I told god that he knew what was good for my children and may his will be done. Only give the strength to face the tests.
Today I realise that individuals cannot know peace unless there is balance all around. And my brief, but momentous prayer goes: Give, this day, peace - Shanthi... Shanthi....Shanthi.
I have come full circle.
I cannot hope that the power of prayers, the vibrations they create will bring peace between communities or balance in nature. They may not make terrorists less terrible or corrupt people honest. They may not even make a hostile person amiable or a hurt heart heal. All I can do is nurture peace within me and among the people I meet.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Ring Out The Old

Another academic year has come to an end.The board students have been led through the exams and sent off into the world.The week before my exam was a nightmare of drilling as we,teachers shuttled between our new batch of tenth and twelfth and the old ones that came to clear doubts and revise. Julius Caesar and ode to the west wind were coming out of my ears after days of going over and over the lessons with groups of students who landed in school during the study holidays.The Salmans and the Murtuzas cursed Shelley and Coleridge in colourful language, with genuine feeling and correcting sheet after sheet of exercises, I found myself cursing CBSE just as vehemently.

Some of the questions they include are incredibly dumb and I feel foolish teaching students to write telegrams and messages.... imagine in this age of mobile phones!! Then there are the jumbled sentences designed with the sole purpose of torturing children.What is being tested is beyond my understanding.English in its functional avatar is unattractive. Creativity takes backseat as children turn into mark machines.

So my 7th standard was a delight to teach. At that age the students don't have airs and attitude. They actually take English seriously and are eager to learn. Inhibitions they don't have. Real teaching-learning happens. I'll miss them.

The new set of students are already occupying my mind. The tenth and twelfth students have completed a month of class. This year I teach class 5 also and that is going to be an adventure. Right now they are enjoying the novelty of using pens for the 1st time.I'll see what life has in store for me in the months to come

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Lost Post

(To be recited like Piggy On The Railway track)

One little blog post
Sitting on my blog,
One nice comment had just come along
'Click', said the little mouse
In a careless hand,
Off went the little post
Comment and all....

That's as cruel as a nursery rhyme can get.
Boo hoo ... and I'm too lazy to write it all over again..

Monday, March 31, 2008


If the tongue didn't have taste buds................

we wouldn't have to cook.
we wouldn't require a thousand spices.
we wouldn't consume bad fats, colours, processed foods, sugar, redmeat, rices.
there wouldn't be fast food chains
or restaurants
or parties
or ice creams
or chocolates
or cook books
or cooks
or food festivals
or food.
Ramsey wouldn't hound poor apprentices.
Yan Kan wouldn't cook.
Rachel Ray wouldn't shout so much (or is that asking too much?)
people wouldn't be obese.
there wouldn't be diet gurus
or liposuction
or intestinal bypass
or aspirin.
cholestrol and triglyceride wouldn't be so common.
cardiologists would get days off from work.
fisheries wouldn't be depleted.
birds wouldn't experience hell on factory farms.
birthdays wouldn't require cakes.
There would be no pepsi
so there would be no pepsi ads.
the khans and cricketers wouldn't get that income.
the ad world wouldn't have slogans like thanda matlab...
language wouldn't have some priceless idioms
like ' you can't have your cake and eat it too'
or 'the proof of the pudding is in the eating'
or delightful neologisms like eye'candy'
or delhi belly.
smart alexis, me, wouldn't be calling the taste buds a mixed curse
or calamity in disguise.

So what am I trying to do??

I am trying to plan a lesson on conditional clauses.
But I would really like it if I didn't have to cook.

Friday, March 14, 2008

To Whosoever It May Concern

I've been tagged. So here goes.....

First, the rules:- Post the rules on your blog.- Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself. -Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.- Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website.

Out of the very many irritating habits of mine, here are six.

1. I baby talk with my kids (one is almost out of college and the other will soon be entering one) . I know it is disgusting. But I had begun to do it to irritate them. Now they talk right back at me in the same way and it has become a habit. (I must stop it before they get married. I'd hate it if my spouse baby talked with his mother.)

2. I bite my lip a lot when I concentrate on my work.

3. I count all the time - the steps I take on the treadmill, the seconds at the traffic light, while waiting for food to get done, the rings after I call someone on the telephone, when the computer takes time to follow instructions.........

4. I wake up at 3 a.m and enjoy working while the whole world sleeps. Of course I'm good for nothing after 8p.m

5. I never give compliments and I feel terribly uncomfortable when I receive one.

6. I hate to throw things away, which is why I have cartons full of them - from stuffed toys & baby clothes to seashells & expired medicines

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Five Great Women-Friendly Ideas

Move over diamonds - today's woman needs better friends.

It was March 8th and I was thinking about great ideas that had helped the Indian woman. I came up with five; shortlisted for their frequency of use, number of users, energy consumption and lack of adverse effects.

Number five on the list of GWFI's would be the restrooms at petrol stations.
Travelling long distances on the road used to be great fun for the men and kids. The Indian ways allowed them to answer nature's call in more ways than one - what with the fresh air and leafy bushes. Who needed privacy when freedom called. All the while the women squirmed in discomfort. Downright unhealthy I tell you. Whoever thought of restrooms on the road deserves the Mr.Considerate Crown.

Coming fourth is the moisturiser. The modern woman works in conditioned climes that leave her skin dry. This is a major toll-taker. And coming to one's help is the trusted cream or lotion that soothes, quenches and revives the epidermis. You can't have enough of it. Moisturise, moisturise moisturise. And moisturise. I'd swear by Dove.

The third GWFI is the handbag. This wonderful article is a boon to women who are expected to carry , apart from currency, id card & licence, also biscuits for the kids, panparag for husband, saridon/gelusil/ lozenges for the family, bindi, safety pins, address book, mobile, keys, pen, post it notes, tissue, perfume, vicks vaporub, rubberbands, hairclips, spare glasses, bills, lists, sanitary pad, towel, handkerchief, comb, lipstick, lucky draw coupons, bandaid, air/train tickets, cheque book, postage stamps, nailfile, scissors, dry cleaners' receipt, photo of husband, children, father, mother, self, loose change, thread, needle, moisturiser etc. And the etc could be a page long. If it is a young mother's bag , add to these : feeding bottle, diapers, spare baby clothes, wet wipes, baby powder, lotion, bonisan, rattle, squeaky toy and much more.

So let's hear it for the lady's bag; it is truly a wonder like its owner.

In the second place is the pressure cooker. She is simply priceless. She saves time and fuel . She retains nutrition. Her new and improved shapes have raised convenience to artistic heights. Hugs and kisses to my dear dear friend. Mmua mua

The winner, hands down, is however the strong , the stable, the silent hero. In the words of a great :) poet.......
He's there when I want him
He never complains
He takes all my dirt
And never shows st(r)ain
He stays in the background
He's never seen
He's my dear, dear friend
My washing machine.

But the show doesn't end. Ideas are waiting in the wings. Here are some of mine: mixie with silencer, sari with pockets, a treadmill that will turn fat into power to run itself, deceptive armour that will stun bottom-pinchers on buses (like the sting ray), lights in handbags so you won't fumble for things, things that will speak up when you search for them, DNA with the fat fixed genes removed and height enhancing ones added, hair that stays on scalp, hair that drops off arms and legs, body parts that defy ageing and gravity, body fat that will fuel vehicles, repellants that actually repel pests (not only of the bug species), roads that can be crossed, a single meal a da............................ SSomebody sstop me

Monday, March 3, 2008

Occupational Hazard

One thing I'd not known would be part of my work
Is the mountain of correction that I'd rather shirk.
I spend many painstaking hours bending
over essays and answers - never ending.

Poring over writing so bad or so tiny
I end up with pain in my eyes and my spiny.
I tear my scant hair in agony to see
Mistakes aplenty, fearless and free.

My simmering rage fanned to fury,
I could hang those brats sans judge or jury.
Grammar mistakes and spelling errors,
Utter nonsense and other terrors
take away the best part of my life,
God! I can't take it - this wretched strife.

But the worst of all these terrible tortures
is when students continue to take language to slaughter.
For returning the marked work, I against hope hopen
they'll heed the correction, their eyes wide open.
But Alas! The saddest torture for a teacher
is that they persist in writing answers all fractured.

So release me, dear Lord, from these tiresome travails,
I'd prefer much rather to lie on sharp nails.
God, when will Thou deliver me from the miseries
of changing the blasted ei's into ie's?

[ This was inspired by Ogden Nash's poem, This Is Going To Hurt Just A little ]

Friday, February 22, 2008

Holiday Blues

Its a week's holiday on account of the country's national and liberation days.

I look out and the sun glows white like it thinks it is the moon. There is a dust storm that's been on for two days now. You breathe in dust, walk in dust. The dust gets into the house and covers every surface, frustrating your efforts at cleaning. The 7 holidays stretch out with nothing to do. Braving the dust and cold winds is not attractive. I think back to my childhood holidays in India.

When our schools closed for summer, all my cousins, my brothers and I would descend on the bungalow on the hillock in the rubber estate where my father worked. My mother would pack goodies in picnic packs and all of us kids would burst out of the house, run among the tall green green trees, walk across the primitive bridge that swung dangerously, and jump into the small rivulet of clear clear water in our petticoats or shorts. We passed happy hours laughing and playing in the cool water as the sun warmed us. Hours later the maid would come to fetch us. And we trudged back home tired and ravenous.

In the evening, my father would tell us stories of Soorpanekha or Bheema or some vivid character as we chewed on salty steamed corn. A Kathakali and music enthusiast, my father was a great story-teller. His was no bedtime story of the west. He brought alive the figures that peopled those tales and we laughed at the antics of Hanuman, wept with pity for the young Dhruva, got angry with the mischief-maker Kooni, felt awed by Bheeshma's pledge..

We acted out these stories or performed dances and songs before the appreciative audience of my parents, neighbours and sundry servants. We played cricket(with commentary), ran after the calves, fought with each other over a piece of Cadbury's chocolate, got our hair and bodies oiled and stood together without a stitch of clothing, drawing pictures on our oiled bellies. We read books, we sang bhajans, we played cards, we blew bubbles, we followed frogs, we lay together on mats spread in the hall and giggled when we were supposed to sleep ....

I look up from the key board as I write this. My son sits alone with a tin of pringles on the sofa playing a computer game and watching Shahrukh doing the OSO dance for the nth time. My son is happy.

Then why am I feeling sorry for him?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Flirting Tips

Another Feb 14th has come and gone. I missed the controversy that the Indian people cook up every year as Valentine's Day approaches. This year there was none of the usual condemning of western culture and accusing them of infiltrating the Bharatiya sanskar.The Saudi Govt did ban its celebration in that country- a great loss for the red rose exporters. My spoilsport school begins the Annual Exam on this date every year. So boys and girls have no time to exchange candy or love-notes; they are busy trying to pass chits and copy, outwitting the eagle-eyed invigilator.

So that's where I was on 14th- in XB, supervising. I'm neither eagle-eyed nor vigilant, but have mastered the art of looking like Iam. So with the strict expression in place, I let my thoughts wander...

They strayed to the significance of the day and went on to the topic of flirting- tips for girls on how to flirt. Here they are:

Flirting is an art,a game.
It's Cupid's arrow's other name.
Every dart carries a flare -
a sexy pout or a brazen stare.
So budding flirts must coach your faces;
never mind that your teeth are in braces.
Teach your lips the flirty action,
your nose to flare in subdued passion.
Don't worry that your hair grows in traces,
as long as you have curves in the right places.
And if your legs are shapely and long,
the attraction is bound to be strong./ the boys will come panting along.

I had got till that when I was called to give extra sheets,putting an end to the profound musing.

These thoughts are the result of keen observation, not my own experience. I never flirted.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


The other day I watched Taare Zameen Par and wanted to thank the director for pushing the issue into our faces, into the Indian mind. Kudos also for allowing the child to steal the show.

Be that as it may... Despite the good intentions, the plot is overoptimistic. I've seen many parents and haven't found any who accept that that their child has a problem. Actually dislexics are not so uncommon. Colleagues will not change their mindset. Not so fast anyway. In short the life of a dislexic usually remains a solitary nightmare.

So why can't teachers be like Amir's character. The answer is simple. They are simply not trained to handle such cases. The BEd course should be equipping a teacher to do so instead of / along with the history of education and statistics.All that a teacher can do is identify the problem and inform the counsellor or parents. In a class of 30-40 students it is not fair or even possible to give time to slow learners. Even if an attempt is made it can't be consistent.

The film also left me wondering- What if Ishan hadn't won the prize? What if Einsein had not figured out the theory of relativity? What if Da Vinci had not painted? Why do we as a society admire only the larger-than-life achievements? Why don't we acknowledge the simple conquests, the everyday miracles? Would Ishan's parents have loved, respected or cherished him less if he hadn't been great at something? Should parents expect their children to bring in results? I wonder and I find solace in Gibran's words :

'Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.'

Another reason why teachers can't be like Amir's character (whats his name?): No teacher I know can do cute bumshakes like he does......

Stop! Don't even imagine it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ode To The Board

Read this, and see if it rings a bell.

Oh still Black Board,
Thou solid presence in the class.
Thou on whose back words amass
Like sparks from the wand of the chalk-
Yello and pink and blue and deathly white
Make facts and figures come to life and talk.
The living dates lie dead on your side
Like people that are born, grow and die in a day
To be erased and forgotten in time's tide
Thou who died yesterday,
Will be there tomorrow
But live for today.
Be thou, still,black presence,
The spirit of my restless mind.
With the past erased, unworried in the future
Living but for the present.

PS: If Shelley were to read this, he definitely wouldn't think that his winter would be followed by such a spring!

My Ruler

My ruler is a funny thing
Yes, it's made of pliant plastic.
No, it's not brittle, or even straight
Definitely not metallic.
My ruler does not rule me,
It takes so many shapes.
It measures up my right and wrong,
It caters to my faith.
Others have rulers so rigid,
their feelings all neat and straight,
Their passion dead, their senses numb
Lives tied to a lifeless fate.
Go on, take out your ruler
Stand tall or short- as it dictates!
I'll use my magic ruler
Its rules are what I state!

Here was a Table , When comes another? A Parody of Mark Antony's Speech

Sisters and Brothers of my staffroom,
Lend me your eyes.

I come to mourn the loss of our Old Table,
not to praise it.

The evil of things present remain while they live,
The good is oft remembered when they are gone.
So let it be with the Old Table.
The Noble Madam has sent us new tables.
As they are new, they are sleek and attractive.
And attractive we do find them.

Sit I to write in the Old Table's memory
It was a friend, sometimes shaky and ugly to me
But Sreekumar has given us new tables
And Sreekumar is an honourable man.

I write not to show ingratitude to Birbal and the rest
But I write what I do feel.
It had held up many books and files for years
whose numbers did the general mess increase.
Was this a cause for discarding the Table?
Yet we all said it should be discarded.
And sure, we are all honourable people.

You all did know that the Table
stood ten years in the staffroom
And ten years did it serve us well (
Did this in the Table seem dispensable?
When the teachers have partied
The Table hath held up the food.
Dispensability should be made of weaker stuff.
You all did need the table once, not without cause-
What cause witholds you then, to mourn for it?

O Judgement thou art fled to heartless beasts and the teachers have lost their reason!

Bear with me. My heart weeps for the Table lost somewhere,
And I must pause till it come back.


Written on the occasion when handsome New tables replaced the rickety Old one.


Madam- Principal.
Sreekumar- School Manager.
Birbal- Carpenter.

I give you the original

Saturday, January 12, 2008

My Best Friend

He's there when I want him
He never complains
He takes all my dirt
And never shows st(r)ain
He stays in the background
He's never seen
He's my dear, dear friend
My washing machine.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Time Management

In my own small world of the workplace and home, I've had vast experience and as I dive into its depth I pride myself on my brilliant inovations and profound theories.

I fear that such life-changing discoveries will die with me and so leave to the world a legacy to enlighten generations of women (men too?). Read on to obtain these gems of wisdom.

Law Of Time Management For The Indisciplined Individual
The question of time management arises only when you've got to do things that you don't want to do. You will find time for the others.
The law states : Never do early what you can do in the eleventh hour. This is based on the premise that pressure enhances mood, perspective, speed and efficiency in work. This is true while making question papers, cooking or correcting answer scripts.Take the case of preparing a qp. I've tried doing it a month ahead. I read and discard a thousand questions, passages, and sentences for being insipid/boring/long/short/ too easy/ too tough... My capacity to find fault is endless. Long hours have I spent on the net searching and researching stuff that will interest or provoke my students. I try to make the perfectest qp.I draft, cut, edit, polish, redraft until I know it by heart.

During and after the exam, I look at the students for the brightness of eyes, a smile of pleasure, a frown of deep thought... but they only look bored.

When I make the qp just two days before the exam , it gets made.The students are not bothered either way if it is an interesting passage with thought provoking questions or insipid ones. Ditto cooking.

While cooking (God, How I dislike it!), If I start early,I take double the time to walk to the kitchen- what with reluctance and all-,stare into the fridge, curse the notion of four meals a day,think of better things to do, close the fridge, open it again (you've got to), plan a menu, get the required stuff (hate to touch the cold veggies /frozen meat), peel the onions (aaargh), cook, clear away, wash (aaargh aaargh aaargh). Are two hours in a furnace with watering eyes and burning nostrils worth the effort? The food disappears, leaving more dirt and dirt-clearing work.
Cooking in the last ten minutes (yes, I've timed it)is more efficient, fast and practical.

I run to the kitchen, chop whatever I grab, and let the pressure cooker (mua mua my dear friend) and the fire do the work and presto the job is done. The point being one has no time to savour the misery and self pity. With speed cooking I've discovered the smart , innovative me. I've served chutneys without garnish, sambar with a single tomato, cheat-the-kids-pizza, payasam without pista. Hey it's healthy, saves time and money. Besides, the food is hhot and there are no leftovers (you haven't had time to make much, remember?).

So begone Benjamin (Franklin).


Time - That sly villain that creeps up behind
Scattering wrinkles as he passes me by
Crow's feet and calories and pain in the knees,
Grey hair and bald head - all in slow degrees.

Time - He robs babies from under your nose
Their puppy fat and crayons and tiny pink toes
The toy cars and teddies - oh where are they gone?
It is that rascal, he's been stealing along.

Time- Well... he isn't that bad after all-
He's gifted this young man who's grown quite tall.
Yes, Time has taken my baby away
But he's left me a lad who lights up my day.

Sure, Time has snatched my little girl too
But he's given me a friend to share all I do,
He's blown my tender bud to a flower
A new Me with wings to travel afar.

Ah my friend, Time, you've tied me in knots
But I'll find a way to straighten my thoughts.
So go on, continue your relentless flow
I'll steel myself for every blow.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


In my capacity as materialmom, I intend to enlighten the young and the uninitiated with practical wisdom.

Here is a drop from the deep well of my experience.

Your husband is getting ready for office and he shouts for clean socks. A good wife would produce the required item magically, the faint smell of detergent and wardrobe freshener lingering on it.

But you, being a bad girl, had left all the used socks piling and washed it all together- and now they are all still wet.

What do you do? What to do? Never one to panic, you pull a pair out of the washing machine-TGTM- put it into the microwave and start it up. (ooh how smart you are, girl!!)......... 'uh oh', you go as you open the oven and look at the two melted blobs- the darned things are synthetic.

What to do? Whattodo?? Now it is time to panic as your husband shouts again. You run to the machine and pull out two more- wonder of wonders- they are matching ones again. You repeat the microwave action, setting for a shorter time at lower heat. You pray to Ganesha, the obstacle remover before pressing the button. You wait, holding your breath. The bell goes and you open the oven door to find perfectly dry socks and take it triumphantly to your husband.

PS.1. A conventional oven gives better results though you'll need a little more time.
PS.2. Use only in emergency. Don't waste power.
PS.3. Even better would be to train the spouse right at the beginning to do his own laundry and never to shout orders at you.