Wednesday, November 30, 2011


It is what many of us do and love doing. Done to release stress or to combat boredom, many consider it the height of gratification. All you need are your fingers and the plump surface. You can do it by yourself or along with a partner. The Japanese have made it an art. There are songs about it and virtual avatars of it too. Why, it has even been used in Fashion. Few can deny the appeal of the bubble wrap or resist it either.
Of course, its primary function is to pack fragile objects, but its poppability accounts for its popularity. My staff room New Year gift exchange parties invariably found some of us bursting the bubbles on the packing at the end of it. Wild horses or even the most delicious food couldn’t drag us from the frantic gaming. Aficionados of the sport who did not get one would be magnanimously allowed to share a sheet. There are those who pop the bubbles in a random fashion, while others are more meticulous, completing a row or a patch at a time. I have heard of people laying down whole sheets and rolling around on them or driving a car over them. Apparently, if you ball up the bubble wrap and press down on it, quite a big bang happens. Another method is to twist the wrap and wring it to produce a rapid round of pops. I for one don’t prefer this way – it is like swallowing your milk chocolate rather than nibbling at it. Whatever the method may be, the popper does not give up until the very last bubble has been killed. And then you run your hands over the vanquished blisters probing for signs of life. It has been found that on leaving a deflated bubble wrap for a while, some bubbles breathe in remaining bits of air and struggle back to feeble life.
Apparently, the word ‘bubble wrap’ was initially a trade name and then it became generic. And at first it was designed to coat walls. An interesting idea, since your walls would be as entertaining as anything else. I am an unabashed bubble pop fan. Once an acquaintance, who was otherwise occupied, left his little daughter with me for a day with the dire warning that I was a ‘teacher’. ( Parents often do that – treat us as if we were explosives) I tried to interest her in games, colouring, stories and cartoons and failed. However I found a kindred spirit in her as we held a bubble wrap on either side and burst it together. She is grown a bit now, but when we meet, we both remember sharing an afternoon of simple pleasure.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Competition has been synonymous with life from the beginning of time. Survival of the fittest is not merely an adage. Your being alive to read this is because one sperm got ahead of a million others. The plant that grabbed the space, sunlight , water and nutrients from brother seedlings is the one that stands sturdy. The lion that leads the pride got to the head by vanquishing competitors consistently. That was not effortless. Like it or not, aggression is natural. Natural aggression is involuntary or instinctive. However, the competition that we humans get involved in, complements our natural potential for aggression with complex social and psychological motivation. Now, more than ever, competition rules us.

Unlike the pie-throwing games of the West, our Indian mud-slinging contests lack hilarity. We voters watch as politicians and candidates sling mud on each other, since it is the assembly election season. Accusations are answered not with explanations, but with counter accusations at the opponents and it dawns on the common man that all parties are equally bad and all politicians are malodorous digestive effluents. Gone are the days when parties promised equal opportunities. Now they appease vote bank masses and lure with ‘offers’ of television sets, computers, absurdly low prices and an assortment of freebies. It is a sale out there! My neighbor in Kasavanahalli complains that she hasn’t enough space to keep the 50 kilos of rice (each) that three opposing parties had distributed. One would think that such aggressive campaigning would burn these guys out. But they seem to be enjoying the gamble, as they are thick on epidermis and thin on values. Besides, the bounty at the end of the battle is worth the filth-trek.

Competition is omnipresent in our daily lives, whether one is a corporate-slave, entertainer, millionaire, pen-pusher, student, job-seeker, banker, parent, or a T.V. channel. Ranks, deadlines, targets, exams, investment, ratings are all adrenalin-triggers that steer you towards the push-and-shove routine of aggression. One would think that people would prefer peaceful pursuits to break free from their stressful duties. Strangely that doesn’t happen. We choose to watch/take part in competitions and reality shows even when we don’t have to. Why, you want to be the first one to get off an aircraft or get on board. Where there is a queue, there is a scramble to be the first; and when you get there, a perverse feeling of one-up-manship - especially on seeing the peeved looks on those behind. Temple queues are sports arenas where all kinds of contests happen to get there. You have the very physical pushing maneuvres: the Elbow, the Heave, the Tug, the Resist Stance, the Block, the Return Push and often Verbal Abuse. Another means to win, is using the influence of the temple staff much to the chagrin of those who invested several hours and energy on the aforementioned sport. Yet another is to dole out cash legally or otherwise to gain access.

Sports reveals fascinating aspects of competitive thinking . Supporters switch to primitive mode as they cheer, jeer, pray, despair, boast, gloat, cry, grin or make sacrifices. My Paki driver, eager for the Cricket World Cup Series, had talked of nothing else for the past 2 months. This quiet, big man turned into a chattering boy as he enlightened me about the historical moments of the game, the scores of the teams in past, his predictions about players and teams – his discourses were punctuated by claims that it didn’t matter who won “Jeet aur haar to hota hein, nafrat ki kyaa zaroorat?” It was a morose man that drove me in silence the day after his team bowed out. I tactfully refrained from commenting on the tragedy. But it did seem unnatural not to mention it at all. And so I asked, “Kal match dekha, Kya?” And the floodgates opened. I caught some words in the rapid hindi that flowed- haraam, bewakoof , were two of the highest frequency. The gist of his tirade was that his team had deliberately given runs, dropped catches and scooped their own balls into the Indian fielders’ hands… “Shaayad, match fix kiya hoga, paisa liya hoga.” And I murmured in my fractured Hindi that I was sure that wasn’t true and that it must have been a bad day for them. He only felt offended by that remark and insisted that Immorality, and not Incompetence had caused his team's defeat.While I felt that it is better to be a Loser than a Perpetrator, he preferred to think of his team as Unprincipled rather than Incapable. In sports, perspectives are relative. It is interesting to watch the match after it is over and listen to the comments about what the captain did, didn’t do, should do or should have done. Now Dhoni is God (of course, secondary to the Great God Sachin in the cricket pantheon). But if India hadn’t won (shudder!), we’d be baying for his blood and finding a million mistakes.

Teaching, I thought, was a vocation where competition found no role. Teachers co-operate rather than compete. In teaching, it isn’t about yourself, the students are the priority. And if teachers were a competitive lot, we’d have written the AIEEE or some such competitive exam and become something else. I was wrong.

With competition like this, I wonder what we classroom teachers will need to do to prevent losing our students . To learn more about this delightful young lady, look here.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

NY Post

I know this is belated. The computer was convalescing on New Year's day. I did write a post when it recovered, but it looked too pessimistic. Given the unpleasantness of a cruel December, my thoughts and post were infected with cynicism. It being unfair to spread the contagion among my readers(staunch, though few), I scrapped it.

Now that the excuses are done with, let's get to the business of a new year. Knowing myself too well, I never made resolutions. My mind sneered at my weak will whenever it contemplated the concept. Last year, unnoticed by the mind, I 'thought' I'd do somethings. No, I didnot 'resolve' or write them down, but merely thought that I might, maybe, possibly, if I felt like it, if I got time, perhaps try to do a few things like, you know.... ahem .... embroidery or ...ummm....French and.... baking??? And what about finding work? The audacity of such aspirations awakened my cynical mind into sneer mode sending me slinking away.

At the end of 2010 I look at the pillow embroidered by ME in 5 different stitches. I can't believe I've completed ten lessons in French and started a course in German.
I found work teaching in a college. And today I am trying out Garret's Cranberry Upside down Cake. So I have every right to hold my mind by the collar, look it in the face and shout, "HAH! Now What can you say, you ugly, pathetic, good-for-nothing creature?!" The mind shouts right back at me, " HAH TO YOU! Those terrible cookies and awry embroidery??! And TWELVE months to complete 10 lessons??! Shame!" Yes, I admit it is not ideal, but I will use these tiny achievements to put some muscles on my distrophied Will.

Having time-bound goals keeps you not just going, but going forward. So my thoughts for the next year include maybe accelerating the snail's pace of my French learning. I could continue with the German. Will I ever learn to crochet? Can I possibly make terracota jewellery like I've always wanted to do. WHen will I finish reading the humongous Devi Bhagavatam that I started months ago? Well Iam not thinking of the kilos I have to shed'

My readers, I'm sure have will power made of sterner stuff than mine. You can do it. Stretch out. Take that piece of paper. Get up. Find that pen. Go on write your goals and put it up where you'll see it. I'd be interested to know them too.

Wish you a fruitful and action-packed 2011.