Saturday, August 31, 2013

Making a man out of him

Seeing the picture of horses in the Bangalore Mirror one day, my son asked me to explain the story to him. When I read the part where "CUPA is considering legal action against the culprits", he wanted to know more about the culprits. I replied lightly that they were some bad men who did not give any food to the horses.

My seven-and-a-half year old son then explained to me that probably these men were poor, and did not have much money to buy food. They thought food would be found somewhere in that area for the horses, and there was none. That's what had happened. Then, luckily for them, the school children came with bananas and grass. My son could barely make himself coherent; his vocabulary was tumbling over, unable to keep pace with his thoughts.

I stared at him in wonder. Cruelty to animals is not something he imagines humans are capable of. There surely is some explanation behind it, he thinks. People cannot starve horses.

What do we do to these little gems, I wondered, in the pretext of raising them??

As Baloo the bear says to Bagheera the panther when they debate sending Mowgli back to the man-village, "They'll ruin him! They'll make a man out of him!" We ruin these little perfect, flawless, wonderful babies by making men and women out of them.

A few months ago, when my mother visited us, she asked me about the latest electrical equipment in the house. I explained to her briefly how it worked. Not that she had to do anything to it, she was only improving her general knowledge. A few days later when we were having dinner, my mother said, "I still get confused between the different green and orange indicators."

I replied shortly, "Green means it is working as it should, Orange means it is on battery backup."

A moment's silence later - in which it was evident that my mother's confusion was still as deep as ever - my son calmly, patiently and in no hurry at all, explained to his grandmother that the green light meant this, the orange meant that, the blinking green lights on that side meant this, the blinking orange meant that,... I watched them in amazement - my son pointing to each and elaborating its purpose and my mother nodding in understanding. I don't think my mother will ever get confused again - he was so thorough and so patient and so clear.

I am afraid of what I am doing to him - making a man out of him. I try to teach him my own different ways of showing impatience, anger, disapproval, disappointment,... We're in an unconscious tug of war, he and I, to teach each other a few lessons of life.

And I am terrified that sooner or later he will give in, and I will win.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Poetry is discovered, not created

A few scraps of thoughts and feelings, a set of words and emotions were laid out before me like random pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The lines I had written down had a pulse, a throbbing, a life, but it was not flowing yet. I tried to gather them into shape - my task was merely to find and join the pieces of the puzzle. There was no doubt that there was poetry within them, it was up to me to mould them gently with my hands and help them attain that form.

Then it struck me that... It was there, waiting to be discovered. I was not a creator, I was a mere adventurer who chanced upon the signs of a beautiful treasure.

The response by @BeYess on Twitter expanded the vague idea.

"Clear unwanted portions and discover the sculpture..." 
Chip off unwanted words and extract the poem within. How true!

How beautiful it is, when we are able to bring a poem to existence, how magical it seems when we extract it from the depths it was concealed in, how fulfilling it is when the finished poem glows in its final polished state!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Saturday Morning Dilemma...

- I can't write a word. I am too exhausted.
- I must.
- The week had been too hectic, I feel dizzy. I can't focus.
- Focus, anyway.
- No, I can't write.
- I have to.
- I will kill mysef if I do.
- I will die if I don't.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Second Timer's Unluck!

There is indeed such a thing as Beginner's Luck - we all know that.

Wikipedia says,
Beginner's luck refers to the supposed phenomenon of novices experiencing disproportionate frequency of success or succeeding against an expert in a given activity.

Nothing else can explain the fact that the very first time I made aviyal in my life, it tasted great - so great that I assumed I was already an expert, perhaps a genius, and that I had a natural knack (coupled with a natural lack-of-interest) for cooking. Forget the part that the second time I made it, it was a disaster and was saved only because my Mom was around.

Every week, my son has to learn words for his dictation in school, and it is my painful duty to teach him. Sometimes I tell him to "just write, let me see how many words you already know." He ponders for long over each word, applies phonics, thrusts his tongue out for effect and comes out with a result. I look at it, and am amazed - the word is perfect. English is a crazy language, as I always say. Nothing in English is as it seems. There is no clear rule for pronunciation, sometimes it is this way, sometimes it is that. For instance, I taught my son that if 'e' comes after 'g', it is pronounced like a 'j', example: strange, damage, danger. He pointed to 'belonged' and read it as 'belonjed'. He asks me why 'Ocean' is pronounced as 'oshen', shouldn't it be 'oseyan'? Anyway, he has his phonics right most of the time, so he gets some of the dictation words right at the first attempt. I am pleased. I don't bother with those words, and focus on the rest. The next day he comes back with the dictation results and lo and behold - the words that are wrong are exactly the ones he had got right the previous evening.

I firmly believe Wikipedia should devote a page to Second Timer's Unluck, because such a thing exists as much as Beginner's Luck does. It is almost inevitable and unavoidable that the second time the smug beginner attempts something, it should fail miserably. Because Sir Isaac Newton has rightfully said, "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction."

The first time, we are careful more than usual, we thrust our tongues out and ponder for long over each step. The second time, we feel it is easy - we have already done it right once, it was no fluke, and it was quite simple, really - and our concentration slips. We are prepared for an Encore. And the second time, we are unlucky.

The first (action) and second (reaction) balance each other out, and from the third time onwards, we are careful enough, we are experienced enough, we are sensible enough and we are balanced enough to get a moderately good (or sometimes better) result.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Child's Cry and a Mommy's Heart

When I hear a child's cry from the play area where the kids of the apartment gather every evening, I sit up, alert, and listen, my Mommy heart pounding. Is that my son's voice?

When I make out that it isn't him, it is not a rush of relief that washes over me - it is a rush of terror. My Mommy heart begins to pound harder: Did my son do something to him to make him cry?

I listen keenly to the wailing voice complain to anyone who is willing to listen. R threw the ball at me and it hit my, right here...

R did. Not my son.
The flood of relief finally makes its appearance.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

What do you mean by Experience?

What exactly do we mean by experience?

Is it the feeling of 'been there, seen this, done that'?
Or offering unsolicited advice based on it?
Or looking back in pride at the steps you have climbed to be where you are today?
Or shaking your heads at the yuppies trying to clamber up a tree (and thinking, 'that's not the way to do it, kid')?
Or being able to do things in half the time, because you had spent half your lifetime doing it?
Or looking at a bubbly girl and imagining evilly that all her joy will be gone in ten years (and hating yourself for thinking it)?
Or listening patiently to the polite and eager youngster put up his new idea, and trying not to kill his enthusiasm by saying things like 'I came up with something like this a few years ago and it was mercilessly shot down'?
Or being able to look into a friend's worried eyes and say 'Everything will be all right'?
Or feeling great about your smart methods because you know how much you have struggled to master them?
Or feeling terrible that after all these years, you still haven't mastered a thing?
Or being able to ask the right questions even though the entire concept is new?
Or playing down the admiration of admiring youngsters?
Or being arrogant or modest or cheerful or composed?
Or thinking fearfully that you used to be so good at it just a few years ago, 'is age catching up so soon'?
Or holding back when you want to shout in anger?
Or yelling in anger because you have 'been there, done that, more than you, dammit'?
Or trying to keep yourself from breaking into a smug grin, when you see someone failing miserably as you once had?
Or not offering a word of consolation or hope to a person who's struggling, because there was no one when you needed a word of support?
Or being able to hold out a hand to the fallen man and tell him it's okay?
Or not being overtly ecstatic when your efforts are finally successful, because somehow today you know what it means to totally deserve something you got?
Or being perplexed that something that had seemed impossible five years ago seems today like a piece of cake?
Or being humble because you acknowledge that you are standing on the shoulders of Giants?
Or knowing that you do not know everything in the world yet?
Or believing in the good result that would come from luck, hard work, talent and positive attitude?
Or deciding whether it is pessimism that drives you, or optimism, or a healthy combination of the two?
Or knowing that muttering a prayer or shedding a tear isn't a sign of weakness?
Or saying 'That was awesome' - and meaning it?

Or having a helluva lot of crazy thoughts and memories that cram your 'experienced' head?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

One plus one...

First, at the height of outrage, we find peace in blaming. Mostly because it is the simplest, easiest and most straightforward thing to do. They did this to me. He stole my toy. 1+1=2.

Sooner or later we step into what we like to call maturity. We become balanced enough to think from their side. They were helpless, they had no option; they did the best they could under the circumstances. He had just picked it up to play with it for a while, maybe he was tempted, poor thing. 1 + 1 need not be 2, we are ready to concede that it could also be a slightly bigger 1 (immini baliya 1), or could even be 11.

Then comes the day... when you are the one seated on the other side of the table. I am helpless, I have no option, I am doing the best I can... I did not steal your toy, I just picked it up and walked away... 1+1.... they say it is not quite 2, it is 1.9999999.....

You hate 1. You hate numbers, you hate addition. You hate the day you first encountered Mathematics.
It was so much easier to blame someone.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Calm Down O Heart!

What can a hapless woman do
To calm her restless will-
Hopping from this to that:
Calm Down O Heart, Be Still.

Dragging her along, as you
Stray from thought to thought;
Unsure of what to settle on,
Unsure of what you've sought.

Haunted by a vision that's
Withered, dead and gone.
Time has covered its tracks
Or you have, on your own.

A dream unreal, but longing!
An ache no one can soothe,
It exists not, but yearning!
Like an old hag seeking youth.

Hovering over a graveyard
Where flowers no longer bloom.
A wasted life, it's sad,
You'll lead yourself to doom.

Let go, let go your passion
And look no more behind...
Have you no ear for reason?
Behold, the world's not kind.

You've endured humiliation;
No more: Not once, not twice.
Be free from this obsession!
Calm Down O Heart, Be Wise.

My book of poems is now available on Kindle: Lonely Journeys