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Showing posts from August, 2013

My Equine World

Fiction “MY prayer for today,” he would begin the morning assembly every day with those words. My, I, mine – his vocabulary went little beyond that. “My school,” he was referring to his previous school which was supposed to have some fame because it was situated within a dead king’s renovated fort. And his new school had a living wall, a wall that he constantly built anew by raising its height.  He never felt secure outside a dead king’s fort. “Why did he become a Principal?”  Wondered Manmohan, an average teacher with average brains. “Dead kings’ forts stimulate royal ambitions,” consoled Mrs Manmohan, an average teacher with average brains. The Principal’s favourite team lost the cricket match.  The Principal was furious.  “How can MY team lose?”  He thundered. He galloped towards his car, pulled the door open, sat in the driver’s seat and drove the car backward.  As far as the backward ride was possible. Then he felt at ease. 

Noisy Children

“My children, jump, run and play and make all the noise you want but avoid sin like the plague and you will surely gain heaven.”  This is a sentence that I used to hear again and again during my youth.  In those days I was a member of a religious congregation founded by John Bosco (Don Bosco, more famously).  Later I left the congregation because I lost faith in “sin” and a few other religious concepts.  But I still believe that Don Bosco was bang on the point about the rights of children to jump, run and play and make all the noise they want.  Education is not about keeping students quiet in the classroom or even outside.  I have often wondered why children should keep quiet in the dining hall, for example.  Yesterday when a quiz was being conducted in the class (9) in accordance with the activities prescribed in the textbook and recommended highly by CCE (Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation), somebody from the administrative wing rushed into my class saying, “There’s too

Cassandra’s People

Short Story “... people who like to gossip and think the worst always have ways of finding out whatever they want, especially if it’s something negative or there’s some tragedy involved, even if it has nothing to do with them.”  Manmohan stared at the lines again.  The narrator in Javier Marias’s latest novel, The Infatuations , made that statement.  Manmohan loved it.  He put down the book and reflected on the lines.  So true, he said to himself.  Then he wondered why people were so.  The lines became an obsession.  So he decided to take a walk.  Walks were Manmohan’s remedies for obsessions. He was stopped at the gate as usual.  “Who are you?” asked the gate keeper. Manmohan was familiar with that question.  Very familiar.  He heard it every time he had to pass the gate of the residential school where he worked as a teacher.  The school had been taken over by a new management which replaced the entire security staff at the gate with a protean set of new st

Spelling Mistakes

Fantasy “Then again, you may pick up just enough education to hate people who say, ‘It’s a secret between he and I.’ Or you may end up in some business office, throwing paper clips at the nearest stenographer.  I just don’t know.  But do you know what I’m driving at, at all?” That’s what a teacher tells a student, the protagonist of J D Salinger’s celebrated novel, The Catcher in the Rye .  Holden, the student, was critical of everything around him.  He was confused by the hypocrisy of the adults around him.  The ability of his companions to adjust to that hypocrisy confounded him further.  In short, life confounded him. Holden ended up in a lunatic asylum.  He couldn’t cope with the confounding life.   But the novel ended when Holden was only 16 years old.  What if Holden continued to live beyond the novel, outside the asylum, liberated from his neurotic obsessions with hypocrisy, and ready to accept the world as it really is? He becomes a teacher in a public s

The Dalai Lama’s Cat

Book Review Author: David Michie Publisher: Hay House India, 2013 Pages: 216       Price: Rs 399 This is a good book for those who want to have a quick and fairly meaningful peep into Tibetan Buddhism and its current headquarters in Dharamsala and around.  If you are, however, fairly familiar with Buddhism as well as motivational books, this book may disappoint you. In most places the approach of the book is quite simplistic.  Simplicity is an adorable quality; but being simplistic is not.  Look at the Dalai Lama’s advice on anger, for example: “It (anger) is not permanent.  It is not part of you.  You cannot say, ‘I’ve always been an angry person.’  Your anger arises, abides, and passes, just like anyone else’s.  You may experience it more than others.  And each time you give in to it, you feed the habit and make it more likely you will feel it again.  Wouldn’t it be better, instead, to decrease its power?” [p.130] [If you find that advice profound, please

The cow and the mosquito

The picture is from the ISKCON site. The cow asked the mosquito, “There’s so much milk in my udder.  Why are you then sucking my blood?” The mosquito grinned at the cow and went on sucking the blood. 

Beyond the Self

I am still reading David Michie’s book, The Dalai Lama’s Cat .  What is interesting about the book for me is that just when I’m about to surrender myself to the feeling that it is a rehash of some clichéd though noble thoughts, it comes up with a sparkling notion that’s quite out of the way.  Out of the way, for me, that is. The last time I put down the book in order to reflect on one such sparkle was when it spoke about “Other Development.”  Self-development is the dominant theme of most inspirational works, whether it be books, workshops, or counselling sessions.   Helping you realise your potential and thus become a self-actualised person is the goal of such books and sessions.  I too was of the feeling that self-actualisation was the ultimate in the quest for meaning for each individual.   Then came Michie throwing a little pebble into the tranquil pool of my complacence. Self-development is just another quest not very unlike the other usual human quests, suggests Mic

The Prisoner and the Monk

Fiction – Parable The monk was on his usual visit to the prison.   It was a part of his daily routine to spend an hour in the prison with the intention of making the prisoners understand that what really makes a prison are not the iron bars and concrete walls but the inmate’s attitudes.   It’s not the place you are in or the work you do that makes you happy or unhappy, he would say frequently.   It’s how you view the place and the work that makes the difference. Happiness lies in the mind, not anywhere outside.   That was his basic premise.   “What’s your daily routine?” asked one of the prisoners whom the monk was counselling individually.   The prisoner was a notorious murderer.   “We get up at 4 in the morning,” began the monk.   The prisoner was stunned.   He used to think that getting up at 6.30 as they used to do in the prison was a grave penance.   He wanted to sleep till 10 o’clock.   The monk went on to narrate his daily routine.   Four hours of meditati

Endless Kurukshetra

Sanjay had nothing new to report And Dritarashtra was becoming impatient Listening to the same old stories Repeated ad infinitum, ad nauseam. OK, not that there are no differences. Draupatis are not just undressed now, They are raped and even killed. Even the soldiers do it in the land of suspected terrorists - In what was the paradise on the earth. Terrorists lay siege to progress of all sorts, Their God alone knows what they want. We know that they have concealed the face of every Draupati Behind the veil of ignorance and obscurity. Even the Durga Shakti genuflects before a sand mafia. Mafias are guarded by the kings and their minions. Kings build palaces of twenty-seven storeys. Indraprastha is a jungle of concrete and avarice. The Babas of Indraprastha speak words of gold, Each lecture brings them millions of dollars; Their queens suck their lust in the night And go conquering lands in the daytime. Karma-yogis have become kaama-yogis. The warrior is in r

The Rainbow Troops

Book Review Author: Andrea Hirata Published in India by Penguin , 2013 Pages: 291        Price: Rs 399 Every person has at least one story to tell: his/her own.   Andrea Hirata’s debut novel, The Rainbow Troops , tells the story of the author and ten other students of a crumbling school in a poor village of the Indonesian island, Belitong.   It is a story that elicits delight and tear drops at the same time.   It is a story of childhood innocence, mischief and malleability as much as of the indifference of God and destiny, the indifference of life itself. The Muhammadiyah School in Belitong is a dilapidated building.   A 15 year-old girl, Ibu Muslimah Hafsari (called Bu Mus by her students) has abandoned life’s enticements to join the only other teacher, an old man named Bapak Harfan Effendy Noor (Pak Harfan), in order to provide free education to the poor children on the island.   The norms stipulate that there should be at least ten students for a school to f


Fiction - parable Vijay was familiar enough with soil and the stones it turns up to realise that he had struck something rare.   It was a tiny stone, a pitch black speck not larger than the tip of his little finger. It turned up from the intestine of the earth while Vijay was digging a pit for the biogas plant. Anand, the scientist from the village, got the stone analysed in his lab and assured, “It is a rare object.   A compound of carbonic acid and magnesium.” Anand and his fellow scientists believed that it must be a fragment of a meteoroid that hit the earth millions of years ago.   “Very rare indeed,” concluded the scientist. Now, it’s plain commonsense that something that’s very rare indeed must be very valuable too. All the more so if it came from the heavens. So Vijay got the village goldsmith to set it on a gold ring.   Vijay wore the ring proudly on his ring finger. Nobody, in the village, however bothered to pay any homage to Vijay’s ring.   They were

One day in the life of …

Fiction “One day in the life of a residential school teacher,” I began writing the blog. “What do you think you are?” asked my wife with marked irritation.   “Ivan Denisovich?” Ivan Denisovich Shukhov is the protagonist of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s novel, One Day in the Life Ivan Denisovich .   Ivan was a prisoner in a Stalinist labour camp in Russia.   The fellow was an innocent peasant, almost illiterate, and very simple.   The prison routine was meant to dehumanise the prisoners, but Ivan survived.   He survived because he found meaning in that absurdly oppressive life, a meaning found by living intensively.   He slogged like a slave and ate like a wolf.   When he worked on a brick wall he worked as though every inch of it belonged to him.   He was a Sisyphus without the spirit of rebellion.   He was proud of whatever he did. “I’m Boxer,” I replied to my wife’s question. “Who are you going t