Saturday, July 28, 2012

of dreams and aspirations

While reading the morning paper found PT Usha’ photograph with her protégé.  The sprint queen who came from a nondescript village and practiced on the beaches to miss the Olympics medal just by a whisker.  Extreme hardwork, determination, training from her coach and most important of them all - encouragement from her family must have turned this Payyoli girl to a golden girl of India.

Her photo in the newspaper brought my thoughts to my parent’s neighbor whom I met in the summer gone by. This beautiful, tall girl all of 20 years ismother of two naughty kids aged 4 and 2.  She was born to well to do farmers in a small village near Salem.  When I first met her at my parents place, I could sense the maturity beyond her chronological age.  Gradually, I started breaking the ice.  During each conversation, I found she was not just beautiful and matured but knowledgeable too.  She was very good with practical jobs like fixing wooden things, electrical wires, shelling tender coconuts, handling people, driving two and four wheeler etc.

When I questioned how she could do so many jobs. She told me she would help her parents in the farm before going to school and that she would help her mother carry 50 kgs of flowers on her two wheeler to the market.

During our course of  meetings which happened pretty often due to frequent power cuts.  The Frequent power cuts brought all the neighbors in our colony out and most of them came (across ages 2 to 74) to my parents compound to form a gossip session.

During those sessions, she would often tell us that she wanted to study further but her parents and grandparents would not allow her to continue. She was the best athlete of her school and she was asked to represent her school in district level javelin throw, shot put and running race. But her conservative parents refused to send her for any sport and later even to school.    Her parents and grandmother instead of sending her to district level games decided to get her married to a known boy in their community. The marriage was for convenience to bring two distant families together.  Resisting her parent’s wishes only made the girl purple since her father whipped her with neem canes she said.  So midway through her tenth standard at the age of 14 she was married to a man 12 years her senior.

Through the way she spoke and her inquisitiveness, i could sense she wanted to live her dream. She wanted to be an athlete but, now she satisfies herself  by playing badminton.  Though she does not read or write English, she has the thirst to learn the language and  attempts to speak.  She wanted to learn so many things. Join courses especially those conducted by sewa kendras and more than anything, she has that fire in her to do something.  But family commitments and discouragement withheld her dreams. Her husband is also sweet natured and a nice person but perhaps he felt that she was  young and it was his way of shielding her from the world. He doesn’t want her to continue her studies.  Whenever she broaches the topic, he tells her to get permission from her parents, which she says will never happen.

Whatever be their problem, I was only thinking there could be so many Karthikas in this world who are good at sports, studies etc.,who had many dreams and aspirations,  but perhaps no encouragement. If only they were given encouragement, opportunities and infrastructure, perhaps  they too would shine in the medals tally like the Payyoli girl . Who knows?

Often my thoughts are disturbed by this girl.  I often think of her while I go about my work. She is the same girl whom I wrote about, who wants to admit her children in an International school. Perhaps she will realize her dreams through her children.

By the way, Where is  Ilavazhagi?

Friday, July 20, 2012

A realisation at a boot camp

As she   got the  enrollment form  for the 10 day  mock  boot camp signed from us,  I knew the day for her to embark for the camp was not far away. It would be a good exposure for her to experience the guidance under the military wing and learn things which were not part of a prescribed school curriculum.  I was worried about the rough conditions she would have to endure like food ,shelter and clothing. They have to live under the canvas tents come rain or shine, eat the food cooked in the community kitchen,  wash their clothes, fill water, clean the tents which was amidst some wild creepies and crawlies.
 Memories of my little girl  being fussed over with the best of  food and putting her to bed with bolsters by her side for comfort and other such cuddling and pampering played through my mind.  Must she  endure all the discomforts?
But both father and daughter convinced me that it would be an unique experience for her and these are rare opportunities. The next step was to shop for the uniform and boots specially available at the cantonment stores. As men with camouflaged dress  embellished with stars on the shoulders and DMS shoes strolled the streets and walked in and out of many stores.  I did realize that they were the reason we all slept tightly in the night  while they served at the borders and defended us from our enemies, but felt nothing more than that.   They had chosen their vocation because of their passion to serve the country and out of their own choice. Nobody forced them right?
 The d-day dawned and we dropped her at the camp site  where nearly 500 children from various schools and colleges across the city had gathered and across all ages too. From age 10- age 16.We were told we had an opportunity to meet her every evening  and she may get an outpass if necessary one of those days.
Since the camp site was closer home we had the added  advantage of meeting her daily in the evening, I visited her in the evening.  The first day I saw my daughter and her friends , the mommy strings in my heart tugged , though my strong but fragile child did not cry, I could sense the once happy go lucky girl  was unhappy with the rough and tough environment and home sick. They were unhappy with the food, the shelter and they were taught so many tough things like rifle handling,shooting, drill parade and other sports under the harsh sun. They also took turns to do watch man work outside the camp for two hours to secure their camping tent. The children used to comforts(not luxurious comforts though) of life could not take the harshness  of the training.
My anxiety levels grew and I told my husband , we must withdraw her  that evening but she refused to give up.  From next day on I and her friends mom decided to take some food so that they would be comfortable.  The days we did not take the food, they have starved .
Ten days later, now my daughter tells me  “Nee edhu kuduthalum saapdiren, Ma”( whatever you give, I’ll eat ma)  and she says she has become adept at crisis management. The days it rained they had to  pool everything into their camp and strap it up. They had to do this all in no time and rush to the government school close by to spend their nights. Many a times, they could’nt bathe and ate sooka rotis and the subzis they disliked. They have got up at odd hours to secure their tent.  They were involved in community work and have lived without TV or radio. They have retired to bed at 7.30 inside their dark tents only to getup at stroke of four in the morning. Now she says, it is an experience she would like to go through again.
Many a times I’ve seen on TV and movies how the men of navy, army and Airforce have served our nation putting their lives at risk. I’ve heard many stories from my grand uncle  who was with the army and travelled all the way from Burma to India by foot along with other soldiers. All through the journey he had just 3 Kim bottles(similar to Horlicks)  in his knapsack to replenish themselves and they have walked for seven days through jungles and plains.  I’ve heard stories from my friends who are army officers and naval officers wives who are my neighbours.  One friend told me how she had gone to her parents home to deliver the child while her husband was laying roads during the Kargil war and she was worried about her husband’s return all the time. How their husbands never ate on many days and did not have bath . They don’t know from where the next gun shot would arrive. Many a  stories from so many army wives and naval officer’swives.
My daughter was not even in such a situation, just a mock camp organized by her school and still I felt like swooping her in my arms and taking her away from the camp.
 What emotions must the family of these people  army, navy and airforce be hosting?  Those of pride, worry, fear. Would they be stressed?   Would they be worried about their husbands or sons/daughters  during war time? Would they take pride? Would they be anxious about their return? Would they be impatiently waiting for their call? Would they fear about their lives? Would they be a source of strength, inspire and motivate them? So many questions…….. only they know the answer. So many feelings……. only they endure.
Now,  did  I say somewhere  in the above paragraphs, that I did not feel much for them. I’ve changed my mind…….
Next time I see those men with those stars in the shoulders, I know those two stars are worth a million in the sky and next time those wives narrate the stories   I would understand better.
All that I can do for these people is just dedicate this post.  No today is not army day or navy day… today is the day I changed my mind and really felt for these men and women in uniform.
  If only the men who induced wars  realized and empathized the mental turmoil of all those men in uniform and their families  perhaps there would be  peace and not  war  and so many more families would be happy. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

When less(news) was more(news)

Was listening to the radio in my car, when the tidbit given by RJ chetan was  news to me. He said there was no news on a particular day and that day was April 18th 1930.  According to him the news  went like this-

” Good evening, Today is Good Friday. There is no news”.  

On This day officially there was no news report , since nothing news worthy happened and only the piano was played the whole day.

Now, that was a contrast to today’s news where we are being fed with news on most news channels 24/7/365.

Well, is there something news worthy enough to be telecast all the time. It is the same news that is being recycled with  different byliners like flashnews; breaking news; stop press etc., Any time you switch on the channel, the byliners and headlines  are constant and the same old news is recycled through the day or with little variation.

And there is no parity in news between the channels. Each channel  trying to out do the other to sensationalize a tiny piece of news  or give extra mileage to a known celebrity.  As if to add salt to the injury, the news anchors of today shout on top of their voices while relating or reporting an event so much so that even their mikes would go unconscious.  I still can remember how a  celebrity newsanchor  shouted and called out to her colleague to find the latest news when the  Taj blasts of Mumbai   happened and there were explosions in the background.

 The news gets more  spicier, hotter and acidic if the newschannels are run by some political party , with one channel trying  to openly malign the other and blowing their own trumpets. Today’s news channel radiate so much of negativity and uncensored violence that sometimes even after the TV is switched off the visuals come back to haunt you.

I could’nt resist  myself from revisiting the past when news was  carried in a dignified way and read by beautiful and handsome readers who were role models for many and style icons in their own right. 

If you grew up in the 70's and 80's -  Do you all remember the immaculately dressed Rini Simon Khanna, the admirable Komal GB Singh, the bearded Sunit Tandon, the baritone voiced Tejeswar,  lovely  Mini,  soft toned Niti Ravindran,  suave  Bhaskar Bhattacharjee and many more of course the pioneer amongst them was Sasi Kumar.

The news during pre-satellite channel days  were not sensational , competitive or prejudiced and each reader presented the news with the right dose of smile, right intonation and elegance.

The  DD English news almost coincided with our dinner time. When dinner was being laid on the table, I, my  little sis and my cousin who stayed with us would  voice the names of who would read the news that day. Appa too would join in the fun. He would always root for Komal GB  Singh( she reminded my father of his mom),  Amma’s choice would be Rini, while we would call out for the others. It would be great fun till the favorite news reader appeared on the screen and then if it was the newsreader whom we had called,  we would sport a “I told you so” look.

And then along with the dinner, we also chewed, diced and discussed the news and most often at home, there would be a dual party one supporting the Rajiv Congress and the other supporting for VPSingh. Many a times this has ended in a verbal fight and cold wars at home with my cousin and my sis.  

Those days, when news time was less but had qualitynews and  even the most harshest of news was conveyed in a  soothing  and soft way. And  news then , was a reliable window for us to the world….no a broad door.....

Today of course,  we are spoilt with so many  news channels  that I keep toggling  the channels not knowing which channel would provide me with that quality, reliable news.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

An evening at a culture house

One summer weekend we were at Lamakaan a culture house which was the venue for Sutradhar’s refund- an Hinglish play.The  promo and gist of the play in 'the hindu 'was inviting.

The story originally from a Hungarian play by Fritz Karinthy  was adapted and directed by Narayan S for Vinay Varma’s  theatre group Sutradhar.

The story is about Aadarsh Vidyarthi who has been a failure in his job. He has been chucked out from whatever company  he has been employed at and so is short of money.  He gets frustrated and so blames the school education for his failure.  Encouraged by his friend he decides to get a refund of his fees from his school.  HE approaches his school principal MR. Khurana with a strange request of ‘Refund’ of his school fees  since he learnt nothing from his school.  The principal is zapped but seeing his adamant nature, calls his teaching staff to bail him out of the situation.  The teachers Mr. Pillai(Maths). Mrs Roy(history), Mr. Jha(physics) , an UPite teacher  called Ujda chaman all with their ethnic malayali, Bengali, Bihari and UPaccents  decide to reexamine him. If he fails in their examination, they decide to refund his fees, but amongst the staff they decide not to fail him even if he gets his answer wrong.

Aadarsh Vidyarthi  is reexamined by the school staff with their distinct dialects and this forms the base for the humour in the play. The staff decide to mark him right for every wrong answer and finally the climax is when the maths master decides to ask him two questions. One big and one small.

The small question is answered  and Mr. Pillai exclaims that Vidyarthi is right.  Just as we in the audience think that Mr. Pillai has goofed up and all the teachers throw a mixed angry askance glances at him. Mr. Pillai  tells Aadarsh to calclulate the refund amount.  Aadarsh Vidyarthi  calculates the amount mentally to the last decimal and claims the amount.

Then Mr. Pillai says that this is the big question that he had set for him and so the answer is right. So there is the bait.....Vidyarthi gets no refund.

The play was well enacted by sutradhar actors all of who are professionals like Medico legal advisor,  CA’s, MNC employees, engineers and retired colonels. Their passion for acting has brought them together where they have been practicing in the early hours despite their busy work schedules. The only hitch in the whole play was the volley of abuses thrown by the student in the name of humour at the teaching staff. Not in good taste.

 What forms the crux of the  humour satire  is  does education in school and college help you at your work place?

How many of you apply your school and college education at work? Not all are failures but still how many relate their work to their education.