Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Night Click

 

Kalol Mukherjee, West-Bengal

A paddy field on the highway is a favourite food haunt. As the farmers retire and the fields go quiet, it’s dinnertime. The moon is but a prop. The streetlights set the ambience. Here you’re on a quiet date with yourself, and too bad you had to get caught!

[This microtale was written for the above photograph, which was shortlisted in the Greenstorm Nature Photography Contest 2020, and was published on the Greenstorm Foundation website.]

Monday, 21 December 2020

Surfing

Saurav Pal, West Bengal
Unbridled, we move in a frenzy, dashing through the sloppy waters, splashing up heavy spray. We run, setting the soil and the humans to work. Drenched in showers of muddy water, we announce the arrival of the monsoon. And we keep intact the farmers’ pride.

[This microtale was written for the above photograph, which was shortlisted in the Greenstorm Nature Photography Contest 2020, and was published on the Greenstorm Foundation website.]

Sunday, 13 December 2020

Rain



Mazha is a Malayalam poem written by a poet who wishes to remain anonymous. The poem brings to one's mind all the memories of a monsoon-soaked countryside in Kerala. Rain is my attempt at creating an English version of the same poem, of course, with a different pitter-patter and a different petrichor.

മഴ

മഴയെപ്പുണർന്നതൊക്കെയാബാല്യകാലം!

മിഴികളിൽമൊഴികളിൽകളിചിരികളിൽ

ചെമ്മണ്ണലിഞ്ഞ ചെറുവഴികളിൽനിറമായ് മണമായ്,

കാലടികൾ പൊതിയും ചുവപ്പായ്

പാടത്തുഴവുചാൽ വേഗമായ് മാറും,

ഞാറ്റുകെട്ടിന്നുതോഴിയായ് ചോരും

ചെളിയിൽ നടക്കുമ്പോളോമനിക്കുന്നവൾ

പുഷ്ടിപ്പെടുത്തുന്ന പീയൂഷവർഷിണി

ഇഷ്ടരാഗം മൂളിത്തഴുകുന്ന ഹർഷിണി

ഇടവഴികളിൽ ഏഴുനാദം പൊഴിച്ചൊപ്പം

നടക്കും മനോഹരിഇലയ്ക്കിട്ടു കൊട്ടും,

വള്ളിപ്പടർപ്പിലൊട്ടുംചെടിപ്പൊന്തയിൽ

മൃദു മർമ്മരം നനച്ചിടറും,

തെങ്ങോല തിളക്കിത്തടിയിലോടിത്തടത്തിലലിയുവോൾ,

കുളിർക്കാറ്റിന്നു നറുമണം ചേർപ്പവൾ

പനിനീർപ്പൂവിലുംതുമ്പചെമ്പരത്തിയെല്ലാം

കുളിർപ്പിച്ചു നറുനിറഗന്ധം കൊടുപ്പവൾ!

മണ്ണിരപ്പുറ്റിനെയലിയിച്ചുഞണ്ടിൻ കുഴിതോണ്ടിച്ചു,

നടുവരമ്പത്തെ മാടിൻ ചെവിയിളക്കി,

കാക്കച്ചിറകിനെക്കുതിർത്തണ്ണാൻകൂട്ടിലെക്കൂട്ടായി,

പോത്തിന്‍ പുറത്തമർന്നു തെറിച്ചും,

ചിലുചിലെച്ചിരിച്ചുല്ലസിക്കും വിനോദിനി മഴയിവൾ!

പവിഴമുല്ലയെ മുട്ടുകുത്തിക്കുന്നവൾ

ഒരുതുള്ളിയിൽ കറുകയ്ക്കുമുത്തുചാർത്തുന്നവൾ

ഇറയത്തിടമുറിയാതലറിച്ചിരിപ്പവൾ

പറയുന്നതൊക്കെയും പ്രിയമായ്പ്പതിപ്പവൾ

പാതിരാവിലെ തവളയെത്തല്ലുവോൾ

കൊതിതീരാതൃഷ്ണ കുടംകൊണ്ടൊഴിപ്പവൾ

വാഴത്തടക്കൊരു സ്ഫടികത്തൊലിപോ

ലഴകിൽപ്പൊതിഞ്ഞൊട്ടിക്കിടപ്പവൾ!

തഴുതാമ, മുക്കുറ്റി, മുത്തങ്ങക്കൂട്ടരെ

കഴുത്തോളം മുക്കിക്കിടത്തുന്നവൾനീ

പുഴയിൽ കുളിക്കുമ്പൊളെൻമേൽവീണു

പുഴയായ് മാറുന്ന മഴയിവൾ പ്രിയങ്കരി!

ഇല്ലെനിക്കാവില്ല വാക്കിൽ കുറിക്കുവാൻ 

നീയെന്റെ പ്രാണന്റെയറിയാത്തരംഗങ്ങൾ!


Rain

And that was a childhood that wrapped up all the rain

In its eyes, in its chatter, in its playful laughter

In the ruddiness of its muddy lanes, in the hues and scents

And in the earthen stains of its foot trails,

Gushing in a hurry down the farmland furrows

Spilling a joyful drizzle where the seedlings huddle

Caressing your feet as they sink in the puddles

She would fall in a cascade of ambrosia,

Crooning a cherished melody,

The echoes of her musical downpour

Usher you down the winding alleys

Tapping on the leaves, clinging to the vines

Drenching the bushes in quivering murmurs

Lighting up the palm fronds, riding down the trunk

And quietly melting into the soil bed,

She would sprinkle fragrance on the cool breeze

Freshen and fill with sweet aromas

The rose, the leucas and the hibiscus,

A clew of worms she would undo

And dig into the crab’s burrow,

Tweaking the cow’s ears in the meadow

Dousing the crow in its tailcoat

Sporting with the squirrel in its den

Bouncing right off the back of a bull

Breaking into laughter like a cheerful lass

She would bring the coral jasmine to its knees

And adorn the devil’s grass with a bead,

She would rejoice in abandon under the eaves

Her every expression a charming treat,

She would slap the toad awake in the midnight hour

Spill potfuls of insatiable thirst

Hug the plantain stem in a sheer crystal drape

Drowning the hogweed, the little tree plant

And the Cyperus grass neck deep,

In the river she would fall all over me

And then all at once become the river,

Nay, I cannot scribble down in words

She is a wave surging in my soul unseen.

    

Monday, 7 December 2020

Spark and Fire


The event was the Yercaud Poetry Festival 2020 - the third edition of the annual festival. The theme was 'Fire'. The first edition was themed on 'Earth' followed by the second themed on 'Water'. The event was sponsored by Rotary Club of Salem Galaxy and coordinated by Soul Scribers' Society Salem in association with The Hoi Polloi.


Monday, 30 November 2020

Acid Rain

 

Natalya Rezepina Yuzeeva, Russia

Once we lived on a riverside. Our branches bowed and leaves rustled. We had little nests cocooned in our arms. We sheltered them from storm, shower and shine. We held the earth together and cleared the sky. Until you rained acid and maimed us for life.

[This microtale was written for the above photograph, which was shortlisted in the Greenstorm Nature Photography Contest 2020, and was published on the Greenstorm Foundation website.]

Monday, 23 November 2020

Surveillance

Santhosh Jidugu, Hyderabad

Hush! You’re being watched. Your actions are being recorded. You cannot love us and then litter your refuse in our terrains. You cannot watch us through your lenses and then pretend not to see when our woods are being cleared. Love us or leave us.

[This microtale was written for the above photograph, which was shortlisted in the Greenstorm Nature Photography Contest 2020, and was published on the Greenstorm Foundation website.]

Sunday, 15 November 2020

River of Sand

 

Abdul Momin, Bangladesh

Hurrying from shore to shore for days and months, Jamuna is tired. Through the years, the world has eroded and destroyed her, forcing her to alter her course. Today she seems deceptively abundant with sand bars taking the place of her swelling curves.

[This microtale was written for the above photograph, which was shortlisted in the Greenstorm Nature Photography Contest 2020, and was published on the Greenstorm Foundation website.]

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Survival

Gokul Krishnan V., Kerala

Was it the fight in its heart or the fire in its belly that kept the ant hanging on? Was the flow too rapid or the waters too deep? What made the other slip and fall into the fathoms? Will another lifeboat float this way soon? Will it scramble up in time?

[This microtale was written for the above photograph, which was shortlisted in the Greenstorm Nature Photography Contest 2020, and was published on the Greenstorm Foundation website.]

Monday, 2 November 2020

Life Bubbles

 

Vittorio Ricci, Italy

Life is just a bubble. Pretty, round and perfect. Yet, a hint of a storm can blow it away. A rush of waves can crush it or drown it. Or it can simply burst by itself. It’s beautiful for as long as it floats, without a swell or a surge to crumble it. Guard it I will until then.

[This microtale was written for the above photograph, which was shortlisted in the Greenstorm Nature Photography Contest 2020, and was published on the Greenstorm Foundation website.]

Sunday, 1 November 2020

Perspective


Vladlena Lapshina, Russia

Whether it’s for the dragonfly or for the shutterbug that’s stepping out for a good catch for the day, perspective matters. So does the angle of vision. The imperfection of the environment, like the tear in the leaf, doesn’t matter. Forget the damage, focus on the advantage.

[This microtale was written for the above photograph, which made it to the finals in the Greenstorm Nature Photography Contest 2020, and was published on the Greenstorm Foundation website.]

Saturday, 31 October 2020

An Elegy

Sreedharan, Wadakkanchery

The river he grew up with is no more. The river that swelled and swirled with the seasons is no more. Where he used to start and end his days with a refreshing dip, there are now just a few puddles. Where will he go for his pail of water for the day?

[This microtale was written for the above photograph, which made it to the finals in the Greenstorm Nature Photography Contest 2020, and was published on the Greenstorm Foundation website.] 

Friday, 30 October 2020

Green Tangles


Abdul Momin, Bangladesh

This winter, River Bangali is so cold that she has turned blue and her tresses green. The chill freezes her bosom and she is so numb she can’t move. The ferryman combs his oar through her blue-green tangles, and the boat leaves a few waves in its wake.

[This microtale was written for the above photograph, which made it to the finals in the Greenstorm Nature Photography Contest 2020, and was published on the Greenstorm Foundation website.]

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Journey

Kartikeya Grover, Uttar Pradesh

Life is a journey. Travel free. You’ve an unlimited ticket with anytime access. Find your own way around. Stop awhile when your feet get sore. Wherever you reach is your destination. On the way, you’ll have companions. You don’t get to choose them. They choose you.

[This microtale was written for the above photograph, which won the third prize in the Greenstorm Nature Photography Contest 2020, and was published on the Greenstorm Foundation website.]

Monday, 19 October 2020

Sand Dunes

 

Mohamed Noufal, Sharjah

As the sun rises, he leads his camel to the pastures for grazing. They leave a pair of trails across the desert. The shifting sand dunes erase their trails. They return at sunset, leaving new trails. A shepherd’s narrative is the same every day.


[This microtale was written for the above photograph, which won the second prize in the Greenstorm Nature Photography Contest 2020, and was published on the Greenstorm Foundation website.]

Friday, 9 October 2020

Infinity

Rakayet Ul Karim Rakim, Bangladesh

Caught in an endless loop, he doesn’t seem to know he is fully grown. He has grown magnificent wings. He is now a handsome fly that can roam around the gardens. He can get drunk on nectar, flash his colours and find his mate. If only he knew!

[This microtale was written for the above photograph, which won the first prize in the Greenstorm Nature Photography Contest 2020, and was published on the Greenstorm Foundation website.]

Friday, 2 October 2020

Mahatma - the Brand


PC: Bharati Varrier


Come October, the nation would be on a spree of events and discussions reminding the people of Gandhiji’s life and messages, and reflecting on their continued relevance. There is hardly any subject or walk of life that he had not deliberated or discoursed on, be it politics, governance, religion or business. While his concepts on the former three have been tried and tested, his thoughts and opinions on business are more relevant now than ever. “The things that will destroy us are: politics without principle; pleasure without conscience; wealth without work; knowledge without character; business without morality; science without humanity; and worship without sacrifice.” He said this years ago when India was thinking freedom, and only freedom, not business. While Gandhiji himself was famous for his frugal living – a motto that prompted Winston Churchill to refer to him as the ‘half-naked fakir’ – he knew with great clarity how to ‘sell’ (if one might be audacious enough to use the word) his message.

Gandhiji was a brand in himself, a genuine brand. His walking stick, spectacles, spinning wheel and the coarse khadi that he draped around him are all elements of the brand icon that reflect the identity - Mahatma. The recall value of these icons is time-tested. Show a charkha and ask any Indian who it reminds them of, they would spontaneously identify it with the Mahatma. They are all (the walking stick, the spectacles, the charkha, khadi, etc.) symbols or the visual characteristics of the brand represented by him. Any mention of the Dandi March brings to the mind the Mahatma walking barefoot to Dandi for the famous Salt Satyagraha. The march in itself is a story of patriotism, non-violence, protest against injustice and, in the end, victory – a story that struck a chord with the masses, and still continues to. Today the business world is slowly waking up to the importance of storytelling in building brands.

Any Indian, if not the entire world, knows what the Mahatma stood for – truth, simplicity, and non-violence, among others – the values that decided his actions. Businesses today have realized the importance of underscoring their core values, which are constantly represented by their actions, to demonstrate the genuineness of their brands. More than ever, they know the importance of brand promise and the need to keep it, for today customers cannot be taken for a ride. They have more power and better access to right information through the social media and other platforms.

More recently, brand purpose, it’s been said, unlocks customer loyalty. A successful brand offers products or services that make their customers’ life better. It changes the world for the better. What Gandhiji offered was justice, equality, freedom and self-respect. His objective was India’s freedom, but he had a purpose that was far beyond achieving freedom. His higher purpose was to create an India where his fellow Indians would live with equal status, rights and opportunities. His higher purpose was to enable inclusive growth of his country. He worked relentlessly for the uplift of the downtrodden. He stood for India. And India stood for him.

[As published at https://indusscrolls.com/mahatma-the-brand/] 


Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Pandemic: A Community Poem

1

And the world came together in isolation -

re-hearing the earth's music-

From space the sky discovered civilization

And suddenly, our hands and breaths became the enemy

The Black Swan has glided in for a landing

electric fingers scream past tumbleweed clouds

We are at the mercy of a one-eyed caged bird

The beast is born but we can't know its impenetrable meaning

The air remains open, from song to terror

In what we later called the year of the Never Was

an alien multiplier in search of a host to do its bidding

There's something missing on our streets

Our cauldron of time is nearly empty.

...

The above is an extract from an amazing creative initiative by Muse-Pie Press. 220 poets, who have been featured by them in their journals over the years, from 16 countries, contributed one-line poems, which the publisher, R. G. Rader, put together to craft 'a community poem'. There's an audio of the poem too. You can read as you listen to the whole poem here.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

White Desert


PC: Bharati Varrier

Moon so showers light
on the desert sands, the night
stays dark, and sands white.

[As published on https://spillwords.com/white-desert/]

Monday, 7 September 2020

Enigma



The unsolved mystery
in nature's history
is how wee blooms can be
in their infinity. 

[Excerpt: Fireflies]

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

And then Arrived the Goddess



Title: Eight Armed Goddess
Poet: Sindhoor Varkoor
Publisher: Adisakrit

Sindhoor Varkoor’s ‘Eight Armed Goddess’ is creatively brilliant and simply unputdownable. I confess, I didn’t expect I would be as impressed with the Goddess as I had been with the poet’s earlier collection of poems, Musing Madhawa – Viraha Madhawam. But that was before reading the book. I couldn’t have been more wrong really. I read the first poem, and I knew I was hooked.

After everything
Gets over
Only outlines of memories
Remain like kohl in the eyes
Smudged into life
Nothing gets erased
(Outlines, p.7)

That was enough to make me sit up and I didn’t put the book down until I finished the entire collection. The poems portray the woman and all her facets.

I have stories
Of spilt milk
On burning coals
Watching carefully
I let it simmer and spill
I have stories
Of lost wars
When like the iron-gate
I still stood
Bearing the first slashes
I have stories
Of waiting
Like drought for rain
Deserted I live In vain
I have stories
Of bottled life
Filled to the brim
Empty
Empty
Like grave silence coffined in dust
(Stories, p. 8)

You can see the everyday woman here - the woman who is bearing it all in silence. And the woman who has faced her challenges, who stood her ground and never gave up even as she lost her cause. There is also the woman who refused to quit even when she was left with no other choice. And then there is the woman who realises all of it was for nothing after all. Of course, a woman is all of these rolled into one, and this echoes and re-echoes through her poems.

…When glass shattered
You know how many pieces
Made it
When they scatter all around
You remember how it stood there
As one piece once in time
—A monument
Shelved and wrapped in aroma…
(Spice Jar, p. 9)

In the above lines, you can almost hear a soliloquy of submission – a deceptive submission, for, she, the woman, having “…come/This far…Will not/Go back…” (‘Goddess’, p.10). And the Goddess in her had to reveal herself at last.

Do not play with this Goddess
As if she’s in your fold
She plays with you instead
This eight armed Goddess
Needs no single-shouldered bliss
(Eight Armed Goddess, p. 11)

In the same poem, the Goddess jolts you out of your stupor when she says

In her heart she holds and unfolds
Your universe as it is
And can shut your eyes
With a single kiss.
(Eight Armed Goddess, p. 11)

Here’s where the poet emerges in all her glory. With her poetry, she can show a mirror to your soul, she can shake you until your façade slips leaving you facing your truth, she can take you on a spiral of bliss. The poet, or the Goddess (because here both are one and the same), fills you with fire, consumes you in fire, and what’s more, turns you into fire.
Varkoor’s poetry is intense with emotion. When the Goddess says, “My tresses can be angry dark waves/Sweeping you/Into their night” (Just because, p. 12), one so wished she did just that. The sheer beauty of the words makes you want to lose yourself in them. The poet has this knack for catching you unawares.

Do not think
You can cross those bordered isles
And become dew drops
In dreaming eyes

I may shut them once
To choke you twice
(Just because, p. 12)

But what is poetry if it isn’t filled with these little, yet profound, surprises? Varkoor’s metaphors are beautiful. In the poem ‘Rapunzel’, the poet defines the golden-haired beauty as,

A braided mystery twisted
You cannot hold
Or unfold
(Rapunzel, p. 13)

One finds this Rapunzel so perfect perhaps because one can see oneself in her. And finally when the poet says,

For you do not want to
See her face smile
Or
Her eyes yearn for you
You will not dare look into them
As they show only a reflection
Of you

You will
Find it there
Where all ends end
Into a new beginning
Where you have her
Face to face
(Beheaded, p.17)

you come face to face with the woman who is, alas, liberated. For all the poignancy and profundity in her poems, the poet also displays occasional humour.

The endless curry contest has just begun
Hers versus mine
As I start cooking his favourite dish
….
My pickled poetry and her jarred emotions
All for him—hers and mine.
(Contest, p. 22)

In ‘Excavation’ emerges the liberated woman again, the woman who had to pay the price for it, like all women, of course.

The corals still preserve their pale red
Once a deeper shade
May be I can wear it on
Without mending it
Antiques have a price
That’s priceless
I wear it on now
The new old ornament
My Pride
(Excavation, p. 25)

‘Ma’ (p. 27) is so full of pain, hope and imploration, I feel I should leave it to the readers themselves to delve into its fathoms. Varkoor can make silence speak through her poem, when she says,

I like dolls
Their perfect pout
With
That perfect silence
(Dolls, p. 28)

The silence here speaks volumes.

Something I had particularly noted was the complete lack of punctuation in the entire collection of poems. Surprisingly, I noticed it only when I was halfway through the book. Without the distraction of punctuations, the poems seem to flow freely laying bare their intrinsic emotions, sometimes ending in an ultimatum.

Do not
Hate me
For I am Love
If you do not dare it
Bear it
Or
Fare me well
(Stigmata, p. 57)

Picking the best out of Varkoor’s collection of poems is difficult. There is something in every poem that you want to take away, that you want to keep locked within your heart forever. Her poems are so rich in meaning that different readers may relate to them in different ways. As Varkoor herself says,

All of us from the same weave
Will drape life
Differently
(Mother’s Banaras Saree, p. 29)

[As published at https://www.boloji.com/articles/51937/and-then-arrived-the-goddess

Sunday, 9 August 2020

When Fair is not so Fair!


Illustration: Bharati Varrier


Revolts and revolutions against discrimination based on skin colour have rocked the world at every turn of history. Rather, these revolts mark the turn of the history. But what’s exactly in skin colour? Melanin, of course. Melanin, is the pigment which in different forms and ratios gives the skin its colour. And then there are factors like genes, exposure to sunlight, etc. So basically your skin colour – just like who you are born to – is a mere accident. And factors like how close you live to the equator are coincidental. The colour of an individual’s skin, hence, is neither an indicator of their class nor a measure of their ability.

Then what made the ‘whites’ feel superior and why were the non-whites helpless enough to allow this discrimination? The whites were not superior because of their colour, they were superior because of their power. And that’s definitely not fair. If blacks (kindly pardon the usage, but one’s trying to make a point) had been more powerful, then perhaps the whole picture would have been its own negative version.

Recently the multinational company Johnson and Johnson took the decision to stop selling skin-lightening products. It’s heartening, and it’s high time. Indian companies are also rethinking their business tactics.

To overpower the acts of discrimination of others, however powerful they may be, is by far easier than to conquer the sense of discrimination within the self. Indians, more than 7 decades ago, in spite of their skin colour which includes white, black and all the hues, tones and tints in between, and with hardly any power as compared to the whites who ruled over them, still managed to overthrow those in power and gain freedom. Though the ruling whites left the country, the seed of discrimination they left behind have been growing tall, with its roots running deep.

It is still prevalent in India to ask whether a newly born or a prospective bride or groom is fair or dark. This in a land where deities like Goddess Kali and Lord Krishna are dark as their names proclaim! Then there is the discrimination between the fair ‘northies’ and the dark ‘southies’. Imagine India being located farther away from or closer to the equator, then you will also be able to visualize shifting monochromes of the same picture.

Indian epics and puranas have many heroes and heroines – Draupadi and Arjuna, for example – who were dark and much extolled for their looks. In the ancient vernacular literature, syamavarna (dark complexion) was considered an epitome of beauty. And none of the world literature, art or revolutions, which came later and threw light on the unfairness meted out by the fair on the not so fair through the centuries, could restore blackness to its past glory. Unfortunately, not all the progressive thought, enlightenment and knowledge helped humans evolve beyond their skin.

Today the world is raging post the George Floyd tragedy. Humans are fighting for the rights of humans (one consciously avoids saying ‘whites are fighting for blacks’), trying to overthrow statues in an attempt to overthrow the stigmas associated with ‘black’. And it’s in this context, one hit upon the history of the word ‘black’. It seems it was one of the earliest words in the language. According to an update by Dictionary.com, the word is also described as ‘absence of colour’. In that sense, black is then perhaps the most ethical of all colours. The problem, after all, is not in the word, it’s in misconstruing it.


Saturday, 1 August 2020

School and Syllabus can take a Break




A school year ended and another began without much ado. No examination fevers, no revisions, and no progress, forget progress reports. Hence, no wins or losses, or rather, no winners or losers worthy of the title. And worse, no re-opening. Enough cause for worry for the teachers and the parents. So we moved on to online classes. But have the children taken to online learning? Perhaps not. The teachers try their best to make up for the lack of  personal care, individual attention, physical proximity, direct eye contact and those heart-to-heart conversations by putting their heart and soul out there on the screens, but to no avail. Four hours of strenuous teaching, what with turning to videos and Power Points instead of the blackboard (sometimes blackboard too), do not turn around even half the time’s worth of education, as per feedback. All that screeching and beseeching by the teachers and the parents respectively have not really got across to the children, especially the little ones.

Perhaps the young ones cannot figure out what’s happening in their lives. Perhaps they cannot understand why their lives have suddenly turned topsy-turvy. All of a sudden they realise school was the best thing in their lives. All that chit-chatting with friends, that last minute snatching of one last game before they were called back to their classes, the sharing of the lunchboxes, the catching up on things they have seen and heard around them – all of that disappeared in a flash. And along with that is also gone one of their major opportunities to learn. Dealing with their pent-up energy, enthusiasm and emotions is the new challenge.


So we’re thinking of a dwindled - and impoverished - syllabus. We will slash away parts of certain subjects in order to lighten the children’s burden of online education. But which are those subjects and who decides? Not the children for sure. They, as usual, don’t get a chance to choose. So here we are, making the same old mistakes but with a far worse impact. The situation calls for some drastic measures, of course.

Let’s suppose we, as a nation, decide to toss away one whole school year. We may not lose much. We may gain a lot instead. Let’s use the time to teach the children some life skills. Let’s allow them to work on their hobbies. Creative thinking will come to them naturally. Let’s instil in them the love of reading. They will not have to learn language and communication skills from the textbook anymore. Teach them gardening. They will learn to love nature and respect their environment. Let them brush up on what they learnt in school the previous year. They will be more than ever ready to start school when the time comes. Allow the students to discover by themselves what their favourite subjects are. They will know what self-learning is all about. They will also learn critical thinking, self-assessment and decision making to some extent. These are the first steps to self-dependence and independence. One year down the line, the children will be better equipped to take on their challenges, and they will make up for the time and the lessons they lost - if we still insist on calling this a loss.

We may realise in the end that setting back a year was not a major loss but a huge gain after all. The parents will be relieved of providing each family member with a computer at a time when many have lost their jobs and many are working on reduced salaries. For the job vacancies that will arise in the coming year, don’t forget, we have enough qualified, unemployed youth who can fill those posts.

The biggest advantage of all – we don’t have to put children’s safety at risk with increased online exposure. According to UNESCO, “Half of the total number of learners — some 826 million (82.6 crore) students — kept out of the classroom by the Covid-19 pandemic, do not have access to a household computer and 43 per cent (706 million or 70.6 crore) have no internet at home, at a time when digitally-based distance learning is used to ensure educational continuity in the vast majority of countries.” UNICEF notes, “Millions of children are at increased risk of harm as their lives move increasingly online during lockdown in the Covid-19 pandemic”. The ‘harm’ mentioned here includes sexual exploitation by online predators and such other risks.

In the meantime, when the school and the syllabus takes a break, the educationists and the decision makers, can work on making the much-needed changes in our education system. For starters, the children should be able to learn what they want to learn. For example, math needn’t compulsorily go along with the sciences. Students should be able to choose to learn math along with history, the languages, or even art if that’s what they want. There will be lesser stress on children and they will learn better. Human beings need not be categorised. They are born with diverse skills and talents. Allow them to develop their own skills and talents. They will grow up to become better professionals, better leaders, and better human beings. The world needs them.

Is this too much to wish for? Is this too impractical an idea? One only needs to look at the social media platforms, which are now flooded with children’s ingenious talent, for enough evidence to agree that the time has come for a drastic change. Perhaps this is the ‘real’ writing on the wall. Perhaps this is not a crisis but an opportunity.


Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Exodus


pc: aljazeera.com


I
They came in hordes.

They came in hordes,
hands full of toil,
hearts full of hope
of making a living,
and a longing
to fetch a life
to take back home.

They came in hordes
toting just – but just –
the clothes they wore
and nothing more,
leaving behind
the little that was
their own.

They came in hordes
to make their homes
in a strange land
with barely a floor
for a bedstead
and the night
for a blanket.

They came in hordes
to work the days
through the nights,
through rain and shine,
through waves of heat,
dust, drought
and deluge.

They came in hordes
and toiled
and toiled and toiled
until their fate was foiled
by the invisible
infinitesimal germ
of a pandemic.

II
They went in hordes.

They went in hordes
putting together
the little they had,
hands full of calluses,
hearts full of despair
and a longing
to get back home.

They went in hordes
heads loaded
with sagging burdens
of their destinies,
and bundles
of crumbled remnants
of their dreams.

They went in hordes
falling on their way,
picking themselves up,
dragging their feet,
throats parching,
bellies crunching
with hunger.

They went in hordes
fighting the demons
of law, weather
and malady,
giving in on the road
to death, disaster
and disease.


They went in hordes
for a patch of homeland,
for a window
to their own sky,
for a whiff
of native air
to breathe.

[As published at http://indianperiodical.com/2020/07/exodus/]


Monday, 29 June 2020

Across the raging rapids



[Contd. from Passing or trespassing?]

The dawn broke over the serene valley and we woke to the exhilarating rhythm of the falling waters. We looked eagerly forward to another day of bird watching and making several new jungle friends of the winged variety  bulbuls, Magpie Robins, hawks, eagles and many, many more! I was particularly enchanted by the little drops of sunlight caught amidst the clusters of leaves, and as I watched – whoa – they spread wings and flew away! They were tiny sunbirds! The bright yellow beak of the male hornbill, the shining yellow plumage of the Eurasian Golden Oriole, the flame-backed woodpecker – I had never before seen such a pleasant medley of different yellow hues! And then there was the haphazard array of the yellow flowers of silk cotton!

Baiju had promised us some adventure earlier in the morning and as promised, he took us trekking over the treacherous rocks on the riverside near Ittiani. We passed several scenic off-beat locales that had flitted across the silver screen in a plethora of Indian films. As we walked, precariously finding our feet, we saw that the raging rapids, over time, had moulded the rocks into different shapes. There were pits created on the rock floor and walls that were large enough to hold two or three humans at a time. No wonder bodies that fell into the falls were oftentimes not discovered even days later! Some of these rocks were in rustic shades of pink, another wonderful handiwork of nature.

A delightful buffet breakfast later, we were still craving for more of nature, and having kept the best for the last, we set out on the last leg of this rainforest experience  a steep climb down towards the waterfall through the woodland behind the resort. On our way, we discovered little sunbird nests and wild mushrooms in vibrant hues. We walked through thick shrubs of snake plant, known colloquially as mother-in-law’s tongue due to its extraordinary length and sharp edges, which is, it seems, a healing plant for burns.

The climb down brought us to a stretch of the river from where we enjoyed a beautiful uninterrupted view of the falls. Here the river was neither deep nor shallow but exciting enough to wade through gingerly, watching one’s step across the rocky bottom of the river. Through the water, across the rocks, past the bamboo thickets that were infamous for King Cobras, we reached so close to the waterfall that we could actually feel the spray on our faces!

Surely, there couldn’t have been a better culmination for our weekend holiday experience  an experience of nature in all its exciting forms – forests with its exotic flora and fauna, rivers, rocks, and waterfalls! One regret remains though. Baiju had gathered and filled all of his cargo pockets with mango ginger roots for me to take back home. We forgot all about them and they remained with him as we bid goodbye after the best weekend in my life ever.

[The Weekend Holiday concludes. The series starts with The journey begins.] 

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Passing or trespassing?



[Contd. from A jeep ride into the jungle]


The expedition took us to a lake in the forest, which was more like the confluence of three rivers, appropriately called Mukkampuzha (which roughly translates to ‘three rivers’). Intense jungle lies just across the water and one could spot, if one was just lucky enough and the timing just correct, wild animals walking down to the edge of the water for their
sundowners. To reach this place one had to pass (or trespass?) colonies of tribal people who were friendly enough to take you for a gentle spin on the water on perhaps the narrowest raft that was ever made - just three or four bamboos in width so that cool water splashed on your feet as you rowed across the still waters. Captivating was the play of evening colours on the quiet waves made by the raft on the water surface.

Towards early evening, as the jungle slowly disappeared under a blanket of darkness and we were just a few kilometres away from Anakkayam, Baiju – by now our friend and confidant regaling to us many, many experiences of the forests – made an astounding observation that he could smell an elephant nearby! He was right of course. A pachyderm was sauntering majestically on his way back from the river, past the bamboo clusters, after a refreshing splash in the river at the end of a warm, tiring day.

Incidentally, Anakkayam means ‘elephant pit’ referring to the fathomless depths of a lake which can drown even elephants. Trained eyes and ears, like those of Baiju, could pick out herds of deer that might be crossing the roads just a few feet ahead of you and strolling casually into the jungle. They can also foresee a wild cat on the prowl for an unsuspecting sambhar!

As the evening wore on and our vision got accustomed to the surrounding darkness, we discovered green, emerald-like sparkles among the leaves, across the road, and even far ahead amidst the thick woods. They were the eyes of leopard cats surveying us, perhaps cautiously questioning the intentions of our visit!

After a five-hour safari through the forest, we returned to the Rainforest Resort for a refreshing bath. The room was spacious and the décor reflected nature in its colours as well as in the materials used. The dinner was candlelit and of course there was the music of the waterfall in the background. It was a long happening day and we reluctantly fell asleep.