Saturday, August 30, 2008

Is there The Banyan or Udavum Karangal in Hyderabad ?

Yesterday afternoon, on my way back from Begumpet, I saw an old woman sleeping in the MMTS station platform. I didn't give much thought to it as in our land it is common to find poor people sleeping on the roads and platforms. After a few minutes, I was shocked to see that the lady's leg had a wound with flies swarming on it. It was a 3' X 2' cut, where the skin had peeled off exposing raw flesh. The thought of maggots filling the wound and eating into her was unbearable. I walked up to the lady and asked her if she was getting the wound treated. She answered in what I thought was Telugu as Hindi is known to me. I asked for help from the people around me and told them to talk to her. They asked her if she was getting treated and that if she required help to get herself treated, we would do so. Her answer was not in Telugu too. Anyways, we gave her some money, hoping that it would help her treat herself, and get her some food too.

Later, people said that she may be of instable mind. That was worse, as she would not be able to help herself. As we were talking, she got up and with blood oozing out of the wound walked away. Other people told me that my giving money was a waste. That the wound was a clean cut(which it was), and may have been inflicted by gangs who used it as a way of making people caught in their gangs earn money. Which meant, the wound would never ever be let to heal. The train came and I had to leave. But, does my responsibility end there ? Did I do enough for a fellow human being ? The lady and her wound cease to leave my mind.

In Chennai, The Banyan and Udavum Karangal are organizations whom we can turn to in such situations. We can call them up and ask for help when we find destitute people, especially women. I am ignorant about any such organizations in Hyderabad. Having lived here in Hyderabad for two years now, I have not given much thought about finding more about the city. Leading a cocooned life in the University, I live away from reality, away from the truth. I have made the university home, and rarely move outside its protective walls. Yesterday I came face to face again with the world I live in, and, it was a reminder of the responsibilities I have as a citizen, as a fellow human being, of being aware.

[Browsing the internet, I fail to find similar organizations. If anyone knows about similar organizations in Hyderabad, please do write].

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Rediscovering ourselves

My niece Deeksha, is now 1 year and three months old. She is fun to be with and teaches us a lot in her own innocent ways. One important lesson she taught us was the joy of learning, of feeling. Every new thing she found, every new colour she saw, be it in our clothes, paper, toys, she used her little fingers (the forefinger especially) to touch and feel it. She would touch it gently first, and then with more confidence. It intrigued us sisters as to what she was trying to do. Sadna, my youngest sister, even went to the extent of closing her eyes and doing the same, just to know what it felt like, to decipher what Deeksha was feeling. That is when we realized that Deeksha was learning - nature's way.

This world is new to her and she is learning about this new home, with its varied colors, sounds, smells and artifacts. Sights are new, sounds are new, and the feel is new. So, besides noticing things, she was trying to feel them. Nature has its own lessons we realized.

We were surprised that as grown ups we still do the same, but yet don't do it. We do it when picking clothes, when buying vegetables, groceries and the like. Missing is the intrigue, the fun, the inquisitiveness and the fascination. We do the same things but without a thought, mechanically. Then, there are other things that we did as kids but forget to do as adults. Like noticing the world around us, questioning things we do not know about, listening to the birds call... In the mechanized life that we live today, we have forgotten those lessons, those little joys.

As they say, kids sometimes are teachers in their own right. Deeksha is for us.

(She has progressed in her lessons - nowadays, she is trying to feel things with her legs, and falls in the process, loosing her balance.)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Call of Nature

Today, and for some time now, I feel claustrophobic. I feel like I am confined to boxes - a box called my workspace, a box called my room, a box called the gym, boxes and boxes, everywhere. Most of the time, I find concrete as my roof, living though in a jungle. With the past weeks rain soaking the walls, the lab has a mushy stink, to ward of which the four fans run through the day. The air that engulfs me is this air. And I want to break free.

I hardly have much time when the sky is the roof. Where the wind makes me feel light. I feel out of touch with nature - with the world around me. I am back to the feeling of wanting to go into a jungle and walk around, smelling the fresh air, looking at every plant and tree, watching out for the wild animals. I feel like moving away from this concrete world.

The University is not all concrete. Spread over 1500 acres, it is a jungle. And this jungle calls - asking me to explore her, interact with her, and get to know her. The Buffalo lake and Peacock lake comes to mind. Surrounded by greenery, one just has to sit on the banks and watch the changing scenery. From clear blue to yellow, to orange, to pink as evening sets. Nothing more needed to brighten the day, ignite thoughts, to sparkle.

Many a time I wonder why we can't have workspaces in the open, where nature becomes a sub-subject along with the main, just by being part of it, with it.

Time to go, to break free!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Messy Stories

I saw her, the kitten (she is 4-5 months old) clean herself after the rain, today. It reminded me of one of her adventures [on June 21, 2008], I was not fortunate to be part off, in her still young life. Still, we were all part of it indirectly and the following story was related by my friends.

I walked to the dining hall one morning and on the menu was Idli and Vada, one of my favourite breakfast's. Missing was the chutney, that is usually served. On asking for the chutney, the guy at the serving counter immediately replied that, “the sambhar has been made very well today”. The reply got me wondering as something was amuck. Then, I found chutney splashed a little on the wall and a trail of chutney on the floor as I walked to the dining hall. Still wondering at what this mystery was all about, I looked up to see my friends, Joya and Lavanya, laughing at me, for they knew exactly what was on my mind.

Then came the story [as related to me]. On entering the mess in the morning, Joya found a dirty puppy walking in front of her. She was wondering how a puppy could be so dirty and was trying to figure what it was that the puppy had on her fur. She couldn't see properly as she had worn neither her contacts nor her glasses. A cat came up and started licking this ugly puppy, to which the puppy said “Meow”. To her surprise, she realized that it was a kitten after all and that the watery thing sticking on to her coat was chutney. The chutney served along with the Idli and Vada. At the same time, Lavanya saw the kitten too. It then dawned on them that the kitten must have fallen into the chutney that was on the table for us to savour........... lick !!! lick !!! Ooph!!!! Thankfully for all of us, they were there, at the right place and the right time.

Anyway, this was when the kitten was two months old and still learning about her new world. Today, she has grown up and is one beautiful girly.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Good Old Days

Last evening was an evening of going back in time. I remembered the old days, college days. It was the time I used to pick my books and switch on the radio. Tuning to AIR's Vividh Bharati, I would have the best of worlds. Music and my books, computers and literature. Starting with Jawanon Ke Liye it would continue till closing time. Studying would continue beyond AIR's closing time, but the tempo and the mood was set thanks to Vividh Bharati.

Call me old-fashioned, but there was something romantic about the whole affair, which is missing today. This despite having a collection of songs playable on the latest music system. So, what is missing ? Probably it is the unexpected - unexpected list of songs, unexpected play on the mood. Maybe, it was also the minimal amount of distraction in the absence of visual communication. I am not able to place it, but yesterday, I was able to move back in time and recapture those moments. With Amitav Ghosh's 'Dancing in Burma At Large in Cambodia', I was transformed to a different age, a different time. The time with music and books.

Thanks Vividh Bharati.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Boys get preference

The news about the BBC documentary brought to mind the national award winning movie, 'Karuthamma', in Tamil by Bharathiraja. A movie with a strong message, it served as an introduction and a reminder to one of the social evils existent in our country. Karuthamma is a story of female infanticide prevalent in many parts of Tamil Nadu. It shows how the female child is unwanted and killed just after being born, the reasons being, poverty, the cost of bringing up a child and the high demands of dowry. For me who had only heard about it, and read of cases in the newspaper, the movie served as a reminder, of how fortunate I was. It was also a pointer to the ills of the society of which we are all part of.

Preferential treatment of boys is something most of us are familiar with or have been touched by, in various forms. If not from within the family, then we hear it from relatives and friends of the family, or from the society we live in. Also, it can be heard and felt in various ways. It starts from the pride and joy the family has when a boy is born and continues in the form of preferential treatment they get throughout their life compared with their female counterparts, in the choice of toys, food, education, life-partner.

It has to be accepted that female infanticide is rampant today, with science aiding it of course. This is not going to change unless education is seen as a means of empowerment. As a means to be self-reliant. As one of the tools that aid a person to take decisions with the convictions it requires - especially in a society like ours where a girl does not have much of say in her own life. And made compulsory, especially for the girl child.

In the many interactions with students, as a teacher and today as a colleague, there is one disturbing fact that I have come across. When asked what they intend to do after their degree, many girls say that they are taking a degree as it will help get them married well. This has been told to them which they repeat without giving a thought. Today, in India, (along with the IT boom), many bride-grooms like their prospective brides to be educated and well-versed in English as jobs take them across countries and across socio-economic levels. Hence, parents of the brides look at their daughter getting a degree as a means to find better son-in-laws too. The sad part, I feel, is that the purpose of education gets lost. It is not spoken about as a means to make oneself knowledgeable, confident and self-reliant.

This is not to say that every girl with a degree must work or that education gets wasted if one is a home maker. No. The question is, “Isn't the goal wrong ?”. Such education, will it aid the cause of women's empowerment in our country, except in statistics ? How is it going to get translated to the next generation ?

I would love to believe Arun's words. That each generation will take one more step. That the same goal will not be applied to the child. That change will happen, slow and sure.

Fortunate I was, Blessed I am,

To be born, Where I was,

At that time,

To parents, Strong,

Who waivered not,

Who battled long,

To get for me,

What they thought,

Is my due,

Is my birthright,

To Live, Armed,

With education.

For birth is random,

With no choice,

And things may have been different,

In another place.

Another time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Sitting here on this bench
Looking at the mountains far off
I miss my land.
The mountains look the same
Same with the sky
Still, there is is something missing.
Missing is the essence
The smell of spices
The scent of the rain
The cackle of people
The familiarity of language.

Missing is the feeling
That this is home
That this is my land
That this is where I belong.

[Written in October, 2007 at IRST, Trento, Italy]

As I wait
For the flight to take off
To take me home
I know
That I will miss
Alberto's Smile
Chiara's BOH
Cu's Andiamo
Komminist's I am God
Leonardo's Random Theory
Mirko's We Germans
Matteo's Shrug
Nauman's Dozing off
Surafel's Seven Generations.

I know
I will miss
The jokes, the mirth, the laughter
The internet fights
The tropos
The craziness
The randomness.

I know
I will miss
The land
The passion
The pasta
The pizza
The ciao's.

I know
I will miss
A lot of things
But most of all
I will miss
Being with you
My Friends.

[Written on 27th February, 2008 at the airport when leaving, Trento, Italy]

You taught me
To be passionate
About life
About food
About beauty
About style
About language.
Grazie mille Trento.

[Written on 27th February, 2008 on the way back from, Trento, Italy]

Monday, August 11, 2008

Arts or Science ? Economics or Literature ?

Over lunch with friends, I was surprised to hear that students still look down on certain areas of study like translation studies, comparative literature and the like. That too, kids of the computer age (by kids, I mean just out of school) who have been educated in good schools, well-conversant in atleast three languages and are so confident about themselves. The usual rhetoric that we are used to is Science Vs Arts. Therfore, it came as a surprise that within the wide gamut of arts itself there is this comparison of which stream is better.

Today, where we can excel in any field that we choose to be, a question like "What would you do with a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature?" to me, either shows ignorance or arrogance. I would like to think of it as the former. Still, Attitude is something ?? . An attitude of belittling someone who thinks and does something different from you is worrying. Why don't we as students of the internet age see different vocations in a totally different light - why not look at what is good and different about it and try to learn from it ?

Does the stream we pick always have to be glamorous ? Or does it have to give a fat pay package ? Or should it always sound difficult and out of reach ? Why can't we pick a stream because we love it or are passionate about it ? There are so many examples of people who have made it a success in streams once untouched, who have left their glamourous or high paid jobs to make a difference, for themselves and their brethren; who followed their heart, to do something they loved and had the passion for.

Einstein said, "If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music."

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Another tiger reserve under threat

Today's Hindu reports " Tigers in reserve under threat". The tunnel excavation of the Srisailam project is leading to movement of tigers from their natural habitat. The report speaks about underground vibrations disturbing animal life. It also speaks about roads being laid in the core area without permission as well as dumping of debris into the reservoir. Lessons from this project have to be taken into consideration for work to be taken up in the Mudumalai Sanctuary for the Neutrino project. Hope this serves as a wake up call to all concerned.

Cocktail !!

Little work,
Splash of research,
Few friends,
Better half,
Close family,
Makes a cocktail..
Called Life!