Friday, January 29, 2010

Good old school days

School days ! Good golden days. Yes, they were years of learning but also so much warmth and fun.

Not romanticising school days, but then, today they feel romantic for I've never experienced that magic after leaving school. Like playing in the ground till the dust would fill my nostrils, the competition across classes, the tamarind from the huge tamarind tree, of trying to show ourselves shorter to get to the front benches in class, seeing the tiny tots walk up to LKG their class, some tearing their hearts out with their parents in tears.

Of teachers: My UKG teacher, who is uptodate the best in the world for me. Ms. Lorna for her never say no attitude.(I still regret not moving to her section in 2nd standard for I know life changed that day). The day my 3rd standard teacher called me talkative, which hurt me so much; not because of what she said, but because she sent the complaint to my mother through my neighbour before she told me she had such a notion (oh! and a fifty rupee fine too). When we scared Ms.Bernie to death with a rubber snake. The day I disobeyed my teacher Ms. Berna in 6th standard, went playing on the wet ground, fell down and came back breathless to look into her eyes with so much guilt that I died of shame inside. But, I didn't get an unkind word from her. Sister Agnes Theres, Principal, who I think was most loved by us students. When Ms. Iona introduced us to Shakespeare. Ms. Jesintha's english classes, where Shakespeare and poetry would take us to a magical, different world. Ms. Theresa's math classes, the only one I enjoyed learning math from, besides imbibing the art of dressing in cotton. The march past practices with Ms. Dinkie leading. Ms. Saraswathi's chemistry classes, where every time, I wondered if her brain was different from mine, for I couldn't imagine the bonds in organic chemistry which she put forth so easily.

Of classmates, Vidya and Radha who would compete for a rank by trying to get half a mark more. My classmate who bit my teacher and wasn't ready to let go, one who pinched so much that the teacher made her sit in a corner of the class. Shiromi, the class representative, who Vidya and I gave so much trouble by our 'we' craziness. Of a friend who lost interest in our friendship the day I stopped giving her new ballpoint pens. The day I embarassed myself when I vormitted on the wooden steps in the school (the first and last uptodate). So many......... When Kapil Dev and Ravi Shastri were major points of discussion, they being caricatured on the board during lunch hour. Going to America being the new trend, how we discussed and debated on America and what opportunities it had. Debates and discussions on name the subject, sports, religion, politics (everyday's paper was a big source), movies, ........ Of the 8th standard class room which had so much space that we could run around and play (it was later converted into a science lab for the junior classes). Flinching when Loretta pierced her ears the second time all by herself. Of how we disliked a new Sister because she used to shout and curse which we had never heard from a sister. Of being christened Shylock, when we were studying Merchant of Venice.

Of the 12th standard, final march past, where I went wrong and felt so miserable (I still don't understand why I couldn't synchronize that particular day). Of my friend who realised that something was wrong when she kept adding Potassium Permanganate to the solution despite it having turned pink. The day our whole class was made to stand in the basket ball ground in the hot sun in the 12th standard, heads bent, skin burning but still giggling despite being in full view of the whole school, for being noisy. Of not being allowed in the final get together with teachers by the other section students because we couldn't contribute much as we had our Physics practical exams. I remember that day so vividly, the hurt still not gone .... seeing Ms. Lorna dancing with one of the girls, before being shooed away from the place like flies .... how I would have loved to dance with her. I learnt an important lesson too that day - the pain of those who don't have and come to watch something getting shooed away.

So many such small incidents, so much to smile about when I rewind to the days gone by. Some where the hurt is still there despite the passage of time. I did go back there thrice, the third time being my last for the way someone of authority spoke to me that day. Ofcourse I would love to go back and meet my teachers. That is something I have not done, mistake being mine. I would love to go back and tell them how they have influenced my life in so many ways. That I am a product of their hardwork too, their dreams.... of how in my own eyes, I am still that child when I think of them...........................

Love old school days.... how I wish I could go back and relive them, knowing that they wouldn't come back, that they are the best in any person's life. Of knowing the privilege I've had of going to school, which so many don't.

So, cheers to the school as an institution, to the teachers, to the classmates, the comaraderie that make school days the best (Yes, I know it may not be true for some who have had a tough time in school).

News mongering media ?

The Hindu today on page 3 had a feature by the special correspondent titled: 'Chidambaram's statement makes no impact on OU'. The phrases used by the correspondent about the time after the announcement are: 'devoid of any activity even as the Union Home Minister's...... announcement', 'except students sitting on relay hunger strike............'. The best was 'there was no reaction from the agitating students till the evening much to the disappointment of mediamen.

I wondered, 'What was the media expecting ?' That the students will immediately go on the rampage, breaking glasses, burn buses, issue emotional statements leading to unrest ........... I looked at it positively. I took it as positive, that for once, people may be thinking and discussing the issue before coming out with a statement rather than making emotional statements in haste. Which is good on the part of the students - this agitation has seen its share of violence. Now, it is time to sit down and talk. Talk keeping all issues in mind and settle this issue once and for all.

Here, the media has exposed themselves as news mongers, waiting for some titbit thrown so that they can dramatize it and add some pictures to put in the front pages. For the past few days, things in the context were looking more positive - with more discussions, more negotiations, more opinions by the stakeholders. Positive because, when there are discussions, the radical views get tempered and the important points get discussed in length before a statement is made.

But what do the media care. All they are bothered about is the TRP ratings and a lost opportunity for the media to go back with pictures to show the best of shots and get their careers moving.

Again, in this land of Gandhi, if we were to shun news about violent protests and put up pictures of peaceful protests in the front page, if the government were to listen to peaceful protests rather than the violent ones, then this idea of violence as a means to achieve ends will stop.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Charge of the Light Brigade

This one was a favourite when in school. After a long, very long time, I read it again. This one stands out......... why ? Read on.

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.

The Art of getting things done by others

This is again an experience blog. In our everyday interaction with people, we see a few who just get things done by others. Meaning, work to be done by themselves, but they are so capable, shrewd and arrogant enough that they get it done by others and pass it on as what they did.

And when you discuss such people, most will tell you that one day they will make good managers. I would say, "All the more dangerous!" and "Managers" - no, they are not managers. So, I googled to find if something has been written about this. And lo, I got a hit that gave me this:

MANAGEMENT IS the art of getting things done by others and remuneration is sharing a pittance of the whole chunk of returns earned by the subordinate employees and profit is what the company ultimately stands for. And the employees in the lower rungs of the hierarchy are the ones who bail out the company when the latter is in distress. Altogether, it is called business management. (No, that is not right, but still I read on.)

Who is a manager in real terms? He is the one who sees that his work gets involved with the work of his team so that the objective of the office is realised, whether it is a project implementation or meeting a sales target or winning a few percentages in the market share. It is the art of channeling diverse manpower through a common stream as to reach a particular goal. In this collective effort, the team leader is as important as every other team-player and every other team player is no less important than the team leader. (Thank god...)

Yes, it is the art of getting things done. But not simply getting them done by others............,

So, now, what do you call a person who gets his/her own work done by others ? A Manager ??? No...........

But then, that is what it has become today. Companies look for someone who they say is a team player, but the person who usually gets there is one who is good at getting work done by his subordinates, by knowing how to keep them merry and passing the work as his own with not even a mention about his subordinates. This despite the universe knowing that work does not happen because of one person in any organization.

And everyone has come across atleast such one in their lives. And, despite hitting their heads over such a person, not many would put them in their place. So, they grow, in their own self importance to become managers one day. Because, we let them become one. By calling a bully, a manager.


Last sunday I had been to Numaish - the exhibition held every year at Nampally, Hyderabad in the months of January and February. I generally don't like crowds and this has been the prime reason that I avoid crowded shopping places including exhibitions. So, what makes me go to Numaish ? Of course, I went well before the crowd could come in and was out just as it was getting crowded. But still, I wondered as to what attracted me to this place, every year that I have been in Hyderabad.

Answer - 'History' is what brings me to this place. Numaish was started by the seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan in 1938. Then, it was called the 'Numaish Masnuaat-e-Mulki'. It was meant to display goods produced indigenously in the Hyderabad state. Today, even Numaish has gone global with people from across the country and even outside coming to sell things. So, as per tradition, every year, Numaish returns for a 45 day rendezvous with the people of Hyderabad.

I keep thinking that I am traversing the same, though at a different age. I walk in and I try to understand, to smell the oldness of the event. I try to imagine what it must have been during the reign of the Nizam, one of the richest men in the world.

Imagine, men in their sherwanis, women decked in all their finery coming to buy the best produce from the state - pearls, gems, clothes, handicrafts and other items of everyday use. Bargaining and selling would have been the norm then too I guess. So, I go to Numaish trying to relive in my own way the glory of the Nizam era and also in my own small way, to continue the tradition, to keep it alive.

We entered around 2:00 p.m., well in advance of the 3:00 p.m. actual opening time. Believe me, the hour before the exhibition is the best; for me, even better than the actual, for it is then that one gets to see the people, the work they put in, their lives. The people who come to sell their wares live in the Numaish grounds, in their stalls. Though not as alive when the crowd is in, the time before the exhibition starts, gives an insight into the preparations done for the actual event that stretches to midnight, everyday. So, at 2:00 in front of almost every stall, one of the members had started a fire and was cooking rotis and curry. The others were busy trying to put the items on display.

Yes, I do make rotis. But as I watched this man deftly making rotis, I was transfixed. I stood there for few moments unable to look away. That simple act of him making rotis was so original, so captivating. In that, I saw life - the life of every salesman part of Numaish. He maybe from a faraway place, living by selling his wares. He sees thousands pass by, interacts with them, tries to make them happy by selling his wares at the best price. In the bigger scheme of things, he is invisible. But, he is important. He is the present of Numaish, like me. Tomorrow, we may be gone, but both of us have been an important part of history, for it is we who make Numaish what it is. He looked up at me and for a moment had a quizzical look. Then, he smiled. I was a little embarassed but then, I guess he understood. I believe he read my thoughts.

We think we are individuals, independent. But we are all connected, somewhere, someway in the bigger scheme of things. We may not know each other, we may not even remember that out paths crisscrossed, we may not know that we have traded something with someone else, be it in a kind act, or selling a product. We think we are random beings in this world. But then, sometimes a small, unimportant event makes you realize that you are part of a whole, a whole you can only imagine, but can never see nor comprehend completely.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Thirst for Knowledge

Today, in the process of a conversation with a friend, I learnt again the meaning of the phrase 'Thirst for Knowledge'. This friend of mine, from a faraway distant land, doing her Ph.D. here, showed a passion for her country, for herself to be come something, for learning : something that is missing a little nowadays in me. She spoke of her travails here, of how she landed in the university and how she is happy and loves it here. When I said that I am unhappy that I am far away from home, she showed me the positive side. That we are here to study and we are gaining knowledge; and that is reason to be happy and keep smiling. Well, so true. Like my dad always told us, 'Knowledge is the one and only treasure that no robber can rob from you; acquire it as much as possible and you will only grow'.

In this colleague who I hardly meet, I found a quality that is becoming so rare in us citizens of this country as well as in most of us human beings. PASSION - passion in everything we do.

Hats off to you my friend. Keep going !

Monday, January 11, 2010

Captured in the mind

Usual morning habit of going out on the terrace to brush my teeth. To see birds, to breath in the fresh air, to be one, with nature. Those moments in the morning are the best in my day which is otherwise spent in the confines of concrete, glued to a chair and forced to watch the screen.

So, this morning, I was pleasantly surprised. There were three birds, all Chemboth's. The crow pheasant is what they are called in English. I saw one on a tree and heard the song of another. A moment later, one more joined. So, two on a tree and still another was singing. Then came along a third and another was singing still. Happy to see so many of them at one go, I watched them as I was brushing my teeth. Finished brushing my teeth and reality hit me. I was late in going to that messy mess to get my breakfast. Already eight, I would have to wait for half an hour to get my breakfast before getting ready to go to work. So, off I went thanking for the beautiful vision in the morning.

And in this eternal hurry of getting earthly things, I forgot that one thing - to capture this rare moment where I could see three of the Chemboth's on camera; a sight as these shy birds always are seen hidden in the branches of trees, entertaining those who care to listen with their beautiful songs. So, I lost it. Lost it in the hurry that man is today, having so little time to see all the beauty him.

Living in this jungle, I wonder how I am going to adapt to the concrete when I finish the PhD and get back to work. Of how unpleasant it would be to wake up only to see walls all around. Uffa !

I'm going to miss this university - yes for the people, but more for the beauty she holds, the magic she shows to those who care to take a moment off.