Wednesday, 9 March 2016

The Good Teacher

When I post graduated last year, the thought that ate my brains out was, "what next?". Though I did not know what next, I certainly knew "what not to?". A school teaching career sat somewhere in the hidden margins of the page that was adorned with my to-do list. Obviousely, a 'good' student like me should look out for better options life has in store, I had to look for the 'accha' job. As it turned out, life lessons starts out from the margins. A good friend (and I am forever indebted to you for this) sent me a vacancy notice of a school in Gurgaon and persuaded me to apply for the post of PGT Psychology. I went through the test rounds, interview rounds and just as I had hoped, cleared it all with flying colours. You see, I was the 'Good' student. However, here started my battle with the accha job inspectors.

To begin with, my parents were extremely heart broken with my decision to start working as a school teacher. The irony here is that my mother herself is a teacher and has been successfully employed as primary wing coordinator for the past 10 years. I don't blame her though, she is after all a product of capitalism- if it doesn't pay you big bucks, its just not worth it. Then, came a set social vultures, who interrogated my parents for their decision in 'allowing' me to continue with a teaching career. "But why?" was a constant rhetoric and my parents would cut a sorry figure with no answer to give. I was spared with mere looks that one would pass on a to dying puppy. Apparently, I had become a social pariah where the items on display required a fancy 'job description' to deserve a shelf space.

My self esteem was thrashed and torn to bits for the social scavengers to prey upon. And then my first class happened. Can you imagine walking into a room full of 25 curious, excited minds waiting to pounce on you with an endless stream of questions? It is an exhilarating experience and I knew, despite what the world thought, I was in the right place. Everyday, I read, learn, unlearn, question, answer, think, over a wide variety of topics and in this one year I know I have grown in ways I never fathomed. 

We all want our children to be taught by good teachers, be surrounded by facilitators who are well-read and informed. However, none of the good students are expected to become teachers. Isn't it a disturbing paradox? One of the main reasons why teaching career is shunned by the 'creamy academic' layer because of is its poor monetary compensation. I have been fortunate enough to be employed in an organization that pays me a good package with adequate opportunities of growth. However, I strive to explore the essence of being a teacher beyond a monetary evaluation. I want to remind the world, that the very basics they have built their life on, was because of a good teacher in school who created opportunities for young minds, like theirs, to grow and expand. 

In several countries, teachers are revered for their contribution to the society and their role in creating a better future for the country. In Japan and China, their status is accorded a place along with doctors and top government officials, because they believe all these professions are working towards the benifit of the country with a selfless engagement with humanity. I don't dream of high laurels for the work I do. I do what I do because it makes me happy, content and satisfied. Dignity of labour was never a value held high in our country and hence I don't expect a overnight transformation to an age-old thought. However, I have decided to add laurels to my self esteem and every class where a child tells me that they enjoyed learning with me, is an added feather to my cap. 

Dear teachers around the globe, be proud of your profession because there is none other where you get the opportunity to be a lifelong student. 

Stop growing, start learning!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015


I kill myself everyday.
Thought by thought,
Breath by breath.
Pushing a knife,
Deeper into my heart.
I twist and turn,
I gasp and shiver.
Then I smile.
Whimsically, if you please,
At the paradox,
This seems to be.
A beating heart,
With blood and all.
A sign of life,
St(r)ained with life.
Full of love,
As the saying goes.
But none for me,
No, not for me.
It's all for someone,
Who needs not me.
Let the beating stop,
I pray, I wish.
It's killing me,
I cry, I swear.
It's merciless,
My loving heart.
So I dig a hole,
Just my fistsize.
Every now.
A little part of me,
Oh yes!
I kill myself everyday.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Yours fearfully, #Nirbhaya

Dear M.L Sharma and A.P. Singh,

You see I know who you are- The blessed progeny of Adam who holds the reins to the life and death of the ill-cursed breed, called woman (woe-man?!). Damn you, Eve, you wretched, disgraceful little thing! Didn't the respected Mr. Adam tell you how to dress, how to sit, eat, bathe, breathe, live, die? Didn't he tell you to stay away from the Pandora's box, from the 'desires' of life, to wipe that ugly smile off your face and plop yourself in one corner of the globe, barely breathing? However, you couldn't listen, could you? Its all YOUR fault. You have unleashed the evil torrent of hu-MAN-ity onto yourself, on your own bidding. Be ready to be groped, stripped, raped, beaten and killed because you dared to look out of that well, Adam sentenced you into. Am I right, Mr. Sharma, Mr. Singh? Please do correct me so, because you see I am Eve too, I need to be taught a lesson.

Sirs, (or do you prefer Masters?) Iam overcome by irrepressible desires. I think, yesterday when I stepped out of the protected sphere of my house, covered from head to toe, I incited a young man to touch me. You see, I forgot to cover my fingers; I waved them about, flashing my painted nails right in front of his eyes, in a lustful dance move, making obscene gestures with my fingers as I went about my chore. I sinned, my good MAN; I tore through the pristine white sheet of Indian culture. What do I do now? Should I burn myself to death or are you on your way to that to me? Please do punish me so, because you see I am Eve too, I need to be taught a lesson.

I like how you compared me to a flower. Beautiful, soft, pleasant! You opened my eyes as you explained that a flower is only worth till its kept in a place of worship; you throw it down a gutter and no one will ever touch it again, like the dirty woman. But I like lotuses, yes the same ones that grow in the gutter, mud and slush. Iam scared, Sir. I think the flowers and I are sinning, again. Iam the dirty woman. Should my petals be ripped off and sunk down the same gutter I belong to? Please do show me my place, because you see Iam Eve too, that too a lotus loving one, I need to be taught a lesson.
But all men are not like you. Some tell me to open the pandora's box, some tell me to leap out of the well, some tell me to smell the lotus; they look into my eyes and tell me they see more than breasts and a vagina. They hold my hand and together we peep out of the universe of gender, we swim away from the deep oceans of tradition and emerge on the other side of the world, where you don't exist. Who are these men? Or are they even men? Should they be thrown together with my lot? Please do tell me, because you see they are Eve too, we all need to be taught a lesson.

However, when you are done teaching me all the lessons, I want to teach you one too. Incase, just incase, you forgot, I gave life to you. I gave you the right to live, even as they aborted my baby girl. I held you close and warm inside me, bore silently the excruciating pain of childbirth, took care of you like delicate flower (yes, a flower), hoping against hope that you will remember the lesson of womanhood I was teaching you. But you forgot, and so did I. So, please teach me, because you see I am Eve too, I need to be taught a lesson.

Yours fearfully

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Movie Review: BABY

Movie: BABY
Director: Neeraj Pandey
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Rana Daggubatti, Tapsee Pannu, Anupam Kher, Danny Denzonga, Mikaal Zulfiqar and Rasheed Naz
Genre: Thriller

Every other day, when some or the other part of the country is burning up in flames in the name of terrorism and communalism, I am overcome by this irresistible itch to smack down atleast one bad guy in my lifetime. Wouldn’t it have been altogether too easy and convenient if all the bad guys were just within arm-reach and if we could bundle them together in a room, and punch them our hearts out? Well, we both know that ain’t happening, and sadly, enough, the Miss. Peace-loving-goody-two-shoes that Iam, I doubt if I will even swat a fly in my lifetime. So for people like me and the others around, Bollywood comes out with patriotic thrillers like BABY, setting our blood surging, heart racing and adrenaline pumping. More than anything else, BABY is a reminder about the many Indian officers who are engaged in risky, life threatening, undercover operations to ensure that we eat, sleep and enjoy our lives in safe confines of our country. Watching BABY just a day before Republic Day, makes me want to salute every single officer who will march down Rajpath tomorrow, with their heads held high and proud to be serving their motherland.

In the backdrop of the post 26/11 Mumbai, a special investigation team is formed and is assigned a top secret mission to hunt down terrorists and rip open the veil over their plans to attack India. Out of the 12 officers who were deployed, only 4 remain. The movie is about the last operation carried out by this team.  

Akshay Kumar is brilliant as an officer heading an undercover operation. He looks like a man who knows his job and has no second thoughts about it. Anupam Kher and Rana Daggubatti deliver very good performances as the other officers in the team. Despite a short role, Tapsee Pannu will floor you in an action packed sequence (trust me I had to forcibly suppress a whistle). Pakistani British actor Mikaal Zulfiqar does a fine job in the movie and veteran Pakistani actor Rasheed Naz is well cast into the role of a most wanted terrorist.

Though on the whole I loved the movie, I do have a few bones to pick with it, so let me lay it down for you. Among the things I loved (the most) are a) the storyline is unwavering from its path. Not even for a second will you be drawn into wondering, irritably, as to where the story is headed; b) there are no songs, well there is one but it barely there takes your focus off the main track; c) all the actors are so well cast that you cannot have had it better and d) the locations are well shot and technical details have been well catered to.

Things I did not like are a) certain scenes which would have been major troublesome circumstances in real life, were portrayed as near about cakewalks; b) some parts were a tad dragged and could have been wound up faster and c) sometimes (just sometimes!) Akshay Kumar’s stoic expressions made him look plastic and lifeless.

A movie for all ages though maybe not kids as in my hall I had atleast 5 little ones loitering around the entire place, so they were clearly bored. Overall, BABY is a fantastic way of getting in touch with your patriotic spirit. So, go for it soldier!

Stars: *** & ½ 

Friday, 14 February 2014


Ambika stared long at the tiny body wrapped up in that crisp white cloth. The red shirt looked like a blotch of blood on the cloth, staining the cloth of its purity. There were several white bundles of dead bodies lying around her, stripping away the peaceful glory which the colour white had boasted of for all these years. The little boy looked like in deep sleep; except for the bloated face caused by lying in the water for several hours, there were no injury marks. She touched his cold hands, tracing the length of his tiny fingers, imagining them holding colour pencils and drawing mountains, streams, tiny huts, birds and what not. Her Sannath was just the same, always drawing mountains he was never destined to see and filling colors that were never to touch his life.

"Is there no one who has claimed this boy's body? Should we burn it with the rest of the unclaimed bodies?" Ambika was jostled out of her reverie by the voice behind her.

"No sir, it is not an unclaimed body. I will... eer.. this is my ...." Ambika's voice trailed as tears welled up in her eyes.

The man stared at her expressionlessly and a bit impatiently. He had seen this scene several times in the past few weeks. There were alot of bodies to be disposed and he did not have all day to waste with this one body. He hurridly thrust a piece of paper and pen into Ambika's hands and said, "Ma'am sign here please. And please mention your relation with the deceased." Saying this he moved over to another set of grieving family. Ambika stared long and hard at the sheet of paper in her hands. Her hands trembled as she poised the pen over the paper, and wrote on the dotted lines next to the colomn marked as relationship - "Mother!"

As the flames licked up the body on the pyre, as the smoke rose upwards billowing her days of anguish, as the scent of burning body wafted up her nostrils, Ambika smiled through her tears. Her mind was at peace at last, her son's soul was at peace atlast. She had found what she had craved for in the past 3 years, closure!

A few weeks ago:

"Ambika, come here quickly, the news channles are flashing scenes from of the Uttarkhand floods. This is a horrific tragedy. I hope the clothes we donated reach the people stranded up there. Every small bit of help counts in these moments."

Ambika did not move from her place. She could hear her husband calling her, but she wanted sometime alone. Giving away Sannath's clothes, plucking out the remains of his existence from the house; she had felt she was losing him all over again. When her friend had called up asking her if she had clothes to donate for the relief fund her immediate reaction had been a no. Later as she sat in Sannath's room, smoothening out the bedspread, straightening the books in the book shelf; her mind went back to the call. What if Sannath had been stuck in the disaster; what if it had been Sannath who needed her help right now? Had she not wished a million times that if only there had been someone to help Sannath as he had thrashed about the water, his head bobbing about like a ball in the water flow. She had stood there helplessly on the river side, as he drifted away from her sight, his clothes a splash of colours on the frothy water current. His body was never found; her little boy was never seen again.

She picked up the phone and called back her friend, " Hello Meena, I do have a few clothes to donate. Mostly children's clothes, somewhere a little boy like my Sannath must be waiting for someone to come rescue him. Infact, I would like to accompany you to the disaster site and see if I can be of some help in the rescue work."

She took out all of Sannath's clothes and placed them over the bedspread. She wanted to have a last look at them before she packed them away from her life forever. Her eyes caught the bright red tee shirt, peeping out at her from beneath the pile of clothes. It was his favourite tee-shirt; he would wear it around the house every other day, annoying Ambika to no end. And now, how she longed for just a glimpse of him clad in his red tee-shirt.

With a sigh, Ambika placed the shirt on the white bedspread; the bright red like a blotch of blood in the white cloth!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Kuch Kehna hai Tumse.......

Kuch kehna hai tumse.
Kahi sawalon ki veeraniyan,
Aur jawabon ki gutthiyan.
Par lab kyun lachaar hai,
yeh kaisi bebasi sawaar hai.
Shabdon ki lukka chuppi se,
Yeh man mera pareshaan hai.
Kuch kehna hai tumse.
Kahi ehsason ki kahaniyan,
aur ghutathe jasbaton ki rangreliyan.
Par aankhen kyun nam hai,
yeh kaisa anjaana sa gam hai.
Katraati zubaam ki sharaart se
Yeh man mera pareshaan hai.

Kuch kehna hai tumse.                                         Kahi ansune kisso ki daastan
Aur ashkon se bheege palkon ki kaarvaan.
Par dooriyon sa kyun hamara rishta hai
Yeh kaisi kismat ki nishtha hai.
Nazaron ki dhundali nazaron se
Yeh man mera pareshaan hai.

Ab kuch nahi kehna hai tumse,
Par meri khamoshi ko padh lena
Shikayat nahi par ek arzi hai tumse
Agar meri yaadein kisi roz pukaare,
Toh bhoola bisra samjh bas laga lena dilse.
Ab kuch nahi kehna hai tumse.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Secret Ingredient!

I stumbled my way into the crowded Mumbai local. An army of hands, shoulders, sweaty armpits and necks swathed with talcum powder engulfed my senses blanking me out for a second, like every single day. A train bogie is very interesting place to be in; here stories are born, raised, fed, killed, starved, revived. With each life that goes in and out of the local, there is an one ounce of their lives left behind. Gossip hangs in the air like oxygen, you cant help but breathe it in. I've heard stories of marital infidelity, financial stress, trips abroad, depressing breakups, new arrivals in the family, giggled whispers of 'the last night'- well the last one is my favorite, it sends an exciting shiver down my spine. Noise is another thing that breeds inside trains; the rustling of silk saris against the soft fleshy skin, cotton saris making a crisp statement as they caress my hands when I brush past them, even the heavily embroidered saris scratching me, as if condemning me for touching them without consent. There are other clothing too, but none talk as much as saris. This combined with the clinking of bangles, the occasional jingling of an anklet, crying babies being lulled to sleep, the thundering of the train as it snakes its way through the heart of the city; this was music in itself.  

So here I was pushing my way through the crowd, in hopes of finding a kind soul who would offer me her seat. I wanted to sit near the window and sense the warm sunlight pervading through my skin, calming my fluttering heart worrying about trivial matters or simply soothe my jittery nerves still jumpy after my fight with the morning station crowd. Oh! and the wind was a bliss in disguise. It would be my lover for the next 30 mins in the train. The wind would touch my face with its icy morning hands, played with my hair, freeing it from the strict bun I tucked them into and on other days it just listened to my tuneless humming with rapt attention, often whispering along with me. I had to sit on the window seat today.

Suddenly as if in answer to my prayers, a hand caught hold of my hand and guided me to the seat. As I brushed past her, she whispered into my ears, " I hope you are comfortable." Have you ever heard the tinkering of the bells in a monastery? The voice that just touched my ear was more soothing than that. Have you heard the water playfully falling down as a waterfall? Her voice was livelier than that. Have you heard a baby gurgling with happiness? Her voice was softer than that. Today the wind lost its lover and I gained a muse. She was wearing a suit whose dupatta dangled on my arm teasing me to grab it. The other end must have sweptthe dirty floor, for it made her friend comment, "Arre, dekho chunni sambhalo...". She was standing near my seat and was talking incessantly to her friend. Just like the Bombay rains. I couldn't overhear what they where talking, but I heard the clinking of her bangles, as she moved about her hands. I wonder if they were of gold or glass?! As luck would have been, the woman next to me got up to get down and my muse settled down next to me. I knew I had to make some small talk.

I innocently asked her the time, well yeah the same age old easy pick up line, only I really wanted to know the time. She replied "10:00 o'clock" and I think she may have smiled. With that assumption I smile back at her.

"Which stop is yours?" I asked


"Oh, mine too."

I heard the clink of an aluminium box and a second later a greasy sweet smell wafted up my nostrils tickling an old suppressed memory awake.

"Is that sooji ka halwa?" I asked curiousely

"Yes aunty, I made it in the morning in a hurry and did not even get time to check if I got it right. Why don't you taste and tell me how it is?"

And with that she placed the aluminium box with a spoon inside onto my palm. I gingerly picked up a spoonfull of the halwa and guided it towards my mouth. It tasted just like that old memory. That dash of secret ingredient teased my mouth as I savoured the taste, just like the good old days. I still don't know what that secret ingredient was.

"It's very tasty! Your halwa has reminded me of a very old friend who used to make halwa the same way. She always claimed to have a secret ingredient which she would never share with me despite my pleadings." I told the girl, laughing at the memory.

"This is my mother's recipe. And she also had her special secret ingredient which she made me swear to keep it a secret. She used to boast that the whole of Nasik was a fan of her halwa." she replied giggling.

"Nasik? That's where I grew up too. My friend Srikala used to boast the same. We were neighbours and very good friends. I hated admitting how good her cooking was. Oh! the good old days. I never met her after her marriage. I wonder where she is now?!"

"Did you say Shrikala? Was her maiden name Shrikala Kohli? Did she marry a bank manager?"

"Yes" I exclaimed surprised, "How do you know her? Where is she now? I tried contacting her many times after her marriage but her parents also shifted from our block and she never replied to my letters. Maybe they never reached her."

"She is my mother, aunty. And she passed away three years back." Her voice quivered for a second. "But Iam so glad to have met you. Please take my number and address, I want to sit with you and hear all of your childhood stories. What a wonderful morning this is!" Her voice trailed of excitedly into the background as memories stung my eyes as fresh as yesterdays. The touch of her hand, brushing off our lips, the times we held each other tight and close afraid of being discovered. We had our own secret ingredient to our friendship, secrets the world never knew and did not want to know. Blind since birth, I never got to know how she looked, but the contour of her face was familiar to me like the back of my hand and the tinkling of her trinkets, the playful clinking of her bangles, all enticed me towards her. Though I had never met her in the past 25 years, the news of her death tightened its hands around my neck, choking me. She was the only one with whom I had shared my secret, our secret, Our secret ingredient.

I felt a piece of paper pushed into my hands. The train was slowing down, and I heard the familiar bustle of the station.

"Aunty, I have written down my phone number and address. Come let us get down, We have entered Dongri."

"No actually today I have to go a bit further. You carry on beta, I will definitely give you a call today evening. My Shri's daughter, Iam so glad we met today." I replied squeezing her hand. My Shri's hands! 

As the train made its way out of the station, I edged closer to the window. The wind whispered into my ears willing me to let free the memories I had treasured all these ears. I smiled, refusing to share my secret ingredient. Our secret ingredient!