Wednesday, 24 June 2015

June 25, Two Memories

June 25, 1977, a child's first impressions

As a spunky and politically aware pre-teener, when i heard from my grandfather that emergency had been imposed in the entire country, it jolted me no end. I was a child raised on the heroic tales of the 'Iron Lady'. Now the same iron lady had exercised her iron will to snatch away the freedom of 'free citizens of a free country' and put iron shakles around their lives. . My newly awakened mind rebelled against the thought and i would often engage my grandpa in a debate about its ramifications. 
One night, as we all gathered for our daily session of family +news watching+dinner+discussion time, the neighbors-hardcore congressis-also joined us for their share of common TV time. The newsreader announced in his routine singsong tone that a few opposition leaders and journalists had been arrested for conniving against the govt. The feisty rebel in me was aghast at the 'news' and i stood up in agitation to launch a diatribe against the govt. My grandpa shushhed me immediately, the neighbors looked on curiously. I was whisked away to another room and scolded for my misdemeanor of ranting vociferously before the neighbors, "beta, deewaro ke bhi kaan hote hai aur aap to khule aam sarkar ki buraai kar rahe ho! Agar baat fail jaaye to sabke liye museebat ban sakti hai!"

June 25, 1983, Cricket World Cup Finals

India, the underdogs reach the finals of Cricket World Cup! The news had exhilarated all indians beyond imagination. Taking on and winning world cup against mighty West Indians was a wild dream not many of the fiercest optimists had. Stakes were always high in favor of the invincible Windies.
But when the unimaginable happened at Lords- the Home of Cricket, the whole city of Delhi erupted in rejoicing, celebrating, cheering for the ultimate win. Sparklers lit up the midnight sky and firecrackers announced the new world champions. The heady sight of a feisty captain proudly holding aloft the gleaming trophy and sprinkling the bubbly champaigne on the elated fans is a sight cherished for life.
Literally jumping with joy, we cousins attacked the aunt's kitchen and fridge to celebrate with something sweet. Nothing to be found! My elder cousin suggested we rustle up some quick kheer or halwa but nobody wanted to leave the TV screen for that long. Some Cheekus-which i dislike immensely and would have never eaten otherwise-had to do the honors finally. The aroma and taste of those luscious cheekus is still fresh on my tongue and heart.....only because of that first world cup win.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

A Close Bond

A few years ago, while teaching a piece of poetry to adolescent ninth graders, i happened to ask them if they would like to share something about their family life.
Their response was virtually a glut of emotions....a normally reticent child spoke of his difficult life at home with his new dad and his beautician mother, another narrated his grandpa's funny eccentricities, a girl hesitatingly confided how her mother had deserted her a few years ago, another girl's parents had expired in an accident and she lived with her grandparents and uncle's family, a boy spoke of his parents' expectations from him........ As they opened up their hearts, we became one-they were no longer students and i not their teacher!
The usually boisterous class fell silent, not a pencil dropped, no scratching of pens, no pulling or creaking of chairs...the unveiling of so many diverse emotions helped ease out the hesitation in the other children. Many eager hearts seemed ready to burst out their secrets.
I shut the door to drown out the noise of passing feet and children playing in the playground.
A few minutes later, another student-a new admission-stood up to reveal his family story. Originally from Kumaon, his father had struggled much in life, got education with much difficulty and now he wanted to provide his son and daughter the best education posible within his limited means. While sharing his father's dreams, he suddenly burst into tears! His friend sprang to his feet immediately and hugged him to steady his heaving frame. I too rushed to him and calmed him down. Others looked on-concern and empathy writ large on their faces.
The bell rang. It was recess. Not one student cheered or rushed out of the class. That one hour of shared joys and sorrows had erased the differences and diversities of status, caste, religion, gender......
Many more such moments followed.......they fought amongst themselves, had crushes, family problems, growing up issues, tussle with the management, fights with students from other classes. Many a times PTMs turned into Parents' Training Meet, i would be counselling parents rather than their wards.
Sometimes, when i was feeling down and out, they could sense it almost involuntarily.......a smile here, a word of concern there and an offer for help would lift my sagging spirits within no time.
Two years flew away. They were to appear for their boards now and were more serious towards their studies and career. It was at this point that i realized they had grown up so fast and some were now going to move away to other schools, ending 6-7 years of constant togetherness.
This poem was an outcome of such intense moments when a close bond was forged between the teacher and taught. With some of them, the bond still goes strong!
Here is the poem:
To Children......With Love!
It seems like yesterday when
They walked into my playpen,
The flock-young and naive, some hesitant and nervous,
Some confident and full of smiles.
One held my hand,
Another told the story of Lion King Grand,
Yet another climbed the window to swat a fly,
His friend hid under the desk to escape my eye.
And thus began the story of our friendship.
Of sharing sweets, chocolates and spicy chips,
Of graduating to A for Absent and B for Bunking,
Gradually learning the ABC of a Happy Life.
Lovingly I presided over my brood,
And helped them find
The difference between rude
And refined.
Together we learnt to love, enjoy, share and care,
To accept dislike, disagreements and failure,
To deal with anger, disappointment and despair,
All things in life, fair or unfair.
It's amazing how time flies!
The flock too, is now matured and ready to fly,
Raring to touch the heights of the skies,
It's time to loosen the strings, let go and bid good-bye,
Wishing them all the best,
To do well in all their life tests,
With courage, grit and determination,
And bring laurels to themselves, their family and nation.

Sunday, 14 June 2015


He could give up anything in the world to see a smile on her glum face again. She would dutifully come to meet him, every month. She would bring his favorite food, enquire about his well being, studies and keep staring blankly at the dusty calendar on the sour cream walls of the meeting room.
He had been there for the past nine months, in the juvenile home.
Convicted of murdering his own father.
His father! Drug addict and peddler, alcoholic, thief, begger, pimp, sadist......
The narrow alleys of their street would often reverberate with the cries of a hapless woman. Even the morning sun failed to penetrate the foggy skies to bring some cheer to the frail woman who tried to hide the scars on her body and soul, howsoever unsuccessfully, from her teenage son.
Another dark night, another wail rent the air, blinded with rage the boy grabbed a sickle and hit. His father collapsed. A puddle of blood slowly trickled out of the tenement.
The boy called the police with his father's cell phone.
Juvenile court sentenced him to one year in a correction home.
His mother's droopy mouth slumped even more. Uncertainty and apprehensions over her son's bleak future made her scarred face gloomier.
He urged her to resume work and be happy, she feigned a smile which did not reach her eyes.
After an agonizing 12 months he came home. She rejoiced briefly, then fell silent.
That night, as she lay awake on a shabby rag unable to blink an eye, she heard someone croon a lullaby.
She froze in her mediations. Then slowly turned to see her son sing the lullaby she used to sing to rock him to sleep.
From behind the lead skies, her s(u)n was born again!
The droopy mouth lifted, and then she smiled......radiant like the full moon outside.