Day 105: Life is so much better with a filter on

He was the Chief of the regiment and had a huge battalion waiting to welcome him. They were all lined up by the lake, with its crystal water and lush green beds all around. Four crisply dressed soldiers held a big chest from all four sides; it was well-decorated with a red velvet sash, and some gold embellishments. He got off his buggy, dressed in a crisp white shirt, with sleeves folded all the way past his elbow. Years of training showed in his sculpted biceps. He had a baseball cap on, bright red, and turned backwards. Chocolate Croissant at Michael’s! Some Chief, to break uniform, no? His briskly walked up to the lake front, not marching, but keeping step with the soldiers leading up front, with the chest. They marched on, into the lake.

He hesitated for a second before laying his foot into the water, looking to his men for a reaffirmation. He got what he was looking for, and followed the men in. As he moved, he casually looked over to our side, peasants lined up far behind the edges of the lake, behind the thorn barricade that set us in our place. I caught his sight, and looked down immediately, almost blinded by the sparkling white of his shirt. I look up as I hear a splash in the water, and a general murmur amidst the crowd. He has nose-dived into the lake, waving his men to return to the bed the usual way. Where did that chest go already? His men quickly step back to the lake shore, and start their regiment song in full furore. Badluram ka badan, zameen ke neeche hai.

 

He swam to the shore nearest to our barricade, hoisted himself up the slope of the lake bed, and reached to the other side of the barricade. He put his right hand on the railing and recoiled immediately; silly man didn’t know how cruel these iron thorns were. He squeezed himself between two rows of the wire, clearly trying to make his way through. The rest of the crowd took a step or three back, suspicious of this man, wet to his toe and yet sparkling in his bright white. I put a strong foot on the lower railing, and muscled the one above, to make a decent pass for this strange man to get through.

He stumbled on to the other side, smiled his shiny whites, stretched an arm out my way, and said, “Ayatoozarooola! Mazi waqawoori Hashitooshiwashi Wooshi

Me: *Confused* “Hello, I am Swetha

Mr. White: *Switching tongues on me* “Hello Swetha. I am Raam!

I get up from my sleep, kicking my feet up in the air, as if I’d seen a ghost.

I remember seeing a bicycle, resting lazily in a narrow, stone pathway, brightly colored houses in the background, a camera framing this beautiful scene for permanence, and me saying “Buoy! Life is so much better with a filter on.

 

 

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Day 94: Don’t underestimate the power of a blind man

Back to Bethany

I did a solo trip back to Bethany Special School to collect completion certificates from the school. I also managed to pick up one of the carpets made by the students from amma’s sarees. It is always a pleasure being back. All the teachers welcomed me back warmly, enquired about the other two, and invited me to say hello to the students. I met Tarun, and our usual sweethearts, Jeslyn and Stuti, and they remembered. Stuti did a full bow and told me that she saw us during her dance for the Prize Day. Even Tarun recognized us during the Vote of thanks apparently. Beautiful souls.

I spent about two hours substituting for Ms Deepa since her mother was in the hospital. Got their computer running, then typed up a few mails and printed out letters for the Principal. It somehow justified the purpose that I was there for, as if the 20 odd hours we spent there didn’t. Maybe it’s me and my idea of not taking back anything but learning from such an institution.

Visually Impaired

The final Teaching practicum for the semester was at a an institution for the visually impaired, called Mitra Jyothi. It is support and resource center for the blind, and the founder is a visually impaired lady herself. So, I was in awe from get-go. We saw the Braille printers and slates, and a number of books published by the institute. It was an impressive establishment for sure. I even saw a blind student type up a super complicated formula in Excel as a part of the computer training, using the screen reader.

I learnt of volunteering opportunities to read books and convert them into talking libraries, and to edit recorded audio to make them blind-compatible. After the recent learning from Radio Namaste, this might be a great place for me to work with them over the weekends.

What affected me the most from the trip was something that the coordinator said. She spoke about the self-respect of the visually impaired and how not every blind man with a stick by the road wants your help to cross it. Most of them have been trained to take care of such basic tasks on their own, and unless they ask for help, you should stay away. A bold and yet powerful observation.

It got me thinking about how in our life’s aim to collect brownie points for the next, we offer help and assistance when we find fit. But what if the person at the other end doesn’t want your help? Are you smart enough to know where to back off?

Silver Ghoster

I’ve had a few decent conversations with SilverGhoster, and it has been refreshing to talk to someone of the newer generation that remembers their Shakespeare. Reddy child, doing his MBA to take over his mother’s school, and we talked about how Christ School is a major threat for their much smaller institution in the area. It talks immensely of brands and how the little mom-pop shop is invariably squashed.

That doesn’t counter the fact that they themselves suffer at the hands of poor teaching methods and teachers. Since it’s run by someone with minimal to no education backing, they still profess rote methods to innovative techniques. I was excited when he told me that most classes have about 25 to 30 students only. We spoke about how powerful that really is and the potential it has to bring real changes in the lives of the students. He had a valid point about the quality of teachers and their willingness to stay in a competitive market. We briefly spoke about recruiting at Christ and so.

Overall, seems like a sensible chappie.

Awkward Dreams

Woke up from a dream where I was being chased by a buffalo. Think the while scene was in a multi-story building, maybe even an infinity pool somewhere. At one point, I am standing in a crisp white room, possibly hiding from the buffalo it walks in, looks directly at me and doesn’t recognize/spot me. Then it takes a little Sniff, and charges directly at me.

And that’s how I was woken up by a blind buffalo chasing me through a fancy resort.

Don’t underestimate the power of a blind man? Is that what the visually challenged computer teacher said? Noo! I’m sure you made that up. Wait! He really said that??

Funny guy!

But it’s scary that they’re in the dark all their lives, no? ” Scotch

Day 34: New experiences, petting projects, and dreams

Petting projects

A normal Saturday took a turn for the better when we kicked off the volunteer group at Pet a Project. Ranga Shankara, the location for our meet, was a wonderful venue and I enjoyed a productive hour, working on my assignments, while the gang rolled in. And it was such an amazing bunch to talk to. The power of volunteerism is that you do not have competition or that innate human need to one-up the other. The six of us were almost instantly chatting away like we’d known each other for years. There was already some playful banter and teasing, reminiscent of thick friends. For an outsider, we could have passed off for a group of friends reuniting after years of being apart. And that says wonders about the team that we have now.

The project itself has gotten me excited for a few weeks now. It follows in line with our conversations over the summer, at Bhor, where as educationists, we agree that there is something critically lacking in our daily school curriculum, that is leaving our children incapable in real-life situations. While the Schools of the Future Program targeted middle-income private schools, that could in turn seed fund the project with government schools, and focused largely on making learning visible in schools, Pet A Project aims at working specifically with low-income government schools, and enhancing the life-skills in these school students.

Questions remain about the true nature of the curriculum that has been designed already, the effectiveness tracking mechanism and the sustainability plan. But for now, it’s project-go, and that has always been a fun and exciting time.

New experiences

 

The day got better when Sid and I lost and found our way to Tortilla House, a quaint home studio in the residential streets of Koramangala, where the day’s edition of the Playback Theatre would be. The Actor’s Collective, founded by a ChristU Alum professor, and itself consisting of a number of ChristU alums, is one of the forerunners in the country on the alternate theatre concept, called Playback Theatre. From our first hello there, we felt extremely welcome and warm, with the ambience and the actors and their smiles.

Unlike a typical play, where the actors are up on stage, almost playing god, and the audience sits below, with eyes of endearment, here we were all right there in one single room. The audience sat at one end of the studio, while the actors took another. The facilitator did a wonderful job bringing the two together, and the crux of playback theatre – of acting scenes based on the stories shared by the audience – was extremely intriguing.

My personal experience, watching them enact my Trust Circle Conundrum, was insightful. The trust circle in itself has been something that I think about extensively, and the questions of my readiness to get into it will always plague me. But watching the actors enact that conflict, especially almost hinting that I should get in there, was a powerful feeling indeed.

Dreams

 

While a number of us shared our stories and watched in silence as the actors brought them to life on stage, the one story that moved me the most was Vinu’s struggle with the true origin of dreams. As beautiful as his struggle was, the way it was enacted was equally powerful.

Do we dream dreams that are our own, or are they dreams that we are made to dream?

His narrative to the question was his struggle with his identity as a homosexual and a passionate man and his dream of having a loving partner, a child and a dog to complete his family. As the relationship went down under, his dreams haunted him and he repeated the question often to justify his need to move on or his lethargy to stay put. I couldn’t have related to another’s struggle like I did with Vinu’s.

An engineering degree, a stable job in a multi-national company, a few trips offshore to work from exotic countries, a steady stream of vacations to exquisite lands, an extravagant marriage by 24, a baby by 26 and another by 28. Whose dreams are we expected to live? Does the society have such an effect on our pysche that even our dreams mirror the societal demands? Did we grow up dreaming of vacations in ultramarine blue seas? Weren’t our dreams more rustic and basic then?

And more importantly, how many of us are dreaming the dream of others and fooling ourselves into thinking they are our own?

“S, seems like you had a lot of fun this Saturday. Is it true that you went to a café where people cut a birthday cake and you dint even get a piece? Couldn’t you have tried to sneak one out, at least for me?” Scotch


I am officially ‘old’

The inevitable is always around the corner. As much as you may try to sneak around it, try not to look it in the eye or shut your eyes and will it away, it is there. So, I knew that my growing up growing old was as expected as the ice cream that melts and the nose that runs. But, now that I see it here, I am trying to shut my eyes and will it away.

How do I know that I am old, you ask me?

Lists! It’s those darned lists, I say. I am sure that I’ve grown old, not grown up, because of these darned lists.

You see, it was sometime in the course of my late teens that I had assured myself that I would never grown old. It was a simple logic; I would never make lists and only old people kept lists. Hence, me no grow old.

Oh! Those little, cryptic words, meaningless when looked out of context, scribbled on minuscule  pieces of parchment. Folded and folded again, to fit into little crevices in giant bags. Referred and re-referred to at every opportunity and scratched off and written on over and over again, till they become the very reason for your existence.

...would look just like this one

My very important to do list…

Lists!

I’ve started creating these monsters too. You will find me surrounded by these devils, passionately stroking one to completion. These little sheets seem cryptic and yet hold much more meaning than I can attribute to any other entity in my life. I wake up staring at the new list perched up on the wall. I spend the day planning activities that revolve around me striking items off  ‘the list’. I go to bed thinking of new items that are worthy enough to make the cut. I dream of innovative ways of making lists and striking them off.

Do you know what the worst of it all is? I truly enjoy it! I love to watch that list, the little savage of things-to-do, grow. And then I fall in love with it all over again when it’s time to scratch things off. Yes! The heavenly pleasure associated with running a crisp pencil (a pen comes close too) across the engraved words, thereby rendering those very words completely meaningless, is unspoken of. The true indulgence of that trivial activity can only be felt from within. Deep, deep within.

Identify Paper - Land Pen - Fire!

Identify Paper – Land Pen – Fire!

That is also where none of the modern day inventions come close. Where is the pleasure in pushing one little button and marking a task done? The pristine tasks apps don’t quite emote the energy and pain that was put into completing that activity. It would be more genuine if you could crack the tablet’s screen a couple of times, spill pasta over it, create some coffee mug rings on one edge and scribble a love note at the top right corner. Now all that talks about the sheer will power put into completing the tasks. What these digital apps miss is everything that depicts the true gravity associated with a list scribbled on a 4X4 post-it note.

The true gravity associated with a list scribbled on a 4X4 post-it note?

Oh my dear lord! I am officially old!

I'm officially old

I’m gonna cry in my little corner now

Heaven and heavenly

The rumble progresses and the sky grows darker. Clouds gather in and darkness builds around our little hutment. We stare into each other’s eyes and no words are spoken. The unthinkable was happening; the times we had prepared for in our minds, and had silently prayed to forget, were becoming undeniable. We run into our excuse for a shelter, broken down ruins already conquered by time. We find our little nooks, camouflage into the walls and wish that they’d leave us alone this one.

We sit tightly huddled, mom and I, staring directly into the fear in each others’ eyes. There is little that we can share with each other, when the inevitable end lay ahead. Was this the time when we quietly reminisced about pearly bright days? Do we discuss about the father and the husband that we do not see around anymore? We choose silence and our hands grow moist with sweat.

We see other faces, bodies forced into spots uninhabitable and nothing but periodic rustle of dust under someone’s breath giving away the truth. We see a rodent run from one crevice in the wall to another. The thought of being eaten alive presented itself as a saner choice that being a victim to their attack. We pray the rodent won over the others and close our eyes. I feel the hollow in my soul build and grow larger. I have carried that hollow in me for a while now, the feeling confirms that fact. I do not recollect how we found ourselves in the hutment or what yesterday had been. I only feel the desperate need in me to protect myself from the others.

I must definitely have been warned about their terror, for I had not hesitated for a moment when I’d seen signs of their arrival light up.

The rumbling grows louder and the darkness progresses; we are engulfed in a form of black that we can barely conjure. Whatever it was that we had been warned against, was here and we could feel it’s unmistakable presence around us. The silly me wanted to be brave, open my eyes and make friends with them. The sane me shut her eyes tight and hoped for it all to fade away, just another nightmare that we all wake from with a start. The rest of us were fighting each’s own little battles because a battlefield lay ahead for sure.

I did not feel it coming; I do not have a recollection of being taken. I have a faint remembrance of being up in the air, lifted by a merciless force that had surprisingly left me alive. I see my feet lie ahead of me, with the dense woods far beyond. My dress rustles in the updraft but I do not feel the chill. My eyes shut and the thought fades away. The next time I wake up, a strong pain lashes through my feet and up to my head. My feet it is. I struggle against nothing and look at my right leg wrapped in fresh white gauze. I do not feel the metal rod inside of me any longer; I feel healed. I look around and see nothing; No one.

I wake up to a very familiar feeling that lingers around me; I set my eyes on the face of a man I’ve known for years. I have absolutely no recollection of who he is, but I listen to him non-hesitantly. I let him sit by me and care for my wound while I search for me in my head. He seems to have a mysterious quality of sucking away all thoughts from me. The peace that the lack of thought brings with it is amazing; frees me into a vapor. I pass between states of being asleep and awake with the constant knowledge of him being around. I sense his tender touch and my soul flutters, immensely acquainted with him from time in the past.

I do not know how much time has passed since the dark day but I seem to elude any thoughts of that life now. Wasn’t I supposed to be worried about what had happened to my people? My mother had definitely been one of them; Others had to be around. And yet I sat in peace. Why did I not seem threatened by my current state? Why did they take me, care for me and free me? Who was he?

Recollections returned of a high ground, the wind blowing on our faces. I do not know if this was a dream, a thought, an event in the past or a forecast of the future. He is sitting beside me, endearing and yet mundane. I feel his strong arms around my shoulders and I nuzzle into their comfort. I see him engaged in a conversation with others, yet not once do I feel distant from him. A soft pull towards him, a brief glance in my direction and I know nothing else except for me being there mattered to him. The recognizable feeling returns and I am home.

The peace jolts me out of sleep and I wake up. It is four in the morning and I can’t get his face out of my head. Wonted and yet novel. Earthly, yet angelic. Heaven!

The dusty destiny!

‘Tis has been quite a while since we conversed. True. Time flew by and we walked into our own little closets, strengthened the walls around it and ensured the barbed wires saved us from any foreseen onslaught. The little that we heard, when we shouted across the inches of concrete, was the hatred and the hostility within. Staged? Practised? I know nought. Our keen discernment ensured that even a sincere act of fondness was falsified with riddles and mysteries. As each taunt built on another, the walls grew thicker, stronger and more fortified than before. The walls we built for one another, mysterious indeed.

In this lone cell, I hear sounds that baffle me; unknown visions from the past, I realize. A unified laugh at a played out hysteria, a cohesive smirk at the newest stereotype and a mortified scorn at tradition emerge, coerce and drift my way. I play witness to evenings spent in silent harmony, the music of the souls drifting by. I see two lone figures battling an entirety, the mass multitude. They walk together in their lone paths, alone in their combined missions, and yet powerful in each other’s presence.

Something stirs within, a wish? a dream? Fear maybe. I withdraw deeper into my surroundings, my facade from the outside world. And in the urgency to protect my heart from the hurt outside, have I forced you out with it? Did you want to be forced out from sheer exhaustion? Did the togetherness threaten your uniqueness?

The alter ego had vaporized, the best friend had vanished and out emerged my nemesis. Strong in knowing the real me, weak in being me.

[…]

She stiffened her sleeves, smoothing the crease that was beginning to develop. Smart move Mr. Murphy; throwing the wrongs her way, when she intended to make it her best performance. It was going to be the destiny she had fought for own her own, built it from the grave. The world had definitely been more accepting than it had been before. The bruises from her past wars showed themselves black and blue, reminding the observer to tread with caution. Was that the reason for the distanced reactions this time? Was the world busy living a more saner life for itself, untouched by her anxiety?

She shook her thoughts back to the moment she was basking in; the world could live its life and she hers. The walk towards the bridge had been painful. She had to conquer the worst enemy before setting out on this path; her inner self. The ego, bloated from years of hurt and neglect, had thrown its army of reasons at her, one more convincing than the other, declaring the entire episode a mere school girl’s trick. Her brain, the self-proclaimed master, had reasoned with them all, while the heart sat quiet, listening to the war wage on. As days turned into weeks and no consensus was in sight, the heart stiffly sat up, proclaimed the verdict and went back into its sanctuary. The trip would be made.

As her mind raced through the happenings of the past, her feet slowly tread on, stopping at the foot of the bridge. She looked ahead and gasped at the beauty that lay ahead. Pearly gates laid out for the mundane, reachable yet mystic in their ways. She took her first step forward and felt herself sink in, the soft touch of the feathers beneath her tickled her little toe. She let out a muffled laugh. As she lingered on, the season sunk in; little drops of rain slid by the window, concealing the harsh lights beyond. The familiar smells of the ocean swept by, bringing with them sounds from the past. Moments leapt by, as she validated the reality quotient of it. She walked out from aeons of movement and glared at having reached midway. The view amazed her.

She had lost count of the time she had spent there after the initial day itself. A sense of helplessness had set in, rising the devil within. As the heart lay curled at the corner, the ego threw its tantrums. The turmoil within manifested itself louder by the passing. They had all birthed a mistake in unison and now hell lay about. Sad, searching eyes flooded with drops of lost morale, as two feet slowly dragged the entirety back to the earth. She had won the war, but the battle was lost forever.

The world seemed more accepting at her return than anticipated, a welcome worthy of the prodigal was laid out. Aged fingers pointed to the direction of the rightful destiny; it lay in photographs floating in virtual space, clicked hastily by emotionless hands. Destiny flourished in names matched against the stars, lifetimes of congeniality predicted from meaningless scrawls on the eternal parchment. It lived in interests created with the purpose of hitting a match, wavelengths sourced to traverse as one. It rested on familiarity bred over time, distances being lost by it all. Destiny lay elsewhere from where she had sought it.

As the heart built its newest layer of fortification, there was a world out there that needed to be satiated. The brain promised itself to be just that. The head hung low, nodded in acceptance. Destiny lay elsewhere indeed.

Replay.

It was another one of those times when you felt life was in the replay mode…

It was the same village…mounted high up in the hills…With the smell of the heavens oozing out of every street….People looking very affable…waiting to serve u at the cost of their lives…Those up hill and down hill travels were all too familiar for words…

There was the same monsterous weapon of mass destruction..it had haunted me the previous time….I was wrong to have wished it gone now…coz it was back…Howling the lives out of innocent visitors…these rickshaws knew no fear…autos that decided the fate of their passer bys…They hadnt changed…

The man’s face was a distant memory…but this one sent back shivers….there was that weird feelin within that was tellin me to warn my companion…to remind him that it was wrong…to let him live back the then when it had all happened….to tell him to get out…before it was too late….

We sat snug in the vehicle…the driver looked up at the heavens and laughed….my heart began to beat harder…i felt that crunch that sucks your soul out of you..i could feel it comin any minute….

And there it was…I knew it..it happened….as it had the last time…The squabble broke out from a nothing…I hadnt remembered why the last time too…but it was worsenin…and the final blow..that sent him flying out of the rick…

What happened next and how i reached him is a distant memory…i cant get down to the details in my head…but as i knelt and looked down on him…lying there helples….with blood oozing out from the face that had lit up the life in me….i lost it all…

I panicked for starters…Here was my life, lying there wounded, hurt, most probably because of me..and i wasnt doing anythin….i looked around…the all so pleasant mountain village dint seem half as inviting now…walker bys stopped to stare at the mass of bleeding flesh that lay below…and seemed to care the least…i could see backs turnin to us and walkin away…what was wrong…? wouldnt somebody help a hurt in this world..?

No..! i was not gonna depend on others to save this man lying here…It took no herculian effort to mount him in my arms…and i ran….god knows where though….Throughout my run for life, i peered down into those eyes…a pair that was searching for life…that was knocking on heaven’s doors…but fighting to get back…for there was a life to be lived….

I heard myself scream to him…wishing that he would hear…i begged him to not let go….i scremed at the heavens…to not take him with them…no this could not happen…i ran down those pristine white corridors…with him lying frail like a lump in my arms…

Ran straight through the doors…and OUt…!! I sat up ram-rod straight….It had happend again…the same dream…the same plea….the same door that i woke up at….

I lay awake in bed for the rest of the night…Praying….!