Thursday, April 30, 2015

कैसे कह दूँ कि जीवन में बस एक कहानी है बाकी....

IndiSpire #63

कैसे कह दूँ कि जीवन में बस एक कहानी है बाकी ....
जिन शब्दों ने जीवन का सार दिया
उन शब्दों के हर आशय को
एक मतलब देना है बाकी
कल बीच में छोड़ा था जो गीत
उसे आज नए संगीत से फिर
गुनगुना के गाना है बाक़ी
और कितने लिखे गीतों की
अभी गुंजन सुननी है बाक़ी
उन पंखों का उड़ना बाकी
जो नीले अम्बर में गुम  होकर
अपनी पहचान बनाना चाहते हैं
सर्दी की ठण्ड हवाओं में
रूई-सी कोमल गर्माहट
और गर्मी की कड़ी तपन में ठंडी
छाया अभी देनी है बाकी
कुछ व्यंग्य अभी कसने  बाकी
कुछ कविताएँ कहनी बाकि
कुछ चित्र हैं सूने रंग बिना
उनको नवजीवन देना बाकी


गुज़रे कल को मैं जब देखूं
आगे  की राह बुलाती है
कुछ अनकहे शब्द जब सुनती हूँ
तो खिंची वहीँ  मैं जाती हूँ
कुछ नन्हे क़दमों की आह्ट
एक नए बचपन की छवि दिखाती है
कुछ नए सपने नयी आशाएं
नया इन्द्रधनुष एक बनाती हैं
एक नयी किताब के पन्नों की
कुरकुराहट जो कानों में पड़ती है
और सौंधी-सी खुशबू जो
उन पन्नों से हर ओर बिखरती है
कहते ये सब मिलकर मुझसे
एक नयी कहानी लिखनी है
जो कल से जुदा नहीं लेकिन
कल को आज में अंकित करती है
अभिलाषाओं का कोई अंत नहीं
ये हैं आकाश-सी अपरिमित
जो पूरी हो जाए मन की हर बात
तो गतीहीन बन जाऊँगी
कुछ तो हो जो मन को ललचाये
कुछ हो जो स्थिरता को तोड़े
और जीवन को एक चंचल बच्चे के
उज्जवल मन सा स्वरूप दे दे
जब ये  बातें पूरी होंगी
मन नयी दिशा एक खोजेगा
फिर नयी उमंगें जन्मेंगीं
फिर नयी कहानी बन जाएगी
लेकिन तब तक मैं कोशिश कर
कुछ किस्से पूरे करती हूँ
और इसी सोच में डूबी हूँ 
की किस पन्ने से मैं शुरू करूँ........

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Who is calling?


Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different.
-Albert Szent Gyorgi

Alexander Graham Bell worked for years on the telegraph to improve its function and introduce the novelty of human voice to it. History sings praise of Bell as the inventor of the telephone. Had he not worked to bring about the changes, history of communication through telephone would have run a different course. 

Bell is also credited to have made the first telephone call. It was a call that brought about a revolution in the way humans would reach out to other humans. It was a call from Mr. Bell to Mr. Watson, his assistant. The words that were spoken were

 "Mr. Watson - Come here - I want to see you,"

When Bell was working on the telephone, many people considered that it was not necessary. They thought that telegraph served the purpose of sending messages well and another equipment was not needed. But Bell overcame all discouragement and continued his work. It is said that after his invention gained public recognition, Bell had to face several patent lawsuits. Nevertheless, history regards Bell as the inventor of the telephone. He is truly a hero who left behind a legacy that immortalized him is the history of mankind.

It is hard to imagine a life without phone these days. Connecting to our friends happens through internet too now, no doubt. But a phone is a phone. How often do we check if there is a missed call on our phone? How many calls do we make each day, to talk to our friends and loved ones, to hear their voices and have a heart-to-heart conversation. It would be apt to quote that 

If we discovered that we only had five minutes left to say all that we wanted to say, every telephone booth would be occupied by people calling other people to stammer that they loved them.

There was a time when people wrote letters to each other. Internet and telephone changed it all. The era of hand-written letters is gone. But it still holds its charm. When I was little, my grandpa used to exchange letters with his friends. I can still feel the eagerness that I used to have waiting for the postman to deliver the replies. I would rush to my grandpa with the letter in hand. Sometimes, grandpa would make me write too and uncle (my grandpa's friend) would reply with the letter addressed to me. My heart would flutter with delight if I received a letter in my name! And though it is all history now, it still titillates the senses if you get a letter by mail. The appeal remains.

So is it with the human voice. No matter how much we message each other, ping each other, update our status to let others know what we are up to, a call is a call and a voice is worth a thousand messages. We still want to hear each other out. We still make calls and are happy to receive some from our loved ones. Don't you think so?

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

Wow Badge for the prompt 'Hero, Missed Call, Discovery'

Friday, April 24, 2015

' Glory was I had such friends'

IndiSpire #62

Hi-fives to true friendship!

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. "Pooh?" he whispered.
"Yes, Piglet?"
"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's hand. "I just wanted to be sure of you.”
A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh 

“Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . ."”
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves  

I just smiled when I read these two quotes. They actually sum up what real friendship is. When you have complete trust in each other, when you know that s/he will always be there for you, that is the foundation of true friendship. And when you get positive vibes from the other person, when your frequencies match, when you share the same wavelength, that is the beginning of true friendship.

Does it matter whether you have friends of the same sex or the opposite sex?

True friends are just that - true friends.
Gender, race, caste, status - nothing matters in true frienship.

Is it possible to have friends of the opposite sex?
Well, why not? After all, all it takes is two willing hearts joined together by a bond that in unbreakable, that is pure and platonic.

Does our society encourage such bonds?
NO. Sadly, this is the reason why we often see best friends of the same sex flocking together.

Remember the time when we were kids? Did it matter then who we played with? Boy or girl? Did our parents or the society reprimand us if we played with the opposite sex? No, they just didn't care.

But then we grew up. We started internalizing the norms of the society. Boys vs. Girls became the funda of life.

Our mind, our mentalities, our thoughts - they all became social constructs. We acted just the way our surroundings attuned us. We internalized the stereotypes.

The culture that we are all a part of always views friendship of the opposite sex with doubt and mistrust. Suspicious glances and watchful eyes try to tarnish the purity of such relationships.

Should we care about such unwanted, leery gazes? I guess not. A pure heart knows no fear.

As for the 'need' for friends of the opposite sex, I feel that what we all need is trustworthy and dependable friends.

Nothing else matters.

Let us all be blessed with true friends. Let us all be true friends. So that when we reach our twilight years, we all can say like Yeats," glory was I had such friends".

[Do share your thoughts on the post. Also, if you can, please spare some time to read a short story on friendship I wrote earlier. Click here]

[A village in Rajasthan did away with opium altogether and replaced it with Jaggery! Read more here]

Monday, April 20, 2015

My Son and daughter, Go bathe in them, These are treasures of rarest gems

I love to read stories to my children. Stories teach important life lessons in a playful and interactive way. They help them imagine and recreate. They open windows to the vast universe we all are a part of. It is a pleasure to see those little eyes open wide with wonder and delight at the infinite things the cosmos has to offer. Stories written for the little minds often have messages for the elders too. These messages are those primal, quintessential values we all were taught when we were little - values which we seem to have forgotten, overlooked or dropped from our hearts while treading hastily in the journey of our life.

I recently came across one such story that touched me deeply. It is the story of a tree that loves a little boy so much that it gives him all that he asks for. The title of the story is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. When the boy is little, the tree gives him a place to play and swing. It gives him fruit to eat and sell, so that he earns money when he wants it. The boy grows up and wants a house. The tree gives him its branches to help him build a house. Then the boy goes away only to return after a long time. He is oblivious of the tree's loneliness. He wants to build a boat and the tree lets him cut his trunk. The boy is gone. He returns when he is old. The tree feels sorry as it has nothing more to offer. It has no leaves, no branches, no fruits, no trunk, nothing. The boy, now an old man, states he just needs a place to sit. The tree happily offers it his stump. And the story ends on a happy note, with the two friends united, and the tree feeling content to have given till the end.

As I read this story, I was crying. I cried at the indifference of the boy and the selflessness of the tree. It made me think of man's insatiable greed.
To my son, it was a story of friendship where the tree kept on giving because he was a good friend.
To me, it was a reality we all are facing but refuse to accept.
We are stealing away from Mother Nature. We are stealing away its life, ripping it off layer by layer.
Are we humans? Perhaps we should re-define ourselves.

I thought I should explain this to my son. So I started off by showing him the video Earth is Calling, an initiative by When he looked at the pictures of barren earth, he too was saddened. But when he saw the rain, and when I explained to him how rain helps, he was a happy child again. He asked me what is wrong with nature.
I told him that we do not take care of nature. I told him that just as a mother takes care of a child, a child needs to reciprocate the feelings too. He was confused and asked me, "How do you take care of mummy? Mummy takes care of children." To this, I answered, "You give mother your love. When you give love, you make her happy. When she is happy, she will remain healthy."

He said,"How do you make nature happy?"
"By planting more trees. By switching off electricity when you don't need it. By not wasting water. By not wasting paper. By not wasting food. By using less plastic..."
"You always ask for less plastic bags when you go for grocery." He interrupted.
I smiled. He is noticing what I do.
"Yes. And we always recycle," I added. He nodded his head.

"There are so many small steps we can take that will make nature happy. By stopping pollution..."
"How do we stop pollution?"
"By walking instead of using car every now and then. Remember the trips we took to school when you were little. The school was nearby. We did not need the car. And now, you go by bus. So you are reducing traffic by not using your car everyday."
He smiled.

What was just a story session turned into a useful discussion where I shared important information on how to save nature. My son is the generation of tomorrow. If he understands the sensitivity of the topic today, he will gradually take steps for his future. The least I can do today is to inculcate a sense of respect for nature. If he understands that in the beauty of nature lies true happiness, he will always take care of it. I nurture love in his heart. That love will spread. That love will make him act. That love will help him save nature. Little actions, little deeds will create big ripples and Earth will smile, feeling proud of its children.

I urge all mothers to teach their children to love nature. I insist all little ones to go play outside. Go hide behind a tree. Go plant a seed and talk to the growing sapling. Go make puddles in the mud and rejoice in the rain. Go eat from a tree. Go smell a flower and admire its beauty. Live in nature. Love the nature. Nurture the nature.

The serene greens and the soothing streams
Promise joys pure and pristine
My son and daughter
Go bathe in them
Go splash in them
These are treasures
Of high esteem
These are treasures of rarest gems!

This post is written for IndiChange Earth is Calling, an initaitive by

'Beautiful Minds Inspire Others' - How two teachers are helping others to become achievers

When I was little, my mom always used to encourage me to become a teacher. She herself had devoted most of her life to teaching. And she had the knack of reaching even the most impenetrable minds. She always used to say that explanations should be very simple. Use words to simplify things, Vocabulary is a great tool only if it clears the mind and dispels doubts. She is my mentor to this very day. And I respect her and the very profession of teaching because of all that she taught and because of all the wonderful teachers I met in the journey of my life.

One such teacher whose aim has been to impart knowledge that is easy to comprehend is  Kamlesh Zapadiya. Hailing from Rajkot, Gujarat, this young man wanted to impart the element of joy to learning. Like a true teacher, he must have known that in order to make learning memorable and ever-lasting, it is imperative to make it enjoyable. He developed a quiz format and is said to have achieved the mammoth task of formatting the entire syllabus in quiz module. It has been recognized by IIM, Ahmedabad. He believed in a more interactive approach to studies. If one keeps on cramming the subjects, learning becomes very tedious. To make it lively, one needs to become involved. This involvement is brought about by interrogation. And hence the quiz arrangement. There are very few people who take an extra step. Very few teachers are true educators like him.

It is said that 'Gaining knowledge is the first step to wisdom. Sharing it, is the first step to humanity'
Kamlesh Zapadiya enlightens minds and enriches humanity by setting an example.

Kamlesh's feat is worth appreciation. Coming from a village that has no electricity, this man has also managed to create his own website ( to share the knowledge he has with the world. After all what is the use of learning if you cannot help others learn. It is like sitting in a temple but not being able to pray to God. Making knowledge accessible to all so that the basic right of education is achieved by all is still a dream is the developing India. But where there is dream, there are achievers. Kamlesh Zapadiya is one such achiever.

It is said that 'Teachers can change lives with just the right mix of chalk and challenges'. Good teachers teach not just how to read and write. They teach important life lessons too. They help us prepare for life. One such man who is making impressions in young minds is Rufus Sir.

A Coach with positive approach to life - Sir Rufus

Rufus D'Souza is a football coach in Kochi. He is not just an octogenarian whiling away his days in a lounge chair. He is an 84 year old guide who teaches young boys not just how to kick the ball. He instills in his pupils a love of some cardinal values. He teaches them to be punctual, to uphold discipline as a key to all success, and to cherish fair-play. These principles are not meant only for the football field. They are ethics that guide one's life and make his students better individuals. 

Rufus Sir is inspiration incarnate. At his age, he teaches the mantras of fitness of body and mind. He is relentless when it comes to his values. No late-comers are entertained. After all, one who does not value time does not value life. Punctuality makes a person more dependable and trustworthy. 

Sports itself is a great teacher. And coupled with a guide like Rufus D'Souza, it becomes an invaluable experience that can never let the pupil go astray.

Salute to Rufus Sir!

The two mentors I have briefly written about are real motivators. They are selfless yet strong. They channelize energies towards creativity. If one ignites sparks of soundness through sports, the other opens avenues of stress-free study that liberates the mind and helps it think. 

How many of us have the skill or will to do what they are doing? Not many! And still, as always, teachers are not given the recognition or the merit they deserve. They always remain at the edge, at the periphery. They make us human and we forget them. It is time we give them the respect and the credit they deserve. It is the least that we can do.

For when the One Great Scorer comes
To write against your name
He marks not that you won or lost
But how you played the game
                                               (lines by Gartland Rice)

[Do share your thoughts in the comment section. Thanks!]

I’m voting for Kamlesh Zapadiya's #WillOfSteel and Rufus D'Souza's  #WillOfSteel and blogging on BlogAdda to help them get felicitated and eventually enabled by JSW.

To read my entry on K S Sarojamma, click here

[Learning to appreciate the goodness around us is the need of the hour. Read my views here]

Weaver of Dreams

I am a stealer of their dreams....
For some vain aesthetic delight
For some petty pleasures
I adorn myself
In silky smoothness
In ignorance of their plight
In blatant oblivion
I deck myself
To look beautiful....
I let those fingers bleed
I know not how I scrape the softness
Off those little fingers....
How can I call myself a mother?
I cry today
Is my motherly affection so cramped
That I see only the children I bore?
What about those innocent lives
That die in the hostile factories?
They had a right to play, to laugh
Just as my children do
That little girl whose hair got tied
In brutal machines of the silk factory
Can I ever know the extent of her agony?
She died
She ought to have lived
To bathe in some sunny pastures...
I did not even know....
But Amma came
She saw it all
She would not let it go on like that
It was inhuman
It was babarous
To let the little ones toil away in darkness...
Amma makes my heart swell with hope
With pride
I cry again
To see how she works
They killed her husband
To stop the good work she was doing
She did not stop
She still works
Gives little girls the sanctuary they need
She is the weaver of their dreams
At the periphery of prosperity
In the vicinity of technology
Near Bengaluru
In Magadi
She fights the fight
To free those children
Not three or four
But at least 8000
Or maybe more than that...
The horror of the colossal number
Makes me shiver....
But Amma is not intimidated
She acts
She attacks
And then
She weaves 
Not silk, not yarn...
She weaves some hopes
Some smiles
Some caresses
Some gentle touches
Some warm homes
A true mother
A weaver of their dreams....

Had it not been for Amma, many children would still be working in the silk industries in Magadi.
Image Source -

K S Sarojamma is an icon. She has been working for the cause of child labor in silk industries for the past many years. Despite the fact that her husband was killed, Amma, as she is lovingly called, has not stopped her crusade against the silk mafia. Children have been forced to work in silk industry because of their tiny fingers. These children are usually 6 or 7 years old. Almost all of them are below the age of 14. Words are not enough to describe the extent of work Amma has done for these little children. Magadi is just two hours away from Bengaluru, and has been the hotspot of the injustices meted out on these little lives. 
I salute Amma for her work. I am a mother to just two children. She is the mother to all those she has worked for. Despite her loss, she does not stop. A brave woman, a true human.

I’m voting for K S Sarojamma’s#WillOfSteel and blogging on BlogAdda to help her get felicitated and eventually enabled by JSW.

To read my entry on Kamlesh Zapadiya and Rufus D'Souza, click here

[Do leave a comment to let me share your thoughts on the post.]

[Read an open letter to Bharti Mittal on Net Neutrality here]

Friday, April 17, 2015


I wait and wait
For him to emerge
But he deceives
He kills all hopes
He turns up not
Just like Godot
Still I refrain 
from despair
Still I pray
Still I persevere
The white coat comes out
Shakes his head
There is not much time left
We go inside
Out of the waiting room
But the wait doesn't end
He speaks not to me
He looks not at me
I wait
I am just his little girl
He had been my hero
He still is
I stroke his forehead
I know he is leaving
The wait is over
His wait is over
He is free from pain
Not me, never
I yearn for my him
It seems like yesterday
When I had touched him, hugged him,
Felt him so close
But it is eight years now
I halt in his memories
But then someone else knocks
On the door of my heart
My entire childhood beckons at once
I call him
Speak to him
He says he is fine
But I know he is not
He sounds so distant
Once again I hope
I wait
I refrain from despair
But hope deceives again
I wait for a call
To hear all is well
But I hear not those words
I hear what I do not want to hear
I cannot see him now
I cannot hear him now
Life has become a waiting game
I cannot accept he is not here
He cannot leave
He should have waited
at least for me
I toss in the bed
Each night
For my  only brother
To meet me in my dreams
He does not come
It has been two years
But I still wait
To see him once
To hear him once
He left just like that
It angers me
I want to fight with him
Just like we did when we were little
I wait
I wait
I wait.....

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

[Do share your thoughts on the post. Thanks!]

[Read an open letter to Bharti Mittal on net neutrality here]

WOW Badge for the prompt 'Wait'

Monday, April 13, 2015

Touch, Imagine, Explore, Enjoy - A Visit to Please Touch Museum

When I was a child, the world around me offered play primarily in the form of nature or inside my house. It was primarily playing in the backyard or make-believe in the kitchen. Museums, those repositories of interactive play, were not available to the children of my era. But as I see my own children grow up in the present times, I notice the plethora of options available to them. They can play outdoors when the sun is happily spreading its warmth around them, helping flowers bloom and decking nature with greenery and other hues of spring. Or they can head to museums, science centers and other indoor options when the frigid winters make it uncomfortable to stay outside.

One such visit to a museum the other day filled our memory bank with happy memories, music and laughter. We had a chance to visit the Please Touch Museum located in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia. The name itself was catchy. To learn something, one needs to experience it. And the museum was all about learning in a playful way.

A little background info on the museum is a must here. The museum is located in a building that was once the largest building in the whole world. The Memorial Hall, where the museum resides, was part of the Centennial Exposition of 1876, which marked the celebration of America's hundred years of independence.

The Exposition was historically significant as it was the first World Fair and included exhibits from different countries. The Memorial Hall was built without using wood and was one of the 200 other buildings designed for the exposition. Another unique thing about the Exposition was that a Woman's Pavilion was built to honor and showcase the works of women, the first structure ever built to give honor to the fairer sex. The arm and torch of the Statue of Liberty were put for public display for the first time. So were Alexander Graham Bell's 'telephone' and Edison's 'telegraph'. Another fun fact was that bananas were introduced to the US people in this very fair. Learning all these facts made me feel that this was not just a museum for children but for the adults as well!

The Memorial Hall building welcomes you with the figure of Columbia standing tall above us and the sturdy sculptures of the winged stallion from Greek mythology, Pegasus - the symbol of knowledge and imagination. The real action begins as we enter the hall and the wild little enegies are let loose. (Yes, I mean the children!) The vast space of the Hall embraces freedom as kids get a chance to run around and look up and down. They are awed by the 40 feet replica of the Statue of Liberty made out of toys and other trinkets. My kids get more fun touching at an elephant made out of toys, though! Good mingling of art and recycling!

After spending a few minutes at the riverside, we head downstairs to the Wonderland. Oh what fun it was for my little one as she ran back and forth in the tiny room from Alice in Wonderland. And it wasn't just her but the big kids within us too who wanted to become part of that little room. It was with great difficulty (some tears and lot of big screamy NOs!) that we took her out so that we could explore further! Another attraction was the painting of white roses. They would magically turn red when stroked by the brushes that lay there. I don't remember how long we spent our time painting!

Little hands trying to hang pegs!

The little hands tried to hang mittens and played with pegs as they relived the story of the Three Little Kittens who lost their mittens. Then, the kids did lot of shopping in at ShopRite  and it seemed we had stocked up for the entire month! The carts were full but not so the hearts. I learnt an interesting fact about the Potato Head from here. It was the first toy to be advertised on TV. The display of the many designs of Potato Heads was drool-worthy and my Spiderman-crazy son wanted to buy the spidey Potato Head from there!

The carousel was fun for the little ones. We had purchased tickets from Groupon and along with the tickets, we had got the carousel rides free. Imagination Playground was another major center of attraction. Which child can resist large pieces of blocks, of different shapes and sizes? While the bigger kids built an elaborate electric circuit system, the little ones hung on to the tubes which became garlands or the witch's broom to ride on!s

Trying to build a circuit system or a stream!
After playing for a little more time in the garden, having grown some carrots, and having had a ride in the little wagons, it was time to move on. And so we landed on the Centennial Exploration section. This was the place that provided rich historical background information about where we were. As the kids busied themselves with train tracks, I read the facts about the Exposition and marveled at the huge mega miniature of the Centennial Exhibition of 1876. The walls displayed information on Froebel blocks, which were the inspiration behind the great American architect Frank Llyod Wright. Wright's mother purchased these mathematical blocks for her son from this Centennial Exposition. Wright was mesmerized by the shapes and the possibilities of creation from these blocks. He would go on to use this experience throughout his professional life. He writes in his autobiography, "These primary forms and figures were the secret of all effects... which were ever got into the architecture of the world"

Displaying IMG_1987.JPG
Froebel Blocks were Wright's source of inspiration.

Tracking success through play....First Monorail was featured in the Centennial Expo, 1876

Embossed kindergarten blocks made their appearance at this time as did the first kindergarten 'class'. Till then kindergarten had been popular in European countries but it was Susan Blow who actually ran a 'class' at the exposition and popularized the concept of early teaching.

Displaying IMG_1993.JPG
Learning can be by play, not just books - The idea was rapidly growing in popularity.

There was a room with a window that had caught my attention early on when I had entered the Centennial Exploration Hall. From a distance, I could see a girl standing inside the room looking at something and for no reason, I was reminded of Hawthorne's Pearl from The Scarlet Letter. To add to the curiosity factor, the girl didn't seem to move. So, I rushed towards the window. It was not a real girl standing inside. I had been duped by my imagination. Nevertheless, I just wanted her to turn and look at me. There was an aura to that specific display. As I read the information given on that, I came to know it was Daisy Williams, a little girl who had visited the Exposition in 1876 and collected artifacts from different booths. She was a child like any other child, the only difference being that she died at the young age of 16 and her parents commemorated her death by building the Sweet Briar College in Virginia. The things she purchased at the Exposition were primarily Japanese. Japan had made an international appearance for the first time in history and thus, everything Japanese was a rage at the time.

We tried to find some items that Daisy had purchased at the fair but we had no luck. We donned detective lenses and curious hearts. Me and my friend were so puzzled and sure thought there was something mysterious in not being able to spot a single item. Then we read the placard which mentioned that some of the objects, if not found, have been removed by the museum staff! We had a good laugh over this.

We had no luck locating objects listed here!

Displaying IMG_1981.JPG
History through a window
 The last trip we took was to the Flight Fantasy. My friend's son tried his speed and balance on the hamster's wheel while my kids focused on rotating the wheels of flying machines to send feathers flying high. I could see other kids walking by with their 'pets'. Their was a loud noise of laughter coming from one direction where we all headed and that was the section of the rocket launch. This was the place where all kids seemed to have the most fun as they launched their foam rockets way high and screamed Awesome after every attempt. Just before entering the rocket launch section was the place that is probably going to be engraved in my mind forever. It was the Cloud Hopscotch

I was completely mesmerized by the art work that adorned the top of the interior. It was colorful and peppy and reminded me of the strokes kids make when they first take the paint and brush in their hands. It seemed like tie and dye had been at work here. My feet danced on the clouds that patterned the floor. The moment I hopped, a sweet, frisky melody started playing. I don't know which music it was. It seemed that it was some reed instrument making me dance to its tunes. I kept on hopping, dancing, and smiling, and in between chasing my toddler daughter who was going all over the places. I don't know why but I kept coming back again to this place. Was it the music, was it the soothing darkness, was it the vibrant hues of the artwork above, or was it the child in me that made me do this? I don't know. But it was just beautiful and soulful for me. I loved it, absolutely loved it! 
(I wrote a brief note on the use of colors and music in Cloud Hopscotch which you can read in this post  )

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Thanks to the staff of the museum as they shared the image with me. I forgot to click as I was busy hopping!
Look at the spectacular colors above and the cozy blues on the wall.

When Einstein said, " Play is the highest form of research", he hit the bull's eye. For children, learning comes easily when they get a chance to play and imagine, without any pressure to excel. Children's Museums serve that very purpose. If you are a parent or a child's caretaker, the best thing you can do for the child around you is to let him/her play and explore. It would be right to end my post with a poem I love, a poem that speaks volumes on how to raise a child:

I tried to teach my child from books, he gave me only puzzled looks.
I tried to teach my child with words, he didn't want to listen unheard.
Despairingly I turned aside, "How shall I teach this child" I cried.
Into my hand he put the key...
"Come" he said, "and play with me"

-Helen Decter

[Special thanks to my friend Sneha for clicking the pictures!]
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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Yin-Yang and the Creation of Harmony

We communicate with each other through language. Language is composed of words. We make sense of the world around us as we comprehend the meaning of these words. The meaning of the words is often grasped by our brains in relation to other words. This relation can be one of antagonism, or of agreement. So for example

Something that is good is understood as good because it is not bad. And vice versa.
Something that is viewed as wrong is viewed so because it has absence of right in it. And again vice versa.
Something that is seen as full is seen so because there is no space of emptiness in it. And vice versa.

There can be many examples cited in this style of opposition. It all points to the fact that in order to perceive something as it is, we need to know what it is not. The Chinese theory of Yin-Yang rests on this fundamental tenet of dichotomies.

The crucial part in understanding these binaries is that they always exist together. One is present because its opposite is present too. Their co-relation is cardinal to their existence. Harmony is achieved when the opposite forces are present in balance. The symbol of Yin-Yang is round. Half of the part is white with a black dot in it and the other half is black with a white dot in it. One is not complete without the other. The boundaries are not marked as rigid solids. Rather, they are curled, symbolic of fluidity. One flows into the other and vice versa.

Black and White 

The energies of Yin-Yang are segregated as masculine vs feminine, dark vs. light, active vs. passive and so on. But these energies are not absolute. They flow into each other, creating an interaction, a creation. This synergizing, this interplay is the force behind creation of universe. In many mythologies, binary opposites of male and female are seen as the driving forces behind the formation of universe. The Chinese view it as a cosmic interaction between Yin (female) and Yang (male). Indian mythology attributes creation to the co-mingling of Purusha (male) and Prakriti (female). For the Japanese,  these forces were named Izanagi(male) and Izanami (female).

We experience Yin-Yang in our daily lives almost everyday. If we are happy one moment, we are sad over something a little later. If we are patient and smiling for the most part of the day, our anger shoots up the moment we see injustice or dishonesty wrecking the peace of our mind at some other moment. All emotions have significance in our lives. If we don't get angry over the wrongs that exist in our societies, we cannot eradicate them. If we fail in this, bad forces take over the good forces and cause imbalance in societies. We love the balmy sun rays in the morning but we need the dark solace each night offers. We need to be active but without some rest, we will just snap.

Yin-Yang plays an important part in music. There are slow notes accompanied by fast ones and together they create memorable melodies. Architects too have made use of yin-yang ideas in buiding structures that are in inverse relation to each other. A notable example is that of US architect Steven Holl who has used the basic tenets of Taoist philosophy for building the Tianjin eco-city. You can read the details and see the pictures of the structures here

The other day, I went to a children's museum in Philadelphia and had a fun time as my kids played with their bodies and minds. (I will soon post my post on that.) After having explored the major part of the museum, we landed on the space fantasy section. I welcomed the dark and soothing blue overtones of the interiors. The structure had been built in such a way that the space part was followed by a section called Cloud Hopscotch, which took us into rocket launch section. The first two sections were dark as I mentioned while the last one was meant for action and was full of light. The interplay of this dark and light gave a feeling of moderation, of solace. The music that played in the background of Cloud Hopscotch was an interplay of light reed notes to deep tones. It all catered to a playful atmosphere. It seemed Yin-Yang were at play.

One day my son was getting furious while trying to see how his glow-in-the-dark stick will work. It was day and he could not see the glow. I told him that he has to find a place that is dark. So is it with life. To understand light, we need to have a knowledge of the dark. Yin and Yang cannot exist in isolation. They have to be together, complementing each other, challenging each other.

Do I end here, or do I begin? I wonder, for the end means the beginning of something and the beginning entails the end of something.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Without Google....

Written for IndiSpire #60

If there was no google

knowledge would be frugal
In place of googlization
We might have had yahoo-ization
Mind would have to work somemore
As Google Maps would be no more
Without Larry's Doodle
Some strokes would remain just feudal
No Adwords, keywords, PageRank
Competing would be on a different think tank
No satellite imagery from Google Earth
Would cause a visual and intellectual dearth
For me on a personal front
Without hangouts, socializing from afar would stunt
For the mother inside me
It would mean more visits to the library
For only yesterday my son asked me whether
Sun is bigger or Jupiter
When I said I am not sure
He asked me to google to find out more
And when my little one incessantly cries
Youtube is my son's advise
So google is in my life everyday
Without google, ease of life would fade away....

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Stand up for diversity, not isolation

The dispute between Shobha De and the Maharashtrian government is making headlines these days. When the Maharashtrian government made it mandatory to show only Marathi movies in the theater at prime time, the novelist tweeted her protest against the move. She might have went a little overboard by using terms that the Shiv-Sena and some of the Marathi community found offensive. The use of words like 'dadagiri' and her alluding to 'vada-pav' and 'misal', the popular Marathi foods sparked a major protest. Shiv-Sena protesters reportedly sent her a box of the aforementioned snacks. They also retaliated on her comment on dadagiri by saying that had the Marathis not resorted to 'dadagiri', she would be in Pakistan today and would be attending Page 3 parties in burqa.

I found the entire protest over the issue misplaced and derogatory. Upholding one language over another in a multilingual country like India is an extremely un-democratic move. It goes against the basic tenets of freedom enlisted in our constitution. The government might be trying to recuperate Marathi cinema or might be trying to advocate its supremacy over other streams of Indian cinema. But either way, the move takes away the right of the cinema-goers. It takes away their right to choose. 

When Shobha De tweeted on Marathi foods replacing pop corns, it became a protest against Marathi culture. As I read, I wondered why. I did not feel that it was an insult against any culture. What I felt was that she was insinuating at the possibility of one culture over-riding the other culture's existence and how it would lead to a muffling of the diversity of our nation. Shiv Sena was miffed as it took the remark literally. 

The remark on her attending Page 3 parties in burqa was derogatory against another culture. It was not called for. Freedom-fighters had fought for our nation's freedom. It was a freedom not just from physical bondage. It was also a liberation of mind from petty prejudices and closeted mentalities. India as a nation stands upright because its people believe in its rich diversity. We ought to hold the sanctity of those who fought for us and refrain from making such remarks.

But whatever happened to the move on showing only Marathi films at prime time? Wasn't the real issue skirted away?

I love my language. I am proud of my mother tongue. But I don't want to impose my likes and my identity over anybody else. Just as I respect my own roots, I need to understand that the others may have sprouted from a different soil. I ought to give the other the space and the dignity that it his right. I wish everyone ponders over this for a while. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Habitual Offender.....

I walk towards the door as it slides open. I walk slowly, with wobbly steps and guilty mind. I am scared as a mouse. I have been doing it often times, although I do not intend to repeat it so often. I do not really have intentions to do what I am doing but it happens on its own. It happens many times. Will the staff be angry? Will they take action against me? I do not want them to take any harsh action. I want to explain them everything. Will they understand my situation? Will they empathize with me? 

I have a whole bunch of books in my bag. The bag bulges through the corners. I stoop a little with weight of knowledge that the books have, with the weight of knowledge that I am late again to return the books. They have been fining me every time for the past umpteen visits. What should I do? Should I tell them that I am so greedy that I always take more number of books than I can read in a month?

A month? Thirty days? What was I doing all this time? I read some, I did not read some. I should have returned the books on time. I am late. By two days. Late be two days again.

I reach the counter. I return the books. She looks at her computer. She looks at me. She again looks at the computer. She again looks at me. This time furiously, very very furiously.

She summons someone on the phone.

I am shivering. I am sweating. I have taken out my wallet. But she does not ask me to pay fines. She does not return my library card.

Is it done? I ask nervously. She asks me to wait. Her voice is stern.

A woman comes. They both talk. They have a secret talk. I am shrinking all this time.

They take the card and cut it. I scream. I try to stop them. They start calling me by something very disgraceful. They call me 'Habitual Offender'. 

I protest. It is a stigma I cannot live with. I am not an offender. I am a mistake-r. They do not listen.

Your right to read books, to loan them, or to visit the library have been forfeited. You cannot enter the library anymore.

I am about to faint. Everyone is screaming at me. Everyone is calling me Habitual Offender. The cacophony of blaming voices slices my spirit. I cannot live without my books. I am dying.

Screams. Sweat. Horror. Loss. 

I wake up. It was a dream. It was a nightmare. 

I look at the time. I have to go to the library today. I hug my books. I kiss my books. I hug them again. 

I am alive. 

Have they come to take my doll?

She was the only girl child in a family of ten children. The only other female in the house was the mother whose job was to bear children and then look after them and their father. Father was a loving person but did not understand what it meant for a woman to be a woman. Although he came from a large family, nobody had taught him what a woman wants, or if a woman can want anything. He worked hard for his family and came home only to give rest to his aching bones.

Her name was Naazeeya. She had just turned six, the youngest seed. Her nine brothers would hardly be home to play with her as either they had gone to school or to work. Mostly it was work as schools were often closed owing to the unrest in their region. Naazeeya had already learnt a lot of cooking as that was what she ought to do. There were no books for her, no pencils, no school-bags. She sometimes would ask her mother why she could not go to school and her mother would remain quiet. Naazeeya had the thirst to learn. Her eldest brother Zafar saw that thirst and would often try to teach her the alphabets. It was just that Zafar had to go to work too and did not get much time. But deep in his heart, the brother doted on her sister and never missed a chance to teach her.

In her solitariness, Naazeeya had a special companion - a doll her mother had made at home just for her. Naazeeya named her doll Gazal. When her mother asked why she chose this name, Naazeeya replied, " I sing songs with her, I feel so free and happy with her....just like when I hear you sing a lullaby for me or when Zafar reads me a poem." In the house that smelled of just male sweats, the doll was the only symbol that stood apart - a mark of nurturing, a sign of the feminine, the lone token of tenderness.

That night, the family was about to sleep as usual when there was a knock on the door. It was their neighbor. Naazeeya could not hear anything he said as he spoke in hushed tones. Father was worried after the neighbor left. He whispered something in Zafar's ears. Then he went to bed. The dark hours rolled on with dead silence as a companion. Naazeeya drifted off only to be startled by loud noises and screams. She woke up to see there house in ruins.

'They' had come. Everyone dreaded their arrival. They smashed everything in the house. It seemed like they were searching for something. Naazeeya nudged Zafar who stood holding her sister's hand tightly. She wanted to ask Zafar but he shushed her. The entire family stood there - jittery, shaken, nervous and speechless.

One of 'them' threw Father on the floor and asked if the kids go to school. Father replied in the negative.

"Are there any more books here, any toys, anything?", one intruder howled. A small pile of books had by then been set alight.

Naazeeya gasped on the word 'toys'.

"Zafar, have they come to take my doll?", she sobbed.

Before Zafar could answer, the intruder approached Naazeeya. There was nothing but rage in those eyes, blind and insensitive rage that had no mercy for anyone. He tried to rip the girl away from her brother. But Zafar would die before they touched her. He fell to his knees and caught the intruder's feet.

"Leave her. She doesn't have anything. She doesn't play with dolls. She is dumb and stupid and foolish. There is no place for silly stuff here. Please leave her. See....see.....this is what she made....and this is what she calls her doll....and I took it from her....and I tore it.....I tore it....see.....There is nothing else...," hysterical Zafar took out a paper with the picture of a doll on it. The paper was crumpled, and the doll's face was badly scribbled over.

The intruder relaxed his hold and looked menacingly at Naazeeya. The little girl's eyes were flooded with tears. Her whole body trembled as the man flung Zafar away from his feet and went out. The other men with him were gone too.

The shattered room lay still. When the sound of the feet died down, frozen and stunned sister dashed towards the fallen brother. Her trembling hands wrapped around Zafar's bleeding head.

"Why did you do this? They could have killed you. I am so sorry....I am so sorry.....Are you alright....? Who were they? Why did they do this? Why.....Why.....why....???", she wept bitterly.

Zafar hugged her little sister. After she had calmed down, he said,

"I knew they were coming. I hid your doll last night. I dug it in the backyard. It is safe. But from next time, keep quiet."

Naazeeya promised. She cleaned the wound and covered it with a cloth. Zafar got up.

"Let us dig out Gazal."
The two walked towards the backyard.

(If you like to read more brother-sister stories, do check out another story I wrote here - )

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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Let it go....

(Written for IndiSpire #59)

Yesterday, I asked my six year old son which word he likes more - Sorry or Thank you? Surprisingly, he said, "Sorry". I further questioned him why he chose this. His reply was that it is a small word, easy to say, and "I know what it means. I am familiar with the feeling." I knew that what he was saying was true. In his play dates and on a day-to-day basis, I had seen him feeling sorry, but not saying that easily. I had seen the look on his face when he got angry over something and expected the other person to apologize. (At the other end of the spectrum, as a mom grooming my little beast as per social etiquettes, I felt that I have to help him discover the feeling of gratitude now. Hmm...tough work ahead! )
I have also observed through my kids that although they find it difficult to articulate an apology, their acceptance of an apology is instant. The moment their friend says sorry, they start over again as if nothing has happened. No explanations are needed. Sorry and Its Okay are the only words that suffice.

My Sorry is not enough, You need to accept it too!

It is interesting to see how pets feel sorry too. My lovely dog is now no more, but I remember that when she crossed certain boundaries of behavior and was reminded of what she had done, she would lay flat on the floor, with drooping eyelids, a face dejected, a tail bent down. When we called her name, she would timidly crawl towards us, with low-murmuring whimper and if we embraced her, she would instantly feel delighted and normal again.

With us grown-ups, sorry becomes complicated. 

A clarification first - Sorry is enough for mistakes, not crimes. Crimes require greater repair, both in the life of the victim and in that of the criminal. 

Mistakes are misdemeanors occurring in between relationships. Hearts are broken, expectations belied, trusts shaken. 

With us grown-ups, a certain level of egoism creeps in. We feel offended and consider a mistake as a transgression against our inner self. Often people who have the big heart of letting go are the ones who are more receptive to apologies. My husband often tells me that before I start judging anyone, before I start complaining, before I start staining the other's collar with blame, I ought to find out Why. Sometimes, when I do that, my anger dispels. In the process of finding out what made the other person do what s/he did, I suspend my own self and adopt a perspective that is not my own. In such scenarios, I accept sorry and let go easily. I realize that a sorry is not enough, its acceptance is necessary too.

Some people think that sorry is enough, no explanations are needed. If a person has regret, that is enough. But I differ on this matter. I think that when explanations are elicited, it works well for both parties. The perpetrator of a simple transgression gets a chance to clear himself/herself from guilt. The one who is angry gets a chance to see why a certain mistake happened and can in the process train his/her mind to analyze before getting angry. It is an activity in self-improvement. We learn from mistakes, done by us, and done to us.

Sorry is a word that helps in healing. It requires a suspension of self. It requires an embrace of the other's self. Its acceptance too is a similar quitting of 'I' factor to let the other in. I am reminded of Deepika Padukone's My Choice here. I had problems with the video precisely because it overlooked the existence of the other person in harmony with 'me'. (You can read my views on the topic here I clarify again that sorry is not enough for greater crimes.

So, in a relationship, learn the art of forgiving and forgetting. It is imperative for an apology to function. 

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