Monday, September 27, 2010

The 'logic' behind family honour

The Indian family may be as protective as an eye lid. If soap enters your eyes, the lids shut tightly; so tightly that you can't splash water to dilute the soap. The eye burns like on fire and  fingers try to pry the lids open, to no avail.. If something goes wrong with the families here, the protective shutters are down instantly. No one can cross these barriers or help this family. A drunken father, a violent husband or a cheating wife; all lurk behind the closed doors causing pain and sorrow to those around them. Anyone who complains against a family member, for all the truth in the complaint, is considered  a traitor of the worst sort. The family honour is more important than any cruelty or injustice suffered by its members.

Once a colleague Ms.P, brought one of her wards,let's call her Sajitha, a girl from eight grade to me because her sister had confided to  her that her she was worried about sajitha's behaviour. I want to put on record parts of the conversation I had with the kid.

Sajitha: Is it wrong to fall in love?
Raji: Fall in love? No.
S: I am in love with a doctor. He loves me too.
R: Are you sure he loves you?
S: Ofcourse!  Wherever I go, he follows me.
R:Who? The doctor?
S: Yeah. When I went to the hospital, he was there; when I went to the market he was there. I told my aunt, "The doctor is here and smiling at me." She told me,"Keep quiet" I saw him in school too.
R: How do you know that he followed you? He may have come to the market by chance.
S: That was confirmed when I saw Pandi ( the cleaner of the school bus). He watches me through Pandi when I am in school.

R: How do you know that?
S: I was running up the stairs and stumbled and fell down; when I looked up, Pandi was there staring at me. That instant I knew that Pandi was his messenger. He stands behind the school wall and Pandi tells him what I do.

My sense of alarm started to rise  three fourths way through this conversation and at the end of it, I realized that this girl was probably hallucinating. Although I was  in my twenties, I  realized that the girl needed far more than counselling. I spoke to the girl's sister and she told that her mother had suffered form mental illness, had undergone treatment and had committed suicide. She also told that her sister did many things just like their mother used to. She would sing loudly all of a sudden, in all sorts of places; she would hop in circles around the room for a long time and so on. I told her to bring her father. The father came. I told him of my conversation with his daughter and said that she needed help. He was silent. He left. I heard that he had removed his kids from school and they were nowhere in town.  He refused to attend phone calls from any of the teachers.
The same year my daughter received a prize for acting in a school play. This father was the dignitary who was called to give her the prize. The great Indian family, with the venerable father as its head, is an honourable institution.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Today I set a match box on fire when it was in my hand. I sleepily, carelessly struck a match; the lid was slightly open on the match head side and when I struck all the heads caught fire,actually, a tiny fountain of fire erupted in my hand. Stingy that I am, I opened the match box to check how many sticks had burned out ( it was smoking like a cannon) and found that only two had not burned out. The craziest thing that happened to me. And I actually found a picture to go with this!!!!!!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

poetry in unlikely places

Poetry is sometimes discovered in the most non-poetic of places
Like in big English text boks--

In between catchy colourful captions
simplified prose and photographs
Lucid lines leap out
And a surprised child feels prickles down her spine
Looks up to see if others feel the same

Faces around her show in turn, polite interest,
studious intent, suppressed boredom
The teacher in her plaited cotton adjusts her glasses
She glances at her coldly not exactly saying, "I dare you to think!"
The pupil bends down quickly, finding none to share the thrill

As the woman scribbles on in a shady space
Trying to ignore the cigarette smoke
A menial supplying tea asks,"Writing a poem about the rain?"
Too surprised to share the truth, she wonders
how poetry is sometimes recognized
by the most non-poetic of people

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Which city has the people with the lowest levels of G.K?

I listen to Suriyan FM (very local of me, btw did you know that among non English speaking tamils in Madurai, the word local means low class?) because their collection of songs is the best (don't they have the best of everything?) Everyday the radio jockey belts out a question on social issues and tells everyone to call her on 23232 or some such number and share their views. Today her question was, "Which category of people should be given maximum awareness on environmental degradation? and Why?" Then she started chatting away on the ozone layer and said that the hole in the ozone layer was not actually a hole but just a thinning of the former caused by the fall in the ozone levels.

The problem started when she started talking about ultra-violet rays. She clearly did not know the term, "ultra-violet" , much less the concept of what it was. She kept saying violet rays and stammered every time she said it.Hollow, shallow, being terms that come to our minds when we try to label the dispensers of such 'knowledge', shouldn't she be the one who needs to be made aware? She holds a mike and has the attention of millions of listeners going about their morning chores taking her words in and believing them to be true.She should improve her awareness level before she tries to spread the same.Or she should stick to questions that come within the purview of her general knowledge such as "which actress looks great in police uniform?" or "How many legs does an eight-legged spider have?". As for the title of this post, well....if your 'cityzens' get any dumber than this, let me know!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I absently picked a novel from a second hand book stall thinking it was written by Sue Grafton, only to realize when I was a few pages into the book that it was a biography by Sue Crawford of a heavy metal rock star called Ozzy Osbourne. I clearly remember teasing my daughter and her friend for suggesting I listen to PinkFloyd by imitating the yelling and the distorted super fast guitar. On the blurb, Q magazine calls the book unputdownable and I actually found it to be so.
The tone of the biography is very unemotional and the language is deceptively simple and readable.Am sure that to achieve this level of simplicity, the writer must have written and rewritten till she used the minimum number of words to give us the picture of the bad boy in a supposedly objective manner.This she manages by keeping the tone matter of fact and the content a matter of facts too. (The books unputdownableness may also be due to the fact that goodie goodie first benchers like me are fascinated by people who let go of their lives in flamboyant depravity through substance abuse)
. The writer's sympathy for the star is obvious as she plays down some appalling parts of his life; like the time he returns to his farmhouse from a tour, feeling very tired and his wife calls him to feed the chickens and he comes down with a gun and shoots them down and is finally stopped by a neighbour in the process of chasing the last one around the house.Or his alcoholic excesses when he shoots 17 cats, which were his pets; The author mentions these incidents once and has no comments to follow up. Of course her tone shows some emotion when he almost strangles his second wife, the one who revives his career and helps him make a fortune, to death. But at the same time she spends half a page describing how he shed tears of joy at his baby daughter born to his second wife. Clearly the author is subtly humanizing the singer.She sounds like a female family member from Madurai, who portrays the husband or son with fondness; throwing a golden glow on their originally drab human skins. She also says repeatedly that most of the stunts by the singer were just for the public and he was not so crazy as he showed himself to be. Wonder why she is partial to him?

But I really like the book a lot, coz overall, it makes interesting reading. May be the fact that it was first book I read after I started wearing reading glasses and I realized how comfortable it was to read with them helped me appreciate the book. I also listened to this guy on you tube. He sings very well.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

tough times ahead.

Waking up on a holiday to a lot of work
Looking out to find the beautiful trees stand still outside my door
Enjoying some of the work and wondering a bit if it is worth the effort
attending friendly business calls
wondering if what am trying to do will work out or will turn out to be too much work
chatting with nosy no good relatives on phone
wondering if circumstances might  not let me complete and succeed
and still continue to work like nothing's on my mind
belting out a hot song with the radio without thinking about it (continuing my work)
knowing that my salvation lies in reaching out to a needy child, doing it and basking in its love,
Being attacked by harsh words that hurt like boiling water on tender skin (continuing my work)
getting dressed to an inaugural function and staring at my dead eyes in the mirror
realizing how wonderful and balmy the weather had been the whole day
attending the inaugural and forgetting  my life in the curious looks and friendly smiles of strangers
and in the jalebis and samosas of course riding back, getting back to work,
doing chores and then doing the dance called routine
telling myself that the tough times ahead are there because I had taken the easy route in youth
and saying my favorite prayer:

O Hidden life, vibrant in every atom!
O hidden light, shining in every creature!
O hidden love, embracing all in oneness!
May each who feels himself as one with thee know he is therefore one  with every other!

I know I will sleep tonight. It was a tough day. First, I should get back to work.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Feeling bankrupt

Today I lost all the data in my hard disk (external) as a virus from a college computer cleaned out 150 GB of movies, hundreds of books, several thousand pages of downloaded worksheets that I had accumulated over the years of teaching, audio tracks that I had selected and segmented for various classes( nearly 2 GB), photos from my mob cam, all  my latest music reviews and letters. I actually started this blog to record my music reviews, particularly the unpublished ones along with unpublishable asides.
May be its time for me to write my own study materials rather than go back online and download.Aaaaaaww, that was years of work. BTW the materials that I cooked up worked far better than the ones I downloaded, as they were customized for the batch that I was handling.
I think this is a message from heaven to start working differently and I'd better think that than anything else.