Category Archives: Childhood

Creativity


Have a look at these snaps from our Creativity Day 2012.

If there is a will there is a tree. There had been excruciating incidents (saved for another post) behind this artificially natural tree. Thank you dear teachers, for your determination which made the dead branch take ‘life’, finally!

Ozone layer. A simple, yet demonstrative exhibit from the science stall.

Our students are experts at Mehendi. Their dexterity will amaze you.

Best out of waste. One of my favourite pieces from the competition.

Origami! This was made by a grade 7 student within an hour’s time.

The student used about 150 paper cups to make this party light. Loved it!

Just that much for the time being. Looking forward to the holidays, to tell you more about the life here and to catch up with all the great posts I missed. Take care!

They don’t love me…


The misery of a century reflected
On her pale, scared face
When she said, “They don’t love me.”

And thus goes her story:
“I wash my clothes,
I make my food,
I help my mother
I am big enough
And know my duties.
I try to study well,
I am not naughty,
I never tell lies,
I obey my parents,
But they don’t love me,
I don’t know why!”

No dear, they love you.
(She had no evidence to believe so.)

I am not their child
Even yesterday my mother told me
“You were bought from the market
For five bucks.”
She repeatedly tells me,
“Go get yourself run over by some vehicle
You bitch, you wretched creature.
You were not born to me!”

She used to fry fish for me
Nowadays she does that only for my brother.
She flogs me with a hanger,
Burns my skin,
Curses me daylong,
Sometimes makes me sleep in the kitchen.”

But why? WHY?

I sometimes get poor marks.

So study well.

But last day I got 10 on 10
Then she said, ‘You cheated.’

What about your father, dear?

When he returns from work
Mother reports my performance
And he ‘whips’ his share
Using his belt!

I don’t want the school to be over
I can’t think of going home
I prefer week days to weekends!

She was just nine.
She was the only daughter.
They were her biological parents.

Then why……?
I have no answer,
Neither did they.

Interventions helped.
Realizations,
Remorse,
Penance,
Reconciliation.

Happy ending.
Hope it lasts.

Dear teachers,

If any one of your students is often found unusually gloomy or naughty, take him/her aside for a little heart-to-heart talk. She may be a victim of child abuse. And you can be of some help.

(100% true story from the city where I live. She is just as old as my girl, whom you see in the picture.)

I am not going to school.


(Adapted from a kid’s thought-diary, after her first day at school)

My sister is responsible. She, who lured me into the idea of going to school, seemed to enjoy a lot of privileges: a special dress called uniform, a large bag full of books, pencils and even coloured pencils, the freedom to use them anywhere according to her whims… School must be a wonderful place – that was the impression I was drawn into seeing her deeds and expressions. Oh, my God what a trap it was!

I had been eagerly waiting for the day on which I too would go to the magical place called school, like my sister.

The initial stages went on well. A new bag, a few colourful books and other stationery, lunch box – the day papa bought them just for me, I strutted around for my sister to see. (Pride goes before a fall!)

I had made two conditions to my parents about going to school. 1) I wanted to go to school in a bus. 2) My sister should be teaching me. In reality: I was made to walk to the school in the neighbourhood. And my sister was nowhere around!

Rest of my dreams got shattered, one after the other, the minute I stepped into the premises of the dull building. It didn’t take me much time to surmise that ‘school is an eccentric place not at all suitable for people like me!’ You too would agree if you consider the following facts about the place:

  • There are so many rooms but I am always asked to go to the same room. Wonder why I am denied the freedom to explore the other spaces! The rooms are all arranged in rows – looks really childish.
  • Throughout the day I have to be glued on to the same chair. You might know, at home I have never remained in the same spot continuously for more than two minutes.
  • The most awful part is the character called ‘teacher’. Her words are all Greek to me. Surely she can speak like my mother, but for  reasons unknown she abstains from that. If I stare into her eyes bewildered, she will repeat the same sounds, more loudly the second time. Stupid lady. Does she think I am deaf? The whole day she indulges in similar meaningless deeds.
  • I should write on the pages, and on the lines, and the way she prefers! At home I could even write on the walls (though my mother makes faces about it).
  • A lot of other children in the class scream their head off in the midst of their struggle to escape from that dreadful place. I don’t understand why they need to make so much fuss about it. Silly people! I have better plans. 😉
  • We usually eat when we feel hungry, right? However school has indigestible rules about that too. I should eat when I am not hungry, and when I really yearn for some food I have to remain hungry.
  • To ‘shooshoo’ I should make some funny signal to the teacher. (Don’t know why at school I felt the urge often. Yeah, honestly.) The teacher would then send me to a horrible aunty who does not seem happy to take the children to the toilet.

More such oddities are there.

Anyway, I have had enough. After a day at school I have picked up my first lessons in life:

  • Life, Reality – both are bitter!
  • There is no place like home!

So, I AM NOT GOING TO SCHOOL, come what may!

(Hope school won’t blow out the enthusiasm of our little ones.)

Editing Nostalgia


How do you make use of your past, I mean, your distant past whose wounds are long cauterised?

We merrily let ourselves stray to the (so-claimed) picture-perfect days of our distant past, only to dwell upon the deterioration of modern times. How many of you could solemnly assert that, in every sense your past outshines your present?

Some recent insights have gainsaid a few of my long-cherished convictions, the most striking one being those about my school life.

It’s true that my school used to obsess my thoughts as a green pasture. But ask me what I enjoyed there, and you find me groping for words. All I could dig up is hardly a handful of such jolly instances juxtaposed with a longer list of scathing or scary ones!

No resentment. No plans to pay back. Because if things went wrong for me they were merely the reflections of my attitude – years later I am mature enough to say so. Now looking at the educational system from a teacher’s standpoint, it is quite lucid why the abilities of timid students are rarely ferreted out and thereby go unsung, especially when they have no feathers of academic excellence to sport on their mortar boards. I was one of those few diffident lads later doomed to repeatedly chant “If I had been more …

Then why all the hoodwinking, while reality has always been plain as day?

This is how my conscience puts it across. “You feared getting stamped and sidelined as the black sheep when it is customary to exalt school life. The easy way out was to feign a happy teenager and keep on crooning: Oh, how I wish to be a school girl once again!”

  • Nostalgia is an emotional state in which an individual yearns for an idealized or sanitized version of an earlier time period.

That well expounds it. We idealize or sanitize our past. Communication experts term it Selective Retention. We retain only what makes us happy while we connive at the bitter ones. When the present turns grim, our conscience turns to the past for solace.

But what if both past and present are equally despicable? Patch up the past, and tag it ‘nostalgia’. If you can make yourself fanatically believe in your renovated past, you are nostalgically happy. Cool!

  • Nostalgia is excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition.

Nostalgia is the haven of the ‘excessively sentimental.’ Note that it is far from reality as it is just a yearning for something lost forever.

Even history has  repeatedly been subject to this sanitising process. So I can excuse myself, a ‘nobody’, for that fib about my school life.

What about the other places/persons in my nostalgia-list? Scrap them too?

Thank God I was not so ill-starred to go to that extent. I would rather accept my past with all its lapses, than laud them to utopian levels. We and our lives have never been perfect, so why should we strive to sanitize our past or feed ourselves on lies when that won’t, in the least, improve our present?

A wounded soul returning for revenge – that’s just fiction, I believe. The past won’t/can’t hurt forever.

Learn that nostalgia is a “sign of old age, extolling the past at the expense of the present” (Sydney Smith).

I am not old, and I have proved it. What about you?

Their Grandparents’ House


My parents’ house is just an ordinary place as far as we
grown-ups are concerned. But for the kids who grew up in the artificial set ups
of the desert, even a blade of grass is a matter of wonder. Every nook and
corner offered them feast for their eyes. Let me take you along to some of
those scenes.

Giants in the neighbourhood:

For our neighbour, partitioning his property might have been
a big deal as he had many ‘giants’ to divide among his two sons. Now the sons
who live uphill and downhill have chained two of their elephants on to the
rubber trees in their plots. While the Trivandrum Zoo (at the State capital)
houses just one elephant often there were many around our house!

My kids were filled with awe to see them feed on the palm
leaves, the way they curled their trunks, the prize tusks, the fanning ears,
the heaps of elephant droppings, etc. The elephants were in an angry mood and
we could hear them trumpet unceasingly. I did feel sorry for them, though they
were taken good care of by their owners.

On our way back we spotted this millipede heading along. I
had a kind of aversion for such creatures, but don’t know why, recently I have
started admiring them. They are not jumpy like the crickets or the frogs, not
fluttering like the butterflies or the dragonflies – just cool and composed. Don’t
you think it is beautiful?

The nest:

The little humming birds (or better you name it) have been
the inhabitants of our place since my student days. Earlier they used to
construct their nest under the net above the well. When the drenching rains made the nest-making a risky affair, (once the nest almost fell) my father decided to guide them to a safer place under the eaves. He made all the necessary arrangements for the shifting and luckily the birds did not ignore the good intentions.

The windows of the drawing-room open to the live show of
their life and it was so peaceful watching it. The kids learned a few
practical lessons, more than what their EVS books offer.

Attending a wedding:

The last wedding I attended was eleven years ago where I acted
bride. Since then so many of my dear and near ones (including my sister) got
married but I missed every single one of them. This time I was in the thrill of
attending a cousin’s wedding.

The wedding ceremonies in the villages have not completely
lost their charm and above all their innocence. Everyone in the family will
have some role to play, making them feel an integral part of the ceremony, and
that is the beauty of the traditions.

On the eve of the wedding the brothers-in-law
(one being my husband) twisted the threads for the wedding knot. (For the first
time I got to know the concept behind pulling out exactly seven threads from
the wedding saree for this purpose.)

Another memorable event of the eve was a traditional
Christian dance performance, which reminded me of Kalarippayattu, the martial
art form of Kerala. The powerful Kerala culture permeates all our religious
functions – slight alterations are made just for the sake of giving them a
different identity.

(Idea stolen from my daughter’s holiday homework.) Moral of the blog: Now and then go through the assignments of your kids – you will get ideas to (blog)bore your readers.

When the Home Sleeps


 “Don’t touch that!”

“Stop fighting!”

“Will you keep quiet for a minute?”

The parents with hyperactive kids cannot help asking such questions repeatedly. As long as the kids are awake they will be always after something – usually something that pesters or increases the work load of the mothers.

They start some kind of a game for which they scatter a whole sack of ‘what-they-call’ toys. After two minutes they lose interest in the game and switch over to a new one, with new ‘toys’, in another part of the house, orphaning the first set of toys.

It will be hardly ten minutes before you see them engaged in drawing or craft, preparing for a new collection of mess.

The games (most of them without any prescribed set of rules) always go beyond the expected levels. The game with building blocks may need a bucket of water – for an innovative game which they only know (may be they are building an underwater colony). The tent game will often end up in pulling down a whole shelf of books.

The culmination of the drawing game can be a whole wall of graffiti and the craft work can spread over to the bed spreads and sometimes even to the school books of the elder one.

Anyway, you cannot relax as long as your kids are at play because you could never predict what sort of transformation a game might undergo the next minute.

We worry and whine incessantly over these little issues. But will we be happy otherwise – if the house is shrouded in pin-drop silence and if things always stay in their place as if in a museum? No. I have that realization each time when one of the kids falls ill.

By the grace of God it happened very rarely all these years. When one kid is inactive the other too naturally withdraws. The sight of the toy-bags stowed away is traumatic. I feel the toys long for the kids’ touch – let it be loving or fatal. I long to see my little ones explore the cupboards for cookies. I ache to hear them shout and scream playfully. When they are away or silent, I feel deprived; I don’t have anything to do or anyone to shout at. This peace, this tranquillity is heart-rending.

My home sleeps.

Well, these are the moments we discover the real meaning of life and the futility of perfection. A house becomes a home only when there are kids to wake it up from sleep!

We are Sorry, Dear Dining Table…


 “All well-regulated families set apart an hour every morning for tea and bread and butter.”     – Joseph Addison

Ever since we started our life together we used to have our meals at the dining table. But after our latest toddler started exploring the magic world called the table top, we had to shift to the sofa with our plates. And that had been the practice for the last two years. I recently realized with shock that we were slowly getting deprived of the many little blessings of the family dining table.

Emotional disadvantages

  1. We could not see one another during our meals as our eyes were glued on to the TV.
  2. We missed the family discussions and there was no other occasion to listen to our elder daughter’s stories from school. Instead, we kept on commenting on the TV shows which have nothing to do with our lives.
  3. Whenever the kids talked or cried we felt disturbed.
  4. We could not teach them the proper table manners.
  5. Throughout the last two years our dining table lay in the corner, neglected.

Physical disadvantages

  1. Often we gobbled up food as we wanted to get the plates away and then come back to watch TV leisurely.
  2. During meals we had to shuttle between the hall and the kitchen (though the kitchen is not far away).
  3. Sometimes we ate more, and sometimes less.
  4. We often forgot to drink water after our meals.
  5. The sofa pullover had to be washed almost every week.

So, dear Dining Table,

We are turning to you, once again, after a fatal gap of two years. Though there is no way to have our ‘morning tea and bread and butter’ with you, we promise to join you for lunch and supper. Penance shall be done for being callous to you all these days. I know you are benevolent enough to forgive us, as you always had been.

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family.” – Anthony Brandt

“A happy family is but an earlier heaven.”                     – George Bernard Shaw

We too want Heaven – here, now!

Today Nagging Worked – So Fast


I never keep buckets filled up with water. Reason – I am worried about my little mermaid. But two days back I had to fill up the huge bucket in the toilet after the water supply was disrupted for a whole day.

Since then one great fear had been bothering me day and night- what if she gets in while we are not noticing? The toilet had no lock on the outside. I started pestering my husband pouring out all my fears. Usually he keeps my requests in the freezer at least for a week. He kept on pacifying me saying: You are simply thinking too much; your worries are unfounded.

Surprisingly today (right on the second day of nagging, for the first time) he came home with a lock and he fitted it without even waiting for another day.

You know why?

The shocking news had reached his ears in the morning that the only daughter of Chithra – the most popular and adored playback singer of Kerala (India) – drowned in the swimming pool.

I got my job done.

 

A lock on my bathroom door is all I could do. I entrust God with the rest. God save our little ones!

Paradise Lost


Balancing themselves on the ridge through the green carpet of the paddy fields, are two Red Riding Hoods, heading excitedly to their grandmother who lives in the little cottage completely cut off from the busy world. ‘Amminna’ is waiting to open to the little girls, the door of affection, freedom and exploration.

They would be there on a week’s parole to celebrate the most cheerful days of the year. That was some twenty five years ago! The youngest one – ten or eleven years old at that time – was me.

Amminnadukkal (amminna’s house) was a fairy land, a resort, a museum set amidst an orchard for us to marvel. A great mango tree (Why great? Wait!),  two chaampa trees as the sentries, jackfruit tree, kadaplavu, irumpapuli tree, guava, mulberry, papaya, puli, ampazham, not to mention the other galore of trees like the cotton, clove, cinnamon, jaathi, and the coconut trees strewn all over – that was the plot. Beneath each tree I used to linger a long time feeling its pulse and studying how it changed after my last visit.

Many of the trees are still ‘green’ in my memory.

My youngest uncle told me once that the mulberry bush was the rendezvous of my mother and her friends – gossiping, safely away from the evesdropping brothers.

The ampazham near the cow shed bore green olive-like sour fruits – the harvest was always bountiful, more than enough to fill the brine jars of Amminna.

During Onam the swing was made on the mango tree but once on the irumpapuli tree whose trunk was cloaked by the succulent, glassy green fruits. Those fruits were dried and pickled (I believe so).

Then the kadaplavu – the breadfruit tree – was the source of the special boiled dish with grated coconut. The most savoury papayas in the world, I would proudly say, were the ones which grew on my grandmother’s papaya tree. The jack fruit was preserved. I could still call to mind the colour and smell of the sweet, sticky delicacy with a dash of sugar over it.

It was our turn to sample the preserves, one by one.

The mango tree – really a ‘grandmother’ tree – was to the house, what a banyan tree is to a traditional Kerala temple. Even as children we could touch its low branches. The majestic tree bent lower when it abounded with the biggest and the sweetest mangoes I have ever laid my eyes on! Amminna used to support them with great love, the same way in which she tended to her calf-bearing cow. The axe laid on its trunk a few days after her death, ruthlessly cut off all the remaining tenderness associated with her. I couldn’t bear the sight of its stump! They could have spared just that one! Tears rolled down for the relishing treats it provided me once. The already dejected house now looked like a behaired Rapunzel.

Another scenic speciality – the only one intact even today – was the brook behind the house. It looked like a forest stream all overgrown with climbers and bushes. Had I been Tarzan I would have crossed the brook on those strong climbers. During the summers the brook almost dried up – the boys in the neighbourhood dug holes in the sand to eke out some water. But during the rains when the brook would be in its full swing, its rage did frighten me. We used to go and watch the boys catch fish at the check dam using traps and also the men collect the drifting trees uprooted from the highlands in the heavy downpour.

The narrow canal from the brook brought water in to the grove only when the brook was brimming. And when the grove was flooded, little fish swam everywhere in the shallow water over the grass. The house, still untouched by the waters was like Noah’s ark awaiting the waters to lash against it, any moment.

Today I jibe at my girl saying that while her grandparents’ house opens into the busy traffic of screeching vehicles, mine opened into the pristine world of Nature where we could breathe in the purest oxygen!

The nostalgic ONV song reverberates – ‘I long to be there once again….’