Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Thank You for the Music

Thank you Illayaraja.  Thank you Beethoven.  Thank you Thyagaraja Swami. 
Thank you Rahman.    Thank you SPB.    Thank you Janaki.    Thank you Yesudoss. 
Thank you PBS. Thank you MSV.    Thank you Kannadasan.    Thank you Veturi. 
Thank you Gulzar.     Thank you R D Burman.    Thank you Kishore Kumar. 
Thank you Nusrat Saab.     Thank you Sonu Nigam.       Thank you Shivkumar Sharma.
Thank you Kenny G.         Thank you Yanni.      Thank you Frank Sinatra. 
Thank you Beatles.  Thank you Elvis. Thank you Kenny Rogers.    Thank you Jim Reeves.
Thank you Abba.      Thank you Bryan Adams.    Thank you Madonna.   
Thank you Michael Jackson.     Thank you Jagjit Singh.     Thank you Vividh Bharati. 
Thank you Chitrahaar.     Thank you Top of the Pops. Thank you Compilation Albums.
Thank you street-corner recording stores.     Thank you lyrics books. 
Thank you tapes, CDs and pen-drives. Thank you internet. 
Thank you friends, cousins, siblings and Fauji Bhais.


Monday, May 16, 2016

A Missed Chance

Today, I am filled with shame and anger at myself. For having missed a chance to do my bit as a citizen of the country. I have lost my chance to vote, thereby losing my chance to sit and complain or even expect anything from the State.

For reasons best known only to the hubby and me, we have never lived in the same residence or locality for more than two years at a stretch. The thought of getting documents updated every time was daunting. It is my fault that I shuddered at the countless pillars and posts I had to run to and from. It is my fault that I wasn’t bold enough to face the indifference of the officers in the civil supplies office, the passport office, the transport office,  who I knew by several bitter experiences didn’t  care if I’d taken a day off from work or if I’d even resigned my job to effect a change of address in my records.
I say, fear. You could call it laziness or even indifference.
It was my fault that I didn’t keep myself well-informed about procedures. What does one do if one doesn’t have any of the ‘accepted’ address proofs? My bank in which I have a salary account did not insist on an address proof. Suited me fine, because I didn’t have one. Gas receipts suddenly found their way out of the accepted list of address proofs. And so I lost the only proof of my existence that I was flaunting everywhere. A passport is a valid address proof. But how can I change the address in there? Show them the ration card but that has the old address too. Get it updated. Show them the address proof. What proof? Rental agreement. Telephone bill. Sorry boss, not on my name. Ever heard of vicious cycles? So I sulk my way back to my state of non-existence, wondering how if me, a working, independent woman has so much problem in proving her place of residence, then how would the average stay-at-home wife prove her place of residence. Heaven forbid if any of these two women dared to break free from their marital homes. The never-ending bureaucratic queue sounds more frightful than social stigma!
March 2016. Having lived incognito for more than 4 years, I realised I must do something about it. Assembly elections were looming large. I was more anxious than the contestants themselves. I wanted to vote. Even my 8-yr old daughter had an Aadhar Card (issued by school) but I didn’t have one. I was on annual leave. Unable to bear my whining and whimpering anymore, the spouse took me to a place where the Aadhar Card registration was being done. We went armed with rental agreement, telephone bill and the by-now famous gas receipts. I was even ready to argue that I was indeed the lawfully wedded wife of the address-proof holder. To our surprise, there was no queue. The process was a breeze. It only took as much time for me to blink in the photograph. The process was done. Guess what, they didn’t ask us for the address proof. I was thrilled. I knew I could finally apply for a Voter ID and actually vote. “Optimistic Ignoramus!” sniggered the Universe.
April 10. I get the online Aadhar Card but not the physical card. I tried to apply for the Voter ID with it. But don’t we love anti-climaxes? What does the online Voter ID form ask me for? Yes, my address proof! April 20. The online registration for Voter ID closes.
May 13. Hurrah! My Aadhar Card arrives by post finally. Too late my dear!
May 16. The day of the Elections.  My participation in the democratic process— a few speeches to my dad, envious laments to the spouse showing off his black mark, silently nursing the loss of a photo op (rather a selfie-op) and a huge rant on this blog page. Sigh!
And I know I can’t find a hair-breadth’s fault with the new government because I haven’t participated. I guess I have to chuck my conscience and pair up with my bretheren, who in spite of holding every valid card/proof, decided to go away for the long election weekend to posh destinations. Together, we will blame the new government for bad roads, rising prices, pollution, water problem, garbage, too much rains, too little rains, Aniruddh’s bad music, Kohli’s break-up...An exciting five years ahead!  

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Enough Said

One of those rare evenings, rather nights when I sat down to watch a film on TV and I am glad I did.
'Enough Said', is a sweet story about two divorced people looking at the deeper meaning of relationships. Their warmth, their sense of humour and their empty nest is not the only common link between them. Eva's new friend is Albert's ex-wife.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, I remembered her from the TV show Seinfeld. She is brilliant here. She plays Eva, a masseuse who does home visits. Watch out for the way she handles her portable massage table through the film. The ease and difficulty with which she lugs it around varies with her level of confidence at a given point. Something one can relate to easily.

And James Gandolfini, never heard of him before and what can I say, I am in love! He plays Albert, this chubby, charming, honest, funny, very huggable person with his own quirks. He is as sensitive as he is funny. I wonder, if he was acting or playing himself.

Wikipedia tells me he died soon after the film was made. I welled up for a moment when I read that.

My favorite part of the film? Eva and Albert's first date. For a couple to laugh so much on a first date. (Sigh!) Then, their conversation on the lawn when she first visits his home. And of course the last scene on the porch.

I don't know if it is the actors, the direction or the screenplay that makes you feel for every scene and every character in the film. Marianne is as true to life as if Eva is. Neither of them is wrong. Each person has his or her own needs. And as one ages the priorities keep changing. Isn't this true for all us? What would have mattered so much at a point suddenly becomes inconsequential, making you wonder what the whole fuss was about. However, very often, we don't respect our decisions in life. A lot of us end up looking for external validation to pursue what our own heart desires. We risk a lot in a bargain for that validation.

That way, this is truly a grown-up film. Try and watch it if you can.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Testing Times

The field of education and learning has always interested me. I've always been curious about how it works, what goes into education and so on.
The questions that are now occupying my thoughts relate to the area of testing.

When I did my schooling more than 25 years ago, we had to write a string of tests..class tests, unit tests, dictation tests, surprise tests...and the biggies, term exams and the final exams. These tests and exams were always a sore point not just for me but for everyone who has gone through school. Yet, some of them managed and many of them struggled. Mine was a huge struggle. Just scraping through an exam would be a moment of triumph for me. I still believe that the examiner in my Class 10 Board exam, took pity on me and handed over  a few 'grace marks' because my score was 48 on 100, the passing score being 40! I endured the pain right from Class 2 to 10, until I reached class 11, when I got to choose my subjects. I loved each one of the subjects. I understood every theory. Exams became a breeze. Why, even a pleasure! The high scores I got became a motivation to do better every time. The high point was when I managed to top the Marketing Management course with a Gold Medal! I am sure my school teachers who labelled me as 'failure student' and subjected me to every possible humiliation will not believe this story. It is ironic that today, I write for and edit school textbooks. And I totally love what I do.

Well, I often tell myself that there is no point revisiting the horrendous past but it's all coming back to haunt me. 25 years after I finished schooling, I am shocked to know that not a thing has changed in the system. It is the same exams. The same grading. The same stigma. Yes, there are School Boards like the CBSE and ICSE that are taking every effort to veer away from sole dependence on examinations. They have introduced projects, classroom assessments on various skills and many more such initiatives. But the question we need to ask is if the schools are following the pattern diligently? Are they making a mishmash of their own ideas and the Board requirements?

So, I wonder. Are written examinations the only way of testing children? What is the process-flow like? We teach the child a concept in class and want to know if he/she has understood it. How do we do it? By asking questions orally, by asking them to draw it out if the concept allows for it, by role-play, classroom discussion...all these methods are already available and being put to use but only in a small way. Ultimately we all fall back to making children write sentences, paragraphs and pages full of material just to show us they have understood the concept. This kind of assessment for the past so many years, still seems to be the only accepted thing. The written exam seems to be lord of all other forms of assessments. I once overheard a child happily tell her mother that she had scored 24.5 on 25 in her test. "Where did you lose that half mark?" snapped the mother. I couldn't bear to see the child's flower face wilt. Examinations can make or break a person's life. They can squash a person's confidence forever. Don't we read of suicide attempts every day? Yet, we are stuck to this method of assessment as if there were no other.

I give here, a very extreme example. Imagine a very bright child who doesn't have fingers in both his hands. The ideas are all up there - in his head. How will he show it to the world? He will have to perhaps find a scribe or join a school for physically challenged children. Why? Just because he can't write. There is every chance of a regular school refusing to take him in.

What about children with dyslexia? Imagine all those agonizing hours they spend before getting a grip on their pencils and these exams. I have read and been inspired by stories of so many dyslexic people who have gone ahead and made a place for themselves. But from what I have read and understood, most of them have been school dropouts and had resolved to mark their own path.

Forget those who are physically challenged and those with clinically proven learning disabilities. There is a new crop of children that are completely 'normal' in every perceivable way possible. They are as intelligent as anyone in their age group. They have only one difficulty and that is writing. This is a very common problem these days. Many teachers might agree with me that there are at least 2-3 children per class with this issue. The problem according to some experts is attributed to a very early introduction of writing. I have learnt that each child's readiness for writing varies slightly, just like any other developmental milestone. But the way early-education works in our country, children are categorised according to age groups and not skill sets. No government or Board of Education has control over what children are taught and made to do in their Kindergarten years. Some schools make them draw strokes and some schools make them write even some five letter words So when children are forced to do cursive writing before they are ready for it, some of them tend to develop writing issues in later years especially between the ages of  7 and 10*. The idea of a written test is so daunting to such children that they go off into a shell or become rebellious.

Be it primary school admissions or admissions for Post Grad courses or even Government/Public Sector job interviews...everything is based on a written exam. At least, it seems to be the first step. A person who hasn't done well in the written exam is knocked off in the very early stages. There isn't much room to look for other skills like communication, negotiation or other soft-skills. I strongly believe that expression through writing comes only for a few people, inspite of years of LSRW (Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing) training right from primary levels.  Look at competitive examinations. Do you think our much celebrated dyslexics Albert Einstein or Alexander Graham Bell or Leonardo da Vinci would have cleared any of those funnily acronymed, much sought after, competitive examinations? In today's world they couldn't have ever been able to go anywhere near the esteemed universities to pursue higher education. It is another matter that the quoted people might have been only in search of knowledge and never university degrees. Sadly, things don't work that way anymore.

All of this talk brings to my mind a bigger question. What is the purpose of education? Wasn't learning supposed to be the purpose of education? Since when have exams become the be-all-and-end-all of education? Do we send children to school to learn or to pass exams? Schools and educational institutes should make learning joyful. Not intimidating. I will never forget what my mentor told me when I had written a rather tricky exercise for a grammar concept for a Class 1 textbook. She told me, "The purpose is to teach and not to test."

As simple as that. Isn't it? I am not an academician. I am not a teacher. I don't have the answers. I think of these questions just because I have once been a student. I am now a parent. I love people and the light they carry within them. Examinations, which are just one facet of learning should not snuff out the spark that every individual is born with.

*Useful articles:

Pic courtesy:

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

In a Limb oh!

I hurt my foot real bad last week.

I asked my boss permission to work from home. "Permission - my foot!" he yelled.
"No, that'd be MY foot," I said.
He asked me for the reason. I said I had fractured my little toe.
He cracked up at that and said it's a very lame excuse.
I went down on my knees. He just dug his heels in and said no.
What could I do? I couldn't put my foot down. I could only prop it up. That was the doctor's advice.
I couldn't take leave on loss of pay either. Who would foot my medical bills?
Plus I have my deadlines too. Can't let grass grow under my feet, you see.
For those who want to know how I am doing now?
Well, another 20 days before I am back on my feet. But I know I will limp back to normalcy soon. Thanks for asking.

*Disclaimer: Apart from the fracture everything else is a fragment of my imagination. Not even a nail of tooth. I mean truth*

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Little Thought on Apology

What is apology? Acknowledging a mistake? 
A lapse happens. We apologize. It's over.
Is there a take-away from this? Yes, we will ensure that the mistake doesn't happen again.

Now, picture this. We have done something, which from our perspective might have seemed right but ended up hurting someone. What do we in that case? Sometimes we sit on our high horse and insist that it wasn't our intention to hurt. Sometimes we give in. We say "Hey, I'm so sorry, I really didn't mean to hurt you. Please don't be mad at me."

Why do we do this? Is this a lie? No, it isn't. It comes out of honesty. We do this because of the kind of a relationship we share with the person. We do this because of the immense respect, care and concern we have for the person. We want to remain close to this person's heart all the time. Mind you, I am talking about all kinds of relationships here.

Every time some one has a fall, be it a stranger, don't we check on the person, as a reflex? We do this just to provide a moment of comfort for a person who is shaken. An apology is just that. When we do this to strangers on the road, can't we do it to for those who care for us and those we care for?

Most of us human beings are blessed with this thing called INTUITION. Let's use it. Not many people are going to tell you they are hurt. The silent reaction could vary from going off into a shell right up to suicide. (Sorry I don't mean to sound morbid but that's reality.) But if we use intuition, we can sense hurt. At the same time, I know it is not easy to look in the eye and say "Hey buddy, I'm sorry." It takes a lot of courage. If you want to say sorry but don't know how to do it, don't worry. Here's where intuition comes to play again. Try eye-contact or hold the person's hand quietly or just hover around the person, . The hurt friend will intuitively understand what you are up to and forgive you. Believe me, it works. 

What can the act of forgiving do to a person that is hurt? It is not about ego. It is a way of healing themselves. It is a way of reassuring themselves about the strength of their relationship with you. Indirectly, regaining their own strength and personal conviction.

While doing all this, let us not forget that the learning after an apology is not temporary but permanent. Never, ever to hurt the person again. 

PS: Personally speaking, I don't remember holding grudges against ANYONE all my life. There have been countless instances when I have apologized for no obvious fault of mine at all. I'm quite shameless that way! Similarly, if I sense even a whiff of remorse, trust me, I have their back-for a lifetime. 


Monday, December 14, 2015

Memes I Make

  • After the Chennai floods Dec 2015

  • #100SareePact


  • For the love of MMKR! (My favorite meme)

  • For the love of music - any kind.

  • When I am really happy to see someone! (or when I want to be sarcastic about it :P)

  • Run for your life!

  • More of MMKR dedicated to Whatsapp Groups

Chennai Airport After the Rains