Saturday, June 27, 2015

Clouds of Imagination

One, two, three
Chasing each other in glee
Kick one off the list
Two replace it quick

Not a thought in the head
But subheads demanding to be fed
Stories, novels, features, blogs
Family, dance, leisure, phew, no dogs!

Work drills, heat kills
Body cries, mind dries
Like a zombie, on the mill
Up and down, and yet only downhill

Pull the reins of your life
Leave behind the daily strife
Break free from the life of ruination
Adrift on the clouds of imagination.

Floating and dreaming
Mind empty, life filled with meaning
A nice dream, till it lasted
Now let me get back, before I am blasted!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Clasped Hands

Nithya extended her hand. Sampoorna resisted. "I will manage," she said stubbornly.

Nithya pursed her lips angrily and looked at the road. The traffic showed no signs of abating. "We are not going to cross today," she complained. "I have to get back. My children will return from their classes," she complained.

Reluctantly Sampoorna grabbed Nithya's hand. Nithya was shocked at the touch, at how hard the hand had become.

She kept a foot forward and Sampoorna followed hesitantly. Slowly the two walked across, Nithya matching her steps to her mother's pace. A speeding car slowed but blew the horn near them. A startled Sampoorna clutched her daughter's hand in fear.

Nithya glared at the driver and they managed to cross. She needed to steady herself for a second as memories of her agile mother confidently helping young Nithya cross the road, holding the tiny hands in her own soft hands came flooding. Waiting patiently in the park, allowing the child to play to her fill, taking her to the doctor's, taking her to her friend's homes, giving in to every demand - memories of her mother's youth and strength. Her mother was but a shadow now, still patient, still not demanding, unable to do all that she would like to.

But even if she had demanded, who would have heard the old woman? Nithya hadn't been giving her mother time, thanks to work and family. Today had been an emergency and already the piling list of chores made her tense and upset.

Seeing the contentment on her mother's face, she dropped the list from her mind for a few minutes. They walked slowly, chatting about olden days. Even Nithya felt nice, not worrying about mundane routine for a few minutes. She took her mother to the temple and bowed before the deity with a free heart, feeling a connection she hadn't in a long while.

Maybe she would lag by a few minutes in her schedule, but she felt she needed to make time for her mother. If that was part of her schedule, it would not be a lag, would it?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Tyranny of Success

A cute sardar boy ran howling to his parents on being rejected in the selection round of a music reality show in TV today. A voice over said, "Rejection is not the end. It is the beginning of a journey to success."

I wanted to slap the scriptwriter. It was just the kind of shallow, oft-repeated thought that sounds deceptively inspirational, but means zilch for the child whose hopes have been raised and dashed. The entire ecosystem - right from parents to the show hosts - is responsible for this. Some children who cannot hold the tune are made to come and contest. They become laughing stock on national TV. Mostly under 12, they may not even realise they are being laughed at!

A week ago, one boy literally begged the judges to give him a chance. The boy was not more than 9 years old. I watched aghast as he started crying. The judges were embarrassed. Finally they called the family. The boy said his father will scold him for losing. The uncle said some crap about if the boy worked hard then he could meet expectations, but to give him a chance. The judge stopped the uncle bluntly and told him not to put so much pressure on the boy at such a young age.

I remember this topic coming up during an interview with Sri Sriram Parasuram, the Hindustani classical singer and husband of playback singer Anuradha Sriram. He was very vehemently opposed to such reality shows for such young children. "The kind of training they have to go through is not fair to them," he said firmly.

When attending a competition at a smaller level, I was amazed at the concert-level quality of some of the young children. Yes, it is amazing. But is it needed? If they do gamakams and palukals when they are 10 and 12, instead of enjoying the pace and the beauty of a song at that age, what will they be left with when they reach 20-25/30-35? Let me put it differently, if they have to worry so much about delving into the depths of ragas at this age, when will they play and enjoy life? Is it necessary to 'create' and nurture prodigies at such a young age?

The premium of success, the definition of success, the stress on success... Or, is it short cut to fame that is being sought, vicariously by parents through their young children? Are success and fame synonymous? Are we chasing success, which comes with hard work and maturity, or fame just to be in the spotlight?

As I watch young children put through the circus, I cannot but wonder what their life would be like once the limelight is snatched from them... What happens to them when they go back to their ordinary lives?

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Nature Warriors

We reached Koodalur in the foothills of Kumily Hills near Thekkady for a bullock cart ride around the fields, looking for birds of different feathers. Two youth were waiting with cameras taking photos already. We got on to the cart and one of the boys enthusiastically pointed out the different birds flying around. It was his uncle's cart and he had already done the rounds of the farms earlier. He had seen 105 birds on an earlier trip, he said with pride.

 As always, I started chatting up. The two men were from Mumbai, where they worked with Bhavan's rescuing snakes and spreading awareness about the need to protect snakes. "People used to kill snakes out of fear and I felt it was wrong so I joined Bhavan's which had started rescuing snakes," said Prabhu, a Tamilian who was born and brought up in Mumbai. His friend Hemant, was a Maharashtrian, and both worked in the same place. They had been working non stop for the last two or three years and so they were on a 15 day or one month vacation, going to different places in Tamil Nadu and maybe unintentionally focusing on the fauna around. They told us about the birds they had spotted in Kodai and Meghamalai, apart from Kudalur, of course.

"How did you get into snake rescue?" I asked.

I was stunned to hear that the two boys had done engineering, one of them in IT and the other in Civil. But as they matured into youth (they must have been in their early 20s), they were slowly drawn into rescuing the snakes, and their career path changed. They draw a salary, which they are happy with. They also do other work, but all around rescuing animals or working with children creating awareness about the need to protect the environment.

"How did your parents agree?" I asked.

"They were upset initially, but then they agreed," Prabhu, the outspoken one, said. I admired the parents who endorsed their sons' decision and are supportive. Maybe they had fights about the money spent on engineering education, but they came around and accepted it.

While going around the fields, I saw several kinds of birds and I learnt that mynah, owls and parakeets have their nests in coconut trees. I saw bee-eaters in certain kinds of fields, while some other birds preferred a different kind of greenery. They previous day, during a nature trail through Thekkady forest, the guide - a tribal whom the government had trained to be a naturalist and guide - told us about one kind of parakeets that went only for banana plantation. They had become rare to sight in between because banana cultivation had come down. But now again there was a revival it seems.

I was reminded of a story I had heard when working on a dance-play on bees - that bees in China were vanishing . I wondered if the farmers in the surroundings appreciated the rare birds that they sighted regularly. I wondered, when we cut forests to plant a particular kind of plant/crop, what happened to the birds that depended on those trees. When we replant in a different locations (if at all we do), then do we consider the need for variety? Because we cannot know which plant houses which bird and what will happen to a species if 'useless' trees are cut.

With these thoughts came the constant struggle between man and nature. Ironically, it is only men who can fight other men who destroy nature. And there will always be a conflict.

Meanwhile, we can only hope that more and more Prabhus and Hemants are created so that at some point, we can hope for the natural order to be restored.

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