Monday, March 30, 2015

Classroom Stories 'V'

The Other Side

As I switched the computer on for him, he stared at the screen for a while and almost announced in a solemn and detached voice, “Today is my badday (birthday).” I was like… ‘what?’ And before I could ask for any explanation, he informed me, “I just saw the date on the clock here,” pointing on the date on the screen. I asked, “You mean, you didn’t remember it’s your birthday?” 

He offered me his trademark smile, “Arre bhaiya, there’s no one at home na. So forgot.” His entire family has recently gone to the village for summer vacations. For the first time he was living on his own, without family. Being the youngest in the family, he was the most pampered one.

So this sixteen year old boy forgot his birthday because there was no one to wish him. Really? Well, I smiled, shook his hand and wished him. I knew that my parents never really remembered or celebrated their birthdays. But somehow I was not able to believe that someone in this generation could also forget his birthday. Well, was it a big deal? Yes and no.

I, then, ran to my team and informed my colleagues that it’s his birthday. I shared my amazement with this kid not remembering it as well. We planned a quick cake ceremony. We went out, and since we couldn’t really find a cake shop close by, we got some sweets arranged in a way that it looked like a cake. He was then asked to cut the ‘cake’ and we all sang Happy Birthday for him. We then called his mom in the village for him to speak to her.

For the first time in the last ten months that I know him, I saw him crying. Of course, not in the most open way. Of course he is a boy. But then, he is just a boy! And he cried. My colleague hugged him and we all joked about him crying. He, the naughtiest, bravest and most courageous kid in my class, was sobbing.

When we had our own little private moment, I asked him, “why did you cry, kid?” He didn’t respond. Just smiled. I waited and then added, “missing ammi?” He smiled and nodded in affirmation.

I wonder how we, at times, only engage with a single story of a person. For me, he was this naughty and carefree kid forever. And he had just cried. Why can he not, of course? It’s weird. Not that he had cried. But that, it had surprised me, even though only for a moment. Today I met with the little kid hiding inside this violently outspoken teenager. As he shared his birthday stories, I realized, as Chimamanda Adichie says, there’s never a single story of a person. We need to engage with multiple stories that present several other sides of a person to honour him or her in totality. This was my chance to engage with his other stories.

P.S. - And I still can’t forget his formal, impassive declaration, “Today is my badday.”

To read other Classroom Stories, visit following links:

Saturday, March 21, 2015

हवाएँ चली हैं।

This poem was written in 2000 as an ode to to my alma mater, Sainik School Ghodakhal, Nainital. I had just finished my school, and as with most boarders, I was extremely nostalgic about my life and story in that heavenly place, my school. Today, when the school celebrates it's raising day, and incidentally, it's World Poetry Day, I share this old poem, as is, with all of you, my readers :-)

हवाएँ चली हैं,
उड़ाती चली हैं
सड़क के किनारे पड़ी पत्तियों को
जो पतझड़ की रातों में यूँही गिरी थी;
महकती है
फिर से वही गंध, सूँघो
वो जब क्यारियों में उन, कलियाँ खिली थीं;
वही रास्ते हैं जहाँ हम सवेरे
कहीं दूर से दौड़ के लौट आएँ,
वही रास्ते हैं, वही शाम है
जिस पर चलते ही जाएँ, चलते ही जाएँ
वो पर्वत के पीछे से झाँके जो सूरज
तो उससे कहें, "छुप जा जाके तू पीछे!"
वही जो अगर चाँद आये तो बातें,
हो जैसे मुझे मिल गया कोई साथी,
करते ही जाएँ, करते ही जाएँ,
बारिश की रातों में,
गर्मी की शामों में,
सर्दी की धूपों में,
फिर से चली हैं,
हवाएँ चली हैं।

जो मैंने अधूरा सुनाया था तुमको
जुबाँ कह रही है वही गीत गाऊं
बे-होली के होली के रंगो में डूबूँ
बिना दीप के मैं दिवाली मनाऊँ
यादों के दीपक जलाये चली हैं,
हवाएँ चली हैं।

वो मंदिर की घण्टी की ध्वनि से सजी हैं
वो पेड़ो से होकर गुजरती हवाएँ
वो छत की बरफ (बर्फ) से जो होकर गुजरती हैं
खुद को ही ठण्डी बनाती हवाएँ
बंद कमरे के कोने में चादर को ओढ़े हूँ,
फिर  भी ये छूने को आती चली हैं,
हवाएँ चली हैं।

वही कुर्सियाँ हैं, जहाँ बैठकर
हर घडी खुशनुमां गीत गाये थे हमने,
वही मेज है, जिसपर हाथों को अपने
फिराकर के तबले बजाये थे हमने,
वही मंच है जिस पर बोला था मैंने
वही तालियाँ फिर से बजने लगी हैं,
वही घास है जिस पर लेते थे हम सब
वही गोलियाँ फिर से चलने लगी हैं,
वहीँ पर हूँ मैं और वहीँ पर हो तुम भी
वहीँ पर है सब कुछ, मगर ये हैं यादें
धूलों में लिपटी हैं, यादों में सिमटी हैं
मिलने की आशा जगाये चली हैं,
हवाएँ चली हैं।

हर दिन सोचता हूँ नहीं याद आओ
मगर हर शशी (शशि) में तुम्हें देखता हूँ
मेरी ज़िन्दगी में तुम्हारी कमी है
यादों में तुम हो, तुम्ही हो, तुम्ही हो,
तुम्हारे बिना याद आये न मुझको
जिसे याद करने को सोचा है मैंने
तुम्हारी ही यादें, हैं तुमसे ये यादें
तुम्हारे लिए ही ये यादें बनी हैं,
हवाएँ चली हैं।

इन्हे कह तो दूँ अपनी कमज़ोरियाँ
पर इन्ही के सहारे यहाँ मैं खड़ा हूँ
ये सबको डिगाती हैं, सबको हिलाती हैं
पर मेरे कदम को जमाये चली हैं,
हवाएँ चली हैं, चली हैं हवाएँ
हवाएँ चली हैं, हवाएँ चली हैं।

Monday, January 26, 2015

Happy Republic Day?

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC…” thus begins the preamble of the Constitution of India.

Last night, when I read the results of a survey (link here) recently conducted with high school and college students from 11 cities across India, I couldn’t figure out what exactly I felt – scared, angry, sad or guilty?

If we would want, we can always debate on the validity of the survey, the degree of scientific nature of the method, the political and economic will and intentions behind it and so on. However, my work with adolescents in last couple of years somehow brings me to believe in the results to an extent. And for once if we believe that the institution was fair and honest in conducting this research, let’s explore the findings a bit:

“about half of them would prefer military rule over a democracy”

“65 percent 'agree' that boys and girls from different religions should not mingle”

“more than half of the students surveyed believed that women 'provoke' men with the way they dress, close to half of them say women have no choice but to accept violence”

Today, when I asked my students that in face these results, what do they think is the future our country. There was a complete silence. Some were embarrassed as they represent this age group. And others were shocked as at SLP we have been talking about how the youth is going to change the face of India. Well indeed, the youth will change the face of India. But whether they are going make it look uglier or better, the survey gives us a hint.

Now, to feel scared, angry or sad is understandable. But guilty? Why?

Remember, the survey was conducted with high schoolers and college students. Which means a generation just after me. It clearly speaks of the aspirations, expectations and notions we have passed on to them as parents, teachers and society. We have given them a world of hopelessness. A world of ghettoised and fragmented communities. A world of disillusioned and corrupt power systems such as gender, religion, caste and class. A world where our children choose to be ruled over and given directives with rather than being part of a critical democratic process (I experience so many times in my class where my students hesitate from the ‘time-taking’ democratic decision making process and want me to decide for them). A world where we care to provide every child with a tablet or a laptop but not an experience where she/he could engage in critical and meaningful thinking process.

The results of this survey points at us on how well have we used last 68 years in building a country for whose freedom we so desperately fought for. And at that reflection I feel guilt and shame for what we have done to our children and generations to come. We have brought them to a point where as they celebrate their Republic Day, they have given up on appreciating what a democratic republic could mean. Today, as I read this, I seek forgiveness, for not doing something, not doing enough, as a teacher, a brother, an uncle or for that matter, just an adult in a young one’s life to show him/her that it was possible for us to create an India that the writers of our constitution envisioned.

I am sorry, children. I can only hope that some magic happens and you be able to fix your views - of self and the world - and be able to re-envision the hope for a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic that India, once upon a time, set out to be.

Happy Republic Day, anyway.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The city of hills and the sea - VIII

एक तू, बदलाव की बेचैनी ही है जिसकी पहचान,
और एक तू, जो अब पहचान बदलने को है बेताब;
शहर, बॉम्बे और पूना...!

One, whose identity is to change desperately,
The other, who is desperate to change her identity;
Ah! The cities of Bombay and Pune…!


To read the previous posts in this series, you may visit following links:
The city of hills and the sea VII: Sound of the city
The city of hills and the sea VI: Where the mind is without fear...
The city of hills and the sea V: Love Happens!
The city of hills and the sea IV: My Home, My Way
The city of hills and the sea III: Of Belong and Belongings
The city of hills and the sea II: 16 Jyotsna
The city of hills and the sea I: weaklings?
The city of hills and the sea: Introduction

Image source: