Friday, August 06, 2021

Far, But Not Apart

March 2020 had proved to be the cruelest month when Corona arrived in India. Teachers were all set to conduct the final exams, which were cancelled, and all the students were promoted.

The venomous virus refused to beat a retreat even after the summer break and the sign of normalcy looked bleak. After a lot of brainstorming, we decided to make videos of the chapters as well as worksheets to keep the classes going. Smartphones have become the lifeline of the education system. Looks like the most apt oxymoron that has ever existed. The most hated object in the schools is now holding the ladder.

Classroom teaching is interactive and fun if we think of the cheerful and energetic 6 -7-year-olds. Now I am talking to the monitor while recording English and EVS chapters. I became the director, scriptwriter, editor, sound recordist, dubbing artist and cameraman overnight! The quote "Good teaching is 1/4 preparation and 3/4 theatre." sounded so true. There were frustrating moments when I had to redo the whole video just because of a slip of tongue. Gradually it became easy with many apps and smartphone features.

Online classroom is quite like the real classroom. Same innocent faces who trust their teachers more than anyone else. I reserved the last 5 minutes of the class for general discussion. Soon my students adapted to the classroom rules like; mute/unmute the device, waiting for their turn to speak etc I wish our parliamentarian learnt a lesson from them. They shared their happy thoughts and fears. Some of them wanted me to meet their younger siblings, which I was so
happy to do.
We discussed the chapters in the Meet and conducted exams through google forms. Asked them questions in What’s App video to ensure that they have grasped the concept, but we did miss our classroom ambience, subtle jokes, lab and games periods and last but not the least –tiffin time.

Mothers who used to drop and pick their kids at the school gate were sitting next to them in the classrooms. Their support and hard work should be saluted. Most of them have toddlers and old parents at home who need to be looked after, still we kept getting the HW and projects on time.

Lockdown is trying us all. We all have challenges to face. Yours truly had planned and managed a big, fat Indian wedding at home during the last academic session, juggling between classes and shopping. The hectic schedule without a domestic help was common to all my friends who are teachers.

We all hope and pray that this virus vanishes soon. Till then we are trying to keep the morale of our kids high by keeping them engaged in studies and answering their queries. But, I never feel so speechless and helpless when in the Google Meet a child raises his hand, unmutes his device and asks, “Ma’am hum school kab aayenge?” (when would we come back to school?)

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Live in Peace

The cherubic actor who is in our minds constantly for the worst reason possible was a victim of depression.
I have never even googled the word ‘depression’, but know the symptoms by reading people’s bitter experiences. Like other bad things, I believed that depression happens to others, not to me and mine, and people I know. I live on a beautiful campus which is a happy place. Safety, cleanliness and comparatively simpler life does add to the quality of the life we live. In such a place depression seems a foreign thing.

A few years back I too had gone through this feeling of constantly being sad for some petty reason. During that time I talked to the two more people of my age who confessed that they too are consulting doctors for similar reasons. We also talked that living in the lap of luxury with most amiable surroundings and families how could we fall into this trap? I had had a surgery so thought it may be ‘post surgery mood swings’. I never associated my condition with depression, though it was constantly at the back of my mind. The simple reason was, ‘it cannot happen to me,’ such things happen to others whom we don’t know personally.I consulted a doctor in our Health Centre who was kind enough to listen to me. He prescribed some tablets and gave me a few instructions.

The box of tablets was for de-stressing. The word ‘stress’ written in bold letters did hurt my ego. I introspected that why would I have stress! It is not in my DNA. Life is treating me well. My kids are doing exceptionally well, only if I do not compare them with Mark, Gates and Sunder Pichai.
I worked on doctor’s instructions. Did some physical work work daily, played badminton and continued with CBC , Children’s Book Club. Still I had those bouts of sadness. While returning from the CBC, one day I met Anita, my ex colleague, who almost forced me to re-join my job in Campus School. Within a week I was back to the work I am passionate about. I got to teach a class of 5-6 yr olds. I was used to teaching a little older ones. It was tough, but engrossed in my work with those little angels I forgot that unhappy period of my life.
Coming back to Sushant S Rajput, most people are angry with him that didn’t he think about his father and sisters? Life will never be the same for them. I always condemned people who committed suicide but not in his case. The pain must have become unbearable. You can fight/ignore/compromise with one or two persons, but what if all gang up and pounce at you?
I wish he would have talked to someone and understood that life was more important than his career. He could have become an example, a role model for many in stress and depression believing in the cliche that This Too Shall Pass.

Sunny South 1 (Mysore)

View from the window at Ginger Hotel, Mysore

What takes people out of their cozy homes to places that they may or may not like? In my case it is   just to break the monotony, no matter how beautiful it is. Then there are my mentors on social media  who keep inspiring or pestering me through their lovely travel blogs to get out of my shell and create the moments that I would relish years later on my easy chair.  

I had to go to Bangalore to visit my son and explore  the temples and wildlife and food and everything of the beautiful state of Karnataka. I had 10 days in hand and more than 10 destinations in my mind. I had no Idea what I would do. Just a week before it is difficult to book hotel rooms, taxis and Air-tickets. I fell on a friend's feet to guide me. It must be the most tiresome task to make an itinerary for someone else. Especially if the person is too busy with his work, family and school going kids. I made many guilt laden calls and sent many messages to communicate my choices and queries related to the trip. I have no words to thank him for this support. Finally Natraj sent me my Itinerary. 

It took me a whole day to reach Bangalore from Kanpur. My son welcomed me in his one BHK in his long flowing hair. He looked more like his toddler self to me when I used to tie his hair in a small ponytail and all my anger vanished.

Unlike a traditional mom, who would have cleaned the house and cooked for her son, I followed my itinerary and headed for Mysore the very next morning.  With a car booked for the whole trip and a local, reliable driver, I did not consider myself a solo traveller. For travelling solo. I hv yet to gain confidence. I started early and thoroughly enjoyed the drive. It was like watching a South Indian movie with dense patches of coconut grooves, hamlets, small temples, and billboards displaying huge pictures of film actors.                                          

After a nap I woke up in front of the Banarasi Dhaba, although I was expecting some  eatery named Shravana or Latha.

 I complimented the owner for the feast, while paying the bill. Rs 120 for two stomachs full, including coffee.
Ginger Hotel, Mysore was going to be my home for the next three days. I found hotel rooms fascinating and they do make a part of my happy memories and  my extended 'me time'. All things needed are packed in a suitcase. Room service, the beds with the soft matresses to sink in and sprouts in breakfast which I have not soaked is a luxury I love to devour.

The whole day at hand, I followed what the brochure at the hotel suggested. The Mysore zoo was the first destination. I had imagined myself visiting a palace or a museum or a temple, but not a zoo. The zoo was grand and spread over 157-acres of land. It must be  a Herculean's task  to manage  such a place. Birds and more birds did steal my heart.                                  

The giraffe I saw for the first time.



The Tiger was royal indeed !

Baby Care Rooms for little visitors

Wax Musium

                   Melody Wax Museum 

                                                                           With His Highness Srikantadutta Narasimharaja Wadiyar


 Dinner at Hotel Siddhart was good. I am not a foody, but I craved for the really tasty food which I would not get in my city. After all I came so far to experience it. Then I realised that the food I was craving for can be only had in the kitchen of a home chef.   

In the premises of the hotel there was a pan seller. I walked to get a meetha pan. He was from UP.It was nice to chat with someone in Hindi after a gap of many hours. A fan of the CM of UP, he informed me that finally he has electricity in his village, near Gorakhpur.

                                   Complimentary Breakfast at Ginger

                                                                 off to Belur

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Lockdown Tales


My mother-in-law had been the Gram Pradhan of her village for three consecutive terms, elected unanimously. After that she was the Chairperson of the ‘Samaj Kalyan Vibhag’, Uttarkashi district. By the time I joined the family she had taken the voluntary retirement. Her long years of social work and family responsibilities went on simultaneously.

Women in Uttranchal villages work very hard. Bringing fodder/grass from the Jungle is a work which every woman does.
One day I was sitting at the verandah of our picturesque house in Uttarkashi. I could hear the sound of the raging river Ganga or Gangaji, as locals call Her. A visitor came with a bagful of vegetables and fruits. Vegetables from her garden and fruits , the first crop of the season from her trees. Later I knew that MiL had arranged for her widow-pension a long time back.

MiL told me that once in the jungle, while cutting grass with a sickle, daranti, she pricked her finger with a thorn. It kept paining for a couple of days. The wound was not getting soft so that she could pull the thorn out. Someone suggested her a herb for quick relief. So she dug up the root of a weed called Chaulaai Kandali. (It was not the common Kandali, a plant commonly found there and stings like a wasp if touched.) She made a paste with the root and applied on the wound. Within 5 to 10 minutes the wound got soft with enough pus. She could pull the half-inch long thorn from her finger to her great relief.

In the times of Corona/ Covid 19, I wonder if there is a remedy for this pandemic, hidden under the earth as a root or blooming somewhere in the wilderness as a flower.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

A Bird’s Tale: Madhubani Workshop for Young learners

Bright colours and tiny lines define the fascinating Madhubani paintings from Bihar. It has innumerable birds, animals and humans and every little bit of nature. The intricate look of the designs makes a person perceive it as something beyond his capability. A workshop organised by Children's Book Club of IIT Kanpur proved to be an eye-opener as well as an evening full of activity, creativity and a lot of enjoyment.Before teaching the kids to paint, the very talented Shirolly Anand, the artist of the evening, told them a lovely story. Even the grown-ups were captivated. Later, all the 4 to 10-year olds painted the small designs with sketch pens. The story goes like this:

Once a bird dropped her seed into a crack of wood. She tried to take it out but couldn't. She was very hungry.

With great hope she went to a carpenter and requested him to chop off the wood and take the seed out.The carpenter was busy doing his work. he shouted at her, "Go away! Can't you see I am working?"

The bird felt bad and went to the king and pleaded, "Oh king! Will you please order the carpenter to chop off the wood and take out my seed, I'm hungry." The king said, "Go away, and don't disturb me."

The poor bird then went to the Queen thinking the King will surely listen to her. She asked her if she would tell the king to order the carpenter to chop off the wood and take out my seed, I'm hungry." The queen was in no mood to help the bird and sent her away saying, "Go away!

While passing by the royal kitchen, the bird met a mouse. She requested him to shred the Queen's lovely clothes if she doesn't ask the king to order the carpenter to chop off the wood, so that she could eat the seed." The mouse also said the same thing, "Go Away! I have a lot of work to do."

Then the poor little hungry bird went to the cat and asked her politely, " Will you please scare the mouse to shred the Queen's clothes if she doesn't ask the king to order the carpenter to chop off the wood, so that she could eat the seed.” The cat did not look interested and mewed at her loudly, “Go away, I cannot help you!”

The bird went to the dog. “ Dear dog, can you please scare the cat so that she scares the mouse to shred the queen’s clothes if she doesn’t tell the king to order the carpenter to chop off the wood and take out my seed? The dog barked, Go away! I am busy.”
Sad and hungry, the bird ran to the stick and begged “ Dear stick, please help me by scaring the dog so that he scares the cat and then the cat scares the mouse to chop off queen’s clothes if she doesn’t ask the king to order the carpenter to chop off the wood and take my seed out. The stick also refused to help .

The bird now saw the fire burning bright. “ Fire, will you scare the stick that you would burn it if it doesn’t scare the dog to scare the cat to scare the mouse to chop off the queen’s dresses if she doesn’t ask the king to order the carpenter to chop off the wood and take my seed out?” The Fire scolded her, “All for your tiny seed? Go away!”

The bird then went to the river and requested the water to help her. “Dear Water, only you can scare the Fire to scare the stick to scare the dog the dog to cat, the cat to mouse, the mouse to queen so that the queen asks the king to order the carpenter to chop off the wood and take my seed out. The Water also said , “Run away, I have no time for you.”
Then the bird thought of the elephant. She ran to him and asked him,” Dear elephant, please help me. Scare the water that with your huge trunk you would draw all the water of the river and empty the river, if the river did not scare the fire.” No luck for the Bird, the Elephant refused to help.

Tears in her eyes, starved and sad, the Bird met an ant. The Bird asked the Ant, “ Please scare the Elephant that you would enter into his nostrils and kill him if he doesn’t scare the Water.”
The Ant felt pity for the poor Bird and decided to help her.

The Ant told the Elephant to scare the Water to put out the Fire. The Elephant was scared and ran for his life. He talked to the Water and the Water went to the Fire, The Fire scared the Stick, the Stick scared the dog, the dog chased the Cat, the Cat scared the Mouse, the Mouse asked the queen to help the bird otherwise he would chop off all her clothes. The queen loved her clothes a lot, so she asked the King to help the Bird. The King ordered the carpenter to chop off the wood.
The Carpenter chopped off the wood and took the seed out of the crack. The Bird happily ate the seed.
The Bird, the Carpenter, the King and the Queen, the Mouse, the Cat, the Dog, the Stick, the Fire, the Water, the Elephant, and the Ant lived happily ever after.
No one is too young or too old to learn.

A four year old

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Sumit's Homestay, Raithal

A 90 minutes drive from Uttarkashi took me to Raithal, one of the most fertile and prosperous villages of Uttrakhand. Trekking for the famous Dayara Bugyal (meadow) begins here. The twenty four hours I stayed there were engaging, exciting and breathtaking.

I waited for my host Sumit at the entrance of the village. A large clearing, a friendly policeman and a helpful passer by who offered me his mobile phone to call Sumit have already won my heart. The moment I started talking to the shopkeeper to buy some snacks, (like---- in the movie My Fair Lady) he asked me if I belonged to the Pauri region of Uttrakhand, because I spoke garhwali in a particular accent.

Sumit knew all the people we met on the way and greeted them with due respect. It was nice to talk to them. The basketful of foliage was neither fit for fodder nor for fire. They told me that they spread it on the floor of the basement rooms where cows are kept . It keeps them warm. It is removed after a couple of days along with the cow dung and stored in some place in the fields. Within a month or so the organic fertiliser is ready to use.

Landmark in the jungle.

First there was a little snow and then snow all around!

Woods are lovely, indeed!

Goi Bugyal, (4 km from the base) The group has left the camp to trek to Dayara. Only seasoned trekkers can reach Dayara in a day. I took another trail to reach Naag Devta temple.

Frozen pond on the way to Naag Devta temple.

Naag Devta temple, gram devta of raithal village. 

Food n fire in the forest when I was hungry and cold after a really long walk.

In full bloom! These flowers should bloom in March, but the high temperature and no or late rains is the culprit.

It was dark by the time we reached home and this was the first thing I saw in the morning.

Thank you Mrs Raturi for the warm hospitality and sumptuous breakfast, dinner and packed lunch

The grand temple near the homestay.

Happier and healthier than his counterpart in the plains.

Spacious, warm and comfortable room with a view.

Famous Rajma of Raithal and daal nuggets (Bari)

On the way back to Uttrakashi.

Raithal was never in my bucket list, now I wonder why it was not? Now I know why it is called Homestay and not Housestay. Thank you Sumit for the wonderful time and lovely stories you told me while climbing down. And Baronmasa What are you going to offer me next?