Charlie and the Seventh Graders

Image result for charlie charlie pencils

“So class, you see? Qui goes before a verb and Que before a sujet, i.e,  a subject… and what do you call them?”

The teacher turned around from the blackboard where she had been creating a pretty mind map on the Pronoms Relatifs. It was the class after snack break and the students were still licking the salt off their fingers from eating too many chips during the break.

“Let’s do the exercise on page 56 for more clarity, shall we?” she announced. Sid looked around to see the sincere ones in his class quickly getting on to the task assigned. He always wondered why teachers said “we” when they actually meant “you”! Sigh, French grammar was so difficult to begin with and this teacher with her “we”and her “mind maps”! He fiddled with his pencil, trying to figure out the answer to the first question of Exercise A on Page 56, on pronoms relatifs. Of course.

Varun, who sat across him, looked equally disinterested. He was chewing off the ends of the pencil, in an effort to make the class go by faster. Sid gave him a wink and Varun smiled back. A wicked idea began to form in Sid’s mind. He put Varun’s pencil over his, the two pencils arranged perpendicular to each other, such that one pencil stood precariously over the other, shaking gently in the fan’s breeze.

Charlie… charlie … are you there?

Varun looked at him, surprised. What was Sid trying to do? He tried hard to concentrate, but his eyes and mind went back to Sid. He saw that he had slid a sheet of paper under the pencils now, with four squares on it. Two squares had “YES” written on them, the other two had “NO”.  

“Is this a new game?” he whispered under his breath. Sid shook his head. “No, the pencils are possessed.”

“Have you gone mad, “ Varun hissed, “That is my pencil!”

“Yes, but it is possessed now. Go on, ask Charlie a Yes/No question.”

Varun was the kind who would do anything to get away from the French on hand. He whispered his questions slowly.

Charlie, charlie, are you there?

A pregnant pause later, the pencil on top moved gently and settled upon YES.

Varun was intrigued. He wanted more.

Charlie, charlie, do you like French grammar?

No response. And then suddenly,  a flicker of movement, before it landed on NO.

“Me too! I hate French grammar!”he blurted out aloud. He could feel eyes upon him. Especially the teacher’s.

“Varun, if you hate French grammar so much, you may leave! “ she bellowed.

“No miss, I was talking to um….um..”

“Who?? Have you now found yet another person to chat away with? OUT! “ said Ms. Meenakshi.

Sid popped in, being the more daring one.

“Miss, we think these two pencils are possessed. So Varun is a bit scared.”

“Possessed, what nonsense!” Miss. Meenakshi walked up to their desk to confiscate the ‘possessed’ pencils. Varun pounced on them and grabbed them before she could get to them.

“Miss, “he said, “why don’t you try it? They are really possessed.”

By now, the whole class was around their desk, wanting to get to know this Charlie guy better. Arpita went first with her question.

Does Abhay like me?

NO.

Arpita quietly went back to her place, thinking it was probably a hoax anyway.

Keertana played it safe.

Do we have a math test today?

NO

Yaayyy! They were all hooked. Miss. Meenakshi was annoyed now. She decided to end it once and for all. She decided to beat them at their own game.

Stupid Charlie, can you please leave my room?

The pencils did not move. The whole class watched with bated breath, as Miss prattled away, “See, children? I told you! They were just moving in the breeze. Back to …”

“Miss, look! Charlie says NO! “ the whole class screamed.  The teacher was now at her wits’ end. She took the pencils to another desk and asked Sid to prove that they were still ‘possessed’ so far away from the fan.

Sid was thrilled to be challenged. He asked Mayur to ask the question, at the new desk.

Charlie, charlie, am I a good student?

YES.

Of course, Charlie had to say that. Mayur was one of the toppers in Grade 7. By now, the entire class had set up mini Charlie stations at each of their desks, with their own pencils. Miss. Meenakshi was strict, but she also knew kids. She let them play, just for the day. By the next day, she was sure, this Charlie would have died a natural death.

Miss. Meenakshi had, however, underestimated the power of childhood pranks. By the next day, many pencils were being tortured by Charlie, across all grades. All sorts of questions were being asked. Charlie is in deep trouble, thought Miss. Meenakshi. She decided to try it out herself.

She closed the door to the classroom and arranged her pencils. Quietly, she posed her first question.

Am I a good teacher?

YES

Wow!

Will I get a raise this year?

NO

As if she didn’t know that! She saw the fan above her, whirring at full speed. She switched it off, and tried again.

Will I get a raise this year?

NO

RESPONSE.

Such a difficult question, eh? She tried again. And again. No replies came forth from Charlie. She switched on the fan again and tried again. This time, Charlie said YES.

She heard someone knock at the door. She cleared her desk of the pencils in a hurry and opened the door. It was Sid.

“If it is about that stupid Charlie thing, I don’t want to hear about it!” she cried.

“No Miss, I just wanted to tell you something.. About Charlie…” Sid looked at the two pencils peeking out from under her hand bag and wondered what Miss had been upto.

“Have you been talking to Charlie too, Miss?”

“Of course not, you think I am an idiot?” Miss. Meenakshi was quite flustered.

“I am glad you didn’t, Miss. Because I am Charlie. I blow on those pencils”, replied Sid sheepishly.  Miss. Meenakshi felt like a true idiot. But she managed to grin when Sid asked her,

“You won’t tell anyone right, Miss?”

“No”, she said, still grinning.

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

Charlie lived on in the school for many months after this. He made many students frustrated and the juniors were frightened to call upon Charlie. But whenever Sid sat down for one of these seances, Charlie seemed to outdo himself. It didn’t take long for the smarter ones to realise what was happening.

What happened after that, you ask? Let’s just say, there were as many “Sids” in the school as there were pencils! 

Reflections of an ordinary life.

We all have those moments of extraordinary clarity. Those moments where we realize how ordinary we are, how meaningless our lives are in the larger scheme of things. You know, grow up, get married, work, die. Thoughts that would have depressed me in my twenties. Surprisingly though, they liberate me in my thirties.

It has been a journey of extreme emotional pain, my transition from the twenties to the thirties. A journey that questioned my identity, killed my self-esteem and threw me off balance in ways that I could have never imagined. I probably sleep-walked all the way, just to escape all the hurt and pain. Yet, it was all my fault. I went through the pain because I was not smart enough. I was not “me” and so I paid the price.

I can now see a lot of people for who they are. I know nothing really matters and so, everything I do matters. It is tough to explain if you are somewhere else at this point of time. We all have a map to traverse, a certain journey to make. And sometimes, you don’t understand things if they are not part of your map. Yet, the ego loves doling out advice, so here goes a few pieces of advice. To all those souls who are struggling to fit in. Or wriggle out of.

The throes of society.

The hypocrisies of the mind.

Those unseen labyrinths of fear and monotony.

Well, the very first thing is,

Never, ever do anything that does not make you happy. I am extremely serious about this one. Fights end, arguments get smoothened over – but the resentment from doing something that you did not wish to do? That requires serious nerves of steel to get rid of.

Which brings me to the next thing,

There is no one “normal” life. I know, we have heard this many times before. But now I know it’s true. We are all products of probability, all our life events are victims to chance. Meeting that one person, landing that one job, meeting that one fertility expert or adoption agency, winning that one lottery. See how ridiculous it is? Let go.  When you die, none of it will matter. It might sound negative but is actually a very liberating thought. Just give an F. I mean, damn. See how easy that is?

Once you have done that, go back to the first thing. Do what makes you happy. You’ll do it really well, whether or not it matters. Keep doing it.

Over and over again.

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On the wings of Time…

Many eons ago, humans and Gods lived together. It was a time of abundance and joy. Thirst or hunger were unknown and the slightest flicker of a desire was fulfilled. Into this world of bounty tiptoed Love in her chariot of flowers and myrrh, not to forget her gifts of passion and lust. 

With Love visiting them, the humans and Gods were put in a state of disarray. Suddenly, desires were not crystal clear as before. Their minds were often in the throes of passion, love and lust to think  without pause. They were like leaves on waves, tossed about mercilessly. 

For the first time in history, a conference was called. Humans and Gods and animals and plants and insects and birds – they wondered how they could address this strange yet seemingly unsurmountable problem. Love was an extremely powerful force and they couldn’t stand up to her. They had never seen someone like her.

Love attended the conference in her robe of jasmine flowers and lotus leaves. She heard them speak and listened.  And then, she listened some more.  Finally,  she told them they had a choice. 

A choice?

Yes, she said , in her strong, clear voice. It can help you stay calm and yet seat me on your mantle, worshipped with incense and doused in perfume.  

Time is the choice, she continued.  You have been living a timeless existence. But just a little distance away, unknown to any of you, lies the eternal dark. A darkness that can be transcended only by me. An obscure land wherein lies the most beautiful thing in the world : death. When life can begin again.  Where we can begin, again and again. And that is my choice.

You can live timelessly without me . Or you can choose to step over into the dark, where time can heal and soothe your soul. Over this wondrous thing called Time, you can become one with me and we can flow seamlessly over time (again), beginning again and yet again. It is your chance to be as powerful  as I am. The creatures of the world were perplexed. Love spoke again, 

When you choose Time, you also choose me for but a short while. For I cannot fly but on her arms. And my charms are powerless before her magnetic, radiant smile.  

It is decided then, said everyone.  We, the creatures of the universe, choose Time. We welcome her into our world.

And that is how Time, Death and therefore Life, came to be.

(This story has been submitted to the Bluebell Books Short Story Slam  at :

http://bluebellbooks.blogspot.com/2016/07/short-story-slam-week-49-july-21-august.html)

On cleanliness, godliness and the like.

This post is going to be full of opinions, thoughts, you name it. On things that matter to me, but in ways different from how I see it matter to other people.

Over the past few days, I have been  trying to teach a few prayers to my three year old daughter. I have been showing her how to light incense, light a lamp and pray. It is true that my faith has been shakey of late. I have questioned many rituals and still do. Yet, I  want her to receive this faith ( even if pretended) for now. As a gift. I have my reasons for this.

The very first one being that rituals provide a template for the study of spirituality. They help you adhere to an idea, a concept. It is a form of meditation.

The second reason builds on this first concept. If you don’t learn a structure, what will you test or break? Like how Tagore says, without restraining the two ends of a string in your veenai,there is no music.

“I have on my table a violin string. It is free to move in any direction I like. If I twist one end, it responds; it is free.
But it is not free to sing. So I take it and fix it into my violin. I bind it and when it is bound, it is free for the first time to sing.” (TAGORE)

Indeed, how will my child learn to  sing with the joy of faith if I don’t provide her the framework to do so? To lead her a little into the realms of the soul, not as a religious person, but as someone who constantly searches her own self, someone who seeks a bigger goal, a farther star. I believe it is faith, not love, that makes the world go round.

Wouldn’t my own wavering faith pose problems? Yes, but nothing that cannot be resolved without an honest chat . Who knows, it might get me started on a entirely different spiritual journey altogether.

*****************

We live in a sprawling house with loads of greenery, visiting birds and enormous amounts of sunlight.  Time and again, people who visit comment on that and then almost on the same visit say,

“Oh, it is a nice house but way too much maintenance. It is especially difficult with a young kid, like yours!”

I smile it off for it probably means our house is not clean enough by their standards, but it also makes we wonder. What exactly is ‘maintenance’?

Is it a shining, spotless floor? Will a clean, scrubbed floor not do?

Is it a dust-free shelf? Will a shelf with well-loved books, read, re-read and savoured not make the mark?

Is it a cobweb free ceiling?  Will a corner in an unobtrusive corner of your home with the most intricate spider  web fail to amaze you?

Is it a pet free bedroom? Would you fail to understand the warmth of a four legged one in the dark of the night, despite all the hair?

I remember visiting grandparents, aunts and relatives as a kid. I have seen moss on their bathroom walls, earthworms in their courtyard, dust covered objects flung into an unused room, scorpions in unused shelves and of course, cobwebs in places that were unused. Surprisingly, none of those aunts or relatives ever apologised for any of this nor was it considered a lack of “maintenance”.

I am not advocating a slovenly existence, far from that. I  appreciate freshly laundered sheets and a clean smelling bathroom as much as the next person.  But I  do wonder if  our standards have been increasing over the years, and might slowly pass over into the realm of the “unrealistic “. The ‘hubs’ of a home need regular cleaning,  like the kitchen, bathrooms and the bedrooms. The other areas,not so much, in my opinion.

Call me a slob but a few (or many) cobwebs or a dusty storeroom don’t make me feel less of a homemaker.  What fun is a home with no creatures to observe or no junk to explore?

 

VeKuSaMo

Ve Ku Sa Mo is a frequent event in our largely canine, mildly human, tiny household. It’s a state that has followed us across homes, cities and time. We have tried to prevent it from happening, but the tugs of this powerful phenomenon never let go.

What is Ve Ku Sa Mo? No, it has nothing to do with NaMo or politics. It is not a Japanese cuss word, either. A new parenting philosophy, perhaps? Now that, I cannot say!

Ve Ku Sa Mo is an abbreviated version of a tamil expression ( there are versions in many other languages too!) : Vecha Kudumi, Saracha Mottai! Basically, it means you do everything  or you do nothing. Sounds familiar?  Welcome aboard!

I wanted to  post about this today as I  am currently in the “saracha mottai” phase, as in the “do nothing” phase . I have no idea how one does a little every day.  I spent the past four weeks cleaning up our home like a maniac and cooking in a frenzy. Here’s all that I made. Drool and enjoy.

Circle 1 : Irani Samosas

Circle 2 : Whole Wheat jim-jammy Nankhatai.

Circle 3 : Peanut-Jaggery Chikki

Hmmm, wonder why I don’t have nine circles, considering all the fire (not particularly hellish, but delish!)  I waded through in making these!

This does not include, of course, the puffed amaranth breakfast cereal that I hit upon or the yummy peppery crackers I made last evening! Also to be added are the non culinary areas of “ativrishti”, viz, the decluttering of the basement, the organization of the pantry and general mental cleaning overall. Oh, I  forget the two whole days I spent on work not related to the house.

And now… you can guess where I am right now.

Just to keep you in the loop (I am very familiar with corporate jargon, you see? Makes me more professional, I am told!) , my “saracha mottai”phase started yesterday. God save my home and my family!

P.S : It’s possibly “lunatic”, don’t you think, all this waxing and waning?

Sookshma, the subtle one

An adaptation of A.K.Ramanujan’s translation of a Kannada folk tale, Sookshma was truly an experience of myriad pleasures. Performed at the ADA Rangamandira in Bangalore last evening, the show had, like I often like to say, ‘soul’ .

Sookshma_Mar16

I have never seen Odissi before, not counting the one afternoon we had spent at Nrityagram. It seemed like a dance form of fluidity and grace and last evening’s performance was no different. The movements were languid and graceful and the pace was pleasurably slow. With our lifestyles of fast this and fast that, it was refreshing to just sit back and allow your emotions to rain over you, to feel sadness or joy to the whole.

While the dancers were truly a class apart, what gave the show character was the music. It fit into every scene beautifully, so much so that even an awkward non-dancer like me wanted to get up and keep pace. Like one of the guests who spoke after the show said, ” you could see every scene, thanks to the music.” I wish I could get a copy of the music somewhere. Strains of those melodies still ring in my ears and I am left groping in the dark, trying to clutch on to what little I have/remember.

Though the ballet talks about woman as Nature, I find the comparison a tad too trite. Nature for who she is, as the subtle one who is being destroyed by us with every passing day, is the protagonist here. Not any woman, but Nature in particular. The title makes sense when you look at how Nature has always been a quiet force but when not cared for, becomes conspicuous with her absence.

I want…

fly

Some days, I want and I want;

A little of this and a little of that, 

Never too sure, but never too much. 

 

The names slip away

the words are garbled

but I want and I want.

 

A bucket of sunshine

or a mug of the waves,

or some dew to rub into my hair. 

 

I want and I want

all the love I can find and 

a few romances to spice up my day. 

 

I know my dishes are undone

My baby’s crying and I am thirty-two;

But I want and I want.

 

And I want and I want…..

 

 

 

I want…

raindrop

I want honesty, integrity and compassion to greet me wherever I look.

I  want all my prayers answered. I want to heal myself and the world around me. I want to be special : loving and loved. I want to lead by love and different from what the world has seen. I want to be revered and admired. I want a melting heart and a fiery mind. I want courage to stand up for what I believe in. I want balance and song and poetry and trees. I want to live close to Nature and a positive outlook. I want to nurture and to be nurtured. I want peace and the magic of a trusting heart. I crave innocence and simplicity. I want comfort and comfort food. I want to enjoy sleep, food and play all over again, wholly and with the consuming passion I once had. I want to jump and skip and hop and jog. I want to be timeless. I want to be ageless. I want to go beyond what I know of myself. I want everything around me to align itself to the harmony within my soul. Where every snow flake falls in the right place and every word into its right book.

I want to read, to write, to wonder, to inspire, to play and to work at something that gives me total joy. I want complete health and beauty for myself and all those around me and all those I meet. I want relaxation and solitude from time to time, to go within and explore the realms of beauty hidden deep within the nooks of my soul. I want to write with a raw beauty, sing with an innocent voice and soul, smile like it would lift and change the world. I want sweetness and fragility of the right kind : that feeds and nourishes and yields and transcends. I yearn to be out of this world and yet within. I wish for the ideal to come true, for truth to become ideal.I want all these wishes to become prayers and all the prayers to become the truth.

I want to be and have all this and more. I want to be magic and create magic.

Methi Paranthas and a Mother’s words

 

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http://bluebellbooks.blogspot.com/2015/12/short-story-slam-week-36-dec-31-2016.html

Tring!

Class Three was in a shambles. Notebooks lay wide open on the desks, bags were strewn over the floor and smelly, muddy feet tapped anxiously, waiting for the teacher to dismiss them for lunch. Right now, the teacher’s voice seemed muted to Sid, just like the TV at home, when Papa wanted to get in a few words with Mama as she sliced chillies for the dal. He looked out of the window idly, getting impatient. His mother had packed his favourite food for lunch today, methi paranthas. Umm, the golden brown rotis speckled with green and drizzled generously with oil, with a side of a spicy curry. He just could not wait.

” Children, wash your hands and start eating!” The teacher’s voice suddenly blared into his ears, no longer mute! Sid dashed off to the washroom. Back in class, he spread his napkin neatly on the desk and took out his tiffin box. It was his favourite day of the week anyway : they had reading, sports, music and dance lined up for the afternoon. The methi paranthas were just the icing on the cake. He heard Sparsh and Karan fighting in the row behind him. Who cares, he thought and opened his box.

Tadanggg!

His tiffin box was on the floor, his parathas all over the desk. That Karan,  he just did not know to mind his own business ! Sid was seething for revenge. He grabbed Karan’s arm and pinned him to the chair.

“Why did you do that? Now, I have to go hungry!”

Karan was an energetic boy, but not a bad sort. He apologized and said, “You can still eat it, it is on the desk, not on the floor! ”

Sid started to sob as he said, ” My mother asked me not to.”

The teacher hurried in to see what the commotion was all about. As the boys explained, Sparsh piped in, ” Ma’am, his mother has asked him not to eat food that was spilled, not even on the desk! He is only following her words! ”

The teacher smiled to herself and asked them, ” So boys… Sid cannot eat this food now and Karan is sorry for what he did. What should we do now?”

Karan hugged Sid as he said, ” I will share my lunch with him. My mother has made pulao today. Can we do that, Ma’am?”

As the bell rang for the next class, the boys were seen laughing and eating, the methi paranthas forgotten for the love of a kind that only eight year olds possess.