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?


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?


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?


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?



Will I get a raise this year?


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?



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.



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! 



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?

My best friends…(Blogathon Post Eight)

Just a few years ago, I knew nothing about four-legged furry creatures. I did love animals and enjoyed watching documentaries on National Geographic but my first-hand experience of living creatures was limited to plants and flowers. I loved stories by Gerald Durell and always dreamed of having a dog at home, but my mother would not hear of it. I loved visiting my aunt in Chennai, whose home was full of animals, chaos and love. ( Read this post to get an idea. )I even think my home today resembles hers, which is a good thing. A very good thing. So the first thing I did after I got married was to get home two naughty puppies.

I learnt to feed them, clean up after them and worry when they were sick. My life changed, almost overnight. I now had two friends who were always there for me wagging their tails each time I came home. I have told them everything.. my joys, my failures, my darkest secrets. I have sung lullabies for them and have dressed them up in bows.  I usually value my personal space, but with my dogs, they are free to use my bed and sometimes my lipstick. (Okay, the last thing is a joke, don’t freak out!)

Candid Camera 3.. :)

As if all the chaos was not enough,  a year ago, a tiny little one wrapped herself around my legs and did not want to let go. Yes, she came home too.  People ask me, why three dogs? Frankly, I do not know. It is like asking a mother, why do you have two kids, when one is enough? They just happened and I do not regret it. In fact, my life is so much happier with these three around. To prove it, here are some valuable things I learned from my dogs.

Candid Camera. :)

LOVE : Well, they do anything for food, but I would do anything for their love. Each time I come back home, I receive the same warmth, the same affection, the same “where-were-you-i-missed-you-so-much” look.

LAUGHTER : Each day,  our dogs do a new funny thing. We talk about it, we laugh. Like how our labrador waits at the door once he has made up his mind to go on a walk. Or my german shepherd that used to stand on two feet in the balcony and ogle at girls ( No, that is NOT a joke! ). Or how Lulu snuggles under my husband’s arm in exactly the same way that I do. I think she gets jealous of me. (If you knew my husband, I think you would, too!) Life is all about these lighter moments, isn’t it? Thanks to our dogs, our days are full of them.

LETTING GO and LIVING IN THE PRESENT : Dogs do not hold grudges. They do not remember how you treated them yesterday; they only care about today. Right here, right now, I lick you, you hug me and all is fine. Seems like the perfect theory of happiness to me.

So that is why I have three of them.

Because you can never have too many friends.

They make my life so much happier! Just can't seem to get enough of them! From left : Lulu, Pichkoo and Chikoo. :)

Mine and yours… (Blogathon Post Seven)

It’s not a new phenomenon, not at all. It affects only me. I succumb to it each time, letting it define me.  Me, that is beyond all definition. Sigh! You did not understand a word, did you? See, that is what I mean : I am so quirky. I have so many quirks that you could keep counting until infinity. I wonder when, in the process of growing up, I had the time to develop all of them. 

Let us start with a few. I cannot throw anything out of a moving train. NOTHING at all, even a used paper plate. I always have this weird fear that I will throw out something important. Like my hand, maybe. 

Or the one where I want to say or do exactly the opposite of what someone suggests or asks. “Do you want to eat out tonight?” I always reply ” NO” even if my insides are screaming “YES” over and over again, just to contradict the person in question. I do not hate them or even dislike them, it is like a reflex. 

They : Can you please go to the supermarket this evening?

Me : Okay, if you like. (You can bet a million dollars, I will not do it. Maybe the next evening, but not the same one!)

It is not easy being this contradictory. Imagine,  a few years down the line, my child will ask me, ” Mama, do you love me?” No prizes for guessing the answer, and my child would be psyched for ever. 

Another thing that I do and am annoyed with it myself  is the way I pack my bag, fill my water bottle, apply powder to my face, wear my watch, look for a missing earring, comb my hair and apply kajal, ALL of it in the last, penultimate five minutes before leaving for work. Why on earth do I not do it earlier? I do not wake up late. I wake up on time, in fact early. Yet, the last five minutes are plain mad. 

Why are my quirks so bizarre and even useless? I mean, take my mother. If she is in a weird mood, she does embroidery. Beautiful stuff no? And my sister? She cooks. She says it is cathartic. My brother takes to sleep. My husband is the best. In his worst moods, he clears the table of clutter, arranges the cosmetics in the bathroom in alphabetical order and puts away the groceries. What do I do in a bad mood? I scream my lungs out. 

I give up. I want better quirks. That are useful, like the ones I have mentioned above. any ideas?

P.S: I eat rasam before sambar and I cannot brush at the wash basin in a train.

The Voice

Wonder what was it about the voice that attracted him so. To most others, it was just something that they heard everyday. Nothing special, right? A mere whisper in the everyday noise and chaos. Yet, each morning, he woke up only to discover that he had been dreaming, of THE voice. Sweet, yet not saccharine. Husky,but not masculine. Slightly raised to be heard, but never too loud. If he had some extra time in the morning, he gave the voice a form and some clothes- Not too tall and a round face, wearing a green silk shirt and cream coloured trousers with brown heels. And yes, pearl studs for the ears.
It was strange, considering that he was thirty-four and had been in no serious relationship so far.He found most women boring and their talk insipid. Clothes, make-up, cleaning.. what else do women talk about anyway? He was not a chauvinist, it was the just the way he felt about things.
He hurried through his breakfast, gulping his toast, washing it down with hot tea. His tie was askew and his laces were untied. His mind, well, we know by now, was dreaming about the softness and timbre of the voice. In another fifteen minutes, he would walk to the bus-stop at the end of the road and get on. Once on the bus, his daily rendezvous would begin. The voice never told him much.Just the usual, here and there, now and then kind of stories.
Sometimes, when the testosterone levels in his blood were high, he would want to meet the voice. She never refused, for he had never asked. How could he, it was practically impossible. He often felt to be the most unlucky man on earth. Here he was, completely, madly in love.. but with no way, either in or out of it. Strange predicament, don’t you think?
His days were filled with dreams and at nights, like most men, he made love, to the voice. He had reconciled himself to the fact that he might never actually go out with the Voice or even hug her in person, let alone share a kiss. It was a divine love, he reasoned, with no trace of physicality involved. (Just pretend that I did not tell you about his dreams, okay? He is quite sensitive.)
His days were punctuated by the voice. Friends often teased him about it. He did not mind, not many understand true love. A love that he would carry with him until his grave. For voices do not go out with you to the restaurant, nor do they get married to you, in a white gown and a golden tiara. He was indeed a sad man. He must have been truly sincere, for which man loves a voice with such passion? Most men would need a model’s body to dream about while making love, and here he was, completely faithful to a voice.

His parents found the entire idea ridiculous. They tried to reason with him.”Son, no man falls in love with a voice.You must get over it now and get married to a real woman. Pretty, intelligent and who is of real flesh and blood!”
They met with an obstinate refusal of their request. Well-wishers tried to get him drunk at the local bar and then screamed into his ears, “Get married now!” He puked on them and came home as obstinate as before. Doctors prescribed medicines to alter his mind and change his thinking. He spit the pills to save them in a velvet-lined chest in his drawer and dozed through the sessions with shrinks. What do shrinks do in any case, other than putting you to sleep? Things came to quite a stand-still until a beautiful female cousin called him and planted a beautiful idea into his head: ” What if the girl you marry IS the voice that you are in love with?” The parents wasted no minute after this. He was married to the first girl they could find.
For the first month after the wedding, he asked the girl not to say a word. He did not want his dreams shattered so early in life. The girl, perplexed at this whole drama called her life, finally blurted out, ” What’s wrong with you? Do you not love me?”
It was NOT the voice. All his hopes, flushed down the drain. He wept like a child, fallen to a heap on the floor. Gently, the girl, the new bride put his arm around him and asked, ” Were you in love with someone else? You can tell me, I understand.”
Snuggling up to her bosom, he started to talk, hesitantly..” Yes.. I still am..”
“Who is it, ” she asked. She was hurt with the candid display of vulgarly extreme love, but was determined to be kind.
“It is a voice.”
“A voice?”
“Yes. It is the voice of the woman who announces the names of bus-stops. Route Number 324. 8:25 AM. ”
Poor girl, she laughed for a full fifteen minutes after that. Like I told you, the man is quite sensitive. He has asked her to go back to her apartment and never come back. He also refused her a divorce, saying that he still doesn’t know if she can be THE voice he loves, for voices can and do change over the years.
I do not know if it is normal or not for a woman to voice her concerns so openly, but I need help.
Two months ago, I married this man.


This morning I discovered my first(few!) gray hairs. For a minute I just stared at the mirror, disbelieving. Until yesterday, there I was, a young thing with a head full of black hair and zup! Va va voom, here sprout my seeds of wisdom! How do you react in a case like this?
Feel proud that Nature has decide to teach you a few lessons in advance?
Or blindly jump on to the bandwagon that millions of women all over the world are in, the one that chases perfection relentlessly in vain?
It is a strange state of mind. Lost, perplexed and age-defying. Hehe, you know what I mean!
As I passed through the day, flashes of a head full of white hair appear in front of my eyes, making my students wonder if their dear madame is exhibiting signs of clairvoyance. Suddenly I recognize how young my students are.. and it wasn’t a great feeling. I felt enormous love, sadness and self-pity, all at the same time. It is true that the graying might stop with these few strands, for the moment and life will continue as before. Or I might decide to be extra stringent about my henna sessions and scrape a way out of this “Gris”ery.
Yet, as my logical mind searches for a cause that resulted in this, I can only think of stress.
Stress that helps us do extraordinarily well at work.
Stress that helps us show off at family gatherings-“Oh, I have been very busy of late. No time to even take a breather.”
Stress that keeps our adrenaline pumping, making us feel alive. Sadly, those may probably be the only instances where we feel alive.
What is so alluring about this high that we get, that put everything else on second gear? Our bodies, our souls, our very lives?
I am known to over-react, so you’d be wise to take my words with a pinch of salt, but I think we would be better off if we did not work up late.
Or worry about who likes us or not.
There’s absolutely no need to work ourselves up over work or family. Ultimately, our bodies bear the brunt of it all, and without our bodies we are nothing. (We are not saints or gods, who have transcended their bodies, are we?)
Just keep asking yourself this question over and over again,
Is it worth it?

Please, love?

Amble on, love

on the softness of my arm.

what sweetness do you seek,

that lies on my finger-tip?

you tickle me

you make me squirm

can’t you see

I’m not a lump of sugar?

Move on,

pass the grand valley of my palm

and fall off the side;

won’t you please stop bothering me

and jump into my cup of tea?

Let go of me, sweets!

New Year Blues.

It is one of those days when everything seems right. I feel totally at peace with myself-I feel beautiful, intelligent, hot, whatnot. Ahem! I am always allowed to exaggerate, right? So, I put on my brightest smile and walk out with a ‘Wait up, all ye good men, for here I come’ look. Well!

Cut to an hour later.

I am in an animated conversation with an acquaintance. You guessed it right, me at my flirtatious best, trying hard to maintain the ‘good impression’ (whatever that means!) he has about me. Suddenly, he gazes into my eyes with a glazed, wistful look. Um, is there something in my eye, dear friend?

He blurts out, Can I consider you to be the little sister I never had?

Yes, yes, my pleasure. Perhaps I should start running around in pigtails and short skirts. It would make the ‘consideration’ so much easier!

It surprises me that this is not the first time I got that statement from a man. I guess it is written all over my face ‘I am little sister material’. I remember, in school, I had a tiny crush on a boy from the tenth. I was in eighth then. I actually talked myself into having a crush on him because he would stare at me with protruding eyes every time we crossed paths. Imagine my utter consternation (and dismay and any other adjective you can think of…you say those are nouns? Adverbs? Oh, just let me be!) when he walked up to me on a bright, hopeful, New Year’s Day with a beautiful card in his hand that said “A very Happy New Year to a sweet sister!”. I rolled my eyes in horror at the very idea! Come on, he could have at least chosen a card without those romantic red roses! Sigh, Men!

Thus began my life, being a ‘sister’. To hordes of ‘bhaiyyas’. .Today, I have at least three of them (Not including my ‘blood’ sibling). I have many waiting in the pipeline, too. Come to think of it, it is not that bad, either. Actually, I feel like running into the arms of one of them right now, crying, Bhaiyyaaa!

Run into their arms and say thanks.

For all their ‘consideration’.

For all that love.

But you now know why I feel depressed on New Year’s Day, don’t you? It is okay, I have learned to cope. When life hands me lemons, I make lemonades!

Big Brother, are you watching too?

Why do I write?

Last night, I sat up thinking for a long time. It had a lot to do with my life so far. Many mistakes, yes, many good things too. With the ticking minutes of the clock, my mind wandered to the one question that I always try to answer: Why do I write?[Very Sartre-ish, unfortunately for him!]

As a kid, I wrote of things that I imagined in my head. Poems, essays, mainly stories with a moral. I believed in justice. I wrote about girls who were careless and messy with their things and had to face punishment. In my mind, it was all valid. That I was messy and careless myself, it never struck me. Until somebody older (and wiser) told me “Cut out the holier-than-thou tone…you are not a saint!”. Jolt One.

I stopped writing stories for a while. I only wrote some nice essays and answers in English class. They won the occasional ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’, but nothing too fancy. Thanks to my teacher, I was introduced to Keats. Thus began my next passion: poetry. I started to read poems, and attempted writing a few. I showed one of my poems to a friend who promptly remarked, “There is no rhyming in the poem!” Jolt Two.

I began to ‘uncategorize’ the things I wrote, telling people “Oh, it is not a poem or a story. Just a series of words that makes sense. To me.” It was funny to see their raised eyebrows. Not everything has to be ‘classified’, right?

I grew up some more, kept writing about whatever I could fancy. I stopped showing it to anyone, though. Keep away, friend or foe! What I write is just for me! For three and a half years, I kept writing, and not showing. My diaries kept growing fatter (I wanted to get fat at that point, so it was ironical). Until I discovered the art of blogging. I knew I would have to put my writing under public scrutiny, but I was fresh with thoughts like ‘One must be open to criticism’ and ‘There is no harm in trying’. I started blogging. I found out there was a breed of people who liked what I wrote. It was nice to know. Until one of my blogger friends remarked, “You don’t seem to do anything apart from reading and writing. I thought doing the same things makes people get better at them. Why is your writing still so bland?” Jolt Three.

Needless to say, I stopped writing for some more time. I tried to discover other things, like painting and singing. I realized I wanted to ‘write’ about those experiences, ultimately. How boring! And so it was, back to Square One.

Jolts one, two and three.

Some people never learn, do they?

Rhyme and Reason!

Last night, I dreamt of a dog speaking in Telugu to me. He wanted to be my friend. Ahem, now that you know what kind of mental state I am in, you may proceed.

Ever since my uncle’s little one reeled off one nursery rhyme after another when they visited us last week, I have been thinking of my childhood…and the rhymes that we were taught. I remember quite clearly that kindergarten was a sorry state of affairs, at least for me. I regularly stood last in class, once scored a one on twenty-five in mathematics and was pathetic at drawing. All that did not affect me, however.

My only problem was with the rhymes. I have always been an acute feeler(:P..well, well!), and this is what my teachers taught me the very first day:

Jack and Jill went up the hill […]

And Jill came tumbling after…

I remember thinking, “Oh my god! Did she get hurt?”

Then came Humpty Dumpty, who could not be put together. Tragedy had struck big-time. As if this was not enough, they had this:

Oh dear, what can the matter be, oh dear,

What can the matter be,

Johnny’s so late at the fair…

My mind could only think of all the morbid things that could have happened to Johnny. And his wife singing sadly at home, waiting for his lilies and posies and of course, the blue ribbons. For a long time after that, I clung to my Appa like a leech as soon as he came home every evening, screaming, “It’s so nice to see you back home…Good thing you’re not lost!”

I also never understood the sarcasm in this one:

Where are you going to my pretty maid?…

I am going ‘a milking, sir, she said…

May I come with you, my pretty maid?…

Yes, if you please, sir, she said…

What is your fortune, my pretty maid?…

My face is my fortune, sir, she said…

Then I can marry you, my pretty maid…

Nobody asked you, sir, she said…

[Grammar check wants me to change ‘maid’ to ‘house-cleaner’, hehe!].

Imagine this rhyme with the curt reply, just after I was ticked off by the teacher for calling my neighbour a ‘mental’. Talk about double standards! Then came Little Bo-beep, who lost her sheep, and was advised to just leave them alone. Was that how you took care of your loved ones? What if they got into trouble?

My days were getting sadder, indeed. I heaved a huge sigh of relief when they promoted me to standard I (Don’t ask me how! Maybe my skills in learning by heart paid off!).

Rhymes were now relegated to the occasional rainy afternoon.

The sad memories never left me. I was scarred for life, with all the sadness they had fed me, in those tender years of mine.

So now you know why I am in this state of mind.

Peace be to all.

Life is beautiful.

Thanks for reading this!

[P.S: I was not that smart to actually understand those rhymes in KG…It is my mind trying to find an excuse for my para-normal behaviour. All this is a hypothetical projection of how I would felt, how I could have felt, that led to my present state. Now, that is smart! :-D].