Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Colours of Life


 Pic Courtesy : www.indigoextra.com



“It is getting dark”, I must leave she said,
With a smile, I nodded my head
When again, we both did not know
Though sad, our faces did not show

“One last game”, my brother did plead.
“Alright”, she said, “I shall lead”.
Happy I was, for that last time
Play, we shall, like lost lifetime

Colour, Colour! What colour do you choose?
Green, it would be, like her, I did muse.
“Green!” she said and my brother fled
Caught some leaves, “I’m safe”, he shouted.

Leaves, I could have caught, but I ran
To nowhere green, did my legs slant
Fast I ran, all around her giggling sound
Yet, slow I was feeling the bare feet ground.

Ran, I did round and round and all around
If she caught me, or I got safe and sound
By touching green, I knew the game would end
As my legs hurt, I rejoiced at every bend.

Laugh, we did, at our silly game.
Confused, my brother angrily came.
“What are we playing”, he wanted to know
Both of us wobbled, like penguins in snow

Dark it was, so we had to part
Part we did, our lives crept apart
Far away, like her I could not muse
Like mine, her heart, I could not deduce.

Years and Years, we finally did meet.
Shook hands, relived all old tales sweet
With her beloved, to smile at me, she did choose
Colour, Colour! What colour do you choose?


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Idiots, or Mutant Intellectuals.?

I still remember, in the eighties my tryst with that marvel called Television. Those years, which even today in several blogs across the Internet, several writers recollect with nostalgia about those wonderful programs on Doordarshan, even today we have had discussions with friends and at the workplace where we've discussed Hum Log and Buniyaad and even laughed at programs like Vayalum Vazhvum ( a daily series on agriculture and farming, in Tamil.), those simple detective serials and cultural programs like Surabhi in the 90`s, they were all the staple diet of the Indian audience. The present youth and middle aged people are all people who fondly recollect, those programs and talk about those golden days. But past is past and we move on with our lives today, those experiences just memories, but yet strong imprints on our conscience and mind. So what about today`s children.?

Since the nineties, television viewing has increased, with the onslaught of Cable Television. Suddenly there were lots of channels all over, and strange dish antennas springing up everywhere on rooftops of houses. There were suddenly a huge number of channels to choose from. From movies,to cartoons, to fashion, to sports, you name it, you've got it. Then came M.TV, F. TV and more, and then to top it all, the news channels, ( those fashionable channels, with brilliant graphics, with picture perfect anchors delivering news 24 x 7 about the most sickening incidents around the world). In computer terminology, we suddenly have had an information explosion in our society, and not just that cultural shock too. Where once parental discretion was used, while Chitrahaar was being telecast, today there is a state of confusion as to which button to press on the remote.

When one form of medium, grows exponentially suddenly in it`s reach and coverage, then others have to take giant steps to keep up. In my childhood, when television was simply switched on, only for that one particular program, books were the alternate pastime. Then I remember devouring children`s magazines like Chandamama and Gokulam. So it was with some excitement that I bought an edition of Gokulam recently while traveling home, simply to relive those memories. I must say I was taken aback at the stories and information. It actually had details about inflation, Ram Setu Issue, the incident of Priyanka Gandhi meeting Nalini and what not.? The maturity and the seriousness of the topics, the letters to the editor, where different children have written in, have all undergone a drastic upgrade. It is not merely the students who get the privilege of education, but due to the reach of media nowadays even the unprivileged are more learned in their own space.

Recently at a social gathering, I somehow ended up with the responsibility of taking care of this child from the fourth standard. Amidst all the festivities, and people running here and there, I decided to take up the responsibility of entertaining him. I pumped in all my story telling skills and told him the story of two monkeys and a cat. After I had finished, I looked at his face and knew instantly that he was simply bored to death.

I started, therefore to tell a new story about the lonely princess in a castle, when I was suddenly interrupted.

"What`s the score ?", he queried.
"What score.?"

"IPL ?!". I must have seemed an alien to him at that instant, i`m sure. I was just beginning to explain, how I am not a big fan of watching cricket, when I was stopped midway again.

"Okay, who do you think will win? Delhi Daredevils or Mumbai Indians ?".

Before any more major embarrassment, "Mumbai Indians!", I managed to reply. And that is all I spoke, as I waited silently for the next one minute, listening to his discourse, flooded with statistics and news reports, and injuries, as he delivered the final judgment, the final nail, in my coffin of ignorance. "Mumbai Indians will not win."

It is with awe and admiration, that I see today`s children, their awareness of current affairs, their command over language, often English. I know for sure that I am not jealous, but there is a slight concern, whether all this smartness, this knowledge, is at the cost of their innocence, at the cost of their sensitivity. While there are things children of today should be aware of, like for example child abuse, It is also better they not know certain things. In some spheres at least it`s always better that children remain children.

With all the kind of exposure, there is, at times over exposure, would they grow up to become lazy storehouses of information, while emotionally becoming idiots, or will they become prematurely matured mutant intellectuals? Because after all, as time advances these changes will affect both body and mind. It is a well-known medical fact that young girls and boys are nowadays known to turn mature, in both body and mind at the young ages of twelve itself. Probably these are signs, or probably my thoughts and fears are totally unwarranted, unjustified and unnecessary. Perhaps, even downright ridiculous. I sincerely hope they are.

Pic Courtesy : www.missionindia.org

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Sunrise at Champa

"How more long do we travel, Amma..? My whole body is aching", complained Chinnu.

"We`re almost there, Chinnu. Try to sleep". replied Seetha.

"Poor Child", she thought to herself, stroking his forehead as she looked into the eyes of Gopi, sitting across her. Gopi turned away. He could not look into seetha`s eyes. This was not the time to think of the past. Surely there`s a bright future, he assured himself. After all it was not them alone that were travelling to their new lives, it was not them alone that had left behind their roots, their homes and their hearts, it was not them alone that were leaving, leaving behind their dear old village near Champa, that small stream of life giving lucid blue water that was the source of all their joys.

"Life keeps changing, and we have to learn to adapt at God`s will", he consoled himself, a little loudly as well, so that seetha would listen. Perhaps she too would come to terms, he thought. But in one hidden glance at her eyes, he had known that it would not be as soon as he wanted it to be. Like the swaying bullock cart, life was a rocky ride, but still gopi managed to fall asleep. Chinnu kept murmuring, while seetha, looked back at her best friend, the river Champa with tears in her eyes. When would she see the sunrise at Champa..?

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

The final bell rang at Vidyanagar Corporation School, and the children rushed out of the tall green doors, with great gusto. It was such a relief when the bell rang, as the boys made plans to play cricket at the nearby college ground, while the girls rushed home to their dolls, temples and games.


Amidst all the sweat and noise, Chinnu slowly walked home. His friend Raghu had not come that day, and therefore he didn`t make plans, rather decided to walk home. The exam papers had been given and he had secured decent marks. As usual hemanth had been the topper. O` how he envied him. Anyway that was not today on his mind much. The Class teacher, very unlike his usual strict demeanour had told them about the school`s plan to take them all on an excursion trip, and so all were very excited, already chattering and making plans for the trip, about the toys and snacks they would bring. Chinnu, on the other hand was worried. Would his parents give him the permission. He made a small prayer near the Ganesha Idol below the banyan tree and moved on. He had done his best, the rest was for Ganesha to take care of.

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

Gopi reached home early that day. His shop did not have the usual crowd and even more, his son was to come back today from the school excursion and he was eager to listen to Chinnu`s animated conversation. "It`s so soothing to see these children enjoy life", he thought. As he walked towards home, he remembered his own Childhood, his grandmother, the evenings along with friends on the banks of Champa, those endless hours, he used to wait on those same banks, while waiting for seetha to sneak out of her home. All were clouded memories, but they all had that beautiful Champa river in common, at the centre of it all. It had been eight years since they left their home behind, since those government officials walked up to their homes and advised them to evacuate the place citing some welfare project. As living became more and more stressful due to lack of rains, they had been forced to leave. Today he had forgotten all about farming, all he knew was the constant rattle of his sewing machine.

If only, he could discuss all this with seetha, he would have felt lighter, but seetha had resigned herself to life in Vidyanagar, and he did not dare bring up the past and upset her, also worried that she might not share the same feelings anymore.

"There amma, dada has come. Now stop crying", shouted Chinnu. "What Happened ?", asked Gopi, while he hugged Chinnu, noticing seetha`s teary eyes.

"Nothing. I will go and prepare something for you both to eat", she sobbed and rushed inside. "Why is your mother upset, Chinnu? How was the trip? Were you up to some mischief?", queried Gopi. "No dada. I don't know why.? The trip was real fun. There were these two giant green hills and in the middle of it, this beautiful river. At sunrise, the sun rose over a giant gulmohar tree near the horizon and the river was almost decked in gold. I was telling all this when mother suddenly started crying. I didn't do anything.", replied Chinnu between gasps.

Gopi was no more listening. "The sunrise at Champa", he muttered.

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


There was a gentle breeze in the evening which was soothing after a tiring day`s work. As children scrambled home, and others returned from a strenuous day at their offices and shops. Gopi was sitting at the porch looking outside, when seetha brought him a steaming cup of coffee. His eyes lit up with happiness. "Did you go to the market today ?", he asked. "No. It was really hot in the afternoon. Did not feel like going outside.".

"Forgot to tell you. Chinnu had called me on telephone from his college. He is coming day after tomorrow on vacation. He said he had a plan.".

"What Plan? Did you ask him to bring all his clothes and bedsheets..?", queried seetha. "Plan.. I don`t know. He didn't tell me. Yes he`s bringing all clothes. Don`t worry".

Two days passed waiting for Chinnu, and when he finally arrived, it was as if their home suddenly came back to life. "Amma, Dada, you remember I told you I had a plan ?"

"Yes. what is the plan?", asked Gopi. Seetha silently looked on. "Tomorrow dada, you shut down shop, amma pack everything for two days, we will go to Champa."

"But..?", seetha managed to say. "No buts, now or never amma. Let us go. I have booked the tickets and have saved enough money, from the tuitions I took, while at college. Let us just go.". Gopi never spoke, only his eyes beamed.

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

"No! It`s not possible. The whole place is blocked and I could lose my job. No way", shouted the watchman. They had at last arrived near Champa at midnight only to find that the way was blocked by a government checkpost. It was no use arguing with the watchman. Before Chinnu, started to fight with the watchman, Gopi consoled him and they prepared to turn back.

"It`s Ok, son, you've already done so much for us, by just trying to bring us here.", he remarked. Chinnu was still sad. As they slowly walked back seetha was again reminded of the time, when they left Champa.

"Sahib, Sahib... I can take you to Champa", they heard a whisper as they turned a bend. It was an old haggard man, with a long pole in his hand. He looked like he had been in the forests there for centuries. "Sahib, I have a boat. I can take you to the river Champa. I take many tourists often. Please pay this old man a hundred rupees, it will do".

"A Hundred Rupees! No way. and let me tell you we`re not tourists. We are people of this soil. You cannot sell us our our home." Chinnu, came from behind and took Gopi`s hand.

"Please Dada, let us go. Just this once. Please.", begged Chinnu. "But Chinnu..", Gopi started to say. "Let us go. It`s ok", seetha exclaimed in excitement. Gopi pretended to look angry, but his eyes betrayed him. They followed the old man, as he lead them through the forest towards his boat.

The boat was shaky at first, but slowly they all sat down. It was after all a ride on Champa, their beloved river. The smell of those wild flowers and croaking of the frogs, lending the whole night, it's own natural symphony. It was still dark and so they just sat silently as their old boatman rowed and rowed towards, what they could make out was a valley, between two giant hills.

And then suddenly it happened!.

From the horizon, a pink, and magenta gleam of light suddenly illuminated the sky for a long distance. Slowly the ray of light widened, and then at the horizon, the water started turning golden, like a million lamps having been lit upon the temple pond. The light reflected from the beautiful red blossoms of the Gulmohar tree on the banks, and as the leaves slowly descended upon the water, it was almost as if tiny red fairies were descending upon earth, pure earth, pure water, pure life.

"Amma, dada.. you see that..? Isn't it so beautiful..", Chinnu exclaimed.

There was no reply. Gopi and seetha were standing on the boat, their clouded eyes fixed in a trance. No more were they father, mother and son. No more were they Gopi, seetha and Chinnu. They were just three children, three children holding hands, enjoying their beautiful Sunrise at Champa.