As one grows up, one discovers the discovery power of the question mark, then the exciting power of the exclamation mark. Then…the slower power of the comma…the sedate power of the semi-colon…and finally, the restful power of the full stop.
Posts Tagged ‘thoughts’
Six men were trapped by happenstance,
in the bleak and bitter cold.
Each one held a log of wood,
or so the story’s told.
Their dying fire in need of wood,
the first man held his back.
For of the faces round the flames,
he noticed one was black.
The second man sat back and looked,
but saw none of his church.
He could not bring himself to give
the fire his stick of birch.
The thrid man sat in tattered rags,
as he gave his coat a hitch.
He simply would not use his log,
to warm the idle rich.
The rich man sat and thought of all
the wealth he had in store.
And how to keep what he had earned
from the lazy, shiftless, poor.
The black man’s eyes bespoke revenge
as the fire died from sight.
All he saw within his wood
was a chance to spite the white.
The last man of this forlorn group,
did nothing except for gain.
Giving only to those who’d give
was the way he played the game.
The fire died, the men grew cold,
Icicles formed on their chin.
They would not die from the cold outside,
They would die from the cold within.
is where I got the poem.
I was reading a few emails about travelling on faster and faster trains….I am wondering, apropos of this thread…is speed everything?
I must say, that I enjoyed the “rattling and rolling” that Rajan describes (trains from Kolkata, where I grew up, and Chennai (and back) , took at least 36 hours), stopping at the various stations, getting a feel of cultures different from my own as well as the city I lived in….buying the mud pots to store cool water in Mughalsarai (only later did I realize the romance of the name…a place where the Mughal armies stopped!), aam paapdi in Vishakapatnam, poori-alu in stitched-leaf plates in Bhubaneswar… sipping “bhaander cha” in little mud pots as we neared Kolkata. The tea on one side of the Godavari was as good as the coffee on the other (no Rail Aahaar abominations of chai and coffee served with the same mix of milk-and-water, with either instant coffee or a tea bag dunked in!)
I find that in our lives, as we “save” more time, we are just giving that time to ever more hectic pursuits, with urgent deadlines always looming, taking away our peace of mind, and often, our health as well….
So…I like to think that slow trains are also amazing, in their own way…in fact, Indian Railways can claim to be the only railway in the world which has actually slowed down trains! Want to know the details?
Initially, the trains between Chennai and Bangalore ALL used to take only five hours. But later, I R stretched the time to six hours, and now charges higher fares for the only train that does the journey in 5 hours (the Shatabdi). And in the case of the overnight trains between the two stations…sometimes they actually have stretched the time to a little more! The Kaveri Express actually takes 7 hours…it doesn’t actually go backwards, that’s all that can be said for it, and also the fact that it does not arrive at an unearthly 4am or 5am, with vampire autowallahs waiting to suck your passenger blood.
There’s a song about taking the “slow boat to China” (which brings to my mind, the old, elegant, leisurely method of crossing “The Pond” by ship)…but I will settle for taking the slow trains around my country, enjoying and savouring the scenes as I go. Yes, mostly from behind the dirty glass of an a/c coach, because of the condition of the toilets in non a/c compartments, and the smell from the tracks, which is partly because of the toilets….but I’m happy rattling and rolling, and gently moving along.
When the ground is covered with snow,
Where do the birds go?
When the earth is soaked with rain,
Where do the birds go for grain?
When the sun bakes the fields with its heat,
When the cracked earth burns our feet..
When the very air is hot and dry,
Where do the birds go…and why?
When the dusk deepens into twilight,
When the darkness rules the night…
When no chink of light can show,
Where do the birds go?
We treat many people like the birds:
When they’re with us, we have kind words.
But when with us, they are not,
We do not give them a thought.
Where do the people go?
Where do the birds go?
The mainstream Indian educational system is, to my mind, utterly stultified. We follow an ancient tradition, but not ancient enough…we follow the old British school system, not our own Vedic (or any other equally old) kind of education. We place extreme stress on rote learning, and make only token concession to modern methods. In fact, it seems to be nothing but memorizing facts, and repeating it in the all-important examinations. Shakespeare and Euclid are not studied for knowledge, but to get a few more marks in the exam…and they are studied with “key books”.
A friend of mine,
was mentioning on a nature mailing list that we belong to, that schools like
stress living in harmony with nature, and so “green” their campuses (both the Valley at Bangalore and Rishi Valley in Anantapur have done this.) This led me to muse on the “alternate” methods of school curricula available today, in urban India.
KFI in Chennai was elitist enough that after getting admission for our daughter at the beginning of her school years, I decided on Rosary Matriculation School instead. I thought that since she had to join the rat race, with parents in the middle-class bracket, she had better join a “regular” school.
She did go to an “alternate” school for a year, when she joined “Vikaasa”, run by Madura Coats (then) in Madurai. She was happy there, but when we returned to Bangalore and we put her in Sacred Hearts, she was extremely unhappy for 6 months, until she took her guitar to school one day and quite suddenly settled down…and started loving the school. (Sacred Hearts was at the end of Convent Road, where we lived, and it was a major plus that she walked to school and back, and came home for lunch every day.)
The learning was certainly very rote-memory oriented, and extremely strait-jacketed. Individual thinking was (and is, even more so now) actively frowned. The phrase “in your own words” had no meaning in this system. A lot of obsolete, unnecessary, and boring information was thrust down the children’s throats. I remember teaching her a Hindi lesson called “Cycle ki sawaari” before an exam, and her realizing, for the first time, that it was a very humorous piece! She also had NO Hindi poetry in school…imagine learning a language without its poetry!
However, in the larger scale of things (and especially in the matter of thinking for herself) I don’t think she missed out on anything by our choices…she also chose to go to Frank Anthony’s and not to Valley School or Aditi for her +2. She loved it there, too…and she regularly attends gatherings of alums of both schools…in fact, I am close friends with several of her FAPS classmates (it’s great fun when the children turn into adults, it’s like getting new people to meet!) It was she who decided that she would go to the US for a liberal arts degree in the US…and that certainly broadened her horizons, and her thinking, further.
However, in those days, the class strength at SH was about 30…today, one has to pay through the nose to get a school which gives a class of only 30 students. Even there, the pressure for academic performance is inordinately high.
Today’s alternate schools also seem to bow, inevitably, to the “marks” pressure in the higher classes, and parents routinely cancel music, games or other classes so that the children can “prepare for the Boards”, which is like a severe illness that the child, the parents and the extended family go through. It is very impersonal, and unfair examination, and it’s the luck of the draw as much as the child’s rote memory which decides what the academic performance will be….and whether the child will obtain those all-important “marks” to enable admission into the next round of our “education”. We do not even teach our students how to access information, which I think should be the main thrust of education today. There is no liberal thinking at all. Even initiatives in this regard are quickly reduced to token gestures, which sink into the general morass of “get more marks”.
Another problem with many “alternate” schools is the elitism associated with them. They easily charge about ten times what a mainstream school would charge, and very often,produce children who are very snobbish indeed, caught in their own bubbles of wealth and privilege, paying lip service to the “hip” concepts going around, but totally out of touch with realities.
But a new irony is taking shape these days, in the form of volunteering. Many people (including myself) volunteer at the “less-privileged” schools, and sometimes I find that children from a very disadvantaged socio-economic background are being exposed to concepts and fields that their more allegedly-privileged cousins in the “regular” schools do not get. Most of the mainstream schools do not, for example, suppor nature trails for children, even when a teacher uses her own initiative to take them on such trails, they make it clear that they will have nothing to do with such outings. So it’s the children from schools like Adobe Parikrama or the Ananya Foundation who are exposed to art, music, and Indian culture…how strange!
One of the problems, of course, is our over-population..when demand exceeds supply, such problems are bound to arise, and quality suffers for the sake of quantity. I wish I could find a way of establishing a chain of schools (many of them) which could provide education and knowledge to students across the economic spectrum.
Snow is supposed to be white;
But many colours seen to hide in it.
The snow catches the band of the prism:
Indeed, it can even widen it.
It’s a lesson to me not to assume
That’s anyone’s life is a bland white.
They may just be balancing, wisely,
All the colours of the light.
I opened the door to Spring.
But it was Winter that I let in.
I wanted the green and the flowers.
But it was all white in a few hours….
For other images of snow in colour,
And for snow in black and white,
I’ve been recently seeing pictures of several places of worship…all of them very ornate and fancy, indeed. (The latest being a very grand Gurdwara in Dubai..
I thought of something different when I saw all this finery. I find it somewhat problematic that when the seers and the prophets are themselves simple people, we seem to want such opulence in revering them, and the amount of gold and money spent on a place of worship seems so important to us. I’ve often heard the comment in the temple…”Look at that crown of diamonds, it cost X crore rupees!”, “Don’t forget to see the golden kalashas!” and so on…so it’s there in every religion. I often think that if Christ were to come, in his poor carpenter’s garb, or bleeding from the cross, He would not be admitted to any of the grand churches…if Rama came to one of his temples in the apparel of tree-bark that he wore during his exile in the forest, he would be turned away….
To me, Mother Teresa’s home in Calcutta, where she lovingly tended to lepers and the terminally ill…is more of a temple to God.
I expressed the same thoughts, when I visited the Shirdi Sai Baba temple,
One blooming flower
Takes many a weary (and expensive) hour
But the first flower of a weed…
It blooms at great speed!
But having said that…I walked through Forest Park in sleety, shivery weather today, and I saw the first daffodil in bloom:
I think that it’s we who draw the lines and call some flowers weeds….