Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fooling or Schooling?

A close family friend paid me a visit with my prospective student, her 18month grandson.The child shouted 'Dadi' and gleefully jumped into my lap.I was struck with this dreadful feeling of 'deja vu', as my memory went into an auto rewind mode and played a sequence from over two decades back..I recalled that my younger son had made a similar leap of faith into the outstretched arms of a 'Nani', who was a dear friend of my mother as also the owner of the school in which my son had to be enrolled for a few months as a stop gap arrangement .What followed thereafter was the biggest sham in primary education I have ever witnessed!
From day one,my five year old strutted around the school as if he owned it.Whenever he found the discipline of the classroom stifling, the education being imparted dreary , he would walk out of the class into the Directors office and be treated to a copious amount of Coke and chips! He was often the solitary student in the playground , during school hours see-sawing with 'Nana'(The directors husband !!)..
One day I was informed that his class teacher Mrs Mukherjee (Most irreverently referred to as Mrs Muchadjee ) wanted to see me.I entered the office to be confronted by a lady with a very prominent follicular growth on her upper lip.."Good morning Mrs Mukherjee", I quipped chirpily.I realized my faux paux , when i saw the teacher looking extremely perplexed as she was meeting me for the first time !! As soon as I introduced myself , she went apoplectic.She told me that considering Hindi was my mother tongue my son looked upon it as a foreign language and while the other children were learning grammar he was still struggling with his alphabet.Adequately chastised , i tried in vain to work on on my sons Hindi.I held his semester report card with dread and reeled  with shock as I saw 95% marks in Hindi !!(Apparently the class teacher had been instructed to mark him only on what he knew and written !!)Till date the mystery of the remaining 5% eludes me..
At the school sports day I had to go through the ignominy of my son leading the march past as a head boy of the primary section!He was the only one looking Left , away from the grandstand as he had been instructed to turn his eyes towards the Chief Guest ,who happened to be my mother..His Nani !!When I saw him standing on the victory stand receiving a prize for having stood 6th in the spoon and marble race I completely lost my marbles !!
I fretted and fumed for the next few months , hopelessly helpless as the doting nanis made sure he continued to fool his way through school..

Monday, September 3, 2012

Pre'cautious' Children

What i find absolutely fascinating about my Life in this slow paced town is, how people and situations ranging from delightful to ludicrous present themselves at my doorstep at regular intervals.They trigger off a chain of linked memories, akin to an atomic reaction of sorts.
Just the other day, young parents , seeking admission for their 2yr old son stepped into my office.The mother with a very resigned attitude consigned her rather detached self on the couch as the child gambolled around the office.The father refused my many offers of a chair and shuffled around his son with a nervous sort of energy, reminding me of a skilled basketball player preventing his opponent from scoring a basket!
All this activity , at such close proximity was making me a little dizzy and i asked the father firmly to let the child be and sit down !The gentleman shook his head with such fervour that the head almost detached itself from the shoulders.He told me that a few months back his son had dropped a  TV(!?!) on his head as a result of which his parietal bone had registered five cracks !!The neurosurgeon who was summoned by the distraught parents was greeted by the child, with a tight slap across his cheek..Needless to say that it took no further tests to declare the child 'normal', by the much traumatised doctor !!
This incident took me many years back,when my friends son had tied a rug around his shoulders and jumped off the first floor balcony of their flat.This overenthusiastic Superman was super fortunate that the groundfloor residents , had put out their mattress to be aired , which broke his fall and dislocated his arm !!Indignant at his inability to fly and displeased at having injured himself this boy then proceeded to demolish the doctors chamber ..When the doctor had , had enough of the son and hysterical mother, who kept insisting her child had a concussion , he lifted the child , from the waist , held him in the air and yelled'Maam you may have a concussion , I may have a concussion ...but your child DOES NOT have a concussion!!( The 6yr old Superman is a Fighter Pilot today ).
I too have been a victim of such a senseless experiment as a young mother.My younger son ( his misadventures are legendary) in a tearing hurry to join the ranks as Top Brass or more likely in an attempt to  outshine his older brother, drank up Brasso as a two yr old..He was rushed to the hospital for a stomach wash and fortunately his guts survived his gut churning experiment ..My older son ( His wisdom is legendary ), was extremely envious as he thought his brother would not need a bath henceforth and would shine if  given a flannel cloth rub down !!!!
A word of caution to parents of very young children and parents to be.That bundle of joy, who comes shrieking into this world, is actually announcing the arrival of 'Hazmat'...So please handle with extreme care and be vigilant at all times...

Sunday, August 19, 2012


A couple of weeks back,at around 1.30am,my state of art , inbuilt thermostat sent out a cerebral alarm that all was not well with the temperature of my room.I woke up to find that the AC of the room was working but the lights had gone off.A glow from the crack under the door of the adjoining room, made me reach a logical conclusion that the lights of my room had tripped.I dragged my mentally switched off self to sound the night guard on duty to check out the mains.As i got into the lobby i saw menacing flames and smoke billowing out of the guest room!!
I knocked furiously at my fathers (the only other inhabitant of the house)door, which to my utter dismay was locked.I then did an' Insane Bolt' towards the front door, hysterically shouting for the guard.(For some inexplicable reasons, my fathers main criteria for employing a night guard is that he should be  pint sized, pea brained and totally committed to sleeping on duty).Not getting a response, inflamed at his absence,i entered the burning room with a wet towel wrapped around my head(The Towering Inferno , had been my favourite movie as a teenager) to open out the windows, shouting out to people to switch off the mains.Fortunately the guards , zero watt brain had lit up enough to register a short circuit, and he switched off the mains.The other staff too had woken up and as i unlocked the door , a motley crowd in various stages of undress and panic trooped in.We put out the fire with a few buckets of water.As i stood transfixed, registering all that had happened I felt a splash of water on me, dampening my already dampened spirits.Indignant, i looked back to see my father at the doorway (almost 14 feet away from the source of fire) , with a small mug looking totally perplexed!.
Apparently, after hearing a lot of commotion in the house, he had woken up at some point of time and as always someone who likes to help and be actively involved with the ongoing proceedings , had procured a mug of water to douse out the fire.Needless to say that his spatial and aiming skills are as  unreliable as the electrical circuit of our house !!
 As we sat out gloomily in our garden at 2.30am , waiting for the smoke to clear out of the house, i realized that my fathers reaction was very akin to that of the police in hindi films, who arrive  at the scene of crime or disaster after an unlikely hero (in this case ...yours truly) has saved the day..My soot covered ,damp self chanted a thousand 'ohms' of gratitude ,for having  averted a major calamity......


Eight years back, when i started my school , it was a well thought out ,conscious decision to give the school a simple Hindi name.I was not going to succumb to the local fascination of exotic names like 'Delightful Daffodils','Blooming buds','Cheerful Cherubs' etc and twist the tongues of my toddlers at the very start.
 However, nothing had prepared me for the rather misplaced fondness for spoken English, prevalent amongst the literate parents of this town.I was often told by well meaning guardians that it was my jokey nature and smiley face that endeared the children (I felt like a series of badly illustrated emoticons).Once, on being told that the child had yet to acquire a name, a simple query from me asking as to how they address her, got me a prompt reply 'Chanakyapuri Colony '!Not to be deterred i asked what they call her..'943......007!'(My predicament was akin to a lawyer who is asked by a grim looking judge to rephrase the question as its misleading!).
 A father once told me ( very earnestly ),that my PLAYHOUSE was considered the best in town and he wanted the best exposure (!?!) for his daughter.Indignant as i was, i refrained from telling him that with this kind of reputation his daughter would be 'overexposed' !!Few nights in a row,I dreamt of myself in a garish 18th century Bordello..A set straight out of'Duchess and the dirtwater Fox'. Believe me, such statements can be very insidious at a subconscious level!!.
 A somewhat genial compliment like'Aapki evergreen aur Global personality ki sab tareef karte hain' made me feel fat!I often wonder as to how exactly did the aam junta perceive me?! Even my usually overactive imagination fails to comprehend and my environmental friendly Self starts spinning around its axis in utter confusion..Maybe its my 'Dynamite ' personality which gives rise to such an 'explosive' reputation.
I have decided not to dwell on it much and enjoy the provincial fame for as long as it lasts...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Mov(ie)ng Experience

A few weeks back, as I changed out of a perfectly decent casual attire into a semiformal traditional one ,my son who was visiting me asked,'Werent you supposed to go watch a film?'.'Yes', I replied.'Mother, what is that weird smelling thing you are applying?'Mosquito repellent ,I quipped.As i proceeded to drink a large glass of orange flavoured 'Glucon -D',I saw my son looking puzzled and starting to punch on the keys of his laptop rather aggressively..(I am sure he was googling 'progressive dementia'!)
My pre-movie preparations complete, I left the house to watch 'Patiala House'.I must apprise my readers ,that i have only ventured out twice in eight years for a film in this town,more as a social obligation than for a cinematic experience.Unfortunately i have had the dubious distinction of passing out , both the times before the movie started!I was adamant on not making this a hat-trick and had no intentions of stealing the show from right under the charitable noses of the patrons !!
I reached the movie hall and was received by the President and members of the Club screening the charity show.The President greeted me warmly and gave me a reassuring hug , whispering into my ears'You will be allright'.Another , very diplomatically remarked that she had not seen me for a while and hoped i had been keeping good health..A dear family friend , who had missed the film twice on my account, told me she was carrying orange sweets and a bottle of Mirinda in her bag !!
Sheepishly ,i climbed the steps of the hall.On entering the theatre,I was deluged with a sea of familiar faces.Prominent citizens of the town, my ex, present and future parents, my ex, present and future children, my ex and present staff and innumerable family friends..We were well into the credits by the time i finally finished with my social rounds..
I was just settling down in my assigned seat , when a lady in front of me shouted out to her friend not to occupy J5!Apparently, the seat slided up and down on its own and had the cushioning ripped off so one could actually feel the iron bars (OUCH!!)I found myself nervously jumping on my seat and checking the reclining mechanism (which did not work ).I sat upright , without complaining...I was going to last through the film and enjoy it !!
Just when i had started to make sense out of the nonsensical happenings on the screen, I was blinded by a bright spotlight on my face! I was rather confused as to why the usherers were using spotlights instead of flashlights in this town.I was informed that it was the cameraman from a local TV channel covering the event !!
Half way through the film, suddenly there was a lot of tittering and excitement amongst the audience.Fearing , a local politician/ senior bureaucrat making a habitual late entry , i looked towards the entrance.I saw a few people carrying huge cartons..Packed boxes of snacks started getting distributed .Loud cries of approval and disappointment followed.I was negotiating my snack pack in the dark when I found a huge tray bearing soft drinks perched on my head, as the viewers in the back row helped themselves and passed on the glasses at a leisurely pace !!!My protests fell on deaf ears..Several more interruptions later (power failure, announcement of lucky draw winners etc..)the movie finally ended..
I left the movie hall with a broad smile on my face..I realized that 'going to the movies', a regular outing anywhere in the world is an event to be experienced in my small town !!

Sunday, February 20, 2011


A couple of weeks back ,my father made an unusual request..that of a cellphone instrument!Alarmed, i immediately set out to fetch the BP instrument, simultaneously questioning him on his need for the much loathed cellphone.Sheepishly he informed me ,that he needed to go mobile as both the LL numbers were out of order.Apparently, while digging up the roads in order to broaden them the workers had erroneously chopped off the telephone cables and narrowed down our communication options considerably.Since i rarely use the LL i consoled my father saying that communication was a very small price to pay for Development!It took all of 5 days and daily persistence to repair my fathers severed LL(lifeline..)
A few days back,my smugness evaporated and i found myself steaming as i realized that my cellphone had been disconnected!I sent out the most capable and resourceful staff i have to put me out of my misery.My persistent queries were answered by a BSNL official..'Hamne Kolkata baat ki hai aapka number phans gaya hai!'.While the world is rejoicing the birth of new phone technologies and Apples brilliant innovations,my town is struggling with a 19th century Exchange where numbers get stuck !!Moreover, it took a stray call after 3 days to realize that it was only my outgoing calls which were barred!!My sorrow swelled up like the'Yang Tse' river.Finally all the recorded messages stating'this number does not have an identity','this no. has ceased to exist,' it seemed had made me ceased to exist for all my friends and family.
This weekend after a drought of calls , i headed for the LL to talk to my son in the US.Once again it was not working.This time 700mts of cable had been pilfered.I was not at all perturbed, on the contrary rather proud of my small town .While the Nation is dealing with its multi crore 2G scams, the people weighing the pros and cons of Congress vs Progress and with all the eruption against corruption..this town like a small Gaulish village was dealing with simple everyday petty thefts !!!
I sincerely think that the early 70's with its manual exchange where the telephone operator asked for the 3 digit 'Number pleej', was a more comprehensive and sure way of communicating in this part of the country.
As things stand today, I am in dire need of TLC(Telephone-LL or Cell)..With my phone now being used as a camera and a juke box, maybe i should just capture the moment and dance may way through the crisis..After all i am in Neverland, from Graham Bells invention to the idyllic world of Tinker Bell-not bad at all !!!!!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dumb Belle...

Einstien said that'Imagination is intelligence having fun'.Well i am known to have a lot of fun but i do fear it has little to do with my intellect !!Lately to my dismay, i have noticed that the grey matter is getting covered by an impregnable layer of soot.The fact that i work with preschoolers is not helping either.I have regressed to being a child in every which way.It is a very happy albeit a mentally challenged state to be in!
Once considered a very bright student of math, now at the mention of 'Calculus', i dimly recall a character from my favourite comic book.I invariably cringe when my son and a dear friend discuss books, effortlessly recalling details down to the publisher and the edition and i am struggling with the title and author of a recently read one !I knew the situation was grave and the 'brain drain' had reached gutteral levels ,when at the gym i reached out for the dumb bells and the treadmill refusing to raise the bar.
Sometime back, a friend and well wisher, tired of my lamenting had suggested i take to playing 'Bridge'.It would take care of my time as well as keep me mentally agile(I do feel he was making some sort of a statement here!!).Never to bypass an opportunity which improves my quality of life or mind ,i took on 'Project Bridge' with utmost commitment and sincerity.
It took me five minutes to download the tutorial and forever to upload it in my head!My love affair with the game started instantly.I took down notes, quizzed myself, played against robots who reported mechanical failure as their Artificial Intelligence could not match my non existent one , played against novices and got abused via cyberspace.In short , i had taken to the game like a half dead fish to murky or oil spilled waters!! Whenever i thought i had made some headway , the game got trickier, revealing another level , another facet!
As mentioned earlier ,my brain responds to only simple,anything complex threatens to shut it down.All self help books had led me to believe that one should live for the moment.In Bridge this is akin to certain death.Here you have to think about the past, the present and the future in one single moment.Once again i was faced with the dilemma, of whether i should keep my life simple and abandon this game or pursue it relentlessly ,regardless of the fact that it was doing little to improve my cerebral status. As always i took the 'Middle Path' and have taken to Kibitzing ( watching a game, in Bridge parlance).
I find myself back to square one..But i will not loose heart or club myself , but call a spade a spade and someday shine like a (crazy!?!) diamond.I am sanguine there will be a Bridge over these troubled waters soon..
PS. I have recently taken to writing with my left hand,.My rudimentary knowledge of pedagogy and physiology tells me that it develops the right side of the brain related to creativity !!