Sunday, April 27, 2008

Until the next pit stop

Disclaimer: this is not a poem.

The tracks span length and breadth in the soil
over water, land, valley and rock
they leave a marked trail
the train runs snake-like
pregnant with the mass of humanity
lives in tow, trussed up in linen
or boxed up in cheap wood. The lives
dangle, they leap, they sweat
they sleep, they watch, they bore
they shit, they score, they cry
they scratch, they shift, they doze
they laze, they trace, they look
they cook, they eat, they wash
they give and they live
from one place to the next
forever in motion
no full stops no stopping for air
go sit on the roof if you can't
breathe inside where
the babies yell for their mother's breast
and the air is like glue
filled with the acrid smell
of pickle, sweat and soot
let your eye traverse the contours
of resting bodies - bodies in limbo
waiting to move - dormant
till the next stop.
the next stop
life begins anew
and so we play at the charade again
we move, we pull, we push, we shove
we lean, we stall, we, yell, we crush
we smile, we wave, we holler, we pale
we step, we hop, we skip, we jump
we lift, we heave, we ho and we hum.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Never too late?

The past few days have been - to resort to a cliché - an emotional roller coaster ride. To be reminded of the impermanence of life in the most jarring way, is to have a mirror held up to how you've been living it all this while. A spitting image of everything you didn't do. Didn't say. Didn't think of. Until it was too late.

No wonder it's liberating to think of yourself as a mere speck of dust on the face of the earth. Without the weight of responsibility, relationships and the rigour of living, as a speck of star-dust you are free. How cool would it be if you could zoom out at will and look down at the earth from space, and watch your troubles disappear to leave only a great big ball of blue-green? Rationalists can come running with their pitchforks of reason and yell "escapist!" but I am at the moment reveling in the (mis-guided) pleasure of denial.

To try and fudge over the hurt and guilt of not having been the person I should have been.

But I know I cant bury my head in the sand forever. So when I'm ready - when I've healed a little - I'll look up and face reason, reality and all those other things I'm avoiding right now. After all how hard can it be to pick up the phone and call someone you haven't spoken to in years? Or to write that story you've been meaning to write for the longest time? Or to tell someone that you wouldn't be the same without their quiet presence in your life?

Not all that hard. For sure.
And anyway, life is too damn short for me to believe otherwise.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

In her own words

I cannot emphasize enough what a great teacher and extraordinary human being Chitra Srinivas was. She did not merely teach history from a book, she told stories complete with the triumphs and failures, the hits and misses and the highs and lows of humanity. Her integrity and genuine love for the subject she taught reflects in this piece she wrote after she opted out of the commission set up by the NCERT to review the new history textbooks. I'm posting an excerpt. The full text can be found here.

Text books: Sectarian Story or History?
by: Chitra Srinivas, November 10, 2002

"I am a schoolteacher who has taught history for the past 25 years. I have enjoyed teaching the subject. I don't claim to be an expert, and I do not belong to any group or subscribe to any particular ideology - the Left, the Hindutva school, or any other. I think the study of history is important because it helps us discriminate and judge, see patterns and connections and, above all, think logically by observing cause and effect.

History has long been treated as a boring subject; indeed, not many students want to study it at the college level. Yet, every government wants to control the writing of this subject. Because it is history that makes a nation. It is through history that one can control minds, especially the young, impressionable minds at school.

I was a member of the five-day Review Workshop organized in January 2002 by the NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) for the class 10 textbook. I went with an open mind, but as the reading of the draft proceeded, I observed that there was virtually no discussion. For two days, the history text was merely read out. I was the only one who raised objections, whether about the language, facts or even the obvious ideological slant. It was a lonely battle.....

I have always told my students that the beauty of Indian culture lies in its ability to accept and assimilate any stream of thought. As a responsible teacher, I am unable to accept distortions in the writing of history that go against the very spirit of India's existence.

I wish for all my children a world where they will be free from hatred towards one another. I also love children too much for them to be left to the mercies of politicians who have their own sectarian agendas. "