SOULTales - Character Strengths, Stories & Vocabulary

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A journey

I started a new journey in 2011
A journey that I planned
With books, stories and creativity
And all that that made me spark!

Snapshots of all the activities that I did in the library , fun, creativity and loads of hard work...good happy times...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Scaling your Understanding

I found another interesting tool to use with children, especially when we are struggling to understand them and be understood as well...

Ask for your child to rate your understanding of them on a scale of 1 to 10.

I did

Daughter is so used to me this way; she gives me a look (after I explain that she needs to give me a score on a scale of 1 to10, based on how much she believes I understand her)
and says ..."8"

ooo...I like that I think

but aloud I give her a complimentary look and ask:

"are you sure?" (not sure I should have done that)

so far so good, but should I doubt her initial I not giving her a very warped signal that she may be wrong and has to rethink?....lines of worry... is fine I asked as she says:
"maybe 7"..."hmmm...between 7 and 8"

wow, I like now I know my understanding can dip and dance, up and down...and my empathy is labile...and she knows it too...super!!

On to son...

So how do you rate me on a scale of...blah...blah...

I had to repeat it as he gave me a blank stare, while there I was smug in my knowledge that I am getting a Ten-on-Ten on this one...


Oh Yes!!!...He gave me a zero!!


...I stared at him like a startled doe...Did I explain what was required properly? Is he too young for this? Does he really think so??

Sadly and to my astonishment I realised that for him Understanding = Listening and he tells me I never listen to him.

I disclose this with genuine pain in my I argued with myself mentally; but what about all those moments of perfect understanding we have had, what about those unsaid words and shared looks that made me think we understand each other perfectly...Is this fair?

Then I realise this is not about fairness...this is not even about feeling understood; it is simply about Listening....

We all feel understood when certain criteria is satisfied, when certain expectation is met or when certain responses/reactions are complemented....

that is; our way of being is matched or complemented by the others way of being...

Obviously I was not being/listening enough or I should say well enough to warrant a number on his rating scale...

Back to the drawing board...surely now I will need to take care to complement his feelings, to be with his thoughts, listen....and improve my score card!

(a silent thanks that I can do this with him...and he is allowing me to grow with him
...also this can be done every time you are in conflict or unable to resolve an you a perspective on how the communication needs to alter)


Friday, December 9, 2011

It starts with me!

Pouring over some storytelling sites and activities, I veered off to look at how Stories and Telling impact learning, creativity and development. It does and Indian history is choc-o-block with stories of how stories were used as tools for learning!! I don't have to delve too much there, that's stuff we already know. What most people dont know is how far it can impact learning....

Stories actually impact us at a very subconscious level. It is not about reading print or telling children fairy tales, the impact of sharing personal stories of childhood, growing up stories, stories of success and failure, stories of Heroes from reality and mythology, all add up to the "building up of character". The best part is that this "Character" is what determines how successful a person becomes in life.

I am going to write about "character building" and more on that later; I even have a story that I often tell, which fits perfectly into the facets that this research talks about....but I am jumping way ahead of what I want to say here!!....
Where do we start with this character building and how do we do it with words?

Most storytelling programmes/ training starts off  by exploring the meaning behind one's own name, if you are part of a theatre group, then a gesture or a sound may be attached to the name and we are left with a realization that names indeed reflect the person within (and vice-versa).

Identity and self awareness is where we start from, simple but oh-so powerful.(It all starts with me!!)

So for children we start with awareness of their own name. Do they know the meaning of their name? Do they know the origin of their name? Who chose their name? Where did their parents get the name from? Was there a naming ceremony? What happened in this ceremony? Are there pictures taken for this ceremony? Who were there? How many names do you have? Do you like your name? If not what name would you like to call yourself?

What is the STORY behind your name?!!

In this process the child is filled with a sense of self and uniqueness which is the first step to understanding and growth. Even a child as small as 3 years can be asked simple questions and encouraged to ask his parents/caregiver the Name-Story. 

This is one story the children would love to hear, recall and retell any number of times!
I chanced upon another brilliant activity to do; a variation of the Name-Story. This can be done with older kids, perhaps 6+, the ones whose expressive language is better developed.

Of course I promptly did it for myself!!

Describe or think of words /adjectives( preferably positive) for every letter in your name. Go on do it and see how much fun it is. We are very good judges of ourselves, even if we think we are not, and the same goes for kids. If they are not horsing around and making every letter into a gross cariacature of weirdness, they can actually come up with some fantastic Name-Acronymns.

Mine goes like this:

S-Stubborn ( my daughter promptly said Sweet ; though I do not prefer that sticky adjective!); Secretive
O-Out standing ( yes, like to stand out in my own way!); Obstinate!!
W-Warm; Wise (I think so!)
M-Motherly; Mighty
Y-Youthful; Young
A-Ambitious; Attractive; Attentive;

Though the game asks for a single word, I could not restrict myself to one word and I feel when you have more words it brings in greater depth to the character we are building ( me, over here!!)

Here is my daughter's:
(She goofed around a bit, but I kept pushing her. It was tough at some levels I guess for her to confront and define herself. It is so wonderful what this has opened for me, I am waiting to explore her feeling on this as soon I can get her to talk about it!)

U- Understanding ( very)
T-  Tinkerbell (as cute as her explanation)
H- Huggable
A- Accurate (this does not in any way reflect how she keeps her material things, but when she said accurate I understood it was a need for Intellectual Accuracy that she was talking about...very true!!)
R- Romantic! (and she clarifies to me that the English teacher had explained the meaning of Romantic as a "nature loving "person and that's the usage here...I mentally high-fived the English teacher for imparting this piece of knowledge to my dear one!!) 
A-.......( I'll think about it!)...........and she goes to sleep....

Here again, these words need not be fixed permanently into the psyche, in fact we must revisit them from time to time (I would say every year). Add some, remove some, and feel yourself taking shape within these words!! What a wonderful way to explore your self...

(I could not get my goofy son to do it, later when he decides not to trouble me, I will probably get some great answers. I am waiting...gleefully!)

(please do leave your Name-Acronyms on the comment form
I would love to know your Name story too...).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Religious...where are we?

Early morning rhythm; husband up by 4;30 am, (yes he is one person who utilizes the "Brahma muhurtham" very well!)  Up at that time, he reads and reflects and plans his work day, as I snuggle cosily into my blanket, trying to squeeze in some extra hours of blissful sleep.

Yet today as I stood there in front of the stove, stirring and chopping, getting those meal plans ready and done, a word kept popping up;...magnificent...merciful....
and my mind went back to college and then furthur to school.

Raised in a Tam-Bram household we usually woke up to the strong smell of filter "kaapi" and and if we had snuggled in longer, some aromatic agarbhathi/dhoop. Suprabhatham or nadaswaram played on a radio that was invariable turned up too loud and woke us up by 5 am, but we tossed and turned refusing to allow the external noises and voices to penetrate our internal slumber.

Praying and worship was a part of our existence that we took for granted. I questioned it for a while, but then was easily charmed by quaint rituals, lighting the gleaming silver lamps(polished with vibhoothi every Thursday), Hridayakamal kolam pattern on the small circular stone kept for that (I later learnt there are many patterns meant for specific outcomes like prosperity, money(kubera kolam), etc), jasmine flowers for the idols on every Friday....There was a time after college when I was deeply into these rituals,and I must say I truly enjoyed that space.

School was filled with Hymns and beautiful songs on the Lord and Savior.Christmas Carols, all of them learnt by heart, as I refused to wear Bindi or plaits or any other representative of the brahmin idealogy to school. Prayers thanking the Lord and seeking His blessing rolled out from our mouths as easily as the Ganesha/Saraswathi shlokam; this was our unique multi-cultural cradle.

College was interestingly a predominant Muslim community and we had college assembly every Monday morning that would start with Prayers in Urdu and English....Allah the Magnificent, the Merciful (that was what triggered my thoughts here). Watching friends go for Namaz every Friday, and keep Roza for Ramzan. I could never understand their passion for fasting and would wonder at their deep commitment to religion.

While I gallivanted from one religious space to another, taking what I want from here, and leaving off what I did not want over there, I know I am still a shameful hoaxer as far as religious sentiments are concerned, using whatever suits me and not bothering about the others.

Yet if religion is about Faith, I know that is what I have in plenty...terribly optimistic and idealistic, I believe faith and good hope is the only dictum that should exist in any religion. But hope without right action is like a plant nurtured on sunshine but no water.

I was fortunate enough to live with many religions and love them as my own, but am not so sure about my own kids. With religious intolerance and prejudice made worse by media and and conflicting information from many varied sources, if we dont provide opportunities for children to accept and live with differences, be it in terms of physical, mental, religious and political from an early age, we may see our kids having and living with deep stereotypes and unable to look beyond and at the people within these cloaks of beliefs and faith.

Oh by-the-way, I believe I want to make my stories bridge these gaps for children...and that is where my mission and vision for the future lies... 


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Stories from a Farm!

So I finally got down to putting together these pictures, taken from our trip to Gerry Martin Farm.
Saturday is a working day as children  go to school, and of course I go to the Library. So when we did get off on a weekday (being Diwali), I packed ourselves off to a farm.
Yes I did get the "what a crazy way to spend Diwali" undercurrents from family...but not in as many words. Plus "why are you not celebrating" from the same
...but we did...
Just Differently!!
In any case getting up early, having an oil bath before dawn and bursting crackers has just flown out of my household (I have stopped fighting it). Getting kids to wake up on a cosy weekday morning to have an early pre-dawn bath is absolutely impossible (unless there are a whole bunch of enthu-cutlets like my family members spending/celebrating with us). Add to that my partner and fellow-ditcher (who is usually up by 4.30am), who promptly turns around and chooses to snuggle into the blankets, just to mark his lack of interest in rituals such as these (an agnostic, that's why)!

So I decided that I would have them all out, rather than have them do nothing but warm their behinds on the couch and in front of the telly, watching Diwali Super Hit programmes on PoGo or Disney!

So there I was herding my cattle into the car, having taken that extra effort to pack a picnic lunch (Pav-Bhaji/Pulao/CurdRice); and to throw in a friend's daughter for company, we all drove down to Martin farm on Diwali Day!

Unexpected to see my son enjoy it as much. He was thrilled to carry the baby (goat), to feed the donkey and rabbits, stare at the gerbils, pigs and ducks.

The ducks waddled by, and seeing how they really all march out in a line and back was very amusing to me (I never thought it was some kind of group behavior of theirs!). Feeding beans to the ducks was funny too, as the ducks couldn't manage a whole bean and had to be fed small itsy pieces. When they were given a whole bean, the poor things pecked and poked, but could not get it in!

The Emu was an interesting addition, while the the tiny baby rabbit was surely the star. They were probably a day or 2 old and we didn't touch them in case they carried the scent.

A gigantic ant hill stood on the way to the tank, which had some turtles floating in it. The farm hand (an affectionate chap), invited the kids to join the summer camp next year where he promised to let them swim in the same tank with the turtles!! 

A little hope I had that all this would endear my kids to take on nature camping/adventuring, crashed down, as my son looked aghast at that thought! While the female offspring delicately kept her hands to herself and refused to touch even the cute Kid lopping around its mother there....


But we did have that picnic lunch there,swung around for some time, played cricket and came back home just in time for evening music class!!

Only wish unfulfilled was their desire to milk a cow...and frankly that's how all this started (we were watching and talking about milking cows, farms..etc..)

perhaps a day will come for that as well....!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Children's day Story

Children's day Story at Brainvilla library, amidst dragons, tigers, dancing lions and a gigantic Garuda.
Iliana's Quest ( Audio story) that I got from the net. The props got more affection than the story of course!

It always makes me wonder how we as adults appreciate that age of innocence (not any more), only much later.
One child who couldnt make it for the story, dropped by the library that evening and pestered me for the story. Even though I showed my (mock) displeasure, as she had not joined us that morning,I was quite happy to give her the brief outline...happy that this time it was the story and not the craft!

Imaginative tale of adventure, discovery, happiness, and sense of wonder and imagination...even if one child chooses not to loose this in the future, I will be delighted.


Friday, October 28, 2011


The place we are born in, the people we are born with, the bed, the linen, the food. The size of things, the manner of doing things, who we do it with, how we do things...nothing is permanent, everything is transient.

Just climb into your own personal glider, fly high, right there above those pointy trees, towards that clearing and look yourself.

Are you where you want to be, how was the journey?
Where do you want to go from here, how far away, or near?

Thoughts float into me, as I stare at my daughter's feet. This foot I hold was so tiny at one time, just as big as my forefinger...maybe smaller. Did I imagine it would grow to this size when I held that frail little thing clumsily in my hand. I know she would grow, but how did it happen?
In fleeting moments, as fast as the beating heart
In creeping minutes that I painfully felt...

Time is transient
Nothing is permanent
Change is inevitable

Change happens every minute, and we dont even know it happens at times....but when we bring it to our consciousness, then we realise the beauty of the experience that is Life

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rangoli night

Couldn't resist just snapping some pics of Rangoli's outside the door. This was sneakily done, I should have done it more boldly, walked up and down the apartment, but I got shy, and then I was worried I would be asked to come in. Somehow, though I have lived in the Airforce for so many years, I am not used to this walking in and "bouncing" people culture. Which is just that, you bounce people unannounced!!

But surely on Diwali night, doors are thrown open; but I had another excuse...I had walked out impulsively, and was not dressed properly!!

My daughter and her friend too tried their hand at Rangoli indoors, so thats their artwork; indoors, as it was too windy to do this outside the door.
Good effort right?!!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Where South and East met

September30th created a meeting I will not forget.
When you meet someone after 15 odd years and then continue the conversation like there was no interim, then you really understand the meaning behind the words; Life's ebbs and flows.
So smoothly did we hit it off, like we have kept in touch for all this time. We dwelled on the past, our journey, our shared tales and of course new stories that has created who we are now.
I am lucky she did decide to come for this Confluence of storytellers held on the outskirts of Bangalore; with uncertainty over what an educator would do in a gathering for tellers....
But the informality and the openness of the tellers gathered, made it easier.

Thats one story

The other is the East and West meet, briefly I stayed to interact with people from the Eastern mountains of Sikkim, and the blue mountains of Nilgiri mountains. A story wove us through a Treasure Hunt, beautifully created by Salil Mukhia( along with Barkha Henry), the co-founder of Acoustic Traditional. AT is keen on promoting Indigenous cultures to retain their identity and is also working to preserve ancient stories and rituals that may be already lost or is facing imminent demise.

Met with Storytellers, Eric and Usha; and interestingly a gentleman who has set up a library in rural Maharashtra and who is looking for developing reading programmes, for children there.

Hey I think I fit in there....

Yet I need to refocus and ponder on what is my style of telling, and what is the purpose for my stories. As I get clarity on this I know my telling will reach out to more people to my satisfaction...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Odeurs that linger

Driving back home one evening, after a long day at work; a deep breath to inhale the wonderful earthy smell of Bangalore. Sometimes the beauty of this place makes me send up a silent prayer for all that we have and have been given.

It takes me back to other places and other smells, fragrances, feelings, thoughts and oh so seemingly tangible memories.

My throat swells with emotion as I write this....we leave our past behind, yes otherwise there is no moving forward, but sometimes when I visit those spots, those spaces, i feel comforted. After all who I am is a whole bunch of memories!!

Incense, agarbhati and dhoop....any Tam Bram household you know wakes up to these smells. Mine was no different. The pooja room with its distinct odour, morning and evening wafting its gentle fragrance into the house. Now we have Aroma Therapy, but back then, that was a part of our daily routine. I do it now too...light agarbhati morning and evening, and I swear when I come back home the first smell that assails me is the incense and I love it!
Not just home, but the temples with their distinct smells, incense mixed with Jasmine; the woody smell of the sacred fire, lamps burning out in the greasy oil and camphor soaked water drizzled into our palm.(I always smell the water before I place it in my mouth, the camphor that is added has a bittersweet taste that leaves me craving for more...!!)

Gokul Santol powder...divine. I battle internally with deo versus powder, but Gokul is pure heaven I can tell you. Powders of course transport me to Baby days...Johnson baby powder breathed in from soft cuddly, innocent cheeks. Is there any other heaven on Earth; I say??!

Cool crisp night air

Earthy rain soaked soil

Freshly brewed coffee (and suprabatham on air:)

Clean washed bedsheets dried crisp in the hot sun

Musty books in dingy libraries

Ah, I forget my own wonderful Sea, salty,tangy, sandy smell

Rasam in its last boil, just after adding the coriander leaves

The smell of sweat on myself after a a tiring walk/ jog...oh so long long ago...

many many more....odours that linger in my memories...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Who will cry when I die?

I was reading Robin Sharma yesterday, and every page is a gem.

This one is called "Who will cry when you die". The way in which it landed in my hands is a short story!. There is a store-in-charge cum assistant in the library I work for. Smart, diligent girl, but lack of exposure has given her a language handicap. Dusting the shelves she chanced upon this book and the title was irresistible for her. So she promptly plonked the book in my hand with a desire to have me do Bhaashan on it and in that way as they say in Tamil;"oru kallile rendu maanga"; for my more discerning readers that's Tamil metaphor for one shot,two mangoes;double pleasure! She gets philosophy expounded to her with minimum effort...
My pleasure!

Why should the book be irresistible for her...a valuable question. As I said before my student is a sharp cookie, and apparently she goes around telling her folks that no one should cry if she dies and there should be no hoohaa over her death ( that speaks volumes for the trauma this girl may have gone through). So once again her attitude and her desire to know what was in the book got me reading...

The book shares gems of wisdom and practical action, filled with tips on goals and mindfulness, no doubt this is a beautiful read by itself.
Yet the title has taken me on an inward journey.

Who will cry when I die?

Many...for sure

How will they cry?

Bitterly...sadly...longingly...for sure!

But do I want people to cry for me?

No...I don't. Not that painful, regretful cry...I dont want anyone to cry with a sense of loss...i would hate that

Then How do I want them to cry, if at all?

A few tears is all I ask
Filled with shared love and happiness
Knowing that I lived and loved well
No regrets nor pain
Having and giving in abundance
That lives in stories
For many to tell

That's all

So what do you say?

Saturday, September 10, 2011


This post may seem weird to some and may need some PG rating ( flicked that from a friend!!).

Well I hesitate to even talk about it as it is a part of me that I keep as a well guarded secret. Well...taking into consideration that I have a spouse who condemns all such irrational nonsense and a best friend who would in all probability make the hooting fun of me....I have to keep it to myself...

Yet...I can't deny I am hopelessly in and head over heels in....

Hold it...I mean your breathe...

let it out now...

yep, the same breathe...

so here goes...

I think I am more than normally convinced....
That we humans have rebirth, that we are born into a particular family for a particular purpose, and all other subsequent attachments and detachments have a necessary link to past life...

There I said it...


Well, working in a library I have access to many books, and given my natural curiosity for occult, philosophy and alternative systems, I happened to read the book by Dr.Brian Weiss called Many Lives, Many Masters.
And I am hooked...

It does answer many questions I have about my life and why certain things turned out in a particular way...and it does now make me curious to try Past Life Regression...

This book is a true account of a rational, scientific Psychotherapist whose life took a complete turn after his encounter with a patient Catherine.Catherine revealed many fantastic aspects of past life and after death experiences that convinced Dr.Weiss of this altered state and these dimensions about which we hardly are aware of.

Again the way he recounts is not very different from reincarnation stories of children or people from our Eastern world....yet as usual the western way seems to appeal in its directness and simplicity...

I am seriously interested in sitting for a session...

I of things to do on my to-do list:)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mythology: are we ready to dismiss it?

Telling stories from mythology to small children is a bit tricky.

Do we need to discuss the gore and brutality that is sometimes included in these stories?
Do we need to actually speak about the heavy romantic sentiments which gets included in these stories?
Or do we really need to tell children about cheating and deception, betrayal and loss of faith?

Now Myths are a part of every society...we have Nordic Myths, Celtic Tales, Indian Folklore, and Greek Heroes. Where strange fantastical beasts, half human/ half God, perform crazy feats with such elaborate story lines, that even I get lost.

I do tell a lot of mythological stories to my children and of course Amar chitra katha is a great educator. Whichever stories I have not told, they get from Dr.Pai's innovative idea, which has raised generations of avid readers like me ( and my kids). In our country Hindu mythology is engrained in every child's learning process. Somewhere they come to hear of the story of Ganesha, or the story of Mahishasuramardini, and of course the eternal favorite Krishna is popular as it is televised. So a 2 year old is as knowledgeable as any adult when it comes to this particular character.

So my take on the trickiness goes like this:

We need to perceive these stories from the context of time. In all probability ( like Shakespeare did), the sages/ scholars who wrote these myths (not actually wrote, as most of these were stories passed down word of mouth), wanted to keep the audience entertained (an audience that may not have been educated) and any other message of piety or patience had to be subtly woven into the stories along with dramatic/ melodramatic overtures. So you have Shiva severing the young Boy's neck only to repent at his haste and his lack of restraint, and then rectifying his mistake by creating a Vigneshwar, a divine form whose grace helps a person to overcome sorrow/defeat.

Yet another angle I would like you to perceive is that many of these stories were tailored for a much older audience and telling stories to children was not the sole purpose. Children were only a part of the audience and it is only contemporary society that has started analyzing the "appropriateness of stories" for children.

Surely from my story telling experience I can say that children enjoy Mythology, but there is a way of telling. That way is to highlight the appropriate "take home" for the child rather than the gory bits. But frankly I know that some kids enjoy the fighting and war and weapons....and I don't blame this fascination on Myths / Stories from mythology. In all probability it's got to do with the heavy dose of "crime" related cartoons and movies that have cropped up now.

So do you tell or not tell.

Again I leave it to your discretion. I was raised on a heavy dose of mythological stories, some I enjoyed, some I have discarded. Yet many times I can actually relate to the stories in terms of my current life situation and I smile to myself. Some days I tell myself I feel like Trishanku....suspended between heaven and earth, neither here nor there and on other days I feel like a Rakshasi, screaming and swearing at every one.

We belong to a post modern rationalist society and all we need to do is sift the chaff from the grain and take what is suitable for us in our present thinking.

Can't dismiss 5000 years of our glorious mythological heritage as meaningless.

But the bottom line for any story teller... I can also say that the Golden Rule for any story teller is to Never tell a story that you dont believe in. By this I dont mean you have to believe the story, but you have to believe you want to tell the story! It works only this way.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Just a thought

We are born with some traits and then we acquire some through interactions, experiences and habits. I can't say I have a brilliant analytical mind, I wish I did,because that is the skill required in today's world.
Analytics runs Google
System analysts run the systems that run Google
and...brilliant Analytical minds run the system in the analysts....

Just having some fun with words!!
What I have is logical thinking, some creativity, patience and high tolerance for anything that doesn't function.
In terms of how the world is moving I would say I am the turtle in the Hare story!

I'll get there but I have to put in effort and I take my time!

Friday, August 5, 2011

At the festival; Day 2

 A Pot-Pouri of distorted images. Sorry that's all my Nokia cell camera could do.But the main players of the second day are all here.
Geeta, Ola and Ulaf ( I hope I got that right).
Geeta needs no introduction, she is a master storyteller, and barely uses props. Her voice is her greatest prop! She modulates and mimics with no inhibition and carries us all through one and half hours of stories. The ease with which she moves from story to story, stands for her deep involvement in the field and I can say she lives and breathes the stories. Each one narrated differently; each one with a quirk of its own!

Ola Henrikson is a story educator at Sweden and uses stories to work with immigrant children in 10 schools, in and around his district.He uses folktales and traditional stories for team building and to integrate kids into their groups. He says that language is not much of a barrier, if you try and connect to the child's imagination! I liked the way he narrates, its gentle, simple and very clear. I can imagine how kids will be drawn to this gentle giant!

Ulaf, aah! He was a surprise to us. He runs the Burattino Puppet theatre in Sweden ( Burratino, itself means Puppet in Italian;... hmmm I thought Ulaf was Swedish!!).His daughter and he gave a small performance with their lion and ringmaster puppets. The puppets came alive in their expert hands. A treat!     
For me it was a refresher. Performance Storytelling as against Storytelling in the Classroom.The two are vastly different and though I love performance stories,  the interaction during and after the performance is what adds value to the telling. 

Another surprise element was a gentleman who enacted a shadow story for us. The story was of Punyakoti,a cow that holds truth above all else. Love, sacrifice and truth is the basis of this story, so check it out when you get time as it is a very popular story from Karnataka. That is the third image you can see on the blog.

Again I am reminded of Malcolm Gladwell and his 10,000 hours insight ( thanks to a friend for pointing it out!). If you do something with interest/ passion and repeatedly, you will surely gain mastery. 10,000 hours of story telling awaits me and I have just started!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

At the Festival! Day 1

A festival is a time to celebrate!
And when we have a festival of stories, hosted by Kathalaya (the place where my journey in Storytelling began), it is really an experience I do not want to miss.
In the mundane, humdrum of routine and schedules, chores to be met, a space was created for people like me to rejuvenate and refresh our committment to this art of Storytelling.
A two day event on August 1st and 2nd/ 2011. The first day had Dr.Mirella from Sweden; she is an educator, puppeteer and puppet maker. She uses and teaches children to make puppets with easy materials such as sponge and cloth.Here you can see the pretty little Butterfly Puppet we all got to make with material especially imported from Sweden.  Yet what I loved about the session was her coaching us on how to use the puppets! Simple easy techniques of puppet behaviour behind the screen and in front. Awesome.
It was a glimpse only but it left me thirsting for more!!

The purpose of a puppet is to engage the child and draw out questions and that is really my take away from this session. Though I use puppets, I use them mainly as props for the story. I do have my Buddy (Sukhi) who introduces my tale and the session, but I realise how much more effective I can make Sukhi and  I am all eager to try out this new found insight at the next session in my library (Brainvilla).  

As educators and as resource people who work with children, (or even as parents), we do a lot of Telling, but hardly Listen to the child. We also believe as adults we must have all the answers and being wrong or goofing up (messing up) is just not permissible. It is difficult if you come to think of it to own that wrong and tell kids so, because we see ourselves as role models, I know...

Well then....use Puppets!!

If you can make sense of what I am saying, then through Puppets we can project an other world (a topsy-turvy one maybe) which gets them to question the existing norms; (this was beautifully illustrated by Dr. Mirella, a she introduced her Frog puppet, that did not like to get wet and used a rain coat and umbrella!).
Shyness, fears, and resistances are all what we can address using our Purpose Puppets!!

Puppets are great tools but how you use them is what is important.
Practice and planning goes into making any Puppet a show stealer!

Some more about story telling in my next post....

Saturday, July 30, 2011

It is in your Thinking!

Youth is in your thinking...
Or so I would like to think!

I know some very old people who are extremely energetic and youthful in their thinking (my Dad for one!).

While I huff and puff over mundane issues, he looks at any challenge and every crisis with glee! He has come a long way from being the eldest of a family with four siblings living in a one room “chawl” in Mumbai and sharing a common toilet, to being a Rural advertising pioneer; much sought after problem solver and go-getter! He is a person everyone wants leading their team

What makes him unique is that these people not only focus on their own lives, but like a Tsunami, they are capable of holding on and carrying the people around them to greater heights. That is the difference!

Yet they are ordinary folks with average intelligence who have climbed up the hard way.
Is it intelligence?
Decision making capability or clear vision?
(Not really. I believe many intelligent, focused people lack what they have.)

With more and more youngsters, committing suicide, sliding towards substance abuse, and most importantly abusing themselves by eating less (Anorexia), eating more (Obesity) and complicating their lives in many other ways, it becomes super important to talk about handling Stress. (Yes the same S word again but I hope to give a broader view of things here).

Coming back to how I started off this chain of thoughts, there is something unique about the way people handle Stress and that’s what I want to emphasize (stress!) here!

Research shows that such people have a unique personality trait that helps them face stress in a more flexible, confident and less destructive way. The good news is that this way of “Being” can be learnt!

It is a 3 “C” formula;
'To Be Committed’ and to add meaning to every aspect of your life,
‘To Be in Control’ of the stressful events and not let them control you,
And most importantly; look at all difficulties in life as a ‘Challenge’ and an opportunity to grow and not as a threat to flee from. (Personally I feel, the last one is what produces the most dramatic results.)

Once we start looking at challenges as creative opportunities for problem solving, it does not appear threatening and is actually a reality exercise to use our intelligence. We may fail or we may succeed, but what we have done in the process is take a series of actions which gives us an insight into how we can approach and solve a particular problem, how much help or assistance we need and whether the issue is worth addressing at all in the first place (aligned to our core values)!  
Once you start ‘Thinking’ this way, you can’t stop growing!

Remember; that who you are is actually who you think you are!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Story Time

Oops Baba Yaga badly held!

engrossed and that's wonderful

I tell stories
and when I have the space and audience to tell every weekend; regularly...what more can I ask?!

Baba Yaga; a Russian Folk tale is full of fun and adventure, and loads of creativity too. Just like we have many Indian stories that get loaded and presented in different ways,so also Baby Yaga is a character who claims her right in many stories. The one I chose was for kids and they loved it.

We also made a Witch hat at the end of it!! 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

When your work is fun!

Stories for some are just play and fun,
for sure that's true, and thats how it should be too
Yet there is some serious thought involved 
as what we say is what we hear 
and what we hear is what we have experienced...
so Teachers and all be aware of what you say 
for little minds are creative and the experience that you give 
is deeply etched in their hearing and 
greatly reflected in their saying...

So I said, when I did the workshop at the Airforce school in Bangalore
as I emphasized the need for good stories, preferably Personal and Real as against
Symbolic and Abstract, for the purpose of a story is to connect with the child and get his world...
rather than thrust metaphorical stories on a mind that is too young to comprehend....

any comments on that is welcome....   

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Adding Value to life

How does one add value to another life?

Is it only through being with them physically?
But then I can be physically with the person but add no emotional or intellectual value to their living....

For me the greatest value we add to another living is being available to them when they seek you...

Being Present to their concerns...

A keen observer
Willing to bring to notice that which we cannot confront, that we just dont want to state...

A wise reflector
Willingly ready to share and make meaning of the Reality that we exist in...

Listening and providing the listening for our true self to show up...

Just their Being brings out who we are...
Unconditional...yet confrontational
Highest Level of Acceptance...yet goading us to aspire greater heights

Making it most meaningful...
Adding Value...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Inner peace

I feel I could write about this on million rolls of paper....and still feel I have just started, skimmed the creamy layer to say!
lifeunderthesky said that our kids will find it on their own...Oh How true. To tell you how it goes at my home...

I decided to have a chat with my son on this topic. Why him, you could ask. Well... simply said ...I am frustrated that I cannot enroll him into any other than TV watching as his daytime pastime. Other than cricket and some running around, he just wants to stay glued to it.
So I spoke to him about Po,(he knows Kung fu panda very well, as Father and son have spent countless hours watching the movies)...about finding Inner peace, by engaging in some activity ( meaningful) and finding joy and happiness in doing it...

Not difficult to guess by now, what he said...
He gives me a patient hearing and then a straight look, and says
" Yea, that's in watching TV for me!!"

Hey, kids nowadays are way too smart!

Monday, June 20, 2011

interesting living

I've been pretty blank these days. Sometimes I jump up, run to the computer, only to stare blankly at the screen.
What do I write? What thought? What feeling to share?


I feel like the the blip on the Heart and Lung Machine. That cliched visual we see so often in any of our classic tamil or hindi movies.

blip blip blank.................

Yet so many things are happening with me...
A new job. (I am still wondering if I am at the right place!)
new ideas on what kids can be involved in
new found energy, as I manage home and work
new skills to be learnt as I tackle the excel sheet

Yet a sense of meaningless pervades this new sense of meaning that I have created for myself.

humans think too much, analyse too much, dwell too much, expect too much,

yet what else makes interesting living?!

we all find our Zen in something.
for some it is in books and reading
for some in music and listening....or singing
for some it is in being could be human or it could be of the animal variety.
for some it is with plants and the non-human living things
for some it is with kids
for some it is in caring
for some it is in sharing
for some it is in painting
for many it is in doing
for some it is in their work and job ( the luckiest!)
for some in writing
and so many never find their Zen and forever wander in search of that inner peace( Po style!)

by now you would get that by Zen I mean Inner peace...

go find it..and teach your kids that's the greatest learning for life

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Another storyteller

Pure storytelling is not performance...

As we sit or cuddle cozily into bed, or mayhaps, cuddle near mum or grand mum; old forgotten stories, or new ones are told. There are no frills, no dramatics (maybe, if you have a person who loves to be theatrical!). Just the teller and the audience, transported into a world of words. Living and feeling the nature of the story. Sometimes pensive, sometimes giggly, sometimes bored, sometimes demanding, the audience draws the teller into different moods and spaces.

This audience may have not done all this, yet the teller took us into his world of stories, lost to many, but discovered by the interested few.

I went for a story telling session at Page Turners book shop by Acoustic Traditional.( Hmm...I would like to know the story behind that name?!). They are an NGO working at reviving tribal folklore and stories.

Salil the story teller and the brain behind AT, sweetly and cleverly spun 2 tales from ancient lore for us. One about a monk and his pupil, and the other a tale about the creation of the rainbow. He walked us through Shaman world, the misconceptions, the practices; briefly, yet powerfully, for it is a world that we know little about.

The stories take us far away into worlds and minds we may never even think about...

lovely lovely space....

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Deep Connection - Inspiring Lives

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Sometimes we realise that people are indeed the most unique in the world. Whatever said and done for every Evil that happens....(yet that need not happen)...the Good that happens is also manifold.

Meet Mrs.Beulah of The Refuge Foundation, she had a calling (she says), from early childhood to take care of children. The children we take pity on but rarely step forward to do anything about. Yet her family wanted normal things for her, marriage, husband, job and twin sons.
But one day she took that step of faith into another world. She quit her teaching job and started taking in children abandoned by parents and society. Now she runs an orphanage (I cannot call it that, as what we saw was a wonderfully warm Home), with 19 children. With the support of her husband who continues to work in a school, and her twin sons, who are equally compassionate, she takes care of these children like they are her own.

Meet Mahesh ,whose mother died and father was incapable of looking after him and his siblings. He was raised in an Orphanage, currently working in a call center and studying by correspondence. He shared his story of struggle,that he was born in the slum and abandoned, yet his positive spirit and his need to achieve and educate himself was inspiring for us adults. He holds the fact that it is individual people in his lives who stood by him and encouraged him that has made him come so far.The little ones did not understand much, yet Mahesh himself was very touched and moved and told the little ones that Education is what makes us who we are and that we must learn to gain more (by the way he speaks excellent English!).

It was a wonderful space for me and my friends, Neeta and Sherin, who came along with me. We were touched, moved and inspired! I am in deep gratitude to them for coming and making the interaction memorable.

I hope to have many more such interactions and hope that others will take this up. For if we as individuals start interacting with our communities, then only we can be the change we want to see....

Together We can Aspire New Futures....

(The Refuge Foundation-Mrs. Beulah John; No 72, Bonn Mann Enclave; Kottanuru; Bangalore 77;

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Together we Aspire new Futures

Children are the future of our country.

Watching CNN-IBN hero Anuradha and her fight for girls in Nepal from trafficking, moved me beyond words.
She asks a simple question
"Can you see your daughter in my girls?"

I do, but for this I can only cry.

Narayana Murthy says that we must provide Real heroes to our children, to live values that they can emulate.

I want to, so for this I can only try.


Children in Orphanges grow up with a disconnect. Unless they are lucky enough to be in a nurturing environment.
They need real Heroes to show them that they too can create new futures and possibilities. As a part of of a leadership programme that I am doing, my project is about taking Real Heroes/Heroines who grew up in Orphanages and have them share their success and failures with other children who are now growing in a similar environment.

I am looking for people who have become successful in spite of growing up in Orphanages. They should be willing to share their story as well.

I am using my blog to reach out to you for help. If you know of someone who would like to be a part of my project,which I call "Together we Aspire new Futures", please get in touch with me:


Monday, April 25, 2011

She and I are the same....

My son came back from school and as usual the auto chap had ditched them and they had to come back in the hot sun.

(Unusually hot this summer Bangalore is fast losing its green cover, I see wonderful avenues denuded in the name of expansion. Yet this topic is a double-edged sword as the roads are pretty narrow and one can find heavy, heavy traffic lumbering through snaky picturesque narrow lanes.)

He was upset for many reasons. Having had to carry two bags (he was helping his sister), and feeling hot, and as he had not eaten his fill at school. Even on half-days he carries a good solid meal to school, as hungry boy is a seriously upset boy!

So today he was upset and angry. Throwing his bag on the floor and kicking his shoes here and there. He removed his belt and socks, yelled for some water and kept shouting and yelling. I had no idea why...

So cautiously I questioned him and he said;

My teacher did not allow me to eat today. I am so angry with her.

But why?

She doesnt like us eating inside the class.

But why?

Because we spill food

Then what does she want?

She wants us to go out and eat.

Ok,why didn't you?

Its too hot.

So you did not eat.


But, that's not right...

Yes, but she and I are the same. So why can't I eat inside?

Sometimes we are stymied by the words children use. Obviously my son was referring to the "human" factor here. His ability to eat inside without spilling is overruled by an inability to see that sometimes rules are pretty useless when that very human factor of discretion and flexibility is ignored.

A child can see that...

He could also have meant that she is equally capable of spilling...just as well as him...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Another story, another audience

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(please click on image for larger view)

The story of Shambala, from the Kalapa valley told by Waltar Fordham was the story for my telling today. We flew to Tibet and the cold valley mountains along with Iliana the brave and courageous girl who travels afar to face many challenges, meet some fantastic creatures and ultimately to find the Sun of Human Dignity within her.

Every time I tell this story I feel a thrill, I feel the magical connection with Iliana and every other human who has embarked on this journey called life.

The same wonder is mirrored in the faces of the children, though what they take back is definitely far far different from what I get in the telling. I can see the wonder in their eyes as Iliana travels through the snow and meets some fantastical creatures.

Its not just a story it is the experience and just as Iliana goes through many emotions; wonder, fear, joy, sorrow, thrill, defeat and pain. I see the way our own lives is but a kaleidoscope of feelings. If we see the wonder and amazement of actually living a life that gallops through this gamut of feelings, we can then see ourselves as adventurers, stumbling at times, confident at times, ecstatic at times, despondent at times.

Yet these are all but elements of a journey that makes for fascinating living.

So you can see that easily this is one of my favorite stories to tell, and today, even the 3 year old was rapt attention as we walked like the gentle tiger, pranced like the frisky lion and soared like the great Garuda.

You can hear the story...please do, I simply love

Friday, April 15, 2011

Around the world in 5 stories

Around the world in 5 stories is the theme for my summer workshop this year. Though the response has been limited, we had a blast...the children loved the story of Perseus and the Gorgon Medusa...and they loved the mask which we made along with it.
Tomorrow we complete this session which ran through the week.

I took them to Africa, then Russia, then introduced them to a Greek Hero, flew on to Tibet on wings of imagination and finally tomorrow we return to India with a folk tale!

What I really found fantastic was that the children really were waiting to hear the stories! I clarified on the third day by asking and unanimously the children said they loved the stories!!

So that makes me doubly happy...and though other attractions like the craft activity or the theater games make these sessions interesting, I believe the children are really there to hear the stories...

What a wonderful space to be in... know I never want to leave this space!!

Next week I do a similar workshop at a branch of the same library.

(If any one is interested to join new sessions from 18th to 23rd, between 11.00am to 12.00 noon, please leave a comment on this post with your contact email.
This is happening in CVRaman Nagar...Bangalore...please pardon me that I am shamelessly promoting my sessions here...but what other better way than to do it this way!)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Excercising Rights...

I feel a little embarrassed, a little sheepish, a lot of pain and sheer squeamish to say this. But I have to:

My maid came to me this morning and asked for leave. That's not new.
She is brand new though. After 6 months of maid come-maid go,and walk in rate of 3, I got some one to do the sweeping and mopping...that's a job I could not take on myself.
I have to draw the line somewhere....

Well within the first month of work she took off 3 days, yet I don't cut salaries and I let it go.
But within a week, yesterday to be precise, she comes to me with "Akka, I want leave".
( Now her addressing me "Akka" has a funny story behind it as well...two days into work, half way through the sweeping, she looks at me with a serious expression, gives me a pointed look...
"What shall I call you? Akka or Madam?!" I did a double take, wondering where this is coming from...and then it struck me...with a quizzical expression I asked her, her age...and she gave me a very supercilious look (my interpretation!) and proudly stated she had just completed 35 and was entering her 36th year.

I gave her a wry look..."Call me Akka...cos I am 36 going on 37"

...and then I saw the jaw drop....I know...its difficult...especially with the way I dress and the way I talk...probably looks like I am a teen...hehehe).

Any way coming back to my topic...she asks me for leave. My every cell registered its protest...and I was about to deny her this privilege, when she hurriedly said...
"I need to go to my hometown to vote. I will leave tonight and will be back tomorrow night"


Just last week my partner was chiding me for not even locating my Voter's ID card...and here was a responsible citizen of my country, who was spending money to exercise her rights and responsibility...

Of course my partner claims her trip must be sponsored by some political party..and I don't deny the truth in that...

Yet she is taking her responsibility seriously isn't she?
....and I still can't find my Voter's ID

Monday, April 4, 2011

Kissing Carps!

There is something about animals and creatures that live on this planet with us...

I am no great animal lover, more like...don't disturb me and I wont disturb you....or vice-versa. Yet these absolutely adorable Carps at Wonder La near Bangalore were a delight!!

My kids couldn't get enough of the fishes were clamoring and crowding for the food they were holding.

My son tells me it felt as if they were kissing his fingers!

They were a bit squeamish at the beginning, but once they got over the newness of feeling fishes feeding from their fingers, they were pretty excited and thrilled (nice alliteration huh?!!).

Lovely, lovely space to be in....watching fishes swimming is surely mesmerizing!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mixed Feelings

I have a sense of relief tinged with a little guilt now as I say this.

My mother's mother is no more.

I remember all that my sister and I have shared with this grandmother. Vivid memories of summer holidays spent in a small one room kitchen in Mylapore, where she stayed with my Uncle. Somehow the size of the house was not at all significant in my mind, and we spent many summers whiling away time playing PalanKuzhi, or Hopscotch, that we called Pandi.

Over the years she has shared her story with us and it flashes back to me now. A by-gone era filled with stories of struggle and difficulties. (Yet they raised children so well, and we balk at minute and insignificant challenges thrown at us...let me not get judgemental here...)

I remember the beautiful photo of Paati hanging in the tiny bedroom cum living room. She is sitting with a veena and looks like a movie star or a Raja Ravi Varma painting. What I cant forget is the look of confidence, self assurance that sits on her face. I am sure when that photo was taken the teenager had no clue what awaited her in future.

She was a wonderful singer; is how she has told us very proudly. Along with her brother, she spent her childhood passionately singing and playing the veena (is this where my daughter gets her talent? My FIL would say it is from his side!!). But later when she would recollect her talent and her ability to sing high pitch, the memories were so devoid of bitterness and animosity, I wonder how that generation moved along with life, rolling and falling, but not lingering in the bitterness of failed chances.

She was married to a wealthy man with car and office, unheard of at those times. Yet, the tragedy was that after 4 children and at 28 years she lost her husband to chicken pox. Yet the details she has shared with me about her married life is so tragi-comic.

Privacy was non existent and the elder women of the house literally stood guard over the wife, monitoring how many times and how many days a week. Can one imagine a life like that? After losing her husband, she had to travel between parents and in laws, not fitting in, not belonging anywhere.

What was her life? Where could she pour her passions?
Music and Movies.

Many summer afternoons, she would just take us to the nearest theatre for a movie show, Shivaji Ganesan or MGR, sometimes Gemini. Sitting by her as she lost herself in this world of make believe. We could not understand most of the dialogues, and would constantly ask her some question, she would answer or not, but an icecream/ snack was guaranteed.

Evening time was temple time and we would walk down to the Kapaleeswarer temple, to listen to some Kutcheri or Kalakshep or to just sit in the temple, gossiping and chatting with friends and neighbours. I still believe she led a charming life within all the difficulties she faced.

I remember that childhood with her, adulthood moved us apart; different priorities, different lifestyles. Flitting meetings, cursory and dutiful grand-daughterly visits.

We carry pieces of them in our memories and mine are filled with mixed feelings.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Love is in the Air

time flies on wings of responsibility
as love cocoons us, in its warm folds of unconditional acceptance.

For sure, Love is in the air.

Valentine's Day: February 14th, and much hoo haa.

Moral Police play politics and beat the Indian public for aping Western culture.

Sure are we not aping in every way?

We wear clothes that is by far more western than eastern, we eat food, play games, have hobbies, entertain in a very Western way. many, many ways that the Western world has entered our existence.

Is any thing wrong?

Moralistic attitude here is so redundant. As we expose ourselves to other cultures, especially American way of life, we will be influenced and we will necessarily infuse many of those ways into our lives.

Yet, if you have read Freakonomics, you will realise, that common place notions about changes in society is all a they state:
It was expected that crime rates in the US will increase dramatically in the year 2000, but...they found a drastic fall...

So also I believe, just because people are adopting and celebrating various events/days like Valentines, does not mean we will lose our own Indian culture.

When you look at it in one way...yes...there have been many such festivals/ events in India that have lost its value/ significance over the centuries... yet they have been replaced by other, more contemporary rituals/ celebrations.

Sati and Child Marriage were the norm...but now they are punishable offences...

That's why I can't understand what these moral polices' are harping about...
If the message behind such rituals/ celebrations is love and happiness, and in no way does it cause physical harm to another human. Then what's your problem?? may say obscenity, PDA, misuse.

Educate, inform, be open.

Do you know the story behind Valentine's day?

The story goes that the King banned marriages as he felt married men refused to enrol in the army. So St. Valentine, a priest, clandestinely married youngsters who so desired. He was caught and thrown into jail. Yet through out his time in jail, young men and women brought him flowers and chocolates to acknowledge the service he had done for them and he even wrote to the Jailer's daughter, letters that upheld the love that is felt by married people. He was killed/ hanged on Feb 14th.

Though we accept this love is meant for couples, love is intrinsic to any relationship, and let us acknowledge that on this day.

Don't be afraid to say you love, don't be afraid to feel love, don't be afraid to express love!!

Friday, February 11, 2011

everything and nothing

fire and freeze
calm and chaos
still and turbid
all in one
one in all
together it blends into
a solution of emotions
an amalgam of nature
a being of immense dichotomy
a human.

The fire within me belies the freeze without.
The chaos within me contradicts the calm without.
The turbidity and murkiness inside me is deeper than the stillness outside.

I am real and unreal at the same time.
all and none
up and down
inside out
Every thing and nothing.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

the flight

This one is for you sowms!!

You gave her wings

Wings of understanding,

she took flight

soaring high above,

feeling the rush of happiness

the touch of love.

beyond words

above reason

moments of ecstasy

a glimpse of paradise.

within her

she feels that presence

she is he

and they are one.



deeper they travel

nothing holds them together

nothing can tear them apart

invisible threads of understanding

binding their hearts

love like no other soars

unsaid thoughts realised

un-thought words felt

real and unreal merge

creating a space

for togetherness

earth holds no bird

that destiny chooses to fly

on wings of love and understanding.

Friday, January 28, 2011

translating thought to action

It’s only when our thoughts translate into actions that we reach out of ourselves and impact the life of another. (courtesy: The Art of Non Conformity)

How many times have you thought, you would contact a friend, and then never did it...or shall I say, postponed it...till date?

How many of us have wanted to buy a gift for someone close( a friend, a neighbour..why even our spouse?), and then find we don't have enough time, the occasion passes by, or even...that the person passes by?

How many of us have consciously reconnected with all that is important to us?

How many of us truly appreciate the little things done for us and to us?

And how many of us have translated that appreciation into action, rather than keep it safe within us as a word or a thought?

We need to create a space for ourselves where our actions impact the other. If this does not exist then there is no relationship.

We need to acknowledge the abundance around us and be present to the reality of all that nature has provided us

We need to open ourselves to honesty, freedom and true self expression

Acknowledging people in our lives is one of the least rated activities....
We may appreciate things they buy us or even things that they do for us.


How many of us can genuinely go to each and every person in our life and tell them:
I am grateful for who you are in my life...
Thank You for being you, and being You with me....

We don't realise that any relationship, be it bad, good, negative, positive is what shapes us into who and what we are at the present moment.

The meaning we attach to these relationships is of course the value judgements that We make and subsequently that is what determines the quality of life we choose to create for ourselves...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

the fall

she falls....

into that chasm

heads down


no sound can you hear

she spirals...

into that shaft

eyes open


images flash by

she spins...

into that void

pores tingling


too fast to feel

she crashes.

pieces of her scatter

her body lies here

but her soul is over there

and her heart is elsewhere

can she be this way?

a shatter

a scatter


fragile and fake.

she lies there


pinned down.

till they all come together

there may be no flight.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A story helps us...

This is a small childhood incident, but its impact is felt by me even today. The purpose of this incident is served today as I choose to tell my daughter the same anecdote when she faces a similar situation...hoping that the learning I did not gain, she does get...

I was in 7th standard, and my language skills were average and nothing very significant. B grade student. In my mind I was being compared to my sister who was 2 classes senior to me, and a more creative and talented writer according to the general feedback from teachers.

There was this one story completion exercise that I did for a creative writing essay, for which the teacher gave me an A grade( my first). I was ecstatic. Yet the teacher when handing over my book said: " I hope this is your original work and you have not copied it"

The impact of this was multi fold:
I could never write again without feeling I am copying some one else's' idea...
Original and creative took a different meaning, as I thought being original was this magical land where I could/would never get entry...
I decided I was a poor writer...
I would always confess I could not write and ask people to go to my sister for any such help...

A small event but a large impact...

My daughter wants to be selected for an elocution contest,for which she has prepared well; she even presented it to the teacher...
Yet she is not given the opportunity to perform because:
The other student is more experienced
There is no time to coach my daughter (the teacher has no time to work on my daughter's delivery...they want a processed, ready to serve meal...we are in times of Fast Food...)
My daughter's other imperfections cloud their decision making...

She came to me with tears...

I thought of my incident immediately...and how I had let a simple statement of that English teacher impact me for life...yet find myself writing and expressing myself in written form prolifically now...

Interest and Intent is not valued I have said before
Performance and perfection is all pervasive..

Yet there is a readiness in my daughter, a willingness to learn and do, that is not being appreciated. Words are used woundingly and unthinkingly on children...

I assured her, that the teacher is making a value based judgement, and is also biased by a lack of vision. She needed to go back to her and present herself again as a keen and interested speaker, and if not this time, get a promise that the next time she would be given a chance...
I told her my incident and how I had allowed those words to erode my confidence, yet it need not be the case with her...

So typical of her; she in turn told me a story...
... of a king who is looking for a sculptor to do a grand job for his palace, 2 sculptors approach him. The king looks at them, one is well dressed and well kept, while the other has straggly hair, and deep/ dark eyes. He decides to go for the neat guy...only to find his work is very slipshod and uninspiring. When he visits the other sculptors workshop, he sees some wonderful murals and art work...The king realises that appearances can be deceptive, and only when we give a chance and encourage ourselves to see positive in the other person, can we truly understand the true nature of things....( similar to don't judge a book by its cover!!)

( This is a story she has read, and not told by me)

My wonderful girl has learnt an important lesson yesterday, and I hope she is talking and marketing herself today in school as I write this, without letting another's judgement undermine her confidence...

I will know when she gets back...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Chennai in transformation

Childhood memories apart; the city that I have lived in as a child, a teen, and an always the quintessential Madras to me...

Last week a friend of mine returned from Chennai to Bangalore, and I asked her toddlers in a voice loaded with interest...
"So how was Madras?"
pat came the reply from my friend,
"They dont know Madras, they know only Chennai"

I took a double take.

Its not the first time I have had to correct myself, both verbally and mentally. But this was the first time I have had to do it so unconsciously. Those born into the city called Madras find it quite difficult to call it by any other name.

My so called roots. I have mixed reactions about the city, bitter sweet memories.
I know no other city culturally and I believe I am both a spectator and a participant to the transformation that I see in it.

The beach:
Elliots beach is where I grew up. It is located very close to where my parents live and subsequently my in laws.
The sea answers an internal rhythm within me, and just staring at its myriad hues stretching before me shows me a glimpse of eternity and the nothingness that we are. The same feel when I stare into space.

(So you know, I do a fair amount of staring when I am alone!! )

Leaving the metaphors and magic aside, when I saw Elliots this time I was almost retching at the ghastly sight of filth, human discard and disregard.

I have a habit of walking on the beach when I am in chennai, be it Elliots when I am with In-laws or Marina when I am with sister. Post Kaanum Pongal, it was appalling to see the way people had trashed the beach. I pity the residents. Noise is one factor, but the amount of refuse and waste just left lying there is impermissible.

Why People Why??

Fun comes with responsibility. I come away this time with a very sad feeling and wonder why we don't we have have campaigns and conferences on keeping our city clean; before, rather than just cleaning up after the mess is done.

(Sadly Indians never take ownership of the crap we leave behind, or create)

I am told this is a yearly feature, which saddens me even more. I would expect that a system for trash disposal would exist by now...


I am not a "Malling" person. Basically I am a snob to capitalism and materialism, not that I don't have desires and don't buy stuff. Yet I look at luxury as a synonym to comfort, and believe in owning/ buying what I require to make myself comfortable. Nothing more, nothing less. (What would communists call malls??)

I visited one in Chennai.

Why go to Chennai to see a mall?
a) some things are better done with company and Chennai is loaded with a family who enjoy malls
b) Because it's an all encompassing fun indoor thing to do, shopping, movie, play, food...
c) Children have space to play in special areas designated and designed for them
d) Food is multi- cuisine and caters to all palates.

It was amazing. Sunday evening at a mall, is like going to the local festival/ mela sans the religious feel.
People from all walks hanging out together, eating, talking, playing, sitting, standing, shopping, window shopping...
People of all age groups, young children arms locked with each other busy chatting or texting.
Families in droves accompanied by the tiniest infant all swaddled in blankets, to teens, looking greedily at all the contraptions, deciding which ones they wanted to ride/ play.
Elderly couples strolling through the chaos, observing, some smiling, some grim faced. Accompanying their kin out of compulsion...or a desire.(A desire to see and experience this chaos, to know what the present is doing in this multiple, multi sensorial,super-stimulating environment.)
Couples, young and old, loosing themselves in this ocean, finding privacy in public.
Newly marrieds, un-marrieds, individuals, groups, men, women, children...

I come away feeling malls are social events in our lives. Happening every day, any one and every one is welcome for a price, we all get to party...
Yet I would like a quiet space within this chaos, a library maybe (I haven't seen one library in any mall), where children at least get to see that being by yourself and doing things quietly can also be infra dig.
(Please don't get me wrong, I like my partying and shouting and fun, but the other side exists too isn't it?)

These are but two places that I drowned myself in to capture the feeling of how the city has transformed...

I also did see many new public spaces around Chennai, new parks, and fountains. Wonderful frescoes along the roads, on walls that speak of Tamil stories and monuments. Quickly the roads have expanded, flyovers that have risen in a blink, metro trains that run, bus service that still carries on efficiently, transporting its faithful.

I can also see how people have taken to the changes very rapidly. Changes in clothing styles, hair fashion, accessories. In spite, the Kanjeevarams, the gold, and malli poo still retains its traditional flavour.

Chennai: Singara Chennai, your way is rapidly evolving the way million other cities grow.
As you discard old fashioned archetypes you hungrily ingest new and futuristic façades, to mark the beginning of a new decade.

I wait eagerly to see the complete transformation!
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