Sunday, January 29, 2012

It's all Over

Warnings are never heeded to on time. Accidents, terror attacks, avoidable situations and instances of unwanted pain, regret all stand testimony to this . Yet, we never seem to learn.

I was warned of it 3 years ago. We all were. But no one spared an ear or thought for the prophetic words of our elders. "It will be over before you know it", they said.

Now it's too late. Signs of the imminent day are all around us and we stand helpless. Time slips through our fingers like beach sand.

Traces of THE END are everywhere. In the heavy pauses in conversation, in the hesitant pen poised thoughtfully over an open diary that awaits a few parting words to be penned, in the long sighs, in the glassy, lost eyes and in that tight knot of emotions that tugs at our hearts every time a thought of the end sneaks into our minds.

It's all over, our degree days. All that remains is to bid farewell.

There are tons of ways to say it, but nobody seems to know to unravel that confused, tangled knot of nameless emotions, fond memories and unforgettable moments, to lay it out and then, to neatly roll up the threads and to pack it all into that one word- GOODBYE.

It's not easy. It never is. Particularly when we have to say it to people we love. When the moment arrives, the obstinate words get stuck. Stuck in our pens. Stuck in our throat. Stuck in our eyes. And then , the moment passes and our dear ones walk out from our lives taking away with them chunks of our hearts. They leave behind voids- holes, most of which will get leveled with time but a few will remain like craters on the surface of the moon.

For me, my first 3 years as a student of English Literature are over. My first year introduced me to my first love- my subject. The second gifted me with a trusty friend in my pen and the third showed me how empty, drab and meaningless life would have been for me if I hadn't stumbled into the enchanting and exciting world of English Literature.

This is it. Here's my cue to say my Thank yous and to exit stage.

So to my dear teachers who inspired me to open my eyes and my heart to the amazing world of words and to my dear friends who made life worth living with their mere presence, I say, a big.........uh................ahem..........ex..excuse me.........((shake))....((shake))............................... ((shake))..............ugh!...............It's no use.............They are stuck. Stuck in my pen- the words.

Monday, January 2, 2012

I grew up in the 90's

“Sonu! Show chechi your fashion show.” Three year old Sonu, my cousin looks at her mother then at me. She runs up to me, pulls my hand and seats me on the brown sofa. The child then hops ten feet away, stops, turns to face me, stands with one end of her yellowish green frock spread out to her right, puts her left hand on her hip, flashes a smile and does the ramp walk as perfectly as a three year old child can. Her mother seems proud. I don’t know what to feel.

I watch her prance about on the white marble and wonder what age I was when I first heard about or watched a fashion show. It was definitely NOT when I was three.

Globalisation, cyber space, television, mobile phones.........the children born in the ‘happening times of technology’ are exposed to much more than I was in my childhood. But as I watch young children glued to their computers and T.V screens, I wonder, are they losing out on the experience of growing up? Do they lose their childhood? Their innocence?

In their old age when they reminiscence about their childhood, what will they be nostalgic about? Computer games? Facebook? Chats? Orkut?

I grew up in an age when mobile phones were next to non-existent and computers, a rare spectacle. Video cassettes, tape recorders, music cassettes all ruled the roost blissfully unaware of their imminent extinction.

If you’ve quarrelled with your brother over a GI-JOE action figure or with your sister over a Barbie doll, we must be siblings of the same Age. Yes, I too grew up in the 90’s.

The first image that springs to life at the mention of my childhood is that of playing cricket with my brothers. The fights we had, the scraped knees, bruised elbows and egos, muddy clothes..........the memories make me want to grow up all over again.

Cricket was not the only game we played. There was ‘Lock ‘n Key’, ‘Donkey’, Hockey, ‘Badminton’, ‘Hide-and-Seek’ and a host of others. With other children in the neighbourhood joining in, the air was always filled with screams and laughter. During our vacations, play started right in the morning and breaks were taken only for meals. In the evening, we kids could be found all over the compound walls, on trees, gates or anywhere else you can think of. Memories of clambering onto the trees around our house to eat guavas, mangoes and jambakka straight off them, still tempts my heart.

Cycling was a rage too and the nastiest of fights broke out when we quarrelled over whose turn it was to ride on the cycle next. My younger brother and myself shared a ‘Hero Buzz’ while older brother rode a ‘BSA SLR’. Falling off the cycle was fine as long as we kept our mouths shut about it. Cuts, bruises and wounds were all common occurrence and our parents never panicked or rushed their ‘precious child’ to a hospital at the slightest hint of blood.

The monsoons were looked forward to for the initial enthusiasm to play in the rains, go fishing with plastic covers and makeshift nets in the flooded lanes or to ‘send ships out to sea’ in the flooded sunshade of the house. But once the initial excitement died down, we turned our attentions to indoor games. Among board games, ‘Scrabble’, ‘Ludo’ and ‘Snakes ‘n Ladders’ were popular while with cards the favourite games were ‘Bluff’ and ‘Ace’. You would never believe how spirited these games got and how all regard for relationships got suspended during each match.

Does any of you remember the Wrestling cards and Cricket cards available back then? For a while my brothers were crazy about them. I always stuck by my Barbie.

Pocket money was a rare luxury so it was always the creativity of our minds that kept boredom at bay. I still remember the cars, Lorries, jeeps, bikes and jets my brothers used to make with empty staple pin boxes, match boxes, pieces of cardboard and bottle caps. Our bedroom floor often got converted into vast cities complete with roads, buildings, bridges, petrol pumps, workshops etc. all thanks to strips of cardboard and other waste materials. These cities then became scenes of intense drama as action packed spy stories came to life. The ‘think tank’ among the three of us was my older brother. Those were the times when our young minds were always well oiled and bursting with imagination.

In the midst of all this we always found time to sneak into the enthralling world of books. All of us relish reading and so there were always library books from school in the house. Our first friend in the world of books was good old Enid Blyton. Before long we ventured out to meet Nancy Drew, Frank and Joe Hardy and so on. But what we siblings regularly fought over was, “Who gets to read ‘Tinkle’ first?”

With the dawn of each new month we would sharpen our ears and wait for the first “Trriing!!” of the newspaper man’s cycle bell. The moment he turned into our lane, we would dash to the gate to get at the comics and children’s magazines subscribed at home. Apart from books like the ‘Reader’s Digest’, ‘Vanitha’, ‘India Today’ etc. for the grownups, our little treasures included ‘Champak’, ‘Tinkle’, ‘Tinkle Digest’, ‘Children’s Digest’, ‘Balarama’, ‘Kalikudukka’ and ‘Amarchitrakatha’.

T.V. viewing was restricted and each of us had ‘T.V. times’ allotted to us. But unfailingly, on Wednesdays, we would finish all our homeworks before six in the evening to be able to watch ‘Mowgli’ and ‘Dino the Last Dinosaur’. I once cried myself to sleep; heartbroken because Mom wouldn’t let me watch the cartoons as I had got my Math homework all wrong. I still remember myself staring at the mocking numbers in my Math text teary eyed. Anger and hatred seethed within my little heart. Ooh! How I hated Math!!!

T.V. soon became a happening place when Cartoon Network took us by storm with its wide array of cartoons for kids of all ages and tastes.
‘Swat Cats’, ‘Ninja Robots’, ‘The Centurians’, ‘Sky Commanders’, ‘The Little Lulu Show’, ‘Popoye’ were all cartoons of the time. Do you remember the antics of Top Cat and Stanley Ipkis(a.k.a. the Mask)? And how about Johny Quest?

“Captain Planet........he’s the hero.......who takes pollution down to zero......” remember that catchy theme song? Yup, Captain Planet was a hot favourite too. The only serials we were permitted to watch were ‘Shaktimaan’ and ‘Mahabharata’ telecast on Sundays in Doordarshan.

In Bollywood, 90’s was the time when the ‘Fauji’ fame King Khan (S.R.K) asserted his supremacy. Down south in Kerala, the people anointed Mamooty and Mohanlal as the rulers of Mollywood. With that everyone else including Rahman, Sankar and the like got swept to the sidelines of the stage.

Something else about the 90’s which is not seen anymore is the tape recorder. That black box singing songs held me in wonder for quite a while. I remember being told stories of how singers from ABBA and BONEY M resided inside the black box waiting for the box to be turned on so that they could sing! The late 90’s saw video games begin to trickle in and the first to reach our hands was the Brick Game set with three different games in it.

Among all those memories of my childhood, my ‘big moment of growing up’ was the day I got my first pen. I got my first pen when I was about to step into the 5th STD. Until then it had been mandatory that we use only pencils.

It was an ink pen, my first pen. It had a maroon body with a silver cap. Gosh....I felt so grown up when Mom gave me the pen and showed me how to use it. All of a sudden I had such a lot to write!! I strutted up and down the house with my brand new pen much to the envy of my younger brother who had one more year to wait before he got one too.

That year at school, everyone flaunted their pens. The coolest kids in class had ‘Hero pens’ or ‘Parker pens’. But before long the ballpoints knocked ink pens out for good. By the time my kid brother got onto his first pen, it was a ballpoint one he got (much to my envy).

The joy with which I jumped around on getting a new doll, the passion with which the three of us quarrelled over the pettiest of things, the games we played, playing in the rain together, how we fought and soon after joined forces to steal snacks from the kitchen, the beatings and punishments we’ve earned from our parents, the love, fun and cheer we’ve shared are all memories I will cherish unto death.

Blame it on my narrow mindedness, ignorance or plain lack of imagination but I cannot digest the idea of today’s 'technology centred' children feeling nostalgic in their old age about computer games or Facebook chats!!!

Childhood is not meant to rot at the feet of technology.

Childhood is meant to be lived. Children should step outside and play. They should feel the different heats of the sun as it saunters from the East to the West. They should understand the different moods of the rains and know how it feels to sniff imminent rains in the coldness in the air. Let them smell the Earth, breathe fresh air, enjoy the fragrance of flowers, listen to birdsong and experience nature instead of staying cooped up indoors.

But wait! Am I missing the point here? Who is to blame for children becoming couch potatoes?

As an answer to that, one can’t help but point accusing fingers at parents who often use computer games etc. as lures to keep their kids indoors and so out of trouble. It is so much more convenient to have our children under our eyes all the time.

Dear parents, stop and think. Do you want your child to regret later in life over the childhood they have lost?

Technology, development, exposure are all good and needed but not at the expense of childhood or the innocence of it.

Happy New Year everybody.......

Hearty wishes for a happy and joyous New Year ahead. May all your dreams come true.......

A Message From a Stray Dog!!! Merry Christmas!!!!

Oh! Oops. I meant HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!

Sorry about that. Y’see, it ain’t every day that dogs like me get a mike to bark into. So you’ll have to bear with all my mistakes.

By the way, my name’s Lucky and I was a sniffer dog in the police department. A girl wearing glasses came up to me this morning said she wanted me to give a New Years Day message to all of humanity. She smelt of soap.

I was taken aback but touched by her gesture. It was mighty nice of her to ask me, a poor, old, uncared for dog something like that. And that too politely! It felt good to be treated kindly. Who treats stray dogs kindly anyway? Can’t blame the people though. Hey, I didn’t lie about being a sniffer dog. It’s true. But when I grew old, my masters dumped me on the streets to fend for myself. I hear humans do that to their old parents too.

I know what that smirk on your face means. Nope. Don’t roll your eyes coz I may be a dog I am dog who’s been living with humans all my life. Besides, I am old and with age comes wisom (nobody believes that part anymore).

That cheeky smirk said, “Yeah right. Do ya really think we’re gonna sit around listening to this kinda rubbish from a stupid old dog!!!!”

Aint I right or what?

Y’see, like I told you, I may be a dog but I am a dog with 15 years of experience behind me and in the canine world,15 years is a long time. But of course its upto you whether to listen to me or not but you can’t stop me from saying it.

Before I go on, lemme make two things clear to you. First is, I aint no orator. So I can’t be expected to be eloquent and charming in my words. I’ll say what I wanna say in as simple a manner as possible. The second thng is, just coz i am dog does not mean what I say is meant for the canine world. I speak for the ears of humanity. Are you clear on that?

The New Years Day message........hmmm...I thought long and deep about what to tell you guys. But before I get on with it, lemme ask you to go on a rewind. How was the last year for you? Evaluate the year 2011.

What did you evaluate it on the basis of? Profit? Loss? Success? Fun? Or how much good the year did for you?

Good coz all of these things do matter. Afterall, your life is meant to be enjoyed.

But have you wondered about the other beings around you? Do you know how exhilarating it feels to be the reason behind another’s smile? Have you ever paused in your busy life to lend a listening ear, a helping hand, a warm hug or a friendly smile to anyone?

Think back. Dig out every incident that occurred in the last year and see whether you have touched any one life with the warmth and generosity of love.

If your answer to that is a ‘Yes’, my friend (no offence intended) your life has been worthwhile. The year 2011 has not gone in vain for you.

If your answer is a ‘No’, I pity you.

My New Year’s message to y’all is, pursue your dreams and ambitions with all the passion in your heart. But along the way to your goal, if you see needy man(or dog ;) stop. Don’t walk on like you didn’t see him. You won’t lose a thing if you lend a helping hand to one in need.

Love is powerful. A small gesture of kindness on your part may even save a life. What you do may seem small and irrelevant to the probing eyes of the world but may mean the world to the person whose life you’ve touched with your loving heart.

Are you wondering what right a ragged old stray dog like me has to speak of something as wonderful as love?

I have been a recipient of such wholehearted love and kindness. That is why I speak of it. I was ditched by my owner the day I was born. I was left out on the streets to die. Since I was too small and hadn’t even opened my eyes all I could do was to cry my heart out. Soon I sensed movement around me and felt cool water run down my parched throat.

A child had found me. He took me home, named me, nurtured and trained me and made me the best sniffer dog in the Police Department. His father was a police officer. He took good care of me till his father got transferred and I was forced to stay back. The love and kindness in the child’s heart saved my life coz otherwise you wouldn't be listening to me right now.

As the year 2012 extends a red carpet welcome to y’all, I wish you a year filled with ten times as much love, joy and peace as you extend to the world.

Go on. Give it a try. It aint all that hard. Just be good to everything and everyone around you. Spread love, cheer and happiness and see how happy you’ll feel at heart at the end of it. Trust me. It’s worth the effort.

HAPPY NEW YEAR FOLKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

P.S. By the way, do give a thought to mother nature too coz all our lives depend on her good health (particularly mine- your garbage stinks!!!!!!))