Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Problem to Solve


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He was not a friend of mine but when I met him in the library I had to share a smile. He was milling his way back to the counter with a pile of books held close to his chest.

“How are you Mustafa?” I asked.

“Hi, nothing special, man. Just going. And you?”

“Nothing much, yaar. I heard you are organizing protests for raise in the salary of Guest Lecturers.”

“Oh, yeah! By the way, being a guest lecturer yourself why don’t you join us?” He asked me with a sarcastic smile upon his face.

“I am a bit busy these days, yaar. I actually forgot the date of your Union formation.” I padded my response with enough diligence to keep him off suspicion.

“Is that the case? Don’t worry, we still take people in; we don’t have any closing date for memberships, we never had, I mean.” Mustafa said.

I was not political. It was sure he had no idea what I thought about Unions with a political nature. That moment had its hidden malignity that was unexpected and therefore unsettling.

I was trapped.

“Excuse me, just a minute…” I excused myself with my cell phone in hand, suggesting I had a call to make, the language of the yuppies; an “excuse me” with a cell phone could mean anything. I went out and did not go back to the counter.

The incident kept my thoughts occupied. I always ran away from such Unions, and now, it seemed a dead end. At that spot in the library I was almost forced to join the Lecturer’s Union. However, what seemed more dangerous was the way I felt about this step; joining the Union. I had started thinking of it as a ‘necessary evil’.
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I stood looking out of my window facing the endless gravel ground with a Government School at its end, with its tiled roof reflecting the darkness spreading over the landscape.

The sensation in the air of a slow movement inside the room made me control my thoughts, which were spilling all over my face, at once.

It was my Papa; he smiled. I smiled back. “When you want to be alone, you must be alone, but the choice of the moment sometimes can be wrong and then it can do us the opposite of the desired result,” He said.  He was an English teacher in a High school in Kannur town.  

“It’s just nothing Pa,” I tried to cover it up, since his involvement meant the end of my solitude for the moment, my much wanted solitude.

“It’s the problem of the Guest Lecturer’s salary issue; the University is not allotting the full salary, they say the government is not allotting them the required amount due to the fiscal crisis. And I met this friend of mine today, who asked me if I could join the cause against the government,” it surprised me, I didn’t want to talk with him then, but I opened my mouth and blurted it all out.

“OK. So what is your decision?” Papa enquired.

“I haven’t made any decision yet, pa,” I said with a tint of desperation, since I was absolutely sure of the uselessness of sharing this issue with him. “His Union has a definite political alignment. As you know I—”

“—Not interested in Union politics,” Papa cut in. “So you are in a confusion, right?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Have you heard of Mr. Mathieu Kallarakkal?” Papa asked me. I nodded, I knew this man from our old family album. He was one of our distant relatives in the maternal side, now dead. Papa always took the name Mathieu Kallarakkal with respect, something I was very impressed at, since most of the husbands as far as my observations taught me, are incessantly repellant from anything or any one close to their wives’ families, at a later stage in their marital life.

Mathieu Kallarakkal was jailed by the Indira Gandhi government during the political emergency, in the year 1976. At that time he was thirty nine; forty years later he passed away at his home, living prosperous as a successful painter.

“He never was a political activist, but still he was imprisoned. Do you know why?” Papa spoke up.

Mathieu Kallarakkal had a prison experience was all I knew.

“He always wanted to be a painter; he had a job as an artist who drew banners and wall posters for political parties. That was what he did for a living; he never belonged to any of them. After the emergency, as the political activities were banned Mathieu Kallarakkal, the artist lost his only income.

“He had a serious problem to solve—making a living. And he had found a way out too. One day he came with his brushes and canvas; fixed them in the market junction with a board on the nearby electric post, which read ‘Have the Freedom of Art—Art Classes for All Ages.’  He didn’t join the politicians for protest against the government.
Image Courtesy: Google

“He started teaching painting. Since he had no rooms in the town and didn’t have the money to rent one he taught classes in the street itself. A lot of kids and young people came to learn from him. This was at a time when the government had prohibited public assembling. Mathieu Kallarakkal was arrested.

“After one year he was out of jail, but by then he was a local hero imprisoned by the despotic government. He started exhibiting his paintings about his days in jail. Each of the paintings was accepted with a greater significance. He had opened a space for himself, as a political hero and an icon for all the political parties.

“All the political parties rallied to impress him. But the truth remains that until the end of his life, he never accepted any affiliation with political parties. He never tried to correct what others said about him.”

I looked at Papa. He was engrossed much in his tale, which seemed weak in craft. It was perhaps a real story, but he was a poor teller.

“I thought he was politically active, everyone in the town believes it. But now he seems very similar to me,” I said.

Papa’s face came closer to mine. “Have you noticed where you both differed?” he asked.

His face was so close that the nearness suffocated me. “Wh—what do you mean?” I asked.

“Mathieu Kallarakkal decided to choose his own path in finding a solution to his problem, rather than relying on others,” Papa stopped and went backwards until his back touched the wall opposite to the window I was standing by.

I felt that it was my turn to talk, “I understand Pa; it’s the courage to make choices that matters, right?”  

“Yes,” Papa said, “But Mathieu Kallarakkal’s real greatness is not just in making choices, but in the courage to live with whatever people said about him, without complaints,” Papa smiled and left the room.

I stared at the wall and then outside the window. It was dark, but I could see the flickering lights among the rocks that partially hid beneath the gravel ground.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

There Will be Signs in the Moon

Image Courtesy: Google
“Come out and take a picture,” His mother called from outside.

“It’s eclipse!” He heard his father’s voice. The moon was shrouded in a mysterious shadow and was visible only a little, and the leaves of coconut palms were caressing this picturesque moment endlessly in the slow breeze.

It was December and the chill had increased considerably in the past three days. The smell of dust wafted from the nearby dust road and a new Malayalam song made its delusional presence from a distance in the dark.

“Take your cell phone too, and click away some pictures,” mother’s voice intervened.

He forced himself to focus, but felt himself confined in his room, outside his world. There was no going back and the room had no possibility of sending him into the future either. The future was a trap, a place from where he could never get back. He found no choice other than to go there and to undo the snares.

“What are you doing in there?” Mother again.
“It’s harmful for naked eyes,” He called back at her, trying to drown his frustration in the sound of his voice as natural as possible, hard. But somewhere it might have left edges; she went quiet for some time.

“O, Mother!” He sighed; then took his cell phone, the only camera at home, running out.

Victor Immanuel thought of the possible reactions from the Dean of the College. He was sure he hadn’t committed a mistake. But what others talked about him was something close to that. Will there be times when our convictions rank higher than the tangible reality?

The answer he found was, yes.

He worked as an English teacher.

He sat numb in his room, at his humble house, which badly needed a renovation. The thoughts that passed through his mind were mostly about the outcome of the informal meeting with the student-teacher coordinator. Victor had been warned of teaching things out of the course structure, like what is like to be a teacher, and how less can one teach and the abundance of knowledge one can assemble through learning. That was his masterpiece lecture; he remembered:

The class is packed. Each student has a stunned face at the first day of their Graduation course. The first teacher arrives; it is the Dean. “This is the route to greatness. Follow the rules, be disciplined, and attend the classes regularly,” the Dean says.

Just after the first hour of introductory class by the Dean, the students face the next teacher. The teacher is a young man, who looks mid twenties. “Learning requires the courage to go beyond the rules. Discipline is the force one should use to bring the courage required. Enjoy life, live each moment to the fullest.”

He knew something went wrong with his approach with the students; but what? The words he had spoken, the lessons he had taught, nothing, none of them was wrong, nor were they a mistake. His plan was to gradually transform the confusion in the students into the surprise of learning.    

“The previous teacher was not like this.” Most of the students’ feedbacks included same statement. The criterion for staying on teaching the course was entirely dependent upon the coordinator’s personal whim, the side he took.

The coordinator might have made that up just to put me in trouble, he thought. “I am here to enjoy life, learn and never to teach,” he had said this to the coordinator, a traditionalist who used his primitive touch stone to asses everything happening around him.

Another day. “It’s….not the……….aesthetic appreciation ….Matthew Arnold aims…in Dover Beach….” The young teacher says the first sentence.

“BOOO!!!”

He heard it. But the students are quiet. Then who made the sound?

He rewound the incident in his mind, and then he was sure it was inside his mind; the sound that humiliated him.

“What’s a mistake? Not to lemming someone else, like the Dean or the coordinator?” he asked himself.

Victor Immanuel, the very next day, went to the university library. He took a large volume on teaching. It said ‘Teaching is an art.’ He smiled, which took a rather sarcastic twist.

A scrap from future suddenly slipped into his mind without his notice, “You know it would have cost you your job, don’t you?” Future and present seemed irrevocably antagonistic with each other and he knew his past is the only place he could rest and is safe. But the past had crumbled down with the quakes of the ticking clock. 

“Writing?”

He heard a question from behind, unexpectedly, giving a tremor through his body. He turned round, irritated. It was the assistant director of the library, a lady in her middle age.

“Are you writing? By the way, Victor, do you have any published materials? I think your colleagues have, I had a chance to talk to one of them,” she said with the air of an all-knowing.

Victor pondered hard on what she had just said, trying to make sense.

“What do you mean?” He mumbled with an effort.

“Don’t you people need published articles for promotion in job?” she asked. As if she is the final word in academic prospects, as if writing an article can make someone a better teacher…, he thought.

There was nothing that was said. Victor walked out of the library. The lady kept staring at his way.

At his office, he took his cell phone out. Opened the folder with the pictures of the eclipse; just a blurred white spot in a dark background. His cell phone camera was just 640x480 pixels, one with a weaker eye for details and distance. He could never afford a digital camera with a better resolution; he never had the money. How easy it is to round up the causes of much of the human woes into money, he thought.

He went into the classroom and started teaching.

The staff coordinator asked for him in the afternoon. Inside the well furnished room of the coordinator Victor felt the heat of a battlefield.

“I have been monitoring your class for a long time now, Victor,” he said. “What you have been doing all these days is something contrary to what we had requested you to do…”He stopped abruptly and looked straight into his eyes. There was a smile on his smile. It was difficult to understand the meaning of that piece of smile, just like a modern poem.

“You knew it would have cost you your job, didn’t you?” Silence again.

“However, I would like to add something, Victor, you did it well,” he said. “You can continue with your job.” He said and laid himself back to his chair. 

Victor sat in front of him without a word. Then he excused himself and came out.

There was no monitoring system in the classroom and whatever the coordinator had monitored would just be the opinions of some students or some gossips spreading among his colleagues. Perhaps the coordinator had made it all up.

“You knew it would have cost you your job, didn’t you?”   

Victor turned back to the closed door. He raised his middle finger.      

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sachin Tendulkar's 100th Century

[Continued from the previous post]
Image Courtesy: Google
I still remember the day when I saw Sachin Tendulkar for the first time.

Of course, it was not in person, but in a cricket match in Doordarshan Sports. I was perhaps eight or nine and cricket in India at that time hadn’t reached the insane levels of popularity like we have today.

Image Courtesy: Google
I did not have a big idea about cricket at that time. Sachin was standing on a carpet of brown mud with a bat; his posture was what attracted me. He looked like my He-Man doll with his bat. Then I saw his running between the wickets and knew instantly here was the hero I can adore in ‘real’ life, not like He- Man or The Phantom, or Conan or Hanuman.

Sachin mania has its crucial role on placing cricket as one of the most important commodity in the Indian media psyche. The mass was already in frenzy, and Doordarshan, the official channel in India, which once was the only television channel available inside India (mostly until mid nineties), had reaped its part in this new era of Indian cricket with DD sports, a venture that started off in 1998. Even though, DD Sports had the growing interest in sports in mind, its spinal cord was still the huge market for cricket.

This monopoly was breached by the arrival of private owned television channels, though, Sachin Tendulkar’s name remained as the philosopher’s stone for this new hype in television sports and especially cricket in India.

The Ghost Rider of Indian cricket has done it again. The hundredth international century by Sachin Tendulkar is equal to any other century he scored, in style, in enthusiasm, in thrill, and in nerve jangling suspense. Even though team Indian lost the match with Bangladesh, who played a remarkable game and deserved all the credits, let us not robe the moment off its charm. Sachin is the man, this is the moment.

Rising to occasions, this hero of Indian cricket had achieved a milestone which is a message in itself. “Enjoy your game, Chase your dreams.”

Dreams do come true. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sachin Tendulkar 100th Century

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16th March, 2012 is special not just for my personal life, but also for those who love cricket. The reason is there on air in every television channel, and radio, with a sensible number of public awaiting their sports section, blaring—Sachin hits 100 runs once again; but this is not the news; the news is, this is the 100th time Sachin has done it.

For me, this day is special too, especially in my personal and professional life. After one week of silence, today I decided to write.

After thejunk story I wrote for my previous post, I took an off from my writing, almost entirely. No poems, non-fiction, nothing, which otherwise would have happened as a filling in, in the process of not writing fiction. Fortunately, such a block is not conscious. The unconscious mechanism of mind puts its curb whenever it is needed. I guess I needed one, well, after writing the previous story anyone can understand why.

Image Courtesy: Google
Such was the impact of writing a bad story. When I found signs indicating that God is calling me back to writing, I decided to do what the only choice of any human being confronted with a sign would be—to follow it.

This moment was before I came to know about Sachin’s momentous achievement.

I reached home. Had my shower and switched on the telly. There was a boring song sequence from a recent Malayalam movie going on in one channel. In another, there was a discussion on the recent Piravam elections. I flipped the channel and this loud, thunderous roar blasted through the speakers. It was a sports channel and there was an insane celebration going on.

Sachin…Sachin…Sachin…

[To be continued]

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Hard Bounce

We live in a world that instigates relentlessly the marvel of change in each of the moments we survive. There is a way in which we all read even the concept of change itself, so similar to other things that merely undergo the overwhelming impact of change.

Most changes occur as a reaction to the ever poignant concern for survival. And some other changes are an expression of the self.

This story will tell you the rest. Any insinuations about the meaning the story suggests are welcome.

Once a young boy was walking back home from his new school. His father was a government employee and so his family had to change places according to the transfers the man received in his service.

There was an old building the boy had to cross to reach the turn in the road to his house. Usually the area was deserted with not a single sign of human beings present nearby.

The boy heard foot-steps that day. He looked back.

There was no one. He walked but stumbled upon something and fell. It was a rope, stretched tight into some invisible jut inside one of the rooms in the old building.

The boy looked inside, there was a window that was open and a head that stuck out. It was a classmate of his. He had seen the boy in the class, but hadn’t talked or sat close by.

The boy stood up and dusted his trousers. He heard more foot steps. Before long he found himself surrounded by some other boys.

“So you are the new boy?” one of them who seemed the head of the gang asked, “Look Shaji, is he the one who took away your chance to answer the teacher’s question?”

The boy called Shaji, who was waiting on the window, now came near and said yes.

So that was the reason of this meeting, the boy thought. That was his first day in class and he didn’t know the local conventions. He answered the questions correctly as soon as the teacher shot them. It should not have happened.

The new comers should not have interfered in the proceeding of the old monopoly, even if there was no harm done to anyone. Even if the questions were asked, you must wait for your chance to answer it, whatsoever the teacher told them.

“We didn’t know the correct answer, but we are poor people, aren’t we? We are important that you, you rich!!” Shaji erupted.

That was that: being poor meant he was from a lower cast and economically poor. They were the protected. No one must question their space, or rights.

“But the teacher said anyone can answer,” the boy said, making his second mistake.

The gang leader pushed him hard. But that was a chance of escape too.

The boy ran away from them, knowing well that he was followed and that he had to reach home to be safe. There at the turn of the path, he found his father talking with a stranger. He ran to his father and told him that there was some homework to do.  

The boy didn’t tell his father the real reason for running back home, which he usually never did. In the corner of his eyes he saw the boys withdrawing at the possible danger of nagging their prey in front of the older man and his friend.

From that day onwards the boy started a new routine, a new practice—martial arts.

The next day they waited for him at the exact same place and pushed him down; the day after that they pushed him down and kicked. The third day they ran after him. The fourth day, he gave the leader of the boys a powerful smack on his nose.
Image Courtesy: Google
Seeing this Shaji came forward, he too faced the same destiny. They were four and they all received blows powerful enough that they all crawled back home. But the boy followed them with the arm of a palm leaf, and attacked them.

“We apologize, we apologize,” Shaji cried out. That was the trick, the boy knew; that was the word they all relied upon at the end of a losing fight. He kept beating them.

“Don’t beat us anymore,” the leader cried out this time.

“Then apologize at my name,” the boy said.

“What’s your name?” the leader asked.

Shaji came to his rescue, “Lal,” he said.

“Lal, we all apologize for our mistakes, forgive us.”

The boy didn’t say anything to anyone in his school and home. The thugs could always come back for him. But they didn’t.

Image Courtesy: Google
He changed something, and became something. Good or bad is another issue, he is alive now and is not dead with anymore tortures from the cast maniacs—that is what matters.

I am changing my blog design a bit. Hope you find it interesting, and lively. At my decision to rework the subtitle or blog description, I found the new one more close to my personal and Cosmic existence. I am an artist, a writer, you give me freedom and I give you beauty.

My freedom is your beauty.      

Well, now you might ask me what happened to the boy.

They boy is in a good position now, because he received scholarships and grants that the government allots for people from reserved category; he belonged to the same cast as Shaji.

There was a difference, though; and it was in thinking.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Goodness and Faith

For Rishik-V
Rishik
Courtesy: Aanchal Sharma
I learned,
The urgency of goodness,
From your flickering smile;
The power of faith,
From your delicate hold.
You teach me,
What I lost inside.


Once again, all the best to Rishik. This poem marks the end of this series of i-poems. 
Blessings! 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Pain


For Rishik-IV
Image Courtesy: Google
When I see you look at me,
I become a word that mean,
Depth, love, and life.
But when I cause your eyes blur,
With tears, I fade,
In a saline testimony-
Of meaninglessness.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Peace


For Rishik-III
Image Courtesy: Google
When I see the kingdom you rule,
The peak of the ensign,
The voices you mutter,
When I see you sleep;
I want to be conquered too,
By you and your kingdom of peace. 
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