Friday, June 26, 2009

Runcible! Making sense….

It seemed like 7 in the evening at 3 in the afternoon. The sky became dark and soon thunderous rain was lashing the window panes. It never fails to gladden the heart. Especially at 3 in the afternoon. Watching the world fill up and spill rainwater, ‘splish-splash’ came to mind and escorted it to my most wondrous nursery rhyme:

If all the seas were one sea,
What a great sea that would be!
If all the trees were one tree,
What a great tree that would be!
If all the axes were one axe,
What a great axe that would be!
If all the men were one man,
What a great man he would be!
And if the great man took the great axe,
And cut down the great tree,
And let it fall into the great sea,
What a great splash-splash that would be!

The thought of that great splish-splash makes me want to rush out and splash the puddled waters. Yeah, I know singing of cutting trees is so downright sinful, politically incorrect. But that was a world enclosed in Ringa-ringa roses/Pocket full of fozes. Now, now, before the elders (sisters, especially) scurry to list all the erroneous details of my rhyming times, let me clarify that my thoughts did go into the meaning, at least once, with alarm for, ‘London bridge is falling down, falling down…’ What was the song and dance about?

But I accept that much of it was a mincy-quincy of sorts. Now that is not uncommon in the age when a small dot of an injury needs to be band-aided, to realize later that the excitement of it obscured the fact that the injury and the band-aid are not on the exact same finger. So I could full-throatily and unabashedly reel off Peter, peter pumpkin eater/ How does your garden grow? And the guy who put the ‘ding-dong bell pussy’ in the well was little Jonny Thin (Flynn) which was so concurrent to the guy who pulled it out - Tommy Stout! Wasn’t that logical? The thin one was naughty and the fat one kind. I’m sure that singular logic made me look at all the fat people with respect for the rest of my life.

Much of the happy, foot-tapping, rhyme-singing time was all that except ‘happy’. Because unlike many of my classmates who sang unthinkingly while yawning, fiddling with anything within reach, chewing hanky corners, picking nose or the others whose focus was solely on getting their exaggerated facial expressions more exaggerated (like this 00), I reflected over word and meaning. Sometimes feeling most threatened. Like I hurried to cover my nose every time a bird came near me because Sing A Song Of Sixpence ended with,

The maid was in the garden, hanging out the clothes ;
There came a little blackbird, and pecked off her nose.

So when an eagle flew too close by during school recess and making me hurriedly cover my nose with both hands, it flew off with my paratha instead. That was a consolation.


Monday, June 08, 2009

Bonding with kids


-->Read Mr Bond to kids at easylibrary this Sunday morning.

The minute Vani asked if I’d read Ruskin Bond to kids, I thought of The Night the Roof Blew Off , that is, after I said 'yes' to her. I had loved to read it to Chulbul when she was little and to myself, at all sizes. 
…snowflakes…settling on picture frames, statuettes and miscellaneous ornaments. Mundane things like a glue bottle and a plastic doll took on a certain beauty when covered with soft snow. The clock on the wall stopped and with its covering of snow reminded me of a painting by Salvador Dali. And my shaving brush looked ready for use!
But it was long and descriptive for her wide-age-group (ages 6-12 years) audience so I decided to start with A Tiger in the House, sneak in a ghost story (nothing very scary, complaining parents, my only deterrent) in between - The Haunted Bicycle seemed safe; and close with a tree story, the beautiful The Cherry Tree that ends with the philosophical, ‘Just one small seed,…. ‘I wonder, …is this what it feels to be God?’
After the tiger story there was a small discussion on why Grandfather calls the tiger Timothy, knowing Timothy was dead. The Children were unanimous in their belief that Grandfather thought the keeper was lying! I had never thought of that and tried to lightly introduce the idea that perhaps Grandfather didn't want to believe that Timothy was dead or that all tigers were as dear to him. There were no takers :( So the question that perhaps we are making them grow up more ‘cautious’,  distrustful (?) than necessary, is niggling still.
The Haunted Bicycle left them wide-eyed and wanting. Before I read the story, we discussed that ghosts were creatures of our imagination. I read out a humorous intro from The Ruskin Bond Omnibus, ending with ‘Ghost stories are meant to frighten you, but at the back of your mind you know it’s all a nightmare from which you are going to wake. In other words, it’s a “safe” fear and you can enjoy the process of being frightened. More than them, it put me at ease.
So? I asked. What was it? Buffaloes? Not wanting to put the G word into their heads. Ghosts! They were positive!! How can buffaloes talk? How can they ride bicycles? Why not? I insisted but between a ghost and a buffalo, the latter does seem like an insipid choice, really. 

Before reading The Cherry Tree, we talked about fruit and seed. How mummy tells them that if they swallow the pip/seed, a tree would grow out of them.
I forgot to ask if they imagined it coming out of their tummies (like I did) or from the head as was more likely? Flowing with their fantastic ideas, I said it would be wonderful to pluck fruit off each other and eat. But a 7 year old cringed at the idea, she was certain the fruit would have spit on it! They also wondered about mud and manure and I assured them there was enough inside. Ten-year old Neethi wondered if they should occasionally go out in the sun and stand with their mouths open to let in the sunlight! :D

In the light of this discussion, THIS was very alarming! So if you can't be bothered with spitting out the seeds, listen to mum and CHEW YOU FOOD!
The kids wanted more. A 'Ghost' story was the certain choice! So a scary ghost story it was – A Face in the Dark. The finale, raw fear and all. We did not stop to talk about it. Fear of ghosts is a good thing. I’m smiling.
PS: Everyone’s favorite RJ Vasanthi Hariprakash, the Sunshine Girl of the Radio City heydays came with her son :)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Turning them into White Tigers

So what if we have a Dalit woman Speaker? The scene for the urban poor and unprivileged is not changing. Because our attitude is not.

We were just finishing our meal at a bbq place, when a platoon arrived – four urban bitches (well, I’m not given to calling people such, but you will soon know), three kids with their customary attachment of maids, girls of barely nine- ten. The women and their brats were seated at the table next to ours. The wonder-eyed maids remained standing. They looked about self-consciously as most diners stared at them and waiters flitted about ignoring them. It was obvious that the maids would not be eating there. That they would be standing, feeding the kids, accompanying them to the wash rooms, apart from picking up cutlery after them, keeping them from putting their hands into the grill and other such that ill-mannered rich brats are likely to indulge in.

The lipsticked and streaked hair mums would not want to be bothered while they discussed important life and death matters like John Abraham’s derriere and their new solitaire collection. So while the girls would stand and watch everyone feast on the sumptuous buffet, they would have to wait to get back home to their humble dal and rice. No doubt about it.

How fair is that! How many times have you resisted any food when you’re hungry, or even when you’re not. How many times have you not spooned into your own mouth something you’re feeding the child? How fair is it to expect the little girls to watch and not want the food you’re literally eating in their face? The women had no business putting them through this and causing others such embarrassment and outrage. They could have very well left the minders at home. Yeah, it would have inconvenienced them a little to take care of their own kids for the bit. But they could have also left the kids at home if it was so crucial to eat out with friends. I could have slapped those women!

A few days later, another one of the species was spotted at a high-end organic food store. She was billing in front of me. I recognize this species by the look of irritation they carry at such stores. It is meant to show that they’re overly used to such. That they cannot possibly be excited over such mundane as the redness of US apples (which incidentally look to me like they have been dipped in red nail polish) or black sapote from Australia.

So madam finished billing, paid by card, as was expected and walked out. At the Exit, the guard demanded to see the bill. What cheek! How dare he! Madam was totally mad. She looked about and located the bill and threw it at his face with disgust and stomped out. The poor man just looked away. I guess it wasn’t the first time.

Why is it that they treat people like this? Same people go update their Facebook status with ‘proud of the first dalit LS speaker’ and suchlike. Why? What are they proud of? Does it matter to them how the majority of the poor and lower castes live or make their living? Do they desire dignity for them? NO. Sadly, they mess up with their children’s upbringing too – desensitizing them to the extent that they feel that the domestics deserve no better.