Death

​Death

‘Death’ I am drawn to him;

His name I whispered

On my tongue it stayed revered.

He looked at me and smiled

‘Wait for me’, he said and winked.

He wore no black alright

Attired in  all colours bright 

His smile beguiling

His arms promising

He vouched his friendship

When the rest go away wiped.


On his shoulders broad

Lay many a souls aboard

He treaded carefully along

Amidst the living with a mien strong.

He was on his knees

Before the souls of babies

Innocent souls- them he revered 

Gently on his arms, them he cradled.

Old and young alike

Lay pristine on his person 

At times hundreds he  carried

Any place never he tarried.

One day he and I did talk

He was patient and did not balk

When quizzed on his chore, 

He told, ‘It’s no bed time lore

This is what I do and is never a bore.’

‘How do you decide who’s soul to take?’, queried I

‘It’s never my call,  I’m there at each soul’s cry’

My surprised gaze  he doused with a look

‘Unwittingly each soul seeks me; it’s no fluke.

Some men know, but some unaware

I don’t take any without their call, be aware.’

How true that man, from cradle to grave

His every breath does death do crave.

I remained rooted in my thoughts

His gentle tap, to the world me brought

The hand stayed on my shoulders

It made me nice and warm inside

Promising a lasting bond beside.

‘Death’ I called aloud

Without another word

He disapeared into the clouds.

Now that I’ve seen him

I readied to walk my path of rainbow

The life I know will surely end as a bow

Draped around his wrist- ahem!

Death- I am drawn to him!

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My School days-leaf 6

In my list of wonderful teachers, here I present 2 more.

My class teacher and the teacher who taught Sanskrit in class 5.

Class fives were seated in a tiny room at the far end of the Kendriya Vidyala school compound in SS Colony. It was a small compound housing classes 1 to 5 only. Being placed at the far end with our class room door facing a wall, and the fact that, to enter the classroom one had to circumvent the entire building, gave a sense of exclusion and importance for the fifth graders.

My class had about 15 boys and 8 or 9 girls. My class teacher then was a beautiful lady by name Miss. Shanta (I think so🤔🤔) looking like the yester- year heroines. We girls used to wait eagerly to see what colour saree she would come in everyday.

She wore her saree so beautifully, so much like actress Saroja Devi or KR Vijaya ( famous actresses of  Tamil filmdom)when they play the role of a wealthy, high class, sophiticated lady. She came in multicoloured sarees and matching blouses-sarees neatly pleated and pinned- all proper. She carried a small handbag of leather. She bore a picture of perfection.

Her oval face, though slightly dark complexioned was decorated with a slightly big ‘red sticker bindi’ in between her thick eyebrows. Her kohled eyes was complemented with her turmeric glowing cheeks. A square chin set in a smile ever. Her hair was another feature that enhanced her poise. We always almost saw her in a bun as big as her head and a flower tucked by her left ear. We have never seen her hair let loose or plaited.

The we I am referring to were, Vijaya,Kalyani and myself included. Later we got to know that boys too liked her style. This inside information we got from two of our friends Mohan and Gowrishankar.

She taught maths to the class besides being the form tutor. She always borrowed a wooden ruler from the front benchers and would execute punishments by beating on the left hand palm to those who would not complete their homework. But at the same time we noticed that she did not punish anyone unduly.

However, we were never in that category and so did not experience that harsh side of her. It was quite common those days to administer corporal punishments  (4 decades ago) and we did not think too much about it and that did not deter us from admiring her personality.

To boot to that,she was the best maths tutor in the school. Despite the fact that she was very stern while executing those beatings to the defaulters, she explained the mathematical concepts very clearly and we did not have any problem in solving them.

Of course I should mention that in our group we had the brainiest Vijaya, who would explain and help us solve the homework everyday. So we were her darlings too. 

For a child, right from the appearance of a teacher to  the warmth they exude,  equally important  is the quality of teaching. As we age and as our priorities change, the toppers might ignore the first two aspects as their focus is only performance. But a teacher’s personality and warmth goes a long way in every child’s life.

Next most charming teacher in the same school was my sanskrit teacher,a gentleman in the truest sense. Unfortunately I do not remember his name. By now you must have realised that I am not good at remembering names. I am may be afflicted by border line ‘dysnomia’.🤔

This teacher too was dressed neatly; had a long brown face with a set of white teeth that shone when he smiled. His shirt always tucked in neatly pressed trousers with polished shoes completed the picture.He did not appear like other male teachers who had pot bellies, unkempt hair and wore chappals. There you go, a perfect looking teacher who made the daunting Sanskrit for tamil speaking children so easy. 

He used to play lot of language games and made the lesson interesting. The best aspect was there was NO HOMEWORK! All exercises were solved in class and obviously we were thrilled with him. One other aspect that drew all the children to him was, he did magic show in class for us. Small tricks that kept us in awe. 

Contrary to the form tutor, he did not beat anyone, at all. Each one of us were eager to learn from him. We behaved our best. Unknowingly he was our hero. He did not resemble any film hero, he was just himself; having his own identity.

 I remember one time we all put in a petition to our headmaster to appoint our sanskrit teacher as our form tutor. When he asked why we did not want Ms.Shanta(?), we had no reason to reject her and we remained quiet. Even if he wished to accede to our wishes, he could not have done so as the sanskrit teacher was a part time employee. There! all our hopes crashed, but we were happy that he stayed till the end of the academic year.

Looking back and recollecting those times now, I realise how small and insignifucant things have great significance in a student’s life and school life memories. A perfectly groomed teacher immediately attracts the children and even more so if the teacher is able to connect on a inner level with the students.

All in all teachers should have a special ‘mana’ that could relate to some hidden aspect in every child.


My school days-leaf 5

My teachers!

There are many that come and go in every child’s school life, but only a few stay with you. They make an impression surely; some small, some big; nonetheless enough to make you feel nostalgic.

So here I go another 47 years back, may be.

I was in grade 4 in SBOA (State Bank Officers’ Association) school in State Bank Colony, Madurai.

It appears as if I went straight to grade 4 from my cradle!! As I don’t have any recollection of my previous years of study, I think I can assume so😆😆.

Now, Iam in grade 4.

My grade 4 teacher was Mrs.Soft- that is what  I will call her for lack of my memory. I am unable to recollect her name. (I am never good with names.)

It is just the name that I forgot. When I say like this, I sound callous. I am sorry. I  draw a blank when it comes to her name, but the rest, her entire personality, I am able to summon up.

An elderly lady, draped in saree and graying thin hair, neatly combed and held in a bun. She had such soft and smooth skin that I wanted to be near her always. 

Those days we did not dare to get too close to a teacher, yet we had our few moments. When we finished our maths sums and took the notebook to her for getting it marked, her proximity was a pleasure.

That was the closest we got. I clearly call upon to my mind the silky finish of the saree flowing around her (polyester)and the faintly  perfumed,pleasant smell of the talcum powder she used. I stood close and let my eyes roam on her self, rather than looking into the notebook and my work.

She had two of her front top teeth jutting out, which added an element of harshness. That was only visual, I don’t remember her angry at all.

Her forehead would at times crease out of concern; sometimes out of exasperation due to unruly kids in the class, but never out of anger.

I would secretly wait for her to gently push me back into my place on the bench, when she came around the small classroom to check our homework; even during assembly when she checked our standing position to make it a straight line.

I liked her touch. It made me feel safe and special. I may not have associated these feelings with her touch then, but surely felt happy.

As I look back, my mind is able to evoke her pose;the way she sat in the first row during class picture. Her head was held high in pride whenever she was seen with her entire class, and she always made sure that each one of us were presented neatly.

I yearned to sit next to her;unfortunately being slightly taller than the rest, I was teamed with the tall students to take the last row in the back,on top of our class bench. Still I hovered around her until she arranged all the tall ones on that bench.

I also remember travelling in a bus to Pasumalai, a small hill for a day’s picnic to our headmistress’ house. The trip was the most memorable and enjoyable one as I somehow managed to sit next to my teacher. We did not talk much;even if we did, I am unable to cite any. But what still remains with me is the feeling-a deep sense of joy.

Our headmistress’ home (pathetic-I do not remember her name too🤔) was set atop the small hill-pasumalai and I recollect the delicious piece of cake she served us before we left for home. On the return journey, did I sit next to my class teacher? No idea at all. I think, I dozed off. No  image comes to my mind. But these moments from the deep recesses of my mind, bring an immediate association with my grade 4 class teacher-Mrs. Soft.

That might be all in my memory store house regarding this grade 4 teacher Mrs.Soft, but nonetheless it left a lasting impression. Secretly I wish to be like her.

As a teacher am I envisioned as someone who is soft, made to feel safe around? I do not know,but sure wish to be so.

Good teachers make good humans.😊😊😊

The School days- leaf 4

Flash back. I go almost 36 years behind.

Madurai, 1979

St. Josephs Girls Higher Secondary School, Near Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal.

This school has given me wonderful memories and surely will play a major role sprouting these leaves.

One event that was very exciting and that is still fresh in my memory, was the walk back home from Mahal (school) to SS colony (home)near Arasaradi; a distance of about 6 to 8 kms-I am not sure.

It was the more daring act we did during those times. Imagine, all girls from a somewhat conservative family walking back from school on the main roads of the city! Though not unusual, it was definitely unheard of in our families and society to say the least.

Routinely we take bus 8D from S.S. Colony to Mahal stop every day, for school and back home.

We catch the morning 8:20 bus and reach school by 9:00 am and catch the 3:40 bus to reach home by 4:30 pm.

That particular day, we were given an early off by 3:00 pm, owing to one of the sister’s demise at the school belonging to Congregation of St. Lyons.

We did not create an opportunity for ourselves by not taking the bus on regular school days. Such thoughts never entered our minds. We were ingrained a certain degree of discipline. But when an opportunity presented itself, instead of waiting 40 minutes, we thought we could walk the distance and be home at the regular time.

An experience very ordinary and yet thrilling for us.

Who were these we?

Akila, Kayalvizhi and myself.

As soon as we stepped out of the massive school gate, we found small peddlers on the road selling sweetmeats. Our bus fare was 25 paise each, one way. We pooled our bus money; a total of 75 paise. Wow! what a bonus!

We purchased ginger toffees, peppermint toffees, and dry roasted peanuts to munch our way home.

We began the journey. Indeed, it was one.

I don’t remember every step back home save a few clear moments, but the feeling of joy that enveloped all three remains strong till date.

We were in a magical bubble. The entire world around us, the city, its traffic and people all faded away. One after the other our feet moved forward and we took the bus route to get back home.

Undisturbed by any other distractions such as mobile phones, we connected with each other; talking away each step and towards home we set off.

What we spoke, I do not remember. It did not matter then and even now it does not matter. What mattered was our togetherness.

Our school bag was no back pack, but a shoulder bag made of cloth hanging on our shoulders and moving with us rhythmically.

I can picture us- all three in white school uniform (skirt, blouse and half saree draped) with double plaits tied with white ribbon, walking abreast with no worries.

Akila was the tallest among us and Kayal and myself of the same height. I remember vaguely, Akila holding my hand during road crossings.

When we finished the little eatables, we purchased, I have no clue, but we continued happily.

One place enroute, I remember clearly, was the ‘Mempalam’ – the main bridge, that runs over the railway tracks. We stood there for few minutes and wondered at the mere aspect of standing at a height and looking down at the railway tracks and the tracks appearing small as toys.

We were filled with inexplicable joy. Then, conscious of the time we need to make, we proceeded.

It was an unhurried, magical trek back home.

We reached SS Colony in time. First came my house; we lingered for few minutes at the turning saying good byes and I sent Kayal and Akila off on their way.

Next, at a corner further, Kayal would have done the same and Akila would have proceeded to her home.

We were very content in the knowledge that we all will meet again the next day in 8D bus and relive our happiness of walking home from school the previous day.

No whatsApp follow ups, no phone calls. An exciting afternoon ended with contentment and plain old trust and faith in our times and ourselves.

The School days- leaf 3

Happy to be back!
Leaf 3

Having an intellectual exchange with your students is a great pleasure. I was blessed with that too. During one of my english lessons, we were discussing descriptive writing and the usage of images involving senses. The general sense in the class was , it is difficult to involve senses to describe things. These from those students who have a standard reply for everything- “fine”. They are in dearth of words and imagination to expand that ‘fine’.

But a few creative minds were challenged enough when I proposed that they use the visual sense alone to describe the Soft Boards that were on their class walls. To motivate them, I included myself as part of the challenge.

When their work was submitted(only 2 ventured to write), I was thrilled by my stduent’s eloquence, one in particular. Her name- Meghana Kamat. Inspired by her writing I rewrote my piece and here it is.

Meghana Kamat! This is for you.

SOFT BOARDS

Soft boards! What a name! A definite misnomer. Highly deceptive. There is nothing soft about them; neither in their looks nor in their character. Maybe soft to touch; soft only on the surface, but, hold within a strength that belie all perception.

Those screaming red boards with a silver gilded border beckon you louder than any other structural add-ons in that room (A-Level 2013 A). They have a strong character which pulls you like a black lodestone would a piece of raw brown iron ore. You cannot miss them by any chance.

They make their presence known with or without the multi-coloured sheets of paper pinned on to them. Even a plain soft board waits patiently for the hands of time to pin and unpin information. They bear all pain through years with a stoic face that beats the aging sandpapery dark faces of sages and saints who endeavour to conquer the soul. How do they do it? So easily done, than ever. They are just there, regally hoisted on the broad expanse of white-washed wall, proclaiming their presence silently and yet screaming nonetheless (as good as a clarion).

They have such an unbiased way of treating the white papers pinned on them. No questions asked. What, why, and why not? All are welcome. All sizes, shapes, and colours. Any type of information or misinformation, either scribed neatly in blue or black, printed red or green, or drawn grey or rainbow coloured, whatever; they hold with equanimity. Broad smiles, always projecting the same bright foil to all and sundry. True communists who treat the gold, silver, yellow, green, black, and white the equal way. No partiality shown.

I like them; like them when they are empty too. They seem to invite me to put up all sorts of things. Even if one doesn’t, the deep colour can easily portray a kaleidoscope of information in all ways possible in the mind’s eye.

With the papers pinned up, voila! Each one takes a character. Each of them is like a new person now, taking on a new role on the stage of the classroom. Each one is an emissary of science, stiff collared and starched, dressed in all insignificant colours , yet prominent in stature and bespectacled  holding all complex structures and formulae, come to tease the brainys, and commune with them privately under public scrutiny. Of course, the artistic bright flowers and the dark green gilded leaves that border them are a mere camouflage or a make-up, a show within the show.

The others with black and white timetables, rules, and regulations, stand as an office peon solemnly giving the data with a serious dull face – very prosaic and yet, the red behind all that data is too glamorous to be ignored. Is there a twinkle I see in their dark eyes in the corner; a twitch on their red lips when both students and teachers alike do not see their worth and ignore what they try to communicate? Maybe, yes. To me it seems that they mock us when we don’t use them for what they are worth, when we misuse them, and when we ignore them.

I see them. I notice them, and I perceive them. I know their worth, so I develop a yearning to go near and say ‘Hello’; to get to know them better and so I touch them.

Now I see why they are named as ‘Soft Boards’. Soft to touch so beguiling that makes you want to run your finger along their surface; to feel the smoothness caressing your fingertips. There! They invite you again:

“Come on. Pick us and prod us. Pin us up, and cover us, but we shall remain the same.”

A new board is a virgin Earth all brown and unploughed, ready to yield to different types of papers that may come on it.

Even after years, the smoothness remains, they may have taken many pins, many rough handling, but still stand proudly; ever ready to portray whatever one wants to see on them. They are like an empty stage set with different scenes of bright and bold colours, a nude  pale mannequin, waiting to show what one wants to see. Rectangular “soft boards” that stand the test of time to give and give equally, their service to all.

Perceptions alter life

In this matrix of
Life, perceptions are the only
Determinants!

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The dictionary meaning of the noun ‘perception’ states that it is “the act or faculty of perceiving, or apprehending by means of the senses or of the mind; cognition; understanding.”

The cognitive understanding of all things around is put together by almost the entire human brain- the Frontal lobe, Parietal lobe, Temporal lobe and Occipital, except for Cerebellum which focuses on motor activities majorly, but cannot be neglected as brain functions are interrelated. It is also the single unified awareness derived from sensory processes while a stimulus is present.

Leaving aside the science behind it, if we just consider what it entails into, we are forced to focus on the sensations that it leaves us with.
What we see, hear, feel, taste and smell all collectively or separately influence this cognitive understanding forming either a picture or a thought that evokes a response in us. This response is processed and stored in the brain for future use.

For example having realised that fire is hot and it can burn your fingers if touched, we will not even attempt to touch it after this cognition and if brought too close to that by force, a fear emerges and we only react. Thus perception is the most integral part of all human activities.

In the social context perceptions are everything as it defines our status as to who we are, what we are and how we behave with others etc. Essentially our perceptions define us as it is reflected in our behaviour.
If at one side perception is seen as ‘sagacity, acuity and smartness which gives hope that a perspicacious person will endeavour to judge the situation wisely and so would aim to be fair in his thoughts and actions considering the difference in view points, it is also noticed to be ‘deceit and guile and conceit’ which will only enhance antipathy in any given situation.
Perception also holds within, a man’s capacity to know, understand and interpret. If it has to be fully functional, all parameters involving all senses need to be exercised and at every situation the faculties must work anew to give an in-depth insight.

But the fact that all senses are involved makes the process sensitive attuning to emotional overtones, hence making it irrational.

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Humans are emotional is given, and so the perceptions are bound to be coloured with emotions and get hijacked is imperative.

But similar to cognitive skills developed through methodical training, one’s perceptions can be altered too. A training to see, hear and feel after careful assessment of the entire situation will result in evolved perceptions. It would be rational comparatively and would reduce the emotional override that entails prior to knowing.

General behaviour pattern rides either on emotions or on cognizant indifference. If you are indifferent then you turn a blind eye and do not involve self in anything that does not concern self. However on the other case, if you are emotional, you tend to read unsavory tones in all that happens around you.

The question here is how perceptions affect or alter life. It does, to a greater extent than we begin to believe or accept. In fact it can trigger butterfly effect in every sphere and bring about phenomenal changes.
The fact is that perception is a state where multiple factors play their individual role and increases the probability of the outcomes. Within one mind many factors function resulting in a myriad of perceptions that can be labelled in over million variations. And this figure gets exponential when more than one human is involved. For this matrix of innumerable probabilities to match, would not only be difficult but improbable too. If it happened then it is pure coincidence.

All the trees and plants have green leaves and yet not one single green of a tree matches with the other. They are all shades of green. Similarly every perception is unique as every individual is unique and there could only be a generalised concurrence and not a perfect match ever.

Human perceptions are increasingly falling into an infinite matrix system where what they perceive is affected by multitudes of combinations that the actual eludes them.” As per Plato’s theory of Forms, which holds that the true essence of an object is not what we perceive with our senses, but rather its quality, and that most people perceive only the shadow of the object and are thus limited to false perception. Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher states in his Critique of Pure Reason that people come to know and explore our world through synthetic means (language, etc.), and thus this makes it rather difficult to discern truth from falsely perceived views. This means we ourselves are our own agents of deceit, and so in order for one to know truth, one must choose to openly pursue truth.”

*If both, senses and cognitive developed language, will fail true perception of objects and situations, then how will man ever function in this complex world? For him to achieve true perception is impractical as one person cannot be in the mental framework of the other ever and given that, perceptions will vary vastly. There can only be overlaps and a possible concurrence may emerge and beyond that absolute similarity of perceptions can never be attained.

Even in the field of science where every hypothesis is tried and tested hundred times over, there comes a day when the whole hypothesis is changed (example of earth being the centre of the universe). Knowledge is growing exponentially and so human understanding is expanding in the same manner.

One possible solution is to look at the situation, its priority and weigh its pros and cons to come up with a common perception that benefits most in the society. To reach here, all involved should first concur to objectively look at the given situation at hand and be ready to openly hear other perceptions and come with the most common and most beneficial one. Basically all must agree to disagree. This, however, is time consuming.

*Then how does an individual cope up with the situation when he neither has the time nor has the objective inclination? A big question indeed.
Before answering that let us explore yet another important aspect which is ‘the reality of perception’. *What is it?
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”- Albert Einstein.
“Everything you see or hear or experience in any way at all is specific to you. You create a universe by perceiving it, so everything in the universe you perceive is specific to you.”- Douglas Adams.

So your perceptions are paramount to you and similarly for others. Thus we find people around us who are run by emotions, who decide quickly, who refuse to think from other’s perspective and who cannot change their set minds. No wonder we encounter myriad emotions exhibiting it selves and running riot which are the direct effect of perceptions conceived in their own columns and rows of matrices.

*Then how does the human society function if no one can concur fully with the other?
The answer to this and all the previous ones* is just one.  Rules!
The primary aspect that keeps one in place despite his warring perception is the rules of the society and added to that are the tenets of the religion, the discipline induced and enforced and even one’s financial, social compulsions and some self inflicted compulsions.

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In addition, we need to consider perceptions changing with time. As generations pass by, cultural outlook and societal norms metamorphose. What was considered taboo or violation of social norms in 18th and 19th century is accepted and embraced in 21st century ( widow remarriage, dowry system, fashion and food to name a few). This exponentially increases the probability of varying perceptions coming into play. Given that, generally most people agree with the other to get going, to avoid friction and to go away from warring emotions that can only drain us emotionally and make living a hell.

Co existence is possible only when we accept the existence of this variation and adapt self to work with or work around the elements that are warring with our perceptions.

Harmony can be achieved if we learn to embrace. As long you are you, your perceptions are yours and they have to remain so. But only way to survive is to look for common ground and work together.

Yet, there is another way to work through these multitudes of perceptions and that is to step out of the ‘perceived self’, analyse the situation from all different angles and to slowly work towards finding the ultimate truth which will emerge as a combination of all perceptions and learn to accept that and go forward.

This will take a cool head, devoid of emotions and an analytical mind. This can come with practice and immense patience. Does that mean human beings stop being sentimental and stop feeling towards anything? No! Emotions are equally important to bring passion into the equation without which there is no life. But one must at the same time know how to analyse with a cool head as well. A balance of both will give a beautiful life.

First decide. Decide what you want to do with your perceptions. Life is a matrix of perceptions, solve it!

Pennies in the Pocket

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Pennies in the pocket
A sweet rattle that soothes many a mind
It buys you a piece – bread and bed
It makes men mill around you until you get tired
It is a necessary evil which you cannot shed.

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Pennies play the devil
Bringing all evil to the life’s anvil!
People lie and cheat
Thieve and fabricate
All to hear the pennies in their pockets jingle.
Even the hard working and honest
Need these pennies to their lives to manifest!

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It buys milk and Hashish
With equanimity that belies its crassitude.
Silk and diamond abound
Where in sacks it is found!

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Monk and the maid equally seek
The pennies to assuage their needs so to speak.
It gets you houses and vast lands.
It amasses all luxury with no bounds.

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Icecreams it buys but cannot stifle the agrieved soul’s scream.
Oft it greases the palm that favours you out of slight
But never can it tease a grasp of strength in times of stressful plight.

Bed of silk it furnishes but cannot give the love while your mother’s bosom you milk
The delicacy of caviar at your bedside with wine in a glass that shines it places
But no clanking will the joy of your head on the shoulders of your lover it graces.

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A pint of drink your lonely self it buys but cannot elicit delightful laughter over a shared meal.
Wheels to traverse the globe the promising pennies acquire
But the soulful communion with nature while you trot the streets they cannot procure.

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Pennies in the pocket
A sweet rattle that soothes many a mind
It buys you a piece – bread and bed
It is a necessary evil which you cannot shed.