Friday, May 25, 2007

Put it right..!!

It is important to have an opinion of your own. Spineless are the people who don’t have their own opinions, and still worse, some of them take pride in saying they are guided by some one else’s thoughts. There is something between your two ears as well. Perhaps it is not a bad idea to use it and get some life enthused in it.

Some people put their opinion so beautifully that, your opinion might still hold good, but they incline you to listen to theirs, sometimes end up provoking your sub-conscious to vote for their opinion, which also leaves your conscious widely perplexed, little restless, but seldom unhappy! Good orators are scarce in number and high in demand. For someone like me, beautiful expressions are complete turn on. I remember how people longed to get trained by Avinash Gulrajani. Not because he was cute, that was an added bonus :-), but because he spoke so well. Listening to him in itself was a sheer joy which trainees looked forward to.

There is a category that has an opinion, voice it if you ask for it, don’t care if you agree or not, they still respect their opinion. They also listen to yours, and if it is not abusive of anything, respect it without having to agree with it. They are not rigid, they are not persnickety, but they really believe in what they believe and that’s driven by logic. It is not a baseless fantasy of a sprite which they are supporting for the fun of it.

The next category is of some people who can never agree with any opinion that does not tally with theirs. They often end up getting into debates on opinions but are absolutely closed to appreciate anyone else's. These people are perennially involved in fights, irk people no end.

And then there are people who have opinion alright, a sound one at that, but when the time comes to voice it, they voice it so abusively, so aggressively, that though you could have agreed with them earlier, never after hearing they voiced. Because finally it is not only “what” that matters, “how” is equally important if not more. Abrasive language impresses none, read it in caps and bold – NONE. You will always fail to make a point even if it is a very valid one.

So next time you want to make a point, if you want to get yourself heard, remember a golden rule – Mind your language!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Guilty? Raise your hand..!!

I missed the bus by a fraction. Could see this bus coming when I was ahead, and then it crossed me stopped at the bus stop, I was still a good 20 meters away, and off it went… without me..huh! The next bus was some 35 minutes away. To idle my time, I got into a store. This store is owned by a Bangladeshi. I went in without any intention of making any purchase. Somehow I had to keep myself entertained and occupied for the next half an hour. I started sauntering across the three aisles this shop had. Being a very small shop one can hear anyone from anywhere. And I could here a conversation, between the shopkeeper, and the other voice was of an elderly woman.
Calling it a conversation would not be correct, it was more of a controlled argument. There was some issue over the lady asking if she could pay by card, and was not agreeing to the shop’s rule (across most of the shops here) of paying £1.50 extra for a purchase of under 10£ if you pay by card. I moved to the section near the counter to hear the conversation more clearly. I saw the woman, old, wrinkled, quite short, chubby and very sweet. She was wearing pink gloves, and green woolen cap. Both looked old, and one finger of her glove needed repair. Her overcoat too was faded. When she insisted on paying by card and not paying anything extra, the shopkeeper started losing patience and started raising his voice. I could see her eyes welling up. She started slowly talking to herself, “in the morning, at the bank, this card did not work at all. I might have forgotten the number. Now I do not have enough cash, and I need to pay extra.” The shopkeeper finally asked her to get all the things she wanted, and then this matter could be settled. I, in some corner in me, felt for her. She reminded me of Naani. My Naani also is short, fair and chubby, and very sweet. I can imagine Naani also wearing some age old faded cardigans and shawls in winters. And at the season end, she would dry them up and put them back nicely to use it for next few more years. At this age also, my Naani does the entire household work herself. They live all by themselves, just nana and Naani, no one else. And they manage it all. Would my Naani also be worrying about money when she would be going to some small shop for grocery shopping? My heart cringed at this thought. I suddenly remembered all the old days when we used to visit them in our summer vacations, and Naani used to keep all the jars in her kitchen store filled with various things we liked. She used to shower all her love on us, this was the only time of the year, and sometimes two years when she got to meet us.
Months go by without talking to them, are they alright? I was almost ready to pay this lady’s bill when I saw her at the counter with some stuff she had picked. Her bill was a little over 11£. This delighted her no end. She flashed her card and paid. She kept smiling till the time shopkeeper processed the transaction and put her stuff in her bags. Since I was also looking at her, our eyes met, she smiled and said hello in my direction. I smiled too, and then she left. I saw her going. She took her penguin steps and disappeared at the end of the street. I needed to talk to Naani. It was 6.30 in the evening. It meant 11 in India! By the time I would get off the bus it will be close to 11.40 already.
I came to the bus stop 10 minutes early the next morning. There is a pay phone at my bus stop. I needed to talk to them. I tried their number a several times, but it kept saying the phone is switched off. Finally I could not talk, and called Mummy from the bus. She told me their number has changed and gave me her new number. I spoke to them the next day. Naani sounded so happy talking to me, I felt a wave settling finally inside, and another tide rising. I know they are not leading a comfortable life, I know they have to deal with so much, but they are happy just to hear us. And what are we giving them in return.
Hope over belief, a belief which is soaked in negativity, and a negative belief which is correctly inferred, but a hope which has myriad shades, but all of grey, but still is a ‘hope’, explains why their generation preferred blue over pink.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

To Ma’m ..with love!

Geeta Madam was my class teacher when I was in XI. Her subject was English. A strict disciplinarian, she used to rip people apart if someone even tried acting smart in front of her. Her command over language, diction, modulation, and accent, was just so impeccable, she had an aura that commanded respect. I looked up to her.

Apart from being an excellent teacher, she was an excellent human-being. If you are good, she was the best, if you are bad, she was the worst.

Geeta Madam used to talk to me a lot, more than anyone else in the class. She used to tell me stories, sometimes from her life, sometimes from her experience, and each story had carried a lesson. Lesson was subtle, and she never explained the lesson. There were some lessons which I realized months, years later. Since she talked to me a lot, I also started talking quite a bit with her. Soon she became a very good friend. The teacher-student relationship here was as established as anywhere.

She was the one who forced me to nominate myself for school captaincy, which I was reluctant about. I had nothing against captaincy, in fact like everyone else, I also dreamt of that position. But I was scared of stage, and more than that, the extempore, the deciding round for school captaincy. When she forced me nominate myself, I was scared to death. I had no courage to face an audience for something like an extempore. I knew I would be a nervous wreck, and was almost sure to make a fool of myself. She had confidence in me that she never stated in words, but I could feel it. The extempore happened, I won it. I enjoyed my stay as the school captain, a position that gave me respect and recognition, and not to forget confidence beyond words. This all was made possible because of her, who knew more than me, that I had it in me.

Geeta madam was diabetic. She used to take insulin injections regularly. Her health started deteriorating when we were almost at the end of our session. In the next session when we met after two months long summer vacations, she looked very weak, and pulled down. She used to say she was finding it difficult to walk around, and sit for long hours. Geeta Madam started walking around with a walking stick, and soon even a walking stick was not enough, she needed some one to support her to walk small distances also. But with Geeta madam, walking her around was an honour. People were more than willing to offer their support and services. They took turns and she enjoyed it. She once said it was a very satisfying feeling.

Within a month after the beginning of the new session, one day she did not come to school. One day was hardly something to be concerned about. But when she did not come the next day also, I went to the Principal office to enquire. Principal Sir told me that she had a paralytic attack, and that she will not be coming for some more time. I was shocked, and stood motionless there for some seconds. I didn’t know how to react to this. When I gathered my senses back, I immediately took permission and rushed to her home, where she stayed with her 75 year old mom. Her sister Reeta aunty was also in the same town fortunately and this was a big consolation. Geeta Madam and her mom only had Reeta Aunty and Gautam Uncle in the world to call their own, and to support them in situations like these.

Geeta Madam was sleeping when I reached. Reeta Aunty was there. I sat with her and she explained the situation to me. Obviously they too were in a state of shock, in fact much bigger, but they were fighting it bravely. I sat in Geeta Madam’s room for three hours before she gained consciousness. She was made to sleep with some tranquilizers. On seeing me she looked at me with expression of helpness, she could not speak, it was a very slurred speech when she tried speaking. Her eyes welled up, I wanted to cry. I had never seen this brave woman so helpless. But I needed to control my emotions at this stage, and support whichever way I could. I just held her hand, and she slept again.

It took her two months to recover. I kept meeting her these two months every few days, at least once a week. She started sounding better, she was able to control her body, but her speech was still very slurred, something she hated. Anyway, she was getting ready to start school again.

I started getting busy with the classes and tuitions, this was board year. Knowing that she would be back in routine I didn’t go to see her at home and waited for her to start coming back. She was back! She was back in the regular routine. We ensured extra precautions for her, and this time when I looked at my class, I saw respect in each pair of eyes. I knew Geeta madam would have noticed it too. Geeta Madam, though back in her usual routine, was still facing trouble with her speech. Her speech was still very slurred, was not going anywhere, and this was irritating her.

She had her second attack very soon. This attack ensured a no-movement deal. Geeta Madam was bed-ridden, well almost. She was in pain clearly, her mom was there by her side all the while, and so was her sister. Gautam Uncle (Reeta Aunty’s) husband was a big support too.

Madam obviously stopped coming to school. She had to give up her teaching, something that she took with lot of passion, something she was best at. I kept meeting Geeta Madam at regular intervals. And after we shifted a little far, though I couldn’t meet her that often, I used to call up regularly.

If there were not enough bad news already, there followed a hemorrhage! She was in CMPDI hospital. I rushed to the hospital on getting this news. How much more her destiny wanted to test her. She was anyway in a very bad condition, and now. She was in ICU for three days, and in hospital for seven more. This time when she came home, she knew all her wishes and wants of getting back to school ever were down the drain. She was very upset when I met her next.

I was getting busy with BIT, but was picking up time whenever I could, once in two months, three months, to see her. There was a particularly long gap, when I was in third year when I could not go to meet her for almost six months. When I went after six months, Geeta madam looked frail, very thin, and quite dark. Her eyes shone on seeing me. What had happened to her? I felt a lump building in my throat. I didn’t want to choke in front of her. I sat beside her for almost two hours. We talked about all possible things that came to our mind. She asked me about everyone at home, my new friends in college, my future plans, everything. This day when I came out, I came out with a sinking feeling. But the brave girl I am, I controlled it again. I came out with Reeta Aunty, she tried having conversation, but I knew I would end up in tears if I said too much, so I confined my answers to shortest possible ones, monosyllables mostly. We came out and when I was about to say good-bye and leave, Reeta Aunty said, “Anu, Geeta always says Anu is one of the best children she has grown.”

I could not hold it any longer… She really said that! It was the best praise I had heard about myself. And coming from her, it all came down in a stream. Reeta Aunty also started crying, I controlled myself and tried consoling her a little, and left from there. I cried the entire distance back home.

I went to meet her when I was about to leave Ranchi. I sat with her for an hour, I did most of the talking. Geeta Madam looked happy, but very tired. I never met her after that day. Didn’t know when it happened. Tapovrat told me two years back that Geeta madam was no more. In the excitement of meeting Tapovrat after some 6-7 years when I heard this, I felt like something stormed inside my head for a couple of seconds.

An era ended.. but not without leaving some memories behind.. not without making some lives worth living!