An Age Of Deceit

many faces veil man’s innate ugliness

truths lurk in plain sight obscured by wafer-thin lies

we are creatures of habit, prone to the worst kind

deceit, not decency, becomes the family heirloom

with the habitual ease of a fair weather friend

we purge not deception but embrace fabrication

and think absolutely, entirely, completely, nothing of it!

 

Hiding In Plain Sight!

As a Parent and Educator, and most of all as a human being, I have been profoundly impacted by the recent ‘me too’ campaign. It has brought back many ghastly memories of unfortunate incidents of sexual violence I have been privy to at very close quarters; all of which were swept under the rug in the name of this so called ‘societal image’. And that disgusts me!

I’d like to share two primary aspects to this entire sexual-predator phenomena. One, it isn’t always the case that it is maids, staff, and people from a lower strata of society who prey on our wives, aunts, cousins, nephews, nieces and children. On the contrary, it is often times within the uppermost echelons of society, that these monsters lurk. In the garb of patriarchs, uncles, intellectuals, educators, captains of industry; they seek refuge in the assumption that their ‘goodwill’ and fame will make them above both suspicion as well as the law. Two examples from popular culture and literature immediately spring to mind. One is Mira Nair’s masterful Monsoon Wedding. And the other is a running theme in my friend, author Ratna Vira’s writings. That evil exists among us, often times in our very homes!

The second point therefore brings up the most important question perhaps. How do we control this menace? One definite answer is to empower our children. Scores of young people, girls especially, after experiencing a horrific violation, will not have the courage to do ANYTHING about it. Be it shame, or worse still, an inherent belief that the ‘victim’ somehow was to blame; there are many reasons why the violated, do not tell a soul! And that is just tragic.

I did not willfully write this rather sullen post towards the end of the year. But maybe instead of the many relatively banal New Year Resolutions we tend to make around this time of year, this once, we can vow to talk to our children, educate them, sensitize them, and make them aware of what is OK, and what isn’t, and give them the courage and confidence in themselves and in us, that they should not, and CAN NOT stay mute, and MUST SPEAK UP. That from this moment on, all the Sexual Predators that are hiding in plain sight, BEWARE!

Live In, Live Free!

 

The arranged marriage game is not palatable to many young people. Understandably perhaps. But then the alternative, which is the Dating Game, brings with it, its own share of woes. Rejection, lies, deceit, deception; for many, these are the experiences that the dating world earns them – rather than soliciting the ‘one’.

What am I getting at? And how then,  if the two primary sources of finding one’s life partner have their inherent flaws does one ‘settle’ down? Many of my students’ parents might be unhappy to read this – but I’m going to say, Live In! A Live In relationship, in my own experience, is arguably the ONLY true measure or testing ground for compatibility. NO two people are alike. Not even two people in LOVE! It is difficult for humans to co-habit. So what a live in situation does is, it breaks down all the WALLS and FACADE that tends to exist in an ‘arranged’ situation,  or in a ‘dating’ situation; both of which have the people involved at their best behavior, constantly. While in a Live In relationship, which of course you only get into in the first place if you feel ‘seriously’ enough about your relationship; the mask comes off. You are who you are – tantrums, eccentricities, idiosyncrasies, madness, demons – all included.

This then, turns into the ultimate litmus test for not only two peoples’ love for one another, but perhaps more importantly,  of simpatico.

Anuja and I lived together for a good 3 years before we decided to get married. And I think it has held us in good stead, that there were few shocks or surprises post-wedding (at least vis-a-vis  one another). And that is important. Because finally, life throws you enough and more curve balls, and the last thing you want to have to contend with in those situations, is marital problems additionally.

I think for parents as well,  as long as they have a realistic understanding and insight into their children, and feel they are mature and responsible, they should be open to the idea of a young couple living together before they take the proverbial ‘plunge’. Else,  it could just as easily become a plunge into eternal darkness!

A Blank Canvas Full of Filth?

About thirteen years ago, I was in a bad place. Quite disillusioned. I’d lost my way. So I wrote this little poem. Again, quite amateurish when I read it now. I thought however, it does convey my feelings at the time quite vividly. The world, a blank canvas. And depending on one’s stage in life, it can be a beautiful painting or a painful riotous mess. Here’s my take on it, from over a decade ago!

 ‘And All That Jazz’

Fast cars

Speedy lanes

Rakish boys

Foolish dames

 

Chases, places, faces

Quests in vain

Humans littered

Dot the endless chain

 

Play their parts

Love or hate

Or clean slate?

 

Methodical madness

Serial killers

Distressed damsels

 

Untamed flowering love

Heartaches & heart breaks

Unholy consumerism

Nationalistic fervor in drought

Intellectual voyeurism

 

Emotional plethora

Repertoire of sins

Conflict, battle

Some you loose

Some you win

 

Religious biases

Biased doctors

Wicked copters

Twisted tales

Clandestine counters

 

Cheating wives

Cuckold husbands

Divorced minds

‘Vows’ in dust bins

 

Generation Potter

Dope head daughters

Minds in gutters

Sterile rotters

Bashful leaders

Cultural feeders

Perverse needers

 

Gyrating bellies

Insatiable appetites

Travoltas and Kellys

 

Nations at war

Agendas of peace lie tore

Imitation products galore

Pleasure parlors

And HIV whores

 

Sweaty pores

Impure shores

Sliding doors

Sights to abhor

 

Philadelphia sadness

Life’s marathon

Sporadic gladness

 

Bitter sweet symphonies

Endangered species

Cheerleading sweeties

Illogical treaties

 

Some silent

Some squeaky

Some clean

Some freaky

 

This world

This life

Canvas of diversity

And all that jazz

 

 

 

 

Ambition?

I have been interacting with many many students and young people of all age groups over the past three years that I’ve been teaching. And while their enthusiasm is admirable and infectious, I sometimes fear that their perception of ‘ambition’ has become inextricably intertwined with earning lots of money!

Nothing wrong with earning lots of money I suppose. But should that really be the very definition of Ambition? Today I want to leave you with a poem I wrote many years ago, that raises this very question. The poem itself is a tad amateurish, given I wrote it a long time back, and have not made any changes to it. I hope however, that it conveys the essence of what I believe ambition ought to be, and compels you to question your own definition…

‘Ambition Revisited’

 Do you call the shots?

Do you set the plot?

Ambitious? Or have you its meaning lost?

 

Is a life less lived if money is not aspired to?

Blurred ambition, if not monetarily triumphed too!

Like a shamed pilot you flew

Into the endless, malicious material vastness

Without a clue!

 

I say, get the basics straight

Today, ambition is sadly juxtaposed

With material gain

The relentless human strain

Unending journey on the money train!

 

Ambition, the most contorted of virtues

Now lies trapped and corrupted in material dew

Innocent kid in the opium den

Risk and thirst for knowledge are ambition’s real cues

 

Let Lincoln Paper not be the measure

Seek growth, intellectual power

Cherish and make those your treasure

Ambition’s true feathers

 

Ambition is undying ‘will to do’s’ first cousin

Let it not adulterate under a clouded material vision

Ambition must exist, but for the right reasons

The money madness is a huge treason

 

Think

Ambition was born

And now it lies disheveled

Forgotten, Misunderstood

Misconstrued, Misinterpreted

Misrepresented, Dead

 

Rethink

Redefine

Revisit

 

Be ambitious for ambition’s sake…

Instant Education, Instant Results!

Was a time when education meant learning by observation. By a process of automatic osmosis. By simply being around, and interacting with teachers who weren’t just experts of their respective subjects, but also, were individuals who had amassed a certain worldly wisdom, and at least one ‘x’ factor skill, that one imbibed, by default. That may have been a math teacher’s love of cricket, an economics teacher’s dressing sense, or a headmaster’s way of talking.

I share this background because I find today, too often, that young parents, inundated perhaps by a world of ‘instant gratification’, expect the same of their children’s’ education. Be it at school, or at an external ‘hobby class’; the teaching MUST have a pre-determined PLAN, the lessons be taught quickly and efficiently, and the results be tangible, visible, quantifiable, and relevant in the present to absolute near-future.

I for one find that a bit disconcerting. Why? Because in my view, it has stolen the joy of learning, of discovery, or happy accidents, and of any covert skills that might be developed, that will, in absolute certainty, be invaluable to the pupil years on. But then if we rob our students of any kind of ‘playful’ learning, of a chance to interact with teachers, and of programs where there is no ‘definite goal’ but more abstract exploration of likes, dislikes, passions, sensitization – how do we expect to end up with free-thinking, individualistic young men and women? Are we then not just producing an army of clones, all of whom have been to the same school, been brainwashed into the same morality and definition of ambition?

Was a time when we loved school. Was a time when we loved our teachers. Was a time when we felt like learning…

Expose Yourself!

As all you regular readers/visitors are aware,  I’ve been unwell for the past 8 days now. But for the sake of blatant self-promotion, I feel obligated to do this post 🙂

I do apologize however for brazen sarcasm and a lack of my usual writing finesse. Somehow, this extended illness, and my ‘ill’ luck of being in Calcutta (rotting in bed without being able to do anything I had planned) has manifested in a complete loss of humility!

Jokes aside though..

For most anything in life, it is probably a good idea to try, before we opine. Many people for instance, who are opposed to non-vegetarian food (not for religious reasons I must clarify) shun it, without having tried it. My point being – unless we EXPOSE ourselves to different experiences, things, places, facets – how will we EVER KNOW what is OUT there?!

That is where the Short Workshop comes in. I’ve been holding them for a while, broadly in the area of Writing & Communications. And I’m delighted to share that my latest one, coming up in December, is at my own favorite Media College in Jaipur – TOSS (The Open Space Society).

Its JUST a week, modestly priced, and will offer you a PERSPECTIVE on Fiction Story Writing. A peek. An insight. An orientation into this enigmatic, fascinating, creative, cathartic world.

Check out the details on the TOSS Facebook Page. And Jaipur, come,

EXPOSE YOURSELF!!!

https://www.facebook.com/events/826801807498239/

What Qualifies Someone To Teach?

In India, in order to teach, a B Ed Degree is mandatory. I present to you, with no disrespect intended to the millions of teachers who have secured their B Ed Degrees, an alternate scenario. One where, in my limited experience, the engagement, enthusiasm, participation and learning of a class of pupils, has little or nothing to do with the teacher’s ‘qualification’. I teach from Primary School all the way up to College and beyond. And I have found that EFFECTIVE teaching demands a few KEY elements…

  1. Earning Trust – For a teacher to earn the trust of a class, is vital. But this has two big prerequisites. One, that the teacher student relationship be given TIME to develop. Two, that the relationship itself, CAN NOT be based on FEAR. There will be NO trust building in that case. There is a fine line between FEAR and RESPECT. And I believe it can be maintained.
  2. Entertaining Education – We live in a world where students have access to an array of ‘instant entertainment’ – be it youtube, online games, social media sites/platforms; all on their cell phones. THIS is what teachers are competing against. So in order to ENGAGE students, a TEACHER must be an ENTERTAINER, a PERFORMER.
  3. Cultural Context, Similarities – In order to ‘connect’ with students, teachers should be able to ‘speak their language’ – literally, metaphorically, culturally. Unfortunately, because of how most of our society is structured, our teachers and students belong to completely contrasting universes. So where then, can be the commonality? How many teachers will be able to have a chat with a student about Bieber? How many students, will be able to identify with a teacher’s last family holiday?
  4. Respect Students – Respect can not be demanded. And it is certainly not one-way. A teacher today is living a fallacy if he/she thinks that the teacher is some beacon of knowledge and the students are empty vessels. A teacher HAS to respect a student intellectually and individually. I learn everyday from each student of mine. But if a teacher is closed-off to that notion, chances are there will be very little engagement.

I have been teaching for not TOO long now. But I have made some observations that have been corroborated time and again. That a teacher NEEDS to know about what he or she is teaching, and along with that, know the students’ world. And in that world, no B Ed is required!

Get Paid, Pay It Forward

I know I have said lots about writers being woefully underpaid, and that is absolutely true 🙂 However, do not let the title of this post mislead you. It is not a tirade on the financial plight of Writers or Teachers. It is to share what I try to do in my life, in my own small way, about balancing ‘paid’ projects with ‘voluntary’ work.

So there are Ghostwriting Projects where we charge handsomely. Similarly when it comes to Teaching, depending on whom and where, I tend to charge well. But I don’t do this just because I CAN. I do it so that it allows me the luxury of then devoting time to certain projects, causes,  events and enterprises where I am happy to work pro-bono.

Again, the point here is not to try and sound like sage; I’m not. But given that I am nowhere near capable of making monetary contributions to the many causes I feel strongly towards; the next best thing I know how to do, and absolutely love to do, is volunteer my time and my few skills. Just one example of this Work-Volunteer Balance I try and maintain is a Workshop I did for this NGO that is doing tremendous work in the advocacy and promotion of Organ Donation. So for over 100 school children from multiple schools across Jaipur,  we organized a sensitization event where I held a Film & Poster Making Workshop. Here, the kids were explained how they can make short films and posters on this subject, and went back to their respective schools and produced some brilliant work! In the process,  not only were they familiarized with this important issue, they became advocates of the same. A win-win.

People often tell my wife and I that we are very EXPENSIVE! Our ‘rates’ are TOO much. But it is because we know the quality we provide, and, it is these projects that help us, PAY IT FORWARD!

Great Conversations can be EASY!

Many many students of mine of all age groups essentially want to become good conversationalists. And I keep telling them, just as there are Myths & Misconceptions associated with Writing, there are too, with being a Great Conversationalist.

Whatever the ‘conversation-scenario’ might be, you need a few KEY prerequisites, and I promise you will be on your way to holding a meaningful, engaging dialogue.

  1. LISTEN: Making conversation is NOT about going yap yap yap to PROVE that you KNOW IT ALL. Listen. People appreciate that. Besides, a conversation is a 2-way street. Unless you pay attention to what the other person/people are saying, how will you carry it FORWARD!
  2. GK: The more AWARE you are, the more well informed you are, the more you will engage. There is NO substitute for this. I get that it is BORING to read newspapers, depressing even. I dislike it myself. You know the 2 places I get my GK from? So here’s my trade secret!!! KBC, as in Kaun Banega Karorpati. And this neat app on android and ios called In-Shorts, available free on any play-store, that gives you diverse, interesting news. The best part, each news-story has a visual or video, and is limited to 60 words!!
  3. RESEARCH: Lack of Confidence is sited as a constant niggle. It becomes such a monster, that it can seem all-consuming. You know what the key to alleviating this is? RESEARCH. No matter what the social-scenario may be, there is, logically, a certain about of PREP that can be put into in advance. For example, you are going to your college orientation. If you do a little research about the school, its professors, and the city/locality/history/culture in advance, not only will your nerves have VANISHED, you will definitely engage & delight!
  4. DISPOSITION: Try to keep a friendly disposition. Often times without realizing, our nerves/irritation manifest in our body-movements. We twitch, shake, do not make eye contact, and keep our arms crossed (as if to stay shut off to the world). Breathe. Why Shahrukh Khan has become the legend that he has? I have a theory. What’s his most iconic pose? Arms wide open in slow motion…right? Well, it is all about positive body language and a disposition that says, come, I want to engage with you!

Making conversation is a wonderful thing. It is educative, entertaining, and most importantly, builds relationships. And today, perhaps more than ever, we need that!