Each one, Teach one.

On a bright summer day in 2014, when the teachers of government schools of the district where I was working as District Magistrate, invited me for inaugurating a  sports function, I decided to pitch a challenge.

” Can you make Teaching Learning Material for  the children in the Anganwady (Govt kindergarten) in your compound ? From the material around you, using the skill and enthusiasm of your B.Ed days, getting the help from your young students in work experience classes, by contributing some money from your own pockets? These children from anganwadis can benefit with your creativity. After all, they are your future students”

To my great delight they volunteered to take up the challenge. In a matter of four months, we had organised multiple camps to distribute their TLM to the concerned anganwadis. Hundreds of schools volunteered enthusiastically and their imagination was outstanding! Except motivating them and attending all camps, and applauding as each anganwady received the TLM kit from the school, I did nothing.

Of the 1.29 lakh of anganwady kids studying, we reached out to  75,000  children through the initial response.  Mathematics, alphabets, memory tools- the talent was amazing!

This is one project which I wish ardently the civil society takes up too- if you are creative, create and donate to an anganwady next to your house.

IMG_20140211_134918

 

Amma Amplified…

We understand it together, my daughter and I, of how  analog and digital modulation techniques work out. My old brain creaks as rusted rails of memory get oiled after twenty three odd years.  It is an emergency venture. She wanted someone to run her through the chapter. Amplitude modulation  for example, is explained over several odd pages in an intimidatingly erudite manner in the text book.

After  two hours, my teenager looks at me with a newly found respect. (Aha! Could ‘Newfoundland’ be thus named coz some old mother dusted out her engineering lessons for the sake of family peace and good will?)

“You have a terrific memory,” she says, grudgingly.

Speak of underhanded compliments.

“You remind me of my seminar presentation day,” I grin wryly, “When the teacher asked me to join  the marketing wing of an optical device company”.

“Huh?”

“Apparently my speaking skills were better than my conceptual understanding of optical fibre devices and the technology behind those.”

“Huh?”

“You are telling me the same- my memory fares me well than my scientific understanding, eh?”

“You will pass,” says she, “can we revise diodes and gates after some time?”

I am a fighter by disposition but I also know that discretion is the better part of valour at times.

“Ehh…maybe you should let me take a break…,” I suggest casually,”Why don’t you read your English text now?”

****

In circumstances where one’s natural gifts are not in tandem with one’s immediate environment, the onslaught on the self esteem can be immense. Especially if you prefer brooding over Byron, when there is a Solid state devices test, the next day.

Blessed are those who get to study what they wish to study. I used to wonder on my degree in the past. Of how I should have done Law or Literature instead. But then on days like today, when two sharp eyes look up to you with slight awe, cough, cough, I feel that the four year struggle was worth it.

What the heck! She said, I get to pass.

Cheers!

****

 

 

 

Epiphany is a nice word

Tolle

Let your dreams rule your life, not your fears.

Somewhere in the journey of my life, I had started letting my fears rule me/ The fear of what ‘he/she/they” would say/do/act frightened the hell out of me.

What if I lost their love/respect/affection/friendship?

What if the world collapsed?

What if, what if…?

Until life gave me the furnace treatment.  It made me walk through fire and back.Everything turned topsy turvy. Absolutely unexpected events happened -which made me question everything- every single person, act, conversation without my biased glasses on.What I saw was not very pleasant. What I heard wasn’t pleasant either. The actions, again, left much to be desired.

The patterns of relationships were striking. There was the needy and the needed. The giver and the taker. The abuser and the abused. The scared one and the bully.

My fears were ruling my life. And I was getting exactly what I deserved.

So, I decided to lose the love,  the respect, the friendship and all accessories which came along .. I decided to let the world collapse, and nothing really much happened as my fears used to tell me.

All the power in the world is available to one who is not afraid of calling a spade a damn spade. The truth shall set you free.

Today, I tell my daughters :

Look at fear in the eyes. Let it blink first. Let your dreams rule your lives. Never let your fears take the driver’s seat.Every moment, make a conscious choice. To live with dignity.

I do not know much about that cosmetics brand, but you are definitely worth it.

***

 

 

Agneya’s Poems- Translation

Selected Translated Poems from Agneya’s first collection of poetry, “Mere Baad Mera Ghar” published in 1995.

Agneya is a renowned Hindi poet and writer, active in Hindi literature over sixty decades, who has more than ten collections of poetry and prose to his credit including Bhul Gaye shabd likhna, Koi ho Jo dekhe, Rakta Ki varna mala,Sara vrittant uske liye, Satyapit, Shabdatit, Utkhanan et al. Agneya also publishes and edits a very popular poetry journal Sadaneera, which brings the best of world poetry to the Hindi reader.

http://www.sadaneera.com
1. Fear (Bhay)

And then she makes me sit
Outside her house.
She moves inside to
Eat, or perhaps chat
With her sisters.
I keep sitting silently
Because, she is my friend.
When I feel like barking,
As the silence prolongs,
She returns with a cup of tea
In her hands, and offers it to me.
She talks and laughs, indulges me
As if I am her loyal, honest, domesticated
Dog.
And then she ties a belt around
My neck.
She is apprehensive perhaps that
The neighbour would steal me from her
If I do not have one.
Or that the municipality would shoot
Me down considering me an orphan.
Perhaps poison me and I
Shall become dizzy and collapse
On her beautiful lawn.
That after my demise,
Her sisters would get scared at night.

But she does not know that
Dogs can go mad.
That I, going slowly mad
Sitting silently outside her house
Will shred to pieces her shiny, colourful curtains
Run over her sofa, mattresses, carpets
Take a round of her kitchen and golden rooms.
That I might frighten her sisters
With my incessant barking.
That I might run off and join the street dogs
Soon.
Seeing my animal revolution,
My friend
Might give up loving dogs too.
………………

2. Completeness (Sampoornatha)

She kept looking
At the sky
And I stuck around her
Like a shadow.
Her hand was
On the shoulder of
Another woman.
When I was surrounding her
On all four sides
Like a breeze.

To win the complete love
Of a complete woman,
Like the desire for the
Last living breath-
I shall
Every second
Create her .
Like a complete earth-all
Tender creepers
And fruits.

3. Tomorrow (Kal)

Chest puffed up, day and night
Majestic like the King Elephant
I roam around these roads.
In front of my friends and foes
My face, my words-
Full of arrogance.

Lazily I walk on that road
Daily
To the left is a cremation ground.
Like an ant, humility fills within:
Today, I have walked till here
By myself.
Tomorrow, I shall be brought on four shoulders
Till here.

4.Sleepless, Awake (Ratjagah)

I have to stay awake-
Please tell me another story.
If it gets over, tell me few others.
Of fishes which live in oceans
Of cranes that arrive from Siberia
Of majestic lions,sly foxes, laughing hyenas.
Of birds, trees and forests
Of silk worms, alligators
Of ice mountains in polar regions
Of life saving plants
Of eternal herbs, their stories.
Keep telling me, keep me awake.
Whisper into my ears.

These are hurt by the world of humans-
By telling the story of their sadness
Keep me awake.

5. War (Yudh)

Hearing
Of her son’s death
A mother
Burns alive
Sons of other mothers,
Inside her straw filled house.
They were her
Guests.

6. They are still laughing ( Ve ab bhy has rahe hai)

The moon does not shine any more
The fire of the evening has
Died down.
They are laughing
In the deep darkness.
Along with them, their children
Their goats, donkeys, dogs.

Between my house and that deep darkness
Lies a road.
It will only take ten steps
For crossing over.
Their laughter will
Make my house and my happily world
Disappear
In a moment.
I have to
Stop
Their laughter.

From the road to the sky
I shall build a wall.
From the other side-
Their laughter can still be heard.
The last defence of the wall
Has failed too.

They are still laughing.

7. Where are my poems (Kahan hai Ve meri kavitayein)

Where have my poems gone?
Those pressed down in the pages
Of books,
Those that were to see light inside books.
For whom I carried on my head
Intense grief and agony
As I fled from one city to another.
For whom I got crushed like ants
Beneath the feet of elephants.
For whom I ripened and dissolved
Like honey in a beehive.
How do I get those back-
Those lost poems of mine?

When someone else writes them
Then, I shall recover the lost poems.

8. Dwarves atop pinnacles ( Shikar par baune)

Could not extract
Destruction from termites
Essence from honeybees
Colour from butterflies
Dignity from ants.

Could not take
Courage from the All-Conqueror
Spirituality from friends
Respect from humans.

Covering their selves with pettiness
They kept sleeping when
The Wise held counsel.
Everyone could see them,
Faces covered with depressed lines
They were everywhere.
Carrying infinite arrogance on their backs
They kept climbing the ladders
To reach where
Dwarves reside on pinnacles.

9. Broken Life (Tukkadghor Zindagi)

All the doors are open
To a broken life.
So long as the doors are
Open,
Lead a dog’s life.

Stick close to the door
Fear of murder
Is enough
For a broken life.
To celebrate a broken life
Like a broken person
Stick closely to it
Live a dog’s life.

10. Coward( Kayar)

She has accepted
My cowardice.
She has given me
A place to sit.

It is not a place to sit
It is a space for a chair-
One tied to hers.

Carrying the generous
Weight of being her Lord
On my back,
How long shall I
Carry the dirty clothes
Of her great earnings
To the dhobi’s ghat?

11. Give me space!( Jagah Do)

Give me space
To stand up
Like a tree-
I need to spread my roots
Give me space!
In your flower pot
I refuse to bloom anymore
Like a rootless plant.
I am not obliged to
Be thrown away like spittle
From a spittoon.
Give me space,
To stand up!

12. Fire (Aag)

The fire is not
In the forest-
But in this country.
Burning the hands of
Artists and writers.
Life smoulders like embers
Ashen coloured hunger
Sadness ripened like honey
Eyes smoking with
Tears.

Laugh inside your heart,
Write a poem.
Then become silent
Silence will end the fire.
Fire will turn into cinders.
Fire will turn into sleep.
13. A Cry-(Vilap)

Mother, today I have to tell you
From your blood drops
Some strong man was born
Or some villain.

Mother, recognise me.
I am not the horse rider
With a gleaming sword in hand
And confidence shining from his eyes.

Mother, look at me properly
Mother, recognise me truly:
I am sure fourth son,
Who travels on a donkey
Who sweats it out inside a brick-kiln.

Mother, bring your hands
Closer to my face
Your son, your fourth born
Grows blood droplets from the ground.

Mother, caress my forehead
I am sleepy.

14. My House (Mera Ghar)

That house which was mine
Has turned into a
House full of contempt.
Every single thing bought
For me, hates me.
I will have to leave
This house of contempt.
Made of raw earth
Sifting fast-
Thus was this house
Of contempt formed.
It will collapse any moment
The foot to grind it down
Has already been raised;
The breeze has already
Started blowing
My house will soon start
Floating adrift.
Before I get crushed
Within this house,
I have to quietly
Slip away.

15. Halt ! Stay where you are!( Bus! Usi Jagah Bane Raho)

Halt! Stay where you are!
Alibaba’s treasure trove
Will open even without
Reciting abracadabra.

It is the palace
Whose entrance door
Was your target
For making a hole,
Is it not?
For that
You were content
To stay beneath
An usurper’s foot-
It will open for sure!

Do not ever raise
The sword of disagreement
Against injustice, atrocities
And cowardice.
Keep lowering your greedy neck
Quietly for the
Assassin’s axe.

Of course there is
Much time left
For the teeth to bite the fruit.
The birds have
Started to forget chattering.
In rivers, the flow of water
Is reversing.

You were waiting for this time
Were you not
When everything starts
To end.

Halt,
Stay just where you are!

16. Termite time (Deemak-Samay)

I am standing up
Holding a shining sword against
Time.
Those flying ants have the same
Time as me.
Termite time will destroy
All of life in one go.
The time of death shall eat up
All the body parts.
My skeleton will stand up
For holding a sword.
Why?

Still
I hold a shining sword
Against time.
17. My House, After Me ( Mere Baad, Mera Ghar)

On the day I shall leave
Let my room stay as shiny,
As neat and tidy
As it used to be, before.

Let sunshine enter
Through the windows
Like it used to, before.

Let the books be spread
Out on the table
As I used to spread them, before.

This is my promise to you-
After I leave
The ink in the pot shall not dry.
Everyday
Sunshine will come
In through the windows
Searching for me.
Even though it cannot find me
Daily it will visit
Like it used to, before.

Only, you should keep the windows
Open.
And entering through the door
Do not get irritated with it,
As you used to, before.

18. Wall (Deewar)

The wall of luxury crumbles
Do not offer your shoulder
As support.
Bent heads are chopped off
Usually.
Do not let your head go
Down.

It is a glass mansion
Will splinter into bits easily
Let it be-
Do not try to decorate it
With bleeding hands.

The Phoenix emerges from
The mound of ashes.
Give wings to it, so it might rise.

In this city of the rich
Do not plead like beggars.
Surround it, vanquish it
But do not let your head
Bent.
Bent heads are usually
Chopped off.

19. When (Jab)

When my limbs were in place,
When my body was complete,
I lost everything.

Now I am half- limbed
Without radiance, listless.
When I was on the ground
I used to fill my arms with
Happy gurgles of my kids-
They were dear to me.

Now, I am on the top branch
But I have become a dwarf.
There is no earth here
To spread out my roots.

A gem studded throne
On top of which
Manure of horses
Belonging to the world conquerors.

I have to sit atop that
And carry out all my royal duties
Until that horse manure
Engulfs me.

20. Against the sun ( Suraj ke khilaf)

Burning red, the sun
Remarked angrily
How dare you raise your eyes
To meet mine,
You old crone?

The old woman, busy
Collecting firewood and cow dung
Replied
I am searching for fuel
For my hearth’s warmth.

Your heat is too less
For this earth,
For my straw house.
All my life, I have been
Deprived of your warmth.

My own shrivelled hands
Are my sun.
I am standing up
Against you,
Whenever I light up
The fire in my home
To cook my food.

21. Meaningful (Saarthak)

Sadness does not quite work
Out
Like sadness.
Happiness cancels everything out.

From the start, I have been
Inside and outside this tunnel
Of sadness and happiness
I have been searching
For meanings within shadows
As if they were meaningful.

Life in its entirety
Is clamouring for meaning.
And I,
Like a vidushaka,
Inside a classic drama
Beats my stomach
Amidst all the talented
Around.

22. One day ( Ek Din)

Carrying the burden of contempt
Hiding the look of desolation
I shall leave this city
One day.

It is possible that
The next city is similar
To this one.
Maybe, only the name changes.
Perhaps, even that stays the same!

Till when will you keep
Changing cities?
A mirror image will spring up
In another.
The mourning line on your face
Will deepen
The burden of contempt
Will stay unabated.

23. The Knife of “No”( Nahi ka chakoo)

The “No” knife had
Stabbed him on either side
Already.
He might not have
Intended it thus.

Only one part of his body
Used to move.
The head nodding ” Yes”.
He had not possessed the
” No” knife then.
He was a candle melting at night
He was a circus cheetah dreaming of eating
Deer meat,
Even as he paced inside his cage.

Who stabbed him unexpectedly
With the knife of “No”?

He had broken through many a wall,
Many barred holds.
He had destroyed many statues of worthies
Never had allowed the scales to balance.

But once the knife of “No” pierced
Deep inside,
No one knows what has happened to him!

He has left a mourning majority
And a laughing minority
Behind.

24. Persona (Kayakalp)

Three sixty days in a year
Endless darkness.
Five days remaining
Full of moonlight calm.

Three sixty days of the year
Deer are not permitted to play
Rabbits forbidden from running
Ducks banned from swimming
Children not allowed to sleep
Mothers prevented from weeping

Three sixty days in the year
Make the servant sleep on the bare floor
Seat the king on his throne.

Five days of the year,
Poetry shall be returned
Playfulness to the deer
Running to the rabbits
Songs to the birds
Ponds to the ducks
Sleep to the women
Laughter to the children
Tears to the mothers
Self respect to the servant
Democracy to the king

On five days of the year
Moonlight floods over.

25. The worm of desire( Kaamna ka keeda)

When language casts itself
In between
Myself and life
I cover myself with another’s guise.

I do not see with my eyes
The blue sky or beauty
Around;
Do not hear with my ears
Ragas,palpitations or the roar of seas.

I do not smell with my nose
The fragrance of the wind
The moist earth or the body.

I do not taste with my tongue
Fishes, vegetables, pickle.

Like a monkish crab, detached tortoise
I wish to meditate inside an old cave.

In spite of my timidity
I keep trying to lift the burden
Of great thoughts.
I run like the sacrificial horse
Of the Aswamedha
To make language
The King of Kings.

I am a worm of language’s desire
Let me hang onto the fruit of knowledge
Till the end of time.

26. Safe(Surakshit)

He believed all his life
That man was a tree
Laden with flowers,fruits, leaves.

All his life
He considered himself
Safe
In his well
Of written poetry
All were safe-
Butterflies, honey bees, ants.

In reality
Man stands:
His hands raised above
His head.
They are taking him
To the gallows
Tomorrow.

27. This is the truth( Yeh Sach Hai)

This is the truth
That I cannot write like others.
This is the truth
They have such contempt, hatred
Arrogance and rejection within.
I do not have those prized possessions.

The way they love others-
Embracing,
I have neither that sort of love
Nor such arms.
My left arm
Is my right arm’s foe.
My thirst, my hunger, my sleep
My hardwork
Are not mine.

So much of what I have spoken
In my poems so far,
Neither are they true
Nor scalpel edged profundities.
The fact that those could be
Uttered means -they were to die.

My poem and its words
Should be able to cut through
That dark knot
Surrounding my soul.

28. An old man staring at the sunset, in the new year
( Varsharambh mein Ek booda, suryasth dekhta hua)

Sunlight
Reads a newspaper
Like an old man.
The shining sun
Moves like a tortoise
Into the darkened house of my age.

How much time
Does it take for the shining sun
To turn into a tortoise?
Only a few more incoming hours.

For me and my old hands
How much more time
To turn into the sun?

29. Just hope (Sirf Prateeksha)

Somewhere a dried tree
Becomes green again.
Somewhere over clouds
A rainbow is written.
Somewhere a sun drowns
Into the evening.

On top of ghostly bridges
Filling our pantaloon pockets’
With clouds, rainbow, drowning sun
Who are we waiting for?

Oh! That green tree
Has dried again!
Oh! That rainbow
Has turned into clouds again!
Oh! That setting sun
Is just a hope!

30. For Her ( Uske Liye)

The one whom I love at night
I denigrate during the day.
All stand in the darkness
Sunlight stays dim.

Till I am alive
I realise that the sun
Has been created for be getting life.
Darkness too
Has been created for love.

So in conclusion,
I have to stand with her in the dark
For her love.

31. I shall have the final laugh ( Anth mein mai hi hasunga)

I shall have the final laugh
I shall be the first
Even at the end.
In spite of the mound of ashes
I shall smoke like a volcano
In spite of being Kafka’s fort
I shall stay open
Like an open courtyard.

Impulsiveness for squirrels
Cheerfulness for birds
Food grains for the ants
Water for the rivers
Dreams for the desolate men
In a desolate world-

Bringing all of these quickly
I shall have the final laugh.

32. My house, Its house( Mera Ghar, Uska Ghar)

One bird
Comes to my house daily.
I do not know its name
I just recognise it.
It keeps chirping around as it
Searches for grains.
Then it flies off
Towards its own home.

Where is its house?
Does it belong to the bird?
Even if it is so,
It cannot be like mine-
Full of heartfelt cries and agonised howls.

Then why does it come to mine
Daily,
Chirping away.

33. Separation ( Gaman)

The weight of the flower
Does not break the branch.
It is forcibly broken off.
The world breaks similarly.
It is breaking,
Yours and mine.

Miracle or atrocity?
In this separation
I know only this:
The flower has been
Forcibly broken off from
The branch.

Watching Invictus…

Today, I got an opportunity to attend a function felicitating the national champions of judo. The only difference, the participants were blind, deaf or mute.

I watched smart girls stand on the side unaware as names were called, and then being made to understand that it was their turn to compete. Perfect moves, thud, thud, applause all around that they never heard. Blind competitors, who showcased expert moves, like the rest of them. Children of a lesser God- or at least once upon a time, that was how they were perceived. But what power, what confidence, what energy the participants displayed: that put the rest of the audience- who had been fortunate to be born with all senses perfect- to check their own commitment and drive towards excellence.

When the winners bowed their heads to receive their medals, and shook hands, I knew that I was the privileged one. The true greatness of human potential was before me, telling me to never despair at the dark side of reality- but  to focus only at the light beckoning  forward- built by solid dreams and solid hard work and rewarded with glory.

Today, I am humbled. And proud to be thus humbled.

And Miles To Go…

IMG_0197

Someone asked me once.

“Don’t you get intimidated by the cynicism around?”

To be frank, I get mad as hell sometimes. But I have learnt to be resilient around that prickly cactus. I  sort of manoeuvre my way around its deadly thorns. Because, life has taught me one lesson. If you get stung by this plant, you will be sick all your life. A deathly pall of gloom will cast its tentacles around your soul and the lamp within will be doused by  the smoke regurgitating from its thick, poisonous venom.

Cynicism comes in when hope dies. And hope dies, when people do not act/think/ talk as per your wishes. So what do we do? Change your expectations. Control the only person whose actions/thoughts/words are under your control. You.Yourself.

“Be the change that you want to see in the world.”Mahatma Gandhi advised us so. He was a true visionary.

I have long stopped justifying myself to others. To tell the truth, there is no time to sit and whine aloud all my miseries and my unhappiness. For every grievance out there, there exists an opportunity to work out a solution. To make this world a better place through service.

” I stay away from those who drain my spirits. They are cynical by nature. Cynical about the world, cynical about me and my worth. ..,” I said.”And I seek out those  who empower me by their work and thoughts every day.”

This note is in gratitude to those souls. Thank you for valuing me. I am thankful and inspired by your kindness. It has strengthened my wings to fly further.

I do not want the numbing blanket of cynicism around me. One step at a time…and miles to go before we sleep…

*****

*Receiving the  award  from US Consul General , Mr. Craig Hall at  the three nation conclave at Siliguri , for contribution to Anti human trafficking.

A Strange Tale…

image

“I have a feeling,” she says, “that Dr.Jekyll is actually Mr.Hyde.”

She looks quizzically at her sister and me. Slowly, my elder daughter starts shaking in mirth and soon both of us are laughing loudly. The little girl raises a pretty eyebrow. She is most definitely not amused.

“Both looked with the same intensity- it is written. So…”

With grave faces we tell her that she had no other alternative but to finish the whole abridged version, before she discovered the truth.

Being perseverent is not one of her strengths, so she reaches out to Brer Rabbit and starts reading that wily one’s tricks.

Then she asks, “Vile and wily- what is the difference?”

I reflect.

Vile is evil. Like Mr.Hyde. All those Edward Hydes that I have known in my life, who specialised in, still specialise in breeding evil in thought, word and deed. Outside, they are charming, like Dr.Jekyll. They love art and music and words. But all it takes is one drug. The drug of feeling invincible. The downfall will come of course, because no metamorphosis can leave the original soul untouched, can it? But they are far too gone in their goddamn games. They want to win at all costs- even knocking down little girls on the way. What losers!

“Wily,” I say, ” is tricky. Like Brer Rabbit.”

“Hmmm…and vile?”

“Vile is malicious. Like Mr.Hyde.”

****

She finishes the classic.

“So, did you feel pity?” I ask.

“Towards who?”

The reply is clinically detached.

“Why did Dr.Jekyll commit suicide?” I probe further.

“Because he would be forced to live as Hyde?” She replies with another question.

We applaud her perspicacity. My elder one snidely comments that her sister’s future law clients need not expect any mercy from her. Pity, eh?!

I think to myself that nothing escapes those sharp eyes. She can see through falsehood, and that is a skill that will stand her in good stead.

Mercy,only to those who deserve it. There was something to that, after all.

****