Walking in Beauty

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She is bubbling with her enthusiasm about Mathematical Physics. Half of what she is  telling me- especially about  the Calculus classes -goes above my head. I watch her animated face as she speaks about a senior who is enrolling for a Masters in Perimeter Institute, Canada ( her dream) and has deferred his PhD admission to Stanford by a year. “One day, Amma, I will be there!” I have absolutely no doubt that she speaks her destiny.

‘My child, I wish to tell her, keep this faith alive. For every naysayer who had dissuaded your dreams in a thousand ways by not supporting you, by laughing at girls dreaming big, by mocking you for ‘not fitting in’, you have always had those few critical people who stood by you like a rock. In life, for every hundred people who could not care less about you, you will find one  genuine well wisher. That solid love is more than what the little green sapling needs to thrive in this world. Every battle won with sweat and tears of dedication creates way for a wonderfully tasting feast of celebration. But the warrior needs rest and recuperation too.

Do not get caught in the fancy trappings of what ‘success’ is acclaimed to be by the world. The quiet scientist who toils away in her laboratory and advances the cause of Science, leads a life which illuminates the way for humankind. Perhaps her coat is stained and sweaty. Perhaps it is not. Perhaps she is not known outside her circle. Perhaps she is.  These are irrelevant.What matters is that when she sleeps at night, there is a joy of having another beautiful day to wake up to and live her dream.

May learning light up your way. May your dreams come true. May you remain humble and grounded. May you always think of leaving this world a better place with the gifts that you were born with. May you follow your bliss and your true calling. May the right teachers appear at the appropriate time. May you always remain my bubbling and happy child.

Tremendously grateful for the gift of hearing you passionately describe your Calculus classes and your wonderful professors. Stay blessed. May your light brighten the life of all whom you meet in your life path.’

‘Amma, you are not actually listening!’ She pouts.

I smile. ‘ Your Amma still has nightmares about her engineering maths.’

‘ Yes! You should have studied Byron instead. No issues! Ok so you know what professor…’

She walks in beauty, like the night

Of countless climes and starry skies

And all that’s best of dark and bright

Meet in her aspect and her eyes…

Ahhhh, Byron. You did get that one right.

**

 

Wisdom Is An Elephant

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So the Science Fiction aficionado goes ahead and wins a  student writing contest. She is also invited to attend the conference of all similarly inclined souls and read out her winning entry.

When I gape at the wonder of it all, my daughter laughs. Her heroine is called Sofia and she has a cat called Davetta. Sofia reads Werner Heisenberg’s Physics and Philosophy in the dead of night. And she hates authoritarian figures. By the way, her cat is bionic.

*

Her sister gifts her a  cute pink baby elephant- yeah, a stuffed toy. The elder one  takes it by the tail and twirls it around with amusement.

‘Why is it pink, eh? It creeps me out,’ she opines.

‘It is adorable and small and pink. You better treat it respectfully,’the little girl is firm.

‘It looks rather ominous,’ laughs the elder one.

‘What is ominous?’

‘This elephant.’

‘Meaning of ominous?’

‘Er, not very auspicious, let us say.’

The younger one casts a baleful glance at me. I am all for getting the elephant back from such an  irreverent  new owner.

But finally, the sisters strike a compromise. They christen the elephant Sofia.

As I wonder on its fate, the elder one says consolingly, ‘Amma, it means wisdom. I will make it befriend Electra, the startled cat toy. Besides, we will make them  unofficial mascots of our Physics lounge.’

*

With all the wise ones around, I ask one question. What are interstitial spaces?

Sofia’s leap of victory had been in the  sci-fiction writing contest with that  peculiar theme. Her  story title was ‘Knowledge beyond Logic’. Heisenberg was an adored Ancient in its weave.

Does a pink elephant befriend a cat?  Would such friendship occur in interstitial spaces? As my mind puzzles over the uncertainty of it all, I remember Heisenberg in a most  happy, weird way.

‘Revere those things beyond science which really matter and about which it is so difficult to speak.’

Sofia or Electra, pink or black, young or old, elephant or cat, Physics or Spirituality, we are bound by infinite reams of love and laughter. And my story, if I ever were to write on interstitial spaces would be on that. And two laughing sisters.

The Gods at the bottom of my glass always have their faces.

*

 

 

Wrestling With Nay-Sayers!

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When I sat down with my little girl to watch Dangal, I only knew that it was about girl empowerment. That it would empower me as a parent, I realised  soon afterwards.

I watched a father battle against all odds, not the least being the self -limiting thoughts of his daughters themselves,  to make them international champions in an arena considered taboo for girls. I felt immense pride and  a sense of strength on watching the Phogat Sisters!

Actions speak louder than words.We have heard this sentence so often enough that we have started devaluing its merits, like a cliche.

More than any speech or seminar on girl empowerment, this movie- love in action veritably- has  communicated the message of human potential being gender neutral and the skies to which souls can rise, if guided properly.

What does it take to withstand mockery?

Courage and self confidence!

What does it take to excel in life?

Courage and self confidence and support!

What does it take to make a mark for yourself?

Courage and self confidence and support and unflinching faith!

***

We have a conversation : My little girl and I.

“Amma, there is a girl in my class. She says girls should study just enough to manage home. Men are the bread winners, so the property should go to them. If women go out to work, who will take care of the home? ”

Ahhhh! That age old devil in a new generation mouth- indoctrinated right from childhood, about what she can be/should be/will be. That  old crone of  misogyny. You  have destroyed many lives, millions, all across the world, through the ages.

“She must have heard all this stuff at her home, eh?” I comment, as I eat my food.

“Yup! She says her father and mother agree on this- so they must be right. Family is always right, she says.”

“So what did your friends say? All agreed?”

“No! We all laughed at her,” she says, drinking her milk.

Lovely reaction.

“I told her that all our teachers were women. They also take care of the homes, Amma. You too work, don’t you? Chechi topped  and Saloni di topped the school!”

“Have you heard of Rosalind Franklin?”

“Nope!”

“Denied Nobel prize? She should have got it with Watson and Crick for contribution to the discovery of DNA structure. She died early and was not recognised for her great work for a long time.”

“Huh?!”

“Marie Curie did not have it easy either. Did you know that? Women in Science had a very tough time to be recognised on their own merit. People sort of believed that they could not be Professors or do research or win Nobels.”

“Bad!”

“Is it not?”

A pause.

“So what do you think of those lady wrestling champs?” I ask her.

“Their father…said they will become champions.”

“Family must be right, eh?”

She smiles.

“For every family which says girls cannot study, or become anything, there is another family which says they can! Question is, what do you tell yourself?”

“Amma, may be I will practise badminton now!” she says.

This time, I smile.

Thank you Amir Khan! In this world, we can always do with  more lights that show the way.

*

Warmth In Winter

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I find her entranced in a thick book- she is awed! I snooze near her, enjoying the warmth of the heater in the unhappy cold of a dire winter. An hour later, I open my eyes and she is still in the same position, the book on her lap.

“Interesting , eh?”

No response.

I take a peek.

‘Adventure of the devil’s foot’

“Are you understanding it?”

She looks at me with that ‘I do not expect that from you’ sort of a look.

I grin. And snooze again.

This time, it is late and the book and the child are still in their places.

“Time to sleep,” I say.

“Five more minutes”, she says. It is neither a request nor a plea. It is a statement-typical of her.

Five minutes later, I cough meaningfully.

She closes the book.

“What was the adventure?”

“The empty house,” she says with a prim expression.

As I tuck her into her winter blankets, and turn the heater around, I realise that certain classics will always get the chill away from our souls.

On the bed, was Penguin’s ‘Classic Sherlock Holmes’. And already smiling in her sleep, was the youngest fan  in the family- enchanted by the inimitable detective of 221B Baker Street.

The suffocating winter cold fails to depress my spirits.

When a child reads happily, that joy is warm enough to  withstand the severest of  life’s winter winds.

Tail piece:

I  search for and finally find  an old copy of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple stories.  Dusting it, I slyly put it next to Holmes.

Certain manoeuvres have to be silently executed for success. Especially with little girls full of ‘ I do stuff my way’ attitude.

Let us see now, if that old lady captivates her too!

*

 

Crow(n)ing Glory!

‘You need a hair cut,’ I say, narrowing my eyes at what looks to me like a crow’s nest. ‘A group of crows can easily make nests on your hair.’

‘Amma, for your information,  a group of crows is referred to as a murder of crows!’ She laughs at me.

‘I change the reference to Rookery,’ I snipe, ‘if you remember your David Copperfield.’

‘ Ha, ha! My friends think it is real cool!’She grins compassionately, ‘and I do remember the formidable Betsy Trotwood! Reminds me of someone.’

I give up the argument but not the case.

‘ When will you get it cut child?’

‘Amma, I am referred as a scientist in the discussion groups.No children allowed there.’

‘Haircut!’

‘ When I wish.’

‘Please…!’

‘ Okay.’

‘ And you are still my child, scientist!’

‘Accepted.’

Then of course, the discussion veers on to the other child who is anything but a child- who can give  Aunt Betsy Trotwood a run for her money- and who would have looked coldly back at Mr Murdstone for two minutes flat any day.

‘How is that brat?’

‘You answered your own question.’

‘What is the latest adventure?’

‘That I miss my obedient child. The other is making me turn grey prematurely.’

At that juncture, the protagonist appears by my side and declares emphatically , ‘What is my role in it ? You are old already, are you not?’

I sigh poignantly. My  sweet scientist laughs uproariously from across the oceans, her crow nest hair waving about happily. My child flicks a dust speck off her perfectly done hair.

‘You need a hair cut,’ the child says, frowning at her sister.

‘Amma, NOW I know, it is time for a hair cut- she is abrasive but bluntly truthful ,’ says her sister.

‘Where does that leave me, eh?’ I ask, outraged, ‘Et tu Brute?’

‘You will pass,’ they console  me lovingly and  having dismissed me offhand, start boxing with each other happily.

*

 

 

 

Inspirations…

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When I was twelve, my mother gave me a small book- it was so small as to be kept within one’s palm. It contained the inspirational quotes of Swami Vivekananda.

For me, it was wondrous: this handsome sage telling that it was better to build a pair of strong shoes as a humble mochi, than to spout nonsense as a professor who has long stopped learning!  He said that the best way to forget one’s own sorrows was to reach out to remove those of another. He reiterated that infinite energy flowed through one, as one tried to make a difference by service- it was a universal law of the spirit.

I spent many happy hours debating on his quotations with my best friend, my namesake. In fact during a school tour, our Physics teacher was perplexed to see us analysing ‘why playing football was better to build nerves of steel than by rot learning of religious studies.’An age of innocence- that is all I can reflect about it right now.

Why am I referring to that book again?If anyone were to ask me to name a book that has transformed my life- that little dog eared copy of Vivekananda’s quotes, published by Ramakrishna Ashram, would be it! So many times, when I had felt like giving up, lying down and just let endless sleep wash over all the travails, it has been his vibrant quotations that gave me new energy and focus.

Why do we need inspiring people? Why do we need to read motivational quotations? Because, not every day is sunny and shining with possibilities. More often than not, it is a dreary, dark wintry day of hopelessness. The dark news from around the world make you wish to stop reading totally. Yet, life is meaningless without action.

And then he says from beyond: Wake up, and stop not until the goal is reached. You set a new target and you toil on- knowing that the efforts will not be in vain. The universal law springs into action and you find yourself carried by a buoyant spirit, and sunshine trickles right back in!

May every parent put a book of motivational quotations into her child’s hands. Three decades down the lane, the memory of one would make some tired traveller take another step down the road of life-with grit and determination.

*