What do you fear most in life?

28 Nov

What do you fear most in life?

My greatest fear would refer to the fear that I had. I am still scared of snakes, disease and speeding cars. But there is a reason for them. They are trivial fears and they are needed for our survival. But, then there are those which do not make that survival not worth it.

Your list has a good amount of them. All of them were my greatest fears too. They do not kill me, they kill me alive. They do not end my life, they spoil it.

By carefully analyzing our life, objectively, perhaps with the help of a well meaning friend who likes you so much that he will use his words like a surgeon’s life cuts to cure, we are able to end all our fears.

Fear is the key. And it means more to me now.

It is the key to unhappiness.

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Kerala: God’s Own Country

9 Jun

Official logo of the Kerala Government Tourism...

Kerala: God’s Own Country

More than 8,000,000 tourists visited Kerala in 2012. The number of people who visit this south Indian state keeps on increasing. Any one who has visited Kerala at least once will agree that it is really God’s own country. All of them have such a high opinion about Kerala. It is easy to see why they like Kerala so much. There are trees all around us, people are educated and the environment is cleaner than that of the other states.

English: Wild elephants in Munnar, Kerala

There is a lot to see in Kerala like the Western Ghats, the rivers and the backwaters. Popular attractions in the state include the beaches at Kovalam, Cherai, Varkala, Kappad, Muzhappilangad and Bekal; the hill stations of Munnar, Nelliampathi, Ponmudi and Wayanad; and national parks and wildlife sanctuaries at Periyar ( around the Thekkadi lake) and Eravikulam National Park. Here we can see Indian Elephants, Bengal Tiger, Indian Leopard, Nilgiri Tahr, Common Palm Civet, and Grizzled Giant Squirrel. Reptiles include the King Cobra, viper, and several kinds of

lizards, python, and Mugger Crocodile. Peafowl, the Great Hornbill, Indian Grey Hornbill, Indian Cormorant, and Jungle Myna are the birds found in these forests. Elephants are very common in Kerala. They are an important part of our culture. It is the state animal of Kerala and is seen on the emblem of the Government of Kerala.

Kerala can be divided into three climatically distinct regions: the eastern highlands (rugged and cool mountainous terrain), the central midlands (rolling hills), and the western lowlands (coastal plains). Most of the people live in the coastal plains where the paddy fields are. Rubber, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, and pepper are cultivated among the hills and valleys.  In Kerala we see 4,000 kinds of flowering plants. 900 of them are medicinal plants. More than 100 kinds of mammals, 500 kinds of birds, 90 kinds of  amphibians and  200 kinds of fishes are there in Kerala.

RailroadBridge,Kerala,India1

Railroad Bridge, Kerala, India

There are 44 rivers in Kerala. Only three of them flow towards the east and the rest of them flow from the mountains towards the Arabian Sea in the west. The longest one is Periyar. Bharathapuzha also is an important river. Water is in plenty and Kerala has the most number of wells in the world: 3 million!That is to say one for every ten people in the state.

The capital of Kerala is Thiruvananthapuram. It is the southernmost state in Kerala. This is a problem for people who live in the northernmost districts. If people in the north have to see the offices in the capital like the Secretariat, they have to travel more than 500 kilometers. However, the high court of Kerala is in Ernakulam which is almost equal distance from the south and the north.

kerala_backwater_style

Keralabackwater

Education has helped Keralites find jobs in other states and countries. All the people can read and write and many of them can use more than one language. There are a lot of magazines and newspapers published from Kerala. There are several TV channels also. Because of all this most people are aware of state, national and international politics and other matters.

Kerala is famous for its art and literature. Mohiniyattam, Kathakali, Kerala Natanam, Koothu, Thullal, Padayani and Koodiyattam are the dance forms found only in Kerala. Kalarippayattu is also from Kerala. Because of higher literacy Kerala is a land of writers also. Many Malayalam poets and novelists got great awards. Arundhati Roy got Booker Prize for her novel God of Small Things an English novel.

Kerala has a population of 32 million. More than half of the population are women. Kerala has done

Chinnar forests, Kerala. A unique thorny scrub...

Chinnar forests, Kerala. A unique thorny scrub forest with xerophyte species, Chinnar is the habitat for the endangered Giant Grizzled Squirrel of India. The last world count of these squirrels was less than 200. Located in the rain shadow area of the Western Ghats, unlike other sanctuaries in Kerala, Chinnar gets only 48 days of rain every year. Rich in wildlife, the mixed deciduous forests here are ideal for trekking. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

better than the other states in giving primary education and good health to the people and also in bringing down poverty. The World Health Organization has named the Kerala as the world’s first baby-friendly state because of the care given to babies. In Kerala almost all babies are born in hospitals.

Keralites are very good at sports also. The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi is one of the largest multi-use stadiums in India. Football is the most popular sport in the state. Famous Kerala footballers include I. M. Vijayan, C. V. Pappachan, and V. P. Sathyan. Cricket is also popular in Kerala. Two Kerala Ranji Trophy players have got into the Indian Cricket team, Sreesanth, born in Kothamangalam, and  Tinu Yohannan, son of Olympic long jumper T. C. Yohannan.

Other popular sports include badminton, volleyball and kabaddi. Among Kerala athletes are P. T. Usha, T. C. Yohannan, Suresh Babu, Shiny Wilson, K. M. Beenamol, M. D. Valsamma and Anju Bobby George. Volleyball is another popular sport in Kerala. Jimmy George was a notable Indian volleyball player considered as among the world’s ten best players. An indoor stadium in Thiruvananthapuram is named after him.

Now, don’t you know why it is called God’s Own Country?

You aren’t a shopping bag!

30 May
shopping bags

shopping bags (Photo credit: Christine Eclavea Mercer)

“What can I do if you claim to be a shopping bag

Contains everything, has nothing, just taken around
I am sure there had been some changes inside
Stains from the things kept long, etched on fabric”
 
“You are always saying this to me and you don’t understand
I was only the witness when money changed hands
I was only an onlooker when things were put in and taken out
I was thrown here and there, washed only to be dirtied again”
 
“Can’t you do some yoga, some contortion and turn inside out?
You are still young and your bones are supple, your body agile.”
“I have done everything they said would help me, I mean,
Those people who sell you advice and buy you off”
 
“Let me teach you step by step, I am no expert though
First empty everything inside, and let no shit get in
When people force things on you, be very polite say,
“Thank you sir, that is lovely,  but it looks better on you!”
 
Fish for no favours, strokes, praises or even love
Give all that but take none of that, not even for fun
When you feel empty, make sure you aren’t blind
Look deep inside and see! Things have left stains.
 
Read them, it is your story, no getting away now
You have left your book of life closed all these days
Now open it and read it for yourself with interest
Because that is the story of the person you love
 
When all have left, there is one person still around
And it is you and there is no leaving that one
So learn to love that one and live happily
But, for now, turn the shopping bag inside out 
 
See, it is beautiful, reads just like a book, and look
There are pictures too in this wonderful book
It is your story my friend, be proud to tell us more
To those lesser souls who are not so blessed as you are
 
You are no more a shopping bag, but a great gold mine
Do share your life with people who won’t complain
You are an artist, and in your previous birth, I am sure
You were the one who drew on all the caves in Spain  
 
You were Shakespeare, Jane Austin and Dickens
You were Keats, Shelley and Wordsworth
For, all the artists of this world are one and the same
They are only mouthpieces of God, Himself an artist
 
Who could be more of an artist than He who has made
Order out of chaos, and beauty out of nothing
He is working through you too, so, please my dear friend
Have some respect for Him who is so kind to our mankind
 
You are fine now and there are so many tales to relate
So many songs to sing and dance, it just can’t be too late
You hold within you and you are ready to share for free
All that with us as we listen silently to you in glee”

Lessons Learned

27 May
I should have…
 
I should have taken a bath for sure
Combed my hair and clipped my nail
Brushed my shoe, my manners, my French
Bought a new shirt and hired a cab

I should have bought some flowers for her
But just as you had thought I aint so clever
Good excuse I didn’t know I was meeting her
Then what do I mean she is seen everywhere
 
I should have made a reservation for her
In a good place where the food suits her
Tipped the door keeper well in advance 
And made him accost her just as a princess
 
should have asked everyone to leave
As if that was where we were going to live
She will have no problem then to believe
That I was her Adam and she, my Eve
 
Shocked and surprised beyond any hope
Taken aback by what she had said
I stood there past knowing what I should do
And longed for her to guide me along
 
She took my hand and made me fly
Through lives and births that fluttered by
And finally when she said bye to me and left
I found that I hadn’t done it right
 
But there was a tear in her eyes as she left
Which proved to me it was alright
She felt the pain that I too did feel’

And liked it more than she did reveal

English: A person shocked

English: A person shocked (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mad Rhyme

27 May

She called me over the phone and said, TJ,
Let’s meet at a hospital which is called LJ
I thanked her from the bottom of my heart
And got on a bus that moved like a cart

I walked into the lounge with mobile in hand
Wishing to God I could get a magic wand
I wanted to run into her as soon as possible
For, she had taught me nothing is impossible

English: Phone box in the garden When I walked...

Some were sad and some happy
And some around us plain grumpy
She was clad in a striped dress
Her hair did make me much digress

I walked past her as I was dazed
Went through the corridors half amazed
Could find no one sicker than me
I was sick with love if you ask me

She had seen me before I did
I was called over just like a kid
Still this fool went round and round
Just like a toy car with the key unwound

Then I saw her with a teasing smile
I know I missed it all for a while
She took me to a seat and as never before
Let me touch her arms and my heart did soar

We sat down and got as close as you can
She was my woman and I was her man
She gave me some cash  which was my pay

I thought this a dream, no other way

She gave me a bag full of gifts to surprise
I went speechless as my hopes did rise
If this one was not going to be my best friend
I could as well give my soul to many a fiend

She took her book from the bag and she said
Look at the last page to see what I always hid

I read her lines and cried out “No!!”
She had seen the future for all I know

I thought it was sweet revenge
For her to show it inch by inch
I had lectured to her last night
Things she knew on her own might

I was a fool to reinvent the rusty old wheel
But she said why she didn’t ever reveal

She was a cat that got burned from fire
Even fireflies scare her not to desire

We talked and talked and found the other
Holding no secrets than a polished mirror

For, nothing more than good reflections we were
Of each other which is a thing most rare

I wanted to kiss her and hug her there
I told her she was lucky the crowd I do fear
But I thought such a crowd even so big

May not stop me from giving a hug

She smiled at it and I thought she won’t mind
The whole world, right then, to come to an end
No one to stare at or make a comment on
What a man and a woman doted on

She went for tests leaving me with her book
As if she didn’t want me to get off the hook
Every time she came back to me with a chit
I had finished her story book bit by bit

The results were positive and nothing to fear
She smelled like a baby I had come to admire
She told me she too was feeling like a child
I told her my feelings too were not so mild

Her friends streamed by nodding at us
We only wished  they wouldn’t come for us
Some she ignored some she greeted
And I was lucky those of mine weren’t spotted

She finished her tests and paid the bill
And said to me as tears in her eyes did well
She had come there for more than a decade
But no one did come with her or cared

I looked at her and said she will never be alone
And promised her that if she dials her phone
There will be a man at her side to take her on a ride
If she agrees to sing her song sitting by his side

We went for lunch and she went rather quiet
She said she was never taken there even yet
Every time she came here for lunch or dine
She only had herself to be with and pine

We went to see a sick friend of hers
Who was reading his Garcia Marquis
She comforted him and chatted with him
And commented on his handwriting to him
Back at the lounge waiting for the results
She asked me if she could close her eyelids
I stopped my chat and let her sleep well
She asked me if there is something to tell

I told her how dear she was to my mind
She laid her cheek sweetly on my hand
She wiped a tear on the corner of her eyes
And said she got more than her heart desires

By the time we were to get the last result
I thought only about her without any guilt
I was destined to be her man but missed the boat
So it was time that me to her had brought

We walked out like a couple long married
She spotted her car and to that we hurried
Inside her car I kissed her once and twice
She liked it and her cheek was cold as ice

We went to a press where we did impress
As we walked in like a prince and princess
We were happily living in our own world by now
There was no way you could suspect anyhow

I asked her very sadly to leave me at home
And kissed her again as she stopped near my home
I didn’t tell her what was boiling like lava in my heart
Because I knew it would just break her heart

Back in my home I went in for a bath
But something in me didn’t let me bath
There was a sweet fragrance coming from my elbow
Where she had laid her hand now I know

I sat in my room and laid my arms bare
To let that fragrance spread everywhere
I also sat at my comp and tapped on the keys
Words that might give my mind some peace

 

The Screen

26 May

Burton focused on the story and limited the us...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An old story begotten of exhibitionism
Threads going up and down, left and right
Silvery white, clean, pure, no stains of the past
 
Heavy images of light
Imagination sweating it out
Sneak-peeks in to other lives
Quack medicines for eye-sores
Musical complimets for fishing ears
Guerrilla war in one’s own heart
Snipe shots between identical twins
 
Pop-corn counts the time
Tea breaks the boredom
Whispered comments and hooting
Laughter, giggles and wows
Like mating calls in a jungle at night
a mobile rings
irritation talks
a head blocks the view
a foot kicks in to say sorry
 
The thread that wove the screen 
Splits and weaves again
Peoples the mind with stories
Entwines and untwines like thoughts
Till the warp and weft let go each other
Till it is light, love like a forged currency 
Goes on changing colours
Buys what is not wanted 
Sells what is needed
Meaningless means
With no ends
 
As light comes up and curtains go down
Like a history book the story is laid to rest
Time to go home, the show to go on
The theme song stays in the heart, comes home 
 
The pet parrot has gone to sleep
The night breeze  has come to check the windows
The story is over
The dream starts in another sixty seconds
Stay tuned

 

Pass Word

6 May
Gmail's log-in page (September 2011)

Gmail’s log-in page (September 2011) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

Pass Word

Sreekumar K.

 

 

     There was nothing that you didn’t know about Mishra, I mean Praveen Mishra, and most of it you learned well before seeing him. He himself talked a lot about his personal life, his view of life and his way of life. He was a programmer, an atheist and a rich leftist.

     But then there was one thing which not many people knew. Where did all his money come from? He had a sizeable income and he paid his taxes religiously. What was his real source of income? He hardly worked for companies and had no one working under him. He was free most of the time. His software called e-vaccine from which he was officially earning all his money was not selling at all. No one had found it useful.

     I knew how he got all that money because I was the one who gave him most of it. None of his customers were on record. Not even me.

 Mishra, as you would have suspected by now, was a professional hacker.

 I met him years ago through a friend. His wasn’t such a known name among the e-circles in those days. I was doing a market research for an about-to-abort software company and I badly needed some reliable data. Gone are the days when market researchers walk around or make other people walk around with checklists and pencils. Most of it is available on the net, or you can get it done over the net. If nothing works you can approach a hacker to download chunks of business e-mails and rummage through them and get what you want.

 I was told that Mishra could help me in downloading and sorting any amount of mails.

     It was true. He was amazing. Punctual and business-like. I got what I wanted. Later when I started my own firm he was my main resource person. With his help I was able to prepare readymade profiles of any market segment of almost any given population. Companies paid me well. 75% of it went to Mishra. Still I was left with more than what I needed. We never had a written agreement. But we agreed strongly with each other on a lot of things. We disagreed more strongly with each other on a lot of other things.

     One thing we differed strongly with each other was in the arrangement of our offices. Mishra’s office, a small room, on the third floor overlooking a busy street, was always neat and tidy. It was literally paper-free. He had the same wallpaper on all his computers and he used blow ups of the same as real wallpapers. It was an aerial view of a metropolis at night. He would have been trying to state that the world inside a chip is like a metropolis with its traffic, junctions, blocks, gates, bad sectors, good sectors and areas affected by cancer or whatever new atrophy was there.

     Mine was different. Totally different. Except that it was also on the third floor of a building. Oh! Sorry, mine was on the fourth floor.

     We also had different political views, loved different movies, music, food and vehicles. This made our conversation possible. Otherwise, he would have been quite reticent. I had no idea what all things he could do. Being with him was like being with a sage whose powers were unknown to us, but who could scare us all the same. I knew that he set goals for himself and work hard towards attaining them. I don’t even play football.

     His wife had left him for a dear friend of his a few years ago.

     Though I was a trained social psychologist, I was no match for Mishra when it came to insight and acumen. All I could do was to give him more and more raw information from the field. I could never satisfactorily answer all his questions. But I enjoyed all our discussions.

     Recently I have observed a certain slant in his interest to human relationships. He started talking about romance, a subject he had always avoided. He never told me the background of his doubts on the subject. First I thought that he had fallen in love or was about to.

The first time I noticed it was when he asked me whether I had read Erich Fromm on Love. I had.

He borrowed the book from me and after that every now and then he would bring up the subject of romance. Most of the time, he would wait for an appropriate opportunity to talk about it. I knew this from his body language. He behaved like a five-year-old boy who had just played ‘house’ with a younger girl. Sometimes he would not find a proper context to talk about love. Then he would bring it up abruptly and then feel nervous about it. I noticed that he had downloaded from the net so much about love.

     I knew I was right. If this man was not in love no one was.

     I watched him in parties, sneaked into his mails (using his own software), and monitored his movements. Before this he had kept no secrets about his personal life. His ex-wife had become a widow. Was he patching up with her? Or else who would take a fancy on this 58-year-old recluse whose only interests were computers, money and charity?

     Yes, that is one thing I haven’t mentioned. Most of the money he made went into charity. There were always letters addressed to this perennial Santa Claus thanking him for the help rendered or gifts received. He was not so anonymous in his charity work. As his philanthropy became more known, he was more and more pestered by those in need. He had no difficulty in saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and it was his final word in either case.

     Now why would such a person hide his affair? Is it an undesirable one? Perhaps a very young girl? Some orphan he had helped?  I had enough of it and I decided to confront him openly.

     But I didn’t have to. He would have sensed something, for he himself brought it up.

“Gautam, you may think I am an eavesdropper, or even worse, a peeping Tom. True, that is how I make my money and I cannot afford to have any respect for other people’s secrecy or privacy. I myself don’t keep many secrets. The only secrets I keep back from you and others are the professional ones and secrecy is the very nature of those things. If I don’t keep them to myself, then they won’t be worth keeping at all. And I am willing to sell all my hacking secrets and the tools for a handsome amount. But those who are interested can’t afford it”

“Is this what you wanted to tell me?”

“No, it is something else. Generally I don’t read other people’s e-mails, though I do download them for others. But I chanced to come across this one. A string of mails between an unmarried young couple. I have the whole correspondence in one folder here. It is very large. Too long and too frequent. The boy’s name is Chandra and the girl’s is Padma. There isn’t much about them in their profiles. Only that both of them are still students, their hobbies are reading and music and that they have part-time jobs. They are from different cities. They met each other once or twice, but the romance started very slowly, after they had exchanged a lot of e-mails.”

“Mishra, you are not saying anything exceptional or even interesting.”

“I am not, I know. But there is something unusual here, at least for you and me.”

“What is it?”

“Gautam, they are not real people,” he made it sound like science fiction.

“Mishra, I am sick of this. There is nothing unusual here. None of them on the net are real people. Nobody reveals his identity. Cyber criminals like you and me get away because of that.”

“Oh, you got me wrong. They are real people.”

“Now that could be unusual. How do you know they are real people?”

“Gautam, it is hard to explain anything to you. You should read these mails.”

“I am not interested.”

“But this is an assignment. And you can charge me anything.”

     What is this? Has he gone mad? Is he drunk? Does he regret having taken from me the whole three fourths of my earnings and wants to give back some of it?

 “Gautam, I want you to prepare a psychoanalytical profile or whatever you call it on this couple. I find this quite interesting.”

    Oh! My God, what is wrong with him? He has been reading the e-mails of this couple for almost a year and now he wants me to read them. As if it is not enough, I am to prepare their personality profiles for him so that he can enjoy his peeping better.

“Are you planning to blackmail or nail them for something?”

“Come on, I am not that dry. And even if I wanted to, these people are not real.”

“Mishra….”

“OK, I will explain. How do you know you are real?”

“Bye Mishra…. I haven’t done my day’s crossword yet…”

“OK, I won’t ask you any more questions. Now listen. You are real because I can touch you and feel you with all my senses.’

“Thank you. It’s the nicest comment anyone made on my body odour”

“Now, if we met only on the net, I can still send you a hard mail in your address and find out whether you are really Dr. Gautam, Research psychologist…”

“Of course there are ways of circumventing that. I can employ a secretary and pose as Brad Pitt or Britney Spears. Or even Obama. No, I don’t like him after he returned.”

“But still there is always an address and I can track you down in most of the cases. However, the relevant point here is that you will let me know your postal address after a few e-mails or I will ask you for the same.”

“Yes, now you are interesting…”

“We exchange the postal address because, though we are netizens and eke out a living by being like that, we have depended on our hard mails and identified with our postal address for too long to be perfect netizens.”

“Double Jeopardy, habits Die Hard, Matrix Reloaded …”

Both of us had this habit of quipping with movie titles when conversations got boring.

“Sort of. But a postal address refers to a geographical area, a place you can visit and live in. It exists even when you are not there.”

“But Adi Sankara says…”

“Sankara is dead. You can visit his tomb if you have his address. I am talking of real life.”

“Quite interesting. Are you planning to visit Chandra and Padma and be the best man at their marriage? That is really nice of you.”

“I may, but for now let’s think about ourselves. We still value the patch of earth we stand on. We have come a long way from the territorial behaviour of the primates and the settlement instinct of the ‘gatherers’. But we still love our good earth, so to speak.”

“Pearl S. Beck, right?”

“OK, you’re well read. Gautam, listen. They say only very few people can afford to have a piece of land in the days to come. We will all be Jews. Migrating birds. By 2050 there will not be enough space for all of us on this earth.”

“Are we migrating to cyberspace?”

“Yes, in a few light years. What? You nitwit, if cyberspace is space light years should be time. See Gautam, my point is the reciprocal of that. Did we invent the cyberspace to prepare ourselves for this emerging situation? Is it a kind of terminal we ourselves created to stay in before we figure out which way to go?”

“Like that one at JFK? Tom Hanks was wonderful.”

“Stop it. You don’t realize the seriousness of the situation. I suspect that we were becoming territorial in a different way. Living in flats was our first step in this direction. Everyone living above the ground floor has actually built his castle in the air. Now we are taking a quantum leap. In a knowledge-based world like today’s, your mind counts more than your limbs. So all you want is an abode for your mind, a domain if you prefer. And an e-mail address serves just that purpose. My suspicions are confirmed by the e-mails between Chandra and Padma.”

“They haven’t told you where they are from?”

“Worse, they haven’t told each other where they are at present. But I am sure they are real people. This is an entirely new generation. They take the cyberspace for real and their e-mail address for a real address.”

     Now I had a doubt. Was he pulling my leg? Did he cook up all these e-mails to sell me his new philosophy about virtual reality? He had a criminal mind. Criminals always stage a looting of their own house before they go for their neighbour’s. Did he read all those books on love to write these mails?

“But, Mishra, it is real.”

“How?”         

“See, when you talk about a postal address, you call it real because you are talking about the macrocosm. An e-mail address is also real. Only that it is at a microcosmic level. You can zero it down to a few gates or whatever you call it.”

“But actually you can’t. Assigning a material existence in the microcosmic level to an e-mail address is next to impossible. And then it is not a tangible entity like a grain of sand in your courtyard. It is only the programmed behaviour of a few chips.”

“So is your postal address. Tomorrow someone else will live there and your letter box will behave differently.”

“Still….. I don’t know. I don’t want to force my ideas on you. But the way these young people take things for granted and the infinite capacity within ourselves to adapt to new realities surprise me. Now ‘new realities’ is a funny phrase in itself. What do I mean by new realities? Are there old ones? Are there many? Is it possible?”

“Mishra, I share your anxieties regarding the way these fools rush in where we angels fear to tread. I am as old as you. But other people always have a sense of reality different from ours. It’s hard to put up with the fact that we are living in different worlds. But we are.”

“That is nothing new to me. My wife and I slept on the same bed but we lived in two different worlds. Proper communication happened only after she married someone else. But this is a different situation altogether. Chandra and Padma are living in the same world, but it is different from the world shared by you and me. Cyberspace has come to dominate so much  the way we think and finally, here we have a young man and a girl passionately in love with each other, sharing their worries, their dreams and their hopes and not wanting to know or letting the other know anything about their real whereabouts. They just don’t see that their world is unreal and fragile.”

“I think it is an unnecessary worry. Our world also is unreal. Moreover, look how we take our own reality for granted. I know my wife is at home now. My sense of reality tells me that she is in the kitchen, cooking for the kids. But she may be practicing her guitar lessons. Many of the stars we see died a long time ago. And officially your money and mine come from programming but actually it comes from hacking. As for the fragility of the cyberspace, we depend so much on their world that if theirs is fragile ours is equally fragile. Cyberspace can be rebuilt, but not our world.”

“But Gautam, it is not about the end of the world that I am talking. I am talking about the transition that happens to the sense of reality of the entire humanity.”

“I understand. My question is: what is new?”

“What’s new! I can’t explain further. Read these mails. They may tell you something. And I would like to have the profile by next Tuesday. Can you do it?”

“In four days? I won’t even finish reading them in four days.”

“OK, take your time. But keep me posted.”

 

*     *     *      *      *     *     *     *    *    *    *    *

 

 

     Mishra was very keen about my progress. He asked me to explain my strategy the very next day.

     Four days later Mishra came to see me. I showed him the progress of my work and he was happy about its reliability.

     I was planning to use a double simulation. This is usually used in cases where only the conversations between the subjects are the only available data.

     First, I deconstructed the mails into factoids. Then, sorted them out as stimuli and responses. The responses were further earmarked as male and female. At this stage there were a lot of neutral ones. These would be used as concurrent items. All stimuli are, by hypothesis, questions from the analyst. The male responses were chartered out and a rough profile was prepared. This was bridged using neutral responses. The same was done for the female subject also. The rhetoric questions were mostly considered as both stimuli and responses and were used to clarify doubtful points.

    Then an internal duplication was done. Each profile which was written in the words of the patient was interpreted using psychological tools for analysis and reconstruction. This is a creative phase. Most of it is based on intuition rather than logic. With known subjects you can extrapolate the results with further evidence. In this case it was not possible. It was a very engaging work. At times I wished I had the intuition and the insight that Mishra had. But then, he was not trained to do this kind of work. More than training it needs a thorough awareness of ‘types’ and other practical knowledge which is possible only through long-term field work. Mishra was a klutz when it came to working with people.

     Mishra was very happy to receive the final picture. He said it was a portrait. We went out and dined well. He paid me handsomely. In fact, it was the biggest cheque I had that year.

    He never bothered me with Chandra and Padma for over a month.

    I was starting to wonder whether he helped them get married.

    What was he doing with the profiles I supplied? Was he still reading their e-mails?

Hence, it was a surprise for me when he told me that he had rerouted their mails. Each person’s mails came directly to him. It would not reach the other person.

    Mails began to pour in from both sides and Mishra sought my help in analyzing them. They were all too predictable for me. Strong and passionate one, potential virals if posted on a Facebook page. Both of them were wheezing and gasping for breath. Each word had a strength of passion, the like of which I had never heard or read anywhere before. What do they read nowadays? Back to Shakesperare and Byron? Their names appeared on other sites too, on bulletin boards on the net, and on all kinds of search devices.

  Mishra was not very happy about what he was doing. Often he looked very tired and guilty. I had never suspected he could have a sense of guilt in him. He wasn’t punctual anymore in his work. His eyes were sunk, his face was taut and drawn and he stayed up late and he drank more and more. Talked less and less. Yet he was very systematic. He documented all our discussions on how the lovers were behaving as they groped for each other in the big bad dark digital world. They were waiting for the other’s response like people outside operation theatres waiting for news from within.

    In fact, one attachment of a mail showed a moving ECG. The next day Mishra also went for his routine ECG. He said it was disappointing. No luck, he said. He said he wished he had a bad report.

     Was Mishra waiting for their passion to drain away and their love to wane? If that was the case, he was thoroughly disappointed there too. They were much more passionate than ever. Was he trying to teach them a lesson about the fragile and the illusory nature of their world? Then they were bad students and not learning any lessons. Instead, they used every measure and device and strategy they could to trace each other. Neither of them expressed any regret that they were not careful enough to get the other person’s address or even the phone number. They were sure that they could turn the net inside out like a shopping bag and find their partner somewhere in there.

     Mishra would have thought he was losing the battle. He was looking very sick and impatient.

“This is a match, Gautam. They only have to give up their hope for them to win each other. The moment it dawns on them that they had made a conceptual error about their existence, I am going to link their mails again and give their world back to them. It will be a story they tell their friends, their children and their children’s children. It will be a case in evidence for others like them.”

     No such nonsense. They didn’t give up and one night Mishra rang me up.

“Gautam, I have got cancer.”

“What, Mishra? What are you talking about?”

“Mishra, it is true. I have got cancer on my hard disc.”

“Oh, Mishra, you scared me.”

“I know what you mean. But this is worse than that. A lot of data is missing. Most of them are damn confidential and I don’t have any back up.”

     True. Cancer could be more fatal than virus.

“Do you know where I can get a new disc? I want a replacement tonight.”

     I told him to wait and rang up a supplier and demanded a spot delivery right then.

     The phone rang again in twenty minutes.

“Thank you Gautam,” Mishra rang off. He should be hard at work, racing against time. Usually, he never puts his phone down when he calls. I do that, though hours after I wanted to.

     I called him back after two hours. He was very busy. He had replaced the disc. He was trying to reclaim the data from the old one. He was also searching through all his CDs and piecing them together.

     After an hour he called me.

     His voice was low and I had to ask him to speak louder. I thought he was sleepy. No, it was his remorse.

“Gautam, I think I had done a horrible mistake in rerouting their e-mails. I am talking about Chandra and Padma. I can’t link them back. I have my old hard disc in my hand. Their world is tucked in somewhere there. Too tiny for anyone or anything to reach. Or maybe, it has already been eroded by cancer. Unless I can transfer the information on this one to the new one, I can’t re-establish their link. What should I do?”

“Mishra, go to bed. It is too late. Nothing can happen in one night. Take rest and work on it tomorrow morning. I am sure you can do it and these things always take their own time, no matter what we do.”

     By 11:30 I had another phone call.

“Obviously, I couldn’t go to sleep. I am still working on it. We are very old people, Gautam. Sitting up all day has given me a pain all over my back. I wish I had remarried after she left me. It is very hard to massage your own back. Now I will have a bath, take a cup of tea and go back to work. See you in the morning. You know it is very frustrating to work without the right tools.”

     The phone rang again at 1:30. I didn’t pick it up.

     Nothing happens in one night.

 

*       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

 

     It has been a week since Mishra died. That phone call at 1:30 was not from him. It was his servant trying to get more help. It was a coronary attack, from overwork. He had had a bad report and like a typical school kid he never showed it to anyone.

     Today, looking down from this balcony, the city looks just like the wallpapers Mishra loved so much. A blown up microchip. 

     On the streets, impulsive vehicles are racing and overtaking, colourful lights are coming on and going off.

     Blocks and blocks of dark buildings encasing darker secrets. Traffic jams holding sequences of impulses. Gates, junctions, half adders, full adders.

     Layers and layers of existence.

     The traffic came to a standstill. People crossed from either side.

     A young man, weaving through the crowd, crossed the road, met a girl on the other side, held her hand and crossed the road back bringing her to the other side.

     Now they are walking hand in hand along the pavement.

     Chandra and Padma.

     It is easy to see they are Chandra and Padma.

     The evidence is clear and unmistakable – they are lovers.

 

BLURRED CITY LIGHTS - NARA - 546691

BLURRED CITY LIGHTS – NARA – 546691 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Rishi Valley

31 Mar
Aid India Field Visit - RIVER - Rishi Valley C...

Aid India Field Visit – RIVER – Rishi Valley Campus 01 (Photo credit: Sistak)

In Rishi Valley

SK

Today again I woke up when I heard the matron waking up the students. That is usual. They all have to go for PT at 6 o’clock. I also go for a short walk then.

Rishi Valley is mostly plain with a few abrupt hills scattered around. Crossing the football ground you come to a mountain path just outside the school boundary. This path winds around a hill and goes up and ends on a flat spot between two hills, where you find a few boulders on which you can sit comfortably and watch the sunrise. From here you can also see a valley and the distant hills. The sunrise is beautiful here. No wonder it is called the sunrise spot. Solstice and equinox are both visible from here in different seasons. To your left is forest 150 acres wide, sprawling over a couple of hills. This has been nurtured by the school with the help of several generations of students.

Looking back from there, the school compound looks like another forest. It is hard to see any rooftops.  None of the school buildings are taller than the trees. The priorities are obvious.

The eastern horizon has become bright. A little bit of the crimson sun can be seen now.  It is like watching a huge screen. The moment you spot the first rays of the sun the sound track also comes on. All kinds of birds start hopping around chirping in a wide variety of pitches and notes. Rishi Valley has about 280 species of birds. There is an institute here that offers courses in ornithology. This is well attended by people from all over the world. From here I can see a group of students guided by a teacher silently moving down the path listening to some birds twittering.

The school assembly is in the auditorium at 9 o’clock. Three days a week some well-known hymns are sung by all together. Most of the students remember the songs and even the page numbers in the songbook. On other days either a teacher or a student gives a short speech. These speeches are typical of Rishi Valley. A wide range of opinions on a broad range of subjects could be heard. The only restriction is that it should not purposefully hurt other people’s feelings. Generally, sensitivity for life is at the core of these speeches. One can even say this is the best indicator of life at Rishi Valley – freedom of thought and expression, and a questioning mind.

Rishi Valley is  not an official place name. It was with the view of starting a university that Annie Besant and Jiddu Krishnamurti procured some land as early as the 1920’s. A rishi who had lived in a cave on nearby hill had passed away some time back. So the land which was later owned by the Krishnamurti Foundation of India came to be called Rishi Valley. A public road cuts right through this property.

In 1931, when a school which Krishnamurti had found in Madras encountered a storm, it was shifted to this place which was readily available. This is 15 kilometers away from Krishnamurti’s birthplace where his relatives still live. Krishnamurti used to visit this school and interact with the students and the teachers.

The workforce and the management at Rishi Valley are unique in many ways. The faculty is quite good. Some are professionals from different fields or experts in their subject areas. M.L Vasanthakumari and Palakkadu Mani Iyer used to teach music here. Visitors, parents and ex-teachers also lend a hand in teaching. The children do get a good exposure to different subjects and areas as a result of all this. They also get opportunities to enjoy music and dance concerts offered by well-known artistes.

Most of the management related issues are resolved through open discussions. Freedom of thought is the hallmark of this institution. Compared to the schools in the neighbouring cities the pay is not very good. The cost to company may come to a good amount since there are lots of subsidies offered to teachers. But the actual carry home cash is only less than 10,000 per month. Thus a passion to teach properly in a good school is what has actually attracted most teachers. This is quite true since many teachers volunteer for much more work than is allotted to them. Several teachers have initiated different projects which take a lot of time and energy. These projects are well supported and acknowledged by the management. The expansive herbal garden, social forestry in the villages, water management and the rural health center are a few of them.

This level of dedication relieves the management of checking on the teachers about the work they put in. The only point of reference might be whether their work is actually in line with the principles of the school. Even this is a marginal worry since the teachers are expected to teach in their individual ways. The more the variety, the better the learning. If there is a guideline that has evolved from Krishnamurti’s visions it is the absence of the very guideline itself. This school is no place for dogmas. Ideologies are viewed critically. It is good to remember in this context that Aristotle’s school Academy had it written on the entrance: Man, thou know thyself. Krishnamurti himself says that Truth is a pathless wood and one has to find one’s own path.

As more and more religious and public figures clamour for more and more blind faith and schools also become increasingly dogmatic in blatant ways, Rishi Valley teaches one to be skeptical. This is the actual parting message that is generally given to students who graduate and leave the school. Persist in your skepticism. This is really the spirit of the management when dealing with core issues of curriculum and pedagogy. This trickles down to the students very easily. It is common in staff meetings, like the one I am in right now, to discuss various issues. But this is not with a view to reach a conclusion. Exploration is the name of the game. We think together, we explore together but answers might vary from person to person and we should allow for that. Majority’s decisions being imposed on the minority is quite unheard of here.

Such a freedom of thought and its application go against many accepted tenets of education.  The implication in setting up a system of education is that there is something to be taught, someone to be taught and someone to do the teaching. The teacher is supposed to be the custodian of knowledge. Even when the aims are ‘all round development’ or ‘self-realization’ the objectives are specified and spelled out for the learner. Translated into practice this at best succeeds in ‘filling them up’. Preservation and dissemination becomes the sole function of a school system. If knowledge has to be created it comes at the very end of one’s academic life, in the form of research in universities.

But Krishnamurti takes us to the world of knowledge creation at any stage in the life of a human being. We shouldn’t wait till we get old to learn new things. An eagerness to create knowledge on one’s own should develop in any child. A suppressed and biased mind filled with fear is the eternal slave of the past. An elephant used to chains when young, needs none when it is old. Realizing this, one has to be attentive to one’s own surroundings in a way to be aware of oneself. Observing nature, for example, as it is, and for what it is, will give us that experience and practice, Krishnamurti argues. All the schools he founded are blessed with beautiful landscapes.

`           In today’s world free and unbiased thinking is all the more important. Governments are shirking their responsibility to educate the citizens properly. Moreover, what a student learns from the school today is very little compared to what he learns from other sources. Both formal education and non-formal education enhance his knowledge. But when it comes to developing his personality, both have given way to informal education. This has adversely affected issues ranging from exploitation of resources to exploitation of human beings. Today’s sermon on the mount is by multimedia dons who are also in control of trade monopolies. In this background, what happens in the classroom takes on a different colour.

Obedience has become synonymous with discipline which in turn has become a set of rules. These rules may be sacrosanct values or universally accepted norms. However, getting children learn these through ways in which they don’t get much chance to think freely about what they are learning has dire consequences. We are in fact teaching them, though in subtle ways, just to be docile. What makes this situation worse is that the factors which influence a student the most in today’s world are found outside the school walls. The nation itself seems to have no control of those factors. Some of these like the TV and the internet can teach them anything better than we do. Teaching good behaviour was great when done through example rather than precept.  Now things have gone beyond that. Even if we teach by example, unless we make the students think about the examples being set, we are only making them vulnerable to hero-worship or antihero-worship.

Thus teaching to learn is not as good a thing as teaching to think; more so when there are really bad things to learn in the world out there. Disciplining will eventually have irreparable bad effects. It may be a matter of pride or at least convenience for a school to have very obedient children. But tomorrow, obeying their bosses in multinational companies, they drain out drinking water right from our own settlements, we have no right to blame them. They are only being obedient. War poets have written at length about the price we pay for docility.

We exhort people to act or vote according to their conscience. We consider conscience as a bit of the divine in us. We don’t think it is something that can be developed in one. It is considered genetic. This is why we can’t talk about an imperfect conscience or a distorted conscience. But this cannot be true. Skinner was of opinion that we don’t bring any such thing with us. When we say conscience, even in the best sense we mean the application of logical fairness. If this is true conscience is something that can be developed through proper education. But not much is said about this in our pedagogy books or education manuals. History shows with ample evidence that in the absence of conscience even the best knowledge is used for the worst purposes.

Today’s staff meeting was rather short. Some of the ideas gleaned from the discussion are given above. The director had insisted that this discussion should not be dragged so long and as to be brought into a conclusion. Think together, and search individually.

It is almost lunchtime now. After two hours of rest there will be classes for an hour and a half. Everyone in the campus takes their food in the dining hall. It can also be sent home through helpers who work in the houses. It is vegetarian food, but egg also is available. The children make a lot of noise and commotion and suddenly go silent for a minute when a bell rings. Some children and teachers have volunteered for dish washing.

Following the afternoon classes everyone go to their hostels for tea and snacks and then for different games. Interested teachers also take part. Most of the children are physically fit. Obesity is not seen at all. At 6:30 after a bath the children come back to school to finish their homework and prepare for the next day’s class.

Several teachers go for an evening walk. Three kilometers from the school gate takes you to the main road towards Kadappa. There is a tourist spot called ‘Horseley Hills’ twenty kilometers from here. Walking across the school campus and beyond, you come to a village called Thettu, six kilometers away. There is a three hundred year old temple here. The Mysore King used to visit this temple.  History lies here like a stump of driftwood. The village is a set of houses lined along several encircling squares.  Caste is still very important here. Some people are not allowed to live in the centre of the village.

Chronic drought has plagued this village forever. Percolation tanks which are several acres wide could be seen here and there and the school itself has eight of them. But good rains come only once in four or five years. You will find twenty or thirty mushroom shaped huts around a bore well. When the well dries up, some of them leave their settlements for the cities, never to come back. Around these settlements, we see expansive fields of paddy, raggi, corn or pulses owned by a few farmers, a couple of them living in the cities afar away. Raggi used to be the staple food of the villagers till very recently. A few good rains brought in paddy cultivation and people took to eating rice. Since sunlight is aplenty throughout the year, the agricultural products like tomato and mango good taste really well. The number of cattle comes to 5500 and al villages choke you with gaseous methane. Life is really hard here and many men have just ran away from their wives and children leaving them to thrive or perish. Daily wages is below 30 rupees per day and that too for working from dawn to dusk. Some of the villages are too remote, three to four hours by walk. Fifteen kilometers towards the west we reach the border of Karnataka.

Walking down the dusty road towards the mouth of the valley (at the very end of this road, to your left, on a hilltop, there is a set of boulders arranged like a lion) you will come across a playground and some small buildings around it. This is an interesting part of Rishi Valley. Around 35 years after the main school was built, a rural educational center was also set up for the children from the nearby villages. In 1986, a satellite school system was developed as an extension of this. The students were mostly first generation learners who were not equipped or motivated enough to master the state syllabus lessons. Thus a new system was also developed to help them. Today there are 12 satellite schools in and around Rishi Valley. These are single teacher schools with children in 1st through 5th standard. If you get to teach in any of these you will feel like Ravi in ‘Khasakkinte Ithihasam’. It is hard to find teachers from these villages. It is harder to find etachers to come and work in these remote villages. This is where the school system has become very effective. The resources as well as teachers are from the community in which each school is situated. The course material is divided into several milestones which are similar to sets of factoids and skills akin to them. Work-cards are prepared to introduce, re-enforce, evaluate, remedy, and enrich. These activities are organized into a ladder system which can be used by the teacher or the students to see the progress of the lessons or of themselves respectively. Thus only one teacher (a facilitator) is enough for each school. However, the local people are also encouraged to involve themselves in various capacities as much as they can. For example, the textbook contains folk tales and folk songs contributed by the villagers and the contributors themselves come to the class to introduce them. Children who dropped out of the public schools since they couldn’t relate with the curriculum (which they felt was outlandish) do very well in these schools which are designed with the community’s need and the children’s interest in mind. Those who begin to come to school for the material facilities that it offers (food and dress) very soon become ardent learners. In thousands of schools in India this methodology is being adopted. Schemes are being worked out for adapting this for schools in Ethiopia, Germany, Nepal, Peru and Cambodia. RIVER (Rishi Valley Educational Research) has recently been awarded Global Development Network Award for the “Most Innovative Development Project” for its work towards developing a community-based educational model of self-sustainable school, as an instrument of lifting the community out of the continuously and increasingly degraded intellectual and environmental scenario. People from universities all over the world visit the center to learn about it.

Walking across the rural school you come to a dried up-stream called ‘Thettu Vanga’. Close to this you we find a farm which has about 50 cows and some rare species of bulls, a vegetable garden which supplies sufficient vegetables and fruits for the school, and an expansive mango grove which is typical of the country side around here. Children volunteer and get trained in various activities in this composite farm where organic farming is followed.

Apart from a hospital for the school within the campus, the school has also set up a hospital for the villagers. A doctor who also teaches biology and history at the school runs this. The health of the villagers is deplorable due to malnutrition and some times because of stark starvation. Most couples have only one or two children and the population remains at a standstill of 5000. Though the villagers are generally lean and hungry looking, high blood pressure is a common ailment.

Walking back from the temple, down the dusty mud road, barren lands with a few wilted shrubs are seen on both sides. As the road dips a little and turns right, there is a sunflower field, a yellow sea stretching to the foot of the hills. They have turned their heads away from me in disapproval and are facing the last rays of the sun which is setting to my right. Walking across the field and turning back to the east I face thousands of their big bright flowers moving sideways in the breeze as if taking a desperate peep at the sun setting behind me. Two weeks later, withered and dry, they will be ground for oil.

At 6:30 in the evening, every week, a few adults gather at the Krishnamurti study center to listen to his audiotape and discuss their viewpoints. At 8:30, at the auditorium there will be film shows, some presentations by visitors or children’s performance. A few teachers go for a short walk after dinner.

Today is a full moon day. It is 10 o’ clock now. Most of the lights in the hostels have been switched off. Everyone has settled down for a cozy sleep and the temperature has fallen down to 15. The barren hills in the distance, spotted with huge boulders bathed in moonlight make it look like the close up of an alien planet. In Rishi Valley, the moonlight rains in through the trees blending itself with the blossoms of wild jasmine underneath. The moonlight itself smells of jasmine and nightqueen.

A huge bare gulmohar has its trunk branching out again and again until the numerous tiny tips get lost in a golden cloud above like numerous fingers reaching out for the Truth.

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986)

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

old songs

15 Mar

SK

Written on January 20th, 2013
whatever I wanted to write
they had already written though,
whatever i wanted to express
no one had ever felti didn’t know that

i have read all they wrote and
thought they felt like i do

but when i sang my lines in the streets
Nobody stayed to listen for long

i found i was mistaken
i found i misunderstood

and then you came by
feet sore from walking long
heart sore from the longest longing

my songs had ended
my breath had abated
but as you repeated the
wisp of the last line of my last song

i heard myself singing again
i found myself alive again
only to be killed by your eyes
only to be buried in your heart

i thought it was the spring
but this time it stayed
i thought summer had been too long
And hoped the spring to do the same

and i flowered like the gulmohar
which the mooning wind had hugged last night
and wanted to tell the flowery tale
to those who could keep a secret
and talk about it only in whispers

Taking Control

8 Mar
Video Game Timeline

Video Game Timeline (Photo credit: Emilie Ogez)

In Matrix the movie, the oracle asks Neo what powerful people want. He doesn’t have a clue and she tells him. More power. It is really something to see this craving for power in action. Almost everything we do is a way to gain control and empower ourselves or the others. This is seen in potentially weak people. Yes, it is true. Our minds are so power crazy so that no one wants to be left behind when it comes to power. Even avarice is an instance of power.

A weak person usually finds some way of pushing the buttons of those who are physically stronger than him or her and then plays the game like a child with a hand-held video game. If correctly observed we can see them reveling in it. They are empowered by the others who falls an easy prey for them finally.

Once we know the power game principle, we see it all around us and this will tell us what makes people tick. Or click. Information is power. Once you know their tricks, you rule. They lose. But, please don’t start another circle. Games are not worth it.

It is only a waste of time and addictive and dose dependent, to say the least.

More on power soon when the power comes back