The Art of Teaching

I realized this quite early in life; not everyone can be a teacher. Rather not everyone can be a good one. And mind you, a good teacher isn’t necessarily the person who is always a jolly, smiling individual but one who genuinely makes you interested in learning.

While I was going to school, children were largely meant to be seen and not heard unless expressly called upon to show the teacher that they hadn’t wasted his or her time lecturing a class of 40 kids, every day about things they didn’t know they needed to learn. And yet teachers are an inescapable part of life; the inadvertent ones and the one we recognise as teachers.

After going to 9 different schools from pre-primary till my 12th grade exams, I thought I had a pretty good fix on who can be considered a good teacher and then college hit and I began to have multiple A-Ha experiences. While it is harder to hold down the attention of school-going kids and give them an exposure to all the subjects in one go, it is that much harder to teach young adults coming into their own, about how the subjects they will learn in college will end up impacting their lives in a more permanent way.

I have had teachers dazzle me with their knowledge, their passion, their kindness and also their love. I have (sadly) also seen people that made me cringe and made me promise myself that I would never submit to that kind of rigor, near aggression or mindless teaching in the name of education.

The adage from G.B Shaw, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” has been proven wrong many times over. Those who can do, those who can’t, don’t or bumble along trying. It has *nothing* to do with teaching at all.

To all my teachers over the years…whether I reached wherever you expected me to or not, the lessons have been learnt. Some discarded, few forgotten but the ones learnt properly have resonated with me and continue to do so. Thank you…

The Mother’s Day Brouhaha

My family lived in the US briefly, many years ago. Prior to that life was smaller in many ways. There were no 75 channels on tv and there certainly was no Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Presidents Day and what have you.

We had Children’s Day where we most certainly did not get to escape from school; were “nudged” into elocution or essay competitions eulogizing the first Prime Minister of India. We had Teacher’s Day where the teachers got a break..sort of. The place I did my middle school from, had the 10th graders dress up in sarees or salwar kameez and the younger classes were allocated to us to manage while the teachers had a break for a day. Lunch was organized for them and there were no classes on that day for anyone. Good times all around. But the concept of Mother’s Day being a thing and a big one at that is something I got to know when I was in 3rd grade. Still a newbie of sorts to American life.

Our teacher who had an unfortunate way of looking strict while she wasn’t too bad in real life had us make little accessories for our mothers. Small pieces of what looks like particle wood to me now were available for us to color on and then a pin would be glued on the back and it would make a lovely brooch for our moms.

In theory so many things sound good. Doable even, but give a bunch of kids glue and craft products especially a goggle-eyed one from India who is new to the concept of pipe cleaners and googly eyes and you get something like this-

My mother in her infinite wisdom *never* wore this except for the time I gave it to her. Given that she had nothing which would offset this and she never went trick or treating either, this brooch was consigned to her drawer of special things, displayed prominently but sensibly not worn.

She preserved this, possibly as a reminder to herself that Art and her daughter were not intended to be friends. Over the years I’ve got a laugh out of jiggling the brooch so the eyes jump up and down but for the most part this work of art remains misunderstood and has more depth than anyone has possibly gauge.

Happy Mother’s Day all!

Reunited…

Once there was a little necklace. It was very happy and bright. It had rounded beads and was liked by everyone who saw it. It was a very happy little necklace indeed!

One day came the Little Grabby Fingered Imp. The Imp grabbed and pulled the necklace towards himself but the necklace didn’t want to go with an Imp. It wanted to stay with the girl whose neck he had made his home.

But the Imp kept grabbing and pulling and grabbing some more till the necklace broke and the beads danced away into the shadows. The Imp didn’t want the it anymore because it was broken now. The necklace was sad. The girl was sadder still.

After many, many years the girl was getting her toes painted and without knowing it, she chose the colors of the necklace…it was time again to make the necklace whole. She would do it very soon indeed!

2021…A Year In Retrospect

I usually end up thinking of a year in a particular manner towards its end. Like 2018 was “The Year Of Road Trips“. 2019 now in hind sight, is “The Year It Was All Fine Before Downhill Became The Norm” 2020 was “The Year The Pandemic Hit” and 2021 had been “A Hodgepodge Year” all the way through!

While I don’t like to dwell on death and anything morbid overly much; I don’t recall any other year where the phone rang so many times with the news of someone’s demise. It got to a point where I’d ask my folks each time they rang up,”Who is it this time?”. Needless to say, a lot of people went before their time and it takes a while to reflect and then try to move past it.

As a family, we had a few more downs than ups but we managed to sneak in some good times nonetheless- a nice road trip full of songs, ‘are we there yets‘, junk food, room service, a beautiful stone sunken bathtub that TO and I were fighting over while another instance had me scrambling to find footing in a 5.5 ft of water while TO frolicked like a little otter and laughed at his mother’s clumsy efforts to not drink up half the pool!

2021 had been so fluid that it was half over before I realized it. It feels like I sleepwalked through parts of it and other parts I wish I had. But the highs thankfully balance out the utter lows.

On a slightly more somber note- mental health has become the need of the hour now. Whether it’s due to a prolonged state of having been indoors or being in a state of flux about the state of the world around us, but mental health now occupies center stage like never before.

People are realizing the immense benefit of talking to someone who is a professional. They help you gain perspective, fight your demons and also help you keep a hold onto your reality and sanity at times. Especially in a society where going to a shrink is still somewhat of a taboo and therapists rarely get their due; mental health professionals have been busier than ever before with parents and children alike lining up to seek help adjusting to the new circumstances they find themselves in.

On the topic of health, traveling( while curtailed for many of us for a long time) has become a renewed stress buster which cannot be denied. Whether it’s on the back of a bike, in a car or just making plans for a sunnier day in the future; traveling has been the solace many of us have been seeking for the past year and a half. And I am profoundly happy and grateful that I got to meet a few of my favorite people multiple times this year although it was a challenge and a half remembering to not drink too much water so I didn’t have to use the loo while flying or the first time when I did travel and I wore gloves, two masks, a shield and had the disinfectant wipes ready to be whipped out at the blink of an eye!

Courtesy the “prevalent situation” (it’s my way of doing a J.K Rowling’s He Who Shall Not Be Named)2021 also became ‘The Year Of The Vaccine’. Whether it was the difficult faced while registering ourselves for it, waiting for it to reach us, the initial jab, the secondary jab and the debate around the booster shot, our lives had been centered around vaccines, their efficacy and all the hopes we’d pinned on them.

I think the message that rang in loud and clear during the past year has been to not necessarily wait for a rainy day and be in a more carpe diem mode. Also, celebrate little things more because waiting for the special occasions could leave you twiddling your thumbs for a good long while. And while I really detest platitudes, I have realised (yet again) how much I and my family have to be grateful for. We are far richer than I realised courtesy the people we have in our lives. Doesn’t matter if you they are a few continents or just a phone call away but seeing a beloved face over a cup of coffee has often meant the world to me in the last year.

I’ve also grown older. Sadly. Mainly in my head. I don’t see value in Roblox. I wish all the piggies would fall down a never-ending hole and never come back. I am also quite the hypocritical parent who has indulged herself thoroughly in a few things (eg: horror movies) but has serious reservations at the thought of her child watching them. Nevermind I was younger than him when I saw Jason and Meyers hacking their way through summer camps and small town America but the thought of my kid seeing blood and gore disturbs me. I am not chill. At all. I also have no patience for Hello Neighbor, Sonic the Hedgehog and cricket talk. Oh god! If I hear one more play being analysed by Red and TO I might cut the cable connection! Happily.

To sum up, I rang out 2021 with a laugh and started 2022 on the same note. Let’s hope it’s a sign of the times to come. Salut!

Reflections At The Gym

If you thought that was a pun, guess what? You’re bang on! The gym I occasionally frequent (inching towards an oxymoron here folks) has mirrors all along one side of a wall and that really helps while you’re checking out your form or lack thereof. It frequently helps me bemoan the state my body’s in although am far from the age where any kind of remedial action is off the table.

The gym also has a couple of tvs on another wall, conveniently lined up with the treadmills and people prefer to watch Bollywood videos while they work out. I usually don’t; audios are fine but videos often throw me off my stride. Either it’s too inane or it just assaults your senses and sensibilities at 6 am. I prefer my sensibilities to be assaulted after breakfast thank you very much, not before.

Even the biopics or more realistic movie plots show relationships in a more theatrical way- the college days, the bike rides (usually an uber expensive muscle bike no matter how un-wealthy the family) and the ability to cross the time barrier multiple times in the course of one three-minute song while hop, skipping and jumping across continents. They may be cinematically aesthetic and appealing but darn it if it doesn’t make you think, “That’s not how it happens at all!!

Take for example two kids from “good” middle class Indian families who would like to spend some time on their own. Managing the logistics is hard enough without some hawk-eyed auntie staring at you while you make your way out of the house so imagine a scenario where you get me-time with your crush let alone have him hoist you up in the air and spin you around in glee. That my friend, is a challenge and a half! And one that remains a daydream for most young adults.

Take it from someone who has had one or two of those magical theatrical moments; it’s all too fleeting and it takes so much doing that at the end of the day you’d rather have the opportunity to hold hands under the table or walk along side by side with an occasional touching of the hands. Way more romantic and definitely more feasible especially when you run into someone you know out of the blue. And you *always* run into someone out of the blue when you’re dating and haven’t yet disclosed it to anyone.

Dating in India is a different kettle of fish or used to be when I had first ventured into it. We were awkward to the hilt and anything that was remotely romantic was blown up to assume epic proportions in one’s mind. Imagine a rainy street, two 20 somethings cuddled up on a bike and cruising along when the bike stops and the guy gets off, kisses the girl and they ride off again- why did he stop? Because he’d read it in a book (Chicken Soup For the Couples’ Soul) and thought it would be a memory worth creating. No matter how jaded you are, you can’t help but smile a tiny bit at the whole thing. It’s sweet. Very sweet. And for those you are saying, “CORNY!” Well…you had to be there.

Dating in any small town or a place with a small town mindset also means those extremely “well-meaning” aunties who watch out for you out of the goodness of their heart and an overwhelming desire to provide the latest dirt during their veggie buying outings.

With their heads on swivel for every boy and girl who walk by, they would put the intelligence agencies to shame with their ability to predict who is going to come to a sticky end, be up to no good or what’s happening behind closed doors in which home. Sadly this level of clairvoyance doesn’t hold good for their own homes. They have the other neighbourhood ladies picking up the slack for them there though so it’s all good.

When I think of the few dates I’d been on in my younger days, it was more of the thrill of doing something, going somewhere or the anticipation of something coming together that makes me smile with nostalgia. Whether it was sitting in a hole-in-the-wall eatery while the date spoke about how he used to have his morning breakfast there before heading to college or trudging through heavy rains while on a scooter and struggling to hold onto camera bags and keep the glasses from fogging over.

It was never about being hoisted into air during a song to feel special. And while that did happen, the guy had to take the day off from work the next day because hoisting buxom Indian girls wasn’t as easy as the movies made it look. Not by half!

The Child: Lockdown Version

I started this post over a year ago and like many things which come to a grinding halt, so did this one. But it was too funny for me pass up posting it and since things are in a better state than they were a year ago, with the pandemic and its fallout, this post is one that looks back with a smile at a truly difficult time for all of us.

This lockdown has been an experience in more ways than one. Earlier I knew my child viewed me as The Enabler, The Witch, The Taskmaster, The Cuddlebunny at different times depending on his mood but now I’m almost convinced that when he sees me, he sees icons floating all over and all he has to do is just push one for a desired action to occur.

I’m also convinced that his speech has suffered a set back since he tends to bark out single words and use them like sentences. For eg: he’ll see me and say, “FOOD!”. If I stop in my tracks because of the terse and abrupt nature of his communication, he’ll look at me as if my IQ points aren’t what they ought to be and lift his t-shirt and rub his tummy signifying that food needs to provided. If I just want to mess with his head a bit more and act like I’ve still not understood him, he opens his mouth and points towards it and then rubs his tummy. Occasionally he’ll throw in a “DUH” very sotto voce.

These are the various icons I sport: when he needs digital entertainment: sadly most of which need unlocking. Am convinced he sees me like this and in this order!

Oh life…what more will you put me through…

Pictorial Bloglet#2

The Retro Song Bloglet

Sometimes while waiting for the quinoa to get cooked all the way through, you think of Bon Jovi and his ballads. And then Bed of Roses pops into your head. And you play it and sing along till your flesh and blood comes and tells you that he can’t hear the narrator talk about the Most Dangerous Creatures of Asia over your caterwauling.

For those of you who don’t have that problem or wouldn’t mind listening to something other than Livin’ On A Prayer here’s Bed of Roses:

Adjusting To Normalcy

Across the world children are heading back to school although what they knew to be a scholastic experience has changed quite a bit. In some places they have kids attending school a few days a week. In others it’s for a few hours whereas in many places in Europe it’s been business as usual for good long while. The word ‘bubble’ has changed the meaning it used to hold and it looks like the connotation is going to be with us for a while longer.

While most Indian states grapple with the notion of reopening the schools and when to do so, the ones which have already started off the process find that the adjustment to campus life isn’t a cakewalk; neither for the school, the parents and of course the children themselves. With schools that are offering the hybrid model of attending classes, it’s a stretch with allocating their teaching resources to cover both in-person and online classes for the same grades and do it without dropping the ball on the quality of education.

For the rest of us the raging debate of should kids go back to school without the benefit of the vaccine to will the third wave actually hit sometime soon; it is an ongoing balancing act to decide about resending the children to an environment which is more fun for them for sure, but is also less protected than the one they have become used to for the past 2 academic years. And while attending classes in pyjamas isn’t an addiction that can’t be dealt with, the entire discipline that surrounds the whole process of schooling is something that kids will still take time reacclimatising to.

From getting up at least an hour earlier than before to riding the bus and standing in the lunch queue to not being able to get up and stretch one’s legs in between classes or have parents pop-in for that quick look-in to check if the child needs anything, it’s a big change to get used to.

I was away from home while TO rejoined in-person school and Red messaged me saying the house seemed really quiet and empty without him there. Although there was a regular amount of strict parenting going throughout the day while he was attending online classes, there was something comforting about seeing him hunched over the laptop while I went about my day.

While I’m not seeing my child struggle with his disenchantment for online lessons any further I am also dealing with a regular worry of either him or his peers coming down with coughs and colds which could potentially turn into something more serious. And while this worry isn’t debilitating, it’s not something am able to shake off either. His environment was so well-regulated for so long and under the supervision of two adults who had no greater goal than to keep him safe; relinquishing his safety to others who are miles away is something I struggle with.

What makes it easier is seeing him head out the door without the heavy zombie steps he used to take towards his laptop at the start of every school day while at home. He comes back happier too and while I shake my head that the kind of stains he inevitably gets on the pristine whites of his school uniform, it’s this kind of normalcy that I had also missed right from the middle of March 2020.

Whether the pandemic is entering into an endemic stage, whether the third wave is nothing more than just a slight blip, whether the vaccine for children is genuinely going to help keep them safe; as a parent our worry never ends. It eases a bit when you check in on them while they’re fast asleep or when you see them eat their fill, play their hearts out with their friends.

And I sincerely hope that’s where the world is slowly heading back to; parenting shoving their kids out the door while they’re still putting their shoes on and the school bus is about to pull away from the curb or the chidings about leaving assignments till the last minute. Am mighty sick of face masks, sanitisers and social distancing. It’s not the kind of parenting any of us want to do. We all want to tell us our kids off for the good ol’ reasons that have been handed down to us over the generations.

Amen!