Friday, December 19, 2014

Please say a little prayer for him

I did not sleep last night. I kept thinking about how much more was God going to put on Popples's tiny plate and why. Some of you know how much he loves eating. He loves his food, he loves sweets and like all kids he loves all that is not 'healthy'! For some time now he was been running large bills at his school canteen; so much so that the school authorities took note of it and informed us. He is a bundle of energy and always on the move and does not put an ounce of weight. For some time, we lit things pass, thinking it was just his way of coping with all that has happened to him since we was born. He suffered third degree burns, had epileptic fits as a child, got double pneumonia as a toddler and then to crown it all lost his home and family. Then there was all the bullying in school and the pain that goes with it. We had to change his school. He settled well but his eating pattern deteriorated and yesterday I took him to my trusted family doctor.

Doc P felt that investigation were needed as the symptoms displayed could be those of Diabetes I. My blood ran cold. How much more does this child have to suffer and why? Diabetes I is a lifelong ailment that requires constant monitoring and insulin shots. This cannot be true. He has his whole life in front of him.

In an hour I will take him for his blood test and then there will be hours of waiting for the results, when one has tendency to paint the world black.

I wonder how wrong God went when writing the script for this little child? He then handed him to me to right every wrong.

Please say a little prayer for him.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Silent Night ......

I do not know how many of you remember this haunting and heart wrenching rendition of what to me is the most beautiful Christmas Carol by Simon and Garfunkel. It was written and performed in 1966. The carol is sung along with the 7O'Clock News of the day, delivered in the dispassionate and clinical manner of newsreaders.

Half a century has gone. Christmas is round the corner and carols will be sung, amongst them Silent Night. The accompanying news bulletin, could be:

This is the early evening edition of the news.
In Peshawar, Pakistan, 9 gun men, said to belong to the Taliban,
 entered the premisses of an army school and
shot 142 people, 132 of them children.
They lines up children and killed them in cold blood and also killed 
children hiding under tables. 
The killing went towards balancing account with
the Pakistan military.
The militants were overpowered after an
8 hours carnage.
In Bareilly, India, a 7 year old was beaten to death
by his school Principal for not doing his homework 
and paying his fees. 
The Principal is absconding.
In Dindoli, Gujarat, a woman was murdered and her
body was stuffed in a suitcase. The identity of the woman could not
be ascertained because of multiple wounds on her face.
The latest statistics for rape in India were made public.
33700 rapes were reported. That is one rape every
fifteen minutes.
That's the 7 o'clock edition of the news,

Here is the news bulletin 49 years ago! Can the holy child still sleep in heavenly peace.

"7 O'Clock News / Silent Night"
Silent night
Holy night
All is calm
All is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.

This is the early evening edition of the news.
The recent fight in the House of Representatives was over the open housing
section of the Civil Rights Bill.
Brought traditional enemies together but it left the defenders of the
measure without the votes of their strongest supporters.
President Johnson originally proposed an outright ban covering discrimination
by everyone for every type of housing but it had no chance from the start
and everyone in Congress knew it.
A compromise was painfully worked out in the House Judiciary Committee.
In Los Angeles today comedian Lenny Bruce died of what was believed to be an
overdoes of narcotics.
Bruce was 42 years old.
Dr. Martin Luther King says he does not intend to cancel plans for an open
housing march Sunday into the Chicago suburb of Cicero.
Cook County Sheriff Richard Ogleby asked King to call off the march and the
police in Cicero said they would ask the National Guard to be called out
if it is held.
King, now in Atlanta, Georgia, plans to return to Chicago Tuesday.
In Chicago Richard Speck, accused murderer of nine student nurses, was brought
before a grand jury today for indictment.
The nurses were found stabbed an strangled in their Chicago apartment.
In Washington the atmosphere was tense today as a special subcommittee of the
House Committee on Un-American activities continued its probe into anti-
Viet nam war protests.
Demonstrators were forcibly evicted from the hearings when they began chanting
anti-war slogans.
Former Vice-President Richard Nixon says that unless there is a substantial
increase in the present war effort in Viet nam, the U.S. should look forward
to five more years of war.
In a speech before the Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in New York,
Nixon also said opposition to the war in this country is the greatest single
weapon working against the U.S.
That's the 7 o'clock edition of the news,

Silent night
Holy night
All is calm
All is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The big black boots

I saw a pair of big black boots coming towards me, this guy was probably hunting for students hiding beneath the benches. I folded my tie and pushed it into my mouth so that I wouldn't scream. The man with big boots kept on looking for students and pumping bullets into their bodies. I lay as still as I could and closed my eyes, waiting to get shot again. My body was shivering. I saw death so close and I will never forget the black boots approaching me -- I felt as though it was death that was approaching me. The blood curdling and chilling words are those of a child who survived the barbaric attack yesterday in Peshawar. He took two bullets and though he will live on, life will never be the same. His soul has been trampled by those black boots. But he was lucky to be alive. Death approached him indeed but changed her course. But that was not to be for 143 others. This could be their story:

It was a morning just like any other. The young boy must have gotten up early, or perhaps he was a little late and had to hurry to get ready for school. He grabbed his bag and stuffed the lunch box so lovingly prepared by his mother. As he left home, he heard his mother bidding him good bye but he answered hurriedly  as his bus was coming. Little did his mother know that she would never hear his voice again.

School began as usual. In between two periods he took a bite of the lunch his mom had given him as he had not had time to have his breakfast. It lay on the table untouched. This would be the last meal his mother made for him. And the hurried bite he had surreptitiously swallowed would be his last meal. The fourth period began. Then suddenly gunmen burst into the room, their black boots stomping the ground and the teacher screamed to the children to hide, but it was too late. Bullets riddled the young body and he fell without a sound.

Nine pairs of black boots destroyed the childhood of over a thousand children and snuffed out the life of 143 children with their bullets. This was done in cold blood. Children were lined up and shot in their heads, some were shot as they hid under desks or watched helplessly as their friends and teachers were killed.

This is no horror movie. This happened.

So what will we do? Express our outrage. Hold vigils. Write blogs. And though it is being said ad nauseum that the perpetrators are not humans, the sad reality is that they are. They were born just like any other human being. So what went wrong? How did they turn into the monsters one is making them out to be? What made them don the black boots of death that fateful morning and execute the mission they were entrusted with? In what and whose name did they commit this crime? Which God, if God it is, allows such reprehensible acts? Why do children pay for the perceived sins of adults?

True we are outraged at this moment, but how long will our rage last? When will this aberration become fodder for political ends? And what do you do. The nine pins of the bowling game have fallen. How long will it take for nine or nine hundred more to rise. Will the death of these 132 tiny and blameless souls bring anyone to their senses.

Without being cynical, the answer is no.

The death of children are too soon forgotten.

In a small town in India, a seven year old boy died. He was brutally beaten by his school teacher for not doing his homework and not paying his fees. Who will pay for this death.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The death of a child is the death of God

There is no footprint too small to leave an imprint on this world says an anonymous quote. Today over 100 children were killed in a dastardly attack on a school in Peshawar. The terrorist group responsible for the attack said it was in  retaliation for the army's continuing operation against militants. The operation was even lauded as a success. I am stunned beyond words. What can one say in front of such horror. What kind of being can shoot a child in cold blood without flinching. And what does one call such a being. How have we allowed our world to come to this. What is the use of all our education and so called progress if a we are unable to keep a child safe. How does one pay for such a deed.

The death of a child is the death of God as it is in the eyes of a child that God abides. Have we become a civilisation that has perfected the art of killing God day in and day out, without remorse.

These tiny souls that have flown today leave an imprint in each of our hearts, if hearts we still have. How will we react. By more killing or will we have the courage to look into our frozen souls and break the deafening silence.

Only time will tell.

Will those who have died today, and their comrades who die every day because of our failing ever forgive us.

No footprint is too small to leave an imprint on this world and in our hearts. Let us remember that and let our collective conscience mourn the departed children.

This world is not a place for children; neither it is a place for God.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed.

You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed wrote St Exupery in the Little Prince. This is an indubitable truth. Just like St Exupery, a little prince landed in my life about 12 years ago. he did not fall from the sky. He walked into my heart after a terrible accident and filled a space I never knew existed. I christened him Popples and he made me his Maam'ji! Thus began a love story that is still enfolding. Like all love stories it has had its share of laughter and tears. As we both grew, we faced new and unpredictable challenges but as in all love stories we had no option but to weather each storm. I must admit that the scales were tipped in the little man's favour and the old biddy had to adapt and conjure miracles at the drop of a hat.

I had done all my growing up by the time he came into my life and he still had all his to do. The bonny baby became a toddler, then a child and now is in the throes of adolescence. Like all children it is a surprise package you cannot begin to fathom and you have to come up with answers and solutions on the spot knowing that what you do or say may have lifelong repercussions.  In the case of this boy, the answers are not easy as his life has not followed the tranquil course one would want every child's life to follow, but has been and is replete with challenges that test every fibre of your being. There are the formulated questions that are easy, but there are those who remain unsaid and compel you to read between the lines. There are the challenging behaviours that are cries for help and need to be understood and addressed. It is no easy task and yet you know you have to meet them head on because on one fateful morning you dared look deep into trusting eyes and held out your hand. Once you take that step, it is irreversible till does you part.

You are responsible forever!

Back to school

For the last few years I go back to school twice a year and have worked byway up from class I to VII! Wonder why and how? Simply courtesy Popples's homework. It is uncanny how much home work children in India get. The whole meaning of holidays needs to be revised altogether. No wonder why a new business has seen the light of day as you now can outsource your kid's homework. But that is not the way we do things Popples and I. Quite frankly much as I look forward to him being home, I dread the homework like you would the plague. He hates homework and I hate the monster I turn into to get the work completed.

As soon as I collect him from school and we enter the house, my first task is to fish out the homework sheets and gather the courage to look at them. The truth is soon revealed: charts and models, the dreaded pages of writing - this time cursive - essays and paragraphs and even stories to be written, project files on many subjects to be made and more of the same. Stationery lists are made and will be bought today itself and the battle will begin. The biggest challenge is to tame the child and make a timetable that I know will not be followed easily as all the lad has to do is look at me with his melting eyes and plead for relief. And come on, these are holidays and on holidays you sleep in, you play, you have fun. How does one make a child take pleasure in sums and equations and learning lessons. But I cannot change the system.

I need to muster all the patience I can and find ways to get the darned homework done. Wish me luck!

Friday, December 12, 2014

My Nobel moment

On the very day the Nobel laureates were receiving their award and addressing the world, I had my own moment! The venue was a palace hall replete with the pomp and splendour associated with such places. My audience was a group of CEOs of the French tourism industry. My mission was to bring to life the dreams of the project why children and make those present not only believe in them but reach out and help them come true. A tall order it was! How do you give life to the aspirations and hopes of slum children standing in a space that is so alien to the reality they belong to. Most of the persons in that hall had never been to India and the little they had seen was touristic spots, luxury hotels on the one hand and annoying beggars on the other: the antipodes that India is far too often known by best exemplified by the jaded image of maharajas and snake charmers! I can never forget how angry I was when a classmate of mine refused to believe that Indians lived in houses; she thought we all lived in trees! This must have been way back in the late fifties. I had requested my nana to send me a picture of our home to prove that we too lived in houses.

So here I was, in this magnificent hall that was once used by a maharaja to hear petitions from his people, having less than an hour to get this people to cross the line, albeit virtually, and  be touched by the vibrant and real India far too often concealed and misunderstood. I decided to share my own story of discovery and how I one day had crossed the invisible barriers and fallen in love with a part of my land I barely knew existed. I talked about my tryst with destiny that had changed my life forever. But that was just the tip of the iceberg as what I had to do was also share the problems and challenges that these souls faced everyday and how we could overcome them with a little help from friends like them.

It was a stroke of serendipity that the Nobel prize was to be conferred on the same day and that the invisible ones were centre stage. I pegged my discourse on this and could talk of children and education with ease. I spoke from the heart urging all present to hear from their heart what they could not see, hoping that my words would evoke the images in their true colours. I shared stories of success as well as stories that captured the harsh reality that such children lived in but that could be easily resolved if one wanted to.

It was much later in the day that I heard the speech of one of the Nobel laureates and was amazed to how akin our thoughts were. I guess that anyone who has had the courage to look deeply into the eyes of a hurting child is compelled to react in the same manner. Kailash Satyarthi recalled the words of a little girl he had saved from bonded labour and who asked him why he had not come earlier. Earlier that day I too had reminisced about the young man who was the local goon of the area we worked in and had apparently threaten to 'kill' me. When I met him, I did not see a thug, but a young boy with gentle eyes who assured me that no one would touch our school as long as he was around, a promise he has kept till date, and then who asked me in the quietest of words: I wish you were there when I was growing up. I too see God everyday in the eyes of every child of mine.

I know I poured my heart out in that glitzy hall. I was the voice of all my children and of all their dreams and aspirations. I simply hope that at least one person in that gathering was able to open the eyes of his or her heart. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

and the rapes go on...

And the rapes go on.. mercilessly.. unabashedly... with impunity. Ages vary.. it could be a one year old or a sixty year old with everything in between... all you need is a vagina! The latest that has hit the news big is the rape of a 25 year old who was raped by the taxi driver meant to drive her home safely. And like each and every time, the knee jerk reactions are spot on: ban the cab company, ban all the cab companies. As if that would help. If one were to take this ludicrous logic to its absurd end then as the man was a repeat offender one should ban the judicial system that set him free and as he was in possession of a character certificate issued by the police, then ban the police! And then why not just ban men altogether. Or better still as has been often suggested: ban women from dressing as they like, going where they like, drinking what they like and so on.

Statistics show that on an average 92 women are raped every day in India and 4 in Delhi. This is simply 92 too many! According to a psychologist many taxi drivers were migrants from less-developed areas where patriarchal attitudes remain prevalent and were not accustomed to seeing women out alone late at night or dressed differently. The same was said about the perpetrators of the heinous Nirbhaya rape. And what about the cops who treat victims as perpetrators and blame the way women dress for the rape they have come to report. I guess they too are patriarchal just like those who favour honour killing. And what about the politicians who seem to sing the same tune.

But that is not all. Instead of being outraged by the fact that a woman was raped, many seem to think that she should not have fallen asleep, or her friends should have made sure she get home and so on. But a rape is a rape and cannot be acceptable under any circumstance. And anyway if the said lady was according to some 'careless', how does this argument hold in the case of the rape children where it is always someone you trust that violates your innocence.

I read a recent article that looks at the recent rape from the point of view of the perp.The author quotes studies wherein it is stated that of lack of sexual functionality could be one of the dysfunctions perceived by the offender, to make up for which, rape becomes a tool of power reassurance. Till date we have looked at rape from the victim's role as it is always assumed that rape is about sex. In the case of the recent rape, the author opines that the woman contrasts his own self perceived inadequacies that included a life of crime, a mediocre background in academics and a job of a taxi driver, generally considered less than ideal. What if he could dominate her? That would be the ultimate power reassurance tool for him! So of if it did not happen this time, the stage was set for a potential rape in the future.

The same author goes on to make another point this time about law enforcement. He quotes Douglas, who in his book Anatomy of Motive, who posits that sex offenders (who are different from ordinary men who rape in specific contexts, such as war, where their actions are attributable to the specific source of stress in their life, like say, the theatre of war) start off small, with crimes like voyeurism and depending upon the consequences they have to face, escalate into bigger crimes like sexual assault. So in the case of the cab driver, had the authorities done their job, this rape could have been prevented. But in a land were boys will be boys, and a plethora of family members are ready to jump at the defence of a boy who has committed an offence not realising the floodgates it can open, a lot still needs to be done. And let us not forget that the men who normally investigate these crimes belong to the 'boys will be boys' fraternity. What is needed is to sensitise police to the gravity of even the smallest offence against women. Only then can we hope to have things change.

The problem seems to be a disconnect between the way women have evolved and the moralistic and patriarchal attitude that still prevails. No one seems to be doing anything about bridging that gap. And yet until that is done, nothing will or can change. Men have to be taught to respect women but in a society like ours, where gender biases begin at home how does one begin to bring about change.

Talk of sex education and everyone is ready to slaughter you. But unless we take the bull by its horns, how can we ever tame it.