my pens used to never tire
so dire and unfaithful I have become.
that i almost forgot one
who taught me how to win.
just got lost in these dark lights
but still within it fights
wants to come out
not with vengence
not any severence
but just to make me understand
your pens never tire.
my pens used to never tire
There has always been this thought right from my school days that punishing is the best and maybe the only way of making the kids be under control. We always believed that our teachers hit us so that we be a better persons. Or at least be well educated. So whenever my homework was incomplete (which was always) I used to be punished. Believe me! compared to children nowadays they were torturous. But somehow the common psyche was that, it’s for our own good. Then I finished my schooldays and even was a teacher for a high school for 8 months. And there were the days that I had to really contemplate over this topic.
As I became a teacher in Hamsalekha Desi Vidya Samsthe, the school for the down trodden, we had greater responsibility than the rest of our counterparts from other schools. The children whom we had selected had come from remote villages and had completed 7th standard. Ours was a high school. So we opened our classes from 8th standard. When the applications were called, the students who had applied had all scored first class in their previous schools. We believed that these students were extremely talented, but were denied the opportunity to bring out their maximum, and we felt great that we were doing it. But sooner we realized that these kids, forget being brilliant, they couldn’t even identify letters properly!
The Government of our country is run by dodoes of the nth order! They wanted to show that they are eager to achieve 100% literacy mark to the world. So they made teachers liable and said that if the students don’t get first class you will be fired! Now, if you don’t know, the schools in villages lack basic infrastructure, like drinking water, toilets, blackboards, chalks, books! Only few districts like U.K, D.K, Udupi, the Mysore region, Mandya, Hassan, Bengalooru rural, have overcome such dire status and have progressed a lot. But regions like villages in kolar, Chamrajnagar, Kollegal & northern Karnataka are going from bad to worse. The students we had selected came from such areas. The teachers in their schools were helpless and couldn’t afford to give them right education. But they had to save their arse. So they gave marks to all of these students and made them “brilliant students with first class”. And we morons, without cross examining, accepted them. But now our reputation was at stake. We had to prepare them. We had made tall talks like giving these downtrodden kids a chance and boosted of 100 % result in 10th and much more. We had to keep our word.
We decided that no matter what, in next three years, these kids are going to be the top notch students and ours will become the most reputed institution. So there were special classes, training, rigid schedules, and everything that would make education worse than capital punishment. But nothing was working! These kids grew in a rural atmosphere where going to school meant going to a broken building for an hour, then playing till the rest of the day. Tests never existed. The concept of homework is alien. And the only matter of discussion was who brought what food. I was teaching Social to them and seeing my fruits bearing no results I was pissed. I then decided that the best way to make them work was through fear. I started trying all those punishments that was inflicted on me during my childhood and it started showing results. The notes were complete. Tests were the results used to be zero, started stepping up. They were answering single sentences! They were starting to make clear sentences. But it came at cost.
When these students came to us and we started coaching them, they were all happy kids. They would talk for consistent long hours. Even when they used to see us on roads they used to run to us and talk non-stop. They were all innocent. Un-corrupted. As the regime of punishment started to strangle them, the first thing they lost was their smile! Now because they had come from villages, we had made arrangements for their residence with the local govt hostel. These kids were away from their homes. From their parents. It was same like how I was in my residential school. But I was not so confused. I could read and write and even compose poems. But these kids were lost. The notes were complete. But none of them knew what they have written. They started scoring marks, but they always copied. And worse, deep inside, they started hating us. At least me.
One fine day, a father of one of the student visited us. He had come to see his son. His son cried and was begging him to take away. The father was explaining that he should stay here or else would end up like him. I spoke to the child, and he agreed to stay. The kid was sent back to the class and the father explained that he was a bonded labourer. (Don’t get shocked. It still exists). And he cannot even afford to come here. I said why don’t you ask some money from the Gowda, at least to see your son once in a while. He got frightened and said, “How can I!!!?? He will hit me!”. That last sentence was a slap on my face. Am I being like that Gowda!
What’s the difference? He is curtailing a man’s freedom to reach his goal. I am doing the same! When I used to direct plays, I believed that if I am unable to inspire my actors to perform the right way, then I considered it to be my failure. I failed to get the results out. It is not the actor’s fault. How did I forget that simple truth when I became a teacher? If they are not learning, then I am a failure! I have failed to inspire them! I detested myself. After all, every man does whatever he does to be happy. Right? Then how did I make these kids so unhappy and say that it was for their own good.
Only people who have power punish. The one at the receiving end has no say! The rowdy hits a meek. A bully hits the weak. The husband hits a wife. A teacher hits the child! At the end I have established my authority and have damned the child’s spirits. It did to me too. Till I was in a school, I had such a low esteem. I hated myself and believed I was waste. Even contemplated suicide. Why? Because everyone else was better than me and I was waste! Lazy scum on earth. Whose notes were incomplete. Whose dress were dirty. Whose identity was unidentifiable. God! What if the kids started to think this way? It’s horrible! First it makes you detest life, then yourself. They say that 99% percent of criminals are the ones who never had a happy childhood. Doesn’t matter rich or poor. But unhappy childhood. I was driving the kids to the same vertical point I had escaped long back. How did I escape? Well I didn’t have enough courage to kill myself. When you hit someone (especially a child), and not allow him to show his dissent, he is dying deep inside. He is going to vent out his anger. Either on others or on himself. Both the cases worst. Never should any human be denied of freedom. You should always talk and let the other talk. That is the only way to stay human. I by inflicting my power of being a teacher on them, did curb their freedom. I cried that day and decided, I will inspire them and take complete blame for their failure, at least on my subject.
Things changed. There were sports period. I conducted them. There were competitions. The children started to laugh again and we made good company. I even started discussing key topics like politics, religion and even sex. They changed. I can’t claim a 100% paradigm shift in them but the started to laugh again and I liked myself. I left the school when they entered 10th for my inconsolable reasons with Hamsalekha. The kids wrote their matriculation and guess what? The school had an 80% result. And the next batch this year has scored 90%. The kids still are in touch with me and visit my house and love me. Love does win everything. Maybe the victory is delayed. But it will just give you more time to love. Isn’t it wonderful. The kids proved it is. Hehehehehehehe
Munna has been my neighbour from the day he was born. Actually he resides two flors below us. But our families have been very congenial and friendly. So much that of munna’s growing years and his phase of accumalating wordly knowledge has been largely decided by my family’s foolhadiness. We teach him all the monkey antics and he loves to mimic them. This is him mimicing my mom! I love him. He is a wonder kid.
If I could pin point the happiest time of my life, there would definitely be this incident on top of the list. I was working as a drama and social science teacher in Hamsalekha Desi Vidya Samsthe. If you don’t know then Hamsalekha is a legendry music director in Kannada filmdom. He has opened a school for the children of down trodden communities. So I was teaching them in the school what I hardly learnt in my schooldays.
So it was an eve of mid term examination and the question papers were in office and in spite of being five minutes late, the question paper hadn’t been handed over to us. So to check what’s happening I went down to office. The school was in top floor and the office was in downstairs. As I went down a tall man, resembling some rowdy I had seen in those bad Kannada movies was standing on the door and blocked my way. “Who are you? Go back!” Now I was a guy who was underpaid then rest of the teachers, and they were underpaid then their counterparts in other schools. But I did twice the work. I almost resided in the office. So I had wanton liberty to walk in and walk out of the office and use any equipment to my own personal satisfaction. That was the only thing that kept us there. Now here was a man, whom I had not seen before, who was meddling with my rightful freedom. I looked at him and said, ‘Don’t do this again!’ My stern command made him understand that I had some special privileges in this office. So he stepped aside.
As I went inside the hall was filled with people. I thought that some producer has come to meet Hamsalekha to book him for his film. I went into the recording room to enquire about the question papers. As I entered I was awestruck! Hamsalekha was discussing something with the sound engineer. Some were standing near the wall. there was a stool on which there were lots of eatables. (Bringing eatables inside the console is strictly prohibited. But that day was an apparent excuse) And right 5-6 steps before me was Dr Rajkumar.
Now I am not a die hard fan of Rajkumar, but I was always amazed at his simplicity. He was something that the whole of Karnataka was proud about. A terrific singer. And abode of humility. I never dreamed of meeting him in my lifetime and I never even wished to. But here I was standing right in front of the legend and he looked at me a nd gave that paternal smile, my eyes became wet. Next few seconds is what I describe as the happiest moment of my life. I bent and without my knowledge touched his feet. So subconsciously, that if anyone else would have done it I would have questioned the logic of doing it. But love, respect, gratitude, affection cannot be divided and judged on the basis of logicality. I touched his feet, he lifted me, and I said. “I am your fan Anna!” I never knew till then that I really was one! He looked into my eyes with gratitude and said, “I too am your fan. What do you do here?”
“Oh! You are the ones who make this society a better place! God bless you”
I was blessed. I came out went to the office picked the question papers and went back to class. My soul was so exhilarated that day that I ignored all those who were coping, cheating and worrying. I was just happy to be bothering about frivolous matters.
The first time I read Girija Kalyana I was shocked! Of course, the revelation of the reason for this shock was my inner struggle with my complex about my complexion. Well I will save my agony for later. But let us analyse what I feel about it.
Parvati, is the daughter of Himalaya King Giriraj. She falls in love with Shiva right from her childhood. Remember that the idea of god and human was not corrupted then as it was in later ages! Then you didn’t belong to a religion, but to a cult. You were A Vaishnava, A Kaapalika, A Shaiva, A Mardhava, etc etc. so every cult had a supreme leader and their own way of life and followings. Now Shiva was a Shudra! Shocking right! Yeah he was a god of the under privileged. Our puranas are filled with demons who worship Shiva. And Shiva even protects them. Shiva lives in a graveyard in the cold mountains of Himalaya. He wears the skin of dead animals as his attire. Is very vulnerable. Smears the ash of the dead over his body. Has a snake around his neck as an ornament. Is pensively moody. Eats raw flesh. Basically he is not a cool guy and a party ruiner. And as many hot women in college fall to the most ugly looking last bencher, Parvat has fallen in love with Shiva. Now Shiva after testing her, which is a long story, accepts her and falls in love with her. Now Parvati’s father gives his consent to the marriage without even having a look at Shiva, just to make his daughter happy.
Now on the day of the marriage, when the whole Kingdom is decorated for the celebration, Giriraja hears the sound of battle drums, Conch blowing, animals unseen on earth bellowing and walking, while shuddering the ground beneath, all happening at outside the gate. Giriraja suspects it to be a battle cry from some neighbouring kingdom. So he goes up to the tower and sees the scene before him and is flabbergasted. Shiva in his actual form is coming riding on the Bull (Nandi). His Ganas (servants of grave) are dancing and are completely drunk! They look like ugly demons. Many demon kings have joined the party. These are the people who never eat any vegetable and don’t know what cleanliness is anything about. The female demons are drunk too, and they are beating drums and are getting more intoxicated by the music. As if that was not enough they are making noises that scared the shit out of every child in the kingdom. And the stink! It is the stink that you get when a human body rots!
Giri raja is shocked after seeing all this and he takes a firm stand. “If there is a war, so be it. But I won’t let my daughter marry that ugly bull rider. Not till I am alive.” So the procession stops at the gates of the Kingdom and the king announces his decision. Now the moody Shiva is enraged and is about to wage a war. But then Vishnu, flies from his abode and comes to the rescue. According to the story, he convinces Shiva to give up his way of life and then makes them bathe in the rivers of Himalayas, makes them apply some sandal paste and other things, gets them decorative robes and makes them wear them. Even Nandi is decorated like the horses in marwadi marriages. And then he tells Himalayan King, now listen to this, ‘they have realised their mistakes, and have changed their way of life’! the king sees the new procession which has had a makeover and is delighted. The marriage happens.
Maybe the writers of this story, wanted to highlight Vishnu and the best way was to make Shiva listening to him and agreeing to whatever he says. Remember then we were not Hindus. We were Vaishnavas or Shudras or Shaivas etc. So Girija Kalyana might be a Vaishnava story. But my question is, How on earth did the proud Shiva, acquiesce to give up his roots, even for a day, when he was so proud a bout it! Second, if you closely observe, there was a chance for two cultures to co exist. But it couldn’t. If you are interested in studying social behaviour, you would know that the concept of co existence of two cultures on equal ground is never possible. Whenever there has been a clash of two cultures, then the dominating culture always demolishes the other one. And the lower one always compromises and starts making changes to please the dominating force to get its place. We call it the Marga & Desi Samskriti. Marga being the dominating one, Desi being the subdued.
Whenever there is an inter caste or inter religion marriage, most of the times one of the partner forgets his/her identity and completely dissolves into the one dominating. The concept of co existence is a myth. Look at what is perceived today as beauty. Earlier our heroines and even our women were voluptuous, had round body. They were the symbols of affluence. But post globalisation the dominating view of America, of what is beauty has hit us. So the concept of heroines being so slim as the starved girls of Somalia, a complete American view, has entered here and any girl whose stomach is so close to her visible ribs is called hot! These models, I really can’t ogle looking at them, because they are so miserably thin! Deepika Padukone in Om Shanti Om was wearing so deep neckline and there was nothing to peek in. But! Everyone believes she is hot because, it is a dominating view and if you don’t succumb, the you are not allowed in the marriage procession. There was a time in our history, before the entry of the british, that black men and women were considered to be beautiful. Because Krishna (Saanwra) was black! But post British Raj, you have to be white dude! You have to spend your money on Fair & Lovely/Handsome. What’s your problem? When Shiva himself, applied Fair & Lovely, what is all this talk about co existence and maintaining your identity!
Now I always had, in my school days, a complex about my ‘ugly looks’. It took much maturity to erase the emotion away. But the fact is my ugly looks were determined by the societal perceptions, which are dominated by a dominating perception. It is not easy to fight it. Shiva understood it and changed. Remember if you don’t, you will not get the girl you love. But Girija Kalyana is an unfinished story. Because I remember reading somewhere, that after many years, when Parvati’s friends meet her they ask, “How do you sleep with a man so ugly?” and Parvati replies, “You are so blind at your perception of good looks, that you will never experience the real womanhood with the real man. It is so great that you don’t want to go to sleep, because it will end for this day. But you decide to sleep, so that you can experience for another day.” Now that’s the naughtiest answer any wife could have given & at the same time the most truthful one. So though Girija Kalyana is a mirror to the society’s dumbness. Parvati’s answer is a solution. And that’s why no matter how much the cosmetics company spends on its advertising, it will never convince me to buy them. You see, Parvati was right.
It happened on an unexpected eve. When I was working with Radio One, I had the honour of interviewing Smt. Ganubai Hanagal. I had gone to Huballi and was returning to Bangalore through Train. Smt Gangubai is 90+. But she gave a good interview and even sang a song for us. After boarding on the train, I was very overwhelmed by this great opportunity that I was blessed with. I was almost in tears when I touched her feet and asked blessing as I departed from her. It was not that I had been a great fan of classical singing or any sort. But leaving in the confused times of growing Bangalore I have been cursed to have the first hand experience of witnessing the great deterioration of our aesthetics and was a mute helpless spectator. I know her human time is clicking & even she will leave us & then the drought is going to extend. So I felt I was lucky to see her. But this is not the story of me or Gangubai. It is about the two unknown passengers I encountered in my journey back to home.
I was sitting on the window seat of the train. Now they have converted it into seaters. Earlier there used to be berth. Now they have seats like in bus. Two old, fragile couple boarded the train and for some reason came and sat in the seats next to me. There was plenty of space elsewhere but. . . .They selected me. I had put on the earphone and was listening to the excerpts of the interview and was enjoying the process. The couple sat and spoke among themselves. Then the old man looked at me and asked “Walkman?”. I said no and I explained that it was recorder and I had come to Hubballi to interview Smt Gangubai Hanagal. When I said that the old lady exclaimed!
“Oh her! I had listened to her when she sang before Mahatma Gandhi. Of course, she was not ‘The Gangubau Hanagal’ then. She was small girl. Even I was a small girl. Only later when they mentioned that she had sung before Bapuji, I could relate. My father had taken me to the ‘jatha’. I was small girl. But I did see Mahatma Gandhi. I remember that day very well. Later when they wrote articles about ‘Gangavva’, I knew that school girl who had sung the prayer song. So she is still alive!”
I couldn’t believe my ears! More than the coincidence, it was the ‘fact’ that if she is telling the truth, then this woman should also be 90+. At this age people can hardly walk! And this couple is traveling. I felt ashamed at my youth. But as our conversation went on their story startled me.
The women in her teens, as she said, started liking the man whom she was with now. The girl was rich, super rich. They had crores of wealth then and her father wanted the British to go, because he did not want to pay any taxes! He hated Gandhi because he loved untouchables, but knew that Gandhi is the only means to drive the white sahibs away. The girl’s advances were reciprocated by the boy in similar fashion and they went to a Maramma temple in the hills and pledged to marry one another. The woman said she was 12 then!
Her father found out. Now the boy was an untouchable. And guess what. He was of the worst caste. Those who clean human excreta in the houses of the rich. His mother used to clean the rich landlord’s toilet. In their region her family was the first, and for many ears the only family, to have built a latrine! It was a status symbol! Now when the mother came to clean she brought her son so that he doesn’t join the congress force and go against the will of the police. But things got more complicated, and the rich girl and the untouchable boy, at the age of 12 started to like each other!!!!!
Her father on knowing it, sent his men, the boy ran from the house. The men entered his house caught his mother and as the boy came to find out in later years, raped her one by one for giving birth for such a son! The boy’s father threw his wife away from his house for becoming “dirty”! She hung herself from the tree and committed suicide. It doesn’t stop there! The Chandal’s who are responsible for performing last rites of any body, didn’t accept to do the last rites and her body was thrown in the jungle. It’s believed that she was eaten by the hyenas and wild boars. The boy, after becoming affine young man, returned after 17 years and found out all this.
Meanwhile, the girl was married the next year and was sent to Vizag. She hated her husband. He used to drink, beat her and had a ‘chimna’ (a whore) in his farmhouse. But the worst of her experience was, he used to force her open her mouth and piss inside it and used to make her drink it. If she refused, he used to hit her. Once while his fury was high, he kicked her so hard that their first child was miscarried. She bore her first child when she was 15!
The agony doesn’t stop there! Her father is killed by his brother over a property dispute and her mother disappears. She is just gone no one knows where. None of her brothers and sisters visit her. Her husband doesn’t send her to her father’s funeral. So she turns all her love to her children. Her three sons. So do the sons give her some peace?
The first son at the age of 15 starts visiting his father’s whore!!!! There is a fight between father and son over her. The son is sent to some college in the city. She doesn’t know where. The other two sons (Twins) who were born a year later, start sleeping with the house maid. The enraged mother sends the maid away! The two fight with their mother and swear never to talk to her! Her husband’s sexual perversions continue, and even his violence. He gets anew whore for himself aged 14-15 and brings her to the house. Now this is a clear attack on her ownership. But she has no choice. The boy who went to city, to be in college, is arrested for raping a nun! And her husband does nothing to get him out because he wants to avenge the insult. His son had slept with his keep and so he wants to make the score even. Once when her husband was away, she found out that, one of her sons was banging his father’s new whore! She went into the room and shouted. The son gets angry pulls his mother by her hair, calls her names, kicks her, hits her, and goes back to the room, locks it and continues his job.
Then one fine day, after some 22 years of her marriage, the boy, whom she had pledged to marry, comes to her house! Tells her husband that he is from their village and has brought a message to his wife. The husband allows him to enter the house and goes to his work. Now the two meet, recognize each other, cry, and leave the house without telling anyone! Just like that. Freedom was only walking out. The boy who ran from his house, joined the coolies and started working on the railroads. He worked hard and became contractor. They ran away went and started to live together. They are not married but have stayed together for nearly 60 years now.
And for past 20 years, they have been visiting all the holy places, to thank god for at last giving them some peace, by bringing the lovers back together! And also so that, if they die on the way, they would die in a holy place. And the best part of their story was that, their son is a professor in a university, and daughter is a human rights activist in Delhi. They are married and have children.
God won’t like it. . . . . these words always ring in my ears whenever doubt forges itself as reality of the world and starts to haunt the ever ongoing tussle between freedom and security in my mind. It happened on a warm evening of a summer some 3-4 years back. I had just learned that I had artistic expressions hidden in me and was in a dilemma. I had written and directed some plays which had given me immense pleasure and peace. (It did give me some acclaim. But the job of any art is to give peace & pleasure to the viewers and performers and I had pretty much succeeded in that)
Then there was this question lying in front of me. I was still in my college. And didn’t know whether to follow my dreams and go on my own. Or should I start to bend to the rules of the world and be what they expect of me. That would be a financial manager or some other ugly side of the same face. What should I do? My parents and teachers always warned me not fight against this world. Only few have succeeded in making it big in art. But there are lakhs who tried and screwed their own life and have given immense pain to those who love them. They told me not to be selfish and think of my pleasurable death. But should try for other’s comfortable life. Life of a vagabond artist is the cursed one. So I should not bring it upon me. I was still in my dilemma. . . . .when it happened.
I was sitting on the bench on MG Road. Now they have destroyed it completely because there is a metro rail project coming in Bangalore. Those days their used to be benches there. I was with my friend Kaushal and we were discussing things of life. Philosophy, Religion, Globalisation, etc. Suddenly two girls came there and tried to sell us flowers. No these were the flowers they had plucked from the Kariyappa garden, behind MG Road. I was feeling bad for them. . . .Maybe because I was feeling bad about myself. So I gave them some 5 Rupees, which they took with a radiant smile, and returned their flowers and said, “This is from me to you girls. Go enjoy”. They were exhilarated. It was not a good business but a lottery for them. They have the flowers with them which they can sell it to someone else and they have a 5 Rupee note! I liked their smiles and it made me happy, like the one you get after performing a good street play. It was worth 5 Rupees. Then the girls went away.
But something happened then.
One of the girls who had ran stood after going to distance, maybe talked something to her sister (or friend), and ran and came back to where we were sitting and she put the money on my lap and said. “No. . .Take it. God won’t like it. . . .” And she ran away.
I still remember every moment of that time, which was designed for me to learn and feel something. To this day whenever I feel the heat and urge to mend my ways and start being practical and think of money than peace, those words ring in my ears. . . .God won’t like it. That day, that girl listened to her heart!
Months later, in our local newspaper Prajavani, there was an article about that girl. She sells flowers on MG Road along with her mother and studies in a local govt school. What a beautiful way to educate oneself! After that day I buy flowers from her whenever possible. I remember her. But she never recognizes me. It doesn’t matter. Maybe God likes it this way.
So i have finaly decided to speak. I had tried it before but the mechanics of net and a sort of animosity towards the growing dependence on technology had kept me little away and as all alienation had not helped me to give a chance to a dialogue between oldschool and new thought. I still prefer writing than hitting keys in board. but of late I have realised that the medium of any sort has no fault. On the contrary it is the user. In th fast expanding world, where compassion between us humans has been depleting as worst case scenario, blogs do help us to talk. To listen and even speak. I started to like this form of human communication after reading the blogs of Abdul Rashid, Jogi, and some others. The newspapers and magazines who are so shamelessly hell bent in being politically right, blogs truly are the only resort of true democracy. So I have decided to dive into it. Though even tis medium will be damn tough for me to adopt, I am determined to be here & speak. This is Sufi speaking.