Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dance with the winds

As mesmerizing as the flames of a bonfire or the frothy gurgle of a brook can be the flight of a kite.

I crane my neck to look up in awe at the soaring ship. In my thoughts, I am astride on those fragile paper wings; the breeze in my hair, lashing the strands in a rhythm to match the kite’s fluttering tail. My heart lifts, I feel my body levitate and there is an expansion of being, a broadening, an enlarging of the mind almost, as though ready to hit greater heights.

That bobbing blob of colour could well be my spirit, tethered to the ground with a chord of quivering connections. Quite like the paper bird, flying audacious sorties into unknown and unexplored realms, every minute, and every hour, fighting its own vulnerability and fears. Flapping, getting beaten back, and even losing height in the varying winds but enduring and lifting up on friendly gusts to soar in the end.

My spirit roams the skies today with that lone paper, as I muse, standing on the ground that a day will come when that lethal glue and ground glass line will snap and I am going to float away, into the unknown yonder, all alone, by myself, like that kite I gaze at, leaving behind everything that grounded me. I will be gone but the sky will not stay desolate for long. It will come alive with brighter, stronger, braver kites, their lines moving with life and energy.

Oh well, that split second of eternity will come when it will come. For now, I am one with those colour patches, shimmering in the teasing rays, symbols of man’s imagination and courage. Like the triangular frame in the blues, I am here on the ground, amongst friends and strangers, maintaining my path, steering out of harm’s way, gaining in height slowly and surely. The sharper my life skill the greater my ascents, as I loosen, pull back and pace out the leverage life gives me.

There are lessons up there, in the colorful sky. That speck rising high says fortune favours the bold. It proves you have got to use all you have. And that no one rises alone; several others gain simply by reference and the scramble to keep up. The spirit that lasts is the one that dances with the winds and the gales, changing step to match every gust, each breeze. The plucky champion that owns the steepest ascent has stayed focused on its own journey, unmindful of the pomp and aggression around. It has worked on out flying every other kite on its two engines of: desire and tenacity.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Smarter bus dispersal

One of the most challenging events in a typical school today is the Bus Dispersal hour. A safe, speedy and smart see off is what every school works, hopes and prays for. 

The reason is not far to find. There have been spates of unsavoury incidents involving school buses. Remember the unspeakable tragedy of a girl who would be at the mercy of the bus conductor between the second last and her final stop. And it was only the other day that a year old boy came under the rear wheels of his school bus and died in the ambulance, on way to the hospital. There is a growing feeling that students are becoming increasingly unsafe in the school buses. Drivers have been known to drink and drive; some are not above misbehaving with girls. There is nary a day in fact that goes by without at least one alarming news item related to school buses. The air has been thick with talk of buses undergoing safety modifications including installation of CCTV cameras and speed governors.

Gone are the days when the kids would stream out of huge metallic school gates in a higgledy piggledy stream, happily chattering into the arms of relaxed parents. People lounged languidly in a laid back hush of expectancy I remember. There was a greater sense of security and far less turning around to watch the back. I don’t recall this jumping nervously in the skins at the slightest unfamiliarity.

Those were the days of a calmer, more content, well… perhaps even resigned and ignorant India. What we inhabit today is a war zone. There is anger, fear, even envy. A distrust of the government has so colored our pan-view that we are quick to believe the worst of the other. Unfair generalizations are the stuff social conversations are made up of. A civic awareness of rights and entitlements has replaced plain common sense and civility.

Schools try and compensate by laying out layer upon layer of security. There is a garrison mind-set geared to fool proof dispersal. It is a daily struggle to stay above board. 

The student strength and number of routes are only two components of a hugely collaborative effort. There are several agencies involved including the gate security personnel, private vehicle drivers, parents and support staff. A monitoring system is followed in most schools to try and ensure every student reaches home safely. There are cameras on the gates and regular dissemination of updated contact numbers of agencies involved.

In several institutions, the junior wings in particular, bus routes have been assigned class rooms as well as specific teachers who take attendance again at the end of the day, before leading their route students to the bus dispersal area. The children who use the second trip are supervised by teachers until it is time to board the senior buses. In this way, the double attendance works as a quick way to establish any anomaly.

Even so, there are the bad days. 

Two snaking rows of second graders can cross each other, a couple of frisky ones getting dislodged into the wrong row unwittingly. It may happen that a child is facing a bus a trifle uncertainly and the mere appearance of a teacher prompts him to quickly hop into the bus that was puzzling him! Children have a talent for losing track of time. While the whole world is going crazy hunting for them, some may be blissfully sliding and swinging in the KG Park at the back. The small ones also happen to have a penchant for escorting the ailing to the Sick Bay and losing themselves in the experience. 

There could be explanations galore but the mind of the parent waiting at home goes whirl-pooling thus: has there been a kidnapping; could the child have fallen into a man hole or else, God forbid, run over by a BMW; she could have been lured and raped; a custodial conflict pick up seems like a possibility and on and on the tortuous mind goes visualizing one gory scenario after another.

Nine and a three quarters time out of ten, there is likely to be a simpler explanation. It is very unlikely that a child has gone far and in harm’s way from the school campus. There are small things however that can be of critical help at crucial times. Entering accurate information for instance, in the identity cards and school diaries; labelling the child’s belongings; keeping the school informed of any contact update; all this helps. 

There are systems that have been worked out. At the heart of this elaborate blueprint are people. And nowhere in the school is an empathetic co-operation between everyone involved as critical as at the time of leaving school. It is a tricky hour. The students are excitable, teachers low on energy, bus drivers in a rush and parents in a state of expectant anxiety. At such a vital hour, many a times, the secret to success is patience. 

It is good to remember that checks and balances are in place and given time, everyone will be home, sweet home, sooner than later!!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Whose dreams?

The world stands in judgement of mothers far more than it judges fathers. Perhaps the differential stems from the order of nature. In the animal as well as the human world, mothers remain the primary incubators and nurturers. Their bodies, emotions, thoughts are invested to a greater degree and in more immediate ways. Motherhood transforms their lives in a far more essential manner than it changes a father’s daily routine. Of course, there are demands on him to provide and protect but the degree….it is a matter of degree….

And then along comes the judging, following either of the two trajectories. If their children mess up, the Moms did not guide enough and should their kids shine, they are living their dreams through the children. I have never been able to make up my mind on which of the two views is more unfair.

For the sake of argument, let’s base the unfairness on outcomes. In other words, let’s presume that criticism when kids go tangential would be more acceptable than judging Mothers whose sons and daughters end up authentically autonomous. Why would people accuse these proud mothers of fulfilling their personal ambitions through their children?

It is true that a sizable animal population does not care for their offspring once they have been given birth; some species are born independent but the female cobra, mammals and birds care for their young until they are able to strike out on their own. This nurture ensures the survival of the species. It is owed by one generation to the other. I would go so far as to call it moral parenthood.

The level of nurturing would rise with every step up the biological kingdom. At the sophisticated stage of mankind, parental responsibilities ought to go far beyond the basic provision of food, clothes and shelter. In a complex and conflict ridden world, who else but the parents will primarily ensure the right software programming in their children’s hearts, minds and souls that will keep them safe and growing in the world outside? Granted that parents make mistakes but so long as there is love and desire for the young’s welfare, it all pretty much falls in place.

Recognizing and acknowledging and showing the kids that they are worthy of harbouring a dream is step number one. Next comes the path to realizing those ambitions. With so much information clutter swirling in their spaces, a little bit of filtering does no harm, it is in fact critical for some clarity and focus. It is the modern parents’ responsibility to be well informed and socially savvy enough to be able to function as a sounding board for their children. They are certainly not stoking their own embers by facilitating the path ahead for their young.

I would challenge anyone who says it is all right to leave the children to figure it all out for themselves today. These are tough times. Never has a generation been so far out and so in need of an anchor as this one. It would be too dangerous a waste to leave them without a moral compass and a clearly outlined work ethic they can use to climb a ladder they have defined for themselves.

Modern parents cannot use the excuse their own parents did viz. that they knew no better. It is not about living one’s dreams through the offspring. It is about placing your own dreams on hold until you have brought up your kids to nurture theirs and be well on their path to realizing them.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The coat

Does life imitate the movies or is it the bioscope that is inspired by blood and bones?
I don’t know but I have my list of incredible moments that seem to happen only in the movies.

And my all-time favourite is the coat scene.

People talk of the horrors of physical deprivation and hurt but there is an ache of the inside that is way higher, touching a point beyond the labour pain high of 57 del on the scientific scale of pain. Invisible on the outside, it rages deep within, rising in the throat and creeping in sour waves into the pit of the stomach. The chill converges on the lungs. There is the fearful headiness of a reckless, roller coaster ride. Your vision is blurred by regret, self-berating and lonesomeness.

Time for the coat!

And as though on cue, it is at these quiet times of desperation that the Knight Errant appears out of the mist in a soft focus in the movies, the music dims and the hall goes still. There is a magical connection. Two pairs of eyes meet and a wave of hope and strength and kindness is transmitted from one to the other and the broken begins to build back, right there. That one gesture injects her with glowing steel in the veins, making her as good as new.

It is my definition of the most beautiful human transaction ever! 

Did you ever have this happen to you? Have you experienced or witnessed and acknowledged pain in all these years you have treaded this earth? Cast a cursory look around, particularly in idle mode at the traffic lights, there are several there, crumbling inside like a wedge of carrot cake or a ball of ice lolly under that public mask of nonchalance. Some are probably on fire inside, like their throats have been taken by the guts. Of course they drive with numb limbs, grey lead in the toes pressing on the accelerator, hurting, crying, and scarring inside while those with the power to wash it all away stand outside these high walls of need, unseeing, unhearing, and refusing to take off their coats!

When faced with pain in fact, the most common reactions range from outright denial to an outraged defensiveness. Listen, cut the drama and let’s move on with it, shall we? There are so many tragedies taking place in the world? So many people do not have the time or the luxury for all this sighing and feeling. And what are you crying over this, I have seen worse. If you heard what I have gone through, you would shut up with gratitude!

The coats of empathy either do not exist in real life or are few and far between. For the most, we do not respect others enough to accept their pain. We are scared to engage outside of our own comfort zones. Even though we know that we ought to look at them with gentle eyes and say in a grave voice that we understand, we bluff them and ourselves by saying it is just idle nerves; and this on a good day. On the others, we tell ourselves that their cry for help is a personal attack on us.

Dear God, let me be otherwise. Give me the strength, the kindness, the faith to be the one holding out the coat.