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Monday, December 14, 2009

Children of the child

(This is for those who plan to be parents and those who already are and absolutely paranoid about the annual parents day at their offspring's school)

We caught a pleasant sight of Kabir dancing alone humming a Goanese song from a Hindi movie one day. One could make out the song only from the tune he was humming as he could not pronounce even a single word from the lyrics correctly. It was a nice pleasant surprise knowing him to be rather rigid when it comes to dance. He lacks the grace, balance and rhythm for dance. He did not inherited them and it was not built into his system. He had to labour real hard to learn simple dance steps when he was chosen for a group dance during the Durga Puja function in our neighbourhood.
Later, it transpired that Kabir was being trained in the school for a dance in the annual day function in his school and he was rehearsing himself. Two very different kinds of emotions engulfed us immediately. We were immensely happy to find him so dedicated towards learning to dance but was mortally afraid imagining what would happen if he was not found suitable and dropped from the dance.
Every passing day led to deepening of our fear as we saw him practising two different roles - one of a dancer and the other of a sailor rowing a boat. As the song was choreographed, three or four pairs of dancers would dance in the foreground while another set of three or four boys will hold oars and enact the scene of a rowing a boat. It was obvious that the less capable boys would be made sailors as all they would have to do was to move their oars. Mimi was afraid that Kabir would be made a sailor and she kept on nagging me to find out from the school. Instead, we kept on telling each other it was nothing even if he was not choosen to be a dancer; of course without believing at in a single word that we said. More than about us, both of us were worried about the psychological trauma that our son will go through if he was not selected for the dance.
The day before the annual day function, Kabir came giggling and jumping as he ran towards home once he was dropped by the school van. "Ma, Guess What! I was selected to be one of the sailors rowing the boat," he told his mother hardly capable of keeping his breath.
It was our turn again to be engulfed by two very different kind of emotions - relieved that he is happy; ashamed that we grown ups make life so complicated and difficult over issues so trivial which even a five-year-old does not bother about. Kabir tought us something so significant that we had, in a way, become the children of our own child.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl.
Charlie Chaplin, in My Autobiography (1964)

In my country a policeman is sufficient. And there is no need of Charlie Chaplin either(to make comedy with them). They are comedy themselves.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Words are not enough

Words are not enough. At times, they utterly fail us and leave us groping in the infinite magnitude of letters desperately trying to exactly and comprehensively find a combination of them to explain what we want the others to understand. You conjure up all possible combination of words, sentences and yet realize that it is not what you want to convey. You ask for divine help; you curse yourself; you feel like banging your head into the nearest wall. Yet, the words elude you. Finally, you settle for a line which is not even nearer to what you want to say but you console yourself with reason that it was the best you could fish out.
Have you ever experienced this? You did?
Have you ever tried touch!
Perhaps some kind of Uber text could only do justice to the messages that we send through possibly one of the oldest communication medium – the touch. It is always fascinating to observe people using touch to convey most complex of messages and express a lot of feelings including the most intricate ones. I have often attempted to translate those messages to written or spoken words and invariably found it almost impossible. The failures, however, drew me more closely to this – trying to fathom the language of touch.
My son cannot sleep without placing one hand under the body of his mother; just the palm of the hand, under the ribcage of my wife. He is only five-year-old. At times, when his mother is not around while he sleeps, he places the palm of his hand on my face. He cannot sleep without this seemingly peculiar obsession. I think it is his way of getting reassured and feel protected. It is his way of staying connected – even when he is sleeping. It may also be his way of saying something that we have failed to understand so far. But the communication is very strong; impossible to ignore, impossible to forget.
While still in college, a particular girl was the center of all our attention. This perhaps is a very common story. One of my friends noticed her smiling at him one day and he groped my hand in excitement immediately. He said nothing and I still do not know what he wanted to convey with that touch.
I became quite friendly with the same girl later on and on one occasion, while we were waiting for a bus one day; she gripped my hand only to release it a few seconds later. There was nothing apparent either in her face or in the surroundings that justified that touch. We never proceeded any further because both of us seemed to be not interested. I do not know where she is today, but I still cannot but help thinking what was there in that touch! There was a lot of communication in that touch and yet lot of confusion.
I have experienced hundreds of other instances involving people of both the genders having touched me in my life and successfully confusing me and unsuccessfully trying to convey something. Yet, I am sure they were all communicating something that was not possible to be conveyed with words. Nothing can be more communicative and at the same time more confusing then touch.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A child

Everyone seems to be here with a purpose; apparently least bothered about the other person in front of him yet subtly watching his surroundings. The eyes of the magnitude of people betray the anxiety and apprehensions, yet gleaming with hope. Hope of making it to their destinations, taking that trip and getting near to the people or place they long for or may be simply accomplishing something they planned for.

The old man was sitting silently looking thorough the compartment window at the busy platform teeming with people. A young man of twenty-something was sitting opposite him bursting with childish excitement. He was also looking through the window, his eyes jumping over each of the faces on the platform as if to find out someone he knows. He was hardly looking at me. Even when he glanced at me there was a faint smile on his face but the look was vague. He looked right through me as if I do not exist.

He seems to be breathing in everything through his eyes – be it the tea vendor on the extreme corner of the platform or the wheeler stall owner near the window selling magazines and newspapers. He was not reading anything, nor did he appear to be interested in buying anything. But anyone watching him can feel that he was curious and immensely excited.

As the train rolled out of the station, the young man settled down to look at the scene outside rolling behind. Against all safety precautions, he was now stretching his hands out of the window trying to grab the air brushing against his palm. Suddenly he burst out in excitement and shouted, "Papa, see all trees are going behind". The old man said nothing but was smiling - the kind of smile you find on the face of an indulgent father.

Once we were outside the periphery of the station and the train has picked up enough speed to reduce the passing scenery in to a huge cinema screen, the old man turned towards me and gave a weary smile. I nodded in acknowledgment and tried to strike up a conversation.

He was going home with his son after staying in the city for more than one month. Our initial conversation was interrupted by the young man. “Papa look at the thing there, is that a cow?” I was surprised. It was also the first hint for me that not everything was alright. The young man was behaving too young for his age.

It was also very awkward for me. The young man was constantly shooting questions at his father, oblivious of my presence or the others in the compartment. And the questions were too fundamental to be asked by a grown up young man. While I felt an immense urge to ask the father whether his son was alright or not, I was totally at loss to formulate my question. I have already started to sympathize with the old man. The young man was behaving like a child. The mental growth of the son has clearly not been commensurate with his age. Was it in-borne or the result of some accident later?

The old man was, however, perfectly at ease. He was constantly smiling and answering questions with such fondness as if it was his six-year-old son asking him why the moon can not be plucked. How much psychological burden a grown up son with the mind of a child could be for a man nearing retirement? And what about the mother? Does the old man have any other child? Are they normal?

“Papa, I can see the clouds, they are black.” I was jolted out of my brood by sudden exclamation of the young man. As if on a cue, it started raining. He was looking at the raindrops lashing his hand with the eyes of someone who has seen raindrops for the first time. “Papa, will I be able to see the moon tonight?” the lovely young man asked his father. The father did not reply, he simply nodded in affirmative. The boy did not wait for his father to say anything either. He was too engrossed with the sight outside.

Curiosity got better of me finally and I took the chance to ask the question long being formulated by me to the old man in a hushed up tone so that the boy do not hear anything. “It is sad, I mean, to see your son. Such a lovely boy he is. Did you consult any doctor?” I asked the man.

The man turned towards me with the same content smile on his face and then replied, “Yes, we did. That’s why he is seeing the world through his own eyes for the first time.”

(This is a story developed from a brief e-mail sent by my friend Ajay Solanki from Mumbai; origin not known)

Males do feel pain

Australian economist Paul Frijters has put a price on happiness and sadness - emotions we considered invaluable so far. He studied about 10,000 people since 2001 to arrive at a calculation that says:
Marriage is worth about Rs. 13.87 lakh to a man and a mere Rs. 6.93 lakh for a woman.
Divorce makes a man feel he has lost Rs. 47.40 lakh, while woman feels a loss of Rs. 3.85 lakh.
Birth of a child gives a man Rs. 13.87 lakh worth of happiness, while woman gets happiness worth of Rs. 3.85 lakh only.
The death of a partner or child makes a man sad by worth Rs. 2.6 crore, while the loss is worth Rs. 56.22 lakh for woman.
Would you still say, "Mard ko dard nahin hota?"(The male does not feel the pain?)
P.S. Rs. 10 lakh = Rs. 1 million; Rs. 1 crore = Rs. 100 lakh.
(The above information is taken from December 4 issue of OPEN)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

As we worry about AIDS...

As we - the Indians - ceremonially worry about AIDS and HIV along with the rest of the world on this day (December 1st), another killer disease has been sweeping away thousands of lives in this country to their graves every day. This is a silent killer called Tuberculosis (TB). One person dies every minute from TB in my country. More than 5,00,000 people die of this disease every year In India. More than 1.8 million people are getting infected with the disease in my country every year and India accounts for more than 30% of people infected worldwide.
Compare this with figures available for AIDS. Nobody is certain about the number of people affected by AIDS or HIV in India. All figures available are actually estimates. It was estimated in 2005 that there were 5.2 million HIV positive people in India. This was highly exaggerated. By 2007, National AIDS Control Organization (NACO)of India came out with new estimates which said about 2.8 million people were affected. By March this year, NACO came out with another estimate saying 1.8 to 2.9 million people are HIV positive in India. Estimates again say about 72,000 people were affected by this disease in 2006-2007. The number of fresh cases of HIV/AIDS are coming down and recent estimates show that 20,000 people in India are likely to get infected by this disease every year.
Nearer home, about 7000 people are likely to get infected with TB in Assam alone every year. And the number of HIV positive people in Assam? Less than 1000 till today. One reason why TB is not getting much attention is because TB is curable but AIDS is not. But look at the death figures! TB affects poor people with a weak immune system. It needs expensive and continuous treatment for at least six months. It is virtually incurable for them.