The Joy of Teaching

My mother is a primary school teacher and has been one for the better part of her life. Yesterday she came to me with an exercise book where one of her students had written a really nice poem on friends. She showed me how the nine-year-old boy had identified some similar sounding words to be used, and on the next page he had written almost a twelve-line poem, perfectly rhyming. It knocked my socks off. My mother was ecstatic.

She said the boy, H, had done it without any help and that she was really proud of him. Even though my mother has taught hundreds of students by now, every achievement gets her smiling. Another motivation to keep working harder, and spending days and nights toiling over marksheets and registers, exercise books and craftwork. It takes a toll on her, and there are bad days. But every day, she gets up charged to take on the day ahead.

I have zero idea how she does it, especially handling small children. I have little to no patience, and since there are quite a number of teachers in my family, my generation of kids had vowed never to be one.

In classes eleven and twelve, we had to spend a few days each year teaching underprivileged children after school hours. It seemed like a fun activity as we got to spend our time in an activity different from everyday academic life, and it was always an opportunity for us to hang out together at the end of these hour-long sessions. The children who came from an affiliated home were of all ages, right from kindergarten to class eight.

My student was a strapping young boy, who incidentally was also older than me. Studies were quite the struggle for him. I had to teach him the alphabets and numbers, how to construct simple sentences and learn new words. But progress was very difficult. After toiling for two years, the little improvement I noticed over this period of time definitely struck me. I still remember his face, and his heartwarming smile. And every correct answer that he gave would make me very happy, and these were the moments I realised the joy of teaching. It’s a special feeling knowing you’re touching another’s soul, changing the other person’s life in some manner, whatsoever. While I may have been quite the short-tempered and agitated person around little children (I still am), with him, I was calm.

While I may have been satisfied with a sliver of a teaching experience, I am sure every day when we slog at work and the little recognition we get or when we do something we’re proud of off, the real joy of being at work, in our workspaces, in our careers, make us happy. I remember the day when a client had written to my editor telling her how my feature in the magazine made them think of me as one of the ‘better writers’ they have read, it brought me great joy. Sometimes when I edit and overhaul even a small copy, but to my satisfaction and happiness, I beam with pride on the inside. And such instances push us through the bad days, those days when everything seems to go wrong and when we doubt ourselves and life choices.

 

I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level. 

Advertisements

The Forty Rules of Love – Transcend to another level

“Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead, let life live through you.”

They say one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I am guilty as charged when it comes Elif Shafak’s The Forty Rules of Love. Being a cynical pessimist, I always look at the word ‘love’ with a wary eye, and despite being told by many that ‘love’ here wasn’t the typical romantic love, I still kept my distance.

Till three months ago on a trip to my favourite bookstore with an erstwhile friend P who casually remarked that the book was a must read. Huh. I quite didn’t expect my equally cynical friend to have even read the book. So, there must be something here. After much hemming and hawing, and still finding people around me going gaga over it, I finally borrowed it from my good friend M, who was only too happy to see me give this a shot.

But I was majorly disappointed. Fair enough the story of Ella Rubinstein and Aziz Zahara was beautifully entwined with that of Rumi and the mystical Shams of Tabriz, while the “forty rules” were scattered throughout the story in a wonderful manner, yet I did not feel as uplifted or blown away by the book. Now it would be fair enough to say that my mental makeup during the time I read the book was far from comforting, yet I tried my best but the book failed to leave a mark.

Ella, for me, symbolised a person trapped in a seemingly perfect world, where she neither lived to her fullest nor could she break free on her own. She was chained to the cage with her so-called ‘safe’ thinking. And soon the freewheeling Aziz, whose book she had to write a report on, entered her world. His book Sweet Blasphemy makes her question her life and her life choices. It seemed like a pretty straight-forward, typical ‘romantic’ story where Ella gets swept off her feet by someone she’s not even met and is communicating through email. And she is soon ready and ‘empowered’ to let go of her old world and embrace a new self and life. There’s nothing revolutionary here, right?

It was only after I started another book that I found myself reaching out for Shafak’s book once more. I flipped the pages and this time I read the rules more deeply. In fact, I’ve taken to writing them in my notebook, and as I slowly wrote each rule carefully, I’ve been able to think more clearly about them. And now the beauty of the ‘rules’ dawns on me.

One issue that I mainly faced with the book, and that I still do, is the concept of God. Off late I’ve been flooded with thoughts that can be best described as starkly different to what I’ve been brought up on. And this is why some rules make me feel like I’m staring at a blank wall unable to fathom what to do, or even understand. Some other rules feel like they have no value addition for me. Christianity and Islam have much in common, and even some concepts tend to overlap each other. However, some other rules brought a smile to my face, and they’ve been worded so wonderfully that I wish others would pay heed to them too.

And as always, I leave you with my favourite quote:

“The quest for Love changes us. There is no seeker among those who search for Love who has not matured on the way. The moment you start looking for love, you start to change withing and without.”

 

I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level.

Game Face On

​Ever had a character in a book guilt you into doing something? And it’s not even like the character is some genius or a sharp-tongued feminist, but a certain nobody who is living the life of a bohemian, among squalor and dirty rooms, between filthy linen with a perpetual hunger clawing at him. But he is a struggling writer, a writer who persists in his art form and pushes himself to his very limits.

Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer is a seminal work by the American writer, and his sense of narrative and topic is quite the disruption in my reading pattern. I have been in awe of him for quite a few years, but only recently did I spread the pages between my fingers. And he’s like a jolt from the blue.

Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer

“When he essays to speak of those dreary months with the pen he becomes unintelligible. Months and months he spends before setting a word to paper. (And there are only three months of winter!) What does he cogitate all those months and months of winter? So help me God, I can’t see this guy as a writer. Yet Mrs Wren says that when he sits down to it the stuff just pours out.”

This seemed like a personal attack, I kid you not. Especially since my blog has been in hibernation post the effervescent A to Z Challenge. My life did turn quite a number of degrees and angles since, reasons I will cite to shift some blame off me, but I know, this has been too long a sabbatical. And I’m looking at getting back on my writing track with this campaign.

“What need have I for money? I am a writing machine. The last screw has been added. The thing flows. Between me and the machine there is no estrangement. I am the machine…”

And with this, I proceed to light my posterior on fire and push myself to write on till I’m one with the machine. I’m part of BlogChatter‘s My Friend Alexa campaign for this month. Currently, I have a dismal India rank of 9,160,005 and I intend to see this decrease. Over the course of this month, I shall be blogging at least twice a week. My special hashtag for sharing the work of my compadres is #RumReads.

I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level.

Zone of Fire

 

I have a certain disdain for picking up recipe and cookery books. Let’s just say, since I barely get into the kitchen to make anything, such books become mere showpieces for me. I don’t get to cherish them the way they’re meant to be. But, I’ve started to develop a soft corner for non-fiction books on food, books that curate experiences related to food and lives of people.

As always, I’ve come across numerous gems at the Delhi Book Fair and in August, three years ago, I came away, giddy with happiness, with Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. With a focus on the adventures in the culinary underbelly, the book exposes the younger years of Bourdain’s life as a chef, filled with sex and drugs, and traces his career from being a dishwasher (we all have to begin somewhere) to the renowned chef, novelist, and television show host he is now.

Bourdain has always been a chef without a filter, not in the Gordon Ramsay-kind of a manner, but someone who does not hold back on his thoughts and opinion. He says it like it is. For him, his cooking life has been one long love affair, and through this book, he wanted his readers to get a taste of the life that a normal diner does not get to see, or appreciate. With a couple of friends in the industry of late, I know it is a slug fest being in the kitchen for over fifteen hours in a day, constantly standing or being near the flame, and it can be such a hard life.

The book is divided into five main sections – three courses, one dessert, followed by coffee and cigarettes. Food will always be related to memories, and Bourdain talks of his first memorable food experience while on a family vacation to Europe, when he had cold soup – vichyssoise. This was quite a revelation for him. However, he and his brother, had a strange liking for the random steak with ketchup, and their taste buds had not yet developed for the finer delicacies their parents wanted to introduce them to. So in Vienne, both boys were left in the car, while the parents went to enjoy their meal sans the grousing of their boys. This was quite a wake-up call for Bourdain as it dawned on him that a meal could be more than just shoving things down, but a means of celebration. This pushed him to try everything, and by that he meant, everything.

As a child, I too had my favourites. If we went to a particular restaurant, I would always order my staple menu, unlike my brother who always tried to get me to experiment, but no luck. It was only after losing him and finding a different me in stranger lands, did I start to push my boundaries, and now I indeed am a changed person. I loathe having to try the same things, and want to experiment with a lot of different cuisines, dishes and even food items.

This post is part of the eighth annual A to Z Challenge that takes place in the month of April. The theme for this month is ‘Between Pages’. It’s my second attempt at this. Feedback is most welcome, constructive criticism, even more. Share your experiences and let’s enjoy this month of fabulous blogging.

Youth of tomorrow

There are some books that are labeled as great, but few come about to actually reading them. As always, I had happened to see A Clockwork Orange in college, and though it made for quite a riveting film, its core concept really did not sink in, till I bought myself a second hand book from Connaught Place.

A dystopian novel, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, is set in a futuristic English society where the youth is prone to extreme violence and rage. Alex, the protagonist of the novel, along with his gang of three other youngsters, roam the streets of the city picking on innocent people. They also rob a store, assault a scholar who was on his way home, they fight with a rival gang, enter a private property and beat up the gentleman while the gang proceed to rape his wife… such are the terrors they inflict on society.

The second part of the story is what I find most interesting. It comprises Alex’s arrest and subsequently convicted of murder. He is chosen to be part of an experimental test, a behavious-modification technique known as the Ludovico Technique and in exchange, he would be set free. The process induces aversion in Alex to all the anti-social activity he used to do, and while being injected with nausea-inducing drugs, he was made to watch films with a high level of graphic content. This made his nauseous, and slowly, his brain started to trigger nausea every time he came across such content, either in thought or in real life. And as one of the films had Beethoven’s Ninth symphony as its soundtrack, Alex henceforth was unable to enjoy his favourite composer and musician.

“Is it better for man to have chosen evil than to have good imposed upon him?”

The reason I like this book is because of the central theme – ‘freedom to choose’, and how in Christian teachings we are taught that God loves us, hence He gives us the freedom of choice, but we must bear the consequences of our words, actions, and thoughts. So, in this book when Alex is conditioned to be repelled by bad deeds, one wonders what is more important, to be forced to be good or to be bad but have a freedom in that choice?

The narrative is exceptionally interesting and fast-paced for most of the story. While it may take you time to get the hang of Nadsat talk, but once you do, boy o boy, what a brilliant story shall you unravel. And I think, somewhere, with the characters conversing in Nadsat, it makes the impact of the grossly unappetizing sections in the book a little less dire.

This post is part of the eighth annual A to Z Challenge that takes place in the month of April. The theme for this month is ‘Between Pages’. It’s my second attempt at this. Feedback is most welcome, constructive criticism, even more. Share your experiences and let’s enjoy this month of fabulous blogging.