Endings and Beginnings

This year has been like no other. When the year began, it gave us no inkling of what it held. And we end it on a note of bewilderment, not really sure of what happened and what will happen. Hope springs eternal of course, and we await the new year with a curious mixture of weariness and bated breath.

Personally, the year has been kind to me. Things have more or less been on an even keel and changes have been very manageable. I’ve realised that I am truly happiest by myself and suprisingly, life has rearranged itself accordingly.

I am so grateful for everything that’s come my way, and then some.

The happy news includes a story of mine published in this hot-off-the-press anthology. An excellent collection of stories, it is really worth reading. Here’s to more reading and writing in the new year too!

Stay safe and take care. This is the way. 😉

Dream Solutions

My dreams have never been the garden-variety stuff. No siree, they are the stuff dreams are made of! 🙂

I have full scale Bollywood style dreams, complete with clashing colours, melodious songs (which I really wish I could remember after I’ve woken up), and fights and chases. Unlike Bollywood movies, however, my dreams don’t drag on. They have this annoying habit of evaporating just as I am grappling with some existential crisis, and am waiting with bated breath to see how I will work my way out of this one!

Quite often, I get this dream of trying to get somewhere, maybe the airport, my home, an important event, something. And of course, the autos in my dream are true to real life — they refuse to co-operate. They often go the wrong way, I get into a fight about the meter reading, they take on more passengers to my discomfort, and in short, I seldom reach my destination. Actually, make that never.

So, it’s been a pleasant surprise to me that in my latest few dreams, I have not only managed to get an auto, but have also reached my destination intact!

Is this a sign of things to come? Have I been a pessimist all this time, and am now gradually converting to optimism? Or is it a sign that autos in Bangalore are going to turn over a new leaf?

Maybe I’m being a bit premature and jumping to conclusions. I think I should give it a few days, or rather, nights, and see if these positive dreams still persist. I must admit it feels good to wake up feeling as if a mission has been accomplished! 🙂

A Matter of Trust

In my school days, we had a Hindi lesson about a very good and pious man called Baba Bharathi, who possesses a beautiful horse. A notorious dacoit Khadak Singh (if I remember right) desires the horse. So he poses as a beggar in distress, and when Baba Bharathi goes to help him, he seizes the horse. Baba Bharathi stops him, not to recover the horse, but to tell the dacoit not to reveal this incident to anyone, because then no one will ever trust a person in need and help him out. His words affect Khadak Singh to such an extent that in the dead of the night, he returns the horse, much to Baba Bharathi’s surprise and delight.

I remember this story now because in one stroke, Mustafa the rapist has destroyed the trust parents repose in the school their wards go to. Now everyone is suspect, school staff are viewed with a jaundiced eye, and parents can never rest easy.

Not that these things never happened before. How many reports have we read of abuses in government schools? But we haven’t bothered because it didn’t affect our world directly. Now that this has happened in a school that one of our own kids could possibly go to, we are hit in the stomach. The invaluable bond of trust between teachers and parents has been breached.

For all the teachers out there who are striving tirelessly, this comes as an added blow. Not only are they busting their chops to do the rather thankless job of educating the children, but now they have to deal with the entire burden of suspicion. Being a teacher is not easy at all, and my sympathies are with the teachers who try so hard to do a good job.

This incident has made everything so much worse in terms of trust. We learn not to trust anyone, and we teach our kids not to trust anyone either. This does not bode well for the future, where trust becomes a low-value commodity.

What we can hope for is:
a) better CSA education by both parents and the school
b) more stringent checks on staff backgrounds
c) more random checks at school to lower the probability of this happening
d) more accountability from schools for the safety of the children
e) and most importantly, swift justice and stiff penalties for such abusers

As I was remarking to a friend before all this happened, I am so tired of protecting my child from all that is horrible in this world. Sometimes, it feels almost a waste of time to focus on the positives.

But then, that’s all we can do, the best we can do, and what we simply must do, in order to survive, right? Sigh. Some days, existence itself seems rather futile.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The horrible rape of a 6-year old child at school is haunting all of us parents right now. The fact that the child was special-needs makes it all the more terrible. This strikes closer home because we not only know children who go to that same school, but also makes us wonder about and fear for the safety of our own children.

When you come down to it finally, how much can you protect your child? For the record, I do not think our boys are any safer. In fact, it’s much worse given the way we condition them to thinking crying is girly and showing emotion is not macho. So it’s more likely that any abuse they suffer is suppressed more.

When I went to pick up Lil D from school after her after-school activities, the security was tighter, the guards looked more worried, and were trying to verify multiple times that the children were going back with the right people. Lil D was a little perturbed, and eager to tell me the news that the principal had addressed them and asked them not to go out of the school by themselves, or go with strangers.

Let’s face it, our children are not really safe anywhere. Bad things could happen at school or at home, with strangers or with known people, when alone or with friends. There’s no telling really.

So what I sat Lil D down and told her was this.

Bad things can happen anywhere and everywhere. Just because car accidents happen, we don’t stop driving. We just drive more carefully and are more alert. Similarly, bad people are everywhere, but more importantly, in all of her life, she has met so many good people who were not bad. And that is what she needs to focus on. That she doesn’t have to live in fear because something might happen. Yes, she needs to be alert and take certain precautions like not coming back alone in the school bus or being careful when she is out with her friends. But there’s only so much we can do. We can’t stop living because of all the perceived threats.

She seemed reassured and then went off to play. How much she absorbed is difficult to estimate, but I do hope she retains the essence of my message.

My heart goes out to the little girl, and hats off to the courageous parents who brought this to light. Every parent stands with them today.

Karenji Anjaneya

I am ashamed to admit that I had absolutely no knowledge, not even an inkling of this temple!

I am acquainted with the area fairly well, and have always known about Dodda Ganesha and the Basava temples, apart from many other popular ones that dot the area. However, I was quite amazed to be guided by my sister through one of the frequently travelled bylanes, and then be suddenly greeted by this ancient temple tucked away almost secretly.

The main deity, Hanuman, stands tall and majestic, and is carved out of a single stone. Interestingly, there is a small window on the left through which Hanuman looks out at Rama, who is stationed in an adjoining temple built perpendicular to the main temple. Lil D was quick to spot the window and arrive at the correct conclusion, whereas I, more cynical, did not immediately think this was true, until I saw for myself the giant eyes of Hanuman peering out of the window.

Reminds me of the Alchemist. Going all around the world, only to discover such treasures in your own backyard. A lesson indeed.

Thindi Beedhi

The disadvantage of being a local is that all the must-do-must-see things listed about your place are things you never really bother doing, even if it is just a stone’s throw away from your residence. It’s not as if familiarity breeds contempt, it’s actually more of ignorance or plain disinterest.

I’ve been trying to remedy that of late with respect to Bangalore. I’ve ticked off eating at MTR and Vidyarthi Bhavan, admired the Gavi Gangadeshwara temple, taken the Lal Bagh nature walk, done the rounds of Visvesvaraya museum and Venkatappa art gallery…you get the picture.

One of the things on the list for quite some time was Food Street or Thindi Beedhi. Now I’ve been to Sajjan Rao circle many a time in the past, but had never paid much attention to its surroundings. The only thing of note was VB Bakery as far as I remembered. Somewhere along the line, Thindi Beedhi floated from the periphery to the centre of my awareness, and it became a TO-DO item.

This item was finally ticked off recently. A group of us went to Thindi Beedhi, eager to see and taste and tuck in all that it offered. The hype was not at all exaggerated. The place was teeming with food, food and more food. Piping, and I really mean, piping hot dosas, paddus, akki rotis, holige (puran poli), bajji, bonda, masala vada, lip-smacking corn chaats, yummy masala sodas and golas, drool-worthy gulkand with ice-cream…God, it’s making me hungry all over again! 🙂 And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Everything was finger-lickin’ good, and we were sweating not just because of the hot weather, but because we were stuffing ourselves silly! We promised ourselves we’d be back to savour all the dishes we hadn’t been able to taste. There’s enough to go around for at least another half-dozen visits for sure.

The best part of it was that none of us fell sick after eating all that street food.

I’m so glad that there’s a must-see-must-do list. Without it, look at all the good YUMMY stuff I would have missed! 🙂

Pristine Green

The trouble with being a native of the place is that you seldom do the “must-do” things. I have visited Vidyarthi Bhavan just once despite passing it a gazillion times on the way to my sister’s place. I have never had breakfast at Koshy’s (though I’ve had other things ;)). It’s been eons since I visited the Venkatappa Art Gallery. I have, inspite of repeated attempts, never made it to Ranga Shankara. Well, you get my drift.

So last Sunday, in a rare energetic spurt, I booked us on the Green Heritage Walk.

I think the last time I visited Lal Bagh properly was as a kid. My grand-uncle had this habit of inviting the entire extended family to a full day outing at Lal Bagh every year. This included yummy snacks and food, games of all kinds, and general catching up. My memories are rather hazy, and I honestly don’t remember much of Lal Bagh. I’ve been to the nursery a few times, courtesy DH, the gardening enthusiast, but other than that, Lal Bagh has remained a place that I pass a gazillion times on the way to my sister’s place!

Well, the Green Heritage Walk changed that. We set out bright and early in the morning, and Lal Bagh was … CROWDED! People of all shapes and sizes were enthusiastically walking about. Tourists were already snapping pictures posing against the temple (at 7am on a Sunday morning!) This was hardly the peaceful walk I had pictured.

But once we began, it was simply wonderful. The atmosphere was so tranquil, so peaceful, the green was so clean and refreshing, and the weather was just perfect! We learnt so much in those three hours, right from the amazing interdependence of the mighty banyan with the tiny wasp, to the link between the American national anthem and Tipu Sultan. The trees were majestic, with such character, grace, and dignity. I told DH I felt just like I had received new glasses — everything looked so crisp and wonderful.

The breakfast at MTR after the walk was everything we could wish for. Heavy with both great food and newly minted knowledge, we returned very satisfied indeed. Lil D too had a quite a good time picking up leaves and cones and seeds and stuff. She can now identify at least a few trees that grow in the vicinity of our home.

All in all, a good outing that was long overdue.