Category Archives: Childhood

Peek-a-boo!

A little boy
bundled up in his layered,
light-blue, balloon jacket
leans against the navy brick wall.
Legs apart, arms stretched,
leaning backwards,
his face turned upwards.

The sun peeks out,
from the bleached clouds.
He laughs aloud, runs towards
the bright sunlight and squeals
“caught you!”

And to humour the tyke,
the sun dances into
the nearby clouds.
And when it peeks out
after a while
the boy laughs,
runs forward – once again.

In that moment,
I swear that the sun
twinkled just a bit brighter.
The wind blew with a whoosh
joining in in laughter.

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Filed under Childhood, Inspired, Life at University, The world around me

Old Tales

There’s this tale one of my grandmothers would often reiterate. She’d say that whenever we ask a question of life; the answer comes to us in our sleep and stays by our side till we figure it out. As a young girl who obsessed over fairy godmothers and guardian angels, I found it soothing. I embraced the idea of having a clearer line of communication with life than just hindsight. So none of this was new to me or surprising when my meditation teacher reinforced the same belief. She as well as my grandmother however, failed to inform me how annoying it could become when you don’t comprehend the message.

For a while now, there’s a song that will pop into my head completely unanounced. I could be completely immersed in whatever I’m doing and before I know it, I’m humming. I could be walking about aimlessly, and there it is; acting as my most faithful companion. There I am, talking to someone and it’s twirling around in my head. I hadn’t heard it in forever and then one day, when I wake up in the morning, it’s all I can think of. And I don’t remember having asked a question of life. So it’s akin to you seeing a big red circle around the date on the calendar and having no recollection of why you put it there. But you know it’s crucial…that’s what the red circles are for. So you think, really hard about everything that you possibly could have found urgent. And then you ask all the people who you think might have an inkling. When no answers come forth, your search becomes more frantic, less effective.

So before I became completely inefficient, I took a breath to ask for the message to come to me in another way. For life to atleast give me an additional clue. But I don’t see it coming, and I don’t know if the song will somehow abate. What I do know is that when I tell my young ones the story of how life communicates, I’m going to emphasize on how much of it feels like a puzzle. I’m going to reiterate that when you’re not completely ready for the answers you seek, they do come to you, but perhaps they’re in a language you are yet to learn to speak.

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Filed under Childhood, Introspective, The world around me, Things that confuse me

Sleepyhead

Sleep laden eyes,
sluggish movements.
A lazy smile on her lips
while her head bobs
from side to side.

Lost to the world,
unadorned of wiles.

She has never been more beautiful.

Inspired by a video of my aunt’s niece who fell asleep while listening to nursery rhymes. Every time her head would bob to one side, she’d shake her head and pop it back up on her arms. Repeatedly. While sleeping. Much cuteness. 🙂

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Filed under Childhood, Image Inspired, Poetry, The world around me

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

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Before I started with this book, I had heard of Neil Gaiman in passing and was unacquainted with his body of work. Yes, I was living under a rock. I’d read various articles on various forums about his brilliance and I’d added him to my list of ‘authors-to-read-sometime-in-my-life.’ Now that I think about how long it took me to pick up one of his books, I am surprised by my stupidity. Before I delve into the world of Lettie Hempstock and our 7-year-old protagonist, let me be done with my disclaimers. This was my first Gaiman and I had little idea of what his work was like. I’d heard his praises but I’d never even read the blurb of any of his books. I also have very limited exposure to fantasy and magical realism in literature. With that out of the way, let me begin…

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a book I picked up when I was going through a book slump. I’d looked through various books on my shelf and while I wanted to read all of them, I didn’t feel the connect to pick any of them up immediately. But something about a girl floating under water, breathing out and seeming to reach above the dark, royal blue waters had me marveling at the cover. It’s rare to find such beautiful artwork on a book cover these days. To say that the cover spoke to me would be a cliché and yet, that is precisely what happened.

I hadn’t read the book blurb before starting the book and went in with no idea of what to expect. The book begins with a ‘Chapter 0’ before the prologue and this ‘chapter’ was barely a hundred words and I knew I wouldn’t be putting the book down anytime soon. The voice of the narrator was etched out clearly and precisely in a mere hundred words. I kid you not; I cannot get over this flagrant display of masterful writing.

In less than 200 pages, Gaiman has managed to create a magnificent childhood story with supernatural creatures, a wonderfully described pastoral setting, the fight between shades of grey, the emotions running through the mind of a young boy and wisdom of the ages encapsulated in the brain of an aging grandmother. He has also added in a subtext of how all evil is a manifestation of our wants.

I enjoyed Gaiman’s portrayal of a lonely, 7 year old boy and his quaint friendship with Lettie Hempstock. I loved how he described Old Mrs. Hempstock and Ursula Monkton. It’s easy to forget the tone of your protagonist when describing things that happened years ago but never once did Gaiman fail to make it sound like the little boy was talking to me.

The story flowed effortlessly. There wasn’t a single line of text that I felt was avoidable or fluff. This was crisp, clear, and very condensed. I enjoyed reading a 7 year old boy’s easy acceptance of magical moments and his incredulity at the mundane, non-magical experiences. This book had its moments of solemnity and levity but both were sparse and merely peppered the incredibly fast paced narrative. Watching the Hempstocks deal with the evil creature and their interactions with the narrator as well as each other, one could almost feel a sense of normalcy amidst the chaos. I was frequently left smiling at their dialogues.

This book is a recounting of a childhood adventure that was forgotten by the narrator until he revisited it. But under this pretext, Gaiman has offered us a wonderful opportunity to make the journey from our adulthood to the remembrance of our childhood. This entire story seems to reiterate the futility of the human mind to remember past occurrences and it makes me wish I’d started writing a journal years ago. I wonder just what memories lurk within me that are “obscured under the things that come later…but are never forgotten for good.”

To say anything of the story would be tantamount to giving away crucial plot twists. I will however quote a passage that shows off Gaiman’s writing prowess in the hopes that if you’ve been living the same rock I was, then this passage will urge you to turn it over and read Gaiman.

“I saw the world I had walked since my birth and I understood how fragile it was, that the reality I knew was a thin layer of icing on a great dark birthday cake writhing with grubs and nightmares and hunger. I saw the world from above and below. I saw that there were patterns and gates and paths beyond the real. I saw all these things and understood them and they filled me, just as the waters of the ocean filled me.
Everything whispered inside me. Everything spoke to everything, and I knew it all.”

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Filed under Book Review, Childhood

Why School Means The World To Me

On wednesday, I’d gone back to school due to work. I met a few of my old teachers and it sent me on a spiral. I realized that for all the stories on this blog, a very prominent one was missing. That of me. How I came about to be. I’m going to start putting out my experiences as a pre-teen. And this is just a very raw, completely undedited start to it.

I’m not even sure I’ll edit any of it. I still don’t have the slight detachment needed.

Word Count: 1200.

 

I still remember my first few days in school vividly. I’d shifted from the hustle and bustle that was Calcutta to a laid-back place like Jaipur. At the age of 12, I’d seen the insides of more hospitals than I cared to count and I’d spent less time with my mother than with every other member of my household. I hadn’t been fond of communicating. I always talked nineteen to the dozen but, I never communicated my needs, wants or fears. I’d learnt to accept that mum and dad needed to take care of my ailing brother and that being a baby about it wasn’t an option.

My parents loved me dearly. In hindsight, I can now understand their pain in having to leave me with my grnadparents and aunts because their lives revolved around hospitals. But back then, I wasn’t so understanding. I wasn’t very accommodating either. In my eyes, they’d left me coz I wasn’t important enough. And now, for their personal reasons, they were uprooting me. As a result, I didn’t want anything to do here. I didn’t want to go to school or even try to be nice.

My first few days in school were intimidating. I’d joined mid-session and friendships had already been formed. I was the new girl from out of town with a strongly accented Hindi and really fluent English. I was the girl who couldn’t fathom the joys in visiting historical places every weekend. I was the girl with the strong opinions or the one who already knew most of the syllabus, coz she’d studied it last year. And pre-teen years, in an elitist school in a tradition rich city, can be harsh.

Back at the beginning of the new millenium, the city had very few children specific places. We didn’t have good eateries offering multi-cuisine food at all. I know Indo-Chinese is a different cuisine but Jaipur had its highly ketchup-ed and lemon juice version. From a city where we had computer classes and activity outlets at every corner, I had been shifted to a city where all I could see was tradition. Books became my solace. And yet, it was impossible to source good books.

At that point in time, I didn’t think my life was going to get better. I didn’t think I would ever learn to like any aspect of this city. But then, I went to school. I did make friends, but it wasn’t easy. It took my friends a long time to figure me out but, I’m glad they did. We’re still going strong so…I’m going to hazard a guess and say that we did good. But even before I made friends, I found loving, caring, kindred spirits.

If I’d met just one teacher who touched my life and made it bearable, I’d have a very short story. And my life wouldn’t be what it is. But I didn’t meet just one. I didn’t meet just two either. I met a hoard of them. Somehow, in that expansive school with a million students and unending classrooms, I found people willing to look into me.

I often found my librarians wondering why I’d always sneak into the library. I’d devour books like they were the only thing keeping me sane. I’d lug tomes off the shelves and sit with a dictionary and immerse myself in literature. And if I’d missed a class or two, they were kind enough to pretend to not notice. They offered me a sanctuary. Even today, everytime life seems to crumble around me, all I have to do is sit surrounded by books.

I had teachers from all departments, teaching all subjects, play a very pivotal role in shaping my life. Fortunately for me, I remember my first encounters with all of them. Right down to what I felt, what I was doing, which school building we were in and what they said to have carved a place in a very stony heart.

I don’t think I was a very easy student to deal with. I was naughty, really talkative, outspoken, opinionated, extremely irritable and with a very very short temper. If I was really ticked off, I was completely capable of excusing myself with an excuse and not returning to class. I was also extremely inquisitive. It didn’t have to be on the subject matter being taught. If it was of the topic, I’d ask it. And surprisingly, my teachers didn’t end up making me stand outside the class all day. You see, it was surprising because everytime I’d been unable to do my homework or was late to school, it was because I’d been running around a hospital and hence, I was itching for a fight. I was itching for someone to tell my parents that I was horrible and needed to be sent home.
They never did that you know. They didn’t even know about my ailing brother or anything till I was in senior school. So I know that when they overlooked my behaviour and focussed on something only they could explain, it didn’t come from an understanding of my issues or pity. It came from them being them.

And that is why school has always been this place that I’m extremely sensitive about. Everything they ever tried to teach me runs around my head repeatedly. You know, everyone says teachers affect changes in futures and that they help you to evolve but I honestly cannot say that. For me, they created a future out of a very bleak present. They sculpted a person out of a glob of clay which hadn’t had a chance to be moulded by her parents. And so, whenever I go to school to pick up one of my cousins who is now a student there or to visit; I’m not just nostalgic about the times spent with my friends. I’m not just nostalgic about my pranks or my past. I’m overwhelmed by how much of an effort the teachers made with me. I miss classes and I miss extra classes where I’d carry poetry by Christina Rosetti or Tennyson and my teachers would patiently help me grasp their beauty. I miss the creation of me from absolute scratch. And nostalgia seeps in much after I’ve left school and returned home. For when I enter those hallways, I feel like the lost little 12 year old who had no clue what she was getting into.

Even today, when I walk into school and I see teachers I recognize and they recognize me, I don’t just feel happy that they remember me. I feel grateful that they took the time to look past a really prickly exterior to my angst.

They say that one shouldn’t crave for approval or being remembered. But somehow, I can’t seem to do that. When I meet my old teachers, I want to hug them and tell them exactly what they said to me that changed my life and then I want to gush and expound on all the circumstances where their teachings brought me accolades. But instead, I become the same 12 year old I was. Really talkative, barely communicative.

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Filed under Childhood, Introspective, Prose, Reminiscing

Bunny & Mrs. Binka

This is a continuation of the story of The Bunny in The Closet. I was going to complete it for a Children Fiction Contest but…the story seemed to have too many inconsistencies. Nonetheless, I’m going to complete it here and edit it later. Hopefully when I have kids to read it out to. My new little sister might just love them. 😀

Mehak and Navya fed the carrots to the bunny, tucked him into the laundry basket and left the flashlight on so that the bunny wouldn’t be scared in the dark. Then, they closed the door carefully and listened real hard at the door to see if they could hear any voices from inside. When they felt certain that no sound was escaping, they skipped down the stairs and because it was bedtime, Mehak went home.

But, neither Navya, nor Mehak could sleep a wink that night. They were so excited.
The next morning, Navya wouldn’t let her mother help her with getting dressed. She didn’t want her mum finding the bunny and sending it away. So she dressed herself, packed her own bag, huddled the bunny into one corner of her cupboard so that it couldn’t come out and rushed down for breakfast.

Once Navya and Mehak reached school, they told their friends all about the bunny and how the parents didn’t know anything about it. However, since school was starting and their teacher, Mrs. Binka, was very stern, they rushed to their seats and waited for school to get over.
Aditya slipped Navya a tiny scrap of paper, unseen by Mrs. Binka. She was a stout old lady with really weak hearing and yet, nothing ever escaped her attention. Everyone secretly wondered she had some sort of hidden sensors! She always managed to catch the children in the middle of their pranks.

Navya hid the scrap in her textbook and sent a prayer up to heaven. She didn’t want to be noticed today. She hadn’t done her homework. If Mrs. Binka noticed her being naughty, she would be punished horribly. She moved her eyes ever so little to determine if she would get caught. At that moment, Mrs. Binka was turned towards the blackboard with a chalk. This is as safe as it’s going to get. I wonder what was so important to Aditya. Maybe I should read the note now. Navya slid the paper out of the text book and read it quickly. “ I have a plan to save the bunny?” it read.

Navya looked up to see Aditya smiling. She felt relieved. Hiding Bunny from her parents had felt like such a rotten thing to do. Besides, it must also be scared, being in the cupboard all day long. And, if she got caught, she could pretty much kiss her idea of having a pet goodbye!

During lunch break, Navya, Mehak & Aditya huddled under a tree in the playground and waited for Aditya to tell them his plan. But Aditya was enjoying all the suspense and he ate his food very slowly so that he could delay telling them.

“Come on now Aditya, out with it. You know how worried we are! What’s your plan?” Mehak wailed impatiently.

“Yes Aditya, it’s awfully horrid of you to tease us so,” agreed Navya.

“Well, it’s not a big plan really” said Aditya. “Mrs. Binka always lets her class keep a pet right? So all we have to do is go upto Mrs. Binka and ask her to adopt Bunny as our class pet. We could all take turns taking care of him. Everyone in class will have to take care of him and Bunny won’t be sent away. We’ll get to play with him everyday in school. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”

“Ooooooh that sounds good! We’ll get to keep Bunny!” Navya couldn’t stop clapping.

Mehak hugged Aditya and they all decided to talk to Mrs. Binka right before class started.

So, all the three friends went up to Mrs. Binka and told her about Bunny and requested her to keep it. Mrs. Binka was very happy with them for being honest and she decided that she would like Bunny as the class pet. She asked Navya to bring Bunny to school the next day.

And so, on the next day, Navya scooped Bunny out of the laundry basket, snuggled him into a blanket, plopped him into her backpack and took it to school. Mrs. Binka took one look at Bunny and decided that he was a very nice little pet and so, Navya, Mehak and Aditya got to save Bunny.
Everyone in class loved Bunny and took good care of him. He ate and slept in his cage during classes and played with the children during playtime.

And oh the adventures of Mrs. Binka and the Bunny! Well, there was a new one every evening when she took him home.

The End.

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Filed under Childhood, Prose

Nostalgia

The same steps,
and clatter
but
someone else’s stomping feet.

The same class
and teachers
but
someone else sat in the seat.

The same foibles
and mischiefs
but
of someone else’s cheek.

The same fears
and hope
but
not the same dreams.

I’d walked back in time
and yet,
it wasn’t the same
as it seemed.

This post is inspired by my recent visit to school It was a beautiful day and a memorable experience, but…for all it’s perks, there was a tinge of saddness that I’d outlived my time there.

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Filed under Childhood, Introspective, Poetry, Reminiscing, The world around me