Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Sunday, January 28, 2007

seva yatra

today is the seva yatra day.

some of the youth we work with had done this amazing exercise in ahemdabad during diwali. the report and the experience was written beautifully here.

based on this, we are doing a seva walk here in mumbai today.

watch this space for more updates.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007



Chalthe hue miltein hain raahon par kai mod
Kahan, kidhar, kaise mein chunoon
Kyon, kab, kis rastein par mein mudoon

Manzil hai tai, par rastein hain bechain
Har koi raasta, deta hai bulaawa
Sweekar kaise karoon, har ek ka ishara

Kaise bhi ho, muskhurate hue chalo
Aate hai chauraahen, jaate hai chauraahen
Apnaatein humein, kholkhe apni baahein

Zindagi ke safar mein hum sab akele
Har saans, har kadam hai sirf apna
Hoton se har pal, Khuda ka naam hai lena

Monday, January 22, 2007

raag darbari

have always been a light music fan with a major thing going for rafi and ilayaraja.
of course, i love most other 'legends' almost as much.

while growing up, home exposure was limited to ms's suprabatham in morning, plus carnatic music kutcheris, chitrahaar on DD and minimal stuff otherwise.

was during college, that i moved to recorded music in a big way !!
with neighbours being main source, i added little bits of western music to my repertoire.

through all this, i was never in tune with hindustani music. very little bits here and there.

since this week did 2 things which i never thought i would, but did nevertheless.

rahul sharma at the banganga festival 2007 and ustad amjad ali khan last week.

ustad did 2 own compositions which i could not relate to at all. sound quality was also not that great. strong metallic timbre to the sarod strings.
he must have got it fixed it during the break.

started post-interval with raag darbari of tansen miyaan.
at a many levels, i connected so strongly, i could hardly believe. the tunes and taal all sounded very familiar to old tamil songs i could not put my finger on. but through the aalaap and the composition and the tabla solo, i was transported to rafi/raja zone.
sublime experience.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

ambulance service

during the final year at college, i had my dad's bike and hence was a cool dude!!
but it was very handy as an ambulance service. i can recollect at least 5 trips to the hospital for admitting dosts.

i also extended my health work, when in a very serious case, i rode the ambulance with a friend who had, in a fit of desperation, poisoned himself. pretty scary. but he survived, thank god and god bless him, wherever he is.

was getting off the train today, when the women ahead were signalling for the driver to halt and a general sense of commotion.
a women had fainted and was being dragged out of the compartment. i little bit of chaos as junta congregated. she was with her mom, sister and son. all 3 were distraught and weeping.
moved into 'control' mode. checked her pulse, was ok (i mean, it was pulsing). her eyes were wide open and very dazed.
immediately called up the office and tried to get a clinic/ambulance number.

they gave me a number of her husband and talked to him. he did not want to send her to the govt hospital (my first suggestion). also as she has recovered a little by then, it made sense.

got the nearest clinic address and rushed her there. doctor was leaving and i had to use my selling skills to get her to look at shehnaz.

general weakness as she was having a malaria treatment. i could also make out that she was anaemic (as most women per reliable sources).

doctor was a good lady and i kindly thanked her.
gave them some money to buy medicines and take a cab and get home.

mom wanted my address to repay. i used nipun's 'pay-it-forward model' speech :-) it is a splendid concept. oprah uses it!

it doesn't take much to help one another. just needs someone to start. that's how it will ripple out. lets never forget to look out for our brothers and sisters.

Friday, January 19, 2007

safai fauj and kindness chain

it is my usual practice to pick up litter whenever i am in school. and usually there are zillions of bits and pieces. sometimes, some kids join me in the act.

some kids, in fact, protest saying that this is not my job (aap mat karo). i would usually remain silent, smile and just gesture them to pick up and hand over to me. which happens a lot.
some of them would take it up to join in the act.

sometimes lessons are taught in silence and sometimes without planning to at all.

yesterday was a 'different' experience'.

after the break, where the kids have a 15 minutes non-stop physical workout - skipping rope, playing catch, basketball. it is a release time which helps them to focus back when in class. very nice routine.

after this break, the open area has enough bits and pieces strewn around to fill up a small trash can.
i was about to embark on the pick up scheme, when 3 girls from the top floor school were playing ball with their bags. just simply chucking it around. i caught up with them and gently enough explained what the bags contained and to play ball with a real one. poornima, reshma and sonal were sheepishly grinning the entire time.
gently shaking my head, i started picking up the pieces of litter and all of sudden the 3 girl fauj took over. sudden burst of energy and enthu like i have hardly seen. it was like the amazing race . i would pick up and they would relay from my hand to the trash can. truly stunning to see them laughing and just having a blast.

i remember having said at some point about 'our school and our responsibility'. they made me realise my message more than i could ever have done on my own.

dug into my pocket and la voila, exactly 3 toffees (seriously not making it up). they quickly grabbed it and rushed out.
one way out, one of them picks up one stray piece and skips to the bin and tra la la...

and i keep hearing about how these kids are 'useless' and 'incapable' and 'dirty'. well the naysayers time will come!

later in the evening, was in a saloon (of the hair cutting variety). while waiting for my turn, i waited for one boy, who was done, but was taking an inordinate amount of time to pay up and get off.

dawned on me, that he was on crutches and was semi paralysed waist down.
while trying to get off, his right leg got stuck in the foot rest. the barber was helping him from the other side and could not see the problem.

quickly i got his leg out of the gap and he got out onto his crutches with the barber helping him. i resumed my seat just watching.

out of the blue, the other barber asks, "is he with you?". i nod "no" with a smile.

incredibly, the boy, who gave me a sweet smile on his way out, was helped by everyone in the saloon (except the guy whose face was lathered up) in the shop till he exited onto the pavement.

as i took my place on the hot seat, AIR FM started their 'old classics'. wah, wah...brilliant round off.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


some weeks ago i decided on some things which i have been pushing back and procrastinating on.
1. i will pursue a masters in education in 2008
2. i will look into teaching at a rural setting (mostly an university) once that is done. and this will be part time, say 2-3 months a year.

nice to get those off the mind and be ready to prepare for them in due course. that also meant that the aim to be close to a rural development setting is taking shape.

couple of other things also were here and hereabouts and i had been dithering over them.

probably as a result of the momentum and other related developments, made some other moves on life.
A. the experience with playing hockey has been quite a startling (not entirely, actually) revelation on my fitness. i remember the first game, when i was out of legs and breath in 5 minutes of running. was more guarded in the next 2 matches so that i can last the entire game.
need to get 2 things done.
1. start a regular fitness routine
2. get a full exam done. fixed for february. been over 7 years since the last time i got a health check up done.

B. went for a basketball tournament last night. seeing live flood lit game after 13 years. awesome experience. i was almost giving a running commentary of the game. the game has always fascinated me, and the years of playing and watching has certainly left a lot of the technical aspects well rooted in me.
it has been a dream of mine to coach a team (i wrote "my own team" to start. high on ego). from children to adults.
now it is time to move on with that dream.
am going to start reading up on the finer aspects of coaching and starting with kids etc. the theoretical aspects. have to figure out a place to start this and of course a group of kids too. and of course a head coach to train under.

see how B fits into A. all part of a continuum.

its happening, right here.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007



what was an interesting game of hockey has nicely spilled over into life as well. that is while writing about the game on this blog, a realisation on how i lived/acted/reacted was forming. many similarities.

however a gemini i may be, there cannot be disparities on how i behave on the field and in life.

keeping this in mind, wandered into an ATM. as usual, tore up the receipt and absently flung it into the waste bin. bits of paper seized by local eddies and currents, spread into confetti and litter around the bin. obviously many other aspiring paper-propellers have tried and failed at this very same experiment.

confetti strewn around the bin as if it were enjoying a victory parade. ironically, it was losing because it was being used ineffectively!!

bent down and slowly picked up the pieces and made the bin win (unintended).

place looked neat and nice now. got up smiling and then proceeded to arrange the slips and pins and assorted ATM stuff neatly in their slots and places.

no one to watch me do my seva bit. that's perfect, isn't it. no crowd pleasing antics, right.

reached home and spent a long conversation with friend. all these thoughts gushed out like a unhinged faucet (i know they are unrelated, but sounded nice together). laid as much i could on the table, like a surgeon with his tools before a complicated surgery. to summarise, an new coinage to describe these acts and thoughts and the driving emotions with 'herogiri'.

lightening of the mind, enlightening of the mind...

to do more safai hereon.

attempted a 'fiction' writing style (in case you did not get it :-) ) using inappropriate metaphors.

Monday, January 15, 2007

temper and travel

sunday was the day of csm's 3rd hockey match with the boys. the team is playing in the 4th division league and csm joined into the team in december.
this was meeting one of csm's ambitions to coach kids as well as for getting much needed exercise.

younger csm was quite the sportsman, and learnt much from the field as much as from the classrooms. the fighting spirit and 'dont like to lose' attitude stems from hours spent in competitive sport.

for the past 2 matches, csm has been a pain on the field.
without complete buy-in yet, csm takes over central command shouting and screaming plays and moves and what not. half time and full time sermons followed, much to the consternation of some of the boys. though well intentioned, csm's delivery style sucked. and certainly none of the boys would tell.

incidentally, the 2 matches played were heavy losses to vastly superior teams. that surely had hurt the 'winner' in csm.

woke on sunday with 2 desires:
1. to get the boys to win.
2. to change on field and off field approach and coach with positive intent. no ranting on field.

surprise surprise, the opponent is absent and the team gets a walkover. full points. desire #1 met :-)
then team spilts into 2 teams to make good use of time to get well needed practise. splendid game played with lot of vigour and pace and goals.
csm was a nice boy through the game and made a lot of good plays.
temper under check completely:-)
desire #2 also met. boys were in great spirit after the game.

have a really tough next game. csm needs to maintain the temperate force. keep working on it.

while going through the day, csm was only using buses and trains. with little money in the pocket, it was a unplanned situation. but the feeling was supreme. csm always surrounded by people. smiling a lot at all junta. spending 10% of normal travel costs.
will do more often. saves on petrol/diesel/cng as well. good for the environment

such little things make such a nice impact. lage raho csmbhai :-)

this post is deliberately written in the third person as an experiment in differential writing.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

expt 5 - living in impossible times

was scheduled to make a presentation at a b-school as part of our placement/recruitment plan.

while our traditional ppt format is quite eye-catching and impressive, i felt that it really was insufficient to push people with such a background into careers with dvpt organisations, more so as teachers!

while mulling this over, a speech i read over a year ago flashed past me. it is a speech titled "living in impossible times" made by nipunbhai in sept 2004.
i must have read it many times a year ago and read it again many time yesterday. it is brilliant.

so the plan was to read out this speeh at the start of the ppt.
while going through the speech over and over again, some parts of me were awakening. i took a print out and made 3 of my friends read it. i read it out to one more.

i started the speech with a "namaste to my brothers and sisters". as against a regular "welcome ladies and gentlemen", this change was from a clarity obtained from the content of the speech.
and many more minor behavioural/interactional nuances.

also many nice remnants from the earlier experiments. smiling a lot on the road, in the presentation.

i am going to stop numbering these experiences henceforth. there is no reason to and there is no expiration date. it is now a way of life.

Addendum: The response from the audience was quite special. Everyone was certainly very engrossed. They spontaneously applauded. I left the URL links and details with them as many wanted to get their hands on a copy. Thanks Nipunbhai :-)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

elementary education - budget stats

just a rant.

was checking out the 2006-07 elementary education site and the budgets and expenses till date.

while the major items are on track (fairly simple like if they were paying salaries on time etc), there are some budgetted innovations which are non-starters.
1. literacy campaigns
2. ncert
3. ICT
4. integrated education for challenged children
5. access and equity
6. vocational education

obviously with arjun and his madarins (sic) from mhrd have been busy with the reservation mess. what can we even expect from a bunch of senile goats (apologies to goats). clearly indicates that the govt is willing to let things slide further into the morass.
the whole details is line item "Scheme Wise statement of Expenditure for 2006-07"

Friday, January 12, 2007

expt 4 - thanni adikkarathu

title in tamil means 2 very different things.
1. to consume alcohol
2. to pump water

mean the latter, of course.

life growing up in a water scarce city like chennai always made us ultra careful on usage and wastage.
one of the daily morning rituals was a father-son bonding at hand pump, where over 1-2 hours (depending on the whims of Metro Water), we would would do rapid arm exercises while filling up the large tank.

in a water surplus (in most areas) city like mumbai, life is more easier for the middle classes and above. water-on-tap is really a nice luxury.

the upbringing has always meant that i am careful with water. but as you would imagine, the luxury seeps little by little into the system.

went today early to a small village near karjat (ladivli gaon). was meeting a group of village women over a project for our students in the summer. the meeting was at a hanuman mandir, right outside of which was this hand pump with 10 or women with assortment of pots and pans.

moved right into the zone.
didi - let me pump.

i thought, 25 or so pots to fill, piece of cake !

so started with quite a vigour and kept going.
this cute girl after say 10 pots done, asks - "bhaiyya, are you not tired?"

twinkling i say, "do you get tired while playing?. (i have to stop answering questions with questions). if you have fun doing anything, then you can overcome tiredness."

in all this time, the number of empty pots never seemed to diminish. a la akshaya patra.
i completed at least 30 pots, but there was still an equal number waiting to be filled !!
they were coming in such small trickles that i could not keep track !!

what a significant part of a village women's life is spent around water gathering. came back to me again. and these are the lucky ones who have a pump right in their village. thousands in rajasthan and gujrat trek miles everyday for a measly 2 pots. 'right to water' should also be fundamental...what is life without water anway.

arms aching now. must have been at it for 15 mins or so. in my youth at my house i could go on for 45 mins. but this is:
1. a larger pump
2. lower output
3. older csm

was relieved soon my a friend. really solid workout for the arms :-)

half bucket baths, recycling wash water to water plants, closing drippy taps: all memories came back flooding.

promised myself to be frugal, avoid wastage, talk to kids (that was coming, right!).

expt 3 - cops night out

on new year eve-new year gap, i went out on this walk to soak up the atmosphere of revelery and joy. i was not planning much as part of my usual stay simple on new year's drive!

suddenly this thought crossed me, "what about the poor". does this day mean anything at all. all the joy is wasted if it is not 'universal' ! (lets not get into that part yet).

and as far as i could see, i could hardly see any 'poor' person.

but i said, "mate, this time you light up smiles on this day".
so went and got some chocolates and put them in pocket deciding to give it to any one i felt needed a cheer with warm 'happy new year'.

was a brilliant experience, an old amma from ulundoorpettai (near my place), balloon sellers, road site workers, udipi thambis. all their reactions made it a special day.

back to present.

thought, why not do it again.
stuffed pocket again and entered the station. thought about distributing in the train.
1. too crowded
2. distributing sweets on trains is a strict no-no :-)
3. felt too much under scanner

then bright idea. all stations are now staffed by 2 cops at least on each platform. great way to thank them for their work and wish them well. they are usually at the receiving end of brickbats.

first 2 were superb. one overjoyed and shook my hand earnestly and his partner was 'whatever'. i was even telling them to throw the wrapper in the trash can!
then one lone ranger, who just lit up the dim over-bridge with this quintillion watt smile!

then 4 security guards at a building site. they waved as i left them with their eclairs.

a group of women and kids at a corner. could not avoid them. gave the kids first. all squirmed deliciously where they sat with vekkam (shy) faces.
then the women said, "what about us?". "of course, "why not". wished them all. sweet mate.

last stop at a naka bandi. bunch of 10 or so huddled around. stepped right into their middle and wished them all and one eclair for each. i even clapped a cop on his shoulder on exit :-)

last 2, i gave to my taxi guy. it was one of my rare silent taxi trips. but more was said in the last 1 minute of our exchange.

simple things make such an impact. i am sure that it is only simple things that can make such an impact. so there.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

expt 2 - urban debt and khan chacha

poverty is a tough quicksand. education is one strong antidote. thats one of the beliefs i hold true to my heart.

in my best knowledge, majority of families in urban settings are in debt. and sadly through loan sharks.
10% is the MONTHLY interest, i.e., Rs 100 of loan will result in Rs 10 per month as interest (Rs 120 per annum - 120% rate of annual interest). once a family is in this web, there is no respite and rare exits. families then take the only route, borrow from another to pay of another and the web expands.

so how hard is the struggle when one is battling through this quicksand with the antidote.
very very hard. needs little explanation.

so i resolved sometime earlier to help one such struggler with a soft loan. a simple one time help to wipe out all earlier liabilites. for me it was a 'no brainer', though there is a larger picture of 'why this family only?'. i let them rest.

so yesterday was on way to make the 'transaction'.

so khan chacha was my taxi driver. was irritating at the start. going to a fairly well known place, he kept asking me directions at every turn.

somwhere midway, the conversation blossomed.

csm - where do you stay?
kc - shivaji nagar, mankhurd.
csm - own vehicle?
kc - no chance.
csm - where are your from?
kc - ahmednagar.
csm - since when in mumbai?
kc - since british times. am over 70 now.
csm - arent you too old to be doing this?
kc - useless boys and greedy wife? majboori hai (no other choice)

he talks a bit about his sons and wife. one son is a vagrant and the other has married and moved on separate. he also tells me about his family economics and how he manages with the taxi.

kc - saab, dont mind, you know women, they only want 2 things, daulat aur paisa (wealth and money)
csm - arent they the same thing?
kc - yes. they are.
csm - (bulb flasing) oh, ok....but thats not entirely true. i understand your experience and position, but dont agree.
kc - only telling you from my own experience
csm - dont you have daughters? they usually are more caring than sons.

this is where i was stunned.
kc reached into his pocket and picks out a snap. he, his wife, daughter and his 2 grandsons. pretty family snap.

csm - nice, where is she?
kc - she died 2 months back.

holy crap.

csm - allah!! how? what happened?
kc - stomach pains. admitted in hospital. they hardly fed her for 10 days. neither husband or in-laws paid attention and she died.

screwballs. how unfair life gets.

csm - the kids? who takes care of them? you see them?
kc - father is there. i can never step into their house. they treated my girl like a servant (chal jaadu laga besharam, kutti ki aulaad....sweep the floor you shameless sonofabitch). how can i ever see their faces again. kabhi nahin (never).

i really am struggling for responses now. my questions dry up. he is obviously hurting and i am thinking aarula valayathathu aravathula valayathu (tamil saying....what doesnt bend at 6 will not bend at 60).

csm - chacha, choti mooh badi baat (free wisdom from youngster), love is the only solution. the more you give the more you will get.
kc - i know (with resignation). but have no one to love.
csm - you do. you just have to do it with those right next to you.

no response. journey ends. i alight.

csm - thank you bhaisaab. khuda haafiz.

went around the community and spent time with some families and talked to the kids. there is so much love and affection. at the same time there is so much negativity, fear and rage.
can sense the former while being in a house and talking to people, can feel the later while just loitering.

i do smile a fair bit, but i resolve to do it more and more and especially while loitering.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

expt 1 - my teachers

spent 2 hours presenting to a bunch of teachers who will be graduating this year as part of our new recruitment process.

zeenat, one of the students, said that she became a teacher because of couple of her teachers who really made a significant difference in her life. it struck me as such a powerful reason. it so much is in sync with the 'be the change' philosophy.

during the presentation i made several points on the importance of a teacher and the varied roles they play in the life of the child. i felt that i did a fairly decent job of getting them to look at being a teacher in new light.

on the way back, zeenat's statement stuck onto me like a persistent itch.

while in office making the report, my thoughts went back to my teachers. so many people who taught me so much. i never even once contacted them in 16 years since i graduated.
went to the website, and a sudden surge of memories from those times. scratched hard and got down 15 names. i nailed almost the entire lot, i am sure.

wrote a long email thanking them and all the staff of the school.

felt really happy.

it is so nice to say 'thank you'. (reminder to self - please do more often)

Monday, January 08, 2007


ss and me tried a connection experiment in march 06.
was a really fantastic time.

nipunbhai is THE 'connnector'. and it was on his idea that we embarked on that trip.
it was a really stupendous feeling.

it is now 10+ months since we did it and time is knocking our doors again.

jan 9 onwards, we are doing it again.

we have a new partner in crime to make it a 'threesome'.

will keep this blog updated.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Nayi saal

Nayi Saal

Nayi saal sabi ko mubarak
Ek naya din, ek nayi raat
Khushiyan hi khushiyan manayenge
Nayi khulenge raaste beeshak

Nayi nayi kasamein khayenge
Pichli sab kasmon ko mitado
Abhi naya nayi ka hai zamana
Aise hi nayi saal ko manayenge

Chodo kal ki woh baatein
Bahut ho gayi hai puraani
Aage badaayenge hum kadam
Kasam hai sachchi jo hum khaatein

Naye ka tu mat karo intezaar
Har subah har shaam hai nayi
Nayi har suraj aur har chaand
Roz kasam khao, lagataar

2 Jan 2007