Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dead Letters

This was written as a guest blog post for a friend's blog.

And none will hear the postman's knock
Without a quickening of the heart.
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?
~W.H. Auden

An aluminium letterbox hanging inconspicuously near the electricity meters…an address book in my shelf…my writing pad and my favourite Parker…the post office opposite my school…the 5-rupee Indian postage stamp with a picture of a Leopard Cat on it…my Camlin glue stick which I wouldn’t go to school without…bits of paper…memories…Dearest Anu…

At a time when teenage turmoil had thrown me into consuming confusion, these letters were paper boats that stood the roughest storms and delivered me to the shore. At a time when the flock around me was alienating me, a few birds chose to take me under their wings and helped me fly higher than ever before. At a time when most were becoming frogs in the well, I found bits of paper that fluttered in with perspectives of different worlds…each a Hitchhiker’s Galaxy…each a small universe on its own…together they formed my universe, a world where I thrived and grew from a tender bud into a sunflower…a sunflower that found sunlight streaming in through the white pages…

Over a course of 5 years I received plethora of letters in envelopes of all shapes and sizes – small blue ones, long white business envelopes, khaki envelopes, pretty Hallmark and Archies envelopes…over time I learnt to recognize the hand-writing on the envelopes and know who had written to me just by looking at my name through the dirty glass window of the letterbox…over time I realized who had enough time to sit and write a letter to miles-away-me and sign it off ‘Affectionately’…over time I found true affection through that dirty glass window…

I learnt more through my letters than through all of my textbooks…I debated about the existence of Neutrinos, heard the latest buzz from colleges in Chandigarh, learnt how to recognize embassy cars and about life in Saudi and Japan, learnt how to write my name in Arabic, had a peep into the cultures of Lakshadweep, Manipur, Goa, Pondicherry, the Andamans and many such states in India, poured out teenage angst in my letters and learnt how to deal with those crises, I grew up with some of these friends – through school, through junior college and college - without meeting them more than twice in about 7 years yet relating better to them than to anyone else around…I found true friends through the India Post seal…

I was 16 and just out of school dealing with the novelty of college when my father suffered kidney failure and was in the hospital for days together. For the first time in my life I was afraid that I might lose him, I was lost having to pretend to be brave being the elder child and yet longing for someone to hold me and let me cry. When the friends around me heard the news, I do not remember anyone even keeping a hand on my shoulder just to say that they were there…and then I remember two of my far-away friends sending letters by express mail offering comfort, relating similar experiences when one of their parents was in a bad state of health and how they dealt with it…they called frequently to check how I was doing and I was able to stand tall in that period of my life only because I had my friends backing me irrespective of where they were on the map. I owe them more than they know and their letters have been the pillars of my life…it was a time when I found strength in fragile papers…

Today, with the intrusion of e-mail and instant chat, I keep in constant touch with these friends…yet, in the flurry of HRUs and BRBs, I miss those days when I used to be up till 3 in the morning writing letters, drafting and redrafting my replies, sending and receiving pictures and Christmas gifts, saving money to buy the best paper cards to send to my beloved friends and preserving the ones that they had sent…I miss being down with cold and fever and fishing out old letters to read as pastime and feel warm…I miss craning out of the balcony at 3 PM to see if the Postman had come and running down to my aluminium letterbox as soon as he left to see if someone had written to me…and I miss the words…Dearest Anu…

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

To The Blogger In All Of Us

This video by Vineet Rajan is dedicated to the blogger in all of us...I am the Blog.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Spring-Summer Collection 2008

I have stayed in one of the hottest cities in India for most part of my life looking at primarily Deciduous vegetation. So although I've had a glimpse, I've never really experienced Spring in the true sense of the word.

Bangalore gave me that pleasure…of witnessing spring. Where was spring last year? Or was I too busy and blind? Anyway, right now Bangalore is blossoming boisterously and everytime I look at the trees, it fills my heart with the same ecstacy as the trees.

Here's Bangalore's very own Spring-Summer Collection 2008...

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Secret Garden

Text of the speech delivered at the Toastmasters Area 6 Speech Contest on Saturday the 1st of March, 2008.

It is not the sap within the furrowed bark,
Nor a wing attached to a claw,
But rather a garden forever in bloom
And a flock of angels forever in flight.

So said Khalil Gibran of Beauty. Truly, a well-tended garden, like any other thing of beauty, is a joy forever. And maybe it is this pursuit of beauty that prompts many of us to take up gardening, to take the pains and nurture a plant, to see our efforts bearing fruit.

There are some gardeners who give their plants only the basic supplements like sunlight and water. They do not prune the plants or till the soil too much. They let nature take over. The plants in turn struggle initially but soon find their foothold and learn to thrive without needing the gardeners. They grow with minimal nourishing but without any shape and direction. If there are leaves lying all over, the gardeners may or may not clear them. They let such fallings rot and that becomes the manure. Such plants can grow in any environment but they seldom respect it since they are busy devising survival strategies…they are so self-absorbed. A wild beauty pervades such gardens. They are another form of the woods and forests – detached and by themselves. In the absence of the gardeners, they seek solace and camaraderie in the birds that flock them to make nests; they find family in the wind.

There are gardeners who spend ample time in their gardens everyday. They give the plants copious water, superior manure, sometimes imported and a lot of care. They pare down the plants at every chance, a little here, some more there, at the side, over the top. They turn the soil frequently. They keep the plants truncated so that they are manageable. Hence, such gardens never come around to providing any shade to the gardener even after years of nurturing. Such may become puny and start withering or languishing at the first lack of the manure and pesticide they are used to. They seldom survive in any environments other than their own. They become completely dependent on the gardener and he revels in this fact. The gardener’s presence is all too obvious in such gardens.

And then there are gardeners whose plants are allowed to grow on their own but are pruned when an abberant bud is seen. They are given decent manure at well-placed intervals. Pesticides are sprayed only when there is a threat of disease. The soil is tilled after interludes too. Such plants grow tall in the right direction and are shaped beautifully. They need the gardener but not incessantly, only to give direction to their growth. They are well adjusted and respect their environment as well the gardener because they are dependent on both for balanced growth although they are more or less on their own. Such gardens exude beauty and enough care. They make the gardener’s home beautiful and provide requisite shade later in life. Such plants are the neighbour’s envy, gardener’s pride.

I have never belived that our children can be likened to globs of clay. That sounds like a one-time job…you can’t keep moulding clay forever, it will dry up sometime and will have to be baked, and sooner not later.

I believe, children are like plants and we are like gardeners. So then, let us also not let them loose and let them grow wild lest they don’t need us anymore, lest they don’t care for their surroundings anymore, lest they have no shape and direction in life and grow wild with fallen leaves all over our garden.

Let us also not smother them with our care and let them get used to only particular things that we think are best for them, let us not supervise every leaf, let us not watch or condescend every move they make lest they start withering no sooner there is a dearth of the best manure and pesticide, get pruned beyond necessity and their growth is stunted.

Let us allow our plants to reach the heights they deserve but prune only when an anomalous bud comes out. Let us allow them to get diseases, make mistakes and stumble and fall; but let us be there to then spray pesticide, bring out the lesson in their mistake and help them get up and stand strong. Let us let them be, let them sway in the wind but also let them know that we are there for them, lest they need us. Let us bring forth beautifully manicured gardens that are things of beauty, with trees whose shade we can relish during the sunset of our life.

What can we give our children?
Knowledge, yes, and honour too,
And strength of character
And the gift of laughter.
What gold do we give our children?
The gold of a sunny childhood,
Open spaces, a home that binds
Us to the common good…
These simple things
Are greater than the gold of kings.