Growing up

Growing up in life, I have heard a lot of adages. One of the things my dad used to say whenever I demanded things, just because my friends had or did, was — “If your friends ran and jumped into a well, would you do the same?”

I wasn’t bold enough to tell my dad this but I thought — “Of course. I have intelligent friends. If they’re jumping into a well, they would surely have good reason to do so.”

I think, growing up in life does not happen overnight. But it happens so gradually that you often don’t notice and from a person who’s at the receiving end of advices, you’re one day giving advices.

But some incidents in life (like this one), some peculiarly insignificant, makes you feel that you’ve grown up a little. In a moment’s passing, you feel you’re no longer the person you were just an instant ago.

One such, inconsequential incident occurred during my school days. While young, we were taught to be respectful to elders (sometimes to a fault) and admonished if we weren’t — so it was rather unusual to have youngsters argue or talk back.

Public buses on some routes were always full and getting a seat meant you had to hurry to be one of the first to board it. Many buses have a wider middle door with support bar in the middle that acted to split the crowd — people that alighted from the bus took one side and the ones getting on, took the other.

I remember hurrying and being the first, waiting for the door to open. When the door opened, I stepped inside and got irritated that a middle-aged man entered from the other side of the bus door blocking people from exiting. This caused mini-chaos. I turned to the man sharply and demanded why he did that. He replied saying — “So what? Everybody does it.” To which, I promptly, as if I was waiting for this moment to occur all my life, replied — “If everybody runs and jumps into a well, will you also do it?”

The person felt insulted and I realized I had done something that wasn’t expected of a person my age and froze. I quickly found an empty seat and sat. In that moment I had grown up a little. I realized I could question people when they’re wrong, irrespective of their age.

Now, after a dozen more years of growing up, I’ve realized that questioning such stupid people is of no use. Reminds me of a quote (allegedly attributed to Mark Twain) — “Never argue with an idiot. They will bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.”

Oh, the person from the bus did say something back to me along the lines of — “Hot blood. You’ll know better when you grow up”. I listed it down as another adage. *shrug*

Body-Parking!

During my school days, I was fortunate to have heard many experts speak. The school management would arrange for eminent personalities to speak to the students about once in a month or so. I’m not sure if the practice still exists, but I opine it should.

We however, were more interested in playing than attending those sessions, and would find every way to escape from it. But we were forced to sit through them; I’m happy and appreciate it now.

I don’t remember all of the speeches I’ve heard, but some of them have etched themselves into my memory. I remember hearing an ornithologist speak and how he and his team managed to save a rare species of owls which were hunted down because the villagers thought they brought bad omen. I remember a social worker speaking of how important “Ahimsa” is and why we should practice it. I remember an eminent cricketer speak on how he would like to groom the future cricketing talent and urged us to join his cricket coaching camp.

I remember hearing a talk on how we remember things and little tricks on how to build a story around a series of events you wish to remember. I remember hearing a talk about superstitions and the speaker also debunked many of them giving scientific explanations. I remember hearing someone from ISRO talking about the Indian Space program and how it had succeeded in many ways. I remember a drama workshop in which we were made to sing, dance and jump around.

In many of the posts I write, the title hardly makes sense until you’ve made it half way through the article, and yes, this is one of those posts. I first heard the term body-parking in one such talk sessions during my school days. According to the person (unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, I do not remember names), body-parking means the idea that your mind wanders off elsewhere while you park your body physically where you are present. He used the term to describe students who seemed uninterested in his speech.

We are all “guilty” of body-parking some time or the other – in meetings, boring parties, during travel, or even on that occasional rainy Sunday afternoon. I say guilty because traditional thinking describes body-parking as a bad thing. You aren’t mindful; you aren’t concentrating. But I feel, body-parking is a necessary process of creativity. You have to think beyond your limits and boundaries, only then is it possible to think of something new. Writers, artists and musicians would agree with this. They usually live out of their bodies.

This reminds me of Sir Ken Robinson‘s description of university professors. He says, university professors live inside their heads all the time. They consider their bodies to be a vehicle for their brains, nothing more. In that sense, these university professors are perpetual body-parking entities. See, not a bad thing. (If you haven’t watched any of the talks by Sir Ken, you definitely have to!)

So, do you park your body often and let your mind wander?

 

English – In my life

I love English for two reasons. One, because I can express myself better in it. And two, because its a funny language. Also, it is probably the only language whose speech accent changes every few hundred kilometers almost everywhere in the world. In India, it probably varies with every person!

I took to liking English early in my school days, when I was in the 4th Standard (about 10 years old). I have to thank my teachers for making the lessons that interesting to me. I remember my 4th Standard English teacher Mrs. Samyuktha Devi, who also taught us History in the 6th Standard. I have no clue where she is now. Only thing I know about her is that she moved to Australia. Then came Mrs. Shylaja; she was a very good teacher too. Taught us English in the 6th Standard. The real passion for writing developed in me when I was in the 9th Standard when Mrs. Chandrika Ravikumar was my teacher. She was amazing. She requested for a special hour every week from the then Headmistress (Mrs. Leelavathy Gururaj) called the creativity period. We got a chance to showcase our talents during that hour every week. A few sang songs, displayed paper craft and we even had a play that we performed within the classroom. Oh, that was a lot of fun!

I wrote poetry and stories and read it out loud to the class. The poem ‘The little soul‘ was the one I remember reading out to the class and getting praised for it. 😀 And then, the story was titled ‘Mysteries of Vreen’ – which was very much influenced by my reading of ‘Secrets of Droon’ by Tony Abbot. I used to write a little for every week and it was read out in the class. A few months later, (after my 9th Standard) I stopped writing it; I felt guilty of copying the idea from another story series. Anyways, it did help me write better.

I did write more poems; some silly ones. And when I was in my Pre-University college, I started the ‘Warriors of Might and Magic’ (title tentative) which is yet to be completed. There was also a few other short stories and essays I wrote – which I hope to put up on the blog sometime. And about the same time, I started this blog, which at first was a collection of jokes and e-mail forwards; so not much of creative writing involved. But since about 10 months (see archives), I have changed it to my personal blog. And ever since then, I’ve learned a lot about writing too.

And that’s the history of English in my life. If you have such histories, do share it in your blog, or comment here. I’m sure some of us who studied English as our secondary language would have. 🙂

Things are looking better.

The huge row at college seems to have quietened a little, with the principal asking us to submit apology letters signed by our parents. Seems really silly and I feel like I’m being treated like a school kid. But this probably what I get for playing like a school kid at college! 😛

Wonder why are all principals short-tempered?!

The Greatest Insult

‘Insult’ isn’t a very hard word to define. In fact, its easy to describe it when you insult; and easier when you get insulted. Formally, insult can be defined as: a rude expression intended to offend or hurt. This rude remark may not be deliberate, but 90% of the times, it is.

For me, insult means something different. Something that is inside you; rather than the effect of a remark made by someone. I define insult as an attack on the ego. And as a direct consequence of this attack, there is anger, humiliation, embarrassment, and restlessness that gets developed. These feelings, many times end up putting a person on a tensioned spring, awaiting to pounce on an opportunity to get back even with the insulter. In short: revenge mode. Apart from the direct effects, insults, especially to kids, mean discouragement, deprivation of hope, a lapse of confidence, and also a big reason for disheartening and dispiriting them.

Instead of delving into the philosophy of an insult or ego, I would present an incident that happened in my school days, but before that, this was how I was at school:

I was a person who gave more importance to knowledge rather than the marks that my report card reflected. The marks or grades that I obtained at school did not affect me at all – be it high or low. When many of my friends (especially girls) wept because they lost 2 marks, I used to laugh at them; I would have lost 10 marks! I used to get irritated and amused at the same time when sometimes my friends (specially girls, again) wept inconsolably for obtaining 98 out of 100! I would be over the clouds with marks like that!

Anyways, coming to the incident that I was going to narrate to you: this happened on the eve of my 10th Standard results. We got our results over the internet on the previous day. I had obtained 90.08%, which is pretty good; though I knew I could have done better. But like I was, it did not matter to me. Next day, I went to the school, all happy and smiling. The first teacher I met was my favorite teacher. She was my English teacher in 9th Standard; the one who had praised me before. I happily told her my result percentage and waited for her to say something. I expected a word of appreciation, or even criticizing me not to have performed even better. But as fate would have it, the greatest insult actually came from my favorite teacher! She said: “You surprised us all, Manoj”. I was dazzled for a moment and blinked at her. The sarcasm in her voice hit me so hard that I still remember the incident. I still don’t understand why she expected me to get lesser marks. I was so involved into what she said, that I don’t remember what I replied to that.

Sometimes, when I look back into all the incidents that had happened in my life, I wonder if I had lived life assuming that everyone around me *liked* me and was comfortable with me. And sometimes, I wonder if I’m still living life that way…