Friday, August 12, 2011

My Childhood - Loose Bloggers Consortium (LBC)

Welcome to the Loose Bloggers Consortium, where Akanksha, Anu, Ashok, Conrad, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Ordinary Joe, Magpie11, Maria the Silver Fox, Nema, Noor, Padmum, Paul, Ramana Sir, Will knot, and I write on the same topic. Please visit the other blogs to get seventeen different flavours of the same topic. Today’s topic has been chosen by Anu.

Whenever I am reminded of my childhood, a sweet nostalgia sets in until my cheekbones are sore with pain from smiling. I was born in a small village in Western India (somewhere in that valley: picture below). At the time my Father was doing fairly well as a property developer and my Mother was a research scientist. A very odd combination for a couple indeed!

Anyhow, eventually they settled in Mumbai, where I spent the first 15 years of my life. My childhood during this period was shared between the city of dreams as some like to call Mumbai, and the small village of my birth. I could not understand this then, but reflecting on it now, I feel glad this happened as it kept my connection with the soul of my country and culture alive. It may not seem like a big thing but it is not at all difficult to experience a severe identity crisis for those who grow up entirely in urban areas. Whereas the time in the city was spent going to school of which I loved everyday, enjoying "urban" activities with friends and being groomed and conditioned by the society to believe the purpose of life to be tangible material achievements; the time spent in the village of my birth would provide me the much needed recluse and solitude. Life in this village was very calm and serene. It was almost like a gateway to the wonderland for me. I could do everything my big city friends couldn't even dream of!

The day there would begin being woken up by the chirping of a million birds and calls of peacocks. The early morning air would be filled with a fragrance which is very typical of Indian villages. It is a melange of dew soaked earth, scent of flowers, spicy aromas from the kitchens and the burning charcoal in clay ovens. The rest of the day would be spent wandering freely without a care in the world with my buddies there, and their activities usually happened to be of a more innocent nature than of those in the big city. Running along the river bank taking the occasional dip in the freezing waters of the early morning, racing to see who climbs trees fastest and fetches that tasty fruit, playing with stray dogs, riding on the horses at every opportunity we could get, chasing monkeys...the list goes on. It was a place where almost fifty odd families lived as a one big family in an incredibly cohesive atmosphere. The children were everyone's children. Whatever little they all had, would be shared with an open heart. I don't remember any of the houses ever having their doors closed, literally as well as metaphorically. It is here that I learnt the most important lesson of my life, that everyone in this world should be treated as our family...humans, animals and plants alike. These people from my childhood gave me just as much love as my parents if not more, although I only saw them only once or twice every year for a couple of months! Their gift of compassion is something I treasure more than my life.

Back in the city of dreams, well, the scene was completely different. Life there could be explained by a simple phrase, rat race. I have always been excessively curious and had an insatiable thirst for knowing things. (That's me with the tongue out in the middle with two of my oldest "city" friends). I used to keep saying to my Mother that I wish I grew up faster, and every time I would get the same reply, "one day you will say you wished you never grew up". I, however, have not felt a reason to say this as of yet. Perhaps I still haven't grown up, as is the opinion of my friends and parents, but if I am, this moment is yet to come. If I know myself well enough though, I am pretty certain it wouldn't.

If my childhood dragged any longer than it did, it wouldn't have been so memorable and joyful. Just as each season has its beauty, each stage of life has its own. There would have been no joy in spring if it weren't for winter; winter wouldn't have been a relief unless it came after the scorching summer. After all, it is us who have given names to these stages in life. The march of change and time is unstoppable. I live with a condition known as Synaesthesia. Essentially what it means is that my brain processes events and experiences in a slightly different way. For instance, it automatically associates quantities with colours, places with taste, and makes me experience time in spacial term and so on. This makes me view any period of time as a vivid multi-dimensional event wherever these events have developed strong associations that have then been embedded deep in my mind. I think it just enriches my experience of reliving my childhood in my memories now. Would I like to relive it in reality though? No. I wish, however, that I am able to pass on this experience to other children, whoever's they are.

The truth is whole, but at the same time multi-faceted. Each side we see is complete in its own right. It is only now when I look back, am I able to appreciate the entire picture in a much more holistic manner. Time is far from linear, and it only takes a slight change in perspective to see this continuity through the different themes of our life as the common thread connecting each experience with the other. The child in us never really dies. We are all curious creatures at heart, ever desiring more experiences, avenues to more fully express our creativity, opportunities to spread love and happiness. That is what children do all the time. They make everyone smile. Time and social conditionings simply add layers upon layers of thick dust on our personalities which make us more and more hesitant to let that child come out and play freely in this wonderful world. All it takes to let this child out is re-emergence of that innocence which we have lost somewhere along down the alleyways of time. Young or old, we are really just children of different age, each group having their own fancy games. Younger ones call it toys and crayons, older ones call it money, work and responsibilities. Most are born without a clue, and most die without a clue. Everything in between usually fades away.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

London Riots, Educational Reforms and Cuboid Watermelons

Initially I wanted to blog about the ongoing riots in London and other cities around England. However, after much contemplation I concluded that as far as I can see it at least and in my humble opinion, this issue doesn't deserve so much attention. Too much attention is what has added fuel to the fire. Solution is simple, just remember that if you spare the rod, you spoil the child! These rioters were only looking for an excuse to steal on a massive scale. The protesting was just a veil behind which they wanted to hide.

Another reason I changed my mind about the topic for today's post is because I came across this video on the blog of Nema (one of our new members in the LBC). You can either watch this video here or follow this link to her blog: LINK

One of the things I am extremely passionate about is Education. This is in part due to the fact that I have personally been rather unfortunate when it came to the quality of "formal education" I received, at least thus far. I believe the current western education system is inadequate at best, and helplessly redundant at worse. This video reinforced my views and gave me yet another new perspective of looking at things. Divergent thinking.

This is a simple thing that our social conditionings make us believe to be insanity. In fact this divergent thinking is precisely what has got us to the heights of technological advances we are enjoying today. Ok we all know that. The point I wish to make goes a little further. Our current education system builds instant walls at every attempt of the child to think in a way which is not accepted as the social norm. It is a different matter altogether that social norms themselves would struggle to justify their existence in face of rational enquiry. Nevertheless, the problem is systemic. As the segregation in schools is based on "physical age", every child regardless of her or his unique capabilities and grasping capacity, gets herded and segregated into the same group and is forced to fit in. Why does our society have this obsession with "fitting in"? I read somewhere the other day, can't remember where, that there was a child who was told from a young age that the purpose of life is to find happiness. When he was old enough to write "essays" at school, he was asked to write about what he wanted to become when he was older. He simply wrote happy. The teacher pointed out that his answer was incorrect, perhaps unsurprisingly, and he should work on his ability to understand questions correctly.

I could carry on rambling forever. To be concise, however, I will cut the chase and come to the point. As I come near to closing this post, I am realising that perhaps there is that link after all between the rioters in London and our redundant rusty education system. This production line manufactures half baked pots which can neither be used to hold water nor to decorate. Their offspring naturally end up confused and messed up than them. Its a sad story. Their empty mind ends up becoming the devil's workshop indeed. This, together with a total lack of positive role models in their community with whom they can relate ends up creating a dung bomb! The inevitable explosion only awaits the right time and circumstances.

I will write more on education later but for now I will end this post with what I feel as a very simple example that illustrates the point of divergent thinking this video makes.

Japanese genius at work! Who would have ever dreamt that watermelons could be produced in a cuboid shape so they could fit in the refrigerator more conveniently and save packaging and transport costs??

Moral of the story: If it takes cubical watermelons to shake the social and academic elite out of their slumber, so be it!

Greetings! :)

Friday, August 05, 2011

Unforeseen Circumstances - Loose Bloggers Consortium

Welcome to the Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where Akanksha, Anu, Ashok, Conrad, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Magpie11, Maria the Silver Fox, Noor, Padmum , Ramana Sir, Will knot , and I write on the same topic. Please do visit the linked blogs to get fourteen different flavours of the same topic. Today’s topic has been chosen by gaelikaa.

Today's topic is very dear to my heart; not least because over the past 22 years of my existence I've become so accustomed to these buggers we are glorifying as "unforeseen circumstances" today, but also because of their incredible consistency, persistence and determination to keep recurring and eventually making me so fond of them and attached to them in a sense, that I start missing them when they stop occurring with their usual frequency. Also, I can't discount their entertainment value and the opportunities they give me to laugh at myself. Despite all this, I still have no idea what will follow in this post. I have no pre-decided plan or plot. What you shall read is freshly picked, but not necessarily ripened enough to suite everybody's tastes.

I remember an incidence from about 3 years ago. I had a painful molar for a long time before this which I was ignoring. It just so happened that once I was eating a sandwich of whole grain bread when one of the grains managed to dig a hole through the tooth's cap (maybe why they are called w-hole grains!). As a result, in unbelievable agony and excruciating pain, I was running around like a headless chicken trying to find that one kind dentist who wouldn't mind treating a patient on a Sunday afternoon. It doesn't stop there. As a student on a shoestring budget and meagre wage, I only had a third of the money that I would have to pay to get the tooth extracted. It most certainly was the "between devil and the deep sea" situation for me. Credit card saved the day only to be sucking my blood like a parasite to this date. However, it taught me a very important lesson - recognise problems early enough and don't delay in nipping them in the bud before they are big enough to be a problem. I would also go ahead to say that every single such unforeseen circumstance in my life thus far has reinforced this lesson.

Analysing such unforeseen times in my life as well as lives of my close friends and family, I have come to realise that there is a common pattern underlying them. They serve one great purpose, of keeping us alert and on our toes and tend to strike only at times when we relax. I believe and I feel most would agree that our mind is at its sharpest and most focussed in dire situations where an immediate solution is the only way to peace. Connecting all these things together, I feel that such circumstances in fact serve a much greater purpose, keeping our mind alert at all times. This gives it that edge of the sword which is sharp enough to cut through the darkest and thickest layers of ignorance and foolishness. It opens doors to wisdom and gives us a different perspective of reality which is otherwise hidden from us. They give us the ability to think around the corners and agility to be able to manoeuvre around them safely.

I have a strong faith that nothing is useless. Everything happens for a reason and all events in life, no matter how big or how insignificant, have their rightful place of honour in this master play. Everything is interconnected and interdependent. We can't escape fate which is one thing, but even events and incidents in life that we perceive or indeed experience as sad, unwanted, disappointing or similar are all important for our all round organic growth and spiritual development. They all teach us something. It is up to us to appreciate the beauty of these unforeseen circumstances no matter how much havoc they create. A storm may destroy a city, but only to allow creativity to flourish once again and rebuild it just as grand if not grander. At times such circumstances may make us feel like a victim, a prisoner of our fate. However, death makes way for life; indeed life is born in the womb of death. The circle always completes and nobody can trace its beginning or end. I always get a rather obvious and expected reaction whenever I say this to anyone. Most people say it is easier said than done. Most certainly it is. I for one though say this from personal experience. Having had my world literally shaken to the core and having seen all that I hold dear perish in the mighty winds of fate over the last few years changed my life more than ever before. It was in this desolate hour that this sudden realisation brought a smile on my face and it is still there. I simply wish that everyone look at the downs and the sorrows of their life from another perspective. Its dead easy. We simply lack the will due to our conditioning that it is inappropriate to find happiness in sorrow. Life is a paradox after all, not all is what it seems like. Answers are all around, if only we have the courage to ask those difficult questions.