Friday, 9 January 2015

Je suis Charlie

'Je suis Charlie' went viral two nights ago when France's popular weekly edition of Charlie Hebdo's teeming band of satirists were shot down in their office by two mask-clad heavily armed assassins. 
I have been wondering why the slogan went viral. I mean, sure 'Je suis Charlie' is to show solidarity in a time of great unrest, but why this particular phrase? It could simply have been 'Je suis avec toi' (I am with you) or something else.
It was while I was watching the news last night that I figured it out. 
It appears that before committing the crime, the assassins had access to a certain amount of knowledge. They knew which street to go to. They knew that Charlie Hebdo held its weekly meetings on Wednesdays wherein all the major cartoonists would be present. What they didn't know was the building in which the meeting was to be held. So they went up to building '6' firing random shots asking the question: "Où est Charlie?" ("Where is Charlie?"). Figuring out their error, they moved on to building no '10', the unfortunate building that witnessed the horrific crime. They shot one police officer down, severely injuring the second, before they came across a young artist working for the newspaper. They asked her "Où est Charlie?". She tried to ward them off to the third floor, but on their way up, the assassins figured out that the meeting was being held on the second. At gunpoint, the young lady was forced into unlocking the (otherwise digitally closed) room where the meeting was held. On entering the room, the masked assassins asked one question only : 
"Qui est Charlie ?" ("Who is Charlie?")
The director of the agency who penned his name as Charb stood up, looked right into their eyes as they opened fire at the whole lot of talented artists assembled in that fateful place. 

'Je suis Charlie' is an answer to the question that was asked just before the assassins opened fire. 
'Je suis Charlie' stands for all those who believe that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword.
'Je suis Charlie' stands for those who understand that only humour can defeat violence.
'Je suis Charlie' stands for those who believe in revealing (and relieving!) human folies through laughter.
'Je suis Charlie'  stands for those who believe that the world is a free place, that there are no boundaries, no 'foreigners'.
'Je suis Charlie' stands for those who are against religious extremism.
'Je suis Charlie' is to say I am Charlie and I'm not afraid of you.

Courtesy: Marine_Wood on Instagram
Moi aussi, je suis Charlie.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Wrapping up Christmas

There is something incredibly sad about dismantling a Christmas tree; wrapping up tree decorations and putting them away for the year; seeing a potted plant replace the very area that held the tree.
The emotions are exactly the contrary when you're putting it up. Waves of joy fill up the home, the gentle twinkling of lights hugging the various branches of the tree. Oh the feeling of Christmas!
I wish we could feel Christmas all year around. I'm not talking about the exchange of gifts or all the excessive money spending or binge-eating. I'm talking of the lifting of spirits, the joyous feeling that gets ingrained in every atom of every inch of the atmosphere, the free smiles that go around.
How I long for it every year and how fast it seems to go by!
I wish I could hold on to the feeling and not allow reality to get hold of me. 

Friday, 2 January 2015

New year's resolutions

Hello 2015!
Here are a few resolutions for the year, a few personal, a few professional, a few just blaaah, in no particular order ......
Disconnect myself from Facebook
Analyse all the data of my thesis
Stick to submitting a paper for every conference I submit a proposal to
Exercise more
Write more
Read more

Sunday, 5 January 2014

A tribute to Ms Doshi

1991. Second standard. Seven years old.
Our class teacher Ms Doshi set us an individual craft project to observe Independence day at school. Craft, the best period of the entire week.
Our task was to make the Indian National flag.
Ms Doshi had taught us: the Indian flag has three colours, orange, white and green. There is a blue wheel in the centre of the white strip that must be split into not more than 24 parts. After all, hadn’t we been taught to count?
One rule: no seeking help from parents.
Armed with my limited knowledge, I prepared myself for the task. The end result must have been quite pathetic because my otherwise do-you-homework-yourself mother offered help.
Ready with my flag in hand, I reached class. I looked around. Some of my classmates had made beautiful flags using pre-coloured enamel paper for the stripes instead of colouring them by hand. These had been stuck on beautiful sticks covered with colourful ribbon. Others however, had managed less spectacular specimens. Their flags were made of paper (obviously!) but so were the sticks that were supposed to hold them in place. So every time the flags were held up for others to see, it resulted in a comical flop of the flag and subject for much laughter.
I remember feeling relieved. My flag was simple yet held its own.
Ms. Doshi started by calling out each student, looking carefully at the flag and asking certain precise questions. When my name was called out, I went up trembling a bit. Showing your homework to your teacher and being marked for it is serious business indeed!
She scorched her gaze, right through her rimmed glassed, deep into my eyes, and asked me the fatal question – “Did you make your flag yourself?” Now that I think of it, it was much like Dumbledore asking a question to a Hogwarts student. 
Yes, I froze. So she repeated her question.
“Did you make this yourself?”
What can you do when your teacher's all-knowing, omnipresent eyes look through your soul searching for answers?
You answer the question.
And so it was that I replied, “I… I… coloured the flag and stuck it to the stick”.
“Who helped you?” she inquired.
“My mother” tumbled out the answer.
“And who divided the flag into three rows?”
“My mother, and she drew the wheel too”.
“Students – ” Ms Doshi silenced the class. 
“I have something to tell you”.
I admit, by now, I was shaking quite a bit. 
“Look at this flag. The stripes are well measured, the wheel has 24 spokes, it has been perfectly stuck to the stick. But this flag hasn’t been made alone. This student's mother helped her make it.” Convinced of public humiliation, my eyes made for the floor. By now, every one of my classmates had decided that I was the sole intriguing object in class.
She continued, “Some of you have made better flags, bigger flags but when I asked you, you all claimed to have made the flag alone. This student is the only one till now to have told me the truth. She has done wrong by disobeying me, but I'm very proud of her because she spoke the truth.”
I gaped at her, unarmed, grateful, relieved. Seeing that speaking the truth would not do them harm, a lot of other students after me, confessed to help being given to them.
When I think of that incident today, I’m filled with deep gratitude. I had disobeyed my teacher, opposed her authority. In India, such behaviour is not taken lightly. Had Ms Doshi scolded me that day or had I felt humiliated, I would’ve sought the easy way out the next time and lied. However, Ms Doshi had chosen to focus on my difficulty in overcoming temptation to lie and chose consciously to encourage that.
I do not remember the marks I got for that flag, but I do remember the flag. I do remember that incident, carved deep into my memory. I do remember Ms. Doshi’s kind words and I do remember the lesson I learned that day. Thank you Ms. Doshi for being the wonderful teacher you were to me. 

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

What every child needs to learn today

IF - Rudyard Kipling
IF you can keep your head when all about you 
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools: 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Students' expectations

Here's a brilliant animation on ten expectations students have (should have) from their schools and their learning process. In reality, I'm not convinced that students think with this level of maturity. Do you remember when you were in school? Well, I do. It was a whole lot of nonsense I was made to swallow without having a clue about what I was eating. What did I know about having expectations as a student? Did I even know I was allowed to have them? Well, let's face it, given my way, it would have been one long party for me if I wasn't made to study. Enough of my rambling, here's the video I was referring to in the first place - 

Saturday, 9 February 2013

India hangs Afzal Guru (09 February 2013)

The Gunman
Cowardly soldier
Reached for the bullet’s eye

Common Man
Wretched with grief
Watched my own son die

The Deed
Never undone
Ache we can’t belie

Fair Justice
Whatever be cost
Will be our sole reply

Great Soul
The ignorant fool
Recalling ‘eye for an eye’!

The People
Sightless with hurt
Prepare for battle standby

The Chosen
Pick on a Goat
Appeasing great crowd’s cry

The Righteous
Seek our vengeance
Hanging the Goat thereby