The Soul Purpose

Brought to thee
The stories that have
Countless stories within, the Self knows.
Who knows what’s more?

Smelt the magic of the rains—
The petrichor. Though,
Drenched, lost, drowned is
My conscious, helpless Self, to the core.

The evening strands of gleaming light have
Your fragrance, or am I
Afloat the love unbound?
Don’t bother bringing me back ashore.

The chirping of birds.
The rustling of leaves.
Thoughts that come and go.
A rhythmic lore it is, I am sure.

Turned orange, the evenings, again.
Silently mourns my soul.
Wilfully nervous, it tells me.
Could oneness with You be any pure?
©Suyog Ketkar

Harvest

When the scorching gusts of heat
Fade the tears in your eye,
Recite the songs of the Spring,
Believe that seasons change, ask not why.

When circumstances are bleak,
Your bivouac is left far behind,
Choose what you must—
That let me not remind.

When without the trails
Should You journey barefoot,
Seek sojourns within a companion
In whose heart you could stay put.

When You, and only You,
Represent souls in the strife.
Look within as much as without.
Surely, the only rule of life.

When the days are few
You count each one anew
Amidst the hellish weather that
Destroys your crop that’s but already few.

Remember, always, to stand tall
And present the challenges a full face;
That You are your own harvest:
Be that befitting reply; and the one with grace.
©Suyog Ketkar

Speaking with Kids in English? Here’s Why I Don’t.

The following conversation happened recently between the Class Teacher and us:

The Teacher: As part of giving Spruha a comprehensive learning experience, please talk to her in English at home.

I: Well, we do use English words and phrases in our conversation. But, mostly the conversation is in her mothertongue. Why do you stress speakinng with her in only English?

Teacher: It will ease our communication. She must become habitual of the language. After all, she is going to use it for the rest of her life.

I: I still fail to understand the importance of speaking in only English?

Teacher: Spruha will soon graduate out of this preschool. For her ease of learning, you must speak to her in the language that schools these days use. In most cases, they compel all students to use English, which is why I tell you to speak with her in English.

I gathered my thoughts and spoke:

I: Language is of sound importance in the first five years of anyone’s life. But, no language except for her mothertongue will help create a bond between us and her. While I certainly get your point, I find it largely impractical on my part to teach her English before helping her communicate fluently in her mothertongue. The critical part is, she must learn to communicate, and not merely speak.

Teacher: I see your point. I just wanted to tell you that schools expect certain things.

That’s when Shambhavi eased the conversation.

Shambhavi: I know what you are saying; even I have observed the same thing. But, I also see from where Suyog is driving his point home. We’ve seen people try to speak with thier kids in their own [usually annoying] versions of English the moment they see us speak with Spruha in English. People feel overwhelmed by this self-assumed responsibility of speaking in English the moment they see someone else do it out of plain habit.

We all chuckled. Then, Shambhavi added.

Shambhavi: There is also a common misconception that speaking in English makes people appear sophisticated. Basically, Spruha has to first learn to respect her mothertongue. And then, any other language. Let’s just say, we will teach her Marathi; you teach her English.

The long conversation deservedly followed an almost-equally long pause. We assume that we convinced the teacher on our point of view.

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Given that pretext, let’s get to today’s conversation. As a learning facilitator, I’ve been itching to write on this subject for long. For kids, getting to express themselves is the foremost thing to learn. But, if that’s the case, and I believe it is, why do I see an increasing number of parents restrict their respective kids—toddlers, in some cases—from using any other language in [almost] all public spaces if not for only at their homes? Are they all snob? Many bothersome questions like these underpin this post.

 

 

In India, dealing with “English” matters in public is still a matter of pride—for those who speak—and amusement—for those who don’t. Typically, when parents speak with their kids in English in public places:

  • Some people desperately try to ignore thinking that it is in fashion nowadays.
  • Some just walk off. They mentally call you an angrez (Angrez is in Hindi for people from England—or any other English-speaking nation).
  • Some feel scared. They even try to compete by faking an accent; never mention their grammar.
  • Some feel low on importance. This category will usually begin speaking a bit louder. Yes, in a common language, like Hindi.
  • Some ask the Hindi version of, “Goes to an English medium school. Right?”

7583954880_IMG_1739Aside from such funny situations (and people), this is a learning lesson for me. Let me be specific: there is a visible gap between those who use English out of habit and those who [try to?] flaunt it. If they still do it with the sole intention of helping their kids learn a new language, I can still buy their argument—so long as they don’t advertise it. There are countless reasons, such as North India-South India divide or that two people may not understand one another’s regional language.

But for the most part, most of us do it because they fall prey to a sort of social pressure. Yes, you guessed it right: the same social pressure that makes us think that one language is superior to the other and the same social presume that makes us feel that, eventually, one degree (like the Medical or Engineering) is superior to the other vocational courses. It is still a huge statement to say that some of us see kids as kids, and some, as report cards.

Let us help our kids learn to respect themselves. Let us help them preserve their core. Etiquette and skills can (and, certainly, do) follow.

🙂

Between Then and Now

Then, I loved brushing my father’s thick facial hair,
Which, I was pranked belonging to my grandfather
And which my father had stuck on his face.
Now, a part of my daily schedule
Is my own beard that equally isn’t few!

Then, the miniature me, for whom,
Everything looked big and formidable.
Now, I laugh that nothing
Is neither so shocking
Nor so ignorable.

Then, the unpaved trails to my home
That I loved to run around in glee.
Now, all I do is smell the hometown
On the shores of the workplace,
Hoping peace to alight on me.

Then, the biggest small HOME
That was more than enough for four.
Now, a HOUSE that’s big enough for eight,
In a time where
Living together is only in folklore.

Then, the wounds that healed
Way before the pain was felt.
Now, the scars of countless stories,
Not on knees but on heart,
You know, all that is left.

Then, the little me,
Who crouched behind a chair,
Waited like stocking a prey,
Now, staring at the lurking fortune,
Would the game be any fair?
©Suyog Ketkar

She’s that Inspiration

I usually keep my feelings to myself unless I wish to write about them. Whether good or bad, this habit of writing looks like one that’s here to stay. Also, I cannot wait for another year to convey her what I feel for her: the person in context, my maternal grandmother.

It is easier to decide on your inspiration than to become like one. I, however, am finding it hard, for I have a little too many of them around. The trouble is, I can and do learn from each one of them with every passing day. This post is about the one who’s each day is a happy-sad challenge in her now salt-and-pepper life of intermingled experiences.

She is from an age (read era) where women were hardly considered powerful enough to have full education let alone running a family competing with husbands on the salary part. But, credit must be given where deserved. She has led her family well enough after her husband’s departure in 1976.

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From the Second World War, India’s struggle for Independence, and the 1965 and 1971 wars, she has stood firmly beside by maternal grandfather. But, after these hard phases, the worst ones for her have been losing her family members—first husband, then my father (in 1993), and then her son (in 2011). In January, this year, she brushed past death after a series of heart attacks (two of Mild and one of the Severe degree) in a single day. On one occasion, doctors told us later that they couldn’t detect her pulse for as much as 10 minutes.

In April, she turned 88. But, if only that was enough for her to think that she needs to stop working. She still does everything on her own, which I find amazing. Did I tell you that she performed stage shows of Violin in the past? And that she learned to play synthesizer about 10-12 years back and plays it every day since then? She reads a chapter from Bhagwat Gita every day and has been doing that for as long as I remember. In the process, she has learned all the shlokas from all the 18 chapters from the epic.

If that is not enough, cooking interests her. So, she takes mental notes from the cookery show on her favorite television channel. Then, she experiments in the kitchen to prepare that for all of us. Yes, even today. It is because she thinks that the ready-made clothes don’t give her the required comfort and fitting, she stitches her own gowns that she usually wears every day.

Here is my message: We are and will be yours. Why this message? That too, after four months, you may ask. I don’t need an occasion to write about Aaji. You are an inspiration for people. But, you are much more than that for your family. I have come to conclude that if old age were to add numbers to people’s lives, it added wrinkles and stories to yours’.

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The thing is: experiences disguise themselves as sometimes scars and sometimes as wrinkles. But they leave their marks on all occasions. And then, you don’t remain the same anymore. In the same sense, people are no more than wrinkles in the fabric of your life. You can iron out some; but, some just don’t go. They are there forever. They make you. They remain a part of you. You are as wrinkled a fabric as them. Have a healthy life ahead, Aaji. Your wrinkles and stories are a part of my fabric. They make me who I am.

Pretty. Simple.

It is easy to say that time flies. It is still easier to say that we wish it to stop sometimes. But, it is way harder to be in the present and still give the warmth of the limitless love to your child, who you see growing before you. But, it does feel like it was yesterday that she was born to us. Spruha turns 3 today.

Shambhavi and I envy each other for playing gopikas that compete for the love of Krishna. Just that the roles are reversed in this case: Spruha is Lord Krishna, we are the gopikas. From the tiny pink fist that wrapped around my thumb for the first time to the everyday hug that I receive when she sprints toward me as I get back home after work, there is so much more to this story than I can ever share. Here’s that poem for Spruha:

The silence in my speech was
Recognized by many.
But, she could recognize
The speech within my silence.

Each day, the sunrise sprinkled the magic
Of beaming glory through countless windows.
The happiness that gleamed to me was
However, from those sparkling eyes.

What contrast lies between Her and I.
For she is happy with even broken toys.
And the pains of a broken heart
Are visibly excruciating to my eyes.

It must be the contentment
That drives the smile.
For she knows that her feelings are
With us and not toys that beguile.
© Suyog Ketkar

What Writing Means to Me

At first, I wanted to compose this post as a poem. But, that would mean another poem on my blog. And, I have had a little too many poems on my blog within the last one year. This, in one way, diverges from the original contemplation on writing. But, wait. I don’t wish to begin this post with a negative thought. That’s is how much writing means to me.

My writing is my ambassador to you. It means so much to me because it is how I express what I feel. Usually, I don’t speak much. Yes, for a lot of my friends, I am an out-and-out extrovert. But, deep within, I am an ambivert who leans, in fact, toward introversion. My words convey what I can feel but can’t express, can see but can’t report, and can write but can’t speak.

Writing is my textual meditation. It is the way I introspect. Just like one must close their eyes to see within themselves, one must pen their thoughts to sieve through to the core. The clearer they think, the clearer they write. And, the other way around. My writing is my soul disguised as words.

Writing for me is like composing verses in prose. It is a melody. A song. There are sentences of all compositions and lengths. Some are long. Some, longer. A few, like this one, shorter. True! The long and short sentences convey the long and short of it—and everything that lies within—to the readers. Mentally listen to yourself when you read varying lengths of sentences. It sounds good. Good, because it is rhythmic. Good, also because it means that the melody is as important as the messages conveyed through the melody. My writing is a lyrical composition that I can hum, listen to, sway along with, or fall asleep to.

Writing is like a mirror. It is that sense of contemplation that adds a dimension of meaning to reflections. It isn’t only the reflection of oneself, but also a cause to reflect onto oneself. Writing is that catalyst without which the inner and the outer selves don’t equate. No reaction, whether it is chemical, is ever complete without a word of thought. It is that skillful, scientific art; it is that masterful, artistic science.

Writing is that folklore that records, refers, and rekindles life. It is that act of play where you are both the actor and the audience. Writing is both the pen and the ink that scribes your acts, with or against your will. It is both the cause and the outcome of your performance. It is also the background score that amplifies emotions without your knowing.

To me, writing is the means, the medium, and the end. It is as nameless, formless, and transparent as water. It originates with a spurt, from within. When it begins to flow like a stream of thoughts, it seeps and snakes through people’s minds, one after another, finding its way to you, who after traveling for miles has got down on their knees to enjoy their glittering reflections. When it flows from my heart to yours, it becomes a burbling river. When it becomes an ocean of emotions, you can watch it hug the limitless skies at the horizon and experience it wash-off the rare conch shells of revelations to the shore.

The most rewarding writing, however, often trickles down your cheeks as pearls of love. What does writing mean to you?

On Writing

I was amused, for what I had mused
Was either horribly bad or terribly wrong.
Then it dawned on me that Bad Writing is a rite
For the Good Writing to come just right.

I was devastated, for my thoughts were void.
Was that block my departure from my being?
Then it dawned on me that I mustn’t quit;
For it to pass, I must unconditionally submit.

I was clueless, for I had lost directions.
Were things leading me into the unknown?
Then it dawned on me that I mustn’t disgruntle.
I must ask questions. Seek answers. Rediscover.

I was seeking to rekindle imagination.
To cover more than covered, to rediscover that fire.
Then, it dawned on me that I mustn’t rekindle,
Smoldering afterthoughts sometimes bear more than fancied pyre.

I then went back to the stories untold,
Read something that I tucked under memories, and had never let unfold.
Made that cringe-worthy crap a subject of my Wrath.
And, decidedly strode toward the desk to create gold.
©Suyog Ketkar

What a (Father’s) Day

From what I recall, this is only the second time I am writing sometime on Spruha, my daughter. Here is what I shared on her some time back. The time I get to spend with Spruha is in a stark contrast with my wife. She, as a homemaker, gets to spend more quality time with Spruha. That’s why I enjoyed Father’s Day celebration at the Nurture Preschool, Gachibowli.

The event focused on dads getting to spend some quality time with their respective kids. I was the first one to arrive. It was nice to watch Spruha play with toys and skim through colorful books in her class.

Soon after a lot of fathers had come, the facilitators asked kids to assemble at the entrance. The kids welcomed us with “Happy Father’s Day” plaques and pom-poms. I enjoyed that Spruha accompanied me to the event area. Some kids weren’t in a mood for the event—the usual cute thing with kids. Others, like Spruha, were cool about the event.

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The management introduced us to the event proceedings, and then we took pictures. Here’s ours:

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Then, the kids danced on a song.

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After the song, the school conducted a one-minute competition. The kids had to pick up one straw and run to their dad. Then, they would tuck the straw between father’s fingers and run back for another straw. We enjoyed this a lot. I even volunteered for a kid whose father could not come. The kid won. This kid was smart. He could pick and tuck 19 straws in a minute.

Then the most-exciting event followed: painting dad’s t-shirt. This confused Spruha because back at home, rules are different. We don’t allow her to paint or draw on walls and clothes, amongst the other exciting stuff. And, here she was free to decorate my tee with her modern art. But, she did a good job in the end. I will make her draw on it some more, sometime later, and then wear it to my office.

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Then, it was the snacks time. Some fathers might have found this to be the most difficult. But, we all managed to finish on time.

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The event concluded with some learning, a lot of fun, and a thank you note from us all.

As far as my memory goes back in time, I don’t recall participating in any such event with my father. This event was special for me for that reason, too. I can’t thank Spruha enough for this. But, I can express this by showering her with my already limitless love.

Time flies. Especially in case of kids who outgrow your lap too soon. It seems only yesterday that she was born. But, I am glad to see her grow into her own personality. Too early, is it? I don’t know. What I know is that my love and care will remain unchanged. Well, typical father.

Between Varnas and Insights Discovery

My contemplation on a day-long training I attended—it was an Insights Discovery workshop—inspired me to write this post.

To tell you the truth, I can reveal the learning from the course in one line: introspecting the self, while respecting the others’ behavior. But, applying is learning is the real challenge. That’s because our thoughts preoccupy our mind. So, we cannot respect other’s perspective and have a fruitful conversation. Anyway, our today’s discussion is hardly about that challenge. So, I will keep off it.

Amongst the many things that I now register on spiritual grounds, there’s one thing has had its profound effect on me. It is that when I take insights from my past and apply them to my future, the life’s pattern becomes visible. This is like a jigsaw puzzle. The trick is not in solving it part by part. But, in setting the boundaries first so that the big picture becomes clear.

The Insights Discovery is a behavioral tool from Carl Jung, who through the tool, tried to define our nature. His analysis is that each one of us is a combination of the following four behavioral styles:

  • Red: The one who prefers brief information
  • Blue: The one who prefers details
  • Green: The one who is full of compassion
  • Yellow: The one who seeks involvement

Today, we are busy running a rat race of earning more than others, spending more than others, and possessing more than others. It is this thought of defining every one using four colors that sounded familiar to me.

The ancient Indian wisdom of dividing people into the following four Varnas is similar:

  • Brahmana: The one who prefers details; structured result-driven content.
  • Kshatriya: The one who wishes to be at the forefront; the leader.
  • Vaishya: The thinker; the strategist; the money-minded; the observer.
  • Kshudra: The one who is a great worker; the action lover.

Mind the word, please. Varna, according to the Vedas, is comparable to the English word classification. Back then, classification of Varnas would depend on an individual’s deeds, willingness, and capabilities. Today, the word inaccurately translates to mean caste.

What I do not want you to do is map those four Varnas 1:1 with those four colors. That would be incorrect. As a conclusion to the workshop, the instructor told us to be considerate of others. She told us to stay away from making fun of people based on their color preferences.

The fact is, we all have those four colors in us. Yes, one color is dominant within us all. Likewise, we all are a mix of those four Varnas. And, we all have a different Varna dominant. Whilst we are all different, we continue to be a combination of the same values. How true.