my dream catcher

my dream catcher

I must have been quite young when I first heard about dream catchers. As a kid it was comforting to believe that there was something that ensured that only good dreams came your way while bad ones slipped out. Someone had given me a dream catcher and I felt comforted having it hanging above my bed.

I soon grew up and the delicate dream catcher got lost as we moved from continent to continent and I forgot about it. It was only yesterday when I heard that Dear Popples was published that I suddenly remembered the dream catcher of my childhood.

The lore of the dream catcher is beautiful.

Long ago when the word was sound, an old Lakota spiritual leader was on a high mountain and had a vision. In his vision, Iktomi, the great trickster and searcher of wisdom, appeared in the form of a spider. Iktomi spoke to him in a sacred language. As he spoke, Iktomi the spider
took the elder’s willow hoop which had feathers, horse hairs, beads and offerings on it and began to spin a web. He spoke of the cycles of life….how we begin as infants and move on to childhood, and then to adulthood. Finally, we go to old age where we must be taken care of once again as infants, thereby completing the life cycle.

Iktomi said, “In each time of life there are many forces and choices made that can affect the harmony of nature, and interfere with the Great Spirit and all of his wonderful teachings.” Iktomi gave the web to the Lakota elder and said, “See, the web is a perfect circle but there is a hole in the center of the circle. If you believe in the Great Spirit, the web will catch your good dreams and ideas – – and the bad ones will go through the hole.

When I look back at the past few years I am sure that an invisible dream catcher hung over my life helping me make the right choices or how else would all that has come my way happen? But dream catchers are not just about choices and ideas; they are also about dreams. And though I hardly have dreams about myself, one seems to have got caught in some remote corner of the web: that of dear popples being published!

The Great Spirit thought otherwise and set his own wheel in motion and knowing that I would never find the time, the way, the force, the motivation to keep this dream alive, entrusted my dream to someone else. That was Abhigyan a true dream maker!

You do not thank Great Spirits and dream makers. You simply feel blessed that they came your way.

Dear Popples

Dear Popples

If two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. Matthew 18:19

Thus quotes the Bible and these words were sent to me by the one who made my dream come true. Dear Popples’s genesis began much before Popples himself came into this world. It actually began as a dream of a teenager growing in the sixties a time when everything seemed possible. It began in the head of a girl fed and overfed on books that were the sole form of escape of a lonely child growing up in different lands amidst too many adults. It began in the absurd dreams of a young girl sitting at cafe terraces in Paris imagining herself to be a writer.

Then life took over and decades went by but the dream did not. It sprung back on a summer day when the girl now an ageing woman came across a little child who was to redefine her life and stumble upon who she really was. The dream that had laid in waiting sprung up again and took the shape of a sheaf of haphazard paper where she poured out her heart and soul. But dreams as the Bible says need two people to make it come true as does creation. Where was the other half of the dream.

For many months the sheaf of papers lay in the recess of a drawer; it was sometimes taken out and shared with someone or the other but it quietly slid back into what seemed to have become its resting place. Then one day something impelled her to take it out, clean it up and begin the daunting task of finding the other half.

The rest is history. True that there were the needed string of rejections but those just made her more obstinate till the day someone miles away responded positively; the other half had been unearthed. Dear Popples had emerged from its dark abode into the light and the dream had come true.

I have never met Abhigyan Jha, my publisher, in person but somehow I feel I have known him for a stretch of time that transcends all spatial-temporal laws and defies logic and what I feel is not just gratitude but again something that cannot be expressed in words. I know he understands

Soon dear Popples will be for all to read and I must confess I am terrified.

borrow a person

borrow a person

I was recently sent a link by a friend about a new library fad: borrow not a book but a person and an interesting link to a comment on this new fad!

A lot of food for thought.

I sent this link to many friends and one of them said the following: we will soon begin to barter ideas and expertise on a peer to peer / person to person basis as that would be the only validation for being human and worthwhile.

you will not need a gardener to do the garden or mow the lawn – you will need him for his insight and creativity – the manual labor ill shift to robots and automatons.

which is all the more reason to educate our children about the conceptual reality if life. that we are nothing if we don’t create products of the mind. it can be values. it can be ideas, processes, products, advice, conscience, friendship, talk, coaching, teaching, storytelling, experience sharing – whatever but it has to come from the mind.

he goes on to add: we are human because we use our mind. period. the sooner we stop talking about the dignity of labor and start making it clear to everyone that there is no option to using our mind to create value which others might want to partake of – the better for everyone. otherwise we are going to see the kind of income inequality that we have never seen before.

Even in the parts of India where there is no food on the table – there is a mobile phone. and it’s almost free to use. Lifetime Free. and what do people do on the mobile phone – they talk. and why would the poorest need a mobile phone. because even for them talking, sharing, communicating is more important than just eating. the hunger of the mind is a bigger necessity than the hunger of the stomach.

His approach seem a little bewildering at first but of you stop a and think, what he says is true and what is alarming is that for once the two Indias’s hearts seem to be beating in unison. They are both spinning unconsciously towards a dystopic view of the world where the power of the mind is losing its importance.

When I was a young girl growing up in the mad sixties I saw Fahrenheit 451, a mind blowing movie by Francois Truffaut: a story about a society where books are banned and have to be burnt! A bunch of old men decide to memorise them so that they are not lost forever. The film end on a bitter sweet optimistic note: the said society is destroyed and a new one is about to be created: their first task is to build mirror factories, a literary allusion, to show people who they are, what they have become, and how they can change with time and knowledge.

Borrowing a person in a library seems akin to the Bradbury’s soft science fiction novella. And are we today slowly but surely moving towards the self destruction of our dystopic society.

On a more optimistic note I would love to borrow the idea and create a library where one could borrow people who still have in the recesses of their memories stories about the past, the traditions, the mores , the of forgotten and never documented anecdotes that threaten to be lost forever. A few years back DV Sridharan the creator of GoodnewsIndia began a series titled memory speaks. I remember having written a few pieces that had been told to me by my mother when I was still a child. Some were amusing others thought provoking and all in need to be preserved before memory failed. The series sadly stopped. Today’s new fad brought it back to me. I guess I too was a person that was once borrowed!

And motherhood dragging a doll by the foot

And motherhood dragging a doll by the foot

If we Indians could take off our minds, eyes and ears from silly slaps by overpaid cricketing heroes and ensuing debates about the quantum of retribution; or stop debating about the appropriateness of the dresses imported and highly paid cheer leaders should or or should not wear – wonder who would pay for the new ones – ; or the inconvenience created by a new transport system, we would be compelled to see the horror that has been and is enfolding around us in the past few days.

Two baby girls are found abandoned in our own city, one barely a few hours old. A 12 year old is raped by a cop, a 5 year old by a so called uncle, a 36 months old by a relative and his friends, a 7 year old by another neighbour. 5 rapes of children and no one bats an eye lid.

Yesterday the prime Minister of India addressed a meeting on “save the girl child”. Time someone did: the latest figures are alarming, the sex ratio is declining: 927 to 1000 is the all India figure, 782 to 1000 is South Delhi’s figure. According to Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, there 100 million missing girls!

The PM made one valid comment: But it is not government alone that can address this problem. Though Government must be active in mobilizing public opinion in this regard. We need active civil society involvement in the national campaign to save the girl child.

This should make us stop and think. The startling figures of South Delhi are ample proof of the fact that we cannot any more brush the problem under the carpet and say that this only affects rural areas or the ‘poor’ as we like calling a large part of our own land. Rest assured we many not be guilty of throwing our new born baby in a dump or leaving her on a doorstep. We have the resources to beat he law and kill her before she is born.

I have often written about the plight of he girl child based on what I have seen around me. I remember a letter written to a child that died in the womb of her mother, or the post written on one of the days when India worships little girls. One must not forget that we are the greatest worshipers of the female form and energy and yet we kill, rape and abuse little girls with impunity. Is it not time to look at ourselves in a mirror with honesty. We all pay lip service to the save the girl child appeals, even make it our cocktail banter of the day and yet we are the ones that surreptitiously ask the name of the local doctor willing to perform a sex determination test for our pregnant daughter in law, whatever the cost!

The poor have another recipe: they keep producing daughters till the male child arrives or the mother stops being able to bear children. I have known of families where there are 11 girls and one boy! I am not going to go into the plight of the girl child, I think we all are aware of it. This post is meant to try and address the problem that is now alarming.

What is it that makes us abandon baby girls? This trend is of course more prevalent with the poor. The question is simple: a girl means marriage that means money in vast quantities. Boys are an investment they can bring all the coveted things; girls a drain because you are the one to pay for the coveted things. All laws banning dowry have failed. The demands are getting larger by the day. Even in slums people talk of cars. One of our teachers who is not very pretty and a bit plum and now 26 remains unmarried as her family cannot afford the Honda Accord that was asked! In states like Bihar it is hard cash. Our rickshaw driver married his daughter to a much older man because the dowry was only 100 000 rupees plus the cost of the wedding where there were 500 guests! The girl is just 18. So the simplistic solution would be rather than give the girls child cash incentives for her marriage as many of the proposed government schemes do, give cash incentives to those who spend little and give no dowry!

But things run much deeper: we are dealing with customs and mores and age long religious diktats and decrees that no politician would want to touch. And let us not forget the law applies to all so who wants to be deprived the right of a lavish wedding for his or her own child. Some of the latest trends are galling: helicopters for the bridegroom, international starts to perform and food imported from the world over and then thrown away as the display itself gives visual indigestion. So I ask are we really serious about saving the girl child.

As for child rape it is something beyond my comprehension in spite of the fact that child abuse is rampant even in he best of homes. Does it come from our so called prudish attitudes a legacy as was aptly said by someone of Victorian England as are we not the land of the Kama Sutra. And the only thing that could protect children – though maybe not 2 years old – would be a healthy sex education programme, but that is rabidly opposed by our politicians! Child abuse, far too often perpetrated within homes is protected by the code of silence and honour, something that has to stop.

Maybe it is time we looked at ourselves with honesty and bluntness and answered some disturbing questions even if it makes each one of us look pathetic and ask ourselves what we can do to save the girl child that leaves every moment of her life amidst unknown yet terrifying fears.

I will end this post with the words of Alan Beck:

“A girl is innocence playing in mud,
Beauty standing on its head,
And motherhood dragging a doll by the foot.”

what have they done to the earth

what have they done to the earth

The world celebrated earth day this week. Wonder why as nothing seems to shake us from the state of catatonic stupor that makes us oblivious to the reality that surrounds us in spite of all media reports, activists’ pleas and terrifying figures thrown at us each day.

In recent days everyone has been harping about escalating food prices and a lot of government bashing has been going on. No one seems to realise that things are going to get worse and that the main culprit in this real life whodunit is each one of us.

A recent news report stated the following

Steady fall in food supply across the world due to stagnation in farm output.Climate change threatens to worsen food insecurity in the world’s poorest regions.
Rising temperatures will affect crop yields in 40 developing countries.
Global warming will increase food prices by 40 per cent.

But we still remain unconcerned and unaware. What is alarming is the quantum of food wasted in our country not only by the rich, but by the poor itself. In villages leftover food is fed to the cattle but in urban slums it is simply thrown on the streets! One of the hallmarks of success or status symbol seem to have become food wastage. Every garbage pile in the poorest of slums is always replete with left over food fit for consumption. People tend to pile up their plates and unabashedly throw what they cannot finish.

When we chided one of the children at the foster care about not finishing his plate, pat came the answer: I never finish it at home! What no one seems to understand is that food shortage is going to hit us sooner than we think. And it is not the government but we ourselves who are to blame. Our total neglect of the environment and hidden economic agendas are the real baddies here.

car. Feeble attempts at promoting common transport seem to go unheeded as it is Land once uses for food is now used for land depleting but pocket filling cash crops. The escalating number of farmer’s suicide in India seems to leave us cold as we are busy increasing our carbon footsteps with misplaced alacrity. Families have not one, not two but cars in double digits. Motorbikes have replaced cycles and will soon be replaced by the much heralded nano believed that almost 1500 cars are added each day on the already choking roads of Delhi!

Trees are felled to make place for these cars, open spaces converted to make way for concrete jungles. The show just goes on. Huge malls that are avid gobblers of energy are replacing smaller shops. India is in the move and the yet inaudible cried of the earth are quietened by the roars of the progress.

Every decision we make affects climate change and this moving documentary urges us to make the right choice.

As I see things around me, I a reminded of the words of Jim Morisson writen in the sixties but that seems so true in our times:

What have they done to the earth?

What have they done to our fair sister?

Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her

Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn

And tied her with fences and dragged her down

When the Music is – Over The Doors