Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Jonathan Livingstone Seagull - Richard Bach

So why doesnt it resonate with me ? Why did it irritate me so terribly?

I think when I read it initially, 15-20 years ago,  I was completely antagonistic to all these 'spiritual' ideas, of there being other worlds, of excellence as worship, of something to strive for, and the silly religious angle certainly put me off.

Now that I am perhaps more open to the spiritual ideas, I guess these short allegorical books and stories still don't sit well with me, and leave me slightly irritated and resentful.

It could be a couple of things:

- I feel I identify more with the people they put down. The gulls who wouldn't get it, who just wanted to eat. I resent their depiction as the failures, the stubborn, short sighted, close minded ones who are left behind.

- I find the portrayal of the 'path' so to speak, problematic. Till it was just about striving for excellence, it was fine. But the magical other worlds, the teleportation, the magical healing, the brief almost biblical interlude, they all just don't sit well for me the way they are presented. Those are complicated things, and the simplified version seems silly.

- There is never another side that is presented. So, in the pursuit of that flying excellence, some gulls are going to die, of hunger, of mishaps and collisions. Put that in. At least hint at it.

Will probably think more, ( gah course requirement - think, feel fully ! ) but for now major reaction remains - not for me!


Freedom.

Finally after almost an year of wanting to, but not getting around to it, I shaved my head.

The last time I had done it, almost 8 years back, I had totally loved it. I loved how I looked, I loved the freedom, I loved the feeling of new beginnings, and I loved how much support I had got. I was surprised to hear so many people say, wow, I have wanted to do do that, but haven't had the courage. A few of course also said it didn't look nice, but far fewer than I had expected. And finally I loved, how quickly it became a 'no-big-deal', both for me and others.

This time around, I didn't have to worry so much about 'log kya kahenge' , knowing from past exp - zyada kuch nahin. But rather, 'woh kya nahin kahenge'. My hair had grown the longest it had ever been, and my vanity was often stoked by random unexpected compliments, from relative, (and occassionally complete!) strangers, and of course friends and family. 

But eventually the hassle of trying to manage a mane of unruly, thinning, falling, frizzy hair got to me, as I grew increasingly short of time. I knew half an hour a day, and almost 3 hours for washing and untangling was time I could ill afford. I had to at least cut it short. Unfortunately short cuts are still hard to manage with my sai baba texture, so I thought why not enjoy myself again.

As before the immediate trigger was some random frustration , just enough to make you want to do something, like pick up a scissors and shaver, and in half an hour  the deed was done. And I am loving it, and flaunting it, as before.

Any regrets? I think  if I had remembered in time, I would have like to straighten it once. Thats another thing I had done last time around, and thoroughly enjoyed the magic of leaving them open without worries. Perhaps in a few years, if they grow back !

Big pleasant surprise - yoga is so much simpler, without the damn choti coming in the way here and there! 

Friday, June 01, 2018

Queues and views.

One of my biggest triggers all my life, has been people jumping queues. Earlier I could never understand how someone could just blatantly 'cheat', so openly, so shamelessly.  Picked numerous ugly fights with random strangers over it, with shouting matches. I remember just 4-5 years back, actually feeling so livid with a white haired uncle who not only sidled ahead, but when confronted tried to defend it by saying 'there was a space, if I hadn't stepped in, someone else would have'. I remember back, teetering with my big belly, and somehow resisting the urge to slap him,  white hairs and all -( another reason I could never understand the 'respect your elders' line. That guy? seriously? ). I did the next best thing which was to physically push him back, and stand in front of him, almost daring him to take another physical step. 

My instinctive reaction remains the same, and the hot anger rises instantly, but I realise now I respond sometimes, and don't always just react. I still call people out, but the frequency of doing it with a smile is increasing. And when I do regress, and get into arguments, as I did yesterday, I was able to catch myself within a few seconds, and let it go.  Another shameless white haired gentleman, who by far was the most absurd I have ever seen, and who actually went on complaining about the impatience of everyone, and then said 'I am a doctor, I can help you' - brought in a genuine smile, that line! But while letting it go, and observing my simmering anger, thinking of all the snarky biting comments I could have made  to his illogical statements, I could see bits of my insecurity, and.. bits of his too.  Things are never straightforward or simple.. 

Starting on a counselling course today, I wonder what insights the year will bring. Looking forward to it. 





Monday, May 07, 2018

How Children Fail - John Holt

Mixed feelings on this one.

The author makes a basic case that children 'fail' to learn in school, because we try to 'teach', using fear as our ally.  The teaching is bad enough, but we make it worse by teaching them topics which they might not be interested in, and in ways which are artificial and abstract.

 I agree whole heartedly with the premise, its something I had been feeling more and more over the last two decades, and found myself really hurtling to that conclusion ever since I saw s growing up, and 'learning' so much over the past 4 years.

I hadn't thought so much about how important the 'fear' factor is in our schooling system. Its not just the regressive school system that uses this fear, with  all the beatings, threats or grades.  Unfortunately the supposedly 'progressive' systems, with their shiny star charts , no exams and peer pressure, still tap into fear, as their main ally in teaching. After all, when you know that 95% of the stuff you are teaching is not going to be used by 95% of the people you are teaching it to, what will you use for motivation, except fear, sometimes disguised as something else.

Maybe because I already agreed so much with the ideas, the book got boring for me after a while. Perhaps for a lot of people the ideas are very hard to accept, so the author keeps making the same point with detailed example after example, a lot of of them basic maths examples from his 5th grade classes. I really fast forwarded at that stage.

Unfortunately the whole discussion is rather academic, except perhaps for the handful of really brave souls who have the energy, time, commitment and enthusiasm to choose home schooling. I have none of those, so much though the test driven, subjectwise sliced, useless advanced fact crammed, standardised school system gets my goat, I don't really see a way around it. Apart from the school setting, a good takeaway in daily interactions, is to put children in real life situations where possible, rather than dealing with abstractions. Letting them self learn through their normal process of trial and error, rather than trying to tell them the correct way. Thats something worth reminding myself about.

Worth a read if you have an open mind about the education system. But kind of repetitive if you already recognise a lot of these challenges. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Hichki - Sidharth P Malhotra

Quite forgettable. 

A highly qualified teacher with Tourettes struggles to get a job. Then she is given a class of teenagers that comes with the "social inclusion" tag. Of course she magically turns it all around. 

The only pros that I can think of is that it brings the little heard of Tourettes mainstream, and the good acting by one of the kids ( Harsh Mayar). Barring that it just irritated me. Its just a horribly done 'to sir with love'. Even its main frigging job, explaining tourettes, I felt could have been better. And these magical getting of marks always gets my goat. The way the syllabus and exams are designed, I really don't think these magic wand waving , egg catching classes will bring a whole class from failing to topping. I know expecting mainstream bollywood to show realism is a cardinal sin. After all this is where characters run away with a backpack, and unleash 7 elaborate costumes next. They literally fly into the air when needed, so getting academically tip top in 4 months is small fry stuff I. In my defence, I guess after watching stuff like 'Chak de', 'Taare zameen par', 'English-vinglish', I started expecting a bit more. I was of course given the Oliver twist treatment for demanding more.  

Avoid. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

CFS

The exhaustion has still been relentless, while the school holidays have taken a toll as well.

Finding a support group on fb, was initially magical. Symptoms which had been impossible to explain to anyone, were suddenly so common. The crashes for example. Specially after any increased physical activity/exercise. The first place to safely accept that exercise doesn't always help, but in this case, can precipitate episodes. The feeling of being utterly let down by doctors. The constant self doubt, is it really all in my head? Being called lazy ( by others, and worse by ones own self). Various other random symptoms, some of which I had spent years trying to explain to others, now had names, air hunger, fingers numbness. 

But after the initial reassurance, of not being alone,  and some hope that some people have gotten better, it gets exhausting listening to the same sorry things over and over again. Finally perhaps the support group needs to be left alone for a while, and the old solitary road needs to be taken. I guess part of the problem has been my expectation that when something is wrong with me, an allopathic doctor can diagnose it, fix it. There is a small category of black and white problems which they can indeed diagnose, and some that they can fix. But for a majority of the cases, everything is hit and miss. Will try the endo one of these days, but not quite optimistic about that at all. 

So with the depression finally mostly gone ( for now), will have to get down to trying to tackle this, which I have been dilly dallying on. No easy paths as before, will have to experiment and hope for the best. Meanwhile this is what wikipedia has to say about the closest that I could come to a diagnosis after years of googling, and feeling like the opposite of a hypochondriac ( ie , no not this one, no i don't have that symptom, definitely not this disease, what the hell is wrong with me??? )


Thursday, April 05, 2018

The Gardner and the Carpenter - Alison Gopnik

okish read.

The nature vs nurture debate has been going on forever, and I have increasingly found myself on the nature side of it, for the last decade or so.

The book, takes a gardener view of parents, rather than the carpenter view.  It also takes objection to the very word 'parenting', something I hadn't thought about earlier, but makes so much sense. You don't do any 'friending or wifing, or childing after all. People are complicated, and so are children.

There are various experiments and philosophies strewn through the book, about how simplistic 'parenting' advice about how doing a particular thing will lead to a particular type of child, is incomplete to say the least.

This is not to say that usual caregiving styles have no consequences, just that there is no easy way to predict those consequences. Children come with their own personality, and to add to that, they react not just to parents, but to everything else in the environment. And even the parental interactions are complex beyond imagination. Taken as a whole, the whole carpenting approach is just a hit and miss at best.

With all the research from anthropology, epigenetics, neurology, psychology and whatnot, the bottom line is to stop overthinking the act of caring for the little ones. You might choose to CIO or not, allow lots of screen time, or not. Either ways those decisions will have to be based on what works for you and the child and what you want to believe, in the short term. There is probably not much point in going overboard with trying to predict long term outcomes.

Overall the book had a few interesting parts , ( specially the experiments), but I didn't find it very easy to read, inspite of agreeing to so much of it. I think it just went in far too many directions, and didn't have a core to come back to.




Saturday, March 17, 2018

labour

After years of telling the caretakers to get the backyard cleaned out, I decided to take matters in my own hands. Literally. Clearing out decades of weeds, trash, neglect, leaves, stones, wrappers, construction material, did I mention trash? 

I realised that I enjoy working alone, with my hands. In a way it was an escape, a retreat. While I was grateful for the occasionally neighbour who pitched in, I was happier to just be left alone, to literally salvage the yard, inch by dogged inch.  I think m had a point, when he said that sometimes working with soil can be therapeutic. Prior to the backyard project, I had tried a few balcony pots. With my black thumb, the plants had short lives, but even then, there was something about just getting to touch the mud, the dirt, the compost, which was satisfying, without my even realising it.

Anyway, finally after hours and hours of digging, separating, weeding, sweeping, cutting, uprooting, filling rat holes, pruning, levelling, burning and what not, the place finally looks normal.  Not nice and inviting yet, not sure if it will ever get to that, but a huge improvement nevertheless. Still a few weeks to go, but kids are coming out to play, inspite of all the giant snake stories, and the germ phobias, and the very stubbornly present rat holes ( these rats have more lives than the cats I think). The kids have even begun helping me in digging and raking! I feel equal parts subversive, inspired and happy.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

3 billboards outside Ebbing , Missouri - Martin McDonagh

Really liked this one!

A woman, fed up with the police inaction over her daughters rape and murder, decides to put up an open challenge to them on 3 billboards. Name and shame style. It does indeed jolt the sleepy town up, with battle lines getting drawn - and the fun part- redrawn.

The superb performances help the movie tremendously, but for me the best part was the constantly shifting equations - between the characters, not to mention the viewer sympathies/perspectives. Just when you think you have slotted someone as honest, vicious, righteous, lazy, whatever.. something else turns up, and you have to rethink. Reminded me of another movie which had done exactly that - Chameleon. I think that always appeals to me, because I find simple black and white characterisations simplistic, not to mention problematic. Just because Ram was a great 'king', doesn't make him great in everything. Coming back to the movie, the ending was awesome as well!

Meanwhile, slowly trying to get back to one of my old loves - movies. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Exhaustion

I wish there was some way out of this unrelenting exhaustion. This utter inability to get back to any form of physical activity. 

I wish my adrenals or thyroid or whatever it is that is screwed up,  would fix itself. I wish the chronic fatigue or the adrenal fatigue or whatever has been biting at my heels for decades, and has finally latched on firmly on the throat, would just cease and desist and leave. 

I wish I had the energy to search for the kind of doctors who could help. Not even sure if they even exist, leave alone if I can afford them. 

Feel so utterly tired. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

The long dark night of the soul, sometimes it gets an intermission, unexpected, joyful, unbelievable. Sometimes its lovely to stop all the thinking , analysing, and just be. It is what it is. I am who I am today. 

In small proportions we just beauties see
and in short measures, life may perfect be. 

The measures are smaller now, but still beautiful.