Archive for the ‘Non-Fiction’ Category

Newspapers are re-cycled into paper bags and sold to the chemists and stores as an alternate source of income.  The Anganwadi school in the slums takes care of the toddlers between 2- 5 yr old while their parents are working elsewhere. We provide newspapers to the slums to achieve their goals. This could become a small scale industry if encouraged considering that plastic is now banned in Bangalore. The Anganwadi schools are also helped by the Ashwasan Org by providing what they need for school apart from Govt aid.

She sat by the window. Her wrinkled, shaking hands stitching together lost stories and little gaps in her memories. She is soaking up the sun. It was a while since she saw daylight. They had pushed her into a dark corner saying she didn’t deserve to see light. They had slid a plate with food in it, until it landed near her feet. She found herself in prison for her son’s misdeeds. “What did we do to deserve this?” they ask. Nobody has the answer to that query.

She is not the only one in the old age home with such a heart-breaking story. There are several more like her lying on their beds in the old-age home called Aashraya. Discarded by their kith and kin until some good samaritan found them. That good soul who takes care of these elderly ladies is Mrs. Rani. She runs the Aashraya trust for the elderly in a three storied building that she is renting. She invested 7 lakhs of inherited money straight into this. Her brothers got land and coffee estates. She didn’t complain. She had a mission and she went ahead with it. She has seen many come and a few leave with no one to claim their body. They were treated with dignity until their last breath and that matters to her.

 The beds lie close to each other offering comfort and solace. After all misery loves company and they know they are not alone in their struggle, as they reached the end of their lives. A cancer patient lies in her bed. Her hands and legs are like sticks and she cannot sit up. They have left her here since they don’t know what do with her, I was told. Gowramma, another inmate says she is happier here than at the hands of her daughter-in-law and son, who treated her as a maid servant.

 “They threw me out like a stray dog,” she said straight faced. “Someone called Just Dial and I ended up here. I have friends here and we share everything in peace.” Then there are a couple of voluntary inmates who walked in here saying they didn’t want to be a burden on others and wanted to live with dignity as the evening of their lives approached.

 They are fed, clothed and taken good care by the workers. One TV sitting atop a shelf gets their attention. Vacuous stares steer towards the monitor, as they watch in silence whatever it is they are watching. They lived their life. They watched their offspring’s grow and then they realized they were no longer needed.

As I sat there a cute little kitten bounced in. She is called ‘Bhojana’ by Mrs. Rani. The kitten is their bundle of joy. They talk to it, caress it and feed her crumbs. One furry, loving soul, whose love is unconditional; a small streak of light amidst the misery and pain painted in their eyes. Their precious belongings are tucked under the bed; a rusted iron suitcase, some old books, clothes and sandals. That is all they have as possessions. When their last breath is claimed, the bed is cleaned up and awaits other discarded humans.

 Does love have an expiry date on it?

 http://www.aashrayasevatrust.com

Yes, it is the sunset of my life

crippled with age, I’m down on my knees

in a forest of fear, in a maze of loneliness

I cannot be found, yet no one’s to blame

I’m waiting endlessly for you to call my name

And I search with weakening eyes

for that look of love, for that caring smile

it is twilight yet, don’t say good night

-Anon

Lalitha Das : A Profile

Posted: April 12, 2011 in Non-Fiction
Tags: ,

 

Lalitha Das founder of BCKAIf there is one word to describe 75-yr-old Lalitha Das it would be ‘dynamic’. This  unassuming lady barely sits still. When she is not solving the resident’s problems as the President of the Apartment Association, she is busy organizing events for BCKA or managing Ashwasan activities. Age has not slowed down Mrs. Das physically or mentally. “I live every moment productively. I cannot sit around doing nothing,” she says.

As founder President of Bangalore Club for Kathakali and the Arts (BCKA), for the last two years she has pioneered an organization by bringing together people who are interested in sustaining art and traditional dances in India. “Kathakali is in my blood,” says Mrs. Das who comes from an illustrious family of artists, poets and writers.

 Her father R. Narayana Panicker was the first person who got the Kendriya Sahitya Academy award in 1955, for writing on the history of Malayalam literature (Bhasha Sahitya Charitram). She is also a voracious reader and an excellent Bridge player. Her daughter Meena (Das) Narayan made a documentary on Padmashree Kalamandalam Gopi. (She won the Kerala State Award for her documentary)

 K.C. Keshava Pillay her grandfather was a poet laureate of Travancore royal asthan. He was a composer of Carnatic music and a writer. With all this art and creativity running in the blood it was not surprising she started the BCKA. Vimala Rangachar introduced Vyjayanthimala Bali to Mrs. Das, who performed for free for BCKA. Captain Krishnan Nair of Leela Palace is a patron who donated 2 lakhs Rs during the award night gala in which Padmashree Kalamandalam Gopi and Kottakal Nanda Kumar were felicitated. “The main purpose of our club is to help Kathakali artists and other artists, she said”

 Chenda player Ayamkudi Kuttapamarar is undergoing treatment for cancer and is being helped by BCKA. Late Kottakal Shivraman who was once famous for his lead role as female Kathakali performer and 90 year old make up man Appunni Tharagan have been recipients of BCKA’s contributions. Now a monthly pension is planned for the Kathakali artists.

 BCKA is planning a big event in September hoping to rope in Shankar Mahadevan for a fund raising event that will benefit artists. With 120 members the club is growing with several patrons encouraging their goal.  BCKA has also donated to the students of deaf and dumb school of Trivandrum and to orphanages in Ananthashram in Bangalore. On May 28th BCKA is organizing an all women Kathakali troupe from Triponithara who will perform at the Seva Sadan, Malleshwaram.

 Lalitha Das is also VP of Senior Citizens Club and organization for State and Central Government retirees in Cox Town with 150 members. Their activity includes feeding the poor for Onam and Christmas. Ashwasan a voluntary service organization started 14 years ago has tied with ‘Asha Jeevan’ helping patients with Alzheimers and dementia.  They sponsor five slums with 8 units all over Bangalore. Food is provided to the slums from the ‘Titan’ group of companies.   Every year garage sales are held to benefit the poor. The people in the slum are taught to make paper bags which are sold to pharmacies by them.

 Das is also the Joint Secretary of the Federation of Karnataka Senior Citizens with 120 organizations as members.

Lalitha Das tirelessly dedicates her time, energy and efforts to sustain these organizations and deserves a standing ovation for keeping the traditional arts of Kerala alive, through her organization

 BCKA

www.bcka.net

Tel: 80 23341583

That Something

Posted: March 7, 2011 in Non-Fiction
Tags: ,

You know how when you are traveling around town and find yourself unwittingly in situations either being the spectator, the observer or you might be the witness and the party to some unforseen circumstance.

 You wake up in the morning not realizing how your day is going to turn out. Nonetheless, you wear a smile and step out into the streets, a beam of light coursing through your veins, light headed and singing a tune that just entered your head and refuses to go away.

 You look around the milling crowd, scanning your eyes searching for that one forget-me-not moment that you can store in your mind’s eyes. You know it is out there somewhere. There is always that one moment that you will cherish. Like the saying goes a lily blooms in dirty waters. If you just look around it will stand out, something that re-enforces the thought that goodness in life exists.

 It is not dead.

 Very much alive…

In Measured Doses

Posted: August 4, 2010 in Non-Fiction
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So a whirlwind tour around my favorite country took me through another dimension both in mind and spirit as it usually does every time I travel. Just getting out of the cocoon, encountering near and dear ones, strangers and the multitude rubbing shoulders and inhaling the depleting oxygen around you is an experience in itself. It could either elevate you and shake you up from your sangfroid somnambulism that one slips into unnoticed or it could devour you and spit you out into a churning sea of emotional roller coaster.

Without getting literal or poetic about it but trying to dissect through the maudlin thoughts that might overtake one’s equanimity is an exercise in itself.

Rambling while writing is one way to unload thoughts that get sequestered and bog my brain. Nothing more pleasurable than sharing and dragging the readers through the expressed sentiments; seeking their side of the story or the worst case seeing if it resonates with anyone else out there.

Considering that I am one of those passive observers for whom life around me is a ‘life-affirming’ drama of human rainbows; sometimes I do take it all in and ruminate a tad bit more than necessary; then chipping on it leisurely sharing my experiences.

And so after several hours of train, bus, car and plane rides that always adds opportunities to encounter people as interesting as can be, I came out of it a more learned person or so I assumed. 

 

Easter, Kiddos and Eggs

Posted: April 10, 2010 in Non-Fiction
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Easter is here and that means a lot of colored eggs all over the place. What’s within those eggs are precious to the kiddos and a seemingly wonderful experience to them. Watching them sitting there and opening those plastic egg shells to see what kind of candy is hidden in there, is the ultimate delight..

It reminds me everytime of the Forest Gump saying “Life is a box of chocolates; you never know what you get..”

How true it is…those kids absolutely love that experience …after a few hours what is left behind are empty colored plastic shells; after they got the goodies from inside it..

Bunch of photos of the kiddos and parents in the local park going egg hunting and collecting them in their baskets…What a treat to the eyes…Need I say more…

Shall let the photos do the talking….

       

The pen is mightier than the sword’ goes the adage. As appropriate as it may sound I would like to re-phrase it to something that is less violent and more inspiring in my mind.

‘The pen is akin to an artist’s brush that creates a beautiful painting’ sometimes for posterity, sometimes for momentary pleasures but a beautiful piece of art.

Mark Twain was a writer and an artist who remarked “It steeps me in a sacred rapture to see a portrait develop and take soul under my hand...” 

 Expressing life as it appears, thoughts as they flutter in my mind like butterflies waiting to be released from their nets, giving them wings.  

 The intriguing connection between words, images, thoughts and the powerful pen that gives it life, making one wonder what ‘creativity’ is all about, a connection among writers…

The creative urge a writer has to transfer his thoughts to paper, to give it a form and articulate it in the way he chooses to express himself; giving himself an identity that is dear to his heart and soul.

The threads of thoughts, the connectivity and the euphoria of releasing those swirling thoughts onto paper have its own addictive pleasures.

At times the art connects with the viewer in a gallery, in a way that takes them on a journey through another’s imaginative mind. The feeling of a high one gets after reading a good book that could not be put down.

Author Donald Friedman in his book ‘The Writer’s Brush’ wrote biographical sketches of 203 writer-artists from around the world pairing them with reproductions of their artistic works, giving an insight into their minds.

Something divine- akin to a spiritual release of flawless thoughts on a clean white paper.

An immaculate birth- transferred from the mind giving it life and watching it with reverence, giving it an exalted position that only an artist can recognize.

Poet and artist E.E Cummings had included in his book:

“…however ‘the arts’ may differ among themselves, their common function is the expression of that supreme aliveness which is know as ‘beauty.”

I couldn’t agree with him more, a resonance I find in his thoughts as I do in a few others that are often liberating, leaving a peaceful sense of joy that is indescribable.

Quotes: Books/magazines

Another Day in Paradise

Posted: December 26, 2009 in Non-Fiction

 

 The battleground is quiet; the din of warfare is lulled by a silence that is deafening. The bodies lay strewn all over. Some perished without a prayer on their lips. The others had time to gaze at the sky and welcome the momentary silence. A few just stared as their glassy eyes looked around at their fallen brethren, thinking why it all ended this way.

The same place was rattled by sabers a few minutes ago, the place where a thousand bombshells had unloaded itself with all its might, another invention to maim more. The battle-scarred returned to fight yet another war, to go home and regale the ‘alive’ with their deeds of bravery.

 The canons rested with a few wisps of smoke, lazily finding its way out into the air that was loaded with the stench of death and vulgarity. The men had fought for a piece of land that they each claimed to be their own. When did the land they lived on become so much a possession to fight, maim and kill worthlessly? The malediction is here to stay. Out there in the horizon I see the sky turning crimson with the blood of our ancestors and our today.

 The sharp edge of the knife cuts through the body of another and a war cry pierces the night sky. Another abode torched while yet another explosion rocks the surface, in a distance and in the daylight we see a glimpse of the tortuous cycles, vanquished and erected on a monument of what is called faith.

 Awake and alive yet seeing this beautiful world going into pieces is not what was envisioned while growing up. When the sweet innocence died out and questions stopped asking, since answers were hard to come by, then the mystery no longer appealed. Waking up every morning unsure what is in it for some and others.

 The circle of life incomplete for most; as they inhale the fresh air in the morning and find themselves blown to smithereens in a second. An undignified end to human passions and survival, handing it out on a platter for another to extinguish in a second, is what it has come to. And so we wear blinkers in an effort to mask and see only what we want to see. Our life on hold we cannot put, for it goes on. And whatever happens in it, around it and to it, is a summation of that existence taking choice cuts and dumping the rest in the sea of humanity, obliterating memories that cut deep.

 Cauterizing the pain, pushing unsavory scenes behind us,  into the recesses of our minds, re-write history books and change the geography of our hand–drawn maps, segregating people into little demarcated territories, telling them ‘you stay within that’. Cataclysmic events everyday throwing us off-track from a neatly conjectured and pre- ordained life and sometimes written out in our heads all jumbled up.

 We walk around, doing our tasks, in a stupor, part of our brain seeing, feeling, touching, and reaching out at a distance to all, yet unable to touch, Somewhere in between the hand freezes as walls are erected in the fog, a  defense mechanism to avoid hurt and pain. An act from one human to another with strings of understanding their pain and a desire to mitigate it and see them happy as everybody should be.

 A deep rooted desire to achieve balance and equilibrium, to find one’s own centre of bliss, in harmony with the world, not wanting to become a  robot, de-humanized to the plight of what goes on around us. Not wanting to walk away from the stench of human life getting wasted, holding our nostrils high and away to ignore the scent of life, as it turns putrid and assails us. Trying to seek retribution for every soul out there, taking on more than one can handle, yet wanting to be a part of it all to avoid obfuscation between ‘feeling’ and being ‘dead’ alive.

 And so I turn the TV and the radio off and toss the headline news in the trash, trying to get the circulation back in my head, as I hike up the mountain, the nearest thing to heaven, far away from all that I don’t want to see but stares at me gaping, grasping, beckoning me into its merciless currents and I am saying I don’t want any part of its madness as I scramble higher and higher, breathless but sane.

 Then I halt to smell the wildflowers and inhale the crisp air that has been around the world thinking, “Who the heck has seen paradise? Paradise is wherever and whatever the mind wants it to be.”

 So I rush back and hug my little ones, thinking ‘hopefully when our generation passes away you will still have a wonderful world to live in.’

 

——————–

Unadoptable

Posted: December 22, 2009 in Non-Fiction

 

 Vicky ducked under the bed and covered his face. He slid his small hands out from under and pulled the sheet down slowly until it touched the floor and curtained him. He sighed. He couldn’t be seen. They wouldn’t find him.

 The door opened and a pair of shoes stepped in, the light from the corridor filtering in to the dark room. They ambled away from the bed towards the closet door. The doors opened and closed with a creak. The steps were retraced and the shoes walked towards the bed again. Vicky pressed himself closer to the wall and held his breath. A face peered under the bed searching in the darkness until the eyes met his. Vicky screamed in terror and backed himself into the corner, in a ball.

 A pair of hands tried pulling him out. Vicky screamed louder, kicking and yelling and found himself yanked out from under the bed.

He found himself in a bear hug.

 A soothing voice said ‘Now, Now, Don’t be scared I won’t hurt you! Hold me tight now, stop crying Vicky…”

 A simpering Vicky stopped screaming, his breath coming out slower. He turned around and looked into the kind eyes of Dr. Mason who was the social worker and the resident Psychiatrist for the inmates of ‘Sanctuary’ the home for abused and abandoned kids who entered the foster care system run by the state.

 Vicky as he was lovingly called is Victor Hugo the 11-year–old son of a Hispanic couple, who was abused relentlessly by his parents both of whom were victims of substance abuse. Vicky used to hide in the closets for most part of the day avoiding his father’s beatings and his mother’s verbal abuse.

He would watch through the closet doors his parents snorting on some kind of white powder. They would throw food into his room once in two days and if he was lucky he would hear them talk to him in a normal tone.

 Every time an employee of the orphanage came close to him he would jump up startled and walk away. It took Dr. Mason several months to gain his confidence and unmask his horrors. On the fateful day when he was discovered by the police his father was shot to death at home by a drug dealer. His mother had run away leaving him with his father’s body for two days. The psychological trauma that Vicky went through before and after had plunged him into an abyss that seemed hard for him to recover from.

 Then started the process of court hearings and he was shuttled from one foster home to the other and when nobody wanted him anymore, they certified him as unadoptable and brought him to the ‘Sanctuary’. He found himself among several such children in various stages of recovery abused by their own kith and kin and by a system that has abandoned hopes for their normal development. 

 These kids find themselves in the system when they are discovered by social workers who report their abuse and abandonment. Some of these children are so emotionally devastated and broken beyond any kind of treatment. Dr. Mason had heard of every kind of abuse and torture that the kids were subjected to in their homes by their parents or relatives or care-givers. Parents who themselves were victims of social neglect and had gotten into a vicious cycle of alcohol and drug abuse. They vent their frustrations on the children not realizing the consequences of their actions.

  Kind souls like Dr. Mason work on them round-the–clock offering them a shoulder to cry on and slowly healing their scars, one at a time. They are taken care off by social workers and volunteers who spend their time looking after the individual needs of children and making sure they are not hopelessly lost. Case workers work alongside these children making sure their court papers are in order; they are being treated rightly and have a 24 hour access to these children.

 The stories are heart-rending and just listening to them brings on the tears and a strange sense of anger towards humans in general for bringing it on  these innocent children in the first place. Working among them takes a lot of resolve and strength to guide them in the right direction, sometimes it leaves one feeling saddened by the harsh realities that confronts these children and the kind of future that awaits them.

 PS: Names here have been changed and story altered to protect identity of cases.