Adventure · Non Fiction · Personal · Uncategorized

The Challenges and Joys of Teaching

I don’t know how it’s possible, but a classroom of students, no matter their age, can be pretty daunting. I’ve agreed to teach English to my mother’s class 8 students this week, since she’s away. When I first visited the class last week I was slightly worried at the prospect of having to spend six days with a bunch of 14 year olds, who are especially boisterous.

On Monday I woke up anxious even though I know from experience that only the first few days of class are worrying. After all it is the first day when boundaries are tested and important impressions made. I guess another reason my brain wouldn’t stop churning out the worst possible scenarios is because up until now I’d never taught this age group.

My first class turned out to be better than I expected. They were somewhat riotous, but also cute. One boy tried to fool me by telling me his name was Chunit when it was actually Niranjan.  Luckily, I knew who Chunit was! But then Niranjan said, “Yes, it’s difficult to forget someone who looks like a Panda.” Then Chunit called him a lizard. There were also some children who wanted me to know how their names sounded backwards. And of course there were girls who made as much noise as the boys but smiled sweetly and nodded when they saw me looking in their direction. They also told me that I looked like I was studying in class 12.  Such were the adventures of my first class.

The second class was worse than the first. Somehow no one feels like studying after lunch. They’d all rather shout. Needless to say, I was somewhat frazzled the first day. Now I start my classes by making my students do breathing exercises with their eyes closed. It seems to be the equivalent of the “Open them, shut them…” technique I used to use with the kindergarteners. It works wonders in calming them down and quieting them… to an extent.

On Thursday I taught one of the two 8 grade classes story telling. I explained the pyramid to them and gave them two possible topics to choose from if they couldn’t come up with their own ideas for a story. As an example, I told them the story of Little Red Riding Hood (heavily dramatized and tweaked for them). After that we discussed the parts of the story according to the pyramid we just learned.

It was interesting to watch them while I told the story.  They were so absorbed in it that they were leaning forward with wide eyes, even though many of them already knew the story. The class was completely silent while the story was being told. And after we were done, they were all shiny eyed and asking when they could begin writing, how long their stories had to be, if they could make up any story they liked, and on and on. That was fun 🙂

I’ve also been helping the psychology teacher out at school. She asked if I would conduct group counselling sessions with students whenever there was a free slot in the timetable, instead of calling in a regular substitute teacher. The last class I spoke to was class 9. We talked about stress and how to minimize it. It was interactive with a lot of exercises in between. We ended class with breathing meditation. They seemed happy by the end of it. Not everyone was expressive about how the session had made them feel, but, they were all smiling. Plus they call out to me now and wave at me whenever they see me. They are cute and the experience is not entirely different from teaching kindergarten.

I go quite a bit to the primary section as well, since the psychology teacher is an administrator there. I sit in her office, talk to her about workshop ideas, do odd jobs to help out, and visit with my kindergarten students who are now in class 1. They come to say hello sometimes or sometimes they just scream my name when they see me.

My week has been full and exhausting. And even though I’ll miss all of it, I’m also looking forward to working on my own time.  And yet I am glad that I’ll still be meeting with the students for counseling sessions and workshops.

I don’t have a picture of my class. But here’s a picture of our evening at the beach yesterday 🙂
Adventure · India · Non Fiction · Personal · Uncategorized

Ending My Day On A Jazz Note

I had an adventurous day, although that’s normal for me. Today’s adventure was slightly scary. I decided to take the bus into Pondicherry town all by myself. Everything was fine until I stopped to ask directions for the bus back home. The person who’d given me directions decided to follow me around and check if I had been listening to him. I got such a fright when I made a wrong turn and found him there asking me where I thought I was going. Then he tried to get me to sit on his cycle. When I refused he seemed to think he had the right to shout at me. I was so glad when a bus pulled up and the conductor told me they’d be going where I needed to. I didn’t even care when he “forgot” to return change for my bus ticket.

My evening was much more pleasant. I put up a presentation for my family on the history of jazz music. There wasn’t any important reason to – I just thought it would be a fun way to develop a deeper appreciation of the music. My father, brother and I enjoy listening to jazz music anyway. My mother listens to jazz as well, but I’m not very sure if she enjoys it as much as we do. She does like history though.  And my cousin, Amiya, seemed up for it as well. Plus we had the perfect weather to listen to this sort of music today! – refreshing cool breeze, uncharacteristic of Pondicherry, accompanied by light showers.

If you’d like to know more about the history of jazz music, and how it follows the history of America, this article offers a brief description..

I’ve included one of my favourite music pieces here. Hope you like it as much as I do!


Adventure · Books · Imagination · Non Fiction · Personal · Uncategorized

The Creepy Crawlies Around The Corners of An Idyllic Life

Yesterday my brother rolled his eyes and told me that I was living in my head. In my defense, it’s uncontrollable. The wildlife around our home and in our home in Pondicherry is overwhelming. I’ve always known that India is a tropical country and fosters a range of interesting creatures. However, I haven’t been as acutely aware of this as in the past week.

I was just beginning to grow used to the lizards that we share our home with. In fact, I even aww-ed at a baby lizard crawling up my wall! Then on Friday I met a friend at church who was missing part of his left eyebrow.

He told me that while he’d been shaving his face that morning a lizard fell on his head and just stayed there, perched on his head. He was so shocked and creeped out that he jumped and accidentally shaved his eyebrow. I had to ask how big that lizard had been. He described it as being of humongous proportions, unlike any I’d ever seen so far. But I believed him and was grateful that we had none rooming with us in our home. Unfortunately, I’d considered myself lucky too soon. Later that evening, on my way up to my room there was an amazingly large lizard frozen on the wall. At the time it looked as large as a chameleon and as disgusting as a house lizard.

I will admit that the lizard had shrunk a little by morning. But it was still one of the larger house lizards I’d ever come across. Also, it hadn’t gotten any less creepy. It kept sticking out its tongue and reminding me that it was a reptile. I wish I had a better grip on my imagination because it took off unsupervised and had me seeing the lizard fall on my head, perch on my shoulder, and even slide down my back. That night I dreamt of flying lizards. It’s interesting to think that that’s what dragons are really. But it wasn’t dragons I dreamt of. The lizards in my dream were regular looking, similar to the ones hanging out in my room. Except these lizards could fly if they wanted to. I even saw little decapitated lizards that were regenerating themselves. My week has been stressful with having to be unnaturally alert and discerning.  The line between imagination and reality is getting blurry. And that’s because reality hasn’t been any less horrifying than the nightmare.

I know that I saw a lizard crawl into my closet. There’s a lizard that lives behind the mirror on my dressing table, another that lives on the window ledge, and one that regularly tries to sneak around my bed. It’s been two times already that I’ve shaken my bedside table and had a lizard scurry away.

I knew my lizard phobia was getting out of hand when my morning and evening prayers were for protection from lizards. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to be braver, or just have the lizards leave without a struggle. To calm myself down a little I decided to read something I could get absorbed in and forget about my momentary troubles. So I am now reading The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald.

I don’t know what it is about certain writers and particular books that make a person’s mind and body relax even if their thoughts aren’t particularly soothing. Reading Penelope Fitzgerald pulled me back to the times I used to enjoy reading books like Watership Down and The Glassblowers while enjoying cups of Lopchu tea. I love living in those sort of books. They envelop me in contentment that’s incomparable.

This is the first time I am reading The Bookshop even though I’ve had it for a very long time. The story is about a middle aged lady, Florence Green, who goes through quite a bit of unpleasantness in the process of starting and running her bookshop. It’s very charmingly told and I plan to review it as soon as I’m done reading it. What is ironic about my uninformed decision to select this book to calm me is that the story is about Florence Green having to accept difficulties, injustices, and looking for ways to fix her problems – especially when she’d rather not. I read this on page 18 and it made me sigh:

The curious sounds associated with the haunting continued at night, long after the ill-connected water pipes had fallen silent. But courage and endurance are useless if they are never tested.

Before I end this post I have to say that apart from the reptiles, scorpions, and intruding squirrels, Pondicherry is a lovely place to live in. As my brother says, there’s lots of village fun to be had here. And it’s true! We had dolphins come by the beach once while we were eating lunch there. And I’ve seen flamingos, golden orioles, and other pretty birds while out on walks or even from the terrace.




Adventure · India · Personal

One Early Morning, And A Thrilling Walk Back In Time

On Thursday my brother, Siddharth, knocked at my front door when I thought he was far away in Tamil Nadu. What a fantastic surprise! While I am anyway the sort of person who loves having family visit, this arrival brightened me because my brother is fun to spend time with and of course, I don’t have to make an effort to see that he is constantly entertained.

This morning Siddharth and I went for a walk to the Pashan hills at 6 am. It was indescribably beautiful. It felt as though we’d left the city behind, when really we were in the heart of it.

I took a few pictures. None, however, document the event as attentively as my senses and memory did. The silence was perfect. The kind that made us quiet our voices, focus on our steps and look around in amazement while we absorbed the things we never imagined to encounter just 30 minutes away from my apartment.

It reminded me of the time we went mushroom picking in the Swedish woods. The pine needles muffled our footsteps while simultaneously filling our senses with its heady perfume. So absorbing and personal was the experience of hunting mushrooms in this enchanting place that we’d have to call out to one another when we found we’d drifted somewhere alone. There was no visible path of any sort and every tree looked the same. It was gorgeous and amazingly frightening at the same time. There was the very real possibility of getting lost in these woods if we wandered too far away. There was an equal chance for the inopportune confrontation with Moose – an idea that brought feelings of wonder and fear.

Assuredly, Indian forests do not house Moose – at least not in the state of Maharashtra. Some forests here caution of tigers, leopards and elephants. But not this place. Today while whispering in the little forest of Vetal hill we saw a peacock! I wanted to take a picture of it but it walked away. Yes I know how absurd that sounds. But with its head bobbing it actually did a fast walk too far across the forest for me to keep up.

We saw 9 other peacocks in the course of our walk. Later over breakfast we made a list of the different birds we’d spotted. Not counting the birds we were unable to correctly identify, we saw 12 different kinds of birds!

•Great Indian Roller
•Green bee eater
•Red vented bulbul
•Cattle egret
•Crow pheasant

We also saw the cutest weaver bird nest beneath an overhanging rock on the quarry. Oh! Did I not mention that at the top of the hill was a quarry?

Vetal HillIt was so calm and quiet. And thrilling! It made me feel glad that I knew how to do yoga and that perhaps I could try doing some Surya Namaskars here. Or maybe meditating. Or better still, Praying. It was the perfect shot of joy to remind us how magnificent it is to be alive and have command of all our senses.

Another exciting feature of this morning’s adventure included geocaching. And I was the person (between my brother and me) who discovered the much hunted container under a rock wedged beneath boulder and tree. Oh the rush to be the one who finds a tiny container with many little notes from people who were here too! To think that we’re now part of a secret that cannot be shared with just any muggle! (By the way I was an ignorant too until recently initiated by my knowledgeable brother).

One other incident that made this morning memorable was our encounter with the Great Indian Roller. We were returning from the quarry towards the foot of the hill when we saw this huge boulder with an interesting looking bird perched on it.  We also noticed a nearby photographer gingerly stepping around clicking pictures of the bird. Of course he was being careful because he didn’t want to frighten it away. But the funny thing was, was that the Great Indian Roller seemed perfectly aware of the photographer’s attentions and was quite pleased with it all! It even slow-hopped in a circle remindful of a twirl that gave us a lovely view of its pretty colours. You could even imagine it pouting and deliberately posing by the way it arched its neck. And waited. Turned. Looked back. Waited. What fun to watch a bird that flaunts itself. It makes one marvel at its individuality!

Today turned out to be one of the best adventures I’ve had in ages that I simply had to crawl out of hiding and write about it. It was incredible to discover such quiet beauty that brought back memories of time spent in Hosur, Tamil Nadu when my father used to wake us early in the mornings and take us on long walks across the country through similar terrain. On our way back we’d sometimes stop for breakfast in one of the tiny little shops that were just waking up. Such treasured memories! But the addition that makes today’s affair unforgettable was my facetious little brother, Siddharth. How we laughed this morning! – at ourselves, at the birds and their silly antics,  and at the stories we made up on our charming walk.

The Quarry

Adventure · Books · Culture · India · Personal

Books, books, and more books!

Book Shopping in Delhi’s Daryaganj Book Market!

These are the 20 rupee books!
More books
You can find books of all sorts here...
We noticed that there were more textbooks this time than last time. So now we know what India's been reading. Sad!
People standing around a 20 rupee book piles.

Adventure · Books · Personal

My Best Book-Based Movie

I’m sorry I missed Sunday’s post. The weekend was unusually busy and the week, so far, is proving to be the same. But if you ask me what exactly I’ve been busy with it might leave me fumbling since work hasn’t been all that trying and choir practice is only at 8:45 in the evenings.

Saturday was Sabbath (I’m a Seventh-day Adventist). Sunday morning I had work. Sunday afternoon was spent at the mall where we decided to watch a movie – the new Tintin movie! And Sunday evening and a lot of Monday was spent discussing how fantastic the movie was and whether we should go watch it again. We also did some fabric shopping for winter – what fun!  

I remember the first time I watched a Harry Potter movie and the disappointment I felt when I found that the movie wasn’t half as magical as the book. And the time I watched Prince Caspian? I literally wanted to pull my hair and scream when the eponymous Prince Caspian came through as being a bit too arrogant towards Peter (the High King!) and romantic towards Susan. That’s not how the story in the book went – and the story in the book was perfect the way it was!

Ramona and Beezus made me laugh, sigh, and feel good in general yet I was aware that some parts of the movie were taken from Ramona the Pest and Ramona Quimby, age 8. And Beezus had long hair in the movie when she and Ramona were supposed to have the same short hair like they did in the book (and in my imagination). The Adventures of Tintin happens to be the only movie that has managed to captivate this ferocious book owl’s heart. (Of course I’m only talking about movies based on books/ comic books).

I think this is the best book-based movie ever made so far. Spielberg has managed to capture the essence of the Tintin comic books so well that this movie has left me eagerly looking forward to watching more Tintin movies by him. If you’re a fan of the Tintin comic books, or even if you aren’t, do try and find the time to watch this movie. It’s simply amazing and I think you will love it! When we decided to watch the movie we had to book our tickets in advance or else we wouldn’t have got any seats. Everyone in the theatre seemed to enjoy it as much as we did. Please, please, please watch The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn! 

So what has been your best book-based movie?

Regarding other matters occupying me presently, I’m working on a book list for 2012. I hope I manage to finish it by this week. Have a great week!

Adventure · Books · India · Personal

A Book Fiend’s Fantasy

I’m still recuperating from the most exciting Sunday in my life. Last week I booked a train ticket to Delhi because I thought it would be fun to spend the weekend with my aunt and cousins. But I must admit that I went with another less familial intention as well. That other intention being the exciting sport of book shopping! Now it may be a little baffling to think that I went all the way to Delhi to buy a couple of books I could have easily bought from a bookshop closer to home. But I didn’t shop at any ordinary book shop. In fact I didn’t even shop at a book shop! The place I picked to let loose and book binge was the Sunday Book Bazaar in the Daryaganj area of Old Delhi.

The reason I haven't written in a while
A picture taken in the beginning. As we moved on we found that it was increasingly difficult to take pictures, and much busier.

Although this area of town is known to be busy throughout the week, Daryaganj is most famous for its Sunday Book Bazaar. Every Sunday the footpath of this market is transformed into India’s biggest second hand book market. This book market, guaranteed to make any book owl swoon in delight, goes on for over a kilometer and a half. And this being my first experience of the Daryaganj Book Market I was a little more than shocked to see books sold like clothes at a discount sale. Although some of the books were arranged neatly, most of the books were piled together or simply thrown together according to price. It kind of felt like I had stepped into a Farmer’s Market except instead of vegetables and fruit there were books, magazines, notebooks and journals.

One of the reasons these books are sold so cheap is because the book sellers don’t realize the value or the difference between the rare and the ordinary books. I don’t know what wisdom is used to separate the 20 Rupee books from the 30 Rupee books, but I have a strong feeling that the size and general appearance more than the content of the book plays a major role in the division. There was only one book seller who seemed to know his books well. But even his books were extremely cheap by regular standards. Of course most of the books here are discards by people who have no use for them, others are unclaimed books found on buses and trains later auctioned by the transport authorities to book sellers, and still others are old surplus copies of an edition that publishers aren’t able to sell. With the different sources that contribute to this unique second hand bazaar it isn’t surprising that all sorts of books can be found here. From the ubiquitous Nora Roberts to rare editions of the classics, this market appears to have it all. All you need to shop here is a keen eye and a love for wading and digging through stacks of books.

Me having a difficult time zipping up while my cousin watches incredulously

It goes without saying that the key to dealing in this particular market is a good bargain. It’s also very important to come here looking bored and uninterested, more so if you spot a book you want to get your hands on. As long as you’re able to keep the glint out of your eye you’ll find that bargaining is a breeze and buying 20 Rupee books is like everyday business. I still can’t believe that I bought The Bridges of Madison County for only 20 Rupees! The Daryaganj Book Market is, like one article in a Delhi newspaper put it, an Aladdin’s cave to the penniless book lover. And when I stepped off the bus and found myself surrounded by books, books, and more books! –I knew exactly how Aladdin must have felt in that cave. I bought 22 books plus 3 proper drawing pads and I spent only 800 Rupees!

If you’re ever in Delhi and if you’re as crazy about the written word as I am, you must make it a point to visit this part of Old Delhi on a Sunday. But be warned, the Daryaganj Book Market is not a place for snobs. People of all kinds can also be found here pushing and shoving their way about. But this is really an extremely small price to pay in the bargain of getting to buy your favourite books at throw away prices.

Catching up on some Peanuts and Garfield while waiting for the bus