Hogwarts Origins Chapter 2: The Conclave of Bishops

The clouds had gathered ominously. There was no sign of even the slightest breeze. The trees around the church looked on gravely as the church stood in majestic silence, its spire looming large over the entire city of London. The serious atmosphere outside was a reflection of the more serious atmosphere inside the chapel. Twelve men sat around a table. They were dressed in royal white gowns adorned with gold. Each one of them had a mitre on his head and a pallium hung around his neck, the symbols of power. For they were most powerful men in the entire country! This was the conclave of archbishop of England. In the center of the table sat the most powerful man in England – Cardinal Erasatz. He held a crosier in his hand. He was a tall bearded man with a stern expression on his face. The expressions of the other bishops varied from anger to worry to even fear. But clearly there was no sign of happiness on any of the faces. A crisis was upon them and this special conclave of Bishops had been convened to discuss the same.

Cardinal Erasatz rose from his seat, “I thank you all for making it here at such short notice. I am sure many of you will be aware why we are all gathered here. But to make it clear Bishop Janus will formally read out the agenda for today’s meeting.

A short bald man with a hooked beak of a nose rose from his seat, rolled out a parchment and began to read,” The August gathering of all the holy bishops of England gather today on the fifteenth day of March to discuss the great crisis that is upon the king and church of England. The kingdom has fallen under the grip of heretics. It faces a threat of being claimed by the greatest enemy of man and God, the fallen angel whose name we shall not take to defile this sacred place. It is up to us, the men of true faith to take the last stand against this great evil that threatens us. Our faith will be greatly tested. But if we hold staunch, our wise and gracious father in heaven will see us through the dark winter

As he read on his voice hit a feverish pitch, “I talk of the ones who draw upon the magic of hell itself. The ones who call themselves wizards and witches! The agents on earth of the one who was exiled from heaven for eternity! We have so far tolerated them as a necessary evil and have tried to exorcise their ill effects through extra prayers and penitence. But their power has been increasingly growing and so has their malevolence. Now they design for the throne of England itself. If the throne falls, nothing stands between them and the church. It is time we acted or it shall be too late. The great responsibility to fight again this great evil is upon the holy men of God assembled in this room. I hereby open the house for your views.

A tall thin man with squint eyes got up from his seat, “From times immemorial the holy order of God and the order of magic have co-existed peacefully in spite of our differences. Though we have never been comfortable with the channeling of magic, we have let the wizards do what was necessary to defend the kingdom against its foes. All the nefarious elements were always reigned in and overall order was maintained in the kingdom while defending the borders. What has suddenly necessitated this adverse stand against magic? Even we cannot refute the fact that Merlin has been one of the best wizards that ever lived and has always held the best interest of the kingdom at heart. Has he suddenly turned against the kingdom now? Why are we suddenly required mobilizing against Merlin and his band?

Before he could finish, a small man with a ratty face and hair jutting out in front jumped up from his seat, “Brother Gregory, which world are you living in? Seems like you have been buried in the countryside too long and lost touch with what is happening in the kingdom. Merlin had gone senile and lost his senses. It is Morgana Le Frey who controls all the magic in the kingdom now. It is rumored she seduced Merlin and has him under her spell.

A large man with a ruddy round face jumped up from his seat, “That is what happens to the ones who lack the discipline of the church. All Merlin’s good intentions have only paved his road to hell. We should have never allowed this abomination in the first place. Let us stamp it down at least now. Or die trying. If we cannot defend this kingdom without this unholy power from hell, then let the kingdom fall. Aren't we more concerned with the kingdom of heaven than any kingdom on earth?

An old man bent with age rose slowly and spoke up in a conciliatory tone, “Brother Benford, I can understand your angst. But let us not allow emotions to lead us to speak treason. All of us are deeply concerned with what is happening in the kingdom. But I don’t think evil is in the magic itself. It is this Morgana, the spawn of evil. When our old king sought to take that whelp of lowly blood into his hearth, I had protested strongly. But my advice went unheeded and the snake was admitted into the Garden of Eden. Now she is wrecking her evil.

But that’s all past story, Brother. What do we do now?

Evil begets evil. Only something inherently evil can be corrupted. She just used the inherent evil in magic to her benefit

The whole chapel broke into cacophony. Emotions flew high and years of discipline were thrown to wind. Arguments flowed freely back and forth. Cardinal Erasatz sat calmly observing the proceedings. Finally he decided that it was time for him to step in. He slowly rose from his seat. Such was the power of his presence that in minutes the whole chapel was in pin drop silence. All the bishops were back in their seats and looked on eagerly as their leader opened his mouth to speak.

My dear brothers, I have heard you all. Each of you has a point and you are right from your own view point. I have been closely observing the way things have been shaping up from a very long time and I can’t say this was really unexpected. I have considered the possibility of such things as are happening now coming to pass. I have accordingly been making my preparation.

All the bishops waited with bated breath as the cardinal took a pause. He cleared his throat, picked up the cup of water kept in front of him, took a few sips and continued, “As some of you have pointed out the use of magic is indeed a sacrilege against God. By drawing wild magic, man arrogates to himself the power of God and such a practice should be condemned by every true apostle of God. I am not sure what reason our predecessors had for coming to terms with these forces. But the current circumstances have given us a chance to change that and let us make use of this opportunity our good and gracious father from heaven has given us.

He once again paused and scanned the faces of the bishops for their reactions. Most of the bishops tried to hold a poker face. It was not good to let their emotions run wild in front of the cardinal.

However I am not been altogether unconcerned about the need to defend our kingdom from enemy nations who have no compunctions about the means of war. We need to be practical to a certain extent as well and be resourceful in our work of the Lord on this Earth. You all know the parable of the master who gave the same number of talents to each servants and how the master rewarded only the servant who used his talents well to further multiply his talents. We should heed wisdom from the parable.

I dwelled deeply into the history of magic use and have contemplated a lot about it. I have come to the conclusion that wild magic by itself is not evil. It is like an apple in the Garden of Eden. The apple is not evil in itself. How can it be for is it also not God’s own creation? But eating it without the Lord’s permission is what makes it evil. We should refrain from committing man’s original sin all over again. But God has always said ask and it shall be given to you. So all we need to do is to ask God and draw the power from God himself.

Once again he paused to let the implication of what they had just said sink in to the bishops. Some of the bishops seemed to have let down the guard. They seemed to be shocked beyond belief at what they had just heard. But still what the cardinal said made absolute sense and they all had complete faith in his Holiness’ greater wisdom.

Some of you might be wondering if I am suggesting that we take arms. That is of course not possible for the hands that hold the Holy Book and the rosary are not meant to hold the sword and the shield. That is the calling of the Knights of the Round Table. What I suggest is to create a holy order of the knights who will be blessed with the gift of magic from God himself. Pure magic! Holy Magic! That we will channelize from the Lord himself and bequeath to them.

Now the whole hall stirred with excitement. One of the bishops could no longer hold himself back. “But his Holiness, how is that possible?

The cardinal smiled. “It might come as a surprise to you but over 5 years back I had commissioned a highly secret research project. I have recently received the results. It has been discovered that weapons and armor manufactured in a certain way from Goblin forges have a property that enables them to receive blessings that endows them with properties similar to the power of magic. I have ordered for a special sword and it will soon be on its way."

As if in answer to his statement, there was a knock at the door. “You have my leave to enter the holy premises, Ragnuk.

A fat little man with an ugly warty face and a pointed nose fully decked with gold jewelry entered. He walked up to the cardinal and handed him a sword inside a sheath. “We have forged the sword as per your specifications. Hope it is to your satisfaction, your Holiness.” He bowed.

The cardinal took the sheath and drew the sword out for all the bishops to see. And what a spectacle it was! It was made of pure silver. The handle was carved intricately and set with rubies. Something was carved near the hilt. But it was not readable from where the bishops sat.

Well done, Ragnuk. You have indeed kept your side of the deal and I shall, mine.” So saying he drew out a large pouch and gave it to the goblins. Even the money minded rude goblins knew to give a cardinal the courtesy of not counting the money in front of him. The goblin bowed and left.

I know what will be the next question that must be occupying all your minds. How can we trust the knights? As many of you may already suspect, the round table has indeed been compromised. But there is one who holds my complete trust. I have spoken to him already. He will identify other trustworthy knights and establish the holy order of knights. He will be here in a little while. If I am right it is him at the door right now. You may enter, Sir Percivale.”

A tall man with an athletic build entered. He had pronounced facial features, a flaming red bushy mane and shining green eyes. He radiated strength and courage as he took confident strides towards the cardinal, majestic like a lion. He greeted the cardinal by kneeling in front of him and taking a dignified bow. “Rise, Sir Percival. My dear brothers, let me present to you our Holy Champion.” All the bishops looked at him. His very presence seemed to inspire their confidence.

Your sword please, Sir Percivale.” The knight once again knelt and proffered his sword to the cardinal. The cardinal took it and sent it away with an orderly. Then he held out the goblin sword to his fellow bishops and said, “Join me in consecrating this sword.” The cardinal started chanting. The bishops formed a circle around him and they all started chanting in unison. Sir Percivale stood by patiently while the bishops went on for an hour.

Finally they were done and the cardinal held out the sword. Sir Percivale once again knelt and bowed. The cardinal tapped his shoulders with the sword and held it to out him. He took it deferentially with a bow. The cardinal sprinkled holy water on him as he rose. ”Today you are re-born as the first knight of the Holy order of our Lord in Heaven. I hereby re-christen you Godric, the one who carries the power of God.

Click for other Chapters: Chapter 1  Chapter 3  Chapter 4  Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8

Picture Credit : Bishop Picture

Hogwarts Origins Chapter 1: The Assassin of Alexandria

The garden was lush with greenery. There were trees all around bearing the choicest of fruits. Clouds shielded the garden from the harsh rays of the sun. A gentle breeze was blowing. Fawns and does frolicked happily free of any care in life. Hares chased each other in their mating game. Song birds chirped out melodies in unison as if they were part of an orchestra. An ancient tree overgrown with branches stood somewhere close to the middle of the garden. A bearded young man sat right below the tree with a goblet of wine. Two young maidens dressed in seductive attire of belly dancers sat on either side. Between the sips of wine, he ran his hands over their nubile bodies. Whenever his wine got over, one of maidens filled his goblet for him. When he was bored with wine, the maidens were there to occupy his attention. There was also a hookah that was kept burning close by. Wine, women and tobacco! In the middle of the most beautiful scenery! What else did a man need? This was paradise indeed!

As he explored the mysteries inside the garments of one of the women, he suddenly became aware of the garden around him fading. Within minutes the garden was gone. He lay in a dingy little room with a woman, a goblet of wine, and a hookah. There was no sign of the other woman. The goblet did not look ornate and beautiful anymore. It was looking plain. But still he had the celestial damsel with him. What else did he need when she was here? Or was she? What he was holding in his arms was just an old pillow. There was no damsel. He took a sip from the goblet. Yech! It was plain water and how horrible it tasted! An old man in turban stood before him. It was his Lord and Master, Amos – the one who had gifted him the keys to paradise. But nothing in life comes for free, right? Definitely not the keys to paradise. Now and then his master had some assignments for him. Once he had successfully executed the mission, he would be back in paradise. He usually quite liked the assignments for he liked challenges. And after a challenging assignment, he could come back and savor the paradise all the more.

Sadat had killed so many members of the royal family. He never got to know who hired him or what they paid for his services. His master was there to handle all that. He just focused on the job at hand. He was known to be the best in the guild and he took pride in his job. The best mission had been the last Pharoh himself. The current mission seemed like a dud compared to his earlier missions. All he had to do was kill some foreigner looking at books in the great library at Alexandria. He wondered why he had been chosen for this mission which any of the neophytes could have easily handled. There were not too many foreigners in Alexandria. So he would be easy to locate. The library did not have any great security. So evading security forces was not going to be a challenge. The man himself would not be a challenge for assassins never went for direct combat. When you killed by stealth, individual strengths did not matter. But anyways it was his master’s wisdom. He never questioned it. Looking on the positive side, it meant he could quickly finish his job and return to continue the interrupted tryst with the heavenly maiden.

Sadat got dressed up. His garments were designed for invisibility. There was nothing that stood out. He could just lose himself in a crowd and no one would give him a second look. But the garments had lot of secrets compartments stitched inside where he carried his deadly weapons of his trade – the ropes, the poison darts and daggers. He was not the one to waste time. Within the next hour he was making his way to the Alexandria library. As expected his quarry was easy to locate. He was a white skinned man of diminutive appearance. His face was unshaven, his robes were shabby and his hair was in a bad mess. This fellow looked a proper tramp. What a fall for the great assassin Sadat. After all the royal blood he had claimed, he had been sent to kill a stupid tramp. He wondered if he had done something to displease his master.

Anyways he could think about all that after he was done with the job. The library was fully crowded. This was ideal for his mission. All he had to do was to create a distraction. Then he would slip through the chaos that ensued, make his kill and then lose himself in the crowds and make his way back to his master and paradise. Ah! Paradise!

He slunk into a deserted corner of the library. The library was so large that in spite of the huge crowds of scholars thronging the library one could still find a private corner. This was a fact that had been discovered by secret lovers long ago. It was an open secret that the library was a favorite spot for romantic liaisons. He quickly took out a couple of flint stones from one of his inner pockets and got to work. Soon a bright fire was burning. He quickly moved away from the spot and joined the crowd. Suddenly there was a shout, “Fire! Fire! The library is on fire!” Immediately the whole sedentary library mobilized into action. But still the confusion was not sufficient. Now to move on to the second part of the plan! He took out a round object from his pocket and flung it to the ground before anybody could notice. Smoke engulfed the whole room. Now people were really scared. This was real chaos! People ran hither and thither, there was lot a noise of shouting and stamping of feet.

He quickly made his way to where he had seen the diminutive foreign scholar. He would be fumbling his way through the crowd he thought. All he had to do was get close to him and drive his dagger into his heart and mission accomplished. When he neared the scholar, to his surprise the scholar was seated where he was. He seemed totally oblivious of the entire disturbance around him. He seemed completed absorbed in his book. What was this book he was reading so intently, Sadat wondered. His curiosity got better of him and he glanced at the title of the book. It was in Egyptian. It read “Mind control techniques of the priests of Amon-Ra”. What a weird title! He wondered why this foreigner was interested in such a topic. Anyway that was none of his business. He was not here to have a conversation with the stranger. He was here to kill him.

He took out his dagger and approached him. He raised his arms and brought down the dagger towards the humped back with all his force. Just a hairline distance before the dagger could made contact with the stranger’s dirty cloak, the dagger froze. Sadat found he could no longer move. He stood like a statue with the dagger over the stranger’s back. The stranger closed the book with a deliberate slow movement. He turned around, rose and faced Sadat. Sadat was seeing his eyes for the first time. Unlike the rest of the man that were so unimpressive, the eyes had a strange gleam of someone who was used to being fully in control. Even the Pharaoh's eyes had not been so powerful. Suddenly Sadat realized why nothing but the best assassin was needed for this job. But the realization had come too late. The mission had already failed. And in this line of work failure meant just one thing: death. He just waited stoically. Maybe he would now permanently go to paradise. But given his track record on earth, unlikely it was. It would mostly likely be the other place.

As he stood, he found something strange happening in his mind. His life went in front of his eyes like a flash. He remembered how his master had kidnapped him from his home as a child. Then he remembered all the hard training. He also began to understand the true nature of the paradise. His master had been keeping him on hallucinates to keep him loyal. The paradise was all fake: it was nothing but a drug induced trance. He felt intense hatred for his master. He suddenly felt his body loosening up. He was no longer frozen.

His master was waiting for him with a goblet of wine for him: the reward for his mission. His very safe return meant success of the mission. The master had no need even to ask. The master was taken by surprise with the vehemence with which Sadat knocked the glass off his hands and threw a coil of rope around the his neck and drew it together as a noose. No assassin had turned on Amos before and he was hardly prepared for such an onslaught. As the noose drew tighter, Sadat found himself saying, “Who gave you the contract to murder the foreigner?” He had not meant to say anything like that at all. He was surprised when the words came out.

But the master was too shocked and frightened to be surprised. Sadat soon had the details of the man who had given the contract and the inn at which he was staying. All that was left now was to draw the noose tighter and hang it to the ceiling. The master’s last words as he let out his breath, “You will regret this, my boy. With no one to give you the panacea of paradise, you will go mad and die before nightfall. See you in the next world.” Already he was feeling withdrawal pangs. He was missing the paradise badly.

But something was driving him. Some kind of a compulsion. He had to go to the inn and find the one who had given the contract. Like his master, the stranger, a foreigner in rich attire had not at all been prepared for an attack and was overwhelmed without much difficulty. When he was about to strangle him, the scholar was at the door. The dying man’s face contorted in terror when he saw this shabby looking man. But he managed to summon a last bit of energy to give a dying taunt. “You may have won this round, son of Merlin. But no need to celebrate. The hands of Morgana are deadly, long and powerful. No one can evade it forever! You will be in her clutches sooner or later, bastard.

By now Sadat was feeling really uncomfortable. His master’s words were coming true. He was going mad. He longed for the garden and the damsels. He could not live without them. The stranger held out a vial. “Here drink this.” When a man is desperate he does not think to question what someone tells him. Moreover this stranger’s voice had an authority that was seldom used to being disobeyed. Sadat immediately took the vial and gulped it down. And the minute he gulped it down he felt a strange sense of relief. The paradise no longer seemed attractive to him. The whole thing seemed decadent and reeked of evil. For the first time after so many years he felt truly free. He felt extremely grateful to the stranger. He turned to thank him. But he was no longer there.

Sadat ran out of the door to catch up with the stranger. “Master, please take me with you. I know no trade except killing. With my old master dead, I have nothing left in this city. I will follow where you go and be your bodyguard.

The scholar’s face formed into a deep thoughtful frown. “I really have no need for anyone to protect me as you may have seen. I have my own devices to take care of myself. But come along if it makes you happy. But come as a friend, not as a servant. You can call me by my name. I am Salazar.

Click for other Chapters: Chapter 2  Chapter 3  Chapter 4  Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8

Picture Credit: Assassin picture

Cricket and Me: My tryst with India's national passion

In India, cricket is not just a pass time. Even  passion would be an understatement. In fact, it is almost a religion. There would hardly be anyone in this country whose life would not have been touched some way or the other by this game. Given my general nostalgic state of mind, I thought I would write about my experiences with the game that held me enthralled for 4 years of my life.

In my early childhood, in spite of all attempts on the part of my father and uncle to get me interested in cricket, my attitude to the game remained at best indifferent. Only thing I liked was watching the cute duck walking on the screen when players got out for zero in matches telecasted from Australia. I generally preferred more melodramatic stuff such as serials and movies. Then suddenly one fine day I turned a cricket fan, a fanatic, to the core. How did this transformation come about?

I have always been interested in collecting stuff – ranging from standard stuff such as coins, stamps, match boxes, books, and comics to weird things such as strange shaped stones and colored chalk pieces. Collection is not about just going and buying from the shop. The more the challenges that come in the way of collecting, all the more rewarding the collection process becomes. The joy and sense of accomplishment in acquiring a rare piece after a long wait cannot be described in words. It has to be experienced. Then there are other interesting aspects to collecting such as comparing notes, competing and trading with fellow collectors. The reader might by now be wondering what does my interest in collecting stuff got to do with my interest in cricket. Well, everything!

My closest friends those days were cricket fanatics. However their interest did not really rub off on me. I was the leader of the gang and my interest was in playing detective and they had no other option but to play along. That is of course altogether a different story which will be subject of another post. So let us leave the playing detective aside and get back to cricket. One gets interested in something new through association with something one is already passionate about. In this case, it was my passion for collecting that lead me to cricket. One of my friends Arjun had the habit of chewing gum regularly. One of the popular brands of bubblegum those days was Big Fun. When you opened the bubble gum wrapper, inside one would find a small strip of paper having the picture of a cricketer with some small statistic related to him. My friend had a habit of pocketing these. One day I noticed one and I developed an urge to collect them as well. My friend willingly gave me all his wrappers and I was in business.

Soon my collection began to grow but Arjun used to have just one bubblegum a day and you never knew who was the player till you opened the wrapper. So I was landing up with lot of duplicates. So I had to come up with other means of expanding my business. I noticed many of the other boys were not interested in these wrappers and were just throwing them away and going. So I began to scavenge around the canteen for wrappers. Soon things came to pass that I would position my team around the bubble gum counter to pounce on the wrapper the moment it was thrown. It might seem like a cheap thing to do. But one has to try it to see how much fun scavenging can be.

Then I came in touch with some of the other collectors. I came to know there was another brand of bubble gum called One Day bubble gum, with which one could get a free card with a nice photo in the front and detailed player statistics on the flip side. If Big Fun wrappers were my interest, the One Day cards became a sheer infatuation. But unfortunately those bubble gums had gone out of market and were not available in most of the shops. However one of the collectors who had a huge stash of one day cards offered me a deal; for every 5 Big Fun wrappers, he would give me a one day card. I was in ruptures of joy. This gave me a rush of blood and I began to crank up the production mechanism. I gave my friends just 10 minutes to finish lunch. After that I would herd them off to canteen for the scavenging mission. I also forced Arjun to double his daily bubble gum intake. Soon I had a nice collection of one day cards. But still some cards were missing. Dean Jones and Desmond Haynes were supposed to be the rarest cards and I would spend hours dreaming about possessing these two cards.

The cards by now had become a burning passion. But no one was willing to trade the rarer cards for Big Fun wrappers. So for these I tried to steal some of my play things such as magnets from home and try to exchange those for the cards. Of course my parents gave me no pocket money. So I had to work through barter system only. The other strategy I devised was to visit all petty shops in and around the area to see if they had some cards left over. Indeed money was needed for this venture. Some of the financing came from Arjun. For rest of it, I had to start selling off stamps and small play things. Of course parents would never even let me take these things to school, to speak of selling. So every day I had to secretly smuggle stuff into my school bag without my parents even getting scent of what I was doing.

The things infatuation makes you do! Talking of infatuation, it might be instructive at this point to digress a little and examine this interesting emotion. As I see, infatuation comes in 3 forms – with items, with people (often belonging to the opposite gender) and with concepts and ideas. I have experienced all three of them on multiple occasions. The symptoms are more or less the same for all three forms. When infatuation takes hold, everything else gets subordinated to the sole objective of possession of the object of infatuation. One feels as if the mind is on fire and experiences intense mood swings. There is euphoria when one is near to the object of infatuation, like when I used to sit and gloat over my shining cards. Then there would be moments of intense despair and despondency when one feels the object of infatuation going away from you like when after all efforts I see someone having a rare card I want but I am not able to make him part with it. The phases of infatuation can also lead to other repercussions as during these phases, one tends to lose interest in all other activities in life

I seem to have already clocked well over a thousand words without even starting on how my infatuation got transferred from the cricket cards to the cricket game. But then nostalgia is like old wine. It has to be sipped and savored, not gulped down in one shot of bottoms up. So I will continue in another post, a guest post for one of my best friends on blog-o-sphere, DS, a passionate cricket fan not too unlike my friends I mentioned earlier in this post.

Picture Credits: http://blogs.studentsarea.com/what-is-cricket/

The Good in me, The Good in you

Well, finally I decide to do a full fledged tag post. From saying no tags, to saying I will accept award but not answer questions, I moved on to answering the tag on Facebook, then answering on my blog but not tagging anyone. Finally now I am going to answer the tag as well as tag people as per the requirement. This is a testimony of my evolving relationship with fellow bloggers. From starting as a high brow author types expecting people to come and read my blogs like they read novels, I have come to realize that blogging is more a social media for connecting with fellow bloggers - people from different age groups, genders, locations, professions and walks of life. In a way, it is different from other media. Facebook is primarily to connect with people you already know. I have not done much with twitter. Chat rooms mostly lead to very hollow discussions starting with ASL (Age sex location). I indulged in that a decade back and came to realize it is only for pretenders and people starved of company of opposite gender. Blogging that way is different as the blog posts serve as a firm base where you get some insight into people's personality before interacting with them. Tags I feel have emerged as an integral part of the social ecosystem of blog-o-sphere and hence my acceptance of tags.

Now moving on to the tag itself, this is a tag given by Subhorup, a friend, philosopher and guide in the literal sense of the term. One of my few friends in blog-o-sphere he definitely is. A philosopher who shares his philosophy in his blog and lives by it as well.And a guide too for most of whose posts serve as guides for various practical aspects on life such as doing well in job, time management, saving fuel etc.

Category 1: Your most beautiful post: Not sure what one means by beautiful post. But I guess this 777 word story is something I am able to associate with beauty - Jewel of the Jungle

Category 2: Your most popular post: I think here I will go more by perceived popularity than traffic or comments as they are influence by other factors. So the one that has been most popular to date is - Great Indian Bride Hunt

Category 3: Your most controversial post: I mostly blog my personal experiences, fiction and poetry. So there isn't much scope for controversy. I have not had much comments when I post analysis kinds of posts to know if it generated controversy. So I choose a post where I feel I have expressed an opinion that is very different from what most people hold - Is Flat the best shape for the World?

Category 4: Your most helpful post: My blog is not an informative blog. So it is very difficult to find a helpful post. But I was able to locate a post, where at least the intent was to be helpful. Don't know whether it was though  - How to write a story?

Category 5: A post whose success surprised you: This was a post written by me as an angry response to lack of success in contest. But it was so well received that it totally surprised me: The Legend of the Baikadu

Category 6: A post you feel did not get the attention it deserved: There was this satire post picked as Saturday Spicy pick by BlogAdda. But it received 3 comments, 2 of which were personally solicited by me: Lok Pal Film

Category 7: I am really proud of this poem. At times I can't even believe I wrote it. Never written anything comparable since - Fool 

Now to nominate 5 diverse people from different circles for this tag from my side to complete this tag requirements. First time I am nominating people for tags. This is a nice tag to give because it is about your best posts and does not involve any buffoonery. Hope this results in some cross pollination and these bloggers get some new readers.

1. C.Suresh - He needs no introduction. But in case there is anyone who does not know him, he writes amazing posts both humorous and gloom and doom with perfect language and flow. He aspires to be a novelist. He has received many tags. But only reason I give him the tag is probably because he has not received this particular one and he is one person I am 100% sure will not refuse the tag.

2. Sumana Khan - She is one of the very first blogger friends. She is a regular and experienced blogger blogging on wide variety of topics. She is an amazing story teller and has self published a novel too. I don't think she actively socializes in blogging circles. So hope to introduce her to my current blogging circle through the tag.

3.Asteria -  She is a new blogger. I visited 2-3 posts of hers. I kind of like her writing style. She has a kind of tangy touch to her writings. She has probably not received a tag before. So I would like to be the first one to give her a tag. Hopefully it helps her grow her blogging circle.

4. Shilpa Nair -  She has been one of the most active commentators on my blog for a very long time.  She is a tragedy queen who can write beautiful stories that can move one to tears. She doesn't seem too active on her blog these days. So not sure if she will take the tag.

5. Shail Mohan -  She is again one of the bloggers I met in my early days of blogging. She writes beautiful stories with life like descriptions. I visit her blog only sporadically though as I visit blogs by directly typing the url and not through any feeds. So usually the ones who have visited me recently tend to be on top of the mind recall. These tags can help me remember some of my older friends.

Ganesha ushers in a new beginning

I wonder if becoming more and more nostalgic by the day is a sign of old age. I hope that is not the case for these days my blogging seems to have shifted towards sharing of some of the most precious memories. This time with Ganesh Chaturthi approaching it is about my favorite Ganesh Chaturti day.

It was the year of 1987, the year India hosted the cricket world cup and lost to Australia in the semi-finals. We had been at our new house for close to a year. The place was one of the ancient areas in Bangalore. The street was lined with houses packed next to each other like matchboxes. Almost every house had a kid making the place literally a children’s paradise. But I was very reserved by nature and had kept within the confines of our home. Recently however one boy had stopped me on the road and spoken to me. He had told me his name was Raju and he lived 2 houses from mine. Mom was happy to see me finally making a friend and tried to push me to go to him and play with him. But I was still too shy.

Around this time the Ganesha festival approached. The boys of the streets used to organize grand celebrations. They collected money for the celebrations from the houses on the street and they came to our house as well. Raju was one of them. Mother was shrewd by nature and decided to make best of the opportunity and made a deal with the boys. She would give them money for the celebrations. In return they had to take me off her hands. Raju was only too glad to oblige. I was soon introduced to a host of boys: Deepak, Nagaraj, Sanjay, Nanjesh, Kumar, Prashant, Vinayak, Pradeep, Naveen etc. There were many more but these are some I can still remember. Slowly I got over my inhibitions and joined in the preparations. The next day when Raju came home to pick me up, I had no hesitation in going along. Mom smiled to herself. Her plan seemed to be working. But little did she realize that she was soon going to be wishing her plan had not worked.

The Ganesha day finally arrived. The whole street was brightly decorated. A huge Ganesha idol had been procured and put up on display in the open garage one of the residents had been kind enough to donate. Sports and cultural programs were organized as part of the celebrations. I don’t know what came over me but I gave my name for something called a mono act. I still can’t remember what the hell I was thinking. All I did was to go on to the mike and narrate some random story in the most boring manner imaginable for close to 10 minutes. But surprisingly no one booed me off the stage. No wonder they say people were much nicer in those good old days.

Then there were the sports. The main events were the running races. It was a keenly contested one and I emerged as one of the key competitors. People who know me in the recent times may not think much of my sporting abilities. But I was not too bad at running then apparently. Raju and Deepak were older than me and were easily the first and second. The contest was for the third place between me and another boy of around my age, height and build. I got a last minute surge and pushed on ahead at the last minute. I had won. As I got over my victory to look around, the prizes were already being given. Then to my shock the third prize was not given to me but to the other boy – Pradeep. I was furious.

I won the third prize. What is happening,” I shouted.

Well you stood just short of the finishing line. He was the one to cross the finishing line. Deepak was the witness for that.

It all came to me. The friendship between Deepak and Pradeep was legendary in the street. Pradeep was like Deepak’s shadow. Even in my one day I had realized that. Deepak had played dirty to help his crony.

You cheat,” I shouted at Deepak.

Pradeep’s face turned red and he came towards me menacingly as if to hit me. The other boys restrained us. Deepak came up to me calmly and said, “If you feel you were cheated, come tomorrow to the deserted area behind the old cinema hall. We will settle it the way of boys. Let us not create a scene before adults here.” I had no clue what this ‘way of boys’ would be. But I nodded my head. The celebrations went well both at home and in the street.

The next day I went out immediately after coming home from school. Mother was so happy that I had found friends. 3 boys were waiting for me – Deepak, Pradeep and Nanjesh. They were apparently a gang or something. I was curious why they had called me here. I wondered if they were going to beat me up. Maybe I should not have come.

Deepak spoke up, “Good to see you did not chicken out. We still have the matter of the race to sort out. Let us get it settled through a trial of strength between you and Ragi.” Apparently Ragi was Pradeep’s nickname.

I did not have much experience fighting but was not going to buckle down. So I gingerly entered the ring. The fight did not last long. Ragi rushed at me like a roaring bull. I dodged him, got behind him and caught him in a lock. Then it was about waiting it out and slowly twisting his arms. He could not take it any longer and finally yielded. I was the victor, the rightful winner of the race. Matters should have ended there. But the win sent blood rushing through my head and I now challenged Deepak for a duel.

Deepak was altogether a different proposition. He was an older boy and it was not easy to get him into a lock. And he was really a vicious one. That day I came home battered. But I was not the one to give up so easily. Again the next day I found him, challenged him and again came home bruised. Then again a third day! By now Deepak was getting irritated and beginning to lose his cool. He dealt one violent blow that threw me on to the ground and a gash opened in my arm as I hit the ground.

What is going on here boys? Are you all right?

A neighborhood adult had come by. Deepak was now in deep shit, caught red handed bullying a younger boy.

Thanks, uncle. We were playing. I slipped and fell down.

I had my honor. I was not going to hide behind an adult.

Ok. Take care. Deepak, maybe you can get your friend some Band-Aid or something.”

The 3 boys heaved a sigh of relief.

Deepak seemed to have a new respect for me, “You are one hell of a fighter. But you still need a lot of training before you can even think of challenging me seriously. Come and practice with us.

I could see two pairs of friendly eyes and one pair of hostile eyes looking at me. I was being invited to join gang. But I was never going to be Ragi’s friend. Probably he had a foreboding of things to come. Deepak’s right hand man would soon have to make do with being the left hand man. Their legendary friendship was soon to be overshadowed by a greater legend. My mother who had struggled to get me out of the house would struggle to get me back in the days to come. It was going to be a real roller coaster ride, one of the happiest phases of my childhood. The Ganesh Chaturthi had been the beginning.

Picture Credit:  http://www.hindu.com/2009/08/08/stories/2009080860180300.htm

What I want to bring back from Melbourne

When asked to write about Melbourne, my first thoughts were to make an elaborate fantasy. I am a buff on ancient cultures and mythology. I had read somewhere about Australian aborigine mythology around dreams. I thought I would weave mythology into a trip around the city. But my research on the internet did not yield much on this. So I had to try something different. I considered a bushman coming in the protagonist’s dreams and dropping clues that takes him from one place to another like a treasure hunt. It would make it even more interesting if the clues were given in the form of poetry. But the challenge was to build a credible story around the whole thing. Somehow aborigine Australia and modern Melbourne just did not fit. The idea of English poetry and aborigines also kind of did not go well. So the whole idea had to be abandoned.

Then I tried to give the whole thing a fresh thought. The thing that came to my mind was one of the Father Brown stories of G K Chesterton. A jewel thief called Flambeau is on the loose. A detective called Valentin is on his pursuit. Everywhere along the way he encounters a trail of stupid acts of an eccentric catholic priest. Finally it turns out Father Brown has been trailing Flambeau and has been purposely laying the trail for Valentin. Doing something similar in Melbourne seemed like a good idea. It would have been a good writing exercise for me as well. Usually novel writing requires research and writing a short story based on research would have indeed been a good start. But somehow the whole thing felt so contrived and I could not get sufficient inspiration to get moving on this that too within the limited timeframe. Possibly I have to wait for another opportunity for this.

Right from the beginning, I think this was just not a topic meant for me. I did try to research what Melbourne was famous for. One thing that is mentioned is cafes, wine, books and culture. But somehow mind does not seem to associate these with Australia. Honestly I would rather visit Italy or Austria. It seems more in character with these countries that with Australia. When I think about nature attractions, only Jared Diamond’s Collapse comes to my mind. I remember reading how English settlers destroyed the fragile natural eco system in trying to recreate a mini Britain. Of course I am excited about the idea of seeing the natural fauna of Australia: kangaroos, emus, koalas and dingoes. But somehow I am always haunted by the words of Jared Diamond of an artificially propped up eco system of flora and fauna from Europe not at all suitable for Australian conditions.

In short, unless someone convinces me to the contrary, Australia appears to me a phony country without a soul. When I think Japan, I get excited about Ninjas and Samurais. When I think Europe, I get excited about medieval culture that has inspired tales of elves and dwarves. When I think South America, I get excited about the tales of wonderful Amazonian jungles and the Mayan and Aztec cultures. Even USA has an exciting feel to it as the cradle of modern human civilization. But Australia just does not excite me at all. Only thing that comes to mind when I think Australia is sports and somehow I don’t happen to be a sports enthusiast.

People may wonder about the purpose of this post. Usually when people are experiencing blogger’s block, they write about the blogger’s block itself to get out of it. Similarly for 2 weeks I have been under pressure to write for this topic and getting stuck every time. So I thought I will write about my inhibitions in writing about this topic and ensure I maintain my record of not missing a single contest on Indiblogger this year. With so much negativity built up in my mind based on information from secondary sources, something tells me “…it's your time to visit Melbourne NOW!” so that I can really see things for myself and change my perceptions. If I were to visit, Melbourne, a complete change of heart and positive feelings is what I want to bring back.

 Here is the link of the contest sponsors. The picture is licensed under creative commons by user Diliff in Wikipedia.

A Strange Adventure

Recession engulfs the world. One by one every industry winds down. The commodities for sale are becoming lesser and lesser. Finally things come to pass that there is just a single commodity for sale –a pair of slippers belonging to me. They are right now in a dry patch in the middle to the sea. I need to rescue them. I valiantly float towards them to rescue them. I don’t know to swim. So I have to float. I reach the slippers. I rescue one slipper and get in on to my feet. When I am just about to rescue the other slipper, the tide comes in and snatches it away from me. Is the last hope of reviving human economy gone? What are we to do? I stand in the beach and watch the sea. Like a hologram I just change my angle of vision and I see a beautiful medieval city in the middle of the sea. My lost slipper is washed on the shore of the medieval city. I walk up to the city to rescue the important slipper. Suddenly my vision shifts and the city vanishes. I am caught in the middle of the sea. I hope the tide recedes and I can rescue the slipper. But instead the tide only seems to be increasing and I seem to be in serious danger of drowning. But by a lucky chance I am washed ashore. But still I am left with just one slipper.

Many of you would have recognized what the above was. Yes. Indeed! A dream! Aren’t dreams so fascinating? Sometimes they are so much more interesting than fantasy films! And the most fascinating part is that you are part of it. You do not want it to end and you curse the alarm clock that brings it to an end. Then there are dreams which ending brings a sigh of relief. Memories of some dreams just fade away with time, some of them even within hours of waking. Others tend to persist. Some dreams recur and sometimes there is a continuation between dreams of two different nights. At times the memories of dreams mix with reality and over time one loses the distinction between the memories of dreams and memories of reality.

Many of the mythologies and local religions and traditions attribute a lot of significance to dreams. As do psychologists and philosophers. Freud’s most famous book was titled ‘Interpretation of Dreams’. Many philosophers contend the possibility of the so called reality itself being a dream. They question the distinction between reality and dreams. Then we have scientists and entrepreneurs coming up with breakthroughs in course of dreams, Kekule and Walt Disney being prime examples. Lot of movies have been made around the concept of blurring boundaries between reality and dreams, Matrix and Inception being the most popular ones in recent times.

So I guess I have made my case regarding the importance of dreams in human life. Lots of people are interested in interpreting dreams. To interpret dreams one has to record them. I have often resolved to record my previous night’s dream first thing in the morning. But somehow never managed to do it till this moment when I finally captured the elusive dream on paper. Now what I have decided to start writing self-motivated blog posts again, I thought the dream at the beginning of the post was sufficient motivation. I wonder if people will find this interesting.

Before I conclude one another interesting angle I wanted to touch upon was taking control of dreams. I don’t know if others have experienced this but at times during the dream itself I have become aware that I am dreaming without waking up. This realization gave me God like powers. I could go about doing anything without fear of consequences. I could freely indulge in the vilest of crimes, I could jump from a high building and try to fly, defy every law of nature and still face no retribution. All I had to do was wake up and it would all be wiped out as if nothing has happened. I have found this kind of absolute power extremely seductive and often tried to maintain concentration while going to bed in the night so that I could seize control of the dream and have uninhibited fun. But it has never really worked that ways so far.

I am sure there are many more fascinating possibilities people must have explored in their dreams. I am curious to hear of the same.

Picture Credit: http://www.hiren.info/desktop-wallpapers/natural-pictures/beach-dreams_seychelles

Blast from the past : A Letter to Myself

Dear Friend

I write to you from a distant time. The very idea of a letter might seem a novelty to you for the concept of letters is fast becoming obsolete even now in a world closely integrated by internet and social networking. So it will be practically unheard of in your time. Like many of the artifacts from the past, it will however have sentimental value for years to come and I hope it will retain that even in your time.

I wonder what I should write. Practical letters of course have a definitive purpose. But as I mentioned, letters have begun to lose association with practicality. When talking of letters going beyond practical considerations, one set of famous letters that come to my mind are Jawaharlal Nehru’s letters to his daughter Indira which was published as a book. But that book I believe contains words of wisdom from a father to a daughter. I sincerely hope you would be wiser than me and would not be in need of any words of wisdom from me. So I would not presume to preach to you.

Very recently I was going through the locker in our house and I discovered a bunch of old letters preserved by my mother. Most of them were written by me when I was at college. Reading those letters filled me with nostalgic feeling of those good times. I feel that is the primary purpose a letter can serve: reliving good times from the past. That is what I seek to offer you through my letters: a chance to relive good times from our shared past. Since memories begin to fade with passage of time, my memories of events nearer to me in time will be stronger than yours and I shall write them down for you to read, recollect and enjoy at leisure.

They say the greatest fear one can have is fear itself. I would extend this to say the greatest joy is joy itself. More often than not the people, places and events that give us joy have some joyful event from the past associated with them. The memory of the past happiness associated with them awakens a new happiness. February of 2012 was a month that brought back many such happy memories. It was as if all the happy moments from different points of my life came together and ran before my eyes.

It was a month of marriages. I attended 5 different weddings in 5 different cities. 3 of the weddings were of close friends from my MBA days. The first was in Mysore. 2 friends were coming for the wedding from Mumbai and 2 of us were in Bangalore. The friend who was getting married had arranged a van for our group. It was fun meeting old friends again and chatting away to glory through the journey as if we were back at B-School. We also stopped on the way at the local bird sanctuary and a famous temple making it a kind of semi sightseeing trip. The accommodation turned out to be rooms in a grand Maharaja Style club house. After attending the evening reception, we stayed up most of the night playing cards. Nothing is a joyful as a game of cards with your close set of friends. Then next morning we had breakfast at the marriage hall and we were off to visit the Mysore palace. We were back in time for the final solemnization ceremony of the marriage. Then a sumptuous lunch and back on the road to Bangalore again. We stopped on the way in Channapatna to buy some wooden art pieces. It was an interesting experience looking over the different intricate carvings.

Within a week’s time, a pair of cousins were getting married. One my wife’s in Bangalore and one of my own in Chennai on consecutive days. So breakfast and lunch at local cousin’s wedding and then catch train and rush for dinner at the outstation cousin’s reception! Both the wedding locations had rich memories associated with them. Rajajinagar, the area in Bangalore where the first wedding was held was where I spent the best part of my childhood. Chennai was where I had spent many a delightful summer vacation during my school days and also where I did my engineering as well as joined my first job. Chennai is one city that has a very special place in my heart.

I had heard a lot about Shatabdi express. We finally got an opportunity to travel by it. I was travelling in a train after a gap of 4-5 years and for the first time ever with my wife on an Indian train. So that itself made it special. But the real specialty of the train that everyone appreciated turned a negative for us. For, after a heavy lunch at a wedding and another heavy dinner expected at another wedding, continuous flow of train meals is hardly an attraction. By that night I had almost developed a pathological hatred towards food. Cibophobia is what they call fear of food apparently.

The best part was when we reached the marriage hall. The whole family came out to greet us. Uncles, aunts, cousins, grandmother! Everyone came rushing to the door to welcome me. I had not been in touch with these folks lately and seeing them transported me to the days of my childhood when I used to visit them every summer holidays. Everyone had grown up, priorities had changed, and people had gotten busy. But for that one moment it was as if we were caught in a time warp.

I think we have covered enough ground for one letter. I do not want to be like my professor at engineering who wanted to pack maximum material into every class. Talking of which I am reminded of a joke I read somewhere. So let me leave you with the joke as I end the letter and keep the rest for another letter.

There is this young pastor who is deputed to a remote village. Filled with enthusiasm, he prepares a long sermon to deliver, gets ready early on Sunday morning and goes to the church. But what does he find there? A lone farmer! He waits for an hour. No one turns up. He is confused what to do. The farmer seeing the confusion speaks up, “If I go to the cow shed with a cartload of hay and find just one cow waiting for me, I still at least feed that one cow.” The pastor gets his message. His spirits pick up again and he delivers his complete sermon with full gusto. Then he turns to the farmer who now has a tired look on his face and asks triumphantly, “How did you find the speech?” The farmer pauses for a while and replies, “If I go to the cow shed with a cartload of hay and find just one cow waiting for me, I still at least feed that one cow. But not the entire cartload of hay to one poor cow.

So I take leave of you. I can’t say I am eagerly awaiting your reply. But if they discover time travel in your life time, do try and write back to me.

                                                                                                              Your one true well wisher

                                                                                                               The Fool

This post is part of the contest A letter to yourself.. on WriteUpCafe.com

A Devil's Triangle - my entry to the GetPublished contest

Love is a concept that has fascinated every artist: painters, sculptors, musicians, poets, dramatists and story tellers. Its definition varies from person to person. There is this universal all-embracing love for humanity or beyond at one end of the spectrum. Then there is the deep urge for sexual union with a member of the opposite gender at the other end of the spectrum. Millions of shades can be defined in the vast area between the two. CS Lewis the author of the famous Narnia series defines 4 types of love: love for family, friendship, romance and unconditional selfless love. But often the distinction is not clear and one can easily morph into the other. Unconditional selfless love that makes one sacrifice himself or herself for another can emerge out of each of the other three. I have read articles that claim friendship between members of opposite gender usually turns into romance. Even between members of same gender, too close a friendship is often viewed as homosexuality. Freud seems to suggest even love within family has its basis in underlying sexual tendencies. So the overall the distinction is blurred.

The usual subject that generates maximum interest is often the romantic love between members of different genders; though it often goes on to embrace the other forms of love as well. And this love has usually been the theme of most Indian films. I have tended to dismiss the love as portrayed on films as just hype for film directors to make money. Till one day I for personally got to experience this emotion in its burning intensity. It was at this time I came in contact with a few other afflicted souls. And what fascinating stories we had to share while trying to raise our sagging spirits using bottled spirit supplements!

It is one of these stories that I would like to narrate. A real story stranger than fiction! Not one but two love stories intertwined with each other. Love opposed not by society or by parental authority but by another equal if not greater love! Love triangles are of course a common theme in films. The story I would like to narrate is one from real life. The story of a young man who lost his heart not once but twice! To two different women! But then he had just one heart and only one of them could take possession of it unless they chose to rend his heart into two. It was a tough choice which was going to leave somebody hurt whichever way it went. As someone closely involved with these events, I seek to lay out the series of events that lead to such a situation and how it was eventually resolved.

The story also has some other interesting themes explored in films as well: childhood sweet hearts, love at first sight, souls seemingly linked together by fate. It is a story that begins way back at school and culminates at a software company. As some of us may be aware, software companies are the breeding den for romance these days. When freshers join for training, it is like a college batch, full of young men and women with hormones running wild. So much so that IT companies have had to formulate strict rules on public display of affection within company premises.  I hope to give a glimpse of the social life of young software engineers as well in this story.

This is my entry for the HarperCollins–IndiBlogger Get Published contest, which is run with inputs from Yashodhara Lal and HarperCollins India.

Love, Peace and Happiness

One of the critical aspects for the success of a story is the ability to draw the reader into it. Usually the authors achieve this through the strength of the narrative. But you would expect something more from an expert marketer. Whereas stories usually involve the reader as a passive participant, Mr. Rituraj Verma leverages internet to involve the reader as an active participant in the story. He gives his readers the opportunity to come up with alternate endings for the stories on the website promising to incorporate some of the endings in the next print of his book. This is a new paradigm in story writing that I am sure will be replicated by many writers in the coming years. This has been done by movie makers to some extent, especially in Malayalam movies. They have different endings for the same movie at different locations based on the crowd sentiment at different places. But this is the first time I have seen readers participating in the story writing process.

Mr. Rituraj is an experienced marketing professional and that is reflected in the book. More than literary aspects it is the marketing aspects that make this book extremely fascinating. He seemed to have gone about designing his book like a marketer would design and sell a product. To start with, he seems to have got his market research right. The book has all the aspects that sell well in India today: love, sex, parent child relationships, new age philosophy, IIT, IIM, reality shows etc. Then the branding through a catchy title: ‘Love, Peace and Happiness”. It kind of conveys the theme very well. The name reminds one of ‘Love, Sex aur Dhoka’ and ‘Dil Dosti etc.”, movies with similar kind of themes. Then we have this innovative concept of actively involving the reader in the story leveraging the internet. It will be interesting to see publishers and other authors taking up this concept and developing it further.

In terms of content, the themes are those that Indian audience can relate to. The narrative is very simple and the stories maintain a reasonable pace that manages to hold the attention of the reader throughout. Some of the characters are memorable. He also manages to keep the reader’s attention by creating linkages between the different stories. Though the book is a collection of individual short stories, characters from one story make their appearance in other story or in some way are related to characters in other stories. So reader has to flex his mental muscle to remember the other story in which the character made an appearance, sometimes going back to the old story. This again keeps the reader awake. Of course these linkages seemed contrived at times. But I feel the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

To maintain the balance of a review, one can’t but help point out deficiencies perceived. The first thing that comes to your mind is that he is no magician with words. This is an advantage as well, as it helps connect to a wider audience rather than being restricted to a select class of people. Another aspect was that I could not personally relate to most of the situations in the stories. The story is supposed to be about middle aged middle class folks. But I have encountered no such situations in my life and that of my friends. It seemed quite alien to me though I belong to the class the book is supposed to be about. It seems more relevant to younger or more affluent circles. Or could be it is just me as the author claims the stories are derived from personal experiences.

All in all, if not from a pure literary angle, it is definitely worth a try for the marketing aspects. 200 pages in big font and simple language and priced at around 150 Rs, it taxes neither your time nor your finances. Though if the author wanted to involve me in the pricing like in the story endings, I would have suggested a price of Rs. 95 like Chetan Bhagat books.

Teacher's day Special

20 of you expressed interest to take IIT JEE coaching from me. 7 of you dropped out by yourself in the last one year. Out of the remaining 13, I feel three of you need to focus more on your school physics. The rest of you can attend my summer vacation classes.

The teacher reads out the names of 3 students.

The 3 students were bitterly disappointed. Their journey towards IIT seemed to have come to an end even before it started.

Sir, please. Give us just one more chance.

Don’t take this personally, boys. This is for your own good. I know your parents have put pressure on you. But IIT JEE is not for everyone. But that does not mean you are lesser humans. It is just that your true vocation lies elsewhere. You should try and find it and pursue it.

Two of them resign themselves and accepting the teacher’s logic move on. One student still sticks his ground. “I want to get into IIT and nothing else. Give me one chance and I will prove it.

Quite a familiar story, isn’t it? However I am not going to tell you next that the boy became American president George Washington or Sanskrit grammarian Panini or anything else. He did score 96% in the next physics exams to win his teacher’s trust, and later get into IIT and all that. But that’s about it. Even this post is not about him. It is about the physics teacher. The only reason the boy found mention is the fact that this piece is being written by the boy. I thought I will break my habit of only writing for contests and instead write for something like teacher’s day for a change and hence this post about my favorite teacher.

Teaching is of course a noble profession and plays a critical role in society. But the sad reality is more often than not people who do not find any other job go to teaching. And same was the case with this teacher. He had failed his university exam and cleared it through arrears. So the only job he could get was that of a teacher in a newly started school that could not even afford a sweeper. In fact every morning he himself had to double up as the sweeper for the physics lab.

From such a humble start, in 25 years he emerged as the most respectable teacher in the whole of the town. His classes were considered the magic wand that could get one a coveted seat at one of the IITs. He could have easily earned a six digit salary if he had chosen to migrate to one of the big cities and joined one of the big coaching institutes. But he still chose to stay back and help the small town students. In spite of having completed a doctorate in Physics he still chose to remain a school teacher and teach at the same school where he started his career 25 years back. Now isn’t that something that requires a standing ovation?

The thing that made him stand apart was his passion for Physics and teaching. His passion was infectious. His eyes shone when he spoke about Einstein and Newton and Maxwell. He made physics seem magical. But usually people excited about the subject matter are not so excited about teaching. But he was one of those rare genuine people person. He liked teaching and he was genuinely interested in each one of his students. One of his famous words was,

A successful teacher does not teach. He makes the students learn.

 That was reflected in his innovation teaching methods as well. He rarely ever solved problems in class. He would teach the concepts and then make the students solve the problems on their own. He would check the approach and gently guide. But he never spoon fed the solution. Also when he taught in class he would never allow students to blindly copy what he said or wrote on the blackboard. Instead he would give a dedicated 10 minutes towards the end of the class after rubbing everything on the board for the students to reflect on what was taught in the class and make notes in their own way. That way it was ensured things went straight into the head in class itself.

In a world where teachers did not teach in class and made students attend tuition even for school syllabus, he discouraged school students from joining even his IIT JEE classes. He kept his IIT JEE classes for students of other schools and told the students of his school that he was anyways covering all the concepts in class itself. Instead he helped students only on incremental concepts that were not part of school syllabus and by giving clues when students were stuck somewhere while solving tougher IIT JEE problems. This he did without any fees. But he could not accommodate everyone here as he had limited time and would not be able to give personal attention to all. So he usually tried to weed out students who had neither the aptitude nor interest in Physics, but were just preparing for IIT JEE under parental pressure. It was good for the students too as they could employ their effort more productively in areas that would bring them better results.

The other important aspect of him was his humanity. Many teachers tend to get drunk in the authority their position gives them over the students. They either bully the students or try to act as if they are the most intelligent people on earth forgetting that the only reason they appear more knowledgeable than the students is their age. But this man was most humble and very considerate with the students. He openly told the students that he had failed his university exams and the students respected him all the more for it. He never used a single harsh word. If people slept in his class, he would gently walk up to the student and remark to the rest of the class,

 “See how peacefully he sleeps free from all worries. One must be lucky to get such good sleep.” 

If someone were caught talking during his lectures he would remark,

 “I hope you were discussing Physics. Please share your insights with the rest of the class.” 

 He always used to remark how he was learning every year along with the students.

This post of mine is a dedication on the occasion of teacher’s day to Dr. Rajagopal, who has helped a whole generation of students from Trichy to make it to IIT. I am a day late but I guess better late than never.

Picture Credit: http://newspaper.li/teacher/

For whom the bell tolls

A book of faces