What is one year in a life lived over a hundred years? Only 365 days or so, one may so. In contrast, a year after the loss of someone so great who lived a century but felt immortal, who looked diminutive but towered over us all with the force of her persona- this year has felt like an eternity.
Ajjee left us a year ago. But she isn’t really gone. She was there when I was born, she was there when I struggled through nights of studying and stress, she was with me when I fought to comprehend the grief of losing my father even as she dealt with her own immeasurable loss. And she is there now.
It isn’t her physical presence, but her immense stoicism that I carry around with me like a lamp with a steady flame. It isn’t her material memory but her vast empathy and broad-mindedness that I try to nurture everyday, and use as a shield against the injustices and pettiness around me. I don’t hear her words when I shut my eyes and think about her, but I feel those bony fingers down my spine telling me that all will be well, that I must have faith and the doors will open.
Our ancestors are all within us, giving us the strength we need to go on, to scale those new heights, to conquer what we set our sights on. And of all of them, Ajjee’s smiling presence is the most comforting of all.
There are days when I wake up to a sense of turmoil. It’s not always triggered by a negative thought or event, but the only way to quell that feeling is to express myself, either by talking or writing.
This morning, I squinted at my phone through my bleary, sleepy, myopic eyes to scroll down my Whatsapp, then Facebook, then Twitter. And I realized the entire world is in the same boat. No one can deal with their turmoil and it’s out there for everyone else to deal with! Everyday, as we read all the stuff people share, we do so in the spirit of online sisterhood (or brotherhood), in a sort of large embrace that includes all the people on our TL who need to vent!
Are we losing the ability to sort out our own thoughts internally before expressing them to the world? In putting thoughts out there and soliciting feedback on half-baked ideas, are we not wasting other people’s time? Are we so devoid of poise and self-contentment that our online universe becomes the sounding board for our emotional experiences?
For me, I know I need to work on this bit. I need to strengthen that internal mechanism of thought, rumination and find my balance. Its one of those goals I have for myself and I know, its contrary to who I am as a person. But then, we all live our lives trying to be someone we consider ideal!
At work, we are often disconcerted to see organizations and individuals focus too much on the end product without giving due attention to process. In my view, process is key and we can learn far more from studying the process of creating a solution or product than from deploying the solution per se.
An interesting example of this came up when we were watching Aadyaa’s class show on Saturday. At Shikshantar, Hamara Manch is an institution. Literally ‘Our Stage’, it is a platform for children to express what they like or feel, the way they want to express it. A friend and a parent I was speaking with was commenting on how her child’s class did not do ‘as well’ as last year and how she felt they should do something different, better, etc. She was entirely focused on the product on show before us, the parents, today.
However, as a few of us went on to point out to her, the children view Hamara Manch as a process. Over a month, they select an idea, story or theme that they like. They have to agree on something as a group, not an easy task for little children, but they do it with the able facilitation of their teachers, whom they affectionately call didis. Then they develop the theme or story into a performance. Teachers share with us sometimes the process of casting and it is interesting to see that, unlike in many other schools, it is not the natural talent or most gregarious personality that lands the meaty role. Often, children opt to do something they really like, even if it is a small role. For example last year, Aadyaa’s class did a take on the Ramayana. Her teachers wanted her to be Laxman, but she opted to become a butterfly because she loved the idea of wearing colorful wings and pink! Go figure! Often, they draw lots to choose and they learn to accept collective decisions even if they are against their individual liking. An important social skill and attitudinal attribute for the adult world as well!
The children are totally involved in creating the backdrop and the props, customizing their costumes as well. Everyday we hear of the next steps taken in developing their little show, everyday we see the excitement and the involvement of the children. It’s a beautiful, enjoyable, democratic participative process.
So when we come to see their little show on Hamara Manch day, we must see it in the light of this process; not merely as a product. And like the children learn a zillion soft skills in their month long journey, we must learn to see many aspects of what they present and appreciate the tremendous talent and team work that has brought their efforts to fruition. Once learnt, it is something for us to apply to our adult lives, to situations at work and at home. Whenever I find ourselves quick to criticize or tending toward cynicism, I will now think of Hamara Manch and review my reaction to what is before me!
It strikes me as interesting, and disappointing perhaps, that the post that got the maximum reads ever on my blog was written months before I started the daily blogging habit. It was a post I wrote about my sense of belonging for Goa after a trip back home for Ganesh Chaturthi in September 2011. Even after getting into the routine of writing everyday, I have been unable to recreate the magic of that post. That teaches me something very interesting, and also highlights why blogging and blog browsing has become so popular.
It’s the emotional content of that post that made it successful. Many could relate to it (Goa, longing for home when you are far away, the closeness of family, love, bonding, tradition, Ajjee!) and were enthused to refer the piece for the consumption of others as well.
Blogging is a release. For the blogger, it is a way to present thoughts, emotions, experiences to the world at large. However small your reader base, once you hit ‘publish’, there is a certain sense of releasing your thoughts into the atmosphere and letting go! In an emotional post, the reader senses and travels on that journey of the heart, with you. I’ve written articles for several publications and always believed good writing is about quality research, the ability to sequence information into a powerful argument and the final flourish of language well used. Blogging has turned that perception around for me. Good writing is about feeling what you write, the skills are additions.
The other thing that nearly always works in making a post readable is images. Visual content, and I usually use photographs, is easy for readers to relate to and really offers them a peek into how you view the world. When you combine an interesting experience with pictures, like in travel writing, it’s fail proof! Some of the best responses (in terms of traffic, comments, syndicated views and social media response) have been for travel-related posts. For some reason, the Pune bakery post worked really well, getting considerable interest from Parsis in many parts of the world, Pune-ites in general and food lovers as well!
I haven’t actually written enough about food, though I know its a great subject to explore. I guess I’m not much of a foodie, though being around Rahul and the office folks will convert me sooner than later. Hmmm, another aspect to look into for the rest of the year 🙂