Friday, August 18, 2006

Smile.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one is worth a million. My pint sized star, with her twinkling eyes and heartful smile won over the intensive care nursery when she was just a couple of days old. She went thru an ordeal tougher than her mom's. Stayed in the ICN when all of us were at home. She had a character about her, She had feelings to convey and stories to tell. Everytime I took her out of the incubator and those bright billy lights, she would open her eyes ever so slightly and give me a smile. "Mom, don't worry" she seemed to convey - "I am stronger than I appear to be"
Aarti taught me a lot in life, even when she was only hours old. I learnt from her that life is a battle that should be won with a smile. A journey that unfolds umpteen experiences - of joy, sorrow and most importantly love. She taught me what unconditional love is. When I held her for the fist time, I knew she is here to brighten my life with that smile and enrich it with a love that is beyond all words.

To Sir - With Love.

To Sir, With Love. 8/18/2006 2:37 AM
How vainly men themselves amaze
To win the palm, the oak, or bays ;
And their uncessant labors see
Crowned from some single herb or tree,
Whose short and narrow-verg├Ęd shade
Does prudently their toils upbraid ;
While all the flowers and trees do close
To weave the garlands of repose.

These opening lines form Andrew Marvell’s poem “The Garden” stir a whirlwind of emotions after a decade of studying the poem. (I should acknowledge that do not even have an okay memory) In 1996 when I was still a teenager, working a fulltime job and trying to finish my bachelors degree in English literature, I was in for more challenges than I could handle. Though I had a penchant towards the language, the cryptic poetry and prose we had were too hard to understand without having a teacher. I never made it to a single correspondence class in my 3 year degree owing to a job that would not allow me many casual leaves.
Experiences come in a lot of disguises. This one wonderful experience that is etched deep and clear, came to me when I approached Vara Prasad Sir to teach me poetry from my second year bachelor’s program. Sir was a family friend, very well known to my father. Though he never taught me during my school days, I heard a lot about him from my older sister and her classmates. I had a very casual and close relationship with him and we used to chat on phone and talk about everything from movies to food when I met him.
So on a fateful weeknight, I went to his house with my poetry text and a notepad clueless about the most wonderful learning experience I was going to have.
He was dresses in a lungi. He wore a cross around his neck that entangled with the thread that he wore across his shoulder. His breath smelled heavily of cigarettes and he seemed to ignore me when I was talking about something. He settled on the floor and I sat in front of him giving him my poetry text. “Let’s study Andrew Marvell – I announced” giving him the opened book. He quickly scanned thru the poem and said “very well my dear,‘The garden’ it is”
He started reading the poem aloud. It made no sense to me though I could understand all the words in it. Word by word, line by line – he unfolded the meaning of the first paragraph. I was listening to him mesmerized. We finished the first three paragraphs on the first day and continued it on the following day. By the time I went to him the next day, he opened the door before I knocked. I had a feeling he was waiting for me to arrive. We settled in our usual place and started the study again. He opened a piece of paper that would hardly cover his palm. His writing was tiny – really tiny. And very artistic. He wrote the entire notes for the 9 paragraph page in that piece of paper. That too, on one side. He paused sometimes as he explained it. It looked like he was trying to remember what he was about to say. He was actually pausing to appreciate the poet’s talent. After a few seconds of silence he would say “ yenta baga rasado…..”
I walked back home that day, clutching to that piece of paper like it were a charm. Till date I have it, the physical memory tucked in my teenage treasure chest, and an emotional memory that I would one day hope to share with my offsprings. A memory so pure and clear, that it left an unmistakable mark on who I am today.
Life had changed for me that evening. An overwhelming emotion, filled with a gazillion positive feelings, An unspeakable appreciation for all the hardwork he put in to teach me the most important lesson of my life lingers in my memory lane long after many memories got buried in time.

The last time I saw sir was at my wedding. He wrote to me from Hyderabad when I sent him my wedding invitation. Jyoteeshwari teaher was battling with her life. “Each day is a precious gift from God” he wrote, explaining her health condition. If your wedding day is not the last one He’d bestow upon her, I’ll be there” he added.
My wedding took place in Hyderabad. He hugged me, placed his hand on my head, blessed me and sobbed silently.

I wrote my second year’s English paper in my Third. I never looked back at that tiny paper again to remember what he told me nor do I need to look at it again. Andrew Marvell’s genius work had been immortalized for me by a teacher who is larger than life. A teacher who gave the opportunity to learn more than what the text book taught. A teacher who taught me just one lesson – the most wonderful of it all.