New York Public Library | Riverside

Today, I visited the New York Public Library. I entered the premises through a revolving door. I found the library so calming and soothing for my spirit. I enjoyed browsing through a lot of interesting books.

I looked longingly at the Romances and gave into my intellectual demand; and picked books by G. K. Chesterton, Shakespeare made simple, and Lewis Carroll’s piece. I must say it is really fascinating to read works written by these people.

One of my fascination is collecting Library Cards. Indian, Singapore and New York library cards are so uninspiring; but the San Francisco library card sang to a different beat.

My cousin J and I had gone to a concert by Thornetta Davis (Detroit’s Queen of Blues)  last evening. I enjoyed the songs Ms. Davis sang with such gusto. The umphoof factor of her performance was the fact, that she engaged with her audience and created a sense of belonging.

I am used to listening to concert without making any bodily movement during the rendition. So it was fascinating to watch people of varied types and ages shake their legs to the rhythmic beat.

One the first day of my stay in New York, I felt it was filled with being taken over by the view. I found the city resonate into my memory, where I have seen and felt the beat of other cities of my past.

The two cities that New York invoked from my memory was Mumbai and Singapore. Both these cities I had visited at various stages of my life. Mumbai during my middle school and Singapore post-marriage.

Mumbai was far more colourful than Singapore and New York. But all these cities are different in certain unique aspect. For instance, in the people that you find in these cities are really varied but somehow they were same in their core value aspect.

I still remember my Aunt feeling proud that Mumbaikars can hide the fact of their ailments from all. She exclaimed to me,”Watch how dressed up are the patients who visit the doctor?” I blinked a couple of times not really understanding what she was driving at.

But later in my life I understood why she placed so much importance for that external appearance of all is well attitude. But back then, I felt the doctor should know that I’m unwell, if not he would send me back with no prescription for a cure. Ah! Life moves on and what felt ridiculous at 10 make sense in 30.

Some people feel that the concrete jungle kinda leaves you hollow and bereft of your soul. It also leaves behind a sense of mad rush. But I disagree with both these points. I believe that within a small existence there is much to explore. Somehow a smaller apartment with the view of other buildings is much more comforting than the spacious spread of unoccupied land.

I must say that I enjoy J’s apartment and her kitchen is simply divine. It hardly feels like I just arrived a couple of days before to New York. I resonate to the heart of the cities beats.  Yesterday, while walking back we saw the scultpure that gets changed periodically to fit the current month’s theme.

It was mosaic tile sculpture which made the whole presentation wonderful to watch. It seemed more like a snapshot of the folktale of African origin. The spirits of the jungle was represented in the pillar. We admired it for a while and walked on. On net searching I found that it was actually an installation by Kathy Ruttenberg.

The three cities of my experience resonates to their own unique rhythm and I enjoyed the varied beats. Somehow, I can never seem to understand my own perferences and likes. I strongly believe, that it is never the place; but it is you, who determine to matching up of the city’s intrinsic beats.

 

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Feeding the Child Right

I feel truly inspired after my solids feeding session with my youngest niece D2 and the idea was to write a fairy tale; but then here I’m writing a CNF. Life is truly a wonderful gift and if one could spend time seeing it with the right attitude.

My nieces and nephews have always been my inspiration. I still remember that I wrote my first short story for my brother’s first daughter N. Then, I wrote a poem for A and for K my brother’s youngest daughter, I wrote a ballad. Then both A and K together created a partially done story-line which was converted into visual medium, my little Minions!

Whereas, in my sister’s children case, I wrote a story for my nephew D and for Niece D2, I was inspired to write a fairy tale. There was such great fun with children. Actually, D2 is watching me write lying on my lap. She wants to type too, but then I have to tell her, that “Dearest, I will give you a chance like your brother.”

Life is all about learning new things and with children you learn a lot more. My first experience with feeding my nieces and nephews began with N when she was returning to her home. We had camped in our eldest uncle’s flat in Mumbai and that is when I had the pleasure to hold N on my lap as she was fed by my SIL.

I watched her eat her solids and something in my heart moved and the story found its nebulous start to form in my mind. It took me more than three months to write that story. I even sent it to my brother to read out to the baby N who will not understand a word of it.

N was the first for so many of first time things story-wise. When we paired up to create imaginary things it used to be complete March Madness and peerless Spring Equinox. I feel that it is easier to write if I used my little family members as audience for my stories. I found stories that used them were more interesting and compelling.

My sister’s son D was so interested in Russian folk tales. I, somehow am attracted to folk tales and fairy tales, which gives me great inner pleasures to explore in great depth. I have a latest collection of folk tales by Nelson Mandela presented by SIL after her Africa vacation.

Even today, I can still feel the magic of watching Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre production of fairy tales. There is much that can be learned and unlearned with children. When we become adults our sense of finding right and wrong becomes too strong. See life with a child’s mind everything will be funny and absolutely comical.

But for the first time D2 inspired me to write a magical realism story. Why not a fairy tale that has a single heroine! It should be her adventure and doesn’t end with her married and living happily ever after in a castle in the far away rich kingdom.

Long time ago in the land far known to all the little people, there was a little baby Rose. Her father was an adventurer who was lost in the search of a unique star outside the rims of the Universe. Rose wanted to find her father, so leaves her mother’s gentle care, and goes in search of her father. With this base, any level of expansion can be done.

But then, where is the magical realism in this?! But then, it is a nebulous and much is unsaid. D2 is interested in the story since she is eager to type. Okay short break. While D2 is happily playing in her Gimboree figuring textures, I get to write.

Both my brother’s and sister’s children are keen readers and their sense of humor is so typical of fun loving children which is part of our family DNA. I enjoy reading magical realism so much, that I feel, the stories with magic in them makes them truly wonderful.

Annotated with my niece’s musical rendition of happiness that can be found in her singing voice, I find that books of fairy tales and folk tales could provide children with innumerable new understanding. Nebulous is expanding and finding it own creative energy which means it is time to write that story.

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My Lifetime’s Spiritual Reading List

I read anything and everything. I just try to stay away from judging any of the reading lists that explored. But then I find my thought somehow gets structured by what I read. Though, it would always be subjected to a huge debate in my head.

I’m a lifelong loner and started my long standing relationship with reading since my 3rd grade. So I kept reading a lot of British classics during those visits to library around the corner of Headmistress room corridor. I would skip my lunch sometime or stuff myself to rush to the library.

My first book on Self-help was The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. It was the first book which was close to spiritual that I read during that time. I was very confused and couldn’t understand the content. But somehow, I kept thinking, that I could change my thoughts to positive as easily as turning the pages of the book.

But nothing happened within me, I still felt bereft. I was also enrolled in the local lending library, that is when, I came to know of T. S. Lobsang Rampa. I was totally taken at the time with occult material such as astral travel and other related topics. I even imagined having such an astral experience, the power of auto-suggestion.

One of my troubles has been that I get taken in by whatever book I am reading. These books are during the time when my personality was getting set into a groove. The confusion pot of thoughts that kept going within me was so difficult to be ordered to behave. The Tibetan phase was during my eleventh standard, and by 12th grade, I got busy with my board exams. After that I kind of lost track with Rampa’s materials.

So when I reached College, then everything opened up. From that point, my reading shifted to Jiddu Krishnamurti and at last I had found something close to my thoughts. The material made sense to me because I loved word confusion. But I was equally not ready to give up my householder position. Even now I am not ready to give up and become a monk. I prefer monk over saint, I don’t qualify really for the other.

So for every spiritual inquiry book that I got interested, then, I will read two Romance novels to balance it. See it takes two romance novels to even out one spiritual query book for me. That was my way of saying that I will not just vanish into thin air of unidentified state of commonality. Even with the advanced thinker such as JK’s work; I used to read a combo sections where he would describe a scene and gave the lesson behind it.

It was such fun period to read all the various spiritual books and self-help books. I was like reading at least one book per week during that phase of my life. Around my post-college years when I was having trouble finding something different. Around then, I took a Pranic Healing class as per my cousin’s advice. That kind of linked me back to Rampa’s astral reading days.

During that time my cousin who is from Kashi and was a great Vedic Pandit shared a book with me and my life took another turn. It was titled “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield. Synchronicity in which everything is happens for a reason got so much resonance with me that I was grabbed by my childish inquiry scruff and shaken.

Then, life became so interesting because I began noticing people and thought that they had a message for me. Of course, every interaction is a message for being a better person in real-life. Even these days I do read books by Robin Sharma and others to cheer myself up to find motivation.

Right now I am almost become someone who is very balanced but occasionally I lose it but only to gain it back with self-debate. I have read books by Deepak Chopra, Stephen R Covey, Thich Nhat Hanh, Robin Sharma’s “The Monk who sold his Ferrari” the first among the many series of self-help books.

Super Soul Sunday of Oprah Winfrey, Talk shows on motivation by Solomon Pappaiah on Tirukkural, Suki Sivam’s talks and all those Santana dharma by Velukkudi Krishnan and Harikatha discourses by Vishaka Hari and lot of others happened once I shifted from reading to listening.

Then came the days when I would practice meditation at least for 30 minutes every day which I would religiously follow. These days I can find meditative state by merely being. I still have a long way to go spiritually; but the journey was one of many wrong turns and twists. In all this, I still feel a connection with everything in this world.

I have truly forgiven everyone who hurt me during my growing years and I don’t get hurt that fast these days. Even if I do, there are many ways to find peace from within. There are actually no sadness in my life since peace from within resides inside which is such a pleasant feeling. I live my life in Mindfulness these days and find God at every turn welcoming my life with zest.

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Tagore’s Package of Unforgettable Characters

Book Title:  The Very Best Short Stories of Rabindranath Tagore

Author: Rabindranath Tagore

Translator:  N/A

Rating:  4.5 of 5 Stars

Get Your Copy:  Amazon | Flipkart | SnapDeal

A Bird’s Eye View

About the Storyteller:

Tagore was always a fascination for me. In the very early formative years, I had read the Kabuliwahal piece from a borrowed and dog-eared copy of the short stories by this author. His way of telling a story is really appealing for two main reasons.

One is that he takes his time narrating; while ensuring to maintain the reader’s interest in the plot. Another reason is that, I found ancient voices talk to me with familiarity which was endearing to me in my mind.

Every story seemed well contemplated and effortlessly wrote. Be it The Postmaster, Kabuliwahal, Subha, or The Castaway every single story left a feeling of satisfaction; while encouraging being a creative thinker who is progressive.   Tagore was change-maker using one word at a time fitted in neat concepts.

Story in a Nutshell:

These are collection of stories about people in and around Kolkata and West Bengal. These stories are set in late days when the British Government was replaced with self-governance of India. The entire psyche of the Bengalis and of the immigrants makes an impact on the story plot; while providing a beautiful canopy of experiences for the readers. It is wonderful cosy blanket weaved into short plots that carried human emotions and feeling with great precision.

Review

My Likes and Dislikes

I really love the idea of short stories. Short pieces are hard to write; but great to read. The workmanship of Tagore in these pieces is really worth more than one reading. I am still trying to learn from the style that Tagore used for his short stories. There is never a moment of boredom in these stories; which happily amble their way to the finish. I didn’t have any dislike about the pieces but maybe I wanted to read more stories by Tagore.

My Opinion

I feel that this is a great book for beginning readers because it is reflective and simple at the same time. I would recommend it to students of 6th grade without any fear of censorship for some of the stories. But there are some adult stories too in the collection. The stories are euphemistically done with an eye-for-perfection.

Image Source: Embassy Book

Larking at Larkin Main Branch Library in SFO

Larkin’s Main Branch Library was my hangout space on days when I felt that I made a wrong choice to study MFA in Writing at CCA. Especially, during the winter my mood swings were really bad, I made sure that I picked my mood dead carcass to the Library. The choice was between Mission Library and Larkin Main Branch. Mission won mostly.

During my stay in San Francisco, I was entirely dependent on Google Maps for directions to any place in US. It was almost close to real address. I am a person who gets lost in my bedroom, so it was quite a challenge to reach places. But it used to be so exciting to take that printout at the Writer’s Studio, kind family members house or even jotting it down on a piece of paper.

This also meant that I had to plan my visit to the place way ahead of the time, since I needed the printout of the directions. I would only take printout of those directions, which are really crucial; but for the rest, I would depend on writing it down.

Surprising thing about the Google Maps would be, that you can actually plan to the last minute of your travel plan. Of course, I took longer to walk to the BART and Muni stops, so I would plan a couple of minute earlier departures from my start point.

So the first time that I went to Larkin Library was on a sunny chill morning of October. I needed to find some material which the Mission Library indicated as available in the Main Branch.

It was pretty much easy to go to Larkin Street, if I took the BART from 24th Mission Station to Civi Center Station. I would find a spot to sit down to dream away hugging my backpack.

My backpack was special because it had everything that I needed. There have been times, when I felt, if I started to walk away with just my backpack, then I really didn’t need anything at all.

The interesting thing about going to the Main Branch Library was that I would be confused which exit to take. It happened every single time I get out of the Civi Center Station, even if I have visited the place almost many times, I would get lost and have to figure the place despite my jotted directions. I simply don’t get the left or right directions and get confused very quickly.

I had very few friends and I tried not to disturb them with my pestering company. But I must say my friends in US were really interesting people, who I enjoyed spending time with. The pull of a quiet library is very stronger than talking with people. I still remember the day when I shared silence with a fellow writer Veronica. She didn’t mind my being quiet and talking intermittently.

That’s one thing you can say for the friends from CCA, they provided me space to just shut off and remain silent. I read so many of their works for the workshop and I wished that I could talk to them about it on a one-on-one bases. But my shyness got the better of me and I couldn’t really talk to them all. I always landed not stating what I felt about the piece even in the workshops.

My first semester was such a huge stress for me. I didn’t know the place but it was not strange that I was in a new place. Since I could connect to the place at a higher level, it was the people that I needed my energies to settle down. Once I settle down, then it is so easy to converse.

One fine October Sunday in 2010, my mood swings were really high and I needed the calm space of the library. I got ready and started towards the Larkin branch library and religiously jotted down the details of the directions. It so happened that I had arrived early to the destination. So I had to hang out until the library opened for the day.

Out there at the location, I found a Sunday market and hung around to look at things being sold in temporary stalls. There was this sense of places mixing in my head and I remembered markets of Singapore and Chennai. All my commerce day lessons came rushing to my mind.

The sense of place in my life is very connected and especially when I needed to find my inner balance. After hanging for about an hour the library doors opened and I went in.

My first impression of the library could be summed up in a word, Palace. The architecture of the library was so Roman and I felt like Alice floating in air. For the first visit, I was just hanging out there on polished floor and tall rooms. I felt I might have lost a few inches, since I felt the rest of the people were taller than me.

I remember the grey shades of the library warmed by brown shades of desks, shelves and splatter of colors that were the bound books. The first visit was just spent walking around the place. It was only in my second visit that I even try to take out the book that I had searched in Mission Library.

I relaxed to the moment spent in the library and my peace restored with my confidence in me to go on. There is no amount of talking can get me to calm down, as much as a visit to a library can accomplish. Larkin Main Branch Library was my angel in disguise.

Image Source: https://sfpl.org/

Libraries Are My Soul Healers

My childhood, youth and womanhood have been spent in various libraries. I love things being arranged even though I lacked the talent to arrange things. But my life has such wonderful moments that are pure communion of my spirits with higher spirits.

Places and spaces influence me and it is after a while that I notice people. Usually I’m in my own world when I am in a library. The library has always been the answer to calming down my emotions which get haywire at the drop of the hat.

My First Library | West Mambalam, Chennai

My brother took both my sister and me to the library. It was pretty trick stuff for him. But both of us are good followers. We were well warned not to run amok on the main road. So I remember spending time sifting all the comic books. We were given a budget of one book each. But eventually my brother got two more books for us.

That way I must say my sibling and I sport affections that are almost similar to each other, in the cases of comic books. My sister loved less wordy more graphics. I still remember how both of us would giggle uncontrollably when we saw the Roman’s flying in the air in Asterix and Obelix series. The humor that is so apparent in the comic is really a “vera level” (a different level).

School Library | T’nagar, Chennai

I was in my eighth grade, when my school started having the library open for students during the lunch hour. I would always rush to get my share of all those young reader books. I picked innumerable Agatha Christie mystery novel. My favorites were Hercule Poirot, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. I usually solve the mystery before it gets over. I used to enjoy myself immensely.

British Council Library & American Council Library | Chennai

I was so far only familiar with a dusty local library and maybe organized small area library books in school; but then, heck man, I love books whether dusty or clean or clustered or spaced-out. My first spacious library was British Council Library during my college days and I loved reading all the classics that I could lay my hand on.

G K Chesterton was my all-time favorite. I loved P G Wodehouse and Jeeves series was simply superb to read and enjoy. Later I also joined American Council Library and mind you that place was so calm and silent.

Yishun Community Library | Singapore

One of my needs was to be in a place close to the Library. My ex-husband found a place close to the Yishun Community Library and even to this day I am most thankful for that one kind deed. Library would be where I would be after lunch and I totally enjoyed myself.

I was able to find volunteering jobs with the Library and I was most happy. I would volunteer to arrange the books and tell stories in the library storytelling room.

I have this wonderful story from Yishun Library that it is etched in my memory forever. I was on my fourth Thursday of story reciting stage when it was close to Christmas and I wanted to pick a story about Jesus and the manger. But found a Santa Claus story which I happily recited to my little group of young listening minds.

When I finished the book one little Chinese boy got up and said can we hear the music attached to the book. There was a button in the book which when pressed gives out music. The boy showed it to me and I was totally unaware of it. I was doubtful whether the music will play; but still went along with his suggestion. We found out that it worked and the group of six children all took turns to press the button. That day I felt I owned the world.

Woodland Public Library | Singapore

The Woodland Public Library was a sight for my sore eyes. Whenever I felt emotionally empty I would go to the library traveling by SMRT and sneakily enjoying an egg puff.

There was huge water fountain in the library which blended with the ambiance completely. I would spend hours with a book in my hand in front of the fountain. It was almost like Zen meditation for me.

I picked some really wonderful adult graphic books and the children section was divine. I loved sitting in the short chair watching all the children run around and quiet ones with a book in a hand under the artificial tree that was kept in the middle.

There could be any amount of discomfort in my life; but it would all melt when I am in the library. Life is filled up with moments such as these in plenty. These moments are all surrounded by good book read or emoted with in the course of my reading it.

Mission Library | San Francisco, Calif.

I was not really checking out for places near a Library to stay, but then magically, I found that Bartlett Street had a library and I would ever so often, walk down the street and pick some books from the Mission library. Library is the best place for me emotionally and spiritually. I always found my balance when I visit a library.

These days I don’t visit Libraries as often as I used to; but keep finding new things to read by actually creating my own little library at home

Memorable Personalities

I have a quirky habit of listening to song in a loop. I would listen to any new fancied song in an almost unending loop for days together. When that happens, the lyrics of the song would evoke people from my memory.

I always count my blessing more than my challenges. But then sometimes within the challenges lies the true lessons of life. My recent loop song is from the movie “Noor” titled “Hai Zaroori” sung by Prakriti Kakar and composed by Amaal Mallik.

Yes, it is true that I meet some very interesting people in my life. I must say that I have many a journal entry about various incidents in my life. But among the many I am reminded of a few people who touched my soul. I cannot finish it in one blog entry.

In my school for a short while, I used to eat alone, since I had fallen out with all my friends. I am a person who loves to eat with other people and so would feel so lonely often when eating alone.

Naturally, I would cut short my lunch by stuffing myself and rushing to the library, where I would pick Anne of Green Gables series. I used to be so emotional when reading that series, the story was around a positive heroine who would see the I’m Ok and You’re Ok side in all the events in her life. A forced sense of happiness and well-being appealed to my sensitivity, so that I would also see positive signs even in the most negative incidences.

Around that time my book reading had helped stabilize my emotions and so I was not even looking for a friend. I believe I was in my ninth grade when R sat by my side and I was a little frightened of her.

I was also unwilling to open my heart for another round of disappointment in friendship. But in my hindsight R has been one of the most soft-spoken person with brilliance that left your soul colored with her idealism.

We talked in dribble and nibbles which lead to the gentle drift into a friendship that stayed on. Even though I am not in touch with her, I believe she would have become a strong woman. She loved Chemistry and she even completed her graduation in the subject after all her Polio corrective surgeries.

I remember to this day that assembly experience. She never joined the assembly and I felt that she had to join us. She was no different from us. So one day, I told her that I would be crazy enough to skip the assembly, if she didn’t come with me.

When we eventually made it to the assembly, I was very nervous and didn’t like it being the center of attention when the entire assembly waited for us to join the line.

Even today I don’t like being the center of attention, but then, I know how to fake being brave-faced. I also know if one harsh look from audience, then it would crumble like bread crumbs. But then, R suggested waiting in the ground way before the assembly bell rings fearful clarity. But I was happy that she decided to join the assembly.

When we were in tenth I was made to sit by the side of the class topper so that she would be able to help me. Osmosis effect! But then studies never made any sense to me. But I always kept my contact with R. I remember going to her place in the front and she would keep track of whether I finished my Math worksheet and revised all the other subjects. She would take liberty in scolding me if I tell her that I hadn’t done it.

By then I was more of a once bitten twice shy kind of person, but I liked something about R that build my faith in her. I became very selective of picking friends and even to this day I follow that unwritten rule, even though I am always polite with all.

She took a break after her 10th Exams and did her high school in a different stream. As for me, I was back to being free drifting spirit with I hope no friends or enemies. By this time I was happy with who or what I was and didn’t wish to change myself. Maybe my earlier experiences helped me to grow older fast.

So the next interesting person that I was to meet in college was K. Now I used to walk with her to the disabled students’ hostel run by a charitable institution. She lived there for the duration of completing her graduation. She would absolutely showcase me to her hostel-mates. I enjoyed talking non-stop with them, by then I think I had learned to be sunny happy person. I think I was trying to be Anne of Green Gables, a grabbled version at least.

When I think of K, I remember that I had a hard day at college once and I was major time pissed off with the entire world. I had decided to walk down to my home to contain my anger. But then universe had other plans for me.

Because on that fateful day K decides to stop me and informed me, that she wanted to walk with me to her hostel. Her hostel was just a slight detour on the way to my home. I was fuming and yet didn’t have the heart to refuse her desire, so I reluctantly agreed to walk with her.

So for a while, I was silent and then started talking in anger. I started describing the street that we were walking.  How it looked and felt with such violence that she became silent. Then I used words that K would have trouble understanding but she was still patient with me. But at the point when I had covered everything in the ground, I said, “The sky was blue.”

I think that was her last straw and K must have had enough of me. She stopped walking and I naturally stopped too. She pressed my armed which was linked with hers and asked in a small voice, “How does blue look like?” I believe that evaporated my anger completely. Here was the challenge for me. How do you describe blue to a person who has never seen blue?! I calmed down immediately.

I understood that I had been an angry jackass. From that day forth I would never describe using visual blackhole words. I linked all description to physical or emotional links.

I also remember that I would walk to blind people after politely suggesting to them that they fold their guide so that I could link their arm with mine. It would seem like two friends walking peacefully. This also gave me control over how I guided them by making sure they were safe with me.

So one day during my Freshman year of college, someone close to my age wearing a ray ban and holding a folded guiding stick asked me to help him board a bus. Now the fact that he was a young man and there were a lot of people around was pressurizing for me. Since girls don’t talk to boys an unwritten social rule. But heck, I still wanted to help him since he asked for help.

I threw my social consciousness up in the air and I promised to help him board a bus while I eyed my empty 37D go by. I sighed and the person immediately asked me if something was wrong. I cleared the lump in my throat and said nothing really.

All the while we were waiting for the bus I was worried about guiding him. Actually he did look pretty handsome and quiet heavy. I don’t know where that fact is coming from but then he was healthy and seemed to work-out on a regular basis. In all categories, this person if sighted wouldn’t require my help at all.

I was not thinking of that all at that moment. Because my one fear factor was that will I be able to get him on board the bus as quickly as possible. Since the public transport don’t provide a lot of time for passengers to get in the bus and he had to find the steps and so much other factors for person with impaired sight. I feared for his safety and the huge responsibility on my shoulders.

But the minute I sighted his bus I just touched him on his arm and he moved smoothly in the direction that I was moving my arm. He did not seem so heavy and didn’t resist me either. One of the important things about a blind person would be the confidence with which they would place their faith in your motives for guidance.

My eyes filled with emotional tears that someone had that faith in me. I cleared my throat and yelled the person’s destination to the bus conductor and informed him to help the person to get down at the right stop. Once I got the confirmation from the conductor.

I bide my goodbyes by yelling at the person, since lots of people were getting into the bus and he was already in the bus. I waved my hands while shouting out goodbyes. I did get weird looks from others. In India we don’t give way to disabled people to board the bus first when I saw that in US I think I felt pride in US because they were considerate.

Tulika – A Children’ Books Publisher in Chennai

As part of my Study Paper for my Journalism and Corporate Communication course at Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai, I had decided to write about Children’s Literature in India. Following which I had interviewed an illustrator, Editor of Children’s book and others in this line. Deeya Nayar of Tulika Publisher was kind enough to accept my request for an interview back in 2001. Much of my thoughts about publishing challenges of the Children’s book became an understanding for me during this interview.

Tulika’s books can be used as supplementary readers to the mainstream academic books. They have topics to complement and supplement subject books like English, History, Geography, Mathematics and Language learning tools. Tulika brings out both fiction and non-fiction books. “The non-fiction books are the most challenging ones,” says Ms. Deeya Nayar. They are challenging because of their role to represent real life facts in understandable and simple language.

Most of the books published so far, pays a lot of importance for moralistic teaching, value-based education. Parents expect the book to carry a moral at the end of any narrated story.  Tulika aims to counterbalance these attitudes by bringing out more books of Indian origin for Children and has a firm commitment to provide good quality books with proper text material and appropriate Illustration. The illustration plays a very important role for selection of a book for reading among Children. Ms. Nayar cites an incident like the time when a Child is allowed to browse through the library which is a rare occurrence and does not happen often. The child picks up books because it likes the illustration or an aspect in that book which captivates its imagination. The child would hold on to the books and would insist on buying that specific book.

“Books should not only be easily understandable but also have to challenge the child’s mind,” says Ms. Nayar. Working only within the vocabulary limit of the child, a writer may introduce new words, which could be contextually decipherable in the story for furthering the child’s vocabulary.

The Adults mostly select books for Children. Ms. Nayar feels, “the Parent should let the child go and allow it to select books on its own judgement.” Adults from their overprotective attitude scrutinise, and then, select a book based on whether it could be read by a child or not. Nearly 90% of the selections come under this category of Adult’s choice. Parents’ choose books with a moral or educational value. The pleasure of merely enjoying the book for its reading quality is not given an importance.

In treating serious issues for Children there is much caution employed by the publishing world. The sensitive subject has to be treated in manner that could be more easily understood by the Child without scaring them. The Child is usually more open towards new concepts than its Parent.

One such serious issue dealt concerning a current issues are published by Tulika under the section called ‘Think About.’ The subject dealt is current and taken from the environment that it constantly faces. Usually Children are protected from the hard truth of the world but the increasing exposure to riots and violence. It then becomes imperative that this information is disclosed to the Child without glossing over and with positive tones. The serious issues like Communal harmony, faith, special children and other Child affecting subjects; Tulika aims it for slightly older children, the 9 plus age group.

Books titled “Sorry, Best Friend” for the 9-10+ age group where Communal harmony is the subject dealt. The concept for the book has evolved from a workshop conducted in Delhi says Deeya. The stories in the book are compilation of the workshop’s outcome through interactive sessions between writers, illustrators and children. Book titled “One World” is again on communal harmony but on a global range. The book is where oneness among nations is dealt and for same age group. It contains stories, memoirs and activities.

“Why Are You Afraid To Hold My Hand?” is about acceptance of a child with impaired mobility. The Child is exposed to the idea that a disabled child is no different from itself and wishes to be accepted as their peers. This book is aimed at all age group and appears in simple and understandable verses.

Books like these are often a part of the curriculum and modify them creatively for ease in teaching the Child. These books could be used as a supplement to the curricular lessons and there by enhance the child’s learning.

Image Courtesy: http://www.tulikabooks.com/info/team

I’m Ok, You’re Ok and We’re all Ok!

My reading list over the three decades spans somewhat like this. This list is exclusively those books that I read about philosophy, religious practices, self-help books.

There was a time in my life when library was really important as a source of sustained strength. Books were my friends with whom I would agree or disagree. There is a search within me even now as I read books on spiritual realms.

  • “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale (read in 1988)
  • “Living with the Lama” by T S Lobsang Rampa (read in 1988)
  • “Education and the Significance Of Life” by Jiddu Krishnamurthi (read in 1989)
  • “I’m Ok, You’re Ok” by Thomas A. Harris MD (read in 1994)
  • “Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life” by Thích Nhất Hạnh (read in 1995)
  • Books on Zen Meditation Quotes (read in 1996)
  • “Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” by Robin Sharma (read in 1996)
  • “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven Covey (read in 1998)
  • “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahansa Yogananda (read in 2011)
  • “God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita: Royal Science of God-Realization” by Paramahansa Yogananda (read in 2012)

This is a small list of books that has influenced my life. I must say I was shocked and surprised by Jiddu Krishnamurthi’s thoughts. I would keep turning those ideas in my head and try to understand it.

Given that I tend to over think a lot, it was very stressful for me to process his thoughts. But I enjoyed learning and always challenged my thought process in the exercises that place before my mind.

I recognized very early in my life that my thoughts were bringing me down. Mr. Peale’s book was just an accidental read; but from that point forward in life, I sought out books on self-help.

My reading expanded with every new author that I read. But my understanding levels were based on the level of my mind’s maturity. But then, I always had a sense of fairness in the things that I read.

But to this day, I would debate each thought that gets into my head. This habit is so set in me, that there is no book that I have read so far, with the exception of the fictions, has gone without being questioned.

My life as a series of books that influenced my mind, soul and spirit, would make an excellent walk in the clouds for a reader of my works. I absolutely enjoyed anything about God, Spirit, Well-being, Spiritual, Meditation especially Zen, and most definitely anything on Human and Spiritual love.

One of my heartfelt desires is to become a Zen monk. I have been aspiring since I found the Moon a spiritual companion during my hideout days as a teenager. I always had this confusion: “Am I good enough to be a monk?” Because I had this intense pleasure in little things and that is when I started to question the term called Monk.

So in that pursuit of becoming a peace-loving monk, I decided to be a common woman who searched for God in her private moments. I have touched that supreme calm about four or five times. I also had figured the way to be less agitated by artificially creating the meditative calm.

Things in the space of spiritualism are still in fluctuation within me. I am not unhappy about having volatile answers to spiritualism. But in the process, I have found, that “I’m ok, so are you and so are we all!

Finding the Joy of Traveling In Pallavan

There is something magical about a window seat that a travel nervous person like me can understand well. Moving sceneries produce a feeling of emotional high that no drug can replace. Window seat travel is almost an addictive drug that sets my mind dreaming like the opium induced British Poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

There have been innumerable opportunities to travel by the public transportation and it has given immense joy. My trapped spirit finds its freedom with the blowing wind through the window. The dreams that visit during the interim of the travel are spectacular to recall on lull days.

I remember a moment from my Childhood. I used to visit my maternal grandfather during my summer holidays. The house belonged to the old time architecture and so there is a step leading to the kitchen set in a little higher level to the rest of the rooms. I was once seated on the top-most step. As I sat there, I gradually slipped into an almost real-life dream of train travel.

The dream had the complete package of sound, smell, light, things and taste of the Central Station. The dream lasted for a countless time until my grandfather returned from his morning socializing. It was a Sunday and no one to mind me in the house, so I was left to my devices. My travel in the imaginary train was such a pleasure and filled with minute details, that it took me a while to shake off the imaginary train station.

Later, in my years I travelled in a real-train I was surprised that I had captured the vibrant station in my young memory without having travelled in one. The train and flight travels were very limited but it gives the mind the feeling of having explored like a mendicant. The best ones were those on the bus.

I generally tend to panic first and foremost when I am traveling by any mode of transportation. But then, within this limitation is the place, that I find my central sense of peace too. That fact surprises me more than others.

Traveling by Bus happened out of desperation because when I was in middle school and I was a grownup who took more space than the other younger passengers in the autorickshaw. So our natural choice was to take the public transport in Chennai – The Pallavan.

Life is filled with so many first times that it gets really interesting if you are not frightened always. I was so fed up with the auto discomfort that I was willing to venture in the wild of bus travel. My memory of Pallavan was the accident in which I should have been the person who got hurt instead of my little friend who got hurt in the process during the reckless driving incident.

I love traveling in an empty bus in the early hours of the dawn the most, because it comes from my semi-empty bus traveling experience. Actually during my early days I used to struggle in the crowded bus and constantly fear missing the stop. But I would still feel squished and wasted. The best solution, back then was to take the early buses which were not overcrowded.

This feeling of traveling in a semi-empty bus is such fun, that I simply had to start early and enjoy the trip. It always felt like flying on the wings of the butterfly. Gentle and smooth breeze of life crowds my being. Even today, if I start early and the roads are empty with some chill morning breeze, I almost feel that I am new born child in communion with the world.

The semi-empty buses always ensured that I got a window seat and the wind of morning breezes in with gusto. One couldn’t ask for more. Even today I take the window seat, even though, it is rather hard to navigate to the aisle and get down from the bus. But nothing can beat the joy of the window seat travel.

PS

‘This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’