Rewriting ‘About me’

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I was rearranging my blog, and thought it was time to rewrite the ‘about me’ page- it turned out to be an interesting exercise. I thought I’d put it up as a post.

I or Me?

I wandered into teaching not with any clarity or passion for teaching, but confused and seeking a quiet place, and work where I could mess around with several interesting things. After two years and a little more of teaching science and computers, I find that I like teaching.

But larger questions in education remain. Having read radical thinkers in education like John Holt, I realize that the problems with schools and with education is a problem with the way our society has organised itself (right from the way families are organised, how parents have full time jobs that make it impossible for them to take care of their children, how the institution of childhood makes children inferior citizens with regards to things like how they spend their time and decisions that affect them- there is a cluster of issues) and it’s not something that can be solved in schools.

John Holt writes in Instead of Education, “During most of my teaching years, this is what I spent most of my time thinking about- immediate, concrete, practical matters. Not, how can I make schools better, or even help children learn better, but how can I help this child learn to spell this word or do this problem?” I try to keep myself grounded and live in my concrete reality, and not get lost and frustrated in the land of ideas and ideals. But I find that it’s difficult.

The radical questions can never go away, but I see that to pursue them would require stepping out of the designed environment of a school, and connecting with the world, which could happen one day if energies and momentum gather organically.

***

I’ve been writing this blog for over five years now. When I go through some of my old entries (some not so old), it strikes me how much I’ve changed over these years. I laugh at some of the things I’ve written. 🙂 Sometimes you think you’re writing something profound and later when you read the same thing it looks like nonsense.

Of course I’ll continue writing nonsense, but I also plan to start writing about more concrete things, like my explorations in science, or some ideas that I tried out in class, or some computer program that I wrote, stuff like that which gives you a reassurance that you’re living in a concrete, physical world, and everything’s alright!

P.S. The title “I or Me?” is based the terms used in The User Illusion by Tor Norretranders to refer to the small part of ourselves that we become conscious of (I) and the whole organism that is Me.

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A Walk to Remember

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The path continued to climb, seemingly endlessly, but I had prepared myself mentally for this. The wooden path through the rhododendron forests had given way to a steep rocky climb. This route through the Kanchenjunga National Park seems to be very isolated. There are no villages on the way, only the camp sites.

There was no one within sight to ask, “How much more?”, but it seemed unimportant anyway. As the guides say, distances don’t mean much in the mountains, you always talk in hours. And surely I have to keep walking for a few hours more.

The straps of my rucksack are biting into my shoulder, my legs are tired with hours and hours of walking, my oxygen deprived brain is throbbing with a headache- but strangely it didn’t really seem to matter. I know I can go on walking this way for a few more hours yet.

After the lunch break at Phetang, I seem to have figured out a way to climb without exhausting myself. Without having to constantly ask, “How much more?” when you know you have several hours ahead. Walking with the rest of the group had been very exhausting.

Having to respond to children’s queries of “How much more?” became extremely irritating after a while, partly because you had the same question in mind and didn’t know any better except that asking the question was futile. Also talking, for many, was the way to keep their minds away from the hardship of the walk, but for me it was something that got on my nerves. And lastly, pulling stragglers along, when you yourselves are struggling, is draining.

I decide to be a bit selfish and hang back at the rear. And it has worked wonders. Despite all the physical pain and hardship, I seem to be enjoying the climb. I even feel like I don’t want it to end too soon. I’m going along at a snail’s pace, my each step almost stroking the mountains. But it’s as if every bit of energy I spend is going into getting me to Dzongri. I am fascinated and humbled to think about what my body and mind are capable of.

***

After a few hours, I arrive at the camp in Dzongri. I had seen the group up ahead when the path had come into a valley and they must have reached 15-20 minutes earlier. You can see one of the large huts in Dzongri from far away. With self-restraint I had stopped myself from speculating how much more time it would take, and told myself to just keep walking.

As always, the guides have affectionately kept hot water and tea ready for us. All of us are huddled together inside sipping our cups. Some of the kids are singing. Everyone’s elated to have made it to Dzongri. I’m still enchanted by the magic of the walk and don’t seem to take in anything. I’m lost in solitude amidst all the talking and merrymaking.

***

It’s extremely cold outside. Inside the cabin, completely made of wood there is some respite. It’s small, though, and some of us would have to sleep outside in tents. None of us are particularly looking forward to the night, even though we are all weary and ready to crash into our sleeping bags.

***

At the break of daylight the next morning, I eagerly step out of the tent to look at the sky. Not only is it overcast and misty, but there is some light rain too. The weather gods had been kind to us so far, but we didn’t seem to be fortunate enough to get a glimpse of the great Kanchenjunga.

Disappointed, but also buoyed by the thought of descending to Tshoka, we start off, still with a faint hope that the sky would clear up by the time we reached the view point on the way, the highest point we have crossed, at 4150m above sea level. The sky does clear up a bit, but not enough for us to see Kanchenjunga. We do get a glimpse of Mt.Kabru though.

***

Later in the day, just past noon, we are all safe and sound in the wooden lodge in Tshoka, the same place where we stayed on the way up. A beautiful triple rainbow had adorned the mountains to welcome us. For the first time in three days, we have the whole afternoon to ourselves to rest.

It suddenly struck me that the trek was almost over. It’s been too short, really, but no complaints. The range of experiences it’s taken us through had been really worth it. And for me, visiting the Himalayas for the first time, it’s beyond words.

Laziness is the mood in general, as we just relax and recover from three days of punishing hard toil, but not amongst our guides. They are running about as usual, getting food and drink ready for us. They entertain us inside the dark wooden cabin, with a Nepali song full of the warmth, life and joy of the mountain folk (play the video at the end).

I’m again lost in solitude amidst all that is happening around me. It seems unbelievable- only a few days ago we had boarded the train from Pune to Howrah and then Sealdah to New Jalpaiguri and then travelled by jeeps to Yuksom. And here I am, in the Himalayas, in an eerie, yet cosy wooden lodge dimly lit by candles, listening to a song of the mountain folk, allowing myself to be carried away by it.

Tomorrow we descend to Yuksom and the trek will be over. It’s been an unbelievable first experience of the Himalayas. I’d like to come back here sometime. Also visit the other regions too. But for now, I’m left with a resonating memory of the second day’s walk from Phetang to Dzongri. That has been the defining experience of the trek for me.

Bidding Farewell

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“… How shall I go in peace and without sorrow? Nay, not without a wound in the spirit shall I leave this city.

Long were the days of pain I have spent within its walls, and long were the nights of aloneness; and who can depart from his pain and his aloneness without regret?

Too many fragments of the spirit have I scattered in these streets… and I cannot withdraw from them without a burden and an ache.

It is not a garment I cast off this day, but a skin that I tear with my own hands.

Nor is it a thought I leave behind me, but a heart made sweet with hunger and with thirst.

Yet I cannot tarry longer.

The sea that calls all things unto her calls me, and I must embark.

For to stay, though the hours burn in the night, is to freeze and crystallize and be bound in a mould.

… Ready am I to go, and my eagerness with sails full set awaits the wind.

Only another breath will I breathe in this still air, only another loving look cast backward,
Then I shall stand among you, a seafarer among seafarers.
And you, vast sea, sleepless mother,
Who alone are peace and freedom to the river and the stream,
Only another winding will this stream make, only another murmur in this glade,
And then shall I come to you, a boundless drop to a boundless ocean.”

from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

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“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

J Krishnamurthi

Off to Munnar

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Achan, Amma, Ashwini and I are going on holiday to Munnar tomorrow. We’ll be back only on Sunday, as we are also going to Kodaikkanal. Will write in detail about the trip after I come back!

Hello WordPress!

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I have shifted my blog to WordPress, because I was impressed by the customizing options it provides, compared to Livejournal. So far, I have been quite impressed! I’ve spent most of today customizing and recustomizing my new journal.

Back Home!

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Phew!

Fourth sem is over at last! It’s been quite a semester. The heaviest so far. And boy, am I glad it’s over!

I reached home around half past midnight yesterday (or today, whichever you prefer!). After the exam, which got over at 12.30 pm yesterday, I went to Kozhikode with my friends, for a treat by five friends whose birthdays fall in the vacation. Febin had this “great” idea of keeping our luggage in the cloak room at the railway station before going for the treat, and spending the night in the waiting room, to catch the early morning train. When we reached the station and found the cloak room, we found that it was nothing more than a shabby little room where you can keep your luggage only if it is locked (no liability), and that too for Rs.10/package/24hrs. To add to the misery, you had to go through a wet corridor which smelt of rotten fish, to get to the cloak room. So AKP, Sabu and I decided to leave immediately after the treat, by bus.

Gokul, who had his aunt’s house nearby, went and kept his luggage there-he had booked his ticket- while the rest of us decided to carry it around with us. Then we went to the beach and spent a relaxed couple of hours there, watched the sunset, and reached Mezban, on time for the treat. We had a great time. After the treat, AKP and I got a KSRTC super fast bus, and reached Thrissur at midnight. Achan came to pick me up from the stand- I disturbed his sleep!

Anyway, three months of vacation in front of me, and lots of stuff to be done!

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