June 16, 2020

5 ways we can still fix a broken world

We are all aware of what is happening in the world today. And I can say without doubt, we are not too proud of it.

After much contemplation, cribbing, and ranting, I have finally come to accept that the answer to all our troubles does not lie in looking back at the past and trying to correct it. (Because it may be too late to change the narrative of our lives, too much damage has been done for that already. )

Instead, it lies in ensuring that our mistakes aren’t repeated. That out faulty mentality and biases do not form part of the legacy that we are handing over to our children. That they turn out better than we turned out to be.

Here are five ways we can help the children we birth/raise/know grow up into better human beings: 

1) Build their trust: When a child smiles at you, smile back. No matter how your day is going. Maybe you are running late for work, or have missed the bus, or your boss is mad at you for submitting a work file too late. Maybe you have flunked a test, or have just broken up with the love of your life. But if a child smiles at you, smile. Children are innocent and often see the world as a compassionate place where what you give is what you get. Do not let them down. Let them believe that kindness exists. Do not shatter their expectations. Let them grow up knowing that the easiest way to make a friend is to smile. 

2) Introduce them to the magic of reading: Read out a story to a child, preferably one every week, with full animated gestures et al give flight to his imagination. Introduce him to the art of reading and story telling. You can read out to an adult too if you like. You’d be surprised how much they enjoy it.

3) Teach them the importance of art - Contribute to the world of art. Even the smallest of contributions make a huge difference—-Spend time sketching. Do a doodle. Paint a picture. Write a poem. Make your own music. Spin a story. Even if you don’t have an audience, create. For yourself. And for your kid who is constantly watching and emulating you. 

4) Break a taboo - this is a social change you can start at home. We have age old customs around everything. Replace them with stories of feminism and gender equality. Speak to your children openly on topics of menstruation and sex. Buy them games and clothes that are gender neutral. Hand then equal responsibility when it comes to household chores. We have enough male chauvinists in our patriarchal society. Make sure you are not raising one. 

5) Tell them it is fine. That it is fine to lose a game, fail a test, or make mistakes...if it ends up teaching you something in return. Teach them it is fine to feel different from the rest of the world as long as they lend a patient ear to those who ‘feel’ different too. Teach them that the colour of your skin, the labels on your clothes, the money in your wallet, does not matter. What matters is the strength of your character the fact that we all need the same things to keep us alive; blood in our veins, air in our lungs, and compassion in our heart.

Old men can make war. But it is only children who will make history.”- Ray Meritt

Let’s ensure that the generations after us live a happier story right from the very beginning, and do not have to carry the burden of our sins.

What a wonderful little chance to rewrite history—-of course, you do not necessarily have to birth a child in order to raise it right.

The best teachers have embraced the onus of raising children...a responsibility that is sometimes tougher to handle than that of a parent.

Children are like water, taking up any colour you mix in them. A child can be encouraged with as little as an uplifting word or an act of kindness. Make sure you mix the right colours. Say the right words. Be kind and considerate in your behaviour.

Remember, the ‘future’ is constantly watching you.

June 10, 2020

Book review: ‘The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and The Horse’

Title: The boy, the mole, the fox, and the horse.

Author: Charlie Mackesy 

Pages: 128 pages

Publisher: Ebury Press

“The boy, the mole, the fox, and the horse” is an allegorical tale, replete with flash insights on friendship, courage, life and our insecurities.

It is a simple story with invaluable lessons inscribed on every page, a story that can be read, interpreted, and understood by people of all ages. 
The story begins with a boy wandering into the wilderness, alone and confused, until he encounters a philosophical mole, a silent fox, and a magnificent horse. 

Each of the four characters represent extremely relatable human traits and behavioural patterns. The little boy, lost and full of questions, is trying to find his way back home. The wizened mole is obsessed with cake. The silent fox is jaded by the hurt he has lived in the past. And the gentle horse has downplayed his exemplary talents  in order to fit into an ordinary world. 
Together they explore the wilderness, which like life, is full of surprises-both scary and beautiful. 

Thus a symbiotic association is formed between them, ultimately resulting in an unusual but beautiful friendship.

Embellished with basic illustrations and minimalistic writing using swirly calligraphy and intermittent strokes of water colour in pen and ink drawings, Charlie Mac has brought out the beauty of the journey in a succinct yet engaging manner. 
The sketches gently push the story forward. The accompanying dialogue between the characters make you reflect on your own insecurities of fear, guilt, illness, loss, thus serving as balm to the aching soul. 
Lines like “Home isn’t always a place, isn’t it?” hit home and make you nod in agreement.

A poignant point which almost made me want to reach out and hug the author was when the boy asks the horse, “What is the bravest thing you’ve ever said?”, to which the horse replies, “Help”. 

A shout-out to all people belittling, underestimating, or shying away from discussing their mental health issues.

As suggested in the above illustration, the author seems to be a believer of beauty-in-imperfections, somewhat like the Japanese culture of Wabisabi. And this only adds to the charm of his storytelling. 
If you, like me, are a fan of Bill Watterson’s ‘Calvin & Hobbes’ series, then this is one book you are sure to enjoy. 

Translated in seventeen different languages, ‘The boy, the mole, the fox, and the horse’ is worth the space in your collection and your heart...to hand and hold, to treasure and cherish, and to return to every now and then, especially in times of uncertainty and strife. 

Seems like the apt read for now,  isn’t it?  

I rate it: 5 out of 5

You can buy it here

June 04, 2020

George Floyd and the Elephant #AllLivesMatter

Just when I thought the Coronavirus pandemic had succeeded in getting humans a little sensitive towards nature and other species, reality decided to prove me wrong. 

Take for instance the heinous crime against the innocent fifteen year old elephant in Palakkad, Kerala. 
It has been alleged that some unidentified locals fed the mute creature a pineapple stuffed with firecrackers. This resulted in her suffering from severe degree burns and excruciating pain in the mouth.
The pachyderm rushed to the nearby river where she stayed with her trunk and mouth dipped in the water. No amount of efforts from the forest officials could manage to get her out. 
She stood there silently, nursing her smarting wounds, hanging her head as if in shame at her faith in humans and their kindness. Until she breathed her last. 
Post mortem reports revealed she was pregnant. 

Cut to the far flung West, where an innocent man named George Floyd met a brutal death for no fault of his. Following a false allegation of theft/counterfeit for a petty supermarket expense, the police officer in charge arrested George needlessly and violently, pressing his knee into his neck. Handcuffed and bound in that vulnerable state, George kept gasping for breath, but his voice reached empty ears. The officer held him down for almost nine minutes...till he finally stopped breathing. 
The assault was caught on camera and has been a cause of widespread resentment ever since. All over the U.S, there have been violent protests and angry demonstrations from the black population. 

Why am I writing about both these incidents in the same piece?
My intention is not to compare the gravity of the two situations, no.
I’m aware that the murder of a human is a much more serious offence than the slaughter of any other mammal, at least in the book of law. 
However, recent happenings has forced me drawing parallels...between two incidents, in two unrelated parts of the world and yet linked by one common factor—-inhumanity. 

Today I grieve, for both, the Elephant in Kerala and George in Minneapolis. I grieve today, for the murder of their trust, their innocence, their vulnerability. At the hands of a diabolical and prejudiced mentality. 
The elephant had a tiny life growing within her. George had a family; a wife, children, an entire life ahead of him. 
Both were taken away before their time. Why? 
Does a life mean nothing to someone who is entrusted with the responsibility to guard it? 
In Pallakad, Kerala, it was the locals who considered themselves superior. In Minneapolis, the white officer found himself at a position of privilege. Does that mean they had the right to abuse this privilege...for their entertainment, to prove their supremacy? 

Both these instances were followed by mass social outrage.
All over India, animal activists cried hoarse over the elephant tragedy. They raked up old unresolved cases of similar nature and lambasted the Government.
Secular Americans did the same.

The Kerala Government pinned a reward to anybody who would identify the offenders. The NYPD sacked the officer from his post in the department. The protestors weren’t satisfied. Would that bring Floyd back? They wanted justice. They wanted the President to have their back, to promise them a society with no undercurrents of discrimination. Of course, it did not help that the POTUS switched off the lights and hid in the bunkers. 
Some demanded explanations. Some made it look like political propaganda. 
The excuses started to trickle in...excuses to cushion the savage nature of the murders, to explain that these deaths were not as intentional as they appeared to be.
Someone claimed the pineapple was a trap for wild boars and the elephant ate it accidentally. 
Forensics reported Floyd as Covid positive and although they did not dare to associate that as the direct reason for his death, they insinuated that his lungs had not been strong enough to take the strain of the knee-neck lock.
But isn’t that exactly what excuses are meant to do—-make it seem like the victim’s fault? 

What is to come out of all this then? 
A few weeks down and the chaos will settle. The activists will tire. The voices will fade. The protests will lose their energy...and our sorry lives will go on like they did before. 
The offenders will be punished. People will realise that they cannot take the vulnerable for granted. The Government will know it is answerable to a public that votes for it...that it can run but it cannot cower down and hide. The public will understand they deserve more than they get and they have every right to ask for it.
One pregnant elephant. One black man. They can either be a statistic in the record or can change the entire face of history. 
However, it is only when we voice our opinion, when we take a stand for the injustice done to others that we can expect someone to voice their opinion against the injustice done to us.

Whether it is happening to a mute creature in a remote village in Kerala or it is happening to an innocent black man in Minnesota, Minneapolis, bullying is brutal and should be challenged not by silence but by confrontation, by awareness, by supporting the victims, by punishing the offenders.

Let’s make some noise about the issue. It’s time to wake up!