neelwrites/training/flashfiction/performance/09/12/2017

December 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

December 7 Flash Fiction Challenge at Carrot Ranch @Charli_Mills

In 99 words (no more, no less) write that features a performance. You can interpret what is a performance any way the prompt leads you.

Hosted by https://carrotranch.com/2017/12/07/december-7-flash-fiction-challenge/

TRAINING, IT’S DRAINING

By Neel Anil Panicker

Two days, seven hours, thirty-one minutes and still counting. There’s no signs of the torture  ever coming to an end. From his secluded perch in the far right hand corner, I watch with eyes as dead as of a dodo’s at the ‘actors’ and their ‘performances’.

The powers that be had even thought out a name for this form of extreme sadism, grandly christening it as ‘ANNUAL SKILL UPLIFTMENT SESSION’.

My foot! The only skill upliftment was that the hapless trainees had by now learnt how to fall into deep slumber with their eyes split wide open.

©neelanilpanicker2017 #fiction #flashfiction #99words #training

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DARKNESS TO LIGHT

habit

By Neel Anil Panicker

As the Master of Ceremonies (MC) announced the winner of the COACHING TIME Best Faculty Award 2017, thunderous rounds of applause swept through the audience as every single person was up on his or feet, clapping, cheering lustily, quite a few even, especially among the women, shedding more than a tear.

These were no ordinary tears; instead they were tears of joy, tears of supreme happiness and a silent prayer in honour and recognition of the insurmountable spirit displayed by one of their own, one who with her actions had become an inspirational beacon of hope for all.

Daintily adjusting the folds of her exquisitely ornate gold embroidered Kancheevaram silk saree, Dr Lavanya got up from her chair in the corner third row and worked her way towards stage acknowledging the compliments that came her way.

Joining his colleagues and co-workers in expressing their extreme happiness was Mohandas Pai, the Director of ‘Coaching Time’ who too stood up, his hands clapping in chorus with the rapturous crowd.

Amidst thunderous ear deafening applause Sr Lavanya acceded to the request of the MC to speak a few words.

First of all I request you all to kindly sit down. It makes me feel a wee bit awkward to receive so much love and attention from my dear colleagues, well wishers, respectful Director Sir__ all who have known me in the past decade or so to ten years.

If an outsider were to inadvertently gate crash into this evening’s conference, he would assume me to be a hot shot Bollywood celebrity, in town for one or the other charity event.

Speaking of charity, I will say that charity begins at home.

And here I must thank, besides my dear parents, my dear colleagues without whose unstinted support and encouragement I wouldn’t have been here, standing before all of you, holding in my hands this glittering trophy that has my name engraved on it, acknowledging and honouring me with the award for the BEST FACULTY- VERBAL 2017.

And now I must get on with the task at hand, a promise that Pai Sir had extracted from me.

It was a promise that I will tell my story from every single stage, that I will narrate at every opportune moment and occasion the story of my life, that is my life battling cancer.

So here it is, the no holds barred, bare boned story of my life.

My name is Lavanya. I had a surname. But life and circumstances have forced nee enabled me to drop my surname.

I was born a boy, the only child of typical middle class Maharashtrian parents who were both bank employees.

Life was blissful as I grew up into my teens but sometime around when I had crossed seventeen I realised I was a girl trapped in a boy’s body.

When, after much hesitation and quite a lot of trepidation, I disclosed my fears to my parents they were devastated. Quite understandably so. I mean who wouldn’t? Their only child, bright and cheerful, a crowd puller, was now telling them, literally out of the blue that he was a she. That their only offspring, that too a son, the much sought after male homosapien, was a daughter.

Barring the initial shock, my mother, as all mothers are wont to, took it in her chin and embraced me. She had a daughter now instead of what she believed earlier to be a son. Just a switch of genders.

But my father was made differently. He felt insulted, cheated, humiliated, his elephantine male ego couldn’t the fathom the idea of fathering a boy who had now cruelly turned into a girl.

He ranted and raved, threw things around, began binge drinking and chain smoking, and when one day my mother suggested that it was time to heed the doctor’s advice and help initiate the medical process that would transform my body from male into female he put his foot down. He simply refused to sign the consent form, refused to put his signature on the medical form without which no hospital or doctor could carry out the medical interventions my body so very urgently needed.

And when my mother questioned him over this reluctance, he slapped her and threw us, both mother and I out of the house, our house that parents had jointly built.

The next day and the week after we stayed at a relative’s place and the months following that we moved into a single room rented accommodation.

The day we moved in was when we received the court notice. My father had filed for divorce.

Our cup of woes filleth over.

I will cut short the horrific days and nights and the several years that followed thereafter, suffice to say it took all of ten years, five ‘eight-hour-long’ surgeries and a ten lakh rupees bank loan to help me transform fully from a boy to girl.

In between my mother worked at the bank, toiled as an independent single mother, bravely fighting the not so veiled barbs and insults and slights of a highly myopic misogynistic society to enable me pick up a graduate degree and a prized MBA thereafter.

She died last year, a happy and contented soul, ever in live with life, ever a fighter, ever positive and left me with her message of peace and love. A true fighter she was and made me one too.

My mother was stronger than I ever could be.

I remember she never ever dropping that smile off her face, never ever saying or feeling one bit of despondency, never ever indulging in self pity or wallowing in the deep bottomless well of despair and negativity.

Friends who have visit my house have seen my bookshelf chock o block with self help books and autobiographies of great men and women.

In one of the walls is a huge white board imprinted with the words, “Trauma is about being stuck. Sometimes a holding pattern becomes habitual, causing tension and ill health. We understand our lives backward, but must live them forward”.

These are the words of the great 20th century Danish philosopher Soren Kiregaard, considered the ‘Father of Existentialism’ on whose works I have done Doctorate.

Thanks to my in depth research into his teachings and philosophies was I able understand the concept of choice that besets every human being and thereby lead myself from pitch black darkness into blinding light.

It was he who helped me move from my earlier stage of dreadful existence to another beautiful stage, an act of will, a leap of choice.

I slowly moved from apathy to sympathetic antipathy to finally antipathetic sympathy.

I realised it’s not the traumas and setbacks that come our way that defeat us, that hold us back, that lead us to failures. I realised that is it is our own mental blocks towards them, our own deep rooted self serving narrow mindsets and attitudes towards these temporary but all so natural mishaps that beset every human being on this planet that we need to smash, come out of, and overcome. And that’s what I did. I smashed and broke through all these artificial walls to carve my own space on this Earth.

And that’s the message that I want give all.

I am no doctor but today I help heal minds, heal human minds caught in a time warp, a vicious self defeating circle of bigotry, obscurantism, patriarchy and gender subjugation.

This beautiful award and recognition will always stay embedded in my heart for ever, for it shows your love and respect for both of us, my mother and me__for my mother Lalitha, and for me, Vanya.

And that, my dear friends and colleagues, is my story, Lavanya’s story, the story of a  girl who was once a boy but will always remain a human being, and strive to be a good one. Thanks You and God bless all of you.”

 

#NEELANILPANCIKER FICTION #SHORT STORY #REENA’S EXPLORATION CHALLENGE#WEEK 15 #1323words

 

neelwrites/swotbversussoar/fiction/shortstory/1431words/reena’sexplorationchallengeweek14/29/11/2017

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NO SWETTING OVER SWOT, SIMPLY SOAR

Here’s the prompt.

SOAR SLIDE.jpg

 

By Neel Anil Panicker  

Nitin Gokhale looked around him and found that he was the odd one out. Everyone in the large airy hall the size of a 5-star lobby was clad in suits. Cleaned and shaven, hairs gelled, shoes shining brighter than the morning sun, and holding sleek leather bound files in their manicured hands, each one of them radiated brilliance as their eager, sparkling eyes stood affixed on a corner door that for now remained firmly closed.

For a casual observer the scene could be mistaken for the grand finale round of the ‘Mr World’ contest when the door would magically spring open and the judges would walk upto announce the winner of the most prized contest.

Except that this was no beauty contest but a brainy one. The participants who were waiting were no handsome Amazon Gods and gorgeous Greek Goddesses but were all who had trumped the best brains of the country and elsewhere to emerge among the list of the final call getters of the CAT, the prestigious IIMs, the premier management institution of the world, from where in two years time, they would be honing and perfecting their considerable academic skills and business skills to emerge and take their rightful places as czars and czarinas of the diamond crusted corporate world.

 

Should he too have followed suit and worn a suit. Nitin mulled over the question as he looked at his crispy white shirt worn over a pair of black trousers.

No, that was unnecessary, maybe even a little over the top, and had he worn one it would have made him extremely conscious and thereby anxious, which again would have reflected in the way he conducted himself, Nitin reminded himself.

Besides, this made him stand out in the crowd even if it made him the odd one out.

A voice over the microphone interrupted this thoughts; Nitin heard his name being called out.

It was time to step through the door. He got up, creased his trousers, and with confident steps walked towards the door.

At the corner, he saw someone flashing a thumbs up sign.

It was Inder Malhotra, his friend and colleague from Delhi Technical University, his alma mater, and thereafter COACHING TIME, the MBA coaching institute in Delhi that the two had attended for almost a year immediately after completing their graduation.

He smiled back mouthing a ‘thanks’ and stepped in.

Smiling, he walked towards the sole oblong teak lined wood table that stood in the centre of an airy mid-sized room.

“Good morning, Sirs and Madam”, he wished the eminent group of five panelists who were seated across the table.

“Please be seated”, the man, who looked, with his shock of greying curly hair and huge thick oval glasses like Zubin Mehta, the renowned conductor of international symphony.

Gently easing himself into a chair, Nitin sat down, arms firmly folded and clutching single black colour file that contained his resume and a few certificates.

The perfunctory question and round session began as each panel member posed one query after the other, all pretty much the norm and answers to which Nitin though he gave very satisfactorily, judging by the glowing expressions that emanated from the eminent panellists.

Just as he thought the interview was over, a man who looked around sixty and had until now remained silent barring one stock question that he had posed about his school, straightened his tie, a blue silk one with a small red coloured triangular insignia, and asked, “Tell me young man, can you do a SWOT of yourself?”

Nitin had half anticipated this question and was a bit surprised that it had come at the fag end of the around fifteen minute interview, almost as an afterthought.

He cleared is throat and looking at the esteemed panel and then specifically at the gent who had asked, he replied,

“Respected Sirs, this is a standard trope that is trotted out in interview sessions all over the world. It’s as if without this asking about SWOT, no interview can pass muster.

It’s taken on a very holy status, a litmus test to validate or invalidate a candidate’s efficiency or lack of it.

With due respect, I would like to say that it’s time that we junk this acronym and replace it with another.

Nitin caught a few murmured whispers as suddenly the temperature in the room shot up despite the air conditioning.

He heard one of them say,” And what’s that, my friend?”

Ignoring the slight sarcasm laden tone that emanated, Nitin carried on, “ SOAR. This the new acronym that I believe the world should embrace instead of the mindlessly following the centuries old SWOT.

Unmindful of a few raised eyebrows and as many quizzical looks, Nitin continued, his voice dripping with confidence, his words cast in conviction,

“First, let’s see what SWOT means and is meant for.

The S stands for Strengths. It aims to figure out a person or institution’s strengths, our individual strong points. A very legitimate query.

W for weaknesses reveals our lackings, our drawbacks, out chinks in the armour.

O looks at our Opportunities while T points towards the Threats that we may pose.

Now, while I wholly subscribe to S, I strongly believe that the remaining letters have a strongly negative tone. To me it seems as if we are preparing to go to war. It’s as if the world is one big battlefield and full of mad, raging enemies, fire spewing monsters that we need to trounce and slay.

SWOT reads like a very clinical war manual to me, a secret blood letting code, that if it falls in someone’s hands could lead to either world supremacy and dominance along with unbridled power or universal subjugation and eternal stagnation.

It’s advocacy sends an entirely wrong message to the strife torn world that we live in currently, telling to young minds, boys and girls on the cusp of entering into adult hood that it’s okay to find, ferret out others’ weaknesses and exploit them to your advantage, that’s it’s okay to strike without fear and put the fear of the devil into your adversary’s brains simply because you have more strengths and little weaknesses and a whole lot more opportunities to threaten others not as blessed as you are into meek submission and insultful subjugation.  It teaches the world the wrong set of dogmas, a dogma steeped in the binary of right and wrong, strong and weak, and good and bad shall, and will never ever be a panacea to solve the gargantuan problems that stares our beautiful world and help make it a better and more humane place to live in.

Instead, I propose that each of us, as individuals and as collectives, live and breathe and internalise SOAR.

While we turn inwards to understand and identify and hone our STRENGHTS in our respective professions, we don’t look of them as corporate arsenals, deadly AK 47s that we use, misuse and abuse by unleashing it mercilessly on our opponents, colleagues, competitors, Instead, we need to harness out strengths and look at it as aids, as OPPORTUNIES to help our fellow men and women, colleagues, contemporaries, to hand hold them and improve them, to make them better.

This way if we go about setting our goals and ASPIRATIONS keeping in mind the general benefit and welfare of all around us, the day will not be far off when one day we can sit and look back at all that we have achieved__a deep inner satisfaction, an abiding sense of inner fulfilment, a sense of peace and oneness with ourselves and the world and the cosmos. This is our reward, our RESULTS, the ultimate fruit of all our endeavours, the one that leaves us as happy and contended souls, the ultimate purpose of our lives.

And that respected gentlemen is what I intend to strive for, something no B-school can teach me or anyone else for that matter. Thanks.”

Pindrop silence followed thereafter. Then, the man who had posed the question got up and clapped, first slowly and then vigorously. Soon others too were on their feet, their beaming faces and wrinkled eyes revealing unequivocally their acknowledgment the wisdom that emanated from Nitin’s mouth.

That evening when the day long interview session ended each of the eminent went back home with a new vision, a new all embracing humanistic outlook towards life all thanks to a conscientious 21-year-old who had his head and heart screwed in the right places,  who helped them traverse the difficult but highly rewarding journey from SWOT to SOAR.

©neelanilpanciker2017 #shortstory #fiction #CAT #CATology #1431words

neelwrites/It’sCATday/fiction/flash/shorstory/357words/26/11/2017

IT’S ‘CAT’ DAY

By Neel Anil Panicker

Cradled and cocooned. That’s what Vineet felt in winter’s welcoming arms.

He had set the alarm at five and had got up just after the third ring; his mind a step ahead of his body which still was in sleep mode.

Strange how the seasons and our perspectives of it change with time.

As a child and well into his late teens he remembered snuggling up in bed all through the cold Delhi mornings, his mind lost to sweet dreams, sleep induced deep explorations into a distant land of fantasies that was teeming with angels, a never ending fantastical journey into the unknown, a sepia tinged wish filled comatose state of mind, something from which he wished would continue for ever, that he would never ever have to wake up from.

But that was then when dreams were young and life fairly innocent.

Now, especially so in the last couple of years, young Vineet’s dreams had been rudely smashed to smithereens and he had crash landed on terra firma, harshly brought down to earth.

Mercilessly left to confront and brave the everyday vicissitudes that life hands out to students all over the world.

Studies and more rounds of studies, endless hours of poring into copious tomes, juggling multiple subjects, battling and surmounting one gargantuan mathematical theorem over the other, delving and diving deep into one arcane, even esoteric philosophical musing after another, mugging up idioms and phrases and mastering the syntactical intricacies of the eternally perplexing English Grammar___these and other Herculean obstacles ate up his wintry mornings making all those dreamy memories of sleeping through chilly wintry mornings just that__ a long forgotten distant dream.

For an instant his mind turned a child of ten and he half turned towards his room to snuggle in under the warm sheets.

It was then that he heard his father’s thick baritone smashing into his ears like an overloaded DTC bus on Delhi’s maddening ‘busier than a bumble bee’ streets_ “Vinu, don’t forget to take your Admit Card. It’s the most important day of your life. It’s CAT day”.

He already started feeling like a mouse.

(c )neelanilpanciker2017 #fiction #flash #shorstory #357words

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work backwards.jpg

SOMETHING WORTH LEAVING BEHIND

By Neel Anil Panicker

Professor Preetam looked through the glass door and found the line outside at the bay area had thickened. He glanced at the wall clock above. It was still hovering under three. Another three hours to go and the eager beaver queue of students who had booked an appointment with him was just not showing any signs of letting up.

With a sigh he turned his attention towards the young woman in front of him. He knew her well. A Bachelors of Technology  graduate from one of the umpteen nondescript engineering colleges to have sprouted faster than mushrooms in the Greater Noida belt abutting the National Capital Region that was Delhi.

Rashmi Saxena was anything if not nervous.

Thrusting her opened up computer towards Prof. Preetam, she asked, half hesitantly, full nervously, “ Sir, kindly guide me on how to fill this form”.

Preetam knew what form that was. Over half the queries he had received so far pertained to form filling. Most students wanted help in filling up one or the other B-School forms.

More than help they wanted handholding; they wanted him, Head of Department- Verbal, to literally write down all the answers to the questions the said B-School posed.

She addressed the first question that needed to be filled and submitted, this time by FMS, Delhi, one of the top eight business schools of the country __“what are your extra curricular activities”?

‘Sir, this is what I have written. I require your guidance in answering the next one, “What are your career goals”?

“So, what exactly are your career goals, my dear”?

He watched amusedly as the student opposite him shifted uneasily in her chair; his face losing colour and turning pale, a vision that reminded him of the reaction of the legendary athlete Ben Johnson on being stripped of his Olympic gold for doping in sports.

Preetam pushed his swivel chair slightly back, lifting his shoulders to touch the glass topped walls behind him.

He watched intently at the student who sat across the table from him, at her the fast fading colour of her face, at the nervous fidgeting of her fingers, the slight twitch in her left eyelids.

All signs indicating a loss of confidence in the self.

For a moment he closed his eyes and pondered over the thought that had been niggling him ever since the examination date of the  CAT neared. The questions uppermost in most students’ minds were__ besides the clearing of the premier B-school examination with a high percentile that was good enough for them to bag a seat in one or the other top five or eight IIMs of the country, a virtual ticket to a highly remunerative much sought after corporate career___how to write down the regular everyday questions that propped up in every B-school Admissions Form.

‘What kind of an educational system are we bequeathing our young minds that makes fearful and utterly petrified when it comes to answering regular everyday questions about their lives?

I mean which twenty year old does not indulge in an extra curricular activity? Especially so in todays’ times when one is exposed to a plethora of experiences and interests. Be it the world of books or sports or even cultural activities such as music, dance, debates, elocutions, open mikes speechathons and speakathons, there is almost anything and everything a student of the current age and times can get hooked onto and become if not an expert at but at least take more than a passing interest in.

Pray, what help does a student need in giving a decent, reasonable answer to this question? Does he not possess an extra curricular activity. At least one, if not more, in the two-odd decades that he has graced this planet? Or is this that the only out of course indulgence of the students is to traverse the adrenaline inducing high octane world of online chatting? Facebooking, Twittering, Instagramming, Whatsapping, Snap Chatting, Tindering and what have you.

The thought, highly disturbing as it were, set the alarm bells ticking in Preetam’s mind as he pondered over the fallout of all this, the natural corollary to all these nonsensical, mindless activities.

Are we then merely mass producing a generation of straight off the factory mindless robots  who do nothing but eat, drink, and play and at crucial junctures of their lives write a plethora of  mind numbing tests that are conducted to weed out the undesirables and reward the remaining with prized seats and fat cat jobs, thus creating elitist class of youngsters pitch drunk in the heady cocktail of power and pelf that is the natural fall out of academic success?

Is academic success measured in terms of how one fares in a highly competitive pressure cooker type test prep environment where the person or persons, a miniscule among the lakhs and lakhs of aspirants are declared winners merely due to the fact that they were able to answer better than others a limited number of  questions in a limited amount of time?

And then, once a student is able to clear this first hurdle, then is he also rated on his ability to answer, both in writing and speech, a set standard spiel of questions thrown to him an alien panel of  condescendingly high brow intellects. Mr Know Alls who take sadistic pleasure in asking such questions as what’s so special about you; why should we admit you; give three good qualities that you possess and five bad ones that you are trying to overcome? More to follow like what are your career goals, whare do you see yourself five/ten/fifteen/twenty year from you and what’s the best thing that’s happened to you to what’s the worst things that’s ever happened to you?

These and more such stupefying questions assailed Preetam as he worked his way around the battleground of queries laid out in each admissions form that students brought to his table with unfailing regularity all through the day, the entire past fortnight.

At the end of the day, a very bemused, utterly confused, and supremely  nonplussed Preetam pulled himself from his chair, steped out of his cabin, and left the gates of Coaching Time, the premier B-School entrance coaching institute of the country where was teaching as a senior Verbal Faculty for the past roughly one decade.

On the metro ride back home, seated a in corner chair, with ample time on his hands, his thoughts turned inwards, towards resolving a dilemma that was troubling him for a long, long time.

A dilemma over the whether all the effort, energy, and time that went into preparing a student into clearing one or the other mindless examination was worth it or not? Whether what he had been doing all these years__lecturing, mentoring, teaching, advising, educating innumerable students__was it all worth it, commendable, something to be proud of, something that he could leave behind as his legacy?
Legacy? The word hit him like a ten tonne brick. His mind went back to its dictionary meaning. Legacy, a noun; an amount of money or property left to someone in a will.

Synonyms: bequest, inheritance, heritage, bestowal, benefaction, gift, heirloom, a handover.

The last one struck him, a handover. He thought about its metaphorical implications. What legacy did he wish to bequeath to the world? To his students? Merely receive words of high praise, an endless stream of Thank Yous, may be a box of sweets from the those who have successfully cracked the CAT;  a felicitation ceremony perhaps, he holding a bouquet of flowers and mouthing words of gratitude as speaker after speaker come on stage and hosannas extolling his excellent virtues and the Director and the top management publicly thanking him for the yeoman services rendered by him.

Yeoman service? What a joke? What service had he rendered so far that merited recognition?  That he would be remembered by, that he done so as to leave behind a legacy, a lifetime of  values that the students and youngsters could pick up and follow and make it their life purpose?

That he had taught for over four decades innumerable number of students on the art of cracking competitive examinations, the umpteen tricks and strategies, the quick fire answers to seemingly impossible questions during Groups Discussions  and Personal Interviews, the entire rigmarole that went into fibbing and fooling a lackadaisical examination system that made mindless robots out of young impressionable minds, that though could help master them the rote/parrot method of  solving the endless intractable range of questions  the helped clear bookish exams but sadly failed to help young men and women pass the all important examinations of their lives__ that is the examination of life, an examination so exacting that no coaching institute, no college, and no university could ever even dream about preparing their students for.

As such thoughts churned in Preetam’s mind it slowly began to take shape into one concrete realization. That evening before the metro dropped him at his station and much before he had stepped into his home, he, for the first time in his entire academic career came to the horrific conclusion that he had miserably failed in leaving behind a legacy, a timeless, age transcending bestowal that he could leave behind for his students, for the youth, for those on whose shoulders rested the burden and thereby the responsibility of turning not just the countries of their births and origins but also wherever they chose to serve.

Later that night as the thought hit him hard and he had thought long over it he came to a decision: he would beginning the following morning devote himself to only one task_ working towards the creation of an enduring legacy, not by way of providing academic counselling and classroom assistance to scores of score and percentile seekers but by enabling them to become better souls, better human beings, men and women with their hearts in their right places, global conscientious citizens who believe, live and breathe the dictum__ service before self.

With that ennobling thought Professor Preetam went to bed and slept a peaceful sleep, the first time in many, many years.

©neelanilpanciker2017 #reena’sexplorationchallengeweek#13 #short story #fiction #CAT #CATology#1685 words

neelwrites/thewall/shorstory/reena’sexplorationchallenge/1582words/fiction/16/112017

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Here’s the prompt

If you were asked to share one experience you had with someone you knew which was experienced as a gift or transmission, what memory would that be? Close your eyes and see what arises. Which gift will you pass on?

 

Exploration Challenge 12.jpg

THE WALL

By Neel Anil Panicker

There are two types of educators: those who do what they are tasked to do out of love and those who don’t do what they are tasked to do out of hate.

Now doing something out of love is entirely different from doing something because it needs to be done.

And the needs could be any and varied. It could be commanded by the every elemental need for survival. I mean people teach for the money that it provides, necessary money that helps feed  themselves and their families.

But then that would apply to any profession, one may argue.

True but then not necessarily. There are those in this category who teach because they know nothing else or because they are no good at anything else.

Not for them the rigours of the corporate world, the daily grind of struggling to meet and outdo targets and KRAs. Not for them also the admonitions, demotions, insults, and humiliations that follow the non-performance or under performance of a task.

Ratnesh Karmakar was one such person. I first met him in the staff Faculty Room. It was on a Monday morning, a little after 11. I had just walked into the Faculty Room after finishing my first class of the day.

It was an English Vocabulary class and as what happens after most such classes I was surrounded by a couple of very eager students too intrigued by the fascinating world of words; words which hitherto were new to them. They were badgering me with questions as to the scientific originations of these new fanciful words.

I decided to give them a very patient hearing and walked them through the various etymologies and root word methodologies to help decode the words and their subtle undertexts.

All this while I barely noticed that the Faculty Room was inhabited by another person. After I was done with the students I turned around and found to my utter surprise and shock a man, barely under 35, half sprawled on the leather couch, his eyes shut and snoring away to glory.

Feeling slightly discomfited by what I saw, I stepped out of the Room and when I came back after grabbing a cup of coffee from the kitchen I saw that the man, whoever it was no longer there. Whoof! Vanished into thin air.

That day, in the evening, I met him again, but this time in passing. He was inside the classroom adjacent to mine. I spotted through the glass door; he was there, seated on the chair, his legs all laid out on the floor like some heavily pregnant woman’s minutes before delivery, ostensibly teaching a a classfull of students, his eyes half shut, sheer boredom plastered all over his swarthy, unshaven face.

Disgusted by this wanton display of insouciance I turned around and walked into my own class, my respect for this man, whoever he may be, definitely hitting rock bottom in the few hours that I had encountered him.

It was only the next day that I came to know that this person was a new recruit, a Mathematics teacher to boot.

Now, was I shocked? Well, not one bit. For in my over a decade and half years spent in and around a classroom I have encountered many such teachers who bring disgrace to the noble profession by not just diluting it of its true worth but by also revealing themselves as very poor role models for the impressionable students that they vouch to teach and thereby to the society at large.

Such laidback people with a damn care attitude and without an iota of commitment towards the world of books and the pious business of teaching are dime a dozen in all educational institutions, be they schools, colleges, coaching institutions et al.

I avoid them like the plague but feel sorry for the hapless students who are at the receiving end of such ‘learning’ for what is education and its efficacy if delivered half heartedly and sans all passion.
And speaking of passion, my thoughts travel to the other side of the  spectrum for every such deadwoods of the world there are also inhabit the tireless, sincere warriors who go about their tasks with a dedication and honesty that is almost saintly in nature.

Rahul Joshi was his name. but we called him simply ‘The Wall’. Quite like the venerated Indian cricketer he was, to all who were fortunate to have interacted with him and partaken of his goodness, Mr Dependable,  always to be trusted upon, reliable to the core.

No, he wasn’t Mr No All, one of those who profess to know every little thing on this planet and then struts about with an air of superciliousness.

No, absolutely not, Far from it, Rahul was the epitome of humility, dedication, discipline and simplicity.

Clad in a starch white or light blue shirt and matching trousers, his hair, neatly trimmed and gelled,

He would be found either in the class, teaching English, explaining the finer nuances of the English syntax to a bevy of eager beaver students who would lap up every single utterance of his with an eagerness and devotion that would any Hindu god to shame.

A fact validated by the huge crowd of students who would swarm him once the class got over and bombard with umpteen questions.

Very assiduously, Rahul would give each one of them a patient hearing, listening, and then clearing, clarifying, correcting, suggesting, counselling all of them in a manner that was nothing short of heights of dedication and sincerity.

I mean here was a faculty who had just taught for a whole two hours a class choc-a-block with students, all the while remaining standing, and then to continue like that and take individual doubt sessions with a dozen or more students without batting an eyelid or revealing a whiff of discomfort, his perpetual smile never flagging a wee bit__all this was more than admirable. My respect for this man, as I sat and watched him over the following days and weeks, grew in geometric progression until one day I resolved to know or better still understand what made him so special, so grounded, when everyone around him walked around with a jaunt and a forced swag as if they owned the world and its backyard.

I came to know few things which increased my respect for this remarkable person.

Here is his story as I gathered over the course of the next few days.

Rahul was the only child of educationists who very tragically died in a ghastly train accident some ten year ago.

After their death, and in deference to their lifelong wish, which they had made known much earlier to him on several occasions, Rahul decided to follow in their footsteps and become an educator himself.

So, immediately after acquiring an IIM degree from Kolkata, he joined Coaching Time, first in its Pune centre and then at its New Delhi branch.

Here, he found as few things that riled him no end. First, the teachers, at least a few of them, were not so dedicated and wedded to the noble task of imparting knowledge.

They would simply come, take their classes half heartedly, and then while away the rest of their time unnecessarily indulging in talks and activities that could very mildly be termed as ‘undesirable’.

He found that all this went antithetical to what his parents had taught him. From them he had learnt that mere possession of knowledge is of no use unless it serves to benefit mankind.

And here that meant the teeming multitude of students who had left behind their homes and comforts, traversing thousands of kilometres, putting up in alien jam packed rooms and subsisting on outside food, living and surviving with just one solitary hope and dream in mind__ that of  cracking CAT, one of the toughest of all competitive examinations in the country, an achievement that would open the doors of the much sought after big, wide managerial world around them.

And so Rahul had decided to dedicate his life to the cause of these students. He not only began to lend a helping hand to every student who came to him for help, but also went back home and studied a multitude of diverse books and resource material and passed on all that extra knowledge to his students to equip them with that extra edge.

Highly impressed by this exemplary display of work ethics and fearsome dedication to the noble cause of teaching, I too decided to inculcate all this in my daily life.

Here was one person who was worthy of emulation, who through his actions and deeds had shown to one and all the right path, the path that led towards knowledge and enlightenment , not the one that Lord Buddha took, but one that was more grounded and rooted in real life, that allowed one to live a normal life while at the same time dedicating oneself to a far nobler cause, that of  guiding, teaching, educating, advising, and handholding a retinue of hesitant, struggling and fearful students, equipping and arming them but not just  the nuts and bolts of their course material but in the process making into better evolved persons and fine human beings.

Thanks to this wonderful person, in due course of time, he became the apple of everyone’s eyes including the initial naysayers and the slackers, and soon his values began to be embraced by one and all.

©neelanilpanciker2017 #shortstory #1582words #reena’s exploration challenge

neelwrites/fromrattocat/reena’sexplorationchallengeweek#11/shortstory/1553words/09/11/2017

Hosted by Reena at https://reinventionsreena.wordpress.com/2017/11/03/reenas-exploration-challenge-week-11/

 

FROM RAT TO CAT 

Exploration Challenge 11

By Neel Anil Panicker

“You are a cat. Not just any ordinary cat. The big one. The biggest of them all.  A true blue Royal  Bengal  Tiger. The best and the rarest breed to inhabit the whole wide world.”

 

Saumik  began to feel dizzy. His head started to swirl. Blood began  to drain out of his face and limbs.

He felt his legs and limbs go limp.

All this not out of fear or pain. But out of shock.

So far no one, not one person in his entire life so far of over two score years on Mother Earth had ever said so many wonderful words of appreciation for him.

 

A tiger. They were calling him a tiger, that too the best in the business. From a lowly rat to a majestic tiger__that’s quite a paradigm shift. How quickly the wheels of fate change, he thought.

His mind flashbacked to the past, to his childhood, to his village by the sea, near the Sunderbans, the home of the Royal Bengal Tiger.

His mind was once again assailed by words, fierce poison barbs and insults that were heaped on his friends and neighbours.

A recurring image flashed through his mind. There he was, a slip of a ten year old boy, naked above the waist standing a step behind his half bent father whose hands were folded in supplication.

It was morning time. They were in the middle of rich, golden yellow paddy fields. A sickle rested on the ground beneath him, between his father’s legs.

The lands belonged to Hari Shankar, the landlord, an evil eyed wily invective hurling rotund man with a ferocious handlebar moustache.

His father was pleading to Hari Shankar, who also doubled up as the unofficial money lender for the entire impoverished populace.

 “O’ dear God’s gift to mankind, O’ dear benevolent soul, you have blessed us by allowing me to till your soil. We__ my wife and three children subsist because of your kindness. Here have a look at my youngest son. Here he is, Saumik, though we call him Birju. His teachers tell me that he is intelligent, that he is meant for bigger things, that he should be sent to the city for a better education. I told him that I am a poor man, that I can’t afford such expenses. But Birju here is insistent. Says he wants to study, go to a proper school, a school that has a roof, a school where the walls don’t smell of urine and cow dung and human excreta. A school that will make a man out of him.  O’ dear Lord, I request you to loan me some money so that I can fulfil his dream and send him to the city. For this act of kindness I shall forever be under your debt and till your land all my life”.

‘I have heard you and feel like laughing. A man should never dream for anything that is above his stature. Look at him. He is just like you and your father and all your wretched kith and kin. You people are meant to slog all your lives. You can do nothing else in life. This is your fate. You are just a rat and he too will end up like one, a small, useless, slavish rat all his life tilling the soil of the rich. I tell you,  in my fields from today itself. That way there will be two more hands and one extra mouth that can be fed. Now, get back to work, you good for nothing rats”.

‘Congratulations Saumik, you have cleared the most prestigious management school entrance examination in this country. We are proud to tell you that since you are among the top five students, you have secured admission into IIM, Ahmedabad. We wish you all the very best in your B school and hope that you will be an inspiration to millions of students who come from small towns and impoverished backgrounds and realise their dreams by making it big in life. Just one last question. Who do you owe your sterling success to?’

Saumik looked at the distinguished group of panellists who sat across in an oblong teak wood table  and were looking at him with eyes that spelled pride and joy. His welled up.

For one nano second his mind’s eye played out the events leading upto his selection in breakneck speed. Like a Bollywood film every single scene, frame and shot came alive in technicolor.

First, his leaving behind his parents and siblings, then his arrival in big city Kolkata. His new school. The initial rough days. The non stop barrage of insults and mocks and humiliations. The stark contrast between him and his city bred school mates. Their language, mannerisms, their style, swag, and oh, their English_ slick and polished, spoken in an accent that sounded alien and heavenly. Compared to them and the crispy starched clothes that they wore and the redolence that emanated from their well toned bodies, he looked with his pidgin rural English, unkept hair, dark smelly skin, and half protruding yellowing teeth like someone literally from the boondocks, a Stone Age man grossly unfit to move around and be accepted in modern society.

And thus he was marked out, segregated, ostracised from all, made the butt of jokes, laughed at derided to the point when he could take it no more.

The frame moved to one where was packing his bags and was leaving; leaving the big city, leaving behind his dreams of giving himself an education, of becoming a man, of fulfilling his parents’ dreams, of going back and joining his siblings and countless others whose fate it was doomed to with another man’s fields all their lives, existing but not living, mere worms and pests of absolutely no productive use, neither to themselves nor to the world around them.

The frame changes; a miracle happens. Out of the bottle, like a genie,  a kindly man with a benign smile pops up and says, “Son, I have been observing you for some time. You are a very bright student. I see great potential in you. I also see that you are bullied by other students. I can see why they do it. They see you as unkept, smelly, ill groomed, and most importantly as one who doesn’t speak English like the way they do.

My child, let me tell you, I will guide and teach you the ways of the world. I will guide you in the ways of this world. I will help you to not just speak and write and communicate with your fellow classmates but also to well informed adults in a manner that would be the envy of each one of them. I will make them and everybody who interacts with you feel in awe of you and respect and admire you from the inner cores of their hearts.

The next few frames all full of initial struggle in learning and mastering a new language, the efforts that went into turning an uncut stone into a polished jewel.

And one final frame. The day of his graduation. Seated among the audience was the same kindly man, the his English teacher from school who had taught and moulded him into a man, a much respected hugely admired modern young man.

That evening, as he held in his hands the glittering ‘Best Student’ trophy he had hugged Mr Ashmeet Bhattacharya, his mentor, now for ever friend, philosopher and guide for life.

With teary eyes that night before he went to sleep he realised  that he had turned around his fate and suddenly his perspective towards life, towards what constitutes success and how to achieve it had all changed.

“Respected gentlemen, everyman is the driver of his own destiny and thus no one can blame anyone or society or for that matter fate for what befalls him or her. Yes, all of us need one trusted navigator to show them the right path but then all onwards journeys are our to be traversed, however ardous the paths and difficult the terrains we come across. And that navigator is none other than our own perspective. With the right kind of perspective man can conquer mountains, swim oceans and soar high up in the skies. You asked me as to who I owed my success to. I know it is my parents who kept their faith in me despite ever mounting difficulties and teachers, one in particular, Bhattacharya Sir whose efforts helped me turn into a gem.

But besides them, I owe my success to another section of people. The supposed ‘haves’ of this world, the Mr Know Alls, the condescending ones, the ones who insulted me, called me names, made fun of my English et al because if it was not for them and their insults I would not have turned inward and found my inner navigator that has helped me steer the vehicle of my life past failures and towards success. Thanks to them today I have metamorphosed from a rat to a CAT and am about to enter into the best B-school in the country. But more importantly, thanks to them, my perspective towards life has changed for ever as I realise that nothing, absolutely nothing is unachievable for a human being if has the right perspective towards life.”

(c)neelanilpanicker2017 #fiction #shortstory #reena’sexplorationchallenge #shortstory #1563words