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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



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What is it that makes you feel powerful? What is that strength which makes your time on this planet worthwhile?



By Neel Anil Panicker



‘Dammit, I have another class after this. Hate teaching a bunch of stupid students?

‘Bad luck, Arvind. Don’t forget it is idiots such as these who sponsor our salaries, who help make both our ends meet, who…’

‘Know it Rahul and cut the spiel, will you. These good for nothings, when they throw  cash on the table it helps bring us ‘food on the table  What do you say, Animesh?’.

At that instant the bell rang and Animesh thankfully extricated himself from the Faculty Room and strode purposefully down the corridor towards the corner classroom for what was his second class of the day.

Two hours later…

“Animesh, why don’t you check this video. It is the latest on Pappu”.

Animesh looked across at his colleague who was peering into his phone, a top end model IPhone and replied gently, “Thanks Rahul, I have an essay to complete”.

Racuous laughter erupted all around the comfy leather chairs on which snuggled a group of four other FMs, their eyes glued to their phones.

An unmindful Animesh checked his watch, decided he still had fifteen minutes before the start of his next class and opened his laptop.

At that instant a band of students came inside.

He recognised them as students from his just concluded class.

“Sir, we have a problem. Could you tell us the difference between “He came to the class” and “He has come to the class”?

Animesh looked up at the students who were now hovering around him.

Vinay, Prakash, Adil, Deepesh, and Anita. He knew them; their names and faces registered on his heart and mind from day one.

All of them were almost of the same colour, height, weight, and carried the same body language, conveying similar facial expressions. Pretty much indistinguishable much like the group of camera slinging, baggy clad monk like Chinese tourists that he often spotted strolling around Connaught Circus. They all looked the same but unlike the foreigners who were armed with large tourist guide maps and had cheer spread across their milky white visages,  the students who had come to Animesh stood half bent, holding half opened grammar books in their hands, anxiety writ large on their despondent faces, their reed thin bodies covered in pale yellow skin pigmentations__these graduate students, all pushing their twenties and staring into bleak uncertain futures, epitomised tenseness, quite eerily the subject they had severe doubts about.

Even in the cool October month, thick beads of sweat trickled through their pores and ran all over their workman style clothes, abominably pungent odours emanating from their bodies.

He sat them down beside him, and unmindful of the rambunctious sounds all around him and the sly remarks and innuendoes of his colleagues, proceeded to teach them the intricacies of the moving time as captured via the Verb, the ‘action’ Part of Speech, feeling a strange empathy and warmth towards them.

He knew that not very long ago he too was in the same boat, undergoing the same plight as these students were now experiencing, and resolved to help alleviate their sorrow as best as he could do.


There are two types of teachers in this world. The ones who are teachers because they have nothing better to do. The other, those who become teachers because they believe this is the best thing to do.

As far as the first category is concerned, I know I may have taken a very extremist view when I say “they have nothing better to do”.

Let me qualify that by saying that “they think they have nothing better to do or worse they want nothing better to do.”

It is this category of teachers who have ‘chanced’ upon the teaching profession

who belittle teachers and teaching, the noblest of all professions in the world.

And because they believe “they have nothing better to do” they inflict their inner negativity, despondency and lackadaisical attitude, allowing it slowly and dangerously percolate into the impressionable minds and hearts of ‘fresh as a daisy’ students who as the aphorism goes learn from their teachers.

These are the unfortunate souls, who after having stumbled in and out of a countless other professions, accidentally bump into the teaching profession, and discover it to be “cool’ and easy” and “laidback”, staying put there for ages, growing thick skins and even thicker work ethics that border on extreme forms of lassitude and nothingness.

So they amble in and out of classrooms, their weary feet dragging their lost souls and deadened minds, sowing seeds of negativity and despondency on one and all.

They are a pain, not only to themselves, but all those who are unfortunate enough to interact with them.

They are here not because of any great love for it, but because they have run out of choices. And as we all know, especially the American electorate who voted a most mismatched person for the most powerful job in the world, any decision that is taken out of compulsion and not of choice is a utterly stupid and downright false one, one that could lead to long term damaging consequences.

On the other end of the spectrum are those types of teachers who have become teachers because truly love the profession, who truly believe in the power of education in transforming lives, and who thereby take it as a very powerful tool, one that needs to be wielded with a lot of responsibility, acumen, sincerity and humility.

They are the ones who sprint in and out of classrooms, energising classrooms and its inhabitants with a searing intensity and vitality as reflected in the manner, style, depth, and deep passion that they bring into their teachings.

They are the true torchbearers of education, the upholders of right moral and intellectual values, and sadly a very rare breed.

Animesh Bhattarya is one such specimen.

A well respected English teacher, he is a senior Verbal Faculty at Coaching First, the number one institution in the country that helps graduate students prepare themselves for cracking the CAT, the Common Admissions Test, the ticket to the IIMs, the best B-schools in the country, and thereon to the most coveted positions in the corporate world.

Almost ten years into the teaching profession, everything about the forty something Animesh Sir,

as his students respectfully address him as, typified his attitude and aptitude towards and for the profession.




Lunch breaks and Faculty Rooms are a highly combustible combination. There are discussions galore, sweet and sour titbits culled from the world wide web are gingerly extricated, passed around to be polished and refined, dissected and analysed threadbare, served piping hot along with samosas and hot tea.

Often, fireworks exploded.

Politics, religion, economy, education…these were some perennial hot topics, never running out of circulation, always finding eager and new audiences.

“The bastard. He should be sent to Pakistan”… “Bullet trains in a country  where daily train accidents are the norm. What a cruel 1 lakh crore joke on us is this?”…

”God only knows what these assholes were doing in school.” …”Wasting time, what else.”

The last two remarks sent Animesh’s thoughts racing back in time.

He closed his eyes and travelled back to his past, to a childhood steeped in povertqy, a childhood spent sowing seeds in a rich landlord’s fields, until one man’s benevolence saw him getting enrolled in the only school in the entire village, a village so poor that its denizens were deprived of even electricity and potable water, a sad commentary on a country that tomtoms itself as the world’s largest functional democracy. What democracy, what function?

Within the first few days of attending school, Animesh, quite early in life, resolved to lift himself out of the cesspool of poverty. It wasn’t an easy task, though. Besides his parents, who were both farm hands, available for long lease, ever ready to till the soil of the rich, doing backbreaking hard labour from dawn to dusk, he also had to contend with an alien subject English, besides mastering the intricacies of time, speed, and distance, and a host of other subjects.

After passing himself from school with flying colours, he made his way to the big city, Patna, where he commenced a graduate programme in English Literature, his entire tuitions fees waived off in a benevolent gesture from the college authorities keeping in view his poor family background.

It was in college that he became exposed to a wider better informed world. It was here that he came to know that until now he was living the life of a frog in a well,  a closed, deprived lowly existence and that there was a whole big different world out there waiting to be explored and conquered.

And the only way one could ever do that is through English, its mastery is a prerequisite to growth in life.

He began to understood that English was the numero uno language of the classes if not the masses; that it bound the world together, and that it was English alone that was the lingua franca of the international world community.

The next few years he dedicated himself to learning the nuts and bolts of the Queen’s language with a fervour and passion that was truly admirable.

Every single free time would see him in the vast college library, poring over books, reading upon an eclectic range of diverse topics; be it philosophy, psuchology, religion, science, management, science fiction…every single genre was not spared…grammar books, thesauru, bi-lingiual dictionaries…name it and he had not only read but imbibed, ingrained, internalised their thoughts, teachings, right down to every single idiom, phrasal verb, comma and full stop.

The end result: the low caste poor child of not so long ago had by the age of twenty one, armed himself with a first class distinction honours degree in English but also become an expert in the English language, both written and spoken, a feat so unique and worthy of acknowledgement that he became the envy and  pride of his teachers who all reaped fulsome praise upon him and wished him the brightest of futures.


The class bell rang, putting a break to his thoughts.

Animesh Bhattarya gathered his books and strode sanguinely down the corridor to take his next class of the day.

There was a spring in his steps as supreme confidence emanated from his being.

It origined from the humbling realisation that he, the son of a poor farmer, through sheer hard work and a die-hard perseverance, had turned himself into a very rare breed, a fine exponent of the English language, one among the miniscule five per cent of Indians who could write and speak in perfect English.

It was this humbling thought that made him feel omnipotent, filled his heart and mind with great Herculean power, made him feel immensely worthwhile, and helped him to tackle headlong all of life’s problems.

He vowed to pass on this power to one and all, especially to students whose backgrounds were quite similar to his, who, though they hailed from impoverished households, had a fire in their bellies and big dreams in their hearts.

It was this audience that he craved for and dedicated his life towards.

He felt powerful, he felt worthy. Now he wanted others to feel so.

©neelanilpanicker2011 #fiction #shortstory #reena’sexplorationchallengeweeksix#powerful#1884words



By Neel Anil Panicker


MEANING: It means to suggest that one would be surprised over an occurrence.

EXAMPLE: I’ll eat my hat if the BJP wins the forthcoming UP elections.




By Neel Anil Panicker


MEANING: To write one’s signature

EXAMPLE: I was asked to put my John Hancock on the papers before commencement of my driving test.







By Neel Anil Panicker

This is what they say of people who are found siding with their near and dear ones whenever they are caught in a fight, be it verbal or physical, and definitely financial: blood is thicker than water.

When it comes to awarding multi-million dollar contracts, corrupt politicians always hand over such deals to their relatives as blood is thicker than water.



By Neel Anil Panicker

MEANING: It means being too prying/inquisitive can get you into trouble.

The dishonest politician refused to answer too many probing questions about the source of his wealth, only saying that curiosity killed the cat.



By Neel Anil Panicker

MEANING : A useless, worthless, or outmoded person or thing.

EXAMPLE:  The Congress needs to pull up its act soon and find able leader to replace Rahul Gandhi or else it would soon be  a dead duck.



By Neel Anil Panicker

MEANING: Something which is very easy

EXAMPLE: PM Modi thought the current demonetisation drive would be as easy as a pie.



By Neel Anil Panicker


MEANING: To be extremely angry

EXAMPLE: When last year on November 8 India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced demonetisation of  high value currency notes it left a lot of black money hoarders foaming at their mouths.



By Neel Anil Panicker


MEANING: Headed for complete disaster; deteriorating rapidly


EXAMPLE: A lot many people around the world are of the view that with the election of Donald Trump as the US President, America is going to hell in a handbasket.



By Neel Anil Panicker


MEANING: To end a relationship or a friendship with someone.


EXAMPLE: Instigated by his wily uncle, Akhilesh has finally decided to give his father the elbow.




By Neel Anil Panicker


MEANING: tough luck; going through an adverse situation


EXAMPLE: It’s really hard cheese for the poor people of the country ever since the demonetisation of high value currency notes.




By Neel Anil Panicker

MEANING: A situation or competition where all possible outcomes are likely

EXAMPLE:  None that there is genuine discontentment simmering against the demonetisation drive, it’s anyone’s call as to the outcome of the forthcoming elections.



What is the most hated word in the English language?
Well, for me the answer to that would be ‘a shifting goal post’, if one were to steal a word from the world of football.

Back when I was a kid, way upto to my late teens, it was undoubtedly examinations.
Exams for short. For an academically challenged 12 year old if there was any one word that brought out the greatest fear, a fear so severe as to send seismic bouts of sheer panic down my spine, then that word hands down had to be exams.
I remember waking up in unearthly hours, palpitating and perspiring like a fish from all its gills, lying shrivelled in a corner of the bed, surrounded by a shroud of darkness, the beats of my heart racing faster than Carl Lewis’ legs.
My mind would turn a maelstrom of maddening emotions___just about unable to fathom what I would do come the morn when I needed to sit for that all important physics paper.
And speaking of Physics__so Greek and torturous did I find this subject that for long many years, well past my topsy turvy school days, I suffered hallucinations and several years past by till I was completely free from the nightly bouts of delusions that was very much the norm for quite many years reaching upto adulthood.
In fact such was the dread that today, despite the passage of a decade and half, all I can remember of my Physics teacher is his bald head sans a single strand of hair; his perfect oval pate neatly bisected into two__ a thin linear line separating the ends. And we also had an apt moniker for him: theta.
I quick look over at the dictionary will tell you what it means__ the eighth letter of the Greek alphabet. And its symbol, a neat θ!
Thankfully, as I shed my pre-teens and entered the world of hormonal overdrives I was able shed off my dread of exams.
But then I found a brand new word to hate: rejection.
Ah! but, then that’s another story.
COPYRIGHT@Neel Anil Panicker


By Neel Anil Panicker

If a sentence is the basic building block that we employ to construct written accounts, a punctuation is what we use to make our sentences crisp; lend it credibility and ensure that there is absolute clarity in what we think and how that thought is interpreted.

In short, punctuations make our sentences complete.

So what are these punctuations?

Well, they are symbols that add to our overall understanding of the text.

They share a deep bond, a symbiotic relationship with their parent, which is the sentence.

If a sentence is the dress that we wear before stepping out of our homes, the punctuations are the buttons stitched onto them that not only beautify but also lend a modicum of respectability to the sentence.


So, how many of these are in English Grammar?

Well, a total of fourteen.

Yes! a whopping 14 superstar punctuation marks guide the destiny of a sentence and steer it across the choppy seas of badness, crudity, and boorishness and help chart the ship of Standard Written English Grammar towards the shores of goodness, eloquence, correctness, and grace.

They are the following: full stop, question mark, exclamation point, comma, semicolon, colon, dash, hyphen, parentheses, brackets, braces, apostrophe, quotation marks, and eclipses.

We shall look at each one of them minutely.