Saturday, December 10, 2011

Let's go shoot a hole in the moon




Weird how some things you just never learn and some you're never too late to learn. Like I've never learned how to photograph a full moon though I always wanted to. And stupidly enough, I never had the sense to google it up. I was trying to shoot the full moon/ lunar eclipse earlier tonight and getting extremely riled as usual. Finally, I gave up in frustration and googled settings for full moon. Turns out I'd been doing it all wrong. The moon is actually a lot brighter than the mind thinks and the eye sees, and underestimating its brightness is one of the most common mistakes photographers make in their first attempts at lunar shots. ISO at 100 for moon shots and not 800 as I'd been shooting with in vain. I stand corrected. Better luck next time, hopefully.


Thursday, November 03, 2011

Sweet November



And it's cold and grey. Which, in this age of global warming and hole in ozone effects, makes for one beautiful season in a soulfully sad way. The 1st was my birthday and I had a department meeting and exam invigilation duty :"( But I came across this quote that I think makes for a pretty accurate birthday reflection. For the record, I did not write it.

I've made mistakes in my life.
I've let people take advantage of me,
and I accepted way less than I deserve.
But I've learned from my bad choices
and even though there are some things I can never
get back and people who will never be sorry,
I'll know better next time and
I won't settle for anything less than I deserve.


*Photo by Rd Hauhnar, Malmo, Sweden

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

No rest for the wicked


October has one foot out the door already and I haven't turned in an entry for it yet. Things have been so frantically, hectically busy since the middle of September, I get dizzy every time I even crane my neck. Yep, literally. And most of it was work-related. The annual inter-college sports meet is always a major item on the calendar in this part of the world and this year was no different. I personally don't think it should be but who cares what I think. So we had a week's mad high of songs, slogans and sledgings, fuelled by teenaged adrenaline and hormones. This year, the gods smiled on us and championship clinched on a day saturated with screamus delirious, the kids went berserk with joy. Here's a short video clip I took of them capering around in an impromptu celebratory jig, golden pompoms et al.



That done, I had to turn to my backlog of paperwork. Test papers, home assignments, the usual entrapments of a teacher.  And all with the deadline hanging over my beleaguered head. In the middle of it, we had a family wedding. Now we haven't welcomed a bride to the family for over twelve years or so, so we all went a little overboard. After all, there have been so many new fangled innovations to weddings with colour themed clothing for the bride's side and the groom's side, the pro-photographers et al. When we compared notes the day after, we had all almost killed ourselves tottering around all day in our high heels and fighting off the heat in our new royal blue formal wear. Oh well, a family wedding doesn't happen everyday after all. 

More paperwork. Questions for exams. Sigh, I wonder who invented exams. The kids hate them, the teachers hate them. The parents probably hate them too. Come early November and we'll all be lumbering home with... you got it, more paperwork. No rest for the wicked. Ah, well, I still love my job and wouldn't trade it for any other.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My Mountain, My Time



No one can choose your mountain,
or tell you when to climb.  
It's yours, and yours alone 
to challenge 
at your own pace
and time.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Nobody Waved Goodbye



How much can a man really take
When he's pushed himself too far
He knows that his mind's gonna break
He's been trying to follow his star..

I don't really know Amy Winehouse. Heard of her, yes, but a little too contemporary for these olde ears. But the drama of her sudden death last night with all the talk of the 27 Club made me remember and hunt down an old magazine article that I'd saved and treasured years and years ago. A time when rock stars were idols, and the more tragic and turbulent their lives, the more glamourous they seemed. The article, beautifully written in the way that only an articulate, high-brow, widely-read,  Indian rock music fan could have written. I'd have loved to reproduce it all out here but it's way too lengthy and my butt is aching to be let off this chair so I'll just post the article in its well worn entirety in memory of once-upon-a-time heroes who died too soon.



Monday, July 18, 2011

Crazy little thing called life




I don't do that - hang out with an older crowd. Just the opposite, in fact. Both in real life and online. Not for any feel young factor but a purely practical reason: I don't have a lot to relate to with people my age. Meaning people my age are all married, with kids, grandkids even, and I don't talk their talk. Which leaves me with not much choice but to hang out and trade inanities with younger and younger people. Kind of a Tithonus situation maybe but I'm not complaining too much. Sometimes my peers make me tired. It's wearying listening to health problems all the time.  I'd rather stay on the loose wire and talk tech...er, fun tech (in case any real techies on this page get the guffaws). I mean, the world's getting techier and techier, right?

To get away from the age thing to another dicey topic - the gender divide, why are guys so weird? There's this guy I got to know from an online games room several years ago -  a nice guy though definitely something of a bad boy. In between the time he dropped out of cyberspace, he got his act cleaned up, became involved in church activities, and met this girl who was lovely and well, a little out of his league, I kind of thought. I often came across them together and they were a pretty solid item for quite a while. Then recently I came across his wedding pictures on Facebook and whoa, the bride wasn't his longtime girlfriend. Turns out the duo had not been on speaking terms for some time, and in between, boy had got another girl knocked up and had no option but to marry her and forget much-loved girlfriend. The common friend who told me this said he'd been the one who'd had to break the news to the girlfriend and that it had been, well, brutal. Little wonder the bride and groom had looked a little grim in the wedding pictures. Why are men so base scurrilious   unable to keep their libidos under control  hell-bent on self-destruction weird?

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Just when you thought you knew everything....





So shoot me but being an English teacher can be such a frustrating, aggravating job, it often leaves me seriously questioning the existence of cerebral matter in my students. 

Last week though, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that one of them had actually written and published a book towards the end of last year. No, wait, as it turns out, three kids had published books last year. One was something of a how-to book for teens. Growing-up angst, career advice, etc. I didn't actually read it but I was at the book launch, and the writer, a bespectacled, seriously serious, earnest, old beyond his years type droned on about it at some length. To be honest, it sounded to me like cleverly culled and translated extracts from English books and magazines. Student #2's book was a laugh-fest kind of book, I think. Not sure since I haven't read it either. But this one I discovered last week is a real, honest to goodness, 160 paged work of fictitious literature with a proper plot, characters, dialogue, settings et al. Er, I've only read three chapters so far but it's surprisingly well-written and compact thus far.

The real reason I'm so almighty impressed is that the writer is only 20. Mapuia was born in 1990, the same year as my second nephew. And it puts me to shame, that statistic. I certainly never was that coherent or articulate at that age, never mind mature enough to cobble together an authentic, creative work of fiction.

As Tevye put it in Fiddler on the Roof, modern children, sigh. They drive you up the wall and kill you with their silliness, and then they turn around and teach you a thing or two. Respect, kids.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

For Dad




Always wanted to do a write-up on Dad but somehow it was always Mum I ended up writing about. Now since it's Father's Day tomorrow and I have this dearly-prized old picture of Dad carrying a baby me, I figure this is a good time to do a father post.

Dad was always something of a James Bond figure, being the only male in a sea of females. Only son with six sisters, and father of four daughters and no sons, I never once heard him grouch about not having a son. But then Dad was always ahead of his time. 

Born and raised in the southern part of the state, he was an Edmunds graduate and then went on to Mumbai (then Bombay, of course) for a Masters' degree in Social Work. Lots of old photos of him as a skinny, smiling young man with lots of friends, both Mizo and non-Mizo. Then he met Mum and they fell in love and got married, and lived happily ever after...at least for about 14 years. Maybe it was because he loved cancer sticks (I remember the cartons of Panama cigarettes around the house), he picked up stomach cancer and grew gaunt and quiet, and died, leaving behind a houseful of bewildered females, four under the age of 13.

Dad was bright and outgoing, with lots of interests. He liked sports and was very proud of a couple of trophies he'd bagged for badminton during his Bombay days, and he liked coming home after work and hitting a few shuttles with us, never mind all we could manage were clunky sky-high shots in the air. He was also involved with the YMA and the Mizo Academy of Letters, and had a collection of interesting Mizo cultural knick-knacks that he kept in a display cabinet. He was also widely-read, reading everything from the Statesman dailies, JS magazine, Eve's Weekly, Readers' Digest, etc, and had a stack of Louis L'amour cowboy novels. He also loved travelling and it was always fun having him take us to boarding school at the start of the year and then coming to pick us up again at year-end. He enjoyed doing up the house at Christmas time, stringing colourful streamers across the ceiling and blowing  balloons to hang around. He also got a big kick out of making these huge hot air balloons out of coloured tissue paper, and launching them on New Year's Eve.

As I sit here recalling all these memories, I miss my father in a way I haven't done for years. He was always so full of life and ideas and things to do, and perhaps that was because he was only 46 years young when he died. Thank you for a wonderful childhood and a fabulous springboard to life, Dad.  And wherever you are now, rest assured that you were the best father you could have ever been - for me.


Monday, June 06, 2011

So who's afraid of technology?



Argh, it's just so aggravating when people refuse to make use of technology, even the user-friendliest kind. 

Case in point, today I had three colleagues arguing over whether this Mizo poet was dead or alive. Colleague #1 claims the man had died sometime last year. #2 goes, nooo, the man's wife had come visiting her Mum just earlier this year and there had been no mention of the husband passing on. The third colleague who's supposed to be teaching the old guy's poem in about fifteen minutes, talks to #1 about the poet-guy's daughters/nieces et al. They all seem to know his family well  but, and herein lies the catch, it never occurs to any of them to pick up their cellphones to quickly clarify the matter. Finally, colleague #3 wonders worriedly what to tell her class. I say okay, my cousin's wife is a relative so she should know. I pick up my phone, dial her number, ask, and she tells me, yes, the man is still alive and they'd had a big celebration last year in honour of his 100th birthday. 

Case solved, easy peasy.  My colleagues joke they've almost killed off the poor guy and give me effusive thanks. Not me, technology. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fine Vintage


So there I was supposedly working on these articles written by the students for the annual college magazine in, uh, not so hot English. Then I see this Twitter update by Pastor Rick Warren who has such a great sense of humour. It's funny and pert and gets me kickstarted on good thoughts about getting mellow with the years.


I am no longer young enough to be right about everything,
lost my idealism,
the fierce insistence I always need to be right.
I no longer see things in black and white,
reality is too complex
and life comes in shades of grey.
It no longer matters that I should always be right,
I'm happy now to step back,
to let life surprise me
and expect the unexpected.



A feel good post. Thank you, Pastor Warren.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

A Mother is a Mother Still...



"Mothers hold their children's hands for a short while but their hearts forever" ~ Author unknown




Mother's Day tomorrow. Another trend that's broken out its western confines and gone international. At least online. I seriously doubt any of the worthy mothers in my near neighburhood are aware it's "their" day. Or that they actually even have a day at all. Facebook has been throwing up a lot of reminders over the last few days and after taking my laptop in for an overnighter to get extra RAM added and Windows 7 installed, I finally succumbed today and put my mum's picture as my profile picture. Which led me on to feel the urge to put up a tribute blog post as well.

Everybody thinks their mum is unique and so do I. And though I know I've blogged about her a few times already, well, she deserves this. My mum was one of the intelligent people I've ever known, incredibly sharp and astute and very quick on the button about most everything. Despite that, she was also often unbelievably vulnerable especially after being widowed early with four young daughters to bring up. We used to have this picture of my parents on their wedding day; her veil slightly lifted away from her face by a breeze but both she and Dad oblivious to it, smiling ever so happily into the camera. My sister cut it out to fit into this tiny little picture frame that stood in our sitting room and I remember once looking at it in between dusting, and thinking how happy they looked and how unsuspecting they were that they had only 14 years to live together.

Strangely, though Mother's Day is a concept that we had only read about in western books, in the last year of her life, Mum got to celebrate her day. In Mumbai where we'd gone for her cancer treatment, we went to church on this Sunday morning which turned out to be the 8th of May and all the mothers in the congregation were each presented with a sweet red rosebud on a long graceful stem. What a lovely surprise that was for Mum, and a fitting tribute on her last ever Mother's Day.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Picture, picture on the wall



Another Holy Week gone, a time of forgiveness and new life and fresh commitment, as well as a poignant new reminder that some day because of Resurrection Day, I will be reunited with lost loved ones. My thoughts were specially with Parteii this year - you are so deeply missed, my friend.

~~~

On a happier note, I had been meaning to post these earlier but with one thing after another, I completely fogged out. Earlier last month, there was another photo exhibition, this time with a theme, albeit a rather open one -  My Mizoram. I had wanted to send in a picture of a church captured within a wineglass which I figure epitomises Mizoram best.  After all these are the two most dominant issues here - the Church and alcohol, both with their own teams of highly vociferous supporters. But to my total frustration, I just couldn't get the picture I wanted - my skills just not good enough to translate into digitised form what was in my mind's eye. In the end, without any great enthusiasm I sent in a couple of pictures  and surprise, surprise, one of them actually sold again! And yes, a bird picture again, this time of a red-vented bulbul that remained perched atop a tree in our garden for ages on the evening of Parteii's funeral.



I felt so emotional about having clinched a sale again, despite being such a know-nothing about photography in the first place, I thought I'd return the favour and purchase one of the pictures myself. And this is the one I picked. 




Taken by TZa, I can see now that the black and white layout is actually a better option for an exhibit considering  the local guys don't do colour printing of large photos all that well. I love the arid starkness of the landscape with the rundown tin shack, the giraffe-necked tree with leaves clumped impossibly out of reach at the very top, the barren earth littered with dry leaves and twigs, and the lone female figure seemingly emerging out of the wasted background like a Venus rising out of the sea. Haven't actually got it framed it yet but it's definitely slated to grace my walls very shortly.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

I wonder


I keep on searching for the old me
I keep on thinking I can change
I keep on hoping for a new day
Will I ever feel the same
Now I wonder..


*Chris Isaak

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Betrayal: the residue



Hurt
Pain
Hollow
Aching
Pain

Can't eat
Can't sleep
Can't breathe

Pain
Heavy
Tearing
Pain

Why why why
What did I ever do to you?

Was this what you meant by
always and forever?


Monday, April 04, 2011

Passage



Winter shreds
the leaves from the trees;
denuded, desolate, defenceless,
they stand in silence.
But Spring comes
and out of the bleak nothingness,
a new life breathes.

The old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Getting back to Basics


Seems like a small lifetime's come and gone since my last post, so much has happened or so it seems like. Or maybe it's just me and my perspectives on things. One happenstance being that I've realised how badly addicted I am to the internet. Ok I've known that for a while but never really wanted to own up to it. But it took something devastating in my personal life recently to shock me out of my complacency and realise how my Net addiction has eaten up huge chunks of my time and life. Most damagingly, I've realised how far away I've drifted from the Lord and that hasn't been simply because I sit for hours on end before the computor but in what goes on in that time. I know some of you probably imagine I surf a lot of porn. Hah, if only. No, my favourite online activity for these many years has been chatting and making friends with people I'd never have got to know otherwise. I started out hanging out in MIRC chatrooms, then graduated on to forums, and that was where I think the rot set in. There are so many different kinds of people online as there are offline obviously - some decent, normal, God-fearing folks, some plain antagonistic towards any kind of religious talk, and some, the most dangerous kind I now think, are those who are quite normal, ordinary, fun-loving, nice, everyday folks, born and brought up in Christian homes but have no religious/spiritual personal beliefs or experiences, and so tend to rationalize everything from a logical point of view. Looking back, I know for certain that's where I began to lose my rock solid beliefs and my faith began eroding.

Deaddiction, I've found, is incredibly tough. I've bought a book called Breaking Everday Addictions by a Dr. David Hawkins, which I'd picked up and glanced through idly several months ago but didn't think necessary to actually buy. Obviously it's a huge step forward that I bought the book and am reading it - accepting the fact that you have an addiction and want to reclaim your life being the first requirement. I quote from the book: "Besides taking us away from ourselves, addictions take us away from God. Every hour we spend sitting in front of the computor screen or gazing mindlessly at the slot machine or even texting friends is time we are not spending with God. Gambling and Internet addictions take us away from the real world and an important part of that real world is our relationship with God. Breaking the bonds of addiction therefore must include a conscious decision to increase our contact with God - we must be deliberate about making time for God in our lives."

As I said earlier, it's tough getting deaddicted and I'm only just starting out. But I've also found small ways of getting even, if you can call it that, by consciously making time for God in my online activities by being more careful in the people I interact with and the things I read online. Every little bit helps.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Thoughts that lie too deep for tears



One of the most poignant things I've ever heard about the pain of bereavement came from a Sunday School colleague a few years ago. The older brother of D, another fellow teacher, had died and as we assembled together at their house to condole with him, this guy A, normally the most jovial, joke-cracking kind, spoke of how the dead guy had always been like an older brother for him. Struggling to hold back tears, he wondered why God allowed us to love each other so deeply when we must die and be parted forever. Why couldn't He have made us to love less deeply so that when death came, the parting would be more bearable and less heartbreaking.

Two weeks ago, on the evening of the 3rd of February, a good friend died. Parteii had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer two years ago and I had written about her here. At the time, I had wondered idly how it'd feel if she died. I've experienced a few bereavements in my time: first my father, then my mother, and in between and after, assorted blood relations, well-loved pets. This is the first time ever that a close friend has died.

I don't make friends easily and don't have many either. P and I got to be friends from being Sunday School teachers in the children's departments for several years, and this would've been the 17th. In many ways, we didn't have a lot in common. She had been born and brought up in a village and then came to continue college in Aizawl, found a good government job and settled down here, accomodating assorted nieces and nephews while her folks continued to live in Thenzawl. In many other ways though, we bonded instantly. It was a time when my mother had recently died and the onus of visiting bereaved families and paying condolences, in Mizo social tradition, fell on me. P was also active in Church and lived alone with no one else to rely on to do the condolence visiting thing. With another friend MB, also in circumstances similar to hers, we met up and went for these obligatory condolence visits together. Over time, we became close friends, being in the same age group, and single and childless.

A gentle spirit, steady, consistent, unassuming and unobtrusive, and coming from a religious family, clean-living and church-minded, her cancer came as a shock to us all. But in the months that followed, she remained calm and upbeat, invariably comforting us instead with her cheerful, philosophical attitude. A memory that shames me every time I think back on it is when I had been going through a low time at the beginning of last year. I visited her at home and cribbed about how everyone else seemed to be moving ahead while I was stuck in a rut and going nowhere. She listened quietly and spoke a few encouraging words, not caring to remind me that she had cancer and was in a far less advantageous position.

It saddened us all that she didn't have an adult relative living with her, taking care of her and her medical treatments. But when I once broached the subject with her, she said quite firmly that she had consciously taken the decision not to marry so she did not ever want to trouble her siblings or family in any way. Of course, when her final days came, her family came together for her. By then, she had grown skeletal and gaunt, and it was painful to even see her. We all knew there was no hope of recovery and prayed for a painless release, but when she eventually passed on, it was and still is, something that's difficult to come to terms with.

What I shall miss most about her as I realise belatedly was her always obliging readiness in coming to condolence visits with me. There were times when she'd have already gone with someone else but if I mentioned that I hadn't done my bit yet, she would say, "Do you want to go, Zualte? Then I'll come with you. I don't mind going again."

Rest in peace, my friend. Hon hoi theoi philousin apothneskei neos. They, whom the gods love, die young. And we shall meet again some day.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Meant To Do My Work Today


I meant to do my work today
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree
And a butterfly flitted across the field
And all the leaves were calling me
And the buttercups nodded their smiling heads
Greeting the bees who came to call
And I asked the lizard the time of day
As he sunned himself on a moss-grown wall
And the wind went sighing over the land
Tossing the grasses to and fro
And a rainbow held out its shining hand
So what could I do but laugh and go?

- Richard Le Gallienne


video

This post links back to this one. I finally managed to grab an extremely rare (and slightly blurry) download the other day and among other exquisite (forgive me the overuse of the word) scenes, this is one that's lingered on in my mind for years and years. "....and I asked the lizard the time..." I've googled that line a few countless times but never got it until now. What a wonderful treasure trove of memories technology is.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Name-tag Put-down



Question: as children how many of you were tagged a cruel, unkind nickname by your peers? A tag that grew out of something that was part of your physical features or personality? I was watching The King’s Speech last night (starring the lovely Mr Darcy) and felt impotently enraged when the infatuated-with-Wallis, new king Edward VIII spitefully taunts his well-meaning younger brother "B..B..Bertie" in the way that the Darcy character was often heartlessly ridiculed as a child for his painful stammer.

As a child, and even later in my teens and early to mid adulthood, I was often ruthlessly ragged for my quiet personality. I remember once in high school when we were doing Treasure Island in English class and the teacher was reading the passage about Captain Bones which went “He was a very silent man by custom…” She looked around the room and asked, “And who is that like?” and everyone went, “Zualteii!” and laughed. "Zual-tawng-duh-i", "Zual-kam-tam-i", "Zual-ngawi-reng-i." I hated gibes like that. I’d put on a forced smile but feel like dying of humiliation inside.

Name-tags are hilariously funny for the people calling them. Usually based on some aspect of the victim, admittedly they can be extremely clever and witty. But for the victim, since it’s based on some part of his/her personal make-up, it can be hurtful and distressing. Especially more so for shy, timid introverts with shaky self-esteem. I know, I’ve been there. The more self-assured ones take it with aplomb, flinging back something wittier and funnier, or even counter-attacking so sharply the teasers back off in a hurry. The less fortunate cringe and helplessly bear the brunt of childish/adolescent malice and insensitivity.

Happily, most of us grow up both physically and mentally. Life experiences help us outgrow our gauche ineptitude. We learn to know ourselves better, our strengths and weaknesses, to look out for ourselves, to grow thicker skins. We pick up self-defence mechanisms and social graces and how to smoothen away an awkward moment. We even learn to take a slight and deflect it into a joke, laughing at ourselves along with everyone else.

But every once in a while, an unexpected name-tag put-down still comes out of nowhere and gets you in the solar plexus. Ouch, some things never change.


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

4 days into the new year



A new year resolution is hopefully hopping onto your treadmill on an early January morning for an 8 minute walkathon in three layers of woollies..

Saturday, January 01, 2011

I Am the New Year


I'm going to be lazy here and post something I came across online. Something profound and lovely that I'd never have come up with in a million years anyway!


I am the new year. I am an unspoiled page in your book of time.

I am your next chance at the art of living. I am your opportunity to practise what you have learned about life during the last twelve months.

All that you sought and didn’t find is hidden in me, waiting for you to search it but with more determination.

All the good that you tried for and didn’t achieve is mine to grant when you have fewer conflicting desires.

All that you dreamed but didn’t dare to do, all that you hoped but did not will, all the faith that you claimed but did not have — these slumber lightly, waiting to be awakened by the touch of a strong purpose.

I am your opportunity to renew your allegiance to Him who said, "Behold, I make all things new."

Dare to dream, and dream big! A very Happy New Year to us all.