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Sunday, March 15, 2009

An Open Letter to Mrs Preethi Menon

Dear Mrs Preethi,

How are you?

I caught myself day-dreaming last week; I was remembering English class. I remembered the class we had on the Monday afternoon, when it the heat outside was sweltering but the fans in our classroom lulled us into a subtle peace with their soft, constant whirring and the sympathetic breeze they let flow across the room. I remembered you talking about the deeper connotations of the themes discussed in 'Like Water for Chocolate'. You know I'm not a big reader but I really enjoyed that book and the way you explained it! It seems a long time ago and a long way away from where I am now, in the world and in my life. I felt compelled to write to you.

Do you remember Gautam Jain and how awake and alive and enthusiastic he was? Or how Tanay, Raj and co. would be 'taking notes' so furiously on their laptops? Or the impressive array of excuses Arun so expertly used to wriggle out of the classroom for those few extra seconds? Or (and no sarcasm here, just admiration) how refreshingly sincere Soudeh was with her work? Or how Karan would complain about the length and variety of the Russian names in Dr Zhivago (as well as his now well documented hand gestures)? What about how pedantic and cynical I was? What is your English class like now?

As I'm sure you do remember, I am at Aston University, in Birmingham, in England. I am studying Business and International Relations and really enjoying it - particularly the International Relations component. I try and continue my writing in my spare time. It offers me solace and is a great catalyst for reflection and self-examination. I am happy with my life and my university experience.

I miss my school days. I miss the friends I made and the teachers who helped shape my mind. Though I had many differences with the school and some of its policies - as any rebellious teenage boy is likely to have had - I wouldn't change a thing about that time in my life. I want to thank you and indeed all the people that make up Indus, in having a profound influence in who I am today.I remember all the 'anti-establishment' sentiments harboured by me and my peers but I do not regret them. Instead, I am glad that I can look back now and see why we felt that way and why what our superiors did was done with our futures in mind. I am an adult now (barely, though) and therefore I can look at my teachers as individuals and human beings, rather than the all-powerful masters of the universe they once were! I remember feeling a tremendous sense of injustice towards some of the actions taken by staff but now I can see that the staff too, were just human beings. They made mistakes, they were under pressure too. I have so many great memories that take place within the white-washed walls of Indus. I couldn't possibly be angry. I wouldn't change a thing!

Anyways, the theme of this letter isn't a negative one. It is one of reflection and acceptance. I smile when I think of how I grew from a chubby, spectacle wearing 9th grader who did a great Cantonese accent, to one of the taller, more sarcastic, apathetic students in my 12th grade class. I saw life-long friendships form, like those between me, Arun, Anirudh and some of other "not quite back benchers" in your English class! I watched with mixed emotions, guys and girls getting 'closer' - in the most adolescent context! I discovered my passion for writing as a result of being a frustrated, stressed 12th grader, buried under college applications and SAT practise papers. I remember the excitement and ecstasy of finding out I'd topped the IGCSE exams and the lazy but fun-filled year that followed it. I remember my disappointment at not even being nominated for a student council post in 11th and 12th grade - not that I'd have done a good job! I remember the comical frenzy of cleaning and tidying activity that followed someone running into a pig-sty of a classroom and yelling "Sarojini is coming!". I remember, perhaps most vividly of all, the feelings of sheer, boundless and all-conquering joy I felt as Prahlad, Arun, Anirudh and I would pry a football out of the clutches of Mr Singha and run onto the football pitch on a Friday afternoon. These memories will, hopefully, stay with me forever.

I smile in my sleep when I think of Anirudh and me doing the impersonations of all the teachers on the steps of the IB block on those sunny mornings! All the legendary Physics teachers we've had, Mr Arul with all his quirks, Colonel Rao and his interrogation techniques, Ms Selina's immaculate enunciation, Ms Sunanda's rather bizarre but nonetheless entertaining rants, Colonel Jasial's 'jokes' on our school trips, the battles for the most perfect Mallu accent (!) between Mr Vijay Thomas and the PE teacher Mr Dilip, Ms Vijayalakshmi's perplexing words of warning to the class, Mr Sudhakaran's fondness for Rushikesh, and so many more! Sadly, I don't think we ever got around to pin-pointing a succinct imitation of you!

But now I must stop reminiscing, before I lose my train of thought! I just want to wish you well and say that I am glad you were my English teacher. I'm sure the rest of our class wishes you the same, wherever in the world they may be. I thank you and Indus for the good times and bad. I hope this letter finds you in good spirits, because writing it has certainly left me in them.

Yours sincerely


Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Last Leaf

Winter has come and left the tree bare. All but one of the leaves has thrown itself into the cold wind of seasonal change. One clings on, defiant.

Silly leaf.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The 6am Smoker

The night is perfect. It is the best time of day. It is quiet and cool. No superficial people, just the optimistic chirps of birds. This is the domain of the 6am smoker.

I don't know what he's doing up at this time. I can see him from my ground floor window, sipping a cigarette. The night seems to get stiller with every exhalation. Winter has left but a single leaf on the naked tree next to him. I don't know his name but I'm tempted to go ask him what he's doing and why he chooses this time to grace the silent courtyard.

From a distance I see a profound sadness in his eyes. Perhaps he's reflecting on a day or a life. On what's gone well and what hasn't. I think he's thinking about someone because there is longing in his expression. His face is young but his demeanour is tired. Looks like he comes here to escape the world, his cigarette an ally. Early morning provides solace - but from what?

His sleeves are folded up, in defiance to the cold. After a while, a look of contentment spreads across his face. Maybe the cigarette has served its purpose. Maybe the exploration of his own mind has yielded some answers. While the rest of the world dreams about sex, drugs and rock'n'roll, our hero is trying to out-stare the night. People are funny things.

I wonder who's lonelier- me or him?