Friday, November 30, 2007

Mr. T of the science dept wanders around our campus like an ant that has somehow fallen out of the neat organized line of fellow ants and is now moving about quite aimlessly, not quite knowing where to go.

Of course this happens only when he ventures out of his lab. Which is rare. So when he came into the exam dept in a state of agitation, we knew something was wrong. “Someone has to help me”, he said desperately. “Please give me five minutes of your time”.

Sonya, with her infinite patience asked him how she could help.

“I cannot do invigilation on the 3rd and 4th of December. There are presentations by the 12th grade that I have to record and evaluate. I have also asked the other subject teachers to excuse the grade 12 from their classes so that I can finish the recording of their oral presentations. I simply will not be able to any invigilation on those days. Please put me for another day, I am really sorry, but I cannot help it.” He was very worried and looked at Sonya hopelessly.

(Grade 12 is not having any exam this month)

Sonya told him not to worry and asked him to take out his invigilation schedule so that she could see what she could do. He said that he had forgotten to bring it. So Sonya got out one.

She studied it carefully and a small frown came on her face and she double checked. “But, Mr.R, you have no invigilation scheduled for the 3rd and 4th of December!” she said.

“I don’t? Oh! Thanks, sorry to take up your time” he said as he drifted out of the exam dept.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

As a teacher and lifelong student of psychology, three things at my workplace gave me very entertaining insights into the human personality: My work in the exam department, the game black magic and Secret Santa.

The exam department is headed by my friend and super efficient colleague-Sonya and I was both nervous and honored to be asked by her to be a part of the exam department this year. The exam department does a thankless job: Organize and conduct exams for all grades in school. It is thankless because no one who is not part of the exam department knows the hard work that goes into ensuring that exams are conducted smoothly. It involves asking for the syllabus from each teacher a month in advance of the exams, making the timetable( something that is beyond my skills),teacher invigilation schedule, assigning roll numbers to students, photocopying thousands of question papers, locking them away safely among endless other things. Once begun, it never seems to end.
The first thing I was told by another friend who has been with the department for two years was that I could get all my case studies if I just spent a day in the exam dept.

In keeping with the ethics of discussing human case studies and minimizing the risk of being fired, names have been withheld or changed.

Yesterday we had the first paper of one of the science subjects (grade-11). There was a problem in the paper. One of the questions was just a statement with no accompanying question and another question was repeated twice. Since the subject teacher sets the paper and is responsible for its content, we called the subject teacher who came to the exam block looking irritated.

“Yes, what is the problem?” (Cant you two sort it out among yourselves? Must I be bothered by such small things, look how out of breath you have made me! The gall to make me run and come from two blocks away. There had better be a very good reason)

The ‘problem’ is explained

“See, these things will happen. (I never make mistakes.) Even in the final IB exam when this happens, nothing clarified to the students. They are told to just go on answering. It is sorted out at the board level.( and anyway since I am Zeus, even though I look like Adonis, surely I should not be troubled, I still cannot believe I was made to come all the way here). And the subject teacher never enters the exam hall”. (But what would you know)”

At this point he marched into the exam hall even as we were all set to go into the hall ourselves.

“This time I will go”. (After all, since you have ruined things enough, this is the least I can do. Anyway I am always a sight for sore eyes, besides who knows what you will say once you are inside)

Next day the exam dept gets a call from him.

“Yasmine, I am looking at the original paper. There is no mistake here (I told you so! Now how may I grill you, how may I kill you?)”

“………., we have the original papers, it was only after looking at them and finding the same error there, we called you.” I said.

“No no I have the original, who has given you that original? (Cheating me eh?)”

“Um you?!” I reply. (As per exam rules, all original papers are given to the exam dept for photocopying).”

“No I am looking at the softcopy (and since technology has not yet reached you, what would you know?!)

“Anyway, mistakes happen, let it be (tsk tsk poor child, you made a big big mistake by making me come all the way there for no fault of mine. But since I am the all forgiving Buddha, I will let it go)”

………that was my first day………….

Monday, November 26, 2007

There are seven kittens at home five grey one greyish brown one grey and white they sleep in a heap that can look like a pyramid a circle a rectangle and can go pop and disappear when you enter the room the grey and white kitten swam and nearly died in the loo they eat chicken legs twice their size to the bone they have driven their adoptive mother cat to frustration that is taken out on me they hiss when picked up and have ruined a woven bedspread with little kitten droppings they are not getting adopted no one seems to want greys and I do not want to think about what that means………….


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Students know best!

Exams and assignments tell us that...

Mammals are the only animals that lay eggs. the cuckoo bird is a mammalian bird who lays eggs. (opening lines in a grade-12 student's research essay.)

Insects take the anther of a flower with it's beak and put it in the anther of another flower.(grade-10 biology student)

Organisms that have both male and female parts are gay. (grade-10)

The flower has hooks in order to get carried away by insects.(grade-10)

20,000-2000=19666.66666 (grade 12 business studies)

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Kajal was thrown out of her home and into a dustbin on my road when she was two months old. Not knowing much about the world anyway, she played among the garbage until she became hungry and screamed for her mother.

The afternoon heat and the realization that she was in unfamiliar surroundings made her desperate. Someone came and set fire to the garbage and her mews were lost among the smoke as the garbage slowly caught fire.

That afternoon I was walking down my road and slowed down near the garbage heap because I thought I heard a cat. Looking at the garbage, lit and smoking, I almost walked on, telling myself that no cat could possibly be there. Then came the cries again almost hoarse now. Risking being thought of as queer, I bent down and began to rummage among the garbage that had not yet caught fire and there she was, a shivering tortoise shell kitten shivering with fright. She was lifted out and put into my bag and taken home.

“Look what I found in the dustbin” I announced to my mother as I held up a purring very contented kitten to her. “In the dustbin?” she said with disbelief, “How could someone be so cruel?” I later found out that a family nearby kept a cat for catching rats and regularly threw out the kittens.

With milk, rice and some of my dog Tara’s lunch in her tummy ,Kajal curled up and fell asleep behind the fridge. Life after that consisted mainly of food, exploring and sleeping on my mother’s lap. When she was a year old, she decided that the best place in the house was the garden and began to spend all of her time there. She would come running up to us for her cuddles and would purr and remind us that she had not forgotten us but her wild independent side won over and we would catch her looking placidly at us from among the bushes, content and at peace. She never formed any particular attachments with any of the other cats but never fought with them either.

The years passed and much changed. My mother passed away and the pain and sorrow of her death was felt very much by all the animals at home. I fell into an abyss of despair and three slow years dragged themselves like tired feet deep in inches of snow.

Last year I met the man who would become my husband. He wanted a kitten and someone just a week ago had left with me a scrawny necked ginger kitten with a raggedy red ribbon around her neck “Polly”, he said when I asked him what he would name her. Polly and books and many things made us decide to get married . Kajal and all the other cats, fascinated by him, show a marked preference for him. That is one change of loyalty I cannot say I mind.

Three weeks ago Kajal and Freddie fought and both fell off the roof. Freddie broke his already crippled hind legs and Kajal broke her back. Freddie has made a complete recovery but Kajal is paralysed. I had hope when the vet told me that she had sensation in her hind legs, but it turns out that it is only a reflex that means nothing. Despite fighting against bed sores, she has got them and she is not eating at all. She is growing weaker and seems happy only when she is put in the garden she loves so much.

Right now I do not know what is right and what is wrong. We want to give her a fighting chance but seeing her, shrunken, listless fills me with despair. Yesterday she was infested with maggots. She was in a lying in a pool of urine, helpless.

We wont give up hope but if she is suffering, how are we to know? How are we to know if she will ever walk again? All we want is that she does what she loves doing, playing in the garden, hiding in the bushes or rolling in the grass, getting cooked by the afternoon sun.

I wish I knew, I wish I was braver, I wish I could make her happy again.


Kajal died half an hour after I wrote this post. We were not home, the vet, who had gone to treat a wound called me and told me that she died a few minutes after he arrived. She had complications because of the maggots.

We buried her in her garden, both of us taking turns to dig her grave.

She will be missed in the mornings when she demands her plate of food, she will be missed when we go to the garden and don't see her dart out just to acknowledge our presence. Her beautiful gold on fire eyes will be missed peeping from among the bushes.

She will be happy though. She can run again, sprawl in the grass, let the sun warm her and she can do those many mysterious cat things that humans will never know and never understand.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Cookai, Mohini, Custard and Popsicle and all the cats with Tigger and his gang of dogs would like to tell everyone that their Mama is getting married!

She is getting married to JP ( WE ALL LOVE JP!)

JP is very cool and very smart and he knows exactly what we like and exactly what we don't. He never scolds us, he lets us do whatever we like and we think that he is so much fun. We run the JP fan club. Membership open. We already have millions of feline fans and many many canine fans and yes you may join. ( Popsicle takes a small break and Yasmine walks in!)

ahem! so that is what you have been up to! well well club eh?! for JP??!?! what about me???????

ok ok...yes people it is true...I am getting married.

to JP!

Super intelligent and totally charming. Ask my cats, they have changed loyalties. They are totally and completely his.
JP writes wonderful stories, plays beautiful music knows a lot about everything you know, did not know and will never know( no one can possibly have read as much or as diversely as him).
as my students say he's the bestest!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

My doll house was green and white. Large green windows and door with picket fence white walls. There was a pink bed in it and a tiny shelf that was my larder. There I kept everything that the famous five ate while they , spread out on heather, planned breathlessly exciting ways to catch smugglers and the many others who were no match for four kids and a waggy tail dog. If the Famous Five had their sea ,island and castle, I had my own pond and secret shed. Ponds have their adventure stories too!

So I had lemonade and ice, my mothers lemon tarts, cookies of ginger, oats, jam, scones with huge chunks of disappearing butter, plenty of plum jam and as many Enid Blyton books as I could fit into the space between the bed and the window.

In that tiny house, sunlight and candle flame and the endless thrill of possibility, of adventure, of magic lit up my childhood.

..............( to be contd.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

“The first is the worst,
Second is the best,
Third is the one with the treasure chest!”

As the buses enter the school gates, I silently join in the chant with the children as they look out to see how many buses have come before ours. It is un-teacher like to sing along!. Today we are the treasure chest.

Sometimes when we are first, the chant is edited to make the first the best.

Hurried attempts are made to invent something cool when we come in fourth. Buses after that do not even deserve to qualify. They are simply not good enough.

The ride in the bus is perhaps the most exciting part of my school day. Yesterday a first grade student showed me his treasure. Shining crystals hidden in a black stone. He had two small pieces to show his friends in school and many more at home. “Look” he said , “it has a million crystals.”

I looked at a gravel pebble shining in his hands. “Put it in your hand and let the sun shine on it. Look how is glitters.” He said. I had to agree. It did have millions of crystals peeping out of grey-black stone.

I told him I loved them and that he was so lucky to have them. He smiled and spent the next few minutes in silence after which he told me that, after a lot of thinking, he had decided to give me a bit of his treasure. I would have to wait though, he would have to go home and find something that was nice enough to give me.

In my secret life, I also collect pebbles and imagine them to be precious stones. The flower beds in the garden are tropical paradises and I, shrunk a million sizes smaller, am an explorer.

I will take any chance I can to take off my shoes and allow my feet to burn deliciously on the stone footpaths in school. The grass that big boards tell us to keep off, plump themselves up in mossy clusters, daring us to roll on them. I walk till the edge and pretending to be in some deep thought, let a toe touch the edge of the grass.

There is also an attic in my secret life. In that attic there are old wooden chests. One of them is full of old forgotten books. Books that I can draw patterns on with the dust they have collected. They are hardcover and have beautiful illustrations in them. Someone who owned them has written a note for anyone who might read them. The note is in code. It is my job to decipher it and try to figure if I am being guided to a treasure or being told some terrifying secret. Right at the bottom of the box there are comics. All kinds of comics. Hundreds of comics. I will spend long summer afternoons with the sun coating my feet, my back and my hair, next to me will be ice lemonade and chips. A pile of comics will lie next to me. Enough to last me a few hours. The sun and shadows will bind me with invisible threads to the ground and so I had better stock up on supplies till the threads wear thin with the setting sun.

The other chest will be full of all kinds of odds and ends. Mismatched china plates, blue and white, each whispering a story. An old old clock that goes CLANG in an rusty 80 year old voice, raggedy dolls with many dresses to spare, doll tea sets, coins from all over that I will allow to sing merrily in my hands, shells, tiny ones, colourful ones, too wee to hold to the ear and allow the sea in.

I do not know what the other chests hold. The key is lost and I want to allow them to keep their secrets for now. Who knows, I may find emeralds and rubies. Sapphires and opals.

…………………sigh…………….when the school bell brings me back to my dull desk…I must , forcibly pick up the text book and become a dull boring teacher and keep ready a yelling, just in case the work I asked them to do is not done………

……….will ramble on though…later..

Sunday, March 25, 2007

JP told me once, "at the end of it, no seems to want the stray dogs, whether it is those of us who love them and want to bring their population down by ABC or those who want them dead." What he said is true and it made me very sad.

I look at the dogs on my road. The world for them is one happy place. They sleep, legs in the air, rolling in the pavement sand, their hearts and minds free of worry. Do they know the battle we are fighting for them? They are licensed, collared and I want to imagine that they are safe. I cannot. Even those with collars are being picked up because for their death, someone gets Rs.50.

Can you put a price on chocolate eyes full of life?

Three legged Jack, who runs faster than his able bodied gang of browns, hangs his pink dotted with purple tongue out in the noonday sun. A watchman gives him water. Some years ago, another watchman had almost scolded me for not providing him with an artificial leg. He had heard that Jack had lost his leg after an auto drove over it. It was something he constantly worried about. How will Jack manage, he asked me angrily.
His three legs melt everyone’s hearts and he takes full advantage of the extra treats and cuddles he gets because of it. For now, he is safe. But who knows, with the way the media is feeding this raging fire against dogs.

Is loss of a human life justification enough to carry out this massacre? Is it enough to condone it? Dogs injected with cyanide and thrown in landfills by a bulldozer? Dogs hung with their necks between trees and left to die? Dogs beaten on the ground like clothes against a stone till they die? How different is this from the many torture camps we read about. Saddam Hussain’s men would pull out the nails of the POW’s and use many such horrific torture methods. We shudder at the very thought. Yet, somehow torture of animals is shrugged off by most people and those who fight against it are dismissed as eccentric and interfering.

Any torture, any cruelty any willful act of harm is wrong. Animal or human. We are cognitively more developed than animals, true but animals share the same emotions as we do. They as capable of love, fear, anger joy, sorrow as we are. What gives us the right then to inflict suffering on them? They were not made for our enjoyment and use as some religious texts choose to put it. We share the planet with them and all we seem to be doing is behaving like a very psychopathic school bully with them.

People should think. Those dogs catchers and killers who have so easily and seemingly pleasurably killed dogs in the last one month in Bangalore, will not think twice, given the chance to do the same to a human being. This is because the manner and method they are using show classic text book psychopathy. Here they have the license to kill by a corrupt and bloodthirsty BBMP, steady practice on these animals will perfect their skills to eventually replicate the crime on other easy targets. Children perhaps?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

She must be in heaven now,
With an angel duly assigned,
Eyes closed and purring,
Basking in eternal sunshine.

I hope the angel makes very sure,
That she gets her fish and rice,
She ain’t the kind of cat,
Who will go chasing mice.

In winter ,she likes cuddling up,
Sinking in tummies soft and deep,
So they had better puff those clouds,
And give her a snug, cozy sleep.

She doesn’t mind other cats,
But she is very refined,
So hope those scallywags up there,
Don’t trouble her philosophical mind,

She has the sweetest mew,
The loveliest you will hear,
No winged harpist halo and all,
Can come anywhere near.

She doesn’t like it when you feel sad,
Remember that, all you up above,
All of heaven put together,
Cannot equal her love.

Look after her all of you,
Make sure she is fine.
Or there will be no anger worse
To deal with, than mine.

When her eyes grow distant,
And her thoughts are far away,
Tell her that I wish too,
She would come back and stay.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The attitude of the anti stray dog group in Bangalore is simply this-Anti Life.
Their paranoia is equaled by their lack of rational thought . Their methods to spread false propaganda against stray dogs would have been brushed off as a jealous cheap school child trick, had it not such alarming consequences.

Most of the reports they give are fabricated. The rag and tag group spend most of their spare time thinking about what to invent next to spread hysteria in the city about stray dogs. The rest of their time is spent in thinking how they can make the best of the situation- dog leather trade by the old Diana de Vile, who exports leather. So unless she has dead dogs, she will not have her handbags.

As for the toothless old veterinarian, he fled when he thought black magic was being done on him…..very brave for someone who is responsible for the killing of all the dogs in Brunei , a culling that he wears as a badge of honour. A veterinary Dr. Death.

As for the Popinjays , they are far too pathetic to get word space on this blog. Mrs. Popinjay claims that garbage is no issue, it cannot kill anyone. Mr. Popinjay is phobic towards all animals and would ideally like all of them dead.

Phew! Never in my life have I spewed such venom. Sometimes I think that this miserable group is to be pitied. The only ray of happiness in their life is when they can take another. Being the cowards they are, they take that of an animal.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The tragic death of a five year old girl because of being attacked by a pack of stray dogs once again brings up the debate of the stray dog issue.

I would like to point out what the stray dog issue is about and what it is not.

1.This is not animal welfare activists vs the rest of the public.
It is so easy to point fingers at people who work for animals and blame them for incidents like this one. Officials have pointed out that if they kill stray dogs animal activists will be up in arms. The fact is that animal welfare NGO’s who are doing the ABC program sterilize healthy dogs as well as euthanize dogs who are unfit. These include rabid, old, aggressive and otherwise infirm dogs. Needless killing of healthy animals is unethical by any standards, not just an animal lovers.

2.This is not about mass killing of all dogs.
Mass killing is not one of the standards by which we define a civilized society. As a society that is getting increasingly scientific and developed in its outlook, this form of culling is from the dark ages. Also as humans, where the is our humanity? Eliminating a species is unscientific and barbaric.

3.This is about a scientific method to tackle the dog population.

When the BMP electrocuted and killed the dogs, the population did not decrease because a vacuum in nature will be filled up as long as there is a food source to sustain a life form. These dogs who are called strays are in fact indigenous Indian dogs. They are part of the balance of nature. They have a role to play, that of the scavenger. Thus, by sterilizing them and vaccinating them along with euthanizing unfit dogs, the best possible balance is being struck. The population has come down after the ABC program as been implemented.
4. This is not about Bangalore becoming the USA or Singapore.

Media reports say that the stray dog problem does not exist in the USA and Singapore. Neither do street children, beggars, garbage, illegal pavement structures, traffic problems, pollution caused by humans etc.

5.This is about systematically clearing garbage.

A comment by Ms Vatsala Dhananjay said that garbage is not the problem as it cannot kill anyone. Infact garbage is the problem. It is a health and hygiene problem. It is a breeding ground for disease. It points fingers at a city that totally lacks civic sense. The lesser the garbage, the lesser the chances of incidents like these occurring.

6. This is about educating the public.
It is all too easy to create mass hysteria. This hysteria clouds rational thinking and actions based on such reactions will always be a cause for regret. Schools, residents associations, and the public must be educated on the ABC program, rabies, stray dogs, do’s and don’ts.

7.This is about regulating breeding.

Breeders indiscriminately allow dogs to have litters and abandon those who they find unfit as well as abandon the male and female dogs once they are too old or unhealthy to breed. These dogs are left to fend for themselves on roads, adding to the population.

8. This is about a need to develop vaccinations to counter rabies.

Just as we will not kill every human being for being potential HIV, hepatitis, TB and polio carriers, but rather work towards a vaccination to eliminate the virus, so too should we work towards eradicating the rabies virus just as we eradicated the smallpox virus. All warm blooded species can carry the rabies virus, if we begin to kill one species, where will we end? Mass vaccination drives, cheap rabies vaccinations easily available is the solution.

We speak so much of Gandhigiri, we want to believe in non violence and we as people who practice it. Where is our Gandhigiri if we react with violence? We co exist with the animals around us. Trying to eliminate a species is never a solution not by any measure scientific or compassionate. We consider ourselves a superior species. We wont prove it by being the school bully. Let is show it by doing what is best for both-humans and animals.