Saturday, November 29, 2014

Questions and Answers

As a teacher, I went into the field of education thinking that it was my job to teach children the answers to everything. In time, I've learnt differently.
It started in a quite literal fashion. I set exercises for all my students wherein I gave them a set of answers. Their job was to come up with the questions. There were many possible correct ways to do the exercise. At first, the children stared blankly, then they struggled to fit logic with language. I was surprised, but then I understood where we've been going wrong. It also took me back through my own life's journey of 'growing up'.
The first time I remember such a challenge was when I was a student. We were asked to write an essay about our favorite book. Back then in 6th standard, I think, I had left behind Enid Blyton and was going through Sidney Sheldon. I gushed for one page about this swashbuckling adventure called "If Tomorrow Comes". Ma'am Anuradha gave me the requisite marks, but she also wrote a note that froze me completely- she asked me why I so admired a protagonist who had taken to thieving, and justified it. I felt a few moments of deep shame. Then, I felt wonder at the fact that that was a question I hadn't asked myself. Why?
The second time I remember something similar was when I watched a stand up comedian make fun of the movie 'Titanic'. It was another bolt to my brain, as I realized that yes, I actually really didn't like that long-ass movie (his words, not mine  ). I had let myself be swept along with the tide of admiration that everyone around me had for the movie.
People like my teacher, and incidents like those are very visible markers that I can look back on and see how I was led into the path of questioning everything- my motives, my beliefs... it led to the most precious thing I have in my tool kit for life- my awareness.
Now, I see the children around me, going along- sometimes docile, sometimes defiant, and I am so amused at this process we all evolve by. And I am so grateful to the people and the circumstances that guided me. I look forward to giving back. (I am so moved I seriously considered adding a hashtag-feeling blessed, but thankfully the moment of weakness passed) 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Stuff my Soul!

We had a seminar in school today. Stress-free living. Most of us had a headache when the man finally stopped droning after 2 hours. The headache was a combination of fighting the eyelid droop and fighting the urge to flee. However, at one point I was completely lucid. It was when the man said, "Why are we suffering like this?" I'm sure he had a context for saying it, but at that moment, it felt like the cry of our collective souls. I ducked, laughed, then fell back into my comfortable coma.
The conscious part of me registered something baffling though. The first 15 minutes of the seminar, the guy made it clear that truth and belief are two completely different things. Truth was undeniable, whereas belief was faith in something that could not be proved. For the remaining 72 hours, I mean, two and three quarter hours, he talked about nothing but the soul and how life should be lived from the soul perspective, not the material one. And there were many, many minutes of cheesy-music-with-cheesy-video-meditation when he was chanting stuff about being immortal and all that. Most of the teachers slept right through them.
The whole time I was thinking, 'Bloody hell, isn't the soul a construct of your belief? When did it become truth, that you would make it the complete basis for your life philosophy, and what more, preach it as fact?' I like my job, so I didn't stand up and embarrass him, the principal and the school. But I was sorely tempted.
It's not just this fellow that has me annoyed. Working in various fields, I've been subjected to quite a few seminars and talks by people who have no business being on stage. I'm all for people sharing and learning from each other life's experiences, but it has blown out of proportion and given rise to an alarming trend.
I speak of 'gurus'. Lifestyle coaches, relationship guides, spiritual them what you like; I am very uncomfortable with the notion of a person who says he or she has answers that can satisfy en masse. They all sound like formulas to me, a kind of glorified version of the crap you find in fashion magazines- like 'how to get your ex back in 10 days' or some such drivel. Since when has life been so even across people that something that works for one person would work for another. And I must say, many of these gurus are utter crackpots who endow themselves with these titles- really scary shit. I wouldn't want to meet one of them alone in a dark alley, let me tell you. These people invariably are in a sea of denial, floating only because their egos are so bloated, you couldn't sink 'em even if you sat on 'em. A pity, really.
I'm toying with the idea myself. Being a guru, I mean. Why screw up a few people who call you a friend when you could reach a much larger audience? I'm off to buy boring white clothing. Peace out!