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Everyone loves stories. Everyone has a story to tell.

Month

October 2014

Views From Around The World

It’s been a week that we have been talking about Domestic Violence on our blog and FB page. When we had thought of doing the series a few weeks back, as strongly as I felt about talking about this subject, somewhere in my mind there was a bit of worry. Would people read ? Would they take a minute and notice why we are saying “Let’s talk about it.” ? Or would it all just get ignored. We still pursued with a lot of encouragement from many of our regular authors. I am glad we did, because people not only read, they had perspectives to share with us. 
Early Signs 
There are always early signs. We tend to ignore them as part of our upbringing. We label them as anger issues. But it is not just about anger, it is about a tendency to control, the desire to exert power. 
No one becomes an abuser in a day. It is something they have been doing for a long long time and the people in the family and community did not do anything about it. A friend tells me, “I have seen my brother misbehave with my mother all my life. He would yell at her, demand her to do things in a certain way and just be disrespectful towards her. He was a dictator. He did it to me as well and we always fought over it. My mother choose to ignore saying he had a bad temper. He did the same things to his wife, the scale became more violent, until she walked  out one day.”
Stand Up For Your Kids 
It is extremely difficult to break free from an abusive relationship and no one should ever be judged. It is even more difficult when the kids are involved. However if you have the opportunity to help someone out, you must remind them that it is important to step away for their kids. Kids who witness domestic violence – mild, average, day to day or severe, it does not matter. They get affected, period. Children learn by observing us. And this kind of observation teaches them not to stand up for themselves or that ill treating someone is may be OK. They either turn out to be bullies and later abusers or get bullied and become victims in later life. There are statistics to prove that strongly. Lead by example. Find the courage to do it for your kids. 
An unanimous message from lot of folks is that there is a mindset that by staying on in the marriage, regardless of how abusive it has become, we think we are helping our kids. Kids from broken homes have a difficult childhood. Children from homes with DV have a far worse childhood. 
Raise them equally 
The numbers on DV are skewed as it relates to gender.  Somewhere we are all responsible for that. We all make the same mistakes. We do not treat our children, the sons and daughters equally. There is this video that talks about how in the Indian society we keep telling our boys “Boy’s do not cry.” Why ? Are the boys being deprived of showcasing emotions ? Since when did crying become a sign of weakness?  On the other hand when it comes to the girls, it is an overdose of lessons on tolerance. I have also heard this being told to many girls, “You can do what a boy can do.” So why exactly she needs to compete with a boy ? Is that a benchmark ?  Isn’t she better off doing what she is capable of. Instead if we raised them all the same and focussed on just making all of them good human beings, a lot of the bad would get out of the way on its own. 
You have support 
If this is the message that was given to young women by their families, may lives would be saved. If this is the message, parents could give their daughters without asking them to “adjust”, many lives would be saved. If this is the message we could give to a friend or a neighbor or a relative, their lives could be saved too. SUPPORT is the keyword. Do not close doors on a victim. 
Listen, without judging, Support, without hushing. 
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A day of empowerment. Hmm.


This post was written by Dr. Tanu Shree Singh on her personal blog around Women’s Day and all the hullabaloo around it. A day meant to celebrate empowered women ? Women empowerment ? Most of the shenanigans around that day do very little towards any of that. Another facet of domestic violence on how we the educated and the more privileged could do so much more without being trapped into societal norms. Why just celebrate women once every year ? Why not respect them and treat them as humans, every single day of the year. 


Last two days, the mailbox and the phone SMS list have been getting more than their share of messages. Most of them, declare attractive, exclusive offers for the women’s day – discounts, two drinks for the price of one, free make overs – you name it, and your empowered self can have the entire world laid out at your footstep – for a minimal charge of course. The Google doodle celebrates us, and so does the deluge of whatsapp messages. Everyone I knew took extra care in getting dressed for work today. All of us wished each other with a broad grin and the customary ‘ Happy Women’s day’ and a ‘You look lovely!’ A few charts have been put up in the hope that some of the girls will feel empowered enough.
Having been raised in a family of strong- headed, fairly empowered women, I somehow do not understand the frenzy. As soon as I say that, the decked up women, ready to max out their credit cards on the must have deals, scoff and shake their heads disapprovingly.  ‘It is not about you. It is about the million of rural women out there who suffer and lack the confidence in themselves. It is about bringing a change in their lives.’
Hmm. So air-kissing and putting up a plastic smile every time someone wishes me today, is miraculously changing the life of a woman somewhere in the interiors of the rural India. The shaking heads also imply that we, the urban, upwardly mobile women, are empowered right down to the last strand of our blow-dried hair. I usually make a hasty exit when caught in such a debate because over time I have learnt that it is futile – futile to argue, futile to present statistics, and in fact perilous to disagree.
I avoid it because I have seen these very faces turn away and buy the explanation that the maid gives for the badly bruised face, and in hushed whispers condemn the young girl who is hesitantly relating her ordeal post-marriage, by saying, ‘Who knows what this girl has been up to.’
Last year, around this time, over a cup of morning tea, I asked the maid, ‘Do you know tomorrow is Women’s day?’ She didn’t pause to converse. She never does. Most of our tête-à-têtes have happened over furious mopping or sweeping.
‘So, what do you think?’ I continued.
This time, she paused and looked up. That is when I noticed the blackened eye.
‘That’s all for the educated well-off people, Didi. For us, it is work and a night’s sleep without getting beaten up.’ She grinned her stained smile and went right back to her fight with the mop.
After that I followed her around from room to room trying to convince her to lodge a complain, go to a women’s cell or something. She stopped only once the floors were gleaming and threw back two reflections – one of a bruised woman in a sari tucked to expose her worn out knees, and the other with a newspaper tucked under her arm.
‘Nothing will happen. What will police do? And getting beaten up is no big deal. He is fine when he is not drunk. It is only when I am caught off guard that problem occurs. Otherwise, the kids and I usually crawl behind the sandook and sleep.’
That shook me. Not the fact that there are people capable of being monsters but the realisation that most women took it as an inseparable and perfectly acceptable part of their existence. They have learnt to be helpless. And they are reluctant to do anything about it.
The reluctance, however, is well placed. One trip to the police station, or the women’s cell and you’d know where the sympathy lies -Definitely not with my maid who has more bruises than clothes to cover her body, and not even with the educated, empowered woman in a bad marriage who goes there as a last resort. They are both told, sometimes blatantly and sometimes subtly, to hold their chins up, take blows and live with it.
So who is benefiting the celebration? Call me skeptical, but I honestly do not see the loud, all encompassing, and empowering message of the day trickling down to the people who really need that push. But you cannot call me a pessimist either, for I do cling on to hope. When I hear my mother talk about the house help’s daughter eagerly waiting for her every evening to read her share of books, I see hope. When I see the bruised maid losing her head because her daughter missed school, I see hope. When I see my students daring to dream, I see hope.
And this hope has nothing to do with the last message in the inbox from a superstore that declared I get to choose the discount I want since I am an empowered woman.

Contemplate


Authored by Sukanya Bora, this post was inspired by a talk she attended on ‘Domestic Violence’ at a local event. We must all acknowledge that it takes years of courage to come out and stand up against domestic violence. It isn’t easy to live the nightmare. It isn’t easy to break free either. What goes on in a victim’s mind as they live through things……..
I should use a pillow. But then, he is bigger and stronger than I am. I may not be able to hold it down, squeeze the life of out of him.
How about poison? The real stuff. I can mix it slyly in his drink, the one he religiously pours into his coffee mug. The stiff ones he makes for himself. Every single night.  How many, I lose track of after sometime because I am closely following every move of his, making sure I am not in the vicinity when he becomes maniacal.
No, let me just get a baseball bat and slug the crap out of him. I can do this when he is in the tiny back room, on the computer checking nude girls. He wouldn’t know. I will quickly sneak up and do what I need to do. Also thrash the darn computer while I am at it.
How about if I run him down with my car? Like that jilted wife who is now serving life without parole after running over her dentist husband. But I can’t be as careless as her. I want to spend the rest of life in peace, not in a four by four cell.
Well, perhaps a gun. Just shoot him at point-blank. It will be quick and easy. You filth, I will scream as I pull the trigger just as he does when he beats me to a pulp.
I should kick him, and shove him just like he did to me last night. I should use his fancy golf clubs, ones he spent my earnings on to pound him until every cell of his sick being disintegrates.
Hey, there you are, he calls out as he steps into the small kitchen on this bright, sunny weekend morning. He lightly touches my shoulder and heads over to the coffee pot.  What’s your plan for today, woman?
Nothing, really, I respond. Breakfast? 
Yes. I don’t know why but I am famished, he says, grinning foolishly.
Don’t know why? I smirk, almost. Of course you are famished. You spent all your energy beating the crap out of me last night in your drunken stupor. That’s why, you sadistic, heartless bastard, I think.
Well, then, you have come to the right place, I say instead. I made some eggs and pancakes this morning. 
He attacks the food as soon as I place the plateful in front of him and makes those disgusting sounds like he always does. He is lost, in my food. The food I cooked after I sat under the cold shower to nurse my bruises, after I cleaned up the mess of broken glass and alcohol in my bedroom, after I used up all my energy to cleanse myself out of my miserable existence.
Today is a new another day. I will contemplate other ways of ending his life tomorrow.  Just like I have, every morning, for the last nine months.

Purple Ribbon Campaign

Purple Ribbon Campaign is to raise awareness for domestic violence. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, with the intent to raise awareness, mourn those who have lost their lives to domestic violence, celebrate the survivors and most importantly talk about it, advocate the cause and extend support. There is a lot of HELP available. The shame is not of the victim. The shame is of those that who to violence and abuse. 

SILENCE Empowers Abusers 

At Chatoveracuppa, we believe if anything has to change, we have to talk about it. We will let our stories do the talking. In each of the stories, we will find how  – Silence empowers abusers. By not talking about the abuse, we are not saving ourselves from social embarrassment. We are encouraging and empowering the abuser. 

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It’s Friday night. A young couple meets up with another in a crowded suburban restaurant. Over food and drinks they start conversing and the conversation steers towards the usual husband and wife banter. “You did not do this” and “You never do that.” The tone suddenly changes on the table. One of the guys tells his wife to shut up. She mentions it is after all being said in fun. He bangs on the table, speaks louder and tells her to shut up again. This time she requests him to lower his voice, admittedly embarrassed by the presence of their friends (and her colleagues too). He bangs the table louder, speaks even louder and threatens to leave the restaurant without her. She swallows the humiliation and does not say another word in response. 

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When she opens the door for the maid in the morning, she notices the maid has a NEW blackened eye. She makes her warm compresses and gives her a painkiller. The maid returns the gesture by steeping two hot cups of tea. They drink the tea together in silence. No questions asked. For the maid had not questioned the bruises on the face of her employer two weeks back, knowing well the bruises were not possible from a fall (as she was told). 

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He has often raised a hand on his younger sister, ever since she was little. His mother has objected but never really stopped him. The sister is in college now. One night she gets home late after watching a movie with her friends. When she gets home, her parents and the brother are waiting for her. She is interrogated. When she tries to rationale, the brother tells her not to argue with her parents. She asks him not to interfere. He yells at her, “How dare she?” He grabs things from the table and throws at her. She protests. He roughs her up right in front of her parents. She is numb from the pain and the hurt.  

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She wakes up in the morning with a swollen arm. She covers it under a full sleeve shirt before making her way in the kitchen. Her mother in law notices her working in the kitchen with one hand, barely using the other. She tells her to get it x-rayed and not to make a big deal out of it. “Such things happen.” She runs back to her room and cries while keeping the faucet in the bathroom running. 

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After the soccer practice, they load up the kids in the car, theirs and a bunch from the neighborhood. It is their turn today to ferry the kids to and from soccer practice. Enroute, the dad mentions his travel later that night and the jacket he needed for the conference that he was headed to. The mom admits she has forgotten to drop the jacket at the dry cleaner’s and she is so sorry about it. A slurry of verbal abuse is hurled at her. She pleads citing the presence of kids in the car. He threatens to stop the car and drop her right there, at first. But he steps on the gas and drives recklessly instead. She looks outside the window and does not say a word after that. She does not want to endanger the kids. He slows down but continues to yell at her. 

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Journey By Train


I am totally in love with train journeys. I find them ultimately romantic, travelling to a new land, land of castles and dunes drenched in the milky moonlight, or passing through the dangerous trenches, enchanting valleys, crossing little villages, gliding by water bodies on both sides, glimpsing innumerable lives, houses, railway crossings near small towns and villages, abandoned factories, big factories blowing flame and fume from its chimney and names of stations written in unfamiliar regional languages. The hustle and bustle of big stations and some very small stations with not a single soul. A huge world of many possibilities waiting to enchant you. It is like flipping pages of books in huge dusty boxes, reaching out to you.

I think of all the people I see in those unknown stations. Maybe he is a doctor getting down at that little village, who will ultimately find love in the beautiful valley. Or a newlywed bride, leaving her town all teary eyed. Or the dacoit hidden in one of those abandoned buildings of the station. Or maybe it’s haunted!

The scene from the Bollywood movie, “Barfi”, where the hero climbs on to a goods train with the heroine in the middle of the night, as it passes by a village, they toss the sack of goods outside to the local village boys, later they jump out of the train near a beautiful creek. That is my favorite train sequence from Indian Cinema.  

The dear old train who knows it all, who has seen it all, visited every inch of India, I find a sense of comfort within me. A childhood excitement of something new, a sense of calm looking at the scenes outsides and like a surprise you open your eyes and voila! A new city…

Life Comes Around

To the girl in the café, 

I know you may not read this but I still do want to write this addressing  you. I had noticed you almost immediately as I had entered the café on that bright afternoon. I know you had noticed me a little later when my elder one spilled milk and the younger one crawled all over the cafe floor, while I attempted some damage control. What a sight ! Yeah I know. You must know that I get stared at a lot when my kids are not on their best behavior in public places. I am sadly used to being judged. So I did not mind your looking at me so intently, as you stole glances while conversing with the handsome guy you were having coffee with. 
I actually looked at both of you and smiled to myself reminiscing my time, having coffee in that manner, in leisure, enjoying a conversation, talking about little things in life or the future that lay ahead. That was some years ago, not many though. In my own imagination, I had paired the both of you up and something told me you were seeing each other. There is something about the courtship period where you enjoy love without falling for the mundane routine of life. A certain twinkle in the eyes and an eagerness to know each other better. I have been there, done that. 
I walked up to the counter of the café, to let someone know about the wet floor and order another glass of milk. As I stood in the queue waiting for my turn, you came up right behind me in the queue. We exchanged smiles. And then you asked me while looking at my kids “It must be a lot of work, isn’t it?” 
“Yes it is a lot of work, but it does not feel that way. That’s the thing with having kids. You do things you never imagine you could.”, I said. 
“I was actually looking at you with my fiancé back there and we were thinking this is how our life would be a few years from now. Would it be the same, would it be tougher or would it be more fun? “ 
I was now beginning to understand why you had been looking at me. You were not judging me for the children’s behavior or my hassled demeanor. You were not thinking I could have done better as a mom. It was none of that, thankfully so. You were imagining the life ahead of you, a life that you would possibly want to build with your fiancee. You were imagining yourself a few years from now. I knew I had to be honest to you. 
“It will not be the same, I can tell you that much. It will be better, it will be more fun and it is going to be tougher all at the same time. I do envy you because I can rarely go on a date and enjoy coffee like that anymore.  I have had what you have now and I loved that then. But I like what I have now and it is beautiful and totally worth it (for me)”, I explained while rocking the baby in the bjorn and keeping an eye on the elder one. 
You were half expecting this answer I could tell. You were a little surprised but you were happy to hear it too. I think you needed to hear it too. I had not raised any false hopes nor had I painted a rosy picture.  That is how life has been for me and many like me and will be perhaps for you.  Life is such. We spend so much time thinking and planning for what may come. But as we live through it and reflect upon it later, it just feels as though it was all a natural transition. All of it enjoyable, beautiful, trying and agonizing, all at the same time. 
There is one thing I did not tell you at the café though. Thank you. Thank you for not judging me. That is extremely rare.

Story and Picture Credit : Piya Mukherjee 

Raising Good Citizens

Raising good citizens in the parameters of a classroom / school. 
On the evening of the back to school night, my daughter’s teacher handed the parents a questionnaire. A simple set of questions to get to know each child and who better than the parents to answer that. As she explained what she expected the parents to fill, she said “Your inputs will help me raise good citizens. That is something I  promise every school year.”  That is all that I needed to hear that evening. That was mattered to me the most. I knew my daughter and every other student in the class would learn math, language arts, science and history inevitably. They always do. 
The life lessons, the good citizen lessons are the ones that get largely ignored. Ironically, they are the ones most needed in life. 
Few weeks into this school year, I see a lot of the promise implemented. There are simple ground rules in the class. It involves helping around in the class, being nice to others, sharing, keeping your desks organized, no teasing or bullying, being a good listener and et all. If you can follow the rules, you earn a sticker a day. If you earn 10 stickers, the teacher will reward you in some way. Nothing big. A shiny pencil or a penguin looking eraser is incentive enough for a first grader. The card with the stickers says “Fabulous” followed by the child’s name. Everyone gets rewarded for whatever little they have achieved, no good deeds ignored. 
Likewise, at every level, every grade I have heard of and met teachers who have adopted simple techniques to teach the meaningful lessons of life. We have written about “Eye Message”, “Walk Talk Rock” on the blog before. We applaud our teachers for the curriculum they teach, we thank them for the GATE and SAT scores, we thank them when the children make it to IVY leagues. We often forget to applaud, appreciate, even acknowledge them for the most valuable lessons in life that they teach. 
We at chatoveracuppa, take this opportunity to share with you some of the great teacher/school lead initiatives that we have seen or experienced – 
1.  Donation Drive – Asking students to donate their almost new toys and games, books, new pair of shoes, non-perishable food, blanket, sleeping bags etc for children who are less fortunate. Life Lesson – #Generosity 

2.  Voluntary Work –  Traffic duty around the school, cleaning up a neighborhood community, ensuring the school is litter free, making sandwiches in the kitchen of a shelter. Life Lesson – #Sense of community. #Responsibility 

3. Care – In an elementary school the donation drive was taken a little further and the children were taken on a field trip to share what they have donated with the little residents of a children’s hospital. Life Lesson – #Compassion

3. Celebrating Diversity – In a particular school, on UN day there was a fair with a representation from 30 countries showcasing their cuisine, their arts and crafts, their culture, literature etc. Each student was given a passport, with a world map on it. For every stall(thus country) they visited, they would get it stamped on their passport. A huge event organized by just the teachers and the parents. The children went back home embracing lot more about each other’s culture. Life Lesson – #Respecting Diversity. 
4. Organic Garden – Many schools in Califorina have this now. An organic garden maintained in the school campus, maintained by the students in the teacher’s supervision. A basic life skills to learn to grow your own food.  The fruits and vegetables from the garden are served to the students. Children learn to respect and appreciate what is is served on their plates. Life Lesson – #Survival 

5. Penmanship  – A pen-pal program with students from the other part of the globe. The letter MUST be handwritten. Life Lesson – #Save the extinction of penmanship. 

6. Rock And Roll –  In a middle school, a teacher was seeing unusually grumpy and very aggressive children every morning. So for 5 minutes every morning, he would switch on the radio and put on a foot tapping music. Initially reluctant, the kids eventually started to join him. 5 mins of free style dancing was all that was needed to push all the negative emotions out of the door. The day went more productive than anticipated.  Life Lesson – # Positivity, #Celebration Of Life 

Contributed By : The Chatoveracuppa Team 

Sumitra

Sumitra, a stockily built forty-five year old, very contented, never complaining woman, is my present house help  Her husband is a few years elder to her and is an inveterate drunk. In her own words,”is the most wretched person God has ever created”. He is jobless, does not do any work but eats, smokes, buys prescription medicines with her money, and beats her and turns her out of the house often. She wonders where he gets the money for the drinks, because no one would give a penny to such a vile person. Still she does not complain.

Her twenty-two year old son is married and has a son of his own but his wife has deserted him. He also does not like to work, sits at home, watches television, day dreams and criticizes his mother for not providing enough good food. Her daughter is happily married to a cab driver and has a two year old son. This is a very common scenario among the economically backward working communities here in India. 

Are you wondering why I am writing about this girl during the education week? Here is why. 

Sumitra is quite a unique character. She was born and brought up in a mega city but has remained illiterate, many a time exploited for that reason but never complaining. Her only dream is to learn to write her name  and her family members’ name secretly as she wants to give a big them a big surprise and also read to them the “Laxmi’s Panchali“, the booklet praising Hindu-Goddess Laxmi. Upon knowing this, I took this as an opportunity to enable her by making her a literate. 

Reading of the booklet is important to Sumitra, important enough to encourage her to learn to read and write. She is not God fearing but believes in total surrender to God. I asked her whether she ever feels angry as other people have so many things and she has nothing. She said she manages to arrange two meals a day for her family, though it is meager rice and potato, but there are people who do not get even that. She is thankful to Lord Shiva-Hindu God, who she worships, providing her all she needs. 

So one evening, after her work, we start her education. In my 14 years of teaching, I have not come across such a simpleton. Once in ten days or so she manages to find some time to study and obviously by then she has forgotten what she learnt ten days back. I do not blame her for that as she works in seven houses including her own but sometimes she tests my patience! Anyways, after a lot of perseverance from both sides we have progressed a little. Now she knows to read and write a few simple words, her own name, her husband’s and son’s name. But she is not confident yet to write in front of anyone other than me. 

I also promised her I would help her open a bank account, which she thinks is the ultimate fulfilment of her life. When I told her about my visit abroad for more than two months, she was not ready to believe at first but then said, ‘Please don’t forget me and talk about me at least once a day.’

In more than forty years of my married life I have handled many house helps, but Sumitra is different. I almost envy her sense of contentment. I recently read the much talked about Indra Nooyi interview,a well educated and a highly successful woman mentioning about the sacrifices she made in life and still did get everything she wanted. I thought of Sumitra as I read that interview. Sumitra who is happy to be able to barely spell her own name, Sumitra who is surrounded by adversities in life yet she is the one who sleeps the most content at nights. 
As a teacher, I could not have asked for a better student than Sumitra. She inspires me to look at life so very differently. Charity must always begin at home. Enable some one, educate them. It may change their life in many little ways. For me, I hope in the coming months, Sumitra will learn to read the religious booklet, have a bank account, sign her own name and be less exploited. 

Story Credit and Picture Credit : Swapna Haldar 

The Black Board

If you grew up in the generation when the whiteboards did not exist, then you surely know about the blackboard. We understand this post does not advocate a cause in favor of education or an opinion on the systems of education. But it does beautifully narrate the existence and importance of the blackboards for those of us who went to school or college in the times of the “blackboard”. 

I have a fascination for the black board. The omnipresent center of attraction in the classrooms, almost sacred by the virtue of its limited access that demarked the teachers from the lesser mortals.
Countless times I had watched with fascination as the chalk transformed itself into dust, leaving ephemeral impressions that would last for less than an hour on the black board, but much longer in our minds.
Writing on the black board was an art in itself. Those expert in the art almost used the pauses between the impressions they made on it, as time to let a particular concept sink in. The concepts magically materializing in our minds a split second before materializing on the board.
Then there were others who used the medium for written dictation as the students furiously scribbled down the words of knowledge and wisdom from the blackboard before those words were wiped off to make space for more.
The black boards were very black in the hundred and fifty year old boys only convent school where I did my schooling from. The chalks were thick, soft and created a awful lot of dust. In fact, for a long time I had assumed that the reason the tunics of the fathers, brothers and sisters of the convent were white because it would be easier to go unnoticed after wiping the chalk dust from their fingers into their habits.
“Why did they assign Navy blue blazers for our uniform then” , I often used to wonder.
The blazers used to get stained with chalk by the end of the school day, much to the annoyance of the parents. If one was particularly lucky to got caught focusing on anything else apart from the blackboard, the punishment, was to be assigned to a space next to the blackboard , facing the class, where one was unable to see what the teacher was furiously scribbling, but at the same time get thoroughly drenched in the chalk dust.
After my school days, I managed to get admission in one of the coveted engineering colleges in India. The black-boards there were modern and were actually green in color, often stacked two or three on top of each other, and each could be individually pulled up and down by a pulley system.
Multiple boards gave a lot of time to the students to scribble down the words of knowledge and wisdom from the blackboard before those words were wiped off to make space for more. It also gave us sufficient time to sneak out of the class while a professor was busy writing a particularly lengthy passage on the board with apt concentration.I used to often silently admire the fact that someone can fill in four blackboards worth of information in one hour!
The chalk in my engineering college was thinner and harder, often making squeaky sounds especially while materializing into a particularly long mathematical formula. Also, the chalk dust was significantly less.
This light-weight chalk also doubled up as projectile ammunition that could be thrown at a person. In fact this was a very popular use, especially in the first year of college when several such projectiles were tested on the girls in the class who usually sat in the first bench of the class. I was in expert in this projectile art and often practiced on the lone girl in my class, the girl I eventually ended up getting married to.
My next encounter with black boards was at MIT. Here, there were a mix of black and green boards , mix of thick and thin chalks and in some classrooms pulley systems that stacked up four blackboards one on top of other !
But times had changed. In majority of the classes those magnificent black boards stood dwarfed by projector screens where well crafted and rehearsed slide shows materialized. There was no need to take notes as the lecture slides were available to all the students.
I had just completed my Master’s thesis and had to do a dissertation. My presentation was up just before the lunch break. As I entered the room during my allocated slot, I was surprised to see more than a hundred people in the lecture hall. I started hooking up my laptop with the help of the technical staff and we found out that there was some glitch in the projector setup. The projection screen would not unfold despite several attempts.
As the clock ticked through the futile attempts, the restless din in the room got louder and louder.
I looked longingly at the fixture on the roof just in front of the black boards, from where the currently inoperable screen was supposed to appear.
“Why me?” I thought when suddenly my gaze fixed into the three level stacks of black boards just behind the projector screen fixture. Looking at them, I realized that these boards were not green – they were actually black!
“I guess we will do this the old fashioned way!” I addressed the classroom as the din gradually died away.
I briefly paused to glance at my Navy-blue Blazer, and picking up the soft chalk from the podium, I walked towards the blackboards amidst an applause.

Story Credit And Sketch Credit : Prithvi Raj Banerjee.  He is a storyteller and plans to author a book some day. He is also a photographer and a cartoonist. In his blog ‘Tales from Near & Far’, he writes & illustrates stories inspired by incidences from his old and new homes, as a tribute to people who continue to make homes under new skies.

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