Gayathri Sankar: Be Donald Trump

Islamophobes are an interesting breed of people the world over. They might not be that easy to spot (take a suspicious look at the people sitting beside you right now). And even when called out, tend to deny that they harbour some extremely bigoted views.
Here’s a checklist. If you say yes to more than two of the below, congratulations! You are a closeted Islamophobe. This quiz is only for Indian Islamophobes but I am sure it can be tweaked for other countries as well.

  1. Religious affiliations of those involved in incidents of violence are your immediate concern.
  2. Despite belonging to a majority community in India, you feel victimised and taken advantage of.
  3. You believe intolerance and aggression is synonymous with certain communities.
  4. In your opinion, Kashmiri Muslims are just needlessly troubling the Indian state and deserve to be airdropped into Pakistan.
  5. While you believe that Islam is intrinsically more oppressive you do make exceptions for your friends from that community.

Here’s the thing, my Muslim friends don’t want to be exempted from their community. You can’t be selective when making a generalisation. If you decide when insulting a community that you’re not counting anyone you know personally, and you’re not counting all the nice or pleasant members of the said community (“exceptions!”), then what will be left of the community but the ones worth insulting? If someone, say a person from Punjab, told me that they generally dislike people whose parents come from Kerala and Bengal yet they find me alright I would personally be offended and so would my parents.

The fact is, I can do the exact same thing. Since most bigots enjoy making generalisations based on limited information I can also say that my best friend, a Muslim, is one of the kindest and gentlest boys I know. As the owner of two very fluffy cats, a love for irritating pop music and an inexplicable fear of bunny rabbits, he is quite possibly the least dangerous person I will ever know.
And if you forward me a picture, of a Jihadi beheading a hostage, as your evidence for how regressive the entire religion is, I’ll forward you back a picture of Faraaz Hossain who refused the chance to escape death because he wanted to stand by his friends.
But that’s neither here nor there, because I know the absurdity behind stereotyping a community based on specific examples. So stop with the examples right now and go ahead and claim your badge – I am an Islamophobe. Come out of your closet of bigotry.

Often a long discourse on how religion is a breeding ground for terrorists is followed up with a dismissive shake of the head and the statement that it is all politics anyway. That is simply not acceptable anymore. No – please decide. Politics and religion are very different matters. If you tell me it’s politics, then you are blaming a corrupt government and dishonest leaders, you’re saying different countries played their roles in creating the situation we face today. If you tell me it’s religion, you are telling me that ordinary practicing Muslims are responsible for the persecution of their own community and others. Then you are insulting my friend’s identity. You cannot drag a religion, and then end the conversation by saying “it’s all politics”. If it was, you would not have brought religion into the matter. Say no to hypocrisy. It’s a beginning.

It’s not enough to be compassionate to only the people you interact with under the guise of being a tolerant person while also holding onto your prejudices. People exist outside the ones you talk to and the ones the media focuses on. It’s not enough to speak up only about anything that may affect you or your loved ones.
And yes, it’s awful when things happen in Paris or Brussels or Mumbai or Delhi because those are places you and your family live in, those are places you may go to on vacation. But to then deny the magnitude of lives being wrecked by people outside those who we know? To ignore the fact that it is after all more Muslims being killed by ISIS than any other community? And now to brand them all as inherently cruel is to foolishly consider ISIS as the mouthpiece of Islam. It is to ignore the fact that this is precisely why the community faces double-edged persecution: from terrorists who adapted and manipulated their religion to oppress them and a worldwide persecution from the rest of us.

So why pretend that we care for all lives equally when we assign more importance to some deaths over others? The most credible figures cited that two hundred thousand people have been killed since the uprising began in Syria between 2012 to 2015 (the figures increasing daily), not to mention those who have gone missing, political prisoners and hostages. And this is only Syria. There is Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan – the list goes on. But a hundred white lives being lost will garner more attention, let’s not pretend otherwise.

The former ISIS hostage Nicolas Henin clinically assessed the situation in Syria in 2013 and instead of focussing on the horrors he experienced while a hostage, he asserted that “We should at least have the decency to try to understand the disgust of Syrians, who after two hundred thousand people have been killed, see that the West have only been affected by the beheading of its hostages” (Jihad Academy, Nicolas Henin). He repeatedly says that we are playing into the hands of the Islamic State because there is no better breeding ground for extremism than entire populations in despair – the challenges posted by this crisis are new and require a comprehensive response that eschews discrimination and marginalization.

Let’s keep that in mind when talking about these places, about states like Jammu and Kashmir – a state devastated for years. A state whose people underwent horrors that the average citizen of India can’t even begin to comprehend. Please be careful about what you may say about the people living there. If you expect them to be placid, if you expect them not to react with anything less than outrage after what they have endured, then it’s like telling a victim of rape to love their rapist.

You mention cases and perceptions about Muslims and their crimes to illustrate your understanding of the community. Did you read about this incident? Sick, intolerant, regressive. Donald Trump insults Muslims and bans them from entering his country and you call him intolerant with a shake of your head. You laugh at a sexist joke forwarded on a Whatsapp group but when Trump degrades women you gasp in shock. What is he doing other than explaining the logic that lies behind your jokes, the reason you find them funny? There is a slight difference that accompanies his terrifying honesty– the world knows him as a xenophobic, racist and sexist. You refuse to accept this about yourself.

I attended a speech by a man who had lived through the Emergency in prison. He said that prior to the Emergency people tended to talk unthinkingly. Talk about how sometimes they wished that the country could be run by a ‘benevolent dictator’ instead of the ineffective government they were subjected to. Talk irritably of ‘social justice warriors’, a troublesome group of people who tended to make a fuss about nothing.

And then came the Emergency, and the horrors that accompanied it. And after it had passed there was a … hush.

The hush of people learning to value their freedom, of people giving more importance to justice. The hush of people being more careful with their words. Bigots being shoved deep into the closet.

And then, as every major event in world history does, this one passed too. Before World War II, there were perceptions and stereotypes about Jews, like the stereotypes against black people and Muslims today. And they culminated, perhaps first in the form of whispers and jokes and facts gathered from random sources. And then Hitler emerged and finally, someone said what most were thinking. Bigots stepped freely out of the closet and the world realised the cruelty it was capable of producing.

And when it was over there was shame. The shame of educated intelligent people who had fallen into the trap of making generalisations and unthinking statements. The shame of people who never fell into the trap but never stood up against those who did. And the people who continued to stick to their prejudices were exposed for what they were – bigots. And so in today’s world almost no one makes generalisations about Jews anymore.

But here we are again, new leaders emerging, new communities being dragged through the mud, new generalisations being made.

And the ones of us that are silent or the ones that crack jokes or pass careless statements, it’s what we’re calling on ourselves. It’s what we are allowing to happen.

As for the closeted bigots – it’s time to come out of your closet. I’m not asking you to change your beliefs – that can take years, sometimes forever. I’m just asking you to accept what you are.
“You’re right, I don’t like Islam.”
“I have prejudices against the black community.”
“I cracked a homophobic joke because I’m homophobic.”
Say it for me, so I know what I’m dealing with. Say it for yourself and be at peace with who you are. Say it so that you imbibe the one positive trait about Donald Trump – the man is openly an asshole. Don’t be an asshole that hides behind jokes and subtle slips of your tongue.
Assholes of the world: be Donald Trump.

 

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Imran Batra: Imagine

 

I wrote this poem after the death of a young boy named Aylan. A death that signified the need for the Syrian genocide to end; the need for these “immigrants” in Syria to be recognized for the refugees they really are.

A young boy on an overcrowded boat

Lost at sea, trying to find a place to call home.

Imagine the vessel starting to crack, capsizing slowly…

Imagine the dim, distant moonlight, the night sky, filled with fireflies, fading away;

The last moment of a three-year life…

 

Imagine

A young boy washed up on the Turkish shore

His soft cheeks rubbing against the rough gravel

The boy’s father opening his mouth to find silence, unable to believe what he sees!

Imagine the boy’s mother and brother–resting, still, at the bottom of the seas.

Imagine

 

Aylan was just one of many on that boat.

For all we know, there may be millions of children drowning right now!

We just saw what was veiled from us, and we started ranting and raving about it all!

Well, it’s been over a month now, and nobody remembers!

 

What will become of this world if we carry on like this?

Will these incidents even matter?

Because we say that we care, and we do, for a week…

But then this story gets buried under television, Youtube videos, books, and our Facebook newsfeed

And Aylan is forgotten; embedded in the subconscious depths of our distracted minds.

 

CHILDREN ARE DYING, CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE;

IMAGINE!

 

This is our society–our day, our night

Bloodshed everywhere, it’s a global trend!

Violence seems like a never-ending hell everywhere we go.

 

 

Don’t you ever feel like ending it?

Leaving this contaminated world?

Do you have any desire left, desire to live on this godforsaken planet?

Do you want to end this nightmare?

 

Or do you want to stop this madness,

Fix the world for generations to come?

We’re stronger than we think we are, at least as a whole!

We can change the world if we want,

We can move mountains!

 

We ARE the society!

We’re modern gods, you and I!

While erasing violence, we’re the eraser

While pulling the trigger to end inhumanity, we are the finger!

While rebuilding this society, we’re the mortar!

We’re the medicine for this world, not its virus!

 

We couldn’t save Aylan, but we can make sure there are no more like him…

 

Imagine a world with no boundaries, no disputes, no genocides, and NO MORE DEAD CHILDREN WASHED UP ON BEACHES!

Imagine…

 

Imran Batra is fourteen years old and studies in Class IX at Step by Step School, Noida.

 

Nishna Singh: My Akanksha Experience

Kids are annoying.

I have always maintained this; kids are just annoying. They’re cute when they’re born, of course, and cute when they say their first words and cute when they crawl and even cute when they first begin walking. They’re cute up until they aren’t.

I have always maintained this.

Which is why, when I decided to volunteer at an Akanksha school in Mumbai, I thought I was signing my life away–at least for those few weeks. A place where I cannot be mean to kids to have my way. But I figured I owed it to myself to at least try. Interning with the Akanksha Fund in New York was an experience of its own, but it was limited to desk work and dinner registrations. I wrote descriptions of the fund for other people, explained what we did over the phone, and sent out packets of brochures full of photographs from Akanksha schools in India, but I had no direct contact. (Akanksha works with underprivileged children and focuses on English, maths and life skills for these students). I knew this in theory, but I had not seen it in action. I was curious, I was curious, I was curious.

And the perfect opportunity presented itself when I was in Mumbai for the summer. I wrote some emails, made a few phone calls, visited the main office, and then found myself standing in a crowded municipal school just minutes away from my aunt’s air-conditioned bedroom. As a volunteer I was not allowed to speak in any language but English with the kids, and of course, was not allowed to use violence as a means of teaching.

They put me with four-year-olds.

The first day, in a nutshell, was exhausting. It was hot, and there were many little kids all over, constantly calling me didi, didi, didi. I was the assistant to the class teacher; I wrote English letters on small, personal chalkboards, wrote numbers on some more, and was put in charge of a smaller group within the class. The smell of coconut oil filled my nostrils. I realised these kids were more comfortable speaking in Marathi, a language I had studied for two years but learned nothing in.

A for apple, C for cat, T for tree.

They surrounded me, the way kids seem to always do. Kept trying to touch my hair or my jeans or trace the mehendi on my hands. Some were angels, doing their work quietly and correctly, and some were complete ruckuses. But I knew the rules. I had to be nice.

Patience is not a quality that comes naturally to me. I have never been one to wait on the side and be calm in tense situations. But I had to learn.

But there’s more under the surface. I’ve learned so much in such a short amount of time, but it is not obvious when people look at me. I haven’t learned lessons, and I have not gotten over my fear of little kids, and I have not learned how to be a teacher.

But I have learned their morning prayer.

And I have learned the prayer they say before they eat.

Thank you God, for the food we eat…

Nobody in their right mind would not have been moved by seeing all these tiny, adorable kids give thanks to whatever God is up there for the food they eat. For the clothes on their backs and for the education they are receiving. For their teachers.

These kids have nothing. Many come from broken homes, from slums far away and from families that do not necessarily believe education is the most important thing.

Each kid had two outfits that they constantly repeated.

Two shirts. Two pairs of pants.

Three weeks.

And then I would come home to my overflowing closet.

I guess it’s safe to say I became infinitely more grateful. I am lucky to have been born in the family I was born in. I am lucky to be able to live the way I do, to receive the opportunities I do.

The funny thing is, these kids are brilliant. They had mature and interesting conversations with me. They told me about their families. They looked over my shoulder when I was correcting books and pointed out errors. They greeted me happily every day and bade me goodbye as though it were the worst thing in the world. I know they will not remember me in a few months, but they made me feel valued and wanted and I hope to God I made them feel the same way, even if for just a few hours.

I learnt that giving money to the underprivileged won’t help. Simply donating our clothes and shoes and handing over money is a temporary solution. It helps their present, yes, but it does not at all help their future. We can make them as comfortable as we want, but eventually it’s going to be up to them to do it themselves. Charity is one thing. But they don’t want our charity. All they need is an education.

Kids are annoying. It’s true. They’re annoying and loud and disruptive.

But the way I feel about them has been tweaked in the most amazing way.

Kids are annoying. But they are also insightful and loving and wise beyond their years, and they thank God for the scraps on their backs and get excited about my earrings. They run towards me and give me a hug around the knees and force me to pick them up and swing them around. They cry easily, and they are stubborn. But they include me in their games and fight to be on my team.

What’s sad, though, is that these are a fraction of the kids in the same situation. There are millions more working in factories or at home taking care of siblings or on farms. These are the select few Akanksha has touched.

They are brilliant. And they could all have the brightest futures if they had access to the same things I did growing up. And if I enjoyed Akanksha last year, I fell in love with it this year. The teacher I was helping was devoted and unconditionally supportive and kind to her students, and the helper ladies were affectionate and loving.

Akanksha is doing something that can only be described as honourable. I can’t imagine anything more worthwhile. Giving these kids, so hopeless by birth, the resources they need to be whatever in the world they wish to.

They see the kids for the human beings they can be.

Thank you God, for the food I eat…

Nishna Singh is seventeen and a senior at Scarsdale High School. 

Shiva Shankar Iyer: Just Another Day

“Shoooootttt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Ranjan was mad.

It was the World Cup Final, where every fan in the stadium were screaming their head off. It had taken days to come reach here and here was the team’s striker, giving me the worst advice in the worst situation possible.

The ball was at least two metres away from me. I had a bulldozer of a defender charging towards me and two midfielders ready to crush me to pulp. I had three options:

  • Run like Usain Bolt and tackle the keeper on my own.
  • Defy aerodynamics and jump over the defender.
  • Punch Ranjan in the face.

The third one sounded really appealing, but I had only a second to make a sensible decision.

Immediately, it struck me.

I ran with all my might for a metre and suddenly –

“Yaaahhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!”

I slid through the defender’s legs in a kind of martial arts kick, taking the ball with me. The poor guy had no clue what was going on until –

Scrunch.

Ouch.

The midfielders behind me were just as surprised as the defender as all three of them smashed into one another at top speed.

By this time, I had managed to spit the grass out. The ball was within my reach. I ran ahead with the ball when I met another defender. This time –

“Oi! Look there!”

By the time he realised he had been tricked, I was well past him and had only the keeper left. The keeper kept jumping around the goalpost, with his hands spread out. Ranjan was keeping pace with me, screaming for a pass. Again, I had three options:

  • Shoot
  • Politely ask the keeper to make way.
  • Punch Ranjan in the face.

I made up my mind.

I mustered as much power as I could, and smashed the ball into the top right corner. The keeper only had time to see something white whizz past him and duck as the ball weaved around the net, aiming straight for his head.

As for me …

My teammates jostled me to the ground, everyone jumping on top of one another. We had done it.

We had finally done it.

The World Cup was ours for the taking. I could hear the crowd roar as people poured into the pitch and fireworks exploded into the sky. Now Ranjan definitely had his hospital bill coming …

“What are you doing???!!!!”

“Ranjan! Watch ou….”

“I said, what are you doing?”

“Eh?”

My vision was still blurry as my eyes focused to the light. I was in my room, with my Chemistry book at my side and a very angry looking father standing near my desk. I didn’t know what to do, so I yawned.

“Get ready for school. You have ten minutes.”

“But Dad,I just had a football match. I’m really tired and the coach said I need all the rest I can get. Even …”

“Nothing doing. Get moving”.

My father always has the final say in such matters. Realising there was no point in arguing, I got up and readied myself for school.

Getting ready was another battle of its own. Within ten minutes, I had packed my bag, ironed my uniform, gulped down my glass of milk and started to tie my lace at top speed. As I was doing so, I looked at my shoe.

It looked HORRIBLE.

Horrible was actually an understatement. I had been playing football the previous day in the slushy water due to the rains, and had completely forgotten to polish my shoes. Without thinking, I took my brother’s cricket shirt, cleaned the shoe, put some polish on it, and it looked good as new. As for the shirt, I was nothing less than a dead man walking.

Finally, I managed to leave my home and jogged to the bus stop. Rajiv was waiting. He always had an expression of someone deep in thought, about when the world was going to end or something like that. Rajiv was always the first person to reach the stop, although he had to trudge up the slope like a camel up a desert dune.

I came up to him and said, “Nice day,na?”

“Hmm.”

“What’s new?”

“Hmm.”

“Dude! Priyanka Chopra’s coming.”

“Whaaaaaaat?????????? “

See, that’s how guys respond. You try to unleash the Wordsworth in you, nobody cares.

Then came the girls. All five at once. I started to say hi when all five of them started giggling. AT ONCE. I don’t know whether some sensor went off in all their heads or not at the same time, but it happened. “Ok, act cool” I said to myself.

“Wazzup?”

“Heh Heh Heh Heh!!!”

“Ahem.”

One of the girls, Shreya, mumbled between fits of laughter and said, “ Look at that dog! Its so cute!”

I looked up and saw a massive greyhound growling at me from the park. When it looked at the girls, it started wagging its tiny tail. I was utterly lost as to what looked so cute in a dog which had the sharpest teeth that I had ever seen, but I kept quiet and started to examine a leaf on the ground.

I got on to the bus, allowing the juniors to go first so that the teachers could see how responsible I was and nominate me for School Prefect. I managed to get the window seat without any trouble, shooing the juniors in the front. As the bus moved on, Rajiv and I got talking. For some reason, guys always run out of topics to debate on. This is what our converstation was like :

“Dude, did you see the match yesterday? The way Kohli was hitting the ball …the bowlers almost cried. Amazing sixes, man!” I said.

“Yeah. Saw it too. Batted well.”

Rajiv always answered in syllables or in morse code. At most, he would speak sentences which sounded like telegrams sent during war time, short and to the point. No extra chakkar.

He then went back to his thoughts and looked out of the window.

At the back, another war was going on.

Shrishti had stolen Shreya’s clip and the entire group was jumping all over the bus to retrieve it.

“Gimme my clip, my mom will kill me!” Shreya screamed.

“Arre, if your mom kills you, why do you need a clip?” Shrishti countered, laughing hysterically.

I was bored, so I tried to butt in.

“Ladies, calm down. Take a deep breath …”

Sanjana took her notepad and swung it at me. I ducked and avoided getting hit by an incoming paper ball from Himani. Shrishti, Eshita and Shloka joined in as the poor clip was conveniently forgotten. A junior in front, who was playing Dragon Ball Z, tried to execute an attack in the air but the bus moved and he hit his friend instead.

“Attack is the best defence,” someone had said. So I left Gandhiji’s principles and started throwing my own paper balls.

“Rajiv! Help!” I shouted.

“Hmm.”

“I’m losing!”

“Hmm.”

I took a paper ball and chucked it at his head.

He got up suddenly and jumped, but hit his head on the top of the bus and sat down again.

Clearly, this was a losing battle. I said, “Alright STOP! Everyone!”

The bus was silent.

“Who was that, I say?”

Ok, now we were in trouble.

That was one of the teachers, Mr Shashikant aka Shashi Sir. He was the PE teacher and very strict. Although you didn’t do anything wrong, he would look at you with eagle eyes which would make you confess something completely unrelated. Legend has it that once a boy came to school with long hair, but went home almost bald. Rumours spread that Shashi Sir had a massive pair of gold scissors which he kept in his drawer specially for boys who had long hair.

“Who was that, I say? Come out of your place, I say.”

I was rooted to my seat. I suddenly found the birds outside very interesting.

“Nobody, I say? Wait, I will come there and you will have it.” He  marched menacingly towards the back row.

Out of the blue, Shreya exclaimed, “I found my clip!!!”

Shashi Sir whipped his head towards her. Shreya whimpered.

The atmosphere was tense. The axe was high in the air. Shreya’s life was a thin line. The axe almost came down …

Shashi Sir’s gaze softened. He said, “Oh, its only the clip, I say? No problem, I say. Be more careful, I say.”

Shreya managed a weak smile and said, “Sorry Sir, thank you Sir.”

Yes. I’ve escaped.

“And what about you, I say?”

He was referring to Rajiv. The poor fellow had hit his head on the top of the bus and was now massaging it vigorously.

“Me Sir? Nothing Sir, please Sir, I didn’t do anything Sir … it was Sh …” Rajiv replied, scared out of wits and stuttering madly.

“What I say? Trying to fool a teacher? You wait, I say, you will have it from me. I say.”

“Sir, please….” Rajiv looked sick with fear, his face turning red and then green, and then a very interesting shade of blue.

Shashi Sir walked away without a single glance.

Everyone was shocked. Nobody moved.

I broke the silence. I said, “Bade bade deshoein me aise chote chote bate hote rahtein he. Fikar math karo, kyonki picture abhi baaki hai!”

I did not see the punch coming five seconds later.

 

After the hungama in the bus, we get down from the bus and trotted towards our classes. I walked past the school ground, wished the teachers on the way, greeted a few friends and sat in the classroom. I entered my class, full of chattering teenagers talking about various topics in the world –

“Dude, did you see Ronaldo fighting with Messi??! Boss, the way the referee got hit …”

Or,

“Have you been to Mainland China? It’s almost like Chinese food!”

Or,

“Hey ya! Did you know? Ananya’s joined math tuition! She’s going out with Rohit! He’s horrible at maths! I wonder why she’s going out with him!”

I really couldn’t see the connection between Rohit, maths and Ananya … but I got the point.

Ok, so I’ve pretty much told you about what we ACTUALLY talk about in class. In my class, I can segregate people into categories

  1. IIT PAKKAWALAS

Quantum Mechanics and Integration is to these guys where pani puri is to us. These guys live, breathe and talk studies. Their only goal in life is to get into IIT, go abroad, become an NRI, go to a roadside coffee shop and ask for a cappuccino (decaf, it seems), and once in a while courier dollars to relatives in India, generally contributing to the country’s economy.

  1. THE “COOL” PEOPLE

These guys always try to impose themselves on other people because they can string together one or two bigger words in English than the general public. They try to act like studs, but thankfully fail miserably.

  1. THE MACHAS

The Machas are a group of four guys who want only one thing– to impress girls as much as possible. They “line maaro” girls at any given opportunity.

  1. THE ALLROUNDERS GUYS

You can only handpick such people. These guys top their studies and are extremely good in their extra curriculars. They never look like they study, and are always cheerfull and ready to help. They almost have an aura of confidence surrounding them.

5. THE QUIET ONES

Neither great nor bad in academics, they tend to be extremely antisocial and exclude themselves from any class activity.

6. CLASS CLOWN

There’s always one, in every class. Most of the time out than in.

I walked up to Shwetha to ask her what we had in the first period.

“Hey Shwetha, do you …?”

“Ha! Ha! Ha!”

“I mean …”

“Ha! Ha! Ha!”

“C’mon …” I begged.

She finally stopped after much coaxing and said, “Maths.”

“Wokay, thanks.”

Just as I was about to turn around, she called out to me, “Hey Shiva, did you finish the maths homework? Y’know, the ten sums of matrices?”

I smirked. “Heh, easy. I finished it in class only yesderday”.

Math homework? I had no clue.

At that moment, the teacher entered the class. Ms Sharma was an extremely strict lady, with thick glasses and a stern face. As soon as she walked into the class, everyone ran to their seats and in a matter of seconds, the entire room was silent. Ms Sharma looked around the class, her eyes darting to every corner of the room. Everyone shifted uncomfortably in their places, glancing nervously at each other.

Finally, Ms Sharma said, “Good morning, class.”

“Good morning Ma’am,” we chorused like a bunch of parrots.

She suddenly erupted. “My god! You children never learn! How many times have I told you to say good morning in a dignified and courteous manner? Very shameful, such behaviour coming from twelfth graders.”

“Everyone sit down.” There was a clatter of benches. “QUITELY!” Ms Sharma screamed. The class was silent again.

“Students, open your books to page 45, addition of matrices. Today we will be discussing how to add two matrices. Now, if we take an example to start with….”

She droned on for the next forty minutes without a single pause. I started feeling sleepy and my eyelids began to droop. The ones on the board started to become curly while the minus looked like a missile aiming for five …

“You, stand up.”

I got up from my daze, startled. I had woken up in such a hurry that my neighbour, Vishak, who was one of the Machas, and had kept his hand behind my chair to impress the girl behind us, suddenly screamed out in pain as his hand was sandwiched between my chair and the girl’s desk. Like a chain reaction, she also started screaming at the top of her voice as the entire class’s attention shifted from Exercise 2.1 to Vishak’s hand.

“Ow the pain! Oh the pain! Aiyo the pain!” Vishak dramatically exclaimed. Did I mention Vishak was a theatre artist? He could express pain in a hundred different ways.

“Yes, yes, that’s fine, accidents happen. And Shiva, why did you have to get up so quickly? There’s nothing wrong in slowing down once in a while. Youngsters today … tch…” she tutted disapprovingly.

She bandaged Vishak’s hand using the medical box that someone had got from the First Aid room. As she was doing so, she turned to Vishak and asked, “But Vishak, why were you keeping your hand behind Shiva’s chair?”

Vishak looked stunned for a moment. He hadn’t expected such a question when from the teacher when he thought that the entire class was sympathising with him. I felt really sorry for him. To save him the blushes, I stamped his foot hard. He again started yelling at the top of his voice, by which even Ms.Sharma was taken aback. She started to bandage even even faster, as he continued with his dramatics.

Immediately, the bell rang, its shrill sound resonating throughout the school block. Everyone scuttled out of the classroom for the short break.

“Hmm …” Ms Sharma said thoughtfully. “Vishak, go to the First Aid room and stay there for a while. Your hand will start swelling but it should be fine in few days’ time.”

Oh wow. She had completely forgot that I had been asleep in her class. I tried to slip away as quietly as possible.

“And where are you going, young man?”

Trapped.

“Short break, Ma’am,” I replied innocently, inching towards the door.

“No chance. You were asleep in my class and you will get the punishment. By the way, did you do the ten sums that I had given yesterday?” she asked sternly.

Now there was no getting away.

“Ah … no Ma’am, actually I was …” I fumbled.

“Excellent. You will finish the ten sums and you will do an additional homework of fifty sums and the entire assignment must be submitted to me by tomorrow morning, 8 am sharp. Is that clear?” she finished.

I kept opening and closing my mouth like a fish. “Yes Ma’am.”

“Good,” she said crisply and left the room.

All this while, Vishak had been present next to me, suppressing his smile. When Ms Sharma left, he opened a biscuit packet and asked, “Want one?”

Shiva Shankar Iyer is seventeen and has just finished Class XII at SKCH, Bangalore.

 

 

 

Saumya Kamdar: The Fall of Pride

There was a man, haughty and proud,

‘Bow to me,’ he yelled at the crowd,

Rude he was and harsh was he,

And he cried, ‘Respect me!’

‘I am immortal,’ he challenged nature,

And God thought, What a foolish creature!

Committing sin after sin, he roared, ‘Foolish people, I’ll surely win,’

And his face lit up with a boastful grin.

Until one day, the God came down,

The foolish creature still had a frown,

He couldn’t withstand the forces of nature.

Lost were the dream of this mortal creature.

No one can ever overpower God,

After all he is our ultimate lord.

Saumya Kamdar is sixteen and a student of Class XII of Rukmini Devi Public School, Delhi.

Ragini Zutshi Anand: Her Life

She stood in her school corridor,

All alone.

She stood in her school uniform,

All worn out.

 

She had been wandering around throughout the day,

Sometimes here,

Sometimes there.

 

Bunked all her classes,

Didn’t speak to anyone.

Missed all her work,

Didn’t ask anyone.

 

To her,

It was all monotonous.

 

Every day she would go to school,

Give her attendance

Then go break the rule.

 

She was a good actor,

She made us into fools

Acting about how she wasn’t surrounded by a pool.

 

By a pool of her own tears,

Consisting of sorrows and pains

That she never really shared.

 

What she didn’t realise was that we could see right through her act,

And that we would obviously react.

 

So that day we made a pact

To restore her happiness, make an impact.

 

Ragini Anand studies in Class X of Sanskriti School, New Delhi. She blogs at iglooonthebeach.blogspot.com.

Alancrita Feroze: I Can Make a Difference!

Leila gazed at the night sky with a longing in her heart. Her questions were unanswered. Her desires were unfulfilled. She wanted to be a space scientist, explore the universe. She wanted to go to a good school, not the ‘anganwadi’ to which she was forced to go. She did not learn anything there. She knew they had enough money for her to go to a good school, but why then was she here?

Questions and questions, but never any answer. Her mother would reply with a sad smile: “Wait until the right time, you will understand. You will know when time comes.”

Time passed. Leila grew into a healthy teenager. It was then that the secret unveiled! Her family was ostracized by society for a crime committed by her great-great-grandfather. They were treated as untouchables.

Her dreams of becoming a space scientist crashed to earth. But then she thought, “No, this is not fair I have to earn justice for my family. I need to do something. I cannot give up. I am Leila Chan and I can make a difference!”

Inspired by great leaders who had changed the world, she decided that she would abolish this unjust system. She made people aware of this injustice. She fought society and its leaders, and made the world a better place to live in. She

And she accomplished her dream. She became a space scientist! Leila Chan became one of the great scientists sought after by the entire world!

Her three qualities–dedication, hard work and determination–made it possible for her to reach the pinnacle of success.

Everybody has these three qualities but they may be hidden. We only need a little effort to bring them out. Will you try? Can you make the difference?

Alancrita Feroze, aged thirteen, studies in Grade 8 of Foster Billabong High International School, Mumbai.