Saturday, 19 December 2009

Where the mind is without fear? Really?

A great man once said this about a great nation:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Perhaps my take on it is more relevant:

Where the mind is numbed by fear and the head hangs in shame
Where nothing is free
Where the world has been broken up into fragments
By silly, narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depths of deceit
Where tireless striving is only saved for instant self-gratification
Where the clear stream of reason has lost its way
And further damned by corrupt, self-serving leadership
Where the mind is misled into useless pursuits
Abject apathy and slothful inaction
From that hell of so-called freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Toadstool Temple

Elf Elly sat down on her toadstool. She was upset. Everyone was ignoring her. Was it because she didn't believe in the temple? Then there was a flash! She was at a big place made out of toadstools.

"It's true!" she said.

Flash! Why, they're talking to me! Strange.

Achint Singh (9)
My Daughter :)

Thursday, 19 March 2009


by William Ernest Henley; 1849-1903

Out of the night that covers me
Black as the Pit from pole to pole
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.

I get goosebumps each time I read it.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009


I thought that over the years the word had completely lost its significance for me. Having spent a majority of my life in two countries where snowfall is a given, I now have two children one of which has no memory of it and the other has never seen it. After nearly nine years in London and a few false starts, this was the real thing. Real snowfall that settled, stayed and froze over the next morning. And the day after.

I watched it fall, a mixture of icy sleet at first slowly developing into the gentle feather-like fall that makes it the event that it is. And the memories came flooding in...

My best memories of snow are from the 70s while at The Ahlman Academy in Kabul. I'm hurtling through the school grounds pushing a zimmer-frame like contraption and I hit an obstacle, topple over and break my nose. There's blood everywhere! I'm 7 years old. Mrs Cuthbert cleans me up and tells me to hold my nose up with my head thrown back. It doesn't hurt and I want to go back to play!

We're having a snow sculpture competition at school. Our class is making three gigantic mice (from the poem 3 Blind Mice) with sunglasses made of painted corrugated board. I've brought three large cartons from my Dad's office and painted them black so we can make the glasses. The senior classes are making a larger-than-life sculpture of Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid - you know the one you can see in Copenhagen's harbour. We're all giggling at probably the first set of naked breasts our 7-year-old eyes had ever seen.
We're off to a skiing trip. My first time. I'm 9 now. While on the lift, I drop my skis on our way up the lift and they hit a German tourist. He swears at the entire group. I promise myself that I would never, ever ski again. Sledging maybe yes, skiing, never. The following year I take up ice skating and then deciding it's too girly (and after watching Roller Ball with James Caan) switch to roller skating. But I digress.

Our driver Amir Gul is clearing up the driveway and now there are 6 foot walls on either side. My brother, our friends Habib Shah and Mahboob Shah and I are digging tunnels, knowing this would collapse and fill up the driveway again and annoy the hell out of Amir Gul. He does get angry and we make it up to him by helping him fit chains on all our families' cars tyres.

I'm knocking off the icicles outside my window. Some are so long that they touch the bottom of the window - like bars on a prison window. Mrs Cuthbert explains the difference between icicles and stalactites - icicles are formed because water freezes and hangs around, stalactites are formed because water doesn't hang around and evaporates, leaving the dissolved chemicals behind. (Stalactites hold on tightly to the ceiling, Stalagmites might reach the ceiling - I remember that still!)

10 years later, I'm in Shimla. Snow is perfect for hiding (and chilling at the same time!) bottles of beer. Snow also means exams. Snow also means we'll be home soon. Snow also means bitter, bitter cold, boring trips to town, rum breath, no nookie-in-the-woods and a completely deserted Lover's Lane.

A cold drop of water on the nape of my neck shakes me out of my reverie and brings me back to the present - London, February 2009. I look around at the landscape - the landscape of low indices of deprivation, broken phone boxes, smashed bus shelters and toppled over bins. Except you can see none of that now. As far as the eye can see there is this vast sea of ankle deep snow, still fluffy, still snowballable, still snowmanable and still white and still pure.
It was getting dark now and I turned to go back inside. I paused. Turned back and looked at the white expanse before me.

And then I did something I hadn't done for over 25 years: 

I pee-ed in it.

"Frozen and slushy streets to work tomorrow morning", I thought to myself, as I went inside. "Damn!"